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Still time to “do a crazy thing”

Aug 30, 2013, 12:10 AM EST

Associated Press AP

It’s easy to over-analyze everything that happens in baseball, with so many nuances and so much downtime fostering that tendency, but the Nationals right now are trying their darndest to avoid that temptation.

They know they’ve been playing much better ball for three weeks, they know they’ve been making up ground in the standings and they know what still must be done to complete the arduous task of salvaging a season that not long ago was firmly on the fritz.

But that’s as much as they want to know at the moment. After Thursday night’s 9-0 thrashing of the Marlins — the Nationals’ 14th win in 19 games — don’t ask them to explain why they’re playing so well, lest they start thinking about it too much and then fall right back into the trap that perhaps spoiled the first four months of this season.

“I still don’t really want to talk about the whole thing,” right fielder Jayson Werth said. “Silence is golden. We’ve got a long way to go. We’re playing some good baseball. We just need to keep going.”

With each passing day, the Nationals are getting closer to making this thing really interesting. Having won eight of their last nine, they now trail the Reds by 6 1/2 games for the final Wild Card berth in the NL, with 29 games to play.

They still face long odds, but the odds are getting better. Given a miniscule 0.7 percent chance of making the playoffs only three weeks ago when they were six games under .500, the Nationals now have a 12.3 percent chance of pulling it off, according to FanGraphs’ projection formula.

“Strange things happen in this game,” manager Davey Johnson said.

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  1. David Proctor - Aug 30, 2013 at 1:38 AM

    From Adam Kilgore’s article:

    “After the first two innings Thursday, Gonzalez had walked three Marlins and allowed two hits. “If you had told me I was going to go seven innings, I would have laughed in your face,” Gonzalez said later. Gonzalez marched back to the clubhouse to change his jersey, soaked with sweat on a muggy night. Two lockers down, closer Rafael Soriano told him, “Stay back. Your arm is dropping way too low. You’re trying to rush.”

    Gonzalez made the adjustment, then allowed one more hit and struck out seven in his final five innings.”

    Maybe Soriano isn’t such a demon after all. I’m perfectly fine with those who criticize his play, but I’ve found the personal attacks on him as a bad teammate or bad person offputting.

    • Joe Seamhead - Aug 30, 2013 at 8:56 AM

      I agree. Everything that I’ve ever read about him on a personal level says he’s a quiet, but great teammate, not to mention incredibly generous with other less fortunate islanders. I also think that the guy wants to win just as much as anybody else on that team.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:32 AM

        Also agree. At the end of the season, particularly if the Nats miss the playoffs by a couple of games, much will be said about Rafael Soriano’s three or four most egregious blown saves. But the reality will be that the Nats season-long failure was not winning numerous games in which the pitching staff gave up three or fewer runs. Just because Mr. Soriano doesn’t yell and scream and beat himself up doesn’t mean he isn’t making the effort. Just ask Mr. Mattheus how effective yelling, screaming, and smashing things is.

  2. pchuck69 - Aug 30, 2013 at 3:40 AM

    Maybe Soriano isn’t such a demon after all.

    He’s the devil incarnate!!!

  3. laddieblahblah - Aug 30, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Davey has upped his managerial game, too, pulling pitchers when they start to falter instead of waiting until after they have fallen. It would be a great ending to a long and successful career if he and the Nats make it back to the post-season.

    The odds-makers say they only have a 12% chance. Well, just last week they said the Nats had only a 2% chance. If the offense keeps producing like it has been, lately, their odds are a lot better than that. Their winning percentage when scoring just 3 runs, or higher, is downright gaudy. Winning under those circumstances would not be “a crazy thing,” but just what you would expect, given that track record this year.

    • bowdenball - Aug 30, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      FWIW, i’s not the oddsmakers saying they have a 12% chance. The playoff “odds” in places like Fangraphs, CoolStandings and Baseball Prospectus are based on formulas that account for the deficit, the # of teams between them and the playoffs, the teams’ play to date, and the remaining schedules and for BP their player projections. They don’t account for injuries or momentum or sometimes even the talent level on the roster. They’re just supposed to give you a general feel for where the teams stand in relation to each other. Oddsmakers would give you a different number.

