Nationals Baseball: Bryce Harper HR edition

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bryce Harper HR edition

Well that was needed. That was a home run. Now let Bryce turn back into BRYCE and let the Nats roll. That's what I want to see. If he and Murphy could keep a team winning basically by themselves (ok Ramos too), imagine what they can do with a couple more bats going.

The Nats now extend their 2016 dominance over the Cardinals to 4 games. Most impressively is how they are doing it, limiting a potent offense to next to nothing. In the past 3 games they've given up 3 runs. Whatever I write asking if this is a great team or just a good one, I do not doubt they have a great starting pitching staff. The starter questions are merely "Oh right now the guys are pitching like 1-1-2-2-3 types perhaps they are only really 1-1-3-3-4 types"

Other notes :

Joe Ross pitched well. I think. I didn't feel like he got hit particularly hard, but I also didn't feel like he was dominating the Cardinals in a "fluke home run is only run" sense. It was more a case where the potentially damaging XBH balls were being hit at the OF while the less damaging single balls were getting through. He also got three DPs behind him which always helps. It was a 3-4 run outing with breaks.

I'll be honest do worry about his pitch counts. I'm not usually a pitch count worrier. I think we cut starters off too early confusing tiredness and decreasing pitch speed with effectiveness. Those things are correlated sure but you should react to the game in front of you, not the game that theoretically exists. If a guy is still getting outs then let him pitch. Maybe his stuff just works for that team on that day. Maybe the fact it's worked for 6 innings gives him a psychological advantage in the next couple. It should be judged then and there and not by some hard and fast rule... most of the time.

See I think for the most part once your body is done setting into place so to speak that you should just be set loose for a few years, to be reigned in at a more advanced age if injuries start to happen. But for me that's about age 23-24 to say... well usually 30ish when players start breaking down. This is when managers can go out there and let you throw 120 pitches if they like, in my opinion. Ross just turned 23 a couple days ago so maybe he's not ready? It's tough to say from the outside. But the fact that every single start of his this year, excluding the one he left after 2, would qualify in his Top 3 starts in pitches thrown last year... that bothers me. Let Stras, Gio, Max, and Tanner go until they look like they can't anymore. But maybe hold Ross back a little for another year.

I really like a rested Felipe Rivero. Keep working in those 2-days off breaks in there if you please.

There's really a gap between the guys hitting; Murphy, Ramos, Revere and Rendon - all above .925 in OPS in past week - and the guys who are not; Zimm, Bryce, Espy, Werth - all below .625 in OPS in past week.  Thanks to the homers last night both Bryce (.561 - he had stopped walking along with hitting and you didn't even notice) and Espinosa (.516) pass Werth (.455) in OPS for the past week.  Werth has hit better in the 2nd spot but more accurately he's had one really good game (2-2 double, 3 walks) that's pushing up a mediocre run in the other 10 (8-34, 2 doubles, 4 walks). If the Nats need another bat replacing Turner for Espinosa is the easiest move. But that has very little guarantee of success. Replacing Werth for someone else is far more likely to make an impact. 


Fries said...

FP kept talking about how Dusty was letting Ross get himself out of a jam in that 7th inning and I was getting REALLY nervous. It was very clear that after about 6.1 innings, Joe could not locate his pitches. He got 1 or 2 more K's on pitches that missed badly, but so badly that the batter wasn't looking there either. For me, that's when you need to pull the pitcher because missing badly can mean a changeup up and over the plate and all of a sudden a tied game or being down (see Leake, Mike).

Nattydread said...

Having 4 solid bats (Murphy, Ramos, Revere & Rendon) --- plus just the shadow of Bryce --- is a lot better than a few weeks ago. With pretty good pitching, I like this team.

Espinosa is an solid & entertaining DP fielder. If he comes through with one HR every few weeks, I can live with his weak bat. Call me a traditionalist wrt shortstops.

The Nats seem to go cold with the weather and against very good pitchers.

Is this a very good team? Before we make that award, they need to go on a 10 and 4 winning streak.

theNATural said...

At what point do the Nats look to trade for a good bat to pair w/ Harper?

Scherzer's Blue Eye said...

As much as I love The Bearded Man, he is probably a candidate for a trade deadline upgrade (cough, cough, Josh Reddick, cough!). I think he is one to realize he is not getting it done. Dusty's influence here will greatly help--he is the master communicator--and I think Werth really respects him.

Here is something, though, that may bear some analysis for a future post, Harper, if you are so inclined: The Nationals have faced 0 teams currently under .500 since the Twins, over a month ago. Now that number of teams is a fluid number, we could certainly put the Cardinals under .500, but going 15-15 in those games is not bad (including facing the Cubbies at their hottest). On the season, we've played a whopping 38 games against teams at or over .500.

