Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - cushion gone but still ok

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday Quickie - cushion gone but still ok

The Nats went 4-6 which is what I assumed they would and which I assumed would cost them their cushion. I wasn't sure which team would be the one rushing in. Turns out to my surprise it was the Brewers. Good for them. By "cost them their cushion" I mean with a 3+ game lead in the WC* they are more than a series ahead of the next team and in my mind this let's them play around with the line-up or do some things with the pitching staff I wouldn't do in a tight race. With the cushion gone, they now have to go to the next level, which isn't quite playoffs "win or die" mode, but it's closer.  Why? Because they could be in REAL trouble after this series. It would take a STL sweep but the possibility is there.  So time to step it up, which means :

1) Best line-up is out there for every game. This means Suzuki if he's ok.  This means Kendrick. This means Asdrubal until he's not hot anymore.  Yesterday Asdrubal sat and Dozier played.  Mistake. Don't let it happen again.

2) All starters should go as long as they feel good.  No standard pitch limits now. If a pitcher is effective and at 105 and wants to go another inning you let them. Do not take an effective pitcher out just to do it. That's the biggest mistake modern baseball analysis makes. Usually you can afford a baserunner and an effective starter beats a mystery box reliever from a bad pen every 7th inning. The caveat here is injury return guys can be pulled early so if you want Max out at 100 pitches I'm ok with that. Yesterday Anibal went 7, maybe he could have went more but with a 7-0 lead pulling him wasn't about pitch limits, so it was an acceptable decision

3) You use your best relievers as much as you can in tight games. You throw out bad relievers in games that have been decided. It's kind of hard to figure where that "decided" vs "still in play" line sits with all these bad pens, but in general 4 in the 9th, 5 in the 7th/8th, 6 in the 6th, 7+ in the 5th. Something like that. Yesterday the game was decided and we saw Strickland. That's a borderline move given his usage. Barrett or Guerra were the plays instead.  Doolittle was used after that but he needed the work.  Expect Hudson next game regardless of the situation for the same reason.

Maybe the Nats can win 2 and the Cubs/Brewers lose 2 and they can get the cushion back and not worry about this. But until then this is what I want to see happen.

The Nats have 14 games left and merely have to do the base expectation to be fine. Don't get swept by STL. Beat Miami. Beat Philly. Don't get swept by CLE.  Do that and you go at least 7-7 have 89 wins.  That would force two of the following to happen to put the Nats on the outside looking in with no G163 at least. 

Cubs go 9-4
Brewers go 10-3
Mets go 13-0
Phillies go 14-0

The first is vaguely possible. The second is a reach. The last two would be the greatest finish to major league seasons, I think. If you want no G163 you can knock all those down a game but remember you still need TWO to happen. Cubs going 8-5 alone doesn't force a G163. Brewers have to go 9-4, too.

It's only if the Nats fall down in some way, and don't do something good to counter it**, that they are in trouble. Get swept by the Cardinals and then don't sweep the Marlins. Lose to the Phillies and can't beat the Indians. If they are at 6 wins then you start to see the cracks form.  It's still probably enough. But who likes probably?

They are only in real trouble at 5 wins or less which mean at least two slip-ups with no counter. Losing every series would do it, 1-2, 1-2, 2-3, 1-2. (that'd be two slip-ups - MIA & PHI with no good counter). At 5 wins the Brewers could force a G163 with a 7-6 finish and put the Nats away with an 8-5 one (assuming Cubs are going at least .500) That's more in the realm of possibility.

It's time to take things one at a time. A lot will matter how everyone else does as well.

CHC plays CIN at home. They could make a move though Cincy seems to pull out decent series and overall probably isn't as bad as their record. 

MIL plays SD at home. SD isn't very good and it's a great opportunity for MIL to keep making their push.

NYM are at COL.  Games in COL are always a mess. The Mets are a better team but at this point really need a sweep to stay in it.

PHI is at ATL. Same as the Mets - they need that sweep. The problem is ATL is a lot better than they are. They should hang onto the idea of getting to the Nats series with a chance, but without a sweep they are asking for a lot for that to hold up through the Nats/Marlins series.

ARI is technically not out - a perfect end of season gets them to 88 wins - but I'm writing them off for now. We'll check back after these series.  Really the only reason PHI is still mentioned is because of the 5 H2Hs.

Go out there and win tonight and get that "not swept" out of the way

*Just being in, not HFA.

**the good counters are Beat STL, Sweep MIA, Go 4-1 or better vs PHI, Beat CLE


PotomacFan said...

Any idea as to Nats record with Howie in the starting line-up? To be fair, there should also be a comparison of with/without Howie vs. teams with a winning record.

SuburbanSteve said...

I was at the game on Saturday v Braves, and not only did the team look a little tired, the crowd felt tired as well. The sound person/scoreboard person several times tried to get the Nats crowd into it...and failed.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

Nats pitching has the upperhand in all three Cards matchups. That's the big key here and you have to credit Davey and Co for figuring that out early and not trying to catch the Barves when they were out of reach.

I'm not worried about the Nats not making the playoffs, but I really do want to see the Nats get HFA in that one game. Any little bit helps

Harper said...

In games he starts - 37-26 (.587 WP vs .554 overall)

CP - FWIW Away teams lead in WC games 8-6. (FWIW is nothing)

G Cracka X said...

Appreciate posts like these, thank you Harper! Only quibble is if the Nats get 88 or 89 wins, and 'beat' PHI (meaning 3-2), then by definition PHI can't go 14-0. Also, there is a scenario where MIL or CHI soar and take the division, and then we have to consider what STL will do (but I admit that for now, its more straightforward to assume that STL wins the Central).

