Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Calling the East

Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday Quickie - Calling the East

Really we shouldn't be having this conversation, and we wouldn't be if it wasn't for the fluke situation that makes the Nats the Braves closest contender to the crown. The Nats are in 2nd place in the NL East and have been for much of the year. Yet the reality of the situation is that they are 12 and a half games out. The Yankees are in 4th place in the AL East behind the team with the most wins in baseball and they are 3 games closer to the division lead than the Nats. The Giants are in last place in the NL West and they are a half-game closer. The Nats are nowhere near winning the East.

Which is why in all good conscience we should call this race right now. Hell, it should have been called 2 weeks ago. NO! I WON'T DO IT!

I won't do it not because of any silly slogan handed out on a t-shirt. Nor won't I do it because the Providence GrassCutters in 18-dickety-2 won 20 out of 22 to end the season and win their division from the same spot the Nats are in now.* No, I won't do it because I don't want to. Give up the NL East and all you have is the Wild Card, an undesirable 1 game playoff that is baseball's equivalent to the NCAA tournament's play-in games. Give up the NL East and the season becomes a lot less fun.

But I don't want to deny the grim reality in front of the Nats so as a compromise I've set this unwavering goal in front of the Nats. Sweep the Braves and we'll keep talking. Sweep the Braves and I'll at least consider the Nats are starting a miracle run to a pennant. Lose one game, though, and I have to call it and we can start discussing WC possibilities.

Other Notes :

You may have been blinded by those wins but the Nats scored 7 runs in two games vs Donovan Hand and the Brewers emergency bullpen staff fillers.

There is a Werth appreciation article coming. No the guy isn't back to being as good as he was when he left the Phillies. This year's production is more average based and the average is high BABIP based (but not unsustainable - just on his high end). But he has been real good at the plate when healthy and that's important. He will be terrible and the Nats will be paying him a lot to BE terrible. The goal is to keep that time frame as short as possible. His performance this year says - that won't be a 4 year thing, and probably not 3.  If you can get it down to 1... I can live with that.

What do the two above notes have in common? A lot. After Werth the next best National hitter in the past week has been Rendon. His line? .250 / .316 / .438.  Hope Stras and Gio are ready.

After hitting nine homers in June, Ian Desmond hit one homer in July.

Is Dan Haren better? Signs point to yes. He's basically abandoned his normal fastball and throws nothing but cutters, sinkers, and splitters. Looks like it's working. He won't face another good offense until Sept 16 if the rotation holds so we could see this last the rest of the season. (still - don't resign him please)

*The 1996 Orioles are the newest "Nats could be this team" team. The O's at 103 games? 51-52, 5 games out of the WC. The Nats? 49-54, 9 games out of the 2nd WC. O's at 111 games 57-54.  Nats at 111 games? 54-57. By the time August 16th rolled around the O's were 9 games over .500 and 1 game out of the WC.  For the Nats to be in the same basic situation assuming the Reds go .500 over that time like the '96 White Sox did, they'd have to win their next 11 in a row. Anyone betting on that? Just because something has happened, that it could happen, doesn't mean it will happen.


Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

nothing worse than a team that is playing bad and somehow keeps giving false hope. At least the hope is so small now that its not as agonizing as earlier in the year when the nats were hovering around .500 and the braves were only a legitimate reasonable distance ahead. At this point I have resorted to thinking "eh there's a chance but i'm not gonna miss out on anything important in my life to watch what is likely not very important at all"

Anonymous said...

Harper-first time poster, long time reader. Enjoy your insights- also those of your posters-there is an intelligence by them here that seems to have (mostly) deserted Zuckerman and the Posts' commenters. I used to post frequently on the Post but now?-Meh.
Ahh-now on to our 9. No specifics here-just general observations...i DO like Rizzo, and have long loved Davey, and the Slow Lerners (as i repeatedly called 'em back in my Post-post days) seem to be learning...but this year, this team-i told a pal back after the 1st month that something was "missing".Davey in particular seems to have lost his pixie dust. And ASIDE from all the reasons you and your faithful have intelligently discussed, i have another take to add. It boils down to Ryan Zimmerman-our FOF. Bos noted (i thought astutely) back in a chat that his throwing woes were a silent psychological albatross on this team.Add in the fact that he appears now to be merely a singles hitter, and Voila!- a player you expect to be near-elite is mediocre at BEST-without ANY tangible sign that he knows how to fulfill his (admittedly not self-chosen) role as "leader"...i mean , come on-the guys in the clubhouse GOTTA be lookin' at him as a bellweather-and to me it's clear that his collapse has set a tone of uncertainty for most of this team. And those silly "lead by example" adds did him NO favor. He seems to be incapable of being "the man" when the lights are on. It's one thing to be the noble warrior, playing for shite teams while we pine "if only...", but now? Well-i hope this is just a one year blip-and while i hope he can return to a more productive form in the future, methinks his days as a possible HOF'er are gone. And that change in his performance/abilities-i think it has this whole team (except for Werth, Ramos...mebbe Desi) pensive. It was you Harper who had the great analysis on him a while back correlating his decline to his abdominal surgery...and, by connecting his poor play with his stature (i assume) in the clubhouse... well, it's like having yer dad (or chief breadwinner) seriously ill;prognosis unclear(but lousy at present!) and you're scared that a lot of the plans you had, your ability to thrive (pay for college, Pa!Pa?) are in jeopardy. I think it's ONE big reason this team has been so woeful...along with a half-dozen (or more) others you folks have all covered!
ANY hoo...great stuff here, from you AND your readers!

