Nationals Baseball: Not calling it... yet

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Not calling it... yet

The Nats won and while the Mets won the Marlins lost, putting the Nats 6 games over their nearest competitor for the NL East crown. The end of the Nats difficult run (which Arizona is technically in, like a limp piece of lettuce hiding in your sandwich) comes up in a week and the Nats are looking very likely to end the run in as just as good as shape as they started.  They've gone  9-8 during this time, which is completely respectable given the schedule but leaves the door open for a hot team to close some ground. Neither the Mets or Marlins could do it though.  The Marlins going 10-9 and the Mets 8-10.  Assuming nothing goes wrong the Nats will hit the easy part of the schedule, the part where you should see them pull away, at the edge of having the division wrapped up.  It's not going to matter if they have 6 games H2H versus the Marlins or Mets if they are 10 games up at the end of the month.

But I won't call it just yet*. The Mets and Marlins made just enough improvements at the deadline to give their teams punchers chances and the Nats hard schedule isn't over. Soon though, it could happen real soon.

As for the trade deadline talk, I'm going to put it to bed.  I'll hold to the fact that all you can count on by holding onto prospects is an increase in projected value. As a team that may mean a lot. You care about stuff like profits and long term budget planning. As a fan, projected value in of itself is of little importance. You want the tangential benefits of more wins and more playoffs. But you can't count on wins because wins will take those players making that projected value a reality, the team committing to using that value and the expected free money in the budget to sign FAs, and the FAs being willing to come to your team over other offers.**  You really can't count on playoffs because playoffs take even more things going your way such as luck with injuries, breakouts vs collapses, and how your opponents develop over that time frame. For the fans, trading for now vs keeping prospects for later is a philosophical choice. There is no general right and wrong, merely opinion.

That is past now it's onto the stretch run and answering relevant 2016 questions such as - Can Bryce get his mojo back? Is there a solution to the giant sucking first base hole?  Is Espinosa's season dying on the vine? Will Murphy and Ramos ever stop hitting? Are the bursts for Werth/Rendon going to last? Who's going to be the big bat off the bench? How well does the talented, but slightly erratic bullpen come together now? What happens to Papelbon? Do the Nats keep stumbling with a starter every 5th day because they can?*** 

And answering questions not relevant to 2016 such as - How much money is Ramos going to get paid and will the Nats pay it? Will Murphy hit over .350? Will he win the MVP?  How many more triples can Trea Turner hit? Will he ever get caught stealing?  Can he win the ROY? How many Nats will hit over 15 HRs this year? Can the Nats get Strasburg to 20 wins? 25? Will he win the Cy Young? Will Scherzer lead the league in HRs given up and still win 18 games?****

It's fun times when you can do stuff like that rather than scoreboard watch incessantly.

*Some of you will cry "But you called it last year and jinxed the team!". Ignoring the fact that I don't hold jinx powers (at least not ones I don't use directly) this ignores the fact that my super early call last year was made with the caveat that the Mets didn't change their roster significantly. When they added Uribe and Johnson and Clippard AND Cespedes, that obviously changed the roster significantly. Does anyone think without adding those players they would have overtaken the Nats? I hope not. Also I'll note that I called the 2014 race on 9/4 and the 2012 race on 9/5 with no caveats. It comes when it comes, how it comes. 

**Plus you can pretty much just spend your way to wins. Not playoffs, but wins. 

*** Yes? No. Yes. Doesn't look like it. No/Yes. No one. Pretty damn well. Middle innings then dumped in a waiver trade. Yeah probably. 

**** A LOT and no. No, but over .340. Yes! 5 more. Not this year. Have you heard of Corey Seager? Seven. Yes. No, but close. Yes! No and no.


JE34 said...

All the scrolling and concentrating really hard to match up questions and answers has given me a headache. I may need a sick day.

Harper, you may put the trade deadline topic to bed, but that doesn't mean you still won't hear crying from the crib.

Kenny B. said...

The Ramos payment question is the most interesting to me. I suspect it has a lot to do with the plans for Bryce, but I'm curious how you come to the conclusion that the Nats won't pay to keep Ramos. Sure, he's had a great year and was projected as a prospect to be really good, but it's not like he has a track record of being an all-star major league catcher. I guess the catcher market is just that thin. Do we have someone we think can do that job effectively after a Ramos departure?

JD said...

You might have put the trade deadline topic to bed, but as a fellow Yankee fan, what do you think of the Yankees' trades? And do they make it more or less likely the Yankees signing of BAM?

JD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

what I think is fair to call at this point is that the Nationals will not fall out of first place because of another team. What I mean is that if the Nats stumble down the stretch and cough up first place, it will take the Mets/Marlins being on a huge tear (like 15-5; 23-7) AND the Nats doing the opposite in the win column. I really think we need to start worrying instead about going after 1st place in the NL by mid-August. I don't want to play the Giants in the WC round again.

