Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Escaping from the Unlocked Jail

Monday, June 06, 2016

Monday Quickie - Escaping from the Unlocked Jail

The Nats shouldn't have had to escape Cincinnati with a win. But they did have to, and they did do it. Teams stumble during a season. You'd like it to be explainable but it's often not. For example, I pointed out this weekend that the Cubs have only lost 4 series this year. The most recent one, SF in SF is easily explainable, but the others are MIL (@ MIL) and COL and SDP at Wrigley.  None of these teams are better than 5 under .500 and yet they all have a series win versus the Cubs to point to.

So the Nats lost a series to Cincinnati, big deal. The point isn't the individual series but the general trend. What's the general trend? Still positive, but teetering. Going into this 9 game road trip you'd probably have aimed for 5/6 wins. The Nats are much better than the Phillies* and the Reds and normal better than the White Sox**. They should win all the series but a slip-up in one, probably the White Sox one, would be acceptable.Given that outlook the Nats only need a single win at Comiskey. However, it's hard to feel good about 5 wins when you start the road trip with a sweep.

The macro view of the road trip doesn't change. Five wins is still be good. But the micro view does amend itself after the sweep. If the Nats don't win this series, it would again feel like the Nats have stalled out when they should be starting to really thrive.

Other Notes

On Trea? Looked good that first game. Looked ready to get a run playing in the majors. But it's not to be. Why? Ask Rizzo, not me. Best guess is they want him playing everyday but have no current plan to sit Espinosa. It's going to take an injury or  Espy flailing for a couple weeks to get this guy up and starting everyday. 

Strasburg was fine, but didn't win. Ok. Roark was bad but he had been good three games in a row and bad games happen. Ok. Gio though... this is three straight games for Gio where he had a poor outing. I noted about the time this started that Gio had feasted on bad hitting teams (ATL, PHI, MIN, KC, MIA, NYM) and had bombed against the only good offense he faced.  If the rotation holds he'll get the White Sox and the Padres in 2 of the next 3 (Cubs in between) and they are below average offenses so hopefully he'll put together some good outings.

Felipe Rivero is floundering. Is it because of overwork? I think so. He's appeared in the 2nd most games in baseball. Last year he appeared in 57 games. He's already appeared in 29 this year and we're little more than a third through the year. I like riding former starters as relievers hard but Rivero made the switch at a young age and after injury. I'm not as inclined to believe he ever built up that arm strength.

If you're looking at a silver lining to the above note - Sammy Solis has pitched well recently. So there's potential just to keep him up and let Rivero work/rest in AAA for a few weeks. 

The Nats are not exactly hitting well right now. Ramos, ZNN, and Bryce are the ones hitting over .300 the past week, but Zimm's been out and Bryce has been sitting so both of them have few enough at bats that one hit taken away puts them into "not hitting" So really only Ramos is doing real well. However the Nats ARE hitting home runs. Espinosa three hits in past week - 3 homers. Werth 3 hits past week - 2 homers. Muprhy cooling down - but 2 homers. Drew - barely comes up - hits a homer. This is helping to keep the runs coming in even as the team stops getting on base. Spin it positively : Good teams do stuff like this, have one thing compensate when another thing fails.

*Finally things are catching up with the lucky Phillies. 4-12 in their last 16. With the Cubs and Nats coming up could easily end up being a 4-18/5-17 run. 

** Who themselves are 6-18 in their last 24 but they are a solid .500 ish team. 12 of those games were one-run affairs and they went 4-8 in them.


BxJaycobb said...

I've said it before. I'll say it again. Keeping Turner in AAA is nuts. He's ready. He's not overwhelmed. He's a better player than Espi, and by a decent amount. This offense lacks a quality leadoff/No. 2 hitter right now and could use him. Why oh why.

Carl said...

During Roark's misadventures yesterday, someone tweeted "So this is probably Roark's last start then right?" I figured either he was kidding, or confusing him with Gio, but based on follow-up tweets I think it was serious.

Either he didn't actually look at Roark's game log, or it's the DC NFL mentality at work. One bad game? Better get him out of there. Never mind whether there's someone better actually available to take his place.

Froggy said...

I agree with you Harper, Rivero looked smoked and needs some sort of break. But don't you think it would be borderline insulting to send him down after he has answered the call 29 times?

The Trea part I can deal with as I'm sure he'll be back up soon. It's the glaring lack of any kind of production from Revere, MAT,and Espinosa that are the problems that need be addressed. One of you smart guys needs to do the math and tell us at what clip do they have to hit at for the next month to be up to replacement level average / OBP?

sirc said...

