Nationals Baseball: Janssen - the extra "s" is for "s"

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Janssen - the extra "s" is for "s"

The Nats signed Casey Janssen yesterday. At best he's Clippard 0.8, at worst he's Brad Lidge.

Clippard 0.8 because he was really pretty damn good in 2011-2013.  His WHIP of 0.977 is pretty close to Clip's 0.956 from 2011-2014 and while he doesn't K as many batters (8.9 to Clip's 10.2) he doesn't walk as many either (2.0 vs 3.0). That Casey would be an effective replacement for about 80% of Clippard's innings (Janssen averaged about 60 IP, Clip about 75)

Brad Lidge because he was coming off an injury filled year and could easily be worthless in 2015. All the fancy stats shot up quickly in the wrong direction. You like to see GBs more than FBs.  GBs dropped like a rock (48% to 34% ) while FBs shot up (29% to 43% and his HR -rate went up so it's not lazy fly balls here). You like to see his K-rates stay high. Dropped like a heavier rock from 8.5 to 5.5. You like to see FB speed be stable. It dropped like... you get the picture. 89.9 to 89.1. As can be expected from all this - contact rates way up. You'd like to blame this on sickness or injury but the reality is that the K-rate, FB speed and contact rates are all part of multi-year trends that really aren't uncommon for a guy heading into his mid 30s. The big thing for me is the speed. He's just getting slower across the board.

So it's a bad gamble? I wouldn't say that.  At that cost, you're really only hoping Janssen has one more year in him and while I don't necessarily like it, for 5 million spread over 2 seasons I can't see a big downside. Like the Lidge debacle it would only cost you a couple games early on if it goes terribly wrong and maybe, just maybe it goes right.

The real problem is it doesn't do much for solving the bullpen issue. The pen issue isn't that the Nats don't have enough good arms. Taking everyone in the majors and minors and in free agency they could pick up, there's a decent pen there. The issue is that it's going to take time to find these arms and that the Nats lack enough dependable arms to help shorten that time frame. Janssen is not dependable. He's just another question mark added to a pen full of them. The Nats need some certainty not another 40 starters invited to camp redux.

How impactful is what appears to be a Clippard/? for Janssen/Escobar trade? Not very season wise - the Scherzer deal should suck up the game or two potentially lost here. I do worry about the playoffs though. Scherzer can't be in more than a couple games. Clippard and whoever can.

Final verdict : decent move but not exactly the move the Nats should be making.


Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Agreed. Basically it's just adding another lottery ticket. The nats need someone they know can dominate late innings. I still think it's a good idea to move one of the big four for a young MI, reliever, and prospect(s).

Or if you can pull off that Strasburg for Betts deal, do that :)

Crap just realized I need a new name! :/

Wally said...

It's a meh deal. I don't mind it, and the pen shouldn't hurt the team too much in the reg season, but playoffs are a worry.

But in addition to the pricey, mid season pick up of Aroldis Chapman, the Nats also can call up some fireballers like Cole, Treinen and maybe Ross to put in the pen for the 2d half, a la STL from a few years ago. It isn't plan A, but not a bad fallback.

Froggy said...

Janssen did save 81-91 with better than Sorryano numbers. So even though we think he will primarily be a set-up man, he has closer pedigree. That said, I am going to really miss Clippard. 'My baby's all growed up...'

I am going to choose your positive scenario Harper and say he ends up being the anti-Lidge. Do you know what his splits are against the NL east?

Bjd1207 said...

Wow been awhile since I disagreed with you so wildly Harper.

The good bullpens of the past couple years have taught us that bringing 40 question marks to spring training and riding the hot hand IS a viable strategy. Maybe not THE strategy. But if you've got your Greg Holland (Storen) then you just need to hit on your Wade Davises and Kevin Herrera's. Janssen had one bad half last year in the past 3 seasons (explained by illness, if your buying that) and we just got him for the next two years at the cost of less than a win.

I don't count Storen or Roark (if he's the long) as question marks. Similarly Blevins has graduated past that, even if last year's ERA wasn't in line, and Thornton might start to see some regression but in no way a question mark. So I see this as adding a cheap, former closer, into one of those hit or miss slots. Our And it's a stupid cheap deal for that.

