Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Almost as bad as it could have been

Monday, May 21, 2018

Monday Quickie - Almost as bad as it could have been

The Nats got swept out of their own building this weekend by the Dodgers.  Meanwhile the Phillies took their expected single game in St. Louis and stand 2.5 games ahead of the Nationas. The Braves didn't manage to sweep the Marlins but did take 2 of 3 and increased their lead over the Nats to 4 games. Even the Mets surprisingly swept the Diamondbacks* and have once again passed the Nationals.

The Nationals are in fourth place. It may be because of injuries. It may still be early (just past a quarter of the season done). But it's also a cold hard fact. The Nats needed to start making a move and instead they've stumbled. I wanted 14-7 out of a 21 game stretch that began with the Dodgers series. Now I need 14-4 to make that happen. They just had a 13-2 stretch so it's possible, but I'm not going to bet on it.

Other things

Juan Soto is up. This is both a move born out of desperation and a deserved move. The Nats would rather keep Soto down. While he crushed A ball and then crushed high A and then crushed AA the at bats were 60, 60, and 30.  No one believe that 30 at bats tells you all you need to know about a player. But the facts were the Nats needed another bat in the majors and by attrition, Juan Soto was easily the most justifiable call-up on a talent level.

Ideally you'd call-up a 2B/3B to replace Kendrick but the choice in AAA is Irving Falu, a 35 year old journeyman with no real talent to speak of who's not on the 40-man, who is there in case of emergency. Do you really want to DFA a guy for someone with no more talent who you may never want to play again in the majors after this stretch? In AA there is a player on the 40-man, Kelvin Gutierrez, but he's struck out so much and has no patience or power that you'd have to think a major league call-up would be feeding him to the wolves. And remember these are the best choices.

So you look to the OF instead, except anybody with any talent has already been called up.  Who is left? Stevenson is up. Sierra is up. Robles is hurt. Bautista is hurt. Jose Marmolejos, eaten up by AAA pitching and not a true OF. Yadiel Hernandez, who just got moved to AAA and is 30 and not on the 40-man. Hunter Jones, not on the 40-man, a last chance organizational depth pick-up who's having a nice start to 2018, but all history says it's a fluke? Maybe if these were temporary 5th OFs, but the call-up will likely play and you can't want any of these playing even occasionally. There are no good choices, so you make the best bad one and in this case it's bringing up the guy that might be able to hang in the majors, the guy that you figure will get to the 40-man if not by the end of this year, to start next.

I don't expect success from Soto this time out. We'll talk more tomorrow but the base expectation is - good player in a couple of years - with a huge amount of variability. But let him play a little, get a taste, see what he may need to work on to be successful up here, and then get him back down to work on those things on an everyday basis.

Ryan Madson is hurt. This isn't too surprising. He was kind of hurt at the end of last year, is the oldest of the Kintzler, Madson, Doolittle trio and frankly pitchers will get hurt. One of these guys was likely to go down at some point.

The starting pitching was good enough to win a couple games that series. The Nats could only score 1 run game 1, Doolittle blew G2 (hey, it'll happen), and the middle relief let the game get out of hand in G3 (hey, it'll happen... like every third game probably).  This is what I talked about. The starters + KMD can't compensate for the offense forever.

Most telling about the offense is the complete inability to hit lefties. A split of .220 / .304 / .356 against all LHP and .201 / .294 / .341 against lefty starters. It's easy and perhaps right to put some blame on Bryce for this. But here's the thing - Bryce has a split of .163 / .393 / .372 against lefty starters.  That gives him the 5th highest OPS on the team against lefty starters. Even average wise. Difo is worse. Turner is at .175. Rendon at .217. MAT at .218.   The team isn't doing their job.

*That Nats sweep seems way less impressive now.


Carl said...

If there are no viable 2B/3B options in the system, how bout picking up Jose Bautista?

elchupinazo said...

Because Bautista isn't viable, either.

Johnny Callison said...

Bryce is impatient and in a huge slump as a result, which is why I would argue he's not as valuable as he thinks he is as a FA. He is, with the exception of one season, very streaky.

Rendon is not hitting; will he break out like he did last year and then keep it up?

Turner is doing pretty well; if he can be this productive, he's almost all-star level.

Adams should play every day, or at least should get every start against righties.

Difo has to play every day for now. He's good enough.

Taylor is awful, but there's no choice. Stevenson is not a replacement level player.

But Bryce really needs to get it together or this is going nowhere.

Here's hoping Soto isn't hurt by being brought up early.

Ole PBN said...

I like Davey's mantra of next-man-up. What else are you to do? However, if Bryce thinks he is worth the money he's rumored to command (laughs), then he needs to step it up. Our superstar needs to play like one because he is the one player in this lineup who is capable of A LOT more.