Chaz R said...

Harper, I know you had JW on a Memorial Day weekend deadline. Really, what viable options are there. Do you really think Rizzo & Co will make a trade and sit JW given his CONTRACT and leadership role ? I just don't see them moving to a permanent replacement unless he gets worse or doesn't get any better until the All Star break. I could maybe see them bring uo Goodwin given how well he hitting right now and platoon with Werth, but that would mean sending someone down- likely MAT, and I don;t see Dusty being in favor of that.

BxJaycobb said...

You can't have an OF with a sub .700 OPS and .285 OBP if you're trying to compete. This isn't just a couple months. He's been hitting like this since middle of last year. This is who he is. You have to do something. Whether it's a trade or platooning Heisey and Robinson for a month before making a trade for an outfielder like Bautista or Carlos Gonzalez or Braun or Reddick or whoever. But with his heinous defense he's utterly unplayable. End of story.

BxJaycobb said...

I would imagine that if Lerners were willing to take on all of the Braun money (not sure why they wouldn't....has are 20 m below payroll last year) that Brewers would take fedde and victor Robles.

Anonymous said...

Anyone but bug-eyed Braun. Do not want that punk.

mike k said...

Question regarding pitch counts - is it a yearly thing, or a per day thing. Or both. The reason I ask is I find it silly that pitchers are expected to pitch around 100 pitches per game regardless of their effectiveness. If you're going well, why not 150? It will balance out when you don't have your stuff and are pulled after 50 instead of forcing you to muddle through. Bullpen usage would be the same over the course of the year, though it will be harder to manage since the usage will be more inconsistent. Thoughts?

After 6/15, the only good teams the Nats play for an entire month are the Mets and Dodgers. Just sayin'.

I'm glad some other hitters got going when Bryce started slumping. Would have been a disaster otherwise. Imagine if Bryce gets going and everyone else stays the would be an above-average NL offense! Like advertised!

Chaz R said...

@Bx- I just don't think it's that simple. Regardless of whether the Lerners are willing to take on a big contract like that, you still have the issue of- What to do with Jason? Bench $21m? Also, not an easy "team" situation that could have implications for the chemistry, morale, etc.

Chris Jackson said...

I wold think at least Clint Robinson could get some more time in left. Defensively it's not as if it is going to be THAT drastic of a drop-off and he is a hell of a lot more fun to watch at the plate.

Bjd1207 said...

On the Werth topic, any trade that involves him is going to have to be relatively salary neutral for the team taking him on (so we're looking at getting big contract guys back like Gonzalez or Braun. Almost zero chance that the Atheltics take on Werth's remaining contract for Reddick's last year. It would also have to involve our top prospects, so it would probably shape up something like Werth, Goodwin, Fedde or Werth, Robles, some other pitchers, etc.

But save for those big contract/big impact guys, I think it's hard to say that replacing Werth would have much more of an impact than Turner>Espi. The non-local scouts have Turner graded out defensively about like Espinosa, and without resorting too much to cherry picking his defense wasn't exactly spectacular yesterday. And with his bat it NEEDS to be spectacular to keep him on the field.

Bryceroni said...

There's no way werth can be traded right?? Full no trade and the salary too.

Would love to see rizzo pull the trigger on an upgrade, but not sure how I see it happening.

@mike k it's not about the number of pitches it's about the stress on the arm. Repeated 120+ pitch counts put a lot of strain on the arm and increase injury risk.

mike k said...

@bryceroni my question is as follows - is pitching 150 and then 50 the same as 100 and then 100. Or, is 125 150 150 50 75 125 50 75 the same as 100 for each.

Bryceroni said...

@ Mike, 150 and 50 not the same as 100 and 100, sorry I wasn't clear. I would expect 150 and 50 to be significantly more dangerous.

Bjd1207 said...

@mike k - I don't know that you're going to get as exact an answer as what you're looking for. The real answer to your question is that neither situation is "better" or "worse" without taking into consideration the particular pitcher, the pitch selections, how hard they were throwing, etc.

What has been established is that a guy who goes 125, 120, 130, 125 is much more injury prone than a guy who goes 95, 110, 105, 100. Beyond that, it's not especially useful or indicative to be so exacting with pitch counts.

Here's a good article that's referenced by many as the start of true "pitch-count" era, it explains how arbitrary it is, how much it varies from pitcher to pitcher, but does set down something things that have been established empirically like young pitchers who are overused tend to break down earlier. And pitchers like Greg Maddux who focus on pitch efficiency tend to have 20 year careers. But then there's Nolan Ryan so....

