Nationals Baseball: On Assignment

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

On Assignment

I'm on the road so posts will be pretty brief for a couple days.

A couple weeks out I thought, wouldn't it be nice if when the Nats got to the White Sox series if they didn't have to face Sale or Quintana? Lo and behold here we are and the Nats don't have to face Sale or Quintana.  They don't even get Rodon. Instead they get the quickly turning back into a pumpkin Latos, journeyman Gonzalez, and "Competant Game" James.

The Nats season is almost a microcosm of how I believe sports events are generally decided. I don't feel like teams win. I don't think teams rise to the occasion often, playing better than normal. Instead I feel like teams lose. One team does what they are supposed to with minimal effort, what by all rights they should be able to do. The other fails to do these expected tasks. They can't move runners over. They can't get a 2-out hit in say, 5 chances. They make an error. The Nats in 2016 are the team doing what is expected. Around them the teams and league falls leaving them on top.

I know some will take that to be dismissive of the Nats, but it's not meant to be. It's how I think nearly every season plays out. A couple talented teams manage to stay healthy and play as they should. The rest of the league either gets injured or can't hit their potential or both. The Nats are no different than the Royals from last year or the Giants the year before that, etc. etc. There is skill in not playing bad, in not messing things up. The best teams show this skill.

The Nats merely need to win one of the next two to make that the story once again. The Nats went on the road against inferior teams and came out winners, like they should. They didn't run roughshod. They simply did what they needed to. Keep it up and as we've seen from the Mets, other teams won't and the Nats will end up where they want to be.

26 comments:

Old Man River said...

Interesting take, Harper. I'd venture to say its a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty approach. But I understand what you're saying. Seems like the team that makes the fewest mistakes, has the most success in October. Certainly our defense is an example of not beating yourself, but rather letting the opponent beat themselves. Look how we've view the 2012 NLDS: the Nats blew it. Take for instance the 2004 Red Sox being down 0-3 to the Yankees. While most call it the greatest comeback in sports history, I (being a sox/nats fan myself) call it an equally impressive choke by the Yankees. (sorry to cast stones at your Yanks, Harper lol)

Even though you can't quantify it, would you go as far as to say luck is on the Nat's side so far this season?

theNATural said...

Beat the bums, play .500 ball vs the good teams. Looking at how the Nats are doing against the good teams so far:

Mets: 3-3
Cubs: 0-4
Royals: 2-1
Cards(?): 5-2

Overall: 10-10

Nats haven't played that many teams above .500. I could add the Marlins (same record as the Cards). That's 7-6. We've played a lot of games vs the Marlins.

Nats are playing a solid .500 against the better teams, but there haven't been that many and that 0-4 vs the Cubs stands out.

Chaz R said...

I think that's a good perspective, Harper. The Nats are in a really good position right now and are playing good baseball- not great baseball, but solidly good. The pressure is on Mets right now, who seem to be really foundering at the plate.

Donald said...

MLB Trade Rumors reported that the Nats are hoping to get either Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees to replace Pabelbon. I know you don't think the Nats should give up Turner for either of them. What do you think the Nats would have to give up to land either of them and would you do it? Pabelbon sure looks like a weak link right now.

Bjd1207 said...

@Donald - Rizzo was on the junkies this morning and pretty much shut down the rumors with regard to those 2 names specifically. He said something along the lines of "of course we're always looking to upgrade, in the bullpen especially, but we haven't talked at all to the Yankees about those 2 names he reported"

But the thought experiment is still fun. I stick with my earlier answer: Giolito and Turner are off the table, everyone else is fair game.

BornInDC said...

"The Nats season is almost a microcosm of how I believe sports events are generally decided. I don't feel like teams win. I don't think teams rise to the occasion often, playing better than normal. Instead I feel like teams lose. One team does what they are supposed to with minimal effort, what by all rights they should be able to do. The other fails to do these expected tasks. They can't move runners over. They can't get a 2-out hit in say, 5 chances. They make an error. The Nats in 2016 are the team doing what is expected. Around them the teams and league falls leaving them on top."

