Nationals Baseball: The big fish

Friday, April 15, 2016

The big fish

The Nats have finished beating up on the Braves for a while. 6 games. 6 wins. See you in August.

The next two series might tell us whether the Nats are really good. I say "might" because even with a strong showing it may be that the Phillies and Marlins aren't that good and the Nats are just feasting on bad teams.You know what? That would be great news, too.

Why? Because those bad teams would be in the Nats division. It would be confirmation of what we assumed at the beginning of the year, that there would be no competition from the lower half of the NL East. That the Nats may ride easy to the division crown depending solely on how they match up with the Mets.

Even if the Nats are not a great team that's not important. What's important is that as at least a good team, they make the playoffs. If they beat up on the Phillies and Marlins over the weekend and continue to separate from the pack it sets up a clear delineation between Washington and the bottom of the East. Whether that line marks the difference between great and ok or good and bad is unimportant. A gap would exist. The Nats would feel comfortable in their position, especially so if the Mets continue to spin their wheels.

We want to figure out how good this Nats team really is. In this quasi-transition, sort-of last season of window A, year we want to know if the Nats can reach the heights of 2012 and 2014, or if 2015 signified a definitive change in the talent level of the team. We probably won't be able to figure that out soon. But if all we learn this week is that the Nats seem much better than the Phillies and the Marlins and that they hold a nice lead on both those teams at the end of this stretch, we'll have learned plenty.

Notes :

Bryce! After a few games behind Bryce reties his nebulous HR opponent "Any Other two Nats" at 3.  We're still waiting on our first homers from Rendon, Zimm, Espy, and Taylor. The first two bring up "Has their injuries sapped their power" questions. I'd be more worried about Rendon than Zimm. Zimm showed last year post injury he could still get it going (10 HRs in 35 games). He may have an issue hitting homers but it's more likely to be a current injury than some lingering effect of the last one. Rendon on the other hand only hit 5 homers last year. It may take him a good long time to get back to the ~25 HR type power we thought he could develop. As for Espy and MAT, power and defense is what makes these low AVE guys viable. Without power things get dicey. Espy has a good eye (when he's being encouraged to use it) and can still get on base ok. MAT though does not. He really needs to get hot. Of course if the Nats keep winning no one will care.

Strasburg looked pretty sharp didn't he? One of the things I'm sure that will annoy me this year is that we're likely to see praise for Mike Maddux with little evidence that the pitching staff actually improved. It was 6th in the NL in ERA. It was 1st, 6th, 1st in preceding years. Sub out Fister for a Roark who shows that it was the jerking around last year that messed him up. Add in more reliable bullpen arms picked up in the off-season. Already you are looking at a staff likely to skirt Top 3. All he'd have to do then is luck into a career year from Strasburg (which we've all thought was possible for years now - just been waiting for health, psyche, and run support to align) and Maddux could bask in the praise that comes along with a staff that is best in league. Right place right time matters kids. Get on the right trains in whatever you do. It reflects well on you, if not with a knee jerk talent evaluation, than at least with a realization you can pick winners.

17 comments:

Miles Treacy said...

I must say I do like what I'm seeing so for overall. It's a little frustrating not being able to fully tell if this is the Nats being a great team and beating who they should or if those teams are just really really that bad. But it also might be a good thing to get the confidence flowing. Really liked seeing Stras pitch like that yesterday. I don't think I could handle another article saying he's not mentally tough enough to overcome being sick to pitch lights out. I'm holding out on judging if this team is a great or ok team until that STL-KC-CHC-DET-MIA-NYM swing. I think that stretch can either go really well or really really bad....

Alex Freeman said...

With MAT's massive struggles, why do they keep hitting him first? Why not throw Rendon at leadoff and Murphy at 2? Anything is better than a .100 leadoff hitter that strikes out ~40% of the time

Harper said...

MT - Yeah that'll probably be the telling streak. But if they lose just a couple more before that...

AF - because they keep winning and when you win you can keep doing stuff that might not help you but you want to do any way such as make MAT into a leadoff hitter because he's a speedy CF and speedy CFs hit leadoff. So don't expect a quick change. Sometimes winning is good because it let's you have the patience to stick with a good idea that doesn't happen to click right away. Sometimes winning is bad because it let's you keep fooling yourself to keep trying a bad idea that will never work.

Bjd1207 said...

Probably the most reassuring thing is that the biggest holes we can find in the team right now (Taylor and Espi's offense) have already existing solutions in the form of Revere and Turner.

As for the Mike Maddux discussion, one thing to keep in mind is that not all the praise is results-driven. Something like making the next-day's starter chart pitches is a spectacular exercise in my book. And I love that Maddux instituted it for our guys. I don't know whether to classify these things as "intangibles" because they are definitely tangible, but maybe not measurable in terms of performance? But it's not like we're waiting until the end of the year to see what our ranking ends up and then saying "look at all the good maddux did." I'm already finding things in his approach that I like and that I think are helping our pitchers, regardless of results.

Anonymous said...

