Nationals Baseball: WC scenarios

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

WC scenarios

I told you I'd call it and I have. It's over. The Braves can start taking estimates for the making of a 2013 NL East Pennant. The facts are that the Nats, even if they were to sweep the Braves in their remaining 8 games (which why would you think that would happen?), would have to make up 5.5 games in 42 remaining games. That's at the edge of believability, especially considering for the first 110+ games the Braves have played much much better than the Nats. Each single win from the Braves versus the Nats takes more of the "nigh" out of the nigh-impossible task I listed above. Nats go 6-2? Great, now make up 9.5 games in a month and a half.

So the NL East is over, but there is still the WC play-in play-off. What's the current situation look like?

St. Louis +4.5
Cincinnati  0
Arizona 4.5
Washington 7.0

Ok, that isn't promising but its not thirteen and a half games.  I won't worry about San Diego or Colorado who sit a few games behind the Nats because if they pass the Nats... well playoff dreams are likely over too. And let's not worry about St. Louis either. 7 games is one thing, 11.5 is completely another.

Are there any head to head match-ups left with these teams? 

The Nats were done with Cincinnati before April ended (4-3).  They play the D-Backs in a 3 game set in Arizona to end the season. Cincinnati will host Arizona in a four game set from the 19th-22nd.

Who has the easiest schedule? 

The Nats do, but it's not as super obvious as you might have believed at the beginning of the year now that we know the Nats aren't one of the best teams in baseball.

Including finishing out some of these current series the Nats have 6 series (17 games) against above .500 teams. The Reds and Arizona both have 7 (22 games apiece).  Even better for the Nats it's only 3 between now and September 15th, meaning if they are going to make up ground now (or really Aug 27th-Sep15th) is prime time to do it.
Also in the Nats favor each team ends the season heavy with in-division games and the runs scored/allowed numbers say the NL East is the weakest of the three.

What's not on the Nats side? They play more games away (26) than the D-Backs (24) or the Reds (22)

Any injuries to take note of? 

Everyone has got their nicks and bumps to deal with but Cincy has the biggest guy out with injury. Johnny Cueto has been out since early June and there isn't a timetable on his return. The sooner he comes back the more things tilt in the Reds favor.

Any young players coming up? 

Probably not. The D-Backs have the best prospect in Archie Bradley, but he likely will be held back until 2014. They have a couple live bats in AAA with Chris Owings and Matt Davidson, but they aren't going to unseat Hill and Prado, and they like Gregorious at SS for his D. If they do come up in September it'll be on the bench. Tyler Skaggs has busted out of the majors twice this year, not sure he'll get a 3rd chance. Most interesting for the D-backs is Adam Eaton who came back about a month ago from injury. He's a good prospect but hasn't shown it yet. Could come on strong down the stretch.

For the Reds, they don't have much.  Billy Hamilton doesn't seem bat-ready for the majors yet. They could call him up to pinch-run and utilize his all world speed, but is that enough reason to start the clock? Tony Cingrani is it, and he's been up for a while doing a good job in the rotation.

The Nats will need a pitcher to fill in but no budding star is ready to fill in. Rendon's progress is going to be critical down the stretch.

First impressions? 

The D-backs (4) and the Nats (3) will play a chunk of good teams in the next 2 and a half weeks. The Reds should expand their lead a bit during this time. If we wake up on August 26th , though and find someone within 4-5 games of the Reds, things could get interesting in September.

Really though, you have to like the Reds with the 4.5 games in hand and enough games vs Milwaukee and Chicago to offset those vs St. Louis and Pittsburgh. If Cueto comes back anytime relatively soon, they could  even run away with 2nd WC. 

Nats goals?

Catch and pass the D-backs first. They have to finish a series versus the Rays, then after a Mets interlude, they'll face the Orioles and Pirates. If the Nats can close 2.5 games by then, we'll be at the Reds/D-backs series where the Nats, if they win their games vs the Cubs, will be certain to catch up to someone.


Strasburger said...

Me too.

"I just thought....the division would be closer"

"We need to step on their necks now, I think we set the tone tonight"


Harper said...