      And it makes perfect sense for them to jump from 2% to 12% in a week or so. They’ve won 8 of their last 9, the Reds AND Diamondbacks AND Pirates have all gone 4-5 in that same stretch. That’s a highly unlikely turn of events, for one team to win 8 of 9 while all three teams ahead of them, all of whom have winning records, are under .500 during that same stretch.

      • bowdenball - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        To give you an example of this – every site will have the Diamondbacks as having playoff odds than the Nats. Which makes sense if you don’t account for personnel- they have a better run differential, have a half-game lead on us in the standings, and they are only 9.5 back in their division instead of 13 back.

        But I bet every oddsmaker would give the Nationals a better chance. Why? Because they’re more talented than the D-Backs, and they’re red hot, and the Mets and Phillies teams they will face down the stretch are far worse than their records indicate.

    • dgourds - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      I agree about the change in Davey’s managerial style. He finally has some ugency to his decisions and has imposed some accountability for lack of performance. This also may be Rizzo’s doing. I love that they sent down Storen to AAA to adjust his mechanics and attitude. And I really love how Davey didn’t d**k around when Storen walked a leadoff batter and pulled him from the game. I also love that he’s done the same thing with Mattheus. His patience has driven me crazy this year and he is finally demanding accountability. The majors isn’t the place to develop players (e.g. Espinosa). The team has responded. It’s exciting to think we’re still in it, but even if we come up short, it bodes well for next year that the team has reverted to excellent baseball to finish out the season.

  4. NatsNut - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:10 AM

    I’m not saying anything but I do admit I checked the standings this morning, probably only the 4th time all summer. BTW, pour Houston. It’s still August and they already have their E.

  5. Dave - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:23 AM

    I noticed Houston’s E in the standings on Wednesday myself.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:31 AM

    Does anyone else think if it was some opposing player instead of RZ, they would have bowled over our catcher? I am not saying that RZ should have tried that.

    By the way, I hope Jewett does not return next season, at least not as a field coach. That should add at least couple of wins for us.

    • David Proctor - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:36 AM

      Ryan has enough shoulder issues without getting into collisions. In a 6-0 game, I was hoping he wouldn’t even dive. Good effort, but not worth the risk.

      I don’t like Jewett either. Every 3B coach makes mistakes, but I think Jewett makes far too many. I suspect our new manager will bring his own guy, unless it’s Randy Knorr.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:58 AM

        I agree that RZ did not need to do slide or collide but I think opposing player would have done it.

        I am not too sure about Knorr. We have good players all around and I am not sure I want a new manager to play around with that. If we can possibly bring in someone experienced, that would be nice. I still like Mike Scioscia who has not done much with Pujols and Hamiltons of the world but I think he wil click with our group.

      • NatsLady - Aug 30, 2013 at 8:05 AM

        Agree on Jewett. Bo Porter made a couple of mistakes early on, but then he was great. Look where it got us 😦.

        As for RZ–stay HEATHLY. Learn from Werth and Span. You don’t dive unless it’s the playoffs (or the game that gets to the playoffs). Remember Werth’s great play banging into the fence–yeah, and when WAS that?

        Zim’s throws have looked a lot better, and he’s making some plays. He embarrassed himself in KC, and he knows it.

        OK, on to tonight. We beat Dillon Gee the last time we saw him, he’s good but not invincible.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:32 AM

        Certainly there is some player somewhere who would have tried to go through the catcher. Nyjer Morgan comes to mind. I don’t have any data on the frequency of collisions at the plate, I get the feeling they are way down compared to years ago. Buster Posey’s injury is one reason. Ray Fosse’s should have been.

        Catchers handle that kind of play differently now, off to the side rather than completely blocking, so in that case, there’s less reason, or fewer opportunities, to run through the catcher.

  7. ArVAFan - Aug 30, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    One more post from the umpire.

    The umpires are much more health conscious than they used to be. Besides the concussion rules, they are better about eating and exercising on the road. He typically gets in a workout every day at the hotel (or at the park if the hotel facilities are not good). They get to the park about 2 hours before game time, having a light meal and typically playing cards to pass the time before the game. There’s a big meal served after the game (typically almost 11 p.m.), so it would be easy to gain weight if they aren’t careful. They do wear sunscreen for day games, but he tends to forget to re-apply during the game since it does get pretty hot out there even in the light-colored shirts (guy working home plate chooses the shirt color, at least on his team).

