Nationals Baseball: You didn't listen

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You didn't listen

They were pretty simple instructions Nats. Gio was on board with it. Perhaps Nate Eovaldi was just so bad you couldn't avoid getting hits. This is what we get pulling guys from the dregs of the NL East.

"We got an NL East starter!"
"From the Nats?"
"Well that's ok. The Braves aren't quite as stacked but have a lot of young talent."
"Not them either."
"The Mets traded cross town? Sandy Alderson is getting bold."
"Oh that's right! How could I forget Hamels?"
"What's left? Someone like Tom Koehler or Nate Eovaldi?! Haha! I mean come on."

ZNN is here and there, but Adam Warren is nothing special, so tonight really it depends on the ZNN that shows up.

Anyway the Nats are back in first. Some people are taking this as a triumph of sorts. To me it's like the Nats wasted 40 games. If you assume the Mets are the only true challenger to the Nats (and that seems the most generous view of the NL East, arguably the worst division in baseball) then Nats record compared to the Mets one is the only one that matters. They are tied a quarter of the season in, the season starts anew. Do I like the Nats position? I think you have to. If you liked the Nats by 10 to start the year, and nothing has changed, you like them by 7-8 from here on out. I liked them for the season, so I like them for 3/4 of the season. I'd like them for 1/2 the season, or a month, or even a 10 game stretch no questions asked. (When you get down to just a couple series then you have to look at match-ups more closely)  The more games, the more likely it is the Nats talent advantage will shine through. 122 games is not 162, but it's plenty.

Some may say you shouldn't have been worried. They're wrong. The Nats were one bad stretch (which will happen at some point) and one great Mets stretch (maybe won't happen but as we saw not impossible) from being in real trouble. Like panic time, trouble. It wasn't likely that both those things would essentially happen back to back to start the year but like flipping a coin heads 10 times in a row - it becomes a lot more likely if I tell you you've already done it 5 times. The Nats wasted away their cushion. Now they've built it back. The worry state officially ended... I'd say about a week ago. Pulling within 3 games kept a bad series/good series combo from putting the Nats 6+ out*. It's not quite hammock time but I'd feel good right now. 

All the Nats have to do right now is avoid injury... well any more injuries. The team could absorb one OF injury with Taylor in the wings, one SP injury with Roark in the swingman role (nicks and dings have meant so far they've only needed spot starts) and maybe one IF injury with Espinosa (though no one expected him to hit this well). They've kind of gotten all of those, so they are on the edge. Will they get healthy before going over? That's the question. It's not a cliff's edge, it's a step's edge but it's there. You know what - really just keep Bryce and Max in bubble wrap between games and they'll probably make the playoffs one way or another.

(God willing the eventual Nats slow down - they aren't winning 85% of their games from here on out - doesn't coincide with some silly injury like Uggla going out for the year and people start saying "his veteran leadership mattered so much")

*It depends on what you think of your team / their team but for the Nats right now, 40 games in,  I'd say it breaks down like this for me

8+ games out : Panic Time
4-7 games out : Worry Time
2-3 games out : Annoyed Time
1 game ahead to 1 game out : Interested Time
2-3 games ahead : Blood in the Water Time
4-6 games ahead : Hammock Time
6+ games ahead : Tempt Fate and Look Ahead to Playoffs Time


Kenny B. said...

This 2010 list of walk-off homerun records suggests that Ryan Zimmerman is in rarified air in terms of walk-off homerun total.

I'm not savvy enough with the available tools to pull an updated list, but still, when you're better than Hank Aaron, and tied with the 'roided out likes of Bonds and Sosa without being 'roided out, I'd say you have earned the right to legitimately use the term "Clutch."

Harper said...

The smart players always try for winning it themselves when they have a chance. Swing for the fences. Shoot the contested 3. In sport memory every time you do it is like worth like 10 times when you don't.

J. Henry Waugh said...

Who has hit more walk-off home runs than Ryan Zimmerman in the history of the National League? Stan Musial. Who else? Nobody.

Eric said...

I'm not sure if this is gonna make any sense, or if I'm oversimplifying, or otherwise off the mark with this, but I'm gonna throw it out there:

It appears as though the season has started over in more ways than just the standings. If we play at a .585 pace from here on out, we end up at 94.37 wins, whereas if you play at a .585 pace from opening day you wind up with 94.77 wins. That means if we recover just shy of another 1/2 game from horrid start (7-13), we will have as much of a shot at 95 wins as we had on opening day.

If we win tonight, we'll make up just slightly more than we need, as playing .585 ball the rest of the way would then net us 94.785 wins.

J. Henry Waugh said...

The Yankees suck, Harper. They're going down tonight and both nights in New York in a couple of weeks. Get used to it, you North Carolina Yankee bandwagoneer. ZNN is going to mow down your pathetic lineup like a hot knife through butter.

