Nationals Baseball: Friday Thoughts

Friday, June 05, 2015

Friday Thoughts

Since I was gone all week (Salt Lake City for work if you must know) I've accumulated some thoughts that I wasn't able to talk about.  Why not force all those thoughts down at once? A thought buffet to pick at over the entire weekend?

Nats falling to 2nd - Like erasing the correct answer and putting down the wrong one, I called it and then I didn't.  On May 18th I wrote "the Nats taking the lead soon, losing it again, then having a back and forth before finally pulling away around the 4th (of July)". But then when they Nats went ahead and took the lead when I thought they should be slower to do so I went ahead and called the season.

Of course I can see an obvious reason I was wrong; injuries but hey that's the risk you take making any sports prediction.

Are the injuries/falling to 2nd a big deal? I don't think so, I just think it reverts back to my original thoughts. The Nats should bounce around with the Mets for a while but their easier schedule going into the All-Star break on should provide the break they need to put distance between them and the Mets. 

But the Nats last year... -  Someone, I think it was Wagner tweeted that you should basically not worry about the Nats because last year they were worse at this time and they were fine. I noted that the year before that they were better than in 2014 and things didn't turn out right. The point wasn't "you should be worried this could be 2013 all over again" but "take each year individually".  2015 isn't 2014 but it isn't 2013 either.  They lack the bats they had last year to put up that half of the season long streak they put up last year. LaRoche is gone. Zimm isn't Zimm last year. Werth isn't Werth last year.  BUT at the same time there are no 2013 Braves lurking to take the division and they have, with Max, an ace pitching like one which they didn't in 2013 (Stras, ZNN, and Gio all took steps back from great years to very good that year). BUT this year finally SP injuries are happening to a team that had been cannily and luckily avoiding them since 2012.

Take each year as it is. This one so far has seen a hobbled and bumbling Nats team unable to get themselves away from the WC-ish area of the league where it happens that the Mets reside.

Bryce v Trout - Just to follow up Bryce finish May .360 / .495 / .884 which bests any month Trout has had but doesn't quite top his .500 OBP for a month.

If you think he's slumping, he's not. He's hitting .357 / .438 / .500 in June which is great. It's just not team carrying like his May was.

Offense slowing - Told ya. Even with this terrible slump the Nats overall for the season are 4th in RS in the NL and the rank is a fair indicator of their overall success. Yes, Bryce got so hot that even with just one or two other Nats hitting well (Span and Espy with Yuney providing some singles and Ian providing some pop) that the May numbers were crazy. But you can't just write it off. Perhaps that can happen again. But in general beware rankings talk. Or at least look into it.  A favorite of some people is to note the Nats were 3rd in RS in the NL last year. True! But the use of rankings makes us assume equadistance between steps. In other words, they should be as close to 2nd as 4th, as close to 1st as 5th. It's just the way the mind works. But it isn't like that usually and in fact in 2014 the Nats were as close to 2nd as they were to 6th. As close to 1st as they were to 8th. They were far more "second tier" than "top".  2013 was similar. 6th in the NL but as close to 5th as 10th.  They've been deceptively ending up at the top of bunches such that rankings make them seem better than if you look at the raw numbers.

This year numbers are fair (right now). about as close to 3rd as 5th, 2nd as 6th. So 4th is about right. Now is that fair to expect for a season? For every 35 games that are cold are the Nats going to have 20 games that are blistering hot? Maybe? But I'm guessing it won't play out that way. 

Rendon back - Yay! If you are curious Rendon was out 85 days after the initial diagnosis of "day to day" I like what I saw of Rendon last night. Line drives, good at bats, so I don't have any real worry he'll perform ok. My real worries are all about re-injury. If he's ok and Bryce keeps being 2015 Bryce the offense will be ok enough regardless of if Zimm/Werth are never going to be right this season and if Yuney's magic singly tour comes to an end (BABIP some GB% increase, but mostly luck)

Bullpen thoughts - Get someone else. Forget the fact no one has succeeded enough to set roles. The facts are that no one has been good enough (outside of Storen and Thornton) so far this year to do so. The team and fans have tried to spin it but you can't say things like "it's ok that he was crappy this game because he was good for 3 games before that". A 25% failure rate for a reliever is a no go because bad leads to loss with far more certainty than good leads to win with relievers. You have one inning. You do your job you help out the team a little, you don't you hurt it a lot.

Strasburg - It's ok to say Stras is unlikable and not living up to his potential therefore I don't want him pitching for the Nats. Sports is entertainment and if someone is not entertaining you because of the way he comes across it's fine to want to watch something else. But please please please don't go from "He's bad at entertaining me" to "He's bad at pitching" because before this injury he most certainly was not bad at pitching.

If he actually couldn't handle pressure, or let things effect him than sure that would matter, but the fact is there is no data that backs it up. For example, there isn't data that backs up he pitches noticeably worse after errors (though a cluster at the beginning of ... was it last year? is what sticks in your head). Don't be fooled by appearances into thinking he's bad, but also don't let someone tell you that you have to like him either.

Anything else I'm missing?


Bote Man said...

