Nationals Baseball: Comeback Game #1

Monday, October 06, 2014

Comeback Game #1

A few things that people brought up in the comments.

First, should a lefty have been used versus Sandoval? I didn't even think about this at the time but it's an honest question. He's much worse from the right side. The immediate "Why don't you use Blevins" call is wrong. Once you turn him around and he gets to face Blevins as a righty - that's the one thing I've said needs to be avoided at all costs. Righties hit .298 / .398 / .423 this year, but what about Thornton?

Sandoval vs Lefites .199 / .244 / .319
Thorton vs Righties :  .236 / .306 / .327

Sandoval vs Righties : .317 / .363 / .461
Storen vs Lefties : .253 / 274 / .319

I think Thornton would have been the right call here in a perfect win-maximing world. Why wasn't it considered? I think two reasons. One is Storen is the closer, he faces lefties all the time, will have to get out lefties, blah blah blah. The other reason is that Posey crushed the first pitch. There wasn't extra time to think of that next move. Sure you should be thinking 2-3 moves ahead but you don't always especially when you are agonizing over the current decision.

This wasn't egregious, but it's there.

Second, you're right that "we're going to bring in our closer if one man gets on" is not a great line of thinking. It happened to match up to reality this night. ZNN had reached 100 pitches, looked winded vs Panik, and MVPosey was up. But what if he guy gets on because of a bloop hit, swigning bunt, or booted routine ball? It has to be case by case. I'm not exactly sure that they are super by-the-book about it though. The quote can be read with an implied "in this game" sense. Zimmermann was losing it therefore... type of thing. That's the hope anyway.

Third, the idea that SF was glad to see Zimm walk. There is truth here. If you feel you can't beat a guy it gets in your head. Until it doesn't. It's like going with the hot hitter. He's hot... until he isn't and you have no idea when that switch is going to be pulled. If you want to make decisions like that it's fine, but understand you are basically guessing, and game in and game out that's not a good way to manage. Also understand at that point it doesn't really matter how the Giants felt, it matters how Posey felt. The Posey as I noted, who hadn't missed a pitch ZNN had thrown all night and had lined out hard last at bat. I think he had a pretty good read on ZNN and wasn't jumping for joy when the guy was pulled. That's my guess.

What now? WIN goddammit. Win.

Do you put Zimm in? The optimal line-up is probably something like Espy at 2nd, Zimm in LF and Span and Cabrera sitting. That's unlikely. If its just Zimm, for LaRoche, makes the most sense (best position for Zimm worst hitter vs LHP. LF is most likely, as Bryce like everyone, isn't hitting, and is not a veteran.  As others have noted - with Fister on the mound you can probably get away with a worse OF defense (sitting Span who doesn't hit lefties well himself and lacks any indication that he might see Bumgarner ok which you can get from LaRoche's history if you don't mind small sample size judgments) but I can't see MW sitting his lead-off hitter and best OF defender. Especially given how apparently Lorenzo Cain has single-glovedly lead the Royals to the ALCS.

Fister should be there but Roark and/or Gio should be ready at the drop of a hat. And frankly I wouldn't mind seeing Strasburg up. I don't want to see any pitcher saved for tomorrow because there might not be one. Use the best bullets in your gun tonight early and often. Right now worry about winning the game, not the series. 


Dustin said...

Personally, the team looks uninspired to me. I can't remember a game, and series at that, where I have seen so many Nats players just flailing at pitches out of the strike zone. I mean am I the only person who is thinking this, or is just the frustration of watching this team collapse fogging my view?

Anonymous said...

I would put Espi at second, RZ at first and be ready for a change after 2 ABs if the need be. We need Span and Harper in their regular positions. Harper will have a big game today.

Jimmy said...

I didn't even think about Espi at second here. No doubt that would be the right move.

Anonymous said...

You kidding me. We haven't lost like Detroit or LAA. We lost 2 1-run games. We might have another close one tonight. Let us just relax and enjoy the ride.

Kenny B. said...

Harper may not be hitting consistently, but he owns 33.3% of all Nationals runs scored in this series, and I'm pretty sure sitting him would put MW in the media hot seat if the team loses.

I'm inclined to blame bad hitting on cool weather for lack of any other explanation. It explains the rough early season and outright bad October so far.

My prediction, which I hope is wrong: Fister is solid, but it's another 1-run loss. I'm going to say 3-2 Giants with one of the Nats' 2 runs coming on a solo HR from someone you don't expect. Let's call it Espinosa. Media response focuses on lack of clutchiness and grit, and somehow gets pinned on Strasburg for failing to "set the tone." Harper will be lambasted as petulant for arguing about objectively terrible umpiring.

I have completely failed in my predictions of every single playoff game/series so far except SF/PIT. So I wouldn't put too much stock in my guesses.

