WHAT IF!?!?…. The Nats *Couldn’t* Beat the Braves?

With a week left of baseball, here are the standings in the NL East (and number of games each team has left)

WAS  91-64 (7)
ATL    76-79 (7)
NYM   76-80 (6)
MIA     74-81 (7)
PHL    71-85 (6)

Now look: This is a post that I’m writing and posting now. But really its for next May when, inevitably, someone will panic. When, in defense of the National League East crown (and hopefully other trophies and awards) the Washington Nationals lose a series to…some other team…and then people freak out. But please read it now if you like.

At some point in May of 2014 (and every other May) someone (read: a lot of people) remarked on how the Nats “couldn’t beat the Braves” because they were 1-5 in their first six games. No amount of “there are 13 games left against the Braves” or ” there are 100ish games left in the season” would calm these people, or stop them from yelling at me because I didn’t see it their way. Every trope just short of “Games are more important in September” was thrown at me, the biggest of course is that “There was no way the Nats could win the NL East unless they beat the Braves.” As an aside, apparently this was a two team division. in May.

Many of these things, as expected, resolved themselves. The Nats could and did beat the Braves. The Braves were not the only team in the division as they are dangerously close to slipping to third and below .500 for the season. (This, of course, casts into doubt whether the Braves were ever the “team to beat.”)

Anyway, with the complete implosion of Atlanta down the stretch, I decided to put that last unanswered question to the test. Did the Nationals have to beat the Braves (or any individual team) in order to win the NL East?

Continue reading

Get To Know A Nat 2014 – Greg Dobbs


Name: Gregory Stuart Dobbs
Nickname(s): “Dober” or “Roy Hobbs”
DOB: July 2, 1978
Twitter?: None that I could find
From: Los Angeles, California
Position: Corner Infield/Outfield positions
Hand: Bats lefty, throws righty
With the Nats Since: Signed a Minor League contract with the Nationals on May 12, 2014 and was called up on May 16, 2014.

Just Who Is This Guy?: Greg Dobbs is a journeyman corner infielder/outfielder who has bounced around the Majors since 2004. Dobbs made his MLB debut on September 8, 2004 with the Seattle Mariners appearing for the first time as a pinch-hitter and hitting a home run in his first at-bat.

After a few years with the Mariners, he became a Philadelphia Philly and was a part of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies. In 2011, Dobbs signed a minor league contract with the Florida/Miami Marlins and was eventually DFA’d on April 29, 2014 and released on May 6, 2014. His release and eventual signing was perfect timing for the Nationals with Adam LaRoche and Bryce Harper, both lefty bats, out with injuries.

Dobbs’ best year came in 2011 with the Marlins where he hit .275/.311/.389 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs. Through 941 games over 11 seasons, Dobbs is a career .262 hitter with 46 home runs and 273 RBIs. In 527 career games playing defense, Dobbs has a decent .972 fielding percentage over 3,547 innings.

What Happened in 2013: The 2013 season for Dobbs had him appear in 114 games, hitting two home runs and driving in 22 runs. He legged out 11 doubles and had a total of 54 hits, giving him a slash line of .228/.303/.300.

In the field, Dobbs played 51 games at first base and one game in right field for the Marlins. He only committed one error in 423 innings at first base and played perfect defense in his five innings in right field for the Marlins last season.

What’s happening in 2014 so far?: In 13 at-bats with the Marlins, Dobbs got off to a horrid start, batting .077 with four strikeouts and only one hit. All of his appearances were of the pinch-hit variety and didn’t log any playing time in the field.

So far, in his brief stint with the Nationals, Dobbs has appeared in seven games and is batting .313/.294/.375 with three hits in 16 at-bats. He has also driven in two runs. Look for him to provide a little bit of help to the Nationals offense when they’re in need of a lefty batter. Otherwise, Dobbs won’t do much more than be a stopgap until ALR comes back from injury. unless there is another injury to ALR.

Get to Know a Division Rival: 2014 Miami Marlins

Marlins Logo

Jared Kobe (@SCviaDC) will be previewing the Nationals NL East Rivals leading up to the start of the season. 

2013 Record:  62-100 (Pythagorean 64-98)
2013 Runs Scored: 513
2013 Runs Allowed: 646

2014 Additions: Rafael Furcal, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Brian Bogusevic (trade), Carter Capps (trade), Jeff Baker, Carlos Marmol

2014 Subtractions: Justin Ruggiano (trade), Logan MorrisonPlacido Polanco (trade), , Juan Pierre, Chris Coghlan, Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls

The Marlins off-season was a relatively quiet one compared to the post-2012 apocalyptic sell-off. There were no big-splash, overpay signings as in years past; there were also no huge trades of established starters for younger, cheaper talent.

As evidenced by the run differential listed above, the Marlins main issue last season was the offense. They scored 85 fewer runs than the next closest team. Eighty. Five. They scored 97 fewer runs than the Astros, MLB’s worst team, and still managed to win 11 more games (which shows what good pitching will do for you).

