Nationals Baseball: July 2016

Friday, July 29, 2016


Nats win. Mets lose. Marlins lose. Papelbon (and Perez and the defense) fails but Kelley comes through. Espy and Bryce have big hits. All in all a good night except for that Perez and defense thing.

On trades, some people are suggesting you are better off doing nothing. That trades can't be effectual enough (at least for a team in a good regular season spot like the Nats) to matter in the playoffs so why do them? And yet, the last 5 WS winners all made some sort of important trade and just last year the Royals made trades for Cueto AND Zobrist.  I'm not suggesting TRADES = WS. A lot of other teams in the last 5 years made trades and didn't win. What I'm saying is that  trading is not stupid just because of an overall value loss. Sometimes they work and it's always worth it to explore making your team better. Smart teams try when they have a chance.

And the Nats have tried! Last year they brought in Papelbon. That was a pretty clear gamble for several reasons and was probably not enough but it was something. And in 2013 they brought in Asdrubal Cabrera. It wasn't a game changing trade, but it wasn't a team that needed a game changing move.

Make an honest effort to get better in 2016. Don't just say "good enough" because of years you are assuming will be 2012s and 2014s that may end up be the next 2013s or 2015s.  That's all I ask.

Figure I'd use a lazy Friday to go over my vacation.  If you don't follow me on Twitter I took a few days to hit up Minute Maid Park and Globe Life.  Houston to Austin to ... well Arlington as I've been to Dallas a couple times before, will likely be again, so didn't feel the particular need for a day there and it made more sense travel wise. Got some BBQ in Lockhart, hit up LBJ Presidntial Library because that's how I roll (disappointingly only #4 of the 13 official ones - but to be fair some of them aren't exactly on the beaten path. I'll get them all eventually)

Minute Maid is a nice downtown park. It follows in the tradition of the standard new park format where you have your brick and you have your quirks, but it sort of falls flat in those regards. The quirks aren't really sensible. The train thing I know speaks to the former use of the location of the park but to an outsider doesn't feel like "Houston" at all. The hill with the in play flagpole harkens back to the days when unavoidable quirks caused dangerous play conditions, which I didn't think we wanted to get back to. They don't really detract, I liked the train, a lot in fact, but they don't make the park special in the way I think they were aiming for. Plenty of decent food, enough decent beer, and the enclosure was certainly welcome on a 100 degree day. Plus the enclosure seems to let in more light or at least give more of a view than other parks I've been to with the same feature. It's a fine park.

Globe Life I really liked. It's biggest issue is that it is not downtown, instead located in a town between Dallas and Ft. Worth in an area with amusement parks and the like. So you go to the park, not the city. But you can take a trolley there that runs from the hotels. Otherwise I think it's pretty great. It takes advantage of the space to be huge.  Expansive concourses. A Rangers Hall of Fame that goes on forever and is honestly way TOO big. Great team stores. Tons of food choices. Lots of crazy ones in fact. Great beer selection as with prices as reasonable as can be expected. The office background thingy is unique in a way that is special. I'd be kind of disappointed if they were to move to a new park. I understand the call to downtowns but I have been to enough ok parks located in city limits. Personally, I'd rather hit up a special one a little out of the city.

This makes #25 and #26. If you are curious. A quick review of my personal opinions others (some defunct) by division :

Camden Yards - Love it. You can see why everyone tried to copy it. Right size. Right touches. Feels like it was always there.
Fenway Park - Speaking of always there, a neat visit to a real neighborhood park. When I went it was also dirty, lacked amenities, and was uncomfortable to watch a game at. Like sitting on a barstool for a 3 hour performance at Carnegie Hall. But it's been like 15 years so things are probably better.
Old Yankee Stadium - All it had going for it was the field. Otherwise it was like all the other cookie cutter parks of the era. Cramped, concretey, closed concourses. If it wasn't "my" park I probably would have hated it.
New Yankee Stadium - A missed opportunity. I wanted it to be over the top and while it's big and impressive, has all you want and more, but it doesn't go ALL-IN. It's impressive but I wanted more. Greek statues of hall-of-famers. Gilded touches. Holograms. Yankee Stadium should be ostentatious. It should make you hate it if you don't root for the Yankees yet want to go back.
Tropicana - Bleh. I will say they do try their best to make it an experience. You can touch and feed rays! But there's only so much you can do with that.

Progressive - Good downtown park. I don't remember it being very unique but I remember liking the whole downtown Cleveland experience. I do like the toothbrush lights.
Old Tiger Stadium - I get why it had to be torn down, cramped concourses, obstructed views but it basically had the bones of the idea of all the things new parks go after.
Comerica - I like all the Tiger touches. Still think it should have been a version of the old stadium though.
US Cellular - Last of the old types of parks, in fairness it really kind of does all those ideas the best you can do. It's not great but given it's now unique status I kind of liked it more than some of the more boring attempts at the new park normal.
Metrodome - Terrible. But I did meet the organist!

Safeco - Nice. A bit removed from downtown but I remember liking it. Nintendo. Sushi.

RFK - I don't know. I found it kind of fun.  There was an energy there that I liked. I'm sure that was all "new team" fun and it would have been just hated come 2010 if they didn't move out.
Nationals Park - what do you want me to say? A bigger missed opportunity to not work in iconic DC architecture, location, views. "You can kind of see the Capitol if you sit up here and look out that way!" It's fine as is but one of my least favorite of the new parks. .
Marlins Park - I appreciate the attempt at making something uniquely Miami. I like the art deco concretey of it. I'm glad they went with that crazy sculpture. It doesn't all work but it's interesting.
Shea - Kind of charmingly rundown when I went. It felt very Mets. Oh it needed to be replaced but I could get why there was a certain love for it.
Citizens Bank - It's good, probably the thing I remember most thought is that all Philly parks are now essentially located in a giant parking lot at the edge of the city.  Needs more to stand alone.
TED - If you didn't like my Nats park review, take comfort in the fact that this is the worst of the new parks in my opinion. Seems devoid of any sort of feeling, like walking into an baseball themed amusement park. Best part about it is the parking lot where you can see the section of the wall Hank Aarons HR went over.

