Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - H-Rod edition

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Quickie - H-Rod edition


Taking the series 2-1 vs the Reds salvages the road trip at a respectable 3-3.  If the red-hot Braves weren't able to sweep the Cardinals (didn't see that coming) the Nats would indeed still be in first place.  But the Braves did and the Nats aren't.  Luckily they have a medication for this condition. Take four games with the Padres and Pirates at home and call me on Friday.  Any worse than 3-1 can be seen as a disappointment.  Going 3-1 likely keeps the Nats within a game of first, if not back on top in some manner.

The loss of Ramos is a big deal, but Ramos wasn't necessarily starting over Flores because he was THAT much better. It was far more a age, contract, development, thing. Starter wise, for 2012 the change may not end up mattering, though it does probably hurt the all important 2013 squad.  It also weakens the bench.  Flores was not doing well in the bench role, but compared to most back-up catchers he wasn't an automatic out.  Sandy Leon, despite 27 games this year that have been good, is in more of the typical no hit variety. His best combined line (taking the best BA/OBP/SLG from any year) going into 2012 was .251 / .345 / .362.  Expect nothing.


Henry Rodriguez blew it didn't he? Nats fans are calling for his head and it's hard to blame them. However, objectively is it terrible that H-Rod is the closer? Well yes and no.

H-Rod is a high-walk, high-K type of guy. This type of guy is useful in a bullpen for those "need a strikeout can afford a walk" situations. Say... one run up, nobody out, man on 2nd; or tie game, man on third, one-out.  He's not ideal for those situations either because of his propensity for wild pitches, (Yes Ramos had something to do with those but I get the impression fans treat catchers like NFL recievers.  You get your hands on it you should get it. Anyway getting off topic) but that's the place I'd want him in. Since he could easily put 2-3 guys on in an inning due to wildness, you wouldn't want him pitching a lot in a close game which is essentially the closers job in a nutshell.  Pitch a whole inning in a game where the other team is relatively close to you.

However, H-Rod can be a fuel to the fire type of pitcher, his walks putting runners on, forcing others into scoring positions. His wildness moving guys over without the fielders having a chance to make a play.  It's actually not a terrible idea to have this guy start an inning, where his wildness can do the least damage. And the... well let's just be frank here... rigid idiocy of the closer role means he won't necessarily be facing the best batters, the ones that could most use his wildness against him.  Instead sometimes he faces the good ones, other times he faces the free swingers at the bottom of a lineup.

How does that make sense? How is it good and bad for Henry to close?  It's because the closer is a stupid position. For those thinking it's the pressure the got to Henry - shut it. This is the pitcher Henry is. It's who he was in the minors (6.5 BB/9, 11.6 K/9).  It's who he is in the majors (5.5 BB/9, 10.2 K/9).  While it fits a nice narrative of "some guys can't close" that is so far from the truth that the closest way to get back to the truth is to dig a hole straight through the center of the earth. The problem is less Henry than it is how he is used because of the idea of what a closer should be. Sometimes you want Henry pitching that 9th. Other times, like if the game is one-run and you are going into the heart of the lineup, you'd want someone else out there. For the Nats now, the guy you want in that situation would be Clippard or the re-invented Stammen.

Since Davey isn't about to reinvent something that gives managers a complete pass on, you know, managing the 9th inning. I guess I'd lean on pulling Henry out.  That way he can be used properly in innings 6-8. Hopefully his replacement will be someone good all the time that they won't miss much in the middle innings that have been held down so masterfully so far.

  • Danny Espinosa had a nice weekend. Five hits, including two homers and a double, plus 2 walks. He still has a ways to go to get his yearly stats where they need to be but this is the type of 3 game set you want Danny to have every other week or so. 
  • Roger Bernadina has also had a couple nice games in a row after kind of being given the starting nod.  All he needed was someone to believe in him? I don't buy it.  He's had too many at bats and too many tries for that to be it.  Just a lucky streak.  He's not terrible, but he's not the everyday LF for a good team unless he's the worst player out there. 
  • Break out the band!  The Nats scored 15 runs against the Reds, most in a series this year and tied for the most in any set of three games. Everyone was either doing good (aforementioned, LaRoche, Desmond) or ok (Zimm, Ankiel, catchers) except...
  • SHHHH - we're not supposed to mention it but Bryce is hitting .231 / .317 / .346.  Four homers is his last 71 minor/major league games.  Not to mention the sloppy fielding. Still think he should be up though. 
  • Lost in the H-Rod mess and the offensive explosion - the pitching wasn't up to snuff this weekend. The relief was shaky the first and last games of the series and Gio (9 baserunners - 2 doubles) and Jackson (5 hits - 2 homers) were lucky they didn't give up more runs than they did. Only ZNN acquitted himself nicely.  Five singles scattered over seven innings, with 9 Ks and only 1 walk. It's almost as if he knew he couldn't give up that 2nd run and expect the Nats to score a 3rd for him.


