Nationals Baseball: More winning

Thursday, April 14, 2016

More winning

You can only win the games put in front of you. That's what they say. Unfortunately for us wanting to make early season pronouncements, after today the Nats may have played 75% of this young season against the worst team in the major leagues. Of course maybe the Braves have played 75% of their young season against the best team in the major leagues? Maybe?

It's always tough early season when you might play the same team 6 to 9 times in a short period of time. Is it us, or is it them? The Braves rank 14th out of 15 NL teams in RS and 14th out of 15 NL teams in RA. They can't hit and they don't seem to pitch particularly well either. If this were a surprise you might lean toward the "Nats are really good" line of thinking. But it isn't. Everyone knew the Braves were tanking and could be really bad. Here we are.

So there isn't much to learn from these games, I'm afraid. I suppose you can pull out unexpectedly disappointing early season performances (Scherzer, Taylor) and worry about those but I'm inclined just to throw everything out. All you can take away from playing a team this bad is that you should beat them like a drum. The Nats have played 5 games versus the Braves. They have won all 5. You can't do any better.

Today's game is a freebee. They don't want to lose it of course, but they already have the commanding home series 3-1 win they wanted. A loss today would be unfortunate but nothing more. Then we can finally move on to playing some different teams and start to pull some actual conclusions from what we are seeing. Maybe. Of course no one thinks much of Philly or Miami either and the interleague opponent waiting for them? Minnesota, who currently stands at 0-8 themselves with easily the worst offense in baseball.

I wanted the Nats at no worse than 13-9 come that end of April road trip against teams people think are actually good. I think that has to be amended. First - there's a game lost to rain. (13-8?) Second going 7-7 from here on out? Versus PHI MIA and MIN? I can't think that's ok. No. Now factoring in the "Braves are awful" adjustment. I set the target at 15-6 at the end of April 28th. Is that fair? Maybe not. We can discuss changing it back if the Braves actually win a couple games.

Sweep 'em.


Anonymous said...

How long is the leash on Espinosa? He's hitting under .200, as many expected, and a very solid SS in Turner is waiting in AAA. Do you think they wait until May, when they get an additional year of control over Turner, then call him up to make him the starting SS? He can't be any worse than Espinosa

TV1026 said...

The Nats' biggest threat, the Mets, also lost 2 out of 3 to Philly. I know we can't make generalizations from 5 or 6 games vs the Braves, but it's good to see they're not choking. Would you say the games against the Phils have shown us anything about the Mets?

Great work as always, Harper.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon - If we continue to win at a relatively good clip with Espinosa in the lineup then it's practically a guarantee that Turner doesn't come up until June

Robot said...

Glad to see a good outing by Tanner and some power from Werth. Really hoping Bryce gets #100 at home.

Great start, but as you say, Harper, not much we can conclude at this point.

Bryan said...

I'm not sure its the "right" answer, but if the team continues winning - and with their April schedule I can't imagine they won't, I think you keep Espy and get the extra year of control over Turner.

G Cracka X said...

One thing to note is that Espy looks good at SS, even if the offensive numbers aren't there. Last night he made a good play to 1st when the based were loaded. He also threw out a guy at third, and turned a few double plays. His offense may yet pick up.

Tanner had some walks last night, but he was able to escape any jam he got himself into.

Kenny B. said...

If current trends continue, I don't see the team bringing up anyone they don't have to. No reason to sacrifice control for winning if you're already winning. If things go south against other teams and the offense goes completely dark for several games (which it has had the tendency to do over the last couple of years), then *maybe,* but even then I don't see them sacrificing control after a hot start with so much season left to play. Rizzo loves control and values it very highly.

Anonymous said...

I'm not worried. 18 H2H.

Anonymous said...

Hope Strasburg getting scratched from yesterday's start doesn't portend a return to his mysterious maladies from yesteryear.

Bryceroni said...

Really not a fan of the new "aggressive" Bryce (probably a product of Dusty). He shouldn't be doing things like bunting and trying to steal tons of bases, particularly third.

Bryce is awesome (given his start, can we confidently say best in MLB?) with a bat in his hands. He is only an ok base stealer 16 CS in 56 career attempts.

