Nationals Baseball: Into the weekend

Friday, August 28, 2015

Into the weekend

Nats win. Mets win, but hey at least their bullpen gets stretched, and right before facing a pretty good offensive team in Boston. The Mets aren't going to win the next 30 games in a row so just keep doing what you are doing Nats.

Meanwhile TICK

Another game is off the schedule and no ground gained. That's not necessary a bad thing though. The whole idea that the Nats need time to catch the Mets is based on a simple, but now probably flawed, assumption. That idea is that the Nats are better than the Mets. That might have been a decent assumption to make in June, that a healthy Nats team would simply overtake the Mets like a strong runner overtaking a weak one, once everyone got back healthy. However after seeing the additional players the Mets added (and Nats didn't) at the trade deadline, and seeing how the Nats players have played post-injury, and noting that it seems likely the Nats will never actually get everyone back healthy, that assumption is much harder to justify.

If the Nats aren't better than the Mets then you might not really want a lot of games left in the season. If the Mets are better they will simply use all those games to lengthen a lead. Instead you might be better off with FEWER games left in the season. Remember when we talked about streaks before. Every team goes 3-7 at some point. Every team goes 7-3. If that lines up at the right time, that's 4 games gained by dumb luck. Sure you want to gain games in the standings, but if the Mets are actually better, not losing games is a positive. Holding ground until you get to a point where fate and timing can stake you a tiny lead and the season can run out on the Mets might actually be a more reasonable thing to pray for.

Think this is a silly idea that fewer games might be better. Perhaps* But here's something I found out yesterday when digging for comebacks. There are (at least) two big September comebacks for division titles in the past 10 years that come up when you look for such things. The Mets in 2007, as I'm sure you all know, lost a 7 game lead they held on Sept 12th. The Tigers, in 2009, also lost a 7 game lead that they had as late a Sept 6th.

Got that? Ok. Now guess how many division comebacks of 5-10 games starting on Sept 1st have there been in the same time frame? You'd kind of assume given that definition maybe a couple more. There's more time involved than either of those two comebacks and the team trying to catch up only has to make up 5 games. So four or five maybe?  Nope. One.

Minnesota in 2006 was down by 6 games on September first and made up the ground on the Tigers to take the division. Note that by one I mean one. Neither the '07 Mets blown lead or the '09 Tigers blown lead qualify here. The Mets were only up by 3 on the Phillies on Sept 1st, the Tigers by 3.5 on the Twins in 2009.  The fact they were closer on Sept 1st allowed the Phillies and Twins the ability to lose a little, but not too much, ground, and then let said dumb luck in the timing of streaks carry them to a division title.

You might try to bring up the WC collapses of the Red Sox and Braves here but I'll caution you. These needed the "plays like the best, plays like the worst" scenario we've talked about before. That is far more likely to be seen in a WC race where the "plays like the best" can be any of a handful of trailing teams, than in a divisional race where you are generally talking about two specific teams**. In 2011 if either the Angels or Giants played like the best team in baseball down the stretch perhaps they could have taken the WC. Essentially that's doubling the chances of seeing it. It's doubling very bad odds, but it's still doubling it.

To put the divisional thing in another perspective at least 59 teams (probably one or two more) were 5-10 games out of the division lead on September 1st in the past 10 years and only one took the division. This is for the reasons I was talking about above. You've played 5/6ths of the season. If you are 5-10 games in front of a team at that point, well you are very likely not lucky, but better than that other team. If you are better than that other team you'd expect that in 30 games to expand your lead, not to see it shrink.

What does this mean for the Nats? Basically at some point down the line, probably after Labor Day you switch the miracle you are hoping for. Right now you are hoping that the Nats are better than or at least equal to the Mets and that in the games left things will break in a way that the Nats can overtake them. Win series, gain games, sweep H2H. If after Labor Day the Nats still find themselves 5+ games out we can probably put that miracle to bed and start hoping for the other one, that dumb luck takes the Nats to a title. Stay close enough, within 7 games, and pray.


*I'll try to work out the actual math on this. As much as it can be done.

** Not that it hasn't happened. The Twins (19-11) / Tigers (12-16) in 2006 is close, if not that. The 1995 Mariners (20-9) / Angels (11-17) was like that. In 1978 the Red Sox didn't even have to play that poorly (14-15). The Yankees just caught them (22-8). But I hope you notice we're zooming past dozens of divisional races that didn't end up how we want them to just to find an example here and there.

67 comments:

JC said...

I recognize that the Mets have a 7 game winning streak but their pitching staff has also let up 5+ runs a game against an anemic Philies offense. Both last nights game and the the 6-5 game could have gone the other way. I'm hoping that their top three are going to start slowing down as they hit September coupled with regression of their offense.

On a separate note, with Span being officially done as a National I believe that means the projected opening day roster will only start a single game this season. I am no fan of MW but I think we would not be talking about chasing the Mets if we had not had so many injuries. The way that the team has looked with a healthy Zim, Rendon, Stras and semi-healthy Worth makes me think that we would still be on a mid-90 game win pace.

Anonymous said...

As a Mets fan I am tired of hearing about injuries with the Nats....We lost Wright Dardoosh, Matz, Wheeler, Murph, Lagares, Lost Mejia to suspension, etc....Stop the Crying Nats fans, sometimes it's just not your year.....LGM

Metsfan said...

JC,

First of all, no team can give up no runs every single night, just like the nats couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat for a few weeks recently. Everyone goes through a rough patch adnd luckily the Mets' offense is picking up the pitching in two hitters parks.

