Nationals Baseball: Excited? Well...

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Excited? Well...

I am the umbrella in a down pour, but I am the sprinkles keeping a day from being perfect.

In baseball,  all it takes is three games to change the feeling in the room. Three wins in a row and the team feels unbeatable. Three losses in a row and it feels like you'll never win again. That's why I back up - grab a bunch of games - set a goal - then see how it plays out.  4 in a row is great. Rendon coming back is great. The Mets and Phillies working on finding their levels is great. But don't forget the big picture. Still in 4th. Still under .500. Still gotta catch and pass three teams.

I noticed yesterday that after this weekend series with the Phillies the Nationals only have one 4 game set with any of the other three relevant NL East teams until schools out in the North East (this would be around the first day of Summer for people not from there). Chances for quick pick-up in standings go way down when you winning doesn't automatically mean the team in front of you losing. So it would be really nice for the Nats to beat the Phillies and get that given game (or three!) from them now and not have to rely on other teams keeping their end of the bargain.

After Summer starts the Nats have plenty of H2H chances through the rest of the season but it'll be weighted - more Phillies, less Braves. (The Braves are that 4 game set above) so ideally the Nats would not be chasing down the Braves but rather the Phillies or the Mets at that point. Right now of course, it isn't looking that way but that four game set is still there so it's not a worry until we're past that.


Notes

Rendon is set to go to Potomac today or tomorrow for a game or two. Of course that's the difference between playing the full Phillies series or missing the whole thing.  If you want me to guess I'd say he misses the whole thing, especially if the Nats win today.

Matt Adams is killing the ball but he only has 7 bats against LHP, so don't expect him to be a regular.  Will he platoon with Zimmerman? That's an interesting question but one that doesn't need to be answered until two of Rendon (soon!) and Eaton and Murphy (not soon!) are back because you can always stick Adams in the OF and hope he doesn't get a bunch of balls hit to him.

Strasburg pitched well enough with 11 K to only 1 BB keeping the Pirates from turning hits into runs. However I'll note again that he couldn't make it through the game without giving up a home runs. That's 8 for the season and continues his 35+ season pace which is more than troubling. Give up a homer+ a game and it will catch up with you unless you do everything else perfectly - no walks, few hits, lots of Ks. Strasburg can do that but I'd rather he just give up fewer home runs. 

Relief bad news - guys pitching at the end of these blowouts haven't exactly done well.  Relief good news - Doolittle, Kintzler, and Madson have all gotten a nice rest.

31 comments:

Jon Quimby said...

Stras had everything go wrong in that first inning last night and managed to hold it all together. No sulking or getting distracted. There was a whole lot of business getting done.

The Nats beat out a lot of double plays. Last night it didn't really matter, but the team speed shows with potency on the basepaths.

Adams is racking. You gotta keep that guy in the lineup until it changes.

Severino is fun to watch. He clearly has a love of the game. He's definitely steady behind the plate and is lightning quick against the steal. He probably won't, but if he ever manages to find a way to hit consistently he's going to become a major fan favorite.

Anonymous said...

Strasburg's homer issues seem like a blip. His K% and BB% are in line with his career norms. His BABIP is a bit low, even compared to last year, which was low for him. His groundball % is down from his career norm, so he's giving up more fly balls. Really, the only outlier in his profile is his HR/FB, which is at 20.5%, nearly double his career rate of 11.5%. Last year, Stras was near the top of MLB in suppressing homers with a 8.7% HR/FB rate. Even though this was part of a trend - his HR rate declined each year in '15, '16, and '17, his 2017 number was probably unsustainably low.

Strasburg may end the year with a high - for him - HR/FB rate, but I predict it will be closer to 10% than 15%. I might feel differently if I could find some other signal in the numbers, but to my eyes, everything other than the HR/FB rate looks normal.

cass said...

The part of last night that helped the Nats chances the most, probably, was the deGrom injury. Never want to win by other players getting hurt, but pitching injuries were going to always be the Mets' biggest vulnerability.

That's also a vulnerability the Nats have, though, but they've had major injury problems on the position player side of things. We're not even talking about Robles who would surely be up by now for awhile if it weren't for his injury.

Chance of winning the division up to 61.5% according to FG.

Steven said...

I couldn't agree more with Quimby re: Severino. He is so energized yet professional and fun to watch. Even though he got the out at second because Pitt had no challenges left early in the game, his quick look at the Pitt player on third was enough to freeze him and then the laser he threw to second was impressive. Now...just start hitting Pedro, doesn't have to be Buster Posey, just hit!

BxJaycobb said...

Haper. Agree on most of this. I’m not terribly sure that pitchers having streaks of being homer prone is at all predictive in small samples. Last year Strasburg literally led the league in avoiding homers. This year he’s giving them up. I doubt there’s like...some injury or mechanics issue since the guy is blowing away people also. Remember when max was giving up a bunch of homers early in that one year and you/some of us were worried he was “broken” (was the term used on this blog as a possibility).....then he won two Cy Youngs. So I guess it’s something you can watch....but like, I honestly think it means nothing. He’s pitching well. Just not incredible (yet). If we want to look at underlying stuff, maybe he’s throwing more fastballs and fewer curves/change ups. (My own opinion is he can’t throw enough change ups. It’s like the most unhittable pitch in baseball).

