Nationals Baseball: Lost, goddammit, lost.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Lost, goddammit, lost.

Last year I ended up doing a post where I went through any moment I felt was pivotal to that game 5. I feel like if I did it for this game I wouldn't stop writing until next Tuesday. So instead I'm just going to spread the blame around where I feel it needs to go.

Worst Player Ever

Matt Wieters already had an iffy play in the top of the 3rd. With men on 2nd and 3rd and with two-outs Gio threw a pitch that went exactly 60 ft and skidded off the back of the plate. With a man on third a catcher needs to block that pitch and try to keep it in front of him.  Wieters instead reached out with a backhand. It hit his glove/arm and went to the backstop and Contreras scored. This would only be a prelude for things to come.

It was supposed to be the inning where the door began to close on the Cubs. Max Scherzer, MAX SCHERZER, was coming out of the pen and he would shut down the Cubs for as long as he could giving the Nats 2 or 3 turns at the plate to expand on their one-run lead. He set down Bryant and Rizzo but then the Cubs got some breaks, an infield single, a bloop right, and a sharp gorund ball down the line to score two. The lead was gone, the momentum was gone, but the Nats were still just a run behind and in this game that didn't feel like anything.  If they could hold them here, at 5-4, surely they could score 1-2 more runs.

But they couldn't and the reason why was Matt Wieters. After a couple of errant pitches they decided to walk Heyward and reset. They'd focus on getting out the free-swinging Baez. And Max did it. Struck him out on three pitches. But the third one got away from Matt. It wasn't a particularly tricky pitch. Just a ball in the dirt that a catcher should smother in place. But Wieters stood up, protecting against a crazy high bounce I guess, and the ball went right through his legs. The Cubs scored again.  6-4. Not only that Wieters mailed the ball somewhere to RF allowing the runners to move up. Max would have to bear down again, now facing two runners in scoring position, and on a 1-1 count he got a foul ball that put LaStella behind but wait Wieters wasn't finished. He reached out too far and LaStella's bat caught his glove. Catcher's Interference. Bases loaded. Now Max had no room for error and he made his one true mistake - hitting Jon Jay - to bring in another run. 7-4. The game wasn't over but it sure felt like it to a lot of people.

Wieters wasn't done yet. the Nats would come back with two outs in the 6th. They would plate two and Mike Montgomery would IBB Rendon to get to Wieters. Montgomery had already walked one and off of an IBB patience was probably the order of the day. Of course you swing at your pitch but anything close you let slide at first to see if you can't get him into a bad position. Instead Wieters would swing at the first pitch, a fastball high and off the plate, and fly out to RF. A strong hit but not the right move on a 1-0 pitch when literally anything can score a run.

Mercifully a double switch would take him out. If this game was normal outside of these instances Wieters would be getting killed today, and maybe he still will be.

Second Worst Player

Momentum is a funny thing. It's an intangible so you can't measure or plan for it, but you sure can feel it when it's there. Gio Gonzalez had already put the Nats behind because of some bad pitching including a Wild Pitch so bad that I can't in any way, shape, or form pin on Wieters. (Believe me I would, see the one above) but the Nats exploded for 4 runs to give him a nice lead. All Gio had to do was get through the Top of the 3rd without giving up a run and the Cubs would be headed toward a bad spot, where soon half-innings where they HAD to score would follow half-innings where they HAD to keep the Nats from doing the same.  He couldn't do it.

Rizzo would get a hit and he'd walk two guys. After getting Russell to ground out, Gio would then unleash the wild pitch I talked about in Wieters thing. It wasn't all Gio's fault, unlike the first inning wild pitch, but certainly he has at least half the blame if not more.

Not only did this inning get the Cubs immediately back into the game when they could have felt out of it, it pushed Gio out in favor of Matt Albers, a move that would cost the Nats a reliever down the road and set in motion the pitching moves for the rest of the game.

This is the second time Gio has been tasked with a 5th game and a lead and all he had to do was not not blow it early. This time he was even worse than last time, when he would give up 3 runs over the course of the 4th and 5th, walking four and uncorking a wild pitch in those two innings to get himself removed.

Also noteworthy

There is this feeling that if you are going to lose in a game this big, you want to lose with your best arms on the mound. You may ask them for too much, but you'd rather lose on a Chapman or Jansen stretched out to the limit, than a Baez or failing Betances fresh and rested. Since, the data really isn't there to support either strategy (you don't usually stretch out relievers that long so there's little to look at on that end for comparison) it's a bar room argument but one where most fans would side with the original sentiment.

