Nationals Baseball

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bryce and Daniel.

Bryce Harper is hurt.

We've guessed about this before but it's almost certainly true.  If it isn't true here is what you believe :
The year after generational prospect Bryce Harper broke out and had one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time, he had the 3rd worst and worst months of his career so far. That after slugging 44 doubles and 51 homers in a season and a month he would regress to the point of having the worst isoSLG of his career*

But why would this be? All those walks (NOT STARTED BY JOE MADDON) got in his head? Maybe but he'd have a decent June and a good August after that. Adjustments by the pitcher or by him? Hard to believe that 5 years into a career. Natural variation? That's a little tough to believe but I won't rule it out if that makes you happy. I'd need to look more into it.

But power should be sort of stable right? Let's see what we see when we look at his isoSLG monthly after his last struggling rookie month

.213 .313 .376 .175

Wait! What happened there? Well that corresponds to May 2013. On April 29th he crashed into the wall and might have hurt his hip. On May 13th he crashed into the wall and did hurt his knee.

-- .178 .208 .091

Woah woah I thought he was getting better! If you are going to hang your hat on something I guess this month - September of 2013 looks to be one. (he didn't play in June if you are counting up months that's the "--") He seems to be getting better then he struggled. Accumulation of injuries? Perhaps but nothing immediate. We move on.

.133 -- -- .114

Hold it again - ok the .133 suggests lingering issues but the .114? Well that's the month after came back from breaking his hand.

.211 .133

At this point we're at the end of 2014 and Bryce is either (1) not that great or (2) pretty injured. Those last rookie months into his 2nd year and a smattering of back from injury months suggest (2) but a couple months in there suggest (1) might be the case. What does 2015 hold?

.259 .524 .321 .275 .122 .414

That should help rule out (1), but .122, there's your second hat hanger. Just a ill-timed slump. Started pretty much Day 1 of August. He still hit well - just no pop. He did hurt himself a little in August but was actually better after that. So even on his game Bryce can have some short periods of no power. Now 2016

.428 .163 .139 .143 .226 .087

So here we are. I think you could write off May as an affect of the walk strategy. It seemed to throw him off for a couple weeks. June or July could be a slump, maaaybe even both, but it would be his first extended slump like that. And then there's the .087? I suppose it could be another ill-timed slump (it did happen to start Day 2 of September) but now your saying Bryce just happened to have three slumps, including his worst ever, in the same season. A season where age and recent success suggest he should be in his prime. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. Coupled with the other low numbers, the general history of slugging issues when injured. I think injury is just the more reasonable guess.

Now if we were just guessing, like before, it's easier to rule out. Fans being fans. But now that we have a source and a credible reporter saying the same, it seems more foolish to not buy into it. They have no good reason to tell us that he's injured either, unless they plan for him to sit. So don't expect any news until the off-season but right now I think it's foolish to think he's working through anything other than an injury.


Daniel Murphy is injured.

They don't know what it is.  He has been able to pinch hit twice so there is that. But that first PH seems like he's grimacing, no? The 2nd one didn't inspire confidence either - weak reaching ground ball on an almost one-handed swing - but looking at other GBs he hit on pitches like that it's not different enough for me to point it out. 

This is a big deal. Bigger than Bryce, honestly. If Bryce is hurt - well then Bryce has been hurt most of the year and he's battled through it and the team's been ok because they've had other guys they can rely on. If Murphy's hurt - he's carried the team all year. Early with Bryce, mostly with Ramos, lately with Turner and Rendon, but he's been there all year. If he can't hit like he has that's the heart of the 2016 Nats line-up cut out.

Let's hope he plays today and this can be just unecessary concern. If he doesn't play I'd even accept a diagnosis because honestly all that matters is that he's healthy enough to get a few good swings in before the seasons end and how us that he'll be ok for the playoffs.