At what point do we embrace the strange but true "MAT has hit better than Revere in the same number of at bats" situation?

It's odd, isn't it?

Maybe we can debate the value of balls in play versus strikeouts, or the fact that neither of them can't hit fastballs at all, though MAT's swing and miss rate on fastballs in the zone is alarming.

But the situation is bad. My head is debating this internally, the argument being "let Revere work through this because he has a track record" versus "just start MAT because his better defense on a team like ours has more value."

It's a weird situation, right?

Harper said...

Bx - because Nats are winning which of course is a great plan, until it's not.

Carl - Roark is seen as the #5 so the thoughts are always "he's gone" after a bad start. Of course I bet these people think Giolito is dominating AAA rather than rounding into AA form.

Froggy - If you can't use him how you want to use him you have to get him out of here. I suppose if you keep Solis up you can just flip roles, but can Dusty do that?

Assuming a month is rougly 117 ABs (just to make Revere's easy) and their isoOBP and isoSLG remain stable...

Rever would have to hit like .450. MAT would have to hit like .410 (playing everyday) and Espy would have to hit like .370. Roughly.

sirc said...

There was a "can't" in there which soul have been a "can."

Harper said...

sirc - when we get to the same number of at bats... so another 10 games or so. Then we evaluate where we are.

Old Man River said...

@ Froggy - I'm not sure Rivero has "answered the call" 29 times. He's has at least 4-5 bad outings and I think a lot of that has to do with overuse, as Harper mentioned. While I don't agree in sending him down to AAA, he doesn't need to throw every other game.

Nattydread said...

So what do you think about Papelbon? He said he never had a doubt.

Froggy said...

So, player of the month-ish numbers then.

I am holding my breath starting...tomorrow.

G Cracka X said...

Papelbon's situation was interesting. Gives up a run, loads the bases with none out, then gets three outs without allowing another run. Not sure how to grade that one.

Is Matt Belisle coming back to the team? Or are they going to stick with Solis?

Froggy said...

Papelbon is starting to remind me of Soriano. Except Paps is an arrogant cock.

JC said...

I know that Revere has had a low BABIP this year which will hopefully improve with time. However from watching his at bats this year it seems that he is also making terrible contact. Looking at the spray chart from 2015 it looks like his hits used to come from the left side of the infield or from line drives that drop. From what Ive seen he is either over or under the ball leading to gopher balls or pop flies. Until the type of contact he makes changes I suspect he will continue to struggle.

JE34 said...

Yes, those bad series happen... but what is it about the stupid Reds? Nats lost 5 of 6 last year, and now this, against a team with pretty much no pitching staff at all. Maybe poisoned chili in the clubhouse?

mike k said...

Harper, I think you might be overrating home field advantage when you analyze what are good and bad homestands/road trips. By my quick and dirty calculation, home teams have won about 52% of games this year, and quick research yields about 54% in the last 10 years. Yet you always seem to give a game, sometimes two, in your analysis of successful trips it seems. Maybe not. Maybe I'm just being contrarian. At any rate, I want 6 wins on the trip...5 is always fine, because it's above .500, but a division winner should get 6 against these opponents.

I missed Turner this weekend. How did he look?

Anonymous said...

Gio's slide began precisely when Dusty decided to play games and said "Personal catcher? You don't need no steenking personal catcher!"

And I still have no earthly idea why in the world Dusty took it upon himself to try and "fix" something that wasn't broken. Everyone knows that Gio is a super-fragile and slightly unstable head case. You do NOT do something like that to a guy like Gio, especially when things are going great for him!

Anonymous said...

TT being sent back down is an absoilute joke. It's total and complete mismanagemnt of this team's roster and lineup. Espinosa is not Zimm or Werth. he does not deserve the suppsoed standing with the club that he apparently has. He is one of the worst hitters in MLB and should be benched immediately with nary the slightest hesitation. You want to start, espi? great, hit better than .199 with a .292 OBP. TT defense is perfectly fine because his bat will be a MASSIVE, MASSIVE upgrade. Not a minor one, a MASSIVE one. This is a crucial time because we have some cracks that aren't filling in as quickly or as well as we had hoped, and the Mets just continue to hang around despite their struggles and injuries. Harvey's looking better. I actually think Loney is a huge improvement over Duda....loney could hit .290 for them and give them another quality hitter. TT can actually be a difference maker on this team and his presence could get us another win or two. but no, we're going to trot out Espi every night like he's some kind of sacred presence. Its so easy, take a deep breath, take a step back......and don't outhtink yourself. Danny espinosa is a terrible hitter. Terrible. Hoirrible. Wretched.

Ugh, I can't even. I'm out.

Josh Higham said...

