Nationals Baseball: Odds and Ends

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Odds and Ends

Fantasy Draft today. No column about it (Let's face it. the old adage is true - nothing is more interesting than talking about your fantasy team, nothing is more boring than hearing someone else talk about theirs) but I will note some Nats related things. I took 2nd place in my NL-only league* last year with two Nationals on the team for any length. The two? Detwiler and Lombo (No, we don't give points for BA, HR, GRIT, RBI and HEART. Davey just kept playing him) Stras, ZNN, Ramos, Desmond, Bryce, Werth and Span are all off the table.  We'll see if I end up with someone. 

5th Starter

I predict Roark, because he is not (or at least should not be) the future and thus the Nats need to showcase him now, in case they want to deal him later.  Pitching well in AAA won't do anything for that.  Pitching well in the pen wouldn't either. (Jordan will go down to AAA)

I would like Jordan, for the mild reasons I noted earlier.


Zimmerman11 kind of got to the robot heart of the matter in noting lineups don't really matter. There are ways of optimizing them (like your 3rd hitter actually shouldn't be one of your best because he's going to get a lot more 2-out, no-one on ABs than any other position, simply because he has that possibility staring at him every time a game starts) but it's working on the edges. If the team has a lineup the manager is happy with, the team is happy with... well I'm not going to complain too much. Luck matters more. But you know, if you think a game might matter, for division titles or for playoff position, it's at least worth looking into.  A win or two (which is about all you'll get moving from a standard lineup to an optimal one) might be worth it.

Since your probably interested - using Fangraph projections (and bumping Ian up because they really undersell him). You get an optimal lineup of

Werth, Bryce, Rendon, Desmond, Zimm, Ramos, LaRoche, P, Span.

Yes - P then Span. The reason is the lost ABs batting someone 9th instead of 8th is worth the trade-off for getting that hitter up in front of your lead-off guy when the line-up goes around again and again. But I don't expect anyone to do the above (at least not for a few more years). 

Really, when I look at the Nats lineup it just comes down to what I said yesterday. Span might be the worst hitter on the team. There might be some platooning possible, but career numbers suggest that's more of a seasonal fluke than an actual skill. Given that you don't want him to get many at bats. Last year here are the ABs by lineup position for the Nats

742, 722, 706, 688, 671, 660, 640, 618, 600

by batting Span 1st instead of 8th you give him 124 more ABs. By batting say... Bryce 5th instead of 1st you give him 70 fewer ABs. Yes, Bryce gets fewer ABs with runners on and not a negligible amount fewer, like 100 or so. BUT Span gets more ABs with runners on and more importantly everyone else behind Bryce would get more ABs with runners on because Bryce would get on base more often than Span. That's something that can be missed when thinking about this. It's a total sum thing.

70 more ABs for a very good hitter plus 120 fewer ABs for a bad one plus more ABs with men on for hitters 2-5 and Span gets you more runs than 100 fewer ABs for Bryce with men on loses. 

But I realize the reality of the situation and I know full optimization is not an option so twist my arm and I'd go...

Werth, Bryce, Zimm, Desmond, Ramos, LaRoche, Rendon, Span, P

It's tempting to say switch Werth and Ian, but Ian really doesn't get on base much.

*2 league specific, auction, keeper fantasy leagues. 10 teams a piece.


cass said...

I really hope Williams doesn't really bat Harper 5th. We all know he's the best hitter on the team. You don't bat your best hitter 5th, not even going by traditional roles. I could live with him anywhere from 2nd-4th, but he's not a #5 hitter. He seems obviously suited to the #2 spot but teams don't realize that's where your best hitter should hit.

I mean, The Book just came out a year or two ago, right? Can't expect teams spending hundreds of millions of dollars to try to eke out the most wins to read a simple book that will tell them how to get an extra win from the players they already have. Nope.

(I'm a big fan of batting the pitcher 8th, for what it's worth, and think Span is especially well suited to batting 9th.)

Harper said...

cass - the problem with something like lineup optimization is that it involves big changes for little pay off. Those types of things are hard to sell. If people were sending out terrible line-up and a switch would gain them 9 wins or so then the obvious nature would force the issue. But maybe a win or 2? That gets mixed in with everything else. Change the lineup and then your best hitter has an off year and you havec a little bad luck with RISP and see your RS drop. What do you think is going ot get blamed?

blovy8 said...

