Nationals Baseball: No More Losing

Monday, June 03, 2013

No More Losing

The line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere and for the Nats it's right here, right now.  The Nats are a game below .500 staring at a very winnable 6 game stretch of home games. If they can't go at least 4-2 I'm calling the division. Silly? Yep. Usually when you call something like this you at least have the benefit of multiple teams standing in the way of your team and their goal. In the NL East, the Braves are the only team ahead of the Nats so all it would take is them to fail and the Nats to perk up to take it.  But if they can't win 4 of 6 at home vs the no-Harvey Mets and Twins, with Werth back in the line-up, I don't know why I'd believe they can make up serious ground on a very decent Braves team. (There's always injury I guess?)

Let's say the Nats can't win 4. Hell let's say they win 2. Panic.  But it's early right? No. Mid-June is not early. They'd be 2-6 for June looking at a road swing versus two decent (though maybe slumping a bit) teams in the Indians and Rockies*, and the thorn-in-their-side Phillies. Why expect the Nats to have a winning record on a swing like that when they can't beat a bad Mets team and a bad (though streaking) Twins team at home? Then it's home again for the Rockies and the legitimitely good Diamondbacks. And then? Then it's June 28th and the month is over. July may be very kind to the Nats but it can't alone make up for 3months of bad play.

Then again let's say the Nats win 4.  4-4 for June. If they can beat those teams at home, like a good team should, well then maybe there's reason to believe they've righted the ship and can manage to come through a fair road stretch and home set on top. Now you're  a few games over with an legit easy first 3 weeks in July staring at you.  The kind of stretch 14-4s are made of.

I'm not saying the Nats have to win the next two series. But they kinda do. At least if they want Nats fans to have any faith that something better is on the horizon and this is not just a team who may use that easy July stretch to put them back into serious Wild Card contention.

*Can I say something here?  Some people are fond of saying the schedule is easing up on the Nats because they are playing teams that haven't been good since 2012. Who cares how they did in 2012? Some teams change and get better, others change and get worse. 2012 is a footnote in comparison to how they are doing now and how they are doing now is ok. It's not bad. It's not like the Nats have a bunch of dominoes set-up to be knocked down. Not in June at least.

38 comments:

Donald said...

The Braves aren't going to get any better. They don't have any major player on the way back, at least for this year. The Nats will get Werth back tomorrow; Harper back in another week or so; Detwiler back in another week or so; Ramos back in a month; Rendon called up for Espinosa after June 21; Christian Garcia replacing H-rod (I hope).

It's possible those changes will come too late if they can't stay afloat for another month, but the Nats could make a pretty strong run to close out the year.

Harper said...

I think they will finish strong. I just have doubt that they can fall much further behind the Braves (or even fail to make up ground on them) right now and still catch them. The Braves have played like a 98 win team so far, to get to 95 wins they need to keep playing at a 93 win pace. The Nats have played like an 80 win team, to get to 95 they have to play on a 103 win pace.

So the Nats can catch the Braves by turning on the gas and having the Braves play ok. We are at the point where the Nats would have to play MUCH better or the Braves would have to play much worse. We're getting close to the point though where that "or" becomes an "and"

Anonymous said...

Braves don't have any major player on the way back? Beachy was their staff's ace the first half of last season, and should be back in a few weeks.

Anonymous said...

The Nationals are over-rated.

They have a bunch of below average hitters who are kept in each game by their above average pitching staff.

Unfortunately a couple of good pitchers and a couple of OK pitchers won't get you to 95-100 wins when your hitters are that pathetic.

Erich said...

Harper:

You're right. The "or"/"and" tradeoff is what is key. It's too early to rule out winning the division (though not by much). But to keep it in their own hands, the team must turn it around now.

Miles Treacy said...

favorite part of the game was espinosa trying to act tough after getting hit. you're hitting .158. no one would try and hit you on purpose. you're pretty much a guaranteed out.

blovy8 said...

