Nationals Baseball: NL Least is Dead. Long Live the NL Least

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NL Least is Dead. Long Live the NL Least

The Nats window has had many important parts. Early drafting success. No losing trades for a long while. Consistently great starting pitching. But one of these parts has been the overall mediocrity of the NL East.  From 2012-2017 the Nats had the 2nd best record in baseball.  The Phillies were 30th, the Marlins 27th, the Mets 19th and the Braves 18th.  The Nats took advantage of having no challengers to create a good enough team and watch it (mostly) succeed.

This year was supposed to be different but nearly a month into the season and it isn't. As far as the NL East goes they have the worst combined record in the NL 1 through 5. And lest you think it's just because the Marlins are complete garbage (they are). They have the worst combined record 1-4, 1-3, 1 & 2, and worst division leader.

Ostensibly the best team in the league is the 13-10 Mets, but they harbor the second worst ERA in the league. Some of that is bad luck, but Matz and Vargas look to make the Mets rotation 3 men deep and deGrom is already hurting. The back end of the pen is improved as expected, but Familia has flopped in a set-up role and Justin Wilson is hurt leaving it paper thin.

On paper the best team is probably Atlanta but their pitching isn't much better than the Mets. Beyond Fried, who's blossomed, and Gausman who is going along in his Gausman way, the starters have really been bad. We might finally be at the end of the "maybe THIS year Teheran will be great again" journey. While the Braves are replete with pitching prospects, sorting through them to find the ones that may stick, and then having them stick this year, still has to happen.

The hotness was the Phillies, who started 4-0, only to taper off recently giving Phillies fans an immediate recollection of last years "playoff ready... nope we stink" season. Bryce has been good to very good, but not great - and that's a problem because no one has. Combine that with a terrible bench (the combined performances for Altherr, Quinn, and Williams would register league worst if it was a single player) and the offense isn't carrying the team.  The pitching is what we expected with again the back end of the rotation struggling. But the real killer is Aaron Nola having a terrible start, so while they are getting some decent outings from Eflin (not last night) and Velasquez - there's no traction and it's still a mediocre staff

The tried and true Nationals - well you know about them. They've had a mixed bag of performances at the plate but a solid bench and a star run by Rendon so far has given them the 2nd most potent offense in the NL East at a nice 5.45 R/G clip. The rotation though hasn't been what it should be with Scherzer and Strasburg both underperforming. And the less said about the pen the better


The crazy thing about this is Keuchel would be a difference maker for the Braves, Phillies, or Mets, even just throwing to a 4.00 ERA. Kimbrel would make a huge difference for any team but could put the Mets or Nats over the top. Yet here we are, watching four teams try to budget themselves to a better version of .500 than everyone else

36 comments:

coolsny said...

on the brightside nats have the best record of the division in the last 10 games! 5-5...rest of division went 4-6

Harper said...

BABY STEPS

Jimmy said...

I'm glass half full right now. Our rotation is totally solid 1-5, BP can't be worse. We've been down ours second best positoinal player at SS for pretty much the whole year, Rendon is hurt and Soto is struggling. We are only 1.5 games back and our rivals have much larger question marks than us at the rotation. The strength of the rotation is what wins divisions. Bull pens win championships though.

coolsny said...

harper, can you talk a bit about Hellickson? I know he has been...whatever he has been this year...can we really rely on him as the #5 rest of the year? what are his peripheral numbers looking like? is he solid?

talk about sanchez too if you have time

Harper said...

Jimmy - I think the Mets and Phillies both can have that attitude too. There's underperformers and injury guys who could concievably come back to make a big diff. (Braves are kind of at max level unless they find a ROY starter)

coolsny - ok

Anonymous said...

Despite the Lerners' best efforts, the Nats are once again facing a situation where they will inevitably have to pay the luxury tax. We all recognize this bullpen isn't going to do it, which means Rizzo and the Lerners have to options:

1) Sign Kimbrel which I think would be ill-advised for a number of reasons already laid out in the comments of previous posts

2) Make a trade. Given the lack of prospects in the system, that means eating salary. I wouldn't be surprised if sometime in May or June the Nats make a trade with the Giants for one of Melancon, Smith, or Moronta (though I don't think the Giants will cough up Moronta) plus eating some salary from one of their other hefty contracts like Posey, Belt, or Crawford

Anonymous said...

