Nationals Baseball: Marlins preview

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Marlins preview

Part of me wanted to go deep into Bryce and Strasburg's issues today but I had to remind myself. Two starts. Twenty at bats. When you start talking about stuff today with too much importance you end up with silly stuff like this. Nothing technically incorrect here but when you rely on current information to make adjustments and you have very limited current information, the conclusions you reach are going to have to be viewed as extremely preliminary.  I guarantee (and if I had the actual pre-season numbers, I could do it), that we would see these changes in odds swing in wild and crazy ways between this date (before Friday's games) and today. What seems so sure today can seem like nonsense three days from now.

So onto the series preview

The Marlins are hot winning 5 of their first 7 games. They haven't exactly faced the cream of the crop in competition, beating up on the Rockies and Padres in Miami, but you win the games presented to you.  Some early things look good for the long run. Jarrod Saltalamacchia looks like he will solve their issues at catcher. Stanton might be back on track after a mildly disappointing 2013. Marcell Ozuna looks to be a quality OF. Jose Fernandez is the stud everyone thought he was. Other successes are probably fleeting. Adeiny Haechavarria isn't going to hit well into the .300s, let alone close to .400. Casey McGehee isn't the best power hitter in the NL. The bullpen is going to allow more than a single run this season. Of course what matters to the Nats is that this fleeting takes place sooner rather than later, as after this 9 game, 6 vs Nats stretch they have a 3 game Mariner set then a 9 game, 6 vs Braves stretch. No one wants to see the Marlins remain hot against the Nats and cool down vs the Braves.

Speaking of the bullpen, that seems like the key to the season for the Marlins to me. The offense should settle down into a roughly average squad. The starters should be at least 4 deep in quality (either Turner or Alvarez should settle down) with a stud at the top. If the relievers can hold their own the team would be an outside playoff threat. If they can't then it's a maybe .500 squad in my eyes.

You know the Nats, injuries have taken out two big righty bats in Ramos and perhaps Zimm. Everyone but Bryce looks pretty hot out of the remaining starters but a lot of that is the Mets series, as they cooled down a bunch versus the Braves. Strasburg is struggling but the rest of the rotation looked pretty good, the pen has been fairly solid too.

Pitching matchups
Henderson Alvarez vs Gio Gonzalez
Henderson is wildly erratic in the performances he brings. He's not a strikeout guy, and thus his outing is going to be highly dependent on how much sink he's getting on his fastballs. He's rarely killed by a lot of home runs even when off and can eat up less patient hitters like Ian and Rendon. Still the Nats do have patience in Werth, new LaRoche, and Bryce. Gio on the mound should be fine though everyone that is hot for the Marlins is a RHB.

Jacob Turner vs Tanner Roark
Jacob Turner is a back of the rotation guy who has some limited potential. If he can spot his fastball, his curve works as a nice out pitch but usually he's too wild to make that happen. Roark looked shaky in the first inning vs the Mets, but the Mets being the Mets, they didn't capitalize or try to stretch him out. The Marlins aren't big on walks either.

Tom Koehler vs Jordan Zimmermann.
Koehler's like Turner but the fastball and curveball seem to have better life to them than what Turner has put out in the majors. Solid innings eater type.

The Nats should win the last two. Turner should be the cure to what ails the Nats bats and ZNN is enough better than Koehler that you can't predict the Nats losing that one. Of course that's a should. This first game sets the stage and it's the hardest to call. Gio is better than Alvarez, no question. But Alvarez pulls out gems everyonce in a while. Plus with the Marlins righty bats hot, I can see the Nats losing this game. If things go completely wrong and it's a Miami blowout, say 10-2 then there might be enough momentum to carry through to the next game. I like Roark and I don't like Turner but still. Conversely if Alvarez is off and Gio quiets the bats there no reason a sweep couldn't be in the cards.  For the sake of doing it, I'll say Miami squeaks out tonight, but the Nats win the last 2 pretty easily.


DezoPenguin said...

Williams is talking about moving Zimm to 1B more often due to his arthritic shoulder. Since arthritis is a chronic condition, I suspect that starting next year, this is going to be a permanent thing, which means no resigning of LaRoche and a big hole to fill. I suspect that Espi's going to get a lot of playing time this year, both to fill the need when Zimm's playing 1B and simply to find out if he's back to 2011-2 levels. If Espinosa is his old self (or even his old self with more patience at the plate *dream*), then we've got 2015's IF set on the team already, but if not, we're looking at a hole either at 2B or 3B (plus looking at Ian's presumed extension talks, which if he keeps playing like a top-5 SS, are just going to get more and more expensive).

