The Nats have been off to an awesome start in the month of April. To end the month at 14-8 is somewhat unexpected. Fans were optimistic before opening day, but I’m not sure that anyone would have predicted how many ways our boys on the field would find ways to win (despite the frustrating road trip to California).
And now we leave the first month, and we start to have some real data to work with instead of merely making guesses based on limited opportunities. But because I’m not REALLY a baseball math person, I called up someone who is – Drew, husband of First Lady Ashley, who also writes a stats blog called Crunching Through My Day. We’re going to try something new this month, and depending on how things go…this could be a semi-regular thing. Let us know what you think, and we’ll see what happens.
The next month is going to be the Nats first real challenge. Everyone said that their opening schedule was one where they had a chance to dominate, and clearly they did since they sit tied for first at the top of the NL leaderboard. What we’re going to do is go series-by-series and using Maggie’s guts and Drew’s computer programs, try to predict how things will look by the end of the month. We’ll address the first four teams the Nats will face in today’s post on FLoB, and the back half’s opponents tomorrow on Crunching Through My Day.
Currently, the DBacks sit in the middle of the NL West with a record of 12-11. After this series, the next time they’ll see the Nats is the middle of August, once things get interesting. Last year the Nats were 2-5 against the D-backs who finished 1st in the NL West with a record of 94-68. With that history and the back end of our rotation facing Arizona, I predict 1-2.
The Dbacks are an enigma to me since I hear so little about them. Looking at the #s this will be an interesting series for the Nats. Arizona’s pitching looks awful, allowing 1.09 HR/9 and a 4.01 FIP. 290 BABIP. The Pirates aren’t that bad. However, their offense seems better than most. This should be a real series with the Nats pitching strength pitted against their offense and their poor pitching against our abysmal offense. After the series with the Dodgers, I’m going to say that our offense won’t get it done here. One upping Maggie and saying a sweep.
The Nationals will take on the Phillies twice in the month of May – during the first weekend of May for the highly touted “Our Park” initiative, followed by a trip to Citizens Bank Park towards the end of the month. They’ll face the fury of Strasburg during the first series, and will see the middle of the rotation up in Philly. I predict 2-1 for the first meeting, and 1-2 for the second (we’ll blame the Philthies for that) for an even 3-3 for the month of May.
The Philthies suffered a huge set back this spring with Howard and Utley going on the DL. While questions swirled about whether or not their pitching would be enough to carry them through the NL. Through April, the results aren’t pretty. The Phillies pitching staff has pitched pretty middling, with middle of the NL stats in K/9, BB/9 and BABIP (oddly enough, their FIP is 2nd in the NL behind the Nats). Their offense has been fairly nondescript which probably explains their record. While April results don’t have much bearing on post season outcomes, particularly for the Philthies, I’m not counting them out yet. Playing the Nats brings out the best in both teams (and the worst in Philthies fans). For the two series, I’m going to say that there’s a split, with the Philthies taking 2 of the first 3 and the Nats taking the 2 of the last 3.
Pittsburgh Pirates – 5/8-10, 16-17
The Pirates are a team that I always feel bad for. They haven’t had a winning season since 1992, and they’ve been dumped on for so long in a way that the Nationals only had to endure for a few seasons. They’ll face off for a three game series in Pittsburgh, followed by a 2 game series a week later in DC. I say 2-1 for the first series, and 1-1 for the second, leaving a prediction of 3-2 for the month.
I agree with you Maggie. Despite the fact that Sid Bream sliding into home is still the most exciting baseball moment of my life (Braves win! Braves win!), I feel bad for the Pirates. Even for a bad team, they’re underperforming. The Pirates pitching is ok but their offense atrocious, falling near the bottom in BABP, H, HR, and K%. Pair that against the Nationals pitching and I’m calling for a sweep in the first series and a split in the second. Assuming the Nats actually hit, that is.
Cincinnati Reds – 5/11-13
The Nats played the Reds as their first home stand of the year and took 3 of 4. If the Nats stay on top of their game, I bet we’ll see another win…even if they are playing this series in Ohio. I predict: 2-1.
