Nationals Baseball: The other punching bag is back!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The other punching bag is back!

The Nats have finally gotten the band back together.  It took them exactly half the season to do it but they've done it. Now they should do what they did last night. Score runs, pitch well, win easy. It won't happen every night - that's not baseball. But it should happen more often than it does not. The Nats should start to pull away from the division

Of course should is an important word.  They should right now be in a position where they are chasing a better team, but the Braves injuries have kept them down and the Marlins haven't really blossomed. They should have caught up last year getting healthy at roughly the same time as they have this year. But instead they slumped through the end of July and couldn't catch up after that. Should is should. It's not will.

It's important to remember that because of what's being set-up right now.  If the Nats were to struggle for a month now the blame could very likely fall on Bryce. He's a disruptive force! He won't just shut up and do what he's told!  George Brett only said "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" until his 4th year in the bigs!!! Willie Mays carried everyone's bags every day until he retired, AND THEN DID IT FOR TWO MORE YEARS!!!

Because Bryce craves the spotlight and is a potentially game changing player he's held to a higher standard than other players, even at the tender age of 21. But think about it:

Ryan Zimmerman said he didn't want to play 3rd.  He was asked to and he did it. HERO
Bryce Harper said he didn't want to play LF or bat 6th. He was asked to and he did it. MALCONTENT

Both are right.  (though as I said last night - Bryce's promoting the best offensive lineup for the team.  the most winning lineup? Might be sitting Werth.  Just a thought). Both shouldn't do it in public. There done. Thoughts complete until I both see that the team is struggling and I hear players complaining about it.

There's really no reason to make this an issue right now unless you are inclined to make it an issue to start. (which is likely because you've reached the "old fart" stage of your life) It hasn't effected the team - it's been a single game. The team has bigger problems with Bryce not in the lineup (witness the 10 game stretch when they couldn't get to 5 runs even spotted an extra 7 innings). They weren't some sort of "We Are Family" team winning at a 100 game clip when he was gone. They have bigger problems with Bryce in the lineup (let's see... Desmond, Werth, Zimm, Span come to mind).  To bring up this after one game just shows your biases.

Lets calm down, let a little nonsense wash over you, and move on with the goal at hand.


Jeff Hayes said...

God, I hope everyone calms down. The line-up last night did really well. Desmond came through in a pinch. I am Ryan Zimmerman's biggest fan. Hopefully Bryce will relax and calm down now that he's in a place where he receives cheers from tens of thousands of people on a nightly basis. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Alex said...

Who wants to make a guess as to when Werth gets pulled from 3-spot?

Even with the looming problems (Werth's power, Desmond's K's, LaRoche's "when will this stop"), this lineup is too good for lineup construction to matter that much.

That said, it's painful to see a guy slugging worse than Span bat third. Given Matt Williams's proclivity for conventional wisdom, you know the 3-hole is reserved for his most "pure" hitter....

Donald said...

I'm not sure what to make of Harper's comments. In general, I think it's a non-issue. Everyone on this blog has offered their opinion on who should play where and in what order they should bat. The fact that Harper has an opinion on the topic shouldn't be a surprise and shouldn't be a cause of criticism.

On the other hand, he did sound a bit petulant about having to hear on twitter what spot he was going to bat. I don't think the manager is responsible for notifying every player of the line-up before it's posted.

That being said, I think it's been blown out of proportion and my guess is that Harper himself realizes that he needs to be more careful with his statements. He does make some mistakes but he's shown a pretty good ability to correct himself.

Zimmerman11 said...


"If I had the lineup, it would maybe not be the same. He's got the lineup card. He's got the pen. That's what he's doing. So there's nothing I can do about it. I'm hitting sixth tonight."


"I think [Zimmerman] should be playing left. Rendon's a good third baseman. He should be playing third. We've got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa," Harper told reporters. "Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. [But] I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what's happening."


