Nationals Baseball: Odds or Ends but not both

Friday, February 27, 2015

Odds or Ends but not both

Why does this claptrap keep being written?  Oh, I know. It makes a handy narrative. It's an easy inflection point to single out as a changing force for a team that was terrible before and not terrible after. Plus, an article digging deep into the real reasons the Nats became a winning franchise is long and involved. Explaining how this window was created by the combination of savvy deals, good drafting, FA signings that worked out better than expected, terrible play leading to #1 draft picks at just the right time, surprising developments, and a bit luck in the timing of all this. Each of these deserves their own written piece, that's work.  "Werth did it" is a lot simpler, cleaner and most on the team will go along with. Save, Print, email to editor let's go to lunch.

I've tried to yell into the wind about this over and over again. But yelling obviously has had no effect so I'll try a different approach.  I'll go over how the Nats went from being the worst ever in 2008-2009 to the best ever in 2012-2015 and maybe the right people will read it and will stop defaulting to "Werth culture change" as the ultimate cause or anything more than one important piece among many.

So that'll be the posts for next week (because I just decided this and they are involved pieces). For today? It's hard. There is little drama in the Nats camp. I talked about the things worthy of talking about, injuries and position battles, and there aren't a lot of these in the Nats camp. As far as injuries are concerned Werth is topic #1. From all indications, though, if he's not ready by Opening Day, he'll be ready soon after. There isn't any thought that it may be longer that that. So really we aren't judging his recovery as much as keeping an ear to the ground in case he suffers a setback.

With position battles there aren't any starting ones. Yuney will play 2nd pushing Espinosa to the bench. Scherzer's signing pushes Roark to the pen. These are all but officially decided. Right now I can guess at the roster being



and feel 100% right about that.  That's 24 players, leaving one spot for Taylor? Cedeno? Treinen? Assuming that it's probably a pitcher and not Taylor (which is what I think it'll be) you're talking about the last guy in the pen. Hardly worth fretting about. Manager is set (just extended), GM is set, ownership is not in flux, park is fairly new. Man, being good can be dull. Other than my traditional "don't look at ST stats" piece, I expect not to write about ST at all. And I hope not to because if I am it's probably because of an injury.

What injury would be likely? Well I don't predict injury but if I was going to I'd note the Nats are still getting by on a crazy bit of pitching health.

83+ starts in past 3 years - 55 pitchers, or real roughly 2 a team - includes all five Nats starters
91+ starts in past 3 years - 31 pitchers or less than one a team - includes all the Nats starters but Fister who missed a month last year and about a month in 2012.
96+ starts in past 3 years - 15 pitchers, 2 or 3 in a division - includes Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmermann.

Now some guys are healthy but are going to be too young to get on these lists, but you see the point I'm making. That's a lot of healthy pitching. Does it mean these guys are going to get hurt? Hard to say because it's such an indvidual thing. What we can do is look at a non-overlap period say 2009-2011 and see if we see anything.

56 guys starting 83+ starts - so right at the same level of healthiness overall.  We're not concerned with anyone over 31 becuase the Nats don't have them. Let's concentrate on 29-31 since that covers everyone but Stras (26). That's 15 guys. How many got hurt the next year? Five.  Doesn't seem telling. I think this feeds into the same thing I was looking at with all those charts. Up to about 32/33 you're pretty safe, after that things start to fall apart. Not for everyone but for enough that if you have 4 guys that age, it's a good bet two aren't lasting the season.

The Nats have a bunch of young enough pitching and have for a while. I think this will be the most interesting transition heading forward. Scherzer will soon get into that danger zone. If ZNN stays, or Gio or Roark even, they'll be getting to that level not too far in the future too. 2018 or there abouts. But if they don't stay... you've got Giolito to replace one, but who replaces the rest? Again this is why I try to keep Stras here big time. At 26 next year by age he's out of the danger zone till after 2020. Pitcher health has been a pillar of the Nats success. They need to keep that going. Signing Stras is your strongest in-house bet on doing that.


Jay said...

If Mike Carp hits do they jettison McClouth? Also, I feel like Frandsen isn't a given to stay.

Do they trade a pitcher before the start of the season if everyone else stays healthy? Don't forget Tyler Moore is likely to be traded if Carp can hit.

Will be interested to see what they do over the next couple of years. I couldn't agree more on Strasburg. I never expected Sherzer in a million years.