I'm not saying he's Clippard, or that this team has a better shot in PS with Clip/? than Janssen/Escobar (although if that ? is Espinosa I think the edge goes to Janssen/Escobar. Scherzer may see only 2 games a series, Clip/Jannsen stretching it to 4, 2B will be in all of them).

Anonymous said...

Leaving the Scherzer deal aside, the off season has been a series of calculated "buy low" gambles. Clippard may well out-perform anyone Rizzo brought in or brings up, but dealing him clearly was a case of "selling high." If everything works out, the Nats could have 100+ wins. And if they don't? We still win the division -- and maybe with a bit more competitive edge. Going into the post-season with a 17 game lead can't help but lead to let-up.

DezoPenguin said...

Presuming that the Nats make the playoffs (and let's face it, if the bullpen shaking itself out is the reason the Nats didn't make the playoffs, then a lot more went wrong with the season than just that), I would really hope that by the end of the season that Janssen, Thornton, Blevins, etc. have all stopped being question marks. This isn't Detroit, where virtually everyone is a pray-for-bounceback candidate, including the people in the most important roles. Storen, Stammen, Barrett, and Thornton were all good pitchers last year. Blevins wasn't awful. Tanner Roark has been excellent as a starter and reliever alike for two years straight now; at some point we have to stop calling him a "question mark." This isn't a situation where "everybody collapses like a house of cards" is a realistic outcome for the 'pen.

If you're worried pre-Spring Training if Casey Janssen is going to fold in the playoffs, you're asking the wrong questions. The only way he gets the chance to fold in the playoffs is if: (a) He sucks all year (or, like last season, for the back half of the year) and Williams keeps using him because Williams has a critical attack of stupidity, against which no roster-building strategy can hedge, or (b) He is good all year, then chokes in the playoffs, in which case there was no reason to expect the choking. Neither of these fears is any reason to keep from picking up a potentially useful player with a history of success on a (relatively) cheap deal.

Mark twain said...

I don't see how anyone can see this as a bad deal. In baseball salary today 5 million is nothing. If he has an average year it is a good deal. If he blows up get rid of him as we have a good bullpen. Storen and Roark are good, Blevins is amazing vs lefties, Barrett and Thornton should be good again. If one of them sucks we have a few live arms in the minors. I can't see this as anything but a good deal.

He won't be clippard, but we don't need clippard. We need hitting.

I expect a poor year from stammen as I have never liked him much.

cass said...

Stammen was one of those 40 starters invited to spring training, wasn't he? The only one remaining with the team today, I imagine. The good old days.

Odalis Perez has to be the most notable opening day starter in Nats history though perhaps not in a good way. :)

Bryan said...

Sitting as the Nats are - a favorite with a good-to-great starting rotation, I actually have no problem with the buy-low mentality in the pen.

The Phils bought really, really high with Papelbon and it crippled them. I know, I know, a team can spend what it wishes and is never truly "crippled." But I think that misses the reality that an owner isn't going to want to spend more than a certain amount. Especially in cases where the team is already spending money, or set to do so soon.

And Harper, aren't you the one who always argues that pens are easy to construct, because small sample sizes essentially means anyone could have a good-to-great season at any time?

I'm not sure how gambling on a buy-low prop isn't the right course of action for the Nats.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Mark Twain,

I'm trying to decide if your Stammen comment was intentionally subjective or not. Expecting a poor year because you've never liked him seems to go against the generally data-driven mojo of this comment section. Maybe that was intentional and for the lulz?

Personally, I've always liked Stammen. He had an off year last year ERA-wise, but he also go thrown into some fairly crappy situations, if I recall correctly. He was also leaned on heavily as the long guy because the other long guy, Detwiler, was for some reason hated by Williams all year and basically never used.

I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I really think he's a valuable guy. None of his numbers in particular will blow your hair back, but he's solid all around, doesn't really do anything poorly, has an awesome slider, is super durable, almost never gives up the long ball or the walk, and eats innings to save the bullpen. And he's crazy cheap. And to top it off, he's actually not a bad hitter. You know, comparatively speaking.

But that's just me.

Jimmy said...

This is the harpiest harper article to ever be written.

JWLumley said...

