Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Back to Normal (for a moment anyway)

Monday, August 06, 2018

Monday Quickie - Back to Normal (for a moment anyway)

Hey I'm back!

Here is where you might be tempted to say "and so are the Nats!" but really they aren't back so much as they haven't fallen away yet. They did finally manage to hit a goal, albeit a limited one. In 6 games against the Mets and Reds they were able to go 5-1. But what exactly did that gain the Nats? Not much division wise as the Phillies went 5-0 during the same time frame and the Braves 4-1. Let's look at things specifically in our week long view.

8 Week Status
Record: 57-54
Ground gained/lost in division last wk : 0 games to PHI, 0 games to ATL
Ground gained/lost in WC race last wk : +0.5 to STL, +1 SFG, +1.5 MIL, +2 ARI, +2.5 PIT, +3.5 COL

So yeah, division wise the Nats actually haven't moved at all. The Phillies gained some ground on the Nats early in July and since then they've been moving in concert. The Braves lost ground in the first couple weeks of July but have mostly held steady since then. The season is running out the clock on the Nats division chances but it hasn't gotten there yet.

What the Nats did do is gain a bunch of ground in the WC race. SF and PIT are now looking up at the Nats and they are within 4.5 games of the 2nd WC spot with 3 teams between them and the playoffs. That isn't great but considering they were like 7 games out with 5 teams in the way it is a marked improvement.

One of the things about the past few weeks is trying to figure out what is a crucial game. Are they all crucial? It doesn't feel like that. At the same time it doesn't feel like we can write off any game either. This is all right though. The Nats are in a place now where they can't afford to lose ground, but maintaining ground is not season ending. They are also too far out for a gain of a couple games to matter too much. The end result is going into each night where the game could be crucial, but only if the Nats lose and their opponents win. So every night is a potentially, but not necessarily, a big one.

When do they get crucial? Well for H2H games it's big right now as every loss is an opponent win, so that means the big games start tomorrow. Every Braves game and Phillies game from here on out is likely to be a crucial one. As for the games against the other guys - a good rule of thumb is that you can hope to make up a game a week. There are 8 weeks left in the season. When the Nats' games behind numbers (6 and 4.5 for the division and 2nd WC respectively) start matching up with that weeks left number then all games become crucial.   Basically they are one significant losing streak away from every game from here on out being a big one. (and that's no way to play more than a couple weeks of baseball)

With the break, the H2H reality, and the following road trip, we're going to consider this Braves series by itself. The goal is obvious. Win the Series.  Is a split ok? Yeah, reluctantly I'll say probably. What that would do is keep the Nats 4.5 back of the Braves with 7+ weeks left and another H2H series remaining. They could catch the Braves without needing things to go perfect. It also probably keeps them in roughly the same spot for the division and the WC.  That would start pushing the division into the danger zone but with NINE left against Philly, there is a lot of opportunity to make that up, so much so you give a couple games on the "weeks left" rule. So a split is workable, though just barely.

Series preview tomorrow. 


G Cracka X said...

538 has every game in the Braves series except the Scherzer one as a virtual toss-up. The 1st game has the Nats at 51%. I am thinking that number is high, not because of Rodriguez (as he is already factored in), but because I suspect that the odds aren't factoring in the Nats' weakness against LHP. Scherzer game's at 62%, but again, another lefty for the Braves, so that number is probably a bit high.

Seems like the most likely outcome is a split doubleheader, and then split the next two. Hopefully they will outperform the odds.

ssln said...


Sounds like a plan but it just never works that way. If you are just inching up on an opponent, they do not feel any pressure. You need to win nine in a row, or eleven out of thirteen so Philadelphia/Atlanta feels the Nats are rolling and the streak can go on forever. In poker it is called a rush. If the Nats go on a rush, you will see the other teams tighten up. Human nature.
Slow and steady ain't going to cut it.

Fries said...

I won't lie, this week still felt like a disappointment because no ground was gained. You couldn't have really asked for more, but I was hoping to see at least a game gained on the Phils/Barves.

This week is insanely important, though. SoS is basically the same for Nats and Barves (4 against each other, other 3 vs teams on top of NL Central), but the Phillies get 3 against San Diego (though at SD). So it becomes imperative that the Nats take a series win against Atlanta and not get swept in Chicago (hopefully actually get a series win). 4-3 bare minimum, preferably 5-2.

Zimmerman11 said...

If we don't beat the Braves now, we'll likely need to sweep them later... so a series win for me or I'm gonna stop pretending we have a real shot.

Also since PHI in ARZ this week, also crucial to win ATL series cause we need to make up ground when PHI likely to lose a couple. Yes, 9 head to head vs PHI but we can't be down 9 when those games start.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm just glad the Nats are playing better baseball. The team they were rolling out there in June and early July was tough to watch and I'm glad they're at least going to make a race of it. I also think the Holland signing is interesting, just seems like he got off on the wrong foot in St. Louis and then was making the pitching equivalent of trying to hit a 5 run homerun every time up.

Jay said...

I just don't see the Nats winning 3/4 from the Braves with a double header. It's pretty difficult to sweep a DH. Also, a couple of things I think about the Braves series.
1) why pitch Scherzer against Newcomb. Pitch Scherzer in the first game. We're much more likely to win against Fried. Odds are Newcomb does well and I can see the Nats losing 2-1 or 1-0. Plus if Scherz wins game 1 then the Braves are under pressure to not get swept. If the Nats win both games of the DH they only need one more game to win the series. This brings me to my other point.
2) why is Rodriguez and his 6.86 ERA pitching? In his starts for the Nats he has given up 5, 4, and 6 earned runs. All while he has lasted at most 5 innings. Start Milone. He last pitched Wednesday. Let Gio pitch Wednesday on 3 days rest. He's been awful this year anyway, so it's not like he'll be worse. Or let Helickson go through the order twice on Wednesday. It feels like the Nats are pretty much giving up the first game of the DH and then banking on Scherzer to win game 2. Then it seems they are hoping to win game 3 and 4 to win the series.

JE34 said...

Re the rotation, there are no good answers because of two doubleheaders in 4 days. I wouldn't mess further with Gio by running him out there on short rest... ditto Hellickson.

That said, if you went with Milone and Max on the 7th, and if the bullpen usage wasn't too bad, you could consider trying to get 4 innings from Matt Grace and piecemeal the rest on Aug 8, but then you'd need a long outing from Gio on the 9th... oh who am I kidding. Too many things would have to go too well.

I hope they eat their Wheaties and bring their boom sticks tomorrow.

John O'Connor said...

I have an idea. Let's make a waiver claim on Tyson Ross and use him this week.

Wait, what?

Sammy Kent said...

@Anonymous, I share your sentiment. I want to see the Nationals playing solid, smart, fundamental baseball with purpose and enthusiasm. If they do that the rest of the way, I can at least watch the games without so much anguish. But I'm still not seeing a whole lot of difference in Dave Martinez's general approach. We can certainly win more games by simply having better pitching and hitting, but it is even more incumbent when you're behind in the standings to manufacture runs on those occasions when the line isn't moving. Davey still seems satisfied to hope for a three run homer rather than make something happen. We frankly need to steal some games if we're really going to make a charge...and not lose any that by all rights we should win---like the four Scherzer losses when he gave up virtually nothing.

G Cracka X said...

I know Harper called us out for being too focused on Soto, but here is a great article on him by Jeff Sullivan:

One additional detail: on the second video where he drew a walk, he had battled back from a 2-2 count and had previously fouled a ball off himself and took several minutes to recover. Impressive stuff