Nationals Baseball: 2019

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

27 outs away

First off let me get off my chest that the idea that Strasburg up at 231 IP (previous high 220 in 2014) and 90 pitches in this game should come out for the 7th inning with a 6-0 lead is criminal.  You are risking the health and usefulness of Strasburg for anything beyond this point for literally no reason. You are almost certain to go all hands on deck for the next series. You need all these guys at their best. You get a rare chance to build up such as lead that you can rest a precious starter and you let him get to 117 pitches. That's reckless.

This is why you need me soulless automaton because the crowd reaction was basically "COOL!"  Right now, the Nats could put Gomes in CF, watch him make 4 errors, but if he hits a swinging bunt that the 3rd baseman airmails into the crowd and a couple runs scored the fans would be like "DAVEY PUSHING ALL THE RIGHT BUTTONS!"  You aren't thinking straight in the euphoria of winning. This above. This was BAD.

OK but the Nats easily take the win and move onto Game 4 tonight.  I was speculating on what I'd ideally want and figured I don't like sooo many days off before playing again. So if I could control things I would lose tonight with Corbin going 4, Suero, Elias, Guerra, Voth - whoever is on the roster - eating up the remaining 5 innings. This way Corbin isn't pushed and everyone gets a chance to throw because you never know who you are going to need. Then either late tomorrow (rain) or Thursday Anibal goes an easy dominant 7, Doo and Hudson finish out the win.  But of course I can't control everything, so hope for a win to get it over with.

What's happening now is an average offense in a slump is facing great pitching. The results are what you see - dominance.  The Cardinals can't score first, they can barely score, and they can't then match-up like they would like to keep the game in their hands.  Instead they have to play catch-up.  Honestly what I think happened with the Cardinals is they went into Game 1 thinking "We don't need to gameplan Sanchez and get him out early! Our bats are on fire! We'll knock him out!" and then Sanchez was game for that aggressive approach. They went down and woke up thinking "Jesus, we gotta beat some great pitchers coming up. We really screwed up" and started playing VERY tight.  Just look at last night.  One bouncing single through the infield by Eaton and they start choking. There's no leeway for the Cardinals. They are ready to pack it in at a moment's notice now.

On the Nats side - if Kendrick is Hot Howie - that helps the Nats tremendously.  You can work around Rendon and Soto but you can't work around 3 guys without giving up something. In fact Soto is totally struggling right now. But Howie has picked it up and honestly that's all the Nats need with the Cardinals looking as dead as they can.

I know how it works. Nats lose tonight with the Cardinals actually scoring runs and the thoughts become "ok gotta win tomorrow because we want to win at home and oh no, the bats have woken up and if they get back to St Louis they just have to win one to get back to Flaherty and he's not going to be off twice and have bad defense..." and the usual spiral into the strange world of "favorite depression" So win tonight. Get it done. Get it over.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Looking ahead

As a soulless automaton I don't have to worry about believing I will jinx the Nats.  They will win or lose independent of whatever I do here. So let's talk about the World Series.

Ok, ok let's first talk about the NLCS. Both teams failed at an objective I laid out.  The Cardinals didn't get to Anibal Sanchez.  The Nats didn't beat up Adam Wainwright. But you saw how that plays out.  The good but not great Cardinals team can't win that game.  The great as long as you don't look behind the curtain Nationals can.  And so we see how the rest of the series will probably play out. The Cardinals may win tonight, as they have their legitimate ace who might out ace the Nats ace, and the Cardinals may sneak a win from a late game Doolittle or Hudson beat up. I don't think anyone here is convinced those guys are untouchable. But can they do that three times? Or twice and have Flaherty out ace the Nats twice? Seems very unlikely.**

That means the Nats will end up in the World Series and I don't know if you've been watching the ALCS but those teams are very good!  Now the Nats just beat a very good team in the Dodgers, so it's not like it can't happen but to do it they had to go Defcon 5, all starters throwing relief innings, only 2 crucial outs being made by the regular non Doo/Hud pen basically. You figure to win the World Series they'd have to do something similar. And if you want to do something similar you have a particular hope. The Nats need rest.

I've said this multiple times, but I'll mention it again. Strasburg is beyond his max innings pitched for any season. Corbin is beyond his max innings pitched for any season. Max, isn't but he is 35 and pitching hard after a late season injury.  These things take their tolls.* And the more rest the better. So the Nats need to win as quickly as possible. 4 or 5 games.  Do they care if the ALCS goes long? Yes, but not for scheduling (the World Series is a set date 10/22). The longer the ALCS goes the more those arms get tired. So root for that as well. 

Is there a team that the Nats should hope to face? Well either team is top-level but I would imagine given the Nats plan (Aces ace, get lead, hold on) you'd rather face the Yankees than the Astros. Why? Two reasons. The first is the Astros, in Verlander, Cole, and Greinke, have real aces. So even if the Nats' aces ace, the Astros ones could match them. You have to hope that doesn't happen. The Yankees on the other hand have good pitchers, but ones you'd expect to beat if the aces ace.  The second is the Astros walk the most and strikeout the least in all of baseball. That goes directly against the Nats aces strength of King everyone and against the goal of trying not to get deep into the pen.  The Yankees are a poor consolation prize. They take the most pitches per plate appearance and their pen is outstanding. But if you have to pick your poison...

Joe Torre used to say that G3 was the most important game in the seven game series. That the momentum was really decided at that moment. Obviously a team taking a 2-1 lead would be important, as well as the 3-0 team preparing for a knockout. But a team winning 1 after being down 2-0 would feel again that they were in the series. So that whoever loses G3 would be knocked on their heels a bit.  Don't get knocked on your heels. Keep dominating this average line-up. Get your lead. Hold on.



*I am VERY worried about how that all plays out in 2020 and beyond but win a World Series and no one cares. 

**Of course this is still just guessing. Maybe the Cards win 4 in a row? Maybe the Nats make the series play the Astros and sweep them! It's a small sample size, with new rules, and weird things happen.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Game 2!

Yesterday an on his game Anibal converged with an off their game Cardinals and the result was almost history.  Still Nats fans will take the win.  Can Max win today and put the Cardinals really behind the 8-ball? Or do the Cards pull one out and set-up being one Flaherty start from being back in control? Is Max the last Max we saw or the one from the few games before that?  Can the Nats get some big hits, rather than none or just enough?  Will the Cards make Suzuki look foolish?

Friday, October 11, 2019

NLCS Preview

Who are the Cardinals?  They aren't a team you thought much of during the regular season until all of a sudden they were past the Cubs, in first in the NL Central in a position they'd seemingly never relinquish.

The Cardinals in fact started out red hot (20-10) but a terrible run after that brought them back to 2 games under .500 at the end of May and they were a .500 team at the All-Star break. There was another back in forth with a strong run (12-3) followed by almost an equally weak one (2-8) before the Cards figured it out and basically cruised the rest of the season. (32-12)

Over the course of the season they look like a flawed team the offense doesn't have any standouts and is half average. The rotation has Jack Flaherty at the head and then a bunch of decent arms but no one you immediately worry can shut you down.  The pen... the pen is pretty strong. But what's the team look like in the last 60 days?

Paul Goldschmidt found himself in the second half hitting much more like slugger we remember from Arizona.  Tommy Edman emerged as a hot bat for the moment, that can be used all over the diamond. Yadier Molina had a renaissance and Kolten Wong rebounded nicely.  The offense went from a .720 OPS in the first half to a .757 in the second. From bad to average.

The starter ERA went from 4.33 to 3.15 (better than the Nats in the 2nd half) Flaherty was unhittable (0.91 ERA! 0.715 WHIP) as Hudson - hard to hit and Mikolas (great K/BB) had very solid second halves and Carpenter and Wacha were very reliable as well, though not in a way that makes you excited.  The relievers held firm at being very good. Gallegos, Webb, especially finished strong.

Another thing to consider is the defense. It's rated second in defensive efficiency in the NL. First in FLD%.  All the fancy stats love them.*

So basically the first half Cards were a team with a bad offense, ok starting pitching, and great relief - that got them to .500. The second half Cards were a team with an average offense, great overall starting pitching, and great relief. That got them a division title.

What do the Nats need to do to beat the Cardinals?

1) Aces gotta ace. This is going to hold for as far as the Nats go and it will only get harder as the Nats get less breaks and these arms, ridden in starts and in relief, get more and more tired. But they have to do it.  The middle of the pen is weak and it has to be exposed as little as possible. It may hold here and there but if the Nats are digging into it 3 or 4 times that's a big problem

2) Beat up on Wainwright. Wainwright is "crafty veteran" which is code for tries to use control to get through things. He doesn't walk anyone but he doesn't strike anyone out and you can hit him, you can hit him hard. Nats need to win that game (G2) which should be a pitching mismatch in theory.

3) Stake out leads. The Cards pen is quite capable of holding onto a lead and the Nats can't hope their manager gets brainlock about matching up like Roberts did.  If the Nats go into the 5th/6th down its likely the game will end that way. Guys like Mikolas and Hudson are good , but they aren't aces so the Nats should be looking to get 2-3-4 runs off of them while the Nats pitchers hold STL down.

4) Hope they get bad Carlos Martinez.  He's an enigma who looks great and looks terrible depending. He looked terrible against the Braves. Let's hope that continues.


Bonus : What do the Cards need to do to beat the Nats?

1) Beat up Sanchez.  Yeah it's late in the season but aces are aces for a reason. You can't rule out a dominant performance at any time. The Nats have 3 aces which makes it imperative you take it to the one non-ace out there. That he's likely to be forced to start twice if the series goes long makes it even more important

2) Step on the neck of the aces when you have a chance - Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin are aces but Stras and Corbin are at career highs in IP, Scherzer had an injury near year's end and they are all being asked to do a lot more. You've seen some wobbly performances from them with Strasburg and Scherzer being homer prone and Corbin getting wild. But as aces do they recovered and held the games close. Don't let them. Get 3, 4, 5 runs in that inning and get into that pen as early as you can.