This is the same feeling that puts Max on the mound, despite being on short rest, not having relieving experience and having Roark ready. So anyone wanting to call Dusty out here is pretty much calling out every manager and most fans of the game in an argument based in feelings not fact.

But if the above is the case, if you want to lose with your best on the mound, then why would in the 7th inning, Dusty use Sammy Solis? Solis was a decent reliever this year with a good finish, but arguably the 2nd to last man out of the pen coming into the series. During it he had been good during a game 2 showing, but in game 3 gave up 2 hits and didn't get an out before being pulled.

More curious was the first batter of the inning was a righty, Javy Baez. Perhaps bringing in Solis to face a lefty would make sense but a free swigning righty with pop like Baez? That was asking for trouble. The most sensible thing would be to let Kintzler start the inning. Get the out or not and see who was brought on to PH for the pitcher. Circumstances would tell you if you needed a lefty or a new righty and then you go with Doolittle or Madson or stick with Kintzler.

It just didn't make any sense at the time and doesn't now unless you believe you have to save Doolittle but in a game 5, in what was now a two-run ball-game, every at bat was important even those in the 7th.  Hell in an ANY run ball-game it's important in a game 5. But Solis got the call and after getting Baez out (he tried to bunt for some reason) he gave up back to back singles. Madson would come on and get the ground ball they needed but it was just too far over, the Nats arms just not strong enough, and Bryant was just fast enough to avoid the DP. Another run, what ended up being the deciding run was scored.


We can talk more about the game some more there are a million things to talk about. I'll list them here but won't go into it

Lobaton getting picked off
The interference call on Baez that should have been made

Oh hell let's try to go in order...
  • What the Nats were doing wasting that challenge in the first
  • The amazing difference between 1st-2nd-3rd inning Gio.
  • The inability to score Turner in the bottom of the first
  • Wieters' bunt
  • Zimmerman coming up repeatedly small with 2 outs and leaving 6 men on base
  • The strike zone with no low strikes
  • Maddon not only not pulling Hendricks in 2nd but letting him bat in the 4th
  • The odd use of Robles as an early pinch hitter
  • The lack of use of anyone as a pinch runner
  • Max's inability to put anyone away. 
  • Kris Bryant dying after G2 of the series. 
  • The Nats not bothering to try to manufacture a run after Murphy walked
  • Kintzler failing again
  • Werth not scoring on Bryce's double
  • Zimm not scoring on Murphy's double
  • Why Dusty didn't pinch hit for Wieters with Kendrick in the 6th
  • Maddon using Schwarber as a PH vs Solis with no one on
  • Dusty's double switch strategy leaving Nats with Wieters - Lobaton at bats rather than likely Kendrick - Lind at bats in the 6th and 7th 
  • Dusty going with Madson and not Doolittle in an have-to get an out situation
  • The challenge on Jay's DP slide
  • Maddon using Carl Edwards AGAIN and then pulling him immediately
  • Bryce just missing that pitch with the bases loaded
  • Maddon going with Wade Davis for a 7-out save
  • How the hell Contreras let the pitch go and hit the ump square in the face  
  • The umps subsequent harder than necessary "playful" punch of Contreras
  • Why after two straight walks, Lind swings at the first pitch from Wade Davis
  • Why after two straight walks, and one pitch to Lind, on a 1-0 count MAT swings at the second pitch from Davis
  • The fact Lobaton got a hit
  • Why Turner swings at the first pitch from Davis, despite him throwing 4 out of 5 first pitch balls in the inning 
  • The challenge on Lobaton's pick-off being super questionable from what we could see
  • Why Turner swings at the first pitch from Davis in the ninth
  • The fact that Werth wanting to play, gets a chance to do something in the ninth and strikes out
  • The fact that Bryce wanting the chance to be the hero, gets a chance to do something in the ninth and strikes out
Did I get them all? I probably didn't.  The Nats ended every inning but the 9th with a man on base! The Cubs went 1-11 with RISP! The Cubs walked 18 men in the last two games! The Nats had 14 hits in this game after having 16 in the first four games of the series. The Cubs scored 9 runs after scoring 8 in the first four games. OMG I actually did totally forget Werth missing that soft liner! How could I forget that? I could go on and on.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nats prove again that they are only a regular season team. Much like the Caps, until they get it done in the playoffs nothing else matters. Their championship window is closing fast!!

