Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : The Nats Expected

Monday, May 04, 2015

Monday Quickie : The Nats Expected

The 2015 Nats' expectations could really be boiled down to 5 phrases. Max Scherzer is better than your #1. Jordan Zimmermann is better than your #2. Stephen Strasburg is better than your #3. Gio Gonzalez is better than your #4. Doug Fister is better than your #5.

Two 1-0 wins in a row is the stamp on a a great turn in the rotation by the Nats starters. Three dominant performances, one good but short one, and a decent 7 inning start. Maybe you wouldn't immediately match the pitcher to the performance but who cares? Each starter the Nats have is capable of having dominant performances.

Should you be concerned about the offense? Sure. This facsimile of Jayson Werth is hideous. Yunel Escobar, who was "so great" had one bad week and is back to being below average. Anthony Rendon may one day play back to back games. But with that starting staff (and a bullpen that hopefully finally realizes Blake Treinen is not your big pressure guy) you don't need a great offense. You don't even need a good offense. You can get away with an average offense and I think the Nats can easily hit that mark.

The important games aren't over with the Mets series though. Now the Nats have a homestand versus Miami and Atlanta. The Marlins are coming along. The Braves are trying to hang on. Both are a half game ahead of the Nats right now. A double series win would bring the Nats to .500, and likely put both of those squads in the rear-view. Any sort of middling performance or worse and the Nats are back playing catch-up to most of the NL East. Give enough teams, enough time and enough of a lead and someone will run away from you.

34 comments:

Donald said...

Not to be a conspiracy theorist about Rendon, but I'm wondering if Boras is feuding with the Nats over having him play 2B. Whenever they try to pencil him into that position, Rendon has tightness in his side and sits out. There's been almost no communication on his status. It's all kind of weird.

Also, while the Nats should be happy winning 3 out of 4 from the Mets, scoring 2 total runs in 3 games isn't cause for huge celebration. They are going to have to score more than that against the fish.

G Cracka X said...

Agreed about the run production. On the other hand, given that they scored 2 runs in 3 games, its a nice surprise to win 2 out of those 3 games.

Alex Freeman said...

I'm concerned that everyone seems to be hanging onto hope that Rendon's return will suddenly improve the Nats offense exponentially. Although I see him as a very good player, I don't see him repeating last year's numbers and, even if he does, him alone won't be enough to fix the offense. Werth and Zimmerman need to remember how to hit again or else we'll have two large holes in our offense. This isn't even taking into consideration the possibility of Escobar going back to below-average production, like everyone expected when the Nats traded for him

Anthony Rendon said...

Alex freeman
What do you mean you don't expect me to repeat last years numbers?

Has anyone else realized when Williams puts pitchers in the 8th by the numbers instead of this is our set up guy it's great. The bear has been great.

Kenny B. said...

Rendon may not be Mike Trout, but if he brings plus offense to the team, even only marginal plus, it will improve the Nats' chances of being an average offense on a bad day, which is what you want if you're heavily invested in your rotation.

As a glass-half-full guy (at the moment, because wins), I think we walk away from the Mets series seeing that our rotation is, indeed, very very good. The Nats pitchers have this competitive streak where one of them has a great outing and they all start trying to have better ones than the last guy.* Pretty much everyone except Znn has had a very good to great performance in the past week, so I think they're primed to become who we hoped they would be, and we'll see some pitching that will allow the wobbly offense some margin to get it together at home.

*I'm sure all rotations have this, but whatever, I'm in a good mood

Kenny B. said...

@Rendon Why aren't you doing physical therapy or something? Stop reading blogs and get healthy!

Yes, I noticed the bullpen management was better. More importantly, what he did worked. I'm hoping that the early bullpen woes were a blessing in disguise, forcing MW to learn to match up and used numbers for these decisions. And I hope the success with this approach solidifies the lesson in his mind. If the bullpen can come together the right way, this is a tough team to beat, even with a middling offense.

Zimmerman11 said...

Mets fans at work are all dejected. I've been arguing with them all morning about how they would have been happy with 16-10 and 4 games up in the NL East before the season started... they're having none of it.

Which one of our starters are we trading at the deadline and for what bat? This offense is so maddening to watch!!!

Hopefully we're not saying "well Rendon will be back after the all star break and that's just like trading for a big bat" :(

Fries said...

I'm not super concerned about the offensive production when you look at the whole week. They had a solid slash line as a team for the week, though without a lot of power (.264/.331/.397). Sure the situational hitting was horrendous the last couple games, but the Nats have ALWAYS been bad at that and still manage to win games. You replace the black hole at 2nd with Yuney and throw Rendon back at 3rd (dear God don't stick him at 2nd) and we have a very solid lineup in place.

Unrelated, can someone look at Lobaton's production this season, both on offense and behind the plate? I haven't dug into it myself, but Ramos's pitch calling has been really bad from an eye test and his offense hasn't been there, whereas Lobaton has at least looked impressive in his limited appearances (though with a high K-rate).

Zimmerman11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zimmerman11 said...