Yeah, once you change things around though, it likely affects performance too. You don't know that players will hit like they're expected to every day. Imagine what the error bar for a guy like LaRoche would be. Do you know Harper will hit to his potential
(lefties in particular), or should he demonstrate it first? Would you change the lineup daily depending on raw OPS? Would you extend this philosophy to your pitching? Change your bullpen daily using a metric like SIERA or WHIP? Would you skip starters against bad matchups a la Casey Stengel, saving them for the best opportunities to succeed? How much would pitcher handedness matter in your daily lineups? Pitching style? Ballpark factor?

Wally said...

But maybe a win or 2?
A 2 WAR player is worth a $12m salary. I'd say that is significant.

I'd always been kind of meh on the lineup stuff, but you make a pretty strong case, actually. When you say it as starkly as 200 PAs going from your worst to better hitters, that is meaningful to me. I am kind of shocked that more teams aren't doing this.

Fran said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

I vote we trade Span for a bag of balls and let Harper play CF. Harper makes up for any defensive deficiencies in CF with his bat. Plus the ball is usually going to be in front of him, so no more walls. Let some one else play left.
Span can't hit, but more importantly he can't do anything on the bases. I can't take another year of groundballs to second and his inability to steal a base.
Sorry, I accidently posted under the wrong account above.

Maiko Herajin said...

BA, HR, GRIT, RBI and HEART? Sounds like the Captain Planet league.

Bjd1207 said...

@Jay -

Remember then we have to staff left field. And your choice is Span CF/Harper LF or Harper CF/McLouth LF. Since Harper's bat is in the equation in both situations, lets remove it.

That means our comparison is:
CF defense Span vs. Harper
LF defense Harper vs. McLouth
Offense Span vs. McLouth

The defensive decisions are easy. Span crushes almost every other CF out there, wayyy up on Harper. Harper/McLouth defense may be a wash, or with a slight improvement from Harper he could be better in left. Given 2 pretty sizeable defensive downgrades (sizeable as far as defensive contributions go) then McLouth's bat/baserunning better be MUCH better than Spans.

All current projections (and my feeling on subject) place Spans wOBA within 5 points of McLouth's. Not significant enough for the drop off in defense in both CF and left.

Lot's of ripping on Span going on here. Not saying he deserves top of the order (almost definitely not) but he absolutely deserves a spot on the field

blovy8 said...

The trouble is they keep facing the Mets and Marlins. How can you evaluate a pitcher against those clubs?

I think they'll keep Roark and Jordan, because they shouldn't blow an option on Barrett just yet. His slider is supposed to be nasty though. Roark has shown his versatility, I'd be just as afraid his stock goes down in any role you could name since he really can't be as good as last year.

Mattheus is the guy I feel badly for, it seems like he might never get back without a couple of injuries even though he seems to have gotten things back together.

I'm hoping for some institutional depth for Young soon.

blovy8 said...

GRIT would be a good fantasy thing though. An extra point for each article a team owner can cite, and subtract a point for each article citing a "lack of hustle". You could get Cano for 20 bucks!

blovy8 said...

Article with those buzz words in it I mean, like "scrappy" "dirty uniform", "gusty" and the like.

Donald said...

For what it's worth -- here's a quote from Nats Insider re: the Mets:

"It’ll be Dillon Gee, not Wheeler, for the Mets on Opening Day. But regardless of the name of the man on the mound, manager Terry Collins is planning to hit his pitcher eighth most of the time to begin the season. The thought process: Try to create more RBI situations for No. 3 hitter David Wright by having three position players bat in front of him, while still having Wright bat in the first inning. A few managers have tried this over the years, including Jim Riggleman for a stretch in 2011. Whether it actually works remains up for debate."

blovy8 said...

He's got some guts, not a lot of managers would want to be compared to Riggleman as an example.

Bjd1207 said...

Also on the Roark/Jordan debate. If you head over to Fangraphs there's a columnist Carson Cistulli who's had a series called "Largely Irresponsible Leaderboard" where he tracks spring training trends.

The title gives the usual spring training disclaimer, but check out some of the writing/gifs on Jordan's slider and change. The change looks just plain filthy, Strasburg-esque in its movement

cass said...

Wally, that's basically how I see it. One or two wins is very valuable, especially where the Nats are on the win curve.

