Nationals Baseball: Better today

Friday, August 01, 2014

Better today

The Nats didn't get a reliever (Miller went to the O's) and instead got Asdrubal Cabrera for Zach Walters. Great? Good? Mistake?

Let's go over the "Two Goals" evaluation of the trade.

Did the Nats win the trade? Did they get back equal or more in value?

The answer to this is probably not. Asdrubal is a 2 month rental. Zach Walters is under team control until 2020.  You can argue the value of Walters (and we will) but it's doubtful that whatever Asdrubal does in August and September (and beyond?) will add up to more than what Zach gives the Indians

Will the Nats win now? Did the Nats make the team better for the immediate future?

The answer to this is yes.  Asdrubal was an All-Star as recently as 2012 but had a off 2013 and has not recovered in 2014. It's very likely what he is now is his new normal.  What exactly would that be?  Combine 2013 and 2014 and you get a line of .244 / .301 / .395.   He doesn't get on base and his power, which was what made him special, is fading. That's the line of an average player.  Defensively he's never been great and was kind of bad last year, but you'd probably qualify him closer to average than bad. Average hitter, average fielder. Doesn't sound like much.

Then you look at what he's replacing in Danny Espinosa. We love Danny. He can field like the Dickens (little known fact, Charles Dickens was a top-notch second bagger).  But Ol' "Refuses Surgery Joe" can't hit. He had put up a line of .221 / .287 / .354, which is worse accross the board, enough worse than Cabrera to end any arguement you might have.

Yes he has put up a .309 / .385 / .494 line versus left-handed pitching. But there are two things to note here. First, there is a lot more right-handed pitching than left-handed and if he's that good vs LHP you can imagine how bad he is vs RHP (don't imagine - hurts the brain - .186 / .245 / .296). Second, it's in 91 PAs. That's not even a month of PAs for full-time players. Could Danny be a good hitter vs LHP? I think so. He pretty much always has been.  Is he this good? Probably not. That's probably small sample fluctuation. If Danny isn't this good versus LHP than his value tumbles even further and right now it's already at a point where he is not giving a team as much as Asdrubal should.  To satisfy your split curiousity, Asdrubal, has for his career been very steady as a switch-hitter .737 OPS vs RHP, .753 vs LHP, and year by year basically shows the same consistency. What he gives you, he gives you every day versus everyone.

As for Zach Walters you've probably heard by now that guys that have Walters minor league profile (Lots of K's, not many BBs) tend not to succeed in the majors. (See: Moore, Tyler) It suggests a problem identifying the strike zone, not just a guys swinging from his heels. Now the one thing you can say about Zach is that he's moved quickly up through the minors. In 2010 he was in low A-ball. by 2012 he'd gotten some AAA time. He stalled there for a year (.253 avg with 134 Ks and only 20 BBs last year - despite 29 HRs that's an obvious recipe for major league disaster) but this year has put up better numbers all around.  .300 average, 62Ks to 20BBs so far. It's improvement but don't feel too bad, because it's improvement from "Oh My God, Kid. Have you ever taken a walk?!? No WAY you'll succeed" to "I don't like your chances, Kid"

Best reasonable case for Zach? He spends a year or two figuring out major league pitching like he did in the minor leagues. Gives the Indians a few starting years including a couple .240 high 20 homer years in his late 20s before petering out.

Worst reasonable case for Zach? He can't hang with major league pitching at all, becomes a career minor leaguer who might give you one surprise good bench year in the majors (again See: Moore, Tyler)

My best guess? Bounces up and down for a few years, then maybe has one decent year of half-starting and a couple other borderline seasons where his value is mainly in the fact he's a 3B, SS, 2B type of bench player.

All in all the Nats didn't give up that much here. Certainly not someone you could rely on helping the Nats this year. So they are better off for 2014.

The Nats needed another bat in the lineup that wasn't flat-out terrible 60+% of the time, preferably with adequate defense. Asdrubal gives them that. This doesn't necessarily solve the "one injury away" issue the Nats were dealing with, but it certainly softens the blow in that case, staving off the dreaded "easy inning" scenario that that might have created.

