Nationals Baseball: Nats weaknesses

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Nats weaknesses

In his "Power Rankings" Jonah Keri has the Nats 5th and notes out of all the top teams the Nats seem to have the fewest weaknesses.  That you'd have to nitpick to find them. Of course the Nats must have some weaknesses or they wouldn't be the current "worst division leader" who are one loss to the Mets away from three straight non-winning series. So let's nitpick. What are these weaknesses?

1) They have a lot of good and a little great.

This sounds like a backhanded compliment but it matters.  Let's simplify things and say there are 5 types of player; bad, poor, fair, good, and great.  Moving up the scale from one type to the next nets you an extra win.  The difference is moving from bad to poor may cost you a couple hundred thousand, moving from good to great might cost you a couple hundred million (I'm simplifying people!). Now that we are experiencing a Spanaissance, the Nats have a very good to fair player at every position.  That's really good! But it also makes improving the team next to impossible.

When you are at that 7-15 ish player range improving to 5-10 hardly makes a dent. No, you have to improve to the Top 1-5 and those guys aren't cheap - either in the money it costs you to sign or the talent it costs you in trade. Looking for value, it's not likely the Nats will make those sorts of deals so we're left with the hope that some of the players on the team break out into superstardom if we want those extra wins.

This isn't a "losing" weakness, more of a "keep from dominating" one, but I said I was nitpicking

2) The 1B line defense is not good

When I caught up on the game last night and saw the phrases "triple past LaRoche" and "Bloop Werth couldn't get to", let's just say I wasn't surprised.  Werth is near the bottom in range for qulaified RF, and LaRoche is dead last at his position. This isn't a one year fluke, either, it's a trend. These guys can still catch and are sound defenders... when they can get to the ball. But at this age they get to fewer and fewer and the beating of a season coupled with the non-stop ravages of time mean they are likely getting to fewer today then they were in May.

Coupled with a 4 righty staff and a predominately righty pen, the Nats will face more than their share of lefties which might exacerbate the problem. Some crafty defensive shifting might help alleviate this issue a little but the Nats aren't shifty. And it's not like either of these guys are going to sit late in close games.

3) The bench stinks.

Benches often stink but here's the question posed to you: It's late in the game and the pitcher is up, you need a hit, who do you bring in? Maybe you just need a baserunner, who's your choice? What if you are just crossing your fingers for a long bomb, who are you asking to pick up the bat? If you responded "I really don't know" to all  three questions congratulations, you've noticed the Nats bench has no strength, or even moderate ability at the plate.

Ok that's a little rough. If for some reason the opponent was stuck with a LHP out there, Espinosa or Hairston might answer a couple of those questions, but seriously when are you stuck with a LHP? The Nats bench strength right now is defense (Espy) which is mitigated by having decent defenders across the MI now, and relative speed (most of these guys are fair to good baserunners which give you lots of options for Ramos/LaRoche/pitchers late in games)

Is Souza the answer? Maybe. But it would feel a lot better if there was one guy on the bench you could count on to do one thing. A slappy singles hitter that puts the bat on the ball. A big masher who strikes out 7 times but the 8th one he takes deep.  Those types play more into the PH roles they are likely to have come October.Still it's not completely Rizzo's fault. The collapse of both Lobaton and McLouth is surprising.

4) only LOOGYs

Matt Thorton could solve this, but he might not. As it stands only having a LHRP that's a LOOGY is a weakness.  It's kind of like the weakness #1 up there - hey it's good to have a LOOGY - but it creates some issues. You put him in in the 6th, what if you need another big lefty out in the 8th and Clip is faltering? You have good LHB, great RHB, good LHB coming up - how do you work that? Detwiler could have been the solution but apparently the team hates him or something, I don't know. So we look to Thorton. Deliver us.

5) Matt Williams?

Opinion only but I'm not convinced he won't conventional the Nats into a playoff loss. Nor am I convinced that he hasn't done everything on the fringes he can to mess up the development of Bryce. Calling him out, questioning him, batting him in sub-optimal places, sitting him when he's hot. Nothing overt but add it up and I'm not dismissing someone who thinks this has hurt Bryce.

