Nationals Baseball: Where's the noting how easy the schedule is?

Friday, May 12, 2017

Where's the noting how easy the schedule is?

I'm just saying. The team was incredibly willing to complain about the weird start times and New York to Colorado after a Sunday Night game scheduling but you won't hear them saying what a dream it's been since then.

Home from the 28th - 30th, day off, Home 2nd-4th, to Philly 5th-7th, to Baltimore 8th-9th, Back home 10th-14th, day off.

That is a pretty damn cushy 2 1/2 week stretch where the "long away trip" is a city a 2 1/2 hour drive away.

Anyway. Not only are the Nats at the end of a virtual relaxing stroll period of their schedule travel wise, they are about to embark on a tour of the dregs of baseball.First up are the Phillies - in the midst of a 2-8 stretch and carrying a 13-19 record.  After that it's off to the window closed without Marte Pirates (currently 14-21), and the no threat with a terrible Dansby Braves (11-20). They then come home to best team they'll face in this stretch the Mariners (17-18), who could be over .500 by that point but are still hurt and coming cross country. That's followed by the garbage Padres (13-23). Then they start a road trip with the currently reeling Giants (12-24) that'll take the team into June. I won't say that'll be easy this far out but it certainly could be given how SF has performed this year.

It's a stretch of 18 games where 13-5 would be a perfectly reasonable expectation. Do that and the Nats start the next month 35-17, likely with the best record in the game, and likely dominating the East by 8 games or so.  Good teams create distance when the opportunity arises and the opportunity is here. It's not as direct as the Mets series where they didn't come through. It could take 18 games rather than 3 to pull away*, but it's there.

If you're curious, June through the All-star break will be hard on the Nats. They get a day off after that SF series - then on the 2nd start with at the A's and then at the Dodgers, they lose an off day to make up for the O's rain out, then face the Rangers and Braves. It's not a tough end, admittedly, but after a road trip and with the games in a row racking up it may matter. Then without a day off they are at the Mets and at the Marlins. Again probably not terribly hard teams but by the end it'll be 20 days in a row. If the Reds remain competitive then the next stretch could be tough too CIN, CHC at home, STL on road, NYM ATL at home to go into all-star break. 17 games in a row with no break and 37 games in 38 days, so even assuming the Braves are still garbage and with the Nats are at home they could easily be dragging.
 


*Mets schedule isn't hard but it's not as easy as the Nats, and they aren't as good right now, so 11-7 would be a nice projection for them and that would put them two games further out.

37 comments:

Nattydread said...

The 10-game road trip over-achievement is predictably balanced by a return-to-earth home stand. It'd be great to see them go 13 and 5, but its best not to jinx things. Lets keep the bar low, manage expectations.

Fries said...

I'm putting my bar at 12-6 with series wins against the Phils, Pirates, Braves, and Padres whereas the Mariners and Giants I could see turning things around by the time the Nats get to them. Both have major injury bug, but the Giants just got back Crawford and Span and they'll have some time to get the rust off. I'd like to say the Nats win every series but the Giants, but who knows

Dusty's Toothpick said...

The Mariners although injured, seem to be playing good baseball and getting production out of young players. Felix (granted not the same Felix) will most likely be back too by that game.


This is where the Nats stick the Knife in and posture themselves against the rest of the league. Let's go!

John C. said...

It's a stretch of 18 games where 13-5 would be a perfectly reasonable expectation.

Heh. One of the favorite games of fans is to set unreasonable expectations and then whinge if the team "underachieves." 13-5 is a 117 win pace. It's certainly plausible against a weaker stretch of the season, but to set that as the expectation is simply being greedy. Going 11-7 would be a 99 win pace, and perfectly acceptable - although it would be a bit of a drop from their current 105 win pace (newsflash: the Nats aren't going to win 105 games).

It's not as direct as the Mets series where they didn't come through.

Again, this is the sleight of hand of ignoring when the team succeeds and only focusing on when they don't. The Nats played a home-and-home six game stretch against the Mets on those two weekends, and the Nats won four of the six games. Weirdly, many Nats fans only remember the weekend in DC and somehow forget the sweep in NY. Mets fans remember the sweep in NY.

Mets schedule isn't hard but it's not as easy as the Nats, and they aren't as good right now, so 11-7 would be a nice projection for [the Mets]...

