Nationals Baseball: How much should you worry about the starting pitching?

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

How much should you worry about the starting pitching?

Yesterday on Twitter I took the starting pitching to task for a while because it has been the worst.  I don't mean "worst" in the teenage slang sort of way. I mean they were literally the worst staff in the major leagues (by ERA) for the month of June.  Everyone not named Max was terrible.  Here's a quick cut and paste from one tweet.

Hellickson - 2 GS, 5IP, 5.40 ERA
Roark - 5 GS, 26.1 IP, 5.47 ERA
Strasburg - 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 6.23 ERA
Fedde - 4 GS, 21.1 IP 6.33 ERA
Gio - 5 GS, 21.1 IP, 8.44 ERA
J-Rod - 2 GS, 9IP, 9.00 ERA

Rough combined 20 GS, 4.5 IP, 6.77 ERA

Now this is not the problem the offense is. The offense was bad in April, good in May, and terrible in June. The pitching was good in April, great in May, and terrible in June. However there's the same underlying issues with the pitching that we have with the offense. Can guys come back from injury? Can guys get back to hitting as we believe they should?

These aren't all going to be in the affirmative. Eaton has been ok. Murphy has not. Rendon has found his stroke. Turner is still scuffling around.  So it's reasonable to think maybe one of Roark and Gio don't come back to the modest needs the team has. Maybe one of Stras and Hellickson can't really find themselves for a while. It's a potential problem.

If I was to worry about the pitching would I worry about Gio or Roark more? It depends.They both are having sort of the same issues - too many homers and walks. Gio is pitching more like a bad version of himself. Stats like how they hit him and his FB speed are pretty consistent. Roark is pitching different than usual. Roark has lost a MPH on his FB and is getting pulled more. That sounds like Roark is more of a worry but Roark could also be a quick fix, as he needs to correct something that's changed. I don't know.

If the Nats are going to catch anyone now they need to be firing on all cylinders. They are firing on none. I agree, you worry about the offense and getting healthy and then you see if the pitching is a need, but you only have a few weeks to do it.

A note on 1-run games

So Boz noted that the Nats are 8-16 in one-run games.  That's pretty unlucky.  They are more likely a 12-12 or 13-11 type team based on record. So why doesn't Pythag (record based on runs scored and runs allowed) have them at something like 46 or 47 wins but 45? Well because the run difference distribution doesn't just begin and end with one-run games.

You see the idea is good teams win blowouts. It's a pretty consistent finding. If you are good you don't lose a lot of blow out games. Makes sense. Winning a game by say 6 runs means you either scored a lot (good hitting) or shut them down (good pitching).  If a lot of these go against you that means you lack one of those things and you aren't good. It's not that complicated. As you get closer to 1 run games though the percentage of games good teams win gets closer to 50%. Luck takes over more than skill.

So the Nats are obviously not performing as expected in one-run games but what if we expand that?
1-RUN : 8-16
2-RUN : 15-11
3+ RUN : 19-14

If you like the Nats the 3+ run 19-14 is roughly about right.  What do you think about how the Nats have played? A 90 win team sound about right? Well since the 1-run games are going to be about .500 the bigger wins need to be at a better rate to compensate for that. 19 out of 33 in 3+ run games? That's 93 wins and sounds right. But then logic tells you if it gets more random the closer the games get that the 2-run game outcome should be closer to .500 but 15 out of 26? That's actually a little BETTER pace.

In other words the Nats may have gotten unlucky in one-run games but in two-run games they've probably been a little lucky. Not as much so it cancels out but it gives a simple reason why the runs scored/runs allowed doesn't exactly get you to where you think you'd be by "fixing" the one-run issue.

Note : this is all real surface analysis because I don't like looking at one-run games without looking at everything else too. It's kind of arbitrary to pick that outcome.


Ole PBN said...

Perhaps Hellickson's run is over? Regardless, without Strasburg/Max being themselves, we're dead in the water. Especially with our offense sputtering the way it has been lately.

