Nationals Baseball: ZNN in brief review

Thursday, May 30, 2013

ZNN in brief review

ZNN gave up a bunch of runs last night, but that's ok the guy isn't perfect. And besides it's not like anyone was thinking he's the best pitcher on the team. It's not like there was some kvetching over signing the guy long term even though he won't be eligible for free agency until after 2015.

Oh people did? And they were?

People look. ERA is great and all but it's not the best way to judge how a pitcher is going to perform going forward. That's because ERA is defense dependent. So the fact that ZNN's ERA since the beginning of 2012 is nice but it's hardly telling. Instead you should look at stats like FIP (takes into account a normal league BABIP) and xFIP (adds in a normal HR/FB ratio) to try to gauge who will be your best pitcher going forward.

ZNN ERA since 2012 : 3rd
ZNN FIP since 2012 : "only" 19th
ZNN xFIP since 2012 :  a hideous 24th

Are there guys that can seemingly outperform FIP stats constantly? Sure. You knew one, you loved one : John Lannan. The guy well outperformed them for almost 425 innings, got injured, did a little bit worse than them, then got healthy and well outperformed them for another 180. But here's the thing - that's A LOT of innings. ZNN has outperformed xFIP for 2 almost full seasons now so he can start to assume that he might beat that number regularly (thanks to a tendency not to give up homeruns) but he only really outperformed FIP itself last year (and the first part of this year). You can't really roll on that being dependable just yet.We'll take another look at it after the end of the year.

(Also - I know you want to say BUT THE NATS D IS SOOOOOOO GOOD! It is good, which keeps BABIP down some, but it's not that good)

But as you see it's not that he goes from "maybe the best" to "maybe the worst" or even average looking at these stats. He's still really, really good. 19th in the league? That's a #1 starter for half the league. Certainly a #2 anyone would be happy with. But here's the other thing.

Gio FIP since 2012 : 8th
Stras FIP since 2012 : 5th

Gio xFIP since 2012 : 21st
Stras xFIP since 2012 : 1st

You have two guys in the rotation, one who is arguably better, and one inarguably. Sorry Strasburg haters but the guy having this terribly mediocre year (that by the way has put his ERA at 10th in the NL right now) is better (and younger) than ZNN.  Is he more of an injury risk than ZNN, I suppose but then again

Should the Nats try to re-sign Jordan? Most definitely. Sometime after this year (which is what he wants anyway) or into 2014 they should look to extend him because he's a very good pitcher and he's not old. You want very good pitchers who are not old. But he's not the best pitcher on the team and with Gio and Strasburg guaranteed to be in DC cheaply up through 2016, if the Nats don't re-sign ZNN it will probably still be ok.


Clip&Store said...

I agree on prety much all accounts. Though one thing i will give Jzimm moreso than certainly gio, and possibly Stras is consistency. And in regards to extending him, yeah I would. Eventually, assuming SS will require a monster contract, I'd let him walk and extend Harp around that time (also assuming he will require a monster contract).

It will be somewhat similar, but POTENTIALLY even more expensive than the brewers a few years ago with deciding between Braun and Fielder.

michael k said...

I agree, but the only issue I would raise is that the Nats, as they are constructed right now, kind of need those three #1s in order to compete at the level that we want. Consider that a) for now and in the foreseeable future the Nats are trying to win a World Series, and b) even if Rendon is everything we want him to be, that still doesn't leave the Nats with an elite offense (maybe if Zim, Desmond, Espinosa, Ramos, and Harper all perform to their ceiling they would be, but let's not count on that right now). So the Nats are going to need three great starters to be perennial competitors. Which is why re-signing Zimmermann is important.

Erich said...

Certainly decisions to be made a few years from now, but don't take the approach that this market should be restricted to decisions like those for the Brewers. It is certainly possible that this team extends both Strasburg and Harper.

ZNN is another decision to be made, likely next season, and seems like an ideal player to extend. One of these extensions will not payoff, but on the whole, considering how the rest of the league is extending talent I feel that free agency is becoming a place with more flawed and older players.

