Nationals Baseball: 0-1, 5 games to go

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

0-1, 5 games to go

The best way to look at the Mets / Nats games is an extended 6 game home and home series. We assume these teams are fairly evenly matched so the expectation for each team is 3-3 going in, 1-2 away and 2-1 at home. If one team manages to go 4-2, they'll claim a slight psychological advantage.  Go 5-1 or 6-0 and you put the other team behind the eight ball early.

So last night was pretty much par for course. Mets at home, with their best pitcher in 2016, won. We haven't ruled out anything other than a Nats sweep. Lose tonight, though and something tangible changes. The Nats lose their chance to really put the screws to the Mets over these six games, and Game 3 looms ominously.

How did Max do last night? Well enough. Very good, even. He walked his tightrope successfully. You can say "oh once Max stops giving up homers he'll be dominant". Sure. You can also say "oh once Max starts giving up some hits he'll be in big trouble". Both are true. The guy gives up WAY WAY  too many home runs. That's not a good thing. It means he has to do everything else right. Last night he pretty much did. How long can he keep it up? Don't know. But given how good he was last year, and how successful he's been before that, you give him the benefit of the doubt when he performs. After waiting a month, he's performing now. He's built up a bad game cushion. Time to worry about something else. 

And there are things to worry about, such as the blah offense. I'm not going to say anything about last night. It's hard to judge the team fairly against a great pitcher on top of his game and that's Syndergaard right now. Colon, though, is nothing special and should be scored upon.  If they fail to get 4 runs tonight, I won't be happy win or not.

Now how about some more player check-ins? Anthony Rendon is arguably the most disappointing bat in the line-up right now. He's not the worst but Werth we all understand is old, and Zimmerman we all have seen get injured time and again. Rendon though, we've only seen one injury and he has yet to turn 26. What's up with him?

Well I'll start off by saying just because we haven't seen it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Rendon had two serious injuries in college and one more in the minors before getting to the Nats. In seven years he's had 4 major injuries. You have to keep that in the back of your mind. That means there is potentially more permanence to the decline with each broken bone and strained muscle.

OK with that said Rendon is hitting .229 / .314 / .314 right now, showing both a lack of average and a lack of power. Is the average bad luck? His BABIP is low but not crazily so (.270). I think the key here is that last year his BABIP was .321. That was similar to 2014 (.314) and 2013 (.307).  Unless you think he got more injured in the offseason, it seems likely that number will go up. His LD/GB/FB percentages, and soft/hard percentages are right in line with past years, lending more credence to this belief.

If there is a flag, it's the pop-ups. Part of the reason his BABIP is low is a big increase in pop-ups, basically automatic outs. If this is something that carries forward the BABIP likely won't get to the .310 range of past years. Nothing suggests that he's being fooled. Swinging strikes are up a bit but aren't high. K's are similar. He isn't swigning more at pitches outside the zone. My first guess was it could be a pure "can't catch up to high heat" issue, but the data doesn't agree. He's popping up balls in the middle of the zone. Soo... I don't know. Looking at the zone charts it just looks like his effective area has shrunk.

The lack of power is more concerning. His HR/FB rate dropped from 10.2% (ok) in 2014 to 6.2% (bad) in 2015 and is at 4.3% now.  Rendon never had great power (he was "Tony Two-Bags" and not "Tony Four-Bags" for a reason) but he was a decent threat and there was hope he'd develop a little bit more. Instead he has backtracked. This isn't something we can really predict going forward. All I can do is mention May hasn't been any better than April in this regard.

You play Rendon. His average will bounce back and he'll hit around .280. I'm willing to bet on that. The real question is whether his power can come back. On that I have no idea. The current Tony would be a solid infielder but no where near the MVP type of season he had in 2013. All we can do is watch, wait, and hope.

Let's get into something positive, Wilson Ramos. After years of struggling through injury, apparently bad vision, and even a kidnapping, Wilson has put together a great start to 2016. He's hitting .340 / .376 / .524 and is one of the things keeping what constitutes the Nats offense moving.  Important things have changed in comparison to last year. He's making far more contact, swinging and missing less, and cutting way down on his strikeouts. He had gotten progressively worse in these things over the past few years. He's making better choices (his swings outside the strike zone are way down). All in all just has a better approach.