Fries, I disagree. This offense can't hit good pitching unless it's Harper who's going to take the step up and play world beater. You do remember the playoffs right? Where we pitched the lights out, but couldn't hit a lick? We need to be all-in on a bat at the deadline (or sooner).

Also in the news "Terry Collins expects more low-scoring games with Nats"... We're in trouble in the Mets' mgr is psychic. Even if he's just a LITTLE bit psychic. I mean, how are we supposed to compete with THAT???

And did we run JWLumley off the board? I am disappoint.

DezoPenguin said...

I thought it was funny that Collins made his comment after the first 1-0 game, and then immediately another 1-0 game followed. (Mind you, given that the Mets pitching staff is no slouch, low scoring Nats-Mets games are actually pretty predictable.)

The best thing we can say about the season is that MW's bullpen management has had process = results thus far. He followed a bad process, got bad results, and got called out for it in the media. This series, at least, he seemed to be following a good process, and got good results. With luck, these initial positive returns will help to cement in his mind what the right process is, so that the next piece of fluke luck going badly won't make him say, "Ah, well, I tried doing what the stats nerds say and it didn't work once out of ten times, so I'm going back to my gut!" I'd like to think...hope...that he can learn. (For example, I note that the three best hitters we currently have in the lineup--Span, Yuney, and Harper--are actually hitting 1,2, and 4. Maybe it's a fluke, but assuming when Rendon comes back that he hits 2nd, that's pretty close to an optimal layout of the guys we have, so long as Span stays close to 2014-5 Span.)

Now, as Harper says, we just need to do well in these two series and we can get back to .500 or over and maybe into second place. Dropping one or both series will take a lot of the bloom off the rose.

WiredHK said...

I was especially encouraged by the two shutout guys being Gio and Fister - Doug seemed to have his location back and when Gio is spotting his fastball on the edges, he is really good. Yesterday's game should have been more like 3-2 Nats, but we'll take 1-0 good guys all the same.

Werth is playing like he belongs in the California Penal League, at the moment....that needs to change badly.

Bjd1207 said...

@Fries - 2B has only been a black hole when Uggla's playing there. Espinosa is drawing me back into believer-status.

Unlike his month-long streak last year, this one doesn't seem flukish and we're moving past the small sample-size argument. K's way down, BB's way up (somewhat attributed to being the 8-spot), not an absurd BABIP. I'm liking what I'm seeing, and he's leading the team in fWAR currently.

@Z11 - Lol unfortunately that's exactly what we're saying. The problem with bringing in another bat is where do you put him? If Werth continues to be this bad, then maybe that's a spot. But Zimm won't hit like this all year, Desi looks to be improving (or at least connected with a couple balls giving the illusion of a rebound), and with Rendon back your places for improvement are LF, 2B, and C. LF is the only one with TERRIBLE production for its position, and unfortunately also the one I'd bet on improving the most without any changes.

But the impact of bringing back Rendon can be understated at times. A lineup of Taylor/Escobar/Werth (which we saw more than a couple times while Span was out) puts zero men on base 40% of the time. Span/Rendon/Harper chops that down to 25%, or in other words 3/4 innings one of those guys will get on. Just having Zimm return to being Zimm, Rendon back, and getting the .200 OBP out of the 3 hole would do wonders for this offense in my opinion

A Fly Moses said...

The problem with expecting Rendon to turn around the offense is that he's kicking Espinosa out of the lineup, who has the third highest wOBA (.360) and wRC+ (130) on the team. Those are literally the exact same numbers Rendon put up last year (technically .001 better on wOBA). Which is to say, while Rendon is a better player going forward, it's a sideways move vis a vis current results. The improvement is gonna have to come from the other guys.

Bjd1207 said...

@Moses - If Espinosa keeps up those numbers, then hopefully he'd push Escobar out instead, which offers some improvement. But your point is well-taken generally speaking

And MW's been batting Danny in 7/8 spot, so at least having Rendon back would put those production numbers in the top of the order rather than the bottom

SM said...

Sorry about that . . . Roll Call.

To WiredHK: Everybody knows the California Penal League is a pitchers' league.

Alex Freeman said...

Okay let's entertain the idea for a second that Rendon repeats, or even exceeds, last year's numbers. Does that really fix the entire offense? Last year, Werth and Zimmerman were both solid offensive pieces, while Asdrubal Cabrera even brought some pop to the offense. We also can't forget that LaRoche brought over 20 homers to the table as well. Do we seriously think that Rendon's return will suddenly ease the pain of Werth's and Zimmerman's struggles? Or do we expect Werth and Zimmerman to return to the form they displayed last year? Personally, I believe both situations are highly unlikely. I see Rendon bringing the Nats back to a slightly below average offense, allowing the pitching to carry the Nationals through to the postseason

Bjd1207 said...

@Alex Freeman - What makes you so pessimistic on either Werth or Zimmerman? Both of them have pretty fantastic track records, Zimm is practically clockwork.

JE34 said...

Thank the Lord for the pitching... because this team will not last with situational hitting this bad.

