Nationals Baseball: Man, you guys love your MAT

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Man, you guys love your MAT

I spend a column basically writing about how great Rendon is and you focus on me besmirching the name of your beloved 4th outfielder? What a strange bunch you are.

But of course - I'm an idiot at times so what did I say about MAT in the past and where does that all stand today....

Into the wayback machine.

Ok so I said his K-rate at the time at 35.5% was WAY too high. His BABIP at .387 suggested luck was playing a big part in his success. His walk rate was bad. No HR/FB luck. Not hitting more LDs. No better at swings and misses, or better zone recognition.  All he had to hang his hat on was hitting the ball harder.

Where does that all stand now? Since that column was at the very end of May we can look at both his overalls and his June.

K-rate: Overall 32.3%  June 29.5%

K-rate isn't what it once was in terms of evaluating players but 30% is still pretty bad. He is trending in the right direction I suppose but again this is a problem area.

BABIP: .368, .345

Not as crazy in June and not as crazy overall.  I suggested .330 as a landing spot for MAT and .345 isn't that far off. And he hit .293 in June which might suggest a .280 type "luck-normalized" average - for a month at least.

Walk Rate : 4.3%, 2.1%

It got worse! Basically he is completely dependent on getting hits. A .293 average and a .305 OBP is pretty crazy. If you like MAT this, more than anything, is the anchor on his value.

HR/FB : 20%, 25%

I suppose it is possible MAT has become one of the best HR hitters in baseball today, because that's what a HR/FB rate of around 25% suggests. For example last year that was Ryan Braun, Khris Davis, Nelson Cruz, the other Chris Davis, and Yasmany Tomas. These are guys that full-season will hit around 40 homers. If MAT is that then congratulations to the Washington Nationals.  If, he's more like his history would suggest, say 15%-20%, he's a 25 homer guy.  Still good power wise but not special.  Anyway as the last sentence would suggest I think this is not sustainable.

LD-rate 20.1%, 20.3%

Nothing new here. Hitting LDs like he had before which was fine. He did flip his GB and FB rate in June so there is that. That's usually better so you could keep an eye on that.

Zone stats aren't quick to find month by month so I'll look at overall and say... same as before no real changes in zone recognition it appears. This makes sense based on his K and BB rates. Oh but he is still hitting the ball harder so that's just a straight up positive.

So what's the conclusion? Was I wrong?

I don't think so. What happened was MAT traded hitting GBs and getting BABIP luck with hitting FBs and getting HR/FB luck.  In a normal month a couple of those don't go out, he's hitting .270 with an OBP around .285 and well, you're still probably defending him because you love him but his case is a lot weaker.

I stand my ground on MAT for the most part. I can see a way that he may have grown from a .230 18 HR guy to a .255 23 HR guy. I'm not convinced that's the case but it's certainly there if you want to argue it. But in general MAT is MAT. You are not going to get the average, you are going to be KILLED with the OBP, but you'll get D and you'll get some pop. If he's really improved - that can start for some teams, but I still would bet on the 4th OF future for the guy.

As for Mike Cameron / Tony Armas comparisons...

Ok Cameron was one of the best CFs of his day. MAT is good, maybe very good, but he's not Mike Cameron. Also Mike Cameron could walk.In short - MAT is no Mike Cameron

Tony Armas? That's a more interesting comparison.  Armas wasn't quite the fielder MAT is (think more Adam Eaton - solid in the corner, deficient in CF) but had the power with absolutely no patience. K-rate wasn't quite as bad but who's was back in the day. OK I can see this.  So what would that mean for MAT? Well if he could generate the same power then it would suggest a handful a seasons with above average hitting, mixed in with a handful of ones below as the vagaries of BABIP and HR/FB and injuries that effect power and striking out more/less take effect. Thing is Armas was like a Top 10 power hitter of his time and I don't see MAT as that, which lessens his impact. Of course that's just at the plate. Factor back in defense and you could get that same back and forth. Another 8-10 seasons, about half of them good.  Yeah, ok, I can see that as the ceiling for MAT.

27 comments:

Positively Half St. said...