Wrigley - Like my review of Fenway but better. Not as uncomfortable.
PNC - Personal favorite.  In general with the new parks you want to be special, have a good location, and preferably be walking distance to stuff. This hits all three. Love the size. Love the view. Would love to see a series here
Miller - Fine. Has a slide still which is honestly a must for these guys.
Rieverfront - Kind of like Minute Maid in the "what is this for" Designed to look like a riverboat when I don't think anyone outside of Cincy thinks about that when thinking about the city, maybe not even people in the city. But certainly full of Big Red Machine stuff which is good

PacBell - A close #2 to PNC. Again just a great view and location, etc. etc.
Coors - Honestly - pretty damn good. There is no real view but it's walking from downtown and feels right in some way to me. Pine trees. Mile High Seats. Rocky Mountain Oysters. Right quirks.
Petco - Another pretty good one. Close to downtown. Like the big grassy field out there. Also got a personal tour there (I was only one on official tour) so that probably biases me.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Post my vacation rundown

The Nats head out to San Francisco holding onto a nice lead in the NL East of 4 games. It isn't a safe lead, nor is it a worrying one. It's nice. The goal would be to keep that nice lead for another dozen games or so, when the schedule will make tripping up far more difficult to do.  At that point you'd expect either the Nats to pull away, or if they don't, it to be because either the Mets or Marlins are going on a tear. You can't really do much about those.

The Mets don't look like they'll be going on a tear anytime soon. They have alternated wins and losses since the break, pushed forward by an excellent pitching staff (3.2 R/G) but anchored by a dead offense (3 R/G). The Mets found themselves in a similar situation last trade deadline, 52-48 at this point in the year, when they made a series of trades to remake the offense. But that was an easy situation to fix, where the holes were glaringly obvious starting guys like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. This season it's not as easy as guys you want starting like Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are slumping, guys you have to start like D'Arnaud haven't hit all year, and a Cespedes infusion isn't coming because he's already here.  The only real move would be to get an OF and stop relying on youngsters like Conforto/Nimmo to help but the Mets don't seem interested in dealing. They are going to roll with what they have and hope for another August miracle at the plate.

Miami is closer, and the question is how long this improved pitching and team-carrying offense can go on.  I'm not very sure. A couple weeks like this happens all the time to nearly every team, but extended month long runs, the type the Marlins will need to stay in it, are something else. The problem is the starting pitching. Chen remains a disaster, which means everyone else has to be on. Jose Fernandez is a given. I'll accept that. Beyond him, maybe Adam Conley can keep pitching well enough to be the #2 to Fernandez's #1. Maaaaybe converted reliever Jose Urena can keep giving the Marlins solid 5 inning outings. and Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe Tom Koehler can remain oddly unhittable to compensate for his complete lack of missing bats. But all three? For another two months? The hitting then will have to keep it up and they just might. Stanton has gotten back in his groove which makes the whole lineup so much better and Prado is doing his Prado things again. I suppose it's possible they bash their way into the playoffs but I'm still holding off worrying about this team unless they stand a couple games out when the Nats last hard run comes to an end. Given that rotation they have to prove they can hang on.

As for the Nats fans are worried about Bryce and relief pitching but honestly the team is basically keeping on as it has for the season. The hitting may be a tweak worse since the break, the pitching in a little more of a slump, but both were Top 5 in the league so the minor departures don't drop them to any sort of level that would worry me.

If you want to dig a little deeper. Offensively what would worry me most is Espinosa. I still have faith Bryce will hit. He's never not. He hasn't reached his potential before last year but he always hit.  Espinosa on the other hand has a history of NOT hitting and a slump late in last year after hitting ok much of the year. It's completely possible, in my eyes, that he could put up an under .500 OPS the rest of the way. Normally you'd replace him with Turner or Drew, but Turner is replacing the Revere/Taylor failure in CF and Drew is out. So there isn't an answer here. Also Robinson/Zimmerman still aren't hitting either. But these are known problems the Nats have overcome. Adding a potential 3rd spot not hitting for the rest of they year in Danny would be something new.

As for Bryce, all I can do is make guesses. Everything we talked about before holds true. I checked out the zone stats since the break. He's still getting pitched low and away. He's still swinging too often at pitches below the knees and he's still swinging too often at pitches in which are not his sweetspots. But he's striking out a lot more, popping up, pulling everything. All that's new. If I were to guess I'd say he's super frustrated and just looking for anything that isn't low and away and trying to kill it. But I'm not watching film.

Pitching wise it's about the 5th starter slot and the closer. That's about it. Ross isn't healthy yet and neither Lopez or Giolito look ready to step in and be a good pitcher for 2016. But given that everyone else in the rotation seems fine if either can be a passable #5, and I think they can, then that's enough. A mediocre start every 5th day for two months isn't going to derail a season. As for the closer.... You can go different ways with this. We talked about a trade yesterday, which is the direction I endorse.* Sticking with Papelbon seems the worst idea to me. He might be beginning to lose control (walked at least one in last three outings) and that had been his saving grace. He's been hit hard all year but usually balls in plays are outs and if you don't walk guys you can survive. Still even if he regains control having a guy so prone to being hit doesn't seem like a good idea against the line-ups you'll likely see in the playoffs. Kelley could take over but he's scuffling a bit now and he's never really pitched a normal amount of innings. He's topped 55 once since 2008. What would he be like in the playoffs? You could try someone else, Treinen, Rivero, Lopez throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. Whatever is decided won't likely kill the Nats in regards to the East, it's more a matter of how confident do you want to feel in October.

The Nats aren't exactly where I wanted them to be right now, but they are close and with a little luck could be there in 12 games. Make "nice" into "safe" guys.

*Robles and Lopez for Miller is what I would do, in case you are wondering. I would not offer Turner or Giolito for anyone as I like both to be impactful in 2017 and I think you can get what you want without offering either.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


What should be the cost of increasing your chances an immeasurable amount in regards to obtaining something of unknown value? 

This is the question that is at the core of every trade deadline deal. It should be immediately obvious that one cannot get an answer, as there are two unknowns in the equation. But, whether it be based on hunches and gut feelings, made up numbers, or the current set of statistics, guys who are employed in the game, or employed talking about the game, haven't let that little caveat stop them from acting like they can.

If the current set of stats guys don't deal in made up values, how do they answer the unknowable? They make assumptions. The "unknown value" of a playoff win is treated like the chances of obtaining a normal win. The "immeasurable amount" is estimated by delving into all sorts of facts and figures. How likely it will be for player A to face certain situations? How much more likely is player A to be successful in these situations than player B? All of this controlled for line-ups and ballparks and etc.

When it comes to the playoffs this almost can't help but produce the conclusion that trading for someone makes a very small difference, if any at all. The difference between a good player and a great player is measured out in seasons and careers, not the span of 7 games. Luck will dominate such a small time frame. Since this part of the answer seems obvious, they move onto a more long term question. What is the value of the player received likely to be against the value of the players given up? Given the age, career arc, recent statistics, minor league projections, positions in question, etc. etc. they get a picture. Almost always the picture is the same, there is no point in trading a good prospect. The value brought in is almost always going to be less than the average value sent out.

