Nationals Baseball: Tuesday Quickie - Holding up their end of the bargain

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tuesday Quickie - Holding up their end of the bargain

The Nats started the easy part of their schedule as bad as they could have, getting swept out of their own building by the Dodgers*.  At that point the goal of 14-7 looked grim. But the Nats managed to take 2 out of 3 from the awful Padres, then sweep the hideous Marlins and now have 1 game in pocket against the maybe even worse Orioles. The Nats are now at 6-4 and a 8-3 finish isn't THAT crazy, at least in comparison to a 14-4 one.

Of course what's important to remember - which seems to be forgotten here - is that the Nats need to win here to give themselves a cushion.  I've talked about the schedule a lot the past few days and the Braves and the Phillies will both have longer "easy" stretches later in the year** that the Nats will not have. The ones ATL and PHI get at those points may not be this long, but they are there. They'll be expected to make up ground then. The Nats need to climb to first here and start trying to hold opponents off. They'll have one more brief run starting in late July (@MIA, v NYM, v CIN) but that's it***

If they can get to first and maybe get a couple game lead by the time this stretch is over then the guys coming back from injury means more to me. Because what's good about these guys coming back is having options so you can finding the guy doing ok and sit the guy doing bad. It's about maintaining your level. We should not be expecting Murphy to hit like an MVP or Eaton to play like he has in his brief times on the field and somehow carry the team to the front from behind. That's asking too much.

So keep beating the Orioles. Sweep them. Get in first and let's get to that Braves series.

*The Dodgers have been 5-2 since the sweep but that includes a 3 game set versus the Padres, so still inconclusive on how good this team is without Kershaw. Of course doesn't matter really as he's scheduled to be back on Thursday. 

**Basically the Nats in 2nd half will have easy games spread out. The Braves are pretty much like that all year. The Phillies on the other hand have bunches. They already had a easy stretch (v MIA, v CIN, @ TB) and went 8-2 and will have one again
ATL : In June will see a vSD, @TOR(2), vBAL, vCIN, stretch
PHI : Before and after the ASB will go @BAL(1), @MIA, vSD, vLD, @CIN, @BOS(2), vMIA. 

***unless the Mets crash and burn but of course if they do that the Braves and Phillies will also benefit. 


Unknown said...

Harper, what are your thoughts on how the outfield will shake out once everyone is back?

Can Soto play center field? My fear is they will keep plugging along with MAT and insert Goodwin as his replacement and will send Soto down to keep his playing time up.

I'd much rather have an outfield of Soto, Eaton, Harper with MAT and Goodwin as defensive replacements.

elchupinazo said...

I'm also wondering what they'll do with Soto, but my guess is that MLB pitchers (being that they're MLB pitchers) will eventually get a scouting report on him and figure him out. That would probably at least merit a demotion to the bench, but as he plugs along I'm starting to wonder the degree to which he even *can* be figured out. If he continues to produce at a high (even if not astronomical) level, can you really make the case for even platooning him?

I assume he can play center, if for no other reason than that he's young and strong and fast enough to make up for any lack of experience in the position. Eaton, Soto-As-He's-Currently-Performing and Harper-As-He-Ought-To-Perform would make for a pretty good outfield, as least as good as the NYY's.

What about Goodwin in left, Taylor in center and Soto in right for a game or two? We know who Harper is to the extent that you can never really worry about him, but man he's looked lost lately. He famously hates hitting in Baltimore, so I don't expect him to break out there. Why not let Soto (or Goodwin, whatever) take over so he can rest up and sort himself out at his least-favorite ballpark. They shouldn't NEED Bryce to beat this sad-sack Orioles team.

Ole PBN said...

I don't know how well Soto runs - scouts grade him at 50 on an 80 scale (same as for his fielding). Comparatively speaking, MAT was graded 60 and 65 for running and fielding, respectively when he made his debut. I think Soto has done well enough to play everyday, but I don't think management is on-board with Eaton to CF. Of the 1,013 innings Soto has played professionally, only 23 of them came out of CF. I don't think management is comfortable with that either. He needs everyday AB's - so I think they'll send him down. Looks like MAT it is (much to my disappointment).

Since the Padres series (7 games), MAT is 8-28 (.285). It's a miracle.

JE34 said...

