Nationals Baseball

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Can the Nats develop starting pitching?

It was a point brought up in the comments yesterday, but that wasn't the first time. It seems like people believe the Nats can't develop starting pitching. My off the cuff thoughts are yes they have had problems with it, though I'm not sure how that relates to other teams. And that a good part of the reason why is how they draft. The "go big or go home" draft strategy of picking risks to get value IF they get right has been the culprit lately. Be it Giolito and Fedde facing injury or Seth Romero and his head. But that's just my off the cuff take.

It's kind of hard to measure this because "develop starting pitching" isn't an easy thing to gauge. Sure you draft someone, bring him up in the minors, and he starts multiple years for your team is a success point. But what if you draft someone, bring him up in the minors, and then trade him away where he finds success as a starter? Or if you trade for someone in the minors and he becomes a multi-year starter for you? And what if there's a trade inbetween, who gets credti? And how long after leaving your team is it about your team? 2 years? 5? What about starters you trade for and get better for you? Does that matter?

We gotta set some limits so For now I'm going to say you get credit for a pitcher developing if he pitched A ball and AA ball for you OR he pitched a rough season worth of AA ball. So this cuts out maybe an almost ready prospect you sit in AA for a half a year before moving him up. I'd also give credit to the last team to have these qualifications so if you got him to AA but he pitched one more AA years for someone else, that's their guy. I also set the limit off your team at 2 years. If he's been gone for 3 years and hasn't been an impactful starter that's not on you. This is all imperfect and we can talk about it.

Now we're going to look at the Rizzo time frame and I set it at 2011 because (1) he took over fully in 2009 and (2) it takes a couple years to get guys going. How many pitchers have pitched at least two full seasons of baseball?*

There have been quite a lot - 185 pitchers to be exact. But I realize this includes a lot of old guys - Hey Roy Halladay you don't count here - so I then set the limit to guys who are pitching one of their first 8 seasons in here. That isn't perfect because you are getting guys who may have season 8 in 2011 but it'll whittle out some we don't care about and we're down to 149. We can probably put an age limit on it too. Like most pitchers would start by 25? so 33... let's say 34 to be conservative.  147 that didn't do much.

OK well evenly distributed that would be like 5 a team. Who here was developed by the Nats? I'm pretty good with memory stuff so I think I can get them all.   First off there's Jordan Zimmerman, with 5 such years. Nationals born and bred.Then there's Roark and Strasburg with 4. Roark, you know was a trade get. I thought he was a A ball guy but he was a AA when the Nats got him.  Still he pitched a season-plus in AA for the Nats, so under my rules up there he goes to the Nats. Strasburg was of course a drafted and developed talent.

Now these all happened a while ago, ZNN debuted in 2009, Stras in 2010, Roark in 2013 but I'm going down the list from most of these years to least. Older guys have more time to hit this criteria so this end should skew older debuts. Let's keep going.

I don't see any Nats with 3 such years. How about 2? OK I see Nick Pivetta's name... he did reach AA with the Nats so they would get him but 29 starts in AA... that's enough to give the Phillies credit under my rules. So no Nick.

Robbie Ray! OK here's a classic tough case. He did reach AA with the Nats. He was traded and pitched in the majors the next year but was bad. Was dealt again and was good. So he both reached the majors and pitched well in the majors within the 2 year limit. he also spent very little time in the minors outside of the Nats. This looks like the Nats get Robbie Ray. 2014 first appearance.

And hey there's Tommy Milone! A middling pitcher to be sure but a usable starter for a couple of seasons. No doubt about it - a guy they Nats drafted and brought up to be a starter. 2011 first appearance.

So the Nats have developed 5 starters in this time frame which works out to be completely average. While you can debate whether Milone was good enough to want to take credit for - the other four were at least good if not very good. I'm not going to argue with the fact they developed starters. But of course it's not a steady drip.  The debuts weren't 2009 2011 2013 2015, and 2017.   They were 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014. There's a distinct older skew here. If they are average now, the Nats had been really good at developing starters, but since have fallen off.

Now this leads to another point. Perhaps the Nats didn't develop starters because they didn't need them at the time. ZNN, Stras, Gio, Roark, Fister, Max... they literally forced Roark out in 2015. That's going to force some skewing to be sure.

But Fister was gone by 2016 and ZNN left then too. The Nats have needed pitchers. There's been space since. How many guys have had at least one full year in the past 3 seasons?  How many of those have been Nats?