Anonymous said...


We're supposed to be calling him "Kid" Harper. The revival of nicknames in baseball starts here!

So, regarding closers, I presume you mean that instead of having a rigid couple of assigned closers, the job is handed to whoever in the bullpen is best suited for the situation? Like, say Clippard last night, given that his robotic programming enables him to get outs with metronomic regularity in tough situations. Everyone realises he's a robot, right?

Wally said...

I agree that this is essentially who Henry is, although the way he looked in LA when he also blew up, it seemed like he was gripping the ball with white knuckles, so I wouldn't completely dismiss that the pressure caused him to blow his mechanics (I don't think pressure can make you perform better (ie clutch) but I do think it can negatively affect you).

On the other hand, I think that we are also seeing that he has built up enough innings that the league is adjusting to him. Balls seem to be hit harder against him this year than before. He used to be a three true outcome guy (K, BB, WP); now, batters are making contact more. My guess is that hitters are working him to an obvious FB count, and then sitting on the fastball. I think that is what Barajas did (although it wasn't the count, it was the runner on third making him believe that HRod wouldn't throw another slider). In fairness, I should note that this is just my observation and I cannot find much statistical support, other than a significantly higher fly ball %.

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced Clippard is Crispen Glover studying for a new movie role... Which would explain his bionic tendencies. I believe its a new Back to the Future staring "Kid" Harper as Marty McFly and Ted Lerner as Doc.

DCNatty said...

Rodriguez's mechanics are awful...which leads to a flip of a coin as to whether he throws a strike or not. If he keeps closing I will have an ulcer by seasons end.

The road trip went from 5-1 to 3-3 cause he cant throw strikes. And I agree its not the pressure. Its the pitcher he is. Not the guy I want to trot out in the 9th. So it goes. I hope Storen comes back ok.

How the hell are the Nats only a 1/2 game out? Just take 3 of the next 4. But the Braves are scary...They seem to be hitting their stride and may not look back now that they grabbed 1st place.

ps. I knew if I talked enough trash on Espi hed get a few hits. haha. but i contribute those HRs to the pitchers he faced. If you are the opposing pitcher and you throw anything other then breaking balls, you deserve to lose.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, I'm looking forward to everybody eating their words about Espinosa.

And H-Rod is fine until Storen comes back, but if you people are really going to whine that much it should be Stammen in the 9th. Clip should never be moved from that 8th inning spot.

DCNatty said...

hahaha...i knew ESPI would log back on. Im still not buying until he can do it for more then 3 games. I must admit though...he made some VERY nice plays in the field.

And i agree with you on Clip. Keep him in the 8th and use Stammen. He seems to be the most consistant strike thrower. Mayeb H-Rod is only a home field closer. On the other hand, if Lidge wasnt on the DL id bet he would have had just as many blown saves. He gave me just as many panic attacks when he closed.

Kenny B. said...

I can haz Drew Storen?

But seriously, I couldn't agree more on the rigidity of the idea of a "closer." It's not an actual position. You don't have to actually designate one guy to do it in your lineup card.

However, it's telling as to how much expectations have changed that a non-sweep of the Reds feels like such a disaster. Part of it is the way the game ended, but part of it is that we now expect to win 1-run games.

Pitching still looks good overall. I've been waiting for it to crash hard, but it keeps not happening. My fear is that the Braves are the ones who will finally destroy the vaunted Nats rotation, and it will be ugly.

And speaking of changed expectations, how is it that I'm legitimately worried about the Orioles series? Seriously, what the hell is happening in Baltimore? Haven't really been following them closely, I just see that they keep winning.

brendan said...

Yeah no joke on Harper's fielding (not counting the ball lost in the "mist"). He looks awkward running around out there; it's not fluid. When the ball hits the walls and bounces back he's always on his knees scrambling around for the ball.

