Nationals Baseball: October 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Offseason Position Discussion : Second Base

I sometimes forget that not all of you have been reading my every word for a decade so a quick refresher on these posts.

Presumed Plan : What I think the Nats are going to do
Reasoning for Presumed Plan : Why I think they Nats are going to do it. Basically why it makes sense for them. A lot of it is "Why it could go right" but not all. Sometimes your hand is forced.
Problems with the Presumed Plan : Why it could go wrong.
My take : Basically more talk with an eye on if I think the Nats are making a mistake, with a little "if I were GM" thrown in.
Outside the Box Suggestion : Something just reasonable enough to suggest that almost assuredly won't happen. Not the best plan, maybe not even a good one. Just coming up with something different.

Ok moving on

Last Year's Discussion

So at the time last year it didn't look like the Nats were going to do anything. They had Yunel Escobar, who hit above expectations; Danny Espinosa, who hit perfectly acceptably for a defense first guy; and Anthony Rendon, who we all assumed would start hitting when healthy. They didn't need to make a move. They just needed to figure out where to put people. Personally I was advocating selling high on Yuney and starting Trea (also noting that I expected Stephen Drew to be a bench player), while hoping the Nats would sign Zobrist. However I expected to see Rendon at 3B, Yuney at SS, and Danny at 2B. It was on hand and it would work just fine.

Lo and behold the Nats DID sell high on Yuney. They shipped him off to literally Anaheim, figuratively LA, for Trevor Gott. That left the Nats with a hole that they did try to fill with Zobrist, who chose timely payment for services rendered and signed with Cubs, and then Brandon Phillips, who only wanted to move if he got more money in the deal*. So the Nats went with Plan C signing the underrated competence of Daniel Murphy to play second.


Daniel Murphy, who flipped a switch in the 2015 playoffs, ended up making that a life change. He put up MVP type numbers for the Nats last year hitting .347 / .390 / .595 for the year and carrying the Nats to first place. I always liked Daniel really! Keep reading, you'll see where I'm going. I always liked Murphy. I had him in fantasy for years. I had pretty good knowledge of Met players from the combination of Nats games, WFAN, and general baseball following. I knew he would hit decently and I felt his defense and baserunning issues were slightly overrated and WAY overrated, respectively. Sorry Gary Cohen. But even then I didn't see this coming. I had him giving value to the Nats for the contract, but nothing more. Certainly nothing like last year.  I'm not sure anyone saw it coming. Murphy surely didn't or he wouldn't have signed that deal. The Nats surely didn't or else they wouldn't have bothered going after Zobrist and Phillips. Nope last year was a complete and utter surprise** in the best way and the Nats are reaping the benefits

My OOB plan - Trade for Longoria, move Rendon to 2B - would have worked too. But pretty much because the Mets couldn't stay healthy and mount a good challenge. Obviously in hindsight the Murphy signing was the best possible decision

Presumed Plan

Murphy starts at 2nd

Reasoning for Presumed Plan

See 2016

...ok that's a bit reductive, but only a bit. Murphy can make the routine plays at 2nd. If someone can do that and hit like Murphy does, that's a big plus. 2nd basemen don't hit like that. So you keep him at 2nd.

Problems with Presumed Plan

Murphy cannot play 2nd well. You can argue that. You are wrong. His career defensive stats agree with the scouting reports which agree with pretty much everyone's eyes. At best he's below average. So you're losing something by putting him at 2nd instead of hiding him in LF or 1B of something. Do you think an Espinosa would have been this far from a normal-hit GB? Or watch Toles' single in the 5th of Game 5. It didn't amount to anything - Max would K Ethier - but at first Murphy moved laterally instead of laterally & back and then got caught somewhat flat footed on his jump. It's not that a normal 2nd baseman would make these plays, but a normal 2nd baseman would have a shot at them. Murphy does not.

The other "problem" is that Murphy may not hit like this again. It was a surprise. So if you play him all year at 2B, he has a particuarly bad year in the field, and hits more like he did before 2016, your value from Murphy is severely diminished.

My take

Well even in that worst case you are probably getting close to what you paid for, so I'm not too worried about it. At least in terms of what to do at second. To me it's pretty simple, while Murphy ideally should be playing somewhere else, he has sure hands and is acceptable enough at 2B that you can stick him there. And sticking him there gives the Nats an advantage other teams don't have.

If you can stomach sitting Zimm though, I'd kick the tires on any above average 2B (or CF! or 1B!) that may be available. That would either give you the most value (shifting Murphy) or take best advantage of a great hitting second baseman (if you sign a 1B that can hit).

Out of the Box Suggestion

This isn't a 2B idea. At least not a 2017 2B idea. Extend Murphy. Yes the Nats have a great deal on hand - why ruin it? Well here's my thinking. Even if last year is a fluke, Murphy has always hit. I mean seriously look at his career stats. I'd be willing to bet he's got at least 4 more years of above average hitting left. So I find it doubtful that even if you are giving him say... 2 more years at 18 per, that you'd end up with no value from it, especially if he shifts position. The Nats don't have a 1B in the minors they love. Their first baseman right now can't hit. So it's likely they'll need one. At the same time, like we said, Murphy shouldn't be playing 2nd. It's a pretty good fit. And if last year wasn't a fluke then you can probably grab a couple more years at what ends up being a bargain price. If we play out the second scenario and Murphy comes up with another MVP type year in 2017 you aren't going to be able to just tack on 2-3 more years and under 20 per. He'll have a 4+ year 80+ million contract waiting for him if 2018 is anything close to 2016/17. So go for it. The relationship is on a high right now You might be able right now to grab those extra years.

*He left money on the table to re-sign with Cincinnati. He felt if he were to be traded, that he needed to recoup that money since he was no longer getting the "stay at home" benefits. Of course no team with interest in him wanted to pay that money. He wasn't worth it anymore. And the Reds weren't going to do it either, they're cheap.

**While no one expected this pretty much everyone in the comments was fine with the deal, too. Hooray! We're not dumb!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Offseason Position Discussion : First Base

Last year's discussion 

A lot of last year's discussions were obvious. The Nats were pretty much set all over the place. For first base, my take was no different than pretty much everyone else's. The Nats were stuck starting Zimm because even though he was rarely healthy (156 games played in 2014 and 2015) they had him on a big contract deal and when he did play - he hit, so there wasn't an obvious upgrade without spending a lot of money.  I noted it was a bad position for the Nats as they pretty much had to do this and it was almost sure not to work. So good for me on nailing that because it didn't work at all.

Zimm still got injured (missed 40+ games) and now lost his ability to hit, putting up a .218 / .272 / .370 line that was a Ryan Howard away from creating the worst first-base situation in baseball. The assumption that Robinson would help mitigate the problem didn't work out either as Zimm was healthy enough to play a bulk of the games and Clint only put up a .235 / .305 / .332 line when he did get to hit. First base was a disaster and in my mind is the Nats biggest problem going into 2017*

My out of the box plan would have been fine but not earth-shaking, at least not for 2016. Trading Zimm and starting Robinson would have probably produced better results. How much better? Probably just a little but every bit counts I guess. More realistically it would free up the Nats to make moves now based on the idea that first base needed an external solution. As for who the Nats got back I basically said trade him to the Mariners for any of their failing OF prospects (re: Not Alan Jackson). Would any of them had worked out? Austin Wilson - no. Gabby Guerrero - no. Patrick Kivlehan - no. Jabari Henry - no. Brayan Hernandez - eh.  Tyler O'Neill - yes! Ok let's say the Nats got O'Neill then! ... ok the trade would have been a nothing but the contract (or at least some of the guaranteed money) would now be freed up - so overall win.

Presumed Plan

The Nats start Ryan Zimmerman with Clint Robinson as his back-up.

Reasoning for presumed plan

If Ryan Zimmerman was almost untradable last year - to the point I had the Nats eating money and taking back a mediocre prospect from a thin system - then he's literally radioactive this year. Coming off his third straight partial year, having his worst offensive performance ever and still owed at least 48 million over the next 3 years (that inclues 2 million buyout at end) no one is touching Zimm, not unless the Nats eat 90% of this deal. Zimm's on the team then.

Ok well if he's on the team he likely gets at least one more crack at playing first full-time. Last year was a disaster, yes, but you can look to a few things to give you hope heading into 2017. First, last year was the only year he hasn't hit. Even when spending half the year on the DL, he was an above average bat when playing. He had an OPS of .858 in May before facing injuries the rest of the year. The fancy stats don't suggest he's hitting the ball too softly which is usually a huge warning sign of being done. He spent a lot of the year hitting the ball as hard as anyone.  His post-season performance (6-17 with 2 doubles and 3 walks) was promising.

If Zimm gets another crack at first, it only makes sense to give Robinson, a good hitter in 2015 who is cheap and compliments Zimm's RHB, another crack as his back-up.

Problems with the presumed plan

It's pretty obvious, isn't it? Zimm's always had an issue staying on the field.  Last year he wasn't just a bad hitter, he was terrible. It might have been a slight aberration but you have to think the most likely scenario for 2017 would have him playing say... 100 games and hitting like .230 with unimpressive patience and power. That'll put him, and the Nats, near the bottom of the first base rankings again.

All the reasons for hope can be dismissed. Yes, last year was his first bad year at the plate. But he's been trending down since 2013 so a 69 OPS+ might be a surprise but a below average number would not have been. His OPS in May was very good, but he wasn't hurt in April or most of June and his OPSs there (.603 and .573) were not good. He did hit the ball hard but that was more concentrated in the beginning of the year and as we've discussed before, while he could hit it hard, he had issues hitting it hard and not directly into the ground. His post season performance is of course dealing with small sample size and it came after extra rest that he wouldn't get during the regular season.

