Saturday, June 18, 2011

A winning streak that matters

Associated Press photo
Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse each homered in the Nationals' 4-2 victory.
Ryan Zimmerman has been a part of winning streaks with the Nationals before. He's even experienced an eighth-game surge in the big leagues, back in August 2009.

That streak, though, merely brought the Nats to within 32 games of the .500 mark. Not exactly a meaningful stretch, in the grand scheme of things.

This, though, is different. In toppling the Orioles 4-2 on Saturday, the Nationals not only earned their eighth consecutive victory. They put themselves on the precipice of a .500 record, with the promise of even better things still to come.

"It kind of shows how much we've grown up as a team," Zimmerman said. "The last two years we've been really young. Playing in these games in the middle of the season -- when it means something -- takes a little bit more concentration, maybe a little more mental toughness."

Yes, it takes the right mental approach. But it also helps to have talent, something the Nationals possess more of now than at any previous time during their tenure in this town.

Look at the key contributors to Saturday's win, starting with the pitching staff. Jordan Zimmermann (who earned the victory with 6 1/3
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Jasoneducator said...

Nice to have some context from the Natmosphere Historian on this one. I'm still not blown away until I see them make some hay against some divisional foes. Baltimore is not that good. St. Louis was reeling, and San Diego has a weak offense. I still think that we should be sellers at the deadline unless Strasburg's rehab is going exceptionally well.

To me, the greatest thing about today's game is that it's starting to look like H-Rod can be a legit high leverage contributor. If he can, we've got something going in the pen. If Mattheus continues to pitch well, I don't know how there is going to be a place for Doug Slaten when he gets healthy.

Anonymous said...

Then look at Saturday's offensive producers. Zimmerman (who homered in the first and doubled in the sixth) is arguably one of the 10 best all-around players in the game.

He consistently gets ranked in the top 6 no matter where you go. It may not seem like much but Zimmerman consistently moves up and down between those 6 positions. But never out.

Bill Stoneman said...

Enjoy the moment. This team is going somewhere. As a long time Expo fan, I've been there.
Enjoy your your World Series, just a matter or time. Talent (homegrown) Expos circa 1974.
It's a matter of when (not if).

SonnyG10 said...

Thanks, Bill. I hope you are still a fan even if we are the Nationals now.

NatsNut said...

I'm so confused. Even AP says 2009 was an 8 game winning streak, but it was only 7 games. ???

NatsNut said...

Oh, sorry. I completely forgot about the streak in August. For some reason the 7-game streak at the end of the season felt like the ONLY streak they'd had in two years. =)

masnstinks said...

Jasoneducator - Please! We have just seen a stretch starting in late May/early June where we have seen almost ALL first place teams! Philadelphia, Arizona, Giants, Cards -- We have played all of them very well or won series. This team battles and grinds it out every game whether they are winning or losing. I love their make-up. Can we please just savor this moment?

baseballswami said...

I hope Ryan Zimmerman has got something left in the tank after today - tomorrow is a holiday!! Time to continue the tradition , Zim!

Sec3MySofa said...

JasonEd isn't contradicting that, masnstinks. Harshing the buzz, maybe, but he's right that they have to beat the Mets, Marlins, and Braves, and not get hammered by the Phillies, to go where they want to go.

And you're right. The players think they can do that. They think they can win now. Savor away. I know I will.

Cwj said...

Well said Masnstinks.
Better believe I'm savoring this streak!
Please Jasoneducator, no buzz kills right now.

HRodriguez is nearly impossible to hit. Velocity from 81-101mph is astoundingly great.
I have a feeling he'll always be a bit wild, but I also have a feeling he'll be a great setup man for the Nats.

I'm very excited about this team right now.
Go Nats!

Latin is dead to me said...

"He consistently gets ranked in the top 6 no matter where you go. It may not seem like much but Zimmerman consistently moves up and down between those 6 positions. But never out. "

Anon, I mean Peri, you are the one who has suggested that Rendon replace Zimm. Now he is up top 6 make up your mind dude!

Drew8 said...

JasonEd has a point, and he's not a buzz kill, though one reason the Cards are reelin' is that we're rockin'.

We can ride high AND think long term. Even if the Nats do sell high on Marquis July 31 they have many more plausible alternatives than in years past.

Tonight Brad Peacock twirled another 7-inning complete game for the win at Harrisburg. This cat now is 8-2 with a 2.46 ERA at AA. He has 108 strikeouts and only 17 walks.

Brad Meyers' career minor league numbers are excellent. Now let's see if he can lower that 4.60 ERA at the Cuse.

