Nationals Baseball: Stacking Up

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stacking Up

It may be premature but it was asked for. How do the Nats stack up versus other contenders? Pitching today.

1-2-3 Starters

In the playoffs the depth of your rotation no longer matters. Do you have a killer Top 3? Then you're good with the 4th slot there if you choose to use it or not. The #1 spot matters too if you end up in the Wild Card

Nats : MAX, ZNN, Stras? (Gio?)
The Nats have arguably the best pitcher in the NL, and while ZNN isn't quite having the year we expected I think we all trust him. The 3rd spot has all the potential in the world but who's it going to be? Strasburg is the first choice but he's been injured. Gio has been a little off, Fister both injured and off. Right now 1-4 could be a powerhouse or the Nats fans could be complaining why Roark isn't #3.

Mets: DEGROM, Harvey, Sydergaard (Niese)
That's better than the Nats right now. Sorry, but completely verifiable by facts. It's never been playoff tested is about all you can hang onto. As for #1 DeGrom is right there with Max. You like Max better (or I do) but there's no obvious advantage.

Cardinals :  LACKEY?, Martinez, Wacha, (Lynn?)
The Cardinals are 5 deep right now. Every one of their preferred rotation guys has an ERA under 3.00. On the flipside, three of them have an ERA over 2.90. I put Lackey (worst at 2.99) in the #1 hole only because of "veteran presence". What this gives the Cardinals is a lot of leeway with injuries and drops in performance to figure out who slots where. What this doesn't give the Cardinals is a guy you feel 100% sure of in a 1-gamer

Pirates : COLE, Burnett, Liriano (Locke?)
The Pirates are top heavy with a great 3 and a blah back of the rotation. They're very likely to pull the 3-day rest thing if they do make it. Cole is only a half-step behind the very best in the league and could rise.

Cubs : ARRIETA, Lester, Hammel, (Wada?)
The Cubs rotation is not as impressive. Arrieta is really good but Lester is still trying to find himself and there's no good reason to trust Hammel to continue to be this good. Both Wada and Hendricks are fine but just that. Rotation wise the Cubs have a distinct disadvantage in a series, and a small one in a one-game.

Dodgers : KERSHAW, Greinke, Bolsinger? (Anderson?)
The Dodgers are even more top heavy than the Pirates. With Kershaw rounding back into form they have arguably the best 1-2 in the majors. But beyond that they have a couple decent arms and then a morass. This makes for an interesting series match-up putting a lot of pressure on Greinke and Kershaw who has a history of underperforming in the playoffs. Still wouldn't want to face them in a one-game though.

Giants : BUMGARNER, Heston, Hudson? (Vogelsong?)
The Giants' rotation is scary only on history. Bumgarner is a bit down this year. Heston is good but a rookie. The rest are just trying to hang on. If Cain gets it right you figure they can put up a fight, if not you are hoping for more Bumgarner magic.

My Ranking as of today (in series): 
Cardinals, Mets, Nats, Pirates, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants

Relief Pitching

The Nats closer has been excellent this year, as you well know. As you also well know, he's faltered in the playoffs. Outside of that they haven't zeroed in on reliable arms yet, getting decent performances but some terrible ones in key moments.

Familia has become as reliable a closer as anyone in the league.  However, the Mets have had issues getting to him. They might be able to cobble it together though. Gilmartin is good and Parnell is back and doing well in the set-up slot. If Blevins returns and keeps killing lefties, you start to like this pen more. Right now though, I'd say it's passable, but iffy in a series where you'll have to use someone else and everyone else is not trustworthy. How much can they lean on just 3-4 guys?

Cardinals :  ROSENTHAL
Rosenthal is good. Siegrist setting up is good. Beyond that they have some ok arms having good years and better arms trying to put things together. What they don't have though is a guy they are currently using that you hate to see enter a game. This isn't a pen that wows you, but there's no real weakness here.

Pirates : MELANCON
Melancon is great. Watson might be better. Hughes is just a step behind. All were this good last year too so it's not a fluke. Caminero and Bastardo are both fantastic arms that are probably a bit better than their ERAs suggest. Best pen in the NL.

Deep pen with the Top 5 arms all doing well. The biggest plus is that their best arm has no defined role so you can see Justin Grimm at any time. He can be wild but he's unhittable now that he's in relief. The rest of the pen is solid.

Dodgers : JANSEN
Jansen was out for a while but picked up exactly where he left off. He might be the best closer. Unfortunately beyond that things aren't clear. Yimi Garcia has all the talent in the world but hasn't harnessed it yet. JP Howell is as good as anyone but is often regulated to outings of less than an inning. After that you have a couple good arms and a lot of not good ones. If Garcia settles that 8-9 will be untouchable. If he doesn't the Dodgers are in trouble anytime a starter doesn't go deep. 