“Going out to left field, gave us the best chance to win. It’s a good problem to have. Too many good players and not enough spots,” Zimmerman said. “I’ll see what happens. I’m pretty comfortable in left and I think Anthony is a hell of a third baseman. I think there is no doubt right now he is better over there than me. But you have to have your best players in the lineup somehow. Whatever [manager] Matt [Williams] needs me to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

MAYBE the media picks and chooses what quotes to put out there for public consumption, and no I dont' think it's a big deal, if Harper can stay healthy and hit... but one is the young guy openly questioning his manager and the other is the veteran player saying he'll do whatever the team needs him to do.

More importantly, they don't have a choice. If they refuse to play where they're told, they won't be paid, right? Neither has a choice, everyone should know they don't... and openly questioning th e manager's lineup and placement certainly doesn't help...


Froggy said...

Bryce is 21...he will be chewing on his foot a lot in the coming years. Even when he goes to the Yankees at the end of his contract here. I do sense a swap in batting positions with Werth soon though.

Donald said...

This will be an interesting month. It's not just about how well the Nats can do now that they are all healthy. The Braves have a ridiculously easy schedule this month. Other than the Dodgers at the end of the month, they should win most of their games (Mets, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Phillies, Marlins, Padres, Dodgers). In 26 games, they could easily go 16-10 or better.

By contrast, the Nats face the Rockies, Cubs, Orioles, Phillies, Brewers, Rockies, Reds, Marlins and Phillies. In 25 games, it wouldn't be hard for them to go 13-12 by losing the Reds, Rockies and Brewers series on the road.

If the Nats end this month in 1st place, it will be a surprise.

JWLumley said...

I'm really beginning to wonder if the Nats could have hired a worse manager. Harper shouldn't have said anything to the media, however, he shouldn't have found out via Twitter either, especially after an off day. And you make an excellent point Harper, Zim said he didn't want to play the media, but did. He's some kind of hero while Harper does the same thing and is an entitled brat.

It's kind of like Matt Williams is Dusty Baker, except no one likes him. But it wasn't just Harper batting 6th against a left hander, which is somewhat defensible, it was Ramos batting 8th. Seriously? Sure he came through, but Ian Desmond hasn't exactly been swinging it lately. It's part of a manager's job to handle egos, not alienate players. It seems pretty obvious that Williams and Harper aren't/don't get along. The Nats can probably find a hundred guys to manage the team--and I'm not exaggerating--they can't replace Harper. If he was a real Marine, Matt Williams would understand a thing or two about leadership, particularly communication and accepting responsibility for not only your own actions, but the actions of those you are responsible for instead of hanging them out to dry in the media. The same could be said for issuing terse no-comment-ish responses. Not only does a leader defend his people when they're wrong, he defends them ESPECIALLY when they're wrong.

The bad thing is, the Nats are probably going to win the NL East and we'll be stuck with Matt Williams for another 4-5 years. I could really see him having a similar effect to the one Baker had on the Giants, Cubs and Reds. He probably cost each of those teams 2-4 wins per year and cost a couple of pitchers their careers.

Also for all of the Span apologists, he basically gave up a run by himself in the 6th. Let a single fall on a ball he misjudged allowing a runner to go to third, then made a bad throw from short center field that handcuffed Ramos on the in-between hop. Sure Ramos could have come up with it, but it was a short throw that a big league CFer should make every time. Most guys, or rather most grown men, can make that throw in the air without airmailing it and give Ramos something easy to handle.

JWLumley said...

Also, over the course of a season, it's about 100 PA difference between Span hitting 1st and Harper hitting 6th. That would mean maybe 5 more homeruns in a season for Harper. Point being Span hitting 1st is bad, Harper hitting 6th regularly over the course of a season is grounds for dismissal. Even if he only costs Harper 50-75 PA's in a full year that's too many trips to the plate for someone with 80 power not to make.

Section 220 said...

