Nationals Baseball: Exactly where Nats were supposed to be

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Exactly where Nats were supposed to be

Why can't we be more like the Mets? The Nats took on The Cardinals in Saint Louis. The Mets took on the Phillies at home. The Nats went 1-2. The Mets went 2-1. Those would probably be the most likely scenarios coming into these series. The Mets though, had the courtesy to do it with little drama. 8 innings of shutout ball from Colon, then two games that were pretty much blowouts. Isn't that nicer than three straight games of 7th-8th-9th madness?

It's now fairly clear that the Nats bats are healthy and hitting. Since the Colorado series here are some of the lines the Nats have got going

Ryan Zimmerman : .318 / .347 / .864
Wilson Ramos : .368 / .400 / .632
Bryce Harper : .342 / .490 / .526
Jayson Werth : .313 / .411 / .583
Anthony Rendon : .340 / .426 / .532
Yunel Escobar : .381 / .480 / .429
Ian Desmond : .302 / . 362 / .465

Ian's line would have been praised for most of the year, given how anemic the offense could be, yet in the last two weeks that ranks as the 7th best hitting for the team. Even Taylor isn't doing too bad. Only Espy is struggling. Now before you say "See! This is what the Nats can do when healthy!" understand there is another qualifier there. This is what the Nats can do when healthy... and hot.  You don't usually have 7 guys hitting well at the same time. Enjoy it. It won't last.

Of course there are only 4 weeks left in the season, so it doesn't have to last that much longer. A couple more weeks with the starting pitching backing it up and the Nats could get a run going that's impressive, not merely good as this 9-6 run has been. A run like May's 17-4. Play like that and you force the Mets to keep their game up. They can do it (they had a 19-6 run that ended a week ago) but that's tough for any team.

Any optimism has to be tempered with the bullpen issues though. Here there are no injuries or surprise disappointments to call out and expect improvement on. The talent is mediocre and the usage is terrible. Last night we got a glimpse of fair usage, what Williams can do with a few more arms. Really it's just play the matchups to an insane degree, but given what he was doing - hanging pitchers out to dry - it's a vast improvement. Could the pen get hot? Sure, they probably only have 30-40 innings in them for the rest of the season. But I'm thinking if you want the Nats to get on a run the SP/Offense way is a better bet.

Next up for the Nats is the Braves at home. It's a four game set so you want the Nats to go at least 3-1. The pretty much have to considering how bad the Braves have been. An insane 12-37 since July 7th and 3-19 more recently. The Mets are at the Marlins and even though it's away you have to figure the Mets win the series. Yeah the Marlins have won 3 in a row but were 2- 8 in the 10 before that. They aren't good. Let's say Mets take the series 2-1. So the Nats come into the Labor Day series 6 games out? I'll take that right now.  Of course, I bet the Mets would take that too.

40 comments:

Fries said...

I absolutely love to see what Zimm has been doing of late. He's been my favorite ballplayer since that impressive rookie year (and looking at the list of vote getters he's the only one that's been keeping it going besides Prince, Cain, and Ethier) and I was really hoping the move to first would yield some longevity. His hitting since getting over the plantar fasciitis has picked up, and not to mention his D at first is starting to look nearly as good as his D at third. Once he learns to let Rendon/Espy get some of the balls hit to his right, I could see him winning some gold gloves.

Granted, I say all this looking through rose-colored glasses, love me Mr. National

Bjd1207 said...

@Fries - 100% agree. My all-time favorite player. I knew he'd be back at some point, been holding out hope all year. Once he's feeling good enough and confident enough to reach those outside pitches he's pretty unstoppable. When he's shearing off those line drive fouls on outside sliders you know he's going good

Since return from the DL: .288/.362/.661

W. Patterson said...

My wife and I lucked into Lexus seats for one of the Braves games. Anything you want me to say - loudly - so the Lerners and/or Rizzo can hear?

Kidding!

I'm there for the sake of baseball and as long as nobody embarrasses themselves, I'll go home a happy camper.

Anonymous said...

The Z-man did it again! And PBN didn't absolutely blow it! What a night. Paps also deigned to put on his cleats since a save opportunity was in the offing.

Robot said...

Do we have any updates on Bryce yet?

Miles Treacy said...