If Marquis is dealt it also would be very instructive for the brass to bring up Detwiler and assess whether he's got what it takes.

With all of the arms coming behind him -- Peacock, Solis, Cole, Ray, Alex Meyer -- maybe even Purke -- it's about time for Ross to do it or get off it.

Grandstander said...

HRod looked so impressive today with his 83 slider and 101 heater that it's easy to forget he sports a 90 changeup as well.

One thing I've noticed, and perhaps Mark could confirm this for me, is that there seems to have been a conscious effort by the FO to go after power righties in the bullpen. The emphasis being on guys who can go up there late and just throw strikes and challenge hitters.

Giving up Willingham for HRod seemed insane at the time (and admittedly still does), but if he learns to hit his spots, he is going to be a major piece of this 'pen. Also, bringing up Mattheus so quick (9 games at AAA and 13 at AA) shows an extreme confidence and definite direction in where Rizzo wants to take this bullpen.

Add in guys like Kimball and Ballester if they can find their control, you could have bullpen that rivals the Padres. Really, really liking the direction it's heading. Also makes me think Todd Coffey is big time trade bait.

AndesAngle said...

I agree with Masnstinks. I am enjoying this winning streak!

Also Sec3MySofa, the last Phillies series was won by the Nats.

Having said that, I am living in the real world. The real world means the Nats are a talented young team with a bright future.

big cat said...

I'm tellin ya, we are not out of the race. Its a looooooong year. P-P-Playoffs? Wildcard?

Anonymous said...

I'm tellin ya, we are not out of the race. Its a looooooong year. P-P-Playoffs? Wildcard?

As both Zimmerman and Riggleman said and they are right. Let's just get past the first hump or hurdle. Getting the curly-W's over .500 and keeping them there and staying in third place. That has to come first.

Then you look for the next short-term goal. Perhaps its catching the Braves who are now within 4 games. But first things first.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

@Drew8: I would be shocked if the Nats dealt Marquis at trade time. Right now (pending the Braves' outcome) they're four games out of the wild card. That's close enough (for me) to be called "in the hunt." With the interleague schedule setting up nicely (Seattle and Chisox) and the breaks falling our way (they will miss Felix Hernandez in the Seattle series), I don't see Rizzo pulling the trigger on any trades -- unless it's to win now. This team has arrived.

Anonymous said...

I don't see Rizzo pulling the trigger on any trades -- unless it's to win now.

To improve the 2011 roster and add a piece for the future contender. He has said he will not shy away from that even given the winning streak.

#1 thing he and pretty much every other GM are seeking? Top of the rotation starting pitcher that is still young and viable.

That could be Bradley Peacock or it could be Meyer. But they aren't proven quantities and Strasburg will just be coming back from TJ at the end of the year.

With Bernadina playing well and hitting ... plus the odd love they have for Rick Ankiel ... I am assuming that, and his Ankiel-like offensive stats are what continues to get in the way of a BJ Upton deal.

The Yankees are looking for a left handed pitcher. The Nats have a pretty good, young #4 starter in John Lannan.

Drew8 said...


The beauty of the long season is that the truth will out. We've got another seven weeks to see what they'll do.

Bill Ladson did a Q and A with Rizzo before the Nats' win Friday night. Here's what the GM said on the buyers-or-sellers question. "The way the Nationals have been playing lately, are they buyers or sellers?"

Rizzo: "We are both buyers and sellers. We always have been, always will be. If we have a chance to acquire a player that is going to help us in 2011 and beyond, we are not going to shy away from that. If there is a trade to be made that will help us down the road, we will trade a player away to get a piece for the future. But we are not in sell mode. There are a lot of games to play, a lot of games to win. We are here to win games."

natsfan1a said...

Definitely savoring here.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Tommorows game may be the most important game in this franchises history.

An opportunity to reach .500 beyond the middle of June with 10 games till the half way mark is something the average Nats fan cannot wrap his head around.

A win tomorrow gives us 10 games to determine whether this team can compete for a wild card spot or not. Please understand this.

Inspite of Peric, JayB, and alot of Anonymous critics that have a very shallow understanding of how this game is managed (both on the field and in the office)the Nats are there!

Several of us saw this throughout Spring Training and it is so gratifying to see it happen.

Anonymous said...

Several of us saw this throughout Spring Training and it is so gratifying to see it happen.

Yes NatsJack and some idiot named NatsJack was pretty down on a player named Michael Morse. Your knowledge of baseball is clearly questionable dude.
Give it rest you have no idea what it's like to play this game. None. Nada. Zilch.

Anonymous said...