5th inning, 1st and 3rd, no outs. and the 3-4-5 hitters go strikeout-popup-strikeout. The popup was on a 3-0 count too, I think.

6th inning, bases loaded, no outs... 3 strikeouts end the inning (granted one was Fister).

They have to shorten up and make contact with ducks on the pond. Desmond has never done this ever... but et tu, Zim? Good teams with smart coaches are prepared to adjust plate approaches for these situations. Egos must be checked at the gate... they have to do the small and unsexy things to win. (cf. even numbered seasons in San Fran.)

How long will MW continue to bat Werth 3rd? Watching him calcify before our eyes has been painful, and I'm sure it's worse to be the one calcifying.

Alex Freeman said...

@Bjd1207 yes they have great track records but they are also getting older. Werth is 36, I've always been a big fan of his approach but I think age is finally catching up to him. I see him finishing at .250 with an OBP of around .330 or so, which is still serviceable but a step down from last year. I see Zimmerman picking it up a bit, but not as much as previous seasons. Something like .260 with 90 RBIs, which is solid. However, combining both their drops in production with the loss of LaRoche and the addition of Escobar for Cabrera makes me skeptical to think that Rendon will bring their offense back to last year's level. However, a breakout season from Bryce Harper would sure help..

JE34 said...

and yes... come back JWL!

Alex Freeman said...

My point isn't that the Nats offense will be worse than last year, my point is that expecting Rendon's return to single-handedly bring it back to that level is a mistake. I think small rebounds from Werth and Zimmerman after their start, combined with Rendon's return and a breakout year from Harper will bring them back to a solid offense, NOT solely Rendon's return

Bjd1207 said...

@Alex - Yea all of that is reasonable and certainly within the realm of possibility. If those guys return to the numbers you posted I'd say our offense top-to-bottom would be average, considering what Epis/Escobar have put up this season, what we've seen from Bryce, and what we can expect from Rendon (if a little less than last year)

This lineup, like years past, seems to rely on everybody being about average and not giving you any easy outs top-to-bottom. I tell myself that's how we can get away without an MVP caliber hitter :/

Bjd1207 said...

Aye I think we're close to the same page

Alex Freeman said...

Maybe this is the year Bryce Harper gives us an MVP-caliber hitter, knock on wood..

Anonymous said...

To varying degrees, Werth, Span, Escobar and Rendon missed too much time in spring training. That pretty much guaranteed we wouldn't see a healthy team BA in April. (And even if he comes back this week, Rendon probably won't hit stride until June.)

Yet this was the team that scored 34 runs in a three game stretch beginning five days ago. For me, the early surprise was that the pitching was so meh. That's starting to change. It's all there, beneath the rust.

Chaz R said...

I'm thinking (as I think Harper notes), the offense may very well be what it is. Likely, whenever Rendon comes back he adds a little bit, and the JW regression can not (surely!) be this severe, and Zim will likely hit a little better. There's no way Rizzo goes after another big bat- where do you play him? The reliance will be on the SP improving to near the level expected, and the RP being merely good.

Zimmerman11 said...

Where do we put another big bat? Where do you pitch your 5th starter? I'd happily see Span ride pine and be a defensive replacement/pinch hitter if you need baserunners or a stolen base in the playoffs if we could go get an all-star caliber player who is ALSO heading into a walk year for one of our SPs. Where else? yes, 2B... yes C... so who are those guys? Who's in a walk year who's overpaid on a team who needs SP help? Anyone wonder if the reason they want Rendon on 2nd is to go after Beltre?

Alex Freeman said...

After tonight's game, what are everyone's thoughts on possibly putting Roark in as the set-up man? He's got the stuff for it and definitely has the composure. I'd love to see Matt Williams give him a chance

Ryan said...

Does Matt Williams not know about Blake Treinen's platoon splits? Or is he just too stubborn to care?

blovy8 said...

I think not enough attention has been paid to the poor defense that continues. If you look at this healthier version of the Nats scoring in about an average fashion, and the ERA/FIP indicating a mild under-performance, but still strong pitching, you're left with looking at 25 unearned runs making a difference. An average team would have about 10.

blovy8 said...

The first inning run last night was all on Werth dropping the line drive that was right at him, and there were plays Ramos and the infield could have made, although nothing as major.

Kenny B. said...

So rendon now has an oblique injury. I can't help but wonder if that is in part due to playing second base. I've got a feeling we won't see him until at least the break, and when he comes back, I'd be surprised if he contributes immediately. The organization should probably not hang its hat on a Rendon revival, and start developing a contingency plan besides "hope that the ghost of Anthony Rendon continues to inhabit the body of Yunel Escobar."

Bjd1207 said...

@KennyB - Nah there's no problem, just a little sore. Just ask Matt Williams:

"We're gonna have to slow his progress down a little bit. It's just not getting loose for him. It's just crept up on him. So we're being cautious with it to make sure that doesn't turn into something we don't want it to turn into"

Jesus this guy is INFURIATING. Just say the word "injured" just once...