Nationals Baseball: Those monsters! Not Bryce! Not Bryce!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Those monsters! Not Bryce! Not Bryce!

Bryce Harper since April 27th. .143 / .271 / .286

Sad thing is I'm looking so much at terrible hitting stats these days I had to sit here for a second and think if a .286 SLG was actually all that bad.

It feels awful but that was basically a throw-away game. They were fine losing it (and they did). Its not the end of the world.  Let's re-iterate the point from yesterday. You can win enough games to make the playoffs even with 3 mediocre months of baseball. The Nats haven't even finished the 2nd. As bad as it looks now, there's plenty of time for this to become water under the bridge.  Thank the Nats that went 7-2 to start the year and 10-4 from late April to early May for that.

Think about that.  The Nats finished up a 10-4 run... 11 days ago.  Not even 2 weeks ago. Remember all the untucking?

Of course there are more hurdles to overcome.  Mattheus broken hand (given that athelets have done this numerous times over the years you think clubhouses would have a designated padded punching wall). Werth continuing to age like the finest China doll. Rizzo refusing to give in on his initial plan for the season (one LH in pen and he's a mediocre long man, H-Rod still there to do... something?, a bench made up of uniforms stuffed with straw) that at this point has gone terribly awry.

But still, after all this, one game over .500. If they can pull out a win in either of the next two games, they'll be at .500 staring at 11 of the next 16 at home with series versus the Phillies, Mets and Twins in there. All teams worse than them.  An extended West Coast swing is not about gaining ground, it's about holding it. They can still manage that. Then comes the time when they should make their move.  We hope.


DCNatty said...

i think everyone here is annoyed due to the extremely high expectations to start the season (imagine being a Dodgers fan) and the fact that the games are just NOT fun to watch right now. Banging out 3 hits?!?! haha. Its been like watching the US Little League team being overmatched against the 17 yr old kid from Taipei throwing a no hitter.

I agree that a lot of time is left. Hell, theres always one team each Sept that manages to blow a 4-5 game lead in 1 month. Let alone 4 months. Its just not fun to watch...which is why Im heading to the beach this weekend to not watch anything.

ps. wouldnt it be nice to still have that insurance policy on the bench named Morse?

Mike said...

Damnit Harper! I'm standing on the ledge with "Nats Season" scrawled on it and you just keep walking me back!

BenDen said...

I think what frustrates me the most is the inaction. Now granted the typical (and probably warranted) response is that it's still before Memorial Day, and we were giving a guys a chance to show their mettle at this level.

But still, we can't be sending lineups out there with 3 or 4 guys hitting below .200. It's called replacement level for a reason. Either call someone up or find a veteran out there who's riding someone's bench and get at least a .230 hitter in there. I don't want to be chasing a lead come July, we need to rip off some wins.

Keith Wood said...

Yep really hate that they got rid of Morse. Span is a good outfielder but his hittin is really bad he is not a good leadoff man only a minimal speed threat we need some speed on bases. I would put Desmond batting first then Harper gives us some speed

Keith Wood said...

Yep really hate that they got rid of Morse. Span is a good outfielder but his hittin is really bad he is not a good leadoff man only a minimal speed threat we need some speed on bases. I would put Desmond batting first then Harper gives us some speed

Booyah Suckah! said...

Keith, Span has plenty of speed, he just isn't a strong base stealer. Never has been. He's there to create infield hits on slow grounders and bunts, turn singles into doubles, and to use that speed to track down flyballs in the outfield. Which he does. He's not really there to steal bases.

Also, speed doesn't necessarily equal stolen bases. Hell, Zimm has more SB than most of the team. He's not fast, but he's smart, which is more than half the battle. The other half is stealing against pitchers who are slow to the plate (which, unfortunately, all of our SPs are).

As for Morse, he's not exactly been tearing it up in his last 25-30 games. Only 4 homers in that time, and an BA well below his career average. And that's playing every day. God only knows what it would be as a disillusioned pinch hitter.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Another argument for speed not equaling SBs? Bryce Harper. Yep, he's super fast. And he has one SB this season. Caught stealing twice. And how many times has he been thrown out trying to stretch? Don't get me wrong, I love that he plays that way, and I think it benefits the team more than it hurts... but speed alone does not equal bases.