You can see what Freddie's saying though. You look up at the standings and seeing the Braves 1st - ok that could happen. Seeing the Braves up by 13.5 games? Just no one saw that coming.

WiredHK said...

I hate to abandon all hope, but really, this is all very wishful thinking. This team is playing out the string now -- and Davey has had the very worst season of all the Nats (ok, Storen and ALR may give him a run for his money).

He stubbornly refuses to acknowledge this team is not hitting (yes, he gives this lip-service post-game, but...), and thus he does not manage to this in-game. Any given night, I can produce 2-3 example of this, or more. And most times, it directly costs this team a win or at least a chance to win a tight, low-scoring game (BUNT Hairston over, good GOD, this is basic stuff!).

Frustrating doesn't begin to cover it....

Froggy said...

It isn't all Davey's fault.

I would like to see how many time Trent 'Windmill' Jewett has sent runners only to get thrown out at not too close plays at home. Although the relay throw by Uggla was perfect, sending the Buffalo last night was beyond wishful thinking.

Strasburger said...

Yeah, I know, it just kills that we're so far behind we can't even use that as fodder.

WiredHK said...

Fair enough, Froggy. There's surely plenty of blame to hand out.

Although, can we assume Jewett is probably so frustrated by the utter lack of scoring opportunities for this team that we may need to cut him some slack. If his eyes get wide at the mere site of a threatening hit landing in the gap, my guess is he forgets who is running and just starts waving wildly... :)

Froggy said...


True, true...

Even though the idea of Ramos scoring from first was a bit optimistic, as you point out, I can see why Jewett sent him. You know Mcann(sp?) didn't want anything to do with blocking the plate with Ramos barrelling down on him. I thought that Tatonka made a great slide but the tag was perfect.

blovy8 said...

It wouldn't surprise me to see the Nats get a bum starter who passes waivers. I'm sure Cutter Dykstra is available. A lot of the real prospecty arms will also be on innings limits. I don't see the Reds collapsing either, but there is also a downside to rushing guys who aren't ready for the sake of eating innings

Dan said...

Braves fan here, and I enjoy reading this blog. While I enjoy, I also like to get a feel for what other teams/fans think about my team. You guys do a great job.
While I think the East race is over, I also thought it was over in 2011.
But, the way I see it, I just don't feel like the Nats have given anyone reason to believe they can put together any kind of run to get them to the Post Season.
Also, @Froggy, Simmons made the relay throw, not Uggla. Anytime the Braves can get Simmons in position to make that play, they let him take the throw instead of Uggla. We all know how Uggla's arm can be.

Froggy said...

Ah, thanks for the correction. I think I blinked or my angle wasn't very good.

Who knows, after we overtake the Diamondbacks and the Reds beat Pittsburg in the WC play-in game maybe we see you guys again? ;-)

Harper said...

WiredHK - pretty wishful yes. You'd still have to believe the Nats have a run in them. It's too far from the Braves to catch them but the Reds? Ok maybe.

What's that about Hairston? You'd rather bunt him over than try to let Werth drive him in? I'm confused here.

Froggy/Wired - I think there is a disconnect here. Should the Nats bunt guys over because the Nats don't think they can get two base hits in a row? Maybe, but if you think hits are so scarce then why not send Ramos in that situation?

In my mind you either don't bunt & don't send Ramos (try to build big innings) or do and do (try to get any runs you can), but you can't mix it up.

Blovy8 - Possibly. But they have a couple "not really" prospects they could throw out there in a Peacock/Milone moment.

Dan - I think the Braves are good. The worry would be if good pitching will carve up a team that makes such little contact. Dodgers or Pirates might have staffs that could pose issues. Really though if they are hot it wouldn't matter because a couple swings could give them 3-4 runs.

The Nats run is predicated on getting the bats hot (the pitching has always been there for the most part - just need a couple close wins inbetween good Stras/Gio/ZNN sets) but they haven't all year. I'm thinking more and more that Bryce is hurt and if he won't get hot, the job is that much tougher.

