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Is it still possible to catch the Braves?

Jul 29, 2013, 3:48 PM EDT

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As bad as things looked for the Nationals only a couple of days ago, the mood perked up considerably over the weekend. I think everyone forgot what it feels like to win three straight games.

Make no mistake, the Nationals still have plenty of issues. And there is precious little time to get those resolved and make an all-out run through the season's final 56 games. But while there isn't a lot of hope of this team reaching October, there is still a sliver of hope, one worth examining.

The good folks at Baseball Prospectus publish a daily "Playoff Odds Report," which is a fun read and one way to look at the state of things in both the NL and AL. The picture they paint for the Nationals isn't a particularly good one, but it's not entirely bleak, either.

In its simulation of the rest of the season, played out a million times, the Nationals emerge as NL East champs only 3.1 percent of the time. They capture one of the NL's two Wild Card berths anRead more »

  1. Don - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    If management quits o nthe club it is considerably less possible to catch the Braves (or the last WC spot). Not sure Rizzo is going to add muhch of substance to his club even with its glaring needs at SP and RP and that could use some bench help too.

  2. NatsLady - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Nats Stats for the last 11 games is ready. It seems to take forever to get the formatting… Still not perfect, Stras is a different color ;)Nats Stats – Post All-Star Gamehttp://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/07/nats-stats-weeks-17-16.html

  3. NatsLady - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    In regard to the topic of the post, I see three things that we can't do without.(1) Health. If the hitters are healthy, they will hit.(2) Pitching. I don't hold out a lot of hope for Detwiler. Even if he comes back, he should probably be out of the bullpen until he stabilizes.That means the Big Three (especially JZ) have to be good, and good every game. The back end will be a continuing finagle unless Rizzo gets a body. I don't see him doing that until after the non-waiver deadline. Then if we are still in it and Detwiler isn't, I see him picking up the contract of some pitcher (e.g., Danks) who passes through waivers because he's too expensive. (3) Keep grinding, no giving up. That was very impressive how the team "forgot" the 11-0 blowout and played a tight Game 2 of the double header. Sometimes it's better when you don't have time to stew about stuff.

  4. NCNatsie - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    I don't think our chances of making the playoffs depends on any player acquisition moves Rizzo makes, which is not the same thing as saying there are no moves he should make.But the truth is, this team has already been made, and our chances really depend on whether or not THESE players perform at or near their full potential. If our hitters hit like they did last year (not counting Rendon and Ramos, who were injured), and our pitchers pitch like we know they can, our chances are much better than 7.4%. If they do not, our chances are at least that slim, or slimmer.

  5. JaneB - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Nice column. I could feel my hope engines get started just reading it. But I have to keep myself in the place of one game at a time, just like the players need to do. It's like the team and the fans (or at least this fan, and this fan's family) started the season as if all we had to do was live through the formalities of 182 games to get to the Fun Season. Turned out the real season got really real on us all. I want them and us to have fun before the 162 games are over. That's where I need to live. Still… I hope they can bring the verve of the last three games to Atlanta with them. Because if they take 8 of the last 9… Oy. It's hard to stay in the baseball moment.

  6. NatsLady - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    coolstanings.com has us at 8.1% of making the playoffs… I like to look at the optimistic number ;) Playoff oddhttp://www.coolstandings.com/baseball_team.asp?id=WAS&sn=2013

  7. hiramhover - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Coolstandings also has a feature that shows the biggest comebacks and biggest collapses in MLB history. Not surprisingly, big comebacks and collapses are paired. For example, in 2011 Rays came back from miniscule odds (0.3%) in early Sept–but only thanks to the Red Sox epic collapse (3d worst in all MLB history in % terms, according to coolstandings). The same year, Cards snuck in as the wild card with odds of 1.1% in late August because both the Barves and Giants collapsed.The Nats situation isn't as dire, but they still make the playoffs only if they get and stay hot, and someone else turns pretty darn cold.So as Elvis would say, TCB, boys (and we won't dwell on how that turned out for him).