3) Pitch around Rendon, Soto too until you establish you got a loogy you can get him  - the Nats have a great offense but it's deceptively top heavy with a 6-7-8 that shouldn't be too problematic. You can't pitch around 1-5 but you can make Turner, Eaton, and a Kendrick that's looked dead tired in the field beat you instead of letting an MVP and a star do it.

4) Run on Suzuki all day every day - Yan Gomes is a decent defender but hasn't hit, meaning Suzuki plays most of the game. Suzuki though can't throw anyone out. The Cardinals like the SB both straight up and being crafty about it (Molina has 6!). Run on Suzuki. Get guys in scoring position, Take the pitcher's focus off the batter.



Let's go!

*Nats are somewhere between average and "not BAD"

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The three most important points

Well you can tell from my last post that I think the most important point was a decision by Roberts to keep Kelly in But let’s forget that for a moment and try to make it more Nats-centric.  

1) Stras settles down.  The Dodgers got to Stras early but like several other games this series - couldn’t deal a knock out blow.  This is impt bc of the runs scored yes but it’s also impt bc the Nats can’t stem the tide after something like that. 6-0 will become 8 or 10 at some point and that’s the ball game.

2) Rendon homers. I honestly think this moment broke the Dodgers.  I think Roberts was fully ready to let Kershaw have the last 7 outs.  I think Kershaw lost focus and gave up a meatball to Soto and had to be pulled and that caused the chain reaction that ultimately ended up with the Nats winning. One swing to set it all in motion.

3) Rendon doubles. When Rendon turned a two strike AB into a double it set up a situation where the Nats were almost guaranteed to score. In extras that’s all you need

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Congratulations!

It’s deserved after being so good for so long.

Turns out what the Nats needed to get over the hump was a terrible managerial decision that will be remembered by fans in general for decades and Dodger fans for lifetimes. But they got it!

Somewhere Joe Kelly is still pitching everyone!

NLDS Game 5 - Take 4.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around what might be bothersome going into this game.  Of course there is the ever present sword of Damocles that hangs over the team, the chance the Nats have to use their pen beyond Doolittle and Hudson. And of course there's the chance that Buehler is ON tonight and the Nats can't score at all. Those games happen. But beyond that?

I guess what I'm most worried about is Doolittle and Hudson haven't been great. But they've been good enough and if all goes well they hopefully won't be tasked with holding a slim 1-2 run lead. If so, I'd feel tense but I'd also know they could well do it. 

The line-up hasn't been great but MAT had two hits (well sort of) and Zimm came up with the big bomb and honestly that's all the Nats need.  They need 6 through 8 not to go 0-12 or 1-14. That should be doable, or if not the top of the line-up should be able to plate 3-4 runs themselves.

Strasburg is up near his career tops in IP but with 85 pitches last game and full rest I'm not too worried about it.  Maybe he can't give the Nats 7 but 5-6 great innings should be possible.

Davey has been real iffy when faced with tough choices, but the Nats have a fair amount of decent PH choices and if all goes well - like Games 2 & 4 - he won't be asked to make any tough choices. Even if I question him on the spot he's at least proven he's not going to overthink and do something out of left field.

So here they are again. With a real chance to win and move on, but a real chance to lose once more.  Each NLDS G5 loss has been unique.  2012 was a cursed game - a huge lead (6-0!) chipped away at until finally a series of questionable decisions (using Edwin Jackson in the 7th, not using Storen in G2) and close calls going the other way ultimately led to a 9th inning breakdown.   2016 was the solid game between two powers.  There were tough calls, some right some wrong, made by both teams, most notably the infamous Werth send. But the game was 1-0 into the 7th. The Dodgers punched in the top of the inning - scoring 4 as nearly every pitcher Dusty tried failed to do their job. The Nats countered in the bottom with a homer by Chris Heisey of all people to bring it back to a 1-run game.  After that Perez and Melancon, Jansen and Kershaw would win every battle they needed to and that's the way the game ended.  2017 was madness, nearly the exact opposite of 2016 with both teams looking like they were trying to lose the game.

Obviously a win would be the most different outcome, but if you are a pessimist here's how can the Nats lose differently in G5 tonight?

They can be blown out.  The Nats have lost G5 by 2, 1, and 1 runs respectively.  In 2012 they had leads of 6-0 (end 3), 7-5 (e8); in 2016 1-0 (e6); in 2017 4-1 (e2). They have never finished an inning down by more than 3.  If the Dodgers crush Strasburg and put the Nats in a big hole, like 5+ runs, that'll be new.

They can lose in a walk-off. There's good reason that hasn't happened yet. The Nats have hosted all three game 5s they've played. So this is the first time it's even possible to lose a G5 in a walkoff. The 2014 SF series did end on the West Coast. But while it was also a close game (3-2 loss) it did not end in a walk-off either, the Giants holding onto a 1-run lead gathered in the bottom of the 7th.

They can be shut out. The Nats have scored at least 2 runs in every NLDS loss and at least 3 runs in the G5s. Hell in 2012 and 2017 the G5 loss was their highest run output for the series. They have been shut out in general though (by Carpenter+ in G3 in 2012 and by Hendricks+ in G1 in 2017)

They can never have the lead.  You may have noticed in the "blown out" one that the Nats have lead every G5 they played in.  In 2012 they led going into the 9th, in 2016 going into the 7th, in 2017 going into the 5th.  If you believe in patterns the Nats will lead going into the 3rd - then lose a close game. For something different though they can simply fall behind and never catch up


If you are looking for a nightmare scenario the Nats can't really do ALL of these at the same time. Mainly because losing in a walk-off pretty much requires they aren't being blown out.


What do I see? I don't see any reason it shouldn't follow the usual pattern of a close game. It doesn't feel like 2017 which was the proper ending to a series that itself was kind of crazy (Mold Strsaburg!) So I expect a fairly well played game as well.  Who wins? Like I know. All I do know if the Nats manage to do it this time they'll be plenty of "it had to be this way" stories. 15-4 blowout? Had to happen like that. 3-2 squeaker? Had to happen like that. Strasburg 9 inning shutout? Had to happen like that.  12-10 madhouse bullpen special? Had to happen like that. I'm girding myself for the bad takes already. That's what happens when you don't cover the team you root for. You worry about the takes more than the game.

Anyway see you at 8:30! Stay sane until then.


Tuesday, October 08, 2019

MAXimum something that finishes this quip

You really can't ask for more than what Max gave the Nationals last night. 7 innings 1 run. He did give them an early deficit but he kept them at that single run down until the Nats were able to take a lead.  Right into Doolittle and Hudson and that was that. I can't even think of a decision that needed to be made? Max hitting in the 4th? Nah - two outs and a man on first that early isn't a have to situation. Keeping Max in after rains? They barely slowed the game down.  Such a nice and easy game for everyone!  I have nothing negative to say. The bottom of the line-up came through (Matty October lives!) Zimm got a big homerun that pretty much was the game.  What's to feel bad about here?

The Nats now go to LA and we'll get Buehler vs Strasburg both on full rest. Nothing changes, thanks to the days off afforded in this short series. Stras for as long as he can go, hopefully 7, then Doolittle and Hudson.  Kendrick in the line-up somewhere. Suzuki starting not Gomes.

The pressure is on the Dodgers, but it's also on the Nats. There's some freedom not being a 106 win team who's goal in WS or bust, but the Nats know they haven't won a DS and they understand the slim margin they have with that pen. My guess is the first team down by 3 (or 2 when it gets late) will get real tight. Why 3?  Well whenever anyone gets on there's a chance for two runs to be made up in one swing and guys do get on occasionally. So 2 runs doesn't feel that big until you get later and worry that maybe no one will get on for the rest of the game.

Enjoy the win.  Watch Astros / Rays if you want. Tomorrow we'll get to the worrying. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

Monday Quickie : Sending me up to the plate with a pencil

So it's been a while.  Anything happen?

Ok let's quickly talk about Friday. Strasburg continued his playoff dominance by handling the Dodgers for 6 innings (3 hits,1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K). Kershaw was fine but Doolittle (really one bad pitch),  Scherzer, and Hudson shut the door after Stephen and there wasn't anything the Dodgers could do. I noted going in Davey had an easy game to manage because it was effectively a three man staff, but Max throwing his hat into the ring did add a wrinkle, and the closeness of the game didn't afford many missteps. I thought Davey did well.  The first big decision he had was pulling Strasburg - which could be argued but with the big lefties coming up and Stras coming off a 2-hit, deep fly ball out, line out inning - it made sense to move on. The second was the use of Max. The alternative though was trying to get 9 outs from Doolittle & Hudson. To me, neither is appealing and it's a judgment call. Davey went with Max and it worked great. Even the AsCab PH choice worked tacking on an insurance run that became a big deal when Hudson almost blew it in the 9th.  So good game by Davey

Yesterday was iffier but the truth of the matter is the Nats fell behind due to no real fault of Davey.   Anibal went 5 stron... check that - he went 1 very weak, 3 strong, 1 ok. But because he escaped the first the damage was limited to 1 run.  That and Soto's first inning blast put the Nats up 2-1 but also had them facing a dilemma. How do we get 12 more outs?  They could have kept Sanchez in but in a tight game a speedy man on first and one-out calls for a PH.  I was fine for using Zimm there. And the plan seemed to be to use Corbin from the get go. As he was being brought in in the 6th the plan was likely Corbin for 2 if possible, Doolittle, Hudson. But after a single and two Ks Corbin gave up a through the infield single (can't pull him yet) and then a powerful double. Two runs score 3-2.  It's here where I feel Davey faltered, letting Corbin continue instead of trying best to contain the damage. We've talked about not "saving" pitchers for important situations that may never come. This was a big situation and with a righty up Corbin should have been pulled for Hudson. I know, I know no guarantees but it was the best available option. But he wasn't pulled and Corbin walked Taylor and the Dodgers pinch hit Hernandez. Another opportunity to pull Corbin. Another non-move. Another crushing double.  At this point Corbin was pulled (instead of pitching to Muncy who they IBBd - this move I'm ok with if you are going righty out of the pen) but instead of Hudson we got Suero, we got homer, we got ballgame...

