Nationals Baseball: Around the league

Friday, April 20, 2018

Around the league

With our first break in a good long while, why not take a step back and take a look at what's happening in the National League that's not DC or the Mets. Remember as we roll through that the same thing I said about Zimm - wait until the end of the month - applies to everything here too. 

Rest of the NL East

Braves - The Braves have the best offense in the NL right now. Seven of Eight starters are not just hitting but are hitting it well.  Some of this can be ignored. Ryan Flaherty isn't going to hit .352 the rest of the year. Kurt Suzuki is not a dark horse MVP candidate. But before I said if Ozzie Albies or Dansby Swanson were leading the charge that there may be cause for worry. Well... those guys are hitting now. Hitting it real hard.  The pitching has been good, but the starting pitching may keep the team from being a real threat. Teheran hasn't been good and Anibal Sanchez just hurt himself. The other guys are ok but depth is going to be tested.

Phillies - After a slow start the Phillies got hot and are challenging like we thought they might. Their offense has been led by a "player of the month" type of performance from Rhys Hoskins, but a lot of other bats are worryingly silent. Franco does look below average. Crawford might not be good. Alfaro might be awful. It might take Santana a while to adjust. Kingery might help but the problem is Cesar Hernandez is one of the few bats hitting, so they have to find spots for Scott. Pitching wise it could hardly be better. Arrieta looks good. Nola looks good. And Papelbon tradee Nick Pivetta looks good. Ben Lively hasn't gotten results but his peripherals are pretty decent. Velazquez is a good arm to be talking about 5th. If the pen doesn't fail them this looks to be a good enough staff to challenge for a playoff spot

Marlins - Do we need to talk about them? They're garbage.  Really all you care about is how well the trade bait is doing (Bour is doing fine, Castro is struggling to care, Realmuto just got back) and how well the young players are doing (Brinson is struggling mightily, the rotation is a hideous mix of guys slated to be "never-was"es). Nothing to see here.

NL Central - You'll find that the NL is strangely deep in competitive teams this year, which may not bode well for a Nats team that could be bumped down into the Wild Card hunt. The Pirates are on top but shouldn't hold up. The offense could be fine. But anyone you don't know in the pitching staff (which would be most) is bad.  The Cards sit a game behind and you could see them fly in any direction. They are being carried by things that may not last - surprise older bats and the usual good but injury prone starters - but there's other talent underperforming right now. The Brewers look like a team good enough to win with Yelich, but not so much without him. The surprisingly good 2017 pitching staff is probably just average and it's showing. The Cubs are, like the Nats, floating around in 4th. Like the Pirates in reverse they should come up. The hitting is better than the runs they are getting and that's with an injured Rizzo. All 3 starters who weren't on Cubs to start 2017 look awful but they won't strike out on all three. The Reds are a Raisel Iglesias delivery squad for some better team.

NL West - the D-backs lead but you can see cracks in the armor. The offense is being carried by a few hot bats and there isn't really a lot of talent hiding behind that. It's a pitching led team and the pitching looks good but Walker just went down for the year. We'll see if they can replace that.  We saw the Rockies and they are ok. They've got enough live bats on offense to do damage, but are carrying a couple early aged ones that'll keep them from mashing.  They spent a lot of money on the pen and right now that's working but there's not a lot of starter talent. The Dodgers join fellow favorites Cubs and Nats in early season floundering, but for them it really comes down to one thing - Kenley Jansen is terrible right now. I'd expect them to move back up pretty quickly unless this lingers and they accept it lingering. The Giants are trying to hang on until June when Bumgarner comes back and hope the pitching can carry them to the playoffs as it's done in the past. They might be able to do it if the outfield stops being so bad. Like so bad. Like McCutchen is bad and he's the best one out there. The Padres flirted with relevance for a second but there isn't enough here to keep it up. Maybe next year.

Other notes
  • Pirates trade for Corey Dickerson looks like a steal and Colin Moran looks like he could be a long time major leaguer. Pirates are an interesting team because most of the good talent (Polanco, Marte, Vazquez) are locked up through 2021. There's a chance here for a quick reboot.
  • Ozuna is not doing what the Cards expected, while Bud Norris has turned into a top flight closer. 
  • Matt Albers is doing fine in Milwaukee and the Nats totally should have brought him back. 
  • Addison Russell looks like he might never be the player the Cubs wanted him to be. He was a Top 10 prospect for a couple years. Let this be a lesson to you. And while I expect a Cubs starter to bounce back Quintana, Darvish and Chatwood have all been legit awful. 
  • It's hard to believe in the Diamondbacks when their back-up plan for Jake Lamb going down was Daniel Descalso.  This team has no depth
  • If the Dodgers have a problem it's the 3rd OF spot. You could have walked into this year thinking Chris Taylor was good, Austin Barnes was good, Joc Pederson is still young and thought it could work out but them each being below average was more likely. And they are. Reminds me of my Nats OF take that half of you refused to listen to. But Matt Kemp! Look at that guy go! 
  • If you hated Hunter Pence I have some good news for you. 
  • Austin Hedges strikes me as a guy who will have one good year somewhere down the road but I don't know where. Prospects, huh?


