Nationals Baseball: October 2019

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

Friday, October 25, 2019

Prep Day

The World Series is in Washington DC!

If you can't go, and I assume you can't because no one has offered to take me, then I suggest going out and enjoying the build-up for the game. Especially today with everything around the team being so positive. Tomorrow could be the same or it could start to skew into worry depending on the outcome and if it heaven forbid gets to 2-2 - you don't want to be out and about staring into the worried eyes of other Nats fans.  Get out there! Dance to baby shark! Wear your oldest Nats gear to prove how real a fan you are!

Tonight features Greinke vs Sanchez.  Greinke is still looking for a signature performance in these playoffs.  He had a terrible start against the Rays giving up 6 runs (3 homers) in 3.2 IP.  He had a meh first start against the Yankees (3 runs, 2 homers in 6IP) and a hold on one the second time around (1 run, 4 walks, in 4.1).  He's a mix-em up pitcher now who contrast well against Verlander and Cole but has recently failed in the playoffs against better bats. He can hit for a pitcher though so he's a good choice to hold off until today.

Sanchez has had the opposite playoff experience. He had the performance the Nats needed against the Dodgers (though the game would be blown up by the Nats pen later) and a masterful performance against the Cardinals.  It's hard to say what exactly to expect. The Cards game was a mastery of keeping a team oddly pressing off-balance. The Dodger game was surviving some shaky situations (bases loaded 2 outs in 1st, gave up 2 out hits in every other inning) with strikeout stuff.  The Astros are more like the Dodgers than the Cardinals so tonight may be more about surviving than keeping them off stride. But who knows? Unlike the Game 1 Cardinals, no one would be shocked if a back against the wall Astros team would be pressing and swinging early.

It's the third coin flip game in a row and the Nats have called it right twice. Now they are at home and if they call it right now they'll get what has to be considered a favorable match-up next with Corbin vs.. Miley?  Bullpen?* and then Max again who has a chance to win any game he's given.

Worst case scnerio for tonight would be something tha forces Davey to use Corbin but still ends up in a loss, negating the advantage they have and praying that a completely stale Ross can keep the series from getting back to Houston.

*I say this even though I know the Astros hit lefties great. Corbin is better in DC and has to be considered better than whatever the Astros throw out there.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Win two

Objectively it's hard to find anything but positives from last night. The Nats got their 6 from Strasburg and they got a blow out which allowed them to use their unimportant relief arms. They beat Verlander - who's good (though oddly not so much in the World Series) and everyone it seemed got into the swing of things. What can you say? Too bad the outburst wasn't earlier to save Stras 20 pitches?  Uh oh, they Cardinal'd scoring all those runs and now it'll shut off?

I can still make you mad though because I most want to talk about luck right now, which other than Juan Soto being great is the foremost thing on my mind. There are two distinct moments that stuck out to me last night. One was the use of Stras in the 6th and Verlander in the 7th.  All in all they were in pretty similar situations up around 100 pitches, getting outs but not dominating. Both managers made a move to stick with them. Both guys didn't do great. But Stras worked out of his jam, Verlander gave up a homer.  The decision by Davey was no better than the decision by Hinch but one worked and one didn't. And that's the way it's been all playoffs long. Things have broke for the Nationals when they needed to.  Not that things have always broken for the Nats this offseason and never for another team. Just last night Turner misplayed a ball same as Bregman. But Turner did it with no one on and two out. All it did was put someone on first. Bregman did it with the bases loaded and two outs (and a guy who shouldn't have been out there on the mound trying to escape). Same sort of error. One is a footnote the other decides the game because of nothing more than timing.

But this is baseball. That brings me to the other point in the game.  Strasburg's 5th.  Three guys started the inning with three hard hit ground balls. Two get gloved and are outs. One gets through for a hit. Nothing describes baseball better than this. You do what you can and then you hope it works out and usually it doesn't. But sometimes it does and it's glorious. Eaton in the 1st inning sees the shift and tries to hit it to the left side. He does! He maximizes his chances but there is still like a 25% chance its going to go to the one guy there and a 25% he'll knock it foul. But no, it gets in between the defender and the line and he's on. Did all he could. Worked out for him. Baseball. Turner reaches out in the 5th just to get bat on ball and put it into right. Drops it in for a hit. Eaton follows with a pretty good hit straight up the middle - into the shift, double play.  Baseball

Lucky isn't bad. It's good. And you can't be bad and lucky or mediocre and lucky and win a World Series* You have to be lucky and good. The Nats are good. Suzuki doesn't miss that high flat fastball.  Strasburg dominates Chirinos, Reddick, and the struggling Correa shortening that lineup. The Nats are very good. They have been for a long time. They are finally getting lucky, not here and there, but when it counts the most.

I guess I can tell you about my formative playoff series - the Yankees 96 title run. In that the Braves took a 2-0 lead winning both in New York. They didn't just beat the Yankees, they demoralized them.  They blew the doors off them in G1 with a young phenom doing something incredible (in that case Andruw Jones going deep twice on two pitches) and then they shut them down completely - a 4-0 shut out. They did not cruise through the CS like the Nats, but they did come back from a 3-1 deficit outscoring the Cardinals 32-1 in the final three games (14-0 and 15-0 shut outs!) and had won 5 in a row by a score of 48-2! Dominance only holds until your next game. The Braves weren't cocky. They didn't think they had it won. But being humble and realistic is not going to help you. This is baseball.  Do what you can. Hope it works out for you.

Two more times.

*Ok well you can if you sneak into the playoffs like say... the 73 Mets or something, but the Nats are not that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Win One

lets get straight into it

The Astros won the battle versus Max. They scored on him early and wore him out quick. But Max limited the losses of the battle by pitching as well as he could. He kept the ball down which made it harder for the Astros to get the big hit and big inning and kept the Astros at two.

On the flipside, the Nats on their end won the battle against Cole and he wasn't able to mitigate the damage like Max. He was more dominant but didn’t aim to keep the ball down. That meant his mistakes were left up and the Nats crushed them. In the fifth he made a more crucial mistake though.  He lost his focus against the bottom of the lineup. Instead of cruising through Suzuki and Robles, he walked Suzuki on five pitches and gave up a solid hit to Victor on an 0-2 pitch. You don’t do either if you are bearing down. Cole also had an awkwardly passive AB against Suzuki first time out which made me think that maybe he’s still NLing it a bit. Using 8-9 to reset for the harder part of the line-up. Anyway, both guys on and the line-up turning over and it’s a question now if how many runs will score. Turns out it’s three. Two were driven in because of a great piece of hitting by Soto driving an outside pitch against the left field wall* to bring home two. It could have been a game ending inning, Cole really lost more focus as things got worse, but Correa made a fantastic play to rob Howie of a hit.

The damage was done and this was important because a lead tightens up bats as you head to late innings. The Astros are already a bit off their game in the playoffs. They are striking out around 10 times a game as opposed to the 7 times per during the regular season. That's pitching, yes, it's also pressure.  At this point the question became if the Nats limited bullpen would come through and if the Nats could score any more runs. The latter was answered no as the Nats looked pretty feeble down the stretch of the game. But the pen did just enough to make things work. Corbin was wild. He might have thrown 3 strikes in his 20+ pitches but the Astros chased.**  Rainey put men on and gave up a homer but the order was how you want it - homer first. Hudson, continued being shaky but got the big out. Doolittle continues being pretty good and the Astros missed his mistakes (watch that Correa out and cringe at what could have been).

