Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : SUCCESS

Monday, May 07, 2018

Monday Quickie : SUCCESS

Yes, Gabe Kapler gawking at Neris' in the 9th inning like a rubbernecker passing a car crash helped but the end result is the same as if the Nats led off the 9th with 3 homers. They won. They took the series from the Phillies, went 7-3 on the homestand and just were successful all around. Bask in these good feelings as for one weekend at least the old NL East returned. Not only did the Phillies help* blow that final game but the Mets got swept by the good but not great Rockies at home, and the Braves got blown out of the water by the maybe good? Giants at home.

The Nationals are now possibly a series away from taking back the NL East.  Could it happen right away? I gotta keep this short so let's get to the next set of games.Three at the Padres, four at the Diamondbacks. When you go on the road the goal is to hold serve. If you can make it out without losing ground it's a success. The Nats though are hot and Padres are garbage. So maybe you think about something more. They should take 2 of three from San Diego.  The four against the Diamondbacks is harder to gauge. You'd say the Nats should take 1 out of 3 games in Arizona, but is one out of four more fair or a split? I think for the Nats a split should be the goal. Especially after the Diamondbacks won the series at home. I want to see the Nats bounce back and show the Diamondbacks they are just as good as them.  So 4-3 for this brief away trip is the goal, but if they go 3-4 I won't be too upset.

Will that be enough to get back into first?

The Mets, who seem to be on a mission every year to prove exceptions exist, started 11-1 and have gone 6-14 since. So Best Team Ever to Worst Team Ever in a snap. They go on the road, but it's the Reds first and the Reds are legit bad. Then the Phillies which is good and bad for the Nats. It means they'll make up ground on someone with each win but it also means they'll be sure not to as well. Mets probably go 3-3 which puts the Nats in a tie with them

The Phillies play San Fran next who just swept the Braves but you can't expect that - you can say though they'll split that 4 game set and then take two of three from the Mets at home 4-3, holding ground one game ahead of the Nats

The Braves have to go back on the road after a brief stop at home to get swept but it's not far - just over to Florida to play the Rays and Marlins, two bad teams. It's only six games total I'll give a split at Tampa and a 3-1 four game series win in Miami. That'll make them 4-2 and give them a half-game more on the Nats.

So no - with the Braves having a relatively easy road trip I don't think the Nats can play three games better than them and take back first. However I do think they can hold their ground as expected and likely passing the Mets and Philly by the time we get to the 20th. Then it's just a question of where the Braves are as the Nats stare down the easy part of their schedule.  At least this is how I see it.

The Nationals finally had a stand of games where they did what they were supposed to and the rest of the NL East complied by crashing hard. They aren't the AL Central but the same NL East that bouyed the Nats over the past 6 years might have come back.  If they have then it's not a question of if the Nats will get back in first but when.  I'll be watching these NL East games closely to see where exactly these teams are heading before that unofficial Memorial Day "ok now we can really judge things" deadline gets here.

*It only helped, didn't make it happen. Look, a smart manager pulls Neris after two batters. A not dumb manager pulls him after three. Kapler did his thing. But in either case the Nats have multiple men on with no one out. Chances are very good they add a run at least to send it to extras. Maybe it doesn't happen but it wasn't Kapler that put the Nats in position to win, he just bumped up the odds a little bit.


cass said...

According to Fangraphs odds, the Nationals are now the most likely team to win the NLCS with a 25.6% chance. Next closest team is Cubs at 22.5%.

Nats now at a 76.7% chance of winning their division.

The season has been turned around. In graphic form:

Nattydread said...

"You're never as good as you seem on a winning streak, you're never as bad as you seem on a losing streak." Nats need to hold .500 most of the time, and then roll off occasional 5 to 8 game winning streaks. First cycle complete in '18 and we're 2 games out.

Luck seems to accompany strong performance. Nats couldn't buy a hit with RISP during 7 of 8 one-run losses. Last night the Phillies dished out 9th inning bases.

Bullpen has a decent closer but support pieces are not there. Weak underbelly of the team right now.

Anonymous said...

@cass yes, but the April lesson is but for the grace of god go we. Another bad series with some of the lackadaisical offense we were seeing for two games minus the most recent two innings, some expected less than stellar games from pitchers 3-5 (or expected bullpen failures) all while somebody else is coasting and we are right back in -6 "what the fuck are we gonna do?" territory. Love the momentum, love the team's chances, but let's not pretend we are out of the woods yet.

PotomacFan said...

Not out of the woods at all. Lack of hitting against Phillies was due, in part, to good pitching by the Phillies.