This is a fair answer. But it's an answer to a question that was not asked. If the response was framed as such, "We can't answer the relevant question at hand, no one can, however we can provide this other information which may inform your decision" then it would be fine. However, it doesn't pay to be wishy-washy so there is no framing. This is presented as THE answer.

Of course, it isn't. We've talked ad nauseum regarding the Strasburg shutdown on how you cannot evaluate things that do not happen. History is not going to show that Aroldis Chapman improved the Cubs pen over Adam Warren by whatever the average WAR he is expected to do so by statistics. He's going to improve it by ?????  He will perform one way in the set of circumstances he sees. This is going to be a known. Adam Warren will have performed ??? in the ??? set of circumstances he would have seen. This is an unknown. We can estimate what it might be. We can make deals based on these estimates going for deals that were right at the time. But after all is said and done we don't actually know what effect a trade really had, and all we care about are deals that were right in the end, not at the time.

The question of the value of a win is tougher. What is the value of a playoff win? Of a playoff series win? Of a World Series win? Yes, gates can be estimated. Yes, apparel sales can be projected. But what is the psychic value of these things? What would it mean to the city of Chicago, to the legion of those fans, to win a World Series? What is that worth?

A numbers guy might tell you that the best way to improve your chances of that is to make the playoffs as much as you can. What they downplay though is the chances of doing such a thing. The value presented by prospects in the future in itself is FAR more variable than the value presented by a current major leaguer in the current season.  But there is a second variability often ignored, the variability of the quality of the entire team when the value of the prospects is expected to come into play. A guy like Chapman is very likely to produce in a certain way this season. The Cubs are very very likely to be in the playoffs this year and to have a good shot at being a favorite. Next year? The year after? It doesn't take long into the future, 3 years?, before things get so hazy for projections to barely be better than guesses. You might want to believe that a well-run team can provide more consistency in future estimates of performance but injuries, free agent signings, and the variability in the other teams you face in your division and conference all come into play.  Maikel Franco becomes Mike Schmidt and Aaron Nola becomes Steve Carlton and it doesn't matter if Victor Robles is a solid CF and Reynaldo Lopez is a good #3 exactly as projected. This point is very important : You can't say you are sacrificing the future when you have no idea, really no idea, what the future will bring.

This is a wordy long post to say that if you want the Nats to win this year - maybe you make a trade. It's not a question with a set answer, a clear yes or no, it's an opinion. My opinion is yes. I think a trade will help the team in the pen and in ways we may not be able to measure. That's my opinion.

If instead, you want the Nats to have the most value on their team in the future, then the answer is clearer. You probably don't make a trade. It depends on the actual offers out there but any good prospect, or set of prospects, is very likely to "out-value" whatever you can bring back. However, understand this is not saying "if you want the Nats to win the most games in the future" or "if you want the Nats to have the best chance to win in the playoffs in the future". Those, like the question at the top of the post can't be answered simply. This is only saying "if you want the Nats to have the most value in the future". That's it.

For me, in sports, value without the certainty of winning, is not worth much at all. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Chugging along


I'm giving Bryce the homestand, but in fact I'm giving everyone the homestand** and will see where things lie come Monday.  Other than the usual, "seeing more games to form a better judgment of players" there are other, season defining reasons to wait until Monday.

The Nats have a weekend series with the Padres, who are neither a good team nor are playing particularly well. The Nats should take at least 2 of 3. That's important because the Mets have a weekend series with... the Marlins! Assuming the Nats take care of business, the only way one of these two can gain ground is if either the Marlins or the Mets sweep the other. That would put the NL East at either: 

Nats; Mia 3.5 GB, Mets 8 GB or
Nats; Mets 5 GB, Mia 6.5 GB

with closing in on 60 games to go in the season. Tick tick tick. Looking at it another way, the only way the Nats won't come out of this weekend in better shape then they went in is if they screw it up, if they lose the series or worse - get swept. It's in their hands.*

Another reason to wait it out is because we get within a week of the trade deadline at that point and that's when most of the action will happen. Up until this weekend, there has always been more time to see if player X will come around or player Y will begin to fade.  After this weekend, there is no more time. You have to have a decision in mind. You've seen 100 games. You don't want a good game or two that week to change anything. 

After these games the Nats will go on the road to Cleveland, SF (who'd I expect to right themselves a little by then), and then Arizona. The D-backs aren't good but I don't automatically assume games at the end of a road trip are going to be easy, especially a Cleveland to SF to Phoenix road trip. Then it's CLE and SF at home. This is the tough stretch, where if the Nats are going to stumble in the second half, it's most likely to happen here.

That's why this Padres series matters a little bit more. Timing wise, and given the current NL East situation, it is at a point that can make all the difference. If the Nats are 3.5 and 4 games up after this weekend, then a stumble during the tough stretch could put the Nats in a three-way race. Maybe you are more likely to make that trade to try to ensure this doesn't happen. If the Nats are 6.5 and 7 games up come Monday I wouldn't even worry about a stumble. It would take a crash really for a chasing team to pull even. The team would be more likely to let the trade deadline pass.

Finish it here. Nats - win the series, so you can muddle through the tough stretch, so you can glide to the finish.

*If I were a Nats fan, what would I root for this weekend? Obviously a Nats sweep - then honestly a Marlins sweep. The Marlins are the 2nd WC right now. If they were to sweep the Mets and the Dodgers didn't tank, the Mets could find themselves FIVE game out of the WC on Monday morning. That's a team that has no reason to make a trade and I want the Mets, with those arms and with last year's run still giving them hopeful thoughts for this year, out of it. 

**Who else is of interest? Espinosa is slumping out of the gate, was playing over his head, and had a terrible 2nd half last year. Robinson/Zimmerman and Taylor/Revere haven't shown any reason to believe the 2nd half will be that different than the first. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nats and their choices

Let's cut to the chase.

The Nats have the money and the prospects to pick and choose what reliever they want. Do they want Aroldis Chapman? They can get Aroldis Chapman. Do they want... I don't know... Tyler Thornburg? They can get Tyler Thornburg. There is nothing stopping the Nats other than what seems like the small chance of a possible outbidding by another team.

What does this mean?  It means that on August first, when we look up and see who the Nats have on their team and probably most importantly, in their bullpen, it means this is who the Nats chose to go into battle with.

Now perhaps by "the Nats" we don't mean everyone in the organization. The team is a chain, and first and foremost it is run how the owners want it to be run. Next is Rizzo, who has shown over several years he can put together successful teams. Then it's Dusty, a winner as a manager riding a first year out 1st place season, much like Davey did in 2012 or Matt did in 2014. It's possible, given that chain, that Dusty won't get what he wants, or Rizzo won't get what he wants. It's not possible though that the Lerners don't get what they want.

