Nationals Baseball: Early season stats

Friday, April 08, 2016

Early season stats

Like the "Spring Training stats" are meaningless post, watching Werth and MAT flail the past three days reminded me of another annual post. The "what do early stats mean" post.

First, they don't mean nothing. As of Monday, these players are playing real games versus other players who are trying their best to get on base / get people out. There's no working on taking the ball the other way or getting a slider over the plate. We can't question the validity of what happens in the same way we can for Spring stats.

Yet, their importance can be easily exaggerated.  Michael Taylor has gone 0-11. Jayson Werth has done the same. This happens during a season. Take Yunel Escobar. Perfectly good hitter last season. He went 0-12 over one stretch, and was 0 for his last 23. He had plenty of other stretches almost as bad. 1-15, 1-11, 1-13. And this was a guy who hit .314 last season. Two years ago Werth hit .292. He was the best hitter on the team and picked up some MVP votes. Yet he had stretches where he went 1-13, 1-11, 1-12, 0-11, 1-12, 1-11, and 1-11. Players have slumps. They go hitless for a few games. But because it is the only data we have now we tend to overemphasize what we see.

On the other hand, we can't simply say "It happens" and move on. It is the only data we have, so we do have to take that into account. MAT and Werth are hitting .000. There may be an issue here and it's worth, if not worry, then attention at least. Not deep focus on every pitch, but giving their at bats more than a casual glance. Is there something up here? Are they behind constantly? Fooled easily? Or is it bad luck? As just a fan watching can we pick up on something? Because if so - that's not a great sign.

Early stats must be looked at cautiously. They tend to make players look worse (or better - see Daniel Murphy) than they really are. Every player has bad series and even bad weeks. 99.9% of players will go 1-13 or worse at some point this season. For those with the bad luck of having these runs to start the season, like Werth and MAT, they will probably get more attention than is necessary. But a run to start the season isn't the same as a run mid-season. For the latter we have plenty of other evidence of how the guy is probably going to hit this year. For the former we don't. This is it. MAT and Werth aren't going to hit .000 for the year, but if you are worried they aren't going to do well, this is evidence in favor of that. It's not strong evidence. It's far far from decisive evidence. But it's evidence nonetheless and it's the only evidence we have from 2016.

(On the bright side we also have very weak evidence that Zimmerman is going to be fine, Murphy is going to be very good, and Bryce won't take a step back. If you prefer the positive spin)

Other Notes

I generally ignore the first start of a season for a pitcher. Weird weather, out of normal 5-day rhythm, pitching solely for "allowing for fewest runs in  6-7 inning" goal really for first time in 6+ months. It's not really fair. I go at least 3 before I make a judgment. Still not a great start for Roark, even before the rarely seen "go back in after rain delay" move. His next game will be against punchless Atlanta so we'd hope to see better results.

It's early and unfair but I didn't see anything in Belisle that makes me think Burnett or Gott would have been better choices for that spot.


Robot said...

Werth needs to baseball harder!!!

G Cracka X said...

How long of a leash will Belisle have before they decide to replace him with Gott? Obviously, we've only seen him for one game now, so along with the theme of the post, its a small sample size but perhaps not meaningless.

How long do we have to get into the season before evidence for a given player (doing well or doing poorly) becomes 'compelling'? End of April? End of May?

Anonymous said...

Some of my early thoughts:

If Murphy is nothing but straight average the rest of the year, I've already gotten more enjoyment from him in just three games than I got from watching Ian Desmond all of last season. Speaking of the dopey one, he is off to his typical atrocious start with the Rangers. On the sort of plus side, at least he has fewer opportunities to commit errors in left field.

I might be completely nuts here, but I still think Taylor has at least the potential to be special. But clearly he's not ready for prime time yet, and to have him batting leadoff is flat out insane. Have any of the coaches maybe considered encouraging him to try bunting for a base hit once in a while?

Not only should Werth have one foot on the bench, but it couldn't be more abundantly clear that Giolito should be in this starting rotation right now. And he would on any team for which winning took priority over money and control. I can't adequately express how frustrating it is to me that we might very well throw away another season because of this kind of nonsense.

JC said...

Roark - not a great performance but also had a number of weakly hit balls that snuck out of the infield. I would expect him to improve just based on having better luck.

Taylor - I agree with the concern from Anon about his early performance. That being said he had some hard hit balls that might have turned into hits if it wasn't so cold yesterday.

Werth - Most concerning. Looked like he was completely fooled. At least in the past he could work counts. If he cannot do that anymore then I think his early struggles will persist throughout the season.

John C. said...

Yeah, the important thing to note about the early data is that the fact that it's the "only data that we have" does not make it useful in any meaningful way. Both on the good side (Harper; Murphy; Zim; Ramos) and the bad (Werth; MAT).

I was at the game yesterday, and I wasn't particularly concerned about Roark's start. He's never been a strikeout guy; he focuses on producing weak contact. With one or two exceptions yesterday (Ozuna's single in the first was blistered) Roark did exactly that - but boy, did he piss off the BABIP Gods. There were a lot of seeing eye grounders and popups that somehow landed exactly where people weren't. Roark also walked three guys in four innings, but part of that may well have been due to Barksdale having an uncharacteristically bad day behind the plate (the pitch f/x plots are pretty bad). So it's worth watching, but not yet concerning. Suffice it to say that the "Giolito should be in this starting rotation right now" crowd are incredibly premature - especially given that Giolito did not exactly set AA on fire last year in his eight starts there.

