Nationals Baseball: July 2019

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


We said earlier buying into the Nats as a WC leader with an outside chance at a division should be easy given how they team has played for the past 2 months. But Max's injury makes every thing a question. Add to that a crowded WC field (4 teams within 1 game, followed by a quixotic but not selling SF team, a still underperforming ARI team, and a Mets team that is looking to re-configure not sell) and the Nats playoff chances are more wobbly than you think they would be for a team playing like the best team in baseball for 60 games.

They need a 5th starter. For one they need someone to cover those 10 remaining games so they aren't 8+ losses. For another if Max is out longer than the 10-day IL that doubles and they need another arm DESPERATELY. They also need relievers. The relief pitching isn't historically bad as it looked to be midway through May but June put up a middline 4.54 ERA and July so far is at 5.06.  The peripherals might have given the pen some slack in June, but in July they look bad again.

The Nats don't have many resources to acquire these things. They are closer to the cap then they would like and their farm system is one of the worst in baseball. (checks on Luis Garcia again)  Yep. It will either take creativity or gumption to get things done. .

If you do want to buy the argument against you is : No Max, likely fighting for a WC. The farm is weak as it is. You are buying to fight for this year, and maybe next but quite possibly setting up a real dry spell for the start of the 2020s as the pitching ages.

If you don't want to buy the argument against you is : there are no promises for next year, the pitching is older and only going to be more prone to injuries, there isn't help coming from the farm. The Braves are good and deep. The Phillies will be committed for a few years. If you aren't selling the drop off is likely coming regardless.

Look at the Nats and plot me a way forward for the next few years.  It's hard. Next year will free up some cash with Zimm and likely Gomes' options not picked up. But almost all of that would go into signing Rendon and paying up Turner's arbitration. You got out with the same squad as this year, a year older and hope for health the entire year and another set of really good years from your stars? (Stras, Corbin, and Rendon are pretty much performing optimally this year) And how long does that buy you? The other option is don't sign Rendon and do something like sign Garrett Cole. Go all in on pitching, but that offense is relying on step ups from Soto, Robles, Turner to cover for Rendon being gone. 

I'm not going to say the Nats can't do it - but the stretching of this window was due in part to the unique set up the Nats found in 2012 - so good, so young - and then a run of luck - Max being not just great but becoming the best pitcher in baseball. Murphy, the at best 2nd choice, becoming an MVP candidate. Dusty guiding the bullpen during the season with some acumen.

I say go for it now. You say what you want. But if you don't say go for it - tell me how you think the next few years play out with the Nats staying competitive.  Just through 2021-2022 (anything beyond 3 years is a waste of planning)

Oh yeah - there's still a Braves game. Like last post - win and it was a good 16 game stretch. Lose and it still wasn't a bad one.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Monday Quickie - Braves again

Real short bc work

The weekend series didn't go well but the end result of the 7 games - 4-3 vs Rockies and Dodgers - is what a WC Nats team wanted. Right now they are sitting exactly where they should be in this run. They lost an extra game to the Orioles but were able to split the Braves series in Atlanta. If they beat the Braves they'll accomplish two things (1) they will go through this 16 game stretch at 9-7 which was the goal and (2) they'll have won 4 out of the 7 games against Atlanta.  The latter isn't enough to start thinking about the division but is a game more than planned which is nice.

Even losing to Atlanta isn't a big deal.  Go 1-2 and well they are just a game off in likely the hardest 16 game stretch of the season and they went 3-4 vs Atlanta which is what was expected going in.

Now an Atlanta sweep? Ok that's bothersome but worry about that if you go down 0-2, not before.

Of course the big news of the weekend is Max looks like he's going to miss another start and the season gets that much harder when you are replacing Max with a rando 5th guy.  Adding to that is the Nats could pretty accurately set themselves as WC favorites with Max in the rotation, given how they've played the last 60 games, where they stand now, and what the schedule looks like going forward. But without Max? Who knows? And if you can't accurately set yourself then how do you approach the trade deadline?

Braves bats have been hotter than not this past week. Pitching more guys doing well than not. They went 2-3 but lost a couple close games and a big one that could be put on a poorly performing Gausman who won't be pitching the Nats series


Keuchel vs Corbin - Keuchel had a nice start in his last go, but Corbin was better and has been really good for a month and a half now.  He and Stras can't do much about the 5th starter innings but are filling in the Max ace role. This favors Nats

Teheran vs ??? - Max or no Max I'm giving this to the Braves. Teheran is on a run, and when he's on a run he's very good. Max would be pitching on a weird rest pattern and on a short leash if he does go. More likely he doesn't and anyone else is a clear step down.

Soroka vs Sanchez -Last starts were flipped experiences.  Soroka cruised until the 5th where he couldn't get out of it. He luckily only gave up a run but it was on the brink of being blown open.  Sanchez was almost beat in the very first inning against the Dodgers, also snuck out with a run, and then dominated.  You like Soroka better than Sanchez but not by much.

2-1 Braves is the call, but 2-1 Nats is clearly in play, especially if they win the first game as expected.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Nats lose?

Yesterday wasn't ideal. Max was merely ok - which is fine if he makes his next start on time - you gotta give the guy a start to get back into it. But that meant a short outing and reliance on a pen who Wednesday threw out 6 pitchers, Rodney and Doolittle twice. Where is Javy Guerra? We don't know. Let's say dead. But we do know after Grace, Rainey, Sipp, and Suero had their second actions in two days the Nats were left with a choice. Rodney or Doolittle for the third time in two days?  Rodney had thrown more pitches (36 to 28) but Doolittle is both more important and more fragile. So Rodney got the call and looked like a guy pitching for the third time in 2 days.

The series didn't quite work out like I thought. Buddy Black leaned heavily on the worst pitchers in his pen for some reason (Davis didn't see the light of day until the last inning of the last game) and used them in questionable spots, effectively negating his team's one advantage. This ended up accounting for the Nats outburst in G1. The Rockies didn't score much but that was more a product of bad timing than bad offense, leaving men on base all over the place until G4.  If the Nats weren't rolling it would have felt worse - a series win but not one that inspires much confidence going forward. But since the Nats ARE rolling - well it keeps that going.

Now the Dodgers

The Dodgers are good. Check that. The Dodgers are very good. Nay! The Dodgers are great.

