Nationals Baseball: Bench complete and it is... fair

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bench complete and it is... fair

You all know by now this transpired in the last couple of days

Young - cut
Carroll - cut
Moore - sent down
Kobernus - sent down
Leon - sent down
Mattheus - sent down
Cedeno - sent down
Frandsen - signed

This means along with the expected McLouth and Lobaton bench players, the bench is Espinosa, Hairston, and Fransden. Aaron Barrett earns the last role in the pen. The winner of Roark/Jordan starts, the loser goes down. No long relief role available.

Why Aaron Barrett? He pitched very well in 2012 (A-ball) and 2013 (AA-ball), combining to put up a an ERA around 2.10. While the 2.5 ish BB rate in the minors might translate into something in the majors just a smidge higher that you might like, the 12.5 ish K-rate makes up for it. He also doesn't give up a lot of HRs (9 in 150 minor league innings). In short, he looks like a decent reliever, he pitched well in spring, and with Detwiler pushed the the pen they didn't NEED another lefty. They could roll with Barrett. It's a shame for Ryan Mattheus, who also looked good in spring and had good 2011-2012 seasons in the majors, but he's a 30 year old about to hit arbitration eligibility. He's not long for this team.

Why Kevin "It should be Fransden" Frandsen? Why indeed. Outside of what appears to be a fluke 2012, he's been below average at the plate. He does hit LHP better historically and last season, but so does Hairston, and Espinosa. Lobaton was better batting L vs RHP last year, but historically falls with Hairston and Espinosa. Frandsen's defense is also nothing special so it's really less about him and more about the other choices Rizzo left himself. Jamey Carroll is 1000 years old and was terrible at the plate last year. Maybe he has a decent year or two in the field left in him, but if not he's probably worthless. Jeff Kobernus' primary talent is speed which made him a very useful pinch runner and gave him good range at 2nd, but he's a singly Joe in the model of Lombo, who needs to hit for average to be useful, really zero pop.

Rizzo looked at the choices and though Frandsen was slightly better. I disagree but not strongly enough to care.

Why do I disagree? Let's see how the Nats bench covers the ideal bench construction parameters :
  • Every position covered - No.  There's no real 1st baseman back-up. You could argue Zimm is being groomed but right now Frandsen (40G at first in 2013, 4 before then) is the most experienced choice. And I'd argue there's not a CF back-up either as McLouth really can't handle that position.
  • L/R balance - Not Really. Technically you do with Espinosa and Lobaton being switch hitters, but managers hate using the back-up catcher to hit (which is why Leon was cut so late) and Espinosa was never a good LHB. So it's pretty much McLouth and pray it doesn't come up again. 
  • D replacement IF - Yes. Danny is good regardless of how his hitting is doing, and frankly the starters are pretty good themselves so this isn't the most pressing issue. Still good to have in case Rendon doesn't quite get it like we all think he will. 
  • D replacement OF - Eh. McLouth is good enough in the corner to replace Werth late if he continues to decline, but he's not really good, you know? 
  • Pinch runner? Good enough. McLouth is good, Danny is ok.
  • Pop? Hairston, if he's still got it, is good vs LHP. The rest are all ok assuming Espy can hit, but as noted above it's really vs LHP we're talking about.
Kobernus would have added another very good pinch runner, probably better D in the IF, though that's of limited worth. Frandsen adds maybe another pop guy versus lefties, who might be ok at first base we don't know?  I guess I'd rather have the definite positive with Kobernus, than the maybes of Frandsen. But again I don't disagree strongly enough to make a fuss over it.

What really comes through is the "everyone can take a pitch deep" bench. No, they aren't necessarily likely to do it, but with no Carroll or Kobernus, no more Lombo, you really cut out the guys who were no threat at all. That's where I think Rizzo's strategy lies in constructing this bench. His eggs are in the "pop" basket. Unfortunately I don't think the "pop" here is enough and I think it's of limited value since RHP can pretty much kill it.

It's not a bad bench. It's a better bench than last year. Is it a good bench? Probably not but even good teams have hard times making good benches. Lobaton alone probably bumps the Nats up to "fair" and if the team is healthy, that should be enough. If it's not healthy? Well Rizzo can hopefully deal with that when he needs to.


Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

I would not have minded if Hairston went and Kobernus stayed. We, fans, remember that Framdsen hurt the NATS last year. Anyway Play Ball?

Sec 204 Row H said...

That should have been "Play Ball!"

Kevin Rusch said...

