Nationals Baseball

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

tuesday quickie - got that steal, getting another?

The Mariners are a team that rely on good pitching. When they don't get it (see Kirby on Friday), they lose. That's the break the Nats got. Then they won a close game and won the series.Solid work.  Now they are facing a Braves team that might be on a psychological break, having lost their best player Ronald Acuna for the year. The funny thing is they'd been doing just fine with Acuna underperforming - the line-up is deep. But losing a guy like him when you have championship hopes and you are looking up at the biggest divisional gap in baseball can rattle you. Take advantage. 

The big other news was the Robles DFA.  The team and him have never quite seen eye to eye for some reason. He had four years as basically as starter and provided great defense early on but couldn't keep up the hitting enough.  Eventually the glove work slowed down but miraculously he started extremely hot last year before getting hurt. Is this a problem of motivation or talent? If another team picks up Robles, and they should because that questions is out there, then we'll find out. He's still only JUST 27 (birthday was last week) so there's no reason he should be much worse as a fielder. Fix that and a team has maybe at least got a late D replacement. 

Probably the biggest negative of Robles' time with the Nats was the fact that his promise pushed them to move on from MAT. A top fielding that no one really thought would hit enough to become a star despite A++ CF defense.  Turns out the Nats were mostly right but he did hit enough to make him a positive player and have his overall value lap Robles' since Robles' rookie year.

In other news we hit Memorial Day weekend so it's time to take what we see seriously for everyone who's been up since the beginning of the year. The good :  Winker, Williams, Gore, Jake Irvin, and the top 4 bullpen guys.  The bad : Meneses, Corbin.  There are a few more baddies at the plate likely to come but they haven't played enough yet. That's why this lop-sided result hasn't shown in the record. BUT if those aren't real...

Friday, May 24, 2024

Standing now

Part way through the stretch of death and they are playing as I expected. 4-10 through it so far (yes, 2-9 recently but you can't parse out the bad anymore than you can the good. We want to look at the entire stretch here) Take that rate amongst the rest of the stretch and you have them ending at 27-41 one game off my guess of exiting the stretch 28-40. 

In the specific death march Phillies through Guardians, we were hoping for no sweeps and maybe a series steal. They did get swept by the Phillies and didn't manage to steal a winnable series at home against a currently scuffling Minnesota. So not a good start. But three more series with the same goals (1) Don't get swept (2) steal a series if you get a chance. 

The good news for the stretch is the Mets and the Tigers, who were noted as being on the back end have really looked bad recently. The Mets matched the Nats 2-8 run in the last 10 and the Tigers have lost their last 5 getting outscored 41 to 14 in the process. So maybe the stretch of death ends with the second Atlanta series with a Mets breather before it. If that's the case there's more of a chance of a little pre-ASB burst to get back to spitting distance of .500. 

The Mets games loom huge here. They have fewer than 40 games between now and the ASB and 10 of them are against the Mets. The Mets are a team that doesn't do anything good, but doesn't do anything bad.  In baseball though that doesn't add up to average. You need to do something good to win games. They stay in games, but lose. The Nats HAD been a good pitching team that didn't score. You saw that kept them close to .500.  That pitching has been missing for a while. 

Anyway give me James Wood. I'm guessing Jun 14th. That actually coincides with the end of my original stretch here right after the away series with Detroit so that's good. It all lines up.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Where's James Wood?

I'm not going to put up James Wood's numbers here because you have probably already seen them and honestly the actual numbers don't matter. After a brief cold spell Wood got hot again and he's basically doing everything at the highest possible level in AAA right now. There is no good production-related reason to keep him in the minors. 

So why is he in the minors? 

Is it service time manipulation? Not directly.  That usually ends in April when you've kept a player from getting his full year of service time, getting the team another. 

It's possible they are trying to avoid Super 2 status, which team control doesn't change but you get into arbitration quicker. The number - which used to be closer to the service time manipulation date, has been drifting lower as teams try all they can to be cheap (sorry, sorry ownership fans GET VALUE) and would likely sit somewhere between 110 and 120 for guys brought up this year. So if you want to be safe you are aiming for under 110 days.  That would be around June 12th if I'm counting right. However I'm not entirely sure that this is the reason. 

I think this is the reason, well at least the first part

"The top two finishers in Rookie of the Year voting in each league are automatically awarded a full year of service, regardless of how much they actually accrued that year. Teams will receive extra draft picks as compensation for promoting young players to their Opening Day roster who later finish in the top 3 in the Rookie of the Year voting"

Can James Wood finish in the Top 2 in ROY voting right now?  Probably not but it's not quite impossible yet.  The best bets are all pitchers Imanaga, Yamamoto, and Skenes. And Imanaga and Yamamoto are well ahead in value BUT pitchers are pitchers and injuries and load management will come into play. On the offensive side there's only one bat that Wood couldn't pass with a furious start and that's the previously unheralded Joey Ortiz.  Give this all a few more weeks (hey maybe mid June!) and Wood'll be too far behind to possibly catch up.

Now they know he's good enough to win ROY and would like that compensation but would they hold him long enough to make that happen? I can't see how. These are the "September call-ups" because you only need 45 days of active time to lose the rookie designation. Can they keep Wood down until late August?  God, I hope not.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Quick Guessing Game

Tell me what right now you think the Nats record will be at the end of this year and at the end of next year. 