Wally said...

I don't know how this series will turn out, and I agree that the Marlins pitching is decent to good. But to say that the offense will settle out to league average seems a reach, to me. Looking at some of the position projections, other than Stanton, no other position in the lineup projects to even be in the top half, and literally 4 lineup spots project to be 28, 30, 30, and 31.

The other thing is, it seems like Williams has some changes planned to the order of the rotation. He was a little odd and cagey about Roark being 'available' in the last ATL game. I wouldn't be surprised to see JZimm moved up to WED, and maybe even Stras to the THU game, with Roark bumped to the ATL game. MW seems to be a hunch guy, and maybe is persuaded by Roark's numbers against ATL.

Chinatown Express said...

Dezo: So do we believe Mark Lerner's protestations about the team being "way beyond capped out"? Are they waiting for MASN money? Or do Desi and Z'nn (and Stras and Harp!) walk?

I like the Nats 2-1 in this series. I see the Marlins finishing around 78-82 wins. I don't see how they make a wild card run, honestly.

Strasburger said...

Yeah - I sure hope you're wrong about tonight, because I'm going to the game.

So - if Zimms shoulder is proverbially f-ed up, do we move him to first earlier than we thought?

If so, what happens with the shift in the infield. Obviously Rendon goes to third, but then do we just play Danny permenantly in the field and pinch hit Laroche?

I don't think Adam will be pleased or willing to do so, at all.

Donald said...

We certainly get a bit of luck with this series to miss Fernandez and Eovaldi. I'd be fine with going 2-1. The Braves 3-5 starters are going up against the Mets 1-3. Still, you gotta give the big edge to the Braves, but hopefully they won't be able to sweep so we'll still be close going into the weekend series.

Bjd1207 said...

Agree with the general analysis, Miami's strength is in its pitching/Stanton. Gio's game is the most likely candidate where those will be working for the Marlins.

A couple things:

1. Rendon an impatient hitter? Beg to differ sir. His rookie campaign might be a little damning, but that's a limited sample size on his first taste of big league pitching. His BB/SO rates in the minors & Rice were stellar. Plus if you watch him he rarely chases out of the zone, even if he doesn't always let it get to 4 balls.

2. Probably too early in the season to figure out how next year's IF shakes out, but wth we're speculating. My two cents is that even though the positions may line up, our IF loses a lot offensively at each position:

2B Rendon > Espinosa
3B Zimm > Rendon

Both significant downgrades in total offensive ability. And Zimm moving to 1B isn't exactly perfect either. Zimm's a top-5 hitter at 3B, probably not top-15 at 1B. So we go from offensively elite at 3 positions and average at 1, to elite at 1 position and avg or below at the other 3

JQuest said...

Remember all those concerns about our bench? I think arthritis forces us into a 20mil player fixing it. Espinosa has another opportunity to prove he belongs. If not, we need to find a way to fix 2nd if we're serious.

Harper said...

Dezo - they are going to be looking hard at Walters I imagine. There are a couple of ok SS/2B available next year but yeah - they'll be expensive. Total Nats move - trade for Neil Walker. Would take a bit but FA after 2016 so might be available for a good deal.

Wally - you looking at fangraphs WAR projections? I think they can wildly underrate some players (see Desmond). And I think they do that with Salty. I think Adeiny can hit around .300 (empty but still). and Ozuna has break out potential. Plus Yelich or Marisnick could be competant in the other OF spot. Put that around Stanton, and it looks ok to me. There's a lot of ifs here but the youth creates upside. We'll see

use ZNN Wed if Nats lose today? I'd do it.

Stras - I hope I'm wrong too.

You give it one last go at 3rd, then give up. Zimm plays 1st vs all lefties. Vs righties sometimes sits, sometimes plays 3rd and Rendon or Danny sits I imagine. Adam is odd man out but no other solution.

Donald - It'll be close enough regardless barring two sweeps we don't want to think about.


1. At this point he's played more games in the majors than in the minors. It could change, last year was ok, but this year is trending "more swingy". Maybe pushed by Williams or the idea that he could lose 2b? He's 38 out of 205 this year in swing %, 55 out of 205 in that outside the zone. So so far impatient in 2014 and right now that's what we're talking about, at least for this series.

yeah offense will take a hit on this plan FA/trade at 2B or 3B to compensate would be the move to keep it up. A little too far in the future to think about it.

John C. said...