Why not force all those thoughts down at once? A thought buffet to pick at over the entire weekend?

Be careful what you wish for. The Romans typically went to the vomitorium after their buffets.

Nattydread said...

Welcome back. What about Michael Taylor? After almost a third of a season how do we rate him? Will he K less in the future? Is he an adequate replacement for Span? Will his power develop? How much better will he get? Or do we make an offer to Span?

Kenny B. said...


SM said...

No need to go to Salt Lake City. There's more than enough missionary work to be done in Washington, D.C.

Mitch said...

You're missing team philosophy, which includes plate discipline and baserunning errors. Slumps, injuries, bad luck happen. But when you combine those things with no plate discipline (still upset at that game against that Reds joker) and getting picked off, repeatedly, in crucial situations, you have to point the finger at coaching. It was obvious against that Reds joker that he couldn't throw strikes and yet they would swing at bad balls on hitters counts. (A little more of that against Buehrle, although he was pitching better.) Where is Williams telling them to take a strike, at least for an inning or two? Where is Williams telling them to stop trying to steal, because this is not a good base stealing team? Where is Williams telling them to stop getting picked off, because the extra step you *may* get with a big lead is nullified and then some by getting picked off? Anyone home??

Bote Man said...


Mitch said...

And where the hell is JWLumley???

Strasburger said...

Harp - I was on 1067 FAN last night when the rain delay was going on and asked Charlie and Dave about the pen, essentially that once the starter is out of the game I get anxiety from that point until the 9th, and what are the nats going to do to really, truly, account for the losses of Clip and now Stammen to injury....

They suggested that we could, possibly, see clip back here, since Beane loves to deal guys on one year contracts and this year isn't going great for the A's. What do you make of this? It would certainly be exciting, and he's proven to everyone he can close.

Mitch said...

Strasburger, I was on right after you. I suggested they hire Nyjer Morgan as a baserunning coach.

Kenny B. said...

How about we just basically stop stealing altogether? Isn't it pretty clear that the risks of base stealing outweigh the value?

Strasburger said...

Mitch LOLLL I remember

Carl said...

When the Nats came out for the top of the 2nd, and the PA announcer said "These defensive changes for the Nationals..." I IMMEDIATELY assumed Rendon had re-injured himself. Actually relieved that it turned out to be Escobar, as weird as that is to say.

Agree with Mitch's comments--easy to say it from here, but it sure seems like the Nats swing at a lot of bad pitches. And Taylor in particular takes huge leads, gets picked off or almost picked off, and then hardly ever actually steals a base. Kind of maddening.

cass said...

I get frustrated by the Strasburg haters cause he's been my favorite Nats player since several months before he was officially drafted and remains so. I feel like so much of the hate is based just on expectations and the fact that he's an introvert. Though it's not like Zimmermann's an extravert and people love him. So I donno.

It just seems part of the reason he's gonna leave is due to the cold reception he gets from Nats fans. I do expect him to come back and be good in the second half but we'll see. He was basically unhittable the last two months of last season but everyone seems to have forgotten about that.

I was a Scherzer skeptic but you can't help but love watching the guy play for your team. He lost me with the DH comment but since then he's obviously been putting a lot of work into hitting and baserunning so that wins me over as a DH-hater. He's very obviously passionate, enthusiastic, and very talented. Plus smart and into advanced stats to boot. So glad he's on our team though I still worry about the future of the contract, but Rizzo's offseason moves look good so far.

Definitely agree about the bullpen. Would love to get Clippard back.

Oh and for those of you who are FanGraphs fans, there's gonna be a live event in DC with Dave Cameron and members of the Nats front office. And beer. I'll be there.

Bote Man said...

In this reduced offensive environment the break-even rate necessary for steals to help your team is reduced, but I don't know how much. You still must make smart baserunning decisions.

Regardless (or even irregardless), if Bryce had done more than hit a weak bouncer last night we'd be reveling in the Nats' victory, not the umpires nor stupid baserunning.

Bote Man said...

* if Bryce had done more than hit a weak bouncer with the bases loaded last night

Harper said...

Bote Man - I thoroughly overcooked all my thoughts.

Natty Dread - I'd give him a C-/D+. I think offensively he looks overwhelmed. He can't make enough contact. I do like his power potential though. I don't think his D has been that great like everyone told me it'd be. He's good but not life-changing out there. As for replacing Span, right now I'd be doubtful, but I'd like to see him start 90% of the games for a month (He's doing about 2/3rds now) for a better evaluation. I don't see why they aren't forcing it because if he doesn't come around an offer will have to be made to Span.

KB - You'll find out Monday

SM - Can't do mission work. Hate ties.

Mitch - they've always been around league average for P/PA. It's just who they are and it hasn't really failed them. However the truth is with Werth out and LaRoche gone the true AB work has fallen just to new & improved Bryce. Taylor is working it and Zimm is doing like he always does but neither is hitting so they aren't really extending the pitcher. Rendon might help. The baserunning stuff is weird. They've always been so good at it... not sure what is changing.

