Nationals Baseball: Somehow this turned into a LaRoche post

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Somehow this turned into a LaRoche post

Nats lost last night. Again.

But like I said the other day a loss for the Nats is a minor annoyance. As long as the night doesn't end with the Nats loss / Braves win combination, it's actually an overall win for the Nats. The Nats remain X games ahead and the Braves lose a game in which they could possibly come back. Unless you are obsessed with NLCS home field advantage, today is a good day.

The offense is going through one of it's dry spells. Can I take a moment to call out my own private MASN commenters, those that love Denard Span? Again going over all the caveats - Span should start, Span should be re-signed, overall Span makes the team better because he fields and runs well - I'd like to point out this:

34 games from July1-Aug10 : .399 / .462 / .464
97 other games : .259 / .304 / .372 

Why is it I'm called out as if I'm waiting for the brief moment Span does bad (hitting .226 / 262 / .290 in the last 15 games), when it's pretty obvious it's the opposite? I'm using a much bigger sample to come to my conclusion that the "eh Span" is the real Span. He does get super hot at times (so the 97 numbers aren't 100% fair either) but for the most part is a mediocre singles hitter. This isn't me. This is his last 2800 plate appearances talking. He may have a slightly better overall year in 2014. That's great! But don't try to turn that into him being a good offensive hitter.

A far more reasonable "How good IS he" question is the one regarding with Adam LaRoche because he's been all over the place since 2009. This is crucial to figure out because he's up for a 3rd year option. 

Looking at OPS+ you'd probably default to him being a 120+ OPS player which is good to very good.  He was that in 2009, 2012, and this year. 2011 is easily ignored as an injury lost year so you only have to reconcile the more mediocre 2010 season (under the free-swinging D-backs influence is how I'd do it) and 2013 (ummmmmm).

But there's an issue in that his offensive presence has changed. He was previously relying on his pop to be his selling point, but this year he really upped his patience. Before he was a 65 BB guy who hit 25+ homers a year. Does the fact that he may now be an 85+ BB guy, but ~20 HR guy change what you think about him?

You might have noticed that I went from 25-26 homers to say... 19-23. Not a huge drop really to change a profile.  Really what's disappearing though isn't the homers. He was an exactly 25 homer guy for a number of years. His 33 in 2012 was clearly an anomaly and the 20 he hit last year was probably a couple low because of luck.  His HR/FB% is consistent and the distance of his homers still looks good. He's probably not going much under 20 if he does do that. Really what's plummeted are the doubles. Excluding 2011 of course, he hit between 35 and 42 doubles every year but one from 2006 through 2012 and in that off year he "only" hit 32. But last year he hit a mere 19 (with 3 triples) and this hasn't changed much as he has only 19 so far. He'll probably end up with 23 or so. That's where the loss of power is really coming from.

(FWIW His batting average has been pretty steady and the BABIP seems generally what I would expect based on aging and previous numbers so I think .270-.260 slowly drifting down is right. )

He's been a rather consistent hitter in his HR/FB% and types of hits (LD/GB/FB breakdown), so it's not that that's changing the results for doubles. Most likely it the fact that he's always been slow and now he's reached an age where it's finally taking away his ability to leg out some doubles he could have 3 years ago. You'd want to say he's becoming a "true outcome" guy, the type that homers, walks, or strikes out, but he doesn't really strike out THAT much or walk that much, even with the improvement. It's more of a middle ground that still works. Hits some singles, hits some homers, walks enough. For 2014 at least.

And let's not discount the increase in walks just because it isn't a ton. The Nats are a decent walking team on the whole but really only Werth and LaRoche use walks reliably to get on base. Bryce might get there but if you lose LaRoche it'll drop to straight up middle of the pack.

My personal opinion is you do re-sign him. I know the Nats need 1B space, for Zimm, for Werth (the guy is becoming a statue) and possibly for Ramos (injuries, injuries), but for one more year and considering the other options out there, I don't see how you can let him go. I think the walk increase isn't a fluke. The fancy stats tell us he's swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone and it's something that he did succesfully before in 2011 to mitigate his other issues (not nearly enough but still). I think he can walk more when he wants to and now he wants to. With the batting average and power probably staying about the same, it's worth it. I wouldn't want to have him 3 years from now, when the HR power finally starts to go and his age starts costing him singles along with doubles, but in 2015. Yes.


Donald said...

Zimm terrifies me at 3b every time he has to make a throw. Every. Single. Time. I just don't see how they can keep him there for a full season. Plus, Rendon is establishing himself in that position. I'd rather have Zimm's bat in the line-up than LaRoche. So the only way I see them resigning LaRoche is if they think Zimm will be injured for a good part of the year. Maybe that'll be the case, but my guess is that some team will offer him 3 years and Rizzo won't match it.

Kevin Rusch said...

So it appears the book on Harper is that you can throw a pitch 8" off the plate away, and the umps will call it a strike, I guess because they think he's a prick. That's a real problem, because there's not much you can do about that.

Jimmy said...

Kevin his Strike Zone is ridiculous sometimes.

Bryan said...

