Wiping Days off the Calendar

Right now the most important thing for the Washington Nationals is wiping days off the calendar. They have a six game lead over the Atlanta Braves and a two game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the best record in the NL. The Nationals’ magic number for clinching the division is 33. That is a combination of 33 Nats wins and Braves losses makes it impossible for the Braves to catch the Nationals. To put that more in real terms if the Washington Nationals play close to .500 ball and go 19-20 in their remaining 39 games then the Atlanta Braves have to go 24-13 just to force a one game playoff. In other words the Atlanta Braves, with a current win percentage of .520, have to play .648 ball to catch the Nationals. That is a 105 win pace.

Don’t think for a second that this division race is over. In 2007 the New York Mets held a seven game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies with just over two weeks left in the season. They went 5-12 in their final 17 games and ended up losing the division lead they’d held for most of the season, and the Nationals still have six games against the Atlanta Braves, but even if the Braves sweep those two series they have to play exactly the same as the Nationals on every other day in order to catch them. At this point it would take a catastrophic collapse for the Nats to lose the division.

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Nationals Tickets 9% More Expensive Than Season Average for Series Against Pirates

For most of the season the Washington Nationals have been one of the biggest underachievers in the league. For the second straight year they were considered top World Series contenders in the National League, but had failed to separate themselves in the standings despite a top run differential. Now that run differential is tied for second in the league at +89, and the Nationals have a six game lead in their division. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the next team on the Nationals schedule, and they need to win the series more than the Nats. The Pirates are just a game up on the San Francisco Giants for the final wild card spot in the NL. Nationals tickets are averaging $46.86 for the series, which is nine percent higher than their season average.

8/15 PIT Charlie Morton vs. WAS Tanner Roark | Avg. Price: $53.03 | Get-in Price: $18

On another team Tanner Roark would probably be considered the staff’s ace – he has a 2.86 ERA, an 11-7 record, and a 2.3 WAR. But on the Nationals he’s probably their third best pitcher at most. The average price for Nationals vs Pirates tickets Friday night is $53.03 and the get-in price is $18. Continue reading

Revisiting Span

Just last month I wrote about how Denard Span was performing offensively. In that piece I concluded that Span was an average contributor on offense, which made him a valued member of the Nationals. I closed the piece saying “he probably just shouldn’t be batting leadoff, but that’s a discussion for another day.” Well 36 straight games on-base later and that statement is no longer true. Now I still believe I was correct at the time of the article, so what has changed since that first post?

To find out let’s take a comparison of the stats I noted in the first piece and what they look like now. Continue reading

Average at their Worst

The 2014 Washington Nationals have a four game lead in the NL East. Ryan Zimmerman has barely played this season and all but three regulars (Desmond, Rendon, Werth) have spent time on the DL. To add even more onto the pile, both Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are in the midst of the worst seasons of their young careers. The amazing thing about them though is that they are both right around league average.

Bryce Harper’s .698 OPS doesn’t look good and it isn’t good and it especially isn’t good for a player with the talents and abilities of Bryce Harper. It is worth pointing out that Harper has a .722 OPS since the All-Star Break, but that still isn’t good for him, but it is better than the MLB average OPS of .704. So in the middle of this terrible, injury riddled season Bryce Harper has basically been a league average hitter. If this is the worst that it gets then that is pretty good.

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Unsolved Mysteries: Stephen Strasburg

In all of my posts I look to take some statistics, present them in a logical manner and share my own conclusion from these statistics. This has been a tried and true formula that has been highly effective. However, today’s topic has left me without a conclusion and you’ll hopefully soon see why. So instead we’ll go a bit more behind the scenes as I take you through my research process for this post.

To start I knew I wanted to write about Stephen Strasburg. He’s been a hot topic among Nats fans since the Opening Day and no one can quite get a read on him. By many measures he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball, but by the most important measure, runs allowed, he’s been merely average. How is it that someone with such great stuff and peripherals is producing such pedestrian results? This is what I aimed to find out. Continue reading

Nats Tickets Up 35% For Series Vs Mets

The New York Mets had the best record in the National League in July, but still trail the Washington Nationals by eight games in the NL East. They have an opportunity to catch up a bit with a three game series against the Nationals on the docket. But the Nationals schedule hasn’t slowed them down much so far, with the team still sporting one of the most complete teams in the league. Their +76 run differential trails only the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics in all of baseball. Nationals tickets are averaging $49.93 for the series, which is up 35 percent from their season average.