If they have this particular everyday lineup going into July, there's a reason to talk about planning for next season. But you can't say this is a bad team until you know they won't have some better offensive players actually playing. It's also still possible that the bursitis, hamstring, and jesus h christ on a toadstool oblique injuries linger and they are buried by the end of July. We don't know, and can't.

But that isn't any fun to write, right? Well neither is expecting half your team not be be below-replacement level and being disappointed by not reaching that sewer-level bar. They're actually lucky to still be this close, but momentum is as close as the next game. Or not.

blovy8 said...

P.S., the Braves are not really that good either.

Anonymous said...

blovy8: I mean, keep thinking that if you like. They're on a 98-win pace, their run differential is exactly in line with their current record, and their wOBA differential (http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/its-time-to-take-the-pirates-seriously/ ) was 7th in baseball as of a few days ago, placing them in the same tier as likely playoff contenders Boston and Cincinnati.

It's true that they've been getting unsustainable contributions from some bench players (Schafer, Peña). But negative regression from them can be expected to be offset by positive regression from Heyward and B.J. Upton.

There are scenarios in which the Nationals pass the Braves. But if you're expecting Atlanta to fold like a cheap suit, well... lots of luck in the Wild Card game.

Froggy said...

Although I don't understand Rule 4, I predict there will be a trade of significance before the trading deadline otherwise, it is all about next season. Don't ask me who we trade, but it just seems that Rizzo needs to do something or he has no leverage to negotiate past his 2014 contract extension.

blovy8 said...

Did not say they would fold, just that they were not this good. They sucked just slightly less than the Nats in that series and have less talent lying around waiting to start playing.

Harper said...

Anon #1 - yes but who does Beachy kick out? It can't be Hudson right? And everyone else is pitching well enough you can't guarantee a boost from a guy coming back from injury.

Anon #2 - It seems likely they were slightly overrated to start the year. Too much of expectations relied on continuation of some unexpectedly good 2012 stats. But injured Bryce, Werth, Espy, Ramos... these all matter, too.

Erich - People assume you can come back from anything because it's happened before but just because it can happen doesn't mean it is likely. The Nats are a 3-4 weeks from the likelihood dropping to minimal numbers. (for the division)

Miles - think it was more "Damn you guys hit me and broke my hand a month ago!" Still Danny gets HBP. It's part of what he does so he shouldn't get upset.

blovy8 - We're almost in agreement. You are saying they'll have players come back and possibly play better real soon. I don't care about the why I just say they need to play better real soon. It's unfair to say they are BAD as originally constructed but that can't overcome the fact they have been below average for 2+ months now. They can and should be better going foward, but if they can't turn it on immediately it's just going to be too late. (barring some sort of perfect miracle finish)

Anon / blovy - Well how good are they really? I think they may more be low 90s good talent-wise rather than high 90s but like the column points out that's still a 95 win team since they started out this hot. Nats may also be low90s good but this hole is deep.

Froggy - Find me someone to deal. Marrero, Perez and Robbie Ray might get you a good player but you've then just gutted what is already a weak system.

Donald said...

I don't think a trade is necessary unless there are more injuries. The hitting issues should be helped with the additions of Werth, Harper and Rendon. The bullpen could use a lefty, but Abad is playing himself into that role and if Garcia can come back, it would be a big boost to the pen in general. They could certainly use better pinch-hitting, but I'm not sure you trade much for that. My guess is that Kobernus, Marrero and Corey Brown are all on the team after the September call-ups. Maybe one of them will shine.

Six and a half games is a big hole, but all it takes is for the Nats to go on one decent winning streak -- say 8 games and the Braves to go 4-4 or 3-5. Then all of a sudden, the distance is tight again and one sweep against the Braves gets them there.

Anonymous said...

Yeah its true the Braves arent going to be getting anyone back besides Beachy, but do you honestly think Heyward and BJ are gonna bat 150 the rest of the season?
And it's pretty safe to assume the Braves are going to go after a bullpen piece now that Venters and O'Flaherty are gone once teams start putting relievers on the market

Anonymous said...

