Nationals Baseball: 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Kintzler Redux

Busy day so a short one.  The Nats brought back Brandon Kintzler.  That's fine. What I said at the time Nats traded for him still holds true. He's not going to blow things up by giving up big homers. He's not going to shut things down by striking out two in a row. He's gonna come in, get someone to hit a groundball somewhere and if the groundball is not too hard and/or at the right person things will work out.

The Nats IF in uniquely split in that a GB to the left side is great news for the Nats and will almost certainly be and out, while a GB to the right side will be a hit maybe more often then a GB hit to the right side of any other team. So Kintzler isn't the perfect reliever. But a GB reliever is someone you need. You need someone who can induce the big DP or keep the ball in the park.

Would a more dominating reliever have been better. Of course. People talked just a few days ago about "Hey Stanton to the Yankees isn't a guarantee of success you can pitch to these guys and strike them out!" but to do that you need guys that strike out anyone. Kintzler is not one of those guys.

The Nats needed someone in the 7th-8th-9th range to fit Doolittle and Madson into general roles*  We preferred a 9th inning type that would set Doolittle and Madson back and make the bullpen back end as strong as it's been for the Nats. We got a 7th inning type that keeps Doolittle and Madson forward which worked fine to end last year. Check one thing off the off-season list.

 *Not advocating strict "Xth inning guy usage" not expecting "can use at anytime" rather aiming for a compromise of having a general feel when you may come in.  I think that'll work.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Are the Phillies sneaking up?

So deals are coming - not fast and furious - but steady and with a mild sense of anger.  The relief arms are getting the most interest. Pat Neshek is back in Philly and are nearing a deal with Tommy Hunter - taking two of the better RH relief arms off the market.   Another one, Bryan Shaw, is headed to the Rockies. The Nats can wait it out and see what falls into their lap at a discounted price, but much like Blanton, there will be an underlying reason why this was the guy leftover.

The Cubs continue their gambles on guys who could be really good or nothing by picking up Drew Smyly who last threw a pitch in the regular season in 2016. He may not even get on the mound in 2018 making this a play for a cheap arm in 2019.

In the last big news the Yankees traded away Chase Headley to the Padres (who will try to flip him for something better than the gave up) and freed up his salary to let them go after one or two more free agents and stay under the luxury penalty cap. Some people see this as linked the the Orioles potentially offering up Machado in a deal, but it's very unlikely the O's would send Manny to a rival in division (and I kind of doubt the Yankees would trade in Jan for a rent a player they probably plan to pursue in 2019 when they are at the start, not the end of a run)

Most of the above are not surprises as you see good teams maneuvering to stay good or get better. This isn't great for the Nats, who'd rather see teams like the Cubs and Rockies do nothing. More interesting is the Phillies move. Most people think the Phillies are (at least) a year away from relevance but they made plays to shore up the pen. Is this for the future?

The Phillies didn't hit or pitch well last year but they are young.  It's possible their oldest starter will be just 28 next year, so there can fairly be an expectation of improvement. And with a star bat in their line-up, which is what Rhys Hoskins was to end last year, the lineup is... ok. They have a handful of pretty good bats and while they have holes their next set up of bats JP Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, and Scott Kingery slide right into these holes. If these guys are any good they will be a tough out.

The pitching though is where things fall apart right now. While they have a super young staff, they only have one legit starter in Aaron Nola. The other four (currently Velasquez, Lively, Eickhoff, and Pivetta) are fighting over who can fill in spots 2-5 but seem to have 4/5 talent. There isn't anyone on the immediate horizon any better, Sixto Sanchez being no earlier than a 2019 talent.

So these relief moves do look like moves for the future. 2018 will be about finding out which of the young players are real and which ones aren't as a lot get extended second chances. 2019 FA will be about filling up by spending money.At least that's what I think. So the Nats don't have to worry... this year.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Quickie - It begins

The Winter Meetings are now in full swing and we are seeing movement, finally, of real players.How do these effect the Nats?

Stanton to the Yankees 
This has been a garbage story from the beginning but we're going to focus on how it effects the Nats which is - it's good! We joke about the NL East basically being the AFC East, where the Patriots are not only good but get to beat up on three bumpkins every year. But it's got a grain of truth. In this case, Miami is now under leadership who can't afford them meaning Stanton had to go. He could have gone to St. Louis or San Fran but he demanded NY, LA, or Houston and his no-trade meant he could. NY made the best deal shipping out Giancarlo from the NL and making the Nats road that much easier. They should win more games in division, making it easier to get HFA situations in the playoffs, if they make it.

This also (possibly) has the effect of taking the Yankees out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. However, I'm not entirely sure I buy that. The Yankees will get under the salary threshold this year, resetting their penalties. Sure they could find themselves over in 2019 and 2020, but quite possibly it could reset again in 2021 because some big contracts come off (maybe Stanton's!) and the rookies will still be a season away from FA contracts. Also Headley, Robertson, and Gardner all become FAs after 2018 and none need to come back saving the Yankees over 35 million in salary right there. I think the biggest impediment to the Yankees and Bryce meeting up isn't Stanton, but Machado, who would fit in perfectly at the hole at 3B.  But if Manny goes somewhere else or if the Yankees just want pure starpower, I think it could still happen.

Cubs sign Brandon Morrow

The Cubs are trying to make up for losing Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis by buying pitchers who may surprise. First was Tyler Chatwood, who was the youngest guy out there and pitched very well outside of Coors (though that means mostly in LA, SD, and SF) and now it's Brandon Morrow a guy who was mediocre in an injury filled 2016 and great last year in LA. This should be worrying to the Nats, not because the Cubs know something about these guys you don't. They are fine and should mostly do the job but nothing more. No, it should worry you because it's setting up the Cubs for buying during next year's potential FA bonanza*. It also forces their rivals into an all or nothing situation. Pay a lot for the Arrieta's or scrape buy with the dregs.

In good news though - the Cubs should be less talented. Now does that translate into fewer wins? I'm not sure - depends on the rest of the central. Also I felt the Cubs underperformed a little in 2016. 

Cardinals sign Luke Gregerson 

This is a gamble. Gregerson had been one of the better relievers in baseball since really 2010. Last year though he struggled and at basically 34 next year. You'd think his age is catching up with him. I'd take this to mean that the Cardinals are trying though to piece together a playoff team. The more legitimately competitive NL teams the worse for the Nats. What you want is the NL East to be garbage and the other NL divisions to be filled with mediocrity fighting it out. Let everyone else be 81-81. No 90 win teams who could beat you in the playoffs. No 60 win teams who could feed another squad to 100 wins.

Rockies sign Chris Iannetta

Kind of like the Cardinals thing except gambling on someone decent last year with a less reliable history. Iannetta is at best an average backstop and he's old (35 next year) but the Rockies catching situation before Lucroy was garbage so he's going to be an improvement unless he pulls a Wieters style crash. It's a canny signing at the price they paid, and much like the Cardinals signals a team that is going to try in 2018 (as well they should being a playoff team) 

Mike Fiers to Tigers

This doesn't effect the Nats at all other than I suppose Fiers was a guy they might have picked up to fill out the rotation in February in a panic. He's the dregs I talked about before. Cheap (6 million - 1 year) but young enough that you can shake off last year's badness and be probably sure he'll just do what you think he will - put up a fullish season of 4/5 worthy stuff. Trends in the wrong direction though so its not a signing for a team in contention.

Ok let's see if the Nats do anything. The have holes but they don't have to do anything to maintain favorite status in the NL East. They could be a reactive player making moves only if the Mets seem to jump in on something. I still think we come out of the Winter Meetings with a starter or reliever, though don't be surprised if it's an underwhelming, but reasonable player. Like I said - I'm betting on Lackey, JJ Hardy, and oh I don't know. Pat Neshek.



*How are the Nats set-up? Not as well.  They'll have money coming off the books for sure. Like 75 million! But they are losing guys they need to replace. They need a new Daniel Murphy, they'll need a starter for Gio, a good reliever for Madson, a real catcher, and they'll have to either get back or replace that guy in the FA bonanza, Bryce Harper. Also Stras and Max go from counting 40 million against the cap to 80 million. If the Nats are concerned about that then there's a lot of potential spending money locked in to these two players**

** even though they won't be paid this money until much later.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

MOVIES

So here's my quick take on most of the "classic" Christmas movies. Unfortunately when Santa's elves are putting out literally a couple dozen new made for TV Movies every Christmas, not to mention Christmas episodes of TV shows, Christmas specials and the rest, my made for TV recommedations to end that post are already woefully outdated just 3 years later. So let's revisit.

We'll start with some classics I didn't address

Elf

I didn't care much for it at first (I'm mostly miss on Will Farrell) but it's grown on me.  It's kid friendly when surprisingly a lot of the more popular Christmas movies aren't exactly.

Miracle on 34th Street

First one is better but if you have an aversion to B&W the Mara Wilson one is the rare good remake. I don't go out of my way to watch these but if I catch it, it can happen.

Love Actually

I know it's pretty Christmasy but in my head I don't consider it a Christmas movie. So I don't feel any great need to watch it during the holidays. Do I watch it otherwise? Well, I acknowledge it may actually be bad* and we might be fooled by accents but I still enjoy it in parts. So I guess, yes, but it's not like a favorite or anything.

Santa Clause (s) 

Never actually watched one.  I've tried to watch the first one several times and it never keeps my attention.

How the Grinch - Movie

That looks terrible. I'm not watching that.

Jingle all the Way

It is terrible. I am watching that.

White Christmas 

You know - it's also not a real good "Christmas" movie but for some reason I do make time to watch this one every year. I do have an affinity for old movies but there are certainly better ones I could make time to watch. I can't really explain why.