They have the most wins of any team in baseball. (percentage points behind the Yankees for best record). They are actually underperforming their Pythag by a game, in part because in this post ASG 7-5 stretch, they've lost the last 4 by one-run.  Thanks to the Rockies road swoon, they have the best offense in the NL, scoring 5.41 R/G AND they have the best pitching in the NL allowing a mere 3.85 R/G

The lineup isn't 8 deep, catcher is an issue, but everyone else is at least good. Cody Bellinger anchors the lineup with an MVP year, hitting .331 / .431 / .638. Max Muncy is having a good year. Turner and Peterson are hitting well. Verdugo and Seager are above average. Pollock is getting worked back in and is hitting up a storm, though slowing lately. And Enrique Hernandez, who had been struggling at 2nd has been on a tear since the ASB. In fact along with Pollock and Hernandez, Turner, Bellinger and Muncy are all OPSing over 1.000 since the break and their Howie Kendrick, David Freese is at .957.  You survive 7 batters here and then you catch a two batter break and start it all over again.

The relief pitching is deep.  Kenley Jansen isn't the dominant force he used to be but he's still very good and a couple of the usual names, Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia are doing well (though Garcia is pretty home prone). Julio Urias has converted to a lights out reliever. JT Chargois is effective and Casey Sadler has been great after getting the call.  Even the bad pitchers - Caleb Ferguson is young with a ton of talent, just hasn't produced yet. Kelly doesn't have bad peripherals and as "mop-up guy" well that's a great mop-up guy.

What are the pitching match-ups?

Tonight it's Ryu vs Sanchez.  Sanchez has been very good since his injury reset but there is a clear decline in his performance from very good to good. Ryu on the other hand is a Cy Young contender who, if you remove an errant game at Coors, has allowed 8 ER in his last 14 games. He's not a K guy but he's walking nobody and got the homers down low.  The next game is Kershaw against likely Ross, with Voth out and Fedde moved down for relief help. Kershaw hasn't been KERSHAW for a couple years but he's still one of the better pitchers in the league with swing and miss stuff and great control. He's been even better since the ASB and is a good bet every time out to give the Dodgers 6+ innings with 2 or fewer ER. Sunday will pit Buehler against Strasburg.  Strasburg had some minor worries with him after a few ok starts, but he looked great against the Rockies. Buehler is the K-man for the Dodgers now and he also has great control. (don't expect a lot of walks by the Nats this weekend). He TOO has been even better since the ASB.  It's the best 3 pitchers the Dodgers have (though Maeda and Stripling are good too)

The Dodgers will likely be favored in every game with the offensive advantage overcoming the slight Strasburg over Beuhler advantage.My take is simple - don't get swept. If the Nats win the series - FANTASTIC. But a 1-2 loss is in line with what was planned and with the Braves and Phillies playing 1-2 would keep the Nats from being too far out in case the Braves pull a sweep.

The Nats are tired now, bullpen is pretty taxed, that day off seems a long time ago now that they've played 4 games in 3 days. It'd be easy to slip up. Don't let it happen. Don't get swept. Then the Braves

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Catching a break

Early in the season the Nats played the Rockies and lost the series 2-1. They caught the Rockies during their first hot stretch being part of the initial 10-2 run.  While bad play marred the start of the year for the Nats and not everything can be explained by bad timing, it didn't help that they caught the Pirates during part of a 11-3 stretch, or the Padres during a 9-5 run. The Nats were playing stumbling, but they were catching some bad breaks.

Now we see the opposite. A rolling Nats team has its offense sputter a bit, but in comes a Rockies team crashing and burning. A Rockies team that would go 3-29 with RISP during the first 3 games. A Rockies team that would give up solo homers and walk in a run accounting for 4 of the Nats 5 runs in the past two games. Winning constantly is not just being good. That's the base. Winning constantly is getting lucky too. Winngin constantly is catching a rain postponement breaking up an otherwise long stretch. The entire script has flipped and the Nats are 2 series from making this the season they thought they would have.

Of course no game is more pivotal than today's.  If Max is not fine then the Nats can't hope to win the division, and the Wild Card will look precarious, despite what they've done without him.  Long haul you can't replace a Max with a Fedde/Ross/Voth combo and expect things to work out. So let's see what we want today - it doesn't need to be a dominant Max, just one that looks fine - gives the Nats 6+ innings of strong pitching - right velocity, good command, and a clean bill of health tomorrow. Give us that and let us see what happens in the next two home series vs the Dodgers and Braves.

Almost there. 8 games away from the summit*

*which doesn't have to be on top the NL East.  I'll take anything within 3 games of first at the end of that Braves series as getting all the way back to where they want to be

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A couple notes on trades

So the Nats need help. They need a reliable 5th starter (especially with Max being hurt - even if he comes back it's something that could linger). They need bullpen help. They probably could use a bat too but there isn't an easy way to plug in a fix at say... catcher, so we'll ignore that for now.

We've seen (and some have predicted) what will be the general way this works. The Nats ask for a good reliever. The other team looks at the Nats farm system and says "The only good prospect you have is Carter Kieboom.  We would like Carter Kieboom" The Nats say "Carter Kieboom is too good for that guy" and the dance begins. Both teams are right. 

Kieboom lines up with a solid reliable relief pitcher with years of control. Think Sam Dyson but 2016 Sam Dyson. Closer by default, good results but underlying stats a bit worse, lots of control. He might also line-up with a very good closer with a few years of that level of talent but FA looming (think 2016 Mark Melancon) in a buyers market but this isn't a buyers market and there isn't a very good closer out there.

Shane Greens/Sam Dyson line up with a middle of the road prospect. Someone older in the 40-60 range. The type most likely to be an average contributor for a decent number of years. Garcia, arguably the Nats #2 prospect, doesn't really fit the bill. He falls just out of this range right now, and a recent slump in AA (plus no homers and like a dozen walks) doesn't help.  But he's super young so you may say "most likely to have minimal impact in majors" but you concede the ceiling is higher than it would be if he were 22. To do a trade for Garica require a little more in the package but the important thing is it would require leaps in faith by Detroit - that Garcia will move up a step, and by the Nats - that Garcia won't move up more than that.

The rest of the Nats prospects are "worse". Crowe, who at 24 is likely to slide into the Voth/Fedde/Ross roll over the next few seasons. Denaburg and Rutledge who are nearly pure unknowns. Cate who might be the most intriguing of the bunch but doesn't set the world on fire.

So what do the Nats do? Do they "give up" on Garcia if they find a willing trade partner? Again the gamble would be that he doesn't get much better, which is a big one to make on a player in AA who just turned 18. Do they try to load up a package that is two of those pitchers, plus say one of their mid-tier hitting prospects - like draftee Drew Mendoza (plus maybe an low A throw in), effectively gutting an already weak farm? There's not a good answer here.

That's why I see the Nats doing something less interesting. I mentioned a Fedde for Buck Farmer deal. A middling guy having a good year with some years of control left. That's the target they are probably going to end up getting.