I bring that up because I want to remind you that the Nats payroll this year is 20 million less than last year. This is why I say, "they have the money".  This shouldn't be a make the other team eat salary situation like nearly every Nats trade in the past for a veteran at the deadline has been.  There is no need. But that is assuming the Lerners are ok spending that much.  Remember this is a group that told us they were "topped out", that made last year sound like a singular season in terms of money into the team. Things can change, sure, but it's something that we have to be aware of.

There's a brilliance in spending less and letting the assumption that it would be spent at the trading deadline run through the fanbase. You could have a bad season and be so far behind that trading for a high-price FA makes no sense, which means you don't have to spend more money. You could have a great season and be so far ahead that trading for a high-price FA makes no sense, which means you don't have to spend more money. You can call-up all your young talent to help the team and if they perform in that short while you can convince yourself you don't need to trade for a high-price free agent, which means you don't have to spend more money. 

The Nats are not so far ahead that they can simply run with what they got. They are close, but not there yet. They are trotting out young players. Many in the fanbase hope it's for a trade, but it may not be. It may be getting them ready for important roles down the stretch.  If the Nats roll this way that's fine. But remember that when Reynaldo Lopez or Felipe Rivero are staring down Brandon Belt instead of Andrew Miller, it was the Nats choice. They deserve all the credit if it ends up working, and all the blame if it doesn't.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Give Bryce the homestand

Inside. That's the answer. 

What's the question? What happened to Bryce and will he ever be BRYCE again?

You see pretty much all last year and through the first three weeks of this year Bryce was an super MVP force. Then it stopped. It's been 3 months now and while we've seen glimpses of the old Bryce and it hasn't been as bad as you might think, he still hasn't gotten back to those levels. He hasn't been close. So what happened?

Some people will claim that it had to do with where he was being pitched. That he was being pounded low, away, and primarily low & away and that was keeping him from hitting. That is true, but the problem with that is he was pitched that way all last year. (All these things are courtesy of  Go there. Use it. Praise it)

See? I mean he did walk 124 times last year, 50 times in the last 2 months alone. And yet he didn't hit like he is now. So if it's not what he's seeing, it must be how he's reacting to it. Here is where he swung at pitches last year.


He jumped over anything in the strike zone. He was moderately aggressive on pitches over the plate that may have been high or low, less aggressive with some middle zone pitches inside and out. Has this changed at all?  Well let's look at how he swung from 4/26 when PETE MACKANIN not Joe Maddon you goddamn sycophants, started the "walk Bryce" craze, through mid June.

In possible reaction to the over-walking Bryce has been a little flummoxed. He let the top of the zone go in favor of turning on anything that he can reach. If it was in, he was going for it.  But like almost everyone Bryce's power comes from when he can get those arms extended. Take a look at the isoSLG from last year

Outside of that fluke area up and in it's all out over the plate. HRs per BIP show the same thing. During his down period (and it was a period with a BA around .220 with a .320 SLG - which is bad) Bryce was looking in, turning on inside pitches, but in the end, that's not where his power lay. He may have had some bad luck with the BA but he wasn't going to be BRYCE swinging like that.

So why do I say give him the homestand? Because Bryce has been swinging better recently.

He still might be favoring the inside pitch a bit too much, but he really stopped swinging at pitches off the plate inside. That helps.  Next is probably getting back to going after those "arm extended" pitches. He still might be a little gunshy on pitches low but in the zone. He's generated no power from those and he should. This is what I'll be looking for in the homestand; continued taking of pitches on the hands and attempts to drive pitches over the plate at the knees, while not chasing pitches lower and more outside than that.

That sounds hard and it is. What separates the good from the great is understanding the difference between the pitches you can hit and the pitches you can hit well, and adapting your approach to maximize the number of swings on those. That means taking a pitch you can hit that's a strike early in the count to wait for one you might be able to hit better later and taking a walk then if you get nothing else. It means being able to tell the difference between a strike low on the outside corner and a slider that keeps going, Bryce was here in 2015, can he get back to it? Because this is what teams are going to pound him with until he proves he can.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Monday off!

Not for me, but for the Nats which makes pretty much no sense.  There's no travel (for the Nats). The large bulk of the players / coaches / etc just had 4 days off. I'mn sure it's a Dodgers coming from Phoenix thing but still come on, MLB, schedule better.

The Nats keep on keeping on . They nearly swept the Pirates thanks to Muprhy's heroics but end up with the series win and the same lead they had 3 games earlier. Now there isn't ~72 games for the Mets / Marlins to make a run there are ~69.  Tick tick tick.

The pitching looked great coming out of the break. Strasburg pitched well, which was most important after the held out of AS Game moment. No issues to speak of. Roark and Max both were great. Now comes the rest. The pen pitched admirably in the 18 inning game - it's just one game but it's better than not pitching well.

On the offense side things were not as sunny. Zimm is out. Muprhy had one at bat. Rendon got sick. Werth and Bryce both have stumbled out of the gate. Despite the RS it was actually a very poor hitting series where the offense was made to look better by Stephen Drew, some timely hits, and some helpful Pirates errors. They would have still likely won two games, given the dominance of the pitching but it's something to keep watching in the Dodgers series.

As a public service : If you can't watch the Nats tonight - what should you watch? No, not the RNC.  Who watches conventions? You should watch more baseball, of course. Tonight there is only one marquee game - Mets v Cubs and it's really not even close. The next most compelling game is probably Cleveland v Kansas City, but while you were watching the Nats, the Indians opened up an 8 game lead on the Royals (the Tigers are closer). I suppose if you stretch interest as far as it will go you could watch White Sox / Mariners as being swept would likely turn the loser into sellers. Jose Fernandez is pitching, so is Chris Sale. There you go.

Be back tomorrow with something more meaty and substantive, I hope. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The 2016 Nats : Parts 1, 2, & 3

The Nats season has been undeniably successful. They have played very well and have a nice lead in their division. They are on pace to win 97 games and in a normal season that would be enough to challenge for home-field advantage. Then why are we still saying they can do better? It's in part because how they got to this point. Rather than a steady climb, or a slow start and gradual improvement, the Nats season so far feels like its had as much drag as go.

The Nats started super fast and by game 18 were already 10 games over .500. After that though the Nats spent the good chunk of the first half playing near .500 ball.  For the next 32 games they'd find themselves bouncing between 11 and 7 games over .500. After another week or so, they finally broke through going 10-2 over a twelve game stretch to reach a high of 18 games over .500, only to then lose 7 in a row to bring them back to 11 games over.  So 57 games since reaching 14-4 the Nats had manged to gain all of one more game.

