Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : chugging along

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Quickie : chugging along

What happens when you virtually clinch your division by mid August?  When you see that the two teams chasing you could win a week and a half straight weeks of ball games, that you could lose the same and you'd still be right there? That the closer team chasing you lost their star player for the year and the further team can't keep anyone healthy? You ease up. that's what. You lose focus on the race and you start to think about how long the season is and how you just want to get to the post-season already and well you lose games you should win.

That's one thing that might be going on with the Nats. Or it might not! I don't know.  I can't look into the heart of every player, not since an EMP pulse fried all my nano-camera floating in their bloodstream. It's ok though. Post-season after post-season has shown it's not about how you are doing when you get in. It's about how you do when you get there, how your top 2-3 pitchers do, and your overall talent. I know you want the Nats to go into the post-season winning 2 out of every 3 games but it doesn't matter. Really we'll take the post-season results and backfill the narrative anyway.

Mediocre September - Lose in NLDS : The team has played like crap for months and Dusty couldn't get them ready!
Mediocre September - Win in NLDS : The team was just resting and Dusty was able to get them up for the playoffs!
Good September - Lose in NLDS : This team just can't perform in the playoffs. Maybe they wasted too much energy playing hard till the end for no reason.
Good September - Win in NLDS : It's call 'momentum' people!

At this point what I'm thinking about is Strasburg and Ross and Zimmerman. Who's going to be healthy by the playoffs. I'm thinking the bullpen. How is Dusty going to settle it down? What's it going to look like post roster expansion. Is he even going to try to set up a 7-8-9 type of situation or is he going to keep going heavy match-up? That's what's on my mind. Not the Ws and Ls. Not until the Marlins get within a punchers chance - say 5 games or so, right now.

You worry if you like. We all follow differently.  But it's a lot easier on the spirit this way, I'll tell you that.


Robot said...

The bullpen has me really concerned. I feel like every outing lately has been just terrible. That was the team's downfall in the NLDS both times, too.

Mythra said...

Sometimes you win. sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.

2 weeks have gone by and nothing has changed. 7-9 GB for the Fish, 8-10 GB for the Mets.

These last few weeks are to see who makes the roster for October. How does Joe Ross feel today after his rehab start? When does Stras take his first pitches off the mound? Is this a minor injury or does one of our Big 3 go down for the post-season?

Can Zim get back to being a .250-280 hitter in time to help with the post season? Bryce is starting to add capital letters to his name again and Rendon, Werth, Ramos and Murphy are still locked in. Can Trea turner set the table when he's batting in October for the first time?

Not worried about September at all. But those are questions we need solved for October.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

I agree it really seems like they're in cruise control. Which will be a lot easier to do (as far as resting guys, etc) when rosters expand. It's even happened for me. I tuned in not very much that whole series. Time to recharge our batteries here and get ready for the exciting games that feel more meaningful than a lazy series vs Colorado in August

cass said...

Seems like Strasburg's progress is the most important and meaningful thing to watch now as far as the Nats playoff chances are concerned. Hitters who get hot can easily get cold again. Same with pitchers. But if Strasburg manages to get healthy and return, we have the potential to go into the playoffs with two aces rather than just one. Or at least two pitchers who are capable of pitching like aces - nothing is guaranteed - but Strasburg pitching like he was earlier this year would be huge and also lower the reliance on the bullpen.

Games won and lost aren't terribly important as long as the Fish are eight games back.

Kevin Rusch said...

I'm mostly not too worried. If this were a tight race, then I'd be worried over all the moving parts right now, but it's not. However, I sure hope everything is settled down by 9/15. Get Danny to swing a little more in control, and get Stras and Ross healed. Gio goes to the bullpen (or starts twice against the Dodgers), let's get Latos in the bullpen, and get Drew healthy, and this is a damned strong team top to bottom. They have a lot of injuries right now, but they're all pretty minor, I think, and I suspect they'll be back at full strength before long.

Bjd1207 said...

LOL "Really we'll take the post-season results and backfill the narrative anyway."

This is why I come here

Chas R said...

I'm not at all worried about winning the NL East. I'm a little concerned about how they are playing and pitching potentially translates into the post season, but Harper says it doesn't matter, so I'll hang my hat on that (for now). For me, it's just HARD to watch these games!

Anonymous said...

Our record is almost entirely the product of beating up on our lousy division, and thus I become more certain by the day that we're going to lose rather quickly in the playoffs. If Kershaw ends up going head to head against Max, it's very possible we'll get swept.

