Nationals Baseball: Don't worry ZNN, it'll be different soon

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't worry ZNN, it'll be different soon

ZNN Game update:

WRONG: Ben, Froggy, Bryan, Nattydread, Anon, JRinAustin, BenDen,
RIGHT: Me!, Natsochist

Sorry ZNN, better luck next time.  I really do mean that though.  You should see better luck next time.

As Harputron 2000, soulless automaton watching and blogging about the Nationals, I view the team with a distance that is different than most others.  And in this role, I have something I need to to get off my robotic chest.  You see, over the first few weeks, to the impartial observer such as I, it doesn't feel so much that the Nats are winning these games, as much as they are surviving them.** They are hanging around until the other team screws up and then they sweep in and grab the W.

I know what you are going to say (besides "Shut it, jerkface!"). This plan is in fact the key to victory.  A team should wear down the opposing pitcher, get to the soft underbelly of the bullpen, and feast on it. Bullpens are usually a teams weak link, even more so if you can get into their middle relievers. I agree with this 100%.  But this ISN'T what the Nats are doing.

They aren't wearing down the opposing pitchers. They work a walk vs the starter about once every 12 and a half plate appearances. 

They aren't feasting on the bullpens.  They have an ok, but nothing more than that, average and slugging versus the pens they've faced.

No, what the Nats are doing is getting a crazy amount of walks from relievers. More than once every 6 at bats, the opponents are putting the Nats on base for free. Now sure, some of that is the approach the Nats are taking, but if it were just the approach you'd expect to see the Nats have roughly the same standing with starters and they don't. They are good, but not great working their way on base versus starters, 7th in the NL. They are head and shoulders above every other NL teams at working their way on base versus relievers, 1st in the NL more than 20% better than the next best team.

Now before you get all worked up, because I know you will, it's not that the Nats can't keep winning.  Nor am I saying that the Nats are getting lucky.* All I'm saying is the Nats can't keep winning like THIS. They can't keep going into the late innings, tied or behind by a run or two and expect the other teams pen to walk and wild pitch them to victory.  The wins are going to come.  They are just going to come in a different way.

*Well... it's not what I'm saying here.  They do have an ungodly HR/FB rate that won't hold up which means a few more runs given up.  In all honestly, talent level on the field, they are probably more an 8 win team than a 10 win team right now, but that's still good enough for first place so I don't see why people would possibly get worked up with me saying this. Then again, you are fans.  That's what fans do. So go ahead. Get worked up. Harputron 2000 is incapable of feeling hurt. 

**of course that's just a silly feeling.  The Nats ARE winning, almost entirely because of great pitching. These wins, no matter how they've been gotten, are banked now.


Bryan said...

The more you win now, the bigger a lead you build up, the less likely some team is to go out at the trade deadline and try to get a front-line starter or big bat to try to chase you down.

Kill their spirit now - no matter how - and they won't bother you later.

Having said that, its a long, long season; very few teams win the same way at the end as the begining, let alone the same way throughout. We are seeing a bunch of win close, win with pitching wins. When that tails off hopefully we some .500 ball that involves wins with scores like 9-8.

Tyler R. said...

I think that after the Morse injury and the failure to add a big bat this offseason we expected the Nats to have to win a lot of 1 run games. I still maintain Johnny Damon should have been signed by now to play in the outfield. There is hope because Bryce will be up soon enough, Morse will be back, and there is still the chance for a trade to add a leadoff bat if Desmond can't keep getting on base.

Looking at a record of 10-3 means a lot more than you might initially think. Having this record to start the season means if we play .500 baseball, even after adding some key offensive pieces, we will be 88-74. This record will get damn close to that final wildcard spot.

Positively Half St. said...

Actually, if the Nats win tonight, and then go .500 the rest of the way, it would only get them to 85-77. I would pretty excited by that winning record, but it would not get them to the playoffs in all likelihood.

AtlNatsFan said...