Anonymous said...

Harper-Just wanted to say thanks for doing this all year. I looked forward to your posts and they helped bring some perspective and sense of community to the Nats season. Cheers to you.

Andrew Louder said...

After taking the morning to really think about all of this season, let along just last night, it seems to me that Dusty just gets outmanaged everygame. I admire the fact the Joe Maddon actually changes his lineup everygame to MAXIMIZE the weapons he has while we have 2 of the NATS better hitters sit the bench for the entire series it just makes my blood boil. I almost left last night when he left Wieters in to bat with the bases loaded, then relocated to the concourse when he DOUBLE SWITCHED him the next inning so we got 2 at bats from the NATS WORST bench bat. Unforgivalbe.

Ole PBN said...

Cheers Harper to a great season of writing and perspective. Thank you for providing a place where Nats fans come together and celebrate, or commiserate (as well do every October). Looking forward to the offseason and how we can make a historically great Nats team... even better? smh.

cass said...

I considered stopping following baseball when replay was introduced. Now thinking that would've been the right decision.

I could wait till they introduce the DH in the NL to quit baseball entirely, but with debacles like last night, I'm not sure what I'm waiting for?

I hated replay home run reviews. I hate it more now that it's simply a way to help the team that'd get higher ratings in the NLCS win.

Who needs baseball when there are way more important things going on? MLB has ruined the product beyond recognition.

Fries said...

I pin this loss squarely on Wieters. Yes, there were other issues, and I would love to blame Werth, but he came up big at the plate the last couple of games.

But Wieters, Jesus Christ. Can't frame a pitch to save his life, constantly pulls his glove out of the strikezone, backhands multiple bounced balls, can't hit a softball with a cricket bat, the list goes on. Eat his salary and trade for a REAL catcher. He's been a gaping hole in the lineup all year at a position where all you're asking for is like .250 and good defense

UGH

P.S. Rick Schu needs to be fired. The only player on this team with a concept of situational hitting is Rendon, and unfortunately he just couldn't see the ball this series.

Zimmerman11 said...

Matt "I have an 11M players option next year" Wieters. LOLNATS! Get to watch him spit in my face the entirety of next year now. WONDERFUL.

Harper said...

Anon @ 7:34 - You never know how long windows stay open but the NL East sure looks like dreck. I'd expect the Nats in the playoffs at least one of 2018-2019 if not both after that who knows, but who knows for any team

Anon @ 7:43, Ole PBN - thank you for reading

Andrew - I think Dusty was completely taken off guard that inning. Saw the two quick out and started planning for trying to hold down the fort. Why Solis was going to come in. Didn't get a handle on the inning probably until Schwarber got up the next bc if you do want to keep Wieters in and go for double switch for some reason, letting Kintzler start inning then double switch out when PH comes up makes far more sense

cass - I didn't mind replay for HRs - it was a very limited and sensible use and paused the game at a natural pause. Once it expanded to everything else though it became an issue. The only way it can work now is if they have a timer for the replay booth - if you can't come to a decision in X sec then forget it, but they'll never do that in the cause of getting every thing "right"

Fries - Weiters made sense to start year but you needed a better back-up. Again the one thing the Nats don't cover comes back to haunt them.



JE34 said...

Harper, you also forgot another Wieters mistake: he had Schwarber standing between 1st and 2nd, and hurriedly threw a dirtball to second, allowing the 350 lb runner time to retreat.

When you have a runner stuck between bases... Fielding 101 here... you RUN DIRECTLY AT HIM. If Wieters does what almost any major leaguer is trained to do, he takes probably 3 steps towards the runner, who would then have to pick his direction. He'd have been hung out to dry... instead he scored a few plays later.

Maddon maximizing his lineup - he can do this because he is not dancing around egos like Dusty is. This again is part of quality leadership, getting everyone on board with a common goal. If upsetting Jayson Werth is that significant in the decision making process, it makes it that much tougher to win. Did anyone hear Ben Zobrist cry about not starting?

yinyang said...

Harper:

Echoing others, thanks for doing this blog and for doing it in such a thoughtful and humorous way.

No question they played themselves into that loss.  Beyond frustrating.

But still, to my surprise, I find myself agreeing with boz: they could've been so demoralized after that 5th inning that they folded, like so many other teams have done in post season similar situations. But they didn't. That shows character. Not talent or smarts, but character. Small consolation, I know, but at least they got the crowd back in the game.

