Nationals Baseball: 2017 Nightmare Scenario - missing the playoffs

Friday, March 17, 2017

2017 Nightmare Scenario - missing the playoffs

So everything is looking good for Scherzer.  Dusty admits what we've been saying all Spring - Max can't start on Opening Day. There's just not enough time to get ready. He also notes something else we've said, the first game is just the first game and he may in fact sneak into the first round the rotation goes through.  I'll go ahead and adjust my guess, as he's been hitting all his targets after just a week ago looking like he'd have to throw more BP.  I'll guess he slots into his #1 role after someone (Fedde? Cole?) eats up a start.

But today isn't about Scherzer. It's about making you worry about the Nats. How can the 94 win Nats miss the playoffs?  Well let's start with an idea of how many wins that would be. Looking back at past years I'd say 87 is a fine guess. What did I say last year? Oh last year was about hitting .500.  These things change based on the starting point.  One year the dream was setting the record in wins!.  Ok so we'll go with 87.  Let's roll up those sleeves and get to work

I'll go ahead and take a half-win from Gio as his decline outpaces his performance. (93.5 wins) and I'll make the pen a little worse (93 wins) as well.  I can take another full win and an half from Murphy. That makes him more like all his other years (91.5). If Rendon's slow start wasn't injury related but just part of a normal up and down season there's another half-win (91).  Let's temper Bryce's comeback a lot and pull a win from there (90).

I guess I can pull a half-win from Trea (89.5) and the same from Eaton (89) and maybe make the bench below average (88.5). 

Ok well right now we're at a point where there are disappointments across the board. The starting pitching holds up ok (but we're still factoring in a drop from Scherzer that looks less likely today than a couple days ago), but the relief pitching and bench both do nothing of note. Murphy reverts to his career norms. Trea is good and Eaton is solid instead of being very good and good respectively. Bryce barely improves from his .243 24 HR line.

I suppose at this point I could pick half wins here and there. Maybe Ross never gets going again. Maybe Trea sophomore slumps. Maybe the bench or pen just stink. But rather than do that I'll just go ahead and throw in an injury here.  Let's say Strasburg misses a couple months. That probably gets us down to the 87 win totals and being outside looking in.

It may seem easier to have gotten to 87 than 100 but I think that should be the case. Each successive win is harder and harder. That's why you don't have many 100 win teams.

What did it end up taking for the Nats. Well to my surprise it didn't take everything going wrong, however it did take pretty much nothing going right. Roark is again great. Rendon puts up a good year and you'd still like what you see from Turner even if it wasn't an MVP type situation like he put up for 70 games last year. Otherwise nothing you'd view as a positive.

I think an actually more likely scenario than nothing going right, would be several injuries. However I can't predict who and what.

I also think there's a lot of room for variation for this Nats team but not because we don't have a good feel for these players. I think we know what most of them can do. Instead of that variation being spread out the Nats two players have had wildly different performances in recent years and where they end up in 2017 will make a big impact on the Nats

2015: about 2.5 wins
2016: about 5.5 wins

2015: about 9 wins
2016: about 3 wins

If Bryce and Murphy are both hitting as well as they have in the past two years that's 14.5 wins.  If they are both hitting as poorly as they have in the past two years that's 5.5 wins.  That's a 9 win discrepancy.  That may seem crazy but you are going from having a historic season coupled with an MVP season, to a couple of solid, but nowhere near special, major league season. In my 94 win setting I tempered both projections. I think I have Murphy and Bryce around 4.5 wins, hitting a near perfect middle between the best and worst cases you see above.

If both these guys come out swinging the Nats have best team in the majors potential.  If both these guys don't, they'll struggle to win the East. Safe bet is somewhere in the middle but who wants to go with the safe bet?


JE34 said...

It would be nice if Daniel Murphy could come out swinging right now, but he's glued to the pine in the WBC (and Paul Goldschmidt isn't exactly lighting it up). Diminished game reps in the spring will not help him in April.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine Murphy having anywhere near a season like last year, but I don't see Harper having anywhere near a season like last year either!!

