Nationals Baseball: Monday even quicker than usual but not the quickest ever

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday even quicker than usual but not the quickest ever

Suuuuuuper busy so this is what you get today. 

The weekend was a bust. This team is close to being a bust.  It's time to stop looking at this team as an underacheiving 95 win squad and start looking at it like a high 80s win team that may or may not make it to (past?) that point.

And you could argue it isn't even that - the record says the Nats are a .500 team.  The run differential says the Nats are worse than that. They are 5th in runs allowed, which is good but not team-carrying. They are 13th in runs scored which is terrible. Injured Espinosa (5% of the Nats PAs) was an absolute hole for 2-plus months.  Span (11%) is bad.  Suzuki (7%) is worse. The main bench of Lombo, Bernie, Moore, and Tracy (15.6%) has been cringe worthy.  Leave Span out and toss in a couple stragglers like Marrero and Solano, and add the pitchers and you have around 30% of all plate appearances for the Nats being TERRIBLE.  Add Span back in and that's probably over 40% that have been well below average at best. That's how they got here. Closing in on half their at bats have not been major league worthy.

A few weeks ago the Nats finished up the first part of a stretch some were saying was easy.  The Nats went 11-10, but I noted that calling that stretch easy was a bit unfair.  I also noted that the Nats were truly going to hit an easy stretch coming up and they needed to make some headway and catch the Braves

At that point the Braves were up 5.5 games.  They went 9-7 from that point on.  The Nats could have caught up to 4 games by going 11-6.  They went 9-8.

There is one more easy stretch but is it even going to matter?

The hope is that with Ramos, Rendon here now and rest of the team healthy they can score. Right now their stats suggest that Bryce, Werth, Zimm, Desmond, Ramos, Rendon all could finish among the Top 5 offensive players at their positions. Maybe this will work out. But is Werth really back to being this good? Can Ramos and Rendon sustain what they've done in admittedly few at bats? Is there something wrong with Bryce? Can Zimm stay healthy? We thought that it was going to turn around a week or so before now and we're staring at ice-cold LaRoche, Zimm and Bryce to add to Span and the pitcher meaning over half the lineup is doing nothing.

Maybe this will work out. Maybe it won't.


Donald said...

Definitely a depressing series against the Marlins, though it was nice to finish with a win. The saving grace this season is that the Braves really aren't very good and they just caught some unlucky breaks with injuries. It wouldn't surprise me to see Atlanta finish with less than 90 wins. If the Nats could just have that one 12-3 or 14-4 or so run, they'd be in the hunt.

On the other hand, there's little chance of an NL east team getting one of the two wildcards. So it's either win the division or go home.

What did you think of yesterday's batting order?

Anonymous said...

In looking at the Nationals chances of making a run, it's also important to realize that while they have a relatively easy schedule, the Braves have the easiest schedule from this point on of any contending team. No games outside of the eastern and central time zones and less than twenty against teams over .500.

Strasburger said...

So frutrating. I don't even want to talk about it. The underlying truth, though, is that the talent is there. I just am not sure if it will show up to play anymore. I am going to continue to watch every game, I won't give out hope until there is mathematical certainty that we're done.

Froggy said...

Time for some more batting order shake up. I don't think Bryce is our best option for lead off and not sure who is best suited maybe Span found his stroke and can go back to that spot. Seems like whomever bats in the number 7 spot does pretty well. I think Ramos is on fire and it would be interesting to see what he does in the 4 or 5 hole.

Hopefully the break gives everyone a chance to rest and clear their heads.

Erich said...

"Maybe this will work out. Maybe it won't." That pretty much sums up this .500 team. Clearly, at this point, it is painfully obvious how this team could finish the season with just 85 wins.

I'm not sure what to make of the batting order. Sure, let's try it. Why not? Does this team make a deal for something? I have no idea. Another bench upgrade? A starting pitcher? Who?

Ugh. A frustrating series to cap a frustrating "first half."

Max said...

Throughout the season I've remained an optimist. I've always thought this team would turn it around and make it a race. I'm about to lose all faith...