Cut down to 22 starts (to account for rest of 2018) I'm going to get a handful more guys in here. And let's make it through 4th season since we're looking for guys the Nats have developed for this new time of need.  There have been 88 pitchers with at least one full year here. We would expect 3 Nats.  Ray's in here - but just barely (get's his 3rd and 4th seasons in 16-17) that's not what we're looking for.  With one year we see both Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito**.  They were both Nats developed. Both debuted in 2016.  And... that's it. So a little under expectation but not much.

So this quick stroll through the pitchers in the league would seem to suggest the Nats are not bad at developing starting pitchers. Average over the course of the time frame we are looking at. Maybe a little skewed toward the past but still mostly able to develop full-time major league talent for 2018. Given that the latest three who have become full-time starters (Ray, Lopez, and Giolito) were all dealt I'd say the problem recently is less development and more identifications of the ones to keep and the ones to let go. Maybe a problem identifying who are the real injury risks and who are minor ones.

Of course there's a lot of hemming and hawing up there so have at the methods of this.

*And what's a "full season" I mean literally it would be 32/33 starts but I set the limit at 25. See! There's a lot of lines that have to be drawn for this analysis.  And what if they aren't GOOD seasons? You should get more credit for the good, right? And what's development and what's just drafting? Lots of questions! 

**How are they doing?  Lopez has had an EXCELLENT September. 1 ER in 3 starts, 22K and 4 BB. Best he's pitched all year, balancing out his terrible July to give his year proper representation in the final stats. Which is to say he's been perfectly fine as a blah 3 or good 4. Giolito's gone the other way, with a terrible September so far. Knocked out early by Detroit and knocked around by Baltimore. Walks, which plagued him, aren't too bad but strikeouts almost gone with it. His numbers now 5.77 capture his year, too which is a roller coaster with a few mild highs and a lot of real low lows. He's a guy that starts as a 5th starter in 2019.  For both guys 2019 is going to be where their careers are set likely. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

So what's gone right?

Not everything is bad. The Nats aren't going to make the playoffs, but they have played as well as the other teams in the NL East since the break meaning that the talent to challenge for the East is still there (whatever you think of that bar). Of course it's one thing if this was spurred on by guys either out the door or soon to be, it's another if it was spurred on by talent staying in DC. What have the Nats numbers looked like since the break?

Crushing it
Bryce : .304 / .444 / .560
Zimmerman : .299 / .377 / .565
Soto : .296 / .414 / .522
Rendon : .335 / .394 / .510
Murphy : .340 / .370 / .904

A mixed bag. Murphy is gone and unlikely to come back. Bryce could be gone. Zimm is a strong bet not to reach 120 games. But Soto could get better and Rendon will likely be here unless they rebuild. So that's a very solid two-batters to build around

Eaton : .274 / .377 / .400
Turner : .270 / .329 / .405
Difo : .218 / .302 / .427

Yes Difo has well outslugged Eaton and Turner. That's not a good sign, especially for Turner who doesn't have the "I've been injured for two years! Give me some time!" excuse Eaton does. Difo doubters (like me!) will note that it has been just 127 PAs which isn't enough to shake out the flukes and historically he's more a .370 slugger. None of this is good, but it's workable for the other guys in the line-up if your first bunch is strong enough.

Kieboom : .204 / .317 / .370
Weiters :  .246 / .327 / .358
all the other OFs (Sanchez, Robles so far, Stevenson, MAT)

Severino barely played in the 2nd half before getting injured but he was worse than these two. Wieters will be gone but that's it that has to go. Robles is likely to start if Bryce leaves and his production range going into next year will vary wildly from ROY candidate to AAAA guy.

The offense has a decent start with Soto and Rendon, but around them there isn't quite enough. Zimm can hit when healthy but that's like half the time. Eaton should get better with health, but that's no guarantee either. The rest of the "here next year" crew isn't special. Of course we don't expect the Nats to stand pat here. But the early look says - if Bryce is gone, a lot is going to ride on Robles. Is he a third core bat or just decent line-up filler?

Nasty stuff
Holland : WHIP 0.873, 11.3 K/9, 2.88 K/BB
Scherzer : 0.944, 11.9, 6.33
Doolittle : 1.000, 9.0, 10.00 (in 5IP)
Madson : 1.000, 9.0, 6.00 (10 IP)
Kintzler : 1.000, 7.2, 4.00 (5 IP)

Hey. There was a reason the Nats had built around those three in the bullpen. No, the results didn't always match what these numbers suggest.  Madson was real prone to the long ball.  Kintzler has had consistency issues. But these guys had talent and are going to have to be replaced.  Could Holland be one? Perhaps... if he sticks around.

