Nationals Baseball: April 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Monday Super Quickie

The Nats did what they needed to vs the Reds. It didn't quite make up for the lousy start to the homestand so yes, it was another disappointing stand overall, but it got things going in the right direction for the first time really since the White Sox sweep. (taking 2 from the Marlins has to be a given)

Now it's time for the big show. Nats v Braves.  4 games.  Only the nightmare scenario of a Braves sweep is worth worrying about. 6.5 games is a lot to make up, even with 130+ games left. But 4.5 or less or a lead? Eh. So the sooner the Nats win 1 the sooner we can move on to just appreciating the fun of a big series in April/May.

Strasburg vs Teheran - Strasburg has been good but unlucky. Teheran is still getting his feet wet but finally pitched well last time.  I say Strasburg gives up 3 (1 unearned) over 7.  Nats score only three off Teheran but win late just so Strasburg can be kept from another win.

Gio vs Hudson.  Which Gio will show up? I've said before I like the Braves vs Gio, and since Hudson finally showed he could pitch a game vs the Nats and not have that game killing inning I'll say the Braves, though Gio could easily prove me wrong here.

ZNN vs Maholm.  Maholm was pitching over his head for a while.  Not anymore.  Is anyone pitching better than ZNN? Nope.  Nats win.

Haren vs Medlen.   Haren pitched better vs the Reds than he has all year, but it wasn't like it was great or anything. Medlen pitched poorly but I always bet against the single game (see Gio).  Gotta prove you are good... or stink.

So 2-2 with a lean toward 3-1 for the Nats if someone is to take 3.

Ok back to work!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mission Accomplished!

Now we can get back to normal right?  Assuming they don't happen to lose the next two or anything crazy like that.

I find it helpful to look at the season in terms of home and away sets. You do sweep and you will get swept so if you rely on individual series you are going to constantly be elated or crushed. Home stands or road trips tend to let things even out without being too long a time period to recap. They also are sensible endpoints. As far as this season has gone it has been one disappointing set after another. The Marlins / Reds start was as expected, but then things started to fall apart. A 3-3 homestand when 4-2 was expected, followed by a  2-4 road trip when at least a 4-2 was wanted. Now they are 1-3 four games into a homestand where an unassuming 4-3 would have been the bar set.

But that means they can make it up. Sweep the next 3 against the Reds and they have righted the ship so to speak.  No, they haven't caught up to where they should be but they played a homestand like a division winner would, taking more games than they lost to a couple of contenders. It's a tall order true, and we should probably have our sights set on 3-4, but the ability to hit the initial goal is still out there.

Even better is that the Nats follow up this stand with 4 games at the Braves.  In theory it should be a split at best, but if the Nats can take 3 games well then you'd be standing on May 2nd with a 16-13 record and looking up at the Braves by only 2 games. That's not bad at all and would make all this angst seem like a distant memory.

The potential is there. Not only for a turnaround but for a quick one.  They are only at .500, they play the next 7 games against their expected rivals. Go 5-2 (or better) in those 7 and the season is pretty much reset. This is why everyone says to wait. Why I personally say Memorial Day is the time to evaluate. Things are still changing radically in the course of a week.

About last night :
  • Davey changed up the lineup ending the Rendon experiment by moving Werth to clean-up where Zimm was and putting Lombo in at 2nd. The end result? Really nothing. Lombo was the only regular not to get on base at all and Werth's single was with the bags empty. The lineup performed in spite of the changes, not because of them.
  • This is why you want Danny over Lombo.  Last year Lombo had 22 XBH.  Danny has 8 already. Add to that the fielding and either Danny has to hit under .200 or Lombo has to hit over .300 to make a change worthwhile (granted that IS what they were doing - but I doubt either will keep that up for a season)
  • Another thing to think of.  Danny has been terrible right?  He's still only 11th worst among 2nd basemen in OPS. Another good night and he'd likely be 9th. 
  • On the other hand it is as bad as you think with LaRoche. He's dead last among 1B which is even scarier when you think that we said he looked good last year because the position as a whole was slipping.
  • Lost in all this? Bryce Harper is 3rd in average, 4th in OBP, 2nd in SLG, and 2nd in homeruns.  MVP? 
  • The Reds might be the tonic for the Nats.  They themselves are in a hitting slump scoring 1, 3, 10!, 5 (in 13 innings), 2, 1, and 1 runs in their last 7 games. The Nats miss Latos and Cueto is still out, so after Bailey tonight they get the thoroughly average Leake and the rookie Cingrani. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I'm sorry he's not a god

Stephen Strasburg is 26th in the NL in ERA. He's had one bad start. In his last three games he's throw 333 pitches toward a 2.37 ERA. The Nats have scored 9 runs for him in 5 games, while they have bungled their way to allowing 4 unearned runs. The three earned runs he gave up last night were a good part his fault, but also some bad luck and some brain lock by his fielders.

Stephen Strasburg hasn't pitched like an ace. I'm not saying that. But he's pitched very well.  Using fancy stats you could argue he's been the most effective pitcher on the team (I won't do that but I will say that he's pitched as well as ZNN - just the team is finally scoring for ZNN)  If you are going to rank the player-level reasons the Nats have started below .500 Strasburg's "issues" would be somewhere between #15-#20 probably.

And yet you get nonsense columns like this, basically blaming Stras for giving up runs in the first because the precious psyches of the Nats batters can't possibly handle the idea of scoring runs in a slump if they have to do it from behind.
Strasburg fell behind four of the first five Cards hitters, had to throw strikes on the hitter’s terms and saw the game lost when it had barely begun. The worst thing a team in a hitting slump can endure is an early deficit before it even gets to bat. 
The Fantastic Four could travel to the microverse and still couldn't build a violin small enough to play the sad song the Nats hitters deserve. 
“You saw it. Weak contact, what can you do,” Strasburg said. Most pitching coaches of the last 100 years would say, “Throw strike one.” Then hitters will not get a free chance to look for a specific pitch in a particular zone and drop an ugly duck snort over the infield.
THIS is the mindset of the Nats fan right now. It's getting ugly.  It's getting to the point where you start to turn on someone because it has to be someone's fault.  You can't just keep them off-balance, Strasburg! You have to get them all out all the time! Don't you see that's the only way!!!

You want to blame Strasburg, fine. He's not doing what he needs to. The blame right now is basically "Not Bryce, not Ross, not ZNN".  But if he's your first target for blame, if the first place you go is your #1 pitcher because he's only pitching like a #2 pitcher, you really need to try again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What can I tell you?

