Nationals Baseball: Hard Shell - Soft Underbelly

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Hard Shell - Soft Underbelly

The Nats took out San Diego, as they should, in game 1 with Strasburg on the mound. Matt Adams, continues to be the Adam Lind replacement we expected him to be but were kind of sad to see because we liked Adam Lind. If you doubt that remember that Lind hit .303 / .362 / .513 over 115 games last year.It's to the point, with Adams hitting like he is and Zimm out that you wonder if they'll officially platoon the two (if not more). They should, but I doubt they will.

If you are looking for a downside there is one. The relief pitching continues to be shaky. They've allowed a run in half the games they've pitched in this winning streak and honestly it should be more.  The only pitcher who is both keeping teams off the board and off the basepaths in recent weeks is Doolittle.

This was kind of a known issue and will continue to be one, but what you are seeing right now is essentially the Nats plan for the season. Have the Nats offense and Top 4 starting pitching carry the team and use the first three months of the year to try to find other reliable arms to complement / replace if necessary Kintzler, Madson, Doolittle and find a 5th starter.  Is it Hellickson? Quite possible.  Is it Suero and Solis? In some fashion going forward, yes.

You can see how the plan falls apart when the Nats aren't hitting, but you also see how the plan works when things are basically going as planned. It can even absorb an injury (Eaton) or two. Like we said over and over - it's not a bad plan as long as not NL East team becomes really good.  In a related side note : Mets and Phillies won last night. 

 Just do your job Nats. Finish out this series. Keep winning the games you should.










55 comments:

Jon Quimby said...

This is a case of player versus team. Platoon Zim for the sake of the team.

Kubla said...

Start Adams until Murphy gets back. Either platoon Adams/Kendrick at 1b or have Murphy play 1b and Kendrick 2b. Put Zimmerman on the International Space Station to keep him as far away from a baseball game as possible until the season is over.

Mark said...

I get it that Zimm is streaky and needs at bats to get hot... I get that some of the peripheral metrics have been fine (exit velocity, launch angle, etc) and he has had some bad ball in play luck. Hopefully Davey manages this intelligently during the season and if Zimm is hurt he owns up and rehabs. What is most important, assuming the Nationals make the playoffs, is that if Zimm is cold in the playoffs and Matt is still raking, that Zimm sits. They cant make the mistake Dusty made last year with Jayson.

Dusty's Toothpick said...

@Mark I totally agree with you in regards of managing in this "new manager" environment. The reason teams are goIng WITH younger managers is to let the players play and not have to adhere to old school rules of older managers. You DO NOT have to play a veteran if he is not playing well. Use the analytics and eye test to really judge these players and have the best lineup on the field day in and day out. If Zimmerman isn't hitting and is his usual sub par defensive self then he should ride the bench. period. If he gets hot and is playing like the all-star and Ryan Zimmerman we all like to see then play him. ALL I WANT IS FOR THEM TO BUST THROUGH THIS YEAR!!! PLEASE!!! Forget loyalty to veterans, forget the old school and win. win. win.

Hope Difo stays hot!!!

G Cracka X said...

I liked having Adam Lind on the team, and wished he could have duplicated last year's season with the Nats this year.

That being said, Matt Adams is doing even better than 2017 Lind. 10 HR in 90 PAs(!), and 1.2 WAR in just 29 games vs. 14 HR in 301 PAs, and 1.0 WAR in 116 games for Lind.

Fries said...

I just hope Bryce doesn't lose his patience. He MURDERED 3 balls yesterday and got robbed of a hit on 2 of them. I like that he was able to pull a walk in his last AB, but after having another 0-fer in the leadoff spot, I have a feeling he's gonna start falling away from pitches on the outer half of the plate again as he tries to murder balls to RF. I saw a few hacks like that in the game on Sunday so hopefully Long keeps Bryce straight.

As for the rest of the team, I'm loving that Tony 2 Bags is back and MAT needs to be benched the moment Goodwin/Eaton/a bag of rocks is healthy.