And of course Max is Max.

Mixed Bag
Man there's a lot of pitchers... ok Fedde, Roark, Miller, Hellickson, Ross, Collins, Grace, Suero, Jefry, and Stras all fit in here. Ross barely pitched. Fedde, Stras, and Collins have good stuff but had control issues. Miller, Hellickson, and Grace had decent control but no stuff. Jefry is smoke and mirrors to be even passable. That leaves Roark who has compensated for a complete lack of stuff (only a 6.6 K/9 in 2nd half) with complete control. 7 walks in 65+ innings. 

What does that all say. It says the Nats have plenty of "other guys" to fill out the pen but no one you really love. It also says that the rotation may be an issue. Roark has been ok, but is pitching in a way that he hasn't historically which is something that makes you question how sustainable it is. Strasburg actually looks better when you take a look at his game log - the trends are what you want to see in terms of him getting back to his old self, but again he doesn't pitch a full season. Add in that Fedde is a question mark and Jefry is a mirage and you have to figure another rotation arm is needed.

Get him out of here stuff
Milone, Glover, Gio, Kelley, Herrera, Solis, Williams, Cordero, Gott. Gio was pretty terrible in the second half but he's gone now. Milone is incredibly hittable, especially over the fence type of hits. Glover, Kelley (gone), Herrera, Williams and Cordero all showed little stuff and Glover, Williams and Cordero were all wild. Gott barely pitched but was bad. He and Williams, Solis were all homer prone as well.

Starter wise there isn't anything here to worry about. Gio and Milone weren't in the plans for 2019.  We already noted they need a new starter and it's good to see that Fedde and Jefry, at least one of who will likely fill in a rotation spot, aren't in this group (though Jefry is skirting it).  Bullpen wise though you see a lot of names here of guys they hoped to be big parts of the Nats pen moving forward. Solis, Glover, and Gott were probably three guys they expect to run out there in big spot by now. Instead they are being run out of town. Williams was the next guy they said to get excited about and he's been just as bad.  There's a lot of small IP in here but also a lot to worry about.

The pitching has been a trouble spot in the 2nd half in compared to the offense and there isn't much to make you optimistic as the season ends. I guess you can feel ok about the rotation. Max is Max, Stras is rounding back into form, Roark should be rotation worthy if not actually good and Fedde isn't terrible. If the Nats get a legit contender #2 type then it'll be a pretty good rotation especially the top end. But the pen is a different story. There's seemingly no one between Doolittle and the space filler part of the bullpen and the guys you were looking toward to play important rolls haven't stepped up, they've fallen down.

The second half Nats have shown an ability to compete. To keep that up in 2019 it looks like a couple decent signings might keep the offense up because what's here is pretty good. A good signing might keep the rotation up because what's here is workable. But the bullpen is in shambles, again, and nothing here is showing they are worth relying in 2019 on outside of Doolittle.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Quickie - promise kept by me


It was Max that couldn't keep the promise for you dreamers. The Nats would win the second and third game but with the loss of the first the situation shifted.  It could have been a 'tragic number' of 8 with 12 left. Now it's 6*. Sorry. Blame him. Nats go 9-3 and Braves 3-9? Not good enough.  Call me when the gap gets to three (iow 2019) 

Speaking of Max here's the Cy Young battle as it stands

Max : 17-7  2.53  0.915 WHIP, 12.1K/9, 2.1BB/9, 0.9 HR/9
deGrom :  8-9 1.78  0.950 WHIP, 11.2K/9, 2.0BB/9, 0.4 HR/9

(I could give you Nola's stats but I don't see the point. Maybe if the Phillies were taking the East but they are most certainly not)

I don't see how Max is winning this but I've been wrong before.

In good news though Soto took the weekend over Acuna, dominating the last two games after Acuna won the first.

Soto : .305 / .421 / .532,  20 HR, 72 R, 64 RBI, 5 SB
Acuna : .292 / .368 / .574,  25 HR, 71 R, 55 RBI, 14 SB

This is back to being anyone's award. 

*If you are curious it's 7 for the WC but it's 7 looking at three different teams.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

My promise to you dreamers

I have promised that if the Nationals sweep the Braves I will post a very detailed post on their chances for the playoffs. This is movement from yesterday where I said they had to be 5 out. I'm giving them today. Look at me, all generous and stuff.

