Nationals Baseball: My usual call to be nicer to Strasburg (now with added Bryce!)

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

My usual call to be nicer to Strasburg (now with added Bryce!)

The Nats won last night.  Henderson Alvarez did pitch well enough to make it a fight but was done in by some non-pitching mistakes (some his own) and the Marlins bullpen indeed wasn't perfect. None of that really mattered though as Gio and the pen dominated the Marlins lineup with relative ease. This sets up nicely for a sweep given the pitching match-ups upcoming. The only question being if this aggressive plate approach (nats averaged 3 1/3 pitches per plate appearance vs Alvarez) will work against a guy who's had trouble hitting the zone. Probably well enough given that he misses high too.

One of the things from last night is how well Rendon is hitting right now. It reminds me a lot of when he first was called up. A lot of line drives. Now of course I told people that couldn't last and that he would likely end up hitting in the .280 range, and could drop to .260 with some bad luck. I proceeded to get yelled at by at least one commentor to which I now say I WAS RIGHT! YOU WERE WRONG! IN YOUR FACE! to whoever that was that I'm too lazy to look up now. Same thing holds true this year as his .476 BABIP isn't going to hold up. Not that he'll hit .260, just don't take a .300+ average as a given because of a hot 7 games.

As hot as he is, Bryce is that cold. He did manage a hit last night, but also struck out again and we wait patiently for him to warm up.  The reason I bring Rendon up is to highlight how young Bryce still is. You like Rendon. Think he's got a great future right? Bryce will be the age Rendon currently is sometime during the early stretch run in 2016. (around August 18th or so). If you like what you see of Rendon for his future and for the Nats, you've got a good long leash to give Bryce before he fails to provide something similar. Are you really going to hold it against Bryce that he's not already set on a Hall of Fame career track (even though he kind of is?) That he's not Mike Trout? You are? 

Meanwhile Strasburg struggles as well. "Generational talent" you scoff.  Would you be happier with Strasburg if he went the way of the last consensus "oh this is the next Hall of Famer" pitching talent? That guy, Mark Prior, at Strasburg's current age was 2 months from throwing his last pitch ever. Where's your beloved Kershaw? Harvey? Oh you've moved on to Jose Fernandez? How convenient. When he goes down in 2016 will you move on to "Why can't Strasburg be like Carlos Martinez?" Strasburg has to get better this season, obviously, but he's been arguably as good as ZNN or Gio the past two seasons.  He's younger that either of those two neither of who put together complete seasons before 25. (Gio would get wins, but pitch only good until his first Nats year at age 26. ZNN would pitch great at 25 but not get the wins until last season at 27. Remember that?) Let him have a couple bad starts.

Consider this an early season intervention if these guys keep struggling. Other people set the bars for Strasburg and Bryce, and while both these guys would love to jump over it and made that a goal, they still didn't set them. Don't be too harsh on them if they don't make it over, especially because they are likely to still be moving the Nats toward the ultimate prize while making their attempts. 


Hoo said...

The annoyance at Stras is that he has a pattern of being a mental weakling/basket base. A bloop base hit, an error, a bad ump call and Stras unravels like a Joe Banks suit. His results aren't the amazing once in a forever generation that we once hoped so there is a disappointment there.

But more alarming is that if he Stras gets rattled by an error or call in game 5 of regular season, it might not bode well for post season game 5.

Harper's problem has something to do with walking the talk.

cass said...

It's funny no one's put together a metric to measure Strasburg's supposed basketcaseness. The problem is that once a narrative is built after a fluke occurrence, cases that reinforce it are remembered and those that go against it are ignored.

Also funny this problem suddenly appeared early last year and had never occurred before, then went away later in the season only to reappear now. Can't possibly be due to natural variance in performance.

He didn't have a great start on Saturday. He gave up some bloop hits after an error occurred. Does he always give up bloop hits after an error occurs and never give up bloop hits when an error does not occur?

As I recall he's had some bad games without an error occurring beforehand. Other pitchers, of course, never had bad games.

Nattydread said...

The problem with once-in-a-generation talents. Dammit, they never live up to the hype! What's wrong with those scouts?

cass said...

If only the Nats drafted Mike Trout in place of Drew Storen. Darn scouts, always ruining everything.

Wally said...

Well, I think that this is essentially what you said, but it is just performance v. expectations. If we could live in a world completely removed from expectations, I suspect most people would think Stras is clearly the SP on the Nats. Maybe some would ding him because Gio and JZimm have pitched about 10% more innings, and that could be valid. But on a rate basis, he is the guy. I don't buy all of this blow up stuff. What if he consistently had Gio's tendency towards 85 pitches in the 5th inning, or JZ's performance against STL? Those two guys get a pass because we don't expect them to be like Stras, so whenever they do well, it is a bonus (which is often, since they are very good). But Stras is expected to be prime-of-his-career Doc Halladay every time out (and he doesn't help expectations by showing that is clearly what he expects too). But unfortunately, we live in a world with expectations, and there will always be people dissatisfied with his performance because they expect perfection. Kind of reminds me of AJ Burnett's early career.