There are also more worrying fancy stats, like a big drop in contact in the zone coupled with an increase in swings overall. The second year in a row where Zimm can't produce results against fastballs.

Meanwhile, Clint Robinson has had so few major league plate appearances (590) that you can't really pin down which Robinson is the "real" one, 2015 or 2016. He could easily be as bad as last year again. Given he'll be 32 in February the smarter money is probably on more 2016 than 2015 in Clint's future.

We don't usually talk about these things because they don't usually apply to first baseman but it's important to note neither of these guys are wizards in the field and are slow around the bases, so if they don't hit they don't offer much.

My take 

The Nats got lucky last year. Basically the right side of the infield did what it was supposed to but in reverse and cranked up... to the extreme! Murphy put up an unexpected MVP type season while Zimm cratered. Along with that, the other line-up issues (Espy, CF) and his strong May keeping his stats ok, allowed Zimm to sort of fly under the radar during the year. There is no denying though, he was terrible and the Nats can't count on another lucky season

It's time to try something new. I'm not sure what (we'll get to one idea) but the Nats usually move on a season sooner rather than a season later. You could argue last year was a season too late, but this year definitely is. The Nats need to find a new answer at first base. There are multiple possibilities. You can always sign a FA or trade for someone, but the fact that it's first base opens things up. The Nats can sign/trade for a 2B and shift Murphy to 1st. The Nats can sign/trade for a LF and shift Werth to 1st. The possiblities are limitless**

It will be a tough move but it has to be done. You can't stick with Zimm. If he were relatively healthy and just had an off-year, ok stick with him. If he was still hitting ok, just not able to get on the field, ok stick with him. But he's doing neither. A move has to be made.

Out of the box idea. 

How about LaRoche?

Ok seriously there are literally so many options that are reasonable, if you accept Zimm doesn't have to start, that it's hard to come up with something out of the box. From offering the Twins a Giolito/Robles/plus package for Dozier and shifting Murphy, to offering the Diamondbacks an EVERYONE package for Goldschmidt  to signing Steve Pearce to a reasonable 2 year deal to take your pick.  So how about this:

Trade to the White Sox for Adam Eaton and shift BRYCE to first. I've talked in the past about possibly shifting Rendon to first to help keep him healthy. The problem with that is Rendon is an excellent third baseman. You'd be wasting that. Bryce is not an excellent OFer. I like Bryce but his athletic ability has never translated to anything more than "eh" in the OF with a strong arm. He may not like as it will hurt his potential FA market, but if the Nats aren't going to re-sign him what do they care? Bryce at first keeps him healthy as possible (remember we all think his struggles this year are at least partly injury related) and Eaton is a good defender in RF (he'd aged out of CF) and a good bat. Imagine a Werth type trading a little power for defense and speed. Plus he's cheap through 2021. 2021! With team options the last two years!

Seriously any team with a strong farm system not looking to throw it at the White Sox for Eaton + Sale or Eaton + Quintana is a foolish team.***

*A lot of talk is centered around the idea the Nats have to move Turner to SS to get Danny out of there. That's a plan. However in my mind Danny is 4th in line for "things the Nats must solve" behind First, Catcher, and Center Field. Maybe even behind closer though I don't think that's a talent issue like these other ones. That's more a question of choice.

**Not true. I literally listed them. There is a limit 

***Why aren't the White Sox better than with all this realitvely cheap tradeable talent? (There's also Todd Frazier! and Jose Abreu!) They played in the toughest division in baseball last year. They lack that one definite All-Star type bat (though Frazier or Abreu are capable of having that type of year), while having two gaping holes in the lineup. Sale/Quintana aren't the lights out #1/#2 you think they are, but merely above average starters, while #3/#4 were holding on and the #5 spot might have been worst in the majors. It's an interesting team, who's ages and contracts suggest "Strike Now" so the moves last off-season made sense but they needed to go further. Thing is - only Frazier is a FA after next year so there is still time to try in 2017, so an offer will have to be good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

World Series!

Watch it.

Well if you want to, but I'll remind you that this will be the last real baseball for 5 months.

I had the Cubs at the beginning so I'll stick with them. Seems like the smart way to go. If you want a length... I'll go with another 5 gamer.  The pressure was about getting to the World Series.  I had a pretty good playoff prediction set there. So far only miss was Indians over the Blue Jays.

Some various playoff factoids you might have missed

After the Cubs and Indians all the championship droughts are for expansion teams. Senators/Rangers, Astros, Brewers, Padres, Expos/Nats, Mariners.

It's pretty amazing though that if we don't count the Expos/Nats as one thing, the longest WS appearance drought is "only" 40 seasons (Mariners). Every avid baseball fan 45 and older has seen every team that has made a World Series in a World Series. In the past 10 seasons, 13 different teams have made the World Series.  In the past 19 seasons, 20 teams have. So basically every adult has seen 2/3rds of the teams in baseball reach the World Series.

The Dodgers have now lost 4 consecutive NLCSs, accounting for 4 of the last 9.  They were also the last team to lose back to back CSs (2008-09 to the Phillies) before Toronto took that crown from them this year.

Since it started 5 years ago the AL wild Card has featured 9 different teams, the Orioles this year were the first repeat team.

AL WC teams are 1-4 in the DS, the only exception being the World Series reaching Royals in 2014.  NL WC teams are 3-2 in the DS.

The ALCS hasn't gone 7 games since 2008.
The last 4 World Series have gone 5 games (Road win in finale), 7 games (Road), 6 games (Home), and 4 games (Road). The last 5 before that went 7 (Home), 5 (Road), 6 (Home), 5 (Home), 4 (Road). That's a pretty good run of different types of series. We need a 4 game-sweep winning at home or a 6 game series, winning away to help complete the set.

If you're curious - last 6 game winner to do it away is the Marlins in 2003. Last 4 game sweep to end at home was the Yankees in 1999.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Offseason Position Discussion : Catcher

I'm going to mix it up again tacking on the last-year revisit before looking at this year.

Last year discussion revisited

My take ended up being just roll with Ramos and Lobaton as planned and hope for the best. It was a pretty easy take. Catcher can often be a barren position and if you didn't want to sign Weiters (and I didn't) then you really didn't have a better choice than sticking with Wilson and his improved defense. Maybe he would hit?

Well of course he did hit, better than ever, presumably thanks to LASIK. For a long stretch, basically all of June and July with a bit of carryover into the adjacent months, he was one of the best hitters in baseball. He hit .350 / .403 / .596  from May 29th through August 7th. It got overshadowed a bit on the Nats because Murphy was doing even better but that's team carrying offense right there. Plus his defense remained sharp. Even though he sputtered toward the end of the season (he hit .232 / .272 / .352 starting with the Cleveland series in early August) and got injured at the very end, he was an extremely big reason the Nats were as successful as they were in 2016. Ramos' rise was doubly important because Lobaton showed only a mild turn around slapping his way to a .232 / .319 / .374 line. On one hand, that's not all that good. On the other hand, for a back-up catcher you probably aren't going to find much better, especially if you focus on his split vs RHP (.262 / .344 / .393)

My outside the box move - trading for Derek Norris - would have been a disaster. I wanted Lucroy but I always want Lucroy so I went for something different. Norris crashed and burned after three years of being a good to very good hitter. My deal actually shipped out Yuney (fine), Storen (great!), and Ramos (ugh) for Norris and Melvin Upton. Before you wonder - no he wouldn't have been any better in CF than Revere/MAT.  Ok maybe a little but that's not saying much.

OK onto this year

Presumed Plan : Rizzo will trade for Stephen Vogt or Wellington Castillo.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : OK the Nats can go four ways. First they can do nothing and go with Lobaton and Severino.  This, in my mind, is a non-starter.  Lobaton had an acceptable year in 2016 but it was after a couple of really rough ones. Last year was probably the best you can get out of him and trying to match that means playing him as a pure back-up (39 games played) against RHP only. That means it's not really a gamble on Lobaton and Severino, but a gamble on just Severino. Oh sure, Pedro hit .321 with a handful of XBH but it was in an extremely limited 34 ABs. You are betting not on that Severino as much as the Severino that hit .271 with no power in 80+ AAA games, and the guy that hit .250 zero power in 90+ AA games the year before. Severino has never hit for an extended period of time and expecting him to do it in the majors at 23 is a fool's gambit.

The second way they Nats can go is try to sign their catcher of the future. Unfortunately there isn't one out there. Matt Wieters was supposed to be the prize but he couldn't come up with a decent 2016, hitting for low average with little patience. After him though it's dire with probably the oft-injured Alex Avila being your best bet for a 3-4 year catcher. I'm serious. There isn't a catcher of the future here that I see. Free agency is not the long-term answer. Moving on...

The third way is finding a stop gap. Who is that stop gap? I'm not sure but Kurt Suzuki is a decent choice for his durability, ability to hit lefties and familiarity with the team. If not him ... well I'm kind of at a loss. Everyone else is pretty much worse (Iannetta, Salty, Pierzynski) or too injury prone (Soto, Avila, Chooch). I think Suzuki will get a decent 2 or 3 year deal which the Nats won't match so that leaves...

