Nationals Baseball: Back to the edge

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back to the edge

The Nats won last night. The Nats have the best record in the NL. The Nats are playing arguably their best baseball of the year.

But...

Zimmerman went down yesterday.

In of itself this doesn't stop the Nats from taking the NL East. Assuming it's something bad (and it seems like everyone does) Rendon takes 3rd, Espy takes 2nd, and the Nats end up with their best defensive group on the field. The offense takes a hit but if the Nats can't compensate for having one guy out of the lineup then they don't deserve to take the division.

The problem is what it sets the Nats up for, which is a scenario where one more injury cripples the offense. It may not - 60 games left you could get a decent run from a McLouth or even a Frandsen (it's not impossible!) - but one more injury would likely leave the Nats with the dreaded "easy inning" where Espy/?/pitcher gives the opposing starter time to relax and regroup. The offense never really clicked before whenever two guys (or more) were out. I don't see a reason why it would now.

It would also, in my mind, demote Zimmerman to Ramos status when it comes to injury, which is "hope to get 100 games out of him". That's probably not fair, he's played at least 142 games four of the last 5 years, but it's how I feel.  The every third year massive missed time due to injury has to catch up with a body, especially one a couple months from 30 years old who has spent the last year and a half dealing with an arm issue. Next year the Nats will have to plan around this. (Don't ask me how just now)

Do the Nats make a play for someone now?  Headley would have been the obvious choice, excellent defense, history, recent play, and home/road splits suggest he's due to hit better (and that he can hit righties - which could allow the Nats to do a platoon of sorts with Espinosa).  He's off the table now. With Luis Valbuena is crashing, the Nats are left with probably Martin Prado or Trevor Plouffe if they want guys that can play everyday. Both are better versus lefties.

My guess is that they don't make a play. Again - the Nats don't NEED to do something and Rizzo has shown a strong proclivity to ride the horses he brought to the dance (something like that) the past few years in that situation (hell, he's done it when they do need someone). So I don't see him making a move unless Zimm is out for the rest of the year.

Still, there's a chance it isn't too bad. Just keep repeating to yourself. 15-day DL.  15-Day DL. 15-Day DL. 

24 comments:

ClownQ/A said...

"Great play; healthy players. Pick one." - baseball gods

Here we go...

Section 220 said...

I'm sort of assuming Ben Zobrist would cost more than Rizzo would be willing to give up, but wouldn't that be a perfect fit? What would it take? Like, Michael Taylor plus a pitching prospect?

Bjd1207 said...

15-Day DL, 15-Day DL...

Seriously please let it be no more than 15-Day DL

ocw5000 said...

I would overpay in a trade for Zobrist and pick up the 2015 option for $7.5M. With the amount of games everyone misses every year, it's a way better insurance policy than McLouth/Frandsen/Espinosa/Walters/Moore. He'll get at least 300 ABs a year, probably more if you let LaRoche walk next year and move Zim to first.

The NL is wide open this year. The Cardinals are vulnerable without Moilna. The Dodgers have Kershaw but haven't put everything else together. We have owned the Giants for two years.

Do this now.

Froggy said...

Hammys take longer than 15 days to completely heal, so even when he comes off the DL, 1b is the logical place for Zim. Two schools of thought are hook all the horses up to Adam LaRoche and have him pull for the rest of the year, or look to deal him and as @Section 220 says, go for a Zobrist or Murphy who can play anywhere on the left side of the infield and some OF.

Froggy said...

...and besides Zobrist's wife is smoking hot!

Jay said...

I put in a vote for a second baseman - Aaron Hill comes to mind. I'd do this no matter what happens with Zim. The idea that we are not going to have any more injuries just isn't likely to me. Zobrist would be nice, but would likely cost too much and rumor is TB thinks they can make a run. Prado wouldn't be bad either - can play 3b or LF. Can he play 2b?

Wally said...

When I saw Zim go down last night, I had a similar reaction to Harper about whether he has moved into a new class of injury risk. So I started thinking about what they could do, and there was one guy, more than Zobrist, that jumped out at me as a great fit. Chase Utley.

Highly productive still, fits the team's window, position of need, LH bat allows them to move on from either Span or ALR next year, or both, while still having two strong lefties. Its a bad but not horrible contract.

I think a deal with Espy, a strong prospect and a middling one should get it done. I know that it won't happen because it would be impossible for these two teams to trade, plus Utley doesn't want to move (maybe Werth could convince him?), but he would make our playoff chances look great.

