Nationals Baseball: Second Place

Friday, June 01, 2018

Second Place

The Nats lost last night. It's no big deal really. The Nats look to be favored in the last 2 games as the Braves throw out a couple of questionable starters and Strasburg goes today. You don't want to HAVE to win those last two, but in my head it was always "one of the first two - probably the Strasburg game, and one of the second two"

Now you may ask "Why probably the Strasburg game?" Well it's not because of Strasburg, or Roark, or Folty*. It's because of Sean Newcomb. Sean Newcomb is a left-handed starter and the Nats don't do well against left-handed starters.

v RHSP : .253 / .333 / .430
v LHSP : .214 / .299 / .376

The Nats favored RHSP last year as well but the difference was slight, a .762 OPS vs a .787. This year is stark. .675 vs .763 for those that don't want to add**. How is this a problem? It can't be injury, right, as some of the main guys lost, Eaton, Murphy, were lefties who were replaced in part by righties. Shouldn't that have made it better?

Well it's a mix of stuff. If I were to point to one thing it would be Rendon's failings.  Rendon KILLED lefties last year a 1.109 OPS over 37 games  This year Rendon is at .660 worse than most regulars. After that you look to Zimm's injury. Zimm isn't hitting lefties as well as last year (.954 OPS), but that's to be expected as his year last year screamed fluke. But his overall poor performance is because of a complete failure to hit righties - not because of his work with lefties. It was an decent .839 OPS prior to his injury. (Makes me scared to look up how he's doing vs RHSP)

After that it's a mix of things. Kendrick was much worse against lefties this year. Difo has hit much worse against lefties this year. Matt Adams has been the perfect Lind replacement...except when it comes to doing ok versus lefties. Moises Sierra was supposed to be the RH bat to complement Stevenson during emergency OF season. He was terrible.  Oddly enough no Brian Goodwin might matter.  It's possibly small sample size but apparently over the past few seasons Goodwin became the rare lefty that hit lefties better than righties. I'm not sure that would actually translate into the field (what do you do? Sit MAT vs lefties? He's much better against them. You'd have to then just sit him constantly I guess) but maybe.

So it's a perfect storm of things. Murphy back will help. He's a professional hitter and has done ok. Zimm coming back obviously will help. Mark Reynolds could be an answer but in his late career any LHP benefit has seemingly diminished. But in general if Rendon and the various bench guys don't hit lefties then there will be a significant issue here. In the regular season it probably won't matter too much. You'll see enough bad lefties or decent lefties on bad teams, that you can beat. But you don't want to be the team in the playoffs that can't beat lefties. You don't want to be the 2016 Dodgers -  run out of the playoffs because in part they couldn't score on John Lester***. 

*This is not a nickname of affection, it's a nickname of expediency

**As you can see the offense versus RHSP - a little off from last year but not much 

*** They'd score 8 runs in the Lester games. 2 on Lester in 13+ innings. 6 on the relief in 4+.


JE34 said...

And of course Bryce:

.248 .401 .616 vs RHP
.209 .337 .418 vs LHP

sirc said...

The lefty starter issue is troubling. It isn't just that they don't hit lefties well. They don't hit well in games started by lefties, even after the lefty comes out and a righty reliever is put in.

For example they struck out 5 of the final 6 outs last night, all against rhp, after only striking out twice in the first 7 innings.

Maybe it's in their heads now.

Bjd1207 said...

The good news is that beyond Newcomb, there's very few good lefties we'll have to deal with regularly. DeGrom, Syndergaard, Teheran, McCarthy, Foltenywicz, all 5 Philly starters (and their entire bullpen) are all righties. We've got Matz and Vargas (LOL) to deal with beyond Newcomb inside the division. And even outside, unless Kershaw comes back for real the hardest lefty I see is....Alex Wood? Maybe Hader if the Brewers are still using him intelligently?

Treaples69 said...

John Lester and Quintana are decent

sirc said...

Good/Bad/Decent lefty has not seemed to matter much this year. Lefty starter has meant poor production.

BxJaycobb said...

Also, unless I’m mistaken, Trea Turner has struggled against lefties in his career (check me on this please. But makes no sense if it continues to be true.)

sirc said...

Trea has reverse platoon splits but he hasn't struggled against lefties in his career.

.270/.335/.363 vs. lhp

.304/.355/.505 vs. rhp

I don't understand where the power goes with the platoon advantage.

JE34 said...

They sure struggled against a righty last night, at the wrong time.

JE34 said...

Do baseball players put the ball in play anymore? Good gravy. A Braves reliever strikes out 8 in 3 innings. Have they forgotten that baseball is a team sport? Infuriating.

JE34 said...

PS: I heart Max

sirc said...

Bad at-bats this whole series for the most part. Sometimes the plan is to be aggressive against a pitcher but it is never the plan to be aggressive against an entire staff. So many swings outside the zone, and it's very difficult to get good contact when you're reaching for a pitch outside of the zone.

Soto needs to stay until he cools off. I don't know what the answer is when Eaton comes back next week but he will not be a positive impact replacing Soto right now. MAT has been hitting lately too.

Murphy's bat will be a big addition but at what cost to the defense? The team has been winning with the pitching + D formula. It would be nice to thump a team though.

Funny, but it's possible that Weiters might be the player that the team misses most. I could be wrong, but it is possible. Who would have predicted that?