That leaves us with the fourth way to try and trade for a catcher. There aren't any great ones that have a one-year deal on them outside of Lucroy who I assume is going nowhere. My guess is that the best trade targets will be Stephen Vogt (decent hitter up until last year - cheap for a few years) and Wellington Castillo (perfectly acceptable catcher with a non-prohibitive salary for a season). Neither of those are particularly exciting but are acceptable and cheap-ish. If you go with Vogt then you likely trade Lobaton, who has some back-up catcher value, and let Severino back up. If you go with Castillo you keep Lobaton and see if Severino can hit in AAA. Are these great catchers? No. But they are likely the best available, plus the Nats don't have a lot of depth to trade from. If you are going to throw out a package of Treinen and Difo, or Voth and Shrock, well this is what you are going to come back with.

Problems with Presumed Plan : No matter which direction the Nationals go, they won't be able to replace Wilson's production at the plate with a catcher. It just isn't possible as the other decent hitting catchers are all on playoff contenders (Posey, Lucroy, Contreras, Grandal, Leon?) or on a division rival (Realmuto). So right off the bat free agency isn't going to make the team better than last year or even as good as last year. It'll be worse. Even focusing on defense won't help that much as Ramos was a solid defender. You probably aren't getting improvement there unless you really give up on the hitting. I suppose you can improve pitch framing, Ramos never showed well there. But you see what I'm getting at. The presumed plan isn't fixing a problem, it's minimizing the damage.

The other issue is that with Vogt or Castillo (and even more so with anyone they get if they go the free agent route), there's a decent chance they won't be any good at all. There isn't a solid bet here outside of Wieters, whose combination of offense and defense and age should keep him a top half catcher, and someone is likely going to pay him more than the Nats would (or should). So the Nats are forced into a gamble situation at the catcher spot no matter what they do. Vogt isn't too far off though so expect him to cost more than Castillo. In other words - expect Castillo.

My take : It's kind of a no-win situation. There is no way to replace Ramos and there is a good chance that whatever you do will end up making the Nats much much worse as catchers have a tendency to be the little girl with the curl, when they are bad, they're awful. Just look at Norris' nose dive or hell, any recent Ramos year before 2016.

Trading is Rizzo's preferred move. I'm trying to think of a time where he signed someone bad just to have someone at the position and I can't. Not as a starter at least. When he needed a CF he traded for Span. When he needed it again he traded for Revere. When he needed a 3B he traded for Escobar. When he needed a starter he traded for Fister. I don't think he's against a signing but there really isn't anyone out there worth signing. Plus I think there's just enough junk in the minors to get it done. However the targets are limited. So I can easily see a fall back to Plan B which would be Suzuki or someone like him if the targets are acquired by others or are just not on the table. I suppose if not Suzuki I might roll with Jason Castro - a good pitch framer, young, and a good hitter at one point. Hell, if you are hoping for a miracle he's a decent place to look.

What does it mean for 2017? It means you better hope for a lucky Ramos type season from whoever they pick up and Severino to show you something for more than two weeks worth of PAs.

Out of the box suggestion : Trade for Mesoraco. If you are trying to go for an all or nothing gambit he's your man. Three seasons ago he matured into an All-Star power hitting catcher. Then he got hurt and couldn't play. Hey sounds like Ramos! He's not cheap anymore so the Reds would likely deal him for a reasonable price and reasonable price is what the Nats are likely to give up. It's a gamble sure but if you are looking for a way to get a Ramos type season next year from a catcher this might be your best bet. Of course that also means playing 30 games and hitting like crap but them's the breaks when you are hunting for Buffalo

(Look I can only say Giolito for Lucroy so many times) 

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I guess we'll start with the offseason reviews next week. Makes more sense to start it clean on a Monday, no?

Anyway this offseason is the most interesting for a Nats team in a long while. Or at least it has the potential to be interesting. You can honestly say that you can't be 100% sure you know who's going to be playing where on Opening Day next year. Sure you keep Murphy, Rendon, Bryce, and Trea, but are they going to be where you think they are going to be? Move Trea to SS then Bryce could play CF. Somehow get rid of Zimm and Murphy shifts over to first leaving a spot for possibly Rendon to go back to 2B. Werth's in his last year and amazingly you could get something for him. Do you trade him? Are the Nats done with Espinosa? 

The rotation is more set - but only in the fact that you can put Scherzer #1 in pen.  Who's #2? Strasburg? That's assuming he can pitch Opening Day. Roark? If you don't trade a guy who's arguably never going to be worth more. Gio? A far more likely trading chip than Roark given his reasonable salary and the fact you aren't giving up multiple cheap years when you deal him. Ok, Ross will be in there somewhere. That's the other given. The pen is going to be dependent on what they do with closer.  Do they try to shift Kelley or Treinen? Does the other one stay in the 8th role? Where do all these other arms fit in?

Individually none of this stuff is really all that likely. Strasburg appears to have no issues that'll keep him from pitching in April. He almost pitched in October. Rendon is playing third. They aren't trading Werth or Roark. They can't deal Zim. But as a whole all these possibilities combine to create a lot of uncertainty with the 2017 Nats. If any one domino falls, everything else can change and most likely a domino will fall.

This makes the "assumed plan" part of the offseason in reviews a little tough. So what am I going to assume? I'm going to assume the 2017 Nationals look a lot like the 2016 Nationals at the end of the year. Zimm, Murphy, Danny, Rendon around the horn. Bryce, Trea, and Werth in the OF. Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio, Roark, Ross as the rotation. Pen roles stay as is. Why? It's the path of least resistance. The Nats can recreate a 2016 team that won the East and nearly won their DS by doing nothing. Seems certainly plausible that they do just that and fritter around the edges filling in bench guys and bullpen arms that leave for greener (re: $$$) pastures.

That leaves the only true questions as C and closer.  I'll have to think more on what I'll assume the Nats plan is there. We're just guessing here so there are no wrong answers but I don't want to be unfair here. What do you guys think for these two? Do you think they are going out to get something or just shifting in house? I've got my leanings but I'm willing to be convinced that the assumed plan should be something else.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday Quickie - Rizzo goes nowhere

Mike Rizzo won't be the GM of Arizona. At least not anytime soon. They hired Mike Hazen. On one hand, everyone seems to like him and he has a work pedigree that includes some of the more successful current franchises (CLE, BOS). On the other hand, Arizona just did something similar to this a few years ago and it didn't work out. Also if you are looking for a strategic edge, hiring a GM that's young, ivy-league educated, and into the business/analytic side of the game is not exactly going to give you that. Plus it's Arizona, I'm sure Hazen is terrible then. His 1 year track record (under Dombrowski's heavy hand I'm sure) is less than impressive. Kimbrel move didn't work. Carson Smith was damaged good. Aaron Hill did nothing. Ziegler was a nice pick up I guess.

Anyway enough about the Diamondbacks. Rizzo is what we're talking about here. He won't go there which is one of three places I'd assume he'd want to go (the other two being the Chicago teams and those both look unlikely - Theo in entrenched in Wrigley with all the wins and Kenny Williams runs the White Sox with all the being friends with Reinsdorf) Good. You can complain about Rizzo here and there but the macro-level view has been very positive, especially if you make the seemingly fair assumption that he's very limited in mid-season transactions.

Is there something about the way he's built this team that it fails to get over the top? Maybe, but I have a hard time seeing it. It's talented. It's pitching based with a couple of aces. It had a strong back end of the bullpen. It can manufacture runs, but also hit a HR. It's got veteran leadership. All the general "this is what you need in the playoffs" boxes are checked off by this point. It seems far more likely that the 2016 Nationals were a victim of sports playoffs being what they are meant to be. Good teams playing a short series / one-game that often comes down to who plays slightly better.

Could someone do better here? Perhaps, but again I get the sense that working with the Lerners can be frustrating at time. A bit tight with money in odd places (I like to say "pound wise, penny foolish"). Sometimes prone to go over his head, especially with Boras clients. You need a guy with just enough lack of ego to take those in stride and keep getting his job done as best he can under the circumstances. Seems like Rizzo does that, I'm not sure all guys could.

Like I said I can find some faults with Rizzo. His gambles in drafts on injury prone talent create a fairly top-heavy farm system where depth can be an issue. He doesn't seem to get along well with managers (which will be interesting because Dusty has never left a situation well). He can be overly reticent to deal young talent mid-season that could afford the team a stronger return under the assumed financial constraints he's under. But I consider these minimal, I mean look at the wins. What's the alternative? That there's dynasty here being held back by Rizzo?

We'll get into specifics more this week - positional overview and all that, but the off-season is already off to a good start. Rizzo isn't going to Arizona.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Post Mortem

I've said before but for me a game is far more often lost than won. That winning is less about making great plays and more about avoiding mistakes. It's not always the case but that's how I look at sports (kind of life too if I'll be honest) and that's going to be a lot of how I look at this game right now. This doesn't mean I don't think it was a pretty well played game and series. I think both those things. It's just how I see things play out in terms of deciding who win and who loses.

Anyway let's take a look at the key moments from yesterday and see how we ended up here today.

Pre game
Dodgers start Rich Hill. There are arguments that can be made for starting a pitcher on short rest. They are difficult arguments to win and none apply to Rich Hill. You saw Urias. He was pretty good, wasn't he? He should have started and Roberts was lucky he didn't get burned worse by this decision.

Bottom 2
Lobaton can't get the ball in play to possibly score another run. Espinosa had just come up with a big hit and the Nats had 1st and 3rd with one out. If you're Lobaton, you have to hit it hard and hope for the best. Yes, a double play is certainly possible, but so are sacrifice flies and fielder choices. You can score a run on an out here fairly easily. With the pitcher spot looming behind you it's even more imperative to get that ball in play as he is unlikely to drive the run in. But Lobaton fouls off two pitches and then strikes out. Scherzer would follow with a K of his own and the Nats would only score once.

