Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - the 59 game season

Monday, August 03, 2015

Monday Quickie - the 59 game season

The Nats and Mets, for all intents and purposes, are tied for first in the NL East.

I did not expect to be writing that back on Friday.  But here we are. The Nats offense continued to sputter and the Mets swept the Nats in a series that sets up the rest of the season as a 55+ (Nats 59, Mets 57) game... well not sprint.... let's say 10K to the finish. Both teams have relatively easy schedules. The Nats have more home games, the Mets more games away. It should be a close one. I did not expect to be writing that back in June.

What has gone wrong? And it is what has gone wrong. As much credit as you have to give to the Mets the Nats are now on an 85 win pace, about 10 games off where most people expected them to be. For all those screaming "just wait until they get healthy", they are pretty much healthy now and they are performing worse, not better. The team has scored more than 2 runs once in the past 7 games.

What has gone wrong is underperformance when playing by people the Nats were relying on. You know about Ian. Ramos has been just as bad. Michael Taylor, #1 OF sub has been too. So have Werth and Zimm. That's four regulars and one important sub who have just been hideous this year. On the other side Zimmerman has merely been ok, Gio average, Fister bad and Strasburg terrible early on when most of his innings came. Roark, the first in line replacement, has been nothing more than fair. Treinen, the presumed 8th inning guy and heir apparent to the closer role, was not good and worse in big spots. While the Nats have had some bright spots it's hard to balance out all those dim ones.

What has gone wrong is a dimming of those few bright spots. Clint Robinson, super sub, has hit .208 with no homers since July 20th. Since June 19th, Espinosa has hit .208 / .252 / .302 with 32 Ks in 116 PAs.

What has gone wrong is superstars no longer carrying the team on their backs. Max Scherzer, once arguably in commanding lead for the NL Cy Young, had a good but not great July, posting a 3.42 ERA and giving up almost as many HRs in the month as he had in the previous 3. Bryce, who looked like he might run away and hide with the NL MVP, had an off July for this season hitting .307 / .435 / .557.  Neither of these months are bad at all. Hell, Bryce's month for the whole year would probably put him 2nd in MVP voting. But the team was being held up in some respects by these two guys and as they return to mere mortal and mere demi-god status the team suffers.

What has gone wrong is a manager unable to use the back end of his pen with any effectiveness in close games.  It's one thing to hold a lights-out closer until the 9th inning. While there is almost certainly better usage from that asset possible, the 9th inning in a save situation will by definition be an important inning. And frankly convention has dictated that saves must be had. If no one is taking advantage of better usage then relatively you don't lose anything compared to other teams by following orthodoxy. However, it appears that Matt Williams is stuck not only there but on the expanded idea of having an "8th inning guy" to the point where Storen won't be seen unless there is a lead to protect in the 8th. We saw the end result of such rigid thinking this week as neither Storen nor Papelbon saw the light of day for arguably the three most important games the Nats have played this year.

What has gone wrong is a GM, likely hampered by budget and possibly hampered by his own long-term view, gambling on losing the season rather than losing prospects. It has to be seen as a possibility that some combination of Werth, Zimmerman, and Rendon will not comeback to perform at adequate levels, at least this year. It has to be seen that perhaps Espinosa's fast start was not indicative of his ability and that Michael Taylor may not find his way this season. With that in mind a bat that you can rely on would be extremely helpful. Mike Rizzo did not make such a move. It is fairly clear that he could not add salary, however dangle enough prospects in front of a team and salaries may be swallowed.

The Nats are still the better team, in theory. While the Mets have a better rotation (I've been saying that for a couple months now) the gap should not be that big and Nats should have a better lineup and a better bullpen. However all of those things are stuck on the word "should". The rotation and the line-up have to prove themselves better by performing to a higher standard for the next two months. The bullpen has to be used better to show the talent differential.

Theoretical advantages stop mattering when play begins. "Should" and "theory" are great for pre-season, maybe even early Spring, but here in the dog days, those are worthless terms. Now "is" and "reality" take precedence. The Nats are not anything special and 100+ games in they've played no better than the Mets. That's where we stand. If they want us to believe they are better now, they are going to have to prove it on the field.


cass said...

It was inexcusable for both Storen and Papelbon not to throw a single pitch this weekend. Fire Matt Williams.

It's also worth noting that the Mets have gotten better by adding a good hitter and a good reliever to their team. With Duda coming back into form, I'm not sure our lineup is any better than theirs. And our bullpen isn't really better either. I think the Mets might be the better team at this point in the season with the addition of Clippard and Cespedes.

Carl said...

