Nationals Baseball: It's still the pitching

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's still the pitching

Hot potato goes over to Scherzer again who has allowed 1 hit in 18 innings.

There isn't a good reason why this pitching dominance can't keep going on a little longer. The Nats are on a streak where they haven't faced a decent offense in a while. Milwaukee is bad, Tampa is bad, Pittsburgh is below average, Atlanta without Freeman is not good, and now Philadelphia, worst in either league.

Did I hear "Johnny VanderMeer"? (hopefully not because even no-hitting a bad team is extremely hard)

Six win in 7 days, it can't all be the starting pitching though, can it? Well, yeah it sort of can. The relief pitching has merely been ok, preserving Ross' game and a couple of blowouts, but giving up runs in three straight games including the two close ones with Atlanta. The offense managed some runs during this time but that included some error filled rallies.  You may be surprised there are as many Nats struggling at the plate over the last week (Desmond, Escobar, Espinosa, Span) and doing well (Rendon, Bryce, Taylor, Ramos).

The Rendon thing is the most exciting on the surface and the least believable when you dig in. Rendon has the ability to help Bryce put the team on their shoulders and carry the offense through dry spells. So seeing Rendon hit .583 in the past week is exciting. But he has only 1 XBH and is carrying a .700 BABIP, meaning this is more a function of balls finding holes than Rendon turning things on. In fact Rendon has been back 3 weeks now and has only 5 XBH all doubles. Bryce is Bryce - it curious that he hasn't walked in the past week (even forcibly) but let's give that more time before reading into it. Ramos is having some luck as well but really why I'm not getting excited over Wilson is that I want to see power from him and that switch hasn't been flipped yet.

So who am I excited by? Taylor.  The kid is hitting but more importantly, the kid isn't striking out. Only twice in the past week, none in the past 4 games. Michael Taylor may or may not be a good player. I can't tell you that. But what could keep him from being a useful player are the Ks. Strikeout too often and the average drops too low and it doesn't matter how decent his pop is or his speed on the basepaths. If he can keep putting the ball in play, I like his chances to be at the very least a useful replacement, if not probably more.

So I looked at the good hitters and tore them apart, can I build up the bad ones? Yeah sure. Ian, Yuney and Span are all suffering from various BABIP luck issues. In a week a single game can change a view (Ian went from terrible to just bad after yesterday's HR) but Span is working some walks which is good in his position ahead of the big hitters. Only Danny is truly doing badly and completely earning it but right before that - like really just the game before this past 7 day period, he was doing quite well, so worrying about him suddenly reverting to old Danny is an overreaction.

Hmm talked alot about that offense didn't I? With the pitching this good the offense just has to be ok and I don't have any fears that it can jump that modest hurdle, either instinctively or looking at how these guys are performing. So sweep the Phillies and let's get on with it.

30 comments:

Clip&Store said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clip&Store said...

Referring to your previous comments about 2-3 years left in scherzer arm, how do you think it goes after that? Sabathia? Lincecum? Halladay? All once dominant pitchers that simply lost it for one reason or another

WiredHK said...

Only thing I'd say is with Rendon, I wouldn't be down on him or consider this lucky. This looks like a natural arc of returning to form. He looked lost at the plate his first week or two back (natural), now he looks comfortable with his pitch selection and has his timing down. Next thing (or last thing) will be translating that timing and selection into power strokes (comes with confidence in timing). Of course, if he's still hurt (or hurt anew), that could be an issue....

Anonymous said...

I second everything wiredhk said. (I am not a scout but) rendon's hands and bat look like they are back up to lightspeed and it seems only a matter of time before one goes out of the park.

Harper said...

C&S - Oswalt. Arm breaks at 33/34 and then done, but very good right up until that point

Wired HK / Anon - possibly right. Power is one of those things that can disappear for a year though, we've seen it happen. It's usually wrist related but hitting is timing, hitting hard is a whole body thing.

WiredHK said...

You use your whole body when you're confident in your timing (and timing becomes second nature). You use your hands/wrists/upper half when you're not quite there yet (because, timing and selection). I think Anthony is showing signs that he is headed in the right direction because most of his hits this week were pretty sharp line drives from what I recall (again, unless the lower half dings are an issue and they are affecting his power base).

Werth lost all power for the year because of his wrist, yes. Which makes a lot of sense (Ramos took a longer time to get it back, too, for the same sort of reason with the broken hand bone). I don't think Anthony is dealing with a wrist/hand injury, so I'm decently convinced of my above statements being accurate in his case.

Harper said...

Wired HK - not saying you're wrong - just that I'll wait till I see it come back

Anonymous said...

Harper I think Ross pitching so well got everyone else going. They knew they had to step up.

Clip&Store said...

Right but he'll be under contract that whole time, like Sabathia. So he won't just retire like Oswalt.. Right? Can't see him leaving that money on the table.

Boy this contract can have an ugly back end

Anonymous said...

Why must we have this perverse fascination for with the potential disaster waiting at the end of the max scherzer rainbow?

There will be plenty of time to lament in 3/4 years.

Clip&Store said...

Well I don't see many people thinking ahead like me and Harper about him. And it's because I'm curious

Zimmerman11 said...

Is a duo of Rendon/Harper enough to get it done in the playoffs? We pitched lights out last year and lost in the first round, because we couldn't hit the good pitchers. Can't expect much out of Zim/Werth at this point. Coupla decent slappers in there w/ Escobar, Span, but this lineup is not good enough IMO.

I thought that:
Span
Rendon
Werth
Harper
Zim
Desmond
Escobar
Ramos

Looked good enough...but

Span
Espinosa
Escobar
Robinson
Ramos
Desmond
Moore
Taylor

Scored seven yesterday so what do I know...