The big play late in the game was the Springer flyball that a few feet over could have been an easy out or a homer depending on which direction you were going. Instead it ended up at one of those stupid manufactured angles in the outfield and Eaton misplayed a tough catch (which he should have made) into a double. Tough play, should have been made, lucky it wasn't the ballgame.

I said that that was the worst way a win could have gone for the Nats without injury. Max threw a ton and didn't look good. The bullpen got used a lot meaning the Astros got a lot of looks at these guys. Corbin was used possibly throwing off the starting rotation. Rainey, Corbin and Hudson all looked off and now have been used, starting the process of tiring out arms. Rainey in fact might have pitched himself right off the bullpen rotation, leaving the Nats with a crazy thin pen.

But still it's a win. Whatever disadvantages all the above give the Nats for the remainder of the series, they pale in comparison to the advantage a win gives them.

What the Nats need now is Strasburg to go deep. They don't even have to win tonight. They just need Strasburg to go 7ish innings and that'll be good. If the Astros work him like Max that'll be tough and I'm more wary pushing Strasburg deep into a game than Max (I'm also very much interested in what the last nonsense push by Davey last start might have done to Stras, rest or no rest). If Strasburg doesn't go deep - well I guess hope for a blowout loss so the good arms don't have to get used again***

The Nats are in good position now but the Astros can't be counted out. This isn't a Cardinal team that looked defeated and after G1 you had to figure out like a puzzle how they could come back. This team could roll off 4 in a row. Win tonight, or at the very least set it up to make it harder for them to pull off something like that in DC.

*In a normal park Brantley tracks that down.  Live by stupid park dimensions, die by stupid park dimensions. 

**had a big argument about this on Twitter - basically my take is the book on Corbin is swing high, take low to start. If he locates his fastball low - Uh oh for you. If not you keep taking low because his slider is usually not a strike. There were articles about this earlier in the year. He was not locating fastballs but the Astros, aggressive and backed into a corner, swung like mad men and bailed him out. 

***or ok - a crazy blowout win. Stras is pulled giving up 5 with 105 IP in 4+ innings but the Nats are up 20-5! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Let's get right into it folks

What the Nats need to do to win

Aces gotta ace.  The forever requirement is not just about keeping the Astros down, but about having the Nats avoid pen usage as much as possible. This is as much about 1-2-3 run outings as it is going 7+ innings. So far Max and Stras have mostly aced, and while Corbin has been a little shaky, Sanchez filled up that space. 2 aces acing may not be enough so this needs to keep up.

Remember the Dodgers Plan. The Dodgers were beaten in part by an aggressive bullpen plan that used the starters as relievers multiple times. We need to see the same here. We need to see the best arms out there not only to hold onto leads but to keep winnable games close. There's time to rest in the off-season. Time to heal when you are looking at your World Series ring.

Someone else has gotta get hot. Right now it's Rendon, Howie, and a bunch of timely hitting. But "Yan Gomes will keep coming through" is probably not going to work. The Nats need someone else to get team carrying hot along with the two aforementioned bats.  Soto is the most likely guy, but it doesn't have to be him. Turner, Eaton, hell Suzuki, Zimm - someone good just has to have that series. And oh yeah, Rendon and Kendrick can't cool off.

Keep up the solid D.  Outside of Howie's early NLCS issues and Soto's continuing audition for first base the Nats have played pretty well in the field. They'll need to keep that up as Houston puts the ball in play a ton. The Nats defense is probably average, with highlights (Rendon, Robles) covering for the lowlights, and average in baseball is actually pretty good. So this isn't asking for anything crazy here.

What the Astros need to do to win.

Take advantage of the AL game.  The DH allows you to get an extra bat in there and to go through relievers with a bit more abandon. The Nats won't be helped too much by this, because their added bat (probably Dozier as Howie shifts to DH) will simply be ok and they've already established pitching performance not pinch hitting decisions were what decided how long their pitchers went. The Astros, with a few arms they can use, and an extra bat that should hit very well should be able to take advantage of it more. The DH was a disappointment in the ALCS. It would help the Astros a ton if it just met expectations in the World Series.

Keep hitting homers.  The Astros actually struggled in the ALCS with an unimpressive line against some solid starts and a very good pen. But they still won because they hit timely homers. Both Max and Stras have shown issues giving up the long ball, especially early in games. Aces can bear down and shut down rallies but they can't keep runs off the board if the ball goes over the fence.

Work the Nats starters. The Astros lead the majors in walks and batting average. Their .352 OBP is first in the majors (10 points ahead of the Nats - who for comparison are 10 points better than 8th place Chicago). Aces might be close to the top of their game but worked for the occasional walk and plenty of foul balls might still be forced out early. That's what the Astros need to do - get the starters out before the 6th ends. Make the Nats use more than 2 relievers

Don't get distracted. Did you hear the Astros cheat and care more about winning than domestic violence? Maybe this is an exaggeration but it's the story right now and off-field stories can get pretty distracting to players, especially when struggling and everything feels bigger. Hinch's job will be keep them on the game at hand and let everything else play out for itself.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Last Monday before it becomes reality

The Nats are in the World Series and you'll see it tomorrow.  Tomorrow!  About 34 short hours from now.

But the beat goes on for me.  You can, and should, check out the Post for a myriad of WS coverage. Over here you'll mostly hear me complain about how I can't state a fact (the Astros are better) which out getting jumped on. It's true! It's also true the Dodgers were better. Better doesn't matter much in short series. What does it mean for the Astros odds? 60/40 favorites? 55/45? Less? It's not that big a deal.

Who's hot

Rendon .417 / .529 / .500 in NLCS (.375 / .465 / .594 in playoffs)

Kendrick .333 / .412 / .600  (.289 / .341 / .474)

Sanchez / Max / Stras 0.00 ERA, highest WHIP 1.00 (Stras)  (all ERAs under 2.00 WHIPs under 1.00 for playoffs)

Doolitte 4IP 3H, 0BB (0.55 WHIP, 2.45 ERA for playoffs)

The Nats success hasn't been the offense which has been made effective enoughby some timely hits by guys like Zimm, Robles, and Gomes and the carrying efforts for Rendon and Kendrick.  The pitching is what really got the Nats this far (I know big surprise) which Stras, Scherzer, and surprising Sanchez being nearly unhittable in the post-season helping to avoid a lot of bullpen use.  Doolittle, being one of the two used, has been excellent and Rainey, while not on here has been perfect in his last 3 outings.

Altuve .348 / .444 / .652  (.349 / .417 / .767)

Cole 0.00 ERA, 4 H (5BB) in 7 inning starts (0.40 ERA, 0.79 WHIP in 22.2 IP for playoffs)

Will Harris 0.00 ERA, 0.545 WHIP in 3.2 IP (0.00, 0.71)

Joe Smith 0.818 WHIP in 3.2 IP in CS, (1.69, 0.56 WHIP for playoffs)

The Astros have been similar. The hitting has mostly been well timed homers and the pitching has carried the team. Cole and Verlander (who had an errant inning) have paved the way to the Astros pen which has been good enough to take the team to the finish line.  Harris and Smith have especially been good but Osuna and Peacock were also solid

Who's Not

Juan Soto .188 / .235 / .250 (.237 / .326 / .421)

Corbin (7.43, 1.58)

The Nats don't really have a ton of players slumping but who is slumping is pretty key. Soto who is one of two stars who makes the offense go has not had a great post-season, this has been hidden by a couple of big hits but his slump is making timely hits necessary. Corbin's starts have featured a lot of Ks and several innings where it looked like the wheels could come off. It'd be tempting given the current pitching status to flip him and Sanchez but I doubt they'll do it.