Plenty of teams have started .500 or so in their first 20 games and made the playoffs, won the division, or even won the series. I don't even have to look it up that's how confident I am about the above.

At the same time the Nats need to now play 5 games better than the Braves over the next 142 games to take the NL East. That's a lot of games but that's a lot of ground against a team that you expected to be roughly 5 games better than. The Nats can't afford to go into May 7-8 games back and reasonably expect to catch the Braves.  It would still be possible, most certainly, but you'd have to stop expecting it.

Any encouraging signs from the fancy stats?

Offensively BABIP is always the one you look at first and the Nats are among the lowest in the league at .275.  It's not crazy low but it suggests improvement to come as the luck improves.  LaRoche and Chad Tracy should see the most improvement. (discouraging I can't avoid talking about what's in front of my eyes counter argument - the Nats line drive rate, which is the type of hit that varies most consistently with BABIP, is at 18%, that's low.  So part of this isn't luck but guys just not hitting the ball well)

HR/FB overall is pretty average, though Danny Espinosa (7.1%) and the bench (which has 0 homers) should see some overall improvement.  Desmond and Werth are also seeing some bad luck here during this recent slump. (No real counter - Ramos should hit less but he's barely played. I won't rule anything out for Bryce, even a 30% HR/FB ratio)

The offense has been very hit or miss. That doesn't sound encouraging but in general your offensive output should have a pretty normal distribution (as normal as you can get with only 162 data points) It will win games for the Nats but then help lose them.  Since losing that first game versus the Braves 4-6 look at the Nats run scoring distribution : 0 0 0 1 1 2 2 6 7 10.  Averages out a little below average but those are 3 games you expect to win and 7 you expect to lose. This should even out over the next few weeks and give the Nats some more 3-5 runs scored games.

Pitching wise the intermediate pen is having some bad luck with batted balls.  Duke, Storen, Stammen and Mattheus all have BABIPs over .300 recently and they seem out of line with what they should be.  There are alos a couple of too high HR/FBs here. (counter - you could say that Soriano and especially Clippard are getting lucky recently.)

At least part of Gio's problem also comes from some bad BABIP and HR/FB luck. He's not as bad as he's seemed the last few starts (counter - that walk rate though is out of control. It needs to come back down for him to be elite) 

Verdict? Both the hitting and pitching should get better, but not too much. Now that's over the season, so in comparison to the past 10-14 days the hitting should get much better. It's going to be enough to start winning more than they are losing.  Is it going to be enough to catch the Braves though? The potentially long chase begins in less than a week.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Sounds of Silence

"Wasted a decent Dan Haren start"  Those are words I wasn't expecting to type.  But there you go, the Nats were shut down again, as they have been much of the past 10 games. They are 3-7 in that time frame and that matches the worst 10 game stretch they had all last year. (Don't worry 2-8 isn't around the corner they'd need to lose 4 more in a row to get there, because this stretch started with 3 straight losses)

In the past 7 days this is how the Nats are hitting.

Adam LaRoche .235 / .350 / .412
This will look good in comparison to what you see below.   This is also a more patient last year's Danny Espinosa.

Kurt Suzuki .133 / .222 / .467
Showing that he needs his platoon buddy.  He's 0 for his last 12. 

Ian Desmond .211 /.250 / .421
Again in comparison to below this is Brycian but it shows how Ian needs to hit for average to really be useful.  He has 2 walks in 76 PAs this year.  That's a less than 20 walk season pace.

Steve Lomardozzi .273 / .273 / .273
This is Lombo. He can hit singles.  He has 3 XBH this year, which is actually a show of power.  Including those 3 he has 4 XBH in his last 83 PAs going back to mid August last year.

Jayson Werth .167 / .286 / .222
His wrist is fine! Yet only 1 XBH (a double) since April 9th.

Danny Espinosa .182 /.182 /.273
After easily leading the team in K's last year with 189, Danny only has 8 this year (in contrast with say Desmond's 18 or Werth's 17).  But he also has only 2 walks this year. He's actually "hot" recently hitting .214 with a double and a homer in the last 5 games.

Chad Tracy .125 / .300 / .125 
Chad has 1 hit as a PH so far this year.  Of course he has 2 hits as a starter so it's not like that's an option either.

Denard Span .133 / .235 / .133
Remember when he was getting on base nearly half the time?  In the last 8 games he's hitting .219 with 2 walks for a .265 OBP.  He's not this bad but he wasn't that good either. Also he's in the same XBH funk Werth is in.  0 XBH since April 9th.

Roger Bernadina . 000 / .000 / .000
His last hit was on October 2nd, 2012.  He has 3 hits since Labor Day 2012.

This won't last.  All these guys are not this bad.  This is just the (bad) luck of the draw with all these cold streaks happening at the same time and the breaks in the games not going the Nats way.  Think of it as karmic retribution for last year when they started out cold with the bats but went 6-2 in one-run games and 2-0 in 2 run games.  How do you get to 14-4 when you can't hit?  You win games 2-1, 3-2, 2-1, 1-0, 3-2, 2-0, 3-2, and 3-1 that's how.

Are there deeper problems? Was Kurt Suzuki's play not sustainable? Were Werth's HRs a fluke and the power is still not there?  Did pitchers finally realize there's no reason to throw strikes to Desmond? Is Danny ever going to turn that corner? Is Span's lack of pop going to reach new lows in a tougher offensive league? Is the bench really mediocre as we thought going into last year? We'll just have to see. Just keep telling yourself that. You can't make decisions off 3 weeks of play. Or better said, you can't make smart decisions off 3 weeks of play. The Nats have to ride this out and see where they stand in a few more weeks before potentially dealing with any issues. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Quickie - Still don't worry.

I'll admit I'm a bit worried about the Nats.  Not that they won't make the playoffs or anything like that, but there's a little too much "let's try to recreate last year's magic" going on.  Let's sign a veteran arm to a one-year deal.  Let's call up our vaunted rookie at the first opportunity.  Let's assume guys like Moore, Tracy, Lombo and Bernie will again excel as subs and PHs.

The Nats didn't exactly rest on their laurels. They brought in Span and Soriano. But Span is mostly a defensive improvement and "bring in a big-name closer" is about as classic a bad move a team can make (not that it won't help, just that it won't help a lot).  The Nats chose to ignore both big names and depth this year, thinking they'd have enough on hand to be just fine.  And they do, but they left themselves open to a few bad breaks ruining a season, when they didn't necessarily have to.