Josh Higham said...

I know this isn't supposed to be about the Mets, but:

"ATLANTA -- New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway wouldn't commit to giving Matt Harvey his next scheduled start after Harvey struggled in a 12-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night.

Harvey (0-2) gave up six runs in six innings, including a two-run homer to Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki in the first inning. Harvey's ERA now sits at 6.00."

Harvey is cooked, as many of us have said. I don't mind at all if the SP churn starts immediately.

Chaos56 said...

...........and Adam Lind is now a Yankee? Harper, you responsible for that signing?

Chas R said...

Harper, Nats may be a WC team? Are you already backing out of your prediction of another Nats NL East title?

BxJaycobb said...

I know this sounded like a weird thing to take away from our first series vs the Mets when we got swept.....but long biggest take away is that Harvey is the guy from last year. His stuff is terrible. He’s a launching pad. The guy is a 4+ ERA guy now. So forget the whole “3 aces thing” with the Mets. They have 2 aces. And they are legit aces that are as good (maybe) as max and Stras. But their 3-5 starters are not remotely special. Even with health. they are a much more top heavy pitching staff than people generally think of them. In fact, they remind me of the Nats (although I would take Gio and Roark over Harvey and Matz every time.....the problem as we have said is the number 5 starter).

Anonymous said...

I'd buy that Syndergaard and de Grom aces and are as good as Stras, but Max isn't in that conversation. Our 1 & 2 is better. It's Max and Kershaw, and then everyone else.

Ole PBN said...

I think the love affair Mets have with their rotation is that its virtually entirely homegrown. Traded for Syndergaard and Wheeler before their debuts, drafted and developed deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Lugo (who should be in the rotation over Wheeler and Harvey IMO). Pretty special to have all up at the same time with the young talent and depth, so the excitement is understandable. But like most fans, we all love to over-hype "our guys." (Nats fans included). Syndergaard is electrifying, but deGrom is the true pitcher of this bunch, impressive to see him work. Not sure what Thor is without his heater and I need to see more from him other than his two full seasons. Harvey/Matz is mehh, Wheeler should be in the pen, but regardless, I'm impressed with the depth they have, whereas we have zero.

Sorry - enough about the Mets. I still don't think the Nats are WC contender. Too many injuries at the moment to mail it in yet. Now if those players don't recover from said injuries... well, we'll know about that in July/August.

Ole PBN said...

Also, still can't believe the Jays traded away Syndergaard for a 38 y/o knuckleballer back in 2012. Bold strategy, Cotton.

Harper said...

JH - they have the depth to churn through but the faster the better

AW - He's AGAIN a Yankee. They had him earlier in the Spring but didn't have a place for him when everyone hit and no one got hurt (that quickly changed)

Chas R - No, but I'm already buying into the Mets winning a few more games than predicted so it won't take as much luck/injury stuff to drop the Nats below them. All predictions are basically caveated with "in perfect health" which is never going to actually happen

Bx- I'd say the Nats have two 3s and no 5. The Mets have like 4 4-5s

Anon @ 8:47 - Sydergaard healthy could compete with Max/Kershaw (but we won't know bc Mets won't push him this year)

Ole PBN - Guys usually don't pan out. I say trade all your pitchers !

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if you're going to list the top six starters on the Nats and Mets, four of them are definitely Nats. I think there can be a lot of debate about how to rank the top 4 - Syndergaard may be better than Max on a per-batter basis but Max is a MUCH better bet to throw a lot more innings; the same is true of Stras v. deGrom - Stras does better on a per-batter basis but deGrom is more likely to throw more innings, though the delta between Stras and deGrom on this point is not nearly as large as the one between Max and Syndergaard. If you like Max better than Syndergaard, you probably like deGrom better than Stras, and if you like Syndergaard better than Max, you probably like Stras better than deGrom (or at least you should if you're trying to be consistent). Regardless, these four are clearly in the top echelon of NL starters, and the differences are minor even if they are real.

Gio and Roark are simply far superior to any other two starters the Mets have. And yes, the Mets have a lot of bodies who have started MLB games. Those bodies happen to be either totally unreliable or not very good at pitching multiple innings. Harvey is toast. He is no longer a starting pitcher in MLB, and I'm skeptical he'd be successful in the bullpen. The leading indicator on pitchers is K% and swinging strike rate, and Harvey's numbers were near the very bottom of the league last year, continuing a years long trend. These numbers remain very bad this year. He's bad and he's not getting better. Bold prediction: he's not guaranteed a major league roster spot coming in to 2019.

