The Difference in Losing and Being Beat


The 2013 Washington Nationals are 4-12 against the Atlanta Braves. This on
its own is bad, but consider that ten of the losses have been by three runs or
less and that by my count 31 on the Nats total 63 losses have been by two runs
or less this points to an interesting problem. One run games are thought to be
coin flip games. That no matter what a team’s overall record is they should be
close to .500 in one run games. That there isn’t a special magic to winning
close games. That it is essentially luck. Then what of two run games? Are they
luck as well or does that involve more skill? The Nats lost a two run game
earlier in the season to the Giants when Pablo Sandoval hit a walk-off homer
off of Yunesky Maya. If there wasn’t a runner on base it would have been a one
run loss. Did the runner on base really make that two run loss that much
different than a one run loss?   

It is hard to say exactly how much luck
is involved in baseball. I personally think it is less than some. Batters with
high BABIP may be lucky, but some batters have a higher than league average
BABIP because they hit the ball extremely hard. Have the Nats made a lot of
errors behind Taylor Jordan because they are unlucky when he pitches or is it
because he gives up a lot of contact and not just contact but hard contact?
This is where it is difficult to separate the fact from the fictions. The stats
tell us what is happening but they don’t say for certain why it is happening,
and in this case the stat in question is that the Nats are 4-12 against the
Braves, but ten of those Braves victories came in save situations.   

Losing that many close games to one
team is what I would call an oddity, but the Braves bullpen is very good and
the Nationals bullpen has not been. When late and extra innings have been
reached it is typically the Braves bullpen that holds the Nationals down while
the Nationals bullpen has allowed the Braves to score the extra runs they need
to win, and some of it may be poor luck. Gio Gonzalez has suffered in the first
inning this season with a first inning ERA of 4.68. The only two runs the
Braves scored in yesterday’s game came in the first inning and one of them came
on a bloop hit that happened to find turf. It is hard to call that anything but
unlucky, but that is how these games have gone all season.  

Bad luck is only part of it though.
Look at the recent issues the Nationals had with Bryce Harper being hit by the
Braves. He was been hit by six pitches for his career and three of those have
been in the last two weeks by the Braves, and the Nationals response to when
Harper was hit at Nationals Park for no good reason was to do nothing. To not
stand up for their teammate. The Nationals in this instance were no longer
losing to the Braves they were getting beat. They were the kid that hands their
lunch money to the bully without even being threatened with a bloody nose.

Call me old school, call me an idiot,
but it is my belief that if a team is going to lose they should make it as
difficult as possible on an opponent, and they should under no circumstance
allow themselves to be pushed around. The Nats have been pushed around by the
Braves. Harper got hit and wanted to confront Teheran when it happened, but
that was stopped and then in response to that Justin Upton slid hard into
Desmond and Harper was hit twice more (although there are questions as to if
one of those was on purpose). The Nationals finally responded at Turner Field,
but it may have been too late.  

The Braves are 12-4 against the
Nationals and have run away with the NL East. The Nationals have put up very
little fight. The statistical reasons for why this has happened are one thing,
and why the Nationals have lost, but there is no reason to allow yourself to be
beat or to let an opponent feel this comfortable playing against you. This
isn’t to say to play dirty or how Rob Dibble used to demand the 2009 Nationals
hit every batter in every blow out. This is more to say that if another team is
going to hit your player hit their’s back, and if that doesn’t work slide hard
or administer a few stiff tags to a runner on first. Losing is one thing.
Getting beat up is another, and if you’re going to lose make sure it at least
looks like the other guy was in a fight as well.   



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One comment

  1. I was curious about the "close game" phenomenon/trend as well, so I put together numbers by run differential for this year and last year (including playoffs). My numbers are different than yours, but the point remains the same:One-run games: 19-19 this year, 29-21 last year (coin flip vs. charmed life?)Two-run (or less) games: 27-36 this year, 44-39 last year (bullpen?)Three-run (or less) games: 39-43 this year, 66-47 last year (coin flip vs. man last year was awesome, wasn’t it?)FWIW, we’re 2-6 vs. Atlanta in one-run games this year, but were 2-4 against them last year. 4-8 against them in two-run (or less) games this year vs. 3-5 last year. The difference has been the "blowouts*": 0-4 in games decided by three or more runs this year vs. 7-3 last year.*I’m aware that a three-run game is technically a save situation, but that’s where the records diverged.Personally, I think the 2013 Nats have been equal parts unlucky and just ungood. I think that applies to both close games and blowouts, as well as regular situations vs. high pressure. I totally agree with you on the final part of your post though. Last year’s "Natitude" has turned into this year’s "Not-a-‘Tude" as evidenced by the unwillingness to defend Bryce until almost literally forced to do so. To not fight is worse than to not win.Always love your perspective (even when downtrodden). Keep up the good work.


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