Anonymous said...

P.S.-every time i see ANY other 3rd baseman-mediocre, poor, whatever!-routinely ZIP the ball across the diamond to 1st base,and with ACCURACY!...well,i think of our poor FOF....and cringe inside as i think of just how "off-line" our season's been. Scattershot, unpredictable-NOT dependable....sorta like Zimms' tosses. Just don't know WHAT to expect.....but safe to say it's NOT safe to say i have much in the way of positive expectations for this club!(And for the record, i am a HUGE Zimm fan...argued in national debates how he was THE elite 3rd baseman in the N.L...OK, not since 2011.Sigh...)

Froggy said...

Anon, great comments and welcome! Now pick a handle so we don't confuse you with the other Anons who spinelessly chirp here in occasion. ;-)

Harper, I called it last week. It's all about one of the WC slots from here on out. And if Haren really has abandoned that ugly girlfriend fastball as you point out, I think we have a legitimate shot at a WC slot. Realistically the odds are more stacked against us w Jordan probably one more start left and Ohlendorf going in the DL is kinda depressing. Does it all come down to Detwiler and Cedeno?

Let's go boys, never quit!

Chas R said...

Hah, very funny Harper.Well, we have all been saying for about the last 3-4 weeks that this week is D-Day for them. And it seems the Braves have finally found themselves. So, it will be up to an inconsistent and shaky Nats team to stop the Braves juggernaut and keep themselves hanging on by their fingernails to the *hope* of another NL East championship.

They really had a chance for a sweep yesterday. Jordan pitched well until he ran out of gas in the 6th. Then Abad and Stammen couldn't hold'em. Bottom of the lineup hits, top of the lineup doesn't. The Nats just haven't been in sync all season.

There's a part of me that just wants them to go ahead and lose 2 to Atlanta and let the pain be over.

Unknown said...

Quick question for you guys it was rumored a few days ago that when asked Span said that he hated batting 7th (which by the way I thought he did a good job there)he said that he did not like that andthat he was brought here to be a lead off hitter. However in all the games I have watched he doesn't seem to be a very good hitter at all whcih in turns kills Harper and we all know the domino effect. But in all this ran I quess my question is what are the thought of Span from al of you.

Erich said...

Harper - I don't want to call it yet. Doing so will suck all the hope out of the sense. Sure, I've tempered expectations, and have started paying more attention to the Reds, but as a fan, I am going to hold on to what makes watching baseball enjoyable as irrational a decision as that may be. I'll take the "I told you so" comments as they start pouring in...

@ Zendo:
Welcome! Zim's defense do seem to mirror the team's overall performance. We'll have to wait and see where he is at the end of the season. Like LaRoche, he can be a slow starter. (Aside - How is this possible for players to consistently be "slow starters"? Seems like something could be done to address this?) Both both have a lot of catching up to do. Maybe, part of this upcoming miracle run I'll naively latch on to for the next 12 hours.

@ Houser:
Span is probably the first place I think the team should consider upgrading. Sure, he was brought here to lead off, but that didn't work out so well did it? You earn positions on the field and in the lineup. I feel like that should be obvious to all professional athletes yet this sense of entitlement prevails everywhere.

ocw5000 said...

Ross Ohlendorf going on the DL hurts the team's chances at making the playoffs.

Cannot summarize the fate of the 2013 Nationals any better than that.

Anonymous said...