For me the worst examples of Williams' bullpen management were July 19 vs. the Dodgers, and the July 21 game vs. the Mets. Eerily similar. In both cases, the Nats were down a run going into the 9th, and had the top of the order due up in the bottom half (so you know Harper will get an AB). If I'm reading the WPA correctly, they had a 14.7% chance of winning when the inning started--not great, but it's a chance, and with Harper on your team that number's probably higher.

For the Dodger game, we got Treinen; for the Mets game, it was Roark. By the time the Nats got up to bat, the win probability was down to .6%, in each game. No Storen to be seen.

THERE WILL BE NO SAVE CHANCE for the home team if they are trailing entering the 9th. I'll be damned if I know what Matt was saving Storen for. Under the circumstances you have GOT to keep it a one-run game to give yourself a chance.

Miles Treacy said...

What are your thoughts on when Span returns (started activities this weekend)? I realize baseball is a strange game in that typically guys getting paid more get the playing time based on past accomplishments, but I really don't believe we'll ever see the Werth from a few years ago again. He's brutal to watch on defense and is just the biggest rally kill considering he can't get any balls elevated and just seems to make weak contact. I'd personally like to see Taylor out there over Werth. Like we've said with Desmond, you need to swallow and grin at the terrible ABs you'll see but he and Taylor can at least run into a few and get hot for little stretches to at least give some sort of offense since run manufacturing never seems to be a priority for the team. I realize MW and Rizzo sitting a $20mil guy is a long stretch but we knew we'd be having this argument as soon as they signed Werth...

Miles Treacy said...

But it was good to see Rendon hit with some authority last night. If he and Span can replicate last year as that 1-2 punch, that'll give Bryce much more opportunities with runners on.

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

With all due respect, Harper, the Nats simply are NOT a better team than the Mets, in theory or, more importantly, in reality. As my coaches used to say, and as I used to say when I was coaching, the better team shows it on the field. We've now seen who the better team is; the Mets have shown it on the field, loudly and clearly. They have a better rotation than the Nats; they have more pop in their lineup than the Nats; they may have a better bullpen than the Nats (although who would know, since the two best pitchers in our pen didn't even SNIFF Citi Field this weekend); and they probably have a manager who knows how to use his lineup better than the Nats' manager knows how to use his. To that last point, why is it that in two series in a row vs. the Mets, the rotation hasn't been stacked earlier in that week so that Scherzer would pitch at least one game of each series? Terry Collins had no problem, before or after the AS break, stacking his lineup so the Nats would see their 1-2-3 SPs in both series. Yes, there's no guarantees, but I'll take Max vs. the Mets 100 times out of 100 instead of Fister vs. the Mets.

I just KNEW we were in trouble when Harper "called it" for the Nats a couple of months ago... ;-)

Carl said...

Another thing that was frustrating: Friday night's game, top of the 8th, the Nats finally got to Harvey and tied the game. First and second, two outs, and Werth had what was by and large a good at-bat against Clippard, going 13 pitches, until he got called looking.

By fouling off a shit-ton of pitches and keep the at-bat going, he looked like the Werth of old. If you extend an at-bat that long you should eventually get a good pitch to hit, and when he did, Werth didn't hit it, and the Werth of old would have.

Is he still adjusting post-DL? Or has he lost sufficient bat speed with age that he can't get it done? I don't like to think about it.

G Cracka X said...

Nats scored 5 runs all weekend. Mets scored 5 runs in one weekend.

G Cracka X said...

Let's try that again:
Nats scored 5 runs all weekend. Mets scored 5 runs in one inning.

Rob Evans said...

A while back I thought both the Mets and Braves would catch the Nats. The Mets are the better team for sure. The Braves not so much. I'm afraid we've missed our window for a WS championship for this current crop of Nats. Combine that with the fact that ownership won't add payroll during the season (I was hoping against hope the Nats would get Cespedis), we might be looking at a little bit of a re-build.

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

I'm not so convinced about Taylor vs. Werth at this point, MT. In 12 ABs in the Mets series, MT struck out 9 times. Yes, one series does not a season make, but MT has been a definite hole in the batting order for a month or so now. He has a few occasions where he demonstrates his potential, but not enough yet for me to say definitively that I'd rather see him in the lineup than Werth. Even as poorly as Werth has batted this season (hurt or not), I find myself having more confidence with him coming up in a key AB than I do with MT coming up.

Doug S said...

Everybody batting after Harper in last night's lineup had a sub .700 OPS (Werth sub.600). You're absolutely right in saying Rizzo needed to pick up another bat. Not even a Cespedes or a Bruce - just a league average hitter. I do think this team has a good shot at the wild card but barring injury, I think the Mets take the division. And with their rotation, watch out for them in the postseason. Should the Nats bring up Trea Turner?

