Nationals Baseball: No Holes?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No Holes?

In Tommy B's chat yesterday (which was ALL about Riggs and Davey) he started out with one non-managing question. Someone asked if the Nats should be buyers or sellers. He opted for the acceptable "non-sellers" answer but he followed with something I have to disagree with.

"What would you trade for __that's actually available? They have five starters and a couple extra in AAA. They have a deep bullpen. Bernadina is playing/hitting better and takes care of CF as well as anybody you'd get. If Werth, Z'man, Desmond start hitting at their career levels, where's the Big Obvious Hole to fill?"

There's no holes! This team is perfect!

Ignoring the bench for now (a team shooting for maybe a WC doesn't need to trade anything decent to fill a bench spot) let's agree that there are some holes to fill. Where? Not C, 2B, 3B or RF (even though it is a hole right now - it's not gonna be unWerthed anytime soon), but the other positions? Let's take it from biggest hole to smallest.

(and let me note I personally don't think the Nats should bother addressing any of these issues this season. Let these guys play and see what happens. Maybe you get lucky. A couple of these spots have minor leaguers ready now or soon. No reason to go out and get someone. But I think the Nats aren't a playoff team and shouldn't worry about losing a couple more games. Your mileage may vary)

Shortstop - Boswell says if Desmond started hitting at his career level SS wouldn't be a hole. Here is Desmond's career line (from all of <2 years of major league hitting so you really shouldn't expect him to get back to it) : .257 / .296 / .385. This is why Boswell is not a GM. A guy that never gets on base that maybe hits 10 homers in a year? That my friend is a hole. And that's factoring in Desmond's crazy hot 20 game stint from a 2009 that seems so long ago. Ok, ok you say. He's a SS he doesn't have to hit well as long as he's fielding ok. Fine. But it's not that he's hitting below average. He's the worst hitting SS in the MAJORS. By a good amount too. BIG OL' OBVIOUS hole.

Centerfield - "Bernadina is playing/hitting better and takes care of CF as well as anybody you'd get." True if you add in the all-important phrase "right now". On the offensive side Bernadina had a hot couple weeks that's keeping him at average offensively, but I don't see a reason he can keep doing even that well. But he's rather similar to Desmond in that his minor league numbers suggest more a guy that had a fluke year, than a good player waiting to happen. I don't think he's as overmatched as Ian, but I think last year's numbers (.246 / .307 / .384) are more in line with what you should expect. And despite the flashy plays, he's still not playing great, maybe not even good centerfield. He's a 4th OF. A player you can plug in for a week or two and hold the fort with. A pinch runner. He's not a starter.

The Nats may not be able to get a better offensive player than Bernadina, but defensively there are some above average guys out there. It's a hole. Obvious if you take a second to look at it. Big? Maybe not Big. Medium-sized.

Left Field - In the past month Laynce Nix has hit .209 / .250 / .388. His major league production bounces around but I think the "Low-average, decent pop" handle works. Historically (though not this year) a decent fielder, you could win with Laynce as the 3rd of your 3 outfielders. But he's not. Right now he's carrying the offensive load for the OF. It's going to be hard to find a CF that's offensively great, so LF is going to need more production, especially as Werth gets older and ... less productive? Geez. Anyway. It's a hole. A small one. Not very obvious because a hot May makes his stats look very good. But it's a hole.

First Base - For the first 30 games Mike Morse was terrible, low average, no pop (3 XBH), just a waste of a spot in the lineup. For the last 40 games Mike Morse has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball. 14 homers. An average over .340. He's been slipping a little bit in the average dept lately but the power is still there.

Which is the real Mike? Probably neither, but given his performance last year it seems closer to "40-game" Mike than "30-game" Mike. This isn't really a hole, but after less than half a season I'm not ready to consider this resolved just yet. A non-obvious piece of ground that needs a bit more investigation.

The Nats are in much better shape now than a year ago. They have a great pen. They have 5 starters that can hold their own (or better in the case of ZNN). They are much better on D. They have an offensive team that's not an embarrassment. Most of the holes they do have have potential solutions in the minors (Lombardozzi, Bryce) But no holes? Come on.