Me 

2024 : 72-90

2025 : 75-87

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monday quickie - Trash weekend

The Nats got swept by the Phillies and the team slipped 5 games under .500 and 2.5 games out of the last place playoff spot.  One of the good things about the NL being a 4ish team league is that the Nats can challenge for that last spot, or at least pretend to, for a while. The bad news means when the Nats do slip they find themselves where they are now. Only 2.5 games out but with 5 teams between them and the current playoff holder Padres.  If the stretch of death continues like we thought it might they'll be too far back to even pretend come July and we'll be back to watching the kids only.   

Speaking of kids James Wood is indeed back hitting and looks ready (.353 / .457 / .564). We're all waiting on that.  Anything else of note?

From guys we've talked about : 

  • Drew Millas is hitting ok and with Ruiz struggling mightily I suppose we could see him.
  • Nothing to write home about yet but Dylan Crews steadily looks better. 
  • Jeremy De La Rosa had a good start to his A-ball season (he's only played a couple weeks). Christian Vaquero has not (but he's still 19 so whatever)
  • Andry Lara pitched well enough to get promoted to AA (1 start there so far) 

From guys we haven't : 

  • Old college draft bat Gavin Dugas (LSU IF) is showing he at least needs to be in A-ball. 
  • Bubba Hall, an older righty reliever is being dominant in A-ball and should move up to High A. Same notes for Jack Sinclair but insert AA and AAA. 
  • Marquis Grissom Jr, an immediate converted starter into righty reliever in High A, remains interesting if wild
  • Uhhhh that's it.

If this doesn't seem like much to you... you aren't wrong. James Wood is an unqualified success. Crews is coming along, maybe a bit slower than his offensive draft mates but really only a bit. Langford did make the majors but didn't set the world on fire and got hurt. Of the other 9 drafted in the Top 15 only Jacob Wilson (A's SS) is having a season so far that gets you excited. So don't be down on Crews. He's doing what he needs to in the broad "don't make me have to be a superstar" sense. But the arms (Cavalli and Henry) remain hurt and the bats like House, Morales, Green, Lile, and Hassell are either just being in the minors or disappointing. 

The Nats have done this before though. They've proved that getting one superstar ever couple years can sustain an organization. Wood looks like the first one. But unlike Strasburg into Bryce, into Rendon, into Turner, into Soto you do find yourself asking where's #2, #3, #4 and #5? Things change but right now the next set doesn't look like they are here.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

First real disappointment of the season?

Probably not. Starting 2-6 and having Gray go down to injury was a low point.  But since then, 40 days ago, the Nats have been playing good ball against bad teams. They did lose a series to Oakland, but beat the Giants, Houston, swept Miami, and beat Toronto. All this setting up the Nats as firmly a middle of the pack team. 

But now they lose a series to the White Sox, scoring 0 runs in their last 19 innings of baseball (and 10 in their last 5 games). Philly, Minnesota, Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland.  There are no breaks here. These are all teams better than the Nats. 5-10 is the simple goal. Lose ground, watch .500 drift away, but don't spiral out of control. 

Why is the offense so bad recently? It actually hasn't been good all season and had been getting runs above expectation. Now it's scoring to it's level.

 After his fast start Jesse Winker has put up a .136 / .245 / .235 line in the past month. Keibert Ruiz has regressed to the point where you wonder if another team would have better luck. CJ Abrams has cooled down alot .208 /.235 / .250 in the past 2 weeks. As has YOUR boy (because he's not mine) Nick Senzel .156 / .325 / .188.  Jacob Young and Alex Call (fools!) started to look like decent replacements in hand for the hurt (and bad this year) Lane Thomas and Joey Gallo. Both are now OPSing around .500  (that's very bad). Only the maligned Eddie Rosario is hitting right now though Luis Garcia is doing ok and if the next week holds like the last few will be the best regular offensive player on the team. 

Without Abrams looking like a star and the weirdly great offense of Winker and Senzel the team just doesn't have the bats to score runs. The pitching will have to carry the team. They have looked like they might be able to but only the Mariners lack a potent line-up. The Phillies (2nd), Twins (10th), Braves (6th) and Guardians (8th) all are well above average. If the pitching staff gets through this still looking good, that's really something. They did hold back the Orioles (though they have had a much quieter May).

 Ok let's go! Don't get swept. Maybe steal a series and go 6-9

Monday, May 13, 2024

Monday quickie - A break in the action

The stretch from Hell started about as it should have.  2-3 was the most likely record but they had real shots at making in 3-2 which would have been impressive. Of course it's baseball and we don't count the "could haves". Every game is it's own little thing and it's only in the aggregate of what has happened in total that we get a true picture.

Now comes the only "should win" series between now and June. The Nats travel to Chicago to play the woeful White Sox. But hold on! The White Sox had recently won 4 in a row before losing yesterday. You can't take anything for granted in baseball. Tonight we get Trevor Williams, fresh off easily his best game of the year. Why couldn't he had done this last year when the Nats could have dealt him and his extra year of control for something good? Oh well.  Tomorrow we get the Erick Fedde match up vs Mitchell Parker who was perfectly fine against the Orioles. Then Patrick Corbin off a solid performance. 

None of these guys is throwing deep into games. The Nats only have two starts of 7 innings, and only 12 of at least 6 innings. That's only 30% of their games and ranks tied for 25th in baseball. Normally that would be a big flashing red warning sign of things to come BUT the Nats have had only one start of 3 innings or less (tied with 4 other teams for the best).  The combination means the Nats bullpen has pitched a reasonable amount of innings so far. 

Of course that's overall. Specific to the Nats individual relivers it does get a little dicey.  30 pitchers have been in at least 19 games, should be about 1 a team. The Nats have 3 (Law, Floro, and Harvey) and they among the teams who have played the fewest games this year. So that might be something to keep an eye on.