Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - You can see the end from here

Monday, July 02, 2018

Monday Quickie - You can see the end from here

Yesterday I said that the Nats didn't need to win yesterday's game. I meant it. The Nats have a path forward to the playoffs and the division, thanks in part to an upcoming stretch that features 8 games against the Marlins and Mets and thanks to 18 remaining H2H games against the Phillies and Braves in the second half. The path can be laid out very simply :
  1. Get closer by the All-Star Break
  2. Win the H2H battle decisively
  3. Don't mess up the other games. 
You can question if the Nats can do this. They are playing their worst baseball of the season currently. They are currently losing the H2H battle against both teams. I understand if you are less than convinced.

And now that we're in the second half of the season you can see how that plan will fall apart. Not that losing to the Phillies itself ruins the plan, but how this is step one and steps two and three are apparent.  In this case losing to the Phillies (step 1) and getting swept by the Red Sox (step 2) would lead to the Nats being 7-8 games out of first and 4 out of the Wild Card.  Playing around .500 ball or worse, say no better than 6-5, in the stretch until the All-Star break (step 3) would then likely leave the Nats 8-9 games out with under 70 games to go, and 5-6 out of the Wild Card with three teams between them and the 2nd spot.  Game over.

Now, none of this is set in stone. Sports are funny. In the scenario above, the Nats could play like the best team in baseball in August and get back into all the races by Labor Day. Or the Nats could go 1-2 vs the Sox 7-4 in the 11, and yet still lose ground as the Braves and Phillies go on runs. All we are doing is trying to figure out the most likely scenarios but the truth is you reevaluate constantly at this point.

In the beginning of the year we talk about being worried, but it is a vague general worry. It's an "every game counts" type of situation where you are trying to get people to understand that a terrible start matters nearly as much as a terrible finish. In the middle of the year the worry turns specific*. The dominoes are set and while they may not all fall the first one has been pushed.

*At Labor Day the worry becomes desperate as you get closer and closer to only needing one domino to fall. 

18 comments:

Johnny Callison said...

With Stras hurt, Gio back to being bad Gio (almost a run per inning since his first June start), Roark iffy and doubts with Hellickson/Fedde at #5, plus the sputtering offense, the Nats need to get a lot of things working to make the post-season. If Stras comes back strong after his annual break, and Roark rights himself, and the hitting improves, I see a path to the WC.

TwoGloves said...

To quote Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are”. And right now the Nats are not a good baseball team.

G Cracka X said...

Harper, any recommendations on what Rizzo should do? Should he just let things ride out as is? Is it worth making any trades at this point, given the limited assets the Nats have in the farm system?

Ole PBN said...

I don't think it's worth pursuing any trades yet. Maybe keep the phone nearby for a catcher deal, but this team has too many holes and will just have to figure itself out with the tools they have. I'd rather not trade away any future talent - unless it's Fedde - on a lost season (not saying it is yet, but it very well could be by 7/31).

W. Patterson said...

The other day I suggested that the Nats' players were professionals, had been playing all of their lives, and so they knew what to do.

As a follow-on, I know what to do, too. However, put me in a uniform and I'd strike out with two outs and runners on first and second, just like the Nats. (I'd do it for a whole lot less money, though, so will await the phone call.)

We can write, or read, about what they need to do all day long but if they don't do it, they're screwed.

Yeah, even I am having troubles being upbeat - and I don't blame Dave Martinez, either.

JE34 said...

The Phils and Nats are very similar. The Braves are better when the chips are down:

2 outs w/ RISP:
Atlanta: .266 .381 .469
Philly: .228 .348 .380
Nats: .236 .364 .384

Late and close:
Atlanta: .266 .355 .437
Philly: .218 .303 .356
Nats: .218 .309 .335

High Leverage:
Atlanta: .278 .347 .485
Philly: .230 .316 .393
Nats: .229 .314 .378

Both the Phils and Nats had ample opportunities to finish the other off yesterday. The Braves are doing more damage in general, but moreso in tight spots.

Abort Button said...

I've actually been thinking it's time to trade too. But as sellers. The future is pretty grim. And the present sure isn't giving me the warm fuzzies. Think anyone would take a rental bryce (lower case)?

Doo could definitely get some prospects.


Not there yet, but dang it feels bad.

SM said...

@ Abort Button

"It's not dark yet," sang Bob Dylan. "But it's getting there."

Harper said...