When Zim, Eaton, Goodwin and Murphy return... they'll demote Sanchez, Stevenson, Soto, and...who?

BxJaycobb said...

At the same time, Bryce had little CF experience in 2012 and he became our CF.

Treaples69 said...

Likely Suero... they have 8 man bullpen currently

Ole PBN said...

@Bx - I think Bryce's overall athletic ability and him being a generational prospect made it easier to stick him in CF at the time. Regarding Bryce's CF experience: he had spent 272 innings in CF; albeit out the 1,060 he played. 272 is a little more than 23 innings (Soto) the way I see it.

Look I'm all for it if it gets MAT out of the lineup, just don't think its going to happen and comparing this to Bryce 6 years ago is a little silly/outlandish.

elchupinazo said...

Yeah I was gonna say MAT might be getting back to his (extremely average) old self, so maybe there's cause to be optimistic? At least getting Goodwin back will give them some options.

No chance Eaton ever plays center field again on those legs. Hopefully he's young enough to still be a + fielder and tenacious baserunner.

PotomacFan said...

We are all such optimists! By the time all of the injured players get back, the odds are good that someone else will be injured. I hope not, but I'm just being realistic.

Can the Nats keep Zim, Adams and Reynolds on the roster at the same time?

Mark said...

Agree that there is no way Eaton is going to Center. He was not good in center before the leg injuries. MAT's recent success has been against the Padres, Marlins and Orioles, and he was 0 for 4 against each of the two decent pitchers he faced in that span. I would love to see him become a league average hitter but I'm skeptical. Soto needs to play every day and will be sent down before being platooned at the major league level, and I doubt they replace MAT with him unless MAT completely falls off a cliff offensively. If Soto stays up it will be very surprising if major league pitchers don't find something to exploit. Bryce needs to get back on track. He is costing himself $10's of millions right now. He is healthy, and demonstrating a level of inconsistency that isn't worth $400,000,000.

mike k said...

Harp I think you might be underestimating the effect of getting injured players back. They might not do well right away but when they come around not only will they contribute, but the lineup will lengthen substantially. The bottom of the lineup has done alright during this winning streak but most of the time it's just a bunch of automatic outs. There were a ton of games earlier this season where the Nats lost a low scoring game they probably would have won had they had a longer lineup - either to get hits down there or just to wear the pitcher down more.

That being said, if the Nats are in the lead in the division when this happens, I have a hard time predicting they lose it. Even with the schedule difference.

Re: crowded outfield. I have a feeling that Soto will cool off by the time Eaton comes back, which still won't be for a short while. That will be the perfect time to send him back down to work on perfecting his weaknesses (whatever those may can bet that major league clubs and pitchers will find it). Best case reasonable scenario (absolute best case is Soto continues to play great) is Soto is great for a few weeks, then pitchers adjust, Soto cools off for a few weeks, then Eaton comes back and Soto is sent down to work on that stuff and delay his clock a year.

Re: roster construction when everyone gets back. If there's no other injuries (read: no), I guess they go with a bench of Roberts, Adams, Goodwin, Difo, and Kieboom. It's a bit thin with only one guy backing up OF and one backing up IF, and Roberts is redundant with Zim as your righty 1B, but what else do you do? Him and Adams are playing too well not to carry them. Though chances are someone else will be dinged up for a bit, and the decision will be easier (or harder, but probably easier). I do think that the depth stepping up recently makes it easier to rest slightly injured guys throughout the year to keep them fresh, when they would otherwise have to play through it.

Personal observation: I think the tutelage of Kevin Long is starting to show. Nats are leading the NL in walks and by my eye they are light years better 2nd and 3rd times through the lineup than first time. I like it.

Harper said...

Andrew / OLE PBN- Once EVERYONE is back? Let's assume MAT is hitting ok at this point. I would say ... Soto back in AAA until roster expansion
... Zimm in a mostly platoon with Adams
... Reynolds also in AAA
... Goodwin on bench
... Severino back to being back-up

Now if MAT is not hitting any better when Eaton is ready I think they start with a rotation between Soto, MAT, and Eaton with the excuse of slowly working Eaton back in, and see if that gets MAT going.

el chupo - I think Bryce is probably in charge of his time off right now, and with two RHP and then the Braves series, won't get time off this week

JE34 - Reynolds - there's no place for him. I think in part that's why he was practicing at 3rd. Maybe they keep him over Difo?

