Friday, April 5, 2013

Tougher challenge ahead

USA Today Sports Images
Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips celebrate a Reds win.
Not to completely diminish the Nationals' 3-0 start to the season, but you do have to issue a small disclaimer: It came against a Marlins club that looks like its in for an incredibly long year, with no real offensive threat outside of Giancarlo Stanton and an injury-ravaged rotation.

Yes, the Nationals did what a good team should do against an inferior one. They beat them handily, never really offering any reason to believe they were going to lose any of those three games this week. But you have to be careful not to draw too many conclusions about Davey Johnson's club based solely on its performance against Miami.

That won't still be the case come Sunday night, after the Nats have had a chance to play a full weekend slate against perhaps the toughest opponent they'll face all season: the Reds.

Cincinnati perhaps doesn't get the credit and attention it deserves, but make no mistake, this is one of the very best teams in baseball entering the season. Dusty Baker's boys won 97 games last year, return just about everyone, added a high-OBP leadoff man in Shin-Soo Choo, have a perennial MVP candidate in Joey Votto, a deep and talented rotation and a devastating closer in Aroldis Chapman.

The Reds already have faced a tough challenge this season, opening up with an interleague series victory over the potent Angels. And they pose a particularly dangerous threat in their cozy ballpark along the shores of the Ohio River.

"They're a good team," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "They just came off a tough series with the Angels, and that's one of the other best teams in the National League. It's early, but it's one of those series where you go in and it's going to be a tough series."

Tonight's opener might prove the toughest of the three for the Nationals. Dan Haren makes his debut for the club in an unfriendly venue, facing a lineup loaded with left-handed power. The veteran righty has made only four previous appearances at Great American BallPark and has surrendered 10 runs over 19 2/3 innings. The good news: Haren was dominant in his most-recent start there in 2009, allowing one run over seven innings.

Ross Detwiler starts tomorrow afternoon's game against Mike Leake. Then comes the premier matchup of the series: Stephen Strasburg vs. Johnny Cueto on Sunday in a showdown of aces.

So, is it possible to play a "big series" on the first weekend in April?

"No," Zimmerman insisted. "If we sweep or if we get swept or whatever, I think it's a little too early to talk about that kind of stuff. We play them, and then we come home and play them (April 25-28). I think we'll be done with them before April. Which is kind of unfortunate, because neither team will get a chance to really get into a groove and establish themselves as what kind of team they are. It's a good team and a good matchup. Whether it's April or September, you've still got to go in there and try to win the series, just like everyone else."

37 comments:

The Adventurers said...

Wait, so Zimm thinks the Angels are in the NL or am I reading that wrong?

A DC Wonk said...

Question: yeah, I know Cincy is supposed to be pretty good.

But, aren't their numbers (particularly their 97 victories) a bit inflated because they had two (count 'em, two!) teams in their division that lost over 100 games?

They got 23 of their 97 victories against those hapless teams (going 11-5 against the AAAA Astros, and 12-4 against the almost-as-bad Cubs). (FWIW, the Nats went 7-1 and 6-1 against those teams).

Cueto, Votto, Chapman are first string all stars, no doubt. But for the rest of the team? Is it possible they have some inflated numbers a bit?

I'm not asserting it, just asking the question.

Section 222 said...

I think you make a good point Wonk. The Nats won the season series last year 5-2, winning 3 out of 4 at Nats Park and 2 out of 3 at the GAB. (And one of those games was an H-Rod blown save...) I wonder if the Reds are pissed that once again they play 4 games in DC and 3 in Cincy?

They got lucky getting the bottom of our rotation. Hee hee.

Section 222 said...

So a question about JZnn's outing yesterday. According to the chart on Nationals Journal, he threw 52 fastballs, 25 sliders, just 6 changeups and 5 curveballs out of 89 pitches. (I know that adds up to 88 pitches, but whatever.). Were the folks who saw him in spring training and praised his changeup expecting him to use it more?

UNTERP said...

Not only facing the Reds is a good gauge for the Nats, but right out the shoot we get to see how Haren will react to his first start since his subpar (for him) prior season. I think this start could send the Nationals to the stratosphere in optimism; it could also quell some of it...

natsfan1a said...

You're reading it wrong. He's referring to the Reds.

The Adventurers said...

Wait, so Zimm thinks the Angels are in the NL or am I reading that wrong?
April 05, 2013 11:08 AM

Theophilus T. S. said...

