Nationals Baseball: Called

Monday, August 15, 2016

Called

The Nats are going to be NL East champions. Celebrate! 

For those of you who can't buy in to this yet. Sorry. But the facts have reached the overwhelming point for me. The Nats currently lead the Marlins by 8.5 games and the Mets by 10.5.  They face an easy schedule for the rest of the month. They are more likely to see the lead expand over the next 15 days, than contract. It's over.

The idea that the Marlins may be able to overtake the Nats was always built on the idea that they could slug their way to victory. The starting pitching is too mediocre for another path to be viable. Stanton is now out for the year. That closes that path.  The idea that the Mets could come back was based on the idea that they'd get healthy and get a surge in play much like last year. They aren't getting healthy fast enough as Cespedes might be back Friday. The Mets arguably began their run on July 31st last season going 19-6 to turn a 3 game deficit into a 6.5 game lead. In the same time frame this year they've gone 6-8 and lost 4 games of ground. This path is closed.

We can talk about paces now as well.  Despite being 22 games OVER .500 right now let's say Nats go .500? (23-23). That's a 92-70 team. To match that the Marlins would have to go 31-14.  Their season so far, with Stanton, suggests 24-21 being most likely. The Mets would have to go 33-12.  Their season so far would suggest 23-22.  The Mets' incredible run last year got to 37-17 at one point. Either of these paces needed to catch a .500 Nats team is better than that. Flip it. Let's say the Marlins go 24-21. That's an 85-77 win team. The Nats would have to go 16-30 to match that. That's a 96 win team through 70% of the season, playing like a 56 win team for the last 30%. It's done. Nats have all but won.

That's not to say the Mets or Marlins won't come back to bite the Nats in another way. Either could win the 2nd Wild Card because the NL Wild Card race, for the 2nd spot, is wide open. Get in the WC and you're in the playoffs and anything can happen. But that's for later. For now it's about the division and the division is set.

Even though it's an easy schedule, the next couple weeks will be hard. Why do I say that? It'll be hard because the Nats competition is bad enough that they'll probably go on a run and you'll be tempted to say "This team is coming together!" It may be. It may not be. Colorado, Atlanta, and Philly don't allow for a fair judgment on that.

They get Colorado in Denver and in DC. They get the Braves, a bad pitching team, again in Atlanta. They get the Phillies, a bad pitching team. They will very likely score a bunch of runs. Don't take this to mean the offense is fine. They should do well, very well in fact. If they hit - it's just par for course. If they DON'T hit, it's a problem. Hopefully they do score a bunch. Hopefully this run of bad arms and good hitting parks will get guys like Bryce and Revere and Espy back on track. But it'll be mid-September before we can judge that. Remember that when you start reading "Don't overlook the Nats" stories the weekend before Labor Day.

Though I'm getting to analytical on a day that should be about celebration. Pop those corks! Ask "Where's my pennant?" Say "NL East Champs or Bust".  This is done. The Washington Nationals are going to win the NL East. 

41 comments:

BxJaycobb said...

Gotta give credit to Harper on one specific call. He said Rendon's power might be sapped for first couple months of year after injury last year. That's basically precisely what happened. Since beginning of June, he's been 2014 Rendon (and their best player since AS break). An underrated year, as he may end up at like .280 with 20 homers and sparking sparkling defense at third base.

Carl said...

FanGraphs has the Nats at 99.2% for the division, Baseball Prospectus has 98.8%. Yup.

Chas R said...

Three NL East Champion teams in 5 years. Not too shabby! Now, if we can only catch the Cubbies and have the best record in the NL.

Tanner Roark said...

Raise your hand if you thought that in the middle of August I would be top 10 in the majors in innings pitched and qualified ERA. You're welcome.

G Cracka X said...
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G Cracka X said...

Harper, any comments about the Papelbon release?

G Cracka X said...

I agree with Carl. Once you pass 99% on Fangraphs, it is fair to call it. Only an epic disaster/collapse could prevent them from winning the division now.

Mythra said...

I will gladly eat crow on Tanner. I dogged him early in the season and am glad to see a whole year of 2014 Tanner.

Going to call something else: Barring injury or rehab assignment, Trea Turner has seen his last of Syracuse.

I thought it was just the heat, but the kid's shoes might have caught fire this weekend. And watching him score on Revere's triple was fun. I'm sure the league will adjust to him again, but he's passing the eye test so far.

Anonymous said...

