Nationals Baseball: Friday thoughts

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday thoughts

Stop thinking about the season game by game. It's tempting because the Nats need every game they can get but it's still way too early to do that. Think of it series by series. The Nats just took 2 of 3 from Colorado in Colorado (where they are not bad). That's good. Chalk that up in the series win column. They are now at home versus three bad teams, the Brewers, the Padres, and the Marlins. They shouldn't lose a single series. Will they lose a game or two? Almost certainly. If you ride that game by game roller coaster enjoy.

Do worry about the Mets if you want. I said this before but the whole "Don't worry about the Mets." comments that come after a mention that the Mets won/lost, that makes no sense. Why do I, Joe Wellwisher, have to ignore the Mets? The players don't have to know how the Mets are doing. It could be distracting. Me? What the hell does me following the Mets have to do with anything? The Mets... probably should go 6-3 in their next nine as well but they are at Colorado and Philadelphia then home v Boston. It's an eclectic bunch of games with a couple of band box parks to start. It's a tougher road so if the Nats do go 6-3 I bet they pick up a game at least. If the Mets go 7-2 or something, well then, hats off to them.

Rendon played last night making the speculation that he was super hurt just that. One of these guys, Werth or Rendon, is going to have to come on this homestand. There's no other way it's going to work... well ok if Bryce gets hot and Yuney is hot and Ian is hot and Ryan is hot, there are ways dammit, but the easiest way is for one of the two best offensive Nats of 2014 to put it back together. Werth had a couple good games before last night. Maybe his bat woke up. Let's hope because he's probably batting first for at least a series.

Oh Matt Williams. The Rockies actually had a tough line-up to deal with last night. L/S/L/R/L/R/L/R you really can't avoid letting a match-up go against you at some point. If I sit down and think about it it's hard for me to really feel like he had a big screw-up. Let's go over the probably thought process. 

"Let's see if Max can make it through one more inning. Sure they scored last inning but that was a fluky swinging bunt / why Yuney shouldn't be at third. All in all Max still looks good"
REYES SINGLES
"Dammit, well I can't keep Max in to face Gonzo, now. Not given how hot Carlos has been and how he hits righties. Let's bring in Rivero. Let him get Gonzo and maybe then pitch to Arenado. He hasn't hit lefties great this year. We'll see."
GONZO SINGLES
"Dammit, well I can't keep Rivero in to face Arenado now, not after giving up a hit to the one guy he was supposed to get out. Give me Treinen"
ARENADO STRIKES OUT 
"Ok he looks good out there. It's a gamble but I think I'll let him stay in. Paulsen is no Gonzo and he hasn't been swinging the bat well the the last few games. Hasn't had a hit this series." 
PAULSEN SINGLES
"Dammit"

I wouldn't say I would do the same thing. I probably PH for Max in the 6th and try Roark for a few batters then Rivero to turn around Reyes to his bad side and then get Gonzo. Sounds good here but any move to pull Max to get to the Nats middle relief? That's not going over well. The facts are that right now the environment for Matt Williams and the pen is so toxic that the only move that isn't going to get him heat from the fans is bringing in Papelbon in the 9th. Maybe matching up Thorton or Janssen vs a tough righty or lefty, maybe.

I thought about it a bit yesterday and Matt really gets the brunt of things because managers are the last line of defense. If the GM does his job and the players are healthy and playing well the managers job is easy. If something goes wrong he has to fix it and it doesn't matter if the tools he has on hand aren't equipped for the job. The starters are going a bit short, the offense isn't hitting, so the middle relief matters. The middle relief hasn't found dependable arms so who Matt Williams chooses is making a difference. If any of those three things didn't go wrong, we wouldn't even care about MW's amazing ability to pick the wrong guy and the wrong time. But they are so he gets the blame.

Half a thought should tell you though - you try to fix the first line of defense first, not the last one. So watching decent bats like Wil Venable and Marlon Byrd get traded while Tyler "I've got one hit since the All-Star break" Moore sits on the bench drives me insane. I know you could say Moore will be gone when Span is back, but I don't trust that'll be before rosters expand and I don't trust that someone else won't go down to injury again. Sigh.

37 comments:

WiredHK said...

Max had a high PC and we were in Colorado - he didn't have much business starting the 7th inning. After that, sure the CarGo hit off Rivero is a bad break and Treinen looked good vs Arenado. But leaving him in vs Paulsen was easily a bad move given the moment (all the numbers suggested it). Thornton is there to use, use him. Paulsen gets his RBI off Thornton, I can't see room for any complaints at all about his usage -- you just tip your hat. Give your team the best chance to win....

Harper said...