So, my question, as with any and all Boswell "woodshed" columns, is: do you think this was a Mike Rizzo special? Possible I'm overstating this, but Rizzo strikes me as the kind of guy who would rather have Brian McCann on his team than Yasiel Puig...

Nattydread said...

Six years ago Espinosa would have been this team's ASG candidate. Better team, different problems.

Boswell's article disappoints me. Making a mountain out of a minor problem --- it'd be really sad if Rizzo put him up to this.

Harper has been watching Span batting first for 2 months now and has to have an opinion about manager Matt. BH solution would be to make Span the 4th outfielder and insert himself into CF. Hell. Let him bat first, too. Not really to bad as a strategy....

Williams has to protect Rizzo's investments (and their egos) which means McLouth and Span remain cornerstones. Zimmerman as hitting utility man.

There are worse problems to have. As others have said, Bryce is more valuable as a piece of this team than Matt Williams...

Bjd1207 said...

Yea holy crap has this thing exploded. I dont think the players care nearly as much as we do

Bjd1207 said...

@Everyone - Ugh, the professionals always do it better. I've been trying to voice/show this opinion on this board for weeks (or months) now. The true comparison is between Espinosa and Span.

Dave Cameron has a great treatment on Fangraphs on it.

Bryce drama aside, this article nails the SABR side of it

Jay said...

I have to say that I agree with Harper. Span has no business leading off with his .318 OBP. He is top 5 among hitters that see the fewest pitches per AB. At least Espinosa bats lower in the line up. I find it weird that the Nats spend two months talking about how they can't wait to get Harper back and he bats 6th?? Every franchise player I know bats 6th right - Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout.

Anyway, what I find most worrisome is that Williams doesn't seem to like Harper too much. Benching him for not running out a ground ball. Werth did the exact same thing and we get some excuse about not pulling a groin muscle. Ramos does the same thing and it's ok. I think Harper feels like he's being singled out some and doesn't like it. Can't say I blame him.

Kenny B. said...

Have to say that as much as I am keen to shake my fist at a youngster, this is starting to feel like Williams's problem. Williams wants to be Mr. Macho-pants Marine man and stick it to the young phenom to get tough guy credit. Meanwhile, there's no accountability in the leadoff spot at least partly because certain players are whiny about what their spot is in the lineup order.

Worst thing is, Williams now "can't" follow Herper's suggestions, because then he would be kowtowing to the petulant child and Mr. Marine Macho McTough can't be seen to do such a thing. Then chaos would ensue. CHAOS.

Anyway, a sweep of the Rockies and win a few series in a row and no one will care about this at all, especially if the Braves fall apart and Nats take first. I don't even really care that much about it now, other than my willingness to tolerate Williams has been steadily waning for a while now, and there's not much else to talk about until we see what this lineup can do.

However, random prediction: someone will be hurt for more than a week beginning in the next three games. This is like Game of Thrones where happy reunions are never allowed.

Froggy said...

BH is 21 and needs to be reminded on a continual basis that the game is bigger than him. It's called humility and phenom or not, he needs to shut the heck up and go out there and let his bat and glove do the talking. You don't see classy players like Mike Trout or Anthony Rendon yapping like a poodle when things don't go their way. Every time 'Mr One-homerun-china-doll-thumb-can't-keep-his-batting-helmet-on-because-of-too-much-hair-products' pops off on twitter or to a reporter he just validates his barely out of diapers rookie status. If I'm Matt Williams I bat him 9th to make the point.

As to the comparison to Werth or Ramos running out a ball, they have earned it. As soon as Bryce starts winning games single handedly he can say what he wants, until then how about a nice warm glass of shut the heck up.

JWLumley said...

@Bjd I like Dave Cameron, but he makes a fatal mistake of using 3 year averages both offensively and defensively to predict future performance for Span and Espinosa. Span is obviously declining both offensively and defensively. Cameron also failed to account for the very real risk that Zimmerman hurts his shoulder and takes his bat out of the lineup as well. Cameron also assumes that Span is better than Harper in CF with nothing to back that up.