Second, everybody has had injuries this year. Good teams win despite their injuries.

Harper said...

JC - Healthy all year, yes low to mid 90s is a good guess (not mid to high as we thought thanks to various drops in performance outside of injury guys) But there was not good reason to think in Jan that that Nats would be more healthy than not, and once Rendon went down, even less so. And once Fister, Strasburg and Zimm went down...

In other words - better planning was needed and better damage control was REALLY needed.

Anon/Metsfan - You're reaching. Murphy will play ~130 games. Lagares could have played 150 if not for trade for Cespedes. Every team has injuries but not every team loses their 1-2-4-5 hitters, three of them for almost 100 games, having these guys actually been four of their best 5 hitters last season. Mets have had their bullpen decimated but otherwise have had standard offensive injuries and great rotation health from the 5 guys set in the rotation as of mid-May. The Nats can tell you how that last fact - healthy SP is a HUGE driver of success. It's how they did so well 2012-2015.

What needs to be understood is just because the Nats fans are noting an excess of injuries to important players, it doesn't mean that if the Nats had normal injuries they'd be in first. Nor does it mean an excess of injuries is really that strange. The 2015 Nats were built with injury risks, and this was certainly known by mid March with Span, Werth both already having off-season surgery and Rendon down. The Nats did nothing and made a gamble on a team that could have a lot of injuries and see their season ruined. Then they lost that gamble.

Bjd1207 said...

Also @Anon the best way for you to not hear about Nats injuries is to not read a Nats blog.

We're not "crying" we're attempting to provide explanations for what we're seeing. "Just not our year" might be intellectually satisfying for you but not for me

Metsfan said...

What it comes down to is not "just not our year" or injuries. You can throw out statistics, predictions, fangraphs, sabermetrics, past expamples. Whatever it may be. None of that accounts for team chemistry, and the heart and desire to win. And that is what wins pennants. Maybe the Nats will spark all of that in September and go on a championship run. Maybe the Mets will stay hot and ride through the postseason. Maybe whoever wins the NL east will get swept in the first round. It's a beautiful game, and anything can happen. Let's just take it all in and enjoy it before winter comes and we're left longing for the smell of the ballpark, the sounds of the crowd, and to watch the greatest game ever played. Harper, though I'm a Mets fan I enjoy your insights. You're not a homer, and you're a true fan of the game.

Rob Evans said...

I knew after the trade deadline that the Mets were now better than the Nats. I guess it takes a while for the stat folks to catch up :-)

Harper said...

Metsfan - thanks. on my side I appreciate any commenter that is open to disucssion on topics that we might now agree on. Also ones that compliment me.

Throwing out that stuff is going too far. All that stuff does a pretty good job of lining up teams where they should be, although to be honest I doubt its significantly better than just eyeballing teams. Then it comes down to health, luck and all those intangibles. In hindsight we can see what health did. We can also pull out some of luck (like a crazy 1-run game record). The heart, desire, chemsitry? All are real. All can't be measured. Could it be tipping point? Could it carry a team to a title? Because it can't be measured, that's up to what you want to believe. I choose to think it helps a little but talent and luck carry the day. But if you want to believe it matters more, I can't really tell you you're wrong. We just don't know.

I've personally been watching a lot more random games as the season winds down. I hate no baseball so I'm trying to fill-up.

Harper said...

RE - well it also took seeing the Nats guys that come back flounder like they did. That was the big question sitting out there.

Kenny B. said...

"You can throw out statistics, predictions, fangraphs, sabermetrics, past expamples. Whatever it may be. None of that accounts for team chemistry, and the heart and desire to win. And that is what wins pennants."

You are clearly new here.

Harper said...

Kenny B - like I said I can't say it doesn't matter. I'll just stick with what I can prove. What's winning the Mets pennants? Great starters. A lineup that now lacks holes.

But let's not get overly worked up over heart/grit talk until Metsfan starts saying Anthony Recker's presence in the dugout is lifting the Mets to the title.

SM said...

Is there a way of calculating the formula for team chemistry?

I'm sure many of us are familiar with the battling A's in the early '70s, the fighting Yankees of the late late '70s--Reggie Jackson was the common element--and other successful teams with reputations for clubhouse turmoil. I'm usually drawn to player comments when a popular teammate is traded away, and then following that team's performance. When the Jays traded away Jose Reyes to Colorado for Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista was known to be unhappy. But Tulo has given the Jays far better defense and more pop, and suddenly the Jays are steamrolling. Chemistry or talent?

Casey Stengel was asked once about what makes a team successful, and said something like: 5 guys on your roster love you, 5 guys hate you, and 15 guys couldn't care one way or another. The trick is keep the 15 guys away from the 5 guys who hate you.

You could look it up.

blovy8 said...

Metsfan, you're on the wrong blog if you think those old saws you are trotting out instead of math are going to be discussed. Harper has to write something interesting doesn't he? Even the math is kicking our ass right now.



blovy8 said...

SM, that was back when guys made little enough for fines to sting, and if they didn't like it they could go play in Mexico because they were the ball-playing property of that team forever.