Another note I DID mention trading Robles, but it's a thought exercise. The idea was if you could get back a very good hitter with 2-3 year of control and a playable CF (because in this OF Robles in CF is necessary) that you could jolt the Nats offense and focus on winning during the Rendon/Max years you know you have. But the package has to line up and it doesn't.  I want a Whit Merrifield but to make it work am I trading Eaton in the package and getting back... Billy Hamilton? No thank you. Domingo Santana might be a good fit but do I want Mallex Smith? Nope. Kiermaier, who's basically classic MAT now, is an interesting fit in CF but do I want to do that gambling on Tommy Phan or Asivail Garcia to spark the offense? Can't say that I do.

So basically it's a non-starter. The trade is getting offense in the next couple years in exchange for the later production of Robles who will likely get better but may never be the All-Star type. You can do that. But the Nats also need to fill in that defensive hole and I can't figure a way to do it that I say with certainty "Yes, the Nats are better for 2019 now that they did this". Now if I thought the Red Sox were willing to deal Betts and Bradley Jr... 

Anyway just because it's interesting, or even makes sense in a planning way, doesn't mean deal talk should be taken seriously because it needs to work out in reality as well and that means trade partners lining up who have exactly what you need to make it work and the want to trade for what you want to give up. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Monday Quickie - A Tale of Two Nationals Teams

For the Wild Card Nats the weekend went well. These guys ignore the Braves as a direct competitor and see this stretch as simply a tough 16 games they have to survive. With the majority of games at home, 9-7 would be great, but 8-8 would be fine. It's not the pace the Nats want, but playing .500 ball when you are playing this many straight including 10 games against division leaders would reinforce the Nats are continuing to play at a high level. It would probably put them just outside of the WC when it's over but with the toughest stretch of the season likely over they'd be a good bet to pick up a few games on the rest of the field.

For the NL East Division Hopeful Nats the weekend was a failure. These guys see the Braves as the team they have to catch and they already had dug themselves a 6.5 game hole. It's a tough ask to expect the Nats to make up that many games over the course of the rest of the season. They just played the best baseball in the majors for 44 games and only made up 3.5 games. The saving grace though was 14 head to head games remaining in which the Nats could control their destiny. The more they make up on the Braves head to head, the more reasonable how much better they need to play better than Atlanta in the non head to head games. But to do that, to go say 9-5 at least in those games, the Nats need to win series against Atlanta. Instead 4 games have passed and the Nats made up no ground. Now they have to go 7-3 in the remaining 10 to make up the 4 games

Now it's on to the Rockies and the hope of a 3-1 series win or better because anything else puts pressure on winning the Dodgers series.

The Rockies have been a roller coaster ride this season. 3-12 to start the year, then a climb featuring runs of 10-2 and 11-2 to get them into the WC hunt before a recent 2-13 swing took them right back out. It's a hard team to read because of course the Rockies hit well and pitch poorly, but the Nats are catching them in DC so we can see how these guys hit/pitch away from home which is the flip. They have an ERA of 4.21 which would be Top 3 in NL and an OPS of .658 which would be dead last.

Offensively Arenando can hit, Story is pretty good too and away from home the catcher tandem (Wolters/Ianetta) does better. Maybe catching in Coors is a bit of a mind-sucking experience.  Murphy and Desmond aren't particularly good on the road, while Dahl and Blackmon suffer real dropoffs. McMahon and Tapia are not good anywhere.  I'd say it's a pretty ineffectual lineup where you have one star hitter in Arenando who's having an off year and one star hitter in Blackmon who's only a star at Coors. That isn't enough to balance the rest. Story is a decent bat. Murphy, Dahl, and Desmond aren't awful. The rest are. It's sort of a lineup I'd expect to fall as "worst of the teams who aren't truly terrible" if they had a regular home field. Like a Reds/Giants/Padres are now.

Relief pitching is a biog strength away from home. Davis and McGee have ERAs under 1.00. Oberg is at 1.71. Diaz, Dunn, and Estevez under 3.00.  It's actually a real solid group that can hold a lead given to them when you aren't dealing with this superball and playing on the moon. The Nats will catch the following pitchers.

Lambert - (3.00 ERA on road - 2 starts) rookie that's hard to read as he's only had two starts away from Coors, but pretty good numbers in those two and it was against the Cubs and Dodgers. Then they it's Jon Gray (4.29 - 11) who has figured out how to pitch in Coors but that's made him middling outside of it. After that is Kyle Freland who got beat up in NY and hasn't had an impressive season home or away. Game 4 would have been Senzatela but he's been demoted.  Hoffman will likely pitch and he's not been good. The Nats luckily miss German Marquez who is honestly a good starter.So in short they get Lambert - an interesting control-heavy prospect, Jon Gray -  perfectly solid middle rotation guy, Kyle Freeland - last year's hotness who is struggling in 2019, and likely Hoffman - a one time big time prospect who now seems like rotation filler (why didn't he match up with Fedde?)

The Nats counter with Fedde, Stras, Corbin and then hopefully Max.  The pitching match-ups would probably favor Rockies, Nats, Nats, and almost certainly Nats again even if they run out Ross or Voth. I like the Nats to take 3 of 4 in a lower scoring set then you'd probably expect. However, if the Nats find themselves behind going into the later innings things could get ugly. They need to jump on the beatable starters then let the bullpen hold off a less than impressive Rockies away lineup.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

No rest for the weary - or the Nats

The Nats are moving on so must we. The Nats blew the final game of the Oriole two set. On one hand, if you played the Orioles 4 times you'd want to win 3 and if you played them 2 and 2 you'd want to win the 2 at home so this is just in line with targets. On the other hand the Nats bullpen blew up and the offense scored two runs against a bad pitching team, highlighting the known issue for the Nats and the less dire, but still relevant issue that I've been harping on for a few weeks.

But these two games were supposed to ease the Nats into a 14 game stretch and instead they've now worked the pen a little bit and lost a game. Ugh.

Anyway how are the Braves? It's been a while!

Since the Nats last played the Braves the Nats have rolled going 13-4 against schedule that featured four of the worst teams in baseball in five of their 6 series. The Braves though haven't folded. They went 12-7 against a schedule that was more balanced - Cubs, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Padres, Brewers and kept a healthy lead on the Nationals.

Their lineup is kind of a better version of the Nats one. There's a couple stars they rely on, one stalwart and one youngster - Freeman and Acuna. They aren't hitting as well as Rendon and Soto, but while the Nats have one guy you like in Trea, and a bunch of other guys you don't hate, the Braves have a bunch of other guys you like and one position (McCann/Flowers) you don't hate. Albies? He's ok. Swanson? ok. Riley? ok. Markakis? ok.  Any single comparison - say Markakis to Eaton, wouldn't be a big deal but line up 4 of them where the Braves have that slight edge and it adds up. Plus there's Donaldson who gives the Braves a solid third bat to rely on which the Nats DO have but it's on a "who's up" basis. Right now it's Dozier. Before it was Kendrick most of the year. If there is a bright side for the Nats the Braves bats have been colder. Donaldson is MVPing it, but Freeman is in a slump and Swanson and Riley are too.