Still his article made me realize. Nats best lineup may have Zim at 3B for as long as he can go, but it also has Harper in CF with Steven Souza Jr. in LF.

All that being said, lineup is still indefensible as is alienated the future of the franchise. Williams doesn't like Harper or wants respect or whatever, but Williams is a lot more replaceable than Harper.

JWLumley said...

@Kenny Matt Williams is not a Marine. Marines understand how to lead. Marines don't have to be macho or fake tough, because we're Marines our reputation speaks for itself. If you have to tell people you're tough, you're probably not. Kind of like having to tell people you're in charge, if you have to do that you're probably not much of a leader.

Other than that. Totally agree.

JWLumley said...

@Froggy You also don't see players like Anthony Rendon or Mike Trout on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16. Those guys didn't have the pressure of going #1 overall, getting thrown at just because of someone's perception. You also don't see Rendon or Trout getting singled out by their manager who's trying to teach some kid a lesson about getting on his lawn.

Froggy said...

@JW, I'm supposed to feel sorry for Bryce Harper for being on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16? I'm just sayin' Matt Williams is the manager, and Bryce Harper is the player. That's how the game works. Players play and managers manage. Players don't get to whine about how tough life is being on the cover of Sports Illustrated and getting thrown at by Cole Hamels AND take millions of dollars in salary AND undermine their manager.

Bad mouthing your superiors wouldn't fly in the Marine Corps either no matter how good of a Marine one might be.

Anonymous said...

Despite being in the national spotlight for half a decade now, Bryce is still young and (presuming his brain development is normal) still immature. I agree with others here, that he'll get plenty well-deserved off-camera counseling from friends, family, colleagues and the boss -- to say nothing of Boswell and us. That said, Harper publicly took the side of the true face of the Nats franchise, a throwback player who many of us regard as the gold standard of loyalty to fans and team. And yes, there was Zim, sitting right next to Harper in the dugout last night, chatting him up and making an unspoken statement of support. I doubt whether Harper's going to be best buds with Span going forward, but he led with his heart. Let's hope Harper follows Zim's example and stays with us for the long term.

And by the way, did you see those throws he made last night? Or the intentional walk that set up Desmond's big hit -- and he's a kid who just came off of IR? Lots more to talk about here than than clubhouse politics.

The other Harper is right: his namesake is treated as a goat. Seems a little unfair to me.

Donald said...

I do think that the fans read too much into these things. Williams made some very favorable comments about Harper's play last night after the game. He sure didn't seem like he had any kind of grudge.

Williams has said for a while that he was going to flip the line-up around a bit with Harper back. I wouldn't be surprised to see the option Bryce wanted in the next week or so. We'll see how they all do by comparison. I don't think Williams will feel locked into this line-up just because of something Harper said.

As long as they win, I think everyone will be happy and this will all amount to nothing.

JWLumley said...

@Froggy I didn't say you needed to feel sorry for the kid, but for those of who survived being 21 and have even a modest amount of humility we remember what it was like. It didn't make us bad people, just immature.

Also, I don't know that you can continue to make the case that managers are the players superiors. Managers make significantly less money and most teams would get rid of their manager, before they got rid of their superstar. I've had lots of superiors, never had one that made less than me. Not saying he should have done it, but it's obvious that MW has a very strained relationship with him and doesn't communicate with him, perhaps at all. I think in today's MLB it's the managers job to fill out the Lineup card and make pitching changes, that doesn't necessarily mean he's the player's superior. it's also his job to communicate in an effective manner these things to the players, which MW obviously isn't doing with Harper.

John C. said...

I think Donald has the right of it - fans make too much of these things. Someone on a blog speculates something ("I have to wonder if Rizzo was behind Boswell's column"), which morphs over time into common knowledge ("everyone knows that Rizzo, through his spokesman Boswell, did a hatchet job on Harper") to outrage over that pseudofact. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Generally when an internet commenter starts reading tea leaves about the Nats internal/clubhouse/dugout dynamics and internal thought processes it says a lot more about that commenter than it does about what is really going on. Zim sat next to Harper in the dugout and shared a laugh? That must be some kind of silent protest/implied criticism of Matt Williams/a statement of support for Bryce!