    The league had tried using a tennis-type sensor system for fair or foul balls, but it didn’t work accurately enough: the technology just isn’t there yet.

    BTW, Jayson didn’t have any trouble getting to fly balls last night. Of course, a couple were hit right at him–he looked up and realized he didn’t even have to move. But he sure scampered across the outfield on a couple as well. I think the dry field made a difference.

  8. Doc - Aug 30, 2013 at 7:37 AM

    If JDub still thinks that there is enough time to get into the playoffs, then there is enough time to get into the playoffs!

    You are always taking a chance when sending a runner. Jewett was a third base coach for several years with the Pirates. Until someone offers some stats comparing Jewett to other third base coaches, I’m going to defer my judgement. Most throws to home are not on target, so it was a good gamble.

    Would not have wanted to see RZim bounce into the catcher. Even though RZim missed the plate, I’ll bet there are as many runs scored at HP by sliding around the tag as trying to bowl over the C.

    • Sonny G 10 - Aug 30, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      I agree with you, Doc. I don’t remember a play I’ve seen this year where I would really disagree with Jewett sending a runner. As you say, a lot of throws to home are not on targer. Given our poor ability to drive in runners earlier in the year, I say we stand a better chance at scoring a run if we send the runner home than if we hold him and hope someone can drive him in.

  9. nats106 - Aug 30, 2013 at 7:50 AM

    Great game last night in Sec 106. Balls were flying all around us. Sammy Hagar after game concert may have been the best one I’ve gone to. Even if you’re not a fan, you have to appreciate the energy he put into a free show.

    Finally some free wings from Hard Times. I’d been expecting that all series.

    Need to take 2 of 3 from the Mets. Best chance for a W is tonight. If Haren can keep it close against Wheeler Saturday and take the game to the bullpen we’ve got a good chance Saturday as well. Niese has been hot lately-I think a sweep is unlikely. Hopefully Rockies can steal 2 from the Reds.

    Go Nats!

  10. NatsLady - Aug 30, 2013 at 8:25 AM

    Rockies/Reds First game Rox have “Manship” pitching. He is a rookie–hasn’t been good yet.

    Second game the Rox have de la Rosa vs. “Renolds.” De la Rosa is good. Rox have a chance in this one. Renolds was dragged up from Louisville, he has not been good. Reds’ rotation could use a boost —NOT DAN HAREN.

    Game three, Leake vs Nicasio. Could go either way, Nicasio has good days and bad days. Leake has been solid but he’s had three below-average starts in a row. Season could be wearing on him. Coors always a crap-shoot. Doubt it will be a sweep either way.

  11. nats106 - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Nicasio has been hot as of late, but like you say, you never know at Coors.

    De La Rosa has a career ERA just under double digits (9.87) against the Reds. CBS Sportsline has him pitching against Arroyo tonight-maybe I’m just reading it wrong because of the late night and “I Can’t Drive 55” ringing in my ears.

  12. Steady Eddie - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    At the game last night, I was struck once again by how unbelievably pitch efficient Tanner Roark has been this year. Literally ran up to take a pitstop after the eighth and then realized he might close out the ninth before I got back out on the concourse!

    Looked this morning at his pitch count numbers and saw that he has gotten 58 outs (19.1 innings) on exactly 250 chairs. That’s less than 13 pitches Per inning, which Would be a pretty remarkable statistic for atypical veteran pitcher, let alone a first time to the majors rookie.

    • Steady Eddie - Aug 30, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      Oy. Auto dictate strikes again. That’s “pitches” not “chairs”, and “a typical” NOT “atypical”.

    • adcwonk - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM

      Under 13/inning is, indeed, outstanding.

      But I think the explanation is that his WHIP is ridiculously low (0.776). He pitches to fewer people because so few get hits or walks (beware: small sample size).


      His WHIP while at Syracuse this year was also less than 1.000 (!). He’s really come into his own this year, at age 26. (His past _two_ years his WHIP was a terrible 1.40+)

      This is also a reminder that players generally continually get better until age 26 or 27. When we consider how many players we have under that age . . . portends a great future!

