Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - A tale of two teams

Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday Quickie - A tale of two teams

The Nats finished what is likely to be their easiest stretch of the season* with a 12-9 record. That's pretty good, but it's also a 92-93 win pace which isn't all that impressive against this level of competition. What we've seen is a dichotomy that puts the Nats squarely as a middle of the road team, but in an unusual way.

What you hope to see is something like 2 out of every 3 against bad teams and .500 versus good teams. It'll differ home and away and when you catch these guys, but in general this is a good goal to have. If you catch the same number of games against good teams and bad teams** you'll win at like a .584 pace or 94-95 wins. That's enough to win a division. How did the Nats do? Well look at this stretch.

The Nats won 2 of 3 from the Padres, then swept the Marlins, Orioles, and two from Tampa. That's a 10-1 record against the worst teams they played. This is far better than the 2 out of 3 you aim for. That would have been 8-3 or 7-4. The Nats against bad teams look every bit the dominant team they have for the past half-decade

The Nats got swept by the Dodgers, took only 1 of 4 in Atlanta, then lost a series at home to the Giants. These are the three best teams the Nats faced and they went 2-8 against them. That's nowhere near the 5-5 you would hope for. The Nats against good teams look every bit the also ran.

If you're looking for a bright side here it's that for the season as a whole the "dominate bad teams" holds up. Won another series versus the Padres. Beat up Cincy to start year. Meanwhile the "also ran vs good teams" is less consistent. They swept a decent Pittsburgh squad and NL West leading D-backs.***  So there seems to be a path to where they should be.

Which brings us to the next stretch. They'll start with two in NY against the Yankees with rest on either side of the NY games. Then starting with Toronto they'll play 30.3 games in 31 days. It's a killer run that will test this team in a way they haven't been tested all year and with both Hellickson and Strasburg having issues this could easily be a time frame that breaks what has become a solid pen, at least until they can pause and regroup at the All-Star Break. We will break it up into the games before that precious day off on the 27th and games after.

They have five games away, two versus the Yankees and 3 against the Blue Jays. 2-3 would be a decent goal here. Then they go home to finish up the Yankees suspended game and play the other rained out game. That's followed by 3 against the O's and three against the Phillies. Split the Yankee games win both other series. That's 5-3. Before shooting down for a two game set against Tampa. We'll say a split there for now. That's an 8-7 expectation, with 9-6 as a goal and 7-8 as the floor.

What's the competition up to?

ATL : v NYM (2), v SDP (4), @TOR (2), v BAL, v CIN
PHI :  v COL, @ MIL, v STL, @WSN, v NYY

Atlanta's been treading water for a few weeks, but that's a potential cake walk for the Braves. You could see them going 11-3 and something like 9-5 should be their floor. If the Braves do that and the Nats do 8-7, the Nats only drop a game and a half behind. That's fine. If the Braves streak and the Nats stumble to like 6-9. That's a 5.5 game lead for Atlanta in the blink of an eye. 

This is Philly's tough stretch, which you could argue they've been in for a month now, and they have suffered for it. 8-14 over the long haul and 3-8 recently. If they can survive this run they'll have a chance to make a push with an easy group of games that surround the All-Star Break. However you look at this and I see 6-9. They do that and if the Nats and Braves do what I expect they'd be 5 games behind the Nats and 6.5 behind the Braves.  That's a problem. They almost have to defy expectations right now to stay in the division hunt.

We have a moment of calm now. Two games against the Yankees where if the Nats take one, which it more than possible, it's a good set. Rest on either side. Get ready. Enjoy these games, then prepare to dive headlong into the month that could this team.

*Now that the Mets are dying it's likely there will be a couple more easy stretches. However, this is also true for the Braves and Phillies. It'll have less effect on Atlanta, than Philly. The Braves have loaded up on Mets games (10) the Phillies have barely played them (4). Nats are at 6 

**This sounds like it should happen but a lot depends on your own division and interleague. The Nats, as we've mentioned in the past, have feasted on a weak NL East for years.  

*** Though the Dbacks are schizophrenic this year.  21-8 to start year, 5-18 next (this is where the Nats came in), 9-3 up to today. So what does winning over them during that 5-18 stretch really mean? Don't know.


cass said...

By BaseRuns, Tampa Bay has a .544 record and if sequencing luck had not gone so horribly against them, they'd be in the hunt for a wild card spot. Basically the same as the Mariners. Don't think it's fair to call them among the worst teams in baseball. A little better than the Giants by BaseRuns. Padres and the Marlins are terrible teams by every measure - the Rays don't belong with them.