Top 3
Dodgers let Max off the hook. Max pitched well last night, but it was obvious early on he didn't have his usual control. If the Dodgers could take a smart approach to facing him they could have him out early, maybe even sometime in the 5th if they were really lucky. Maybe that's without scoring but still the advantage the Nats had going into last night was Max. Get him out and it's a brand new game.  He sat at 35 pitches with no outs in the 3rd inning and had just thrown 5 straight balls. But then the Dodgers' brains locked up. Toles swung at a strike at the bottom of the zone and grounded into a double play. Rich Hill swung at a first pitch ball and grounded out himself. Now not only was Max not on the ropes, but he was set up for a long outing. A simply terrible approach that for a long portion of the game sat with me as the key moment.

Bottom 3
Werth can't get the ball in play to possibly score another run. Hey if I'm going to get on Lobaton I have to get on Werth here too. Turner had singled, stole second and advanced to third on Bryce's deep fly ball to center. With his speed almost any GB out, or halfway deep FB scores Trea. But Werth strikes out on five pitches. There is a slight difference as at this point it didn't feel as precarious for Hill as it did earlier.

Anthony Rendon's liner goes right to the CFer. Rendon had a bad series, but he really squared up on this one. There's no fault here - it's just a shame as it would have scored two.

Top 5
With the bases loaded, Max strikes out Ethier and gets Utley to ground out. After being no-hit for 4 innings the Dodgers finally got to Max with three singles. I'll note here that the last one, by Toles, might have been caught by a better 2B as Murphy was caught flat-footed then couldn't reach it with his jump. It would have been a very good play but I think it was possible. Anyway with both singles going to Bryce and that last one having a chance to be caught, the Dodgers hadn't managed to plate a run. The Dodgers brought in Ethier to get a big hit but Max struck him out on some nice pitching. Then keeping the ball down he got Utley to hit a ground ball that didn't go through.

Bottom 5
Dusty lets Max hit for himself. Look, it ended up pretty much working out as Max would get through the heart of the Dodgers line-up the next inning, but it was still the wrong decision. Results don't always match up as they should. Why was it wrong? Max's mistakes can be HR mistakes and he had missed up a couple times in the 5th inning, including on Reddick's base hit. At around 86 pitches and getting ready to face the Dodgers line-up a third time it was time to give him a big hug, thank him for keeping it scoreless and move on to the pen. With the top of the line-up following Scherzer, a guy getting on would have a good chance of scoring. But instead he sticks with Max, Max K's and the Nats don't score that inning.

Bryce gets picked off. With two outs, not terribly impactful but don't get picked off, even on a questionable move.

Bottom 6
Henley sends Werth, Werth is out at home. Now we finally take the most important moment away from the Dodgers dumb swings in the third. The Nats had been testing the Dodgers all night and the Dodgers had been coming up empty. They weren't making mistakes per se, but when the situation called for just solid baseball plays - throws on target with decent speed - the Dodgers couldn't do it. So being aggressive is arguably the right call. But this wasn't aggressive it was stupid.

Here's the play (apologies for the needless "statcasting") If you pause it at 29 seconds (during the close up on Werth running) you can see in the distance Toles clearly having thrown that ball before Werth is reaching third. Werth has already taken his eye off the ball, rightly expecting his 3rd base coach to give him the correct call. Henley though inexplicably sends Werth. Pause it again at 1:01 right when the angle changes. In the corner you see Toles in his throwing motion. In the foreground Henley waving Werth around not facing the throw. Perhaps he think Toles mishandled it. But then he looks up and HAS TO see the ball is in the air. Yet he keeps sending.

You could argue he was in the wrong position too. He should be between 3rd and home to give himself maximum time to make the decision but you can see that he had to first think about seeing into that corner so maybe drifting toward home was superceded by that. Of course that doesn't explain both how he didn't see what was obviously in front of him, and why he kept moving UP the line away from home rather than down toward home after deciding he would send him. If he simply bounces the other way there might be a chance for a last second "WOAH I SCREWED UP" and hoping Werth can scramble back but going in the other direction he takes that away as a possibility.

Anyway Toles throw was quickly made but completely average. The same could be said of Seager's throw. Werth was still out by 30 ft. If say it had been Puig and an Espy type throw by Seager it honestly could have ended up with Werth scrambling back to third.

Top 7
Max stays in and Pederson homers. I had been saying after the 6th that I could see going with Max on a batter by batter situation. I hate taking out effective pitchers "just because". A lot of why a pitcher is working well in a given night is particular to that night. How he's feeling, how those batters are seeing him. To have an advantage and throw it away seems foolish. But I didn't think it through. Max wasn't exactly dominating, though the 6th was pretty good the whole story of the game said something else. Max has a tendency to make "home run" mistakes. Joc Pederson is useless against LHP. All that taken together should have meant Max should take a seat. It was all true going into the 6th, nothing changed for the 7th other than Max was 11 more pitches in. Now Max didn't make a mistake. He made a good pitch and Pederson made a great swing. But now, if not earlier, was the time for match-ups to take over and that meant Max should have come out. However, I'm not going to kill Dusty for this one. If you want to live and die with your ace currently throwing a shutout, not gassed, and with no opportunity to lose the game only the lead, that's fine by me.

Rep walks Grandal Grandal was the Dodgers Rendon. A good hitter that was having a terrible series. Yet Rep walks him on four pitches, none particularly close. Inexcusable.

Culberson fails to get his bunt down. This is kind of like the Bryce getting picked off situation. Not all that impactful in the course of the game, but get your bunts down

Dusty lets Solis face Ruiz, Rendon fails to come up with Ruiz's grounder.  You understand the first one somewhat. Dusty doesn't want to burn one of his lefty arms without throwing a pitch. But it's endgame and you have to worry about what's in front of you not what might be in front of you later. Ruiz hits lefties much better than righties. At this point Gio has to be considered a usable arm so you still have two lefties if need be - plus your closer and set-up guy. That's gotta be enough to get 8 outs. But Dusty sticks with Solis, Solis gives up a shot. Reminiscent of Game 5 when Desmond couldn't come up with a hard shot that was playable, Rendon lets this one get by him and the Dodgers take the lead. Hard play? Sure. Impossible? No, not even close.

Dusty brings in Shawn Kelley to face Turner despite Turner's splits, Turner delivers. This to me is the defining moment of the game. Turner has reverse splits meaning he hits righties better than lefties. It's not even close really. Here's his numbers for 2016

vs RHP : .305 / .356 / .563
vs LHP : .209 / .303 / .337

Sometimes this can happen as a fluke but that isn't the case for Turner. He's hit righties better than lefties every year since 2011 (he only had a handful of ABs in 2009&2010) except 2014 and that's not because he didn't hit righties that year. He did. He just had a fluke year where he hit lefties too. So his career splits are .832 OPS vs RHP, .695 vs LHP. Everything said you use a lefty, not a righty, to face Turner.

But Dusty went with the typical move - bringing in a righty to face Turner. I suppose you could argue that he just wanted a better pitcher in, Kelly being better than Solis, but I don't believe that. I suppose you could argue "Kelley gets out righties better than Solis does!" but that's all based on the basic truism that lefties hit righties better and vice versa. Unless you have a freaky motion or some sort of particular trait that would seemingly affect a batters ability to hit you there's no reason to believe a pitcher's split is particular to the pitcher, but rather an accumulation of splits particular to batters. In other words a lefty pitcher doesn't get lefty batters out well because he is particularly good at pitching to lefty batters, but because lefty batters are particularly bad at hitting lefty pitchers.

Anyway he should have kept Solis in - which not only would have likely been more effective against Turner than throwing Kelley out there but if he was successful would have allowed him to pitch to Gonzalez as well and save Perez.  But he didn't. And Turner would triple off of Kelley giving the Dodgers a big lead that they wouldn't fully relinquish.

Bottom 7
Heisey homers.  Heisey does not have any strong splits so keeping Dayton in to face him is not a mistake. The pitch Dayton threw though, that was one. He had made the same error Rep did - he walked the first man he saw on 4 pitches - and he also paid for it as Danny came in on Heisey's HR. Now it's back to a 1-run game, albeit reversed, with 9 outs for the Nats to score one run (and keep holding the Dodgers)

Werth strikes out swinging, Bryce takes second.  This is questionable. Did it really take the bat out of Murphy's hands? Sure with first base open it was an easy call. You aren't moving the winning run into scoring position with the walk. However, I'd still have walked Murphy. There's no reason to take a chance on him RHP vs LHB when struggling Rendon is coming up next.

Rendon strikes out. Overmatched.

Bottom 8
Espy fails to get the bunt down.  I had actually just said before this that I wondered if Jansen was particularly hard to bunt on. He doesn't appear to have great movement watching him, but guys just miss his pitches in a way that suggests that he does. I've found that usually means a "rising" action that gets guys at the plate and that means, yes, a particularly hard pitcher to get a ball down on. But still get the bunt down.

I also kind of have issues with the decision to bunt. Your next two batters are Pedro Severino and Michael Taylor. Danny isn't great, but he's better than them and had, for whatever reason, looked a lot better at the plate last night (no Ks!). If I'm going to try to get Drew home, I think your best chance is with Danny rather than Severino or MAT facing Kenley Jansen in their first AB of the night.

