Nationals Baseball: Wins wins wins wins winwinsinasdfhkla

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Wins wins wins wins winwinsinasdfhkla

The Nats keep winning, though unlike the Cardinals sweep, last night was more in keeping in form with the rest of the month. Fantastic starting pitching. Well managed relief pitching coming through. No real offense to speak of.

The Nats can win the East like they did the Cardinals series. They can't win the East with the above. Not unless you think the starters can keep up an ERA just over 2.00 for the season. So the lingering question is when will the offense come around. Oh, don't kid yourself it's still not right. Even looking at the past week, which takes into account the STL series, It's been struggling. The big hits have come from the bench; Heisey, Robinson, den Dekker. The only guy that's consistently hit (other than Murphy) is the guy you all want to replace, Danny Espinosa (and admittedly he hasn't hit that much). Surely it can get better though. Revere is injured. Werth, Zimm, and Rendon are coming back from injuries. Turner is waiting out time in AAA* It would only take a couple of these guys hitting to expectations to make the offense ok (as we saw in STL). But it would be nice to turn this idea of "it can" into "it is".

Baseball is about timing. Not just at the plate but over the course of the season. Hitting and pitching get hot and cold back and forth. What you hope for is things to line up in a way such that the hitting covers the pitching and the pitching covers the hitting. Right now it has lined up for the Nats and we're seeing the fruits of that. How good has the Nats starting pitching been? By ERA the Nats have 4 of the Top 19 starters. Basically 4 guys getting #1 results. By WHIP they have 3 of the Top 19 and all 5 in Top 54 (basically where the 1s and 2s would end up). They've been good. Sustainably THIS good? No (FIP and xFIP tell us Ross and Gio are among the "luckiest" starters and Roark isn't too far behind) but who could be?

From the outside looking in I like where the Nats are. Yes, there is kind of a sword dangling over the Nats head with this pitching staff (and with Murphy) but at the same time there's a shield waiting to be deployed with the rest of the batting order (and with Max).  This isn't a team firing on all cylinders where a crash has to happen. It's a team firing on half cylinders. Those guys can stop performing and other guys can pick it up. They won't maintain an 18-7 run (no the Nats aren't winning 120 games) but they can keep the Nats winning. Meanwhile the Nats are picking up wins against decent competition that count just as much as any win down the line. 

Side note :

I am annoyed by one thing with the Nats from the outside; the cult of Dusty. I've maintained that I think Dusty is a good manager. To look at his history and think otherwise is kind of fooling yourself. I've also said that any "ruins arms" talk is pretty much nonsense that hasn't been true in years (and probably wasn't even that true then)**  But you know what? My thinking isn't that special. Pretty much most of the outside (85%?) says the same thing about Dusty. When the Nats bungled the hiring of Bud Black and used Dusty's "last chance" eagerness to get him here, most everyone said "Hey, Dusty's good too. Maybe better"  Yet a month into the season and somehow the narrative has spun into "YOU GUYS WANTED BLACK AND SAID DUSTY SUCKS AND YOU STILL SAY DUSTY SUCKS AND DUSTY IS THE BEST MANAGER EVER!!!"

Ok it's not fully there quite yet, but this is the rumblings I feel from the outside. That there was some sort of massive show of disrespect for Dusty when really there never was outside of a few haters that maintain their hate. I'm fine picking on those guys, but making it out as if the world is against you is one of my least favorite sports tropes. The media, the baseball world, they all in general, really like Dusty. You don't need to have an enemy.


*Trea Turner's stats in AAA are good (.333 / 402 / .478) but after starting .500 in the first 8 games he's been a more pedestrian .258 / .299 / .371 in the next 15. You can't dismiss the first 8 games anymore than any other 8, but you can hold off and see what is happenining now. Just saying you might want to hold your horses here. 

As for other studs - Lucas Giolito has not been particularly impressive in AA. In his last 3 starts he's given up 18 hits and 7 walks in 11 and 2/3 innings and opponents are hitting .360 against him. The good news here is Lucas is 21 so if it doesn't come together in 2016 that's perfectly ok. 

