Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie

Monday, June 04, 2012

Monday Quickie

They were so close weren't they?  Don't tell me when they hit those back to back homers you weren't thinking "The Nats OWN the Braves!"  Well that, and the entire system of competition and compensation we call major league baseball, is why they play the game.  The Nats manage four hits the rest of the game (two by Espinosa!) and the Braves didn't quite fail enough against a scuffling Gio to lose the game.  (though it seemed at times like they were trying).

So it comes down to another Nats series with first place on the line versus the... New York Mets?  What? Are they still winning ball games?  There is a ton of luck involved in the Mets being this good.  Their Pythagoras record is 26-28, but a 9-5 record in one-run games has helped keep the team on the winning side of the ledger more often than not.*  Of course 26-28 is still better than we thought they'd be, especially given that every other team in the NL East is doing ok to great.  So how are they doing even that?  It comes down to one of those "everything goes right" seasons, at least offensively.

Here are the Mets performing as expected this year :
Jason Bay
Lucas Duda
Andres Torres
Ronny Cedeno
Josh Thole

Here are the Mets performing better than expected this year :
Ruben Tejada
David Wright
Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Scott Hairston
Mike Baxter

Here are the Mets performing worst than expected this year :
Ike Davis
Given that Johan has seemingly returned to form, and RA Dickey still is pitching well all you need to add to this is a "John Niese breaks through" and "The pen hold sdown its role" and it's pretty much the season a 12 year old super fan would predict in his head as he plans how he will get out of school for the Mets' ticker-tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

The above is how you can have a decent team even though you only have two reliable starters (though Miguel Batista has done well filling in) and a terrible bullpen. Add in a little luck and a year where no one team has managed to put everything together just yet and you find yourself with a chance to be alone in first place in June.

Of course a much better Nats team stands in their way.  4-2 was the goal.  The rainout makes that impossible but it's still the baseline to work off of. 4-1 would be great, 3-2 passable, anything worse a major disappointment.

Other Notes:
  • I'm not going to talk about Ryan Zimmerman, because every time I do he immediately hits better and makes me look like a fool. (and because I'm not superstitious).  He's good. He'll start hitting.
  • Now Mike Morse on the other hand.  Look, if you are expecting Morse to be Morse of last year, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. If you are expecting Morse simply to be better than the junk that's been tossed out in the OF and make the Nats a better team, you should be fine. Just give it time.
  • The gap between those hitting (Flores, Espinosa, Harper) and those not (Desmond, LaRoche, Zimm) is huge. Also - I expect we'll hear from those big Desmond backers in what? 3 weeks, when he has another hot streak?
  • How many bad starts would it take to have the Nats clamoring for Detwiler? 3? 4? Let's hope we don't find out because 5th starter drama is not worth worrying about (and besides Lannan would be 4-3 with a 3.99 ERA and a 1.6 WHIP, driving people insane.)
  • On the positive side outside of Gio's allowable bad game, and Wang's poor second start, the pitching is great.  Starters great. Bullpen great. One good arm after another. If Davey hadn't handed the 4th best reliever the job fans care most about the complaints from the mound would be limited to - "the 5th starter hasn't been very good" and "the last guy out of the pen is pretty bad". That's it. It's embarrassing really - how good this pitching staff has been.
*Side note for those that firmly believe you win one-run games because you have a good bullpen. The Mets have the worst bullpen IN BASEBALL by almost a run.  They've been crazy bad. 


blovy8 said...

Earlier in the year, the Mets bullpen would have had a bad matchup in the Nats, not so sure now.

If Zimmerman is allowed to be streaky, Desmond should be too. It's only fair, since his OPS is the same as it was a month ago. What did I say, 15-18 homers, that still looks like it could happen since he's got 8.

The sad thing is you really can't expect Espy's numbers to be any better than what they are right now, it's just how often he strikes out that will kill his chance at being average.

I think the coolest thing is Lombardozzi has more walks than strikeouts, everyone was making a big deal out of Harper doing that - no love for Lombo though.

Harper said...

The problem with Desmond's streaks is that historically there are 2 bad ones for every good one. Zimm is the other way around. Yeah it does look right now that Espy won't make that next step up but there's still time. and his May was actually fine... well maybe not fine but exactly in line with 2011. April looks to be a outlier.

Everything Harper does will be a big deal and get praise and overshadow others. If you can't handle it, get out now, it's not going to get better.

DCNatty said...

Why didnt Zimm bunt the runners over? Play for the tie Davey. Jesus. Hes been struggling anyway, and with Kimball in the 9th, you HAVE to play for the tie. NO? whatever

1st in June with the Phillies in last. Life is good.

brendan said...

DCNatty, are you the one who called into 106.7? He didn't bunt for two reasons:

1) He's the the number three hitter. You expect him to get a hit and move the runners over.

2) And probably more importantly, he doesn't know how to bunt. Seriously. Ryan Zimmerman CAN'T bunt. He has one sacrifice (so I hear) and that was back in 2006!

K.C. said...

4-1 against the Braves this year. They DO own them.

"Now Mike Morse on the other hand. Look, if you are expecting Morse to be Morse of last year, you are almost certainly going to be disappointed." His career stats say you're wrong, and your reasoning behind why he can't reproduce those numbers is horrible, stupid sabermetric nonsense I assume.