The pitching is better. The pen is still pretty solid. Luke Jackson is good. Newcomb keeps the ball in the park and the pickup of Swarzak looks like it may work out. Losing Webb, who's out until later in July, hurts, but there is more hit than miss in guys like Tomlin, Minter and old friend Jerry Blevins to make the pen more reliable than not. The rotation keeps fighting between coming together and falling apart. Keuchel has come in and settled in nicely for the most part and Soroka is still doing well.  Teheran's up and down status fits the number 3 spot better than trying to fit him in 1 or 2, but after that injuryies to Fried and Gausman who were good, and a decent 5th spot inning eater respectively, have left the Braves scrambling a bit. Touki can't get it right and they got one ace and one decent pitcher from their vast minor reserves so far. Asking for more is a bit much. Ian Anderson in AA is probably the best guy in the minors now for them, but if they are winning they'll probably wait until next year to give him both AAA seasoning and of course more team control. However, the Nats might see a Kolby Allard, who rose fast last year and had the bumps then that guys like Wright and BrySe Wilson are having now. He's rebounded finally and might be ready for his second chance.

That gets to the match-ups!  First is Stras vs Teheran. Stras had been a question but looked real good against the Phillies and has done well against the Braves this year. Teheran is a box of chocolates but the Nats seem to handle him well. Then Corbin gets the bad luck of matching up with the ace again. Soroka is the real deal and the Nats lucked out last time (he got hit with a line drive and left the game early). Game 3 is TBD right now but Sanchez is all but set to start that game for the Nats. Sanchez has pitched fine for a while. His best game of the year came against the Braves but his worst game since the Nats started rolling also came against them.  The Braves are a question mark but Allard would naturally slot in here if he's coming, which is what I'm thinking. If it was Kyle Wright he'd probably pitch tonight given his starts.  This leaves Sunday which is a huge question mark. If the Nats and Braves have their ways it will be Max vs Gausman. If they don't it'll be Voth vs Wilson... probably. Though other guys are probably in the mix until they aren't.

ed note - if it is Wright tonight it becomes Nats edge, Nats edge, Braves edge, ? and nothing really changes. You still pick a split. Though I think this works out slightly better for the Nats in theory because the Braves don't counter one of the first two with Soroka meaning the Nats have a good shot at winning first two and putting a ton of pressure on Braves/Soroka in game 3, especially if Max looks ready for G4.  Of course this all holds for as long at 1 game

You give the Nats an edge Game 1, Braves a slight one in Game 2 (they also hit lefties better). Game 3 goes to the Nats again and 4 right now is a toss-up since we know nothing. If Max was definitely starting you might be tempted to give the Nats 3 here. Certainly they'd be favored in 3 and have a good chance of winning Corbin vs Soroka. But since we don't know we definitely can't make that leap. I don't see any reason not to think this will be a split. But the onus is on the Nats to win tonight. Lose tonight and suddenly you NEED Max in there to have the split be the likely outcome again.

Nats Sweep : ATL 58-43, WSN 54-44.  It's a whole new race.

Nats win 3-1 : ATL 59-42, WSN 53-45.  Nats gain a couple of games and we start to look at the next match-up in 7 days and if the Nats are going to make some moves between now and then to make a serious move on the division.

SPLIT : ATL 60-41, WSN 52-46.  We start to play the series by series game. Can they make a run on Colorado? If they don't can they sweep LA? What happens next ATL series?

Braves win 3-1 : ATL 61-40, WSN 51-47.  Tough to see the Nats taking the East. Time to take stock of WC position

Braves Sweep : ATL 62-39, WSN 50-48. Race is effectively over. Nats are probably not even in the playoffs if the season ended that day. Big question if they should bother doing anything with 10 more tough games lined up that look like they'll push Nats under .500

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Why Gomes? Why no Kendrick?

Two things have become clear over the course of this season.  Yan Gomes can't hit anymore.  Howie Kendrick wasn't done in by his injury and can still hit.  Yet four games into the 2nd half and the Nats line-up have been a lot like they were leading into the All-Star Break.  We've seen Gomes twice and Suzuki twice as they have pretty much split time and Kendrick hasn't managed to start a game yet (though I'd suspect we'll see him tonight). While it could be written off as "resting the guys for later" I think these are two unique situations.

The Gomes situation is hard to read because catching is hard to read. It's a unique position that's difficult to evaluate defensively and a lot of the reason some guys play is because starting pitchers like them. This has been my conceit with Gomes. If he's putting up a 53 OPS+ and playing about 50% of the time, the starters must like him. If you are curious I think I went over it in a comment or tweet but the catching match-ups work like this right now

Sanchez goes with Suzuki
Corbin goes with Gomes
Max used to go with Gomes, but now goes with Suzuki
Stras and the 5th starter mix it up with a little more reliance on Gomes than Suzuki.

I mean there's rest for Suzuki, but every third game should be sufficient. Or even 60%. Other than the pitcher preference I'm not sure what would spur on this split we're seeing. And assuming it's that - I think it's fair to say "OK we can cover for this one position that doesn't hit a few games a week". Starter comfort is nothing to be messed with. This isn't ideal but the ideal situation would be "Gomes hits a lot better" or "Pitchers love Suzuki". Neither of those are reality so the Nats are working with what they got. I think it's fine for now, as long as we see more Kurt during a run coming up. He did play back to back games twice in the ARI PHI ATL stretch in June (Gomes had them after that). If that happens again now during ATL COL LA ATL then great. I think they got something right here.

The Kendrick situation is unfortunate.  He can't really play OF anymore. If you were to play him - you'd want him in left, but left is where Soto plays and frankly Soto, as we've discussed, is no good. You don't want to shift him over to right every few games when you are hoping something catches on with him in left. I suppose Kendrick plays left when Soto sits, but how often do you really want Soto sitting? In fact Kendrick hasn't played OF all year. So don't expect this.

So if the OF is out - that's fine Kendrick can play 1B and muddle through 2B and 3B. With 3B well - that's like taking Soto out. You might rest Rendon a game every month, maybe. He hasn't had a day off yet since returning and I don't see any reason to make him take one. So consider 3B pretty much out except for a couple of random starts between here and season's end. Like two.