Besides, the most important game still is that win over the Phillies. It proved that they really could do it if they focused their play hard enough. That and the revamped lineup led to this day.

Plus a few lucky breaks such as Morse going to first base, Ankiel and LaRoche out of the lineup. Allowed the movement of the high OBP hitters to the top of the lineup.

Nats Outsider said...

NatsJack in Florida said, "Tommorows game may be the most important game in this franchises history."

Whoa!! As much as I want to hit .500, we have to stop thinking in terms of the streak, for the simple reason that the streak is going to stop, sooner or later.

I'd love a win tomorrow, just like I'd love a win every day. But the real question is not whether they can reach .500 on June 19, it's whether they can play .500 or .550 ball for the rest of the long season. Losses are inevitable. We had a long streak of losses not so long ago, remember? So to call one game in June the most important in the franchise's history misses the point.

The goal for this season is proving respectability and setting the groundwork for 2012, and, perhaps more realistically, 2013. Slow and steady will get the team there, not one game.

Jasoneducator said...

I'm glad to see that my "buzz kill" got some response. For me, the way that you get through a baseball season is that you take each game as it comes. I want my team to have a Ryan Zimmerman like even keel. I don't think Ryan Zimmerman is doing handstands in the dugout about team that is one game below .500 and still has to assert itself within the division.

Also, remember I'm a bit biased because I follow the Nats minors pretty closely. I feel that I have a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of this organization from knowing it pretty well from Hagerstown on up. Yes, we're a good team. Ultimately, though, we are trying to be better than the Phillies, not eke into wildcard spots. I want championships, and I want to have the same even keel and ruthless focus on championship offense, defense, pitching, and front office performance that I hope Mike "The People's RZA" does.

sjm308 said...

@ Jason - I didn't take your post as 'buzz kill" or even negative but my initial thought was not to think about being a seller this season while we are playing so well. I see that this strategy did get us Ramos last year so it is possible that its the way to go but I like what this team is doing and they seem to like each other as well which I think is important. I am guessing we will see all kinds of names listed here by various anons, and others. Count me old and stubborn but I would keep Marquis (even though he has faded in past 2nd halfs) and I really like the new LannEn as our #4/5 next year. That would not leave Rizzo with a lot of "product" to sell/trade. Maybe Coffey/Slaten but I doubt if we get much for them.

Latin is dead to me said...

Watch Peric comment on an "anonymous" username, what a coward.

Grandstander said...

Coffey could grab a C prospect I think. If he continues to pitch well to righties. Slaten has no trade value. Marquis is an interesting question mark. If the price is right, I don't there's a doubt he'd trade him. But I just don't think Marquis would fetch a good enough prospect to make it worth it. Too many questions surrounding him, injury history, not faring well in the playoffs. I doubt he goes somewhere else until free agency.

I think Rizzo is really living by that mindset too. I mean, he very blatantly said that he didn't get high enough an offer for Dunn so he held him for the prospects. Considering what fell to us in the draft, it could be one of the shrewdest moves he's made. Certainly not signing Dunn to a 4 year deal makes a lot of sense in hindsight, despite deafening protests at the time to the contrary.

This team is not contending this year. The goal is .500 and we're still not there and it took an 8 game winning streak to get us talking about it. Eventually, this team will lose, and it's how we react to that loss that will define the season. People need to stop watching this through rose-colored glasses. Though I'll admit, I'm enjoying the roller coaster presently.

I'll see you at the park tomorrow, in the same freaking seat I've held ruthlessly this week, through screaming children kicking my seat, fat jerks who sit right next to me despite there being plenty of other available seats, and drunken O's fans who scream in my ear every time the ball is put in play.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

@NatsJack in Fla: As usual you are spot on. I totally agree. Getting back to .500 now and with the softie schedule that is the next month would give us great momentum. We are 3.5 out of the wild card lead, which I would definitely describe as being in the wild card hunt. What I love is the schedule; 3 vs. M's, 3 vs CWS, 3 vs. Angels, 3 vs. Pirates, 4 vs. Cubs and 3 vs. Rockies to take us to the brewak. We can go 12-7 or 13-6 against that bunch and probably be looking right at the Braves by the All-Star break. Game on, the future is now, sound the alarms, blow that klaxon, the Nationals have arrived. This is not for the faint of heart.

Exposremains said...

I'm trying to be optimistic about tomorrow but I Don't think that Gorzo will do well. His start at AAA was not great

Grandstander said...

So I just had my weekly sabermetric geek out session, and Danny Espinosa is like some bright shining star from never never land when looking at these stats.