Well almost. Roberts correctly saw an opportunity to let Joe Kelly find himself with a 6 run lead in the last half of the game. Problem was he was up against the heart of the Nats line-up and the next four guys got on and Kelly was out (presumably for the series).  There was a question of whether they could have goaded Roberts into keeping Kelly pitching by keeping Dozier in (instead of PH AsCab - who hits both but is generally better from the left hand side) but I don't think so. I think Urias was coming in no matter what. Maybe they lost the opportunity for a better match-up but I don't think they lost an AB against Kelly.

After that the Nats down 8-4 they couldn't quite go to Doolittle and Hudson so it was up to the B.. no C... no D-Teamers. Rodney nearly lost it but didn't.  Rainey wasn't perfect but got out of his inning. Strickland got bombed and should get the Joe Kelly treatment. You could argue why Strickland and not Voth but at this point I'm not using Voth in a likely unwinnable game and giving the Dodgers a look at him.  Voth is my go to tonight if for some reason keeping to Max, Doo, Hudson is impossible. Is it a bad go to? Almost certainly. But you gotta try it.

So all in all it wasn't a terrible weekend for Davey. He kind of froze in that 6th, which put the game out of reach and that matters but otherwise - eh. I'm not getting worked up about it.

Why? Well because Davey is in an impossible situation. He may be messing up but he's given no leeway to do that. All managers make mistakes. Davey can't because he's literally got two men he trusts in the pen, then it's starters, then it's Rodney? I don't like some decisions but he could play it perfectly and what happens? Like last night let's say he gets Hudson in there and he gets out. 3-2 Dodgers but the Nats aren't facing Joe Kelly. Do they tie?  Hudson is probably asked to work the 7th but how does that go after what you saw Friday? Ok in trouble and in comes Doo... maybe he gets out of it too but then he's PH for and then what. Figure best reasonable case is it's 3-3 and the Nats gotta find 6 outs from everyone else, while scoring against a solid Dodger pen.  The odds would still be heavily in LA's favor here.

Davey has fault but it's down there behind the Lerners for not ponying up the cash and Rizzo for keeping with his prospect holding. And then there are the bats. Collective line for the team .194 / .283 / .280.  I get - harder opponent - worse hitting BUT they should be doing worse than usual not flat out terrible. They've only hit one homer. The line-up is hitting like we feared might. Turner and Eaton are doing ok, Rendon and Soto are doing ok. A total of 12 hits and 7 walks between these 4 guys.  Then nothing, 6 hits and 1 walk from the rest of the team. Suzuki and Gomes 0-9.  Parra, Dozier, Adams, Zimm, AsCab 2-15, with 1 XBH. 

I don't know what to say other than - hope Max is MAX for one night despite the injury and the history and the already unusual usage pattern. Then hope Hill is bad. If we look at the pre-series goals

1) Aces Aces?  Pretty much. Even Sanchez was good.

2) Keep it close for Jansen. No. Both G1 and G3 devolved quickly.

3) Don't miss opportunity to get out bottom of LAs lineup.  First game they went Muncy at 2B so line-up had no hole. Last two they used Lux and Nats mostly held him in check as a starter in the 8 hole.

4) Roberts outthinking himself? Here and there a little but not really. Then again he's got all the leeway Davey doesn't

So they aren't getting any breaks from the Dodgers, but they are managing the lineup and getting good starts. The breakdown is when the hitting and the relief aren't keeping the game close enough. A couple bad choices by Davey made it worse but he's got few good ones. The series has to help Davey out, but it's made things harder on him twice and both times we've seen the result. The Nats can't afford that again.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Mysteries

Why does the Nats offense disappear in the playoffs disguising what would be critical mistakes from a questionable manager?  It happened in 2014 as Matt Williams bungled his way through 4 important games in a row and it happened so far in the WC and G1.  Yes the Nats win the WC, but on a HBP, bloop, wall single and error they hardly lit the world on fire and we were staring down a “it’s the offense’s fault" much like we are today

Because it IS the offense fault primarily.  You can’t win scoring nothing. The Nats has one hit and backed into a run through Buehler’s one inning of wildness.  That inning was punctuated by a maddening at bat by Cabrera who swung through two pitches nearly in the dirt bailing out the Dodgers*. No one is asking for this team to bust  out 5 runs every game against what we noted yesterday is very good pitching. But 2-3 runs before the 6th is done would be nice

Then there was Corbin who was on and off effective and lucky to get out giving up only two.  And Kendrick who saved the defensive butchery we all feared for this singular game.

What did Davey do?  Well I can break down a few things but the major mistake was Rodney.  Going into the 7th down two Davey tried to sneak in his B options Rainey and Rodney.  You can understand why. If they don’t pitch here it could be a week before they see action and that’s too long. So you try to get Rainey through the 7th.  If the Nats are still down Rodney through the 8th.  Not a bad plan.  But down 2-0 is a winnable game so these guys have to have short leashes and you have to try to keep the game close with good match-ups. Rainey walked a man setting up a - next man on you’re out situation. A nice piece of hitting and a little luck put Justin Turner on and set up a change.   With Bellinger and Muncy up in the next three the choice was obvious.  Doolittle.  But Davey hadn’t been warming him. Instead he used Rodney who he had been warming for the above plan.  Rodney, who probably should be limited against lefties** got Bellinger, but then walked the next man, and Muncy came up.  With a chance to right a wrong he left Rodney in and Muncy got the decisive hit

We can talk about Strickland facing LHB (huge no-no) but this was the big mistake.  And the thing is - he almost got away with it.

Anyway tonight we see if Strasburg is really Bumgarner-esque.  If the Nats can hit   And Davey can manage a much easier (only Hudson and Doolittle!) game.

*much like Seager bailed out Corbin in the first, swinging at ball one in the AB right after he walked in a run

**On one hand Davey like his change against lefties and doesn't have a ton of options, especially in a Corbin started game. On the other out of the Nats pens, no one gets hit harder by lefties that Rodney other than Strickland who should never face a lefty.  It's not a big amount worse but you do wonder why you'd go with your 2nd worst guy. 

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Real Playoffs

How good are the Dodgers?  Real good. They've are good hitting (1st in RS in the NL). Good in pitching (1st in RA). They have good starters (1st in Starter ERA) and good relievers (1st in Reliever ERA). They play good defense (1st in defensive efficiency). They hit the most homers (1st) and give up the least (1st)  and are good pinch hitting (3rd best OPS - THIRD!!! GO TO YOUR ROOM! NO TV FOR A WEEK!)

They won 106 games. Pythag had them at 107 games. The most adjusted of the adjusted standings had them at 114.

So how do the Nats beat the Dodgers?

Well if I were cynical I'd say "They don't" but it's a five game series and even if you LOVE the Dodgers here the Nats probably still have a 25% chance at winning at least. When recounting all those stats up there the Nats were close to the Dodgers in nearly everyone. The Nats are very good and all they need is a break or two.

1) The Nats aces have to be aces - Corbin, Stras, and Max need to be dominant. We'd expect the Dodger pitching to hold the Nats to relatively low scoring games and we don't want the Nats digging deep into a bullpen that just the other day was defined as "Two-Deep" in a winner take all scenario.  They all need to go 6ish at least and be dominant over that time frame

2) Keep it close when you get to Jansen - Kenley isn't KENLEY anymore and the Dodgers RP strength comes from depth rather than a few dominant arms. In the playoffs that can work in the opponents favor. I expect Roberts to be quick to use up these arms to find the best one working today but when it comes to the ninth it's Jansen always. If the Nats can get to Jansen with an opportunity to win they'll have at least 2-3 cracks at breaking him before Roberts extends the "best available" philosophy to closer as well. That might be enough to get those needed wins

3) Don't miss your opportunity to reset at the bottom of the line-up. The Dodgers don't have a great solution at one position, second base. They'll put Muncy there sometimes as a pure hitter and if they do - well then there is no hole in the line-up. But if they go with Lux or Hernandez that gives the Nats two ABs to reset before running the gauntlet again.* Don't screw it up and let the 8th and 9th spots drag things out

4) Hope Roberts out thinks himself.  A couple years ago Roberts managed the Dodgers out of the World Series trying to find a platoon advantage. Could he do something like this again, leaving the clearly better players on the bench chasing some paper positive? Let's hope.


There you go.  The biggest worries the Nats have is that the Dodgers (3rd in NL walks taken, 4th in P/PA) can work the starters out of the game and force guys like Rainey and Strickland to see important ABs. The other biggest worry is that the bats around Rendon and Soto go cold. When that happens and the other team pitches around Anthony and Juan the offense grinds to a miserable halt.  The WC game didn't exactly take away this fear.

Tonight it's Corbin on the mound and things could go either way.  We've talked about his home / road splits. They are real and they are not spectacular. 2.40 ERA, 0.990 at home. 4.18 ERA 1.392 WHIP on the road. Batters hitting .574 OPS vs .760. But with years of playing in Arizona, Corbin is very familiar with the Dodgers and does very well against them specifically. Dodger Stadium seems to be no issue.

The Dodgers counter with Walker Buehler who is one of their three top notch starters.  He had great control and doesn't strike anyone out. He doesn't get hit much or give up many homers. Basically you have to find a way to score some runs against him. However, he has not been that good lately. He's been a lot wilder and that's opened the door for more mediocre outings. 

The plan for the Nats is the same as any NLCS underdog. Get a win on the road, then finish them off at home. I've heard some "Sanchez should start if they win G1" but I'd still expect to see Strasburg either way on Friday - unless he literally can't go. The Nats get it, I think. They missed the playoffs last year. They stumbled real bad to start this one and had to go through the Wild Card. Rendon, their best player, might not be back and there is a chance Stras leaves too.  Rizzo can weave some magic but right now it looks like they need to treat this as a last chance run.



*How do their pitchers hit. Mostly like pitchers. Ryu and Maeda are actually ok - for pitchers. The rest are typically bad. There is an exception in RP Rony Gonsolin - who was a very good hitter in college and hasn't had that worked out of him yet. But I can't imagine a scenario not involving a 13+ inning game where he (or Maeda) is going to see an AB. 
 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Advancement!

