Nationals Baseball: At a loss

Thursday, August 13, 2015

At a loss

The Nats passed a symbolic line in the sand when they fell 1.5 games behind the Mets. At that point if both teams played as expected the Mets would most likely take the NL East. But as a line in the sand it was a fuzzy one. A Nats win and Mets loss would put the Nats back on the side of the line we'd want them to be.

Now there are no more symbolic lines to cross until elimination from the playoffs but each game lost in the standings hurts more because it would take longer to get back to where you wanted. Now we get into the paces.
  • If the Mets go .500 (24-24) they will finish the season at 86-76
  • For the Nats to win the NL East outright at 87-75 they therefore have to go 29-20
Maybe the Nats can pull off 29-20. It's a 96 win pace which is way higher than what the Nats have played all season, but it's not unthinkable for a shorter time period. Plus their schedule lightens up considerably after this road trip. But it's a stretch

Maybe the Mets will go .500. However they've played at a .544 pace this season and since becoming the New New York Mets at the trade deadline they are 9-2*. Their schedule is the only one that's easier than the Nats for the remainder of the year.

You're looking at two unlikely scenarios that both have to play out. It's better to assume then, one unlikely scenario and that the other goes roughly according to plan. Right now we should be hoping for a Nats run, a la... let's say the Nats last year when they won 10 in a row starting on August 12th, or when they went 13-3 starting on September 7th,  or a Mets collapse a la... well the Mets in 2013 when they went 10-20 starting on August 12th or in 2012 when they went 4-14 starting on August 4th. Yes, I'm using recent years to hint that it's not crazy to think it might happen. However, these are different teams. It's still not something to expect.

How may the Nats make a run? Hit, dammit, hit. It's both surprisingly and unsuprising why the Nats are floundering. Look at the team. The only above average hitters playing right now are Bryce, "Slappy" Yunel, and "Bench" Robinson. Every other bat is hitting below average for the year, starters, bench players, everyone.  It's suprising that this has happened, but once you see it has happened it's no mystery why the Nats can't win. The starting pitching will give the Nats more winnable situations than it won't**. It's up to the hitting to convert on those. How to do that...  I have no idea other than keep running out the guys you've got out there and hope it clicks. You can replace Werth as I noted yesterday but the truth is some combination of Werth, Rendon, & Zimm have to start hitting. Making a single move of playing Robinson for Werth isn't going to make the Nats score enough runs to matter on it's own.

* some commenters like to joke that I jinxed the Nats but if you look back what I said was I thought the Nats would win if the rosters stayed the same. If the Mets didn't have Clippard, Uribe, Johnson and Cespedes, do you think they are up 3.5 games? I'd bet even with the pitching they've got - maybe they are up 1.5. Maybe.

**A week or so ago I noted that the pitching wasn't being great. Since the 5th of August the Nats have gotten very good to great games from Ross, ZNN, Stras, Gio, and ZNN again. It's picking up.


Chris Needham said...

I never like the "have to play at X pace" stats because seasons are such peaks and valleys.

It's doubly so when you've got this meany games left between the two teams. All the falling behind means is that there's less margin for error in those six games.

Anonymous said...

I am dubious that this team will end up winning the division, but my gut tells me that they have one more run in them that will get them either into first or tied with the Mets. From there, we'll see what happens.

I just doubt that the Mets big 3 can continue to pitch at what are essentially historic levels for the rest of the season. Maybe they will, but it seems unlikely.

Fries said...

As soon as the Mets landed Cespedes, NYM put themselves as the frontrunners to win the division in my book. They saw their weakness (scoring runs) and capitalized through trades for established hitters both for average and power (Uribe and Cespedes, respectively).

Rizzo, who is a genius still, was just too damn stubborn to make any trades. The Nats NEED a bat like Cespedes and the fact that Rizzo hardly made an effort (it appears, may be wrong about what went on behind closed doors) really irks me. The Nats haven't hit all season, Werth is notorious for slow warm ups, Rendon and Zimm are always injury risks, and Span's timeline wasn't looking good. Why the hell don't you try and make a trade at that point? Throw Cole and some middling prospects out there to land a rental, we've traded him once already why not again?

