Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie

Monday, July 06, 2015

Monday Quickie

I'm in and out this week so forgive any short post you may see.

Nats are good. The rest of the east is bad. The only question right now is if the Mets can hold on over the next few weeks (thanks All-Star break) so those series of 6 games between the 20th of July and the 2nd of August matter (for the Nats - they'll likely matter for the Mets in some way). Strasburg's injury doesn't help (he looked fairly strong before it) but the Nats can cover one SP injury. It's two that kind of sets the mouse trap of losing in motion. I'd rather see Ross than Roark if Stras isn't expected to be gone long but either will work.

The offense still isn't together, nor should it be with Werth, Zimm and Rendon out. This is just a waiting game and then a watching game to see if those guys are any good after coming back. I'm not enthused based on how they were playing before but at least there is hope as opposed to a "maybe people who aren't good will get magically good" that other teams might have to rely on.

I could still see a move for a relief pitcher (won't happen because they aren't crashing and burning right now, Rizzo can't take on salary, won't part with pieces for a rental, sees RP as fungible) or a bat (won't happen because it's too expensive piece wise). The Nats are winning and can take the East will little help so I don't expect them to bother. Instead the injury returns will serve as the added pieces. Will that be smart? Don't know.


Bjd1207 said...

Fan forum was saying that Jordan was brought up more for bullpen help/long relief if necessary. With the break coming up and off-days after that it's not until something like 7/25 that we would absolutely NEED a 5th starter. If they needed the starter I have to believe they'd have brought up Joe Ross after how well he did.

Just want Stras right for the final leg of the season. Junkies today were talking about how the seemingly "random" injuries can be indicative of something systemic, like he's trying to avoid certain pressures on his shoulder or elbow and so he overcompensates and ends up straining back/neck/oblique

Anonymous said...

Can someone explain why Williams subbed Moore in for Robinson? I was watching the gamecast so I didn't get any commentary. Was it just for reps?

Jimmy said...

First off @Bjd1207 never listen to the junkies about baseball as none of them actually watch any of the games with any regularity. @Harper if Roark stays in the pen that is a pretty decent one with Carpenter as the 8th and Storen as the Ninth and Roark as the grease man anywhere you need him, I would feel pretty good about that. That leaves one of Barrett, Thorton, Rivero, and Jansen as spare parts.

KW said...

Not to "defend" the NL East, but the "best" of the West just got hammered by the East--the Dodgers dropped 2 of 3 to the Mets, and the Giants got swept by the Marlins (!) and Nats. Admittedly, we do still have the Phillies on our side of the ledger, though. Meanwhile, no team in the AL East is more than six games over .500.

So while the NL East isn't great at all, it has company in mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Uh, not enthused by the return of Rendon? Hmmm...we must have been watching different players right at the time he was put on the DL. I will agree with the level of play by Werth and Zim though.

Carl said...

Yeah, for the injured position players, hopefully they'll be back by early August, so they'll have time to work out the kinks and hopefully be playing decently by the end of September. If they come back late in the season and play like ass going into the playoffs, that won't be doing anyone any favors (except, you know, playoff opponents).

Anonymous said...

I cant believe with all the offensive injuries the Nats have had that they still rank in the top 3 in runs scored.

cass said...

I went to the FanGraphs Q&A with two people from the Nationals analytics department on Sunday evening and it was actually really interesting. They were far more open about how the team works than most people from the team. The most interesting nuggets. Harper, feel free to use any of this for future posts if it's helpful.

When asked about park factors for Nats park, they said they factor context heavily and took credit for the Nationals targeting a bunch of American League guys. They admitted that the American League is better. So that's definitely done on purpose

When asked about the Scherzer deal, they said that decision was made well above their pay grade - by the people who decide the pay grades. They specifically said ownership was a driving force and that the decision was made because ownership wanted to win a World Series. So confirmation of that narrative though they did say Mike Rizzo was involved. Their task was working on the structure of the deal - evaluating incentives and such. Apparently determining the value of no-trade clauses and option years is something they do a lot of work on.