I know liking a manager is rare, but early on, especially with winning teams, you usually have your share of defenders.  Right now the best defense I hear is "i don't think he'll necessarily be like this in the playoffs". Not exactly confidence inspiring.

48 comments:

cass said...

Should we credit Matt Williams for the improving the running game and stopping the opponents running game? I believe the Nats have gone from one of the worst to one of the best in both regards with very little change in personnel. It seems to be all about the coaching.

I do believe Randy Knorr has had a lot to do with those changes, but Matt Williams has let him where Davey Johnson did not.

I don't really like Williams as a manager in any other regard. Not his tactical decisions or bullpen usage or handling of players. I also believe that there is a fire behind the smoke regarding Harper no matter what they say.

But the improvements in the running game on both offense and defense have definitely improved the team. And Matt Williams probably deserves some credit for that.

Numbers: The Nats are at +7.8 baserunning runs above average this year, good for second in baseball. Last year they were 14th with 1.1 - okay, that's better than I remembered, but still an improvement of 6.7 runs and there's still two months left in the season.

I don't know how to measure this in runs, but the team has allowed 42 stolen bases, caught 28 stealing, and picked off 8 this year. Last year, they allowed 95 stolen bases, caught only 20 stealing, and picked off 3. And back in 2012, the first year of the Davey Johnson era, they allowed 111 stolen bases, caught 22 and picked off 5. So this was a trend stopped dead in its tracks this year.

Reducing the previous numbers by one third cause two months remain, it seems like the Nats have allowed about 20 fewer stolen bases and caused 20 additional outs (15 caught stealing, 5 pick offs) compared to the last two years. That's gotta be worth a fair number of runs.

Jay said...

MW and to a lesser degree drive me a bit crazy. Rizzo has the same problem he has always had since he became GM. Offense is iffy at times and the bench is filled with defensive players. He gets so hung up on defense and as a result the Nats have no great hitters.

A lot of the hitters have gone cold as well. Werth hasn't hit since mid-July, LaRoche hasn't hit since June, Desmond hasn't hit since the Colorado series, Harper hasn't hit since last April. Harper hasn't looked comfortable at the plate yet this year.

MW drives me crazy. He has botched the bullpen the last week to ten days. Last night is latest example - pitching Storen on 6 days rest after he pitched Stammen after a week off. When asked about it the other night he replies that the bullpen has "pitched a lot lately". He has completely submarined Harper. It reminds me of J Upton in Arizona. Starts off great and then rumblings about how he's not living up to the hype, and then they traded him for Prado - a good player but not great by any means. It feels like some crusty old veteran who demands the youngins "pay their dues".
The only hope I have is that they are still in first. Braves are getting killed in tougher schedule. But I worry that Nats should be using this time to pull away. I figure it will take until after the 6 games against Atl in September to know how things are going to shake out.

JWLumley said...

#5 is the biggest weakness to me and could be where the other weaknesses stem from. It's one thing to have loosely defined roles in the bullpen, but MW seems to think that Storen can ONLY pitch in the 7th unless Soriano has pitched multiple days in a row. Clippard can ONLY pitch the 8th and Soriano can only pitch the 9th. The last one isn't uncommon, the other two is what weakens the Nats bullpen and makes having 2 LOOGY's that much more problematic. Toss in the fact that Detwiler only pitches in blowouts and once a month and you've taken a relative strength and turned it into a weakness.

The other thing is the bench. On paper, it's a good bench. But when you don't find a way to work guys into games, they get rusty. It's the reason for Spring Training. Track records would indicate that McLouth and Hairston are better than they've been, but while McLouth has gotten a decent number of PA's, Hairston belongs on a milk carton. Both players only seem to get playing time at Harper's expense or if Werth is injured.