I like Davey's mantra of next-man-up. What else are you to do? However, at some point these injuries are going to be just too much to bear. One point of frustration: the length of these injuries. I played the game at a high level and know that it is not as wimpy/lazy of a game that know-nothing fans claim it is. It's as if sleep and time is the best medicine. Though its a long season, not sure why some of these guys are out as long as they are with zero timetable for return. As if we're just supposed to forget about them?

- Koda Glover? Last pitch was almost A YEAR AGO! Threw from 75 feet as of 4/12 update. Well, are we going to see another update after a MONTH of rest?
- Ryan Zimmerman? Sore back? 10-day DL (most likely longer).
- Brian Goodwin? Lest wrist contusion. Must have been very serious, unlike they described. Been out over a month and swung the bat on 5/9. Well? Where are we with his recovery?!

I feel like these Rip Van Winkles are being babied a little bit. Whatever contusion Goodwin has can't be worse than Nick Backstrom, who missed a week.

Ole PBN said...

On a lighter note - Anyone else think Andrew Stevenson looks like William Zabka from Karate Kid? At least while he's relevant, we should call him "Cobra Kai"; give this team some personality.

JE34 said...

@PBN - he definitely does! but nicknaming him makes me sad, bc he should be getting his nickname in Syracuse.

Also saw that Sierra was DFAd.

Jon Quimby said...

Girlfriend refereed to Juan Soto as Han Solo. Cracked me up .

DezoPenguin said...

I'd think the *best* possible outcome for Soto would be something akin to 2012 Bryce (which is basically the same situation anyway: massive injury blitz creating a desperation situation in the outfield).

I'm actually starting to get worried, simply because there comes a point where there are too many injuries to recover from. Murphy and Eaton are All-Star talents, guys who put up 4-6 WAR in a full season, and they're not here. Kendrick is an extremely good backup, and he's not here. Zim can at the least hit lefties, and he's not here (and with Kendrick hurt, if he was back the Adams-LF/Zim-1B combination would be getting a lot of workout). Wieters is addition by subtraction, but he's another starter down, and Goodwin (OF4) is also out. At this point we're down four starters and two backups out of the 13 position players we anticipated starting the season with, and Rendon also missed significant time. Very few teams can stand that kind of attrition, and it just magnifies the problems guys like Bryce with his slump and Taylor having his worst-ever season at the plate are having. Adams, Kendrick, Difo, and Sevy were basically saving the lineup, and now one of those is down.

Ironically, Zimmerman has been one of the few guys to actually hit LHP.

An additional worry becomes if Rizzo (or more likely ownership) looks at the situation, sees Bryce, Murphy, Gio, etc. in their last years, thinks "window closing," and makes some kind of panic move to shore up the problem spots, either by overpaying for quality talent or by acquiring players who sound better than they actually are (like, y'know, Wieters). Rizzo's not a panicky kind of guy, but with all the FAs, Baker not being brought back, and the bullpen problems on top of the injury implosion, there's the possibility for a "perfect storm" of circumstances.

Soto providing at least adequate performance in LF, Zim coming back and holding down half a platoon with Adams at 1B, and at least one of Rendon or Bryce getting their butts in gear would be a really nice antidote.

Anonymous said...

^^It's DC sports. Seasons will end in disappointment; we just don't how they'll unfold.

Bjd1207 said...

Padres, Marlins, O's on the schedule, all with terrible pitching top to bottom. This is a great stretch for Soto to get his feet under him at the MLB level. I know it's still a tall task but if he catches on and we get Murphy back (for real) then I think we're actually in a reasonable place. But if we're gonna keep losing guys we HAVE to start getting them back. This prolonged injury non-news is ridiculous.

Chris said...

Anyone know how Soto has been vs. LHP so far in his career? Facing another lefty today. Wonder if that keeps him out of the lineup again.

Gabe Roark said...

This season batting 432 with a 1.308 ops against lefties...

Ole PBN said...

Career he's hit LHP at .367 (90 ABs) and RHP at .355 (335 ABs)

Chris said...

Good enough for me.

Thanks Gabe/PBN.

W. Patterson said...

Season's 1/3 over and . . . saw some kid on the Metro yesterday watching football (!) on his handheld device!

Back to your parent's basement, dude. This here is baseball season (and hockey for another couple of days, at least).

Re: Soto - - Was hoping he'd get a hit his first time up. Evidently he did, too, based on his reaction when he whiffed. I think he should have taken the K and then just walked back to the dugout.

sirc said...

I'm excited about and for Tim Collins. I am really pulling for him, plus if he's effective it will lessen the pressure on Solis and the rest of the pen.

What a story it will be if he is successful.

blovy8 said...

