Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : Rounds 2, 3 & 4 Cubs

Monday, May 09, 2016

Monday Quickie : Rounds 2, 3 & 4 Cubs

I fully expected, about halfway through the game yesterday, that the Nats were going to come out winners. It would have been a proper way to wrap up the road trip because with a win no one could think of the road trip as anything but a success. They would have gone 6-4. They would have held onto 1st place. They would have beaten the Cubs, yes only once in 4 games, but that's about what you expect playing a good team on the road and beating them at all is important. They would have ended the whole thing with a win.

Instead we walk out a bit fuzzy. Not worried mind you. Nats look good. They just went on the toughest road trip they are likely to have (still true regardless of what you think of KC/STL) and went 5-5.  They are still in a good position in general, just a half-game out of first and in solid playoff position. Just fuzzy. They were competitive sometimes, but were swept by the Cubs who are the standard bearers for the majors right now. The Mets, now on an easier part of their schedule, have taken the lead in the East. They did beat the Cardinals and Royals on the road but both those teams come into today at .500. At the same time the Marlins and Phillies, supposed patsies, have gone over .500. 

It's hard to figure how to slot the Nats because the other teams aren't cooperating by separating themselves. The Cubs are great.  The Nats haven't beat them. The Braves are terrible. The Nats haven't lost to them. The strong guesses are it's pretty likely the Reds, Brewers, and Padres aren't good. The Nats haven't played them. It's pretty likely that the Nats and Mets and maybe Pirates, are good. The Nats haven't played them either.  The other 7 teams? The teams the Nats have played their other games against? Good luck.

Doesn't really matter - what's really important is how the Nats stack up to the Mets and we'll know a lot more about that two weeks from now after the first round of H2H games is over.

I noted that he Cubs were using the Phillies strategy of walking Bryce and letting the rest of the team beat them. The Nats did score but I don't know how well they'd have done if the Cubs were sending out their best men. They did a lot of late damage against the likes of Clayton Richard and Travis Wood. It'll be interesting to see if the Tigers, and the rest of the league continue the trend. Given that the Nats are 2-6 now in games where Bryce walks 2 or more times (and they scored the most in the Cubs series in the game he walked once) I don't see any reason why they shouldn't. At this point you press what may be a psychological advantage.

The important thing now isn't beating the Tigers, it's staying close to or passing the Mets. If we're all right then the Nats and Mets are going to be good enough to be playoff teams, or at least challenge for that position. No one wants to be the Wild Card, not because winning from there is impossible. It's totally possible. But losing from there is down to the random bounces and outcomes from a single game. One bad day destroys a season of work.

So what about the Tigers series? Don't get swept. That's where I'm setting the bar. It's low but right now I'm just looking to settle the team and stay close to the Mets. Of course I want them to win the series. I think they should win the series. But I'm setting the worry level at "being swept"  That's what I'm saying. One win isn't good but it doesn't worry me.

43 comments:

WWNLT? WWHW? WWHG? said...

So batting the 400 hitting Murphy in the spot after Bryce...

Is that something that makes too much sense? One hit in that spot yesterday almost certainly means a win.

Bjd1207 said...

@WWWhatever - Nitpicking, but Zimm did have ONE hit. One lonesome hit in 7 trips to the plate...

Mike said...

When do we start talking about Zimmerman being done? He has looked so overmatched most of this season at the plate.

Ole PBN said...

Lefty following a lefty in the lineup? Blasphemy! How dare you invoke such common sense! Give it time. Wait for it.....That's just baseball.

(heavy sarcasm..)

B. Enrique Lopez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zimmerman11 said...

Rounds 2,3, and 4 were all competitive games and could have gone either way. I'm satisfied with the 5-5 road trip, and we all thought the Mets could wind up in first after the RTOD... it's hard to come away from 4 straight losses (in any circumstance) and be happy, but if you're gonna lose four in a row, let it be to CHC who are the best and the hottest team right now... and let it be after you won 5 out of 6 from STL and KC.

Satisfied... not happy... now let's go beat the Mets and put this all behind us:)

I'm not a robot said...

Overall the Nats did what they needed to do. The Cubs in May are slightly better (most of these games could have been won by the Nats). Ill take that for the road trip. If Zim could have made the Cubs pay for all the walks on Harper then it would have been a different series. I suspect that the Nats will have a long leash on Zimm but if he still isn't producing then he will get moved down.

BornInDC said...

WWNLT? etc.

Absolutely, put Murphy or Ramos behind Harper until other teams stop intentionally walking Bryce. If Dusty keeps Zimmerman at cleanup, every team should keep on walking Bryce anytime there is anyone on base. The managers of other teams would be stupid not to do so after watching the results this weekend.