Once Rendon was back Kendrick appeared in games by playing against LHP at first and coming in occasionally at 2B.  He'd probably only play say every other game like that but toss in a few DH stints and it felt like just enough. But then Zimm came back and he needed the time against LHP at first. If you want Zimm back into the swing of things you simply can't give him more than a random day off for a while and in fact he's played against every LHP and some RHP so far, basically splitting time with Adams.  All that's left right now for Kendrick is 2B. The Nats like what they have with Dozier. He holds down 2B well especially since neither Zimm or Adams are particularly good fielders at 1B. He's also been hitting just well enough to keep playing. So Kendrick is effectively squeezed out.

I suspect that once we see Zimm get comfortable - maybe in a week or two - we'll see a more set rotation for Kendrick. Something like over the course of 10 games he'll play 1B once and 2B twice. But beyond that he's an extra piece. If you want to look at it from a positive angle, that's a good problem to have. "Oh where do we play this good hitter who can't field" It's a problem good teams SHOULD have.

Now if the offense begins to struggle against the upcoming decent team stretch, will I be annoyed if Kendrick still isn't playing? Yes. But the Nats are winning and as long as they keep doing that it gives them the cover to do what they want. Which includes sitting the better hitting Kendrick so the better fielding Dozier can play and Zimm can get his recovery at bats.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Don't screw it up - Part 2

The next 16 days feature 16 games, the last 14 against two of the best teams in baseball and another that is decent. The only break the Nats catch is that most of this stretch will be at home.  Still it's a brutal stretch and while it likely won't decide the Nats playoff fate entirely it could decide their NL East fate.

The Nats just opened up the 2nd half by beating the Phillies on the road. They also fell 1.5 further out of first place because the Braves have won 4 in a row. Now they stand at 7.5 back of the Braves and a bad run will leave them well behind going into August.  Impossibly behind? No. Historic comeback behind? Possibly. Go 2-5 or 1-6 and they'll likely be over 10 games out at the start of August. I don't think it's too much to say you can start gearing up for All Wild Card Race All the time. (In fact even 6+ out is probably enough but we'll deal with that at the appropriate time)

Around that these games will help set up the circumstances of the big Braves series and first off is two against the Orioles that they frankly can't lose. Not because they can't afford it schedule wise but because the Orioles are a garbage team and the Nats should beat them.

The Nats offense is still stumbling a bit. Rendon and Soto had a good series, so did Robles. I've been trying to say this for a while but the Nats offense is just not quite clicking and I think it's carrying over. Not that it's bad - it's been good enough in fact. But good enough won't cut it... eventually. The staff has been fine so far, with the bullpen doing it's job for all but one inning against the Phillies.

The Orioles are a bad hitting team with terrible pitching.  They are actually decent against LHP but may not face one. Voth tonight. Maybe Fedde tomorrow? Strasburg? Either way not a lefty. So they should be contained. Contain the offense and you win because the pitching is terrible. The bullpen is top to bottom bad with one guy Paul Fry reaching "ok I can see him on a major league staff as bullpen filler" level. And he's not good, he's just got a skill (inducing GBs) and does it so well you can work with it. They have some live arms like Givens, the assumed closer, and Armstrong but no one you can rely on regularly.

Which brings us to tonight! Because the other starter is Wojciechowski, who fits the "live arm you can't rely on" bill to a T AND they have to rely on him to try to get 5 innings. At his best "Woj" can strike you out and not walk too many but he can't overcome the fact that he also gives up way too many homeruns. At 30, he's generously org filler who for the Orioles means like 4th starter. If the Nats can hit their 2-3 homers with someone on base (which is quite possible because he isn't great with control and can be hit) it should be an easy win even if Voth gives up a little.  The next day the Nats get Aaron Brooks who has decent control... and that's it. He doesn't strike anyone out, gives up way too many hits and homers. He's also 29.  Ugh. This is terrible.  I guess occasionally things work out and they don't hit a homer and keep hitting it where they is and he gets a win but most likely he'll get knocked out in the 3rd or so, with the Orioles only hoping he can go 4.

The Nats should win and no excuses for the offense. They should beat up on this team scoring 6+ each game.

Kick this stretch off right.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday Quickie - mission accomplished and OH NO

First things first - the Nats did what they needed to do AGAIN. Went on the road to a division rival and won the series. Sure they were one run away from a sweep which might have tailspun the Phillies. They also were one out away from a series loss and losing two games in ground toward the Braves.  All the pitching was solid. All the hitting was enough - though again - and I keep saying this. the hitting isn't doing too hot and it could really cost the Nats over the next couple of weeks. 11 runs in three games against a mediocre pitching staff is not heartening.

What's up next? The Orioles and 2 games they should win. Even a split would be disappointing.

But even if the Nats had swept the Phillies that wouldn't have been the big story of the weekend. The BIG STORY is Max is hurt. The timeline isn't worrisome yet but it does start you down that road.

Max pitched great against the Royals then begged out of playing in the All-Star game on Sunday, citing back stiffness. The team said "Great! Perfect Timing! We'll even throw in a couple extra days off and not have you kick-off the 2nd half, but instead catch that third Phillies game. That's a full week off!" But on Friday night things still weren't right and Max said the Phillies series was out, but starting in Baltimore (Tomorrow or Wednesday) would likely happen. Then Saturday he was put on the DL retroactive to Jul 10th, meaning he couldn't pitch in Baltimore and would hopefully catch the third of 4 ATL games.

So again
July 7th - can't pitch the 9th
July 12th - can't pitch the 14th
July 13th - can't pitch until the 20th.

Right now I'll be cautiously optimistic. Pitching the 20th means out two weeks but because of the break it's only really one missed start if you want to see it that way (ATL game will be game 8 of the 2nd half).   Better to be cautious now and maybe lose a start vs PHI, who you are clearly better than, then lose him for at least two games against Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But miss the ATL series entirely and things get dicier. Because now he's missed two starts, two division starts versus rivals, and you know that isn't happening because of being careful. That's happening because somethings wrong.

Baltimore series preview and the start of a 16 game slog tomorrow!

Friday, July 12, 2019

It's Go Time (or stop time, depending)

A couple quick things before we get into the Phillies.

With Bubba Starling getting called up, it brought renewed attention to the 2011 draft which was a hell of a draft. In recent times it's probably just passes the 2005 draft for the best, though that gap will probably widen with time. But those drafts are important because they signify the first and last drafts in the Nats... say "building window" where the Nats almost always had single digit picks. So 2 out of the 7 drafts when the Nats were looking to put together a franchise were historic. That's some good luck. Also let's not forget that when they found themselves with back to back #1 picks the picks those years were thought to be generational talents. That's some good luck too. Suffice to say that things came up Nats pretty much right when they needed it to.

