Nationals Baseball: Monday quickie - Does it matter?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday quickie - Does it matter?

Fire Matt Williams... I guess.

This team is where it is because it deserves to be. This is how it has played. Middling hitting where bursts of offense are matched by stretches of utter incompetence. Disappointing starting pitching and relief pitching that has made it a habit of blowing up at the worst times. Unimpressive defense and yes, questionable managing decisions here and there. Firing Williams will in itself solve exactly zero of these problems and will only fix the manager issues if a good manager is brought in behind him and we can see the difference in 40+ games.

But it would make all you guys feel better wouldn't it?

I haven't sat down and really evaluated MW's work for the season. To be honest, I really can't (no one can) because I don't know what Rizzo's goals were for him. That aside, does he deserve to be fired in that the job he is doing is significantly worse than the average manager you could put in there? I don't know. Feels like it recently but that's going to be the case with every manager when the team goes on an extended losing streak. They play bad, you make a couple bad decisions and it's a snowball rolling down hill.  What I can tell you for sure is that if I was considering firing Williams after the season I would just do it now. Why not? Nothing to lose.

There's no way around it. As of August 17th, this team is a major disappointment. We can (and will) go over the various reasons why as we close out the year. The question though that matters right now is why is the team playing so badly today? Why, after pretty much everyone gets back into the line-up and rotation, and after they presumably strengthened the bullpen, does the team have it's worst 20 game stretch of the year? 

Part of it is painfully simple and sadly unavoidable. For the first four months of the year the Nats had four good hitters, Bryce, Yuney, Clint Robinson, and Espinosa. When Zimmerman, Rendon and Werth came back, Robinson, Espinosa, and random other guy had to sit. Zimmerman has functionally replaced Robinson, might even be better. Certainly more pop. But Rendon has been a downgrade from Espinosa, even the Espinosa that was slumping in June. And Werth has not been an improvement from three guys in Moore/denDekker/Uggla who are questionable additions to a major league bench. So the injury returnees have made things worse, not better.  But what was to be done? Not play these guys?

Well... maybe. Someone has to evaluate when they are ready to play in the major leagues everyday. Werth and Rendon have not been. So someone made a mistake in that evaluation.

Another part took the Nats by surprise and went unaddressed through the trade deadline. Nearly everyone else dipped from June to July to August

Bryce 1.143 -> 1.015 -> .804*
Clint .872 -> .756 -> .819
Escobar .855 -> .693 -> .720
Ramos .745 -> .410 -> .529
Espinosa .729 -> .606 -> .815
Taylor .704 -> .616 -> .626
Desmond .463 -> .645 -> .911

The league OPS is .707, figure in some pitcher stuff there, but the take away is in June nearly everyone was hitting ok or better. Since then things have fallen way off. Escobar is merely ok. Ramos and Taylor are terrible and not good respectively. Bryce is no longer a monster. Only Desmond has picked up the slack (Espy is playing way less) and one guy isn't going to counter all that on his own.

On one hand you see the thought process. You have guys struggling in July but you have three guys All-Star caliber the last two seasons, coming back from injury. They will simply replace the strugglers. It seems so simple.

But even at that moment it wasn't. They'd push out Robinson who wasn't struggling. They wouldn't push out Taylor and Ramos who were good bets to perform under league average.  They wouldn't, at least at first, push out Desmond who was struggling mightily. It wasn't a sure bet, it was a gamble. It was a gamble that these guys could come in and perform at a high enough level to perhaps carry two poor bats, with the rest of the line-up helping. They've lost that best so far.

Pitching tomorrow!

*I suppose you could blame Bryce if you like, but doing that would be stupid because without him being a monster May-July the Nats win fewer games and we aren't even talking about the playoffs right now.


Jay said...

It looks like they have quit on MW to me. Ever since he face planted in that Mets series it looks like they no longer trust him. When McCatty is getting thrown out you know it's bad. Also, it looks like MW may have phoned it in too. Seems like he now thinks losses are inevitable and there is nothing he can do. Batting Taylor lead off? Escobar 4th? Letting Blake Treinen bat yesterday? Not lining up Sherzer for Mets? No Storen or Palpebon vs Mets? The list goes on and on. Fire MW now and at least we find out if Knorr is the answer.

Mattyice said...

This is all true...and depressing...can't you write a fluff piece to pump us up and keep hope alive for the next couple weeks.

Robot said...

I've been anti-MW since sometime last year. For me, the last straw was his questionable (or perhaps more accurately, "indefensibly terrible") bullpen decisions in Game 4 of the NLDS.