Let's give credit where credit is due: the starters have been spectacular. For now, Strasburg may be the weakest of the starting 5, but I have no doubt that Hellickson will revert to his mean. Gio and Tanner have been pitching really well, and of course, Max is an ace.

Moving Harper to lead off has worked well. Notice how Adams got two walks when he was hitting in front of Zimmerman? RZim has to be moved down in the line-up (or better yet, just have Adams start against all lefties). Difo hitting 9th also works -- no one is going to walk him in front of Harper (not that he takes many walks).

The bullpen, other than Doolittle and a very well-rested Madson, is pretty terrible. Not sure how you fix that until near the trade deadline.

Huzzah! said...

How long are we gonna stick with Harper at leadoff? Yes he has had some good games but he also has had some 0-fers.

Robot said...

Can we pause and reflect on Max's performance for a moment. Yeah, it was a short outing, but he K'ed 15 of 19 outs! Forget 30 wins. New goal is 27-K game.

Also, Solis is not good.

Ole PBN said...

Good teams capitalize on opponent's mistakes. Glad to see the Nats taking advantage of a mishap. Agreed with Nattydread re the bullpen support... some potential in-house arms that could be viable (btw Carlos Torres isn't helping anyone by putting on a uniform everyday):

- Justin Miller, RHP (AAA): 6 IP / 0.00 ERA / 0.60 WHIP / 2 BB / 12 K
- Jimmy Cordero, RHP (AAA): 12IP / 0.75 ERA / 1.58 WHIP / 8 BB / 16 K
- John Simms, RHP (AAA): 19IP / 1.86 ERA / 0.98 WHIP / 8 BB / 18 K

... and some others to look out for in lower levels...

- Austen Williams, RHP (AA): 12IP / 2.25 ERA / 0.92 WHIP / 2 BB / 11 K
- Logan Darnell, LHP (AA): 12IP / 2.13 ERA / 0.87 WHIP / 3 BB / 10 K
- Jordan Mills, LHP (A+): 15IP / 1.72 ERA / 1.02 WHIP / 9 BB / 16 K
- Ronald Pena, RHP (A+): 14IP / 1.88 ERA / 1.05 WHIP / 6 BB / 21 K
- James Bourque, RHP (A+): 14IP / 1.93 ERA / 1.00 WHIP / 6 BB / 24 K

JE34 said...

@PBN: excellent preemptive answer to the "who else we got for pen resources" question!

@PotomacFan: Agreed, with 1 exception... Kintzler has been pretty good after that rough start.

@Robot: couldn't agree more. Every time he pitches, we should gather our kids around the TV to say, "Watch and remember."

The Nats still score in waves. They put together meaningful offense in the first two and the last two innings of the Phillies series, with a big bunch of nothing in between. Thankfully the bursts were well timed. It is tough to expect offensive production from combinations of Wieters/Taylor/Stevenson/Bautista/Sierra all lined up to end a threat.

Slow Bat Matt has returned to his woeful offensive ways. He AGAIN was first-pitch hacking immediately following a 4-pitch walk (with Trea getting a huge jump, had 2nd stolen) in the 9th inning on Saturday, which led to the pop-up double play. How can a guy who has been so good in handling pitchers be so bad with a bat in his hand? When you're hitting around the Mendoza line, why are you first pitch hacking after a 4 pitch walk? That is hubris, stupidity, or both.

Mr. T said...

@JE34: IS Slow Bat Matt actually good at handling pitchers? I wonder. In interviews after a win the pitcher always says what a great game the catcher called. Is "calling a good game" measurable, or do we just have to take the players' word for it? Clearly Weiters is a terrible pitch-framer, although it feels like he may be throwing out more runners so far this year. I guess you could count how many times a catcher gets shaken off, but that doesn't really tell you much aside from whether or not they were on the same page.

Bjd1207 said...

Per Harper's thoughts, Severino still just barely passable at the plate. At least he seems to have the patience we're lacking from Weiters, we just give up power as a result.

Defensive numbers keeping both of them above water for now. If we bring in outside help I'd like to see Severino stick as the primary backup if the splits support it (wieters switch hitting gives him some added flexibility if he's in a backup role).

All of this pending nothing changes drastically in their performance

SM said...


Perhaps clubhouse Kangaroo Courts might help. In the case of first-pitch swinging, a series of graduated punishments/fines.

Something like: Minimum sentence for a first-pitch out; something more severe for a first-pitch out with runners on base, with increasing severity depending on the situation (i.e., runners in scoring position, go-ahead run on base, late-game situation,and so on up the ladder).

Punishment? Who cares, as long as it bites. Maybe fines (that go to charity), or modest mortification (laundering and folding teammates' underwear, for instance, or girding one's loins and jockstrap with Tiger Balm).

