Nationals Baseball: It's not walking (well it is but that's not anything new)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It's not walking (well it is but that's not anything new)

The Nats problem is they don't walk, or so they say.  It is true that their OBP of .291 is crazy low, and if they kept it up over the whole year it would be one of the worst OBPs in modern times. But this is the Nats

Last year .261 average, .322 OBP
This year .234 average, .291 OBP

It's not walking that's killing the Nats.  If we look at isoOBP (getting on base with the base hits pulled out) the numbers look like this

Last year : .061
This year : .057

Virtually identical. It's not that the Nats aren't walking. The Nats never walked. Its that the Nats aren't hitting.

Is this an BABIP thing? Perhaps. Their BABIP last year was .308, among the highest in the league. This year it's .281 among the lowest.  What if they were getting a number like last year?  That's another 41 hits, or a line that reads .254, .311 OBP. Much closer to last year's than where they are now.

So that's it then. Wait until the BABIP goes up to .308 and the Nats will be fine. Except the BABIP won't go up to .308, the league average is around .295.  The Nats won't likely ride regression back to a good offense. Plus, we're forgetting about SLG.

Last year : isoSLG (pulling singles out of it) .167
This year : .141

While their isoOBP is down around 6.5%, it's the slugging that's really killing them. They are down about 15.5% from last year's final total. I want to look at three people inparticular

LaRoche : .198 this year, .238 last year
Desmond : .198, .218 
Zimmerman : .162, .196

Why do I want to look at these three? Here's their isoSLG on June 10th last year

LaRoche : .232
Desmond : .174 
Zimmerman : .108

Both Desmond and Zimmerman hit the ball a lot harder as the year went on.  LaRoche didn't exactly but his stats on June 10th, 2012? .258  10 homers.  His stats on June 10th, 2013?  .252 10 homers. He may not reach the heights of last year thanks to fewer doubles and walks but there's no reason the notoriously slow starter can't hit .270 with 30 homers again.

There is hope. Now they need Bryce back and the starting pitching needs to get healthy and that 5th spot needs to be fixed and someone else from the bench or another spot in the lineup has to do something. But there is hope.


Erich said...

Is it redundant to mention the plus production from an injured Espinosa not being in the lineup? Granted this position may end up being a minus from last year's production, the dismal numbers of the first third will not be continued for the rest of the season thankfully.

Hoo said...

Legend has it that Zim hit the ball a lot harder after the magic cortisone shot. Are we saying we can expect another surge once he gets another needle puncture?

Is he permanently damaged goods and this is who he is? Or he's a slow starter/warm weather guy.

JonQuest said...

What's wrong with Haren? I don't know much about who he was as a pitcher prior to coming to the Nats. Is his problem that his velocity has descended into the supremely hittable range? Is his command gone, so that he can no longer make up for the lack of velocity? Is one of his pitches just not moving the way it used to?

I get it that eventually an athlete can no longer do what they did previously. I certainly can't run or throw the way I did 10 years ago. But is it something that's fixable? There's been no indication that I've read of an injury. It seems like he went from a talented guy fighting through injuries to being washed up instantly. Seems odd.

cass said...

Any thoughts on Harper possibly refusing a cortisone shot in his knee? Kilgore's article in this morning's paper was the first I had heard of this. Bryce seems to think it would be dangerous at his age, but his Dad makes it sound like he's refusing it to stay clean. While cortisone is a steroid, it's not an anabolic steroid and it would seem strange to refuse it on those grounds. Though possibly it has something to do with his beliefs as a Mormon? His dad did say he's gotten cortisone shots before, though.

Probably much ado about nothing, but Harper's health seems to be the most important Nats story at the moment.

Sirc said...

Zimmerman is going to regret those cortisone shots for the rest of his days. He is way too young to be taking that as a treatment. They are usually reserved for degenerative conditions so that no healthy tissue is impacted by the steroid cocktail. It's really dangerous otherwise.

Really dangerous.

I know of no doctors outside of the sports medicine world who would even consider a cortisone mix as treatment for someone under 40 with healthy muscle near the injured area.

It's bananas.

Section 222 said...

Sirc, that's baloney. A cortisone shot is a perfectly safe treatment for joint inflammation, including bursitis. And it can be really effective, very quickly. Repeated shots can be dangerous, but one? No way. It's foolish of Harper to decline this standard treatment.

Froggy said...

Section 222 is more correct. Cortisone is also similar I believe to cortisol which is produced by the body in the natural inflammation process. Getting one can can actually help reduced the inflammation if the causative agent has time to be removed or addressed through rest and strength conditioning, etc. as well. What happens more often than not in the sports world is the athlete keeps playing and the injury doesn't get time to regenerate and heal.

