Nationals Baseball: Holiday Q&A

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Q&A

I could keep posting original stuff but that's hard and vaguely sometimes time consuming. Q&As make more sense for the work week leading up to Christmas, at least for me. So ask away in the comments and I'll try to answer in the post at my earliest convenience. For the sake of  not mixing things for people that come here for baseball only thank you very much - I'll put another post up tomorrow for non-Nats / non-baseball Q&A if you are interested in non Nats questions. But what kind of freak isn't interested in Nats questions?

How does the replacement of Espinosa at SS by an inferior fielder --- and the knock-on effects on the rest of the positions --- effect the overall fielding of the Nationals. They seemed to be in the top quarter of fielding teams last year. How does this affect their overall competitiveness?

Well I guess the first question is how much of an inferior fielder will Turner be exactly. Danny had been one of the best fielding 2B during the 2012-2015 run, but as a SS he was merely very good last year. While that can be a fluke of single year fielding statistics, I can buy it. He's not young anymore and he's probably living on that cannon of an arm. Turner barely played SS in the majors so we have no fancy stats to go on there, but his 2B numbers (still on a very small number of innings mind you) were a tick worse than Danny's when he played there. I can see him matching Danny's range just with pure speed, but without the same arm. The end result my best guess is that Turner will be worse than Danny in the field but only slightly worse than Danny 2016/2017 which is the comparison that matters. 

I'd expect the Espy to Danny move  not to effect the defense and the Nats competitiveness all that much. Remember that Rendon at 3B is a top defender which gives Turner some cover in the hole if he needs it. No the left side of the infield should be pretty much the same. What I'd be more worried about is Murphy.  Historically he's not been a good defender but he worked hard and got himself to "not embarrassing" last year though was a step back and I don't see how he move forward anymore. Not only is age working against him, that butt injury is going to limit him in some way I'm sure. With Zimm's D not translating across the diamond that right side of the infield could be a big issue.

I'm convinced that if Rizzo gives out though minor league deals to has-been starters that at least one of them will pan out as an acceptable reliever. But exactly how viable is that in actuality?

Quick answer : I'm not sure. I'd imagine it's a combination of stuff, age, and effort that turns a former starter into an effective reliever. Looking at the top relievers (I just used fWAR - good as anything for something vague like this) it seems rare for someone to start until around 30 and then transition. A good handful transition very early or never were starters. The rest transition around 25-27. That seems to be the agreed upon "Give up on them starting" age range. So I'd say if you aim for guys around that age with one or two really good pitches you probably have a better shot. But I have no idea how many guys attempt to make this move. I imagine dozens every year. If that's true than the success rate is low. It's probably more viable than sheparding middling minor leaguer relievers, these guys had some sort of major league stuff to get there, but I certainly wouldn't bet the farm on it.

how do you think the current configuration of the Nats matches up against the Dodgers and Cubs (likely front runners in the other 2 NL divisions)?

The Cubs are a complete team and no one is going to match-up well against them. The Nats could match their offense but things would have to break right (Bryce MVP, Murphy MVP, Turner MVP type of thing). So give the Cubs the edge there. The Nats had the 2nd best starting staff and were more than a half-run worse than the Cubs. Cubs edge. Relief wise with the Cubs getting Davis and Nats doing nothing so far you'd give the Cubs a slight edge. They should win a bunch more games than Nats and while not overwhelm in a playoff series would be favored for sure.

I'm not sure why everyone is excited about the Dodgers though. They basically just recreated their team from last year which means their flaws (fragility, LHP) remain. You'd give them the clear pen edge right now but the Nats maintain an offensive edge and SP staff is up in the air with LA having more to worry about with getting innings. Assuming perfect health I guess you expect LA to win a couple more games? Maybe? Depends on how divisions develop honestly. I can see the Nats winning a few more just as easy. In a series - I see a toss-up just like this year. The Nats pen really didn't fail in the playoffs. In fact they didn't really fail just got beat by a slim margin. Play that series 10 times, Nats win 5. Now this year - without bullpen help - maybe Nats win 3-4? But it's a LONG way from here to a 2017 playoff series.

Any word on Tyson Ross from brother Joe?

I haven't seen anything.  Rumors currently have the Cubs hot on Tyson Ross and if you can join the Cubs...

Is the Wieters talk just Boras smoke and mirrors or would the Nats actually flip Norris??

