Nationals Baseball

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Most Valuable Point of Talking

With nothing much to talk about as the season winds down (there's only so many daily takes you can have on the young players) the Nats talk has shifted to "Can Juan Soto win the MVP?"  It's a fair question because as we discussed before - Juan's offensive season is fantastic, probably best in the league and his defense is fair enough not to hurt his cause (also helps that the other contenders close offensively aren't great defensively either)  

Juan continues to make his case by being incredibly hot, in the past 8 games he's hitting .519 / .641 / .852. This is thanks to a mix of his amazing talent, complete lack of pressure, and facing a series of teams who don't care about winning and are filled with young, mostly crappy, pitchers, getting a chance as their own meaningless seasons wind down. If you think I'm being dismissive by mentioning other things understand that the above is true for everyone and they aren't hitting like this so it IS mostly his amazing talent. 

Bryce (past 8: .423 / .568 / .769) and Tatis (.343 / .395 / .543) haven't been as hot (who could) but they have kept up their ends at the plate. Unfortunately for Tatis his team has tanked and in a worst case scenario could officially be out of the playoffs in a few days.  Unfortunately for Bryce, who's team has actually gone 6-2 recently, the Braves (4 in a row) and STL (10 in a row!) have kept his team on the outside looking in. 

The question comes down really to what you think an MVP is and frankly I've said this before many times and will continue to do so : If you make an award selection a vote you are making it inherently subjective and you are LITERALLY ASKING PEOPLE WHAT THEY THINK. So they should be able to vote any way they want and as long as it seems somewhat defensible it should be ok. If that makes you angry I'm not sure what to tell you. I assume you don't want a computer spitting out a WAR value and the award just going to that person. I know I don't. That's not fun. 

Some people will look at Juan and say "That's the best player" and give it to him. Defensible

Some people will look at Bryce and say "Value is about how important the games are and that's the best player on a team that had a chance for the playoffs late in the year" and give it to him.

Some people will look at Tatus and say "Actually this is the best overall player AND his team was in the playoff hunt most of the year and we'd know this if he didn't miss a month" and give it to him

Hell some people will look at Tyler O'Neill and see the player helping to carry his team to the playoffs (.345 / .413 / .745 during their 13-2 stretch). Some may even look at Max  (7-0 0.78 ERA) and see this guy trying to carry his new team to a division title. 

ALL THESE ARE OK.  Argue what you want but if you get mad at this... well nothing will happen to you but I will think less of you and you don't want that.  You want my esteem!

But Juan is unimpeachable! You see what he's doing!  

Yes I do.  I've seen what he's done all year.  And that means I saw his run hitting .247 with 2 homers and 3 doubles over a month of baseball while his team went 9-19.  Remember that 0-5 stretch where the Nats got swept by the Orioles? The one pretty much everyone agrees that killed the season?  I remember. And I remember Juan had 2 hits in 16 ABs and only drove in himself on a solo homer in those 5 games. 

Obviously you can find these stretches for everyone but the point is - Juan isn't impeachable. He's had bad stretches during the season when the games mattered before the sell-off and those bad stretches are a big part of the reason he's on a team so bad now that they can't win with him hitting like Babe Ruth on greenies even playing garbage teams. 

Juan could win the MVP. He's had a deserving season. If he does great. But if he doesn't - that's ok, too. This isn't a slam dunk and there likely isn't time to make it one for him.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

KIDS

 

GARCIA - .239  / .275 / .403 (last 7d - .316 / .316 / .368) A bunch of singles

RUIZ - .278 / .328 / .315 w NATS- (.471 / .500 / .529) I know I said don't even start to judge him until this season is over but it's a relief to see him hit a little. Even if there's a .500 BABIP backing him.  More important is that 1 K.  More worrisome is that 0 BBs (he got hit by a pitch if you were looking at the OBP)

KIEBOOM - .213 / .311 / .333 (.053 / .217 / .053) - Not looking forward to those first 40 games to start next year. But you can hardly sell lower so I don't see what other options the Nats have with this guy at this point. 