If Espinosa continues to butcher plays in the field that should be made, his gig as a starter will probably be over even faster than I thought it would be going into the season. Because I think Drew can do an an adequate job of holding the fort down until Turner is truly ready.

While Espinona's defense is usually good, I've never thought it was as great as some people make it out to be. I think there's close to zero chance the organization brings him back again after this season.

Donald said...

@Alex -- I think it was mentioned before, but Baker admitted that MAT wasn't a lead-off hitter and doesn't belong there. It was just that he really liked where everyone else was hitting that he didn't want to change too much if he didn't have to. I think he even told MAT not to change his approach at the plate to be more like a lead-off hitter because that's not who he is. I don't think Baker is committed to keeping him in that place, but probably wants to wait more than a handful of games before making a change. At least that's what it sounded like.

If Rendon or Murphy led off, it would require other moves, since MAT doesn't necessarily slot into the #2 or #5 slot. I wouldn't mind just swapping MAT and Espinosa in the line-up, but not sure how much of a difference that would make.

Plus, line-up order doesn't matter, right?

Bjd1207 said...

@Donald - It does matter, just not nearly as much as the amount of discussion about lineup order leads you to believe. Lol it probably comprises like 35%-40% of the discussion on this board (and I'm probably most guilty). I think it's because it's one of those things that's easy to understand and make changes to, but that isn't testable or provable unless we literally have a large enough sample size for each different lineup combination.

But the one of the only times it's so egregious as to actually impact run-creation is to do something like put your WORST hitter in the leadoff spot...oh wait.

Ric said...

@Alex What Donald said. Baker likes where everyone (including Revere) is batting in the lineup. So he wants to just replace Rever with MAT and leave everyone else where he thinks they line up best in the lineup. Notice yesterday the two substitutions of Heisey and Den Dekker? He plugged them right where MAT and Werth normally bat, rather than shift the entire lineup to accommodate the replacements.

It brings up another point I read somewhere else: I may not agree with a lot of things a manager does throughout the season. But if the manager has a reason, I can still get behind it. I don't like MAT leading off, but at least Baker has a possibly-valid reason for doing so. So I won't second-guess

1natsfan said...

Really like how Dusty has been using the bench to spell Zimmerman, Rendon and
Werth. Seems that this strategy may prevent long visits to the DL for those guys while keeping the bench players fresh. In times past, with Davey and Matt Williams, it appeared that the only time a bench player had an opportunity to play was when they pinch hit for the pitcher which usually didn't work out or they waited for a starter to get injured.

Alex Freeman said...

Appreciate all the responses guys. I have to agree that if it ain't broke, don't fix it plus Revere coming back soon will make this a moot point. However it's unfortunate that MAT is playing so poorly especially considering that he was raking in spring. Goes to show that spring stats really don't matter much at all

Mythra said...

I've been somewhat out of touch of the Revere injury report of late. Is he going to be back at the 15 day minimum, or is he going to need a rehab? Last season, the oblique turned out to be setbacks and re-re-rehab assignments more than a 15 day trip. Even if Revere isn't back until May, there is time for MAT and Danny to adjust.

Book on MAT right now is throw sliders out of the zone, but start them in the zone. He flails and chases for the strikeout, or just fails to pick up rotation and watches a slider down the middle go past. The road to the Show is littered with guys who can't hit breaking stuff. MAT is getting into this groove.

Danny's swing is long and loopy again. He's behind fastballs and popping up breaking/offspeed stuff. He needs to get back to slapping from the left side. Quick hands to the ball. When he does that, he's .250 Danny with doubles power. That's all we need from the 7 or 8 hole.

Take care of business in Philly tonight and keep the line moving.

Ric said...

@Mythra: Four days ago Thomas Boswell said, "average number of days lost to [an oblique] injury in recent years has been 26." So look for him to be out an additional two weeks beyond the 15 day minimum.

Kenny B. said...

I guess I get the whole "I like where everyone else is, so let's just put MAT in the leadoff slot" approach, but wouldn't it be nominally the same to just make 2–8 into 1–7 and slot MAT at 8th? Or if the pitcher spot is also key to this whole approach, Just Make 2–9 into 1–8 and put MAT last? This achieves the exact same order, but gives you fewer ABs from Taylor per game. Maybe he's worried what that would do to Taylor's confidence, but my understanding of batting orders is that they are all about the relative positions between players and the other players around them, not the actual number assigned to the slots.

So far we've seen at least one solid performance from every Nats starter, so that's really great to start the year. Yeah, yeah, it's the Braves, but we've been over this. It's still nice. Coaching-related or not, the staff looks good.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Mets just lose back to back series at home to the Marlins and Phillies?

Bjd1207 said...

And wait when did Danny develop a good eye? His walk rate this year is absolutely inflated from hitting in the 8 spot. Career 7% walk rate? Not terrible maybe, but definitely not good

Donald said...

@Harper, was this the game you were waiting for?

Ric said...

@KennyB:

No, not at all. The theory is that the number 4 hitter should always bat cleanup. Moving everyone up one makes him bat 3. And I don't think anyone thinks we should move Bryce up to 2nd.