Nationals Baseball: Early numbers

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Early numbers

It's hard not to look at these numbers. Unlike Spring Training, these numbers mean something. Everyone is really trying now. What happens here goes on the "permanent record" of the season. We have no other information so this, while limited, is what we have to go on.

However it is still just 9 games. In any 9 game stretch you can have Matt Wieters hit like an MVP (From Aug 5th - Aug 15th Wieters hit .345 / .394 / .517) and you can have an MVP hit like... well Matt Wieters. (From May 9th - May 17th  Mike Trout hit .111 / .333 / .111) So we really have to back off from looking at these numbers. Except...

Except we can start to look at them to see if any preconceived notions/worries are playing out. We aren't coming in fresh and trying to say something just based on 9 games. We have something we are thinking about and want to see how it's coming along.  That's fair right?

Yan Gomes should be starting more than Kurt Suzuki - Defensive stats heavily favor Gomes. His age makes him the one with potential.  Technically this has been the way it's been with Gomes starting 5 games to Suzuki's 4.  That's probably a little more even then I'd like right now but it's a bit hard to judge with this few games.

Is Dozier done? In the fall Dozier looked old, hitting .111 in the NLCS, and going hitless in the World Series while providing pretty terrible defense. This Spring? Arguably more of the same .103, 9Ks to 1 BB, just one homer, with uninspiring D. If you want to look on the bright side -  that homer was just last game so maybe things are turning around now. If you want to be more honest - at lesat Howie is healthy now.

How will Rendon hit in his walk year? Rendon has put together MVP vote worthy seasons before but predicated on a plus bat mixed with plus defense. There's still a sense peak Rendon could hit .320 with 30 home runs in a couple seasons if healthy.  .412 with 4 homers suggests this may be the year which is both good news (good Rendon!) and bad ($$$$)

How will Robles hit long term in the majors? Last year's 20 game trial was very positive but it was just 20 games. Minor league numbers suggested high average with questionable power and patience. Last years suggested more power.  This year? Power seems to still be there as well as patience. K's are way up though and the average could take an unexpected dip. Where this all balances out will be interesting

Sophomore Slump for Soto? Last year was a revelation as Soto had the greatest teenage season of all-time. Hidden in that though was "trouble with the curve" so to speak. Soto couldn't hit off-speed pitches but it didn't matter because he had a great sense of strike zone and no one threw him off-speed pitches in the zone. This year they've upped the off-speed stuff and Soto has suffered. His walk rate is about the same but the K-rate is way up.  He's 20 so this isn't a "He can't hit this stuff! He's done for!" situation but how does he adjust this year, will be very important as his bat was supposed to help cover for the loss of Bryce's  

Corbin : Max2, as advertised, or bought high?  Only two starts but seems like as advertised. Starters are hardest to judge this early though.

Can Rosenthal rebound to dominance? HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA

There you go.  Things look like a mix of good news (Robles could be better, Rendon could be an MVP) and bad (Dozier and Rosenthal could both be big fat zeros) which is what teams expect to have.  That might be a problem since luck isn't evenly distributed there may be a team in the East that gets all the luck.*  But that's all you can expect.

*Right now   I'd say Philly is looking pretty good here.  Hoskins is rebounding to STAR with Bryce in the lineup. Franco is showing improved patience which makes him a very good overall player as opposed to the up and down player he has been. Eflin may be taking a step up.  The only bad news based on pre-season questions for them right now is Kingey doesn't look any better.


KO said...

Harper what are your thoughts on Bud Norris? Had a good season last year, would be cheap but doesnt have a good recent track record apart from last year with a 5.41 from 2015-2017

W. Patterson said...

I often read a report on an event and vow (to myself) that I'll revisit later to see how things evolved. I think I'll put a link to this in a calendar entry and take a look at it at/near the All Star break, and maybe again in September. Might be interesting.

Ollie said...

Things I worry about this season, in relative order:

1. Injuries exposing thin depth, especially on the starting pitching side

2. The bullpen (which might move to one but I sort of think levels out through mean reversion)

3. Soto experiencing a sophomore slump (made more glaring by Harper potentially having an MVP-like season in Philly)

Even though there's a lot to like from his game, the team took a huge gamble by putting the season more or less on the shoulders of a 20 year-old. We're only 10(ish) games in so who knows, but even with Corbin as advertised it seems like re-signing Harper and then going for Keuchel instead might've maximized team strength (though dollars and the luxury tax being what they are, doubt it could've happened). Encouraged by the Norris lottery ticket signing (low risk, high reward) but would've been nice to have Gio back on the minor league deal he signed with the Yankees for added insurance.