OK now that we're done with the preliminaries what's going on with the schlock! First off I'll recommend a great terrible watch Christmas movie. A lot of people say these movies are bad but really they aren't. You may not like them. They may be sappy and predictable. But that's different. Bad is special. And hitting that sweet spot of being bad but still somehow watchable that you can laugh at the craziness of it is hard. But there are some out there.

#1 on the list is Christmas Belle which will air on ION a couple times. I recommended it before and if the phrase "so much shirtless running" doesn't get you in the Christmas Spirit I don't know what will.  The plot is weirdly slow. Like not time wise but like they had 30 minutes of material but needed to fill two hours. So there's a lot of shots of things not happening. The male lead plays everything very melodramatically. The dialogue is overwrought and at times insane. I can't exactly remember why it's a Christmas movie but I'm sure that's in there somewhere.

Also enjoyably bad for a pop-in is Mariah Carey's Christmas Melody.  The non-Mariah parts are pretty standard but every time she's in a scene she's filmed in a soft-focus close-up that's both jarring and brilliant and worth seeing.

While, like I said this has become a factory product at this point I'm very hopeful for the Tara Reid vehicle A Royal Christmas Ball. to fit the bill. I mean Tara Reid and a budget Christmas movie that involves royalty? The trailer on the site alone involves a terrible photoshop, a terrible attempt at creating a picture on a blank page in a book and neither of the other two leads saying a word! That's very promising. 

For a bigger movie that's garbage yes watch Jingle All the Way. It's horrendous


I'll do some reviews tomorrow barring any actual baseball news.

*Except the Emma Thompson / Alan Rickman parts because they are both awesome. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Still nothing

Free agency can be like a set of dominoes. Teams make plays for certain trade commodities and FAs and wait to see how that plays out. FAs wait to see where the top guys end up so they can figure out how to best get paid. There is usually some action early. Low level guys, the 3 million 1 yr or minor league contracts - tend to go whenever. Some teams get itchy triggers and will pay market value and if they match up with a FA who doesn't want to wait out the process you have yourselves an early big signing. But it is limited until the Winter Meetings.

Here are some recent dates
2016 : 12/4 - 12/8
2015 : 12/6 - 12/10
2014 : 12/7 - 12/10
2013 : 12/9 - 12/12
2012 : 12/3 - 12/6

In 2017 it begins on the 9th as well so our best comparison time wise is 2013. I don't see much in November.  Jason Vargas? Dan Haren? Hey! Javy Lopez was still playing!  There was a bunch of low level trades around the 3rd. We also have our first big signing then - Brian McCann, some more on the 4th Kazmir, Joe Nathan. But really the 7th was the start of things the Yankees grabbing Tanaka and (officially) Ellsbury culminating in the Robby Cano signing on the 12th.

So my take to you would be - we should hear a couple things go down in the next couple of days but there should be a run on activity as we hit Mon/Tues next week. If not, well then you can call the silence suspicious.


Reading material

ESPN took a look at the Nats and found the same needs we all see - get the pen piece, get a 5th starter, shore up the bench again, and sign Rendon long term if you are going to do it.

MLB's reporter (which you have to take as somewhat of a mouthpiece) says the Nats are fine with Difo starting if Murphy can't get back quickly. That's not terribly surprising. So don't expect a play for a MI who's really good. Instead expect a cheap MI who can play SS (and therefore could shift elsewhere as needed).  Twist my arm and I'll say JJ Hardy bc he's great in the field, he had a decent year two years ago, and he's played in Baltimore since 2011 and the appeal of staying in the area might mean he stays for cheaper than he might take elsewhere.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Monday Quickie - No-tani

Not that it's a surprise but the Nats are out on Ohtani. It doesn't mean much directly for the Nats. Ohtani has noted that he wants to be on a West Coast team meaning no team in the NL East will get him. However his list does suggest some problematic team. 

If he goes to the AL that's great. Meeting him in the World Series isn't something you worry about it's something you hope for.

The Dodgers or Cubs? Yeah that's no good for anyone. Even though neither of these teams seem like favorites - he said he wanted a West Coast small market team - they are still on the list. That should worry Nats fans because the hierarchy of the NL right now is clearly LA - CHC - WSN with maybe ARI knocking on the door (COL will have to prove they are moving to the next level for me) and anything the first two do to separate from WSN is worrisome. Of course some will say "Just get into the playoffs and blah blah blah"  I wonder how many NLDS losses will it take for them to stop saying that.  Probably like 100!  Nah.  It was just 100 runs of bad luck!

Anyway I digress. It's obvious Ohtani to one of them would be bad. Could Ohtanit to the Padres or Giants be bad in the short run (which is all we can really judge) too? 

The Padres is a big fat no.  Did you know that the Padres Pythag last year had them winning 59 games and they got INCREDIBLY lucky to win 71. Now - they may not have been 60 win bad but they were no better than the Giants, while also showing no particularly strong set of young players. They were the worst in the league in offense and it wasn't particularly close. One player isn't going to change that. They were bad in pitching as well. I don't see how this team competes for anything. I have to think they are more likely to deal some of their better players (like Brad Hand) in the offseason as they try again to reset.

The Giants? Well that's interesting. They did have a bad offense. Second worst in the NL and clearly worse than everyone else except the Padres. If they sign just Ohtani that's probably not enough. If they sign Ohtani AND get Stanton that would radically transform the offense. The pitching staff wasn't terrible last year and that's with only half a year of Bumgarner.  There is potential here for a big jump.  Now of course that matter less for the Nats than the NL West teams but it's another potential NLDS opponent to stand in the Nats way - assuming the Nats make the playoffs. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Happy December - Nothing is happening

Last year at this time RA Dickey, Bartolo Colon, Charlie Morton, Andrew Cashner, Josh Reddick, John Jay, and Yoenis Cespedes had been signed and another dozen lesser luminaries had been traded or picked up as well.

This year, until yesterday, the biggest name officially signed might have been Rubby De La Rosa.*

It could just be a slow time, pushed by Ohtani. Usually the Winter meetings speed things along. After a couple of  minor things in the first few days of December, during the meetings last year you saw Steve Pearce, Rich Hill, Carlos, Beltran, Mark Melancon, Mitch Moreland, Matt Holliday, and Joaquin Benoit signed. More importantly you saw the trades for  Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Wade Davis, and yes, Adam Eaton go down.

So while things have been slow before we worry about it being a trend we have to at least until... the 14th. Man they are a little later this year. Ok, well the 14th it is.

So what do we talk about until then?  That's up to you. I'll gladly fill these blog posts with talk about the Hallmark movies I'm watching or breaking down Christmas songs or perhaps list my favorite things that you may yourself want (or want to buy for others) for Christmas. Or you could just throw questions at me. That's ok too.

We'll fill these spaces with something every other day or so, don't you worry.


For today I'll revist the "former guys" post just because that interests me.

Tyler Watson (for Kintzler) - nothing beyond what I said at the time.  Some promise looks hittable in A-ball but young.

McKenzie Mills (for Howie) -  Another post column trade. Phillies bumped him up to High A and he was knocked around a bit in 3 games. However control looked good still. In 2016 he showed he can be hard to hit. In 2017 he showed he can control himself. But doing both at a higher level is another thing. He'll have a couple High-A years to try. 

Jesus Luzardo - A's moved him up to low A from rookie to end the year and he looked just as good there. The IP is still small but all you can ask of any prospect is they do well and make you want to see more at a higher level and that's what he's done.

Sheldon Neuse - Ended up hitting really well in High A to end the year. So well they moved him up again to AA and he hit there too (though without the brief power surge seen in High A). They sent him the the Arizona Fall League and he hit there too, named an AFL "Fall Star".  At this point Sheldon is a half-season of AA performance from being a real PROSPECT.

Jeffrey Rosa (for Enny) -  On the flip side you have Rosa who couldn't hack it in rookie ball for the Rays. His first half of 2018 is about showing the Rays there is some reason to keep him before the draftees come in. It doesn't look good.

Dane Dunning - Found a wall in High-A. A mix of good, mediocre, and bad performances. Still there's enough there with the Ks and the performances not being consistently bad that it's hard to believe he's topped out. He may not be a major leaguer but I don't see him as a low minor wash out either. Not sure if the Sox will push him the AA just to do it or leave in High A another year.

Lucas Giolito - Moved to the majors at the end of the year and had really good results. However the fancy stats suggest that it was mostly smoke and mirrors. He didn't strike anyone out, and had a  too low BABIP.  I watched a lot of Giolito at the end of the year though and I saw a guy that had learned how to pitch who wasn't rattled by situation. I think he can be hard to hit, keep the ball in the park, and not walk too many. I do think there was luck involved here with the level of success, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't at least a reliable back-end starter in 2018 (as a 23 yo remember) putting up an ERA ~4.00. And if he can dial things back-up again without losing control... well that's the million (+ 100 of millions) dollar question, isn't it? Trend says no though
 
Reynaldo Lopez  - Also moved the majors with less successful results but similar pitching to Giolito. The other guy pitched like the other guy. He's still got a year or two before you anoint him AAA talent and he's shown in the minors some tendency to need some time but I don't see anything really getting better. Still again - he's just found it before once.

Max Schrock  (for Rep) - People noted, probably rightfully, that I got over excited about Max's performance. Hitting for high average in AA even at a young age isn't all that special. It probably means he can make the majors, but it doesn't make him a PROSPECT. A lot of career bench guys fit that role. He's still raking singles all over the place (like a .350 average in Aug/Sept) with no pop (4 XBH) so he'll probably get a bump up to AAA to see what he does there. Does the power come with age? Can he learn patience? Can he turn a .330+ average in the minors to .300+ in the majors? At least one of these answers will have to be answered yes for this to be a big loss for the Nats.