What's you take on the 2nd half fall off of Scherzer? Overusage in first half? Teams just figuring him out in the new league? Seems his movement and velo is still there just from watching on TV, but he's just getting hit quite a bit harder lately. Curious if any numbers show something I'm missing.

Max David said...

I thought Stanton maybe back for the Friday game but sounds like he maybe back later. I was hoping to make up 2.5 games this weekend, then win 2 of 3 vs. the Mets. That'll get us to 3 back with about 25 some odd games left and I'll sign up for that scenario. As is I'll take even 1.5 (Mets are off today, so perfect opportunity to pick up that half game, get us back to 6. Anyways I think this upcoming homestand (Braves for 4, Mets for 3) is boom or bust. Anything less than 6-1 and it's gonna be incredibly difficult. Braves have been an MLB punching bag for the last 2 months, no reason we can't sweep them at home!

Bryceroni said...

At least ole PBN can execute the game plan when leading. I'll take any little thing right now.

Steve said...

I'll guard my optimism for the time being, but at least they were able to close out a game. The next 7 games is definitely key, and the only reason I'm not more optimistic is that the Mets are still winning too... not quite at the clip they were, and their starting pitching / bullpen have shown a couple cracks, but they're still doing what they need to do to stay ahead.

At least last night MW seemed to actively manage the bullpen and matchups. At the time, though, I was actually upset that he took out Thornton, as I don't view him as a LOOGY guy. That said, if we're going to slam MW for not managing BP matchups, we shouldn't slam him when he does. Maybe it was an overcorrection after all the criticism from the past few days, but it all looks rosy when they get the W.

Anonymous said...

Mark my word. We get a half game today and by Sunday it is 4 games separating 2 teams. By end of Wednesday, it is either a 2 games or 1 game lead for Muts.

Anonymous said...

@Miles Tracy - The broadcast team (Knight in particular) brought up how Max's arm slot has dropped down lately. This is problematic for a pitcher that already pitches at 3/4 arm angle, if not lower. Whenever Gio gets hit hard, you can almost certainly point to his arm slot dropping. When a pitcher like Gio and Max drop their arm angles, they get more of a lateral movement on their fastball, their breaking ball isn't as sharp and is more lateral as well. As a hitter its much harder to hit up/down movement than it is side/side. Had the same problem myself in college, sometimes its as a result of fatigue, but I'm not going to insinuate that that is the issue with Max. Who knows why, but I would bet its the arm angle, he's nearly throwing sidearm now!

Anonymous said...

The worst is behind us now. 1-2 in St. Louis isn't terrible and, indeed, is a drastic improvement over the team's performance there in the last few years. What hurts, though, is that all three of those games--particularly game 2--were winnable. You can't play like that and expect to make it to the playoffs.

We could be sitting 4.5 games out, rather than 6.5. Still, the Nats didn't get swept and the Mets didn't sweep. Things could have gone much worse.

Anonymous said...

"Mark my word. We get a half game today and by Sunday it is 4 games separating 2 teams. By end of Wednesday, it is either a 2 games or 1 game lead for Muts."

I'm gonna email this to Terry Collins to post in the club house.

Harper said...

MT - fancy stuff shows hit fastball is more up in the zone in the 2nd half. That would explain rise in HR. Personally I think he's spent a lot of time trying to pitch differently this year. He's never had incredible control that he showed in the first half.

Anon - possible too. That's why I'm not a pitching coach. I'd probably just yell "Pitch better" then go smoke a cigar in the bullpen.

Robot said...

Mr. Burns: You, Strawberry! Hit a homerun!

*Strawberry homers*

Mr. Burns: Haha! I told him to do that!

Fries said...

@anon - actually, brooks baseball is saying not that he's dropping his arm slot, but pulling his body to the left more (right from the batter's perspective). I guess it's roughly the same effect in that he's not getting the up-down motion that he needs, but the big issue is that, with him pulling his body over a bit too much on the release, he's making mistakes a bit more. It's kinda like a batter opening up his hips too early, you get a bit less control

WiredHK said...