Also, if the NL puts up SF v. STL in the NLCS, I might have to change my league allegiance to the AL.

Jimmy said...

Espinosa's line against Bumgarner is:
.308/.438/.308 4 for 13 with two walks and 4ks.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the reason you keep extra lefties in the bullpen is so you have one available in the 9th inning of a close game to turn a 317 hitter into a 199 hitter? When Thornton actually did face Sandoval in the 11th, he struck him out after an intentional walk to Posey.

Also, does anyone think tonight if the Giants are clinging to a 1 run lead with two men on with two outs, a lefty pitching and Espinoza coming to the plate that Bochy would not bring in a righty to turn Danny around?

Espinoza's BA would drop from 301 to 183, the exact same amount as Sanoval loses against a lefty, 118 points.

Anonymous said...

Dustin, if the Nats had scored a run at any point in extras on Saturday I presume they wouldn't look uninspired, they would be resilient. I doubt any player on the team is suddenly uninspired or not desiring a win.

Anonymous said...

Harper, couldn't agree more with your lineup. If Harper sits and LaRoche plays I will scream. I would love to see Span hit 7th or 8th with Espi taking the other slot. Stack the order with righties and be prepared to put in LaRoche/Cabrera. Go for broke and deal with game 4 if we can find a way to get there

WiredHK said...

The margin between these teams is razor thin. They are mirror images of one another - pitch well, hit ok, solid bullpens. Every game so far has been a coin toss right down to the 9th and it's come up the wrong way for us twice.

Posey and Sandoval hit good pitches. Our guys did not when they needed to. What are you gonna do? Tip your damn hat and curse your bad fortune, is what.

But being their live, I can tell you when Rendon hit that drive in the 15th with Span flying around the bases, I thought we won it...that ball just died at the track.

As for today, I get RZ in the lineup no matter what. Personally, I bench ALR and save him for a pinch hit HR late like the LAD game.

JWLumley said...

Yeah, I'd definitely start Espinosa SS. I'm not worried about Harper, I thought he got that one that died at the track on Saturday. It had a good sound and his personal strike zone seems to be roughly the size of a Buick. It's hard to overstate how the strike zone changes AB's and his overall approach.

Man, I wish the Nats had Souza on the roster, wouldn't it be nice to be able to put him in instead of Span. Wouldn't it have been nice to be able to pinch hit Souza--who can hit the ball out of the park--instead of Frandsen? Also, with regards to Span good thing I held off on that plate of Crow. Span has been terrible in the postseason. Great CFers make that catch, as do really good CFers. Above average CFers take their eye off the ball and miss it.

Whatever, happens, that was a bomb from Harper on Friday. Had a side view of it and it would have left the stadium if it been hit more towards CF. The playoffs are an absolute crapshoot, but if they can win tonight the Gianst kind of burned their game 4 starter on Saturday so the Nats will get Lincecum who's been really bad. So it may come down to another game 5 back in DC.

JWLumley said...

What would be my LOLineup for tonight:

Rendon 3B
Zim LF
Werth RF
Harper CF
Espinosa SS
Cabrera 2B
Ramos C
Desmond 1B (How hard can 1B be?)

Jay said...

They look tight to me. Everyone is trying to hit a 6 run home run.aybe now they'll relax and just play.

If they can find a way to win tonight they have a chance, bc I like their chances in games 4&5.

If they bench Harper they deserve to lose. Span looks completely lost. The veteran LaRoche tried to throw out the runner at second on a sac bunt. Big mistake. Finally, no way in my book does Espinosa play. He's a defensive replacement. That is why Cabrera getting thrown out the other night was so stupid.

Anonymous said...

monday's loss I put on playing tight, Tuesday on not putting in thornton (I actually wanted him instead of drew with one man on, though I'm sure a ton of people are claiming that in retrospect). Hope to see zim at first, Espi at second, harper batting above Desmond/possibly switched with span.

Anonymous said...

No Changes in lineup:

Span CF, Rendon 3B, Werth RF, LaRoche 1B, Desmond SS, Harper LF, Ramos C, Cabrera 2B, Fister P

Jay said...

Oh well. Looks like the manager is tight too.

Pretty surprising your team is hitting like .160 (with most of those hits from Rendon, Harper, and maybe Cabrera) and not make any changes. I predict an exit tonight and all offseason to say - we did it this way all year. Once again MW proves he doesn't get it.

Hope they prove me wrong.

JWLumley said...

@Jay Yeah, there is nothing from this year--or in ALR's case any year--to suggest that either Span or LaRoche can hit lefties, so why you would bat them 1st and 4th when your team is struggling to score is beyond me. Just ridiculous. I was starting to like Matt Williams and thought he had done a good job not over-managing, but he really doesn't manage much at all.

Mitch said...

