Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Quickie

The Nats are doing great. That may be funny to say after a putrid offensive performance over the weekend, but it's true. Yes, the Nats are 3-6 in their last 9 games and I'm sure if you asked Nats fans which two teams they didn't want to lose series to during the AL East stretch, it would have been the Orioles and Yankees but  remember, we're looking at the macro here. Since starting this "rough stretch" of NL East and AL East games the Nats have gone 18-14 (I pegged them at 16-17 at this point, not terribly off but I would certainly like a chance to go back to 7-8 vs the AL East, rather than 6-9) you can't ask for much better. That's a playoff team

They aren't quite out of the woods yet. This is their "no break" part of the schedule and they go from Baltimore, to Colorado, to Atlanta.  It's not a question of wearing out the bullpen, the pitching is too good for that to be an issue, but it is still a trying and tiring trip. Anything 3-4 or better (not involving an Atlanta sweep of the Nats) should be seen as a positive end.

Why are the Nats doing so well? Pitching, followed by pitching, then more pitching. Their top 4 starters all have an ERA of under 3.00. The back of their bullpen all have ERAs under 2.00.  Here is the breakdown of runs given up during this stretch

>=8 - 0 times
7 - 1
6 - 2
5 - 4
4 - 5
3 - 7
2 - 10
1 - 2
0 - 1

They've given up 2 runs 10 times in 32 games.  That's fantastical! If the Nats scored 3 runs a game, every game, which would be the lowest scoring offense the game has seen since the expansion Padres over 40 years ago, they would have gone no worse than 13-19 during this stretch. Say they win 3 of those 3 run games in extra-innings or something? That's 16-16.   Basically the offense has to do nothing and the Nats are a .500 team.  Unfortunately the offense is seemingly taking that to heart but whatever, as long as the Nats pitching holds they are no worse than .500 and .500 from here on out makes the playoffs.

  • We'll go more into the sustainability of the awesome pitching later this week (preview : it'll get a little worse but probably not enough to matter) but there is one guy that you can always count on.  Strasburg.  His xFIP (fancy stat trying to rip out all luck from pitching results)  is 2.39 which is the best in a decade.  He's that good. 
  • Speaking of phenoms, the Mike Trout vs Bryce Harper debate looks lopsided offensively (Mike has a better AVG, OBP and SLG than Bryce) but Trout is propped up by a .394 BABIP.  He's fast but that should drop and the slight advantage Bryce has in patience and power will be more apparent.  (Of course Trout is a plus fielder who also is tied for the AL lead in SB but we'll worry about that argument when it's the proper time) 
  • In the past 28 days the team is hitting .223.  Past 14?  .210.  Past 7? .188.  
  • In the past 7 days here are the regulars who are hitting well : 
  • Here are the regulars who are getting on base well : Bryce Harper
  • Here are the regulars who are slugging well : 
  • The 2010 Giants is an interesting comparison to make but in all fairness, both the Nats pitching and the Giants hitting are demonstrably better than their counterparts.


Donald said...

I'm getting nervous about the hitting. Early in the season, even when they weren't hitting well, I had a sense that they still had a chance to come back in the late innings when they were down. Now, not so much. Who's there to pick it up? Counting on RZim seems like a long shot now. Mike Morse? He's probably our only hope for an offensive surge. LaRoche, Desmond, Espi, Flores are who they are.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for helping us Nats fans keep a level head about things Harper.

Jeff Hayes said...

This is the stat that makes me most optimistic: In the past 28 days the team is hitting .223. Past 14? .210. Past 7? .188.

There is no way that will hold. Someone mentioned over the weekend that Harper just hasn't been the same since he went 0-for against Pettite. I don't generally put much stock in that type of thinking, but baseball is such a game of confidence. Maybe there is something to it.

Hopefully a four game series in the batter-friendly environs of Coors Field will help to get at least some of the bats hot again. And by "hot", I mean effective enough to take advantage of our historically good pitching staff.

Nattydread said...

Isn't there an AL and NL Rookie of the Year? So doesn't Harper have the edge for the NL and Trout for the AL? So can't they both be ROY?

I may be missing something, but to me it isn't THAT important for Harper to be better than Trout this year.

Wanna make a bet on who's gonna have a better career, injuries notwithstanding? I'll take Harper in a second.

blovy8 said...

I know the humidor has helped, but if there was ever a place to cure hitting problems, the schedule-maker has been kind to the Nats for once.

michael k said...

"The 2010 Giants is an interesting comparison to make but in all fairness, both the Nats pitching and the Giants hitting are demonstrably better than their counterparts."

Crazy. And correct. Which is also crazy.

Hayes: I agree that line of thinking is normally BS, but we're talking about a hot-headed 19 year old here.

DezoPenguin said...

Werth coming back from the DL should help the OF situation a little (actually, a Morse/Werth/Harper OF isn't bad at all offensively unless Morse doesn't get back to some semblance of himself. Defense...well, we can talk about that later). Desmond and Espinosa could stand to be improved, but very few teams actually get better hitting from 2B and SS (and unless the Yankees are going to come down with a fit of insanity and give us Cano, or the Rangers ditto with Kinsler, I don't really see a lot of players out there that would be a major upgrade over either one anyway). Likewise, we could use an offensive upgrade at 3B, but Zim's not going to sit unless he's injured.

