Nationals Baseball: The lead up to Labor Day

Friday, September 04, 2015

The lead up to Labor Day

Pessimistic Nats fan : We went 10-6 and lost a game and a half of ground to the Mets
Optimistic Nats fan : The Mets went 11-4 and didn't put us away.

God, the Braves look bad right now, don't they? I know it feels like a sweep is coming but sweeps are hard. Four game sweeps even harder. 3-1 is fine. So don't get all crazy if the Nats lose one.

I'm just going to repeat myself at this point. Right now the Nats are in a zombie like state. Not dead but not alive. Too close to write off the season, too far away to get excited for a comeback. That Mets series sits out there and it's has more potential than any series up until now to change this. Bury the Nats or give them new life, either is completely possible.

Of course the boring option happens more often than not, meaning the Nats won't go into the series 9 games out and last gasp desperate, or 3 games out and rolling. They'll go into it 6 games out. They won't get swept or sweep, they'll win like 2 of 3 and set up a slog of trying to make up 2 games in 3 weeks, to give the last series some meaning.

That last series. More than "6 H2H" that last series is what gives this chase seemingly unending hope. A Nats sweep is admittedly unlikely - let's say you give them a 45% chance to win each game - they would have 9% chance of sweeping. But compare that to say the chance the Nats win three games vs Team X while the Mets lose three to Team Y to end the year.  Even if you give the Nats something like 55% chance of winning and the Mets 55% chance of losing (and really why would you do either?), that chance drops under 3%.  And again - that's with unrealistic odds here. It's not close. A sweep, even if you don't like the Nats chances against the Mets, isn't crazy. Two sweeps is.

So we're set up for a long slow death because they Nats don't have to get close to first place ASAP to maintain hope. They only have to reach 3 games out by game 159.  They are 6 games out of first with 29 to play, but they are 3 games out of having a chance with 26 to play.

Side note :  Just to note in case it becomes something the Nats have picked up 2.5 games on the 2nd Wild Card Cubs in the past 9 days. The Cubs are still 7.5 games ahead of the Nats but if they go into free fall.... like I said just putting it out there in case it matters in a week.

52 comments:

Froggy said...

I'm wildly optimistic. I'll be 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

W. Patterson said...

Yes, Harper, the Braves looked bad last night. A far cry from what we-of-the-1990's were used to!

What struck me is that their right fielder made a Werth-like play, midjudging the ball and then having it bounce off of his glove. (Yeah, Werth is hitting and scoring but it still scares me when a ball is hit in his direction.)

Looking forward to seeing the next two games, live.

Robot said...

I've been really pleased with the team's offense recently. Yeah, last night was an epic meltdown by the Braves pitching (free McNuggets by the second inning!), but the team was putting up runs against St. Louis, as well. Zim has been on fire, and Werth and Rendon seem to be finding their groove.

I appreciated Bryce's line for last night: 0-0, RBI, 4 BB

I'm trying to be realistic and keep expectations in check, but it's hard not to feel optimistic after a game like last night.

Nattydread said...

7.5 games out of the wildcard. 6 games out of the first place NL East. I'd suggest that our chances to get a playoff slot may be higher with the former. The Cubs and Pirates both have tough schedules and they have some H2H games, which mean one or the other or both are going to lose ground.

So, as long as we are dreaming up paths to the playoffs, this one needs to be considered. If the Nats do go on a Zimmerman-Harper-Scherzer-Strasburg-powered run, and they don't have enough to catch the Mets, its likely that they will have passed SF and that either the Cubs or the Pirates will have fallen. Just saying'.

Anonymous said...

That's the spirit, Nattydread. Let's have the Mets and Nats dominate the rest of the year and meet in the NLCS.

-Metsfan

WiredHK said...

I know an Anon Nats fan that likes the cut of your jib, Froggy. :)

It will always be entertaining to destroy the Braves - always. I'm a little surprised at teams not pitching to him now with Zim so sizzling hot. This is sort of the definition of protection, yet teams still seem content to let Zim continue ringing up the RBI as long as it's not Harper swinging the bat.