ADAMS - .288 / .413 / .500 (.000 / .333 / .000) - still barely playing - only 6 PA in the past week. I do question why Avila needs to play at this point though. Those 6 PAs should be Riley's.

THOMAS - .292 / .384 / .531 (.259 / .355 / .556) - Not as awesome and still striking out way too much, but you'd definitely still take this as a 3/4 OF type. 

STEVENSON - .228 / .285 / .327 (.250 / .250 / .250) - Also a victim of playing time.  This guy is done here.


THOMPSON - 3.15ERA 1.700WHIP 4.96FIP 10.4H/9 1.4HR/9 5.0BB/9 8.1K/9 - A much better week with no homers or walks. Relief pitching flops around a LOT. A starter starting once will give you 5-6 IP a week. A reliever tops out at 3. 

GRAY - 6.15ERA 1.434WHIP 6.75FIP 8.5H/9 2.8HR/9 4.4BB/9 8.7K/9 - Ugly last start. Control is still lost.  I'm not sure if he's nipping to avoid the homers but the solo homers were honestly better. He can go deeper in games and also not leave games in trouble.

Patrick MURPHY (26)  - picked up released Blue Jay - not a good week for Murphy, not striking out anyone in 1 1/3 and his guys coming around.

 Josh ROGERS (26) - 2.16ERA, 1.000WHIP, 4.52FIP, 8.8H/9, 1.1HR/9, 2.5BB/9, 5.8K/9.  Rogers though - really upped the Ks some how and lowered the BBs. Helps to face MIA and COL. MIA is one of the worst hitting teams in baseball and COL on the road (.215 / .290 / .348) makes them look like Juan Soto's.  That being said this is still good (and the bad pitching you've seen is REALLY bad)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Monday Quickie - 5th pick

Not that the Marlins can't suck right past the Nats but the Nats are now in line for pick #5 in the MLB draft instead of pick number 6 which is like getting $1.10 instead of $1 but hey - that dime can get you into a picture show and where else are you going to experience cool comfort in the city on a hot August day? 

Let's see what the Nats can get by going over 20 years of 5th round picks 1999-2018

The Good

  • Johnathan India
  • Kyle Tucker
  • Drew Pomeranz
  • Buster Posey
  • Matt Weiters
  • Brandon Morrow
  • Ryan Braun
  • Mark Teixeira

These guys have all become good major league players. India and Tucker are still getting established but are having breakout type years. Pomeranz never became a star but had a couple good starting years and has reinvented himself as a good reliever. Morrow was a perfectly good starter who couldn't stay healthy. For all the Nats issues with Wieters, it was mostly injuries that kept him from being better than he was - which was still a starting worthy C for 7-8 years. Posey might be a HoF.  Braun and Tex not too far behind that. 

The Bad

  • Kyle Wright
  • Cole Ray
  • Nick Gordon
  • Clint Frazier
  • Kyle Zimmer
  • Bubba Starling
  • Mark Rogers
  • Justin Wayne

Some of these names you know, but none have been successful in the majors. Wright has so far been bad as a starter for the Braves but might turn it around.  Frazier has had limited success, but injuries and now a strange dizziness is keeping him from having a useful career. Bubba Starling has been around long enough to work out some power - but nothing else - in the minors.

The Ugly

  • BJ Garbe
  • Clint Everts
  • Chris Lubanski
  • Matt Hobgood

These are the guys that never made it to the majors and as it's been a while since the most recent - never will. Long time Nats fans might remember Clint Everts - a 2002 pick for the Expos that was a name bandied about very early in Nats days as someone that might show up in the show. 

Anyway this gives you a general idea of what to expect from a 5th pick. You have a good chance at a good player, but that means basically a coin flip. You have a low chance of a complete wash out, but not NO chance. 10-15%? The 20 years before that are less kind - there are good names - JD Drew, Vernon Wells, Jack McDowell, Dwight Gooden - but a lot more complete washouts with 12 players with no ML games or negative WAR compared to 6 in the more recent 20.  I like to think teams have gotten better and identifying and developing talent.

