Nationals Baseball: Under the radar

Friday, June 13, 2014

Under the radar

It's a very busy weekend for sports. The World Cup is starting. Both the NBA and NHL finals are potentially coming to a close. And for non-poor white people, the US Open is happening. Even with all that I felt that a Nats win last night with another great pitching performance would have forced them into the news. Winners of 9 of 10 and sweeping what was the best team in baseball at their place, with their like 13th great start in a row? Heading into St. Louis to play the defending NL Champs? It may not get talked about first, or even before the first commercial break, but it would be the first baseball story.

Now for a few more days at least the Nats get to fly under the radar, probably until the Braves series starts. Basketball and Hockey will likely be over by then (fun fact : If the NBA finals reaches Game 7 they play it next Friday. Stretch it out will ya?)  Golf definitely will. If it's just the World Cup and baseball, the Nats will be prime to get their due.

Now of course there are 5 games standing in the way of that attention, the three versus the Cardinals being the ones you worry about.

The Nats finally lost a no-doubter. So we can go back and look at the amazing run they just put up. Over the previous 12 games the Nats went 10-2. Scored 70 runs (Almost 6 a game) and gave up 21 runs (less than 2 a game).  They trailed at the end of 9 of 110 innings, which makes you wonder how they lost. (If you forget there was the Yu Darvish gem where the Rangers broke through late and the Padres game that Soriano blew.) They didn't actually blow the doors off with their hitting (.263 / .333 / .448) the hits were imtely and pitching wise they did dominate - 1.52 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 11 walks and 92 strikeouts. I mean that is freaking amazing pitching by a staff for a 2 week stretch. Take the best pitching season by a pitcher you ever saw. Now assume that pitcher pitched for your team for 12 straight games and never lost anything on his stuff. That kind of gives you an idea of how well this team has pitched.

The Cardinals are next, the Braves in the hole (Astros on deck - It's like an All-Star game at an NL park and the pitcher is hitting).  Who wouldn't love to see the Nats exercise some demons, if only for a week.


Section 220 said...

This is a great post, and I hate to be "that guy," but the visual of the Nats exercising some demons cracks me up. "RUN THOSE STEPS! You can't possess anyone with jelly legs!"

Donald said...

The other reason 2014 isn't 2013 is that this year's version of the Cards isn't as good, much like the Braves. Gotta like the pitching match-ups we have in this series. We won't face Wacha or Wainwright. I really hope Zimmermann pitches well and the team opens with a decisive win like they did in San Fran.

John C. said...

Everyone assumes that the Nationals will roll over the Astros in between the Cardinals and Braves series. The Nats have gone 10-3 the last couple of weeks, and that's great. The Astros (the Astros!) have gone 14-5 over their last 19, and will likely plow through the hapless Rays this weekend. The Nats are going to be matching up Tanner Roark and either Blake Treinen or Gio Gonzalez against the impressive Dallas Keuchel and (probably) Scott Feldman, who is striking out 9.9 per 9 innings.

Keuchel will be the best pitcher for either team in the series, and might well be regardless of who is throwing that day. His stats are amazing. As in 8-3, 2.38 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 4.17 K/BB, .584 OPS and 0.993 WHIP. Worried yet? His numbers are better on the road, as he is 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 6.83 K/BB, .495 OPS and 0.835 WHIP. And remember most of that is in the AL, with no pitcher in the lineup. Yikes.

It would not surprise me at all if the Nats lost one of those games (particularly the first, against Keuchel), and if they overlook the Astros while focusing on the Cardinals and Braves they could easily lose them both. And if they lose the first game, with Keuchel pitching, it's not an indication that "OMG they lost to the DISASTROS!!" Anyone who takes that tack hasn't been paying attention to what's going on in Houston.

Wally said...

Agree with John C, this is midway through a very tough stretch and still hoping to be no worse than 1-2 back when through it. Anything better is gravy ( and I like gravy).

But it should be fun baseball to watch. I have been particularly happy about the step up in D. Hard to ignore the correlation between that and the pitching, but I won't speculate on causation.

Donald said...

The Astros have been playing well and it's hard to root against them. The Braves play 3 in Houston right after leaving DC so if the Astros play us tough, I sure hope they can keep it up.

Chaz R said...
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Chaz R said...

Totally agree with John C- Better be careful not to look past Houston. Talk about flying under the radar- Bo has his young team quietly playing very well. If we overlook the Astros while focusing on the Cardinals and Braves, we could easily lose one or both of those games.

The Nat continue to get some back channel recognition- Richard Justice from Baseball Prospectus was on MLB Now. They all said they think the Nats will win the NL East.

Drew Stifel said...
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Drew said...

-Treinen gets out of a bases loaded/no out situation
-Frandsen and Lobaton put men on 1st and 3rd with back-to-back singles
-With zero out, Matt Williams calls for a bunt
-Nats score zero runs in the inning

This was a momentum-obliterating and game-changing decision. Williams did the same thing against Miami, and we didn't score any runs in that inning either. I am appalled that I have not read anything about it on the various Nats blogs.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Drew, I said the exact same thing while I was listening to the game on the radio. The inning before, I'm convinced we were one hitter away from pulling Treinen. Somehow we manage to get out of the inning and remain down by only one run. Pitcher's spot comes up in a key offensive situation, and lo and behold, no PH approaches the plate.

The kid did a good job getting out of the situation, but he's done. Pull him and get some offense. The bullpen could arguably use the work anyway, since the rotation has been so good lately.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the manager may not mean much when it comes to adding wins, but he can mean a lot when it comes to costing them.

Donald said...