I believe yes and yes.  The Nats situation makes too much sense (Nats need C, Weiters is right here, Boras client) for people not to think this but the money doesn't work (unless they'd flip Gio with no replacement in mind) I won't totally exclude it, Boras got the Nats to take in Soriano unecessarily, sign Max, but I don't see it. You can't clearly say Weiters is a star like you could for those two (at the time).  As for Norris - they'd flip him if they felt the return was good enough and they had a workable plan B in place. Maybe even not with a plan B if return was somehow well beyond expecations. He's a gamble that's cheap and controlled, but not so cheap and controlled for so long you can't let him go. He's not necessary to future plans.

What do you expect from Gio in the last year of his contract? Over perform expectations or under? 3+ or 4+ERA? LHP trade bait at the deadline? 

What's expectations? 4.00 ERA? Then I'd say under. I think he'll have a 4+ ERA though not necessarily worse than last year.  (so if your expectations are 4.50 ERA he might overperform that). Generally it's been a slow decline because as he's gotten hit more, he's better controlled his pitching (believe it or not). It's not a fair trade - a hit IS better than a walk, but it helps slow the decline. Why think it'll change this year? I don't think he'll be traded unless Nats are out of it. Assuming Dodgers in it they still can't hit LHP.

Did you read the WashPost article on MAT? Thoughts? How would you procede to give him a shot turning it around?

Yes! Pretty standard fare. You'd expect a guy who sees himself as a major leaguer not to defer to "I just don't have the talent to do this" when faced with failure. I wouldn't give him a shot to turn it around, though. Outside of one fluky AA season in 2014, MAT has never maintained a high average and has struck out way too much.  That was him in A ball, that was him in AAA, that's been him in the majors. Chances are - that's him. I'd make him 4th OF and if a shot happened to come to him via injury to Werth (or god forbid Bryce or Eaton) then so be it. If somehow he impresses in limited play in 2017 and you can fix 1B and C more easily, maybe he gets a shot in 2018. But I doubt that those circumstances arise. 

Is eaton going to replace BRYCE? 

So this question in full is more "Since they traded away Giolito and Lopez, won't the money saved with Eaton's cheap contract have to be used in the future to pay for starting pitching and not go to Bryce?"  Well there are two assumptions here we'd have to address first. (1) that Lito and/or Lopez would be starting pitchers worth having in your rotation and (2) that the Nats are serious about bringing Bryce back with a contract that likely starts at Stanton.  Both are decent gambles to be no, but let's assume they are both true. Does that mean no Bryce?

I don't think that's going to be the kicker. Even without Giolito and Lopez the Nats are in a great position SP wise. If all goes well the Nats don't have to really address the pitching staff until after 2019. At that point Roark goes into FA and Scherzer crosses 35. Chances are another strong arm will be needed. If they want to stay cheap that gives the Nats 3 more years to develop someone. That's not an unreasonable time frame. Could that someone had been Lito or Lopez? Sure but there wasn't a strong consensus anymore that it would happen, and certainly not a feeling that you could bet on them being #1/2 types. You lose something here, but not as much as you think.

So Bryce! Welll maybe. What's going to matter more, imo, is all the other issues that need to be solved between now and then. Catcher, if Severino doesn't develop. Replacing Werth and Zimm and Murphy. Looking to maybe re-sign Rendon (also a FA after 2019). There's a lot of outstanding issues on the offensive side of the ball that should come into play before SP is an issue. So to answer the question - I don't see Bryce's stay in DC linked directly to letting Giolito and Lopez go.

I just thought it was crazy to let Melancon get to one of your potential chief rivals in the NL, filling their biggest hole, simply because the Lerners/Rizzo believe you shouldn't spend beyond a certain amount for anyone. This, to me, was a special case. What say you?

Almost any FA contract lost where you seemed to be the runner-up can be argued would have just cost you a few million more to get. If you think like that you'll go crazy. You have to take it at the full value spent and at the full value Melancon is just not worth it. There's a team to consider over the course of four years and unfortunately for whatever reason a pretty strict budget right now. That's the crux of it. If you accept the Nats payroll to be what it is - there are better places to spend that money in upcoming years than in a closer.

While we note that alot of winning teams have great closers, they don't have great EXPENSIVE ones. The last team to win it all with a great expensive closer they had all year? Arguably the Yankees in 2009. Last team to make it to series with said expensive closer? The 2012 Tigers with Papa Grande. It's hard to be really good all over if you are paying a lot for a closer and not spending a lot everywhere else too.