Bottom 9
Murphy pops up. No blame but we're talking key moments and this was definitely one. You're hoping at worst to move the runners over where a passed ball or wild pitch or error could score them, at best for a hit. A pop-up doesn't even allow for an error thanks to the infield fly rule.

Difo K's. Again no blame. Yeah he shouldn't have swung at the last pitch but Kershaw threw some nasty stuff early in the at bat to get to that point setting Difo up for being too protective of the plate. It would have been a miracle talked about for decades if Difo got a hit here.

So there you go. For the first 6+ innings it looked like the biggest play of the game would be some silly swings in the 3rd that allowed Scherzer to go as long as he did. But then Henley made a terrible call to run the Nats out of a potential run-scoring situation, and Dusty ignored the splits to put the Nats in a disadvantageous situation and those plays decided the game.

That's it. I'm beat. We'll be back next week for some full season post-Mortem

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What is there to say?

Not as gutting as 2012.

Not as infuriating as 2014.

But in the end, same result.

Should have won this game. Scherzer wasn't on the top of his game but he had enough big pitches and got enough breaks to get the Nats to one out in the 7th with their opponent scoring only one run. The Nats should have been winning by more at that point. They were not. After that the Max vs whoever advantage was lost and it came down to the pens and the Dodgers arms and moves were better than the Nats.

Sigh. Well do what you need to. Vent. Swear. Get it out. I'll be back tomorrow as usual.

G5 Evening Post

For those that would like to comment during the game on here... I guess I should look into a chat client or something. I don't know. That seems like work.

G5 Morning Post

Here we are. Staring at the most important game in Nationals history.

It's true that it's not the most important game in the history of DC baseball. The Senators won World Series! But the last time they were in it was 1933 and they barely were in the playoff picture after that. Twist my arm and I'd say you could make an argument for the double header the end of the season in 1945 season being as important as this game because if they won both they could have set themselves up to go to the World Series but the Tigers played three games after than and controlled their destiny*. So it's not quite the same. Senators/Rangers didn't come close to playoffs. So we're arguing at best there was a bigger game played in DC baseball history 83 years ago, at worst 71?

It's true that it's not the most important game in franchise history. That was G5 of the 1981 NLCS but there isn't anybody in DC who cares about the strict interpretation of the franchise and I'm not going to argue that they should.

It definitely eclipses the games in 2014, and surpasses the previous "most important game in Nationals history" G5 of the 2012 NLDS because that game was not as team defining. The feeling after that game, other than devastation about how it went down, was that the Nats were a young team that just got their playoff experience and that they'd be back. It was a tough loss but no one was ready to give the Nats a label just yet.

So again here we are.

A win changes everything surrounding the team in terms of its impression of itself. A win makes Dusty a DC legend of sorts.

A loss cements the Nats and Dusty as chokers in the national consciousness, until they are not.

Fair or unfair as it is (pretty unfair in my opinion), this is where things stand.

The Nats should win tonight. It should be fairly easy. The Nats bats should continue to do better than the Dodgers bats. Max shouldn't give up more than a couple runs. Rich Hill should not pitch much better than last time, given he's on short rest. The Nats bullpen should be a little more rested than the Dodgers. The Nats shouldn't end up getting 2 DPs that completely erase the trouble Hill got into.

But should is should. Max should give up a couple runs instead of none, given his pitching lately and the match-up. Lobaton should do something other than hit a 3-run homerun. The Nats should still strike out a bunch, as Hill has been doing exactly that since coming back.

Not all "should"s end up being "did"s and if the wrong ones go against you that's all that matters.

Ok here we go. See you at game time!

*As you can guess the Tigers did what they needed to and went on to the Series. They needed to win the last game to avoid a 1-game playoff with Washington. They were down 3-2 heading into the top of the 9th and Hank Greenberg hit a grand slam. That's big time baseball right there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Max-imum Pressure Part 2 - this time it makes more sense

Max Scherzer called this the most important game of his life. It's true! At least playoff wise. Max has never started a "Win and your in, Lose and go home" playoff game. However he has started several "Lose and go home" games or "Win and move on" games

"Lose and Go Home"
2011 ALCS - Detroit down 3 games to 1.  A wild Scherzer gets bombed by Texas, not making it out of the third. Final line :  2.1 IP, 5 hits, 4 walks, 6 ER. The punishment doesn't stop. Detroit loses 15-5. 

2012 WS - Detroit down 3 to 0.  Scherzer puts up a pretty standard effort against Giants. 6 and a third, 7 hits, 1 walk, 8K, 3 runs. Tigers though can't score more than 3 themselves and Coke loses it in 10th. Tigers downed 4-3.

2013 ALCS - Detroit down 3 games to 2. Scherzer is wild but battles. 6.1 IP, 5BB, 4 hits.but only 3 runs. Tiger though can't manage any significant offense and Red Sox and lose 5-2.

Overall Record : 0-3
Overall Performance : Eh. First time out was rough but gave a winnable performance the other two outgins.

"Win and move on"
2012 ALDS - Detoit up 2 to 1. Scherzer goes 5.1 IP, holding Oakland to 1 unearned run on 3 hits and 8K. Pulled a little quick maybe but Dotel in relief did his job. Valverde though blows it in the 9th. 4-3 A's. 

2012 ALCS - Detroit up 3 to 0. With zero pressure Scherzer pitches a gem. 5.2IP, 2H, 10K. Pulled at 98 pitches mainly because they could with a 6 to 1 lead. Tigers win eliminating the Yankees 8-1. 

Overall Record : 1-1
Overall Performance : Pretty good. He seems to be a bit wild, as he tended to be back in the day, but also hard to score on. Perhaps the pressure on the other team worked in his favor which would bode well for tomorrow.

Max-imum Pressure

For the most part Game 4 was a lot like every other game in this series. Close and not particularly well-pitched by the starters. Kershaw pitched the best game of the series by either team so far hands down and it probably didn't break "good"*

Just so you can see the difference

Starters NLCS : 7.18 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 3.2 B/9, 10.4 K/9
Relievers NLCS : 1.88 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, 11.8 WHIP

(without the Jansen blow-up the reliever stats become : 0.82 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, 12.0 K/9)

Kershaw was ok, throwing in a space that allowed him to dominate the bottom of the Nats line-up but struggle to put away the top. He wasn't being hit particularly hard so he was able to escape more often than not. Ross, on the other hand, was not ok. He was somewhat predictably unable to throw his fastball past this lefty heavy line-up. This left him trying to work the strike zone with only off-speed pitches, which really isn't what they are meant for.  It didn't work nearly enough to be effective and in a crucial moment he was left in at least one batter too long.

Why did Dusty do it? Same reason you start Ross in the first place. You are looking for innings, looking to try to save the pen. Dusty was trying to squeeze one more out from Ross, so he wouldn't waste a pitcher. In the end it didn't work, Ross would walk Reddick, then plunk Pederson; and it didn't matter, as the Nats would go 1-2-3 in the next inning saving the pitcher spot from coming up.**

However, Game 4 was a bit different. All these games are being won or lost by the pens but that hadn't meant what it usually does. Games 1 through 3 were won or lost in the 5th-9th as one or the other bullpen manages to hold on to the lead their team got off the opposing starter. Game 4 was a more typical game, won or lost in the 7th-9th as one or the other bullpen lets in the deciding run. It was almost the Dodgers - as they failed to get the single out needed to hold onto Kershaw's lead. But then it was the Nats, with Blake Treinen giving up the game after seemingly being in control.

After 4 games, here's how things stand for the Nats.
  • The bullpen arms have been very effective. The two runs scored yesterday were the first two scored off them all series and it's not like they haven't been out there. This also includes Lopez who is more of a long-man than a reliever likely to be used in any crucial late game situation. 
  • The starters have not. No reason to go into it because all that matters now is Max in Game 5.
  • The top of the lineup is getting it done - Turner is hitting .353, Werth .467, Murphy .462.  Bryce is getting on at a .421 clip. 
  • The bottom of the line-up is not Rendon is hitting .188, Espy .091, C .188 (yes with one big homer), as well as the bench, 1-9 PH (with a SF)  Drew 0-2 filling in mid-game, Severino 0-2 filling in mid-game.
What's all that mean? The Nats are playing like a normal team right now. They aren't hot. They aren't cold. This is them. And if Max is Max on Thursday, that should be more than enough to get to the NLCS. 

*line wise it won't even be that and thus it'll be another notch on the "Kershaw can't pitch in the playoffs" belt, but we all saw it. It was fine. 

**this would actually happen twice in the game saving the Nats a couple arms 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One to go

Two things are true about yesterday. 1) Gio Gonzalez was at best mediocre in a game where by all rights he should have been dominant. 2) Gio Gonzalez gave us the best starting pitching performance of the playoffs so far from either team.  Yay?

If the Nats do take the series, either today or Thursday, something will happen and something won't. What won't happen is the national perception of the Nationals and Dusty won't change. The Nats don't suddenly become a credible playoff team by beating another consistently disappointing playoff team. They'll have to beat the Cubs (or Giants) to get that monkey off their back. Dusty doesn't suddenly become a winner winning an NLDS with the team with more wins. As we discussed earlier, he needs to win a World Series. So, if the Nats win don't look around to the media or people outside the area and scream "How do you like me now!" ("You like that?") because the answer will invariably be "Exactly the same as I liked you before"

What will happen though is internally everyone will feel tons better. From fans down to the clubhouse attendants. Making the playoffs is hurdle one. Winning in the playoffs is hurdle two and a hurdle the Nats have yet to get over. Win this series and winning the next one, be in the NLCS or next year, seems a lot more possible. Dusty, already beloved for... well pretty much for being Dusty, has his place in Nats history set in stone, doing what Davey and Matt Williams, didn't and couldn't do, respectively. The bigger wins may be necessary to impress the judges but the franchise and everyone involved needs this win to prove it to themselves.