JE34 said...

All I had to do is post a crack about Adams' inability to hit an offspeed pitch, and he starts killing it. You're welcome, errbody!

BxJaycobb said...

The Ryan Zimmerman—Adams issue is incredibly simple. Zim’s struggles this year have been 100% due to RHP. He is hitting .290 vs LHP. EVEN THIS SEASON! How insane is that! That means that he literally has gotten something like zero hits vs RHP. Adams famously murders RHP and struggles (at least historically*) vs LHP. So platoon them. Any other team trying to contend would do this. It’s outrageously obvious. Does anybody on earth think the cubs or dodgers or Yankees or Red Sox would just play ryan Zimmerman when he’s quite objectively the much worse player against right handed pitching? Forget Zim’s struggles this year. Even going by his career numbers, Adams has better numbers vs RHP. There is simply no reason to not platoon them when there’s no more space on the field. None. It’s a perfect fit. Zim isn’t Albert Pujols or Jeter or some former god who simply cannot stand the indignity of being platooned or benched. He’s made a couple all star teams and was once an All Star level player. He’s not anymore (even last year if you care about overall value and defense he was did not have all star value, given worst defense in baseball at 1B). Play Adams every day until eaton is back. Then platoon at 1B.

blovy8 said...

Not only that, but Adams hit a homer last night off a loogy, so maybe Zim is really just Wally Pipp.

Mr. T said...

Adams is a great hitter, but please somebody get him a uniform that fits. Can he even bend at the waist?

Unknown said...

Just for the record Zimmerman's career platoon splits are .270 v. RHP and .306 v. LHP. But to the point of BXJay's reference to how other teams value players, this is the DMV blindspot with Zimmerman. Because he was a former FOF, is a good citizen and a professional, suggesting he be judged on his recent performance is considered blasphemy in some circles.

Just for fun below are the career slashes per 650 PAs while playing 1B for three current-day 1Bs. All are considered passable to poor on defense. One is paid $14 million and has a guaranteed starting position in the middle of the order for a perennial contender, one is on a one-year $4 million bench-player deal and the third can't even get MLB contract.

For the poor guys not named Zimmerman, taking off ST or disappearing for months at a time (even last year when he barely hit over .200 in July and August) is just not an option.

.253/.309/.465 .774
.271/.327/.458 .785
.271/.320/.477 .797

Who is who? Let's make it easy. They've all played 1B for the Nats within the last year.

The obvious point being that the league has valued these players one way while the Nats have valued Zimmerman another.

Ole PBN said...

I'd caution the phrase "the Nats bullpen have given up runs in each of the past..." because Carlos Torres has pitched in them. That's like saying Screech is 0 for his last 25 plate appearances - it doesn't really count. Like Torres, he's not a baseball player.

There are just some players where, as a fan, you think "the worst thing he could do here is [insert outcome]" and they almost always prove your fears correctly. MAT, Torres, just to name a few.

Anonymous said...

Is there a reason why Zimmerman just continues to get penciled in at the cleanup spot? He's hitting .194 and ahead of the guy that has 7 HR in 7 games (and will likely/should take his job at 1B). Does this make sense to anyone? It's like he's "earned it" or something. Sounds just like AJ Cole "earned" his spot. And MAT "earned" his. Seems the bar is pretty low to hit in DC...

blovy8 said...

You guys were slamming Zim pretty hard before last season too. Things will change, eventually, he'll have that hot streak where everything is hard line drives where they ain't. His exit velocity is still there, probably just needs to hit a few of those outside sliders so it's not a drumbeat of them constantly.

Anonymous said...

I missed him so far but does Suero look as good as results have been? I know it’s been only a few innings but still

Jimmy said...

Anon:
He's been living dangerously walking too many people.

mike k said...