Taylor Hearn (other part of Melancon deal) -He got hurt and JUST got back healthy enough in time to throw some at season's end so nothing new to report here. Read last year.


You miss Giolito the most here. You can totally see where he'd fit in with the Nats in 2018 and beyond. But since he hasn't shown himself to be a top of the rotation guy yet you can't say you'd take him over Eaton. Lopez and Schrock today just look like fill-in pieces to a major league team. 5th starter/long man and bench guy.  They could end up being better but could also not even be that. The guy you'd most worry about other than Giolito is Neuse who right now looks like Schrock but with some power and some patience. The floor for him is higher though he needs more time in AA to prove it's not a one-year fluke. Luzardo looks slightly better than Dunning right now but that's all about "upside".

Ten minor leaguers dealt in deals for 8 GOOD major leaguers (well 7 good ones and 1 maybe good one in Enny). Even though some were just rentals, that's months of helpful performances to the Nationals.  You probably lost some ok major league starting pitching but that's all you can say today. Sure it could get worse but history tells you it usually goes on as planned. Really what matters is trading away a star more than anything and right now there isn't one. Giolito could click. Neuse could not slow down. Another guy could surprise or just keep coming up the ladder. But that's hard to do.

This is why you shouldn't balk too much at trading guys, especially guys that aren't like Top Prospects. Being a major leaguer is hard. Very hard. Extrememly hard. Take the guy who is doing it over the guy who may do it down the line if he doesn't get injured and keeps improving over time. 

*Yusmiero Petit's deal was finalized yesterday if you were wondering about him.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Relief Pitching

Last year discussion revisited

I guessed that nothing would happen as by the time I wrote this up it was mid December and both Melancon and Jansen were signed. I didn't see a clear trade partner as everyone left was too expensive or not going to go for who the Nats had left to trade (this was post the Eaton trade). I figured they'd wait out the Greg Holland market to see if they could get him on their standard "low market, with deferred money" deal and if not just sign someone but not make them closer.  It would just be to fill out the bullpen. That is what ended up happening as they signed Blanton as the off-season  closed out.

I was pretty fine with this. I understood the risk - that the Nats were basically where they were in 2016 when Papelbon was out and the bullpen failed except now they were trying it with an Kelley who would be less reliable because of injury. But I figured the Nats were too good for it to really matter and as long as they went out again and got a dominant closer if they needed it things would be fine. Well they never did get that dominant arm, but they did get three good ones and things were mostly fine. They performed well in the playoffs and the biggest failures in the pivotal Game 5 in relief were Max Scherzer and a Sammy Solis who should have never been in the game at that point.

Basically this was my best Svengali position discussion, but to be fair a lot of the market shook out before I wrote it up. I could nail all of these is I waited until March. 

My OOB idea was to draft a closer for 2017 in 2017 like they ended up doing for Storen. Apparently my choice wasn't even good enough to be drafted (I don't get it but I don't try to) Nats went SP SP first two rounds.

Presumed Plan : Doolittle, Madson, Romero, hopefully Glover. Solis? Kelly? Probably another arm for depth.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : They didn't trade for two guys under contract for 2018 just to trade them away... I don't think. Doolittle and Madson were good, so of course they get to hold down the 8th and 9th.  If you've got two guys you feel you can count on, that's a start. You can work with that and the Nats have a couple arms in Glover and Romero, that they'd like to see if they could be special. That means using these guys in the 7th and later and thus you don't really need to go out and get that late inning guy.

Still this isn't a deep pen for the 98th season in a row so chances are they will sign a cheap arm or two at the end of the FA period to give them some of that depth.Glover and Kelly are injury returns. Solis still hasn't proven anything. You can't roll with just these guys alone.

Problems with Presumed Plan :  Madson himself is an injury risk given his finger injury and then performance in the playoffs. Doolittle is an injury risk because he seems to get injured often. (His 51 IP this past season was most since 2014). That means with Glover that 3 of your top 4 relief arms are injury risks and your fourth, Enny Romero, is a Treinen-esque guy who keeps getting sold but the league never seems to buy.

After that it's mop-up / Loogy guys like Solis and Grace and a Shawn Kelley who may never be good again.  I'm not sure what isn't a problem with this pen.

My take :What we have here is a pen with its head cut off. It needs a dominant closer to set everyone in place. Madson/Doolittle in 7th/8th. Maybe Romero/Glover working into those roles. Letting Solis/Grace focus on Loogy stuff. Letting Kelly focus on his last chance. Instead everyone is pushed up. It'll work ok... until it doesn't. It's basically a key injury away from another terrible situation.

The Nats are better off than last year. You'd rather have talent that may get injured then healthy guys that may be talented. But still the Nats don't need just a couple nobodies to fill out the pen. They need either a dominant guy to stick in the 8th/9th role or a couple of solid arms to give them flexibility. 

Out of the box suggestion :
Make Joe Ross a reliever when he returns from injury. The arm is a ticking time bomb so don't try to coax it back into starting form. Let him air it out as a reliever. I recommended this approach way back when with Christian Garcia. They didn't do it and no one got anything from their attempt at making him a starter. This is different. Ross is coming back from injury but the point is the same. Clock's ticking and you can't be sentimental. Get him healthy and get him throwing two pitches as best he can.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Offeseaon Position Discussion : Starting Pitching

Last year discussion revisited

The thought was in 2017 it would eventually be Max, Stras, Roark, Gio/Ross, and one of the Nats "on the cusp" starters - Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez. It made sense. The Nats love their bargain players, who doesn't?, and they had two starters with potential to be just that. At the same time Gio was trending down and Ross couldn't stay healthy, but both still had value. Bailing on one wouldn't be the worst idea. And indeed the Nats explored some deals for Gio or Ross that might have cleared up that issue.

We also acknowledged that the Stras/Gio/Ross trio presented a bunch of performance/injury questions and the Nats may go after another starter to shore up the rotation with a non-question mark. And indeed the Nats explored trading for at least Chris Sale. 

But instead they ended up trading Giolito and Lopez in the same deal for Adam Eaton and watched as Sale went to Boston. The Nats now needed both Ross and Gio.

The end results in 2017? Max was great again. Strasburg did stay relatively healthy and was great. Roark was good after a shaky first half. Gio would end up having his best season in a while. He didn't actually pitch too much better than recent years but everything came up Gonzalez. Ross though failed to make it a clean sweep. He had a poor first half and then went under the knife for another TJ surgery. The Nats internal solutions (AJ Cole, Jacob Turner, Erick Fedde) were mostly failures, so the Nats brought in an old friend Edwin Jackson to round out the rotation for the remainder of the year. He started well but unraveled in September. With Max being Max, Stras being Stras, and Roark/Gio being healthy, it was enough though.

My OOB plan would have been AWESOME. I traded (somehow don't ask me how) Gio, Ross, and Roark and prospects and got back Goldschmidt and Charlie Blackmon. That's an offense. Made more sense before 2017 when neither team looked to be all that good. 

Presumed Plan : Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, and some cheap free agent at first

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Max just won his 3rd Cy Young. Strasburg finished 3rd.  Gio finished 6th. Roark finished the season still under team control.

To expand on this a little. Max and Stras are both paid liked aces and pitched to match that. They are in. Gio, even though he probably won't have as good results in 2018, is a deal for his salary, is left-handed, and is a reliable innings eater.  All things any team would be foolish to let walk. Roark is a little up and down but for his cost, general success, and recent health you pen him into any rotation.

That leaves one spot that is wide open. They would have ideally hoped that Fedde would have matured quickly into that role, but that doesn't look like the case. No other Nats "prospect" looked ready.  That leaves a trade for a good pitcher, or waiting out the FA market to try to grab a bargain.

Problems with Presumed Plan : There are some warning signs because of the age of the rotation. Max will be 33 and can now miss a game if he sleeps wrong. Gio will be 32 and is Gio. Even Tanner is over 31 now. These are the ages where nicks and dings are likely to spiral into something more. Gio's fancy stats suggest he won't pitch as well next year, and Tanner's suggest last year wasn't a huge fluke. He could simply be a back of the rotation guy. 

Strasburg will still be under 30 but is the question mark. He was relatively healthy last year but he still pitched only 175 innings, making it the third season in a row where he didn't pitch a full one.

Having no one for that fifth spot, even a pencilled in name, is pretty worrisome. The Nats don't have depth in starting pitching (Rizzo even acknowledged this) and we saw last season one bad option trotted out after another. When your saving grace is "more than half the time Edwin Jackson was here he was pretty good... and the other time he was awful" well... I hope you realize that's not ideal.

My take : Max has been healthy his entire career. Gio has had one missed month in his. In three seasons of starting in the past four years, Tanner has missed a handful of starts total. These are rotation worthy pitchers who are healthy. Are they bigger injury risks today than going into 2015? Yes. But you'd take "standard injury risk due to age" over "injury risk due to past injury" every day.

As for Strasburg, you can't deny the past, but you also can't deny the trends. 2017 was another step up from 2015 and 2016. I don't think the Nats will get the full season they are hoping for from Stephen, but another 180 IP doesn't seem unreasonable.

However, Strasburg's history only makes the gaping hole in the #5 spot that much scarier. Baseball tells you that for most of 2018 the Nats will need more than one starter other than the four already named. That they have zero is a bad start. I fully expect the Nats to bring in someone. While I'd like it to be a trade for a Gerrit Cole type, odds are they are going to come in asking for Soto and that's not going to fly.  So instead I see them waiting out the FA market.  What does that mean? It depends on how cheap the Nats want to go.

