Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Lessons learned

Monday, January 06, 2014

Monday Quickie - Lessons learned

So what exactly did I learn from that little exercise on Friday? Without taking too much time looking into it I'd say this :
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Jayson Werth 2014 at the plate was dramatically less productive than his 2013. (outlier years, age) 
  • I wouldn't be surprised if neither Tanner Roark or Taylor Jordan were anything more than fill in 5th starters (young players having unexpectedly good showings in limited outings)
  • I wouldn't be surprised if Bryce Harper's fielding was an issue in 2014. (don't underestimate impact of injuries that could impact fielding)
When I look more deeply into 2014 I'm going to have to take this into account, more than I thought I would. 

OH NO! It's all bad! DEATH SPIRAL!!!!

While it's true looking at last year I only see lessons about things going bad, that's because last year was a season where things pretty much just went bad. Sorry. But that's not all I see in general. Like I know someone will have a career/breakout year. It happens pretty much every year. Some good things just to balance this all out :
  • Doug Fister will immediately help the rotation be better and his presence forces the Roarks and Jordans to fight for a spot rather than be relied on.
  • Any one of the Top 4 starters is capable of a "career" year like Gio had in 2012, which would elevate the rotation from very, very good to special.
  • Jayson Werth's drop in production should (hopefully) be mitigated by an increase in playing time. 
  • Ramos (78 games), Rendon (98), and Bryce (118) all should also play more in 2014 and all are good candidates for having a breakout year.
See not all bad!  In fact more good, in my opinion. I can tell you right now I'm not picking the Nats to get worse in 2014. Nothing is pointing in that direction. 


Chinatown Express said...

I expect the bench to be marginally better. I expect Fister to be much better than The Number Four Start Who Shall Not Be Named. I expect Rendon to be a bigger contributor strictly as a consequence of getting more ABs vs. poor Espi. I expect Ramos to get more games in, but I also expect his backups to be worse than Suzuki, so maybe call that a wash just based on playing time. I think we can almost expect all of those things to happen, barring injuries. What's that worth? 3 wins? 4?

Moving into more speculative territory:

I suspect we'll see a serious breakout year from Rendon. He was learning to hit big league pitching on the fly. Now he's not. He was still recovering from 2012 injuries to some degree. Now he's not. He was learning a new position for the first time. Now he's not. He was getting used to a full MLB season for the first time. Now he's not. In addition to seeing more playing time, I expect his rate will be better. I wouldn't be surprised if his emergence replaces whatever we lose from Werth's regression.

No one is talking about Stras. He regressed a little last year. Why? I'm going to go out on a limb and expect a better 2014 than 2013, even if it's just a matter of +1-1.5.

Harper's fielding will suffer but his hitting and playing time will improve. Not MVP-level, not even Trout-level, but in the conversation.

Z'nn and Desi will continue to perform at a very good level. Not good enough to be looked at as breakout years and toss us into safe playoff territory, but good enough to add a couple of pallets to their respective money trucks.

nicoxen said...


I think the prospects for this season hinge on two very important things:

1) Harper Maturing as Batter - we all know Bam Bam can crush fastballs. Problem is the league knows he can't hit offspeed, especially soft lefties, for squat. If Harper can figure this out in 2014, he's potential MVP candidate the Nats lineup would be formidable.

2) The Bullpen - Soriano gave up far too many games last season. Moreso, his loses tended to be of sole crushing, team demoralizing variety. If Williams is smart enough to break free of old baseball norms, and use stats and performance to dictate late inning relief instead of outdated pitching roles, then the bullpen and the stand to benefit.

cass said...


Strasburg traded strikeouts for groundballs last year. His K% went down by quite a bit but his GB% went up over the key 50% mark and his BABIP plummeted from terrible to very good. So in terms of runs, he was pretty close even if he regressed by FIP.

Oddly, he didn't throw more two-seamers - he actually threw fewer. Threw fewer four-seamers as well, though - he threw more curveballs and change-ups. And, oddly, while his four-seamer, curveball, and change-up all decreased by .6 mph, his two-seamer increased by .2 mph making it actually faster than his four-seamer. No idea if this means anything.

I'd expect something in between 2012 and 2013 out of Strasburg overall. I'd love it if he could get his walk rate down to what it was before Tommy John, but it's been persistent around 7.5 the last couple years.

Donald said...

In looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014, I remember at the start of last year comparing the Nats and Braves lineups and deciding that there weren't many players that we'd be willing to swap, although it also looked like the Braves wouldn't swap with us either. In retrospect, I would have taken Freeman for LaRoche and possibly McCann for Ramos if we're talking just about one season given Ramos injuries. I suspect the Braves would have taken Rendon for Uggla, though at the start of the season it would have been an Espi / Uggla swap which wouldn't have been so meaningful.

Looking forward, I'd still take Freeman for LaRoches and the Braves would take Rendon for Uggla, though I'd be surprised if Uggla stays as their starting 2B in 2014. But other than that, where is one side demonstrably better? Clearly the Braves closer is WAY better. I like our starting pitchers better, though the Braves rotation is fine.

