Nationals Baseball: 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield

Last year discussion revisited

The assumption was, at the time, Bryce would walk and Eaton, Soto, and Robles/MAT would fill out the outfield. Bryce walking we've discussed plenty at the time. Why the rest? Eaton tried to force himself back from injury in 2018 but after surgery and needed rest came back to have a very Eaton year cementing his spot. Soto busted out, nearly winning the Rookie of the Year earning the second spot. The third spot was Robles' to lose given his prospect status, strong audition, and MAT's failure at a larger role.

What happened? Eaton was Eaton, Soto kept being Soto, and Robles did well enough to hold onto CF the entire year. They played 151, 150, and 155 games respectively meaning the Nats didn't have to worry about throwing a Kendrick out there, or seeing if MAT would bounce back.  If you want to be critical Eaton definitely took a step back, going from an above average player to a more average one, and Robles really hit JUST well enough at times to hold on (his fielding was as advertised).  Soto? No complaints.

Presumed Plan : Same.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Eaton is cheap. The other two guys are ridiculously so. They all performed well enough or better last year. They had the third best OF in the NL combined and you may be able to argue second (the drop to 4th is big) There's not really a question here unless you were going to try to shake things up to get a large improvement over Eaton or Robles (like a Betts trade) to cover for the loss of Rendon

Problems with Presumed Plan : Eaton is old and trending the wrong direction and Robles didn't break out as you hoped. A lot of the production you expect from the OF rests with Soto and he's not quite to the team carrying level. A Soto and Robles repeat and a Eaton drop would still be a fine outfield, but when you need to cover for the loss of Rendon you need to be getting better, not worse.

My take :You do what the Nats are doing and hope for the best.  It might be worthwhile to grab whatever decent OF doesn't end up getting a starting role for cheap (Cluberson, Dyson, Pillar, Maybin or everyone's hope : Puig) given the Nats needed depth and a guy who may potentially have a good year if needed. 

I'm not particularly worried about any single position though I do think the group as a whole may disappoint.  Eaton has the type of all-around skills that may slow a fall much like it did for Werth. But he still could easily fall below average over all.  Robles' defense is great and takes over MATs role as the CF protecting questionable corners, all he has to do it hit ok really. He may bust out but he may also suffer with the league now having a large book on him. He still strikes out a ton and that's always the most worrying sign for a young player, especially one that doesn't rely on moonshot power.  Soto of course is pretty much set. He's proven he can hit and his fielding, while suspect, is not anything that demands he get pulled into a less demanding position immediately. In fact he probably got a little better last year? Maybe? Though chances of him every being good are slim.  Hitting wise the one "worry" is that well.. Soto did hit worse last year. Just a smidge but adjust for the offensive environment and it did happen. So what? Well the Nats NEED Soto to become SOTO now. To hit like Rendon did last year, like Bryce did in 2015 (well 90% of that) and it's possible it's just not there?

We compare Soto with the greats because that's the kind of start he had. But when did these comparison have their first MVP-type year? Mantle? Age 20. Aaron? 22. Mays? 23( but did go fight in a war at age 22).  Trout? 20.  Bryce (who's not with these guys but is compared to Soto for obvious reasons)? 22.  Soto is going into his 21 season so there is a couple years for it to happen, but for a couple guys here it already did.

Oh just for fun remember mid year the Trout vs Soto comparisons were floating around and I was making sure you didn't think Soto was Trout because Trout is maybe the best player we'll see?  Well here's the first 266 games for each

Soto : .287 / .403 / .535   56 homers 
Trout : .309  / .383 / .540  50 homers

Seems pretty even. You may say Soto has an edge but first Soto at this point has about 120 more PAs so figure Trout for 5-6 more homers given equal PAs. Second, Soto has hit in a far more favorable offensive environment. Adjust for that and Trout takes the slight lead. It's still arguable but then you look at the speed (17 SBs for Soto vs 73 for Trout) and the very good CF defense vs maybe passable LF defense and it isn't close.

Ok But Trout IS slightly older at the time. Eventually we stop thinking about that but just for kicks let's give Soto another year to kick into high gear. About what would Soto have to hit in his next 150 games to hang with or pass Trout? Well by my calculations it would be something like :

.322 / .440 / .580 

Oh wait... that's 2013/2014 vs now... adjust up a little .325 / .450 / .595?

He needs to arguably the best hitter in baseball next year to keep the batting argument going.

Longwinded aside to say : Soto is no Trout but he's still great but maybe the Nats need him to be Trout, at least at the plate.

Out of the box suggestion :

There's a bunch of eh OFs available that can replace Eaton for cheaper and let's face it, it's very unlikely you are going to bring him back for 2021 for 10.5 million. So trade him now. OF depth is a concern for a lot of teams, even contenders. Work something out with the A's or the D-backs or back to the White Sox! Anyway trade Eaton, sign a Maybin or something and grab something that might turn into something.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rendon's an Angel now

RIP*, Sweet Prince.

So Rendon is gone and as losing Rendon can go he went to probably the best place he could for the Nats. Out of the NL East, Out of the NL, Not on an AL team that seems to be an immediate playoff threat. Can't ask for more there.

Of course that is an ancillary benefit that tries to cover for the HUGE loss that losing Rendon is. Rendon has been a Top 5ish player in baseball over the past 3 years. There are precious few players that can replace that production. Donaldson and Bryant, two names being bandied about, are All-Star level talents and you'd still not expect them to do it. No, accept facts - the Nats AREN'T going to replace Rendon. They are only going to patch the hole as best they can.

What does that mean? We're not sure yet. Could mean laying out money or making a trade for the guys I just noted to cover 80% of what Rendon can do. Could mean putting that money elsewhere like in the pen. Let's see what the options are today

Sign Donaldson : Donaldson is a nice fielding  consistent hitter who had some great years with the Blue Jays a few seasons ago, but seems to have aged out of it.  He'll be 34 next year and likely will give you good production for a year or two, after that it becomes dicier. The problem is, as everyone's Rendon back-up plan, he has no incentive to take a deal that's 2 years with options. He is going to get 3 years guaranteed, maybe 4, and he's going to get paid.  3/75? 4/80?  We'll see how this shakes out but he is not going to be a cheap fix for anyone and it's tough to see the Nats matching what will likely end up being an overpay by some one.

Sign Todd Frazier - ok fine I'll skip this.

Sign Asdrubal Cabrera - He's fine! He'll get the job done hitting about average fielding about average and letting you worry about spending your money elsewhere, and he'll likely be had with something under 2/10 even in a market that will overheat for thirdbasemen. But he's a big step down. Big. If you make a move like this there better be a corresponding big move somewhere else.

Sign Maikel Franco or Starlin Casto - At 27 someone will take a chance on Franco who put together one half season a few years ago and since then has bounced between average, bad, and good. Not a great fielder he needs to hit to be productive, but he should be cheap. Casto is AsCab but younger and a little less talented. He's giving at 29 what AsCab is giving at 33. The benefit of signing him is he's less likely to feel the ravages of age. The downside is he's more likely to feel the ravages of not being as good. But he's ok in the field so that should stick. When the skills go, they go and no one can say if that's 28, 31, or 34.  He'll likely get a better deal than AsCab because of the age so this is more a "let's not worry about this position for a while" move if the Nats make it.  Both could end up with surprising performance from a young guy who then could slot in for a few years. But both could also end up with duds.

Trade for Kris Bryant - the word is out that the Cubs (and Red Sox for that matter) are eyeing their next rebuilds. Trying to shed some talent/salary now with guys they don't expect to keep going forward to set up for a quicker return to glory. For the Cubs that means Bryant is on the block. Once thought to be a star in the making (won a deserved MVP in 2016) he's lost a bit at the plate and on the field making him merely very good. He's got two more seasons before free agency and the Cubs see a guy they don't want to spend superstar money to keep around at ages 30-36 or so. The Nats could surely use him but do they have the pieces to get him? Normally you'd say no, but in this day and age Kieboom plus might actually do it.

Trade for Arenado - I mean possible but as of today the Rockies probably want a lot and want a team to take the whole salary so I don't see it happening. Note to Colorado management. If you are going to do something like sign theis Arneado deal it means going all in with money commitments for several years. Not a 2/3rds try for a couple of years. Maybe next time! 

Trade for Andujar - depsite spending last year injured the Yankees 3rd baseman is only 25 and looked real good when healthy. But with Urshela deserving a starting gig and DJ LeMahieu (WHO THE NATS SHOULD HAVE SIGNED) being awesome in the field and a .300 hitter at heart there isn't a good place for him right now.  But this is a non-starter for the Nats as the Yankees were talking about dealing him for talent NOW. For the Yankees now it's hard to see what that would be other than a big time pitchers (it would likely be a Happ/Andujar package) or a young cheap great reliever (you'd like not to pay everyone in the pen and have someone to turn to in a few years).  The Nats aren't in the market to give up that.

What's do I see the Nats doing? I told you a few days ago. I see AsCab being back. Sorry.  What's the best move now that Rendon is gone. It's hard to say give Donaldson four years but that fits in with the "now"ness of the Strasburg deal.  In terms of pure value it would probably go - trade for Bryant if you can, sign Castro, then Donaldson. But these are all Plan Bs.

Anyway you slice is Rendon is gone and he took a piece of production with him that the Nats aren't getting back.

*Reside In Placentia

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The town that Strasmas didn't forget

You might not have heard but Strasburg signed back with the Nats.  The deal is HUGE 7/245 (or 35 per).  Let's understand now he almost certainly not be worth it. Yes I know, Scherzer was and I suppose the Nats could luck into what I consider the second best pitching FA contract of all-time* But let's look at the facts. He's one year older now than when Scherzer signed. He has far less history of pitching the amount of innings that Max had, and a far greater injury history.  He pitched an amount of innings last year well off his usual pace

So Max : Going into his 30/31 season, just had 6 basically injury free years, where 195 was his personal low for a season (when you include post-season) and pitching as he always had

Stras : Going into his 31/32 season, just had his first injury free year since 2014, threw 245 innings 25% more than he has thrown in any season since 2014.

