Nationals Baseball: Low on health but the enemies here are weak.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Low on health but the enemies here are weak.

The Nats are in a bit of a sticky wicket right now, with three starters and an starting pitcher out.  Span, with a concussion, should be back soon, but concussions are tricky. We'll assume he's back in the lineup up sometime this week and move onto the big three. When will they be back? What do the Nats face during this time? What are reasonable expectations?

Let's look at the schedule. The Nats will play two more games away against the reeling Marlins. Strasburg vs Koehler and Roark vs Fernandez both look like obvious wins - so let's say split for those two (giving the Nats 2 of 3 away - a good outcome) and move on.  We'll do quick looks here - save the real analysis for the actual start of the stands.

Homestand 11 games, 4 vs STL, 3 vs LAA, 4 vs SDP

Pretty standard homestand but it starts on the 17th which is way too early for anyone to comeback. By the end we're at the 27th and Fister becomes a remote possibility as would a super fast healing Ramos but this is a weird part of the schedule, you'll see.

Away Trip 5 games; 2 @ HOU, 3 @ PHI
Homestand 3 games;  3 vs LA
Away 6 games; 3 @ OAK, 3 @ ARI

See? Home on the 27th of April, then Houston on the 29th, Philly on the 2nd of May, DC on the 5th, Oakland on the 9th. It's a ton of travel, but it's not too bad on the team as there are days off right now on either side of the Houston trip, before heading to Oakland, and after the last game. Still, it seems unlikely they'd bring guys in to be bounced around like that especially with Syracuse on a homestand from the 1st through the 8th.

The way I see it Fister (and Ramos if healthy - I'll guess not, but if) will be in Syracuse for that homestand then join the Nats out West. Makes sense for Fister to start vs Oakland sometime during that May 9th series. He's familiar with stadium and team, and the late West Coast start time could ease him into the rotation, as opposed to a prime time DC start. Ramos, it makes more sense in my mind, to wait until the next homestand which starts on the 16th. Syracuse does not travel far (Columbus, then Toledo) so a short rehab stint with them is possible. Given his slow healing history I think that's more than fair. (6 weeks would be about the 14th). 

Homestand 6 games; 3 vs NYM, 3 vs CIN
Away 4 games; 4 @ PIT
Homestand 9 games; 3 vs MIA, 3 vs TEX, 3 vs PHI

It's a nice long time in the area, basically 3 weeks interrupted with a short jaunt to Pittsburgh from May 16th through June 5th. A good time to acclimate players. Zimm in theory could join the team when I think Ramos will at the start, (4 weeks would be about May 11th) but I'd bet on him being back with the later homestand, which kicks off on the 26th.

What about expectations? The stretch they face before Fister would come back vs Oakland has some tough teams, but they get them at home. I think if they can go 11-10 during that time (tonight through Oakland) I think that's fair. Won't put them in first, but they won't be out of it. (unless ATL pulls one of those 15 game winning streaks) I know I said .500 till these guys are back may not cut it, but I was saying till they ALL come back which would be the very end of May or into June.  .500 for the next couple weeks would be ok.

Post-Fister the schedule looks pretty soft. Split the games away then Ramos is back for easy teams and easy travel for 3 weeks.  You have to like the Nats to start moving up here 6-4 w/Ramos, before Zimm? 6-3 in that homestand with everyone?  Now we're looking way far ahead but 34-25 at that point would feel pretty good. 

Boiling this rambling down - we're looking for the Nats to go basically .500 from now until that easy stretch begins (hopefully with Ramos returning).  That's 27 games so something like 14-13. Then something like 12-7 during that long stretch when by the end of it, everyone should be back and healthy. Two separate goals. Maintain over the next month. Impress over the 3 weeks after that. Neither goal seems unattainable.

The injuries matter but the Nats catch somewhat of a break with a schedule that's toughest section looks to be months from now during the stretch run. Right now they might be able to muddle through a perfectly average stretch then dominate an easy one as guys start coming back.


Kenny B. said...

+1 for video game reference in the title.

Nice bounceback against the Fish. Almost saw a Braves loss, but man that Philly closer was awful. Should have known better than to look for help from Philadelphia.

Agree with a 2-1 result in Miami. You have to like the upcoming pitching matchups, but someone's bound to throw a stinker. I just hope it's not Strasburg.

Donald said...

The upcoming home stand is going to be pretty important, I think. Injuries aside, if the Nats can split with St. Louis, win 2 out of 3 against the Angels and win 3 of 4 against the Padres, they'll be in a pretty strong position. The Braves have a really weak stretch during that time, so staying close will be key. If instead, the Nats lose the St. Louis and Angel's series while the Braves are beating up on the Phillies, Mets, Marlins and Reds, it's going to be tough hole to dig out from.

Anonymous said...

Let us also not forget the Braves are only 4-3 against teams not based in Washington (including 1-2 against the Mets). The sky is not falling until they go on a significant run. Lets see where we stand at weeks end.

Bote Man said...

@Ken_Rosenthal: STLCards activate Mark Ellis, option Kozma to AAA.

Somebody I know is doing his happy dance.

Ravi Betzig said...


I'm not a Nats fan myself, but as an O's fan, I do manage to catch a good number of their games at MASN. I largely agree with pretty much everything you said here, especially regarding the importance of your guys' upcoming homestand. Even with the injuries the Nats have, I think 7-4 is a realistic goal for the 11 game homestand. Both San Diego and the Angels are not exactly lighting up the league right now, and are probably teams 10 games worse than Washington by the time the dust has cleared. 5-2 there is certainly a possibility, and if you throw in a split with Saint Louis (the kind of result you guys are going to have to get now and then to reach 90 or so wins), you have 7-4. The Orioles are having the opposite problem right now, with our first 22 against other AL East teams or Detroit. If both teams tread water in the tough part of the schedule and beat up on the weaker teams in their respective league, they should both be playing in October. (And maybe, we can have a Beltway World Series!)

EmDash said...

Hi, new seems like the Nats have had an unusually long string of games with starters who don't have proper command/good breaking pitches. (Zimm's first against the Marlins, every starter in the Atlanta series, Strasburg tonight). What could cause something like that? Is it just an odd coincidence or something to be more concerned about, do you think?

Bjd1207 said...

I'm not sure EmDash but I definitely see the same thing. Matt Williams was on 106.7 this morning and was giving all the typical answers. Many of them come off much more as excuses than explanations. Fastball command is the culprit according to him. "They just couldn't hit their spots" Now I don't know what contributes to Stras being able to hit his spots exactly 1 week ago and strike out 12, compared to yesterday and get blown up. MW's answers seem to almost attribute it to random chance, but there better be more to it than that for the money these guys make. Any real explanation out there?