If they want to go with a warm body it could mean a Chris Tillman, a Jason Vargas, maybe even a Jhoulys Chacin or Jaime Garcia if the market is in their favor. If they don't mind if the body is cold we could see a Jeremy Hellickson or a Wade Miley.  If you twist my arm I think the body is more cold than warm and the Nats end up with a former Cubbie to match their manager. John Lackey's health (27+ starts since 2009) plays in his favor, along with his fair performance. I'd also imagine he'd want another crack at a World Series, something the Nats give him.

Out of the box suggestion :
Strasburg has an opt-out after 2019 (and 2020). He's finally put together a great season. So now's the time to sell high right? Package Strasburg and Bryce together - send them to the Dodgers and gut that farm. Can you imagine Strasburg back in CA in a pitcher's park? Bryce in his natural confines of Hollywood? The Nats with Bellinger and Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo? Yeah, yeah, no trades clauses. Yeah, yeah "What do the Dodgers want to do, though?".  This isn't the section for rational thought. This is the section where the Nats squeak out another NL East title with 86 wins, miss the playoffs in 2019 with 84, then are set up again with a young dominant offense to carry them through the 2020's

*Plus the trade market probably won't favor the Nats. The FA after this year are "maybe Kershaw" - who won't be traded to Nats even if he walks. Drew Pomeranz, eh.  "maybe Price" I suppose the Nats could get him. Anyone else worth talking about has more years and if they are any good will fetch a hefty price the Nats are unlikely to pay.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A little clarification

I forget that you guys aren't all reading this blog religiously and these things aren't as fresh for you as they may be for me so as we wind down the offseason-previews (SP and RP to come) just a couple reminders.

Plan - What I expect Nats to do
Positives/Negatives of plan - self-explanatroy
My Take - What I think of the plan given those plusses and minuses with a strong dose of what I would do.
Out of the Box idea - some sort of idea that has little chance of coming to pass that I throw out there for discussion purposes.

So I don't want JD Martinez. I don't think the Nats should get JD Martinez. However, I think it's not CRAZY that the Nats could sign JD Martinez, and it would sort of address some problems so why not talk about it. The OOBs don't work as an overall plan though because they don't work together. You can't trade for Dozier AND sign Moustakas and move Rendon to 2B.

Anyway there you go. What would I do so far?
  • I'd trade for Realmuto and because I don't want to trade any real propsects I'd eat whatever salary that isn't Chin's that Miami wants me to eat. (not my money)
  • I'd let Zimm start but make sure to either bring back Lind or get the best back-up 1B out there. 
  • Unless they know something I don't, I'd sit on Murphy for now assuming he's back early next season, signing a decent MI back-up in the vein of a Stephen Drew (but not him - he's done now) but be prepared to go after a starting 2B in trade later in the year if Murphy can't recover and Difo is not above average. 
  • I'd start Turner and Rendon - duh - with that MI signing covering for them as well. 
  • I'd say I'm going with Eaton - MAT - Bryce, but I'd dangle MAT out there and see what bites I get. Probably nothing but maybe some GM is really feeling him. At the same time I don't NOT listen to Bryce deals but you gotta blow me away here. If the Nats do get a deal and no replacement OF is in it then Robles is starting for whoever is dealt.
GM Meetings are closing out soon. They will lay the groundwork for the Winter Meetings after Thanksgiving. We'll see how that all shakes out. Rizzo seems inclined to fix the margins again. A Marco Estrada, an Ivan Nova, a George Kontos in deals if the price is right. A John Jaso* or a Brett Lawrie in FA if the money makes sense. That's what we are probably looking at.

Very Side note : I'd totally sign Tim Collins again to a minor league deal. The Nats picked up the former Royals reliever last year with the idea that he may be able to help them by the end of the year. While he was able to pitch again, when they rushed him up to AA (which is totally understandable) he wasn't good enough to go further. But I'd like to see what he could do after an off-season of rest and training.

*Jaso is an interesting case as he CAN play catcher. Hint, hint Nationals

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield

Last year discussion revisited

"Werth, Bryce and something new" was how I put it, expecting a deal for a CF because that's how the Nats roll. This wasn't too surprising a spot to land on. Bryce was an "of course" and Werth was a "has to", leaving CF open. The Nats had Revere and MAT but you had to doubt either of them would start given their 2016 performances. I threw some names on that hoping for McCutchen but expecting maybe Lorenzo Cain.

Both had good years and would have worked, but the Nats ended up trading for another name we bandied about before (though not in that post) Adam Eaton. He had a very favorable contract so the Nats had to part with their two best SP prospects to make it work. Adam Eaton was everything the Nats could have asked for though... for 23 games before tearing up his ACL and his meniscus AND spraining his ankle. Done for the year.

MAT would be forced into action and would proceed, after two seasons of being told he was ready to break out and seeing nothing, to do really well. Between taking over the position and July 7th he would hit .295 and slug 12 homers. He would miss a month for injury (Brian Goodwin would come up and hit some homers) and upon return put up a pretty bad August, but in Sept would have a month very similar to his first starting stretch. It wasn't plan A but plan B worked well giving the Nats some more direction on the future of the outfield.

Meanwhile Bryce would be a star again, though not OMG BRYCE. He would injure his leg late in the year and be out until the playoffs and hampered in it but can't do much about that. Werth was injured too and would play about half the year hitting like an injured 38 year old and playing defense not as well as that.  But Adam Lind (25g) and trade deadline acquisition Howie Kendrick (39g)  would slot in along with Goodwin (69g) in the OF and do well covering for the team nicely as your bench should for short periods. All in all it wasn't as they planned but it worked for 2017.

My OOB plan - Jayson Heyward would have been meh but at the same time wouldn't have cost the Nats three SPs. And maybe he could have speeched the Nats to a DS win.  He had a whole rain-delay day off!

Presumed Plan : Bryce, MAT, and Eaton, Robles starts in AAA and if he forces himself into the conversation - so be it.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Bryce is Bryce. He's got a superstar bat and he's competent in the field with a very good arm. If he's healthy he plays.

Eaton has a long history of playing well, and well, you traded for him to play. He was doing well before he got injured so there's no reason not to give him 2018 to work through his recovery. Plus he seemingly (seemingly) was getting close to full strength by the year's end. It wasn't enough to make him a serious contender to play in the playoffs but it bodes well for March if you think you can play in October.

MAT was good when he was healthy. He was always a top notch fielder with some pop, but if he can hit .275+ he becomes a key piece to the team, not just Robles' placeholder. Also his post-season performance was good enough it'd be a shame not to let him start some more.

Robles was ok, and looked like he could be ready but wasn't dominating in a way that forces you to play him. More minor league time couldn't hurt.

Problems with Presumed Plan :For Bryce and Eaton the problem is the same. Both were injured to end 2017. You do have to question how ready they will be for 2018, even if they seemed pretty good at year's end. You really won't know until Spring Training. Injury recovery takes time and if you aren't right - you don't play well. Bryce has several injuries that have turned his star bat pedestrian. Also - since both were leg injuries that could effect their defense.

As for MAT you are talking about about 3 months of bat in 2017 that makes him a definite major league starter. That's not a lot and there's his remarkably consistent 2014-2016 run that tells you he isn't really starting worthy. He's more likely to put up an average under .250 than over next year.  His bat compensates for some of that, but not all.

If Robles is ready you are wasting his talents in the minors.

Finally for Bryce - if he doesn't sign with the Nats you are denying yourself a chance at rebuilding this team by trading him off.

My take : You have to play Bryce and Eaton if they are ready come Spring. That just has to happen. If they are injured and slowly recovering through that you kind of have to suck that up too. For Bryce, it's not like when he's injured he's bad. He's actually been ok. So you aren't likely to have a 4th OF sitting around better than that. As far as Eaton goes - he's a long term solution in the outfield so you kind of have to let him play this season out regardless.

And MAT? Well sure he's probably not going to redo 2017 but he could and he's earned the chance. Last year was put up or shut up time for MAT and he put-up.  Sure it was like for half-a year (the other playing time dragged his stats down to average) but it was more than enough to see what he does in 2018.  Unless you can trade him for something nice, it'd be silly not to slot him into a starting role and see what he can do. Best case? He hits .285 with pop and you have a MAT, Eaton, Robles OF for the near future if Bryce doesn't come back.  Worst case? He hits .230 with pop, and as you probably expected last off-season you have an Eaton, Robles, ? OF moving forward if Bryce doesn't sign with a pretty decent 4th OF in MAT on the bench. 

Would it be fun to see Robles in the majors? Yep. But the above makes too much sense to disrupt it with a maybe ready Victor. If there's a trade in the works he should be first up but otherwise let him crush AAA for half a year and worry about what to do in July.  Chances are a spot will open up one way or another. 

Trading Bryce? It's a fun idea, but Bryce is a singular offensive talent. You don't trade those away if you are serious about winning it all. Trading Bryce is waving a white flag for 2018. The rest of the NL East may also wave white flags but it would be about as joyless a slog to an 89 win division title as I can imagine.

Out of the box suggestion :

JD Martinez is not a fluke player. In his last 4 seasons he's averaged .300 with 30+ homeruns. Sign him. Stick him in the outfield and push MAT to the bench or trade him. Unfair to MAT? Probably. But MAT isn't likely to hit .300+ with 30+ homeruns and there is a very possible scenario that has Nats' fans sucking up MAT's typical .230 with pop season, while Robles struggles a bit in AAA leaving the Nats with a blah bat in the line-up that is already currently carrying a hole at C, a ? at 2B, and the hopes and prayers of another miracle Zimm season at 1B.  This takes away the possibility of a bad line-up. It also solves your "what if Bryce and/or Eaton aren't at full strength or get hurt again" worries. You got a 4th OF right there. If this is really going to be the last night of the Bryce Harper era go all in and JD Martinez would be an all-in move.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base

Last year discussion revisited

Perhaps the easiest single position. The plan had to still be play Rendon even coming off another injury recovery year that looked merely ok. He was too young, too cheap, and too good when healthy to contemplate someone replacing him. Espy was the back-up at the time, which was fine.