Zimmerman11 said...

Oh, and I'm one of the guys who voted 35 times for all the Royals to make it. I want home field advantage :)

Bjd1207 said...

@Clip&Store - I don't think any of us can reasonably predict something 3 or 4 years down the road, much less beyond that. There's a list of starters who have been effective or at least serviceable past 35 as well: Beuhrle, Hudson, Colon, Lackey, Cliff Lee.

Unless you think it's the actual act of signing a big-time deal itself that caused those pitchers you selected to "lose it," then I'm not sure how we can predict that Scherzer will be part of that group and not a member of the list I gave.

A ton can happen in 3 years, and twice that much in 6 years. So saying something like "man this contract can have an ugly back end" is just as true as "Damn, can't believe Scherzer's still racking up wins at age 36"

WiredHK said...

Rendon to DL with quad strain. Dagger.

Anonymous said...

Doooooooooooooooom!!!!!

Bjd1207 said...

Yea wtf man...

John C. said...

For those lamenting the back end of Scherzer's seven (playing) year deal while in the first year ... yes, it could be brutal. It might not be. He might be a pitcher like Mike Mussina, who was older when he signed his eight year deal than Scherzer was when he signed his seven year deal - and Mussina was not only an effective pitcher throughout the deal, he put up a 5.2 rWAR season in his age 39 year to close out that deal in style. More likely is that Scherzer essentially "pre-pays" player value with his first 3-4 seasons that the overall contract is well worth the expense even as his performance. With the way the cost of a point of WAR has escalated the past few years he might turn out to be cost effective at the back end even with reduced performance.

There are too many variables at this point to have any realistic idea of where this is going. Preemptive fretting is just reveling in misery for misery's sake. Some have a taste for it, but a positive outlook has been linked to a longer, healthier life. Just sayin'

BxJaycobb said...

I'm sorry. The Nats training staff needs to be held more accountable. Have you EVER heard of a time when the training staff tried to give guys days off and treat an injury and avoid the DL and had it happen? How many times are we going to see guys come back from an injury to quickly, compensate with something else, and re-injure themselves. We now have lost seasons from werth, zimmerman, and rendon. Strasburg screwed up his ankle and they had him pitch through it until he'd screwed up the mechanics so badly that he was worst pitcher in MLB for half a season. At what point do we hire some their folks. Goodness gracious man. Sure rendon had injury issues pre draft but Harper never did before he played through a knee issue and for a year when he shouldn't have.

Ben said...

Zimmerman11 - not to be too doomy gloomy but not hitting good pitchers wasn't the problem in the playoffs, not hitting 87 year old Tim Hudson, 47 year old jake peavy, and "perfectly fine for a 5th starter" Ryan Vogelsong was the problem ... Ok now I'm depressed.

blovy8 said...

Speaking as a veteran fantasy baseball team owner, the couple of days off for the good player to see if they can avoid the DL happens ALL THE TIME to every team and most of them will be on my team.

All that matters is finishing in first, with a pretty healthy team ready to play well in October. Rendon clearly wasn't moving well from what I saw the past couple of games, but it is a shame that he'll have to get the timing right all over again. It could be the same deal with Harper, but maybe they'll let Zim rehab soon.

John Schwab said...

Pittsburgh is below average? Since when? Since it suddenly fits your new narrative?

In an earlier post you said the Nats' success in the NL east is nothing much because every other division has so many teams above 500. Now you're saying a sweep of Pittsburgh is nothing much, because what? Their above-500 record is illusory or something?

A little consistency in analysis really wouldn't be fatal.

Harper said...

John - Pittsburgh offense is below ave. actually its technically above ave but the Phillies are an anchor. I think the pirates are like 10th or 11th in RS. Anyway that's all I'm saying. It's a good pitching team, maybe very good so sweeping them is very good.

Anonymous said...

June 26, 2015 (AP)

After reaching out for a second opinion on his strained hamstring, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper was informed he was, in fact, dead.

The Nationals placed Harper on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Thursday. "We are hoping to have him ready for the playoffs," manager Matt Williams said in an interview with the Washington Post, "worst comes to worst and we are unable to revive him, we can probably trade him to Philly." Agent Scott Boras expressed his support for such a move if further tests confirm that his client is deceased.

Reached for comment at their office in the Great Ape House at the Smithsonian National Zoo, the team trainers replied "Eeeek eeeek eeeeeek" for several minutes.

Clip&Store said...

Well that's relieving that there is hope because almost all big contacts late in pitchers careers I feel like I see end up horribly so I'm glad there's hope

Anonymous said...

Span quote before Sunday game:
Every 4,5,6 days my back is locking up.

Isn't it like painfully obvious that he needs/needed regular days off? Not to mention rendon inexplicably coming back at 2b and then getting reinjured...

Froggy said...

7 games left until the mid point of the season and we would need to win them all to be on track to win the low end of preseason projections.

Good news is we are in the worst division in the NL. Bad news is the false sense of security that could result from beating up on terrible teams.

Kenny B. said...

Bad news: our lineup today has Taylor, Espinosa, and Desmond as the premier players, while featuring Uggla, Moore, Lobaton, Robinson, and Den Dekker. Good news: We're playing the Phillies.

Flapjack said...

Gio's spontaneous expression of disappointment yesterday -- he was all amped up to get in there and extend the team's streak of great performances, and was furious at a blown weather call -- says good things about the chemistry of the starting staff. When have we heard such a lament, ever? With a mindset like that, it really is the pitching, by golly. Good call, Harper.

Zimmerman11 said...

And you may ask yourself
How do I work with this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large slugging first baseman?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful lineup!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful team

Same as it ever was...