Nationals Baseball: Back in time for that

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back in time for that

Since getting swept by ATL the Nats have gone 5-1. That's good. Unfortunately the Reds, the team the Nats need to catch to make the 2nd Wild Card,  have gone 6-1. That's better. And the out of the realm of possibility Braves have gone 4-2. That's not to shabby either. A week of hard work and the Nats have LOST half a game in the WC standings and cut the NL East lead all the way down to 14.5 games. THIS IS THE HOLE THEY DUG. We're about at last call. The Nats could go 30-12 to finish the year the Reds can go 21-20 and beat them out. The Nats need to be world beaters and even then the Reds only have to be a .500 team to take that last spot.

In fact I might have wrote off the Nats if it wasn't for the slumping Cardinals (only a half-game better than the Reds). Since the Nats have a 3-game series with the Cards at the end of the year (right before the season ending D-backs one) it's worth keeping one eye half-open drowsily looking in their direction before drifting off to the big sleep. Anything you can do right?  Anyway in 3 weeks we should know for sure. The Reds play the D-backs series after next. They play the Cards seven times before the first week of September is over. If there is any hope we'll know by then. (assuming the Nats don't crash and burn themselves, but I don't see it)

(I know, I know I said I wouldn't talk about the playoffs but what else is there really? We could talk about the playoffs for two more weeks and still have ALL of September and the post-season to talk about the off-season. Gotta fill the blog.)

Why are the Nats winning? They are scoring more. Like any sport, at a very base level, the game is simple to understand. Score more than you give up and you win.  Here's a fun little rolling 10 game graph of the difference between runs scored and runs allowed (blue line) and the Nats winning percentage (red line). Don't worry that it has super small numbers to read. The actual numbers aren't important as noticing the fact these lines pretty much follow each other. This isn't anything new. It's the whole basis for that Pythagorean thing. But it's nice to see the base assumptions confirmed so obviously. It's that simple. Score more than you give up = win.

The Nats haven't scored. In only 28 of 110 rolling 10 game averages has their scoring been over the current league average of 4.03. They haven't pitched super great either. Only 56 of 110 has their runs allowed been less than average.  So they lose. And since they don't usually succeed together (10 times) or fail together (36 times) you've seen a lot more middling play than crazy swings of winning and losing.

Anyway, you'll read a lot of claptrap about the type of team the Nats are and experience and proving themselves. Comparisons to other teams that made runs or didn't make runs but came back in another year and won. All that really matters to the 2014 Nats are the 2013 Nats and the changes made in the offseason.  The lessons learned shouldn't be about struggles and heart. It should be about putting together a good bench and starter depth because things never go exactly as planned. It should be about the fact a strength can become a weakness overnight (bullpen, Espy) and your ability to damage control will be tested.

The Nats, when healthy, are a pretty decent club. Good rotation now that Haren has evened out. Solid lineup with only one hole, Span, who provides them with excellent defense. Workable pen. They will win more than they lose. In the next 42 games, given the schedule, they'll probably go something like say... 23-19? 25-17? Something like that. End up 84-76 or so. Good, not good enough. But that 25-17 shows the base talents you're dealing with, a 90 win type club. That's the starting point, in my mind. Not 98. Not 84. When healthy. Work on minimizing variance when injuries do happen and you'll have a playoff team again.

And please don't get your butts kicked by the Braves again.


cass said...

Could you at least wait till the Nats are over .500 to start talking playoffs again?

I endorse the last line wholeheartedly, however.

Another possible post could be looking at Harper's struggles again and seeing how that's going. That makes me the most nervous. The team is built around the idea that Bryce is a superstar.

Harper said...

I wanted to really but that's what I'm looking at so that's what I'm writing about. Harper's wandering eye is not listening to Harper's robot mind.

I;ve convinced myself Bryce is injured so I'm writing now off. But I'll take a look.

Chas R said...