Continue reading

Review-Preview: Fish-Sandwhich, Har-Vey’s Bet-Ter and The Return of PeteF@*!!Kozma

@Natsaholic sends a sneaky photo of how close he is to @WashingNats

@Natsaholic went to the Mets series this weekend.  He tweeted  a sneaky photo of how close he is to MLB Beat writer, Bill Ladson aka @WashingNats

There are a million places to go get a recap and preview of every game, but here at Nationals 101 we prefer to take a slightly bigger slice of the pie.  The Review-Preview will take place between series and give a quick recap of the previous series (including anything we think you can learn from the series) and what you can look forward to in the next series coming up.

Normally a 3-3 road trip is a cause to celebrate.  When expectations are high (and the talent you play allegedly low) it comes away feeling a little flat.  Still, in the span the Nats split their 6 games, the Braves managed only two wins, which gives them a game up…in April, with 140+ games left to play.  So while all games are weighted equal, it is still the case that the overwhelming majority of games haven’t been counted yet. 

The Nats took the first series from the Marlins two games to one.  They blew out the Fish in the opener 10-2, dropped the second game with three starters missing 8-2, but bounced back in the finale to take the series with a 6-1 score.

The Nats dropped their opener against the Mets as Matt Harvey out-pitched Stephen Strasburg (and just about everyone else I’ve seen this year), losing 7-1.  The second day also featured seriously shaky starting pitching, with Gio Gonzalez having a meltdown in the fourth inning to lose a three run lead.  Still, the bats were alive with four home runs (two from Bryce Harper) and they won a game on offense 7-6.  Sunday’s game featured the debut of top prospect Anthony Rendon much to the delight of many a fan looking forward to his debut.  Unfortunately and 0-4 and error later for Rendon seemed like piling on after the Nats dropped the finale in a sloppy 2-0 loss.

So What Happened?  For the most part, the same thing that’s been happening all Month.  The Nationals have been winning games handily, or losing them because of sloppy play.  Dan Haren has yet to do anything to convince anyone he’s going to be a good pitcher, and Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez seem to be taking too many pitches to get anyone out at all.  Even when three errors don’t directly cost runs (as on Sunday) that makes Jordan Zimmermann throw more pitches than he needs to.  Letting the Mets of the hook by swinging at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded and no outs (ahem Jayson Werth) also cuts a huge break to a guy like Dillon Gee who had been averaging more than 8 runs a game before the start Sunday.

Our constant refrain of “It’s Only April” isn’t actually meant to excuse the sloppy play of the Nationals, or some how make you feel like a lunatic for thinking the Nats are playing poorly.  The Nats are indeed playing very poorly at times so far this month.  The reason to keep in mind that it is April is to remind you they have plenty of time to play well (and they will play well). 

It’s a trick of the mind:  When the Nats have played less than 20 games, those 7 or 8 bad games are a big percentage of the pie.  It’s important to remember that the pie isn’t 20 games big though-it’s 162 games big.  What’s 20 bad games out 162?  or 30? or 40?  or even 50?  Not a lot, that’s what.

I think a lot of fans who are the most worried tuned into the team sometime after the Capitals bounced out of the playoffs, or even later.  August maybe?  July?  It’s easier to stomach losses when you are already watching an established winner-particularly with no serious expectations on them (externally, anyway).  It’s much tougher to come into the season at the begnning season with triple the expectations and have to learn, from the start, just what a winning season looks like top to bottom.

“It’s Only April” doesn’t make you feel better in the moment, it only illuminates that it is only one moment in many.  In July, April will not matter nearly as much as you thought it did.

Lost In The Shuffle

  • The Nats haven’t had to do a lot of “over coming” so far this year.  They won games they were tied late in the game for, they’ve held on to leads despite furious comebacks-but the 7-6 Mets win on Saturday was the first time they actually battled back to win a game from behind.  (Note: I’m not counting the two times they were down 1-0 to the White Sox after the first inning).  I’m likely adding narrative to where there isn’t actually one, but it looked like the Nats had some fight in them for the first time this year.  Last year, I didn’t count them out of any game-up until Saturday, I had been a few times.
  • Bryce Harper had the flu and went 3-4 in Miami.  Seriously.
  • Miami beat the Reds, and took them to 14 innings the next day. Also the Braves lost twice to the Pirates.  Hopefully fans can stop worrying about who loses to who and who beats who in April and taking it as a harbinger of the whole season…soon.  My head would appreciate it.
  • Ryan Zimmerman had a tender calf in game one of the Marlins series before being pulled.  Thanks to how rules work, you can retroactively put someone on DL so long as they haven’t played since they were pulled and his 15 day stint started Thursday instead of Sunday when they announced it.  Wilson Ramos also is on the DL, though he’s a week in already.
  • Steve Lombardozzi filled in admirably this week, going 7 for 21 in 6 starts against the Braves, Marlins and Mets.  He did get owned by Matt Harvey going 0-4, just like most everyone else did on the Nats Friday night.
  • 0-4 and an error for Anthony Rendon.  Not an auspicious start, and it might be something Davey has stuck in his craw when it’s time to decide if he stays up or goes down.  That said, just as if he went 4-4 and helped turn two double plays-it would still only be one game out of about 12 he’ll play before the Nats have to figure that out.  Plenty of time for him to make his case either way.

