Nationals Baseball: Doom?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Doom?

Just two years ago, in 2014, something historic happened. The 88 win SF Giants beat the 89 win Kansas City Royals in the World Series. It was the first time in history two teams with under 90 wins met to decide who would be crowned baseball's champion. While that was a unique situation, finding one such team in the World Series is not. The Detroit Tigers in 2012, St Louis Cardinals in 2006, Houston Astros in 2005, and New York Yankees in 2000 all have made the World Series this century with under 90 wins.

Anything can happen in the playoffs.

Which is good because last night Wilson Ramos hurt himself and without Ramos and Strasburg and either Bryce or Murphy the Nats probably resemble a team that would struggle to win 90 games. Even if the injury isn't serious, it may not matter. It only has to be an injury that would take a couple weeks to heal in order to have a drastic effect on the Nationals playoff chances. Things are beginning to look very bleak.

Truth : The Nats could be losing their All-Star .307 / .354 / .496 22 HR catcher

Further Truth : That's overselling Ramos who had a first half unlike any other extended period in his career. Since the All-Star break, a time which featured at lot more rest to try to keep Ramos fresh, Wilson hit .279 / .317 / .447.  That's probably more indicative of the player the Nats are potentially losing for the playoffs. Not a fringy MVP candidate, but a guy who gets All-Star consideration if he has a hot half and it's a weak year.

Further further truth : But even if they are losing that it's a big deal because the gap between that and Ramos' replacements is very large. Lobaton is near end of life as a useful back up and has hit .220 / .317 / .363 while spelling Wilson. Severino has had success in the majors but in a week of plate appearances over two years, and he was hitting an empty .271 in AAA this year.


Losing Strasburg is a blow but given the performance of Scherzer and Roark this season, and the problem the Dodgers have with LHP, it merely created a problem for one game in the NLDS. Losing Ramos would be an issue but his likely performance level was something that could be covered for. Even together it's far from a death blow for the team.

However if you add a loss of Murphy, who hasn't played a full game since the 17th, or Bryce who apparently has special x-rays that can't be read right away, that takes it beyond something the Nats can reasonably adjust for. Murphy has been their best hitter all year long. Stephen Drew has done a fairly amazing job off the bench but he can't be expected to replace an MVP candidate. Bryce, for all his issues, has been the second or third most important offensive presence for the Nats this year and is by far the most likely National to work a walk. Heisey has done yeoman's work in the OF this year with timely home runs, but he can't replace that presence in the middle of the lineup.

After having pretty even, maybe even good, luck with injuries over the course of the season, things have come at this team fast and hard. The Nats post-season comes down to the health of these players. Losing one is fine - nearly every team has their one. Losing two can be worked around. But losing three or four? That makes the Nats a different team, a team that makes one point to the variability inherent in a short series to have any real hope.

40 comments:

Froggy said...

Murphy, Strasburg, Ramos, Bryce... all this happened because someone pissed off the baseball Gods by 'calling it' (the division and Home Field Advantage) in August. Now there's a good chance that the depleted Nats could lose HFA in the next week.

Lesson here is: you gotta sho respect to the game because it's never over until it's over.

WWNLT? said...

The x-rays not being ready before game time was amazing to me. I haven't had x-rays in decades, but even as a regular joe, if I went in and had x-rays taken and they weren't able to tell me within an hour if there was a broken bone, I'd be furious. Can't imagine how quickly they can have them ready for superstar on a billion dollar team.

Nattydread said...

Ramos will also be missed for his pitch calling. This may be the most under-rated part of his game. There are no statistics on how much catcher leadership pumps up team pitching; I'll venture that Ramos had a huge value here!

JD said...

Technically, none of them are officially out. Otherwise, the only reason not DOOOOOM is because anything can happen in a short series. Doesn't make it easy though.

Fries said...

I hurt for Ramos. He's clearly out for the year, and as Harper said, the Nats can replace a bit of that production in some way. Losing him isn't necessarily killer. But I hurt for him after the year he has had; he was due for a HUGE payday and an ACL or LCL tear throws all that money to the wind. He'll get a 1 year deal next year, play mediocre baseball for half a year as he works his way back, and at that point he's too old to be considered worth a big time contract. It just sucks.

