Nationals Baseball: Anthony Rendon - what it costs the Nats

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Anthony Rendon - what it costs the Nats

Anthony Rendon, is now down with an oblique strain. What does that mean? What does THAT mean? What does that MEAN? 

What does THAT mean is that he hurt the muscles on the side of his abs. Much like the non-tear knee injury, there isn't an operation for it - you just wait it out for however long it takes. The mildest cases can take about a week or two, but they can linger and take 6 weeks or longer. Escobar had this kind of strain in the Spring. He was fine in his allotted time (as were Ellsbury and Pillar off the top of my head), but we don't know yet what level of strain Rendon has or if it's an interior or exterior muscle or I assume other things, I'm no doctor.

If you're looking for the straight "most likely scenario" Give him about 4 weeks (from the last game played) to heal, another week to build up to playing again, and then at least a week of minor league play. That would give Rendon a ETA of June 12th, or about 60 games in.

What does that mean is that Rendon is going to miss at least 40% of the season, if things go about typical from here on out and for Rendon "typical" might be optimistic. This means more Danny, Ian and Yuney line-ups. Losing Rendon is going to cost the Nats something - he was probably their most valuable player last year. But how much?

Danny and Yuney have both been surprisingly decent this year. If the season ended today Yunel Escobar would have his best year since 2011 and Danny his best year ever. That alone should tell you this is probably unsustainable. (probably - Span managed to keep up his "best in years" season last year). What do the fancy stats say?

What's propelling Danny is a radical drop in strikeout rate from 33.5% last year to 13.5% this year. His walk rate has also changed dramatically from 4.9% to 10.8%.  The walk rate is less of a surprise. Danny has had a good eye in the past having a walk rate around 8.0% in the upper minors and first couple years in the majors. So a monthly jump to 10.8% is perfectly reasonable. That strike out rate though is worth investigating. He has NEVER struck out at such a low rate. Not in his best year, not in the lowest minor league levels. A strikeout is an automatic out. You have fewer of those you put more balls in play you get more hits. The average goes up, which we've seen.

Is he swinging less at bad pitches? Yes. His O-Swing% (swings at pitches outside the zone) is down to 32.1% from a high of 42.7% in 2013.  However that's about how much he was swinging at these pitches in his first couple seasons and he struck out a lot more. So it's not just that. Is he making more contact? Yes. His O-Contact% (you're smart. you can figure that out) and Z-Contact% (in the zone) are both up from recent years. The Z-Contact% especially would be the best of his career. We see the expected corresponding drop in SwingingStrike% down to 10.6% - again lowest of his career.  Is he sacrificing power to make this happen? My guess is yes, (power is down from his peak year) but really it's too early to tell. It's not down from his 2nd best year but an errant HR could bump a monthly SLG up.We'll know better by the end of May.

What about Yunel? He is seeing some luck - his .333 BABIP isn't a crazy number but it would be the highest he's seen for a full season (he had a .364 for half a year back when he was a  24 year old). So the expectation would be a bit of a drop in BABIP and in corresponding batting average. But it may not be as much as you think it could be. His flyball rate has dropped like a rock, under 18% down from the 25-30%. It hasn't gone into line drives, which would be the best thing, it's all gone into ground balls (up to 62.5% from around 50-55%) but when you don't have HR power GBs are better than FBs. Everything else is basically on line. That's a bit surprising, given the batted ball change. I wouldn't be shocked if his power drops a bit by the end of the year. Also his walk-rate keeps dropping but if he can keep the average up it's not too much of an issue.

Given what I've seen now, Yunel should see a bit of an average drop maybe ending up in the .285 average with little patience or power, but that should be ok. Right around average offensive production which isn't great but fine enough given the gamble the Nats took on his injury causing long term issues. Danny? I don't know. If this is real he's a different and more useful player. But it's only been a month and he hasn't started everyday so the sample is small. I really don't know what to think, it's that dramatic a change. Getting back to the question at hand, they'll lose something with Rendon out but if Danny is NEW DANNY then it will only be a couple of games, rather than a handful. The talent this year can handle either, but obviously you'd rather it be fewer games than more.

What does that oblique injury for Rendon MEAN though, in the long term view? It means that one of the Nats keys players looking beyond 2016 is now a terrible injury risk. Highest level risk type, in my opinion. Here's his history:

2009: Ankle injury
2010: Ankle injury (same ankle)
2011: Minor Shoulder/Back injury
2012: Ankle injury (other ankle)
2015: Knee injury
2015: Oblique injury

That's two seasons of healthy play in seven years. Yes, not all the injuries are comparable, but all the injuries are injuries. They happened. And even if you don't believe those early breaks will matter for future injury (I think they are "non-ignorable") these latter ones, muscle strains in his mid 20s, should concern you. It's nice that Danny and Yunel might be able to compensate for Rendon in 2015, but they aren't keys to keeping the Nats winning later in this decade. Rendon is. This takes away one thing you thought you might be sure about for those years.


Anonymous said...