And in response to what Donald posted, I think Collins is doing the right thing, though it's easier to try something risky when your team isn't going to compete. Like Riggleman did. Now, Riggleman wasn't the best manager to try that cause you need the players to buy in and from what I've heard, Riggleman had basically lost the clubhouse. So a good tactical move by a poor manager of people.

Chinatown Express said...

Regarding Span, FanGraphs has our CF (ie, Span + McLouth + spare parts) projected as the ninth-best in the majors. Are we REALLY talking in a non-joking way about dumping him? Bat him somewhere between 7th and 9th and be glad you've got so much depth that makes sense. I would add my voice to the chorus suggesting he bats ninth with the pitcher in the 8 hole. This makes even better sense because we have unusually good-hitting pitchers.

I think Harper is right that Roark will start and Jordan will go to AAA, almost 100% because of the options constraint. If that weren't an issue, I'd say Jordan is a shoo-in, but they're close enough that I'm not sure it REALLY matters.

Harper said...

blovy8 - yeah we can spout out "optimal" everything but we can't factor in the intangibles* That's why we have to, on some level, accept that managers matter. Here is the best thing on paper, now translate it best you can to the real world. Still, I would hope Williams could sell Span in 8th simply by noting "he's may be fast, but he can't hit"

*they exist but for practical purposes analysis has to ignore them because they can't be measured. Also they aren't likely to outweigh more noticeable changes to production. But we're arguing slight improvements

Wally - when 150 years of organized baseball says one thing, you gotta give them a couple years to do the other.

Jay - As noted by some below, Span's a good to very good defender. That matters when Werth is aging out of 1B and we're still not sure what kind of fielder Bryce will be. At least for this year it's best to keep him on (just don't bat him 1st)

MH - Tom Cruise says "The power is Lombo's"

BJD - thanks for putting this out there. Span has value, he just shouldn't hit first. There are a lot of options for improving CF in the future but for 2014 at least Span is the way to go.

Another reason to like Jordan too. Like we said - he's at an age where there can be improvement. Roark could be a late bloomer but he bloomed into what Jordan is now at a younger age.

blovy8 - no way Jordan to the minors if he's not in. I'll be shocked otherwise.

Eckstien would have been a $45 player easy.

Donald/Blovy8/cass - one thing in Collins' favor. Ruben Tejada is the likely SS, he's terrible and the fans don't like him. That'll work in his favor, potentially having the media on his side. (of course it makes less sense to switch 8&9 the closer the spots are in production but we're talking perception here)

CX - it's just a gut reaction. He really had some bad offensive showings last year and he's not going to get much better if at all. So it's a spot where the team can obviously get better... dismissing defense. I doubt it makes it past serious thought, especially when the options for replacement currently are looked at.

blovy8 said...

Well I guess I have to be the guy's advocate again...if by can't hit, you mean Span can't hit homers, that's true, but he CAN hit for average. I'm wary of ignoring the effects of his concussion on his overall numbers, and accepting that he's a 97 ops guy going forward with age regression like some Marcel judgement. He did end with a three month run hitting .300 which could be his adjustment to the NL and experiencing better health. His career numbers suggest he's an contact hitter that's OPS-heavy, so if he's the worst Nats hitter, they'll win a ton of games regardless of where he bats. As bad as it is to watch 4-3's it's worse watching no one hit the ball at all.

KW said...

Span will hit leadoff because Rizzo got him to be the "leadoff hitter," gosh darnit, and he's going to bat leadoff. No, it's no optimal, but it will probably take a prolonged slump to make it otherwise.

As for Bryce, if he hits fifth, wasting all those potential ABs and run-generating opportunities, I'm going to cry, or scream, or at least rant on blog sites. No team bats its best hitter fifth. Never has, never should. It doesn't make sense, on any level, "old school" or "new school."

cass said...

Batting Bryce 5th worked out today when the 1-4 guys all got on base and he hit a three-run bomb. Unfortunately, most of the times through the order, the 1-4 guys won't all get on base, which is why it's dumb to put him down there.

We obviously need to make t-shirts that say "Bat Bryce 2nd" and get interviewed on TV explaining that Harper is so good he needs more at bats and The Book showed that you should put your best hitter 2nd and that's Bryce. I'm trying to imagine the scene.

I know - we need to convince the guys in the upper deck behind home plate to chant "N-A-T-S BAT BRYCE SECOND".

That would be hilarious. Can you imagine a sabermetric cheering section that could be heard by the players on the field?