Here's another article about the effectiveness of pitchers in that game as they pass beyond 100 pitches. The biggest takeaway is that the datapoints are few and far between because you hardly see anyone go past 120 nowadays. But if you follow the trendlines you tend to geet more walks, more hits, and less strikes as pitchers pass 100 pitches.

So both of these (both pitcher effectiveness in the short term, and pitcher health in the long term) factor into manager's decision to remove the pitcher. But unfortunately there's no definitive answer to the question you proposed.

Kenny B. said...

I still hold out hope that Rizzo has a plan for Werth. He had to know for years that this day would come. Even better if he discussed the plan with Werth. I just don't see how a trade could work, and it seems crazy to carry him on the bench. You can't keep him in the minors. Maybe a long stint with a pretend injury? I have no idea, but I'm just hoping Rizzo does.

Also, I'd like to think Bryce's upper deck homer came at least in part as a result of the "mental day off" Dusty gave him. I feel like there have been a couple of times where Bryce has gotten a day off and come back really strong in the next game. I also feel anecdotally like Bryce tends to clump his homers in large numbers, so hopefully we can look forward to a whole bunch of dingers here in the next few weeks, until pitchers start walking him again.

SM said...

@ Bjd1207

So, like a good soldier following orders, I turned to the Baseball Prospectus article you suggested and . . . learned that there remains no definitive conclusions on pitch counts.

The article was from 1998, and though almost outdated, nonetheless has the virtue of allowing us some historical (and ironic) context.

To wit: "Without question, [Bartolo] Colon, [Livan] hernandez and [Jesus] Sanchez are having their right arms thrown to the wolves."

Hernandez pitched another 14 years, and at one point led the majors in Innings Pitched three consecutive years. As for that Colon fella, I understand he's still chasing the dream. (Some say he was spotted in Washington earlier this week.)

But as you noted, we may never uncover the Great Truth about pitch counts.

John C. said...

Bx, there is NO WAY I trade Robles for Braun unless the Brewers eat the entire contract. Much less Fedde + Robles and take the entire contract. No. Dice.

Now, Fedde, MAT (who would no longer have a position) and a lesser prospect plus some contract offset? Now you're having serious discussions. Still would not be happy to have Braun on the team, though. Too much baggage, too much of an injury/age/PED concern.

Bjd1207 said...

@SM - Now you're about where I am :) Ready to shoot down most of the common misconceptions, with almost zero concrete evidence to start building constructive conclusions on

BxJaycobb said...

Fans always over-value their own prospects. You wouldn't include Robles in a deal for Braun/Gonzalez/Bautista, etc? Then you're not getting an impact bat in the trade.
First, Robles is a promising prospect who is literally 2+ years away from the majors. Anything could happen in that period. Let's not pretend he is a sure thing major league star.
Nobody really wants Fedde as anything but a complimentary piece in a package, as his stock has depreciated big time and he is now generally regarded as a future reliever by scouts, given his struggles and lack of any third pitch.
MAT is damaged goods, and most teams don't think he can hit in the major leagues--he's an extra outfielder, not a starter.
The big OF bats (Bautista, CarGo, Braun, etc) are going to be in high demand this deadline. No team is going to deal a player like that for a package headlined by anything less than a Robles/Turner/Giolito/Ross. Those are the only 3 prospects (4 counting Ross) we have that are viewed as probable impact major leaguers. If you are unwilling to give up Giolito or Turner, as I am, then you need to be willing to give up Robles. To propose a trade with other middling prospects AND not taking on 100% salary is to live in fantasyland. The same is true of obtaining a pen arm like Chapman or Andrew Miller. Just realize that. There is no serious discussions about such impact upgrades w/out a willingness to deal one of our most valuable prospects.

Bryceroni said...

So now that people are actually putting up sources... Have to check when I'm not on mobile, but I was going off something (fangraphs or hardball times iirc) that found pitchers with more games over 120 pitches had more injury risk.

Also, just as an aside: isn't 150 pitches in a game a bit nuts? Not impossible by any means, but probably functionally impossible with the max effort pitching style of today.

Anonymous said...

BxJaycobb -- If Robles is no sure thing, and Fedde's stock is tumbling, why would Milwaukee want them?

Josh Higham said...

BxJaycobb - Totally agree. Even if we throw out unfair assertions that Mike Rizzo is a bad GM, he is not so much better than the other 29 guys getting paid big bucks to build good teams that he could pull off a heist along the lines of "Hey, take some players who can't make our team better and give us a player everyone wants because he can turn their struggling offense around. Also, give us several million in cash. These guys I'm sending you are totes worth it!"

