Nationals Baseball: Woo! and ugh.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Woo! and ugh.

Onto a real series for the first time since 2012. This is lack of real series is something the Nats haven't dealt with in back to back years since 2010-2011. That's a nice run there.

If you didn't like last night's game (because of the way it was played, not because of the outcome) I have some bad news for you. This is the way the game is heading.

We've reached universal understanding in the past couple decades that
1) While a walk isn't as good as a hit it is WAAAAAAAY better than getting an out
2) Strikeouts aren't that much more detrimental than any other out

We've always known "Home runs are good" and that fits nicely with the first two to form a hitting philosophy. If it looks good, swing as hard as you can and try for the homer. If not, take it. It's not a new philosophy but with smaller parks, pitchers throwing harder, and a tighter strikezone you have some more elements that all favor homeruns.What we saw this year, with the almost certainly juiced ball, was a concession to this philosophy. Essentially the league is leaning into it after seeing this philosophy lengthen games but not help scoring in the early half of this decade.

At the same time we've also come to fully understand that
3) Pitcher performance really suffers each time through the line-up.

Like 1 & 2 it's not something new, but rather an idea that is now creating a strategy. First it was the closer, then the set-up man, taking away the late innings from a tired starter. Soon it'll be a legion of relievers taking over after the 2nd time through a lineup. It won't be as bad as you saw last night. The regular season doesn't lend itself to the idea of 5-6 pitchers a game as nicely as a one-off Wild Card. This is the perfect storm really.

It's not that the game is broken, unless you think it's always been so and we just haven't noticed. It's that the rules are being exploited in new ways to squeak out a couple more wins a year.

It's not that the game is all that different. Do you think the mind notices the difference between a 2:50 game and a 3:00 game? That there were 18 balls in play instead of 21? But the idea that it is so much worse has taken hold so much so that each long game with a host of pitching changes becomes another piece of evidence rather than a game you wouldn't have really given a second thought to 20 years ago. Baseball is going to be forced to do something.

There isn't an easy solution. Limiting the time between pitches. limiting visits to the mound, shortening commercial breaks. These are fiddling at the edges. Dealing with the symptom but not the cause. You have to somehow make the things you don't like less advantageous and this isn't doing that.

What could work? Limiting defensive shifting and expanding parks could make GBs more advantageous and the HR mentality a little less so. Making a reliever face 2 batters, might give a manager more pause on how he uses his pen.

Maybe more drastic changes are needed though. But understand that each change will only bring a new set of rules that will be looked at to see if it can be exploited. You can make a change in good faith only to see it blow up in your face. A change to cut down on strike-outs by making the results of them more punitive (say next time up you start 0-1) may lead to a vast increase in strikeout pitchers attempting to take advantage of that. A change to cut down on strike-outs by making it harder for the pitchers to get them (lowering mound) may have no effect as more guys swing from the heels against an easier to hit pitcher. You don't know until you try it.

Luckily for the major leagues you have a laboratory you can use to experiment with these things. It's called the minor leagues. It'll effect development slightly but it's better than the alternative, which is introducing changes to the majors that can screw your most important product up for years.

21 comments:

JE34 said...

Maybe I need more coffee... but Harper, I read your first paragraph 3x and I'm not sure what you mean by "real series." Haven't dealt with a lack of real series... wha?

The pitching changes didn't seem over the top, especially given the elimination situation. It wasn't horribly Dave Roberts-ian.

Jay said...

I'm curious to see over the next few years if Dave Roberts starts blowing out relievers arms. Jensen may only have so many 3 inning saves in him before he could start to break down. The LA bullpen this year other than Jensen isn't nearly as effective as last year.

Also, I mentioned in the other post - does Strasburg start game 4 on 3 days rest? Scherzer has already said if he pitches game 2, he can pitch game 5 on regular rest. I am doubtful Stras will go on short rest, but he may want to since he seems pretty fired up by the playoffs his last few starts. A couple of things about that. 1. Scherzer going in game 2 is great if the Nats win game 1 or not. If they win, then Max is going for the 2-0 lead. If they lose, Max is trying to tie it back up. I really like that set up. 2. A rotation of Stras, Max, Gio, Stras, and Max is pretty nasty. 3. There is a rumor going around - Jon Heyman posted it on twitter - that Max is shooting for game 3. That means Gio for game 2. I have the exact opposite reaction to that set up. We'll see. Everything the Post reporters have been saying is Max in game 2. He throws a bullpen today, so we'll see.

Also, I don't disagree with Harper's post. I would only allow so many catcher visits to the mound. All of the pitching changes have made playoff baseball much slower. Also keep in mind that the Twins are not a great team. Tonights game should be more entertaining. The rest of the playoffs should be more entertaining as well. The game last night just felt like the Twins had no real chance after the bottom of the first. Plus, any team that starts Ervin Santana in their do or die playoff game doesn't have much hope.

JE34 said...

