Nationals Baseball: So comes the weekend of doom or joy

Friday, September 28, 2012

So comes the weekend of doom or joy

or neither.

This weekend should kind of wrap things up for the Nats (although leaving HFA wide open and thus making getting the rotation ready a mess). I see the Braves winning 2 of 3 over the Mets, the Nats winning 1 of 3 from the Cardinals, and the lead shrinking to 3 games. That doom scenario where the Nats don't win the NL East outright in the regular season would then be up to two sweeps to end the season (Philly over Nats, Braves over Pirates) which isn't going to happen. You can basically start struggling with the champagne corks at that point.

However with the season so close to being over, one game in a different direction and everything changes dramatically. The Nats getting swept or Braves sweeping, and it's a two game lead and uh oh.  The Nats winning two of three or the Braves only winning 1 and the Nats are popping the bubbly on the side bar of the Post sports section, right next to whatever huge pic of RGIII they are showing.

The less likely scenarios still aren't crazy.  The Nats hoisting a pennant on Saturday? All it would take is a couple Nats wins and Braves to lose 1of 2 to start, or a couple Braves losses and the Nats to win one of the first couple in St. Louis. Perfectly reasonable scenarios. A sweep by the Braves is not insane. Neither is the Nats getting swept.  Both at the same time would mean PANIC.  

It's set up to be a weekend of wild emotional swings for Nats fans. Grab some brews and hunker down. 

Bryce Harper and the teenage HR record.

Bryce Harper has a lot of records for a 19 year old. A lot of that is because he's had more plate appearances than any other 19 year old. Don't get me wrong. That's a very good thing. It means he's that good at 19 to deserve to get those appearances. But it also means some of the usual conclusions you might draw aren't correct.  Like thinking if he hits the most HRs as a 19 year old he's the best power hitting 19 year old ever. That's not true. Tony Conigliaro was a much better power hitter at 19 than is Bryce.

Tony : 18.5
Bryce : 27.5

isoSLG (league isoSLG)
Tony : .240 (.135)
Bryce :  .201 (.147)

He hit HRs more often and hit for more power in a harder time to hit for power. It's not even a question here. Bryce may very well be the best all around 19yr old (not sure about Conigliaro's fielding but he didn't run the bases like Bryce) but just having the HR title doesn't mean he was the best power hitter. (I'm still saying Bryce had one of the best power season at 19. That's still awesome.)

Some Tony C things to shoot for. He led the league in homers at 20.  He reached 100 homers in his 22 yr old season. I like Bryce to match both.


Anonymous said...

One factor you left out is that Tony C. (a righty) played half his games at Fenway. Not that this would be enough to change your conclusion, but it ought to reduce Tony C's advantages somewhat.

WiredHK said...

Nats' numbers aside, the Brewers and Dodgers could really use a Nats sweep in StL (which isn't out of the question, while a long shot). The Brewers have 3 at home vs Hou and LA has 3 at home vs Col - both very sweep-able, to make my own word up.

Imagine the fun we would see in those last 3 games of the year if StL/Mil/LA were all within 1 game of each other for the last WC spot?

Harper said...

Anon - you're making me do more work!

Away from Fenway Tony's #s were a 19.7 PA/HR and a .229 isoSLG. Slight dip, but like you said, not enough.

(Bryce is pretty stable home v away - as expected Nats park is pretty nuetral)

Froggy said...

To add to Anon's point...without diving into and looking at every pitcher that Tony C faced, and how many looks did each pitcher get of him during the season, compared to now with specialization, don't you think pitching is more consistent in this era and presents a tougher HR/AB challenge.

If Bryce hits a couple more, how do you not give him ROY?

Froggy said...

...there should have been a question mark after challenge.

Donald said...

One thing that's interesting about this weekend series is that it stands a decent chance of being a preview of the first playoff series. I hope the Nats are treating it as such. If we go 1-2 or 0-3, that's a bad sign if we have to start the first 2 playoff games right back there. I'm really hoping we win at least 2. If that happens, pop the champagne. Plus the more games St. Louis loses, the more they are likely fighting for the WC which means they'll be playing the Reds tougher in their final series. That could help with HFA, so even more incentive to win!