Revere looks like a clown right now. I know history says he has to get better, but at this point he hits tappers right at middle infielders more reliably than Ramos did last year.

SM said...

Josh--History doesn't say Revere has to get better. History merely says he hit better in the past. Nothing guarantees he will hit like he has in the past. I feel your pain.

Pressing in the same direction, it seems that much of the discussion (lately, mostly) has been focused on the Espinosa/Turner issue, and Espinosa's deplorable offensive numbers. I would suggest the offensive problems are in the outfield, not the infield.

One (Bryce) isn't hitting (yesterday notwithstanding); one (Werth) will never again hit like he once did; and two (MAT and Revere) look like they can't hit at all. How soon that's rectified will go a long way in determining the Nats' fortunes this season.

PhthePhillies said...

Anyone think sending Taylor down for a while to "figure things out" is a good idea? I think if he doesn't change his approach to hitting his days in MLB are numbered. Maybe he just needs more time, at bats. I'm not sure how keeping him where he is in his current role helps anyone.
I am less worried about Revere. Even though he has been atrocious, I still feel confident he will come around and be the hitter he has consistently been for several years. More than likely, his oblique is still a nagging issue.
Den dekker is a reasonable replacement for Taylor, even though he adds another left-handed bat to a lefty heavy offense. He hasn't exactly been tearing it up in Syracuse but he will likely look less lost at the plate than Taylor, even against lefties. Plus he's a speedy and a decent fielder.
Then there's the matter of Werth, who often looks as lost as MAT but at least the latter can play his position...
...and I thought the outfield would be the least of our worries this year.

Bjd1207 said...

Just an absolute joke. After a 3/3 (4/4 with the walk) game you can't justify not playing him either of the next 2 games, much less sending him back down. How about we stop trying to rationalize the "feelings" of the rest of the roster and just look at Trea? Hitting over .300 for the course of the year, crushes it in his debut, and now hears that we're sticking with the .200 hitters one of which was signed on a 1-year deal. If they're true veterans they should understand that there is always someone better coming along behind you unless your name is Barry Bonds.

How about some faith in our future stars and letting them contribute to a winning team? No, instead let's wait until we've LOST the lead so we all have a clear moment we can point to in late September where we go "yep, should have let Trea stay up"

Just insane, and we can't put it all at Dusty's feet because I have to imagine Rizzo was involved at some point with a decision like this. That means more than one guy looked at it and said "yup, would rather have Drew" or "would rather have Espi" which is borderline certifiable.

Old Man River said...

^^ THIS.

SM said...

Whatever side you fall on--it's pretty overwhelming, I'd say--regarding the Turner/Espinosa discussion, everyone has to admit Turner looked like a poised, genuine Big Leaguer on Friday.

But if I can, Harper, I'd ask you to explore another, largely ignored, aspect of this team: the running game.

Many of us recall the Dusty/Davey Lopes sing-song in spring about the value of speed, pushing opponents' defences to the limit, stolen bases etc. And admittedly, the Nats' aggressive baserunning approach looked promising in Spring Training against Double A pitchers and catchers. Not so much against major leaguers, however.

Saturday's 6-3 loss--Bryce and Revere were both cut down on steal attempts (and running with a right-handed batter at the plate each time)--had me wondering. Against a Reds team that allows a lot of steals (5th most in the majors) but, oddly, is also pretty good at shutting down the running game (8th best at CS% and better than the Nats'), the Nats were continuing a pattern that's costing them runs.

Please discuss in essay form. (No marks deducted for spelling or grammatical errors.)

PhthePhillies said...

@SM - I think we need to get used to it. This team is going to try and steal a lot of bases. Dusty wants it that way. That's why he hired Davey Lopes. There are 4 guys with good speed on the roster right now and some others with decent speed. The put out of Revere you referenced was the result of a perfect throw. A little higher, in front, or behind and he's safe. I can live with that. The one of Bryce, not so much but, let's face it, his base-running IQ hasn't been the highest thus far in his career.
I am not worried. I think the running game will ultimately prove to be an asset. We just have to get used to a lot more put outs that we're used to. That's what happens when you make the attempts.
I wonder if that Turner fella they brought up over the weekend has any speed...
No, I won't go there.

Donald said...

@PhthePhillies -- it seems like the difference in how the Nats are treating Turner vs Taylor might be a sign of how they are viewed in the organization. While Turner would certainly be an improvement on the bench over Drew, they think it's better for his development to play every day in AAA. For Taylor, he's certainly not learning/progressing by sitting on the bench. The fact that they are okay with that seems like an indication that they no longer think he's their CF of the future. It might also mean that they don't think more time playing every day in Syracuse would fix him.

