Nationals Baseball: Tuesday also super duper quickie

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday also super duper quickie

I'm on a vacation so no real time to delve into issues but superficial judgments are what blogs are all about, right?

On Bryce

On head first sliding - I find it silly and unnecessary but I get the compulsion to do it.  Even if it isn't faster (I have no idea) it feels faster going from leaning sprint into dive rather than leaning back into slide and you feel better moving your hands around tag then legs.  I wouldn't do it (I'm not hurtling my face along dirt for 10 feet) but I get it. Should it be de-taught?  I don't know. I think you can suggest stopping but until the injury does your work for you, you are fighting a player's nature.

On Matt Williams culpability - hasn't Bryce over hustled on like 2/3rds of all his plays?  Unnecessary attempts at taking extra bases. Ill-advised throws home?  This wasn't a slide "for Matt" it was Bryce being Bryce. Could have happened with Frank dozing, Manny de-spiring the team, or Davey spinning a yarn to Knorr about some bass he caught.

On loss to the Nats - uh oh.  Now they are down a starting catcher, 3rd baseman, and OF, al with All-Starbtalent (hey catcher is a weak position). The Nats could still compete for that Wild Card (Fister should be here soon, Ramos could be) but it's going to be an uphill fight to get the offense going. I like Danny but best season ever?  You're not buying that are you?

On Taylor

Sending him down was the right move. Now do they use Detwiler (that's what I would do) or call-up a spot starter? It's not going to matter terribly but if Ross is your Gorzelanny/Olendorf then treat him as such. They would spot start

On next stand - 2 games at Astros, 3 at Phillies.  Pretty simple, they need to win more than they lose.  True these are away games but against a terrible team and a division rival they see themselves better than even with injuries 2-3 means they either didn't win either series or got swept by the Phillies.  Neither of those things are acceptable. Minimum win one series & don't get swept in other one. 4-1 is my actual goal as you go into every Astro series thinking sweep and the Nats should beat Phillies home or away.


Chinatown Express said...

Well, this has really gotten out of hand.

I still think the Nats can compete for the NL East. We'll have ~2.5 months where our whole team could, conceivably, be healthy. In the meantime, we're getting some very important pieces back over the next few weeks. It is astonishing how quickly things unraveled though.

JWLumley said...

I'm not so much worried about the hand and the slide in what Keith Law had to say as much as I am about the fact that Harper had the flu and that there is growing sentiment that MW is in over his head. While we may all speculate about things going on inside the clubhouse, Law is an insider who is a former front office guy who is well liked and respected in the game. e.g.: People tell him things. I doubt he would write all of that based on reading the tea leaves and if you're at all familiar with his work, sensationalism goes against his M.O.

Anonymous said...

I've like most of what I've read of Law but he was off base on the no hustle play. If Bryce had jogged down the line there would have been no problem. Turning to the dugout after 60 feet with the ball still in play? Problem. I don't feel like MW is in over his head, more like he's using the head a little too much. Constant lineup juggling combined with "my 8th inning guy" sounds like a position player/hitter learning there's a lot more to managing than there is to coaching 3rd. The Nats just need to focus on winning series and keeping their head above water for another 20 games or so; then, barring any more disasters it'll just be Harper out and we can go from there.

Kenny B. said...

April's not even over yet, and I've already lost faith. Based on the team we'll have for the rest of the season and the stiff division competition, feels more like an okay wildcard shot than a division leader laying in wait.

Were the Nats overrated again? We'll never know because the team the office built has never actually played a full game.

How long do we have to watch 2013 repeat itself before management decides to do something? And can we please replace McClouth with a AA relief pitcher or a tee-baller with a high ceiling?

blovy8 said...

Law is kind of a dick, so this is normal. Williams will need to get used to that too. Whatever happened to a manager doesn't matter that much?

blovy8 said...

A lot of guys get hurt sliding regardless of how they do it, the trick is to have to slide less.

Kenny B, if we just go by expectations, we shouldn't bother following the club in the first place, since the Dodgers will keep buying players until they win, the Cardinals will develop three all-stars a year, and the Braves will pick up bums off the scrap heap who will lead the league in ERA or hit .350 while we wonder where the club can find a better trainer and medical staff.

JWLumley said...

@blovy8 I would agree Law can be a dick and snark is kind of his trademark, but I've never seen him write anything that smacked of sensationalism or blowing something out of proportion just to get a story. He's a prospects guy, not a gossip columnist like Heyman or Rosenthal. But he's a true baseball insider and people tell him things. I almost think that his story must have come from someone very, very close to Harper, perhaps his Dad. Still the point of the story wasn't really that Matt Williams caused Harper's injury (he merely threw it out there as something within the realm of possibility), the point was that Matt Williams and the Nationals are mismanaging Harper.

