Nationals Baseball: Friday - the death of optimism

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday - the death of optimism

Now come on. You have to throw in the towel now right? You've been holding on to a silly fantasy, straining to hear an echo of the 2007 season when an up-and-coming Phillies team would take the NL East away from a Mets team a year away from collapsing. The Mets aren't quite the new Phillies, the Nats aren't quite the old Mets, but surely you can see how the roles aren't fitting. Clearly you can see the end of the road now. Do I need to link Boyz II Men? I don't do I?

Ok on to Tanner Roark. The guy some fans were upset at being pushed out of the rotation after a fantastic 2014 finds himself struggling when given the shot in 2015. You can't have watched his last few games and been confident about his presence in the rotation next year. Part of it is he's pitching worse. The Ks are down, the BBs are up and the balls are getting hit harder. But part of it is luck. He's on the high end for BABIP, the high end for HR/FB.  The latter could give you hope that next year would be more like 2014.... except that in 2014 he was in the low end for those luck stats.  In essence in two seasons we might have gotten the best and worst that Roark can offer a team right now. So split the difference.  Can you live with a guy sporting an ERA around say 3.75? In the 5th spot? I think we can.

Of course that makes big assumptions. It assumes that Roark is not aging out of his prime (he'll be 29 next year) and that teams haven't figured him out a bit.  The former we're probably ok on. Pitch velocity is a good indication of age taking control and his speed is fine, actually up from last year (which is not to say he's getting faster, it is to be expected given more short stints in relief).  The latter... I don't know.  He hasn't started many games so it could be an issue getting back into form. but he has done particularly poorly vs NL East opponents.  His worst game was vs the Phillies, next worse vs the Marlins, 4th worst Marlins. That's kind of strange given how utterly incompetent the NL East has been offensively (we're not talking the post trade deadline Mets here) However, if you assume teams are figuring him out, it would be natural for NL East teams to be on the leading edge of that.

Roark and Ross has big shoes to fill for the Nats. Gio is slowly leaking air working his way down the rotation. Strasburg is good but you have to be worried about his health. That leaves the potential for Ross and Roark to need to be #2 and #3 esque pitchers. That is a tall order. To be more secure you could bring in another big-time pitcher (there are a few available in the off-season) and force Roark out. You might think that strange (didn't they just try that?) but the reality would be that Max and this other guy would be replacing ZNN and Strasburg and Giolito would be the 3rd gun. You could bring in a one-year type (A reviatlized JA Happ hoping to prove it wasn't a fluke? A desperate Jeff Samardzzjia looking to show he's worth a longer deal?) and push Roark down for depth purposes (Giolito is probably September at best). This was the plan used in 2012 (Edwin Jackson) and 2013 (Dan Haren).  You could try to find another Fister like trade (Bucholz?). Or you could simply run with Roark and maybe grab someone as organizational depth

Roark's performances create a question where the Nats really didn't want one. Hopefully he can pull out a couple good starts to end the year.

Oh and a commenter is asking for food recommendations near the park in the thread from yesterday's post. If you got any - go help him out.


Anonymous said...

There are multiple ways to "bell a cat" or whatever phrase it is called. You can have a Starter that can get you 6 plus innings or 2/3 pitchers to get you to the same point without much damage. Unfortunately we have not seen much creativity from MW. Let's face it, he is getting on the job training. I am not sure if he will try this even after 5 years as managers or he might.

We knew the issue with Tanner Roark that he may not get us past 4th and it did happen. We might see the same scenario playing when he pitches next against O's. We shall see.

Off course if we could outhit the other team, all this is mute. But we are not.

Anonymous said...

The Nats aren't 15 out waiting to be eliminated. We're still in it. Let's hold off on declaring "death of optimism" at least until we see where we stand on Monday. There's still a chance the Nats will come out of the weekend 5 games back. Making up 2 games over 10 before the H2H is reasonable. If they come out of the weekend 6-7 games back, making up 3-4 games over 10 is still feasible. If they don't gain any ground or lose more ground and need to make up 5+ games over 10, that's tough, but even then it wouldn't be the first time a team made up as much ground over that span of games.

Anonymous said...

I am an optimist. I hope that MW learned something from last night. Tanner Roark is not Max/Zimm/Stras/Geo. He was not going to give you 7/8 innings. Was there a Plan B? I would taken him out after that double in top 5th and ride Fister there on.