It's true that the Mets' schedule in this upcoming stretch isn't as easy as that of the Nats. That's not surprising, given that to date the Mets have played by far the easiest schedule in MLB. How easy? Other than the Nats (to whom, as noted above, the Mets lost 4 of 6) the Mets have not played a team that is within five games of .500. This gives their under .500 (16-17) record perspective. They have: gone 4-4 against the Braves (overall record: 11-20), gone 4-6 against the Marlins (overall record 13-20); gone 4-2 against the Phillies (overall record: 13-19) and gone 2-1 against the dreadful Giants (overall record: 12-24). Even counting the six games against the Nats, the Mets' opponents are a weighted .389 (63-99).

To sum up, the Mets have played 27 of their 33 games against teams with a weighted collective winning percentage of .378 - that's like playing 27 games against a 61-101 team. Against that run of dreck the Mets have gone 14-13. Given that, and that they are playing 9/9 H/R against teams with a collective winning percentage of .467 (76-86 equivalent), 11-7 may well be optimistic.

To compare, the Nats have a 22-12 record while playing 13 of their 34 games against three other first place teams (Orioles, Rockies, Cardinals) and one team that is currently tied for the second wild card (Diamondbacks). The Nats have gone 8-5 against those teams. Add the 4-2 record against the Mets and the Nats have gone 12-7 against contenders (.631, a 102 win pace). Where the Mets' collective opponents are .389 (63-99), the Nats' collective opponents so far this season are .496 (80-82). And the Nats have a 5.5 game lead. Not taking a victory lap yet, but it's obviously an excellent start.

Anonymous said...

Great post, JohnC. I hadn't realized how easy the Mets' schedule has been.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, would you be willing to do another 'Werth Contract Perspective' post? Seems like he has been worth the money, no?

John C. said...

More fun with numbers! When the Mets' non-Nats opponents have played teams other than the Mets, their overall record slides to .343 (a 56-106 pace). There are two teams (Braves, Marlins) that only have seven wins all season against teams other than the Mets.

Bjd1207 said...

@GCX - I did it recently using Fangraphs valuations and I think he's posted like $105M worth of value so far, against the $120M contract. If he finishes out this year well I'd consider it....Werth It

I'll see myself out

Harper said...

John -

ON EXPECTATION
I said it was a reasonable expectation and based on quality of opponents, location of games, and rest coming into the games (plus factoring in health coming in) I'll stand by my statement. I'm not going to say that's MY expectation (I'd go with 12-6) just that it's not unreasonable.

Also not hitting an expectation is not really underperforming - especially when dealing with a small number of games. Even if the balance point might be... 11.5 - 6.5 I'd say you can probably go down to 9-9 before you get to something I'd consider clearly underperforming. (and probably 14-4 as an unreasonably good result). And let's be honest really though you'd have to look more at RS/RA in case 1-run games just broke against them

ON METS
Now who's doing sleight of hand? I was noting that the last time the Nats had a chance to open up that big lead over the Mets they did not. I wasn't saying anything about their overall performance or specific performance against the Mets this year. The last series of games aren't of any more importance than the first series, nor does it necessarily show a flaw in the Nats. I'm just stating a fact of how things turned out.


GCX - This was my last paragraph from the last one

"Barring getting a complete zero from him next year, something worse than last year, Jayson Werth the player has been a good signing for the Nats. Not a good contract, but a good signing. He has nearly met expectations. Not in the typical way at all, but he's done it. That's all you can ask. And while it's doubtful he'll unleash a 125ish OPS+ year next season, I'm not going to doubt it at this point. He's twice defied being kicked into the abyss. What's one more miracle year? "

That holds. It almost COULDN'T be a good contract. The value vs the money just couldn't be there unless he surprised in both length and amount of effectiveness, and for various reasons he hasn't. This is almost true for every long term contract. Like 1 in 20 actually get you value. But I don't see how you can say it wasn't a good signing at this point. I mean I guess he could crash for the rest of 2017 and then I guess you could make the argument but at this point that's where we are. He'd have to fail miserably for there to be an argument.

JE34 said...

@JohnC - bonus points for using the excellent word "dreck" to refer to the Mets.

I think you're a little tough on Harper by using the win-pace extrapolation. Strong teams go on such runs against weaker teams, then go on "81-win-pace" stretches against good ones. Just as they won't win 117 games, they'll do better than 81. Strong teams build good W-L records by splitting series with good teams and stomping on the bad ones.

