Nationals Baseball: Nats win. Narrative killed

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Nats win. Narrative killed

I'll admit that possibly the bigger part of the reason I wanted the Nats to beat the Cubs is not because of some psychological advantage (though I do think that can be real) but because I didn't want to hear about that possible psychological advantage constantly leading up to the playoffs and a possible series. It could matter like I said but it wouldn't be treated as one of a number of possible impactful items. It would be treated like the number one important thing going in and would stay that as long as it continues. So it's dead. Good. I suppose if the Cubs trash the Nats the next two games it may pop up but I'll worry about that then.

Trea Turner did apparently have an effect by being called up. Since he got sent down Danny Espinosa has been on fire.  .385 / .448 / .808 in 7 games. Three multi-hit games when he had 7 in his first 55. Stephen Drew isn't slacking either. .500 with 2 homers and a double in 12 ABs. Is this really about Trea? Probably not, but it's nice to have the motivating factor of players on your tail.

This kind of motivation might extend to other players too. Ben Revere can't struggle for too long because MAT is there looking for another go, getting solid play in favorable conditions. MAT can't struggle for too long or he may not get to play. Jayson Werth can't struggle for long because they might go in a different direction come trade deadline.  This is all armchair psychology but there can be more than just the most important "capable players ready on the bench" benefit to having a quality bench.

The Nats offense is rolling and that means that Zimm, who is like the only Nats really struggling recently, can have all the time he needs to get better. The Nats can ride out the inevitable rough patch** with the starters. The Nats can figure out exactly what they want to do with the back end of the pen. A good team has the luxury of time, because they don't ever fall too far out of where they want to be. The healthy Nats are a good team.

Better yet, the unhealthy Mets may not be.

Another thing to note - which is a surprise to me - is that the Nats have found their identity offensively.  They are a homer hitting team. Six players with 9 or more home runs right now which translates to 6 or more 20 HR hitters. Drew and Heisey have been HR threats off the bench, as is MAT I'm sure.  The Nats are 7th in BA, 9th in OBP, which keeps them from being a crazy special offense and also notes that that isn't who they are. They are bashers. Homers in 15 of 16 last games.

Power pitching. Homer bashing. Fun team right?

*It may not even exist. Though I don't really believe that. 

** In that these patches happen to all teams, even ones with superior rotations like the Nats. You'd need like 4 number ones to really not have a rough patch come up. 


27 comments:

Carl said...

What do you suppose is going to happen with Belisle? IMO there's no obvious candidate to be sent down, put on the DL, or otherwise displaced. I guess Solis, since he was called up for Belisle's spot in the first place and is thus still on this year's option, but he's pitched well enough.

Nattydread said...

16 games above .500. This qualifies as a run.

And no-one is too worried about Bryce's slump because there is plenty of offense to go around.

Clip&Store said...
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BxJaycobb said...

Harper: what do u make of Kelley's performance last night and Pap's odd phantom "soreness not in his arm"? Kelley has been bad at times, but also has been excellent at times---specifically when he locates his very effective fastball and doesn't throw literally nothing but sliders. And Joe Maddon....wow. That guy is wild. "Pitch to Zim" is hard to watch. I can't remember a manager walking an additional guy into scoring position in a 1 run game in 5th inning to pitch to a non pitcher.

ocw5000 said...

Even money says Papelbon was hung over yesterday.

Clip&Store said...

On another note, I sat in Section 101 a few rows above a pocket of Chicago fans. Man, they remind me of the Phillies back during their reign of terror with their fans. Last night those were some of the rudest most obnoxious fans I have seen. Even had the audacity to be taunting after scherzer gave up that home run (in an otherwise impeccable performance) which got me fired up.

Thankfully the Nats shut them up pretty good, but if the game had gone the other way around I would have had a hard time not losing my cool with them. I can't stand visiting fans that act like that, just gives me another reason to hate the Cubs.

Kevin Rusch said...

I live in Denver, and the only real draws for the Rockies are the Cubs, Yankees and a handful of drunks from SF. Yankee fans are awful, but at least it's only every few years. But just don't bother going to Coors Field when the Cubs are in town. They're loud, obnoxious, and utterly mob the place. I don't know how anyone finds the Cubs loveable. At least Cardinals fans are nice along with being insufferable.

Anonymous said...

Papsmear was on the bench last night with an undisclosed injury not related to his arm. Maybe they will DL him for some fake reason just to get Belisle in for a little without sending someone else down.

Anonymous said...

Harper - at what point does 2015 MVP Bryce become the anomaly and 2012-2014+2016 Bryce become the expected performance level?

GoNatsMI said...

Harper, thanks for doing what you do. I grew up an Orioles fan, lost touch with baseball for about 15 years, was mildly interested in the Nats when they came to town and then got really into them when I moved to Michigan. Your blog has been entertaining and educational and helps me enjoy my hometown team even more.

I've been thinking a lot about your comment a few posts ago that good teams mostly just do what they are supposed to do. I'm a musician and this hit home for me. 99% of being a successful musician is just doing the "routine" stuff consistently at a high level. I think the same holds true for just about any work. Most people don't want to admit that, especially about their team, but it's true. We should appreciate extraordinary displays of talent when we see them, but that's not what wins championships; being "really good" almost all the time trumps being "great" even a lot of the time. The ceiling matters less than how close to it you can stay consistently.