Froggy-thanks. Well, after trying to answer you 2 times and losing my illiteracy!-i'll just sign off as Zendo each time.
A note-some other sites still have some good comments (N.I) but during games, it gets WAY to vituperative for me.Childish. Seems like here, both the columns and the comments are at a more knowledgeable, thought-out level.No chicken-shite, Ad-Hominem attacks, either
Now while i'm no Sabermetrician (too lazy to delve into it enough!)I do enjoy them, and think that they can illuminate a players performance. Just not when they speak poorly to players i like, y'know?(Careful with yer upcoming piece on Werth, Harper!...Though you were spot on about J Zimnn).
Speaking of Werth, i recall him saying he came here because of the future potential for winning this team had.(i know, i know-the $126 mil had NOTHIN' to do with it!)
Say what you will, but those Phillies teams he played on sure seemed to have guys who were "gritty/clutch" when things were on the line (is that a SABR category yet?). They seemed to play with "heart"-in fact, i seem to recall some stats to that effect on Crashburn Alley(please don't prove me wrong, Harper!). Wonder what "J-Dub" thinks of THIS bunch!Ryan, oh RYAN....can you heae me?
Finally-the post! While my HEAD says "We gotta chance", my HEART says "it's OVER...we should hope to finish at .500 or above....". Hope i'm wrong, but with Dorf to the DL, Det likely gone now as well...
Sigh. Be interesting to see how we respond in this Braves series.
Thanks all!

Kenny B. said...

The Braves' 10-game win streak has hit the unsustainable point, so I say they're due to lose one tonight. After that, Nats lose the next two, because they're the Nats and that's what they do.

Not that the Braves series has any special import anymore. The Nats are out of reach as far as I'm concerned, so the Braves are just another set of wins the team needs to keep wild card hopes alive. I guess you could ascribe it some psychological value, but really, this team's fate lies in Cincinnati and Arizona.

Anonymous said...

@Kenny B: Bit of a gambler's fallacy, as I'm sure you're aware. On paper, the Wednesday matchup looks best for the Nats, because it features a Braves starter who might actually give up some runs to their terrible lineup.

Harper said...

C&S - there is soomething worse. A team with tradeable end of contract veteran talent playing bad and giving false hope. Nats at least aren't that.

Zendo - thanks for contributing. the Zimm Q is an interesting one. In 2011 you could blame power loss to injury. Last yr his power was terrible before the cortisone shot, then great. This year both May and June were good pop months, such that the end of June you wouldn't have batted an eye at his power. But July (5 XBH) was dreck. Bad month? August is going to be telling.

Fielding - his time at 3rd is ending soon. the throwing helps actually, because his range is worse and that might not itself move him because it's a hard thing to get public opinion behind.

Froggy - Like I said, I've been on the "only because I want to" East train for a while now. The post Jordan Nats are going to be interesting. Det isn't coming back so the hole is going to be huge. Caleb Clay would be best 1st shot IMO but I don't see these guys everyday.

Chaz R - I like the big-time atmosphere even if it's all in my head. That's all that matters, right?

CH - Span is a bad hitter, good fielder, who should bat 8th now that it's apparent '09 and '12 were the exceptions. He doesn't get on base. He'll hit 7th though because they like Ramos at 8th.

Erich - but are you ok with calling it tomorrow?

ocw - I prefer "Steve Lombardozzi is going to get 100 more PAs this year than Danny Espinosa"

KB - Hmm I'd say the '13 Nats win first 2, then lose the next one. Beat the Phillies badly while gaining another game on ATL then lose the next 5 or so.

Erich said...

Yeah, go ahead.

Anonymous said...

World Series or bust!

Anonymous said...

the gnats are done! this blog is a joke.

Anonymous said...

"cass said...
My predictions:
100 wins, NL East Champions, National League Champions, World Series Champions.

All Stars: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Harper, Zimmerman

NL MVP: Bryce Harper
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg

Gold glove: Zimmerman, LaRoche
Silver slugger: Harper, Strasburg

These are predictions, not certainties. The playoffs are, of course, a crapshoot. But I like the Nats' dice the best.

It'll be like last year, except Strasburg will be a little better in terms of runs allowed, Haren will be the same as EJax or perhaps a bit worse, and Bryce Harper will have a monster year, like Mike Trout's 2011.

Bryce Harper is going to become the undisputed face of the franchise this year. He will be the biggest star in baseball. He'll be OPSing over 1000 with good fielding and good baserunning. 40/30 is not out of reach, with a lot of walks and doubles."

I don't know which is more hilarious, that he made a prediction for pitcher silver slugger, or that he predicted that Zimmerman would win a gold glove

Froggy said...

Anon, even though the Braves are clearly a better team than the Nats, we are all baseball fans here on this blog. The great thing about this blog is that it isn't all koolaid drinking commenters and that most folks engage in mature, objective discussions and are equally as hard on the team as we are supportive.

Part of the fun of the Spring is how we all have high hopes for our team at the beginning of the year and like to engage in wishful thinking and make predictions. Regardless of the outcome, we support our team day in and day out, and we will continue to do for the remainder of the season.

So you stay classy Anon!

Sirc said...

Amen Froggy.