The 3rd pick is a better chance, 1st and 2nd not guaranteed but you kind of have to mess up. After that you seem to be in a group where you gotta decent chance at a good player. It actually lasts much longer than you might think - to around pick 15.  If you look at the last 20 years and all those picks as a whole there are probably a half dozen good players to be had from 4-15. The question is if you can ID one in your slot (or if you get unlucky, have a lower pick, and the guys ahead of you all get it right like the 2005 draft

The Nats will get their chance next year and maybe the year after, too!  Rizzo has rarely just flat out messed up a first round pick, with only Michael Burgess - a supplemental 1st rounder in his first draft in 2007, never seeing the show.  However he hasn't been able to really sneak in a great player with those lower round picks excluding maybe the injury drop Giolito. The head case Drew Storen? The lifetime 5th starter Fedde?  Maybe Dane Dunning will be the one that makes it - although not for the Nats. 

However note that I stopped that 20 year look at 2018.  That's because we still haven't seen the fruits of 2019 on.  The guys picked in 2022? Maybe you'll see them in 2025 or 2026.  They are only going to help the team in the sense of setting up the organization, not in making the major league team better anytime soon.  It could be real lean for a while and we'll know that this off-season. The Nats could fill SS with a FA and there are plenty of top notch FAs. Will they do it?  Even if they don't sign that great SP they desperately need and they don't become a winning team, signing a FA whose contract goes past 2025 would signal to Soto they do expect to win by the time he needs to re-sign. And that - that's the key to everything. Showing Soto there's a reason to stay.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

ELIMINATED and Juan-VP?

 From the WC race. 

You can't follow the E# all the time. They don't factor in H2H. With the Padres and Cards both winning last night and playing a series on the weekend one of those two HAS to end up with 77+ wins. That eliminated the Nats who are now capped at 76 wins when they go on their wild, win every game for two weeks, finish to the season. 

The NL East is still alive, but any win by Atlanta OR the Phillies would do it (since the Phillies play Atlanta later the same - someone has to get to 77 wins applies).  

The Nats are a couple of losses from being 20-50 (currently 20-48) since the end of June.  I mean that's hideous.  A lot of you guys note it's the pitching far more than the surprising hitting that's been bolstered by Juan Soto again being JUAN SOTO. He is back from the "dead" and hitting like he did last year and that brings up the question - can he win the MVP? 

This gets of course into the question of "what is valuable" and how people see the award. Personally, I'm fine with people voting however they want because voting is, at its core, subjective. Don't ask people how they think then say "no you shouldn't think THAT".  So some people are going to see this as value toward getting a team to the playoffs. If that's the case Soto probably won't win because... well you know.  But he still might in that sense because the other two players up there in value (Bryce and Tatis) also might miss the playoffs.  If it's a question of which player gives his team the most he obviously is in it. 

 Right now we have as the best hitters (we'll leave pitchers out of this for the moment)

Soto .314 / .457 / .527  25HR 85RBI  171 OPS+

  • For - incredibly hot since the ASB, up there among of the best runs in past 20 years. Doing it despite having no help after the trade deadline and being walked all the time
  • Against - early season issues/injury depresses some of his numbers, early season weird good D numbers have been balanced with more recent bad ones leaving him at meh. Gives really nothing else (Bryce has more SB) team isn't just not winning they are losing at a historic pace.

Bryce  .309 / .424 / .614 32HR 73RBI  180 OPS+

  • For - best overall hitting numbers, also red hot since break, team is in division and WC race
  • Against - team has never gotten more than a few games over .500, most of his homers have been solo shots helping to keep his RBI numbers down which people like for MVP guys. Not anything to speak of in the field

Tatis .286 / .369  / .627  38HR 90RBI  173 OPS+ 

  • For - clear power leader especially considering missed time. Not a great SS but not a great SS is better than not a great corner OF like the other two, gives a speed dimension (25SB) other guys don't, team is in WC race
  • Against - Missed time kept him from putting up unignorable gaudy homer/RBI numbers, team actively collapsing late, has been great since break but not like Bryce or Juan have been, team has a worse record with him than without.

