Nationals Baseball: Can the Nats last?

Monday, July 03, 2017

Can the Nats last?

The Nats are in a better position than every other team not named Houston. They have a sizeable lead (7.5 games as of this morning). They are well over .500 (14 games). They had five players named to the all-star game and it could easily wind up being seven when it's all said and done. Yet things don't feel as good as they should. Why? Well yes, the pen but it's more than just that, isn't it?

Part of that is the fact 1/3rd of the Opening Day lineup is out for the forseeable future.  Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, and Adam Eaton are all on the DL and won't be back soon. Werth, the earliest likely return will probably be post-All-Star break. Turner might be back in late August. Eaton is done for the year. We're now down to Stephen Drew, Michael Taylor, and Brian Goodwin, which has worked out just fine but feels like a house of cards. This is especially true with the Nats catcher situation degrading to one of the worst in the big leagues as Wieters has become his worst plausible case (well below average in all aspects) and Lobaton has apparently died. RIP Jose.

Part of the fact is that the Nats can't seem to catch a break with the rotation depth. Gio followed up some luck in the early months with some honest to God good pitching in the last one to keep his stats up and his surprising season going. This should have given the Nats a 4 deep rotation at least. But at the same time the clock might have struck midnight on Roark as he's become incredibly hittable. Maybe Joe Ross is ready to turn the corner. He just delivered his first back to back decent games all season. But if not the Nats find themselves 3 deep in July when being 3 deep in October last year was a problem

Part of the fact is that these things have combined to make the Nats play mediocre baseball for a good couple months now.  A hot start got the Nats to 21-9 by May 6th.  Since then they've been 27-25. That's two months of 84 win ball. If we look at the past month it gets worse. The Nats were 34-19 on June 2nd. That means they've been under .500 for the past 30 days going 14-15 in that time frame.

This has all been hidden by the fact the NL East is the NL East.  From May 6th to Jun 22nd the Mets went 17-26.  From May 6th to June 16th the Braves went 18-20. From May 6th to May 27th the Marlins went 5-13 and are on a recent 6-9 stretch. From May 6th to Jun 21st the Phillies went 10-31.  The Nats spun their wheels in the mud but the rest of the league slid down the hill.  You'll notice thought that for the Mets and Braves the bad stretches don't stretch to today. They've been better recently and that means finally, after 6 weeks of playing .500 type ball and GAINING on the rest of the division, the Nats finally are losing ground.

The Nats are "only" 7.5 up now which is both a big lead for this time of year and their smallest lead since before Memorial Day. If the Braves (currently the 2nd place team) make up two more games it'll be the Nats' smallest lead since all the way back on May 10th. The Nats have lost 5 games in the standings in about a month. At that pace they would get caught in September.

We've said continuously the Nats are a very good to great team but the reality is they haven't played very good baseball for 7 weeks now.  If you want to be generous you can blame any number of things. The injuries. The pen and its psychological effects. The schedule, as we talked about a bunch earlier, has been a bear since before Memorial Day. But with 3 games versus the Mets and four versus the Braves starting tonight at home there's no more time for excuses. If the Nats want to keep the rest of the year boring they need to win these series. 2-1 over the Mets, 3-1 over the Braves will likely put the division lead back over 10 games leading into a much more favorable month of games versus some weaker squads with plenty of off days.

The Turner injury alone didn't change my feelings. I still think as these teams are constructed the Nats have it. But I also think we are at a tipping point now where one more injury to the Nats or a big acquisition by the Mets/Braves could change things. A 10+ game lead though, with a light schedule coming up through August 21st, that might be injury/acquisition proof. So do it damn it.


