Nationals Baseball: Ranks and Spinning Wheels.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ranks and Spinning Wheels.

Fangraphs asked yesterday if the Nats were being overrated again. It's a silly question for a silly time of the year. Why are they overrated? Because some people are picking them to win again? That'll happen when you won 98 games two years ago, were pretty injury riddled last year, and face only one team who should be competitive. I mean really that's it. No one is overrating the Nats. The Braves just are not a dominant team and everyone else in the NL East is somewhere on the suck scale.

But ignore the headline and get to the meat. He wonders about the Nats because their depth chart ratings put the Nats in the lower middle of the pack. Why are the Nats there? What are the problem areas defined by the depth charts? Are they the same that we note? Instead of looking at production (which will always skew toward average in these things) I look at rank. That's why Desmond putting up a 3 win season after two 5 wins doesn't get me ruffled. The team is 6th best in SS and only falls that low because of poor back-ups,  defensive projections (hard to get right), and what I must believe is a paid advertisement from the Brad Miller for ROY SuperPAC. Where do the Nats fail in rank?

Catcher - 22nd place (remember this is a team rank). Ramos would actually fall around the 13th starter and give him more ABs and he'll crack the Top 10 easy. The problem is two fold though. There's no guarantee he'll be healthy and his back-up, currently Solano, is garbage. We know this.

First - 24th. LaRoche was bad last year, is getting older, and his back-up stinks. Hey, we know this too!

Second - 16th. Bad Back-ups and the uncertainty of Rendon. A little better and he's like the 5th.

Center - 19th. Two thirds the world is covered by water. The other third is covered by land. On the tiny patch of that land between Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, Denard Span does a good job of getting to balls. (Span can't hit and while he is very good in center he's not an elite game changing fielder.)

Right - 16th. Jayson Werth can't stay healthy, hits poorly when injured, and is falling in the field. It's admittedly low but when you are trying to factor in "injury that makes him miss one-third of a season, and hit like garbarge for another third" that's what happens. Again we pray for health

Another thing to note about the OF. Nate McLouth does not help all that much.  While he was decent last season, he wasn't so much the season before that, and the one before that, and the one before that. I like putting him on the Nats bench but I don't like the fact that he's the best player on said bench.

Relief Pitching - 24th. Well this is just guessing. I'd love to see how good their RP projections did last year. Can't find it though. These numbers bounce around too much to be reliable especially when you start to weight on recency of unstable numbers.

We learn anything new? Not really. Maybe that McLouth is less useful than we thought. But really the Nats right now have a strong starting 5 in Ramos, Desmond, Zimm, Bryce and Werth. Rendon has good potential to be added as the 6th. With Span and LaRoche, the Nats are hoping for the best seasons they can squeeze out of them. And the Nats are desperately trying to avoid major injuries because their bench in thin. You might say that last part about a lot of teams. It wasn't what we thought we could say initially about the 2013 Nats. They looked deep and strong across the board.  But when LaRoche collapsed and Espy's injuries killed his production it became pertinent to them and it's what we can say now. Since the Nats haven't built up a strong bench a lot will ride on their health and Rizzo's ability to quickly deal for talent mid-season if needed. We'll be saying that over and over until the season starts or something changes.


Donald said...

There's definitely going to be a lot of luck involved. The Nats have a lot of upside (Ramos, Harper, Rendon) and if the regulars stay healthy, they should certainly be favored to make the playoffs if not win the division. It's not a stretch to think they could have more than one legitimate Cy Young award candidate and a legitimate MVP candidate. It's also not a stretch to see the year playing out a lot like 2013 with injuries to several key players either hampering their production or exposing a weak bench. On paper at least, they appear stronger than last year with Fister in the rotation and a healthier Zim and Werth.

Max said...

In your opinion, what do we need to do in order to be a slightly better than average bench? Hopefully we get Baker and then a true backup catcher (IMO- little to no chance that Ramos can stay healthy enough to not need a quality Suzuki-like backup). But other than getting those 2 types of players, would you add anything else to the bench?

Anonymous said...

But ignore the headline and get to the meat.

That's what HE said!

Nattydread said...

Lies, damn lies and statistics. They play the season for a reason. Last year picking the Nats was a good call but they staggered out of the gates. This year they will be motivated and prepared by a coach in his prime. Still. At the end of the day it'll come down to injuries and luck.

Kenny B. said...

If there was a Nats hype train, I must have missed it. My sense is that most Nats fans have been pretty pleased with the offseason moves, but no one is saying "World Series or Bust." It's a pretty good team that *can* win the division and *should* be fun to watch over the course of the season, but a lot rides on health and, as always in baseball, individual performances. Other than that we're all just wanking until the season starts.

Nats Nation in a nutshell: After 2012, a lot of us rightfully had high expectations, and 2013 smashed us down to earth with a terrible vengeance. We're humbled, but enthusiastic about 2014.

Chaz R said...

It's good to have these reports and discussions to keep our expectations in place after 2013!

I do agree with Donald and also Kenny B- this is a very good team that have certain individual potentials for legitimate CY Young and MVP contention. It really does seem to be all about health and luck. I hope the Nats are their black-eyed peas on New Years Day.

blovy8 said...

