From now on the Mailbag will be on Mondays. Or maybe Tuesdays... we'll see how it shakes out, but definitely not Fridays. Turns out that people actually read this blog so I got more than the 2-3 questions I expected. Which is great! Except looking through them and responding by Friday is a bit daunting when you have a job and family and stuff. Monday works better because that gives me the whole weekend to get this done.
But still a promise is a promise and elephants never forget or something like that. So I will answer a couple questions today. The most common questions had to do with the Edwin Jackson/5th starter situation and either LaRoche or Morse, which in my mind are inexorably linked. A lot of good points were brought up but I'm going to try to address them in single posts.
What to do with.... Danny Espinosa? (Rob Evans, Evan Slagle, David Leyva, Chaz R, Keith Watts, and Rea Hederman)
So alot of people seem to be worried about Danny Espinosa. I know why, but I also don't. Let me explain that second part. You see Danny's offense was not terrible. He ranked 14th in qualified 2nd basemen in OPS which basically makes him league average. If that were his only attribute than sure maybe you try to replace him (though finding decent 2nd basemen isn't easy), but Danny does everything else well. On the
basepaths he's a plus, stealing 20 bases to only 6 caught, and having a rather high "speed" score, top 10 for 2nd basemen. In the field he is one of the better
2nd basemen in the majors, using fantastic range to cover the right side of the field. Top 5 type for 2nd basemen. The total package makes him one of the top 10
best 2nd basemen in the league (I could say higher based on his WAR but let's leave it as Top 10). If having a Top 10 2nd baseman is a problem, then I don't want to be... without... a problem?
Anyway I do understand though why people worry about his production.
His first and last impressions were bad. It's pretty standard thinking that you remember the first and last things a person does. Danny's first month was terrible (.205 /.300 / .269). His postseason was worse (.067 / .176 / .067). People thought he stunk, carried it through the year, then saw it validated at the end
His comparative peer was awesome. It's only natural to compare players in similar situations. See : Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. You compare young middle infielders to other young middle infielders. Turns out there is one just across second and he's making Danny look bad. Last year Ian Desmond's .253 / .298 / .358 line was terrible and in comparison Espinosa's .236 / .323 / .414 looked ok. This year Desmond broke out and hit .292 / .335 / .511. Danny's line of .247 / .315 / .402 wasn't too far off what he did the year before but now the bar has moved way up.
The guy behind him had a much higher average and struck out a lot less. We can talk about Steve Lombardozzi vs Espinosa until... well not very long. Danny is better (walks more, hits for way more power, fields better, is probably a better baserunner). BUT let's admit it, even though we've all grown to understand some of what matters and what doesn't in statistics, we still gravitate first toward the classics. Batting Average. Strikeouts. Espinosa hit .247 this year. Lombardozzi hit .273 and was at .280 as late as mid September. Espy struck out like every 4th at bat. Steve every 9th.
He did get worse compared to last year and he was the worst regular hitter on the team. It's not like Danny haters are completely crazy. He didn't get much worse but if you want improvement and you get regression that leaves a bad impression. At the same time if the offense fails like it did in the playoffs it's only natural to look to see what you can improve. Granted he was the worst mainly because the Nats had no holes, but that doesn't mean he wasn't still the worst.
So what to do with Danny? Nothing really, certainly not for next year in my opinion. He's a quality player who is cheap. You don't need an All-Star at every position.
Will Danny ever be something more? It's doubtful he'll be a great player. Outside a brief AAA stint he was a .260 hitter in the minors which makes it hard to project something much better than what we've seen so far. The power should come back though. It was consistent in the minors, it was decent last year. I'd expect this year was an aberration. I think he could be a patient player but this isn't the team for him to do it on. (in fact you could say the team's penchant for aggressiveness works against Danny's strengths) Still, I wouldn't give up the dream just yet. Ian Desmond's progression gives us hope. He had a similar minor league situation. Nothing special until a short AAA burst. A couple of ok (if that) years and then break out at age 26. Danny will be 26 next year. With no FAs sitting out there (unless the Yankees for some reason don't exercise their option on Cano), and little in the minors until Rendon proves himself, sticking it out with Espinosa is the obvious answer.
Do teams hit worse in the playoffs? (Paul Andre Wilton)
Yes, in general. I looked at the last 10 years of playoff stats in comparion to regular season stats and the drops on average were 21 pts in batting average, 18 points in OBP, and 34 points in slugging. Only 2010 saw any reasonable increase, where the slugging went up by 23 points. Other than that, any increase could have well been noise and there were plenty of legit decreases.
Why? Well the playoffs are only the best teams so you'll only get the best pitching. Ah, you say but don't you also get the best hitting too? Yep. But the pitching is even more concentrated. Fifth starters are gone. Fourth starters might not get their chances either. Middle relievers that aren't any good just aren't used as you ride your best arms night after night. You don't get that type of concentration in hitting. You can't just lop off your 8th and 9th hitters. True you don't use your worst pinch hitters but you don't normally use the last PH off your bench like you may use the last man in the pen during the regular season either.
Is it odd for a single team them to have a post-season OPS well under .700, (the Nats had a .685 this year) when that is only for the worst teams during the season? Not at all. Plenty of examples. In 2010 EVERY NL team hit worse than the Nats this year. The Reds got 11 hits in 3 games.
Slumps are going to be magnified in the playoffs because you aren't going to get that bad pitcher to get a couple of good swings against. It's nothing but good pitcher after good pitcher and what might have been a 4-20 slump in the regular season becomes a 2-20 one in the postseason.
Don't you hate pants? Asking for a friend (Rocket1124)
Actually I love pants. I love jeans in particular (regular fit), but dress slacks and khakis have places in my heart as well. I think a short sleeved shirt and pants are the perfect outfit from 50 degrees to 90 degrees. Here's a hint for you shorts wearers - no one wants to see your legs. No one. Shorts are for sports, swimming, and when you run out of pants. "Fun" fact : I pronounced khakis "cockies" until I was out of college. Never heard the word before college and assumed that's how you said it. I mean come on, look at that word and tell me "cocky" doesn't make more sense than "caaky"
Ok so I will definitely answer the "first pitch" question you posed Matt on Monday. Was going to today but thought of something else I wanted to look at, plus quick looks at a couple others and definitely posts on EJax, Morse and LaRoche coming up in the next couple weeks.