Don't see how you can call out Steven Matz, out of his 5 starts he gave up 2 runs or less in 4 of them. You're looking at one blow up and using it to define him

Josh said...

Found this really interesting, especially in light of Harper's post on the "Nationals Way". Based on these projections, the Nationals have 3 of the 5 best starters in the division. And our #5 projects to be best barely below average.

Josh said...

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2019-mlb-predictions/pitchers/

coolsny said...

I would also like to ponder about what the NL East would look like if the Marlins never rid themselves of Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich, and Realmuto.

Can someone explain to me why Jeter thought that wasn't a core to build around?

Mr. T said...

@coolsny: Obviously hard to know for sure, but my guess is that they just weren't his guys. Some people need to tear everything down and rebuild it themselves in order to prove they're leaders.

TwoGloves said...

Jeter is just following the long line of Marlins cheapskates. He just wasn't going to pay them what they will or have gotten - simply as that.

Kubla said...

Rosenthal sucks, but that Nats need to keep him. Hear me out...he is now the guy kept exclusively to retaliate for other teams' cheap HBP. If this guy comes in, that's the NHL enforcer equivalent. You done F'ed up. Here comes a 99 mph fastball heading somewhere that nobody, not even the guy throwing it, can predict.

Ole PBN said...

^^ Totally agree. But can we take away 95% of his salary then? He surely hasn’t earned it.

JDBrew said...

This on MLB.com yesterday....

“The challenge going forward for Rosenthal and the Nationals is twofold: they’ll have to figure out how to stop Rosenthal’s downward spiral, and they’ll have to do it while utilizing him -- at least for now -- less often than he’s used to.”


WHY?!?! Why do we HAVE to figure this out? Why can’t he figure this out in AA for a few weeks. I mean EVERY outing is an explosion of wild pitches and walked batters capped off by a couple of meatballs down the middle. Why are we so concerned with this guy? Call up ANYBODY. Anybody in AAA will produce better than this...pretty sure Micheal Taylor at the mound would produce better than this. It’s not like this guy is Mariano Rivera or something. We have Brad Lidge a shorter leash. And he had a more proven background AND he wasn’t playing this bad. I do not understand why Rosenthal is on our ML roster. Someone explain it to me.

Anonymous said...

Rosenthal signed a major league contract as a free agent. If they try to send him to AAA, he can refuse the assignment. He would be exposed to waivers and claimed immediately because he throws 100. The Nats would still have to pay his salary even if he is claimed. He is given a longer leash than Brad Lidge because Brad Lidge barely threw 90 when he was here, much less 100. The only way to put Rosenthal in AAA is the injured list. Given his struggles, I would hope Rosenthal would be open to a phantom injury so he could work a few things out with fewer TV cameras around. But he doesn’t have to be.

JDBrew said...

I’m not sure there’s a worse pitcher in baseball right now. He is actually dangerous to keep playing. How long before one of those 100 mph fastballs hits someone on the jaw. If I were a hitter I might not even want to stand in the batters box against him. If he were a car you could return him. There should be a lemon law in baseball. “If you’re a danger to those around you...you owe the team their money back”

JDBrew said...

And DM with the stupid “Rosie” nickname. Pitcher nicknames should be reserved for players with ERA’s lower than their age. Let’s sign Jonathan Papelbon to choke him out so he has a reason to go on the IL.

blovy8 said...

That's an interesting point - Rosenthal is an actual weapon at this point. As it stands, DM is treating him like a Rule 5 pick, but if he didn't have a conscience, he could constantly warm him up to scare the crap out of the other team. The only thing Rosenthal is good for right now, is indirect advertising for body armor.

NavyYardSteve said...

Re: Marlins - as I understand it, they Jeter/Sherman ownership group took on a lot of debt to buy the team - they didn't have that much in cash up front. As part of the agreement to buy the team, they agreed to slash payroll so that more revenue could go to debt service.

Yes, if the Marlins kept Gordon, Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, Realmuto, and added a few arms, they would be NL East contenders. But Loria couldn't seem to find a multibillionaire buyer.

Jon Quimby said...

Given the inability to put him in the game in pressure situations, we're effectively dealing with a 24* man roster. Why not have him throwing side sessions as often as possible knowing that it will make him unavailable but not really caring? If he was a starter, he'd be working on stuff between starts. Knowing he pitched yesterday, I'd have him warm up and throw another 30 pitches at full tilt again tonight in the bullpen.

Anonymous said...

