Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - the real test

Monday, May 20, 2019

Monday Quickie - the real test

The Nats needed to take 2 of 3 at home from the Mets.   DONE
The Nats needed to not get swept by the Cubs at home.  DONE

Now the Nats need to win 3 of the next 4 in NY.  Good luck.

Why do they need to do so much? Because it gets late early around here. 21-29 50 games means a 66-46 pace just to get to 87 wins. A 69-43 pace to get to 90 wins. That's a 100 win pace. To get to 90 wins. Which may not get you anywhere.

Of course one win hardly matters I guess, but winning 3 would also put the Mets in the Nats rear view and mean from that point on they'd only have to outplay two teams not three. This is important because they'll be 13 games into their Mets set and with only 6 games left, there's only so much catching up you can count on yourself to do.

With Corbin, Max and Stras lined up in the series (not in order but you get the point), with almost everyone that matters back from injury and with a couple games under their belt, there is no excuse.  This is 95% the Nats team you expected to have at the start of the year. They have to play completely up to their potential from here on out to have a chance. And "from here on out" means "from here on out" today. Get on it

Other notes :

Soto got a hit in every game this last series, with a couple doubles (one that was nearly a homer). Hopefully it's him heating up.

Everyone is hitting right now, except for Yan Gomes who appears to be pushed to a back-up role for Suzuki. Oh well. This is why you got two starters. Let's hope Suzuki's defensive issues don't matter so much.

Nothing can be said about the bullpen. It's still a mess. They still won't deal with it, hoping I guess that a miracle will happen.  Boz writes an optimistic piece that notes if you look at career ERAs the pen is a nasty surprise no one could have seen coming. Of course that's a stupid way to look at it, and the fact Rizzo plays along (or asked for this take) is insulting.  Let's look at the numbers he puts out there for a second. These were the ERAs before yesterday's games

13.50 ERA - that's Dan Jennings. 2.96 career ERA. Basically has been a LOOGY type and really had bad splits in 2018. If used for LHB only this would be a surprise but he isn't (and can't afford to be) used in that matter. Not a surprise.
36.00 ERA - Rosenthal. Was a very good pitcher but an huge injury risk coming in having not pitched since 2017. Not a surprise.
8.55 ERA - Grace. 3.54.  OK maybe we have one here. Grace was good last year. He's awful this year. No two ways about it. If he was putting up a 4.50 even I might say not a surprise but an 8.50? Ok you got me.
5.82 ERA - Suero  3.59 career. He's actually pitching ok, A little bit unlucky, and with some bad bullpen help for him, leading to a high ERA. But he's pitching basically like he should overall. It's a surprise his ERA is high but not his actual pitching.
4.02 ERA - Miller. 4.48 career. They actually had this wrong to start using only his Nats numbers. He's pitching worse than his 4.02 ERA would say but a guy that put up two years of over 5.00 ERAs and then missed a year with injury doing poorly a couple years later? Not a surprise. 
6.00 ERA - Sipp 3.67 career. A joke to try this. He had a 4.95 ERA in 2016 and a 5.79 in 2017.  2018 looked fluky and 2019 proves it. Not a surprise.
4.86 ERA - Barraclough. 3.21 career. But 4.20 last year. He's pitching worse but it's questionable if it's enough to say it is a surprise.

So overall there is one pitcher throwing surprisingly poor (Grace), another maybe (Barraclough) and one getting surprisingly poor results (Suero) but once you add in all these bullpen guys failing you see where that comes from. Any guy Suero leaves on is coming home. The surprise is not that any one of these guys is doing poorly it's that they all are. But let's think about this again.  Who could be doing exactly as expected? Doolittle, Jennings, Rosenthal, Suero, Miller, Sipp. So you have one guy under-performing slightly in Barraclough and one under-performing a lot in Grace. That's not some sort of impossible scenario. What are the chances of 2 under-performing guys and no over-performing ones in a group of 8? probably pretty decent.