It's easy to say Rizzo should have gotten more stockpiled for depth because of a roster strewn with old and injury-prone guys, but I honestly think you can't get good players to sign on to sit on the bench very easily. And the guys you probably can get (Janssen being an example) would likely have their own issues. They did try the overpay two years ago with McLouth, and that didn't work out. They had more than enough starting pitchers, all they were going to get after that were guys who couldn't make the roster unless they were willing to take Roark's job. The lack of bullpen experience is a fair criticism, but if Rizzo isn't going to give anyone two years, you're looking at retreads, flawed guys, or inexperience with your rising prospects. We've seen Stammen's injury, Treinen's learning curve, Barrett's pitching through an injury like most young guys, and perhaps an expected recovery time issue with Janssen who appears to now finally be what they paid for much too late. If you're looking at budget constraints, it's hard to trade for guys to help in July. Maybe there wasn't a deal possible for Carlos Gonzalez, at least, to me that's the only guy who'd make sense to Rizzo if he had the resources to up the budget somehow.

In four days at least, they'll have some friggin pinch hitters. Watching Fister go up as a serious "choice" is driving me crazy.

Myself said...

Here's my opinion for what it's worth. From Opening Day to July 31th, the Nationals, even with all their injuries, still had a better offense and defense than the Mets did. Therefore all they needed to do is pitch better or even just equal to the Mets to beat them. But other than Scherzer and Ross when he came up, the Nationals rotation has been disappointing. Zimmermann, Gonzales, Roark in spot starts, Fister and even Strausberg have not lived up to their potential. That's why the Nationals are in trouble. Not the injuries. All teams get injured. The Mets have had more people spend more days than any team in the National League on the DL. This is a fact. Wright, D'arnaud, Wheeler, Parnell, Black, Blevins, Edgen, Duda is out now. But the difference is that deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard, Niese and Familia picked up the Mets and put them on their back until their GM could get them some help. That did not happen with the Nationals.

JC said...

Does anyone know was the error bars are on the preseason projections? I assume that when the say that a team is projected to win x number of games there is a confidence interval. Im curious what the likelihood of the Nats winning 84 games was based on the projections.

Miles Treacy said...

With Span out and likely not receiving a qualifying offer now, what are your thought on Opening Day lineup 2016? I'm really curious to see what they offer if anything to the current FA's. Desi may have played himself down to a more team friendly deal and curious if Nats still try to keep him around or move new directions completely. Fister obviously is gone. And second half ZNN seems a bit concerning. Seems when he looked out of whack the first few starts of season are coming back. Giving up a lot of hard contact. I guess they'll bank on new guys coming up and taking over and maybe go after a big bat?

Justin Beegel said...

Mets fan here, I like following this blog because you guys have good conversations, and I'm always curious to hear a rivals fans discussion during a stretch run, see if it mirrors the insanity we Mets fans feel and live with every day.

Echoing what another Met fan said in this discussion, there is definitely a LOT of talk about injuries being the main reason the Nats are in this position. The reason I think it ticks Mets fan off is we've gone almost the entire season without Wright, literally the entire season without Wheeler, lost a key bullpen guy to stupidity in Mejia, lost our lefty specialist to injury followed by out for the year while rehabbing because he fell of a curb I think, and have Lagares a shell of himself due to a tear that requires Tommy John but they won't do because he would be out a year (and he therefore is nowhere even close to the same player defensively or offensively). The point being, yes, the Nats have dealt with a LOT of injuries. But so have the Mets, and to key people.

What this appears to come down to, is that the Mets miraculously made the right deadline moves (I say miraculously because truly no Mets fan actually believe they would make such large impact moves), and the Nats didn't. The Mets front office saw the division was there for the taking if the proper moves were made (bullpen guy in Clippard, bench or spot starting players in Uribe and Johnson, and of course the big one in Cespedes), and he acted decisively. The Mets were trotting out guys who were batting UNDER .200, and were batting in the 3 and 4 slots. That's how bad our lineup was, yet the Nats couldn't pull away with the division before the deadline. Nats front office either thought they would turn it around, or just couldn't line things up for deals for their own.

And now here we are. The season is FAR from over, as of course any Mets fan remembers '07 far too well. But the reality is, we are where we are because the Mets made the right moves, and the Nats didn't. It's not because of injuries, because both teams have dealt with a ton.

WiredHK said...

If there is one major team sport I'd define as specifically NOT needing "heart and team chemistry" from players on the same team in order to build a winner, it would probably be baseball. It's the most individual of team sports - every single play starts with a 1x1 match-up -- man vs man. And then most plays in the field go on to (usually) involve 1-2 players (I caught it, or I threw the guy out to my teammate), at the most. (Obviously I'm stripping this down some, as there are other team aspects involved in some plays, but you get the point). This doesn't mean teamwork isn't required, but compare it to basketball, football and hockey and it doesn't come close to what's needed in concert there on every single play of every single game.

I'm sure having clubhouse leaders, guys that are having fun and guys that like each other might make some small differences -- but listing that as priority #1 would be utterly insane in any sport, let alone baseball. Get good players, keep 'em healthy, and let 'em go out and dominate. Repeat.

In our playoff years, we had good players, kept 'em healthy and let them dominate (also, play in a weak division, as a bonus!).

Mets2015 said...

I'm another Mets fan that enjoys following this blog. Kudos to Harper and the Nats fans on here - I real enjoy reading all the commentary on here.

Going have to disagree on that injury assertion though.

Wright is basically our Harper and has only played 11 games this year. That should have been a devastating loss. D'Arnaud, Duda, Cuddyer have all spent a significant time on the DL. Even Murphy had a brief stint at the worst possible time when we were really struggling. Blevins, Mejia, Goeddel, and Parnell were all significant bullpen pieces that were all lost.

Wheeler was slotted to be our #2 guy at the beginning of the season (Degrom clear #1, Harvey a ? after TJ. Having Thor burst on to the scene and be as good as he was right away was huge. That could be luck or that could be good planning depending on how you look at it. And don't sleep on the loss of Matz. Having watched him I personally think he has the potential to be the best if the bunch. His loss hurt and his return will be huge.