Oh yeah - and Strasburg is pitching off a Tommy John repaired arm.

So it's not going to be worth it in the straight sense, but who cares!  Really baseball contracts are being worth it in a different way.  Stras needs to give the Nats ace level pitching for 3-4 years and then can fade away slowly.  Can he do that? It's not impossible. Max just did it for those ages. It IS unlikely but the only other option for the Nats was going after Cole and hoping to win a bidding war.

This deal keeps Stras on the team for his career. It keeps the Nats full of aces in 2020 to defend their title. It also puts a big ol $35 million toward the cap.  If you are a "Nats are going to try to stay under the cap" type - this makes signing Rendon VERY unlikley.  It would be nearly impossible to sign him and then anyone else good and fill out this roster. I suppose they could fill it with garbage back-ups and relievers and skip out on the 5th starter and hope Ross finally has gotten it. But more likely they let Rendon go and smartly fill out all those other spots.

Is there anything in the fancy stats to suggest Stras isn't going to be able to help next year, if healthy? Nope. In fact Stras has been remarkably consistent over the years.  Maybe a little more homer prone while getting a few more ground balls, as contradictory as that may sound. But the trends are not huge. Strasburg started out as a K machine and then the Nats had an ill-fated attempt to make him an ultimate control pitcher (remember the "strikeouts are too many pitches" era?") but since then has been the same pitcher for years, which has produced consistent 2nd tier Cy Young performance, if not results. Last year kind of broke in a way to highlight that but it only got him the results he deserved not some fluke measure.

The worst thing that can happen to the Nats is an end to the starting pitching injury luck.  It's now 2 TJ guys, one well into that second elbow and Max going on 36.  But they need them all for pretty much 75-80 starts. There's not much you can do though. The Nats days of relying on young arms are over and relying on older ones is risky, but in this case necessary.

My take is this - if you were going to let Rendon walk or were afraid he was going, you had to bring back Strasburg (or sign a Cole).  It wasn't going to get you a team friendly deal but this is about staying where the Nats are at his moment, with Max still presumably Max and Soto a burgeoning superstar.  Ideally something else will work out - it has in the past. A pitcher will develop (like.... uhhhh) or a hitter ( Kieboom or Garcia seem like the most likely ones) to give the Nats another cheap option to keep costs down when they do go out and sign what they need.  If that doesn't happen in 2020 or 2021... well then we start looking at the Nats likely rebuilding post-under control Soto (maybe with him, don't worry) but for the next couple of years they should remain in the mix and could be favorites depending on how they spend.

*Behind Randy Johnson's 4yr, 4 Cy Young, WS contract

Friday, December 06, 2019

Fast (Strasburg), Easy (Rendon) or Cheap (Neither) I can get you any two... but not Fast and Easy

Hey, Howie's probably back. That's good! 

Lerner opened his big trap yesterday and said things.

He's almost certainly spinning this. They almost certainly can afford this. They have billions, just made a ton more money with the deep playoff run and championship (which will continue to pay off in merchandise and ticket sales in 2020), and stand to have another windfall from the MASN deal at some point now sooner than later.

But let's be honest, this is just how owners talk.  It's like telling your kids in the store you can't afford to buy each their own ice cream. You totally can - but you have a budget in your mind for desserts and that doesn't include a tub of Haagen-Dazs for Tommy, a box of Magnum ice cream bars for sister Sue, and few artisan pastries for your Mommy.  They have a budget in mind for the team and that doesn't include spending a ton on both Rendon and Strasburg. That's what he's really saying.

How is that possible you might ask? We do (supposedly) know that the Nats put a 7/210 offer on the table for Rendon when Strasburg still hadn't agreed to an opt out. If they could have afforded it then, why not now? Well I have three theories which I'll give you from least likely to most.

Theory 1 : The long term plan.

In this theory the Nats had a plan on what they wanted to do 5 years down the road. Maybe it was a plan where they built another Top 5-10 payroll team around a ridiculous Juan Soto contract. Maybe it was an eventual slow tear down to rebuild.  We don't know but we can assume whatever they offered Rendon, they saw how this fit into that plan and five years would be post Strasburg's initial contract so that wasn't factored in. But now they are looking to re-up Strasburg for a bunch of years AND Rendon for a bunch of years, and doing both  would disrupt whatever that fiscal plan was.

Why do I consider this least likely? Well it's pretty dumb in baseball to count on anything five years down the road. Too much variability. You can certainly tear down and say "we hope to be better by then" but neither of these plans were than. A slow teardown also doesn't really fit with re-signing Rendon.

Theory 2 : Got the title, now let's tighten ranks

The Lerners are by nature not big spenders. You can read any article about the organization, including some early Nats ones, and see that. However they maintained, once the Nats became competitive, a healthy payroll.  Sure they could have splurged a little more, but they have been Top 5ish and the yells from the cheap seats (which I was sitting in) of "CHEEEEEEEEEEEP" have gone by the wayside.  However, what if those payrolls were driven by one single desire? What if ultimately money kept flowing out because Uncle Ted desperately wanted to have a winner before he passed?  If that's the case than when the Nats got that final out of the series that also marked the final out of top tier payrolls. The Nats could now pare down to a number they were more comfortable with which is... well we don't know really? We know what it is when they are bad (pay nothing), but not when they are still able to compete

I consider this possible, but I like my other theory better

Theory 1 : The contract puzzle pieces fit

We know that contract was 7/210. What we don't know is how it was structured.  We have seen in the past the Nats do funny things with contract to make the money flow be how they want it to be.  So it's easy to imagine that the Nats planned for a 2020 where they had planned to pay out Strasburg 25 million a 2021 where he would make 15 and a 2022 where he would make 15 and worked Rendon's contract around that. Maybe it started with 20 million, then 35 million a piece in the next two years.  Whatever it was, it worked for the Nats. But Rendon rejected that, preferring the more lucrative money in hand. And Strasburg opting out might mean the same payroll numbers won't be seen in those year. It certainly means the luxury tax number will go up as his average AAV jumps.

So for the Nats they are faced with a very real possibility of 60+ million to the luxury tax with only about 70 million currently free and several rosters spots after that to fill. Signing both would mean pushing the deferred money on smaller deals, which is harder to do, or accepting going over the tax.  Also hitting some number in payroll likely higher than the pictured.

It matters which theory because that will effect how the Nats move in the next couple of years.  If it's #2 we should see a sharp reduction in salary. If it's #1 we should see maintenance but that has been done through some financial movement they may not be able to do with every free agent. If it's #1 who knows?  Regardless the point is something fans pretty much understood would be true - the Nats weren't bringing back both stars - is now closer to reality and for a reason Nats fans didn't want to hear.  It's not because of crazy outbidding by more desperate teams, but at least in part because the team itself reached whatever self-imposed limit it set.  The contracts they end up with may be perfectly reasonable high-end market deals, maybe not even high-end, but the Nats would still be out because they set their overall number.  A few weeks after the incredible high of winning it all, this marks a bad start to the post-Championship era.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Offseason Position Discussion : Catcher

Last year discussion revisited

I assumed last year that the Nats would bring in someone to start (via trade or FA) and the rest of the schlubs would fight for a back-up role.  Ideally that meant Grandal or Realmuto but there were a couple riskier options for a full-time role (like Ramos) out there as well. Given that I thought they'd punt on catcher until late, I suggested getting two vets to man the position and platoon. Which is what the Nats did! Not the two I suggested (McCann and Lucroy) but instead Suzuki and Gomes came in.

How'd they do? ehhh. Suzuki was supposed to be the hit no-field guy and while he didn't field (don't ask him to throw anyone out) as "planned" he didn't hit as well as they hoped.  It was still good enough given the low bar catcher is set at but they were certainly hoping for more. Gomes was worse. Brought in with an eye toward being a long-term solution, Gomes reverted from a maybe average bat (for a catcher) to a terrible one. As the field first guy he didn't come through there - at least not as the Nats would have liked. He didn't frame as well and had a career high in passed balls (but objectively was still pretty good).

All in all catching was a small problem for the Nats but in the scheme of things it's a problem for most teams right now and with no cheap and easy solutions mid-season the Nats just let things go and hoped it wouldn't end up mattering.  And it didn't!

Presumed Plan : Suzuki and Gomes redux

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Suzuki is signed, is well liked in the clubhouse and for a catcher still hits well. There could be a wall coming he's going to hit but there's no reason not to try it again.  Gomes was released and then resigned for slightly less money.  The pieces are there. They are going to use them.

Problems with Presumed Plan : This plan is nothing but problems. Suzuki hits well for a catcher but is almost to the point he shouldn't be playing catcher anymore. They can probably fudge it for another year but any further drop in hitting and it gets real questionable what you are even doing with Kurt.  Gomes was nearly unplayably bad at the plate last year and showed some drop behind the plate. If that drop continues it gets even more questionable what... well you get the point.

My take : Oooh I don't like this. Gomes has pretty much solidified himself as a terrible hitter, though some may cling to one hot month to finish the year. I go with the deep history of not hitting and think it'll happen again. I think he'll field well again (I think the PB high was in part dealing with a whole new set of pitchers, and mainly one in Corbin, who depends on throwing sweeping sliders) so I can see bringing him back but 5 million is too rich for my blood, 2 years is a year too long, and as a quasi-platoon instead of a back-up I'm not thrilled with.

