Nationals Baseball: Nightmare at Nats Park 2 - Comeuppance's Revenge

Friday, January 03, 2014

Nightmare at Nats Park 2 - Comeuppance's Revenge

Where for some reason I stupidly inhabit a boy's body in the real world rather than attacking you through dreams. (Side discussion - Is the jump from "Nightmare on Elm Street 2" to the Dream Warriors one the biggest improvement in sequels ever? Let's leave out reboots here like "Die Another Day" to "Casino Royale")

No actually I'm going to review my "nightmare scenario" where the Nats miss the playoffs to see how good I did at picking out why the Nats would miss the playoffs. See if I can learn anything from that exercise.

First off I started at the 96 wins the Nats were set at in my mind (pythag win total from 2012).  Then I said we unavoidably had to add wins for more playing time, but I tried to be conservative since we needed fewer wins :
  • Werth +1.5
  • Bryce vs '12 Morse/Bernie +1. 
Now I started taking off wins
  • LaRoche -2
  • Gio -0.5
  • Desmond -1.5
  • Span v '12 Bryce -2
  • Bullpen -0.5
  • Suzuki/Ramos -0.5
  • Haren -1
  • Injury (specifically to pitcher) -3
At that point the Nats were at 87.5 wins, just outside the 85-87 range I said you needed to "feel good" about missing the playoffs.  Ok, so what really happened with all this (in rough terms)?
  • Werth +4
  • Bryce vs '12 Morse/Bernie +2.
Already you see a problem. These guys did give the teams more wins as I thought they would (pat on the back for me) but they did even better than I thought (OW! not so hard!) so now the win total in my head was at 102 before going down. Yikes. Big drop gotta come. Not much to learn though. Werth's performance being as good as it was (MVP worthy when he was playing) was unforseeable. Continuing with the offensive failures:
  • LaRoche -3
  • Desmond -0
  • Span v '12 Bryce -1
  • Suzuki/Ramos +0.5
Again problem - these guys didn't falter as much as I'd thought they would. Barely under 100 now (98.5). Things to learn - maybe I should expect larger crashes from older players (though the Werth thing throws that for a loop). I should probably consider Desmond roughly a 5 win player from now on given the lack of any drop in production overall. Moving on to pitching:
  • Gio -2
  • Bullpen -0.5
  • Haren -1
About right. Gio went down a bit further, returning to his pre-2012 levels so I should probably pay more attention to historical stats and view outliers with more suspicion (again Werth comes to mind). Nailed to bullpen so that makes me think my understanding of the relatively minor role they play is pretty spot on.  At 95 now. Finally the injury
  • Injury (Espy situation) -2.5
About right again. Nothing to be learned about predicting injury. That's just a guessing game

Thing is right now the Nats stand at 92.5 wins (or so). Where did the other 6 lost wins come from?
  • Zimm -1.  
Offense was stable. Fielding was terrible and it cost him. I'm not sure what this tells me since fielding is kind of variable. I guess not to underestimate injuries relating to fielding effecting production.
  • Bench - 3.5
Here we go. Since we counted Bernie already above, the swing here is almost entirely with the infamous three, Lombardozzi, Moore, and Tracy. From a +1.7 in 2012 to a -2.5 in 2013 or a swing of 4.2 losses all by themselves. Tracy is the Gio lesson - don't buy into outlier years.  Moore and Bernie have to be something more like - watch out for rookies having unexpectedly productive years in limited play. There's also a "what can you do" element here as the only reason they could hurt so much is because they played so much which was because of injury. Have to expect some, but impossible to predict who and that matters greatly.
  • Pitchers as hitters -0.8
Something we don't really think about but when you are adding all this up it matters. Now that I look at it - this number is kind of variable and in general they take away a half a win so I should probably have expected some loss here. (Fun note : two highest in 2013 were the Dodgers and Braves for what's that worth)
  • Strasburg -1 
He was good, but much like Gio he wasn't as good as he was in 2012. I still expect him to be one of the better pitchers in 2014, but maybe I should start seeing him more as Top 10 rather than Top 3, which is a world of difference.

There you go. This is all pretty rough but one of the things you'll notice is given how the nightmare scenario was about things going wrong for the Nats, how little "went right" for the Nats. Werth improved by a lot. Ramos played well and played enough to matter. ZNN pitched a little better, though the post All-Star break troubles kept him from making a big difference. The fifth starter role actually was a little better in 2013 thanks to Ohlendorf, Jordan and Roark but Detwiler was pretty good in 2012. After that not much of anything. Span didn't suck? To fail like they did the Nats needed a season where almost everything went the wrong way. In 2013 it did. Now, when looking at 2014, it's up to us to parse out what were aberrations and what are the new realities.


Bradley Herring said...

Considering the mass shooting at the actual Navy Yard, perhaps a different headline?

Chris Needham said...

What worries me going into next year is the bench construction, as currently composed.

