Nationals Baseball: Gentley rebuking Boz

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gentley rebuking Boz

Another win! Another Mets loss! Only a four game winning streak from... .500?

Ok there is a lot of work to be done, but they are starting to do it. Huge four game set coming up at not Shea. The Nats don't necessarily have to win it, but the certainly can't afford to lose it. The team in general and the offense in particular looked good the past couple of games (I'm especially heartened about Span) but the Braves are not very good. After a 5-0 start (which included 3 2-run wins and a 1-run win) the Braves have gone 5-11.  They stink. PU. The Mets are not best record in baseball good, but they don't stink. This series will be a lot more telling if the Nats are running on all cylinders or not.

Ok onto Boz.  The Nats are winning so there is no need for vitriol directed at this fine practitioner of the journalistic arts. However, I did find one or two minor points of conflict with what Mr. Boswell may have disseminated to the public in his latest on-line question and answer session.
The '79 Orioles "started" 3-8. They went to the seventh game of the World Series. 
When it is understood enough by you that this "start" is so short that the word needs to be placed into quotation marks, I would suggest that perhaps you know that this makes a poor comparison.  The 2014 Nationals did have a 3-8 streak (one, lasting one game), the 2012 Nationals did not but I would imagine many teams who win 95 games have a dip like this. However "a dip" is an important phrasing. It is doubtful that they would manage two separate dips of this magnitude and still win 95+ games. Not impossible, just doubtful.

Also we were looking at a Nationals team that started 7-13.  How did that '79 Orioles team look after 20 games? They would be 12-8. Again poor comparison, dear chap.
The '80 Orioles looked like a disaster and started 16-21 -- six games behind at the peak of the buy-a-pennant Yankees. They won 100.
This is a better comparison. However the lesson learned is questionable. The Baltimore squad did find themselves in a hole after 37 games (this would be their nadir - but it's fine to cherry pick in this case) and they did come back to win 100 games. However they would finish the season 3 games behind the team they would chase the rest of the year, and they would miss the playoffs. To me the lesson is not "The Nationals could still have a very good year".  I would hope everyone understands that is easily a possibility. To me the lesson is "Dig yourself a hole and you may not be able to catch up"
What's happened so far that matters? Harper looks excellent, more mature. You couldn't have better news. Nobody (yet) appears to have a serious injury.
This is an interesting take on the first 22 games of the year.  He is of course correct. Bryce does look better at the plate to me. And there haven't been any new serious injuries. But forgive my impertinence, but there are certainly things that matter that are not positive. Jordan Zimmermann has seen a marked drop in performance backed by a drop in velocity. Ryan Zimmerman may have a nagging injury that could affect his performance all year long. Jayson Werth, who is 36,  has not looked good coming back from injury. Several potential key bullpen pieces have performed poorly in pressure situations. And most importantly Anthony Rendon has yet to see the field, playing in a single minor league baseball game so far.
The Nats think that, until the last half of last season, Janssen had actually been  etter than Clippard over a 3 1/2-year period. Yes, analytics -- performance adjusted for everything, including phases of the moon. But what if the second half of '14 was the true indicator of Janssen's career stage -- injuries, aging. We'll see. But he is the hidden player that fans don't realize is important to Rizzo and the front offices plans.
This won't be a direct dismissal of Boz, because he does deliver both sides but it will be a more truthful accounting. Is it true that from  2011 through the middle of 2014, Tyler Clippard and Casey Janssen prouced similar results, with perhaps Janssen being better? Yes. However the Nats do not have Casey Janssen magically transported from July 1st 2014. They have the Casey Janssen of today. Do not gloss over the injuries and age. Janssen has a shoulder injury. Most will tell you shoulder injuries are much harder than other injuries for pitchers to return to form from. Janssen is an old 33 (he'll be 34 in Sept). The smart money would be on Janssen being far less effective in 2015 than in the recent past.
That's why baseball is the sport where the SAME team can go 14-3, 15-4, 3-14 and 1-12 in the same season. Happens all the time. 
This is what we call hyperbole. Remember what I said earlier? About "a dip". Great teams can and occasionally do go 3-14 (and 14-3 and 15-4), bad teams can and occasionally do go 15-4 (and 1-12 and 3-14) but multiple great and multiple terrible streaks all in the same season? Happens far from "all the time" I suppose a middle of the road team could be exceptionally streaky and produce runs like this, but just looking at some recent .500 ish teams I couldn't find any examples with two great streaks and two terrible ones. Baseball has so much history I'm sure we can find an example or two but they are the exceptions not the rule.

