Of course we'd all like to see the Nats in the playoffs but they dug themselves quite a hole. There's a long way to go to get out so I find it better to focus on the intermediate steps first and worry about the playoffs when (if) it comes to that. Immediate goal : Sweep the Mets. Intermediate goal : Reach the August 5th Braves series no further out than they are now. We're basing hope on the "Nats sweep Braves rest of the year" theory. If they enter that series 8 games out (or hopefully less) and manage a sweep, then I think it's worth while holding onto the dream. If not... At the very least Nats fans can have one last "big game" to rally around.
The first goal isn't modest but it seems doable outside of the Harvey game (ed note - There you go, Hoo). Still the Nats are inexplicably relying on Dan Haren tomorrow. Taylor Jordan is always a cross-your-fingers type of guy who any given day could get beat by the ground balls having eyes. Who knows what to expect from Ohlendorf? At least they have Zimmermann starting it off, right? Right?
Oh you must be quiet because you, like me, noticed that ZNN has been TERRIBLE in July. And it wasn't just the last game. He wasn't good vs Milwaukee, didn't impress vs the Padres, and things could have / should have ended up worse in Philly. The Dodger beatdown wasn't a surprise, it was unavoidable given how he was pitching.
What's up with ZNN? Well it could be bad luck or it could be bad pitching. Probably a little of both. His BABIP is too high (.377) and the HR/FB rate is the same (22.2%) but you can't just say it's gotta come back down to normal. These things can get high by the balls bouncing through the right hole and drifting over short fences. They can also get high because you are getting hammered. There is some evidence ZNN is getting hit harder.
His LD% is up at the highest it's been all year at 28.6%. He's given up 10 doubles in his last 4 starts, when he had given up 17 (and two triples) in his previous 16 outings. The contact rate for batters facing him is up, which isn't a bad thing when paired with GBs, but LDs are another matter. Everything out of his hands is just a tick slower in a game where ticks matter.
I'm not going to say anything yet. One of the worst things you can do with data is start drawing conclusions from a small amount of information. Yeah, his fastball has been slower in July, but it was its fastest for July in the Dodger game. That didn't quite work out, did it? Conclusions from data play out over the course of months (if that), not games. Instead look at these things as just some things to watch for tonight. Does he have that good fastball speed? Do his off-speed pitches seems to have good movement? They've been a little flat. Are batters jumping on his first pitches? His first strike percentage is way up which should give him an advantage but not if it's based on guys whacking that first pitch.
The Nats need ZNN at the top of his form to have any chance. Hopefully tonight he bounces back nicely.