Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Relative or Absolute

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Quickie - Relative or Absolute

The Nats are 9-9 in May.  10-10 since Adam Eaton was lost for the year.  Does it matter?

Well let's say that the Nats go .500 for the rest of the season starting at the point that Adam Eaton went down. They were 23 games in, 16-7,... subtract... carry the one... multiply by Plank's constant...
They'd end the season either 85-77 or 86-76. Those aren't great totals to be sure. And in a baseball vacuum, you'd worry, in this scenario, that they wouldn't even get a Wild Card berth.

Now let's look at some other numbers. Namely the records of the other teams in the NL East since that same date.

ATL 9-11
NYM 9-11
MIA 5-17
PHI 4-16

The short of it? The Nats have played .500 ball for 3+ weeks and have gained ground on EVERYONE in their division. They do not play in a baseball vacuum. They play in the NL East. Even in this scenario, they are fine.

Now that we satisfied any worry warts, why are the Nats struggling? They aren't a .500 team are they?  Well April / May makes a convenient break point, even if it is imperfect so lets look at RS/RA in the two months

April  6.8 RS/G,  4.88 RA/G
May 4.22 RS/G,  4.61 RA/G

So the hitting got a lot worse. Or more accurately, the hitting stopped carrying the offense. There were 6 (out of 25) games in April that the Nats almost could not lose where the Nats scored 11, 14, 14, 15, 16 and 23 runs. That certainly skews the month but it also, you know, happened.  There were also 5 more games where the team scored 6 or more runs. This is a usual win even against a Nats team struggling with the pen, a good run more over average. (they did in fact win all 5 of these).   Lastly the Nats scored 0-2 runs only two times during the months. These are close to automatic losses.

In May the Nats have had zero double digit scoring games, 5 games still over 6 runs scored (won them all again), and three games scoiring 0-2 runs. There's still a week to go but the Nats are playing a lot more "losable" games. What they aren't doing though is playing a ton more "unwinnable" games. Instead they are playing a lot of games where everyone is scoring some runs. This accentuates the late inning problems because these games are all relatively close. 

The relievers, believe it or not, have gotten better. Though that isn't saying much as they had a 5.70 ERA in April. The starters, in turn, have gotten a bit worse, up to a 4.20 ERA from a 3.90 ERA in April. So there are some

Where is 4.22 R/G? It's below average in a typical modern season, but not terrible.
Where is 4.61 R/G? It's above average in a typical modern season, but not terrible.

Really it's the combination for a below .500 team, but you know, that's like 1 game going the other way difference, we're talking about.

What this shows is that with a terrible pen, the Nats can still win... with a phenomenal offense and above average starting pitching. With an average-ish offense and average-ish starting pitching, you can't. This shouldn't really be a surprise. Average + average + below average isn't going to equal well above average.

Should you worry? Well about the NL East no. What about just in general? Maybe. The starters have been around a 4.00 ERA for over a quarter of the season, the relievers around 5.00. This may be what they are as a group. If that's the case it's a below average combination and the offense will have to carry the team. Can it? Probably. The questions start with Turner, who hasn't gotten anything going this year. That is ok, but that's about all you can afford. Then the questions turn to MAT. Can he be effective? If that's negative that sets up a problem for the team

There are still more questions that are now hanging around the Nats.Where does this drift back down end for Zimm? Can Rendon sustain success? But these are tabled for the moment secondary to the obvious ones above. If MAT and Turner can't hit and these are still questions, then these questions take on added importance drawing the line between a good offense and an ok one. If those questions are both answered negatively then things start to get dicey. Murphy and Bryce have to both be stars constantly which is too much to ask.

For all the potential worry, a possibly underperforming Nats offense and a disappointing starting pitching staff is still keeping the Nats at .500 with a terrible pen. If we're right about the offense and the starting pitching they'll pop back up. Probably not to April levels but above .500 and with a smooth sail to 90+ wins and the division title. You can worry about the playoffs but I wouldn't.  Not now.  Too much time. Too many things can happen. What I'd worry about is one more injury. One that could make this back and forth, disappointing .500ish May an expected result rather than a presumed dip. If that happens the new dips can be lower and that might open the door for someone. Probably not, but maybe.


nicoxen said...

@harper if Turner keeps struggling how long can Dusty justify leading him off, and should Dusty drop him in the order, who become's the leadoff hitter?

Also, I know Harper is doing well statistically, but he's in a mini-slump and I'm seeing signs of 2016 Harper now. Pulling off the ball, hitting lots of foul balls. Am I being overly worried or is there some room for concern?

Ole PBN said...

Score 4 or more. Give up 4 or less. That's basically what it comes down to. I'd shift the blame on the lineup or the pitching based on those two factors alone. Of course, we'll win game 10-9 and lose 9-10, or win 2-1 or lose 1-2. But generally speaking, 4 is the magic number everyday.

Our bats aren't going to put up 4 everytime, but more often than not. Our rotation won't give up 4 or less every time, but more often than not. If say, Strasburg leaves in the 6th with us tied 4-4 or winning 5-4, I don't trust the bullpen to not give up a run/inning. Its a tall order for a group with this many problems.

So as it stands, we might be fine. But only because the NL East is so god awful. Not really expecting much in the NLDS though. Just another early exit as its rare that teams score 8 runs/game in October.