It's pretty easy to pitch around this lineup. If you get past the top half, there's not much to hurt you as a pitcher. Even the fourth guy, presumably Matt Adams 2/3 of the time, is really cooling off now. You don't have to throw Harper a strike, and he's pulling things into the shift. Turner gets caught up in hitting fly balls, but might be the best hitter right now. I don't know what's up with Rendon, probably some bad luck or in-between timing, he's been fouling a lot of stuff off though. Reynolds can hit a mistake but otherwise gives you MAT-level contact. They are making the best of it letting him only face lefties, really. Severino and Difo are singly Joes. There's every chance for Soto to rise above his competition currently. He probably only has to hit .250 to keep his part of the platoon spot in the lineup if/when Eaton comes back. That is pretty friggin dire, given where the season started.

JE34 said...

Let us define a term:

shifty: {SHIF' tee} adj. a hitter who frequently encounters a defensive shift when at the plate.

Do shifty hitters work on hitting against the shifts they encounter? It sure as hell doesn't look like it. If my full time job were to play baseball, and if I encountered defensive alignments that featured one infielder on the opposite-field, I would make it my life's mission to punish teams who gave me that opening. Burn them enough, and that shift will eventually disappear, which results in more real estate to the pull side.

Of course, it works best if everyone does it. If Harper, Reynolds, Adams, Zim, Wieters, etc. all adopt the same approach, it would surely result in more baserunners.

Shifty hitters needs to punish those shifts, for the good of the team. Can a manager pull this off? Given that this team can't score without hitting it OVER the shift and the outfield wall, seems like a reasonable point of emphasis.

Alan Wiecking said...

Holy wow. I mean Soto wow.

Kubla said...


As I write this, the Nats are throttling the Padres. However, I still feel like by the ASG they may be in too deep a hole for even the second wildcard. If that's starts to look like the case, would we be able to get a post on what the ideal moves would be if the Nats became sellers? They haven't fully given up on a season with the exception of the years when the season was over before it started. I'm mostly curious what rental Bryce (BRYCE in a good lineup?) and rental Gio could net, if Rendon is worth keeping for what could be a rebuilding year in 2019, and your thoughts on who else could be put up for trades.

BxJaycobb said...

Re Turner. He is all star level. Top 20 player in MLB by WAR. He’s best in baseball on base paths, an above average defender at SS, and an above average hitter. That’s an all star if not an MVP type (if he continues his recent power hitting he might be that too).

BxJaycobb said...

I would disagree. Rendon is capable of a lot more (unless you mean the one player who has been healthy this whole time).

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: I have to be honest. If you described to me the injuries the Nats would have in the first 1/4 of the season: (to every starter except Turner and Bryce, Murphy and Eaton and Rendon for either the whole year or almost the whole year) and asked me what pace they would play at....I would predict they would be a little over .500 and not in 1st place but not crazy far back. That’s basically where they are. The problem is just that the Braves and Phillies are definitely much better than anticipated. But I think the Nats and Davey are doing just fine given that they’ve dealt with—-the one area of long term concern being middle relief and relief in general. But to me if there’s a critique to be made, it should be of luck and the training staff (Bryce will be fine. The guy will probably end up with like .260 and 45 homers....but sure, we need him to get hot now.)

BxJaycobb said...

One note on Soto. His numbers at every level he’s played at have been better than Bryce’s in those levels, including things like K/BB. That said, of course, I also think it’s unfair to want him to be even better than Bryce was. Just saying it’s not totally impossible that he rakes. Teenagers who make the majors are almost uniformly freak talents in a special category. I don’t know what to expect honestly. I feel like the range of outcomes is crazy huge. But we need him to be a non-hole in the lineup and I think he will definitely be a non hole. But man. I agree the injuries are becoming too much. I would say we are on very thin ice right now in the sense that we are one BIG injury more away from probably done re division. Like if we lose max or stras or Bryce for a significant period, I simply don’t think we can win the east. The Braves and Phillies are too solid this year.

Ole PBN said...

Last night was a "feel good win." Gio was solid. Soto homers. Bryce homers. Tim Collins' return. Crushed the Padres. However, still just one win. All these players are a balancing act. Where Rendon and Bryce might not be playing up to expectations, Reynolds/Adams/Turner are. A couple players can carry a lineup for a short period, but if Bryce and Rendon were to return to all-star level production, we would be fine as our SP is keeping us in games. But if you've only scored 1-2 runs through the 6th, you're relying on your pen to hold the lead and that's not going to work with the group that we have. Our first 3-4 hitters (playing like they should) might be enough on those rough days. I think people get dismayed when they see the Nats 4 games off the lead and wonder how in the hell we're going to go 9-1 the same time that the Braves are going 1-9. A game here, a game there. 1 step back-2 steps forward, 2 steps back-1 step forward... Just stay in hunt; gently keep pace with Phils and Braves. We'll be healthy soon enough.

Dusty's Toothpick said...

Everyone seems giddy about the win last night and it was exciting to see Soto hit one out but......back to is the PADRES!! We are suppose to mangle them and shut them out. Lets go boys, 14-4 in this next stretch is a tall order but they can do it if they can just put the ball in play more and get smart on the base paths. Too many mistakes this year on the bases.