Harper said...

Everyone - Ignoring the "never an option" part of it, yes Morse would have been better than what's on the bench. But if was hitting like he's hitting now the Nats would have maybe 1 more win and he'd just be another disappointing bat fans would be complaining about.

DCNatty - I get it. The overall feeling is a mix of disappointment (they should be better), disgust (they are currently playing terribly) and a comparison to last year (which went just about perfectly). The Nats would almost have to be viewed negatively this year, unless they repeated last season's fast start.

Mike - I'm no hero. It's the ledge of a first floor window.

BD - Agreed - at this point something should have been done that wasn't forced by injury. First off Moore, then... a bullpen re-alignement? If things are going wrong at least tinker at the edges while you wait for enough time to pass to do something big (like DL Espy). Throw fans a bone. It's not like the team is so perfect you can't mess with it (though I do imagine Rizzo thinks something like this)

KW - It's not the speed...ok it's partly the speed... but it's mostly the OBP. Though whatever, he's way down on the list of problems.

BS - yeah SBs itself is a talent but the days where that mattered are gone. What led the NL last year? 40? 50?

Speed isn't overrated but let's worry about getting on base with hits or walks before we worry about who can steal 2nd.

Matt said...

A bit tangential, but I've thought about why there haven't been minor tweaks. I'd guess the reason Rizzo is reluctant to send Moore (and perhaps HRod) down is that there's some value to the team in knowing what you have. If Moore gets to 500 ABs and looks totally inadequate, then maybe you decide he's not a big leaguer and that's that. I think it's hard to argue that he's definitively useless -- pretty much all players slump, and other players have only learned to make adjustments after more ML ABs than Moore has.

But yeah, they're tough to watch right now. My only solace is that if they keep this up, I'll get good seats for mega cheap later in the summer. The seating situation was really great up until last year -- baseball at the ballpark is always great, even if your team stinks.

Kenny B. said...

I think the "not fun to watch" is a big part of it. The run differential is -25. The games we're winning, we're eking out. The games we're losing, we're often getting blown away. This makes it gut-wrenching to watch whether we're winning or losing.

And of course, once the other team has a one- or two-run lead, as a fan you feel like you might as well turn the game off.

Now we've got pitchers breaking their hands in frustration at their own suckiness, our best player can't seem to stop himself from literally hitting the wall every few games, every time anyone hits it to the left side of the infield you cover your eyes, every error (of which there are many) seems to put the pitchers on meltdown watch, and someone is apparently going around slashing players' hamstrings.

And yet, somehow, the team is still in second place. That's about all there is to be happy about. Well, that and Jordan Zimmermann.

cass said...

There's little the Nats can do. It's not like they have an infielder in AA hitting .346/.482/.654 who was a first round draft pick a couple years ago and already has some big league experience.

It's a long way to Heaven, it's closer to Harrisburg,
And that's still a long way from the place where we are...

Chinatown Express said...

cass: Josh Ritter would make a hell of an MiLB analysis.

This is part of the fun, isn't it? The woe, the doom and gloom in May? Let me know if we're more than five games out in August.

bdrube said...

Kenny B "hits" (pardon the pun) on what I see is the real issue--the inmates seem to be running the asylum this year. It is evident not only with Mattheus and Harper, but the apparent overall lack of preparation (especially on defense) or expectation that poor performance will lead to a demotion.

Whatever magic Davey worked on this team last year is clearly not working this year. I'm not saying he should be fired, but this looks to me more like a team on the precipice of falling into also-ran status than one capable of making the playoffs.

cass said...

Well, the statistical forecasts predict doom and gloom too. Fangraphs new tool has the Nats finishing the season with 83 wins and with a worse record, rest-of-season, than the Pirates.