The Nats of course did this (well they traded Espy but that didn't matter for 3rd) and Rendon stayed healthy all year. After a slow first month, he took off and might have been the best player in baseball from May through July. From the 6-6 10 RBI day on the last day of April, through a 1-3 double, RBI, and RS performance on the first of August Rendon hit .346 / .455 / .693 with 21 homers, 23 doubles, and 65 RBI in 75 games.  Just about then everyone started to notice him and the "maybe Rendon should be MVP" talk started.  It quickly ended as he had his worst month of the year, followed by a good to very good but not great September. Not that he shouldn't have been in the MVP discussion though.

It didn't really matter who backed-up Rendon as he started 143 games at the position. Drew was the early replacement. Difo and Adrian Sanchez took the games down the stretch.

OOB idea was trading Rendon for a young Red Sox player which would have worked out great for the Red Sox in most circumstances. I ended up bringing this up again later in the year making the "Well if you take sabrmetric analysis to its illogical end, you should only try to win as many games as it takes to make the playoffs. Any wins more are 'wasted'. The Nats are going to make it easily so they should trade a good player for future help. How about Rendon for Devers?" barroom argument. No one is going to make that deal, but dammit if it didn't strangely make a lot of sense at the time and even in hindsight. Still wouldn't have made it though.

Presumed Plan : Rendon plays.  Whoever backs-up is presumably going to be the guy they bring in to back-up MI to start year (or Difo if they bring in a starter) but we've talked about that enough. How this fits into 3rd base coverage is secondary

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : See above for what Rendon did this year - he was near MVP worthy for the season and maybe the best player in the game for half the year. You play those guys.

Rendon has pulled off two straight full years of play. Murphy's injury makes 2B a question mark to start the year, if not longer. It only makes sense that you worry about someone playing 2B first, then see how that fits with your 3rd base back-up plan.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Well those two straight full years of play are the first time Rendon has pulled that off since presumably high school so you are still taking a risk.

The other question is that planning needs to start one way or another on what happens after 2019 when Rendon becomes a free agent at 29. Do the Nats sign him and lock up 3rd base for hopefully the first half of the 2020s? If so, starting him every game should be the goal. Do they let him walk? If you are thinking about it, then maybe you start giving those youngsters some games, and maybe look at what you can get back for a guy with his talent.

My take : You can't dismiss Anthony's LOOOOONG injury history.  Add that to Murphy's injury and it's almost like the Nats need to bring in two starter worthy bench players just in case. Now if you love Difo I suppose he can be one, but I feel it's apparent the cheap last guy off the bench shouldn't be an option for the Nats in 2018. So Anthony starts - duh - but there should be a good option sitting on the bench if he gets hurt.

As for the post 2019 argument? You can't really worry about getting players time if you are shooting for a World Series. Plus enough guys get hurt that if you want to see Difo start again or Sanchez get more play, you'll have the time. Do you listen to what you can get for him? Sure, you ALWAYS listen. But I have a hard time seeing how this team is going to be better off in the next couple of years, when they'd like to compete for a title, without him.

Out of the box suggestion :

But they could be! The NL East is a mess. They don't need Rendon. Let's just rebuild - trade Bryce, trade Rendon. Maybe you can get someone to take Wieters while they are at it. Robles is a top prospect so you've got that next round coming. Who to trade with? I just threw out the Yankees in the SS OOB idea so let's skip them. You don't want to go in league so in the AL the Astros... have Bregman, but the Indians... have Jose Ramirez, but the Red Sox... have Devers, we just talked about that. WHAT IS WITH THIS?  Ok we'll work in league the Cubs... have Bryant. The Dodgers... have Justin Turner.  The Rockies... have Arenando. THIS IS CRAZY. The Diamondbacks! Jake Lamb isn't a great fielder.  They could shift him to first and push... off... Goldschmidt.  You know I'm getting annoyed here. What about the Twins? Sano isn't a good fielder. Mauer can DH for a year or Sano can DH. Now we'll just grab their Top 10 overall prosp... Top 20? No? Top 30. That isn't good enough.

Screw it. Move Rendon to 2nd and sign Moustakas.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop

Last year discussion revisited

I expected and wanted Trea to start despite thinking he'd sophomore slump and wasn't as good a fielder as Espy. He was great in a long audition as a rookies. I thought he'd still be fine. He did sophomore slump (though I expected higher average and less power in my slump) and didn't field as well as Danny had, but was fine.When healthy. He ended up missing 2 months to injury.

I expected Danny to back-up, but Danny was dealt and the Nats brought back Drew to back-up. He was hurt too. That meant Difo did most of the backing up. When starting Difo did very well. It would have surprised 2016 Harper that it held together after Turner/Drew injuries, but it did.

My OOB idea was - deal Danny, let Trea play CF, start Drew.  Eh. Maybe Trea hits better playing same position as 2016? Maybe Drew doesn't get hurt? Or maybe they both play as they did and things bomb? Didn't matter as the Nats did trade for a CF and made this plan DOA.

Presumed Plan :Turner plays short. At the beginning of the season the primary back-up may be Difo or it may be someone new. It depends on who they get to be the MI back-up. If it's more a 2B guy they may shift Difo over to SS if needed and let that guy play 2B.  When Murphy comes back Difo will be primary back-up.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan :Turner did not repeat his ROY type opening year but hit well enough, fielded well enough, and remained a big threat on the basepaths. Even if you believe "Starting Difo" is the real Difo* Turner's hitting was still better than that. Plus after coming back from the injury Turner hit much better. There is no compelling reason not to start him at short.

As for the back-up, it is an easy call if Murphy is at 2B. Difo did well and is fine slotting in this year as the primary back-up (though since you are relying on one year of mixed results I would recommend a solid second back-up). Early it the year it could go in a lot of directions. If the Nats do as I think and let Difo start at 2B, then who is Trea's back-up will follow who gets signed to be a MI back-up to start year. If it's someone with little SS experience, Difo will likely shift when needed. If it's someone that can play SS then they will likely back-up but may not take the position if there is a full-time injury. If it's someone that is defined as a SS, they'll back-up and will take the position on if needed. If the Nats instead sign a 2B to start, then Difo is the main back-up.

Of course this only matters when Murphy is out, which ideally will be a limited time. The above paragraph is showing there are a lot of ways to hopefully travel one mile.

Problems with Presumed Plan : Well Turner now has to be looked at as a mild injury risk and he didn't hit great last year so you can worry about some sort of repeat. Average at the plate and missing a large chunk of time. That's a possibility.

You could also worry about the potential for other teams to have figured Trea out. In the 2016 playoffs they reduced him to a singles hitter. In 2017 they made him average. In the 2017 playoffs he was terrible. With more focus on him he has not been the transformative player he was for half a season in 2016. What if that continues?

There are plenty of decent worries that the back-up for this injury risk won't pan out, be it Difo or which ever cheapo FA they likely sign.

My take : I guess Turner is a mild injury risk but given his age (25 in late June), his general health historically, and his performance in September you can't be overly concerned by it. Let's just hope it was a one-off.

As for his reduced performances, the playoffs are so limited and so different it's hard to use them as any sort of fair judgment. The full season 2017 performance is more telling but the injury return makes you want to give him another full season chance at the top of the line-up.  If we get to the end of 2018 and he's still not much more than an average hitter then maybe you start looking at moving him around the line-up. If he's worse than average then maybe you start looking for other long-term SS answers (Kieboom?) but for April-August 2018 Trea should be starting if healthy.

As for the back-up, if the Nats don't sign a starting 2B type to cover Muprhy's time out and really believe he'll be back in a month, then the Nats are in a bind. Do they sign someone decent - who may rarely play that first month and barely play after? Or do they go cheap figuring those limited ABs don't matter. I think I'm leaning toward "last chance" mode which tells me - spend the 3+ million on a decent player. The fact Difo might be able to play should be taken as a nice bonus that allows you to do this. Worst case - too many good players - is not a worst case at all.  The Nats have leaned toward spending like this but that has been when this person would likely be first off the bench. Let's see if they can keep it up when it's theoretically not.

Out of the box suggestion :

I got nothing. The quick answer would be "Trea back to CF" but the Nats don't have too few OF they have too many, even with Werth gone.  I suppose you could move Trea to 2B and let Difo play SS?  What for? That's just doing something to do it. Trade Turner and let Difo play SS? First - who plays 2B while Murphy is out? The guy you traded for? Is he going to be better than Turner? Second - what do you want more than a young cost-controlled MI with star potential? The only thing I'd trade Turner for would be a great young SP. So there you go - if the Yankees want to trade the Nats Severino for Turner (which they wouldn't) take it. There's my OOB idea.

*It isn't

Monday, November 06, 2017

Monday Quickie - Long Live Wieters

He's back.  Please no anger at the guy for picking up the option. First, like 999 out of 1000 of us would do it. Second, if the team could drastically underpay a player it will. It's not a good guy being cheated here.

Fans, we tend to side with the management because underpaying is usually better for the team. But in a strict employee/employer relationship Wieters did what he should have done. The Nats were stupid. Now they pay.

There was a bit of a hope that something was going on after a "He's picking up his option" "Oh wait not yet" news cycle.  My best guess is that the Nats were trying to convince Wieters to defer some of that money beyond 2018. Of course to do that they'd have to make it worth his while, offering more and there you get to the sticking points. How much more? How far out?  Just a guess.