The Nats are better today then they were yesterday, and they were good yesterday. Hard to complain.


Carl said...

Thoughts on the batting order? Should Cabrera just plug in at 7 or 8, or will Williams bat him second and mess with everyone else?

Harper said...

bat him 7th (or really 8th but I think Ramos is stuck there). you don't want to take at bats away from Rendon (or any of the other 3-6) for Cabrera

Bjd1207 said...

@Harper - Appreciate this post. I'm always nervous giving away a guy under control for so long. But I think my value of him has been skewed since he first came up and jacked 2 HR's his first 2 AB's. Seeing his pitch selection numbers in the minors makes me feel much better about moving him.

@Carl - Yea I don't think he cracks top-5 in our order. Since he's switch he could fit in well at 7 with Ramos behind him and Harper/Desi in front.

blovy8 said...

In a way though, Walters is just as screwed in Cleveland since Lindor figures to come up before he gets a decent shot, and Kipnis is entrenched at 2nd. He'd have to stick at third, and is he really any better than Chisenhall or their Carlos Santana experiment? At least here, he had Espinosa mendozaing his way out of relevance. He strikes me as a guy who might have the one surprise year after his team-conrolled years are up and he rakes for some independent team.

blovy8 said...

I still don't really know why Beane didn't call Rizzo about Milone. He could have given them more than Fuld. There's your bullpen lefty if you're creative.

blovy8 said...

I know he's on top of a hot streak, but Span's 290/349/394 is almost exactly what I was hoping for out of him. I never would have dreamed of 20 out of 22 in steals though.

Donald said...

I think the best scenario for Walters is to go the Mike Morse route. He'd be a better defender out in LF than Mike and with a stronger arm. He has a lot of pop, and could walk into some hot streaks now and again. If he could turn into Morse without the injury history, he'd have a decent career. Not saying that's going to happen, however, since he'd have to solve the strike out issue, but who knows.

JWLumley said...

So glad Rizzo didn't trade for a reliever to replace Blevins. What a waste that would have been.

Chaz R said...

Yeah, I think it was a good move that made them better, but Rizzo could have (should have- ?) done more. I wonder what the Rangers wanted for Beltre or what the Cubs wanted for Castro? I wonder why he didn't get Prado rather than Cabrera?

I suspect there will be another August pickup for a reliever.

Bjd1207 said...

@Chaz - I think the problem with Prado was really the 4 year contract. At this point I'm unsure how our 3b/2b situation works out long-term, but I suspect Rizzo didn't want somebody with Prado's contract forcing our hand in that situation. I'm hoping Rizzo doesn't come out in the offseason and say "Danny's still our 2b of the future." I'm hoping there's some plan to get someone younger/more potential in that position. Cabrera's cheapness (free-ness?) allows us that flexibility.

@blovy8 - Milone from the pen? I'm always scared of soft-tossers in 1-inning or less. I feel like they need to start the game or have a chance to change speeds over multiple at bats to fool somebody.

Definitely agree on Span though. And JW wants to trade him GET HIMMMM....

Vdub said...

You want to talk about "Better Today". I flip the Nationals 2014 Team calendar that I got as a Christmas Present to August and the featured player is none other than All-Star, No. 24, Kurt Suzuki... I didn't think we had any all-star position players. Things are looking up.

Eric said...

Nice overview.

I like his potential for providing a modicum of protection lower in the order.

Is there anything that captures the hitting tendencies of a batter moving from the AL to the NL? I know Span suffered (or, maybe that was just his standard first half?), but I know others have flourished.

JWLumley said...

@Bjd Yup, I'd deal Span. I'm not fooled by one good month and don't believe CF defense is what the Nats need. They need bullpen help and another bat.

Jay said...