The problem here is with Jennings and Rosenthal and Sipp they were wrong. These are obviously guys who are bad now. It was a possibility. They took a chance. But just because they might have worked out we can't say "oh these are coin flips. Darn our luck" Nothing about these guys suggest they were ever anything more than trying to get lucky. Proper evaluation should have caught these guys. You can't bring in 3 20% chances and pretend they were three 80% ers. There's a reason these guys lingered in FA. Also Miller is not really good.  The pen was half bad to start. They are trying to pin it on surprise, say it's almost impossible but it's wasn't. This was failure by design. 


Anonymous said...

It is indeed a poorly constructed pen. That is on Rizzo for sure. Rosenthal was a lottery ticket and should have been relied on as such. I think a lot of it comes from it all crashing at once. Not one guy having a rough week. Its all of them, every game, for a week. Then they turn it around (like they did for several games earlier this month I think), but we can't hit, so our starters pitching a great game means nothing. They just can't seem to put it all together at the same time very often.

And this is the difference between Mr. Baker and DM.

blovy8 said...

Miller is the lazy move I fault them the most for, but I suspect that would only have gotten them a guy like Jennings earlier in the process. Once you blow the potential 10 millon on Rosenthal, it's minor league deals. Rizzo was already bottom feeding a bit with Bearclaw, but at that point you don't really know how much you have to spend. This bullpen may be historically bad, but there aren't really as many "good" ones as you would expect.

It's easy to go back and pick the three free agent relievers who are doing well so far, but you also have to look at all the ones who are sucking they could have signed too. Does it really move the needle if you pick up three other sucky relievers instead of Rosenthal/Miller/Jennings? There's still every chance you start off with a guy like Suero in your pen, given his different look from the other guys, for instance. How many loogy free agents were not gambles? Justin Wilson got 2/10 and is on the IL, our old friend Blevins was just released. I guess they could have brought back Oliver Perez, but do we really believe he would not have a 5-plus ERA here? That was a calculated risk that blew up on them.

SM said...

You know, if Dusty could just regale the boys with a couple of stories about whiffing hash oil off a hot knife with Hunter S. Thompson, the Nats would be running away with the division by now.

We could all say, God's in His heaven and all's right with the world.

G Cracka X said...

I respectfully disagree about the bullpen, and think the take is a bit pessimistic.

Instead of using career ERA or some alternative analysis, we should judge based on projected 2019 ERA. That is, given all of what we know about all of these pitchers, what do we think will happen in 2019?

By the way, I am using ZiPS, but if you prefer, pick any projection system you like or average them all together if you want to get extra precise.

The results:

Pitcher Projected ERA/Actual ERA
Jennings 3.77/13.50
Rosenthal 3.48/36(!)
Grace 3.99/8.41
Suero 4.16/5.21
Miller 3.86/4.02
Sipp 3.72/6
Barraclough 4.10/4.67

So what we have is every single one of these relievers underperforming their 2019 Projected ERA (by the way, I checked Steamer and Depth Charts too just to make sure ZiPS wasn't an outlier. Steamer and Depth Charts' projected ERA numbers are basically in line with ZiPS').

You can counter with arguments like "Jennings' numbers are based on LOOGY results", but even so, do we really expect a 10 point jump in ERA for pitching to rightys? One can say, 'Well, Rosenthal was a big risk due to TJ', but the risk was that he would be re-injured or not that good. No one before the season was saying, 'Rosenthal's a risk to be completely healthy, but be SO bad in his command that he is a danger to opposing batters and will post an ERA over 30 before getting mercifully sent down to the minors to work on mechanics'. Projection systems take injuries into account, and they expected Rosenthal to be fine. Not great, mind you, but at least fine. Certainly not 36 ERA.

Johnny Callison said...

Greg Holland was on the Nats in 2018 and signed with Arizona for 3.25M and has been very good so far this year. I admit he has injury history, so perhaps some risk was involved, but his career is solid and he was good last year for the Nats. He also has extensive closer experience (to the point the Nats tried to get him a couple of years ago). Why was he not re-signed?

