Nationals Baseball: Wednesday Quickie - is this the year?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday Quickie - is this the year?

In 2009 the Nats drafted generational talent Stephen Strasburg.
In 2010 the Nats drafted generational talent Bryce Harper.

The forward thinking fan thought that by 2013 or maybe even 2012 these guys would be in the Cy Young and MVP discussion every season and would be leading the Nats to the promised land of titles both divisional and championship. But fate is cruel and player health is fleeting and that future never materialized.

In 2010 Strasburg flashed that amazing talent putting up a crazy numbers in ~40% of a season of work. 7.4 H/9. 0.7 HR/9. K-BB number of 9.9* Since 2010 only two other guys have hit that K-BB mark for a full season, Kershaw and Sale, but they didn't do that until 2015 when they were 27 and 26 year old veteran arms respectively. Stras did that as a 21 year old rookie. But instead of getting a chance to improve on those he would get injured and have to get Tommy John, setting him back a year. His comeback in 2012 was good, and he's been very good since but he hasn't been able to get back to dominance. He's been just slightly more hittable, slightly more prone to the long ball. Perhaps though, that has been the fault of injuries. A tweak of the back/should midseason in 2013, a stiff neck and an oblique injury in 2015.  Maybe they set Strasburg back just a bit, which may not seem that much, but just a bit is the difference between Kershaw level and the next step down where Strasburg has been.

In 2012 Bryce would come up and put up some very impressive numbers for a 19 year old including smacking 22 home runs in an abbreviated season. Things looked bright but in 2013 things would go off track. He'd put up a line of .360 / .444 / .744 before crashing into a wall and hurting his hip and ribcage. He'd crash into the wall again on May 13th and hurt his knee. He'd only hit 11 home runs after the first crash (he had 9 at the time) hitting .251 / .349 / .417 for the rest of the season. In 2014 he was hitting .289 / .352 / .422 but then tore up his thumb sliding headfirst into third. He'd hit a decent but nothing more .268 / .342 / .424 for the remainder of that year. In 2015 he finally put up a full healthy year and, well, you know the rest.

You could argue that right now we have a good chance to have a healthy Bryce and a healthy Strasburg together at the same time in May for the first time ever**.  If we go by Stras was healthy coming back on August 8th this is what these two guys have done since then in about 40% of a season.

Bryce : .324 / .459 / .671  20 homers 50 RBI  55 R
Strasburg : 9-2  1.74 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9

Push that out into an entire season and you get Strasburg with a 25-5 record. You get Bryce hitting 51 homers, driving in 127 runs and scoring 139 times.

The Nats have had some good performances, but those two doing that at the same time? Wow. Six years ago we thought it might happen 4 times or more if they kept Strasburg. Now we are hoping for one. I'll take it though.

*This is a better tracker of domination than K/BB rate as that can give too much credit to hittable guys with fantastic control.  It's not a bad stat - I usually start with it because it's easily available and we're smart enough to pick off the Kevin Sloweys of the world, but K-BB is better. Shows unhittableness and control. 

**So in review : In 2012 you might say that but Bryce was raw rookie and Stras was in a recovery season. In 2013 they were both healthy that first month then Bryce would go down at the end of April and Stras would get injured in June and would both fight injuries rest of year. In 2014 repeat that story again for Bryce plus you could probably say 1 HR to start year meant he was still recovering from off-season surgery. (Also Stras's super slow start suggested less than perfect health as well - though I have no confirmation of that).  Last year Strasburg fought off ankle issues coming in from Spring Training for the first part of the season and arguably wasn't right until August.


Kenny B. said...

This is the jinxiest column ever written in the history of sports. I'm calling it: tonight Bryce loses a finger is a freak fish tank-related accident and comes back after some time off to play with only 9 fingers. Despite this, at the end of the season he ends up 4th in MVP voting amidst Internet forum claims that he is the most overrated player ever. The fish and the finger end up in the baseball hall of fame museum.

Even absent this specific scenario, one of those two will get hurt this year and I will blame this blog post.

G Cracka X said...

I'm not sure I understand the first asterisk. What is K-BB rate better than?

Otherwise, good post. Its a shame that neither guy will likely be re-signed by the Nats

Sean said...

G Cracka X:

I can see Strasburg not coming back to the team.

But if you think Bryce wants to leave the team you are out of your mind. He's not a sleazy Latin America (Cespedes)
that only cares about money. You can't buy this man. He loves this organization and is not going to move.
10 years $300 mil from the Nats means more to him than 10 years $400 mil+ from the Yankees.

Harper said...

Kenny B - as opposed to all those years I said nothing and they were healthy all year like... ummm...

