Nationals Baseball: Only one here

Friday, September 02, 2016

Only one here

If Monday is Labor Day today must be Business Friday or something. No ones around. But I am!

There are the obvious series that really matter for both teams (NYY @ BAL, DET @ KC) but there is a couple of interesting division leader vs what amounts to division chasers series going on and the Nats are one of those (HOU @ TEX is the other)

Generally fans don't want to face a divisional opponent in the playoffs. There's a sense that facing a non-divisional opponent comes simply down to talent. A division opponent though knows you. It's hard to shake the idea that they may be able to match-up against you better and they might have more personal reasons for wanting to beat you.* Honestly all these teams want to win badly and all these teams are quality. They are all going to try hard. But still...

So if you have a chance to keep a divisional opponent out of the playoffs, as the Nats do with the Mets, it might be prudent to take advantage of it. If not for you than for the fans. They play the Mets 6 times in 12 games starting tonight. The Mets' other six are against Cincy and Atlanta so let's assume they go 4-2 there. The Nats taking 4 or more would make the Mets .500 over that 12 game span. They probably lose at least a game to whoever is in WC2. They probably get passed by the Pirates and/or the Marlins. This leaves the Mets needing to gain 3 games over 16 to end the year, while leapfrogging a team or two. They have an easy schedule but even 11-5 might not get that done. So win the series, then win the next series vs the Mets and they are likely out. However, this plan seems a lot tougher today than it did 3 weeks ago.

The Mets for the most part have finally been playing good baseball, 9-3 in the last 12, now 2 games out of the WC. This time frame pretty much aligns with the return of Cespedes.  It's not as if Cespedes is actually a game-changing player. You can ask Detroit and Boston and Oakland about that. But Cespedes is a game-changer for the Mets. Last year he came in and hit like crazy and helped carry them (along with pitching and Murphy and some savvy deals) to the NL East title. He's got that cache. Now, there's something about his presence that is working in his favor. If he can simply come in and hit like he can, it boosts the team. And he's done better than that hitting .333 / .393 / .667 since being back. The team is reacting. Even in last night's loss the Mets came part of the way back.

The Mets can't catch the Nats - that's not what this series is about.** This is about the Nats turning it back on. It's about facing an opponent with some talent and some momentum and shutting them down. The schedule has given the Nats an easy ride for the dog days. That's great. But it's past time for the Nats to take it to a team that is playoff caliber. Let's start now.

*The Nats have the unenviable position of having non-talent reasons for not wanting to face a number of these teams. Along with the Cubs being awesome and the Mets being divisional opponents, the Nats have history losing to the Cardinals and Giants. Psychologically a match-up vs the Dodgers then hopefully a transcendent Pittsburgh would be best I guess? 

** It's not enough that the Mets win, the Nats would have to utterly collapse to make that a possibility. Let's think of a plausible terrible stretch for the Nats - say the Mets win 5 of 6 vs them and win 5 of 6 inbetween and the Nats only go 4-3 inbetween (ATL and PHI at home - they should do better than that) That would only get the Mets to 4 out with 16 to go. We just said 3 in 16 would be tough. The Nats truly have to do something like go 2-5 vs ATL and PHI AND go 1-5 or 0-6 vs the Mets to make this a race.

27 comments:

G Cracka X said...

Last year, the Mets had two series in August and September vs. the Nats where the Mets double swept. It is highly unlikely that they do it this time, but it shouldn't be automatically ruled out, either. I saw yesterday that 538 put the Mets' chances of winning tonight's game at 57%.

cass said...

Syndergaard against Cole tonight - not really surprised the Mets are favored. FanGraphs has the Mets at 59%. Pretty sure the odds will be different in the other games.

Also, unlike last year, neither Papelbon nor Storen are on the team. I think we're safe.

Harper said...

pro-Mets guys on the FAN noted that the probables did't favor Mets in last 2 games so they needed to take first one. You can't automatically rule out double sweeps no, but it's more likely the Nats pull that off than the Mets. It's not something to worry about until maybe (maybe) sweep 1 goes down.

Chas R said...

It IS quite around here! I think Labor Day weekend has somehow turned into a 4 day holiday.

I am interested to see how we d against Thor tonight. These are Must Win games for the Mets, the pressure is on them. We are in Citifield, so the crowd will be enormous, especially give the holiday weekend. We typically play pretty god at Citifield though.

Fries said...

Looking at projected pitching matchups, the Nats HAVE to take at least 3 of 6 from the Mets. Realistically it could be 4 or 5. But with Scherzer/Roark each pitching twice, I have to like the Nats chances of a double series win. Granted the other two games are project to be Cole/Giolito/Lopez/John Q Pitcher, so those games are unlikely wins, but not out of the question.

NotBobby said...

I wonder if Latos will be pitching a game against the Mets. He should be coming up now that rosters expand. That would allow rest for other pitchers... I do not like Nats chances with Latos on the mound, but I do like the long term thinking about getting rest for other pitchers...sometimes it makes more sense to lose a game now to rest players than to play to WIN every game...

Robot said...

I like how quiet this blog gets when no one is at the office, mostly because it implies that all of the baseball talk that normally goes on here is done in lieu of working.

DW said...

Off Topic: what does Ian get in the off-season 3yrs/ 35ish?

Positively Half St. said...

We will be all over this later, I am sure, but I expect he will get more than that.

Fries said...

