Nationals Baseball: Post my vacation rundown

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Post my vacation rundown

The Nats head out to San Francisco holding onto a nice lead in the NL East of 4 games. It isn't a safe lead, nor is it a worrying one. It's nice. The goal would be to keep that nice lead for another dozen games or so, when the schedule will make tripping up far more difficult to do.  At that point you'd expect either the Nats to pull away, or if they don't, it to be because either the Mets or Marlins are going on a tear. You can't really do much about those.

The Mets don't look like they'll be going on a tear anytime soon. They have alternated wins and losses since the break, pushed forward by an excellent pitching staff (3.2 R/G) but anchored by a dead offense (3 R/G). The Mets found themselves in a similar situation last trade deadline, 52-48 at this point in the year, when they made a series of trades to remake the offense. But that was an easy situation to fix, where the holes were glaringly obvious starting guys like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. This season it's not as easy as guys you want starting like Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are slumping, guys you have to start like D'Arnaud haven't hit all year, and a Cespedes infusion isn't coming because he's already here.  The only real move would be to get an OF and stop relying on youngsters like Conforto/Nimmo to help but the Mets don't seem interested in dealing. They are going to roll with what they have and hope for another August miracle at the plate.

Miami is closer, and the question is how long this improved pitching and team-carrying offense can go on.  I'm not very sure. A couple weeks like this happens all the time to nearly every team, but extended month long runs, the type the Marlins will need to stay in it, are something else. The problem is the starting pitching. Chen remains a disaster, which means everyone else has to be on. Jose Fernandez is a given. I'll accept that. Beyond him, maybe Adam Conley can keep pitching well enough to be the #2 to Fernandez's #1. Maaaaybe converted reliever Jose Urena can keep giving the Marlins solid 5 inning outings. and Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe Tom Koehler can remain oddly unhittable to compensate for his complete lack of missing bats. But all three? For another two months? The hitting then will have to keep it up and they just might. Stanton has gotten back in his groove which makes the whole lineup so much better and Prado is doing his Prado things again. I suppose it's possible they bash their way into the playoffs but I'm still holding off worrying about this team unless they stand a couple games out when the Nats last hard run comes to an end. Given that rotation they have to prove they can hang on.

As for the Nats fans are worried about Bryce and relief pitching but honestly the team is basically keeping on as it has for the season. The hitting may be a tweak worse since the break, the pitching in a little more of a slump, but both were Top 5 in the league so the minor departures don't drop them to any sort of level that would worry me.

If you want to dig a little deeper. Offensively what would worry me most is Espinosa. I still have faith Bryce will hit. He's never not. He hasn't reached his potential before last year but he always hit.  Espinosa on the other hand has a history of NOT hitting and a slump late in last year after hitting ok much of the year. It's completely possible, in my eyes, that he could put up an under .500 OPS the rest of the way. Normally you'd replace him with Turner or Drew, but Turner is replacing the Revere/Taylor failure in CF and Drew is out. So there isn't an answer here. Also Robinson/Zimmerman still aren't hitting either. But these are known problems the Nats have overcome. Adding a potential 3rd spot not hitting for the rest of they year in Danny would be something new.

As for Bryce, all I can do is make guesses. Everything we talked about before holds true. I checked out the zone stats since the break. He's still getting pitched low and away. He's still swinging too often at pitches below the knees and he's still swinging too often at pitches in which are not his sweetspots. But he's striking out a lot more, popping up, pulling everything. All that's new. If I were to guess I'd say he's super frustrated and just looking for anything that isn't low and away and trying to kill it. But I'm not watching film.

Pitching wise it's about the 5th starter slot and the closer. That's about it. Ross isn't healthy yet and neither Lopez or Giolito look ready to step in and be a good pitcher for 2016. But given that everyone else in the rotation seems fine if either can be a passable #5, and I think they can, then that's enough. A mediocre start every 5th day for two months isn't going to derail a season. As for the closer.... You can go different ways with this. We talked about a trade yesterday, which is the direction I endorse.* Sticking with Papelbon seems the worst idea to me. He might be beginning to lose control (walked at least one in last three outings) and that had been his saving grace. He's been hit hard all year but usually balls in plays are outs and if you don't walk guys you can survive. Still even if he regains control having a guy so prone to being hit doesn't seem like a good idea against the line-ups you'll likely see in the playoffs. Kelley could take over but he's scuffling a bit now and he's never really pitched a normal amount of innings. He's topped 55 once since 2008. What would he be like in the playoffs? You could try someone else, Treinen, Rivero, Lopez throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. Whatever is decided won't likely kill the Nats in regards to the East, it's more a matter of how confident do you want to feel in October.