Is Greg Holland a viable possibility, or is no news bad news? (Rizzo asks why we think reporters should know who he's negotiating with?) Is Holland riskier than the other guys without his upside stinking up the pen? Who is the next friend of Dusty to sign?

Possibly? The market on Holland is hard to read. He's off TJ surgery and missing a year. The scouts had a showcase but don't seem to be jumping on him. Still closers are going for premium prices and he's a Boras client so he shouldn't be cheap. If he goes for the 2/18 incentive laden deal predicted by MLB trade rumors - (which looks a little cheap right now) I don't see the Nats being in on that, unless it's severely backloaded, like 5/13. Which I suppose is possible. Holland IS riskier because he hasn't pitched in a year so there's less of an idea of how he'll do in 2017 and he'll cost a lot more than most of those bullpen guys.

Next FOD?  Let's say Alfredo Simon gets a minor league deal with the team. Him or Ryan Hanigan.

Do you think actor Tom Holland might be available to close for the Nats?

No but maybe someone from Holland.

2017 will be a Werth-like return to form by Zim. Am I crazy for thinking this?

Depends on your definition of Werth like. Something like his injury below average to super star turn during the early years of the contract? No way. Something like a mild improvement from a terrible year - like Werth did last year?  Sure. In fact I'd bet on it. However that's betting on Zimm going from "maybe worst regular in baseball" to "among the worst first basemen in baseball".

29 comments:

Nattydread said...

How does the replacement of Espinosa at SS by an inferior fielder --- and the knock-on effects on the rest of the positions --- effect the overall fielding of the Nationals. They seemed to be in the top quarter of fielding teams last year. How does this affect their overall competitiveness?

JE34 said...

Do you have any new terrible Christmas movie recommendations/reviews?

Harper said...

JE34 - yes. you can see them tomorrow, rule breaker.

JD said...

I'm convinced that if Rizzo gives out though minor league deals to has-been starters that at least one of them will pan out as an acceptable reliever. But exactly how viable is that in actuality?
Also, as a fellow Yankee fan, I'm one of those freaks that will have non-Nats questions tomorrows

Chas R said...

Harper, seeing how we lost out on the Closer bids and there have been no enhancements to the pen or rotation, how do you think the current configuration of the Nats matches up against the Dodgers and Cubs (likely front runners in the other 2 NL divisions)?

dteam said...

Any word on Tyson Ross from brother Joe?

Anonymous said...

Is the Wieters talk just Boras smoke and mirrors or would the Nats actually flip Norris??

Anonymous said...

What do you expect from Gio in the last year of his contract? Over perform expectations or under? 3+ or 4+ERA? LHP trade bait at the deadline?

Anonymous said...

Did you read the WashPost article on MAT? Thoughts? How would you procede to give him a shot turning it around?

KW said...

FWIW, the Nats have literally about a century's worth of pro baseball middle-field experience in Lopes and Speier. They may not be able to make Murphy much more than he's already made himself, but they can do a lot with Trea. Speier also did a lot with INF positioning last year that helped put Murph in better spots to make plays. Trea's range should be phenomenal. Time will tell whether his arm will be able to complete plays on the balls he reaches at the extreme range.

Based solely on eyeballing it rather than any metrics, I also think that Harper's point about Rendon's range is a good one. The Nats don't seem to have as many plays deep in the hole because Rendon cuts off a higher number of those balls. Davey actually thought Rendon could play shortstop and played him there a few times on rare days Desi took a break.

KW said...

I would proceed with giving Taylor a shot at turning it around . . . with another franchise. A 32% career MLB K rate is just off-the-charts bad. In case anyone hasn't been noticing, the high K guys like Desi and Danny are leaving.

Oh, and Dusty's career K rate? It was friggin' 11.5%! Why he has kept playing MAT, I have no idea.

Ole PBN said...

@KW - I've noticed and I'm loving it. Striking out is the WORST thing you can do as a hitter, so why would we continue to trot guys out there? IMO the only way you get a pass if your power or defense is off the charts good - and even then you should be hitting at the bottom of the order/borderline not starting. Keep showing guys like Espi and hopefully Taylor the door and start bringing in guys who put the ball in play. We all loved Murphy right? Check out how many times he k'd...

SM said...

Answer this: Where is Sammy Kent?

Anonymous said...

Obvious answer is to bring back Revere. He K's less often than Murphy!!

Bryceroni said...

Is eaton going to replace BRYCE? Despite his cheap contract, trading away cost controlled pitching makes me think it doesn't really save money long term and could lead to more expensive contracts that will take money that should be earmarked for Bryce.