I may be an outlier from the folks who have come around to MAT. I join you in being unconvinced, although of course I am happy to see these results. I am similarly not convinced that this is the long-awaited, permanent blooming of Brian Goodwin.

What I really want is for them to continue being productive at least for another month, if it is going to turn out that they have not reached another level. If Rizzo can sell high and use one of them in a deadline trade, then it could protect some of the prospects we would be loath to lose in a trade for a reliever. I know MAT's name has come up in the past, but until now I have not considered him a likely significant part of a package. Perhaps now, even if only for a short while, he is a Steven Souza, Jr. to cash in while the cashing's good.

Ole PBN said...

Anything on launch angles? That's what turned Murphy into the hitter he is now and I'd be willing to bet is a part of Zimm's success this is season. Murphy is always vocal about his philosophy on hitting, perhaps its spreading to other guys in the clubhouse?

And yes, I'd argue that Daniel Murphy is a better hitting coach than Rick Schu.

Miles Treacy said...

sell high on MAT and see if Beane will bite for a Madson or Doolittle.

mike k said...

Waaaaay off topic here, but I think there might be someone in this blog who is interested in my question. I was in a wikipedia/baseball reference hole yesterday, and centered on the career of Billy Hamilton (19th century Phillie). He had like, 100 walks every year and only a handful of strikeouts! To be fair, everyone had only a handful of strikeouts back then, but no one walked like Billy Hamilton. He had twice the amount of free passes as anyone else on the team, and led the league almost every year with a pretty sharp decline as you get down to #10. My question is: why/how? He didn't hit for power - his extra base hit numbers were average for his team, which actually suggests a little less raw power because some of those would have been speed-induced. His PA numbers leading off for a hot offense explains some of it, but very little. I know that advanced metrics were in its infancy back then (+/- 80 years), but surely pitchers knew to throw strikes to a guy who can run but isn't a major power threat, right? Is it just that Hamilton was the only player who valued walks and didn't swing at balls?

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: Is anybody now arguing MAT is like....a .300 hitter who will hit 30 and steal 30 now? I think our reason is he might now be good enough to be the worst starter on a contending team. He wasn't before. He was atrocious and unplayable. I think it's perfectly possible that instead of a .280 OBP guy who hits 15 homers a year, maybe he's now a .300-.310 OBP guy who can manage like 20-25 homers and 25 steals with great defense in CF. That's a SLIGHTLY above average major league starter if he can do it. But who knows. He still is K'ing way too much and never walking, which really puts a ceiling on what he can be.
Question: I wonder whether the juiced baseball is the partial explanation for guys like Murphy (Zim this year, and now MAT hitting ball harder suddenly) suddenly gaining doubles turning into HR power. (See the recent studies on the Ringer and 538, which are basically conclusive). the crazy juiced balls started after the AS break in 2015, which lines up exactly with Murphy's rise. I just think it's definitely plausible.

Anonymous said...

Harper,

I've got my two season tix for today's 4pm game I can't use. Section 318. If anyone on here can use them, they're free, just need an email to send them to. Thanks

PotomacFan said...

MAT is fine for now, but I particularly worry about him in the playoffs. I don't think he can hit the higher-quality pitchers the Nats will face in the playoffs. It would be interesting to see his stats against the 10 best starters (he doesn't have to face Max or Stras) and the 5 best relievers. Of course, everyone's numbers will be lower against the best pitchers, but I just have a sneaking suspicion that the fall-off for Taylor is greater than say the fall-off for Werth or Eaton.

Rob Evans said...

I think MAT has had a good month+. This is not who he is. This is his ceiling and it will be all down hill from here. I'd sell high on him if possible.

Bjd1207 said...

Along the same lines as the Espinosa talk last year, there's just zero margin for error. Danny even had a better walk rate so it cushioned it somewhat. But the line about "good defense and occasional pop" just brought all those conversations screaming back to me.

If he loses either the pop or the BABIP as Harper and others have pointed out, were in CRATER territory because there's nothing left to prop up his profile. I dunno how long you want to string along your luck in either of those 2 categories

BxJaycobb said...

I do think MAT could perhaps be used only against lefties. The pitch he is constitutionally incapable of hitting or laying off is the right handed breaking ball breaking off the plate away from him.

ocw5000 said...

