Nationals Baseball: The Nightmare Scenario : Missing the Playoffs

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Nightmare Scenario : Missing the Playoffs

I assume you read the post from yesterday so we can get moving on this one with little explanation. What's the path of least resistance to the Nats doing the unthinkable and missing the playoffs entirely? 96 wins is the starting point remember and you have to get to the 85-87 range in wins to "feel good" about missing the playoffs completely with 2 wild cards. (though the Angels did miss it with 89 wins that's was kind of fluky given historical precedent)

OK first we do have to adjust the win total upwards. There's just no way to avoid it.  If Jayson Werth is healthy he will provide more to this team. But let's say he bounces back to a very mediocre year, something between last years showing and the injury plagued 2010. You're looking at maybe an extra 1.5 wins. So we're at 97.5 wins

Then there's Bryce Harper, even if you say he doesn't improve at all if we're lining up Span versus 2011 him and Bryce vs 2011 Morse + Bernie + other guys. He's still going to be better than that. Let's say a win better. 98.5 wins.

Ok now we can start going back down and the easiest way is through career year guys having more normal years.  Adam LaRoche -2 wins. 96.5 wins. Gio Gonzalez -0.5 win. 96 wins. Ian Desmond... let's not say all the way back down to the previous year but closer than not, -1.5 wins. 94.5 wins. Denard Span, this kid bounces around, -2 wins. 92.5 wins.

We're still not there yet, are we? I guess the bullpen could be a little worse, these guys do fluctuate a bit just because they don't pitch that often. -0.5 win. 92 wins? We're getting very close to necessitating injury.  I guess I'll pull out one more thing and say that catcher ends up being a complete failure with Suzuki hitting the wall and Ramos unable to recover properly.  That's only another -0.5 wins though because it wasn't good last year. 91.5 wins.

Gotta stretch even more.  Let's also say that Haren's bad performance was more him than injury and he somehow repeats it even though he's going to the NL.  -1 win.  90.5 wins.

That's it.  That's as low as I can bring the Nats without resorting to injury or a surprise crash of a season. That would likely cost them the division, but it would take some bad luck as well to miss the playoffs.  The Cards got in with 88 this year and could have done it with 87.

Ok so let's throw in an injury.  It doesn't have to be specific but let's say one of the big three starters go down and they are unable to pull a Detwiler out of their hat again. The replacement is terrible. -3 wins. 87.5 wins.  There you go. That's a pretty decent shot at missing the playoffs with just the tiniest of bad luck.

So all they need to miss the playoffs is for everyone who had a career year to revert back to a more normal year, have three little things go bad, and suffer a serious pitcher injury all while no one improves in any significant way over last year. This should tell you one thing. The Nats aren't missing the playoffs next year without serious injury problems or surprise flameouts. Basically it would all have to go bad in "expected" ways otherwise for them to fail.

That's why I call this season a 6-month long injury watch. Lose two pitchers early and the Nats would be staring at a major problem.  Throw in a major injury to a key player (Bryce, Zimm, Werth) and the Nats are probably floating around 90 wins as we see some stuff go up and some stuff go down for everyone else on the team. From there missing the playoffs isn't necessarily likely, but it could be a few bouncing balls away.


Anonymous said...

quick question not about the subject above-sorry. In PTBNL trades are the players named upfront or are there variables that would change the player, ie performance measurements for the players traded? So if Morse hits 35 bombs the player from the A's is a better prospect?

blovy8 said...

With PTBNL, I don't think it's dependent on how well the players involved in the trade do, it seems like usually there's a couple of guys designated as the group to pick from, and there are reasons they don't go on the team they're traded to immediately. Maybe the guy they want has a minor injury that they want to see how he recovers from it, or the teams have agreed to a certain level of player, but don't know what position their minor league rosters are going to be thin in yet. I suspect given the A's/Nats good relationship, it probably has to do with balance. Whichever team the guy's on doesn't matter so much for most of the year since they're likely pretty far away from contributing.

blovy8 said...

I think the biggest benefit may be the schedule, because it'll be harder for a wildcard to come from the Central without wins against the Astros, but that'll be true for the Braves and Phillies too. If Halladay is his old self, things will be tougher despite the aging the Phillies are doing because that .500 record they had is misleading. I don't think either club is done adding either.

But I can find some losses. Pythagoras is indifferent to the team next year - 2. Great bench last year plays more to their talent level - in particular Bernadina could revert to his pre-2012 self and without any regular gigs, the pinch hitting suffers -1.

I can't argue with the starters because even though I'd regress Gio more from his career year, and think his wildness could return a bit so he'd be more prone to HR's, and that Detwiler might never find a decent breaking ball again, and be really predictable as a 90 percent FB guy, it just takes away the benefit of more Strasburg.