Still I think it'll happen they'll have a 7 wins in 8 games, 9 in 11 run somewhere between now and the end. But that's likely not going to be enough. They'll probably end up 2-4 games out of the 2nd WC.

Chas R said...

You have to admit, regardless of the outcome, that was a pretty good game. Everybody was hitting, except Bryce, Desi, and Lombo... except (again and as usual) with RISP. They were 1-10 with RISP.

Who would have thought Mr. Consistent Tyler Clippard would give up a wining HR?

And again, you have to feel bad for Stras.

Harper, I hope you're right, that they do have a shot at a WC. I just don't feel like they have played well enough at this point to really deserve a playoff spot.

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

Froggy, that would be a great run, I'd love to see it happen.
Harper, I see your points, but I feel like the Braves strikeout numbers have come down recently. They only had one way to go from early in the season though :-).
I know the playoffs are usually a crap shoot. I remember Colorado in 2004 winning like 20 straight games ending the regular season and then winning the first two series in the playoffs. Then, they had like a week off before playing the Red Sox in the World Series and got swept.
I digress, but is anyone else with me that the winner of the WC game should immediately go on the road to the number 1 seed's stadium and not the other way around?

WiredHK said...

Harper - your logic seems flawed to me due to a lack of game situation awareness (inning and score). For example, if the game is tied in the 9th, but you've been a "we only play for the big inning" guy (using your logic), does that mean you keep playing for the big inning when clearly 1 run wins it? Of course not, you play to win using whatever method is correct given the inning and score.

Sending Ramos in the 1st inning isn't something I'd really argue about one way or another, at any rate (nor was I overly frustrated at the result of the play). Judgment call by Jewett.

On the other hand, in the bottom of the 7th, when you get a gift of a leadoff double in a tied (low scoring) game with the P spot due up next, you don't even send Werth to hit in the first place (call him back from on-deck, please). You send anyone you want (Span, Shark, even Gio or ZNN) up to bunt and let Bryce rip with a guy on third and 1 out.

What else is there to be confused about? Now I'm confused. This team is patently awful with RISP. Seems like a basic late-inning manager decision that Davey failed to make. Heck, even good hitting teams would do this.

Unknown said...

Hey guys how about something simple as starting the runners. Ray Knight said last night that the Braves were starting the runners only because they have such a lead in the East. If that is the case why are we not starting the runners there really isn't anything to lose at this point we need to be much more agressive. I think Davey is a good coach but is is seeming like he is out there waiting to retire. I thought the call for Ramos in the first was great unfortunately his speed is not the best. i just can't understand how we were putting hits together then all of a sudden there are 2 on no outs and no able to get the lead the pitching was not great last night by the Braves. I do believe that bunting the runner from 2nd with no outs was the way to go at that point you have Harper and Desi with a chance to get him in.

Kenny B. said...

There is something going on with this team that goes beyond player talent. You can't measure it or predict it, or even identify it, but there is something going on. I hope that a new manager next year creates a spark sufficient to change that.

Maybe it's just all the ugly losses and the lingering memory of October talking, but all year something has felt weird. I think it's time to consider sources of a curse. I'll put a few out there:

1) The curse of Teddy's win
2) The curse of the untuck
3) The "World Series or bust" jinx
4) The curse of Desmond's mustache
5) The "Take On Me" curse

Chas R said...

Hah! Totally agree Kenny B, I have been saying that all season. There is something intangible going on with this team. I mean, at times, it felt like they were intentionally losing due to the great difference in their behavior from last year to this year. Or perhaps as you suggest, just bad luck. As we were watching the game last night, I was remarking about how they just don't seem to get a lot of breaks.

How can they be so BAD with RISP???

Harper said...

Wired - yeah situation matters of course. you'll bunt with a pitcher, you won't if Miggy Cabrera is up even if you are dying for one run. I don't see the 7th like you do though.