I'm low on Suzuki for next year mainly because of his age and the lack of improvements seen the last few year despite the fairly light workload.  This is a guy aging into a back-up role and will probably suffer next year even in a platoon. The question is whether it's mild - in which he'll still be better than the average catcher and the Nats will luck out with one more useful year in that role, or if it's major and the Nats have a huge problem.

But the Nats have done what they have done. This is settled and there isn't any reason to discuss alternatives.

Out of the box suggestion :

There isn't a good one right now given the Nats situation. They'd have to package one of these guys out the door and they aren't going to get back much if anything. But if I gotta come up with something.

You trade Suzuki and Gomes out to whoever wants them for catching prospects. The key here is you aren't looking for good ones necessarily.  Trade Suzuki to the Rangers for Randy Florentino (their #25 guy). Gomes to the Angels for whoever qualifies as their best (not even in Top 30). The goal is to get quantity here and try to strike gold.  Catching is a spot where bad play is accepted. Grab a Josh Phlegly for a million and Kevin Plawecki for a million and hope you get lucky at the majors while you hope your "flood the minors with crap" plan reveals a gem accidentally flushed down the toilet. You won a series with bad catching. You aren't going to get good catching. Why not try to maybe get lucky for the future. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Last year's discussion revisited. 

We assumed Rendon would start and play again. I didn't even really consider injuries a concern - pegging Rendon at 130-140 games played at least, making his back-up only matter if the Nats didn't fix other issues. They did so it didn't matter that they just had a piecemeal plan for him.  More importantly he missed less time than expected and played 146 games.  When Rendon is healthy he is an MVP candidate and he put up a .319 / .412 / .598 line with excellent defense that got him 3rd in the voting.

The big issue of the season at third was the lack of extension / new contract for Rendon. Last year at this time we made the assumption that while the Nats could bring back Rendon AND Bryce it was more likely they would sign a pitcher and bring back one of the two. They signed that pitcher (Corbin) and let Bryce walk, which should have made Rendon re-signing a formality. But instead here we are, heading into the Winter Meetings with stories like this hanging over the team.  Adding to the troubles is Strasburg opting out after an excellent year, meaning the Nats have to work two big contracts in the same off-season. Affording it shouldn't be an issue but signing both to big time deals would likely hamstring all other improvements (assuming you buy into the budget constraints of teams)  

Presumed Plan :You are making me guess here so I'd say - Rendon walks. Asdrubal Cabrera is brought back as 2B/3B coverage and him and Kieboom spend at least the first few months splitting time and positions.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : If the Nats wanted Rendon to come back he'd be back. The numbers are pretty clear on what he wants which is "at least Arenado money" which is 8/260 or 32.5 per.  The Nats seemingly offered him 7/210 or 30 per with some heavy deferments, which Rendon also seems uninterested in. There seems to be some thought he would accept a shorter deal for more money (say 5/200) but I don't know how much of that is speculation. 

Anyway the way I see it is that the Nats offer wouldn't be out there unless it was basically their best and final, much like the Bryce deal was last year.  Here's a public accounting of what we offered (without too many specifics that may make it look worse) - if he doesn't want it, we tried.  He doesn't want it, so he's gone.

So why AsCab instead of a real FA like Donaldson? I think the Nats would like to see if Kieboom has flexibility to take 3B so if Garcia develops he can take 2B.  I also think the Nats would be more likely to spend money elsewhere (hey Cole!) or not at all (maybe wrap up Soto for a few more years?) then to put a ton of money into a one year guy. They haven't really done that.

Problems with Presumed Plan :  I mean if you want to win, this makes winning a lot harder. Rendon was one of the best players in baseball last year and you don't just replace him.  And if you don't even try to replace him - well the drop off will be harsh.  The Nats line-up isn't particularly deep and instead relied on a couple of table setters, two stars, and Howie backing them up to work. It currently sits without Howie and a star meaning real trouble on the horizon.  Also let's not dismiss the loss of Rendon's D.  He's been a great 3B and none of the guys I've mentioned as replacements would replace that either.

If the Nats go full pitching as I've suggested here that they might for a while now. That might be enough to get them back to the playoffs like a Giants team in the early 2010s, but it won't win the division, and given the Nats don't seem likely to fix the pen that plan has even more risk. One injury from one of these pitchers - and we're assuming Max, Stras, Corbin, Cole here  all worked VERY hard over the past year - and it falls apart.

My take : RE-SIGN RENDON YOU FOOLS!  The Nats have drafted 3 HoF level talents in Stras, Bryce, and Rendon. They are in danger of losing all three in the matter of 2 off-seasons.  That's crazy.

Bryce is gone so there's no fixing that, but there's still time to bring back the other two.  Hitting seems more reliable that pitching. Rendon is a full 2 years younger than Strasburg. Rendon has produced more for the Nationals. These facts would making Rendon the option if you had to choose one (but you don't). What's working in Stras' favor is the complete lack of development of new starting pitching prospects. But still I give the edge to signing Rendon. But really sign both.

It's not difficult. You have an MVP-type who you know, who you trust, who the fans love, who is here now. Sign him.

Out of the box suggestion :

The Nats are out of boxing this themselves aren't they? Can Lindor play 3B? 

Kyle Seager is a great defensive third baseman who the ever rebuilding Mariners don't need. They probably want more than the Nats can offer, but what you want and what you can get are two different things. The ownership wants to be cheap if they aren't being good. Seager is 32 and coming off a major injury that makes him a risk even with 2/3rds a season behind him. The return is probably going to be lower now than it will be if he starts the season well. So strike now and start playing the "how long can we keep this going game" that's predicated on Max's age and the older pitching staff's health. Plan in two year bursts. Seager would fit those plans and might not cost you all that much.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Monday Quickie - nothing happened

I guess Difo signed but if you can't read between the lines it's not an assurance he's coming back.  It's an assurance IF he comes back he will get paid a million (and if he doesn't he'll get a nice couple hundred grand as a going away present).  Why keep him around? He fits a spot - which is closest in the system to major leagues without being an actual prospect who's playing time you are concerned about that you can slot somewhere then jettison if necessary with little thought. If he's the main middle infield back-up that's an issue but if he's man 26 so be it.

Drew Pomeranz went off to San Diego to pitch crossing another reliever off the Nats' fans wish list.  It looks very much like the Nats are fine passing relievers again, despite the spotty history with that working out. 

What's going on in the waiting game?  Rosenthal hinted that Rendon's offer had some heavy deferments and that Rendon wasn't interested.  As for Strrasburg its been quiet but the Winter Meetings are in his back yard of San Diego this year so expect him to meet with teams if a contract isn't signed by then. And if a contract isn't signed by then, I'd be a bit worried.

It's a quickie! For reals this time

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday Quickie - Braves reload as the Nats wait

It is forgotten in the euphoria of the World Series win but the Nats didn't win the division last year. The Braves did. And while the Nats are presumably held back awaiting the decisions of Strasburg and Rendon the Braves are forging forward.

They have re-signed Tyler Flowers. He had an unusually good fits couple of years in ATL but has been his general poor hitting self the last couple of years. To cover for him they brought in the perfectly acceptable Travis d'Arnaud who was average last year and a few years younger. It's a mediocre catching duo at the plate and behind it but catcher is a hard spot to fill. This fills it I guess. It wasn't good last year with the aged McCann getting time. It probably won't be good in 2020. But it also probably won't be worse.

They resigned Nick Markakis, continuing my favorite non Yankees, non Nats subplot - the Marchkakis to 3000 hits.  For those unfamiliar, by virtue of rarely missing games, hitting at the top of line-ups, and being a decent average hitter, Nick currently sits at 2355 hits.  That's still a good 5 seasons away from 3000 and at 35 he probably won't get there, but a couple flukes in 2020 and 2021 getting to 2700 hits and there will be some interest in grabbing him - first off he would have hit well and second only 300 hits away. Anyway for the Braves he's a pretty solid 3rd/4th OF type which keeps ATL having the flexibility to work in prospects as needed and deal with injuries.

Most importantly they signed Darren O'Day, Chris Martin, and Will Smith for the pen.  Smith is the prime get.  He's spent four of the past 5 seasons as a top notch reliever. He had been a little wild but in the past 2 years has calmed that down.  If he can avoid fluky homer issues, he's lockdown and he's killer on lefties, which is important to have in a division with the likes of Soto, Bryce, Conforto and McNeill. O'Day got hurt last year but is worth a flier on for the couple million they are spending seeing how he's been good for a decade when healthy. Martin is a guy who has developed pinpoint control and has strikeout stuff.  He gave up longballs in Texas, but if that was just Texas the Braves, who are keeping him after acquiring him mid season last year, are getting a guy who could be elite.

The Braves are still in an iffy position because of the rotation. They've finally given up on the former ace Teheran and Keuchel is out, meaning they need two arms.  If they succeed in getting Cole, or piecing together two strong alternatives (Bumgarner and Hamels?) they may be early NL favorites.

The Nats are stuc, unfortunately. They proved they can get over a guy like Bryce in an off-season. So if Rendon or Strasburg leaves they can figure out the plan around that. With Bryce because it was just him, they were able to say at a point - we're moving on - and do it. But with Stras and Rendon both sitting out there they can't do that in the same way. They have to make a choice on which one they want and throw money at that guy, then see what happens. But of course if you are the guy they are throwing money at you know you have the Nats in a good position and can work them for more. That drags things out and the longer it goes on the worse for the Nats. If they are really going to play this game and NOT commit to giving one of these two basically what they want no questions asked but instead try their usual working of a fair deal, then they need to hope one gets off the market soon, or else they could watch the B and C plans go away waiting on which A plan they settle on.

(Or as always - not my money, give them both what they want) 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop

Ok, ok. I'll stop saying the Nats should get Frazier.  Geez. Replace all that with Thames I guess.

