Nationals Baseball: Round 1 - Cubs

Friday, May 06, 2016

Round 1 - Cubs

Somewhere yesterday someone asked about the Mets offense and I said that their consistent lineup produced fairly stable results. Lots of 3-4-5-6 run games. Then I contrasted them with the Nats whose (season so far) great + awful lineup produced more extremes. More highs but more lows. Yesterday was a low as the Nats were a two-out two-strike Werth homer from being shutout.

I don't really consider yesterday a big negative. The Nats were competitive and probably in the way they are going to be competitive against good teams all year long. They'll shut down your offense while their offense tries to eek out a few runs. As long as the pitching is good enough and the hitting is fair enough it'll work. See the whole season up to now. Even if they get swept, if they are competitive in these games I'll be ok. It'll be a disappointing end to an overall great road trip, but that's it. Right now only an 0-4 series with at least 2 non-competitive blowouts (or worse) would bother me.

The Cubs did what many teams are going to do this year, what the Phillies did successfully in that last series, pitch around Bryce and make the other guys beat you. That the Nats didn't score doesn't surprise me. Yes neither the Cardinals or Royals pitched around Bryce (he walked more last night than in those last two series combined), but despite Bryce not doing anything really during that run there may have been some psychological effect on the rest of the line-up. Some sort of "OK it's not on me. I can relax" effect that allowed them to hit better.  I don't know. I do know that the Nats are 2-4 in games where Bryce is walked 2 or more times, 6-6 in games where he takes a walk at all, and 13-3 in games he doesn't walk. If I were the other team I'd walk him. If you are worried about it Werth has looked better in the past week. So has Zimm. Ramos has maintained. There's optimism here that this strategy will eventually fail. (really it has to if the Nats are going to win the East)

Ross looked good and I was very happy to see a bunch of strikeouts. If he's truly going to get to a #1 type level he needs those Ks. Yes the Cubs strike out a lot, but to me that just sets up a situation if he doesn't do it - I'm bothered. He did it so I'm not bothered.  Now keep it up. I can spin some ... I don't call them "negatives" I call them "wrong way realities" at you, but I'll save those for before his next start. He doesn't let guys on base and in general isn't hit hard. He keeps the ball down seems very in control when he pitches. This is against good teams and bad teams now. There is nothing is terribly out of line in his stats either in comparison to last year (he's giving up more liners but fewer hard hit balls so that kind of evens out), or just in general. While 1.23 is going away, six games into his second season I don't see any reason why last year can't be repeated for all of 2016.

The relief pitching failed for the second time in three games, although this was keeping a game close rather than closing one out. Dusty has leaned heavily on a handful of arms in the pen, Rivero being the most utilized. I've said many times I'm all for this type of plan regardless of what it may do to an arm 2-3 years down the line. Win today. But as that theory implies, it has to be effective today. Rivero having a bad outing isn't a warning he's about to implode, but given two pretty bad outings in the past week  maybe 9 appearances in 15 days is a bit much. How about a couple days off for Felipe, Dusty? 

41 comments:

Miles Treacy said...

I mentioned after the first week how much Felipe was getting called on and said it should be monitored. He's definitely Dusty's go to and for the obvious good reasons. Hard throwing lefty with wipeout breaking stuff that can get anyone out and seems composed while doing it. I'm sure he sees some Chapman in him but a few days off would be good.

I was actually really impressed by Ross. The knock on these threads have typically been he seems to only put up the good games when he's meant to and struggles a little against the good lineups. This year it seems we're seeing him take off so far. IMO that Bryant double should have been caught. Then we're looking runner on 1st no outs as opposed to 2nd-3rd with no one out. Limiting that to 2 runs IMO was what #1 types need to do.

Right after the Phillies series it was clear the strategy is walk Bryce. I'm glad Bryce is taking those walks as we saw what the Cardinals series and Royals series did. Seemed he was pressing to produce. He looked relaxed last night and not too jumpy.

My guess is Taylor is sent down today with Rever being activated? I like Taylor but seems he's a bit lost. Was hoping that strong ST would carry over to at least maybe a .250 line with solid D and some pop, but in fairness Dusty also is insane keeping him leadoff. Last year when he got a little hot it's because he was dropped to the 8 hole and feasted on fastballs.