Ole PBN said...

Don’t forget Joe Ross. He was supposed to be our SP 6/7.

JWLumley said...

You know which relievers have been really good this year? Brandon Kintzler and Shaun Kelley. Too bad the Nats didn't have the money to sign those guys. Sorry, it's time for Rizzo and DM to go.

billyhacker said...

According to an Athletics article, the Nats supposedly have nine full-time data analysts, which ranks in the upper half of baseball. This surprises me, because it doesn't really look like a data-driven product on the field when it comes to things like defender positioning. Relief pitching strategy is a major focus of analytics - it makes me wonder if these pitchers were used in a way that made the most of what they had on their past teams, but are not being used with the same insight by the Nats.

I guess the alternative is that these pitchers have never been good and when each one moved up a leverage level with Rosenthal not performing, that further revealed issues. Still, the project systems aren't complete crap, and this is pretty consistent substantial under performance that points at something more systemic.

JWLumley said...

@billyhacker I work with a lot of large corporations and can unequivocally, that just because an organization employs people does not mean that they either employ the best people or utilize those people's work products. I mean, the Lerners could be trying to hire data scientists on the cheap the way they hire managers.

Ole PBN said...

1. Zack Britton, NYY (3yr/$13M AAV): 2.66 ERA, 0.6 WAR
2. Andrew Miller, CLE (2yr/$12.5M AAV): 4.86 ERA, -0.2 WAR
3. David Robertson, PHI (2yr/$11.5M AAV): 5.40 ERA, 0.0 WAR (injured)
4. Jeurys Familia, NYM (3yr/$10M AAV): 5.51 ERA, -0.2 WAR
5. Adam Ottavino, NYY (3yr/9M AAV): 1.61 ERA, 1.1 WAR
6. Kelvin Herrera, CWS (2yr/$9M AAV): 5.85 ERA, -0.2 WAR
7. Cody Allen, LAA (1yr/$8.5M AAV): 5.14 ERA, 0.0 WAR
8. Joe Kelly, LAD (3yr/$8.3M AAV): 7.79 ERA, -0.8 WAR
9. Joakim Soria, OAK (2yr/$7.5M AAV): 5.14 ERA, -0.2 WAR
10. Trevor Rosenthal, WSH (1yr/$7M AAV): 36.00 ERA, -0.8 WAR (sent down to AA)
11. Justin Wilson, CHC (2yr/$5M AAV): 4.82 ERA, -0.1 WAR (injured)

These were the relief pitchers that signed for the highest AAV this year (capped it at $5M). Seem like only 2 of the 11 are making fans happy (Britton/Ottavino). I suppose that it such cases like these that give Rizzo pause on offering a reliever top $$?

What about the trash bin Rizzo was digging through?
1. Blake Parker, MIN (1yr/$1.8M AAV): 1.17 ERA, 0.6 WAR
2. Zac Rosscup, SEA (minor league deal): 3.21 ERA, 0.0 WAR
3. Tim Collins, CHC (minor league deal): 2.70 ERA, 0.1 WAR
4. Kyle Ryan, CHC (1yr/$555k): 4.50 ERA, 0.0 WAR
5. Jake Petricka, MIL (1yr/$900k): 3.38 ERA, 0.1 WAR
6. Cory Gerrin, SEA (1yr/$1.5M AAV): 3.93 ERA, 0.3 WAR
7. Adam Warren, SDP (1yr/$2.5M AAV): 3.66 ERA, 0.2 WAR
8. Nick Vincent, SFG (minor league deal): 3.24 ERA, 0.1 WAR
9. Tyler Clippard, CLE (minor league deal): 1.23 ERA, 0.3 WAR
10. Daniel Hudson, TOR (minor league deal): 3.32 ERA, 0.3 WAR
11. Javy Guerra, TOR (minor league deal): 3.86 ERA, 0.1 WAR

... and the list goes on...