Last year discussion revisited

We expected and got Trea all day. There was a little worry after 2018 that Trea could be an average hitter and an average hitter can put up a below average year but even then he'd be cheap, he can field, and he can run. He's a starter. The good news is that he didn't have a below average year, he went in the other direction. Like everyone he hit more homers, but also walked less and struck out more. Defensively the one season "THE BEST" that I warned you not to pay much attention to, revert back to the usual "He's fine" level. All in all a very positive player considering position and cost. There's probably good reason to think he won't be a star and the half-season we saw in 2016 was the best he can be but that's not really worrying.

What is worrying is we saw when he's hurt the Nats don't have a good plan.  Difo started a lot when Turner was out early and he was so bad they went with not carrying a back-up SS for a good portion of the time when Turner was healthy. Kieboom spent the other time there and he wasn't good and is wanted to play 2B.

Presumed Plan : Turner plays short. A FA shortstop is on the roster to back him up.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan :I hope I don't have to explain why Trea should start. If you rank SSs he doesn't look that great. Middle of the road in the field, lower Top 10 in hitting. But SS is deep right now and Trea is a very positive player in this very competitive position. Depending on how you put things I can see him as your #3 SS in the majors or the #8 but anyway you slice it he starts.

But last year he again missed major time. The Nats did not have a good plan in place for this and suffered for it. That's why I think they take the time to bring someone in. I think, in line with yesterday's plan this guy will also cover back-up 2B for Kieboom and free them up to spend money on other back-ups, positions, and the pen.

Problems with Presumed Plan :The big issue is the SS field is not deep. There are four FA SS and while they are all decent choices, they are likely to be grabbed up pretty quick.  I think everyone's thinking is the same here. Watch Didi sign somewhere to start, try to catch the slick fielding Iglesias as a back-up.  A lot of teams are going to be disappointed because Iglesias can't play for 10 teams.  After that there will be a scramble for Jordy Mercer (eh) and Hechavarria (eh) and then... nothing. If the Nats don't act quick they can supplement from the deep 2B FA class but the fielding will suffer

So act fast or suffer when Trea gets hurt and Trea will likely get hurt at some point given his history

My take : The Nats are dumb if they don't do a better job backing up Trea. History tells us that. Should they bother to act fast and overpay? I don't know. Depends on what their overall strategy is here. It doesn't look like they are acting fast on the pen and its quite possible having both Rendon and Strasburg in discussions has slowed everything else down. So I'm worried it'll be Difo again.  Better than that would be Kieboom and a solid back-up for him. Then if Turner gets hurt you slide Kieboom over and the decent back-up in. That's probably the smarter play.  But still I'd rather keep Kieboom where he is if possible.

I have no issues with Trea the starter as long as he's here. He's not quite as good as you think but he's also slightly more important that he should be. His skill set (speed) add something to the offense it lacks when he's out. He puts pressure on the D and the pitcher whenever he doesn't strike out. I'll note I'm not enthused by the direction of his stats and can easily see a straight average year coming in 2020 but again, that's still a starter in 2020 and we can worry about 2021 after 2020.

Out of the box suggestion :
I have none. I guess maybe re-sign Dozier and let Kieboom back-up two positions rather than start? Nah that's not OOB.  Really my 2B suggestion is the OOB suggestion here. Trade for Lindor, move Turner over.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Off-Season Position Discussion : Second Base

Last year discussion revisited

Something that will be apparent as we run through this is that the Nats were not very good in a lot of places in 2019.  But they were so good with the starting pitching and in a couple other places and no one in the NL other than the Dodgers were overall great that the Nats rose to the cream of the non-Dodger crop. Second base was one of those not very good positions.

After a bit of back and forth, second base became mostly Dozier's spot with a late season Asdrubal Cabrera run.  Dozier rebounded from a disappointing 2018 featuring a dismal late season/ playoff run to be kind of average. He was ok in the field again and hit acceptably at the plate. His big time power seemed gone (20 homers in the 2019 environment is not impressive, even in 135 games), but enough remained that with some patience he wasn't a hole. Still it wasn't good hitting so when Howie could play there Howie did play there (and hit as usual) and later Asdrubal basically took the position from him. All in all as a catchall position second worked out to be about average but Dozier had to be carried the last few steps there. Dozier heads to FA and really whether he comes back or not is only a big deal if they don't bother to figure out a plan to replace his averageness.

More importantly for 2020 - a trial run for Carter Kieboom went spectacularly bad. He hit .128 with no two homers as his only XBH and 16 strikeouts in 43 PAs. The hope for the Nats, that Kieboom would roll into the line-up as at least a starting player like guys like Turner (for Desmond), Soto (for Bryce) and Robles (for the gaping CF hole) did was not met. This leaves the Nats in a bit of a bad position.

My OOB idea (trading for Merrifield and Sal Perez, re-sign Bryce) would have been fun and good and cost you Kieboom and Robles but the Nats would have been very damn good last year. Of course it's a fantasy land trade.

Presumed Plan : Kieboom gets his run.  Nats bring in a solid back-up in case that plan fails. Kendrick or Dozier would work fine if they can make it happen. Along with Dozier, Starlin Castro, Johnathon Schoop, and Jason Kipnis are fringy starters who would make excellent back-ups. There seems to be enough middling talent out there to repeat last year's aaproach which waited out the early market then pounced in January on the best available with a reasonable one-year deal.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : The Nats like to find out things early and Kieboom is developmentally at the stage where he should get a long run in the majors to see if he can hang. He hit fine in Fresno last year not letting the bad MLB experience get to him which is good and at an old 22* . If he is ready that goes a long way to cementing a position for the Nats who looking forward only have a couple of spots (CF, LF) covered for more than a couple of years with good young talent. 

The Nats also need to find out what they have in Kieboom in part to figure out what to do with Luis Garcia, another 2B prospect and going into last year probably their 2nd best overall prospect behind Kieboom.  Garcia struggled a bit in 2019, and did again down the stretch in the Fall League, but is another real young guy (20 next May) so has a good 2-3 years left to straighten out.  If he does that, and Kieboom is usable, that is a problem - but a good one. They need then to figure out where everyone goes, or if they use someone to get say... a young starter?

Anyway - it all starts with Kieboom. But you can't rely on him being good, especially after last year so you bring in a guy to back him up that you'd be ok with starting. FA seems to have a glut of middling talent here so they should be able to find someone here. 

Problems with Presumed Plan : Sure he hit in Fresno last year. It's the PCL. Everyone hits.  His .903 OPS was 4th on the team and just ahead of Andrew Stevenson who we've seen enough of to know he's not a real good hitter. He was better than average at a young age but nothing in particular makes you think he'll be a star. Competent major leaguer is more likely the end point for Kieboom. That's fine but it's not what they were hoping for.

If he takes a couple more years to find his footing, which is possible giving the lack of overwhelming talent, he will give you a below average option at second. Then you probably have a choice between Kieboom and his below average run and the veteran back-up who's likely a little better but still below average.  Basically you are setting up this position, at least in 2020, to be below average. There's hope for better but not expectations.

My take : This is the position to short change. You need to see what Kieboom can do so let him. There are so many options in the market that you can probably get an ok guy like the ones I mentioned, cheap, and a decent player dirt cheap. Also that means there will likely be a whole set of replacement options available in August if the position doesn't work out and the Nats are heading for the playoffs again.

Second base isn't the star turn position right now.  Try Carter. Hope he works out or Garcia has a breakout minor league season and sets himself up for 2021. In the meantime make sure all the other positions are secure. Bring back Rendon and Strasburg, make the better compromise at first (Frazier) and platoon catcher and get some pen guys.

Out of the box suggestion :

Move Turner over to 2B. Empty the miors for Lindor. He's arbitration cheap for a few years and a great SS and Turner, who's a solid SS, would likely be a great 2B. Yes this basically ends the long term run for the Nats as their minors would be bereft of talent, but with the pitching staff the age it is aiming for the next 3 years makes more sense then trying to figure out how this works long term or praying another Soto like star drops in their lap.

*remember July 1st is the cutoff date for ages and for me "OLD" is turning the age sometime July-Oct of the previous year and "YOUNG" is turning it sometime Apr-June of the current year.  Older you get the less it matters but I like to not it for guys under 25 coming up.  Next year Kieboom will be an old 22 (he'll turn 23 in season) and Garcia will be a young 20 (he'll start the season at 19)

Friday, November 15, 2019

Off-Season Position Discussion : First Base

Is it that time of year already? Actually we're doing this way later!

First thing though - what about the QO calls yesterday.  Quick thoughts - Odorizzi accepting and Abreu accepting bumps up the market for SP and 1B respectively.  I don't think it really effects what Stras was asking for (and what the Nats should pay him). Wil Smith going to the Braves is a shame - the Nats need relievers because the playoff plan won't work over 162 games in 190 days. 

Last year discussion

Another year of rinse (Zimm is your starter, with a LHB backup) and repeat.  I was surprised that the Nats could get Adams back because he was really good in 2018. In 2019 you saw why as the wheels came off and he struck out an amazing 115 times in only 333 plate appearances.  Ryan Zimmerman wasn't healthy either playing only 52 games and hitting a measly .257 / .321 / .415.  By all accounts the plan failed.

But Plan B worked great. Howie got nearly as many PAs at 1B as Zimm (166 vs 170) and was fantastic.  Parra got some decent ABs here early as well.  All in all first base ended up a disappointment in comparison to the league, but it did give Howie a place to settle and do his thing so it was merely below average instead of the terrible hole it could have been.

If there was any issue beyond that it was that no one playing first could really field the position. But first base is a place you can hide that and with Dozier bouncing back to OK, instead of Daniel Murphy manning the keystone, the Nats weren't in a terrible place there.