I'm just going to try and enjoy the ride. As long as they make the playoffs and play well I'm happy. Harper can you write a story on just how difficult it is to win a WS? You alluded to it a couple of times in other posts. The people that say anything but a World Series win for this team or any team is just crazy.

NatsVA said...

You think Stras is the Opening Day starter, Harper? I say Znn/Stras/Max/Fister/Gio*

*Man, just typing that rotation out, plus Roark out of the pen, gives me all the feels...

Chaz R said...

Harper, you think they will carry 8 in the BP and 4 on the bench?

Harper said...

Jay - nope. If Carp hits well he gets to go to Syracuse in case McLouth hits terrible again or someone is briefly injured.

I'd put Frandsen right behind Lobaton in terms of staying. They like him. He plays a bunch of positions. he makes contact.

Do they trade a pitcher? No.
Do they trade Tyler Moore? Eh.

I could write that

NatsVA - No I think it's either Max or ZNN. It'll probably be Max because why please ZNN - he won't be here next year.

ChazR - Yes. The line-up is so set that PH is basically relegated to "for the pitcher" or maaaaaybe McLouth hits against a great RHP. That's it. No one is removed for running except Ramos. I don't expect the bench to be used all that much.

Of course I could be wrong - they took 7 in the BP, 5 on bench last year to start. But they kind of had to Hairston / McLouth / Frandsen were all under contract. Certainly if Werth is still hurt it'll be 5 on bench (with Werth being one)

John C. said...

I don't see them carrying 8 in the bullpen, especially in April (which has more off days). I think that last spot is Moore vs. Carp, et al. But yeah, otherwise the roster is pretty much what it is unless/until someone gets hurt.

On the "culture change" I do agree that it's a lazy, easy narrative. That doesn't mean that there is no truth to it at all, just that any culture change took place in the context of a lot of other things going on. Just because we can't quantify it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. As Spock might say "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." (RIP Leonard Nimoy)

Donald said...

I'm going to say the rotation is Scherzer, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gio, Fister. I think Scherzer gets the nod not only because he's the senior member of the rotation, but also because he's the most accomplished. I don't think how they are actually pitching in spring training will make a difference, unless somebody is hurt.

Anonymous said...

Really interesting ESPN insider article on the Big Strasburg Puzzle (how can he be so dominant and get hit so hard):

I'd be interested to read what you think, Harper.

Zimmerman11 said...

@Jay/@Harper... short piece on how hard to win a WS... assume every series a coin flip... ignore wildcard play-in game 'cause Nats are too good :)

Three series wins P(WSwin)= 0.5*0.5*0.5 or 12.5pct.... every eight times you get to the postseason you should win a WS... Move it to 0.6 and it's around 20% or every five trips... It's hard. :)

Froggy said...

Harper, gotta respectfully disagree about who starts opening start Zimmermann because:
A. He has been the Nats horse the last three years
B. He pitched a no hitter the last game of the year.


Ali G

NatsVA said...

I think you mean RE27ECT. Or something.

DezoPenguin said...

I think Taylor goes to Syracuse as backup for if McLouth gets injured or is terrible; he's that "speedy, defensive OF backup guy" (not that McLouth is *actually* good on defense any more, but I'm sure Williams thinks he is). I think the 25th player is whichever of Carp or Moore impresses to fill the "power-hitting PH corner guy" spot; it's an easy mental category to fill and honestly, if you're keeping eight relievers with this starting rotation something has gone horribly wrong, as all of them are pretty much assumed to give you six-plus a start and the top four will give you seven quite often.

Unfortunately, I have to agree about Frandsen. He does so many different things that he appeals to managers, and the fact that he does none of them well seems to get overlooked. Plus, I don't know if Yuney or Espi can actually play 3B in any more than a hypothetical sense.

blovy8 said...

Taylor hasn't mastered a AAA strike zone yet, he has to go down to figure that out unless Werth can't start the season and McLouth isn't healthy. No way they carry 13 pitchers and 12 position guys in April. If they don't need a fifth starter early on, they might even add an extra bench player and delay a decision on Carp and Moore. I wouldn't balk at dumping Frandsen, he's not a good defender, can't run, has no power, and basically gives you empty singles and clubhouse memes. Of course, that might be the new paradigm, keeping some guy who likes to talk to the media around to get them off the sullen players' backs.