Solid post. Others have covered my basic disagreements (Marlins offense's upside might be league average; Rendon's patience). On the latter, I would bet that Rendon finishes first or (more likely, behind Werth) in pitches/AB. If you're going to quibble based on 5 games, you don't get to count Harper as patient.

Whoever goes tomorrow night, that has already been decided and has nothing to do with tonight's result. Pitchers are creatures of habit. You change plans only if you have to (Znn's flu - and the conspiracy theorists think that was faked) or in a pennant race/playoff situation. Doing it in the third series of the season for a club that's over .500 carries more than a whiff of panic.

Kenny B. said...

Pre-season prognostication: "Nats can be good if they stay healthy."

Currently down one SP, one C, and one 3B. Not a great start. Hope it gets better, or at least doesn't get worse.

Agree that MW is all over the map. I'm having trouble understanding his approach. I truly don't care if we win, but I wonder if there's a locker room effect.

Wally said...

Yeah, I used Fangraphs. All projection systems are iffy, including this one, so I wasn't trying to be precise as much to say that I think a lot of things have to work out for them to be a league average offense. I'd probably phrase it more like John C did that their upside is league average (although I agree that the OF has potential; I probably like that group better than their pitchers). But the infield could be historically bad, if they don't make some changes. Those are a lot of PAs to give away.

Looks like I got the rotation shift right, Zimm tomorrow and Stras on Thursday. This is what gets confusing. This one seems to be a progressive thought: keep your best starters going every fifth day, and maybe you get an extra start or two by the end of the year. As opposed to a more traditionalist view of keep your big guns for the Braves series. I like it. Yet the other stuff he does kind of goes along more traditional lines, like use of closer. I guess he is just feeling his way.

DezoPenguin said...

I also suspect there's a secondary motive of "Stras has been shaky in two starts" (really, his two games are the only ones this year in which the SP hasn't been excellent for us), so putting him against the Marlins' weak offense might be seen as an attempt to try to turn him around before dumping him in against the Braves again (though their offense has been equally awful so far this year bar Freeman).

@Harper: You're suggesting some flavor of LaRoche to Pittsburgh for Walker, giving us a 2B and them a platoon partner for Sanchez at 1B?

Actually, the whole "Zimm shoulder" thing could work out in our favor if, as Harper suggests, it means LaRoche sits against LH pitching. As a straight platoon guy he can still be very productive, and the way he hits LH pitching, the defensive boost gained at 2B and 3B from the Zim/Espi/Ian/Rendon infield is likely enough to make up any drop-off between Adam and Espi's bats.

Anonymous said...

It's already been alluded to, but not said outright...

I'm pretty certain MW knew what he was going to do this week with the rotation when he had Roark up in the bullpen.

I like that. He's thinking ahead. Thinking match-ups. Thinking about days off and getting the best guys forward as many times as possible. I think it also clearly signals that Roark is 5b in the rotation. There is no concern there for keeping him on a strict schedule. Taylor Jordan is going to be the the 5th starter when Fister returns.

A move like this isn't wholly creative, but I like that he is seemingly amenable to change or the unconventional when presented with an opportunity.

And it gives us a better chance to be 7-2 going down to Atlanta, thus mitigating somewhat a poor showing down there. While a 1-2 result in Atlanta may not be the best outcome, we could still emerge at 8-4 by the end of the week. I'll take 4 wins a week all season long. Of course I'm hoping for 2-1 after a sweep of the Fish. But 9-3 by week's end may be way to optimistic.

Bjd1207 said...

Can't believe there's still no love for LaRoche on this board....

On 106.7 this morning Williams said Zimm would be in the lineup tonight so "down" a 3rd baseman isn't really the right word, don't know what is though. Junkies brought up a great point though. In a crunch time game you want LaRoche, Zimm, and Rendon's bat in the lineup and the only way to get them all on the field is Zim at 3rd

Bjd1207 said...

Sorry one more thought as I'm reading the ESPN game recap. Gio's change did look awesome last night, and he used it alot and in big situations. Struck out Salty on 3 straight I think (might have been a curve in there). But I noticed 83/84 flashing up alot on the pitch mph, took me until the 3rd to realize it was always against righties and they were flailing. Love it, and love that Lobaton might have had a hand in him using it more

Jay said...

Yes. He struck out Salty on 3 straight changes. Righties were swinging and missing badly at it all night. I'm starting to see why Tampa pitchers loved Lobaton.

Also, I get the impression that MW still wants Zimm at 3rd as much as possible. He spoke of changing routines and Post mentioned he has been practicing throwing side-armed all the time. Zimm at 3rd makes the Nats a much better team - as long as he is not committing errors.