Nationals Baseball: We now return you to your previously scheduled program

Thursday, April 10, 2014

We now return you to your previously scheduled program

The Nats are good.

The Nats won last night. They now have the best record in baseball.  Early? Sure. 8 games is only 5% of a baseball season, but what have you seen that actually bothers you? The tendency to have issues hitting good pitching? Guess what. Everyone has that problem and on a usual night the Nats have the arms to make it a battle. The injuries? OK the injuries are an issue already sapping the Nats depth but at least the Nats had the depth this year, right?

Last year the Nats would have already been staring at a black hole in the 8th spot in the lineup with Solano likely replacing Ramos. Zimmerman's issues would have them staring at a whole lot of Lombo.  Lombo is ok used very sporadically but is a scary proposition when used every day*. Last year the first non-Top 5 start was Zach Duke. The next one was Nate Karns. Karns might be a better "prospect" than Jordan or Roark (might - he's getting killed in AAA this year), but Jordan and Roark are better "pitchers right now" and the Nats are a team to win right now.

This is the team Nats fans thought they were getting last year before the wrong injuries and poor back-up planning brought the team down.  Enjoy it. (seriously enjoy it now - one more injury and I can't promise such a rosy outlook)

Last night notes

Williams makes stupid lineups but this team is too good for it to matter. But don't just laugh it off. A stupide lineup in the playoffs can matter.

Williams also over manages but he doesn't do it badly if that makes any sense. He does too much but everything he does seems defensible. In other words, if he runs into a scenario where "If you do X, things might get better", he does X. It's like the "might" doesn't matter to him. Still because it's defensible he will run himself into some decisions that make sense to do early, like pulling ZNN a few batters before he may have done conventionally. ZNN didn't have it and it was very close to being a throw in the towel game.

Speaking of ZNN, that was a stinker wasn't it? He does have these sort of games. He had about 4 last year. What's really rare is the fact he threw less than 60% of his pitches for strikes. (He averages around 68%) The last time he did that was May 6th, 2012. One game fluke? We certainly hope so.

A twitter follower wanted me to comment on how ZNN was so hot in Spring Training and everyone was like "he's the best" but he's thrown out one good, but short, outing and one terrible one. But I'm way too classy to say, once again, Spring Training stats don't matter. Really why would I bother harping on the fact that Spring Training stats don't matter at this point anyway? It just wouldn't make sense to say Spring Training stats don't matter two weeks into the season when that's in the past. So I'm not going to say Spring Training stats don't matter. Sorry.

Ok one time SPRING TRAINING STATS DON'T MATTER**. Not even just a couple weeks into the season.

*Lombo is hitting .321 for the O's.  That sounds good but he's getting on base at a .321 clip. That's not good. He's slugging .321. That's bad. He's actually below average (#140 or so out of 205) in OPS right now. With a .321 batting average.

**OK, that's a simplification but since the things that do matter, like pitch velocity and slugging, only might matter in some cases it's far better just to take the above to heart.


bsimon24 said...

Gotta mention this. In Spring Training, Melky Cabrera had the most hits in the MLB. He's been a top-20 fantasy producer so far. You can gauge some things from Spring Training.

Strasburger said...

A lot of positives to pull from last night. I know it's trivial to say this, but I do feel like that AB for Bryce was critical to stopping the slump where he stopped it (hopefully).

You could read his frustration very easily as he kept missing that outside fastball. After battling at that AB, he gets that inside fastball and murders it. Good time for a HR, especially for a kid that looked like he was about to break his bat.

How about Werth? Can we expect a second year of superb batting? Early signs say so, barring injury.

We need Stras to re-emerge at the Nats best pitcher by far tonight. Gio looks sharp, but I think Stras has a much higher ceiling.

Harper said...

bsimon24 - If you look at those doing well in ST, I bet half are doing well now. That's not really "telling". That's a coin flip. You'd do just as well saying "These people were really bad in ST, so they'll do well in April". If you can't tell for sure who is going to get "heads" there isn't any reason to buy into the stats.

Bruger - Werth... tough to say. Superb I'm saying not. You wont get .330 with 25+ HRs. but .300 and 25 HRs? .280 and 30? Maybe. I'd lean toward higher ave, lower slugging. .290 / 20-22?

Bote Man said...

Fun game last night. I could take 2 or 3 of these each week.

I don't know why Soriano came on in the 9th when Matty should have brought on the Nats' closer, Barrett.

Or is it Bartlett??? Can't tell the players with a Mets program!

Donald said...

As fun as last night's game was, and how glad I am that the Nats are doing well, the Braves series left a bad taste in my mouth that hasn't completely gone away. Given the Nats schedule, it's possible for them to make the playoffs solely by beating up on the weak teams but until they start winning series against top teams, I'm going to withhold judgement. I completely agree, though, that early signs are mostly positive.

DezoPenguin said...

Well, so far the NL East looks through eight games exactly as we expected it to look. The Nationals are good. The Braves have a lot of really good pitching that could carry them a long way but their suspect hitters are suspect. The Marlins and Mets have good starting pitching that could carry them to .500-ish if they get some breaks, but have too many lineup and bullpen flaws to get past that (also, Jose Fernandez is really good at pitching). The Phillies are an old, bad team that needs a lot of luck to get out of last place.

cass said...


Moustakas hit way better than Melky in Spring Training (1.290 OPS) so I guess he's doing great too, huh?

Harper has this exactly right.

Crazy game. Crossing my fingers that this was just a blip for Jordan. I suppose we could check his release point and stuff but I think I'll just wait and see.

Kenny B. said...

The whole game last night was a fun experience to follow on my phone. At 5-0 that early, does anyone think the 2013 Nats would have made much noise the rest of the game?