The pessimist might say nothing had changed looking at the season. The optimist though could point to the Nats ceiling and floor both rising.  Yes, in those 32 games the Nats didn't really move the needle and played uninspired ball. But in the next 25 the ceiling went up to 12, the floor to 10, the ceiling up to 18, the floor to 11. The Nats may still have been bouncing back and forth but the good started to outweigh the bad. The Nats would then go 11-4 to end the half tying their season high of 18 over and having the floor move up to 15 over.

I think we have seen the Nats play their best ball. If we break the season into the start, then the middling period, then the rising it works to be : 14-4, 15-17, 25-15. A can't be beat 18 games, a disappointing 32, then a great 40. The 25-15 was a wild ride going fast up (10-2), then fast down (0-7), then fast up (6-0), but the ups took the Nats higher than the down brought them back. 25-15 is a 100 win pace. That's right up there with the best this team is going to do over that long a stretch.

We've talked about this upcoming schedule before the break. PIT, LAD, SDP at home; CLE, SFG, ARI away; SFG CLE at home. That's a tough 23 game stretch. Trying to set up an expectation :  you probably go for 6-3 at home, 4-5 away, 3-2 at home for a 13-10 record. I'd probably be ok with a slip-up to 12-11. Under .500 means something went wrong somewhere, while 15 or more wins should have you thinking best record in baseball with ATL, COL, ATL, BAL, COL, PHI finishing out August.

Basically, if the Nats don't collapse out of the gate I'm not sure that the Mets games around Labor Day will be meaningful at all. You have to figure 10-7 for a floor for those 2nd half of August games. If the Nats do go say 12-11 that puts them gaining 4 games over 40 games. Meaning to get within 3 games the Mets would have to go at least 7 games over or like 24-16. And that's figuring the Nats to go 10-7 over a stretch where it's very likely they do much better. We just said 25-15 in 40 is a 100 win pace. 24-16 is only a game behind that. In short, if the Nats take care of business now, simply by keeping pace, it looks like it'll be up to the Mets to do something special.

OK let's get this 2nd half started.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Worry Worry Worry... too much worry.

I'm sick! So this was going to be longer but it will be quick! and also Quik was better as Quik rather than NesQuik. Just saying.

1) Injuries

Every team has to worry about injuries but the Nats have a team with an especially robust injury history.

What starters missed at least 30 games last year? Zimm, Murphy (well...), Espinosa, Rendon, Werth

What starters missed at least 30 games 2 yrs ago? Ramos, Zimm, Espy, Bryce

Basically only Ben Revere has avoided major injury the past two season (we can quibble about Murphy if you like - he spent June 5th to the 30th on the DL).

Pitching wise it's a bit better with a lot of recent past season health but two starters (Strasburg and Ross) and the closer as currently defined by team Papelbon, have been injured this year.

Someone is going down. I'd bet on it. One, though, isn't going to derail the Nats.  If three or four go down though? That's season changing and it's something that isn't unreasonable to think as a threat for this Nats team

2)   Offensive decline

Even if the Nats remain healthy there are some reasons to believe the offense could drift off in the second half.

In Ramos, Espinosa, and Murphy, the Nats have three players having career years. These happen but when you see a surprisingly strong first half, it's likely that a more typical second half will follow rather than a repeat of what was just seen. This doesn't mean bad 2nd halfs (though Ramos and Espinosa certainly have that capability) but if all three slow down to paces more in line with their histories the offense can't help but suffer

In Werth, Rendon, and Zimm, the Nats have three players coming off of big injuries. Sometimes, if you haven't played an full season recently and are carrying lingering issues, the grind of a season can wear down on you harder.  This probably won't be the case for Rendon. He had a strong 2014, is young, and has shown some spark so far this year. But for Zimm? Who last played a full season in 2013? Who looks so bad now at 31? I'm not hopeful.

In Werth the Nats have a player in his late 30s. Time catches up to everyone and nicks and dings wear harder and longer if your career is lucky enough to see the other side of 35.  If it were one (injury recovery) or the other (age) I might give Werth the benefit of the doubt, but it'll be hard to shake off both of these.

Of course a moderate decline here - say a slowing of Ramos, Werth amd Espinosa, could all be washed out by Bryce turning into BRYCE again. And Robinson might play more if Zimm can't hit. I have a hard time seeing a completely offensive collapse. But a mild decline is possible.

3) Relief pitching woes.

Ollie Perez has disappointed. Felipe Rivero may have gotten used up in the first half.  Blake Treinen's ERA hides a merely passable first half. It continues to feel like Papelbon gives up 2 hard hit balls for every one strike out. Solis has been unhittable, but only when he gets the ball over the plate.

The Nats don't have a terrible pen, but it feels a bit piecemeal when everyone is healthy. That's not where you want it to be 90 games into the year. Dusty has been pretty good at working around having a lack of go-to guys, but as we just saw, one injury, in this case to Papelbon, creates a chain reaction that throws it all into turmoil.

It could still work out well. 70 games is a lot of time and September call-ups may ID a live arm at the right time. But it could also fall apart. With an injury or two (God protect Shawn Kelley's arm) the Nats could be in real trouble. This is why when you hear about the Nats and possible trade targets you hear guys like Miller and Chapman bandied about. They would help set the 7-8-9 up in the traditional way preffered by baseball guys.

And the rest

4) Gio
5) Roark back and forth
6) Bryce merely being Bryce
7) Can Nats defensive holes (right side of INF, Werth) be exploited.

If you want me to guess how the second half goes I'd say the Nats get an injury or two, but nothing big. I think Bryce keeps up how he's been doing lately (not quite BRYCE but very good) but the offense still droops a little. I think the relief pitching woes don't get cleared up as the Nats make a deal - but for a middle relief arm that costs them little in return.  In other words, I'm not really worried by injuries, and I'm even less worries by offensive decline. I think relief pitching worries are more on my mind but also least effectual, at least in the regular season. All in all they slow to a high 80s win pace for the rest of the games but that means 93-94 wins, and I think that means the East title.

We'll see. The big thing will be who gets injured - how bad for how long. It probably won't be enough as guys like Turner, Robinson, and Giolito are likely passable fill-ins in 2016. But there are combinations (Ramos & Bryce, Strasburg & any starter not Gio, Kelley & any other arm) that could make the road bumpier. Other than that though I don't see big worries.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Marlins: Legit threat or not?

The Mets are the biggest threat to the Nats hopes for a NL East title. That hasn't officially changed yet. But with Harvey now done for the year, they can't afford another pitching injury. To that end, both Matz and Sydergaard are battling bone spurs while DeGrom has already missed a couple games this year, and their other pitcher is 43 years old and I think 550 pounds. Add to this the various ailments that their starting catcher, first baseman, third-baseman, and now CF have had and the Mets are hanging onto relevance. It's going to take a post-trade Cespedes like performance or complete good luck with injuries going forward to keep them in the division mix*.

