Meltdown Soup Mix

BlackCatSanto_display_image_mediumIf you have hopes for the Nats to come back and win the division this year there may be good underpinnings for that. September is notorious for division leader collapses. The list is quite long including the 1964 Phillies, 2007 Mets, and infamously the 1969 Cubs. These collapses share common traits to the point that the collapse appears to be some kind of formula. Add a little of this, a little of that, add heat and Voila’. It’s much like cooking soup. If it is a formula, then you should be able to see the components taking shape ahead of time. In other words, it may be predictable.

So, what are the ingredients? The list isn’t very long. It takes tired pitching, cool bats at precisely the wrong time, and a challenger that gets red hot at precisely the right time. Are these Mets vulnerable to all of the above? Let’s compare them to the 1969 Cubs.

Tired Pitching: Leo Durocher played his starters. This applied to position players and pitchers. Looking at his four starters the average innings pitched was 260. Ferguson Jenkins pitched 311.1 innings and Bill Hands pitched an even 300. Not only were the innings totals high, Durocher would leave starters in until late in the game. Jenkins averaged 7.2 innings for his 43 starts. Leo paid for it in September. Entering a game on September 3rd the Cubs had a 5-game lead. Eight games later they were 2 games back after losing 8 games in a row. The pitching collapsed allowing some 6.75 runs per game over that stretch. All four starters lost twice through the rotation. The Cubs would never regain the lead.

So, what of the current Mets’ pitching? Matt Harvey is on an innings limit that may result in an early shutdown a la’ Strasburg. Buster Olney is tweeting that the Dark Knight only has 3 or 4 starts left. DeGrom is showing some bald spots on the tread. His innings are up to 160, which is 18 more than all of last season. Since the All-Star break he is 2-1 with his last win coming against Baltimore almost 2 weeks ago. Syndegaard, aka “Thor” has won only one game on the road all season, a five-inning, four-run effort that was really won by the bats. Since the 14th of August the Mets are allowing 5.1 runs a game. Only once in that stretch did they allow less than 3 runs. This is hardly stellar pitching.

The bullpens are similar. Phil Regan was the closer. Leo sent him to the mound 71 times. So far this year Jerry Familia has pitched in 62 games with a couple of 4 and 5-out trips. The odds are that Familia will pitch even more than Regan did.
This pitching staff is suddenly vulnerable.

Cool Bats: The Cubs’ starting position players were worn out by September. Durocher would not platoon people. Billy Williams played every game. Five players played more than 150 including the Catcher Randy Hundley. The Cubs played more day games in the hot sun than anyone due to no lights at Wrigley. Over their last 25 games they had 12 where they scored 2 runs or less. Tired legs turned into tired bats.

The Mets’ bats have been on fire since the acquisition of Cespedes at the trade deadline. While the pitching has declined the bats have carried the team. Over the same 14-game stretch where the pitching allowed 5.1 runs a game, the offense scored 6.5 runs a game including back to back 14 run efforts. Admittedly this was against lousy pitching. But, still, that’s a lot of runs. The question becomes; is this sustainable? Odds are great that it isn’t. In order for the Mets’ collapse to take root the bats need to cool. Better pitching will help. But, while the Nats go to St Louis to see Michael Wacha the Mets get three more days of Phillies feasting. It’s not a rosy scenario. The odds favor the Mets bats staying productive. The lineup has been jostled a number of times. There shouldn’t be worn out players out there with the exception of Granderson who has played all but one game.

Hot Chaser: The biggest question of the day is; can the Nats get hot? I don’t mean warm. I mean white-hot. While the Cubs were losing those 8 games back in early September 1969 the Mets won 7 on the way to a 10-game winning streak. If you look at most of these late-season collapses, the chaser has that 10-game heater in early to mid-September. That definitive hot streak is the move that puts the chaser in the lead to stay. Does this iteration of the Nats have that in them? Without the heat there is no soup.

Prognosis: Were this a weather forecast I’d put the probability of a Mets collapse at something around 50%. Pitching is sustainable. Hitting is evaporative. The Mets pitching is definitely in decline. The hitting has carried them through it to this point. That’s not a recipe for the long haul. The focus shifts to the Nats. If they can go on a run the pressure on the Mets will show the cracks in the walls. The question is; can they do it?
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33 Responses to Meltdown Soup Mix

  1. veejh says:

    Who could forget the 2011 Braves and Red Sox?


  2. stoatva says:

    Bit the bullet and put 50% down on my postseason strips. What the heck, I figure it’s like I bought a $25 lottery ticket. Had been assigned pretty decent seats in my regular section and if a miracle happens and I didn’t reserve them I’d want to go suck on a shotgun.

    I guess we will find out pretty quickly if I have any mojo left.

    Looks like a good blog post but tl;dr. Maybe on my dinner break.

    Just win this one tonight, boys. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m hoping Nats starters can repeat that great series sweep they put on the Pirates back in June, and channel that focus on the Cardinals.