Harper said...

Yeah I know. But if you force me to pick I'm taking Giants over Rays. The point was - here were the teams they did great against - oh if you listed the teams they faced in order it's the worst teams! and vice versa. I guess you could say instead (especially using base runs)

1-6 versus good teams
3-2 versus ok teams
8-1 versus bad teams

point is still same.

Ole PBN said...

Good analysis, Harper. This stretch after to set in NY are going to be crucial indeed, especially if we have Hellickson and Stras out for a bulk of those. Getting Eaton back helps, and I like Martinez's approach toward rotating the 5 guys around. Bryce should absolutely be capable of playing some CF; he's a hell of an athlete that a corner outfield spot has that talent bottled up in a way (his action consists primarily of jogging after stand-up doubles hit down the line). Make him work, his athleticism should reward you. As for the pen, this stretch is going to be taxing on them. I'd like to see some new faces here (see ya Kelley, Gott).

Cordero (AAA): 1.73 ERA / 26 IP / 1.31 WHIP / 11 BB / 26 K
Adams (AAA): 2.41 ERA / 18 IP / 1.55 WHIP / 10 BB / 29 K
Williams (AA): 1.23 ERA / 29 IP / 0.95 WHIP / 7 BB / 36 K
Guillon (AA): 2.01 ERA / 22 IP / 1.07 WHIP / 9 BB / 20 K
Mills (A+): 2.77 ERA / 26 IP / 1.04 WHIP / 12 BB / 31 K
Pena (A+): 1.48 ERA / 24 IP / 0.99 WHIP / 8 BB / 35 K
Borque (A+): 3.27 ERA / 22 IP / 1.05 WHIP / 8 BB / 34 K
Mapes (A+): 2.04 ERA / 57 IP / 1.08 WHIP / 15 BB / 43 K

I likes what I saw from Jefry Rodriguez as well - I'd give him another shot at Hellickson/Stras' start when it comes around.

Josh Higham said...

The sunk cost fallacy is a problem re: Kelley. You hate to pay a guy 5.5 million to pitch for someone else. But here's what I say: pay him 5.5 million to give up homers for someone else and it's an easy choice!

G Cracka X said...

Love the '30.3' games precision!

Personal questions: is it weird/hard to write about the Nats objectively when they play the Yankees? If the Yankees lose a game to the Nats, does it seem less bad since it is non-division and the Nats are like a 2nd team for you?

BxJaycobb said...

True. The Nats have not played the good teams tough this year. (Although....their overall Braves record I think is closer to .500, right?). That said, theyve also been featuring lineups with 4-5 subs and AAA players. So I don’t think we know what kind of team they are yet. And we still won’t know with Hellickson and Stras and Kintzler out along with Murphy. Yeah, you can say “no team is perfectly healthy!” That’s true, but it’s also true that the Nats are leading the major leagues in DL days. Leading the majors. And it hasn’t been scrubs. Honestly, I think they’ve done a remarkable job staying in it and they haven’t had an opportunity to show what they can do with even an ALMOST healthy team. Think about the Cubs and Atlanta for example—-two teams that have had no more than one regular out at a time this year. The Nats’ injuries are not just expected and not just bad, they are worse than everybody else in baseball. So I say kudos to Davey Martinez and the guys, who deserve it.

Harper said...

ole PBN / JH - I think the Kelley issue is that he looks pretty good in general. Walks are down to acceptable! K's are nice and high! Not getting hit too much! But the homers are killing him! But then he didn't give up a homer in May! (of course he was injured much of that). Nats fans may feel pretty down on him but as the last man in the pen - he's a pretty good arm to take a chance on. Also think that they now have 6 arms (KMD Solis Miller Collins) that they'd likely go to first. It's not an ideal place for a young arm to get his time in. And see that they have this stretch where it's likely to get to an "all hands on deck" bullpen situation. So take that with the money they are paying him and it makes sense for the Nats to keep pitching him.

I'd say he's not great though - he's always hurt - the homers are there (and were there last year) - it's not THAT big a gamble to just let him go. If they can get everyone all healthy and pitching well after the ASB at the same time I think he gets pushed over the side, but we'll see if that happens.

GCX - I don't get overly worked up about regular season games in general. So I want the Yankees to win these two (especially with the Red Sox at their heels) but if they lose it's no big deal. Honestly the only issue would come with a World Series and I'll worry about that when the time comes.

What's more annoying is all the Yankee hate that gets thrown at them by all the Nats fans I associate with. It's kind of like suddenly having all my co-workers come into my office and start bad mouthing my family.