KW said...

I'd love to see Walters get an extended look as a starter at 2B in the interim. This is not because I'm a huge Walters fan; it's more that the team HAS to find out what it has in him. The whole Zim-to-1B scenario can't work with Espy at 2B. It just can't. He just went a month without a hit. He's a great defender with a little pop, but he's gone more than two years without making regular contact.

The trade cost for Zobrist would be too high (no chance they give up Cole), and Prado's salary is too high as they have to face the approaching the Desi/Znn/Fister reckoning. Prado would be $11M on the books for 2016, which ain't gonna happen.

Harper said...

220 - Zobrist would be a very good fit. I think the Rays would want more of a sure thing than the K prone Taylor. Cole probably.

bjd1207 - from this webpage to God's browser.

ocw5000 - what's your over pay?

Froggy - no way they are dealing LaRoche. 0%

Jay/KW/Wally - Hill's an interesting option, but like KW says with Prado there's a lot of $$$ owed. So D-backs would have to chip in some $. I'd prefer Prado's positional flexibility (he's passable at 2nd...) and familiarity with the NL East.

Utley is a great fit BUT (1) he's due A LOT of money (unless he gets injured or you purposely cost him PAs) (2) Doesn't want to leave Philly (3) Philly won't want to deal here. #3 means the deal has to be a slam dunk for Philly. All his talk would suggest that #2 isn't 100% and maaaaaybe he could be talked into it but you'd have to be a winning team fairly certain to go far (Nats might cover that), who'd be willing to make sure he can end his career there (doubt Nats will guarantee more than is already set for him). I just can't see it.

Walters getting starting time is interesting but while still fighting for a division title you tend to go with the devil you know.

JWLumley said...

To me, this is where the poor lineup construction plays a bigger role. Last night, the Nats scored runs, but it's not outside the realm of possibility in Coors Field that they could have been behind in the 9th, who was in the on deck circle: Harper and Desmond. Span got 5 PA's, so over a week Span could get 4+ more PA's, than either guy. If you figure that Harper and Desmond hit a homerun about once every 20 PA's, it's about a homerun a month for the Nats. While run differential would suggest that's probably only about a win a year, in a small sample with timely hitting (randomness) it could mean 2-3 wins, to be fair it could mean 0 too.

I also think Span's low pitches per plate appearance don't help matters either, because they take stress off the pitcher. Just the difference between Harper and Span means that pitchers face Rendon and Werth having thrown fewer pitches in that inning.

Why am I beating the dead horse that is "Span batting leadoff"? Because right now the obvious solution is for Harper to bat 1st, bump Desi up to 5th and go from there. Harper batting 5th makes the Nats more susceptible to LOOGY's in the late innings. keeping him 6th and moving Desi to 5th means he'll get about 40 fewer PA's over the remainder of the season or 2-3 fewer HR's. Of course it'll never happen because Span is "fast" and doesn't have power, aka he's a "leadoff" hitter.

All that being said, I agree with Harper, it's not the end of the world, but it's dangerously close. I've seen Walters in AAA and he's not a big leaguer. No pitch recognition, too many strikeouts.

JWLumley said...

I typed that comment this morning, hit publish, then checked twitter to learn Harper's hitting sixth and Desi 5th. Also, you can cancel that APB/missing persons report Jerry Hairston has been found. Too bad Harper can't hit lefties.

I know it doesn't make much difference in the long run, but Matt Williams is just the worst. As someone who grew up a Giants fan, he reminds me of Dusty Baker so much with his "tactical" decisions, it's not even funny. Just completely nonsensical. We've lost Zim, no Werth in the LOLineup, need runs, I know, let's bat one of our two hottest hitters 6th. Good chance he's standing in the on deck circle or in the hole when the game ends.

Wally said...

Harper said...Utley is a great fit BUT ... I just can't see it

Agreed that it won't BUT, of all the players remotely available, can you think of one that improves their chances during the 2014-2015 window more? Not a pitcher, because they are all doing so well, the marginal WAR (or playoff odds) pick up for Price is less than you think. Has to be a 2B who displaces Espy while Zim is out (or at 1B/LF), so it is comes down to Utley or Zobrist, and Utley is better.