Of course I do mean a few. The season is 1/9th complete and the Nats have had very little go right. Bryce Harper, of course. ZNN and Detwiler.  The catcher hitting. Ummm... Desmond's offense? Where as the things going wrong are far more numerous.  The defense. Zimm's injury. Espy's still not hitting. A terrible bench. Strasburg is a bit off. Gio is really off. Haren is Deep Woods, as in completely scary, off. The bullpen has been at best hit or miss, with Storen and Mattheus being knocked around and no one looking dominant.

And yet the team is still at 10-8.  Win tonight and they are on a 94 win pace or basically what we assumed they'd be, give or take a couple of games. There are no worries. Not yet.

Ok that isn't actually true. The thing to worry about is catching the Braves but hey, they got swept over the weekend so the Nats actually gained a game. So that's a mild worry. Call me back after the 4 game set at month's end.

Other notes

The Rendon move to me smacks of desperation. Anthony Rendon is no Bryce Harper. True, Rendon was hitting better in the minors than Bryce was when he was called up but here's the things. Rendon was a 23 yr old in AA. Bryce was a 19 year old in AAA. Anthony Rendon is a very nice hitting prospect. Bryce Harper is BRYCE HARPER. Last year when Bryce was brought up the Nats didn't necessarily need to win. They didn't know last season was going to turn out like it did. Expectations were still low. Now?  Now they need to win and I'm not sure Rendon is ready to help them. Will he be better than Lombardozzi or Wil Rhymes or Carlos Rivera? Almost certainly. Will he be better in 2013? Don't know.

In the past week Span, Werth, Zimm, and Espy combined for 2 XBH.  Only Bryce, LaRoche, and Lombo are hitting over .211.  .211!

I'm more worried about Gio than Strasburg.  I watch Stras and I see a guy who is right there. A mistake or two from getting the results he wants even without being in the groove. With Gio I see a guy who doesn't have command at all and can come unraveled at the drop of a hat.  Still "Wait Until Memorial Day" still applies.

Except for Haren.  There's being off like Gio and Stras and then there's being "please don't let me pitch again" bad, which is where Dan Haren is now.  He is getting hit hard and he's getting almost nothing on the ground. You know who gets more ground balls than Dan Haren? 172 of 174 other pitchers that have thrown at least 10IP.  One more god awful start and you have to think about making something up so he can go on the DL and work things out.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Detwiler ERA challenge!

Simple game - Guess Detwiler's ERA at season's end.  Winner gets a prize yet to be determined. Missouri State Hat? This fantastic Ross Geller brooch? (Note: It will not be that)

I'll say 3.65. I know I said 3.75 yesterday but I have to factor in the luck he's already have. You can't assume bad luck will even it out. You have to assume even luck and what has gone on so far to be a nice little plus for Detwiler.

These are closest wins rules, not Price is Right rules.  Ross must pitch more innings than last year (164.1) for it to count.

Also if Ross breaks 3.20 in ERA, his "average" over the past two years, I will eat another HAT.  We'll make it Havarti, Apple and Tuna sandwich.  That sounds ok.

Added Rule : No guessing .01 away from someone else  Don't be a jerk about it. .05 or .00 guesses are preferable but since there are a couple ones not like that already out there I'm not going to stop you if you want to guess 1.43.

(also - you don't have to take a guess that hasn't been made) 


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Early season illusion

After 3 starts, Ross Detwiler has tossed roughly 20 innings and might just lead the majors in ERA.  Surely he's gotten it together and is finally going to live up to his first round draft pick status.


It's true.  After 3 games Ross had thrown 16 innings for an ERA of 0.56.  His WHIP was better (0.9375 to 1.000 this year).  His K rate was better (9.0 to 5.0).   He was getting more ground balls.  He was throwing the same amount of strikes.

What happened? His actual level of talent showed through. Ross Detwiler is a good pitcher. Ross Detwiler is a great #5.  But Ross Detwiler is not a great pitcher.

Let's go to the videotape(of fancy stats).

The Ranges - stats that can vary by pitcher but fall within a typical range. 
BABIP (ranges between .250 - .325) 
Ross Career :  .280  Last year .263. This year : .250

He's at the very bottom of the usual range and way under his usual numbers.  Now I'll grant you that he will be on the low end of the spectrum. GB pitcher, great infield D. But I think last year's number was about as low as he can go... if even that. The infield D is the same guys behind him and he can only coax so many more GBs.  .250 is not going to be sustained all year. 

HR/FB (6%-13%)
Ross Career : 8.4%  Last year 7.3%.  This year 5.7%

He's past the low end for this right now, well past his career average, and even a good deal past last year's number.  Now before you say "HE'S SHOWING IMPROVEMENT IDIOT!!!" and make a fool of yourself, please know that these things do vary.  He had a 7.0% in 2010.  He was not particularly good in 2010.  This is far more luck that skill and he's getting lucky. Still the GB emphasis will probably keep him low.  Just not this low.

LOB% (66%-80%)
Ross Career: 71.6%.  Last year 70.8%.  This year 92.2%

OMG.  The other things are a little out of whack but wouldn't explain a sub 1.00 ERA. This is it right here. Basically Ross is stranding runners at a crazy rate.  Again I'll note this is not something you can really improve. Not like that. Gio was awesome last year, right? Stranded 74% You WILL be in that range. Ross is getting super lucky in the timing of the hits he's given up.  Is he bearing down and concentrating hard? Perhaps. DOESN'T MATTER. You know who else is bearing down and concentrating hard with runners on base? EVERYONE. This won't stay this high. It won't stay 10% from here. That's a bet I'd take 10 times out of 10

The personal stats - is he getting better?
Career : 47.2%  Last Year : 50.8%  This Year : 53.8%

Yes, improved. And he might be able to keep this up which would improve his pitching a bit. A small bit, but every bit matters

K/9, BB/9
Career 5.50 / 3.08  Last Year : 5.75 / 2.85  This year : 4.95 / 1.35

Well you see what I see. A big improvement in BB/9.  Granted that's only one or so man on base per outing but that matters.  It's a few less pitches, one less run to potentially knock in. Is it real? Maybe. Though I'll warn you. Last year, 3 games in Ross was striking out people like a rock star.  Didn't last. I wouldn't be surprised to see some control improvement (especially if he sacrifices some K potential), but not to the level we've seen so far.

I don't mean to sound grim because Ross is pitching well.  The GB rate is nice, he's not walking any and he's striking out enough. He's doing what you want from the #5 spot and then some.  He's pitching like a #3, maybe better.  But he's getting the results of an elite #1.  That's not going to last and you're better off not fooling yourself thinking it will.