KW said...

Kobe! Kobe! The cuts are in; if you haven't seen them, look at any of the news sites. My guess with Barrett making it is that Roark is #5, with Jordan going to Syracuse. The bench is down to Kobernus vs. Leon. So much for Moore vs. Carroll. I understand what Matt W. is saying about the dreaded can't PH Ramos with no third catcher thing, but Leon *really* needs the everyday ABs right now, particularly after his dreadful year at the plate last season.

Donald said...

I hope it's Kobernus over Leon, but I can see the rationale for Leon. It really depends on how many days they plan on resting Ramos in which they'd like to have the opportunity for him to pinch hit. All things being equal, I'd rather see Ramos pinch hitting in the late innings than Kobernus, but if Ramos is starting 140 games, I don't think it's worth it. If he's starting 120 games, maybe?

Harper -- where's the break even point? The other question is if Leon or Lobaton can play 1B. Without Moore, they may be thin over there. But still, I'm hoping it's Kobernus and his speed.

DezoPenguin said...

They're only thin at 1B if Hairston can't play there, since Zim is also there (I predict seeing a lot of late-inning double switches this year with Espi to second, Rendon moving to third, Zim to 1B, and the pitcher going in LaRoche's spot, but that's another matter).

I'm really glad that they got rid of Moore. Generally happy if they keep Kobernus due to above reasons--speed, positional flexibility, the need for Leon to work on his hitting. On the other hand, having more AB for Ramos would not suck (and having Lobaton catch and Ramos DH in AL-park interleague games would leave the Nats better off than most NL teams). Both, I think, are better choices than keeping Moore or Carroll would have been.

Not sure how I feel about keeping Barrett, but if he can pitch well for us, good for him; based on Spring at least he seems to have earned the pick over guys like Mattheus and Cedeno. With Det in the pen as long man, and Stammen also capable of going 3-4 innings in a pinch, keeping Jordan or Roark isn't so necessary, and the odd man out can be called up for a spot start if mandated by injury or the schedule. Agree that it's more likely to be Roark than Jordan, since Jordan's been exclusively a starter so far, but we'll see.

blovy8 said...

Let me get this straight, not enough at bats for Moore to stay sharp, but so many pinch hitting opportunities for Ramos that we need a third catcher? How often is a third catcher going to be actually necessary vs. the perception of the risk? I'd be at least as worried about Leon playing in extra innings as I'd be about Lobaton getting hurt during those games they use Ramos as a PH. Anwyay, isn't Ramos just as likely to get hurt running the bases with his hamstrings? Maybe it's better to give him a whole day off when you do, or better still teach him first base along with Zim if you feel the lineup must have his bat. Can he be worse than Moore over there?

Keeping Kobernus makes me worry that McLouth is going to start too often. Kobernus seems like a lousy defender everywhere, so all he would really do is pinch run/hit. Whichever OF gets the day off is a pinch hitter that day, so fine, but it really puts the onus on Hairston to be decent.

blovy8 said...

I guess Frandsen will be signed. He's ok I against lefties I guess.

Anonymous said...

With Fradsen the bench is complete as:
OF-Hairston and McClouth
Inf-Fradsen and Espinosa
Pretty solid considering what it was, only weakness seems to be a lack of guys who can adequately hit rhp.

KW said...

Frandsen, like Hairston, can't hit RHP. Seems like the Nats just made that deficiency redundant. This is an extremely weak bench compared to the strength of the regular lineup.

Proposed name for the sabermetric cheering section: First in WAR.

Anagramsci said...

Fradsen seems like an utterly useless addition. Love the first in WAR moniker.

blovy8 said...

Yeah, McLouth is pretty much it against RH off the bench. I don't have much faith in Espinosa or Lobaton from that side. He'll get plenty of late inning at-bats in that role given how bullpens are set up. Besides Espinosa, at least these are guys who are used to coming off the bench and mostly pinch hitting. That can work provided we don't get those nagging injuries that never seem to merit a DL trip until a week's passed. Frandsen, like Kobernus, isn't going to really start many games. I'd give Walters, Moore, or Souza a shot every day before I'd start Frandsen.

cass said...

Frandsen is basically another replacement level player like Moore or Carroll. Rizzo obviously liked the fact he could play 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. It'd be nice to get someone above replacement for this spot, though, or at least someone who better compliments the bench. Meh.

He won't get many at bats, though, I imagine.