Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Don't let it get away from you

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Quickie - Don't let it get away from you

A couple follow-up thoughts on things :

The innings thing with Roark makes little sense to me at this point. There is an argument for pulling him from the rotation to save wear and tear on an arm that hasn't pitched more than 160 innings ever. Or better said, there was an argument.  He's at 192 innings this year. He'll make his next start tonight. So he'll be at 198 or so.

For those that want to save his arm, Roark will most definitely be #4 if he was in the rotation. At most a #4 will pitch 3 times in a postseason with lots of rest inbetween.  Are you honestly saying "198 innings is fine, but 216? ARE YOU CRAZY THAT'LL BREAK HIS ARM!!!!" If the Nats wanted to rest Tanner they should have already started down that path. At this point the whole innings pitched point is moot to me. Other reasons to keep him out of the rotation might be reasonable but not this one.

One thing to remember about Soriano - we're judging him at his worst right now. Part of the decision making process is taking into account recent results, but part of it is not letting recent results cloud your judgment of how good a player really is.  Less than 6 weeks ago Soriano was holding opponents to a .188 / .254 / .297 line and had a WHIP under 1.00.  Are you going to dismiss months of work because of what you've seen recently? Honestly YOU CAN. Those 6 weeks matter more than the 6 weeks before that because they are closer to the "now", but don't dismiss the work Soriano had done before today out of hand. Consider it thoroughly then make your decision.

There are these "The Nats aren't letting up", and "the starters are awesome" themes that have been dominating the post-clinch coverage the past week. Those are nice stories.  It's also true that those aren't objective looks at the team, but rather the positive feel-good vibes taking over at a positive feel-good time.

Oh, it's true that they've gone 12-3 and their starting pitching ERA is back to the crazy level of that mid-season stretch that had us all excited.  It's also true that they are feasting on the fat part of their schedule, taking on no teams with good offenses (otherwise known as the NL East). The Phillies are below average. The Mets are below average with a healthy Daniel Murphy and he was recovering when playing the Nats. The Braves are awful and in a tailspin. The Marlins might be ok... but without Stanton I'd imagine they drop behind the Phillies and Mets. The pitching should dominate these teams and the Nats should win these games.

In fact they should win these games convincingly... and they haven't really. The pitching is doing their part and we should be happy about that. These are bad offenses but they aren't just holding them in check they are shutting them down. Still they've won 5 of 12 by one run, 2 more by two.  All in all they've had one blowout win during this whole streak and they've averaged 3.8 runs per game. Blame the resting line-ups if you want but there it is. This doesn't mean the Nats are playing poorly (pythag expectation would have them at 10-5 or 11-4 during this stretch), but it does mean against lesser competition (MIA and PHI both have bad staffs, the Mets are ok) the Nats offense is scuffling along letting the starting pitching do the heavy lifting. If you think that'll work in the playoffs... well it might but I would rather see the team really play well in all aspects of the game going into the playoffs, rather than it's going now, with the Nats winning and us just assuming they aren't having any issues.


JWLumley said...

I wouldn't say the Nats offense is scuffling. I'd say they just played a series in one of Florida's national parks, where there were a couple of 400+ ft. outs. The Marlins also played some great defense that took away a hit or two that could've busted some of those games open. Of course, the cavernous confines of that crime against humanity down there in Florida, also means the Nats pitching staff probably benefited too.

Personally, I'd probably keep Soriano if for no other reason than upside and to ensure Blevins isn't part of the bullpen. Now if the question is Barrett or Soriano, than it's easily Barrett.

John C. said...

The Nats are 12-3 against major league teams; that's impressive no matter how you slice it. To say "that's what they SHOULD be doing" or "they're not winning by ENOUGH!" is silly in a baseball context where even bad teams win a lot of games - some against really good teams.

All it does is create a narrative so that, if things go badly, we can say "SEE! I told you so!" Even though studies have shown that being "hot" or "cold" going into MLB playoffs does not correlate to success or failure.

Harper said...

JW - I assume then there were no error by MIA or seeing eye / bloop hits by the Nats? It goes both ways.