GCX - The Nats could either trade for a multi-year starter or a multi-year catcher. They don't have in house solutions for either of these (currently Severino would be #1 next year, Roark and Gio likely gone before 2020) so it's not just a trade for this year, but for the next few. But if you are going to do it you should do it sooner rather than later, like the Herrera deal. If you wait to see if you are out before you trade, you are more likely to find yourself out.

I expect Nats to wait and see if they are out.

Edge said...

@Patterson: I also don't blame Davey, but i'd trust Dusty a lot more in this situation than a rookie manager. No knock on Davey, but a knock on ownership...

BxJaycobb said...

Nats are certainly not finished yet, but not in good shape at all. I will say. The injuries are a real shame. I mean people have said that injuries aren’t the whole story. Uh....they’re basically the whole story. Real close. The main problem has been offense. Take a look around the field. Left side of field has performed exactly as expected on offense when they’ve been on the field. Catcher we’ve had a drop off due to injury (yeah, Weiters isn’t good but he doesn’t hit like a pitcher), first base we’ve gotten zero from Zim, then even when his backup plays well he gets hurt too. Murphy has been out all year and I’m fairly sure he will be out all season....by that I mean healthy productive Murphy will be not playing all year. Then HIS backup is out for the year. Then in the outfield you’ve got one guy out for most of the year (Eaton), one guy performing as expected (Taylor), one revelation (Soto) and one disappointment (Bryce). Frankly Soto’s production compensates for Bryce’s diminished offense. So really what are we talking about? Total gaping holes all season at 2B, 1B, and C. Gaping holes due to injury. The starting pitching has been basically what you would expect performance wise, plus Strasburg’s and Hellicksons injury. Pens been close to expected. So the offense has sucked due to the most DL days in baseball. To me it’s easy to diagnose as simple as that. Talking about stuff besides injuries is just over complicating things. They’ve gotten killed. Is that good news? I dunno. Because some of these injuries may last.

BxJaycobb said...

Like....where have the nats been truly hurt by healthy players simply underperforming over course of first half? I would say it’s limited to Bryce. Basically everybody else who has not produced expected value has been injury related. And you can say Soto makes up for Bryce. So it’s just injuries. Pure and simple. Sucks.

BxJaycobb said...

@harper. I have a research question for you since we could use some sunshine. whenever you get to your Soto write up.....here it is:
Has any teenager had a better first 100 PA/ 1st month at the plate in major league history? If so, was it in last say...30 years. I think the answer to the latter at least is no. This is the best.

Alan Wiecking said...

Went to yesterday's game, brutal heat but a good game. One observation, which you don't pick up on TV--Murphy and Eaton look still-injured badly. Watching them job off the field, move back to position after a pitch or ball in play is really ugly. Eaton can't stop himself and Murphy basically can't move. Not pretty at all.

.........now if Murphy can start putting the ball over the fence, I don't care if he can move.

JE34 said...

Execution. Max tried to throw an 0-2 heater past the opposing pitcher, instead of making him fish for something. In the bottom half of that inning, a not-100% Murphy gets thrown out at 3rd (on an admittedly awesome throw), setting the table for a Severino K to end the frame. Argh.

G Cracka X said...

@Bx I am 99% with you on the injury explanation. I didn't really understand the full extent of the injury situation until I was reading Boz' chat yesterday and found out that the Nats are #1 in Injury Days Lost (or whatever its called). That is the major explanation and you are right to urge others not to overcomplicate things. Also, I 100% agree about Soto compensating for Bryce.

The only nuance I would add into the injury situation is the 1-run luck (I call it Providence). Nats on average should be around 12-12 in those situations, but they are actually 8-16. Adding four wins and subtracting four losses would make the season look much better. Of course, you could make the point that 8-16 is partially or even mostly caused by the injuries, and I would agree. Meanwhile, Atlanta is 13-6 in 1 run games and Philly is 17-7. Normalize all of that and the Nats look much better in comparison.

Bottom line: its the injuries and some tough luck/Providence

Rob Evans said...

I'm calling it Harp...on 7/3/2018, the Nats are out of the playoff hunt. I hate it, but I'm turning my mind to next year.

Hoping guys get healthy and contribute is not a plan. We've seen it with Zimm, Murph and countless others. Time to reload and get ready for 2019. Get Zim and Harper off the books and go get another C and some SP help.

JE34 said...

@GCX: this goes back to the numbers I posted above. The Nats are not getting the job done in high leverage spots. The Braves are. The Nats' path to the playoffs is growing ever more contingent on the Braves faltering.

I hate the expectation of them *not* coming through when it's late and close, but the way they're going, I find myself assuming the ducks will stay on the pond. Most unpleasant.