G Cracka X - the more commonly used K/BB. Some people hate K/BB but really it is pretty good - you do have to pick off a few extreme control types though. You don't have to do that with K-BB. K-BB isn't perfect though. The way Ks are trending it may eventually lose predictive value if K/9s gets high enough. 14-4 is probably a troublesome pitcher while 11-1 is historically dominant.

Sean - sleazy Latin American? come on now.

As for Bryce, I think he like playing here. I won't even rule out him taking less and staying but no way, NO WAY, he leaves 100+M on the table. 0 chance.

Robot said...

NO, HARPER, THIS IS NOT THE YEAR!!! Everything is doubtful, Nats are way underdogs.

Take your jinxes elsewhere!!!!

Robot said...

More seriously, though, I've been saying for a while that Bryce will stay if he thinks he'll win here, and if he leaves, it will be to a team in the position Washington was circa 2011.

He'll get paid a ton wherever, but i think he takes less (say, biggest contract ever, but by a lesser margin) to go where he thinks he'll get a few rings. No enormous paycheck can get you one of those.

Donald said...

If Washington were to make an offer now, what Bryce would be gaining is the buy out of his relatively cheap arb years as well as security in case of injury. So maybe something that's in the 5-6 year range would appeal to him, in that he'd be trading 3 years of arb + 2-3 years of free agency mega contract, for 5-6 years of almost mega contract. The other option that might work would be a HUGE, long-term contract that's got a heavily deferred salary, which is what the Lerner's tend to prefer -- something like 15 years and $600m. But my guess is that Boras will insist on at least one opt-out which would be a deal breaker for the Nats on that type of contract.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame some feel that Latin players are "sleazy" and only out for money. It's even worse that you felt compelled to actually share that thought publicly. I hope the readers of this blog are above that kind of thinking. For your information the humanitarian (as in serving humanity, not money) award in baseball is named for a latin player. Look it up.

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

Now you did it I got to put the inverse double reverse jinx on to save the season.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this column. It's a good thought experiment, and if it actually came true that both reached their potential this year, well this is going to be a great year.

BxJaycobb said...

Thinking 300m is enough to keep Harper is hilarious. The contract that keeps him probably PROBABLY starts with a 5.

Anonymous said...

^Alright, I'll bite. How about we all go pull together the change from behind the couch, pool it together, and offer Harper $5.06 for the next 20 years?

Bjd1207 said...

@Sean - Yea there's no room for that here

@Harper/G Cracka - K-BB means K/9-BB/9 right? That's how you end up with a 9.9? I typically view both stats together anyway (K% and BB%)

Jay said...

They stink. Harper is juicing and Strasburg has sandpaper and pine tar in his hat. They'll be lucky to win 70 games. Werth is old and has bad hair. Zimmerman picked a lousy field to name after himself. Palpebon is nice. Dusty has a negative WAMW for good reason.

There, hopefully that is the aforementioned double reverse wammy jinx.

Harper seems to love DC. Rizzo supposedly has a framed autographed picture of Strasburg hanging up in his office with the inscription "Thanks for looking out for my career" - aka the shutdown. However, that doesn't mean either one will stay in DC. They will follow the money. They will very likely refuse any extension and hit free agency. You don't hire a guy like Boras and then take a hometown discount - or take any kind of extension for that matter. The downside to having a bunch of Boras clients on the roster is that most of them will eventually leave. (Rendon, Espinosa, Fedde, Brian Goodwin, Strasburg, Harper, and Sherzer and Werth) Obviously, Sherzer and Werth aren't leaving, but you get the point. I predict Harper ends up in LA. Makes me sad to write that, but I just don't see the Lerners being aggressive enough to keep Harper. Plus the argument could be made that 1/2 billion dollars is too much to invest in one player. An example to support this thought is ARod in Texas.

JW said...

I actually think Rendon stays. Of all the Boras clients who are higher level players, he's the most likely to stay in my opinion.

For Harper, it's an interesting choice for the Lerners. One the one hand, it's going to take an extremely large amount of money to sign him anywhere (DC or otherwise), which isn't really their MO. It'd be like Scherzer and Werth together level money. On the other hand, his legacy alone could substantially, substantially increase the value of the franchise if he ends up having the type of career people think he is heading towards. It'd be like the impact of a Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, etc. on the value of the brand of the New York Yankees in the first half of the 20th century. Or Jordan on the value of the Bulls brand. Kareem and Magic for the Lakers. The value of those teams was/is helped by their location, but the legacy of their stars really pushed the value forward into the heights they are at now.

I honestly think the MASN situation will dictate a lot of what happens with Bryce. If they get just a little more revenue breathing room, they might be willing to take that gamble. Stras will be gone though.

Harper said...

JW - the Orlando Magic 30 for 30 got you thinking towards the end that losing Shaq really killed that team's identity. Local fans remember titles. National fans remember players.

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