Nationals Baseball: Straction Day

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Straction Day

Actions speak louder than words. However, what happens when you have limited access to the actions?

Over the past... now 18 days, there's been a growing argument on how to view the injury situation with Strasburg. I tend to advocate a reaction that is more "action based". Set your view and wait until you find out about some action that may alter it. Most on the other side have gone with a more "word based" reaction. Let the team set the view and don't let your own opinion get in the way because there are unseen actions taking place. Neither is wrong and have certain strengths and weaknesses. You can appear foolish if you follow my way if things are quickly settled in a way contrary to how you thought they would. On the other hand, following the other way may make you seem foolishly naive, if the source of the information, even if they are the best available source, is unreliable - either by choice or chance.*

In this particular case, my way has proven pretty strong. Strasburg's injury resembled last year's injury so assuming that it would follow a similar path and need perhaps a month away from starting, seems to be the way it will eventually turn out. All the while the team has sent out a string of milquetoast positivity, suggesting that Strasburg's return is closer than it has turned out to be.

There were another set of words yesterday from the team, but finally there may be actions behind them that we can hold on to.  Rizzo said Strasburg could be pitching right now and they are just being cautious with him. In itself, pretty meaningless. Rizzo said the same during Strasburg's recovery last year. Strasburg pitched again and said he "felt really good" yeseterday. Again, in itself pretty meaningless as he said that earlier in this injury recovery . But the actions yesterday (and hopefully today) matter.

Yesterday Strasburg pitched a simulated game, an important step on the road to recovery. This is much more than a bullpen session where you throw 30-40 pitches and see how he feels. Instead, he throws a simulated inning, sits, comes back and does it again, throwing probably 50 or so pitches with that important break, cool down, and return added in. If this goes well then he should be in line for a real recovery start, my guess would be Sunday or Monday, in the minors and then back with the team in the majors for a start at the end of next week. Not ultimately the best case scenario, which I had pegged at missing 3 starts, but close as he'd miss only four I think.

That's the next action we need to see. And while I consider the words to be pretty meaningless we could hear something important today.  At the tail end of July Strasburg through a bullpen session they thought went very well. They said if he felt well the next day he could just miss one start. This was followed by conspicuous silence. There was a similar feeling coming from the team yesterday. If we hear that Strasburg is on track for a recovery start today (or maybe tomorrow) then everything lines up. We've seen the actions we want, and we've gotten the words we want, and if he's moved somewhere we get an important set of confirming actions. If we don't hear anything today or tomorrow, well I'd be worried. I'd still have to see Strasburg not be assigned anywhere, or regress in his recovery, before I take it back down but it would be a bad sign.

So keep your ears to the ground today. It just might tell us whether to renew worries, or to get ready to set them aside.

*To be honest - most times these different approaches arrive at the same place because really we're both just waiting for confirmation on the type of injury from the team. It's only in these types of unclear situation where the differences can become apparent.  And really it's not like either side is ALL action or words. It's a mix for both, just what takes precedence is different.


JE34 said...

At this point, I hope they take their sweet time bringing him back.

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: it's entirely possible that this is the same exact injury as last year and as you said initially, it means he could possibly* never come back to pitch in playoffs. And that that's what his missing multiple starts means. It's also entirely possible that he has a minor tweaked feeling when he pitches that isn't a serious injury and they have a 14 game lead so they're being over the top cautious (personally that's how I would act if a pitcher was not super injured but still kinda uncomfortable despite being able to pitch through it in playoffs started now). I don't really think we know. Our only beef with your initial reaction wasn't that you refused to buy the team line. None of us fully bought the team line. But that you said "same injury as last year. Same time line. Done as a full season pitcher." That just seemed like a take that wasn't based on much evidence. The more reasonable spectrum to me was always "best case the team is being accurate (they sometimes are...see scherzer), semi best case but still realistic is he tweaked something and he will take multiple starts off just to be extra careful but playoffs are not in doubt, medium worst case playoffs are possible but fingers crossed, and worst case TJ." Just thought your projection was way too certain and pessimistic. Maybe his arm felt crappy for a week but not as bad as last year (it's a different diagnosis it sounds like) and they're keeping him out an extra couple weeks to be hyper careful. Don't think we really know. Nor do we know if he can be a full season starter. He hasn't been recently. But he has been since TJ surgery.

Fries said...

As long as he gets 2-3 more regular season starts to shake off rust, I don't care how slowly he comes back. I just want him ready for the playoffs. So that gives him another month to get back in my book. But if we don't start hearing something definitive, then the Nats really need to take a look at a waiver trade. Heck I'd say they should do it no matter what the results of the simulated game are. There's nothing wrong with picking up an affordable rental.

