Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - nothing to say about the Nats

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Quickie - nothing to say about the Nats

Let's get this over with right? The NL Is pretty boring. The Cubs are set as 1. The Nats are set as 2 (OH COME ON - Did we not just go through this with calling the division?  Do you not see you are doing the same thing again? Really? You don't? Are you really going to fret a 4.5 game lead with an easy schedule? ... Sigh. You're the worst). The Dodgers... well ok the Dodgers aren't set as 3 - not given 6 H2H games vs the Giants coming up. So you have that. But they do have a distinct edge and are almost certainly in the playoffs. That leaves the NL questions as :

1) Can the Giants heat up and catch the Dodgers? (unlikely)
2) Who's going to be the 2 WC teams out of Mets, Giants (or LA), and Cardinals?
3) Who's going to host that WC?

#2 is interesting for as long as it holds - which should be into next week at least. #1 could be, but could also die out as an interesting before Thursday. #3 - who cares?

The AL is more exciting as the AL East is up for grabs between 3 teams (it would take another 7-1 type run by the Yankees for them to have a chance) and you can still put 7 teams in the WC race. With those numbers we're sure to have something of interest next week and likely something all the way till the last couple series.

So if you're like me and waiting out another 10 days before you really start to care how the Nats individual players are looking* there is your MLB update. Starting series of major interest : LAD @ NYY, BAL @ BOS.

OK So back to the Nats - they keep doing what they are supposed to be doing. They pitch well. They win. Now they face the Mets.  Early in the year you might have thought this would have been important to the NL East.  It's not.  A few weeks ago you might have thought the Nats could finish off the Mets here. They can't. So this is more about feelings than facts. The Mets are a good team and they are playing well. They are a playoff team.We want to see whether the Nats can pick it back up against that level of competition.

Now like I said in my aside - it doesn't REALLY matter. We're 3 weeks from the playoffs and how they do today is going to matter far less to us than how they do that last week. But the Nats haven't won a series against a solid .500+ team in over a month. That's part schedule but it's part Nats, too.  They may not get another chance to either as the Pirates and Marlins both have fallen away. If they go into the playoffs without this series win that will be in the back of our minds. The Nats haven't proven in a long time that they can raise their level of play.  Now, granted, that may last all of 2 innings if the Nats come out hot in the NLDS, but it's the kind of thing that can fester and grow. Come out flat in G1 and suddenly it's a "thing". I don't want "things". I don't want to have to deal with talking narratives that probably aren't the driving reason for losses. I also don't want to have the Nats dealing with things that while not the driving reason, may in fact be something working against them.

So win. Play 3 good games and take at least 2. Give the Nats fans that to hang onto as you play mediocre teams down the stretch.

*Yes, we'd rather everyone be hot right now - but things change so quickly it would barely matter. Let's say... I don't know... Rendon was hitting .450 with 4 homers in the last 2 weeks. You'd be super happy right? But let's say from Sept 20th on he hits .125 with no XBH.  Are you going to care about those other weeks? No. So we sit and wait for players to do well, but really we sit and wait for it to be close enough to the playoffs where we actually care how they are doing one way or another.


PotomacFan said...

I suppose it's a good thing, but as a Nats fan this is the most boring season in years. It's just hard to get excited about the games. I think the players feel the same way, although none would ever admit it.

I'm a bit bummed about two poor performances in a row by Koda Glover. Dusty was grooming Glover to the 8th inning guy. That's not looking too good right now. Glover is going to have to pick up his game to make the 25 man post-season roster. I'm looking for Zep to replace Perez on the roster, and if he can get in some better outings, Glover to replace Petit. Petit has seen very little action in the past few weeks, and Perez is purely a LOOGY. By contrast, Zep has looked good, and he can pitch to righties and lefties, and for more than 1 inning if needed.

Anonymous said...

I can't lie, I'm worried because they're sleepwalking their way through these games, and I know this team arrogantly thinks that it can just flip the power switch back on at a moment's notice whenever it wants to, and of course it can't. Especially against a human power outage like Clayton Kershaw.

John C. said...

Fortunately/unfortunately, how well they are doing on the way into the playoffs means virtually nothing in the playoffs. All it does is tell us which narrative will be adopted ex post facto to explain what happened:

If the Nats finish strong and
(a) win - then the narrative is that they kept the momentum going and rode it to a win. Yay!
(b) lose - then the narrative is that they burnt themselves out in meaningless games and Dusty should have rested the regulars more. Boo!

If the Nats stumble to the finish and
(a) win - then Baker smartly kept his eyes on what was important, the playoffs, and made sure that everyone was healthy and ready to play. Yay!
(b) lose - then anyone could see that this team was not mentally and physically ready for the playoffs; just look at how they played. Boo!

As for Anon at 0820, I don't see them sleepwalking through these games at all. They are playing good defense and the pitching is good. And as for Kershaw, even if healthy, he hasn't exactly been a human power outage in the playoffs.

Harper said...

JC - yeah - ultimately nothing matters except what happens in those playoff games. The lead up informs us but 3-5 games is nothing. Zimm could rip .600. Turner could go 0-fer. Nothing would be crazy in that short an outing.

Still I like to look at the team as it is those last few days as an idea, however general, of how they could look in round 1. We have to guess something and that, informed less and less going back through the season, is probably the best we have.

PotomacFan said...

John C: well said. Just think, if Gio had held the 6 run lead in Game 5 vs. the Cardinals, the entire Nats narrative for that year would have been entirely different.

Josh Higham said...

Since there isn't a whole lot to say that hasn't been belabored of late, how about some crow eating?