  8. JD - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    NCNatsie, Good analysis.You hit the nail on the head. If the Nats should acquire say, Peavy, this will cost them 2 top notch prospects because everyone is in on Peavy and in addition he has something like $14 mil coming next year. Each pitcher has about 10 starts left so the question is how many more games out of 10 do you think you will win with Peavy vs. Jordan/Ohlendorf? I think it's 1 game tops and that likely won't make a difference and it's not worth 2 good prospects.

  9. JD - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:37 PM

    I know I am in the minority here but what I'd like is another extended look at Tyler Moore and playing his position (1st base) rather than the outfield. I would get anything I can for ALR and I don't consider this selling just a recognition that he's not really part of the solution. If Moore fails again you can fix in the off season via FA.

  10. m - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    I think speculating on the games the Nats have to win and the games the Braves have to lose is a waste. I hold the slightest of hope but there is hope. Having said that this team has to prove itself to me one game at a time. This feeling comes from years of watching the Expos.

  11. jeffwx - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    NL, Haren has looked good recently. Can TJ and Ohlendorf keep it going for a while until/if Det gets healthy and back to his pre-DL form.

  12. A DC Wonk - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Off Topic Monday Tidbits:- Detroit had an 8-run innings agains the Phillies on three errors and just two hits. All 8 runs were unearned and were scored in 1/3 of an inning. (For the gory details: walk, reach base on throwing error, bunt single, out, reach base on fielding error, walk, reach base on throwing error, walk, grand-slam) TOTAL for that inning: 8 Runs, 2 hits, 3 errors, 0 LOB.- Jeter, homering on the first pitch he saw, was the first RH HR for the Evil Empire in over a month. Soriano, a few innings later, was the second.- Giants starters compiled a 1.23 ERA in their series against the Cubs. And got swept.- A's starters compiled a 5.50 ERA in their series against the Angels, and won 3-of-4- Reds' pitchers struck out 20 Dodgers. And lost 1-0 in 11. (Sigh. A Puig walk-off HR in bottom of 11th w/ 2 outs). Reds starter Cingrani compiled this sterling line: 7 IP, 1H, 1BB, 11K's.- Edwin Encarnacion, Fri night, hit 2 HR's in one inning (he led off the inning with a solo shot, and later hit a grand slam).- Mariners have used 7 different catchers this season.

  13. jeffwx - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    I can't imagine the Braves getting hot with Hudson and other injuries

  14. NatsLady - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    jeffwx, the Braves don't have to get VERY hot. They are playing a lot of under .500 teams. Under .500 teams start selling their assets and trying out minor-leaguers, which usually (not always) makes them worse. Bottom line, we need to play our own game, get above .500 before we spend a lot of time worrying about them (or the WC teams).

  15. #4 - Jul 29, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    JD,The only think about trading LaRoche now is this. When healthy the guy has been a metronome is terms of putting up consistent numbers every year. His average over the last six years healthy is .272/27/91. In order to reach those numbers this year he will hit .325/13/45 over the last 55 games. That's a pace of .325/38/130 for the last two months. It's a decent bet that he'll get hot and do that.

  16. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Does Chipper travel with the Braves? Can LaRoche get another hitting lesson from him next week?

  17. hiramhover - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    The notion that ALR starts cold but plays well the rest of the season needs some revising. His July #s are barely better than his April #s:April: .136/.213/.259, 30 wRC+ July: .163/.236/.288, 44 wRC+Hard to believe a trade-deadline team is going to look at those #s and say I want some of that–and an extra helping, please, for 2014 at @ $12M.

  18. JD - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    #4, What this doesn't take into account is that ALR is likely in the decline stage of his career. It's a moot point anyway because I don't think Rizzo will dare giving an impression that he's giving up by trading ALR. I just have a sneaky suspicion that Moore may yet be a very productive player and I don't want that to be for someone else before we really give him a full shot.