I see two out of three. They will beat Leake. Split against Bailey or Cueto -- I'm not sure which. The Reds day-to-day line-up is OK; Votto is the big ticket who must be pitched around. Frankly, position-by-position lineup comparisons for the Nats are not that important. What matters are the pitching matchups. If that day's pitcher is likely to dominate, the Nats will win, whether their hitters are the ones who showed up Wednesday or the ones who showed up last night. (Actually, last night, they were damned lucky the game wasn't even going into the eighth.)

Leake is a guy a good team should beat nine times out of ten. Bailey is more of a 50-50 guy, and Cueto is about 50-50 matched against Strasburg.

So, two out of three is good enuf for me, and what I expect.

natsfan1a said...

I don't expect anything, other than that they'll, you know, play the games. :-)

John C. said...

The Reds are an interesting question. Their pythagorean W/L record was 91-71 (six games under where they finished), and as DC Wonk points out, even that came against a very weak NL Central. You thought the Nats had fortunate starting pitching health last year? The five guys in the Reds rotation made 161 starts last year. That's unreal. And bears watching, with Dusty Baker's reputation for wearing out pitchers.

The Reds got better from last year by adding Choo and getting Votto healthy. But that is probably offset by the tougher schedule and regression by the rotation and by surprise ROY candidate Todd Frazier. They are likely to be right there with the Cardinals for the NL Central, with the Brewers and Pirates as dark horse candidates.

Doc said...

To your point DC Wonk, Nats really don't have a dominant reliever like Chapman, or a 1st baseman like Votto, but I think that the Nats' overall bullpen is better.

Defensse is about the same quality as the Nats. SP's I give the edge to the Nats.

Offensive distinctions, to be decided.

Alphabet Soup Erik said...

The Reds are legit. I would give their lineup a slight edge over ours, but it is very close. Our starting pitching is definitely better. Our bullpen is deeper, but Chapman is pretty close to untouchable. When you have the best 1B, 2B, and closer in the NL, you are going to be a tough team to face. Adding Choo really helps them also. Should be a battle of two playoff teams.

NatsLady said...

Thanks for putting up the blog, Mark. Still not getting the most recent posts, but it's a start.

Seeing Red

http://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/04/seeing-red.html

NatsLady said...

Two fun sites.

Daily MLB Hit List

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/hitlist/index.php?thisdate=2013-04-01

Cant Predict Baseball

http://www.youcantpredictbaseball.com/

NatsLady said...

According to fangraphs, Span has a slightly below average arm, and well above average range. (Michael Bourn has far and away the most range.) Bourn is in a class by himself, but Span is right at the the top of CF's in 2012 and 2013 (so far).

Center Fielders

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=cf&stats=fld&lg=all&qual=y&type=1&season=2013&month=0&season1=2012&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=24,d

Scooter said...

Wonk, since you provided us with both the Reds' and the Nats' records against the Two Woefuls, I took the liberty:

Reds vs non-Astros, non-Cubs: 74-56, .569, a 92-win pace (actually 92.2)
Nats vs non-Astros, non-Cubs: 85-62, .578, a 94-win pace (actually 93.7)

My larger point would be, everybody gets some games against patsies. Feel free to knock off a win or two here or there, but don't overthink it. That's how I would approach it: valid point, but not that important over the full season.

I also thought John C. presented some good thoughts.

natsfan1a said...

fyi, that's where it took me (to the Seeing Red post) when I clicked on your entry in the Blog Roll just now, so I think you're good to go.

NatsLady said...

Thanks for putting up the blog, Mark. Still not getting the most recent posts, but it's a start.

Seeing Red

http://ladyandthenats.blogspot.com/2013/04/seeing-red.html
April 05, 2013 11:51 AM

natsfan1a said...

Oh, it's because I clicked on the top link with your blog name rather than clicking on the bottom link with the specific article name. I think folks here are probably smart enough to figure that out, though, and get there via the Blog Roll. :-)

natsfan1a said...

fyi, that's where it took me (to the Seeing Red post) when I clicked on your entry in the Blog Roll just now, so I think you're good to go.

A DC Wonk said...

Scooter -- nice work, and thanks.

Yes, everybody gets games against paties, but the Reds, by having two of them in their division had more such games.

OTOH, as you point out (indirectly), if the Nats were 13-2 against those teams, then they did less well (comparatively) against the others if they still only ended up with one more win than the Reds.

In any event, as _everyone's_ been pointing out -- the Reds seem like a better team this year than last.

(Insert closing cliche here -- how about "that's why the play the game" ? ;-) )

3on2out said...

If the Nationals can figure out a way to win with Haren on the bump tonight, it should be a lovely weekend.

peric said...

