Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Down goes Gio

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday Quickie - Down goes Gio

I've noted this in a couple places (and in this blog before) but the Nats have been incredibly lucky when it comes to starter health. In 2012 their starters basically missed no starts because of injury.  Strasburg missed a few because he was shutdown and Detwiler didn't pitch a full season because Mike Rizzo wanted to prove how smart he was re-signing Chien Ming-Wang, but while in the rotation they pitched every time out. 2013 wasn't quite as remarkable but they were still pretty healthy. Detwiler missed most of the season as #5, but Strasburg & Haren both only missed a couple of June starts.

Overall that means for the Nats Top 4 starters in 2012 and 2013, they started something like 246 of 250 possible starts. (something like that)

Of course this season, Fister already blew that out of the water missing his first 6 or so starts. Now Gio will miss at least one (I'd bet two).  With the Nats fighting to stay near the top of the NL East, with big bats out of their lineup, this is a loss they can't afford. That's why the cleared MRI makes you feel a little better.  One or two missed starts? Ok, you might throw in a Treinen or Jordan (looks like Treinen right now) and get a lucky couple starts. But in the long run it's going to cost you.

How much will it cost? Hard to say but Gio was (roughly) the 13th most valuable pitcher over the last couple of years. (Looking at fWAR to get an idea). More valuable than Strasburg (mainly because Strasburg pitched 50 fewer innings), more valuable than ZNN.  The latter might not seem right to the brigade of people who have made ZNN the Nats bestest starter in their head, but Gio's 2012 was a good deal better than ZNN's despite having similar ERAs (2.89 for Gio, 2.94 for ZNN) which puts him over the top.

We can look at that a little deeper :

Gio 2012 :  207 Ks, 1.129 WHIP, 9 HRs
ZNN 2012 : 153 Ks, 1.170 WHIP, 18 HRs

Both have very good stats, butwhat makes Gio's 2012 noticeably better is in the details. Gio had much better numbers in two of the three things all on the pitcher (HRs and Ks).  ZNN did have much better numbers in the third thing (BBs) but that matters mostly in terms of putting runners on base. ZNN managed to keep guys off the basepaths by not walking them (2.0 BB/9 to Gio's 3.4) but Gio did the same by not giving up hits (6.7 H/9 to ZNN's 8.6). You don't need fancy stats to tell you you'd rather have a guy give up two walks in an inning than two hits. Overall Gio was at least a step better than ZNN in 2012, so despite ZNN being a little better than Gio in 2013 (people seem to forget ZNNs 2nd half slide back from awesomeness) take the two years together and Gio's been the most valuable.

If you are looking for a silver lining, the pitcher who was 14th in fWAR the past 2 years was Doug Fister. So the Nats aren't losing a step with Fister coming in and Gio going out. Of course the problem was the Nats wanted to pick up the pace - not maintain it.


Strasburg vs Cueto is not happening. The Reds threw in Tony Cigrani YESTERDAY for reasons I can't quite understand. (why press him to come back in Citizens Bank park where a mistake is a HR?) but anyway it pushes their rotation down. Strasburg vs Leake, Cueto vs Fister, Simon vs Roark.

Personally I'd really like to see Strasburg WIN this game tonight. I've felt he's only done that once this year (2nd start of the year vs Marlins - Padres start might have been better but Nats had big lead by end of 3rd). With Votto out this offense should be dead. They've scored more than 4 runs once since May 3rd. They strike out more than any team in the NL but one.They don't hit the long ball particularly well. They DO walk but the pitcher, especially one like Strasburg who has good control, can cover that. All the pieces are there for a gem. Make it happen. 


JWLumley said...

I've thought Gio was the Nats best pitcher for a while now, so this is a big blow given the current state of their offense. At least Desmond seems to be showing signs of life and (gold star for MW for actually playing Rendon and Frandsen at their natural positions this time) Espinosa got a day off. His swing is getting too long again, so who knows if he'll be able to correct it and move on or if will go into another death spiral.