Unfortunately Lance Lynn's not going to happen given the Cards position in the standings right now. But there are a few other rentals that could work. Cashner has been having a solid season in Texas, Chacin in SD as well, and Feldman could be an option. Now I'm not sure what kind of package teams would want in return for these guys, but if it's just a middling prospect and some money, I don't see why the Lerners/Rizzo can't make it happen.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: the other thing I am focused on is MVP race. At this point do you think the front runner is: (a) Bryce, (b) Goldshmidt, (c) Bellinger, (d) somebody else, like Rendon, Max, etc. I personally think it might be a 2 person b/t/w Bryce and goldshmidt with Bellinger close behind-- although that's basically because MVP voters over-focus on HRs over other stuff like defense, OBP, WAR, which would rightfully put Bellinger well behind Rendon, and others.

G Cracka X said...

Some of the Stras concern seems tied to the perception that Nats fans don't feel comfortable with anyone else starting a playoff game other than Max. Yet Gio is continuing to put together a very nice season (and barring injury, should hit 180 innings, which will allow the team to keep him next year). At what point does the perception of him change from 'Due for a correction anytime now' to 'He's a nice guy to have in a playoff rotation!'?

Is Gio the most underrated Nat? Consider both his WAR and RA9-WAR during his Nats tenure.

Bjd1207 said...

It would be Seager before Bellinger, and I see it as a 4-way race between him, Bryce, Rendon, and Goldie

Harper said...

Bx - I maintain that since we were within a year of a similar forearm injury that assuming it was going to be very close to the same was the most defensible position. Certainly there is the same spread there always is for an injury but the repetition, to me, tightens the spread (and shifts it more toward "Uh oh" given the repeat). This allows for a little more certainty to the response.

Repetition is the same reason I said basically "Ok well he's never going 200+ again is he". One year may not mean anything, two tightens the range of possibilities a littes, three a little more. Nothing is meant to be a 100% lock. Difo could hit 50 homers. Bryce could fail out of baseball. But to me these things have crossed the line from possible to probable to expected.

All - expect Strasburg to come back when he's ready. Obviously they won't rush him but at this point they can't take it very slow and just introduce him back after Labor Day for the hell of it, because they don't know if this injury is a ticking clock or not. Remember he didn't pitch after it last year. If he's going to break you'd rather he breaks August 20th, when you can still set up a plan, maybe a waiver trade, then Sept 20th when your options are rushed and limited.

Bx - I've said Goldschmidt and I'll stick with that. He has the biggest gap between him and anyone on his team that could be considered. This means no chance of split votes and an idea that he's carrying the team. Also he's really good so stats guys can't write him off.

GCX - When he pitches well in the playoffs. He might be the most underrated during his tenure. He was overshadowed early and people devalue consistency and overestimate what it means to be a #2 or #3 pitcher.

Rob Evans said...

Speaking of injuries and talk. How does Werth bruised foot become a 6-16 week injury? Baghdad Bob was more honest to the public that the Nats when it comes to injury news. Werth broke that foot and they knew it right away. They knew he would miss most of the season and try to hide it.

Anonymous said...

Do MLB players sign a HIPPA waiver so that clubs can share their medical information publicly? Can players opt out so that teams aren't allowed to share their medical information covered by HIPPA?

Harper said...

Rob - Initially (as known to us) there wasn't a break found with X-Rays. Sometime later they found it with an MRI. (and then yes - sat on that)Right there makes is 6-8 weeks as a minimum. (early to mid August return) In what little I could look up for examples that seems optimistic and applies more to small/hairline breaks which I don't think is what Werth has. Guys with more substantial breaks like Matt Davidson, Ben Revere didn't come back in the same year. Travis d'Arnuad (Minor) came back in August after an April injury. So... I don't know.

Anon - Yes. It's part of the CBA that MLB can re-disclosure basically any health information that is not related to the drug testing program.

Harper said...

Oh - I do not think players can opt out.

Anonymous said...

I've been in the same camp as JE34 and Fries from the start. Hold him out of even rehab starts until the end of August at the earliest to ensure he is fresh and rested for the playoffs and minimizes the chance of making the injury worse or incurring another one. AJ Cole is fine when you have a 14 game playoff cushion and a 9 game cushion for HFA.

But Harper you raise a really interesting point above that I hadn't considered. We'd certainly rather know whether he is in or out for the playoffs in a week or two than a month from now.

So here's my question. Is the simulated game designed such so that the team knows whether he's coming back? Perhaps it's enough recovery now to really try him - if he's not doing well today Rizzo hits the waiver wire hard while his peers still don't know the situation, but if he's good to go then I say rest him for 2-3 more weeks anyway before starting rehab.

Quite simply, even if he's fine, minimize his starts from now until the end of the regular season. Fewer starts = fewer chances for re-injury/new injury.

PotomacFan said...

MVP race: Goldschmidt wins, Harper is second.

Gio is quietly having a terrific year. He has now pitched 7 or more innings NINE times. He leads the NL with the most games pitching 100+ pitches (according to the MASN announcers). He will get Cy Young votes and could finish in the top 5. For now, he is #2 in WAR for all MLB pitchers, trailing only Max.