While the Nats took 3 of 4 from the Reds at home, they got lucky. Going into the 8th inning of each game, the Nats’ win probability was 94.8, 21.6, 94.2, and 50.0. Games 1, 2, and 4 went into extra innings and the Nats lost the last one. The Nats could have easily lost the first two of those games and we’d be looking at a very different season right now. While the Reds haven’t been outstanding, they’ve got a core that’s as good as the Nats. I’m afraid the ball is going to bounce their way in the series. I’m going to be a downer here and say the baseball gods will smile on the Reds with a sweep.
We’ll finish up the rest of our thoughts tomorrow on Crunching Through My Day. Be sure to check back for the thrilling finale (haha) where we reveal how we think the Nats will finish out the month.5 Comments
I have a very busy spring ahead of me, and this last Saturday wasn’t much different. I had three items on my agenda: visiting the zoo in the morning, baseball game in the afternoon (main goal: Strasburg bobblehead), and birthday party in the evening. Since my afternoon and evening agendas overlapped quite a bit, I had to split my time. This meant arriving early for the game in order to guarantee getting a bobblehead, and leaving about halfway through to make my next event. But the time I had at the ballgame allowed me to get in some quality portions of the game, and to appreciate what’s happening with the Nationals this season.
Before the game even started I was hanging out with some Nats fans (including @tracytran, who sold me my ticket), talking about the team, and what we thought of the way things were going so far, and our hopes for the future. In the middle of that discussion, we were approached by the Nat Pack who asked if we wanted to participate in a trivia game on NatsHD. Tracy and I agreed, and played “Ross or Ryan” (Detweiler or Mattheus) with Clint. Apart from the first question (who wears #48?), most of the answers were not things that either of us readily knew because Ryan Mattheus and Ross Detweiler aren’t given the Tiger Beat treatment the way that Zimmerman and Strasburg are. Through sheer luck (50/50!), I ended up winning the game, and was given a prize pack which included a knit cap, a frosty mug and an Ian Desmond bobblehead. Since I already had a Desmond bobblehead, I gave mine to Tracy so he could complete his collection.
On to the game – we sat up in section 222, which has a nice view along the first base line, but not so far in the outfield that it’s hard to see. We were a little worried after the top of the second when the Reds scored their first run, but with some timely walks, a hit by Flores and great base-running by Jayson Werth, things were tied up 1-1 at the end of that inning. In the third inning, LaRoche smacked a double and batted in two runs that would be enough for the Nats to win.
The third inning is also when I think the crowd started to notice that Jackson was pitching really well. With the exception of the 8th, he would continue to take down the Reds hitters in order, 1-2-3. It was really an impressive outing, and I’m sad that I didn’t get to see all of it. And while I’m praising Jackson’s performance, I think now is the time to mention my ESP. During the third or fourth inning, I turned to Tracy and said, “Since Gio had his first hit ever at the home opener, I think Edwin should get a hit in this game to balance things out.” I had promised myself I would stay through the president’s race, and so was actually walking towards the metro when I heard the cheers for Jackson as he made his first hit of the year!
And that’s it. I watched the end of the game in awe from the bar where the birthday party was being held. I actually drew the attention of the entire table to what was happening when I noticed that Jackson was still pitching in the 8th. I’m pleased to report that after his amazing complete game, everyone at the table was talking about the Nats and the fantastic start to the season they were off to. And because I have no pictures from the bar, here are a few more pics from the game.
Full album can be found here.
N.B. – I held off on writing this post until I had time, which meant I had the opportunity to go to Jackson’s second outing at Nats Park on Thursday which wasn’t quite as good. I’ll address that game in a post tomorrow.
Friday the 13th. You never quite know what to expect when that day rolls around. Usually, it’s a typical day except you have something to blame if anything goes wrong. My evening with the Nats didn’t start off well – our regular lot (HH) was charging $10 for parking (double last year’s price of $5, which is still posted on the Nat’s website) and the Half Street Fairgrounds bouncers were harassing us about carrying water bottles. Neither incident put me in a good mood whatsoever. However, once we got inside the park, things changed for the better.