Murph should be back, I just hope he can shake the rust off in time for the NLDS. I stick Harper in a hyperbaric chamber until Game 1 of the NLDS. And Stras, well we knew he wouldn't be back, maybe he pitches in the NLCS but I'm not counting on it. Just gotta remember: anything can happen in a 5 game series...

Harper said...

Froggy - uh huh. And there were no such injuries the other times I called it because... the baseball gods were asleep? This would all make more sense if the injuries happened before to cost them the East or if I had called a NLDS victory. Work on this Froggy. You can do better.

WWNLT - I know! Which makes me think they know what's going on - either getting a 2nd opinion or just are figuring out if there is a reasonable work around. (Or just not giving info because it's late in the year and they don't feel like it)

Nattydread - probably so - but he can sit on the bench right?

JD - Everyone JD is saying they will all play in the NLDS!

Fries - It is terrible timing. Hopefully it isn't that bad. Doesn't look good for the Nats but something non-tear that just needs more rest would merely depress a big payday - and maybe in that case he'd play some winter ball to show he's ok. If you like Ramos that's probably the best case you can hope for outside of miracuously healthy.

I'd buy Bryce back before Murphy at this point. I feel like they have no idea what's up with Murphy and I think they are fully prepared to keep Bryce out until game 161 or so then wrap up Bryce's hand shoot it up and say go at it.

Richard Parker said...

Bryce's X-rays were negative. Keep up on your news, Harper. Also, the swelling is down and they expect him to play later this week.

Harper said...

missed it with all the other stuff going on. It's still odd that it took so long to report.

Harper said...

not suggesting something is wrong, though.

Chas R said...

Well, they were the favorites in 2012 and 2014 and got bounced early. Maybe this will be the reverse... just trying to be positive on a very gloomy day...

Rob Evans said...

I know anything can happen, but I'm extremely pessimistic now. I just don't see how the Nats get by the Dodgers. I know other people feel like making the playoffs is a successful year, but for me, I want a WS title. Anything less feels like kissing your sister.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Murphy injured his buttocks. Is this like a muscle strain? You don't hear about injured buttocks very much, so I'm not sure what is going on. Anyone know?

Froggy said...

The thing is Harper you largely present opinions or arguments from a statistical or odds perspective, and that's ok. It's your blog and I for one love the perspective. But many folks like me, including most professional ball players believe that there is a superstitious component, or more accurately, the belief that those long shot odds can happen more often than not, and that should be respected. You actually give an example of this potentiallity with the two 2014 WC teams going to the world series. And since odds makers and Saber dudes such as yourself would never have 'called it's for either the Giants or Royals being in the WS in 2014, there is just as much room for superstition and Hail Mary hope don't piss off the baseball Gods as there is for a soulless automaton statistical arrogance.

I actually believe in the 'it ain't over till it's over ' maxim, hence comment.

...oh, and I was right back in 2012 when I said not to shut down Strasburg as it could likely be the best (last?) chance to use him in the post season.

cass said...

People don't *really* believe in baseball superstition, right? It's just a silly, fun little tradition but nobody actually thinks jinxes and such are real... right? I always assumed everyone was just joking around with that stuff.

I worry about the team's chances in the NLDS, but, to be honest, I'm happy all of our guys are alive. Everything else is negotiable. We'll put the best team we can on the field for the NLDS and games will be held and one team will win and the other team will lose and life will go on and we'll either go on to the NLCS or we'll try again next year. But it's just games and I'm thankful that Ramos is alive and well today - injured, but otherwise healthy.

Yes, I watched the Marlins game last night and it was sad and beautiful and I still deeply miss Jose Fernandez. You don't know how much you appreciate someone until they're gone. We take so much for granted.

The injuries suck, but they're just injuries. We have an NLDS to look forward to. Let's enjoy the heck out of it.

Ole PBN said...

