Nationals Baseball: Not sure I can post today...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not sure I can post today...

Keyboard is wet and I can't work under those conditions because I type so fast.

Oh ok. You twisted my arm. The thing is, and we can't say it enough, THIS IS WHO HENRY RODRIGUEZ IS. Lots of K's, bad control leading to lots of walks and WPs. This is who he has been in the majors. This is who he was in the minors. I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is who he was pitching amateur ball in Venezuela.

It has NOTHING to do with being a closer. He was great as a closer the first month.  I know some will say "Oh but he was splitting the duty then" but you're being silly. If it was some sort of pressure thing why would he randomly have a bad game or two last year? Or in 2010 with Oakland? And why not early this year? Was he randomly feeling pressure the last two seasons and overcame that this year enough to be a great pitcher when splitting closer duty (which still has some pressure, no?) but once he began to close by himself he couldn't ignore the pressure and started failing all the time? Is THAT the story you want me to believe?  Doesn't it make more sense to think this is what he does, and he just happened to have a nice 10 game streak to start the year followed by a bad one? It's not a shock his stats are what they are. It's a shock that he didn't have these bad games sooner. This isn't a situation issue, it's a distribution one.

But whatever, what's done is done. H-Rod likely won't be closing anytime soon (though Davey hasn't ruled out giving him one more chance) which most Nats fans are pleased with. What would be optimal is using whoever makes sense at the time. Clippard against a righty when you need a K. Burnett against a lefty. Stammen when you need a ground ball. But as I've said many times, that's not going to happen. The evolution of the whole "set inning role" bullpen over the last 30 years that gave us closers, set-up men, and 7th inning guys has given managers a pass on managing. Not only that, it's become so expected that to break from this standard is asking for criticism even if the results are the same as before. Lose a game because you put in the wrong reliever and it's on you. Lose a game because your set-up man or closer blew it, and it's on them.

At best expect a Stammen/Burnett pairing until Lidge comes back. At worst pick one of those (probably Stammen since Burnett is the lefty arm). It'll be fine whatever they choose, because those guys are fine relievers.


Nattydread said...

So you're saying this one is on Rizzo --- who traded for the guy hoping for improvement.

Deacon Drake said...

I like what Stammen has done with his stuff... he has really added some bit and deception to the slider. Plus, he doesn't walk people. Like the anti-Wild Thing.

Harper said...

Nattydread - Not really. I think H-Rod could be useful in a bullpen so it doesn't hurt to get him (though Willingham was a high price). And if he does "get it", and sometimes they do, you've got a real prize. Not the best move for Rizzo but not terrible. It's more Davey's fault for taking what is arguably the 3rd or 4th best arm in your pen and using him in a spot where he'll randomly be counted on to be flawless.

DD - Stammen's pitched the best this year. Burnett next. Clippard has a long history of getting everyone out. If you must pick one - any of these are fine.

Positively Half St. said...

There is something to be said for putting Henry in for one batter before making a decision, as happened last night. He threw a ball to the backstop WHILE HE WAS WARMING UP!! It was clear to Dave Jageler immediately that there was a problem.

However, if he smokes the first batter, it seems you got Good Henry that day, and you just leave him in. What is the problem with burning Rodriguez after one batter? If he is Bad Henry, you don't want him in the game then or in the 15th.


blovy8 said...

Well, you don't throw up your hands and say things will never change either, and Henry will always be too wild. A guy with his stuff is going to have a job until he gets hurt. Koufax, Ryan, Randy Johnson, etc, it's not like a pitcher has NEVER adjusted. Since Wang is coming back presumably for Mattheus, you have either a righty in the pen to replace Stammen, or a lefty in the pen to replace Burnett, in their respective roles. That is, unless biceps tightness is worth a DL stint. I don't think anyone cares who you use to close a game if it works except for Roto players.

Hoo said...

The Hammer was much too high a price to pay. It's a toss-up between Morgan/Hammer for worst Rizzo trades. Overall, Rizzo has done a pretty darn good job on his trades. But man, Willingham raking in the AL vs. H-Rod and a minor-leaguer. Ouch!

Last night could have been a doubly brutal loss. Not b/c of the potential H-Rod meltdown but potentially blowing the Gio-Kendrick matchup. Gio is in the Cy Young leaders and Kendrick is not that good.

I liked Lombo experimentation but man Ankiel is killing this team right now. 1-20 with 9 of those k's. It's what you get with Ankiel but it's painful to watch. I'm rooting to see more opposing lefty starters.

Harper said...

just passing through Hoo - Morgan a bad trade? for Cutter Dykstra? I know you guys hated his attitude but no way that was a bad trade. Not at the time, not looking back.

Donald said...

