Nationals Baseball: Roster Choices

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Roster Choices

A quick note for those worried that the recent injuries mean the Nats will definitely lose. Let's say they Nats are worse than the Dodgers right now. You want to know the last time a team with more regular season wins won a series / Wild Card game in the National League playoffs? The 2014 2013 NLCS.  That's 8 straight series where the team with more wins (proxy for "better" team) lost.

Yes, I realize the Nats have more wins - this isn't about some quirky pattern that showed up. This is about the idea that the best team wins in the playoffs. We've talked about this before but imagine you said the Dodgers have a 55% chance of winning a game against the Nats. This is crazy because it means if the Nats and Dodgers played 162 games you'd expect the Dodgers to win 89 of them and the Nats to win only 73, but whatever, this is a thought exercise. Any way - purely mathematically - what are the chances the Dodgers win a 5 game series? 75%? 80%?

A little over 59%.

I reality the Nats and Dodgers are much closer and that 59% is too high.Yes, yes match-ups, starters, etc. but hopefully you get the point I've been trying to make. It is FAR FAR FAR from impossible for the Nats to win this series. It may not be the most likely outcome but if it isn't it's just a smidge away from it. So you can pick the Dodgers to win, but no gloom and doom ok.

The Nats have to figure out who's on their roster for the playoffs. Easy choices include - Lobaton, Severino, Zimmerman, Murphy, Espinosa, Rendon, Werth, Turner, Bryce, Scherzer, Roark, Gio, Kelley, Treinen, Melancon. There are your starters and best bullpen arms. That's 15 out of 25.

Drew is a given, considering Murphy's condition and his own production. Based on performance and recent usage it would be hard to see them leaving off Belisle. They may be looking at going with a 3-man rotation, but you can't not take someone who can give you multiple innings. Ross is the obviously choice here, as neither Lopez or Cole have staked any strong claimes to the spot. 18.

So this is the "base".  The Nats need at least one more OF and another bat on the bench, two more is more likely. They need some LH relievers.

The Nats have a plethora of OF choices right now. Heisey, the year long bench player. Goodwin, recently called up and doing allright. Revere, the struggling veteran. Taylor the former heir apparent. Robinson, the versatile back-up first-baseman. I bet even Difo could play OF. You figure Heisey won't lose his bench role given he's performed well in it over the course of the season.  19.  From here I could see it going a lot of ways.

You probably take Robinson, to give the option of sitting the struggling Zimmerman at times. But it's not like Robinson has lit the world on fire this year. You could leave him behind. Problem is that it doesn't leave a "true" back-up first baseman on the team. Though Murphy can do it, has done it in the past, but hasn't played there much this year.  You'd probably rather take a hot Revere, but he has continued his unimpressive singles hitting. A cold Goodwin or Difo would be an easy leave, but both are hitting pretty well and give you a touch of speed on the bench that the other bench guys don't. (Taylor is cold - hasn't played - It would be a huge surprise if he was taken.)

If you go hot hands you take Goodwin/Difo. If you go veterans you take Robinson/Revere. If you go handedness Difo has to make it as the other three are all lefties. I think leaving off Robinson would be surprising. He hasn't been good but there's a need for someone behind the struggling Zimm, and leaving him off for a decent month of part-time playing by one of these young guys would be a huge leap of faith. That means that Difo gets the nod as the last guy on the bench to balance out lefty righty. This leaves the Nats with a defensively suspect outfield bench - Heisey is fair, Robinson is a first baseman who can not embarrass himself. But I don't think the alternative - leaving Robinson off for Revere or Goodwin will happen. I think it's more likely we see Robinson, Revere than that. 21.

We're in the pen now and we need three lefties because we have none and the Dodgers are bad against lefties.  Everything leans to taking Rep. Pitched in September a fair amount, pitched well, handles lefties, veteran. He's in. 22.  Solis would be an obvious next choice as he was the most successful lefty all year for the Nats. However, he's barely pitched in September (faced 11 batters in 3 games) given he's come back from injury. Still used 3 times in 6 days once back tells us they want him ready to go. He was fine so he's in. 23. Sean Burnett or Oliver Perez or even Matt Grace? Burnett and Grace have been very good against lefties all year while Perez has struggled. But Perez, under the radar, has had a very good September. (4.1 IP in 9 games, 2 H, 1 BB, 6K, 0.00 ERA). It's a tough call. I think the Nats end up going with Perez. 24.

That leaves one spot and you have to believe it will be in the pen, especially the way Dusty tries to get favorable match-ups. Your choices are AJ Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, Sean Burnett, Matt Grace, Trevor Gott, Rafael Martin, Yusmeiro Petit or Koda Glover. Petit's awful. Out. There's some talk Glover isn't 100%  and hasn't pitched since the 25th. Out. Grace hasn't pitched since the same game. Out. Cole or Lopez would both fill a longer relief role, which could be needed if you were sure you were going with 4 men starting. Neither has been all that good. Burnett, Gott, or Martin would be the last pen arm, Burnett giving you another lefty arm.