BOTE MAN - I'll be you that will happen this year

Strasburger - Svrluga said the same thing. It's possible. You'll have to wait though as the A's were REAL unlucky to start the year and are heating up (9-3 in last 12) with the West being Astros-lead they it'll probably be July before they even think of dealing anyone.

cass - he didn't endear himself and constantly had the 'not delivering' tag on him since the shutdown. Didn't 'deliver' playoffs, didn't 'deliver' wins. Not his fault but it just breaks some fans. ''

Fangraphs party!

Bote Man - Can't rely on Bryce every night. (I'd say save it for the playoffs! but he did and that still wasn't enough. EVERYONE SAVE EVERYTHING FOR THE PLAYOFFS)

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

Kenny B: the risks particularly outweigh the value when the umps in NYC call a safe base stealer out, as they did last night... If you're going to be called out on close plays when trying to steal a base, even when you're safe, the risks FAR outweigh the value... BTW, those replay umps in NYC wouldn't happen to be METS FANS, would they???

Anthony Rendon said...

I did have a good game last night.

If the Umps make good calls we win that game last night.

Bryce needs some lineup protection.

SM said...

I have to ask: Is there some kind of Rick-Eckstein-inside-joke rolling through the commentary?
Shouldn't it be a Rick-Schu-inside-joke? (The punchline would have something to do with a batting coach owning a big league, lifetime OBP of .310.)

Ollie said...

Trade all prospects not named Giolito or Turner to the Reds for Chapman and Votto. Move Zim to LF while Werth's injured, Taylor's your 4th OF and late-inning defensive replacement. Bring in D.C.'s highest paid marriage counselor to ameliorate whatever tension might exist between Votto and everyone else after that last series.

WiredHK said...

If there ever was a time to go get Beltre (possibly for less), now would appear to be decent. He is banged up (assuming he is ok shortly though) and the heir-apparent has arrived with a bang (Gallo). Deal (or sit) Desi, move Escobar to SS (with Danny spelling him or Rendon at 2B as needed), and add a solid, big bat run producer for the back half of the season. Your Aug-Post-Season batting order:

Span (L) - CF
Rendon (R) - 2B
Harper (L) - RF
Beltre (R) - 3B
Werth (R) - LF
Zim (R) - 1B
Escobar (R) - SS
Ramos (R) - C
Scherzer/ZNN/Stras/Fister - P

Kind of station-to-station speed-wise from the middle on, but oh well. Taylor can run for those guys in big spots and sub defensively late. Same with Danny, if needed.

SM said...

. . . and Escobar for Kris Bryant, and Tyler Moore for Mike Trout, and then Lobaton for Buster Posey and the Nats are set. Oh, wait, a reliever. In that case, Matt Grace to the Yankees for Andrew Miller. Mmmm, still might not be enough . . .

Ollie said...

Eh. The Reds look about to lose Cueto and (when they're not playing the Nats) generally stink. Votto's 31 and unlikely to see the playoffs before the end of his contract and Chapman's a luxury for a team that should start rebuilding. The Nats have some decent arms in the system and Goodwin could recover his blue chip status if he starts hitting like he did before.

Ollie said...

Upon looking at Goodwin's numbers I retract that last statement. Ugh.

SM said...

Ollie--The idiotic trade suggestions I made were only to reinforce the point that teams--unlike the MLB-owned Montreal Expos--don't give players away without asking for extortionate returns. When Toronto traded for R.A. Dickey in 2012, say, two of the players they gave up were Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, ripping a couple of scabs off the organization from which it still hasn't recovered.

In virtually any Nats deal, even a rental, the other side will invoke the name(s) of Giolito, Trea Turner and maybe Reynaldo Lopez. That's just the way it goes. If you're desperate, you don't get somethin' for nothin'.


Ollie said...

True--everyone always overvalues their own assets. A lot depends on trade market, how the Reds are doing, internal pressures, as well.

We've probably been spoiled by Rizzo pulling off so many trades that work out, though supporting your point, the trades he's won have been situations in which the Nats were rebuilding, scouted well, and got solid prospects for above-average (Capps) to mediocre (Guzman) players in the majors.

I do think Fedde + Ross + Lopez + Cole nets you some decent talent and I'd be comfortable with seeing those guys walk to make sure this is the year the Nats at least get into the NLCS. Whether it'd be enough for guys like Chapman and Votto, who knows.

Ollie said...

Perhaps more to the point, Rizzo was able to turn the Nats fourth outfielder (on pace to set a record for strikeouts in a season! Though otherwise playing decently) and a middling pitching prospect into a potential SS of the future and first round starting pitcher this offseason. It's not totally crazy to throw out scenarios where they're about to buy for 60 or 70 cents on the dollar.

Ollie said...

*able [sic]

Robot said...


Anonymous said...

Their big problem, I think, is their RISP #'s. They have to know when to play small ball; you can't always swing for the fences. This is very important In a tight game - this is what killed them in the playoffs last year.

Ryan said...

I'm pretty sure all studies of hitting with RISP show that it is not a repeatable skill, i.e. it's basically random and uncontrollable. If you get runners on base, more often than not you will score runs.

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