Regarding Scherzer, I'm not sure about his arm slot, but it definitely feels like his control has been substantially worse in the second half. This, then, would lead to far more favorable counts for the hitter to look fastball and boom, there it goes. I don't think his velocity has been down (but haven't looked at that lately). So, control would seem to be the more natural explanation. First half, felt like he was ahead 1-2 on every single hitter he faced and his pitch counts stayed super low. Now, he's gone all Gio on us -- hitting 90 pitches by inning 5 every time out...

Anonymous said...

"Mark my word. We get a half game today and by Sunday it is 4 games separating 2 teams. By end of Wednesday, it is either a 2 games or 1 game lead for Muts."

This statement is impossible. If it's 4 games separating the 2 teams, after a three game series the only possible scenarios would be 1 game back, 3 games back, 5 games back and 7 games back.

Sammy Kent said...

Finally. A win against the Cardinals. Thank the Lord for Ryan Zimmerman. He's carrying the team right now. Jayson Werth is now 1 for about 16 in leadoff ABs. I am not impressed with Papelbon. I don't see any indication that he's a real lockdown closer....but he did get a save against the Cards, which is more than anybody else has done for the Nationals in what seems like a decade.

Four at home against the Braves, then three against the Mets. We gotta take three of four from the Braves, and we gotta sweep the Mets. Period. Splitting with the Braves or 2-1 against the Mets won't be worth a dang. There's a huge difference in picking up three games and picking up only one. That's the difference in a sweep and going 2-1. Of course the Mets could also sweep us and end the season for all practical purposes. But as long as we are within six when that series starts there's hope....ever dwindling, but hope nonetheless.

Rob Evans said...

Ahhh...sweet victory lol.

I've kinda resigned myself to hoping the Nats just play good baseball and make a run at it the rest of the year. What I absolutely don't want to see is them "close up shop" before the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

@Fries - sounds good to me. You're right it would have the same effect, when you pull across your body, your pitches become less effective - similar to your hitter's analogy. Everything much be going toward the plate in order for Max to achieve the effectiveness he wants. Nice find!

Anonymous said...

@Harper - hence the reason I would never want to be a baseball manager. I would be right next to you yelling pitch better, only with a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other. So much of the outcome of the game is on the players. There is no halftime speech to rally the troops to run through a brick wall, get amped, and smash the Giants in the NLDS. As a manager, you just right the lineup card, and make pitching changes - but even then, you rely heavily on your pitching coach for support/input. Which makes me question why everyone is after Williams when the ol' slumbering bear that is Steve McCatty might not be helping too much either. Hope and pray Nats fans, hope and pray...

Anonymous said...

I feel good. The worst is behind us. We stabilized at 6 back in the loss column, which means the Nats maintained control of their own destiny with the 6 H2H.

The schedule the rest of the way is significantly easier for the Nats than for the Mets. More home games. The Cards were the last good opponent this season while the Mets still have the Yankees.

The Mets starting pitching has dropped off by quite a bit. Their aces are giving up runs and not going deep, which has exposed their poor middle relief.

In 2007, the Mets lost 5 1/2 games of a 7 game lead in less than a week. It started with a 3 game sweep by the Phillies. The Nats are only 6 behind with a lot more games than the Phillies had to catch up. Let's get what we can against the Braves, but you know, it's not a big deal if we don't gain any ground as long as we don't lose ground.

The comeback begins in earnest with the H2H next week. The Mets might as well be giving the 1st game to the Nats. As much grief as MW got for not starting Scherzer against the Mets, which won't happen again, Collins is actually arrogant enough to stick with Niese on Monday even though he's been raked over in his last 3 starts by 2 last-place teams. I can't wait to see what the hot Nats hitters will do to him.

The Mets had their chance. Now it's our turn.

Anonymous said...

"The Mets had their chance. Now it's our turn."

Lol what does this mean. Mets have had one of the best records in baseball the past month, swept your asses, and gained 9.5 games on you. yes they had their chances, and capitalized very well.

WiredHK said...

Last two Anons: If you haven't figured out, there is a weird, wildly optimistic Anon "fan" that I think is actually a Mets fan and is here trolling you guys in every single comments section for every blog entry (by posting insanely optimistic "we got this" posts posing as a Nats fan). Ignore it -- this discussion has nothing to do with that stuff (are you reading the articles and the majority of the comments?).

Mets2015 said...

I mentioned in my comments yesterday that the Nats were far from out of it yet. I anticipate a tough fight until the end.