What else does Espi have to do wrong for davey to finally bench him? He is trash, a guaranteed out.

Chaz R said...

I think they really have got to fix the bench. It's just awful. Also, another injury and more playing time for the Goon Squad could bury them.

What can you say about Espi??? I just don't know what Davey sees in him. I get it that we give up some defense if Lombo or Rendon plays 2nd full-time, but good grief Espi is just awful at the plate.

Harper said...

Donald - Sure the Nats go 8-0 and the Braves 4-4 and they are a series sweep away but that's saying 11-0 and 4-7 right? Drastic turns in fortune for both teams, followed up by no return to how they played before then? That's the key. The Nats can easily make up some games. say they go 5-1 in the next 6 and the Braves go 2-4. The problem is the way the Nats have played you'd kind of expect them to go say 5-5 on the road trip (maybe) and maybe the Braves go 6-4 during that time. 3 weeks down the road and the Nats have made up 2 games maybe.

Anon #1 - I think something is wrong with Heyward. Physically, mentally what have you - so he just might hit this bad all year.

Anon #2 - stop fielding so well or get injured enough that he can't physically go out in the field.

blovy8 said...

Well, nobody thought Medlen would be that good last year, why can't we also be wrong about how bad BJ Upton can be? Maybe Heyward needed his appendix to hit?

Froggy said...

Yeah man, I don't know who...but why keep trio or a quadro(?) of sub .200 hitters who don't do ANY-thing for us this year.

I'm sure the A's will take 4-5 players off our hands again.

blovy8 said...

I don't really know how the talent calculus should have changed too much: the Nats were 96 wins good last year and didn't get worse. As bad as BJ and Heyward have been, they've got Maholm, Gattis, Johnson, and Schafer doing more than you can expect. Offense is trending downward, but the Nats at least have three spots they can conceivably improve just by health. Espinosa is playing hurt, it makes no sense for the team to continue doing it, but it's a fact.

Kenny B. said...

I remember seeing a list shortly after the Quentin/Greinke blow-up of the hitters who got HBP the most in 2012. Quentin was #1, but I remember Espinosa being in the top 10. Maybe he can get back to that form and substantially improve his OBP. I kid.

In any case, I'd say prospects are not good if the season hinges on players returning from injury and performing better than they did before they were injured.

BxJaycobb said...

Although Harper i usually find u to be the sharpest natosphere blogger out there and am as frustrated as anybody, im not sure im with u on the next 6 games as an accurate barometer theory. Lets assume they go 3-3 during what ends up being their last week without bryce and their last/only week without det and stras (not just plausible but likely in ny view). The team that's going to play those six games doesn't really resemble the nationals. i mean consider this: they may well be offering an offense without their best player, without a potential shot in the arm call up/Danny replacement in rendon, their starting catcher, and a rotation missing their best pitcher and another starter. Each of those things isn't an excuse, but cumulatively a team without Bryce and sending jordan, Gio, Nathan karns, Craig stammen and Dan haren out there just is not a good team period and is incredibly misleading as a forecaster. I don't know if this is a particularly illuminating stretch coming up....then again they've dug themselves a hole already, and those aren't two good teams. Still I'd say that going 3 and 3 would not end the division race, since there's every hope the daily lineup/pitching will improve substantially in the second half of June. Thoughts?

Froggy said...

To your point Harper wouldn't it take Werth, Ramos, Bryce and Espi to overachieve and everyone else to improve slightly and no more (Blovy8's perfectly described) Jesus H. Christ on a toadstool oblique/hamstring/Vahjayjay injuries to play to the 103 win pace? I don't see it happening (although I wish/hope it does).

...unless the Braves have a significant injury, I think it is more likely that the Upton's and Heyward improve and they improve their bullpen in a trade, and put some distance between us. There is still some hope to shoot for the 2nd WC spot I guess.