The rational expectation, right now, is that the Nats won't make the playoffs this year. Maybe they will turn things around, but we can't really expect that.

Hopefully the models are wrong or the Nats tap into their inner Daft Punk and get lucky.

Eric said...

"An extended West Coast swing is not about gaining ground, it's about holding it."

So far, they have lost ground. If we come out of it at .500, or even a game under, I can live with it, but unless we win the next two, let's not go hanging "Mission Accomplished" banners on our aircraft carriers just yet.

Granted, we are limping along in terrible shape right now, so expecting anything better than .500, +/- a game, is looking to be disappointed.

Barring a sweep in this series, the only real tragedy on this road trip is Mattheus. Hold it together man. Don't let that locker get in your head.

Drew said...

The problem with Moore is he has no value. The other guys on the bench can at least add some sort of other value.

Lombardozzi can play 5 positions on the field.
Bernadina is a tremendous corner outfield defender and can play centerfield.
Tracy is a professional pinch hitter (take that for what ever you want) but can at least play 3rd.
Moore adds no defensive value (to positions of low defense importance). He is the bench equivalent to HRod. The idea of what he brings the team is not equal to what he actually brings the team. Plus you should be able find lots of guys on the street who can match his skill set.

On a related note, I think they should fire Rick Eckstein just to shake things up. I don't think he is actually to blame for the offensive woes, but you have to do something to wake guys up. Plus I doubt there is really a downside (unless you happen to be Rick Eckstein).

Booyah Suckah! said...

Cass, I have to disagree. The problem with models is that they're just models. They extrapolate large amounts of data from small amounts, and are forced to assume that the data up to this point will represent the data for the rest of the season, with no change for better or for worse. That's just how models work.

The problem with that assumption is that it means that essentially all but two players on the entire Nats team will have not just off years, not just slump years, not even career bad years... the assumption is that all but two players would have historically bad years. On the other hand, if you took the remainder of the season and applied only career-average stats for the Nats players for the rest of the season, I'd wager this new model would spit out something like an 88 or 89 win season.

Now I'll take it one step further... I'll bet if you factored in the above-average 3-5 weeks most of these guys would have to have to get BACK to their career average, you'd spit out a 92 or 93 win season.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to actually run the numbers, and I'd probably eff it up somehow anyway. But my SWAG tells me that the current trend cannot possibly be the actual talent level of this team, and that over the remaining 4 months and change of the season, that talent level will reassert itself.

I would say it's anything but rational to say this team (or any other team) won't make the playoffs based on less than a third of a season with so many players performing under where we KNOW they can and have performed.

Anonymous said...

The models don't take into account what's happened so far and just assume they'll stay the same. It takes into account career averages and what would be expected, and then extrapolates that to the rest of the year.

Those should be more accurate than just assuming everyone who's slumping will have a hot streak to get them back to their averages over the whole year. Over 40 games in, it'd be more accurate to think that some or most should go back to their career averages the rest of the year, which will still leave them with below-average overall seasons and the Nationals below pre-season expectations.

cass said...

As Anon said, these models take performance from previous years into account as well.

Maybe the models are wrong. Maybe the Nats will start performing better than expected. Maybe they'll get lucky. But it's good to keep in mind what these cold numbers, uninfluenced by emotion, are telling us.

They expect the Nats to finish 5 back of the Braves and a couple back of the WC. That's nowhere near insurmountable. But I think it's good to keep in mind where we are.

Zimmerman11 said...

Werth has to shave off the beard. That is all. It's obviously the problem. The beard is cursed...

Kenny B. said...

Under-discussed factor in the Nats' woes: The Teddy Curse. Everything was going great until they let him win. It's been pure disaster ever since.

Chaz R said...

We are all so frustrated and disgruntled. I'm so sick of catching crap from all the other team's fans. We were in SD this past weekend and were heckled as Nats fans of a perenial losing organization... no respect...

I do miss Morse, Gorzo, and Burnett... with Matheus out, they are going to need some serious help... from H-Rod? Duke? I don't think so.