Finally there's Harper. You're right they need a great or elite player. Right now they have a lot of good. Harper was supposed to be that player. I'm not saying that all of his struggles are MW's fault, but he hasn't helped things. Remember when you were 21? Most likely you were a lot more emotional than you are now and cared a lot more what people, especially certain people, thought. Even most adults like to and perform better when they know their boss is on their side. One thing seems apparent about Harper continually changing where he starts his hands: He doesn't trust his coaches. Most coaches would have stepped in and put a stop to this. So either Harper is extremely stubborn or he doesn't trust their advice, or some combination of the two. While some will undoubtedly argue that we're not on the inside and don't know how well MW and Harper get along, one things for sure, he was a lot better when Davey Johnson was the manager and was a lot better in the minors when MW wasn't around.

Finally, usually with new managers there's a bunch of stories about how guys have had revelations and insights from their new skipper. How much they like the new guy and what they've learned. Kind of like what you saw last year with Rick Schu's promotion. Am I missing something, or has anyone seen any of these types of stories. Seems to me there should have been more of them during the honeymoon period.

JWLumley said...

@Jay Harper had a .382 wOBA last August and a .344 wOBA last July. I'd say that's hitting.

Bjd1207 said...

@cass - spectacular job giving credit where credit is due.

@Jay - Yea I can't keep up my defense of him any longer. I thought maybe there was a method to his madness, just not a method we agree with.

His latest statements tell me that he's either A.) Over his head and won't admit fault or B.) bat-shit crazy.

Last post we talked about how the starters were going deeper than ever into games. But half the bullpen is unavailable in any given day? You can't simultaneously use the excuses "they're unavailable due to overuse" and "well its been awhile since he last got work so he's rusty"

Dont pitch blevins every day, start using Storen/Clippard more flexibly and in higher leverage situations. Just a start...

Anonymous said...

@ JW - Are you really using LAST August and LAST July as examples? Harper hasn't hit well this year. Period. And you don't need to look into crazy sabermetric stats to prove that. His line looks like Espy's with a slightly higher batting average - not the guy who this offense is supposed to be built around. Rendon has entirely passed him up in my opinion.

JWLumley said...

@Anon Jay made the comment that Harper hasn't hit since April, but he hit last year when he came back. Also, you must work for the Nationals or actually be Matt Williams because you don't seem to value Harper's greatest strength: Getting on base. It's part of hitting and is a skill. Harper, despite his struggles, still has an above average OBP. He's also the same age as most guys in A ball. I think it might actually be in his best interest to play for a different team that values his ability and doesn't equate mathematics with scary voodoo.

Bjd1207 said...

@cass - spectacular job giving credit where credit is due.

@Jay - Yea I can't keep up my defense of him any longer. I thought maybe there was a method to his madness, just not a method we agree with.

His latest statements tell me that he's either A.) Over his head and won't admit fault or B.) bat-shit crazy.

Last post we talked about how the starters were going deeper than ever into games. But half the bullpen is unavailable in any given day? You can't simultaneously use the excuses "they're unavailable due to overuse" and "well its been awhile since he last got work so he's rusty"

Dont pitch blevins every day, start using Storen/Clippard more flexibly and in higher leverage situations. Just a start...

DezoPenguin said...

@Jay:

The Arizona comparison is what really drives me crazy about MW. I have very little faith in most managers, working on the principle that most of them spend most of their time doing stupid, wrongheaded things that go directly against what the numbers say is the optimal strategy, and that the one thing that they can do positively is optimize individual performance and team chemistry, which is hard to measure.

But the "crusty old-school management" of Arizona is a train wreck. They took a good team and made it a .500 team, and now it's been rendered a flaming disaster area which deliberately injures the best player on a playoff contender in revenge for an obvious accident in the name of "grit" or whatever crap Gibson is selling. I want no part of being a team like that.

In other words, I'm sure that Williams's in-game stupidity does hurt us, but I'm fairly sure that even in a short series the other manager's in-game stupidity will balance it out.

