Nationals Baseball: Bryce and Daniel.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bryce and Daniel.

Bryce Harper is hurt.

We've guessed about this before but it's almost certainly true.  If it isn't true here is what you believe :
The year after generational prospect Bryce Harper broke out and had one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time, he had the 3rd worst and worst months of his career so far. That after slugging 44 doubles and 51 homers in a season and a month he would regress to the point of having the worst isoSLG of his career*

But why would this be? All those walks (NOT STARTED BY JOE MADDON) got in his head? Maybe but he'd have a decent June and a good August after that. Adjustments by the pitcher or by him? Hard to believe that 5 years into a career. Natural variation? That's a little tough to believe but I won't rule it out if that makes you happy. I'd need to look more into it.

But power should be sort of stable right? Let's see what we see when we look at his isoSLG monthly after his last struggling rookie month

.213 .313 .376 .175

Wait! What happened there? Well that corresponds to May 2013. On April 29th he crashed into the wall and might have hurt his hip. On May 13th he crashed into the wall and did hurt his knee.

-- .178 .208 .091

Woah woah I thought he was getting better! If you are going to hang your hat on something I guess this month - September of 2013 looks to be one. (he didn't play in June if you are counting up months that's the "--") He seems to be getting better then he struggled. Accumulation of injuries? Perhaps but nothing immediate. We move on.

.133 -- -- .114

Hold it again - ok the .133 suggests lingering issues but the .114? Well that's the month after came back from breaking his hand.

.211 .133

At this point we're at the end of 2014 and Bryce is either (1) not that great or (2) pretty injured. Those last rookie months into his 2nd year and a smattering of back from injury months suggest (2) but a couple months in there suggest (1) might be the case. What does 2015 hold?

.259 .524 .321 .275 .122 .414

That should help rule out (1), but .122, there's your second hat hanger. Just a ill-timed slump. Started pretty much Day 1 of August. He still hit well - just no pop. He did hurt himself a little in August but was actually better after that. So even on his game Bryce can have some short periods of no power. Now 2016

.428 .163 .139 .143 .226 .087

So here we are. I think you could write off May as an affect of the walk strategy. It seemed to throw him off for a couple weeks. June or July could be a slump, maaaybe even both, but it would be his first extended slump like that. And then there's the .087? I suppose it could be another ill-timed slump (it did happen to start Day 2 of September) but now your saying Bryce just happened to have three slumps, including his worst ever, in the same season. A season where age and recent success suggest he should be in his prime. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. Coupled with the other low numbers, the general history of slugging issues when injured. I think injury is just the more reasonable guess.

Now if we were just guessing, like before, it's easier to rule out. Fans being fans. But now that we have a source and a credible reporter saying the same, it seems more foolish to not buy into it. They have no good reason to tell us that he's injured either, unless they plan for him to sit. So don't expect any news until the off-season but right now I think it's foolish to think he's working through anything other than an injury.

Daniel Murphy is injured.

They don't know what it is.  He has been able to pinch hit twice so there is that. But that first PH seems like he's grimacing, no? The 2nd one didn't inspire confidence either - weak reaching ground ball on an almost one-handed swing - but looking at other GBs he hit on pitches like that it's not different enough for me to point it out. 

This is a big deal. Bigger than Bryce, honestly. If Bryce is hurt - well then Bryce has been hurt most of the year and he's battled through it and the team's been ok because they've had other guys they can rely on. If Murphy's hurt - he's carried the team all year. Early with Bryce, mostly with Ramos, lately with Turner and Rendon, but he's been there all year. If he can't hit like he has that's the heart of the 2016 Nats line-up cut out.

Let's hope he plays today and this can be just unecessary concern. If he doesn't play I'd even accept a diagnosis because honestly all that matters is that he's healthy enough to get a few good swings in before the seasons end and how us that he'll be ok for the playoffs.

*if you recall this is SLG with batting average pulled out. It helps adjust for BA fueled SLG percentage highs and lows. For example when Bryce was getting walked all the time in May and only hit .200 his SLG of .363 looked hideous. However the isoSLG of .163 was merely bad. It wasn't that he wasn't hitting for power - he was just slumped.


John C. said...

It's certainly possible that Bryce is hurt. It's also possible that he's just having an terrible year for whatever reason. It's also quite possible that he never again has a season like his 2015 season. Remember Jason Heyward's age 22 season? He hit 27 HRs, about twice his normal 10-15 HR pace, and was expected to grow into his power as he aged. The sky was the limit! In part it was his youth and the expected career arc that led the Cubs to ink him to a HUGE contract. That now looks potentially terrible; the Cubs are on the hook for $28M per season the next two seasons for a guy who is putting up an OPS of 630. Yikes.

Ole PBN said...

Great take on Bryce. Or should I say (bryce) and whisper it? I can't rule out Verducci as a source and Baker's comments and (bryce) strikes me as the stubborn boy that he is to insist on playing. Perhaps Turner's stealing some thunder that (bryce) just can't be okay with? I don't know, that's probably outlandish I'll admit. But no more so than the "grimace" in the clip you shared on Murphy. It's 100% frustration of knowing he just missed a home run to take the lead. That's pretty far-fetched Harper...