It's important to see what he's hitting change because how he's hitting hasn't really. He's hitting it not as soft, but not as hard, and he's making the same split of types of balls in play as previously. What may be telling is a big increase in the balls he is pulling in play. Is this a concerted effort to turn on pitches he can hit? Or is this a reaction to seeing the ball better and no longer swinging late? I'm not sure. 

Of course there is a huge red flag out there in the form of a .369 BABIP. For a guy as slow as Wilson that is ridiculously high, especially when not linked to a big increase in LDs or hard hit balls or something. So he is getting lucky and that .340 number is going oto go away.

What do I think is the end for Ramos? Well I think it's something a lot like 2013. That year he put up a .272 batting average and hit 16 homers. His K% is very similar to that year and while he's not hitting the ball as hard he is hitting more like drives.  I bet that balances out. Wilson's power is real and if we're willing to bet drop-offs in the past two years were due to injury and other things, it could bounce back a bit. Not quite to 2013 range but better than the recent years. 

I'd expect something like high .270s in average (thanks to this fast start) and maybe something around 20 in homers in about 125 games? The more games he plays the more likely he is to get more homers. The kind of season that'll make it tough to watch him go in free agency but also expensive to keep.


Chas R said...

Keeping Tony in #2 spot with his lack of power should be fine as long as he can keep his K rate down. He's solid defensively and cheap, so likely a good deal for the Nats for a while. Per your post yesterday, I am much more worried about JW. His lack of production and poor defense could necessitate a major move. I could see them first off bringing up Goodwin and giving him another shot given how well he's been doing in AAA. Maybe platoon him and Werth for a while to see if Goodwin can stick. MAt would likely have to go down though and I don't know if Dusty would be for that.

Anonymous said...

Syndergaard, Schmyndergaard. Just you wait until we get at those Quadruple A bum relief pitchers in Colorado, and then you're really going to see what this true championship caliber offense is made of, baby.

Anonymous said...

. . . same bums that just swept the Mets.

Anonymous said...

I am also worried about Werth, I really thought he'd come around and give us .270 avg with 15-20 homers this year.....but he looks really bad at the plate, despite the occasional hit. I'm not giving up on him yet......but Harper is righbt we need to start considering that an upgrade might be necessary. I'm not at all worried about Revere, save for injury. if he is healthy he'll perform, end of story. MAT needs to be sent to AAA for DenDekker, we need a useful player and MAT is not that. I don't think he'll ever stick in the majors, that's how bad of a hitter he is. his confidence is completely shot and you can see it in his eyes and the way he carries himself. He is completely useless to this team right now. If we get swept by the Mets (seems like a longshot, no, w Colon and mediocre Matt on deck but IDK....something about last night just reeked of the classic Nats shell-shicked, deer in headlights, oh $@$@ against the Braves in 13 early 14, and the Mets last year) we need to call up Turner immediately. You simply cannot stash a player like that when we are trying to win now....these games are far too valuable. If Werth, Rendon, Revere are all styrggling the extra 1-2 hits per week Turner could provide over espi are far too valuable.

Harper and Max had the 50 yard stare last night.....ALWAYS seems to happen to the Nats when the stage gets big. So irritating, hope to God they win the next 2. A blowut W would be nice too.

Rob said...


Rob said...

The Nats are hitting .240 as a team. Plenty of places to improve. To me, the easiest place is in LF. JW is doing ok in the RBI department and not much else. Any body on the current roster would most likely be an improvement just on defense alone. I'm with Harp, I say the Nats give him to the end of the month and then start looking at someone else. Either through a trade or call up. Another poster mentioned Blackmon from CO. That would be an interesting trade and not too expensive.

G Cracka X said...

Excellent post as usual, Harper. Thank you for your in-depth analysis.

Last night was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. Syndergaard was dominant. Max pitched well, but gave up two homers. Nats struggled to score runs against a power pitcher. Mets beat the Nats in an important game.

I like the take of viewing this essentially as a six-game series. The bar for me is 3-3. Don't get swept in NY, and take 2 of 3 at home.

