Nationals Baseball: Hidden "weaknesses"

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hidden "weaknesses"

It can't be helped.  You are always looking for things to improve in a team.  You win 100 games, you want to find out how you can win 101. But it's tough to find weakness in the 2013 Nationals.  On a macro level : Starting Pitching?  Great.  Relief Pitching? Very Good.  Defense? Very Good.  Offense? Good.   On a micro-level, I suppose LH relief pitching is a weakness, but that was a choice that mostly makes sense for the Nats (how many times a year do you need to get out a LH who is terrible random against ok lefties but will crush the great righties the Nats have?).  And I guess... maybe catcher? I mean, it's not a strength right now.  It sure could be though.

Even expanding it out - manager, GM, owner... no complaints.  TV Announcers? Park and location? Batting practice ballcaps?

No team is good at everything, even the Nats. So where do these Supermen fail? What minor little quibbling things can you find if you get bored and pour over some stats?

They walk a few more guys than you'd like.  (10th in the NL last year)  Surprising on a team with control freaks like ZNN and Strasburg but it's true.  The Nats love "stuff" and when that's your default you'll rely on guys that can get a little wild sometimes.  Obviously this hasn't hurt performance, but I'd expect something similar this year. Even though most of the main offenders are gone, their best control relief guy (Burnett) is gone too, and the Nats really love the heat (look at how they are fawning over Karns and seem ready to give H-Rod a 3rd chance).

The left side of the infield makes a lot of silly errors.  Of qualifiers - Zimmerman is middle of the road in 3B Fielding Percentage, Desmond near the bottom.  This is something we've all noticed too. These guys sometimes have brain lock-ups and all of a sudden balls are flying every which way. The good news is that these don't show any pattern of repeating and frankly it's more important that they get to a ton of balls. Which they do.

They are kind of a slow starting team when it comes to hitting.  Every definite starter (with the exception of Bryce) tends over their career to start slowly in March/April.  That's usually the case for most batters in general, but the law of averages would say that someone on the Nats would be a guy whose March/April tend to be one of their better months. Nope.

They pick the wrong random old guys to lend a veteran presence.  Man, DeRosa and Lidge were bad last year.  The good news - No 35+ ers this year. Also no Nady, no Maldanado.  Even that ancient Wang is gone.  He'd have been 33 this year! Get outta here oldies! (everyday oldies excluded - watch out for Tracy to be bad! Oh no! Season over!)

and... you know that's really about it. I tried.  I lightly scoured, but this is all I could find.  And none of these things really matter.  The walks go hand in hand with the Nats Ks which are among the best in the league.  As long as their HRs remain down (also among the best in the league), and the relief pitching remains good (ditto) the walks are just a minor nuisance.  Zimm and Desi's brain locks are offset by the fact that they get a lot more guys out than your average left side. So even given the fact they give team's a few more extra outs on errors, they take away a bunch more on range.  They are a plus.  Who cares if the Nats are slow starters? It's not a one-month season.  And random old guys only matter on the fringiest of fringes. Maybe these guys will combine to cost you a game?

Nats are good.  Damn good. Best in the league good like everyone says. Watch out Nats fans, you are going to see a LOT of Washington Nationals as picks for WS winners this year, just you wait.


Anonymous said...

What about starting pitcher depth? I know you have said they can withstand an injury but the depth seems worse than last year.

Harper said...

It's not as good as last year but you're going to find it hard to find any team good depth. A lot of times teams with "good depth" actually just have a lot of ok guys from #3 on. You'd rather have the Nats rotation and maybe one ok guy, than 6 ok guys for 3 spots.

I guess what I'm saying is that it is a weakness but it's one almost every team has. So can I fault them for that above other teams?

cass said...

Manager: Great
General Manager: Very Good
Owners: Good
TV Broadcasters Very Bad
Radio BroadcasterS: Very Good.

I think we know where the team's weakness is. I played around with some data from Fangraphs this morning and discovered that the Nats would gain two wins if Bob Carpenter would stop using the phrase "serious jammage".

Harper said...

cass - where does the radio music stand? I'm torn by the "late 70's newscast" ex-tros. Of course I was spoiled when it comes to radio music. What can beat this? Nothing.

D28 said...

About the announcing (I love that this is even mentioned in a post about a team's weakness) one of my favorite moments from last season was when the Nats were on the road in Toronto and the sound from the broadcast booth went out for an inning. You could still hear the ballpark noise and it was so nice just to have some quiet. I'd love it if they had a "silent" 3rd inning every game. AND of course no more annoying nissan summer days song and dance commercials.

Kevin Rusch said...

About the announcers, I'd love to see someone try something - instead of having a play-by-play and color man talk though every play, what about having the equivalent of an amiable ex-pro (FP's really not that bad) just quietly sit there and drop a little inside information once in a while? (As if you were actually at the game and the guy sitting next to you just really knew his stuff)

BlueLoneWolf said...

I'm actually fine with Bob and FP. At least they seem to have chemistry and passion. Trying to watch an O's game put me to sleep and their commentators drove me nuts.

The Phat Controller said...