Robinson Chirinos .000 / .133 / .000 (.091 / .231 / .227)

Yordan Alvarez .045 / .125 / .045 (.171 / .227 / .244)

Josh Reddick .167 / .167 / .417 (.136 / .174 / .273)

Grienke 3.48 ERA, 1.355 WHIP (6.43, 1.43)

The Astros on the other hand do have a lot of slumping bats, especially if you just look at the ALCS where some guys, like Chirinos and Alvarez, just stopped hitting. Reddick hasn't hit all postseason, or season really. Lineup is deep enough to cover it but it will lead to an interesting Q on how the Astros will set up the OF in the DH less Nats park, since Alvarez and Reddick would be the choice and neither is looking good. Greinke has looked beatable every time out.

So remember when I said it doens't matter who's better, not really? Well if you were to buy into small sample sizes the Nats are coming in hotter. The Nats aren't hitting great, but the Astros have more problems. The Astros are pitching well, but the Nats are three aces ace-ing. of course you have to buy into that small sample size of the CSs here.  One of the reason you see the Astros as solid favorites is because Cole and Verlander were better pitchers than Strasburg and Max during the season (it's true! Look it up!) and they've pitched well in the postseason so that is carrying over, rather than being beaten by the better work in the most recent playoff series.

Anyway more when I feel like it. 

Friday, October 18, 2019

OK back to real columns

So as the Nats wait (and we wait - It's Tuesday - that's FOREVER away). There is plenty to think abou, such as...


I voiced my opinion (Frank's widow/family, Frank Howard, Don't Care).  I also said I think it will almost certainly be Jayson Werth for one of them. Barry suggests the 2005 team as a whole.

The thing about first pitches is it should be non-active baseball related people who mean the most to the fans. That usually corresponds to a long-time old player/coach and various playoff heroes.  Well the Nats have a problem in that they have no non-active playoff heroes because they've had no playoff success before this and with a 35 year gap in baseball in DC the players that mean a lot to fans, mean a lot to fans over 65.  There are no slam dunk obvious choices.

So instead we run through good ones. Everyone seemed to like and respect Frank and as first manager and a baseball legend he would have been perfect. Unfortunately he died earlier this year but this is why I lean in to Frank's family.  Frank Howard is basically the only obvious choice for the long-time player / coach. You could go with Walter Johnson's family but WJ last played baseball in DC in 1932 that's SO long ago. That's like before my Dad's time! (and I had an old Dad) so that's a harder sell to me.  Maybe if you did his family, Josh Gibson's family, and Frank Howard all at once?

Why does Werth make the cut? Because for the current fans he's the closest thing to a long-time beloved old player. After him it's Livan or Cordero, I guess? The pickings are really slim.

I think though that the fans are all in agreement - nothing to do with politics please.


Neil Greenberg looks at it and comes to the same place I heard ex-players say anecdotally over the past few days.  For injured players it helps. All I can think about here is maybe Robles but he looked fine. The Nats are actually well healed. For pitchers it doesn't particularly matter other than getting them on a more usual schedule if they were off it. That's good. For hitters it can hurt timing. That's bad.

We'll see. The Nats aren't exactly a powerhouse batting team as we've talked about. More a 2 player line-up that relies on enough other guys being hot or the pitching of the other team being middling enough that the back-end professional hitters can do their job. If that line-up has its timing off and is facing the Astros aces or a rested enough Yankees pen... It could be bad.


First off what the Nats really want, as we've talked about, is a long series. So root for the Yankees - at least for two games.  After that I told you why I think the Yankees are a better match-up than the Astros. Basically the Yanks weakness is their starting pitching, which matches up with the Nats strength so the Nats can hope to work the same gameplan against New York as they did the Cardinals. Aces ace, get a lead, hold on. It'll be harder with the Yankees, who even if their line-up is off will probably score 2-3-4 runs, but it's possible. The Astros, with their 3 aces, force the Nats into playing a team that mirrors their strength - with a better lineup and better pen.  They can win that series but there is no strategy at play here, no angle to give the Nats an advantage. They simply would have to outplay the Astros.

Some other considerations
- People seem to like the idea of Astros fans in the park rather than a potential deluge of Yankees fans. The latter is possible but it seems to me that the local interest level is so high that it will be a vast majority Nats fans under any circumstances
- I've noted that the long term weather patterns for NY and DC both have rain over the series (it's far off but if it held G1, G4, and G7 are possible rainouts) Rainouts stink.  Houston has a roof. On the good side is even if it is NY there are cold fall days coming up but nothing crazy. Mid 40s is probably as low as you'd see.
- while the Astros aces are great they're also not unseen by the Nats team like the Yankees pitchers are mostly.  Greinke and Cole both have spent plenty of time in the NL and Verlander has been around long enough that anyone coming from the AL on the Nats roster (Eaton, Kendrick, Dozier) have seen him a bunch of times.
- of course that also means the Houston pitchers have at least some familiarity with batting 
- if the Nats plan to run more, it's easier to run on Houston
- It didn't end up mattering in the Cardinals series but Houston is a good defense team. The Yankees are average.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019



27 outs away

First off let me get off my chest that the idea that Strasburg up at 231 IP (previous high 220 in 2014) and 90 pitches in this game should come out for the 7th inning with a 6-0 lead is criminal.  You are risking the health and usefulness of Strasburg for anything beyond this point for literally no reason. You are almost certain to go all hands on deck for the next series. You need all these guys at their best. You get a rare chance to build up such as lead that you can rest a precious starter and you let him get to 117 pitches. That's reckless.

This is why you need me soulless automaton because the crowd reaction was basically "COOL!"  Right now, the Nats could put Gomes in CF, watch him make 4 errors, but if he hits a swinging bunt that the 3rd baseman airmails into the crowd and a couple runs scored the fans would be like "DAVEY PUSHING ALL THE RIGHT BUTTONS!"  You aren't thinking straight in the euphoria of winning. This above. This was BAD.

OK but the Nats easily take the win and move onto Game 4 tonight.  I was speculating on what I'd ideally want and figured I don't like sooo many days off before playing again. So if I could control things I would lose tonight with Corbin going 4, Suero, Elias, Guerra, Voth - whoever is on the roster - eating up the remaining 5 innings. This way Corbin isn't pushed and everyone gets a chance to throw because you never know who you are going to need. Then either late tomorrow (rain) or Thursday Anibal goes an easy dominant 7, Doo and Hudson finish out the win.  But of course I can't control everything, so hope for a win to get it over with.

What's happening now is an average offense in a slump is facing great pitching. The results are what you see - dominance.  The Cardinals can't score first, they can barely score, and they can't then match-up like they would like to keep the game in their hands.  Instead they have to play catch-up.  Honestly what I think happened with the Cardinals is they went into Game 1 thinking "We don't need to gameplan Sanchez and get him out early! Our bats are on fire! We'll knock him out!" and then Sanchez was game for that aggressive approach. They went down and woke up thinking "Jesus, we gotta beat some great pitchers coming up. We really screwed up" and started playing VERY tight.  Just look at last night.  One bouncing single through the infield by Eaton and they start choking. There's no leeway for the Cardinals. They are ready to pack it in at a moment's notice now.

On the Nats side - if Kendrick is Hot Howie - that helps the Nats tremendously.  You can work around Rendon and Soto but you can't work around 3 guys without giving up something. In fact Soto is totally struggling right now. But Howie has picked it up and honestly that's all the Nats need with the Cardinals looking as dead as they can.