Jon Quimby said...

I think anyone looking at this bullpen at the start of the year would have predicted a slightly below average group with injury risk potentially causing it to unravel. Instead, we have the WORST bullpen in the league, and that's without the injury risk crushing it. Aside from Doolittle, nothing has worked. That's why the pitching coach was fired. You can nitpick the numbers, but per the Cracka, I don't think anyone expected this production.

It's a weird rotation where you have 3 guys who likely will go long and produce save opportunities and 2 guys who are likely to get knocked out early in a garbage game. Your considerations for saving a guy for the next day are partially dependent on who is starting.

Also, Hellickson stinks. No idea why we passed on Gio for that guy.

Johnny Callison said...

Boswell said DM is a below average manager in a live chat today. Someone on MLB Radio said DM is the worst manager in baseball. It now seems taken for granted that DM is not a great manager. But no one seems to specify what is he does wrong and what it is he doesn't do that he should. I follow in-chats and DM gets ripped a lot for warming up guys then not using them, or leaving guys in too long (both starters and relievers) and for situational stuff (not moving runners up in one run games). His post-gamers are cliche ridden and often far too gentle on "the boys." Many say he lacks fire and many question the team's coaching from to bottom--pitching, defense, hitting, baserunning, mental preparedness. But what do folks here think his major weaknesses (and those of his staff)are? Or is most of it on Rizzo's personnel decisions?

SM said...

My, my. If you've lost Boswell, you've lost America. . .

To more pertinent issues: A good question, @Johnny Callison.

But if I may, I would approach the question another way:

Who is the best manager in Major League Baseball and why? What are his major strengths (and those of his staff)? Or is most of it on his GM's decisions?

Once that's established (as if we'll find consensus on this site!), I'd stand him up against Martinez for comparison.

We're both asking the same question, except that I'm not nearly as concise as you.

Anonymous said...

Communication is his #1 weakness. Might not be his fault, he has some sort of stammer, but a lack of conviction in anything he says (notice how much he says "you know?") - no Davey we don't, please explain.

blovy8 said...

He had Hellickson hit and replaced him the next inning, at the very least he could have had Joe Ross hit and then let him pitch even if there was NO ONE on the bench to use, which I seriously doubt. For a guy who supposedly backs his players, I didn’t see him arguing about how Maddon gets to come out twice to protest a game And screw with his only good reliever.

Natter said...

@Anonymous - Maybe even more noticeably (since a lot of people say 'you know'), Davey constantly uses the telltale phrase "he really does" or "they really do." That's a sure sign of someone who doesn't have conviction in what he says. It's as though, on top of asking the interviewer to agree that his previous sentence is true, he's also trying to convince himself it is.

I haven't checked Fangraphs, but using the ear test, I would estimate his frequency of using a variant on "he really does" at 3.7 times per post-game interview. [:-p)

Harper said...

GCX - You can’t say Barraclough is over and Rosenthal is over and suggest it means the same. One would have a tight projection and the other a very loose one. Really what we need is a spread and then we can determine how unlikely. You aren’t wrong in the “6 out of 8 underperforming” (I take Miller to be close enough) is a bad run. But how bad? Bad enough to give the GM leeway?

Also one thing to think about is we are all projecting with just numbers. The orgs should have that AND hands on info so they should know a little more. I don’t know how that translates overall. I wonder if certain teams have tendencies to beat projections.

Anonymous said...

Martinez is the annoying person in your kid’s Little League who thinks every kid should get a participation trophy.

He’s constantly “proud of the boys” no matter how atrocious their fundamentals are. I swear, it seems like Robles throws to the wrong guy at least once a game. I know he’s young, but coaches are supposed to work on correcting these things; that’s why they exist!

Ole PBN said...