One other thought: I think last night should close the chapter on pitching gio in playoffs. Shown over and over that he Can't handle the pressure. He's a good innings eater for regular season. A terrific #4 or 5. But can't use him in big games.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else catch Dusty's statistics lesson on benching Werth? Who wants to pile on first?

Dusty: “Well, I did consider it,” Baker said. “But, you know, Jayson has been a big-game guy most of his career. So, not being sentimental or anything, but trying to be a realist.

“Again, law of averages is on Jayson’s side, big time, again.

dc rl said...

Good post, but I'm kinda shocked that a soulless automaton like you would mention "momentum" in baseball, especially in the context of this series. If there's one thing this series showed, it's that the idea of momentum in baseball is just nuts. I cringed when I read a quote from Trea after game 4 that the Nats now had the momentum. If anything, there was clearly a very strong "reverse momentum" at work in this series. Let's take a look:

After game 1, when the Nats squandered (the Cubs overcame) a dominant outing by Stras, clearly Big Mo was with the Cubs for game 2 and the mere mortal Gio on the bump for the NAts;

But then in game 2, the Nats SEIZED MOMENTUM with their stirring, amazing 8th inning rally, flying (on air) to Wrigley with the knowledge they'd be handing the ball to Cy Scherzer for game 3;

Which, of course, the Cubs won in soul-crushing fashion, taking back the momentum, particularly in light of the Nats' post-game fiasco about announcing Roark, not Stras, as their game 4 pitcher;

And yet somehow, from the depths of despair, the Nats took game 4 with a stirring game for the ages from Stras and a SLAM FROM Michael A Taylor!!!???? - swinging momentum entirely, once again to their side, FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL - RIGHT?

Um, not exactly. And even just looking at last night's game - there were plenty of so-called "momentum swings," but in fact, almost any time one team did something good (to seize the momentum) the momentum-less opposition answered right away. Ok, the Nats did not score in the bottom of the 5th, but when the Cubs tagged on runs in the 6th and 7th, the Nats scored in the bottom of both innings, and then again in the 8th. And then, Doolittle finally comes in the top of the 9th and throws a dominating inning, swinging just a little more momentum back to our boys. . . ? Yeah, right.

So don't let me hear any more about momentum. Earl Weaver supposedly said "momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher," but in this series, even that wasn't true, given that we split the 2 starts each made by Gio and Stras, and lost the one by Max.

Robot said...

Echoing the sentiments of others,thanks for another great season of smart Nats analysis.

So much to say about yesterday, it's really even hard to know where to start. (Probably with how awful Wieters is)

Brendan Long said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Higham said...

I am in no position to say anything rational about the game. Maybe in a few days or weeks.

But thanks a million to you, Harper, for writing so much and so often for us. It probably doesn't say anything good about my lifestyle that reading your new post is almost always one of the high points of my day, but it's true anyway. And thanks to Bjd, Bx, et al for making the comments section fun.

Anonymous said...

Harp, I've been anxiously clicking "refresh" this morning waiting for this post. Thanks for sharing your insights (for free!) all season, and for generally being a voice of sanity. I'm pretty sad today but I can't help loving the Nats and hoping for better things next year.

JE34 said...

I found myself perusing the 140-odd comments from the prior post last night and this morning, reliving the highs and lows. I think I have issues.

Our gracious host is indeed underpaid. Here's to you, Mr. Gordek.

Sammy Kent said...

FIRE RICK SCHU

That is all.

sirc said...

I feel deflated and low, and griping about it hasn't made me feel better. Instead I'm going to look at the positives from this series.

-Stras is everything anyone would want from an ace. He is delivered.
-Max was MAX in his start. How can he be 0-7 in the postseason? FFS
-Michael A. Taylor was not cowed by the bright lights. Respect the A.

We should avoid a Caps comparison. This is its own thing, and despite what Dusty said it is a thing now. I will assume that they will bring Dusty back for one more try, while hoping that a deep, young and athletic core group can bring home the bacon next time around.

I won't accept that this is the Nats' lot, to be first round also-rans. It's a good team with a bright present. We'll get them next season.

Adam VB said...

Harper, thanks for all you do. Never quit, keep the posts coming.

Would not be surprised if Roark asks for a trade in the offseason, he can't be happy at being consistently overlooked by this organization.

