Monday, July 30, 2007

17 Down, Two Months Left

Muddling along, the Nats had another decent week, especially considering the competition they were facing, the double header, and the prospect of having two different pitchers make their major-league debuts. Like most of the year, they surpassed expectations without being really that good. All of us'll take 3-4 though.

Nats Record: 3-4
Overall: 45-60, 14/16 in the NL. If the season ended today, the Nats would have the 4th draft pick. They're 5.5 "behind" Tampa Bay for the #1.
Runs Scored: 28, 4/g. 398 overall, which is still 20 worse than the next-to-last team.
Runs Allowed: 32, 4.6/g. 506 overall, 10th in the league. They'd need to drop 50 runs to be in the top 5.
Expected Record: 63-99 -- That's three straight weeks with the same pythag record. By winning percentage, they're on pace for 69-93. Seems like that's a function of a strong front half of a bullpen which keeps us in close games and a week back half which lets 'em rip when we're behind.

NL East Standings Since May 9 (our rock bottom)
40-30  -- Philadelphia (best record in the NL)
38-34 3 NY Mets
36-35 4.5 Washington
34-39 7.5 Atlanta
34-39 7.5 Florida


What's Good?
1) Austin Kearns. Rumors of his demise were only partially exaggerated. He had his first solid week in what seems like 13 years, hitting the ball hard, and finally centering when he pulled the ball. Too often this year, it looked like he was working too hard to hit the ball the other way, getting himself tied up as he made a conscious effort. This week, he let 'em rip, scorching hard-hit balls to left and center. Just a short-term run? Or signs that he's getting back on track? We'll find out in the next week or two.

2) Jesus Flores. He played in just three games, but led the team in RBI. And the team needed EVERY one of his RBI. Over the last two weeks, he's had some huge clutch hits. And every time I see him, I'm impressed with his approach. He doesn't seem overwhelmed, and it certainly feels like he's in control of the AB, even if every one doesn't get results.

3) The Spring Training Flameouts. Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan had great weeks, despite showing almost nothing in spring training. Redding's made the most of his chances, and now has a 2.64 ERA despite not striking anyone out (save for his last start). It was just one start for Hanrahan, but you've gotta like the K and BB numbers. The biggest impediment to his success has been his inability to control within the strikezone, and for one start at least, that wasn't a problem. I'll be interested to see how he does for the rest of the season.

What's Bad?
1) Brian Schneider. I've whipped this guy enough. His line speaks for itself: .167/ .250/ .278

2) Dmitri Young. Apparently the old boy strained himself signing that contract. That sound you hear is the sound of regressing. .208/ .208/ .250

3) Ryan Langerhans. Bad offense, and terrible defense at a critical time. .091/ .167/ .091

Game O' The Week
Thursday's capper against the Phillies is one we'll remember a long time. Starting Pitcher John Lannan, making his major league debut, will remember it even longer. And certainly Chase Utley and the Philly Phans, who were hoping for a pennant chase, will have this one in the back of their mind for quite some time.

Lannan wasn't particularly sharp, but making your major league debut in that park against that lineup isn't an easy call for any pitcher, as the previous two games -- both losses -- demonstrate. He was cruising along, putting up ok numbers when he got tossed after hitting Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on back-to-back pitches. Manager Manny Acta came out, argued a bit, dawdled on the pitching change, and got tosses for HIS first ejection.

Down 5-2, the Nats rallied hard, thanks to some solid work by Jesus Flores. In the 7th, he singled and scored on Felipe Lopez' two-RBI single. And then did his magic work in the 8th, crushing a 3-run homer to deep left, giving the Nats a 2-run lead. Cordero 'held' on in the 9th and Bang Zoom and all that crap.

Weekly Awards
MVP: Praise Jesus! Two clutch hits in two games!
Cy Young: Tim Redding! (That's the last two those two names will ever be linked)
LVP: Dmitri. You knew he had to cool down sometime.
Joe Horgan: Billy Traber demonstrates why the team doesn't think he's a starting pitcher

Weekly Whips:
7/24: Brian Schneider's big double kept them close.
7/25: It wouldn't have lasted as long as it did without Saul Rivera's yeoman's work, but it wouldn't have gotten to him were it not for everyone's favorite Jesus.
7/26: Even Philly fans were saying "Oh, Jesus."
7/27: Ryan Church is still alive!?
7/28: It's not Tim Redding's fault.
7/28: Hanrahan gets it as much for his triple as for his K total.
7/29: Who do you give it to in a one-hit, 5-inning shutout loss? Belliard had the hit, so why not?

What's Ahead?
A homestand with two teams we're actually capable of beating! The dreaded Cincinnati Reds come to town, whom we polished off earlier this year in Cinci. Adam Dunn could be auditioning for his role in left, although it's possible that by first pitch on Tuesday, he'll be out of town.

The Cardinals follow, and they remain the season's biggest disappointment, even as they've played better of late.

Both opponents are beatable. The Nats handled themselves well against better teams. And the deadline doesn't seem like it's going to bring any huge surprises. Think 4-2 is doable?

4 Comments:

  • I keep coming back to your post a few months ago on how patient hitters like Kearns may not be well served by the aggressiveness of Harris's approach. It seemed like Kearns was getting himself into a lot of pitcher's counts during his long slump this year.

    Do you think its a coincidence that Kearns is spraying the ball all over again soon after Barry Larkin spent time with the hitters? Do you think Barry might have changed his approach?

    (Larkin was on a taped segment during the rain delay yesterday saying that he doesn't mess with mechanics on these visits, but he talks to hitters about their approach and strategy a lot, which backs this idea up, a little).

    Nice work, as usual.

    By Blogger jeffreybeam, at 7/30/2007 10:51 AM  

  • That's a good point, and not one that I had even considered before.

    I'm not sure there was enough data to be conclusive with the Page/Harris thing, even if I 'feel' that that's right.

    There definitely isn't enough data with the Larkin visit, but it IS an interesting possibility. Kearns certainly started walking a bit more (4 in those 7 games).

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2007 10:55 AM  

  • Is the 63-99 projection simply based on the runs allowed and runs scored for the year?

    If so, I would bet that the Nats finish with more than 63 wins. The Nats decent play since the beginning of May to date seems like as good, if not a better predictor, than a statisical model that does not emphasize more recent results over stats simply accumulated throughout the season.

    The Nats would have to come close to collapsing at the end of the year (18-39) to finish with only 63 wins which seems unlikely after going 14-14 in July and 36-35 since May 9.

    Based upon the level of play over the last couple of months, I would think that 70 wins (a 25-32 finish) seems more likely than 63 or less.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/30/2007 11:46 AM  

  • Yeah, it's the pythagorean forumla

    Scored^2
    _______________

    (Scored^2 + Allowed^2)

    (Actually, I use 1.83; don't ask. google if you're that interested!)

    It's not exact. But most teams finish within 5 games or so if their expected record based on this. The Nats already are an outlier on it.

    Interestingly, since May 9, they've been outscored, yet have a winning record.

    You're right in that 99 losses would be HARD at this point. But it's not impossible. I'm sticking with my pre-season 95-loss prediction. We'll see.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 7/30/2007 11:51 AM  

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