My OOB plan - which are remember just trying to come up with things that haven't been thought of or maybe have been and are crazy, I do not advocate these things as things that should be done. - was to bring in Daniel Murphy. He ended up costing too much, beyond what I would have been ok with for this role. Then he got injured, stunk when he started the season and never got his final season stats back to where they should have been

Presumed Plan : Is there one? I think the fans would welcome Zimm back. I know the fans would welcome Howie back.  Adams is gone to the ether. I'd love to see Soto there honestly but they aren't going to push that until they have to. So what happens? Bring Asdrubal Cabrera back?

Twist my arm and I'll say Zimm is back under a cheap deal and the starter is... (twist) OW!  Matt Joyce! 

Reasoning on Presumed Plan :
I think Zimm was ready to retire but winning (fun) and not leaving on his terms (disappointing) brings him back for another year. I think he'll be more than accommodating to whatever contract the Nats want to give him. But I think his play suggest he's a bench bat, not even a platoon.  A back-up for a full-time first baseman. (In that way I guess it doesn't matter if the full-timer is right or left handed.)

Howie would be ideal here but he deserves a solid 2 year deal, even in the new baseball, and would be best served by taking that sort of deal for an AL team where he could  also DH. So I think he's going to price himself out of returning. After him the first base market is dead slim. Eric Thames is the best option and he is good - but as the only option above guys like Moreland, Smoak, and Neil Walker he's going to get more than he should.

So that leaves guys you move around. Dozier is a possibility, though it feels iffy he'll stay here because I think he wants to play 2B and the Nats would be best served giving Kieboom time. Donaldson would be an idea or Moustakas but they are pricey and it's a waste of their skill set to sit them at first. They are more likely "post-Rendon" targets.  Going through the OFs there are again not a lot of good names, but there are more options that should hit ok.  Going through there I'm looking for the cheapest good option with relatively consistent work and I come up with Matt Joyce.  He'll be cheap because of his age (36 next August) but he's gone 118 OPS+ or better three of the last four year. He is not a bopper - instead has 10-20 HR power and spent last year walking like a machine and getting familiar with NL East pitching with Atlanta. 

Look it's just a guess here. There is no plan that I see so I'm looking at the best option given some assumptions - Howie gone, Dozier gone, Nats spend money on SP/3B situation not 1B. If you want my preferred order in plans it would be
  1. Howie back!
  2. Dozier back splits time between first and second, but mostly plays first
  3. FA 
although I'll admit there's a lot about 2 I don't like either. But I don't think 1 or 2 is going to happen so here we are in the presumed plan area.  After him I guess I can see the Nats going after Todd Frazier - same reasonably reliable production and health but hasn't gone over 118 OPS+ since 2014

Problems with Presumed Plan  : 
 For mine specifically - Joyce doesn't homer and isn't a natural fit in the Nats line-up that starts with Turner/Eaton. The best fit, assuming Rendon is back, would be a righty masher. He's old. He hasn't played first. He's slow. He's not a particularly good fielder.

For a FA in general - unless you move a great hitter moved or go after the best 1B available there are huge question marks with every choice. Todd Frazier? Asivail Garcia? Starlin Casto?  Slick defender Logan Forsythe?

My take
I don't like this move. Any choice I see the Nats making here is a compromise so it's not going to be ideal and it'll have the same downside as all the Ryan Zimmerman+ ideas that they've had for the past half-decade and little of the upside.  But I'm thinking that given $ to 3b and SP this is what I think they do. They make a compromise move to cover first base. 

I lean with a guy like Joyce because I am leaning a little more toward the Nats aiming for a guy likely to give ok production and likely to be pretty cheap. They've rarely see a reason to throw decent money at C+ players like say Frazier or Garcia might get given their range of production possibilities. But with something like this we'll all have our own opinions. I personally do like Frazier.  A bit more healthier. I think his power fits into the Nats line-up better. Maybe health is most important to you. Or homers. Or maybe you are willing to shell out a little more for a 1B and try to save money elsewhere (as usual with the Nats that would likely be skrimping on the bullpen). This is less a take, and more a shrug and a guess.

Out of the box suggestion :
The likely scenario is an out of the box suggestion I think but I guess I'll go back to MOVE SOTO.  He did get better yes, but he wasn't good. He doesn't get great jumps and he misreads balls all the time and at some point that body is going to age into something that can't compensate for those things. You can say he'll keep getting better but you are talking about a guy who's been instructed on the OF for half a decade now. Where is this magical improvement going to come from that makes him so good that when he starts to age in a year or two that his skill is good enough to cover for that?

Move him and use the entire selection of OFs to replace him in LF.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veteran's Day quickie

The GMs are meeting but these meetings are essentially just a starting point. Things rarely happen here in comparison to the baseball Winter Meetings and even that time frame (early December) seems to be falling by the wayside to "waiting everyone out to get a deal and if not shrugging their shoulders and telling fans 'it wasn't cost effective' and letting the analyst fans and media defend the teams actions as 'forward-thinking'"

Why does little happen here? Well part of the reason is it's so early in the process qualifying offers don't have to be decided on yet. Technically both Rendon and Strasburg are sitting on theirs.  Everyone expects rejection. As Cab, Dozier, Hellickson, Hudson, Parra, Rodney, Adams, Gomes, and Zimm all did not get QOs and are free to go where ever.  Today a quick review :

Middle Infield

Cabrera : aging MI best described as a back-up 2B/3B, and 2B is iffy. Up and down career, he was having a run of above average seasons at the plate before dropping below last year. Switch hitter

Dozier : also aging, but a year younger, 2B.  Looked bad in 2018 but rebounded in 2019 to look... well useful. Defense came back with slightly limited playing time. Bat, not so much. Pop and some patience righty who can mash lefties still (if 2018 is a fluke which seems to be likely)

Out of the two Dozier gives you better D. Offense is a mixed bag. Switch hitters are obviously real useful and with Kieboom likely up gives him a more natural back-up. But a guy that can really hit one type can be a very useful bench bat.  I'd expect Dozier back and not As Cab, dependent on Dozier not finding a starting job somewhere else which is possible.

First Base

Adams : Brought in to platoon with Zimm, Adams was a nice piece in 2018, but last year his K rate went up to a staggering 34.5% and in an environment of exploding offense didn't do much more. Mediocre fielder

Zimm : When healthy will hit veteran wasn't healthy and didn't hit. No range anymore at first. Keeping him would be an entirely sentimental move with the idea that he backs up a LH firstbaseman and as a non-starter, he can get healthy again.

If you want a ruthless move, neither comes back.  There is great sentiment though to keep Zimm but it can only work if he takes a very low salary. If you take Zimm though, it's hard to keep Dozier imo because the bench doesn't need two guys to pinch hit against LHP.


Hudson : Did everything the Nats asked him to, but a quick look at the stats suggest a guy who relied on weak fly balls? Is that a thing.  No reason to think he can't be useful in a pen but a back end role seems unlikely to match his performance

Rodney : Fun but not good last year - but good for the Nats and good in most years before last. He's a high GB guy who is wild but strikes people out.  Age is of course a concern but workload in 2019 was limited so might have one more useful year left.

Honestly out of the two I'd keep Rodney.  Rodney will likely come back for a cheap 1 year deal, where Hudson might parlay his success into something he slightly does not deserve (nowadays no one gets really overpaid). Yes, that means the Nats need bullpen help

Everyone else

Gomes : Gomes' non-option is the closest thing to a surprise for the Nats off-season so far. There was a sense he would be the catcher for a while if things worked out. But he while still solid behind the plate, his mistakes jumped out at you and with his bat disappearing for the second time in his career it was easy enough to move on if you wanted to. 

Hellickson : He was hurt and looked bad and has disappointed the Nats health wise two years in a row. Even if they liked him they can't bring him back outside of a NRI. They need something more reliable.

Parra :  After a fast start was sneaky terrible for the Nats whose best trait is "not a terrible corner OF".  I have a hard time justifying why he should be on a major league roster in 2020.  Bench coach? Maybe.

I suppose out of the three Gomes might be back, the Nats cutting him loose to try to sign him back at a contract more in line with his production. The catcher pipeline still isn't demanding any chances, but at this point maybe you try Read/Gushue just to see what you have? Hellickson and Parra there just isn't any sound justification outside of "bring everyone back" to do it. Neither should be productive in 2020.

Other than that a bunch of organizational depth was let go - no one you have to care about at all. Like really - nothing interesting. 

So I guess I've talked myself into bringing back Rodney maybe? OK. I'm fine with that.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Best postseason ever? Good luck figuring that out

So a little side note - before contract stuff mainly because contract stuff is likely to drag on at least until early December and more likely until the new year. 

The Nats had an amazing run this year. From 19-31, comebacks through multiple elimination games. There were a bunch of things the Nats did that were either rarely or never done before. Because of that there's a lot of fans and local media that want to crown this team a miracle squad who had the best post-season ever, or failing that the most improbable. On one hand, nearly every team does this in some fashion.  Either your postseason was the most dominant, or most exciting, or most crazy, etc. etc. It's what fans do.  On the other hand, even outsiders are getting into the bit.  So what does I say, the outsider's insider? Was this season the most improbable run imaginable?

It's hard to figure out!

First let's go to two points that are generally brought up. The Nats came back from 19-31 record to make the playoffs. The Nats won 5 elimination games after trailing.  What does that tell you? Well it does tell you that they did things that were never done before. But in terms of improbability are we looking at it the right way?

It's true that precious few teams overcome a start as bad as the Nats do to make the playoffs (forget about win the WS for a moment - these things follow separate rules and should be seen as two distinct things imo).  But there's a good reason for that that has nothing to do with the fortitude of the team involved. The vast vast majority of teams, pretty much all, that start as bad as the Nats did fail to make the playoffs because they are bad teams who lack the talent to do so. That's not the Nats. The Nats are a good team. Most pundits and projections had them in or near the playoffs. So what's really strange isn't the fact they made the playoffs but that they bungled to the start they did. Should they be "rewarded" for this?  Given praise for the fastest clean up of a mess of their own making? It seems kind of weird to me. This isn't to make coming back from 19-31 less impressive a feat, the run after that is remarkable, but I want to make sure we understand the 19-31 wasn't some arbitrary burden given to this team. They did this. Part of their season was crashing so hard that they needed a tremendous run. That is not good. That should detract from their accomplishments, not add to it.