All that said, with this bullpen, I agree that 13-5 is an aggressive expectation. I'd agree with that 13-5 expectation if the pen were serviceably average, which it ain't.

Fries said...

I'll agree that Werth's contract has been "werth" it in hindsight, but that doesn't mean it wasn't still an overpay. You could argue he overperformed what everyone was projecting him at. But, at the same time, I'll concede the Nats partially made the overpay because they needed to be seen as a legitimate front office. Whether that worked is debatable, since the only big name player the Nats have really gotten in FA since is Scherzer, despite multiple attempts on other players. Money aside, I'm glad Werth is a Nat

Josh Higham said...

To second what everyone else has said about Werth, if he provides zero additional value from today, the Nats paid ~$105m for his performance and ~$16m for some combination of front office credibility, clubhouse leadership, fan turnout on Werth Gnome day, helping get Matt Williams fired, and swearing on live TV. Invaluable.

PotomacFan said...

The walk off HR in Game 4 of the Cardinals play off series was worth $5 million plus. That's one of my top 2 moments as a DC sports fan -- and I was at the game. The other top moment was Sergei Fedorov's goal with about 5 minutes left in the 3rd period to win a series where the Caps were down 3 - 1. I was at that game, also. I just stay silent on the other Caps Game 7s that I have attended.

Seriously, though, Werth earned his money. How often does a guy live up to a 7-year contract? Rarely. And if the only big name free agent it helped the Nats to get was Scherzer, than it was worth it. It might have also helped the Nats re-sign Strasburg, too.

Josh Higham said...

I'd imagine you could estimate the marginal revenue provided by big emotional sports moments by matching merch and ticket sales during a set "big moment goodwill window" with a team that had a similar record and market but lacked a big moment. Assembling a sample of matches would be a nightmare, defining the window would be seriously arbitrary, and the whole thing would be well beyond my skills. In the case of the game 4 walkoff, you'd also have to try to tease out the Werth effect from the "exciting but depressing first round exit" effect.

Sorry, I was thinking through the keyboard there. I'll post it anyway in hopes that someone else will enjoy thinking about building that model.

Jimmy said...

Would anyone be surprised if the Nats offered Werth a Qualifying offer at the end of this year?

Jimmy said...

It makes sense to keep the band together for one more shot before Bryce walks, and while I'm confident Werth won't hit .299 and 25 homers if he goes .260-275 with 19 homers I might be down for another year of terrible outfield defense.

John C. said...

Je34 - you're right that the classic recipe for baseball success is to split against the good teams while dominating the bad ones. My point was that 11-7 is closer to domination than disappointment. And that setting 13-5 as an expectation for any stretch - outside of perhaps one like the one that the Mets just hashed into a sub-.500 record - is an "expectation" that is going to end in disappointment far more often than it is matched. Much less exceeded.

Harper, if you're accusing me of cherry picking on the Mets-Nats, I say thee nay. The two series were separated by less than a week; it's not like I was bringing in a series from 1-2 months earlier to even the record out. Despite a tougher schedule the Nats have been creating distance even though opportunity (in the form of a cake schedule) was actually in the Mets' corner. Calling out the Nats for not pulling away ignores the fact that they have been pulling away. I would think that having the best record in the NL and the second largest lead in all of MLB (behind the Astros' 7 game lead in the AL Central) would prove that.

KW said...

I see that John beat me to commenting on how easy the Met schedule had been. When I looked at the Nat and Met schedules for the first month or so at the beginning of the season, I was afraid that the Nats might be in arrears by three or four games at the end of the month. Despite the bullpen misadventures, the Nats have flourished against a slate with some strong teams and some patsies. (I'm not sure where the Rocks, Snakes, and even Cards will end up when everything shakes out; the Cards were actually in last or next-to-last when the Nats played them. I assume Rocks or Snakes will finish 2d in the West with SF in a nose dive.)

Anyway, the Mets really missed a chance to make hay, and the chickens may now come home to roost in the midst of injuries and melodrama.

section 406 said...