We never expect complete good luck so that brings us to the logical conclusion that the Marlins, not the Mets, are likely to be the main threat to the Nationals for the rest of the year. Or will they? First off let's do a StrengthOfSchedule check. If Miami has a particularly hard schedule to end the year, it'd be tough for me to see them doing well.  Understanding that this is all flexible - the Marlins have a slight edge on the Nats, while the Mets have a big edge. That's not all that important other than it allows me not to write the Marlins off at the get go.

Ok so who are the Marlins? Offensively it looks a bit confusing. They have only one hole in the line-up with Hechavarria, and are 5th in the NL in OPS+, leading the Nats. Yet they are tied for 10th** in the league in runs scored. It's not a fluke of rank. While they are clearly above the bottom 4 in the NL, they fit right into the below average spot they currently sit in and should be higher based on their stats. It's not really situational hitting, they are only slightly worse with RISP.  What it appears to be is an extreme lack of home run hitting. Three players (Stanton, Ozuna, and Bour) account for 52 home runs. The rest of the team, bench included, account for 25. Outside of the middle of the line-up the team becomes very station to station and while they can hit singles with the best of them (most in the majors! Almost 10% more than next NL team) if you get hits 30% of the time you get outs 70% of the time. It's hard to piece together single after single after single.

They are also not particularly aggressive on the basepaths or particularly patient*** All this adds to the problem.  Still they should have, given even luck, scored more runs. Let's say that happens. Is that a worry? Not really. The Marlins record is already a few games better than it should be by Pythag. Essentially "other luck" has compensated for "bad luck scoring runs". They are at where they should be and where they should be translates to an 86-87 win team.

Ok that record shouldn't catch a healthy Nats team. Could they get better though? Maybe.  Stanton could easily hit better. His .233 BA is by far the worst of his career and well under his average. And it looks like that better 2nd half will come based on how he finished the first half. He was at .193 in mid June and since then has been on fire .329 / .396 / .683. He can almost carry a team.

A lot of the other players are youngish (26 or younger) with not much experience so it's hard to say with any certainty that they would get better or worse. I will say batting averages are likely to fall a bit. There are a lot of high BABIPs here. But overall big changes in production I don't want to predict. I can't even do it for Realmuto, a catcher with a very high BABIP, given he's on pace for 15+ SB this year. On the flip side though I'm not going to assume that the low BABIP for Hechavarria is going to change either. That guy has never been a great hitter and might not be able to make good contact. OK maybe his hit type and hit speed numbers suggest it will go up but I don't want to start to nitpick the others let's just assume we take all these guys (Hechavarria, Yelich, Ozuna, Realmuto, Dietrich) as is, what about the other guys?

At 28, I'd like to say Bour has a history but he doesn't.  He has only 170 major league games before this year. He has always been a solid hitter and is like the only starter not getting a decent BABIP boost.  This could easily be the real Justin. Martin Prado - the BA should fall here. This we can be pretty sure of. History and statistics agree.  But he's still a .280-.290 type of hitter so it's not likely he'll turn into a bad hitter.

I guess what I'd say is that the Marlins offense has potential to be better - if Stanton goes off and the team maintains or manages the likely downs in BAs with ups elsewhere (better HR/FB rate, Hechavarria hitting better, a surprise player performance), but I'd far more expect an offense that was similar to the first half, regardless of what Stanton does. Likely more runs scored - because of the bad luck in that previously - but not a change in the offense or more wins.

Before I go into pitching I'll note that the Marlins have a terrible bench. Just awful. It relies completely now on a definitely playing over his head Ichiro and has nothing else. Absolutely nothing.

OK so what about the other side - how's the pitching? It's ... fair!

The rotation is a problem. Fernandez is one of the best pitchers in the league. There's no argument there. But after that it's hard to see anyone reliable. Wei-Yin Chen was brought in to provide a sub 4.00 ERA stability but his AL ERAs weren't really reflective of his pitching and while he should be better than this he shouldn't be much better. He's a 4-5 type right now. Tom Koehler has pretty much been nothing but that level his whole career. Conley is better, and he's young enough that he could be a nice rotation piece for a few years, but he doesn't have the control or the power to make you think he's anything more.

Wait you say. That's only four. That's right! and that's it. There are other starters but no one worth mentioning. Justin Nicolino is a successful minor leaguer but strikes out so few batters there's little confidence he can make it in the majors and so far he hasn't. Jarred Cosart was once a big prospect but he hasn't progressed since reaching the majors in 2013 leaving him a less than effective starter (and just god awful this year). After that you might remember Kendrys Flores. He pitched against the Nats and held them scoreless for 3 innings. But 3 innings - he got hurt and he's working his way back. I'd still expect to see him this year though because there is literally nothing else left.

Looking at their system - it's been a bad year for upper minors starting pitching for the Marlins. There is no help in AAA or AA and I'd argue you get into Low A before you see a real prospect that you like where they are this year.  This is a team that needs a trade and knows it.

Of course they did make a trade - for Fernando Rodney and it's kind of an odd deal. If you don't like the Marlins SP arms (and you shouldn't) you do like their relief arms. Barraclough is a nice live arm. Wittgren has been effective. Ellington is good. Former SP prospect Austin Brice has taken to a relief role in AA. They might need a LH reliever but Rodney was probably unnecessary, and definitely a bad use of what little tradeable prospects exist in this barren system.

You might be wondering how the Marlins find themselves allowing the 7th best team R/G in the NL with a pretty awful rotation and a good but nothing special bullpen. Well there is a lot of BAD pitching in the NL. The Nats have the best R/G a good 0.70 points ahead of the Marlins. There are still 4 teams worse that 0.70 pts behind the Marlins. Three teams are allowing over 5 R/G. Of course the Rockies (5.32) but the D-backs (5.07) and the Reds (5.96!.... FIVE POINT NINE SIX!)

We ask the same question - could the pitching get better? I suppose it could get better internally. All the pitchers COULD pitch a little better or Flores could come in and be real good. But to make a big impact all of them would have to do it or Flores would have to be real good. It's not the likely scenario. More likely is more of the same, a middling rotation not giving a decent pen many leads to hold. A big improvement could be had through trade.  Arms like Hill, Ordorizzi, and Pomeranz are likely on the market, but the Marlins have little to offer.

Oh I guess I should mention here - the Marlins are pretty good defensively. It's an up the middle thing as Hechavarria, Realmuto and Ozuna are all top-notch defenders and anchor solid guys around the field.