(Note : Ross is on my fantasy team.  I have no reason not to want him to become the best pitcher ever. But I can't deny what's in front of my face)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Damn You Lord for the Marlins

You know Ian Desmond also has four errors too, right? Why do we care more about Zimm's? Take your pick:
  • They are more maddening. It's just throws.
  • They've come in a bunch.
  • They've come in losses.
  • Ian is hitting. Zimm is not. 

I'd have to check for if Ian's fits the 2nd or 3rd (where are your fielding game logs Baseball Reference?!) but there are reasons, legit and less legit. I'd say as much as it seems painful, give it a few more weeks. Could be a hiccup that we notice more now, or some little hill he can get over quickly. It'll never be perfect but we're not looking for that. We just don't want an error every other game here.

Busy today, but I'll leave you with this : Haren stinks, don't he? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thank God for the Marlins

They are a fantastic palate cleanser.  If the Nats manage to win tonight will the Brave losses still sting? OK, they will, but as bad?

I'm assuming the Nats can score a few runs on Sanabia (sure he shut out the Mets last time out - but (1) he put on 10 guys in 6 innings and struck out one, & (2) the Mets aren't the Nats) Tonight it's all about Haren. He was OH MY GOD bad in game one, and merely run of the mill bad in game 2.  He's given up 19 hits in 9 innings, 9 of those for extra bases.  His only saving grace has been that he's walked none.  The Marlins are terrible at scoring. They've managed 1.67 runs per game so far. If Haren can't do something as simple as 6IP, 3 runs... well then it may be time to officially worry.

Anything else? Not really. Just for notes purposes - using the Pythagorus W-L right now is useless because big losses (or wins) will have too big an influence as well as quality of opponents faced so far.  These things get smoothed out over time.  If you must at least remove the largest win and loss from the Nats record and figure out the rest. (they are more 7-6 than 6-7, would be results of that).

Also for those worried about attendance, now that they've had a weekend series (where they averaged 38K) they are out of the bottom area. Still not where they should be but this should show you what a weekend series vs a marquee team can do for the numbers.  Now don't look at it again until June!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday quickie

This isn't a big deal

As much as this sucks, these things happen. You lose games you are supposed to win and you win games you are supposed to lose. This includes being swept by your rival. It wasn't at home, but remember last year in mid-September the Nats got swept by Atlanta, when even one game would have salted away the division. Did it ruin the season? Nope. What about the 9-0 comeback game for Atlanta?  Did that send the Nats into a tailspin from which they never recovered? Nope. So it sucks, but it's not the end of the world. You can easily win a division with a couple of stinkers like this. If you want an example a couple years ago the Yanks started 1-8 (also 2-10) versus the Red Sox. That included two straight times getting swept in NY. The Yanks won the division. The Red Sox missed the playoffs.

While getting swept looks bad, really what you want to know is if these were competitive games.  The first two games were. A break here or there, some smarter play, and the Nats could have won either or both of those. The Braves are not substantially better than the Nats, even at their hottest. It sucks that that's all you can take positive from the weekend but it's still an important positive. They will be competitive with each other. Let's see what happens

But it's not nothing either

You can't dismiss what happened this weekend entirely though.  For the Nats in a vacuum the losses aren't a terribly big deal.  Let's say you think the Nats are a 95 win team in this tough division. What pace are they on right now?  94.5 wins.  If you assume they play out the 150 games remaining like a 95 win team they will still win 95 games. This isn't crashing into a wall, it's slowing down over a speed bump.

The problem though is the wins weren't in a vacuum. They lost and Atlanta won. Forget about pace right now. Atlanta is not going to win 149 games.  But what if you had Atlanta pegged as a 91 win team and they play out their remaining 150 games to that effect. (Ignoring that the first 12 might suggest they are better than that).  How many games do the Braves project out to win?  95.

That's the problem.  The Braves fast start has given them a leg up on the division, or at least equal footing. They'll have bad stretches, but it's going to be hard for the totality of bad vs good over 150 games to erase an 11-1 start entirely. The Nats didn't hurt themselves, but they did help the Braves.Which I guess is hurting themselves...

What's up with the pen? 

The starting pitching was good enough to win 2 games and no one thinks yesterday's Gio is the Gio we'll see most of the year. So the onus for the losses, on one level falls to the relief corps. Is there anything to be worried about here?  Possibly.  It's too early to worry for sure but I'd keep your eyes on  Clippard and Soriano.

At this point you hope to explain things with an unlucky BABIP. That's not the case with Clip.  His BABIP is at .143.  That's actually lucky.  The problem with Clip is that he's getting hit hard with almost nothing on the ground (7% GB, 60% FB) and his control is off, 5 walks in just over 5 innings. This is one of the hardest working arms in the business over the past 4 years and one that didn't look sharp to end last year. (8.00+ ERA in Sept)  Could he be getting tired/injured? 

For Soriano it's not the mileage, it's the years.  He's losing speed on his fastball and it's down almost a full MPH this year from 92.2 last year to 91.2 this.  Slow start? Perhaps but it's been on the decline since 2007.  Baseball is a game of inches and 1 MPH slower is a big difference.

Depressing fact of the day

Since last Labor Day the Nats have only won 2 of 8 series vs teams that finished 2012 over .500.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Braves Series Preview

The Nats swept the White Sox. This is good, not only for the obvious "more wins > fewer wins", but because it kept them a single game behind the Braves. The Braves have had an easier schedule than the Nats but 8-1 is still impressive.  If you twisted my arm I probably would have said Atlanta should be at 7-2 as well, but going series by series 8-1 also makes sense.  Are the Marlins not an automatic sweep anywhere for any good team right now?  Short of it is - both teams are good and playing like they should going into this series.

This isn't a make or break series.  I've seen plenty of early season "disasters" turn into non-issues by the end of the year. The Braves and Nats play each other nearly 20 times so there is plenty of time to make up ground lost, either in other head to head games or just in general.  That being said, neither team wants to be swept. You want to feel like you are competitive with your rival and a sweep that isn't full of one-run nail-biters can raise some doubts, be they legitimate or not. The Braves don't want to come in here 1 game up and leave 2 back and have the world saying what some Nats fans are right now - that their fast start was just a scheduling mirage. The Nats don't want to lose 3 on their home turf and find themselves 4 back already. They are better than the Braves, probably even 4 games better, but then they'd only have 150 games to show it, not 162.  No one wants that Wild Card. Let's see how the match-ups break down.