I'm going to say Lopez for two reasons. I think (1) they want to go with a four man rotation if possible and that means Ross isn't the long man anymore. With Petit gone because of terribleness that means they need Lopez or Cole. Lopez has been slightly better. (2) Lopez pitched a short outing the last time he was out. That suggests to me setting him up for some short outings if possible, as opposed to Cole who has only ever started.

So there you go my roster guess:

C: Lobaton, Severino
1B : Zimmerman, Robinson
2B: Murphy, Difo
SS: Espinosa, Drew
3B: Rendon
OF : Werth, Turner, Bryce, Heisey,

SP : Scherzer, Roark, Gio, Ross
RHRP: Melancon, Treinen, Kelley, Belisle, Lopez
LHRP: Rzepczynski, Solis, Perez


cass said...

Was looking at this last night after reading the Post article about it and realized there just aren't really many questions/options. There's really only one pitching and one position player spot in question to much, if any, degree.

To me, the bullpen is set other than the question of Burnett vs. Perez. I guess most go with Perez but I like Burnett. But I might be influenced by sentimental thinking. I also just don't trust Perez.

The last bench spot is between Difo, Revere, and Goodwin. I don't like this choice because I'd like a fast, good defensive outfielder but also Difo due to handedness.

All the other slots are set in stone with the choices you ultimately decided on. I think you need Lopez as a swingman. I also like Lopez's stuff more than his results so am comfortable there, especially over other options. I think Robinson is a lock as a backup 1B. I feel we're one spot short of optimum but them's the brakes. We need those lefties in the pen.

G Cracka X said...

2014 NLCS? Didn't the Cardinals have more regular season wins than the Giants?

G Cracka X said...

Also, aren't some of the guys mentioned in the post ineligible because they weren't on the roster on August 31st?

cass said...

They don't need to be on the roster on August 31st. They just need to be in the organization. You can replace injured players with guys who weren't on the roster before the deadline, so it's not really a deadline at all. Tons of teams use September callups in the postseason.

John C. said...

Basically I agree; I think I might include Goodwin instead of Robinson or Revere, simply because none of them seem likely to be impact bats and Goodwin at least offers speed and defense.

John C. said...

As for September callups, technically they aren't available. The loophole that everyone drives through is that you CAN use them to substitute for an injured player. So with Strasburg out, for example, you can add one September player.

Zach said...

Agree with everyone here. For the last bench spot, I would like Difo. Gives us flexibility on the IF, plus a capable switch hitter with speed off the bench is never a bad thing. I think he could play the outfield as well (at least LF), though not sure if Dusty will risk it. I think it will end up going to Revere or Goodwin though for an extra defensive OF with speed. Makes us a bit too lefty heavy on the bench for my taste. I like Goodwin, as he has more upside than Revere, though Revere is a vet and may just decide to finally warm up in the postseason.

Froggy said...

Agree with your roster Harper, with the exception of Burnett over Lopez only because he is a lefty, but possibly Lopez over Ross since he wouldn't be the long man in if Gio craters. Realizing that is putting all the chips on red and hoping for a three game sweep or using Max on three days rest in game 4.

PotomacFan said...

Agree with nearly all of your roster Harper. No way Revere makes it. Dusty barely used him in September. I would like to see Burnett instead of Perez, because Perez has been terrible (and I've seen it) and Burnett might or might be terrible (but no one has seen it). Heisey, yes. Robinson, definitely. Reynaldo Lopez, yes (but it could be scary). I think AJ Cole will be serving his suspension, which is just as well, because he is terrible. Lopez has great stuff, but doesn't know how to pitch yet. Cole doesn't know how to pitch and does not have great stuff. (And BTW, no one is even talking about our #1 prospect, Giolito, who has zero chance.) Difo or Goodwin are a toss-up for the last spot. Probably Difo because he can steal bases.

Froggy said...

...on the other hand...why not get inside the Dodgers heads and put Strasburg on the roster.

I can see it now...will Strasburg be the 'In case of emergency start Strasburg' or will he be a long man for Gio, extra innings guy, etc.

W. Patterson said...

Disclaimer: I am not a statistician but I read (The Drunkard's Walk by Mladlow) that it'd take a 269-game series to truly represent which team is best. That might get a bit tiresome.

NG said...

How about this for a hypothetical Nats October Surprise? Nats announce on Thursday that Murphy will play but because of his butt injury he is defensively limited to first base, and to get his MVP level bat in the lineup, sadly, the team will have to carry Zimmerman only as a reserve.