Or, you know, not. Because two guys on a team often find time in the dugout to laugh together. And over a season will occasionally glower at each other, too. Over 7-8 months of sharing a living space like a baseball team does, everyone will get on your nerves at some point in time.

So no matter what your narrative, you'll see something there to reinforce it. Enough with the soaps, bring back baseball!

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm definitely not defending Matt Williams' lineup decisions. Span shouldn't lead off... and I agree Harper is still a kid, and isn't probably done spouting off half-cocked...

but he said he hasn't heard/talked from/to the team or mgr about the decisions... so he didn't address his concerns internally before taking it to the national media.

I don't think it really matters, kid can say what he wants if he can suit up every day and mash the rest of the season, everyone will be happy...

Eric said...

John C, the variance in narratives inferred from this and other "controversies" is hilarious. Says a lot when so many divergent storylines are Known Fact.

DezoPenguin said...

Regardless of whether Bryce is a spoiled brat, Williams is a macho egotist trying to mark out his turf, Rizzo is wielding his front office power through his shills, or the news media is just trying to fill column space with a lot of sound and fury signifying jack squat in real terms, I think the real problem that needs to be acknowledged is Williams's ongoing problems with lineup construction.

The media story seems to be that the Nats have a lot of sulky whiners in the lineup: Span wants to bat first or he whines. Werth wants to bat third or he whines. Harper wants to bat up in the lineup or he whines. I have no idea if that's true, but it's a lousy attitude to foster. (Truthfully, if Span really is that insistent on batting first, that's the number-one reason to make him the guy to get benched...)

Time and again we've seen Williams run lineups out that make not only no statistical sense (guy with .317 OBP hitting leadoff, best hitter on the team hitting sixth, Ramos in the eight hole, Frandsen on the days he plays in the #2 spot, the beat goes on). He's as wacky as Lloyd McClendon, only the Mariners have the excuse of having only three or four competent hitters.

The bottom line is, Williams repeatedly is running lineups out there that, regardless of whether he's "old school" or "new school," ignore both the projected performance and the actual performance of his players. And unless the Braves suddenly crater, the Nats are likely to be in a dogfight all year for the division lead and the WC both, even a couple of games lost due to foolish managerial decisions could be the difference between making the playoffs and another offseason of "What's wrong with the Nationals?" stories from the media.

John C. said...

The true punching bag of this team is Matt Williams - but that's true of most MLB teams - the manager is the designated punching bag. It's part of the job description.

When punching Williams, remember that methods of modern baseball statistical analysis are tools - useful tools, but they don't capture every element that goes into the game. Heck, they don't even perfectly capture what they're trying to measure. They are a part of the picture, not the picture itself.

I don't get some aspects of Williams's lineups - the perennial favorite, Span at leadoff, being #1. But I can see an argument for others. Harper hitting 6th? Well, context matters - he's just coming off the DL, he hasn't had chances against LHP in his rehab assignment, he tends to get wound up so put him where there is less pressure on him, etc. It's not pure idiocy. Williams essentially said on the radio this morning that Harper isn't staying at the #6 spot for long.

Moreover, Williams is trying to manage a group of disparate personalities into an effective team for the long haul, and decisions made to maintain overall team cohesion, morale and readiness may reasonably override on a game-to-game basis a decision that might give an incremental statistical advantage. We can't quantify those factors effectively, or even know what those factors are (we're not in the clubhouse, the dugout, part of those conversations, etc) but that doesn't mean they have no impact.