@Unknown I think your side-by-side slash line analysis is a bit unfair. Adams and Lind get platooned and Zimmerman, for the most part, does not. I'm not saying he shouldn't be used in a more platoon-like fashion (injuries allow the Nats to delay that decision for the time being, buying time to see if he gets hot), but all else being equal I value "X" production from someone who averages it against everyone over someone who only has to face favorable matchups. Also Zim's slash line last year is still better than what Adams or Lind are likely to put up if they played everyday. I appreciate the value of a good lefty backup to Zim, but saying all three are equal, even at this point in Zim's career, I believe is incorrect.

Glad to see the Nats turn it around recently. Hold serve until Murphy and Eaton come back, and stay healthy otherwise, and this should be another coast to NL East victory.

Bjd1207 said...

@mike k & Anon - I mean, the platoon option is just staring us in the face. So long as eaton and murphy eventually make it back to their regular production, platoon at 1b is the stupidly obvious solution

31glide said...

Mike K, actually didn't want to be 'unknown' but haven't set up the blogger ID for this board!
The slashes are:

Zim .253/.309/.465 .774
Lind .271/.327/.458 .785
Adams .271/.320/.477 .797

Actually, I would argue that it is harder to be a bench player getting at bats or starts in an irregular way. In any case by selecting out only PAs while playing 1B per 650 at bats I tried to look at something that might be comparable.

These slash lines are for their careers so not a SSS. This is what they are as hitters and I believe last year's totals were an outlier for RZ (though how he got them is consistent - an unusually long hot streak of two and a half months followed by two terrible ones and an okay September).

The point is, if Adams or Lind (both of whom have better career OPS as 1Bs) went through extended cold streaks or years like RZ has, there would not be any question of sitting them, platooning them or at least batting them in the bottom of the order.

I'm just hoping Martinez eventually is allowed to assess RZ objectively and then make a decision.





Huzzah! said...

Any updates on the Eaton injury?

Johnny Callison said...

I really cannot believe that the Nats have already passed the Mets. And have almost caught the Phillies and Braves, who seem to be coming back to earth. Looks like we may have found a fifth starter AND Matt Adams apparently has found his mojo AND Wilmer Difo is still solid AND Trea finally got started. The BP still has holes and the injury bug is still causing some problems, but things are looking up.

mike k said...

@31 you can argue whatever you want but it's still the case that Zim, for the most part, faces all types of pitchers while Adams and Lind, for the most part, only face righties. IMO until that discrepancy gets resolved it's unfair to compare basic stats between the three.

I also don't think it's unreasonable to at least consider Zims performance pre-1B (which your stats do not do) when evaluating his current performance. Like I said, Zim's offensive performance last year is better than what Adams or Lind could do if they played everyday (I know you said those slashes are their career lines and not SSS but remember, across their career they were mostly platooned, while Zim was not), and IMO this, in conjunction with his history, allows you to treat him differently and give him more time.

However, like I said before, it might be a short while before Murphy and Eaton come back. If Zim is still hitting .200 by then, then yea, you platoon him.

Jay said...

Eaton is in Wisconsin getting a second opinion on his ankle. Sounds like he is a long way away.

Kubla said...

@Jay The Nats team doctors are like Dr. House and his team. They have to run through a few misdiagnoses for a while to make the episode more exciting. The difference is that instead of it being an extremely rare condition that threw them off, they've just been X-raying the wrong leg for weeks.

Josh Higham said...

Harper, I don't mean to seem ungrateful for the good pro bono work you do for us, but I need you to stop being busy with whatever you're busy with and write moar posts.

Sammy Kent said...

Quoting Harper: Just do your job Nats. Finish out this series. Keep winning the games you should.

Last night's was one of those "games you should." You keep leaving men on base inning after inning and failing time after time to get them home, it's going to bite you. Oh well. Let's see if we can win 3 out of 4 in the desert.

JE34 said...

From "BRB" to "in a walking boot to help stabilize the injury" while visiting a specialist in Wisconsin... Adam Eaton has been out over a month, playing 8 games of awesomeness to go with his 23 games last year.