BxJ - 4-6 v Braves. DL days are often tricky bc who is out is as impt as how much, and also how you can prepare for it and the effect beyond DL stint is impt too. Personally I think the Mets injuries were more impactful - in part because the Nats new Murphy would be out and taht something was weird with Zimm (ADMIT IT) that Eaton would be recovering and they brought in guys like Kendrick and Adams to help cover for that, where as the Mets got caught with less expected Cespedes/Frazier injuries.

But that's not your point - you're point is a lot of sub - my counter would be "well a lot of those subs have played at a high level so it hasn't been TOO bad" but still you're right - we don't know what TRUE NATS LEVEL is. Guys will be coming back or getting into form. Does this mean the team will get better as schedule gets harder? Or does it crowd out players who have shown ability to get hot to put in injury recovery guys? Is the latter the right play for the long run of the season?

Harper said...

BxJ - shorter answer "injuries sucks and can mess up a season even if guys don't miss games. Hope that doesn't happen to Nats" Really this is the Braves fault for being good and not rolling over like everyone did in past years. Stupid Braves.

Jay said...

Is it me or does the Nats offense look totally different with Eaton leading off? MAT, whom I like, just shouldn't be playing even every few days imo. Turner has no business leading off. Difo isn't an everyday player. Severino... Harper was right. He was 4 for his last 48 (I think) before yesterday's game. I think Murphy has to come back this week and DH in New York and Toronto. I think Difo is a every now and again starter, energy guy but not everyday. I agree with the thought that with so many guys hurt that we still don't know what the Nats are capable of. On a side note, I don't see them trading for anyone. I just don't think they have the system for it.

BxJaycobb said...

Yes i agree with everything you said. I just think Rizzo/Martinez have done a good job with roster construction and managing in a period where they could’ve been sunk. Also I don’t think Rizzo thought Robles would be hurt and Kendrick would be out for year and rendon would miss real time and Eaton would play ZERO basically and Madson would miss time and kintzler would miss time and Weiters would miss time and he’d have to bring up Soto etc, and this has happened while Bryce has been decidedly sub par and arguably nobody in the opening day starting lineup has overperformed. I just can easily see an alternative first 1/3 of season where nats went 30-29 or something and are really struggling to stay in contention. Sort of like the Dodgers.

BxJaycobb said...

Turner has no business leading off? He’s been their best player this year (by WAR) and his OBP is very good if not incredible. He’s a fine lead off hitter. I would prefer Eaton as well. (And would then have Soto 2nd, Rendon 3rd, Harper 4th, Murphy 5th, then Turner....until Murphy gets going). Re they won’t trade: strongly disagree. Fangraphs ranks Carter Kieboom as the 35th best prospect in all of baseball (same future value projection as Casey Mize, who just went 1st in draft).....if they want to package Kieboom with Romero or Fedde or others they can get any rental they want, including Ramos. Maybe more than a rental.

BxJaycobb said...

Here’s the top 130 prospects. We have Robles Soto and Kieboom.

PotomacFan said...

I would think that Ramos is available for Carter Kieboom straight up. Kieboom might even be an overpay. By contrast, I don't think they have the resources to get Realmuto (who will be in high demand).

G Cracka X said...

I would prefer to keep Kieboom until we have solid future plans in place at 2nd and 3rd

Anonymous said...

Kieboom now the #34 prospect per fan graphs. No way we give that up for a rental. As much as I love Wilson shouldn’t give up a top 50 prospect for him right now

G Cracka X said...

@Anon agreed. I do hope they can work out a trade for Ramos though, maybe with lower-rated prospects. Besides strengthening the lineup, I love his walk-up music! So fun to shout, 'WILLLLLLLLLLLLLLSSSSSSOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNN!' before he bats

Anonymous said...

You can say the Nationals played the Diamondbacks during their 5-18 stretch, or you can say the Nationals played them during their 21-12 stretch, and the 5-18 stretch was really a 5-13 stretch. Given that the Dbacks were 21-8 prior to playing the Nationals, they were clearly playing GREAT baseball before playing the Nationals.

The Yankee makeup game might be .3 of a game or it might be .25 if you want to be precise.

The Mets have also had terrible injury luck, but have not dealt with it as well as the Nationals.

The Nationals have some younger prospects that are playing really well also. Read the most recent Wash Post minor league update article. I wouldn't trade a top 50 prospect for a rental of Ramos. It might not be crazy to include Robles in a package for Realmuto. Top 5 player at a key position where Nationals are weak under control for 3 years at great price. Robles may end up being injury prone and with Soto looking strong, they have a good outfield without Robles.