No, canning him won't solve the bad pitching or lack of hitting, but i can't imagine it would make things worse.

Froggy said...

Does seem like a rudderless boat adrift in the Sargasso sea of Hey, that's baseball-istic management. But as much as I think MW should have been gone last year, let's try mandatory haircuts and shaves first before we fire anyone.

W. Patterson said...

I, with other Nats fans, spent too much time watching the team fail in the late innings and were overjoyed to see them actually win.

Now it's a point of just wanting to watch good baseball - OUR TEAM play good baseball. Instead, we see a couple of runs and then THE OTHER TEAM manage to hit, catch, throw (you know, baseball basics?).

It's sad - and I can only hope that our team plays baseball that's fun to watch. If I want to see little league-style play, I'll watch little league.

Anonymous said...

If (more likely when) the Mets win the division, I just hope that Matt Harvey pitches a complete game shutout in game 7 of the World Series so that the Strasburg shutdown looks even more absurd and gets exposed as the complete garbage that it was and is.

Max David said...

I was on the fire Matt bandwagon the past couple days. This morning I don't think they need to fire him now per say, but on this off day they have to do something to shake things up and light a fire under these guys. Whether it is ultimately firing Williams (and I agree with the posters above me, it looks like the guys have quit), or whether it be firing coach(es) whether it be Schu, McCatty or even calling up Trea Tuner (I don't think he would play the OF so I think Werth is a lost cause, but he could probably play second, so hopefully that will light a fire under Rendon's ass to start hitting or losing playing time to Turner).

They don't have to fire Williams, but they must do something. Otherwise, this team is gonna strung along the final 6 weeks to a sub .500 record and 3rd place division finish.

Robot said...

Ummm...I'm not following your reasoning, sir

Chaz R said...

It would feel good to fire MW. He certainly has contributed to the team's demise. More importantly, what has caused this drastic under-performance? Slow return from injuries? Just a bad year? Aging and regression? I suppose all of those reasons apply to various degrees to Werth, Rendon, and Ramos. I think we can give MAT a pas. He's a rookie and should be a bench player/4th OFer pressed into everyday service. Mostly, I think I'm disappointed in Ramos, Rendon, and Desmond. And the pitching! What the hell happened to our SPs??!! I guess Harper will tell us tomorrow.

Go Astros!

Anonymous said...

Understanding that the playoffs involve more luck than anything, even if the Nats were to rebound, they are 6-15 against NL playoff-calibre teams since the All-Star Break -- including the Giants in that, who are 3.5 out of the 2nd WC. That's only a month, but still. Even if they were to rally to make the playoffs with a schedule full of the bottom half of the NL (only 3 series left against teams with +.500 records), it's difficult to have optimism that they'll be able to do much of anything once there. Of course, playoffs are a lot about luck and the hitting would have to improve for them to even make it, but still...hard to feel good about where the team could even potentially go.

The positive side seems to be that this at least gives Rizzo a preview of what the team could be like next year without any kind of changes or moves. Fister is already a non-factor, Span might not play for the Nats again. It's really only Desmond and ZNN who are regular players that could leave and only ZNN has really made any meaningful contribution this year. If the Nats hope to be competitive next year (which they might not, who knows), it's probably going to take more than calling up Turner and hoping MAT starts hitting. Even with a healthy year from Werth, Zimm and Rendon. Because the team out there at the moment looks a long, long way from competing in the NL.

Froggy said...

Wouldn't it be nice if Carlos Gonzalez was traded to the Nats while they were in Colorado?

Now that would be shaking things up.

Anonymous said...

Idea:Cal Ripken for manager. It looks like he accomplished more just by having one conversation with Desmond than Williams has accomplished in nearly two years!

Sammy Kent said...

I don't blame Matty nearly as much as Rizzo for this debacle. I'm not talking about the sweeps by the Mets and Giants; this is a lot bigger than seven games. I'm talking about the personnel decisions that he's made over the years that put way too much weight on pitching and is virtually indifferent about offense. You can't go out and pay $125 million for a guy that's essentially a #6 hitter, 20/80 guy max and hope he becomes a 30/100 guy by sticking him in the #3 spot. Don't trade for Jayson Heyward and expect him to turn into Albert Pujols. You want an Albert Pujols, got get Albert Pujols. If you want a 30/100 veteran player, go get one and pay HIM $125 million. You can't go bargain basement every off season and every July plucking up average speed .250 hitting utility players and expect that somehow they're going to become .300 batting everyday players stealing 20 bases just because now they're playing for you.