I think there is more to it than just who he is. I agree that he's wild and that's a big factor. But I also believe that he's terrified when he goes out there because he doesn't know what will happen. And if he throws one to the backstop, he thinks (like all of us), here we go again. And that makes the problem just snowball. He doesn't have the confidence to trust his stuff after a bad pitch. He needs to learn from Stammen about focusing on a single pitch at a time.

Also, I think we will end up with some sort of platoon as closer, though it was interesting that Davey brought in Burnett to face righties rather than Clippard. Is that because Burnett warms up much faster? FP mentioned that. Or is it because Davey is leaning towards Burnett in the closer role regardless of match-ups?

Kenny B. said...

I like the idea of giving Henry one batter before pulling him (to the extent we have to have designated closers). Our host can double check the stats, but just watching, you can tell almost from the first pitch which Henry you're getting. When he's got it, he's money in the bank, but when he doesn't, it doesn't take long to figure it out.

Anyway, it was nice to get a road win against a division rival. Gio continues to dominate, which is nice to see. I'm hoping this series against the Phils can get the pitching back on top of their game before they face some heavier hitters. Gio is a pretty infectious personality, and I like to think his success bodes well for everyone in the rotation.

Marc Gunther said...

Great opening to the post today!

I agree with you that one problem is with the whole idea of a closer. If you have the 3-4-5 hitters coming up in the 8th, why not use your best pitcher then?

Last night, fortunately, Stammen got through the heart of the Philly lineup in the 8th which made it a bit easier to overcome Henry's predictable problems in the 9th. It seems silly to me not to use your best pitcher in a high leverage situation, regardless of the inning.

This would, as you say, require managers to actually manage--as opposed to go with their 7th inning guy, setup man and closer.

Hoo said...

Harper: I can hate Morgan and hate the trade at the same time. Dumping a starting CF for org filler and cash is a terrible move, especially if you have no backup plan for CF.

If Morgan was so bad for chemistry why not fix it in the offseason instead of shortly before opening day.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Everything is mental with Hrod and right now he has ZERO confidence. I think he is perfect for the 7th because with the 3 saves he has blown, he has had 2 outs in the inning and Clippard can get him out of those jams by pitching 1 and a third in those games. But right now he is overthrowing everything, fastballs and breaking balls and hitters are just sitting fastball.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts (I love this blog! But this is the first time I have posted):

Willingham trade- even he was not traded, he probably would not have be with the Nats this year. His contract ended in 2011. Also, I think Corey Brown was an important component of that trade even if H-Rod was key. I don't know what the Nats will do but Brown seems ready for the majors.

H-Rod- I normally agree with the objective analysis on this site. But, Harper, don't you think there is some mental component? Do you remember Nick Anderson for the Orlando Magic? He went from a 70% free shooter to a 40% free shooter within two years after missing key free throws in the NBA Finals. Is it possible that something happened with H-Rod because of what happened during Harper's debut? I am not saying it is so but there is a human component.

Harper said...

HOO - OH NO! DOUBLE MISREAD. I shouldn't just pass through. I thought you meant the trade FOR Morgan for some reason and then screwed up thinking it was for Cutter for some reason (instead of being the Milledge Hanrahan Burnett deal) You're right. My eyes and brain is on drugs or something. Morgan for Cutter IS terrible.

+1/2 st - I don't know. That's abit too vague. What if he doesn't smoke him, throws a WP but gets him to line out on a 3-1 pitch? Take him out? Plus you're constantly warming up two guys.

blovy8 - If it works sure - but it has to work all the time. Let's say a blah closer would save 17 of 20 games. So you do go by committee and you save 17 games out of 20. One guy is 8 for 8, one is 5 for 7, and one is an 4 for 5 and unimpressive while doing it. you better beleive the crowd will be calling for that first guy to close all the time (even if he's helped keep other games in check)

Donald - I can see that but do you think it's a 9th inninng thing or not? I don't think it is - that's my problem. As for Burnett maybe Davey's seen his splits (Burnett is fine against righties the last few years)

Kenny B - I don't like the H-Rod idea. If he's that unreliable call up someone else. Win was big. Tonight's even bigger. Beat Halladay play with house money against Hamels with the chance to crush the Phillies down.

Marc - I'm sure some of the issue is not knowing when the next high leverage situation is coming for sure. you can use him to get out of a sticky 7th inning 1 out jam, but what if the 8th inning guy flubs against the bottom of the lineup and the heart is back up in the 9th. Sure, smart fans will say he did his part in the 7th and whoever takes the ninth would have had to do that in a tougher circumstance, but regular fan outnumbers smart fan and he'll be mad the best guy wasn't available.

Anon #1 - AGREED!

