Nationals Baseball: Second Gear

Friday, June 10, 2016

Second Gear

See? Didn't I tell you? What a difference a game makes?  Magically a disappointing 2-4 finish to a road trip that started with a sweep becomes just a very very good 7-3 road trip.

So there was a hiccup against the Reds. So what! First place by 2 and a half games. The Phillies and Marlins are showing themselves to be, as expected, non-contenders. The Mets are struggling to keep pace.  Fourth best record in the majors but literally a half-game from 2nd best.*  Finally a bunch of guys are hitting at the same time. In the past week Ramos and Werth are killing it. Espy and Murphy are hot. Bryce, Rendon, and Revere are doing well. MAT and Zimm are contributing. Literally the worst guy over the past week is Zimm who has only had 3 hits but they were all XBH and he's walked a few times to boot.You're not going to lose many games given that.

This is good because the pitching has been not so hot. Scherzer was great, had the first game he didn't give up a homer since the first of May. But Ross and Roark were terrible and Stras and Gio had their struggles. Anything to worry about? Eh not yet. You know I was on Gio, but he bounced back nicely after that first inning, although admittedly I did say these are the types of teams he should do ok with. I'd be real wary of that Cubs game next week. But maybe he'll surprise? The rest - chalk it up to a bad week for now.

That still doesn't cover the pen, which had several failures. Let's ignore the failings of Perez (it was mostly RH doing damage, which will happen given that he's pretty much a LOOGY) and Papelbon (which we are aware of). Neither Kelley nor Rivero have pitched well recently. Rivero, by all rights, could just be wiped. Kelley I'm confused by and it seems Dusty is too. Here is a quick rundown of how Kelley has been used this year.

April 4-12th : 7th/8th inning of close games. Performed well. 1H, 1BB, 3K in 2.2 IP. Opponents line .111 / .200 / .222. One bases loaded walk in the first game, otherwise no possible complaints. No runs one hit.

April 16th-22nd : complete garbage time usage. 7 runs leads each time used. Was hit a little. 4H, 5K in 2.2 IP.  .333 / .333 / .333.  Allowing a couple inherited guys to score in a game

April 26th-May 5th : A mix some close games, some not close. Again mostly very good work, though an a falter at the end letting an inherited run score, but the game was mostly lost at that point (down 4 in became down 5 for 9th). Still no runs charged to him. 3 H, 5K in 3.1 IP. .231 / .231 / .385

May 6th-14th :  late inning close games. Gave up a big hit in a close game vs the Cubs. Other four outings perfect. 2H, 1BB, 6K, in 4.2 IP.  .125 / .176 / .188

May18th-29th : Garbage time again. A couple runs finally charged to him, but not necessarily terrible overall. 2H, 2BB, 5K in 4.2 IP.  .143 / 235 / .500

June 4-Today : mostly close games. Garbage time issues against White Sox otherwise ok.  3H 1BB 6 K in 3.2 IP.  .214 / .267 / .571

Kelley hasn't been great with inherited runners but overall he's been very good. Yet, being very good or having a problem or two hasn't really effected how Kelley has been used. Instead, it feels like he is at the mercy of how Dusty feels about Treinen on a certain day. He's consistently plan B for late inning RH relief pitching and I don't know why. I don't really know if this is a Dusty thing or a team thing, but it certainly feels like they desperately want Treinen to be the heir apparent to Papelbon and are going to try to force it. I don't think it's the right move. I still think Treinen is too wild and that will be his downfall. But they are going to do what they are going to do and they are winning so what do I know.

I don't know how we got going down that tangent. Oh yes I do. The pen hasn't been great. Unlike a lot of previous things that I've brushed off this does concern me. Rivero having issues is troublesome because with hittable Pap in the 9th and their Treinen obsession that means now the Nats really effective late inning guy is down to... well no one in my opinion. I can't say I like Sammy Solis if I don't like Treinen considering they basically have the same control issue. I think the answer is there. I think Kelley is good. But the Nats aren't going in that direction and I don't know why

Of course, if you're an optimist, I just spent most of this post worrying about the 8th inning guy. That's a pretty good thing to be your major concern at the moment. 
.
OK so the Nats come home and they are going to get the Phillies and the Cubs. They can effectively end the Phillies with a sweep. The Phillies aren't particularly good so their whole season rests on staying in it long enough so that they can't fall out of it. Be that by luck or pitching or the combination that got them through the first 40 games. But they are pretty much falling out of it now and need to take a game from the Nats simply to try to keep their heads near the water line of .500. A sweep would make them 29-34, 5-17 in the past 4 weeks and basically dead in the water. 

