Nationals Baseball: 2-2, 2 games to go

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2-2, 2 games to go

Gio wasn't going to be in the Cy Young conversation. At least that's what five of six of his full seasons tell us. So a game like this was going to happen. It's just bad timing that it had to happen against the Mets. It's not all bad timing mind you. The Mets are good. But Gio did manage to keep them in check just 5 days ago, so hoping for one more good start wasn't asking for much.

It is notable to point out that the Nats have not faced many good offensive teams this year. The Braves, Phillies, and Twins are terrible offensive teams. The Royals are surprisingly bad so far.  And Miami and the Mets aren't particularly good.  That accounts for 35 of the Nats 45 games. I'm not making a point about the quality of the wins the Nats have*. But I am noting that if you are a Nats starter and things fall right for you, you might have racked up some nice numbers with only a game against top competition.

This brings it back to Gio. He had only faced one good offensive squad so far, the Cubs.** He got hit pretty hard. So maybe Gio's early success was a bit misleading. We'll see as the Nats face better bats as the schedule moves along.

The loss itself isn't very meaningful. I mean, you want a win sure but they don't need it. Just one win in the next two would break the 6 game set into a 3-3 tie, perfectly acceptable for two teams of roughly equal talent going H2H home and away for 6 games. They are favored today and assuming it goes to plan then tomorrow's game, where they won't be, becomes a "house money" game. They can do no worse than split and they can't lose 1st place. So make it happen Strasburg.

Other notes

Now that's more the Colon we've seen over the past few years. The "have all the singles you want", Colon. He's not a scatterer, as much as he relies on the fact you won't be able to put a lot of them together and with no walks there isn't anyone to drive in other than other single hitters. Of course it's only moderately successful, he has had an ERA over 4.00 the past two seasons. But it keeps a career going in the back of a rotation.

Bryce hti before the game. Bryce hit after the game. Bryce is starting to press. Looking at zone maps from before the 3 walk game and after isn't very telling, in part because there's only so many pitches in each little box. But he is seeing far fewer pitches in the zone and opposing pitchers are really focusing on low and away. It looks like that effort has made him over eager to swing at pitches off the plate INSIDE. He's also swinging and missing more at low pitches although that might be attributed to the mix of what he's seeing there. I'd have to look into that more. Hard to tell the guy to swing less but that may be the best plan. Look for something over the plate and up, or else take.

Is it Trea Turner time? Sure. (Well when service time dictates)  But don't expect anything.

*They are 5-5 in those other 10 so it's not like they are struggling there. 

**Since you must know, Ross and Max have faced all 3 good offensive teams (STL, CHC, DET), Stras missed the Cubs. Roark and Gio only faced the Cubs.  So on the flipside of Gio, Ross' struggles might be related to the effort of going STL, CHC, DET in consecutive outings. Even though he pitched well there, maybe the stress of doing so effected him in some way? I don't know. We're all guessing here.


Anonymous said...

Baker started Ramos in the game last night instead of Gio's personal catcher. It may take a few games together for Gio to be comfortable with Ramos the way he is with Lobaton... Or he just didn't have it last night and the Mets Tattooed him pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I was worried from the instant I first heard Ramos was starting yesterday, and sure enough, boom goes the dynamite.

Of course, after the game Gio was going out of his way to act like he doesn't really care who's catching him. Dude, if that's the case then why the heck have you had a personal catcher for most of the last two years? That was either your idea or the team's idea, and personally I don't believe something like that is ever the team's idea.

sirc said...

One thing that I'm curious about, and would like to understand, with regards to the Turner v Danny situation is the part about improved offense, which the Nats certainly could use, weighed against Danny's better defense, which the Nats have clearly benefitted from this season.

I've read a lot about Turner's defense at short. It sounds like he is serviceable at the moment, and some believe that he has room for improvement. But Danny is ++. Isn't it possible that the switch could do more damage than good?

I'm not advocating delaying Turner past his service time qualification. Mostly I'm hoping to understand the plus/minus of it. Does analytics address this question in a meaningful way? Are there any recent comparable cases?

Also, I am aware that we won't know whether or not Turner can play short at the big league level until he's put there for half a year or more. I'm curious about the decision itself, past the service time question because I do believe that there are additional questions in this case.

I want Turner to succeed. The Nats need him to succeed.

Donald said...

It might just have been a random off night for Gio, but having Ramos catch and have a one hour delay to start the game might have thrown him off his rhythm.