So what's up for today? We'll find out in a few hours. What makes the most sense to me is Urias vs Ross.  I don't see how the Dodgers start Kershaw today. I don't see how you look at what happened on Friday and think "Yeah, Give me more of that. But on short rest!" He wasn't just a little off. He was terrible and had to battle not to blow a game handed to him. If the Dodgers are lucky they get to Game 5 and he's back. As for the Nats, they seem pretty committed to going with Ross and Lopez today. Ross you've been stretching out. Lopez you've been preparing to relieve. While all pitching is pitching there is different preparation and mindsets needed to start as opposed to relieving, so this matters. Also you hope to use as few pitchers as possible, a good Ross outing could go 6 maybe even 7. Lopez you are probably pulling after 3-4 regardless. I really don't see the issue here. Start Ross, pull when he stops being effective.

I think the thing I notice most about this series is outside of the starting pitching, the Nats feel like the Nats. The last time the Nats were in the playoffs in 2014, they felt overmatched and unprepared. They had all the pressure and none of the fun. This team feels better. They aren't playing their best ball, no, but there's no sense of looming defeat. Maybe it helps playing the Dodgers instead of the Cardinals or Giants but whatever the reason, this series feels more... right. Even Game 1 felt like a missed opportunity, not a game they didn't have a chance in.

I'm not going to lie. I have this game going to the Dodgers. I like Urias more than Ross. I like the desperation of the Dodgers at home, more than the looseness of the Nats on the road. But I'd rather be wrong. Prove me wrong Nats, prove me wrong.

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.

Friday, October 07, 2016


I, of course, will be live-tweeting @harpergordek if you are interested in such things and for some reason don't follow me. Ok that should take care of that one person.

Why/How the Nats can win this game :  

Scherzer is not as good as Kershaw but he's as close as any mortal, especially in Nats park. Kershaw has been very good since coming back from injury but his strikeouts are way down, and balls in play mean things can happen. It shouldn't get out of hand and I like how the Nats bullpen is performing right now more than the Dodgers. (Fun fact : Dodgers were #1 in reliever ERA, Nationals #2), if that's even an issue. We all know Max can and will go as deep as his arm lets him. The Nats bats have a good mix of guys that have seen Kershaw several times and have been able to get some hits off him, and guys who haven't seen Kershaw a lot but are hitting well. Keep it within a run, start in on Kershaw late, push in a couple. There you go.

Why/How the Nats can lose this game :  

Max can be unhittable, but Kershaw more so, and we'd have to imagine Kershaw has more of an advantage especially given their recent performances. Kershaw has relatively cruised into the playoffs while Max has reverted back to early season Max who was at the mercy of the timing of the bombs he'd give up. If there's an errant base hit or walk on base and Max gives up a homer or two, the Nats will find themselves in a pretty big hole. Those chances increase when you realize the Dodgers are Harvey Dent against right-handers, doing good. The Nats line-up, on the other hand, is unstable right now with Ramos gone and Murphy hurt and possibly out.  Fall behind early and watch Kershaw mow the Nats down with ease.

Why/How the Nats can win the series :

The Dodgers have a huge weakness. They can't hit lefties. They are so bad against lefties that the Nats should win that Gio game, whether it is game 2 or 3.* If the Nats can win either the Max or the Roark game that would put them at least up 2-1, if not sweeping the series. This seems pretty possible given Roark's consistent quality this year and the fact that Hill (never taxed since returning from injury) and Maeda (staggered cross the finish line) are beatable. Dusty has also been very good with matching up LHRP to LHB and vice versa this year which will help negate any late inning pushes by the Dodgers. From there the Dodgers, if they are still in it, are in a bind - choose to use Kershaw on short rest, when he's less effective, just to get to G5, or they can start Urias, who'd likely only go 4-5 innings, taxing their pen. Either way it would be a huge task to win both G4 and G5 for them.

Why/How the Nats can lose the series :

Playoff games are usually lower scoring affairs because we don't see those bad starters and managers are more willing to sell out bullpens. At the same time the Nats offense is in a spot. While Severino has hit well for Ramos so far, little in his history says that is sustainable. If he hits in the playoffs, it'll be because the Nats got lucky. That likely leaves the Nats with a bottom of an order that any starter can sail through - Espy, Zimm, C, P. If that's not bad enough, we are unsure of how healthy Murphy really is. If he's hampered by his injury at all that leaves the Nats with four decent bats and basically a need for all of them to get hot at the same time. Unmentioned is the potential psychological effects of not scoring many runs for the first say 12+ innings. Outside of G5 in 2012 the Nats offense has been very quiet, scoring 3-4-0-2-7-2-1-4-2 runs in the playoffs. Start out slow and the idea that "we just can't score in the playoffs" might start running through the team, making a bad situation worse. The flip side of the Dodgers doing bad against lefties is they do well versus righties and they are going to see righty starters in 3 of the first 4 games. Plus all the Nats best relievers, Melancon, Kelley, Treinen, are righties. This could set up some troublesome late innings if the Nats pen gets overworked and some of those lefties are unavailable, or if Dusty gets a little too rigid in the 8th and 9th 

Other Thoughts

In a five game series every game is huge but this one stands out as particularly important... for the Dodgers. The Dodgers thrive at home and if they can take away the Nats home field advantage in one of these two, that's huge. Kershaw is obviously the best chance to do it. Plus Kershaw is Kershaw. He is the ace of aces. If they can't win with him, there has to be some sort of negative psychological effect**. Lose game one and to get HFA away from the Nats they have to beat a Roark everyone knows is a tough out with either Maeda or Rich Hill. They are good pitchers but Maeda does not go deep into games regularly and Hill hasn't been asked to since coming back. It'll take several pitchers doing what they need to for the Dodgers to accomplish what they need to. They likely won't be favored to do so. If they can't take that one and HFA sticks, then they have to beat a lefty, which they don't usually do, and beat Max in DC after just failing to do so in G1, to take the series.  That's a tall order

So anything can happen, it's a short series, etc. etc., but I see this game 1 as very critical. It's more so for the Dodgers, as I described above, but it's also more than just a typical bad start for the Nats. If Strasburg was healthy, they could probably weather a G1 loss as well as any team. Thanks to the Strasburg injury, however, the Nats are probably in more trouble than your average team. Ross has been fine since coming back, but just fine and lefties hit him hard. Thinking about him starting in Dodger Stadium... I don't see good things. The Nats probably don't either and really don't want to use him in a win or go home game. At the same time Max and Dusty both lean toward not using Max on short rest for that game either. I feel like the Nats are at a big disadvantage in winning that game. The Nats should be favored in both G2 and G3 (at least in my mind), so I don't think it's as critical for the Nats to win G1 as it is for the Dodgers but it's not far off because of the implications for later in the series if the Nats don't catch all the breaks.

*I think what others have said - Gio goes G2 if Nats win G1, Roark goes if they lose

**granted it could last all of two batters into the next game but still. 


Basically it was the roster predicted by me with Belisle out for Michael A Taylor. This is a curious choice in my mind - Belisle had been very effective and the Nats G4 situation was precarious with one more arm in the pen. Taylor does give them the late game D replacement for Werth, and a 2nd pinch runner, so it's not useless but I would have went the other way.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Playoff Kershaw

Let's get to getting. We'll start looking at Kershaw who the Nats will see at least once, maybe twice.

Clayton Kershaw has a reputation for not being great in the playoffs. This is in part because of the man you saw last night. When someone who you are supposed to be as good as (or better than) comes up special you are supposed to come up special as well. Kershaw has not been doing that. His playoff ERA is a poor 4.59 and his playoff record is 2-6.  His WHIP good (1.160) but when you've been at a 0.908 for the last 6 seasons even that's a bit of a downer. Can Nats fans expect a terrible performance?

Probably not. First off these numbers includes playoff appearances before Kershaw was KERSHAW. In 2008 and 2009 he pitched a few times with mixed results. Secondly, his stats since then are dominated by two extremely bad performances back to back against STL. He lost an NLCS game in 2013 giving up 7 runs in 4 innings and an NLDS game in 2014 giving up 8 runs in 6 and two-thirds.

If instead of looking at overall stats, you look at the starts themselves you'd see a different picture. The eight starts would likely be called : great, very good, very good, OMG TERRIBLE, OMG TERRIBLE, good, good, very good/great. So 6 out of 8 times he's thrown up at least good games, half the time very good or better. Why is his record so poor then? Well he's lost games 1-0, 3-2, and 3-1, and got a no-decision. The Dodgers haven't scored for him.

Also if we look at the games in more detail - that first "OMG TERRIBLE" game was a bad one through and through. The second one had him going 6IP, 2ER, 2H (solo homers), 0BB, 8K before blowing up in the 7th. The first "good" game 6IP, 0ER, 1H, 2BB, 9K before losing it in the 7th. The second one 6IP, 1ER, 4H, 1BB, 11K before walking a bunch in the 7th who'd score when the pen failed. Combined those three and prior to the 7th inning that's 18IP, 3ER, 7H, 3BB, and 28K. That's an incredible line 1.50 ERA, 0.555 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, 14 K/9. Yikes. 

