Nationals Baseball: Beat Bad Teams

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Beat Bad Teams

The Nats are heating up. After going the first 50 games without a 3 game win streak, the Nats have pulled a 3 game AND four game (and counting) streaks out in this 9-2 run. It hasn't been a bunch of lucky breaks either. They've otuscored their opponents 74-48 over the streak, winning only game by one run, and two by two. The starter got the win in 6 of the 9 games, and in another Fedde didn't get it because he only went 4.

I asked more people to step up and they have.  Here are the past two weeks of hitting

Kendrick .444 /.448 / .889
Soto .415/ .500 / .707
Rendon .359 / .500 / .667
Suzuki  .400 / .455 / .550

If you have four guys hitting like that, you have to have a terrible other 4 to kill the productions. Instead you also have...

Adams .257 / .316 / .571
Dozier  .296 / .394 / .481

and Turner and Robles and Eaton... they aren't terrible.  Turner is right around average. Robles is under but hitting for ok power. Eaton is under but getting on base.

Now if we look at the past week Kendrick is slowing down but Dozier had a great week. Turner and Eaton are struggling but Robles and Parra have picked it up (just a tick).  And still four guys are OPSing over 1000, well over.

Now true this is against the soft underbelly of the schedule. Miami is terrible. Cincy is no better than average. San Diego, coming up, is like Cincy. They should beat these teams, and if the Nats are a true playoff contender they should beat them at a 2/3rd clip minimum.  And that's what they are doing!  They are playing like a playoff team right now.

But here's the rub.  It's 11 games. When the Nats started this streak at 19-31 they needed to go 71-41 just to hit 90 wins.  That's a 104-105 win pace. Now they need to go 62-39. That's still a 99-100 win pace*. Is this team, with a flawed back of the rotation and questionable pen a 99-100 win team? Do they have THAT in them? Is 90 even enough?

The finishing of this weak stretch will be interesting. The Padres, as we noted, aren't a good team. The White Sox, who follow them, are a bad one. But the conditions aren't ideal for the Nats. They played Tuesday and Wed, flew to SD and play tonight, then on Sunday they'll play a game, then fly to Chicago and play Monday. As far as baseball schedules go, it's a rough go. During thie 9-2 run they were at home then ATL and CIN then back home, with two days off in there. It was pretty nice.

The Nats have done what they should do, but if you broke this season into 6 parts, it's only the last 6th we can say that. Do it again and then again - which will then mean beating good teams in DC -  then they'll have done it for the last third of the season. That's nearly a month of baseball. That will be meaningful. But for now we still aren't talking about playoffs seriously.  Close a little more ground these 6 games, close a little more H2H, then run through the easiest portion of the schedule and see yourself at the ASB over .500 and a couple games out at most. That's the goal.

If you think you want to talk about the playoffs seriously, think about this instead. The Nats have entered a 100 game season, spotting the Braves 5 games and the Phillies 6 and a half (and the Mets a game if you are a pedant). They have 17 games left versus the Braves, but only 11 against the Phillies - though mostly at home, and for the pedant 6 versus the Mets. How do you like their chances of ending up on top of the NL East?  What if I add in the Phillies and Braves schedule, heavy on Marlins in the first 6 weeks, is now no harder than the Nats schedule?

*brought up in Twitter by @DCoruscant 


JWLumley said...

I'm still skeptical about this team, but this is much more fun to watch. If they can keep this up and they can get just one of their lotto ticket reliever pickups to work whether that be Kontos, Venters or whoever, then they can trade for another arm or two.

Even still, they need Robles or Turner or Eaton to start hitting as expected because the other guys can't stay this hot forever AND they need Sanchez to regain his form because I don't see Fedde continuing at this clip and apparently Hellickson isn't coming back soon. That's a lot of things the Nats need to go right.

However, if they can pull to within 4-5 games after this San Diego/White Sox stretch (that's a big if) they've got a decent chance to catch Atlanta (I think Philly will fade). However, this could really work against the Nats because they need serious help in their farm system that a trade or two could've provided, if they add or stand pat and then fade in August/September it will be another missed opportunity. Although, I think they got good value in the draft.

W. Patterson said...

I stopped watching the games for a couple of weeks only because I didn't want to end up frustrated. Now I'm happy to watch the games - unless/until Dave makes a call to the 'pen. That's a reminder that I have something else to do and then just check the score, periodically.

I'm with JWLumley in that the games are fun to watch.

BxJaycobb said...

If they can pull within 4 games by the ASB, they’re in the race. Thing is....I’m not sure i want the Nats to delude themselves into being “in it” and trade say Kieboom or Mason Denanburg or their new pick for a great bullpen arm/let Rendon go to FA without getting anything in a trade, etc, and end up a 85 win team anyway. I don’t see a team as presently constituted that can win the division. Their bullpen is too hideous and their rotation and lineup are thin.

BxJaycobb said...

PS Soto seems to really be heating up. I wonder if he will finish the season with the type of line he has now (same as last year) or whether instead he will keep hitting like he has for last month and take a step forward....

