Nationals Baseball: Dulller Wednesday

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dulller Wednesday

Strasburg was great.  Bryce was great. Nats win and stave off seeing their elimination number drop into the single digits for another day.

As others noted, last night was a good reminder that 2016, not 2015 marks the closing of this chapter of Nats history. There will be big losses this year but the team is equipped to handle them. Next year Ross/Roark slide in, Danny holds the spot for Trea, and MAT takes over officially. It may not work mind you, but there is a plan in place. If you are a sunshine and ponies type, add a bullpen arm or two and get lucky with injuries and this team could win the division pretty much as is.

Of course this kind of plan would be exactly in line with 2012-2015, setting up scenarios where "get lucky with injuries" isn't a hope, but a necessity. I think we all are expecting more, especially given a Mets team that should be a rival next year, assuming they keep the right pieces or bring in the right replacements.

The other story that floats around is the "question" of whether Bryce Harper should be the MVP. Look, he's going to win it. He's having the best season in over a decade and is head and shoulders more productive than his competition. But because we are inclined to link value with playoffs, and the Nats aren't making it, there's push back. Then, as long as it remains a story, you'll have off-shoots that go in other directions. Like this which actually tries to quantify value in a number. It's not a bad goal, but I'm of the mindset if you are asking people to vote - let them decide for themselves based on their own opinions. It's fine. The world won't end. Sabrmetrics has great value in creating a team, but for giving awards? To me that's like coming up with an algorithm to judge a beauty contest. It's an interesting angle but it misses the larger point. We are wanting to come up with personal interpretations of an abstraction. It's art, not science.

The Nats are actually 16-11 since August 18th. You know I hate arbitrary dates but if we say "this is the date when everyone was healthy again" it ceases to be arbitrary and has some meaning. Small sample but this is a 96 win pace. The problem again isn't the healthy talent but the hole they dug themselves when injured/recovering. After losing on the 16th, they Nats were a game under .500, 4.5 out of first and 9.5 out of the WC. They've played well but at that point playing well wasn't enough. They had two non-crazy ways into the playoffs, beating the Mets H2H or have the Cubs collapse. They didn't beat the Mets (and the Mets play outside of the Nats games has almost made that moot*). The Cubs didn't collapse, going 16-12 over that time.

All games are important. That opening 7-13 swoon? The post-May 9-16 malaise? The "we don't need anyone new" 4-13 run? It adds up. You can keep telling yourself you have a chance as the season winds down. The Nats did. But you don't want to have to do that. You don't want to have to figure out how if things break you can still win.

That last run was the back-breaker. At the trade deadline the Nats were up 3 in the division, 1.5 games out of the 2nd WC. Not only were they in good position but 2015 was looking SO familiar in comparison to 2014. In 2014, they were only about 10 games over at the time. They were just ahead of the next team (last year the Braves) as the deadline approached. They were getting injury return guys back into the swing of things. Why not do what they did last year, make a middling deal? It worked, didn't it? But there were big differences. The fact that the injuries were less severe and the players returned a month earlier in 2014. The fact that the Braves made no substantial moves to get better, but the Mets did. The Nats assumed things would work out to the point they didn't try to put the Mets away in that July 31st series. The Mets took that series seriously. After that the Mets were ahead, the Nats were free-falling, and the trade deadline had passed.

Sigh. Oh well. Maybe Bryce will hit another 3 homers tonight.

*Mets have gone 20-7 in that same time frame. Even if the Nats sweep the Mets they are still 2.5 games out right now, fighting to make the last series relevant. Ok, yes "if the Nats sweep though maybe they play better or the Mets play worse" yeah yeah. But maybe it sparks the Mets to try harder in these other series, or maybe the Nats get complacent against some of these teams. Let's just assume what happened, would happen, ok?

21 comments:

John C. said...