What I do genuinely worry about is that in trying to impose whatever old-school values he minimizes the contributions of the players. I contrast guys like a Jim Leyland or Ron Washington, who made any number of clearly foolish decisions, but by all accounts at least were good at getting maximal effort out of their players.

On the other hand, Bob Melvin was apparently that way back in AZ and he's completely done a 180 under Beane in Oakland, so it's possible that Williams can learn. But that would require that Rizzo make him get a clue.

I also wonder, sometimes, how much it hurts that so many managers are ex-players who have no college education (or the "education" that most major colleges give to their athletic stars). That can't possibly help when trying to get them to go along with statistical models (or, indeed, in a forward-thinking manager's attempt to sell such a model to the players!).

JWLumley said...

@Kevin Frandsen I mean Anonymous. Rendon is also 3 years older than Harper and doesn't have the upside. He's great, don't get me wrong, but what was Rendon doing at Harper's age, that's right he was at Rice University. If you understood statistics, which batting average is actually a statistic, you'd understand that batting average has a very low correlation to a player's value or ability. Much of batting average is actually luck. Not making outs, also known as OBP is a better rough barometer of a player's value at the plate, even though it doesn't take into account power.

karl kolchak said...

You hit the nail right on the head. Harper and Strasburg were supposed to be our two "great" players, and so far neither one of them is and it doesn't look like the light is going to go on for either one of them this year and take them to that level. I'm not even sure a couple of weeks back in AAA for Harper while they give Souza his first shot at playing everyday might not do BOTH of them a world of good.

Something needs to be done, because right now this team looks like it is heading towards a quick playoff exit.

JWLumley said...

@Dezo I mostly agree and think you're on to something. You have to get pretty ridiculous with in-game tactical decisions [see: Baker, Dusty] to hurt your team more than the other team's manager. I think Williams' bullpen management achieves this, but is correctable. That being said, this Kurt Gibson machismo tough guy act is cancerous. Rizzo believes in that garbage and is like a little kid following his tough-guy big brother around and trying to imitate their bully antics. Hey Mike, Matt Williams is the definition of "fake tough". He's not going to make MW change and it will actually undo a lot of the good things Rizzo has done. I love the Nats, but more and more as a baseball fan I hope Harper gets traded. Maybe the Nats can trade him for 4 or 5 Ian Desmond types. Solid players who don't take walks and are even more solid citizens. That or maybe
Rizzo will have an epiphany and hire Gabe Kapler or promote Randy Knorr mid-season. The Nats can overcome Williams, but it makes things tougher.

Nick said...

Matt Williams somehow seems to make multiple head scratching decisions a game. I wish he would just move Bryce up in the lineup and not be so damn rigid with the bullpen roles. Last night's game was one of the more frustrating Nats game in recent memory.

Chaz R said...

Good stuff all around today- nice analysis by Harper and really good comments.

@cass great observations

@JW very funny

I have become less and less a fan of Matt Williams. I'm finally starting to see/believe how his decisions and lack of leadership actually hurts the team and takes wins away. I would love to hear what Harper and Detwiler actually think of him. I suspect the pitching staff is completely confused by him.

Nick said...

Also, Bryce is going to be fine. Please, please, do not advocate trading him or anything nonsensical like that. Even with as disappointing as this season as been relative to expectations, Bryce has been getting on base and he will be fine. HE IS THREE YEARS YOUNGER THAN RENDON

blovy8 said...

I'll play devil's advocate with Williams a bit. Clearly he's learning on the job, but I think some were spoiled by how forthright Davey was in press conferences. It's not his job to give the press anything to use, and it's better to doublespeak than become a story. My guess would be that is the strategy - to not become a story, hence the BS in place of actual answers. I don't know that I would be happier getting am honest answer like "Stammen's elbow is tender so his slider sucks right now, I'm not going to use him", or "Detwiler still doesn't have an effective breaking ball so I couldn't even use him as a loogy, if he doesn't have command of his fastball, I need to burn another guy in the same inning", or "I know he sucks right now, but Blevins has been unlucky with balls in play, there's nothing wrong with his arm, and besides he's got incriminating pictures of my sister he's blackmailing me with".