Anonymous said...

@WiredHK I actually had the same thought after I posted my response.

@Mets2015 I agree 100%. This time next week we'll know where things stand in the NL East.

Darnell E said...

As a mets fan you might be right could be a troll

Darnell E said...

I hope the mets sweep the fish at least

vjwhitmore said...

Don't be looking ahead to the Met series. Need to focus on the series at hand otherwise could be a moot point.

Also we did get very lucky not being swept in StL, Cards took the foot off the gas for the last game (no Wacha), and Scherzer was not sharp by any means. Sure only 2 runs, but 11 hits in 6 inn.

I am also concerned the reliance on Zimmermann for hr's & big hits. Can't always count on that need some of the others to step up.

Maybe, I am just being pessimistic.

David said...

Yeah I mean I was hoping lead would be less going into Mets series. Nats are not going 6-0 against the Mets. 4-2 is best case scenario and that won't be enough. A sweep of the Braves here is a must. None of this nonsense that happened with the rockies.

John C. said...

A sweep of the Braves is not a "must" - but it sure would help. It's very hard to sweep any MLB team in a four game set. Stuff happens. For comparison, the bottom-of-the-barrel Nats of 2008-2009 played 18 four game series and were "only" swept five times. The '08-'09 Nats actually won five of those series, and split another five. Because baseball is weird, especially in small sample sizes.

Picking up a half game tonight would be nice; if they could pick up another game between now and Monday that would be better. It won't be easy, but that's why they play them.

Bryceroni said...

I just want to be competitive down to the last series. At this point the season is in the mets hands, and the way they are playing that means good night nats.

The thing that kills me is that they have done enough to just tread water where a win or 2 in very winnable games would have made up ground. Winning series is great when you're on the slow burn of 162, but its kinda late for that.

One note on the bullpen: I totally support rizzos approach to the bullpen this year from a philosophical standpoint. You need 1 or 2 reliable arms and a lot of lottery tickets. You burn through as many pitchers as you need to find the guys who will be reliable for that season. Unfortunately, its not straightforward to manage a pen like that, and ole PBN is completely incapable. In that regard rizzo set MW up to fail.

Anonymous said...

@WiredHK

Everything I said that justifies my "insane" optimism is true. The Mets could have buried the Nats but failed. They had their chance and the Nats held on. With the Cards behind us, the schedule turns significantly easier for the Nats. Plus the 6 H2H. Like I said, now it's our turn.

I guess I missed the memo that said only pessimistic snobs were allowed to be Nats fans.

David said...

Sweep of the Braves is a must, we are at the point of the season where a 9-6 run over the next 15 games is not going to get it done. The Nats need to go something like 12-3 or 13-2 over the next 15.

Sweeping a 4 game set from terrible teams can't be that hard I saw the Mets do it to the rockies and phillies in the past month.

Kenny B. said...

Holy moly boys... save some for the rest of the series! I feel like the Nats with a hot Zimmerman are the real Nats. You see him out there mashing lately, and you realize how off kilter he's been all season even when he was playing. I know it drives the Mets fans up a wall when we talk about how much injuries have hurt this Nats team, but you can really see over the last couple weeks how the offense is clicking with these guys finally in the field and feeling comfortable.

WiredHK said...

@WildlyOptimisticAnon - You're entitled to your opinions and none of it is really a big deal either way.

But did you miss the memo that every time you post the same "I expect us to shave 6 games off the lead in the next 6 games" stuff in every thread, regardless of what the original blog post was about, a ton of Mets fans then start posting their heated responses to your (yes, slightly insane, but whatever) optimism and lots of rational discussion gets lost or drowned in a "loud noises" posting match?

It's not about having to be a pessimist (snob! solid) or optimist.

Zimmerman11 said...

well, we score 15 runs every game from here out, we'll make the post season :)

JC said...

@Kenny B - If Mets fans don't want to be driven crazy by Nats fans then they shouldn't come to a Nats blog.

Froggy said...

I'm wildly optimistic. I'll bw wildlyer more optimistic after the Barves series and potentially wildlyeristically more optimistic after the Labor day Mets game.

I'm pretty optimistic that we will know more by the end of the home season (28 Sep).

Cautiously optimistic in Seattle