Bjd1207 said...

Everyone's making a big deal about the bunting but it was because of the hard-shift they put on. I've got no problem trying to lay down a bunt against the shift, from anyone.

John C. said...

Ah, the anonymous trolls are back! How we've missed them!

Kenny B. said...

I like the new aggressive Bryce if he is properly coached on how and when to steal bases, because it makes opponents think twice about walking him. If he can pretty consistently turn walks into effective doubles, pitchers would presumably be more inclined to pitch to him, opening up the opportunity to do more hitting. It's a way of keeping the league from adjusting to him too well. Naturally, if it's not working, then the team needs to adjust this strategy, but I like it in the early season as a way of at least testing pitchers who want to walk him.

My only concern is injury. Bryce's big hand injury came because of baserunning, and this team's primary goal should be keeping Bryce Harper in the lineup.

JW said...

Before the season, consensus seemed to be that Espy's spot was pretty secure if the Nats were winning. His offense is problematic, but it's really about how many holes in the lineup the team can carry. Espy isn't as significant a weight if it weren't for the other two massive holes the Nats are carrying right now -- Taylor and Werth (although Werth has been more productive this week). If it was just Espy, you say to heck with it because his D has been very good. But him and Taylor. And that's not to say that Werth could continue to struggle or Ramos could slip back down.

Taylor's situation is so much worse for the Nats because he looks just terrible at the plate right now. Espy looks like normal Espy, but Taylor looks like he's getting worse. I feel for the kid.

The positive about Max's stuggles has been that they've occurred in games we've won. Assuming he gets going, at least those tough outings were against teams the Nats could still beat. Would rather have those games now than in May.

Hoo said...


Do the Nats think Zim is far more fragile than anyone thinks? He's playing 2/3 at first despite this being the least taxing part of the schedule with a rainout to boot. It looks like they have zero confidence in his foot and want to coax 100 games out of him.

I think the most surprising thing is seeing Zim have less games than Ramos so far.

Jay said...

I think of the wins in an opposite way. Every win the Nats get against the Braves equal fewer wins the Nats will need against good teams. You could argue that the Braves are bad (as expected), but you can also argue that the Nats are pretty good (as expected). The Nats need to get to 90-92 wins to have a chance for the playoffs. The 5 they have so far against the Braves means they need 5 fewer against everyone else. I don't buy into reading anything from these early games. Again, think back to last year. Until the Mets picked up Uribe, Clippard, and Cespedes they looked to be very average. Thus the Nats didn't feel any pressure to go get anyone. They "had time" to wait for the returning players to get up to speed. Then the Mets made those trades and left the Nats in the dust. It's a long season and we're just getting started. I'll enjoy every win the Nats can get.

Also, can we face the fact that Terry Collins is an idiot. He used Familia yesterday on his 3 straight day of pitching for a 5 out save. He did this because "it was a game they had to have". In April. Against the Phillies. Collins has been viewed as very suspect for the last few years. The Mets get hot at the end of last year and carry him to the WS. He's still bad. Almost, MW bad. What's his WAMW? I'd guess it's 0 or even negative numbers.

Dusty evidently likes to rest people either before or after a day game following a night game. Zim rested yesterday, so he could play today. Werth and Taylor are resting today. Zim has been great so far IMO. Doesn't mean he won't break down, but so far he has been best case scenario. Dusty is just trying to keep everyone fresh. Plus you can do that when your bench is producing (Stephen Drew) and you are winning.

Mythra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mythra said...

“I love winning man….I love winning it’s like…..better than losing.”

If you don't think these games count, I have a few Mets fan friends who are almost on the ledge. Last night was comical to listen to them yell at Collins.

Win while you can, as often as you can. If it's against the dregs of the NL East, so be it. If you sweep the Giants or Dodgers, swesome!

Keep loose, win the games we can, when we can. And be glad of an early cushion.

Bryceroni said...

I think the theory of "if you walk Bryce he will steal second" sounds a lot better than the practice is. 40/56 SB career is about 71% which is on the low end of acceptable, and if he increases the volume of attempts I would expect his success to drop a little more.

