Nationals Baseball: Drop-offs

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Good news and bad news on the injury front over the weekend. The good news is Jayson Werth appears to be pretty much on schedule for his return. He may even play in some minor league games this upcoming weekend. If so, consider him a good bet for Opening Day.

If not... well probably the worst case would be the 16th of April but I would simply say "not Opening Day".  The problem would be just not getting enough at bats. The Florida segment of the minor leagues ends in two weeks from today, with two extra Yankees exhibitions before the start of the season. If he plays this weekend he could play in 10+ games. If not, then with the bye day on Tuesday, he probably plays in only 7 or so. He might not feel ready at that point. Still, whether it's April 6th, 8th, 10th or whenever it's still going to be on target with what was planned barring a setback. The rare Nats recovery that takes the time you were told it would.

The bad news is everything else. No news is not good news on the Span front. He's still expected to be out for a long time. Yuney Escobar did come back after his oblique strain. However it was at the full 10 days given as the max before hand and it wasn't right back into the swing of things. He merely resumed "baseball activities" which means he did some light tossing and exercised with the team. He still isn't taking any sort of batting practice. If the team is worried Werth might not get enough ABs to make Opening Day, well Yunel is clearly not. I'd peg him for a mid-April return.

The worst news is Rendon's "miss a few days" bruise that grew into a "miss a week" mild sprain, has progressed to a "no timetable" worrying situation. He's still sore, they won't let him play while he's sore, so he sits and waits and we all pray he doesn't get sent back for more tests.  Right now it's still a mild sprain - the MRI (which they did have - shhh don't listen other teams! Rizzo thinks you not knowing this is a strategic advantage!) showed that. Of course I'm sure those aren't 100% right and the last thing we want to find out is that the mild strain was misread and it's actually a small tear. The difference with Rendon is he's had some playing time in the Spring so he'll need less time to get ready.  Still given the Nats precautionary tendencies (correct in this case) I'd expect a slow return for Rendon and I'd peg him right now for a mid-April return too.  That's probably conservative (we could hear news today that would peg him for Opening Day) but I'd rather be conservative.

These players have to be replaced so what are the drop-offs between the starters and the replacements?

Jayson Werth to Nate McLouth.  Huge. Despite fielding like his beard has weaved itself into the grass below, Werth's bat is still incredibly strong. If you love McLouth he's probably a 1 win type player. Werth is probably a 4.5 win player. So it's something like a 3+ win difference over a season. (Moore would likely be an even bigger predicted gap) The good news is over the course of say 1-7 games that's a pretty meaningless distinction.

Yunel Escobar to Danny Espinosa. This depends on what kind of Yuney you think the Nats got. If you think it's 2014 Yuney (a fair guess seeing that it's the closest time-wise and he's coming off injury) it's a wash. If you think it's 2012/13 Yuney than the loss is a couple games or so.  Let's split the difference and say half a game? Again it's not going to amount to anything significant assuming Yuney misses ~9 games or so

Anthony Rendon to Kevin Frandsen. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. Ok You want to bet on Ian Stewart because he hit a few Spring home runs? Fine. I'll continue HAHAHAHAHHHAHAAHA.  We're talking a Grand Canyon esque gap between great and barely in the league. Hell even 2015 Rendon probably won't match 2014 Rendon and he's the same guy. 6.5 wins? 5.5? The gap is so large that even a small amount of missed time, say the ~9 games I predict, is around enough to lose a third a win.

All in all a half-win from the three combined injuries is a good guess up to this point. Then there's the big one.

Denard Span to Michael Taylor. The hardest one to judge but let's get something straight off the bat. Span was great last year. Taylor might match up to Span ok, but he doesn't match up to 2014-name-bandied-about-for-MVP-votes Span. Understand that.  People love Taylor's fielding and assume that'll be fine. I'm not as sure. Fielding can fail to translate as well. Remember, the "Harper can play CF" thoughts when he was in the minors? Yeah. Never happened. There's a lot more upside in those scout rankings than you think or else we'd have 20 guys fighting for rookie of the year each season.  But let's just say he can match the fielding for the sake of argument. Even acknowledging the issues with D-stats, we can admit 31 year old Span is probably slowing down. The bat is the real issue. Span was a force last year. Taylor struck out almost 40% of the time and that's not an outlier given his minor league tendencies. Through bat alone I'd expect a 3 win loss. If you want to say 2 that's fine, because we didn't predict Span himself to do as well, but that's still significant. Assuming Span is out half the year (a good guess) that's a win to a win and a half.

So all in all the injuries right now peg the Nats with about 2 wins fewer than you'd expect a healthy team to put up. That's not what you want to hear. Lucky for the Nats you probably also pegged the team for say 95/96 wins or something like that. so they are down to 93/94 win territory. Still an easy pick for division champs. The only thing that really starts to be a question is best record in the NL. Of course you see what an important injury Rendon's is. That's a huge fall-off and one that by itself could put the Nats from easy division title to a potential fight. There are a lot of things that can pick the Nats right back up (most obviously a Bryce breakout) but let's just get Rendon back healthy and not worry about finding the silver linings.


