Nationals Baseball: Problem or not?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Problem or not?

The Nats have lost 5 in a row. No biggie. It's a long season and the Nats are still where they want to be. In first place with a 95+ win pace. It's hard to say anything is wrong. The Mets and Marlins remain more than a double sweep (Nats get swept in 3 game series, they sweep their series) away.  This weekend is favorable to the Nats. The Mets are breaking down and can't beat the suddenly hot (7 of last 8) Braves. Miami has 3 more at the best in baseball Cubs. Meanwhile the Nats get to play the Brewers. All signs point to an expansion of the lead, not a contraction.

If the Nats do go into the Mets series closer than 4 games out well then there's the Mets series sitting there to put it right. And after that Cincy and Milwaukee again at home to pull out of any dive they may be undergoing.

The Nats schedule through the 4th is set up for them to stay in first. So if we wake up on July 7th and the Nats are staring up at someone, well then something has gone wrong.

Speaking of wrong, let's talk about Ryan Zimmerman.

Ryan Zimmerman is having a terrible June (.190 / .222 / .328). He had had a terrible April (.219 / .301 / .301), but his May was perfectly acceptable (.262 / .316 / .542). 

At his peak (2009-2010) Ryan hit nothing soft and hit a ton of flyballs. He didn't strike out much and had good patience. Then he got hurt. In his next two full years (2012-13) he would morph into more of a line drive hitter who hit nothing soft. That cost him a little power. He would strike out a bit more and walk a bit less. That cost him some average and OBP. All in all still a very good hitter. Then he got hurt again. And again. Now he's still a hard hitter but he's hitting ground balls. That costs him some average again. He's striking out even more and walking even less. Again more average more OBP.

None of these changes are dramatic. You look at how he's hit over the years there's been a gradual shift. His numbers in 2015 aren't actually all that different from 2012.  You could hope that it has been a bit of bad luck in hitting them were they ain't, but it's also likely a bit of other things. Not as much speed in the legs to beat out hits or go for two. An approach that's a little less all field.

There are things about his stats that can't be denied if you look at his full season stats. He is gradually making less contact. He is gradually being more aggressive.  He's not hitting the ball as hard. I'm not saying Ryan can't be a useful player but I do think the cumulative effect is that he's likely no more than average for a full season.

If you want to try to be more positive you can hope that this is just Ryan's streakiness coming into play. I've looked and there is something to that - at least starting out or coming back from injury. But I'm not sure I buy it and this midseason dip is unusual. I suppose you could argue his May wasn't all that great - probably got lucky in the HRs* which boosted him almost .100 OPS. If you say that than you can say there is no "midseason dip" and he just never got hot. But then again you are arguing that we're 70 games into the year and he hasn't really hit well.

Ryan is clearly not the hitter he used to be, certainly not as his peak, but not as of a couple years ago either. It's not his fault. Injuries and age have taken a toll. It happens with all players, just usually not this early in a career. Right now I'm not advocating sitting Ryan (Robinson is a great bench piece but not a great player) or replacing him. But I am saying he should have his ABs limited as there are clearly 5 hitters you want to have more ABs than him. Normally that would make him 6th in the line-up but the whole lead-off situation is it's own thing so Zimmerman should bat 7th.  If we're at the All-Star break and things haven't picked up we can discuss other options. They likely won't be taken. There doesn't appear to be a lot of affordable 1B options coming up to trade, nothing in the pipeline,  and there are multiple off-field reasons not to sit Zim. But we can discuss them

Other notes :

Since the Phillies (NOT THE CUBS) began the "walk Bryce" movement he's hit .223 / .384 / .349. That may seem ok because that is a nice OBP but the "walk Bryce" movement has pretty much ended. Starting with the Marlins series in mid-May (he was walked 4 times in a game v the Mets the series before so this makes sense as a cutoff for me) he's hit .250 / .323 / .389. That's over a month now. Now he is hitting better in June. If you want to be real favorable to him we can carve out a .288 average period, but the OPS is still under .800.  That's not fine for your superstar.  Bryce might be slowly coming back around.  If not, we're about to have a big Bryce conversation.