SM said...

@blovy8

Don't want to really get into this, but . . .

The Reserve Clause was done when Jackson won those World Series with the Yankees in '77 and '78.

Since then, so-called clubhouse cancers like Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez and Rickey Henderson have all played on--and even led their--World Series championship teams. Jorge Posada was no sweetheart in the clubhouse, either. There are others, too.

Clubhouse chemistry is mythical, like the centaur.

Steve said...

Nats fan here, and let me preface this by saying that I think the Mets are the better team right now and will take the division. My only hope is that we continue to win series so at least we can say that the Mets earned it, and if they continue playing anywhere near the tear that they've been on, they will definitely deserve it.

With respect to injuries, as someone put it earlier, we're looking for explanations and not excuses. Every team has injuries, we get that, and I understand that the Mets have dealt with injuries too, but I think the "overall # of games missed" is misleading. Many of the players you've named are pitchers, and not to say that those injuries are less important, but those aren't everyday players. If there's one thing it seems like your team was built to protect against, it's pitching, with DeGrom, Harvey, Thor, and now Matz being ridiculous. Also, I'm not sure what your "ideal" projected lineup was at the beginning of the season, but D'arnaud and Lagares were batting 6-7 in your opening series. Wright and Duda are good and were/are missed, but I think the Span-Rendon-Werth-Zimmerman combo of injuries was more impactful. Your management also did the right thing at the trade deadline and addressed the lineup, which clearly has worked.

Again, not taking anything away from what the Mets are doing now - any team that puts almost 10 runs a game and is on the run that you're on deserves to take the division. Just stop assuming that the injury bug bit you all harder than anyone else, because I think that's overstated.

Weatherman said...

Opening Day 2016: Rendon-3b, Turner-SS, Espinosa-2b, Zimm-1b, M.A. Tayolr-L.Center, Harper-R.Center, Stone Statue Werth placed somewhere near left field line where he won't get run into by Taylor.

Starters: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Giolito, Ross

I cannot even venture a guess about the bench or pen: though Rizzo may move Robinson & Moore to the Pen to handle mop up duties and pinch hit; which has the added bonus of leaving less decisions on the table for Williams as he will only have 4 or 5 legitimate relievers. :-)

Anonymous said...

@ Justin Beegel - all I have to say to your "significant" Mets injury list is this. The Nats lost their 1, 2, 4, and 5 hitters in their lineup.

Out of 126 games this season:
- Span = played in 61 games (missed 52% of the season)
- Rendon = played in 46 games (missed 64% of the season
- Zimmerman = played in 85 games (missed 33% of the season)
- Werth = played in 55 games (missed 57% of the season)

Not to mention we lost Stammen, one of our more reliable bullpen arms to TJ and hasn't toed the rubber once this year. Going into the year, we had 3 arms we could count on in the pen and we lose one for the year before Spring Training is half over.

Injuries happen to a lot of teams and I know David Wright was out for a while, but your 1,2,4,5 hitters? Give me a break - a team like that should have never had a chance.

Justin Beegel said...

@anonymous

It's more than just hitters though. We lost one of our top pitchers in Wheeler, and just about our ENTIRE bullpen. We've lost a lot of games the past few months because of lack of reliable 7th and 8th inning guys. So the combination of our most consistent/best player in Wright being out what, 100 games or so, most of our bullpen, a top/mid rotation pitcher, our catcher in D'arnaud, and then on-going issues with Lagares, Duda out lately, Cuddyer out a while, etc.

Point is, it's way too close of a comparison to lean on and say injuries are why we're in this collective position. Are the Nats injuries combined worse than the Mets? Possibly. But nowhere near enough being such a massive discrepancy that it's the clear cut reason why we're 6.5 up. We were trotting out a AA lineup until the deadline. I won't even call it a AAA lineup. It was embarrassingly horrible. Yet you guys couldn't pull away far enough to make our front office not think it needed to make big additions to give us a chance at a run.

Metsfan said...

The NL East is a game of Mario Kart, and you guys are gonna need some Turtle Shells or a Lightning Bolt to catch us

Met69/86 said...

Some hellacious pitching matchups next year: Harvey vs. Scherzer, deGrom vs. Strasburg, Matz vs. Gio, Thor vs. Giolito, Wheeler (when he's ready) vs. Ross? Juicy, very juicy. As a Met fan, I can't wait.

joanna said...

You got that right l. Let's go mets the team to beat!!!!!

W. Patterson said...

All I got is that I was glad to see Rendon at 3B last night fielding a ball that Escobar would have seen go to LF. I like Escobar but at short stop.

Thanks for your thoughts, Harper.

blovy8 said...

I was referring to Stengel, that's who Martin stole the quote from.

blovy8 said...

What I like to hear is the Mets fans calling their rotation special and something to build around. That always works out well....

Anonymous said...

@ mets fans,

I'm too lazy to go add up the combined WAR of the players the Mets lost to the DL compared to the players the Nats lost, but I have to think the numbers are close to 3 or 4 games more for the Nats. If the injury impact were equivalent, it would put the division in a tight race with 6 H2H games left.

Honestly, though, I have to also get my MW hits in because I think the Nats have also lost probably 3 games this season due to poor decisions by ole PBN. Throw a manager out there who understands how to work a bullpen and this division race is neck and neck.

