Nationals Baseball: I've read this script before

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I've read this script before

After a lousy start to the season the Nats needed a win like that. An improbable win, an impossible win.  Down big yet getting key hits from role players and coming back despite the odds. Winning late like that, it just changes things doesn't it? And the Mets losing too - you get exactly what you need - a game in the standings and hopefully a turning point for the team to take off from.

Oh, you thought I was talking about last night? Sorry this is a flashback to the "Uggla Game" in 2015. The improbable win that would turn around the year for the early floundering Nationals. Until it didn't. The lesson Boz taught, by accident, came to fruition. That lesson, for those that hate clicking links, is if you fall far enough behind you can play well and still not catch the team infront of you. The Nats did play well after that Uggla game. Well enough to pass the Mets. But it wasn't well enough to put the Mets away and the Mets made the moves and won the games down the stretch.

Last night's game was a fun one but it took all the bad luck the Nats had gotten over the start of the season turning into good luck in one inning. Sierra's hit was a ground ball where they ain't. A few feet in another direction and it's an out. This describes Turner's hit, too. And Bryce's. And Difo's. Both Kendrick and Reynolds were walked on four pitches. The Nats didn't do much different in that inning than they had all year long, except for one glorious three out stretch the balls didn't find gloves and the other team was missing their spots. For me it's hard to point to that, even in the glow of a needed win, and say the Nats did anything special.

Of course this is baseball. This is what happens. You put the ball in play as hard as you can and hope to get it in the air between players. Seven out of 10 times you don't. But the season is long enough that sometimes those three out of 10 times line up just right. This happens for everyone. Better teams more than bad ones, but everyone. This season it seemed like it was happening more for the Nats' opponents than the Nats regardless of their quality (Reds excepted. Ugh the Reds. Don't look at them!).

Take that win and don't think of it as a turning point. Think of it as a gift. The Nats could have lost that game. They won it. Great. It's in the bank now. The goal for today and beyond though is still the same. Get healthy. Play better. Beat the Mets. You got a break now take advantage of it. 

Notes :

Bryce's homer is impressive but it's not like he muscled out a ball on the handle of the bat. He squared it up for the most part and hit it hard and the bat broke. There was probably a crack in the bat already. Not all bat breaks are jam jobs. It still takes a bunch of strength to put something like that out or else you'd see it more often so cheer him rightfully but I still like to make sure reality is respected.

Severino's hit was the realest of the 8th inning - a line drive into left. Do I think he'll hit? Of course not. Do I think the Nats should ride whoever's hot behind the plate? Yes. Right now, oddly enough, it might be both guys.

Zimmerman should have been protecting the plate on that call. It probably just missed the zone but it's one of those "too close to take" pitches.

Kendrick's homer was his first second of the year and the Nats big rally didn't have an XBH. The problem for the Nats is that their power is expected to be Bryce, Rendon, Murphy, Zimm and maybe MAT. With Rendon and Murphy out and Zimm and MAT struggling that means the Nats power is down to just Bryce. He can almost do it himself, but almost.


Anonymous said...

It was Howie's second homer last night, not his first. And the hardest hit ball of the 8th inning was Trea's line drive right at Conforto for the third out. To quote a dithering buffoon, "that's baseball."

BxJaycobb said...

@harper. Was Kendrick’s second of the year not first. But yeah. Who cares. Point taken. (Although I think that with the lively ball Kendrick is a 15-20 homer guy.) ditto Turner, who looked much better last night....worth mentioning. Few hits and a rocket at Conforto.

Anonymous said...

Also, AssCab getting thrown out trying to take 3rd down by 2 in the 9th is dumber than any of the Nats' (many) baserunning gaffes this season by a factor of 1 bajillion.

sirc said...

Zim's OPS dropped below .400 last night. Yikes.

I like Severino. That fire and joy for the game is great, and has been a rare quality among the teams Rizzo has assembled. I think Rizzo likes grumpy moody dudes. He often describes players as having an edge. He described Matt Williams as a player who would put someone into a locker.

Severino isn't putting anyone into lockers. But you could hear him over the Queens crowd shouting attaboys from second base in the 8th. I like that.

Harper said...

Anon @ 6:45 - hey I'm not dithering!

Bx - I could blame baseball ref for not updating their stats before 9. SO I WILL. Your fault Baseball Reference! Turner did look better. This is still a 90+ win team until they prove me wrong.

Anon @ 6:50 - I don't know. I mean they've forgotten outs.

Anonymous said...

If this is like 2015, then this time the Nats may need to make the big move at the trade deadline. They have generally not shown any inclination to go all in if it adds a lot of payroll. I really think they need to this time around; get that starter who puts you over the top and boosts you in post-season. Get one more good BP arm. If the hitters are healthy, then maybe you stand pat there. But you can already tell that they have some weaknesses that will bite them in the post-season, and I think they need a third starter and a closer or setup guy. It might mess with team chemistry to get a closer to replace Doo, so get a setup guy.

