Nationals Baseball: Feel Better?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Feel Better?

A little bit at least? I hope so because when I say the Nats are better than the Mets, on paper at least, I'm not kidding. I mentioned this in the comments yesterday but here it is again.

The Mets have 55 games left. Their best 55-game streak this year was 30-25
The Nats have 57 games left. Their best 57-game streak this year was 36-21

True, the Mets have more talent playing for their team now then they had at any point this year. But then again you might say the same thing about the Nats and certainly would with the return of Strasburg, then Span. I'm not crazy thinking the Nats still have the edge. Neither are the stats who continue to have the Nats as slight favorites. That being said there are three giant caveats hanging over the Nats "edge".

The first is the fact that it's based on expected performance, the best guess you can make on how players will perform from here on out. That's variable enough as it is. Add in "returning from injury" and the reasonable possiblities become so wide to almost be comical. The best guess for Rendon may be something like .280 / .350 / . 400 for the rest of the year. But .300 / .380 / .500 might be possible. So may .240 / .300 / .340. That variability means the best guess on how the Nats will end up is simply the most likely scenario out of dozens of scenarios that aren't particularly likely. One scenario had to be the most likely one. This is it.

The second caveat is that luck matters. People hate to hear that. Winner's pride is deeply ingrained in our psyche and we take any mention of luck as an affront, as if saying the winner got lucky is the equivalent of saying the winner didn't deserve the win, or didn't earn it. Both can be true though, you earned it, deserved it and got lucky and often that's what happens even if we try to deny it. This belief system creates the great paradox of sports, where we watch because we believe any team can win any game, but we also believe only the better team wins it all. It's not even completely true that the better team that day wins. Team A could be a pitching, hitting, and fielding machine. Team B could be the exact opposite. But have Team A hit line drives right at fielders at inopportune times while Team B manages a swinging bunt single, another to move him over, and an excuse-me bloop double down the line and Team B, clearly the worse team both that day and overall, can win that game.

The first two caveats are neither good nor bad. The Nats may play much better than expected and get lucky, and run away with the division. The Nats may play much worse than expected and get unlucky, and quickly fade from playoff contention. These things sit out there as more than potential equalizers to any edge the Nats may have. Equalizers that could be ignored say, if the Nats were up 6 games, but down 1 they could easily decide the season. But you'd still have to say they have an edge though, at least right now. Which brings us to the third caveat.

The Nats edge has grown slim enough that a bad half-week may wipe it out. The Mets have made themselves a better team. The Nats have had fading performances from key players. The once sizable talent difference is down to a mere few games over the course of the season. Right now the Nats are thought to be able to make up 3 games on the Mets for various reasons. That'll still be true let's say 5 games from now. But have the Mets go 4-1 and the Nats go 1-4 in those games and the gap between them will now be 4 games. It won't really matter that you think the Nats could make up 3 games in the remaining time. They'll need to make up 4. The Nats currently have the slimmest of cushions. For the Nats to remain favorites they can lose a game perhaps two more in the standings. Time will slowly tick away that advantage but right now losing games in the standings is the bigger worry. 

The Nats need to start winning now. There isn't any way around it. Last night was a good start, winning a game that could have gotten away from them. Keep it going. Get back into first. Get a bigger cushion. Dammit, do it. 

34 comments:

Chinatown Express said...

Just to add some perspective: Playoff series are 1-, 5-, or 7-game contests to decide which team is "better." The Nats and Mets are now engaged in a 50-game series. There's still a lot of room for variability, but the better team should win out. I think the Nats are the better team, even if narrowly.

Rob Evans said...

I do feel a little better, but I'm still on the ledge looking over. Once they get back even, I will at least have a seat.

Anonymous said...

I think this is spot on. The Nats advantage at game 1 was such that they were better enough to overcome some of their own bad luck and some good luck by one of the challengers in the division. That's essentially all gone now that we're at game ~110. The Nats and the Mets could both play exactly to expectations and the Nats could still lose the division if a few balls bounce the Mets' way (or against the Nats).

Anonymous said...

My take on this is an upside v. downside look. that more starters are playing near their likely downside than upside is telling. Desmond, Werth, Zimmerman, Taylor, Fister, Ramos and Strasburg have considerably more upside at this point then getting progressively worse. Bottom line is, if those players collectively retain this underwhelming level of play? the Nats are in for a serious dogfight right to the end. the upside is, i'm banking on Zimm, Stras and maybe one other to get significantly better the last third of the season and a couple of the others to at least progress to the mean (which would be an improvement). of course, Bryce, Escobar and Max might regress as well. BTW, FWIW, I really really would love to see Rizzo & the Nats pull out the stops and sign Zimmermann. if it's crazy? gotta let him go. but if we can be in the ballpark..