The Nats aren't exactly where I wanted them to be right now, but they are close and with a little luck could be there in 12 games. Make "nice" into "safe" guys.

*Robles and Lopez for Miller is what I would do, in case you are wondering. I would not offer Turner or Giolito for anyone as I like both to be impactful in 2017 and I think you can get what you want without offering either.


Fries said...

I'm still optimistic ONLY IF the Nats do something in the bullpen. What that option is I'm not certain, but Papelbum is done. He had a solid career, but all his peripheral numbers look pretty bad this season despite the good results up to Sunday. Honestly I'd say throw either Lopez or Glover in the closer role if you don't want to go with the already old Kelley. I don't like the high prices for relievers on the market right now so something internal is the way to go. Both Lopez and Glover have shown shutdown kind of stuff, so why not give them a shot? RP's are so unpredictable anyway that worse comes to worst we throw Papelbum back in there, at least we know he's not a headcase and won't mentally collapse in the playoffs ala Storen

Anonymous said...

I would not trade any position players that project as even a decent bat. Turner, Robles, and Schrock are 100% off the table, unless we are talking something major like getting Trout or Freeman, etc. Not happening.

I know the sample size is incredibly small, but Giolito screams bust. From high on the hilltops, its so obvious. I can't stand his slow, looping, easily pick-up on delivery. he can't locate the fastball. Or the curve. His velocity is nothing special. I'm honestly stuinned when I see him he looks so unimpressive. Where are these scouting reportds coming from? Groupthink at its finest. Lopez is big time, and you can see it immediately. He is unpolished and needs more time, but this kid is gonna be really good if he can clean it up just a bit.

I would be hesitant to trade Lopez as well.

Giolito for Miller and Beltran? I think the Yanks would do that. Throw in Voth, too if they want.

Gr8day4Bsbll said...

Given the haul that they got for Chapman, which takes one shut-down closer off the market, the Yankees are going to be seeking top dollar/prospects for Miller. And the closer we get to Aug. 1, the higher the price will get -- they can afford to wait, since they have him under contract for one more year and can deal him during the offseason or next year if they want to (yes, they'll have less leverage since he'll then be in his walk year and ostensibly of lower value, but I digress...). So there's NO way they'll make a 1:1 deal for Miller -- Giolito for Miller and Beltran is a fantasy, just about as much a fantasy as Giolito for Miller alone. Turner needs to be off the table, Lopez looks like the closer of the future, and Robles is the outfielder we'll need when (bryce) walks after next year.

So what does that leave? How about Giolito and an infielder like Difo, or an outfielder like MAT, for Miller? The Yanks are going to need MIF help in a couple of years, and Difo is their type of player; they'll also need OF help with Beltran gone soon and Ellsbury getting old, and MAT would probably blossom in that environment. But no way you throw Voth into a deal with Giolito; that decimates the pitching in the farm system and mortgages the future for questionable current return. Any way you cut it, Miller needs to be the goal -- you can't put your eggs into the "arms we have" basket, and no matter how good Glover looked last week and how much potential Lopez has, there's no way we want either of them throwing in the 9th inning of the playoffs with the game on the line against Rizzo, Bryant, Posey, Stanton, Holliday, etc. But the Nats can't overpay like the Cubs did...

Chas R said...

I think we absolutely need to make at least one move, maybe two, to be confident tnto October. We can probably make it through donw the stretch and take the NL East due to the Marlins and Mets weaknesses, but don't we want to make it out of the division series? How are we going to beat the Cubs with this bullpen?

To make an impactful more, we will need to give something to get something. I hate the idea of trading Robles because the Nats OF depth is so shallow, but I think one of Lopez or Giolito should be on the table. I think Lopez/Giolito plus Voth gets you Miller.