The biggest thing about losing Gio for two weeks is that a lot of the Nats are slumping (Rendon, Espi and Desmond) and some just aren't good hitters (TMo, Span, McLouth) taken in conjunction with their injuries, there's a lot of outs in that lineup and they really need the pitching to carry them right now. The bullpen has been outstanding, but the starters have been pretty meh, hopefully they can pick it up over the next couple of weeks and Zim/LaRoche aren't out much longer.

Also, I know everyone applauded the McLouth signing and I wanted to be happy about it too, but all I could/can remember is the guy who completely disappeared in Atlanta to the point that I was watching him play for the Norfolk Tides. It looks like that guy is back, but the Nats are on the hook for 2 years and a decent amount of money. He plays good defense, but he has literally hit worse than a pitcher. The Nats bench was their achilles heal last year, but with McLouth thus far in the the Bernadina/Moore spot, it's actually gotten worse. I'm sure he'll improve somewhat, but what if the Nats have Atlanta Nate McLouth instead of Baltimore Nate McLouth?

Chaz R said...

I hope this DL stint does the trick and we get the old Gio back.

I think the Nats offense is not far off from the Reds. Without Votto of course they are much weaker, but numbers wise they line up pretty close. Nats are much higher in SLG and OPS because the Nats hit a lot more HRs than the Reds. I think the Nats are going to need to jump early on the Reds SPs and middle relievers and hang on. They haven't shown a tendency to do that. If the Reds SPs can hold the Nats offense in check, the Nats are going to have a very hard time coming back in the late innings against the back end of the Reds bullpen.

JWLumley said...

@Chaz, I think you're right the Nats offense isn't that far off from the Reds, lots of outs in that lineup. I'm not sure what to make of the Nats late inning success, but have a working theory. Perhaps, because most of the Nats lineup doesn't work counts particularly well or take a lot of walks, they do better against the hard throwing two pitch guys who are around the plate than against the slop throwers who change speeds and nibble or against starting pitchers who have a plan about how to get you out 2 or 3 times. Thoughts on my theory?

Eric said...

OK, after the win last night the Nats are still on pace to realize my hopes for May: 30 wins on 6/1.

To finish it off we need to go:
2-1 v Reds
2-2 v Pirates
2-1 v Marlins
1-0 v Rangers (only the first game of the series is in May).

Seems plausible, with this series and the one in Pittsburgh having me the most nervous.

Go Nats!

ocw5000 said...

As bad as McLouth has been, let's not forget that Bernadina and TyMo combined to hit .201 in almost 350 combined PAs last year. Not exactly a high bar.

Overall the bench is better than last year, although admittedly it's closer than you'd like and sort of hinges on Espinosa not partying like it's 2013.

Lobaton > Suzuki
McLouth < Bernadina
Frandsen = Lombardozzi
2014 Espinosa > 2013 Espinosa *
2014 Moore = 2013 Moore

* - pending imminent implosion

Anonymous said...


why do you say our bench has gotten worse? Espi for all his faults is a huge upgrade on Tracy because of his defense, Moore and Hairston are hold overs (And frankly have looked better offensively than last year in limited play), not really sure how I feel about Walters yet but he's definitely got more power than Lombo and seems to make good contact. McClouth is the lone dark spot at the moment with worse D than the shark and worse offense than I guess Moore (though Moore was pretty bad last year too), but history has him better than this which just makes me feel like he's due.

@Harper I've always been curious how ESPN calculates Playoff Odds? Is it solely based on run-differential and strength of schedule? I find it interesting that out of the NL East, the Marlin's have the best odds (also didn't realize Oakland is +95 through about 45 games, that's wild).. Then again, it isn't memorial day yet, maybe that'll change by next Monday.

A second, more hypothetical question - why don't teams outside of the desperate 2012 Rockies consider a 4 man rotation anymore if they're active strength is the bullpen? I know we never will do it (Blake looked great in his one call up, Taylor apparently is doing something better in AAA) but we have some incredible long-men now with Det in the pen.

ocw5000 said...

