Nationals Baseball: Best relief staff offense ever

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Best relief staff offense ever

When the Nats signed Matt Weiters, some questioned why. Mostly this was because they somehow missed the Nationals signing Adam Lind, despite, you know, covering baseball presumably being their job. But whatever! There was still some general truth to the statement. Weiters and Norris would be expected to hit about the same. Weiters and Norris would be expected to field about the same.  Why spend more for something you already have?

Well the reason is obvious and  has long been baked into negotiations. You pay for two things when you sign a player. You pay for their expected performance and you pay for the likelihood that they achieve that expected performance.

Weiters and Norris may both project to give the Nats about a 1.0 WAR. Weiters though comes off a series of seasons where he gave 0.9, 1.0 and 1.7.  Norris comes off seasons of 2.6, 2.4, -0.4. Now again, these numbers should be considered rough, but in relation to the point I'm trying to make they illustrate it clearly.  Weiters and Norris might have the same general expectation, but the variance in their possible performances is quite wide.  A healthy Weiters might have (and I'm just throwing numbers out here) a 75% to give you a 0.5 to 1.5 WAR.  Norris might have a 75% chance to give you a -0.5 to 2.5 WAR. If your goal is only to reach an expectation it may be fine to treat these two the same. However, if your goal is to avoid a terrible performance, you'd pay Weiters more than Norris. Weiters has little chance to be horrible, while Norris has a decent chance of that happening.

For a team like the Nats, who will likely be in the playoffs but want to avoid falling a few games out of home field, or the NL East, or maaaybe a few games out of the playoffs if things go poorly, that extra security is worth it.

What Weiters ensures is that the Nats have a deep line-up 1-8.  Right now a good chunk of them are hitting great at the same time so everyone is overly excited about them. But what I like most is the depth.  You need several bats going at the same time (unless they are super hot) to score some runs and the Nats have good coverage now. If someone is cold, if someone is injured, there are enough bats here, and on the bench, to cover that. Of course we are almost immediately asked to test this theory as someone is cold (Rendon) and someone is injured (Turner) and it worked for a couple days at least. But now Drew is injured too and we're getting into the deep bench. Presumably Turner will be back soon but right now we've hit the bottom of MI depth. It can happen that fast.

While this seems unfortunate, and it is, imagine where the Nats would be without Weiters. You'd very likely have a 6-9 hole in the lineup until Turner returns.  I'm not promising the line-up will look this good all year. In fact, I'm telling you it won't. However if Werth and Zimm can produce even at average level there are no obvious holes in the line-up. With no obvious holes, they can whether the occasional storm as well as anyone. Turner and Drew out with Rendon struggling is a storm. They should be able to weather it.


Robot said...

Bullpen has me really worried. I'm loving all the offense the team is putting up, but we know it won't last forever. Right now, I do not trust any of these relievers in a close game.

Fries said...

Loving the offense right now. Despite Rendon being cold, his ABs are looking better compared to last week. I'm sure he'll turn it around sooner rather than later.

Drew coming up limp scares me, though. He's been a solid bench piece and the Nats missed him last year while he was out with vertigo. Hopefully his hammie heals quickly

Anonymous said...

1) I'm liking this sacrifice defense for offense experiment so far, but it will no doubt be exasperating at times, especially when Difo is out there. He resembles a major league middle infielder just slightly more than the guys on my softball team.

2) Wieters is yet another early small data point that you can probably expect to get a decent performance bump from guys going from the AL to the NL.

3) I love, love, love beating the hell out of the Cardinals and by extension their sanctimonious, holier-than-thou fan base. I get like ten times the enjoyment beating them than I do, say, the Marlins.

Anonymous said...

Harper, is it too soon to see a heat map of the pitches Werthquake and prospective NL comeback PoTY, Ryan Zimmerman are seeing this season is much different than last year?

Section 139 said...

Love the offense right now. It's still a tiny sample size, but we're second only to Arizona in runs scored and they've played 1 more game than us. We're also tops in team OPS by a lot.

I wish I could say the same about fielding. Has anyone else noticed how Werth seems to go unnecessarily to his knees to field balls? It seems odd to me. He's also taken some pretty terrible lines to balls off the wall.

mike k said...

Perhaps it's just my cheery, optimistic attitude, but I feel that the bullpen will go from awful to normal before the offense goes from lights-out to normal. I don't think it. But I feel it.

Nats look good this year. Their lack of SP depth is a concern. No injuries and they're a shoe-in for division lead, and maybe a closer away from WS favorites. Their offense is so good, I honestly feel that way. One or two pitcher injuries, though, and they'll be struggling to beat the Mets.

Defense is rough. Especially, as anon @ 7:16 stated, with Difo at short. Nats really need Turner in there - he's the only real SS they have right now, and even with him there the IF defense is mediocre. Without him it's just plain awful. I've noticed a lot of ground balls find their way through which didn't the last few years, and a lot of OF balls reach the wall which also didn't in years past.