It's ironic to hear MW's comments on how much upside Walters has when he pretty much refused to play him. ESPN had a list of stats for 2b production this year for the Nats. It was abysmmal, and that was with Rendon playing there roughly a month while Zim was healthy. Back out his stats and Espinosa is bottom 5 if not bottom 2 in the entire MLB. I originally thought they would play Walters against righties the week leading up to the trade deadline. He started all of one game. Danny played because he "hit a few balls right on the screws that were outs" per MW. I don't think Walters was the answer and I think Cabrera will be a decently big upgrade (it will be hard not to be better). It would have been nice to play Walters more than once before the deadline and find out. I like Espinosa, but in my mind there is no way he can ever be thought of as an everyday player again. He was 0 for his last 27 when Zim got hurt and he started playing again. He had gone almost an entire month without a hit (granted he wasn't playing everyday then).

This brings me to my other rant. Why is MW a manager? He has pretty much cost them 3 games this week by refusing to only pitch Blevins against left handers. He seems to be very stubborn to me. Like he is going to prove to us that Blevins can pitch an entire inning, prove Bryce is a punk that deserves to be put in his place, and that all rookies suck. He so overused Soriano that he needed 2 days off to recover from his horrendous Monday night against the Marlins. I just don't see a) they make the playoffs - they have gained 1 game against Atl despite them being swept in LA and b) even if they make the post season does anyone really think he can win a post season series - much less 3 of them. Let's trade MW to another team in August.

Anonymous said...

I love Asdrubal!! He was always one of my favorite players. This move goes back to one of your previous articles where you wrote the future is now.

Anonymous said...

I love Asdrubal!! He was always one of my favorite players. This move goes back to one of your previous articles where you wrote the future is now.

JE34 said...'s improvement from "Oh My God, Kid. Have you ever taken a walk?!? No WAY you'll succeed" to "I don't like your chances, Kid"

Top notch post, Harper! You caught a good wave from the muses today.

@Jay - my armchair psychology of MW: he gets caught thinking like a player. If he were Jerry Blevins, he would want to show how he can get righties out. If he were a veteran on the roster, he would want Bryce put in his place, what with his youthful energy and brash facial expressions. If he were Jayson Werth, he would feel some ownership of the 3-hole. And so forth. MW could take a few pointers from someone coldly analytical, like our gracious blog host here.

Donald said...

I'm no fan of MW, but I would caution those who think he's a disaster and always will be to remember that 1) we're only two thirds of the way through his rookie season; and 2) that line-ups / in game tactical decisions are only a small part of the manager's job. He's also responsible for instruction and team chemistry.

I think that's why Davey was successful. He got players to want to play for him and to have fun as a team. I have no idea whether or not the team as a whole likes MW, though outside of Harper I haven't heard of any issues. In fact he's gotten praise from some guys like Span, and the bull pen guys seemed to appreciate that he listened to them about not being made to warm up so much.

So when we criticize his tactical decisions, and I've criticized them myself, it only makes up a % of his grade. Given the Nats are in first place with all of their injuries deserves some credit. So far, I'd give him a C. Same results next year when he's not a rookie would probably drop him down a bit.

Kenny B. said...

There are a few things to note re: MW. First, he's coming off a pretty bad week here, so the recency issue could be coloring our view. Second, and on the other hand, he's just a rookie, but we need him to win NOW. We're in the window, and every teachable moment for him is a fleeting opportunity for us.

Jay said...

I thought I'd share some of my favorite MW quotes. First, in reference to Ramos' lack of power. "There's a healing period when you open a body up and take something out. That healing period is one year."

Second, about lack of runs last night against the last place Phillies. "They have gloves on they can catch them."

And of course his often used "that's baseball" and "it's one of those things" not to be confused with "those things happen".

I'm waiting for him to drop a "good times"

Froggy said...

@Jay, LoL! Very funny. My favorite so far is what he said about Bryce Harper striking out last night with two runners on and one out in the bottom of the ninth against Papelbon:

"He had a nice at bat, unfortunately it didn't turn out for him, but he saw a lot of pitches, he took balls off the plate, fouled a few off, so yeah, it was a good at bat."

Must be the new fangled baseball where there are no losers...everyone gets a trophy.

Anonymous said...

Stras has not pitched very well when we don't have our regular lineup. I don't think he won a game with Frandsen/McLouth in lineup. I wouldn't excited either of those in lineup.

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