Side Note :
I added active stadiums #21 and #22 to my collection hitting KC and STL this past weekend. I've also seen games at 6 defunct stadiums. Both were actually pretty nice. I'd have to go with KC if forced to choose but it was closer than I thought. STL is definitely a cookie cutter in the model of the new stadium but it's a fine cookie. There isn't anything I can point to that's wrong. It may grow to be a stronger selection if the downtown of STL picks up a bit more. KC is off in the ouskirts in a parking lot with Arrowhead situation, but with the open bowl and the fountains and huge scoreboard it is just more unique. Both could use a bit of work in local food flavor. It would pay big dividends for KC to play up their ribs (Joe's was AWESOME) as much as possible. For STL... I'm not sure how they do this. KC's beer (mostly Boulevard all over but Boulevard is good) is also better than STL but that's to be expected in what is essentially Budweiser stadium. 

Oh since you'll ask TOR, LAA, OAK, NYM, ATL, LAD, ARI  to go.  Mets and Braves... I won't say I can hit "anytime" but I can certainly have these checked off with not too much effort. Other ones are going to take some planning. Defucnt ones are Yankee, Shea, RFK, Tiger, Turner, Metrodome.

Side note of side note :
I added Presidential Library #6 to my collection visiting HST's. Almost half-way there as there are 13 official ones currently. These are not all conveniently located though so it'll take more doing to get this done.

And since you'll ask I've hit FDR, HST, LBJ, GRF, JEC, RWR and yes I do know all their middle names off the top of my head. I visit Presidential Libraries for fun.

23 comments:

G Cracka X said...

Harper, what are your feelings about using fWAR vs. RA9-WAR to evaluate pitchers? By fWAR, Gio has only been worth .5 WAR more than Tanner, but if you use RA9-WAR, Gio is +3.5 WAR over Tanner. Is one of those calculations more accurate or more predictive than the other?

G Cracka X said...

The above question is in light of the question you raised about the starting rotation. If fWAR is more predictive, then maybe Tanner rebounds, as his FIP is not great, but lower than his ERA.

JE34 said...

Harper - I can't imagine why anyone would want to visit Woodrow Wilson's presidential library... but you might be that anyone. It is not all that far from DC, down I-81 in Staunton VA, which is a great little town.

Harper said...

I guess the question you are asking is trying to evaluate performance moving forward and fWAR would be the choice there. I believe RA9-WAR is the attempt to kind of take out the predictive part of fWAR? Some people felt fWAR was too "this is what should have happened" for a descriptive stat. Still more predictive doesn't mean very predictive. The best baseball predictive stats would barely past muster in most fields looking for correlation. (Correlation would be classified on the weak side of "moderate"). I would look at past month of pitching stats (WHIP K/9) along with xFIP and SIERA to get an idea. Given that Roark looks like he might pitch just a little better (high 4.00 ERAs)

On the flip side - Gio who'd been lucky in May (and we all kind of knew it at the time) has been legit in June. You have to give him a slight bump up going forward then just looking at predictive ERAs. Pitching to around a 3.50 or so isn't out of question for him.

Harper said...

JE34 - it's not official! Official ones start with Hoover. But I have driven past there and thought about stopping. Maybe next time I make that drive (late August)

Ben said...

Wait, how could you make the trek out to KC-STL and NOT visit the Eisenhower Library across the river in Abilene< KS?!? . . . I mean, NERD!!!

Harper said...

I was travelling with friends who did not like the idea of spending our entire time in KS driving to DDE museum then back to KC rather than eating at Joe's, going to the Negro League Baseball Museum and drinking beer. Killed me too but sacrifices must be made.

PotomacFan said...

I did the same trip last year. HST library (excellent), KC Royals Park (eh, in the middle of nowhere, with the backdrop being the Interstate and a mid-rise motel), and then Busch Stadium (which I really liked for the view of the Arch and the city, although "downtown" STL is pretty dreary).

Anonymous said...

Regarding Roark, it's not that the clock has hit midnight, it's the stupid WBC. He didn't have a normal spring training and was hardly used for 2-3 weeks. That has caused him to hit a wall, but hopefully he can get some rest and bounce back.

Kevin Rusch said...