This lineup simply isn't that good. I thought Rick Eckstein was the problem, and eventually they fired him and brought in Schu. Things did seem to get better, but even under him the Nationals just don't hit worth a dang until July....if by then. When there's a two-on or bases loaded no out situation and nobody scores, you naturally look to the guys batting and put the onus on them. When it happens game after game after game, you sorta start looking at the hitting coach and manager. When it happens year after year after year, then it's time to see what the GM is doing or not doing vis a vis getting and keeping skilled, disciplined, contact and power batters on the roster.

Rizzo has shortchanged speed such that the manager has to do like Earl Weaver, depending on the three-run homer, yet has essentially only one guy he can depend on to actually hit one. Not enough speed and not enough batting average to play small ball, not enough power to play big ball. Plenty enough pitching to make the team a threat to win the division even with a wretchedly anemic offense, but that won't win a championship. Everybody was whining about facing great pitching night after night in July. Well that's October baseball. You don't get the luxury of facing those 6-15 starters for the bottom teams in the playoffs.

Pescado said...

The Nats problems are bigger than Williams. I totally agree. The thing is, I don't see many personnel changes that can be made. And I can't think of any downside to firing Matt Williams. At worst, we end the season where we currently are >> out of the playoffs.

Question: What's the deal with post-July 31st trades? Any chance we could deal ZNN?

Rob Evans said...

FML...I'm so disappointed in the Nats this year. Now I have to prepare myself for another Redskins' season. I have to be some kind of sports masochist. It's all I can figure.

Kenny B. said...

I'm calling it. The window opened a year early and is closing a year early. The most interesting items to discuss now are 1) what the hell happened (see OP, supra), and 2) what we're looking at next year.

I know we're all annoyed at Desmond this season, but is it worthwhile for the Nats to keep him and buy low? He has a good recent track record, and sometimes players have bad seasons (and he's been showing some green chutes). If you keep him, you can play Turner at 2B, Rendon at 3B, you can shove Zimmerman to RF or keep him at 1B (with Yuney I guess being wherever RZ isn't), put Harper in CF, Werth stays in LF, I guess. Then if you get a decent season out of Desmond, Rendon manages not to severely injure himself, and Turner is as good as we hope, you've got a good infield. The outfield is still a little hopeless, but it has Bryce in it. If you're going to shore anything up in the offseason, you do it in the OF or the RP, since even with ZNN gone you still have at worst a very good starting rotation.

The Mets are still likely the only competition in the division next season, and the team still feels like it's salvageable for another season of competitiveness (plus it's an even year which means the Nats are allowed lose in the first round of the playoffs and the Giants will win the World Series).

Maybe it's still too early to look at next season, but it's more interesting than watching the actual team play right now.

blovy8 said...

Sammy Kent makes excellent points.

I also agree that an un-Nats move of picking up a big salaried LH outfielder like Gonzalez who clears waivers is about all that's left, but I'd have to research to see if there's any deal that's even feasible in that regard.

I don't believe Span will be able to help much this season. By the time he gets back, he'd still need more time than is left to get HIS timing together, and he's not the offensive juggernaut that tips the scales unless everyone else starts behaving like good hitters with him on base a bit more. Why should we expect that? Further, you can't expect Werth or Taylor to hit enough in October not to try to upgrade your corner spot even if Span is healthy and having good AB's by then. There really is nobody in the minors besides Turner who could justifiably steal any playing time.

I think that Rendon is the most disappointing player at the moment because I feel like he's had enough experience and already had to make adjustments to the point where you could expect a certain level of offense. He actually hit okay against the Mets, but he's 8 for 54 since and hasn't driven the ball at all. He's got the kind of swing and approach that really shouldn't take 100 at-bats to regain IMO. It would make sense to think he's still hurt.

blovy8 said...

A team with the money the Lerners have could still build around a remaining core of Strasburg, Scherzer, Gio, Zim, Rendon, Harper, etc. If you can get averageish out of Turner and Taylor, then even after arbitration raises, they'll still have money to get a few free agents, and probably trade Storen (though he's giving them a real FU to his trade value lately). You hear rumors about Wieters being a targer for catcher. Maybe they can get a decent LH OF, but I wouldn't expect Heyward, probably some limited guy like Venable. All it would take is a reasonable starter for depth and some bullpen help. Not that much really to retool rather than dump.

Anonymous said...

The Nats are only 4.5 games out with the 6 H2H. The Mets just got swept at home by the Pirates including a typical LOLMets showing yesterday. Even though the Pirates used below-average starters, the Mets could barely score.

