Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - The shape of the bullpen is round

Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Quickie - The shape of the bullpen is round

The Nats got through another garbage weekend from the bullpen or so it seems. On Friday though Turner, Romero, Glover and Kelley worked 4 innings keeping the game tied. In the next game Romero and Albers combined to keep the lead where it was for over an inning. In the last game, Albers came in and shut the door.

Yes, I'm cherry picking the good where there was bad every night but it's for a reason. The bullpen is beginning to take shape. And it's beginning to take shape around Albers, who has been great.

You have Albers now as the lockdown guy, until he's not anymore. You have Glover on deck. You have Kelley available (every other day). And you have Turner and Romero to fill in some innings. It's not a good pen. Turner and Romero both aren't good enough to be relied on in big spots. You can use them sure, but you are rolling the dice. Kelley's limitations are apparent and keep the Nats from maybe forming a strong everyday back of the pen with what they have on hand (especially with the schedule with no breaks coming up). BUT, but - there is enough here to keep the Nats safely away from the rest of the NL East until teams are trading. That says a lot about the NL East but also a lot about the Nats starters and the Nats offense, even without Eaton.

I'll admit it's a precarious situation. One wrong offensive injury (Bryce would be the obvious one) could depress the scoring enough to matter. One wrong starting pitching injury (Max obvious one here*) could expand the instability of the 5th starter role into the entire back of the rotation. One wrong bullpen injury (Albers) could send us back to where we were a few days ago with nothing good to say about anything pen-related. But precarious is better than where it was before.

Yesterday didn't look good in part because of the double headers but I feel like there is something coming together. Boz is right. This isn't a pen you want to go into October with. There the pitching is better the hitting is better and the games should be closer. But the question is really more - Is this a pen that can survive until July? Today I say yes.


*which makes yesterday infuriating. One thing the Nats will have to do between now and whenever they bring in bullpen help is use the weakness of the NL East to their advantage. Let Jacob Turner soak up a beating. Pull guys early rather than late when possible.  A loss this year does not look like it will be as important as a loss in other years. Could that change and you regret it? I suppose but you can't worry about the hypothetical. You have to work with what's in front of you today.

32 comments:

Fries said...

It will be an infuriating couple of months, but it's absolutely the case that there's nothing Rizzo and Co. can do. We have to sit here and wait and bemoan every late inning collapse, hoping for a random MAT foul pole dinger or BRYCE heroics or Zimm shot.

Apparently the Nats still have scouts watching Robertson and Quintana. I'd be fine trading for Robertson if I knew he wasn't going to cost an arm and a leg and a Robles, and if the Nats take Quintana as well that will mean Gio is shipped off to CWS, or somewhere else in a 3 team trade. I honestly like Gio more right now than I do Quintana, though Quintana's contract looks mighty nice.

I'm hoping the Nats make a move for a Knebel or Stripling type pitcher. Not a "closer", but that means they won't cost a fortune and they can provide stability where it is DESPERATELY needed

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for the garbage can N.L. Least, amirite?

I bet Alderson and Collins are probably starting to wish they hadn't run all those young arms straight into the ground. Worst team ERA in the majors; heckuva job there Mets!

Natsochist said...

I'm sure it's been discussed before, but what would LoCain / Herrera cost from the Royals? That's an obvious improvement over MAT (Cain) and Turner / whomever at the back of the 'pen (Herrera).

Is there a way to get them without Robles?

G Cracka X said...

Let's not forget to talk about Scherzer's unprecedented feat yesterday. I seriously doubt anyone has ever pitched an immaculate inning after getting hit in the knee with a 100mph or so comebacker in the previous inning. Truly remarkable.

BxJaycobb said...
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Dusty's Toothpick said...

I was at the night game last night (aka Trea Turner Bobble head riots of 2017) and watching Max go down, get up flail and fall down again with the silence that swept the stadium was terrifying. To see him get up and pitch and then come out and pitch the 5th with 9 pitches was one of the greatest human feats I have ever witnessed and I feel lucky to have been present. Just full out balls to the wall determination.