"Three NL East Champion teams in 5 years. Not too shabby! Now, if we can only catch the Cubbies and have the best record in the NL"

The shabby part is that they should have been NL East champions for four or five of those years.

Froggy said...

You may call it if you wish, but me thinks the baseball gods will remind us (humble pie) why you shouldn't do so in August.

Anonymous said...

With Stanton gone for the year, even my Grandma can call it now. I go one step ahead and call for Home Field advantage for NLDS.

Richard Parker said...

Agreed, it's over. And the Nats management has been playing it that way, too. JoRo would have been back 2-3 weeks ago if there were any doubt. Instead, his innings are secure and they can save him to get that young arm back up the way it was earlier (another thing to consider in the postseason). Everyone's had pleny of rest except for our three main starter -- but now at least we have a backup plan.

Richard Parker said...

Oh, and tough call, Harper, since everyone else has it at 95-99 percent for the Nats to win the NL East. You're like one of those guys who makes all of his money in Vegas on numbers but can't find a way in sports.

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope the 'Nats are just resting Ross' theory is correct. I am starting to get worried. Gio and Ross-substitute represent 40% of the starts. I personally hope that Ross gets the fourth spot in the playoff rotation. I don't trust Gio.

Kenny B. said...

For the remainder of the season, I recommend the team transport Wilson Ramos, Daniel Murphy, and Stephen Strasburg in some kind of steel cage so as to prevent injury.

Froggy said...

Since we are calling the division already why not put your money where your mouth is and predict how many wins Stras, Max, and Roark end up with. Should be pretty easy to extrapolate based on how many starts ea has before end of season and your predicted outcome, no?

Ben said...

Great! I will now officially shift my pre-division series rooting interests from the nats to hopefully watching the giants win 95 games, lose the division to the Dodgers and then lose the wildcard game to an 85 win team. What will the sports writers perpetual motion hot take machine say then!? Though if that 85 win team were the cardinals ... Ugh, never mind, maybe I'll just root for Bryce to get a month off and he can come back thinking its April again.

Robot said...

::Reads blog post title::

::Shakes head, scowling::

::Checks to make sure Werth and Rendon gnomes remain in the same spot they've been since late May::

::Scowls at Harper again, for good measure::

Harper said...

Bx - thanks but I'll say "power comes last" is a pretty standard injury return situation.

Tanner - I'm not raising my hand but I can I then ask you why you couldn't pitch this well last year?

GcX - Money. That's how I read it. They don't need him. Won't use him much. So why not? And if he gets picked up that's that much more $ they don't have to spend. Probably tried really hard to flip him for nothing but other team picking up salary but got no bites.

Mythra - I don't disagree. I think Trea could go on an extended sophomore slump but I don't see the pressure from behind him that would take away his chance to work through it in the majors.

Anon - I'll go 4. That 13 Braves team was really good and the Nats were trying to coast with a bench that performed miracles in 2012. They were a 2016 Mets - needed near-perfect health again.

Froggy - the baseball gods must get distracted a lot then given all the big leads around now that have ended up as big division wins.

(I can do the wins thing but wins don't happen evenly - one pitcher may get a bunch, one may get none due to run support / luck / performances. We're close enough to the end that these may not end up balancing out)

RP - Oh I don't win in Vegas either. Note though this is just when the Nats crossed my "no chance they don't win it" threshold. Personally I would have started betting on the Nats hard after they took the last three at CitiField in early July. That's when we started going "Hmmm, Are the Marlins good enough" and came back with "No" as the answer

Anon @ 10:05 - I'm not sure it matters Joe or Gio, I think they will only pitch if Nats have a big lead 3-0, maybe 3-1, and go Max again early if it's a big game

Ben - I'd say just lay back and enjoy a 2 week stretch where the Nats should KILL IT. Get back to worrying later.

Robot - now I have to find out where those gnomes are so I can steal them too.

PotomacFan said...

Any chance that the Nats "limit" the innings pitched for our "big 3"? I'm not talking about anything drastic, but maybe pulling guys on occasion when they get to 80 - 90 pitches. It seems that Strasburg might be getting a bit tired.

I don't think the Nats can go with a 3 man rotation in the playoffs, because they won't have Scherzer pitch on 3 days rest.

Since Harper has declared the Nats a playoff team, and we are likely to play the Giants (or the Dodgers), how does a bi-coastal NLDS series work? Is it 2 - 3, or is it 2 - 2 - 1? This will impact how many starting pitchers we need.

Harper said...

it's 2-2-1

JE34 said...