*if you recall this is SLG with batting average pulled out. It helps adjust for BA fueled SLG percentage highs and lows. For example when Bryce was getting walked all the time in May and only hit .200 his SLG of .363 looked hideous. However the isoSLG of .163 was merely bad. It wasn't that he wasn't hitting for power - he was just slumped.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nats do as Nats do

Ramos was made an offer said Heyman.  How much? Let's go to our resident psychic and see what he said just a couple days ago!
I can see them offering Ramos something like 3/30+ to begin with to see if he would take it and then offering him the QO.
Yay me!  It WAS apparently something like 3 years slightly more than 30 million.  Why is that what the Nats offered?

1) It was the lowest reasonable comp available. When I listed all the recent decent catchers signed Francisco Cervelli had both the shortest contract (3 years) and smallest per (10.333 million).

Is Cervelli a good comp? Kind of. Much like Ramos he was coming off a career year in his late 20s. He wasn't seen as the same type of hitter or defender as Ramos. Cervelli is a high average hitter with ok patience. Ramos is a mid average hitter with good pop.  Cervelli is a decent plate blocker and run-gunner but a great framer. Ramos is a good plate blocker and run-gunner but only a fair framer. The end result though was a year going into a contract that was roughly as productive as Ramos' current season.

However Ramos was a good prospect who had previously hit well over 200 games in parts of 3 separate seasons before succumbing to multiple injuries. 2016 has been a career year, yes, but also a bounce back year of sorts. Cervelli was not a prospect and had never hit, in part possibly because of injuries, prior to his surge up to the year before his contract. That surge up only constituted 66 total games. Cervelli was much more of a gamble.

Also Cervelli's deal covered his 31-33 age seasons, while Ramos' deal would cover his 29-31 age seasons. At a position where wear and tear can play major issues with players, younger is better and worth more.

So you could argue Cervelli is a decent comp but there hardly is anything pointing to Cervelli being worth a bigger deal than Wilson making him more of a decent base than a direct comparison.

2) The Nats offer fair deals at around the lowest reasonable offer. The Nats don't go under market, at least in my mind. They look at a player. They look at the market. They figure out what is the lowest the market would give. Then they offer something around that.

Is it an opening offer? A best and final? Depends on the player, I'm sure. But that's how they roll. The worst that can happen I suppose is the player can be insulted but you know what? Feelings of insult go away pretty quickly if more money is involved.  So if the Nats really want a guy, they can up the offer. There's really very little harm done seeing if you can get a guy to accept the low-end of what he's worth. And in fact it can lead to a lower contract being accepted than if you came in with a more standard market offer.


Of course all Nats fans care about is the two questions I just asked "Is it an opening offer? A best and final?" and history tells us it's probably closer to a best and final. It's hard to say though. The market dried up for ZNN and Desmond as teams pursued mid-range pitchers and Desmond killed his value with a career worst season. This made the Nats' offered deals look more reasonable then they were when initially put out there. They didn't have any reason to up their offer (and in fact as far as I know they took Desmond's deal off the table). So perhaps if Ramos explores free agency and the money is there the Nats might up their offer a little. It's new territory.

However, go back and read what I said a couple days ago. Assuming the Nats want to stick with a payroll of under 150 million, it'll be very hard to fit in a 10+ million dollar catcher into the team's ledger. The Nats have a enough holes to plug in the offeason that they are going to use up their funds before even getting to catcher.  The only way I see them keeping Ramos is if they raise the payroll. It's happened once but I'm not sure it's happening again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Rotation Question

Nats lose again, right? Yes. But Mets lose and Dodgers lose so there you go. Tick tick tick.

Buried inside of Verducci's "Bryce is hurt" article (read it if you haven't - we'll get to that another day soon) is a nugget of info that could drastically effect the Nats postseason plans. Turns out Max Scherzer does not think pitching on short rest is a good idea. Here's the quote
“That’s asking a lot,” he said. “You’re trained to give everything you have every fifth day. You might be able to get through it, but where it would really show up is your next start.”
Now I'll never go against a pitcher that says something like this. While I totally think pitchers CAN go on short rest, I also understand they've been trained their entire professional lives to go every 5th day. The body develops a rhythm and anything that throws that off is sub-optimal. Hell, getting an extra day probably isn't good for most pitchers. And remember I noted a week ago or so that Max has never started a game on short rest.