I prefer the 8 man pen so they can all come! There's a playoff party and everyone's invited! (Except Eury)

JC - It is impressive. But there's impressive and there's IMPRESSIVE and it's the former not the latter. I know that may seem like picking at the Nats but honestly what I've seen recently worries me a bit. I think a lot of us have the same thought that very good to great pitching has a bigger edge over the Nats than it does against some other teams because the Nats don't have a single bat that you think "if he's not slumping he can get a hit off anyone" As long as enough bats are doing ok the Nats offense works but when a couple slump it starts grinding to a halt. This offense? The one I've seen recently? That's an offense that isn't going to win a series unless the pitching can do to playoff teams what it has done to mediocre ones.

That's the worry - not "hot" vs "Cold" as much as will the timing work such that what is a minor issue for a season becomes a major issue for a series.

WiredHK said...

Ok but...the two games where they really got shut down in the last two weeks were the games they rolled out a fully JV squad (Atl) and a half-JV squad (yesterday). Call me not super worried.

Despite the fact that we expect these guys to perform like machines at all times and block all noise out, some letdown somewhere is to be expected after wrapping up the division. Our offensive "letdown" means we're still winning every night, just not in landslide fashion.

I'll take it....

Nattydread said...

Playoffs are a crap shoot. Always.

Also, its not like there's been anything stellar going on with any of the other contenders. If the Nats are scuffling, then there's a lot of that going on. Pittsburgh and St Louis are both on a bit of a run, Baltimore has been feasting on the Red Sox. But otherwise --- scuffle, scuffle, scuffle.

Aside from the odd little league home run, the Nats have also been playing quite good defense behind the pitching. Rendon's 3B play is looking really good.

JWLumley said...

@Harper - Bloops may help, but homeruns that stay in the park decrease scoring. And I said it probably went both ways. Also, not saying that it's completely to blame for decreased scoring, but coupled with the Grapefruit - League feel some of these Lineups have had lately, could somewhat contribute to the overall offense.

Also, not sure I agree with the grinding to a halt analogy, because we really haven't seen much of the entire lineup vs. good pitching. As he regains strength, Harper is the guy you're talking about who--when he's right--can take Kershaw deep or Wainwright or whomever.

Finally, I think you're missing the innings argument with regards to Roark. I'm less worried about injury than I am ineffectiveness. He's in uncharted territory and you just don't know how his arm will react and if he'll lose command trying to maintain velocity or if his stuff will flatten out. Could be no issue, could be a huge issue.

Josh said...

I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of the offense, Harper. I would certainly love to see them score more runs, but if you take a look at the runs scored during the road trip:

@ NYM - 6, 3, 10, 3 (avg 5.5)
@ ATL - 4, 3, 1 (avg 2.33)
@ MIA - 6, 3, 3, 2 (avg 3.5)

Take out the post-clinch game in ATL and that series average is 3.5 and the average for the whole trip is up to 4.3, which is actually right at our season average (4.25) and good for 3rd in the NL, just behind the Dodgers. I know these were mostly not elite pitchers we faced, but the Braves and Mets are above average and the Marlins aren't far below.

Yes, they scuffled a bit against the Marlins in those last three wins, but they were getting hits (7, 12, and 8) so I think there was at least some luck involved.

I'm feeling pretty good with where they are. I'd love to see a few blowouts in the next couple series, but I won't be concerned if I don't. As long as the bats don't go completely cold for more than one game in a row, I think they're right where they need to be.

Harper said...

All - Optimism abounds, doesn't it? You can go ahead and look at it any way you want. Everyone's scuffling, post-clinch letdown,just that 1 JV game. But if we go back 5 series (back even before clinch) now you see 4 series with no better than average scoring and no consistency. That's what I see.

I'm not going to downgrade the Nats for the playoffs because of it - I'd favor them against every team but a Dodgers squad putting up Kershaw in Game 1. Because no one knows how much this matters. but if you give me a choice I'd like to see the offense rev up a bit rather than wind down.

Let's all just agree that they should score 12 runs tomorrow and shut me up.

Donald said...