JE34 said...

Wherefore art thou, Ben Revere? Down 2-0, Top 8, 2 on, no outs, and MAT Ks again (followed by an inning ending DP by Rendon). I hate bunting as much as anyone... but in that spot, Dusty has to do something to avoid the strikeout, right?

I wonder if Dusty lost a half point in his WAMW metric there.

Anonymous said...

Ross really did look good. Who do you think is going to be better for the next 5 seasons - Ross or JZimm?

It was a tough play, but MAT should have had that Bryant fly ball. On the other hand, I doubt Revere would have made that play.

BxJaycobb said...

Just a quick note. Yes Felipe Rivero gave up a homer, but the inning would have been over if Ryan Z makes that throw to second.... Instead he had to stand around in the cold for 6 minutes, then immediately went to hell. Not that it excuses a poor performance by Rivero, just saying he also had some excellent moments: I.e.making kris Bryant (as tough a righty as you will face in the majors) and Rizzo both look bad. To me he's pretty clearly the best reliever the Nats have. And the fact that he can get righties out with that changeup is heartening.

It's fairly clear to me at this point that the difference between the the Nats winning 95-ish games (being top 3 team in majors) and a playoff or WC team may well be Anthony Rendon. The difference between him being an excellent bat and a well below average one is enormous. He's a very good defender regardless, but if he is closer to 2014 Rendon, you're looking at a lineup that, with revere in for Taylor and turner in for Espi, is above average rather than below average. That's the difference between a very good and elite team. Harper--how about a deep dive into the advanced statistics to figure out what's up with Tony?

Mike in DC said...

I hope MAT is on his way to Syracuse as we speak. He got his chance and he failed miserably. Don't know about the rest of you, but I've seen enough.

Harper said...

Yeah what I like about Ross this year is the consistency. He seems to get similar results across the board. Now, is he getting a bit lucky and should he really be sporting an ERA of like 3.00? Probably but that's good! That's like a Top 15-20 pitcher.

After I wrote that Bryce thing I wondered too if walking him has a positive effect on the opposing pitcher as well. "I don't have to worry about this guy." Regardless I don't want him forcing anything right now. It's not the playoffs, the team will need to come around eventually.

I have no idea. MAT down is one option. I'll bet on denDekker. The Nats with Drew and Robinson (and Lobaton) don't really need another LHB. He hasn't hit all that much and MAT gives you everything else he does.

TWV said...

I agree with the comments on MAT. He definitely should have caught that Bryant double. Tougher than average play, sure, but it needs to be made. I can't remember one time where MAT actually made the catch when he had to go to the wall. It seems he gets real jittery when he gets close and then loses sight of the ball. He was supposed to be good defensively and passable offensively, but he's been below expectations in both. Please send him down to get work.

Dusty definitely lost a point (or half) in the WAMW for not bunting MAT there with 2 on, no out. A bunt gets the runners over, with the potential to maybe load the bases for Rendon, Bryce, or Zim. I understand that Strop had been struggling with his command so you don't want to give up an out, but if that's the case, you need to tell MAT to take pitches until he gets a strike. Instead he swings at a first pitch slider out of the zone, and then strikes out on a pitch that almost hits him. A large part of this is on the execution (or lack thereof) by MAT, but Dusty is supposed to know what his players are capable of, and MAT has the most strikeouts on the team this year (I think). I had to turn it off after the Rendon GIDP, I was so frustrated.

mike k said...

From a "best roster" standpoint, MAT should stay with the club. He can play all 3 OF positions better than Den Dekker/Heisey, has more speed, and has more pop than Den Dekker. From a development standpoint, I don't claim to know if sending him down will do anything - "get his swing right", "give him more confidence", idk. His problem is identifying off-speed and I'm not sure if the minors is the best place to do that. And I think Dusty's comments a few days ago that "sometimes you can learn from sitting and observing" is setting up a MAT-to-the-bench move. He's awful at the wall though - this isn't the first blunder he's made there this year.