It will be different for next 3 games. I hope our hitters give us enough (3-4) runs to keep us in the game. The NYY will keep their promise, can we hold our serve?

Bryceroni said...

We are not mathematically eliminated yet! So we have a chance!

Me personally, I threw in the towel after the mets sweep, and since then I have enjoyed the games so much more. No stakes, just enjoy the baseball.

Vladdy27 said...

Yeah, that's the spirit! So what if the Mets have six games against teams racing for 100 losses? Oh, and four against the last place Reds. Isn't this whole Ya Gotta Believe nonsence the Mets' thing? I agree with Bryceroni... watching baseball is much more fun when you're not screaming at the TV.

Al said...

Best place for sandwiches hands down is Mangialardo' on 1317 Penn Ave SE. The hours are really weird thou Mon-Friday 9:30 to 3pm but if you can make it there it's really worth it. The "G" Man sandwich is the best IMO

Al said...

@ Anon 8:10, I'm pretty sure the Mets hold serve since, you know, they're the ones with the 8 game lead....

Anonymous said...

On Bozs column : give Bryce 1/2 billion dollars and take out an insurance policy to hedge against death and injury

Chinatown Express said...

Nearer the ballpark, the Korean chicken wings at Bonchon are fantastic. The food at Bluejacket is lousy and overpriced, but the house-brewed beers are all amazing. It may be the best beer in DC, which is actually high praise these days. If you're willing to walk ~15 minutes from the ballpark, there are a bunch of good restaurants in the Barracks Row neighborhood. For a weekend game, the brunch at Anbar is really good. For a weeknight happy hour, Lola's makes great (and cheap) American food.

In sum, I'm much more optimistic about the food near Navy Yard than I am about the baseball being played there.

Alan G. Ampolsk said...

This is not a team that's going to make a run. Sorry, but the lack of energy... and the fact that they struggled against Cosart... aren't encouraging.

Nevertheless, enjoyed being at the park last night. It was quiet and empty - easy to get to the food concessions, easy to find a place to eat, you could focus your attention on the two pigeons wandering around the on-deck circle for an inning or two, you could hear the music from the party space on Half Street over the (lack of) noise of the crowd. Felt nostalgic, like 2010. I was waiting for a "Sign Adam Dunn!" chant to break out. My attachment to all this won't last, but it's refreshing after all that pennant-race tension.

Worried about Boz - he's gone from commenting on the news to trying to influence it ("you can't fire MW, Harp won't let you!") Getting all Washingtonian on us. That can't end well.

Fries said...

@ Anon 9:42

Wholeheartedly agree. With this season, Bryce has lived up to the hype of the last 8 years. Now of course this could be a fluke year, but I think most would agree that isn't the case. I think we see a decade of at least .900 OPS seasons in his future (potentially longer), so it's time to lock this kid down. We don't have the offensive talent in our farm system, so losing Bryce would all but kill the franchise for the foreseeable future without some major trades/FA signings. The Lerners seem open to whacked out contracts, so sign him to 15 years, $500 million with payments deferred over 30 years or some nonsense like that.

Anonymous said...

Optimism is fine, but lunacy is too much.

Here is the problem with those who think we have a legitimate chance. Obviously, there is a mathematical chance, but the Playoff Odds right now on are 99.2% for the Mets, 0.8% chance for the Nats.

Here is the reason: The Mets have been one of the best two teams in ALL OF BASEBALL, since the trading deadline, along with the Blue Jays. They play the worst teams in the entire national league after the series with the Yankees. If the Mets only go 6-7 in the 13 games leading up to the H2H series, the Nats have to go 11-2 to be 3 games back heading into that series. THEN, the Nats would have to sweep a team, ON THE ROAD, who has won the past 6 games against us. And THAT would only force another one game playoff at Citi Field. It's not happening.

W. Patterson said...

Chinatown Express makes some good points regarding food. Barracks Row (8th St. SE) is a fine place to find good food. And if you just keep going up to Pennsylvania Avenue you can turn left and find some nice small places, too.

There's lots of good beer in DC, depending on what you like, of course. I'd avoid Gordon Biersch. It's a chain, for cryin' out loud.