But even if they don't break even, there's still plenty of season left. Remember last year when the Nats were red-hot, coming off a series win against the Cubs while the Mets floundered? There's still plenty of time for things to change in the season, both positively and negatively. Doesn't mean that these aren't important games - they are. But there's enough time left in the season where ground given up can still be made up without needing a miracle.

Anthony Rendon is cold said...

I saw Khris Davis to the Nats rumors. 11 bombs since April 21, plus he's in Oakland right now. He's either really hot or really cold, but Werth is always cold so he is an upgrade. What would it take to get him?

Strasburger said...

Bryce seems to be flailing away a bit more now. Giving him the benefit of the doubt but those walks seemed to really irk him.

BxJaycobb said...

I don't think Bryce has a problem with big games. See playoffs, 2014. Unbelievable pitching beats unbelievable hitting, folks. Dotting the inside corner with 100 mph and 93 mph sinkers is too good. It's as simple as that. When Thor has that kind of command, forget it. But have to win one of next couple games. I agree we can't have 3-4 totally useless bats in the lineup. Need to make a move re Werth. It's now been almost a full season of horrendous production. And Turner will be up in June. I doubt he will be great. But he will hit .250-.270 and not K as much as Danny and steal bases.

SM said...

Anthony Rendon...

Khris Davis? Hot and freezing, not cold. Despite the numbers, he's struck out 13 times for every walk he's drawn (38/3). Granted, no one can sustain that ratio and remain in the Majors. (He's roughly 3.5 to 1 in his career.)

Still, I cringe at the thought of the posts on this blog after his first Golden Sombrero against the Mets or Marlins.

Bryceroni said...

I want to see the same level of urgency from the entire organization about these Mets games as if they were September pennant chase baseball.

Bring up the non Giolito/Turner prospects and give them a shot. Get on the trade phone NOW.

Also, while Gio2 and TT will be good reinforcements, they are more defensive than offensive. Probably need to add a significant bat at this point.

JC said...

Does anyone know of any data on the careers of pitchers like Thor? Obviously he won't be throwing 100 for ever and I wonder whether similar young starters struggle when their velocity comes down? Just because one is unhittable at 97+ doesn't mean that they will be unhittable at 95mph right?

Jay said...

To answer JC's question Thor had an MRI on his elbow on May 1 due to elbow pain. I don't think that 100 mph is going to last long. Recent studies have shown that TJ surgery is most likely in pitchers that throw high velocity. The fact that the Mets have imaged both Syndergaard and Matz' elbows in the last two weeks and they have missed 1-2 starts between them (Matz) is downright laughable. These guys might hold up, but I would't count on it. If I'm a Mets fan then they better win this year or next. I've posted previously that the Mets seem to be "all in" for now and don't much care whose arm they blow out. I was surprised they didn't pitch Syndergaard in the 8th as well.

I agree on the offense - I mentioned Blackmon. Colorado has surplus outfielders right now. Blackmon is LH, play CF, bats lead off, has some wheels, and hits. I'm not sure of what other OF bats are out there. I definitely don't want Braun - he's worse than Papelbon in my book.

Last note. Saw the Braves are likely to hire Bud Black. Hopefully, he doesn't make us regret botching his negotiation for the next few years in Atlanta.

Unknown said...

Long time follower, first time commenting. Thanks for another great post Harper and I would say that I also agree with you. Rendon will come around, but most likely will not hit many HR's this season. I'm just like others commenting on JW. I like the guy and his laid back attitude and I also think he brings a good vibe to the clubhouse because he is a likable person. However, he definitely is depleted at the plate and is a liability in LF. I don't know if Rizzo is going to make a trade, I foresee him and Dusty keeping the team we have and platooning Heisey and MAT due to the fact Rendon, Zimm, and Revere will turn it around eventually.

Need to take off some the pressure and get the curly W tonight!

DaveB said...

Looks like JW must read this blog & took it to heart. He looked better to me last night than he has all year, certainly in terms of appearing able to read the pitch.

Robot said...

@DaveB - Agreed. More than just getting the hits (and don't get me wrong, I strongly approve of the hits!), I liked his approach at the plate. It was the old-school, experienced Werth that we are used to.