As for Bryce, is there really anyone out there who doubts that he is going to turn this around soon? I'd be shocked to find someone who genuinely doubts it, and isn't just trolling. But I can't resist nitpicking part of your argument: I don't think that you can just throw age out there (comparing Rendon and Bryce), by itself. Sure, age is the basis for all of these curves looking at player's peak and decline performances, so I get it, but there is more to it too, imo. In other words, there is also an adjustment that a young player goes through when they get to the majors, so if that happens at a later age, you could still expect a bigger jump in performance compared to a guy who is younger but up earlier. You can't learn to hit against Adam Wainright, et al, until, you know, you actually face Adam Wainright. So youth, by itself, can't just be used to show that if you like Player A, well Player B is two years younger so you must really like him too. I think Bryce is awesome going on awesomer, so instead of him, substitute Starlin Castro for him in your Rendon comparison, and I think my point is a little clearer. They are essentially the same age, but I'd guess more people feel like Rendon has more upside than Castro, even though Castro has had some productive seasons.

Kenny B. said...

The Strasburg basketcase analysis is probably common because he tends to pitch in games where more people are watching, or rather more people are watching because he's pitching.

That said, I don't think it's completely absent as a reason for his early struggles. I know there's no good way to quantify it, but it's more than obvious he expects perfection from himself, and he wears that on his sleeve. That can really impact him once he makes a mistake.

What's more quantifiable perhaps are his struggles in first innings and extreme weather. I only anecdotally remember these issues, but some stats wiz can probably figure out something for those issues.

I don't buy the error -> bloop hits story, just because I think errors are bad and often lead to extended innings. But I do think that Strasburg's demand of perfection from himself leads him to make mistakes in groups. Again, fancy stats people can probably develop a metric for this.

Jay said...

I think Stras had a great year last year, but the Nats couldn't score. I don't buy the he's a basketcase argument either.

As for Harper, he is somewhat overrated. But I'll quote him from last year's home run derby after he lost to Yoenis Cespedes "I can't wait till I'm 21".

I agree with the post that both of these guys are quite good and will likely only get better. I hope they both retire as Nats.

I worry more about Mark Lerner's comment about being at their cap. Hopefully, it's just a MASN ploy or otherwise it sounds like we are done with extensions for current players for a long while.

Doug S said...

"Other people set the bars" for Stras & Harper? They received signing bonuses of over 7 and 6 million respectively. These are not expectations thrust unfairly on them by others. They demanded and received substantial compensation for those expectations.

That said I think the cause for concern with Strasburg is the declining velocity and what seemed to me some difficulty locating his pitches in his last start.

Zimmerman11 said...

Your pleas are falling on deaf ears unless you also think that Stras and Harp will sign long-term deals to stay with the Nats. If they're wearing pinstripes for their "HOF" years, then them being generational talents isn't something we need to be grateful for... and maybe we should have left them in the minors longer!

Harper said...

Hoo - I just don't think he gets rattled like that. Not every time. I agree with cass - it's a thing we're looking for so we see it when it happens but we ignore it when it doesn't. Of course I'll go ahead and say I could be wrong. It's worth a look through in the stats. Would take a bit of time.

ND - The worst! Except for Albert Brooks.

cass- And they were the only one. Storen #1, Trout #2, right? I'm not going back to look it up.

Wally - that's a fair point about the age thing. You do have more info there (assuming the younger players has more time up) with the actual major league service time, that can help you make better judgements on his talent. On the flip side greater time though does exist for breakouts. Those chances may get smaller based on service time but for Bryce they would exist, while for Rendon they would have already passed.

But you're right I can't just throw the ages out there.

KB - We should try to quantify it though. At least try before say "this is how it is" Of course as someone that doesn't believe it I don't have impetus to do it to prove something, only to disprove it. So it may take a while before I get around to it.

Jay - I give a 0% chance both these guys retire as Nats. Now, both these guys have their first big deal with the Nats.... 50%? 60%? I think Strasburg wants to leave (so cal guy) and the Nats don't want to pay him (pitching FAs - short contracts so far). Bryce stands to make SO MUCH MONEY that the Nats would have to drive the dump truck full of money to his house. Which they probably should.

Doug S - Kind of fair. But people aren't reacting to signing bonuses. If it was 6 million or 1 they are reacting to expectations. I think they need to temper those reactions. Stras and Bryce went along with them to get paid, but fans? Fans are going along with them to get hopes up. Usually that's ok, but with HOF expectations you are really setting yourself up for a fall (especially with pitching expectations)

Z11 - see above. I think one will end up staying (almost certainly Bryce) but no guarantees.

Honestly HOF talent or not - win a WS and I think all Nats fans will let some diminished performance slide, right?

Zeeter said...

Stras had TJ surgery. It is common for people to come off of that and throw great. The ligament is stronger because it is tighter than before. As it stretches from throwing the velocity decreases, naturally making the pitcher throw harder to make up for it, which will throw off his mechanics and also loosen the ligament more. Eventually he becomes ineffective.