Given Mark's recent foray into sabermetric stats, I feel discussion of these stats is important, even though they tend to be esoteric.

Danny has, BY FAR, the highest WAR on the team (that's Wins Above Replacement, basically a ticker throughout the season that calculates how many games you win for your team above a AAAA player). He's at 2.6 already (according to Fangraphs calculations). Without getting too much into the formula, this would put him on track to be one of the top 2B in the sport and a possible All-Star.

But wait, there's more! He's sporting a .345 wOBA (Weighted On Base Average) this is basically like an OBP combined with an SLG, it measures how often you get on base, but takes into account whether you're slapping singles around or hitting doubles and homers). Obviously, Morse is king of this stat on the Nats, but because Danny's AVG is so low, this really shows how much he's been mashing the ball recently. This isn't some Slappy McSingleton second baseman, this dude has serious pop.

Finally, BABIP, one of the most useful stats in my opinion that is woefully underused, yet a favorite among fantasy players who are on the lookout for cheap, underperforming players. BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play and it basically measures "luck". The average BABIP will be around .300, meaning, out of 10 balls you put in play, 3 will be hits. If someone is way over that, they're getting very likely, and vice versa. Danny is at a mere .254, meaning, despite how he's raking, he's UNLUCKY! He should be getting way more hits than he is. If he goes to the mean, he'll likely see his average raised significantly and should be a significant contender for ROY and possibly a Gold Glove.

I didn't need these stats to tell me how good Danny Espinosa is, but they told me how much better he is than even I think. Yowszers!

A DC Wonk said...

I can't resist a couple of reality checks against the Neg-Anons:

1. Riggleman. Anybody remember when, last summer, the "dump Riggleman" folks were pointing to Buck Showalter's hiring by the Orioles (and the bump the Orioles got) as an example of a "smart manager hire" that the Nats should have been doing? How's that Showalter thing working out now?

2. Rizzo. Rizzo's the guy who, among other things, demanded Michael Morse from the Mariners as the price for Langerhans. How's that trade looking now?

3. Rick Eckstein: Today's WaPo story notes that Morse credits Eck with his improvement in hitting.

John C. said...

Let's not start assuming that the Nationals will win against other teams heading into the AS break. The Mariners are over .500, the Rockies and Pirates are at .500 and the Angels and White Sox are only four games under .500 - in other words, they're all right about where the Nationals are. And that's after the Nationals have run off eight straight wins! The Nationals are about as likely to go 7-12 into the break as they are 12-7.

Get to .500 first, THEN set new goals. One thing at a time.

Roberto said...

I prefer cautious optimism. A month ago the Nats came dragging home from an awful road trip. Yes, we've got Z'n back now, but the team is still very young and missing some key pieces.

Marquis would be gone in a snap if there were a "legit" leadoff hitter in the market-- but I don't think there is. We are NOT giving up any infielders. Despite rumors, we are NOT giving up Clipp or breaking up the bullpen, look how long it took to see who fits best in what role.

Nattydread said...

Eight wins is a great kool-aid buzz, that's all I can say.

Streaks define seasons. Teams tend to play humdrum .500 ball, then tank or soar for periods. Over the past 5 years, the Nats have far more soul-destroying losing streaks than they do winning ones, and the two longer winning streaks have both come late in the season when the team was irrelevant.

This streak is different because it jolted them after Zimmerman rejoined them and because it has given them a boost to the .500 stratosphere -- to a place where they now are even more motivated to go out there and win.

They are all saying the right things -- play today. But I look forward to a great second half!!!

Jasoneducator said...

For those who say Coffey has no value: Trading Joe Beimel to Colorado for a few weeks landed us Ryan Mattheus. If Rizzo knows his prospects, maybe he can outsmart somebody again. I like Rizzo the prospect maven, and if he unloads Coffey (and Balester could probably match Coffey's production and be a long man as well), I'm going to believe we get a prospect who as at least worthy of following.
Of course, Nyjer Morgan landed us the Cutter Dykstra of FAIL so there is that.

AndesAngle said...

Bottom line is the Nats are getting better.

TimDz said...

The Morgan trade was addition by subtraction and not a fail by any means.

sjm308 said...

This streak has been a real joy but to me the key is after this streak is over, can we put together another streak. Maybe not 8 but if we can win 4 or 5 it will be a key to the season. We had various losing streaks through the last few years. Why can't we do the same thing on the winning side?