NYM Zack Wheeler vs. WAS Gio Gonzalez | Avg. Price: $93.78 | Get-in Price: $48

The first game of the series is easily the most expensive. The first 25,000 Nationals fans in the stadium will receive a Jayson Werth gnome bobblehead, to celebrate the right fielder. The game is averaging $93.78 with a $48 get-in price. Gio Gonzalez gets the start for the Nationals, and while he’s been great since coming over in a trade with the A’s a few years ago, he might be the team’s fourth best starter this year. That just shows how stacked the Nationals rotation has been this season. Continue reading

The Nature of the Positive and the Negative

Inactivity begets writers block. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I don’t write anything for a few days, my mind stops thinking of things to write, and then suddenly I have nothing to write. It happens quicker than one would think. It has only been about a week since my last blog post and yet I have no ideas. The only thing I can think of to write about is the oddity that we’ve discussed on the podcast of our (Citizens) constant switching between being perceived as positive and negative.

Back during April and May we kept looking at the Nats and we saw a team that had a positive run differential and a FIP much lower than their ERA. The Nats at the time were losing and ended May with a losing record. The Nationals in May were also putting out line-ups with Nate McLouth, Danny Espinosa, Greg Dobbs, and Jose Lobaton. The Nats simply couldn’t score runs and they couldn’t score runs because half their regular position players were on the DL.

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Trade Deadline Shenanigans

Here it is, the end of July and that’s the only means one thing: Trade Deadline. It’s everyone’s favorite time of year. This is where teams may make or break their chance at Postseason glory. With this year’s crowd so close in both leagues, we are in a unique scenario.

In the AL, all teams are within the top of their respective divisions by no less than 12 games, except for Houston and Texas (it’s gotta be the air down there or something *cough* “Colorado” *cough*…). All teams except those two are also no less than ten games out of the final Wild Card spot as well. In regards to the National League, much of the Wild Card and division leaders are separated by no less than seven games.

So where do we get who buys and who sells? Who dumps what they have to try and win two or three years from now? Who gives up the potential next Miguel Cabrera or Bryce Harper to acquire a potential rental to win this year? Those questions, very difficult to answer this season. Why? Again, let’s go back to the standings. It’s wide open, almost everyone has a shot.

The most intrequing pieces that are in talks are Jon Lester and David Price. It’s “Will they be moved?” and “What will it take?”. In Price’s situation, the Rays are in a tough spot. It’s Price who has the upper hand, saying he would walk, as I’m sure he doesn’t want to spend his career stuck in St. Petersburg. The Rays are trying to squeeze what they can out of a deal, and I don’t blame them. However, at least he can stick around a little longer and this discussion could rekindle next season.

Lester on the other hand, eh…he’s going somewhere. However, there is a greater chance to get less in return for Lester, who might be a rental and potentially return to Boston. He said Boston is where he wants to be, and for a player who has been there for so long and has won two championships with that club, moving at this stage in his career might be less likely. That is, if he doesn’t go to Seattle. Seattle will be the spot where if he lands, he stays. Lester grew up around Seattle, and might consider making a move there to be perminant through the end of his career. Seattle has room to resign him, they can add him to Robinson Cano, and have that dynamic duo that might contend the Griffey/Johnson duo in the 90’s and bring them back to winning ways. The only other Lester scenario in my opinion is Pittsburgh, and it would be a rental. If he goes anywhere other than Seattle, he will be back in Beantown in 2015. (UPDATE: Lester to Oakland with Johnny Gomes in exchange for Cespedes – Who saw this coming?)

Now that brings us to the Nationals, who are clinging to the division lead in the NL East. We have now seen injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, which may keep him out until September, and Jayson Werth. Those are two big bats in the lineup, and who knows what else might happen as the season dwindles down. In an effort to make sure that the Nationals can even ensure themselves a spot, they should to go out and make a deal. I’m not one for rocking the boat when things seem fine, but they aren’t. The Nats have come this far through all of their injuries this season, they should p(l)ay to win.

