Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Pace Madness

Monday, July 01, 2013

Monday Quickie - Pace Madness

Exciting news, a disappointing pre-season favorite finally has gotten its act together and has made up 5.5 games in just over a week! Sure it's the Dodgers but maybe they are contagious.   

The Nats won 2 out of 3 like they should have but it wasn't that simple because the Nats long ride around .500 has driven all their fans insane.  Let me show you what I saw this weekend

Friday - After being absolutely shut down by Matt Harvey for seven innings, the Nats come back against the Mets pen and take the game 6-4. Davey hailed it as the Nats "biggest win of the year". "They watched Drew Storen pitch a spotless ninth and felt, at least for a moment, that the dominance they experienced on so many occasions in 2012 had made an appearance." "...they had just captured their biggest win yet." "Indeed, this was the kind of victory that was commonplace in 2012"

Saturday - Dillon Gee stymies the Nats, while Taylor Jordan fails to impress and Stammen blows up. Nats lose 5-1.  It was "one of their shabbiest losses. A stirring comeback Friday night became a diversion on the way back to the familiar territory of a .500 record.". "The season is about to hit the halfway point, and the World Series contender remains stuck in neutral." "With half a year’s body of work, they are what they are: .500."

Sunday - The Nats bats bust loose while Gio cruises. They crush the Mets 13-2. "The preseason favorites have taken a bumpy path, but they have won seven of 11 games...Sunday provided plenty of evidence that the Nationals can make the second half far more enjoyable than the first" "Tomorrow they'll get their most-important player back after a lengthy absence.When Bryce Harper has been in the Nationals' lineup, they've gone 25-18, a .581 winning percentage that over a full season equates to 94 wins."

And that's just the beat reporters!

Who has it right in all this? A player? Yep, a player.
“It just kind of shows you that each game is completely individual and it doesn’t really matter,” Zimmerman said. “I think last night’s win was great, but that doesn’t really get us anything today.”
Damn straight Ryan. 

Ok, it's not so much that Kilgore, Zuckerman, and Comak are completely caught up in this mess of a season. It's more of a situation where they need to write daily stories about the Nats and the Nats aren't providing them with any larger narrative. There are no streaks, no hills and valleys. It's been a steady shot down Route 500 for a month now. How many times can you write the same "We don't know why we aren't winning more" story? The answer is a few times fewer than they already have. Exaggerating the impact of what they are looking at today is the only way to break out of that mind-numbing; "Might have something going on...nope Nats can't get over the hump" cycle that's been on repeat-peat-peat-peat-peat for a month now. 

How flat has this team been? Since May 21st the Nats have had one losing streak of more than 2 games and one winning streak of more than 2 games.  They were both only 3 games long and they took place back to back, immediately mitigating any impact the first streak might have had.

Seriously in this environment you grasp onto to anything that looks like momentum, not because you believe it exists, but you just want this damn team to win a bunch in a row or lose a bunch in a row.

Now they do have their chance though. Bryce is back and more importantly they have 7 games vs a Brewers team that looks like they've given up on the season, and a Padres team that has watched their small moment in the sun cloud up.*  They need to take 5 of these games at least. Do that and you're looking at a team that has gone 12-6 in their last 18.  That's a bonafide winning stretch you can be proud of! Like the ones real teams have!

But if they lose those couple games early, don't take it to be a sign that the season is over. Wait for the stand to play out. And if they start 3-0 don't start clearing your October schedule. Wait for the stand to play out. The beat guys have to look at the season a game at a time, you don't. 

*The Padres will probably have their best player Everth Cabrera back in time for the Nats series though, so they'll be a little better than they are showing right now.


Donald said...

They have 14 games until the all-star break. Following the homestand, they play 4 in Philadelphia and 3 in Miami. They should go 5-2 over that stretch as well. On the flip side, Atlanta has 6 games against Miami and 3 against the Phillies during that same stretch. They end with 4 at home against the Reds. So I would expect the Braves to play well above .500 too. Not sure how much ground there is to make up, but hopefully a game or two. Would be nice to head into the break down by only 5 or less.

So in what at bat does Harper hit his homerun tonight? And what batting order would you use? Since you jinxed Rendon, I'm guessing he's moved down to 7th.

Chas R said...

Totally agree. I have been neurotic since May looking for any signs of the 2012 Nats.

I think now is the time to build on the current momentum. Bryce is back and most of the rest of them are hitting. Pitching looks good (not great yet).

Of course, we all may be on here next week talking about what went wrong!

cass said...