@Bjd1207 -- just a guess, but I'm assuming the decision to send Turner back down was not only made by Rizzo, but also decided before he was even called up. At least it sounds like that from what both Baker and Turner said about the move -- he was up until Zimm came back and that was it. I think from that perspective, I can understand Baker not playing him more the last 2 games. Sitting Danny would have been a direct confrontation by Baker, basically telling Rizzo in the most public possible way that he would prefer Turner. And if Turner did exceptionally well, it would have put Rizzo in a much tougher spot. I don't think managers last that long pissing off their bosses like that. So I lay this all on Rizzo.

JE34 said...

At this point all I can do is hope that Rizzo is working on a trade to clear up the infield logjam, address the OF bats and/or the ticking timebomb that is our closer.

Josh Higham said...

@SM, I almost screamed at my television every time FP said that the Nats were sure to score some runs yesterday. Which of the 5 guys below the Mendoza line (plus Bryce, who is only above it because of a good April and 31 walks in May) are sure to drive in runs, FP? I'm certainly not going to complain about a AAA offense putting up 10 runs, but holy cow that was ugly.

Revere is right now an awful baseball player. I'd gladly take MAT over him.

SM said...

PhthePhillies-- I hope so, but I'm not persuaded.

Throughout Dusty's managing career, his team's have recorded the magical, universally acknowledged 75% successful stolen base rate--if stolen bases are to be beneficial--only a couple of times. (Barry Bonds says, "You're welcome, Dusty.")

Right now the Nats' SB% is hovering around 65%, which is more or less about Dusty's teams' collective percentage.

Naturally, managers who have played big league ball display tendencies they had implanted or ingrained (or imagined) during their playing career. When Dusty moved from the lead-footed Braves to the swifter Dodgers, he may have associated more stolen bases with winning. That wasn't why the Dodgers contended, though. (Power and pitching is why.) In fact, by the time Dusty became a Dodger, they were mostly in the middle of the pack (and lower) in stolen bases. Nor was their SB% beneficial. (Maybe the spliffs took their toll and Dusty thought he played for the '62 and '63 Dodgers.)

The point is, the Nats' stolen-base efforts are costing them runs. Unless Dusty can squeeze four 30-homer men into his lineup (like his '77 Dodgers), his stolen base proclivities are costing his offensively-erratic team runs and probably games.

Zimmerman11 said...

ZNN is Jordan ZimmermaNN..... though he is hitting .250 (4 ABs)

PhthePhillies said...

@Donald - You're probably right about how the Nats view Michael "K" Flailer (see what I did there?). But, as I wrote, keeping him where he is. If there is any chance at all for the guy, it's down in AAA, where he will likely not improve but at least he'll get the ABs. Den dekker may not be much of an improvement but I think he'll still be better than Taylor.
@ Josh Higham - I predict within a month, you'll regret picking Taylor today. I like your comment about the 5 sub-Mendoza players on the 25 though. All the more reason to bring Turner up. Protecting Danny's precious ego and valuing his stellar defense is a lot more defensible when everyone else on the team is at least supra-Mendoza.
By the way, what did we ever do with that Steven Souza, Jr. guy? He was pretty good. We could use him right now. Did Rizzo trade him or something?

PhthePhillies said...

@SM - Well stated. All good points. I wonder if and how replay affects SB%.

SM said...

PhthePhillies_-- Now THAT is a good point. Was Turner really out on that first-to-third play?

Sliding feet-first is coming back into fashion--because of all those hand and thumb injuries from head-first slides--yet replay appears to be creating another problem. The momentum of the feet-first slide often requires the runner to pop up to his feet, leaving an infinitesimal moment when his cleats are separated from the bag. Defenders now routinely keep their glove on the runners leg--and often nudge him off the bag--and frequently get an "out" call after replay.

A runner can beat the throw easily, and still get called out. That, it seems to me, is a real problem requiring correction. How it affects SB% is a worthwhile question.

(And while I'm at it, another question associated with replay: Is there any way a runner is permitted to break up a double play legally now?)

PhthePhillies said...

SM - They need to eliminate the "pop-up" tag as part of review. It's ridiculous and it takes up way too much time. You know the Reds would not have challenged on the initial tag. More importantly, injuries will occur with guys hanging on to the bag for dear life every time there's a close play with a slide. So many of the recent rule changes have been made for the sake of player safety. I think MLB should consider this one as well.
The only way to break up a DP these days is to do what Reggie did in game 4 of the '78 series.

SM said...

Forgive me, I'm yappy and giddy today. One more thing about stolen bases.