I hope Strasburg was taking good notes. The Mets were very aggressive, swinging at a lot of first pitches. He needs to be careful not to groove a lot of first pitch fastballs down the middle. I would be surprised if Harvey was a bad as last week, but I'd also be surprised if he were lights out. Prediction: Nats win 4-2.

Bjd1207 said...

@sirc - Taken as a general rule, the offensive contributions of a player almost always outweigh the defensive contributions. If you look at Fangraphs WAR leaderboard, the Off and Def columns represent Batting Runs above average, and Fielding Runs above average (and BsR is Base Running runs above average). These components, with adjustments for seasons, replacement levels, and a ton of other factors, end up giving the WAR numbers we see. And BR has a similar formula which you can find on their site. If you look at the past few years, the league's best , lights out defenders (Kermaier, Simmons) top out around 30 runs above average. Whereas the offensive leaders are consistently about double that. So the best offensive players offer about double the value that the best defensive players contribute.

Now back to Danny. Danny's been very good overall by the defensive numbers (4th among shortstops) but if his defensive component is essentially offset by his offense. So he only ends up at .5 WAR on the year. Other SS's fall in the same boat, with the other ones in Danny's class (Nick Ahmed, Freddy Galvis) each just barely above replacement level because their offense is cratering their defense.

But if you slide down to Asdrubal Cabrera, he's just below average defensively and is posting a .284/.337/.377 slash line and checks in with the same WAR as Danny. I'd say that type of production is within Trea's reach, and if he brings even an average glove then he's already at Danny's level. If he can beat Cabrera's line, or just add in some steals (Cabrera's baserunning is also just below avg, and Trea's def would not be) then he's already worth more than either of those 2.

TL/DR - Offense generally outweighs defensive contributions except for the elite of the elite. If Turner brings a league average glove then he most likely passes Danny by leaps and bounds.

Josh Higham said...

I'm really excited for Turner, but I find it highly unlikely he plays at a high level getting called up with the expectation of being a season-changer. He didn't hit last year in September (although admittedly he didn't get many at bats), and he hasn't played that much baseball since then, and he's been streaky. I think it's dangerous to count on Turner being some kind of savior.

More than likely, he shows up and is basically average (which makes everyone feel like he sucks, just like people ragged on Stras for most of his career), and now we have to decide which bench guy to deal or send down to AAA. There really isn't anyone on the bench who doesn't belong there, with the exception of that scrub Stephen Drew, but I doubt anyone else wants wants $3 million of him. It feels like a mess, the way fans are hyped about him.

He is probably an upgrade over Danny, so call him up, but don't anticipate that he'll be enough of an upgrade that we see a quick jump in team production.

It's also worth remembering (Randy Knorr in Svrluga's trilogy of death last year): “When Danny Espinosa doesn’t play, he’s horrible to be around.” If you think Dusty and his lighthearted clubhouse/dugout environment matter, being in a hurry to call up a replacement for Danny isn't gonna help.

Old Man River said...

Unfortunately for Gio, though I love him, he's a little fragile mentally. Most pitchers are when their routine is altered. The thing to focus on here is Gio's lack of comfort pitching to someone other than Lobaton, and Lobaton's inability to hit. But, to reference Billy Chapel from For the Love of the Game, "Gus catches, or I don't pitch." Take your pick Dusty: Ramos might go 3-4 with an RBI or Gio will give up 7 runs. I'd glady take Lobaton if it will help our fragile pitcher throw a decent game. Again, I don't fault Dusty for wanting a better bat in Ramos in an important series, but at the same time, don't play with juju.

mike k said...

If/when Turner is brought up, I would figure Drew would be the odd man out. They'd already have an infield super-sub in Espinosa, and you don't need two, particularly if neither of them hit well. That was before Josh just reminded me he was on a $3M yea I don't know who gets sent down. You'd figure Taylor, to get him ABs (injuries happen so he'd get called up again anyway), but I don't know if they want to go with Heisey as their only backup outfielder. I wouldn't. I'm afraid it would be Robinson, but you need a backup 1B for Zimmerman and he's the best hitter on the bench after Heisey.

I hope Gio learns to work with Ramos, because his bat is just so much better than Lobaton's. Perhaps a Mets game was a poor time to experiment with Ramos catching Gonzalez, but that's hindsight.

Bjd1207 said...

@Josh Higham - Are we really relying on him to be a season changer? The storylines all throughout the start of the year at least on this chain have been that everything is going average - well except for: MAT/leadoff spot, Danny, and then Zim/Werth/Rendon all in a boat together.

But we're in first place, pitching is spectacular, and he has Bryce Harper on his team. He's not being looked at to "save" any season, just get Danny off the field

mike k said...

