Nationals Baseball: Three opponents they can beat on the field and one they can't

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Three opponents they can beat on the field and one they can't

The Nats won last night. The Nats also lost last night.

You see the Nats don't just need to win enough games to make the playoffs. They need to win enough games to make the playoffs in the time allotted.The Nats won their game last night, but so did the Reds. (and the Braves if you care, the D-backs didn't though)  Therefore even though the Nats won, they lost. They lost one game off the schedule that they might need to make up ground. It's the baseball equivalent of "running out the clock".  Play just good enough so your opponent doesn't catch you and you win.

The entire baseball watching nation wasn't suffering from mass delusion to start the year. The Nats, looking at their starting lineup and expected rotation, was a team that should be good enough to make the playoffs easily. This team we are seeing right now is pretty much that team. But this team doesn't have 162 games to show that their level of talent is superior to most others in the National League. It had 31 games to try to play at a level at least 7 games better than the Reds. Now it has 30 to do the same. (You see the Nats can't be in this position 24 games from now)

Don't think a game matters? Look at the fangraphs playoff odds. Yesterday it was 13.1%.  Today 11.8%.  Making the playoffs became 10% harder after a win. It matters. A lot.

OK enough depressing reality. Let's look at some happy stuff, like how bad the rest of the NL East is.

Miami is the 2nd worst team in the majors. Houston then Miami and they are both bad enough that you'd bet on them to hold their spots if there were some sort of reverse playoffs going.  Miami's pitching is decent but they can't score. 15th in the NL out of 1,2,3....oh yeah 15 teams. It's not even close really. The Marlins score 3.2 runs a game. The 14th best team in the league scores 3.79.  That distance is the same as the distance between the 14th best team and the 2nd. Their best hitter, Stanton, is pretty good. His season has been better than Desmond's not quite as good as Bryce's, and most think he can do better. Their 2nd best hitter, Morrison, is ok. His season is kind of like Zimmerman's. The next best hitter in their lineup is probably the rookie Yelich. He's kind of having a Span like year.   Their third best hitter is providing offense on a Span like level.

The Nats play the Marlins 8 more times

The Phillies are surprisingly terrible all around. Because they lack that true OMG badness of the Marlins offense they aren't going to challenge for worst in the league, but it's surprising that they aren't closer to that. 13th in runs scored, 15th in ERA. They shouldn't be this bad hitting, but they can't keep everyone healthy on this aging team. Utley has missed 30 games, Howard and Ruiz more than 50 a piece. Revere broke his foot. Brown is taking it slow with a sore Achilles. About the only healthy player has been Jimmy Rollins, but if you haven't noticed Rollins has been average in his best years since 2007. Its so bad that Bernadina has started the past 5 games for the Phillies. The pitching this seasons for the Phils boils down to if this - if you can get Hamels and Lee to get to Bastardo and Papelbon you were good. If anything else happened it was bad. That was up until Bastardo got suspended. Oops! Now Halladay is back so that's something I guess. If the rotation holds the Nats will get Hamels twice, but Martin twice too and will miss Lee.

The Nats play the Phillies 6 more times

The Mets are doing better than most people thought they would but again, most people thought they'd be avert your eyes bad. They are kind of a typical bad, mediocre in hitting and a little better in pitching. That was with with Harvey (and Mejia) though. Without them they don't collapse, they got a lot of decent arms, but they do drop to mediocre all around. Oh wait the offense lost some guys too.  Byrd and Buck. Byrd was the second best hitter on the team and thanks to the Mets OF prospects being so bad he will be replaced with whatever they can find. Right now that's 28 yr old Andrew Brown. Buck is replaced by an actual prospect in Travis d'Arnaud. Of course that is a prospect hitting .107 right now. Still they aren't a terrible offense as long as they have David Wright in there. Oh, did I forget to mention he's injured and will almost certainly miss this Nats series?