Catcher seems to be the one place where a one-year rental type of player might be worth looking at. I'm not sure who, exactly would be out there, but we're weak there because of injury so upgrading for a stretch run would be plausible, and we wouldn't be expected to give up much (as opposed to what we'd have to pay for, say, a SS who's demonstrably better than Desmond).

Mostly, though, it would be nice to just get out of this stretch where everybody's slumping at once. Here's hoping the bats wake up a bit in Colorado and the pitching stays good.

(Speaking of which, given Det's nice performance yesterday, I'd say the Wang Experiment is over for the year.)

Kenny B. said...

I was in Baltimore for the Sat. night game, and I was impressed at the Nats fan turnout. Based on what Boz is writing, it seems like turnout continues to grow at home too. Here's hoping the fan response continues to be large so we can show the Lerners how you make money in this game.

nicoxen said...

Contrary to popular opinion in the media, it is hitting (not pitching) that wins championships. I have created a spreadsheet which ranks teams by wins over the last 5 seasons. It shows where each of these top 10 teams ranked in terms of ERA and Runs Scored Per Game. The number of teams in top in wins who also ranked in the top 10 in runs per game surpasses the number of teams in the top 10 in ERA. The spreadsheet can be found here:

With the exception of the 2010 Giants, each of the World series winners ranked in the top in runs scored. Ultimately, even superb pitching cannot overcome lack of run support.

WiredHK said...

Nicoxen - Good sheet, although I would challenge your assertion a bit. What your stats actually seem to tell me, more than anything, is that you must be very good at one or the other, but not necessarily both, to be top 10 in wins in a given year. Only the '07 Mets and '09 Marlins were not top 10 in at least one of the two categories (and both of those teams were still solid in both) out of 50 teams shown.

There is no one way to win a title (offense or defense), but you have to be really good in one or the other to be in the hunt. That much seems clear.

The question is, will their hitting be so poor that it washes away all the good their obviously superior pitching is doing? At this current offensive pace, I'm scared to say I don't think the pitching will be enough, even as historically good as it is....but if that offense can find some way to just climb into the low 20s or upper teens for rankings? Look out.

Harper said...

Donnie Blogball - Werth. That's what people are hanging their hopes on. Werth and Morse getting warmed up. It's not quite grasping at straws but that far away from it.

Anon - Must be nice that "playoffs" is level headed. Welcome to the new future.

JH - That's true. .188 is not sustainable. Of course neither is a .216 average against...

NattyD - Yes, they both can be and probably will be, but this is the comparison that's being made. In fact, I've heard Mike Trout be called the "AL Bryce Harper" so there's that.

Bet? Oooh that's a good one I guess I'd go with Bryce to, with the injuries caveat. (take that out I'd go with Trout - Bryce plays too hard not to injure himself)

blovy - Coors once again tops in league. If the Nats can't score 10+ runs this series, I'd be shocked.

mk - I know right? But it's only ben half a season. I think hitting picks up in the summer right?

Dezo - and that's the problem (of sorts) there's no good place to improve because there is no gaping hole - at the same time there's no batter (other than Bryce) that can't be replaced. If they want to improve the offense they have to gamble on not playing someone that's completely ok.

nicoxen / wiredHK - Team ERA may not be indiciative of how well your staff might do in the playoffs. (as opposed to offensive r/g which you'll have the same lineup in most of the playoff situations) If your 1-3 starters and a handful of pen guys are good you can be just as good as the next team. That could be why R/G tracks better with uiltimate playoff success.

As long as the pitching is HISTORICALLY great (as it has been) I think the hitting can be this bad. If it improves they are a juggernaut but the most likely scenario is the hitting gets slightly better while the pitching downgrades to a mere "among the best in the past decade" as opposed to "among the best in the past century"

Ben said...

Brings up an interesting question, for the playoffs would you take:

The AL all-star lineup and some mediocre playoffish team's top 3 like the Reds (Cueto, Latos, Arroyo)?

Or the Nats lineup plus Verlander, a healthy Halladay and Strasburg (in bizarro world where IP doesn't matter)?

I would take the dominant pitching and I'd bet most GMs would too. I think I would take the pitching even against the all-time zombie team with Ruth, Mantle and Co.

Anonymous said...

How concerned should we be about Zim's shoulder? Seems like he'll need cortisone to hit. Like, forever.

WiredHK said...

Harper - I'm sure you're right, but in this case, we were looking at overall season success, as opposed to playoff specific success. I agree, in the playoffs, R/G numbers likely matter a tick more since most every team shortens their pitching staff to only the solid/top performers - a luxury not afforded in the 162 game grind.

Harper said...

Ben - dominant pitching, though maybe not against the zombies.

Anon - very. I'm fine just shooting someone up and playing through it... for a few weeks. For 100 games? You're asking to ruin the shoulder of a guy you just signed for the rest of his useful career.

Wired - I was specifically referring to nix's point about WS winners