When he comes back I think that I'd play Murphy at first 5 out of every 6 games and use Reynolds and Adams as my close-and-late specialists. It will let Murphy get back to Show speed with the least amount of negative impact. Then swap him to 2b when Zim is back.

BxJaycobb said...

sirc: in what way is Weiters who they have missed most? Severino has been were more value than Weiters was worth all of last year. They both are terrible hitters....the principal difference is Severino is a plus defensive catcher who has excellent framing numbers and Weiters is a terrible defender (IOW Weiters is bad at everything).
Playing Murphy at 2B isn’t a question. You obviously do it. Difo has done an honorable job of filling in, but he has no patience or power; he is a good utility infielder. The Nats need offense. And with the amount of strikeouts/homers/walks in the game today, defense has never been less important. Sure, you lose some defense, you gain a ton of offense. You play Murphy at 2B for the same reason you should play Soto in CF over Taylor. He’s not as good a defender. But he’s an above average hitter compared to the worst hitting position player in the NL basically. Take a look at Difo and Taylor’s WAR numbers. Good defense simply is not close to as important as good offense. You play Eaton in LF and Soto in CF and Murphy at 2B and platoon Reynolds and Adams at 1B until Zim is back....then it’s Zim and Adams.

DezoPenguin said...

Yeah, a healthy Murphy vastly overcomes his bad defense with superb hitting; there is no question there. Plus, it means that Difo is available to be an actually competent utility infielder to give guys like Rendon and Turner a day off now and again instead of having to rely on pieces like Adrian Sanchez.

Similarly, 1B is simple: Adams is pounding righties and can't hit lefties, so he gets platooned. Zim is too pricey to bench easily and actually hits lefties, so he gets to be the other half of the platoon once he comes back.

The OF situation relies on two questions: 1) Can Soto continue hitting like this? and 2) Can Soto play a competent CF? If the answers to both are "yes," then Eaton-Soto-Harper becomes the default OF, with Taylor as OF4. If the answer to #1 is "no" then we thank Soto for all his great moments and send him back to the minors. If the answer to #2 is "no" then Rizzo and Martinez have some tough choices 'cause Soto would remain a vastly superior LF/RF backup option to Goodwin. I'm pretty sure that #2 has already been asked and answered within the organization already, because Rizzo is a smart guy who isn't going to get caught with his pants down on that trick.

At that point, the bench includes Difo, Taylor, the backup C, whichever 1B isn't playing, and one more guy. Whether that guy is Goodwin or Reynolds can be the manager's choice; Goodwin offers defensive and pinch-running versatility (though obviously Taylor is the best PR option there) while Reynolds offers batting/PH superiority but carrying three 1B/LF/DH guys in the non-DH league may simply be too much. (If Soto doesn't stick--which is less and less likely by the day--then both Goodwin and Reynolds stay.)

With Wieters, we simply pray that he stays hurt for as long as possible. Severino is a good defender, good framer, and adequate-for-a-catcher hitter. Whether a trade for a guy like Realmuto or Ramos makes sense depends on availability, cost, and whether Kieboom is adequate as a backup. (Ideally, in such a deal we ship back Wieters and cash to pay large chunks of his contract to get him out of here, in addition to the actual things the other team wants to get.)

Bullpen is still iffy, but presuming a 7-man pen (because when you're having trouble finding 7 good players, carrying an 8th doesn't really help), right now Doolittle-Madson-Kinzler-Solis-Miller-Collins-Grace looks like the right choice. Kelley should be the last man standing until Grace's return, unless they don't want to go with three lefties in which case he's the seventh man.

mike k said...

Re: Weiters - I admit his marginally better offense over Severino is a bit missed right now, but I think that goes away when the Nats get Eaton and Murphy back. He'll definitely be the least missed injury...even over Zim I think. And over Kendrick.

Murphy will play second. I don't think he plays first unless it's against a lefty and Reynolds is hurt/struggling hard. Too many 1B on the roster to have him play first.

I agree with Dezo re: the two questions, except that I don't think he'll ever be a backup this year except for the playoffs. For one, I think they'd rather have him hit everyday, and for two, I don't think they want to keep his clock running if he's only backing up.

I heard yesterday from the broadcast that Eaton is playing CF in AA, and read just now that Davey is open to putting him there (three day old article). I think that's the temporary solution to Soto.

Sammy Kent said...

Can we please trade Shawn Kelley for something more useful, like a pet rock or a cat herder? Shocking stat of the day, courtesy of the radio guys in yesterday's post-game: forty percent of the hits Kelley gives up are dingers. Let that sink in.

DezoPenguin said...

If Eaton is feeling good enough coming off leg injuries to play CF, then that would certainly solve the CF problem, because we already know that his bat is good enough to make up for the defensive deficiency vs. Taylor, similar to the Murphy/Difo question.

Also, yeah, it seems lately like every time Kelley starts pitching well again and I think he could be a useful member of the bullpen, he gives up another home run. At this point, I think we have to give his spot to Grace.

Now we just need to see how much time Hellickson is going to miss. Having a fifth starter who was as effective as most teams' second or third guy, even if it meant pulling him after five innings, was a huge advantage (plus, even with Hellickson's early departures, the Nats were still leading the NL in innings/start from the rotation, thanks to the other four being workhorses, which is really useful given how shaky our pen has ben). And who replaces him if he has to miss a start or two. Rodriguez? Fedde? Voth?

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