Chaz R said...

Very depressing. They just haven't "gotten it together" all season. I want to believe they have a run in them; there's not been a win streak all season. This is feeling more and more like 2013.

Robot said...

I've been pleased so far with Zim's progress since returning from the DL. I still believe Werth just needs more time/ABs, but for science's sake, drop him to the 7th or 8th spot in the line-up until he gets sorted out.

I'm not optimistic about the rest of the season, but it's still possible for the Nats to go on a late-season tear. They did in 2013 and 2014, as I recall. Maybe Bryce will have another month where he stops being BRYCE and transforms into BRYCETRON THE DESTROYER, as he did in May.

Or maybe we'll have another repeat of 2013, miss the playoffs, and endure another cold and joyless winter of Redskins football without the memory of an NL East title to keeps us warm.

That makes me a sad robot :-(

SM said...

I live about 2 line drives from Toronto's Skydome, and comparing and contrasting the Jays with the Nats can be an interesting exercise.

Both have extraordinarily wealthy ownership who occasionally spend generously, but are known to throw nickels around like proverbial manhole covers.

When the season opened, the teams were in some ways mirror images--Jays' pitching anchored by Dickey and Buehrle vs. Scherzer et al. But an offensive juggernaut, comparing, say, third basemen Josh Donaldson with Escobar (who used to play SS here).

Both teams scuffed along--injuries hurt both teams, less so the Jays--until the trade deadline. And then . . . open the window, Aunt Minnie! Tulowitzki and David Price. A Ben Revere here, a Troy Hawkins there. Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello off waivers last year.

Power at the corners, even more power at SS (Tulowitzki replacing an obviously declining Reyes) and an ace whose presence has somehow rubbed off on a suddenly very effective rotation. They're now carpet-bombing the opposition into oblivion.

Every team knew the Jays needed pitching, and figured it was a seller's market. Yet the Jays gave up surprisingly little. Their strength was offence, yet they powered up more with Tulowitzki, again for relatively little.

There's no grand sweeping statement here, but enough between-the-lines suggestions to draw your own conclusions about the Nats.

One thing for Nats fans: When Pandora opened the box and released the mankind's miseries (the Yankees flew out first), the last item left in the box was Hope.

Anonymous said...

It seems like only a week ago that Drew Storen had us all fooled into believing he's an elite relief pitcher. I can assure you, that's a mistake I'll never make again.

In reality, he's perfectly emblematic of this entire franchise: entitled, unjustifiably arrogant, and delusional.

John C. said...

The point about needing to hit, dammit, hit is completely valid. I will note as an aside that since coming back from injury Ryan Zimmerman has been the best hitter on the team. Yes, including Bryce. So not including him on the (very sparse) "plus" side of the offense column is a bit misleading. Hell, even Desmond is showing signs of life.

But hitting isn't going to do it alone. I know this because the Nats bats are coming around, we just haven't noticed. Until running into Greinke and Kershaw the Nats had scored 4 or more runs in eight consecutive games. They were 4-4 in those games. They lost all four games where they scored "just" four runs - they scored 5, 6, 8, and 8 runs in the four games they won. That indicates that the problem is pitching (and defense) as much as hitting.

Kenny B. said...

I don't suppose you're ready to "call it" for the Mets?

David said...

The trio of Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard might very well be the best trio of pitchers in the history of baseball.

Kenny B. said...

@John C: More specifically, the problem seems to have been *relief* pitching. And ironic moniker for this team, to be sure, since "relief" is about the farthest feeling from my mind when our guys make a call to the bullpen.

Harper said...

