The Nats have beaten baseball’s best; Lessons to be learned

Per recent MLB Power Rankings, the Dodgers, Phillies, and Orioles were named as the Top-3 teams by Ryan Spilborghs, C.J. Nitkowski, and Brad Lidge on MLB Network Radio this week. The 2024 Washington Nationals have won against each of those teams. This is a Nationals team that Baseball Prospectus had projected to lose 103-105 games in different simulations just two months ago. On Monday, the Nats had sole possession of the final Wild Card spot in the NL if the season had ended. Yes, we all know that there is about 75 percent of the season remaining. That’s the same for all teams.

But other teams don’t have James Wood, Dylan Crews, Brady House, Robert Hassell III, Lane Thomas, Cade Cavalli, and Josiah Gray available for possible call-ups to help a team. And per a source, the Nats have money to spend — if needed at the trade deadline. While it is premature to say the Nats would be buyers at the trade deadline, it is good to know they have the cash if needed. Biggest needs appear to be a first baseman and another hi lev reliever. Yes, every team will be looking to improve their bullpen, and not as many will be shopping for a first baseman.

Today, the Nats wake up to a .500 record. They didn’t get the walk-off win last night. They only came close. But lessons learned that the home team, by strategy in a tie game and a walk-off situation, with a ghost runner on second base — you have to move that runner over to third base when that runner represents the winning run with no outs. The Nationals had Nick Senzel swing away, and he harmlessly grounded out to the third baseman and did not advance the runner with Jesse Winker‘s potent bat up next. When Senzel was acquired in the offseason, it was a known fact that Senzel crushes left-handed pitching — but struggles against most right-handed pitching. That has held as true as he has a .588 OPS against RHPs and 1.154 against LHPs.

Lineup construction seems to be a problem, or maybe it is more about players not executing. A manager’s job is to put their players in their best situation to succeed, and in Dave Martinez‘s defense, he did not have many better replacements. Speaking of defense, it was incredible in the second inning of the game. CJ Abrams had a great ranging play to record the first out, Jacob Young made an incredible running catch into the gap on a 370 foot liner, and this play in the video below by Winker to Abrams to Keibert Ruiz was a key play in the game. Defense Matters, and it showed all game. That is how this team wins with defense, pitching, and timely hits.

One good sign is that Eddie Rosario has been making a positive contribution to the team for the past week. He has certainly made an impact with his bat in the past week with two key home runs among his 6-16 surge.

Eddie Rosario‘s batting record for 2024

While Rosario has certainly poured it on in the month of May, he is still trying to work his way out of negative WAR territory. Unfortunately, Joey Meneses, Keibert Ruiz, and Tanner Rainey are moving in the wrong direction. You can see some of the key numbers embedded as graphics in this tweet:

What Martinez, General Manager Mike Rizzo, the analytics group, and their coaching staff can try to do is strategize with different combinations to come up with ways to create more offense. The speed game has been a key to winning games this season. On the pitching, Max Scherzer used to say that giving up a couple solo home runs shouldn’t beat you, but in theory it can. Mitchell Parker exited in the sixth inning down 2-1 after he gave up two solo home runs. While he didn’t suffer the loss, there was not enough Nats’ offense to put more points on the board. The Nats lost in extra innings by one run. The value of a singular run is enormous. The Nats have now lost 5-of-9 one-run games this season.

1Jesse Winker232310085122470415301122.282.380.506.88643330110.333126153
2Luis García Jr.242498916299021460719.319.367.484.85144000000.38697143
3CJ Abrams24241089618245441070822.250.318.510.82849021120.28289134
4Ildemaro Vargas9521190620031211.316.350.421.7718101000.33379122
5Jacob Young17145545111330033069.289.377.356.73316012102.35197113
6Riley Adams8830262610120039.231.300.385.68510100100.29410196
7Trey Lipscomb16155950812101320711.240.345.320.66516310001.29012094
8Joey Meneses202088764203001210815.263.330.303.63223210301.31313585
9Nick Senzel1413565068003500521.160.236.340.57617000000.1925264
10Joey Gallo16156452463023001132.
11Eddie Rosario232384771012203741622.
12Keibert Ruiz141459562900240017.
13Drew Millas22660100001001.
14Lane Thomas1414615614000351417.
15Alex Call31541000000003.
16Nasim Nuñez70113000002000.
17Víctor Robles311010000000101.0000000000
Team Total23721689679089174364228435479211.220.298.360.65728414124935.2699389
Nats offense against Right-Handed pitchers

While small sample sizes of platoon splits don’t tell the whole story, couldn’t you come up with a better lineup against right-handed pitching by starting Ildemaro Vargas in left field, Winker at DH, Riley Adams at catcher, and Trey Lipscomb at third base?

Again, the value of that one run goes a long way, and that is the lesson for today.

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