Nationals Baseball: Roark, Gio, and Imprudence

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Roark, Gio, and Imprudence

The Nats had spent most of the first 2+ months thriving instead of surviving because of their pitching staff. Their line-up never fully collapsed but injuries and disappointments meant it was merely ok. It was the line-up for a .500 type team and to keep that line-up in a playoff hunt meant you'd have to have a pitching staff that was among the best in the league. The Nats did. And as the bullpen continued to have issues here and there, especially in the middle innings, it was the rotation specifically that was doing the heavy lifting.

At May 30th, here were the staff's numbers

Max : 1.92 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13.6 K/9
Stras : 3.13 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.4 K/9
Gio : 2.10 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.8 K/9
Roark : 3.17 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
Hellickson : 2.30 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 7.1 K/9

The highest ERA was 3.17.  Currently for qualified NL pitchers those numbers would be 9th best. The second highest WHIP was 1.06.  Currently for qualified NL pitchers - 6th best. The Nats rotation was cruising. But the Hellickson got hurt. Then Strasburg got hurt. Then we realized Roark and Gio have not been pitching well.  How poorly?

In Tanner's last 6 appearances he has a 6.91 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 7.0 K/9. In his last 2 starts he's failed to get out of the 5th, and has put on 22 baserunners in 8 and a third.

In Gio's last 4 starts he has a 10.67 ERA, 2.38 WHIP, 6.4 K/9.   Ok you say that's unfair bc of last night's debacle. 3 before that - 7.43 ERA, 1.95 WHIP, 5.5 K/9.

Now these could be just slumps*, but if so they are incredibly ill-timed slumps. What had been at the end of May as in control a 5 man rotation as could be has been reduced in 3 weeks to Max and the AAAA All-Stars.

What do the Nats do? Not much right now. The schedule, with it's easy stretch into the ASB coming up in a week, makes panicking seem unnecessary.  Let's see if Roark and Gio can get their heads on straight against some lesser competition aftter the 4th. Hellickson, as we thought, should be back soon. Let see him get back into the groove. We've talked about Strasburg and how he's likely to be out until after the ASB just because the way timing works out.  See where the chips fall and then decide what's next.

That's fine... as long as the offense can pick up the slack. Right now they haven't shown they can. And if the Nats don't play well in the next week - with the Phillies and the Red Sox up before the easy stretch - well that's bad. 

What's the other option though? Or looking at it in a more tempered way - what do the Nats do if they go into the ASB a bunch back (say about 5) and 2 of the 4 pitchers not named Max are ineffective? Do they ride with 60% of a rotation hoping it comes together before it comes apart and enough so that they can make up that ground?

I, advocate, for something the Nats rarely do.  I advocate for the imprudent trade. Now, let me explain. When I talk of an imprudent trade I am talking about a trade that has a good chance to help Nats for a short period of time (no more than a year and a half) while giving up a good chance to help the Nats in the long run. The Nats rarely make these types of deal. They can trade for a good chance to help in the short term... but they give up middling chances at long term help**. They can trade good chance to help in the long run... but they get back good chances to help for multiple years now.***

Sometimes these don't work out for you. Pivetta wasn't a good bet to help - but he is turning out to be a quality pitcher. Sometimes they do. Roark wasn't a good bet to help - but he turned out to do it. But all in all this is a very safe way to trade. You rarely end up giving up something for what is ultimately nothing.

But the Nats have made an imprudent trade before and it highlights why one might do it. When the Nats traded Felipe Rivero for Mark Melancon they were giving up a good bet to help into the future for a good bet to be better for a couple months. You weren't sure what that meant for Rivero, middle innings arm or elite closer, but the Nats took the risk. Why? Because they needed a closer after failures in 2012 and 2014 with Storen and the mental breakdowns of Papelbon and Storen in 2015. Papelbon was starting to break down and they had no reliable alternatives. It was a no choice situation and the Nats, in my mind, acted accordingly.

You can argue it didn't work out but that wasn't necessarily the trade's fault. Melancon did what was asked of him. The Nats couldn't turn it into a playoff series win.

In my mind the Nats, in the scenario where they are down by 5 games and 2 starters down, are in a similar no-choice situation. You get a starter or you don't make the playoffs. You still may not make it if you do, but this isn't the 2012 Nats where you can convince yourself planning for the future is the straight up obvious play. The 2018 Nats don't have that luxury.