The Nats are a quality organization with a good team, and I wouldn't fault them for standing pat. But if they really wanted to go for it, Utley (or maybe Zobrist) would be the play. Honestly, how exciting would that be? I can't think of a higher impact move. I wouldn't give up Giolito, but I'd have a discussion on anyone else.

sam said...

Hairston batting 2nd while Desmond/Harper are 5/6... are you serious? Matt Williams is daft.

Bjd1207 said...

Scott Hairston's career line vs. De La Rosa:

6/18 with 2HRs, 4BB, and 2 Doubles.

MW has reasons for his lineup, even if we all dont always agree.

Froggy said...

"riding the horses he brought to the dance"...other than the mixed metaphor, I'd be curious to know if Rizzo even tried to make a deal for Headley or not. Most likely not since until yesterday Rizzo was probably happy with the platooning Zimmerman at 3rd, and LF and having Rendon play anywhere. Regardless, I agree with you Harper that this forces Rizzo's and MW hand on settleing on a final solution for 3b, and 2b, but disagree and think he makes some kind of deal that addresses this and shores up the bench as well.

JWLumley said...

@Bjd His reasoning is the problem I have with it. Micro-splits like the ones you sited aren't good predictors of future success. So you're 6 for 18 against De Larosa. You could have gotten 4 hits one day when he had the flu and gone 2 for 14 since. Either way, they aren't a large enough sample to have predictive value. What does increase your odds of winning is getting your best players to the plate the most times over the course of the season. Hairston could hit 2 homeruns today and Harper could strike out 4 times, it still wouldn't make the decision the right one. Over the course of season, this type of decision making will negatively impact the team.

Anonymous said...

De la Rosa is going for the single-game K record. Is Mike Bacsik available to pinch hit?

Clip&Store said...

Yes Prado can play a solid 2b. He would be a great fit for us

Zimmerman11 said...

"Nats expect rest to cure Werth's sore knee"

shtfkckskr...

Zimmerman11 said...

Agree... the Nats have to get deeper... at least they TRIED in hte offseason, and we COULD get lucky with Espinosa or McClouth for awhile... but with Harper/Werth/Zimmerman/Ramos all missing time.. we need a more reliable option. Kinda really hate Utley and the Phils, and don't want my Philly based frenemies harping on Werth and Utley winnign the Nats a title... but I'd get over it :)

blovy8 said...

2B is an organizational hole until about 2016 depending on what you think of Tony Renda in Potomac, so it is something I'm sure Rizzo is looking at - there's no way he can really believe Espinosa has a ML bat anymore. He kind of had to keep the guy playing given what the cheap options were going into the season, and his statements indicate to me that he doesn't feel like he can push the Lerners further on the budget. This has to be seen as an opportunity to upgrade at 2nd though. I see no point in any Utley discussions, you may as well ask Seattle for Cano or Boston for Pedroia while you're at it. Too much $$$. That's true of Prado too. While Zobrist would be good, I don't think the Rays are dealing him, leaving Murphy as the best fit. The Mets should be looking to get the type of guys the Nats can afford to give up and they will be realistically be thinking of 2016 as a target when Murphy will be gone since he's not giving them a easy extension pathway. If the Nats can't afford him either, they at least will have a lot of similarly priced guys they can negotiate with and do the arbitration sign and trade somehow.

Bjd1207 said...

@JW - That kind of retrospective, "average over time" reasoning is something we get to enjoy as spectators, but can't help you write a lineup card each day. By your reasoning, we should run out the exact same lineup top to bottom for the course of the season, with only injuries prompting changes. Any reasonable baseball person will tell you that's ludicrous over 162 games. At some point along their career arcs, Rendon becomes the better 2b than Espinosa. How does a manager know that? How does that change take place in your managerial style?

@blovy8 - Interestingly, Aaron Hill is on an $11mil/yr contract through...you guessed it, 2016. Still expensive, but way cheaper than Utley (especially considering the vesting options), known-quantity value, and fits into the developmental plan you outlined. Still expensive...

blovy8 said...

I keep omitting Hill. I don't have a good reason for thinking it, but it seems like he's not the hitter he was, as in the dings have caught up with him at 32 or something. That's a pretty good park to hit in too. He's gotten hot lately and wouldn't cost much in a trade since they want to jettison his contract, and I suppose there's little chance he's not an improvement over Espinosa. If this were a big market club, the extra cash would be worth it. But it just strikes me as eating some more money that doesn't move things forward with an older guy. Kind of a LaRoche at 2nd.