Nationals Baseball: Odds and Ends

Friday, July 17, 2015

Odds and Ends

Happy Baseball! Now don't blow it Nats.

Bryce Harper has hit .350 /. 455 / .650 since May 29th. Why is that random fact of interest to me? Because May 28th marked the end of his remarkable 3 week run where Bryce hit .460 / . 570 / 1.175. So since he's "cooled off" he has a line that would put him t1st in batting average (w/ Cabrera), maybe t2nd in OBP (Cabrera, Goldschmidt), and 1st in slugging in the major leagues. Bryce is awesome.

I got in a little Twitter discussion yesterday about the state of the team in the future. I'll admit I'm a pessimist. I see the Nats offense led by Bryce, yes. But I also see the 2nd-5th most valuable bats this year being gone in 2016 (Span), connected to an unsustainable BABIP (Escobar), with a guy Nats fans were ready to run out of town a year ago he was so bad (Espinosa), and a 30 yr old career minor leaguer (Robinson). That's the thread holding this offense together. I'll give you it could continue in 2015, there's less than half a season left. But come 2016 there has to be an expectation of this motley crew not carrying the team again. So who does? Rendon, ok, I'll buy that. But who else? 37 yr old Werth? Zimmerman, 2 years removed from a full season? If they don't come through. That puts a lot of pressure on MAT and Turner to be good next year. Not to mention the Nats losing ZNN and Fister and Thornton. Anyway the Nats will have money freed so there is room to spend/trade to fix these issues. But if they don't do anything there is potential here for a crash that hasn't existed since the window opened.

Will they do it through FA (The "Greinke" scenario)? Reason to be optimistic - the Lerners have cleared, however painfully slowly, all money hurdles so far. They signed someone to a big deal (Werth). They showed they'd do it again and for homegrown talent (Zimm). They showed they'd do it for a pitcher and raise their payroll to that "below the biggest spenders" range for a year (Max). The next question is will they remain in that 170 mill range? Reason to be pessimistic - the Lerners were bitching at 130 million about being "topped out" and although they did sign Max it was a funny contract that pushed money out over the next century. It also seemed like the issues with the pen (trading Clippard, Blevins) were money related.

OK enough about next year. I talked about the potential contenders yesterday. When you get down to the last few month SoS is important to consider. How does that break down? The NL East means that the Nats and Mets should both cruise for the rest of the year (12th and 11th easiest). That's also why I give the Mets an edge over the Cubs for the 2nd WC.  Meanwhile the Pirates have a little rougher road than the Cards, the Giants a rougher road than the Dodgers which makes catching them a bit tough.  The Giants in particular must survive this stretch (@TEX, @ATL, @CHC, HOU, WAS, @STL, @PIT, CHC, STL, @LA) That's a month with no patsies. Twist my arm and I'll say Cards, Nats, Dodgers, Pirates, Mets. so Nats play Dodgers first round. That'd be my guess today, but injuries and trades can change everything.

We're on the last legs of "Wilson Ramos can be a star" aren't we?  Wilson gets to hide behind all the bigger problems and surprise solid players but it's been a disappointing year for him. Finally healthy we hoped for a decent bounce back and we haven't gotten it. His walk rate has dwindled over time to a terrible 4.3%. His K-rate is going up each year. But the Nats don't have anyone close to ready to replace Wilson (Lobaton really isn't an improvement, Keiboom is middling in High-A). So Wilson it is.

I expressed my concerns with a Yuney/Danny/Clint led offense but in all honesty, I kind of like Clint's chances to stay productive for a few years. He never failed in the majors previously, just didn't get the chance, so we can't say that what we're seeing now is odd. He doesn't have crazy K numbers in the minors that suggest he'll be overwhelmed by major league stuff (see: Moore, Tyler). There's no unsustainable numbers helping him out. He isn't death against lefties (he's hit them quite well this year actually). With regular at bats in June and July his numbers have been relatively consistent. I just don't see any warning signs. I don't know where exactly he'll fall (above average or below are both reasonable) but I don't see him being so bad he couldn't sit on a bench for another couple years and he may actaully be a good bat there.