Also, this could be the first time in recorded history that a DC baseball squad is in the pennant race + the Redskins are relevant in the SAME FALL. God Bless

John c. said...

If Ramos closes strong then he is going to get paid. I think there is a fair chance that he stays with the Nationals, though. Ramos has spoken warmly about the organization and the fans, not just the usual pablum but about how the organization stayed with him through some very tough times and the fans rallied around him after the kidnapping. Rizzo clearly likes Ramos a lot (see, e.g., the way they've stuck with him) and the trade that brought Ramos to DC is clearly one of the biggest winners in Rizzo's impressive trade history. I don't think that Rizzo is sentimental, per se, but suffice it to say that he does trust his own judgment. Combine that with the lack of a truly reliable alternative (Severino is athletic and good defensively, but has never really hit in the minors; he and Kieboom seem destined to be a solid backup catchers) and there I think there is a pretty solid chance that Ramos pulls a Strasburg and stays in DC. Call it 50/50.

Anonymous said...

The relevance thingy already happened in 2012, when that mother of all one-hit wonders known as Robert Griffin III was running all over the field like football's Trea Turner, driving opposing defenses insane, and selling all those millions of jerseys and shirseys that now sit forlornly on all our hangers and dresser drawers, never to be worn again.

Sean said...

^^^Oh really? Quite the fan you are because by mid-November they were 3-6. That's nowhere near relevancy dummy.

Anonymous said...

The fall of course encompasses almost the entire NFL regular season, what with the winter solstice arriving on December 20 or December 21 almost every single calendar year.

Harper said...

KB - yeah catcher market is that thin - always has been just look at what Russell Martin got paid. Salty is like a Top half offensive catcher and he is hitting .201 with pop. I can't imagine that the Nats planned for this or else they would have offered a contract before - they like to use buying out arb years as leverage. I'm guessing they were looking at trying to trade for Vogt or someone that could play while they worked in Severino and crossed their fingers. They could still sign him though but I don't see it. Of course I didn't see Strasburg either.

JD - Necessary given their current circumstances. As always they could have spent their way out of this middling period but Hal didn't seem to want to push the payroll to 250+ (which they totally could afford). If that's the case - that they want payroll down at least until A-Rod is off books - then flipping those relievers makes sense. They had a lot of live arms to try to replace them. And it was a couple of very good hauls. Now let's see Judge, Sanchez, and Austin. And let's see if we can still sneak into the WC.

Sean/Anon - Is that right? The Skins were relevant in 2012 but you didn't really know that until Thanksgiving and momentum got going. Last year too they were relevant but Nats fell off by the end of September and you probably didn't buy into the Redskins until December. But I think what is more importance than relevance is excitement. And you definitely were excited for the Nats and RGIII through the end of the Nats playoff run. (then the Skins would fall off only to come roaring back)

John C - I'd go 40/60 if only because there isn't a way for the Nats to sneak some value out of him buying out an arb year. I don't think something like 4/60 is out of the question and I'm not sure I see the Nats going there.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't that Stras Extension look pretty good right now?
One of (if not the, now that Kershaw is on the DL) best pitchers in the NL, young, and you have to assume that he'd be getting much more than 175M if he was hitting the open market this fall.

Flapjack said...

Speaking of arb years, Roark is coming into his first next year. Time to give that boy some security.

With Ramos, it's hard to tell whether or not his resurgence has staying power, or whether you'd want to gamble on his durability given his injury record. The good thing is that Rizzo hasn't squandered his trading chips.

Zimmerman11 said...

I was surprised and happy to see the Nats keep Stras. I hope to be as happy about it as the deal winds down... and I hope this willingness to spend on "our" guys extends to Ramos and Harper.

Maybe the stinginess at the trading deadline was because the team has a budget/plan for what it will take to keep the team competitive to 2019.

Rotation - Check... first free agency is Gio in 2019 (if we exercise options)...
'Lito/and Lopez options for spots/depth.

Relief - "Fungible"... Melancon and Papelbon FA in 2017... Olly n Petit in 2018
Glover and Voth on the come.
RP FAs in 2017 include Chapman, Melancon, Jansen

Infield - Murph n Espy FA in 2018... sign one/both... promote Turner/Difo...
Ramos FA in 2017... SIGN HIM...alternatives inclue Wieters/Suzuki

Outfield - Werth and Revere FA in 2018...
OF FAs in 2017 include Bautista/Encarnacion/Reddick/Cespedes/Desmond

And that all leads up to/sets up the Big One... Harper FA 2019 along with lefties Kershaw/Price/Keuchel... Harper/Machado/Donaldsen... Fernandez... and the Yankees COULD but probably won't sign them ALL.

blovy8 said...