Time and conditioning and strength training through rehab are the best medicine usually.

I hope he comes back soon but not at the expense of his future.

BenDen said...

Yup concur with Section 222.

Doctor's regularly prescribe patients 3 and 4 cortisone treatments a year for arthritis and chronic joint pain. It's typically in chronic situations because it treats the symptom (inflammation) rather than the cause. When used in conjunction with other procedures (Zimm had bone chips removed plus the cortisone) it can reduce pain/inflammation and the only real side-effects are procedure related (infection, flare-ups).

On a baseball note- we seem to be right on the cusp of all the 'regressing to the mean' predictions I've seen on this board all season. The timing over the next month will be critical to our late-season standing. If our hitting decides now is the time to turn it around we could rip off win in bunches after our rotation is restored (Saturday, fingers crossed)

Sirc said...

It is not a "perfectly safe" treatment.

It is an immuno suppressor.

Read about it somewhere other than Wikipedia.

Yes, Bryce could have taken is at the outset of his stint on the DL, because they could have controlled the situation that follows. Getting it as a treatment and then playing a sport the next day is dangerous, which is what both Zimmerman and Espinosa did last year. They both resulted in tears.

This is common with cortisone use. It is designed to mask symptoms! Of course it isn't perfectly safe.

Harper said...

Erich - No it's not redundant. but it is something that's not quite here or there. Compared to this year it'll help the offense. Last year though from Jun 10th through Labor Day Epsy hit .281 / .333 / .460. Since the Nats are looking to get very good not just better than average they need something like that from Rendon (or whoever)

Hoo - He's not exactly this. He's really both - damaged good and a slow starter. We'll see how damaged by how much he heats up.

JQ - THe velocity explains why Haren won't ever be Haren pre-2011 again, but why can't he be Haren OF 2011 is a bit of a mystery. The quick guess is that the injury did something to his ability to throw his cutter which was the only out pitch he had left working (it CARRIED him in 2011). Now he just has an arsenal of hittable pitches. Great control can only do so much when you can't get guys to swing and miss (a 7 K/9 might look good but in this day and age it's pretty middle of the road.

cass - the cleanliness thing is stupid. The danger isn't real if used correctly and sparingly , but I can see the side of wanting to start down that road (assuming it would only give him a couple of games). How do teammates feel about that though? He's basically saying he won't sacrifice his body/career to help the team win now.

Sirc / Sec 222 - In my very limited experience a single shot to help reduce the swelling is generally safe. But I think what Sirc is getting at is that it's not a fix for the problem, it's a fix for the symptoms. It'll just come back and then you have to deal with the problem. Plus if you don't feel the sympton you may make the problem worse.

Usually why we see it in sports medicine is because of seasonal necessity. If a doc thinks the underlying issue won't get much worse then you can keep slapping this band-aid on it until you have the time off to take care of it. For a normal person we don't have this Time On / Time off work sched so it's better just to take care of it ASAP

BenDen said...


Your issue doesn't seem to be so much with the cortisone procedure as the Nats medical team's handling of Zimm/Espi as they were getting that treatment.

There's a fine line between "treat" and "mask" especially when you're just talking pain/swelling.

Of course it's never a good idea to hop up on painkillers and hurt yourself more than the original injury, but that argument can be made for any pain killer.

There's nothing inherently dangerous about treating pain/swelling with a well administered cortisone shot, but you're correct that it shouldn't be a "shoot it up, rub some dirt on it, and get back out there" approach

JonQuest said...

Thanks for the response Harper. Regarding Bryce and the shot, I think the question you pose is really interesting. Many screamed at the Nats for shutting down Stras as a precaution. If the cortisone shot is an option, isn't Bryce doing the same? Shouldn't we be just as upset?

Personally, at their age and considering their potential, I think being cautious is the prudent approach. No guarantee Stras would have made a difference in the postseason and no guarantee that Harper would suddenly turn this team into a division winner. But, if you were mad about Stras, you probably should be mad about this.

Section 222 said...

Sirc, I'm not a doctor, and apparently neither are you. But I've had several cortisone shots over the years. They don't mask pain or symptoms, they reduce pain by reducing inflammation. I've talked to my doctor about this. One cortisone shot isn't going to kill you. And bursitis is inflammation of the bursae sacs. If you reduce inflammation you are addressing the problem. And when the inflammation is gone you don't have the problem any more.

Obviously, for this condition, you don't get the shot one day and play the next. You wait until the swelling is down and the inflammation gone. Until you are 100% in other words. And you make sure there is no other structural damage. Even after the bursitis goes away, it could come back or you could reinjure the knee. But that's the case even if you treat it with rest and advil and wait weeks or months before playing again. There's just no reason, other than stubborness and a misunderstanding of what it is and does, to avoid a stronger and more effective anti-inflammatory drug.