These wins are close, no doubt. But, they are wins. We will need a big win differential now for when we hit June. We have a murderers row in June and will probably not be .500 through that stretch. Not only do we face the ALEast, but the schedule makes the easier opponents harder (at baltimore, then the NEXT DAY at Colorado, the the NEXT DAY at Atlanta). I just hope the fans remember this stretch when we are losing during June...

Anonymous said...

You mention the opponents HR/FB rate but what is the Nats? I would think it is low also since they haven't hit really any HR's this year.

cass said...

Tyler R.-

1. Don't count on Bryce Harper contributing soon. His AAA line right now is .222/.250/.333. He just went 0-5 yesterday against a righty. I'm not saying he won't be great, but it might not be this year. He's still just 19.

2. There are 149 games left. If we win 75 of them (half rounded up), we'd be 85-77. I've been thinking on the same lines as you, but the Nats will have to build up their lead against more weak teams before this logic will take them to the wild card, even.

Donald said...

Zim in the Post said that late relievers tend to be 1-2 pitch guys who specialize in getting people to miss with pitches out of the strike zone. That's why he claims they are getting more walks from relievers than starters. It also sounded like they might be taking a different, more patient, strategy against relievers for this reason, so that might explain the odd differential between their walk rate against starters.

Harper said...

Bryan - hopefully - I'm looking for 5-3, 6-4 games myself.

TR/+1/2 st/cass - 5-2 so far, but winning 1-run games is alot about luck. 2005 will tell you all you need to know about that. Pos is right about .500 ball - not playoff good enough just yet. But thing is, strip away all luck, and they are still playing better than a .500 team right now, so why settle for .500?

cass is right about Bryce, he's not doing anything to force the issue so expect him to stay down.

ATL - That's the most important take away I think. These wins are salted away - no one can touch them

Anon - you're right is is low. Not as absurdly so as the pitching but down there. Thing is though - there is more variability in hitting HR/FB than pitching. Some temas just don't have power. So they'll score some more runs by hitting more homers, but they'll give up more than that by giving up more homers.

Donald - that has a measure of truth- looking at all teams, nearly all get more walks v relievers BUT the Nats have the biggest increase and it's tough for me to think that's all just approach. (or even mostly)

Strasburger said...

Just give him time everybody. When you follow a team like this, as exciting as this for so long Harper YOU will eventually become a fan.

You're completely right. We won't continue to win like this, but the amount of runs we are scoring also will not continue to stay this low.

As for the pitching, there is a legitimate possibility that it WILL continue to be this good. This is quickly becoming arguably the best rotation in the majors.

I think throughout the season we will see different trends in offense. At some stages we'll average 6 runs, during others we'll average 2. All that needs to happen is for the pitching staff to pitch accordingly.

Obviously we have to expect some poor stretches for the starters, but we just need to hope the offense picks up the weight at that time. Zim seems close to a break out, dessy is on the way down. However, after watching lombardozzi ball out the way he did, you have to hope Danny will step it up in order to make sure he still has his starting job at this point. Ramos will have hot stretches, and it looks like Werth is really buying into this team and building his own confidence again.

Either way, this is a REALLY fast start to the season, better than any of us could have hoped for. These ten wins are going to help us hugely come september.

Lee said...

I understand what you are saying about the 1 run games and I agree. We can't expect to continue winning 5 of 7 there. But what we might be able to expect due to our good pitching is a W against the overmatched teams in those 1 run games.

Let's face it, the Cubs, Mets, and Astros aren't really rocking a good bullpen. And they won't be good teams this year either. The 3 wins from the Reds series is encouraging though. That's potentially a playoff team.

We gotta just wait and see, but I like what I see so far. Go Nats!

And oh yeah...Shut it jerkface!

Sec314 said...

Even if Harper doesn't develop and even if Morse doesn't come back soon, I can't see Rizzo putting up with the pitiful production out of DeRosa, Tracy, Nady and Bernadina for long.

Especially if a spare part becomes available and/or if Brown and/or Moore continue to hit in Syracuse.