However, we can't deny that this presents the Nats with a problem. Conventional thinking likely had the rotation (at least for the NLDS) going like this

Max - Roark - [OFF] - Gio* - Max - [OFF] - Roark

This way you maximize the use of your healthy and best starting arms. There are days off between games 2 & 3 and games 4 & 5.  That means Max's second game would be on short rest, but Roark's would not. If Max really would prefer not to pitch on short rest though it begs the question what do the Nats do? A lot depends on what we see going down the stretch I imagine. Let's run through some potential plans.

Plan A - Keep rotation as expected, but defer to only use Max on short rest in emergency
Max - Roark - Gio - Max (if down), Ross/Cole/Latos (if up) - Max (if not used), Roark (otws)

While Max says he's not really for it, I'd bet he'd do it if asked. Plus you may not even need him. The Nats may sweep (or get swept).  You may balk at using a lesser option in game 4 but really you don't need Max to go since you can technically afford to lose. Plus you can really go with an all hands on deck (AHOD) rotation. So if someone isn't working you can immediately go to someone else. Would we rather see Max, no matter what? Probably. But this I think, is the most reasonable plan.

Plan B - 4 man rotation
Max - Roark - Gio - Ross/Cole/Latos - Max,  or
Max - Gio - Roark - Ross/Cole/Latos - Max 

This makes some sense if Ross seems fully healthy by the time the season ends. He's been a good pitcher during the year while healthy so giving him a shot (with the AHOD caveat) is reasonable. It would feel a little funny going with Ross if the Nats were down 1-2 at this point but if he looks fine I don't see how you don't consider this option. Now some will note Ross has had issues with lefties and LA hits righties well so it's a bad match-up. That's true, which is why this is my Plan B. I can see doing it but I'd rather do A. In this case it doesn't matter where Gio or Roark go as neither would be called on to pitch later in the series. If Ross doesn't seem ready to go though, this plan loses a lot of appeal and might not even be a recognizable letter grade. Latos or Cole potentially in a must win game? No thank you.

Plan C - Short rest Roark
Roark - Max - Gio -  Roark - Max 

While Max would rather not go on short rest, former reliever Roark might not care as much. Plus Roark, if you haven't noticed, has been real good this year. There's no reason why he couldn't succeed in the playoffs as he has all season long. This also has the added benefit of giving Max normal rest without any tricks. Max is pitching great now, why mess with that at all? The problem would be the idea that you are starting the series with your second best pitcher. Not starting with your best foot forward seems... wrong. Can you get over that?

Plan D - Split Attack
Max - Gio - Roark - Max - Gio

Like I said, the Dodgers don't hit lefties. I told you to look at the splits. Did you? No. Fine. Here. That's a big difference! They are literally worst in the league against lefties. That's a little over-stated - Kendrick is better vs lefties than this season shows and Puig is back and will start, but still worst is worst. If they are a little better than they've shown maybe they are what? 3rd worst? Attacking your opponents weakness is never a bad idea. If you start Gio in games 1 or 2, then you have the option of using him twice. In this scenario, with Gio getting game 2, you get your righty lefty righty mix going. You have to short rest Max, though, as I don't think anyone would be comfortable with the idea of going 5 games and using Max and Roark once each.  The downside is you are using Roark once, since if he pitches game 3 he won't be available game 5, even in relief**.

Plan E - Maximize Gio
Gio (AHOD) - Max - Roark - Gio (AHOD) - Max

If getting Gio twice is good, then getting him twice as soon as possible is better, right? With this plan they get Gio twice in the first four games with the caveat, that since he'd be looking at short rest, if he seems to not have it (1 in 3 chance, right?) that you shift over to someone else quickly. The downside is now you aren't even starting with your 2nd best option. You are on your 3rd and a severe step down from 1st and 2nd.  Plus you are going with your 3rd best option on short rest. That's a real gutsy call that would probably have to be amended if Game 1 didn't go exactly as planned, and your options on changes are limited. 