The sad part is Leon is hitting like crazy in Boston. There are never a whole lot of good catchers around - what are the viable solid alternatives for the Nats? Wieters with another QO? No. Norris has fallen off a cliff as a hitter. You don't take on Gomes' deal given his last two years. Remind me why Beane needs to trade Vogt? Because he's old? An untendered Lucroy would get paid more than what Wilson would take, and the Rangers may still be able to exercise his option. I would pay for Ramos with a crapload of deferred money, as usual. I'd rather that than Castro or Avila who are older and not particularly good. Trading for another guy leaves the question open as to what you're giving up and whether the guy is for real. It's much more difficult to wait on a catcher like this and lose him when he finally develops, my bet is they open up the wallet.

John O'Connor said...

"Will Scherzer lead the league in HRs given up and still win 18 games?"

FWIW, Bert Blyleven led the AL in home runs allowed in 1986 (50!) and won 17 games. In 1987 (World Series year), he led the league with 46 home runs allowed and won 15 games.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have an actual stat on Max's runs scored as a result of home runs? It seems like the only way people can score on him is by home run.

Jay said...

I am hopeful they keep Ramos. There was an article a while back in the Post and it had the same warm fuzzy vibe as the various Strasburg articles from earlier in the year. It talked about how happy Ramos was in DC, and how the Nats stuck with him through the kidnapping and injuries too. It mentioned that Rizzo set up bringing Ramos' family to the US this past offseason. Doesn't mean it will happen, but I do think it has a better chance of happening than the average player this close to FA.

Mythra said...

I think Ramos will stay, IF the Lerners don't try to play hardball or expect too much of a hometown discount. He knows he can own the catcher spot for several years and that they'll stick with him with the injuries. The family immigration thing is huge and had to earn some good will from the Buffalo.

Pay him fairly, treat him well, and he'll resign.

I think it's more 60/40 he stays, if the Lerners don't F it up.

NotBobby said...

A sweep of the Dbacks. Just what the team needed. Now keep those bats going against the Giants at sea level!

DezoPenguin said...

That Strasburg extension still flabbergasts me. A Boras client, pitching brilliantly this year, guaranteed to be the prize of the free agent class, signing a 7-year (even with opt-outs) extension at a favorable price? That's still a "wow!" moment.

As for Ramos, one thing is that the Nats medical staff (the new one that actually seems to be pretty functional) has the best information as to how much of his improvement this year is due to his LASIK surgery. He'll get paid, anyway, but we know better than anyone how much of that improvement is a real thing. Given that we'll be bringing back the entire top five starting pitchers next year, maintaining that synergy with Ramos seems like a high priority anyway, but at least Rizzo will be in the best position to know if he's really bringing back a top-of-the-league catcher or if much of the improvement is just health and luck.

Froggy said...

Harper, stay away from the not walk towards the light!

No matter how tempting...


Kubla said...

Is the Scherzer HR thing a product of going for the K at all times and trying to avoid walks?

There seems to be a large stigma against sinkerball/pitch-to-contact type pitchers and favor toward power/strikeout guys. Control is also highly valued. HRs are up across the board. It seems like these phenomena are related, and Max is the personification of the issue.

It used to be that you would see the fireball/wild types win the Cy Young while leading the league in both K and BB. Maybe now K and HR allowed go together (unless you also have Clayton Kershaw's fairydust-filled resin bag).

Anonymous said...

Re Strasburg, it's not a wow thing at all. he essentially guaranteed himself a fortune and if he is pitching anywhere close to what he is now he will opt out one on of those years and make even more. It's a genius contract by Boras.

Robot said...

::Reads headline::

Good. Keep it that way.

::Glares menacingly::

Robot said...

Not sure what to expect with Ramos. He's finally playing at the level we've kinda been expecting for the past few years. Much better, in fact. He's got the power, but can he keep up the high average? And the biggest question mark, of course, is the injury issue.

Of course, as mentioned above, the catcher market is very thin, and if Russell Martin is our best basis of comparison...well, Ramos is going to be making a lot of money. I'd hate to see him leave, though. He's one of those players I most associate with the 2011-2012 years, when the team was finally starting to get everything together.

Anonymous said...


John C. said...

Nats after 111 games, 51 remaining:

66-45, 96+ win pace, seven game lead in the NL East, three games behind the Cubs for best record in MLB. Magic number is 45. They've also run through most of what seemed like a challenging post-ASB schedule in fine fashion, going 12-9 with eight games against first place teams and another three against the wild card contending Pirates. It also included a long west coast road trip. Not too shabby.

Looking at those remaining 54 games, 27 are at home and 24 on the road. The opponents (2016 record vs. Nats in parens):

Four vs. Orioles 63-47
Two vs. Indians 62-47 (1-1)
Six vs. Marlins 58-52 (7-6)
Six vs. Mets 57-54 (9-4)
Three vs. Pirates 55-54 (2-1)
Six vs. Rockies 55-55
Seven vs. Phillies 51-61 (8-4)
Four vs. Diamondbacks 44-66 (3-0)
Thirteen vs. Braves 41-70 (6-0)

Overall weighted strength of schedule: .466, about the equivalent of a 75 win team. Not calling it, but I'd rather be the Nats than the Mets.

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