Rizzo has to know that he needs bats...right?

Hoo said...

Harper: 5-2 so far, but winning 1-run games is a lot about luck.

Agreed but Nats have banked that record so far. Kinda like the 100 coin flips and hit heads 50 straight times, odds of next flip being heads is 50/50* and the previous 50 flips are banked....

A bigger test than the Reds happens this weekends. If Nats take 2/3 vs the Fish, who have dominated the series, then irrational exuberance can be celebrated.

*According to simplistic law of averages.

Nattydread said...

Ten wins. One ninth of the way to the 90 we need to get into the playoffs. Great. But we've got a long, long, long way to go and a lot can happen along the way.

The idea that we are surviving games has some merit. But over the last few years, we couldn't even survive games.

This may be the best rotation in baseball. It create situations whereby we have a chance to win. I'm enjoying the ride so far.

Ben said...

When considering the "luck" of 5-2 in 1 run games it seems pretty silly to me to make the argument that a 4-3 loss in 9 innings (within a 1-run margin for only a single out) is a closer game than an 8-5 loss in 11 innings where the Nats had 6 outs for a walk-off.

My point being that 5-3 in close games seems a pretty sustainable (though still slightly lucky, I think 60% on the season is more where it will fall) pace for a team with a superior bullpen.

Of course if there are more injuries in the pen or Lidge becomes even more afraid to throw his fastball a lot could change for the Nats "luck".

calindc said...

I don't know what it says about the Nats offense that Worthe is their best and more consistent bat so far this year.

How many homers do we have this year? 2? 3?

Froggy said...

Harper, I was only HALF wrong in that I did say the Nats would score 3. ;-)

...anyway, not going to count any chickens just yet, but it is nice to be 10-3, and I think it is due to dominant pitching, and a palpable better attitude / confidence verses luck. That being said, much the same way a hitter doesn't even start to worry about his average until 100AB or so, I'm gonna wait til the end of May and Morse's return before making predictions.

What are your thoughts about Damon in left field and off the bench?

Anonymous said...

Nats are winning and I'll take it. The fact is coming against a collection of teams that aren't very good means we will come back to earth soon enough. Nice while it lasts.

Harper said...

Strasburger - If you believe that then I suggest you take a vacation the weekend of June 15th. Just saying.

No the pitching won't be THIS good, meaning it won't hold to an ERA under 2.00. But best in the league? Sure. Why not? I'd honestly be surprised if it's not Top 3 at season's end. There's no weakness here.

Lee - Maybe. I think what you are saying is that if the Nats take a 1-run lead into the late innings they should be able to hold onto it versus bad teams. I buy that.

Also - shutting it.

Sec314 - You can't but where's he going to get a proven producer? Brown and Moore are crapshoots. You think he can get a deal done this soon?

Hoo - yeah... though it depends on your view of how important your apriori assumptions are. The more valid you view them the more you'd expect regression to the mean.

Nattydread - 1/10th of the way to 90 wins, under 1/10th of games played. That's a good situation to be in.

Ben - You would think but nobody's found any strong correlation between 1-run games and bullpen strength. If the Nats are a good team they should be a little above .500 in 1-run games. Anything more than that is mostly luck. This is because you can get to 1-run games in many ways. If it were just holding onto a 1-run lead it would be different but a bad bullpen making a 7-3 game a 7-6 one counts, as does a 11-10 game where both starters and pens collapse and you happen to score last, etc. etc. Too much noise.

calindc - 7 homers this year.

Froggy - Damon should do fine in that role for the Indians.

Anon - agreed hopefully back to earth is 7-6 or 8-5 in 13 games.

Donald said...

Now it gets interesting. 3 games against the Fish should be the toughest series yet, but we should win 2 out of 3, particularly with Stras and Gio pitching. Then we're off to the west coast, including at the dodgers. Eeking out 1 of 3 there might be good, but if we could win that series it would be tremendous. Then then Phillies arrive in early May...