At some point, don't you sort of try to get Harper out so Zim can't burn you? Anyway, that was fun last night...

Rob Evans said...

The long marathon of the season has come down to the sprint for Oct. Even though the chances are slim, I still love it.

Go Nats! Let's pull a miracle out!

WiredHK said...

Sorry, the "him" above is Bryce that I'm referring to. Typing too quick.

dwb115 said...

I've been thinking for a while that the best opportunity to make the playoffs was to catch the Cubs. They have 13 games against the Cards, Pirates, and Royals, and their easier games (Cincy and Brewers) are better teams than our easy teams (who are the worst teams in baseball). We don't have any head-to-heads so we have to rely on other teams, but the Cubs going something like 12-18 is possible (tired rookies, not great rotation, nerves if we can get close). Outside of our six games, the Mets schedule is just so easy.

Estimated worst case Mets record rest of season: 15-14 (I'm giving us 4 of the 6 in this scenario)
Estimated worst case Cubs record rest of season: 12-18

So in this scenario to catch the Mets we'd need to go 21-8 but to catch the Cubs we'd need only 19-10. With our schedule 19-10 is not that difficult at all.

Steve said...

I'll always be wildly optimistic after a win (especially like last night) and overly pessimistic after a loss (like the two to the cards), but as I said about a week ago, all we can do is continue winning games and keeping the pressure on the Mets. We can't rely on having to go 6-0 or 5-1 in the H2H, but if we keep winning games, then we can still hope that the Mets stumble in a few of their series against lesser opponents. If they don't stumble, then they absolutely deserve to win the division.

Need to keep taking it one game at a time, but hopefully Zimm, Werth, Rendon, etc. keep up the hot streaks. It's nice to have Harper not feeling like he needs to score 5 runs with every AB, and I love seeing him just take walks if they're giving it to him (as long as Zimm can keep bringing him home).

Here's to one more day of wild optimism...

Steve said...

Also, as a Nats fan who lives in Chicago now, I would hate to see the Cubs stumble since the city seems so excited for them this year. That said, I absolutely agree that the Cubs schedule is daunting, so that may actually be an easier road for the Nats. Again, though, if the Cubs can hold it together and play .500 ball through that schedule, then you can't argue they don't deserve it and I'll fully support them going into the playoffs. Whether its the Pirates vs. Nats or Pirates vs. Cubs in the wildcard, I will also be rooting for the winner to take out the Cards.

Mitch said...

Keep an eye on Matt Harvey too. Apparently Boras wants him shut down after 180 innings, and he's at 166 now.

Anonymous said...

@Mitch Boras has no authority to shutdown anybody.

Mitch said...

@Anon Agreed, but he does have influence. And it makes for good theater when Boras and the Mets GM publicly go after each other.

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/writer/jon-heyman/25290191/how-much-will-matt-harvey-pitch-innings-limit-debate-coming-to-a-head

Anonymous said...

It's easy to be optimistic about the Nats.

In the month since the sweep, the Mets gained 6 games with no H2H games. The Nats have a month to regain the 6 games with the benefit of 6 H2H games.

The season has reached the land of small sample size and the Nats are heating up with an easy home-heavy schedule the rest of the way. More than the Nats playing up, I'm optimistic because the Mets are fraying with a comparatively harder, eg, Yankees, road-heavy schedule.

Duda, who was big the last time the Nats and Mets played, isn't close to coming back from a back injury. Murphy's quad is hurting again and, at minimum, playing with a hurt quad saps his hitting. (Murphy normally uses a deep crouch in his batting stance but the quad injury forces him upright.)