Let's also not overlook a major reason that the Nats can weather Gio on the DL:

Tanner F***in' Roark

Seriously: who'd want to go 2+ weeks with Taylor Jordan and Blake "I Before E Except after T" Treinen making up 40% of the rotation?

Roark is not a 1.60 ERA guy but he and his horcruxes make a reliable-enough 4.00-ERA #4-#5 MLB starter. I'm sure Texas is thrilled they dealt him for Cristian Guzman now that 95% of their team is on the DL.

Anonymous said...

The Buffalo is starting to get his timing back at the plate. As the Buffalo goes so goes the offense (except for Span and Espinosa, those guys beat to their own drums).

I am predicting this team to go on a monster run for the next six weeks. Ramos will be the big bat for about the next week, with a few other guys at the very least getting on base. Then LaRoche should come back to shoulder the load just as Ramos begins to cool off a bit. Right about the beginning of June Desmond will put it together. Then Zimmerman will come back after that and take his turn.

We may hit a minor slump around the end of June, start of July that last until the all-star break. After that.... Bryce is back, pray for no more injuries requiring more than a day or two of rest at a time, and the Nats will easily win the Division.

You know what is always wonderful... the unwritten future. Lets go Nats!

Bote Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bote Man said...

Gio is a bit of a head case. His mental composure seems to go down the tubes with the slightest provocation when it's his time of the month.

Too soothe your pain, read about the despair from the Reds' side of the field.

cass said...

Going to the game tonight, so disappointed Cueto won't be pitching. At least it'll be a nice cool evening.

As for Nats vs. Reds offense.

Nats: .313 OBP, .394 SLG, 95 wRC+
Reds: .310 OBP, .373 SLG, 87 wRC+

The Reds are much better defensively, though, and a little better at base-running.

Anonymous said...

@cass - how much of that is the Canadian (Votto)?

Jay said...

I'm actually encouraged with the results of the last week. 4-2 against Arizona and Mets isn't great, but isn't too bad either. The Braves are 6-10 in May and don't have anybody coming back to save the day. Maybe the Nats get lucky and the Braves end up an 88 win team.

Meanwhile, I think the Reds will come down to Billy Hamilton. If they can keep him off base and thus keep SB down then I think they'll be ok. They just need to keep the 2 out of 3 train rolling. Cueto is going to be tough so winning tonight and Wednesday may be needed.

LaRoche should be back Sunday and then hopefully Zimmerman and Gio a week or two after that. The big development - Zimmerman playing LF. The rumblings are it's going to happen if Espinosa can hit at all. Question is - do you put Harper in CF when he's back and leave Zim in LF??

JWLumley said...

@anon I didn't say the bench overall has gotten worse, I said that the 4th OF spot has gotten worse. Moore and Bernadina combined for 350 PA's last year and with Harper's injury figures to get close to that again this year. Even still Moore posted a .265 wOBA and the Shark posted a .233 wOBA, so far McLouth has posted a .210 wOBA and during his disappearing act in Atlanta he posted a .282 wOBA during his age 28 season (alleged peak years). He's 32 now and it's not unreasonable to believe he may not get better anytime soon. Given MW's insistence that guys fill the roles they were signed for, my point was that we could be looking at a repeat from last year.

I'd say that overall the bench is better than last year, but not by much and that was a historically bad bench the Nats ran out there last year.

JWLumley said...

@Bote Man - Gio is demonstrative, which is a far cry from being a head case though the two are often confused. As Harper pointed out, he's been the Nats best pitcher over the last two years and one of the top 15 in baseball. If I was going to pick a head case on the Nats, it would probably be Strasburg. His stuff is filthy and good enough that he should be better than Kershaw, but he's not. He often seems flustered and unlike Gio who yells and screams and strikes someone out, Strasburg looks flustered--typically by an error--then gives up a 3 run home run. He is yet to pitch at anything close to his potential.