This job keeps getting harder for Rizzo. When things almost magically came together in 2012 it turned a plan that was likely "hope to be a true playoff contender in 2013, figure out what next steps are necesarry" into "OMG we are a dominant team in 2012, there are no next steps!" and it gave the Nats four years of almost assured playoff relevancy. Not only that but it gave them four years to plan what to do post 2015. Four years to see who developed and thus didn't have to be addressed for 2016 and 2017 as the original players started going off the stage. Bryce is a star! Don't need one of those! Rendon develops? No 3rd baseman needed! Roark is a real starter? That saves a bundle! Four years where you could plan for the future only.

But since that 2016 season the Nats have had to dual plan, for now and for later. They caught some breaks and made some nice work to help mitigate the need for these plans**** but they were never going to recreate the easy ride that fell into their lap with that set of talent and that division.  Now work has to be done. Now the Nats have to fight to win today and fight to win in the future.

To me that second part conjurs up a whole lot of fogginess on what exactly the Nats will be come 2020 even if they try to plan for it.  Continuing legit multi-year challengers? Brief relevancy? Nothing at all? I know what the Nats are in 2018. They are contenders. I don't know what they'll be. That speaks to making a move for today with little regard for the future. That speaks for imprudence.

It doesn't have to be - I've outlined a couple prudent deals that would hurt but still be helping the Nats for multiple years (like giving up a ton for Michael Fulmer) but if those don't work out this is not the year to retreat and regroup for the future. This is the year to push forward still.

*Roark's was passable before his last two starts, the main culprit on his ERA before that being a rare in game appearance that went terrible. Gio has a tendency to have bad stretches. 

**many examples - basically pick almost any trade Nats have done

***trade for Eaton is a good one. 

**** Max! Murphy! Turner trade! 


Harper said...

I succintly define this column as "Nats should do whatever it takes to stay in the picture this yr. See if the team congeals. Explore typical Nats trades. But if those aren't enough accept you have to make a Win now / lose later trade "

ocw5000 said...

"I've outlined a couple prudent deals that would hurt but still be helping the Nats for multiple years"

Maybe I read not good but did you actually do this? Who are we targeting, Jon Gray? Mr 2-hit-shutout Snell? Dylan Bundy? These are not difference makers are they? Tyler Skaggs?

I guess you're thinking deGrom and Bumgarner?

Ryan said...

I know the Nats looked terrible yesterday, but Snell is quietly awesome, he makes a lot of hitters look terrible.

How about a swap with the Padres that brings over Tyson Ross and Craig Stammen? I'm not sure what they have to get that done, but those two would solidify the staff and I'd think would be cheaper than Michael Fulmer.

Sammy Kent said...

The starting pitching has devolved into Scherzer and the X number of dwarfs. With Hellickson and Stras on the DL, Tanner and Gio ineffective, and NOBODY getting any run support, we are in deep doodoo. Our best chance this season is Max for eight, Doo for one, then four days of rain.

What pisses me off about last night is that Shawn Kelley throws not a single pitch in a game tailor-made for him. Same for Solis. Why is Dave Martinez saving THOSE arms? For gosh sake, save the few relievers that are pitching half decent like Miller and Collins for a game where they can actually make a difference, and let Solis and Kelley mop up in a blowout. I don't care if they DID work Sunday night. One inning of work should not DQ a reliever from pitching the next day.

We can trade for pitching til the cows come home, and that still isn't going to solve the hitting woes. Bryce Harper is batting about .150 since the first of May, but still leads the team in RBIs and dingers. IOW, nobody else is hitting for squat either. Zimmerman's and Wieters' injuries are non issues. Zim was batting under .200 when he went down, and Wieters is just a bad catcher. On steal attempts the throw is as likely to go to Michael A. Taylor as to Trea Turner.

Four guys the Nationals should have never EVER let go: Kurt Suzuki, Stephen Souza, Oliver Perez, Dusty Baker. I might even want to add Jose Lobaton to that list. Couldn't hit his jersey number, but 1. could throw guys out, 2. could steal ten strikes a game with his pitch framing, 3. had a knack for timely dingers when you least expected them and most needed them, 4. was a much-needed clubhouse and dugout cut-up that kept everybody loose.

Jimmy said...

@sammy kent- um I'd jettison for souza for trea and ross everytime. That was the single greatest trade this organization has ever made.

SM said...

Could you name some names under your various scenarios, Harper? Who for whom? (I love in-season hot stove league discussions!)

(Incidentally, Sammy, Wieters has thrown out 50% of runners attempting steals this season; "Stinky" Severino? 32%.)