Later I hope we can return to a peaceful state of mind where you can give us Nats fans useful information.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Rizzo was brilliant in keeping Taylor over Souza after all. Yeah he strikes out a lot, but I bet his plate discipline will improve with more ab's and by following good hitters in the lineup. You can't coach his speed on the bases, hr power and range in the outfield. More playing time will improve his routes as well.

Froggy said...

Although I called Zimmy's HR, Harper's boy A-roid stricking out, my biggest thrill from last night (other than picturing Harper yelling at his TV watching his team blow a 4 run lead) was Difo and his first big league hit! Against the the Knew Jork Jankees no less.

Heh, heh, heh...

Eric said...

To highlight what the Nats have accomplished a bit further, if you play at a .585 pace from 7 - 13 to the end, you end up with 90.07 wins.

I think we can say we've officially dug ourselves out of the hole...

Eric said...

Froggy, Difo's hit was a great moment! All around quality entertainment last night. I'd rather Gio had held down the fort, but his implosion sure did make for a lot of excitement!

Donald said...

And for the record, I'm totally sure that Tyler Moore could have made that same diving catch that Span did.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, are you going to convert to the Mets if the Nats win again tonight?

Anonymous said...

Bryce still needs to learn the game properly... Save the HR for men on base!

Harper said...

Eric - yeah basically the Nats hot streak has almost put them on the 95+esque pace they were supposed to be on.

"The Yankees suck, Harper." That's strong and likely not true. Possibly overplaying their .500 hand a little. Depends really on getting that rotation healthy again.

"They're going down tonight and both nights in New York in a couple of weeks."
Certainly possible.

"Get used to it, you North Carolina Yankee bandwagoneer."
Wait, what?

Anon - I don't think trading Taylor and keeping Souza was ever in play was it? I guess it depends on what was offered. Taylor younger and more complete slots right into Span's (FA soon) role, so I mean right move but let's not call Rizzo brilliant here. I don't recall anyone clamoring for something else.

Froggy - I was solo kid attending while fixing a computer issue so more like "Harper muttering after glancing at his computer screen" during that big Eovaldi breakdown. But you can still picture what you want. Imagination!

Eric - Patting down last of the dirt right now.

Donald - What video game was he playing as Span in this scenario?

Harper said...

GCX - No. Like most Yankees fans, I find the Mets amusing but not rootable.

Anon - And he keeps clearing the bases with these HRs. Doesn't he know a double would keep that men on base pressure on the pitcher?

The NATural said...

"Like most Yankees fans, I find the Mets amusing but not rootable."

Harper, are you a Giants/Knicks/Rangers fan too? I rather assume this is that attitude all NY A-team fans have when considering the B-teams (Jets, Mets, Nets, Islanders).

Eric said...

Going back to the last thread, Harper, you commented that the assumption is that the Yankees will offer Bryce the most money.

Do you think the Nats' signing of Scherzer makes it seem any more or less likely that the Nats will pay whatever it takes to keep Bryce? Is this even possible to predict with any confidence?

Let's use his current output as a reasonable yardstick for the kind of career he'll have until then.

Harper said...

tNAT - I am a Giants fan, though I don't live and die with the NFL. I was never much into pro basketball or hockey growing up (or now really) but my toe-dips there were for the Nets and Islanders. Now I toe-dip with the Hurricanes and don't really follow the NBA at all

I'd bet there are probably more Yankees/Jets fans than Mets/Jets. Yankees have big adv over Mets. Giants/Jets a lot closer. I'd ascribe that to the Giants being terrible for 2 decades right when the NFL was gaining major traction mid 60s on.

Eric - I don't think we can predict but if you were to make me guess I'd say it has little effect. Contract is so spread out. I do think it kills any long-term deal for a SP the next few years, so even if Fister/Stras/Gio all implode and ZNN does well I think they'd still try to offer ZNN under market.

Eric said...

Makes sense in terms of whether committed funds will have an effect, but what about the Nats' willingness to spend that heavily at all? In other words, is it still as safe to assume that the Yankees would outbid the Nats on Bryce?

Sorry, I'm bored today...project on hold. ;)

Harper said...

Eric - I would bet that SOME team outbids the Nats. A Bryce Harper deal (presumably - we're still 3+ years away) would be a different animal than one they've done before. Werth was overmarket but he wasn't viewed as a transformational player so the contract was expensive but not biggest and best of the offseason (Crawford got more for same # years, Lee got about same for 5 years). Max's deal could have been like that but the structure is team favorable.

Now why did Max agree? For the dollar signs. Boras had a target and wanted to get that target amount. Years aren't important for the selling of the deal. Boras is going to go for the $$$, most likely trying to make Bryce the first 300 million dollar man (assuming he's awesome for the next 4 seasons). I just don't see the Nats making that kind of commitment, or even the 200-250 million one if he's only very good. They may try again to spread it out but someone will give a to be 26 year old exactly the contract he wants. What are the Nats going to do? Go 350 over 20 years?

