Nationals Baseball: Eight-Ninths to go

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Eight-Ninths to go

The Nats have played 18 games, or 1/9th of the season. While we wait patiently for the big away trip coming up (just win the Phillies series) to see exactly where we should rank the Nats on the list of NL teams (right now - probably a tentative runaway 2nd), are there any other things we can watch for?

Is Ramos for real? He's cut his K-rate down from last years career high of 20% to 12.5%. His swinging strike rate is at an all-time low (7.8%) It seems too like he's more discerning as his swings at pitches outside the zone are at an all-time low too (26.6%)  On the other hand he's not walking anymore - in fact that's a career low too (1.7%), and pitchers are challenging him in the zone. He's seen more pitches in the zone than he ever has, and that could explain some of the above. He's also not necessarily hitting the ball harder according to his LD% and speed of the ball off the bat. So is he a more discerning hitter able to make more contact? Or are other teams just daring him to beat them and for now he's getting lucky with balls dropping in?

Has Werth turned a corner? Someone else has to hit in this lineup. Sure they scored 8 and 6 runs versus the Twins but that 6 was in almost 2 games worth of innings. In the last 8 games they've scored 3 or fewer 5 times. Werth has hit three homers in the past 2 weeks, and has gotten on base 6 times in the last 4 games, only striking out 3 times. Given that Rendon and Zimm have yet to really show anything, Werth may be the best chance right now at getting another bat going and maybe getting some consistent output from the offense.

Can Danny get his power back? Danny's offensive worth was never in batting average so a ~.200 BA you may be able to live with. But to do that you need him to be patient and have pop.  Espinosa isn't actually hitting that bad, or at least he shouldn't be. He's striking out a lot less (still a lot but a lot less too) and walking a lot more which is helpful. But he's hitting a ton of flyballs... which are all staying in the park. No homers yet this year. If he can't start getting a couple of those to go over the fence Trea Turner can tell the moving trucks the exact date he'll need them.

Is Max ok? As we noted last time he seems to be a little off. The walks are explainable - that's probably who he is more than last year's control master. But he's been a little too hittable, given up a few too many homers.  A bad game from any other Nats starter would be a throw away - Ross, Stras, Gio it's going to happen at some point. Roark - well jury's still out but it's not a surprise. But a bad game again for Max and the worry continues to grow. It's not really a worry about 2016 either - as the Nats look strong rotationally and should be able to weather an off-year from Scherzer. But it is a worry for the future as Max is here for years and was expected to help cement the rotation with Giolito and now Ross.

Is this already the end for MAT? He's still not hitting. He's still striking out a ton. And Chris Heisey seems perfectly decent to play the few games between now and whenever Revere comes back. Does Taylor get shifted to the bench?


Mythra said...

Got my first ticket for a game tonight. Hoping the rain holds off and that the hotdogs are hot and beer cold.

Max might be tipping. He also might have a minor mechanical flaw. If it were either one, I'd hope that Maddux is working on it with him.

MAT has to hear footsteps, but he also seems to be reacting to the pressure by pressing. Other options are presenting alternatives when the job was his to lose after Ben's injury. Pressing at the plate is never helpful. Opponents can see it and he keeps swinging at bad pitches because of it.

I think Werth is exactly what we'll expect from an aging player. He'll hit around .270, because he usually has plate discipline. I'd say the bar is a little lower on HRs. Maybe 15-20 instead of 20-25, even with 3 to date. All depends on warm days at Nats Park, where the park plays small.

I expect Zim to have a 6 week hitting streak starting sometime in May, when he hits around .400-500 like clockwork. I go to the beach, Zim starts to hit. Every year, like clockwork.

Rendon will likely finish the year around .270-280. He might also get hot and finish .300. I think we'll see a return of Tony Two Bags once Revere is on base. Concerned about his HR power, but the doubles should be back once he is hitting pitcher mistakes with Revere on base. He really should benefit hitting in front of BRYCE.

I have to give Rizzo credit. I was hard on him for the bullpen last year and didn't immediately buy into this year's version being better. They have been very, very good so far. You can say all you want about bad teams, yadda yadda. Those teams are still Pros and still trying to win every night. I don't think the Nats are the '84 Tigers or 2001 Mariners, but they could win 95 this year with this start.

Chris Jackson said...

The whole issue with MAT is really frustrating. A few years ago I assumed between MAT and Goodwin one of them would end up being a key piece of the outfield moving forward.

