Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : One regular season opponent left

Monday, June 05, 2017

Monday Quickie : One regular season opponent left

The Nationals biggest problem isn't the bullpen, or the current lack of a reliable 5th starter, and it's certainly not an anemic MI bench (though it exists! That's literally one of the last things to worry about). No, the Nats biggest problem is simple. It's that the playoffs don't start for another 4 months.

The Nats are clearly the best team in the NL East. So much so, they might have already put that away. They already have a great offense (best in the majors), and a great starting staff (~5th best in the majors and that's with the #5 spot sporting an ERA near 8) Does the relief pitching need work? Of course. But they are going to make the playoffs, and likely are going to have several games where they have a comfortable lead after 6-7. At least this is how you'd "most likely" the playoffs if it started today.

But they don't start today and that means things that are going right have a chance to go wrong. There's some natural bounce back that's going to happen. Weiters and Zimm and Rendon and Werth and MAT and Lind and Goodwin aren't all going to hit better than they have in the majors in recent memory while Murphy and Bryce hit at MVP levels again. Gio is not going to avoid the big hit all year long. But these aren't the things I worry about. These changes might slow the train down, but they aren't stopping it.

What could stop it is injury. What I worry about is 415, 400, 389,  378,  271, 225 out of 486 - which are the number of games played in the last three years by the guys on the team experienced enough to be playing the last years. I worry because Werth looks on the verge of missing a lot of time and Eaton is already gone. I worry because if something is going to derail this team, this is it. Ross is obviously not right. Kelley is obviously not right. The Nats have survived two months but they are out of depth and I doubt they are done with the significant injuries for the year.

The hope is though the ones they get matter less. A month missing from Wieters, Lind sidelined until September, rather than Murphy out for the year. Gio tweaking something and AJ Cole breaking down after two good starts instead of Strasburg out again. This isn't anything different than what any other team deals with but this team is so good and solid in it's lineup and the top of the rotation that I want the story in late August to be "can the newly put together bullpen can gel before the playoffs", and not "can a limping Nats team make an impact", like it kind of was last year.

This feels a lot like 2012.  You might see MAT doing well and Goodwin being decent and think "development is paying off" You might see Lind crushing it and think "smartest FA signing ever!".  I see all that an think Lombo and Moore and Bernadina and Tracy putting up career years. Some years things just work out for you. Outside the pen I feel like this is one of those years. I hope it keeps going.

26 comments:

Sammy Kent said...

Kelley should give that save back.

mike k said...

Solid anal. as usual Harper.

I missed the game last night, so I looked at the box score this morning, and...oh boy. What happened? Was this Dusty misusing Glover in a non-save situation, or does that not matter and we always like to blame the managers for the fan favorite's mess ups and Glover had a melt down and we should all be worried. How did he look yesterday (besides the hits of course).

Anonymous said...

@mike k - rough abbreviation. Glover looked good in the 8th then had a long break while the Nats put up runs in the 9th then had to come back in afterwards and didn't look good

mike k said...

Ahhh yea I didn't take into account that 5 spot in between. That makes sense. Seems like Dusty should've had someone warming up when the 3rd run came in.

Anonymous said...

As the top 9th went on and on, I really thought Dusty might bring in someone else...

Nattydread said...

Dusty wanted to award Glover with an easy save. Not so easy actually.

PotomacFan said...

Still trying to figure out why Dusty let Glover pitch the 9th. I suppose that once the pitcher warms up, if you use him for 5 pitches you might as well use him for 20. But you have a series with the Dodgers coming up, and then no off day for the make-up game with the Orioles. How about letting O. Perez pitch the 9th? It's not like he's worn out.

That said, Glover was hit hard, his fast ball had no life, and that's reason for concern.

And Shawn Kelley has nothing in the tank. The HR he gave up was on a TERRIBLE pitch -- center cut.

Fries said...

I was worried about Glover when he came in during the 8th. FP I believe mentioned it, but his fastball was coming in a solid 3-4 mph below normal. That should have been the red flag to Dusty that maybe it wasn't Koda's day, not the fact that the Nats offense blew up half an inning later

Anonymous said...