I asked them about the data they have on their own players vs. other teams' players - I was thinking of the well-known phenomenon of guys who get traded or let go as free agents tend to do poorer than guys kept in house and how many people think that's due to teams having better info on their own players. They answered that they don't have much more data on in-house guys and the information they have is more character and health based - the team knows how hard a guy works on rehab or skills, whether a player is playing through injuries, things like that. That's not handled by the analytics department, though.

They described Mike Rizzo as personally shaping the character of the front office in a big way and that it's basically Rizzo's shop. They said he was very emotional.

When asked about their emotional reactions to watching games, one of them said it was more decisions that they got angry about rather than performance. One of the guys cited the times-through-the-order penalty for a pitcher facing a lineup for the third time and often getting frustrated when a pitcher wasn't pulled.

They had basically zero involvement in picking a manager. They do not try to evaluate managers with analytics at all. They described Mike Rizzo and Matt Williams as very close and that the hiring was pretty much entirely Rizzo's decision. Most of their influence on the team day-to-day is by talking to Mike Rizzo and informing his views, though they do also sometimes talk to the Nats advance scouting team.

When asked how they evaluated 16 year old Dominican kids they said that's all scouting on an individual level but that their analytics tell them that every dollar spent on those guys is worth way more than money spent elsewhere and that informs what teams do.

I think that's most of it?

Anonymous said...

Harper, why do you and others keep saying you're not satisfied by the Nats offense. As pointed out above, they are 3rd in the NL - 2nd if you take out the Rockies (Chase Field is also a launching pad). They're real weakness is pitching-at least that's what the numbers say. Now that's probably due to weak starts in April, spot injuries, and poor bullpen but the point is that this team is doing fine offensively and any problems they actually have should get taken care of as the season goes on, of course barring injury, as guys get healthy and in the groove (witness Strausburg before latest DL). Given that and the fact that this team is already ahead of last year's pace makes it hard to argue statistically that this team is any less capable than last year's 97 win team. May happen, may not but the numbers look better than the discussion about this team would indicate. Why aren't you satisfied?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe people are still trying to defend the NLeast... Its clearly the worst division in baseball with the worst out of division record, the worst team in baseball and only one team worth anything.

Outside of the hot start, the mets are who we thought they are, and with Stanton going down Miami might sink even farther. I would not be surprised if the Atlanta garage sales finish second with a sub .500 record.

On a positive note, I'm coming around on cinto as a quality bench piece, and not even a total disaster as a starter.

Hope Joe Ross gets starts while stras is on the DL, roark needs to stay in the pen so MW can get comfortable using him regularly.

Bjd1207 said...

@Jimmy - believe me I take the junkies and their discussions with the proper amount of salt. Just was mentioning what they were talking about this morning, and whichever one it was said they were having a conversation with one of the Nats' doctors about how seemingly random injuries may indicate something underlying.

@Anon(Two Above) - As pointed out earlier in this forum, the Nats offense is very streaky. We have lots of games with 8, 9, or more runs that help us get into the higher ranking in runs scored. But we also have stretches of 3 or 4 games at a time where we struggle to score at all.

@Harper/Earlier Anon - I can't be as low on Zimm as everyone in this thread seems to be. The dude is freaking automatic when he's not injured, good for a .270/.340/.450 line almost like clockwork. If he comes back without any nagging injury (or gets his cortisone "spinach" in his foot). But like we've pointed out Clint Robinson isn't doing terribly filling in so not sure if that'd be dramatic improvement in the offense.

Rendon coming back on the other hand (healthy and productive) would be a huge boost, because I have to imagine if guys continue on their current trajectories then Danny slides over to SS and Desmond is out of the lineup. Even conservatively estimating Rendon, a .250/.310/.425 would be light-years ahead of the crap Desi has been posting.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 6:32
I believe Moore was put in for a righty-on-righty matchup. Robinson bats left.

BxJaycobb said...