I say this in part because of something from the comments yesterday. I noted that once Kieboom is up for good, which should be September at the latest, there is no one in the Nats organization that I will place a bet on being a good major leaguer.  This hasn't been the case for me since before Strasburg was drafted. (For those of you not around then there was a lot of trying to convince Nats fans of the talent of Kory Casto and Chris Marrero).  Stras begat Bryce begat Rendon begat Giolito begat Robles begat Kieboom* begat... ?

It was supposed to be Luis Garcia, but his AA perfomance has been poor. At his age it's not anything that would make you write off him making the majors. The fact he was so young and doing well in A ball that that is why he was supposed to be next. He could be two years older and you would still be ready to give him another year of evaluation in AA.  But this season does take him off the "next up" track and puts him back to merely an intriguing prospect.**

I don't mean this to be an indictment on the Nats drafting acumen. More to say - drafting is hard and the Nats, when they needed to draft well, got a handful of breaks in terms of the talent available when they were drafting. Sometimes it pays to be lucky as well as good.

On to the Phillies series.

 Since the Phillies series the primary story for the Nats was that Rendon and Soto keep hitting but the offense had been cooling. The Royals series though, with some poor pitching to feast on seems to have righted the ship. There's been promising developments - Dozier hitting better, Robles hitting better, Zimm doing ok upon return. But Kendrick, Adams, and of course Gomes struggling. There are ways to juggle it so none of those guys plays but it's going to be a bit of a guessing game on who's hot or not here and it may effect the Nats scoring. On the Phillies side you begain to see some waking up. Yes, Bryce was hitting but so were Bruce and Hoskin and Realmuto. Even Segura was knocking around singles. This was more the offense the Phillies expected to see this year.

Of course how much does the all-star break effect momentum?

I've talked about the relatively easy road for the Nats arms but you can only evaluate based on what's been done.  To that effect Grace and Guerra are currently holding down the pen. Doolittle, Sipp, and Rodney have had good results but the stats are shakier on them.  It's still not a full pen.  The Phillies pen has gotten some excellent performances recently, most importantly from a returning Tommy Hunter. The bad news is they've come from random guys. Arms like Nicasion and Morgan who they were more expecting to lean on have been bad. It's a worse version of the guessing game the Nats have to do with the lineup. There using the wrong guys might lose production, here they might lose games.

The starters for the Nats are going to be Stras, Corbin, and Max and the reset after ASG matches up exactly with the Phillies series. No hard decisions required. Max has been dominant against the chumps, but so has Corbin - who's pitched to a 0.96 ERA in his last 4 games. Stras has been shakier only looking great in his very last start on July 3rd. For the month of June he actually put up a 5.70 ERA, gave up 6 homers and watched the other team slug nearly .500 against him.

The Phillies counter with Pivetta, Nola, and likely Arrieta. Pivetta is all over the place. He came back from the minors awesome (3 hit 6IP 0ER vs Dodgers!) but recently he's looked like the guy who got sent down. He's given up 9 homers in his last 4 games. If he was pitching on normal rest I'd expect the Nats to shell him but the extended rest makes him a complete Wild Card in my book.  Nola has finally seen a return to form pitching to an 0.61 ERA in HIS past four games. Arrieta might be pitching injured and frankly was only ok when he wasn't. Rest may help him and he did handle the Nats pretty well last time, but there were a lot of ball hit where they were that may not happen again.

The match-ups don't look as favorable to me this time. The Nats are hitting better then they have been, but the Phillies are hot. The Phillies pen isn't in great shape but neither is the Nats. The Max game against the gimpy Arrieta is a pencilled in win, but the other two are more toss-ups then you might have thought.  Still, even in Philly, you like the Nats taking two of three here and gaining another game on at least the Phillies.

*Soto? He passed Robles all while we still liked Robles.  He's a chain bypasser.  

**Another way to look at it is if Garcia doesn't have a strong finish he's likely to drop in the prospect rankings. That's something none of the other guys really did. Ok technically Robles did but that was more people passing him than an indictment on him. Going from like 5 to 10 isn't bad. Giolito did at the end too but after four seasons of increasing expectations. No one went from "oooh let's look at this guy" to "eh maybe not". That's more of an AJ Cole experience

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Three to get to fourteen with a two opener

The Nats schedule before the break presents them with great opportunity but it is not kind.  They will open at PHI for 3, then get a day off, then play 16 games in a row with no break. It's not a terribly taxing trip travel wise - BAL to ATL to DC, but anytime you play that many games in a row you open up the possibility of things getting out of whack.

We've talked about "an average team" recently and you figure this stretch an average team would love to go 10-9. The Nats are now aiming higher than that but 12-7 is a lofty goal. 11-8 is where I sit. You win both at BAL, either win the PHI series in PHI or split the ATL in ATL, take 6 of 10 at home with some combo of outcomes. 11-8 against this run would be a decent run indeed.  Where would 11-8 put the Nats?

58-50. Which is ok. Let's assume the beat Philly in Philly and beat ATL at home but split with ATL in ATL.  ATL... back of the envelope 9-9 so 63-46.  Philly...  9-8? 56-51   Cubs 10-7, 57-50. Brewers 10-8. 57-52...

This combination would have the Nats 4.5 games out of first, but with a 1.5 game lead on the WC over PHI and MIL. Let me check ARI... oooh looks a little easy... not easy enough though to definitely propel them past anyone.

OK that's a good estimate of where they Nats should be. You can see though a lot of variation. If the Nats go 9-10 and let's say that happens specifically because they lose the PHI series at PHI and ATL series the Nats would be 56-52. That's not terrible. But the Braves would be 64-45. 7.5 games up and close to effectively safe. The Phillies would be 57-50 and the ones with a 1.5 game lead on the Nats.

I'm getting lost in the weeds here a little but the general sense is that the
  1. The Nats will still be in it, by the trade deadline, especially so in the next week assuming they don't get swept by Philly and then they catch those 2 Orioles games they should win. So they should be active.
  2. The most likely scenario is the Nats continue to make modest gains. 11-8 would be great. 10-9 is also very much in play.
  3. Big gains (12+ wins) are unlikely, big losses (12+ losses) even more so, but even small losses (going 9-10 or 8-11) could have big effects. 
  4. Since there are a lot of H2H division games it does matter who beats who
It's a fascinating set of games really because right off the bat the Nationals, if they were to sweep Philly in Philly, would put the Phillies in a hard position. Nearly .500, probably trailing 2-3 teams for a WC spot... it's hard to see them leaning into a big trade deadline move. Then with 2 games against Baltimore the Nats should be close enough to catch the Braves in the next series. Granted that would require a 4 game sweep in ATL and this would be rolling off 9 wins in a row and no one expects it - but it COULD happen.  Flip it though and have the Phillies sweep the Nats and the Nats stumble and lose one to the Os and now the Nats are just over .500 trailing 2-3 teams in the WC and getting ready to head to ATL where they will likely lose 3 and fall under .500 and probably clam up at the deadline.