I love Danny, but when do you cut bait? Keep Lombo at 2nd, and lets get another big stick veteran bench player. Werth is going to continue to get hurt, probably Harper too, given his playing style.

Time for Rizzo to make a move before we end up in late July, 10 games back.

Eric said...

"Over 40 games in, it'd be more accurate to think that some or most should go back to their career averages the rest of the year, which will still leave them with below-average overall seasons and the Nationals below pre-season expectations."

This assumes that those career averages were won on non-streaky seasons (e.g., they hit exactly 1 - 3 every game to get a .333 average over a career) and that like 60% of the Nats' lineup will perform below their personal averages.

I think an important thing to consider is, if career averages can be used to make accurate predictions, would using them have put the Nats at ~.500 after ~40 games this season?

Kenny B. said...

Werth may have shaved off his beard. We wouldn't know, because we haven't seen him for weeks. ZING!

Froggy said...

It's called chemistry and there isn't a Sabermetric or predictive model for it. Last year we had it and this season Rizzo, the Lerners and management believed all the pre-season hype and messed it up. Last year we had hunger and a focus to attention to details. This year, we trade away the Beast, and Lannon and replace them with...

I see Jason Marquis is 6-2 for the Padres also.

Sheriff said...

Anyone remember when or where the dream and nightmare scenario articles are from preseason?

Anonymous said...

All we need is for Stras to come out and pitch tonight like the once in a generation talent he is. What?

Booyah Suckah! said...

Froggy, how did Rizzo and the Lerners "mess up" the chemistry from last year? It's almost exactly the same group of guys, including the bench, as it was last year. One new outfielder, one new pitcher, one new bullpen arm. And you're telling me that destroyed every single intangible that this team had? Actually it seems you're saying that getting rid of Morse and Lannan (who wasn't even on the team the vast, vast majority of last year) somehow destroyed the chemistry. If Morse and Lannan are the Typhoid Marys of chemistry, why aren't the Mariners and the Phillies tearing it up?

Eric hit the nail on the head. It's a career average, or at worst a season average. Not a "first 7 weeks of the season average". All those other "season" numbers were predicated on 500-600 ABs. There were cold streaks, hot streaks, and average streaks throughout that year. What I'm saying is that I expect these guys to, across the board, play within a few percent of their known averages. Meaning they would, by definition, hit a hot streak the same way they've currently been hitting a cold streak (unless you think all those years of numbers are wrong and LaRoche is really a .220 hitter or Bernie is going to hit .065 off the bench) and average everything out over the course of the year.

Maybe I just can't see myself, but I don't think I'm being guided by emotion. Maybe just a little less pessimism than most.

Cass, I did take a look at the link. I haven't spent a bunch of time on fangraphs, so maybe I missed it, but I couldn't find anything on the formula used for that model. From looking at the numbers though, it didn't seem like it was taking account of an expected movement back to season numbers. It seemed like simply an extrapolation based on the numbers we've already seen. I could be wrong though, I was looking at it at work and was distracted by hiding the fact that I was on fangraphs :)

Booyah Suckah! said...

Cass, went back and looked at it again. I still don't see what you're seeing. The current win percentage and full-season win percentage are basically identical. The current RA/g and full-season RA/g are basically identical. The only difference is RS/g, where full-season ticks up a bit. I assume they're using the current offensive stats of the typical starters, not the hodgepodge groups of yahoos we've had out there, which would account for the increase, even if they all only played to their "first seven weeks" averages for the rest of the season (which is what I think this model assumes).

If this model was assuming a regression (or rather PROgression) to the mean, I absolutely can't see how this team would still end up with a negative run differential at the end of the season. I don't buy it.

Froggy said...

Booyah, my point was chemistry based. Remove or add a couple synergistic components and you change the whole compound.

Ok, so maybe the Lerners aren't directly at fault. Admittedly, that is an emotional comment. But I do think Rizzo tinkered with the formula that got the Nats to where they were at the end of last season (no secret I thought we should keep Morse as insurance until the AB). Coupled with a ridiculous rash of injuries and a lack of focus and that makes the difference (so far).