Wieters will be here and will be getting paid 10.5 million so he'll likely get first crack at starting. Let's hope he figures out what's wrong and gets back to his more average self.

Anything Else?

Robles was the AFL All-Star MVP. How is he doing in the AFL? He's only played 7 games (4 before being named) so you can see what a serious business this is. .261 with a a couple homers.  Anyone doing well?

Taylor Gushie (C) - nope .156  (.480 OPS)
Dacota Bacus (RP) - nope 7.36 ERA
Kyle McGowin (SP) - yes  3.00 ERA, 20 K, 0 BB in 15 IP
Jimmy Cordero (RP) - yes 0.00 ERA, 8K, 0BB, in 7 IP
Austen Williams (RP) - meh 3.86 ERA, 8K, 3 BB, 2 HR, in 11.2 IP
Kelvin Gutierrez (3b) - yes .429 with a homer
Daniel Johnson (OF) - nah .241  no homers, 5 SB but a .281 OBP

These are here solely for entertainment purposes - no one has played enough for it to really be telling you anything.

That's it - holding serve until the Winter Meetings.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Second Base

Last year discussion revisited

Pretty simple. Murphy was awesome in 2016 so we figured he would start in 2017. Despite being not a good fielder, and betting on a single great year, it's what we all wanted to.

It was the obvious choice and it worked. Murphy hit .322 / .384 / .543 this year. It was a step down from his MVP worthy 2016, especially given the offensive climate, but still All-Star level. His fielding was still suspect but when you hit like that as long as you aren't outright terrible, you take it. A late season injury would hurt Murphy's performance in the playoffs and an off-season surgery would put his 2018 in question but that's for the next section.

My OOB plan of extending Muprhy doesn't look great right now, because of the injury, but I wouldn't say it would have looked bad either. He still hit.

Presumed Plan : Currently the plan has Murphy ready a month in or so into the season. For the first month it is likely that Wilmer Difo will man the position. If not him, then whoever they bring in, in the Stephen Drew role.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Murphy hit great again. He will play once he is ready to play. In the meantime, given that the current expecation is only a month out, it's not a huge deal who plays. Wilmer Difo was pretty good in a starting role at SS this year while Trea was out, so it seems fair that he gets the first crack at this spot as well. He'll be a big defensive upgrade at the very least.

The Nats may grab someone else to fill in the back-up IF role or the 5th bench spot guy might fit naturally into 2nd base. I'm not saying a Josh Rutledge type who is signed for nothing at Spring's end and then makes the team.  More say if Brandon Phillips is unsigned and the Nats can get him cheap

There is a possibility that the Nats will aim for some thing more earlier. Phillips, Asdrubal, Howie are out there (Neil Walker is probably first on any list for those wanting a starting 2B so I don't look to him). However, I don't expect them to go this way unless they find out that Murphy is going to be out longer than originally planned. 

Problems with Presumed Plan : Let's go with the most likely scenario - Murphy stays on track and the Nats use Difo. That seems reasonable for a month. Well the very real problem could be Difo can't hit and then either Murphy is out for longer than expected or comes back not ready to play like expected.   Difo not hitting should not surprise anyone. He didn't hit well, in fact he hit terribly, when he wasn't starting. This makes his overall 2017 numbers well below average. His minor league stats aren't encouraging either hitting basically like overall 2017 in two extended AA stints in 2015 and 2016. Difo is a guy who relies completely on singles. He doesn't have power or patience. Maybe something clicks for him like it did for Ian Desmond but more likely he struggles along, as a back-up IF playing everyday because he has to.

Daniel Murphy - at the end of his contract - will be motivated to get back and hit as well as possible but there's just no telling. The fact that he would be out until likely May already was a shock. He's no longer young and injuries tend to take longer to recover from as you age. Something else to think about - even if he recovers and is able to hit just fine, a knee injury will likely hurt his mobility and turn him into - what - the worst 2B in the majors? It'd be one thing if 1B was manned by prime Keith Hernandez, but Zimm also has range issues. That's quite a problem with the right side of the infield you could be exacerbating.

Of course signing someone better is putting money somewhere where it may not be necessary for questionable results. That's not a great idea either unless you are ready to continually pour money into the problem until you find a solution. 

My take : Difo then Murphy is the way to go today. I don't have much faith in Difo as a starter, but all I'm looking for is for him to hold ground with good defense until Murphy is ready. If that's May then I'm ok with this. Difo is a solid choice for a back-up IF (good fielding at multiple positions, good speed) and if he happens to show more then maybe your "post-Murphy" plans change.

However, if Murphy is hurt worse than you think and could miss two months or more you do need to bring in another starter. I like Kendrick the best, he seems to have taken here and might be more agreeable to a one-year deal than some of the others, but someone listed above would have to be signed.

If Murphy isn't hurt worse and comes back in May, the Nats should still be prepared to trade for a 2B at the deadline. There are a plethora of decent choices out there currently. Dozier, Harrison, Kinsler, LeMahieu are all currently FAs to be. At least one and maybe more will be available at the trade deadline. Let Difo have his chance. Let Murphy have his chance. But be prepared to act. No more holes going into the playoffs that you could have addressed earlier.

Out of the box suggestion :

Assume Murphy is done. Trade for Dozier now. "Oh no. We have too many good hitters" is not a problem. It's a strategy. Someone else will struggle. Someone else will go down. Instead of struggling to fill that position from a place of desperation you can trade now from a place of equal power. If it happens you don't need all these people and someone is unhappily sitting - boo hoo. Get over it. It's about getting over the hump and if that means paying for a bench with a couple of guys who'd be starting elsewhere, so be it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : First Base

Last year discussion revisited

I was convinced Zimm was done. After three straight injury filled seasons and consistently degrading performance I wanted the Nats to move on. I didn't think they would. I didn't know what they should do exactly, but I felt sure it was time to bring in someone else to play that position. Adding to this feeling was the belief that Clint Robinson, ok in 2015, wasn't going to cut it as a fill-in player anymore after a bad 2016 outing.

The Nats would bring in Adam Lind, who could have served as a very effective platoon player for Zimm but Zimm would get first crack at keeping the job full-time and he responded by being player of the month for April hitting .420 / .458 / .886.  I mean that's like his best month ever. He would peak a few days later at .435 / .475 / .907.   The rest of the year played out more as expected for "best case" Zimm with more reasonable ups and downs but a line of .269 / .328 / .486. It was a bit scary there as July and August were both not good suggesting April being some sort of last gasp but September picked back up. In short, I was wrong and a healthy Zimmerman was still a capable hitter.

Meanwhile Lind was not free-falling (a worry given his 2016 performance) and smartly used would hit .303 / .362 / .513. He would spell Zimm now and again but given Zimm's production and the injury situation for the Nats he'd be used almost as much in the outfield. That's a scenario no one would have predicted or wanted to start the year.  He also was a killer pinch hitter with 16 hits and 4 homeruns in 45 at bats.

My OOB idea was interesting. I had the Nats trading for Eaton (and Quintana or Sale) and shifting Bryce to first. Would have been neat. Of course Zimm hit so any OOB idea that didn't involve him playing was ultimately dumb in practice.  

Presumed Plan : Zimmerman will play first base and I don't know. Lind is an expensive back-up at 5 million, and even if the Nats agree to bring him back he would need to buy into it as well (it's a mutual option).  I'd expect he's gone just because we have two keys that have to be turned at the same time here. I'd expect the Nats to find a cheap back-up on the FA market as the off-season nears its end

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Zimmerman has a big contract and he hit last year. Is he fielding better now? Nope. Still garbage. But that's something you can suck up from a first baseman who's hitting. The Nats have two more years left with Zimm (there's an 18M team option for 2020 but don't expect Nats to take it - I'd think they'd likely rework the deal if they do want to keep him at that point) and they are going to try to get their moneys worth. So he's starting. And he should so this is easy.

Lind should be back. There is always a place for a guy who can mash right handed pitching. He fits well as someone that can spell Zimm and play some emergency OF. He was great as a pinch hitter. And he serves as a strong back-up for Zimm who missed like 40% of 2014-2016. But as noted he's expensive. It felt like the Nats were pushing it paying 3.5 million for Drew. Paying 5 million for Lind? It's tough to see that.  On the flip side, given how well he hit last year it's not crazy to think Lind could get a DH contract from an AL team (or a 1B contract though DH is more natural) for a few years at at least 5 million per. Sticking around with the Nats would only be tempting fate.  Still for a guy that has never made the playoffs before and is turning 34 - sticking with the Nats may be tempting.

I'm not ruling out Lind coming back, I just think it's more likely not. Given that the Nats like to wait and see what they can get on the cheap (that's how they got Lind) I can see them waiting around and picking up a guy that could be starting elsewhere who had an off 2016 and is still waiting around. Lucas Duda and Mitch Moreland are two possibilities.

Problems with Presumed Plan : The issue is going to be that Zimm could get hurt and when he's hurt he can't hit and when he can't hit he's useless because he can't field. If Zimm gets hurt then the back-up matters a lot.

If Lind is back, you do have to accept that he didn't hit that well in 2016 and he's 34 next year so he could easily decline again. Also he can't field either, arguably worse that Zimm. 

If Lind isn't back you are taking a bigger risk. Guys like Duda and Moreland should be capable back-ups but much like Lind last year you are betting against recent history rather than with it. The chances of them being bad are that much higher. If you don't stop here and instead back up with a... I can't even say it... a Tyler Moore type (Bleeeeeeeech) then you are basically asking for trouble. 

My take : Zimm still has to be considered a strong injury risk and demands a strong back-up. You have one in hand. If you can, make it work.