Not super clear. A hot finish by any of the three could separate them more and I think that coupled with a playoff appearance by the Phillies or Padres would seal the deal for either of those guys. 

What about the teams in the lead? 

Max Muncy, Will Smith, and Mookie Betts have all had about the same offensive impact for the Dodgers, but don't separate well from eachother. Betts is fastest but Dodgers don't run. Betts is a good fielder but Muncy is too and a valuable move around piece and catchers are usually given a bump. I can't see a coalescing here. 

The Giants best bat is Brandon Crawford and he's still a good SS though not like he was in his youth. Can't see him getting it though. The Giants narrative isn't about one guy pulling them through

Brewers aren't a particularly great hitting team - they are led by their pitching. Their best hitter this year has been Willy Adames and he's only played 88 games. (Yelich has been hurt and off)

Braves best hitter is Freeman but Duvall leads the league in RBI and everyone knows their best player is actually the out for the season Acuna. I mean maybe if Freddie just goes off the last two weeks, given his general presence in baseball he gets into the conversation, but it'd have to be a hell of a three week run. 

Any other great hitters? 

Bryan Reynolds - look if you are considering him you've already voted for Soto

Tyler O'Neill - Cards best hitter and they have surged to a playoff run. Still I think the lack of recognition, 61 RBI, along with the not hitting like the other guys, will keep him from any consideration

Jesse Winkler - He's been hurt too or else he might have HR/RBI numbers that catch some voters eyes. But he was hurt and he doesn't so he'd have to carry the Reds in to get a look.

Pitchers very rarely can get in the conversation. On that end Wheeler who became an ace for the Phillies this year and leads the league in IP and Ks is the most valuable pitcher in general but if the Phillies get in you have to think Bryce will be the focus. One of those that would need an incredible finish to get spoken about like a Hershiser scoreless streak. Scherzer is an interesting one. He missed some time so the innings aren't there but he's been more dominant than Wheeler and unhittable with the Dodgers putting up a 6-0 record and an 0.88 ERA.  I think there's an outside chance if he keeps doing what he's doing and the Dodgers take the West. I'd actually put him 4th most likely right now. Then we get a couple Milwuakee starters who would split votes and Buehler and Miley and Guasman. Buehler wouldn't win it over the other 4 Dodgers mentioned (this is why they are so good), Gausman isn't the story, Miley I think everyone knows is a fluke year and would be real hesitant about giving it much play. 

In the end it is those three. And if the season were to end today - with all three out of the playoffs, I'm not sure where the votes would end up. I would rank their chances right now as 

Tatis - Bryce - Juan 

Where in they really want to give it to Tatis, if not to a playoff guy.  After that I'd go 

(gap) Max (huge gap) Freeman (gap) O'Neill (gap) Wheeler

Three of these guys are only going to be considered if both the Phillies and Padres miss the playoffs. They also need strong finishes to bolster their cases.  Wheeler would need a strange sequence of events where the Phillies make it - he's incredible, Bryce slumps badly, but I'll put it in the "not impossible" camp.  Anyone else I see and just not having a chance. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tuesday Quickie

 I had quite a week at real work so I let the blog go bye (one of the perks of this not actually being a source of income or anything) and the Nats obliged by mostly stinking. They have slowly regressed (since BEFORE the trade deadline) to one of the worst teams in baseball but it's a little late to get to the true dregs and get the Nats a Top 1 or 2 pick in the draft. For a while now they've been heading toward a fight with the Marlins over 5/6. The remaining 4 (BAL, ARI, PIT, TEX) are just too out there to catch.  I suppose the Twins could really try to tank and get in the mix with the Nats and Marlins. but annoyingly seemed to have fight in them yesterday. 

Anyway - how's the kids? We'll go with overall AND last 7 days for you

GARCIA - .228  / .266 / .404 (last 7d - .185 / .214 / .481) You can pull something positive from here with his minor power bump this past week. Otherwise it's rough. He isn't walking enough or hitting enough in this extended trial. But if he can show some pop - maybe some sort of Danny Espinosa going forward? If not good, he was useful. Still super young though so there's time even beyond 2022 to see what develops here. 