Fedde is really unimpressive. Not AJ Cole bad, but definitely nothing special. I really hope we can deal him for something of value before his own value plummets in the eyes of other GM's (or perhaps it already has?) J-Rod is intriguing, only because of his velocity, build, and slider. I see this kid in the bullpen. But I don't think Nat's management does. I felt the same way about Reynaldo Lopez. To be an effective starter, you need to a plus three pitches. If you only have 3, then you need to compensate by having stellar 1st and 2nd pitches. A guy like J-Rod has like 1 1/2 tops, and due to his velocity would be well-suited for the bullpen. I don't know why management tries to "square-peg-round-hole" these types of guys, only for the player to figure it out later in their career (Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, etc.)

SM said...

If you accept the frequently used 5-run difference to define a "blowout," the Nats
are 9-7 this season, or an 85 or 86-win team.

You're right: It's not that complicated.

Anonymous said...

I feel kind of dumb, because I honestly thought Severino would be good at worst. To be more wrong would be tough.

He’s such a complete disaster that his own teammates are showing him up and calling him out in a way you almost never see, especially on this team. He needs to be replaced by almost literally anyone, immediately.

G Cracka X said...

As I mentioned in my previous comment, its been injuries (BxJ has nailed that one) and a little bit of 1-run issues (ATL and PHI overperforming and WAS underperforming). Even with the 2-run mitigation that Harper astutely points out, its still something to note.

So I'm not ready to give up this season yet. Murph hit a homer last night. Could be nothing, but its encouraging nonetheless. If he can get going and we get Adams back and swinging like its April 2018, then the offense looks better.

I'm less concerned about the starting pitching overall, but I do recognize that it was a big issue (outside of MAX) in June.

Harper said...

Ole PBN - I like Severino in the pen too. I wonder if the Nats aren't keeping him a starter to keep up his potential trade value.

SM - yeah like I said its a real surface analysis. I think with what you say and I remember of the numbers - if they win the next 5+ run games it would be an 89 win pace. 4+ though would be about the same and start to get out of the SSS issue. I think the correlation does stabalize there... I'd have to look.

Anon @ 9:55 - Sorry? In a way it's better than if he was hitting around an 80 OPS+ where you could convince yourself he might be getting it and try him for another year as a starter.

Harper said...

GCX - There's still time! There is! But I'd make a C trade YESTERDAY and then I'd look at the team at the ASB and see if they made up ground from today. Are they 3-4 games out? YOU GOTTA BELIEVE. Are they 7-8 games out? YOU GOTTA CONCEDE

SM said...

Harper, your reply to Ole PBN: "I like Severino in the pen too."

Fiendish dark humour? Or Freudian slip that out-Freuds Freud?

Robot said...

Has Max gotten a W since Harper suggested 30 wins was possible? It can't have been more than one or two since then.

Not saying he caused this problem, necessarily...

W. Patterson said...

How about putting bryce behind homeplate? I think he's hitting a bit better than Severino. At least he can walk, maybe.

Froggy said...

I'll tell you how the game and Roark is throwing BP to the Sox. 3-0

BxJaycobb said...

