Nationals Baseball: Wait, what's going on?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wait, what's going on?

So yesterday a series of what may be unfortunate events happened

Jim Bowden tweeted that the Nationals remaining post-season moves could be affected by the cost of their Spring Training complex.

Bryce Harper tweeted saying signing Weiters and Holland was more important than building a team store (in pithy millennial tweet talk). Note that both these guys are Boras clients so take that as you will.

Adam Eaton tweeted he agreed.

Chelsea Janes got on it and wrote something up where the team basically said "No." and the logic of the "No." answer seems to make the most sense.

But who knows! You wouldn't think one would affect the other but then again the Lerners are famously penurious when it comes to spending. (Those CHEEEEEEEEEP shouts didn't come from nothing. They came from a fear that the Lerners business spending would manifest in the payroll). So I can't rule it out. Especially with my standard no reporting on the subject because I'm not a reporter. I'll lean though to believing the Nats because I already thought they wouldn't spend more than a few million more. It's not about the Spring Training complex. It's about the plan they likely already had in place.

OK so a few million to spend. Where to put it? Today let's say that money is going to a reliever. Who would I like to see?  Do the Nats even need it?

Let's answer the second question first. Generally a bullpen NEEDS three guys. I mean yes it needs more because of usage patterns, injuries, etc. but your average ML team can get by with three solid arms and make up the rest as you go along. Do they have that?  Let's look at all the Nationals pitchers that threw... I'll say without looking 35 IP or more last year. Hey that worked out well! Huzzah for me!

Anyway gone are Papelbon (35 IP), Rivero/Melancon (49.2+29.2=79.1), Petit (62), and Belisle (46)*.  That's 222 relief inning that have to be made up by someone.  Jesus that's a lot more innings than I thought.

Who's back? Perez, who will be a LOOGY type I imagine, although neither his career numbers or his recent numbers suggest he's all that great in that role. If he's not a LOOGY he's likely a blah arm with bad potential. He gets hit hard, and has terrible control. If he's lucky the walks aren't terrible and he K's his way out of jams. But he's not someone to rely on.

So that leaves us with Kelley, Treinen, and Solis and ONLY these three. If these three aren't all solid then the Nats don't even have the "sneak by with" level of pen.

The good news is Kelley is good. Fancy stat review K rate great. Walk rate great. A little fluky LOB% but not crazy probably balance by a little higher than expected HR/FB. Nothing worrying in type or hardness of hits against. No, this guy passes the solid reliever test, no doubt. Of course the last time we saw him he was walking off the mound in pain grabbing his arm so how much you want to rely on him is a valid question but in the general "1 of 3" sense? I'm good.

We've been told for years that Treinen is good but haven't actually seen it in action until last year. Fancy stats have same fluky LOB% though Treinen's high HR/FB rate isn't historically off like Kelley's was. He may just be the type to give up homers. So there's less of a thought that that's balanced. His K rate isn't great. His walk rate is way too high. So how does Treinen survive? A silly high GB rate, almost 2/3rds of all balls hit off him were on the ground and ground balls are hard to hit for XBH. Looking at the type and hardness it seems like Treinen is an on/off type. When he's on - soft grounder. When he's off he'll walk guys and give up a hard hit. Last year he had more "on" outings than "off" but in 2015 the GB percentage was nearly as high (62.7%) and with a little less luck with BABIP and LOB% he was merely ok.  I think it's a stretch to expect Treinen will repeat 2016. But that's not the question. The question is "is he solid"? I'll go with yes. I think he'll fall between 2016 (almost no blow-ups) and 2015 (like a blow-up every 4th time out) and will be solid enough.

What about Solis? K-rate is good. Walk rate isn't. Nothing weird for LOB% or BABIP, but a crazy low HR/FB rate (3.1%) especially for a guy that's not a GB pitcher. Expect that to change. There isn't much to go on with Solis. You can't look at minor league stats - he barely pitched anywhere long enough since being converted to a reliever. I suppose with my arm twisted I'd kind of view him like Treinen, unlikely to put up 2016 again but likely to be solid enough.  One thing I do want to check first - is there a handedness thing going on here. Because your third guy can't be a LOOGY.... nope not really.  He's better against lefties but faced a lot of righties too and was good enough against them.