After four previous tries, three agonizing and one lifeless, the Nats finally advance in the playoffs.  You’ll hear people say the Nats haven’t won a playoff series and that’s true, but inconsequential in the moment. The Nats, and more so their fans, needed THIS.  They needed a big win in the playoffs that sent them off to face another team.  They needed their signature franchise moment to no longer be a GW G4 HR before an heart-breaking G5 loss. No matter what happens now this win can’t be taken away from them.

About the game itself it really came down to two managers treating a pitcher like something he’s not. We discussed this a good deal before this game but Max isn’t MAX. He isn’t the unstoppable force he’s been for most of his time here in DC.  He’s coming back from injury and for whatever reason particularly vulnerable to home runs. He’s not your HAVE TO guy right now.  He’s one of three and if we were going on recent performance most people felt objectively Strasburg was the one who should start.  But Davey chose Max and Max gave a B/B- performance.

On the other side Josh Jader has been a dominant closer but since the All-Star break he’s merely been very good.  It’s a small distinction but an important one as dominant arms have long saves in planning but you don’t square away six outs for a very good pitcher unless you have to. But Counsell decidedto set this game around Hader for 2 and when he came in obviously having trouble finding spots Counsell had little alternative but to let him try and work it out. It didn’t.

A lot of talk has been about Davey and his performance. I’ve heard phrases like Gepetto pulling strings. You come here for objective analysis Though and objectively Davey was poor. Fair if I’m being generous.  One of the things is Davey didn’t actually have a lot to think about last night. The Nats lack of production, the best pitchers being in, the Brewers general quiet after early, led to a low decision night.  Let’s review them all

Max starts - We discussed this earlier but Stras was the pick. You could justify picking Max over Stras but Stras isn't Anibal Sanchez. You shouldn't be looking for reasons a hot Strasburg shouldn't pitch over a faulty Max. You have three aces. Act like that's true and go with the hot hand.

Line-up - Suzuki has been Max's pitcher for most of the year now. That wasn't really a Davey call. But Kendrick and Cabrera were. Sure they were obvious but you did have to avoid the heart string tugging and telling you to start Zimm.

Max hits -In the third Max was due up and he was doing better. The line-up for the Brewers was heading toward the bottom. I can see the argument for keeping him in. But the Nats needed runs and had two aces to fill-in as necessary. There was no need to keep Max in unless he was cruising and he wasn't.  Subsequently Max would have a line-out, double to start the next inning and then came the 5th

Max 5th - Max was already muddling along (for him) when he walked Shaw to start the inning. With Grandal, who blasted a homer and hit a long fly ball next time up looming. Max should have been pulled. He wasn't.  He got out Grisham and then walked Grandal. Should be pulled. He showed why being unable to put away Moustakas despite having him down 1-2 on three straight pitches. it would work out as Moustakas fouled out and Huira was swing happy but this was an unecessary gamble by Davey

Dozier PHs - The Brewers brought in Suter a LHP which meant if you got to Max's position you'd have a huge at bat that had to be taken by a righty.  That's Zimm's time. Instead Dozier got the call. This is doubly questionable when you figure if the Nats do comeback you really want to pull the old man Howie for Dozier and work him and As Cab in 1st / 2nd D in someway.  Dozier grounded out but Moustakas bailed him out by sailing the throw. Turner would hit the ball well but it was a fly ball out.  A big situation went to their 2nd best option which also messed up late inning defense possibilities. A bad call and I don't see how anyone can avoid thinking this.

MAT for PH - There wasn't a real decision again until the 8th. You had to pull Max for Dozier (deciding to PH for Max was a duh move I didn't even put on here) Stras coming in was the obvious choice. Stras cruised. the Nats never threatened and the line-up had to get back to the pitcher spot before Davey had to think again. You could see what he wanted to do. He wanted Zimm in a big spot to drive in a run and when no one got on he opted for MAT*. This is the batting equivalent on not using your best pitcher in the biggest moment in the game because it's the 8th and what if an even BIGGER moment came up later? You can't make decisions this late on things that might never happen. It's terrible managing. You have to play for now which meant Zimm was the move. instead MAT came up and was given a gift when a ball that 90% probably hit the bat first was ruled a HBP and you can't overturn if it's not 100%.  MAT didn't do his job as much as had the job finished for him. There's nothing about this that says smart move.

Zimm for Eaton - because MAT got on Eaton got his Zimm in a big spot situation and Zimm promptly... flared a bloope to CF off a broken bat.  Zimm didn't come up big. He got lucky. Davey got lucky.

Hudson instead of Doolittle - It wasn't TOO much of a choice, but it had to be made and with Thame up first you could have argued for a Doolittle start to the inning if you wanted. But Davey went straight to Hudson, had Doo warming as a back up. It almost didn't work out. Hudson got Thames but Cain singled off him and Davey stuck with Hudson versus another lefty in Gamel. Gamel hit in on the nose but a little too under it and in the wrong part of the park for that.

Eight decisions. Six in game. How many unquestionably the right ones in the moment? Two I guess?  There's no genius here. No man pushing all the right buttons. It's a guy making the wrong call on a bunch of 25% / 75% situations and it working out. I don't know why it hard to see that.

I also don't know why you care. You make bad moves and they work out all the time. Baseball is filled with 60/40 choices. It's a 60/40, 55/45 game. You want someone that makes the 60 choices all the time but you can go 40 40 40 and have it work out, you can go 60 60 60 and have it not. Hell put three choices out there and chances one of them won't go your way. 

Davey didn't show me anything I haven't seen before. Didn't prove anything. If he has a strength it's not in the managing decisions during the game.  He could be a clubhouse inspiration. That matters too. But let's not squint and stand on a chair and try to make that game into some sort of Master Class on managing.

What this win DOES mean about Davey is that he's definitely back.  I don't see how he isn't. Contract in hand. WC win. Amazing regular season comeback. All the impetus is to keep him.  I guess the NLDS could go disastrously but outside of that you might be making the right move if you fire him but you're swimming against the tide to do it and with a contract to pay out, why bother? Makes far more sense for the team to let that tide take Davey into 2020 and see if that amazing middle 80 games were a seed of something more. 

*that MAT had a HR in 1AB I think is irrelevant here. A nice side note but not influencing or else he would have had MAT on deck all the way.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Wild Card Post

Wild Card Game.  We've seen the lineup and know Max is the starter.  To help the lazy it's this:

Trea Turner SS 
Adam Eaton RF 
Anthony Rendon 3B 
Juan Soto LF 
Howie Kendrick 1B 
Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B 
Kurt Suzuki C 
Victor Robles CF 
Max Scherzer P

Maybe a mild surprise to some that Zimm isn't starting but over Howie Zimm shouldn't be starting.  Not now.  

The Brewers are countering with 

1. Trent Grisham RF (L)
2. Yasmani Grandal C 
3. Mike Moustakas 3B (L)
4. Keston Hiura 2B 
5. Ryan Braun LF 
6. Eric Thames 1B  (L)
7. Lorenzo Cain CF 
8. Orlando Arcia SS 
9. Brandon Woodruff P

Cain is playing which is good for them.  I know they were going for as much L/R balance as possible. I would have probably flipped Cain and Grisham for the reasons I explained in yesterday's ramble. That does put two lefties in a row but I'd worry about getting my best hitters that 4th or 5th at bat more than a one inning possible match-up issue. The Brewers problem is Moustakas and Thames are the good bats struggling but if you drop both you pack the lefties. So they just keep it as-is and hope. And for one game... 

With more time to think I haven't really changed my mind. I think the Nats have an advantage and the smart money is on them. But its one baseball game so the Nats having a nice advantage over a team they are better than but is still good gives them all of a 60% chance of winning. That's a 40% chance of losing. In other words roll these line-ups and pitchers out with these tactics for 10 games the Nats would lose like 4 times. It's baseball. There's a lot talent doesn't cover. 

Things I'd like to see
1) A clean first inning from Max. He gets way too excited for these games (6HBP in last 7 playoff appearances. for ref - 7 HBP in regular season this year) and can get a little out of control. Not that I'd expect him to immediately blow it, but the more innings he pitches the better and the quicker he's in and out of the first the better for how many innings he can go. I can see it get bogged down and be a 25 pitch scoreless affair and would much rather see a 15 pitch 1-2-3.

2)  A cautious approach to Woodruff. Even if you are an aggressive approach guy at heart Woodruff hasn't pitched more than a couple innings in a while.  They'll try to stretch him but that means like 75 pitches.  A cautious Nats team could get him out in under 3 IP if he's not on. 

3) In general a quick hook.  It's hard to say when but if you are going to be bullpen heavy and only use the good arms, then be one batter too soon, then one batter too late. If possible though don't use the starters mid-inning, to keep it as usual for them as possible. 

4) In particular attack Braun and Cain. The one big liability with this line-up is Suzuki's inability to throw guys out (10% for the year). But the Brewers don't really run. If you can keep Cain, not a huge homer threat, and Braun, not the threat he was, off the basepaths in exchange for a couple other guys on, do that. Hiura is another guy who might take off but he's too much of a homer threat now to go after imo. 

5) Don't test Grandal until you have to.  He's not special but he's good enough and the Nats shouldn't need extra bases as opposed to runners in general with this line-up and this pitching staff.  Certainly not early.  Don't give them outs.


OK On to the game.

Wild Card Tuesday AM Post

I was only going to do one post but we do need to talk about this.

This does not look good.

Not because it's not a fair offer. The Nats are nothing if not (low-market) fair in their offers. If we are to believe it it's 7/215 (max) with payments through 2033 because of god damn course there is deferrals. Hey wasn't the MASN money supposed to open up a world of free agents?*

The bar was set at Arenando's 8/260 (no deferrals). Depending on how much you believe in defensive stats, Rendon either just put up a season as good as Arenado's best, or put together a season that Arenado cannot touch. Rendon is simply a better offensive player making how you judge the two solely come down to defense. But taking the easy way out and Rendon's a better hitter, but Arenado's a better fielder and younger and saying it's a wash - Rendon should get about the same.  The Nats did not offer about the same.