Overall I have Williams at about a C/C+ as a manager so far. I give him some credit for the fact that the team has stayed afloat through injuries, for the improvement in the baserunning (occasional TOOTBLANs aside, the Nats as a team are pretty good baserunners) and he has finally convinced Nats' pitchers to take opposing baserunners seriously. They've gone from being one of the worst teams at holding down the running game to one of the best. People yow about his bullpen moves all the time, but the bullpen has been brilliant, so there's that.

But mostly his grade is incomplete. He's demonstrated some ability to learn from mistakes, let's hope that continues.

blovy8 said...

LaRoche is the best hitter on the team this year, does that make him the #2 hitter? How big a sample of futility do you need before you can change the lineup? How many guys care about where they bat? How much does the opposing starting pitcher's style matter? How much do platoon splits matter? How much do ballpark factors matter? How much does the weather matter? How much does a consistent lineup matter? How much do recent batting trends matter? How much do minor injuries matter? How much do swing issues matter? How much does a player getting days off matter? How much does travel matter? How much does how much the guy partied the night before matter? How much do team rules matter? How much does keeping your bench players useful matter? How much does keeping the most guys on the team happy matter? How much does keeping the clubhouse leaders on the team happy matter? How much does defense matter? How much does late-inning defense matter vs. another possible at-bat? How much does baserunning matter vs. another possible at-bat? How much does splitting your left-handed hitters to avoid easy loogy situations matter? How much does a minor leaguer have to do to win a job from a particular player? How much should a manager worry about guys not wanting to leadoff who could like Werth, or who are perhaps better suited for the roles they are in like Rendon at #2 and LaRoche at #4 currently? How much of it are pat answers given just to move on to the next issue? How long can a manager stick with the pitcher in the 8th spot? How many teams are using 4 man rotations to optimize their best starters? How many teams resist using their best RH reliever as a closer?

If Werth has a .280 OBP when they force him to bat leadoff, and the club falls under .500, was it still the proper decision?

This stuff isn't going away because fans will always think they can do better, regardless of the fact that we have no actual information about what goes on in the clubhouse, only the numbers and what's filtered out as stories through the media. The sample size for any statistical conclusion based on some pretty variable stuff seems fairly random to me. That's part of the allure, of course, or we'd be watching robots.

JWLumley said...

@John C and Blovy8 - Sure some statistical analysis like that for pitching, defense, baserunning, pitch-framing and managing still has room for improvement and is less than perfect. Statistical analysis of hitters, is pretty spot on as it pertains to the value of past performance. Maybe it's predictive value has a way to go, but it always will. Some of it definitely is random, but that's what the analysis tells us that up to certain point you have more randomness, the more data you have the less randomness you get. If you consistently trot out a sub-opitmal lineup you increase the likelihood that you will get sub-optimal results until it reaches certainty.

As for the bullpen's performance as proof that he's managing them well, this is a talented group that is pitching like a talented group. That being said, Ross Detwiler and Jerry Blevins, whose use has been more erratic than perhaps any two pitchers in the Nats bullpen don't seem to be faring so well over the course of the season.

Thus far, I would give Matt Williams an F-. He has a relatively easy managerial job because he has a great staff and phenomenal bullpen (most difficult part of managing). He also has a relatively good group of players who put their heads down and work hard. As for all the conjecture on the part of fans about what goes on in the clubhouse, we don't know everything, but that doesn't mean we don't know anything either. We know--based on multiple comments--that Matt Williams doesn't communicate with Bryce Harper in a way that Harper finds effective. Whether that be his comment about finding things out on Twitter or his different account of his "talk" with Matt Williams after being benched. We know that Matt Williams chose to make an example out of Harper to the media for not hustling during a time that we also know that Harper had a strained quad and the flu. We know that Keith Law who is not at all known for sensationalism or tabloid style journalism reported, based on sources, that there was a significant rift between Matt Williams and Bryce Harper. We also know from KLaw and Dave Schoenfield that there is a growing sentiment within baseball circles that Matt Williams is in over his head. We know that Matt Williams claims to pattern himself after Kurt Gibson and Dusty Baker, two managers whose methods have been widely questioned and criticized and neither of whom have ever won a World Series, even though Baker had multiple teams with Chicago and San Francisco who certainly had enough talent to do so. Both managers are somewhat notorious for their issues and spats with young players. For example, how many issues has Justin Upton had with Fredi Gonzalez? And that's just some of what we know. You can claim it's all conjecture on the part of fans who think they could do better, but I know too much to agree with that.