It's partly the random variance of this particular game, of course, but the season started with a few comebacks against the Mets after getting down early, and then the same against the Marlins last night with two separate comebacks. It at least gives you some sense that it *can* happen. Last year, every run the Nats were down felt like 6 because of how the team struggled to score.

It looks like the Nats feast on relief pitching. If this trend continues, do you think about changing up approaches to have hitters look for longer ABs early in games and tucker out the starter? If Matt Williams overmanages (which I agree he does, but I don't mind it because it's a refreshing change from Davey "Stay the Course" Johnson) it seems like something he might do.

Would love to see the Werth renaissance continue from last year. Every hit makes that contract just a little easier to swallow (and hopefully sells the Lerners on the potential value of big spending).

Anonymous said...

It's still early, so I'm willing to cut Williams some slack on his lineups. He's new to managing, and new to the team, so he might be doing some tinkering while he gets a feel for the team. Then again, maybe he will do this all season long, based on matchups and how each player is doing. We'll see how this plays out.

JE34 said...

I'm excited and optimistic, and trying my darnedest to keep perspective, and trying desperately to stay coldly analytical like our gracious host here... but The Continuing Adventures of Tyler Clippard are getting to me. It *feels* like he has a two-baserunner quota to hit with every appearance (except Tuesday night, where he had the rare 1-2-3 inning). He loves putting the leadoff guy on. Does he have to pitch every game?

Perspective: I think that's my biggest complaint right now. Not a bad place to be.

cass said...

Boy, Strasburg sure unraveled today after the Nats committed two errors behind him.

Note that this start will not be remembered by the Strasburg-is-mentally-weak crowd because it does not fit their preconceived bias. Or perhaps they'll say that Strasburg pitched poorly because he gave up a run and didn't notch a complete game.

Bjd1207 said...

@Cass - Lol first of all. Completely called it with the Strasburg mental state thing. Second, based off ZNN's own reaction to that game I think it was a blip. Typically very competitive, he practically shrugged it off saying simply that he couldn't get his fastball anywhere near the plate.

@Anon - I think you may be onto something with Williams pulling this lineup stuff throughout the season. I'm not sure if there's convincing evidence that keeping batters in the same positions consistently improves their performance (not just selecting those that get moved DUE to poor performance). I'm going to start looking though. He could be basing it on splits, match up history, or nothing at all. I seem to recall him saying (when Ramos wasn't injured) that he wanted to have 8 hitters he could shuffle into 8 different slots.

But yea, this team is good

Richard Parker said...

Remember one thing: Last year at this point the Nats were also 7-2. Then they went to Atlanta and proceeded to lose three straight. The rest of the season was history. Up next? The Braves.

Richard Parker said...

Strasburg's K/9 is now an astronomical 14.82. The next closest is Travis Wood at 12.41. That change-up is just sick.

Richard Parker said...

The key is the next ten games. After 19 games last year, the Nats went from 7-2 to 10-9 and were already 3.5 games behind the Braves (two days later they would be 10-11 and 5 games back).

In other words, don't get too excited. We had the same record at this time last year. Yes, the wins have been a bit more convincing, but it only takes a small rut to change the course of the apple cart.

Donald said...

@Pi's tiger -- totally agree, though it might not take 19 games to reach some conclusions. But until we beat the Braves in a series I wouldn't get too excited. In the next 10 games we face them and St. Louis for 4 at home. If we can win the series in Atlanta and Miami and tie the Cardinals at least, I'll feel much better. But lose to the Braves again, drop 3 of 4 to St. Louis and the whole picture changes.

QuinDuke said...

Well c'mon now, Strasburg was on his way to finishing the game in under 90 pitches. Then the errors happened, he lost his composure, and gave up the big hit, his pitch count exploded, and Williams had to bring in multiple relievers just to finish the game. True superstars don't do that.

Kenny B. said...

Indeed, but remember that at this point last season the Braves were rolling like a steam engine. This season, the Braves look flat to start, and no one else has much going on.

I still agree with the call for patience and to slow down the hype train, but just note that the competition is not quite so stiff to start this season.

Bjd1207 said...

@QuinDuke - you're confusing correlation with causality. Cass' point is that there's no reason (or evidence) that errors then lead to mental mistakes/missing spots. Just because they happened together once this game doesn't mean its a causal chain. For example: "...then the errors happened, then a fly landed on his arm, THEN he lost his composure" Was it the fly? Almost definitely not. Was it the errors? I could believe that a little more. Are we just trying to write a narrative into a series of events? I think so

QuinDuke said...

@Bjd1207- Oh, I know, I was just keeping with the theme. If I could have somehow tied in Strasburg's W/L record to the low number of runs scored while he was in the game (while conveniently forgetting that Miami's relief pitching got shelled, because that doesn't support the point), I would have tried to. Hopefully this year the bats stay lively during his starts, because with the way he pitches, he deserves to have the various stories told about him go away.

Bjd1207 said...

@Quinn - sorry for the misinterpretation. Sarcasm carries poorly over the interwebs :/

Froggy said...

Like I said Harper I love it when you bash Rendon as he always seems to hear you and have good to great game. Please keep it up. You ate his good luck charm. LoL

Froggy said...

You ARE his (Rendon) good luck charm.

bsimon24 said...

Harper, back to the Spring Training comment at the top. Top four guys in AVG during Spring training: Utley, Blackmon, Freeman, A. Ramirez. Also in the top 20 are J. Upton, Kubel, Gomez, Hechaverria and Solarte. Those are people that are having great starts to the season, and there are a few other in that list that are having good seasons. Gotta give it at least a little bit of weight for AT LEAST the beginning of one's season right?