The Mets' post-trades depth might compensate for Murphy and Duda's bats. But the big developing story is the Mets foundation - their starting pitching - is cracking. There are the innings limits, skipped starts, and starter rust after the skipped starts, of course. Syndergaard has hit a rookie wall with a 5-something ERA with a mess of HRs since striking out Harper. deGrom's numbers have stayed up, but the quality of his pitching has become inconsistent. deGrom and Harvey are tiring earlier in their starts. They're gassed. It remains to be seen whether Matz picks up where he left off. Colon alternates good and awful. Niese has been smoked by last-place teams in his last 3 starts; he's regressing to the mean.

The conservative usage and over-all drop-off of their starters compounds the Mets biggest weakness, their poor middle relief and Collins's decision-making with his middle relief. (The instant outcry over his inexplicable decision to use Parnell and O'Flaherty in a close game when he had a benchful of better options - basically anyone else - available is still echoing in NY.)

The Mets just went 3-3 against the last-place Red Sox and Phillies at home while showing the signs of a late-season fade. It looks like the Mets peaked in August. I'm not even certain anymore the Nats will need the second H2H series to take back the division. Meanwhile, even on the road against the Cards who are freakish, the Nats played up; they've showed they're peaking in September.

I'm confident about the upcoming H2H series at home. The Mets pitchers are tiring. They're not the same pitchers anymore that swept the Nats. And Collins is practically giving the first H2H game to us by starting Niese against Scherzer. I suppose, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Anonymous said...

I doubt we have much of a chance, Mets still play Braves and Marlins like 12-14 more games....Plus their pitching is still solid... Zimmerman catching fire helps I guess but our Manager should be managing AA....Not to mention Strau hurt, Gio Sucks, Ross is ok and our bullpen just stinks.....Miracle I think not, Thanks Harper.... For the RING comment

Anonymous said...

@Anon "Duda, who was big the last time the Nats and Mets played, isn't close to coming back from a back injury. Murphy's quad is hurting again and, at minimum, playing with a hurt quad saps his hitting. (Murphy normally uses a deep crouch in his batting stance but the quad injury forces him upright.)"

Duda might be activated monday. Hes playing in AA tonight. Murphy's injury is day to day and he might play tonight.

Anonymous said...

I love the comments........"Mets pitchers are tiring out"

Ok smart people of DC....Innings limits for some dumb reason are being called upon, hence the HARVEY, SYNDEGOD pushbacks...We still play a bunch of bumb ass teams home or away...

Last time I checked we are up 6 games and will have Degrom n Matz going this weekend... Colon is so tired that he pitched back to back stellar outings, Degrom gave up 2 runs last outting, Niese has just sucked as usual, and Harvey has a 1.55 last dozen or so outtings....But hey keep dreaming CRASHIONALS

Anonymous said...

I love the comments........"Mets pitchers are tiring out"

Ok smart people of DC....Innings limits for some dumb reason are being called upon, hence the HARVEY, SYNDEGOD pushbacks...We still play a bunch of bumb ass teams home or away...

Last time I checked we are up 6 games and will have Degrom n Matz going this weekend... Colon is so tired that he pitched back to back stellar outings, Degrom gave up 2 runs last outting, Niese has just sucked as usual, and Harvey has a 1.55 last dozen or so outtings....But hey keep dreaming CRASHIONALS

Rob Evans said...

Moles and trolls...moles and trolls.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't have to troll if some fans in here actually knew what in the blue hell they were talking about.....Just SAYING "ROBERT EVANS

Rob Evans said...

You sir need a hobby, or a good lay. Not sure which.

Anonymous said...

Ehhh I make a comfy living working in Manhattan, doubt I need much help, thanks bud

Froggy said...

I just skip over the anon comments and just read the posters who have balls enough to write with a handle.

12 yo jerky boy troll problem solved.

Rob Evans said...

Good call Froggy.

Mythra said...

Optimistic after 4 games against Atlanta. There are some fringe signs of wear and tear on the Mets, but we've got injuries and nicks of our own that we've found capable replacements (Taylor for Span, Tanner for Stras for 1 start, denDekker for Werth with the lead.)

If we gain any ground during the weekend, it bodes well. If the Nats stumble, we're looking at 2013 all over again. Decent down the stretch, but too many early holes dug to be playoff bound.