So the point of going through this exercise was to figure out if the Marlins were a legit threat or not. I'm going to lay down an answer of "no". Not as they are right now. The hitting, which is good but not great, can't get much better than it is. It's likely that any surge by Stanton will be balanced by a team drop in BABIP.  Without the hitting being great the Marlins are going to be held back by the starting pitching, which is not good and can't get much better than it is either. There are no great pitchers, or even good ones, underperforming, and no prospects on the horizon. This doesn't mean craziness can't happen. But assuming things play out as they relatively should the Marlins shouldn't be much better than a mid 80s wins team. If you want to see that as a threat that's fine. I don't

Of course this is a answer that only holds up assuming nothing happens at the trade deadline. If it does then we'll have to re-evaluate, just like the Mets forced a re-evaluation last year. But it's hard to see the Marlins getting that SP they desperately need given what they have to give in return. Most likely they'll only be able to fix the bench, which will help but won't have a big impact.

I'll keep my eyes more on the Mets than the Marlins. Just looking at the teams I can't see the Nats going under the low 90s in wins. I can't see the Marlins getting there. But I can see the Mets doing so. Yes, it'll take complete luck with injuries like I said, but until that next run of missed games happens, I'm going to keep the Mets as the main threat to the Nats and let the Marlins float out there 4 to 6 games over until they prove to me that I'm wrong or they change up their team.

*Or I suppose completely bad luck with injuries for the Nats along with the Marlins not playing well either. 

**Or 11th - B Ref seemed to go on break as well for the ASG so some things aren't matching up there.

*** which is how a similarly singly team like the Giants score a bunch of runs. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Monday Quickie : Vacay Day

Dusty is the best!

Well outside of his constant failure in the playoffs but we'll talk about that in hushed tones until we get to the playoffs when we'll make a reference to it in an article thinking that we might jinx the team if we make a big deal about it.

Is this, 54-36 at break Nats team, the best Nats team ever? Is it better than that Expos team?

Maybe!  No!

The "wins at the break" thing is a desperate attempt to wipe the non-Nationals records hanging around* but the Expos had played three fewer games at the break. So they were better. Doubt it? To match their "Oh no! Strike!" record the current Nats team would have to go 20-4 after the break.  Good luck with all that.

They are ahead of the other Nats teams. 2012 - 49-34 at break. 2014 - 51-42 at break. but both those teams killed it after the break. the 2012 team went on a 24-7 run and went 49-30 after the break. the 2014 team had a 10 game winning streak and finished the year 17-5, going 45-24 after the break. Those are both 100+ win paces for like 40% of a season. It'll be tough to do.

But it's not impossible. I'm not ruling it out. Who wants to take bets?

Other Notes :
We've said before Healthy Nats are much better than Injured Mets.  I kind of find it hard to believe that the Mets will get much healthier or that they will make any big moves so tomorrow we'll take that long awaited look at the Marlins.

*Part of me thinks this was a big part of re-signing Ryan Zimmerman.  

Friday, July 08, 2016

Giolito / Turner - Help Now or Help Later

Lucas Giolito did not pitch well yesterday. He had trouble throwing stirkes and when he did he was hittable. In my opinion, that's how he pitched in his first game too, but the Mets never challenged him to throw strikes and the rain delay kept him from pitching deeper into the game. This is something the 21 year old will have to work through, and given his pedigree he will do it. Eventually.

Prospects are prospects. The occasional one makes his mark immediately. Kris Bryant. Noah Syndergaard. But far more often they take time to be impactful, if it even happens. The higher the prospect the better the odds of both immediate and long term impact, but by no means is it guaranteed. So when you look at Giolito and Turner don't assume they are going to be great, or even good, this year.

What should the Nats goal for the series be? I am aiming for a split. I like to keep a "series" lead ahead of the second place team. Three games so that entering each new typical series it would take a sweep by them and the Nats getting swept to fully lose the lead before the natural reset a new series takes place. A split or better (which is now limited to 3-1 win) would keep that type of lead. The commenter said one win would be enough and I can see that. Having a two game lead coming out of this, is not ideal, but is far from disastrous.

The same names are struggling at the plate. Zimm, Robinson in his place, Werth. But for the most part this recent stumble bumble has been pitching related. Ross, Gio, middle relief. I keep saying this but it keeps being true - these things happen. As long as it doesn't' become a systemic issue you just have to roll with it. Wait for the 2nd and 3rd starts, the 2nd, 3rd weeks of relief pitching.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Mets Mets Mets Mets

Four games.  In NYC.  The Mets are hot. There isn't going to be a better time for the Mets to close the gap between them and the Nationals.  In fact, there won't be another H2H series until Labor Day. If the Mets can't win here they'll have to rely on other teams to help them

That's why any series win here (3-1 or a sweep) would go a long way to getting the Nats the East crown they want. It's starting to get late in the year, to the point where it's harder to lose that ground once you make it up. Just look at last 7 games.  Nats weren't on, Mets were.  Mets gained two games.  At that pace they'd need to play 20+ games, or almost a month to make up 6 games. 

I know. I know. You can look through 125 of baseball history and find examples of whatever you want. So sure, you can lose a 6 game lead, in 6 games. But what is forgotten / ignored is that you are just as likely to turn a 6 game lead into a 12 game lead. But the above paragraph is more typical especially with no H2H. If the Nats take a 6+ lead after this series they should have a month sized cushion.

What will the dog days bring? A nice two months until the Mets try to mount a furious finish? A daily dogfight? This series helps set that up.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Bryce Hypocriter

This still stands

And this is still happening

As I've said - I don't care if Bryce actually participates in the Derby. Do what you want. I do care that Bryce made a big show at the beginning of the year about wanting to "make baseball fun again" then when given the opportunity to do something most casual fans consider baseball's "funnest" thing, he refuses. If you don't actually want to put effort into making baseball fun - then don't talk about it.

So what does Bryce actually want then? He wants baseball to love everything that he does. He considers that "fun".  Bryce wants to make baseball fun again... for himself.  Honestly this isn't a terribly big deal. But bad show, Bryce. We're past the "just a kid" part of your life. No excuses now for when you do something stupid.

Of course most Nats fans won't care about him not being in the HR Derby*  They'll care about the fact he has not yet began hitting like Bryce Harper can hit. Tehy'll care that he struck out looking (what is he, a Met?) in the biggest at bat last night. They'll care that the Nats are a loss and a Mets win from being right back where they were before the Mets series when a sweep was supposed to propel the Nats to a run away NL East given the upcoming schedules.  Oh well. Nats will be in first place - by a decent amount after
 July 7th.  Maybe a game or two closer than I'd like but certainly not in trouble. Maybe not the way you'd expect them to get here but still here. They are where they should be. That's all you can ask.

*Please note that the idea the HR derby messes you up is almost complete nonsense.  Don't make me go over the reasons why or pull out the stats. I'll do it. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

The right decision

Was a decision made the right decision?