Needham - I like them if only because fans generally underestimate how big gaps really are. 3.5 games is not small, but say 3.5 with 50+ left and people start thinking "oh that's doable". Show them that if the Mets play average the Nats have to play great and it drive the point home better

Anon #1 - you'd think but it better happen soon. Once you get 4-5+ games out the standard ebb and flow isn't going to get you close enough. Something special has to happen

Fries - I think Rizzo was probably hamstrung with $ to make deals. Now could he have given up talent? Yeah, but I think he sees the same writing on the wall that I do for next year. If payroll is to go down and they lose all those FAs they need those young players to stay in it. Can't trade for rentals. Of course I'd say they probably are going to have a rough go at it anyway so make the deals

Chaz R - no win streak all season? Where were you in May? (but no win streak recently- definitely)

Robot - I think if it happens it'll be a snowball. Right now Bryce is pressing a little because he feels he has to. If Rendon hits and Zimm hits Bryce can relax and maybe take off which makes everything around him much better as he gets the attention... They just need those injured guys and or Desmond to get hot.

SM - I'll note that the Yankees were in first, even out of that box. They'll get it together dammit!

Harper said...

Anon - I don't think any of those really apply outside a few fans. I have other negative adjectives, just not those.

John C - the pitching hit a rough patch for about 3-4 weeks there. It's coming out of it for the most part in the past week. When the pitching is bad - it's average. When the hitting is bad - well you see.

Kenny B - Not quite yet, no sorry.

David - I suppose anything is possible.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the 6 H2H. Like Chris Needham said, the difference in the standings is just margin for error. 3.5 games is well within striking distance. There's plenty of season left.

The Mets have been playing the Rockies at home with their aces, while Nats lost to Greinke and Kershaw in LA. Losing a game or two in the standings was expected before the LA series started.

I won't say the teams will be tied by Monday, but I expect the Mets lead to shrink by 2 or more games. They're taking a big step up in competition from the Rockies with their weakest pitchers, Colon and Niese, starting against the Pirates, while the Nats are facing the struggling Giants.

For all the hype given the Mets aces, the Nats frontline starters are just as good. The Nats backline starters are better than the Mets backline starters. Advantage Washington. Plus, Nats pitchers don't need to be as good because the Nats hitting is better. The Mets offense improved with the trades but not by much. If their pitching lets up at all, they're toast.

Being shut out by Greinke and Kershaw is not unusual. Beating up good pitchers like Anderson with shutout stuff by the Nats 4th starter is more of what I expect the rest of the way. The Mets won't be able to hang with that for ~50 games. Even if they do, the Nats will take care of the Mets in the 6 H2H.

Anonymous said...

Hey Harper,

Nice shoutout from Steinberg:

But are you really comfortable being known as "the Boswell of Nats Bloggers"? Even if he meant James Boswell, aren't you afraid that people will think he's comparing you to Boz?

David said...

David Wright returns next week and Stephen Matz returns September 1.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - Outside of Colon, who is a "Backline" starter? Looking a Niese's numbers the last 12-13 starts. Outside of Max I don't think the rotation is as "good" as we think.

BTW those same Rockies that the Mets are beating up on, we went 1-2 against.

Anonymous said...

"The Mets have been playing the Rockies at home with their aces, while Nats lost to Greinke and Kershaw in LA."

Except you left out the part where the Nats lost a series to the Rockies (at home, too) and the Mets had just come off a series where they beat both Grienke and Kershaw in LA.

Anonymous said...

The Mets did beat both of them in July.

A reality check is needed.

Harper said...

Anon #1 - it will come down the H2H... assuming the Nats are close enough. Sitting at 3.5 games out with 50to go is a good way of finding yourself 6 games out with 40 games to play. So I agree 3.5 games is striking distance but that doesn't mean being here half-way through August is ok or we should feel good about it. It means the season isn't lost yet, that's about it.

Anon #2 - I think he actually meant Tom Bosley. I'm a very warm father figure to him.

David - Yep. Although Matz return will be muted because it'll probably coincide with some lessening of work for the big 3.

Anon #3/#4 - "those same Rockies that the Mets are beating up on, we went 1-2 against." Yeah easy schedules only matter when you use them to win. Nats have won one "should easily win" series since July began (managed a couple wins in closer ones so it hasn't be a straight free-fall)

Anonymous said...

Mets up 9-3 today. Take note - That's how you take care of business @ home vs. an inferior team.