I just *loved* Kaufman stadium. There's plenty to dislike about KC (mostly that it's all suburbs) and its surrounding sucks, but it's pretty much the last time a team told an architect "Go be architecty!" and you got the last good example of 60's modernism outside of Flushing and Brasilia. The fountains, the fact that every seat is great, and a summer evening are pretty great. Then, granted, you're not only in Kansas City, but you're not even really close to Kansas City. But compared to Busch, you're right -- aside from signage, you really can't tell Busch from Coors from Philly from Target from GABP.

Kevin Rusch said...

Oh, and another thumbs-up for Ike's library. Man, what a gorgeous little place.

SM said...

When taking a leisurely drive from Toronto to D.C. a couple of years ago, I happened to pass by the federal pen in Lewisburg and NY state's supermax Attica facility.

It occurred to me that a Big House road trip might be just as edifying as a Big League Park road trip. More to learn than from the Presidential libraries.

(Too bad you missed Leavenworth. From 1903 to 2005, it was the New York Yankees of prisons. Just down the road? The even tougher Fort Leavenworth's United States Disciplinary Barracks, whose first Warden was probably Ty Cobb.)

JE34 said...

Blanton v Cespedes. I cannot look...

Fries said...

Terrible end of the game. Solis can't throw a strike, but lucks into 2 outs. Then Albers has one job, to throw balls down in the zone. Proceeds to throw 3 big ole meatballs up. Then you get the leadoff walk, yet Difo can't get the bunt down. Why the hell they don't take the bunt off with 2 strikes is beyond me.

Nats were quite fortunate to get the win there...

Jay said...

Captain Obvious here. "They really need a closer. Thanks." Captain Obvious out.

ssln said...

Gee, and just last week you called it for the Nats. You angling to have a curse named after you. Things are bad and could get worse if the Nats don't take care of business.
What you missed is that the Mets bullpen is even worse than ours, assuming that that is even theoretically possible.
The real threat is the Braves. But they face a murderous schedule for the next month. They have the Astros coming up before our series. After the All Star break they get to face LAD, Arizona, Colorado and St. Louis for two and a half week with only one break in there. We will see if they can survive that stretch.

Anonymous said...

Harper, wish I would have known you were heading to KC as I would have steered you to Hayward's Pit BBQ in Overland Park to get your expert opinion.

Only place I've ever known where thieves have broken in to and only stole meat and left the cash registers alone. Crazy good BBQ.

http://www.haywardsbarbq.com

* I see they have recently moved to Lenexa after 35 years in Overland Park

Nathan Armstrong said...

I really enjoyed Ike's too, plus nearby is the town of Lucas, which houses some of the most awesome, interesting artists. One lady had a bathtub of decapitated dolls in her house!

BxJaycobb said...

I personally think the "juiced ball" year is absolutely killing Roark, who is a contact manager and doesn't live off Ks the way Stras and Scherzer do. fangraphs did a story that these types of pitchers are the ones having bad years (porcello, Roark, Hendricks, etc). Roark used to get to a ton of outs from firmly hit balls that were at people. Now those firmly hit balls are flying out or past the infielders.
Yeah the division is over. I know it's natural to be anxious. But the Braves are not catching the Nats. Even the injured terrible pen Nats. I think they'll win by like 12 games.

Sammy Kent said...

Three times in the last six games the bullpen has allowed two or more runs between the 26th and 27th outs.

Harper said...

Nathan - did you alos meet "artists" who had coats made of human skin?

Nathan Armstrong said...

Harper- no, but one lady only worked in used chewing gum and citrus rinds.

PotomacFan said...

WaPo raised the possibility of Hunter Strickland. What do folks think? His numbers are okay, but show that he is not a closer (last year: 3 saves, 5 blown saves). And the Giants would not have paid big bucks for Melancon if they thought Strickland could do the job. Is the guy poison in the club house? Would this be another JPap situation with Bryce? When Strickland threw at Bryce, his teammates didn't even defend him.