Then again, there's always a good, old-fashioned benching.

BxJaycobb said...

Folks seem to not be addressing a pretty decent sized problem, which is that Michael A Taylor is horrible. For some reason (don’t ask me, I repeated over and over that it was artificial), people thought last year signaled a difference in approach at the plate and making better contact. Nope. He had as high a K % as ever. He just got very lucky on BABIP. Every ball in play was a hit. This was the most predictable reversion ever (why I lobbied to trade him and start with Robles in CF and see how it went with Goodwin as backup). Once Goodwin comes back he should be fully platooned with MAT.

Robot said...

@SM - Harshest penalty allowed under the law for first pitch swinging after 1 (or more!) batters just walked on four or five pitches. No excuse for bailing out a tanking pitcher.

BxJaycobb - I'm with you on MAT. K% is way too high, really not improving year after year.

JE34 said...

@SM - excellent suggestions. I'd opt for a more public humiliation to make it sting. Wearing his jock over his uniform pants, for example.

DezoPenguin said...

@BxJaycobb: It's not so much that people don't recognize that Taylor's bat is a problem, more that we recognize that there's nothing we can do about it. Eaton is injured (meaning we can't do Adams/Kendrick in LF, Eaton in CF), Goodwin is injured, Robles is injured, and Sierra, Stevenson, and Bautista suck even more than Taylor does. (Also worth noting is that Taylor's defense really is that good; following up on his "best center fielder in the NL" of last year, this year he's put up 0.4 fWAR--the same as Kendrick--despite his 67 wRC+ entirely on the strength of his defense and baserunning. If Zimmerman wasn't a sucking chest wound himself (76 wRC+ with bad defense and baserunning) and the catchers weren't the catchers, we could ignore the Taylor problem until or unless Robles is ready to take over.

(Note that Severino's wRC+ for the season is 95, which is perfectly acceptable for a competent defensive catcher.)

Thankfully, Adams, Kendrick, and Difo have all been really good. With Rendon back at last, our best lineup may have Adams at 1B, Difo at 2B, and Kendrick in LF. (Unfortunately, Adams has never been able to hit LHP, but Zim playing the short side of a platoon is a lot better than Zim playing every day--heck, in this year's SSS Zimmerman has been actually good against LHP.)

Sammy Kent said...

Well, I said we needed to win seven or eight on this home stand and we did, despite someone's ominous warning that I was asking for too much --cough--Harper--cough. Looking back on it, I'm actually annoyed we didn't win nine out of ten. They were there for the taking. But, no harm, no foul, friend Harper. We're all happy after yesterday's walkoff, except maybe Max. Honestly, the thrill of the victory notwithstanding, Max should have clubbed Brandon Kintzler like a dang seal yesterday. Seriously. To get 15 Ks in six innings, leave with a lead, and it all get wiped out in about two minutes??????? I'd have been pissed to the fair thee well. Well, actually I WAS pissed to the fare thee well.

Ole PBN said...

BxJaycobb - The door is always open for others to join me on the "MAT-Is-Horrible" train. Been saying this for years now. While I agree with Dezo that there isn't much to do, I think that this year may be an exception, once everyone is healthy. We finally have pieces to either platoon or (even better and more deservedly so) bench the bats that aren't cutting it - Zim and MAT. Eaton to CF and Kendrick to LF with Adams/Murphy at 1B (Kendrick to 2B when Murphy is at 1B). I am tired of the god-awful approach at the plate by Taylor and strikeouts help no one, and are only tolerable if the guy hits for power (which he doesn't this year). Hitting under .200 should not earn you a starting CF spot on a playoff contending team regardless of how "good" your defense is. My response to the his 0.4 fWAR, is that he absolutely f***s his team over every time he's up to bat. No more please, get some one in there who can at least appear to know what they are doing - and once we get Eaton and Murphy back, we can. Honestly, even if Taylor rakes from now until they're back, it only improves his chances as a defensive replacement in my mind. Get off the field, Mike.

Anonymous said...

This is not a defense of MAT, but why do we think Eaton is going to be able to play CF when he comes back? He had a major knee injury and is now out with a related ankle injury. Even though he looked great with the bat when he played earlier in April, he was not, shall we say, fluid when he was running. If we're going to bench MAT, I'd rather put Bryce in CF than Eaton.

Of course, the real MAT replacement is Robles, who is also hurt. It's too bad that a lot of Nats' injuries so far this year have been concentrated in the OF. I liked the idea of trying Difo out as an outfielder last year, but he looked terrible to my eyes out there.

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