All I can say is watch out for the Cubs. I think they are going to surprise some people ... which may be why Boras signed EJax there.

Scooter said...

Wonk, I don't know if you've ever seen these "adjusted standings" or "third-order wins" that Baseball Prospectus (and probably others) does. I'd show you the final 2012 standings, but I can only find the current ones -- which are pretty useless only three games into the season.

In a nutshell, they show the real standings, and also theoretical wins based on runs scored, and then based on runs the teams should have scored, and finally adjusted for strength of schedule. It's just a way to quantify the point you were making -- or, rather, asking about.

Tcostant said...

Mrk tweeted Paul McCartney playing at Nationals Park on July 12; the presale for STH is
Thursday, April 11 at 10:00 a.m.

4 Ticket limit

NatsLady said...

OK, 1A, thanks! Are people getting their emails for ticket exchanges? I put mine in on April 1, and haven't gotten the email. Spoke to an agent, she said they had received the request but had been very busy and not done it yet.

You can't do the transaction at the park, because although they can apparently take games OFF your card, they can't put new ones ON the card. Also, the thingie for looking at your past transactions isn't working yet, so you don't know if your request went into the electronic black hole.

peric said...

The Reds are more the power hitting team but not as good defensively. There's that. And Dusty Baker still likes to burn out starting pitchers arms. That's why its interesting to see that every Reds starter made their starts last season. Dusty isn't the best at managing pitching.

peric said...

And for fun maybe Seamhead wants to compare Danny Espinosa to Tim Cullen today.

peric said...

The sample size is still way too small to make any kind of reasonable statistical prognostication. Need to get toward the end of May at least.

Tcostant said...

Nats Lady - I did two exchanges for the Yankees game and yesterday game and recieve the tickets for both. My rep said they were processing the order for games about to be played first; so if you exchange was for games in late April or after they likely will get processed after they catch up.

I was very happy with the exchange tickets I rec'd.

Rich P. said...

Asked about the ticket exchange at the new Season Plan Holders Lounge in the ballpark yesterday. (No seats in there, so it's actually more of a Loiter than a Lounge.) There are two ways you can get your ticket exchanges, e-mail and will call. If you want an actual ticket, choose will call. Supposedly the tickets will be available at will call in advance of the actual game, and you can pick up will call for future games at the ballpark will call window after games. Before the game, they just do will call for that night. Also, they are processing exchange requests in order of the games requested for. So if your requests are for games later in the season, it will take longer to process them.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Ladson tweeted that Danny has shaved his beard.

Anna Peregrina said...

Shaved his beard! How happy we are!

Scooter said...

Okay, apparently Yoda likes it.

:-)

NatsLady said...

The ticket I want is for April 12 (Friday), exchanging the one I can't use (April 10 (Wednesday). She promised I would get the email before the game... I would prefer to use will call, but if the line is long that's hard for me.

OK, one more funny post (this one has Stras in it).

the-worst-of-the-best-the-weeks-wildest-pitches


http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-worst-of-the-best-the-weeks-wildest-pitches/

Dave said...

Nats Lady, I too called yesterday asking about an exchange. I swapped one ticket off the game next Thursday, but both my tickets for Thursday still show up.

I got the same word that Tcostant and Rich P. did: they'll do them in the order the games appear on the calendar. The person I spoke with said they were going to do a bunch of exchanges "this weekend."

If I don't hear anything by Monday I'll call again.

Section 222 said...

Unlike Red Carpet Rewards, which are automated and appear immediately, they have a team of actual human beings doing the future exchanges. So be patient. I got mine for April 12 yesterday, but I had submitted them last week.

If you ask for the tickets to be emailed, they'll send you a PDF ready for printing, and forwarding. Beats a line at Will Call any day.

Also, in case anyone else has encountered this, I tried to exchange unused tickets from yesterday for RCR points. (You can do that within 5 days of the missed game.) At this time, the past games aren't appearing on the Online Ticket Exchange site, but I called this morning and was told that they are aware of the problem and are "working on it."

Another_Sam said...

I left the office early to watch that club from a few miles to the north. They're showing the booth. Does Palmer wear a rug?

Scooter said...

I wouldn't be surprised, Sam. Frankly, Palmer looks like an animatronic wooden doll to me.

(And I say this as someone who has the deepest respect for Jim Palmer's ability and his knowledge. Homeboy just looks weird.)

Rich P. said...

I think Palmer's hair is real, although probably colored. It's the facelifts that make his face look weird. He's a guy who's always made a big deal about his looks. Remember the underwear ads?

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