Soto seems to have improved on defense (from abysmal last season to competent so far this season) and base running (ditto) and that to me says he may have the work ethic to overcome the changed approach by pitchers towards him. It's early.

Matt said...

Re Soto: Also, it's only 10 games. I'm too lazy to check, but would guess that this is totally within a standard deviation of his average 10-game stretch last year.

Anagramsci said...

he just deviated back

Ollie said...

Seriously. The offense is living up to expectations, even with Turner injured and Dozier and Zimmerman doing standard slow starts.

It was partly (entirely?) brought on by desperation but props to Martinez for pitching Doolittle in a tied game. They're producing in tight late game situations so long as the bullpen doesn't spontaneously combust before they get there.

Nattydread said...

Very interesting to see the post-Bryce Nats play the Harper Phillies. Scherzer Ks Harper then loses in the end. Strasburg gives up a HR to Harper and then Doolittle K's him in his last AB. As much as I hated him going to Philly, his presence really turns up the heat of the rivalry.

Its only one game. But the clutch performances of Robles and Soto show that Rizzo/Lerner knew what they had last year. A low cost exciting outfield. No hard feelings Bryce. 330M on RF would have been a big mistake for the Nats. Corbin was the right move.

Its worth pointing out that Difo is a great back-up. He can't be Turner, but he is covering.

Nice to see Ross, Grace and Bear Claw succeed. Doolittle is being overused, but this was a necessary game. The bullpen is bad, but, Rosenthal aside, not THAT bad.

blovy8 said...

Ross not only will be able to pitch multiple innings, he can be a reasonable pinch hitting option, probably no worse than guys like Sanchez, Stevenson or Noll. I felt a little bad for UVA power-hitting Doolittle standing at the plate under orders not to swing, but with the Nats' luck, he'd have strained an oblique.

Tough matchup today with Hellickson only useful for around 18 batters after using Grace and Ross for two innings each last night. Norris won't be around in time.

ocw5000 said...

There is no reason to worry about Soto. Teams have been feeding him tons of change-ups and he's been K'ing a lot but the kid adjusts so well and his eye is too good for this to be a prolonged problem. He had one at bat against Nola last night where he took a curve for a strike, was right on a second curve for a foul ball, barely laid off a change-up low and away, then laid off the same change up on 3-2 for a walk. He is amazing.

Batting Dozier second instead of Robles is a crime against humanity.

elchupinazo said...

Now that they've accomplished the lofty goal of not getting swept, maybe they should let Rosenthal pitch in a high-leverage situation. Some closers are headcases and can only function that way.

I mean, I don't believe that will help anything and he'll somehow hit both the batter in the box and the guy in the on-deck circle, but I bet there are people in the organization who do.

G Cracka X said...

Bullpen problems, what bullpen problems?? (Just joking, in case you can't tell)

Ole PBN said...

Kind of hard not to be romantic about baseball. Bryce vs. Strasburg, for the first time. Back-to-back first overall picks and really launch our franchise into relevance. Harper wins that match up. And then Robles ties it up in the ninth, one strike away from defeat. Soto then puts it away in the tenth. Rendon might be gone next year, but these two guys are going to be fun to watch and should give fans a reason to cheer.

And when Davey brought in Doolittle to face Bryce, then quickly strikes him out... man. If that didn't fire you up as a fan, you must still be heartbroken over a guy who is never coming back. I don't know... I kind of enjoy this "Bryce as the villain" perspective. And the Robles/Soto show? Yes! More story lines, more drama. What's not to like?

mike k said...

*Insert meme* Is this a good bullpen?

I'm not saying the Nats bullpen had their work going because Rizzo started making moves, but...

I know when I have things to do, and I really should get to them today, but none of my superiors asked me about it, and I could do it tomorrow, and....well...Anyway, when they finally do come to me, it usually gets done right away. Funny, right? Maybe the addition of Norris gave the pen what they needed to get it together - for a few games at least. Still needs more talent.