Anonymous said...

Bryce's avg home run distance: 414 ft! It's going to be a fun 6 years (minimum)

Zimmerman11 said...

What happened to "its OVA... Nats sweep, over... Braves sweep, ova.... doesn't matter its OVA"

You can't pretend its not over now can you???

JWLumley said...

Not sure how you would or could quantify this, but Bryce has been the guy that pitcher's circled on the lineup card since the day he entered the league and because of his exposure, there was a book on him from day one. For comparison's sake and since it's fresh in my mind, consider Ruf from the Philthies. The Nats pitchers have attacked him and he's responded. Harper was getting fed 2-0 breaking balls from day one. I wonder how many more dingerz he would have hit over the first few weeks or a month if he'd been a "regular" rookie?

Not sure he would outpace Tony C, even if he'd been a regular rookie, or even that it's had a tangible impact on Harper, but intuitively it seems like there's something there to me. When you consider that Harper has been better than Tony C at league ISO and didn't play in Fenway, I don't think I would draw the sweeping conclusion that it's not close.

Based on the information available I would agree that Tony C was the better power hitter at 19, but if there's a way to measure and/or quantify the way Harper's been pitched I think it could tilt the scales. Harper's BB% is a little better, and has the lowest FB% of rookies seeing only 45.4% fastballs, also good for 3rd fewest in the league behind Josh Hamilton and Alfonso Soriano.

Shane said...

Bryce can be the 2nd best power hitting teenager ever. I am OK with that. He'll still get ROY and Davey will pick up MOY.
I am still hoping for 100 wins, and it is possible. 2-1 against STL and 3-0 against the Fills.

Froggy said...

@Pig.pen - To your point, I wonder how many less dingers Tony C would have hit if the league had two years of advance by watching him in the minors like they have with Harper.

I think the real comparison will be decided after next year's numbers. Although I would be happier to see Bryce hit for higher average and OBP as I think he is far more dangerous on base than as a power hitter.

JWLumley said...

@Froggy I think you're right that next year will paint a better picture as ISO suffers from a lot of variation and randomness until about 550 PA's.

As for Bryce being more dangerous on the basepaths, that's doubtful. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton, Harper is the only guy in the MLB who projects as an 80 on the scouting 20/80 scale for power. In a league where power is down, he's someone that can hit 40-50 homers a year for the next decade. Essentially, he's Adam Dunn with speed, defense and the ability to hit for a respectable average. I think the power he's shown this year is just the beginning.

Kenny B. said...

I would be shocked if the Braves sweep. They're playing very well, but the law of averages says that take 2 of 3 at best. They're due to go cold any day now, especially given their well-documented success allergy.

I think the Phillies series was big, because it has renewed the Nats' confidence in themselves. They'll be fine against St. Louis. They've had the Central's number all year anyway.

Personally, I'm looking forward to ending the season with a division championship, a ROY, a Cy Young winner, and a MOY. Everything else is sweet, sweet gravy.

The MOY conversation raises a question I haven't heard discussed: how long will Davey stick around in Washington? And who would be in line to replace him if he left in the next year or two, given the departure of Porter for Houston?

JWLumley said...

@Kenny Randy Knorr is heavily rumored to be Davey's replacement, although the Nats organization is supposedly littered with managerial prospects.

Harper said...

Wired - it'd be great but it can't top last year's game 162 ATL/STL BOS/TB set ups (I don't think)

Froggy - So the slugging was better in 2012 but the HRs came more in 1964? MORE WORK!

PA/HR 1964 : 39.85
PA/HR 2012 : 40.37

So ever so slightly right but honestly I don't like comparing era based on assumptions, because you can always come up with counter ones. I like to stick to Player A in Era A was like this, Player B in Era B was like that.

Donald - agree across the board. I know Davey wants to rest some, but the Nats aren't in a position to do that just yet.

Anon - should be.

Z11 - that's why I said "YOU can basically start struggling with the champagne corks at that point."

I accept you guys don't see it as over. I've been drinking bottles of bubbly for weeks.