Teheran v Detwiler
Hudson v Strasburg
Mahom v Gio

Detwiler is Detwiler. You guys like him more than I do. If he just gives up ground ball after ground ball its only a matter of time before 3-4 go through in the same inning, great D or not. Add in one big hit and there's your 4.00 ERA.  Sure he gets the double plays but the DPs timings are a product of luck as much as skill "GB single, DP, GB single, GB single, out" is a scoreless inning. "GB single, GB single, GB single, DP, out" is a 2-run one. No difference in what happened, just the order. Detwiler will give up a run or two or three. Really this is about Teheran. He has the stuff to be a dominant pitcher but hasn't shown it yet. Why expect him to do it against the Nats lineup in DC? This one favors the Nats.

Hudson is a very good pitcher but last year he always seemed to have that one inning versus the Nats where it would fall apart. He could eventually contain it and go a few more but they always broke through? Bad luck? Maybe. Even if Hudson and Fredi can manage to keep the game close this comes down to Strasburg and Davey. Will Strasburg dominate? Will Davey let him go deep if he is? There's these unknowns on the Nats side that I don't like but I'll give them the edge until Hudson shows he can face the good Nats and not put up a middling performance.

The Braves in the past caused Gio fits. They are a patient team and Gio can get a bit wild. It's a different team now, but you'd have to think they haven't forgotten what works.  Gio can still dominate them if he has his A stuff but I'm not feeling that. The White Sox always felt on the verge of getting to Gio and they are neither as patient or as good hitting as the Braves. Maholm on the other hand is nothing special BUT he does limit the long ball and dammit if that isn't where the Nats are getting their runs. I give the edge here to the Braves, April Gio and all.

HOT : Upton the Younger is hitting .381 with 3 homers and 3 doubles in the past week. Evan Gattis, Juan Francisco, Andrelton Simmons, & Chris Johnson are also hitting over .300, with varying degrees of power.  The ATL bench players, Laird, Schafer, Pena, are 9/18. The Nats catcher tandem is hot 7-21 with 3 homers in the past 7 days. LaRoche seems to be back on track with four hits in the last 3 days. Desmond, Werth, and Bryce are all hitting over .350 in the past week.  Span is getting on base at a .450+ clip.

NOT : Upton the Elder has little more than that big HR recently.  Heyward only has gotten a hit in the 2nd game of the year. Zimmerman had that big double last night but that's about it The Nats bench has 1 hit in limited at bats.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Just saying

Since we can't say anything for sure, right now, everything we mention is pretty much an off-handed "Hey look at that" comment that you are meant to file away because maybe it'll be important later.   That being said here are some this I'm "just saying" 

  • Bryce Harper is hitting .394 with 4 homers, Mike Trout is hitting .278 with 1.
  • Bryce Harper is killing the baseball yet he has 0 walks.
  • Stranger still, Jayson Werth has 0 walks.
  • Ian Desmond?  Ian Desmond is batting .290.  His OBP is .313.   Ryan Zimmerman is batting .222.  His OBP is .313. Desmond does have 7 XBH though.
  • On the flip side. Denard Span has 8 walks.  Last year he had 47.  Last year the Nats' leadoff spot had 47
  • The Nats catchers have 6 walks combined. Last year the Nats catchers had 44 walks.
  • The bench has 2 hits in 18 at bats.
  • Ian Desmond has more errors than Arizona. 
  • Inarguably the best reliever up to this point has been Drew Storen.
  • So far in the course of two seasons Gio Gonzalez has allowed 7 runs in April.  
  • Jayson Werth hit 5 homers in 81 games last year. He has 3 homers so far. 
  • Atlanta is allowing 2 runs a game. 
  • Miami is scoring less than that (1.78) per game
  • Carl Crawford is leading the NL in hitting right now.
  • Justin Upton is batting .350 with 6 homers and 3 doubles. 
  • Angels are 2-6 but not Pujols' fault. Hitting .346 with 2 homers, 3 doubles. 
  • Angels are hitting .120 with RISP with 2 XBH.
  • Out of the 13 highest payrolls, 10 are currently .500 or better. The ones that aren't?  Toronto, Philadelphia and the Angels. 
  • Washington's payroll is in that top 13 (#12) and is 22 million more than the Braves.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Adam LaRoche illustrates a point

Going into last night Adam LaRoche was "hitting" .000.  He had a walk so he didn't have the straight donut special but .000 / .071 / .000 had people worried. Shouldn't we have kept Morse!?!?!

Last night LaRoche hits two bombs crucial in winning a one-run game. His line goes up to .118 / .167 / .471.  Not great obviously but let's say tonight he has a good night and goes 3-4 (3 singles) and a walk.  Suddenly his line is .238 / .308 / .524.  Not only is no one talking about how "bad" LaRoche is, he is suddenly the best hitter in the infield.

LaRoche went 4 games without a hit. That happens all the time.  Everyone (except 30 game Ramos) had 3 game hit-less stretches last year. The few that didn't have 4 game stretches with no hits, had 4 game stretches with 1.  The timing of this makes it worse that it actually is.

We want to try to make something of this but we can't.  We can't make anything big of Soriano or Clippard's struggles.  We can't worry yet about Zimm's lack of homers.  But this works in reverse.  Werth's 3 homers doesn't mean he's hitting 30 this year. Span's .480 OBP doesn't mean he's suddenly the world's best leadoff man. Ramos and Suzuki aren't going to be platooning in the All-Star game.

This all makes blogging tough but it should make enjoying the game easier.  It's Opening Day every day. No worries.  No player expectations. Not this early.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Series Game Calls

No series preview (there will be one for the Braves) and super busy in general BUT since I nailed the sweep and the exact games won and lost last series figured I should keep doing it.

Game 1 - Jake Peavy is no slouch and after spending his late 20s on and off the DL, he seems healthy and the same great pitcher as before, maybe a bit better control to compensate for the decrease in strikeouts that come with age. Nats should have trouble hitting Peavy. But same goes for the White Sox and Gio. Sure they are going to be completely RH, but Gio faces a lot of those guys. They aren't a particularly patient team so Gio should have no trouble keeping them off-balance.  I like the Nats in a low-scoring squeaker

Game 2 - Is ZNN better than Floyd? Yes. But dammit if I didn't like the way ZNN looked last time and Floyd can pitch allright, and so going with the White Sox to take this game as the Nats bats stay silent and the worries get louder.

Game 3 -  Just when the Nats fans are about to go off on the offense it explodes.  Haren doesn't pitch all that well but against an opponent he saw last year is able to hold them down to like 4 runs or something. Meanwhile the Nats bash AAAAxelrod. Big win and big relief heading into series v Atlanta.