Welp. Time to move on. As Belichick would say, "we're on to Cincinnati." Get Severino and Loby some reps. Get Drew some regular at-bats. Get Goodwin more playing time. Good teams find a way to win despite this. I can't fault the Nats for their injury woes - (blank) happens. But I can fault them for failing to fill a hole adequately enough to stay afloat. There IS a way to make sure Ramos, Harper, or Murph are not gaping holes in our lineup. That lies on the shoulders of the coaching staff. Rick Schu, eyes on you man. 150+ games over a long season and I sense a "throwing of the towel." Screw that, figure it out.

...and for the love of all that is holy, I've had it Ryan Zimmerman. Now that I have your bobblehead (4-5 over the years), I don't need to see any more of you. Your little league throw that put your catcher in harms way was predicted months (if not years) in advance. After going all season with making girl throws around the horn after an out and underhand tosses to the pitcher covering 1st - you were doomed if you ever had to actually make a throw. And have you all seen this guy run? It's like he's running barefoot across a kitchen floor that's covered in broken glass. You make Espinosa look like a valued piece of the franchise. I can name 25 1st baseman I'd rather have. Thank you for 2005-2013, but the jig is up man. Rizzo has tried to "hide" you at 1st but your weakness to this team sticks out more than Bryce's broken thumb.

Start finding a way to beat LA.

Harper said...

Froggy - but if long shot odds happen more often than not, then they aren't really long shot odds, are they?

The money might not have been on two WC teams, but honestly the money wouldn't have been good on any two specific teams. Everything is long odds. So you might as well believe in the Nats bc while there may be a favorite there isn't going to be one team with so much better odds than another. They are all hoping for the breaks to go their way. I think everyone believes Yogi. Why not, right?

As for superstition - well go ahead and believe it if you want. We all enjoy the game in our own ways. But I'd prefer in that case you take responsibility for it, rather than shift it to us non-believers. I bet you changed your underwear the last couple days. For shame Froggy.

WiredHK said...

It's a grim day and I'm fighting my tendency to simply write it all off as "Welp, DC Sports strikes again!"

One thing I will say is that Max is the type of pitcher that can (not that he will, but that he CAN) carry a team to a title almost by himself. He is a spectacular ace that is fully healthy and he has an absolute bulldog demeanor that seems made for not wilting under bright light pressure.

And Roark, last night's blip aside, is as steady as it gets as a fantastic #2. Giving these guys the ball 3 out of 5 games vs the Dodgers would give most any lineup in MLB a chance over such a small sample size. Give me a wet and slightly chilly (night) DC opener for Kershaw and let's roll the dice....

JE34 said...

YES. Scherzer IS a bulldog...

Bulldog... Hershiser's nickname...

and we're back to the 1998 world series... the "weakest lineup in WS history"...

Anything can happen!

JE34 said...

{pours another shot}

Harper said...

Wow! "weakest lineup in WS history" That's a hot take on the best Yankees team of that dynasty era

(I know you meant 88)

G Cracka X said...

Alas, poor Wilson! We knew thee well.......

Robot said...

I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious. "Calling it" is displeasing to the baseball gods, and they are a petty, vengeful lot.


It may be time to break out the Bryce and Werth chia pets....

1natsfan said...

I keep hearing how these games have meaning. If so, could someone please explain why Giolito, Perez and Petit keep appearing in relief. This is the very definition of insanity.

Robot said...

@1natsfan - It's a psyche-out move. Get LA planning for Perez/Petit, then blindside them with a 100% healthy Strasburg who, SURPRISE!, spent the past three weeks learning how to pitch with either hand!

Anonymous said...

As one of the fewer than 19,000 people who actually went to that miserable disaster of a game last night, I feel as though I have the right to say that that crowd last night was an embarrassment. It almost made me ashamed to be a Nationals fan and a DC sports fan. The sorry ass Marlins organization had a far bigger crowd last night to say goodbye to Jose Fernandez than we had to say hello to our once again division champions.