Chris said...

Just when you thought you wouldn't have to see him until mop up duty in a rout, here comes AJ Cole, on 5th starter day, doing his best to turn this one into a rout. Then, as luck would have it, backs his way into a W. How many more pitches before someone in the dugout/front office realizes that this guy is not a major league pitcher? Good grief.

Ole PBN said...

Zimm is 2-18 (.111) with 5 strikeouts with Bryce on base this season. Enough!

Dusty's Toothpick said...

Can Zimm please be moved down in the lineup?!? The only consistent thing Davey has done with the lineups so far is keep Zimm at 4 which is not all. Got to change.

Just a side thought....At the trade deadline can we get another big bat?...We always get pitchers lets get a slugger

Bjd1207 said...

Lol, twitter comment on this thread

"Remember that huge comeback in Atl capped by a Dan Uggla triple? That game fired up the offense for months. I hope that is what just happened last night"

PotomacFan said...

I just don't think yesterday's "outbreak" is going to fire up the offense for two days, let alone a week or a month. Without Rendon, Murphy and Eaton, the Nats just don't have much offense. MAT, Difo, 2018 Zim, Severino/Wieters are not going to do the trick.

And let's look at the R Zim spring training issue again. R Zim skips spring training in order to stay healthy. But then R Zim is TERRIBLE in April because he skipped spring training. I think the better course of action (in hindsight, of course) would have been for R Zim to fully participate in spring training, maybe hit .225 in April (he is a notoriously slow starter, except for last year), help the team while Murphy was out, and then get injured one month earlier (mid-season) because he started to wear down one month earlier during spring training. The games in April still count as much as the games in September (sorry for the cliche, but it's true).

JE34 said...

And in other news... Jeremy Hellickson did a serviceable job. Eat those innings!

Ole PBN said...

The thing that frustrates me about Zimm, and again I don't know the guy personally, but I get the sense that he sort of puts on the uniform, swings the bat, and tries his best. That's it. "He's a notoriously slow starter." ... Well, ever think of changing that?? I mean damn. It doesn't have to be that way, Ryan. Last year, when asked what was the source for his fast start he said "I dunno. Just hittin' the ball well." When pressed further about his launch angle improving drastically last year compared to prior seasons, his response: "I don't believe in that stuff, I'm just hitting the ball well." All of this points to the guy not being a student of the game, like, for instance, Murphy seems to be. Not everyone studies film/video, I understand. But when you're in a rut like he is, Zimm's answer is just to "keep swinging the bat - hope ya hit it somewhere hard." Seems like a refusal to address a problem and look for a solution. Murphy went from an average hitter to superb hitter by admitting weaknesses and seeking help to improve. Murphy decided that the book wasn't finished for him yet and he was going to write his own chapter. Murphy is a student of the game, Zimmerman doesn't seem to be that way at all.

The thing that drives me more crazy than anything else, is to see a pro struggling and a blatant refusal to try anything different. Again, I could be totally off on this, and feel free to tell me if I am. I'm not saying he doesn't try on the field (which he has been accused of by readers of this blog). He does put forth physical effort (like they all do, I might add). I'm saying he has little interest in being a student of the game, making adjustments, maybe not standing 3 feet away from the plate as his batting stance. He can change that tomorrow if he likes. No one is stopping him, because man, .111/.186/.204? Are you kidding me right now??

Bjd1207 said...

@Ole PBN - I just can't believe that's the case. For us, it's an approach that hasn't worked in the past month, so our inclination is to change something.

You've gotta remember that for these guys it's literally a LIFELONG building process. You don't get all the way up to the majors and stay there for a decade just "going up and swinging" or refusing to change anything. He and his coaches are seeing and saying the same things we are, but it's just not as easy as standing a foot closer. That opens up other holes in swing, ones that's been working to cover up for the better part of a decade, if not his whole career. Same thing with launch angles or changes to his swing. He UNDERSTANDS the math, I promise you. It's not that complicated. The complicated part is finding out how to tweak something that's been 15 years in the making without another part breaking.

It's not a refusal to change, it's a refusal to change QUICKLY because of all the other moving parts it could upset. Some guys can do it more easily than others, and some will see great success as a result of the changes. But we never hear about the "bad tweaks" people do to their swings, because of selection bias. The guys who tweak their swings in the wrong direction plummet into obscurity. So we're left with all the David Murphy's and Yonder Alonso's and wondering "hey, why doesn't everyone do that?" Believe me, they're all trying

JE34 said...

@PBN: I think the Zim situation is more complex than that. I don't think he doesn't care. During his deep slump in 2016, he was constantly conferring w/hitting coaches and visibly frustrated when he kept scalding the ball right at guys, etc. Different guys handle adversity differently, and he appears to me to be the sort who must avoid negativity at all costs. Some athletes (those rare and awesome to behold) are the Type-A guys who play a little better when they have that surly or angry edge. Zim is decidedly not that type. He seems more like the sort of (more common) player that has to find that loose and happy place, which is why you don't get much from him verbally in good times or bad. He's not a borderline-obsessive like Murphy - few guys are.