JWLumley said...

@Nick I agree Harper will be fine...eventually, but Williams is hampering his growth. As a baseball fan, I want to see what Harper can do now, not in several years when he matures enough to disregard Williams.

It seems to me what the kid needs is someone to come up and tell him it's going to be fine and that he thinks he's great. Going all Casey Stengel on the kid will only make him call his Dad and tell him he's quitting baseball and coming back to Oklahoma, I mean Nevada. Holy crap, someone send MW Mickey Mantle's biography, maybe he'll get a clue then.

Jay said...

My point was more that I miss the Harper from 2012 and first month 2013. The guy that hustled and loved the game and the fans loved him for it. It's a bit crazy if you stop and think about it. Now everyone bashes him for the same things he was loved for back then. Now he's hitting 6th in the line up. Let me repeat that - 6th in the line up. MW has totally minimized him. April last year Harper was an MVP candidate and carrying the team. I agree he just needs support instead of being thrown under the bus.

Davey Johnson wasn't perfect. I think he didn't always understand what was going on when players struggled bc he was such a good player. He treated Harper 180 degrees differently. Harper played when hurt. Harper batted 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Harper was viewed as a cornerstone. Now MW rests him against tough lefties so Scott Hairston can get some at bats. Are you kidding me???

This is leads to my biggest problem with MW. He's stubborn to a fault or just plain dumb. Pitching Blevins repeatedly last week against righties - I'll show them. Leaving Span in and putting Harper on the bench against lefties - I'll show Harper, he's now gonna tell me what to do. Just bc Span has had a good month doesn't make it the right decision.

I'm trying to remain optimistic, but man MW makes it difficult. Keith Law (who can be a bit arrogant but is not sensational in his reporting) say the thought around the league is that MW is in over his head and that he and Harper don't get along - that is worrisome. If he runs Harper out of town that will be horrible for this franchise. Let me see...who would I rather have on my team MW the manager or Harper the player? We all know the answer to that one.

Sorry for the rant.

JWLumley said...

@blovy8 If that was the case I'd agree, tell the press nothing, give them misinformation. But his answers seem to indicate that he's trying to be honest, he's just wrong. Like saying that Harper hasn't hit lefties all year as a reason to bench him. Or saying that Harper would be back sooner than Harper expected. Or the bullpen has been overused. Either say nothing, or give misinformation that is plausible and not obviously incorrect.

Media aside, the job of the manager is to get the most out of their team. If Williams isn't going to use Detwiler, trade him or send him down to develop a breaking ball, but don't just not use him.

blovy8 said...

I'm not saying give up on Harper's talent, or bench him, or whatever, but something is going on with him that sure seems mental at this point. Maybe the hand is still bothering him, some other unreported malady or funk, or he's just made too many adjustments to find the right approach now. And for comparison's sake, Harper has probably played more baseball than anyone his age and the highest levels he was allowed to go. He has two years of excellent major league performance and experience, time enough for him to be scouted out, adjusted, readjusted, and so forth. Yet he is now basically a poor to fair player. Is that a guy you put more pressure on, expect more of, and stick in the cleanup spot? Until you see something that looks like 2012-2013 Harper and not a guy who's got a different stance almost every at-bat, that would be worse paying McLouth 8 million to sit on the DL the rest of his contract.

I don't believe Harper is that soft guy who needs a daddy for a manager, by the way. I think the game is hard, he's going through a slump that won't last, and it has nothing to do with Williams or where he is in the batting order or outfield.

Now if my reverse mojo works properly after blasting a guy...

blovy8 said...

Lumley, remember I did say "BS".

Wally said...

I think the primary consequence of Harper (the writer)'s 'good, not great' observation is that it takes great hitting to hit great pitching. We don't have it, so we get shut down by good/great pitching, which makes us seem like a weak team.