BJD: I fear that your assumption that rendon's return would effectively replace Desmond is way off. I really hope you're right, but I just don't think the nats have the cajones to flat out bench a guy like Desmond. Even though I feel for the guy--and know that benching him would literally destroy his opportunity to get a good FA deal, You could argue as I would that he's been given the chance to work out of this but has insisted to his own detriment on not making fun adjustments. But I'm about 90% sure they won't make Danny the every day SS....more likely they look for opportunities to get Danny at bats wherever they can and he's the one who loses playing time to rendon. Why? For the same reason the nats have put rendon at 2B and kept yuni at 3B despite one being golf glove level defender and the other being the worst defensive 3B according to metrics in baseball: because the nats are bizarrely wedded to player comfort and not hurting feelings, even when that goes against 1) effective use of talent and 2) protecting your star (putting a guy with ankle issues at 2B). Plus I'm sure they'll justify it with some "Desmond's club house presence" stuff despite the fact that club house present is leading the world inKS and errors and has a below .580 OPS.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon 9:47 - Righty on righty is not the matchup you want. Righties typically hit worse against right-handed pitchers. Righty-righty favors the pitcher

@BxJaycobb - First thank you for having a real username that I can respond to instead of endless anons. Second, I absolutely share your same fears.

But keeping him in to ride out the regular season is one thing...batting a guy hitting .200 in the post-season is another. We can't be THAT stupid right? RIGHT?

WiredHK said...

I suspect Desmond will spend plenty of time on the bench once Rendon is back. I think Williams finally got to the point (if this is his decision) where he had had enough of it, too, just before Rendon went down again.

I mean, the guy is hitting low, low 200s -- at some point you're accountable to the entire team and front office to NOT play him and you let go of a fear that guys will be mad you sat a veteran in his walk year (because, shouldn't team guys get more mad you're costing them the best chance to win right frickin' now?). Maybe it won't be a forceful benching, but I think you'll see a lot of platooning between him and Danny every week.

Espi, even when he isn't hitting great, helps the team in too many other critical ways (great at bunting, good speed on the bases, exceptional D) to let this version of Desmond get all the PT....

John C. said...

@Bjd1207 (and BxJaycobb): On the "we can't be THAT stupid" I'll just remind you that the 30 dumbest people in the world are the 30 managers of major league teams. I even saw a lot of grumbling on Giant fan blogs about the sainted Bochy over the weekend. If only MLB managers and teams knew what WE know! You'd think that having in house new school statistical analyzers as well as scouts, coaches and other baseball lifers and a lifetime in baseball they would know as much as we do.

@Anon 9:47 - to refine, it's that MW apparently liked the matchup of Moore vs. Strickland (righty-righty) better than he liked the matchup of Lopez (LOOGY specialist) against Robinson (lefty-lefty). With the added benefit that Moore gets to stay in and play 1b (I think Moore is a better defensive first baseman than Robinson). It also forced the Giants to burn their best LOOGY after one pitch.

John C. said...

@Anon 8:03: the problem with the Nats (who are currently on a pace to win more than 90 games) isn't the pitching, it's the defense. Beyond the Box Score did an analysis over the weekend that ranked the starting rotations of the 30 MLB teams based on park adjusted FIP. The top five:

1. Nationals (83)
2. Pirates (86)
3. Cubs (87)
4. Cardinals (88)
5. A’s (88)

And that's for the season; over the past 30 days it's been even more pronounced:

Best rotations over the past 30 days (park-adjusted FIP)
1. Nationals (75)
2. White Sox (78)
3. Dodgers (81)
4. Rays (82)
5. Cardinals (85)

The problem that they have is that the Nats' defense is pretty bad at converting balls in play into outs. If the Nats aren't dead last at defensive efficiency, they're very, very close to it (BP site isn't responding at the moment or I'd get the actual rankings). Given that, the ranking of the Nats' pitching is even more impressive - because they're not getting much help.

Ben said...

On a side note, is it actually possible that someone is a worse color guy than Tim mccarver? I did not think it possible, but hearing curt schilling complain about the strike zone and umpires feelings for 2 straight hours without really ever talking about the game made me a believer. Mccarver has the long history of suck to back him up, but perhaps schillings youth is projectable to someday eclipsing those lofty lows? Is John kruk simply a master enabler of suck? What is schillings CICC (caster independent co-caster)? What does fan graphs have to say about this?

