Nationals Baseball: Playoff Quickie

Monday, October 10, 2016

Playoff Quickie

So I was hurricane'd this weekend. Nothing serious but power, internet, cable issues that kept me from getting some posts up or live-tweeting.  I'll be around today though.

As for the weekend, it went about as I expected. If you asked me to suss out the favorites for each game in the series before it started I would have said : G1 Dodgers slight favorite, G2 Nats solid favorite, G3 Nats slight favorite, G4 Dodgers solid favorite. (Game 5? Well that depends on who goes and how they pitched earlier in the series. Right now, assuming Max v Kershaw Part 2 in DC, I'd make the Nats a slight favorite.)  The Dodgers needed Game 1 because they could very easily lose the next two. They got it. After losing the first game though, the Nats really needed the next two, because they could very easily lose Game 4. They've gotten one, let's get the next one.

Why are the Nats slight favorites in my mind today? Well the Dodgers can't hit lefties. They just can't. We've gone over that. However, they are at home and Gio is capable of losing a game by himself so I can't give the Nats the win straight up. Also I've liked Maeda all year and think he's capable of throwing a 7 inning shutout type game. The end of the season makes me back off a little bit, but that feeling is still there. So Nats are favored by me but not by much.

My biggest issue yesterday was seeing Dusty, for the second day have a LHRP face the three righties on the Dodgers you don't want him to face (Puig, Grandal, and Kendrick*). This should be difficult to do. Grandal has started both games so simply by avoiding using a lefty only around his time up would be enough to do it. Yet there we were on Friday watching Solis face Grandal (single), Kendrick (GB out) and Puig (IBB) in successsion and Rep on Sunday facing Puig (BB) Grandal (K) and Kendrick (LD out right at Werth) back to back to back as well.  Dusty has been very good pulling the strings beside these moments but I just don't see how it happened once, let alone twice. Eventually this is going to bite the Nats if it keeps happening.

I think the best observation about these two games is that the Nats' offense looks like... well the Nats offense. There could easily have been some drop off but there doesn't seem to be. Murphy looks like Murphy. Turner is handling himself.  Lobaton/Severino are not being outmatched. Only Espinosa seems to be problematic with his 5 Ks in two games but if that's the only real problem, and it seems to be, the Nats are in great shape at the plate. Yes, these things can be like a faucet but as we say - rather be hot than cold.

The starting pitching oddly has been the real issue. Max made an unusually high number of mistake pitches in Game 1 and when Max makes a mistake, because of his approach, those are HR balls. But otherwise he looked like Max, and I like Max to get back to regular form if he's out there in Game 5. This is big because Kershaw looked terrible in G1, and while he might also get back into form, it's a lot harder for me to buy into that happening. Max just needs to cut down on his mistake pitches. Kershaw needs to regain the feel of all his pitches because he had nothing Saturday. The script flipped in G2, as I felt Roark wasn't as good as Hill, but Hill made the big mistake in that game. Roark... I didn't like his control. Maybe it was the wind? I don't know but he was way too hittable and three walks in 4 1/3rd? I'm not sure we'll see Tanner again this series and I don't think that's a bad thing. April through August he never walked more than 3 in a game and a vast chunk of those were 7 IP+ games. In September he did it three times and he would have gotten there if he was left in this game.

Ok so what about today? As long as Gio got his curveball going the Nats should cruise. Grandal doesn't hit the curveball well. Puig can be a chaser. Kendrick is old. All the other guys just can't handle lefties at all. If Gio doesn't have a feel for the curve and has to rely on the fastball for strikes things get a lot more dicey because he is prone to mistakes (hello Puig HR) and Grandal feasts on fastballs. If their teammates can work their way on base in between (they still can't hit lefties) then you're looking at a typical drive yourself crazy Gio outing. Honestly I think it's an either or day - like a 7+IP 1run affair, or less than 5IP, 4+runs. Maeda I think, will fit inbetween these two. While I do still think he can throw a gem, even his gems are 6IP 1 run games because he doesn't go deep. Twist my arm and I'll guess 6IP, 3R. So this game is Gio's game to win or lose in my head.

Of course games aren't played in my head. OK see you at 4:00!

*argue Chooch Ruiz if you want, I ain't listening. And Turner has always hit righties better than lefties for whatever reason.