Let the Mets fans talk trash. This whole playoffs thing hasn't been relevant to them in 10 years. It'll be10 more before they have the cash or trade deadline market to pull it off again. They're kinda like the Pirates, feeding other teams through deals and FA, but with a crappy stadium and Philly-like fanbase.

VI said...

I believe the most misused term when discussing baseball is "regression to the mean." It's a nonsensical phrase. If one is trying to refer to a regression model, that is a least squares curve fit to minimize total variation among the variables of interest. If one is trying to say a player is reverting to average performance, then the career mean is constantly changing with every new data point.

John C. said...

VI, I completely agree that the phrase "regression to the mean" is absolutely misused in baseball discussions. That doesn't make it nonsensical, though; it simply means that the phrase is being used by people who don't understand the concept and how to properly apply it.

VI said...

@Myrtha

You've obviously not Been to PNC Park. The Pirates organization may have some challenges, but they have one of the best, if not the best building in baseball. It's stark contrast to the utilitarian fan experience at Nationals Park (although I do enjoy a Ben's half smoke).

blovy8 said...

I don't want to be the half-empty guy, but Scherzer is still not pitching well, Gio is just average, Strasburg's health is unreliable, Ross doesn't know how to use a rosin bag on a sultry evening, and Roark is starting tonight without being properly stretched out. Now maybe all these guys need is start against the Braves, but we'll see. The offense is going to need to continue to be hot and they better not have used up this weekend's runs last night.

Even if a rosy scenario comes to pass, the Cardinals loom.

Steve said...

@VI I don't think Myrtha was saying the Pirates have a crappy stadium, I think they were referring to Citi field being crappy... never been to either, so can't speak to it, but I've heard great things about PNC.

I'd feel great if we gained a game before Monday, but not holding my breath. Scherzer's decline also has me worried, but I'd still take him 9 times out of 10. And in terms of the future for the Mets, I don't know how you can think they won't be relevant over the next few years with their pitching... but then again, that's what we were saying in 2012 and we're still waiting for a playoff series win.

Bjd1207 said...

@VI and John C - Can I get some more explanation on how you think the concept is misapplied? If you've got 1,000 AB's of data that give you a mean batting average of .300, but Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .405 over his last 20 at bats, I understand regression to the mean to say his next 20 AB's are much more likely to produce an average around .300 than around .405

And that's how I see it used most frequently on this board and baseball sites in general (fangraphs, prospectus, etc.)

What am I (we) getting wrong?

Fries said...

Now on a semi-unrelated note to bring up for fun, if the cubs tank and we somehow miraculously make the wild card slot, who do you start? Payroll says Scherzer, but his second half is worrisome. Stras has had a resurgence but then injured himself again. I don't see anyone in the rotation that I'd trust in a one and done game

VI said...

@BJd1207

First, the term mean batting average is redundant. In this case you can use either mean hits per recorded at bat, or batting average.

The mean,or average, is never constant. In your example, because of the last 20 at bats, his cumulative batting average is now .302. No matter what the player does over the next 20 AB, the results will continue to change the cumulative average. He would have to hit .195 to re establish the mean at .300.

This is simple and straightforward. However, many use the term in the context of regression models. These models use known variables (independent) to predict the behavior of an dependent variable. They basically attempt to identify all key sources of behavior and minimize the total variance among those variables. If done correctly, the remaining variance is mostly composed of random "noise."

Bjd1207 said...

I got lost in your last paragraph.

But in your second, just then replace the .300 with .302. His next 20 AB's are much more likely to be around .302 than .405

Fries said...

@VI

you're way overcomplicating it, I have to agree here with Bjd. yeah sure the mean (batting average) isn't constant, but that's why we deal with averages. At bats are a random process with a nonstationary mean, so when you claim that someone is going to regress to the mean, it's not saying "this guy hit .400 this week but his career average is .300, so he'll probably hit .200 next week to average it out". What it's saying is "this guy hit .400 this week but his career average is .300, so probabilistically speaking, 3 out of his next 10 ABs will be hits"

VI said...