"Would anyone be surprised if the Nats offered Werth a Qualifying offer at the end of this year? "

- I would. I've long been a defender of his contract, and as others have pointed out, it included a $20M "suck tax" where you have to overpay to be taken seriously. But Werth has definitely outperformed expectations, and I'm delighted for it. But his range has fallen off sharply, and I don't think he'll be worth the ~$13M that a QO would take. Also, no other team would sign him for that. He might get an AL offer to start somewhere, but that's about it.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper:
I think what John C. is saying is that the separation between the Mets and Nats is worse for the Mets than it looks, given the huge schedule difference. Consider. The Nats have played about half their games against what we might term 'playoff caliber teams'--or, let's just say they are in the upper half of MLB teams in 2017. In those 19 games vs the Orioles, Rockies at Coors, Cardinals, DBacks, and Mets, the Nats are 13-6. Since I have often worried in the past that the Nats have built their regular season success on the mirage of beating up on horrible NL East competition, it is heartening to me that the Nats have been beating both good and bad teams. Re the Mets, this is promising, since they will eventually have to play the quality teams the Nats have. Although it is VERY lucky for the mets that they are getting the soft underbelly of their schedule at precisely the time when they are having maximal injury issues and need it.

KW said...

Werth isn't going to get a QO, as the Nats aren't going to pay him ~$17M. I wouldn't be surprised if the Nats offer him another year at around $8-10M, though, particularly if he keeps going as he is offensively. I'm personally looking forward to the coming years when the Nats make him the zaniest third-base coach in baseball . . .

Froggy said...

I agree with KW, since it would be unlikely that the Nats give Werth a QO. However, I could see if he is playing 'well' (offensively?) down the stretch and continues to provide the perception of clubhouse leadership into the postseason, the club offers him a player-coach token extension.

BxJaycobb said...

Let's see what Werths numbers look like at the end of the year, if he makes it that long without injury. I suspect they won't be too pretty. Also, he's one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball by basically every defensive metric and gives back all of the value he gains with his bat. It would make no sense to keep him another year, particularly with Robles (hopefully?) being possibly ready to come up some time middle of 2018.

dc rl said...

Re Werth:

Joe Posnanski wrote a piece just earlier this week titled "Werth the Money." https://medium.com/joeblogs/werth-the-money-c751520bda40 He goes thru in great detail why the Werth contract worked out just fine, even though he starts by noting (in a bit of an exaggeration) that when Werth signed the deal "it seemed destined to go down as one of the worst deals in baseball history." I completely agree that Jayson's been werth it. If the Nats got $100M of performance from him, then the other stuff -- the clubhouse intangibles, the culture change for the franchise, the Game 4 HR -- easily covers the remaining amount. It was an overpay at the time -- we knew that. But you can only say it turned out to be a "bad contract" if your definition of "bad contract" is one where the team doesn't end up getting a huge bargain. (Like the Daniel Murphy contract -- a ridiculous underpay.)

As for the future, I can certainly believe that the Nats would like to bring him back next year at a lower price, possibly as a 4th OFer as they transition to the young guys coming up. But the question really is what Jayson wants to do. If he just wants one last hurrah and to end up as a Nat, then I'm sure they can work something out. But I think it's more likely that he's one of these guys who wants to play until his body says he's done, and in that case he's probably going to want to go to the AL where he can stick around for 2, 3, 4 more years as a part-time OF and DH (a la Carlos Beltran).

section 406 said...

I was shocked to see this, but according to Baseball-Reference, Werth's defensive numbers for left field are more or less average over the last couple years:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/werthja01-field.shtml

And he's hitting well above average so far this year. He'll probably cool off, but even 90% of average is worth a couple mill, even if he's either the actual backup or the placeholder for Robles or one of the other prospects.

Anyway, I think the overall point is that 6 years ago, everyone thought he'd be a total albatross. Obviously he's still quite serviceable, and on the open market, even his production today would cost you more than $10M.

If he's willing to gracefully wind his way down the depth chart for a few years, I hope the Nats keep him around before he moves into the front office. If he wants to take a deal to be a full-time DH, I'd tell him to take the deal, but that we'll keep his locker and uniform number for whenever he wants to return.

BxJaycobb said...

I think at this pace there is actually a very solid chance Scherzer lives up to his contract. I personally cannot remember a long term deal where the player has been this fantastic the first 3 years.....he's going to compile like 18 WAR (like 90+ million bucks of value) for the Nats in first 3 years by end of 2017 at this pace.

BxJaycobb said...

Bryce. Bryce. God just pay the man his money. Whatever he wants. These walk off homer moments are manna from heaven for a sports fan.