With that said, let's say they go 10-6 over the next 16 (2 from LA, 5from Pit/NYM, 1 from Det, 2 from Mil)and Atlanta goes 8-9 over their next 17 (they get 4 home games against Colorado, but they also have 3 home against the Cards and 10 on the road). If that happens, we're 3.5 games out going into a 3 game home set against Atlanta.

One can hope, right? Again, the way the year has gone, no reason to expect it to happen. But crazier things have happened.

DezoPenguin said...

One step forward, one step back. One guy gets hot, one guys cools off. The pitching advances, the hitting regresses. The starters perform, the bullpen fades. It is depressing, particularly the loss behind Haren's good game.

Basically the scenarios come down to this:

1. The Nats have to step forward. Unless they get to the 88-90 win range, I think there's no real chance. .500 ball is not going to cut it.

2. Someone has to collapse in front of us. It's not just that we have to play better, but that someone ahead of us has to play badly, either

(a) The Braves, whose offense is not much better than ours, but their pitching is better.

(b) Any two of the #2 and #3 teams in the Central and the #2 team in the West (because it looks like the Dodgers found their rhythm at last, making that a two-team race).

And that's basically the case. I don't know if there's anything that can be done at the deadline (improve bench and bullpen), or if the players we have can step up.

bdrube said...

Froggy - that Sunday lineup REEKED of desperation (although Span desperately needed to be dropped down near the bottom). Their best power hitter at leadoff? It seemed Davey has given up trying to put together a comprehensible lineup and just gone with "put my best two hitters at the top of the order to get them as many at bats as possible."

Donald said...

I agree that leading off with Harper doesn't make sense. Here's what I'd do:


If Rendon struggles or you want to move Ramos up, I'd probably shift everyone up with Harper batting second, Zimm third, etc. and stick Ramos in the #5 spot.

Chaz R said...

I totally agree with everyone's frustration. What a disappointing first half, especially after all the post season hype. Like most of you, I am trying to remain optimistic, but see the season quickly slipping away. We have tix for all three Dodger games. That series will tell a lot about where their heads are at. I don't know how much more pain I can take!

Kenny B. said...

I just wonder how you deal with a team like this from a GM perspective. Look at 2012 and 2013, and it's not clear (at least to me) how we ended up here, and so it isn't clear how to fix it. I'm guessing you just go into 2014 with the goal of incremental upgrades to starting pitching, bench, and relief, and just hope 2013 was a worst case scenario everywhere else. If 2014 goes like 2013, then it's time to make bigger moves.

I do look at this team, though, and I'm heavily persuaded that baseball conventions are mostly stupid. In particular, the prototypical "lead-off hitter/CF" is an overvalued asset, as is the "veteran closer."

cass said...

All we can do is hope that the good hitters get hot and the aces don't turn in any more jokers like Strasburg's stinker on Friday. All of the hitters are underperforming this year. They need to all get hot and hit like they can.

That's making it too complicated, though. Like the rest of the year, the problem is hitting, hitting, hitting. Hit, and they'll make the playoffs. Don't hit, and they won't It's that simple. Time is running out. The Braves are just one mega hot streak away from clinching.

Anonymous said...

DezoPenguin: Braves' wRC+: 105. Nationals' wRC+: 88. Yes, the Braves' offense is much better than the Nationals'.

Anonymous said...

The best hope is for Pittsburgh to collapse (again) and win the coin flip in the WC game. Catching the Braves isn't impossible, but a whole bunch of players would have to turn around their 1st half and that isn't too likely.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta's offense is stabilizing. They're a much better team than some of you give them credit for. They have been decimated by injuries and still maintain a six-game lead. They've probably played their worst ball this season already and it's a cake walk going forward. No reason to think they won't win comfortably.

Things will get better when Davey is gone. That guy.

blovy8 said...

Getting Span was about defense as much as anything. He'll probably pick up his hitting a bit, but as it is, Werth's legs keep getting injured, so it's a smart move to have really good defenders in the other spots. The next thing may be moving Harper over to right faster than they expected.