What we've seen - seven of eight starts, is a Kershaw that has been dominant over the first 6 innings of a game. That's what Nats fans should expect. A struggle to score a run or two for the first 2/3rds of the game. Once we get into the later innings, when Kershaw tires a little, the Nats will have a chance, but any failings before that will be the Nats lucking into that one out of eight outing where he just doesn't have it.

How do the Nats do against Kershaw? Here you go.  (Thanks Baseball Reference! Subscribe! I do.)

Werth had faced him by far the most (39 PA) and done well (.286 / .359 / .457). Zimm is next at 24 and has done ok (.318 / .333 / .364).  Murphy  (19 - .316 / .316 / .632)  is another one with a strong showing. Though all three combined in regular season games in the past 2 years are only 2-19. So take the historical success very lightly. Other than that Michael Taylor is the only one you can say hits him well but in only 9 PA. Rendon had been usable. Heisey maybe so. The others - Bryce, Danny, Drew, Lobaton - no good.

And Kershaw in Nats Park? We'll go with career : 6 G, 5GS, 32IP, 2.51 ERA 7BB, 44K, 4HR.  Last two years - 2 starts, 15IP, 0.00ERA., 25 Ks though they did get 9 hits off him in 2014 at home (and yes somehow didn't score. Here's the game if you are interested)

How do the Dodgers do against Scherzer? Here you go again.

As he's been an AL guy for a while there are fewer guys with double digits at bats against him. Ethier has hit him excellently, Kendrick very good, Reddick good, and Utley passably. Adrian Gonzalez has seen him the most and has been terrible (28 - .192/ .250/ .481). He did not face the Dodgers this year so there are no good recent stats but I'll say that the trends generally hold to what's been said. There isn't a drop recently like for the Nats batters against Kershaw. As much as a game or two can actually tell you (which is next to nothing - but next to nothing better than nothing!)

And Max at home this year? 15 G, 2.56 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, 11.8 K/9.  For the most part Max at home is the same as Max on the road with one big difference. He gives up far fewer HRs at home. 10 at home to 21 (in 126 IP) on the road.

Who's hot for the Nats regulars in the last week ?
Trea continues to burn up. Rendon is hot, too and likely Ramos platooner Severino is hitting well. Sean Kelley, Rep, Belisle, Melancon havg all pitched well recently, but not really any starter.

Werth is ice cold, Zimm continues to struggle, Drew, Bryce and Danny are all struggling to get hits.
Burnett is iffy, but really no reliever you expect to see in the DS is pitching poorly. Max and Gio have had some blah starts.

Who's hot for the Dodgers?
A Gonz has been hitting well and Utley has a double and 2 homers in the past week.
I don't know the pen as well but Baez, and Howell seem to be ones most likely to be used that are looking good. Kershaw of course.

Seager did not look great down the stretch and Kendrick hasn't gotten a hit in the last 6 games.
Blanton, Chavez, and Libertore were all key pieces and not doing so hot right now. Maeda is also looking shaky.

Overall feeling right now today :
I'm curious to see how Turner fares against Kershaw. I know it's silly but given how hot he's been I'll look at that first at bat and if Kershaw dominates Turner I'd be tempted to turn it off until the 6th. How the Dodgers will do against Max is a mystery to me. I mean, they won't beat him up, but will he match Clayton or not? I think it'll be close. I'd kind of expect to be down say... 2-1 going into the 7th. After that? Nats should have the edge bullpen wise but that's only 3 innings.

Otherwise I like everything about how the Dodgers are lining up for Gio other than how Gio is bad Gio sometimes, but we'll take that as it comes because if Gio is G3 and Puig and Kendrick have a couple good games I won't feel the same way.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Day of distracting Miscellanea

Well let that be a lesson to every other manager. While personally I still think something was up (even an "old school" saves-crazy manager brings out Britton after Duensing, and certainly after Jimenez gives up two hits) the fact remains you should never lose a game with your best arm on the bench. Let Dusty pay attention and may this not happen to the Nats.

Mets Giants tonight. Should be a tight low-scoring affair, but then again, everyone thought the Orioles/Jays could be a slugfest.

The next two days we'll spend previewing the series (no surprise - Max is G1, roster not set yet) how about we spend today distracting ourselves with some other stuff?

Can Dusty make the HOF as a manager?

He wants to. Now of course there are African-American managers in the Hall of Fame, but they were elected as players.  You could argue Frank, as the first and a credible one, might have gone in anyway but that's hypothetical. Dusty didn't go in as a player. Could he go in as a manager? The Post focuses on wins but let's look at it 3 ways and see how Dusty stacks up.

1) Titles & Post-Season Performance.  There is a clear line you can cross here to get into the Hall. Win 3 or more titles and you are in (Bochy is only one who isn't and he will be). There's also a clear line you need to cross to have a chance to get in. Win 1 or you're done. Only one post-war manager (we're talking 70 years now) has made it into the Hall without winning a title, Al Lopez. He did make the WS twice, losing both times. That may not seem impressive but here's the rub. From 1949 through 1964 the Yankees made the series 14 out of 16 times. The other two were Lopez, managing two different teams. He would actually finish 2nd to the Yankees NINE times. I'm sure there is a bit of understanding there on why he may not have won more titles

So where's Dusty at? Zero titles. 1 pennant. a .422 post season winning percentage which is on the low side. There's nothing here that would make Dusty a HOFer

2) Winning Percentage. Well what about if he just won a lot. Our new friend Al Lopez had a winning percentage of .584. That's 9th best all time. 8th if you set say... 1000 games as a base for consideration (that's about 6 1/2 old 154 game seasons). Using 1000 games as the limit 13 of the top 12 guys are in. The one guy who isn't is Jim Mutrie a guy who managed his last game in 1891. Matheny is a season away from qualifying. Then it's Davey at .562.

Where is Dusty? Down at .529.  Some active coaches with better percentages over more than a few seasons - Francona, Maddon, Mattingly, Scioscia, Girardi... It's not a bad percentage (78th all time) but it's not great either. Basically it doesn't get him in, but it doesn't disqualify him either.  It can do that you know - like for multiple WS managers  like Cito Gaston's .519 or Tom Kelly's abysmal .478.*

So what does Dusty have going for him? 

3) Wins. Dusty is currently 17th and given another year will likely pass two more to get to 15th. The top 11 in total wins are all in. Most are really good and have winning percentages to go with it. The ones that don't are Connie Mack, who managed an insane amount of games; Bucky Harris, a lifetime baseball guy who managed the Senators to a title as player-manager when he was 27 and broke the Red Sox color line when he took over for Cronin at GM; and Casey Stengel , who did win 7 championships.

But it's dicey in this area. You can understand why Mauch (.483 WP%, no pennants) isn't in, but then you have Piniella (.517, 1 pennant, 1 WS), Leyland (.506, 3, 1), Houk (.514, 3, 2)  who aren't in.  Dusty will have them on wins and winning percentage** but they are winning managers and with no titles can Dusty beat them in the comparison game?

What I think it comes down to is this - Dusty can win a World Series. That would probably be enough given his wins and winning percentage combination. Failing that he can manage three more seasons and get over 2000 wins (ave 78 wins per year would do it) putting him clearly ahead of these others.  

The Nats have MOY, ROY, MVP, and CY Young candidates. How crazy is that?

How crazy is that indeed? I wanted to look at this and I wanted to look at it a specific way. First I was going to cut out MOY from the discussion, to make searching easier. Likely if you have a ROY, MVP, and CY candidates you are going to get some MOY votes. Also these need to be distinct awards, so a team like the 2016 Dodgers where Corey Seager is their ROY and MVP candidate, don't count.

So I went back to 1956 when the Cy Young award started (or else I'd have to pour over every player to decide who might have gotten votes) and I looked for any team that had a top 3 vote getter in each award. On one hand that may be too reductive - a 4th place MVP guy could be a deserving MVP who got jilted. Then again, if you only got 4th place, were you really a candidate? We're not asking about top players, we're asking about potential award winners. It's different. A lot of good players on bad teams won't win the MVP and that's just the way it is.

A few other points the Cy Young wasn't separate until 1967 so the odds were a lot tougher at the start to get a guy in there. Also the voting was just one vote for Cy Young until 1970 and ROY until 1980. That again makes it tougher because you didn't have 2nd or 3rd place guys in obvious years.

OK so what did I find.

1965 Dodgers - Koufax (1st CY), Jim Lefebvre (1st ROY), Maury Willis (3rd MVP) : ROY should have went to Morgan. Koufax actually outpaced Willis for MVP finishing 2nd to Mays

1967 Red Sox - Yaz (1st MVP), Jim Lonborg (1st CY), Reggie Smith (2nd ROY) : Lucky to be here as Carew got 19 of 20 ROY votes.

1971 Oakland - Blue (1st CY), Angel Mangual (3rd ROY), Bando (2nd MVP) : Again the MVP candidate was outpaced by the Cy Young - Blue won MVP.

getting tired of looking...

1973 San Fran - Gary Matthews (1st ROY), Ron Bryant (3rd CY), Bobby Bonds (3rd MVP).

1974 Texas - Hargrove (1st ROY), Jenkins (2nd CY), Jeff Burroughs (1st MVP)

1978 Brewers - Larry Hisle (3rd MVP), Mike Caldwell (2nd CY), Molitor (2nd ROY)

1980 Phillies - Schmidt (1st MVP), Carlton (1st CY), Lonnie Smith (3rd ROY)

more tired...