Anonymous said...

Giolito has not looked good, but if you think he "screams" bust, you're missing the forest for the trees. Roy Halladay's first 231 MLB innings (roughly covering parts of three seasons): ERA 5.77, FIP 5.58, K/9 5.42. These are terrible numbers.

Halladay, like Giolito is 6'6 and built like a truck (Giolito is more solidly built - 25 lbs heavier). Halladay was a first round pick out of HS (he was taken 17th, Giolito 16th). Scouts loved Halladay's size, his delivery, and especially his breaking ball (sound familiar?). He never had the prospect luster that Giolito has had, but he didn't perform as well in the minors as Giolito has.

I bring all of this up not to say Giolito is guaranteed to be as good as Halladay, but to provide some perspective: (1) Giolito may end up being VERY good, but it may take some time (Harper has pointed this out repeatedly); (2) the 11 innings he's thrown in MLB so far are essentially worthless as far as projecting what he'll end up becoming; (3) Scouts like pitchers that are 6'6 and 225 lbs with repeatable deliveries - because there are a lot of guys like that who have had MLB success as starters; (4) I like Lopez (and I especially like him for the MLB bullpen in 2016), but there just aren't a lot of 5'11 guys who throw 100 and can stick as starters. They get hurt.

Trea Turner said...

Some of you guys out there were mocking me just a few weeks ago and applauding Dusty for all but refusing to play me. You know who you are.

But that's OK, I forgive you all now that Dusty and everyone else has finally come to Jesus and we're all on the same page. I am your leadoff man and spark plug for years to come.

Bjd1207 said...

OK this sentence is just craziness - I would not trade any position players that project as even a decent bat. Turner, Robles, and Schrock are 100% off the table, unless we are talking something major like getting Trout or Freeman, etc. Not happening.

Like seriously, talk about overvaluing your own prospects. You're only willing to move a solid low-minors prospect for the best player on someone's team or the best player in baseball? Going by the numbers for how prospects pan out, 1 of those 3 will not see the majors, and another 1 won't make a big splash. That leaves only 1 with a decent big league career, and how many of those make it to perennial all-star status like Freeman, much less best talent in a few generations like Trout.

And as for the Miller trade, everyone's been saying the return on Miller would need to be higher than Chapman, who landed 4 prospects, 2 in the top 100. You think they'll add in Beltran and give Miller for 50% or less of the package that Chapman got?

I want some of whatever you're lightin up over there

Bjd1207 said...

@Trea Turner - Think you have the wrong blog

Jay said...

Would anyone take Danny as part of a trade package? Maybe Danny and Fedde? Maybe MAT throwing there too. I doubt it, but he does have 18 homers. Maybe someone thinks they can get him and play him everyday. Or is Washington the only team crazy enough to think that?

I have a sneaky suspicion they don't do anything. I just don't see Rizzo giving up legitimate prospects. He's never given up a top prospect before in any trades.

Also, just saw the Harper is having one of the worst post-MVP season seasons in baseball history. Go Harper. Keep breaking records, even the bad ones....

Anonymous said...

Regarding Giolito, I know this has been said before but I think it needs to be repeated a lot for some people, is that we're talking about a guy who already has one Tommy John surgery on his arm, and that was almost four years ago now.

Even if he does eventually develop into a good major league pitcher, I think the odds of him having a long and healthy career are on the slim side.

SM said...

I have a question:

Can anyone recall any trade deadline acquisitions of closers who led--or contributed decisively to--their team to the World Series championship?

I can think of starting pitchers--David Cone in Toronto, say; or even Jake Peavey twice (in Boston and San Francisco)--but no shutdown, killer closers.


Bjd1207 said...

@SM - Koji for the Red Sox?

Josh Higham said...

@Jay, "worst" is a little misleading. Poor analytics by ESPN. The sample is really small for seasons-after-an-MVP-year. His batting average is, to this point, historically bad, but even if he keeps struggling, he's still going to hit 25 homers easily, and if he gets it together even a little bit, he'll hit .250+ with 30 homers. They need to show me a lot more numbers before "worst season" is a fair thing to say. A lot of good baseball players hit below .250 with good to excellent power (see Frazier, Todd, with a .215 BA, career .251). Admittedly, those guys don't tend to be reigning MVPs who hit .330 the year before, so ESPN's claim is good for catching eyeballs.