Both the Nats and Mets have had winning and losing streaks this season. Adding a few players didn't cure the Mets weaknesses (spotty hitters, shaky fundamentals, shallow bullpen). The Nats have played poorly against good teams lately, but the talent to win is still there.

One good week is all it will take to catch up. If the Mets were going to run away with the division, they would have started doing it already. Instead, they've been giving away games like the Nats have. The division is still up for grabs.

Matt said...

Anon - Glass half full approach

Mattyice said...

I agree with anon. No point crying over a miserable season until it's absolutely necessary. If the nats don't make the playoffs we have all winter to be upset, why start now...

Fries said...

Anon - it's going to take more than 1 good week, we also need the Mets to have one bad week. Fangraphs (inexplicably) still has the Nats going about .600 the rest of the season, and even still the Mets would have to lose more games than win for the Nats to take the division. I just don't see it happening at this point, we're all literally at the point of prayer and hoping the gods of statistically small sample sizes shine favorably upon us

SM said...

Are we dipping into the free agent pool already? Sure, why not?

Matt Wieters--his name keeps reappearing on this site--might be okay, except you'd be acquiring another catcher with hamstring issues who hasn't played a full season in 2 years. I wonder, after this season, how much of a risk Rizzo will be willing to take on a player who may--or may not--be injury prone.

But if the Nats are going to poke around Baltimore, Chris Davis is worth a look. Left-handed power hitter, can play 1b, 3b and LF, and will only be 30 years old.

Staying in the AL East, why not David Price? Only 30, no arm-trouble history, and a bona-fide Ace.

The money saved from the Zimmermann and Desmond departures--and there will be more, oh yes there will--at least give the team some financial elbow room. (That's assuming they'll want to spend the savings on the ballclub.)

In any case, there's your figurative gauntlet on the ground--for starters at least.

Mythra said...

Rendon and Span are both loss causes for the season. Why? They've been injured in more part of the body and are (in Rendon's case) likely still not 100%. Span, Desi and Znn are likely gone, though I hope the Nats at least give a qualifier to ZNN for the pick. Not sure Desi is worth even a qualifier, and if so, why make the Trea Turner deal?

Joe Ross slots as #5 starter, Roark or Trienen slots in at #4 and hopefully Stammen is back in the long relief role again next year. See how much we missed him this year?

Lobaton is a good defensive catcher. He won't light up the offense, but the pitchers love him and he saves runs and pitches with his framing and defense. Lefty power OF to match Bryce would be awesome, as would Turner developing into the lead off Span replacement. A lot to ask for a rookie, but he has the tools.

At least the guys are off today. Maybe, like the "rain day" in Bull Durham, this helps spark the guys. And for the love of the game, let McCatty run the BP and keep Matt away from the pitcher management. I thought Davey was bad with the hook, but MW makes him look like a genius.

Anonymous said...


I should clarify. I say "catch up" with the H2H in mind, not meaning the entire deficit will be made up in a week. Though the Nats are capable of putting up a winning streak and the Mets are capable of putting up a matching losing streak to accomplish just that.

Nats have an easier schedule with more home games from here on out. The Mets struggle on the road.

The way I break down the 4.5 game deficit is close within 3 games of the Mets by the 1st H2H series. Win 2 of 3 to pull within 2 games of the Mets. Then close within 1 game of the Mets by the 2nd H2H series. Win 2 of 3 to tie the Mets. Tiebreaker goes to the Nats to play the 1-game division play-off at home.

That's a modest set of goals. I think the Nats can easily make up more ground (and the Mets can easily lose more ground) faster than that. Then, if the Nats don't win the H2H, they don't deserve to win the division anyway.

Bryceroni said...

All we need is some hot-coors-field-Harper action.

It will fix everything

Anonymous said...

I'm not giving up until the Mets are 7 game up with 17 left to play. There's a lead they can't blow. oh wait . . .

Anonymous said...

Lol entitled Nats fans are funny. Get about .500 before you talk confidently.

Ollie said...

Entitled Mets fans who suddenly come out of the woodwork after years of irrelevancy to call another team's fanbase entitled are funnier.

Anonymous said...

I love how the fans of the Nationals aka the former Expos act like they have a long history of relevancy LOL. You made 2 postseason appearances in 33 years and got knocked out in the first round both times. You ain't relevant.

prowley40 said...

I love how douchebag mets fans are trolling nats fans who are just venting to one another. Mets even with your past WS wins (what was that 30 years ago?) and your recent trip (15 years ago) are just as irrelevant as the Nats.

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