That same sort of "how'd they get here" should be taken into account in series and games as well, though to a far lesser extent. Good teams shouldn't start seasons bad, but series where good teams against good teams will create elimination games for someone, and every team will have to comeback in games regularly. So there's far less of a "detract" component here. But there is a reality that needs to be injected. There is a chance that the Nats win every series they are in. There's a chance they win it in 4 games, 5, 6, 7 and a chance they lose it the same. The improbability of what we end up seeing is really the chance that they ended up at this point (and won) + the chances they could have lost earlier MINUS the chances they could have won earlier.

Let me elaborate. The Nats beat the Astros in 7 games. The improbability of that (in the sense the Nats won) is not only the chance that that happened, but it also has to add in in the chances a negative outcome would have happened, the chance the Astros win in 4,5,6,7 games. But on the flip side there was a chance the Nats could have won in 4,5,6 themselves. That they didn't do that has to work against them.

If you follow this way of looking at it you get a more fair idea of "improbability". It's far more improbable that a significantly worse team sweeps 4 games in a row than an equalish team wins a 7 game series. That should be obvious, but the mind doesn't always work like that. We see a bad team buzzsaw as inevitable, a good team fighting to the end as catching breaks and needing miracles.

This kind of thought process can also be expanded to individual games. What combining the odds for all the Nats comeback wins does is tell you what are the chance the Nats would win all those games coming from their point of lowest chances. But it's not the chances they would win all those games apriori. The first tells us how improbable it is that we saw what we saw. The second one tells us how we should judge a team for the outcomes. You don't get a benefit for falling behind in the latter. You shouldn't do that! It's not good!

What you may be able to glean from the above is that the most exciting things in sports often involve a team doing something wrong and coming back from that. But we often dismiss that first part - that they dug a hole and focus only on the latter. If we're being completely fair we need to take the whole thing into account.

What are the most improbable series then? The ones where the worst teams best better teams quickly. The 88 win 2014 Giants who racked up a 11-5 record never once playing a team with a worse record. The middling 2003 Cardinals who did the same after an 83 win season, ditto the 2000 87 win Yankees. The 74 As, the 88 Dodgers, 90 Reds. I know I know these aren't FUN series in general. There's no excitement to be had with a Yankees team cruising to title number 4 in 5 seasons even if objectively the team they put out there shouldn't have been able to do that. But you didn't ask about fun and it's not how this postseason is being framed. It's not that the Nats wouldn't be somewhere up there - the opponents they beat were very good and they had to go through a lot of rounds - but the actual advantage the other teams had in a short series with the Nats staff? It's muted. So maybe the Nats aren't even Top five, maybe Top 10 in pure "improbability"  (Now of course to do this properly you'd have to go back and calculate all the odds of all these series somehow. I'm not doing that.)

In the end though - this is a lot of words that are kind of missing the point. It's not that you REALLY care what's the most improbable series - even though that's what ends up being said and annoying me - you care about what's the most... crazy? fun? Entertaining? series.  And that has to be measured differently. That has to be measured with comebacks and elimination games won and long series and historical importance. And clearly this Nats season would be up there for that.

If you dig a little you'll see that a lot of playoff winners had some adversity - either playing better teams, or winning elimination games so it'll take time to rank them all. Like scratch at a team... 1980 Phillies and you see a CS with 4  straight extra inning games - the last two being Phillies elimination game wins and a WS that features a ninth inning comeback to win G5. A team with a huge history of being terrible winning their first title. That's pretty good!

My personal favorite and one that I put above the Nats is the 1985 Royals. They had knocked on the door and lost some heart breaking playoff games in the CS and WS in years past. They clearly had a horrible offense (look for yourself) and faced two legitimately 100 win teams in the CS and WS (ok one was 99). Then proceeded to win 6 elimination games, 3 in each series, including a bottom of the 9th walk-off comeback in Game 6. 

That's the only one just looking off the top of my head I'd clearly have ahead of the Nats. This was a team that shouldn't have made the playoffs and once in shouldn't have beat either team. The Nats were not as good as the Dodgers and Astros but if you look at the stats they were almost equal teams if you could eliminate the pens and the Nats found a way to do that.

Would they fall beyond Number 2?  I don't know. Lots of stuff to look at.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Wednesday BLAST

So work emergency hit on Monday so that never got done and now we're even further out so I'm just going to blast through everything so far and we'll talk about it more later

Game 7

I talked about before that usually to win in the playoffs you have to be lucky and good.  In game 7 the Nats were as lucky as they ever were and as good too.

The Nats MO in the WC, NLDS, and WS had been fairly simple. Have the starter go as long as possible so you only have to use Doolitte, Hudson, and the starter on off-day to close it out.  On the other side, wait until the other guys make a mistake and CRUSH them for it. Hader early after Pomeranz was cruising? CRUSH. Urias faces Rendon with a open base then sticks around after Soto to face Kendrick? CRUSH. Kershaw faces Rendon, nobody goes out to settle him? CRUSH. Pull crusing Maeda use Joe Kelly... didn't crush! Use Joe Kelly for second inning DESTROY.  Let Cole face Soto after a walk and two single in the inning? SOTO CRUSH. Try to get Verlander his win, then replace him with Pressly - like their 4th best reliever, don't pull Pressly after giving up lead? CRUSH. Try again to get a gassed Verlander with WS win CRUSH. *  That's like seriously almost all their playoff wins in these series.**

Game 7 was different. First off the pitching performance wasn't good. There had been wobbles in the past in the wins. Early inning tests that were either passed or lucked out of before the starter settled down and carried the team as long as they needed. Max didn't wobble. Max was kind of bad. We talk about Max having a gutty performance but it wasn't as gutty as we normally describe it. Usually when we say "gutty" we mean a guy not having it but still pitching in a way that gets the other team to do what he wants. But Max didn't do that. Max threw a whole lot of batting practice fastballs and got very very lucky. Just the two out hits : Second inning - line drive... right at Soto.  Third inning - 400 ft fly ball... to the deepest part of the park.   Fourth inning - line drive... right at Robles. Any one of those could have broken the game open.  Hell he almost got it again in the 5th where Correa smashed it but a full extension Rendon came inches from snagging it.  He did get a couple outs here and there that were big on his own but just a couple. Most were smashes that went to the right spots.

But the Nats weren't catching a huge mistake either. Grienke was doing great keeping the Nats off balance and was making things easy for Hinch. So the Nats needed to win against good performances. And they did. Rendon hit a pitch out, but it was the pitch, pretty much, that Greinke wanted to throw. Look at the replay and it might have been a couple inches more in the middle but he wanted an in the strike zone changeup and he threw it and Rendon didn't get crossed up. He hit it out. Then Soto after catching a break on what should have been trike one, and swinging at a curve out of the strike zone to even the count watched four almost identical pitches to the second one go by. He wasn't going to bite.  Hinch probably made the wrong move here. Whether you believe it as pulling Greinke, with his low count and effectiveness, or you believe it wasn't going to Smith/Osuna/Cole instead of Harris he did something wrong. BUT Harris didn't. He made the pitch he wanted. It was a pitch that you normally pull over for a DP if you don't guess, and you line into RF if you do. But hit a homer? No. You don't do that unless you do everything right. Kendrick did. 

After this the game reset to the normal MO. Harris pitched Cabrera into the shift (mistake) and Cabrera took what he gave him. Hinch panicked and pulled him for Osuna and who threw 12 pitches and forced Hinch to make a bigger mistake - keeping Osuna in the game. He almost got out of it but then came the middle of the line-up again. Soto got a hit. Game over. All while Corbin and Hudson hut the Astros down.

The Nats had to get as lucky as they ever had been to survive what should have been a brief and brutal Max start. They had to be as good as they could be to work a Greinke on his game and get him out and then take the best the Astros could give them (at least on that pitch) and win the game. They did both and now they are Champions

Oh wow - spent a lot more time on that than I thought.  SPEED RUSH

Was Stras' posteseason best ever? - No!

Was the Nats post-season the most unbelievable ever?  - Maybe! It's harder than you think to make that judgement! But I'd guess it's in the Top 5 of the multi-round playoff time frame (50 years) for sure. 

What about postseason stats in general? - Way too influenced by appearances to be anything but trivia.

Strasburg opting out - He should. He can get more. (I think he stays)

Rendon to FA - He's looking for Arenando + and he might get it (I think he leaves)

Celebration - Honest take - feels like a Caps imitation. But a completely deserved one. Every team should do this. 

White House stuff - Hoo boy. Just get in and get out. Don't do that.

I think that's all the big stuff. I can expound on anything but I think the Rendon/Stras stuff is of the most immediate interest. 

*Looking back it's amazing how many of these suboptimal choices came against the middle of the Nats lineup. Rather than treat Rendon/Soto as the two MVP type of terrible problem to get past, teams treated them as something they could get by. They could not.

**The one win - yes ONE WIN that didn't follow this for the vast chunk of the game was the G1 win over the Dodgers. The Nats just scored on Kershaw and won the game early.  The G2 blowout against the Astros was going to follow this but after exploding it - it didn't need to and the other arms got a chance to get in. Yes, I know Rainey was used for like an inning here in these games.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Enjoy yourselves. I'm going to bed!

Update : You are still champs! And will be for at least a year or forever depending on how you want to look at it.

