Nationals Baseball: Coasting

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Nats win.

It wasn't the constructive offensive game I wanted to see, but once Dusty was out for the game that pretty much ended the whole "treat it like a playoff game" idea. I mean if your manager is not around, what's the point? So stick them out there, let them play, see what happens and what happens is a win. Great!

There's a lot of talk about the offense (yet so little about the pitching - it's as if I didn't write half of what I wrote yesterday). Is it bad? How do you judge that? If so, how bad is it? Will it stay bad? Of course there are no "true" answers here. It's all conjecture and opinion really, which is why you can have a lot of back and forth about it.

They have been hitting poorly recently. That's not really arguable. In the last two series as a team they are hitting .224 / .290 / .365.  Does this in itself matter though? Not really. This is like week 23 or something. You are going to have a bad week and as weeks go, well that's bad but it could be worse. Stretching out until August 27th (the 2nd COL game) the Nats are hitting .245 / .302 / .371.  That's about 2 1/2 weeks of below average hitting. That's more meaningful as it's both like a tenth of the season so far and still going on. Is it an arbitrary endpoint? Oh definitely. But we're not looking to define the offense as bad or good in general (at least I'm not). I'm simply noting for how long the offense has been scuffling. That's the point I'd start at.

The question though remains - how bad is it? How do you judge that? It's easy enough to pick out a time where they struggle and an average and compare that to the league but baseball isn't static. You go up and down. Is this down now really that unusual? Well for fun, because let's face it we're crusing until the playoffs, I went ahead and calculated the rolling 10 and 20 game averages for the Nats over this season

Ten Game

Twenty Game

Neither the current 10 game average or 20 game average look all that bad. For the season the Nats are hitting .255 so the 10 game average is right on and the 20 is just a tick below.  Now of course that counts the ATL series but the ATL series happened. I can't just pull that out and say I don't think it counts. Maybe it was the Braves, but maybe it wasn't. We're trying to be objective.

I think though we see two things going on. The first is how our expectations have shifted, perhaps unfairly. About 40 games ago, right around the start of August, the Nats offense started to heat up. Soon, the Nats were hitting as well as they have all year. That set a bar, and honestly one that's probably one that's a bit unfair. The Nats aren't going to consistently hit .270+. The only team doing that are the Rockies for obvious reasons. .257 in fact, is good enough for 4th in the NL. Yet in our heads .265/.270 is probably what we are thinking the Nats should do because well, they just did it for 3 weeks, obviously they can do it forever right?

However, while we are probably reacting too strongly to the current state of hitting, there is definitely a trend that's happening. The Nats are coming down. That's not in itself an issue if they are going to settle around where they average, but they are starting to dip below that. That could spell trouble.

We've said this many times, but it bears repeating. It doesn't really matter if the Nats are the best or the worst hitting team. All that really matters is how they hit in the playoffs and in a short series anything can happen. Still we'd like to believe that they are good going in rather than not good. Nothing wrong with that. Right now the offense is scuffling but it's not particularly out of line with previous scuffles during the year. If it goes on a couple series longer though that's going to be something because it'll put the Nats around their lowest points for hitting all year just as the season is wrapping up. I don't know anyone that is ok with that.


DezoPenguin said...

I figure there's not a lot of talk about the pitching because there's not a lot that can be done about the pitching. Scherzer is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Roark is a very good pitcher. Gio is a functional major league starter who gives you a chance to win baseball games. Strasburg and Ross may or may not be able to pitch in the playoffs but that's based on injury recovery, not anything decision-makers can control. A.J. Cole has cemented the sixth starter spot with multiple competent performances. Most of the bullpen is quite good. It's not Betances-Miller-Chapman or Herrera-Davis-Holland good, but it's not likely to be what loses key games for us.

The offense (and defense), on the other hand, still has places where Dusty Baker can make decisions that will affect outcomes. Zim is a better defender than Robinson, but he hasn't been a functional hitter since April. He's literally Danny Espinosa, only Danny's a plus defender at a middle infield position and runs the bases well on those occasions when he actually gets on. (Actually, I'm doing Danny a disservice; his wRC+ is actually fourteen points higher than Zim's.) Robinson and Revere are also -1 fWAR players like Zim. At this point, I think the only realistic option is to put Zim on the bench, Murphy at 1B, and start either Drew or Difo at 2B. And we should probably do this now, while games don't really matter and Murph can get a little more comfortable as a full-time 1B and Drew/Difo can get used to playing full-time.

Meanwhile, we can also use these games to give other players (Ramos, most obviously, but also others) some rest. But the point is, Dusty can actually use the remaining games to make potentially productive decisions about the lineup that he can't do about the pitching staff, so there's more to talk about with it.

Anonymous said...

Let's face facts: we're not going to be facing any Rafael Monteros in the playoffs, and the present level of offensive performance won't get it done against the Dodgers. You know it, I know it, and everyone who's not wearing the rose-colored glasses knows it.

The good news is we still have almost three weeks to get it turned back around. If the series started tomorrow, we would almost certainly get squashed like a bug.