Let's see.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday Quickie - Two things

1) The Nats are exactly where they should be.  We talked about it last Monday.  If they were going to lose a series in April (and the Nats ARE going to lose some series) then this was where it was most likely to happen. The Reds are basically as good as the Nats (we can quibble about that) and they were at home. They should win two. The Nats should lose. That's the way these things work. Would we have preferred two well played close losses? Sure, but those L's count the same as the ones the Nats did get.

Do we have to worry about the pen? Nah. Do we have to worry about Haren? Well... let's just keep a eye out on his next start.

I had the Nats pegged at 4-2 at this point. They are 4-2.  I had them going 4-2 in this little homestand. Let's see if they can do it. That'll keep them up with the Braves.

2) Speaking of Haren, after months of saying these stats don't matter* they finally do and dammit if we want to make something of it.  Except we can't.  Here are a couple months from last year

.300 / .330 / .490
.239 / .302 / .389

The former was the best month of the year for the "disappointing" Danny Espinosa. The latter was the worst month (well maybe June) for lineup leader Adam LaRoche. Anyone can have a good or bad stretch, even as long as an entire month.

Now, the first month of data to start a season IS more meaningful than picking a random month from last year, because that first month, when it's all we have, might be trying to tell us something.  But at the same time we don't know if it will until we see more data.

Until Memorial Day we are composing our concerns and hopes.

There is very little we can definitively say right now.  Even with a Dan Haren type start, one certainly isn't enough to make judgements. I would say 2 or 3 starts like that still leave room for "maybe it's just a fluke", and that's an extreme case. What about LaRoche hitting .200 with 3 homers in April? Or Bryce hitting .380 with 9? Flukes?

April and May is data collecting time. It's sending out 1000 surveys by mail and watching them trickle in. You want to take a look at the early data but maybe there is something about early responders that skews the data. Are they all shut-ins who have nothing better to do than answer mail quickly? It's possible. That's why you have to wait until you get more surveys back to say anything. That's why we have to wait until we see more games played before we can say anything.

So no craziness ok?

*Yes, there has been a minor correlation between ST power and regular season power found but you know what? You don't know who the hell it's actually going to turn out to work for.  It's great info for pulling together 5 guys in a fantasy squad, not so much for guessing how your team will do in the real world

Friday, April 05, 2013

Friday Free for All

Series Preview  Nats v Reds. 

While the Nats were beating up on the little sisters of the NL, the Reds took on potential AL powerhouse, the (add your own geographical joke here) Angels. This is part of the killer start to the Reds schedule : Home vs the Angels and Nats, Away at the Cards. That's tough, and the series vs the Pirates and Phillies that follow are potentially worrisome as well. But the Reds held their ground vs the Angels, after a tough Opening Day loss where Weaver held them in check they took back to back 5-4 games. Nothing seemingly out of place, this could very well be a NLCS preview.

Pitching Match-Ups

Bailey v Haren
Leake v Detwiler
Cueto v Strasburg

Bailey v Haren is interesting.  Bailey is a fly-ball pitcher in a fly-ball park, but he's a good fly-ball pitcher. He strikes out a lot of guys and doesn't put many on base so there's a lot more solo shots than 3-run blasts. Can the Nats put enough balls over the fence to make a dent in the cold air of April? On the other side we don't know what to expect from Haren. His spring did not build confidence, and while I like to ignore ST stats, I don't like to ignore ST comments of the "this guy doesn't look 100% ready yet" type.  Older player, cool night, HR problems in ST, long layoff, back issues, this could be a hard start for Dan.  I'd have to give this one to the Reds.

Leake v Detwiler should favor the Nats.  Not that Leake isn't any good. He's one of the better 5th starters in the league.  But Detwiler might be the best 5th starter in the league. Still that doesn't mean all that much. When you get to 5th starters they can blow-up at any time and Detwiler is still a pitch to contact guy who was among the league leaders in FIP-ERA.  What does that mean? Basically FIP is how well you should have done given the way you pitched. ERA is how you actually did. FIP-ERA gives you an idea of who might have gotten lucky/unlucky. Short of it is, Det got lucky. It doesn't suggest he's a terrible pitcher, just hints that he's more a 4.00 ERA guy than a 3.50 ERA guy. Of course he's still learning and some guys can seemingly defy FIP over and over (Lannan come back!), though most don't.  All that being said I still like the Nats here.

Cueto v Strasburg. Should be awesome.  Since I had the Nats losing the series I'll say Cueto wins 1-0. But obviously the Nats can take this game as long as Strasburg isn't pulled in the 4th after hitting the magical 45 pitch barrier.  (Trust me - EVERYONE will be looking to see if Strasburg goes at least 90)

Hot :  Choo and Frazier and both 4-12 with a homer and a double. Votto hasn't hit well but already has 5 walks.  Bryce is hitting .500 and you know what? So is Zimm.  Span has gotten on base in half his PAs.

Not : Bruce, Hanigan and Cozart are combined 2-34 with 2 walks making the bottom of the Reds lineup a cakewalk right now. Laroche and Espinosa are both searching for their first hit. Ian only has one.

Stat Validation

If I asked you to describe the type of pitch you'd expect a left handed slugger to take for a home run, what would you say?  I'd say a mistake that ended up in his wheelhouse, wouldn't you? Now that we have PitchF/X data readily available we can check that assumption.

On Opening Day Bryce hit two home runs. The first one was off a curve.  Nolasco's curves averaged a vertical break of -6.70 and a horiztonal one of 7.53.  The curve he threw to Bryce broke -6.64 and 5.39.  Without going into details you can see it broke fine vertically but didn't move laterally like he'd want. In fact it had the worst lateral movement of any curve he threw that day.  That may not look like much but in the major leagues you're in a situation where a little failure can make all the difference in the world. It looks like a bad curve.  The second home run came off a slider. Again average movement -0.41 and 2.49, this pitch 0.05 and 2.66.  Not great but not that far off.  Seems like a pretty meh pitch.

(why all the equivocation? Well you can't just look at average movement and specific pitch movement and declare it good or bad... ok you can when it's just obvious, but not in these cases.  We have our... suspicions, but we'd have to look at a lot more to say anything definitively) 

Now of course these things only matter to a point. It's far more important that the pitch goes where you want it to. If it doesn't then you have to hope the break and speed and stuff can save the pitch by fooling the batter. Where did these two end up?