Chas R said...

Folks, to get something of value, we will have to give something of value. There are no teams that a re going to give up their top tier MLB talent for our leftovers. If you want a trade for a Miller or Davis, we will almost certainly need to part with more than one of our top prospects. If you don;t want to do that then you really fall into Harper's "values the future" category and that's fine, but you are surely not prioritizing this season.

SM said...

@ Bjd207

Sorry--Koji was acquired the previous winter, not at the deadline.

I'm not sure he fits the "shutdown closer" definition, but Ugueth Urbina certainly helped the Marlins during their 2003 championship year. The cost? Ryan Snare (who only pitched 1 game in the majors); and Adrian Gonzalez (who's still hanging around in L.A.)

Harper said...

SM - Uggie is the only one I can think of and the only one I could find. To be fair you are talking about probably 14 teams a year (since 2nd WC), 10 teams a year (since first) and say 7 teams a year (two divisions) in hunt at deadline and only 0-2 get a shutdown closer in a given year. There is a lot going on that overwhelms the impact of any one player, closer or starter or batter. What would be more interesting to see is how the save percentage changes for these teams. Do they get better where they want to.

I will say looking it up I found a large number - maybe as many as 12 over the course of the 30 or so years I was looking at it, that acquired their closer in the previous year or two as an established player. Speaks to both fungibility and importance.

NG said...

Isn't the fundamental problem with trading for a closer that noted veteran-fetishist Dusty Baker is just going to make Papelbon the 8th inning guy, through the rest of the season and the playoffs?

So you not only lose prospects, but you're actually taking away innings from our best relievers (Kelley and Treinen, at least according to xFIP), which offsets any benefit you get from the new closer?

DezoPenguin said...

A simple fact not to be overlooked is that we do have the (tied for) best record in the National League. We didn't get there by having a roster full of holes. While some of the trade rumors seem pretty obvious (Andrew Miller would fit our roster perfectly, but then, Andrew Miller would fit *anybody's* roster perfectly), but others seem puzzling in the extreme.

For example, I'm utterly bewildered by the rumors linking the Nationals to Joey Bautista. The guy's a great hitter, even in a down year, but he's a corner outfielder. He's not a first baseman (indeed, just two days ago the Blue Jays's manager willingly gave up the DH rather than play Bautista at 1B). And sliding Bryce to CF really doesn't seem like a productive thing to do (August is not the time to teach him to play CF at the major-league level). Ditto guys like Jay Bruce. Good hitter, but we're not an American League team and we don't need a designated hitter. Ditto Carlos Beltran. Ditto Josh Reddick, though at least he can play some defense. When you're drafting prospects, "best player available" is the right strategy, but when you're trading those prospects for "win-now" players, you have to actually look for players who will help you win now by filling areas of need.

There are only two things we should be looking at for hitters: an actual CF (and then Turner would play 2B with Murphy taking 1B), or an actual 1B (in which case Turner would stick in CF). And most of the reasonably available hitters aren't one of those two things. Either way, since Turner will fill either the Revere/Taylor hole or the Zim hole, we only need one bat. Heck, if Zim returns to some measure of form now that he's back, we don't need any.

The SP situation pretty much depends on Ross's health. Stras/Max/Roark are as good as anybody's top three. Gio has had a nice bounceback over his past few starts. And we don't even need a fifth starter in the postseason. This is a place where a rental may make sense if Ross is likely to have further setbacks.

RP is different. We need arms. But we don't need above-average arms, because we have a large number of those already; we need top-shelf quality.

And, unfortunately, players of the quality that we need, as hitters or relief pitchers, will cost prospects. We may be able to one-stop shop. For example, we could trade with KC for Hosmer+Davis; the price would be high but these are players actually worth trading for. Or we may simply have to sit it out if the prices are too high or teams simply don't want to let go of pieces that we would actually want.

Unknown said...

can't we just little league it and bring in Espi for SS? Cannon!

NotBobby said...

@Dezo - great post

Dusty's Toothpick said...

Well Said