Jay said...

I think it is all relative. They've gone 12-4 since the Colorado series. That's why the division lead is 10. As much as we may try and angst over how the team may do in the playoffs, we won't know until they play those games. In 2014, the Nats were loose and ready to play. Ole PBN had them play an intrasquad scrimmage in one of the off days leading up to the NLDS. They were motivated and a little angry bc Tim Hudson had said they lacked the "fortitude". Bryce even made some comment alluding to that in one of the press conferences leading up to the Series. The Nats were talking about how it was fate that they were playing the Giants. Clippard made some comment that it was fitting since they should have beaten the Cards 2 years before and played the Giants for the right to go to the WS. They then lost the first two games despite one of the best postseason starts by a pitcher in Jordan Zimmerman's start. He was coming off the no hitter as well. They then bounced back and beat Bumgarner. That was supposed to turn the series around, and they lost game 4 with Aaron Barrett's wild pitch. To quote Mike Tyson, everyone's got a plan until they get hit in the face. I hope the offense bounces back and gets hot, but I am not fooling myself to think that it has any predictive power for the playoffs. Harper was right a while back when he state that we will write the narrative after the fact. If Drew Storen, whom I like, could have recorded a freaking save in 2012 and 2014, then maybe the Nats are the even year champs now instead of the Giants. Hopefully this year will be better. I do have more faith in Dusty than ole PBN at least. We need to figure out his WAMW before the year is over.

Robot said...

Can we just take a moment to appreciate Tanner the Struggled in the first, but still managed to go seven innings with no runs.

PotomacFan said...

Yes, Tanner Roark is a tremendous, and unappreciated, asset. Has not missed a start this year. 15 wins in 2014 and 2016 -- and his salary is approx. $540K. That comes to $36K per win this year. Max Scherzer earns 60 times what Roark earns -- and Max has 16 wins. Which is not to say that Max is not earning his salary, just that Tanner (together with Trea Turner) are two of the best bargains in all of baseball.

NotBobby said...

interesting -

Ramos believes some of his troubles at the plate recently have been that he has been thinking about free agency. supposedly had a great convo with his wife before last night's game and boom hits a homerun. he believes he will be good to go now that his mind is at ease after convo with wife. lets hope it is that and not tired legs!

Bjd1207 said...

@NotBobby - That is really interesting. Ramos is possibly the one baseball player where his off-field adventures fascinate me more than his on-field production. The arrogant stat-head in me likes to laugh off things like LASIK or not "having your head in the game" but Ramos is living proof that that stuff matters, at least to some ballplayers. His production seems much more tied to these factors than mechanical things you hear like dropping his hands, striding too far, or a loop in his swing.

Bryan said...

As I read those charts, there is a fairly good chance we will be in an upswing - either fully in the middle or at the end of one - come playoff time. Just eyeballing it there and basing it on past trend lines and trying to overlay them on top of what is happening now.

OK, I want to see the 10 and 20 games rolling averages for the World Series teams the last 5 years. Have they tended to peak right before the post season?

Harper said...

Bryan - I can do that. My guess - there's going to be no correlation. If we use record as a stand-in for production (not a bad proxy) there has been definitively nothing found.

Could there be something pitching v offense here that can be teased out? Perhaps, but I doubt it. The variability of a short series is just going to blast away any built in advantages like that.

Richard Parker said...

So when do we get to see all the fancy charts on how their pitching has been doing? I mean, they are the second-best team in baseball for a reason, right?

JE34 said...

@Roberto - I hope Mrs. Ramos loves her house and doesn't want to move!

Harper said...

RP - if I get to doing what Bryan wants I'd def do a rolling ave of not only say AVE, or OPS, but ERA or WHIP and see if either the current status or the "momentum" matters going into the playoffs.

Of course it won't but it's good to validate assumptions sometimes.

Froggy said...

Harper, I asked this a couple posts ago also, so forgive the double tap, could you do a Ramos FA piece on his value and what you think the Nats offer verses the market? (please)

And what do you think are the odds he is wearing the curly W next year...

Ryan said...

From Fangraphs new Park-Factor update

Here’s a stealth pitchers’ park. Nationals Park has deflated all types of hits this season (97 1B, 89 2B, 95 3B, 98 HR PFs). It’s been pretty neutral to well hit fly balls, with actual homer rates in the fly-ball upper-velocity buckets all near MLB average."

Anonymous said...

Harper - Post idea...Project the 25-man for the playoffs. I'm having a hard time with the last few bench and bullpen spots. Also, what are your thoughts on Gio pitching Game 1 (assuming it's at home again LAD) and Max game 2 (Max would be on regular rest for a potential game 5).

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LP said...

Anon-I think you would want MAX, Tanner, then Gio. You could potentially send out MAX on short rest for game 4 if the series is 1-2 and have Tanner on full rest for Game 5. I don't necessarily like the prospect of having and over amped Gio in Game 1 and only having Tanner for 1 start.

Harper said...

OK Froggy - ok.

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