I can't help but think the records where Bryce walks/doesn't walk is a little misleading. Maybe teams are more likely to pitch around him if they get a sense that other hitters aren't hitting? Maybe he doesn't walk in games they win not because the pitchers pitch to him more, but because the pitching is bad so he hits the ball before they can walk him. The fact that he struck out 47 times against the Cardinals and Royals and the Nats went 5-1 tells me it's not just a "pitch around Bryce" thing.

Mythra said...

Two nails in the MAT coffin last night. I agree, DenDekker is the guy going to Syracuse. They'll keep MAT for defensive and speed replacement and spot start. But the kid needs to use the stuff between his ears more in the box.

Twice in a week MAT has gotten up with two on and nobody out. Last night the 2 guys in front of him got HBP and walked with the last 2-3 pitches to Clint not even close. Anyone with an ounce of baseball IQ takes 1 and maybe even 2 strikes there to work the count and maybe load the bases with a pitcher who just hasn't got his release point. Instead, MAT whiffs at ball 1 and we all know what is coming. Last time, in the same situation, he swings out of his shoes at a 3-1 pinch at eye level.

MAT can't be blamed for Rendon's GDP, but he killed that rally by asking Rendon to pick him up. If Rendon is batting with bases loaded and 0 outs, that game has a different result, especially with BRYCE on deck and no place to put him.

MAT better spend the next month on the bench making Murphy get tired of him asking questions.


Loved the effort of Ross and Rivero. Even if the end result wasn't what I would have wanted. We get to watch 3 more games like this?

Chaz R said...

I think Dusty should have bunted MAT in that situation, but I can't really fault him for not bunting either. Too much grey area, and Dusty could well have been trying out MAT's pop to try and win the game. I'm not docking his WAMW :-)

I also don't think Rivero did poorly and agree with Bx. He was very effective until he had to stand around in the cold. That's not an excuse for the bad pitch, it certainly was a mistake in a big situation, but he looked REALLY good up to tat point.

Rob Evans said...

I just don't think MAT is the answer. He's a 4th or 5th OF. I'm neutral as to whether he stays on the big club or not. Just not as a starter.

John C. said...

I viewed last night as a defense fail, not a bullpen fail. The Nats' defense has been excellent, but last night all five Cubs runs were directly the result of bad defense by the Nats. Werth and MAT whiff on catchable balls (MAT's would have been a good play, but wouldn't have been a great one), Zim's throw on the botched rundown (although TLS was actually out, the call was close enough that I'm not even really vexed with replay for not getting it right), Murphy turning a routine 4-6-3 GIDP into a 4-3 FC, a passed ball on Ramos - there was a lot of uncharacteristic defensive fail last night. Hopefully that's just a one off.

I wouldn't have bunted MAT there. Even if he's successful (funny how bunting fans always assume success) you are gifting a struggling pitcher with an out and setting up a situation where the Cubs likely could pitch around Bryce without giving up the lead. But I sure as hell would have gotten into MAT's head to take at least one strike, possibly two. Strop put himself on the ropes with his wildness. Gifting him with strikes by swinging or outs by bunting is a Godsend to a struggling pitcher.

Bryceroni said...

I've been saying the nats need another OF Gregor blanco type. We have too many 4-5 outfielders (dD, heisey, MAT unfortunately) and we need someone you would Consider starting...

Bjd1207 said...

I think mike k nailed it from my perspective. MAT offers all the same stuff that denDekker does, and probably a little bit better.

And I almost posted this yesterday, but I'm not really sure sending MAT back down will help him improve his approach at all. He essentially skipped the AAA level, I'll grant that. But before that he had 5 years and 1500 PA's in the minors where his plate discipline stayed roughly equal (maybe SLIGHT improvement as he approaches AA?). Then he's had almost a full season in the majors as well.

If his approach hasn't changed in 6 years across all levels, is it really logical to expect him to improve with another couple months in AAA?

BornInDC said...

So any word if Ramos has been signed to do a commercial for Lasik surgery?

Sure, small sample size, but can anyone remember Ramos hitting like this for any string of 18 games?

He's not walking, but he's not striking out a lot either.