Who would you swap 1 for 1?

Donald said...

For what it's worth, here are projected 2014 lineups:

Chaz R said...

There have already been reporting and predictions on Stras for NL Cy Young and the Nats going to the WS... please not another jinx year like 2013's WS or bust year! I much prefer a more cynical approach :-)

Wally said...

Donald - counting contracts, or just playing ability?

Just only based on playing ability (which is how I think you asked it) - I'd take Heyward over Werth, and Freeman over ALR. Braves take Zim over Johnson, Harper over JUp, Ramos over Gattis, et al, and Rendon over Uggla. If you throw in contracts, nothing changes from our side, but maybe they back off Zim. But they would sprint away from the BJ Upton and Uggla contracts.

Donald said...

Yes, just based on ability. Clearly, the Nats would take Kimbrel over Soriano, but how about starting pitchers? I'm not exactly sure how theirs line up from 1st to 5th, but who in their rotation would you take for the comparible slot in ours?

Wally said...

I don't think that I can go slot for slot, since I don't know theirs well enough, but I'd rank them this way: Stras, Gio, Teheran, JZimm, Fister, Minor, Medlen. I am probably higher on Teheran than most, and acknowledge that it is a reach to put him over JZ or even Fister. I also am factoring in some upside, obviously. But he is the only one that I would take over our big 4.

I'd probably take Walden over any of our relievers, too.

Anon21 said...

Don't sleep on Alex Wood. I'm not sure I'd take his performance in the coming year over J. Zimmermann, but I'm not sure I wouldn't, either.

Wally said...

He looks pretty good, but he needs to show he can handle a starter's load first before I'd put him over those other guys (to me, anyway).

Anon21 said...

That's fair---playing time is my biggest concern with Wood, too. If he can give them 180 innings in the rotation, he might be the Braves' most valuable starter, but it's not clear they'll be comfortable pushing him that hard in only his second full professional season.

Nattydread said...

Much of the Nats success hinges on the old face of the franchise, Zimmerman. He needs to produce more consistently at the plate and show that he is fully recovered at 3rd.

Long term out of the box thinking puts Harper at 1B. I don't see him improving in the outfield --- not withstanding his fantastic arm. At first he solidifies a great young infield --- and lets the team focus on replacing LaRoche with a strong left fielder.

Harper said...

CE - I can agree to everything you say (I'm a huge Strasburg optimist) except Rendon breaking out. Think it might take another year.

nic - bullpen shouldn't matter that much unless it works as you think, as a big day to day momentum driver. Bryce though - yes definitely

cass - I'd like to think he has that control in him and walk rate is something that goes down over time for the better pitchers.

Chaz R - ok the Nats are doomed.

Donald/Wally/Anon - Who would I swap? Heyward, Freeman. though the Heyward swap kind of sucks. Can I shift Heyward to center and swap with Span?

Honestly if it was just for 2014 I'm not sure Braves take Ramos. Might bet on Gattis to hit 30.

Kimbrel obviously, like Wally said probably other relievers too. Rotation wise I go Stras then honestly throw the rest in a bag. They are all that kind of 1-2-3 zone quality. If you twist my arm...

Stras, Minor, Teheran, Fister, ZNN, Gio, Wood, Medlen

but I think you could go 2-8 in any order and be pretty justified.

blovy8 said...

Well, as much as I'd like to apply the reverse jinx, I just don't feel like another lefty with more power is worth worrying about - how many times is this LH power pinch hitter going to get up in the eighth/ninth inning with the game outcome in the balance, even if such a available player exists outside of a cloned Ken Phelps fantasy world? Let's say 40 times, which I believe is probably very generous. Given the prowess of loogy/setup/closer level of pitcher, how many hits would that guy get, nine or so at the most? There would be a few walks so maybe that's even too many. How many of those would be homers, perhaps two or three? I think at best, we're looking at an increase at very modest improvement over McLaugh and the suboptimal current bench. Any lefty you pick up is probably going to be a guy who can't really play the field any better than Moore, perhaps is too old to catch up with a 95 mph fastball, or will be performing worse than even his established level because he won't playing much as he's used to anymore. I think Rizzo would rather have the wealth of decent back end of the rotation/long relief pitching options than trade for a guy who might only get a handful of high-leverage atbats. It would have to be some lefty 1B with upside at the high-minors level who's almost ready to compete for a job, who can maybe keep Skole working hard at 3rd.

I like the Rendon breakout break-out prediction as much as anything. If he stays healthy, I would think that his excellent line-drive rate, a K rate that's already acceptable at 17.5 percent rate from last season, combined with his ability to hit off-speed stuff could keep the more obvious league adjustments from happening. Even if the power doesn't develop quickly for him, I wouldn't be surprised by Joe Mauer-type rate stats in 2014 if more of those liners fall in between fielders. I suspect he'll have more walks, given his college/minors profile, and maybe from batting in front of the pitcher a lot, at least to start the year.

Hell, it could be LaRoche batting eighth by the end of the year. That's the reverse jinx at work.