Anonymous said...

Who said anything about Stras being mediocre? Fair to middling, sure, but mediocre?

Seriously, I'm not a Stras fan, but I would never use the word mediocre. He's a really good pitcher. A solid A-/B+. He's just not the once-in-a-generation pitcher I hoped he would be on June 8, 2010.

So why am I not a fan of a A-/B+ pitcher (and the awesomest xFIP pitcher since 2012 (how many wins do they give you for leading the league in that stat?)? He hasnt earned my trust. I'm starting to slot him in with A-Rod. Need a guy to hit a HR when your team is up 5 against the Blue Jays? A-Rod's your guy. Need a pitcher to go 7 IP/1 ER in the middle of May against an also-ran, Stras! Need someone to do it in a must-win game or against a big rival? Jury is still out ...

blovy8 said...

In the larger "talent" sense, I don't disagree, but being a fan, the results matter much, much more.
Hopefully, it becomes a stupid argument like Pedro vs. Schilling or Smoltz vs. Maddux. Those clubs do tended to win a lot. I think they need to lock the guy up longterm, but he's cagey enough to make them pay. Why not let his agent earn his cut?

FIP an xFIP aren't perfect stats either. You're talking about 3.52 vs. 3.40 with Zimm and Stras for 2013. That seems to be within a margin of error sort of range. The extra positive innings Zimm is throwing are pretty important and give Jordan an edge.

The answer as to who's best is never as simple as one number like FIP or WAR. Strasburg has given up 9 unearned runs. Why is that happening this year where he had fairly normal numbers before? Have teams taken more advantage of him being lousy at holding runners? Is his perfectionist persona making it difficult to limit scoring opportunities? How can a guy with that kind of stuff not "trust" it? Is he that different pitching from the stretch? After all, a low BB/high K pitcher should always be able to benefit by getting the easiest of outs at any point. His pace is probably an issue defensively, but that isn't easy to categorize. The obvious thing you can say for him is that the defense has let him down, but you wouldn't you expect Zimm to be at those guys mercy comparatively more? Are Strasburg's LOB numbers unlucky and random or an issue?

To me it's about fastball command with all three of these guys. You can see easily see what happened to Zimm without it - like last night when he was up in the zone - too many happy baltimorons, man.

At least the guy is still beating his FIP numbers this year with all that, and he should actually be getting better with more experience. But right now, the results from his actual execution of pitches don't say he's better than Zimmmermann, no matter what predictive models may say for future years. And the Nats are still babying Strasburg, a big headline is him completing seven friggin' innings. As great as he can be, will they let him?

Gio can't get through 6 innings in his average start. Who likes using middle relief that much? We have enough data to maybe believe 3 out of 4 years, rather than the last one. That's a bit scary. I'd still say with a bit more command, he'd be fine, but I would not be as confident of that as Zimmermann's ability to maintain his quality of pitching.

blovy8 said...

Some day I will look at this crap before I push that stinkin' publish button. Bad enough reading it as I write it...

Clip&Store said...

Idk Erich, we would have a dodgers esque payroll, or higher, if that was the case, and no roster flexibility.

I mean, we COULD do it...if we wanna end up in a situation like the team 2.5 hours up I95

NatsVA said...

I think Davey should tell Ian Desmond that from now on as long as he's managing this team, HE DOES NOT SWING AT ANY FIRST PITCH. EVER.

I've never seen anybody take more first pitch hacks than this guy does. I've never been sold on him as our long term answer at SS, and this sort of nonsense night after night after night makes me even less inclined to. The guy has zero plate discipline.

blovy8 said...

Be careful what you wish for NatsVA, it could be you'd get a really great fielding SS who takes the first pitch more but ends the atbat swinging and missing a breaking ball low and inside a LOT more like Espinosa.

Erich said...

It comes down to whether or not we believe Strasburg to be a Verlander type of pitcher. If he is or seems close to it, sign an extension. Thankfully, we have a few seasons before we need to decide. If that puts the team in an inflexible situation and doesn't work out, I think it would be unfair to criticize Rizzo (or any other GM) for making that decision.