On a per-batter basis, you can make a case that Matz is comparable to Gio and Roark. His problem is health. This is his 7th season in pro-ball and he's never thrown more than ~130 innings. He was terrible last year compared to the prior years, and that's probably because he was hurt (he threw only 66 innings). He's been a bit better this year (though he's had homer problems) and there are reasons to think he'll improve (the argument is that last year and so far this year aren't reflective of his true ability because, unlike Harvey, they are not part of a years long trend). The problem, of course, is that there's no reason whatsoever to think he'll throw more than 130 innings if he's able even to throw that many. He's limited. A team like Houston would use him the way they use McCullers and Peacock, though, to be fair, McCullers has performed much better than Matz ever has). Lugo and Gsellman were 2016 mirages. These guys had middling minor league careers, pitched well in limited action at the end of 2016, and have turned into who we thought they were: AAAA-quality rotation pieces. They might be ok in the bullpen, but starters they are not. Wheeler, I'm afraid, is not the same guy he was pre-TJS. Another AAAA-starter who might be ok in the bullpen.

If I ran the Mets (without really considering roster number restrictions), I'd cut Harvey, treat Syndergaard and deGrom like ordinary starting pitchers (hoping to get 6-7 innings each start), and piggyback some combination of the remaining arms. I'd be tempted to treat Matz like a real starter until he inevitably gets hurt. Then I'd try to use Wheeler/Gsellmen/Lugo to cover the other two starts. But when Matz does inevitably get hurt, they're in a big pickle.

Anyway, the Nats go 4 starters deep. The Mets, at best, go 2.5 starters deep. I don't necessarily think the probability that Fedde is a 160 IP 3.50 ERA starter in MLB is very high, but it's much higher than the probability of the same for the Mets non-Syndergaard non-deGrom starters. So the Nats, do, in fact, have a lot more depth.

Josh Higham said...

The Nats "depth" is certainly different from the Mets. I think I prefer having 4 pitchers who are mostly reliable and very good (relative to their rotation positions) to having a ton of 4-5 type guys like the Mets do. But I'd sure like to have a great rotation and great depth.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Strasburg and Harvey...

If only the Nats hadn't shutdown Strasburg in 2012, peace would break out all over the world and global warming would be solved...

I still read what if's and complaints about the shutdown all the time. Yet, Rizzo's actions have been proven to be correct.

Stras is a thriving ace on the Nats staff. He pitched in the 2014 post season. He pitched in the 2017 post season.

Meanwhile, Harvey wasn't shutdown when the Mets went on the post season run... and now he's cooked. Heck the entire Mets staff was awful the season after their playoff run. Atlanta handled Medlin differently - he was in a similar situation - and now he's cooked.

TwoGloves said...

The other difference with your Strasburg/Harvey comparison is that the Mets actually made the World Series that year. The Nationals, a far superior team, have yet to get that far. Basically wasted all that talent.

Anonymous said...

The winner gets the trophy, the record books, and all the spoils. The loser gets squat.

Losing the championship isn't all that much better than losing the opening round. It may be worse. All the Mets got with those additional playoff rounds was more damage to their pitching staff's arm, particularly Harvey.

Chas R said...

Nobody remembers the World Series Loser

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it’s definitely much better to have never won a playoff series before than to lose in the World Series

Anonymous said...

Good post.

Anonymous said...

I'll take Nats post season history over the Mets post season history from 2012 to the present.

I'll take Strasburg over Harvey... including history from 2012 to the present and present to the indefinite future.

Froggy said...

AJ Cole DFA'd

PotomacFan said...

Lucas Giolito is not doing well. 20 IP, 9 K, 19 BB, 1.85 WHIP, 0 - 3, 9.00 ERA.

Reynaldo Lopez is doing much better. 19 IP, 21K, 1.00 WHIP, 1.42 ERA.

JE34 said...

I think Giolito has a similar issue to the pie throwing AJ Cole - he does not hide the ball well at all (IIRC - it's been a while since I've seen him pitch). His stuff is MUCH better than Cole's of course, but it wouldn't surprise me that hitters IDing his curveball early in his delivery is hindering his progress.

Mark said...

2012 - 2017, Mets had 4 losing seasons, 2 winning seasons, 1 division championship, a Wild Card Loss and a World Series Loss, and several broken former all star pitchers.

2012 - 2017, Nationals were all winning seasons, 4 division championships, 4 NLDS losses and their top pitchers still healthy.