36 comments:

Richard Parker said...

I think it's fascinating how Harper, on the one hand, will write essays about how managers play an almost miniscule role in the fate of their teams, while on the other hand, pick apart each decision a manager makes, especially during the playoffs.

Carl said...

True about Dusty letting the righties face a LHP. However: it was somewhat inevitable once, as the Dodgers made the moves to Puig and Kendrick. And then those two were in there for the rest of the game, so the next time through you had Treinen pitch to those guys and they couldn't really make any counter-moves.

One thing that did bother me, but fortunately didn't matter: it looked like Dusty went to Perez in the 8th BEFORE Ethier was announced, allowing them to not burn Ethier and go with Ruiz. However, in looking at the play-by-play recap now, they do show Ethier as a pinch-hitter followed by Ruiz as PH for the PH, so maybe Ethier was officially in there. OK then.

Carl said...

@Richard--it's the long season vs. a short playoff series, though, isn't it? Over the course of 162 games, a manager's decisions may not matter that much; the inherent talent on the roster will dictate how the season goes. But in a short series, those decisions loom much larger. I've heard it said that a good manager doesn't win you many more games, but a bad manager sure can lose them, and you can make that case for 2012 NLDS Game 5 and 2014 NLDS Game 4.

Richard Parker said...

@Carl. But if a manager loses you even one game in a 5- or 7-game series, how many will he lose you in a 162-game year? Even if he loses you one out of twenty, that's pretty damn significant.

Jay said...

Danny is 0-5 with 5 K's. He has yet to put the ball in play. He looks completely lost. Taking strikes down the middle and swinging at bad pitches. I didn't think he could look worse than he usually does. The playoffs seems to have ratcheted up awful approach. I am curious to see if Drew plays today against righty Maeda, or if Espinosa can somehow bounce back and play a role other than getting hit by a pitch.

Any thoughts about Baker's comments Saturday about "who else am I going to play" when he was asked about Espinosa? Also, hopefully the Nats can get on a roll and win the next two. Hoping for a game 5 in DC is fun, but going against Kershaw is dicey at best. He was off his game in game 1, but that doesn't guarantee he will be again.

Richard Parker said...

And Harper has pretty much said that any manager, good or bad, does not significantly affect the outcome of his team.

Harper said...

Carl / RP - During the season, you have to be more considerate of the season as a whole. You can't burn out an arm or force an injured guy in everyday because you want him for as many of 162 as you can get. At the same time maybe you let a guy hit through a slump for a while, or slowly recover from injury, or maybe you let a pitcher work out of a jam himself to learn something. There's competing goals of winning games now and creating the best team to win the most games during the year. This tends to depress the number of decisions a manager can make. There's a reason things have been done how they've been done for so long by all managers.

Playoffs are also a different beast. The only goal is to win the next game. Even the next series has to be put on the back-burner because if you don't get out of this one, who cares? That means the manager has to use everything available to him to win and puts a lot more onus on him.

As well as just a percentage thing. A manager might screw up a few games in the regular season. So what, it happens to every manager. But screw up one game in the post-season and it matters so much. There's no margin for error. There's no time for things to even out.

I won't say you are a bad manager for screwing up in the playoffs but I will say you did a bad job managing if that happens. (Like Davey in 2012 in G5 and setting up Storen for that in general. HOF manager, made a little mistake that ballooned on him)

BornInDC said...

Carl,

I agree with you about the Puig and Kendrick substitutions. They both happened relatively early in the game and back-to-back and I said to my friends that Dusty would have Treinen ready the next time through. I was at the game and the wind was really holding up fly balls hit high (you will note that the two home runs that were hit were relatively low), so Dusty might have been ready to roll the dice the one time with lefty-righty matchups to ensure that those two right hand hitters were in the lineup the rest of the way.

I will also say that I would say that I would not be surprised if the wind early in the game affected both Roark and Hill's control.

WiredHK said...

So, are we going with Ross in game 4 regardless of the results from today?

I have to say the most pleasant surprise out of everything has been Ryan Zimmerman. I wrote him off for dead a month ago and couldn't believe we could possibly put him in any post-season lineup, and here he is delivering like the Mailman he is in the clutch.

I'll take my slice of crow-pie with a side of my-God-Murphy-is-awesome whipped cream. Thanks.