Thanks Harper. I was at the game yesterday, it felt like Game 5 all over again. I am SO mad at Soriano. He just seems so lackadaisical. Regardless of his save numbers, he has career high 5 blown saves, and huge ERA and WHIP for an "elite" closer- give me a break. He has been knocked around all year. It will be interesting to see what they do with Storen and Clippard now, but knowing Davey he won't change a thing. Despite the low scoring, they had a legit chance to sweep the Giants and be at .500.

Anonymous said...

This question isn't exactly relevant to the current post, but:

Do you think that Davey was too inflexible in setting the batting order / general roles for the majority of the season?

For example, Span was brought in to be lead-off hitter, who cares that he isn't getting on base. ALR is the power hitting first baseman, who cares that he was often a hole between hotter hitters in the middle of the order. Selecting guys out of the bullpen based on reputation and not current pitching ability.

Is going with the hot bat or arm practical, or would drastic changes too early destroy the confidence and leadership roles of key players?

Chaos56 said...

Harper's improved over last year so if you buy into the "sophomore slump" idea he's doing fine. Even if you don't, his slugging and on-base percentages are both up. His home run rate is up. The only concern I have is he still looks completely lost this year vs. LHP. Versus RHP, he is that superstar already (.996 OP and a HR every 13 AB)


Kenny B. said...

I feel like the whole management team's inflexibility this year was a weakness. They didn't make a lot of necessary changes until well after if was obvious to everyone else that they needed to be made. I understand management can't be as whimsical as fans with the team's structure, but when it's clear in June that there are some real struggles out there, don't wait until you're basically out of the race to do the shuffling. They kept thinking it would turn around, long after it was obvious to everyone else that that it wouldn't.

Anyway, I would like to reiterate my ever-growing hatred of Soriano, just for good measure. I hate that whole hyper-ritualistic superstitious affectation nonsense. He's overrated and worse, overpaid. If we have to have a closer, let's let Clippard hold it down for awhile again. He's earned another bite at that apple.

Chas R said...

Did say how much I HATE that arrogant I-am-an-island Sorian?

Rizzo should put him on waivers now, while his stock is still decent and we can get something for him.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gang-Zendo
Reading your post, Harper...well, a 90 win team isn't such a bad place to start.I need to remember the recent past-y'know?The "Fire Jim Bowden" and "Oleanders and Morning Glory" days, when we were wretched.
Now, I suppose we can hope for a miraculous Dodgers-like final sprint (heck-even a Rays or Royals like kick) but after last nights' collapse. i just don't see it. But yes-we CAN dream. And that almost requires a sweep in ATL-didn't we do that early last year, with game 3 on Sunday nite Baseball?Kinda set us on our run last year(or at least contributed). Thing is, seems as if Puig has played the role that Harper did for us last year in helping to ignite the Dodgers.And while it ain't April or May,I also expect no help in September with call-ups.So, gang/Harp- down the road, outside of Godwin, do we even have any position players who could make a serious impact?The farm seems pitcher heavy.Any thoughts?
Any hoo...more rambling.Great column again.

Anonymous said...

I think yesterday was the fourth time we were a strike away from a win and we lost the game. Soriano may have had strike 3 but the Nats killed themselves not tacking on runs.

Chas R said...

Anon- agreed the Nats can't expect to win scoring 3 runs a game. BUT, Mr. Elite Closer Soriano walked a rookie poor hitter and then gave up a HR with 2 outs in the 9th to a back-up catcher- this was his first major league HR!

C'mon Man!

Froggy said...

Just imagine how bad we would be if it weren't for Werth's contributions for the last two months. We'd be sub-Mets!

Clippard deserves the closer role going forward period. Soriano can suck it as far as I'm concerned. From day one there was something that I didn't like about that guy and I realized on Thursday what it was...'Last out, Shirts out'. That crap works when you are 'Mr Lights Out', not 'Mr Second Deck'. His arrogance just doesn't fit in here on this team. No humility. I think Soriano is a Yankee PeaCock taking the Nats money who is all about himself. (Harper did warn us way back when)

So, Soriano, how about dispensing with all that Caribbean islander superstitious BS and just pitch. What's next, sacrificing a chicken in a save situation? And in the unlikely event that your team pulls out a save for you how about keeping it classy and professional with simple handshakes and thankyous for the team?


