Nationals Baseball: It's the pitching, stupid

Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's the pitching, stupid

Let's recap

Zimmermann 8 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Strasbrug 5 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 K
Gonzalez 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 K
Scherzer 9 IP, 0 H, 0BB, 10K
Ross 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 11K

Combined 36.1 IP, 20H, 4BB, 34K and oh yeah 1 ER

That's an ERA of 0.25, a WHIP of 0.66, a BB/9 of 0.99, and a K/9 of 8.42

This is why the Nats were pre-season favorites.

We talked about it Monday but it's worth going over again. We figured the offense could struggle. We figured the bullpen could struggle. These things though, weren't the difference between a good team and a mediocre one. They were the difference between a great team and a good one. The reason "good" was the base (and I take that to be high 80s/ low 90s) was because of that pitching staff because let's just say you quasi-averaged the last two seasons for these guys

Max : 3.02 ERA, 1.074 WHIP (in AL)
ZNN : 2.96, 1.08
Stras : 3.08, 1.09
Gio : 3.45, 1.23
Fister : 3.12, 1.21

and let's say you tweak Max down a little for the shift and the rest up a little because you are a pessimist

Max : 2.90 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
ZNN : 3.10, 1.15
Stras : 3.20, 1.15
Gio : 3.60, 1.30
Fister : 3.50, 1.25

Outside of assuming perfect health, you've done nothing crazy here. There is no magical improvements or bounce backs to best years ever. Just their recent typical year, even downgraded a bit because you tend to do that as you age.

Here's where those numbers would rank now in NL ERA

Max : 9th
ZNN : 14th
Stras : 16th
Gio : 26th
Fister : 25th

and this is now where you have some oddly low ERAs that should rise. Even if you expand past qualified and let in some more ERAs based on like 40IP  you get 11th, 17th, 19th, 33rd, and 30th. You felt good about the Nats because if you were an optimist you had 3 #1 types and 2 #2s in your rotation. If you were a pessimist you broke it down as a #1, 2 #2s, and 2 #3s. Either way what you had was much better than what they had. 

The Nats were baseline good because of this. But when this went didn't materialize for various reasons - that assumed baseline dropped and if the hitting failed (like it kinda has) and the bullpen failed (like it kinda has) you were looking at a .500 team. Now though it looks like the baseline has re-established itself. They aren't perfect, they are coming back from injury, but there is an energy I'm feeling now, a "you can't stop us because if you happen to beat us tonight we'll shut you down tomorrow" that's building. If the Nats can get a 3-4 more very good to great performances in the next rotation turn I think the attitude takes a definitive shift.

The early season run was because Bryce had become a monster for a month. The team was carried by him but that carried with it the knowledge that if this one guy slowed down merely to very very good (like he did) the train would roll to a stop (like it did). This run that maybe starting is different. If one guy struggles the next guy in line is there to pick him up.  It's time to put these jokers in the rear view permanently. Sweep.


Why did I mock the NL East yesterday? Because two reasons (1) the NL East really does stinks. Sorry if that offends you, but it's true. There's no way to look at the records or numbers and come across with any other conclusion. If the Braves or Mets collapse we'll start the "worst division ever" discussions. This doesn't mean the Nats stink. It means they could get away with playing mediocre ball for almost 3 months and still find themselves in first. The Nats are a good to very good team, (I think we can agree that right now various issues keep them from having great potential) trying to find their way. Once they do (and I think they are right there) they'll trounce these clowns, and (2) I didn't want to right about what I was thinking which was - Strasburg comes back from injury, throws shutout ball and a chunk of Nats fans are talking about how the Braves offense stinks or how his off-speed was worrying. I honestly think there is a group out there who want to see Strasburg fail, if he can't be the awesome generation defining pitcher they thought he would be. And I hate that.  (Strasburg did what we all want to see pitchers do - find out what's working that night and work it as well as you can.)

Also - yeah the Yankees lost 2 in a row to the Phillies. It happens. The Nats got swept by the Reds. The Reds aren't better than the Nats. Hell, the Yankees aren't better than the Nats. I can admit that. If the Yankees finish with a better record than the Nats I'd be shocked. Now granted a big part of that is NL East. But I'd say that if they were tossed today into a neutral division.

Next time I'll warn you that I may offend your NL East loving sensibilities.


Chaz R said...

LOL... the NL East is truly awful. I would really be interested in seeing a comparison of the 2015 NL East to the worst divisions ever!

Yeah, I do agree Harper, there is some Stras haters out there. The ol' he doesn't have the mental toughness crowd. I think part of that comes form how he presents himself and his personality though. He appears to be a very laid back guy, an that comes across as weak, lazy, or wishy-washy. He's not like Max! That's too bad, because Stras is a really good pitcher, maybe not the generational talent that was projected, but certainly a solid #2 or #3 in any rotation.

cass said...

As for Strasburg, might as well just quote Rizzo. From 106.7's terrible website:

On Wednesday, Mike Rizzo, during his weekly radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan, reveled in the sudden success of his 2009 No. 1 pick.

“I laugh when I hear people say that he’s underachieving,” Rizzo told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “This guy’s been one of the best 10, or 12, or 15 pitchers in all of Major League Baseball for his entire career. Yes, he’s had a rough couple of months, probably a lot of it attributed to the spring training sprained ankle. But when I hear the statements coming out of some people’s mouths, that supposedly know this game — about, ‘Is he finished? Is he done? Should you trade him?’ — makes me laugh.”