Richard Parker said...

Harper

But there are so many different variables in what you just said. Some managers burn out arms while others coddle them. Some let hitters work through a slump while others sit them for a while. There are tons of options on how to manage the pitching. I just don't see how you can say a manager plays almost no role in the destiny of a team. Especially, like I mentioned, considering how you criticize managers for their decisions all the time, and not just in the playoffs.

Alexander Freeman said...

I understand why you would say that Dusty letting lefties face Kendrick and Puig is worrisome, but in the playoffs the results are all that matter and he's navigated his bullpen to almost 9 scoreless innings. Conventional logic would say Dusty messed up but the results disagree. I'll let Dusty make those decisions as long as they keep working out. Imagine what Matt Williams would've done there and you'll probably feel a lot better

ClassOf87 said...

Carl: We were at the game and you are right: unless someone pulled the PA plug, Ethier was not announced as a pinch hitter before DB came out and went to Perez. I had said to my son that I was sure DB would go to Perez because Ethier was in the on deck circle. But we didn't hear him announced. That could have blown up in the Nats' face (and I am a big DB supporter). Otherwise, I think DB has managed the pen pretty well. The problem will come if Gio can't go deep today; I'm sure DB would like to save Lopez to team with Ross tomorrow; I am assuming Ross for all the reasons stated before (Max not wanting to go on short rest, etc.)

Richard Parker said...

Also, when you made your original assertion about managers, you made no distinction between the regular season and the playoffs. You basically said a team's talent was what was important and neither a bad not good manager could change that team's final result. Look it up if you want.;)

PotomacFan said...

Even if Nats lose today, it's crazy to have Max pitch tomorrow on short rest. Nats have to win TWO more games. Ross would then have to pitch game 5 (okay, it's at home, so maybe that helps Ross). Roark didn't look good in Game 2 and would be pitching on short rest in Game 5. So, Ross is going to have to pitch.

Are we good with some strategy discussion here? Mid-innings, Zim on first, no outs, Danny batting. Any reason Danny didn't bunt? He's the best bunter on the team. Next up is Loby, and then a PH for the pitcher. Danny struck out. As Harper has noted, Danny has not put a ball in play yet.

I was surprised that Treinen didn't keep pitching. He had his A+ stuff. So, Perez (who I didn't even want on the post-season roster) comes in and gets the last two outs. So, I figured Perez would stay in to pitch to the lefties Utley and Seager in the top of the 9th. But Melancon is the closer, so by rule, he pitches the 9th. I can live with that. Melancon is the best closer Nats have ever had IMHO. Way less drama than Storen, Soriano, etc.

Froggy said...

It's a three game series now folks and I have a good feeling about Gio tonight. If we don't close out in ELAY I like our odds coming back to DC and Scherzer 2.0

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm having a hard time at work today. Can't wait to get out of here, grab a beer and cheer!

LETS GO NATS!

Alan Wiecking said...

The broadcast had Ethier standing in the on deck circle but not announced, which is a pretty common tactic. I get the feeling Dusty jumped a little early on that switch. Typically, a manager waits for the official PA announcement before heading to the mound.

Chaos

BornInDC said...

I would not be surprised if Lopez starts Game 4, maybe with Ross in long relief if the Dodgers start subbing in right-handed hitter. Although it's a small sample size, Lopez has been brutal on left-handed hitters this year in the majors:

http://www.espn.com/mlb/player/splits/_/id/33860/reynaldo-lopez

In contrast, Ross has had all kinds of trouble against left-handed hitters this year, but is tough on right-handed hitters:

http://www.espn.com/mlb/player/splits/_/id/32684/joe-ross



Zimmerman11 said...

Harper, glad to hear you were not seriously impacted by the storm this weekend. That said, get yourself a hand-crank battery charger and keep posting from your phone. You have a responsibility here, dude.


http://www.samsclub.com/sams/superbattery-rechargeable-power-bank/prod1260397.ip?pid=_CSE_Google_PLA_249277&source=ifpla&CAWELAID=730010300000309753&adid=22222222627000001478&veh=sem

TWV1026 said...