1983 Baltimore - Ripken, Palmer, Murray &
1983 St Louis - Lonnie Smith, Sutter, McGee

at this point I started going backward thinking maybe with more teams that would make a difference and I wouldn't be seeing one every 3 years or so.

2013 Cardinals - Molina, Wainwright,Shelby Miller

2010 Cardinals - Pujols, Wainwright,  Jaime Garcia 

2006 Twins - Morneau, Santana, Liriano

2005 Yankees - A-Rod, Rivera, Cano

I want to stop but I'm close now - let's fill in the gap

1985 Cardinals - McGee, John Tudor, Coleman &
1985 Dodgers - Pedro Guerrero, Hershiser, Mariano Duncan,

1988 Oakland - Canseco, Eckersley, Weiss &
1988 Dodgers - Gibson, Hershiser, Tim Belcher

1991 Pirates - Bonds/Bonilla, John Smiley, Orlando Merced

1993 White Sox - Thomas, McDowell, Jason Bere &
1993 Braves - Justice, Maddux/Glavine, Greg McMichael

1997 Mariners - Griffey, Randy Johnson, Jose Cruz (traded mid-season to Toronto)

2000 A's - Giambi, Hudson, Terrance Long

2001 Mariners - Boone, Freddy Garcia, Suzuki (also won MVP)

Aaaaaaaaaaaand done. OK so the end result is -  It's not rare at all. I imagine that you get a boost being on a good team and that enough to throw votes your way such that you can finish in the top 3 even if you don't really deserve it.  Like in 2013 - Wainwright was a deserving Top 3 finisher but Molina wasn't and Miller wasn't. They had good seasons sure but there were a handful of better MVP and ROY candidates that these guys should have been more 5-10 ish than Top 3. It was rare that looking at Cy Young and ROY (which have fewer votes choices so smaller lists) that I didn't find at least one team to check on MVP list.

Now - how many worthy candidates (that might not have gotten votes) is another question. Because that's really what the Nats have this year. But I'll leave that to someone with more time.

*Can't be "worst to first" without being worst first!  

**The next guy with as high a winning percentage not in the Hall and not active is Davey. Again I totally think Davey (.562, 1372 wins) should be in too. First in fact. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Roster Choices

A quick note for those worried that the recent injuries mean the Nats will definitely lose. Let's say they Nats are worse than the Dodgers right now. You want to know the last time a team with more regular season wins won a series / Wild Card game in the National League playoffs? The 2014 2013 NLCS.  That's 8 straight series where the team with more wins (proxy for "better" team) lost.

Yes, I realize the Nats have more wins - this isn't about some quirky pattern that showed up. This is about the idea that the best team wins in the playoffs. We've talked about this before but imagine you said the Dodgers have a 55% chance of winning a game against the Nats. This is crazy because it means if the Nats and Dodgers played 162 games you'd expect the Dodgers to win 89 of them and the Nats to win only 73, but whatever, this is a thought exercise. Any way - purely mathematically - what are the chances the Dodgers win a 5 game series? 75%? 80%?

A little over 59%.

I reality the Nats and Dodgers are much closer and that 59% is too high.Yes, yes match-ups, starters, etc. but hopefully you get the point I've been trying to make. It is FAR FAR FAR from impossible for the Nats to win this series. It may not be the most likely outcome but if it isn't it's just a smidge away from it. So you can pick the Dodgers to win, but no gloom and doom ok.

The Nats have to figure out who's on their roster for the playoffs. Easy choices include - Lobaton, Severino, Zimmerman, Murphy, Espinosa, Rendon, Werth, Turner, Bryce, Scherzer, Roark, Gio, Kelley, Treinen, Melancon. There are your starters and best bullpen arms. That's 15 out of 25.

Drew is a given, considering Murphy's condition and his own production. Based on performance and recent usage it would be hard to see them leaving off Belisle. They may be looking at going with a 3-man rotation, but you can't not take someone who can give you multiple innings. Ross is the obviously choice here, as neither Lopez or Cole have staked any strong claimes to the spot. 18.

So this is the "base".  The Nats need at least one more OF and another bat on the bench, two more is more likely. They need some LH relievers.

The Nats have a plethora of OF choices right now. Heisey, the year long bench player. Goodwin, recently called up and doing allright. Revere, the struggling veteran. Taylor the former heir apparent. Robinson, the versatile back-up first-baseman. I bet even Difo could play OF. You figure Heisey won't lose his bench role given he's performed well in it over the course of the season.  19.  From here I could see it going a lot of ways.

You probably take Robinson, to give the option of sitting the struggling Zimmerman at times. But it's not like Robinson has lit the world on fire this year. You could leave him behind. Problem is that it doesn't leave a "true" back-up first baseman on the team. Though Murphy can do it, has done it in the past, but hasn't played there much this year.  You'd probably rather take a hot Revere, but he has continued his unimpressive singles hitting. A cold Goodwin or Difo would be an easy leave, but both are hitting pretty well and give you a touch of speed on the bench that the other bench guys don't. (Taylor is cold - hasn't played - It would be a huge surprise if he was taken.)

If you go hot hands you take Goodwin/Difo. If you go veterans you take Robinson/Revere. If you go handedness Difo has to make it as the other three are all lefties. I think leaving off Robinson would be surprising. He hasn't been good but there's a need for someone behind the struggling Zimm, and leaving him off for a decent month of part-time playing by one of these young guys would be a huge leap of faith. That means that Difo gets the nod as the last guy on the bench to balance out lefty righty. This leaves the Nats with a defensively suspect outfield bench - Heisey is fair, Robinson is a first baseman who can not embarrass himself. But I don't think the alternative - leaving Robinson off for Revere or Goodwin will happen. I think it's more likely we see Robinson, Revere than that. 21.

We're in the pen now and we need three lefties because we have none and the Dodgers are bad against lefties.  Everything leans to taking Rep. Pitched in September a fair amount, pitched well, handles lefties, veteran. He's in. 22.  Solis would be an obvious next choice as he was the most successful lefty all year for the Nats. However, he's barely pitched in September (faced 11 batters in 3 games) given he's come back from injury. Still used 3 times in 6 days once back tells us they want him ready to go. He was fine so he's in. 23. Sean Burnett or Oliver Perez or even Matt Grace? Burnett and Grace have been very good against lefties all year while Perez has struggled. But Perez, under the radar, has had a very good September. (4.1 IP in 9 games, 2 H, 1 BB, 6K, 0.00 ERA). It's a tough call. I think the Nats end up going with Perez. 24.

That leaves one spot and you have to believe it will be in the pen, especially the way Dusty tries to get favorable match-ups. Your choices are AJ Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, Sean Burnett, Matt Grace, Trevor Gott, Rafael Martin, Yusmeiro Petit or Koda Glover. Petit's awful. Out. There's some talk Glover isn't 100%  and hasn't pitched since the 25th. Out. Grace hasn't pitched since the same game. Out. Cole or Lopez would both fill a longer relief role, which could be needed if you were sure you were going with 4 men starting. Neither has been all that good. Burnett, Gott, or Martin would be the last pen arm, Burnett giving you another lefty arm.

I'm going to say Lopez for two reasons. I think (1) they want to go with a four man rotation if possible and that means Ross isn't the long man anymore. With Petit gone because of terribleness that means they need Lopez or Cole. Lopez has been slightly better. (2) Lopez pitched a short outing the last time he was out. That suggests to me setting him up for some short outings if possible, as opposed to Cole who has only ever started.

So there you go my roster guess:

C: Lobaton, Severino
1B : Zimmerman, Robinson
2B: Murphy, Difo
SS: Espinosa, Drew
3B: Rendon
OF : Werth, Turner, Bryce, Heisey,

SP : Scherzer, Roark, Gio, Ross
RHRP: Melancon, Treinen, Kelley, Belisle, Lopez
LHRP: Rzepczynski, Solis, Perez

Monday, October 03, 2016

Pick the playoffs

Let's get crazy

Giants over Mets

Dodgers over Nats
Cubs over Giants

Cubs over Dodgers

Blue Jays over Orioles

Indians over Red Sox
Blue Jays over Rangers

Blue Jays over Indians

Cubs over Blue Jays

I can't pick against Bumgarner in a one game. I think the Nats are falling apart at the wrong time (but will still take LA to 5). I think the Cubs are just clearly better than the Giants, especially if Bumgarner can't go 3 games. I think the Dodgers can overcome a game of Gio but not two of Lester. 

AL wise- here's the thing. I pick Wild Card by starter. We don't know the AL starters, do we? Until we have that info, I go with what I know. In general Toronto's starters are better than Baltimore's. Toronto is at home. After that I like the Sox bullpen to blow something and Cleveland is the best team they will likely face. The Rangers are more lucky than good, which can totally keep happening, I'm just not going to bet on it. So that leaves me with the made for TV final of Toronto and Cleveland, which I don't have a strong opinion on, but I'll pick against the whole Cubs vs "Believeland" storyline because that may kill me. 

For contrast my rooting interests go something like : 

Blue Jays
Red Sox

I get really torn on the Orioles because I want Buck to get his ring but any AL East team wins and as a Yankee fan I find them to get super super annoying. Sometimes I have them over the Dodgers, who I have a mild desire to see them win in the Vin retires year, and sometimes below the Rangers who I have like no feelings for. 

A rooting interest playoffs would go 

Mets over Giants

Nats over Dodgers
Cubs over Mets

Nats over Cubs

Orioles over Blue Jays

Indians over Red Sox 
Orioles over Rangers / Rangers over Orioles (like I said - not sure)

Indians over whoever

Nats over Indians

Let's get this going!