Bryceroni said...

I can't wait for strasburg to come back and remind everybody how good he is.

Also, while of course there will be a range of possible outcomes for returning guys, I
Am much more worried about (knock on wood) reinjury rather than underperformance for rendon.

Also, at what point (games back) do future concerns go out the window and short term winning becomes paramount? This includes things like benching/sending werth to AAA for reps, dropping foster from the rotation, calling up treat turner, etc.

Anonymous said...

Just how bad a manger has Williams been? So bad that I was downright overjoyed he actually used his good relief pitchers in a tie game. It was the first indication I've seen that he might actually be capable of learning something.

About the only thing that would make me happier would be seeing poor overmatched Ian Desmond get a day off once in a while. If that happens, we'll really be getting somewhere!

Mattyice said...

One other point that provides a glimmer of hope is that Storen pitched last night in a tie game against the diamondbacks 2-3-4 hitters! Not sure If the phone to the bullpen was broken, but the optimist in me hopes that Storen may be used at least somewhat effectively down the stretch. That could very well be the difference between playoffs and sitting at home.

Maybe the public bashing of Williams actually had an effect...

Anonymous said...

When we get Span back, I say we sit Werth if he continues batting 210 with no power. I hope we dump him this offseason, even at a loss.

Zim is clearly coming around, most of his outs are hard hit. Desmond will bat probably 250 the rest of the year, and Rendon will be steady around 285.

What we really need is Ramos to contribute something, like he did last night.

I think we win the division with 88 wins or so, Mets can't keep this up.

Zimmerman11 said...

Well crap...

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/did-your-team-blow-it-at-the-trade-deadline/

Anonymous said...

Why does Bryce continue to hit third? Why?

Nattydread said...

If the Nats win the division it'll be because they have raised their game. They should and, with so much of their roster coming back from injury, they can do this. An added plus would be that the team peaks as the playoff start. However, I am tired of waiting for the magic to begin. Show me a 10 game winning streak, guys. Show me anything. Very tired of mediocre.

Anonymous said...

Have read that both team's remaining schedules rate out as very soft (thanks NL East) and roughly equivalent. But looking side by side, the Mets sure seem to have it better:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1wLIx7bdJbOYTg_Zrc4BUIvF5VSwFCSm8KjNY19qqogQ/edit?usp=sharing

Kenny B. said...

So, I think the ultimate message of this post is, "That's baseball."

*prepares to dodge tomatoes*

Anonymous said...

Ouch ...

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/13379309/which-rotation-baseball-best-washington-nationals-new-york-mets

Rob Evans said...

Espi will start at SS tonight. Thanks God

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/nationals-journal/wp/2015/08/05/tonights-nationals-diamondbacks-lineups-7/

Harper said...

Kenny B _ I was just going to post that shrugging guy emoticon but it seemed a little lazy (and I've only just mastered the Happy Face :) See! You have to look at it sideways!)

Anonymous said...

What it comes down to between the Mets and Nationals is the Mets have a better starting rotation while the Nationals are over-all a better team than the Mets. The Nationals have a very good starting rotation, better offense, and a better bullpen. The Nationals offense should be better no matter what, but it remains to be seen how much the Mets trades closed the gap on offense.

The Nationals can win games different ways. For the Mets, it's all about the pitching. As long as the Mets' aces and even Colon and Niese are pitching lights out (each allowed 1 run the last 2 games against the Marlins), their offense doesn't need to be good, just average.

I think where the Mets are most vulnerable is the innings limits, so they'll be forced to mix in call-ups from AAA like Dillon Gee. Related to the innings limits, one or more of their aces - especially the one recovering from Tommy John surgery and the rookie - might hit a wall and struggle coming down the stretch. deGrom didn't have his stuff on Saturday; maybe he's hit a wall.

Froggy said...

I'm at tonight's game...we are not in some sort of funk, we are simply terrible.

It just feels like our team is leader less. Almost like a bunch of guys trying out for a semi-pro team.

But more than that, our manager is clueless.

Kenny B. said...

Well a thorough thrashing from a crappy D-Backs team while the Mets get a second sweep is not what you want to see. I'm going to move my fingers before the window closes on them.

Hey! remember 2012? Good times.

Anonymous said...

No worries.

Mets sweeping the Marlins doesn't mean much. The Marlins are the lowest scoring team in the NL and on the verge of falling behind the Phillies. The Diamondbacks are the 3rd highest scoring team in the NL.