(also I know it KILLS you out there that Lannan put 14 guys on 5 and 2/3, only struck out 2 guys and only gave up 3 runs. Too bad! It's what he does. Go Lannan, go! Scatter those singles!)


Nattydread said...

Great stuff.

Boswell is like popcorn. Tastes great, not that filling, buttery, not very nutritious. I love popcorn, I love reading Boswell.

But after reading Tommy B, you have to re-enter the reality of Washington sports where the Nats have been ridiculously bad for what, a decade? Thanks for the ride Boswell, but this team is STILL mediocre. Gotta appreciate his ability to make it SEEM like things are okay.

As for Lannan, did you notice that he leads the league in having batters ground into DP's? 15! That's two entire starting pitching performances of DP's. Interesting stat that helps explain the Lannan phenom.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

" He's the worst hitting SS in the MAJORS. By a good amount too. BIG OL' OBVIOUS hole." your using the wrong number here. OPS is a less than ideal measure of a players offensive worth because it leaves several things out including SB/CS in which Desmond excels this season.

Using wOBA which includes more he is the 21st best offensive SS.

But I would like to point at that Desmond is still very young, so he has far from peaked. He is a sophomore and having bad sophomore seasons offensively is common. Plus, he is among the better defensive SS in baseball (UZR/150 is over 4 and been slowly climbing all season). So I do not see him as a hole or a star. Using Wins above replacement, which factors in everything a player does, he is the 16th best starting SS in the majors. Not terrible considering 30 teams, and upside clearly exists.

Donald said...

I agree with your assessment. The question is what to do about it?

For SS, if we could get Reyes in the off season to a long term contract I'd do it in a heart beat. I wouldn't take him as a rental. If that doesn't work out, which it won't, I'd consider a middle infield of Espi and Lombardozzi.

For CF, the Nats seem serious about BJ Upton, which doesn't thrill me, but could happen. I'd rather see Harper in CF and Morse or Bernadina in LF. LF seems like one of the easier holes to fill, though.

At 1B, there are rumors we'd pursue Fielder but I think that's a long shot at best. Barring that, I'd stick with Morse until Marrero or someone else from the Minors grows into the position.

Harper said...

Natty - to lead the league in DPs you need to have a lot of baserunners, a lot of ground balls but be good enough to pitch a lot of innings. That's Lannan in a nut shell.

GO NATS - to be perfectly literal I didn't use the wrong number. That's why I said "hitting" but point taken. He's been great on the basepaths and you'd clearly rather have him on your team than.. well Tejada. Probably a couple other guys too including fielding (though fielding numbers are more subject to change than hitting ones year to year) I see him at 21st in WAR at fangraphs but I know that can differ depending on where you look at it. let's agree as a complete player the Nats could do worse.

He's young but not very young (he'll be 26 before the season ends) Use that if you want to diregard his hitting so far but I see a guy that peaks out as a bad hitter who uses good (but not great) fielding and great baserunning to give the Nats scrapingly acceptable performance for a couple more years before his legs start to go. I think he should get the rest of this year to prove me wrong but after that Lombardozzi makes too good a case not to try something different.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

I feel I musty add that I essentially agree with all your other comments though. I think Nix was born to platoon in LF and is young enough to get better than that and prove me wrong.

If advanced defensive metrics have any value, then we have a dreadful defensive OF including Bernadina (including that one catch). But we always have dreadful defensive OFs. it is kind of our thing as a team (Joke). I think Bernadina has far to big a platoon split to ever be a regular starter. Eventhough has hit much better lately, he has a season long BA of .113 against left-handed pitchers.
Personally, I think "NOT WERTH IT" will get better, but he will never be as good as he was in that hitters paradise called Citizens Bank Park. Nonetheless, he is far better all round in RF than we have had in several seasons. We vastly overpaid, but did improve in RF.

Michael Bourn is available for trade from Houston, and he is one of the best CFs in baseball. He played his first full season in 2008. Since April 2008 he has generated the 5th most Wins Above Replacement among all Cfs in the game. We should trade for him right away

WAR since April 2008 (fangraphs data);

Name WAR
Shane Victorino 15.7
Josh Hamilton 15.5
Curtis Granderson 14.9
Matt Kemp 13.6
Michael Bourn 12.8
Denard Span 12.6
B.J. Upton 12
Andrew McCutchen 11.2
Franklin Gutierrez 11.1
Torii Hunter 10.8
Marlon Byrd 10.5
Chris Young 10.1

Harper said...