Harper said...

ocw / SM - over the past few months in various places, not in this column. Realmuto of course, Stroman, Archer, Iglesias are other examples. We can play with actual trades closer to the ASB (or if someone goes down). I don't like to get too ahead. They are out there IF the Nats are parting with Robles+

Ryan - Ross, Stammen is a solid move if it can get done. Very typical Nats assuming they give up nothing we care about. But pitching help rarely drops to that level

Sammy - they have an off-day coming up so who is used is not all that important outside of who was used the day before. Basically all Davey did last night was rule out Grace for tonight. Everyone else is avaiable today and will be available for their next game

to address your players
Suzuki - he got a starting gig elsewhere he wasn't getting here
Souza - I'd rather have Turner/Ross than Souza.
Perez - Eh. I guess. I mean he would have been dirt cheap and he was average so why not? I'm not particularly upset though
Baker - Yes
Lobaton - No. He's Severino who can only get worse. And the D drop off just isn't there on the basepaths. Unless you have big insight into the clubhouse that backs up what you say I can't back this at all.

W. Patterson said...

@Sammy Kent - One point with which I full agree is that any of your pitchers with ERAs above zero will do you no good if you're not scoring runs. Heck, even I know that the only stat that really matters is the final score.

As for Nats relief pitching, I don't have the numbers but it SEEMS that the bullpen isn't leaving runners on, and isn't keeping the ball in the park. Like you said: Max for 8, Doo for 1, and rain for four days. Of course, you've Max giving up a dinger a game and if you don't score, Max gets a one-hit shutout and you still lose. (Note: End of the first, Max is pitching and Max hasn't given up a homer - yet. And Eovaldi has a no-hitter going.)

The ASG will be the magic turning point, though. Just wait and see.

Robot said...

Oh sh*t, forgot it was a day game! Looks like I'm not getting any work done this afternoon.

Sammy Kent said...

Ladies and gentlemen, I never suggested that we shouldn't have made a deal to get Joe Ross and Trea Turner. Being an NC State grad/fan, I was jumping for joy at the prospect of getting Trea. But I don't remember Moses coming down from the mount with it etched in stone that the only way to swing that deal was to give up Souza. TB/SD might have made that deal for any number of other players, but we'll never know because that's the deal Rizzo made.

@Harper, Lobaton's clubhouse and dugout persona and his value to the mirth of the team with his schtick has been attested to many times through the years by Dan Kolko and F.P. Santangelo. And you are totally ignoring the value Loby gave to the pitching staff by his extraordinary ability to frame borderline pitches for strikes. They LOVED throwing to Loby, also attested to many times by the pitchers as well as the MASN talking heads.

Ollie Perez is a guy that can be used as either a LOOGY or a two inning hold-em, or even a long man. We are horribly short on all those kinds of relievers. Rizzo has started collecting closers like they're rare coins.

I'll be the first to say that Wieters threw out more runners this season than I would have ever thought possible...and also that it shocked the bluejohnheck out of me when he did. But he still flings too many to the outfield.

As I am writing this it's the sixth inning ANOTHER POTENTIAL NO HITTER is in the books. I'm almost ready to say, go ahead Nationals and get one pitched against you. Maybe THAT will kick you in the collective arse.

And just as I'm about to hit PUBLISH, Bryce saves the day. But this is getting MADDENING!!!!!!

W. Patterson said...

@ Robot - Don't bother. Six innings and the Nats whiffed nine times already - with one hit (Harper). I think they're already on the plane home, mentally, and ready for a day off.

Harper said...

Sammy Kent - true on Souza but as I recall they were very high on him and wanted someone that could play immediately. I don't think there was someone else that fit that bill.

I can't attest to the clubhouse stuff. As for the framing - well the stats say Lobaton was good but getting worse as he aged (he's middle of the road in 2018). While Severino might have been better than Lobaton ever wasy. There's also been a lot of talk about how they loved throwing to Wieters.

PotomacFan said...

Good news, bad news: Max only gave up 1 run today, instead of 2 (as in his previous 4 starts). But, the Nats are on their way to being shut out in 3 of Max's last 5 starts. Apparently, if Max doesn't get on base himself, the Nats can't score. This is depressing.

@Harper: does getting a "Win" count in calculating WAR?

Robot said...

One pitch, Trea?

Anonymous said...

Bases loaded and one out...and...nada. I give up.

Robot said...

And Michael K Taylor wraps this one up.

Kubla said...


I don't think a pitcher win counts for WAR on its own since it is predicated on run support and WAR deals with individual performance. WAR has more to do with expected wins generated based on stats, not realized wins.

W. Patterson said...

On a different note, I keep getting notices about voting for All Stars. Since I try to vote for folks who are worthy and not just hometown favorites . . . Can't think of anybody in the National League right off hand.