I'm actually seriously thinking about flying out to Vegas in five weeks so I can make some easy money to help ease the inevitable pain that awaits.

G Cracka X said...

Two questions:

1) Is anybody bothered that we let Rich Hill get away last year?
2) Matt Belisle seems to be out-performing expectations this year. I looked at the advanced stats, but it is still not clear to me how he is achieving success this year. I mean, I get that he pitches in low-leverage situations, but there are plenty of relievers who do that who aren't getting nearly the results he has gotten this year. The stuff doesn't seem remarkable, so what is it?

Harper said...

Anon @ 8:38 - only sort of true - the Nats have beat up on NL East teams but also have winning recs vs SF, STL, PIT, DET, KC, split v CLE. Maybe they win a couple games fewer in another division but we're not looking at a .500 team in disguise here.

JE34 said...

@Cracka - it always helps when a pitcher doesn't dole out free baserunners. Matt Belisle, the man with no upper lip, is not walking guys: just 6 in 35 innings, and half of those were intentional. He's throwing strikes and keeping the ball down (and thus in the ballpark). Which is nice.

Now... why is he not walking guys? Maybe he likes it when his pitching coach rubs his shoulder.

Ole PBN said...

^ Control and keeping the ball down in the zone can do wonders, huh?

Froggy said...

I get that we are (likely) going to stumble and trip our way into the NL East crown, but Hey Zeus Kristos our current bull pen will be the end of us come the post season. Not to mention the two gapping holes that Revere and Espinosa provide offensively. I can see carrying Espinosa for defense, but it is pretty apparent we can't afford Revere's lack of production.

On another note, did anyone else see how fast Ramos motored down the first baseline to beat out that infield grounder to third yesterday? The Buffalo can move when he wants to!

He's been sandbagging it all year I tell ya! LoL

Kenny B. said...

The Nats over the last few years have tended to heat up in September, so I won't be surprised to see them finish with a double digit lead over the Marlins this year. At this point, it's all about fixing the pitching and keeping everyone healthy. The re-ermegence of Bryce is very heartening. If he's full-tilt come October, the Nats may not need much else to get that elusive playoff series win.

Dusty's Toothpick said...

Watching the whole outfield at the plate these last few games has been the only exciting thing to watch. Trea is like watching Usain Bolt play baseball, just so much fun to watch him play. Speed needs to be the new trend in baseball as I think it can fix pace of play as well as get young guys more into baseball. Keep it going Harpah, and I was at the Thursday night O's game when Werth hit the homer, he has ice in his veins.

I can't believe I'm saying this but out of all the young pitching starters I think AJ Cole seems to be the most stable. Reynaldo has great stuff (and probably the highest ceiling out of the 3) but Lito has no control on the breaking stuff and gets hit hard (I know he went 5 but still...)

My biggest concern going forward is the Buffalo falling off a cliff like Native Americans chasing him off the plains cliffs .138/.194/.241 !!!??!!! I mean that is there something wrong with the swing, does he need eye drops, are the scouting reports exposing something?....... I bend down to catch my son and my knees hurt after a few days of that and I'm 30 years old. Wilson is 29 and plays at the highest level in the world for 150 + games so I really can't imagine how his body is feeling right now, he is a warrior. He has been so clutch with RISP and the true backbone of this team. Hope he gets a couple more days off as Lobaton was looking good in his consecutive starts.

LOL The backfilled narrative eased my mind! Thanks Harper!

Bjd1207 said...

@Toothpick - I'd agree based on their MLB appearances this year. But it's also important to keep in mind that Cole is 2 years older than both of those guys. Cole's just about at that spot where he needs to stay up in the majors to get some games under his belt before he hits his prime.

JE34 said...

I think AJ Cole has successfully pitched himself into the starting rotation of an American League team (once the winter meetings are done, that is).

Mythra said...

All I have to say after watching Turner for the last month or so is that I am never going to show Mike Rizzo the contents of my wallet. That trade looks more and more like grand theft as Turner improves and gets his feet under him.

Zimmerman11 said...

The San Diego Padres were set to send Joe Ross and Trea Turner to the Rays in the trade, but instead, the Rays effectively dealt them to Washington in exchange for Steven Souza and Travis Ott. So it's the TB GM that Rizzo pilfered from, and not the SD GM... who got Wil Myers.

Zimmerman11 said...

Oh, and thank goodness for the LLWS...taking my mind off some pretty bad looking scores in DC. Hometown team takes it! I work a mile from the ME highschool. USA! USA!

Nattydread said...