PF - Yes but unlikely. They'll need Difo to spell Murphy at 2B, Adams stays, they want Goodwin up, back-up catcher. So out of players unless they want to as Gabe says take a man out of the pen. That might be possible with a lot of days off but it looks like guys will be ready right when the Nats start into the dog days of a lot of games in a row.

mike k - the losing a lead thing is what I think too. If the Nats get ahead by the time the guys get back they should stay ahead. They are better even with some guys not 100%. (they are close to as good right now) I figure it'll be about game 100 when everyone is back. They'll be like a 94 win team lets say but up against a tougher schedule... will win like 57/58 games. Braves should take around 54/55. Phillies 52/53. Of course this is all meaningless, but trying to show why if they AREN'T ahead why they may not be able to get back to the top. Also if they don't seperate one of these teams might make a deal around trade deadline which could up their win totals a game or two and look out.

Shawington said...

Harper -- They can't send Reynolds down to AAA, can they? Wouldn't he have to clear waivers, which seems unimaginable at this point. Unless I'm wrong (could be), dropping Reynolds off the 25-man is, in effect, losing him.

I tend to think that Zim's injury will last as long as Adams/Reynolds stay hot.

Colin Stuver said...

@Mark - MAT is at the bottom of the pit looking up at the cliff he's already fallen off haha

Anonymous said...

I feel like it usually takes a year for the league to adjust to player. The collective wisdom doesn't accumulate over night... (see Trea's rookie year).

W. Patterson said...

So many comments, so many options. Overall, it's an abundance of (potential) riches. As long as Werth, er, I mean Zimmerman, doesn't come back as an automatic out in the three-hole, I'll be looking forward to the regulars getting healthy.

No breakdown on my opinions as Rizzo and Martinez wouldn't listen to me, anyway.

Ponchas said...

Oh, man. Zim was All Star caliber last year. A slow start? Yeah. So? Some of the same folks we are hearing from on this thread had Zim (and Gio, too) out the door going into April 2017. Ahem. Does anybody remember who hit best in last year's playoff series?

W. Patterson said...

@Ponchas - There are slow starts and then there's the first of June. If he comes back in Zim form, great. If not, and Reynolds/Adams are doing what they've been doing, then I'd prefer to see them playing and producing.

BxJaycobb said...

I would argue that a 400m player is the kind of player who leads the league in home runs and walks even when he “needs to get back on track.” Think about that. It means the guy is showing elite on base and slugging performance and WHILE he is slumping badly LOL. (And I’m not disagreeing that Bryce is not on track. Just observing how insane his level of offense is when he IS on track.) to me, the reason Bryce might not be worth 400m isn’t his offense (he’s above .900 OPS). It’s that his defense seems to be a good bet to become a HUGE liability even in the middle stretch of his career, since it’s already a liability now (or at least according to defensive metrics). In today’s game, teams are unlikely to pay a player a record breaking contract if that player only is a good/great offensive player and doesn’t really contribute much on the other side of the ball.

W. Patterson said...

@BxJaycobb - Maybe I don't pay the attention to defense that others do, but when I see Bryce not getting to a ball it's usually because it's close to the line. How much of that is him not being where the ball is, and how much is someone in the dugout motioning for him to be further from the line?

BxJaycobb said...

What is assuming MAT is hitting OK mean? Right now he has like a .230 OBP. I don’t understand how you keep somebody in the lineup when you’re trying to beat out teams to win a division when the guy has anything below a .270 matter how good his defense is (and by the way, this isn’t much worse than what he has been his entire career except for 3/4 a season.) Even is he reverts to “MAT form” that’s a barely above replacement level player. You just cannot have a guy hovering anywhere in the vicinity of that level of anemic on base performance if you’re serious about being a great offense, unless he is Joey Gallo.

BxJaycobb said...