Chaz R said...

Given Danny and Drew's 'meh' performance so far, I would expect to see TT as soon as his service time clock works out. I wonder about the move though, I can't see them keeping 3 middle infielders.

MAT is very disappointing. I feel bad for the kid. He had such a great opportunity that is rapidly slipping past. No doubt he is pressing and fighting it.

For me, Max is the biggest question and question mark. We were spoiled last year when we got a career year from him. The SP is looking great, I would hate for the foundation of the rotation to be actually be the weak spot this year, not to mention going forward!

Bryceroni said...

I think MAT has a bit more run, at least until revere gets healthy, but yeah it's disappointing that the bat hasn't come along at all. He has enough tools that if he could get to below average with a bat he would be worthwhile.

This is why we shouldn't bench him for a heisey type: heisey will give back the offensive upgrade on defense, and he has no potential to be a valuable player going forward. Get heisey some time, but make sure MAT is still the #1 until revere returns.

Bjd1207 said...

For examples of a 4-tool player with a poor hit tool, look only so far as Byron Buxton. Sent back down by the Twins after our series

Old Man River said...

This is just a guess, but here goes... Going into last season, Scherzer was working on adding a cutter/slider to his arsenal and it proved to be one of his better pitches in 2015. It takes the league at least a full season to adjust to a player when a scouting report is expanded via new pitches for a pitcher, adjusted patience for hitter, etc. Take a look at Strasburg this season, who thanks to Maddux, has added a cutter to his repertoire as well. This is a pitch that the league has never seen Strasburg throw and he's throwing it with success. Now the book is out on Scherzer. Obviously this isn't the only reason, but I think it holds some water. Perhaps there is a correlation with this and success for both Strasburg so far this season and Scherzer last season? Thoughts?

Clip&Store said...

MAT is perfectly a 5th outfielder. 4th outfielder? Ok if he doesn't need to play a lot...

I mean this kind of stuff happens with prospects. Can't be shocked. Dom Brown had a similar but even BETTER skill set and I don't even know what he's up to these days without looking it up, probably AAA somewhere.

JE34 said...

Like last year during his rut, Max is having major issues keeping the ball down. When he gets movement it is left-right, and not dramatically so... and still up in the zone. I expect him to get himself right like he did last year, although I don't expect multiple no-hitter stuff.

Poor MAT. I feel bad for him, but he looks like he is just not IDing pitches, worse than Desmond ever did. He should get himself right in Syracuse, and I expect him to do so.

Rendon is the one that worries me. The older vets will figure out what they're doing wrong and get to a point of at least average production, but Rendon needs to show that he can do that post injury, and he hasn't yet (or so it seems).

Also, we might do well to temper our TT expectations. Can we create a Wins Against Danny Espinosa metric to go with WAMW? WADE, anyone?

Bjd1207 said...

@JE34 - Lol luckily I think I site like fangraphs will help us compare TT to Danny well enough

Harper said...

JE34 - completely agree on Max. I just noticed - he led the league in HRs given up after All-Star break last year (and gave up 3 in the 2 games right before it). 4 in 4 so far this year. 33 won't lead league but it won't be far off. Last year it wasn't too bad because he still wasn't walking anyone but it could get bad since he's not as precise this year (though only one of his HRs this year has come with men on)

Fries said...

and there Max goes again...

BxJaycobb said...

Max again is saying "it's a mechanical issue...easy fix." One problem. You said that last start too, and if it was so easy why didn't he fix it? It's really a mystery to me how somebody who was so remarkable last year can be pitching like this without a specific injury or something.

Ric said...

@Harper: "Is this already the end for MAT? He's still not hitting. He's still striking out a ton."

Taking issue with your first point. MAT is hitting. After being given the day off April 14, he is 10 for 40 his last ten games (with 2 HRs and 2 doubles). I know .250 isn't what we want/expect. On the other hand, it is definitely trending up from his .133 before the day off.

We (you and me) are saying Werth is coming around. But since his same April 14 day off, Werth is 8 for 36 (with 2 HRs and 4 doubles). I agree he's looking better than earlier. But he's only hitting .222 his last ten games, compared to MAT's .250.

That being said, MAT has 17 Ks in that stretch, compared to Werth's 12. But I think it only fair to say that if we are optimistic about Werth finding his groove, then it is too early to give up on MAT.