Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - turnaround

Monday, June 10, 2024

Monday Quickie - turnaround

The Nats were sliding but then came the Braves and that righted the ship. There's an Elephant in the room Nats related people are avoiding talking about but we'll get to that in a minute. 

The Nats hold on to respectability and the outside chance of a playoff shot in the weeeeaaak NL where currently one game UNDER .500 San Diego holds the 2nd Wild Card all to themselves. Parker, Irvin, and Gore all looked good, which is what you want.  Herz did not but he was going up a first time starter who looked worse. 

In the meantime the Nats offense is being carried by Jesse Winker who has 11 hits and 5 walks in his last 27 PAs (ok all singles but still that's a .550 average!). You could say the team is getting timely hitting but really it's getting the runs it deserves. If you get a bunch of singles all the time someone is going to come home other times you'll get enough XBH at the right time and the pitching is good enough to win games this way.  Not enough mind you - they are still 30-35 - but more than a lot of teams!

Now it's Detroit and kind of an NL/AL test. These are similar-ish teams in league in my mind, not in terms of build but just base talent to the rest of their league. Interested to see it play out. 

Ok so the elephant.  There's a lot of people celebrating these Atlanta wins as some sort of triumph but guys... the Braves are bad. Maybe not Opening Day Atlanta, but since late April the Braves are not good 16-21 (a 70 win pace).  They were 14th out of 15 NL teams in runs scored in May, 11th so far in June. The only reason they haven't cratered out of the playoffs is what we noted above. The rest of the NL stinks too.  Beating this Braves team is good but not because it shows the Braves beating a good team, or as I laughably saw this weekend talk about holding down a "strong lineup". It's good because the Braves are a mediocre team and if you want to be king of the mediocre teams (which possibly might sneak you in to the playoffs) you gotta beat the other mediocre teams.


Sheriff said...

Tbf, 8 of those 20 games for the braves have been vs us ;)

Kinda like the whole thing about the Phillies where people were sending out memes how they haven’t beaten a division leader all year or a team over .500 or something like that, and Phillies fans reply “yeah bro because we are making all those teams be below .500 by beating them up” lol. Both have some merits to them but also caveats.

Either way I really am surprised how mediocre the Braves have been this year. Not just the injuries… Guys just underperforming oddly.

Sheriff said...

*6 of those 21 losses

Anonymous said...

This is Jeff Hayes. I can't log in to my account at work but here goes:

Harper stated that entering this tough part of the schedule, the Nats would need to exit (after the Tigers series) at about 28-40. The Nats are now 30-35. Even if they are swept by the Tigers, they'd finish 30-38, which is still better than expected at the start of this tough schedule.

Of course, Harper is also right that the Tigers are close to the Nats in capability. They are 32-33 with a -6 in RD while the Nats are -20 in RD. So it will be a good test if the Nats are on track for at least a 72 win season. That's currently what Fangraphs is predicting for the Nats. That's seven wins better than what Fangraphs predicted at the start of the season.

If the Nats win the series (2-1) or even sweep (3-0) than they'd exit this tough part of the schedule at 32-36 or 33-35 meaning maybe the end of the season prediction would rise to 73, 74, or 75 wins. That would be progress. I'm not thinking about anything beyond that.

Anonymous said...

At least we don’t have to face SkubalšŸ¤—

Anonymous said...

I mean it’s also not a bad thing if the Braves are mediocre, at least in the bigger picture. Yes, they have a few health issues right now, but if they aren’t best team in baseball good, that just means the hill for the Nats to climb in their next path to contention isn’t as high as maybe previously feared.

Sheriff said...

Doesn’t matter much with our offense…we hit aces the same as everyone else for the most part (which is usually poorly with occasional outbursts)

SMS said...

Baseball has so much short term variance. The signal from taking 3 of 4 from the Braves is not meaningfully different than that from taking 3 of 4 from the A's or the Yankees or any other team.