You want an impact player? Offer guys who are comparatively likely to be low-cost impact players in a couple of years. Otherwise you're limited to trading for guys like Asdrubal and Lobaton or other prospects.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon - Those were examples, but Bx's point is exactly right. We cannot get one of the bats we've talked about with a middling prospect. We can't say we want Braun/Gonzalez without saying we won't give up any of our top prospects.

But I'd add Goodwin to the list of good trade bait. He's had a great year for Syracuse so far and is effectively blocked, especially if we trade for another OF'er.

Robot said...


SM said...

Bjd1207 - I see your point, and I don't necessarily disagree. The issue, though, is one Harper addressed a couple of weeks ago.

Do you go all in--more like ALL IN--with everybody (and I mean everybody, Giolito and Turner included) in the farm system on the table? Or do follow what Harper suggested was the Nats' template: modest additions to a contending 25-man squad by trading kind-of, sort-of prospects without depleting the farm of what the organization has identified as solid, perhaps exceptional, future major leaguers?

I suppose one of the crucial questions needing a definitive answer is this: Does going ALL IN work?

I'm guessing you can cite examples where it has ended in a World Series championship. But there's the other side, too, Toronto being a striking example.

The Blue Jays believed they had a shot in 2013 and, needing a rotation anchor, made a 7-player trade with the Mets. The principles in the deal were reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey going to Toronto, and minor-leaguers Travis D'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to the Mets.

Toronto didn't win, of course--pitching injuries hurt them badly--so they tried again last year. They acquired Troy Tulowitzki for Jose Reyes and three minor league pitchers. Not done, they then acquired David Price at the deadline, sending three more minor league pitchers to Detroit. The Jays got as close as the ALCS.

After this season, two of their big bombers--Jose Bautista and Edward Encarnacion--become free agents. They won't re-sign both, if either. And now comes the dilemma: go ALL IN again, and hope things turn your way (with a distrusted Drew Storen in your bullpen). Or unload, rebuild the farm and hope things turn your way in 5 or so years.

Tough decisions, either way. I suppose you could argue The Cespedes deal worked for the Mets last season. But you could also argue the Dickey deal was the foundation of last year's success.

Their no guarantees one way or the other.

Bjd1207 said...

@SM - I think my personal opinion would be that Turner and Giolito are off limits, but everyone else is on the table.

I say that because those 2 are going to bring value to our MLB team in the near future, even in the case that we go ALL IN we definitely need Turner or some other upgrade over Espi. And Giolito I think brings value probably above both Ross and Roark, plus I think teams should be remiss to part with the #1 overall prospect (by most ratings) in general.

But everyone else is game. And I think between Goodwin, Robles, Fedde, Lopez, Voth, and the Stephenson kid we've been talking about there's got to be SOME team that finds a 2 or 3 guy package that they want. I mean Colorado ALWAYS needs SP right? You're telling me they wouldn't take Lopez/Fedde/Goodwin (to help replenish the OF they've dealt) for Cargo's last year and a half? Having Goodwin doing well I think puts us in a real good position because the other team will get an almost MLB-ready OF'er with 6 years of control in addition to whatever else we can package with him. We just need Rizzo to sell this Goodwin season as the "real" Goodwin. And there's a case to be made as its his first injury free season in awhile

sirc said...

I don't understand why anyone would want a cheating cheater on their team.

John C. said...

Bx, it's a fair point that Robles is a couple of years away and hasn't yet played above A ball. You have to have a lot of potential to crash the top 25 MLB prospects at that age.

On the other side, yes, Braun is an established power hitter in the major leagues. He is also 32, turns 33 in November, and is under contract for the next five seasons, his age 33-37 seasons, for $111M. We're having so much fun with Werth the last couple of years we want to repeat that experience with Braun? And that's before we even get to the injury and PED baggage with Braun.

It's not a matter of us overvaluing prospects, it's a matter of you underestimating how much baggage that Braun is carrying around in the form of age, contract and "other concerns." In a Fangraphs podcast a couple of months ago Dave Cameron told about appearing at a Saber event at which someone, in introducing Doug Melvin of the Brewers, made a joke about a possible trade for Braun that would have had a solid young cost controlled infielder going to the Brewers for Braun. Melvin's response was "we would totally take that trade." Because getting out from under the Braun contract has a tremendous amount of value to the Brewers.

Froggy said...

You know another OF available after this season who is currently hitting like a five alarm fire over .300 (and not doing too bad in CF and LF)?

Ian Desmond

I'd pay him the $125MM for 5-6 years now that the monkey is off his back.