DezoPenguin said...

What I don't understand about the "Harper must be hurt!" argument is why they would be concealing this from the press? (Mind you, I've never really understood why baseball teams do this anyway. I swear that a Mets pitcher could suffer a fatal chainsaw accident and be listed as day-to-day for his next start. Football, yes, because of the small sample size of games and the nature of the play and preparation, but baseball?) If Harper has been hurt since, well, May, has he been hiding it from the trainers, his coaches, and his teammates somehow? Actively refusing treatment? Receiving treatment all along for four months and somehow complete silence has been maintained among all players, coaches, and staff? I mean, it's just not rational that if the Nats had a nine-win player that was being turned into a two-win player by injury that they'd all cross their fingers and pray. (Besides which, if Bryce was hurt with the kind of injury that wouldn't get any worse to play through it and needs surgery to fix, it would help his PR to come out and say so; he becomes the "tough kid showing grit and determination to help his team" instead of being talked about like Joe Maddon broke his brain.)

So yeah, whatever Bryce's problems are, I just don't think it's likely that they're the result of a phantom injury.

Murphy, on the other hand, worries the heck out of me. All year, he's been the one driving our offense, and a serious injury to him would be a disaster. What's more, yesterday's announcement that the training staff literally couldn't tell what was wrong with him was chilling. If the Nationals are to have any chance in the playoffs, they need the Daniel Murphy who put up numbers throughout the season.

Fries said...

anything can happen in a 5 game series, anything can happen in a 5 game series, anything can happen in a 5 game series

...i'll just sit here rocking back and forth in the fetal position repeating that over and over and over....

G Cracka X said...

What about Reggie Jackson? Didn't Boswell mention in Monday's chat that he had a monster season at a young age, and then a bad one immediately following that?

Harper said...

John C - "It's also quite possible that he never again has a season like his 2015 season" completley agree. I could see Bryce on a Reggie Jackson path rather than Mantle/Mays/Aaron. But still the power drop recently is something. Like I said if it were just us that's one thing - but Verducci isn't making things up, so someone in the org at least THINKS he's hurt.

Ole PBN - I thought about that but that's a quick (and odd) reaction for a ball that ended up caught on the track 380+ feet away. I suppose it could be a reaction to missing a pitch he though he should hit 420 ft, or maybe he underestimated the carry, or maybe he knew immediately it was going track. Still if you give me a dollar to bet I'm saying grimace. That weird turn does it.

Dezo - the thought would be the - he's been generally hurt for a while, there is no "cure" except a lot of rest and the Nats and Bryce both don't want to give him that because there is no better option than hurt Bryce, it's not going to hurt him worse (or else they'd sit him), so they all agree to downplay it so pitchers don't attack him with precisely the pitches he may have trouble with - that's the thought anyway.

Harper said...

GCX - Reggie! just what I said!

Reggie did have an awesome career year followed by an ok one but there are some caveats to the comparison
1) The drop was not as great 62 OPS+ vs 82 right now for Bryce
2) He didn't have multiple slumps in power like Bryce has had
3) The low sluggings are more pronounced once you take into account NL 2016 far more conducive to slugging than AL 1970)
4) Reggie has had nearly 200 fewer games under his belt (500+ vs 330+)
5) Reggie had a well known off-season feud with Finley where he wanted more money and Finley threatened to ship him back to the minors, which perhaps colored the season.

Sammy Kent said...

My advice for all of us is to schedule a clinching party tomorrow night or bite the bullet and go to Pittsburgh for the game. We're going to win the division, but almost certainly nothing else, especially if Murphy is done. If the Nats can pull off a post-season run without Murphy, Harper, and Strasburg all being physically sound, it would be the greatest miracle since Kirk Gibson willed the Dodgers over the A's. This team hit its peak in May and has been on a gentle, but discernible downslide ever since. Fortunately we built enough of a lead early on and the Mets and Marlins both have pitching woes that exceed our hitting woes.

Celebrate Saturday (but no booze, ok?), start praying on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Here's my take. harper is hurt, but obviously he's good enough to still play, though not play very well. As for the confusion, I think they don't wnat the info. to get out of the clubhouse for strategy purposes, ie, dont want opponents to know what is going on and create a freak show, etc. However, Harpo being the petulant young man that he is simply hates all the talk about his regression and "what happend to harper?" talk that he believes is solely the result of the injury that he can't acknowledge. So he gets his agent or a famliy member to out the story and clear the air.

Now, as you said, the MUCH bigger issue is Murph. Like, we're in danger of being swept if he can't play. IMO, if Murph is out we would need a drastic change to be made if we have even the slightest hpoe of scoring more than 5-6 runs the entire series. yes, I said the entire series. We simply cannot keep the lineup as it is.

I would begin to start Goodwin in CF right now and every day until yhe end of the season to see if he can hit .250-ish and do some nice things. I would then start to give Turner looks at SS. yes, I know thats a risk defensively to stick him there at this time of year but our backs are against the wall, we need to take risks.