@jay: amen on limiting mound visits. I also hope Gio gets his first game on the road. He's been better away from Nats Park than in it.

Ole PBN said...

I wouldn't start Max in Game 1. Given his health, I'd rather put him in a glass-half-full situation and start him Game 2. Same as Jay said above. Worst scenario would be losing game 1 and having already used our ace. Why I was against it last year vs. Kershaw. If we can avoid Tanner/? getting a start, I'm fine with that. This is our World Series. Survive and advance.

Also, JE34, if we're looking at splits... and I'm not sure what splits you're looking at... Gio is better on the road (albeit by a little). Max is considerable better on the road. Strasburg is the same either home or away.

Ole PBN said...

^^ sorry, meant Gio is better at HOME

(facepalm) -_-

BxJaycobb said...

Harper:
Just a quick annoying note,: it's been proven/established that higher velocity pitches does not affect the velocity of the ball coming off the bat, at least in the amount changes we're talking about (difference between a pitch going 90 mph and 100 mph really doesn't make a homer go further....this is a common misconception that I hear repeated everywhere and is now a pet peeve). Of course your comment DOES make perfect sense if you meant that pitches throw harder, thus its harder to make contact anyway, thus you might as well swing as hard as you can.

BxJaycobb said...

Supposedly they may start max in game 3. If you're not throwing either max or Stras on short rest I guess its not a big deal.

Jay said...

Heyman is saying game 3 for Max. All of the Post reporters have been saying game 2. His bullpen today should let us know. Max says if it was a playoff game he would have kept pitching. Hard for me to think he waits till game 3 if that is the case. He said if he pitches game 2 then he can still pitch game 5 on regular rest.

The only things about Stras in game 4 are that he is such a creature of habit and of course his injury history. I'm hoping - Stras, Max, Gio, Stras, Max. Schilling and Johnson pretty much single handedly carried the D'backs to the WS win years ago. They started 11 of 17 games and went 9-1 with 1 memorable save.

Harper said...

JE34 - Yankees have been in playoffs since 2012 but just the WC game, and lost so didn't make a series.

BxJaycobb - I'm not sure if scientifically what you say makes sense. A ball pitched at speed X hitting a bat going at Speed Y not going any further than a ball pitched at speed X+Z hitting a bat going at Speed Y in the same spot? I'd like to see those numbers

However I can totally see a "we don't see any appreciable distance changes in HR based on velocity because the very minimal increase we may see is overwhelmed by other factors (where hit on bat, how fast swing, park effects)

All - G2 for Max makes most sense if you want options open for G5. G5 is normal rest from G2 so either the G1 or the G2 guy can go in that game (or both). In my mind G3 should only be the call if his injury necessitates it. You want to throw your best pitchers as often as possible.

PotomacFan said...

How about this rotation: Strasburg wins Game 1, Gio wins Game 2, and Scherzer wins Game 3. Then Roark doesn't have to pitch, no one has to pitch on short rest, and the rotation is lined up for the NLCS.

One can always hope.

Anonymous said...

Gio did not throw bullpen today either so likely whoever throws one tomorrow (Max or Gio) will start on saturday for game two

Anonymous said...

Just saw that the Cubs announced their rotation for the NLDS: Hendricks, Lester, Quintana, Arrieta...

Harper said...

Anon - yep we can do a proper DS preview tomorrow

JE34 said...

Heh - no wonder I was confused. I do my best to avoid thinking about the Yankees. Must say though... that's some offense they got there.

Harper said...

JE34 - It's a solid team. If the Dbacks win tonight you really have 4 CSs that can go any way. Good teams all around

Fries said...

Crap...how did i forget the Cubs picked up Quintana...ugh

This is going to be a very low scoring series. Bullpen's are going to win it and, if that's the case, I like the Nats. Cubs have Davis, but after him it's just Strop that I'm worried about. Justin Wilson has been terrible since coming to the Cubs, Carl Edwards Jr has been hit hard by the Nats this year and last year, and Montgomery is decent but was hit hard in his only appearance against the Nats.

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BxJaycobb said...

Harper. Here you go. It was surprising to me as well. Exit velocity has basically no correlation whatsoever to pitch velocity. It seems wrong, but if you think about it...if it was true, why would home run derby blasts off 65-70 mph ever be impressive?
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/72624244/

BxJaycobb said...

Harper (count.) But yes. The whole "let the pitcher supply the power" is BASICALLY bunk. Like all things being equal, same bat speed swinging off tee vs off a 90 mph pitch I'm sure it is indeed hit harder. But the relationship is so negligible that it's basically nonsense when commentators repeat it ad nauseum. There's no data backing up the idea that squaring up 88 will lead to harder contact than 98. Like. It just isn't true apparently. And I've been hearing it my whole life!!

BxJaycobb said...

Agreed. And actually if it were up to me and nobody had an injury, I would go (1) Stras/Max, (2) Stras/Max, (3) Gio, (4) Stras/Max short rest, (5) Stras/Max regular rest

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