For years--decades even--umpires followed a simple, unwritten rule of thumb with stolen bases (particularly second base): If the throw beat the runner, the runner was out.

Unless it was blatantly obvious otherwise--a fancy hook slide, or a hand reaching around the tag--a throw beating the runner was virtually an automatic out. And the reasoning was simple: To avoid injury. No collisions; no Ty Cobbian cleats flashing head-high; no career-ruining, broken ankle with a 10-0 lead. (At times, Jay Dean was as Dopey as he was Dizzy.)

I don't know when in baseball's historical arc that particular unwritten rule was adopted, but it certainly endured for quite a while. And in those freewheeling, stolen base years of Henderson, Raines, Vince Coleman, Rodney Scott and Joe Morgan, how many times were certified base-stealers injured stealing a base?

Froggy said...

SM, couldn't agree more. The days of Campenaris, Henderson, North, Rained, even Lopes, now those were some running years, with a lot of double play breaking up slides. And like you pointed out, no one got hurt much except a lot of catchers and pitchers egos.

Speaking of SB's and OBP, RBI, runs, OPS, ba, and my new favorite stat: Runs Created, have you checked out my boy Desmond lately? Krickey! Putting up all star numbers right now.

Hypothetical...if you could get Desmond or CARGO for our OF at the deadline who do you take?

SM said...

Froggy--There are two CARGOs in the majors. (Whatever happened to baseball nicknames and sobriquets? Where have you gone, Yankee Clipper and Wild Horse Of The Osage?)

I'm guessing you're referring to Carlos Gonzalez rather than Carlos Gomez. (Although interestingly, Gomez has a career 78% stolen base success rate; and Gonzalez, in fewer than half the attempts, over 80%.)

Gonzalez or Desmond?

Well, Desi's already been in Washington, and I suspect the change of scenery and lack of reputational baggage is a large part of his resurgence. Besides, Texas is on a roll and would be reluctant to break up the dynamics of a winning team.

Gonzalez appears to possess everything the Nats desire/require by the truckload. Signed
through 2017; and now a Boras client.

But here's the thing: If Colarado is in the race at the deadline, he stays a Rockie (Rocky?). Even then, the Rockies would demand players that would improve their chances more than if Gonzalez stayed. If Colorado is out of it, though, they'll demand the right to cherry pick the Nats' prospects--you know, the big, fat, juicy low-hanging fruit.

Sure I'd prefer Gonzalez. That's easy-peasy. But like everyone else on this site, I'd like him for virtually nothing. (You know, Gonzalez for Espinoza, Drew and A.J. Cole, instead of, say, Giolito, Ross, and Robles.) Won't happen.

Besides, I'm no GM, just a guy who loves baseball. But we can always dream, I suppose.

Froggy said...

Carlos Gonzales yes. Withh Blackmon, Arenado and Story doing so well and the salary burden that Gonzales has in the payroll I don't think he would command (or get) the level of prospects you mention. Oh, I do think Colorado will ASK for the moon mind you but they won't get it. Unless they ate all of his salary.

I like the team control aspects and his age and if last years series is any indicator, it seems he likes hitting in Nats park.

Shrewd Cat said...

The Rivero usage really annoys me. Dusty likes to ride his starters and that, combined with the quality of the starting pitching has led to us having the 2nd lowest reliever usage in the NL (both in appearances and IP). So why is Rivero ranking up so high in usage- the rest of the bullpen is rested and has also pitched well so why not use them in pressure situations.
With Rivero is the narrative of him being a former starter and so being able to be ridden hard causing Dusty to overuse him. That's annoying because he really does look tired. It's the same with the starters and wanting them to pitch thru trouble- Joe Ross often is pitched deep into games even though he looks gassed.
Aside from this I like Dusty's usage- I like giving starting position players lots of days off- gives bench guys ABs- when Turner gets up should be easy to keep Espi sharp and happy- get him a couple of starts a week- easy 10PA a week.

Ole PBN said...

I think the narrative on Rivero is that - in Dusty's eyes - he's a shorter Aroldis Chapman.

...except he's not...

JW said...

The Joe Ross usage situation is troubling for me too. I feel like the pace of the decline in effectiveness on his third+ time through the order is really dramatic. I don't know if there's stats to back up that feeling or not -- but man when he gets gassed, he looks really gassed.

I think he could be a very effective pitcher one day (like #3 good, maybe #2 on a mediocre to bad team). But I do wish they would let him develop a little more gradually. The bullpen isn't great (much better than last year but still not great), but it can probably handle an extra inning on Joe Ross days.

I'm not sure it's "a Dusty is riding the arm too hard" as much as there's a lack of confidence in the bullpen.