"a comfortable lead after 6-7" is going to be 10+ runs at this rate. One would like to think 7 runs in the 9th would be "comfortable." But, alas.

BxJaycobb said...

Fries: I think that analysis by FP was off. The pitches coming in at 93 aren't his fastball it's his slider/cutter which sometimes doesn't cut. In other words he wasn't throwing his four seamer 93 instead of 98....he did throw a few later in the inning at 97-98. It's occasionally hard to tell with him when he throws a cutter/slider thing because it breaks so little. I generally just try to categorize it based on velocity. So if glover throws a pitch at like 92-94 it's almost certainly the cutter thing. Straight fastball is usually about 96-99. That said obviously he wasn't sharp since the slider wasn't breaking much.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: who knows maybe werths foot thing isn't worst thing in the world. He's 38 and probably can't stay fresh until the playoffs playing regularly without a break. Maybe a DL trip for a couple weeks will allow him to keep his legs.

Anonymous said...

On a positive note, three really good arms and range in the OF with Bryce, MAT and Goodman in LF will be a good thing.

Juri Han

Anonymous said...

*Goodwin (typo)

Ole PBN said...

I agree the bullpen usage in yesterday's circus is a little befuddling:

Albers - last pitched 5/30
Perez - last pitched 5/29
Glover - last pitched 5/30
Kelley - last pitched 5/29
*Turner/Treinen/Romero all unavailable do to work over the weekend.

After the Pinder double, its a 6-4 game with a runner on 2nd with 2 outs. I understand putting in Glover to get out of the inning (which he did). But why trot him out for the next inning? That's what led to a 6-run 9th for the A's. That's what led to a Kelley grand slam. Especially after a long top half of the 9th where the Nats throw up 5 runs to pad the lead to 11-4, why put Glover back out there? It's well-documented that closers don't perform particularly well in non-save situations. And unnecesary confidence-crushing in a game that should have been over and handled by any other schmo in our bullpen. Crazy as it sounds, I'd put Kelley out there to START the 9th. Then maybe Perez. Fine with not using Albers, because you'd need him and possible Glover the next night if its a tighter game. Why trot out our closer? I really think its because Matt Williams still have a poster up in the dugout somewhere saying: "The closer will always finish the game. No matter what. Always. Without exception. Because... they just do. Okay?"

ssln said...

Many of your comments seem to have missed the point that FP made. When Glover came in to replace Roark in the 8th it WAS A SAVE SITUATION. When the Nats scored 5 in the 9th, it did not change the save situation. When Dusty sent out Glover in the 9th, it was done so he could get the save. If he removes Glover, he doesn't get the save, he gets a hold and the new reliever gets a hold because at 11-4 there is no save situation
Check the official box score. Glover still got an official hold because the A's didn't tie the score. Kelley wound up with the save.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper. Normally I would agree with you that for a team where everything is going right, the biggest obstacle is time to wait before playoffs (that is decidedly the case for the Astros for example. They want the the playoffs to start tomorrow). In this case though, everything is not going right. The Nats literally have the worst bullpen in the major leagues. A pen with an ERA above 5. A pen that requires not 1 but multiple pieces to make competent in the playoffs. Yeah, the Nats will win the division and that's good. But they're trying to win the World Series. And if they started the playoffs tomorrow with the current pen, I think they would again be knocked out in the first round. It's not just a component that needs improvement. It almost needs total renovation. Teams with dumpster fire bullpens don't win it all. Ever (seriously though if you know of a team with a 5+ ERA pen that won, let me know...I'm genuinely curious). So no, I think their main opponent is the bullpen.

John C. said...

ssln:

When the Nats scored 5 in the 9th, it did not change the save situation.

From a rulebook standpoint, this is correct.

When Dusty sent out Glover in the 9th, it was done so he could get the save.