My logic? Essentially, we cannot field a team with Espinosa, 2016 Zimm (unless priase the Lord he's turned the corner, we shall see), and Revere in CF. That simply cannot happen, as our chances of winning would be zero. zero.

Give Goodwin the shot and try Turner at short. Got a feeling TT's a total natural and would be great defensievly. TT at SS, Goodwin in CF, Drew at 2B......and we got a puncher's chance. I'd monitor Zimm closely as well, and if he slumps to the end of the season and has terrible game 1, I'd look at sitting him too.

Espi is hitting .123 in september. 1. 20. 3. We simply have no shot with him and a pitcher hitting if Murph is hurt and Zimm is still slumping.

Anonymous said...

When you have an 8 game lead with ~10 games to play and your best hitter has some mild hamstring discomfort, what do you do? You sit him.

What the Nats have done with Murphy the past five days is perfectly consistent with the very minor issue they've claimed Murphy has had. It's possible the conspiracy theorists are right and something bigger is going on. In my view, it's more likely that these games are essentially meaningless and they're using the opportunity to rest a soft tissue issue when they have it.

Murphy would have to sit out the entire Pittsburgh series for me to start to get worried.

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

La, la, la... Murphy is not hurt! about that 2nd WC race, eh! Three way tie in the loss column so far, pretty exciting end of season stuff.

Ok, it's my way of trying to distract myself from the reality of probable outcomes. Kind of like biting on my belt and pounding shots of whiskey while Doc Holliday digs out the .45 slug from my belly.

... channeling Robot...come in Robot!

Fries said...


gotta agree. Drew is looking good post-vertigo and despite being "just a bench piece" he's infinitely better than Espi right now (defense schmefense). He's 4/15 with 2 BB in the last two weeks, whereas Espi is 2/27...ugly. Pretty much anything is better than that.

You stick Murphy (hopefully...) at 1st and then Turner at SS. CF becomes a tough call, but I think you're right in that Goodwin may slot in nicely. Otherwise I think we rely on a combination of Zimm and CRob at 1st for the time being...

Harper said...

Anon @ 10:34 - there is a slight diff in that usually you'll say "Oh he has some hamstring discomfort" rather than "His butt hurts for some reason. We don't know." but other than that I can't disagree. Abundance of caution. Of course Abundance of Caution couple with a Lack of Details is going to lead to Abundance of Speculation.

Like I said- just get in the lineup for the last series and look good swinging the bat. That's all I ask. If you want to sit him till then do it.

JE34 said...

@Sammy - ah, the 1988 World Series. Gibson's home run was his only at bat in that Series, so that's some serious willpower.

(Side note: every broadcaster should watch the entire 9th inning NBC broadcast for a lesson in how to call a big game, specifically what to say and when to shut up. After Gibson's HR, Vin Scully said nothing... for more than 2 minutes! The insanity of the moment required no comment from him, but when he did finally chime in, he crushed it: "In a year that has been soooo improbable, the IMPOSSIBLE has happened!")

Let us hope that the '88 Dodgers are an inspiration. They had a *much* weaker lineup than the Nats, but could they pitch! Orel Hershiser's Game 2 was one of the best pitched WS games ever. 3 singles by Dave Parker, and that's it. I think Hershiser threw just 88 pitches (can't recall exactly). Pitched a complete game in Game 5 to end it, too.

Anyhoo - good pitching is no miracle.

JE34 said...

somehow, this got deleted from the middle of my last post:

{punches voodoo doll of Joe Buck}

Dave said...
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Dave said...

This team is crashing and burning its way to the start of the playoffs. The starting pitching can't score the runs too. The offense is just too damned inconsistent. Good pitching will shut it down in a series. What a waste.

Sammy Kent said...

I'm certainly not going to root for the Nats to lose, but I'm going to be a little put out if they stumble and stagger this badly on the road trip and then rob us of a Monday home clincher at the last possible moment.

@JE34: The 88 Dodgers had Hershiser, but the A's were heavily favored because of THEIR pitching. Dave Stewart won 21 games, and Bob Welch 17, and Tony LaRussa had them lined up to pitch games 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7 on regular rest (except Stewart in Game 7 would have pitched on three days.) Virtually every "expert" conceded that those two guys alone should be able to pitch their team to four wins, especially with Rick Honeycutt and Dennis Eckersly pitching the back end. But that's why they play the games. Gibon's miracle dinger off Eckersly in Game 1 turned out to be the defining moment of the entire series. The A's' spirit was crushed, and Tim Belcher pitched way above his head.

Maybe Murphy will hobble his strained buttocks out of the dugout and crush a series-winner against somebody. I think it is not mentioned enough that Gibson pretty much HAD to hit it out of the park. Anything else except a slicer to the left field corner and he would have been thrown out at first base. No exaggeration. The guy literally could barely walk, and absolutely could not run. I never liked him, but I knew I had witnessed an all-time iconic moment.

Sammy Kent said...

And btw, I'm not surprised Murphy has strained buttocks. He's the one guy that's been busting his tail every game all season. (F.P., if you read this blog, you have my permission to use my line. Tee-hee!)