They are not very good at base running and advancing runners. And by base running I don't mean stealing bases. I'm talking about starting runners to avoid double plays and taking extra bases on singles or scoring from second. They are not good at advancing runners through sacrifice hits like hitting a ground ball to second to move a runner on second to third . In that situation, they are more likely to strike out, pop out, or ground to short.

Evan said...

I actually really like FP (and Bob too). Definitely have to agree with BlueLoneWolf - the O's announcers are killer, just brutal. Sure Bob and FP are a little corny at times, but I think FP does a very good job of inserting some good, in depth knowledge about the game that even my brother-in-law who was briefly a minor-leaguer thinks is interesting.

blovy8 said...

I know you don't care, but the Nats' batters strike out too much. It hinders getting on base because they don't have a lot of patience either. Desmond, Zim, and Espinosa are aggressive. They're near the bottom in BB/K. Span and healthier regulars might help that stat, but they were a bit lucky with the home run percentage last year, and on balls in play.

Anonymous said...

A few seasons ago when TV ratings were abysmal, my wife and I were driven crazy by the "commuter connection" commercials. They must have had NO advertising revenue because they would air the same commercials, in the same order EVERY break. At least now we get some variety. Dibble made it entertaining because you never knew what he would say next. Now that they are winning, we don't need entertaining announcers because the play on the field is the entertainment. Bob is great and FP grows on you. Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler are fantastic and even looked good in the Wounded Warrior softball game last year.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about the left side of the infield, especially about Zimmerman at 3rd. If you look over his career he consistently makes the tough plays on the hot corner better than almost any other in the NL (maybe beaten by David Wright).

Sirc said...

The Nats' weakness is inexperienced baseball fans who think Bryce Harper will challenge for a batting title this season, or that an injury prone and unproven rookie 3B or Lombo are a better option at second, or that the ship won't list at all when Davey steps down after this season, or that this team is automagically going to contend for several years.

I have spent too much time reading the comments section on Nats insider. It's maddening.

Donald said...

What's nice about the Nats, and it speaks to the lack of weaknesses, is that there really aren't any areas where you figure they need an upgrade. Sure, I'd take Cano over Espi, but in general, I don't think there's really any spot where I'd want Rizzo to be actively looking to get a replacement given either the potential (Ramos, Espi) or the minor leaguers working their way up (Rendon, Goodwin). Maybe at 1b?

Donald said...

The one thing I could point to on the Nats -- not that it's really fair to call it a weakness -- is their lack of superstars. That might change a bit this year with Strasburg and Harper having full seasons, but that's still just speculation. Who on the Nats is likely to win the MVP in 2013? How many will be on the all-star team? While the Nats are strong all around, pick one position where you'd say they have the best player in the league?

Pumpkin Escobar said...

Desmond - If he wasn't hurt during the all-star break he would have had more publicity along with playing the full season. You could give LaRoche some, well maybe a lot, of the credit for the drop in errors but he more than made up for it with his improvement at the plate. Other than that, Zimm if he were healthy but I agree for the most part. We have a bunch of above avg guys that play really well together.

As far as Bob and FP go, I found them annoying when I first watched their games but have grown used to their commentary and FP's insight on the game is pretty good. They are definitely better than the middle of the pack as far as what ESPN and Fox bring to the table.

A Fly Moses said...

It's hard to get a read on how good or bad FP actually is because he's such a gigantic upgrade over Dibble. He lowered the bar so much that three years later I still only judge FP against him.

Bob I could definitely do without, though.

Booyah Suckah! said...

Sirc, I'm sorry, did you actually just say that a weakness of the Nats is "inexperienced baseball fans"? Wow. Please, by all means, take it somewhere else or, better yet, shove it up your a**. I didn't realize everyone needed to submit their Baseball Fandom Resume to you before they could root for the team, or else be considered by you, the Great and Powerful Oracle of Baseball Knowledge and Pretentiousness, as a potential weakness to the team's success. Christ, have a hotdog and get over yourself.

Booyah Suckah! said...

By the way, as an "inexperienced fan" (since Sirc hasn't officially approved my curriculum vitae) I have to say I really, really like FP. Bob, I can really take or leave. The jammage comments get a little old. But FP is funny, knowledgeable, humble, and seems like he genuinely wants to help people enjoy the game by giving his player anecdotes. And he's the only guy to ever be HBP from both sides of the plate in the same game, which is an awesome record to have. And have you seen his wife?

Kenny B. said...

At first I was resistant to FP, but then multiple times while watching games I pointed out something to a friend that I thought was interesting but the announcers had missed, and each time FP would say the same thing right after me.

Additionally, there were multiple times where I thought something FP said about the on-field strategy was wrongheaded, but then he would turn out to be right in the course of the game. He definitely convinced me he was smarter than me, and now I have a tendency have mental conversations with his analysis. It gets me more into the game.

Overall, FP gives a very real sense that he is enthusiastic about the Nationals and truly enjoys watching and discussing the game of baseball.

Bob, on the other hand, meh. He definitely needs a new homerun catch phrase.

Strasburger said...

Bob and FP are really easy to hate but if you watch as many games as I do you begin to like them. They are both intelligent guys, who sometimes get too emotional and biased, but we all love that anyway.... not to mention.... FP is married to a playmate...... respect.

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