Cal Ripken changed his batting stance about a million times over the course of his long career, constantly trying to adjust to changes in pitchers, and more importantly, changes in his own abilities. Zim's non-simple swing is definitely not helping now. Cal would be a good role model for Zim right now.

Ole PBN said...

Bjd/JE - I see your point. But I've also seen guys rely on their abilities to a fault. The league adjusts to a player, and the player adjusts to the league - back and forth, back and forth. There is merit to relying on what go you to this level, but there is also an extra layer that allows you to stay. Some players have a different way of going about it, true. Murphy does seem obsessive and that works for him. Might not be the same for Ryan. But what is happening to him, is he is plummeting into obscurity by not changing anything. Is it any secret to his "fluke" year last season? They guy has been a flirting Mendoza-line hitter since turning 30. Heading into 2017, pitchers had a different idea about how to face Zimm, than they do now. He needs to answer back. How come Turner hit .342/.370/.567 his rookie year and hasn't touched that since? The league has adjusted to him - now its Trea's turn. In Zimm's case, its not all on him. His body has let him down. A former GG 3B now has an arm like my grandmother. Right now, just about everything under the hood is breaking and we're talking about the wipers working fine, so don't change too much? Not sure I buy that for Zimm's situation.

Look, it is a lot of moving parts - I agree with you there. But his story is unfolding right in front of us and no one is going to right that ship but him. For the sake of this team, I hope he finds a way.

Josh Higham said...

Re: Zim - We have Jason Heyward who went from a slightly better than average hitter (wRC+ between 96 and 134 every year with the Braves and Cardinals) to a bum (wRC+ of 71 and 88 in '16 and '17, 69 so far this year) at exactly the time that he decided he needed to change his swing. He's one of the only guys whose counterproductive swing change is well known, but I agree with Bjd that while a quick and miraculous change would be great, we don't actually have any reason to believe a swing change would fix him.

Murphy's swing was pretty simple before and it's really simple now, and as has been noted more times than I can count, his career depended on making a dramatic change. Zim has a fat contract and a team that owes him big for carrying them through some awful seasons. He's got good reasons to try to change/improve, but desperation is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

"Zimm has a fat contract and a team that owes him big for carrying them through some awful seasons. He's got good reasons to try to change/improve, but desperation is not one of them."

I think that proves PBN's point...

egoodman8 said...

Anonymous said...
"Zimm has a fat contract and a team that owes him big for carrying them through some awful seasons. He's got good reasons to try to change/improve, but desperation is not one of them."

The Nats don't owe him anything but what is left on his contract. There is no room for sentimentality here. They obviously think he's going to turn it around and give them something or they are determined to get what they can out of him as he is a sunk cost, but the fact that he was one of the few bright spots on terrible Nats teams from 2006-2010 doesn't mean anything in terms of playing time.

Josh Higham said...

I disagree. We have virtually no evidence that Zim is not exploring changes with various hitting coaches. We do have evidence he isn't trying anything drastic, and we have data as recently as last season that a dramatic change may not be necessary, if health or something else is the real problem.

He's got a 2 week sample of true awfulness, but like Harper says, give him 10 more games. If he's still hitting .100/.200/.200, then he should be benched and maybe should be required to do something. It is so unlikely that he'll continue to hit like a marginal low-A player.

Bjd1207 said...

I think egoodman8 hit the nail on the head for me. I give Zim a long a leash as anyone and he's very close to the end of it, swing change or no swing change

PotomacFan said...

So, if Zim is at the end of his leash, and Adams and Reynolds don't have a leash, do we expect Murphy to be our first baseman for most of the year? Murphy at first and Howie at second would be MUCH better than what we have now. We'll also need Eaton to return for that to happen.

And if MAT doesn't start hitting and/or Eaton is hobbled, I fully expect to see Robles in June.

sirc said...

I will be surprised if Robles is throwing a baseball before July 1.

JDBrew said...

If Murphy comes back healthy and good, do you put him at first and give Kendrick second base? Zimmerman looks pretty bad. Do you just put him on the bench and DFA Adams or Reynolds? I mean it’s a better lineup with Kendrick vs Zimmerman.

JDBrew said...

Ha, sorry PotomacFan, apparently I somehow skipped right over your post and said the exact same thing. I really need to learn to read.

Mark said...

I was thinking that Zimmerman shouldn't be hitting in the 4 spot too, but then i looked at who was hitting behind him in 5- 9. Assuming he is healthy, his production will improve... He does hit the ball hard... but I don't think once Murphy, Rendon and Eaton are back he should be hitting 4th.

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