All depends, if S's (this will be his nickname as far as I'm concerned) can pitch like he did in the first part of last year. Great, it really was the food poisoning, but I tend to agree he's another question mark. I would have much preferred FRod. Still, as far as I can tell, bullpens are one of the easiest things to rebuild mid-season, well unless you're the Tigers they are. So I'm not too worried, but I think people undervalue how much of an improvement Escobar over Espi is and what a big insurance policy that is. If Desmond were to get hurt prior to that trade, you're looking at sub-replacement level fill-in, like a -1 to -2 WAR player, so that's a 3 WAR insurance policy that if everyone stays healthy is probably a 1 to 2 WAR improvement. Also, Scherzer is appreciably better than what I would expect to get from Roark and his smoke and mirrors. Also, I think Roark could be the next Clippard. That is to say a meh-ish starter who transforms into a dominant reliever due to his variety of pitches and control.

blovy8 said...

According to Fangraphs latest, if Janssen doesn't get his command back in line, this experiment will likely fail pretty quickly. I'm hoping they make him earn the eighth inning role, or avoid roles altogether. Yeah, I guess I'm a dreamer...

I'm also kind of dubious about getting proper value out of Roark if things are as we imagine them to be with a long man role. You can call him insurance, but if he's not starting, how will he get enough work to stay sharp? How will two-innings a week allow the club to just plug him back into the rotation? You can see what happened to Detwiler. The potential DL replacement starters should be in AAA or AA ready to go - maybe they'd be on short or long rest, but they've been going five innings. It would almost make more sense to have a bullpen start like the Angels did in the latter part of the season. I suppose that if Janssen sucks, he'll be more of the mop up man like Soriano was, and Roark's role would change to get regular work. I just think the longman role during the season is not all that important unless your starters are young or stink, or you're in extra inning games pretty often.

Pescado said...

"Decent move but not exactly the move the Nats should be making."

What move should they be making? I'm really struggling to think of many surefire relievers to hit the free agent market in my lifetime. I can't think of many surefire relievers period. But even if you were able to bring in a guy who you knew was solid, what's he worth? About a win... maybe 1.5 if he has an amazing year?

You mention the Clippard for Janssen/Escobar being a net loss, but I don't see it that way... because I think you have to look at it Clippard/Espinosa vs Janssen/Escobar. Every stat projection service says this is a net positive for the Nats.

Mark twain said...


I threw it out there more for reaction than for anything else. Even though when I read it I do realize how much I sound like mathew berry with Ryan Zimmerman.
I was a big detwiler fan and was upset he did not get some of the opportunities stammen got. Which is one reason I dislike him.

BooyahSuckah! said...

Figured it was something like that. I'll admit to being biased in favor of him, but I really do think Stammen is an almost ideal long/middle reliever (good durability, low-HR, low-BB, not an offensive black hole) who can also come in and get you a K or two when you really need it without wanting to burn a late-inning guy.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly reasonable pickup, potentially perfect.

I def think that bullpens can/should be churned yearly... remember if this current group is crap there are 3 to 4 arms in the minors and at least 4 that will be out there at the trade deadline

Zimmerman11 said...

Playoffs? We're talkin' about the PLAYOFFS??? LOL.

Uh, we have 6 starters... two of them can move to the 'pen for the playoffs :)

@JW... no... we can't do that... too close to naming someone "SS" doubt S's will stick.

John C. said...

Yeah, another bad/inexplicable move by Rizzo and his odd crew of scouts and sabermetricians. It's hard to see how a guy with his track record could be the one who has put together a team with this rotation/lineup/expectations, the most wins in MLB over the past three seasons, and a top 10 minor league system (according to Keith Law's ranking, the first I've seen of the new season) with six prospects in the top 100. Geez, is that guy lucky or what? But boy oh boy his luck will run out, and then we'll all be here to tell him that we knew all along, we could have told him he was doin' it wrong.

I get it; putting your money on the field instead of the Nats to win the WS is just smart. Regardless of outcome, what Rizzo has set up is pretty impressive to me.