Anonymous said...

Harper, some time it would be interesting to get your analysis of how the Nationals compare to other top teams in the NL such as the Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, and Cubs.

Harper said...

Chaz R - In the WC Era, the 1999 AL Central is going to be hard to beat. Three teams failed to get to 70 wins and the 4th won 75.

I don't think "laid back" is right phrase.

cass - Mike Rizzo has his issues but he's a smart guy. He knows Strasburg's value to the team (he also knows how impt a good Stras is to NEXT year and why ruffle those feathers)

Harper said...

Anon #1 - let's wait till All-Star break for that. Let's see if rotation really is coming together because that'll make a big difference in comparisons.

WiredHK said...

Everything comes down to pitching (to me), that's really the bottom line. Go look at your best teams across the bigs - they all are doing it with excellent pitching. Hell, the Cards have scored 27 FEWER runs than the Nats (getting them in bunches aside) - but their runs allowed is off the charts low. Every division leader except the Nats has allowed the fewest runs compared to the other teams in their division. Nobody is outrunning mediocre pitching except us (thanks, Bryce Harper and the NL East Field!).

If you don't let the other guy score many runs, you'll win a lot of games no matter what the hell your hitters do (last night anyone?). Offense comes and goes, but run prevention defines winning in the MLB (especially the NL).

If our rotation is coming into form, I like us to stay hot for a long time and put some big distance between us and the also-rans in the East....

mike k said...

You and your hoity-toity stats, Harper. Why don't you put down your calculator and actually WATCH the games, hmm? Or can you not see what's going on behind those thick nerd glasses of yours.

For someone who actually watches the game, and has PLAYED little league, it's very clear what's going on here. This team has turned itself around! Just look at that chocolate syrup bath Desmond got - now THAT is a team that plays like a team! Desmond, having a bad season, at the plate - bottom of the 11th, knows he needs a fly ball, PUTS THE TEAM ON HIS BACK and ball. CLUTCH. No way Desmond does that last month, before the TEAM played like a TEAM, before the chocolate syrup. You know Desmond was thinking about that chocolate syrup when he was at the plate. But you're probably all *positions glasses* "Desmond gets a fly ball 53.4% of the time, so chances are Nats score in that scenario." Shows what you know.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the division would stink without all the injuries, Wright, Murphy, Wheeler, Werth, Zim, Fernandez, Freeman, Minor, Lee, Utley, plus all the guys that just got back like Rendon, Stras, Fister etc.

J. Henry Waugh said...

I don't think there are any illusions on this blog that the NL East is anything but weak. Mets and Braves fans might disagree for the next couple of weeks before they ultimately prove the point.

Donald said...

If you are looking for topics on up-coming posts, I'd be curious to hear you take on what the Nats should do with the 4 pending FAs now versus your thoughts at the beginning of the season. At the beginning of the season for Desmond, I think everyone's opinion was to give him a qualifying offer, let him sign elsewhere and take the draft pick. Now there are even suggestions he should be traded this season to get something back since making the QO is not looking like such a good idea. And has Joe Ross's extremely limited sample made you feel any differently about trying to keep Znn or Fister?

Anonymous said...

Mlb now had a segment where they actually had someone say they would not give strasburg a 5/100 extension and I almost wet myself loling.

Flapjack said...

My wife is a Straus-hater. She is a Bryce-hater -- and, mark my words, she's going to hate him even more when she finds out that he posed nude for the ESPN Body Issue (I can't wait). Why would anyone root against members of their own team? Says she: Straus is always one bad pitch away from a hissy-fit. (Someone is, I say.) She's down on Desi these days, too. Sigh.

Me? I'm a Gonzalez doubter.

Bjd1207 said...

A Bryce-hater? Nothing performance wise I'd expect but just dislikes his "attitude"? I know I was a much bigger a-hole at 22 years old, so I can't ever fault him for that

Ben said...

Umm the NL east IS the worst ... Because the Phillies play there ... was dumpster fire not strenuous enough? The Phillidelphia Used Diapers Filled With Indian Food? The Phillidelphia Alex Rodriguez's Moral Compass? The Phillidelphia Theme Park Phillidelphia Cheesesteaks ... Of Anaheim?

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

The Philadelphia Three Mile Islands? (Ok, a couple of hours away, but still fitting...) The Philadelphia AARPs? The Philadelphia See Ya Next Years?

G Cracka X said...

Anybody see Denard Span's plays in the outfield last night? Fangraphs bumped him up from -5.8 DEF to -5.7. Even with the explanations given, I still don't get it. No way he's worst on the team, even allowing for sample size and all that

cass said...

Three Mile Island is much, much closer to the Harrisburg Senators so maybe we shouldn't invoke that one...

DezoPenguin said...

Philadelphia reminds me so much of early-decade Houston. The only difference is, Houston was a like an old, cheap house riddled with mold and asbestos and whatnot that Luhnow intentionally demolished to make room to build something better, while Philadelphia was just Amaro playing with matches.

(Here's hoping that luck doesn't break for them the way it did against the Yankees.)

Also, it seems Doug didn't want to be left out of the shutout party!