Also, something interesting to share - during the Mets broadcast, the broadcasters said that Gio worked a lot with the Nats' "mental skills" coach, which they argued led to a newfound maturity and his current success. Apparently, when Gio struggles, he is told to say to himself "got to feed the family," and this helps. They then mentioned that whoever told them this declined to say why it helped, though I suppose we can all have our guesses.

Josh Higham said...

@Bjd sometimes it really sounds, at least in these comments, like the season is already lost unless we bring up Turner ASAP.

Admittedly, the average fan probably follows the FP Santangelo line of thought that everyone on the team deserves a silver slugger and gold glove, but since Harper attracts a certain type of reader (i.e. dismal and statistically minded unless there is a view more pessimistic than the statistical projections), at least here, Turner gets talked about way too much. Danny is not very good, but if the team misses the playoffs, Danny will not be the reason, and if the team makes it, Trea will not be the reason.

I will gladly eat plate after plate of crow if Trea is great and the team is markedly better with him than with Danny, but it seems to me like we're playing poker, and we really want double jacks instead of double 10s. Technically better, but not likely a difference maker.

Bjd1207 said...

@Josh H - dismal and statistically minded unless there is a view more pessimistic than the statistical projections...hahaha have you been reading my LinkedIn profile?

I talk about Danny (and by extension Trea) alot because it's A.) one of few holes we can point to currently and B.) has a ready and waiting solution. Basically easy pickins for an armchair quarterback like myself

BxJaycobb said...

Joah Higham: literally nobody is counting on Turner to be a savior. At least nobody I know or have read. People are expecting him to be an offensive improvement over Danny (he will be) and to play adequate defense at SS. That's not a savior. But he can help the team right now for sure. According to scouts I trust (like Keith Law), Turner is going to play league average D at SS, and probably end up hitting something along the lines of .260 with doubles pop and lots of steals, and very occasional homeruns. Also...Danny is above average defensively at SS, but he's not "PLUS-PLUS." He's plus-plus- at second base. He's good at SS, not phenomenal.

BxJaycobb said...

The projected numbers I just gave are for 2016. Scouts think Turner may end up being a .290-.310 hitter with 10-15 HR power and league-leader in steals at peak. That's within his projection range. Although he also could disappoint and be a guy who hits an empty .250. Either way...well better than Danny Espinosa.

Anonymous said...

Let's say a player plays about 6 games a week and gets about 24 ABs, average, just oiff the top of my head. 24 ABs at say a .205 avg gets you just under 5 hits per week. A guy hitting say .260 (and I think thats the low end for TT) 6 1/4 hits per week. 1.25 X 4 = 5. Real simple.....worst case scenario Turner gets you 5 more hits per month. You don't know when or where, but thats big and it can affect games. Not saying he's going to be an MVP candidate that takes over games, but it's these little things in baseball that add up. A little more production on the back end, and little more for the pitcher to worry about when he's tossing to Ramos. A better shot to have a man on base when Revere comes up with 1 out, and then Werth, and uh oh....Harper. It lengthens it already long lineup. What about putting him in the 9-hole and having a double leadoff scenario in front of our big guys? There's a lot to like here with TT involved, and it takes away a huge black hole in our lineup and turns it into a net positive. We go from essential having 2 picthers hit back to back to a serious on base and speed threat, that could very well develop into much more.

I'm of the opinion that after the first month or so, once Espi showed he was going to sturggle and TT was raking in AAA that he change should have been made immediately. These games against the Mets are hugely important, and I want our best out there. One of the Met beat writers is even making fun of the Nats, his tweet last night" DannY espinosa still plays for the Nationals"

Last night was ugly. i still feel good about this series but I'll be honest, with them down .5 games and Harvey making his comeback doesn;t the DC sports fan in you just see it coming? Mets come out, harvey completely dominates, Stras gets rocked while tons of Mets fans celebrate in our stadium, p;robably yelling "Harvey's better" again whjile they take ver first in the division and leave us all shell shocked. That would be sooooooo DC sports, woudln't it?

Jay said...

I think what people are hoping for in Turner is just that he will be at least average at the plate. There have been countless times, last night included, that the Nats have started a bit of a rally only to have it die with Espinosa and Lobaton hitting. I agree that Espinosa is good defensively at SS but I wouldn't go so far as to say ++. Another poster mentioned that we have essentially two pitchers in the line up. Except for a 2 week stretch for Espinosa, I'd say the pitchers are out hitting him. I still hope Turner is up in June. I think that is the soonest they can bring him up. Has anyone heard any definite date for the soonest he can come up?

John C. said...