As for a manager not mattering that much, he matters more with an impressionable 21 year old and the way he treats players factors into contract negotiations. He also matters with who he puts in the lineup and how he manages a bullpen. The upside for a manager isn't that great, but the downside is, which makes it kind of a crappy job. If you do great you might be worth 1-2 wins a year, if you're horrible you could cost a team 10 wins by not playing the right people or grossly mismanaging a bullpen.

I also think there's a lot more to the psychology of guys like Strasburg and Harper who didn't spend much time in the minors. Their talent is so transcendent that they don't have to struggle, fail and consequently gain the mental toughness of other players who spend multiple years in the minors gaining mental toughness. That's not to say they aren't mentally tough, but rather they experience things at the big league level that most other players have already experienced and learned from.

Jay said...

I agree with the comments about Keith Law's article. It's worrisome bc it pretty much sums up my concerns about MW. It almost feels like he was singling Harper out. Harper is still a phenomenal player - he's just not Mike Trout. No one else is Mike Trout, so that's ok with me. Davey treated Harper like a phenom still learning, but a phenom nonetheless.

Anyway, my impression now is that the Nats are trying to win with or without help from MW. Last night was a perfect example. ALR comes through in the 8th and 9th despite the fact that MW played Frandsen and McClouth in the outfield last night. That move made absolutely no sense to me. If you want to DH Werth so he gets a rest that is ok, but don't play 3 guys in the outfield that might combine for 5 HRs this year. True to form - McClouth and Frandsen both came up late in the game twice with a chance to have an impact. The Astro's walked McClouth twice to get to Frandsen (what does that say about both of those guys). Fradsen struck out the first time and then bunted for a hit to load the bases - go team. Go ahead run at second - I'm bunting to get on.

Needless to say I'm worried about MW. Reminds me a lot of Adam Oates - talks a good game, but in the end in way over his head. Hopefully, MW learns and adjusts.

Plus this whole being aggressive on the basepaths thing?? So far we have injured more thumbs than we have stolen bases this year.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Blovy, I was going to say it and Lumley beat me to it. I completely agree that managers probably don't matter that much in a positive, wins-added kind of way. But I definitely think they're capable of mattering in a negative, wins-lost kind of way. A spastic, ridiculous, ever-changing lineup. Weirdo bullpen management. Head games with the players (which I think are unintentional, but still).

It just reinforces for me that a chimp could manage a properly constructed MLB team. And like a chimp, he could put on a uniform and the situation could be amusing and good-natured but ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things... or he could snap and tear off your lips and ears. It's either a little bit of meaningless good, or a terrifying, screaming, shit-throwing disaster.

Bjd1207 said...

@all - woah. Seriously guys? It's now a reach for a wildcard? Last time I checked we were playing above .500 ball with half our starters out. Even if half our starters remain out no reason to expect extreme regression anywhere (compared to the Braves unsustainable pitching) so I'm not sure why this board has already conceded the race to the braves after a little more than a month.

@Jay if you want to rest Werth a day at DH then who else are you putting in the OF? Moore? I'd take Frandsen/McClouth over him out there (and Frandsen's bat over any of them at this point as well) Sousa? Then we'd be screaming about spending $5mil on McLouth for just this reason and not using him. Those are exactly the two I'd start if Werth were DH'ing.

Fister coming back should put to bed my qualms about the rotation. Lobaton/Espi are giving me hope that our offense can at least remain competitive until we get Zim/Ramos back. The only real concern I have left is our bullpens walk-rate. Seems like Clip and Soriano specifically put someone on at least once an outing.

John C. said...

Oh, the Law article. Bryce Harper is very talented, though not a finished, polished product. The Nationals are well within their rights, even their responsibility, to do what they can to help him maximize his potential. Which is why I view the benching as a non-story. It’s not that Williams wanted Bryce to go 110% at a hamstring-injuring pace on a routine comebacker. All he asked for is for the player to just go to the bag and see what happens. It can make a difference, especially when they were still calling that stupid transfer rule. That distinction (just get there, not "go 110% all the time!") is likely why Williams did not call Bryce out for dogging it out of the box on his later double.

Which Jayson Werth did call Bryce out for in a Ladsen interview. That to me is significant, because Werth has been reported as a mentor to Bryce and they are often standing together talking in the dugout. Werth is also one of the recognized leaders of the team. If the players are backing Williams's handling of Bryce, that doesn’t automatically mean that they hate Bryce, are jealous of him, etc. – they could well be simply helping him mature because he’s the youngest player in the league. If the players are behind Williams, then he’s not over his head even if his individual tactical moves can be questioned. Because most of what a manager does is lead, not the strategic decisions that he makes.