This assumes facts not in evidence. In his postgame remarks Dusty mentioned that he had already gotten Glover hot, and didn't want to have to get another reliever up. Given that he had Gio going last night and a possible bullpen game on Thursday with Ross/Turner/etc. against a slugging O's lineup, that's at least plausible.

Anonymous said...

BxJ,

It's fine to say the Nats need a better bullpen to have a better chance in the playoffs. It's not fine to say that their current bullpen is not good enough to win a first round playoff series. For one thing, a five-game series between playoff-caliber baseball teams is pretty close to a coin flip (the decidedly inferior 2014 Giants beat the decidedly superior 2014 Nats in four games; plenty of newspaper columnists attribute this defeat to the the Nats "being tight" or the Giants "having what it takes to win"; I attribute it to the sample of games being small). For another, if the playoffs started tomorrow, the Cubs would have to play a tiebreaker against the Brewers to face the Dodgers and the Nats would be the #1 seed, playing the winner of a play-in game between the Rockies and the D-backs (whom the Nats are 5-2 against even with the dumpster fire bullpen). I like the Nats chances against either team, even with their current bad bullpen.

Anyway, to your question: Since 2010, here is the league rank of the World Series winner’s bullpen (by Fangraphs WAR): 2010 (4), 2011 (24), 2012 (26), 2013 (13), 2014 (24), 2015 (3), 2016 (19). None of these bullpens had an ERA over 5 because only a few bullpens overall had ERAs over 5 during this period. Anyway, the average World Series winning bullpen over the last seven years ranked as the 16th best bullpen in the sport over the regular season. Now, this is not a perfect analysis. Harper has pointed out the flaws of looking to league rank in the past. Also, if you look at ERA or FIP rather than WAR you might get something different because maybe more successful teams pitch fewer innings out of the pen and accumulate less WAR. And in the playoffs your best relief pitchers pitch a disproportionate share of innings, not to mention the fact that October pens may perform differently than regular season pens (so top heavy pens may do better in the playoffs compared to deeper pens without premier arms). But I think it convincingly shows a team does NOT need an excellent bullpen to win a world series.

TLDR: the Nats should improve the bullpen because it's not very good right now, and improving it would make the team better. Even still, the bullpen is probably going to get better even if they don't do anything just because of regression to the mean. Still, they can win the World Series with an average bullpen (this bullpen is not average right now and probably needs another good arm to become average). And the idea that they can't even win the division series without a better bullpen is hogwash because almost any team can beat another team in a five-game series.

Bjd1207 said...

I hope a Rendon article is coming soon?

He just catapulted into the top 10 in baseball in WAR. Posting career best BB%, K%, and ISO with a BABIP sitting right around his career average. This a new normal? Just a career stretch? Somewhere in the middle?

Robot said...

Yeah, Tony However-Many-Bags-FP-Is-Allotting-Him was a non-factor in April but ever since that three-homer game, he has been amazing.

This is the potency of the Nats' current offense, by the way. One or two players hit a slump (Trea, for example) and there's another good to very good player getting hot.

Josh Higham said...

Big fan of Anon's bullpen analysis.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Nats and Yanks win tonight!!! Nice article Harper.

PotomacFan said...

Bullpen analysis mentions, but does not take into account, the heavier use of the top relievers during the playoffs. Further, the analysis does not take into account the fact that the top reliever might be someone traded to the team at the trade deadline (see Chapman, Aroldis, 2016 Cubs). The Cubs bullpen going into the 2016 playoffs was a lot better than their stats during the year. Same for Cleveland. Same, too, for the Nats.

BxJaycobb said...

Anon: thanks for all that work and great analysis. Yeah I agree playoffs are a small sample crap shoot. I just think the Nats weakness this year is more glaring than usual for a team destined for playoffs (although their strengths are arguably also more glaring!). I personally think Brad Hand may be inevitable. Would be such a great fit, as the Nats really could use a killer Lefty....even if glover works out...to be the set up man/guy to bring in against seager/Bellinger/Rizzo/Blackmon/lamb, etc.

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