Nationals Baseball: What's wrong with ZNN? I don't know but I know it needs to be fixed.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What's wrong with ZNN? I don't know but I know it needs to be fixed.

My standard quick perusal of the fancy stats got me nothing substantial.  Perhaps some deep digging would find something but I'm not so sure.

July looks like the "regression" month.  BABIP went way up (.221 in June to .357). HR/FB went way up (6.3% to 21.4%). LOB% went way down (70.9% to 62.5%) Sure bad pitching could be the reason, but you don't usually turn on a dime like this, and those July values are out of whack for anything but a terrible pitcher. Just like those June values were out of whack in the other direction (well not LOB% but that was way favoring ZNN in Apr and May).  So you could, if you wanted, just write off July as bad luck, everything going wrong for ZNN to make up for 3 months of things going right.

August though, doesn't lend itself to the same narrative. All the fancy stats are back within a normal range. Nope, in August it's more about ZNN's lack of control. His walks per 9 are up to 4.09, 4.40 since the break. He hasn't had a month remotely that bad since coming back form surgery in Sept of 2010. Now it's not like he's missing the zone a ton more than he used to. He's around 35% balls in August, worse than the previous 3 months but close to April and he's had months around this before. So what is it?

Like I said I don't know. I'm assuming the Nats don't know either. Could it be an injury to ZNN? God knows this team makes a sport out of dismissing injuries and watching their players flail around like A-ball rejects on the field. Could it be a change in approach from the opponents? They are swinging a lot less overall (swing rate down from 50.7% before the break to 44% now). Perhaps Jordan has tendencies deeper in the count that other teams are noticing and taking advantage of? You'd think the Nats, who see Jordan everyday, would be the first to be on top of something like that.

Gah Gah Gah. The Nats need Jordan to be ok. Assuming Haren is allowed to walk (the right move unless he wants to come back for some super cheap one year deal). The back of the Nats rotation will be a giant question mark heading into next season. It's one thing to fill one rotation spot. You can do that with some tape and glue assuming 1 through 4 are set. Filling two is super hard though. If the Nats need to work on three? Forget it. See you in 2015.

Why so dismal? I thought the Nats had a lot of arms they liked in the minors? News flash : 25 teams have a lot of arms they like in the minors. The Nats have some pitching prospects but nothing really more exciting than you'd find elsewhere. Taylor Jordan's success is heartening and he should be given a chance in the rotation next season assuming he keeps this up. I'm not saying he'll succeed. In fact, I think I'd bet against it just like I did with Detwiler. But I think it be silly not to give him a shot at sticking on, unless something better is brought in. That's one spot. What are the other names we've heard bandied about?

Tanner Roark? Older, and it's questionable if this year is a fluke or not. Might be ok in pen, but wouldn't bet on him to be a worthwhile rotation guy, which is what we are talking about here.
Nathan Karns? No control. AAAA type guy in the mold of H-Rod. Could be very good, more likely not good enough to ever stick.
Sammy Solis? Stats aren't that impressive even if results are. Super old (25 right now) for league (A+ ball)
Lucas Giolito? Not part of any immediate solution at his age and current setting. Late 2015 at best.
AJ Cole? Ok AJ is interesting. I like what I see there, but let's not forget he wasn't that impressive in A-ball before moving to AA and we've only seen 30 innings there.
Robbie Ray? Less interesting than AJ, but on the right track. 

All in all, it's a familiar mixed bag. Like most teams you have a couple guys on top like Jordan, Caleb Clay, etc, who aren't really prospects but you could toss into a #5 slot and see if you get lucky. Then you have a couple of live arms a bit lower that you are seeing if they develop into something special. The Nats have a few arms like that but right now they don't have anything special. Without that you can't really plan on them for 2014.

The Nats have enough problems trying to figure out how to fix an offense who's main problem is having too many guys that are average to better than average but not great. They need the rotation next year to be a simple as signing one good pitcher to be #4 and letting #5 settle out between Jordan, Detwiler, whoever pops up, and whatever couple legitimate arms Rizzo brings in as depth. ZNN needs to be good.


ocw5000 said...

Just trade Espinosa for David Price and Alex Cobb. See if the Rays will throw in Wil Myers. WORLD SERIES BABY!

Harper said...

Are you the GM of Tampa? If so we have a deal. Have your people call the Nats people. Better yet, don't talk to any of your people. They might confuse you. Just fly right now to DC.

nicoxen said...


2 things on JZimm

1) He's too predictable. He throws the fourseam fastball 64.03% of the time. Comparitively Stras throws his fourseam only 53.20% of the time.
2) His nasty pitch (the slider) isn't nasty enough. It's very hitable. Hitters had 5 HR's off his slider in July.

If JZimm really wants to become part of the upper echelon of elite starting pitchers, he needs to mix his pitches betters, and he needs to get more movement on his breaking pitches. He throws heat, but 94 mph is not that terrifying to MLB hitters. Right now I think he fancies himself as a power pitching version of Maddux or Glavine, but he doesn't have their accuracy. Also, guys like Maddux and Glavine pitched before the PitchF/X era with much more forgivable strike zones. Umpires are less likely to reward pitchers who try to paint it on the black. Therefore, he needs to develop better swing and miss stuff.

Zimmerman11 said...

You do not "mess" with DeJesus!

Harper said...

1) Maybe - but he's always been like this. 59% or above in all but 3 months of his career and there hasn't been ramifications up until now.

2) I'd agree with that. He doesn't have that killer out pitch.

I'm not sure he HAS to develop the swing and miss part of his game to be effective for the next few years but 5 years out?

Z11 - apparently the Cubs do.

Zimmerman11 said...

What's this day of rest sh!t? What's this bullsh!t? I don't &^%$# care! It don't matter to Jesus. But you're not foolin' me, man. You might fool the fux in the league office, but you don't fool Jesus. This Bush-league psyche-out stuff. Laughable, man – ha ha!

Harper said...

Zimmermann11 - Ok who let the Lebowski fan in here? Someone put a white russian outside the back door and narrate him to the drink using your best Sam Elliot voice. Quick before he talks about people talking about that damn carpet.

Strasburger said...

This team needs a serious come to DeJesus

Chaz R said...

LOL... I think you guys are all finally cracking under the frustratingly stressful Nats' season.

Anonymous said...

Harper I think you're mostly right here (and you're certainly right that Znn needs to be good).

But you are INSANE to compare Karns to H-Rod. H-Rod was never a starter above class A and his career BB/9 is north of 6. Karns is no control master but he's at 3.39 BB/9 in the minors this year, which is better but not a lot better than his career mark. And BB rate is not so bad in the context of of his 10+ K/9 rate.

Karns may not ever be a reliable big league starting pitcher, but his floor at this point has got to be a serviceable late inning relief pitcher. He has better numbers/stuff than Craig Stammen ever did.

Harper said...

Anon - OK, I'm probably being too harsh to Karns. "Fireballing Minor Leaguer" is a pretty broad brush. Karns is someone who could probably fake starting for a couple years. H-Rod couldn't even handle an inning. I'd give Karns a shot at relieving.