Full disclosure. I was the one discussing the starting pitching concern with Harper on Twitter. To me, the problem (as with the with the entire injuries. Brutal injuries. Worst in majors injuries...Q: has the team with the most DL days in MLB ever won a division in last 30 years? I’m gonna guess no. People say the dodgers have overcome a lot injuries to stay in the hunt....theyre at like 600 DL days and nats are at 800...the other top teams in between are garbage totally non competitive teams) my point on Twitter was this: the problem is not underperformance by healthy players like Roark and Gio. It’s literalt not worth worrying about. They had a bad month. Ok. I doubt both those guys are going to pitch close to that bad much longer. They’re mediocre 3.8-4.3 ERA guys. That’s what they will be if they’re healthy. The problem—and by problem I mean the thing that will be completely dispositive at end of the year—is injuries (and lack of depth by Rizzo to cover for them when it comes to starting pitching and C). The Nats have collapsed because strasburg and hellickson got hurt and were suddenly throwing AAA pitchers half the starts, and because we have gaping holes are C,1B, and 2B (again due to injuries and injuries to the SUBS at those positions for good measure.) my point I was making to Harper is IMO to say “well...even if the Nats get healthy and Stras and hellickson come back and pitch well etc and offense is healthy...what about gio and Roark being bad recently?” is such a bizarre thing to focus on. You might as well ask “well what happens if Bryce hits .220 all year?” Well sure. That would be very bad, but seems unlikely and seems like not the most likely reason the Nats play poorly going forward. To me this is about 1. Absence due to injuries. 2. Performance due to not being back to normal from injuries. If those things become normal or even average for MLB, the Nats will win a LOT more games. Enough to win division? I don’t know. Big hole But I know one thing. If Nats don’t make the playoffs Gio and Roark having healthy but down years is not going to be among the top 7-8 reasons. So that’s my thinking. The Nats 2018 has not been about “bad injury luck and other things.” It’s been about “absurd injury cataclysm and that’s basically it.” I don’t see a single healthy player on the roster besides Bryce who has hurt expectations due to underperformance. And that’s probably been compensated by unexpected Soto production. So it’s injuries. Reasons 1,2,3.4,5,6. That’s not to say it will be ok. Might not be. But that’s the diagnosis. Let’s not over complicate things.

Anonymous said..., are you saying it's about injuries?

Anonymous said...

The current state of the Nats in a nutshell: The starting pitcher is his own mop-up man.

Sammy Kent said...

Bx, I respectfully but sadly suggest that you have become a shameless apologist for bad baseball. I'm not discounting the impact of the injuries; a few of them have had serious impact. But I nonetheless believe you are seriously overstating their value in the equation. There is not one single simplistic reason this season has gone to the can, but if there was it wouldn't be the injuries. When the Nationals kicked butt last season and in 2014 Bob and F.P. delighted in the phrase "a different hero every night." And it was generally true. This year it's the same, just in reverse....a different goat every night. Game after game after game we have witnessed failure after failure after failure of some vital element of the team to perform that has absolutely nothing to do with injuries. These guys have squandered opportunities to the nth power to get runners over and in. They've made dumb baserunning mistakes Little Leaguers don't make. They've swatted the first pitch of their ABs into inning ending popups and DPs after the pitcher has walked the bases loaded and can't find the plate. And on and on and on. They're not bad baseball players, but they've played a lot of bad baseball.

FWIW, I think the Nats are done for this season. It just ain't going to happen. I'd be delirious beyond measure to be mistaken about that. I'll never ever stop rooting for the Nationals with all the passion within me. But the leadership is missing. I do not believe in Dave Martinez and I don't believe in Kevin Long. These players are not going to publicly criticize their manager, and they shouldn't. And I am sure they like Dave Martinez. But I'd bet dollars to donuts if they were guaranteed complete anonymity they'd say to a man they'd rather play for Dusty Baker in a heartbeat.

Kubla said...

@ Sammy

Zim, Murphy, and Eaton out there on crutches before guys from the minors start. Doolittle never appearing because there wasn't a 9th inning save situation and heaven forbid the CLOSER come in before that. Players with higher OBP getting fewer at bats because the fast CF has to lead off even when he's batting below the Mendoza line. I'm sure things would be way better under Dusty and everyone would be happy.

Nattydread said...

It patently obvious what the cause of the collapse is. Roark's horrible moustache. That thing is bad news.

Froggy said...

Now Fedde... amazing...

Sammy Kent said...

