To shutESPN Senior AuthorEddie Matz covers the Washington Nationwide Championships and the Main League Baseball World for ESPN.com. He has been writing for ESPN since 2002 and is a graduate of the College of Pennsylvania.
To shutESPN EditorJesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.
On April 21, Cubs and Nationals had been each sitting at .500. Regardless of their mediocre debut and even if they performed in very heavy divisions with improved rivals, each groups had a very good probability of qualifying for the playoffs: Per FanGraphs, Chicago was 51% and Washington was 74%. %. Precisely 4 weeks later and after the separation of two video games with an imminent date for baseball Sunday evening, the Cubs roll (with a chance larger than 80%) and the Nats are indignant (at 44%). We requested the ESPN scribes, Jesse Rogers and Eddie Matz, to interrupt the inner workings of each golf equipment. They kindly obliged.
CUBS KEEP THE WINNING SERIES; NATS KEEP LOSE & EM
ROGERS: The Cubs have merely created a tradition wherein shedding is now not an possibility. Now, that doesn’t imply that they'll win each sport – see the top of final season – however which means they're extra probably than not going again in a race. From the surface, it doesn’t appear that the Nats have this sort of environment. Anthony Rizzo lately stated: An excellent season of victory is sweet for a group just like the Padres. Not for Cubs. The place are the Nationals with respect to this excessive degree of play, for which the ground is a playoff look?
Matz: After a disappointing 2018 season and an much more disappointing begin in 2019, Washington's flooring has turn into that carnival you and your pals hold on to (I feel that is known as "The Rotor", if reminiscence serves) . Heck, today, the Nats are thrilled simply to win a sequence, one thing they did on Thursday for the primary time in a month. Between defeating the Giants in mid-April and profitable two of the three Mets earlier this week, Washington misplaced seven straight streaks, together with one in opposition to the Marlins (the one win this season within the Miami sequence ). All of the whereas, supervisor Davey Martinez, who was apprenticed to a sure Joseph John Maddon Jr. earlier than taking the reins of DC final yr, has stopped saying how proud he was of his gamers. Think about how proud he can be if the Nats may begin profitable with any sort of regularity.
ROGERS: Properly, if you’re on the lookout for a profitable sequence, you might be in the precise place. The Cubs have simply misplaced their first sport for a very long time. Earlier than the Reds had two out of three earlier this week, Chicago was 9-Zero-1 in its final 10 sequence. The important thing to this success has been a beginning rotation taking on the video games. That's one other troubling factor in regards to the Nats. On paper, their employees is great – within the winter, it was most likely thought-about higher than the Cubs – however that didn’t translate into extra victories for you. One other factor that motivates the Cubs is the division wherein they’re situated. They know the way aggressive it is going to be all summer time and have been eager to recollect this usually. It's a troublesome division. Sounds acquainted?
Matz: To begin with: I don’t play for nationals (you guys?). But when I did, I will surely query the success that my group has had in recent times. Now that the division seems extra just like the NL Beast than the NL Least, all these victories and appearances within the playoffs appear much less to be a product of "Natitude" and extra a perform of the flatness of its opponents. That stated, regardless that Scherzer has not began in classic Mad Max but, it's not his fault that his comrades are giving him DeGrom therapy to date this season. I’ll all the time take him, Strasbourg and Corbin, in opposition to all three huge gamers in baseball. As for the opposite 20 or so gamers on the checklist, it's a bit extra difficult.
LEADERSHIP, INJURIES AND LIFE AFTER BRYCE HARPER
ROGERS: That's the place management has to play a job. In case your greatest gamers are additionally your greatest leaders, Supervisor X has the simplest activity. When a kind of veteran is your greatest chief, this may additionally work. The situation which may not work is the place your greatest participant is one thing however an awesome chief. That's really why yours actually selected the Nats – sure, the Nats – to get to the World Sequence this yr. I considered it this fashion: Addition by subtraction. I've thought – perhaps – by shedding Bryce, however by preserving tons of expertise, Washington would possibly effectively be dissipating. I assumed the main target can be on them and Davey, even when they play in a troublesome division. I have no idea a lot about Max Scherzer, nevertheless it's exhausting to navigate from the mound. So it's an extended option to ask your self: the place is the management on this group after Bryce?
Do you discover something totally different about Kris Bryant? Right here's how a mid-bat grow to be an ax-handled bat helped ignite the Cubs batter. Jesse Rogers
Matz: Main the mound is uncommon, however Scherzer is that uncommon breed that has the resume, cache and work ethic to succeed. Howie Kendrick positively enters the class of veterinarians. However all this membership stuff doesn’t matter a lot when the product on the sector has all the time been so ugly. I, too, thought that the Nats of 2019 would profit from a state of affairs extra by much less wherein they’d not should cope with all of the dramas that surrounded Harper's mandate within the district, significantly these final years. However the workplace was brutal. Juan Soto, whose huge bat was speculated to be Bryce's life insurance coverage coverage, seems extra like Mario Soto. And shedding Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon because of his accidents is a assassin. That stated, the Yankees are main the MLB in misplaced gamers (greater than twice as a lot as Washington), and they’re doing very effectively. To know who else misplaced extra time due to accidents than the Nats? I will provide you with a touch: it rhymes with Schmicago Schmubs.
ROGERS: Accidents? That is the least of the Cubs' issues regardless that their closest (Brandon Morrow) and his alternative (Pedro Strop) are each absent. In current months, the group has confronted extra issues off the sector than most of them in a decade. First, the house owners needed to distance themselves from their father after sending robust emails that had been related to him. Lately, the Cubs introduced again infielder Addison Russell after a 40-game suspension for home violence associated to his ex-wife. He changed veteran Ben Zobrist, who left the group whereas his spouse and he had requested for separation / divorce in two states. All this whereas Joe Maddon exists as a lame duck supervisor. I imply, technically, Davey Martinez has extra job safety than Maddon.
Matz: The Nationals have already fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist earlier this month. Accidents or not, there are lots of people round D.C who assume the supervisor must be subsequent. Since he's inherited a group with a median of 96 wins per season underneath his predecessor (Dusty Baker), Martinez has guided Washington to a report underneath .500. With Turner coming again within the first sport on Friday, the Nats are as full as they’ve been for a very long time. In the event that they can’t get sizzling with him and Rendon in coaching (and with Scherzer & Co. on the high of the rotation), the wind of change may start to blow.
ROGERS: For the Cubs, the other of firing Martinez can be to increase Maddon's contract, however that can probably not occur till the top of the season. Talking of extensions, Kris Bryant may deserve one after his efficiency on Friday. He regained his elite standing on the plate after being injured at one shoulder final yr, however his long run future with the group is to be anticipated. He and Javier Baez will at some point obtain cash from a era, and followers will marvel if the Cubs can afford each.
However that's for later. For the second, it’s a query of refining the victories in sequence whereas the schedule passes within the second trimester of the season. The Cubs are effectively positioned after a sluggish begin. Swaying will be troublesome within the central division of NL, however the Chicago sport because the first 10 days of the season speaks volumes. We nonetheless should rely with the Cubs this season.