Why .302, and not .300? Why not .195, to return the mean to it's former value of .300? Why wouldn't he continue at the current pace? What has changed to cause performance to shift in any direction?

In any case why use the term regression? If peformance fluctuates over the data set by 33%, you'd be better off studying the inherent variance in the batters behavior and identify variables that contribute to that variance. If you could do that, and measure those variable you might be able to actually build a regression model to predict, within reasonable error bands, the expected value of the hitters performance for the next 20 AB. It wouldn't be a simple model as it would likely include variables under the hitters direct control (not expanding the strike zone, etc.), variables the hitter would need to react to (opposing pitchers faced, pitch sequence/location, etc.), and variables that impact performance but can't be controlled (ballparks, defense). Even then, there might be too much randomness for the model to be of use for predicting only 20 AB. Everyone falls victim to BABIP at some point.

VI said...

@Fries

That's fine to speculate, but it's not "probabilistic" at all. At most, it's an educated guess. If it were a reliable one, these fantasy baseball for money sites wouldn't be pouring millions of dollars into MLB advertising. It would to pretty easy to win and bankrupt them using a calculator.

Fries said...

@VI

under that logic, then it would be pretty easy to win and bankrupt Vegas using a calculator. It is probabilistic, it's just nonstationary because each at bat isn't necessarily independent of the other. Batters make adjustments, they face different pitchers, etc etc.

I'm not denying that it's complex, I'm just arguing that "regressing" is a perfectly valid term from a statistical perspective. If you're at an extreme (hitting well above or well below career averages), then your tendency will be to regress back to historical averages, key word being tendency. We're not digging into WHY there is variance, just that we're confident in the mean based on career averages so there will be a tendency to regress there.

VI said...

@Fries

Except players don't perform to the mean. There are always exceptions, but a hitters career most likely fits a standard model of performance (discounting the steroid era effects). The "typical" hitter gets promoted to the major leagues between ages 22-24. He then shows measurable year to year improvement until ages 27-29. Then he either plateaus, or the rate of improvement significantly decreases until ages 32-33. At that point, the vast majority of players begin to decline, the variability of that decline among players is all over the place. Somewhere around ages 36-37 the decline begins to level off. Unfortunately for most players that level of performance means becoming a part time player or moving to bad teams.

Now we're dealing with a lot of sensitivities over a very narrow operating range. The difference in batting average between an all star (say 30.0% success rate) and a merely good every day player (27.0% success rate) is 3%. It's another 3% to 4% to a spot on the bench, and another poin or two and you're bagging groceries at the Giant. This is over simplified as it only addresses batting average. OPS is a better metric (although the confounding of single between OBP and slugging is a real problem).

Baseball is unique in that a player who can increase his offensive performance by just a couple of percentage points can change his destiny. That's even more remarkable when dealing with a system that rewards you disproportionately for reading a success ceiling of about 35%, and allows you to stay employed if you don't fail more than 76%.

Harper said...

I think you guys are way overthinking it, trying to pull out a literal version of "regression to the mean" of what's basically used like a colloquialism about sample bias.

BJD - I do think the concept is missaplied even at this point, because when a ".300" (quotes for you VI) hitter hits .400 for a month and then hits .200 for a month people will use the phrase. But what's happening at that point isn't regression (in the "return" sense - not in the modeling sense) but a completely separate extreme event. A ".300" who starts at .400 then regresses will be expected to have a series of values closer to that expected value of .300, rather than a single value as far off as the first but in the opposite direction.

Ben said...

CAN IS MATT WILLIAMS LEARNING STUFF?

Also, is it sad that one game of fathomable bullpen usage has me so optimistic that I'm posting before the game is over?

Sammy Kent said...