First homer

Second Homer

Both ended up middle low and on the inside half of the plate.  Exactly where you'd expect a lefty to love it. But maybe they served a purpose in the scheme of the at bat.  Is that where Nolasco wanted them? No and yes. That first curve was meant to be outside. (You can watch the videos here).  Nolasco messed up and a bad curve in a bad spot means home run. The slider does seem to be exactly where he wants it though and if you look at the pitch order he was working Bryce outside and high and hoped to fool him inside and low.  Maybe it missed by an inch or so but it was there. If it's not a mistake is Bryce just awesome?  Well yes, but also Nolasco is just bad.

He doesn't throw a great slider. It's Runs above average value was -0.9 last year, 1.0 the year before meaning it's prefectly average. We've already hypothesized it wasn't a great version of the slider so what we have here is a below average pitcher, throwing a below average version of his average pitch at an above average batter. Location can only do so much to save it, even if it was outside his wheelhouse.

None of this is meant to take away from what Bryce did.  What Bryce did is what good batters do. They take mistakes and pitches they should hit hard and they hit them hard. No pitcher is perfect on every throw. Every batter gets these types of pitches. Not every batter can capitalize on them. Bryce can.

Sometimes having more information can illuminate things you didn't know. Other times it will validate what you already expected. I think it's fun to see both.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Great Pitching in April... 2012

The Nats are at it again. Last April they crushed it starting pitching wise. Here's how the 4 returning guys did.

Gio 1.82
Ross 1.64
ZNN 1.33
Stras 1.13

Pretty good huh? Right now Gio and Stras are sitting at 0.00 so they are on pace to match that. I have little doub that ZNN will do about the same against this Marlins lineup featuring 7 AAA batters and Giancarlo "2 weeks from going full Felipe Lopez" Stanton. Detwiler vs the Reds in Cincy... Ok that's a test.

As for the team not hitting, yeah they did that last year too.  .226 / .304 / .328.  Don't expect a big turnaround.  We talked a couple of weeks ago that the Nats bats are slow starters

Where does this leave Nats fans? Probably the same place it has been the last two nights. Watching awesome pitching and waiting for just enough offense to put the game away.  Not ideal, but it'll work for now. We expect 17 wins for the month, but really the key is to be over .500 and not too far behind anyone. A slow start like that never killed anyone.  A 2-0 start is a good... ummm... start.

If the sucky hitting continues, the key will be learning to wait it out. It may be until late May before we should have a talk if something is wrong with player/position X that the Nats need to deal with.  That's a long time away. A long time to just say nothing when our instincts are to bitch.

So divert. Go back to the above. Focus on the new goal - 32 innings without a run scored to start a season (or 35 if you prefer earned runs).  We'll talk about who's hot right now (BRYCE HMVPER) and who's not (Hi, Keyhole!) tomorrow. (but not in any real - "this means something" way)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Bryce and Strasburg Trackers

Do we talk about the Davey thing? Or do we kind of just let that slide? It was kind of snuck in there right before Opening Day.  I don't know.  I say let it slide. Despite the fact that I think he blew the use of the bullpen in the NLDS and he's a bit heavy on the "look at what a curmudgeon I am!" shtick, I like Davey alot. He's a good manager who's been down this winning road before. The Nats don't need to replace him. At the same time, this team is super awesome and nearly anyone could win with it. You,me, them, everybody. So let's just take it off the back burner and let it cool over here.  Maybe we can store it in the fridge in a bit.

The Nats have two young superstars that are generational talents. I don't think we can stress this enough.  Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg aren't merely great prospects, they are the best young players at their respective positions we've seen in a long while. Are they going to end up being the best players of their generation? Not necessarily, there are thousands of players out there and they all don't follow the paths they are supposed to. Bryce and/or Stephen could disappoint. Someone else could surprise. But nothing we've seen so far hints at disappointment, so right now they have as good a chance as anyone to be remembered as the defnining players of the 10s and early 20s.

For fun I'm going to track their progress hitting a couple of "milestones".  For Strasburg we are going to look at SO/BB rate and ERA+.  Looking at pitchers who in their first 4 seasons pitched 400+ innings (which Strasburg should easily hit this year) where does Strasburg stack up?

SO/BB - 4.57, Kevin Slowey (yes Kevin Slowey - but the other pitchers up there are good, trust me) .
  • Strasburg - 4.7.  He'd be #1 right now so as long as he stays the course he'll be fine. Tough course to stay though. 
ERA+ - 161, Howie Pollet (again other pitchers up there you'll know as good - though damn if Pollet wasn't dominant when young)
  • Strasburg - 139.  It'll be a tough one for Strasburg to break but an ERA in the low 2.00s would do it.
For Bryce we can include a counting stat, since his early career wasn't messed up by injury like Strasburg's was.  We're going to look at home runs and OPS+ for guys who played at least 200 games before their "age 21" season.

HRs - 61, Mel Ott. 
  • Bryce - 24.  He needed 39 to tie to start the year.  I probably would have bet against that on March 31st.  Now? He could hit 37 more by the All-Star break and I wouldn't.... ok that'd still surprise me, but 37 more by year's end? Nope. I think he can do it.
OPS+ - 145,  Ty Cobb
  • Bryce - 123. It would take a best in the year, MVP type season to make it but does anyone think he can't do it?

We'll check in on this every month or so. Let's see if the Nats' guys can leave their mark on history.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

It's not the innings, it's the pitches

You shouldn't let a guy throw 140 pitches and say "But it was only 5 innings!" and conversely you shouldn't pull a guy after throwing 80 pitches just because he hit the 7th inning.

Not a big deal. Just bothered why we have to hear excuses rather than reasons. Almost everyone in DC got on board the shutdown train. We'd all be fine if they Nats said they were going to slowly work Strasburg up to 100 pitches over the course of April or if they said it was a good opportunity to keep his innings down, and we're still going to try to do that.

Don't tell us "He's got the shackles off" then immediately put on giant shackles. All I'm saying.

Now let's turn back to the sweep at hand.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Falling over ourselves to accept nonsense

Bryce hit two home runs.  Strasburg was awesome.  The rest of the team?  Ehhhh but whatever. It's not like every game everyone is going to be awesome. That's the point of having great starters and a deep offense. We'll see where everyone is standing at the end of the series, just to get a real early feel. One game is just one game.

Now to the story.

Davey pulled Strasburg after 80 pitches.  Was it the right move?


I mean, come on, let's be serious here. It wasn't. 