Well, I didn't imagine that I'd find myself defending Matt Williams. Many of the criticisms said here are things that I have thought from time to time, especially bullpen usage. The family has heard me loudly question some of his decisions in real time.

But I think that most are going too far with this Harper (the player) thing. We probably are understating the effect his thumb injury has had on him, and how it may still be affecting him. He has missed more than half the season to date with a serious hand injury that is known to affect hitters differently, and in some cases take a long time to return to normal. His stats are way off his career norms and all preseason projections. Why are we all just blowing past the obvious reason and focusing on all of this old school crap as the reason for his poor performance?

I am not saying that MW isn't doing some of that BS. He might be, and I don't particularly like it. But I highly doubt it plays any role in Bryce's performance to date. The kid has been singled out his whole life, and has shown he is mentally tough (Hamels, etc). And the truth is, there are 6 or 7 regulars with better offensive stats in virtually every category right now, including OBP, so it is hard to justify a move up the order now based on merit. Harper (the player) may not be right until next year.

JWLumley said...

Apparently, Matt Williams just discussed sending Harper to the minors. Are the Yankees out of single digit numbers at this point? Wonder if he'll stick with 34.

Bjd1207 said...

@JW - If it was his spot on the junkies this morning I wouldn't call it "discussed"

Lurch asked:

"Is this just me being stupid and naive about the situation or is it out of the question to send Bryce down to Syracuse for a week to get himself right?"

MW answered along the lines of "not completely ridiculous, it's what you'd typically do with a player this age who's struggling, but its not in the plans"

Nick said...

@JWLumley, your point is that since MW/dumb DC fans ar ebashing Harper, we should trade him so that he can really blossom? I think the opposite. I think we need to let the kid play his game and stick him in there every day no matter what. Fangraphs pegged him as the preseason MVP pick. You don't trade guys like that so they can do well elsehwere. You figure out how they can do well right where they are. The Nats and MW appear to be doing the exact opposite.

JWLumley said...

@Nick I think you're misunderstanding me. I'm not saying that's what they should do. What they should do is play him everyday, dismiss any talk of him not being good enough as ludicrous and borderline insanity and wait for him to get hot. My comments about trading him are rooted in the fact that I don't think they'll do that. I don't want to see that happen at all as a Nats fan, but as a baseball fan I want to see what Harper could do in a better environment, which the Nats should be creating for him, but aren't.

@Bjd He didn't dismiss it and tell the host that that was crazy talk. Which is what he should have done even if the Nats are/were considering it. Giving credence to it only makes it a story. If he'd have said, "Easy Cheech, lay off the wacky tobacky" this wouldn't be a story. Maybe the guy just can't handle the media, but there was only one correct response there and Williams didn't give it. ....again.

Bjd1207 said...

Maybe. When I heard it I thought MW was saying "Yes, you're crazy. But I'm too polite to say so on your radio show"

JWLumley said...

@Bjd I've heard others say the same thing and maybe that was the case, but it doesn't matter. Given Williams' public issues with Harper in his first season he should be willing to be impolite to any member of the media necessary so as to steer clear of controversy with Harper.

Miles Treacy said...

.250 21 year old hitters don't come back from the DL questioning the lineup and then not produce. I don't agree with the MW benching's of Harper, but part of me says he deserves it just for being an asshole. But hell, I say let him say what he wants and let the Denard Spanaissance continue....

Kenny B. said...

"I also wonder, sometimes, how much it hurts that so many managers are ex-players..."

I think about this a lot. Not only is it relevant in terms of traditional education and understanding of advanced statistics, but it means that the things they have learned about baseball are comprised mostly of the crusty old baseball traditionalism that the sabermetric revolution has debunked as primarily useless.

Baseball, maybe more than any other popular American sport, is heavily laden with a kind of unnecessarily constrictive mythos, and players don't really know anything else. And players don't need to know anything else, they just need to perform, and whatever voodoo helps them keep focused is fine. But when players become managers, they don't know anything else and they need to think probabilistically. If a player thinks "there is only a one in four chance I hit this ball in this situation," that's demoralizing, so he has to believe that grit and determinations are the things that allow him to hit. A manager should know better, but as a former player, he almost certainly won't.