The Nats will almost certainly face the winner of the Pirates / Giants WC game. The way pitching schedules line up, the Giants will probably start Bumgarner in the WC. Unless the Pirates switch some things around, Cole and Liriano won't be available for the WC. Have to hope that the Giants win that game facing the Pirates #3 guy. If not, we get Liriano and Cole in the first two games in DC.

Froggy said...

The glass is 3/4 full perspective:

@NYM we gave up a total of 9 runs = 2.25 per game

@ATL we gave up a total of 5 runs = 1.67 per (that drops to 1.0 per game when you remove the 2 that Soriano gave up)

@MIA we gave up a total of 7 = 1.75 per that drops to 1.5 - the run that Soriano gave up.

Coupled with @Josh offense results...and the way that Strasburg is pitching...I'll take that.

Natsfan51 said...

Harper, you're a numbers guy so I'm surprised that you didn't attribute our recent 1/2 run wins as just the RS/RA numbers balancing out. According to our +128 run differential, we should have 2 or 3 more wins by now. The only way for that to correct itself this late in the season, absent a collapse, is for the Nats to steal a few which is kind of what you're seeing. Still, a win is a win.

John C. said...

It's not blind optimism to say the Nars are in a good position. Would it be better if they were an unstoppable juggernaut crushing foes beneath their cleats while savoring the lamentations of the other team's fans? Sure! But baseball hasn't really produced a team like that since the 2001 116 win Mariners. Who didn't even make the WS. Oops.

Are there concerns? Sure ... and every team has some. And as a fan I wouldn't swap the Nats' concerns for anyone else's at this point. That's not saying the Nats have it made. They have, according to Fangraphs, about a 1 in 5 chance of winning the WS. So there is at least a 4 in 5 chance something trips them up. Which makes it MUCH less risky to look at the half empty cup than the half full cup.

JE34 said...

It is indeed nice to list "the way the Nats are winning" as a concern in late September.

While they may not be blowing anyone out, they do seem to be grabbing the early lead in games lately, more so than at any other part of the season (quick spot check of box scores seems to bear that out, but I didn't do meaningful research). One would think that this helps pitchers settle in better, vs the strain of having to be lights-out to keep your team in the game.

Chaz R said...

I must say I do agree somewhat with Harper. No question there are some mitigating circumstances for the lack of run production- JV lineups etc. And they did get a bunch of hits in the last tight games against the Marlins, but not many runs. I do agree with Harper that the Nats don't have a powerful offense. It's a good and balanced offense, but a couple of slumping guys and runs start to become few and far between.

Zimmerman11 said...

The difference between the Nats and Mets is 15 games out of 162 (or soon will be). Everybody is "elite" in the big leagues, even Rafael Soriano...

I think Harper's point is we don't have any individual superstars... and that maybe those superstars make the difference between getting to the post season and winning in the postseason when you don't have back ends of rotations and bullpens to kick around anymore.

We have lots of guys who can hit anyone when they're locked in, but we might not have anyone who can do that when they're not.

Chaz R said...

Fangraphs continues to be very optimistic about the Nats:

Donald said...

The thing about having the superstar hitter is that they can be pitched around. Not that you can, or would want to, do that in every at bat, but they can be neutralized to a degree. With the Nats, there really isn't a position player in the line-up who isn't capable of hurting you.

But I do agree that the Nats do have an annoying habit of all going cold at once. I sure hope that doesn't happen at the wrong time.

Richard Parker said...

Harper is just mad because a week or so ago it looked like the Nats might match his win projection (94-68) with a good finish, but now it's likely they'll surpass it. Also, given that even the best teams only have about a 20 percent chance of winning it all, any good prognosticator has to write at least one negative column to which he can point and say "See, I told you!" And if the Nats do win the WS, Harper can just say, "Well, I never said they WOULDN'T win it!"

Zimmerman11 said...

I would assume run scoring goes down in the postseason due to the shortening of the rotations and 'pen. We're likely to be witness to several very close games/lots of late inning drama.

I hope I don't have a nervous breakdown, and I hope the Nats come out on top either way ;)

Zimmerman11 said...

@ Chaz ... if Fangraphs says so, then I'm all in, anything short of a WS win is going to be disappointing now :)

They're giving us almost twice the odds of a coinflip scenario!