^^ Well one way to earn the mistrust and disrespect of your clubhouse is to throw a player under the bus during a postgame press conference. We have no idea what private conversations DM has with his players after they screw up. Remember when Robles was picked of 2B on 5/11? He wasn't in the lineup on 5/12 and DM said it had nothing to do with the kid's mental lapse from the day before. I'm calling bull, but I respect the fact that he feels he doesn't need to drag Robles through the mud - in addition to being benched, or verbally berated by his manager. Part of the reason guys hated MW when he was here because he called players out all the time TO THE PRESS. It's different. Dusty always said that the most important thing is "what is between these walls and the guys inside it" referring to the locker room. He didn't make a lot of friends in the media as a result, but he produced a lot of winning seasons as a result as well, so you can take your pick.

From what I can see, the players like DM. That's cool - but not all I'm looking for in a manager. I want a guy who puts a premium on preparation, or someone whose staff puts a premium on preparation. Our guys just don't look like they're ready to play each night and the raw talent will occasionally cause them to run into a fastball and park it over the left field wall. How does he steer a clubhouse out of a losing streak? Or keep a group of guys on a winning streak? I think he doesn't inspire confidence, and like Anon 1:58 said, he has an issue with saying anything with conviction. Shaky responses on everything.

W. Patterson said...

@Anonymous 6:18 - You bring up the little league thing and, from speaking with a neighbor with a kid in T-ball, right now they're trying to teach the kids to NOT tackle, and fight with, whoever ends up with the ball. I guess the Nats aren't quite that bad.

Dustin said...

7 K's to 1 walk in his 3 major league innings with Seattle so far this year? This is the guy you couldn't spare more than TWO innings of a trial for over the past two seasons? But yeah, sure... let's let the Mariners grab him up for nothing, while we move on to the next inevitable 30-something-year-old failure. Of course. That all makes perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

Trevor Gott is the same way, see how is doing in SF? Blake Treinen... whatever our "environment" is for bringing up relief pitchers, it doesn't seem to work. We prob should fire the guy in charge of that... oh wait, nah, we'll just promote him to be our MLB pitching coach. Smh.

Johnny Callison said...

Wow, Adams looking better in Seattle. Why did we give him just one game? Why did we let him go for Nick Wells (who is younger but looks pretty rough at this point)? Was he out of options or something? Or did Rizzo just get confused about which Austin, Adam, or Adams he was?

Rizzo does seems to jettison some guys and they are banished from the kingdom--why we never took a flyer again on Ty Clippard, I'll never know. Last year's angry defenestration of Kintz and Kelley is a case in point. At least those two were pros and were probably going to round in to form at some point. This is off the topic of the bullpen, but I never got why we didn't go after Suzuki after he left the first time. Cheaper and better and less injury-prone than Wieters. Dozier reminds me of the Wieters situation--you get a guy who USED to be an all-star and gamble he will be again.

Ryan DC said...

The problem ultimately is that Rizzo is bad at identifying relievers and/or the franchise is bad at developing pitching. Throwing a ton of money at the bullpen isn’t really a great idea, but there has to be a backup plan when guys start to tank and if you either can’t identify or can’t develop top-end talent then you better be sure you have depth. The bullpen went into this year with neither.

blovy8 said...

Well, in addition to the revolving door out of a pen with only one bull left, they are now two starting pitchers down, after recently needing extra OF and replacements for 3/4 of their starting infield. There's only so many guys you can activate without waiving or trading somebody who might be good but isn't helping at the moment. The only reliever on the 40-man roster they haven't tried out is James Bourque. Rainey is getting a full-on shot right now and looks like the typical Rizzo project throwing 98 with below average command, and getting beat on his breaking ball. The next gasoline thrower will be Javy Guerra, whoever that is, he's absolutely certain to feature an ERA three runs above his career numbers.

Nattydread said...

Putting out the fire with gasoline...

wwnlt? said...

Don't forget that "Koda Glover" was still being put forth as an actual key piece of the bullpen this offseason, which may have been more laughable than any of these laughable gambles.