The whole thing is a kind of self-perpetuating cycle, and Williams is making a great case for why it's a problem.

blovy8 said...

OK, is it a team culture that players on this team feel compelled to lie about injuries, is the medical staff inept, or are we dealing with mere random fluctuation in injury prognosis? It makes sense that McLouth was hurt given how badly he hit. Maybe LaRoche needs to change his meds again, and Werth has something more serious wrong with him we'll hear about in November.

JWLumley said...

@Kenny B That's a really good example. You can't go up there thinking if I put this ball in play, there's a 30% chance it'll fall or find a hole, but a manager should think that. On the other hand, if one of us nerds was to try to manage a big league team, I wouldn't be able to relate to players on the stress of fame or notice mechanical flaws. I think smart teams are hiring guys like Brad Ausmus who played the game, but also have enough of an open mind and the aptitude to grasp the concepts. Perhaps someone like Drew Storen, who is very bright and majored in Engineering so he's mathematically inclined would be best. There's only 30 of these jobs out there, so you should be able to find 1.

Kenny B. said...

But aren't there other specific area coaches (hitting, pitching, fielding, etc.) who should spot mechanical flaws? Manager should just make the right in-game tactical decisions. Otger guys can do the other things. Either way, I support Drew Storen for player/manager. Only mostly joking.

JE34 said...

Apparently MW got angry at reporters in defense of Bryce (kinda).

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/11318242/nationals-manager-matt-williams-says-bryce-harper-not-sent-minors

JE34 said...

"Bryce Harper is one of the guys on our team, he's a very important part of our team. Just like everybody else is. Do we understand each other?

"It's not fair to the kid, it's not fair to the rest of the guys in that clubhouse to even think about sending Bryce Harper to the minor leagues, or to cause a stir. It's unacceptable. It won't happen."


Good for MW, although he's cleaning up his own mess. And, to the point made a few times today... MW the former ballplayer calls Bryce a "kid." MW would do well to knock that off and call him a "man".

JWLumley said...

@JE34 Yeah, Williams should be yelling at himself. Kilgore tried to give him an out by saying it was first thing in the morning, but that's part of a big league manager's job. To me it's just one more example of Williams being in over his head. In today's game dealing with the media is a huge part of being a big league manager, maybe even the most important part.

Jay said...

I actually applaud MW on this one. I think DC has a big issue with tearing sports stars down. Look at RG3. He was rookie of the year and then 10 games into the very next season people are saying he should be benched so Cousins can play. That's crazy. Harper won ROY in 2012. Played hurt last year. Is slow to come back from injury this year and we're going to send him to the minors to play Souza Jr. That too is crazy. Zimmerman struggled off the DL and took about 100 ABs to get going again. Harper will be fine. I like the fact that MW finally took a stand and backed up Harper. I agree it was partly his fault, but the way his comments were interpreted "created" drama that wasn't there. He said with a usual young player they go down and work it out in the minors. He then stated that Harper is not your usual young player.

I still think tactically he has a lot to learn, but I am hopeful that in the clubhouse he is doing ok.

Froggy said...

I used to wonder why post game manager's and player's comments always seemed so canned and full of baseball cliches 'he had good stuff' 'I got a good pitch to hit' 'couldn't have done it without my teammates behind me', etc. Now I get it. It's best to let your bats and gloves, and in the case of a manager, your players and your decisions do the talking, and not make comments that give anyone anything to take out of context.

I concur with @Jay's comments about RG3, DC is a political town where every friggin reporter is cut out of the same cloth whether a sports guy or political reporter. They are all looking for the controversial comment that they can blow out of context and make into a sensational story.

I agree with Lumley in most of his comments about MW. MW talks too much and should set the example and just shut the hell up after all he is a rookie coach too. Simple advice would be to go with: 'What would Randy Knorr say?'