But still like I said - that's not the issue. It's the expected offer from the Nats. The question is if they raise it or not. What does not look good about it is the timing of this drop. If it's a management drop, and there are reasons to believe it is**, this would be a news drop. Something put out right before the WC in order to get it out, get it not discussed, and get it possibly (probably not) forgotten.  Why put it out here unless it's a "Hey we tried, but we aren't going higher" story?  If it is a Boras drop then it would be a weird time for it. I suppose maybe you are afraid Rendon will be a big goat in the WC? Or the notorious "do your job" Rizzo won't talk and this is your way of re-opening the discussion.  Seems like a distracting time for it.

What this also makes me wonder is what offer the Nats had on the table BEFORE the season? 6/180 with 10 year deferrals? Whatever it was it was I can imagine it was insulting. 


Anyway let's get this ugliness out of the way.  New Game Post up for commenting around 5:00


*That was always a lie but thanks for playing along and getting the Lerners more golden sinks for their Mediterranean yachts.

**Boras drops don't usually come through the post

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday Quickie - Oh hey game tomorrow

Nats will host Milwaukee tomorrow and Brandon Woodruff tomorrow. The dust has settled.  I never did a Brewer preview and for one game these things are kind of pointless but for a general idea I'll ramble...


The Brewers are a basically a .500 ish team.  The ranks don't look great but you gotta take a closer look at that because it doesn't catch the spread.  Over the course of the season the NL offenses kind of fell into these groups.  The elites (LA, Nats!, Braves), The Rockies, The better than averages (ARI, CHC, NYM), The averages (PHI, MIL, STL PIT), The below averages (CIN, SDP, SFG) and The Poor Marlins.  The pitching broke down into THE elite (Dodgers), The next best (STL), The Imperfect Chasers ( CIN, CHC, Nats!, NYM, ATL, ARI), The Middling (MIL, SFG, SDP, PHI, MIA) and The Rock... wait what are the Pirates doing here too? (COL, PIT)

So reading that average offense, middling pitching. .500 in part because having no flaw does that for you.

But they aren't .500 they are 89-73! What's up with that? Well they went 20-7 in September that's what's up.  They did score more but what really happened in September was they got lucky (8-1 in 1 or 2 run games over their streak - 12-4 in such games since the middle of August) and their pitching was a lot better. Granted they were playing a lot of bad teams - but not all of them were bad and not all bad teams have bad offenses. Their was BABIP thing going on but all the peripherals got better too.

As far as the Nats are concerned it's not pressing that Davies, Anderson, and Lyles did well. They are all back-up. Expect to see one of them or Gio (who didn't do as well but got all the breaks)  as Woodruff will only go as long as he's effective. Probably 4 innings max. Then one of the pitchers. Then the pen. A lot of key bullpen arms, Suter, Peralta, Hader, Pomeranz looked very sharp.I'm guessing their ideal game would be Woodruff for 4+, Suter/Guerra/Pomeranz matching up for 2+, Hader for 2.

Hitting wise they are a solid bunch who walk and homer built around the star of Yelich who is out. They've rallied but it's more timely hitting than anyone becoming great. Hiura, Braun, and should have been a Nat Grandal provide most of the offense.  Cain too but he's been moved down for the new offensive plan which is...  - Grisham hit leadoff, take a lot of pitches and get on base.  I'm not sure that's a plan for facing the extremely controlled Scherzer. Moustakas and Thames, just swing for the fences.  That more of a problem for Max given his both recent problems with HR balls and his historic playoff issues.  Whoever is at the bottom of the line-up Gamel, Arcia - do something. (not likely - they aren't good)  EXCEPT Brandon Woodruff - good hitter. I mean for a pitcher yes, but .267 average.

If the Nats are lucky (and I'm right) the Brewers will keep Grisham on top of the line-up and he'll just 10 pitch 3Ks through 3 ABs vs Max. If Max is walking anyone it's an issue. He has no reason not to go right at Grisham.  He doesn't hit that well. So attack him and then there's an out before you face the good part of the line-up every time around.

I see a match-up that I don't love for Max. It's better than facing a really good offense, sure, but if you had your choice of middling offenses, you'd want Max up against a walking offense that strings together singles and steals bases*. Max won't walk anyone and the offense should stall.  Against a homer heavy team like the Brewers - they won't get the big 3-run blast because there won't be men on but 3 homers is possible. The hope - like I said above - is they self-sabotage a little and try to get Grisham to walk his way on. Again it's Max though so he'll match up pretty well against anyone.

I can see them having 3 runs against Max. Then it's the pen and it'll be interesting. I can see these guys shut down by good arms and crushing bad ones. Guys who don't get Ks will be the biggest issues and the Nats pen isn't a K-heavy one. Rainey is the K guy. Doolittle and Rodney can get them. Otherwise? Jeckyll & Hyde Suero? Voth?

Can the Nats score more than say... 4? I think they can. I think there is a pretty good chance of that.  There's definitely a tightrope the Brewers are trying to walk to get to Hader and that's a long tightrope. I think the middle pen - the Pomeranz/Suter/Guerra - is good enough to do it but can they get to them? (or really use them early and as long as possible?) Woodruff is a question mark and then it become if whatever starter you bring in adapts to being used in that way. It's an odd situation that usually favors the hitter. You know I favor just pitching around Rendon and Soto and making everyone else beat you. Not sure teams have listened to me.

Painting a picture - I'd see a game that features a couple Brewers shots early and maybe a 3-1 lead before Woodruff tires and the wheels come off for the Brewers as they try to fill a gap between trouble and when they'd like to use their good pitchers instead of just using them. It's like 7-3 or 8-4ish late when the pen gives up another bomb or two scaring everyone but it's not enough and Nats win like 9-5.

There's a rambling take. Something more sane tomorrow.


*In theory STL would be ideal.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The last important day

If you don't care about HFA (which I don't) then today is the last important day before the WC on the Nats schedule.  They have their game - the Wild Card. They have their date - October 1st.  They can do whatever they want to set themselves up for that game... once Strasburg gets through today.  It shouldn't be an issue but you always have to consider it.  Injuries and terrible performances can happen out of the blue.  Just tell him to go out there and pitch easy and we'll come get you around 100 pitches.

You also have to consider that it seems like the Nats are leaning toward Max to start the WC game. If this is true* then an awesome Strasburg performance would present an interesting dilemma.  With Max's last two outings having some issues and Strasburg having a great one sitting out there, along with the 2nd half domination and Max returning for injury, could the Nats still go with Max? I imagine so, but it's something to think about.  A middling or bad performance would make it easier but it would also have you looking at Strasburg going into the playoffs with a middling or bad performance.

Anyway, after today the Nats can set up for the WC game as they see fit. Which to me is

Starter goes as long as he looks good
Divvy up last outs as follows
  • 3 for Hudson, if need more than that
  • 3 for Doolittle, if need more than that
  • 3 for Rodney

longer starter goes you take out Rodney then Doolittle. There is room for a Hudson Doolittle switch if there is handedness reasons in the 9th but otherwise this is how I see it.  No one else pitches unless things have gone wrong.

Agree?
Awards? Do any Nats have a shot?

MVP - Rendon SHOULD have a shot but voters already seem set to vote for Yelich or Bellinger. Both are great choices but not that much better that Rendon shouldn't get more of a mention.  Given the Brewers won without Yelich, Rendon is headed for a WC while Bellinger is headed for 105 wins the odds favor Bellinger.

CY - Max's injury and subsequent very good but not MAX pitching scuttled his chances.  deGrom has 25 more innings, lower ERA, lower WHIP, and lower HR9 (also same in comparison to Flaherty and almost to Ryu who holds a 0.02 ERA lead on deGrom).  Flaheryty is the hardest to hit, Ryu the most control, Max the best K stuff, but in the end deGrom will win.

ROY - Alonso has the momentum despite being a lummox that just homers. It's so many homers! Soroka's probably the most deserving. Got a 175 ERA+ and while not a Cy contender (innings and Ks aren't impressive) he's been a big reason Braves won the division.  Robles may not even get in the Top 5 - though he should. His D has become that good to outshine good but not great options like Bryan Reynolds, Chris Paddack, and Alex Verdugo

MOY - Davey will get some votes because of the comeback but the hurdle to overcome is why do you vote for him, favored to win East getting a WC over Snitker, not favored to win East, won East. You don't.  Roberts could have a shot too with the number of wins the Dodgers are putting up. Shildt will get play for taking Cards back in 1st year, as will Counsell for the dramatic Yelich-less September.  Davey may fall to 5th - which honestly is probably more where he belongs.  He started 19-31!


*And if you followed the comments to yesterday's blog you can see why that may not be the worst thing. Fancy stats love Ks and hate BBs and Max has been awesome about those things, better than any Nat. If you can get past the homers (I can't) then he's the one to start

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Gotta be in it to win it

And the Nats are in it. 

I have to admit, yesterday was a day that tried my patience.  First up there was the vitriol aimed at Bryce turning yesterday more into Bryce elimination day than Nats get in day, that I just don't get. I get disliking guys, and I get disliking opponents, and I get not wanting Bryce to immediately go and get the success that he and the Nats never got here, but hating someone you supposedly liked before? I get hating guys you never liked who happened to play on your team (Hey Jeremy Shockey just walked in) - so maybe that's it. But it seemed like there was honest affection toward Bryce before last year. I mean, as usual, I'll say to each his own, but the whole thing has me looking at a lot of Nats fans like petty exes who won't get over someone that broke their hearts.

This then led to the odd "is Bryce to blame for the Phillies losing" convo which is probably not the right conversation to have about a team that tried to mediocre bullpen their way to a win in a must-win scenario. I mean Bryce has some blame but if we portion it individually he probably doesn't make the Top 10 issues for the Phillies.