Truly depressing (and unsurprising) statistic on MAT: Joe Ross, a pitcher, with just 11 AB has only two fewer BB (3) than MAT does with 102 AB (5).

mike k said...

Mythra - "MAT better spend the next month on the bench making Murphy get tired of him asking questions." I love it.

DC - That's because they pitch around Ross to get to MAT :P

Old Man River said...

Harper, what are your thoughts on Dusty putting the pitcher in the 8th spot in the lineup? Maddon has used this frequently in the past (albeit not much this year) and seems to be interesting outside-the-box thinking. I for one do think that lineup reconstruction can help our offense. Maybe not turn us into a hitting machine, but certainly dump this trend of streaky 13-run games mixed in with a bunch of 0-1-2-run games. Inconsistency is obviously our problem and I think it can be fixed my moving guys around. For starters, stop putting a strikeout-waiting-to-happen as your table setter at the top of the order.

Bjd1207 said...

Revere leading off today

Old Man River said...

Also on another note about Taylor. His body language says it all. Dusty I'm sure has instilled all the confidence in the world in MAT as he assumes the lead-off role in the lineup. "Just do your thing kid, don't try to turn into something you're not just because your hitting 1st." While I understand Dusty's thought process and have to give it to him for backing his players, you can see it all by the way Taylor is handling failure. He looks lost. Here's how the convo goes following a poor AB or a K:

Dusty: "Its okay Mike, you'll get 'em next time." (showing a smile, purely genuine)
Taylor: "Seriously skip? My poor play is letting my team down... I don't see this being 'okay' at all..."

Honestly, MAT is right. It ain't working. So the AB's roll on. Game after game. And its a bummer because putting him further down in the order would honestly help him progress. Not many guys with his pedigree/strengths can slide right into that lineup slot and perform. Could 19-yo Bryce do it? Perhaps. He fit nicely in the 2-spot in 2012. But you can certainly tell the personality differences between Bryce then and MAT now. Tremendous confidence in yourself can compensate for a lot in sports. Take Papelbon, a pitcher whose stuff has seen better days, but has guys on this thread trusting that he can survive on confidence alone to get out of a jam.

Dusty should have used better judgement went Rever went down for the long-haul. I think Taylor sees this blind confidence as something that leads to his ticket to Syracuse very soon.

SM said...

So THAT's what Taylor has been saying to Dusty.

I'm glad that's been cleared up.

Old Man River said...

@SM - Well, if you're just looking at fangraphs/box scores and not watching the games I'm sure all of that is nonsense to you. Watch the interactions, watch the body language and tell me Taylor is just READY to break out.

Bjd1207 said...

@Old Man River - Lol I think you're still extrapolating a whole helluva lot from 5 second camera cuts. And I've watched all but 2 of the games, some of them twice

Rob Evans said...

MdD was sent down to make room for BR. K machine still on the roster. lol

Mythra said...

Back to the opening day roster, for the most part. Will be interesting to see if Revere being on base leads to more pitches to hit or mistakes to crush for Rendon. Also, teams may not be able to walk BRYCE with the table set. Once they get out of cold Chicago and the air warms up here again, then I think Zim and Werth will both be raking again.

I sincerely think that Rendon's problems were trying to do too much to make up for MAT's poor leadoff skills. Still don't understand why Dusty didn't swap Werth and MAT in the lineup. Werth, even when he was scuffling badly, took pitches and worked counts. And had proven track record as lead-off before. Oh well. Crossing my fingers that last night was the last of the MAT as leadoff guy experiment.

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

This Comment wins the Internet!!!

Mike K...

- That's because they pitch around Ross to get to MAT :P

Harper said...

BJD - kind of agree. He is who he is. If they felt it was confidence he'd go down, but I think he just has issues making contact with major league pitching. Yes, he could work on that in AAA but AAA is different than doing that majors. No, at this point he only goes down if they are going to try to re-wire him completely and that's probably not worth it.

BiDC - Ramos hit REALLY well at the end of 2011 and got me thinking he could be special. Better than this I think.

