Nationals Baseball: Hey. It's the Mets!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hey. It's the Mets!

This season had been defined very simply at the start of the season. Beat the Mets. The Phillies, Marlins, and most certainly Braves, were not going to challenge for the NL East. They would probably not even be in the Wild Card picture. The division race was going to come down to one of two teams, the reigning champion NY Mets or the champion of the year before, Wasington Nationals. So beat the Mets and the Nats are in the playoffs and out of the Wild Card. Simple as that.

10 games in and there was a little bit of hope that the Mets were going to stumble for a while. The Nats were 9-1, the Mets were 4-6, and the Nats had a nice little 5 games lead. Early? For sure. But the easiest way to get to a nice lead halfway through the year is to get to a nice lead a quarterway through the year and the easiest way to get to a nice lead a quarterway through the year is... you get my point. Since then though the Nats have gone 5-4* and the Mets have gone 8-2. Suddenly a 5 game lead is a 2 game lead.

All this means is if the Nats are to win the East, it's probably not going to fall in their lap. They'll have to beat the Mets. Nothing has changed from pre-season expectations. We hoped they might have. They didn't.

Even if the Nats struggle in the "Toughest Road Trip Ever" the two teams will almost certainly still be close come their first meeting. So circle that date. Tell the spouses and kids you need the those nights off. May 17th-19th and then May 23rd-25th could go a long way to deciding who's on top in October and who's at best playing in a one-game winner take all Wild Card game.


The offense again fails to impress. They aren't terrible but they are below average for the league. This is with the best offensive player in the majors remember. Last night we saw what that could mean as the Phillies chose to walk Bryce three times last night, and clearly were ok with walking him in his final at bat**. When they pitched to him, he came through. He's going to get fewer and fewer at bats that matter. That means they'll need someone behind him to pick it up. Werth, who I was hoping might be on the rise, went 0-4 with a K. Zimm had a big hit, and also a big K. Can they go Bryce / Murphy back to back?

What's up with Max? I talked about it yesterday here, in the comments, and on Twitter. But let's review as there are two things going on. 1) Last year's master of control was unlike Max historically. While it's possible to change, what we are seeing now - the increase in walks, the missed spots - is in line with past performances. 2) He's likely missing up more (I'll have to check on that) the result being more HRs given up (I don't have to check on that). He's gave up more HRs than anyone last year after the All-Star break and that isn't counting the 3 in two games he gave up right before that. He's on a HR a game pace this year. Either #1 or #2 by themselves isn't too bad because Max can dial it up when needed and get a big strikeout. You can deal with that and still be pretty damn good (see Max last year where he was only dealing with #2 for half the year) But 1 & 2 together present problems. We'll just have to keep watching.

You know who's good? Felipe Rivero. You know who's been ridden pretty hard so far? Felipe Rivero. 10 appearance in 19 games and 11 and 2/3 innings. That's an 85 appearances and 99.5 innings of work pace. Now before you get all "Dusty!" I don't see any evidence he rides his best relievers any harder than anyone else. I expect under 80 appearances and a lot fewer innings pitched per game. In other words, I expect Clippard usage. Heavy, but not an burden. But even if he wants to overuse Rivero, I'm ok with that. This is the new normal. Minors filled with high 90s arms ticking like time bombs. Bring them up, use them up. It's ok with me.

*This is more a fluke of where we're picking the Nats schedule up than anything. You get the L in the last game of a series that they won 2 games to 1 and the L to start this new series. It's not meant to represent how the Nats are playing right now, (they still haven't lost a series) but just to illustrate how the ground was made up.

**Bryce totally tried to come through swinging at borderline pitches in the 9th that he'd probably take otherwise. Unwise? Perhaps, but the way he's hitting I'll take Bryce trying to make something happen on tough pitches than these other guys. Now, I just assume the situation dictated his approach. If instead it's frustration and he starts doing this with no one on in the 4th, that'll be a problem.


Jay said...

They really need Zim to find June Zim quickly. I've never understood why it takes him almost 2 months to start hitting. Also, they really need Rendon to hit like 2014 Rendon, not like last year Rendon.