But at the same time it's not a big deal. The reason you want your starter to go later in games is because he's better than the alternative.  If he pitches it's less likely that he'll give up runs than the next guy.  But the Nats have a great bullpen so the drop off isn't severe. It's April against a team that isn't going to challenge them for a playoff spot. It's a team that looks to be so inept on offense that a comeback seemed pretty unlikely. The Nats could afford to make this move.

Still that doesn't mean we then have to swallow whatever it is the Nats feed us.

Greg Dobbs! 

Ed - This section no longer applicable.  Early info was Clip to face Dobbs without the "over Storen" part.  With that addendum the move Clip v Storen makes sense gets (though really 3 singles in 5 at bats is also not enough info stat wise)

One theory that Davey put out there was that Clippard was put in in case they had to face Greg Dobbs.  Let me state that again, Davey wants you to believe that they pulled Strasburg at 80 pitches for Tyler Clippard IN CASE THEY HAD TO FACE GREG DOBBS.

Here's Greg Dobbs.  Not exactly fear inspiring, is he?

Ok well he must rule Strasburg then right? And Clippard must own him right? Sort of.

Dobbs v Clippard  1-10, 3K
Dobbs v Strasburg 4-14, 1 2B, 4K

Clippard does better but the at bats are so limited we really shouldn't draw any conclusions just from the stats.  Could a scout there on the ground notice something that makes them worried?  I suppose, but here are the things :
  • you can always remove Strasburg when Greg Dobbs comes up to pinch hit
  • it wasn't even guaranteed that he would come up in the inning.
So really I don't see how you can take this to be anything but nonsense


So Davey offered another explanation to Jason Reid. They didn't want to push him and possibly put him in a position to fail. Already, when you get to your 2nd explanation of the day, you have to be kind of doubtful.  

"I’ve always believed in getting something positive [from young pitchers]. I wasn’t going to give it a chance to turn into something negative.”

Of course Reid just takes that at face value but what exactly does that mean? I mean, I know what it means, but it provides nothing hard and fast to explain why he was pulled at that moment. He had a positive standing after 6. Why not then? It was positive after 5. Why not then? What made the 7th so special? What did he think it would provide an opportunity for him to fail that made him pull the trigger? Was his stuff faltering in the 6th? Has he shown tendency to tire early in cool weather? Or early in the year? Why?

Also throughout the article you read things like this :
  • "There was no good reason for Johnson to push Strasburg to the eighth or ninth"
  • "...but it wasn’t the right moment to break through a barrier"
  • "Why push him just to push him? You’re going to make him throw a hundred pitches just to throw a hundred pitches?"
What barrier?!?  How are you pushing him!?!  He was at 80 pitches! Eighty!! Eight!!! Zero!!!! Ochenta!

Strasburg pitched in 28 games last year.  He threw more than 80 pitches in 24 of them. In 3 of those 4 where he was pulled, he was getting knocked around early. He threw more than 90 pitches in 20 of them. He threw more than 100 in 10 of them. 

By only pitching him eighty pitches you weren't keeping him from running into a "barrier" or being unnecessarily pushed, you were babying him, keeping him under a limit that he passed nearly every time out last year.

Is there something in here that could hint at a more believable reason?  I think so.  At one point Davey said this
it’s not just going to be [for show].
In other words, if Strasburg is going to go deeper into games it's going to be because they NEED him to go deeper into games. If he can get through 6 or 7 and the pen is rested, then it doesn't matter if he's at 80 pitches or 60 pitches. He'll be pulled and the relief staff will go in.  This isn't something that can be done for every pitcher.  You just can't work a pen like that, but there's a chance that for Strasburg this is going to be the norm going forward.  That it's not 100 pitches that's the limit, it's 100 pitches OR until he get deep enough that Davey feels safe going to the pen. Could this mean pulled after 6 at 69 pitches because the team is up 7-1?  Maybe.  We'll have to see.

This isn't a forever plan, I don't think. Eventually he does have to be stretched - as you'll want that golden arm going as deep as possible into games in October. You don't want to train him to be an 80 pitch pitcher. But we'll see how that stretching out works out on the field.


Baseball is back today! Ok it was back last night and I did watch some of the game, but the Amazing Race started late and then Superman was on HBO and I'd never seen it with even mild bad words (they said "ass"!)... anyway, it's a long season. I'm not going to watch every pitch of every game, and certainly not of one like Rangers vs Astros, so I'm not going to force myself to do it just because it's "opening night".   There's plenty of baseball I will watch today, and tomorrow, and every day until November.

I've updated the national media prediction page.  The current tallies (which includes ESPN's ridiculous 43 staff predictions); 26 of 61 picks to win the World Series, 53 of 58 picks to win the NL East, and no playoff misses. To put that in percentage form, that's : 
  • 100% chance of being in the playoffs
  • 91% chance of winning the NL East
  • 43% chance of winning it all
Pretty good.

Our own crowd sourced record comes in at 97-65, and a sweep of division titles. If anyone who didn't guess on Friday wants to add their guess in the comments below, go right ahead and I'll update the number at COB.

For those looking for something more statsy - Natsradamus projects the Nats to have 98 wins.

April Prediction:
It's a pretty easy month for the Nats. They play 16 of 27 games at home and they only have one road swing expected to be tough (this weekend vs the Reds) until the very end of the month. They also have a couple of off days sitting in the middle of the month. The end could be an issue as they'll have played 10 in a row before rolling into Atlanta, but it's early in the year and they haven't done any West Coast travels so I expect they'll be fine.

I have them sweeping the Marlins, then losing 2 of 3 in Cincy (can't win every series).  They go on the take the White Sox / Braves homestand and the Marlins / Mets away run with 4-2 sets each. A 4-3 record at home vs the supposed cream of the NL (Cards and Reds), then a split of the games in ATL to end the month.  All in all that's a 17-10 record, which is right on pace for a mid 90s season given this is a home heavy month.

Other Notes:

Why do the Reds play at 4PM today?  I get that the whole "Reds first" thing is blown by the Opening Night game (not to mention stupid international games when applicable), but at the very least they should open Opening Day at Cincy at say... noon or something, right?

I also really wish SF @ LA was a 10:00 ET start instead of having SEA v OAK and STL v ARI to choose from to watch late at night, but I can't blame any team for having a day game on Opening Day. 

Read Boswell today, not because it's his best work or anything, but because Opening Day is made for Boswell.

Any questions?  Natsoftheroundtable is the email address. Gmail address to be specific.

I am on twitter. harpergordek for those of you that are into that sort of thing.

Let's get this train going. Strasburg. I'm counting on an Opening Day Perfect Game. Don't let me down.