So I guess the Nats just get in under the bar. They do have three solid arms. However looking deeper that's almost all you can say about them. Treinen and Solis are nothing more than solid. Kelley is better than that but has to be considered an injury risk.  Running with these three and what's behind them is pressing your luck.  (Another thing - these guys are sneaky aged. Not old, aged. The youngest is Solis who will turn 29 in August. There isn't a young guy breaking out here).

There is one more thing though. I said that this is what an average ML team could get by with. The Nats have found the absolute lowest possible acceptable bar for a major league pen for any team. But the Nats don't aspire to be "any team" or an average team. They want to be more. What's ok for a 79-83 team is likely not ok for a playoff contender.  Given that I'd have to say - yes, the Nats need another reliable arm. I think it would be wise to get another very good arm to be your closer or #2 and knock Treinen and Solis back a peg. Not a shock I know but it's always worth going through the process. 

OK this is long so arms tomorrow.

Finishing touch - I knew Little Jimmy O'Hara (that's how he likes to be called I hear) wrote about this a few days ago so I wanted to go back and see if we landed in the same general area. Pretty much. Kelley is legit good. Treien and Solis are fine. He balks at them being the 2nd and 3rd guys in the pen and has them as more "others". I can see that. I kind of think they baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarely qualify where they are. 

*for those curious Lopez is at 44 but started a bunch, Cole at 38 and only started. Glover would be next pure reliever at 19.2. Rzep only pitched 11.2 innings for Nats.

11 comments:

PhthePhillies said...

I wish they would have kept Melancon. He made the rest of the pen better just by being a sure thing in the 9th. I fear if they do not have a solid closer, Treinen, Kelley, and Solis will be overused and less effective, not to mention at greater risk for injury. We're not likely to find much support for these three within the organization.
Anyone have any thoughts about Trevor Gott? He didn't perform well in the minors last year but he throws pretty hard and he's young. Ugh! Who am I kidding?

NotBobby said...

If Nats can get Logan for two years with a vesting option and then team option then go for it.

I like Romo a lot too, but seem to remember him as the guy who was ON or OFF. The bullpen would likely be hurting if he lost the feel for his pitches and was off. (Unless he can keep throwing bp fastballs down the middle and have Miggy looking!)

I think i like Treinen a little more than you. I think he has serious upside.

NotBobby said...

I also think you may be under-selling Glover by not mentioning him. I know he didn't hit your innings minimum... He was great in Minors (live in durham and loved watching him when chiefs come to play bulls) and it was widely reported that he pitched through a bad hip which should be better now.

mike k said...

I'm similarly exited about Glover, but wish that the Nats got a top closer. If Glover is that good, have him beat Kelley for the 8th inning role. Those are the problems you want to have. This mix n' match stuff (where the team needs to do it, not a team with a great pen that chooses to do it) makes me nervous.

Fries said...

I think PhthePhillies hit the nail on the head. I'm not so worried about the quality of our guys, but I am worried about the workload. We need another solid arm just to reduce workload more than anything. Look at what happened to Rivero last year...

Jay said...

Glover did pitch through a bad hip. However, he elected to rehab it rather than have surgery. It may or may not be better from what I read. It may or may not hold up over the course of the season. I think a big part of why the Nats are an every other year team is bc for whatever reason - Rizzo, the Lerners, etc - they only address the bench and bullpen every other year. Granted the Nats have a lot of talent this year, but they are pretty much ignoring their bench and bullpen. And what doesn't make sense is that this is when Rizzo tends to shine. Making smart pick ups with guys that are still free agents late in the offseason. Makes me think he isn't allowed to this year.