I think for the BP, it' just takes a few more ill-timed walks and the righties having less favorable outcomes against LH at the wrong times. Mattheus grounders can find holes, and batter could lay off Clippard's high not quite so hard one. Storen might not adjust to the flexible usage, and Soriano could pitch like 2011. He was pretty lucky on LOB%. Bad Henry is given several chances -1 more on his own. It only takes a few inches toward the middle of the plate.

Froggy said...

Ok, so if I meet you halfway between the Dream Scenario of 110 wins and Nightmare Scenario of 87.5 wins, that would be 98-99 wins. Right?

I'll take that.

BlueLoneWolf said...

Just goes to show you how much can go wrong and have backslides happen so much easier than winning. Winning's hard, losing's easy. This team's good enough to get into the playoffs on paper, but who knows what happens if something suddenly blows up. That's why 'on paper' assessments might as well be written on toilet paper. We'll see what happens.

Harper said...

Anon - something like blovy8 said. I think roster make-up is the driving force - A's are willing to give up several guys, Nats want to wait to see what they need.

blovy8 - so you have the worst case at 92?

Froggy - that's the middle ground but it's a middle ground attempting to pull all injury out. I'd expect a few so 95-96 wins might be a more accurate guess.

BLW - all about injury really. Someguys will surprise in a good way, some will in a bad one but injuries are just production lost. Especially pitching ones since you are replacing a #1/#2 with not the next best thing, but the 5th or 6th best thing. With a team the Nats talent level one injury won't sink them, but 2? 3? At some point you can't come back from it. (Which is why their youth is impt)

blovy8 said...

Eh, I was subtracting from the pre-luck number, and forgot you were already starting from that point. My guess would be they're in a position where they'd make a trade in the case of a catastrophic 2012 Toronto rotation situation. I don't know that Rizzo would accept Perry/Maya/Garcia for 5 crappy/inconsistent innings at the back end of the rotation for very long, but it could knock a few wins off in a hurry.

Maybe the nightmare has to have the expectation of more starts from AAA prior to any adjustment or equilibrium? The Nats needed only 12 starts from outside the five main guys, but for all the talk about health, the Nats did use eight starters. It was a very low ratio overall, but the 12 they had were essentially replacement level. Lannan and Gorzelanny made up for Wang. So the more they have to add, the more they lose in comparison to the excellent five starters.

I do think you can't expect 2 WAR from Bernadina in 2013. He was playing at about the same rate as vintage Werth so easily made up for those missed games, and in fact was more valuable than 2011-2012 Werth was for the Nats. 2012 Morse+Lombo+Moore has to equal more than Span to lose value this year, which just about cancels things out I guess.

By WAR, if the OF was Morse (.5), Harper (5), Werth (1), Bernadina (2), Moore (.5), Lombo (.5), Nady (-1) with the rest at replacement value last year - they only need to get 9 WAR to improve. But a healthy 2013 OF should be Harper (5), Werth (2.5), Span (2) by your estimates so the other guys only need to retain replacement level. I think maybe Werth's wrist could lessen his value some until it strengthens, and missed games will still happen. It's splitting hairs to lose much from Bernadina, but if he's the fourth guy, and merely plays like an average guy rather than an all-star, that loses them a bench win.

JonQuest said...

It seems to me that this helps explain Christian Garcia's situation. He might be a beast in the bullpen, but he's probably more valuable as a hedge against injury to a starter. A loss of starter is the most probable path to missing the playoffs. The Nats can stash him in the minors as he learns how to start, but essentially he's filling the Lannan role from last year.

BlueLoneWolf said...

The only positions that I really can see the Nats taking well would be to 2B, SS, and C. We proved last year that Danny and Lombo can man the middle if Desi goes down, and late in the year, Suzuki went from Spam to Hawaiian Punch with some rather clutch hitting (and he's really good with the pitchers. Especially Gio. I remember the game where he came out onto the mount and completely changed up communication and fixed Gio and it was probably one of the best displays of catching psychology I've ever seen in my young baseball fandom, props to HP for getting that done). But if Zimm goes down, or say Detwiler blows an arm, we're going to have trouble in a hurry. Injuries. What can you do?

Harper said...

JonQ - he's certainly worth more as a starter - but I just don't see it working out. MAYYYYYBE this year. (and maybe that's all they care about)

BLW - I think the Nats would be OK with injuries anywhere but 3rd. Not great but they don't necessarily have "no answer" in the OF or 1B. Bernie, Moore, Lombo... I don't like them like some do but they aren't BAD by any stretch. Not like the catchers the Nats ran through for a while. Pitcher though, starting pitcher is always the worst.

Anonymous said...

I sadly thought of this column as the Nats were eliminated tonight. I'd be interested in another column looking back at this one to see where it all went wrong.