JE34 said...

I relied on Charlie and Dave yesterday so I couldn't see for myself... they said Strasburg was throwing a lot more sliders early in the game than they were accustomed to seeing from him. Was his slider staying in the strike zone? That's one way to give up more homers.

Anonymous said...

JE34: Stras definitely threw more sliders yesterday, and he threw them early in the game. The homer he gave up was (I believe) on a fastball.

I think the slider is definitely his worst pitch, but it shows flashes of excellence. He threw a few that had sharp downward movement, almost like as if his changeup broke glove side rather than arm side. But he definitely threw a few hangers too. Typically the slider started in the zone and moved out. I haven't looked at the data, but I don't think he got very many called strikes with the pitch.

For stras, I like the slider in fastball counts (3-1, 3-2) to keep guys off balance. But, unless it gets more consistent, I think he should continue to use it sparingly. He had a great curveball yesterday, and I think he can use that in fastball counts against tough hitters too.

Ultimately, I agree with BxJ: he can't throw enough changeups.

Not The Same Steve said...

JE34: Statcast definitely had him throwing his slider more. Here is his pitch breakdown from last night on Baseball Savant: https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/visuals/pitch3d?player_id=544931
(The yellow pitches are sliders - he threw 18 of them)

If you go back through his last few starts, he barely threw any sliders: 0 against Arizona, two against LA, 10 against Colorado, 5 against Atlanta.

And fwiw, he gave up the HR on a fastball last night, and by my count 7 of his 8 HRs allowed have been on fastballs, with 1 HR allowed on a changeup.

Anonymous said...

NTSS - that chart is awesome! Zero changeups finished in the zone. I wonder how many of the 11ks were on changeups?

Anonymous said...

REPORT deGROM TO LIKELY MAKE NEXT START SO STOP FINGER POPPIN HIS INJURY, ASSHOLE FUCKING FANS

Harper said...

JQ - Finally enjoyment in the 2018 baseball season for Nats fans

Anon @ 7:07 - Probably. More flyballs matter but it's that HR/FB rate that matters more and that does suggest a fluke but it's not like an impossible number.

cass - depend on how injured he really is, which we apparently will find out in the next 5-10 days.

Bx - I do remember saying that and still think Max was a little off early but I guess your point holds. It's still just a month, which is where we start analysis. Doesn't really seem to come together until Memorial Day though so like I was saying with the games hold true here. Need to wait it out, don't get suckered into seeing things in numbers that are just slightly out of whack

All - I think Stras is a veteran enough now to judge his pitches game by game. He probably felt good on his slider to start last game and leaned on it.

Anon @ 8:07 - One guy said one thing about it being good for the Nats. If that's finger poppin to you I recommend you don't go on any message boards and never look at Twitter. I think the next 10 days are crucial for deGrom. Can he do his usual thing leading up to the start? Does he pitch normally? Does he fell normal after? Gotta get all those three things positive before I'd stop worrying. Hoepfully he's ok. Gifts are fine, but I'd rather see the Nats earn it.

Bjd1207 said...

@Anon 8:07 - We aint "finga poppin each others assholes" gtfo

@Not The Same Steve/Anyone - Can we get the heatmap of homers he's given up so far, or maybe just fastballs generally? I've got strands of a theory that it has to do with a willingness to throw fastballs up in the zone. Read somewhere recently that pitchers are moving that direction to counter the launch angle revolution, and his drop in HR/FB coincides with Stras ditching the "pitch to contact" mantra at the beginning of last season that had been his goal during his formative years (along with moving to just the stretch). 110% speculation

Karl Kolchak said...

Anon 8:07--I didn't care before, but now I hope deGrom's entire arm goes pinwheeling towards home plate on his first pitch. Go F yourself.

Anonymous said...

Harper, I think the 20.5% HR/FB rate for Strasburg is pretty much impossible. Just four pitchers had that high of a rate last year and they pitched their home games in Coors Field, Yankee Stadium, Minute Maid Park, and Camden Yards, all of which are dinger havens. Two of the guys - Chatwood and Kuechel - are extreme GB guys, so just a few flyballs turning into dingers can skew the numbers. One of the other two - Jimenez - is a terrible pitcher and not really comparable to 2018 Stephen Strasburg. The remaining pitcher is Tanaka, who isn't totally unlike Strasburg. But I bet his number comes way down if he pitches half his games in Nats park instead of The House Where Popups Become Homers.

Harper said...

Anon - I know 20% just barely sneaks in as possible. I was more trying to suggest that a percentage in the high teens wouldn't be crazy. Those happen every year to a number of random guys. I mean if we're being realistic around 15% is about the "high mark" that if Strasburg was having an off year you'd expect him to settle on.