If the two above updates get you a little down, Victor Robles is killing low A-ball. .357 / .471 / .571 with no caveats to give you. Expect him in Potomac soon. 

**and honestly I don't care much if it was true. Ride these arms till they break is a better scenario than be ultra careful with arms to protect a future that may not play out like you are hoping it will.

33 comments:

Flapjack said...

Hard to stay calm. The Mets are riding our bumper. Still...

I think people like Dusty because in addition to being good, he's personable -- a big improvement. Why else would bench guys be belting homers? His bullpen management is hard to argue with.

And the prospects are indeed stronger than advertised. Thanks for mentioning Robles. Even Goodwin is looking like he needs to be brought up somewhere. At every position, there are break-glass-in-case-of-fire kinds of guys. Turner is ready to replace Espy any time. But when Espy is banging souvenirs, it not urgent.

Ah, but things always even out. And there's the Mets.

Rob Evans said...

"*and honestly I don't care much if it was true. Ride these arms till they break is a better scenario than be ultra careful with arms to protect a future that may not play out like you are hoping it will."

+1 on this.

Ride your horses while you got 'em.

Anonymous said...

I'm floored by the Mets and will maintain until the grave that their lineup is mostly garbage. AsCab is hitting .300. Cespedes is the Cespedes of the end of last year (ok, maybe this is legit), Conforto is hitting better than Harper and Walker is like the NL MVP. Duda, AsCab, Granderson are garbage, total garbage. Coforto, I think he's going to be good....but like .285 good not the raking he's doing now.

I'm so irritated by how well they're doing that I'm starting to wonder if I want to the Mets to lose more than I want the Nats to win?

Bryceroni said...

As a self-avowed dusty hater: the issue is that the things he does well are hidden and the things he does poorly are right in your face. (I recognize he has good parts :)

Also, I still have no idea which direction the causal arrow points in the winning/chemistry argument.

Regarding timing: one of the things that sunk the nats last year was that the offense all collapsed at the same time during the first half.

As for this season: MOARWINZZ120GOGO!

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: I actually think the Nats offense, while still not getting it done, is showing signs of perking up. Why do I say that? Well, one question coming into the year was whether Werth has lost all power. He appears to still have some and is still patient enough to get on base. He's hit well overall the last couple weeks. Zimm has finally started driving the ball a bit. To me, when he's pulling the ball with authority it's a good sign. Rendon looks SLIGHTLY better but still no power. Finally Lobaton has played a week instead of Ramos. I guess my point is this: the people you really need to pick it up are Werth, Rendon, and Zim...and the folks whose performance is not a long term worry are Lobaton, Espinosa, and Taylor (because there are superior, or very likely superior Plan Bs). You really can't understate how big a difference going from Michael Taylor to a mediocre if not very good hitter makes. It's the difference between a major league hitter and a pitcher. Same with Espinosa (again, every scout I know expects Turner to be at least a .260 hitter in MLB with doubles power who takes some walks immediately...he's not MAT.) So I'm not that worried.

Bjd1207 said...

On the manager topic - I'm not ready to pledge my life to the cult of Dusty, but I for one am absolutely loving the personality change from MW to Dusty.

I'm sure the regulars on here saw my frustration with every MW post-game or appearance on the Junkies. It was always, literally always, some form of "that's baseball" occasionally he would recap the events "yup I left Treinen in there because 9 times out of 10 he gets that out, but that's baseball." And he would say that line after the 9th time Treinen had blown the game out of his last 10 appearances (perhaps slight embellishment). But seriously, that's as deep and as thorough as he would ever get. And I dunno if he had more going on upstairs that he wasn't letting on, but as a fan it was wildly frustrating to watch the team lose and hear night after night "thems the breaks."

Dusty, in all his appearances so far, has shown a willingness to TALK about the game, about what happened, about how the players feel and how he expects them perform. He gives off the impression that he is paying close and constant attention, and truly cares about how his strategies affect the outcomes of games. And has shown a willingness to adapt his strategy, and explain his plans for the next days/weeks.

So all of the managerial aspects aside (which I think I still give the edge to Dusty on, given what I've seen this season), the fact that I feel like we have a manager who is invested in the team puts him well ahead of MW in my eyes. Maybe he's faking it, but even if he is I still appreciate it.