I'm not buying it. Fangraphs had Span with 3.6 and 3.5 WAR in the last two years. He only played 128 games in 2012! Even the fans projections on fangraphs only have him at 3.3, seems like he's being underrated. Sign me up for eight players ranked 19th at their position can produce 3.5 wins a year, Harper.

JWLumley said...

There is one constant with Steamer projections: They're always wrong. To me the fangraphs piece was a fluff piece drawing sweeping conclusions based on spurious data. As many have mentioned, Bryce Harper is barely mentioned in the article and he figures to be appreciably better even if he just stays healthy and his production remains constant. The Nats were the best team on paper heading into 2013, then they suffered some injuries and bad luck. Sabermetrics would seem to suggest that they will regress to the mean and actually get better. They are still the best team in the NL East on paper and perhaps in the MLB. Sure you can poke holes in their lineup, but that just distracts from the fact that they have the best pitching staff in baseball because their bullpen--hard as those are to predict--is appreciably better than Detroit's. If you have the best staff in baseball, a league average offense will win you a lot of games, an above league average offense could make them dominant.

Anonymous said...

It's always better to be the hunter than the hunted. And it's even better to be the hunter when you've got the bad taste of last season stuck in your craw, to mix a metaphor or three.

Desmond's playing 160, and he's the second-best hitting SS in the game, so put the Nats down for #2 (or #3 if you believe that Simmons' defense makes him that much better than Desi; I don't.)

Rendon was an early launch last year with no time in the minors. He acquitted himself OK, but he'll blast up the 2B charts this year to 4-5 range with a much-improved bat.

Catcher, well, if they even had someone who could walk and chew gum at the same time as a backup . . . One of these years the Buffalo has to get lucky and play most of the season. If/when he does, he'll hit about 35 HRs and embarrass the rest of the catching fraternity. It won't even be close. He calls/frames a great game, and his throwing numbers will improve once Matt W. whips the pitchers to hold runners better. A healthy Ramos puts the Nats in the top 3-5. An unhealthy Ramos puts the Nats at 30. Not sure how you average that.

Ditto for Harper and Werth. If they stay healthy, they combine for at least 50 HRs and the Nats are in the playoffs. If they don't, the substandard bench comes into play. And we may get long looks at Souza and maybe even Goodwin, who are much better options than Moore and Hairston out there.

Span was a lot better during the Rick Schu era, so let's see what we get for a full season. He's above average in the field. By WAR as per Fangraphs, he was the #10 CF last year, which sounds about right.

The bullpen is much improved, particularly if Storen's head is screwed on straight now. Plus there shouldn't be as much need for the 'pen as the starters are a bit older and should pitch deeper in the games, plus Haren isn't going to be leaving after four or five every time. (Well, he is, but for LA, not us.)

The starting rotation is also much improved. (See Haren comment.) Fister was a steal. And whoever gets the fifth spot is going to have earned it, as there is going to be quite a competition. I'd personally like to see it be Jordan or Roark as Detwiler could be dominant in the 'pen.

LaRoche, well, we had hoped they would do something there, but they didn't, so I guess we're left with hoping that they've got his meds adjusted. I would still think he remains a candidate for a mid-season trade if other 1B options present themselves.

The bench still sucks. I don't know if it ranks #30, but it has to be in the bottom 5. It's embarrassing, and it's the Achilles heel. Hairston is no longer an MLB hitter, and Moore shouldn't play anywhere else but 1B. Espi can't make contact if his life depends on it and can't even be counted on to make the big club. They overpaid for McLouth, who, like everyone else on the bench, doesn't get on base very well. And Chris Snyder? Really? That's the best we can do? Although he can strike out just as well as Buck, and for a lot less. But you've got to think/hope/pray there will still be more bench signings/trades. Baker is still out there and is significantly better than Hairston.

The other bench option is to give a legit chance to guys like Souza and Kobernus. Man, that would be a turbo boost to the late-inning speed, along with McLouth.

So . . . I feel like the Nats have improved enough to be a wildcard team. They're still two or three better bench guys from having a much better shot at the division. Right now, they're praying that everyone stays healthy, which isn't a realistic strategy. This team healthy all season tops 100 wins. But that's a big gamble, with not a lot in reserve.

Nattydread said...

Given the Nat's superb pitching, chances for success hinge largely on offense. Here's a detailed analysis of Bryce Harper stats and his chances of having a mega-year.

Kirk Weaver said...

I cannot wait for the season to start.We have a team that is going to be one of the best for a few years. Longer if they draft well. They don`t have a power hitting 1st baseman and they need an all-star caliber center fielder and a reliable backup catcher. Why not trade Soriano? He can bring in a solid piece in return and he is not liked in the clubhouse. Move him.
I never hear anyone complain about the broadcast team of Carpenter and F.P.Santangelo. They are terrible. No chemistry. Carp. is a nerd with no sense of humor. F.P. constantly reminds us he was a player and knows what every batter is thinking. I don`t need to know what every pitch was.And he sounds like he is 15. Go get a true baseball voice we can listen to for years.(Ernie Harwell level).At least fire Carp.. F.P. seemed much better and enjoyed having Jim Palmer in the booth.

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