I fully expect the Nats to go with Plan A or B. It's defensible. It's traditional. However they aren't the only possible plans available. Plans C or D are interesting and feasible plans that create some favorable situations for the Nats. They may not be the way the Nats go - but they are certainly worth a look. With Strasburg out, it may pay to be creative.

*look at the splits, and how he's pitched in general since break. It's the right move barring complete late September meltdown

**well unless he's bombed. That's how ZNN came back to pitch an inning in relief against the Cards in 2012. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nats Lose - Time marches on

The Nats put up another uninspired effort but I will say I was a bit more pleased yesterday than the previous couple nights. Last night was more about failure to get the big hit than it was a failure to get the guys on. That's progress right? I don't know. Like I said yesterday - season is too far gone to worry about East. HFA is still relatively secure (we'll revisit at series end) and all I really care about is that the Nats start hitting a week from now. And even then that's for impressions going into the playoffs more than anything dependable.

Let's talk about Ramos shall we? A big FA overview - not a look into his recent slump.

Wilson Ramos, gotten in a trade for Matt Capps so long ago, was supposed to be the Nats catcher of the future. In 2011, at age 23,  he was eased into the role playing 113 games. He had an OPS of 113 and finished 4th in ROY voting.* The Nats believed in Ramos so much they dealt away another potential starter, Derek Norris, in the deal to get back Gio. A solid receiver, it looked to be the beginning of a fruitful career, where the Nats could take advantage of having a plus player for cheap in one of the hardest positions to fill.

Then the injuries came. 

A torn ACL in 2012 limited him to 25 games in 2012. A pulled hamstring in 2013 kept Ramos out for much of the first half  and he played only 78 games. In 2014 he broke his hand on Opening Day and would be limited to 88 games. Finally in 2015 Ramos would be healthy enough to play a reasonable amount of games. The problem was he was terrible. He hit .229 / .258 / .358.  Given the last four seasons had been nothing but heartache it looked like 2016 would be the last time you'd see Wilson in a Nats uniform.

Then Wilson got LASIK and it all seemed to turn around. A .316 / .328 / .491 line in April was followed by an even better .333 / .400 / .522 line in May and an even BETTER .364 / .414 / .636 line in June. Wilson was an All-Star, the best hitting catcher in the league. But seasons are long and surprises usually find a way of stopping to be such. Wilson would have a solid July, .291 / .351 / .442, but August would be a slow down .261 / .293 / .446  and September would be a dead stop .229 / .288 / .354.

As Wilson prepares to enter free agency we have to ask ourselves 'Who is the real Wilson Ramos'? Was the first half just a fluke? Or is this just fatigue? Do the Nats re-sign him?

Let's look at it dispassionately

Wilson Ramos just turned 29. He's had an excellent 2016 overall. He has a history of injury but recently has been able to stay healthy. His history suggests that both 2015 and the first half of 2016 were not representative of his actual offensive talent level. It is more likely that he is a .270 hitter with 20+ homer power but absolutely no patience and no speed.  As far as you can trust the stats, he is still a solid defender, and not a great framer but not a bad one either.

If you believe in the above then Wilson is an attractive target as he would remain a Top 10ish catcher in the league with that profile. With catcher production hard to come by, fully a third of the league would do very well to pick up Wilson. Given his age he's not necessarily limited to only contenders expecting 1-2 good years as he could reasonably give you 4 years or more of similar production. There is also a dearth of quality FAs on the market. Matt Weiters, the only real likely rival, has not done well after taking that qualifying offer. The second best available catcher may be one-time Nat Kurt Suzuki, who has managed replacement level offense at a reasonable value.  Some of the teams that may be in the market for Wilson include rivals such as the Mets, the Braves, and the Orioles, along with teams like the Tigers and Astros.