  19. A DC Wonk - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    From last thread:Nats 128 said… I dont care what anyone says about the Marlins. For the junk they got rid of they got a ton of talent in return.and baseballswami said… I also think the Marlins are better off. They have some exciting young players.My response:Yep — here's one. Jose Fernandez, 2.71 ERA 9.3K/9IP. 20 years old. Yesterday he struck out 13 in 8 IP, and was the first 20 year old to strike out 13+ in a game since Kerry Wood in 1998. (Fernandez threw 74 of his 97 pitches for strikes!)First round pick for the Marlins in 2011.He already has 120 IP. I wonder how careful they will be with his arm.

  20. jeffwx - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Agreed, NL…just my 2 cents regarding the article.Am enjoying the wins and the moments right now.I thoroughly enjoyed Haren's outing on Saturday with insiders and the section 313 crew. Reminded me how fun the game is even when it may not count for much.But still, Go The Distance.And move Ramos up. He won't get a lot to hit ahead of the pitcher. Take the pressure of Rendon and move him back there.

  21. mick - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    The best approach the Nats should take is to set a goal to finish with a winning record and finish hot. Set the bar at 86-76 and up. if they get in, great, if they do not, that at least gives them momentum for 2014. I would not rush Det back in fact I would place him on the permanent DL list

  22. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    A guy named Danny (@recordsANDradio) tweeted the NI Chorus's rendition of Let's All Cheer for the Washington Nats. He has 2,500 followers. One of them is Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog), and he retweeted it at about 1:00 pm. He has 35,000 followers. Going viral baby!

  23. bowdenball - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    The Marlins' "purge" at the end of 2012 and in the offseason was actually relatively well regarded by scout and prospect types. They got back a lot of talent: 60% of their current starting rotation is Eovaldi (age 23, return on the Hanley Ramirez trade), Turner (age 22, return on the Anibal Sanchez trade) and Alvarez (age 23, part of the huge return on the Blue Jays trade). It looked like a straight salary dump to some, but their scouts did a decent job, especially with finding young arms. Had they not just bamboozled the city into building them a new stadium on the promise of a contender, roped a bunch of veterans into thinking they were in Miami for the long haul, and had a terrible history of trading away talent when it gets expensive, they would have gotten praise for their decision to rebuild around youth and to move assets while they still had value. The context was the problem.

  24. #4 - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Two comments about ALR. First I wouldn't say he starts cold and gets hot. I would say he's just generally very streaky. He has always had six week periods when he is scorching.Second, I'm not sure why we would say he is "likely in decline". His numbers haven't been trending downward in the last two or three years (again when healthy). If anything they've gone up a little.

  25. jeffwx - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    Braves make a move for their ailing BPThe Braves found their left-handed reliever, acquiring veteran Scott Downs from the Angels for righty reliever Cory Rasmus, according to Halos communications director Eric Kay.Downs, 37, has a 1.84 ERA, 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 0.31 HR/9, and 63.1% groundball rate in 29 1/3 innings this year.

  26. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    jeffwx, Ramos has had unusual success batting 8th, so I think Davey keeps him there unless he gets so hot that he moves to 4th or 5th. Putting Rendon in front of the pitcher won't take the pressure off him, it will only make it harder for him to see decent pitches to hit. Remember how awful Desi was batting 8th?

  27. Tcostant - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Possible to catch the Braves? Yes. Is it likely, most likely no.With that said, we have six games with them ny mid-August, you want to win 5 or 6 of them (or at least 4) and cut the current division lead in half by then. You want to hit Sept. 1st no less than 4 games out.

  28. jeffwx - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    "We are certainly not giving up on this season," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Having won three in a row, the Nats are seven games back in the wild card. Rizzo would like to improve his current team, but plans to avoid rentals. "I'm not concerned that we need to go out and get a starting pitcher," he added in talking to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Rizzo also downplayed suggestions of a rift with manager Davey Johnson, after the GM's decision to fire hitting coach Rick Eckstein. Also, Nats will not trade Cole, Solis or Ray…good news.