The Cubs series is an entirely different animal.  There's been some attempt to wipe the sweep away since it happened. They were competitive, and it was in Chicago, and the Nats have been fine since then. Still a sweep is a sweep and the idea you can't beat a team can hang over your head. The Nats have to think they will have to beat the Cubs in the playoffs so taking a game here is imperative. It doesn't have to be more than that (thought a series win would better set up the teams as competitive). Just a win will allow the Nats to walk into a playoff series without the idea that they can't beat the team they are playing.  They won't play again this year so this is the time.

*What's the catch for the pessimist? Well if you are such a guy the WC race is going exactly as expected. The Mets, Pirates, and Cardinals are in the mix and the likely scenario has the second WC finisher not too far off of 90 wins. Any stumble by the Nats could put then in a danger zone. But this is life for everyone in the NL except for the Cubs (who'd probably have to play games under .500 ball to miss out). It's a tightrope any non-historic pace team will have to walk this year.  Better to walk it with a several game lead in hand 40% through the year. 

30 comments:

Chaz R said...

I would like to think they are looking at a deal for a Closer before the trade deadline. I would think they have more room for taking on salary than last season. Other than that, I really think they are rounding into form very nicely. We have been super fortunate on injuries, let's hope it stays that way.

Froggy said...

You mean a 6-3 road trip right?

Froggy said...

Personally I hate the term 'closer' and prefer the old school 'Fireman' instead. Closer is presumptious and often times cardiac arrythmia inducing anxiety (see Papelbon).

BornInDC said...

The most amazing thing to me about the road trip is that they took over the NL lead in home runs and scored 10 runs or more in three straight games, despite the fact that Bryce has not yet hit a home run in the month of June. So if Murphy and Ramos start reverting closer to mean, there is the possibility that Bryce could make up the difference by reverting upwards towards his "mean."

Also, can't say enough good things about Ramos. Right now, from a hitting standpoint, he's basically Yogi Berra at the same age with fewer home runs but better slugging and OBP. It could be a one year fluke or even a 1/3 of the year fluke, but right now Ramo is on pace for a historic season for a catcher (Yogi was 2nd in the AL MVP voting as a 28-year old and would win the AL MVP award the next two years.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper:
For purposes of the division race etc, I agree you need to win 1 vs Cubs. But you would really hope that the Nats would be capable of winning 2 of 3 AT HOME and missing BOTH Arrieta and Lester. If there is ANY circumstance under which the Nats should be able to win a series vs the Cubs, it's (1) at home, (2) against their 3-5 starters (I know that they've all been great this year, but come on, None of them are truly great pitchers in reality) and (3)when most of the team is hitting. It's hard to imagine the Nats going into a playoff series thinking they can beat those guys if they can't win a home series missing both their big dogs.

Mythra said...

I'm likely in the minority, but I was hoping the Nats would face Arrieta and Lester in the home series. If our goal is to play the Cubs in the playoffs, which I hope is in the NLCS, I'd want to face off against their best. If you win, it's a huge confidence boost.

What I saw in the road trip, especially when they were scoring 10+ a game, was hitters at the plate with a plan. Shields is throwing his fastball in the dirt for balls? Hunt something above the knee and crush it. Once they knew Latos couldn't find the zone, they started crushing hangers too. Wish we would see more of that.

Also, I think Revere's BA was something like .400+ for the 3 games we scored 10+ runs in. Coincidence? If Ben can be Last 3 Years Ben every night, this team's mashers will be seeing a lot more pitches to hit.

Bullpen is still a little wonky. Rivero needs a break, clearly. Trienen is still a bit too wild, which is all that is holding him back from never visiting Syracuse or AAA again.

Anonymous said...

Ramos has been amazing -- eerily similar to underrated catcher (Chris Hoiles) in his best season ('93).

According to baseball-reference.com:
Hoiles .310/.416/.585 over 126 games, 6.3 oWAR (0.05/game), 1.3 dWAR
Ramos .345/.392/.554 over 48 games, 1.9 oWAR (0.04/game), -0.2 dWAR

JE34 said...

@BornInDC: Amen on Ramos. I grit my teeth when Gio pitches because of the sub-mendoza personal catcher crap. You get to a point where you have to play Ramos instead of the near automatic 0-for-3 from the likable but far inferior Lobaton. Unfortunately Gio's mental state appears disinclined to any such change.