I am still hopeful that Revere will help. He gets on base more than Taylor and has some speed. Werth is back to looking "too old". I'm guessing that is what happens to 37 yo baseball players. Stretches where they look fine and stretches where they can't catch up to the fastball. I do worry the Mets pitching is just too good to beat out over the entire year. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

If Taylor can catch a GD flyball different ballgame. Dude doesn't do anything right at this point (terrible on the base - should have gotten picked off in a huge spot, cant hit a lick, cant make big plays in the field)

Miles Treacy said...

I don't like relying on Werth hitting behind Bryce for right now. I think you ride Zimm until he's in OMG territory. But Werth seems to be getting a little warmer. He did go 0fer last night, but he did smoke a ball in the late innings but got unlucky. Seems he is making better contact overall from a fan perspective. Moving Murphy behind Bryce seems plausible but you then lose that R-L balance which could get messy in late inning with tough lefties being stacked against the two of them... Plus teams will just go around the two of them and feast on everyone else. I like spreading those two apart and hoping the in between can get on a few times for them.

JBillones said...

Any thoughts on the double switch? He wanted his closer to pitch 2 innings, and the move meant he wouldn't need to pinch hit with 2 on and 2 out in the 8th, but it ended up putting a hole behind BRYCE in the 9th which would have ended up pinch hitting with 2 on and 2 out in the 9th had he taken the walk.

Chaz R said...

The importance of Zim and Rendon hitting consistently cant be overstated. Even if Werth takes a step back from his career averages, the offense with BRYCE, Murph, Zim, and Rendon, plus a healthy contact hitting Revere, should be good. If Ramos can somehow not slip too far from what he's doing right now- even better! I can't help but feel it's more likely than not that Zim and Rendon will hit well. They don't need to be great, just consistently decent.

Fries said...

@Jay - I'm not worried about Rendon becoming Tony Two Bags again. He's been hitting the ball well but his BABIP is down 40 points. Just look at the would be double last night if not for that Franco play at 3rd. I am worried about his HR power, but we can live without a few dingers with Bryce right behind him.

Anonymous said...

I feel like this is a good time to remind everyone that Jordan Zimmermann

A) is almost two full years younger than Scherzer
B) signed for $40 million less than Scherzer from 2016-2020.

I know people will say ad nauseum that he wanted to be closer to home in the Midwest. That may well be true, but I still believe that if we had tried a little harder and treated him with a little more respect and not like a second class member of the team, we might possibly have been able to convince him to stay here.

And I don't care about the Tommy John Surgery either. There is absolutely nothing but anecdotal, cherry-picked evidence to support the idea that five years of Zimmermann is way more risky than six years of Scherzer.

John C. said...

I still believe that if we had tried a little harder and treated him with a little more respect and not like a second class member of the team, we might possibly have been able to convince him to stay here.

And I believe that the Nationals organization took good care of Zimmermann throughout his career, believing in him enough to draft him with a supplemental first round pick and carefully nurturing him through his TJ surgery and rehabilitation, paid him millions of dollars and put him into position to be able to support his family for generations to come.

There is absolutely nothing but anecdotal, cherry-picked evidence to support the idea that five years of Zimmermann is way more risky than six years of Scherzer.

So, clearly you've seen the internal medical reviews and assessments from the medical experts and consultants available to the Washington Nationals and other baseball organizations. Otherwise your assessment would amount to nothing more than a statement that "I don't know of any evidence, and therefore it doesn't exist." Which is not the way that usually works.

Rob Evans said...

Meh... I'd rather have Max than JZ. Just my $.02

Mr. Bill said...

@ Anon 8:26

You can see all of that from your sofa? Amazing! What other great moves would you make for this team with all the information you have at hand?

Chaz R said...

@Anon 8:26- I am a huge ZNN fan and wish the Nats had signed him and Max. Max is simply a better pitcher and that was why he commanded more in the market.

@JohnC- that's funny stuff!

Anonymous said...

Other baseball organizations like the Detroit Tigers? I don't know why some people are acting as if everyone universally shares Mike Rizzo's opinions, when nothing could possibly be further from the truth (good luck in finding Matt Williams another managerial job).

You're certainly free to try and claim that Mike Rizzo is a baseball deity who never makes an incorrect decision if you like, and that the Tigers don't know what they're doing, but frankly the Tigers have accomplished more over the last few years than the Nationals have.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon - Speaking of cherry picked, I'm thinking you feel justified in this opinion based mostly on the 5 starts each has made this year. Why aren't we including Max's first year of the contract in the comparison, where was the best pitcher in the league for most of the year and doubled J-Zimm's value?