G Cracka X said...

Nats officially clinched at LEAST 4-6 on the RTOD. Mission accomplished.

Any additional wins earned on the trip can be regarded as lagniappe

Old Man River said...

A little concerned about Bryce's slump, although clearly its not effecting this team at the moment in terms of W/L outcome - other guys are stepping up. It seems Bryce is pulling his front shoulder a bit, perhaps a result of trying to do too much because everyone else in the lineup is floundering? I don't know. But I can tell you this: If I were a manager/pitching coach in the opposing dugout, I'd feed Bryce change-ups all. day. long. That pitch has him absolutely fooled, especially if someone like Volquez or any other pitcher with a decent change is on the hill. Breaking ball - you read the spin, but a change-up is a very tough pitch, for anyone let alone our MVP, to read.

Anthony Rendon said...

As G Cracka X said we have had a successful road trip, And at worst we should go 5-5. When Bryce stops trying to do too much our offense will improve drastically. Our rotation isn't this good, but Stras might be and Max should improve.

Donald said...

While we all thought 4-6 would be a successful trip, at this point, it would be a huge disappointment. Readjusting to anything less than 6-4 being a fail. Still think the odds are that the Mets will be in 1st when the Nats get back home. The Mets should crush the Braves and Padres.

Josh Higham said...

On Dusty: My father grew up in the Bay area, and we watched with intense anguish as Dusty contributed to the Giants blowing the 02 Series. I was highly upset by the hire, because I saw Dusty as just a friendly MW. The way that he's frequently left his starters in about 2 outs too long and insists that Michael A should hit leadoff suggests to me I wasn't necessarily wrong. However, from a purely spectatorial (which google says isn't a word, but I think it should be) perspective, I love watching him back away from the top step to laugh and joke with Bryce or coach struggling Michael A after a rough at bat. Our boy PBN just stood on the top step and glared. If nothing else, Dusty is fun to watch, and for that I'm happy with him. When he throws Rivero 3 games in a row against the same guys in the playoffs, I'll call for his head just like everyone else, but for now I'm thrilled to have him.

Sammy Kent said...

I like winning, but I still don't like the offense. The pitching is 99% of the Nats' game right now. But I give credit where it's due. These are October teams we're beating now. Starting a ten game road trip 4-0 is better than I would have dreamed. Dang, just split the rest of them and it's 7-3. If you'd told me before the season we'd have a shot at that on this roadie I'd have taken it in a second. Of course, we could also lose the next six and come back home on the skids. Tanner Roark vs Chris Young tonight.

Anonymous said...

"They've been good. Sustainably THIS good? No (FIP and xFIP tell us Ross and Gio are among the "luckiest" starters and Roark isn't too far behind)."

I don't dispute the point, but it's worth putting some meat on these bones.

Gio has a 1.79 ERA...and a 2.79 FIP
Ross has a .79 ERA...and a 2.9 FIP
Roark has a 2.03 ERA...and a 2.91 FIP.

So, although it's true that these three have been lucky with batted balls, they've still pitched quite well by FIP. In other words, we should expect some regression, but maybe not that much.

xFIP definitely tells a different story - all of our non-Max starters have been lucky with dingers so far, and that is bound to change.

TLDR: the rotation is not THIS good, but there's good reason to believe it's still pretty damn good.

Nattydread said...

Agree with bjd1207 completely. A manager is essentially a well-organised and informed communicator and motivator. He has to communicate with the players, coaches, media and fans. To succeed, he has to be intelligent, witty and amusing. Dusty is intelligent and entertaining on all levels. This ability to communicate and motivate absolutely (and unquantifiably) translates into better performance by the team. The ability to better explain strategy --- in an entertaining manner --- translates into more enjoyment of fans. Plus, the team is winning.

On the team performance --- 18 wins is 18 wins. You can worry about the offensive lack of production or you can worry about the over productive pitching. One is going to get better and the other is going to come back to earth. However, the bullpen is a pleasant surprise and the defense is really looking good.

blovy8 said...