Mythra said...

MAT was robbed yesterday on a ball that would have been an HR before the rain and 15 degree drop in temps. Also, I believe that he got robbed on a hot shot to SS behind Heisey's walk. That's 2 for 11 with a little luck or average defensive plays. That said, the strikeouts are still high and show lack of discipline or batter's eye.

Werth does look a little stiff and fooled by some of the Ks looking. Maybe he needs to get Ramos' eye surgeon's number?

Danny and the bench guys have been a pleasant surprise so far. I'd almost go as far as to compare this bench to the Goons. Almost. If they keep it up for a couple weeks of good ABs, it looks to have been a big jump over last year's bench.

Bullpen is still 50/50. Rivero looks really special and has been very good. Kelley got to redeem himself and Petit didn't do spectacular, but average is still better than 2015's pen. Low bar here, but this was last year's major weak link.

Harper said...

robot - he's baseballing as hard as he can. it is the hardest thing in the universe, remember.

GCX - Probably a fairly long leash given how he'll be used (pretty sparingly at least at first) you also need compelling evidence Gott will be better so he can't stumble in AAA

Up to you really. I generally feel somewhere inbetween May 1 and June 1. A whole bad month isn't even compelling to me because I've seen that enough times (or really I've seen 2-3 bad weeks make a month look bad). So I go with a quarter of the season ~40/41 games

Anon - I tend to be with the downers on MAT until he learns not to K all the time, but you are far from nuts. He's young and has one season under his belt. Nothing set yet. I doubt they bunt, it'd be wasting some undeniable power.

Don't worry about Giolito - as much as we worry about the season coming down to a game or two (I even went ahead and predicted such) usually it's far more cut and dried. And if it's more than a game or two Giolito up or down wouldn't have been enough.

JC - Werth bothers me the most too mainly bc he hasn't had an extended period of good hitting since 2014. Also bc he's getting 20+ million next year

John C - Far too small to say anything with any confidence. Basically just markers to note where to look to possibly say something with a small measure of confidence 2 weeks from now.

The walks bother me a little. Since he doesn't K guys he does have to watch the baserunners (and homers) more. But first start - bad weather...

Mythra - I'll take a 50/50 pen. You can work with that in the games that matter.

Harper said...

JC - well on further review Werth did hit well from mid August through mid Sept (bad runs out side of that made the months look eh). Wanted to be fair.

Josh Higham said...

I agree on the Werth worry. He wasn't hurt in ST, so there's no "Oh, wait for him to shake off the rust" argument. There were a couple of swings in yesterday's game that were cringe-worthy.

Right now I'd take den Dekker in LF and batting 5th without hesitation, and I'm far from sold on him as an every day player.

John C. said...

As I've said elsewhere, if you break down Werth's numbers from last season he was terrible when he was thrown cold against ready opposition. Both times he came off the DL, whether in April after no ST or offseason workouts or at the end of July after two and a half months out due to the fractured wrist, he was horrifically bad ... for about two weeks. Outside of those two "startup" times he varied somewhat, but OPS'd .808. Which tells you how dreadful those four+ weeks had to be for his overall numbers to be so bad.

Now, any player pushing 37 is going to merit watching, and he doesn't get that excuse this season. He's not going to get six months leash to find out where he is. But three games? As Denard would say: C'mon, man!

Harper said...

John C - given Werth's age and issues in the field I might shorten his leash a bit but that's still like a full month. If he's ok then he's a big boon and writing him off after a week would be beyond foolish. You have to see if you can squeeze out another .290+ season with moderate pop from him. That's even more true given the fact that MAT can't be relied upon (and you certainly can't bet on denDekker (sorry Josh!) or even Robinson everyday.

Sammy Kent said...

Nationals are picking up where they've left off the last two seasons. 1 for 12 with men in scoring position in the home opener. We're darn lucky to not be 1-2 or 0-3. In game one we had the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the ninth and got only one run....and that was a fluke. Werth should have been out 3 at the plate, game over, Braves win. For the second year in a row Max Scherzer pitches a seven inning gem on opening day and gets a ND because the Nationals can't put any runs on the board.

I hate to keep posting the same thing year after year, but the same crap keeps happening year after year. And year after year Rizzo makes the same dumb personnel decisions and year after year we have a team that consistently cannot hit in a timely fashion and produce runs in crucial situations. Sometimes I really wish I didn't care so much. If Werth was a DH in the American League, the manager would let the pitcher hit. Unfortunately, to my surprise, Michael A. Taylor hasn't done much better at the plate. Taylor at least hasn't been a defensive liability like Werth has. I honestly don't know how Werth stays in the lineup. Well, yeah I do. $$$$$$$$$$$$ But right now I'd play Taylor in center and den Dekker in left until Revere comes back, then put Ben in left.

That great spring training record proves once again, spring training pitching ain't regular season pitching. The Nats can hit average pitching ok. Except for Harper and (in streaks) Zimmerman, they have nobody that's capable of hitting even good pitching, much less great pitching.

Ryan DC said...

^citation needed

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