Nationals Baseball: State of the Majors - 1 month to go

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

State of the Majors - 1 month to go

A few early notes

Scherzer back. Good! Werth back. Good yesterday! Turner today! Slowly but surely it is coming together. I think all Nats fans are hoping for the same thing. A healthy team* come playoffs Day 1 and a fair chance at seeing what that kind of team can do. Some Nats fans are I'm sure hoping for more than just this but I think this is the starting point.

To that end someone asked about some clarification on Madson.  Here's the piece in question from the Post but short of it is Madson will probably have to tone down the usage of his curveball. That type of change can have a domino effect on the other pitches in the repertoire. Maybe they are able to sit on the fastball more. Maybe they are seeing the sinker enough now to ID it well. You don't know but you never like to hear a guy may have to change up what he throws. Add in the fact he's going to be trying to adjust in just a few weeks and you get a bit more worried. Still a reliever can get by with 2 pitches, and he's one of several guys, so it's not the end of the world.

Someone else asked if I thought the Marlins could catch the Rockies. Rather than just focus on this. Let's check out the whole picture. You know the NL West and NL East are decided and the top two seeds are locked up. The Cubs are hanging on to a small lead in the Central (2.5 games). The whole WC picture looks like this (as of today)

ARI +2
[CHC  -0.5]
MIL -3
MIA -4.5
STL -5.5

The Cardinals have the easiest schedule remaining followed by the Marlins, Cubs, Brewers, Diamondbacks and Rockies. I tend not to focus too much on SoS just because at this point the difference of a few percentage points is basically one series swap of the Phillies and the Dodgers. Yeah, that matters but you'd still most likely but the results of those as a one-game difference. 

It's harder to pick a winner given all the series between these teams. The Cubs, for example, play the Cardinals and the Brewers 7 more times a piece. The Marlins still have series somehow with the Brewers, the Diamondbacks, and the Rockies. So anything can happen.

Twist my arm and I'll stick with the Diamondbacks and Cubs. I'll also rule out the Cardinals who are facing some key injuries at this time, and the Marlins, who are overperforming on the mound. The question then that remains is whether the fun story Brewers can catch the Rockies. I'll say... no.  If I like the Cubs then I have to have them winning at least 4 of those 7 H2H games with the Brewers. If that's the case it leaves Milwuakee even fewer games to do even better to catch the Rockies.  I think The Brewers end up a game short.

AL - HOU (1), CLE (2) are easy picks. The Red Sox should hold off the Yankees but they have a big four game set in NY this weekend. Of course Boston has been declared the East winner like a half-dozen times this year only to be stumble back to a surging New York so who knows.  The other WC? It'd be fun to see Mike Trout in a rare playoff appearance. Or the Royals getting one last go at it. Cole Hamels is probably the best one-game pitcher that might get put up. Therefore we'll probably watch the Orioles make it and lose the WC to NY/BOS in some unexplicable way.

*Obviously Eaton caveat, and I guess Ross, and some other minor pieces - but this type of loss is more on par with what you'd expect during a season then what the Nats have been going through.


Chas R said...

Cole Hamels?! Please don't tell me you think the Rangers have a WC shot.

Anonymous said...

The Nats fanboy in me is holding a slight grudge and rooting against the Rockies, just because of last year's bush league move of taking LeMahieu out a bunch of games at the end so that he beats out Murph for the batting title. So I think I'm hoping for Milwaukee to overtake Colorado...

Robot said...

Yeah, but Ryan Braun is a dirty lying cheater and everyone hates him, so it's really a wash.

Zimmerman11 said...

Harper not starting baseball activities after two weeks is a concern. And minors seasons are wrapping up. Would like him to have at least two weeks before postseason to get his timing...

And for EVERYONE else to stay healthy... but yes seeing Scherz and Werth having fun last night was a nice pickmeup.

PhthePhillies said...