As for those decisions, it’s always easy to second guess a baseball manager. Lineups in particular are a tempest in a teapot. We obsess over them wildly out of proportion to their actual benefit to the team. The same studies that profess to show the optimum lineup also show how small the impact over the course of a season even between the “best” and “worst” lineups. It’s like Desmond said when reporters tried to get him riled up about batting seventh: “someone has to hit 7th.” Joe Maddon in Tampa moves his lineup around all the time, and yet still is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the game. Obsessing about the lineup is missing the forest for the trees.

Oh, if Williams asked me, I’d be for batting Span 8th (in the “second leadoff” spot); I want Span on the field for his defense, especially with Bryce out. I might make some different bullpen calls; some, but not a lot. Has Williams made mistakes? Sure. He’s been a major league manager for 27 games. It would be astonishing if he hadn’t made mistakes. Despite a rash of injuries that decimated the lineup, and some pitching misadventures, the Nationals are 15-12, on a 90 win place and holding their own. For me I’d give Williams a C+/B-, with the potential to learn and grow as the season moves into it’s fifth week.

Eric said...

@Bjd, I'm with ya. The Braves were playing at a 114-win pace and had a *team* ERA of 2.04 before enduring a spanking at the hands of the Marlins that would make James Spader's secretary blush (of course, we've had a couple of those ourselves this season ;) ).

I don't see them keeping that up. I do see us keeping up our fairly respectable pace until Ramos, Fister, and Zim return, at which point it would be very nice to see a strong run.

Chaz R said...

I think the Nats are doing an admirable job of keeping up a winning pace despite all the setbacks. It's going to do nothing but get better. We could have Ramos and Fister back next week, Zim is a few weeks behind that. Yes, we will miss Bryce, but ALR and Werth are crushing the ball. Rendon and Espi are doing fine, and no doubt Desi will eventually to get on track. Overall, I feel pretty good about things.

Kenny B. said...

I appreciate the positivity of the commenters here. It just feels so much like last year. Strong initial series' against bad teams definitively cut off by the Braves, Braves playing outrageously well, and Nats players going down like bowling pins on league night.

The only big difference I've seen—and it's a huge departure from last season—is the propensity to get back into games late with timely hitting. That definitely feels like the only reason the team is still above .500.

That's nice and all, but I am waiting for the bottom to fall out for the few guys who are holding the lineup together. I'm concerned for the moment Rendon and Espinosa hit the wall, I think Werth is a huge injury risk, and LaRoche is notoriously streaky so he could burn out at any moment. The lineup just cannot carry one more piece of dead wood in any of those guys, because the pitching, while pretty good lately, can't win the game by itself.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Kenny, don't look now, but those "bad teams" the Nats beat early in the season turned out to not be too bad at all. NL East has far and away the highest win percentage of any division in baseball. Plus splitting with the Cards. The only truly bad teams we've played are the Padres and the Astros.

John C. said...

Arguably this season is more like 2012 than 2013. The team is hit by a series of devastating injuries, but the bench (Espinosa, Lobaton, even Frandsen) comes through and keeps the team afloat until the cavalry comes back later in the season; the team also shows a remarkable sense of fight, coming back from deficits that the 2013 squad couldn't imagine scaling. Etc.

Of course, this season isn't 2012 or 2013, even if the record ends up in the same place as one of those years. We can hope for 2012 or better, worry about 2013 or worse, but 2014 is neither of those years. Let's not get caught up by superficial similarities.

BooyahSuckah! said...

The Mets are 15-8 since the Nats swept them to start the season. The Marlins are 12-14 despite an early 8-game losing streak and absolutely destroyed the Braves last night. And not that we've played them yet, but God, even the Phils are a .500 team despite having already played both the Brewers and the Braves, and having just come off an epically long west coast road trip, which is way harder when your average age is a thousand years old.

Nats so far have had the third hardest strength of schedule in the majors. Hardly beating up on the dregs.

JWLumley said...

@John C. Williams could have gotten his point across to Harper without dragging it into the media. And it's not just the hustle play or calling him out in the media, the next day Williams said that he'd "sat down" and spoken with Harper, Harper's version of the story is that Williams had a two sentence conversation with him, which would seem to indicate a disconnect. Not to mention that if Harper did have the flu you would expect anyone to give him a little leeway. It goes deeper though in to Williams ridiculous use of Harper in the #6 and #7 slot after a rough week, but not applying the same scrutiny to Span or Desmond. Remember, Matt Williams claims one of his greatest influences was Dusty Baker who was notorious for favoring veterans over younger players.

Anonymous said...

@Kenny B - the big difference here is that there is depth on the bench. Espi is a utility infielder after all at the moment

Ryan said...

@JWLumley, when you get to the point where you're parsing the exact wording of managerial press conferences, it's probably time to take a step back

1st in WAR said...