I am loving all these recommendations to sell high on the only actual CF on the team. You guys want to rock the playoffs with Goodwin in center and Difo as your backup plan? Why don't we sell high on Zimmerman? His contract is bad and his value will never be higher! Maybe some team will give us a solid setup reliever for an MVP candidate!

G Cracka X said...

So, trade for Cain or use MAT in CF in October?

Rob Evans said...

Sell high on him doesn't necessarily mean before the trade deadline this year to me. Move him in the off season.

Richard Parker said...

Totally paranoid, Harper. I think most people on this site agreed that MAT was hitting above his weight, with the exception of maybe one or two people. Sometimes you just need to chill.

Robot said...

Sell high on MAT. He's not going to get any better than this.

Also, to continue the trend of discussing things other than what Harper wrote about: I am thrilled to see Tony Four-Bags developing into the high-level player we saw during his first season.

Ric said...

BxJaycobb said: "@Harper: Is anybody now arguing MAT is like... a .300 hitter who will hit 30 and steal 30 now? I think our reason is he might now be good enough to be the worst starter on a contending team. He wasn't before. He was atrocious and unplayable. I think it's perfectly possible that instead of a .280 OBP guy who hits 15 homers a year, maybe he's now a .300-.310 OBP guy who can manage like 20-25 homers and 25 steals with great defense in CF. That's a SLIGHTLY above average major league starter if he can do it."

This.

Fries said...

Blake proving again he does not have the testicular fortitude to close. He was clearly shaken after hitting Candelario (sp?), why the hell did Maddux leave him out there? We all know he's borderline Storen-level nutjob. Let him pitch the 7th or the 8th and be done with it

Jay said...

I have to agree. Treinen is unusable in the 9th and probably broken for the next month again after he finally started pitching better. What were they thinking here? They need a closer. I would have left Blanton in - 1 pitch 1 out.

Ole PBN said...

Hey guys, Blake can't close. I don't know if this is a new epiphany or if its just April all over again, but I really, positively, absolutely, without a doubt, think he possibly, maybe, might not be able to close out MLB games.

An obvious sign: the purple face. Storen always had it when he got into hot water, Aaron Barrett had it when he threw those wild pitches late in the playoffs in 2014, Blake has it virtually every time a runner gets on. All three of those guys looked like they were going to vomit all over the mound due to the stress of high-leverage situations.

Amen Fries, ZERO testicular fortitude. I love how Johnny Holiday just casually said, "toughest three outs in baseball, that ninth inning..." Actually, just when purple-faced, can't hack it, pathetic relievers take the hill. And as much as he was a cancer to our team, Papelbon never had that look on his face, he would just get beat rather than give it away and leave the mound with his tail between his legs like most of our relievers. Grow a pair!

Froggy said...
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Froggy said...
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Jay said...

Turner has a broken wrist. No timetable for return per Janes. Wow. Someone needs to sacrifice a chicken or something. This franchise and this town may be cursed. Turner may be the least replaceable with his speed. Now MAT can lead off. Hahaha.

Plus saw Treinen interviewed after the game. Wow. Feel horrible for the guy. He can't close at all, but I feel awful for him. Are we still calling the division now??

Robot said...

Well, that game was an utter disaster.

Froggy said...
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Froggy said...

Yeah, I'm whining.

Anonymous said...

So MAT has gone from being AAAA player to being compared to Mike Cameron and Tony Armas. The goal posts have been moved quite a bit. If MAT ends up being as good as Tony Armas isn't that a victory for MAT and his supporters? Seems like your earlier evaluation of MAT was totally wrong. I get that you think it's just a matter of time before he craters. Looks like MAT has turned the corner and is an MLB level hitter, possibly better than average as a 20 20 guy which you don't see very often from CFs(hmmm Bryce was a 20 20 guy last year but he plays RF), to go with plus plus CF defense.

John C. said...

Whenever I read random internet commenters savaging the character, "testicular fortitude" (or however you want to define it) of those who are actually on the field and striving, it always brings to mind the great Theodore Roosevelt quote:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.