THEN there was after the win the notion that the Nats getting the Wild Card after the lousy start was somehow validation in front of people who "didn't believe in them" that they were a great team. This is ignoring the fact that the 19-31 start did happen (that's bad! You shouldn't do that!) and that the Wild Card was a Plan B for a team that wanted to win the East and that everyone did believe in the Nats to start the year (over 50% picked them to win East remember) and that "no one believed in us" is the lamest of lame tropes teams pull out that can honestly be used by the Braves (no one picked us) or the Cards (no one picked us!) or the Brewers (people wrote us off after Yelich went down) or the Rays (no one thinks about Tampa) or the A's (no one thinks about Oakland either) or the Indians (people wrote us off as not trying to win) or the Twins (people liked the Indians better) and maybe even the Yankees (people thought the injuries would stop us). 

Sigh.

Basically it was an emotional day and this soulless automaton hates emotional days because there's so much that doesn't make sense we just go along with.

But the Nats win! And the Nats are in! and while we talk about post-season roster decisions there really is only one huge one that matters.  Who starts the Wild Card game? If we are matching up just based on who's turn it would be that would be Sanchez.  If you go by days of rest, it's Strasburg. But you can still work it to be anyone.

I've said for a few weeks I would just go with the hottest of the three starters right now. Max, Stras, or Corbin are all #1 material and you shouldn't bicker about who is more ace like in theory but go with who's pitching more ace like in practice.


Max - he's the least ace like recently. He's gone 

Strasburg - early September was ok, but not the shutdown pitcher you like to see. He did only give up 7 runs in 3 starts but also only threw for 17 innings. He struggled with command and putting guys away in some sense - that's what drove up his pitch counts, but he also didn't blow up because of it. And these were ATL, MIN, and STL so some good teams.  In his last start we saw a return to form (TBF against MIA) able to get out of whatever minor trouble he got himself into

Corbin - He's been a bit wild recently having three starts with 4+ walks in the last 4 games where he had four such starts in the 28 games before that.  Much like Strasburg though he worked out of trouble and never put the Nats out of the game, in part because no one hit him all that well. Minnesota did, but he didn't walk any of them so there does seem to be that trade off.  He is striking out a good deal now as well but also gives up more XBH than Stras despite getting hit less.  His last start he handed the Phillies.

Max - he's given up 2 long balls in each of the last two games and for the most part has been more hittable than you'd expect. Of course it's Max though so that's still not very hittable. He still is walking the least and striking out the most. In his last start yesterday, he looked alot like his old self... except for the homers.

There isn't a bad choice here. Even Max, who's been iffy, has given you 1 walk and 21 Ks over 12.2 in his last two starts. But if you order it I'd go Strasburg - Corbin - then Max. Given that the days line up it's seems like it's Stras's gig


BUT WAIT! They aren't pitching to a team in a vacuum they are pitching to the Brewers, maybe at home.  Is there any big splits we need to worry about?

Max v MIL 5/6  6 IP, 6 H 1ER 1BB 10K
Corbin v MIL 8/16   6IP, 7H 1ER, 1BB, 11K
Stras v MIL 5/7  6.2 IP, 6H 4ER, 2BB, 11K*

No real advantage - I suppose you like Corbin here a little better because it's the only one that's more recent but I'd say nothing telling here. (STL? Corbin bad in April good recently, Max ok early meh recently, Stras great early solid but short recently)

Home?
Max - a touch better away a bit wilder at home this year for some reason. Not much to go on here
Corbin - Corbin is MUCH better is DC.  a 1.97 ERA in DC a 4.18 ERA elsewhere. Practically unhittable at home (67 hits in 100.2 IP) with next to no homers (5) and great control (28BB).  Away he gets hit pretty well (95 hits in 97 IP) gives up bombs (16 homers) and his control is off (40BB).  I'd say this disqualifies Corbin from pitching in MIL (or STL) at all but maybe puts him as an interesting choice to work into a home WC
Stras - slightly better at home I guess? His HR rate favors away, walk rate favors home. Wouldn't make a decision based on this.

Milwuakees preferences?
A slightly better performance against righty starters than lefty.  Though with Yelich out that might even out more.
(STL has a harder time against righties) 


Basically all this points to the same place - Strasburg should start the WC.  If we could be sure in the next couple days the Nats would be hosting Milwaukee I could see Corbin as a better choice, but since we can't and have to think about the set-up over this weekend I think Strasburg is the only way to go.


*Odd line for so many runs. Three of those hits, one walk, and a HBP came in that 7th inning, which Dan Jennings and Justin Miller ensured all of those guys came in

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

HFA

Have I given up on HFA? Nah. But I don't really care about it. A big part of that is I don't live in the DC area so what do I care if the Nats play at home or not? But beyond that - home field advantage hasn't really lived up to it's "advantage" in the past. In the 14 single WC games played so far the away team holds an 8-6 lead.

Of course that doesn't mean it favors the away team, but it obviously doesn't punish them. It's a single game, played between two good team, under different strategy then all year long. Who knows what will happen?

Of course if you care if the Nats get HFA because you might go the thought process is as follows. The Brewers will probably end up with around 90 wins. They play two teams they are better than - the luckless Reds and the hapless Rockies, but play them away. 4-2 would be a reasonable expectation. The Brewers also own the tie-breaker between the teams going 4-2 against the Nats during the regular season*

To get to 91 wins the Nats have to finish 5-2 in these last 7. That's possible but 4-3 or 3-4 is more likely.

The Brewers hold the cards here. They finish strong and the Nats are boxed out of HFA. 


*The Nats were pretty much night and day going 45-21 against sub .500 teams and 41-48 vs .500 and better. Although by runs they did score as many as they gave up against the .500 teams.  Of course this figures in the Phillies, who the Nats have handled this year (10-5, outscored by 24 runs). Remove them and the Nats record is 31-43 and they are at a clear scoring disadvantage, although not THAT much.  Phillies can still finish under .500 so we'll see!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Beat the Phillies

Marlins beaten. It wasn't the most impressive series win but it was completed

The Cubs are in the midst of a meltdown with every move Joe Maddon making turning out to be the wrong one. This means the Nats are almost home free.The Nats have 8 games left and can effectively shut out the Cubs (or I guess the Mets, D-backs (hello again!), and Phillies) by just not totally sucking.

3-5?

Cubs can catch the Nats with a 6-0 finish, Mets with a 7-0, Philly and Arizona would be out.

That's it.  3-5 means no one can pass you and it's miracle time even to catch you.  2-6 opens the door the tiniest of cracks. 1-7 ok now the door is open though it'd still take a strong finish from someone. 0-8 that's trouble. But of course 0-8 is trouble.

Given the chances that the Cubs or Mets go undefeated in the next four days is very slim beat the Phillies and you are in.  Beat the Phillies.


Philly is not technically out of the catch the Nats race but because of the "you win - we lose" aspect going on they have to win at least 4 games against the Nats. The second one would eliminate them and even going 4-1 the season would have to finish with a Phillies sweep and the Nats being swept just to match up. I suppose they could catch the Brewers instead but with 2 more games in hand they can only catch the Brewers with an 8-0 finish (and if the Brewers don't win again). More likely it will be the Nats that eliminate them if that interests you.

Now that we are at the end of the season, and playing them it's a good time to re-visit Bryce. How was his season? It was good! Maybe even technically worth what they are paying him! But not philisophically what the Phillies were hoping for.

Byrce leads the Phillies in OPS! Leads in homers. Leads in RBI. Leads in runs! His defense has been his normal "eh" maybe a little better this year*, certainly not his OMG worst in the majors numbers from last year ** But all this and he's only a 3-5 WAR player, well below his own heights of like 9 and the MVP levels closer to 7.   I've talked about this before but EVERY Phillie hitter regressed this year. And it's not some "bet too hard on 2018 fluke numbers" thing. They are worse that you'd epxect historically.  Realmuto? Worse. Hoskins? Worse. Segura? Worse. Mid season-boost Bruce? Worse. Given the players already here were no great shakes the effect was going from below average in hitting to average.  There's a good deal here to think this won't continue next year BUT this also says that next year they probably won't have that Top 3 offense some might have thought. Which is a problem because trying to fix the pen the Phillies let the rotation go and it disappointed. Nola took a step back from the fringes of the Cy Young race to just being solid. Eflin was a decent arm. The rest were clear back of the rotation arms forced to do more work. The bullpen wasn't relatively as bad as last year but it was only average and the combination gets you a .500ish  team.

There's potential for the Phillies next year but they'll have to get two starters at least.

Anyway back to Bryce. So he's the best Philly bat but in a season where Philly bats died.  He's having a very weird year at the plate where with no one on he's horrendous (.196  / .330 / .372) and a monster with men on (.332 / .429 / .664)  You could claim that it's about the pitchers being forced to pitch to him and I think that's sort of right (although he's killer with an open 1st base and men-on as well). Like he's trying to do to much while being pitched around.

There's a feeling he could do better .270+ with the same other profiles. Accept that he can't win it by himself and let him get pitched around and see that OBP back up around  .420+. That's enough to earn his money and be on the outskirts of MVP talk. But can he have another true MVP season? He'll have to prove it.

Are the Nats better with him or without him? If you believe it's Bryce OR Corbin then they are probably better without him. Corbin's been great and Eaton gives you something, unlike the Phillies OFs that Bryce pushed out who were all terrible.If it's Bryce vs Eaton, though, as it should be (THERE IS NO MONEY BUCKET SPEND SPEND SPEND) they'd be better with him.  Bryce is a good player. Every team could use him. But Soto did effectively replace him***

Anyway back to the series. Beat the Phillies. There's a little less drama here because even losing to the Phillies 2-3 is basically going to keep the Nats on track, but just beat em. 



*but never rely on single year defensive stats

**see above

*** Soto hits better but has worked hard and improved his fielding from abysmal to merely bad. You can't see a long-term future for him in the OF.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Beat the Marlins

Simple.  Get it done.

The Marlins have won two series since the end of July.  They are about to lose game 100 with a couple weeks left in the year. Their pitching is poor and their hitting is abysmal. They have nothing to play for outside of jockeying with the Royals for the 3rd vs the 4th pick in next year's draft. They are bad.