@Kubla, yes, I do believe things would be better under Dusty. I would wholeheartedly trust Dusty Baker and his coaching staff more than any other regime we've ever had in Washington to manipulate the pieces available into the most advantageous lineups, matchups, and in-game strategies. I believe 100% that Dusty's combination of experience, motivational skills, and baseball acumen far exceeds that of Davey Martinez, and that the players know that. It's obvious that Kevin Long is a one trick pony whose basket is full of launch angle and very short on at-plate discipline and situational thinking. Three seasons ago we had another hailstorm of injuries and the dang second string had the team in first place for most of the summer because they got out there and did what this supposedly better team has failed to do: PLAY SMART, AGGRESSIVE, OPPORTUNISTIC BASEBALL. No injury to anyone has caused anyone else to make errors, swing at bad pitches, throw to the wrong base, RUN to the wrong base, fail to get a bunt down, NOT bunt when the situation calls for it, get picked off, hang a slider, throw a wild pitch with a guy on third, and on and on and on and on.

Anonymous said...


Maybe the Nats can pry Dusty away from the current team Dusty's managing . . . oh, wait.

Huzzah! said...

this team looks toxic. i bet that clubhouse is not a fun place to be. i think you let bryce walk. its going to be a lot of money for a pipe dream that he consistently repeats 2015. total lack of good leadership on this team. jayson may have been the leader but he reminded me of the archetypal bully in HS who is a leader just because he is bigger than everyone and has facial hair by age 13.

Anonymous said...


Not so much toxic as just not very good. The Tampa Bay of the NL East.

Jay said...

Max called a players only meeting after the loss. The word is that he told everyone that they are better than this and need to start playing like it. The worrisome phrase that was used was "we're going to play for each other." That could mean screw the critiques. However, more often than not when I hear that I think the players are thinking screw the manager and coaches we're gonna win in spite of them. I won't bet against Max, but I agree it is extremely unlikely at this point. I agree that the players look like they are on the verge of quitting.

Also, I hope Fedde is ok for long-term but I don't think he is a big loss for this year his ERA was almost 6.

W. Patterson said...

I've still tix for Miami, Philly, Mets and another one or two. Time to enjoy baseball.

Not even think about the post season cuz it ain't gonna happen.

Johnny Callison said...

Some folks get annoyed at those who think Dusty would do better, and there's reason to point out Dusty's failings. However, Boz pointed out in his WaPo Live Chat Monday that installing a rookie manager in a win-now situation is a HUGE risk, especially when you are removing a guy who has won multiple division titles. So I started thinking...maybe there was a third possibility: get an established manager who is a little better with sabermetrics and in-game management (and who doesn't have post-season brain locks like starting Werth or Gio in crucial situations). I don't know who was REALLY out there--Girardi (not supposed to be a great stats guy, but maybe better than Dusty)? We blew it with Black a couple years earlier.

Overall, I think there are multiple issues--injury, clearly--and the Nats seem to suffer from this year after year, so is it training or just some key personnel who have breakdown issues (Stras and Zim, especially)? Depth issues (thinned out system in trades). New manager. Head case superstar. Not doing ANYTHING major in the offseason to improve because of overconfidence and not realizing Atlanta was ready. Thinking Eaton and Murphy would be back full speed (clearly a HUGE miscalculation), Wieters would bounce back (ha), Gio and Zim wouldn't regress, Harper would be "focused" and have a "monster year." AND, yes, a rookie manager, who assumed things were great already, so all he had to do was keep it loose. It's ALL of those things, and it's on the Lerners, on Rizzo, on Martinez, and on certain key players.

I hope they get fired up, but the baserunning stupidity makes me wonder if they can execute even WHEN they're fired up. They need some serious coaching. Frank and Brooks Robinson made sure the younger players on the old Orioles saw them supporting Weaver's management, so no one thought they could "do their own thing" like Zim or Harp.

Kubla said...

The Nats just got wiped out by a rookie manager leading a team that is in win-now mode (and has typically been in the last 15 years). This comes on the heels of losing a series to another team with a rookie manager. Boston has better guys and better luck. Philly probably just better luck.