Doesn't matter, really, though, since the voting site is like the Nats offense - spinning and spinning and nothing happening. (chortle)

Ole PBN said...

I think we can't fully evaluate how this team should treat the trade deadline until the week before 7/31. Right now, this team is very much in the hunt, with miserable games mixed in between satisfying performances. They are essentially keeping their head above water, but have been hit really hard with injuries. The lineup is nearly back together, but some pieces still need to arrive (Bryce, Murphy, Wieters, Adams). I think we can wave the white flag once we hear that Strasburg is done for the year.

I am not a fan of selling high for short-term help (especially when it's someone who only prevents runs and doesn't score them, i.e. Melancon, Rzepczynski, Papelbon, etc.) Pitching is not our problem. This lineup is. The inconsistency of it is the most mind-boggling thing I can point to in sports today. But I'm not about to trade any of it for short-term pitching help. Robles is untouchable. Kieboom is untouchable. Rodriguez should be in the pen. Fedde should be on the trade block. We have a HUGE number of players set to hit the market and this team could look very different come next April. Robles for Bryce, maybe even Kieboom for Murphy? Sign Murph to play 1B because Zimmerman is unreliable. Sign another starter and Ramos in the offseason with the Bryce/Gio money.

The point is, this team is what they are right now. They have what they have. Don't pay a premium to plug one hole of a sinking ship when it has a hundred other holes. Ride this out as long as you can, hope for the best, get hot, get into the postseason, get lucky. That's all this team can hope for because a trade or some similar tinkering isn't going to solve this team's problems THIS year. Look at it this way, fellas: we finally have a race this year. Let's see what this hapless bunch is made of. The worst thing that can happen, is that management is fooled that we are a good pitcher or good hitter away from steamrolling through October. IF we get in (big IF), then let's just hope we are as good as we were from 4/29 to 5/13 (we were 13-2). Do that at the right time later this season. For now, just stay within striking distance. They can really afford to do that for a while as there are 22 remaining games against PHI and ATL. Breathe people. Last nights game is only frustrating for Max and his hopes to win like 27 games. Nothing more than another "L."

Anonymous said...

@ Ole PBN:

I like the cut of your jib.

What strikes me about your analysis--I think it's correct--is the passing reference to the Nats' farm system having only 2 untouchables, Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles. (We'll see exactly how untouchable at the trade deadline.) Both are position players, and both can hit.

No pitchers seem to fit the untouchable category, and here Sammy Kent makes an interesting point: namely, Rizzo "collecting closers like they're rare coins." The peculiar thing about those acquisitions is how much pitching--but not only pitching--the Nats have traded to acquire closers.

I understand the premise that teams tend to overrate their prospects, but the Nats' scouting strikes me as pretty good, judging by, let's say, the 2016 draft. From the Doolittle/Madsen deal, Jesus Luzardo is already pitching in AA, and Sheldon Neuse promoted to AAA. The Eaton deal, though, is the one I still find somewhat puzzling. Giving away your organization's top two pitching prospects--one, Giolito, admittedly a disappointment--for a position player is reasonable. Throwing in Dane Dunning (their second first-round pick after Kieboom) made no sense.

Water over the dam, or under the bridge, true enough. But I sometimes wonder if the calls to strike an "In Rizzo We Trust" medallion aren't premature.

Ole PBN said...

Just watched the "scuffle" at the end of the game today. I'd go on a rant about how this part of baseball is so childish and ineffective and that hockey actually lets a player stick up for his teammate man-to-man, etc. but oh well.

Point is, I'd trade a prospect or two to acquire Sergio Romo just so we can beat him with bars of soap and pillow cases, then release him. Total punk that won't ever get what's coming to him. Our team was just collectively spat on by our opponent at the end of the game and all we get in is a "hey man, like, what was that about man?" from Murphy who had full permission and a well-served suspension to clock Romo upside the face for that. But Murphy isn't that guy and we aren't that kind of team.

So... since we aren't THAT team, let's hope that our guys have tea and biscuits together tomorrow, talk about current events and their families and agree to play better going forward. Maybe this is what Tim Hudson was referring to all those years ago...? Makes one wonder....

Anonymous said...

Disappointing so far to say the least, particularly with the ASG in DC this year and hoping to see a bunch of Nats... (not likely now) and maybe it stays disappointing, but I'm still optimistic. The Cubs were under 500 and 5 games back at ASB last year. The CAPS got crushed in a couple of games and were hovering around 500 just before the middle of the season. There is a LOT of talent on this team and plenty of time for it to come together.