BxJaycobb said...

I think what it comes down to is do u believe Bryce was healthy last year? I don't. Which is why I'm not worried about a reversion to 2016. The fact is he became a type of hitter he never has been the rest of his career. Also I've realized that Bryce "pulls off" the ball a tiny bit even when he's hitting great, and including covering the outside corner. So when he has a mini slump everybody focuses on his mechanics, which always exist. You have to allow a guy to slump for a week or two, even a superstar. It just happens. If it lasts deep into June, sure. But again, I think it's abundantly clear the guy was hurt last year.

G Cracka X said...

Given the sizable lead, should the Nats be willing to lose a couple of extra games here and there by using extra bullpen, saving the starters from potential injury and fatigue?

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: on Turner, do we really think it's possible turner is going to "not hit" going forward? He's striking out a bit more, but not like in a crazy way. He's always hit for average in the minors. He did it for like 340 ABs in the majors last year. I think more likely one of two things are going on. Either he's not actually totally healthy, which based on how often he is running when on base and his decreased statcast sprint speed, seems very plausible, or the league is adjusting to his aggressiveness a bit by throwing him fewer fastballs in the zone, and he will have to re-adjust to the league---given that he did walk more in the minors, I think he will. The good news I suppose (if u want to glean good news for long term Trea) is that the short term returns are that he's a very good defender at SS and that his power last year was not a fluke....he is indeed a guy who can hit 15-20 homers a year. I'm not terribly worried yet---his batted ball profile is worse than last year but not by a ton-- his average should be higher based on how well he's hitting the ball. The main thing he will have to work on is walking more/being more selective.

PotomacFan said...

@G Cracka X: Yes! Dusty cannot continue to have Roark, Gio, Strasburg and Scherzer pitch close to 120 pitches per game. It's just too dangerous. And, with the exception of Scherzer, the other 3 really start to lose their effectiveness after 100 pitches. So, there's just no reason to leave them in (other than abject fear of having to use the bullpen). And remember that even though Dusty let his starters pitch that extra inning, the Nats LOST the games this weekend anyhow (except for the Strasburg game, and that was pretty close to getting tied).

Anonymous said...

Oh dread....@harper says

"The Nats have played .500 ball for 3+ weeks and have gained ground on EVERYONE in their division. They do not play in a baseball vacuum. They play in the NL East. Even in this scenario, they are fine."

Isn't this very similar to how we all felt in 2015, right before the Mets went out and pulled the trigger on some very impactful trade deadline moves and the Nats didn't?

I am afraid this kind of thinking seeps into the front office and particularly the Lerners who feel like things are "fine" or at least "good enough" and we can get nipped at the end. It's not like we've run away and hid just yet.

BxJaycobb said...

From Eddie Matz: of the top 5 MLB pitchers in pitchers per game, the Nats have 4 of them. The only non Nat starter that's in there is Lester. That has to stop.

John C. said...

Isn't this very similar to how we all felt in 2015, right before the Mets went out and pulled the trigger on some very impactful trade deadline moves and the Nats didn't?

Heh. It's also very similar to how "we all felt" in 2016, right before ... the Nats won 95 games and the Division going away. And when "we all felt" that way in 2015, the Nats didn't have a seven game lead (7.5 over the Mets). And the Mets hadn't lost Syndergaard, Familia, Cespedes, Wright and Duda for extended periods due to injuries. I don't know what 2017 is going to be - but it's not going to be 2015 or 2016.

Can disaster happen? Sure - you can't disaster-proof a roster, organization or a season. Stuff happens. But that's pretty much true no matter what the team does.

blovy8 said...

Also, it ain't July yet, the big move can't really be made until then typically. What this month should be telling the club is that they aren't good enough as it stands. The funny thing might be that if they are better in June it could ultimately screw up the process, they could be fooled by a reasonable facsimile of Ross, Taylor hitting .260, and some "better" bullpen work into only going after a closer again.

blovy8 said...

Best case scenario for me in the near future is having Ross effective enough to believe in, but some pen guys stay hurt or ineffective enough to force them to get more than one reliever. I can't root against Taylor, but I don't really believe a .418 BABIP is sustainable, so they need a rental CF. Even if that's Gardner, who really is a LF, big deal, we had a RF there when the club was hitting on all cylinders. The Yankees have so many OF they're trying to play the best defensive one at first! Some day they have to realize Tanaka deserves some time off. If we had Ross behaving like a fourth starter, the top-3 healthy, and a big divisional lead, Gio could go over for Gardner/Betances late July. Then just cobble together a few August starts, use the September call-ups and you can set your October rotation, have a complete lineup, bench, and flame-throwing closer. Taylor is hitting .389 against lefties at least.

Quintana would cost the Yankees someone Levine likes.

Anonymous said...

Interesting chat with Boz at WashPost today. He claims the Nats should move now and not overwork their starters, and then outlines the deal that was almost in the off season of two minor leaguers not named Robles for Robertson, with the White Sox eating at lot or most of the $25 mil salary. Boz almost came across as peeved that this trade didn't happen, with full 20/20 hindsight.

blovy8 said...

Why not just trade for Melancon again, it's only money...

Froggy said...

Blovy8, that was my suggestion a couple weeks ago but all the smart guys on this blog shot it down.

It is only money.

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