It’s obvious that even if Ryan Zimmerman were still in the lineup, his days at third base are (should be) over. He now stands to be a valuable left fielder or first baseman. There was a time that I probably would have laughed or cursed at myself for saying that, but it is what it is. Danny Espinosa, as much as I have also loved him, can’t be an everyday player. He is a great late-inning defensive replacement, and can still put up decent at-bats, just not at a regular rate. I also think it’s too early to consider Zach Walters someone who could be in the lineup everyday as well. Maybe in a year or two. Then we look at the big positive: Anthony Rendon. Thank you to the baseball gods (and Mike Rizzo) for giving this kid a chance to play, because he’s done just that. He can be at second or third, which makes things interesting.

That opens up discussion for two possible deadline options: Adrian Beltre and Chase Utley. Both are veterans, both have appeared in the playoffs and World Series, and both know how to win. Both can still hit, both can be veteran leadership to go along with Werth and Desmond. It doesn’t hurt to have someone who’s been there before, someone who can help you grind through the NLDS without knowing where to go next. The last thing Nats fans need is a repeat of 2012, where they started to a huge lead but didn’t know how to finish it.

Beltre, currently 35, is in the fourth year of a 5-year, $80 million dollar contract he signed with the Rangers. He also has a vesting option for 2016. Is this THAT much money to take on? $32 million over the next two years? Maybe. It starts to make more sense the more you dive into him. He has been said to fall off the table at any time and become less productive, but what was what they said over 5 years ago after a horrid 2009 season with the Seattle Mariners where he only hit 8 round trippers in over 100 games. Since then, he has only suffocated the doubt and has hit no less than 28 home runs in a season since. The Rangers have the worst record in baseball, which makes sense for them to trade someone, especially when they have their “3B of the future” in Joey Gallo coming shortly, they could use some other pieces to build around him. Yes, it has been reported that the Rangers balked at the Nationals for making an inquiry already (See Here via MLB.com), and yes since Beltre is technically under contract until 2016 when they expect Gallo to be ready, but the Rangers may not have a choice to make a move for a fan base that was one strike away from tasting a World Series championship two years ago. Also, Beltre is a client of Mike Rizzo’s good ol’ pal Scott Boras. May lead to potential discussions with the Rangers on the best interest for is client.

Lastly, we look at the possibility of Chase Utley. Also 35 years old and a Philadelphia folk hero, he helped lead the Phillies to that spectacular 2008 World Series victory, as well as an appearance the following year in 2009 against the Yankees. Since then, the Phillies have been on a steady decline, leading with the major disappointment that is currently Ryan Howard. He would be the one to move, but there is absolutely no way any team would take on his gigantic contract. The dynasty looks all but over in the City of Brotherly Love, as the age of the team might soon exceed the age of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Looking at what they might have in store, the most likely to be moved is Cole Hamels. He has still been incredibly solid over the years, and can be a key chip into any pennant race, which I think might energize him and make him pitch even better.

However Utley is intreguing, as his contract also has one year to go as he is signed through 2015. Also just like Beltre, has a vesting option for 2016. But unlike Beltre, that option includes 2017 and 2018. Each of those years are at $15 million per year. However, his 2015 salary is bound to end up at $10 million due to not appearing more than 15 days on the DL this season. So a $10 million dollar player at 36 years old who can still hit and field among the leagues best? Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Also, in comes Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters. If you don’t like Utley or he struggles, Espinosa and/or Walters can help keep Utley’s at-bats under 500 for the season, not exercising the option and allowing him to become a free agent after 2015. Even if it may not be for power, Utley is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career, currently hitting a shade under .300, so why not take a chance?

All of this is up to Mike Rizzo now, and all we can do it watch and wait. Pieces are there for the Nats to move (Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, etc.), but it has to be for the right deal. My only thought for trade deadline brings me back to the deal the Montreal Expos made with the Indians in 2003. Anyone remember? Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips all to the Indians in exchange for Bartolo Colon on a rental? How did no one see that coming? Either way, it should be a fun few days ahead.