Don’t know. It’s possible fielding metrics are really defined a lot by positioning. But I also think he has fielded worse than in the past...both throwing and catching. But I agree a lot of it seems to be him being careful around walls. He definitely has not lost any of his speed I don’t think.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper/others: Re Soto. People seem incredibly confident that the league will “figure out” Soto. It really doesn’t happen that quickly from what I’ve seen. Usually it takes months or a year for the league to see a guy enough to get a book on him (at the least a team needs to see him one full series). Think about Cody Bellinger. It wasn’t until the Astros in WS that everybody realized how you pitch him. Rhys Hoskins same thing. Trea, it seemed to take over half a year to realize slow stuff away to prey on his aggressiveness (which he now has learned from). Benintendi didnt get a dose of different approaches until like August last year, etc. I don’t expect the league to “adjust” to Soto any time soon. If they do it will be second time around the league or end of the year I imagine. He also has a very very uncomplicated swing and spreads out with 2 strikes big time. He may have a more sound approach than your average rookie. I guess just from watching him....I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits and hits for a while. I’ve seen him pull the ball, go the opposite way, lay off slop dropping out of the zone, and hit lefties. It’s not just the results. He looks incredibly comfortable and has good at bats.

BxJaycobb said...

Also. People don’t realize this, but Zim is such an unusually horrible defender that even when he’s hitting his value is diminished (MAT and Trea had a higher WAR last year than Zim....his overall value even last year was NOT All Star caliber. Only his bat was. He is Murphy-like at this point in how much of a liability he is on D. That play Reynolds made the other day? Zim doesn’t make that play. He has no chance to. Ball constantly get by him in the hole even against the shift.) At the bare bare BARE minimum, it is literally unconscionable to play him against RHP over Adams whom he basically doesn’t hit and hasn’t hit for years.

mike k said...

@Harper - I guess how I should've put it is even if the Nats are a few games behind, I still like their chances of coming back when guys get healthy. This is assuming the Braves or Phillies don't go in big at the trade deadline. Despite all the schedule hubaloo the last week or so on the blog, I suppose the conclusion was...they have been similar? So, the Nats were 2-3 games behind with half their starting lineup out, plus Rendon for a lot of the year, and several backups out at the same positions as the regulars who were out. Maybe I get a bit nervous, but to me that still shows the Nats can come back a few games when they get a full lineup, even if their schedule is a bit harder.

Of course, it's much less nerve-racking if they just take the lead now when their schedule is easier.

No way they send get rid of Reynolds if he's still hitting like this. The bench will be what I indicated, if there are no other injuries. I think Shawnington has the right idea re: when Zim gets "healthy" again though.

Good points on Soto. Maybe he still hits well when Eaton comes back and then a decision will have to be made. We'll see.

TIL the Nats are *literally unconscionable*

Mark said...

Soto has had 8 games at the MLB level, 0 at AAA and 8 games at AA and he is 19 years old. His major league games were against the Padres, Marlins and Orioles (plus 1 strikeout against the dodgers as a PH). It would be shocking if major league pitchers don't find a weakness.

Yes, MAT is at the bottom looking up, but he has had a good week so lets see if he trends up(I'm rooting for him but skeptical) or whether it was a lucky blip.

Mark said...

Seriously though... has any 19 YO had a better 28 first AB

Games 9
AB 28
Runs 5
Hits 11
TB 17
HR 1
BB 5
SB 1
BA .393
OBP .485
SLG .607
OPS 1.092

Ole PBN said...

The irony was pretty funny yesterday. Top 2nd: Reynolds (the guy who will be sent down for injured/terrible Zimm) singles, Soto (the guy who will be sent down for laughable MAT) singles. MAT fails to get the bunt down, which would have been bad enough - but no, wait! - he decides to ground into a double play (rofl). Difo (a backup) gets a two-out RBI scoring Reynolds.

The logic of taking Reynolds off your squad while he's this hot is ludicrous (1.406 OPS?! 6 HR in 12 games?!). I think we seriously need to write a petition for Soto or Eaton to take over in CF when Eaton returns. Enough of this lousy kid we have out there now. Fellas. It's bad. I'm at the point where I root for MAT to fail because him succeeding for night fools people into thinking "hey! He's figured it out!" Nope nope nope.

Harper said...

Mark - fun fact Mel Ott had about 25 ABs as a PH before starting 9 of his last 10 games. He hit .389 / .405 / .444. Not quite as good but he was OVER TWO YEARS younger than Soto is now. (IOW - baseball has a lot of history)