SO MUCH CAN HAPPEN. It usually doesn't BUT IT COULD!

I'm very excited here.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Nats at Midseason

Let's run through the players


Max - heading toward another Cy Young, stamping his 1st ballot HOF entry pass, and generally being awesome and the best thing about this team

Strasburg - Last year was a little off for Straburg but the first part of this year is on the same path that he's been following since he came back from Tommy John (that's right the "he needed Max as a #1" stuff is nonsense. But dummies will believe what dummies want to believe.) which is Cy Young vote worthy. And he's hasn't missed time yet!

Corbin - Is he as good as last year? No, and I hope you weren't expecting that. Is he better than 95% of #3s out there and maybe 80% of #2s? Yep.

Rendon - Having his best season at the plate ever

Soto - The guy can't field but he's definitely a star.

Kendrick - Super sub can't hold down a position but also can't be held out of the line-up

Suzuki - Doing what was expected which is hitting well but not playing a lot because pitchers don't like to throw to him I guess? There's a reason a catcher hitting above average can't get a starting job.


Turner - He was out a good bit, so that is always worrisome, but otherwise is fine.

Doolittle - If you are the type that demands a shutdown closer, Doolittle isn't it. But he's good. Right now he's living off his HR/FB rate which he has always kept down but he's giving up more FBs than ever and his walk rate is up. It feels a little precarious looking at fancy stats but really the problem is if he goes the bullpen cannot survive it.

Adams - He's been what you basically want but you'd like him to be even better to force Zimm to the bench if needed.

Robles - Sorry he's not Soto. This is not the season to concern yourself with Robles unless he's terrible and he's not. Still striking out a bit much but overall keeping it around average and anecdotally I feel he's been fielding better.

Eaton - Accept the fact he's truly a Singly Joe and accept that that's ok if he keeps hitting over .300 and walking.

Parra - I mean take what you can get.


Dozier - The guy is living off homers which is kind of how he plays. But the Ks are up and man did he look tired as the year ended in 2018.

Zimm - had a couple good games but we all know Zimm runs hot and cold. And that throw home... What to do?

Sanchez - He's been good recently, but the Nats have also been running through some garbage offenses. Against better teams earlier he looked pretty bad.  Much like with Doolittle there's an extra concern that what's behind him can't pick-it up if he fails.


Gomes - still can't hit but the pitchers like him so he plays.

Whoever is 5th starter - the Nats have no depth and this needs to be an target area for trade if the Nats do anything.

The rest of the pen - They aren't historically bad but who here gives you confidence? There's still guys in it (Venters now) that shouldn't be but there isn't anyone better to take his place. We all are enjoying Rodney but I assume he'll bust at some point. And again it's been a MIA DET MIA cakewalk recently.

What's the takeaway? The Nats have the holes you know - 5th starter and pen, that are nearly universal in baseball.  They'd be better if they could add some help there. It's especially concerning because 4th starter and closer don't feel as set as they should be and if those go down problems you can get past become season ruining ones. The top of the rotation though is humming along and the line-ups concerns are ones you like to have - how do the Nats use their better players more? Can they convince pitchers to throw to Suzuki? Can the Zimm/Adams situation clear up fast? Can we get Kendrick in as much as they'd like?

It's a strong team that if they can be supported and things go their way shouldn't have issues staying in the WC hunt all season long. The NL East is a tougher road because the Braves are actually good and the Nats dug themselves a big hole but we'll evaluate that as the season goes along. It should clear up one way or another by the end of the month.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Monday Quickie - Exceeding Lowered Expectations



It's an amazing 28-11 run that any team should be proud of.  But it did come at a cost. The cost was the Nats easy games.

If you looked now at the Nats schedule you would earmark what games for the "garbage gimme wins" of the season? The Marlins. The Orioles. Knowing the Nats would play the AL Central the Royals and the Tigers. 29 games in all.  Three Marlins games were done by the time 19-31 was "achieved", leaving 26 easy games in the remaining 112 games. That's a pretty nice set - almost a quarter of the remaining games were against teams you'd expect an average team to beat and a good team to dominate.

Today that stands at 10 for the remaining 71. Now only about 1 in 7 games fit that bill. They catch those first Oriole games early so it will quickly be 8 for the remaining 66, or fewer than one in every 8.

Looking at it the other way - after starting 19-31, the Nats had 16 easy games in the 49 games between them and the break. That's one in every three. It was an ideal situation in which to come back. They had that and they had health. There was no excuse NOT to make a run.

But to the Nats credit they didn't merely make a run, they crushed it. They might have lost an extra game to ARI and ATL at home, but they won extra games in sweeps against the Marlins twice, in a two game set at ATL early on, and in that sweep against vs the Phillies. They took 3 of 4 against the Marlins early and in the White Sox split set. That's probably an extra win too. There were no real stumbles. You might have pegged a division winning team to go up to 24-15 here. 28-11 is a real accomplishment. They did everything they had to and more.

Now do it again.

At 19-31 the Nats were staring maybe at the easiest remaining schedule in the NL. In 5 games - whatever their record is - the Nats will likely be staring at maybe the hardest remaining schedule. Maybe the Mets crash and burn can make a difference? True, they are stumbling but the Nats have played the Mets 13 times already.

In a way they will have it in their own hands. 14 games remain against the Braves and if the Nats can win... say 9 of them that will put them in the driver's seat. But 8 of those games are away and the Braves also still have KC, and 7 games against MIA, and 9 games against the Mets, and their set vs the White Sox - who probably aren't good as much as feasting on the Royals and Tigers (13-7 so far) (and if we inlcluded them in the Nats easy games makes the easy/hard schedule disparity even greater). The Nats have Baltimore? The Braves have little better, probably about to sell Toronto. The Nats still have three games against moribund San Fran? So do the Braves, except they get them in Atlanta. Nats have 3 vs Cincy at home left? Braves have 4. 

All that is to say - the Braves have maybe the easiest schedule in the NL from now on so if the Nats want to catch them the Nats will have to do their own work to make it happen. 

Friday, July 05, 2019

New Post just because

I'm on vacation but I hate crowded nulti-day comments. So here's a new post for the Royals series.