  29. jeffwx - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Good point 22 think Ramos could move up given he is slow as molasses when the pitcher is trying to sacrifice him and he has great power.

  30. The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    Shame about that fight song video. The singing was fine, but the song itself is mediocre at best and whoever did the lighting on the video must have thought he was dealing with a group from the Witness Protection Program. "Nuts About the Nats" has nothing to worry about.

  31. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    JD, as you know I was a charter member of the "we need another pitcher at the deadline" club. With Det looking like a lost cause this year and TJordan's looming shutdown, I still believe that. Of course, our post-ASG record has dampened my enthusiasm a bit. But I have to take issue with the hardline "don't give up prospects" mantra you've been pushing recently. You're a very thoughtful analyst and I concede that know a lot more about our prospects than I do. But I think we need to remember that not every prospect is going to pan out, nor is there a spot for all of them in the lineup or the rotation 2-4 years from now when they are ready, even if they do pan out. For example, with JZnn, Gio, Stras, and maybe Det around for quite a while, we simply don't need each and every one of the Ray, Solis, Purke, Cole, Giolito, and Jordan group. I'm sure the fans in Syracuse might enjoy that rotation, but that's not the goal. The trick, of course, is predicting which of that group really can make a difference for us in the future. But one of the reasons you cultivate prospects is to use them in trades for proven players you need. I sure wish we could have got something in return for Mock, Martin, Martis, Maya (oh goodness, pitchers whose names begin with M), and Rosenbaum, during the window when each of them looked promising. I don't know whether we're even in the running for Peavy, but if we are, and Rizzo decides to part with one of our top pitching prospects to make it happen, I'm ok with that. I trust him not to give up someone he thinks is a future star. But is anyone still grieving over the loss of Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone?

  32. bowdenball - Jul 29, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Section 222 said…"But is anyone still grieving over the loss of Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone?"Weird example, considering that (1) that was a trade for a guy under club control for a few more years, not a rental, (2) we actually DO miss Milone quite a bit, he'd be a solid back of the rotation guy for us if he'd stayed, and (3) the trade also included Derek Norris, who would definitely be a huge upgrade from Suzuki in our catcher rotation this year.So trading away those prospects did have a significant cost. Replacing Haren with Milone and Suzuki with Norris probably gets us an extra win or two this year and gives the front office another $10 million or so to spend elsewhere. Of course that's nothing compared to what Gio has given us. But Peavy is already 32 and is only signed for one year beyond this one.

  33. Tcostant - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    jeffwx said… "We are certainly not giving up on this season," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Having won three in a row, the Nats are seven games back in the wild card. Rizzo would like to improve his current team, but plans to avoid rentals. "I'm not concerned that we need to go out and get a starting pitcher," he added in talking to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Rizzo also downplayed suggestions of a rift with manager Davey Johnson, after the GM's decision to fire hitting coach Rick Eckstein. Me: I thought it was interest, to say the least, that Davey and Rizzo were suppose to be together at Saturday's season ticket event for a Q & A segment and Devey was replaced late enough that they both still listed on the hand out. Did Davey back out because he is still mad at Rizzo. It could be a rift…

  34. #4 - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    Not sure I would consider Derek Norris "a huge upgrade" when he's hitting .214. Maybe a small upgrade given his 7 HR's and .328 OBA, but I wonder about him defensively – particularly his receiving and pitch calling.

  35. natsfan1a - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    So, was McCatty sprung from the hospital yet? Hope he's doing better.

  36. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    Of course that's nothing compared to what Gio has given us.Exactly my point. No one is grieving — not because the prospects we gave up were worthless, but because the return was worth it. So it's not a weird example at all. It's exactly why you stockpile prospects.