WHK - problem with pulling Max is what I said. Wasn't at limit, going into pen. Who do you trust more, even with Max close to 100 pitches? Ok you use Thornton against Paulsen. Let's say he gets a move 'em over slow roller to the 1st base hole. Then it's Thornton vs a righty, gotta pull him right? If you don't it's the same argument you just made above. So out goes Thornton. Janssen isn't available so Roark? OK let's say Roark gets out of it. Then he's pinch hit for in 8th because first batter up. So Storen pitches the 8th and you've reduced a full pen going into the 7th to Papelbon and Fister if you happen to tie it up or take the lead.

Eh. I mean that's certainly playoff type managing. But it anyone of those guys don't come through he's going to be accused of over-managing. The point really isn't what he did was right. It was iffy. The point was it didn't matter what he did - he was going to catch hell if it failed, even if it could be argued

DMCj said...

Another solution - score some runs. That takes the heat off of the pen - and Williams, for whom managing relievers appears to be his weak spot (outside of pointless replay challenges).

Bullpen stuff aside, I'm more confused about why the artist formerly known as Wilson Ramos is getting so many games/ABs. As I've said before, it's a miracle that Harper hasn't complained about having to carry the team at the plate ... if he really were the obnoxious prima donna that everyone outside of DC thinks he is he'd have done it by now. I also wish Scherzer weren't having his own struggles because he'd be someone else who could credibly call out the team for sleepwalking.

SM said...

Two things, one specific:

The 7th inning sequence is probably as you reasoned. But WiredHK makes a good point about the pitch count. Williams yanked Max after that first hit, but Max was labouring somewhat already. I thought Williams was going to make a double-switch at the start of the inning, but given his shaky bullpen, maybe he had no choice.

(Incidentally, how many double-switches has MW made this season? Anecdotally, it doesn't seem like many. I suppose that's a consequence of the "defined role" principle governing this team.)

The other thing is Bryce, and just how good he is. No other Nationals hitter scares other teams. No one. Yet game in, game out, pitchers throw around him, throw slop at him, bear down on him. Opposing managers change pitchers because of him. Yet he keeps getting on base, despite no one to "protect" him. This kid is special.

Max David said...

I know catcher's don't hit for much power nowadays but if you don't hit, the least you can do is frame pitches well, play good defense and or throw out runners at a high clip. Ramos has done none of the three this year. Should Loboton get the majority of the playing time from here on out?? Like Ramos, Lobes can't hit a lick either but at least he's a big step up from Ramos on the defensive side of the ball.

DMCj said...

Max: I am intrigued by your lineup suggestion, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. These days, Ramos reminds me of the old joke - like Michael Jackson, Ramos wears a glove on one hand for no apparent reason :)

WiredHK said...

Harper - How is it the same argument, in your scenario? Thornton is actually BETTER vs RHB than LHBs this season -- and pretty good against both. So, no, you don't need to pull him at all in your scenario where he appears with 1 out, gets Paulsen and then faces the next batter with two down. You let him get those last 2 outs -- it's much better than leaving Treinen in (who has been a disaster at letting inherited runners score and who has appalling splits vs LHBs).

I understand you don't want to burn your whole pen in one inning -- which is why, given Max's high PC entering the inning (ok, you got me, it wasn't 100 but...come on) and that he appeared to be somewhat laboring without his electric stuff (FB was down to 94/95 as I recall), you pull him and let Rivero or Thornton handle the inning from the start.

I'm not trying to pile on the guy, but these are trends with him so it's fair to point out. He tends to leave SPs in too long and he tends to allow bad match-ups to happen more often then they should. Last night, he did it again.

And yes, the offense was surely to blame by and large. Score some damn runs against a crappy lefty at Coors and Max pitched well enough to win easily....

Anonymous said...

Mets have lost 4 of their last 5. They're ripe for the picking. I think the Nats will be within 1 game of the division lead by Sept 1.

WiredHK said...

SM - I'm not sure I can recall a single MW double-switch this season. Good point, as well.

Harper said...

DCMJ - because Lobaton isn't any better

WHK - I think it would be certainly reasonably to start Rivero in 7th. The thought process there probably included "Pitcher is up first next inning, too" It certainly wasn't an obvious call to pull Max.

MD - Eh Ramos isn't good at framing but Lobaton is only a little better. Ramos has a better arm. Really it's a wash

JE34 said...

Lobaton is good at making silly glasses out of gatorade cups. He can't do that if he's playing.

Ryan said...

what happened to Wilson Ramos?

W. Patterson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
W. Patterson said...

@SM - Your comment about Bryce Harper . . .