Yankees are always a good bet but Dodgers are there and sometimes owners just want to spend. See Pujols with the Angels or Fielder and the Tigers.

Eric said...

Gotcha, and makes sense. Thanks for the insights!

DezoPenguin said...

Really, the best thing in favor of Bryce staying with the Nats is that Rizzo and ownership have a weirdly functional relationship with Boras where they're willing to hand over money. I can see them paying Bryce (predicated on Bryce continuing to be BRYCE from here to his free agency time), and I can see Boras taking their money. Especially if the Nats stay a powerhouse team in 15-16-17.

The Scherzer contract proves that the Nats are willing to win a bidding war if they feel it's worth it. On the other hand, they haven't been willing to extend Znn or Ian to those kind of if-they-were-free-agent deals (which with Ian, may well be a good move...).

Ah, well, I'll save my worry over Bryce's fate for when it's relevant. Fister's arm and the gyrations being used to justify NOT using Roark in his place, those are present worries.

Donald said...

This assumes the Nats don't find a way to extend Bryce before he hits free-agency. I think with Boras, that's tougher to do, but if they are serious about keeping him, they have the advantage over every other bidder at the moment, in their ability to buy out his arbitration years. Also, because he started so young, they might be able to do some sort of deal now that extends him for 2-3 extra years. He'd still be young enough at the end to be in his prime when he hits free agency, but could keep him here a bit longer.

In any case, I think if the Nats really want to keep him, they shouldn't wait until he's a year or two away. At that point, he's going to wait and go for the highest bidder.

SM said...

The Nats need not worry whether Bryce becomes the first $300 million or $350 million-man.

If Bryce piles up 400 total bases this year, the front office will be on the floor crying "Mama!" in his first arbitration hearing.

(I'm waiting for some team to offer their entire starting infield in return for Bryce.)

Eric said...

"Fister's arm and the gyrations being used to justify NOT using Roark in his place, those are present worries."

What makes you think they won't use him in Fister's place? Did you catch MW kinda squirming when asked if he was available last night? Is it possible to effectively stretch out a reliever off the field?

J. Henry Waugh said...

And if you don't think MLB is rigged for the Yankees, all you have to do is watch the replay of Bryce's ejection tonight. Still, a sweep is a sweep, and Harper misses another prediction on the series the Nats "should" win. Also, remember that entire blog you wrote about Storen and how you didn't trust him in critical situations? Based on one game? Maybe you should write another one.

Harper said...

JHW - If MLB is rigged for the Yankees they've done a terrible job of it the past couple years. And I never predicted anything for this series - just asked (though I probably would have predicted a split)

If you think the distrust of Storen is based off one game ... well I'm not sure how long you've been following this team.

Anonymous said...

Harper- Moment savored.

Also am I sensing a tinge of salt possibly?

Froggy said...

The called strike by home plate umpire (Hudson) was low, and yes Byrce was being BRYCE and was chirping away. But when th umpire removed his mask and began a shouting match with MW, Harper did the right thing by getting out of the box and becoming a spectator while the girls went at it.

Two questions: how does Hudson toss Harper after barking at him to get in the box when HE HIMSELF doesn't have his face mask on and is NOT ready to call balls and strikes? In effect it is Hudson who is delaying the game?
Second question, how does the league discipline an umpire who is clearly wrong, lost his cool, and unnecessarily ejected the hottest player (playing wise) in the league who 38,000 fans paid to see?

Anonymous said...

And just in case you didn't think the ump was calling attention to himself, how about a-rods looking k to end the game?

Maybe its a makeup call (at least in part) but seemed like a chance to get Bryce and a rod in the same game.

Froggy said...

Washington Nationals to file complaint against Marvin Hudson, read article at Federals Baseball

To be fair, the called strike 3 pitch to A-Rod was horrible as well.

Zimmerman11 said...


Man beating the Yankmes feels good :)

Also... FIRST PLACE! :)

Kenny B. said...

Overlooked in the Yankees mini-sweep, first place reclamation, and the Bryce kerfuffle is the fact that Jordan Zimmermann seems to be getting back into the groove. That's huge for this team, as Gio and Strasburg struggle, while Fister is hurt. Scherzer is still a beast, so with a solid ZNN and a now startlingly consistent offense, things are looking up. That's impressive, since things have already been going extremely well.

Obviously the Nats can't continue this winning pace, but it's good to see the weaknesses shored up a little bit so that we can start to think of .500 ball as a performance floor.

I know Harper posted that he thinks the Nats will fall out of first maybe once more before taking it back and cruising into the fall. I think that's probably right unless the Mets continue to fall apart, which is something the Mets have a tendency to do.