Nothing against the Mets, I called the division for you guys after the Cespedes trade. I'm just saying the division should be closer than it is right now and you really shouldn't be complaining about injuries to Nats fans

Mets2015 said...

I appreciate all the Nats' fans responses and allowing for us Mets fans to have an open discussion on here :)

We understand the Nats have had a lot of injuries, but we are coming from a place where the perception was the Nats were supposed to be SO much better and deeper than any other team in the division that anything short of Harper and all of your pitchers being injured should still be enough to easily win the division.

But the elephant in the room is that I can tell you from an outside perspective the Nats as a team no longer scares me like they used too. Scherzer is a stud but Strasburg looks too inconsistent (flashes of dominance but he was horrible to begin the season and always seems injured). Zimmerman doesn't look the same - the Mets hit him this season which used to NEVER happen. And Gio, who used to be another stud, looks like he has regressed to a mediocre #4 starter. And on offense Zimmerman, Werth, Desmond all just look old and washed up. TBH the only hitters I fear are Harper and Rendon.

Again, obviously I am biased but since 2009 the perception Nats were simply just much, much better than us. I don't think that is the case anymore.

Kenny B. said...

"But the reality is, we are where we are because the Mets made the right moves, and the Nats didn't. It's not because of injuries, because both teams have dealt with a ton."

You're conflating two arguments that are not mutually exclusive. It doesn't have to be one or the other; it could be both. I agree that the Mets made the right moves and the Nats did not. But I do not agree that the injuries to the two teams are overall equivalent. I would argue that the Nats had more injuries to more key players, AND failed to make a good move in the late season. That's not to detract from the Mets' success. They kept themselves in it all season on the strength of excellent young pitching. Except for a superb May-June period, the Nats have been mostly middling-to-bad all season. The injuries were a problem, but also the non-injured people were bad except for Harper (and somehow Yunel Escobar; hate to have wasted that gift from the baseball gods).

The Nats failed to make a move in the vain hope that the injuries would resolve and everyone would come back 100%. Rizzo even said, I think, something to the effect of "There's no one we could get that would be as good as the people we're getting back from injury." This is a good argument if you believe that those people are actually coming back from injury when you think, and if you believe they will be in top form when they get back, and if you believe they won't get injured again. I would argue that those are dumb things to believe.

Max David said...

@ Miles Treacy. I think for sure they offer the qualifying offer to ZNN who will probably turn it down, so in that case we'll get the comp pick (and we've struck gold with those [ZNN in 07 for losing Soriano, Alex Meyer, who they turned into Span for losing Dunn in 10 or 11]). Desmond maybe, but having him for around $16 million next year (which is about what the QO bar will be) sounds like a scary thought. They won't offer QO's to Fister or Span. Opening day lineup 2016 I'd say: Turner-SS, Rendon 3b, Harper RF, Zim 1b, Escobar- 2b, Werth LF, Ramos/Loboton (or other catcher, Taylor CF. Rotation I'd say: Scherzer, Stras, Ross, then 1 or 2 trades or FA signings. I don't think Giolito will be up from the minors to start the year but should debut sometime in mid 2016 would be my guess. Obviously, that could change depending on trades/signing FA's, etc., but really I wouldn't change much. I don't think they need to break the bank for a Price/Greinke but somebody like Mike Leake who can eat up innings and starts every 5 days would be a good choice.
For the bullpen: since Storen is likely going to be traded filling his spot with Padres set up man Joaquin Benoit would be a good choice, and bring in a manager who actually knows how to use a bullpen and you've got a shutdown 8th inning guy (benoit) and 9th inning guy (Papelbon) next year who if used correctly could be deadly late game combination.
Bench should be the main concern over the winter and addressing that need first and foremost. Actually put some MLB caliber players on the bench so your not sending up a freaking pitcher to pinch hit, and when inevitable injuries due happen we can actually put out MLB caliber replacements instead of AAA & AAAA guys. I know Werth is still owed about $40 million but it would be nice if they traded/signed someone like Cespedes, Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Upton put him in LF and put Werth on the bench/released him, but obviously they aren't doing that, so I think OF is pretty much set.

As for the rest of this season: I'm still gonna have hope until there's our playoff odds are 0%. We could be a .00000000000001% but there's a still a sliver of hope, so all you can do is hope they continue to win series, and hope the Mets start losing some games here and there.

Bjd1207 said...

Zimmerman since return from DL - .258/.357/.548 for 144 wRC+

Harper said...

I might post on it but injuries aren't an easy thing to quickly discuss. Not all injured players are of the same caliber, just because you are playing doesn't mean you aren't injured, teams are better able to handle some injuries than others (which can be luck or it can be smart roster management, or both), sometimes more serious injuries can be better for a team than less serious but lingering ones because it allows for a clearer take on roster management...

All this has to be factored in when figuring out which teams are hurt most by injuries and how much of that is their own fault, which is part of what I think we're trying to get at. Can't just count of days or WAR or whatever. We can go down that path sure, but the other part we're trying to get at - where the Nats/Mets would be without injury - there's no clarity to that. Too many assumptions to make to really come up with an answer, at least in this specific case.

Anonymous said...

I think what rubs Mets fans the wrong way is Nats fans saying their injuries hurt more. It makes it sound as though "the only reason you Mets are good right now is because we're injured." It takes credit away from a team that nobody saw as this good in Spring Training, yet is making fools of all the naysayers. Whether the Nats injuries are more significant or not is a silly thing to debate.

One team is in first and one is in second. Let's see how it plays out.