You can't expect the team to back him up with an actual starting first-baseman because that's a lot of money to spend on a guy who may not play (and frankly may not want to come to DC if he's not playing) So you instead cover him with a guy more on the fringe of starting. The best examples would be a guy who can probably hit, with some caveats, but can't field; or a slick fielder who might have problems with the bat. Lind is the former. I don't see how you are going to set up the position better. It still might fail, but good plans fail sometimes.

Beyond Lind, Moreland is probably the better bet because he's a decent fielder. Of course that makes him more likely to land somewhere else earlier in free agency. What you don't want to have happen though is let Lind walk, miss out on any other acceptable FA and then end up with just anyone and trying to convince us that it's ok, Zimm will be healthy all year.

Out of the box suggestion : It's hard to sell high on Zim but if you are going to do it - now's the time. You may have to eat salary or ship with a prospect but you ship him out and you move Murphy, who will be even less mobile after surgery, over the first base. Assuming Murphy still hits on his return, this is your way of trying to keep him a little longer. You cleared up a space for him, now you just have to go out and sign him again. For second base you bring back Kendrick, who connected with the fans immediately on a two year deal.

Sentimentality is no way to win championships people!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Monday Quickie : It's Dave(y?) Martinez

Here's the Washington Post story

In a vacuum it's a pretty innocuous hire. Dave Martinez has been a well regarded coach in line for a managerial job for a while now. He seems to fit into the "I'm ok with analytics" mold that has been the expectation for a decade now. He seems to fit into "Oh yeah, we have all these Spanish speaking players it would help if he was bi-lingual" mold that is becoming more in vogue. The Nationals, in general, have hired several managers that have led the Nationals to the playoffs. The contract, at least in initial reports, seems like industry standard. 

See you next season?

Well this decision was not made in a vacuum. The points of interest include the fact that yes they've hired managers that have been successful - all within the past 6 seasons - which brings up longevity questions. Yes, they've paid a normal contract - this time - after years of offering less money to arguably better candidates. This brings up the question of "why now?" Presumably it's because Dave Martinez felt he could wait out for a better contract than the at best 2 years the Nats usually offer. Bud Black felt this way and walked away and did get a better offer. Dusty couldn't wait. The Nats had to up their ante to get this guy if they wanted him.

But the big lingering question is how does Dave Martinez guarantee the playoff success the Nats claim was the reason they fired Dusty? The fact is - obviously - he doesn't. Martinez is an unknown and can't guarantee playoff success anymore than a naysayer can say he'll definitely fail. 

But this is ok. The Nats wanting to win in the playoffs doesn't have to be just a manager switch. It can be a more complete attempt to build the best possible team to start the season and to react accordingly during the trade deadline. Which each successive season the Nats have done more and more of this. Last season you really only entered the year with a back of the bullpen question, and you really only exited the trade deadline timeframe with a starting catcher issue*  Of course both of those things ended up wreaking havoc on the Nationals this year so that should lead you to believe - don't do that! Don't leave holes if you don't have to.

What does that mean? Off the top of my head - get a catcher, get a closer, add another starter for depth (doesn't have to be top of rotation or expensive), bring back Lind. That's my minimum. Do that in the off-season and now I'm looking at a franchise that is committing to putting the best team on the field. Maybe they don't have a "playoff winner"** in the dugout but I'd take this over the alternative of having brought a Girardi in and then just rolling with the guys they have on contract now.

*Assuming they had good reason to believe Strasburg would be back fine. And he was so we'll assume that they did. The Bryce injury would create a new problem but after the trade deadline which makes it harder to account for.

**Is Girardi good enough to guarantee a playoff win? Of course not. But he has proven himself to be not a playoff detriment (his teams are about .500 in the playoffs which is on expectation) Dave Martinez has not proven anything - so Girardi is the hire here but there's no guarantee he would come. Farrell with two straight DS losses is hard to see as much better than Dusty even with a WS in hand.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Firday and Girardi

So I figured I'd paste what I wrote about Girardi in the comments - just in case you guys don't read those : 

I have a hard time characterizing Girardi. I guess he's like a Showalter but not as much a martinet. He is definitely a "I'm manager, my decision" guy not the type to be a player's manager type who lets things go if the performance is there, but he doesn't take that to the extremes guys like that usually do, like extra practices or dress codes. It's kind of strictly in between the lines. He also mixes analytics with gut feelings. He is not dismissive of the former, which is why talk of a "more analytic" manager is probably nonsense. You'd have to get a strict number cruncher to find a real difference.

He's good. He's flexible in his line-ups, doesn't mind benching players who aren't performing (stars or not). His biggest issues are learning to manage desperately (he's better but still not good) and, in my opinion, not being aggressive enough on the basepaths. He's a long term thinker - during a season and during a series and it tends to work out just as well as any other method but it can be frustrating if you are used to more "win every game" managing. 


If you think that, along with all those wins and a couple seasons where the Yankees did better than expected, sound good you might wonder why the Yankees let him go. A popular theory is that they wanted someone more invested in analytics, but I don't really buy that as a primary reason. Go back and read articles when Girardi was hired. He does buy into analytics, maybe not full-throated (which honestly I like) but enough so that the difference between him and most "modern" managers is slim. The other reason, which I think has more credence, is they don't think he relates to the players well. In kind of the Buck to Torre transition, the Yankees have a young team - now they need someone who will better connect with those players. Of course - one game from the World Series so I call nonsense on that as well as being a worthwhile reason to fire somebody, but I do think that's more of what's driving this.

Would Girardi be good for the Nats? Sure. He's good for anyone. Would he guarantee a NLDS victory? Eh - take away 2009 and he's a .500 type playoff manager. Like I said - I think his biggest issue is managing in urgent situations. I think he'll set up the team better going into each game, but during it isn't anything special. Of course basically anyone you hire is an unknown, so the question is will you take a guy who is as expected in the playoffs, vs a guy that will be a complete unknown? I guess you would given the time frame.The unknown could learn to be a good playoff manager - but he'd have to learn and the Nats really don't have that time right now. It's either he's good right off the bat or not.


Other notes - Trade for Ramos? You know... I do kind of like that idea. The Rays are forever rebuilding and the contract is short (1 yr) and reasonable (8.5 million). Rays also seem to like to deal with the Nats. I like this. This is fun. Let's do this.

Mike Maddux is gone. I have no idea how important coaches are in general. I have less that that concerning how this coach was important to this team. It's been said the Nats wanted to keep him so it's a shame in that regard but beyond that I don't know.


There's kind of a general feeling of... unsettledness with the Nats. No Dusty, who regardless of whether you think he should have gone or not, had undeniably become a fan-favorite face of this team in 2 years. No Werth, while Dusty was A important face, Werth was  THE important face for his time here. A chance Bryce, arguably the other important player to the fans, will be gone after next season. A chance Rizzo, the architect of a half-decade of successes, could be gone as well. This feels different than a window change. It feels like a paradigm shift. It feels like there's a chance that things will fall apart, as they inevitably always do to all teams, even the best. 

The question is - how much do we trust the Lerners? Sure they don't pay managers well but they've generally brought in good managers. You can do that with low pay when the supply of jobs is so low. We can talk about the deferred money contract hurting FA signings, but they have maintained a payroll that has been competitive, just not the most aggressive. We can say it was a good Stan Kasten who brought in the good Mike Rizzo, who did many good things, but the Lerners had to give the oks and were the ones to bring in Kasten in the first place, weren't they? 

Things could change rapidly in the next 18 months. But how it happens and how it effects the product on the field is still up in the air. The team is still set up for a 2018 division titles, and at least competitiveness in 2019, and as I've said many times, looking beyond 2 years is foolish.  Bring on the off-season!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Catcher

Last year discussion revisited

My thinking was that the Nats would trade for a starting catcher that wouldn't cost much and would cover the position for a year or two while they figured out a longer solution.

It made sense at the time. They like Severino but he didn't seem ready. That meant more AAA playing time for him. They were fine with playing out the string with Lobaton as the back-up as he was familiar with the pitching staff and cheap and here already. They needed a starter.  But starting catchers weren't really available. The best FA available was Wieters who wasn't really good and likely to get a longer more expensive contract, and after that  it was fill-in players. The Nats generally don't sign those types so I figured they'd trade for one.

Turns out they DID trade for one, Derek Norris, who I dismissed because his 2016 was SO bad. But he was cheap and available for a low-minors propsect years away*.  Then they either realized he wasn't going to be good or heard about his off the field issues (or both) and went in another direction. They would sign Wieters who didn't get cheaper but did get forced into a shorter contract, for 2yrs - 20 million. The expectation was he'd give the Nats his typical average seasons and that'd be ok, if a little pricy. If the Nats got lucky he'd maybe have a minor rebirth.

Wieters though collapsed hard and was probably the worst starting catcher in baseball in 2017. Severino wasn't ready and couldn't fill his spot. Lobaton was the diminishing back-up they thought he was and couldn't help either. The end result was a line-up hole. It could have been addressed at the trade deadline. Old friend Kurt Suzuki might have been available. Old tease Jon LuCroy was. But the Nats stood pat here and were rewarded with more terribleness and possibly a series losing performance in Game 5.

My outisde the box suggestion would have been awful as Mesoraco was an all or nothing gambit that would have gotten the Nats nothing because he was hurt.

Presumed Plan : Nats stick with Wieters for one more year because they are paying him. Severino is moved up to back-up or take-over depending. Really though the Nats are waiting out their new catching flavor of the year, Raudy Read.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Wieters has a 10 million dollar player option for 2018 and will not make anything close to that on the open market. Once he picks up that option the Lerners won't want to pay for another catcher just so this guy can sit. Lobaton is a FA and there is no reason to bring him back as his bat is too far gone. Plus it's time to see if Severino can hit, so it's time to get him 150+ ABs in the majors. Moving Severino up to the majors permanently allows for Raudy Read to go up from AA to AAA to see how real his bat is. It all works out if you can accept the fact Wieters has to be on the team in some capacity.