Last night's game was the best and the worst of the Nationals in microcosm. Teheran is a good, not great pitcher, and he had good, not great stuff. Yet he held the Nationals virtually hitless and scoreless for six innings. In the third and sixth innings the Nationals had the bases loaded and failed to score. Twice Zimmerman, and twice Lobaton made the third out with men in scoring position, and we left a total of nine men on base. You don't usually get extra chances to make up for stranded baserunners.

Everybody loves the excitement of a late-inning comeback and walk-off dinger, but I'd rather take care of business early, be efficient with the bats, and not have to have your rear end snatched out of the fire. But, that's the very kind of stuff we grew to expect and love from the Nationals in 2012 and especially 2014. Last season felt to me almost like the 1983 NCAAs, watching NC State pull victory out of the jaws of defeat again and again. If we got behind we figured we had 'em where we wanted 'em, and we'd pull it out at the end. This season has had waaaaaaaaay too many of these games end the wrong way.

Bryceroni said...

Nats take care of business, marlins give us a present and its at 4. Sweep not needed, just win 2/3.

And Bryce, Destroyer of Worlds is back.

Mets2015 said...

Man, what a gut-wrenching pair of losses by the Mets. Nats took care of business. Should be an exciting series coming up - this is what September baseball is all about!

WiredHK said...

We loved Clip before today, and now we love him a little bit more, Mets2015. :)

Also, September baseball is also sometimes about gigantic, off-field distractions focused on shutdowns and innings limits. We wrote the book on it, but we may or may not be enjoying your newest chapter this year....

Mets2015 said...

Haha, you have to forgive me - I haven't had any meaningful September games in awhile so I'd forgotten what it's like.

Clip has pretty much been lights out for us, so I'll give him a pass for today.

Mattyice said...

Our bats have definitely awakened. Hopefully we can keep this up for the next month.

Looking forward to a month long pennant chase. Even if we fall short (and I really hope we don't) at least we have a month of must see baseball instead of a four/five game series - glass half full!

Froggy said...

After laying the wood to the Barves, I have moved up to but not touching the line of wildly-er optimistic territory.

Sammy Kent said...

Tyler Clippard in his natural habitat: giving up the winning run. I'm hoping he'll feel right back at home in Nats Park and throw a few late inning three run gopher balls just like the good old days. I wish the Braves would leave their pitchers in town to play for the Mets the next three days. It's easy for bats to come alive against Braves pitching. We'll find out if they can maintain it against Mets pitching.

Just a note of mea culpa: Jayson Werth has twice as many hits in leadoff ABs as I thought....meaning he has two, not one. Honest to john, for someone that seems to have finally started to get it together a little, he is still the most mis-fit player for leadoff as I've seen. Overall, he's batting over .290 since being inserted in the leadoff spot. Incredible when you consider how poor his game opening batting actually is. Here's his leadoff ABs since being put at the top of the lineup:

Aug 18: F-9
Aug 19: K
Aug 20: K
Aug 21: F-8
Aug 22: Single
Aug 23: Double
Aug 29: F-9
Aug 30: F-7
Aug 31: K
Sep 01: F-4
Sep 02: K
Sep 03: F-9
Sep 04: F-9
Sep 05: F-9
Sep 06: K

2 for 15, 0 BB, .133.

Froggy said...

Sammy Kent, I'm confused with your dissatisfaction with Werth batting in the 1 hole...

"Werth is hitting .329 (23 for 70) with four homers and 10 RBI since moving into the leadoff spot 17 games ago."

http://espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=350906120

Josh Higham said...

Froggy, it seems to be the actual, guaranteed first AB of the inning in the 1st that Sammy Kent is all worked up about. JW has, apparently struggled in those game-starting ABs. I think the number of pitches he forces the pitcher to throw to the first batter is more important than whether he gets on base first. Certainly batting in front of Rendon, Bryce (BRYCE?), and Zim is getting him good pitches to hit in the 1-hole in later innings.

What manager wants their pitcher to be at 10 pitches after the first batter? (Answer: not even Williams, Mattingly, or Collins)