David said...

Mets have blown a 7 game lead with 17 games to play before, there is precedent there. Redsox also had a pretty large collapse as well since then.

Matt said...

Something of note: 3 of the 6 against Mets are the last 3 games of the year...could matter, could not.

Look at both team's schedule rest of the way:

Nats: 4 SF 3 Colo 3 Milw 3 SD 9 Marlins 3 StL 7 Braves 6 Mets 6 Phils 3 Orioles 1 Reds
Mets: 3 Pitt 2 Balt 3 Colo 10 Phils, 3 Red Sox, 6 Marlins, 6 Nats, 7 Braves, 4 Reds

The big difference would be home/road splits Mets 21/26 Nats 27/22.

Also, Mets about to sweep, looks like it could be 4 before the Nats start tonight.

Matt said...

David - Only Wright was on that team...and they had ZERO pitching.

Anonymous said...

"Mets have blown a 7 game lead with 17 games to play before, there is precedent there. Redsox also had a pretty large collapse as well since then."

Different coach, different GM, different team, EIGHT years ago.........

Kenny B. said...

I appreciate the efforts to remain positive, but I think it's about time we all step up and realize that an October appearance is unlikely, and the Nats fading into the wilderness is imminent. We've still got those H2H games to go, but we're getting crushed by good pitching (hell, we're scraping by against bad pitching), so I wouldn't hang my hat on those games. Unlike some teams, the 2015 Mets seem to understand the idea of adapting to the circumstances to improve the likelihood of winning.

Bryceroni said...

I can't take all the hand wringing. At this point all I can do is watch the games and hope the nationals win.

In a certain sense being out of it is better because at least there is some certainty. In between like this is what drives me mad.

Anonymous said...

Nats came around in 2005. All you guys are like 13, who cares if the Nats make the playoffs. You'll have plenty more baseball to watch.

Darnell E said...

Mets offense is number one in NL scoring since july 24

Mattyice said...

@Bryceroni - you just need to change your outlook. If the Nats were running away with the pennant then we would be spending the next two months praying that they could get out of the divisional series and hoping nothing went wrong. If that were the case, we could potentially only get to watch three games of intense must win baseball. With the four game hole they have dug, we now have 59 games of excitement!!

At least this is what I keep telling myself...

Donald said...

While I appreciate the perspective that the Mets just have to play .500 ball to make it very difficult for the Nats, that's really an arbitrary starting point. Three weeks ago, those numbers were very different. If the Nats sweep the Giants and the Mets get swept by the Pirates, running those numbers after that would be very different. There's definitely reason to panic, but there's also time where one good run can change the dynamic.

On the silver lining side, I'd feel much better about the Nats post season chances if they mounted a come from behind charge and landed in the playoffs on the heals of nice winning streak.

But to be honest, I haven't felt like this team has had any fire or destiny all season, outside of that one game in Atlanta. How long has it been since they've come from a big deficit and won, versus, giving up leads late and losing.

VI said...

A pre-game segment on why Michael Taylor should be ROY. That adds a lot to the credibility of the MASN crew! Don't get me wrong, the kid may get good, but he shouldn't be on a major league roster right now if the Nats want him to get good.

Anonymous said...

One team with momentum and another that is sinking. Things can change but understand what direction the wind is blowing.

Robot said...

ARGH!!!!! Panicking!!! Harper, talk me down from the ledge, this is badbadbad!!!!!

Robot said...

It wasn't even two weeks ago, we are all #LOLMets WHATHAPPENED?!?
Tell me all the fancy numbers and automation analysis says the Nationals have the Nymets right where they want them!!!


Robot said...


JE34 said...

The Nats are getting hard to watch. I stayed up last night to watch a whole team of Ian Desmonds at the plate (minus Bryce). Everyone flailing away at stuff out of the zone... guys like Rendon unable to catch up with a 92 mph fastball? It looked like middle-of-road-trip fatigue. Brutal. Starters are generally pitching well enough to win -- this is what will make it easy for guys like ZNN to leave (and the dump truck full of money, of course).