Strasburger said...

No one on this blog argued that ZNN was a better pitcher than Stras, because that would be just stupid. My argument was simply that he will have a better year, in terms of wins and ERA, which I still believe will be true.

Surprised you haven't spoken lately about the offense... the bench is still miserable, but Zimm is starting to get REALLY hot, Laroche has stayed pretty hot, and even Span has put together 10 games of hitting. Now its starting to look like a Bryce addition to line up would be the difference we need for a little run.

Bullpen scares me, really scares me. How can you go up 0-2 on Davis and literally leave him a meatball for essentially a one handed HR? Stupid pitch selection and terrible location. Also interesting how the bats seem to die as soon as we're deflated by a bad inning.

If that wasn't Moore in left field I think that's a catch and that inning never gets ugly.

Kenny B. said...

Offense appears to be back, at least against bad O's pitching. Here's hoping it's a bigger trend. Although you hate to see the offense finally wake up and the one pitcher who has been rock solid have a complete meltdown. It was going to happen sometime, I guess.

Dear God, I can't even bear to think about what's going to happen to Haren tonight against that lineup. I shudder to even consider it.

Kenny B. said...

"Also interesting how the bats seem to die as soon as we're deflated by a bad inning."

I've noticed that too. I think we might be on the verge of developing a good stat to determine a team's offensive grit, like team OPS in the inning after losing a lead, or something similar.

Either way, stat or no, this team does not feel like one that will make many comebacks this season. They deflate pretty easily.

Harper said...

C&S - sure very consistent. Of course when you're great, inconsistent means great with sometime only ok.

I also think the Nats will let Stras go and sign Bryce (you HAVE to sign Bryce). But we're a couple years out and things change.

mk - Agreed, but "forseeable" future going past 2015 is a bit of a stretch. 3 years is a long time in baseball. So they need him for now and they have him for now.

Erich - definitely they could sign both... I don't see it though. A lot of $ tied up in that 2016-2017 time frame right now even without Zimm (Ryan) .

and I agree that ZNN is ideal, assuming he doesn't want #1 type money.

Anon - people were sure acting like he was mediocre. Don't give up on him being a generational talent either. 10th in ERA, 12th in WHIP, 6th in Ks, first full season after TJ. 24?

Also the A-Rod comparison is apt if only cause it requires selective memory to paint A-Rod as a clutch failure. Stats don't show anything funny. Great in Playoffs for Seattle, first DS with Yanks, and in '09. You have to be saying "OK in the glare of the NY market he was fine, and under the pressure of the playoffs he was fine, and in the glare of the NY market in the playoffs he was fine, BUT in the glare of the NY market, in the playoffs when the Red Sox were winning titles he was bad so therefore he's a failure"

blovy8 - I find the whole Strasburg this funny. This ER thing wasn't an issue in 2010 or 2012 so we're saying "THis is defnitely an issue for Stephen" based on 3 games of a 6 game stretch. That's it.

As for results - we'll see. You're right on your basic conceipt - that's what matters predictive stats be damned - but give me Strasburg in any bet.

(I do like ZNN better than Gio - problem is Gio is already signed and is looking at relatively cheap extensions at the end - so it's a non-choice)

C&S - doesn't always have to be a bad situation but you do have to be smart about it. Really with pitchers since their are 5 spots it should be ok. It's with hitters that you run into an issue. What happens when Zimm and Werth BOTH need to play 1st....

NatsVA - that's Ian. The free-swinging approach of the Nats presumably helped him break-out so its not going anywhere.

Erich - right now I do. Do you?

Strasburger - I'm not saying here, just out there. Definitely saw it. I guess I could tailor this more toward the comments though. You are the guys reading it - not them.