There is no way to baseball-proof your season, either in the short term or long term. You just have to play the odds and make the moves that make sense. Because the sample size of the season is one, you get weird, random events sometimes (like the O's record in one run games in 2012). I would argue that the Nats' moves and non-moves at the deadline made sense, they just haven't worked out as well as hoped. All of the Mets' moves (the acquisitions of Cespedes, Uribe, Johnson & Clippard; the return to the team of Wright and d'Arnaud) came up aces. Those have been helped by the fact that Mets' schedule has been amazingly easy. The bottom six teams in MLB, counting up: Phillies; Braves; Reds; Rockies; Marlins - Mets are 30-12since the trade deadline, but 26 of those 42 games were against the five worst teams in MLB. Even after losing last night to the Marlins, the Mets have gone 22-4 (!) in those games, 8-8 against everyone else. No disrespect to the Mets, they've made hay while the sun shines and have put the NL East firmly in the their control. "Split with the good teams, clean up on the bad" was the Yankees' recipe in the 1936-1964 dynasty. It's not the Mets' fault that they haven't played any "good" (playoff) teams other than the Pirates (who swept them). It will be interesting to see how they do in the playoffs.

Obviously this was one possible outcome, but a likely one? Hindsight is easy. Proposed alternative moves/scenarios also had possible disastrous outcomes. You give it your best shot and roll with what comes.

Harper said...

JC - It'll be interesting to see how the do, but won't really tell us anything. They could sweep the Cards or get swept by the Dodgers. Short series and all.

My problem is I didn't see the Nats moves making sense. It wasn't their best shot. Because you couldn't be sure the injury returnees would hit the ground running (by the 30th, Werth and Zimm had played 3 games, Rendon 5, Span was still out) it behooved the Nats to bring in one more bat. As I said at the time, risk losing prospects over risking losing season. In essence that's what the Mets did, bringing in Uribe, Johnson and Cespedes to cover for the injury returns. (d'Arnaud took half a month to get going, Wright still isn't hitting for power)

It was a hard call bc it meant trading prospects, because it meant moving players around for a bit, because someone good could sit in a month, but to me that was their best shot and they didn't take it.

SM said...

I'm not sure I'm adding to the conversation, but there is something else about the Mets that might--only might--be salient: They had a hitting prospect, Michael Conforto, ready for the big leagues.

Anonymous said...

Met fan here. Not to gloat, just to say I know you're disappointed. Next year we'll do it all over again. God bless, and be well.

Non-trolling Mets fan said...

SM- That's not insignificant, either. Conforto was brought up earlier than the Mets wanted, to cover Cuddyer's DL time. When he showed he wasn't in over his head, he stuck around. That's not the kind of thing a GM counts on, and I think the Mets got lucky in that respect. The guy's got an OPS over .900 which would be great for a trade deadline deal, he just happened to come from within.

vjwhitmore said...

John C - Per the schedules, Mets in July played Dodgers 7x going 4W-3L, Giants 3x 2W-1L, Cardinals 3x - 1W -2L, Cubs 2x - 2L.
All with a AAA team at best, yet still hung close enough to make their move in August after their acquisitions. All teams play the same teams. Actually July was the killer for the Nats when they could not pull away from at that point a sub par Mets team.

Anonymous said...

efore saying that this season is over lets see the scenarios it would take for Nats to go to NYM series being 3 games behind.

Mets Nats
10-4 Eliminated
9-5 15-0
8-6 14-1
7-7 13-2
6-8 12-3
5-9 11-4

While this looks impossible a few things to note...The Nats play 4 versus the pesky Marlins and 3 vs the Orioles. If they find a way to go 7-0 or 6-1 then they have a shot. The rest of the schedule is cake (3 PHL, 1 CIN, 3 @ ATL). This also requires the Mets to play .500 or worse. While this seems hard they play the Yankees (3), Marlins (1) and feisty Reds (4 on the road). I think you will know by Sunday where thing stand.

Harper said...