I'll take Madson sans knuckle curve, even though he has thrown it 17% of the time this year. He'll do just fine with his four-seamer, sinker, and change up.
I suspect Madson is not worth much after 20 pitches though, and can't handle more than 3 appearances in a row (2 is preferred before he gets a day off). From a total arm standpoint (elbow, shoulder)he may actually benefit from the rest he is getting while on the DL. As long as he is keeping his legs strong.

On another note, wouldn't everyone rather see Werth in left field and Kendrick in right? I am not sure if Howie has ever played there but I bet he could field the position better than Jayson. Are they preparing for scenarios in which Bryce is not available in the postseason?

Harper said...

Chas - 3 games out and a little unlucky so far for a team that should be a couple games over rather than a couple games under. You have to at least consider it.

Anon @ 10:11 - So you're not rooting for a Bud Black / Dusty Baker NLCS showdown?

Robot - There are plusses and minuses for every team. Mostly minuses. Who do you hate the least?

Ole PBN said...

Still have a month to go to see how this all shakes out, but I'm all for sticking Trea in CF with Werth and Howie on the corners. Difo has earned his spot at short more than MAT is helping us in CF. MAT is hitting .196 since returning from the DL and is sporting a 34% K rate. Thanks, but no thanks.

Again, a month to go to properly evaluate, but perhaps some tough decisions to be made come playoff time.

Harper said...

Z11 - Bryce is young. Doesn't need that much warm-up time. (that's what I'm telling myself)

Ph - My bet - he makes the roster but barely pitches.

yes! Werth in LF Howie in RF should be obvious but Dusty likes guys to stay where they are so Howie is LF. That makes Werth RF (at least until Bryce comes back)

Anonymous said...

Folks, just last week when I suggested that Werth would start in left field in the playoffs at least half a dozen of you protested my opinion. I could name names (remember all the guys who said he had a poor attitude, couldn't field and wouldn't be able to hit). One guy even told me he couldn't come back from a wrist injury. Obviously, that contributor is right on top of everything happening to the Nats.
Now the consensus seems to be you want him in the playoff lineup after one game. Where are all the guys who hate him. you know the guys who said he was too cool for school or the guy who met him and hates him.
Stand up an be counted. Tell us how bad Werth is and that chemistry doesn't matter. Don't let one good game change your mind or that look that Scherzer and Werth exchanged.

Anonymous said...

how can you say that madson will not pitch much. he has a 0.00 era since coming to the nationals. and with more off days in the playoffs he will not have to worry about pitching multiple days in a row. My guess is he is still main 8th inning option with the other two deadline acquisitions filling in around him.

PhthePhillies said...

Agree with you, Anon. Prior to his injury, Madson was the closest thing to a sure bet coming out of the pen.
If both Madson and Koda come back before the postseason, I hope someone taps Koda on the shoulder and points to Madson. "See that guy over there. That is what an intimidating, dominant reliever looks like. That's the guy you want to be. Sit with him. Learn from him."

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon 10:37 - I believe you're talking about me. And you can stop with the horse and pony show of "standing up and being counted" because everyone who's been on this board awhile knows me and knows that I've got not problem giving my opinion or conceding when that opinion has turned out wrong. Also, the irony of an Anonymous poster asking for people to stand up and be counted is hilarious.

But to your real points, go back and re-read what I said. You're damn certain I wasn't expecting Werth to jack a HR in his first game back, but that has almost no relevance on what I was saying. I started by saying if he's hitting .270 with power upon his return then theres NO problem starting him over Kendrick. I said the real question is what to do if he's hitting .220. And if you're ready to solidify our post season starting lineup based on his first game back, be my guest. I for one, am gonna wait at least another 2 weeks to see what Werth and Kendrick bring to the table over that time

Harper said...