Chaz R said...

@Cass Oddly enough I just checked FanGraphs and they have the Reds offense at 10th with 6.0 WAR, Nats offense at 23rd with 3.3 WAR. I guess it's good Votto is MIA.

Bjd1207 said...

@JW and Bote - I think cass has pretty much put a knife in the "Strasburg blows up after errors" theory. It's a post-facto narrative that doesn't fit the data (cass pointed out just recently a game where there was an error and then he went 1-2-3).

Similarly, I think Bote Man would need some numbers to back up his assessment. We all see Gio get hotheaded and yell after bad calls by the ump or when he's pumped up after a strikeout. Not sure if "his time of the month" was just a joke attempt but it's not like he's had a pattern of 3 good starts, 1 bad or anything. He's been consistent for the past 3 years, ever since he got his walk numbers under control

Bjd1207 said...

@JW and Bote - I think cass has pretty much put a knife in the "Strasburg blows up after errors" theory. It's a post-facto narrative that doesn't fit the data (cass pointed out just recently a game where there was an error and then he went 1-2-3).

Similarly, I think Bote Man would need some numbers to back up his assessment. We all see Gio get hotheaded and yell after bad calls by the ump or when he's pumped up after a strikeout. Not sure if "his time of the month" was just a joke attempt but it's not like he's had a pattern of 3 good starts, 1 bad or anything. He's been consistent for the past 3 years, ever since he got his walk numbers under control

JWLumley said...

@Bjd I must have missed Cass' explanation. Still, wasn't necessarily my point, my point was more that Gio isn't a head case. What I see in Strasburg is a guy who gave up 10 unearned runs last year and has already given up 6 so far this year. Although, I wouldn't put it past a strong possibility that it's just a narrative and some randomness. That being said, his ERA seems to outpace his FIP or xFIP in most years. When you see his stuff, it's hard for me to believe that his ERA isn't closer to 2 than it is to 3.

Kenny B. said...

Preview of tomorrow's analysis: Strasburg pitches 7 innings; gives up 2 runs on 6 hits. Why isn't he living up to his potential? If he had more clutchyguts(tm), the Nats would be winning despite the fact that only 2 players in the lineup have averages over .250.

JWLumley said...

@Kenny Strasburg pitched well-albeit against one of the worst LOLineups in baseball--the Nats offense is offensive right now. Relying on guys like Tyler Moore is beginning to bite the Nationals in the butt. I don't understand why Souza is in Syracuse, unlike Walters, Moore and Dobbs, Souza has upside. Sure maybe he'll hit .200, but is that any worse than Tyler Moore and Co.?

I'm not necessarily sure what my opinion is of Strasburg, other than he should be a lot better than he is. I'm not sure if it's coaching, approach, mental makeup or what, but there's a disconnect between his stuff and the results. He has best 2-3 pitchers in baseball type stuff, but doesn't get top 20 results.

Eric said...

I think Stras showed exactly what he can be until the first HBP. Starting there he fell off a bit, but for awhile he was in complete control, including a monumental effort to hold Hamilton at first after he walked him. That was rather impressive, imo.

He also pitched around a few issues, which was great to see. Speaking of, anyone catch his eye roll on the replay of Werth's error? I thought that was hilarious.

Anyway, we now have to take one from Cueto to maintain pace for 30 wins on 6/1. I'm also trying to decide if I'll downgrade my hopes by a win if tomorrow is rained out.

Froggy said...

Somehow we are managing to get by with this cobbled together, duct tape line-up. Other than the WP, Stras pitched well and the pen pitched well and the Soriano drama was minimal. (So glad he didn't get a save...if I see 'last out, shirts out' one more time...) Replaced instead with Detwiler serving it up to Fray-zha.

I guess the bright side: Zimmy, Harper and ALR are coming off the DL soon, leading to these rumors that Z will move to the OF? Would Span move to 7 or 8 where he belongs or get bumped off for Harper in CF?

Bring on Treinen!

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