POLL: Adam Eaton will:

A) get the Mr Miyagi rubdown from the doctor, and be back by Memorial Day. 2018.
B) be ordered to stay off the hoof entirely, and will return shortly after the All Star Break.
C) go under the knife to repair a micro-microfracture, thus ending his 2018 campaign.
D) try to resume baseball activities every three weeks, finally returning to the lineup September 1, and undergoing surgical repairs after season-end.

My vote is C. You can't spell "orthopedic surgeon" without "surgeon".

Robot said...

Man, the Nationals were completely wrong in an overly optimistic assessment of a player injury? I so totally did not see that coming.

Josh Higham said...

Sammy, I had this same thought when I saw yesterday's score, but I had a look at the season and that take is wrong. Below is the Nats 2018 record given various scoring conditions:

16-9 when holding opponents to 4 runs or fewer
14-4 when holding their opponents to 3 runs or fewer
12-2 when holding opponents to 2 runs or fewer
If you give up 5+ runs, there's no rational way to argue you "should have won" that game.

And actually, their record is adequate even in those frustrating games where the Nats' starter throws a good or great game, but so does the opposing starter, and you feel like if they can just string 3 hits together they'll win:

5-4 when both teams score 3 runs or fewer
2-2 when both teams score 2 runs or fewer

JE34 said...

Regarding last night's game... It brought to mind the topic of stolen bases. They got picked off twice! You're struggling to score, and you are careless on the basepaths? Against a lefty? If your name is not Turner (or maybe Taylor, I guess), why are you thinking about stealing bases?

I don't profess to have a deep grasp of the fancy stats on this front, so I present the topic to those of you who do. The moneyballers say that stolen bases are estupido, yes? The Nats are in the bottom quarter of teams on the caught-stealing front. Twice in the last five games they've had games with *multiple runners* erased by steals/pickoffs.

Is "being aggressive on the basepaths" costing this team right now? And is a team that professes to value analytics actually casting said analytics to the wind when it comes to baserunning?

Note: Turner would seem to be the logical exception, given his elite speed. I'm really concerned with the rest of the team's habits on the bases.

Harper - maybe you'd like to preach to us on base stealing one of these days.

Chris said...

Couldn't agree more, JE34. This team is way too reckless as far as base running goes, especially in close games where it could really make a difference if the opposing pitcher has to face an additional batter or two.

W. Patterson said...

JE34 - Is it true that the moneyballers say that stolen bases are stupid? I've not seen that, but then anything with "money" in its name doesn't usually talk to me.

I've seen suggestions that stolen bases, as in turning that single into a double or triple, is just the opposite. If you don't screw up, of course.

Anon210 said...

It's more like you need to successfully steal a very high percentage of the time--like 75%, probably higher in this offensive environment in which home runs are so common--to make it worth it to run at all. The marginal value of a single base is way lower than an out.

Froggy said...

Eaton undergoes ankle surgery as per MLBTR

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/05/adam-eaton-undergoes-ankle-surgery.html

Ole PBN said...

^^ And why did this take so long to determine? Our medical staff, honestly, just wow. WTF?

Anonymous said...

Soto to Double A already. Odds he beats Eaton to the majors?

Chris said...

Is there anyone who doesn't believe Soto could immediately come up and do better at the plate than MAT? I don't give one f... about the fact that he's eeked out a couple of hits in the last 2 games.

Ole PBN said...

I agree. At 19, he looks more major league ready than Bryce did. Truth is though, there are a lot of guys that can hit better than MAT. I’d wager that Stevenson, Sierra, and Bautista would all perform at least the same if given regular AB’s. The fact that my suggestion of platooning Goodwin with MAT earlier this season was scoffed at looks pretty silly now.

Bjd1207 said...

@Ole PBN who scoffed at that?

And what we gotta watch out for kicking MAT out of CF is defense, especially if Eaton isn't in the corner to make up for it. Who plays CF if Eaton isn't back?

egoodman8 said...