On the 10th anniversary of the historic 2005 Nats, it appears that Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon are exhibiting the best and worst qualities of Nick Johnson.

Chris Needham said...

I think there's something to be said for a player who's injury prone...

But I think the real key is in how they recover. Some are really slow healers. Ryan Zimmerman seems to be that way.

And Rendon, maybe? That he's getting additional injuries during rehab isn't a good sign for any quick recovery.

Harper said...

Anon - Anthony Rendon should be taking a grounder in the face in an hour or two.

Needham - Certainly for a younger player you are paying peanuts too. But even an older player can work, I think, if you are willing to back it up with a plan B (not many teams are).

This makes me more worried about the knee actually. What kind of compensation was he trying to do to avoid it acting up again that he hurt his side? Maybe unrelated but I'd guess not.

Rob Evans said...

This is beyond disappointing. Rendon has a chance to be great, but much like Grant Hill in basketball, he's just not worth building around in my opinion. The Nats should be OK this year, but it's time the organization start looking at other options for the longer term.

Froggy said...

I know Desmond closed his eyes and ran into a fastball for a 2 run HR, but it still doesn't change my opinion that he is a straight up rally killing strikeout machine. Since Rendon is likely not back for another month (if we're lucky) I'd like to see Danny at SS and anyone else at 2b.

Bring up Difo

Harper said...

Rob - I think you can try one more time in 2016 with Rendon. He's young and it's not like any huge plans would change. Who's you're build around option instead? Justin Upton? Plus it gives you another year to see how Difo, Turner progress. But if 2016 doesn't go smooth you'll have to double down on Bryce and yes, start to look elsewhere.

Froggy - that was a TERRIBLE pitch by the Marlins. Basically all you have to do with Ian is not give him fastballs down the middle. He will get himself out most of the time.

Give Difo, I don't know, a second week before you start calling him up to replace Ian. Also - there's a cascade effect to benching arguably the Nats "leader". That move better go 100% right or you can lose players.

WiredHK said...

One thought (for an automaton) - even if Yunel and Danny do regress (we're assuming they will, based on historical numbers), don't we have equal chance/likelihood that the SPs (Fister and ZNN, esp) progress to more normal performances? (note: this is why it's tough to play this expectations game using history as the final summation, but hey, we gotta use something to predict things) And if that happens, you likely wouldn't see any difference in the Nats' record at the end of the Rendon injury (assuming he isn't out forever), right?

Am I doing that back-of-the-envelope thinking wrong?

Also, good God, stop using Treinen in tight games...please. Please?

blovy8 said...

One thing you have to say for Desmond, at least HE is durable.

blovy8 said...

Now I jinxed him for you, happy?

SM said...

Sure, Rendon has a "Fragile" sticker slapped on his back, but I wonder if fatigue isn't part of the issue this time.

Injury free in 2013, he played in 98 games, more than his entire minor league career combined. Last year, it was (were?) 153.

As a rule, young position players in their first full season tend to tire out because of the longer season, travel, day games after night games, etc. Rendon didn't show any drop in the second half last season, possibly because he was eased in the season before.

But I wonder if his "non-injuries" aren't the cumulative effect of a body unaccustomed to the increased workload. Once his body adjusts and learns to adapt to the grueling schedule, he may become less fragile.

Of course, I'm looking at the silver lining here. But then again, in front of every silver lining is a dark cloud.

Bjd1207 said...

@Froggy - I actually spent alot of time looking at Desi's fangraphs the other day and he's slowly coming back to his career averages.

Not saying his approach is any good to begin with, but the slump (is that what you call a breakdown in approach and not technique?) we've seen the past 3 weeks or so is even worse than his usually high-K/low-BB numbers. But at least he's creeping back to 2012-2014 numbers, which I'll take

Froggy said...

@Bjd - Rotowire has Ian batting .095 with RISP and no outs, and .091 with RISP and two outs, and .000 with the bags full.

Last year he batted .277 and RISP no outs, .186 with RISP and two outs, and .667 with the bases loaded.

2013 he was .275, .253, and .308 and 2012, .275, .292, and .333 respectively.

I'm not giving up on the guy, but it is clear other things are on his mind this year.

Anonymous said...

Froggy, hitting well with RISP is important, but it's not at all predictive. Ian's year-to-year variance in the categories you mention essentially proves that (although he seems to be consistent with RISP and no outs). The 2013 Cardinals were historically great hitting with RISP. The 2014 Cardinals were below average at the same skill despite the roughly the same players and the same manager.

So batting average with RISP is a fairly useless statistic to tell us what's going to happen going forward. Using a sample of one month makes a the stat impossibly useless. How many total ABs has Desmond had in each of the three categories?

The stats are helpful in telling us Ian hasn't done so well at knocking in runs, which is an important thing for him to be doing. But they tell us little about what we should expect him to do in this regard going forward, which is much more important. My money is on him regressing to his overall career batting average in all three categories as the season moves along.

Anthony Rendon said...