Ole PBN said...

I don't know about giving up Robles right now. He's a true CF and I like his upside more than what we know we're getting from MAT. Robles is here to help cover Bryce's eventual departure. If we somehow manage to retain Bryce, then we can deal Robles for a need next year, it's not like his stock will be dropping significantly over the next 6-8 months.

I think Realmuto is out of our reach and I'm in the same boat as management clearly was in over the offseason: won't part with Robles and Soto. I would love to have Ramos back, honestly should have resigned him at the time, bum knee and all. I think we can deal some of our younger talent over to TB for a Ramos rental. Say like Fedde, Seth Romero, Nick Raquet, and a PTBNL? It helps that TB isn't in contention and they'd likely lose Ramos anyway in the offseason. They should be primed for a deal.

Mr. T said...

I don't get the Ramos love. Obviously he's an upgrade from current options, but he's also fat and slow and hasn't thrown out a baserunner this year (or hadn't as of the Nats series, according to the radio guys). How many extra bases did the Nats take off him in 2 games on passed balls, missed throws to the plate, wild throws to third? Great power, but no patience, and evidently you can still strike him out with 3 straight in the dirt. Do we really want to trade the rest of our depth for 3 months of that?

Bjd1207 said...

Ramos would not take the rest of our depth to get. He's one of their only trade pieces aside from pitchers since Carlos Gomez sucks, so they'll be looking to move him. Plus they need pitching, always. Fedde might get him on his own, maybe with one more person. Romero + 1 more would probably get him. Fedde + Romero would hurt our depth but could probably get Ramos + one of their exiting relievers. Robles or Keiboom would almost certainly be overpays

JE34 said...

@Mr.T: my sentiments exactly. Fond memories, sure, but by no means worth a top 100 prospect.

Bjd1207 said...

Also just read a piece that had an anonymous NL exec bashing Harper (lol @ anonymous team execs) but that lead me to take a look at Bryce's peripherals.

He's nearly matching his 2015 peripherals to the T. K% up slightly (2%) and BB% down slightly, but otherwise the rest match up nearly perfectly: LD/GB/FB%, HR/FB%, Pull/Center/Oppo%, and Soft/Med/Hard% (in fact he's even beating hard% by about 3%).

BABIP in 2015: .369
BABIP in 2018: .216

Regression to the mean MUST be coming right?

Jay said...

Turner is 12 for his last 67 (.179) going back to May 25 and the beginning of the road trip against the Marlins. He scored a total of 7 runs in that time (15 games). He's 7/39 (.180) in his last ten games and scored 5 runs. The last week he has hit 4/21 (.190) with 3 runs scored. I didn't count the game Eaton started and batted lead off. I'll admit to recency bias. Turner should be fine hitting lead off. The strange thing is that MASN was showing a graphic that Turner hits much better the second and third time around. He looks more comfortable to me hitting second. I think it is no surprise that when Eaton plays that their offense is a lot better. Anyway, I'm ok with Turner hitting lead off. The Nats just need to score more runs. I'm tired of feeling like 2-3 runs is an insurmountable lead.

JE34 said...

@BJD - it's the shift. Is there data on him seeing more shifts now versus 2015?

Daniel Murphy in the lineup tonight, surely to be the DH for five games.

Bjd1207 said...

@JE34 - Nice, you've definitely stumbled on something...though I'm not quite sure what story the data tells. Fangraphs has it apparently:

So he did hit WAYYY better against the 'traditional shift' in 2015 (fangraphs label, non-traditional shifts have so few PA's as to be negligible), and they're also shifting on him way more. But he hit well against it last year too so I dunno...anecdotally I only remember him bunting against the shift every once in awhile through all of these years so I don't think i'ts that...

Harper help!!!

Anonymous said...

Harper as he has been playing the last few weeks is a very good baseball player, but he does not look anything like peak Bryce to me (like April of this year). He hit everything over the plate and put terror into pitchers such that he was being walked at a historically high rate. As of now, pitchers do not fear him. They are going after him and getting him out a LOT. If they make a mistake, he has a shot at knocking it out, but he is not at his best right now.

A few years ago there were articles on who would you rather have... Harper or Trout and there is enough data at this point that its not even close.

JE34 said...

If I'm managing against the Nats, I would just find whatever lefties I could scrounge from my farm system and run em out there. They have made some mediocre lefties look like Sandy Koufax.

sirc said...

I can't remember seeing a player walk back to the dugout after a hbp. That was bad optics.