As for Sabermetrics (inferred higher education, mathematics, statistics) verses 'old school' (minimal to no college, school of hard knocks, that's the way it's always been done, etc) I think there is room for both. I guess ideally a Money ball GM should compliment a "crusty old-school" manager.

Bjd1207 said...

Have to agree with the DC media loving to sensationalize stuff.

Even on the Junkies this morning, Cakes was putting words in MW's mouth when they were trying to STOP all the controversy surrounding yesterday's comments. Lurch spent 10 minutes saying that MW's comments were taken out of context, and Cakes literally says:

"Matt Williams said that it wasn't easy, he's not a typical player, and it was a tough decision. I can given the next sentence: It's difficult. MW is saying Bryce Harper is difficult to handle"

I mean come on. He JUST blew up at reporters for interpolating, and during the segment where you're trying to put it to bed you quite literally put words in his mouth?

He's also my least favorite Junkie, for the record

Chinatown Express said...

@Bjd1207: who's your most-favorite junkie? Bubbles? Dave Chappelle's crackhead character? One of the characters from Requiem for a Dream?

Kenny B. said...

@ Chinatown Express:

I thoroughly enjoyed your comment, as I understood each and every reference contained therein. Bravo.

Seriously though, sports radio and television, the 24 hour commentary variety, is terrible for actual sports in almost every way except financial. It makes every divergence from the stock post-game response into a mudslinging sensation, and ensures that the only thing we hear from athletes and coaches are the meaningless and downright cliché stock responses.

I was hoping for some change to that when they brought Nate Silver over to ESPN, but it remains little more than incessant bloviating about subjective opinions on objective occurrences. It's giving voice to every misinformed fan, and allows those misinformed fans to watch versions of themselves yell at versions of their misinformed buddies on television.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a tragically misinformed fan, and I have no illusions about that. But I also don't talk about my opinions on television like they matter or have even the slightest impact on the result of a game. No one pays me outlandish amounts of money to say the same things you could hear from a fat drunk guy at the local watering hole.

Every time I wander over to 106.7 to see what they're saying about the Nationals (which is basically nothing once Redskins training camp starts), I regret the decision. It ends up being blaring commercials occasionally interrupted by shouting battles among testosterone-obsessed jackasses who think they, and they alone have the true ability to read the tea leaves.

Sorry for the rant, but this Bryce Harper/Matt Williams thing is exhibit A for the problem. And I don't think it's limited to DC.

Bjd1207 said...

@Kenny B. - Rant well received, and I'm right with you. I'm already tired of Redskins talk and the season hasn't even started. The segment on MW's comments this morning was the only 20 minutes out of their 5 hours in which they talked about the Nats.

I listen to the Junkies cuz there's nothing else on my drive in. I listen to Grant/Danny when I can and definitely think they're the closest to actual substance on the Nats. I listen to Chad Dukes purely for entertainment value cuz I think he's hilarious/awesome

Kenny B. said...

Williams adamantly defends Bryce, and then Harper hits a game winning walk-off homer. Coincidence? I THINK SO.

But seriously, to the extent Bryce's issues were any percent mental, a walk-off homer has to help. It's basically the coolest thing you can do in baseball other than a no hitter/perfect game.

And no matter what, we should all now be in agreement that Bryce should not be in the minors.

JWLumley said...

I realize the new narrative will have something to do with Williams "defending" Harper (He was really defending himself and fixing his own mistake), but through all the hub-bub I think some people were really on to something. I saw a number of tweets yesterday and the day before about Zimmerman's numbers through his first 100 AB's after coming off the DL. They were awful, but then he turned it around. I also saw some other numbers from other guys first 100 AB's after coming back from hand injuries that were awful too. It seems to me that the magic number is somewhere around 100 AB's after coming back from hand injuries. I think Harper could go on a tear now, so get ready to hear a bunch of ridiculousness about how awesome a motivator Matt Williams is.

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