Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Still nothing

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Quickie - Still nothing

Still nothing. But a week closer to Opening Day, so there is that!

Something to keep in mind as we go into this year, something I noted during the whole dream / nightmare scenarios is the idea of the Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper "problem".  The idea is pretty simple. It's more likely than not that Scherzer and Bryce will not reach the heights that they did last year. Given that the "base" Nats record may be lower than you think based simply on looking at last year's record and factoring in injuries.

Bryce had one of the greatest offensive season in history and post- WWII the guys that repeat such a performances (without a little injection of the ol' "invisible to media medicine") are named Williams, Musial, Mantle, and Pujols maybe. That's it. Other guys come close, but setting the bar at what Bryce did last year, they don't cross it. It was THAT amazing. And how amazing it was was basically lost because the team didn't win anything.

But the point here is it's likely Bryce won't do better than this either. It's likely he won't follow-up a Top 20-25 offensive season since the War with one equal or better. That's not to say he can't do it. He is at the right age. No one think it was a fluke. (Hey Norm Cash! Get out of here!) But it's more likely he won't do it than he will. That means the Nats will likely be, with some measure, worse.

The Max Scherzer season was not as dramatically good. It was worthy of Cy Young consideration but not historic. It was however, arguably Scherzer's best year ever, and given his age, if you are presented with the choice "equal/better or worse", again the smart money would be on worse. I'll repeat what I said with Bryce. It's not to say he can't do it. Max is a great pitcher. Pitchers have seen high levels of performance straight through to 34/35. That's not that uncommon. But it's more likely he won't do it than he will. That means the Nats will likely be, with some measure, worse.

Max and Bryce set extremely high bars last year. They will likely come in under those. The deciding factor will be how worse they play. A half-step worse from each and it will be a bump on the road. Two steps worse each and the Nats willl have some serious ground to make up.

Can they do something like that? Sure. Injury returns and some new players should make a big difference. But they'll also need to not have a bad season performance wise. That's a pretty obvious statement but what is less obvious is they didn't have a bad season performance wise in 2015, taking away injury issues. For each minus (Ramos, Desmond, Fister) there was a plus (Escobar, Robinson, Ross).  All in all the players healthy on the field gave the Nats an even performance. This wasn't a snakebit team who had nothing go right. It was a team unlucky with injuries that was otherwise pretty even.

Spring Training Stat review!

Michael Taylor is hitting with power! ... which we all kind of knew he could. It's nice to see it. It could translate into a bit more pop this year. However it's not his power that was ever an issue. It was the average and getting on base. So while this is nice to see it doesn't mean you should be excited about Taylor this year. We have to see if he can keep the average up and maybe work a few walks when the games count. Remember average in Spring means nothing.

Danny got a couple hits. Good enough for me to just say start him. He could still be awful but I'm only holding the worst Springs against anyone.

Given their presumed importance. I'd like to see Kelley and Papelbon not stink, but it's still too early to think there's an issue. Everyone else who truly stunk is unimportant and/or already gone.


Nattydread said...

It's hard to argue with your logic. And since on this blog we're not allowed to draw any meaning from ST stats, you are right. Nothing to report.

Two comments. Harper probably has a good chance to stay MVP good. That's all the team really needs. He needs men on base to produce RBIs.

Second, Baker is a more exciting manager. Williams had zero entertainment value. If Baker's superior value as MLB icon-Jimi-Hendrix-pal doesn't put wins on the board, it does make a long season more interesting. But he also seems to demonstrate leadership qualities. No stat for that but MW didn't seem to be able to inspire. Add to that some tactical skills, and Baker adds a few wins. This I can see, even in a Florida spring.

sirc said...

I am getting the feeling that Taylor might not be on the roster, at least at the start of the year. I think it might be Reed Johnson and Chris Heisey. It's just a feeling. Heisey is a Dusty guy though, and could finally end Tyler Moore's time with the Nats. Reed Johnson, if healthy, still seems like a good player. Plus they are both good pinch hitters, or in Johnson's case the best pinch hitter.

Jimmy said...

No way. Rizzo would never let that happen. Taylor will be up day one as the first guy off the bench in the OF, besides Baker loves him.

Robot said...

I don't know who this Norm Cash fellow is, but he sounds like a delusional idiot.

Ric said...


Agree with Jimmy. Taylor has the most ABs and second highest OBP. Might only be Spring Training, but he's on the Opening Day roster.

Ryan DC said...

Harper, I think you are underrating just how minus-y the minuses were. In 2015 Ramos and Taylor combined for more than 1000 plate appearances with a wRC+ 66, with Ian Desmond coming in at another 640 plate appearances of a wRC+ 83, and it was only that high because he had a huge August. Meanwhile, Tanner Roark and Doug Fister were 200 innings of 4.30 ERA, and they were lucky it was that low. So we had 2 of the 5 worst hitters and 3 in the bottom 20 and also 2 of the worst 12 pitchers in baseball. And that's on top of getting hammered with injuries. It took having 5 of the worse performances in ALL of baseball to outweigh the Bryce/Max excellence. So the surprising adequacy of Escobar, Robinson, and Ross was nice in that it kept the Nats afloat, but simply tallying pluses and minuses does not do justice to just how awful some of our regulars were last year.

In other words, unless you are anticipating having 3 of the worst hitters in baseball again (on top of 2 pitchers combining for a replacement-level full season), the positive regression should far outweigh any steps backward from Harper and Scherzer (injuries aside *knock on wood*). Hell, FanGraphs had an article along the same lines ( Also, there's no way Rizzo makes the same mistake of assuming injured players will bounce back immediately or of letting underperforming starters torpedo the season, at least not if he wants a new contract. The man can't construct a bullpen to save his life, but I don't see him letting Ramos put up the 3rd-worst hitting line in baseball for an entire season again.

davecydell said...