There's no need for extra motivation. No cabbage smashing or rallying around coach or HABIT shirts. You win you are almost certainly in. You lose and you could very well be out. That's enough motivation. There's no time to correct mistakes so no excuses will be accepted.

Beat the Marlins.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Update : Other teams lose too

It seems like one of the things that drives the Nats fans pessimism is the idea that the Nats are losers who will always lose and the other teams are winners who can't stop winning. Not true! The Nats sometimes win (I promise) and other teams do in fact lose. The Cubs and the Brewers both lost yesterday keeping them 1.5 games behind the Nats and setting up the following reality.

If the Nats go 5-3 in the next 8, like they should, the Cubs and Brewers have to go 6-1 in the next 7 to catch them. Six and one! Very hard to do!

Again - if the Nats just do what they are supposed to do, it's very likely they will get in to the playoffs. It doesn't protect you from wildly successful 14-2 finishes to seasons, sorry. But it does protect you from the normal range of wins and losses.

While Nats fans are worried about the Cubs and Brewers, the Cubs and Brewers are very worried about eachother (the loser is out) and the Phillies and Mets who are now within a series of catching them.

FWIW if the Nats can win 2 of 3 and the Phillies go 0-4 or 1-3 in the next 4 then their games will be completely uninteresting as even a 5 game sweep can't catch the Nats (and I don't really care about - well what if they sweep and THEN win... situations).  Personally I hope that doesn't happen and at least that first game matters. But again, my team is just playing out the rest of the season to see what level of HFA they have and hoping only to lose 4 more players to injury.

Yesterday Rule Check
1. Did Kendrick start? YES. And he went 2-4. Nats need more Howies.  By the way - does Howie need a rest. Don't know. Don't really care to be honest. If he begs out - ok sit him. But otherwise wait until goals reached and then give him a day off.  That means winning first two in Miami with him starting at least.

2. Did they reasonably pull the starter? ehhhhhhhh. Well the answer is clearly no but we can argue about where it went wrong.  I'm of the opinion they should have pinch hit for him in the 6th, with a man on second and one out. I think Max's effectiveness was pretty questionable before that (double in 4th, two singles in 5th) that you weren't pulling him too early. Plus the injury.  I'm also of the opinion keeping Max in was at least defensible... but then after the "double" and single I think you have to pull him. If he can't put away Edman, he's over 100, and he's returning from injury what's he doing here? Do you really think he's still the best option? Bring in Doo to get Weiters. Go to Hudson next and hope to pull out the game. 

3. Did they reasonably use the relievers? Well by the time the relievers came in it was B-Team time and Rainey is as good as any of those guys.  Using him for all the 9th, sticking with him when it looked like he was going to be in big trouble was the right move because a comeback was almost assuredly not going to happen. Now everyone but Rainey has 2+ days rest and will be available as needed for MIA.

OK take a breath and watch to see how everyone else does today.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A quick Cubs/Cardinals primer

The Cubs and Cardinals play eachother 7 times down the stretch. Normally that would only matter if you get annoyed by second-rate rivalries touted as something more important because people in the Midwest feel left out. But this year the Nats are going to be profoundly affected by how these games turn.

Let's take 3 scenarios:

The Cubs run rampant (6-1/7-0). This would give the Cubs 88-89 wins to start before contemplating the other 4 in their schedule remaining.  A good guess would put the Cubs then at about 91 wins for the season. The Nats, assuming a mere 6-6 to finish the year, would fall in at 89 wins, behind the Cubs here. But the Cardinals would have only 84-85 wins as their base here, and would only be able to match the Nats with a great run outside the Cubs game. 

The Cardinals run rampant. This would give the Cardinals 90-91 wins as a base. A good guess would put them at about 93 wins for the season. The Nats still fall in at 89 wins, now well behind the Cardinals. But the Cubs would have only 82-83 wins and the Nats would be virtually ensured of having a better playoff position than the Cubs.

The Cubs / Cardinals games break to maximize both teams wins. Let's say they keep their distance of two games apart after today.  That means 4-3 or 5-2 Cubs would be the splits that would keep them closest (either +1 Cards or +1 Cubs).  That puts both around 86-87 wins and likely around 89 wins, right about where the Nats would be expected to finish.


Now we haven't mentioned the Wild Card which is the Brewers, which is important because without them this doesn't matter too much. The team that comes out on top of Cubs Cardinals wins the division and does nothing to keep the Nats out of the Wild Card. The Nats only miss the WC if all three finish ahead of the Nats*. So while these H2H games make it hard for the Nats to end up ahead of both teams - that doesn't matter. They only need to outpace one.


So what should the Nats want.Let's say the Brewers end up at 89 wins here - a 7-4 finish against a weak schedule.

Scenario three is the worst for the Nats putting three central teams around 89 wins. While there's an outside chance that it works for the Nats if they can manage to get to 90 wins there's real potential for all three to squeak by the Nats. (Four way tie consideration is fun but confusing so let's leave that out for right now. In general it probably means two playoff games to get into WC game for Nats though)

(See the scnearios here)

Scenario one is the next worse. The Cubs take the Central and the Cardinals have to chase down the Nats with their remaining games. If the Nats get to 89 wins they can't really be passed by the Cardinals but this sets up a three way tie for the Nats - again confusing but is more likely NOT to work out for the Nats than the four way tie above since the Nats only beat the Cubs in the regular season. (Cards hold a 4-2 lead currently)

Scenario two is probably best for the Nats. The Cubs can't catch a Nats team doing what they should and the Nats simply line-up to play the Brewers in the Wild Card game.


Still what's best for the Nats is they win tonight (makes it harder for the Cards to tie in either scenario one or three) and keep winning enough that it doesn't matter. But for now, since it won't be clear if the Nats are doing that until next week - root for the Cardinals over the Cubs.

*Phillies/Mets fans - come at me if you still matter come Monday. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Part of the plan

You know - like how part of the plan of getting down from an airplane in the sky is free-falling before you pull the ripcord.  "Just land the plane" you say? Ha!  Too easy!

Let's check on the Nats rule following yesterday.

1) Did they start Howie? since Kurt is still injured this is the only relevant "best lineup" question and the answer is NO they did not.  They started Zimm instead. Zimm walked once but did not get a hit. Didn't leave anyone on base though since he didn't get up with anyone on but this is still a mistake.

2) Did they reasonably pull the starter? I think so.  Strasburg had been struggling all game and was lucky to be at 99 pitches through 5. He had one strike out since the 2nd and was fooling no one. You could have pushed him with 6-7-8 up, but it was probably right to give Stras the rest of the night off rather than wait for a guy who didn't have it to make a mistake that forced you to pull him

3) Did they use their best relievers? Pulling Stras in the 5th means covering 4 full innings.  If I were to pull the Nats four best relievers I'd say Hudson, Doolittle, Rodney, and I guess Strickland? Any way having pitched last night and 3 times in the previous 5 days should have kept Strickland on the bench unless absolutely needed so you had to fill it with someone. Suero is probably the choice but I understand being gun shy with him.  Rainey was an ok choice then to take on 6-7-8 and he did the job. Doolittle was next to take on Wong and turn around Fowler and he mostly did ok walking Fowler but surviving 6 0-2 fouls to eventually get Wong.  With two outs and Goldschmidt up the Nats had a choice in my mind. Let Doolittle try to get out Goldschmidt, who hits lefties well but doesn't crush them or bring in Rodney or Hudson now and try to get 4 outs against him (the pitcher spot making the last out last inning).  Instead Hale brings in Strickland and he promptly blows the game.  I don't get the logic of using Strickland there at all.

It's never been about winning this series - that would be a plus but can easily not happen - it's about not getting swept then using the Marlins and Phillies games to cement the WC. Unfortunately for the Nats the Brewers have made THAT run (11-3) and the Cubs have decided to go from terrible to very good again and now have a 9-5 run.  But even still - with those two runs and the Nats fumbling to  5-9 run the Nats still lead the WC. And so it goes.  Go 1-1 here - at the least hold on to a WC spot then go at least 5-3 in the next 8. 

That doesn't sound like much but let's say they even lose a game to each the Cubs and Brewers despite going 1-1.  Cubs 0.5 up on the Nats, Brewers 0.5 behind. Go 5-3 and you force the Cubs to go 4-3 to stay tied and you force the Brewers to do 5-2 to pass the Nats.* Easy schedule or not 5-2 is not given.**

Basically nothing has changed. The Nats do what they are supposed to do and the other teams need to step it up to knock the Nats out. Nats don't do what they are supposed to do and well then there's trouble.

Don't get swept. Beat the Marlins. Beat the Phillies. Don't get swept. 

DON'T GET SWEPT. 

 

*seems plausible but also it means that with the 2-0 in there to gain a game on the Nats the Brewers would be on a 18-4 run which if so - you can't do much about. Tip your hat is all. 

**Also if the Cubs do better then the Cardinals suffer. Cards are up 1.5 on Nats now. 1-1 keeps them even.  Cubs beat them 1-2 and Nats beat Marlins 2-1 and it's just a half game and they are dragged into the mix as well. Which is another way it can still work out for the Nats if the Cubs and Brewers surge past them

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday Quickie - cushion gone but still ok

The Nats went 4-6 which is what I assumed they would and which I assumed would cost them their cushion. I wasn't sure which team would be the one rushing in. Turns out to my surprise it was the Brewers. Good for them. By "cost them their cushion" I mean with a 3+ game lead in the WC* they are more than a series ahead of the next team and in my mind this let's them play around with the line-up or do some things with the pitching staff I wouldn't do in a tight race. With the cushion gone, they now have to go to the next level, which isn't quite playoffs "win or die" mode, but it's closer.  Why? Because they could be in REAL trouble after this series. It would take a STL sweep but the possibility is there.  So time to step it up, which means :

1) Best line-up is out there for every game. This means Suzuki if he's ok.  This means Kendrick. This means Asdrubal until he's not hot anymore.  Yesterday Asdrubal sat and Dozier played.  Mistake. Don't let it happen again.