I guess the question is whether you think Hairston can score from 2nd. If you can, I think taking three shots with Werth, Bryce and Desmond getting a hit makes way more sense than taking two. The trade off only being if Werth doesn't get a hit and fails to move the runner over on his at bats that Bryce can no longer drive him in with an out. If the Nats hadn't had Werth on the bench I'd agree with you. But he provided them with a unique opportunity. The fact they didn't capitalize doesn't make it wrong.

Froggy said...

I see Wired's point and agree to an extent that a bunt forces coverage by 3b and leaves the bag open. Or the pitcher covers. Regardless there is the chance if the errant throw as well.

But aren't you supposed to play for the win at home and a tie on the road in these situations, or do I have that backwards?

Regardless, Werth was July NL PoM and the hottest hitter on the club, so to Harper's point I have him showing bunt at least once to see the Bravest reaction then swing away.

So, who do I talk to about applying for the Manager job next year?


Froggy said...

Braves. Not Bravest...dang smart phone!!!

WiredHK said...

The game was already tied. You play for the win by giving your light hitting, poor run producing team it's best chance to produce a run, hit or no hit. You also save your Werth bullet for later if needed by Bunting here. I'm not evaluating based on it not working, I'm saying it in the moment during the game. After seeing this team for over 100 games, the results were not a shock. We can agree to disagree, but there would be a small handful of guys I wouldn't bunt with there. Werth isn't one, but again, he isn't used there to begin with for me.

At least we can agree the idea that a manager should either behave one way or another at all times regardless of game situation is a tick silly, right?

Anonymous said...

Hey Gang-Zendo here
Well, as usual, Harper has made his points with such aplomb that my comments are once more of a genera nature...though, for a "Sabermetric/Neutral/Objective" observer- Harper has more hope than i can muster with this team. Yeah-as i noted in my last post, i'm hoping?praying? for a .500 finish at seasons' end- and that's being optimistic.
Now...i've watched every game i could since the, Nats..arrived. Had season tix at RFK, 1st year at the new spot (more on that to follow). Have had the MLB package since '06, and UNTIL TONIGHT i've NEVER watched an out of market game when the Nats were available. But tonight? I couldn't do it. Been watching Verlander. Top 2nd, bases loaded no outs for the Tigers-and no runs score.(sounds familiar, eh?)So Verlander, now- bottom 2, runners 1st&3rd, 0 outs? Gives up 1 run (mostly due to Fielder not stepping on 1st while holding the runner on 3rd).Then? 98mph,99,97...etc.Now bottom 9, Verlander thru 8 and it's 5-1 Detroit.Verlander has NOT let anyone swipe a bag and is SMOKIN'!So...jeez i got allot to say-sorry, i'm not trying to steal your space, Harper! Ow-game over, Tiges-so Verlander "only" went 8-are ya watchin', Stras?Nats? (score sound familiar?Masterson only gave up a THREE run bomb). SO...
Gave up my ST's in protest over the Slow Lerners not spending in/for the new park but Stras 'n Bryce as a result-OK, i can excuse the lack of improvements (though i question that as a strategy).As i've said, i like Rizz-but i can see ALSO how his.."moxie"...could rub some the wrong way.Now he's team prez, as well-who'd wanna work as his GM? And THAT ties back to Illitch and Detroit-spending!While i'm all in on PD-be nice to have a Tori Hunter in left, Bryce in center...or whomever-you get the point.
Point being that scouting/developing are BASIC but...a bit of spending is OK, too...and NOT just on Sorriano (a good start!)
Back to our "hopes"-Harpers' article!...i haven't read all the replies yet(sorry-i will but right now i'm bitter)but Dan/ATL-yup.
This team is playing like dreck.In '05, we were HERE!Our OWN TEAM..then we were building...then getting better..then Davey!Then last year!Yippee! But THIS year?...makes it hard to watch, especially since i seem to recall this team under DJ in the 2nd half of '11 playing HARD-n'SMART 'n aggressive and-with arrogance!Taking bases, etc. etc(like the Braves now?)-Thanks, DJ and Rizz!Really!
But now? Our utter mediocre play is manifold, manifest...and a BORE.Much as i love DJ-well...a mismanaged year. Where's the team with passion and a shoulder chip?
I wanna go on...but i see we lost again.Hate to say i feel a sweep but-sigh. And PLEASE tell FP to shut up-go take some more PED's... (i'm tired of defending him snd Carp to Cousin Mic and Greggo the Cop-they watch with me)Like this years team-better than some-but this year NO prize.
Grrgghhh...Sorry to ramble incoherently and angrily, Harper and Gang. Better stop now...
Go Nats

Nattydread said...