This seems straight forward but it can be a confusing question to answer because there are actually two reasonable points of evaluation where the standards for deciding if it was right are decidedly different; before the event and after the event. Before the event what is "right" is based on whether the best decision was made at that time using the information available. After the event what is "right" is based on whether or not the event went the way desired.

Also, how definitive you can be about a decision being right changes. Before the event, you are evaluating everything with the same amount of information and trying to predict what will happen. There is subjectivity to be sure, but all decisions are on a level playing field. Often, at this juncture, you can feel pretty good about saying something is THE right decision. After the event, you are evaluating the results of one decision, which is now known, versus the potential results of other decisions, which are unknown. Because of that most of the time you can really only say something is A right or wrong decision. Other decisions may have worked, or they may not have.

Really they should be two separate questions, but our minds tend not to work that way.

Often the after evaluation serves to validate the before one. You pinch hit Bryce Harper and he hits a home run. You bring in Aroldis Chapman and he gets the guy out. The decisions made before, presumably the right decisions at the time, give you the right results, making them also the right decisions after the event based on the results. Failing that, the after evaluation usually only serves as a mild rebuke to the before one. Bryce lines out. Chapman gives up a broken bat looper. While they were presumably the right decisions at the time, they weren't right decisions based on the result. However, because the results of any other decisions are unknown, you can't say definitively that the other decisions would have turned out better. In fact you can easily come up with situations where things turn out worse. Steve Lombardozzi strikes out, not even allowing the opportunity for a sac fly or error. Kirby Yates gives up an extra base hit. The decisions made were likely one of many decisions that would have ended up with the wrong result. This thinking doesn't really change what we think of the evaluation made before the event.

Yet there are so many decisions made that every once in a while the after evaluation makes you want to re-examine the before evaluation. The results are so one-sidedly positive or negative that you are forced to look again at the before decision to see if you made an error. And even if you go back and decide that no, the correct decision was made at the time, you have to concede that the results conclude that the decision made was almost definitively THE right or wrong one.

Let me give you an example.

Two-out, bottom of the ninth, bases-loaded Nats down by 3. Fireballing righty closer on the mound. You have two choices for a pinch hitter; the red-hot healthy Bryce Harper and the ice-cold gimpy Steve Lombardozzi. The right decision at this time is obvious. Bryce should pinch hit. But let's say you choose Lombardozzi and he hits a game winning grand slam. The best possible thing happened. There is no way that Bryce Harper batting could have improved on those results. Were we wrong in our before decision? In this case the re-evaluation is extremely quick. Yes, pinch-hitting with Bryce was best decision at the time. But the after evaluation is also clear. The after evaluation is that batting Steve Lombardozzi was pretty much THE right decision.

We can flip it. No-outs, bottom of the ninth, bases-loaded Nats down by 1. Fireballing righty closer on the mound. You have two choices for a pinch hitter; the red-hot healthy Bryce Harper and the ice-cold gimpy Steve Lombardozzi. The right decision at this time is the same as before. Bryce should pinch hit. But let's say you choose Bryce and he lines into a game ending triple play. The worst possible thing happened. There is no way that Lombardozzi batting could have made those results any worse. Again we were not wrong in our before decision, but the after evaluation is also clear. The after evaluation is that batting Bryce Harper was pretty much THE wrong decision.

A lot of people with time and energy invested in coming up with the best before decisions hate the fact that after evaluations exist. In part, because after evaluations that conflict with the properly made before decisions (1) will happen - it's a long season and there's a lot of luck and variability involved, (2) should not effect decisions going forward, and (3) should not effect your evaluation of the person make the before decisions*. But like I said our minds don't work that way. You put in the wrong guy and get the right result and even if it's just one event, we tend to assume you knew something we didn't and actually made the right decision at the time. You put in the right guy and he gets the wrong result, if it's not an obvious situation like Bryce vs Lombo described above, we assume you made the wrong decision at the time. It's totally not fair. But organizations tend to understand this, so it's not a work issue. It's a public issue. And with the public a lot of times these people tend to ignore the results and try to solely focus on the before decision, as if their work will somehow be invalidated by admitting that things turned out against what was assumed to be a good decision at the time. But we can't ignore results because life is not decided by hypothetically what should have happened, it's decided by what actually did happen.

I'm talking about this mostly because of the Danny Espinosa / Trea Turner situation. Specifically, the twitter exchange yesterday some Nats fans had with Keith Law about Danny Espinosa, but also some other ones along the way. Kill-Gore poked at Keith Law by re-tweeting an old tweet of his that basically called for Trea Turner to replace Danny Espinosa. It wasn't a crazy thought at all. Many Nats fans felt the same way a month ago. But it looks stupid today because Espinosa hit so well, he might end up player of the month in the NL in June. All Law, or anyone that wanted Turner to play full-time, has to do is respond by saying "Yeah, Danny has had a great month but I still like Trea Turner going forward"** This lets you keep the before evaluation you stand by, but it doesn't deny the results that have happened. Communications probably end or morph into a discussion of why you like Turner going forward. But, in Law's case, that would be taking away focus from what he clearly feels was the right decision made at the time. So instead we get a lot of defensive tweets about why the initial tweet holds up.

I guess my point is when this happens there ceases to be discussion going on. It's people talking past eachother. One side is arguing that the after evaluation shows X, the other person is arguing that the before evaluation shows Y. Both may very well be right because they aren't talking about the same thing. But we end up with just people eventually getting angry and snippy and then completely closed down. It's not constructive and it's kind of sad because I don't think most people are really obstinate jerks. Most people are willing to listen and are looking to talk things through. But twitter and comment fields, etc. is a bad place to do it because it doesn't lend itself to long thoughts that allow positions to be fully explained.

As for the past month, while it was never Bryce v Lombo clear, I still think that if the Nats ultimate goal at the time was to win the NL East this year that bringing up Trea and letting him play full-time would have been the right decision at the time. I also clearly admit in hindsight there's almost no way Turner would have been better than Danny this past month. So letting Danny continue to play shortstop ended up being the right decision based on the results. Going forward? I never had Turner as being a huge plus over Danny so at this point I'd have to say I'd like Danny going forward. I might end up being wrong. Espinosa has had plenty of terrible months of baseball. But I think as of today, with the information we have now, that continuing to play Espinosa daily for the next several weeks is the right decision. We'll see if what the results say come August 1st.

*Well if it keeps happening that the wrong results are gotten then you can question someone who seems to be making sound decisions. Like Matt Williams with the pen last year. A manager has more information that us, so his before evaluations won't always agree with ours but they should be better. If you are always bringing in the guy who gets wrong results then maybe you are not reading all that information correctly. It's only a maybe but it's something that in cases like that, must be investigated. 

**Assuming they still believe that