The Nats played decently against the Cubs. Tanner Roark even outpitched Arrieta. But the Nats probably lost the game, because Dusty chose not to adapt to what the other team was doing, i.e., walking Bryce.

Froggy said...

Yeah getting swept stings, and getting swept by a good team doesn't sting any less. Especially 4 games. The optimists here will say 'but we went 5-5 on a murderous road trip' blah, blah, blah....whatever.

I've seen enough of thus movie over the past 10 years (6 in the Werth era) and enough 'sample size' for this season to say the Espinosa experiment is over, Werth is a liability defensively and simply isn't going to hit above .250 for the year, and Zimmy needs to bat after Murphy AND Ramos.

Bring up Turner and trade for CarGo!

Fries said...

If Dusty wants to keep the LRL lineup, stick Ramos at cleanup. He's no stranger to that slot in the lineup and he's been hitting sharp liners all season (exactly the kind of hits needed in extras yesterday). Thank you Lasik

G Cracka X said...

@Fries I agree, that would be interesting to try out. Ramos has hit enough where it can't just be written off as an early-season fluke. Of course he isn't going to maintain his current BA, but its worth a shot to see if it would help counter the 'Walk Bryce' strategy.

Big picture, I think the Nats are OK for now. They've played a mixture of 'bad' teams and 'good' teams. Don't look at records, look at run differential for a quick, rough estimate of who falls in each category. The Nats are 19-12, which means that they are on a 98-win pace so far. I don't think they'll actually get 98 wins so far. The point here is just that overall, the team has performed fine in the big picture up to this part of the season. If the road trip had gone alternating wins and losses, that 5-5 would have felt better. But it wouldn't have made any difference in the standings.

Anonymous said...

Zimmerman and Werth are becoming the Nationals' version of John Wall and Bradley Beal, but with even less results. The worse they perform, the more they run their big stupid mouths.

If I were Zimmerman, I'd be thoroughly embarrassed after that series simply out of professional pride. Instead, he keeps going about without a care in the world, smiling and doing his Alfred E. Neuman routine. I don't get it at all.

Mitch said...

While I was reading this article, Ryan Zimmerman stranded 3 more runners.

Anonymous said...

There's a price to pay for batting Murphy after Harper. You'll probably thrive in the early innings offensively, but then you get burned in the late innings when you face even the most basic LHs. You might think about calling up Trea Turner to replace Murphy in the late innings...that actually makes sense, because Murphy will burn you with poor defense and baserunning blunders...but then you have a scenario where you lose Murphy's clutch bat, and now a light-hitting rookie infielder is Harper's protection. Doing a double-switch would be your alternative, and that's really not ideal either.

I think batting Ramos cleanup is the way to go. It's a short-term solution at best, but perhaps by the time he hits a funk, Zimmerman will be locked in. Ultimately, the Nationals will probably need to acquire a big RH bat at the deadline. I wouldn't be sure that Rizzo will deliver on this however.

Kenny B. said...

Definitely agree with others that the thing we take away from the CHC series needs to be adapting the lineup strategy to account for having a player who is virtually guaranteed to get to first base every trip to the plate. It takes out Bryce's power, but it's still a pretty nice luxury to have. Definitely a first world baseball problem. The Cubs found a strategy that seemed to work, and everyone is going to copy them; Dusty needs to switch it up.

If we're getting really crazy, put Bryce in the leadoff or second spot. He's a speedy outfielder, sees a lot of pitches, and he always gets to first. What more could you want in a leadoff hitter?

SM said...

I believe Harper cautioned at the beginning of the Cub series that even in the event of a sweep, it was important to consider how close or competitive the games were. Perhaps with the exception of the opener, they were relatively close games.

The most interesting thing to me was the way Maddon managed the series, particularly Saturday's game. He almost--if not completely--treated it as if it were an elimination playoff game. When he smelled danger, he didn't hesitate to hook a pitcher. He maneuvered his pieces to gain any platoon advantage he could get. And virtually every strategy worked.

This isn't to say Baker didn't. But I got the sense that winning this series decisively was crucial to Maddon, as if 1) the Nats are serious competition to the Cubs' aspirations; and 2) to remind his team that a sense of urgency is necessary if his players are to meet the expectations the baseball world has foisted on them.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon 8:20 - What Zimmerman quotes are you referencing?

John C. said...

Bjd, Anon @8:20 likely refers to the fact that Zimmerman is not rending his garments, donning sackcloth and ashes, and engaging in wailing and lamentations. Because the fact that Zimmerman cares/is distressed by the way the weekend went (and I am completely confident that he does) is immaterial for some unless Zimmerman sufficiently communicates that awareness and concern to the masses. Not my school of thought, but I've seen it before.