Jacob Turner looked ok until he didn't and "Fat" Albers was just great, chest slam and all. One of the best games I have seen in a while. With that said it was against the Phillies and even though I love a close game we should be putting teams like that away EARLY and saving it for the likes of other 1st place teams....the groans about the bullpen were like a humming moan that swept the stadium punctuated by an old lady yelling "fix the bullpen Rizzo!"

Indeed, fix the bullpen Rizzo.

Harper said...

Natso - Both? Definitely not. One of them... I doubt it. Given 2 of next 3 best Nats prospects are injured you'd have to put up Fedde, Stevenson, + + to get one and if you're the Royals you probably can get a better offer

Bx / Fries - gotta agree with Bx here. You take Quintana over Gio two times every day of the week and four times on Sunday.

Jay said...

Any thoughts on the idea that the Nats are stuck with this bullpen? I've read a couple of places that the Nats don't have enough pieces to go get anyone of consequence as a closer. I guess technically the do, but the expectation is that they aren't willing to move Robles and Fedde and someone else to get a closer. Robertson, while an upgrade, isn't that strong of a closer. I feel like they will have to eat a bad contract to get someone of consequence. Say Frazier and Robertson, or Ian Kennedy and Herrera. I don't see the Lerner's being ok with that.

Fries said...

@Bx

Oh I agree historically Quintana is infinitely better than Gio, but it's a bit more than "a month and a half of random results". Quintana is off. Walks way up, velocity down, but his rate stats like BABIP are all within career norms. There's a mechanical or injury issue lingering with him. Gio on the other hand is performing exactly how we'd expect him to perform beyond a low BABIP and high walk rate which will balance each other out (though BABIP probably more so than the walks if we assume he's regressing with age).

But the main reason I like Gio over Quintana is related to the cost, which wasn't very clear in my original post. We can't look at the two players in a vacuum. To get 3.5 years of Quintana at his salary, the Nats would have to hand over the entire farm. Gio will never perform THAT much worse than Quintana to make it anywhere near worth it. Gio is a perfectly capable back of the rotation guy and, barring an injury to an SP, going for Quintana doesn't make sense when bullpen help is what is really needed. So I'm just confused why the Nats have guys scouting him. To do a deal for Robertson and Quintana would have to require more than just top prospects, it would require major league ready players as well.

DezoPenguin said...

Hmm, if we're talking about eating a bad contract to get a RP, how about something like Kahnle or Jones, with Robertson being the bad contract we eat (I mean, he's a useful player, but he's way overpaid for who he is...and I think he's signed for next year as well as this one)? Then we'd have Albers-Jones-Robertson at the back end, with Turner, Glover, and Romero as 6th-7th inning guys, and almost anyone could function as the seventh man.

What worries me most about the present makeup is Kelley's home-run problems that have hammered his conventional and advanced stats alike down into the Treinen-Blanton category. That's three separate guys who were supposed to be reliable, above-average bullpen pieces that anyone not the Yankees or Indians would be happy to plug into the 7th-8th inning slots (closer debate aside) and who have spent the first month and a half of 2017 busting out. Those were *supposed* to be the most reliable guys. The rest of the pen, well, Perez was basically a functional LOOGY but not much more, Solis was nothing special, Romero had the velocity but little track record of success (I'd argue that compared to his past performance he's actually been *better* than we might have expected), and Glover had high upside but was untested (which is probably why he didn't start the season as the closer). Those guys have mostly performed to expectation (Solis the exception), but the top three all crashed and burned together. Moreover, we have the added problem that Turner, who was supposed to be the 6th starter (and pitched well in that capacity) has been pressed into 'pen service, leaving Cole filling in for Ross, who had his own separate meltdown--something that probably wouldn't have happened had it been, say, Romero who was hurt or awful.

Harper said...

Jay - they may be outbid for a "proven closer" especially if they don't want to part with Robles. Depends on market. They certainly won't be stuck with this pen though. I fully expect them to bolster it in some way at the break. It might just not be the way fans want if things aren't breaking right (huge demand, low supply)

Josh Higham said...