It's always been possible that the Nats don't win the division but it's never yet moved to the level of "decent chance". I see no harm in figuring out where to spend the $5 I will win from a friend on a bet that a 20-sided die would land on a number from 2-20. You guys can worry about the 1.

PigPen - sorry I think I was confusing. The League isoSLG is not an individual stat, it's the SLG-BA put up by their leagues as a whole. For Bryce the NL right now has an isoSLG of .147. That means 2012 NL (.147) is a better slugging league than 1964 AL (.135). You'd expect then two players - exact same talent to have a better SLG in 2012. Bryce does not. so it works in Tony C's favor.

The pitchers did stop challenging Bryce very early don't think the #s are there for those stats in 1964. Would it matter? Too much conjecture. Maybe they did pitch away form Tony and he just didn't swing and miss as much? You can work out the argument in Bryce's favor but it's not going to be based on anything hard.

Shane - well actually Ott was probably better, too. And Cesar Cedeno is an interesting case (dead era - I think the Astrodome was a cavern, right?) but in the end you're still comparing him with a HOF and two guys that were among the best super young players of all-time (with injury derailing their careers). There are no chumps here.

Now that Miley lost, Bryce is an easy lead for the ROY, just has to avoid a 2-25 finish or something.
Davey should win the MOY (sympathy votes for Dusty if Reds have best record?) Would not bet on 100 wins.

Froggy - starting next year I wouldn't worry about Tony anymore. You can compare him with guys like Williams, Eddie Matthews, Frank Robinson who came in fast at 20.

P.P2 - One thing (and possibly only one) in favor of Dunn is Dunn could always recognize balls. His OBP has always been great. Bryce lags in this territory. I do think the kid will hit 40+ homers soon.

I think the best comparison for the kids is Bobby Bonds in his prime, though what Bonds did at 25/27/29 is probably what Bryce will do average from 21 on and he'll peak higher with his power.

Harper said...

Kenny B - Unless things skew awesomely right for Gio and terribly wrong for Dickey in their last games, Gio won't win the Cy Young. Put money on it. Dickey has pitch 30 more innings, has a lower ERA, better WHIP, more Ks (thought not more K/9), leads the league in CGs and SOs.

JWLumley said...

@Harper Bobby Bonds? Seriously? Maybe in terms of talent (Bonds was a notorious drunk whose drinking greatly limited his career) but not in terms of production. If I'm comparing Harper to a Bonds it's Barry, but with a better arm. Remember Barry Bonds struck out over 100 times his rookie season and wasn't the OBP machine we all came to know. Harper's issue with OBP isn't recognition, it's truly discipline. Given his young age I think the OBP will get much, much better.

As for the power, he's 19 and I haven't seen a scouting report on Harper that didn't project an 80 on the power scale. The kid is still growing and has the longest average home run distance in the major leagues. If that isn't raw power, I don't know what is. He may not hit 40 next year, but he will before he turns 23, which is well before most guys have even debuted in the league.

Look at the guys Harper is passing on all of these teenage lists: Ott, Griffey Jr., Mantle, etc. or rather some of the best power hitters in the 125+ years they've been playing this game. Bobby Bonds was a very good player, but you're selling Harper short if you think that's what he'll turn in to. This kid is going to hit for average and the OBP will drastically increase. It may be a lot to ask from someone so young, but the only real comparisons are the big 4: Ruth, Williams, Mays and the other Bonds.

Harper said...

I just realized people will probably see Bryce Harper = Bobby Bonds and freak (even though Bonds best years were damn good).

We've never really seen a player with Bryce's presumed skill set develop so young. If he can hit for .300+ well then he's probably is an Aaron-like all time great. If he can't (and alot of people peg him as an under .300 hitter) then we have that comparison problem. Bonds looks like him, a prsumably just before steroid Sosa is a good comparison too. But they both developed late. It's tough to have this speed w/o average, this power w/o walks and at this age.

What I think is that Bryce could very well be the best of this type of player baseball has seen. When other guys come along we'll now have that archtype to compare them to and it'll be bryce.