I think the same goes for the whole idea of being a "clutch" performer. I can get behind the idea that certain athletes are able to elevate their performance to that ceiling in really critical moments. As a musician, I do this all the time. But professional atheletes are riding so close to that ceiling every time they take the field that the effect is probably barely noticeable - it's the difference between 95-98% and 100%. And, you are trying to elevate at the exact same time your opponent is too. The flip side - when someone crumbles under pressure - is much more noticeable. Going from 95% even to 85% is a HUGE difference.

Sorry for the long, off topic comment. I just love the discussion on this blog and wanted to finally chime in with these things that have been floating around in my head for so long.

W. Patterson said...

Enjoyed the game yesterday from Section 223 with a friend from Britain who was at her first baseball "match." By the 5th she was cheering in the right places and asking decent questions at other times.

Win or lose, playing well makes going to (or watching) a Nats game is fun again.

Chas R said...

Sadly, I missed the game as we had a dinner planned with friends from out of town. My phone kept chirping with MLB score update alerts, but I didn't look at them until we left the restaurant. Wow! That must have been a FUN game to attend! The Nats are really rounding into form right before our eyes. This seems to be (could be?) the best Nats team ever- ? Possibly, especially if we continue to stay fortunate in injuries.

@GoNatsMI- well said!

Mythra said...

I'm going to kick myself for not doing a post like last evening, sp here goes:

Last night I said 7-8 innings of 2-3 hit ball and 10Ks for Sherzer.

Tonight, I think we'll see a slightly amped up Gio. I think that makes a rough first inning, as he tries to keep the ball from sailing on him. He settles in and gives a good 2-6 innings of work. How Dusty and Maddox handle the first inning and the 6th will determine the outcome. When Gio gets talking to himself and goes off the rails, things get bad quickly.

1 run game tonight, maybe a walkoff. Zim is due to shake the "pitch to Zim" curse. Maybe Mister Walkoff does it again.


And yeah, last night was very fun to listen to Charlie and Dave.

John C. said...

Although it's a convenient narrative, the "Espi was inspired by Turner being called up" narrative is not really consistent with the record. Turner came up June 3-4; Espinosa's bat started coming around over a week before that. Espinosa hit four HRs in the seven games prior to Turner being called up. So the narrative flunks the basic temporal causality (B followed A, therefore A caused B) test.

But it's the kind of juicy narrative that is unlikely to be disproved by mere facts and observation.

Adam VB said...

Nats have always been a HR-team since Rizzo put his stamp on personnel. Unfortunately, just as the calendar changes from summer to fall, the Nationals' home run rate plummets, as does their odds of winning games in October.

Things may change with Revere and Murphy, but I doubt the rest of the team changes their go-big-or-go-home approach.

DezoPenguin said...

For those that hate Papelbon, pop your champagne corks, because he just went to the 15-day DL. Apparently that "soreness" from yesterday was more than a bad joke, but instead was a right intercostal strain.

JC said...

I don't think Espi came about due to Turner. Instead I bet he read this blog and decided to prove the doubters wrong! Didn't he take off the day after Danny was the focus of debate here?

Zimmerman11 said...

JC, Espi knew that the "super two" deadline was coming up and that Trea would not be far behind... therefore the argument against temporal causality is moot. If anything can "light a fire under someone's ass" then Trea Turner qualifies as a catalyst.

Now what I don't like about this line of thinking is it presupposes Danny was capable of doing better and chose not to. This isn't the offseason where preparation gets better before a contract year, it's the regular season where what matters is the ability to see and hit a baseball traveling at ludicrous speed.

Also, time is infinite and non-linear. Duh!

Carl said...

Yeah, Papelbon to the DL answers my question at the start of the thread. I actually considered that as a possibility, but didn't take it too seriously because "soreness" isn't terribly specific, and there's been no obvious moment in recent games where he may have hurt himself.

JC said...

Zim11 - I was joking of course. Unfortunately I think Danny's offense will regress as players cannot dial up their skills on command. However this doesn't change my opinion about his defense being sufficient reason to leave him as the starter. Now if another team wants to buy high on Danny in a trade then that is a different story.

Chas R said...

@Carl- there's a lot of more recent news about the injury being strain of a muscle in his side (ribcage). Remember how difficult those are to come back from 100% right away- see Span 2015 and Revere 2016. Also, I would be surprised if they solely rely on Kelley due to his two previous TJ surgeries. I betcha Rizzo is looking at other options.

Rob Evans said...

Little bit of a gut punch loss last night. After battling back to tie only to have Solis turn around and give it up via a lead off walk. Tough one.

Go get 'em tonight boys.

Sammy Kent said...
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Jay said...

Span missed time due to several things last year - core muscle surgery: likely sports hernia, hip and back issues. Zim last year and Revere this year missed time secondary to lat strains. Average DL time is like 30+ days for a lat strain. Papelbon's is an intercostal strain (rib muscle). I would guess still some time to recover from, but not the extended period of time that a lat strain takes. I agree if they were planning on trading for someone. Now might be the time to do it.

I think he kept Solis in bc he was trying to save the bullpen if he could. They don't have a day off for a while. Also, likely why they went ahead and DL'd the Strangler.

BxJaycobb said...

I don't think Dusty has s good excuse for leaving in Solis to pitch to 3 RH in a row. That's just madness in a tie game in the ninth inning when you have Treinen available. Just unnecessary dumb managing. Can anybody see Joe Maddon going with a lefty reliever against 3 righties in a row in the 9th when he has the ability to match up? Especially because he has Petit in his pocket to pitch in extras if it comes to that. Just dumb IMO and that loss is on dusty.

Froggy said...
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Froggy said...
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