Piggybacking on Harper's comment, I don't see Rizzo going for a proven closer (tm) unless there are a lot of teams that have those guys who are totally out of the running, while simultaneously very few contenders have bad bullpens. In that case, minimal competition for a relative glut of proven closers (tm) would probably bring the price low enough for Rizzo's taste. I think there's a very good likelihood that they pick up a couple of Blanton-ish guys (middle innings guys with nontrivial contracts, not home run specialists) and hope that Glover is lights out or close to it by then.

Karl Kolchak said...

Wins may be the most overrated statistic in baseball, but Max loves 'em. Right now, Dusty needs to keep him from throwing his arm off know that the bullpen has just cost him two in consecutive starts.

Ole PBN said...

As an aside - does anyone think this may have to do with our new catcher? Having to throw to a larger target in Wieters may potentially negatively impact a guy like Kelley and others who don't throw on such a strict downward plane - rendering their fastball movement more lateral instead of having any sinking action. This leaves pitches over the plate more often and vulnerable to the opposing hitter barreling-up pitches that would normally result in weak contact. Just a thought, but in my experience, this has been the case at times.

Regardless from a technical standpoint, it is nearly impossible to have an ERA north of 9.00. This cannot be sustained over the course of the season, much less by end of July. To give up a run EVERY SINGLE INNING is absurd, embarrassing, and quite frankly, really difficult to be that bad. Suffice it to say, these guys are pros and should level out to something remotely resembling a guy earning 7-figure salaries.

I will say that pitching Treinen every 7 games or so WILL NOT get him out of his funk...

G Cracka X said...

Interesting facts: MAT has a Fangraphs OFF score of .8, and has been worth .5 fWAR, .3 more than Andrew McCutchen, who might have ended up as the Nationals Center Fielder if the Nats had gone through with the trade. MAT has exactly the same fWAR as Adam Eaton, despite 27 less plate appearances. Here's hoping he can keep it up; I recognize the K% and BABIP are major red flags. But he walks more often than Trea Turner!

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Anonymous said...

Soto/Fedde/Stevenson is way too much for a relief pitcher, IMO. I could talk myself into it if it was someone with Chapman/Miller ability and a non-rental. Herrera is not that good, and there don't appear to be any Chapman/Miller's on the market this year.

Sammy Kent said...

The shape of the bullpen is round like a turd is round.

Bjd1207 said...

Hahahah I love how you can tell when Bx has a day off

Anonymous said...

Yup, looks like BX has a .346 DCP (defensive comment percentage)

Fries said...

When do we get to take a look at Trea? His K% is way up, and what's worse is that pitchers appear to have found his weak spots. He chases up and in and if you throw low and away in the zone he'll hit a weak groundball basically every time (check out fangraphs heat maps (http://www.fangraphs.com/zonegrid.aspx?playerid=16252&position=2B/SS/OF&ss=2017-01-01&se=2017-12-01&type=4&hand=all&count=all&blur=1&grid=10&view=bat&pitch=&season=2017)

When's Murphy going to take Trea under his wing and teach him to keep his hands back and drive the balls low and away instead of plopping them off the end of the bat?

Kubla said...

How does this bullpen's ~1/5 season compare to the worst 1/5 season worth of games for other years 2011 and forward? My semi-researched take is that the previous seasons were defined by general competence, some occasional facepalm moments that people always remember, and a rough start or late fade by one guy that tended to be mitigated by other guys doing their job.

Countering the "this was obvious/not enough depth/Rizzo is the dumbest human alive" narrative, the majority of the preseason criticism was that nobody was the obvious closer but that the middle relief was solid. That the entire bullpen was going to stink up the joint every night and there would be nobody to turn to seems to have caught everyone by surprise (until everyone said that they saw it coming all along). This WaPo piece is an example of the early thinking: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/nationals-journal/wp/2017/03/29/even-before-choosing-a-closer-this-nationals-bullpen-might-be-their-deepest/?utm_term=.b8790540996d

I prefer saying that the bullpen has gone pear-shaped. Building/fixing a bullpen is the easiest thing for a team to do...until it isn't.

BxJaycobb said...
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Froggy said...

BX, I like your comments man.

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