When discussing bunting and situational hitting strategy, here's the thing. It's important to know when to bunt, yes, and we know that DJohnson isn't that type of manager.

However, much more important is having the tool in the bag so that you can use it when the situation warrants. This year's Nats simply don't execute fundamentals. That comes down to preparation and, ultimately coaching.

Good fast players bunt in unexpected situations to get on base. Good managers unexpectedly use squeezes, bunts and hit and runs to move players over. But small ball is simply not in DJ's vocabulary.

So its also not in his game management tool bag. He is predictable, he surprises no one, and his players don't prepare -- he doesn't ask them to.

In short, his game management lacks a dimension. Most of the time in late innings, this team only needs one or two runs to win.

DJ tries to get 3 or 4 runs per inning, and fails because, whatever the reason, the lineup doesn't produce. He can't get one scrappy run to save his life.

Love the guy, but we need a change next year.

Chaos56 said...

I'm going with the "Take On Me" curse. It was never a Nationals thing, it was a Morse thing and should have been allowed to leave with him.

Chaos....time to bring up some pitchers to fill the missing slots

Anonymous said...

They're at 5 under .500 right now. That's a lot of ground to make up just to get to even, let alone get above it and challenge for a WC. Let's say 88 wins is required for the 2nd WC (not sure if that's true, but it seems pretty close). The Nats have to go 34-15 to do that. Does anyone else think they have that kind of streak in them? Even the homer in me doesn't think it's really possible.

ocw5000 said...

Agree with Alan: it is the Take On Me Curse. Nats management not realizing what worked about that song (Morse) and thinking they could just make it work again this year, even though every time it plays, it feels like toasting an ex-girlfriend that you regret breaking up with. Same with Natitude. Instead of realizing last year's career year for that god-awful marketing campaign, they just slapped it on 2013 and said "It worked last year, let's do it again". I'm more excited for that slogan to exit stage left than Davey. Also they added a fifth president who isn't even on Mount Rushmore.

Clearly the marketing department is to blame for the team's RISP struggles.

Desmond's mustache was phenomenal and should be celebrated during every at bat, preferably to a 70s porn soundtrack.

Kenny B. said...

Hadn't considered the curse of William Howard Taft. That's a good one.

And I guess we can't ascribe problems to Desi's 'stache, since he hasn't been terrible this year.

Harper said...

Wired HK - yes game situation first. If the situations are similar though you'd want consistency.

Froggy said...

At first I thought the 'Take on me' song was cool, then I realized it was a way to sooth the restless fans who missed Morse. After a while, it has become more than a bit patronizing more along the lines of 'let them eat cake' while the slow-Lerners give the one handed, parade wave from the owners suite.

And I do agree that adding Taft was stupid. Why do we need five presidents, a lizard, that darn cat and now a shark? Will there be a tornado added soon as well? Stupid stuff to appease and distract.

If you really want to get fans involved, we should take more pages out of Charley Finley's book and have hot-pants night, and greased pig chasing contests in centerfield. Growing up in Oakland Alameda and going to A's games when they sucked, now those were the days!

Seeing 80 year old grandmas and 250lb women from Maryland in hotpants would be real entertainment.

Chaos56 said...

Froggy, you left out the "Racing Cicada" as well

yearwood said...

No mention of Phillies and Mets, each only 2 1/2 games back of Nats; 20 games left against the two of them. Both will be more motivated to beat the Nats than vice-versa. The basement is a real possibility.

yearwood said...

No mention of Phillies or Mets, each only 2 1/2 games back. 20 games left against the two of them. Both more motivated to beat the Nats than vice-versa. The basement is not an impossibility.

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