As far as contract goes, four recent comparisons include Brian McCann (5/85), Russell Martin (5/82), Sal Perez (5/52.5) and Francisco Cervelli (3/31).  Given his age and production and the scarcity of the position, I'd probably say he'd be closer to the 17 million than the 10 average salary so let's give an estimate of 4years, 56 million for what Ramos would get. However, the Nats could offer him a QO which could diminish his value because teams are stupid.

The next question is will the Nats go there. If you go by history it's unlikely. As far as re-signing players go, the Nats love to get a deal on the remaining arbitration years to off-set the over pays necessary for the free agent years. This is what they offered for ZNN and Desmond, and seemingly talked about with Strasburg. Thanks to injuries and performance the Nats didn't do this for Ramos. They also apparently haven't made any overtures to Ramos about re-signing him this year.

But if the Nats don't resign Ramos they don't have a good plan B. Jose Lobaton was a fine back-up when they got him but is close to end of life for MLB. Organizationally they like Pedro Severino but he hasn't been impressive in AAA. He is starting to hit for a bit of average and he doesn't strike out a ton, but has no patience or power to speak of. He is only 23 so there's time for him to improve but the best you could probably hope for in 2017 from him is an empty .260+ average. He is supposed to be a very good defender though. Beyond Severino there really isn't anything. Kieboom is older and hasn't clicked at AA.  There's a handful of young catchers in the low minors, Read, Cabello, Reetz; worth keeping an eye on but no one that looks to be imminent.

Payroll-wise the Nats will likely have little flexibility. With Strasburg and Ross injuries in the second half, the retention of Gio is necessary. That keeps the payroll up in the 145 million range which is where they seem to like it. They could save about 10 million by letting Petit walk and jettisoning Ben Revere but the Nats are going to need the re-fill the bench (Drew and Heisey are FA) and do a little bullpen work. Melancon, Rzepczynski, and Belisle are all FA this year. Even if you key in say Kelley as closer and Treinen as set-up, you still probably want a reliable veteran arm in there. All that together will be pretty close to 10 million.

Competition wise the Nats find themselves with a leg up on the NL East competitors going into 2017. They are more talented than the Marlins, who find themselves lacking starting pitching with a depleted minor league system; and healthier than the Mets, who also desperately need to keep Cespedes. With Trea Turner looking like an All-Star caliber player there is enough of a core - Byrce, Rendon, Murphy, Turner - to build an offense around without Ramos, while if healthy the pitching staff should remain one of the better ones in the National League.

My guess is the Nats don't re-sign Ramos. They probably don't want to given the payroll and they can convince themselves pretty easily that a "good enough" solution for 2017 will work, while they see if Severino can hack it. Ramos' injury history and 2nd half makes him a gamble and the Nats may be less willing to make such a move given the questions raised by the recent long term retention deals signed, Zimmerman and Strasburg. I can see them offering Ramos something like 3/30+ to begin with to see if he would take it and then offering him the QO. I don't see Ramos taking either of those however. To me the most telling sign is the lack of contact between the Nats and Ramos. They aren't shy about saying they want to sign guys even if they don't think it will work out. The fact Ramos hasn't heard anything to me tells me they don't have any plans.

*Because you are wondering Kimbrel won it. Freeman was 2nd. Third was Vance Worley.  Espy was 6th.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Quickie : Weekend in reveiw.

While you were off doing whatever it is you do on the weekend the Nats lost a series to the Braves, and the Mets swept the Twins. Fortunately this late in the year, that does little but push back the clinching date* and give the Dodgers a reason to check the HFA standings after they are done with this Giants series. For Joe Q Fan, now you are far more likely to see a NL East clinch in person if you grab one of the first couple games versus the D-Backs. So maybe do that!