Werth has always went to his knees - doesn't bother me. I also think he takes good lines to balls in general. The problem is his speed. And also - which I've noticed is new this year - he's running to cut off balls which probably in the past he was able to, and now he can't, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples when he has to turn around and run to the wall. We really need MAT in there late in games, I think.

Josh Higham said...

Confirmed: Werth has been fielding grounders on one knee for years. Agree on the iffy defense. I think this offense should be the best the Nats have had in recent years, even though Wieters is probably a step down even from pre-2016 Ramos and everyone but Turner and Rendon are sure to cool off.

Can we take a moment to reflect again on the incredible steal that is Murphy's contract? Last year he nearly earned the whole 37 million and he's looking very good so far even without spring training.

Anonymous said...

When did United Airlines hire Papelbon?

Harper said...

Robot - I like Blanton

Fries - we can live without Drew for a while, but only if Turner/Rendon/Murphy are all ok.

Anon @ 7;16 - eh Difo is a ML 5th man on the bench type. He can field ok, run ok, probably make enough contact that he's not an auto out.

Anon @ 7:19 - yes. call me in May

Sec 139 - THe weakenesses (fielding and RP) are the ones that get brought up costing teams in the playoffs, but you know what? It wasn't like the other plans were working.

mike k - That would suggest the Nats go on like a 12-3 type run. Which would be great with the Mets coming up.

Josh Highman - the Nats have gotten lucky before (see: Roark, Tanner) but the Murphy thing is something else. You might say "Oh Werth shouldn't have been good this long" or "Scherzer shouldn't have peaked this high" but I bet both were in the Nats minds when these guys were signed. Murphy being like this? No way. And that's why he was like Plan D. Sometimes you gotta get lucky though.

Anon @ 9:15 - Where IS Papelbon? (looks.... apparently no where. may retire)

Flapjack said...

All of the errors, and perhaps some of the hamstring and the even the bullpen problems, could be a reflection on Dusty's spring training regimen. Clearly, too many infielders are looking less than primed and ready for regular season rigors.

I love the hitting, though, especially the fact that Zimm is back to his old self.

BxJaycobb said...

Let's all remember about the offense: we have not faced a single very good starting pitcher potentially this year yet. And given how Harvey has looked in his first 2 starts, we will need to do this against very good starters soon. Stay tuned.

Let's say Scherzer's year is similar to his first two. Will you then be willing to concede you were wrong on the "for the $, JZimm is a better investment than scherzer" opinion? Clearly you could still end up being correct, but it would literally take (1) scherzer breaking down pronto and (2) JZimm immediately returning to Nats form/health and sustaining it uninterrupted the next few years. And even then I'm not sure he would equal scherzers value.

One other point. here's the thing about the offense. If Harper has something remotely close to a 2015 year and Murphy has something remotely close to a Murphy 2016 year, honestly those two can cover almost anything happening elsewhere in the lineup. It would be the most monstrous 3-4 punch MLB has seen the last 5-10 years, and yeah I include Bryant-Rizzo in that calculation.

Kenny B. said...

Everyone's excited about the offense in this thread and all I see are jinxes. Jinxes everywhere. STOP IT.

This offense is a bunch of bums with fluky performances against bad pitchers, and they'll never be able to compete with the Mets.

There. You're welcome.

Fries said...


I dunno about that. They've faced some decent starters in Wainwright and Lynn, and Nola/Hellickson aren't too shabby either. Yeah it's not Thor or Kershaw, but the Nats have faced some stiff competition and still done damage

And Murphy-Harper better than Bryzzo? Bold, but I like it. Do we call them Harphy?

Harper said...

Bx - Depends on ZNN's year. If Scherzer is great and he is noticeably behind Scherzer, it'd pretty much be what you describe - it'd take a crazy flip of fate for me to be right. So I guess then I could concede. I probably wouldn't. Why do we follow sports anyway? To see the team down 6 in the 9th comeback! But I probably should.

Harper said...

Bx - I also think I leave it open bc that was my basic conceit. ZNN would win out on years bc best case Max would Roy Oswalt it - give Nats 3 very good/great years then blow up and out. So what would need to happen is basically the scenario I had in my head. Except ZNN didn't get immediately injured in his lower body and put up a crap first year.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper. Fair. Although I disagreed with your take back then, I will also say in your defense that I have been pleasantly surprised by how well sherzer has sustained his velo. I would have thought by his 3rd year he already would have dropped from a "sitting 94 and touching 96-97" to a "sitting 92-93 touching 95" guy, but not so. Perhaps it's really helped him that he didn't log huge innings until he was already relatively older for aces.

Robot said...

Harper - Blanton who gave up a long ball on his first batter faced last night? I need more convincing at this point, though I'll concede I'm less concerned about him than others.

Kenny B - We all know Zim is a bum who can't keep this up much longer. Look at him! He's exhausted. Werth, too. That guy should go back to hobo-league ball! PATHETIC! That's what they are.

Robot said...

Really not sold on this Blanton guy, Harper...

Froggy said...

I'm at the game tonight (Blanton just gave up the 3 run tater) and I must say our pen does not pass the eye test.

Read: stinks

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

Zimmy on the other hand...