While I'd love for the Nats to take full credit for killing the Phillies chances - the Phillies have been playing particularly bad baseball for a long while now. Before this sweep they lost series @NYM, @MIA, vCHC, vNATS, @TOR, @NATS, vNYM...


@SDP and finally @ARI.

That's a month of losing series. Remember when I said to catch a team the Nats would have to play like the best or they like the worst? Well the Phillies played like the worst and the Nats caught them. 

The other thing that happened last night (well other than Soto bombing another HR, but that doesn't change the Soto v Acuna series coming up, just makes it better) is that the Nats took it to Aaron Nola. It wasn't a bad outing but it was decidedly mediocre, and in this Cy Young race, that's not going to cut it.  You can officially cut Nola out of the voting. Thanks to all who made me put him in and waste all that precious time! Days of 24hr research by my staff, for naught!

Today is the infamous Cubs make-up game which the cubs fans are treating like the MLB is sending them in a plane into the eye of Florence so they'll die so the Brewers can win. Win this game and shut them up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Not too little, but too late.

Four in a row!  As noted the Nats haven't done that since the very end of May.  Should it be enjoyed? Yes! If you are still following the team live it up. Good baseball is better than bad baseball is better than no baseball and soon you'll have no baseball. Should it be celebrated? Naaaaaaaaaaaah.

Now of course a run like this starts the mind going on about furious finishes. But that's where the too late comes in. Even if the whole league was cooperating the Nats would still be 4 out of first and with 17 games to go that's a pretty big hurdle. 12-5 vs 7-10 or something. A run that could be derailed by a simple Atlanta win in the series against the Nats (which may be played somewhere other than Atlanta - which would get all the stories going) or Colorado win at the end of the year.

Notice I said "even if the whole league is cooperating" because it isn't. The Braves have also won four in a row turning that 12-5 vs 7-10 dream into a 15-2 vs 6-11 nigh impossibilty*  The Wild Card keeps churning and while the Nats have made major gains against the Phillies, Dbacks, and Dodgers, the Cardinals have basically held ground (now 8 ahead) and all it was going to take was one of those teams holding position to make the WC2 a non-issue.

Why am I still talking about the season? Because why not? It's still going on so I'm still talking about it until it has it's last breath. I'm not saying there's a chance again.**

What I will mention is Juan Soto homering his way back into the ROY race. This squeaks his OPS back over Acuna's (who tripled and walked twice last night) Soto is still a half-step behind because of all the other mitigating factors (Acuna better in field, on basepaths - that we've been allowed to see, team is going to beat Soto's team).  Barring someone going 0-8 or 8-8 this will dovetail nicely into the Braves/Nats series. FOR ROY SUPREMECY!

*I never say never because it's never never until it's technically never. 

**When would I? I suppose if they are able to hold at 8 and then sweep the Braves? Basically go into next Monday 5 back or closer. That's not a good spot but the MIA/NYM/MIA games would set up for a run that could get you thinking.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Monday Quickie

3 Week Status
Record: 71-72
Ground gained/lost in division last wk : +1 games to PHI, +0.5 games to ATL
Ground gained/lost in WC race last wk : 0 to STL,  -2 MIL, 0 LAD, -2.5 PIT, -1 COL, +1 ARI

HOW BAD IS THIS LEAGUE? The Nats actually gained ground last week and didn't play well.  It's maddening really. But this is the last update. The Nats haven't gained any significant ground in the division since dropping to 7 games out during the "injury guys can't play" into "one-run loss massacre" time frame of late June early July. They haven't been factors in the WC race for 3+ weeks now. At this point they are out of time. The magic number for the Braves over the Nats is a bad day away from single digits. The Wild Card is a near impossibility. This is the dead man walking.

Scherzer : 17-6 2.31 ERA, 0.883 WHIP, 12.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9 (2.66 FIP)  
deGrom 8-8 1.68 ERA, 0.963 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9 (2.07 FIP)
 Nola : 16-4 2.29 ERA, 0.959 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 (2.87 FIP)

deGrom pitches tonight and didn't pitch last week. Scherzer had an impressive game vs the Cubs but everything but HR/9 nudge in the wrong direction. Oh and wins. Got a win. So did Nola but against the Mets it doesn't register like that Cubs game did.  Still anyone's game but I have to think Nola is losing any chance to make up ground. Not that he hasn't pitched well but if Max isn't going to falter then Nola needs to be spectacular. 