For the Nats, the story of the weekend was Trea Turner - who bashed 3 homers in the first two games and who sits with a .355 / .377 / .590 line right now.  The only downside? Trea doesn't get to face the Braves again. He's hitting .475 / .492 / 1.424 against Atlanta. He his them so well that before this weekend he already had more of his HRs against Atlanta than any other team.  Is he as good as Mike Trout as Ray Knight suggests? Well in Mike Trout's second season he hit .326 / .399 / .564 for the year. That's right about what Trea is doing. Except that was a full year. Oh and Mike Trout was 20-21 that year. And he played GG defense in center. "But Trea steals bases and hits triples. Did he steal bases and hit triples?", you ask. Yes, yes he did. 49SBs and eight triples. So.... no, Trea isn't Trout. But if Trea can be say 90% Trout? Take it and run with it. 90% Trout is still a HOFer.

The second story is Joe Ross is back! And in limited time he was... alright, I guess! He got into trouble, but worked out of it. Given that it was his first outing back I'm not going to read much into it. Really all I was looking for was "not terrible" and he cleared that low bar easily. Let's see how he does in 5 days going 5 innings or so. If he's let's say... "fair" or better then we are moving along nicely. It may not mean he pitches in the playoffs but it means the Nats will start to have that as an option and the more options the better. Because...

The third story was Gio struggled. This isn't itself that surprising. Gio is who he is. A decent pitcher who's a little inconsistent and can toss out too short outings at the drop of a hat. The thing is he had been pitching better recently. That gave Nats fans this idea that if he just rolled through his last few starts against middling competition, that putting him out there in the NLDS versus the Dodgers would be an obvious move. The Dodgers do struggle against LHP. However a game like this puts doubt back. 2016 Gio can deliver a stinker anytime and anyplace. Is that who you want on the mound in a short series even with a distince platoon advantage?

How did the offense do otherwise? Well the Nats crushed John Gant on Friday scoring five in an inning and 2/3rds. Great start! They would go on to score only 7 more runs in the next 25 and a third. Bad finish. Murphy keeps hitting and Werth had an ok series 4-13 with a double. Pretty much everyone else continues to be stuck in a rut.  If you're looking for good news, no one started more than one game and went 0-fer weekend.  If you're looking for bad news, well just look at the arms the Braves tossed out there this weekend. No good excuse why they didn't score more or at least hit more.

In other pitching news, Max helped his Cy Young case (a little) with a very good but not dominant outing. (For those on the Cy Max bandwagon tonight's a big night. Syndergaard, Bumgarner and Kershaw all go).  Relief wise only Gott pitched more than once as Dusty saves up the arms. The kids you were hoping would play the role of unstoppable rookie fire-ballers in the playoffs, Lopez and Glover, both didn't do well. Rep also had a rough outing but he's not going to be used to face righties in the playoffs (one would think). Yeah Freeman got a big hit but that was 4 batters in. Rep shouldn't be going 4 batters in in the playoffs. That's not his role.


Tonight's games of choice BOS @ BAL - can Baltimore keep the division race interesting or will Boston get the separation it wants to set up for the playoffs?; SF @ LAD - Like BOS/BAL but higher stakes. SF is fighting for its playoff life as much as the division, LA could all but end the West race with a sweep. TOR @ SEA - two teams travelling in opposite directions but the Blue Jays still have a two-game edge. The Blue Jays could fortify their position with a series win. Seattle (2 out) really needs it to keep playoff hopes up. Detroit (2), Houston (3), New York (4), and KC (5) all take on the lower half of the AL in the mad dash to a Wild Card.

*when would we talk collapse? I suppose if the Nats lost 5 in a row and the Mets won 5 in a row, you could bring that up.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Formalities

The Nats will win the East. At this point they have the 2nd biggest lead in baseball (and the second best record by a half-game over the Rangers). so it will happen soon.  How soon?  Well sorry for you hoping to close out the Nats time in Turner Field with a division title. Atlanta isn't possible. Even a double sweep puts the Mets 13 out with 13 to go. (I'm sure some of you would still find a way to worry in that situation.) It's most likely going to be Miami or Pittsburgh.