Baseball streaks tend to top/bottom out in the 12-5/5-12 range (if looking at 17 games you can extrapolate from there). The better your team is the more chances you have for great streaks, but conversely the less chances you have for terrible ones (and vice versa).  On a certain level Boz is right, teams get hot and cold all through out the baseball season. But rather than 14-3, 15-4, 3-14 and 1-12, if you are going for "all the time" its more like 9-3, 11-4, 6-14, and 5-12

And for the Nats - the great teams (note I'm not saying the "playoff teams") rarely have two terrible streaks. They've had one. If they want to be great they'll be hard pressed if they have another.
Last year, the Giants had a 20-36 slump that lasted two MONTHS. By August 12th, they were 5 1/2 games behind and you couldn't find 10 people in the Northern Hemisphere that thought they had a chance in hell to win the World Series
Yes again. If Boz's point is that you can play poorly for a long period of time - like 2 months and still end up in the playoffs then yes. That is completely true. The Nats proved that just last year. You can even win the division if your division is terrible. Again - Nats last year. But Nats fans aren't looking to get in through the Wild Card. They want the division title and that's different. The 2014 Giants mentioned above? Much like the 1980 Orioles they had a hot finish... and never caught the team ahead. 
Since Storen came back from the DL and the minor in August of '13, he has pitched in 93 games. His ERA is (pick one): 1.31, 2.31, 3.31, 4.31 or 198.31? Answer: 1.31. All his other statistics in those 92 games are: awful, mediocre or Better Than Mariano. 82 2/3 innings, 66 hits. 19-70 W/K ratio. Home runs allowed in his last 93 games: 2.
Yes, and how many of those 93 games were in the closer role? About 20. I'm very very dismissive of the whole "can't be a closer" thing. But for Drew post 2012 I don't feel one can be. We'll see. 


Froggy said...

I just hope Spugglenosa continue their tear. Now if we could just find a good defense SS...

Eric said...

I think entering the post season by way of a play in game isn't the worst way to would be painfully stressful, though.

Harper said...

Froggy - I wonder is the nosa part of that would do the trick

Eric - yeah I mean over "not making playoffs" i'll take the WC everytime.

Anonymous said...

Curious to see if there is something up with Zimmermann. Velocity was up a bit last night, but not quite where you would expect. His first two starts last year were a bit lower than his long-term average and then increased. Though his low point last year is where he was 'up' to last night. Going in the right direction!

Hoo said...

I'm still bewildered by the pen construction. Stammen was a surprise blow. But Nats new about CJ's injury struggle.

Not sure why Rizzo decided to ride a rookie pen to WS with a green manager. It's telling to me how many Nats relievers are making major league debuts. That is not a pen you expect for a WS contender even if your long reliever goes down. And quite frankly, Roark in pen makes Stammen slighly superflous unless plan was to ride Stammen in 7th.

I know, I know reliever are disposable and fungible. But really, tossing Blevins and betting on unproven rookies to play key roles is an odd GM move. Some like Barrett can be key by end of fall. Others like Treinen might be 4A player.

Anonymous said...

I really believe that a contender that is expected to win their division can and should put together a cheap pen as they go. Rizzo has done a pretty good job getting different relievers looks, and I feel confident we will have a pen by the end of the year.

Also, to all the people wishing for clip(who is the man, I know) you realize Escobar has been a really useful player so far this year, right?

Max David said...

I'll settle for a split. Granted, they won't gain any ground, but they wouldn't lose any ground either which at this point looks more important.

Anonymous said...

In 2013, I found it distressing that Davey stuck with Laroche in the middle of the order although he was clearly off most of that season. I don't have any faith that Matt will be more creative or willing to move veterans out of their spot in the lineup. I am happily surprised he's batting Bryce higher than 6th.

JWLumley said...

Harper, you're in a kind mood, that really was a gentle rebuke. The awesomeness here is that I get to pull out DRA for the very first time. Let's take a look at Janssen and Clip.

2012 - Clippard 3.88 DRA, Janssen 3.11
2013 - Clippard 2.36, Janssen 2.45
2014 - Clippard 2.58, Janssen 3.79

Well I'm shocked. I haven't seen much critical analysis of DRA yet, but I know Tom Tango said it looked good. Perhaps Janssen really was better than Clippard up to the second half of last year and maybe he wasn't nearly as bad as his ERA would suggest. Still, he's hurt so we won't know anytime soon.

Looking up DRA numbers for Nats Starters now. Should be interesting and by interesting I mean awesome.

JWLumley said...