Anonymous said...

Jesus Christ, you guys. The Mets are NOT better than the Nats nor have they played better than the Nats this year. They won two 1-run games this weekend, both of which could have gone the other way. They did expose a glaring Nats weakness, which is that Matt Williams does not know how to use a bullpen. He even screws up when trying to go by the book. Ross - and this is no criticism of him; he's been great - was hanging sliders in the 6th inning. Cespedes almost took him deep. MW should have had Thornton warming to face Duda IN THE 6th. To bring an obviously gassed Ross out for the 7th (and have him it in the top of the inning!) is the height of stupidity. Yes he was at 84 pitches. He's also 22, a rookie, and throwing more innings than he ever has. Not having a lefty face Duda in the 7th when you have rested Storen and Papelbon for the 8th and 9th is indefensible.

Anyway, back to the Mets not being better than the Nats. The Mets on the season - with their vaunted starting rotation - have allowed more runs than they've scored. They are a .500 team. BaseRuns - the Fangraphs tool that tries to take sequencing of hits given up and allowed to figure out how many runs a team should have scored/allowed - has the Nats 3 games better than the Mets this year so far.

The Nats have played poorly given their roster at the beginning of the season. But the Mets are just not a good team. Getting swept (on the road!) with two of the three games decided by 1 run in the late innings does not "prove" a goddamn thing.

Rob Evans said...

@anon - we'll just have to agree to disagree. It's August and half of the Nats starting lineup is hovering around the Mendozza line. The Mets have a winning record against the Nats this year, and when you boil it down, that's the only stat that matters.

Anonymous said...

The Nats got swept in a way that confirms all of their weaknesses: (1) Weak hitting except for Bryce; (2) Poor situational hitting; (3) Terrible bullpen "management" by Matt "that's baseball" Williams. But it was still just three games and Max didn't start (did people really feel confident about the Gio v. Harvey matchup on Friday?).

I think the bigger concern is that if the Nats do make the playoffs and end up in close games, does anyone have confidence that MW will be able to manage the bullpen effectively?

Also, how long do we think it will be before Papelbon pitches in a non-save situation?

Anonymous said...

@RobEvans: "The Mets have a winning record against the Nats this year, and when you boil it down, that's the only stat that matters."

No, my friend, that is NOT the only stat that matters. The only stat that "matters" at the end of the season is W-L record. In fact, W-L record against the closest rival may be the least meaningful stat one could devise. We can look to various other stats, e.g., batting average, OPB, OPS, wOBA, or ERA, FIP, xFIP, to try and figure out how to predict W-L going forward. My guess is that a team's W-L record against a single other team may be the very worst predictor of that team's W-L record going forward.

If the first place team goes 0-19 against the second place team, who cares?

The Mets stink.

Kenny B. said...

I'm not quite in the "sky is falling" camp yet. The current crop of Nats have a recent history of good late season performance, and a lot of these guys coming back will take some ABs to get their groove back. The Mets also have a history of being bad late in the season, and I suspect we are hitting "peak Mets" right now. I like the Nats to be neck and neck through August and pull away in September.

I agree though, that it will likely only mean another one-and-done post-season appearance, since Matt Williams is worse at managing the bullpen than a random reliever formula would be.

Anonymous said...

In 2014 the Braves were terrible but had a deceptively "good" W-L record given how poorly they had played. On July 29 the Nats had a .5 game lead over the Braves. The Nats ended up winning the division by 17 games. One component of that was the Nats playing really well down the stretch. But the Braves' record started to match their performance.

The same thing is likely to happen with the Mets this year. They're an 81-81 team. With a little luck they could get to 85 wins. With a lot of luck they could get to 89 wins.

I'm much less confident the Nats will play very well down the stretch this year like they did last year, but I think their chance of finishing above 85 wins is nearly 100%. They're still better than 2:1 favorites to win the division.

Anonymous said...

I think it is folly to try and compare the Mets and the Nats right now. Whether we are using traditional or fancy stats the fact is the Mets are a very different team (on offense in particular) than the one that has compiled the performance stats to date. How can we say that these stats prove that the Mets today are worse (or better) than the Nats?

When someone like Murphy becomes the 3rd or 4th best bat in the lineup instead of the 1st or 2nd the whole lineup changes. It becomes harder to pitch around key people, the stress level on pitchers moving through the lineup goes up, hitters get more chances with men in scoring position, mistakes become more impactful, etc.

Even the pitchers' performance is likely to improve. If they have more confidence in the lineup, they don't feel the have to be as precise, throw more strikes, get ahead of hitters, retire more of them. If they have more confidence in the back of the bullpen (i.e., Clippard), they don't have to save as much in the tank. Of course it is possible that adding Paps helps the Nats' starters too.