With over 5 decades of Washington baseball [counting the black out period] I have learned: do not hope/wish for glory, just enjoy the beautiful game [thank the gods I am not an nfl/nba fan]. I will take whatever Bryce gives me, and look for a sweet surprise from Taylor, Turner and Roark.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea there's no way Taylor doesn't make the roster. He's our best defensive outfielder, and is having a great spring. No reason whatsoever to prefer Heisey or Johnson over him

blovy8 said...

I think a case can be made that throwing Taylor into the fray helped him more than AAA would have. If he swings at strikes, he's pretty good. He had enough big hits to have a bit of confidence, but struck out so much there's just NO way he doesn't know he has a lot of work to do. He gets two more major league hitters in Jacque Jones and Dusty Baker to help him. He played plenty enough get a taste of what a long season requires, and he's played all over the league in left and center - perfect for a 4th guy who will be likely caddying for the regulars to the point where he might essentially be one again. If he knocks the K rate down to around 25 percent, he can be successful at about 250/310/400 - not quite average, but with defense and base-running, it would only take a couple of extra HR to make him an average CF.

I guess I should be worried more about the next guys up, but maybe there's cannon fodder enough to get through minor dings until they want Giolito's and Turner's service clocks to start.

Harper said...

"In other words, unless you are anticipating having 3 of the worst hitters in baseball again (on top of 2 pitchers combining for a replacement-level full season)"

There is no compelling reason to think Ramos will be better (unless you buy the LASIK thing). He's trended down for 3 years, gets worse the more playing time he is exposed to and is on the wrong side of his peak. Can the Nats bring in someone better? Sure. But we can't assume it now. Meanwhile smart money would be on Danny roughly hitting Ian's marks and Trea not immediately being much better. As for pitching - well 200IP worth of replacement ball isn't far off what most teams get from #5. I can easily imagine 50 IP of bad Roark leading to 30 IP of bad Arroyo leading to 70 IP of bad whoever (cole? Jordan?) before they call up Giolito or trade. The real wild card here is MAT/Revere, but that's covered, imo, by Revere. The "base" last year included terrible MAT. This year there's a new bat. There isn't anything off here from what I said, I don't think

Mythra said...

If is one of the biggest words in the English language. These are a few IFs that I hope happen this year:

If Tanner is #4 or #5 starter all year and not in the bullpen, i think he'll be closer to 2014 Tanner, not 2015.
IF we get a whole year of Rendon, Tony Two-Bags returns and sets the plate for BRYCE and company
IF we get 120+ games from Zim and Werth, the 'outs' in the lineup become Danny and the pitcher.
IF Revere leads off and Murphy replaces the hole that was Desi, (minus August), then we replaced Span and added .050 BA to the lineup. Murphy will make errors, but let's face facts and state the obvious. He's a bat with power that makes contact. Maybe other teams make a few more errors on his balls put into play to even it out.
IF Gio manages to pitch around 3.00 ERA, then he helps make up for any Max's half step backwards.
IF Stras pitches lights out in a walk year, then Max can be average. I don't think Max is an average pitcher.
IF Ross adjusts to the Bigs and shows he can hang around 3.00 ERA, then Max can pitch underhanded (I'm joking, but you see what I'm saying.
IF Giolito is ready, then we can absorb an injury to a starter.
IF Arroyo rehabs and is able to pull a Detwiler and play a month or two at AAA, we can absorb an injury to starting rotation. He's not horrible. And might benefit from pitching a day after a flamethrower like the rest of the rotation. Livan pitched for years with similar stuff, and I loved him as a Nat for it.
IF the bullpen settles in and Papelbon can keep his cool for a whole season, then I think that's worth a couple of wins. Also, Maddux factor here will make people take notice. The guy is a whiz at turning around pitching staffs.

It's still spring and I'm still glass half full. Enjoy this beautiful game as long as we can.

Anonymous said...

Mark it down: Taylor and Revere will both be full time starters well before the end of the season, because Werth is more done than a three dollar steak at the Golden Corral.

Anonymous said...

@ Mythra, to add to your point:

If we win more games that anyone else, then we'll have the best record in baseball...

I love your optimism sir :)

Bjd1207 said...

Fuel for thread topics, more in depth answers to Zuck's questions:

blovy8 said...

Maybe the eye surgery for Ramos isn't compelling in and of itself, but a batting average of .229 is a big difference from years of .278, .267, .265, .272, and .267. That's very consistent even with the playing time being all over the place. It was only about 50 more plate appearances than he'd done before, so I'm not really buying into the fatigue thing and the trend downward kind of happened early for that.

Ollie said...

"Bryce had one of the greatest offensive season in history and post- WWII the guys that repeat such a performances (without a little injection of the ol' "invisible to media medicine") are named Williams, Musial, Mantle, and Pujols maybe."

And Trout too, right? Or am I drinking too much of the KoolAid that Fangraphs has passed out over the last few years?

Ric said...

"IF Gio manages to pitch around 3.00 ERA, then he helps make up for any Max's half step backwards."

I don't even get this. Not trying to be funny or rude. In eight seasons, he's only once pitched below 3.00. His career ERA is 3.62. Last season he pitched 3.79, and his ERA has raised 0.20 each season the last three seasons. So the optimistic view for Gio should be that he stays at 3.79 this year. 3.00? That's not optimistic, that's outright silly.

(I'm actually a HUGE Gio fan. I'd love for him to pitch around 3.50, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Agree with the rest of your optimistic checklist.

"And Trout too, right?"

Trout has repeated his great performances. But his best season (2011 or 2012? Depends on your metrics) was not "one of the greatest offensive season in history."