Anonymous said...

Froggy, that's pretty blatantly racist. Maybe cool it on the ol' racism? You're entitled to hate Soriano for being overpaid and underperforming, but that chicken sacrifice stuff is just bullshit.

Froggy said...


Oh Geezus! It's a reference to the movie 'Major League' you anonymous knucklehead!

For the record I don't hate anyone. So how about refraining from slinging the racism card so indiscriminatly and keep your sanctimonious political correctness to yourself.

Anonymous said...

"So, Soriano, how about dispensing with all that Caribbean islander superstitious BS and just pitch."

Also a reference to the movie Major League, I'm sure.

And thanks for the invitation, but nah. Not gonna refrain from calling out obvious racism just cause you played the Political Correctness Card.

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

I guess you don't watch many baseball movies...just to clear things up there Anon, here is the quote from the move Major League where the character Willie Mays Hayes (played by Wesley Snipes) talking to Jake Taylor (played by Tom Berenger) about the Indians Caribbean slugger Pedro Cerrano (played by Dennis Haysbert) who is in a hitting slump...

Willie Mays Hayes: [to Jake]
"Cerrano's looking for some extra power for tonight. He's looking to sacrifice a live chicken. Hey Jake, man, we can't have people puking in the locker room before the game!"

[later, with Cerrano having struck out again] "We should've got the live chicken."

Also, in the movie 'Bull Durham', Kevin Costner's character "Crash" during a famous mound conference scene when the pitching coach comes out to the mound and asks "What the hell is going on out here?"

(Crash) "Well...Knuke's scared cause his eyelids are jammed and his old man is here, and we need a live rooster to take the curse off of Jose's glove, and nobody seems to know what to get Jimmy or Millie for their wedding present. ...We are dealing with a lotta shit." (Pitching coach:) "Well uhhh candlesticks always make a nice gift and maybe you could fine out where she is registered, maybe a place setting...ok, lets go get two, let's go."

Finally, here is an article in the Wapo that talk about chicken sacrifice to change luck.

Anonymous said...

Still searching in vain for the film reference to "Caribbean islander superstitious BS." Looks a bit like you just threw that in there because Soriano's Dominican and you wanted to play off stereotypes about people from that part of the world.

Froggy said...

Yeah that's it. That's what I wanted to do. [sigh]

I guess both those movies came out before you were born. You should lighten up and watch them. They are funny.

Froggy said...

Well, well...Mr Second Deck Soriano serves it up again.

To quote the immortal Crash Davis, "Man that ball got out of here in a hurry! Anything traveling that far ought to have a damn stewardess on it don't you think?"

So is it time for:
A) sage burning
B) offering cigars and rum to Jobu
C) chicken / rooster sacrifice
D) trade talks

blovy8 said...

I think beanball crap is stupid and dangerous, but I DO think Strasburg (or really, Jordan the night before) had to hit Upton. The umpires in these situations unfairly give the victimized club the same treatment as the aggressor when it happens. To me, it should be a warning to the club who starts it - not both teams. If a fat Phillies fan throws a beer, we don't make the whole section go alcohol-free, but you damn sure cut him off.

blovy8 said...

I kind of agree that there's probably an issue with Harper physically, because he adjusted to hitting the outside off-speed stuff before, and isn't doing it now.

Nattydread said...

A year end run would have been nice? But... Taylor Jordan shut down. Bryce still struggling. Nobody except Werth catching fire for more than a few games in a row. Soriano broken. A seemingly endless run of single digit losses. No fire in this team.

Time to plan a nice quiet going away party for Davey, send him off, and reassess what was supposed to be the "Year of the National".

Rizzo can then get to work. Yes, new coaching staff, the bullpen, the bench. Maybe a major unexpected reconstructive trade -- find Zimmerman a new home? -- to shake things up. Some firepower would be nice.

blovy8 said...

No fire in a team that gave up a big lead and still won the game in 15 innings? Yeah, right...