2) All starters should go as long as they feel good.  No standard pitch limits now. If a pitcher is effective and at 105 and wants to go another inning you let them. Do not take an effective pitcher out just to do it. That's the biggest mistake modern baseball analysis makes. Usually you can afford a baserunner and an effective starter beats a mystery box reliever from a bad pen every 7th inning. The caveat here is injury return guys can be pulled early so if you want Max out at 100 pitches I'm ok with that. Yesterday Anibal went 7, maybe he could have went more but with a 7-0 lead pulling him wasn't about pitch limits, so it was an acceptable decision

3) You use your best relievers as much as you can in tight games. You throw out bad relievers in games that have been decided. It's kind of hard to figure where that "decided" vs "still in play" line sits with all these bad pens, but in general 4 in the 9th, 5 in the 7th/8th, 6 in the 6th, 7+ in the 5th. Something like that. Yesterday the game was decided and we saw Strickland. That's a borderline move given his usage. Barrett or Guerra were the plays instead.  Doolittle was used after that but he needed the work.  Expect Hudson next game regardless of the situation for the same reason.

Maybe the Nats can win 2 and the Cubs/Brewers lose 2 and they can get the cushion back and not worry about this. But until then this is what I want to see happen.


The Nats have 14 games left and merely have to do the base expectation to be fine. Don't get swept by STL. Beat Miami. Beat Philly. Don't get swept by CLE.  Do that and you go at least 7-7 have 89 wins.  That would force two of the following to happen to put the Nats on the outside looking in with no G163 at least. 

Cubs go 9-4
Brewers go 10-3
Mets go 13-0
Phillies go 14-0

The first is vaguely possible. The second is a reach. The last two would be the greatest finish to major league seasons, I think. If you want no G163 you can knock all those down a game but remember you still need TWO to happen. Cubs going 8-5 alone doesn't force a G163. Brewers have to go 9-4, too.

It's only if the Nats fall down in some way, and don't do something good to counter it**, that they are in trouble. Get swept by the Cardinals and then don't sweep the Marlins. Lose to the Phillies and can't beat the Indians. If they are at 6 wins then you start to see the cracks form.  It's still probably enough. But who likes probably?

They are only in real trouble at 5 wins or less which mean at least two slip-ups with no counter. Losing every series would do it, 1-2, 1-2, 2-3, 1-2. (that'd be two slip-ups - MIA & PHI with no good counter). At 5 wins the Brewers could force a G163 with a 7-6 finish and put the Nats away with an 8-5 one (assuming Cubs are going at least .500) That's more in the realm of possibility.

It's time to take things one at a time. A lot will matter how everyone else does as well.

CHC plays CIN at home. They could make a move though Cincy seems to pull out decent series and overall probably isn't as bad as their record. 

MIL plays SD at home. SD isn't very good and it's a great opportunity for MIL to keep making their push.

NYM are at COL.  Games in COL are always a mess. The Mets are a better team but at this point really need a sweep to stay in it.

PHI is at ATL. Same as the Mets - they need that sweep. The problem is ATL is a lot better than they are. They should hang onto the idea of getting to the Nats series with a chance, but without a sweep they are asking for a lot for that to hold up through the Nats/Marlins series.

ARI is technically not out - a perfect end of season gets them to 88 wins - but I'm writing them off for now. We'll check back after these series.  Really the only reason PHI is still mentioned is because of the 5 H2Hs.

Go out there and win tonight and get that "not swept" out of the way



*Just being in, not HFA.

**the good counters are Beat STL, Sweep MIA, Go 4-1 or better vs PHI, Beat CLE

Friday, September 13, 2019

Don't get swept take whatever

You get all worried and then I get all worried you are going to be like "you told us not to worry!" This is no way to spend the end of a baseball season!

The Nats are fine. With the two wins in the Minnesota series they can't really slow drip out of the playoffs any more 1-2, 1-2, 2-1, 2-3, 1-2? That's 88 wins. I suppose the Cubs and the Brewers could both finish the season 11-5.  I suppose. Or the Mets race to.. 13-3? Come on now.

No, the only way the Nats miss the playoffs now is a tank, pure and simple. Get swept by the Braves, get swept by the Cardinals, lose the series to the Marlins?  Now you are talking. So that's why simply not getting swept here is the goal.  Like I've been saying 4-6 is the likely outcome. Hit that and they CAN be in trouble but basically only if they get swept by STL - which is the start of a tank. Don't get swept and they hit that 4-6 at least.

The Braves still have a little to play for though as home field isn't completely decided and should be up for this series across the board. 

The East?  IT'S BEEN CALLED. Forget about it.  Even a sweep here gets the Nats only to 5.5 with 14 to play.  Nats bullrush to 10-4 finish? Braves can sleepwalk to 4-7 and still take it. It's OVER.

While you were fretting over the Nats series the Mets swept the Diamondbacks which has set them up as a big WC2 contender. The Phillies took 2-3 to stay in there. Milwaukee keeps winning and is tied with Chicago. Arizona brings up the rear.  What to watch this weekend? There's so much! This is where baseball gets fun.  Any game with any of these guys would be a fun watch but specifically there is only one important H2H matchup and it's over in the AL. With those two losses the Nats gave the Twins Cleveland got to 3.5 back and they play each other this weekend. Cleveland MUST win this series to have a chance at the Central AND to keep them in the WC race as Oakland and Tampa are winning.  I'd suggest Pirates/Cubs at 4, into Twins/ Indians, going over to Brewers-Cardinals is it gets out of hand early or Reds-Dbacks if that gets out of hand late. Then finish up with Rays/Angels to see Mike Trout in games that matter to somebody

What should Nats fans want?  STL to sweep MIL (makes STL a near lock for Central and gives them more incentive to start resting guys). PHI to lose to BOS and then ATL (knock Philly down far enough that they can win a couple vs CLE and still come into Nats series with nothing to play for).  Why win a couple vs CLE? So Cleveland can come into those last games out of it. This would set up the Nats with no teams that are fighting for anything which is a good way to ride into the playoffs. Even if Boz wants some pressure packed games to some how forge a winner. Doesn't work that way. Plenty of teams that impressively went through a September crucible lost just as quickly as the Nats have. Just get in and hope.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

STILL WIN 3 guys

And you guys wanted Davey to be MOY...

Before the Mets series the Nats had built up a nice little lead on everyone. They swept the Cubs and took care of business against Baltimore and Miami and had a 3.5 game lead on the closest competitor, and 7+ on everyone else? They've since gone 2-6 which is setting up someone to make a move.

But only one team really has. Over that stretch Milwaukee went 6-2 to pick up four games on the Nats. But the Nats still have a 2.5 game lead on their closest competitor because the success worked backward. The closest team to the Nats, the Cubs, only managed a 3-5 run at the same time. The next closest, 7 game out Philly, went 5-4.  The Mets and Arizona both went 5-3 but being 8+ games out they are still a good bit away.

So the good news is that no one close made that run and the way the wins have fallen still only one team is a series away from catching the Nats if everything were to go wrong.

The bad news is all the competitors have formed a massive slime of mediocrity that is slowly closing the gap on the Nats and creating a situation where there may be 3-4 teams ready to take advantage of a prolonged Nats stumble.

What's worse? I'd say actually having a real threat turn up is worse. I'd rather have 10 teams get within 2 games then have one get a 2 game lead on me. But this still isn't good.

The offense is withering and it's in the way I thought it might - teams are avoiding pitching to Soto and Rendon (9 walks in 50 PAs in past week) and daring the other guys to beat them. Asdrubal has risen to the occasion but that's it. Turner is doing ok, Gomes has two homers which I guess is the best you can hope for given Suzuki being hurt. Part of the problem is the logjam at 2nd where you might put Dozier or Kendrick but need to stick Asdrubal there.One of them could play first but they feel the need to get Zimm and Adams at bats.

At this point I think we've got maaaybe one more loss to play around with in the next three games. One more loss and then we move into threat level orange or whatever. Zimm sits, Adams sits, Kendrick plays first (or DHs if it's that last MIN game), Cabrera plays, Dozier plays if it's the last MIN game. That's it until you feel safe again.

Any how let's hope it doesn't come to that and the Nats win the next three. Make it moot, Nats!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Win 3

That's all. It's actually a decently tough goal, winning 3 of the next 6 against two good teams, but much like the 19-31 situation, it's the hole the Nats dug themselves, this time by going 1-3 against the Braves. The Nats are looking for at least one series win, and a sweep would do the job itself. Not that that keeps the Nats out of the woods for the rest of the month but it puts the bar where I thought it would be going into the last half of September, a place where I think the Nats should be able to hold off any challengers and keep a WC spot.

Who are the Twins? HR bombers that's who! They have a crushing offense. First in the AL by R/G just a smidge over the Yankees and a full run over the AL average. Everyone of their main starters have at least 20 homers except Buxton. This includes Mitch Garver and Miguel Sano who have played 82 and 91 games respectively. Two already have 35+ (Cruz and Kepler) and Garver, Rosario, and Sano are all good bets to join them in the next couple of weeks. If there is a saving grace - they don't walk, but the batting average is good enough that these aren't just solo homers. They never steal (26 TOTAL SBs)

Theser some slight good news in that Buxton, Cruz, Marwin, Kepler, and Sano are all nursing injuries. But at this point they aren't quite far enough ahead of the Indians to just rest guys.  Right now it looks like only Cruz will be in the line-up tonight and the longer these guys sit the better. Root for whoever is playing against the Indians.

The Twins are still terrible at developing starting pitching, but they did finally get one good one in Berrios and they've filled the rest with a bunch of ok guys that can let in fewer runs then they'll score. The Nats unfortunately do catch 1-2-3 Berrios, but he hasn't been that great recently.  The other two are Perez and Gibson who are ok. Still they miss the fill-ins on the back end. The bullpen is good. It's deep in solid arms, and better with Romo. The closer is good. They can be gotten to but they basically hold the fort for the Twins bats to do what they need to. Overall neither aspect is very good, but both are good and not having a weakness here allows the bats to win games.

It's going to be a fun series. Sanchez has a little bugaboo giving up homers, but not much. Stras and Corbin are pretty good. What will win out?