Soto needs some more ABs in the minors. Also, seems like a mistake to start Soto's clock this year. He and Robles sound like great replacements next year for Harper and MAT. An OF of Eaton, Robles, and Soto for 2019 is not too shabby.

Ole PBN said...

Our host and a couple others disagreed with the platoon idea, saying it was too early in the season. Regardless, I don’t think anyone is surprised at MAT’s performance. Now I thought he’d be a .220 guy, but knew he was also capable of .160 at worst. “How low can you go Mike? You won’t hit .150, you won’t!”

The predicament we’re in is MAT has to play. And honestly he should have been our 4th OF to start the season. With Eaton and Goodwin out, this is what we’re left with. Once one of them is back - MAT goes to the bench and Adams can play LF. The Nats are doing fine carrying a terrible hitter like MAT in their lineup and there’s no reason to rush Soto. Just not as fun to watch someone struggle so bad that makes you think you could take equally terrible hacks and produce the same outcome.

DezoPenguin said...

Yeah, the problem with ejecting Taylor from CF is only a problem because the guy replacing him won't hit significantly better (...which is really painful to say) and almost certainly will field significantly worse, basically because Taylor has been pushing Kiermaier-grade out there these past two years. Eaton can make up for it with his bat, but it's an open question if even Goodwin could. Maybe Soto is the answer for LF, if his fielding is better than Adams or Kendrick and he can hit in the majors. If.

Sierra, Bautista, and Stevenson are explicitly not the answer.

Adams and Zim in a platoon is so obvious a solution that it's painful that it's not being considered (at least not out loud). Against LHP, Zim is actually an asset to the lineup. Adams has spent his entire career being sub-average against LHP.

If Wieters misses extended time, C gets interesting in a hurry, with Read suspended and Montero having stunk his way right off the team. Severino is decent enough, but... On the other hand, if we get lucky, it may end up as addition by subtraction!

mike k said...

Re: Eaton's injury - I read the reason (excuse?) why they didn't see the problem at first is because the cartilage flap that's giving him issues is flat when he's at rest, and only flaps around when he's exercising, causing the inflammation every time he restarted rehab. I just hope it's not from last year's injury. I'm sure it is they won't admit it.

Re: what to do with Taylor - For now, I think you have to keep running him out there. As Dezo said, the other backups aren't the answer. Once Goodwin comes back I think you can start thinking about a platoon, but I do believe that the OF defense takes a noticable dip when he's not out there. I don't like the idea of oft-injured Eaton in CF with Adams in left. Even when Eaton comes back, I still think Taylor is the placeholder until Robles' clock resets. For now, I think the "A" lineup involves Kendrick at 2B and Adams in left...which means you need Taylor in CF.

Re: baserunning. Aggressiveness is all well and good, but I think the Nats run into too many outs. You can still take 2/3 from the Padres doing that because by just out-muscling them in terms of talent. You can't do that against better teams.

mike k said...

edit: I'm sure *if* it is, they won't admit it.

Johnny Callison said...

I like the way folks are keeping this blog alive while Harper is offline. Hope all is well, Harper.

Anyway, I think it risky to push Soto to the majors this early. What if sets him back a bit because he isn't ready? I've heard it argued that MAT was hurt by being rushed.

Sad about MAT--great tools, but no plate discipline whatsoever. I wonder if Dusty had the right approach to him and got the most out of him because of it, althought Dusty did have him leading off in 2016, which was not a good idea. DM should not have him leading off.

Eaton should not play CF; he's lost a little range, so it would hurt the team's defense. Also might put extra pressure on that leg to have to cover all that ground.

Last night was a big win and the BP did it's job. Still, the baserunning may have extended the game.

Too bad about Wieters who has been better enough to be tolerable. Can't imagine where the next catcher would come from. The Mets have already run through 5 catchers this year, I think, so there aren't a lot of warm bodies out there.