ClassOf87 said...

I've spent the past couple of weeks going back and forth with commenters on the Post's Nats site about the team's inability to get a closer. Their position is you can't spend "x" percent of your team payroll on a closer. I continue to maintain that while you obviously wouldn't normally pay this kind of money for a closer, the unusual combination of having multiple elite relievers available in free agency (and a very limited pool of quality SP to pay for) and the Nats having a specific two-year window in which they can realistically expect to have Bryce meant they had to get one of Melancon, Chapman or Jansen. I didn't want Chapman for a number of reasons, so I was fine with him going back to the Yankees, and I can't fault the Nats on Jansen when they offered him more money than the Dodgers did.

My problem was, and is, losing Melancon to the Giants for what worked out to just a couple million dollars a year. I know he's not likely to be the same guy in years 3 and 4 of the deal, but I'd argue Werth wasn't, either, and I'll be surprised if Max is.With just about any player, you're paying for front-end production. He not only filled a huge hole for us physically and mentally (I remember Santangelo saying during the worst of Papelbon that there was almost nothing more damaging to a clubhouse than a closer who keeps blowing saves) and got everyone in the bullpen lined up where they should have been, he was by all accounts well-liked and respected in the clubhouse. Knowing it would cost less to sign Melancon because he was older, etc., than the other two, I just thought it was crazy to let him get to one of your potential chief rivals in the NL, filling their biggest hole, simply because the Lerners/Rizzo believe you shouldn't spend beyond a certain amount for anyone. This, to me, was a special case. What say you?

blovy8 said...

Is Greg Holland a viable possibility, or is no news bad news? (Rizzo asks why we think reporters should know who he's negotiating with?)
Is Holland riskier than the other guys without his upside stinking up the pen?
Who is the next friend of Dusty to sign?

Jay said...

I agree with class of 87. They offered $10 million less than the Giants to Melancon. No one in their right mind thinks he is taking less to come to DC. Even offering only $5 million more for Jansen seems highly doubtful to me. I think a closer is a big deal for a team with legitimate WS aspirations. You're not hoping for an adequate closer. I also worry that waiting until the trade deadline is iffy. Who are they going to trade for said closer?

I feel a little bit like the Lerner family is bidding on free agents in a way that if they can get a bit of a bargain or favorably loaded contract that they'll sign people, but mostly it is meant to show the baseball world that the MASN fiasco is hurting them.

Holland was a top closer for the Royals before injury. The interwebs reported that his workout for teams earlier in the offseason was viewed favorably. If goes back to pre-TJ status or close to it, he is a very good to top 5 closer.

mike k said...

re: Holland. What I'd be afraid of is one team takes a chance on him, but only for one year so as not to burden themselves in case he doesn't work out. 2017 is bad because he's getting back into the swing of things. Then he leaves and does great for a different team in 2018.

I feel like all the teams I follow always do that. Though I can't think of any examples right now, so I'm probably just making it up.

Josh Higham said...

Do you think Tom Holland might be available to close for the Nats? What with Derek to the White Sox and Greg not garnering too much interest just now, it seems like you could do worse than a kid who plays Spider Man in the movies, since Nats fans apparently are really concerned about Holland.

Josh Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Return of Zim said...

2017 will be a Werth-like return to form by Zim. Am I crazy for thinking this?

Zimmerman11 said...

"Rock" Raines looking really good in early voting for HOF! Wait, that's not a question...

Unknown said...

OK, baseball, but not Nationals question I'll post here. Recommend an introductory volume or two on baseball analytics for those, such as myself, who are stats curious, but not SAS programmer-types. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Was you understanding of the Sale talks Sale-for-Turner or Sale-for-Turner-plus-prospects? Because it sounded like the latter, which obviously the Nats weren't doing, but (given age, control, and need, and even assuming a decent amount of regression) wouldn't the Nats have hung up pretty quickly even on a Sale-for-Turner-straight-up offer? Most of the coverage sounded like they refused to include him in a package, but I would assume they would have asked for Sale-plus in a package for Turner?

John C. said...

For Unknown, the book that I've heard most sabermetrics people talk about as the essential starting point is The Book: Playing Percentages in Baseball by Tom Tango (often simply referred to as "The Book" in chats).

Harper said...

Anon - I thought Sale for Turner straight up - but either way it's a no to me. Hitter trumps pitcher. Age on Turner's side. Contract too. Sale has less variability because of more time in majors but that's all he has.

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