Our offense has been pretty unlucky with BABIP. Last night they had a few opportunities to score more, but some poor situational hitting did them in. Part of the problem can be laid on Dusty for sticking with Michael A at leadoff and letting Drew be a DH. That kind of thing nets you 2 runs. Seemed to me like a good time to get den Dekker in the OF or Robinson at DH. Can't imagine his gut feels smart after 2 K's and weak groundout to 1st from his DH. I know it's crazy, but Joe Ross is the next best RH pinch hitter after Heisey as far as I'm concerned.

Mythra said...

Dusty has had some magic going, but it will even out at some point. Clint or Heisey should be batting as DH, slotted in the 6 or 7 spot in the lineup to extend the mashers starting with Bryce on down. Add in Ramos and the line extends even better.

Dunno if Drew has family in KC, it was his birthday or some other Dusty-ism, but it didn't hurt us too badly.

Also, I have hammered on Werth some of late, but the story of the girls and the at-bats in St Louis made me smile.

Booyah Suckah! said...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/gio-gonzalez-gets-just-enough-help-to-lead-nationals-against-royals/2016/05/02/ed79c700-108d-11e6-81b4-581a5c4c42df_story.html?postshare=3161462290004492&tid=ss_tw

Whether you believe the manager matters or not, the players believe it. Even the pitchers, who would have the most reason to distrust him if you believe the conventional wisdom. That has to count for something.

Ole PBN said...

@blovy8

I can't disagree with Drew as the DH last night. Heading into the game, he had good numbers against Volquez, plus he's trying to get his bench regular at-bats. Easy to say the next day that it was a poor choice. The one thing I think everyone can agree on is Taylor hitting lead-off, much less playing at all. The one play that infuriates the hell out of me (the kind of play that has me yelling at the TV over baseball games in May) was Taylors GDP in the fifth. Lobaton singles to lead of the inning (rare), Espinosa singles up the middle. Why blow this opportunity? Well, Michael A. will tell you why... Runners at first and second, 0 outs. Taylor gets it to a full count without even squaring to bunt. Just strike out like you normally do and let a major league player handle it after you sit down? Nope. Double play. Rendon follows will a fly out to center that would have easily advanced both runners. And to top it all off, Taylor is frustrated and slams his bat into the dirt on his way to first - where he was thrown out by half a step. SIT DOWN. A lot of it isnt just failing - its how you fail.

I hope everyone understands that he needs to be Willie Mays in the field, Ricky Henderson on the basepaths, and the nicest/best teammate in the history of the game for his lead-off/starting job to make sense right?

Donald said...

@Ole PBN -- what infuriated me the most with that play was the pitch on the 3-1 count. MAT swung out of his shoes at a ball that was almost over his head. He walks and it's bases loaded with no outs. It completely changed the game, and it's very lucky the pitching came through to bail him out. As friendly as Baker seems with the players, I really hope he or someone pulled MAT aside and told him that can't happen again.

Bjd1207 said...

Like this answer from Dusty right here makes my point. I feel like you could waterboard PBN and he wouldn't let up this much information:


"The mental side, only he can talk about that. Like I said, I wasn't here, but we've tried to help him with that as much as we can. I see Anthony [Rendon] going over to calm him down when he gets in trouble and once you start something rolling you can build on it and build on it, then it make it easier the next time when you get in trouble knowing that you can get out of trouble. He certainly has had the stuff."

"The mental side of the game is big," Baker added. "Most people just see the physical side of things, but it's the mental that controls the physical and if you can get into that state of mind then half the victory is already won there."

mike k said...

pbn & Donald - Agree 100%. That at-bat failed because 1) no bunt attempt, when he tries to bunt for a hit for no reason earlier in the game, and 2) swinging at ball 4. I understand he wants to mash it. But situational hitting - the guy is struggling with his control and a walk loads the bases with no outs. Can't be swinging at a ball there.

I didn't notice him slam his bat, but if he did and that lead to him not beating the throw, that's bad.