Section 222 said...

Zim's situation was different. He had a structural injury that required surgery to fix. The cortisone shot reduced the inflammation from that injury and allowed him to play. But the underlying injury remained and when the cortisone wore off he needed repeated shots.

Sirc said...

You're one of those guys who just talks to talk. You have nothing to say, so you use declarations to cover the absence of fact.

"The truth is..."
"It's clear that..."

"It's perfectly safe..."

Whatever gets you through your week, I guess.

blovy8 said...

Haren tends to have one inning where his location is high and his below average fastball is easy to hit up there if he's not setting that up with other quality breaking pitches. He doesn't throw hard enough to snap off a quality curveball, but I've seen him throw some a pretty good splitters, and if there were any adjustment I could think of it would be, when the fastball command waivers, he ought to try using the split a little more. I think he can actually throw it for a strike to start an at bat once in a while to simulate a 12/6 curve, then they have to adjust to the speed difference at least with the same release point. Maybe he's tried that and they've laid off the pitch, I don't know. There has to be something, because the pitch looks good enough to use more. I think you're right that his cutter hasn't worked for him this season.

ocw5000 said...

I know it's early for Rendon, but the kid has a sweet swing and great pitch recognition. His ABs are basically the anti-Espinosa. Totally conceivable for him to replicate Espi's 2012 mid-year production (.275/.333/.450 range).

As blovy8 pointed out in a previous comments section, all the isoSLG and HR/FB stuff will be lower this year because of the Span-for-Morse switch. The hope was that we'd save some runs on the other end (which we have been on the nights that Haren's not pitching).

Section 222 said...

Dr. Andrews recommended a cortison shot. Harper had it. I guess that settles that.

But maybe he'll regret it for the rest of his days.

Froggy said...

I dint think one shot won't matter as much as what he does with his body afterwards. Truth is he probably won't be 100% until the offseason. It will great to have him back in the lineup though.

Section 222 said...

I agree Froggie, although I hope that Harper fully recovers this year. Since there seems to be no structural damage to the knee, just swelling, that is possible I think.

Someone took offense at my suggesting that it wasn't "really dangerous" to have a single cortisone shot for this condition. Not sure why it became a fight. I was just trying to correct misinformation.

As he said, "whatever gets you through your week."

Sirc said...

"Perfectly safe" isn't the same thing as "suggesting that it wasn't really dangerous" is it?

This isn't a semantic argument. They mean entirely different things. I said "really dangerous" because they account for a significant portion of malpractice claims in Virginia. They are really dangerous. Doctors have to buy insurance against malpractice separately if they administer it as a treatment as part of their practice. Because it's really dangerous. Common? Yep. Common doesn't make it safe.

You said "perfectly safe." And your evidence was that you've gotten "several."

Also you called "Baloney" on me which, while not exactly fighting words, is inflammatory. Let's treat it with a cortisone shot coupled with enriched plasma and we'll revisit this argument in one week's time.

Section 222 said...

I did call baloney on you, which was well deserved, because a single cortisone shot is not "really dangerous" when administered by a competent doctor, much less one of the top sports medicine docs in the world.

Here's your full quote:
"He is way too young to be taking that as a treatment. They are usually reserved for degenerative conditions so that no healthy tissue is impacted by the steroid cocktail. It's really dangerous otherwise.

Really dangerous.

I know of no doctors outside of the sports medicine world who would even consider a cortisone mix as treatment for someone under 40 with healthy muscle near the injured area."

That was full of exaggeration and misinformation. Lots of baloney there. Apparently Dr. Andrews didn't think Harper was "way to young" to have a cortisone shot. Apparently such shots are not reserved for old people with degenerative conditions. (Any 30 something runner who has had a cortisone shot for a bum knee knows that.) But Andrews is a sports medicine doc so we'll just discount his opinion I guess.

Also, just because a procedure leads to malpractice claims (if that's really the case) doesn't mean it is "really dangerous." Ok, so I guess any medical procedure or drug is not "perfectly safe," but whatever overstatement my remark represented didn't come close to your "really dangerous", with emphasis, characterization.

So get off your high horse.

Sirc said...

This reminds me quite a bit of my kids when they were little. They didn't understand nuance then.

So when they didn't understand something, or were made to feel sad by something, or were caught doing something they shouldn't have, or generally ran out of steam in their tantrum, they'd call people names or say something mean.

"So get off your high horse."

I haven't been on a horse since the 70s, and that was a pony. It bit another kid, so I never really trusted horses after that.

I do have a cockapoo now. His name is Cam.