Robot: you do us superstitious, paranoid skeptics a valuable service. (Of course our gracious host is quite reasonable, especially with Stanton done for the year. But still, you're typing what I'm thinking. Just like I gently chided my kids for saying, "Hey dad, Scherzer's got a no hitter going!" when we were at the game on Tuesday.)

Trea is here to stay... but what of Pedro Severino? Now that the Lobaton-as-Gio's-personal-catcher ship has sailed (thank goodness), why not keep the kid around? Granted, small sample size, but still.

Froggy said...

One can only hope that someday disco shirts unbuttoned to the navel and white leather shoes ala K&TG will come back in style.

Sigh...

PJI said...

Time to waive Oliver Perez and bring up Koda Glover.

Donald said...

So I get the odds saying the Nats have a 99 percent chance of winning, but it also feels like an arbitrary end point. The Nats, or any team, could easily lose 3 or 4 in a row and the Marlins could get hot. If five days from now the lead is 5, and you hadn't yet, would you still call it? Or are you picking an arbitrary high point to make thus call?

Allison said...
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Jay said...

I hope they sign Melancon to an extension. He threw 4 pitches last night to get 3 outs. It's nice to have zero drama in the 9th.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea Melancon has just been a boss

Booyah Suckah! said...

Donald, I think the point (and I believe Harper has made it before) is that a Nats cold streak combined with a Marlins hot streak might happen, but then it's just as likely that they're followed by a Nats hot streak and a Marlins cold streak. With this many games left, you play like the team you have shown yourself to be, not like a suddenly-much-better team for no sustainable reason.

The Nats have shown themselves to be a roughly .580-.610 team. The Marlins have not. Why would either team all of a sudden play drastically worse or better over the remaining 45 games?

10 games left and a 3 game lead? Sure, anything can happen. Crapshoot, just like the playoffs. But 45 games left, as they say, you are who your record says you are. And the lead has only gotten bigger.

We wouldn't have said at the beginning of the season that the Marlins were 9 wins better than the Nats. Why would we say it now, with less than a third of a season left?

Josh Higham said...

@PJI, Glover is very possibly the better pitcher (small sample, but still), but that would leave Solis as the only lefty in the pen. Not a good option, even with Perez's up and down performance.

Donald said...

I get that, Booyah. But instead of saying a cold streak could be followed by a hot streak to balance out, what if we are already in the middle of that scenario? Maybe the Nats are having their hot streak right now and an upcoming cold streak pushes them back down to their natural level? The point is we really don't know if this is their true level or where in the up and down cycle they are.

Donald said...

I get that, Booyah. But instead of saying a cold streak could be followed by a hot streak to balance out, what if we are already in the middle of that scenario? Maybe the Nats are having their hot streak right now and an upcoming cold streak pushes them back down to their natural level? The point is we really don't know if this is their true level or where in the up and down cycle they are.

Froggy said...
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Froggy said...

With 45 games remaining that means our top 3 starters have about 10 starts left ea right? So, since we seem to be into jinxing everything by making forgone conclusions, who of Strasburg, Scherzer, and Roark get to 20 wins?

If last night is any indicator I don't think Scherzer does it. If Stras doesn't run out of gas I think he wins 20+. But the guy who I would love see win 20 games would be Tanner.

PotomacFan said...

Tanner Roark. Salary: $543,400. If he wins 18 games, that comes to $30,189 per win -- the best bargain in MLB. Max Scherzer. Salary: $22,000,000. If he wins 18 games, that comes to $1,222,222 per win -- or 40 times what Roark is earning!!

blovy8 said...

The smart money would have to be against any of the starters getting 20, especially if the big lead holds up. Stras is the only one with an honest chance - nine starts each, probably six decisions. I'll be more interested to see how many batters can get 20 HR.

I agree that Giolito just needs command. Fastball first, so that the curve looks like something worth swinging at - however, I'm pretty sure his secondary key is going to be the change up unless he comes up with a fourth pitch. Cutter, slider, sinker, etc. I don't believe his curveball is too big to get strikes with. Let's remember that as well as Lopez pitched last weekend, he wasn't striking anyone out either.

PJI said...

Like to see Daniel Murphy start at 1st base the rest of the way. Zim is a liability. Keep Trea Turner at 2nd, and Ben Revere in centerfield. Waiting for Drew to return.

NPI said...



Get Perez off the team

NPI said...

Zimmerman to

Sammy Kent said...

Delete this blog entry. Immediately.

Sammy Kent said...

Delete this blog entry. Immediately.