Nats off-season goals should include finding a better tactical manager, upgrading the Catcher position, and signing a veteran #3 SP.

SM said...

The only joy in Mudville today is the appearance of your post, an unvarnished, post-game obituary which has now become, almost paradoxically, a perennial source of communal solace.

Perceptive, sharp-witted baseball commentary is almost as rare as . . . as NLDS championships in Washington. We (mostly) faceless, nameless followers of your blog are ceaselessly surprised, delighted, occasionally irritated, but always--always--appreciative of your posts.

Good luck to your Yankees.

Incidentally: One of the recurring motifs in recent baseball discourse is that the Yankee players won their ALDS specifically for Joe Girardi, as their acknowledgement of a stand-up guy who refuses to shed the mantle of responsibility however heavily it weighs on him.

Would the Nats ever win one specifically for Dusty?

Karl Kolchak said...

Here another one that goes back to July 12th. Nats are rumored to be thinking of trading for a starting pitcher after Ross goes down for the count. Jose Quintana is mentioned as a possible target.

Instead the Cubs swoop in a grab him. Nats fail to trade for a starter and end up with remains of Edwin Jackson, who does not make the postseason roster. Quintana, meanwhile, is a key arm in 2 of the Cubs' 3 NLDS victories.

Some franchises go for it all. Others are content to be first round losers. Year after year after year.

Chas R said...

Horribly depressing and frustrating. What a roller coaster ride. When we were leading 4-1, I really thought it could be enough. Even when 2012 Gio showed up and started giving runs back, Dusty brought in Max and I felt comfortable he would hold them to get to the law firm. Ugh!

As with everyone else- many thanks Harper for taking the time to put together this blog with your high quality analysis and opinion. I have been following you since 2012 and also on Twitter. I truly enjoy and learn from your commentary

Robot said...

Eh, since we're already being cathartic and reflective: thanks, too, to the other commenters here. Harper's great blog is what brings me here, but the comments are what causes me to waste substantial portion of my workday. I appreciate a sane place to discuss the Nats, even if my contributions are not especially astute.

JE34 said...

Echoing the Robot... this is the one and only place across the entirety of Al Gore's Internet where I read the comment section. This community routinely adds solid insight and compelling/fun discussion to Harper's superb posts. I almost feel like I'm in "group" here.

"Hi, my name's Robot, and I'm a Nats fan."
"Hiiiiiiiii, Robot."

BornInDC said...

Harper, like so many others, I would like to thank you for this wonderful blog.

I also appreciate the wisdom displayed by many of the peoples in the comments, which are a true pleasure to read compared to the comments sections on the Washington Post website, for example.

On top of everything you've listed, another frustration for me with last night's game was that it was the one game in the series when I felt that the Nats' offense was the most like it was during the year, i.e., not being shutdown and not just relying on one big inning.

I understand that in the playoffs, most teams hit worse than during the season due to facing better pitchers more regularly, but Nats' offense this year and in previously years has felt like an offense of an entirely different team most of the time. The Nats were a team with an unusually large number of 300 or near 300 hitters in their line-up this year, particularly in this era of emphasis on home runs. To see their hitting utterly collapse most innings was supremely frustrating, especially since the Cubs' starters this year were not extraordinarily good for a playoff team.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, thanks so much for the years and years of quality, insightful posts. Keep up the sharp analysis!

The backswing play and the backpick play both went against the Nats. The backswing call seemed like 'spirit of the law over the letter', while the backpick play seemed like 'letter of the law over the spirit'. Alas

Harper said...

What is all this praise. Do I have a terminal illness and someone you guys found out before me?

Mythra said...

Thanks for the season of good analysis and writing, Harper.

Weiters was certainly a hole and the bases loaded free-swinging was terrible. Lobaton should have caught Gio, or Roark should have started, knowing Gio has been a head case in regular season games, let alone Game 5.

Trea needs to spend a few long weekends fishing with Lopes and talking leadoff hitting. He needs to be a line drive hitter. All series long he swings at crap out of the zone and swings for the fences. If he hits like Dee Gordon (the cheat) or Ichiro, then that speed kills. Also, they taught me in pee wee that first guy up in bottom 9 always takes until a strike is thrown. First 4 pitches from Davis in the 9th are 4-0 BB if Trea takes. Who knows how Werth and Bryce at-bats go if they are just trying to get hits when Trea steals 2nd?