Harper's 4-3 road trip is looking possible. Dare we dream of 5-2?

Johnny Callison said...

How do folks feel about Difo leading off and Harper batting #2?

Bjd1207 said...

On the "rushing Soto" thing. Certainly we need to watch out for it, but the other side of the argument is making sure that the competition he's facing is tough enough that he keeps learning and progressing.

I'll wait for the AA numbers to shake out, but basically no one in the Nats system has ever hit like this through these stages of the minors. If he keeps slashing .350/.450/.650 in AA then it's not helping anyone to keep him there, and I wouldn't call that "rushing him"

Jon Quimby said...

MAT is a run saving CF. Yes, he's sucking at the plate right now, but everyone option to replace him would be a marginal improvement at the plate and a big downgrade in the outfield. Bat him 8/9 and hope he gets hot at some point. With Rendon back, the lineup looks a lot better now (even though it hasn't shown the past 2 games).

On Harper, I want to get him back to batting 3rd as soon as possible. We really need Eaton from that perspective, but seems like we won't have him for a while. I'd be more inclined to shift Turner to leadoff, but don't want to mess with a good thing.

Ole PBN said...

MAT’s defense in CF, while good, is not enough for him to be starting in the majors. If he has “run saving defense” then he counters it with rally-killing offense. I think people are overvaluing his fielding. Mind you, I agree it’s quite good, but people acting like we’d sorely miss him out there in CF is silly, in my opinion. For every great catch, he also often misses/overthrows he cut-off man. Remember, people said the same thing about missing Espinosa’s glove at SS when we moved on to Turner. Reality is, we don’t because Trea’s bat is far superior and glove is more than adequate. I think the same about Goodwin or Eaton: more than adequate in CF and the offense would be significantly improved.

The only reason the same isn’t being said for Zim is because he actually offers some value against LHP, whereas his counterpart/platoon (Adams) hits RHP better. I think we all agree on that. For now, MAT will have to make me cringe every day until Goodwin or Eaton returns. But seriously, if you all love MAT’s defense that much, have him “save a run” in 8th and 9th innings a defensive sub. There’s a role for him. Solved.

Johnny Callison said...

Starting pitching is great at this point. Roark has come around and Hellickson is looking like a very good #5. Scherzer is Koufax, Strasburg is Drysdale, and Gio is still pretty good. And maybe the "luck" aspect of the Nats' losses has turned around a bit. Also Turner is hitting and getting on base, and Adams is turning out to be a find. Rendon is back and hitting. Still have middle of the BP issues and the offense goes cold at times. Harper is either unlucky or he's pressing. Taylor cannot continue starting once everyone is back (if they ever are). But the Nats have clawed most of the way back into it in less than two weeks. Pretty much optimal recovery.

Looking forward to hearing from you on this, Harper. Hope all is well and you can post soon.

G Cracka X said...

Nats take first 3 from the Snakes. @Sammy Kent, they made your goal!

Sammy Kent said...

SWEEP, BABY!!!!! WOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!

Sammy Kent said...

The Nats complete a stretch of 17 straight days with no break 13-4, including a 6-1 road trip.

Mark said...

Couldn't have been a better weekend for DC Sports... Even the mystics won big. I love that we spent the last week debating what we need to do to fix our team that just went 13-4.

Johnny Callison said...

Harper said Nats need 6-4 home-stand including 2-1 vs. Phillies, then 4-3 road trip. Well, they went 7-3 (2-1 vs. Phils!) and 6-1. As a bonus, the Mets and Braves got swept in their respective series the previous weekend, and the Nats are almost all the way back! Now that the Nats are back to playing .570-ish ball, maybe they can live up to Harper's suggestion that they need to maintain a reasonable pace the rest of the season.

They have dug almost all the way out of the hole. They have actually passed the Mets who look pretty bad lately! A hot streak is a good way to get back in it, but don't want to go cold the other way.

Starting pitching has been great.