But my point is that the compounding nature of adding Uribe, Cespedes, Clippard, etc. totally changes the game. I'm not convinced that means the Mets will win and the Nats will lose, but it means we have no basis of comparison yet to know. And with 57/59 games to go, that is scary.

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

Everyone here who is saying that the Mets will revert to form (at least, their form of earlier this season) is forgetting several things. First, the Mets are better at the plate now than they were earlier in the season, having added Cespedes and Uribe, and having Duda come back from injury (and what a comeback...). Second, the Mets' starting rotation is pitching better than they were earlier in the season, and both deGrom and Syndegaard have far more experience in tight games now than they did earlier in the season. Third, the Mets now are playing with FAR more confidence than they were earlier in the season, since they know that their ownership and management have made some moves to make them better this year rather than taking the "spend as little $ as possible" approach that the Lerners have taken.

In the end, do I expect that the Nats will win the Division? Yes, I do. But it won't be the cakewalk that everyone was predicting earlier this year, and the Mets are going to hang around for the next 2 months. I'd expect the Nats win by 2 or 3 games, not by 17; the 2015 Mets, particularly with the new lineup, simply aren't the 2014 Braves...

Anonymous said...

@ anon You're forgetting that the Mets have compiled that record missing Wright, D'arnaud and Blevins for the vast majority of the season and have only recently added Cespedes, Clippard, Johnson, Uribe, and Conforto. They even have Matz coming back in a few weeks. These aren't the .500 Mets going forward; it's the team that just swept the Nats this weekend.

Steven Biel said...

I think I hate this team enough that I'm officially rooting against them.

Anonymous said...

Betting on the old Desmond, Werth, and Zimmerman coming back for anything more than brief stretches is like betting on the old Tiger Woods coming back and winning a major. It ain't gonna happen. You might ad well just throw your money right out your car window.

Rob Evans said...

The Nats are basically Max and Harper. The Mets are Cespedes, Duda, Harvey and deGroom. The Mets > Nats. Fancy stats or not.

Nattydread said...

Let's not throw in the towel yet. One --- the Nats have faced several weeks of dominant pitchers. That's gotta be draining for the batters. Second, it does take time for guys to get their timing back. A three game series doesn't prove anything. Hugely disappointing yes, but September is when it counts. I see the team heating up soon.

Bryceroni said...

I was at citifield last night, and that game was soul destroying. That said, you gotta take your knocks and move along.

The 4th ball to plawecki with 2 outs was a CLEAR strike and would have ended the 3rd.
Syndergaard was getting a wide zone and a low zone, which was brutal on our bottom of the order.
The Nat's offense really wasn't far off the mets, but their luck and sequencing meant they got only 2 runs on2 solo shots.

Chaz R said...

The Mets are totally not a more talented team than the Nats. That's just silliness. They are certainly a much improved team and are playing good baseball right now. The Nats are scuffling right now, but the games this weekend were very close. MW's bullpen management is appalling, but despite that the Nats' talent will come around and they will win the division. It'll certainly be close, and it may even come down to those last 3 games at Citi Field.

Rob Evans said...

Look... I love our Nats. I hope they get hot and win this thing. Just looking the teams this weekend, with the Nats' stars being on the down-stride and the new additions the Mets made, I say they win the division by a game or two. I hope I'm wrong.

John C. said...

Three days ago the Mets were LOLMets and the Nats had just taken a series on the road against the Marlins with Scherzer pitching a shutout and Zimmerman hitting the deciding HR. Nats fans were ascendant, Mets fans were alternating between rage, despair and resignation. After three very close games in NY it's not Mets fans that are ascendant, Nats fans that are gnashing their teeth and rending their garments.

So it goes. The mistake that everyone is making is that narratives are permanent. And some of the narratives are flawed. For example, I've actually been encouraged by the way that Zim has hit since returning; he's been hitting the ball well. That's confirmed by a quick glance at his results on Fangraphs. His LD% last week (up until the weekend) was 33% since returning; his LD% over the weekend was 50% (as was his hard contact%). Despite that his BABIP was .167. Most fans didn't notice, but other teams have. At the beginning of the week he was seeing almost exclusively fastballs. He squared up some good ones (from great pitchers, including Fernandez and Syndegaard) and by the weekend was seeing more offspeed/breaking stuff. Don't confuse results with quality of at bats, particularly in small sample sizes.