I know how it works. Nats lose tonight with the Cardinals actually scoring runs and the thoughts become "ok gotta win tomorrow because we want to win at home and oh no, the bats have woken up and if they get back to St Louis they just have to win one to get back to Flaherty and he's not going to be off twice and have bad defense..." and the usual spiral into the strange world of "favorite depression" So win tonight. Get it done. Get it over.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Looking ahead

As a soulless automaton I don't have to worry about believing I will jinx the Nats.  They will win or lose independent of whatever I do here. So let's talk about the World Series.

Ok, ok let's first talk about the NLCS. Both teams failed at an objective I laid out.  The Cardinals didn't get to Anibal Sanchez.  The Nats didn't beat up Adam Wainwright. But you saw how that plays out.  The good but not great Cardinals team can't win that game.  The great as long as you don't look behind the curtain Nationals can.  And so we see how the rest of the series will probably play out. The Cardinals may win tonight, as they have their legitimate ace who might out ace the Nats ace, and the Cardinals may sneak a win from a late game Doolittle or Hudson beat up. I don't think anyone here is convinced those guys are untouchable. But can they do that three times? Or twice and have Flaherty out ace the Nats twice? Seems very unlikely.**

That means the Nats will end up in the World Series and I don't know if you've been watching the ALCS but those teams are very good!  Now the Nats just beat a very good team in the Dodgers, so it's not like it can't happen but to do it they had to go Defcon 5, all starters throwing relief innings, only 2 crucial outs being made by the regular non Doo/Hud pen basically. You figure to win the World Series they'd have to do something similar. And if you want to do something similar you have a particular hope. The Nats need rest.

I've said this multiple times, but I'll mention it again. Strasburg is beyond his max innings pitched for any season. Corbin is beyond his max innings pitched for any season. Max, isn't but he is 35 and pitching hard after a late season injury.  These things take their tolls.* And the more rest the better. So the Nats need to win as quickly as possible. 4 or 5 games.  Do they care if the ALCS goes long? Yes, but not for scheduling (the World Series is a set date 10/22). The longer the ALCS goes the more those arms get tired. So root for that as well. 

Is there a team that the Nats should hope to face? Well either team is top-level but I would imagine given the Nats plan (Aces ace, get lead, hold on) you'd rather face the Yankees than the Astros. Why? Two reasons. The first is the Astros, in Verlander, Cole, and Greinke, have real aces. So even if the Nats' aces ace, the Astros ones could match them. You have to hope that doesn't happen. The Yankees on the other hand have good pitchers, but ones you'd expect to beat if the aces ace.  The second is the Astros walk the most and strikeout the least in all of baseball. That goes directly against the Nats aces strength of King everyone and against the goal of trying not to get deep into the pen.  The Yankees are a poor consolation prize. They take the most pitches per plate appearance and their pen is outstanding. But if you have to pick your poison...

Joe Torre used to say that G3 was the most important game in the seven game series. That the momentum was really decided at that moment. Obviously a team taking a 2-1 lead would be important, as well as the 3-0 team preparing for a knockout. But a team winning 1 after being down 2-0 would feel again that they were in the series. So that whoever loses G3 would be knocked on their heels a bit.  Don't get knocked on your heels. Keep dominating this average line-up. Get your lead. Hold on.

*I am VERY worried about how that all plays out in 2020 and beyond but win a World Series and no one cares. 

**Of course this is still just guessing. Maybe the Cards win 4 in a row? Maybe the Nats make the series play the Astros and sweep them! It's a small sample size, with new rules, and weird things happen.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Game 2!

Yesterday an on his game Anibal converged with an off their game Cardinals and the result was almost history.  Still Nats fans will take the win.  Can Max win today and put the Cardinals really behind the 8-ball? Or do the Cards pull one out and set-up being one Flaherty start from being back in control? Is Max the last Max we saw or the one from the few games before that?  Can the Nats get some big hits, rather than none or just enough?  Will the Cards make Suzuki look foolish?

Friday, October 11, 2019

NLCS Preview

Who are the Cardinals?  They aren't a team you thought much of during the regular season until all of a sudden they were past the Cubs, in first in the NL Central in a position they'd seemingly never relinquish.

The Cardinals in fact started out red hot (20-10) but a terrible run after that brought them back to 2 games under .500 at the end of May and they were a .500 team at the All-Star break. There was another back in forth with a strong run (12-3) followed by almost an equally weak one (2-8) before the Cards figured it out and basically cruised the rest of the season. (32-12)

Over the course of the season they look like a flawed team the offense doesn't have any standouts and is half average. The rotation has Jack Flaherty at the head and then a bunch of decent arms but no one you immediately worry can shut you down.  The pen... the pen is pretty strong. But what's the team look like in the last 60 days?

Paul Goldschmidt found himself in the second half hitting much more like slugger we remember from Arizona.  Tommy Edman emerged as a hot bat for the moment, that can be used all over the diamond. Yadier Molina had a renaissance and Kolten Wong rebounded nicely.  The offense went from a .720 OPS in the first half to a .757 in the second. From bad to average.

The starter ERA went from 4.33 to 3.15 (better than the Nats in the 2nd half) Flaherty was unhittable (0.91 ERA! 0.715 WHIP) as Hudson - hard to hit and Mikolas (great K/BB) had very solid second halves and Carpenter and Wacha were very reliable as well, though not in a way that makes you excited.  The relievers held firm at being very good. Gallegos, Webb, especially finished strong.

Another thing to consider is the defense. It's rated second in defensive efficiency in the NL. First in FLD%.  All the fancy stats love them.*

So basically the first half Cards were a team with a bad offense, ok starting pitching, and great relief - that got them to .500. The second half Cards were a team with an average offense, great overall starting pitching, and great relief. That got them a division title.

What do the Nats need to do to beat the Cardinals?

1) Aces gotta ace. This is going to hold for as far as the Nats go and it will only get harder as the Nats get less breaks and these arms, ridden in starts and in relief, get more and more tired. But they have to do it.  The middle of the pen is weak and it has to be exposed as little as possible. It may hold here and there but if the Nats are digging into it 3 or 4 times that's a big problem

2) Beat up on Wainwright. Wainwright is "crafty veteran" which is code for tries to use control to get through things. He doesn't walk anyone but he doesn't strike anyone out and you can hit him, you can hit him hard. Nats need to win that game (G2) which should be a pitching mismatch in theory.

3) Stake out leads. The Cards pen is quite capable of holding onto a lead and the Nats can't hope their manager gets brainlock about matching up like Roberts did.  If the Nats go into the 5th/6th down its likely the game will end that way. Guys like Mikolas and Hudson are good , but they aren't aces so the Nats should be looking to get 2-3-4 runs off of them while the Nats pitchers hold STL down.

4) Hope they get bad Carlos Martinez.  He's an enigma who looks great and looks terrible depending. He looked terrible against the Braves. Let's hope that continues.

Bonus : What do the Cards need to do to beat the Nats?

1) Beat up Sanchez.  Yeah it's late in the season but aces are aces for a reason. You can't rule out a dominant performance at any time. The Nats have 3 aces which makes it imperative you take it to the one non-ace out there. That he's likely to be forced to start twice if the series goes long makes it even more important

2) Step on the neck of the aces when you have a chance - Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin are aces but Stras and Corbin are at career highs in IP, Scherzer had an injury near year's end and they are all being asked to do a lot more. You've seen some wobbly performances from them with Strasburg and Scherzer being homer prone and Corbin getting wild. But as aces do they recovered and held the games close. Don't let them. Get 3, 4, 5 runs in that inning and get into that pen as early as you can.