Soto :  .298 / .416 / .506  16 HR, 2 SB, 56 RBI
Acuna :  .293 / .367 / .581  25 HR, 14 SB, 53 RBI

I hate to say it but Acuna might be separating here.  He's drawn 8 walks in the past week to really push up the OBP.  Along with that he's hit 2 more homers (5 XBH) and stole three more bases. Everyday Juan has been limited in his ABs thanks to the rain but hasn't been able to rachet up the power in a long time.  He's nearing 50% of his time now running a line like .275 / .400 / .400 which on one hand is an incredible amount of patience, but on the other isn't going to win a lot of ROY votes over a guy slugging near .600.

Boz wrote an article this weekend saying "Keep Davey".  It's a fair take, in my opinion. Davey was the wrong guy to take over a team and task with winning it all. Inexperience does not jive with a plan that wants to squeak out wins where they couldn't before. But a one-year experienced manager motivating a young team to try to make the playoffs? Or riding out a couple resetting years and then getting a judgment at the end of year 3? Those aren't indefensible.  Do I fire Davey Martinez? Well yes. But they I have no compunction in re-hiring Dusty or throwing money at Girardi. Also I hate the camel schtick. But I'm not going to go crazy if he's here on Opening Day 2019. 

Friday, September 07, 2018

Aaaaand we're done here

We'll do one more update on Monday perhaps but even the dreamers have to stop dreaming now. With three straight losses and a 2-6 record in their last 8 games the Nats have finally managed to "out bad" the rest of the NL which had been either stumbling along (NL East) or trading hot and cold streaks (WC teams). They are now 8.5 games out of first, 9.5 out of the second wild card and officially in "double miracle" time.

Still want to dream just for fun? Sorry. 

The Wild Card is probably just a week a way from a legitimate mathematical impossibility. With so many teams ahead of them there are too many match-ups that give wins to someone fighting for the 2nd Wild Card. ARI plays LAD, STL plays LAD, STL plays PIT, COL plays PHI, etc.. Losses for one team are wins for another, which means the Nats not gaining ground on someone ahead of them. Technically if you like I can piece together a way it would work but it's nothing that should be considered even in fun. It's a "what if the Nats ride unicorns around the bases?" scenario. It's not going to happen.

The NL East will hold out longer because there are only two teams ahead of the Nats and the Phillies have been among the worst teams in baseball over the past 3 weeks (5-12). Unfortunately the Phillies and Braves do play each other 7 times over the last 11 games so the magic number will slam up on the Nats pretty fast.  How bad is it though? Well if the Braves go .500 (11-11) to finish a measly 88-75, the Nats would have to go 20-2 to beat them out. That's why it's double miracle time. The Nats need to go on an incredible run say... 17-5 AND the Braves need to suddenly be terrible, say... 8-14 (and that has to happen in a way where they aren't giving too many wins to the Phillies if the Phillies aren't just losing 2 out of every 3 games still).  Have double miracles happened in the history of baseball? Ok, yes. I'll admit they have. But when you have like 400 races over the history of baseball you are going to find an example of everything. One or two times it did happen mean it didn't happen 398 or 399 times.

The Nats are now spoilers.  Who could they spoil? Lots of teams. They could hurt Chicago, who has a nice but not insurmountable lead over the Brewers, if they can win the rest of these games. (and who doesn't want to see the Brewers instead of the Cubs?).  They could knock the Phillies out of contention with a sweep of the three games following that. If you prefer the Phillies over ATL they could get swept by the Phillies then sweep the Braves. They end with a series in Colorado where they could swing the NL West. A lot of opportunity to play an important role.

But Harper what if I just want to watch good, no-spoiler version, playoff relevant baseball? Well there are other teams to watch and baseball will be gone sooner than you think so I suggest tuning into those games. I'll be offering up suggestions for each series time frame. For this weekend, your best bet is the Dodgers at the Rockies. The Rockies hold a 1.5 game lead over the Dodgers in an NL West 3-way race that has stayed tight for a while.  The other team in that trio, the Dbacks, are hosting the Braves. Arizona needs those wins but Atlanta has no interest in letting Philly back into the race. Plus you can keep an eye on Acuna in the ROY race.  If you want good baseball or just earlier games the Red Sox and Astros are playing in a possible playoff preview. And if you are a late game person, the Yankees are in Seattle, with the Mariners clinging to playoff hopes while the clubhouse brawls eachother. And who doesn't like to see the team 9 out of 10 SABR guys seem to like fail? As a last choice you can watch Max's Cy Young rivals go at it in the Phillies Mets series; Nola tonight, deGrom on Sunday. (and Max on Saturday)

So watch some baseball - even if it's not Nats.