John C. said...

My sample size with Schilling and Kruk is too small, because I bailed on them almost immediately to listen to Charlie & Dave on the radio instead. When S & K start talking, I think baseball fans everywhere become a little bit dumber.

JE34 said...

@Ben: much like JohnC's comment above about managers, everyone hates TV color guys. That said, Schilling absolutely stinks on ice. (I don't think he can get as bad as McCarver though.) The national crews are always bad these days... gone are the days when Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola could do their thing every Saturdays, and everyone would be happy. Now we get the horrible drone of Joe Buck for the All Star Game. I'd rather listen to someone whistling while running a vacuum cleaner.

I haven't tried this gadget yet but I sure would like to:

JE34 said...

@WiredHK - I agree that Desi will sit more when Rendon is back. MW has already given Desi some days off, so there's some precedent. Bob & FP talked about this a couple days ago when MW was giving Desi some off days to "work on his mechanics." FP nailed it, saying that the problem is more in Desi's approach, that he needs to shorten up with 2 strikes, etc., that the problem is first and foremost a mental one. Desi's last at bat last night was quite the illustration... two big left-field-bleacher hacks at pitches down and away (that we regular viewers saw coming a mile away) followed by a called strike 3 on the outside edge.

Ben said...

I actually don't mind most color guys, FP is actually quite good at providing pertinent anecdotes and little insights ... Now if only he could give up his bad habit of whining about shifts when they don't work out and ignoring them when they do he could have an allstar level CICC.

Andrew said...

@anon at 6:32 and bjd1207, what John C said.

Lopez was in to face Harper and would have stayed in for Robinson. ANY matchup is preferable to Lopez vs. a left-hander not named Bryce Harper (which is why ALR should have been pinch hit for AT LEAST ONE TIME when they brought in Lopez to face him in the NLDS, but I digress).

Ollie said...

Seconding the FP appreciation, though he's laid on the schtick a little thicker since his first year. Ray Knight's over the top homerism can be slightly annoying but I'd still probably take him over Ron Darling and for sure Rob Dibble. Fangraphs did a cool ranking of each team's TV and radio commentators a couple years ago and both TV and radio crews did well, though Slowes and Jaegler (justifiably) outpaced the TV guys by a bit.

I like Kruk and, said as a Nats fan who only saw the game from around the point of Vogelsong's tossing on, he and Schilling seemed to have a point on the poor zone calls last night. It'd be hypocritical to only hate them when they go against the Nats. Schilling sounded weirdly different to me from his ESPN studio appearances though, to the point where I kept thinking about it.

Buck and McCarver are the worst. McCarver's the worst of any sport, even worse than Milbury in hockey.

Sweep the Reds. This time it's personal.

Ollie said...

Our bloggers are just the worst though. Always demanding more money, complaining about their day jobs, and closeted Yankees fans...

Harper said...

Ollie - closeted?

Ollie said...


BxJaycobb said...

This Tim McCarver clip is...without any doubt whatsoever....the dumbest thing any sports commentator has ever said on television.

Anonymous said...

Cueto just told us what he thinks of the Nat's lineup.

DezoPenguin said...

So, with Rendon, Zim, and Werth still out, Span undergoing an MRI, Escobar day-to-day with the hammy, at what point does Rizzo pull the trigger on something resembling a deal? With two-fifths of the starting rotation gone after this year and Strasburg's health suddenly a bonus-round question, the pressure's on to win now.

(I still think the Nats are uniquely suited to try to pick up a rental or three, in that Werth-Taylor-Harper-Rendon-Espi-Escobar-Zim-Ramos is actually a pretty viable major league lineup, particularly on a team with top-grade pitching in a weak division, though the bench would be an even more huge issue than this year since Taylor and Espinosa would no longer be available to fill in for broken guys. Obviously I wouldn't consider giving away guys like Giolito, Turner, or Ross, but the Coles and Difos of the world might well be sufficient to get us two and a half months of somebody functional.)