The celebrations are just normal fan emotions about beating the team that's ruled the division for a while. A team, I'll remind you, that is also very easy to hate for lots of good reasons.

No one thinks we're the favorites to get the WC or anything. We're just enjoying the very real improvements that we're seeing on the field, especially from the starting pitchers.

Steven Grossman said...

@anon 10:03 I agree...even apart from the recent wins, it is great news that the Braves are not necessarily champs for the long-term. Many of us (very much including me) have drooled over Atlanta's inexpensive long-term contracts with its young stars--fearing a dynastic team sitting over us in the standings for yet another 5 years or longer. Maybe it ain't so. Maybe our young stars--with 4 to 6 years of control--can power us past the Braves.

PotomacFan said...

Nah. The Braves are just having an off year. Acuna will be back next year. Strider will be back. The Braves always find pitching. On the other side, I don't think it's sustainable for Parker and Irvin to keep pitching the way they have been pitching. I think they are definitely SP4, and maybe one of them will even be an SP3. I think Gore is sustainable, and is likely an SP2. Williams won't be here next year. Unless Gray and Cavalli step up (and stay healthy), the Nats still need pitching. And they definitely need hitting (and one or two power bats).

Kevin Rusch said...

@Potomac: They do need bats, but Wood, House, and Crews are likely to be said bats. They'll need more arms, but Parker and Irvin sure look a lot better than "oh, I guess maybe Rutledge and Adon??" As it stands now, next year's rotation will be Gray, Core, Cavalli, Parker and Irvin. They could probably extend Williams if they wanted, which wouldn't be a bad idea.

The 2025 position players:
SS Abrams
RF Thomas
CF Crews
LF Wood
1B Just grab a bat somewhere - Adams? Morales?
3B House
DH any good free agent bat
2B Garcia
C Ruiz

That's a solid lineup.

kubla said...


So far, only four of those guys (plus the hypothetical FAs) have actual MLB experience. The real Abrams is likely neither his super-hot start or his extended slump, but somewhere in between; I want to think he's closer to the good version we've seen. Garcia is decent, as is Thomas, both are guys you'd be okay with at bat with RISP and two outs but not the exact player you'd want in that situation (and by that, I mean they're not Soto, Bryce, Judge, or Ohtani). As for Ruiz, the big extension may have been a mistake, but I am rooting for him to figure things out.

There aren't a lot of reasons to be concerned about Crews, Wood, or House, but you still never know how someone is going to shake out in the bigs. I assume we'll all have a better idea after the call-ups.

Sign Soto, or see if the Orioles will flip Rutschman and Mountcastle for low-rated prospects because the players win their arb hearings and the team doesn't want to pay the extra $250k. Now we're talking.

John C. said...

Look, some fans love to point out that the Nats lost series to two dreadful teams (A’s and White Sox) without noting that the Nats happened to run into them when they were actually on a heater. So let other fans enjoy the Nats taking 6 of 8 from the Barves when they happened to play the Barves in a down period. It’s not just who you play, it’s when you play them.

Nattydread said...

The Run-Of-Death hasn't been so bad. If anything, Nats have played better than expected.

Very few had Irvin, Williams and Parker on their bingo cards to carry the starting pitching. Gore, Cavalli and Gray come back.

If Williams injury isn't permanent, it may be a blessing in disguise. Without it, he would have been gone. He seems to have figured out how to use his arsenal, largely under the radar. He can be strong #6 starter for a group of youngsters. Given a fair offer from an improving Nats team, it would not be surprising if he chose to stay. Add an ace to this group and you have a strong and deep starting pitching corps.

Anonymous said...

Assuming a full recovery -- meaning he goes back to his April/ May self -- the time off should benefit Williams, whose batteries ran down catastrophically last year. A fresher Williams would enhance his value at trade deadline.

The upshot so far this year is that most of Rizzo's plans have worked out. The relief core has been great. A perfect year would have the Nats reaping multiple prospect hauls for their contract-year vets, just in time for their playoff run.