Drew and Booyah -- I don't have a really strong opinion on the topic, though I will say that had the bunt been successful a run would have scored on Span's grounder up the middle. It's impossible to say what the outcome would have been if he hadn't bunted. My thought at the time was that a bunt call was fine for the first two strikes. Bunting with 2 strikes after missing the first two seems like you're just giving away an out for free. With no outs, even a double play ball brings home a run.

So is your disagreement with Williams over bunting in general or bunting after 2 strikes?

Jimmy said...

@Drew/ BooyahSuckah!: Treinan is completely useless at the plate, if he's a guaranteed out he should at least put the ball in play and in his case(imho) he's got a better shot at doing that by bunting than by swinging.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Donald, I can't speak for Drew, but for me, the disagreement was with batting him at all. I thought they should have pinch hit for him and brought in a reliever the following inning. He'd gotten into a serious jam the inning before and was showing an inability to hit the strike zone. His pitch count was high for that point in the game, so it was likely that he was going to be done after another inning anyway (two at the absolute most). The Nats bullpen was well rested given the long streak of quality starts. Hudson had been very strong so far, and I thought this was probably our last opportunity to rack up at least one and maybe multiple runs.

It's just playing the odds, which MW doesn't seem to want to do. He seems like a "this is what the book says so this is what I'm doing" kind of guy, like having a defined "8th inning guy" and "7th inning guy". "Well, it's only the top of the 5th, and he's only given up two, so I can't pinch hit for him. They won't let me into the Traditional Managers Club for lunch, and I do love the tuna salad there".

BooyahSuckah! said...

And speaking of "Under the Radar", leave it to ESPN to run this piece of garbage the day after the Nats take 3 of 4 at the Giants' home field:

And I'll bet it would've run anyway, even if they HAD been swept. No love.

Donald said...

Booyah -- that I can agree with.

Chaz R said...

Well, I think I will be cancelling my ESPN subscription. Hello Sports Illustrated.

Drew said...


Bunting in general.

The likelihood of scoring a run in an inning decreases when you go from
A) runners on 1st and 3rd, 0 out
B) runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out

I don't care if its Treinen facing Tim Hudson. I'd rather see the tying run score while he grounds into a double play than see him bunt 3 straight pitches into foul territory.

And if he strikes out or pops up, hey, he failed, but at least he didn't fail while doing something stupid like bunting.

Donald said...

I can understand pinch hitting for him. But letting him swing away is likely to end in an out that doesn't advance the runners or a double play. There's a chance he could make a productive out but the odds are probably against that, especially with Hudson on the mound.

So the question is would you rather have runners on second and third with 1 out; first and third with 1 out or none on with 2 outs and a run in -- with the top of the order coming to bat?

If you'd rather have 1 run and two outs, then bunting him probably wouldn't make sense. But the odds would probably be that he strikes out or pops up anyway. And with Span batting next, you'd probably have decent odds of getting a run home regardless. That double play ball was hit to about the worst possible place for the Nats given Span's speed. In any case, I don't think it's particularly outrageous to bunt. Playing for a single, rally-killing run when you are down on the road seems very much like small ball when your line-up is hitting so well.

Drew said...

I'd very much rather have the run and 0 on with two outs. Hitting into the double play isn't ideal, but it ties the game.

When you bunt there, (barring an error) you take away any chance of the runner on 3rd scoring on that play.

Treinen has put the ball in play in roughly 50% of his professional at bats not including walks (13 of 27). If he swings away, there is some chance the runner on third scores.

Throwing away an out to move a guy from 1st to 2nd while there's a runner (not to mention the tying run) standing on 3rd base is the wrong move.

Bottom line- The likelihood of scoring a run in the inning decreased with that decision.

Clip&Store said...

How did you forget about Houston,? They're basically as hot as us and got their two best pitchers going

Chaz R said...

@Drew Where did you get stat that Treinen makes contact 50% of the time? He's a notorious K Master, with a .200 OBP:

He's got to bunt there.

Drew said...

On base percentage doesn't indicate how often he puts the ball in play. Go to baseball-reference and look at his stats from the minors and majors.

It doesn't matter who is batting. It's math.

I'm bowing out of this.

Donald said...

Harper -- what's your take on bunting in that situation? Like I said originally, I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. If it were Znn or Strasburg who are both pretty good with the bat, I might call for the bunt on the first pitch to get the corners moving in and then call it off. Seems like the odds of a better outcome increase when the whole infield is in motion to cover for a bunt.

Chaz R said...

Maybe... never was good at math. I don't think Treinen puts the ball in play. He's terrible at the plate and Fangraphs has him striking out 60% of the time- that's a crazy high number.

Where's Cass? He usually has an opinion about these things?

Zimmerman11 said...

3 of 4 from SF? That was awesome... now let's rough up the Cards! I'd take getting swept by HOU if we can take 2 off STL!

jesterboo said...

well that went bad fast...

BooyahSuckah! said...

I'm not even concerned about the three losses in and of themselves. It's the mental aspect of getting swept by a rival right before going into an extremely important series against the other always-seems-to-get-the-best-of-the-Nats rival.

Jay said...

I have serious questions about whether or not the Nats have the offense to win the division or go anywhere in the playoffs. If they come out and beat up on the Astros and Braves then ok, but I'm not expecting that.

Is it time to trade for a second baseman that can hit - Aaron Hill or Chase Utley, and leave Zimmerman in LF when Harper comes back? Span got hot to get back to average. He is now 0-19 and hasn't had a hit since last Monday. Not what you want out of leadoff spot. Also, Werth's power is down again. Should he be in the 3 hole in batting order?

Bad weekend erased great week. Oh well.