I hate to admit it but I often listen to some of the pundits on MLB XM radio. While they were discussing who the MVP should be for the National League they commented on Bryce Harper and that without him the Nationals would (to paraphrase) be going on dates with the Phillies and sharing the same straw. Funny analogy, but they got the point across.

Comment: Any way to get the follow-up box automatically checked?

SM said...

@W. Patterson

It is a funny analogy.

Earlier this season, I asked (on this blog) if there was an official Pitchers Faced by Batters (PFB) statistic. When Bryce returned from injury last season, it seemed that, ever since, opposing managers would change pitchers--bring on the southpaw!--whenever Bryce was at bat far more frequently than any other Nat.

And not just in the obvious situations--late innings, men on base, close game. If the opposing team were up by 2, say, or down by two, and Bryce was leading off from the 6th inning on, the manager would throw in a lefty. Whatever platoon advantage the opposition would lose with the Nats' subsequent array of right-handed batters didn't matter. Bryce was the killer hitter they needed to put away. Put away Bryce, and you put away the Nats.

Given the--um, erratic (we could all name names)--hitters the Nats surround Bryce with, I am constantly astonished at how often the Nats are credited with having a decent offense.

But even more astonishing is this: That opposing managers seem to have recognized Bryce's importance to the Nats far sooner, and with more acuity, than the Nats have.

W. Patterson said...

Your last sentence, SM, reminds me of some statements made by the German high command during/after WW II with regards to the Allied forces. They (the Germans) recognized our "killer" generals and often wondered why the Allies didn't do things that any smart military officer would.

Like the Nats (sometimes), we won WW II in spite of our leaders, not because of them.

SM said...

"Sometimes" is the operative word.

And "operative" is a bizarrely appropriate word. At Germany's Kriegsakademie, the most valued quality in a general was "operative skills," a kind of untranslatable combination of tactics, strategy and initiative, gifts that couldn't be taught.

Unlike the Nats, though, we did win the big one.

Anonymous said...

What can Trea Turner do for you?

Kenny B. said...

Nats park will be the new Turner field. Hope this new kid is a real... Head Turner... I'll show myself out.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo, please go find a catcher that can hit for 2016. Lucroy, Cervelli, or someone else have gotta be better. Wieters will be too expensive. So tired of Ramos ground out to 2B any time he has men on base. And no winter ball for Ramos. I think he's tired.

Froggy said...

Max Scherzer pinch hitter??

Matt Williams is a clown show bro!

Anonymous said...

Now under .500 and and 5 games back. Yup, those Mets sure are ripe for the picking.

Bryceroni said...

Bryce deserves the mvp.

If the nats and angels miss the playoffs and trout and Harper don't get mvp... I don't even know.

Believe. That's all we have left.

David said...

Catching the Mets at this point is a pipe dream. Not making up 5 games when they have easiest schedule in baseball.

W. Patterson said...

They were tired, is all. Yeah, that's it.

Froggy said...

Im a diehard Nats fan but, catching the Mets is crazy talk. The players all have 300-400 ab and over 120 games have been played. Every player that Rizzo / Lerners could have traded for to help the offense (see Donaldson, tulowitzki, Cespedes, carlos Gomez, Carlos Gonzalez, etc) is raking for their new teams (or current team).

No, I'm sorry folks the sample sizes are in. Expecting an 'hey, I just realized what I've been doing wrong ALL season and NOW I'm going to start hitting' is crazy talk.

Sammy Kent said...

8-16 since Rendon, Zimmerman, and Werth returned to the lineup. In nine of those 16 the Nationals have scored two or fewer runs. In one of the eight wins they scored one run. The pitching, while certainly less than stellar and even plain bad at times, has still put the Nationals in position to win most of those nine games if they could have put some runs across the plate. In the sweep in New York the Mets scored two, three, and five runs. In three games against the Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies the opposition scored three runs. Give the Mets the five run game, but that still leaves five very winnable games for this supposedly paragon lineup to produce, and would make their record in the same time frame 13-11, and two games ahead of the Mets.

I'd hate to see Matty take the fall for a season that's not really his fault. I'm not talking about the injuries. I'm talking about the GM that year after year deals the same cards to his manager and expects different results. Except for Bryce Harper this team has no reliable power, and he didn't get reliable until this season. What's the manager to do when he wants another 30-90 outfielder in the lineup? Sorry, that guy isn't on the roster. What about that 30-90 first baseman? Sorry, that guy isn't on the roster either. How about a .260 hitting shortstop that doesn't make 25 errors a season? Well, yes, he's on the roster but we're going to play the .225 hitting guy that makes 25 errors a season and strikes out 100 times. Do we have a catcher that won't hit into DPs with the bases loaded and can actually catch the ball and make a tag out at the plate? Well, we used to, but he's an All-Star in Minnesota now.