First, my husband bought me a fried pie from Box Frites. On the spectrum of commercial fried pies, it tasted much better than it looked, but didn’t quite measure up to the Varsity (but really, what could?). Overall, a B+ pushed into A- territory by the decadent caramel sauce. The filling was wonderful (I tried the apple, he tried the mixed berry. We didn’t share).
Next, we got to watch Jordan Zimmermann play. This First Lady loves the tall socks and the good arm. He’s a fast pitcher too – the 7th inning stretch was somewhere around 8:45. At that point, the Nats were down by one, but they soon tied it up with a homer from Nady. Also? The Reds pitcher was in for one batter before he was yanked – Nady. I guess it’s bad form to give up a run on your second pitch.
The Nats outfield was pretty solid other than back-to-back errors in the 7th. The team seemed very cohesive too – the atmosphere at the park was more an expectation of winning than of clinging to the faint hope of a win smothered in a blanked of acceptance that the team will lose.
Sadly, even though the Nats came back spectacularly in the 13th, I was in bed asleep by that point. Maggie texted me to see if we were still at the game, but several late nights in a row had done their work and I was out. Next time Nats, next time…
More pictures here.
Tonight’s game went on WAY too long. On Friday the 13th, the Nats took 13 innings to win it, improving to 6-2. Ashley was there and will have a proper game post later, but here’s the walk-off single from Jayson Werth as seen from Maggie’s couch.
There is nothing like opening day at baseball – the crack of the bats, green fields, movement of bodies. Add to that beautiful weather, and there’s not much more you can really ask for after a long bleak winter. And when your team has already spent a week on the road, it’s easy to understand why Nats fans were a little impatient to see our team after the performances that they had put on earlier in the season. Any time a team comes back from a road trip 4-2, your fans will be eager to see if that performance can be replicated at home. And Nats fans were in for a treat.
It wasn’t a good win, but it was still a win. There were lots of good things about it – Gio’s lights out pitching with 7 Ks and 0 walks, LaRoche knocking a 2 RBI single to get the first runs of the game on the board, a fantastic 10th inning by Craig Stammen to keep the Nats in the game, and some smart baserunning by Ryan Zimmerman to close things out.
But there was some ugly too. This was not Ryan Zimmerman’s game. In addition to a throwing error in the third, there were 2 hits that went down the third base line that flew right between Zimmy and the foul line. The people in Maggie’s section kept wondering if those would be counted as errors against #11, but we’re thinking he was just lucky he didn’t get any sort of touch on those balls, or else they WOULD have been counted against him.
Tyler Clippard seemed to struggle a little in the 8th, but worked his way out of the jam, but Brad Lidge could not say the same. Everyone in Nats Park was hoping for a clean 9th, and to go home happy, but Lidge walked Votto, allowed a double, intentionally walked to fill the bases, and then allowed a hit to a guy whose BA at that point was .071. Ouch. Brad is lucky that the next two hitters returned hits that were catchable, because if the Nats had well and truly blown their lead, things would have been ugly in Southwest DC.
As for what’s new around the park…we can’t quite tell you yet. Maggie and Ashley met up before the game to enjoy $5 beers (no change) at the Scoreboard Walk (and had time to say hello to some twitter friends) before the game started. Ashley and her husband Drew started making use of their “Eat for the Cycle” cards (Pro tip: you have to ask for one – they’re not just sitting out near the registers), and Maggie and her dad went for old favorites, ordering a half-smoke with chili and cheese and a hamburger and peanuts, respectively. We’ll try to sample as much of the new offerings as possible throughout the season and let you know what got bumped off the menus to make room.
But for now, let’s celebrate the Nats being in sole possession of first place with their 5-2 record. Even better? The Mets and Phillies are starting a series, and will hopefully sabotage each others’ attempts to climb in the standings. Keep your fingers crossed that the Nats can enjoy the view from the top for a little while longer.