And no way did we treat him like a second-class citizen, to say that just because we didn't resign him is absurd.

Harper said...

I've always been ZNN over Max. I don't care about the $. I care about the age (and the pitches). But this is an argument that is to be decided 3 yrs down the road, not today.

Zimmerman11 said...

@Harper... I am partial to recency bias, when selecting my preferred method for achieving cognitive dissonance, so I'll disagree and say this is an argument for two weeks from now... not three years :)

Wed, May 11 vs Detroit 7:05 PM Scherzer (2-1) Zimmermann (4-0)

John C. said...

I don't know why some people are acting as if everyone universally shares Mike Rizzo's opinions, when nothing could possibly be further from the truth (good luck in finding Matt Williams another managerial job).

Yes. Of course that's our argument: that Mike Rizzo is a deity walking upon the baseball Earth and utterly infallible. /snark.

Of course Rizzo has his hits and misses - all GMs do, it's part of the job. Rizzo has done one hell of a job in DC, though, the hire of Mike Williams notwithstanding (fun Rizzo fact: he built a team so good that in 2014 it managed to win 96 games with Mike Williams managing!). Every fan, commenter and blogger seems to keep a cherished list of times when they were right and Rizzo was wrong (or at least when it worked out that way). No one ever seems to remember when the times when Rizzo was right and they were wrong - and many make the leap from that forgetfulness to conclude that they are better at analyzing the team, its identity and needs than Rizzo is.

As Rocky Bridges (a former Washington Senators player) once said: "there are three things that the average man thinks he can do better than anybody else: build a fire; run a hotel; and manage a baseball team." To which you could add a fourth: run a baseball team.

mike k said...

While it's true the Nats have access to doctor reports that we don't, saying they must be right because they have them and we don't kinda obviates the fun out of blogging (or commenting on blogs) at all. The decision was made, it was a big decision that affects the organization, and gosh darnit, I'm going to agree with anon, even though it hasn't been three years yet and even though I don't have access to medical reports. If I'm wrong I'm wrong.

Two reasons - first, it's not just Max or ZNN. It's Max for 7 years at AAV $30M/year, and ZNN at five years at AAV $22M/year. That's a lot of money, and an extra (two?) year(s). If they're comparable you go with ZNN, even with the supplemental first rounder you got by signing him. This is admittedly assuming he'd sign with the Nats for the same contract.

Second, even if the TJ surgery cut his career short, the contract is only for five years, until the year he turns 34. Max's contract is until the year he turns 37, for more $$ per year. Perhaps ZNN's arm will fall off at 32, but I think there's still a decent chance he's still decent at 34, or at least as good as Max will be at 37. All from my sofa, too.

Also don't forget, the main justification for the Stasburg shutdown decision was it will make his career longer. If the Nats believed TJ arms don't last that long in general...

mike k said...

That Rocky Bridges was a smart man...I can absolutely build a fire and manage a hotel better than anyone else.

Josh Higham said...

This just in: Matt Williams so forgettable and regrettable that John C has already forgotten his first name.

Bjd1207 said...

J-Zimm hasn't given up a home run yet and has pretty good luck with men on which is driving down his ERA so much. That'll even out. In the meantime he's striking people out less and walking people more and has lost nearly 2mph on his fastball from 2014.

His 2015 was underwhelming and his 2016 numbers show the fraying around the edges already. If Max can show me this walk/HR trend is something he can correct through the next, I dunno, 3 or 4 starts, then I'll bet my salary Max is the more valuable pitcher over the next 3 years

Brian said...

Good afternoon!

I figured this post was as good a place to ask given the topic...

I'm the cofounder a New York Mets & beer blog (, and we're running Series Preview posts ahead of each regular season matchup. As part of these posts, we're looking to collaborate with a blog from each opponent. Would you be interested in participating in a brief Q&A (4-5 questions) about the Nats and DC beer/beer culture ahead of the May 17-19 series? We would be happy to answer questions if you wanted to write a reciprocal post.

Thanks very much for your consideration!

Brian said...

Duh. If interested, let us know at brewandorange [at] gmail [dot] com!

Thanks again.

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