Let's maybe wait a couple months before we crown the Braves division champs. Their starting pitching has an overall career ERA that's somewhere around 4.00. The odds of them maintaining a 1.60 for the rest of the season are beyond unlikely. Eventually, it's going to regress to closer to what it should be and when it does, it could be a very different looking Braves team. Their offense hasn't exactly put up the kind of numbers to suggest that they'd be much better than .500 if their pitching was more in line with career averages.

JWLumley said...

@Ryan, I'm not parsing a press conference, I'm pointing out an inconsistency. Matt Williams said one thing happened, Harper said something different happened, hence the disconnect. Given what was reported by KLaw, I'd hardly say it's getting too granular.

blovy8 said...

Shows how much we know, Robbie Ray is going to pitch for Detroit before Fister will pitch for the Nats.

Wally said...

I haven't been impressed with Williams, especially the bullpen use, but I think some of the criticism isn't warranted. Here is how I think about it:
Performance =skill+luck (or randomness). Once a player has established a skill level, it stays relatively constant until it changes through (i) injury or (ii) age decline.

So when I look at McLouth, he has demonstrated skill recently (last year's WAR was 2.5) and over time (1 negative WAR year since 2007). He doesn't appear injured, and while he is 32 (which is at the beginning of his decline years, so it bears watching), that isn't an age that you expect most players' skill level to drop dramatically, especially players with his profile. So it is reasonable to think that his horrific BA is due to a 4 week patch of randomness, and I think he is the obvious choice to be the first one to replace an OF starter.

I feel even more so about Clippard. He's younger, no sign of injury (previous innings totals bear watching though) and every reason to think it is a patch of randomness. I understand that it sucks to watch it when he gets beat, but that happens to everyone. So while I might swap him and Storen on occasion (actually, I'd be a big advocate of no stated roles, just use the best in the most important spots, wherever that comes up), I'd keep running him out there with confidence that he is going to start to deliver good performance.

Frandsen, despite some apparent love here, should not be getting that OF start. He hasn't demonstrated recent skill (-.1 WAR last year, -.2 WAR this year), nor prolonged skill (only 1 positive WAR year since 2007). He is an infielder by trade and isn't adding value with his glove or his legs. So despite his circus catch, which was fun to watch, I think it was a bad process decision to start him over Moore or Sousa last night.

I think all managers should make decisions based on skill. When you try to go with a 'hunch' - and what I mean by that is go against your view of the best talent to someone else because you think they are 'hot' or 'due' or a 'vet', I think that is bad decision making, not any better than putting your life savings on red. You might be right in a specific circumstance, but over time you are going to lose a lot more than you win.

I think Williams has done mostly ok in lineup decisions, while throwing in the occasional head scratcher. I am the most negative on his bullpen use. And I am more curious than critical why he hasn't shifted defensively as much as he touted. Maybe all the errors and base running blunders made him conservative and pull back the reins.

DezoPenguin said...


I agree that McLouth should be getting the nod against all RH pitchers, but he is something of a platoon guy, so it's not a bad idea to go with Moore or Frandsen as the other half of the platoon. Now, my opinion of Moore is as low as anyone's--he has the occasional hot streak when he hits for power, but he's just plain not good otherwise, he strikes out a ton, and he can't field. I wouldn't even have him on the team, period (when Zim comes back, I'd send him down and keep Souza).

So, ultimately, the choice comes down to Frandsen vs. Souza. You can argue that both ways, but Souza's never even been in the ML before, so his true skill level is kind of an unknown. I'm not going to criticize Williams for playing his utility guy over someone who was the 27th guy to make the team.

I do freely criticize Williams for some of his other decisions, like repeatedly batting Harper at the butt end of the lineup and Span at the beginning of it, and I get very confused by some of his bullpen choices, but I'm not going to rake him over the coals for playing his sixth OF choice (Hairston would be 5th if he wasn't hurt) over his eighth. You get that far down the depth chart, it isn't pretty.

(Speaking of which, the depth to which we've sunk can be summarized in tonight's lineup, though thankfully performance exceeded apparent skills: Leon, Moore, Souza, Frandsen, and Span all in the lineup at the same time. Even though the AL park allowed Werth to DH...ouch, seriously, ouch.)

I just never thought I'd be sitting here on April 30th, looking at the Nats, and thinking, "Thank God for Danny Espinosa." :)

blovy8 said...

I think the reason Williams playing Frandsen is that he's having pretty good at-bats right now, the bunt single notwithstanding. It sucks for Souza and Walters, but it makes sense to me to ride the guy while he's hot and not worry about developing players. Souza hasn't even really played much AAA yet. He'll get his shot eventually when/if somebody cools off or they get tired of McLouth trying to pull everything.

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