3) Pitch around Rendon, Soto too until you establish you got a loogy you can get him  - the Nats have a great offense but it's deceptively top heavy with a 6-7-8 that shouldn't be too problematic. You can't pitch around 1-5 but you can make Turner, Eaton, and a Kendrick that's looked dead tired in the field beat you instead of letting an MVP and a star do it.

4) Run on Suzuki all day every day - Yan Gomes is a decent defender but hasn't hit, meaning Suzuki plays most of the game. Suzuki though can't throw anyone out. The Cardinals like the SB both straight up and being crafty about it (Molina has 6!). Run on Suzuki. Get guys in scoring position, Take the pitcher's focus off the batter.

Let's go!

*Nats are somewhere between average and "not BAD"

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The three most important points

Well you can tell from my last post that I think the most important point was a decision by Roberts to keep Kelly in But let’s forget that for a moment and try to make it more Nats-centric.  

1) Stras settles down.  The Dodgers got to Stras early but like several other games this series - couldn’t deal a knock out blow.  This is impt bc of the runs scored yes but it’s also impt bc the Nats can’t stem the tide after something like that. 6-0 will become 8 or 10 at some point and that’s the ball game.

2) Rendon homers. I honestly think this moment broke the Dodgers.  I think Roberts was fully ready to let Kershaw have the last 7 outs.  I think Kershaw lost focus and gave up a meatball to Soto and had to be pulled and that caused the chain reaction that ultimately ended up with the Nats winning. One swing to set it all in motion.

3) Rendon doubles. When Rendon turned a two strike AB into a double it set up a situation where the Nats were almost guaranteed to score. In extras that’s all you need

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


It’s deserved after being so good for so long.

Turns out what the Nats needed to get over the hump was a terrible managerial decision that will be remembered by fans in general for decades and Dodger fans for lifetimes. But they got it!

Somewhere Joe Kelly is still pitching everyone!

NLDS Game 5 - Take 4.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around what might be bothersome going into this game.  Of course there is the ever present sword of Damocles that hangs over the team, the chance the Nats have to use their pen beyond Doolittle and Hudson. And of course there's the chance that Buehler is ON tonight and the Nats can't score at all. Those games happen. But beyond that?

I guess what I'm most worried about is Doolittle and Hudson haven't been great. But they've been good enough and if all goes well they hopefully won't be tasked with holding a slim 1-2 run lead. If so, I'd feel tense but I'd also know they could well do it. 

The line-up hasn't been great but MAT had two hits (well sort of) and Zimm came up with the big bomb and honestly that's all the Nats need.  They need 6 through 8 not to go 0-12 or 1-14. That should be doable, or if not the top of the line-up should be able to plate 3-4 runs themselves.

Strasburg is up near his career tops in IP but with 85 pitches last game and full rest I'm not too worried about it.  Maybe he can't give the Nats 7 but 5-6 great innings should be possible.

Davey has been real iffy when faced with tough choices, but the Nats have a fair amount of decent PH choices and if all goes well - like Games 2 & 4 - he won't be asked to make any tough choices. Even if I question him on the spot he's at least proven he's not going to overthink and do something out of left field.

So here they are again. With a real chance to win and move on, but a real chance to lose once more.  Each NLDS G5 loss has been unique.  2012 was a cursed game - a huge lead (6-0!) chipped away at until finally a series of questionable decisions (using Edwin Jackson in the 7th, not using Storen in G2) and close calls going the other way ultimately led to a 9th inning breakdown.   2016 was the solid game between two powers.  There were tough calls, some right some wrong, made by both teams, most notably the infamous Werth send. But the game was 1-0 into the 7th. The Dodgers punched in the top of the inning - scoring 4 as nearly every pitcher Dusty tried failed to do their job. The Nats countered in the bottom with a homer by Chris Heisey of all people to bring it back to a 1-run game.  After that Perez and Melancon, Jansen and Kershaw would win every battle they needed to and that's the way the game ended.  2017 was madness, nearly the exact opposite of 2016 with both teams looking like they were trying to lose the game.

Obviously a win would be the most different outcome, but if you are a pessimist here's how can the Nats lose differently in G5 tonight?

They can be blown out.  The Nats have lost G5 by 2, 1, and 1 runs respectively.  In 2012 they had leads of 6-0 (end 3), 7-5 (e8); in 2016 1-0 (e6); in 2017 4-1 (e2). They have never finished an inning down by more than 3.  If the Dodgers crush Strasburg and put the Nats in a big hole, like 5+ runs, that'll be new.

They can lose in a walk-off. There's good reason that hasn't happened yet. The Nats have hosted all three game 5s they've played. So this is the first time it's even possible to lose a G5 in a walkoff. The 2014 SF series did end on the West Coast. But while it was also a close game (3-2 loss) it did not end in a walk-off either, the Giants holding onto a 1-run lead gathered in the bottom of the 7th.

They can be shut out. The Nats have scored at least 2 runs in every NLDS loss and at least 3 runs in the G5s. Hell in 2012 and 2017 the G5 loss was their highest run output for the series. They have been shut out in general though (by Carpenter+ in G3 in 2012 and by Hendricks+ in G1 in 2017)

They can never have the lead.  You may have noticed in the "blown out" one that the Nats have lead every G5 they played in.  In 2012 they led going into the 9th, in 2016 going into the 7th, in 2017 going into the 5th.  If you believe in patterns the Nats will lead going into the 3rd - then lose a close game. For something different though they can simply fall behind and never catch up

If you are looking for a nightmare scenario the Nats can't really do ALL of these at the same time. Mainly because losing in a walk-off pretty much requires they aren't being blown out.

What do I see? I don't see any reason it shouldn't follow the usual pattern of a close game. It doesn't feel like 2017 which was the proper ending to a series that itself was kind of crazy (Mold Strsaburg!) So I expect a fairly well played game as well.  Who wins? Like I know. All I do know if the Nats manage to do it this time they'll be plenty of "it had to be this way" stories. 15-4 blowout? Had to happen like that. 3-2 squeaker? Had to happen like that. Strasburg 9 inning shutout? Had to happen like that.  12-10 madhouse bullpen special? Had to happen like that. I'm girding myself for the bad takes already. That's what happens when you don't cover the team you root for. You worry about the takes more than the game.

Anyway see you at 8:30! Stay sane until then.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

MAXimum something that finishes this quip

You really can't ask for more than what Max gave the Nationals last night. 7 innings 1 run. He did give them an early deficit but he kept them at that single run down until the Nats were able to take a lead.  Right into Doolittle and Hudson and that was that. I can't even think of a decision that needed to be made? Max hitting in the 4th? Nah - two outs and a man on first that early isn't a have to situation. Keeping Max in after rains? They barely slowed the game down.  Such a nice and easy game for everyone!  I have nothing negative to say. The bottom of the line-up came through (Matty October lives!) Zimm got a big homerun that pretty much was the game.  What's to feel bad about here?

The Nats now go to LA and we'll get Buehler vs Strasburg both on full rest. Nothing changes, thanks to the days off afforded in this short series. Stras for as long as he can go, hopefully 7, then Doolittle and Hudson.  Kendrick in the line-up somewhere. Suzuki starting not Gomes.