The Nats play the Mets 7 more times, (3 without Wright for sure)

The Nats play 23 games against these guys to end the year. If you like them to be about .500 against the other competition (ATL, STL, ARI) then they have to go about 19-4 against these guys. They are 2-0 so far.  Look at the above. 17-4 doable? Just maybe it is.


Strasburger said...

More like they have to do the baseball equivalent of running the TABLE.

Still. I feel good.

Donald said...

The next 10 games are critical. We play bottom feeders while the Reds get the Rockies, Cards and Dodgers. If the Nats can go 8-2 while the Reds go 4-6, we'll be only 3 games back. This is the stretch where we really need the magic to happen. If we're still 7 games back after this stretch, it's REALLY all over.

Harper -- After this 10 game stretch, there'll be 20 games to go. How far back can the Nats be to still feel like they have a legitimate hope? I'm assuming no worse than 5 but more likely 4.

cass said...

Optimism and Pessimism in equal measure.

Winning is good. That's all I can say. Sweep the Fish. (Should "Fish" be capitalized even though it's not their official nickname? Seems like it should, but it looks odd either way.)

Zimmerman11 said...

They need a major move right now to get the Reds players thinking about it... get to 3 in the next week or so , and then have a LITTLE margin for error down the stretch. I'll be happy if the Nats can at least get to a position where beating STL/ARI matters... that is playoff-like baseball in September.

Kenny B. said...

Playoff chances are slim (I think I called it earlier in the season, predicting a 2012-Phillies-like season end, with a mildly hopeful run that fizzles before it gets too close), but I would like to see a good run at it, because I feel like the Nats have this tendency to have the end of one season carry over to the beginning of the next. Additionally, it would give me reassurance that the 2013 Nats were just snakebit for most of the year and the team is only really broken at the margins.

Also, reason for optimism that I have not heard mentioned: we do own the season series against the Reds.

Harper said...

Strasburg - that for the Nats, yes. Reds running out the clock.

Donald - Yep. There's a couple different stepping stone spots

Sept 5th - End of Reds ARI/STL/STL games can see where everyone stacks up heading into final push

Sept 8th (10 game mark) - End of Reds tough part of sched - need to be close

Sept 15th - End of Nats easy part of sched - need to have caught

With 20 games to go given who the Nats play... I'd say 5 is about right. but about 7 games after that it's gotta be down to 3.

cass - Odd I know. Tomorrow I'll get back to pure pessimism.

Z11 - I think 3 is the goal for the end of the easy times for the Nats (15th) , at some point they'll have to rely on the Reds.,.. generosity of losing. 3 in a week or so would be ahead of sched and great news.

KB - Yes we do - but WC ties demand play-in games (which are games 163 for record keeping purposes) so it's nice to see but meaningless in playoff context.

Anonymous said...

Harper, in your opinion how many Nats wins makes this year a success?

cass said...


I'm not named Harper, but in my opinion it has to be however many it takes to get to the Division Series plus three.

Anything less can't be considered a success, I don't think. You could make an argument that the Division Series is the true benchmark since the playoffs afterward are a crapshoot, or you could say with the team we had, Division Series +7 because it's "World Series or bust".

But there is absolutely no number of wins that can make this team a success if the playoffs are not involved. Missing the playoffs is a failed season given where the team is, plain and simple.

blovy8 said...

Playoffs or not, they HAVE to make those Braves OF season tickets more expensive next year.

I can't disagree with the assessments. The sweep of the Marlins just keeps us in the Reds' rear view mirror going uphill.

Anonymous said...

Zendo aqui...
Hey Gang...thanks Harp for your terrific bit on Jayson.Now.....

cabezon1021 said...

They have to do the football equivalent of starting the season 3-6 followed by winning out the rest of the way. For some reason this actually feels doable.

Nattydread said...

It does feel like we've finally left .500's gravitational pull. We need 2 more very strong 15 game stretches. The team's current attack mode does make it seem like they have a chance. And, as Boz says, it will be entertaining.

One game at a time.