Anyway just wanted to let you know I won't be posting today and tomorrow (and if you follow me on Twitter I probably won't be on there much) Why? Well because after you win it all there's a tendency to mythologize what just happened. For the Nats that means making a legit great story into The Greatest Story Ever Told. That doesn't mesh with a contrarian soulless automaton. I'll just want to pick out the things said that are wrong. I can think of a few dozen already. And that's just in Boz's column!

But I imagine no one wants this when they are trying to celebrate and there's all off-season to do such things so enjoy the next few days, go to the parade if you can and I'll see you... well probably Monday.

Game 6 recap

Last night I learned no one wants to hear the technical truth when riled up by emotion. It won't be any different today but I wouldn't be a soulless automaton if I shied away from your irrational anger. We'll start with the controversial play then if you are still around, talk about the game. You can skip to ON TO THE GAME if you are the type to get riled up.

So the rules officially state that a runner has to be in his lane - in foul territory before he tries to touch first base - in order to not to interfere with throws to the bag.  Now you are probably thinking runners don't usually run like that and you'd be right, because over the years umps have focused on the "not interfere" part of the rule.  It's nearly impossible, outside of running into the first baseman, to interfere with a throw from an infielder based on how you run from home to first. That accounts for the vast majority of groundballs.

It doesn't NEVER come into play though. When a ball is hit in front of the plate, especially near the first base line, the runner does need to run as noted. And over time baseball has developed a kind of set of rules for this play.  The runner runs in a way to try to force a bad throw. This usually means right on the foul line, or just to the right of it, but it's the runner's discretion. The fielder (usually the catcher or pitcher) decides to throw it as they want. Because nearly always the first baseman and the fielder can line up an unimpeded throw that usually means they try to throw past the runner. But if they feel the runner is really in the way of an easy throw, they will throw it into the runner as a way to show the umpire that the runner was in the way. Usually when you see this the ball is pretty close to the plate and the runner is near the grass.

Ok so where does this leave the play last night? Well Trea chose to run completely inside the foul line. This was probably, as I noted, to try to force a less comfortable throw, but it is possible that this is just how he always runs. I go with the former because in part the ball was hit far enough from the plate, really a few feet will do, that Trea knows there's a open sight line between the fielder and the first baseman. And the Astros do as teams normally do, they try to throw past Trea. But there's a bad throw and it ends up at the middle of the bag just as Trea is crossing it. By letter of the law this is what happened :

- Trea ran where he was not supposed to
- Trea interfered with the throw

so it's an out. It just is. Even though Trea wasn't looking to physically block the throw (at least it doesn't seem likely he was) and the Astros weren't trying to make a play that Trea was interfering with, what ended up happening on the field WAS interference.

Now they probably should have just let it go for the reasons above. It's only a bad throw that forces the issue so you rule in a way you can throw some vague interpretation at and everyone isn't happy but most people shrug and move on because everything else about the play was how baseball is played. But once they called him out, they couldn't go back on it. They called the rule as is written.

The best analogy I can come up with is making a left hand turn while driving. Almost everyone (but not me!) will cut off part of the other lane while making a left hand turn if no one is in that lane.  Hell, they do it if you are in the lane and not pulled up all the way. Technically this is a crime. You are in the other lane. But no police officer would ever ticket you for this unless the offense was egregious.  The point of the rules is to avoid an accident and if you are just cutting off a little bit, well that's hardly a cause. Now let's say you are making your normal left hand turn and someone comes in in that lane not paying attention and hits you. If the accident takes place in that lane you are at fault. And you'll get charged with it to! Even though it was only caused by the other person not paying attention. Even though as soon as your wreck is cleared away people will keep doing the same thing. You were somewhere you weren't supposed to be. You were in an accident.

I saw some calls for robot umps after this. Robot umps wouldn't save this. Robot umps would make it worse.  Prepare for a guy called out on a throw from 2nd because his foot was on the wrong side of the foul line 60 feet up the bag. I saw some calls of bias. Bah. Crazy conspiracy talk. I saw some calls to change the rules. OK but everything I saw tossed out adds more room for interpretation by the umps, not less, which would only lead to more problems. Did he intend to interfere? Is there a clear path from the fielder to first? Don't make things greyer in my opinion.


Strasburg adjusts - Strasburg said he was tipping in the first and he did things to adjust for that. I guess that's possible but if so I want to know what the sign was for hittable middle middle fastballs and why did they put that sign down, because that's what Springer and Bregman hit. Based on pitch selection and location it seems the actual narrative is Strasburg leaned on his curve more, using his fastball as a secondary pitch inside and out (so misses would be balls not crushed) to keep the Astros off balance. One of the key moments in the turnaround was 2nd and 3rd with Altuve up. Three straight swings as if he was throwing a fastball. Three straight offspeed pitches. Strikeout.

Could the Astros have adjusted? Yes but. I say that because usually when you adjust in this case (think about facing Corbin) you take and you make them walk you. But Stras has control of his curve so this will only lead to a lot of swings in counts from behind. So you can sit on the curve, try to hit it, and force him to throw fastballs again. But here you are asking them to hit a good pitch enough that he gets into trouble, and it's not like Stras is never throwing a fastball, so you are going to behind on some pitches you want to hit. It's a tough situation when a top notch pitcher has his stuff going. Stras didn't have everything right but one pitch, when its as good as his curve, is enough.

The Nats thrive when they don't have to make tough bullpen decisions because what they have is a lot of choices that run from ok to bad, nothing great. Once again the starter kept tough decisions off the table

Hinch gets emotional - The Astros went into last night with two goals. Win the Series. Get Verlander off the World Series schneid. But to do the latter Verlander needs to go at least 5 and he was surviving innings. He should have been on a quick pull in the 5th and when Eaton got hold of one to tie it up, he should have been pulled. But Houston wanted to give their veteran guy his W so he stayed in.  He got Rendon out but hung another one to Soto. Another homer. He STILL wasn't pulled at this point (which really shows you what they were doing) and Kendrick nearly put one out in right field.

The playoffs in general, and definitely the World Series, is not time to be sentimental. If a guy doesn't have it he needs to go.  Let this be a lesson for the Nats to take to heart tonight in case Max doesn't look right.

Dueling bat carries - don't care in the least.

Home field fails again  This marks the 6th game in a row the home team has lost and that has never happened before in the World Series. The Astros are in particular having a hard time at home if you go back to the ALCS. Scoring an average of 3 runs a game at home, but 5 1/3 on the road.  We know there has never been a 7 game WS road sweep. Well I checked and there hasn't been a 7 game road sweep of any kind in the baseball playoffs or any series that started with 6 straight road wins at all.

There have been only 5, by my count, 5 game series that started with 4 road wins. We'll go through all of them

The first was in 1981 where the split season East winner Yankees took two in Milwuakee from the East winner Brewers, who promptly took two back.  It was a tight series with 5-3, 3-0, 5-3, and 2-1 scores.  In game 5 still in NY in this 2-3 format series, the Brewers started with a 2-0 lead but the Yankees came through with 4 in the 4th started by a 2 run shot by October hero Reggie Jackson. The Brewers would close to 4-3 in the 7th but the Yankees would hit another homer to go back up by two in the bottom of the inning, then put the game away with two more in the 8th.

The Yankees were in it again in 2001 against the A's in a 2-2-1 format. They lost two at home, Oakland did the same (G3 was the flip play* where Jeter's backing up of an errant throw in the 7th preserved a 1-0 lead that would hold for the final score) but in this format the Yankees would have the final game. Oakland would take a 2-0 lead but the Yankees would tie it up in the bottom of the second. They'd tack on another in the 3rd and 4th, Oakland would get one in the 5th.  Mulder would get replaced by Hudson who would give up a solo shot in 1 1/3. Clemens was replaced by the Yankees pen who would shut it down and they'd win at home.

In 2010 we got out first all road win series as the Rangers and Rays battled it out in a generally unmemorable series, still 2-2-1, each game won by at least 3 runs. The Rangers won two in Tampa fairly convincingly but not inspiring, the Rays did the same to the Rangers, with Game 3 being arguably the best game of the series. The Rangers carried a 1-0 lead into the 6th a 2-1 lead into the 8th before the pen gave up 5 in the last two. But they'd win that 5th game in Tampa chipping away at David Price holding a lead for all but a few outs in the b3 and t4 where the Rays tied it up.

After not seeing it for years we'd get a quick return of it in 2012. The Reds and Giants would go all road (poor Dusty). Much like the 2010 series the leads were gotten pretty early and held making for a even but uninteresting series, except for Game 3. Game three was pitching dominated. The Reds took a lead in the bottom of the 1st, the Giants tied it up in the top of the 3rd and then dueling zeros through the end of 9. In fact the Giants were no hit through 5 2/3rd (they scored bc of hbp, walk, bunt, sac fly) and from the run scoring single in the first the next hit by either team was that no-hitter breaker. There would never be a serious threat and the Giants scored their run with two groundball singes, a passed ball, and then an error. Ugh. The Reds didn't recover and 2-3 series would end with a 3 game sweep in Cincy.

The last time we'd open a 5 game series (2-2-1 format.  Can't they stick with one?) with four road wins was a complete turnaround from these last two - the vastly entertaining Blue Jays / Rangers series from 2015. Homers, a 14 inning game, and the final one which featured a wild 7th, a controversial call for the Rangers, giving them a 3-2 lead** and a statement FU homer by Bautista with a bat flip and then bench clearing.  Ah so good. Anyway the order was two in Toronto by Texas, two in Texas by Toronto, but the Blue Jays getting the only home win when it mattered most.

So 5 5 game series that opened with 4 road wins. 3 home teams taking it, 2 road teams. Some close, some not. Some entertaining, some not so much. What happens tonight?