DezoPenguin said...

@Kevin: Senzel's on a two-year contract, so if he doesn't get traded he could be the DH in that proposed lineup or start at 3B if House isn't ready to go. Then we'd just need somebody at 1B, preferably a veteran because that team is crazy young (Walker? Hoskins?) Young, Adams/Millas, Vargas, and Lipscomb as the bench. That's a lineup with a genuine chance of being good (though also with a genuine chance of being bad, because young players are young and you could end up with a roster full of Jordan Walkers instead of Juan Sotos).

That said, putting Corbin Burnes or Max Fried at the front of the rotation could make them actually really good, if management was willing to spend (and weirdly, Rizzo's been one of the most willing-to-spend GMs on ace-tier pitching; with both good (Scherzer, Stras 1), bad (Stras 1), and mixed (Corbin, with one year of ace pitching and a WS title and five years of wobbling between "bad" and "worst pitcher in baseball"...though weirdly, he stayed healthy the whole way!)

SMS said...

@DP - We've been through this a couple of times, but I think it's pretty clear that this lineup + a good 1B free agent would be good enough to contend with above average pitching. And it's becoming increasingly clear that our young starters + a top tier SP1 free agent would be a plus rotation.

At that point, the biggest question is for me: who is SP6? Any of them except Gore could still reasonably bust, although Irvin is beginning to shift out of that for me. This might end up being a career year for him, but an SP4/5 who produces 1.5-2 WAR is really valuable, and that looks like his floor.

And while Cavalli obviously has all the risks of any prospect who hasn't yet succeeded in the majors plus injury return risk and I still fear Parker might lose his newfound control any minute, my money is actually on Gray. When he's been good, he's been very lucky, and I think he might be the SP6 who gets 10-15 starts given expected health from the top five.

(And the flipside worry to this is: rolling with these five starters wouldn't be crippling, it just wouldn't likely be quite good enough to meaningfully contend. Even if the worst doesn't bust and is a good SP5, Gore would be a weak SP1 and the best of the rest would be a very weak SP2. But I'm not sure Rizzo wants to bench any of these guys - Gray was an allstar! - and if there's any truth to the Lerners becoming cheap or if the market for aces goes wild, I could see us ending up there, and that would be a serious blow to our window.)

Steven Grossman said...

@sms. I want to highlight your point about the ace pitcher market resetting. I see a strong possibility that the numbers and years are going to be beyond what the Nats will want or should pay. Even a commitment to spending outrageous sums doesn't guarantee that you will get the ace you want.

All of which is to say....we can look elsewhere for additional pitchers, but we need to be pulling for our own pitchers to succeed. I have much more faith now that Doolittle has a role.

DezoPenguin said...

@Steven/SMS: Though last year's offseason is sending some rather mixed signals about that. Yamamoto got a flatly huge contract despite not spending any time in MLB, but the literal Cy Young winner (Snell) had to settle for a pillow contract, as did Montgomery (not an ace, but a clear #2-3 type). Even Nola signed for less than $25M AAV. So at least a little bit of the price simply appears to be the Dodgers being willing to outbid the market for the players they want (they also gave Glasnow 5/$135M).

The real problem is that as far as ace-tier pitching goes, there's only Burnes and Fried (there's zero chance the Yankees let Cole hit the market; he'll trigger his opt-out and they'll counter by triggering the extension), which means that the price for one of those *will* likely be absurdly inflated simply because there's no third choice for teams that need an ace.

I suspect that SP6 will be determined largely by this season's results; I have to assume that when Cavalli gets called up and Gray returns from injury, Corbin's time in the rotation is done. Whether Gray can't get back into good form, Cavalli can't make the step to MLB, or one of Irvin/Parker turns back into a pumpkin, I think the determination will be easy. (And if the four of 'em force the issue by all pitching like high-grade starters, well, that forces the issue in another way.)