That's a move a lot of people have been angling for, shift Murphy to 1st, put Drew in at 2nd, you get better offensive production and at least equal if not better defense overall. Maybe Murphy's injury gives them an excuse to pull this off while minimizing hurt feelings? Then you bump Robinson off and keep Difo and Goodwin. Or someone totally random like Rafael Bautista to be a late inning pinch-runner, a la Terrance Gore from the Royals.

SonnyS said...

I would put Sean Burnett for Perez. Rest looks great. Go Nats!

Anonymous said...

Question, when the Nats set this roster, how long are the committed to it? Can the roster by reset for the next playoff round or for the World Series?

You never want to put the cart before the horse, but you do have to ask these questions when constructing the roster. It would obviously be favorable to stack the deck with left handed pitching against the Dodgers, but if this roster can't be changed for the follow up series, than you may need more balance in the pitching handed-ness.

Zach said...

Anon- The rosters can change every playoff series.

Harper said...

cass- I think you can leave lopez behind if you are committed to a 3 man rotation but they aren't so you can't.

GCX - whoops meant 2013. 2014 would only have made 4 straight.

GCX / cass / JC - everyone on 40-man on August 31st (who isn't sent down later) is available for post-season. everyone else in org on August 31st is available for the postseason if you replace someone that is injured. You do have to place that person on the 40-man though. For the Nats that is not an issue. There is no one currently up for discussion not on 40-man (Burnett took over denDekker's spot, Latos who I just dismissed accidentatlly, took over Ross's when he moved to 60 day DL - Ross bumped Chris Bostick).

I you replace an injured player mid-series they have to miss the next series as well. I see no such restriction on replacements at start so if Nats were to do something crazy like Fedde for Strasburg - he could come back for CS.

JC - carrying around "Zimm insurance" in Robinson does rob them of that traditional 5th OF late inning D spot.

Froggy - bc if he can't pitch you've just eaten up a spot for nothing. One lowout loss or extra inning affair and your pen could be shot.

W. Patterson - would depend on the difference in real talent between teams I imainge. Like if you were 99% chance to win a game you wouldn't need that many games. Probably just a handful. If you had 51% I imagine to prove that difference would take 1000s of games.

Mythra said...

Guys and Gals. For the 3rd year in the last 5 we're talking playoff rosters. Savor that and remember those 100+ loss seasons.

I'm not a fan of Perez. Burnett hasn't been given much of a shot of late and was decent when he was in, but Perez is a hot hand in September.

Solis and "Mike Wazowski" have to be in there. Dusty just has to watch the over-use of those lefties.

I like the idea of Difo or Goodwin, but not both. That's too much rookie pressure when a big at-bat or pinch-runner is needed. Joe Ross can be an emergency pinch runner.

Otherwise, I'll just be sitting over here, happy and enjoying playoff baseball.

cass said...

One more thing to note - it's looking possible that Saturday will be a rainout and Game 2 will be on Sunday because of Matthew. We all know how reliable weather forecasts are, but we should keep in mind it might be Home - Off Day - Home - Away - Away - Off Day - Home. If that matters for pitchers/rest. Sunday-Tuesday would be more grueling than the current schedule.

I don't see a 3-man rotation as wise since Scherzer doesn't feel comfortable with it. Maybe as a last-resort if down 2-1, but I wouldn't plan on it. So Ross and Lopez I think are a must.

I don't think Baker would demote Zimmerman into a reserve, but that's very tempting, NG. Not sure how comfortable Murphy is at first though and Zimm's a better fielder there. But getting to take a speedy outfielder instead of Robinson is appealing. Also you can't platoon Zimm and Murphy cause the Dodgers are throwing almost all lefties at us. Could try double switching Murph over to 1st when they go to a righty reliever though and bringing in Drew at second.

Ready for Friday.

Anonymous said...

@ W Robinson and Harper

Just because I was intrigued by the thought, I went ahead and did the math (or ran the simulation since I didn't want to ACTUALLY do the math). To get a confidence of 95% that the best team will win the series when the best team has a 51% chance of winning, you need to have a series that is roughly best of 6999 (first to 3500 wins)

Sammy Kent said...

As difficult as it would be on many levels, frankly if I were the Manager/GM, the guy that would be fighting for a playoff roster spot would be Ryan Zimmerman. I'm sure for Dusty and Rizzo it's a no-brainer, Face of the Franchise, seasoned veteran, blah blah blah, but for this one series I'd be seriously considering leaving him off for another lefty reliever. He ain't hitting worth a dang, and if he were not a multi-bazillion dollar career Nationals star, he'd have been sent down long ago. Here's my work in progress:

Catchers: Loby and Severino.
1B: Clint Robinson
2B: Daniel Murphy
3B: Anthony Rendon
SS: Danny Espinosa
OF: Jayson Werth, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper
SP: Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Joe Ross (going in that order, with Gio pitching game 5 at home on four days rest if necessary, which also keeps Scherzer, Roark, and Ross as 1, 2, 3 against the Cubs/Mets.)