The pressure is on the Dodgers, but it's also on the Nats. There's some freedom not being a 106 win team who's goal in WS or bust, but the Nats know they haven't won a DS and they understand the slim margin they have with that pen. My guess is the first team down by 3 (or 2 when it gets late) will get real tight. Why 3?  Well whenever anyone gets on there's a chance for two runs to be made up in one swing and guys do get on occasionally. So 2 runs doesn't feel that big until you get later and worry that maybe no one will get on for the rest of the game.

Enjoy the win.  Watch Astros / Rays if you want. Tomorrow we'll get to the worrying. 

Monday, October 07, 2019

Monday Quickie : Sending me up to the plate with a pencil

So it's been a while.  Anything happen?

Ok let's quickly talk about Friday. Strasburg continued his playoff dominance by handling the Dodgers for 6 innings (3 hits,1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K). Kershaw was fine but Doolittle (really one bad pitch),  Scherzer, and Hudson shut the door after Stephen and there wasn't anything the Dodgers could do. I noted going in Davey had an easy game to manage because it was effectively a three man staff, but Max throwing his hat into the ring did add a wrinkle, and the closeness of the game didn't afford many missteps. I thought Davey did well.  The first big decision he had was pulling Strasburg - which could be argued but with the big lefties coming up and Stras coming off a 2-hit, deep fly ball out, line out inning - it made sense to move on. The second was the use of Max. The alternative though was trying to get 9 outs from Doolittle & Hudson. To me, neither is appealing and it's a judgment call. Davey went with Max and it worked great. Even the AsCab PH choice worked tacking on an insurance run that became a big deal when Hudson almost blew it in the 9th.  So good game by Davey

Yesterday was iffier but the truth of the matter is the Nats fell behind due to no real fault of Davey.   Anibal went 5 stron... check that - he went 1 very weak, 3 strong, 1 ok. But because he escaped the first the damage was limited to 1 run.  That and Soto's first inning blast put the Nats up 2-1 but also had them facing a dilemma. How do we get 12 more outs?  They could have kept Sanchez in but in a tight game a speedy man on first and one-out calls for a PH.  I was fine for using Zimm there. And the plan seemed to be to use Corbin from the get go. As he was being brought in in the 6th the plan was likely Corbin for 2 if possible, Doolittle, Hudson. But after a single and two Ks Corbin gave up a through the infield single (can't pull him yet) and then a powerful double. Two runs score 3-2.  It's here where I feel Davey faltered, letting Corbin continue instead of trying best to contain the damage. We've talked about not "saving" pitchers for important situations that may never come. This was a big situation and with a righty up Corbin should have been pulled for Hudson. I know, I know no guarantees but it was the best available option. But he wasn't pulled and Corbin walked Taylor and the Dodgers pinch hit Hernandez. Another opportunity to pull Corbin. Another non-move. Another crushing double.  At this point Corbin was pulled (instead of pitching to Muncy who they IBBd - this move I'm ok with if you are going righty out of the pen) but instead of Hudson we got Suero, we got homer, we got ballgame...

Well almost. Roberts correctly saw an opportunity to let Joe Kelly find himself with a 6 run lead in the last half of the game. Problem was he was up against the heart of the Nats line-up and the next four guys got on and Kelly was out (presumably for the series).  There was a question of whether they could have goaded Roberts into keeping Kelly pitching by keeping Dozier in (instead of PH AsCab - who hits both but is generally better from the left hand side) but I don't think so. I think Urias was coming in no matter what. Maybe they lost the opportunity for a better match-up but I don't think they lost an AB against Kelly.

After that the Nats down 8-4 they couldn't quite go to Doolittle and Hudson so it was up to the B.. no C... no D-Teamers. Rodney nearly lost it but didn't.  Rainey wasn't perfect but got out of his inning. Strickland got bombed and should get the Joe Kelly treatment. You could argue why Strickland and not Voth but at this point I'm not using Voth in a likely unwinnable game and giving the Dodgers a look at him.  Voth is my go to tonight if for some reason keeping to Max, Doo, Hudson is impossible. Is it a bad go to? Almost certainly. But you gotta try it.

So all in all it wasn't a terrible weekend for Davey. He kind of froze in that 6th, which put the game out of reach and that matters but otherwise - eh. I'm not getting worked up about it.

Why? Well because Davey is in an impossible situation. He may be messing up but he's given no leeway to do that. All managers make mistakes. Davey can't because he's literally got two men he trusts in the pen, then it's starters, then it's Rodney? I don't like some decisions but he could play it perfectly and what happens? Like last night let's say he gets Hudson in there and he gets out. 3-2 Dodgers but the Nats aren't facing Joe Kelly. Do they tie?  Hudson is probably asked to work the 7th but how does that go after what you saw Friday? Ok in trouble and in comes Doo... maybe he gets out of it too but then he's PH for and then what. Figure best reasonable case is it's 3-3 and the Nats gotta find 6 outs from everyone else, while scoring against a solid Dodger pen.  The odds would still be heavily in LA's favor here.

Davey has fault but it's down there behind the Lerners for not ponying up the cash and Rizzo for keeping with his prospect holding. And then there are the bats. Collective line for the team .194 / .283 / .280.  I get - harder opponent - worse hitting BUT they should be doing worse than usual not flat out terrible. They've only hit one homer. The line-up is hitting like we feared might. Turner and Eaton are doing ok, Rendon and Soto are doing ok. A total of 12 hits and 7 walks between these 4 guys.  Then nothing, 6 hits and 1 walk from the rest of the team. Suzuki and Gomes 0-9.  Parra, Dozier, Adams, Zimm, AsCab 2-15, with 1 XBH. 

I don't know what to say other than - hope Max is MAX for one night despite the injury and the history and the already unusual usage pattern. Then hope Hill is bad. If we look at the pre-series goals

1) Aces Aces?  Pretty much. Even Sanchez was good.

2) Keep it close for Jansen. No. Both G1 and G3 devolved quickly.

3) Don't miss opportunity to get out bottom of LAs lineup.  First game they went Muncy at 2B so line-up had no hole. Last two they used Lux and Nats mostly held him in check as a starter in the 8 hole.

4) Roberts outthinking himself? Here and there a little but not really. Then again he's got all the leeway Davey doesn't

So they aren't getting any breaks from the Dodgers, but they are managing the lineup and getting good starts. The breakdown is when the hitting and the relief aren't keeping the game close enough. A couple bad choices by Davey made it worse but he's got few good ones. The series has to help Davey out, but it's made things harder on him twice and both times we've seen the result. The Nats can't afford that again.

Friday, October 04, 2019


Why does the Nats offense disappear in the playoffs disguising what would be critical mistakes from a questionable manager?  It happened in 2014 as Matt Williams bungled his way through 4 important games in a row and it happened so far in the WC and G1.  Yes the Nats win the WC, but on a HBP, bloop, wall single and error they hardly lit the world on fire and we were staring down a “it’s the offense’s fault" much like we are today

Because it IS the offense fault primarily.  You can’t win scoring nothing. The Nats has one hit and backed into a run through Buehler’s one inning of wildness.  That inning was punctuated by a maddening at bat by Cabrera who swung through two pitches nearly in the dirt bailing out the Dodgers*. No one is asking for this team to bust  out 5 runs every game against what we noted yesterday is very good pitching. But 2-3 runs before the 6th is done would be nice

Then there was Corbin who was on and off effective and lucky to get out giving up only two.  And Kendrick who saved the defensive butchery we all feared for this singular game.