Also, using Max or Tanner out of the BP is a move you make after your A bullpen is shot. Kitzler and Madson hadn't been used yet, and they spent half the season in their day jobs doing what Max didn't. I'll give Dusty a minor pass on that, because Maddon made the same mistake with Quintana.

Lastly, I eat crow. Earlier in the year I called MAT "terrible. AAAA player at best." I'd like that crow with a nice red wine and some A1 sauce, please.

ssln said...

You can go nuts trying to analyze a game with that many twists and turns. The what ifs will drive you crazy. After all the analysis, including a crazy interpretation of a baseball rule, the only sane approach is to recognize that the score will remain 9-8 forever.
Time to move on to next year, because in the end, that is all that is left.

Ole PBN said...

I'm sure this is a subject for another day, but now that the book is closed on Jayson Werth's tenure here in DC... was it worth it? I say, in the end, yes. And this is coming from a guy who has bashed him repeatedly. The last 7 years have been all success compared to the previous 6, and much of that is due to Jayson. But, just as a town grows impatient with an old sheriff at the helm, I'm glad we're moving on. As the "leader" of this team, they went where he went. Their professionalism, their prep, their attitude, how this team carried themselves was like an army of Werth gnomes. And I'm glad that's over. His had a good, even solid career. But I don't think he was the guy, the leader, to take us to the promise land and I don't think a lot of people thought that when he signed that hefty contract years ago. So why do people think it now? Is it the hair? The NLDS walk-off?

Jayaon Werth is revered on this team and in parts of the league as an old sage of wisdom and baseball acumen. I didn't know that a 15-year career, having only led the league in one category (1x for doubles in 2012), a 1x All-Star, finishing top-20 in MVP voting on 4 times (highest was 8th), could get you all this respect and praise? Mind you, none of this happened while he was a Nat. Much like people celebrated David Ross at the end of his career last year, people have always felt that way about Werth - and I don't get either of them. This quote, found after game 5 says it all, while referring to him as 'the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse, and in many ways the club's conscience':

"I'm proud to call myself a National. I don't know if anyone could have said that before I came here."

Yeah. I'm about ready to find a new "team conscience" that strays away from this pompous garbage.

Froggy said...

Joe Maddon showed us why he is the best manager in the game.

I wonder how Roark would have been utilized by Maddon? If I'm Tanner I'm thinking "is #57 available on the Cubs roster?"

BornInDC said...

Ole PBN,

Well said about Jayson Werth. Your post reminded me of some comments about the Nationals on Brian Kenny's show on MLB Network. Several commentators talked about how the Nationals often seem to have "arrogance" not justified by their actual "accomplishments". Werth was part of getting the Nationals to being a team that expects to be in the division race most years, but he also appears to be a part of a team culture that appears to have contributed to a lack of success in the playoffs.

As I've posted above, I get that teams don't hit as well in the playoffs as they do during the season, because they are facing good pitching and sometimes outstanding pitching on a regular basis during the playoffs. But the Nats' hitting has regularly collapsed in the playoffs against even relatively ordinary pitching, such as Volgelsong in 2014, who held the Nats hitless for 4 innings in Game 4. And this year, most of the Nats looked helpless at the plate during the first two games of the playoff series.

I was watching the New York-Houston playoff game last night and I commented to my friend how much the game looked like a typical game during the season in terms of how the pitchers pitched, the hitters hit, the fielders fielded and the runners ran. In contrast, when I watch the Nats play in the playoffs, they always seemed to be involved in strange-looking games. And, I'm afraid, that's part of Werth's legacy too.


PotomacFan said...

@Harper: thank you for insightful and entertaining analysis, and for hosting this blog.
@All Commenters: thank you for making this a "must read" and for keeping this an on-topic, respectful blog.

My 16 year old son is heartbroken. 10 years of epic Capitals play-off failures, and 6 years of Nats playoff (or regular season) failures. And typically in the deciding game, AT HOME, after a tremendous regular season. The kid went to all 4 home playoff games last year(3 games plus the very late rainout), and 2 of the 3 games this year. He went by himself for most of the games. He has never seen any of his teams make it past the second round.

I wouldn't bring Dusty back. He's a terrific guy, but in the playoffs he was managing like Matt Williams. We need someone a bit more strategic. Jayson Werth should not have started all 5 games, Matt Wieters should have been pinch hit for several times, and no way that you leave Michael A. in the 8 spot. I can't really argue with his pitching decisions, with the exception of using Solis. Max was the right decision, a chance for Max to cement his legacy, but it just didn't work out. But Jayson Werth batting second ... that was not good managing.