OMR - "Harper, what are your thoughts on Dusty putting the pitcher in the 8th spot in the lineup?"
I only like it if the guys you are hitting first / second are doing well enough you want to provide them with RBI opportunities (they aren't) and/or if the 8th place hitter is terrible (maaaaybe). Else you're just trading ABs for a worse batter. The idea is really "I want to bat my best hitters early so they get a lot of ABs but I also don't want to waste their SLG potential with a pitcher up". Until Rendon/MAT/Revere start hitting this really isn't a question in my mind.

Mythra - from all I can tell Dusty's thinking is "We're winning. Don't change it up" which... is fine, as long as he doesn't get stuck in this rut if they have a prolonged losing streak.

JE34 said...

Killing me, Max.

Anonymous said...

Let's see how Jordan Zimmermann does tonight.

Just a hunch, but I'll bet he does better than that.

Froggy said...

Looks like Rounds 2 and 3 to the Cubbies as well.

They are simply a better team at every position except RF.

Josh Higham said...

@ Froggy I'd give the Nats the nod at C too. At least if Wilson keeps hitting. Like Harper's been saying though, these aren't terrible losses. The Nats are hanging with the class of the Major Leagues, and twice the difference has been a single bad inning. Unless they get blown out tomorrow (perhaps likely, since Arrieta vs. Roark isn't exactly a fair matchup even with as good as Tanner has been), they should go back to DC with their heads held high.

Robot said...

Treinen and failnin', amirite?

BornInDC said...

Until Zimmerman batting behind Bryce until Zimmerman can show he's an actually a serious threat at the plate with men on. Maddon effectively disparaged both Zimmerman and Dusty's ability to put together a lineup today. Zimmerman is already in the process of unraveling mentally as evidenced by his sliding into first in the 11th when there was no threat of a tag and he actually may have beat out the the throw if he had kept running through the base.

Any theoretical advantage of the alternating RLRL in the lineup is being far outweighed by the real world results that the Cubs were willing to walk Bryce 7 times today (although they only got to do it 6 times because Bryce was hit by a pitch).

As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Josh Higham said...

There is a small part of me that thinks Wilson "GIDP" Ramos ought to be batting cleanup right now. Am I crazy dumb or just regular crazy?

BornInDC said...

Josh,

Not crazy in my opinion. With the players available and how they are currently hitting, either Ramos or Murphy needs to be hitting behind Bryce or teams are going to keep walking Bryce with impunity.

Plus, all of the walks he has received has already messed up Bryce's hitting this year which is not a good thing.

We'll see if Dusty is capable of getting the message that Zimmerman batting behind Bryce is not a good idea right now.

JE34 said...

After that debacle, Dusty will do the "back on the horse" routine.

Anonymous said...

thats a SWEEP Ladies and Gentleman!

Nationals are Done.

time to focus on 2017

Robot said...

Can't tell if this is trolling or merely mocking the trolls we usually get here. Either way, try harder.

Rob Evans said...

Cubs fans should never, ever try and troll another fan base....ever!

There's just too much ammo our there to destroy them with. Bartman, 1908 etc.

Rob Evans said...

I don't wanna crush Zimm to much, but to say I'm disappointed in him is an understatement. The Nats needed another bat this off-season. Zim ain't that dude at this point in his career.

Jay said...

Good thing the Lerners tried to sign Cespedes with a convoluted mega-deferred deal. Can't imagine teams would be walking Harper if Cespedes was behind him. Also, the Mets offense wouldn't be nearly as good either. IMO, they need another outfield bat. Bring Turner up and let him bat leadoff. Big outfield bat hits behind Harper. The only hope for now is that Zim will start to hit. In his defense, he hit in KC - had like 4 doubles. Problem is the the doesn't usually hit until June. Looks like this season may have turned before it ever began.

Also, this series showed our bullpen isn't nearly as great as I was hoping. Oliver Perez yesterday giving up the lead pretty much immediately. Felipe Rivero giving up a fair number of hits. Blake Treinen back to being the human gas can. He's given up like 3 home runs in the last week. Not too good when he has only pitched like 3 times.

Anyway, the old saying goes you're never as good as look when you're winning and you're never as bad as you look when you're losing. I'm glad it's up to Rizzo to decided what to do and not do. We'll see how they do over the next 6 games at home - hopefully 4-2.