The Difference in Losing and Being Beat

 

The 2013 Washington Nationals are 4-12 against the Atlanta Braves. This on its own is bad, but consider that ten of the losses have been by three runs or less and that by my count 31 on the Nats total 63 losses have been by two runs or less this points to an interesting problem. One run games are thought to be coin flip games. That no matter what a team's overall record is they should be close to .500 in one run games. That there isn't a special magic to winning close games. That it is essentially luck. Then what of two run games? Are they luck as well or does that involve more skill? The Nats lost a two run game earlier in the season to the Giants when Pablo Sandoval hit a walk-off homer off of Yunesky Maya. If there wasn't a runner on base it would have been a one run loss. Did the runner on base really make that two run loss that much different than a one run loss?   

It is hard to say exactly how much luck is involved in baseball. I personally think it is less than some. Batters with high BABIP may be lucky, but some batters have a higher than league average BABIP because they hit the ball extremely hard. Have the Nats made a lot of errors behind Taylor Jordan because they are unlucky when he pitches or is it because he gives up a lot of contact and not just contact but hard contact? This is where it is difficult to separate the fact from the fictions. The stats tell us what is happening but they don't say for certain why it is happening, and in this case the stat in question is that the Nats are 4-12 against the Braves, but ten of those Braves victories came in save situations.   

Losing that many close games to one team is what I would call an oddity, but the Braves bullpen is very good and the Nationals bullpen has not been. When late and extra innings have been reached it is typically the Braves bullpen that holds the Nationals down while the Nationals bullpen has allowed the Braves to score the extra runs they need to win, and some of it may be poor luck. Gio Gonzalez has suffered in the first inning this season with a first inning ERA of 4.68. The only two runs the Braves scored in yesterday's game came in the first inning and one of them came on a bloop hit that happened to find turf. It is hard to call that anything but unlucky, but that is how these games have gone all season.  

Bad luck is only part of it though. Look at the recent issues the Nationals had with Bryce Harper being hit by the Braves. He was been hit by six pitches for his career and three of those have been in the last two weeks by the Braves, and the Nationals response to when Harper was hit at Nationals Park for no good reason was to do nothing. To not stand up for their teammate. The Nationals in this instance were no longer losing to the Braves they were getting beat. They were the kid that hands their lunch money to the bully without even being threatened with a bloody nose.  

Call me old school, call me an idiot, but it is my belief that if a team is going to lose they should make it as difficult as possible on an opponent, and they should under no circumstance allow themselves to be pushed around. The Nats have been pushed around by the Braves. Harper got hit and wanted to confront Teheran when it happened, but that was stopped and then in response to that Justin Upton slid hard into Desmond and Harper was hit twice more (although there are questions as to if one of those was on purpose). The Nationals finally responded at Turner Field, but it may have been too late.  

The Braves are 12-4 against the Nationals and have run away with the NL East. The Nationals have put up very little fight. The statistical reasons for why this has happened are one thing, and why the Nationals have lost, but there is no reason to allow yourself to be beat or to let an opponent feel this comfortable playing against you. This isn't to say to play dirty or how Rob Dibble used to demand the 2009 Nationals hit every batter in every blow out. This is more to say that if another team is going to hit your player hit their's back, and if that doesn't work slide hard or administer a few stiff tags to a runner on first. Losing is one thing. Getting beat up is another, and if you're going to lose make sure it at least looks like the other guy was in a fight as well.   

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