Nationals Baseball: What happened in June

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What happened in June

It was the worst of times, it was the best of time. June was a schizophrenic month in a schizophrenic year for the Nats. The first part of the month continued a losing streak that started a few days into May. They would go 3-8 those first 12 days of June (3-11 overall on the streak) to drop them from up a 1.5 to down the same (yes that means the Mets went 6-5 ish during this time - again hooray for this division). Then the Nats turned it on and before the 2nd double header loss they go 11-3 to get right back to the 9 games over they were a month ago. Ah symmetry

Offensively we've talkd before about the odd distribution of scores and how their standing (currently 2nd in the NL in runs scored) isn't quite reflective of the performance on the field. I think it comes down to Werth and Zimmerman being hurt then out, and Rendon being out then hurt. Without these guys in the line-up the Nats become a very free-swinging team. Moore, Ramos, Taylor, Yuney, Ian all have walk-rates in the lower half of the majors. Espinosa is seeing his walk-rate drop like a rock. This leaves Bryce and Span as the only two players right now who can work their way on base.  Also without these guys hitting like they should when healthy, the team loses a lot of power. Moore, Taylor*, Yuney, Ian (hey that sounds familiar) aren't hitting for much pop. Again Danny, who had been good before, is dropping here too. Ramos here takes the place of Span (who is having exactly the type of power month you'd be afraid he'd have after he started out with so much pop in the bat - 4 doubles and nothing else closing in on 100 PA)

What this all means is that the Nats offense right now is dependent on a lot of base hits strung together and Bryce Harper. That's not terrible because these guys are hitting for average Yuney is at .324, Span at .305, Rendon at .290, Robnison at .272 in limited play, but you can see why the offense will bounce around a lot. Walks provide stability in base-runners when luck (or great fielding) is working against you. Power provides stability in run driving in the same situations. Without those working for the Nats we're going to keep seeing peaks and valleys, depending on how many guys are hot/lucky or cold/unlucky at the same time. Now if we can get Rendon healthy again and Werth and/or Zimm back and hitting...

Pitching wise - hopefully June is the month where the Nats rotation turnes the corner.  I don't think I have to tell you anything more here, but what the hell. One of the hallmarks of the Nats last year was control. Remember they had that long stretch without giving up a walk or something like that. In June we saw that again, Fister (0.73 BB/9),  Ross in 3 starts (0.89), Max (0.93), ZNN (1.44), Stras in 2 (1.50) all had superior numbers. When you couple that with either low HR/FB rates or high K/9 rates (or both) you get superior pitching. Will it last? I have no issues with Max or ZNN.  Strasburg and Fister warrant closer attention, as would anyone coming back from injury but so far so good. I worry most about Gio, as his K-rate has dropped significantly and his BB-rate hasn't fallen with it. His saving grace is that he's become a complete Derek Lowe type GB pitcher all of a sudden. In theory, he'll give up runs, that'll happen with baserunners and a lot of balls in play, but won't get killed that often. It's working now but such a total change strikes me as odd. I hope he can pull it off but I'm not buying it just yet.

Bullpen? Work in progress. Let's see if Matt can settle into a rhythm by the All-Star break. At least we can rely on Storen

*OK Moore sucks, but where did Taylor's power go?

10 comments:

Jimmy said...

It appears as if Taylor is trading his power for more contact. Or not but he made some kind of adjustment as he's not striking out that badly at all, but he also isn't taking walks.

Harper said...

jimmy - yeah that what it looks like - but overall right now it's kind of providing no real benefit to his offense. I don't mind it now - could be just playing with it for a while to see if he can combine skills - but in long run this Nats team needs pop more than average.

Jimmy said...

I think as he learns the power will come, I think his upside is BJ Upton circa the Rays, which would be pretty sweet.

Jimmy said...

Either that or he's Justin Maxwell.

JE34 said...

Taylor is getting on-over-in... he is scoring runs at a nice clip. Hitting in the 8 hole, he's setting up the pitcher's spot for productive outs, and the top of the lineup is better positioned to drive him in as a result. I'd prefer that to swinging for the fences at this point. The power opportunities will present themselves soon enough. Don't change a thing, Michael A! Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind MAT getting on base more and hitting for less power because it shows he can make adjustments. The power isn't gone, it's just sleeping...

Harper said...

Anon / Jimmy - Thing is power did come. Then went away. But I like to think what anon is saying. Make this adjustment to get more contact, let power come back as you get more comfortable post-adjustment. One hopes.

Froggy said...

Last day of June and Desmond goes 0 for 4 striking out all four times.

The Last Expo.

John C. said...

I'm not at all certain that the Nats offense is unusually streaky, although that seems generally accepted as fact. A couple of weeks ago I went and looked at a Fangraphs article on run scoring breakdowns in the National League and compared it to the Nats' results and the Nats pretty much fell right along the curve of how many 0 run games, 1 run games, etc. that you would expect - with a bit of a boost on the high end because of having 3 or 4 explosive games rather than just 1 or 2. Which in a sample size like 77 games (at this point) is more likely to be noise than signal.

Which told me at the time that it's not that the Nats are particularly streaky in terms of run production - it's that in MLB offense results tend to be streaky. Now one thing that I did not do was see whether the games bunched unusually (high scoring games tending to group together, etc.). I just haven't had the time to run that down. Danged day job.

I also question whether any 14 game segment, looked at in isolation, tells you much of anything about larger patterns. Even for an everyday player you're only looking at 55-75 at bats.

Rob Evans said...
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