*HR/FB rate suggest that is the case. Looking at HR distance too. Not really killing balls. Then there's the inside the park one he got on a catchable ball that turned into a collision


G Cracka X said...

This isn't directly relevant to the RZ discussion, but Fangraphs did a nice article on the Espinosa-Turner situation:

Bjd1207 said...

Yea GCX I felt like that article was targeted at me specifically, lol. But it's exactly right. Since I wrote off Espi for this season he's been about as good as you can reasonably expect from the SS position. I don't lend as much credence to the 'Turner's falling off' part of it because he hasn't had an extended bad stretch or anything, this seems to be a typical 'valley' in a season where he's hitting .300

And on the Zimm topic I also stand corrected (or just predicted wrong?). I definitely thought after last year's 2nd half that we'd see something closer to peak Zimmerman, maybe not 25 bombs but certainly back up around .280 with 15-20 HR's. One thing I've seen pointed out on here a couple of times is the change in approach to be more aggressive. You used to be able to set your lock to Zimm taking the first pitch every AB, and you see that much less this season. I thought maybe switching him out of cleanup would stop him from "reaching" for RBI's, but it looks like he's very much the same in the 5 spot (or lower, we'll see). With the hit speed numbers still OK, you'd think a change in approach to chase less and look for more up in the zone would bring him back to being a capable hitter. But I'm probably massively oversimplifying it (I mean doesn't everyone "look for a pitch up to drive"?)

G Cracka X said...

Hoping for an RZ rebound, it has been a tough season for him so far. At least he has stayed healthy to this point.

Where are the rest of the commenters?

Zimmerman11 said...

I can't comment on Zimmerman. I'm biased, so I've recused myself from this topic.

Chas R said...

@bjd- I agree. I too felt Zim would have a rebound year. We haven't seen any indications that's going to happen and it's probably more like Harper paints it- he is continuing to regress. He can still be useful, but not in the middle of the order.

There's always the option of Murph to 1B for periods of time. If that gets to be a lot, then they really should bring up TT to play 2B, but I don't know who they would send down if not MAT and then there would be no 4th OFer.

Harper said...

GCX - keep meaning to read that.

BJD - I didn't see any reason to go against the "if he's healthy, he'll be ok" thinking either. I kind of floated the idea of him slowly drifting to average but I thought that would be a floor not a ceiling.

Z11 - What? I always thought you were an 11 yr old Jordan Zimmermann fan with bad spelling!

SM said...

For what it's worth, ESPN's Doug Glanville suggested Zimmerman's swing has a number of idiosyncratic mechanical tics that all have to follow a specific sequence in order to be effective.

I suppose you could liken it to Jim Furyk's golf swing, or more conventionally, a 3-liter engine with 2 carburetors. If even one of the mechanical elements is out of sequence, the engine misfires.

On the other hand, maybe he's just no good anymore.

SM said...

What? No one's ever driven an Austin-Healey 3000?

Zimmerman11 said...

Too much fun on the Twitters and the Facebooks today over Brrrrrrrexit! Haven't given the Nats' struggles any thought on account of we're not struggling :)

Seriously, no one in the UK even knew what Brexit was... but you had to choose between "BREXIT" and "RemaIN" in a battle of portmanteaus, Cameron never stood a chance!

Envision the Monopoly dude... tophat, mustache and monocle... rolling the "r" and wagging his finger in the air while exclaiming "BRRRRRRRREXIT!"

Zimmerman11 said...

Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin walk into a bar...

Froggy said...

Trump says to the bartenders Obama, Hillary and David Cameron: you're fired!

JE34 said...

My head exploded again. Top 8, 2nd and 3rd with no one out, and NO ONE CAN PUT THE BALL IN PLAY. Good playoff caliber teams just don't do this.

Zim looked awful, Rendon managed to work a walk, Espi whiffs, and Clint pops up. Horrendous.

Anonymous said...

Four sombreros tonight, including the 6, 7 and 8 hitters.

"Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin walk into a bar. . ."

. . . and the bartender says, "Get out!"

Mythra said...

After that weird road trip, time for some home cooking. Hopefully that cures all ills brought on by 10pm start times and red eye getaway flights.