But "should" teams be able to do the things you expect, given:

1. Most of the time most hitters do not get on base when they come to bat.
2. Fielders are faster than ever reducing the places on the field a ball can fall for a hit.
3. The data on hitters has grown more sophisticated leading to shifts that shrink further the places on the field a ball can fall for a hit.
4. Given 2 and 3, hitters are ever more focused on power (at the expense of just putting the ball in play) in the hopes that even a fast fielder may not be able to get to a ball rocketed to the outfield fence directly or on the bounce and that some balls will go over the fence where even an athletic outfielder can't get to them.
5. Take 1-4 and add in that most pitchers seem to pitch over 95 mph, and it is it any surprise that batters are focusing on power at the expense of strikeouts?

Also, the "moving the player over" strategy appears to not be even a wise strategy against some pictchers, such as Scherzer. The strategy that seems to have been most effective against Scherzer is: 1. Try to draw a walk if you can and 2. Swing for the fences, and hopefully, someone before you got on base with a walk. At the rate Scherzer is striking out people, trying to "move over runners" is a pretty daunting task, unless your team does this on a regular basis and you have the talent to execute this strategy.

Anonymous said...

The Mets are a joke, it's time to bury them. Even without the injuries, their lineup is a total joke. Lucas Duda? 35 yr old Grandy Man Can't? David Wright? NOw Walker is back to normal, Cespedes is getting back there, and Conforto has turned into Danny Espinosa (small sample size for this kid, yeah I think he's "good", but wouldn't floor me to see him hot .250-.260 over the years, ie, he's not a star player).

Now that Rendon is hot and Zimm locks locked-in, I think we're on the verge of this team finally looking like we expected in April of 2015. Rever is a concern, Werth isn';t doing much and may not be a fit in the 2 hole but if he goes 1-4 most nights and stays healthy I'll take it. We don't really need more. And Ramos.....yowsers, I had written this guy off since the kiddle of last year. What a turnaround, he looks so comfportable and confident at the plate, its stuns me every time in the best possile way.

Lets just keep this going. We're going to bury those cl,owns in NY. I GUARANTEE IT.

PhthePhillies said...

Werth goes 2-4 as DH. I think the position suits him well. I'm thinking Werth to the Yankees for Andrew Miller. Throw in Turner or Giolito and we might just have a deal here.

Anonymous said...

Thats a huge win for the Yankees... is that what we're trying to do? Sounds like the time Dombrowski gave us Fister for Ian Krol, Robbie Ray, and Lombo.

Bjd1207 said...

@PhthePhillies - I think both sides say no to that deal. From our side, you can't be giving up either of those 2 for a reliever. From the Yankees, I don't think they take on that contract without some sort of swap. Ellsbury/Miller for Werth/Turner? Maybe, but I'm still saying no from the Nats side

Donald said...

One intriguing name for the Nats to dangle for Miller or Chapman would be Bryan Harper. There was a nice article on him out today, and I think the Yankees might value him as bait in signing Bryce down the road. If they treat Bryan well and he puts in a good word, it might add value to Bryce to be able to play with his brother. Not sure if the Nats would give him up for that same reason though, but if you bundled Harper and say, Voth, maybe you could make a deal?

Anonymous said...

@ Donald, that is just crazy talk. Bryan Harper is moving up the organization at a nice clip right now after just having been promoted to AAA. I am fairly confident that a call up to the Big Club will happen just about the time the Nats work out that long long term deal for Bryce.

Besides, he is a lefty reliever so can't we just add Rivero or Solis to the package instead.

PhthePhillies said...

Kidding. The joke is that Werth is not very valuable. Giving up either Turner or Giolito for a very good (but not great) closer approaching the back stretch of his career is, IMO, a very bad idea.
@Donald - I like the Bryan Harper idea though, but I think the $$ will trump fraternal ties when it comes time for Bryce to decide on a contract.

blovy8 said...

There are teams that outplay what they should do, I believe the Royals of the last few years are such a team, and the Giants getting hot once it gets cool every even year is another. I think the "secrets" those teams have are BS. It's the same stuff that's always created a false trend.