@CP Nats do the SP advantage against STL, but its basically offset by being on the road. 538 essentially has each game in the series as a toss-up. Nats need to take at least 1, preferably two. Absolutely agree with you about "Nats should make the playoffs, but it would be really nice to get WC HFA"

G Cracka X said...

Good scoop by MZ on why Kendrick doesn't play more:

Johnny Callison said...

I think the Nats horrible BP offsets our starting pitching advantage--anything less than six innings is a disaster and we really need our guys to go seven if the offense hasn't scored at least 7. Watching the BP return to its horrible early season level is really upsetting. DM continues to push the wrong button and seems unable to react when things go wrong (Barrett in MIN, Suero vs ATL). By the time he finally "acts," everything has blown up. It was interesting to see the exact same thing happen in STL vs. MIL in the 9th. The Cards left Gant in until it was a four-alarm fire. I guess it's exciting when "no lead is safe," but man is it stressful.

Harper, overall, do you see Zim's return as a net positive or a wash or?

Jay said...

I agree that HFA probably doesn't matter for the WC game. However, it would be awesome to see the Nats dog pile on the mound at home if they win. Of course, they could play tight at home and lose again.

Mythra said...

HFA will be nice if it is the Cubs we face in G163. The Cubs' away record is in their heads this season. It has become expected that they will lose on the road. It's not much, but even that tiny of an edge can make a difference against a pretty solid team. Just like I'd expect winning a playoff series, even if it will be a 1 game WC game, would exorcise a bunch of playoff demons for Nats players and fans.

Still, Nats have to win and get in. Take care of their own destiny and let the others scoreboard watch and worry.

PotomacFan said...

Getting way ahead of myself here, but IF the Nats get a WC slot, and IF they are playing the Cubs, then HFA would really help IF Max is pitching the game. Max is a fly ball pitcher. If the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field, those fly balls will be flying over the fence.

JWLumley said...

Dave Martinez is in the hospital and all I can think is that somewhere there's a Nats fan with a voodoo doll going, "It works, it works!" I'm a horrible person.

coolsny said...


Zimmerman11 said...

Brewers schedule the rest of the way is a joke. COL and PIT and SD and CIN all well below .500... Brewers could easily win all their series and go 9-4 or 10-3. Brewers are scary and should be in the WC chase to the end.

Max David said...

They just have to match what they do in the Marlins series with what happened against them in the Cards series: i.e if the Cards sweep, than the Nats have to sweep the Fish, Cards go 2-1, Nats can afford to lose a game to the Marlins. I'm thinking even a 3-3 split this week and a 4-4 split next week should get us to at least WC2. It's going to be difficult for the Cubs/Cardinals (with 7 head to head games), D'Backs, Mets, Phillies to get to 89 wins which is what the Nats would achieve with a 7-7 finish. As Harper said just don't get swept!!!!!!!!!

Max David said...

And I agree with Zimmerman's post above mine; being only a game back AND their powder puff closing schedule I think the Brewers are easily one of the 2 Wildcard teams. The second comes down to the Nats/Cubs/Cardinals with the Nats holding a game and a half lead.

Mr. T said...

So Doo is a lefty specialist now? Why are we playing matchup in the 7th inning with our only decent reliever?

I think we’re done, guys.

Sammy Kent said...

We are wasting our time, energy, mental stability, and sanity hoping and wishing this bullpen will suddenly turn around and become anything other than absolutely awful. There's only one way the Nationals are going to survive these two weeks and make the playoffs and that's for the offense to score more than four or five runs every game. As unlikely as that is to happen with this team, especially as the temps get cooler and everybody continues to just swing for the fences, it's still a better chance than that the bullpen will be able to hold a lead of less than five runs in the late innings of any game.

We are screwed. Thanks, Messrs. Lerner, Rizzo, Martinez, Menhart, and Long. I would love to fire you all. The Lerners are stupid. Rizzo I would have canned years ago. Dusty Baker would have been retained and paid accordingly. Martinez and Long I would have never hired. Menhart.....surely no comment is necessary. THE UTTER INABILITY OF THIS TEAM TO SCORE RUNS, HOLD ONTO LEADS, AND PLAY INSPIRED, COMPETITIVE BASEBALL AGAINST GOOD TEAMS WHEN THE STAKES ARE HIGHEST IS YOUR COLLECTIVE FAULT.

Anonymous said...

Count me in...

anderiffick said...

still getting used to how to use this site
Count me in...

G Cracka X said...

Heart health is more important than baseball. I wish Davey a speedy recovery. Win one for the Skipper!

He gone said...

Rizzo is going to be in Boston next season.

Anonymous said...

@He gone - you mean based on the report he was in Toronto for the sox-jays series that got directly refuted by a beat writer?

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see a "trade" of Rizzo for Dombrowski. There's no denying Dombrowski's record, he's a solid baseball guy, but it's clear he's behind the 8-ball on the analytics side of things (not that Rizzo is much better...)

G Cracka X said...

I would take Rizzo over Dombrowski anyday.

Nats have now lost the first game in the series for the fifth straight time (woulda been six straight, had Miami not blown the save)

G Cracka X said...

Wow: Nats have the best Outs Above Average in the Outfield!

G Cracka X said...

Oh, and its not even close. They're at +24, and the next closest team in MLB is Houston at +10.

This stat seems strange: Nats OF D doesn't seem THAT good, does it? Its not like they're rolling out three MATs or anything

Zimmerman11 said...

The Brewers aren't going to lose again this season. We're going to play whoever comes out of the STL/CHC 7 game showdown.

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