@Mythra: The Nats did OK against Arrieta and Hammel in Chicago... just couldn't keep the Cubs off the scoreboard. The pen was the big problem last time around.

Andrew Zitnay said...

3-3 finish to the road trip, not 2-4.

Flapjack said...

Don't mean to waive the red flag here, but in this morning's WP Fanboy Boz had an interesting, Harperesque take on BABIP, which concludes, basically, that Nats pitchers have been lucky while Nats hitters have been unlucky. Not sure I agree with his assessment, that Revere is exactly the guy we thought we were getting (BABIP doesn't take changes in hit velocity into account). Two factoids that jump out, however, are that Bryce Harper has been especially unlucky, as has our favorite whipping boy, Espy. The latter has a luck-adjusted BA in the high .250s -- which might explain why TT is in AAA. Ramos has been a particular beneficiary of the seeing-eye ball, but even so is doing much better this year. The Cubbies, especially their pitchers, are having a monstrously lucky spring and are due for a turn of the worm. Hopefully, soon.

Anonymous said...

@JE34

Sounds like a reason to dump both Gio and Lobaton, at least good enough for me. Gio should net us a decent return and it shouldn't harder to find a catcher that is only better than Jeff Mathis. Seriously, how does that guy have a job? I heard the Marlins broadcast say they value his veteran presence behind the plate... so sticking around long enough and sucking long enough at the same time earns you a twelve year career where you keep getting opportunities.

Not to go on a rant, but do some of you find it odd/interesting how the league forms a view/opinion of a player? Take James Shields: Not a bad pitcher, a solid one. Yet 3 teams in 3 years. He's all of the sudden trade bait to flip for another player or a stop-gap starter for a contending team. Jeff Samardzija is the same way. No one ever thinks to hold onto these guys? And the best part is it takes the league a longggg time to recognize these players for what they are. And Jeff Mathis will be in the league until his knees don't work anymore despite being career sub-.200.

John C. said...

Still a sweep is a sweep and the idea you can't beat a team can hang over your head. The Nats have to think they will have to beat the Cubs in the playoffs so taking a game here is imperative.

Well, no, not really. Whether fans think they can beat a team has no bearing on whether it can actually be done. See, e.g., the 2015 Mets-Cubs.

Regular season: Cubs 7, Mets 0.

NLCS: Mets 4, Cubs 0.

Clip&Store said...

Incredible! Maybe it's because the Cubs got all their wins in the regular season and the Mets due to law of averages won in the playoffs

JE34 said...

Dusty,
Felipe.
Whyyyyyyyyyy?

Froggy said...

I christen the bottom third of the Nats order - Ramos, Drew, Espinosa, The Bottom Feeders for the way they have been feasting on pitching lately!

Ryan said...

They need to give Rivero some days off, he was looking excellent for a stretch of time and just looks totally gassed. I can't believe he came into the game last night with a 5 run lead. I guess Treinen and Solis weren't available due to their recent long outings. Petit for the final 2 would've been preferable. They need to figure out the bullpen.

I never expected Ramos to hit again, and yet he's been better than ever this year. I also wasn't that excited about the Murphy signing and he's been even better. This offense is not amazing, but they can really pile on the runs when the ball carries.

Sammy Kent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sammy Kent said...

Strasburg 10-0. Wow. The boy has grown up before our eyes. There was a time not too long ago (as recent as last season's All Star break) when Stras surrendering four runs and going down 4-0 in the third inning would have signaled the end of the game for all practical purposes. Kudos to him for keeping his cool and mowing down the Phils until the offense picked him up. Double kudos to the offense for picking him up, because the other reason we've come to expect games like this to be over early is the inability of the bats to rally. But they rallied big time last night, and except for Strasburg's own pitiful sac bunt that became an inning-ending DP might have been even more. Felipe Rivero is starting to worry me, though. Dude's giving up too many late-game runs. I'd rather see Oliver Perez out there in the eighth if Felipe can't get it back together soon.

Danny Espinosa is hitting the cover off the ball now. He really must've gotten motivated with all the Trea Turner talk. He and Stephen Drew both. Werth looked like he was 22 again on a two-run-saving, inning-ending dive, catch, and slide on a slicing fly ball when the Phillies were looking to add on early. I don't think there's a pitch in the strike zone that Daniel Murphy can't hit...and he can get knocks on a lot of them that aren't in the zone. Except for two games in Cincy I like what I've been seeing for the last three weeks. This is the kind of baseball that can raise the ceiling above division championship if they keep it going. The question is whether this is the new norm, or are they just playing above their heads for a spell.