  4. adcwonk says:

    Let’s not forget: the Mets were so hot in 1969 that they ended up with 100 wins. I’m not sure that’s the best model to use. Had the Cubs played better, they still would have lost — the Mets followed a hot 21-10 August with a scorching 23-7 September.

    The 2007 Mets on the other hand . . . 😉

    In that year, in Sept, the Mets played .500 ball while the Phils were 17-11.


    • Tonight, tomorrow, and Wednesday will give us the clearest view of where the Nats are. The Cardinals have the best record in the MLB and this is the time for MW to manage each game like it’s the playoffs and that becomes the blueprint for a week from today when the Nats face the Mets for 3 games head-to-head. I hope Rizzo will have some extra “arms” + Uggla on the plane ready for roster expansion tomorrow.


      • rayvil01 says:

        I saw Uggla in the dugout yesterday. He may be in St. Louis with the team already.

        Liked by 1 person

        • He is eligible to come off the DL already and TyMo I believe on September 2nd or 3rd.

          The tricky part is the Syracuse Chiefs season doesn’t end until September 7th and MW could use a few more arms.

          Coincidentally AJ Cole is on the same schedule as Strasburg and pitched well yesterday in a 3-1 loss where he got little run support.


          • Gonats says:

            Roark should also be available to come back. Taylor Hill pitches tonight for Syracuse. Also there is Sammy Solis, Matt Grace, de Los Santos and Rafael Martin for some bullpen arms. Not sure the status of Taylor Jordan who is having some arm issues.


          • Roark is on Gio’s schedule and is pitching tonight in Harrisburg. Rumor has it that Roark would stay on this track to take over for Ross eventually as he hits his innings limit.


          • Gonats says:

            On Joe Cool’s schedule is Gio’s + 1 extra days rest which makes that an easy transition.

            I’m more concerned about the amount of short starts with Gio, Scherzer and Strasburg all having very short starts you don’t want a fatigued bullpen waiting for September 8th!


          • rayvil01 says:

            The short starts bring Fister in. Yesterday he got two scoreless. But, he was on the good end of BABIP. They roasted a couple of pitches and the defenders were able to make catches or the wall was just tall enough to keep it in the park. Not sure you want to count on that too often.

            Liked by 1 person

    • rayvil01 says:

      The Mets were hot. But, the Cubs went 7-18 for the month of September. If they had gone 16-9 they would have won 101 games themselves.

      I really chose them as the analog model because of they displayed the characteristics of a meltdown team so vividly. That team hit “The Wall” and fell limp on the floor. More so than the 2007 Mets who didn’t collapse as much as just got very average at the wrong time.


      • adcwonk says:

        More so than the 2007 Mets who didn’t collapse as much as just got very average at the wrong time.

        Right. I guess I was thinking that that’s the more likely scenario. Either way, the Nats have to win. A lot. If the Mets can just play average we have a chance.

        Liked by 1 person

        • rayvil01 says:

          We’re aligned. And, you’re correct IMO, 2007 is much more likely. The Cubs collapse was epic which makes it rare, but very instructional.


  5. There’s one more thing: Somebody needs to put the whammy on them, for the mythology of it. Something they’ll need more than a chicken to get out of.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hiram Hover says:

    Nice write up!

    The Mets bats have been crazy hot since the ASB–not just the newly acquired Cespedes, but Granderson, Duda, Murphy, even Flores and Tejada are playing significantly over their career and 1/2 half #s. So you have to think they’re in line for some regression. But will it be large enough, and come soon enough, to help the Nats? I sure hope so.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. nats128 says:

    “Hot Chaser: The biggest question of the day is; can the Nats get hot? I don’t mean warm. I mean white-hot.”

    Here we ask that question on the morning of a 3 game series with the best team in baseball. The Nats need to somehow win this series then go on that white-hot tear. With Rendon and Harper and RZ and Werth and Desi and Ramos all hitting, they can do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steady Eddie says:

      This is an important test at a reasonable time if we really have post-season aspirations. Over the past dozen games, the team has come together fairly well against weak competition. If we are going to get hot enough, especially against the Mets, and the Mets deflate enough for us to take the East over the next five weeks, we will need the confidence and little bit of swagger that taking two of three from the NL’s best would give. Win less than two, especially if we’re not intensely competitive in the losses, and the hill is a lot steeper.
      Obviously a very tough test given that we are 1-8 in St.Louis over the past three seasons, and the one win was a barely-hung-on after the pantomime Michael Morse granny.

      But if we are truly a playoff-quality team, they need to show it now. Losing the series would be seriously deflating on that score. Not that 1-2 would put us out of contention by itself (though it could come close if the Mets sweep the Phillies again, given what that would say about their not melting down). It would say that even if we somehow finish a nose ahead of the Mets, that we would be dead meat against any playoff team from the west.


  8. I also think the Familia innings with over 30 games left is almost alarming given his past history. He pitched 77 innings last year and is already at 65 this season.


  9. Ray, there certainly is a history where you can’t even declare a division winner 8 games ahead on September 1st.


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