I think it's more important to put guys in lineup positions where they're comfortable than worrying about OBP vs. SLG. The trouble always seems to be that if a guy like Span starts to hit batting 7th, the temptation is to reward him with a move him back to leadoff, when maybe he should just be kept where he's doing well. I know Harper SHOULD be hitting for power and thus lower in the order, but he's also aggressive and gets on base. It's not crazy to lead him off if he's the only guy who hits well in that spot. Apart from Detwiler in the pitcher's spot, they have above average hitting talent throughout the lineup now. Whether they perform like that for 67 games is the question.

It might be too big a lead to spot them, but the Braves aren't any better than the Nats at this point, Anon. Mediocre. If the Nats stay relatively healthy, and bunch their hits a little differently to score more, there WILL be pressure put on the Braves.

Anonymous said...

People keep asserting that the Braves are as mediocre as the Nationals, mostly preferring to rely on the fun "since they started 12-1, the Braves are..." (Meanwhile, since the Nats started 7-2, they are 41-45.) But since the hot start, the Braves have a positive run differential. They're piling up position-player WAR with the league leaders and holding their own in pitching fWAR (and doing better in pitching bWAR). Their wOBA differential is in the top 5 in baseball.

Abundant evidence suggests that the Braves are in fact better than the Nationals going forward. And they play a cake schedule in the second half. Combine that with a six-game lead, and you can go hunt for the wild card.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Anon- I could very easily make the exact reverse argument. Despite all the fancy stats that say the Braves are good, they've been playing .500 baseball for three months. And despite all the fancy stats that say the Nats are bad, they've also been playing .500 baseball for three months. The only difference between these two teams came in the first half of April, when the Braves staked themselves a lead that they haven't given up. And despite those same fancy stats, the ONLY stat that matters at the end of the year is W-L record. And the W-L record says that these teams, since mid-April, have been basically the same. If you change almost anything about those first 13 games (8-5 for the Nats, 12-1 for the Braves), we're not even having this conversation right now. That's just reality.

Do I think the Nats will finish behind the Braves this season? Unfortunately, yes, I do, barring some surprise turn-arounds. But the difference isn't nearly as striking as you think, and I think the difference will be less than 4-5 games.

Anonymous said...

You could indeed make the exact reverse argument, but you would be doing so without any numbers on your side. It is true that at the end of the season, wins are all that count, but if you're looking to project performance going forward, record to this point (particularly the stupid cherry pick "record to this point excluding the team's best 13-game stretch") is a poor tool.

Anonymous said...

The Braves players who have been having trouble at the plate this year (Heyward, Uggla, BJ Upton, and as of May Justin Upton) are all hitting better in June and July. Heyward hit .313 in June and .250 in July, both above his year average. Uggla is hitting .250 or better since May, and his SLG is also up around .790. BJ Upton is hitting .030 points better than he was before May, and Justin has come out of his slump. McCann has been on a tear recently, along with Freeman hitting .486 RISP all season long. Only good news is that the Braves pitching has been struggling in July. I think we have to hope for the Wild Card.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Their win-loss record is a poor tool to predict performance going forward? That's interesting. So the only stat that actually matters (how many games you win) doesn't actually predict how many games you'll win? Not sure I agree with that logic.

My entire point is that I don't need "numbers on my side" to make that argument. The only number that matters is how many games you win and how many you lose. And for three months, the Nats and the Braves have been essentially the same.

As far as cherry-picking goes, I don't think that argument really qualifies. I'm attempting to show a trend over a specified time period by comparing a short period (the first 13 games) to a longer period (the 82 games that came after it), with the contention being that the longer period is much more likely to be the "truth" than the shorter period. Cherry-picking would be if I, for instance, picked out 10-26 June and said "Ha! See? The Braves went 6-10 over that stretch (against some terrible teams, by the way)! They're awful!" But that's not what I (or others who use that argument) am doing. It's simply comparing one time period to another between two teams to make that point that, at the end of the day, these two teams have been playing essentially the same baseball for three months in the only statistical category that matters.

Tiffani said...