Zimmerman11 said...

Brought back the Lombarghini...

The Nationals brought back infielder Steve Lombardozzi on a minors deal, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Lombardozzi, 27, saw minimal playing time in each of the last two years at the major league level after playing a significant role in D.C. during his 2011-13 stint. After failing to find a suitable opportunity over the winter, Lombardozzi joined the independent league Southern Maryland Blue Crabs to start 2016. He was off to a .367/.401/.428 start with eight steals before the Nats came calling.

PhthePhillies said...

Lombo for Andrew Miller!
Worked for Fister.

Anonymous said...

The Nats were the opposite of that last year.

Anonymous said...

please, we never miss any good starting pitchers? don't make it like we are lucky just cause of this time.

Bjd1207 said...

Anyone else think Harper needs to stay on the road? 10 runs in each of our last 3 games with him traveling...

Hey, it holds as much water as the GRIT narrative

Ole PBN said...

James Shields: How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

Last night was like him walking into a room of people he's never met and farting before he can introduce himself.

Mythra said...

@Ole PBN: You win the Internet today! That mental image fits perfectly with his facial expressions on the mound after every walk and homer.

DezoPenguin said...

Rizzo: We have not had any conversations with the Yankees about Miller or Chapman.

So I guess that means it's Lombo, Cole, and Belisle for Betances? :)

Jay said...

I was looking at all of the bad things that happened to the Nats last year. Most of those guys have bounced back to career norms this year. Drew Storen has been relatively ok in Toronto. His ERA is high, but that is more due to some early struggles. Doug Fister as an ERA of 3.5 and has won his last 5 starts. J Zimm is back to his old self in Detroit. Ian is mashing in Texas with a .300+ average. Rendon, R Zimm, Werth, and Span were all hurt last year. Span is hitting .260 in SF. Strasburg was injured last year as well. Some of that was bad luck. Some I think was guys trying too hard in their free agent year. Some I think was ole' MW. I know MW was in major trouble when Ian had a small resurgence after talking to Cal Ripken after the All Star break last year. I thought - how bad must MW be to have Ian getting any meaningful advice from Cal halfway through the year.

DezoPenguin said...

@Jay:

I don't think "relatively okay" describes Storen; he got hammered in April (though his 3.79 xFIP and 6.62 FIP suggests the long ball was part of that), was tolerable in May, and is stinking it up again in June. Fister's outpitching his peripherals again like he did in 2014, but neither they nor his results are that good yet (though not by any means awful). Znn's K/9 is well down this year and overall performance is pretty much in line with last year's (not that last year's was in any way *bad*). Really, of the guys who left Washington, only Ian is having a genuine career renaissance; his bat's come back fully and he's combining it with genuinely decent OF play (hmm, what other team do I know that could use a center fielder?).

Ric said...

I'd one up that last comment. ZNN is actually tanking. After a scorching 0.55 April, his May ERA is 4.88, and in two June starts is ERA is 7.84. His K/9 is lower than any year in his career.

I am a huge ZNN fan, and think we should have kept him and not signed Scherzer. That disclosure aside, he is (alarmingly?) trending the wrong direction.

Fister, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. After a bad April, his May and June numbers are exceptional. Texas seems to be good to Nats exes.

Sammy Kent said...

Nats-win-and-score-seven half-price pizza for the third game in a row. What's really cool is it would have been three straight games even had the deal been Nats win and score ten. It's getting harder and harder to complain about the offense.....and I like it. VERY happy to see Danny Espinosa hitting better. If Ben Revere can get his act together and the other guys stay in the zone, this could really be the start of something good. (OTOH, one never-before-seen rookie holding us to two hits could start another drought. That's the realism of Nats baseball.) Really nice game except for that All Star bullpen giving up four runs in the bottom of the ninth. I don't care what the situation is, that has to be concerning. I know nobody wants to pitch mop up, but somebody has to, and you gotta have a tie game mindset.

Gonzalez vs Gonzalez tonight. I sure hope Gio gets it together tonight. His last three starts have been awful. I'm sure it would help if HE gets four runs in the top of the first to work with.