Side note, Cards have suffered significant injuries as well with Matt Adams out since May, Matt Holliday missing a lot of time, and Wainwright (their ace) practically missing the whole year. And this is the kicker...they lose Holliday and Jay, their LF and CFer, and are forced to play bench/rookies like Piscotty and Grichuk. How did that work out for them? Piscotty's hitting .316 and Grichuk is .284 w/ 15 HR, farrrrr better than John Jay would have done. "Next-man-up" mentality. Few teams do it better than St. Louis. I would love our Nats to take on that mentality rather than a "where's my ring approach."

cass said...

After reading Harper's post, I was going to say this is all just very depressing. But this comment from Metsfan made me smile:

"The NL East is a game of Mario Kart, and you guys are gonna need some Turtle Shells or a Lightning Bolt to catch us"

Yes! Lightning Bolt would be amazing right now. Something to top the ******* Mets from winning every single game they play. Knowing our luck, we'd probably just run off a cliff doing crazy driving right after using the lightning bolt, though.

VI said...

JC - no confidence interval on linear extrapolations of metrics. These are point estimates that vary widely based on how the variables used change over time.

JE34 said...

Mets fans talking about Mario Kart - suddenly I feel old.

@SM - Amen, buddy. Winning makes good chemistry, not the other way around.

Froggy said...

So this is where we find out if Rizzo / Lerners are in it to try and win or ride out the season by drawing fans and filling the stadium for the next month. With Span injured and likely MAT banged up, and an aging Werth in LF, there is only one choice:

Trade for Carlos Gonzalez now.

The Rockies are looking for salary relief and need pitching help. Gonzales bats left, hits for power (and likes Nats park!) has over 20+ HR a year, is under team control until 2018 and is a Boras client. I'm sure the Rox would eat some of his salary to make a trade. They need bullpen help and we have some pitchers (Fister, Storen, Roark, etc) we could throw in to make a trade.

Besides, Bryce needs some protection and the Nats need more lefty power for the remainder of the year and next season.

Anonymous said...

@JE34 Mario Kart been around since 1992. Don't feel old.

Donald said...

I think the argument that people are having here is whether the Mets won the division (by playing better, having better chemistry, making better moves at the deadline) or the Nats lost it (poor managing, injuries, too few moves at the deadline).

The answer is some of both. The Mets are clearly playing better than most people predicted and are on pace to win 91 games. Still, if the Nats had performed as they were expected, 91 games wouldn't have won the division. But the Nats have clearly under performed. If the Mets hadn't over performed, it might not have mattered, but it does.

I think one question should be why the Mets over performed? Clearly they were hurt by significant injuries but it didn't slow them down too much. I think the answer to this, lest the Mets fans get too cocky is that their starting pitchers all performed exceptionally well. That can't always be counted on. Also, they've absolutely crushed the teams they should be beating. But to the extent they've done it almost defies the odds. I don't think they can count on sweeping entire season series from multiple teams every year.

The other question is why have the Nats under performed. This isn't the first time this has happened either. Injuries are certainly a part of it, but I think the team composition is also to blame. As someone mentioned early, they are mostly good but not great players, Harper withstanding. Again, though, for the Mets fans, it's not like your team is made up of fearsome hitters. The last 2 weeks have been unbelievable, but their best hitter, Wright, seems headed down the same declining path that Zimmerman is on.

cass said...

The first Mario Kart game came out in 1992! I'm in my 30s and Mario Kart has been around most of my life. Thankfully Nintendo keeps pumping out new editions so I won't have to hear kids say "What's Mario Kart?" and feel old.

Zork, however, is another matter. Our season has been eaten by a grue.

John C. said...

I don't mind the idea of getting Carlos Gonzalez from the Rockies, but it's going to take a premium talent (think Giolito or Turner) plus significant assets to do it. Plus any major league players in the trade would have to clear waivers first (so Storen's not going anywhere). You can't just bundle up a pile of garbage (Fister) and short term players (like Storen, who is a FA after 2016) and question marks (Roark) and cart off another team's all star who is under team control for another two years after this year.

Froggy said...

John C, Fair points...I guess I had spring cleaning in mind already by wanting to clear out some clutter.

But the question remains as to whether the organization is already folded their hand for this year or not. Ironic in a way as we are getting pinged hard to renew our seats already. My takeaway is the Lerners want my money but don't want to take any risk.

Myself said...

Donald said the Mets overperformed. The truth is, they didn't. There isn't a single Met who has had a career year. With the exception of Cespedes, every Met returning next year is a young player who can do better like Flores, is in their prime like deGrom, can't possibly be more injured than they were this year like Wright and d'arnaud, will be returning from injury like Wheeler and Parnell, will be up for a full season like Conforto, or will be replace by a better player the way Matz will replace Colon. The point being, the Mets will not regress next year. In all likelihood, they will be better. If the Nationals are going to recapture this division, they need to stop blaming injuries and start figuring things out because the Mets aren't going away. Not with that pitching.

VI said...

Myself makes a good point that can be backed by data. Now that the steroid era is over the standard player development model usually applies for average to very good players. They arrive in the ML around age 22-23. They then perform below their "mean" levels, but steadily improve for the next 3 years crossing over their "means," at which time you tend to have the player at near peak or peak performance until age 32 or so. From then on they begin to decline, albeit at different rates for the next 4 years. Injuries interfere with this model, and players like Harper tend to be outliers, but it's a good benchmark with which to set expectations going forward.

Donald said...

@Myself -- I agree that the Mets aren't going away and may well head into next year as the favorite. What I meant by over performing is that most people had them pegged to win 85 games or so. Most analysts thought they were a year away from contending.

