Nationals Baseball: Bad Dusty! Bad Max! Bad Nats!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bad Dusty! Bad Max! Bad Nats!

We noted a few weeks ago the Nats should be living by one simple rule "Better to be safe, then sorry" With last off-season diminshed with late-season injuries to Strasburg and Ramos, it should be apparent to everyone that goal #1 is getting to the post-season as healthy as possible. You can't fully avoid injuries of course. Players gotta play. But you rest a little more often, throw out some other arms and bats now open to you with expanded rosters, and you limit the stressful pitches your pitchers throw.

That is unless they ask for stressful pitches apparently.

According to the reports, Max went into last night looking to throw 110-120 pitches. The reasoning was two-fold. (1) Max assumes he will pitch deep into playoff games, pushing his limit. By throwing more times at that limit during the regular season he thinks it will help him be more effective in the playoffs. Kind of like marathon training I guess (2) It is not unusual to find Max going over 110 pitches in a season. However, because of some recent injury issues he's only done it once since the All-Star break. Plus specifically he's only gone 100-74-104 in his last three starts. He is building less stamina, not more.

OK well first - does Max actually have an issue pitching deep in playoff games? Apparently he does. However that doesn't factor in context. Such as how do most starters fare in that situation? Is that a product of one or two bad starts or is it more? Shouldn't it really be pitches?

The first one is hard for me to answer. Splits by inning for starters in the post-season isn't readily available. Instead I took the 8 guys who have gone over 100 pitches the most in the post season since 2010. Then I realized I'd still have to look at like 50+ individual games. So scratch that for now. Needless to say I hope you understand that ALL pitchers get less effective as the game goes on. That's not a Scherzer problem, it's a human body problem.You look at league numbers, the OPS for batters goes up the more times they face you in a game or the more pitches they throw.

But Max's numbers weren't just a little bad after 6 - they were very bad, probably worse than the usual split. Was this one or two bad games? Where these all breakdowns at high pitch counts though? The author mentions the Joc Pederson home run (solo shot - only run given up in game by Max). I looked up all the other 5IP+ outings where he gave up runs to see if one or two starts were skewing things. Looking at these 11 games the answer is not particularly no. He gave up late (6th or later) runs in a bunch of different games and never had like a 5 run 0.2IP inning thing going on.

Of course we have to stop here and understand something about aces in the post-season. They are generally going to go as long as they are effective. That means you pitch them until they start giving up runs. There numbers are going to look worse late in the game unless they can make it the whole way without being touched.

Ok but back to the question at hand. So Max may have worse splits for realsies but we're talking innings here. How many of these games did the issue come around 100 pitches, the hurdle Max is training to clear?  Well Max has only gone over 100p 4 times in his postseason career. In his very first game he did it and gave up no runs. What were the other 3?

2013 ALDS g1: Max goes 7 giving up 2 runs on a homer in the 7th on pitch 105
2013 ALCS g2 : Max goes 7 giving up 1 run on a double in the 6th on pitch 90
2013 ALCS g6 : Max goes 6 1/3 giving up 3 runs, 2 score on a HR given up by Jose Veras after Max goes 2B, K, BB and leaves game after pitch 110.

 But wait - I thought I said there were 11 games where he went into the 6th and in most they scored? What I'm saying here is that on maybe two of them he was stretched out and given up runs at the end of his physical limit. So that means...

Yep, Max's issues aren't with not being able to go 110-120 pitches in the post-season. Max's issues often come well before that - when his pitch count reaches the 80s or so.

Does that mean ptiching through tiredness in pitches 110-120 won't help him in some way? Maybe make the arm stronger in some way so the earlier pitchers are easier? Perhaps. But it seems to me that the focus is off here. Max doesn't need to focus on going deep into post-season games, going over 110 pitches. If anything, he needs to first focus on pitching well through 100 pitches in his post-season game.

And I say "if anything" because really Max did just fine last year. His first outing wasn't ace like but it kept the Nats in the game, and his second outing was ace like. No not as deep as you want but part of that is aggressive pen usage as much as anything.

This is a very long-winded way of saying - I don't think the Nats should have let Max pitch as deep as he did last night.  If he wanted to get back to 110+ pitches, last night was a good night to take him close to 110 then. A handful more than last game, the most he's pitched in a while, but not a ton more.Next outing he can go around 115 and then 120 if you like. Sure, these guys know their bodies better than we do, but they are not as objective. Max has a goal and wants to reach it. Dusty wants to put his faith in his veteran. These aren't terrible things, but there needs to be someone else out there. Someone objective that can say "I know what the plan is, but looking at it in the moment, now's not the time to do that".  If they can't find that person, they are going to keep pushing their luck and risk another post-season where the story is in part about the guys that are not there.


Anonymous said...

I agree 100%. I was at the game last night and from pitch 1, Max never looked like he had his A stuff. He looked like he was laboring basically the entire first 6 innings and survived giving up only 2 runs but on 97 pitches. Dusty needs to step in and say, this isn't the game to be stretched out, we're scraping the plan because your spent. There is a very fine line between building endurance and creating exhaustion and the manager and pitching coach need to make the call when to let a guy go and when to back him off.

billyhacker said...

There is zero reason for starting pitchers to go deep in the playoffs. Neither Scherzer nor anyone else on the staff should plan to go above 100 pitches in playoffs - that's the whole point of the relief pitcher revolution!

Jay said...

I don't disagree. However, how many times this year have heard it said that Max is the most upfront about his arm. When he hurt his neck, he pulled himself out. After the game last night Max was very encouraged that he was able to throw that many pitches (according the interviews I read). At the risk of sounding Dusty like, I trust Max. If he feels he needs to throw 110's then I'm ok with it. There are several keys to the Nats advancing - their hitting, but also Max and Stras are a big part of that too. Max said he felt great. That same article also noted that Max has thrown a lot fewer innings this year because of the various minor ailments.

Anonymous said...

Great points. Best analysis I've seen that incorporates the Nats' "reasoning" but uses some data to determine whether the reasoning makes any actual sense, which it does not. Max probably has more high leverage pitches in a post-season start that come early on in the start, so throwing 110-plus pitches is probably unrealistic. Plus, with Kintzler-Madsen-Doolittle on the scene, Max may not be the Nats' most effective option in the 7th inning.

PotomacFan said...

So, Dusty let Max have his way. And on those occasions where Max has his A game, and is stalking the mound, it sometimes works out. And sometimes it doesn't. But Max didn't have his A game last night, and Dusty is the boss -- not Max -- so Dusty needs to do the right thing and pull Max from the game. Seriously, Max couldn't find the plate in the 7th inning, and he was gassed. When Max starts walking folks, you know something is wrong. Max is kidding himself if he thinks that he needed to stay in during the 7th inning.

I don't buy that pitchers can stretch themselves out in September to pitch 110+ pitches in October. The risk of injury is just too great. And the risk of fatigue.

So, I agree with BillyHacker. Max should focus on making the 100 best pitches of his life. After that, it's time for the bullpen -- now that the Nats have a reliable (although not great) bullpen.

BxJaycobb said...

Here's the reality. It's okay to build endurance and pitch count a bit by pitching up to the point of "hitting the wall." Fine. But this was max hitting the wall. Then hitting it again, then lying at the base of the wall bleeding, then lobbing balls way out of the zone for like 4 batters. It was so dumb. You're not gaining anything once the guy is utterly and completely so done that he can't throw strikes.

G Cracka X said...

Who is faster, Turner or Robles?

PhthePhillies said...

If you believe Statcast, it's Robles by a hundredth.
The two of them on the basepaths! AYFKM!!!

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