When Werth started the season with no spring training, he was bad for the first two weeks. That's all most fans remember, but what most miss is that he was on a tear when he got his wrist broken by a HBP. He bottomed out on April 28; at that point he was hitting .146/.228/.188. Blech. Over the next 14 games he went .264/.350 with 2 HRs in 53 at bats; not quite Werthlike (he was arguably the best hitter on the team last year and the year before) but quite solid. I do expect that it's again going to take him a couple of weeks to get up to speed, and I also expect that (as with 2012) his "up to speed" will be more in the area of average/OBP than power. Still, even discounting for age (he hit .300/.387/.440 in 2012; I expect that to be closer to .270/.345/.400 the rest of this year) that will be more than enough to make him an asset to the lineup - certainly more of an asset than MAT is at the moment. Even with all of Werth's rustiness and injuries he has a better OBP this season than MAT does.

John C. said...

Rob, if it's any consolation three days ago a lot of Mets fans were expecting to get buried and lose the division by double digits. This narrative changes constantly through a 162 game season. You're never as good as you look when you win (Mets) or as bad as you look when you lose (Nats). It's hard to remember sometimes, but it's true.

Anonymous said...

Enough complaining. Let's talk solutions. Any lineup ideas? That is the glaring problem in my opinion. You won't win many games scoring 2 runs, especially if Max isn't on the hill.

Here is what I would propose, based on how our guys have performed this season, batting avg is in () out of each spot in the lineup:

1. Escobar (.365)
2. Desmond (.293 in this spot in 123 AB's - and below .200 in every other spot)
3. Rendon (.333)
4. Harper (.354)
5. Zimmerman (.245) - Robinson (.286)
6. Ramos (.280)
7. Werth (let's be honest, Werth isn't benched no matter how much I wish he would)
8. Tylor (.248)
9. Pitcher

When you have these black holes (Werth) hitting in crucial lineup spots like 3rd, it disrupts any attempts and putting runs on the board. A homerun is the only chance we give ourselves and unfortunately we only have one guy that can do that.

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm glad there will be a race down the stretch. Coasting in last year didn't do us any good... and if we can't beat the Mets down the stretch to get into the dance, then we aren't going anywhere in the post season anyway.

And the window is slamming shut right on top of our fingers if Werth and Zim aren't productive players anymore. It's exciting the see the right names in the lineup finally, and I'm hopeful that the bats will start producing. We've won the "on paper" championship a bunch of years in a row... not very satisfying.

WiredHK said...

I've tried to take this past weekend series with a proverbial grain of salt, but it's really hard to view it in any other way than a summary judgment. Going in, it looked like the Nats had a decent shot of being swept -- and then to see it happen, I don't know...that kind of means (to me) it is what it is: the Mets have passed us and the better team won. Maybe not in a big way, maybe things were close, but it's hard to ignore following the deadline deals. I'd give the edge in the division to them, again not in a big way, but still...

I guess you can throw out both teams' performances up to this point of the year (Mets have a new lineup and Nats have regulars back) -- but just watching the two current rosters in play this weekend, we're not better than them. We're just not.

Anonymous said...

Quick thoughts on 2015 Season:

1) I like the fact we will have to scramble and play hard right up until the end of the season (assuming the Mets continue to win). We've backed into the playoffs twice and we saw how that turned out.
2) Span's injury probably guarantees Rizzo resigns him to at least a 2-3 year deal. It's backwards, but without the injury, Rizzo probably projects MAT as a viable big-league bat. Well, we've seen that he's not. He needs to go to Syracuse and adjust his swing so he can make more contact. It will likely lower his ISO, but who cares, he won't play as a .200 hitter.
3) Trea Turner is tearing it up. I know they are stashing him to avoid the extra year of service, but its probably time to bring him up if we drop another game or two in the standings. Desi is gone next year, the future is now.
4) I know it is unpopular to say, but this team needs Strasburg. He was pitching well the second time around and he is a very very good pitcher when healthy.
5) Ross has looked very good. I'd leave him in the rotation and demote Doug (my sinker won't sink) Fister to our long middle reliever/mop-up guy. I think you have more reason to believe you will get 6 good innings from Ross than from Fister at the moment, and there is no more time to waste letting guys "feel it out"
6) Zimmerman has looked very good at the plate. I'm not worried about his bat... the hits will come because his timing is good and he is stinging the ball.
7) Werth is done as a middle-of-the-lineup guy. Bat him 7th until he can at least get his OBP above .350 again.
8) Ramos is done. His defense seems to have gotten worse, and he is a K/HDP machine at the plate. Start Lobaton and at least you have the defense.
9) I'm picking the Nats to take the division by 2 games, scrape through the Division series, and lose in 5 vs. the Cards in the NLCS.

Anonymous said...