A word of caution though. You sound almost exactly like us Nats fans heading into this year.

I also agree that we can't just blame injuries, particularly since they weren't unexpected. It's going to be an interesting off-season, though this one isn't completely over yet. The Mets are on a great run right now, but that could change. And if I were a Mets fan, I'd be worried about the amount of runs they've been giving up. If that indicates the starting pitchers are starting to tire, it might get closer.

VI said...

The evolution of analytics have been good for baseball. They have expanded the fan base and provide terms of reference for those who may not have the baseball background or "aptitude" to compare and place in context what they see watching the games every day. However, adding up WARs to develop a point estimate to project future performance is chasing noise.

If teams had the time and expertise between games, they would need very few metrics to be successful. However, there are two many variables to evaluate 300 pitches every day by watching video, and then compare individuals against recent and longer term performance. Teams can't or won't hire a small army of experts to break down the video and place each action point in context. Even if they did, there's no practical way to translate all available options into viable action plans and still play a season of baseball. Chaos woul be the most likely outcome. So, analytics are a useful shortcut. They allow teams to track a subset of key dependent variables and take notice when trends begin to vary beyond expected error bands. They then can conduct pitch by pitch visual analyses and develop root cause hypothesis that can be tested by coaching or in game adjustments. If improvements don't happen, they examine secondary effects to attempt to influence expected value. If the players don't respond over time they begin to search for longer term solutions.

Anonymous said...

For all the hand wringing, the fact is the Nats won again last night and kept pace with the Mets. As long as they're within reach of the H2H, the Nats control their own destiny.

Yes, they lost Span and that's disappointing, but he was only back briefly, anyway. The Nats were playing better before Span came off the DL. I'm optimistic young Turner will make up the difference.

My take on the injury comparison is both teams have had significant injury hits but the Nats could afford the injuries better than the Mets because the Nats started with more talent.

Before August, with the injuries, the Nats yet had an above-league-average offense and defense while the Mets had the undisputed worst offense in the majors, which is saying something in a down year for offense over-all. The Mets managed to be ~.500 because of their top-3 pitching staff.

The surprising thing looking at the season records is that the Mets were never far behind. The furthest out they were was 4.5 games. Even at what pundits have labeled their low point - the 8-7 loss to the Padres right before sweeping the Nats - the Mets were only 3 games out. It just felt like the Mets weren't really contending because it seemed like they were stuck at a dead end. Their pitching was maxed out and their MLB-worst hitting would not allow them to be better than ~.500.

On July 31, I felt like the Nats were going to Citi Field to finally shake off the Mets. The Nats had managed to be an above-average team in 1st place despite the injuries. Now everyone was coming back and the Nats were ready be the team from the pre-season predictions, turn the page on the season, and accelerate to the play-offs. It didn't work out that way.

Instead, the Mets hitting has done a sudden 180 from the worst in the majors from April to July to the best in the majors during August.

The hope is that the Mets hitting will cool off again because, while their offense has grabbed all the attention lately, the Mets pitching has actually dropped off quite a bit.

If the Mets hitting comes down to earth and their pitching stays cooled off, the Nats have a good chance of making a comeback with the H2H. But if the Mets keep hitting and/or their pitching heats up again, it's going to be a tough chase.

Henway said...

I think when evaluating whose injuries are more significant, we need to define the question better with no bias, and look at it with fairness. The more fairer question is: "Who have had more 'potentially impactful' injuries?

This means:

1) You can't just look at total WAR lost.

Here's a though experiment. Say this was the NBA, and the best college b-ball team was playing in the league. Let's say they lost all 5 of their college starter to injuries. Now, let's say the Cavs lost Lebron James. Whose injuries were more significant?

Lebron, right? His war is 20 times that of his team.

No, that's now how it works. The loss of the 5 starters in the college bball team probably hurt more than Lebron for the Cavs. Now the college bball team probably can't win any games in the season. The Cavs? They might sneak into the postseason.

2) You can't look at the records of both team.

You say the Nats injuries were more significant because look at their record! They're struggling without Rendon, Span, Werth, etc! I don't think you can say this. It just means the Nats don't have enough depth/mental toughness to recover from their injuries.

It discounts the fact that the Mets have people who have stepped up even though they've had the same number of 'potentially impactful' injuries.

---

Rather, you need to look at the injuries side-by-side qualitatively. How does each of the injured players contribute to their team, and what do their loss mean? (remember the college bball example above)

- Rendon vs Wright

I'd say this is equal. Both are the top 1-2 run producers in their team.

- Span vs D'arnaud

Span has the higher WAR, more history, etc, but both play a premium defensive position. D'arnaud was expected to be the top 3 run producers in this team. But I'd give the edge to Span because he's a leadoff hitter and you often only have 1 legit one in a team.

- Zimmerman vs Wheeler

Zimmerman is not your top 3 run producer but fills a valuable position so his loss hurts, but Wheeler was projected to be a #2-#3 starter that would go 200 innings, and win 15+ games for you. With Harvey coming back from surgery, Wheeler was probably your #2 guy. I'd put Wheeler's potential impact as higher. Also, Wheeler is out for the season while Zimmerman is back.

- Werth vs Mejia

Mejia is your closer. Werth is not your top 3 run producer (4th most in RBIs last season?). I'd give the edge to Mejia. Again, we're not looking at total WAR or depth here. Yes, Familia has filled in. But that's credit to the Met's having depth. I'd put them as equal.