One thing we don't know about Rosenthal is how he's performing in warmups and side sessions. It could be that the control issues crop up only in game situations (or far more frequently in game situations). If that is the case, then more side sessions is probably not going to solve the problem. But he's clearly a problem that needs to be solved in some fashion. Relief pitchers capable of striking out 14+/9 innings do not go on trees, so he should be given a very long leash to figure it out.

blovy8 said...

I bet that's the case since he's still maintaining he's "close". But if he can't do it in game situations, maybe there's a "mental fatigue" loophole to put him on some indefinite restricted list.

G Cracka X said...

@coolsny The Marlins had all those players at one point, and Jose Fernandez, and it wasn't good enough for them to get to the playoffs. They also spent their money poorly, putting a lot of it into questionable bullpen and starting pitcher signings before deciding to shift gears and tank.

blovy8 said...

Well at least the Marlins have two WS wins, unlike this franchise with about 25 seasons less. Nevermind how far back you have to go for this city...

blovy8 said...

more

Kubla said...

The last time a Washington MLB team won the series was 1924. They lost the 1925 series in game 7 after blowing a huge lead late. They would play and lose the series again in 1933.

I actually came across an in-progress box score from the 1925 game 7 in an Akron newspaper when doing some archival work. I had to check if they won in the end, and even 90 years after the fact it was tough to take.

Anonymous said...

Re Anon @5:28, if Rosenthal is waived, and claimed by another team, we are off the hook for his salary. that would be the best thing that could happen.

Anonymous said...

The best thing that could happen would be for Rosenthal to pitch like he did in 2017.

JDBrew said...

Like i said, send him down. If another team claims him and his salary comes off the books, so be it. They just can’t keep running him out there. Everyone criticized DM for his pen management, why handicap a weakness by playing with a short pen everyday. There has GOT to be someone capable without giving up 2-3 runs EVERY time.

Anonymous said...

There may be someone else in the system who is more capable of getting outs right now, but there is no one else in the system (or available for a reasonable amount of money) that can throw 100 and strike out 14+ guys per 9 innings. It would be idiotic to cut bait after a handful of appearances, and there ought to be enough low leverage opportunities for Rosenthal to get work in.

There will be a time when the Rosenthal experiment either succeeds or must end. I do not think April 25 is that date.

JDBrew said...

@Anon 2:53
Have you actually watched this guy pitch? Hit batters, wild pitches, walks, and 100mph meatballs is all he’s thrown. its not like he’s shown anything positive. Throwing 100 does absolutely nothing unless you can throw it for a strike and control what part of the plate you’re throwing it to. ML hitters can hit 100 mph fastball. Even in his good years he’s was erratic. Ask a Cardinals fan what they thought of him. The guy was Ricky Vaughn back then. And sure, he did one year post a K/9 of 14. But that was 2 years and 1 arm surgery ago. My point is don’t experiment with this crap in 1 run ballgames at the Major League level. Especially when you have a solid shot of winning your division. That’s what the minors are for. THAT is what is idiotic. If some other team wants to put themselves in the same position with him that the Nats are right now, by claiming him from waivers, paying his contract, and adding him to their ML Roster, go right ahead. Here’s a fun stat, this season Rosenthal has thrown one hundred & twenty-nine pitches, batters have swung and missed seven times. SEVEN TIMES!!!

Nattydread said...

Pretty amazing that they haven't taken a decision on Rosenthal. He is not a MLB pitcher right now. At first, it was painful to watch him try but I had sympathy for the guy. Now I have no sympathy at all. Its just painful.

He is NOT "close", not by a long shot. A professional making $8M should take himself out of the game and volunteer to go down to the minors until he gets himself back together. He is the worst link in a very bad bullpen on a team that has no margin for error. Where is Rizzo?

On a positive note, welcome Carter Keiboom.

Anonymous said...

If they release Rosenthal and another team picks him up. Nationals will still be on hook for entire salary and other team would pay him the league minimum. Releasing him is not a good option. "back spasms" is best option for everyone

blovy8 said...

Also lingering in the background is the vesting player option for 2019 if he pitches in 50 games. He's clearly demonstrated enough incompetence to not be able to file a grievance over the current workload. He's worked in seven games out of the 23 so far, it seems like they'll really need to sit him down to make sure they aren't on the hook for next year.

Robot said...

@Anon - paying Rosenthal to sabotage a rival is preferable to paying him to sabotage our team.