Arbitrary and cynical prediction: Span gets a 2-0 count to start the game, swings at a breaking ball in the dirt, all downhill from there.

Max David said...

I don't get why we carry Ryan Zimmerman on the NLDS roster if we don't start him here against a tough lefty like Bum.

I definitely would've sat LaRoche in favor of Zim and then possible Frandsen for Span (with Harper moved to LF) OR Espi for A Cabs with Fister working his ground ball magic.

JWLumley said...

Yeah, I was starting to like MW, but LaRoche makes zero sense. Kind of like leaving him in against Javier Lopez who he's 0 for his career against and has only hit the ball once in any of those AB's. There's too much management and there's absolutely no management. I'd rather have no management, but it doesn't make it right either.

At the very least, he should move Span and LaRoche down in the order, try to lump the guys who are actually hitting together.

Kenny B. said...

Maximizing your likelihood of a win is for nerds and commentators. Standing your ground is what a true manager does. And we won't do too much as far as pitching, because we need to save our arms for the next few nights. #MWLogic

JWLumley said...

Also, it's been a fun season. The playoffs in baseball are a crap shoot, which turned out to be more crap this year, but most of these guys will be back next year. Wonder if they'll bring LaRoche back or find some AB's for Souza. Unfortunately, they'll probably bring back MW so they'll need to overcome that again. This team needs another bat Rizzo. Time to get to work.

Kenny B. said...

Yeah, I keep reminding myself what a good season it was, and how if this were the old days we would have played the Angels in the World Series.

Had a good conversation with a friend today about how the concept of a playoff is problematic in every sport, especially baseball, since it doesn't seem to have a tendency to select for the best teams, but rather the best teams at the time of the playoff. They're good because they're exciting and bring attention to the sport, and provide some drama at the end of the regular season (Halos would have long ago locked up their WS spot, with Nats doing so with another meaningless week or so in the season). But it's so frustrating to feel like your team is probably better, but just failed to show up at the wrong time.

Anyway, here's hoping the season lives another day, and if not, that we're discussing alternative approaches in assessing the October 2015 Nats.

I think I'd like to see ALR return, but I just don't know how much he has left in the tank, and we need 1B to offload some of our aging bats in Werth and Zimm. I think letting him go is the right thing, much as I'm a fan of his. He had a good season, so he might do well elsewhere.

JWLumley said...

@Kenny B. I've long had an idea that I think would make the owners more money and allow for better teams to be crowned champions. 7 game series for the Division and 9 game series for the LCS and World Series. They'd be playing until December you say, but I wouldn't give them any off-days or take almost a week to start the playoffs. Have them play every day and take Monday or Thursday as the off day, the same way they do it all year long. Make teams use 5th starters. Remove the likelihood that someone can get Kershaw'd out of the playoffs and give the home team a real advantage by playing the first 4 or 5 games in the home city, you could even make that the off day for travel in each series. But don't change the game for the playoffs. Make teams use their whole roster, make relievers pitch 2 or 3 days in a row. More tickets to sell and more TV time to sell.

Richard Parker said...

Cue the Pearl Jam.

Gio vs Vogelsong? I'll take that any day of the week.

KW said...

Vogelsong against the Nats this year: 11.1 innings, 9 runs, all earned. You win three by winning one at a time . . . but we just significantly flipped the odds.

Froggy said...

I like the odds.

I believe...

I believe that...

I believe that we...

I believe that we will...

I believe that we will win!

Donald said...

Not to be contrarian about the meme that Bumgarner's poor decision and throw lost the game for the Giants, but had he gone to first instead, the Nats would have had runners on second and third with one out. Cabrera's single would likely have scored them both anyway. So the Nats would have been up 3-0 going into the ninth instead of 2-0. Sure it was a HUGE play, but I think we'd have pulled it out regardless.

Anonymous said...

Donald - they would've walked Cabrera, Fister was on deck. So with one out and bases loaded, Matty-Dub would've been forced to PH Zim and pull Fister out after 6

Kenny B. said...

Even if the Giants did win it for us, I'm okay with that, since there's a pretty good argument that the umpires lost the Nats the second game, and Adam LaRoche lost the first game in a very similar way to Bumgarner losing game 3. You can't really say "x lost/won the game" because counterfactuals make no sense when the whole game is full of path dependent decisions. Maybe there are runners on second and third, Cabrera walks, Zim knocks a pinch hit grand slam. Bullpen is lights out. Maybe Zim whiffs, Ks, and Span clears the bases with a two-out triple. Maybe they score no runs, but Bryce still homers, Storen steels himself better because of the lack of a cushion and doesn't give up a run, and Nats win 1-0. You just can't know these things.

Point is really that we live to fight another day. And even if it's a loss, we didn't get swept, which makes me feel a lot better about the whole post season.