While this board has a fairly good Nats stink/Nats will still beat the Mets debate, it's interesting that no one is defending Matt Williams (even Boz took him to task for his bullpen management). There is apparently only one side to the coin of Mr. "That's baseball."

Ink Stains the Lurker said...

It really isn't as bad as it seems. The Tigers lose Miggy and they sell off Price and Cespedes; the Nats lose five of their guys, and they're tied for first place. I want to win every game, but it's clear that they don't, won't, and can't. I enjoyed 2012 when the Nats were in a dogfight with Atlanta for most of they year--it made every game feel bigger and like they counted more. I'll hope for that this year too. And even though of course the Nats were eliminated in (shudder) Game 5, they had a lead in the ninth inning of Game 5--you can't get closer than that. It was in all sorts of ways a better (more fun) season than 2014, when the Nats coasted to the title and then forgot how to hit. I'm hoping for something like 2012 again, but with Papelbon on the mound to earn the save (after, of course, an excellent eight inning by Storen).

Ollie said...

I agree with most of that long list from an Anon ago. I'm hopeful that Zim's bat wakes up, which, along with a simply not terrible Desmond and Span coming back, changes the complexion of this lineup enough to compete for the division.

I hope they can get Ramos to hit well enough to trade him for someone useful this offseason. I think between defense, framing, game-calling and (my eyes see but stats might say they lie) timely hitting Lobaton seems the better start.

What about stretching Roark out to replace Fister in the rotation? Put him back on the DL until he can get his velocity back up?

Ollie said...

I do worry though that the Williams hire and subsequent mismanagement in the playoffs last year made them miss their window. This might be too much of a sports columnist hot take, but there are times where the way they play seems to say, "man our manager's a stupid asshole." I also wonder if the Papelbon trade was the straw that broke the camel's back with the clubhouse's relationship with management, given Desmond and ZNN's contract situations, Clippard's trade, and the arbitration hardball they've played over the last several years.

Anonymous said...

"I guess you can throw out both teams' performances up to this point of the year (Mets have a new lineup and Nats have regulars back) -- but just watching the two current rosters in play this weekend, we're not better than them. We're just not."

I'm just flabbergasted that somebody could think this way. The task is to have a better record after 162 games. Can we all agree that this is what matters? Not who has a better lineup, more power hitters, a better starting rotation, more "good looking ballplayers," more "ballplayers with good looking girlfriends" or anything else.

Given that having a better record after 162 games is the object, how in the world is it rational to think that one team "looking better" in a three game series one weekend in early August provides more information about the team that is likely to finish 162 games with a better record? By focusing on three games in early August (on the road, against a team that had its rotation lined up), you're willfully choosing to ignore a cockload (technical term) of information that is MUCH MORE RELEVANT to the task we all agree on is the task we care about (having a better record after 162 games). That is, approximately 100 games of the two teams' performance.

Those 100 games say that the Mets are mediocre at best. The Nats aren't great, or even at the top of the NL, but they have performed decidedly better than the Mets have over the first ~100 games of the season. It's not reflected in the standings the way it ought to be - the Nats have "under won" by 1 game and the Mets have "over won" by 2 games. But the performance is what it is. The Mets bank those 2 games of overperformance, but you can't expect that to happen going forward.

The question then becomes how the past performance predicts future performance. The Mets have one meaningful new addition (Cespedes) and one meaningful guy coming back from injury (D'Arnaud). They also have added Uribe and Johnson. The Nats have two meaningful guys coming back from injury (Rendon, Strasburg), one guy that seems like he might be meaningful (Zimmerman), and two giant question marks (Werth, Span). Papelbon is a meaningful playoff addition, but relievers simply aren't worth that much during the regular season.

Adding up the additions (using Zips WAR projections) you get Nats 4.4* and Mets 3.7.** You can quibble with these projections (Span's seems too high), and I haven't figured out the deltas between the new guys and their replacements. But the point is there is a reasonable basis to expect the Nats' gains are going to be even greater than the Mets' gains. And, most importantly, the Nats are starting out from a higher performance level. The Nats are improving a better team by more.

It's going to be a closer race than we thought in April. The Nats have spent much of the year pissing away their inherent advantage through poor performance and injury. Crazy shit could happen and the Nats could blow the division. But if you really think the Mets are a better team, you're not paying attention.

*Werth (.4), Span (1.0), Rendon (1.1), Strasburg (1.3), Zimmerman (.4), Papelbon (.2)
**Cespedes (1.8), D'Arnaud (.6), Uribe (.8), Johnson (.3)

Froggy said...

OMGoodness Foster is terrible.

But, 'hey, that's baseball' Matt Williams is worse.

Froggy said...


WiredHK said...