As for the O - I agree Zimm and LaRoche have been hot. I wouldn't say the bench is miserable though and Bernie and Moore might be turning corners (though I think Moore's ceiling is super low - just higher than his .150 4 Ks per game early rate). Span is hitting (though not getting on base). All in all it does look a lot better. If a hot Bryce was in now the Nats would be streaking. Now of course that means you have 5-6 hot guys in the lineup so that won't last forever. I'd expect some cool down soon from LaRoche and Zimm. they've both been hot for a few weeks now.

Kenny B - reverse jinx says Haren and Garcia take dueling no-nos into the 9th.

Harper said...

erich - whoops mean "even without ZNN" not sure what I was thinking

Erich said...

I think Stras is a Verlander type and will justify an extension. Hopefully, between now and then tickets+a reasonable MASN deal will make this possible.

ZNN is far more debatable. My point is just that looking at the available talent, certainly for pitching, on the free agent market the last offseasons seems like extending ZNN will be a good deal.

Of course, that is a "seems like" and thankfully these decisions won't be made this year and possibly not until the offseason 2014-2015. At that time, things should be a lot more clear.

Froggy said...

Harper - Moore has tuned a corner all right...and he is lost as a tourist in New York. He is just plain terrible, and now he is a liability in LF. Any athletic left fielder (Ankiel perhaps) leaps and robs Pearce of that homerun and kills the momentum. I mean, at least get in position under the ball to jump and TRY and make a play. And Clippard (shakes head) is sad really how bad he and Storen are this year. Our pen is simply a joke.

So, crazy you trade Desmond for a decent reliver before the all star break and go with Rendon, Espi and Lombo in the middle? Right now it looks like Ian is the only guy we could part with and get something decent, no?

Froggy said...

Of course you don't trade Ian Desmond!

You wait until Bryce and Werth get back and see what happens. I bet you are thinking Ian would look pretty good in Yankee pinstripes eh?

Blovy8, looking at the chess pieces for trade bait, what do you see? We need a Capps or Hanrahan deal pronto.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Froggy - Not defending Moore here, but it really shouldn't matter whether he catches that ball or not. It never should've been hit 370-some feet in the first place. It was a crappy pitch thrown during a crappily-pitched game. Pinning that on Moore isn't really fair to the kid. There's enough other legitimate things to pin on him.

Kenny B - As long as I'm defending the dregs, can I point out how well Haren pitched last night? I mean, sure, he's still Haren, but man has he gotten better since those first few starts.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Figured I'd look at the stats real quick... in his last 7 starts (since he stopped trying to throw like Strasburg and decided to throw like Haren), Haren has gone 3-3 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Pretty good for a 4th or 5th guy, and just about exactly the pitcher everyone was banking on him being. Maybe you'd like better, but I'd put him against almost any 4th/5th starter out there.

Froggy said...

Booyah Suckah - I'm not pinning the loss on him, but I am calling Moore out. If he were hitting, say, over .200 and not striking out at every at bat, we let lackadaisical outfield play go once in a while. Bottom line is Moore has NO plan when he goes up to the plate, other than to go 0-2 or 1-2 then swing at the next piece of junk thrown by the pitcher. Even Ray Knight and the other announcers were talking about having SOME sort of plan when at bat, and making adjustments the 2nd and 3rd time around. Moore is a major leaguer, this is a performance profession, and other than June of last year, he hasn't performed.

Conversely, with Bryce and Werth hurt what other choices does Davey have?

It seems like the mental part of the game is lost on everyone. Henry not covering first on the sharp grounder to LaRoche on Wed, Berni not calling off Espi on the flyball last night, Moore white-man can't jump at the wall on Wed. I'm not a statistician like you guys, but I do know what fundamental baseball looks like.

I'm already tired of the excuses: 'well we were playing a hot hitting Orioles team', well, Bryce is hurt, well, Werth is hurt, well, LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter, well, Moore is dating my daughter,' well....

Doug S said...

Last night, the Nats had four guys hitting with below.200 averages. The best of them is hitting.162. This is with no pitcher batting. Despite all the happy talk about how they just need more at bats, this bunch went 1 for 13. There is no bench and apparently no depth in the farm system. This might explain why the Lerners haven't extended Rizzo.