@DW

Call me crazy, but I wouldn't be surprised to see someone throw a Jayson Werth contract at him. I don't think he'll get quite that, but I really would not be surprised. I'd expect something like 5/80. That would be paying for 2 WAR per year (assuming $8 mill per win) and Ian's put up 3.4 in 2012, 3.6 in 2013, 3.9 in 2014, 2.0 in 2015, and is on pace for ~3.7 this year. He's definitely worth a contract with an AAV of $16mil, but it'll depend on the market for him and to be honest I haven't looked into what the market will be this offseason.

Josh Higham said...

@Robot, this is what they pay us the big bucks for. I'm not working today, and nearly forgot to check for a new post.

Anonymous said...

After looking so good for much of the summer, Desmond just had an utterly atrocious month of August where he amazingly looked even worse than he did most of last year.

Keep an eye on how he does this month and in the playoffs. If he continues going as badly as he has the last few weeks, I promise you he won't be getting any Werth type megadeal.

Harper said...

Anon - "utterly atrocious' is harsh given what we saw in June of 2015. He was particularly bad from late July though early August, and merely completely lacking in XBH and BB for most of the month. But that has changed recently .286 with a double, homer and 2 walks in his past 8 games.

Still yeah - he can totally tank - that's how he rolls.

DW - there is a BIG drop off offensively in what CF give you after the Top 6 (or 7 if you like Naquin) and two of those guys are better suited in the corner. Ian can play CF. or SS!

Still it's going to depend if the Rangers extend a QO or not. If they do (around 17 million) and he rejects it - he could easily end up in another situation wheree 2/20 might be likely. If he isn't offered it I'd guess more in the 4/60 range.

JE34 said...

Whoa - Joe Ross to 60 day DL...

Harper said...

JE34 - just clears up 40 man roster space. If he comes backs someone gets kicked to the curb. Latos, Martin, less likely Petit if he keeps struggling, even less likelier Keiboom or Goodwin

JE34 said...

oh wait - he's been on the DL for almost 60 days already.

Anonymous said...

@JE34

That was both my first and second reactions as well

Zimmerman11 said...

I want to beat STL and SF on the way to the WS. REVENGE! But I'll take beating either SF/LAD and then CHC... no shame in that, either. I'm going to be so disappointed when the Nats crap out in the NLDS again. World Series or Bust, baby!

Sammy Kent said...

Well I must say I am quite delighted with Friday night's game. No complaints, except that Zimmerman ought to be sent down to Syracuse for a week. All the pitchers were fabulous, and I really can't single any one of them out, unless it would be Ollie Perez for actually getting somebody out in a crucial, late-game situation. A clutch two-out RBI single for Ramos, and a splendid two-run rally in the ninth from the guys that you ought to be able to count on for late-game heroics: Murphy, Harper, and Rendon. We'll finish this series no worse than 8 1/2 games ahead, and ideally with an even bigger margin with Roark and Scherzer going Saturday and Sunday. If we sweep, even I may relax for a few days.

PotomacFan said...

Any word on whether Shawn Kelly is injured? He has pitched 0.1 innings in the last 7 days. With only a few exceptions, he has been terrific this year, with a low WHIP (just over 1.00). I'm okay with Koda Glover and Scrabble (for now), but I'm wondering why Kelly would get 7 days off.

Sammy Kent said...

Well, I must say after scoring a grand total of two runs in eighteen innings and looking like a bunch of choking dogs for two games, I am less than delighted with what I'm seeing. The Nationals have a wonderful way of destroying a single game's optimism in a jumping jack flash. The Braves are suddenly one of the hottest teams in baseball, and we didn't exactly tear the woodpile down when we last played them....either here or in Atlanta. Fortunately we have eight games left against the Phillies and Diamondbacks to help us stagger and lurch to the finish line ahead of the Mets and Marlins.

But don't be fooled if we score a bunch of runs against them or even the Braves and Marlins over the next twenty days. That's NOT the kind of pitching we'll be facing against either Los Angeles or San Francisco. Dusty better stick a match under these guys. Bob and F.P., stop with the "Boy when they get going...." jibber jabber. Right now they AREN'T going, and there's nothing but your own wishful thinking to suggest that they will. If we get Joe and Stras back it will surely help, but they all better be going eight innings. Even then, I say again, you can't win a 0-0 game no matter how many innings you play.

NotBobby said...

Sammy-

Agree that Nats are not playing well, but I am not as worried about the pitching as you are. Remember that in seven game series a team only needs 3 or 4 starters. Scherzer and Stras i am not worried about. Roark doesnt worry me too mich bc i *hope* his competitive spirit will help him play up. And Gio could be good or not, but he is a better 4 than most teams have. The struggling pitchers with less experience get to come out of the pen and have their stuff play up. So do not worry about Lopez, Cole, Giolito not pitching well as starters. We just need to make sure Stras is healthy and Gio pitches well (although he might not need to start bc of series win or bc Scherzer can go on short rest)

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NotBobby said...

Would love to Dusty get all of the young pitchers some innings and save their arms at the same time by letting them throw a "bullpen game" every fifth day. Each of Cole, Lopez, Giolito throw 2 or 3 innings and give the rest of the bullpen a day off. Would let them get innings and adapt to the bullpen bc would know when coming in an inning or two beforehand and can warm up...Thoughts?

NotBobby said...

And Joe Ross. 2 innings each would equal 8 innings.

Anagramsci said...

Trea Turner on a pace for something like 129 Ks to 18 BBs (7:1). Discuss.

Sammy Kent said...

The gotdang Braves are like a cockroach. You can't kill them and they won't go away. We need it to start pouring rain after the eighth inning and not stop until the umps call the game when we play them.