St. Louis Cardinals

Let go of your anger and don’t expect and easy revenge match for the Nationals.  The Cardinals are a no joke team.  They post the same 10-8 record as the Washington Nationals, and also look up at division rivals they know they can catch and beat.  The Cards have also beaten teams handily when they win, and lost games inexplicably when they haven’t.  

Many fans will be familiar with the virtues the Cards boast:  Yadier Molina is a hitter nearly impossibly to strike out, and Carlos Beltran is a 30+ HR guy.

The Nats will send Dan Haren to the mound Monday night.  He might need to seriously get a good game in if he doesn’t want everyone in DC to completely hate him.  The Cardinals will send Shelby Miller to the mound for his first apperance against the Nationals ever.  He’s more or less a three pitch pitcher (Fastball, Curveball Change-up) but he has thrown a few cut fastballs this year as well.  He’ll be a riddle the Nats will want to solve quickly given the limited data they will have on the newcomer.

The Nats then send their best pitcher thus far, Ross Detwiler to face former Cy Young candidate Adam Wainwright.  The Nats have done well against Wainwright, particularly at Nats Park (1-2, 7.24 ERA and 2.2ish WHIP), but he’s still a dangerous pitcher when he’s on.  Given the uncertainty around him on the mound, the Nats need to get after Wainwright and make the most of Detwiler if he has another great start.

The Wed afternoon finale will feature Stephen Strasburg  and  Jamie Garcia.  Garcia is a solid pitcher, averaging about 3.5 runs given up per game and 1.3 hits per inning pitched.  The Nats clobbered him last year for 6 runs on 9 hits in 5.1 innings pitched.  

What To Hope For

Not to look ahead, but the NL Central leading Reds come in after the Cards for a four game tilt over the long “revenge” week this seems to have shaped up to be.  The Nats will likely be looking to show they can beat good teams and get some of these error/pitching monkeys off their back.  Over 7 games, 5 wins at home seems to be what the Nationals should feel like they should get.  Four is acceptable, 6 or 7 would be special.  With the Reds being just as tough ast the Cardinals (maybe tougher) the Nats would do well to get 2 of 3 from the Redbirds, heading into the extended weekend series looking to win 3 out of 4.

The Panic Button: Slumps, Sweeps and Ten Game Stretches (@SCviaDC)


Resident Amateur Mathematician Jared Kobe (@SCviaDC) drops in again to write up another math centric post.  As last time, I’ll be doing some interpreting for you as I see fit in a slightly different color.  This week we’re looking at just how likely really good teams are to lose, even get swept!, during a season.  Nats fans might want to read this. Without further ado…

How likely is it that a team that 60% of the time will be swept in a three game series?

How likely is it that a team that wins 75% of their games will go 4-6 in a 10 game stretch?

How likely is it that a .400 hitter has a 6 for 30 or worse stretch in a season?

These are all the same question. You want to know how likely it is that, given a probability of success, like a team’s winning percentage, how likely is it that you will have a certain number of successes (wins) in a certain number of trials (games).

How Does The Math Work?

Continue reading

Cliff Notes: Matty Morphin’ Bahn-Mi Meatball Rangers Edition


Cliff Notes is a Weekly-ish post featuring links to some of our favorite stories from other parts of Natstown over the past couple of days.  We want to make sure you’re reading the best of what Natstown has to offer!

The Nats have a new Clint…and it’s a laaaaddy! In all serious though, Lindsey Covert will be taking over the In-Game host duties from Mr. Khoury as his role is reduced.  She was pretty nice to a friend who got on the jumbotron the other day, so she’s cool in my book (via the Sports Bog).

Matt’s Bats makes the list twice today.  First, Matt is making a weekly-ish appearance on Fox 5 it seems, so be sure to be on the look out for him there. Also, he took a page out of our book to explain “What is a Balk.” 

The Nats Archive has finished their Nats Morph Contest using their epic Photoshop skills to combine the faces of some placers to make hybrid mutant players capable of… playing baseball, probably.  Worth gawking at, for sure. (Good work guys!)

This Bahn-Mi Meatball Sub was the best part of the game for Doghouse on Federal Baseball on Sunday.  It’s sad to look at the Atlanta ass kicking again, but a good reminder that even bad baseball should be fun on some level-even if it’s just a sandwich at the park.  (via Federal Baseball)

DC Sports Nexus has a great list of #Rally items from this year and last, including the latest: The Rally Runway!