RUIZ - .121 /.194 / .152 w NATS- (.077/ .250 / .154) The good is no strikeouts. the bad has been everything else. Doesn't look good at the plate at all. Still though just called up in comparison to these other guys. Best first look at stats will take place at the end of the year, not now.

KIEBOOM - .230 / .319 / .366 (.130 / .200 / .130) - has his moments but starting to have enough ML time where you start to wonder if this is it. Not yet but next year as he goes 24-25 will definitely be the decision year. Maybe strikes out too much and doesn't give you much of anything particular. Also looks lost in the field.

ADAMS - .311 / .425 / .541 (.222 / .364 / .556) - barely playing now because Ruiz also needs at bats. He definitely strikes out too much but unlike the others has power when hitting so far to make up for it. 9 XBH in 73 PA with the Nats. An interesting piece who might make for a tough decision next year for the Nats if there's no DH and they get a 1B. 

THOMAS - .293 / .383 / .515 (.185 / .333 / .407) - the new hotness also strikes out a bit much but has shown a very useful plate discipline that can carry him through times like this past week when he doesn't hit. Looks like a fine replacement for the old hotness

STEVENSON - .223 / .282 / .325 (.000 / .000 / .000) - 0 for 6 if you must now.  Not a kid but relevant to this discussion, the old hotness is done. He actually had a very good week before that but he'll be 28/29 next year and mostly hits like crap when given more than 50 PAs. No reason for him and Thomas to be here and Thomas is younger, looks better, is under more control.  


THOMPSON - 3.78ERA 1.860WHIP  5.56FIP 10.8H/9 1.6HR/9 5.9BB/9 8.6K/9 - I keep saying this guy doesn't strike out enough to make his wildness acceptable. He also gave up a couple of bombs and gets hit a lot.  I wouldn't say give up on him but I would put him back in AAA next year to work on things because this isn't playing at the major league level. Yes only 16IP.

GRAY - 5.85ERA 1.450 6.86FIP 9.0H/9 2.9HR/9 4.1BB/9 8.8K/9 -  In Gray's last 3 starts he has an ERA over 12.  He's lost the zone and that means fewer Ks and more BBs and the guy can't do that because of his HR bugaboo. How bad is it? In about a 3rd of the starts Gray has wriggled his way into the Top 40 NL pitchers in HRs given up.  At this pace he'd give up over 60 for a season. For guys with less than 50IP for a season (Gray is at 48) He's given up the 3rd most homers ever in the history of the game. And the other guys on the list have under 50IP because that's all they were allowed. He HAS to get the homers under control. 

Patrick MURPHY (26)  - picked up released Blue Jay - only 12IP so grain of salt 5.25 ERA 9.8H/9, 0.8HR/9, 3.0BB/9, 12.0 K/9.  The peripherals would work in the majors.  Unfortunately the key one here - that K number is anomalous. He just doesn't do that.  The rest though... I could see him being last arm in the pen useful as a guy who won't give up a bomb, just another arm type.  You need those. 

 Josh ROGERS (26) - 3.65ERA, 1.297WHIP, 5.27FIP, 8.8H/9, 1.5HR/9, 2.9BB/9, 4.4K/9.  Yes in this day and age he's striking out that few batters. Now that won't work long term and his ERAs... pretty much everywhere since 2018 prove it.  Why is he pitching and not selling cars? Early in his minors he had a heavy ball and good control and that can work with no Ks. But hasn't been the case last few years.  I'd expect him not to be here next year


I wouldn't say things are grim but there is nothing really to hang your hat on right now. Again AGAIN it's early for a lot of these guys.  Everyone but Stevenson and Rogers will probably be around next year and will have a chance to work on their issues.  Guys like Garcia and Ruiz are young enough to have more than a year to get it right. But they need something to work out here and not Thomas is a good 4th OF, Murphy is a decent 5th reliever for a few years, type of things.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Me and Davey remix

Yesterday I got on my Davey stinks horse again and got to listen to people give him a lot of excuses.  Look here's what I see

2018 : Handed a team fresh off 95 & 97 win seasons won 82 games

2019 : After a terrible start, guided team to 93 wins and a playoff run that ended in a title. 