Bjd1207 said...

@John C - LOL, yea I suspected the same but wanted to leave open the opportunity that I had missed some revealing quotes or interview.

Zimmerman has been a stalwart of this organization for a decade. I'm not buying that he "doesn't have a care in the world" after a game like that unless I see him say "I don't have a care in the world"

Zimmerman11 said...

"Perfect," Zimmerman said with a smile. "I love it. I hope they do. … I can't blame them for walking him. He's one of the best if not the best player on the planet right now. It doesn't matter if it's me behind him or anybody behind him, they're going to take their chances with someone else. It's up to me for the rest of the year to come through. I look forward to having more opportunities like that."

I don't see a problem... except he didn't get it done this weekend.

Fries said...

In defense of Zimm, if you read his facial expression (and maybe his lips) after diving into first and getting thrown out in the 13th(?), you can tell he was pissed at himself. He's a level headed competitor, so don't expect more than that in a reaction. But he's not writing off the fact that he's not living up to expectations

Old Man River said...

I feel like line-up functionality has been our problem for a few years now. Having guys who get on base has never seemed to be a priority for us. (However, picking up Murphy and Revere this offseason is a step in the right direction). I'm just worried that this "core" of players is not the answer to going deep in October regardless of Zimmerman being hurt, a slow-starter, or whatever the reason may be - its not 2009 anymore. Zim is a .270 hitter with 15-20 homeruns in him at this point and incredibly streaky. By all means a starter, just not the guy you want hitting after someone who is on base as often as Harper is. Cespedes might have been that guy. CarGo could be - but that answer is not on the roster. Tired of the square peg-round hole management as far as the line up is concerned, as it seems to be very difficult to grasp no matter who the manager is.

Anonymous said...

This weekend? He has been completely worthless the entire first five weeks of the season. He's off to an even worse start than he was last season.

I know he has been here forever, but if he's hurt he needs to go on the DL, and if he's not hurt, he needs to start producing. And if he can't produce, he needs to be moved down in the lineup or benched.

Finally, there is absolutely no chance in hell any team would have intentionally put Harper on seven times in one game if Murphy had been hitting behind him. Other teams have no respect for Zombie Zimmerman whatsoever.

Mythra said...

Satisfied, but still hungry for more. That's my take on the road trip. Cubs are magical with their luck and all the moves working out. When your game-winning 'hit' lands a foot past Danny's glove on the edge of the infield, that's luck. Nats kept hitting balls right to the Cubs, and Cubs kept getting seeing eye hits when needed. Can't beat luck of the kind I saw all weekend.

Walking Bryce will continue to pay off until Zim hits. Having him hit cleanup right now is not playing the hot hands. He'll see more pitches to hit in the 6th hole, but then Murphy has no protection either. And you bump Werth to 7th with Bryce, Ramos, Murphy slotting at 3-5. I can't argue against that move, but it will make for a long inning with some outs down in front of the pitcher.

Everyone else who said it is right. Werth is an 6-7-8 hitter now, and Zim should stay at 6th until he goes on his usual May hot streak.

Oh, and I'd want to play the Mets right now. As uneven as we were, we didn't drop 2 of 3 to a team like the Padres. Also, can't wait for the Mets to hit that road trip with the Dodgers later this month.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon (8:20 & 9:52) - Underperformance is an entirely different charge than the "not a care in the world" one you leveled against him earlier.

He's a smart, dedicated player. No one is more aware of his failings than he is, which is why he said that he or whoever is hitting behind Harp going forward needs to start performing.

Anonymous said...

@Mythra, the Mets split with the Padres, it was a 4 game series & that Dodgers series later this month starts today. Just sayin'.

PotomacFan said...

Ryan Zimmerman left 14 runners on base – on average, that means he was one runner short of leaving the bases loaded FIVE TIMES in one game!

It appears that RZim may have shattered the baseball record for most runners left on base in a single game.

See: http://www.baseball-almanac.com/recbooks/left_on_base_records.shtml

MetsMetsMets said...

LOL the most overrated team in baseball. Again. LOL!

Can't wait to break out the BROOMS in a few weeks. Again.

Cespedes>Harper #alldaylong #lgm

Mitch said...

PotomacFan - that seems to be accurate, but I'm wondering if the previous records were all for just 9 innings? Either way, LOLZim.

Pablo said...

solid analysis and no one should panic..we especially should not get down on Zim who we're going to need...whatever happened, happened and you can't change it so I, for one, don't want to see him brooding on it and going into a prolonged slump..Nats have been through a brutal part of the schedule and come out bloodied but unbowed and in a virtual tie for first..can't wait to see them get their hands on the overrated Mets pitching and that's going to be their time to shine and, in my opinion, they will!!