Roark: over the past three seasons the Nats have needed an "extra starter" 50 times - 16.7 times per season. And I'd argue the've been fortunate with pitcher injuries in that time. And so many of the people crying to move Strasburg or Zimmermann because of the injury done Roark would be the first ones screaming with outrage over Rizzo's stupidity for making such a trade if injuries hit the rotation and Treinen isn't up to the job.

Clippard: I love Tyler "Peaches" Clippard, always have, always will. But I am so. very. glad. that I won't have to watch whiffin' left side Danny 350-400 times this season. Anyone will tell you that trading a relief pitcher for a position player is a win. It's only Clippard's excellence that makes this one arguable. And the fact that the Nats now have Escobar and Janssen for essentially the same thing Clippard would've cost - plus having control of Escobar for three years and Janssen two? Yeah, I take that.

John C. said...

In the morning light my comment last night was harsher/snarkier than it needed to be. Bottom line is that no GM is perfect or above criticism. But boy, Rizzo and his crew are obviously really good at their jobs. Because of that, I give them a lot of leeway. There are other players besides Clippard that I have really wanted Rizzo to keep (Morse, Dunn) or get. And in hindsight I noticed that Rizzo was right & I was wrong almost all the time. The one exception was Nori Aoki; but overall the ledger is really stacked on the side of Rizzo & his people.

JWLumley said...

@John I don't think anyone is saying Rizzo is a bad GM. He's a very good GM and does a myriad of things very well. I've often said that if he could hire better managers, he'd be a great GM.

Which leads me to the biggest hole in the Nats lineup: The Manager. Oh what a few months will make us all forget, but Matt Williams made some ridiculously dumb moves last year and while he did seem to get somewhat better at managing the bullpen towards the end of the season, his bullpen management in game 4 was ridonkulous. Perhaps this year Bryce Harper will be old enough to hit higher than 6th, but I fully expect Span to continue to lead off despite OBP and we'll see paint by numbers managerial decisions. Don't get me wrong, the Nats will still win a lot of games, but somehow I get the feeling it will cost them again come October and if there's problems with the bullpen look out. MW's biggest weakness as a manager is bullpen use and creativity, or exactly what you need when you have issues with your bullpen.

John C. said...

I, too, questioned some of Williams's bullpen moves - although probably not always the same ones that others criticize. FWIW he was praised in Fangraphs for getting his bullpen to the postseason both ready and well rested. But as with all managers, his moves were sometimes apt for second guessing.

On Span, many fans will never, ever forgive MW for being right about Span where they were wrong. It's not that it's reasonable to expect that he will always hit the way he did in the second half last year. But overall his season was (with the exception of his SB total) a "Span" season. Span's career OBP: .352. His OBP last year: .355. He's likely to be in the .340-.350 range this season with a bunch of SB's. It's perfectly reasonable to bat him leadoff where is OBP is useful but his lack of extra base pop doesn't hurt as much.

Year after year, fans tend to assume that one year's performance is destiny, regardless of a player's career numbers. We did it with Span's down year in 2013. We did it with LaRoche and Werth after 2011. We're doing it with McLouth and Escobar now (although with more justification with McLouth, whose career is not exactly consistent).

With Span, every time he's in a slump it's "See? SEE?!?" Which subsides when he goes on a tear, but then as soon as he slumps again it's right back to "See? SEE?!?" I get it, it's hard to be wrong. It's especially hard to be wrong when someone whose judgment you disdain turns out to have been right.

blovy8 said...

Yeah, they should be building toward a better or at least as good playoff team. These are value deals creating more uncertainty. What is the legitimate upside of a guy like Escobar now? Seems to me you're just hoping he doesn't hurt your offense as much as Espinosa did. Every other position has a legitimate expectation of being above average, if not good. He's not a better hitter than Asdrubal Cabrera, but you can defend that by saying he doesn't need to be if he can play 2nd base well enough. But he's also not a better hitter than Drew as left-handed hitting part of platoon, if we're throwing out both guys' crappy 2014. And that move could have cost about the same deal as Escobar's and not opened the big hole in the bullpen as long as Drew would sign here. Do they not think Clippard is better than Janssen? Clearly, there was a creative solution to getting Scherzer, so why not for Drew? Lower salary, lots of reasonable incentives, big option buyout, etc. Not fighting the young guys for playing time in NY either.

