Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Down but not out... well out for now

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Quickie - Down but not out... well out for now

There was one over the weekend story and that's the injury to Bryce. For those of you who think negative lines of code have been insert / d into my programming, let me tell you that I was firmly on  the "who knows, let it play out camp" and reviewing the footage of the Eaton injury said "Oh. It doesn't look like that".  I went on to hazard a guess that it wasn't a tear and he wouldn't be out for the year. I also noted I know basically nothing other than what was said above and my opinion is close to worthless.

But it turns out that Bryce doesn't seem to be hurt that badly, that the MRI shows no major ligament or tendon damage, and while the timeline is still fuzzy, there is certainly potential for him to be back for the playoffs. It could be even sooner but let's be honest, few of us care whether he's back August 20th or September 20th.

This isn't to say "I'm right." This is to say "That is where the (admittedly sparse) evidence suggested the most likley outcome is (based on my low-informed opinion)" I am giving the same sort of take when I speak about Strsaburg who's about to pitch in Potomac tonight. Ideally he will go 5 innings and throw around 75 pitches. If he feels well he could join the Nats in time to pitch against San Diego on Saturday. He was hurt on July 23rd and would return to pitch on August 19th. That's fairly close to a month which is what a calm review of the initial injury seemed to suggest as the most likely scenario based on the admittedly sparse evidence fed into the low-information opinion producing me.  We can disagree but I'm not crazy here.

So what does the Bryce injury mean? A lot. The Nats are an offensive juggernaut. That is how they win games. They are second in baseball in runs scored per game (to Houston) well past 3rd place Colorado. We are used to the Nats being led by their arms, and backed up by a very good offense.  Here's a quick ranking

2012 : 1 3 5
2013 : 6 11 6
2014 : 1 2 3
2015 : 6 6 3
2016 : 2 2 4
2017 : 3 15 1

Now obviously the relief pitching is now better than 15th. But is it dominant? Probably not. And the starting pitching isn't dominant either as a whole. No, what's carrying the team in 2017 is the offense.  Bryce isn't the offense by himself as he was kind-of sort-of in 2015, but he IS the best offensive player the Nats have. He was hitting  .326 /  .419 / .614 at the time he went down. You don't replace that. Guys like Stevenson, Goodwin, Kendrick, might catch a good week or two but eventually the Nats will feel it.  MAT is back and Werth could be coming back. That may help but they aren't Bryce. Rendon is a great bat. He's not Bryce. Zimm is having a decent August holding off some decline fears. He's not Bryce. They will score fewer runs. They will lose more games.

Will that matter? For the next 7 weeks - hell no. They are up by 14 games. The next best team in the NL East sits at 4 games under .500. They could literally take off two weeks, forfeit the games to give their team a rest, and it wouldn't matter.  After that it most certainly will. To win as it has in the regular season the Nationals need Bryce Harper.

This isn't to say a Bryce-less Nats team couldn't survive, even thrive in the playoffs. Even without Bryce the team is games above .500 and you put that kind of team with a Max level starter in the playoffs and it can win. But it'll probably have to win in a different fashion than it has been all year long.


PotomacFan said...

@Harper: SP = starting pitching, RP = relief pitching, RS = ??
Also, how are these rankings compiled? Is this just ERA, or is some more accurate metric?

Josh Higham said...

RS should be "Runs Scored," showing that the offense has always been good but this year it's great, whereas the pitching has always been great and this year is good.

Harper said...

PF - RS - Runs Scored. It's just ERA so you're right it's not the most accurate pitching metric but it serves to give you the general idea.

Chas R said...

Kendrick could also get more time in the OF, that could also help offset the loss of Bryce. If Stras comes backhand Gio continues to pitch well, we should be ok until Bryce comes back.

G Cracka X said...

The rankings are NL only, correct?

Tom Mentzer said...

You notice his helmet was coming off, yet again, right as he's stepping on first? And he's reaching for the helmet just as he tumbles? Very unlikely to be causal, but maybe time to get a helmet that can contain his luxurious hair?

Harper said...

GCX - yes

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: I agree with everything here. I would add that I don't think the Nats rankings thus far reflect the current team for a couple reasons. First, the Nats offense is not quite as good as the current impression IMO for a few reasons: (1) They piled up a LOT of their crazy run totals in April when they had Eaton. (2) Goodwin, MAT, Difo, Sanchez, Lind have arguably ALL played above their actual talent level...the Kendrick addition balances this out a a bit, but not all the way...I.e. The bench/Eaton-less OF is good but not as good as it has played. (3) I think we all assume Zim is not as great as his season line suggests, right? (4) arguably most importantly, the Nats have played a lot of games against easily the worst pitching division in baseball---and when I say easily I mean EASILY. This is a division where the aces on 3 of the 4 opponents are Teheran, Straily, and Nola? Put a different way, how many times have the Nats knocked around an elite starter?
And second, the Nats pen is simply a totally different pen that the one they've had the whole year. Is it the best pen in the NL? No. But it is easily above average now, which is a large departure.

KO said...

Also don't look now but we're up 9 games for NLDS HFA

Jay said...

Straselburger evidently felt he didn't need to throw rehab game tonight. Sounds like things went great. It will be nice to get him back.

Dusty said something about he was happy Bryce wasn't hurt. Said something about how it was a big difference that he was only going to miss 10 days to 2 weeks. The big thing for all of these guys coming back from injury is making sure they come back early enough to get back into a groove. Part of why the Nats lost the division to the Mets a few years back is because people were out hurt. When they got back they couldn't play well bc they had been out so long.