Nats have 4 players with 20+ home runs. Harper, Murphy, Espinosa & Ramos. Werth has 19 and Rendon has 16. Last time an NL team had 6 players with more than 20 HR was 2003 Atlanta Braves, before that the 1963 Milwaukee Braves. No commentator has picked that up yet. Am I missing something?

Harper said...

ND - I get your point and I have heard it mentioned once or twice but not with any real focus. I'm guessing they'll mention it more whenever they get the 5th guy at 20. Plenty of time for that - and frankly a September that is likely to lack in drama.

But let's see if I can come up with other reasons:

Well 20 is just an arbitrary point set up by our 10-based numeric system does it really matter if it was 19? (08 Cubs, 01 Astros)
Well there is a big gap but that's because the game was different between the late 60s and the 1994 strike. Only one 10 teams overall (one NL) even get to 5, compared to 69 (24 NL) since. So it's not as big a deal it stretches back to '65 (not '63)
Well AL teams with 7 are likely to fit the general criteria you were going for (non-DH 20+ homers players) and there have been a handful in between Braves and other Braves.
Well some AL teams with 6 may in fact fit the same criteria, although it might just be the 2004 White Sox (DH position dominated by guys who didn't hit 20. Even if Konerko hit a HR in every DH game he would still have over 20. Plus 16 DH gamess is not too different from the 9 you can have now due to interleague play) So in a broad sense it's not as rare as you might think.

OK I'm done.

Fries said...


FP dropped that knowledge in last night's game. For what it's worth, though, I don't see it as all that surprising. HR totals are going way up for the first time since the steroid era. Nats may be the first to do it in a while, but there will be way more coming

Sammy Kent said...

@ Nattydread-- F.P. mentioned the 2003 and 1963 Braves last night shortly after Werth hit his dinger. Of course, you may have posted that yesterday and I wouldn't know because for some reason this blog shows the time of day only (Pacific time I think....certainly not Eastern) and not the date when comments are posted.

So, for the record, I am posting this on Tuesday, 30 August 2016 at approximately 0945 EDT.

FWIW, our magic number is 23. Nine games up on both Miami and New York with 31 left. Last night was the first of twenty straight games for the Nationals against division opponents. It's our chance to put this thing on ice. It's their chance to catch up. We have six left against both the Mets and Marlins. If we split those games, they just tread water. If we do better than split, obviously we widen the margin. For them to have any realistic chance (barring a total collapse by the Nats against the Braves, Pirates, and Phillies), Miami and/or the Mets will have to sweep at least one of their remaining series against Washington.

Fortunately for us, they also have six games against each other. Ideally, they will split those and keep each other from gaining any significant ground even if the Nats keep stinking up the joint. Ideally as well, the Nationals will get their act together in September and make whatever the Marlins and Mets do otherwise inconsequential. I'm cautiously optimistic about winning the division, but beating up on the Braves and Phillies can only take you so far. Neither of those teams will be in the playoffs. Somehow I figure we'll get either the Cardinals or Giants again. But we've actually done pretty well against them this season for a change.

John c. said...

"Somehow I figure we'll get either the Cardinals or Giants again. But we've actually done pretty well against them this season for a change."

For better (Cubs) or worse (Giants, Cardinals), regular season records don't really guarantee postseason success. The Nationals have actually done well against the Giants overall the past few seasons, but ... 2014. And of course the Cubs swept the Mets in the regular season last year, but got their hats handed to them in the playoffs.

Loyalrooter said...

Good points, the Nats have been unfocused. The extra focus and effort that you saw in April, where you saw guys going 1st to third, taking 2nd on singles to the outfield when the OF was slow--that is gone. This month they have been easing off on the little things, and it has hurt them. Murphy taking a 4 foot lead at 1st (and leaning back to the bag!), then getting thrown at at the plate on a double, quashing a big inning. Zimm holding the runner at 1st, and lazily popping off the bag about a foot to play defense. Harper repeatedly disrespecting the game--the game knows. They are all just little things, and the Nats are talented enough to win some games while cruising, but I hope they recognize what they are doing before the poor play becomes a habit.

Froggy said...

It's interesting to read the comments from people here who are basically saying that Nats players are slacking off in effort or in the little things that we perceive they did in April or May. Just makes me wonder how many people who comment here actually have jobs that are physical and require sustained physical exertion throughout the day. If so ask yourself how much you are able to 'put out' for a whole work day and analyze what your physical output is on Friday compared to Monday. Or at 0800 verses 1700. I think in some respects that is what a long baseball season is comparable to.