I'm also very curious to see Felipe Rivero more. His issue in the minors, which he arguably never solved, was he was too wild. And yet he's walking no one in the majors. His zone numbers suggest more pitches thrown in the zone (not a good or bad thing pitching wise if you are wondering - there are great pitchers on either end) so I'd guess it is an improvement that can be kept up, but I want to see more.  I don't know if a trust that it just clicked when he hit the majors after not getting it in the minors since 2012 - including in Nats org.

xFIP suggests* that the Carpenter, Janssen, and Thornton all should get worse. It does however like Treinen and Barrett. So trade for someone I guess, I'm tired of these guys.

BABIP suggests Escobar will dip (Bryce is up there but he's doing something special, Taylor is up there but we don't know his level). Zimm and Werth would both be candidates for improvement if we didn't think that the BABIP issues could be injury related. So the best hope for a rebound 2nd half? Desmond. Nothing huge though - he is hitting the ball weaker.

Also read this on Desmond. It's a lot of what we were saying over time but put together nicely.

*Why do I say suggest? Relievers pitch so infrequently these things can last the 30 IP or whatever they have left. xFIP is more of a year to year thing to look at, but a glance now isn't completely without value.


G Cracka X said...

Harper, do you still think that the Nats need to trade for a bat in 2015? Or are they set with who they have and the guys coming back? Of course, this is assuming no more major injuries.

Also, what kind of an arm should they get? Do you recommend trading for Chapman (if he's available)? Or someone like Clippard or a similar 8th inning 'Bridge to Drew' guy? What Nats prospects would you give up for a 'Chapman-level' guy and what would you trade for a 'Clippard-level' guy?

Harper said...

GCX - If I were GM I would trade for a bat and an arm. The Nats have a set of B prospects in Difo, Cole, Lopez, probably Fedde that they can afford to deal with Taylor, Giolito, Ross and Turner looking good (and they can afford to probably trade one of those guys not named Giolito, too depending on what's the return). It's an iffy deal to make because like I've said before they might sit on the bench but it's a deal I'd make because who knows about 2016.

I don't see the point of Chapman. I wouldn't kick him out of the pen but the cost versus the return to me isnt' there and he doesn't give you any protection post Drew (both FA at same time). So I'd look for a reliable "Clippard Type".

From all indications the Reds would look for a stud for Chapman. So Turner straight up would be my guess, maybe settling on Ross+. (Again I say no). Clippard type would be one or two B guys maybe some junk. Cole straight up, Lopez and A-ball prospect, something like that

Bote Man said...

I have to chuckle at the doomsayers about the abysmal bench with which the Nats started the season. Yeah, it was uninspiring, but it's a bench for crissakes! If these guys were better they'd be starters. And yet the Nats are "cruising" / limping along at the top of the NL Least, even with the Mets snapping at their heels sporting Syndergaard, deGrom, &Co.

Injuries have forced Rizzo to get creative so the likes of Claude Robinson have been a pleasant surprise. Uggla--well, the kids still call him Dan Uggla, but what are you gonna do?

Is Danny Espinosa still considered a "bench" player? You'd be hard pressed to look at the rosters the Nats have run out there this year and call him that. As I recall he refused surgery on his meatloaf shoulder and yet his bat has come around while his defense has been great.

I agree with Chris that Werth's wrist might signal the effective end of his power hitting career, but hope to be pleasantly surprised on that point.

Zimmerman has always toughed it out to excel through injuries, but as I understand plantar fasciitis it will linger pretty much forever so I'm not getting my hopes too high on him.

Taylor finally looks like he actually played baseball more than about the last 7 years and his defense has greatly improved.

As long as Rizzo can continue to hoodwink other GMs to get useful players here for a song I'm pretty optimistic. The playoffs are a crap-shoot (fun, to be sure), but winning the division is the 162-game test that counts. Just shore up that creaky bullpen so the Nats win those close games and they'll be fine.

Ryan said...

I can't wait for them to move on from Wilson Ramos. That's the easiest spot for them to make a big upgrade, but would cost the most in prospects. Where did his power go?