Most interesting idea (slash worst) ever. Put Harper as your back up catcher. Oh yes.

Donald said...

While I agree about not being too rigid on who closes (I was recommending Burnett in the right situation the other day), I think the rationale for it is around helping the relievers get into the right mindset. If you know you own the 9th inning as closer, you start gearing yourself up as that inning approaches and start to focus and think about what you're going to do. If you're not sure based on situations, it's harder mentally to be ready when the call comes. Of course, that consistency doesn't exist for the middle relievers and they seem to do just fine...

Harper said...

Anon - Kid? Have we all agreed on that? How about he grows his hair out from a mullet to a long 80s rocker do. Keeps the eyeblack and we call him Tonto?

Yes - that would be the optimal way of handling a pen. Won't happen though unless a GM orders it. A manager isn't going to do something that gives him a marginal gain that could easily potentially cost him his job.

Wally - yeah, you'd have to go through all his at bats to prove something like that.

Anon - I'm afraid that movie is bound for failure. Nats fans don't want to go back to anything.

DC Natty - How the hell are the Nats only 1/2 game out (1) they are pretty damn good (2) the teams chasing them aren't much better. Nats are still looking for that second swoon of the year. You are going to hold onto a lot if you don't go on 3+ game losing streaks.

Anon / DC Natty - What if he ends up hitting about .220 with 18 homers? Would they only have to lick their words? Don't worry about Clip moving - won't happen. Davey has pretty much said so when he didn't move him to the closer role to begin with.

KennyB - Expectations are out of whack until the Nats go on a decent swoon or the Braves get a nice lead (or until its mid July and hey - the Nats are still one of the best teams in the NL). This is a WC year.

Orioles - there's a bit of luck there, a few unsustainable performaces (Reimold I'm looking at you), a few break-outs that may come back in (Jones, Davis, Weiters) but really it's a situation where the bullpen has been lights out and NOTHING else has gone wrong. Plus Nick Johnson might finally be back.

brendan - I'd love to see Bryce catch H-Rod. Frank Robinson is crying already just thinking about it.

Donald - yep that's the rub. Other guys are fine with no mindset prep so why is it any different just because it's the 9th? No one can prove that it matters but at the same time no manager is going to be the one to change it up because really he can only have bad things happen to him personally if he does. (unless it works perfectly - which come on, nothing works perfectly. It'll just be slightly better.) Most likely outcome of not saving your best pitcher for the 9th is more wins total but a few more blown saves. People remember the blown saves more than a 5-3 win held onto by a great 7th.

Anonymous said...

Harper - Closing is already not about "saving your best pitcher for the 9th" as you suggest it is. If it were, no question HRod wouldn't be out there. HRod appears mentally unfit to pitch sometimes. Whether it's the pressure of the 9th, I don't know. But in an ideal world, Davey would pull HRod the pitch after he throws one 50 feet.

DezoPenguin said...

...or after he walks the bases full. (There's one lesson: even if you do have a single set guy in the closer role and insist on bringing him in to start the 9th, at least be willing to take him *out* if the situation changes.) Makes me wonder if Burnett or Stammen might get the shot next time out with HRod going back to 7th-inning duties.

The good news is that that's now three out of four games the offense has showed up for; Det had just about the worst start any Nats pitcher's had this year (up there with that one EJax outing) and the Nats won anyway. Further good news is that there a lot of good relievers on the staff to choose from if HRod can't keep the closer job.

Harper said...

Anon - it may not be about saving your best pitcher for last (though a lot of times it is), but at the very least it will be one of your best pitchers normally. The problem with the closer isn't who does the job it's that it's a job at all. A 7-4 lead with the 6-7-8 batter up requires a different pitcher than a 1-0 game, man on first, no outs, but if it's the 9th you'll see the same guy up in both situations.

The primacy of the ninth can't out weigh the primacy of the situation.

Dezo - yes and the Nats are well in the WC lead, when they aren't in first. Things are not bad at all for Nats fans.

Anonymous said...

I really liκе ωhаt уou guys are usually up tоo.

Thіs κind of сlever work anԁ еxposure!

Keep up the suрerb wоrks guys І've incorporated you guys to my personal blogroll.
Look into my web site :: click here

Anonymous said...

I reallу lіke whаt you guys are usually up too.
Thіs kіnd of clever work and exposure! Keep uр thе superb wогkѕ guys I've incorporated you guys to my personal blogroll.
my website - click here