Gio is very good for eight straight starts, battling through adversity and going deeper into games than he has before. But one start (where he actually battled through and overcame adversity in the first inning, but no one remembers that) where he has a clunker and it's "fragile Gio" all over again. That there is the power of narrative and confirmation bias.

As for Gio and Lobaton/Ramos, I had plenty of time during last night's game to go back and look at some numbers. It's true that Gio did perform better with Lobaton catching (19G, 3.50 ERA, 3.75 RA/9, 2.71 K/BB, 1.00 H/9) than with Ramos catching (12G, 4.26 ERA, 4.52 RA/9, 2.13 K/BB, 1.08 H/9) although with Gio pitching Ramos gave up fewer WP/PB per inning.

But ... it’s hard to tell causation there, because both catchers caught good games (each caught three games where Gio gave up 0 runs) and some clunkers. Gio started slow and Ramos caught the brunt of it – Ramos caught Gio’s first six games, and Gio pretty much alternated "good Gio" and "bad Gio" in that time. Lobaton caught the next game, and Gio got crushed (5R, 5ER, 5IP). Ramos caught the game after that, and Gio got crushed again. Gio then went on a hot streak. While Lobaton caught most of those games, Ramos did catch Gio on 10 July when Gio pitched six innings and only gave up one run on a solo HR. In late August Gio had a four game run of bad starts; Lobaton caught three of them and Ramos one. He snapped out of it with two straight Ramos games, giving up 1R, 1ER over the two starts and 11 1/3 IP. Lobaton caught the last four starts, three of which were good and one of which was mediocre.

So yeah, Gio’s stats with Lobaton were better. But is that the catcher, or is that sequencing? When Ramos caught Gio when Gio was on a hot streak, Gio did well in the games Ramos caught as well. And when Lobaton caught him while Gio was struggling, Gio still struggled.

Based on that, it's hard to really tell whether who is catching has much impact on Gio's performance.

Pablo said...

Last night was the anomaly..Gio had a bad of the few..Strasburg will put the Mets in their place tonight and Harvey will get shelled again as he's mentally broken

Old Man River said...

John C.,

I'll have to respectfully disagree. Rather than looking at Gio's hot streaks, take a look at his season as a whole. Btw - Ramos caught Gio 11 times in 2015, Lobaton 20. In nearly twice as many games with Lobaton, Gio had a lower ERA, lower opp. avg., 3.2 BB/9, 8.5 K/9 - it was all done against stiffer competition. Lobaton's games, on average, faced a middle of the road offense while Ramos' games were against sub-par offenses (average rank of 22 in runs/g). Additionally, for Ramos' games: a higher ERA, higher opp. avg., 4.0 BB/9, and similar K/9 (8.7).

Lobaton's worst two games: 2.2 inn/6 ER/2 BB/1 K vs. SFG (12th ranked offense)
5.0 inn/5 ER/2 BB/3 K vs. ARI (8th ranked offense)

Ramos's worst two games: 3.1 inn/5 ER/3 BB/1 K vs. TB (25th ranked offense)
4.2 inn/4 ER/2 BB/6 K vs. SD (23 ranked offense)

Ramos' best game: vs. ATL (worst offense)
Lobaton's best game: vs. LAD (19th offense)

Froggy said...

Meh, Gio had an off night against a Mets team hitting on all cylinders.


Richard Parker said...


Froggy said...

Harvey is dun.


DezoPenguin said...

Well, there we go. House money and all that. I do hope that we win tonight, too, and end up 2-1/2 games up instead of 1/2 game, for obvious reasons, but we've gotten no worse than a split out of the 3-and-3 series. (And Harvey looks really cooked right now.)

Old Man River said...

Froggy - Meh, the Mets had an off night against Strasburg who is firing on all cylinders. The argument can always be flipped both ways. Numbers don't lie, and if they do, then why do we even do this?! Haha, if its all up for personal interpretation then cheers, go Nats.

Eric said...

Off night against Strasburg? Apparently that applies to the last 14 teams that have faced him, eh? Gio's outing was an outlier so far this season (hopefully it remains so). Stras' dominance is par for the course going back quite a ways now.

Old Man River said...

Eric - the point I'm making is if we're going to ignore the numbers and just go with "had an off night," then why do we even talk numbers? I guess the Nats so far this season have had a good night more often then they had a bad night, right? Haha

Old Man River said...

So to fit your logic Eric, I think you would enjoy Harper's posts to be somewhat like this, "The Nats won again last night. They look real good right now, not sure why but I just feel like they'll win again tonight, it all depends on who is hot right now... I guess." Deep.