I heard a pretty good college baseball coach say that 1/3rd of your games are going to be wins (great hitting &/or pitching and nothing the other team can do) 1/3 of your games are going to be losses and the key is what you do in those other 1/3. So far in this streak, the games we are winning 2 - 1 or 4 - 2 are those other games. Anyone could have won Saturday's game but we stepped it up and took control. This is what Washington needs to do the rest of the season. There will be 10-0 laughers against us and for us but its those close games that will make the difference and thats why I love our bullpen.

Go Nats

dryw said...

AndesAngle, you are exactly right. I've been completely giddy with the win streak and the proximity to .500, but really, the biggest, most undeniable, and most significant point is that the Nats are GETTING BETTER.

Will they end the season over .500? Don't know. Will they be in contention for--or even win--the wild card? Don't know. Will this glorious win streak end eventually? Definitely.

Are they still a hapless, hopeless, 100-loss team? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!


N. Cognito said...


Shorter version:
You win 54.
You lose 54.
It's what happens in the other 54 that makes the difference.

sjm308 said...

Like the shorter version - I tend to run on

Grandstander, good luck with the fans in black/orange today, keep your seat happy and I will keep my bald head covered in the red curly W hat.

Go Nats

natsfan1a said...

Keep fighting the good fight, Grandstander. I don't have a seat or hat "routine," but I *did* have coffee from my Nationals mug with the crossed bats on it again today. :-)

Go NATS!!!!!!!!

MicheleS said...

I will be at today's game.. can't wait to taste some Toasted O's....

We are a better team, and will savor a sweep, but also agree, stay focused, stay the course, and we can watch this team progress this year, and then contend next year... Remember.. the phillies are getting old, while we have a bright future ahead!!!

HHover said...


Thanks for the stats review. The other thing I noticed worth pointing out is that Morse's BABIP is high--.353 right now. I don't think he'll fall to .300, but I do expect him to fall 20-30 points, which would translate into a similar drop in average, and bring down his slugging maybe 50-60 pts. Which would still leave him with some very impressive season numbers.

MeetmeinDC said...

The bigger question is how this team fares after a loss, competing teams after a loss reel off another win streak, if the Nats lose 5 in a row, the win streak means a whole lot less

Drew8 said...

JasonEd: A belated tip o' the Nats brim for rocking the Donny Hathaway mug shot.

"Where is the Love" for JasonEd?

hack 'em, smack 'em redux said...

Code Orange said...

Big Cat said...

Why is everyone talking about trading this and trading that. We have a very good chemistry with this bunch. We don't need a cancer like Upton. We have Strasburg in the wings as well as a few other promising arms in the minors. i'm sure Riz has some free agents he covets. Riz has built a good foundation in pitching and defense. We are on the right path

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Bill Stoneman said...
Enjoy the moment. This team is going somewhere. As a long time Expo fan, I've been there.
Enjoy your your World Series, just a matter or time. Talent (homegrown) Expos circa 1974.
It's a matter of when (not if).
June 18, 2011 7:03 PM
Bill Stoneman?? The Bill Stoneman who was #26? An original Expo!
I remember you coming up with the Cubs!

How did I miss this the first time??

ehay2k said...

Going to the game today, looking to sweep and see that growl get permanent on Showalter's face. ;-)

We are winning folks, and this streak is something we have not seen in a couple of years, especially since it began on the road, then continued as we rolled over a division leader, winning in 3 different ways.

I was skeptical, but not critical, of the move for better defense at the expense of offense. I still miss Dunn's bat BTW, but my eyes have been opened WIDE to his defensive deficiencies. LaRoche was as fluid as mercury out there. Nothing got my him, including a lot of stuff I though should. Even Morse makes a lot of plays that Dunn had no chance at, and I think Dunn only makes 80% of Morse's routine plays.

As for the rest of our IF, we turn so many double plays, you can almost call them before they happen (FP has done that a couple of times already.)

My one observation about our KILLER defensive infield: They ALL came up as shortstops. Range, Range, and more Range.

Jasoneducator said...

If you listen to that song, you'll see it's almost appropriate here. They're looking for love because they've lost it.

Anyways, glad that you caught the reference. Ironic that The Artist Formerly Known as Souldrummer gets a musical mention under the new handle.

Many Strasburg fans would encourage you to "Put Your Hand In the Hand of The Man" who throws the fastballs.

big cat said...

Very sceptical about Gorzo starting today. Hope Riggs doesn't wait until we are down 6 before getting the pen up

Sec 3, My Sofa said...

Emotional weather report:
Sunny, with patches of scepticism that should clear by mid-afternoon, with an 80% chance of klaxonation. Highs today in DC, low near the Inner Harbor.

Anonymous said...

So there you have it Ankiel to the 15 day DL

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