The fact that signing a catcher isn't likely isn't a terrible thing. The three most likely guys to garner interest are LuCroy, who's probably fading; Wellington Castillo, who is selling high; and Alex Avila, who has an injury riddled history. There's going to be one bargain here, one overpay, and one bad overpay all for average play. Trading for a catcher (that doesn't cost much) is a possibility. Though if JT Realmuto goes on the market expect the young, overall solid catcher who's still in arbitration for 3 more seasons to fetch a nice set of prospects. Likely more than the Nats are willing to give when they (again) think they have a possible replacement coming up in a year or two.

Also, if you are going to have a hole in your offense, catcher, which can be a hard spot to fill, is the place to have it if you can get some decent defense out of it. Wieters, despite his lapses in the playoffs, is generally ok. He's not seen as a good framer, but Severino is better at that and also regarded well as a defensive catcher.

Problems with Presumed Plan :Wieters stinks. He was God awful this year and he hasn't been someone you really want to see in a line-up since 2012. The best you can hope for is a return to his "I guess this is ok" from 2015. But since you give more weight to recent performance and trend lines the fairer expectation for 2018 is another terrible year. Severino, basically has had a couple VERY brief outings where he has hit in his entire career. The rest of it shows he can't hit. Could he "get it"? Sure, it happens. But we're getting closer and closer to the time you give up on Severino as a batter and again the expectation for next season would be a pretty terrible year at the plate.

Wrapping that together the expectation for Wieters/Severino would be again to have the worst offensive catching duo in baseball. That's a big problem. 

My take : If the Nats goal was different, you could accept the fact the Nats had to live with this. Sometimes you sign players and it doesn't work out. The fans and the system of penalizing high payrolls mostly allow owners to play to the "we can't afford to pay someone else" card. These are things that are part of the game. You may not like it. You may want it to change. However, you understand that's how it is. Accepting that, then yes Wieters is on the team, probably getting another chance to start and that's all there is to it.  

Continuing, Lobaton should be gone. No brainer. Severino isn't probably ever going to hit but since there isn't a better option (if you aren't going to pay for a starter, why would you for a back-up?) you might as well prove that. If Severino looks better, he can start and Wieters can ride the pine. This is unlikely as Severino's best performance with the bat with more than 48 PAs is an OPS of .705 in High-A ball in 2014. That's not a good season either. The more plausible scenario is he stinks and Wieters stinks. The most likely "getting lucky" scenario involves Raudy Read, who has hit better than Severino consistently in the minors, hits in AAA and comes up and plays acceptably in the majors with Severino back in AAA and Wieters on the bench.

Of course the Nats goal is to win the Series. That's what they pretty much said when firing Dusty and with that goal in mind you can't go into the season with a position where the expectation is worst in the majors. They should try hard to trade for Realmuto and if that costs them some prospects so be it. If they fail at that for whatever reason they should spend money on one of those three free agents and let Severino split time with Read in AAA. If they fail with that they should do something else. Again, you can't go into a season with "this position has little hope of being anything less than absolute garbage" and sell yourselves as a real contender.

Do I have faith they really will follow through on that goal talk and it wasn't just something to say to make letting Dusty go face fewer arguements? No, I don't.

Out of the box suggestion :
Name Raudy Read the starter out of camp assuming he doesn't look lost in Spring Training. What kills me up there is not only is the position expected to be terrible but there is little hope of anything else. Wieters isn't going to hit well - he hasn't in years. Maaaaaaybe he will be below average with declining defense. Severino isn't going to hit well - he hasn't ever. Maaaaaaybe he will be well below average with good defense. That's the best case I can put together in my head for these two.

However, Read? Read is a complete unknown. Sure he hasn't hit THAT well, merely kind of average. And no he isn't as polished on defense as either of the other guys but I can at least envision a scenario where we get a Raudy Read who provides the Nats with average offense and average defense from the catcher position. Maybe it doesn't work out that way but at least there is hope, in a way that squares with a team trying to win it all. Not every position can be a winner, but you can't have one that you know is going to be a loser, because something else will go wrong. It's not a great bet but at least it's a bet, not a foregone conclusion.


*Pedro Avila who did actually well in A ball. He struggled pretty mightily initially in his move to High-A but then really rocked in the stretch after that. I wouldn't be surprsied to see him in the Padres Top 10 list going into 2018. Of course that's Top 10 for an organization here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A couple things more on Dusty's departure

Do I think this effects whether Rizzo stays? Probably not as an individual item. I think Rizzo really wants to finish what he started. He took a job to make the Nationals a winner and he hasn't made it over the playoff hump. He'd like to see it happen before he leaves. I think he's at least somewhat annoyed by the constraints placed on him in terms of working with deferred money or getting Boras clients forced on him and that is something that builds over seasons. Not taking his Dusty advice would be one more thing, but it's not as if Dusty staying would have set everything right.

I think he'll go when he wants to go and that could very well be when the contract is up. But Dusty here or not isn't the driving factor.


It would NOT take a lot of money to re-sign Dusty I don't think. I think Dusty understands this is his best and possibly last chance and could be underpaid again on a short term deal. I think he might have been able to be forced to take the 1yr - 1 option yr deal with a low payout. Nothing has changed in two years.


The idea that Dusty put too much stress on the pitching staff is nonsense. Stop believing something that maybe had a kernel of truth almost 15 years ago.  Who had the top two pitchers by IP in September? Terry Francona's Indians. Carrasco and Kluber by far outpacing everyone else. Other playoff starters who pitched more than Scherzer. Gibson (MIN), Santana (MIN), Gray (NYY), Gray (COL), Verlander (HOU), Kershaw (LAD). The Nats had two starters in the top 30 of IP in September, with Scherzer at 33.1 IP and Strasburg at 32.2.  So did the Cubs with Quintana (32.1) and Lester (32.1). As a team the Indians and Astros threw more starter innings than the Nationals and the Yankees exactly the same. Gio threw more pitches than either of the two in September, but Verlander and Sale (BOS) and Porcello (BOS) threw more pitches than him.

I know that thing about Scherzer trying to stretch himself to go deep got in your heads but please understand there is no fundamental difference between how Dusty runs a pitching staff and how most managers do it. This has been true for more than a decade. The Nationals tend to throw more starter innings and pitches because they have good veteran starters. It's as simple as that. If you are reading this any other way you are lying to yourself trying to fit a narrative that hasn't been true for years (and maybe was never true). Don't be a Cubs fan, people.


One of the things I noticed about college basketball is that you'll hear CONSTANTLY, "He's a good recruiter but he can't coach".  You'll hear this about nearly every successful coach. This kind of philosophy carries on into all sports, including baseball. When your team wins and you are supposed to be good it's because of talent, if it loses it's because of poor in-game managers. Here are some links.

Joe Girardi - bad in-game manager
Joe Maddon - bad in-game manager
John Farrell - bad in-game manager
Paul Molitor - bad in-game manager
Bud Black - bad in-game manager

let's not forget the guys in the World Series
Dave Roberts - bad in-game manager
AJ Hinch - bad in-game manager

The fact of the matter is unless you are a new coach that is winning right now (Hey Torey Lovullo) or some sort of master coach in his prime, you are going to be thought of as a bad in-game coach. It's the opposite of Lake Wobegon. It's Nogebow Stadium. Is EVERYONE a bad in-game coach? Can't possibly be true. Are some? Of course. Is Dusty? I don't know. I think if you win 95 and 97 games you probably are at least average. If you blame him for the bad (say the 1st half bullpen - which I did want to blame him in part for) you have to credit him for the good (say last year's pen)


Is this type of playoff losing unprecedented? Not really. Oakland won four straight division titles with 91, 96, 102 and 103 wins and couldn't get out of the DS.  The Twins in 8 years won 5 division titles (with 90, 82, 96, 87, and 94 wins) and failed to win a playoff series. They did start by winning a DS the year before this streak, but that means one playoff series win in 6 tries. After being a perennial power and making 5 world series and 3 CSs in 8 years, the Braves would win one playoffs series in their next 6 appearances. That year they would win the East with 88 games. The times they lost? 90, 95, 96, 101, and 101 wins. Texas won their division three times from 1996-1999 and never won in the playoffs. And that's just what I thought of off the top of my head.When good teams play good teams sometimes you don't win. Getting four or five heads in a row isn't that strange.


My general thinking is this - the Nats are unlikely to be more likely to win in the playoffs next year with someone new. This isn't because Dusty is great in the playoffs. It's because Dusty is average in it and if you grab a manager from random they are likely to be average. It's also likely, in my opinion, that the Nats will win a few fewer games next season with someone else rather than Dusty. That is because I see Dusty as a great season long manager. Will those couple games matter? It hasn't in any of the last 6 seasons, but there's always a chance. Therefore I keep Dusty.

But if you want to let Dusty go that's fine. It's not a crazy choice. I can see an argument that there is enough pressure on the Nats to win in the playoffs before you add the pressure of Dusty wanting to win so badly and perhaps a guy with less to lose will free up the team. It hasn't worked before (I think Matt Williams is the only one that did a BAD managing job in a playoff series) but it could for someone not terrible. So you can justify this managerial departure if you look at it individually.  It IS however, another managerial departures in a long line of them where you have to work to see the Lerners side of things. If bad decision making isn't a single amazingly horrible decision but the culmination of several questionable ones, it's not Dusty and in-game work you have to look at, it's the Lerners and their handling of managers.