Harper said...

P.P - didn;t say Bryce would be Bobby Bonds. Said Bryce's average year would be equal to the best Bobby could put up. That's a BIG difference. That's saying Bryce's average year is an MVP caliber season. His best will be amazing, his worst will likely be still very good.

Williams, Ruth, and Mays all pretty much immediately were .300 hitters. If Bryce hits .300+ next year than I agree he's on the path to those guys. But let's see it first.

Barry Bonds is an interesting case because he was developing along pretty well and then BAM! OMG HE'S AN ALL-TIME GREAT! and (presumably because of the roids) he kept it up much later than anyone else. He's a good guy to keep your eye on for comparison if Bryce doesn't start being MVP super awesome next year. (but I would bet on Bryce being out of baseball well before 42 - Stay Clean Bryce!)

cass said...

Kenny: I'm with you on MoY and RoY, but I think, barring a meltdown in his last start, Dickey's won this thing. 1st in strikeouts, 2nd by 0.01 in ERA, and 2nd in wins. Plus, assuming Gio's done for the year, Dickey will get a chance to tie him in wins.

The Cy Young is Dickey's. I think the race is over.

JWLumley said...

@Harper Maybe I misunderstood what you were saying about Bonds, but also consider that Williams, Mays, B.L. Bonds and Ruth didn't come up as teenagers. Mickey Mantle hit .267 at 19 and was a career .298 hitter, which is about what I expect from Harper. Griffey Jr. hit .264 and was a career .284 hitter. ARod didn't clear .235 in two brief stints at 19 and 20.

Still, batting average is a VERY flawed stat and I wouldn't even prescribe to the notion that BA is indicative of future success.

JWLumley said...

Harper, also, going along with your theory next year isn't really make or break for Harper to start hitting for average. Mays debuted in the big leagues at 20 and hit .274, Williams debuted at 21 and hit .327 and Ruth didn't have a full year as a hitter until he was 24. Given his two years in the Army Mays didn't hit .300 until he was 24.

Still my main point is that Harper's future is playing against ghosts. He's that good.

Harper said...

cass - yeah it would talk Dickey being blown out of the game in an inning while Gio tosses a no-no type of finish to pull it out for Gio (IMO)

P.P - ok not teenagers but Williams, Ruth, Mantle, Griffey Jr., ARod all hit .300+ at 20. (A-Rod's start was at 18-19 not 19-20) All including Mays (except Ruth) had high average partial seasons in the minors. Bryce's best is .318. (Of course maybe if he stuck in AAA as a 19 year old he would have hit .350) I'll stick with what I said.

Since when did I say Bryce wouldn't have future success. I basically pegged him for 350+ homers 250 SBs by the time he's 30. Is it really bothering you if I don't have him with a .310 average too? Is future success for Bryce only defined as one of the 5-10 best players of all time.

Harper said...

P.P - not make or break (Bonds and Mays are good examples) but if you want him to be a Mt. Rushmore esque argument at careers end then we would probably see him hitting close or over .300 next year. It's just how most of the top 30 hitters established themselves.

Yes you're main point is the take away. We're having a fairly legitimite back and forth over if he's going to be one of the greatest players of all-time.

Donald said...

As for CY, I agree that Dickey is in the lead, but I don't think it's final yet. Even if Dickey pitches okay in his final game but doesn't get the win, and if Gio does win, he'll be 2 wins up. That MIGHT be enough. It doesn't need to be the Dickey tanking / Gio no-noing. They're close enough that a voter could rationally pick either. If you want to pick Gio because he's on a division winning team, or discount Dickey because of the knuckleball, you can do that without seeming like you're being unfair.

Anonymous said...

fuck baseball

Zimmerman11 said...

I presume that last post was from a Braves fan?

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Magic number is 1!!! NATS do it today. Second to last poster is a Philthy fan.:)

Anonymous said...

lets do this today!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping me sane. You predicted Nats 1-2 and Braves 2-1, and it came to pass. If not for that prediction, I would be ever so much more panicked by the HORRIBLE starts we saw from EJax and Det this weekend.

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