OK, I'm up to 13.

I'm taking four LH relievers. Period. We're playing the Dodgers, for Pete's sake.
Sammy Solis, Mark Rzepczynski, Sean Burnett, and Oliver Perez.

That's 17.

RH Pen: Mark Melancon, Blake Treinen are fairly easy picks. Shawn Kelly has been the 2016 version of Tyler Clippard off and on this season, but lately has been pretty reliable, so he gets in. I hate leaving guys like Matt Belisle and Koda Glover out, but they're out.


Now I need one more guy to be the long man, and it ain't going to be Petit. I have three guys for one spot: A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, and Mat Latos. Tough one. Today I'm leaning toward A.J. Cole for my fourth RHR/Long Man. Tomorrow it might be Lopez. I'll hold off on picking the one, but it's one.


Four spots left. Two middle infielders: Wilmer Difo and Stephen Drew are no-brainers for me. One outfielder. Either Revere, Goodwin, or Heisey.


One to go. IMHO for this series you can leave off Ryan Zimmerman and, should we advance to play the Cubs or Mets, bring him back on and drop one of those lefty relievers (Perez most likely.) If Clint needs backup, I can move Murph over and bring Turner to second. That enables me to take two of Revere, Goodwin, and Heisey. I like speed more than power, so I'm taking Revere and Goodwin and leaving Chris Heisey and Ryan Zimmerman out....knowing full well that even if Clint Robinson bats .500 for the series and Ollie Perez gets everyone out he faces and the Nats still lose that people will blame the absence of RZim.

Blast away!

BTW, Section 236 Friday and Saturday. I'd love to meet any of you personally! I'll be the one in the Nats shirt.

G Cracka X said...

Dodgers start several lefties, so it makes sense to have RH Zimm in the lineup

Anonymous said...

"For the 3rd year in the last 5 we're talking playoff rosters. Savor that and remember those 100+ loss seasons"

That is the half full view.

The half empty view is that the Nats have had the second best record in that time and have been upset in their two first round playoff appearances and missed the playoffs entirely in their other two seasons. Not once in the past four seasons did the Nats meet their expectations.

Not saying the half empty view is more accurate. Truth is likely in between.

Ric said...

"Taylor is cold - hasn't played - It would be a huge surprise if he was taken."

I'm not disagreeing with your overall point. But actually, Taylor was 5 for 8 in his last three games. Goodwin had 5 hits in his last 17 ABs. Revere was 1 for 10 in his last five games.

I still go with Goodwin. And I'm not sure about Taylor's thumb. But if you wanted someone you could hope was getting hot, not to mention a superior glove (LA not-withstanding), you could make the argument for MAT.

Anonymous said...

MAT, despite his speed, is an awful baserunner. MAT can't be relied upon to at least make a productive out in crucial situations with runner's on base.

Class said...

Agree with you, Harper. Like Difo's speed and under the radar thump as the 25th guy. Revere's experience would help but if they're in an outfield pinch they can always put Harper in center, move Werth back to right and put Heisey in left. Drew has been very good since coming back, but you also want Robinson available if they're down one in the 8th and L.A. goes to Jansen early. Could make a case for a fourth LOOGY (Burnett) over Belisle, but Dusty's made it clear he wants Matt on the playoff roster.

Froggy said...

As far as being the replace for Span, Revere has pretty much been a bust this year. Cold hearted me says Goodwin would be a better 4th OF option but only because of TT.

Anonymous said...

Guys, gotta say that while Revere has been a bust at the plate, OF defense and stealing a base can win you a game in the playoffs. I would take him instead of Difo.

Anonymous said...

Dead orange birds!

No Show for Walter!

Anonymous said...

Apparently the Dodgers ain't worried about rookies caving to pressure...

Froggy said...

The Show Buck Stop Walters here.

Heh, heh, heh...

mike k said...

After a hiatus, I am back, and with a very important message:

Let's Go Nats.

Sammy Kent said...

Psuk it, Angelos, and all Baltimorons. Really hate that Kim almost got whacked by the beer can. I hope they have found that idiot fan and given him a lifetime ban and a $10,000 fine. However, at the end of the day it's still the blankety blank blank blanking Orioles, and til the day I die and for a million years after may they ROT.

Mythra said...

Not sure how you play 11 innings and not have your closer with 47 saves pitching in that game. What are you saving him for, Buck? Oh well, another year with no ring for Angelos, so I'm fine with that.

Froggy said...

If I'm the Angelos I'm pretty pissed that my multi-million $$ reliever didn't get utilized when it matters most. I think Shuck Bowalter will probably get fired soon.