Losing Clippard on top of Soriano and Detwiler forces them to cobble together a bullpen out of free agents and depth casualty starters. There's nothing wrong with that per se, since Clippard was one of those starters years ago, but it really seems like unnecessary uncertainty in the late innings. I'm kind of assuming some guy like Cole or Treinen is going to be used as a reliever in September to see if they can get another high-90s guy to knock bats out of guys' hands. Thornton is the only guy who can throw hard in the pen and you can't work him as much. Not that velocity was Clippard's game, but guys hit less than .200 off him at least.

I still can't believe that a guy who stingy-budgeted Tampa Bay pointedly made superfluous by signing a worse player for more money costs you your best reliever unless there's part of the story I don't see in the numbers. The money works out almost exactly as Escobar$+Janssen$=Clippard$$. Hooray for that, but are we really going to be excited to watch Escobar rather than Clippard as fans?

Bjd1207 said...

Nah Blovy you've got it twisted in my eyes:

You want Clippard and Drew in here. If we take the deal Drew just signed, then we get them for a combined $13.8M, and like you said we still need Espinosa in there to platoon cuz Drew is awful against L and Danny awful against R. And then both guys (Clip and Drew) are gone after 2015.

Instead, we have Escobar and Janssen in here for a combined $8M this year. So if Espi/Drew vs. Escobar is a wash, you're already betting that Clip is almost a full win better than Janssen in 2015, which I don't buy considering relievers usually struggle to get up to 2 WAR. Then add in the fact that Escobar doesn't (necessarily) need a platoon partner and Espi is opened up for trades (although unlikely as we need a utility IF) and THEN you add 2 more years of control for Escobar and 1 more on Janssen and now we're blowing Clip/Drew out of the water in terms of total value.

You've got to essentially guarantee that Clippard/Drew will get you farther in the post-season this year than Escobar/Janssen and THEN prove that the post-season differential is worth more than the improvements to our 2016/2017 clubs.

As for the watchability, as earlier posts have mentioned, not watching Danny strike out 3-4 times a game will make up for missing Clip and his saliva-coated hands

Zimmerman11 said...

I'm in love with our bullpen. Those guys need all this hatin' to develop an "us against the world" mentality... but the stuff is definitely there.

Storen is filthy
Barrett too
Thornton was unhittable last year

Use Treinen or Cole, Fine with me!

Stammen is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Blevins in the LOOGY role? Awesome.

Poor Roark relegated to mop up duty with his sub 3 ERA last season.

This is a really good buncha pitchers out there!!!

Zimmerman11 said...

OH. AND!!!! We get to watch Michael Taylor get an extended look to start the season so Werth has time to heal up the right way? That's great too. Getting excited for ST!

blovy8 said...

It's a choice of what the team in October can be, another LH hitter would be nice. Where will they play a LH and who will they play over if they are going to make a difference?
Not over Werth, Rendon, Desmond, or Zim. I suspect Pierzynski would not be much better than Lobaton.

Essentially though, my beef is the cost in this deal, since money doens't seem to enter into it, not that Escobar at this point in the offseason wasn't the best they could probably do. Getting a rough equivalent of Escobar in Cabrera last year cost all of a guy like Zach Walters, and that was for no salary at all. If anything, the Rays made their guy even more available by getting that SAME player. Maybe I'm really underselling Escobar's value, or Rizzo really loves his C- prospects more than Clippard. Didn't sound like that at the presser.

If I have to settle for Escobar, I don't want to make another hole on my roster to do it. Beane got a great deal.

Zimmerman11 said...

There's no hole in the bullpen. Not that won't be filled by All-Star time, supposing the guys we throw out there flop in the first half... which is a very low probability of occurrence. We have flamethrowers, we have sinkerballers, we have lefties... Bullpen is good. With options on the farm and via trade at midseason if necessary. Clip was good. And expensive. And abused.

Ryan said...

Let's not forget that the Angels basically rebuilt their entire bullpen from scratch at the trade deadline last season and ended up with the best record in baseball. (Admittedly with a better offense than ours, but still.) Bullpens are fickle. As long as Rizzo would be willing to patch a hole in the relief corps should one emerge mid-season, we'll be fine.

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