@Hoo I don't think Treinen is 4A, he's just this years Jerry Blevins in that he should never pitch to lefties, like Blevins shouldn't have pitched to righties. Consider this, righties have a .273 wOBA against Treinen, lefties have a .413 wOBA. Basically lefties are Ted Williams against Treinen, righties are Kevin Frandsen.

SM said...

The funniest thing about the Boz sermon was his using Earl Weaver's teams as an analogue to pacify jittery Nats fans.

You were w-a-a-y too easy on him, Harper.

Anonymous said...

Posting this out of fear that Lumley won't give you the numbers because they don't support his narrative that Z'nn is a top 10 pitcher and Strasburg is "good for a back of the rotation guy."

Baseball prospectus's two new pitcher stat toys are cFIP and DRA. Lower is better.

Z'nn cFIP 2012-2014: 95, 95, 84
Stras cFIP 2012-2014: 66, 85, 78

Z'nn DRA 2012-2014: 4.1, 3.58, 3.35
Stras DRA 2012-2014: 3.85, 2.91, 3.86

Stras wins 5/6 categories.

JWLumley said...

Wow, I did not know I was so despised around here. I'm sorry that I've posted things that have apparently hurt people's feelings to such an extent. I thought we were just arguing about baseball, not anything serious. Still, don't think I ever cherry-picked stats. I did think entering this year NN was a top 10ish pitcher and that Strasburg is fine as long as he isn't your #1 or #2 pitcher for your staff, but that's a far cry from being a back of the rotation pitcher.

I formed my opinions without the use of either stat, presented with new information I may be inclined to change my opinion. You should note that DRA isn't predictive, but cFIP is. I'm not sure this changes my opinion that Strasburg is still erratic and is great when his fastball command is there, but less than stellar when it isn't.

Well best of luck to you all, no hard feelings from my side.

Chinatown Express said...

JW: I think you're peachy, even when we disagree.

Anonymous said...

Re Janssen v Clip, apparently it's the Nats/Rizzo who think Janssen was better through the first half of last year, not Boz per se. So I think Harper's rebuke should go to the Nats on that issue. Rizzo might have been just trying to spin Boz on that issue of course.

Anonymous said...

We dealt one of the most reliable relievers in Clippard because we were not going to pay him the big money he would likely command. We traded him to get some value (Yunel) instead of losing him after this season for nothing. We needed to get a decent reliever to take Clippard's place, so we picked up Janssen. That is it. Nothing more to be read into this.

Trying to use deep stats and very select time-frame windows (like the first half of last season) to spin it that Janssen might be better than Clippard is ridiculous. He's not. In any way - but we are not going to pay $9mil for Clip.

Froggy said...

@last Anonymous,
If the Nats don't re-sign (or trade) Desmond and ZNN, won't they be essentially the same thing? Or am I missing something here?

Froggy said...

(typo)...essentially doing the same thing

Alex Freeman said...

With respect to the Clippard for Escobar trade, it seems like Rizzo is stuck between winning now and still winning in the future. They weren't gonna re-sign Clippard for the money he would demand so they got value out of him by getting a stop gag between now and Turner/Difo in 2 years. Hurts their bullpen now but should help their middle infield for the next two years. Plus it might lessen the pain of Desmond's inevitable departure in FA

Bjd1207 said...

Yea I wouldn't say that you've hurt feelings so much as presented your opinions with a certain smugness that rubs the wrong way, especially when those opinions have yet to be validated. I've been specific in my criticisms and don't think they need to be re-hashed. No judgments on character/personality from my end, just the content and presentation of your arguments. I'm sure we'd be rowdy drinking buddies IRL

K-Ray said...

I enjoy reading everybodies comments that post on this blog. I do disagree with znn > stras. I am also positive that Span reads JW's comments

Chinatown Express said...

@Froggy: The big difference is that ZNN and Desi will both likely be worth (and turn down) Qualifying Offers. So the Nats can extend a QO and still recoup a compensatory pick for each of those guys. Clippard would just accept the QO, which would be a major overpay for him.

Froggy said...

@ChinaEx, ...ah yes, the QO component...that makes sense. Any idea what the difference between the QO to Desmond / ZNN are, or is it established through arbitration? I don't recall what they were both offered before the season.

blovy8 said...

The QO is based on top league salaries and is not tied to a particular player's salary so it will be the same for both. I think the bar for winning the division is not going to be 100 wins, and I still do not see the Mets as vastly better than we thought yet.

Ryan said...

A quibble: Jayson Werth has looked fine. He's been smacking line drives all over the place (check his batted-ball numbers if you don't believe me), but the BABIP is still hovering around .200. Once it comes up, his other numbers will as well