*Here it is! This was a total Henley send. If he hits either cutoff man Giambi is out by a good 10 feet. Even missing it I think Giambi just beats out a 4 bouncer to the plate. Terrible send 

**Russell Martin hit Shin-Soo Choo's bat on a throw back to the mound. Odor scampered home. Since he was still in the box it wasn't a dead ball and he also wasn't trying to interfere the Rangers were given the run (correct call!) but the fans threw trash all over the place and delayed the game. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Some history

You may be doubting that the Nats can come back. They look terrible and they are heading back to Houston. But to cheer you up - or at least not kill your hope - let's see what history says.

Has a team every come back to win 2 games on the road to win a series? 

Yep. Sure. It happened just a couple years ago when the Cubs won it all winning the last 2 in Cleveland.  Before that it happened a handful of time 1979 (Pirates over Orioles), 1968 (Tigers over Cardinals) 1958 (Yankees over Braves), 1952 (Yankees over Dodgers), 1934 (Cardinals over Tigers), and 1926 (Cardinals over Yankees)

No that isn't a lot but a lot of World Series don't end up 3-2 to begin with, closing out at 4-0 or 4-1 so onto the the next question

How many times has the series ended up 3-2 with the home team needing just one win and what happened then?  

By my count it has happened 27 times. 7 times then the road team was able to come back and win which is just over 25% of the time (25.9%).  This kind of makes intuitive sense because if you discount homefield and assume the teams are equal a team will win two in a row about 25% of the time.

Out of the remaining 20, 15 times the home team won game 6 (last time was 2013 Red Sox over Cardinals) and 5 times the home team lost game 6 only to win game 7 (last time 1997 - Marlins over Indians).

So overall the home team wins it in game 6 about half the time, loses the game 6 about half the time then splits Game 7 results.  All what you would think would happen given a large enough sample.

How many times has a team lost three in a row and won the last two? 

Three times by my count. The 87 and 91 Twins and the 01 Diamondbacks.

How many did it happen on the road? 

I need more time, perhaps you'd like to ask another question?

Are you avoiding answering? 

Ha! hahahaha. What makes you say that?  Me avoid answering... ha! It is to laugh!


So it's zero. 

Yes, it's zero.  I mean you can work it out yourself as none of the teams in the two groups I mentioned are in both. In fact the whole 5 game road team sweep is very rare.  It was done, as you have probably heard, in 1996 when the Braves won the first two in Yankees stadium only to get swept in Atlanta and then the Yankees won Game 6 at home to win the series. And that's it.

Ok.  So what are you saying.

In the history of baseball no team has ever won two games on the road to win a World Series after losing three in a row at home.

OK but they have won two on the road.  

Yes see above, first question.

And they have won two in a row after losing three in a row

Also yes, that was just a few questions ago

So it's not impossible

Not at all.  We've only been in the position for this to possibly happen once before so doesn't tell us much.  Really I'd go back to just winning two in a row and figure your odds from there.

And what do you figure the Nats odds are? 

Around 20%.  I like Strasburg better than Verlander but the Astros have been playing better and are at home so I make that 50/50.  I give the Astros a slight edge in G7 with Greinke, et al. looking better than Sanchez/Corbin et. al.  .50 *.40 = .20.  The full guess would be

Astros in 6 - 50%
Astros in 7 - 30%
Nats in 7 - 20 %

OK I'll get out of my fake conversation here to talk about odds.  I feel like this is how most people view odds.

50-55%  : Coin Flip
56-59% : Gaining Confidence
60-80% : Calling it
81%+ :  Would take a miracle for the other outcome to happen

As someone who works with odds and numbers all the time this is very frustrating because that's not even close to how I think of it.  I'd say it's more like

50-59%  : Coin Flip
60-75% : Gaining Confidence
75-95% : Calling it
95%+ :  Would take a miracle for the other outcome to happen

Like at 75% you are at a 1 in 4 chance that the other outcome happens. That's like flipping a coin twice and getting two heads.  It's not rare at all. In fact it'll happen 1 in 4 times. But something is broken in the collective public's head and they hear "Seventy-Five percent?  That means you think there is no WAY the other thing happens!" and when the other thing does happen (which will occur on such things again about one in every 4 times) you get "You're so stupid! You don't know what you are saying!" It's frustrating because we know exactly what we are saying. It's the public that doesn't understand it and doesn't try to.


Ok. Back to the series so I give the Nats a 20% chance of winning it. To me that's in the early stages of  "calling it". What does that mean? It means I would bet on the Astros but I wouldn't feel great about it. It means I'd be very mildly surprised if the Nats pulled it off. That's what it means.So if you are looking the other way - you can bet on the Nats and there is still hope. The Nats winning it all would only be a mild surprise. That's the reality of the situation.

Now that still isn't good. You don't want your team winning to be a mild surprise. But it's not bad.  The Nats making the playoffs after their start was a bigger surprise than this would be.* It happened. You've gone this far.

What do I worry about tonight. Like I said two days ago, I worry about Stras' heavy workload. I'm a pitch count guy, not a days off guy** and those pitch counts are among the highest he's had in his career in back to back games, maybe the highest. I worry that Hudson doesn't look good and Corbin didn't look good and the Nats are basically down to Doolittle in terms of relievers they trust at like 90% or better right now. So to win the Nats are either going to have to get what to me would be an unexpected pitching performance from at least two guys or they have to beat down Verlander. Honestly, I think the latter is more possible.

Why, if I feel this way is it still at 50%? Well like I said I don't like Verlander, so I think the beat down potential is real even with this offense struggling. I also think, it's baseball. The worst starter on the worst team against the best starter on the best team probably wins that game 1 out of 10 times. Line drives for them don't go where they need to. Seeing eye hits for you do. And this is nowhere close to the worst starter on the worst team. It's a maybe slightly tired great starter on a struggling but very very good team.

Anyway there you go. Enjoy it as much as you can. Hopefully the Nats win and if not, they don't fade out early though that's more my wish.  I don't know how you'd prefer a loss.

*I don't buy the crazy low odds you hear for the Nats playoff odds nadir but I was hovering around the 10% level where not quite a miracle was needed but I could have been pretty easily convinced to bet against the Nats. We were pulling out "OK here's the ONE path to playoffs" which even thn only existed under the theory the NL would be bad enough to put a ~90 win WC team out there, which we were assuming would happen but had no guarantee. Then it did! But the Nats didn't need it! Anyway... 

**I've said with the 100 pitch count nearly universal now MLB should go back to a four man rotation.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Emergency Game 5 Post

Game stuff here! (Sorry. I got a family of little soulless automatons to take care of)

It's Ross and Ross is ok. As a starter he's pretty good. His splits basically say that once around really good (because it accounts for his terrible relief outings).  Twice around ok.  Three times around uh oh!   So figure he will give the Nats 3 good innings and then.... ? But not a 7 inning masterpiece.

What's also going to matter a big deal is what's going on on the other end. If the Nats can't score then those PH opportunities loom large and might cut off a decent Joe early. Expect him to bat once if doing well but not twice.

OK go to it.I'll update underneath as the game goes on.

Post Inning 1.
So Max vs Cole and Stras vs Verlander set itself up as an awesome 1 & 2 games in this now 3 game series. But it didn't happen.  That's too bad.  Before that you probably liked the Astros again to take the series if only because that last game takes place at home.  Now you really do. But baseball is funny.  Even huge favorites tonight I bet the Nats chances are below 1/3rd.  They have a decent chance of winning tonight.

Even if they don't Stras is the pitcher of the post-season and can come through in two days easy. So don't fret.  Well fret, it is the series and you may be down 3-2 but don't become despondent.  It's far from hopelesss

So far Joe looks to be doing what I thought...

Mid 2nd

Gotta put kid to bed now.  Joe's kind of all over the place, which isn't unexpected with such a long layoff.  The homer pitch looks like a sinker in the spot they wanted but just not sharp. He then proceeded to K Correa on a armpit high fastball he missed his spot by 12 inches.  So he's hit or miss on stuff. Hit or miss on location.  If he gets one or other it can work, but it doesn't always. The homer was a hit on location and a miss on stuff.  If it's a miss/miss that's a problem.

Post 5

Well that all sucked.  I will say that pitch to Correa? More likely a ball than a strike. Sorry.

You got what you wanted from Ross to a point.  2 runs in 5 would have been fine.  4 isn't great but you'd take it and hope your team could score enough to stay in the game.  Though right now Doo and Hudson should be in to make sure it stays close. Not these guys. 

End 6

So now we get Doolittle? Well I guess better late than never. And yes I know it worked but that's not the point.

Mid 7 


End 7 

Soto is so good and Cole is getting iffy.  The bad calls have been a problem but the Nats are still in this game. Despite Ross starting and going through the B-Team they are still in it.  If the bullpen can hold this they can get back around to Rendon and Soto - at least if they are going to have a chance to win it they will 

Top 8

Dammit.  Hudson hasn't been perfect but he's come up with the big out seemingly every time. But not tonight. A weird "Shouldn't Eaton have been closer there?" double eventually led to an RBI single and the slight momentum the Nats had dashed.  Gotta get two here imo

End 8

Sigh.  There was a brief moment of SPringer looking like he was going to let that ball over his head and roll around the corner but after he caught that... Sigh

Top 9

Well that's enough for live posting.  This was going to be a rough game Ross v Cole and it was.  Not immediately but one big step at a time.

Now what happens?  A game I take as a coin flip, with the slightly better in the post season Strasbrurg vs the slightly better in the regular season Verlander. A game the Nats can win and would win 5 out of 10 times if played 10 times. I worry, because Stras has been used so heavy recently, but what can you do? You have to believe.

If the Nats can win this game then Game 7 is madness. Will Max be ready. If not then Sanchez and Corbin and literally everyone vs the same sort of group from the Astros though they get to start with Greinke.   It would be fun.  Let's get there