Anon @ 11:04 - just guessing based on the idea that he'll not be pitching soon (although it looks like they'll check him out in Milwaukee and see what they think) and he won't be the same pitcher on the other side of the injury. If he's healthy and good, of course he slides right back into where he was.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:37 - I'm right here. I'll tell you that I suspect Werth is a bad apple to clubhouse chemistry. Anyone willing to observe the team's "new-found chemistry" while he's been out? It has been just fine. Its all based on opinions, but after meeting the guy (briefly), my suspicions seem accurate that he does think he is too cool for school, arrogant, and not the leader that I would like the consensus to follow.

Now, with all that being said, if he provides value on the field - then by all means plug him in. But if we have a better player sitting right there, sorry Werth, you're out. All of this is contingent on Harper coming back at all. If Bryce does, it's Howie's LF job to lose, I'm sorry. And if we're ridding the team of an arrogant "me-first" attitude in the process, then fine by me.

Werth is not a bad baseball player. Jesus, hitting .270-ish and his plate discipline alone earn him a spot in the lineup for sure. But Kendrick is making a case for Werth to lose his job, simply because he is being outperformed by a teammate. I want the better player in LF, and assuming Bryce is back for October, Kendrick gets the nod over Werth no matter how many "looks that Scherzer and Werth exchange."

John C. said...

Knee jerk fan reactions at least provide entertainment value. Harper to CF! Turner to CF! Bench Werth! Kendrick to RF - OK, he's never played there, but it should work amirite?!?

Unlike most fans, the Nats aren't going to be guided by SSS noise. And as a Nats fan, I'm OK with that.

Anonymous said...

Dusty ain't listening to any of you! Difo in RF tonight, Lind in LF...I say Difo earns the position and starts the playoffs there!! Bench Bryce!

For real tho...sitting both Werth and Kendrick tonight? Maybe it's going to be a rainout anyway.

Chris said...

I know De Aza did manage to get a hit last night, but if he's in the lineup he absolutely should not be in the 2 spot with Difo batting 8th. Difo has played well enough to hold down the #2 until we have a fully healthy 1 thru 8. Any games De Aza plays from here on out should have him locked in to the 8 hole.

Jon Quimby said...

The homer from Werth was great, but even more encouraging for me was his aggressiveness on the bases. He did not seem to be hampered AT ALL.

Having too many options .. have we EVER been there before? Kendrick/Werth, Difo, Lind - there's a bench!

I also want to mention how smooth Difo is playing short now. It wasn't that long ago that he looked a little tentative, but his confidence is soaring.

JE34 said...

Attention, Hot Take Hall of Fame:

"Stand up and be counted."


De Aza in the 2 hole is strange indeed. Why give him the extra AB by batting him higher, and with another lefty behind him, no less?

Ah well. Love how these guys are playing right now... scoring more, without relying as much on the long ball. Even Matt Wieters is stepping it up.

Anonymous said...

interesting thought. the nats are about to start a four game set with the brewers. it would actually help to nationals to lose this series so that the brewers have an outside chance at catching the cubs. Try a bunch of different lineups and throw a AAAA in one game.

Anonymous said...

yay Stras!

Anonymous said...

Good thing Stras is there to PH for De Aza, Weiters, or Lobaton.

Robot said...

Heh. Good day for Stras.

ocw5000 said...

I am predicting a less than enthusiastic response to Boz's column on Stras. Three of my favorite excerpts:

Advanced stats can tell us that Nolan Ryan actually SUCKED
"In fact, Strasburg’s career winning percentage (80-45, .640) edges into the top 25 in the past 100 years. Nolan Ryan was only 32 games over .500 for his career."

I don't understand this at all, is he only competitive when his teammates score 3-5 runs?
"Strasburg does not lack competitiveness. In games in which he gets little run support (zero to two runs) or large support (six or more runs), he has a career ERA around 3.60. But in the kind of games that demand gutting out a close win, when he gets medium run-support of three, four or five runs, he’s 32-10 with a 2.40 ERA."