See everyone next year.

BornInDC said...

The problem with Dusty in the playoffs is not just particular decisions he makes, but the way the players seem to perform and the way Dusty makes decisions that makes him look overmatched by the opposing manager.

Although it's a different sport, it reminds me of the difference between the Redskins current head coach Jay Gruden, and Joe Gibbs during his first tenure with the Redskins. With Joe Gibbs, his teams always looked prepared for big games including the playoffs and fans looked forward to what clever thing Gibbs would do with his team, particularly in making adjustments at halftime. I still remember during the 1987 strike year when Gibbs took a bunch of replacement players and beat a Dallas Cowboys teams with some of its regulars, and beat them on national TV. Gibbs always gave the impression that he knew what he was doing and that the opposing team should be worried about what Gibbs team would do to them rather than the other way around.

In contrast, Jay Gruden, despite being a fine offensive coordinator, always seems to come up small in big moments and has a "deer in the headlights look" when something goes wrong. In contrast, when faced with an unexpected problem, Gibbs always seemed to be working on a solution to deal with the unexpected problem and had usually solved it by the 3rd quarter.

Dusty reminds me more of Jay Gruden than Joe Gibbs. Like Jay, Dusty has good qualities as a coach, witness Dusty's success over a 162 game schedule, but during a playoff series, he just looks lost at times. In contrast, Maddon in demeanor, reminds me more of Gibbs. Even when he makes what turns out to be a wrong decision, Maddon gives the impression of being in control of the situation that makes you more worried about what his team will do to your team rather than the other way around.

Sure, the "players have to play", but why is it that the Nationals players seem have more than their share of meltdowns and erratic play than the players of other playoff teams?

Lurch said...

Weird, weird game. The Nats earned most of their bad breaks, but sometimes the ball also just bounces the wrong way. Gio/Max and Weiters let the ball get away and runners advance. Cubs let the ball get away and it hits the ump in the foot or the face and Nats stay where they are. What can you do?

[Of course, we've already discussed what you can do, such as stop swinging for the fences against a pitcher who can't hit the strike zone...]

JE34 said...

@BornInDC - make sure to catch the recent 30-for-30 documentary "Year of the Scab", in which Joe Gibbs and the skins feature prominently. Really shows you how great Gibbs and Beathard were.

BornInDC said...

JE34

Thanks. I saw the "Year of the Scab" and agree that it confirms how great Gibbs and Beathard were. I mean, you have a starting QB who was on a work furlough from jail . . . that's stranger than the fictional story of the movie "The Replacements" that was inspired by the the Redskins replacements.

I will admit that Gibbs does not come off particularly well is with respect to when he is asked whether the replacement players should have Super Bowl rings.

I will admit that I think Rizzo has been doing a really good job as a GM for the Nats, in part, because Rizzo is having to work within a budget set by management that often forces him into making sub-optimal decisions. For comparison, in those non-salary cap days of Beathard and Gibbs, Beathard had a virtually unlimited budget; I can't ever remember the Redskins ever letting a prominent player go in free agency, because they couldn't afford to pay him. And I really hope the Nats management keeps this in mind with how they handle Bryce's free agency. Part of what built up the loyalty of DC sports fans to the Redskins (before the Snyder-era) was the fact that the Redskins never backed away from spending the money to compete with the big city teams such as New York and Philadelphia and a high profile team, Dallas, and actually relished the fact that the Redskins could compete so successfully in a division that included such teams.

In contrast, the inability of the Wizards/Bullets to compete with the elite of the NBA have made them an afterthought in DC, even though DC has a tremendous basketball tradition at the college (Maryland and Georgetown) and high school (DeMatha) levels.

I'm hoping the ownership of the Nats appreciate the fact that DC Fans expect their professional teams to be able to compete with the other "big city" teams and that if the Lerners treat the Nationals as a small market team, they will reap the consequences in the form of reduced attendance, reduced TV ratings and a less valuable team. Because of the disarray in the Redskins front office and the hatred of the Redskins owner, the owners of the Nats have about as good environment right now as they could ever imagine to grow the base of baseball fans in DC. I hope the Nats ownership doesn't blow it. In normal times the Redskins would be almost unassailable in the hearts of DC sports fans.