What did Davey do?  Well I can break down a few things but the major mistake was Rodney.  Going into the 7th down two Davey tried to sneak in his B options Rainey and Rodney.  You can understand why. If they don’t pitch here it could be a week before they see action and that’s too long. So you try to get Rainey through the 7th.  If the Nats are still down Rodney through the 8th.  Not a bad plan.  But down 2-0 is a winnable game so these guys have to have short leashes and you have to try to keep the game close with good match-ups. Rainey walked a man setting up a - next man on you’re out situation. A nice piece of hitting and a little luck put Justin Turner on and set up a change.   With Bellinger and Muncy up in the next three the choice was obvious.  Doolittle.  But Davey hadn’t been warming him. Instead he used Rodney who he had been warming for the above plan.  Rodney, who probably should be limited against lefties** got Bellinger, but then walked the next man, and Muncy came up.  With a chance to right a wrong he left Rodney in and Muncy got the decisive hit

We can talk about Strickland facing LHB (huge no-no) but this was the big mistake.  And the thing is - he almost got away with it.

Anyway tonight we see if Strasburg is really Bumgarner-esque.  If the Nats can hit   And Davey can manage a much easier (only Hudson and Doolittle!) game.

*much like Seager bailed out Corbin in the first, swinging at ball one in the AB right after he walked in a run

**On one hand Davey like his change against lefties and doesn't have a ton of options, especially in a Corbin started game. On the other out of the Nats pens, no one gets hit harder by lefties that Rodney other than Strickland who should never face a lefty.  It's not a big amount worse but you do wonder why you'd go with your 2nd worst guy. 

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Real Playoffs

How good are the Dodgers?  Real good. They've are good hitting (1st in RS in the NL). Good in pitching (1st in RA). They have good starters (1st in Starter ERA) and good relievers (1st in Reliever ERA). They play good defense (1st in defensive efficiency). They hit the most homers (1st) and give up the least (1st)  and are good pinch hitting (3rd best OPS - THIRD!!! GO TO YOUR ROOM! NO TV FOR A WEEK!)

They won 106 games. Pythag had them at 107 games. The most adjusted of the adjusted standings had them at 114.

So how do the Nats beat the Dodgers?

Well if I were cynical I'd say "They don't" but it's a five game series and even if you LOVE the Dodgers here the Nats probably still have a 25% chance at winning at least. When recounting all those stats up there the Nats were close to the Dodgers in nearly everyone. The Nats are very good and all they need is a break or two.

1) The Nats aces have to be aces - Corbin, Stras, and Max need to be dominant. We'd expect the Dodger pitching to hold the Nats to relatively low scoring games and we don't want the Nats digging deep into a bullpen that just the other day was defined as "Two-Deep" in a winner take all scenario.  They all need to go 6ish at least and be dominant over that time frame

2) Keep it close when you get to Jansen - Kenley isn't KENLEY anymore and the Dodgers RP strength comes from depth rather than a few dominant arms. In the playoffs that can work in the opponents favor. I expect Roberts to be quick to use up these arms to find the best one working today but when it comes to the ninth it's Jansen always. If the Nats can get to Jansen with an opportunity to win they'll have at least 2-3 cracks at breaking him before Roberts extends the "best available" philosophy to closer as well. That might be enough to get those needed wins

3) Don't miss your opportunity to reset at the bottom of the line-up. The Dodgers don't have a great solution at one position, second base. They'll put Muncy there sometimes as a pure hitter and if they do - well then there is no hole in the line-up. But if they go with Lux or Hernandez that gives the Nats two ABs to reset before running the gauntlet again.* Don't screw it up and let the 8th and 9th spots drag things out

4) Hope Roberts out thinks himself.  A couple years ago Roberts managed the Dodgers out of the World Series trying to find a platoon advantage. Could he do something like this again, leaving the clearly better players on the bench chasing some paper positive? Let's hope.

There you go.  The biggest worries the Nats have is that the Dodgers (3rd in NL walks taken, 4th in P/PA) can work the starters out of the game and force guys like Rainey and Strickland to see important ABs. The other biggest worry is that the bats around Rendon and Soto go cold. When that happens and the other team pitches around Anthony and Juan the offense grinds to a miserable halt.  The WC game didn't exactly take away this fear.

Tonight it's Corbin on the mound and things could go either way.  We've talked about his home / road splits. They are real and they are not spectacular. 2.40 ERA, 0.990 at home. 4.18 ERA 1.392 WHIP on the road. Batters hitting .574 OPS vs .760. But with years of playing in Arizona, Corbin is very familiar with the Dodgers and does very well against them specifically. Dodger Stadium seems to be no issue.

The Dodgers counter with Walker Buehler who is one of their three top notch starters.  He had great control and doesn't strike anyone out. He doesn't get hit much or give up many homers. Basically you have to find a way to score some runs against him. However, he has not been that good lately. He's been a lot wilder and that's opened the door for more mediocre outings. 

The plan for the Nats is the same as any NLCS underdog. Get a win on the road, then finish them off at home. I've heard some "Sanchez should start if they win G1" but I'd still expect to see Strasburg either way on Friday - unless he literally can't go. The Nats get it, I think. They missed the playoffs last year. They stumbled real bad to start this one and had to go through the Wild Card. Rendon, their best player, might not be back and there is a chance Stras leaves too.  Rizzo can weave some magic but right now it looks like they need to treat this as a last chance run.

*How do their pitchers hit. Mostly like pitchers. Ryu and Maeda are actually ok - for pitchers. The rest are typically bad. There is an exception in RP Rony Gonsolin - who was a very good hitter in college and hasn't had that worked out of him yet. But I can't imagine a scenario not involving a 13+ inning game where he (or Maeda) is going to see an AB. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2019


After four previous tries, three agonizing and one lifeless, the Nats finally advance in the playoffs.  You’ll hear people say the Nats haven’t won a playoff series and that’s true, but inconsequential in the moment. The Nats, and more so their fans, needed THIS.  They needed a big win in the playoffs that sent them off to face another team.  They needed their signature franchise moment to no longer be a GW G4 HR before an heart-breaking G5 loss. No matter what happens now this win can’t be taken away from them.

About the game itself it really came down to two managers treating a pitcher like something he’s not. We discussed this a good deal before this game but Max isn’t MAX. He isn’t the unstoppable force he’s been for most of his time here in DC.  He’s coming back from injury and for whatever reason particularly vulnerable to home runs. He’s not your HAVE TO guy right now.  He’s one of three and if we were going on recent performance most people felt objectively Strasburg was the one who should start.  But Davey chose Max and Max gave a B/B- performance.

On the other side Josh Jader has been a dominant closer but since the All-Star break he’s merely been very good.  It’s a small distinction but an important one as dominant arms have long saves in planning but you don’t square away six outs for a very good pitcher unless you have to. But Counsell decidedto set this game around Hader for 2 and when he came in obviously having trouble finding spots Counsell had little alternative but to let him try and work it out. It didn’t.

A lot of talk has been about Davey and his performance. I’ve heard phrases like Gepetto pulling strings. You come here for objective analysis Though and objectively Davey was poor. Fair if I’m being generous.  One of the things is Davey didn’t actually have a lot to think about last night. The Nats lack of production, the best pitchers being in, the Brewers general quiet after early, led to a low decision night.  Let’s review them all

Max starts - We discussed this earlier but Stras was the pick. You could justify picking Max over Stras but Stras isn't Anibal Sanchez. You shouldn't be looking for reasons a hot Strasburg shouldn't pitch over a faulty Max. You have three aces. Act like that's true and go with the hot hand.