Bryce's #1 skill is not making outs. He does not need to give away outs on the basepaths in order to improve his hitting, and I think the net effect is negative.

This doesn't mean Bryce should never run, but he should pick his spots and get less total SB at a better rate.

Bryceroni said...

One other observation: now Werth plays super deep against even LHB. He is on permanent no-doubles positioning. Seems like a reasonable adaptation to how old and broken he is, but its hard to evaluate how much all those singles hurt us against how bad it would be if a bunch of balls were flying over his head for doubles and triples.

Anonymous said...


Hopefully Harper can pick up some tips from Werth. He has a career 86% stolen base percentage rate.

RP said...

I may me misremembering, but I think that those CS stats are a little bit misleading. Early on in his career Bryce got picked off first base just trying to play games with the pitcher. Not saying that those CS shouldn't count but I think that the combination of those pickoffs and bad coaching on when to steal early in his career leads those SB stats to be weighted against him. With Davey Lopes back in the picture and with him having matured significantly as a player I suspect that the CS will drop off significantly.
And I think that the power of him being able to turn walks into doubles can't be overstated for the Nats' offense.

Mythra said...

Keep in mind, the Bryce as stolen base threat opens a hole on the right side for Zim and Murphy to use while he's being held on. Also, the more a pitcher thinks about Bryce getting to second, the better chance Zim gets a mistake to punish the pitcher with.

This is not a bad thing for Bryce to be learning. It helps the guys who are protecting him.

Kenny B. said...

@Bryceroni, I'm with you, but this is where hopefully coaching and maturity can come into play, as RP notes above. It's not like Harper isn't fast enough to steal bases effectively. It's more about learning how.

And again, if it doesn't work out early, scrap the idea. It's not like strategies have to be static things. If nothing else you've at least put the issue of stealing into the opposing pitcher's mind for a while.

Bryceroni said...

@RP: Getting picked off is still a product of trying to steal because that's when you take the big leads that leave you vulnerable. I would also point out that on at least 2 of Bryce's steals this year were successful because of bad throws when he was dead to rights.
Lopes can/will help Bryce's instincts, but lets not forget that he's not a burner so there's a definite ceiling.
Turning singles into doubles is great if you can do it at a high level, but if not you're hurting the offense. The offense can and will do just fine without a couple extra bases here and there.

@Mythra: Bryce only has to be a THREAT to steal to open the hole. Same for getting into the pitcher's head.

@Kenny B: I think this is reasonable. I hope Bryce is able to settle in around say 12-15 sb's 75-80%. I think he's going to struggle if he goes much more than that. He's got some speed, but he's not fast enough to steal when the other team knows its coming.

Bjd1207 said...

The value of bunting against the shift does not rely on him stealing. It's a non-out, which even with Bryce's unbelievable superstar year last year he got out more than he got on base. So if you can consistently bunt against the shift then it's essentially the same mentality as taking a walk.

He doesn't need a double/homer every time up. Every time he gets on base is a run from a Zim/Murphy double and an extra run in case of a homer from one of those guys.

Job #1 is don't get out, everything else hitting-wise (power, steals, good base running) is secondary

Flapjack said...

Harper (Bryce) had heartening comments about how much he loves Washington, etc., in his post-game interview cum celebration of his 100th HR (Seriously, getting to 100 with a grand slam on mom's b-day? As FP put it, it's a movie.) I think if the Learners don't insult him with a low-ball offer, I'm betting he'll take it. I mean, like, what does an extra $40 million matter when we're talking half a billion?

And how 'bout that bullpen? When Scherzer's early inning missteps are your only problem on the mound, you don't have problems. As long as the pitching holds up, we're good.

The Phillies, currently playing .500 ball, showed signs of life throughout spring training -- a sign that those games really do measure something. They are shaping up as an early season test of the Atlanta-is-just-bad thesis. Hopefully, nobody is taking them lightly.

BxJaycobb said...

It's not just that. Bunting makes teams consider whether they want to shift and move the third baseman to other side of diamond. If Bryce can effectively deter shifting, it allows a higher BA on balls in play for him as a hitter. I.e. If he can singly show that he CAN bunt for easy singles, then have teams adjust back, that is ideal.