Get Ready for Torture Nats Fans

If you’re a baseball fan you’re really going to enjoy these final two months. If you’re a Nationals fan it is going to be pure torture. With the addition of the second Wild Card in 2012 there are now five playoff teams and in the NL there are currently seven teams within three games of each other. If things broke right in three days’ time the Pittsburgh Pirates could have the best record in the NL and the Milwaukee Brewers out of the playoffs entirely. This creates real danger for the teams leading a division.

No NL division leader has more than a three game lead with the Giants and Nationals both being half a game up in their divisions. The current Wild Card leaders are the Dodgers and Braves with the Cardinals and Pirates only a half game back of them. It isn’t hard to imagine one of the current division leaders not just losing the lead in the division but falling out of the playoffs entirely and it doesn’t take much of a slip to do so.

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Monday Notes

Nats Fail to Sign Second Rounder

This past Friday was the deadline to sign draft picks and the Washington Nationals failed to sign their second round pick, Andrew Suarez. Suarez will return to The University of Miami for his senior season. His decision to not sign may not be the best for him as he had arm issues coming into the draft and their will be plenty of college juniors and high school seniors in next years draft. College seniors are normally seen as safe picks that aren’t difficult to sign and so go in later rounds. Suarez will need to have a very good season to better his draft position and with the new slotting system that is what he’s going to have to do to get more money than the Nationals offered. As far as the Nationals perspective they lost out on a second round pick this season but get an extra second round pick in next year’s draft and with the state of the Nationals big league team filling the system with talent now as opposed to next season doesn’t make that big of a difference.

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Nats Tickets for Nats vs Brewers Series

Nats Tickets For Series vs Brewers Available For 8.7% Below Season Average

The Washington Nationals will welcome the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park for three games this weekend. The Washington Nationals schedule will have the team play the Brewers this weekend for the second and final time this season. The season average for Nationals tickets on the secondary market is $46 and two of this series’ three games will see an average price below that number. The series as a whole will be 8.7% below the season average.

7/18 – Kyle Lohse vs Stephen Strasburg | Avg. Price: $49 | Get-in Price: $15

Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg gets the nod in the series opener Friday night against Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse. The average secondary price for Friday Nationals vs Brewers tickets is $49, the most expensive game of the series at 2.08% above secondary season average, with a get-in price of $15. Strasburg enters the second half of the season at 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA while Lohse has impressed, going 9-4 with a 3.26 ERA as the Brewers continue to excel in the N.L. Central.

7/19 – Matt Garza vs Gio Gonzalez | Avg. Price: $39 | Get-in Price: $11

The second game of the series will be played Saturday night and will feature Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez against the Brewers’ Matt Garza. The average price for Saturday Nationals vs Brewers tickets on the secondary market is $39, 18.75% below the secondary season average. The southpaw Gonzalez had his ups and downs over the season’s first half, posting a 6-5 record and 3.56 ERA over 14 starts. Garza is 6-6 with a 3.69 ERA. Pop singer Austin Mahone will also play a postgame concert following Saturday’s game at Nationals Park.

7/20 – Yovani Gallardo vs Doug Fister | Avg. Price: $38 | Get-in Price: $13

Doug Fister will take the mound for the Nationals on Sunday against Yovani Gallardo in the rubber game of the series. The average secondary price for Sunday Nationals vs Brewers tickets is $38, the cheapest of the series at 20.8% below season average on the secondary market, with a get-in price of $13. Fister has adjusted nicely to his new team this season, going 8-2 and posting a 2.90 ERA in 12 starts. Gallardo has had his struggles over the first half and enters Sunday’s game at 5-5 with a 3.68 ERA.

The Brewers enter the second half leading the NL Central by just one game following their impressive 20-8 start to the season. While the team remains 10 games over .500 entering their weekend series with the Nationals, a competitive division has kept both the second place Cardinals and third place Reds close while the fourth place Pirates trail by just 3.5 games. As the Milwaukee Brewers schedule has the team traveling to the nation’s capital this weekend, they’ll look to open the second half on the right foot and add some much needed comfort to their divisional lead.