I was a fool. I was strongly against replacing Danny with Trea Turner (this isn't the part I'm eating crow for--I think Danny at SS and Trea competent in the outfield and embarrassing pitchers is the best possible scenario, with the benefit of hindsight). The reason was that I thought that this year at least he'd hit about .260 without power and make rookie mistakes in the field. I didn't feel like this was the year to try to develop a promising rookie with all the other problems the offense was dealing with. I was very wrong. The kid is the real deal, and I am beginning to think I won't mind too much if Bryce leaves after 2018 as long as Trea sticks around.

G Cracka X said...

Hi Harper,

How about a post comparing Gio and Roark? Roark has a much better ERA, but the FIPs are similar. Gio Ks more per 9 and gives up less walks (barely) per 9 than Roark. But Gio is considered '#5 material' vs. the Roark discussion centers around 'Is he an ace?' I think we can all agree that right now, Roark is better. But perhaps the gap is not as big as the perception? Do Roark's numbers suggest regression, a la Shelby Miller (as one of the Fangraphs guys suggested in a chat)?

cass said...

Player health seems like the biggest thing right now. Hard to predict if someone will be hot in the NLDS, but we can at least see if they'll be injured.

Given the likelihood of facing the Dodgers, I also pay close attention to Gio. We'll have to start him against the Dodgers since they're terrible against lefties. I suppose this applies to our lefties in the pen, too. Gio pitching well is encouraging. Gio pitching badly is worrying. Yesterday was nice.

Strasburg's progress is also important if he can come back as either a starter or reliever. As I said - injuries. I'm more concern about his health for 2017, though, and will understand if they just shut him down.

Froggy said...

"Fortunately/unfortunately, how well they are doing on the way into the playoffs means virtually nothing in the playoffs."

Of course I disagree with that statement as it doesnt accout for this thing called momentum, which can work in a winning or losing fashion. (See Mets and Pirates over the last month)

Also, if how they are playing means virtually nothing why not just rest all your starters for the next two weeks and play the scrubs?

Harper said...

also JC - I said the EXACT same things two weeks ago Great minds... well fair minds, at least.

Harper said...

Froggy - you wouldn't want to rest everyone that long. Baseball is daily and your body works up an internal cycle that prepares for that. This is true in training for any athletic endeavour. Both physically and mentally (this is why there is a TINY bit of logic behind the 7th-8th-Closer role scenario) When guys get 2-3 days off or start playing every other day it can throw that off. Better not to give more than a day off a week unless necessary by health. There isn't time to "work back" once you get to that last week.

thing about momentum is we don't know how to measure it, how quickly it turns on/off etc. We all have felt it, just not watching games, but I assume playing games, and we know it's real, but how that translates into tomorrow is a mystery. This is especially true for baseball where so much hinges not on the entire team play but on the starting pitcher. So you'd rather have them playing well but the difference between them playing well and entering and playing poorly and entering may not be anything at all (especially bc a good manager might spin it into "hey we got a break - new season" and follow that up with a good first game? Blammo - no more bad mo)

John C. said...

Funny thing about "momentum" - it is virtually impossible to establish that it really exists, either for a player or a team, as an indicator of likely future performance. It's why "playing the hot hand" is not a reliable way of allocating playing time.

After the fact, we can adapt our narrative to whatever happens, and therefore it becomes a tautology. And satisfying because it can never be refuted!

And Harper - hey, I never said that I was original!

Anonymous said...

I have to be honest, I'm a die hard Nats fan from NY and like you said we are just waiting for the playoffs. But I just cant stop watching and rooting for the Yankees, they are so much fun to watch and they are on a great run. I just wish they could have pulled off that sweep yesterday. Nats/Yanks!!!!

Froggy said...

Harper, you gonna do a piece on why Rizzo/Lerners must sign Ramos to a multi year deal? We just can't have him going to the Mets next year. Too much inside knowledge on our pitching staff and position players.

What do you think the market will bear and do the Nats meet or beat it?

Froggy said...

Harper, you gonna do a piece on why Rizzo/Lerners must sign Ramos to a multi year deal? We just can't have him going to the Mets next year. Too much inside knowledge on our pitching staff and position players.

What do you think the market will bear and do the Nats meet or beat it?

Sammy Kent said...

Nothing to talk about? Au contraire! Beating the bluejohnhell out of the Mets is something to talk about. This was as nice a win tonight as we've had all season. And frankly, it should have been more. Montero literally handed us two runs in the first with bases-loaded walks, but despite having the bases loaded with nobody out that was all we got in the first, and didn't score a run off a hit until Latos' homer in the second. Anthony Rendon's dinger might be the dagger that kills the Mets spirit. I hope so. I would SOOOO dearly love to sweep those sumbucks. I only worry about our tendency to follow up a big offensive explosion with a two-hit turd...and it IS Syndergaard pitching tomorrow night. But I am seriously enjoying this one tonight!!!!!

Froggy said...

IMO momentum is a mindset that is essentially a translation of confidence that if 'I just focus on doing my job to perfection' and everyone else does the same the little things will take care of themselves. = winning

Ric said...

SammyKent said, "... and didn't score a run off a hit until Latos' homer in the second."

So now we are complaining when we don't score a run off a hit until the SECOND inning of a game?

Sammy Kent said...

@Ric, hell yes, when the first inning has the bases loaded and nobody out. It doesn't matter what inning it is. When your batting average with the bases loaded and nobody out is .000, you are failing. First inning runs count just as much as the rest of them, and 99% of the time you had darn well better score them when they're there to be plated. We were lucky that we got a couple of gifts. Without them it would have been a TOTAL waste of baserunners.