I'm not against Dusty starting him most games. His defense and speed is better than Heisey/den Dekker, and he still has some potential. Now if a good time to see what he can do in the majors with consistent at-bats, especially with the team winning. What I don't like is him hitting leadoff. In the beginning, when Dusty gave his "I don't want to move other hitters around" argument, I didn't like it but I accepted it - it at least has some modicum of sense to it, contrary to MW's "he's a centerfielder" justification. But since then he's moved players around the lineup almost every day to accommodate bench players. So that argument becomes moot.

BornInDC said...

Whatever Dusty's faults may be in the playoffs and tactical decisions, I do get the sense that Dusty is always planning ahead, which is a sense I never got from Matt Williams. I also get the sense in his decision-making that Dusty is trying to manage the team to maximize its success over the course of a season, sometimes at the expense of making the most statistically logical decision at every moment in every game.

Maybe I've been listening to FP too much, but I suspect that he is right that it matters to the bench players to know when they will start in advance and that it matters to the starters that they know in advance when they will have time off. Also, the flip side of potentially leaving his starters in too long, is that Dusty is trying to protect burning out his bullpen. Dusty also commented on what a problem it must have been for the Cardinals to get home late before their first game with the Nats.

Dusty might not be a great choice to manage a team in the playoffs, but he may have an unusually good grasp of the factors that affect players over the course of a season.

blovy8 said...

Well, Ole PBN, as Harper once said about Span, Drew "can't hit". So using him as anything but a necessary rest for an infielder seems silly to me, regardless of any past numbers, he does not appear to be capable of much anymore. Using him as a DH is egregious when there are TWO more viable LH hitters on your bench languishing away who have some small potential left. If Drew's history was the impetus, why not rest Espinosa? After all, it's Rendon who talks to Gio...but it's a win, so who cares? The only real benefit from this would be Dusty receiving another example that Drew is no longer a real hitter and relegating him to the piney graveyard, but we all know that won't happen if he's 4 for 11 against anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Its nice to see 4 wins in a row and Harper with only 1 hit in those 4 games. Nice to have Ramos back!!

Hursty said...

Papelbon has been pretty great so far this season. How many blown saves until you start to worry?

Sammy Kent said...

Tanner Roark should choke the living crap out of Papelbum. Drew Storen couldn't have blown a save any better. The Bum is no better than Soriano or Clippard. If a closer consistently gives up baserunners it will bite him in the ass sooner or later and not just once. This is the deal that should have sealed Rizzo's fate. Everybody said the Braves would never let Craig Kimbrell go, but they did.

Robot said...

Well, that sucked.

Robot said...

The Bum is no better than . . . Clippard.

What's with the Clippard hate? He did great while he was here and is generally well-liked.

Jay said...

The Nats could have traded for Kimbrel with San Diego. They wanted Turner or Ross plus other players. There are a bunch of closers that are free agents next year - Kenley Jensen (sp?), Chapman, Papelbon (I doubt we'll keep him though). A couple others I can't think of off the top of my head. Rizzo probably figured it wasn't worth making a major trade when they can sign somebody if needed next offseason.

Last night hurts, but if they bounce back today and win then they are still in great shape. Harvey and the Mets lost to the Braves last night. It happens. The Nats weren't going to win 120 games. I don't think the Mets offense is going to keep going at its current pace. We'll see. I'm still hoping they win today and take 1 or 2 from the Cubs. If they do that, it's a 7-3 road trip. Pretty nice. Remember the entire month of May is pretty rough. Hang in there.

Rob Evans said...

Not sure how Pap gets all the saves he does. He just has mediocre big league stuff. Wish the Nats had better options than him.

Bjd1207 said...

Lol @Sammy Kent you gotta stop calling for Rizzo's head at every little thing that goes wrong. The Papelbon move definitely wasn't his best moment, but we've already talked about plenty of his moves that HAVE worked out, and he's nowhere near losing his job

Old Man River said...

Time to worry about Bryce yet? 1-23 and counting... Fouling off lots of fastballs and missing and the breaking balls/change-ups. The one hit he did have was a bloop single that should have been caught if the LF wasn't playing on the warning track. Just saying, you heard it here first...

Mythra said...

BRYCE is the most overrated, no hustle, strike out hole in the lineup, ever.

(hopefully that jinx works!)