Harper - If you had to go find a 1b replacement, either in the minors or through FA, I think your analysis is spot on, you pick up the option on ALR. Budget wise, talent wise, it all makes sense.

But we already have at least one and maybe two MLB tested players who can move to first. I think that mitigates the need to resign ALR and I think you are giving it short shrift. Budget wise and talent wise I think when you have a reliable replacement in teh wings, it make sense to move on, especially when the move won't weaken you much if at all at the other position (assuming 3B).

Jay said...

I agree with the post on Span and ALR. Unfortunately, I think it doesn't matter bc Rizzo has a "master plan". ALR has had a good year and his left handed bat balances out the lineup nicely in my opinion. But Rizzo already plans for Zim to move to 1st, so Laroche won't stay.

I think they should keep Laroche and move Zim to LF and play Harper in CF and either keep Cabrera (unlikely to stay) or go get a second baseman. Again, very (I repeat very) unlikely bc we all know Span is the ultimate leadoff hitter capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Yesterday is case in point. Sit Harper who TWO DAYS before hit a double and HR for Scott Hairston rather than sitting Span and moving Harper to CF.

ocw5000 said...

@Jay You bat Hairston and sit Harper against Hamels because Hairston is a career .400 hitter against Hamels and Harper sucks against good lefties.

Span is more valuable to the team than LaRoche. His defense is excellent and compensates for Werth deteriorating and Harper learning on the fly. You can move Zim/Werth/Ramos to 1B depending on who's not injured that day and fill in the OF with Souza/Taylor/the ghost of Nate McLouth.

A lot of how this shakes out will hinge on where and how Zimmerman plays in Sept/Oct. He costs the Nats a playoff game with a whoopsie throw across the diamond and it will be hard to go into 2015 with him as your starting 3B (see: "Storen, Drew" and "2013 closer")

DezoPenguin said...

Put me in the chorus of "But what do we do with Zim?" cryers. I don't mind resigning LaRoche--he's been pretty much our best hitter much of this year (second to Werth on the season in wRC+), and he pretty much is what he is in terms of what he'll give you. And too many good players is a good problem to have.


All signs are that Zim simply can't play 3B any more, not with anything resembling major league ability. And if he breaks again (something not unlikely), it's a lot easier to replace a 1B/LF midseason than a 2B/3B.

Furthermore, we know that someone would have to threaten Rizzo with a chainsaw to get him to NOT re-sign Span, so a Zim/Harper/Werth OF is right out.

(FWIW, Fangraphs thinks that LaRoche's defense stinks this year, too, though I'm not sure to what extent I trust UZR numbers.)

At the very least, Rizz *has* to be looking at a Plan A for next year that involves obtaining a new 2B or 3B (thankfully, Rendon can take whichever slot is unoccupied, so we can take whichever is improved). Now, maybe part of that plan involves bringing back LaRoche and them including him in a trade package.)

Mind you, the LaRoche/Span/Zim thing is kind of the baseball equivalent of rich people problems, but even so, we're getting nearer and nearer to having three slow, aging, oft-injured guys (LaRoche, Zim, Werth) whose best position is DH in the league that doesn't have one as three of our four best hitters.

BxJaycobb said...

Question. Isn't the answer here obvious. Unless I'm not understanding something about Cabreras likely asking price, why not sign Cabrera as your second baseman and make zim your first baseman? Zim cannot play third base and rendon is showing he's a potential elite 3B there. Is Cabrera prohibitively expensive? Isn't he a guy who hasn't had excellent numbers for 2-3 years? If imagine he would ask for soemthing like 10-11 million dollars a year

BxJaycobb said...

Is that so much more pricey than the mystery FA were looking for at 1B? Or is the point that Rizzo is determined to fill this need without signing anybody? And for example movig Werth to first and playing Souza or something? Because I doubt rizzos plan is to move everybody around and play Danny at 2B every day. This is just an INFINITELY better defensive team with rendon at third and zim nowhere near third.

BxJaycobb said...

And if that would mean we would not be able to sign desi...I mean...isn't that unlikely anyway?

blovy8 said...

Nothing is over for a team that gets swept by a cellar dweller.

Span can maintain a .300 average, there's nothing wrong with the hitting profile and it is closer to his career numbers than your 97-game sample.

NotBobby said...

Harper - what do you think it would take for Rizzo to get Betts from Boston in the off-season? He is a natural 2B and I would think would make the team better. I would just worry what Boston would want in return...

Harper said...

blovy - sure Span can hit .300. I didn't mean to say "He's the 97 guy" (In fact I think I explicitly said he wasn't) Really he's the whole thing... but more the 97 guy than the 34 guy - especially this year when his 34 seems so out of whack. He's a 100 OPS+ type guy. Given everything else, that's good enough for another year.

NotBobby - Cole + Taylor... but they don't need Taylor do they? Not sure. Cole, Rivero, and Renda maybe? Betts is a GOOD prospect. Not Giolito straight up good but not that far off.

blovy8 said...

An "eh" Span hits .300 then, Harper? Perhaps I don't understand the term...