Blovy - why do you say that about Hellickson? Are his splits really bad third time through the order, or is it a haven't-pitched-in-a-while stamina thing.

Ole PBN said...

Oops - Dave... not "Davey" - I'm a victim of my own criticism :o

Mr. T said...

I stopped listening after the Harper HR. I figured Nola looked good, and even if the Nats did score, the bullpen would crap the bed as usual. I learned my lesson! The best part is that Davey used Doolittle vs. Harper in a non-save situation! Maybe there's hope for this team yet. (Next on Davey's list: move Robles to #2, since he is awesome, and move Dozier to #9, because he is terrible.)

Ole PBN said...

I'm as excited about Robles as the next guy, but I would pump the breaks on moving him to #2 in the lineup. He is thriving at #9 because of the pitches he is getting to hit and who is hitting in front of him and after him. I don't think he is as disciplined or as mature as Soto is, and why fix something if it isn't broken? Oh, because Dozier is broken? Yes I agree. Bench him and put Kendrick there at #2. Howie is a career .300 hitter and the only reason Dozier is on the roster is because Kendrick might not have been ready to play. Well he is ready now. He needs to be starting.

Remember the main point of having Robles bat 9th is because it turns the lineup over - same reason for not having him hit 8th. He isn't batting that low in the order because he's the 8th best hitter in the lineup. Quite the contrary actually. I like it and think it balances our lineup really well to have him at #9, and the offense is chugging along right now. Moving him could disrupt that and cause him to flame out. Why would you do that? Now maybe if its June and he's having team-MVP level numbers, then fine. But its still early. I'm not for fixing a problem (black hole at #2) and just to cause another.

DK said...

Ole PBN--

Checking Fangraphs for "cause him (Robles)to flame out." Still looking.

Josh Higham said...

This "check Fangraphs" bit is very funny and let's please drop it immediately.

Mr. T said...

@Ole PBN: You're right--Kendrick should be starting. He crushed that ball last night. You're right that it's early, and Robles may well be seeing better pitches where he is. I'm not sure I buy the whole "turns the lineup over" thing though--do we have evidence that batting a great hitter 9th (and the pitcher 8th) is really better for your team? Or is it just one of those annoying Maddonisms that people assume is genius because he drinks Merlot while answering reporters' questions? :)

I guess Robles could wilt under the pressure of being moved, but he seems to be doing pretty well so far under the pressure of being in the major leagues. He hit a game-tying home run last night with 2 strikes and 2 outs in the 9th inning. He may not be as disciplined as Soto (yet), but he's really good. Really good hitters shouldn't bat 9th.

Ole PBN said...

DK - Just my opinion, man. Your comment kind of proves my point though: that anything brought up on this blog that doesn't have hard statistical evidence is frowned upon. And that's okay. Are we in agreement, or am I misreading your comment as sarcasm?

To clarify, I never said I don't support "Fangraphs" or statistic-based evidence. I support it and my original comment said exactly that. Just think that sometimes other points of view are dismissed because you can't look it up in a spreadsheet. That's all. I think a balance of both worlds is best, but I recognize that is not the focus of this blog. And that is perfectly okay.

Anonymous said...

I don't think its "genius" per say, but I still think its a decent idea, because it bucks against conventional wisdom. There is a certain flow to a lineup where you almost treat a hitter as "the guy hitting fourth today" rather than the actual hitter themselves. That's not to say if we bat Corbin cleanup that he'll get intentionally walked, of course not. But seeing Robles (a rookie, little scouting info on him) hitting 9th... I'm just saying that he is more likely to get overlooked by the opponent when he's hitting 9th than if he hit in front of Rendon. I'm with PBN and others, you can't keep him down there forever, but right now it seems to be working. Why screw around with that?

ocw5000 said...

Robles has hit every time he's been up in the majors, he sees a lot of pitches, is obviously very fast, is a perennial Top 10 prospect in all of MLB, and is a consensus pick for ROY. There was never a good reason to bat him 9th, especially after Turner went down, and especially when the other option was a washed-up vet hitting .100. The only reason he's not batting second is because Davey's trying to be too clever.

Nattydread said...

Interesting notes about runs, plate appearances and line-up spots. If I'm manager, I put Dozier 8 or 9, not Robles...