Last Anon - one thing I think you've missed out on: no matter what Pythag says the records SHOULD be up to now (and by the way, looks like the teams are close to where they should be), the reason I don't care as much about the first 100 games is because: A) the teams were tied (basically) going into tonight and with 59 games or so left, if we're truly statistically better than the Mets (can Zips projected WAR count in the standings?), who knows if that's enough runway to matter and B) the rosters have definitely changed no matter how much you seek to minimize it (more so for the Mets than us). The Mets improved their huge Achilles heel -- their offense had been super pathetic until now. But their pitching has been excellent (better than ours). So when a team like that adds quality bats at the deadline, I think it's reasonable to like where they are headed and discount at least some of where they've been. You don't? Cool - but suggesting you simply CANNOT understand (cue the *gasp*) how someone could think this way is silly to me (and overly dramatic in a post), but hey, we can disagree.

Are you actually watching the games or are you super committed to your Zip WAR projections, so you don't need to see the games? Which part of our squad has been great coming out of the AS Break? We're 6-9 (not counting tonight, so 6-10) and 2-4 vs the Mets. The Mets are 8-8 (not counting tonight, so 9-8) and 4-2 vs us. Sure, post-AS Break isn't even a super large sample size, but it's something (roughly 10% of a season). A large chunk of our regular players are not, nor have they at any point, played well this season on offense. Our runs scored look ok, but we're struggling to score runs at an even pace -- we have 1 huge game, then go a stretch without doing a thing (Harper had a post on this earlier in the year and I don't think it's changed much). We have a strong Ace #1 SP, a second guy who has been simply ok (ZNN) and then a whole lot of...umm...I'm not sure what we're going to get today guys (with apologies to Ross, who has been very good).

But I'll repeat this part from my post (which you found outlandish): maybe the Mets haven't passed us in a big way, it's close, but I'd give the edge to the Mets right now (and that series this weekend at least mildly suggested the same). And yes, I'm paying full attention, every single night. Why is a big series in a playoff atmosphere in August vs your closest Div foe so meaningless to you? I'm curious. I'm not suggesting it is the final summary on things, just that to me, I think they've passed us by a small degree.

Attach a name to your posts and come back to continue the discussions. It's a pretty fun group here. You seem like a very engaged fan. Let's see how this plays out, I'm rooting like heck to be wrong here....

Kenny B. said...

If you listen closely, you can actually hear the window closing.

VI said...

Full disclosure, I'm a Mets fan since '67. However, I'm also a baseball fan who has lived in what is now MASN land for the past 23 years. The comments here are insightful and come from a passionate and baseball savy fan base. That used to be common across baseball, but is limited to a few select cities these days. For what it's worth, all the analysis and advanced "stats" (really metrics, not stats), are useful but won't predict the outcomes over the next 50 games. Baseball teams are living organisms that evolve over a 6 month season, and need to be assessed as such. So, can the Nats under performance to date be reversed? Or, will the young Mets pitchers continue to evolve and will their offensive additions make a difference down the stretch? I don't know the answers, but I'm hoping it'll be fun to watch. If I were a betting man, I'd go with the team that is relying on youth and aggressing above the mean over that which is relying on past performance, but I'm a Met fan. And somewhere along the way, the Nats announcers should have been replaced with professionals who call and analyze games for a real fan base. Homers are for teams that suck, and the Nats are a few years removed from that.

Robot said...

Fire MW now.

Fries said...

Fire Matt Williams?! But he's Manager of the Year! He clearly knows something about baseball we don't, especially bullpen management. To the naked, unrefined eye, his bullpen decisions are horrendous. When we see Ross struggling in the 6th with both velocity and location, we yell "PULL HIM" but MW understands that Ross is ACTUALLY deceiving the batters after 5 innings of brilliance.

Anonymous said...

Wired: I'm not saying don't watch the games or that you can't learn anything by watching the games. My point is that it's absolutely necessary to put the things you see in the proper context. Here is what I see as the proper context: (1) a set of three games simply cannot be a better source of information than the whole ~105 games the two teams have played. I agree that the Mets looked better than the Nats over those three games (though two of the three were toss ups that could have gone either way). But I think it's silly to think those three games give you more information about the relative quality of the two teams than the prior 100 games; (2) yes the Mets have improved. But all saying they've improved does is raise a follow up question: by how much? That's where the projections come in. They won't be correct - they never are - but they're far better than gut instinct. I actually don't think it would be crazy for you to choose to ignore the projections - you may like Cespedes + d'Arnaud better than Rendon + Strasburg + Zimmerman and I think you could find evidence to support that view.