Anonymous said...

I'm with you JW, I'm worried this stretch is giving Rizzo and Co. too much hope. Either the Nats need to rattle off a big streak (at minimum 8-2 over the next 10 leading into the Philly series), or the Nats need to admit that playoffs likely aren't in the cards.

But the Nats are probably going to slowly creep back, hit the trade deadline within striking distance (say 4 games out), and then stand pat and hope for the best rather than reload for next year. As a Miami Dolphins fan (long story), I can safely say that it's better to suck and get draft picks than it is to constantly be just plain old average.

BxJaycobb said...

@JW. I wouldn’t count on Turner. He’s literally trying to hit (and throw) without one finger. Until he’s totally healthy and not swinging with 9 fingers on the bat, I don’t think they’re gonna get the production they need out of him (and he’s gonna continue making more errors than usual),

@Harper: doesn’t it kind of seem like Kendrick is the perfect guy to suddenly become a power hitter due to the juiced ball? It seems like these guys who used to have like 9-10 HR power but who consistently squared up the ball and were basically doubles hitters who made solid contact (hello Yelich) are the ones benefiting most from the juiced ball.

Ole PBN said...

Speaking of the draft... I took a dive into the numbers that Svrluga was using in his Rizzo hit-piece. A couple people asked what the context is behind some of the numbers he threw out there? Here we go...

Parameters: drafts are from 2009-2017 ('09 was Rizzo's first year as GM; 2017 is the latest draft where a player has made it to the show). Only counting players that signed with the team that drafted them. Counting players regardless of what club they debuted with (ex. Robbie Ray is a National, not a Tiger or a Dback). Using WAR as a metric, because its as good as any. WAR counts for a player's entire MLB career to-date; not just with the team that drafted them. Including Stras/Bryce in this, as it is stupid not to.

From 2009-2017: 1097 drafted players have made it to MLB. Nats have produced 34 of those, ranking 22nd (most was TOR with 49, least was MIN/CHC with 28). Total WAR produced over this time period: Nats have 106.6, ranking 6th (best was LAA with 137.1, worst was PHI with 26.0). Average player WAR (taking the total WAR and dividing it by the number of signed/drafted players): Nats have 3.1, tied for 2nd (best was LAA/HOU with 3.5, worst was NYY/PHI with 0.8).

A couple notes about this data, especially some outliers. Trout's 68.4 WAR weighs heavily in LAA's 2009 draft, where they produced 101.7 WAR in that year alone. The Phillies in 2014 got 20.7 WAR, better than any club (took Nola 7th overall, and Hoskins in the 5th round). If you were to remove this draft success and replace it with the average WAR from that draft class (3.4), they'd have a total 5.3 WAR through 8 years of drafting (yuck). Just for fun, if you take out Strasburg and Bryce, its drops the Nats down to 48.5 WAR, ranking them 23rd.

Now, post-Rendon ('12-'17), the Nats indeed rank among the worst in all categories. From '13-'17, the Nats have had 13 players make the MLB, ranking 29th (most is HOU with 26, least is CLE/MIL with 12). These 13 Nats draftees have produced a combined 2.3 WAR, the worst in the league (best is OAK with 49.5 WAR, median is 19.5 WAR). Average player WAR: the Nats sit at 0.2, tied for worst with CIN/LAA (best was CHC with 2.8, median is 1.1).

The Stras/Bryce/Rendon drafts were easily the best of Rizzo's tenure. You can see what Barry was trying to prove with this theory, and it holds up (regardless of how cherry-picked the basis is in the first place). Just for fun, what if we removed the three best drafts for every other team as well? Where would the Nats rank when everyone else gets Svrluga'd too?

This cuts teams '09-'17 WAR totals but an average of 89%. The Nats would have 2.3 WAR for those bad years, ranking them 25th (best is HOU with 33.6, worst is PHI with -2.4).

Some context into total WAR from '09-'17 for some widely-considered good GMs out there: OAK's Beane (80.2), BOS/CHC's Epstein (78.6), SFG's Sabean (63.1), HOU's Lunhow (46.6), NYY's Cashman (32.2), DET/BOS's Dombrowski (32.0). Only TOR/LAD/ATL's Athlopoulos' 113.1 is greater than Rizzo's 106.6.

Hopefully this brings a little more clarity to a foggy article from WaPo.

Anonymous said...

"Either the Nats need to rattle off a big streak (at minimum 8-2 over the next 10 leading into the Philly series), or the Nats need to admit that playoffs likely aren't in the cards."

I just don't understand this type of thinking. The trade deadline is NINE WEEKS AWAY. No decisions need to be made until like two weeks before the deadline. Nothing magical occurs in ten games that would require the Nats to make a decision about the future of the season. Time is valuable; there's no reason not to use it to gather more information about the quality of the team.

I agree that there's a possibility that the Nats are "kind of in it, but on the fringe" roughly two weeks before the deadline, which will make for a tough decision (that the team could bungle, like it did last year). But a worry about the possibility of making a poor decision in the future does not justify making a poor decision - selling off now when there's a reasonable possibility that the team could be a playoff team - in the present.