Bjd1207 said...

Can anyone attest to JW's whereabouts as we've watched Span's condition deteriorate? Are we certain he's not pulling the strings of some nefarious plot a-la Daniel Snyder and SportsTalk980? Lol, just jokes of course.

But yea the Span one hurts the most, from a combination of impact and duration. Neither Bryce nor Taylor is anywhere near his fielding capabilities, and like you said if Taylor clicks early then he might replace his bat, but not anywhere near the .350 OBP span posted last year. And until May? Jesus...

Rendon we just don't know enough about now. But I'm already STEAMING about how this news has trickled out from trainers. It's the same freaking thing as last year with Ramos/Zimm. When they first go out, they're SURE it's only a couple days. Then we hear they're getting 7 days to rest. Then 3 days later its 4-6 weeks. If you don't know the timeframe, SAY YOU DONT KNOW THE TIMEFRAME. Don't jerk everybody around with this "ill be back in 2 days" business. Even if you think it's for competitive advantage, why the F would you need that competitive advantage in Spring Training games. Come on...I hate this bullsh*t

cass said...

As I see it, what matters most is that Rendon is as conservative as possible in coming back so as not to aggravate the injury or sustain a new injury compensating for this one. Rendon playing in April doesn't really matter compared to Rendon being healthy for the rest of the year. You already touched on how irreplaceable he is. I just don't care about the timetable right now - I want him resting, resting, resting as long as it takes until everyone is 100% sure he's healed.

We all saw what happened when Bryce came back too quickly and this seems to always happen with the Nats. We can't lose Rendon for most the year - he's our best player. And we really need him come October.

Jay said...

I vote trade for Adrian Beltre and move Rendon to 2nd when he's back. Escobar can stay and go to SS next year. ESPN states AJ Cole could get him. I'd make that trade all day long. I'm still not convinced Cole isn't all that great. I think with Darvish out the Rangers will listen on Beltre.

And I agree on the training staff wildly missing on injuries. Oh well.

John C. said...

The rare Nats recovery that takes the time you were told it would.

Is it really that rare? I know it feels rare, but I suspect that's because we remember (and lovingly treasure for years and years) every. single. time. the injury ends up taking longer than we expect. When a player comes back on schedule, not so much - that event, if acknowledged at all, is quickly forgotten.

I'm also curious as to whether the Nationals are, in fact, more terrible than other MLB teams at getting information out concerning injuries and/or whether the Nats are actually worse at diagnosing injuries and setting timetables than other teams. I'm not sure how I would set up and test those questions though. I do know that we don't really tend to care about the way other teams handle injuries, but we care a lot about how the Nats do it.

Wally said...

I am going to go silver lining here.

So this could be good news if it makes Rizzo aware of the position player depth issue, and forces him to trade for some back up plans. A Brock Holt type would be perfect for this team. Who else fits that category? Maybe Refsnyder, since I think he was an OF in college. There have to be several guys around the league that can fill in at 2b/3b/corner OF, and Rizzo has a lot of farm assets to trade.

As for Span, that's tougher. No real solution. My guess is that they are going with Gwynn, not Taylor, thinking that Taylor isn't ready and they don't want to damage his development before he is ready. No reason to think Gwynn will be any good.

Bjd1207 said...

Fair point John C, and while this is certainly not exhaustive, look at what came out of the Rangers camp regarding Darvish as they were figuring it out:

“He’s very upbeat, but our thoughts are we are going to play this by the book,” said assistant general manager Thad Levine. “We are going to get every piece of information. We are going to leave no stone unturned.

“I think we’re always cautious, but the timing right now is just perfect with Dr. Meister being here,” Levine added. “We’re just not going to make any capricious decisions that might affect his season.”

Rather than play it like this, we hear from the player that its just sore, from the manager that he's just gonna rest it a few days, from the player again that he feels confident he'll be back soon, and so on. Some discretion on the part of the management would be appreciated rather than promising and revising timelines over and over

JWLumley said...

@Bjd I've been working and would never resort to that because I'm not a huge fan of Taylor's. Besides, Harper is having a huge lovefest with Span.

@Harper Why do you hate your namesake? Harper played an excellent CF, excellent. Maybe he's not the second coming of Willie Mays, but to pretend that Harper couldn't play CF is ridiculous. Harper can still play CF and if someone wanted to extract full value from his bat and how much easier and cheaper corner outfielders are to find. Still, you never know about Taylor. Personally, I think his defense will be fine and I'm not too worried about Span being out if Werth is back in time.

I'm also not worried about Escobar because from what I've seen I like Danny from the right side. Results may not be there, but he's tracking breaking balls well and his glove will play. Personally, I hope Danny gets a long look this year because if Desmond walks and Danny can hit .250 with 20 HRs he could be even more valuable than Desmond at SS because his glove phenomenal.

As for Rendon, let's just not talk about it and see if it goes away.

Mark twain said...

As long as we are healthy for the second half we should make the playoffs, but more importantly our beast pitching staff is healthy(aside from Strasburgs toenail)

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