Let folks know where you're staying, in general, and I'm sure folks will give you some good recommendations.

Anonymous said...

W Patterson: Gordon Biersch /= Bluejacket. Or did I misunderstand your post?

W. Patterson said...

Anonymous @ 12:20 - Gordon Biersch is a chain and you can go there anytime (if you must). Bluejacket is a brewery. Both are close to the stadium.

Anonymous said...

Re Boz's column today: I think "Big Dummy" or "PBN" should have been fired after last year's playoff bullpen (mis)management, but if keeping him convinces Bryce to resign, then by all means keep him around.

Sammy Kent said...


Seriously, you're suggesting Roark's relative ineffectiveness in a couple of ad hoc starts after being yanked from pillar to post this year proves management was right to drop him from the rotation before the season even began? I'll add this to my list of reasons to dislike Mike Rizzo's General MisManager approach. You can't put a 15 game winning starter in the bullpen, use him sporadically, put him primarily in long relief situations after a starter has gotten his doors blown off, and expect him to maintain his skills with the same precision and effectiveness. It won't work. If Rizzo is such a great baseball savant he should have understood that.

His problem is that he buys pitchers like Imelda Marcos buys shoes. Let's look at what brought this whole situation with Tanner about. Blessed with what was already considered the best starting rotation in baseball, he went out and got Max Scherzer. Of course I'm not suggesting that Scherzer isn't a fantastic pitcher, and in retrospect Fister's faltering and Strasburg's annual drama made the acquisition look like some genius move. But it wasn't. It was a decision that paid off in some ways and created big problems elsewhere. And Max has had his own issues lately that take a lot of luster off his shine. I think it says volumes about Rizzo's unhealthy pitching fetish and dangerous ambivalence to the offense when you have no place but a dead end bullpen job for a 15 game winner because the GM just can't resist yet another pair of stilettos.

Bryceroni said...

Rizzo should definitely trade for drew Hutchinson.

In all seriousness, the pillar to Post comment is real, but that's what happened to detweiler not roark. Roark has thrown 93 innings in a couple different roles and would have thrown more if he wasn't so mediocre. If he continued to show the ability to pitch over his head he would have stayed in the rotation. He didn't, and it was predictable.

Whatever you think of scherzer, he was a Lerner decision. Blaming rizzo is just not accurate to reality. Turning around and blaming max for 'big problems elsewhere' is equally absurd.

You have some literary flair, but I really disagree with the actual baseball parts.

Sammy Kent said...

@ Bryceroni

Thank you for your compliment of my "literary flair", but I certainly think there's truth in the "actual baseball parts." As for how I "feel about" Max Scherzer, I have already said he is a fantastic pitcher. I have absolutely not blamed Max for any problem, except perhaps his own decline from unhittable deity to mere mortal.

I stated that the decision to acquire him (which I do concede Rizzo did not make alone), while making the best rotation in baseball on paper even more formidable, made big problems elsewhere; and it did--namely 1. creating within the entire organization a false sense of pitching invulnerability that in turn gave minimal value to run production, and 2. fitting a starting pitcher into an ad hoc role in an already ad hoc bullpen and then managing said bullpen. Would you agree that our bullpen has been a problem? Sometimes it's a daily crap shoot. You just hope the guy Matt picks any given day comes out seven.

A significant part of the pen problem has been the declining effectiveness of Tanner Roark. I do not absolve Tanner of his own responsibility to maintain his skills. Not at all....but I do think his was a particularly difficult situation. Maybe pitchers should always be equally effective in any role and any game situation, but they just aren't. I would say spot starting, long relief, short relief, situational relief, mop up, and hold 'em is more than a couple of roles. He's been placed in all of those this year. It is virtually impossible in that scenario to maintain sharpness over a season if his psyche is for starting. I would gently suggest, because I want to stay friendly with everyone here, that it's most unfair to imply Roark could have stayed in the rotation had he simply pitched better. The instant Scherzer was signed everyone from Albania to Zimbabwe knew Tanner was going to the pen; not because he was predictably mediocre, but solely because we had a glut of starting pitching and somebody had to....sort of like naming the shortest Himalaya. Do you really think the guy got the second most wins on the team last season (one fewer than Fister, and more than Gio, Stras, and Jordan) only because he was pitching over his head? Surely not.

Bryceroni said...