The pen is ok. Romo has the best stuff but doesn't seem right this year. Kontos is effective but a "get yourself out" reliever. Castilla is fine. We all know about Strickland. There's nothing really wrong with this pen. It's ERA is the worst of the playoff teams but not that far off. But it inspires no fear at any point that "oh the game is over now"

My Ranking : 
Pirates, Cardinals, Cubs, Mets, Nats, Dodgers, Giants

Overall Pitching Ranking : 
Cardinals, Mets, Pirates, Nats, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants
The ranking may surprise you but as we'll see tomorrow where the (healthy) Nats have the advantage is not on the mound. It's at the plate. 


Anonymous said...

Strasburg is the entire key. If he comes back, is healthy, and he is what he should be, I would stack us up with anyone. But if not, then we have a problem.

Froggy said...

Excellent assessment Harper. Making it to the Post season is a game of averages and attrition where over the course of 162,games you can play the numbers games with a good 1-3 starting staff and an iffy bullpen and more often than not, come out ahead.

WINNNG in the Post Season on the other hand, requires a shut the door pen. Or a ridiculous offense that puts so many runs on the board you can withstand an inconsistent pen.

Since the Nats don't have the offense, but do have a shaky bullpen (see your rankings) it is absolutely essential that the 8-9 inning, set-up, closer solution be fixed pronto.

Or we can not get out of the first round again this year. Which could likely be the Wild Card play off game.

Chas R said...

Thanks Harper. Don't you think the SPs of the Cardinals, Mets, and Nats are pretty close in rankings? I don't disagree with putting the Cards and Mets above the Nats based on the first half of the season given the Nats injuries and inconsistency, but I think they are pretty closely grouped. I do think the Nats have much better talent, it's just not been consistently realized (except for Max).

G Cracka X said...

Good analysis. One question: what is a 'get yourself out' reliever? Is that the same thing as 'pitch to contact'?

Harper said...

Anon - our Fister or Gio could have a crazy 2nd half. Or ZNN for that matter could step up and be a Top 5 starter in the 2nd half. Unlike most of these rotations, the Nats have the pieces to be better than anyone. They just aren't clicking right now.

Froggy - Yes - which is why I really like the Pirates...if they can get out of the WC game.

Chaz R - fairly close yes. I think Cards depth'health combo does separate them from the pack. I think Mets over Nats is really just a "performance so far" ranking rather than talent evaluation. Biggest gaps in SP to me is between Dodgers and Cubs and Cubs and Giants.

GCX - Yes. I worry about those types in playoffs when there are more good batters making that contact.

Anonymous said...

To win the the playoffs you need to have good players who then play well over a couple of short series. It may be comforting to think "we just need xxx and then we have cracked the code," but that's not the nature of the beast.

Seems like the flavor of the year, based of the last postseason, is big bad pens. Just one counter example off the top of my head: the 04 red Sox won with starting pitching (Pedro, schilling, DEREK LOWE??!!) and power/timely hitting (papi, Manny, Mueller, the list is endless.)

Donald said...

One note about the Mets rotation is that they are all very young and/or returning from TJ surgery. So even if they play around with a 6-man rotation, it's likely that DeGromm, Syndergaard and Harvey will all be pitching more than they ever have before. If any of these rotations is likely to fade down the stretch it would be these guys.

Zimmerman11 said...

Our pitching is fourth and our hitting is only ahead of NYM... doesn't sound good!

Natsochist said...

Harper, unrelated to the post, but since I've heard so much chatter about the Nats going after Chapman...what about Kimbrel?

Padres are 8 games under .500, Preller loves to make moves, and they need help in lots of places based on guys underperforming and the gutting of their system. What would it take to make it happen?

Harper said...

Anon - It's kind of "Get the best players we can, hope they get hot or failing that - that the team we faced doesn't get hot" But there is still that first part - get the best players you can. Nats have always gone up to their chests on that but won't put their head in the water.

Donald - Possibly. Really looking at it only Syndergaard would I be worried about the fade. Harvey/DeGrom should be close enough to be reasonable increase.

Z11 - When did I say the hitting was only ahead of the Mets? The hitting is... ok in the moment! And should get better with returns (but could get worse with even luck or return to forms) SHUT UP OTHER HARPER!

Natsochist - The problem with Kimbrel is that he costs a bit more this year (just a bit) and you are wedded to at least 25 million (11, 13 then a 1 m buyout) after that. I don't see the Nats doing that. So what it would take is the Padres eating that salary which would make the prospect cost even higher (because another team won't ask them to do that). Difo Cole starting point. So no, not happening.