For SS - let Desmond have the year to see if he can hit any better. Even last years numbers given everything GONATS points out, would make a case for a 3rd go round. If not, then yeah Lombardozzi is probably the way to go in '12. Don't want to break him in in '13 if you are making a serious run.

For CF - Upton would be interesting. The potential is huge. He's probably not better than Bernadina in the field though. About the same? It's an offensive move. Harper isn't great in LF forget about CF. Morse next year would be the goal with Bernie as the 4th guy.

At 1B, don't see anyone coming in with the team the Nats have now. LaRoche takes it back next year for 2 resaons $$$, and upping trade value if next year doesn't go as planned. Morse can move. LaRoche can't.

10:05 AM

Harper said...

GO NATS - people been saying Bourn is available but all I hear is people from teams who think he should be available. Nothing saying the astros are looking to deal.

Section 139 said...

I'd have to switch CF and SS if I were doing the assessment if only for organizational depth. I know you and Boz are writing about the now, so indulge me (but you speak to it at the end of your post too).

Regarding SS, we could get creative and move pieces around the infield with Espi, Lombardozzi, and Rendon in the (future) mix. I think that can work itself out. But what is the option if we don't make an offseason move in CF? Harper (as Donald suggests) probably wouldn't be ready defensively. So maybe Werth? All that does is create another hole (albeit one more easily filled).

Wally said...

Good post. I mostly agree, although I would add a wrinkle that I think is in there (sort of). CF is the biggest hole, because we really have no one in the organization that we can realistically dream on to take it in 1-2 years. Everywhere else we have options that we can live with as a contender, if we fixed something elsewhere. For instance, Desi is acceptable at SS IF we get a good CF, and a Nix/Morse platoon in LF and Werth returns to form. That kind of thing.

So I get back to CF - I have mentioned guys that ought to be available - Span, Bourjos, Bourn. They are the better defenders in CF, which I think is critical for us with Werth/Nix/Morse/Harper at the corners. Of course I don't know who actually is available, but I would pay fair price here, not try to get something on the cheap. I would definitely pay them on Tuesday for a hamburger today - meaning give up real prospect value to get one of those guys.

PS. don't think this slipped by me: 'They have 5 starters that can hold their own (or better in the case of ZNN).' I knew that you would come around.

DezoPenguin said...

I think you've summed it up nicely and the other commenters have filled in the gaps. Desmond isn't useless (except batting) but it's a position of weakness. Nix or a Nix/Morse platoon is adequate in LF, but only adequate. Bernardina in CF is doubly a problem, because his bat is a shade under average even when doing well and his defense isn't going to make me overlook his hitting deficiencies. He's our best current option, though. And Morse's numbers--even the reduced numbers you suggest, are adequate at 1B so there's no reason to play games there unless it's where Harper ends up or we sign Fielder in the offseason or something (and frankly, if we're going to be throwing major cash at a free agent, better to make it Reyes.)

CF seems to be the best place to improve via the trade, simply because we have some possible org depth in the middle infield plus the possibility that Desmond isn't genuinely *this* bad of a hitter, Werth will probably hit better (I suspect the Zimmerman and LaRoche injuries are the major causes of his first-half failures, plus the burden of the contract, putting too much pressure on a guy who's never been more than the #3-4 option in a lineup) and sooner or later Harper will take over 1B or a corner OF spot anyhow.

Harper said...

139 - if you feel confident everywhere else you probably run with Bernadina until you find something better.

Wally - I can't deny ZNN has come back exceedingly fast from injury. It'd be silly of me to do so just to be right about this being a slow comeback. Of course if he does start tanking...

Dezo - agreed but it must be nice for Nats fans to have a "this one guy probably shouldn't be startin" problems as opposed to their usual "these few guys shouldn't be in the majors" issues.

hi said...

Is it crazy to consider in a few years having Rendon at 3rd and moving Zimm to 1st? Everytime Zimm throws to first I hold my breath.