Ryan said...

you sort of had me until you wanted Kurt Suzuki back

Max David said...

The sad thing is Marlon Byrd was right there for the pickings for a waiver wire pickup, give us some help on offense in the outfield. Someone should go check on Rizzo and see if he's still conscious....and watching the same team we are!

Anonymous said...

Meh. 6 H2H. I'll start worrying if if the Nats fall more than 6 games behind the Mets in the loss column.

Nats just called up Turner and getting stronger by the day.

The Mets are getting weaker by the day. Mets only won because of a fluke game from Cespedes. Otherwise, they showed again why they just lost 4 of 5. Looks like Duda's going on the DL. Colon is shot. Two relievers they can count on. Syndergaard is hitting the rookie wall. Harvey is losing starts.

David said...

keep saying 6 H2H but honestly, the nats are a sub .500 team - I have no confidence in them going out and winning games against harvey degrom syndergaard or even matz. yeah colon sucks so when they win games with colon it is that much more soul crushing because that just means the big guys are around the corner.

Fries said...

The Nats are 5 back right now. That's still within reach given that the Nats are definitely going to win more games than the Mets from here on out. BUT I don't see them winning enough. You let a piss-poor team like the Brewers score 10 runs at home and you're asking to be left out of the playoffs. I see the Nats finishing 2 back of the Mets, Williams gets fired and Rizzo gets put on the hot seat if he doesn't make any moves for catcher, bullpen, and/or a slugger in the offseason (I'm STILL bitter about not going after Cespedes....at least drive up the price Rizzo!). Werth should be Uggla'd, eat the contract and send him elsewhere. I'd say the same for Zim, but he means too much to the fanbase.

John C. said...

I see only one way for the Nats to get back into it. Harper, you're going to have to call the NL East for the Mets.

Max David, you are as completely wrong as you could possibly be in your Ramos vs. Lobaton defense assessment. Ramos is better than Lobaton defensively in almost every way you can imagine. You say that Ramos doesn't throw out baserunners at a "high clip." His CS% is 40%; league CS% is 28%. Lobaton's? 22%. And it's worse than that, because fewer runners attempt stolen bases against Ramos (one attempt every 18.1 innings) than against Lobaton (one attempt every 10 innings). So when Ramos is catching opponents are running almost half as often, but still being thrown out at a much higher clip.

Pitcher ERA while each is catching? Ramos 3.56; Lobaton 4.41. Runs against average while each is catching? Ramos 3.82; Lobaton 5.09.

Ah, but Lobaton can catch better, right? Certainly FP has a bromance with Lobaton's pitch framing. Well, actually, Lobaton is a little bit better at pitch framing than Ramos - but less than you think. Ramos is actually slightly above average, and Lobaton a bit better than that. But before he can frame a pitch, Lobaton has to catch the ball. When Lobaton is catching, one ball is going to the backstop every 18 innings. When Ramos is catching, one ball is going to the backstop every 42 innings - well less than half as often as when Lobaton is catching. I have to wonder whether part of Lobaton's problem is that he's plucking the ball trying to frame pitches that he misses some.

And on and on. Ramos makes more plays (range factor/9: 9.02) than Lobaton (range factor/9: 8.10). League range factor/9 is 8.36, so for those doing the math Ramos is better than league average, Lobaton worse. Total zone rating for catchers Ramos +8, Lobaton -2. By Defensive Runs Saved (Fangraphs) Ramos is well above average (+7); Lobaton below average (-3). Hell, according to Baseball Info Solutions Ramos is an above average pitch caller (+4) and Lobaton is below average (-2).

You can quibble with any one defensive metric, sure. But when they all line up decisively in one direction? Just put the argument down and back slowly away. Ramos is not only better than Lobaton defensively, he's better than league average defensively by a fair margin.

Froggy said...

John C, could splits, say after the AB, account for the perceived difference in performance between Lobes and Ramos?

Kenny B. said...

Won a couple of series in a row now against bad teams, so that's something, I guess. Rendon may be heating up, so that is also good if it holds. Bryce Harper is still awesome. There are some green chutes, but they're showing up too late. Maybe it'll carry into 2016.

David said...

lol, Nats can't catch a break. Obv. the rockies score 9 runs on back to back days and lose. Then yesterday Rockies can't beat some no name rookie pitcher who has been waived twice in the past year. Oh yeah, the nats are going to catch the Mets. I'm super confident in that.

Robot said...

And that is how the Nationals should be performing against teams like the Brewers.

Won the series. Great. Now go and win the next one.