Career averages in the MLB over 162 games: .294/22/77 ... and in AAA how did he do? He hit .292 with slightly less power. He is going to hit at least .285 and he is going to hit home runs. If you don't think he will you are an idiot, because ALL the evidence says he will.

Harper said...

brendan covers most of it. Zimm actually has bunted 20 times in his career but only 8 times after 2006 and none since 2009. A better question is why no hit and run - Zimm is a pretty decent contact guy (even in this struggling season he isn't terrible at it). O'Flaherty is a decent K guy but not one you change your strategy for.

Harper said...

K.C. - I stand by that. What I mean is not that Morse can't be a very good hitter but that he's not going to hit .300+ with 33 homer power (his projection based solely on last year if he played a full year. That be about 23 homers for the rest of the year.) That's all.

I said before the BEST guess for how Morse would do this year is .285 with 28-29 homers. Obviously the injury drops the homer total to about 20 (just based on missed time) but what you think is what most people think, even those who like their fancy stats.

It wasn't MY guess somewhat based on numbers and somewhat based on feelings. I had him pegged at .275 and around 25 homers... so somewhat close to 17 homers now.

I wouldn't be surprised if he did better than that. It's not like I'm going to be right with what I thought in Spring about everyone on the roster. Some will do better, some will do worse.

DCNatty said...

No i didnt call 106.7. I understand hes your #3 guy and he shouldnt bunt but hes slumping. I actually agree with harper. Hit and run is the play there. so it goes. It was just painful not to score there.

And Morse will be fine. His first 2 games back from being off for 2 months. Of course hell be off a bit. And like you said, whatver he does cant not be worse then what the had prior.

The real question...what do they do after All-Star break when Werth comes back. Say Lombo cools a bit and is around .275. Espi still struggles to be at .220. what happens then?

Anonymous said...

Harper, not quite understanding the reluctance on your namesake. Walking to striking out at 17/21 IS a big deal for a 19 year old rookie, as is OBPing at .380 and ISOPing at .254(!). Especially compared to Lombo, who is performing phenomenally in my opinion, but owns just 8 walks to 7 Ks and a .065 ISOP in about as many at bats. The numbers are much more impressive for a power hitter like Harper than a slap hitter like Lombo.

Harper said...

it wasn't meant to be a shot on Harper - more on Harper coverage.

Donald said...

As tough as the upcoming schedule is for the Nats, it's no easier for Miami and the Braves. It might be ever so slightly easier for the Mets. The only NL East team that gets off relatively easy this month is the Phillies. If they are going to make a move, this is the month for them to do it.

blovy8 said...

You don't make Zim bunt at this point, the worst thing you can do for a guy's confidence is tell him you don't think he can hit. The hit and run, however, does make sense, because it moves the runners and the guy has hit into DPs at a terrible rate so far this year, maybe he's hitting more ground balls with guys on, so if you make infielders move, a hole might open up for him, or at least you make them throw a runner out. It could be he doesn't hit well with runners moving, but I haven't heard that.

You can pro-rate Morse's numbers, but I think the guy has established he can hit at his established level, this is the equivalent of mid-March for him, no matter what the back of his spikes say.

Harper's k/bb numbers are going in the wrong direction though, obviously if he is now 21/17. Still, it is impressive, but if Lombardozzi keeps up that ratio, it's easy to believe he's a 300 hitter, and that's more than I think anyone imagined.

NatDC said...


I am curious about your views of two names that came up in the comments:

1) Flores- do you think it is at all likely that he can be just as productive, offensively and defensively, this year as Ramos would have been?

2) Lombo- would you consider his production in LF if he keeps it up as a positive, negative, or neutral value for the Nats?

Harper said...

Donald - good point. We like to think of our teams in a vacuum but really they only have to win more than 4 other guys.

blovy8 - it's important that Lombo be a .300 hitter because neither his patience or power is enough to say he should start if he's hitting say.. .275

NatDC -
1) Flores - Depends what you think of Ramos. He had more upside than Jesus but if he didn't take the next step than Flores, with a little bit of overplaying, could match what Ramos would likely do. Ramos could be special, Flores can't. But if Ramos wasn't special and merely good, well Flores can do that. So I'd say not likely, but possible.

2) Positive. With a strong manager and a good GM there should be no negative to players playing well.

blovy8 said...

Flores has been much better than Ramos defensively this year, which is interesting. While Ramos projects better offensively, it may be Flores has a higher ceiling than what he's shown. I think right now, he's a .280 15 homer guy with good defense, which is solid enough. The reason the Nats nabbed him from the Mets from A ball to begin with was his power, so I might be underselling that possibility, he hasn't been able to develop in a normal path.

Harper, I think Lombo will walk more and strike out more than he has, but if they parallel, that could still work because he gets drilled fairly often so that's another way to get on base like Espinosa - though it's worrisome that it's inviting injury.

DezoPenguin said...

Well-said, Harper, about Lombo. It's unlikely that he's anything other than a useful utility guy capable of playing 2B, 3B, and the corners who's gotten a chance to play due to injury and the ineffectiveness of guys like Nady. It doesn't mean he should necessarily be part of anybody's long-term plans, but as fans we should simply be happy that he's playing well in a fill-in role.

(The real issues start coming in if he's still hitting at this level: .300 average, .370 OBP, when Werth comes back, if Espi stays in the hole he's currently in or if Desmond goes into an extended slump. Then some questions will start getting asked in the middle infield. But that's certainly not something to worry about in June.)