If you look at Tanner roarks track record in the minors, he was a low strikeout, decent walk guy who routinely had .300+ babip and mid 4 era.

In 2013-2014 his babip went way down, his LOB jumped 10% and he gave up very few home runs.
These are huuuge red lights, go look at preseason fantasy baseball writing that all said the same thing.

He still showed skills growth, but he is not as good as his w-l or era was saying 2013-2014. Starting pitchers regularly get better in the pen, and given the bullpen problems (absolutely agree bullpen construction was a problem) I though roark would be an asset as the swingman/spot starter. He probably shouldn't have ever ended up in short relief because the bullpen should have been built differently (which is a different can of worms).

I agree that general chemistry/clubhouse has contributed to teamwide underpreformance, but I blame PBN, Desmond, and werth for that before scherzer. However, I also realize that as fans we really can only speculate what is making the chemistry so bad.

Regarding role preseason to inseason: roark was moved to swingman/spotstarter because he was the 6th best starter on the team. Once injuries hit he had plenty of chances (9 starts on the year) but he got passed by Joe Ross because Ross pitched way better. If roark was running a mid 3 era and held the job, he would have gotten some if not all of ross's 13 starts.

The bench needed 1 more real player instead of uggla/Moore because of injury questions, but I don't think 'minimal value to run production' is accurate. Desmond and Ramos cratered during the wrong season (and even the wrong part of the season... Think about if Desmond was hot early and bad now) and this offense looks a lot different if they're hitting when guys went down.

Finally, this offense hasn't been that bad. It has underperformed along with the pitching, bullpen, defense and bench. That's pretty comprehensive.

PS: may be somewhat scattered, written on mobile in a couple chunks. The chemistry note should be farther down, not in-between roark paragraphs lol.

Robot said...


Robot said...

Continuing the discussion from the previous thread, re: keeping Bryce (I've been out of town, couldn't weigh in) - My read on him is that he'll be at least as concerned about winning as he will about money. It's pretty much a given that the Yankees and Dodgers will pursue him with dump trucks full of money, and that a number of other teams will be willing to mortgage the franchise for the next decade and a half to get him. But i think, past a certain price threshold, he'll go to the team that he thinks will see sustained success. Bryce will be a very, very rich man in a few years,but he is a competitor first and foremost.

JC said...

Harper, you can say death of optimism but your Yankees are keeping mine alive.

Booyah Suckah! said...

I'd be curious to know (not that any of us mere mortals ever really will) how much pro athletes in line for a big payday actually care about what the final number on the contract ends up being. By that I mean, honestly, what's the difference between $29 million and $32 million a year for the next 15 years? Or $18 million, for that matter? Especially for a guy like Bryce who could probably bury the money in the back yard and still feed all of Africa off his endorsement contracts over that same time period.

Considering the fully-guaranteed nature of MLB contracts, I guess I just don't understand why an athlete would care what the actual final amount ends up being. Sure, there's the validation of being the highest paid guy. But good gracious. Even if he were to never play baseball again after his current contract, he's made enough money to never have to work for the rest of his life. So it isn't about security (or feeding the family, if you're Latrell Sprewell). I guess I just naively hope that for someone with his level of competitive fire, it would end up being partly about money, but mostly about the team, the organization, the fans, and the future ability to compete at the highest level. Those things seem more important to a guy like Bryce (I hope) than earning $450 million versus $500 million.

I know, naive. I'm already sad about losing him.

JC said...

Booyah - Although Harper might get more money if he waits until free agency, the Nats do have some leverage. If he signs now he guarantees that he is set for life and starts getting paid out immediately. Waiting until 2019 means he takes a risk that he does not sustain a major injury over the next three seasons. As you point out getting 50-100 (or even 200) million more than 350-500 million will have no impact on Bryce's lifestyle (or that of his great great grandkids).

Nats have a window this offseason to sign him that shrinks the closer he gets to FA.

Kenny B. said...

I like Roark as an innings eater. And he's shown a lot of flexibility and a willingness to do what he's asked by the organization without any fuss (*ahem*unlikestoren*cough*). I don't like the idea of treating him like a marquee part of the rotation if there are injuries, but as a 4-5 guy? Yeah, I'm okay with that. He's a guy who won't be dominant, but will put up a gem often enough to make you wonder if he's more elite than we think, and will generally keep you in games. He is excellent depth and decent enough in long relief. Unless he's part of a good deal or some team wants to pay too much for him, he should be a nice piece of depth in 2016.