McClouth is the only real left-handed bat on the bench. And he's not a great hitter -- signed more for his versatility/speed/averageness than anything.

When it's the 8th or 9th, and there's a righty closer on the mound, who are you turning to? It's either McClouth, Espinosa, or hoping one of the righties can make do.

That's troublesome.

Harper said...

Brad - fair enough. changed.

Harper said...

Chris - it's certainly unfinished. In your scenario, right now, I guess you hope a lefty started and you have LaRoche on the bench.

I'm a bit bothered because when it comes to the bench it seems like the org is trying to play around to see how little it can do and still be successful. Last year it tried nothing, this year it's trying some decent OFers. It may all work out but dammit go all-in for once.

Donald said...

While I know it's a gamble, I have to hope that everything doesn't go wrong again. And I don't know for sure, but it sure felt like the Braves had everything go right. If things just revert to the mean, I think the Nats are roughly even. Adding Fister over Haren may be enough. The other thing is Harper. If he has a break-out, MVP quality year, the Nats could be pretty tough to beat, barring major injuries to pitchers.

DezoPenguin said...

I don't know about the Braves having everything go right, though. The pitching, maybe, but Heyward regressed badly, Justin Upton had a great April but was a lot more like his 2012 self after that, Simmons hit enough to justify his existence given his brilliant glove but certainly not enough to notice, Uggla was truly awful, and B.J. Upton was unspeakable. Against that they got a semi-breakout season from Freeman and a real suprise positive from Johnson, plus a fast start from Gattis while McCann was hurt.

Looking ahead to 2014, you have to assume they'll be better. Assuming that Freeman, Simmons, and J. Upton are pretty much who we think they are and they stay level, 3B will probably have some drop-off, as will C (Gattis/Laird instead of McCann/Gattis), but B.J. will probably improve, you have to expect some bounce-back from Heyward, possibly significantly ("He'd be a Hall-of-Famer if baseball was only played in even-numbered years" is starting to be career description), and if Uggla doesn't improve they'll pitch him right off the team and replacement-level would be an upgrade. So overall, I don't expect Atlanta's offense to get any worse this year.

Anon21 said...

Yeah, it's fairly ludicrous to say the Braves had everything go right when their two highest-paid players combined for just under 1000 PA of replacement level production. I'll acknowledge that the Nats had a lot go wrong, but even so I'm chuckling at Schoenfield picking them to win the division that they just lost by 10 games; I think as we get further and further from 2012, it will become clear that that was the fluke year for the Nats. Get used to mediocrity.

Donald said...

Yeah, you are probably right about Atlanta. It was more of an impression. Their season as all about 3 or 4 long win streaks with sub-.500 ball the rest of the time. Gattis stepped up early with Upton being hot to trigger that first win streak. And a lot of their games in those streaks were won by 1 or 2 runs. In 2012, it seemed like the Nats were getting the clutch hit at the right time. In 2013, it seemed like the Braves were the team getting that clutch hit, at least during those streaks. They were 6-3 against the Nats in 1 run games, for instance.

But most of the time, they sure didn't look like a dominant team -- several holes in the line-up; losing record on the road. I wasn't at all surprised to see them eliminated in the first round. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them win fewer games next year. That doesn't mean I think they will fall off completely, but it wouldn't be hard to point to a half dozen close games between them and the Nats that if they had gone the other way, we'd have been in 1st.

Anon21 said...

Not to be insufferably snarky, but given the Braves' lead at the end of the season, I think it would be not just hard, but impossible to point to any number of head-to-head games fewer than 10 that would have changed the outcome of the division race.

Wally said...

Harper - great post. I had thought the starters were worse than generally thought, but it is good to see it analytically shown. It is worth noting that Stras not only was down 1 WAR, but also pitched 20 more IPs suggesting rate wise he was even worse. But when you look at that bench, you really are right for holding Rizzo accountable for failing to pull the trigger on improvements earlier. And how he isn't over reaching for the bench this year is beyond me. I agree with Chris that another lefty bat would be comforting (Chavez would have looked great), and maybe Baker. But I don't think TMo should be on the bench.

As for the Braves v. Nats, I think it is very close. We each have reasons to feel good and worry, and in their favor, they played well most recently, which counts for something. ATL is undeniably worse for losing McCann and to a lesser extent Hudson. But if I were them, I'd feel good that JUp and Heyward will play better. Not so sure about BJ, and Chris Johnson has to regress quite a bit. As for us, how would we feel about RZim and Span if the season ended Aug 15? Plus, we both have long term worries that subpar TV deals will hurt our financial competitiveness.

Donald said...

The Braves won 96 games and the Nats won 86. If the Nats had won 5 more games against the Braves the records would be 91 wins a piece. Just saying.

Anon21 said...

That... tends to happen when one gets insufferably snarky. Math is so far from my strong suit, it's a made-up German suit like the Jack of Bells or the Five of Acorns.