Donald said...

@JWLumley -- I think you are being a bit too harsh on MW, and possibly giving him conflicting criticism. On the one hand, you want him to structure the batting order based on statistical analysis. On the other, you want him to keep the clubhouse happy. How would you set the line-up in a way that wouldn't piss off Span, Werth and Desmond, for instance?

I think you are probably right that he could have handled Harper better, though that's a two-way street. Bryce is also responsible for their relationship. And I think he could have handled the pen better, though I think he's learning in that regard.

But I don't think his job has been that easy so far. He's had:

1) A tough issue with Detwiler who has arguably resented being moved to the pen.
2) A rash of injuries to a big part of the team.
3) A franchise 3B going through major throwing issues who would like to be playing a different position.
4) Clubhouse leaders who you really need on your side in Werth and Desmond who are both slumping but who both want to keep their spots in the order and don't want days off.
5) A bench coach who applied for your job and who was publicly endorsed by some of the team.
6) A very young phenom who needs special attention to stay happy.
7) A fairly weak bench, somewhat unexpectedly.

Davey Johnson is probably a hall of fame manager and he didn't have the team in a better spot by this time last year. I think the job is really tough. I'm not saying he deserves an A by any means, but 3 months into his rookie season with the team a half game out of first is probably too early to call him a failure.

Ryan said...


You seem to have a very loose definition of the word "know." And also, given that most managers have very little impact on the game, giving any manager a grade outside the B+ to C- range seems impossible to justify. ( When the Nats were injured, they played mediocre baseball. Now that they have been less injured, they are playing better. Bullpen strength fluctuates from year to year somewhat arbitrarily. This group of relievers was mediocre last year, and phenomenal this year. They will probably be pretty good next year. Injuries are likewise unpredictable, to some degree. If Zimm and Bryce don't get injured on the basepaths, maybe we're up on the Braves by 5 games by now. The point is, your F- grade for MW is unjustifiable, both because it is based on rumor and hearsay, and because the Nats have played basically how one would have expected given the circumstances. But even if MW was doing an F- job of managing, it still would not affect the performance of the team very much, and even then we have no way to quantify that effect. So basically I call BS on that whole post.

JWLumley said...

@Donald Conflicting? I want him to use statistical analysis and keep the face of the franchise happy. If Span is unhappy, no big deal, he's pretty easily replaced. But comparing the results with what Davey had last year isn't fair. DJ didn't have Doug Fister and for the first part of the year, he didn't have Tanner Roark. The bench hasn't been great, but it's nowhere near close to as bad as it was last year. DJ also didn't have a full season of Anthony Rendon, didn't have Aaron Barrett, didn't have Jerry Blevins (who's good when used correctly), didn't have Wilson Ramos and still won 87 games without all the clubhouse drama. Davey's team underperformed due to injuries and a bench that was horrible on an epic scale, even still if they'd have been up against the 2014 Barves instead of the 2013 Barves, I think they win the East.

Williams is managing a significantly improved team and is laying the groundwork for running Harper out of town and scaring away potential free agents who don't want to play for a wannabe Marine. That being said, I'd accept either or. I can see the argument for the "Player's Manager" like Baker who is loved by his players, even though he makes nonsensical lineups and sticks with veterans way too long. He attracts free agents and keeps people happy. Find a guy like that who can handle a bullpen and it's a decent hire. I prefer someone who makes the right decisions and doesn't spend nearly as much time managing egos. If Williams made good decisions and players were mad, so be it, so long as he doesn't blab about it to the media or throw anyone under the bus. However, Williams is neither. He's failed to maintain the clubhouse and failed to make good decisions on the field. He's neither a player's manager nor a good tactical manager, he's Kurt Gibson and look how well that's working out in Arizona.