Looking at the surprisingly potent offense here at the end of 2015, how do you respond in the offseason? I know we're feasting on bad teams right now, but even against the vaunted Mets rotation, the offense was quite good (we'll see what the last series of the season looks like). Should the organization go with basically the same offense and just beef up the bench, since we can be certain that significant injuries will occur to key players? Should the emphasis just be on the rotation and relief? I think if you have to pick a part of the team to focus on, it would be pitching, which is not necessarily what you would have thought as recently as August when the offense was lifeless.

It will be an interesting offseason, and a big test of Rizzo's evergreen-contender approach to being a GM.

And can we hold off another year before we focus on Bryce's inevitable departure? I'm not even ready for Strasburg to leave yet.

John C. said...

Athletes are by nature competitive, and money is a way of "keeping score" with rivals. That's one reason why it's so rare for an athlete to take anything other than the highest bid. Although usually they find another reason to say out loud (I think it was Denny Neagle who said that he went to Colorado because of the schools - as if he couldn't afford private tutors if he was that concerned).

Froggy said...

Love the Jankees!

blovy8 said...

There's probably a way to keep Harper for a while with the biggest guaranteed contract ever and an opt-out before he turns 30. Boras would be up for something historic even if it means he can't test the market, and he would spin it like they're doing something great for baseball, while every GM gnashes his teeth with the salary structure going higher. You can bet there would be deferred money involved for the Nats to do it.

While I agreed with Sammy Kent's position before the season about the overkill in signing Scherzer instead of addressing other problems with that cash, it was essentially a market value deal in the end, which I'm not sure was ever going to be there for Zimmermann. You can't force a guy to take your best offer. If it happens that Zimmermann's value is held down by the qualifying offer and the other great pitchers available, there's still a chance the Nats could re-sign him, but I'm pretty sure it would require moving some salary from someplace else, which seems pretty hard to do, trading Storen and Escobar wouldn't be enough to offset his cost, whatever you'd have to eat on the bigger deals wouldn't be worth it in what you lose in value. You can't really move Zim or Werth without paying for their replacement too, unless some blockbuster deal happens. I really do believe there is an internal Nats budget on player salaries, crazy as that is in this age of MLB profitability. It's much more likely that having Strasburg to go with Scherzer, they'll be looking to see who shapes up as a more modestly priced number 3. It's tough to see an internal option as ideal, since Gio is inconsistent enough with his command to not expect 200 innings, and Ross is still too young to really know how much you'll get in his second season. I'm not sure that Roark will be looked at as being that guy again, we all know what his FIP is, and how reliant he'll be on good defense since he's never going to be a strikeout guy like the rest of the staff. I think it's good to have different types of pitchers on your staff, but we can't really expect the Nats' D to be much better, and Rizzo has always preferred power pitchers. On the other hand, any discounted type of innings-eater isn't going to be a flamethrower either, so who knows? It's easy to imagine Rizzo passing on every viable guy if there's no one good around in February that has to settle for less.

As it stands, Giolito won't be ready to supply enough innings next year, you'd have to expect less than 180 innings before 2017, where I suppose it's looking like they hope he'll be taking Strasburg's place. They don't really have the depth where they can get Zimm-quality in a trade too easily. Even if they get creative with those innings, I think they run out too early to be satisfied with their current roster.

blovy8 said...

Forgot about A.J. Cole. I guess that's natural, since the team seems to have forgotten about him being in the bullpen. I still hold out a little hope for that guy.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting-Harper has had one amazing season and everyone is ready to back the Brinks truck to his house. People, one good season does not make a career. Look at all the free agents that did not live up to the size of their contract (uggla for the braves, alphonso soriano for the cubs, josh hamilton for the angels, stanton to some extent for the marlins to name a few). There are no guarantees that once you pay someone a monstrous contract that he will be able to perform at the expected level for years to come or without injury. You only have to look at the decline of Werth although, granted, Harper is considerably younger. Trying to gauge future worth based on one season and possibly mortgaging the future for years to come if the deal does not pan out makes discussions of Harper's value premature in my opinion.

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