"A player batting leadoff will see 150 more PAs over a full season than a #9 hitter, and 60-65 more than a #5 hitter. For a hitter with, say, a .350 OBP and .450 SLG, every spot up or down the lineup can make a difference of about 3 offensive runs over the course of a full season."(

ocw5000 said...

Just for fun, let's see who other teams batted second yesterday. If Fangraphs is to be believed, this slot in the order receives the second-most ABs in a game.

BOS: Mookie Betts
CLE: Jose Ramirez
CWS: Yoan Mocanda (pretty relevant example!)
CIN: Joey Votto
OAK: Matt Chapman
LAD: Justin Turner
STL: Paul Goldschmidt
NYY: Aaron Judge
HOU: Jose Altuve
WAS: Brian Dozier

ocw5000 said...

Sorry, i left out two decent examples:

LAA: Mike Trout
MIL: Christian Yelich

Even Davey's mentor bats Kris Bryant second.

Davey is a bad manager

DezoPenguin said...

Speaking of checking Fangraphs, I'm chuckling here at the thought that Soto is "slumping" through ten the tune of a .900 OPS and 130 wRC+.

Robles hitting 9th was a good idea when Turner was healthy. It might still be a good idea if Kendrick takes over from Dozier. (If nothing else, the dude is utterly locked in right now so if Davey's idea was "eh, let the kid hit in a low-pressure spot while he gets used to the majors," it's working.)

Worth noting about Dozier is that for his career he's always been a horribly slow starter. Last year's 98 wRC+ was actually his second-best Mar/Apr hitting of his entire career! Yeah, he's been exceptionally bad this year, but from 2015-2017 his April hitting was basically "Wilmer Difo." This is another reason why he should be hitting down in the lineup.

The whole thing isn't helped by the fact that Eaton is in a notable slump of his own to start the year. I don't know if he's pressing with Turner on the bench or it's pure luck, but having him and Dozier 1-2 means that more often than not Rendon and Soto are left to their own devices instead of batting with runners on base.

At this point, I'd probably bat Robles-Eaton-Rendon-Soto-Zim-C-Dozier-P-Difo. Flip the pitcher and Difo if you prefer hitting the pitcher ninth for whatever reason; it basically means fractions of a run. If Kendrick starts at 2B you can probably do something else, but the issue with Dozier is that he's such a perennially lousy early-season player than we don't actually know if he's busted yet. Though I'd work Kendrick into the lineup now and again, and give Adams some starts against RHP (though Zim's been largely "eh, meh" instead of awful).

mike k said...

While I do like the idea of having a decent hitter bat 9th, I do agree with others here that Robles has done well enough (including during high pressure situations) to warrant an audition at #2. Turner is only out a few more weeks, so if it doesn't work, it's no big deal - just move him back to 9th when Turner gets back. If it *does* work, then after Turner comes back, you have a good problem, yes?

I'm not 100% on flipping Dozier for Kendrick as a starter just yet, and especially not batting him 9th. I agree he shouldn't be batting 2nd. He's a slow starter - ok - so let's keep him in the lineup so he can get in the "swing" of things (hey-o!), have him bat 7th or something, and start Kendrick at 2nd every 3 or 4 games or so until he starts hitting. Difo probably makes more sense at 9th over Dozier because he's more of a contact hitter.

blovy8 said...

Mike K, citing the website that shall not be named, Hellickson's career numbers the third time through the order are 6.38 ERA, 5.60 FIP, 5.06 xFIP with a K/BB ratio of only 1.69. His expected fielding independent era drops about half a run each time through the order from 3.99 to 4.49 to 5.06. Batters hit 276/341/506 the 3rd time through, which is pretty similar to Manny Machado's average year.

It was starker in 2018, he only pitched 9 innings worth of time facing an order the third time, with a 14.00 ERA, 8.27 FIP, 6.14 xFIP. I suspect those numbers are skewed a bit since he was typically removed once he put runners on base for middle relievers to then let score, but small sample or no, he's earned that rep. Going into last year you'd say, maybe he's a meh starter for 5 innings, but for the Nats he was about a 2.30 ERA guy sticking to the idea of pulling him before that third time through the order.

Kubla said...

At least they got to splatter the Phillies today. It's interesting that they've put up big numbers by patience, contact hitting, or power in various games. If they can put all of that together in one game (and the pitching consistently gets it together), they're going to be a nightmare for opponents.