  37. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I'm a fan and, by nature, try to have an optimist outlook on most aspects of life, baseball included. But I'm also a realist and try to keep my biases in check. And I'm just not prepared to even think about playoff scenarios until the Nats return to above .500 baseball and stay there for a week or more (maybe through the next homestand). At that point, we'll have a much better feel as to whether the past four wins = real 'momentum' (i.e., a sustainble uptick in offense) or just normal variations in scoring. I certainly hope it's the former, of course, but given the first 100 games of the season I think we need to see a bit more evidence of a turn-around.

  38. Eugene in Oregon - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Sorry – should read 'optimistic' in first sentence.

  39. baseballswami - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    I don't know if we can catch the Braves- a lot if variables involved. But I know that need to play as if they can every single day.

  40. hiramhover - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    #4Norris: .214/.328/.372, wRC+ 98 , 1.1 WARSuzuki: .222/.281/.317, wRC+ 62, 0.2 WAR Slightly worse BA, but a lot more walks and power. I'm thankful for what Zook did for us last year after the trade, and I think he would have done better this year with less work. But the #s are what they are.On ALRYou're more optimistic than I am. I too hope and expect him to break out of his current slump, but it's quite a slump, and is contributing to a really lousy year for him. 0.0 fWAR, 0.1 rWAR. He's going to have a hard time getting his season #s back up to his career averages, let alone his walk year career highs last year. Which is what you'd expect of a player who this year turned 33–an age at which most MLB players have entered their decline.

  41. baseballswami - Jul 29, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Tommy Milone seems to have found a nice home. A perfect example of a good fit. His style of pitching works well in that huge stadium. Always good when things work out for both parties.

  42. bowdenball - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    Section 222 said…"Exactly my point. No one is grieving — not because the prospects we gave up were worthless, but because the return was worth it. So it's not a weird example at all. It's exactly why you stockpile prospects."Except that Gio Gonzalez in December of 2011 vs. Jake Peavy in July of 2013 is night and day. Gio was cheap and under club control for many years, most of which the Nationals assumed would fall in their window of contention. Peavy is 32 and would make a handful of starts in one season with the Nats on the fringes of contention, and then if by some miracle he stayed healthy and productive in 2014 he'd be their #4 starter. If we'd traded Milone, Peacock and Norris for a season plus a handful of starts for Jake Peavy, you can bet your sweet behind I'd be grieving over the loss of those guys.

  43. Tcostant - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    The amazing think about that Gio deal, is the club freindly extention that he signed soon after. Zimmermann will get twice what Gio sign for that day…

  44. notorius06 - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    The season is over from a realistic standpoint. I will look at the glass as half full but the reality is 8% is very slim. The Nat's haven't showed one time this year that they are capable of having s sustained winning % of 66.7% the rest of way. Just saying last year nice but this isn't the same club….

  45. Section 222 - Jul 29, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    bowdenball, you read way too much into my original comment. Feel free to go back and read it again. I never said, nor would I ever say, that we should give up the equivalent of Peacock, Milone, and Norris for Jake Peavy. At the same time, saying we shouldn't touch any of our pitching prospects for Peavy or some other starter who will improve our chances this year I think is overstating their future importance to the team given where our rotation is at this point. Of course, if you still think that we're going to get more than 15 more starts out of Det and Haren this year, you probably are less worried about our rotation than I am.

  46. pedrocerrano - Jul 29, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    The only way this season can get any worse (other than serious injuries) is for management to pretend like we still have a shot and buy somebody at the deadline. Surrender!

  47. Almazar80 - Jul 30, 2013 at 7:23 AM

    This flawed team that Rizzo built isn't good enough to make the postseason. Last year, they caught the good teams mostly on their down years and they still lost early. The other teams have retooled and Rizzo is playing catch up once again.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 77 56 --
ATLANTA 72 65 6.0
MIAMI 68 69 11.0
NEW YORK 64 73 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 62 74 15.5
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: Nats at Dodgers, 8:10 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
Full season schedule

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TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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