I assume fans would rather clinch at home, but at the same time don't exactly want to risk the thing getting close to do so. That's not exactly what would have to happen, but it would probably take a minor Nats stumble. Both the Nats and Mets are playing well and playing bad teams so let's say they win 2 out of 3 going down the stretch. With that assumption the Nats cut down 3 on the elimination number each 3 game set. That puts the E-number at 4 after Atlanta, 1 after Miami, and the Nats celebrating on the Roberto Clemente Bridge sometime next weekend. Betting odds would be on the 23rd.

To give a range - generally you expect to cut 2-4 games every 3 game set. That means the likely range for elimination has it happening anywhere from the 20th to the 26th. So an outside chance of it happening in DC without a major issue, but real unlikely.

How about HFA in the NLDS? Going by the same 3, and 2-4 assumptions, it'll basically happen sometime that last homestand. Back of the envelope stuff but anywhere from Sept 26th to the last day of the season is "in range" with probably the 29th being the bettors date right now.

What about awards? The Nats are right there for a lot of awards this year.

NL Cy Young
Kershaw is the best pitcher in the majors right now, but he's going to end up with 140-150 IP. In comparision guys like Max, Fernandez, Syndergaard, Hendricks, and Bumgarner will end up with 190-220. That's a big difference some won't get over and I think it'll be enough to cost him the award. Any of these five could get it in my opinion. Jose probably has the hardest time given he has the highest ERA and no pressure games to sell voters on down the stretch. He has to hope for stumbles. Max is probably in the driver's seat right now but everyone else is going to have the chance to pass him with some significant points and he can't do much about that. Sydergaard and Bumgarner could pitch their teams into the playoffs. Hendricks could drop his ERA under 2.00. It's totally up in the air right now and each start is going to matter.

Roark? You could argue underrated but there are a LOT of great pitchers this year and he's just not quite there when you dig past ERA and W, which you have to do to separate these guys.

NL MVP
It's Bryant or Murphy.  Here's the lines.

Bryant : .295 / .388 / .562  37HR  114R 95RBI
Murphy : .348 / .393 / .598  25HR  88R  102RBI

If you made me bet right now I'd say Bryant takes it. It's a better story nationally and if he goes .300 and 40+ homers? 100+R and 100+RBI? I think there's too many things checked off there. But it's no guarantee.

Seager is also a good candidate but he won't win it because....

NL ROY
Seager is going to win this. Yes Trea has been awesome but Seager has been like that all year long. If you expand Trea's time in the majors to 142 games you get 30 doubles, 15 triples, 20 homers, 75RBI, 102R, and 60SB.  Well Seager has 39 doubles, 3 triples, 25 homers, 69 RBI, 96R and 2 SB.  Basically when you think "How awesome a season would it be if Trea did this for a full year" the answer is look at Seager and add stolen bases.  Plus Seager is really good in the field.

NL MOY
There are no compelling terrible in 2015 to almost playoff teams. So we can ignore everyone not in the playoffs. The Dodgers, Cardinals and Mets will all make it winning fewer games than last year (assuming they do). That makes it unlikely that they get any major support for votes, though I'm sure each one of them will have their "injuries made it tough!" supporters. The Giants, if they make it, will have done it with a few more wins but Bochy isn't going to get a MOY award for sneaking into a Wild Card. He's set his bar.

So it's Dusty or the weird wuss. Dusty has the team on the biggest turn around. They will win 10+ more than last year. He's also undeniably a good story. What's against him? Well, no one really believes the Nats were an 83 win team turned around by Dusty, rather they were a good team who had an off year last year. Maddon has the perennial loser Cubs as the best team in baseball by far. Media types love him and while Dusty is a good story, this is arguably THE story of the year in the game. What's working against him? Well he just won it last year and only one guy (Bobby Cox) has ever won the award twice in a row. Of course Dusty has won it too. Twice, so there isn't much "give it to him" drive I bet.

Voters like the bad to good stories and there aren't any this year in the NL. So failing that if I were a betting man think if Maddon gets the Cubs to 104 wins (most in over a decade in the majors) he takes it. If not I think Dusty has a chance if he can finish within five games of the Cubs.