It's almost starting to feel like these injuries and this seemingly endless bad luck we have with our teams is some sort of twisted karma for us being the worst big sports town in America.

1natsfan said...

@robot-thank you for clearing that up. Always suspected that there was a reason why Rizzo was never truthful with medical reports. Also, Zimmerman and Espinosa have been acting like they can't hit. Boy, is LA in for an ice cold bucket of water.

ClassOf87 said...

I'm not going to kill Nats fans for not coming out on a Monday night with a fairly consequential presidential debate on tap. They're on pace to draw 2.4 million again, top half of the league, and substantially better (+300K) than supposedly MLB superior Baltimore.

Froggy said...

I go commando... although I don't subscribe to wholesale superstition, I do retire badluck jerseys and caps on occasion.

I second cass' big picture comments and I'm grateful that all of our guys are alive and now it's time for the Goodwins, Difos, Drews and Heiseys to save the day. I believe.

Ric said...

I'm very worried the Dodgers get home-field advantage. They have the second-best home record in the majors, and I take Kershaw over Scherzer in game one in LA.

Dodgers are hot, Washington's not.

JD said...

Ramos has a torn ACL. He could say goodbye to his payday this off season as well.
We're now stuck with Lobaton. Well if Sandy Leon can do it, maybe Lobaton can as well? Here's to hoping.

Ole PBN said...

@ Anonymous 8:18am

You live in the DC area. The Presidential debate and Monday Night Football will always be more important to people here than a meaningless baseball game in late-September for a team that already clinched their division a few days ago. Are you just now realizing this? Put that Nats jersey back on lad!

Ole PBN said...

Just curious, seeing as Dusty has Drew hitting 3rd tonight, when Murphy comes back, doesn't that mean he prefers Drew over Espinosa? I mean, if Danny is our best option at SS, why isn't he hitting 3rd tonight and Drew be black hole at the bottom of the order?

Froggy said...

Is it a weird coincidence (or statistical probability Harper?) that the four players shown on the Nationals.com season plan holder site are all injured?

See for yourself at http://nationals.com/access

...nope, not superstitious at all...

JE34 said...

@Ole PBN: You ain't kiddin. Espi's K problem appears to be getting even worse lately. In the month of September, he's had a zero-K night exactly once. Total of 6 walks and 9 hits in September. At least 2 Ks per night for the past week. This is as bad as he's ever been.

I had this same sort of harangue last season re Desmond, and his penchant for swinging to pull everything as hard as he can... the free world can see Danny's massive uppercut swing, regardless of circumstances. Does he not listen to his hitting coaches, or are his hitting coaches not helping him? This is not "figuring it out" - this is a matter of his bat spending no time in the flight plane of the baseball.

I really want him to be our version of Mark Lemke in the playoffs. Odds of that are very, very low, unless he starts (a) making consistent contact and (b) hitting line drives.

PotomacFan said...

Ryan Zimmerman, and bad luck, are going to cost Wilson Ramos well in excess of $30 million. The only silver lining might be that Ramos stays with the Nats on a one-year contract. But I kind of doubt that Ramos will want to stay, given the well under market contract (3/$30) that the Nats offered Ramos.

Another silver lining: remember when Lobaton was Gio's personal catcher earlier this year. Well, Gio is going to have his personal catcher behind the plate for him. Will this help? I doubt it, but I'm trying to stay positive here.

PotomacFan said...

Just following up on my own comment: how much better would it have been if Ramos had thrown the ball over Zimmerman's head, and Zimmerman tore his ACL? Just saying.

Anonymous said...

Let's everone take a step back from the ledge...wishing anyone on your own team to be hurt over someone else is bad jue jue.

Richard Parker said...

Interestingly enough, after tonight, Nats are now 18-8 in games in which Ramos did not play.

Clip&Store said...

Very interesting indeed

Froggy said...

Schoenfield's SweetSpot-ESPN blog post explains nicely how a 3-way tie for the WC would play out. Makes the last week of the season fun!

"What we learned: Hoping for a three-way tie in NL wild-card race"
http://www.espn.com/blog/sweetspot/