My view that the Nats are pretty clearly better than the Mets boils down to this:

(A) Notwithstanding current W-L records, run differential and BaseRuns shows the Nats have actually played ~3 games better than the Mets so far this year. If they keep the same pace, you would expect the Nats to have a better W-L record going forward.
(B) Notwithstanding how they've actually played, the individual Nats players have underperformed their beginning of the season projections more than the Mets players have. This suggests there is more positive regression to the mean for the Nats than for the Mets going forward.
(C) The rosters of both teams have changed and are changing. I like the Nats changes to contribute more value than the Mets changes.
(D) If you take (A) as a baseline, the Nats are starting from a better baseline and (B) and (C) suggest they are going to improve more from that better baseline. This is why the projected standings still have the Nats at ~2:1 to win the division despite being down in the standings by a game. FWIW, I think (C) is debatable. I don't think (A) and (B) are.

The basic point: all of this stuff gives you much more useful information than a single three game series at Citi Field in early August does.

Rob Evans said...

Playoff hopes just went up in smoke last night. The Mets aren't looking back.

Ollie said...

“It depends on where we’re at in that particular game,” Williams said prior to Monday’s game. “Who’s available and who isn’t. So there’s a lot that goes into it.”

They might as well hire Tim McCarver as their manager.

Anonymous said...

...I hate DC sports :(

Anonymous said...

I think the last anon's comments are right on. The key question then becomes the point he (she?) raised correctly as debatable. Do the Mets' changes improve its team more than the Nats' changes.

@Harper, looks like we have a job for you (or someone better than me at number crunching). Can we quantify the likely improvement of the Nats' changes and the Mets' changes and then compare it quantitatively to the underperformance of the remaining pieces of the Mets and Nats as expressed in anon's point (B). While the Nats' remaining pieces have a better chance of regressing positively as compared to themselves, the fact is that in some cases the replacement pieces have been doing much better or are at least close in performance to the "real" levels of the underperforming original pieces, so the jump in (B) might not be as large as we might think.

My personal view, unsubstantiated by data, is that the positive regression in (B) is smaller then we might think due to the surprisingly positive performance to date of pieces like Espinosa, Robinson and Ross and the improvement gap in (C) favors the Mets and by a lot more than we think. That's why I'm now very nervous even though we were better to start (point A).

None of this, of course, means the Mets will win and the Nats will lose, but it does likely mean that it will be a dog fight. And as several have noted, that isn't necessarily a bad thing either, as recent history has shown that teams that have to fight their way in often have better outcomes in the playoffs then those that coast in (e.g., Nats 2014 and Nats 2012).

Perhaps I have serious recency bias as a UVA fan. Sorry to deviate for those that don't follow college ball, but in 2014 the Wahoos were clearly the best team in college baseball and rode that talent into the short series CWS final, which they lost to an upstart Vanderbilt team. In 2015, UVA barely snuck into the field and Vanderbilt was a juggernaut. The two met again in the CWS finals, Vandy because it was supposed to and UVA by a mix of luck and momentum and sure enough, UVA won.

Here's hoping the Nats have to fight their way in and ride that momentum to the elusive WS championship we've all been craving.

Anonymous said...

For some reason Anon's projections also left out the Mets additions of Clippard, Conforto (3-run bomb last night), Blevins (huge piece), and Wright (who just said he is aiming an 8/15 return).

Anonymous said...

Clippard is projected at .2; Blevins at .1; Conforto at .1. Including these guys makes the tally 4.4 Nats to 4.1 Mets.

Wright is a potentially meaningful piece but I'm not adding him in for two reasons: (1) he hasn't even started a rehab assignment yet, so there's some uncertainty there; (2) his projection would replace Uribe's (where else would Uribe play?) FWIW, Zips has Wright at .9 and Uribe at .8.

WiredHK said...

Your points are all fair enough and your are fine, but I'm still struggling to see where there was any lack of proper context (on my part)? The teams are razor close in most measurements (the Nats advantage in run differential took a hit last night) and we are trying our best here to use players' past performance to determine what their impacts will be on their respective teams for these last 59 games - which is a good starting point but hardly the final say on what happens on the field.

Watching those games this weekend, watching this team since the AS break - it looks reasonable to think the Mets have a slight edge on winning this thing. To me the major wild card will be what happens with their three ace SPs down the stretch. They'll be asking a lot of them in terms of innings usage, at levels none of them have seen, and in Harvey's case, coming off major injury the prior year. If they have to limit or lose innings from those guys in late August/Sep, or if their performance dips as the innings mount, it should have a direct affect on this race. Meanwhile, if the Nats can get a guy like Stras back and performing at his STRAS! levels, that could be a major plus for the Nats.

Here's to hoping...

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