Mike said...

Is Voth an option to eat that start instead of Fedde or Cole? I feel like I read last year that his stats were comparable or even better than Giolito's, though I haven't heard anything about him this spring.

Ole PBN said...

With all this talk of Scherzer altering his grip on his fastball to three-fingers instead of two... am I alone is thinking "thats a change up grip!" The more friction with your fingers that you have on a ball the less action you'll get and potentially less velocity. His play will tell the story, but just because he can throw strikes, doesn't mean he'll get guys out in his typical fashion (the way we need him to play).

Jay said...

Ole PBN - Scherzer said after his last start he had gone back to the 2 finger grip. He stated he felt like he was truly back at that point. Maddux stated his next start is in a Grapefruit league game in 6 days. They were "taking the training wheels off". As long as Max doesn't have any setbacks I think he'll be fine. Why have anyone eat a start? Have Max pitch game 5 if need be.

G Cracka X said...

Shouldn't the exercise begin with 95 wins instead of 94? Or am I missing something?

PhthePhillies said...

I enjoyed these two posts, Harper, my only critique being that the real "dream scenario" would be as many regular season wins as needed to clinch the division followed by a world series victory.
As far as Murphy and Bryce are concerned, I agree with 4.5 wins for Murphy. He may not repeat 2016 but he seems to have "figured it out" in the second half of 2015 and whatever "it" is has worked for a season and a half. I do not see him regressing too much, slightly closer to '16 than '15.
The "perfect middle" has Bryce at 6 wins, which I do not think to be unreasonable.
10.5 wins betwixt the 2, I'll take that.

Josh Higham said...

Ole PBN, the difference between a fastball and a changeup is mostly where the ball is in the hand. Holding the ball closer to the palm will get the extra friction you need to slow the pitch down to a changeup, closer to the fingertips buys you velocity. Number of fingers doesn't matter much comparatively.

In fact, in fast-pitch softball (at lower levels, where players are smaller on average), a standard fastball is typically a 3 fingered pitch, because many players don't have long enough hands to grip the ball with only two fingers (ring finger knuckle gets in the way). Just about anyone can hold a baseball with a 2 finger fastball grip, but holding the ball closer to the palm (for a changeup) would be difficult. I think (but I'm not sure) that the bigger difference with a 3 fingered fastball would be that it might run differently from a 2 fingered fastball, because you're putting pressure on different spots on the ball than with a 2 fingered grip. Velocity would be virtually unchanged.

Bjd1207 said...

@PhthePhillies - You're spot. And "it" for Murphy is moving up in the box and towards the plate so he gets more pitches in his pull zone. Rather than try to be a spray hitter like his first 4 years, he moved up against the plate and towards the pitcher to try and help cover the outside corner. But it had also had the effect of bringing way more pitches into his pull zone, and he embraced a pull-hitter mentality. This fangraphs write-up from last year is awesome:

"The success we’ve seen with Murphy is real. He has had 900 PA since he’s made these changes in which he has produced a .322/.363/.551 slash line, .380 wOBA, 140 wRC+, and 8.8% K%. His line drives are hit more up the middle, which increases BABIP, while his fly balls are more down the line, which increases home runs and extra base hits. His vertical exit velocity on line drives has gone from 16 degrees to 18 degrees, which make extra bases more likely. His expected BABIP based upon similarly hit balls in 2016 is .336, versus the .348 he had in game. He still possesses the ability to slap hits down the line and through the 5.5 hole making it impossible to employ defensive shifts. Daniel Murphy has become the ideal hitter: he can slap hit, hit gap to gap line drives, and pull for power. He is a legitimate all around hitter."

PhthePhillies said...

@Bjd1207 Thanks for the insights on "it".

Anonymous said...

Yeah, i think Murphy's improvement is 4-rlz. Maybe not as good as last year but better than any previous. Hell, no one thought his 2015 post season play could be repeated, but that was him all 2016