Alex Freeman said...

Chris Sale leads all pitchers with a 7 WAR, Kluber next closest with 4.9 WAR. And the Nats were so close to getting him. Can you imagine a playoff rotation of Sale, Scherzer (4.7 WAR), Strasburg (3.2), and Gonzalez (2.4)?

That being said, I'm glad the same package got Eaton instead. Despite him being out for this season, we now have a very VERY good everyday CF and leadoff hitter through 2021 for cheap. But man, having Sale this year would make the Nats look unbeatable for October...

KO said...

Leadoff* hitter.

If dusty is back, Trea will certainly be the leadoff for Eaton's contact

KW said...

FWIW, NL Leaders:

bWAR: 1. Scherzer 2. Goldy 3. Gio (!) 4. Votto 5. Arenado 6. Rendon 7. Seager 8. Harper

fWAR: 1. Goldy 2. Rendon 3. Harper 4. Seager 5. Scherzer

That's a pretty good Nat representation either way you slice it.

Fries said...


Clearly fWAR factors in peripherals WAY more than bWAR given the fact that Gio is at 3 in bWAR and doesn't even crack the top 30 in fWAR.

I tend to lean a little more towards fWAR, but that doesn't negate Gio's successes this year. Very happy about it

Josh Higham said...

@KW and Fries,

I think it's important to look at both. Gio has been extremely valuable in terms of the results the Nats have seen with him on the mound, but we should probably only expect him to be good, not great, moving forward.

That's what my brain says. My heart says: "Look at both because you need to see which number is higher because the higher number is more reliable. Boy is my team wonderful!"

KW said...

Well, bWAR does include peripherals to a certain extent. How else do you explain Simmons tied with Altuve at #2 overall on their list (behind Max)? Goldy follows those two, then Gio (!) is tied with Judge at #5. Let that one sink in for a minute.

I don't put total stock in either fWAR or bWAR, and both seem to do some screwy things with defensive metrics.

ssln said...

I saw Renaldo Lopez pitch for the Sox last night. He looked poised and had a live four seamer. I always felt he was the prize in the Eaton trade, from a White Sox perspective. Giolito seemed to lack a presence when he pitched for us.Lopez had the it factor in his brief appearance for the Nats.
Although he was slotted as a 4-5 guy in a starting rotation, he looked like a solid number 3 guy to me. My guess is that this trade will not look as good in a couple of years. Eaton my turn out to be a redundancy to Goodwin, Taylor, Robles and Soto or not.
The key to the trade will be how Dunne turns out.
One start doesn't make a career, but Lopez is a keeper. Let's hope Adam comes back next year and leads us to our second consecutive WS appearance.

ssln said...

On an entirely different note, Contreras is out 4-6 weeks which removes the heart and sole of the Cubs. I'm beginning to believe that this will be the year of the rally cat. Baseball players love superstitions so I think the cat will play.
Maybe the Nats can find a cute puppy or a mountain lion to counter the cat. St. louis will be a much tougher adversary than the Cubs.
With the Brewers sinking, I've become a Pittsburgh fan. Go Pirates!

G Cracka X said...

Lopez has lots of talent, but Fangraphs didn't love his start. They gave him a FIP of 6.97 (due to the walks and HRs) and -.1 WAR. I agree with you that Lopez has a lot of promise and very well may blossom into a good to very good starter. Time will tell.

It will take many many years to fully assess the Eaton trade. It doesn't look great for us now since Eaton got hurt, but things can change. I remember how good the Fister trade looked after 1 season, and now it looks murkier due to Ray's breakout (albeit with a different team).

Anonymous said...

HARPER exits hyperextending his left knee.
It looked bad but im positive it's just a strain and he will be back soon.

We are too good this year to lose Bryce.

We are going all the way baby!!!!

G Cracka X said...

I was at the game last night. Didn't start until after 10 due to the rain. Just a sad, sad thing to watch Bryce get hurt like that. He wasn't able to walk on either leg when he left the field. I was in Section 132 so had a decent vantage point. It cast a pall over the rest of the game, which didn't end until about 1:30am. Hope he is ok and able to rest and heal. He was having a good at-bat, lots of exit velocity on fouls before he hit a sharp grounder to first. Almost beat the throw. I didn't see the Easton play but it is what I thought of when it happened.

G Cracka X said...

Eaton, not Easton

Bjd1207 said...

@ssln I think you're getting a bit ahead of yourself. Eaton is a perennial 3-win player based on his track record, and that's what we're HOPING Taylor and Goodwin develop into (with both of them showing promising improvements this year) but Robles is still 20 and Soto just 18(!). And remember Werth is gone after this year, Kendrick's deal expiring, and Bryce a FA in '19. Unless you expect Taylor and Goodwin to perform at their peak and one of Robles/Soto to break in and perform immediately in 2018, Eaton will certainly not be redundant