More pictures from the game are here.
Game: #056 – Nationals vs. Reds
Starting Pitchers: Livan Hernandez (#61, 3-3, 2.45) vs. Aaron Harang (#39, 4-4, 5.62)
Final Score: Nationals: 4, Reds: 2
Nats New Record: 27-29
Play of the Game: It could have been Roger Bernadina’s diving catch, but Maggie was in the bathroom when it happened (and she gets final call on these things). Instead, this honor goes to Drew Stubbs and Jonny Gomes, who – in a play Maggie has been waiting her entire life to see in person - ran into each other while trying to catch a fly ball, and thus, dropped it. Spectacular work, guys.
Player of the Game: Ian Desmond – clutch hitting with players on base, and everyone in the park was behind him as he was first 1) called out at third on a great split leg slide and 2) thrown out of the game for arguing with the ump and throwing his helmet to the ground.
Favorite Non-baseball Moment: During one break, they played Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”. Maggie started dancing in her seat, and Jon turned to her and they began discussing how someone should do the Carlton, since this is THAT song. Luckily, two guys stepped up to form. It was FANTASTIC.
Who was there: Maggie and her friend Jon from college (he just moved back to the area, and is a Mets fan, but she’s hoping to turn him on to the hometown team)
Our Records: Maggie – 3-7; Jon 1-0
Where did we sit: Section 303, Row F, in the middle. These were the seats that Maggie got with her Red Carpet Rewards points, anticipating a Strasburg start, but it was obviously not meant to be. The seats were fine – good view, if only a little buggy (which combined with the humid weather meant a lot of uncomfortable people). However, there was some kind of green sludge behind our seats. Ew!
What did we eat: Both Maggie and Jon got the nachos from Hard Times Cafe. These are SO good, but there are a couple caveats – eat them as soon as you can, since cold nachos are nobody’s friend, and the chili tends to make the chips soggy if they sit for too long. If you get peppers, they WILL be spicy-hot, since the chili on them already has a kick. Sour cream is your friend – it’s a cooling contrast to the hotness of both chili and peppers. Maggie also had a small peanut butter gelato from La Piccola Gelataria. This was refreshing, but was not particularly peanut-buttery, and also had little flakes of chocolate in it.
President’s Race: First off, I had the pleasure of meeting the fearless Let Teddy Win blogger at the condiment stand. We had a nice chat, and both hoped for a Teddy win in compensation for so many purchasing tickets with hopes of seeing Strasburg (by the way – if you, or someone you know has an extra ticket – let him know). Sadly, this was not the case. Teddy led for the first half, only to be overtaken by Abe (ugh), who beat Tom to the finish. Teddy also seemed to break his glasses, which hung limply from his face – poor guy!
- Dr. Albert Weisbrot sang the National Anthem. Dude has a great voice (and name!), and did a wonderful job.
- Wil Nieves had an UGLY throw to try and throw out Brandon Phillips who was stealing second. I love you #23, but when do we get Pudge back?
- Maggie said, “It would be interesting in a full crowd setting like this to see what the average ages of spectators are by section. Is that too dorky?” Jon replied, “I think you’re allowed to be a statistics dork at a baseball game. [switching to 'nerd voice'] His on-base-percentage is higher than it was last year. [switching back to normal] Oh wait – there it is.” as Wil Nieves’ OBP popped up on the big screen.
- Livo got a balk in the 5th. In other news, Maggie still does not understand the balk.
- The “Who’s that Nat” game on the big board was adorable. Maggie votes for more photos of Nationals players as babies!
- During the 7th inning stretch, the dance cam turned on Greivis Vasquez, recently graduated guard from the University of Maryland Men’s Basketball team. After the game, Maggie saw him near the Nats after-the-game show desk, and got close, hoping to ask for an autograph or just shake his hand and tell him that she was a fan of his (despite being a UNC fan in general). Unfortunately she wussed out, and the only evidence she saw him is this blurry picture where her uber-pale left shoulder makes a cameo.