Line-up - Suzuki has been Max's pitcher for most of the year now. That wasn't really a Davey call. But Kendrick and Cabrera were. Sure they were obvious but you did have to avoid the heart string tugging and telling you to start Zimm.

Max hits -In the third Max was due up and he was doing better. The line-up for the Brewers was heading toward the bottom. I can see the argument for keeping him in. But the Nats needed runs and had two aces to fill-in as necessary. There was no need to keep Max in unless he was cruising and he wasn't.  Subsequently Max would have a line-out, double to start the next inning and then came the 5th

Max 5th - Max was already muddling along (for him) when he walked Shaw to start the inning. With Grandal, who blasted a homer and hit a long fly ball next time up looming. Max should have been pulled. He wasn't.  He got out Grisham and then walked Grandal. Should be pulled. He showed why being unable to put away Moustakas despite having him down 1-2 on three straight pitches. it would work out as Moustakas fouled out and Huira was swing happy but this was an unecessary gamble by Davey

Dozier PHs - The Brewers brought in Suter a LHP which meant if you got to Max's position you'd have a huge at bat that had to be taken by a righty.  That's Zimm's time. Instead Dozier got the call. This is doubly questionable when you figure if the Nats do comeback you really want to pull the old man Howie for Dozier and work him and As Cab in 1st / 2nd D in someway.  Dozier grounded out but Moustakas bailed him out by sailing the throw. Turner would hit the ball well but it was a fly ball out.  A big situation went to their 2nd best option which also messed up late inning defense possibilities. A bad call and I don't see how anyone can avoid thinking this.

MAT for PH - There wasn't a real decision again until the 8th. You had to pull Max for Dozier (deciding to PH for Max was a duh move I didn't even put on here) Stras coming in was the obvious choice. Stras cruised. the Nats never threatened and the line-up had to get back to the pitcher spot before Davey had to think again. You could see what he wanted to do. He wanted Zimm in a big spot to drive in a run and when no one got on he opted for MAT*. This is the batting equivalent on not using your best pitcher in the biggest moment in the game because it's the 8th and what if an even BIGGER moment came up later? You can't make decisions this late on things that might never happen. It's terrible managing. You have to play for now which meant Zimm was the move. instead MAT came up and was given a gift when a ball that 90% probably hit the bat first was ruled a HBP and you can't overturn if it's not 100%.  MAT didn't do his job as much as had the job finished for him. There's nothing about this that says smart move.

Zimm for Eaton - because MAT got on Eaton got his Zimm in a big spot situation and Zimm promptly... flared a bloope to CF off a broken bat.  Zimm didn't come up big. He got lucky. Davey got lucky.

Hudson instead of Doolittle - It wasn't TOO much of a choice, but it had to be made and with Thame up first you could have argued for a Doolittle start to the inning if you wanted. But Davey went straight to Hudson, had Doo warming as a back up. It almost didn't work out. Hudson got Thames but Cain singled off him and Davey stuck with Hudson versus another lefty in Gamel. Gamel hit in on the nose but a little too under it and in the wrong part of the park for that.

Eight decisions. Six in game. How many unquestionably the right ones in the moment? Two I guess?  There's no genius here. No man pushing all the right buttons. It's a guy making the wrong call on a bunch of 25% / 75% situations and it working out. I don't know why it hard to see that.

I also don't know why you care. You make bad moves and they work out all the time. Baseball is filled with 60/40 choices. It's a 60/40, 55/45 game. You want someone that makes the 60 choices all the time but you can go 40 40 40 and have it work out, you can go 60 60 60 and have it not. Hell put three choices out there and chances one of them won't go your way. 

Davey didn't show me anything I haven't seen before. Didn't prove anything. If he has a strength it's not in the managing decisions during the game.  He could be a clubhouse inspiration. That matters too. But let's not squint and stand on a chair and try to make that game into some sort of Master Class on managing.

What this win DOES mean about Davey is that he's definitely back.  I don't see how he isn't. Contract in hand. WC win. Amazing regular season comeback. All the impetus is to keep him.  I guess the NLDS could go disastrously but outside of that you might be making the right move if you fire him but you're swimming against the tide to do it and with a contract to pay out, why bother? Makes far more sense for the team to let that tide take Davey into 2020 and see if that amazing middle 80 games were a seed of something more. 

*that MAT had a HR in 1AB I think is irrelevant here. A nice side note but not influencing or else he would have had MAT on deck all the way.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Wild Card Post

Wild Card Game.  We've seen the lineup and know Max is the starter.  To help the lazy it's this:

Trea Turner SS 
Adam Eaton RF 
Anthony Rendon 3B 
Juan Soto LF 
Howie Kendrick 1B 
Asdrúbal Cabrera 2B 
Kurt Suzuki C 
Victor Robles CF 
Max Scherzer P

Maybe a mild surprise to some that Zimm isn't starting but over Howie Zimm shouldn't be starting.  Not now.  

The Brewers are countering with 

1. Trent Grisham RF (L)
2. Yasmani Grandal C 
3. Mike Moustakas 3B (L)
4. Keston Hiura 2B 
5. Ryan Braun LF 
6. Eric Thames 1B  (L)
7. Lorenzo Cain CF 
8. Orlando Arcia SS 
9. Brandon Woodruff P

Cain is playing which is good for them.  I know they were going for as much L/R balance as possible. I would have probably flipped Cain and Grisham for the reasons I explained in yesterday's ramble. That does put two lefties in a row but I'd worry about getting my best hitters that 4th or 5th at bat more than a one inning possible match-up issue. The Brewers problem is Moustakas and Thames are the good bats struggling but if you drop both you pack the lefties. So they just keep it as-is and hope. And for one game... 

With more time to think I haven't really changed my mind. I think the Nats have an advantage and the smart money is on them. But its one baseball game so the Nats having a nice advantage over a team they are better than but is still good gives them all of a 60% chance of winning. That's a 40% chance of losing. In other words roll these line-ups and pitchers out with these tactics for 10 games the Nats would lose like 4 times. It's baseball. There's a lot talent doesn't cover. 

Things I'd like to see
1) A clean first inning from Max. He gets way too excited for these games (6HBP in last 7 playoff appearances. for ref - 7 HBP in regular season this year) and can get a little out of control. Not that I'd expect him to immediately blow it, but the more innings he pitches the better and the quicker he's in and out of the first the better for how many innings he can go. I can see it get bogged down and be a 25 pitch scoreless affair and would much rather see a 15 pitch 1-2-3.

2)  A cautious approach to Woodruff. Even if you are an aggressive approach guy at heart Woodruff hasn't pitched more than a couple innings in a while.  They'll try to stretch him but that means like 75 pitches.  A cautious Nats team could get him out in under 3 IP if he's not on. 

3) In general a quick hook.  It's hard to say when but if you are going to be bullpen heavy and only use the good arms, then be one batter too soon, then one batter too late. If possible though don't use the starters mid-inning, to keep it as usual for them as possible. 

4) In particular attack Braun and Cain. The one big liability with this line-up is Suzuki's inability to throw guys out (10% for the year). But the Brewers don't really run. If you can keep Cain, not a huge homer threat, and Braun, not the threat he was, off the basepaths in exchange for a couple other guys on, do that. Hiura is another guy who might take off but he's too much of a homer threat now to go after imo. 

5) Don't test Grandal until you have to.  He's not special but he's good enough and the Nats shouldn't need extra bases as opposed to runners in general with this line-up and this pitching staff.  Certainly not early.  Don't give them outs.

OK On to the game.