Bote Man said...

Mark me down for the "Why AC@DC?" camp. Aroldis Chapman does not seem to be what would benefit the Nats the most, yet the cost would be high enough to give me pause.

I haven't checked his numbers recently, but there's a Clippard-type pitching in Oakland that might be of interest. At last check his K-rate was down, BB about the same, HR-rate down (curious), and the couple times I actually watched him pitch he put a bunch of guys on who didn't come around to score FWIW. So...playoffs Storen without as much drama I guess. He's my sentimental choice, but don't know who else is out there who costs less, if money is the sticking point with the Clippard Clippard-type.

Bjd1207 said...

For the future topic - I really need to see how Werth/Zimm return this year. If they really can't be reliable contributors any more (which I might believe for Werth, but still holding out with Zimm) then they become very expensive bench players and could make it difficult for us to pay for (and find a spot for) a Free Agent LF, not mention it's pretty slim pickins for the 2016 FA class (Heyward? Matt Joyce?). On the Ramos topic Wieters will be an FA...interesting fantasy scenario

On the Desmond article - This is really the only sentence you need. Someone in Rizzo's office HAS to be aware of this right? You can't afford this type of hole on a team entering the playoffs:

"If we navigate to the batter leaderboards and sort by wRC+, Desmond has been the seventh-worst qualified offensive player in the majors this season. He’s been the very worst defensive shortstop."

Bote Man said...

Teams usually tolerate crappy offense from a good to great defensive SS. Where does that leave Desmond?

Donald said...

Rizzo and team management has never been particularly forthcoming with the media, and as far as Desmond is concerned I think that's probably wise. No one benefits by them publicly saying he's only got another month to turn things around. But if he doesn't turn things around, my guess is he gets way less playing time when Rendon comes back. And if he's still this bad in September, they might give Turner a call up. I agree with Bjd1207. They can't possibly go into the playoffs if he's still stinking this bad.

KW said...

Add me to the "Chapman isn't worth to the Nats what he'd cost" club. He just isn't, and he's only signed for one more year, just like the Nats' current closer. I'm not fond of the idea of going big for a closer, but if you're going to do it, go after Kimbrel, who is signed for three more years. Heck, do a big deal with the Pads and get Kimbrel plus half a year of JUp. We could offer them Turner and Ross, just to be mean . . . although as good as they've been, that might already be too much to give up.

Getting off Fantasy Island, though, I think we'll be looking at someone more like Clippard or Benoit. I'm not giving up Cole or particularly Lopez for a half-year rental, though - no way.

Anonymous said...

Harper, would u trade fister for miller or betances straigth up?

John C. said...

Ah, Harper, bringin' the gloom again. As an aside, every time I read one of your dispatches I am reminded of Colonel McKean’s quote from 1776 concerning the neverending gloom coming from George Washington: “that man could depress a hyena!”

Bote Man, plantar fasciitis tends to linger in the short-medium term. It's not a long term chronic injury. It's certainly not a career death knell. Remember when Albert Pujols had plantar fasciitis? It was 2013, when he was 33 years old. It made him, well, not bad, but human. In 2014, he was much better. This year? At age 35 he's very good, and on a 40+ HR pace.

Even if Werth or Zim struggles in the late going this season, it doesn't mean that they're done for good, either. Remember when we all wrote off Werth after 2011 and 2012? His age 32 and 33 seasons were bad (2011) and mediocre (2012). Clearly done, right? Well, Werth wasn't done, he came back and over the past two seasons was arguably the Nationals' best offensive player.

Fans tend to have a strong recency bias - what just happened is destiny.

John C. said...

I'll answer the Fister for Miller or Betances question: NO. Oh, he'd do it from the Nats' perspective, but he's a Yankee fan. And the Yankees don't just hang up on that offer, they hang up while laughing hysterically. Trade either of two dominant bullpen arms under team control for three (Miller) or four (Betances) more seasons for a two month rental of an expensive, 86-88mph mediocre starter?

Yeah, no.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea John C's right, never in a million years would the Yanks make that trade