So in summary, Nats lost:
- their very good leadoff hitter for a huge chunk
- their #1 and #4 run producer who have played 100 games combined
- a 3rd baseman who isn't among their top 4 run producers.

The Mets have lost:
- their #2, and #3 run producers who have played 50 games combined
- their #2 starter for the year
- their closer for the year

Let's be fair when evaluating the injuries between these 2.

As a Mets fan, I'll say they're pretty equal.

Max David said...

Pretty embarrassing game. Figures the one time in the last 2 weeks the Mets actually lost, so did we :(
BTW, what alternate universe do we live in now where the Mets suddenly can't win at home and now can't lose on the road?? I think expecting the Red Sox to win the next 2 is really asking for a lot, but I think they can win at least 1 of the 2, get it back under 6 games.

David said...

You're assuming the Nationals are going to win as well though which might be a stretch.

Anonymous said...

Tough loss but the Mets lost a tough one, too. Still within 6 games in the loss column, which means the Nats continue to hold their destiny in their own hands.

Anonymous said...

@Henway

That's a pretty convoluted argument.

The easiest way to argue that the Nats injuries were less harmful than the Mets injuries is to look at the team batting stats. The Nats had the 5th/6th best offense in the NL (and the 6th best pitching) before the all-star break while the Mets had the worst team batting. The Nats team batting dipped in the 2nd half of July due to facing a slew of elite pitching but is back to a 5th/6th level in August.

Robot said...

Picked up a game last night. Nice.

Let's do it like six or seven more times.

Anonymous said...

Mets now have lost 5 straight at home where their hitting has gone cold. Bullpen in tatters. Their aces on inning limits can't overcome bad hitting and a bad bullpen.

Mets are ripe for the picking.

notBobby said...

2016 lineup (assuming MW is still manager):

Rendon 3B, Werth LF, Zimmerman 1B, Harper RF, Ramos C, Escobar 2B, MAT CF, Turner SS

2016 lineup (my realistic hope):

Rendon 3B, Harper RF, Zimmerman 1B, Werth LF (but would really want a different player...), Escobar 2B, MAT CF, Ramos C, Turner SS

2016 Pitching: Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Ross, FA. I do not think Giolito will be ready or that Roark will seize the 5th spot.

The sad thing we haven't really touched on is how Rizzo's hands are tied with the current roster. There aren't any places in the everyday lineup to upgrade bc of contracts besides Turner and I think that is set in stone. I still feel good about the starting pitching bc a good 5th SP can be found easily and I think Giolito will be up in 2nd half if Nats need him.

There will still be significant injury concerns with 2016 Nats bc Rendon has a history of slow healing, Werth is too old, Zimmerman now has ?s and plantar faciatus can come back, but have to hope he recovers as well as Pujols did. Escobar has to be watched. The one plus is that the Nats has a really good backup MI in Espinosa.

I am not too optimistic.

Froggy said...

As goes Desmond so goes the Nationals

blovy8 said...

There will be trades...

Booyah Suckah! said...

Just a quick point to make on the injuries. Harper hinted at it, but I'll expand on it:

It isn't just the players the injuries have happened to, or how many games they missed, etc. A big part of the difference (as I see it) is the initial prognosis of the injuries.

Yes, the Mets lost Wheeler for the year. Huge loss, no question. But there was zero chance of him coming back, so the team was able to move on and find another option. Similar situation with Mejia... you know he isn't coming back before a certain number of games. And so forth.

On the other hand, all of the injuries the Nats sustained (with the exception of Stammen, who I've always been a huge fan of and think was a hugely underrated part of this team) were of the "it's no big deal, they'll be back soon" variety, even though that largely turned out to not be true. Either that or you had the repeat offenders like Zimm, Span, Strasburg, etc. Virtually none of the Nats injuries were "Oh crap, this guy is done for the season, let's find someone else".

The Nats' DL all year was like Lucy pulling the football out from in front of Charlie Brown's foot. Repeated injuries, different injuries to the same guys, injuries that seemed less severe than they were... they had it all, and all of that precluded the Nats from making moves before the deadline because "the guys we're getting back will be better than anyone we're trading for" except that we kept losing those guys again (or having them stay on the DL much longer than expected). Remember when Rendon was just day-to-day during Spring Training? How did that work out?

As Harper said, more severe injuries can actually be a blessing because it gives you more flexibility with roster management. The Mets had their #2 (?) starter on the shelf all year, but they knew it, and could move on. Meanwhile, the Nats #2 starter pitched like crap the first 2/3 of the season because he was sort of injured, went on the DL, came back, was sort of injured again, went on the DL again, came back, pitched great, and is now maybe injured again...

Just saying.

David said...

Mets v. Phillies, Nats v. Cards. I'd be content if Nats only lost one game here.

Anonymous said...

@Booyah Suckah!

The list of Mets injuries (and suspensions) is longer than Wheeler and Mejia. To begin with, see Wright and d'Arnaud.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Anon, yeah, I get that. Not my point. Point is, the overwhelming nature of the Nats injuries was "minor that turned out to be not minor" meaning they couldn't either get the player back or move on to someone else for the season. And to make matters worse, those injuries all happened to the 1,2,4, and 5 hitters and their second most important starting pitcher. To not only not have those guys for an extended time, but also replace them with marginal bench guys instead of getting a good replacement off the market (because the team thought they'd be back sooner rather than later), was in my opinion a big part of the Nats underperformance this year.

Mets2015 said...

@Booyah..

Unfortunately, the Mets are all too familiar with injuries that were "minor that turned out to be not minor"

https://twitter.com/jareddiamond/status/618829060077019136/photo/1