Anonymous said...

The Cubs have Tommy Lastella hitting .360, and Dexter Fowler hitting .340. They have Jason hammell with a sub 1 ERA. Tally these up under the "things that won't last" category. We have Rendon and Harper not doing anything. They WILL hit. They WILL. Yes it is frustrating now but as i've been saying all along this lineup will rake, and by season's end will be feared. We're already better than the Mets, and we'll be right up there with the Cubs by the time October rolls around. The Cubs know this, they know who they have to get through this year to make the WS. Gonna be a h3ll of a summer in DC, gents. Trust me on this....don't fret.

Anonymous said...

Menat to say Rendon and Zimmerman, not Harper...carry on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry guys, the Mets are better on paper than the Nats. They have the better record so far this year. They had the better record last year. They've had a better record over the last week. The Nats had their fun in the first month, but it looks like the same old, same old is setting back in. The Mets are up to their old tricks, and the Nats just aren't as good.

Jeffrey Stults said...

Overall I'm alright with the Cubs' series. Nats competed with a very good team firing on all cylinders.
My problem was the approach of Espinosa, Werth, and Zim at the plate. Seemed like every at bat they'd take one or two hangers down the middle and start their at bat 0-2. It was uncanny.
Looking forward to seeing the Cubs in June.

BornInDC said...

Best news of the night:

Stephen Strasburg signs seven-year, $175 million extension with Nationals

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/nationals-journal/wp/2016/05/09/stephen-strasburg-signs-seven-year-175-million-extension-with-nationals/

Smalls said...

I don't know how I feel about the Stras signing. Excited? Most certainly because I love watching him pitch. Confused? Very much so because what does that mean for the future of the team?

Ross and Roark at this point look legit. Ross is under control for a few years, not sure what Roark will command when his deal is up. Then waiting in the wings we have Giolotio (probably) and another to develop, so the 3,4,5 talent is there. But what about BRYCE?

This exact thing will (hopefully) be the theme of the next post, but it makes you think. That extra 25 million a year spent going forward either signals that the Lerner's might start spending more each year going forward (unlikely given history and pending tv deal), or it might be the end of BRYCE in a nats uni. I hope not, but future numbers are crunching right now.

Ryan DC said...

This is exciting because Stras is awesome, but scary because it's a ton of money and years for a dude on his second elbow; exciting because it means the Lerners might open up the pocketbook for BRYCE, but scary because Boras only let Stras sign this contract because there was NO home team discount.

BornInDC said...

Smalls,

I sympathize with your feelings. However, I think as Harper has pointed out previously, given Giolito's likely progression (and his results so far this year give no reason to think he'll be ready early), there was a potential gap in the Nats rotation for the next two years, the only years the Nats know they have Bryce. So I look at this signing as making sure they have a playoff caliber rotation the next two years.

This also means that the Nats think, as many people do, that Strasburg may be in his prime for the next few years as a dominant pitcher.

blovy8 said...

There might be an opt out though.

Sammy Kent said...

When I left town last week the Nats were 5-1 on the road trip, and I was declaring them good. Then they lose four straight to the Cubs. Obviously, me saying good things about them is the kiss of death. So guess what? They stink.

Eric said...

Harper, just a random, meaningless observation: you seem invested in this season's team more than you've seemed to be invested in them in the past. Like you're kinda on the edge of your seat. Maybe I'm projecting some, as I feel more excited this year and less nervously expectant than I did in years past. In any case, it makes for good reading.

Tonight was sketchy, but Robinson's walk off felt like a huge weight being lifted after so much thwarting in Chitown. Just hope Harp's big "F*** YOU!" at the end doesn't lead to a suspension and/or him being pinched at the plate...

Sammy Kent said...

@ Eric: I'm afraid you've nailed it vis a vis Bryce getting pinched. Just for the record, I do not approve of Bryce's behavior toward the ump after the game. Technically, he wasn't even supposed to be on the field or even in the dugout until after Clint touched home and the game was officially over. I think Dusty needs to fine him, then sit down and have a long talk with that boy.

Over the last two seasons especially Bryce has earned the respect of the umps for knowing the strike zone, so much so that he has gotten a lot of ball calls on borderline pitches, and on some outright strikes. Yelling eff you and pointing at the ump after he was supposed to have been in the showers is going to get him on a short leash and cost him those ball calls--especially when the video shows that the umps are getting the ball/strike calls correct. He's not slumping because the umps are missing calls. He's slumping because he's making Michael A. Taylor look like a breaking ball slugger.

Donald said...

Not a bad night in Natstown all the way around.