W. Patterson said...

Turned the downstairs TV off in the 8th and watched the top of the 9th upstairs. My only comment to my wife was that I was pleased that the BP didn't give up any runs. I was rather shocked.

As for Adams and Zimmerman at 1B, I say go with Adams. Even if he has no ABs vs LHP, or can't hit them well, having Zimmerman in there to not hit against them - or anyone - would be about the same. So if the opponent brings in a RHP, the Nats could just keep Adams in.

Anonymous said...

Harper, idea for a future post: is Max Scherzer the best big money free agent pitcher signing ever? If not, what needs to happen for that to be true? You should restrict the sample to contracts four years or longer and ~$50 million or more to avoid including guys who were meh but turned out to be great (a la Charlie Morton). My prior is that Mussina and Sabbathia are his only real competitors in the mega deal category. Maddux, of course, belongs in the discussion too but his deal comes from a different era. If he was ten years younger, he would have gotten a ton more money. Randy Johnson, too, seemed to leave a lot of money on the table. Anyway, I'd love a deep dive on this.

Jay said...

Am I the only person that is surprised deGrom is pitching right after leaving with bicep pain and getting a MRI. Reminds me of Syndergaard last year. It seems to me like the Mets have no idea how to handle pitchers. I wondered if things might be different with Callaway there now, but apparently not.

Just my opinion before any anonymous Mets fans get angry.

Bjd1207 said...

@Jay - No I'm thinking the exact same thing. Of course no telling until he gets out there, but I can't believe the Mets would err on the side of overconfidence in this situation....again

Ole PBN said...

Shmell ya, Pirates. Anyone know why Hellickson has such a short leash?

4/16 4.2 IP / 2 ER / 88 pitches
4/22 5.1 IP / 3 ER / 93 pitches
4/28 5.1 IP / 2 ER / 57 pitches
5/3 5.2 IP / 0 ER / 61 pitches

Didn't watch the game today, so assuming he wasn't taken out due to injury - what's the deal?

Harper said...

Anon @ 12:44 - Randy is the leader in the clubhouse because his first contract with the D-backs was for 4 years (5th year option) and he went on to win 4 Cy Youngs in those 4 years basically putting up the same seasons that Max is now except in a MUCH better hitting environment when everyone wasn't striking out as much. Oh and he pitched like 15-20% more innings too.

Max isn't that far from that but he'll at least have to finish up this year closer to Cy Young and give the Nats a 5th season (next year) that's no worse than very good. But right now no reason to bet against him

Ole PBN - Fancy stats. They say Hellickson gets rocked 3rd time around line-up so he has a very very short third time around leash.

cass said...

It's funny cause I specifically said you don't want to win that way.

The Internet, I guess. Uh, wow.

cass said...

Nats up to 65.8% of winning the division after today's games too. What a difference a nice little winning streak makes.

Harper said...

cass - and a stumble from Mets & Phillies

BxJaycobb said...

If you believe run differential reflects the play of a team (not the talent if there are injuries, but the performance) better than W-L record this early, then the Braves are going to be tough all year. Phillies and Mets closer to .500 teams (again, according to run differential). You can be a mediocre team and go on a winning streak and have a great month. You rarely see a mediocre team blow teams away for a month (and most of it without Soroka and Acuna). Braves will have to be reckoned with.

BxJaycobb said...

He’s abysmal third time through the order. Turns every hitter into Mike Trout/Bryce...like a 1.100 OPS vs third time.

Bjd1207 said...

@Bx - Run differential is even more unreliable to me early in the season than even record. I mean, Atlanta has swung 18 points in 2 games

Bjd1207 said...

Also Soto is destroying High-A as badly as he did Low-A. 3/5 with 2 homers today hitting behind Rendon. This kid can seriously hit

Doohan said...

Whether you look at Base Runs or BPro's third-order win percentage, all indicators point in the same direction: the Braves have performed as an elite team, easily top 5 in baseball. How much of that you expect them to sustain over the next five months is a separate question, but there is no denying that they haven't relied on sequencing luck or overperformance in 1-run games to get to where they are right now.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Doohan 100%. The Mets' early season record was smoke and mirrors - the quality of their record far outstripped the quality of their play (the reverse was true for the Nats, who had a lot of bad sequencing both on offense and on defense). But the Braves right now have the record they deserve, no matter what approach you follow (run differential, baseruns, etc.). Whether their current record/performance is a good predictor of their future record/performance is an entirely different question. We have pretty good reason to believe Freddie Freeman is going to keep hitting like this. We have pretty good reason to believe Suzuki and Markakis are not going to keep hitting like this. Albies and Acuna are far tougher to predict. And Swanson may be the toughest to predict of all.

Mark said...

Braves have been good. How good they stay through the year will depend on their young guys adjusting and not hitting a wall, and how their pitching holds up... and of course the risk every team faces which is good health. I would lean more on the side of them running out of gas over the course of this season, but I would bet that they will be very good the next few years.