2013: same bench as the year before even though Chad Tracy and Bernadina way over performed their career norms. Bench stunk like dead fish. They had no lefty reliever. Remember the argument that Clippard and Storen had good reverse splits, so they didn't need no stinking lefty. Bullpen that year = not great

2015: the dan ugly experience, Yunel Escobar, Michael Taylor in CF. The bench and line up weren't so great. They spent the entire year waiting for people to get healthy. Only to see position players get healthy and stink bc they missed so much time. The bullpen traded away Clippard, and had Storen, Matt Thornton, the aforementioned Treinen. They traded for Papelbon (bc the Lerners would not increase payroll - the rumors at the time had Rizzo wanting to trade for Kimbrel). Storen melted down and broke his hand. The rest of the bullpen was definitely not great.

2017 - gross overpay for Adam Eaton in trade, swing and miss on Jansen and Melancon. Bench - we don't need Stephen Drew, we have Wilmer Difo. Michael Taylor and Chris Heisey are our big bench guys along with a singles hitting Cliff Robinson. Hmmm... Bullpen: we have lefties - aha. This year: we don't need no stinking closer. Does anyone remember the mess the bullpen was when Papelbon was on the DL?

I'm really hoping they make some more moves. I vote get Holland and another lefty and possibly Romo too. I vote get Wieters and Stephen Drew. Of course, I don't get a vote. We'll see.

Harper said...

Jay - well this isn't fair unless you put 2014 and 2016 in there (2012 can be argued was an unexpected jump)

2013 - completely right on bench. bought into 2012 numbers too hard. Real problem wasn't pen vs LH (Clip was good) but Storen's meltdown leaving them a good arm short, plus no luck/bad planning for those last couple arms

2014 - tried to improve bench adding McLouth and Lobaton - both dramatically underperformed. Rest of bench stunk but lineup relatively healthy. Storen got good basically solving that problem. Barrett came along and surprised in season solving the back end issue.

2015 - Bench shy didn't really try to get good bench. Clint Robinson pleasantly surprised. Uggla, Reed Johnson, Tyler "still trying with this?" Moore predictably did not. Let bullpen fall apart - basically bringing in Janssen to "fix" it, trying to rely on Barrett, Treinen, Rivero to step up game. Not terrible but didn't work well.

2016 - Most active year for bench and pen additions. Added Drew and Heisey and demoted Taylor. Drew surprised. Heisey hit mark. Taylor disappointed. Added Perez, Petit, Kelley, Gott, Belisle to pen. Kelley and Belisle would do well but Perez, Petit and Gott would all underachieve. Improved performance came from Treinen, Rivero, Solis

So what have we learned?

They are generally shy about spending money on the bench or pen. This isn't a terrible plan. Because limited at bats, IP performances can skew. Adding one or two players is gambling. Best bet is to flood with decent talent (see 2016 pen) and hope you get a couple good performances added to a couple in house quality players. If you don't want to do that there is no assured benefit to adding just one or two guys. Better chances of getting a good performance - yes - but far from sure.

I guess I'm basically saying no matter what they do at this point - unless they add something like a sure thing I wouldn't get very excited that things are "fixed" There won't be enough depth to back it up. The Nats will have simply moved from a spot where bench surprises are necessary and bullpen health is critical for these to be decent, to a spot where those statement are not necessarily true. These will almost certainly enter 2017 as flaws, the question is only how glaring

blovy8 said...

I bet they can get Belisle back - he only cost 1.25 mil last year. 50ish innings of sub-4 era with no promises needed. Potential NRI should look at this bench and bullpen and think they can crack it, not saying they are going to be world-beaters, but there will be come competition. Difo really hasn't proven himself, and Robinson is about as meh a lefty bat as you could find. Taylor is probably going to get 300 AB's if we don't trade him, but some AAAA guy can hit .500 in spring training and force their hand, right? Yeah, I know, it ain't happening.

JE34 said...

I think the source of the fuss is Jim Bowden wanting to be relevant and being an idiot.

Fries said...

@JE34

Accurate. He was a terrible GM and, as a "journalist", he has broken like zero stories of any value. He's way less trusted than the likes of Buster Olney, and this was definitely a case of grabbing at straws in my book

Jay said...

Buster Olney posted last night that the Nats were looking to sign Greg Holland and/or Matt Wieters, but they were waiting on budget approval from ownership. I agree on Bowden, but maybe there was some truth to the reports.