I think the hitting of Lobaton and Ramos really underscores the need of a guy who can catch a couple of innings. I don't think they should have a 3rd catcher AT ALL, but it's insane to never pinch hit the backup catcher because "what if?" I mean, I'm perfectly happy having Werth or Harper catch 2 innings (it's not like they have to learn the staff) if that means you can get 50-75 ABs for a replacement-level-hitting PH who is also a catcher.

Chinatown Express said...

§ 204: With this weather, you were probably right the first time?

blovy8 said...

I would imagine the problem is that better bench construction conflicts with Rizzo's development philosophy. He wants the talented guys with some upside getting regular atbats in AA/AAA, Maybe they'll be the ones ready to play if anyone goes on the DL in a perfect world. The only guy with the talent to play his way into a starting role was Espinosa to begin with, so it's shuffling deck chairs mostly. You're rolling dice on pinch-hitting regardless, even if Frandsen's numbers in that regard are good. If you get a DH-type suited for that, you don't want them in the field and that would mean you'd need a Frandsen type who can play a bunch of places even more. I think he's a slight upgrade if his BABIP regresses to reasonable level, as then you're looking at a .260ish hitter who can run into one a few times even when he's not playing much, who covers a lot of spots for double-switching without hurting you in the field like Kobernus would.

I wonder how well a RH masher really does against guys like Kimbrel.

Donald said...

Definitely a better bench than last year. Loboton > Solano. McLouth > Moore. Espinosa > Lombo. Frandsen >= Tracy. Hairston = Hairston.

If there are any long stints on the DL for anyone, I'm not sure what Rizzo does, but it seems like he's got a stronger team in Syracuse to draw from as well.

I'm surprised that the Nats said that they are waiting until Saturday to decide on the #5 decision and that both guys will pitch. Doesn't whoever gets the slot need to get in around 80 pitches to be stretched out? How do they both do that? I'd rather one of them is fully ready to go 5-7 innings than both being ready to go 4-5. Or did they both get in their 80 pitches in their last starts?

Sirc said...

I agree that it is a better bench than last year. It might even be significantly better than at any point last year.

I don't like Hairston a lot and got excited for about 11 minutes when the team signed Frandsen that they'd cut loose Hairston since they fill the same bench role, but alas I was wrong. I guess the Nats don't want to pay a player 2.5 million to strike out for another team.

Harper, I disagree with the "position covered - No" assessment. I imagine that Danny Espinosa can play first as well as Ryan Zimmerman seeing as shortstop is the most difficult infield position to play and he is awesome at playing it. That he hasn't played first yet seems like a technicality. Ryan Zimmerman hadn't played first until the couple of innings he played this Spring and now everyone seems comfy with the idea of him manning first against tough lefties. Danny is far superior defensively than Zimmerman, ergo Danny can play first.

I'm just saying in a pinch, such as an injury during a game or a 17 inning nightmare game. Tyler Moore is available the next day if there was an injury.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea I'd have to agree with Sirc on the defensive coverage. I almost get mad when teams bring on JUST a backup 1B because that player usually can't cut it in the field everywhere else. Any utility infielder can cover 1st better than most replacement level 1B. Definitely I'd trust Frandsen or Espi at first over Moore (which would be our choice).

The lack of hitting against RHP is strange, and very concerning. If Harper goes down then our lefties are LaRoche and Span, who we determined last post were easily the worst of the Nats regular lineup. If lefty hitters are your weakest point in your starting lineup, how do you not overcompensate on our bench? Instead we're ready to crush any team that trots out 4 lefties in a row...

Chas R said...

I think if our biggest question at this point is whether they will be strong against RHP off the bench, that's not so bad. I definitely like Frandsen a lot better than Tracy. We will see if Hairston is still around at the All Star Break.

Chas R said...

Oh... Frandsen smacked a double down the left field line in his first Nats AB.

Nats played a really good ST game today against the Mets. They look strong all the way around.

cass said...

And Fister's got a lat strain, which closes the debate on the 5th starter.

Alas, the Nats couldn't escape the injury bug.

Eric said...

Based on quotes from McCatty it sounds more like they are trying to prevent an injury rather than reacting to one that already exists. Apparently Fister mentioned tightness just prior to the start today, but McCatty let him go anyway. Apparently he looked fine pitching, but the tightness didn't subside after throwing 15 pitches, so they pulled him.

Eric said...

Er, my interpretation of course assumes McCatty is providing all info.