Assuming it ever stops raining in DC, the tag-in happens tonight. On the one hand, I want to tell myself to not expect Mickey Mantle in his prime. On the other hand, Harper is supposed to be the best player on the team. Getting back your best player should be pretty big. Five out of seven sounds right to me.

If nothing else, the team will be more watchable. I enjoy Harper's at-bats more than any other player's in Nats history. Then again, my previous favorites were Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson. Maybe Nook Logan in a masochistic sort of way ("What is he doing???").

And Zimm in close and late situations is always good. He's kind of one of like one of those golden age superheroes. Not as flashy as the new kids, but it feels like he's always been around. Zimm always has reminded me of Superman, actually. Partly due to his name, partly his appearance, and partly his old walk-off heroics.

I'm digressing too much with this comment. Alas, I have a commitment I can't avoid at 7pm tonight so I won't be able to watch Harper's first at-bat back. The rest of you root him on for me. Hope he gets a good ovation and fulfills Harper's prediction.

May Harpermania run wild tonight.

(Harper plays with a joy that makes kids love him just like Hogan, but his actual playing style reminds me of a different wrestler who I still don't know how to talk about, even all these years later.)

Unknown said...

I feel like it's hard to get anything going with that seemingly black hole after Gio, Jordan and Stephen :(

Kenny B. said...

I know we're supposed to look at the season in the bigger picture sense, but that first win against the Mets did feel like the 2012 Nats. It was solid pitching and defense with just enough offense to get through with a W and feel like you earned it.

But the following game showed everything that has been synonymous with the 2013 Nats: mediocre pitching and little league defense that doesn't matter anyway because the offense is powered solely by the occasional appearance of Kurt Suzuki.

So, while Ryan Zimmerman is obviously right (seriously, this guy is the pro-est of all the pros. Love me some number 11), so are the beat guys. We don't have to draw larger conclusions from these appearances, but we can note that one game reminds us of 2012, and the other game is demonstrative of 2013 so far. It's just commentary, not prediction.

And for the love of Jeebus can we get a freaking win streak already? And what is Atlanta's advantage at home? Is it the heat? Are they poisoning their opponents? Chipper power? They just never seem to lose home games.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Well, if you're anything like me and believe in laws of averages, reverting to the mean, etc, then i expect the brewers to come back from being swept by the pirates and at least win a game, maybe even two *gasp* against us. They're bad but not that bad to just reel off 7 game losing streaks or whatever it would be.

Harper said...

Donald - Yeah that's basically what I've been saying for a while now. THe Nats will probably pick it up but will have trouble gaining ground. This is probably their best chance too given the Braves back-end is as easy if not easier than the Nats.

Chaz R - If we're talking about the week that went wrong we're likely talking about the season that went wrong too.

cass - I 100% believe Bryce takes his vitamins and says his prayers every night.

Jordan - that's a problem for Wednesday. It's Monday now. Live in blissful ignorance for 2 days.

Kenny B - But that's kind of the myth of '12. Did you know the Nats finished the season with the 2nd, 5th, and 2nd most runs scored in July-Sept? That they had below average pitching in Sept? That they were 42-38 in games won by 2 runs?

They were an excellent pitching team, but the offense was average in May and June and good to great to end the year. The whole '12 feeling of "just enough offense" was an April truth carried through the rest of the season because we were looking for it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think Friday's game was anymore 2012 than Sundays was. They won 98 games in 2012 - winning itself should feel like last year.

Is two games not a streak?

C&S - Eventually the Brewers find their level but remember it's not about winning the next game, it's about playing to that .450 level (or whatever) in the next 80 games. They can easily do that and still lose 3 or 4 to the Nats.

BxJaycobb said...

I notice you haven't commented on Ian Desmond's recent power surge. Still think its a disservice to Johnny Pheralta to compare the two? He's the best hitting shortstop in baseball after Tulo in my view.

Austen Sloan said...

There's no such thing as a "law of averages".

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say Taylor Jordan failed to impress.. I mean don't get me wrong.. He wasn't lights out.. But defense was horrific behind him and he didn't allow 5+ runs.. Which harren would have

cass said...

Nice call on Harper, Harper.

Froggy said...

So this win and the one on Sunday prove that it was the lack of offense all along (and Haren stinking it up) right?

I might be wrong, but I don't recall us losing a game with a lead of 5 or more runs since the Strasburg - Braves meltdown from the 9-0 lead last year.

I'm going to disagree with you Harper on some of the other commenters have mentioned he only gave up one earned run and had some horrible defense behind him. I think he deserves another start. And Ohlendorf wasn't bad in relief either. So, with the New Storen, Soriano pitching consistently, lefties Krol and Abad and our top 3 starters doing well, I think we are in good shape.

As long as the offense shows up.