The Nats are already at 8 wins so they have reached my target and have a very good chance at meeting anyone's target who wasn't hoping for an 11-1 or immaculate run.  How are the Royals? Not good, but not as bad as the Tigers and Marlins

They niether hit nor pitch well but the offense is merely bad, a half-run plus below average - not the OMG HOW FAR BACK ARE THEY?!?! lineups that the Marlins and the Tigers were putting out there. I think I talked about it before but it's half a line-up with big holes at first, second, short and an outfielder. The rest of the guys are ok but certainly not enough to carry the rest to respectability.  Dozier has been a great hitter for half a season. Merrifield is solid (and will likely be gone in a month) and Jorge Soler is the best bet to strike out 3 times against Max on 9 pitches then hit that 7th inning homer. Gordon, while slumping, is still a major leaguer.  They are a fast team that tries to compensate for the lack of OBP and power, by stealing bases which will be interesting to face too.

The pitching is bad but only a third of a run off the AL average. The Nats face Keller, Sparkman, and Junis. Keller is probably the best of the bunch and is middling. Junis has the best stuff but is also hittable and prone to homers. Sparkman is a guy who let's you put it in play, which is normally good, but not in the air for far distance. The pen reminds me of the Tigers - no one really good (Kennedy the closer is decent) but no one outright terrible. This is bad - because you'd rather have someone good, but it can work in the favor of a good manager - feeling no particular commitment to certain arms in certain situations. You can waste the guys doing poorly on lost games and try to work the guys feeling it when it matters. Is Yost good? Probably not - I see him more as a guy who leaned into having a bunch of guys he could ALL count on. But you know.

The Nats will be favored in all with their worst game (Voth) tonight and their best game (MAX!) tomorrow. They should take two of three and finish this run 10-2 and 47-42.  A sweep would be great. A 1-2 run would be disappointing but fine. Being swept would give a bad finish to what should have been a triumphant run.

Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The Davey question

The Nats have been the best team in baseball for a month plus.  They just had their second best month ever and they are above .500 and in the thick of the Wild Card race. This turnaround has a lot of people feeling good about the team and feeling good, or at least less bad, about the manager. What do I think?

Fire Davey

What gives me pause is a name from the Nats past, Matt Williams. Handed a mild favorite (remember 2013 did not go well) and a mostly healthy team*, Williams proceeded to guide the Nats to 96 wins (2nd best in baseball), a division title that was wrapped up with at least a month to go. It's not hard to manage when you are given a good team and little resistance.

If you twist my arm I'd say Davey has shown something Matt hasn't - he didn't let it all go to hell, which is what Matt did at the end of 2015. Despite a disappointing 2018 and 50 games of crap in 2019 the team didn't pack it in, he didn't lose the clubhouse** and the Nats have managed to find their way back.

But still look at the above. Thats 200+ games telling me Davey, even if he is learning, isn't right for this team - a team that will forever be aiming for 90 wins, not 95. This year, he lost Trea Turner and managed the team to an 8-7 record as if he was George Brett on the '85 Royals (look it up). He lost Rendon and they were 3-6. Take this team, drop Trea and Rendon and they aren't a playoff team, but a well below .500 mess? No.  A great 30, and they have been great, isn't enough to change my mind.

When could I change my mind. Here's a couple of scenarios

The Nats continue playing this well for basically the rest of the year. Put up an over 100 win pace for a large chunk of the season. Win mid 90s in games in total. Possibly (probably) win the division.

The Nats get into the WC - then make the World Series.  If your goal is winning playoff series, you can't really count the WC game, and the DS could be a fluke, but the WC, DS, and CS? Ok you got me.

There you go - that's where I keep Davey. Now of course there are split the difference type scenarios. Nats win low 90s are WC1 and go to the CS... ok probably keep him. But in general I don't want to see him back unless the Nats do something special either baseball wise (playing like this for 112 games would qualify) or for their franchise (winning a few playoffs series). 

*He'd lose Ramos and Bryce, and the team would go a disappointing 8-9. He'd lose Zimm at the end, which when added to the cooling bats from a lot of players would doom the Nats playoff chances. 

**though I think the lack of a certain scraggly bearded OF matters a lot there.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Monday Quickie - doing the job

The Nats didn't keep the winning streak alive, but they did win the series, as they should, not "giving back" the game they picked up in sweeping the Marlins. They are on a roll and while AGAIN I'll mention the work is far from over - they are at least still working.

Since the Nats have comfortably settled into winning as they should - a little bit more than that actually - but not historic fans thmselves are kind of getting settled. Outside the usual and deserved Max love sessions, other things are being lost like...

Zimm is back! The question is how much to play him. In Detroit it was fine because of thee DH but back in DC it becomes an issue. If Zimm plays first in a platoon with Adams, that kicks Kendrick off off the bag and over to second. That's ok, but Kendrick isn't the fielder that Dozier is.  If Zimm takes over again as the main, first baseman, that robs Adams of some at bats. Neither of these guys have been great recently but they both have been decent and had key hits and homers. The fact that they haven't been great gives Davey some cover but the Nats don't have leeway to let Zimm have a couple weeks to get back into the rhythm of the season. He needs to hit. If not this week against the last of these easy teams, then as soon as the Nats come out of the All-Star Break.

MAT is gone! To AAA actually.  Did Dusty work him the best? Or was he just a beneficiary of MATs best prime year season? Probably a little of both. But a MAT with limited playing time is clearly not good at the plate. He's almost certain to be back in a couple months when rosters expand and they need a fielder, or if someone goes down. Of course the question is - right now do they need another PH bat like Parra more than they need MAT's late game fielding? My guess is no, but we will find out over the next few weeks I guess.

The Nats offense slowed way down in the past week, putting up a .233 / .306 / .408 line. It's been hidden though because the runs have kept coming at least versus the Marlins. Against Miami they packed hits into innings. In game 1, 7 of their 10 baserunners came in two innings, yeilding 6 runs. 5 hits, and 2 homers came in one 5 run inning. In game 2, they had 15 baserunners - 5 in the 4 run 6th and 5 more in the 3 run 9th. In game 3 6 of the 12 came in their big 5 run inning. In some respects this is how you score - but in a larger macro sense it shouldn't work out for you like this every game - that half your baserunners come in one inning. There's more of a distribution across innings and based on that line they've put up? Fewer runs. Only Rendon and Soto are hitting right now so there may be more close games, win or lose, in these next 6 than you are probably expecting. Or maybe they just have a killer instinct right now?

Dozier has been particularly bad so I would expect a healthy dose of Kendrick at 2nd.

While it'll be interesting to see if Venters and Rodney can keep being effective, it's the re-birth of Wander Suero that is more important. He gives the Nats the all important reliable 2nd arm behind Doolittle for important points in the game or the 8th inning. Unfortunately Davey is treating him as just a set-up guy but if it works, ok.  Just hope there aren't games blown before they get to him. (like there have been across this time frame)