Anon #2 - Would think it would help if Davey told him that Stammen or Burnett would bail him out in the 9th as necessary?

Anon #3 - I don't know - if Willingham was on the team then maybe they don't sign LaRoche going into last year - instead using Morse and Josh. That would have been great for 2011 and not so bad for 2012 (Yes LaRoche is raking - but so is Josh). Maybe they use the extra millions to sign a good bench player? There's a lot of conjecture here.

I didn't actually say it was a bad trade. I think that's a little strong. It's made a little worse by circumstance. Nowhere to get cheap useful innings for Corey Brown. Bullpen good enough the H-Rod wasn't really needed. Rizzo couldn't have know that at the time but I think it'll end up Josh will provide more for his teams than what they got back will do for the Nats.

Brown is peaking now and yeah, he needs to play in the majors. I'm not sure if he can handle it though, Tons of Ks before this year (you see how Moore has been eaten up) and old-ish for his league. But its his time to see age-wise. Swap him for Moore or Bernie.

Kevin Rusch said...

I'm with you. Guys, let's just assume it's all in Henry's head, ok? If that were the case, what would you expect to see in the statistics? I'd guess that his numbers in 2011 would be much better than his numbers in 2012, during which he's mostly closed, right?

Well, go look at them. They're the same. There's no difference in his performance! None! In fact, he's pitching marginally better this year than last year.

I really think the issue is that last year we were't sitting there with maalox and vodka handy like we are in the 9th inning every night this year. But it's the viewers who perceive the 9th inning differently, not the ballplayer.

Donald said...

I think we have too small a sample size, but he SURE looked like a deer in the headlights out there last night. There was zero confidence on his face or body language. I felt really bad for him. It looked like he was about to throw up. Maybe he wasn't feeling any more pressure and that's just how he comes across but that's not the way it looked.

My guess is if Davey kept trotting him out in 9th innings this year, the 2012 numbers would end up WAY worse than 2011.

Harper said...

Kevin - I think the key is you can ameka strong argument H-Rod shouldn't close without mentioning anything psychological.

Donald - last night I do agree but I think that was him letting the weather/conditions get to him rather than the closing situation. I could see that happening to him in the 5th as easy as the 9th.

Zimmerman11 said...

This seems pretty straightforward... Mattheus and Burnett as situational guys... Stammen as setup and Clippard to close... this lets Davey off the hook for having to manage AND gives us a much better shot of holding on to leads late.

Anonymous said...

I sort of see the point in not making this out to be a mental issue. No sense blinding yourself to the stats that show the guy is just generally wild. However, by looking at his body language and the sheer variation in pitch location when he's off, I think it's pretty easy for most social beings and baseball fans to tell that he's not in a good place mentally on the mound. When that happens, the physical effects are painfully obvious. That's perhaps harder to fix than issues with mechanics. But I don't doubt that his mental issues are not limited to the 9th inning - I just think they're harder to fix and more unpredictable than, say an issue with mechanics.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm nominating Desmond's analysis of how the move to 5th has helped him for "no news today" story of the month. Ian's going to go down as one of the greatest 1st pitch swingers in history; I don't think he's thrown an extra strike just 'cause he's hitting 5th.


DezoPenguin said...

Re: HRod. I don't know what to say, really. It might be a distribution problem, or it might be that a few "normal" bad games have gotten inside his head and just made things worse in that direction. Clippard closed tonight (though, speaking of role-defined decision-making, who else thinks Gorzo would have pitched the 9th if he hadn't given up the HR in the 8th and the 9th therefore wouldn't have been a save situation?) and thankfully the Nats 'pen is good enough that whomever is back there is likely to get the job done. I just hope Lidge doesn't get the job full-time when he returns because, well, there's five, arguably six, better pitchers in the Nats' pen.

On Desmond: It may or may not be helping him, but so long as Lombo is putting up an OBP ninety points higher, moving Desmond to fifth definitely helps the *team*.

Donald said...

Despite taking the first two from the Phillies, which is huge, we're still pretty much on track for the 4-5 road trip you predicted. That model had us winning one series and losing two. This first one was always the most likely of the 3 to win.

On a related note, I saw a statistic that said the Nats failed to win the final series game for a sweep in all 9 attempts this year. What's up with that?

WiredHK said...

@Donald - Regarding the final game losses in series sweep attempts, it's kind of right (although I'd say it's more like 0 for 6).

The 9 failed attempts in the final game would count the Miami series in which it wasn't really attempted, it was rained out, as well the the second game of each of the two-game sets (SD and Pitt at home). Not sure I'd count the two-game tries as fails (two games just doesn't seem like a series to me) and I certainly wouldn't count the Miami one. FYI.