OK, so BornInDC's comment made me think of a crazy out-of-the-box solution to the Ross/Lopez conundrum for tomorrow.
Can they play outfield well enough to not be embarrassed out there? Sit Danny, move Trea to SS, and put Ross/Lopez at P/OF. Rotate them on and off the mound as the matchups dictate. Have Ross pitch to the RHBs and Lopez pitch to the LHBs and keep them both in the game by putting the guy not pitching in the OF. Move Bryce to CF and Werth to RF if you need to. Ross is already occasionally used as a PH/PR, so he'd be better offensively than Danny has been so far.
I know this sounds ridiculous, but the Cubs did something similar with one of their pitchers (I forget who it was) earlier this year, albeit for only 1 or 2 outs.

Sammy Kent said...

@ Jay re: "Any thoughts about Baker's comments Saturday about "who else am I going to play" when he was asked about Espinosa?"

Here's what I would ask Dusty if I had the chance:

Is Wilmer Difo on the roster just to pinch run? Well, Danny can do that. Difo has neither the range nor the arm of Danny, but I'm pretty sure he can't do significantly worse at the plate than Danny simply because there ain't significantly worse TO do at the plate. Is Michael Taylor on the roster just to pinch run? Well Danny can do that while Taylor plays in centerfield and Trea Turner moves back to his natural position: shortstop. Is Stephen Drew on the roster just to pinch hit? Well, Danny can...... uh, never mind.

Josh Higham said...

I know it's irrational, because you want the most at bats possible for your good hitters, but it makes me uneasy to think of Danny coming off the bench to strike out in a big spot when ordinarily Dusty would use Drew. Maybe Dusty is wary of the same problem? If he puts Drew, whose bat we trust, in the field, the bench bats get substantially more suspect.

Like I said, this is irrational, because if Drew has a good day, and goes 2-3 and Danny 0-1 with a K, that's a lot better than Danny 0-3 with 3 Ks and Drew (still having a good day) 1-1 with a single, or 0-0 with a Sac Fly. The defensive difference is real, but less likely to make a big difference than a hit with Zimm and Rendon on base. Irrationality is a big part of human decision making.

NatsGuy said...

Just to pile on: Espinosa's career postseason stats: 1-24, 13K (with 2BB and now 2 HBP). It's not just this year that he looks lost... And Dusty's "Who else am I going to play" sounds uncomfortably like Matt Williams' "Because that's what we've done all year"

Ric said...

Josh, read Sammy again. He said "pinch run." Once Sammy got to pinch hit, he said, "uh, never mind."

Nobody suggest Espinosa should pinch hit.

WiredHK said...

Adding to that, wasn't Espy really bad for basically the entire second half of the season? There is nothing about his plate performance so far that is out of line with how he's played since the AS break.

He's an automatic K (not just out) and the only saving grace is if he hits with runners on and less than 2 outs, he won't GIDP because he can't even touch the ball.

Now watch him yank one into the OF stands today in the biggest of moments....

Kenny B. said...

This Seager thing is killing me. We just spot them a run in the first to the same hitter every time. How can this happen three times in a row?

NatsGuy said...

TONY 4 BAGS!!!!

PotomacFan said...

Look out: Gio is pitching with a lead. That is usually pretty dangerous.

Also, Danny must have some kind of record: 9 plate appearances: 6 K, 3 HBP. Can he use his body instead of his bat to "swing" at the ball? He seems to make better contact that way.

JE34 said...

Danny needs to get hit by more pitches in the strike zone.

Anonymous said...

...aaaand right on cue Gio serves it up to Chooch

Sammy Kent said...

I swear, Zim gets more inconsequential hits than anybody I've ever seen. Bases loaded with any number of outs it's a K, or pop up or grounder dp. Two out nobody on, laces a single up the middle.

I was actually typing this while he was taking his at bat. I knew it was going to happen that way.

Sammy Kent said...

As I was saying, Zim is money when men are on base in the ninth inning. Crow is so delicious. :-)

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

YUGE!

Anonymous said...

Danny must sit immediately. Difo or Drew, it do not matter which one.

Flapjack said...

New fancy stats, made possible by Statcast, for the first time give management the ability to see what players add defensively. (Google "espinosa statcast") Anyway, as bad as he's been at the plate, I have to believe Danny saved at least one hit yesterday. And besides, no one steps into a pitch better (a strike turned into a 1B trip, and he eventually scored!)