6th in the NL in participation trophies:
"No, he doesn’t have many complete games. Few do these days. But he’s as likely to snap your neck for seven innings, the modern complete game, as just about anybody."

ocw5000 said...

Almost forgot, BREAKING NEWS: Jayson Werth thinks beards are awesome

JE34 said...

Oy... that Boz column is ripe for Harper's poison pen. Here he is cherry picking stats to help him craft a talking point:

"Strasburg does not have a durability problem. Since his team-mandated shutdown in 2012, he has made 134 starts over the past five seasons, only one less than Clayton Kershaw, the same number as Felix Hernandez and more than Jake Arrieta (130), Johnny Cueto (128) or Adam Wainwright (126) and not far behind David Price (139). He’s tied for 30th in starts over that time. So an average team has one pitcher this durable."

Good gravy. Boz could take 30 seconds to look at the innings pitched, or pitches thrown by Kershaw. Of course I love Stras but come on!

Jay said...

My take home message from Boz' article is that Strasburg is an elite pitcher and people should stop giving Strasburg a hard time. He then went on to list several examples. I think Stras has continued to get better the last few years. The last two and a half years (when healthy) Strasburg has been every bit the pitcher people were expecting when the Nats drafted him. He, not Scherzer, was well on his way to winning the Cy Young last year before he was hurt. Now there is the catch - when healthy. Last year Boz was throwing around stats about the previous half year and the first half of last year and Strasburg was something crazy like 27-3 or something. If Strasburg can ever have a couple healthy years (and that may be a big if) he might be every bit as good as Scherzer and Kershaw. I agree with Boz' take.

Jim Bowden said...

I think a lot of the people giving Stras a hard time is because the hype he had as a prospect set the bar so high. He then raised that bar even higher after his 14k debut. Since then, he has just been pretty good to very good. But not good enough for some people I suppose.

Anonymous said...

I think Boz uses a bunch of stupid methods to make a point I largely agree with, which is that Strasburg is a top 10 starting pitcher, who would rank higher if he was able to stay on the field more than he does. Part of the reason he uses stupid methods is that he's writing for Washington Post readership and not Fangraphs, but that doesn't mean he HAS to trot out drivel like pitcher winning percentage to make his point. The following is not necessarily what I would put in a WaPo column, but it does largely prove Boz's point.

Since 2010, of pitchers with 1,000 or more innings, Strasburg ranks 13th in fWAR in a cluster of guys like Kluber, Gio, and Wainwright, all of whom have very similar totals. On this list, Kershaw is first by a lot, then Max, Verlander, Price, and Sale are all bunched together. Of the top guys, Kluber and Strasburg have the least number of innings by far. Using this same group, Stras ranks 2nd in FIP (Kershaw), 6th in ERA, 2nd in xFIP (Kershaw), 3rd in SIERA (Kershaw, Sale), 1st in K/9, and 3rd in K%-BB% (Kerhsaw, Sale). Changing the universe to since 2012 and the IP to 800, Stras ranks 9th in WAR, 9th in ERA, 4th in FIP, 2nd in xFIP, 4th in K/9, 4th in SIERA, and 4th in K%-BB%.

Strasburg is a badass. There's not much realistic room for him to improve the quality of his pitching. All he can really do is pitch more innings or have the innings he does pitch occur at more important times, like the playoffs.

KRay said...

Every time I look at career K/9, I love that there are 4 nationals in the top 20 all time. Good ole Ollie Perez. Strasburg only strikes out fewer per 9 innings than The Big Unit.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper. Wait what? I don't agree at all re injuries. They literally might not have their best player in the playoffs. It seems 50-50 that he even is on a field again this year. And they definitely won't have him fully healthy.

Harper said...

BxJaycobb - I'm assuming Bryce is back and healthy enough. If he's hobbled or not there then yeah they've taken a harder hit than most. Let's wait till late Sept.