Nationals Baseball: A win, a worry, and a wonder

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

A win, a worry, and a wonder

The Nats managed to win yesterday.  In part it's because they matched up their number 1 against the Braves number 4. Drew Smyly pitched like Drew Smyly - a serviceable 4/5 plan while you wait for some young guy to force the issue. Unfortunately Scherzer pitched like Drew Smyly too. Not literally of course, Max missed more bats than Smyly ever could, but in terms of results Max gave up 4 homers, pitched only 6 innings (yeah he probably could have gone another) and those are more 4/5 results.  This is a concern. 

Max has at times had a bugaboo about giving up homers.  Part of his "not ace" performance last year was due to the fact he gave up homers at the worst rate of his career. With everything else, walks, Ks, general hittability, still going well it doesn't make him bad but it can make him not good if it gets out of hand. Still it's one start in April. It's a data point, not a trend. We note, we think, we move on until the next one. 

Juan Soto had the game winning hit and it never should have come to that. 0-4 going into that you still don't dismiss Soto as just another bat. When you get to 3-0 against him, with two men on, a speedy guy at 2B, and a questionable hitter up next, the choice is clear - you give him that walk. But the Braves chose to pitch to him. I'm not sure why.  If you are pitching around Soto at this point - as you should - you have to think his great eye will get him that walk. Also given how Smith had pitched so far you can't expect he'd be nailing the corners. If you aren't pitching around him, well that's just dumb, and see "how Smith had pitched so far" to understand what could, and did, happen.  One of Soto's greatest strengths is not missing a mistake and he didn't miss this mistake pitch caused by a mistake in thinking. Snitker is asleep at the wheel right now, or at least Braves fans online seem to think so. 

Any other thing to note last night is way too early to talk about (give it a couple series - that's the equivalent of one start) but there was good and bad all around. The Phillies finally lost (hey remember when I said the back of the rotation wasn't any good - looks like the back of the rotation isn't any good) but it's a Met win so it's a toss-up. 

Double header today as the Nats try to get through the quarantine as they would any other time. Fedde start? Hey, sometimes things work out anyway.


Nattydread said...

Wasn't really expecting a win last night, so big plus.

1) Max hadn't worked out with Lucroy enough to properly prepare. He was shaking off quite a few signs --- Lucroy may have been a difficult first time backstop. Would he have given up HRs given his regular catcher? Probably not four. In any case, they did get into a rhythm and it felt like the old Max after the 3rd inning.

2) Bottom part of the line-up performed. Stevenson was awake out there. Did not look lost as MAT often did.

3) Robles adequate, patient at lead off. Turner and Zimmerman looking sharp. Even in the field.

4) Bullpen okay.

Right. One game. But it takes collected games to make large samples sizes and I'll call this acceptable from a depleted line up.

Harper said...

1) that would be a better excuse if Max wasn't just high in the zone the first 3-4 innings (which he was). I doubt the Scherzer/Lucroy issues would end up with Max confusedly throwing meatballs (or Lucroy demanding them)

2) You mean 259 OPS+ MAT? (kidding) I think the fact that the bottom of the line-up did it's job (didn't stink!) as a good thing.

3) Robles was the most interesting bat to me. Out of what's out there it's what I'll be watching the first couple series assuming he sticks at leadoff

4) It didn't implode - although Hudson did come feet from giving up a game breaking homer.

139 said...

Eh, Scherzer gives up bombs from time to time. In his 20 K game he gave up 2. He still was mostly missing bats in a very good Braves lineup.

Lucroy being new may or may not have been a issue, but I think a bigger issue also could have simply been the delay and uncertainty around when he'd pitch. Max has always struck me as a rhythm guy. It has to be exhausting to keep up the kind of intensity he brings to games.

First game of the year after an unexpected break...I'll give it to him. We won with half the presumed starting line-up out. Bank it.

Anonymous said...

This was the big game. One has to assume we will split a double-header becuase that's just how those go and so this game effectively wins the series. Can't lose a home series against the team you are chasing and fall behind, COVID be damned. Especially with our #1 against their #4. With Stras against #5 presumably in a short game one today (hopefully no bullpen) we are in good shape to start with the series win. As 139 says, bank it.

Anonymous said...

In any single game, by far the most important thing that can happen is to avoid injuries. Check. The next most important thing is to win. Check. Great job, team. One down, about 90 to go.

Then it's a long gap, but I think we see enough of the starting pitcher to have some signal hidden in the noise. And there we have a mixed bag. Max did not look sharp. Harper is right about the mistake pitches, but also his 0 walks masked way more waste pitches than he typically throws. (I think so, anyway - I didn't research that, but it sure felt like he threw a lot of pitches that were nowhere near the zone than usual.)

If he had pitched at his typical level last year, I wouldn't give two thoughts to a single off start, especially with all the weirdness around the delay and the new catcher. But Max wasn't great last year either, which means now I'm worried and I'm going to be looking pretty closely at his next few games. A Max with 3 WAR per 30 starts true talent instead of 5 or 6 would be a terrible development and probably enough to sink our already precarious playoff hopes. (Of course, there's no actual point in worrying. Nothing can be done about one of our aces becoming a 3. He still pitches every fifth day; we just lose more of those games.)

Everything else from yesterday is noise. Robles looking capable of leadoff. Some good cuts from tier 2 hitters. Competent, if unspectacular, bullpen performance. Soto's 115 MPH "single" hopefully ending his horrendous 0 for 4 slump. We'll see how this all shakes out in a couple of weeks. We just don't know anything at this point.

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