Also, Harper doesn't need special attention, if Williams was a good communicator, he would have communicated to Harper, Zim, Rendon, Espi,Span, Desmond and Ramos his decision on the lineup. He had a full off-day to make a decision and at least let them know via text so they didn't see it on Twitter.

JWLumley said...

@Ryan Sorry, but I don't draw those same sweeping conclusions, even from the article you cited written by a guy who normally writes about soccer. (I prefer this one First of all, I agree most research on managers indicates they are most likely to have little to no affect on a team over the course of a year (which is what that article said), but they are far more likely and have greater opportunity to have a negative affect on a team, so really the grade that should be off the table is an A, great managers might deserve a B, most managers deserve a C and some deserve a D. Then you get into the Dusty Baker/Kurt Gibson division, where they either make such awful decisions on a routine basis that they cost their team 2-4 games a year or--in the case of Gibson--run off young talent due their gamery gritty demeanor (Upton, Bauer, etc.)

Still, an optimal lineup will amount to about 1 additional win per season. A sub-optimal lineup will cost a team about a win per season. if Williams continues on this path he'll probably cost the Nats between 2-3 wins this year due to sub-optimal lineups, love of micro-splits, playing the wrong players and using relievers ineffectively especially in high leverage situations (Hello Jerry Blevins!) along with the things that most other managers do to hurt their teams like intentional walks and sacrifice bunting. Whereas most managers would have zero affect on their team's record. A good manager like Joe Madden could get them an extra 1-2 wins per year. Williams probably deserves a C- or D+ for his tactical decisions, but he gets an F- because if he runs off Bryce Harper, he'll cost the Nats about 5-7 wins a season from 2020-2025. You can call BS all you want, on my conclusions, but based on his past work product I put a lot of stock in what KLaw has to say and he's been pretty steadfast in his claims about Williams poor performance as a manager and the rift between him and Harper.

John C. said...

JWL, you can shoot the messenger all you want on the article about managers, but that does nothing to rebut its credibility. The source site, fivethirtyeight, is Nate Silver's site - the guy who, before he became famous for forecasting elections cut his teeth on sabermetrics. He designed PECOTA, for example. The site is designed around analytical principles, but you don't like the conclusion so you dismiss it as written by a "soccer guy?" Even if you don't think Silver reviewed it before it was posted, it's been on the site for three months - if someone had poked a hole in the analysis, it would have come down.

You don't like the conclusion? Rebut it based on the methodology. Attacking the messenger without acknowledging the site context is just lazy misdirection.

Froggy said...

I can't remember who the original 'punching bag' was supposed to be, but it seems like MW has taken more than his fair share of shots in the commentary during this thread. Even though I can't stand how MW looks back to the bench when challenging a close call, like a hunting dog looking for signals as to which way the bird fell out of the sky, (good boy...go left...good boy...sit!) I think it is way to early to give him a grade one way of the other. I'll reserve the mid-term grade to the AB instead.

Even so, like others have mentioned, time is all but over for 'tinkering' with the line-up. The last tinker should be to bat Span in the second half of the card and Ramos should be hitting 4,5, or 6. How much statistical sampling do you need to determine that a .260 lead-off hitter with a .310 OBP and no real threat to steal, is what he is?

Froggy said...

Correction: Want to be fair, Span has ripped 13 bags and only been caught twice. Not bad stats, but some of them have been with barely defensive indifference.

Donald said...

Not to take anything away from the Braves, who are having a great run right now, but in the 20 games following their series with the Nats leading up to the All-star break, they play Astros (last place), Phillies (last place), Mets (1/2 game out of last), Diamondbacks (last place), Mets, and Cubs (last place).

Half way through that stretch they are 9-1 which is still better than would be expected, but man that's an easy schedule.