I do hope we defy the predictive models and Sabermetric doom and gloom and turn things around somehow.

Anonymous said...

Espinosa struck out? That is not the Danny Espinosa I know ...

Anonymous said...

How awesome is stras? Sure he threw over 30 pitches in the 1st and his whip is a robust 4 so far. But he got Brandon belt on a WICKED change. Woo-hoo!

cass said...

The Fangraphs standings are based on in-season ZIPS and Steamer projections for all the players and playing time estimates by the staff. So the one place that isn't based on cold, emotionless models is playing time, and you can quibble with some of those.

But the forecasts for the players are based on the average of two of the best projection models. They take into account the last three years of players (at least) as well as what they've done this season. They're not perfect, of course, and there is a lot of fuzz in this - 10 to 20 games either way, really. But it's something to keep in mind. Again - not trying to elevate them to some infallible status, but I do feel it's a good way to take stock of where we are.

Also - regression to the mean implies that the player will play at his normal averages for the rest of the year, not that they'll play above their lifelong averages to get back to the mean. If you dig yourself in a hole the first two months, you likely won't quite get back to your longterm averages. Thinking that because the player has been below average implies he'll be above average for the future would be the gambler's fallacy.

Of course, it's possible this set of hitters does better later in the year, kind of like they did last year. But it ain't guaranteed and has nothing to do with the fact they've been slumping so far.

Booyah Suckah! said...

"implies that the player will play at his normal averages for the rest of the year, not that they'll play above their lifelong averages to get back to the mean."

But that assumes, like Eric said, that their career averages are based on going out there every game of every year and hitting exactly 3 times out of every 10 for a .300 average. But those career averages are based on massive up and down swings. Player X's BA (or hits or HRs or whatever you want) in 2010 or 2011 or 2012 was based on up months and down months and average months. So saying "they've dug themselves a hole and would have to play awesome to climb out" ignores the fact that this happens every single year to every single player. It's just that it doesn't always happen to start the year. If this was happening in July, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

On a totally different subject... Maya? Really? Maya? Davey takes a guy who hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors all season, puts him in the game in the bottom of the 10th against the absolute heart and soul of the second-best order in the majors, and expects something other than a Panda-style homerun? I'm actually starting to believe that Davey is like the baseball manager version of a hipster. It's like he's doing things solely because they're different or non-conventional, not because there's actual a good reason. It goes all the way back to putting E-Jax in as a reliever in Game 5. He had Stammen and Storen collecting dust in the bullpen, but he puts in Maya. What?

Froggy said...


What, are you kidding me?

DCNatty said...

"I will keep playing this game hard for the rest of my life even if it kills me! Ill never stop! ‪#RespectTheGame".....unless of course the tying run is on first in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs. hahaha.

all in favor of firing DJ? besides bringing in Maya, as the game never should have gotten to that point. Top 8, lead off double and Harper bunts?!?!?! So im guesing hes still hurt (which also explains his feeble effort at the ball in the 9th). Regardless the bunt was dumb. Leads to a quick intentional walk of ZImm so LaRacho can K and be 0-7 with 7Ks lifetime against Lopez! What odds was DJ playing? Thats simply called being out managed.

Again...these games are painful. It was fun to watch Stras heat up by the end of the game, but the inability to hit a sac fly is painful. Maybe start squeezing them in.

Oh...and throw another worry on top. Soriano.

Im done watching till after Memorial Day.

Kenny B. said...

Anytime a team picks up a big name closer, you just know it's going to be a disaster.

Team sucks. Maybe it will get better, but right now, it sucks, with the only hope of improvement being the thought that "they can't be that bad, can they?" Time to break out the "Natinals" jerseys, because that is the team on the field.

They're going to start losing a lot of fans pretty soon. I'm pretty die hard, and even I've gone from hanging on every pitch, to frequent score check-ins, and now I'm down to once-per-day score check with a shrug as they freefall past the Phillies into a sub-.500 third place.

But hey, at least we're not the Angels, amirite?