2020 : with basically same team minus one impt pitcher and hitter went 26-34, a 70-92 win pace

2021 : Sort of the same as 2020 bc that pitcher got hurt had the team at 47-55 (75 win pace), that led to a sell-off and a much worse team that he's helmed to an 8-21 record since the big deals (45 win pace) 

I see underperform, overperform in playoffs, underperform, underperform p1, underperform p2. 

Now YOU can take that and some how come away with in 2018 2020 and both parts of 2021 it was just the fault of bad rosters and bad luck and the REAL Davey was the 2019 Davey. OR you can be logical and say maybe 2019 was the outlier and EVERY OTHER MANAGING THING HE HAS EVER DONE is the truth. 

I don't see why this is so hard. 

I respect that he won the series and I've said that if you want to keep him around in the lean years bc why not? I guess that's ok.  Especially if when you do replace him it's with a veteran manager who won't need some lean years to get his feet wet.  I also fully acknowledge that it's hard to figure what a manager is worth and it's probably not more than a handful of games either way. 

But still LOOK AT THE ABOVE!  I can't be the crazy one here. Like the team now is bad. It might be the worst roster in the league but also the Orioles, the second worst team, are still probably going to win 50 plus and the Nats are playing worse than that. Sure it's a month but again they had Schawber and Scherzer and Turner and Hudson and Ross and Harrison and Gomes and were still heading to "maybe 3rd" territory. 

When cold soulless analysis runs into fandom is where this job gets tough* and this is one point where it has happened. Davey should go. Maybe not now but now would be fine! (well after the season - this isn't a midseason necessity) The facts are pretty clear. Could I be proven wrong? Yes  I get things wrong from time to time. But I'd be surprised. 

 

*note - this is not a job, nor is it tough.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Crazy goal

I set a crazy goal for fun before the Strasburg injury - Orioles sweep - trade-off effectively ended the season. It was "don't lose another series". If they did that at that point, only split or won, they'd end up with 87 wins and 87 wins is a pretty good bet to win the East.* BUT if they lost a series they'd have to make up that win elsewhere - for example moving from the 2-1 hopeful win to a 3-0 sweep in a normal 3 game set. I was curious how is that going?

Ok, I KNOW it's going bad but how bad? Turns out the Nats have won only two series. One was one with the Cubs at end of July. They also swept a two game set against Toronto.  So that was actually outperforming hopes (I only said "don't lose" - so a split was the goal). But everything else? Well take a look :

Swept 0-3 by BAL : Need to Make-Up 2 games since 2-1 was the goal

Tied PHI : On Target

Beat CHC : On Target

Swept 0-4 by PHI : Make-Up 2 more.. so Make-Up 4

Lost ATL : Make-Up 5

Swept 0-3 by NYM : Make-Up 7

Swept 0-3 by ATL : Make-Up 9

Swept Tor 2-0 : Make-Up 8 (gaining back ground!!!)

Lost MIL : Make-Up 9 (lost it)

Lost MIA : Make-Up 10

Lose NYM : Make-Up 11

Now since they already lost the first PHI game they can't make anything up this series. They can only win both to match hope.  After that there are 9 series left. 7 are normal three game sets. Let's say they sweep them all that'll "make-up" 7 of the needed games. But we still need four wins. Ok there's a 5 game set with the Mets. Hope was 3-2. Instead they go 5-0. That's 2 more wins made-up. Two to go.  Cincy 4 gamer. 2-2 split hoped for. Go 4-0. DONE! 

The Nats can still hit their hoped for goal of 87 wins. All they have to do is win every game going forward. 

 Go 1-0 today, everyday.  

 *Even now with ATL playing excellent and PHI ok, 87 still might not be reached. ATL has to go 17-15 to do that. PHI even with a weak schedule probably tops out MAX expectation at 88. Playing decently 84 is more likely.