SM / nTMF - yes, how Conforto adapted to the majors compared to MAT is a big deal. Check out MAT's AA line from 2014 very similar to Confortos. It's the Ks that are the difference and you can see why that matters.

vj - yeah, I think the take away is that there isn't one. The pre-deadline Mets are not the post deadline Mets. maybe they are being helped by the easy sched or maybe they are just dominant and happen to have a bad couple games vs the Pirates. No way to tell - really ever. This team vs a month of hard teams won't happen. (well unless they make the WS)

Anon - the worst 15 game stretch for the Mets all year is 5-10. The best 15 game stretch for the Nats all year is 12-3. So you are basically asking for both to happen againg, right now, simultaneously. IMpossible? No, but only by the strictest definitions.

Nattydread said...

Harper only needs 6 home runs to hit 100 for his career. That's a nice goal. We had targets like that with Soriano --- and long ago --- with Frank Howard. Nothing as ambitious as the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

@ Harper - Look at the (projected) team and pitching match-ups for the Nats down the stretch. Where do you see Nats not being favored? I know it is a large hill to climb but it is impossible. The upcoming Marlins series will be huge if the Nats have any chance...Also the Mets could go .500 or less but would need the Marlins to win today and Yankees to win the series..1-3 and then see what happens.

Anonymous said...

1 down. 5.5 to go.

Anonymous said...

10:45 Anon is a master troll. Patron saint of trolls.

Anonymous said...

11:05 Anon - Nats fan that hit the exits during 7th inning of Game 1 Mets @ Nats. Figures....

Rob Evans said...

http://wpmu.mah.se/nmict151group2/files/2015/01/8.jpg

Max David said...

The 7-13 April looks like a killer. Next time I hear somebody say "games in April don't matter, because you still have 135 left" I'll point out the 2015 Nats. If that 7-13 is even a .500 record (10-10) then it's 5.5 (if everything else goes as it has) and we are still slightly in the race. If that 7-13 is reversed and we are 13-7, and everything else goes as it has then we are very much in the race at only 2.5 back. So yes all games at all times of year in all sports matter. My hockey team the LA Kings went through an 8 game stretch in January where they went like 2-1-5, and missed the playoffs by like 2 or 3 points, if that stretch is 3-0-5 or 4-0-4, there's the 3 or 4 points! The old cliché goes you can't win divisions in April, but you can certainly lose divisions in April, and that's exactly what happened to us this year.

Anonymous said...

10:45 Anon - fwiw, saw this bit on Mets blog and thought of your comment...Mets are 83-62 ie same as in 2007 when Phillies started comeback...Nats are 74-70 ie 1 game behind Phillies 76-69 in the loss column...so Nats 1 game behind Phillies pace...but Phillies finished 1 game in front of Mets ie if Mets and Nats repeat Mets and Phillies W-L in 2007 they tie for 1st place.

Froggy said...

I love how whenever folks on the blog start opining about how this player (Werth, Span, Zim, etc) are statues and can no longer hit, the very next day they go on a tear. Ha!

" I'm not quite dead yet!.~ Monty Python

Fries said...

@Froggy,

you forgot the rest of the skit, they'll be dead by morning *cue Harper hitting that player over the head with a bat*

Max David said...

7.5 now. I stand by what I said yesterday get it 4 games by 11:30 PM Sunday night...


...Of course, that would mean the Yankees sweeping the Mets, and the Nats sweeping the Marlins. Just keep the pressure on. I know Wright is the only person still with the team (organization even??) that was a Met in 07, so it's tough to compare the 2 teams, but if you choke that hard once, the stigma stays with you. And in 08 I think they were up 3.5 with about a week left which is just as bad if not worse then being up 7 with 17 left. Just keep winning games, keep the pressure on, and see what happens!

Anonymous said...

@Max David

If we adjust for a tie and the Nats win tonight, then the Mets and Nats will be in the same position as the 2007 Mets and Phillies.

Booyah Suckah! said...

I think Harper hit the nail on the head. The Nats front office, while certainly smart people and filled with creamy, delicious baseball knowledge, are still human beings and therefore subject to a certain amount of confirmation bias. "Hey, we were barely over .500 and struggling to put away the Braves this time last year. Then we made one sub-middling deadline move and crushed everyone the rest of the way. Won it by 17 games, yo". (Yes, that's how I imagine Rizzo speaks)