I think there's still some bad blood between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon despite everyone's (especially the Bum himself) efforts to put it behind and all play purty together. Bryce made a heck of play on a floating fly ball over his head that turned him around twice before he finally caught it with his face to the wall to get the first out in the ninth. Papelbon kept looking to right field and pointing, wanting to acknowledge the play. Harp wouldn't even look at him. They keep saying Rizzo is sorta looking for another closer because Pap's lost some stuff and some speed, but I think the real reason is that Bryce (and virtually everyone else in the clubhouse for that matter) would like to see him gone.

Noon start today. Roark vs. Nola. Got a bad feeling about this one, just because you gotta think the Nats' crazy game and travel schedule is going to catch up with them. I expect to see Clint Robinson, Michael A. Taylor, Chris Heisey, and Stephen Drew in the lineup today just to give some of the regular starters a breather. But I also believe very strongly that those fellows can get the job done today just as well as Zimmerman, Werth, Revere, and Espy.

Jay said...

Jaysen Werth wins the internet for the year. In his post game interview with Dan Kolko yesterday, he referred to Papelbon as the DC Strangler. Classic.

Froggy said...

The Bottom Feeders! (Heisey, Espi, Ross and PH Harper) went 5-11 with 3runs and 1 RBI.

Hursty said...

Espinosa really wants to keep playing. Tied with Murphy for second most HR on the team.

DezoPenguin said...

Among NL shortstops, Espinosa is actually 6th in fWAR with 1.1. These last few weeks have raised his wRC+ to a merely poor 86. (And he's actually only 0.2 fWAR behind Villar and Story, both of whom are his mirror image--good bat, no field.)

Throwing in Turner and Drew, the Nats have actually gotten the fourth-best production from all NL teams by fWAR from the shortstop position, behind only the Giants, Dodgers, and Reds.

Mind you, I'd love if Trea Turner was the next Corey Seager, but even if he is that Espi-SS/Turner-2B/Murphy-1B lineup might be a more productive reaction to what ails us. Zim's been literally replacement level through two and a half months, with a sub-100 wRC+ to add to poor fielding and baserunning stats. "Below league average for all players" is not what you want out of first base.

Bjd1207 said...

@Dezo - Careful when you're using WAR/defensive metrics as you cross compare positions.

A couple weeks ago we were debating how big of an upgrade TT's offense would be over Espi (although most admitted the offensive side should def be an upgrade). But if were were saying something along the lines of 80wRC+ for Espi, and 95wRC+ for Turner (a fairly sizeable upgrade) then that's exactly equal to Zim (who just dropped back under 100 wRC+ over the weekend). So if we expect Zimm to rebound even slightly, or Espi to fall back down even slightly, then Turner/Murphy/Zimm is def the best option from the offensive standpoint.

And from the defensive standpoint, TT over Murph at 2B is probably an upgrade (although Murph's been doing fine by my eye so far this year) but I don't know that Murph is that big of an upgrade over Zimm at 1B. Remember that Zim's def component looks bad because he's got the 1B positional adjustment working against him, while Espi and Murphy both have positive modifiers. Zim grades out at about average at 1B, Murph is pretty well toward the bottom among 2B. 1B is definitely easier but I'm not sure we have enough to say that Murph would do better than Zim is doing there

Ole PBN said...

Harper - a lot of talk lately about the Nats looking for bullpen help. Names that keep coming up are Miller and Chapman from NY. What do you think would be the asking price for either of those guys? Or perhaps Betances?

Anonymous said...

umm, dude, like where's the next post???

Zimmerman11 said...

Over/Under on Scherzer allowed HRs tonight? Let's hope it's all solo dingers and the Nats can plate enough runs to eek out the win :)

Seems like our SPs give up a lot of HRs, not JUST Scherz... though he is givin 'em up at a prodigious pace so far.

That doesn't seem to bode well for the postseason though.

Mythra said...

@Z11: My gut says he's due. I'm going out on a limb and say we'll see 7-8 innings of 2-3 hit stuff from Max tonight. Low humidity, warm day. I think his stuff will play well if he's got his offspeed working. I'm also going to say the change-up is the offspeed that is the K pitch tonight. I doubt 20Ks tonight, but I'd not be surprised with 10. Cubs luck has to change sometime, right?

Froggy said...

Dang Murtha, you did it now! ;-)

Froggy said...

Dang Murtha, you did it now! ;-)

Mythra said...

Holy crap was that close to the mark! I need to go buy a lotto ticket...