Robot said...

Fuck this bullpen

Jay said...

At what point is Rizzo ultimately held responsible for this laughably bad bullpen. Also, what is Mike Maddux telling these guys?? I thought he was the pitching guru. They are awful. Bullpen is responsible for 7 or 13 losses. That was before the night cap. Figure 1 of those 6 losses not attributed to the bullpen was the Guthrie abomination.

Josh Higham said...

I was firmly in the "let's wait and see if Kelley and Glover coming back makes the bullpen better" camp. It only took one game to take the shine of that fantasy.

BxJaycobb said...

1. Honestly Glover has looked pretty decent to me. I know he had an inherited runner score today, but he has not been bad. Not dominant but not bad. The scary performances that suggest something has been irreparably broken from previous talent are Kelley and Blanton.
2. You can only blame Rizzo for the whole pens performance if you subscribe to the Tom Boswell theory (see column today) that not having a great closer somehow spills over to make everybody else horrible because there's no "psychological ballast." Whatever that means. It seems unfair to be like "Kelley, Blanton, AND Treinen were excellent last year and this year are unable to get a single hitter out in the major leagues! What the hell Rizzo!" But Yes. It is pretty weird that we were the only** playoff hopeful to enter the season with no established plan for the 9th inning. That is fairly close to inexcusable.

John C. said...

Jay, what, in this context, does "ultimately held responsible" mean? Are you advocating the woodshed or firing for a guy who has put together a team that has the best record in the NL this season, has won more games than any other NL (possibly MLB; I haven't checked lately) team over the past five seasons, and is positioned to be a contender at least through 2018?

I don't have a problem holding Rizzo responsible for the bullpen, so long as you also hold him responsible for the rest of it.

blovy8 said...

The real problem with the Boswell article is that it assumes the rest of the roster would be possible after they paid $$$$ for that closer (nevermind that the most likely choice would have been the struggling Melancon) It's almost a certainty that we wouldn't have Gio as a very good starter, since payroll space would have been needed, so it's fair to assume the revolving door 5th starter would become a revolving door made for two starters, which exacerbates the middle relief issues as they'd have to be used earlier more often. The blown saves would pretty much turn into fewer save opportunities to begin with, because the innings before aren't as likely to be good enough to get a lead - it would have a domino effect in my opinion. There probably wouldn't be a hitter the quality of Adam Lind to pinch hit and we'd probably have Clint Robinson grounding out to end rallies and be starting sub-600 OPS hitting Norris in the lineup. Wieters makes a difference right now in keeping the hitting depth with Eaton out. If you have Taylor, Norris, and the pitcher coming up, you can manage a lot of innings toward the bottom of the order.

Froggy said...

Not sure I buy into the Butterfly Theory of unintended consequences If the Nats would have signed a high dollar closer. But clearly the 'on the cheap' pen gamble has not worked out very elegantly. That said, thank the baseball Gods we play in the NL east as it does give us the luxury of time to come up with a mid-season fixit plan.

We are just unlikely to have any 20 game winners or CY Young candidates this year however. Maybe we'll just have to be happy with a .400 hitter or two instead.

section 406 said...

A couple thoughts:
1) someone floated Joe Ross as a reliever candidate. He's got a couple great pitches, has trouble getting deep into games, and is bad the 3rd time through the lineup. But he has 2 great pitches. That's where great relievers come from - talented pitchers who can't start.

2) The idea of a "closer" is just silly to me. You need good relievers, definitely, but the only reason Tyler Clippard (whom I miss dearly) wasn't a closer was because he had other guys closing instead of him. But he's a hell of a relief pitcher (see point 1 above) and could close for anyone. The fact that people were only going after Janson, Melancon, and the other top-name closers is nonsense. Find a good setup guy (or shoot, look around the minors for starters who are good for 3 innings then fall apart)

3) I think it was Harper who said "with starters and a lineup like this, bad relief doesn't matter." It will in October, so the bullpen HAS to be improved, but the truth is that with the putrid bullpen, the nats still have the best record in the NL. Great starting and the '27 yankees cover up a lot of problems. The nats will need 1 very good, and one more half-way decent reliever. And they need to figure out what's wrong with Treinen. He's got the stuff, but yeesh this year's been awful.

JE34 said...

Fun lip reading on Matt Albers after the last out last night... maybe he's trying to claim the mantle as tough guy closer.

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