I think Espinosa's k rate could be sustainable as his swing no longer has the high leg kick which made him late on many pitches. The downside is I think it will steal some of his power.

Please Desi just hit for one last year sign a big deal and become Bj upton. (I guess it's Melvin Upton now)

They both will bounce back. Fister looked great last time. And for ZNN it depends on how much he actually relied on his velocity.

Anonymous said...

@Anthony Rendon
When (if) you ever make it back to the big leagues, you'll notice Danny has a high leg kick on every swing he takes. He's just seeing the ball well right now.

Froggy said...

@Annon-I'm going to agree that BA with RISP might not be a predictive stat but it sure as heck is a diagnostic indicator of current performance.

As BJD mentioned above it appears as though Desmond's approach to hitting (swing as hard as possible...almost like he is angry swing hard) just seems different than his 2012-2013 least to my eye it does.

John C. said...

I agree with Froggy that BA with RISP is an indicator of what has happened this year. But I question whether, given the sample size, it is at all useful for making determinations about causation or whether it indicates a change in ability or approach. For example, he has 11 plate appearances with RISP and two outs. Eleven! Throwing the averages out there like they are meaningful is (to put it charitably) misleading.

I also disagree with the eyeball assessment that Desmond's approach has changed. To me, he looks like the guy he became when Davey told him to junk the small ball stuff that was flushing Desmond out of the majors. Further, I note that Desmond's BB% and K% are pretty close to his numbers from 2012-2014. At the end of the season, his results will likely track fairly close to that level as well (likely closer to 2014 than 2012).

Bjd1207 said...

Yea I think John C hit the nail on the head. The sample sizes for 2 outs and bases loaded are just to small to say anything meaningful, except point to events as they transpired. All stats are indicators of what has happened (by def), only a few have predictive power.

John C you're also correct that he's back close to his typical career averages in BB/K's. However, go take a look at his gamelog and you'll see a start contrast right about 4/2. I'm cherry picking my dates but as I said I noticed that he seems to have returned (closer) to form as of late.

Before 4/27: 3.7% BB, 24.7% K
After 4/27: 14.3% BB, 17.1% K

The change is too drastic for me to call it sample-size/random error, but I suppose it could be.

SM said...

To John C's point about how misleading small sample sizes can be:

There are currently three players in the NL batting 1.000 with RISP. Each is 1-for-1, and . . . each is a pitcher.

Even more to the point: How on earth did Harper's blog about Rendon turn into a God-is-Desmond-awful-this-year discourse?

Froggy said...

I love Desmond! I hope he has a great season and the Lerner's / Rizzo decide to keep The Last Expo and he becomes our Derick Jeter and retires as a Nat.

Bilbo12 said...

Is it me or does the Rendon can play second thing now seem exceptionally stupid? What does Jayson Werth was available last night in an emergency mean? Is he hurt again now? Michael Taylor strikes out too much. Why was Dan Uggla playing 2b against a RH pitcher last night? That was the worst bunting display ever. Strasburg needs a chiroprator? I'm not the smartest man in the world but it is a muscle that attaches underneath the shoulder blade - serratus anterior. I'm dubious an alignment will "fix" that. Sounds more like a muscle possible lat problem to me. Good times.

John C. said...

Dan Uggla actually has always hit RHP better than LHP, so he hurts you less against a RHP. With a strikeout/fly ball pitcher on the mound his glove hurts you a bit less.

Fun fact about Werth not PH last night: Moore's career PH stats are pretty close to what Werth's numbers are this season (Moore's number this season are even better, but SSS). Further, a lot of fans whinge that the Nats don't give Moore enough at bats. There's also been a lot of complaining about Werth looking like he could use a day off. The Nats give Werth a day off, and no the complaints are that the Nats didn't use Werth. Tough crowd.

Chaz R said...

Looks like MW's managerial competency is getting some notice:

Anonymous said...

@John C - I think Moore should get a ton of at bats...playing for another team. He is terrible.

Bjd1207 said...

@John C - I had to backtrack and double check those splits, good call. Not sure it excuses sitting our 2nd (or 3rd) most productive hitter so far this year, but if Espi needed a day off I guess it wasn't a terrible choice.

@Chaz - Yea those last couple paragraphs really sniped him, but its about freaking time. Bad lineups (for the most part), bad bullpen choices (for the most part), bad injury/press handling (my opinion), and then as this article shows just STUPID logic about pinch hitters/game situation. What exactly is he bringing to the table?

Froggy said...

@John C. - Re Desmond w RISP...Looks like my eyeball assessment was right again last night. Zimmerman on 3b, Ramos on 2b and no outs Desmond strikes out looking.

Will be there today to cheer Desmond on however. He is due.

Pat Mahomes said...

Surprise, surprise... No Jayson Werth in the 6 May lineup. Looks like it might not have been a "day off" after all? I'm sure he just needs a chiropractor.

Mitch said...

Of all Nats to strike out LOOKING with the bases loaded. I'd expect it from Werth, but DESMOND?? Unbelievable.

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