Let's see how the Mets do against the Rays. If they sweep they Rays, that will mean something.

At worst, the Nationals only need to stay within striking distance of the Mets and beat them in the head-to-head games. Let's see how they do against Scherzer and Strasburg.

Anonymous said...

Mets swept the DBacks right before the ASB.

Anonymous said...

the mets have also beat scherzer twice this season. their starting rotation is elite. innings limit will not be a problem for them since they went with a 6 man rotation for a good part of the season and when Matz comes back he won't have any innings on his arm.

Wozzy Bear said...

Commenter above claimed that the Nationals have a better bullpen when comparing teams. Unfortunately, facts/reality tell a different story, no matter how you choose to slice it.

Current Team Bullpen ERA: Mets 3.06 (good for 6th best in MLB); Nationals 3.47 (good for 14th best in MLB).
BAA - Mets .227; Nationals .248
Total Saves - Mets 34; Nationals 33
ER - Mets 98; Nationals 117

So yeah, your perception is not always reflected in reality.

Anonymous said...

Feeling better after getting whooped by the Dbacks last night? You're in the rear-view for the remainder of the year. Get used to it. Maybe you can make a run at the wildcard, but the Mets will take your division from you. You had your shot, and blew it to limit Strasburgs innings. Good job.

Jay said...

How does MW still have a job? The team now seems as absolutely clueless as he is. Jayson Werth hits one double to help lead to a win and all the sudden it's our division to lose?? Boswell says Werth was the only one available for comment after they finally won a game?? I'm blown away by how inept they are. The Nats have won nothing. Lost to the Cards after choking and then lost to the Giants after being told they didn't have any marbles. Yet, somehow they are the best team in baseball ... yet they pretty much face planted in NY. I just don't get it.

Mattyice said...

@wozzy bear. Those numbers don't factor in the addition of papelbon and clippard. Both improve their respective bullpens, but papelbon is better so our improvement should be bigger.

Wozzy Bear said...

@Mattyice - The difference in team bullpen ERA is currently 0.41 - almost half a run. Yes, Papelbon is superior to Clippard, but he'd have to be several runs better in ERA for it to make a dent in that overall 0.41 difference. It's simple math.

Anonymous said...

Calm down. The Mets got hot for a week. That's all.

Yes, they won 6 in a row, gained 5 games on the Nationals and flipped the standings, their starters 1 to 5 were dominant, and they're scoring runs all of a sudden. But did you see how the Marlins scored 6 runs in the 9th inning? Familia is tied for the league lead in blown saves and almost lost the game again. The Mets bullpen is a mess. Losing Mejia hurt them. All their relievers have control issues. The only reliever they can count on is Clippard and he has control issues, too.

There's no way their starters, especially Colon and Niese, allow 2 runs or less every game the rest of the way. If they can keep up that pace, their starting rotation would be one of the best of all time and you tip your cap. Not going to happen. Maybe their offense is better now, but their Achilles heel is the bullpen. No matter how well the Mets starters pitch or how well they can score now, their bullpen is ready to blow any lead.

The Mets will cool off. Strasburg and Span are almost back. The Nationals are still the better team. There are 6 head-to-head games left, and (I assume) Scherzer and Strasburg will pitch 4 of them.

Anonymous said...

The Mets are the better team right now. They're pitching better and hitting better. They swept you guys and they swept the Dbacks earlier. The sky is limit for that rotation and they BRING IT!!!

Anonymous said...

"The Mets will cool off. Strasburg and Span are almost back. The Nationals are still the better team. There are 6 head-to-head games left, and (I assume) Scherzer and Strasburg will pitch 4 of them."

Well I assume Harvey, DeGrom, and Syndergaard will pitch ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Anonymous said...

Mets won 2-1, 3-2, and 5-2 in the last series against the Nationals 'B-team' starters. Scherzer and Strasburg throw shutouts and win 2 of those games. The Mets haven't played the real Nationals yet. Next time, they will.

Anonymous said...

Dude stop making excuses, a win is a win. The Mets have had their series of injuries as well and they don't complain plus they're in 1st place. You guys just need 2 more players to be "complete". The Mets young aces BRING IT and they shut down your little diva of a ball player, Bryce Harper.

Anonymous said...

I love how the Nats fans go on and on about injuries, meanwhile the Mets have had Murphy, Wright, Cuddyer, D'Arnaud, Wheeler, Belvins all on the DL for long periods of time and not uttered a word.

John Schwab said...
This comment has been removed by the author.