Donald said...

@Harper -- I get your point that if the Nats go on a run and the Braves slump, that they would both revert to the mean and you'd expect an offsetting slump for the Nats and run for the Braves. But remember that the Braves started the season going 12-1. They are 23-21 since then. If you believe that the Braves are really a 98 win team, it's one thing. But if you believe that they are more of an 85 win team that's just waiting for that 12-1 to be offset but a losing streak, it's another.

Anonymous said...

2 HRs last night for Corey Brown. Now that he is playing again, is there an advanced metrics argument against swapping him for Tyler Moore?

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm glad Werth decided to tear up minor league pitching. He had better take that hot streak with him to the Mets series!

Zimmerman11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenDen said...

@Anon

-You don't need advanced metrics to tell you we should at least TRY corey brown out there. All you need is Tyler's slash line to know that he'd be terrible in any statistical generation:

.151/.200/.269

Not even the infamous Mario Mendoza can support those offensive numbers with his glove. And Tyler is at or below average in the field.

It's called Replacement Level for a reason. Get someone in there who can muster .200 at the plate

Booyah Suckah! said...

Something occurs to me that has probably been lost in the noise of the sheer crappiness of this offense. Last year, the bench was exceptionally good. I think (and I believe Harper may have written about this) it's because of Davey's ability to use his bench hitters selectively to maximize their effectiveness, not only based on handedness (righties v lefties, etc) but based on the situation, their history against a specific pitcher, etc. This year, he's been totally unable to do that, and the bench has suffered even more than normal. The problem has not just been that the Nats have had so many guys get hurt... it's that they've had guys get hurt but NOT go on the DL (Harper, Espy, Werth for a couple of weeks). So not only can you not have your normal guys playing, but you don't really have any bench flexibility for situational hitting... you have to play Bernie or Tracy or whoever, regardless of whether they're the best matchup for that pitcher in that situation. I think that probably accounts for some of the bench dropoff where we've seen guys actually hit not only below last year but actually below their career average.

blovy8 said...

I think the answer to that Booyah, is Davey isn't even playing Perez or Kobernus when they do come up. He considers Espinosa a better player even with two injuries than Lombardozzi or Kobernus.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Do you think maybe he's doing that in the hope that Espy will finally break out, have a banner month, and they can trade him? I don't think they should, but it's worth asking. If he's sitting on the bench, his trade value stays stagnant. If he has a good month (somehow) and lights it up, he's worth a lot more. The Espy thing smells more like a management decision than a DJ decision.

Donald said...

Big roster moves. Looks like the Nats are viewing this month as a make or break too, and not just Harper here. Danny to the DL. H-Rod and Duke were cut. Rendon is back after only a few games in Syracuse at 2B. My guess with Rendon is that Davey would rather train him himself.

Anonymous said...

Goodbye Espinosa... I hope you find your swing.
Goodbye Zach Duke... I hope you find a nice home.
Goodbye HRod... I hope I never see you again. EVER.

Anonymous said...

And there's the slogan for June. NO MORE LOSING. Great to see Werth in the dugout tonight. Great to see Zim stretch the double in the ninth. First walk-off of the year? I'll take 5 or 6 more this month, please.

Chaos....and no more Henry

Froggy said...

So in a way I was right about Rizzo having to do something to 'jolt' the team, it just wasn't by trading anyone...

...yet.

Erich said...

Biggest concern about moves are that Espinosa is not going to the DL for his shoulder, which seems to be part of the problem. This move should have happened weeks ago.

Bullpen moves? Well, I guess it would be hard to pitch worse than H-Rod and Duke. We'll start from there.

Anonymous said...

Harper is so fuckin retarded

Anonymous said...

I think you are fuckin idiot blovy8. Because medlen was expected to do well. He had success before his surgery. You don't know what the fuck you are talking about. And you probably call yourself a fan of baseball but if you were you would know that medlen was a damn good pitcher before his surgery