      • Steady Eddie - Aug 30, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Also equally important is that he mostly throws strikes and challenge fastballs with good movement on them, especially early in the count. So it feeds on itself in a positive way. Hitters don’t want to get behind so they put the ball in play on early pitches, and the movement on his pitches is enough that they don’t square the ball up much. He’s probably been lucky on BAPIP at an unsustainable .212, but that ain’t purely luck either.

  13. jd - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:03 AM


    Taking it one game at a time the reality is that losing even one game to a bad team at home with only 29 games left and 6.5 behind is very damaging. I mean if we sweep the Mets and the Reds get swept our position would still be very tenuous.

    We simply need to approach every game as a must win. If you want to create the miracle there aren’t many more games to be lost.

    • nats106 - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      JD, you are right. But I am having more fun going to games than I have all year and if we keep winning we might have a shot. To some extent I want to convince myself that we can lose one of the 3 games against the Mets and still get in, but as you say, each loss means a lost opportunity with diminishing chances to make up ground.

      Regardless, we will know in 9 days if we still have a prayer. If we can’t pull within 2 games by the time the Reds close out the Dodgers series, then we are pretty much done. Until then, I’m going to keep enjoying the games and telling myself even if we lose one, we can still get there.

      Saw some comments about Houston having the (E) beside them in the standings. I also noted that the Braves have their magic number posted for a couple of days now. If they haven’t clinched by the time they come here for their final series, I’m not sure I can stomach coming to a game where they might do so against us.

  14. adcwonk - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Nothing personal, but I think this post, from last thread, speaks volumes:

    “… it took the team playing well for him to manage a little bit better instead of the other way around. ”

    I think this perfectly exemplifies the hindsight vision that many use to criticize Davey. Unfairly. A guy who’s been managing since the 1980’s doesn’t suddenly get worse (right after winning Manager of the Year) because his team isn’t playing up to expectations, and then suddenly get better because his team is playing well.

    Many of his decisions have backfired because the players haven’t been performing well. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t make the most reasonable decision at the time. The bullpen has been praising — extremely — Davey’s management of the BP. I’ll take their view over some critics here.

    • NatsLady - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:07 AM

      Wonk, the thing that upset me was Davey saying, it might be a bust and I’m going to try out the younger players.

      Luckily, Werth, Harper, and Desi didn’t pay attention to that.

      • adcwonk - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:11 AM

        Davey’s also a master at psychology. For all we know he might have been saying to the vets: “OK, I’ve had enough of this crap, if you guys don’t get it done, you’re going to start sitting.”

        It seems to have worked, no? (Except, sadly, for ALR).

  15. NatsLady - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    It seems as if getting swept by ATL could have been the turning point. Forget the division. Just, forget it. Forget fighting for it, forget thinking out it. Not our year on that. Play ballgames. Since that sweep, 14-5. Yes, our boys played hard against Atlanta, two 1-run losses and the 15-inning win. BUT–I think the focus was on winning games, not winning the division.

    14-5 is pretty amazing. I rechecked, just to make sure. That is .736 baseball. “Crazy thing.”

  16. dgourds - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    The most impressive part of last night’s game to me was Harper’s opposite field HR. He stayed back on a high change up, mishit the ball on the label, but still had enough backspin and power to get it into the begonias above the right field fence. As FP said, the game is slowing down for him. How exciting is that? This kid could be Hall of Fame good! Wow, if Werth stays scorching hot and Harper, Zim, LaRoche, Ramos and Rendon play to their potential, this might be a special end of the season!

  17. adcwonk - Aug 30, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    “Until someone offers some stats comparing Jewett to other third base coaches….”

    Ding ding ding!

    Yep. It’s easy to say “he’s worse than everybody else”, but is anyone else actually comparing? Or are we just frustrated? One of the first two runs, last night (I forget which) Jewitt sent a guy home and I thought he was crazy. The throw was 25 feet off line, no problem.

    This is just like, say, a blown save, or a failed bunt attempt: the failures really sting and are memorable. But that doesn’t mean it’s worse than other teams. It just feels that way.





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