A lot of things we don't yet know will affect the Nats decision to sell. If they're four games behind the Phillies and the Phillies continue to have a much better record than their play would dictate, then that militates against selling. If, holding the four game deficit constant, the results show the Phillies have actually played well, then the probability of catching them goes down and the case for selling is better. But if the Nats catch the Phillies and are four games behind the Braves, I think the case for selling is better because the Braves have played better than the Phillies so far this year. But this is also affected by how the Braves play between now and mid-July, which we don't yet know.

But the overarching point is two-fold: (1) there's a lot of time between now and the trade deadline, which means there is a lot of uncertainty; (2) there's no benefit to making an early decision, which means the dominant strategy is to wait until some of the uncertainty resolves itself, which means mid-July (subject to the possibility of the wheels coming off entirely for the Nats, which would justify making an earlier decision to sell).

JWLumley said...

@Ole PBN - Thanks for doing this! I think it really proves the point though, outside of two consensus #1 picks who everybody and their brother would've taken first in the draft, Rizzo has not done well other than Rendon. The real issue here is that Rizzo & Co. have not even produced bench players in their drafts and the guys who have contributed, have usually done so with a new team. To me, this is a complete failure of not only their drafts, but also of their player development. I realize some want to blame everything on player development, but to me, it's both/and, not either/or.

@BxJ I agree, Turner is gutting it out, but he's not close to 100%. However, having broken a number of bones in both hands, I can say that while the pain doesn't often subside, you do kind of get used to it over the long haul and it becomes less of an issue. On the flip side, though, you really lose a lot of strength that you don't realize you need.

Kubla said...

It's still cover your eyes time when the bullpen shows up, but the team isn't an unwatchable wreck now that the offense is clicking. I doubt they'll ever play at a 100-win pace, but they've been playing at 90/91-win pace in the 25 games since the sweep in Milwaukee. That's who they are, a good team done in somewhat by injuries but mostly by a bullpen that should have been mediocre to passable being an ungodly disaster.

The playoffs are a long shot, but a full or near-total rebuild is a bad idea. Being kinda sorta in the hunt staves off drastic measures (moving Doolittle and Max while trading or making no effort to re-sign Rendon, maybe even shopping Strasburg). There will at least be the possibility of seeing great performances every night, and this team should be competitive next year with a few tweaks.

Jimmy said...

I don't think the phillies are as good as they are playing as there starting pitching is garbage. Braves legit scare me especially if they get another sp or lockdown bp.

I want that job said...

RE PBN's comment.

Being a baseball scout has to be one of the weirdest jobs in the world.

Scout: "Kid's got talent."
GM: "Should we sign him?"
Scout: "Sure, why not?"
GM: "This guy didn't pan out."
Scout: "Don't worry about it, this other kid's got talent."
GM: "Should we sign him?"
Scout: "Sure, why not."

Yeah, yeah, I know. There's more to it than this.

But how much have the Nats and other clubs spent on evaluating talent for the draft and then "developing" that talent? You might as well just draft players based on the meta-ranking using as many reputable sources as you can. You know, the way I draft a fantasy football team.

JDBrew said...

@Ole PBN
Well done! This is the type of data set that I was saying should have been included in the WaPo article. You have provided a degree of depth that was completely missing from the article. Maybe they left all this out as it would read a little dry. But context is important here. Your data set is much more compelling than what was in Srvluga’s article. But it does show some good with some bad. Interestingly it kind of makes the the whole metric seem a little wonky. It almost seems like there is no real good definitive way to rate how these teams perform in the draft. Personally I am a Rizzo supporter, I think the shrewd moves made over the years and the positives that he has brought buys a certain degree of gratis for when moves don’t pan out as expected. But I do agree that the last 2-3 seasons have been not good from a team development perspective. I think the Nats have made some big mistakes in the roster moves, some of those were surprises (Eaton, Weiters, everything about Blake Treinen) but some were obvious (bullpen construction, ROSENTHAL, Dozier). But I do think overall they’ve build pretty competitive teams. However, there is something fundamentally wrong with this team. They should have been able to get over the hump and make it to the NLCS by now. It always seems like they’re a team with 1 big hole. And that 1 big hole is always what eliminates them from contention. Maybe they’re doomed to forever be that good team that can’t win a damned thing.

W. Patterson said...

@I want that job - I met a former (Cleveland then Baltimore) scout many (many, many) years ago. Things have changed, but he spent his time, most recently (this was early 1990s where he'd been for 20+ years) watching high school players in the Tampa area. He'd spot and recommend to the team. The team would then come out and see what they thought.

Sometimes they could follow through, sometimes they couldn't for one reason for another.

He had all kinds of stories on the "one(s) that got away." Dwight Gooden was a good example, and years earlier some kid named Reggie Jackson.

So yeah, spend a lot of time watching players but the scouts don't make the decisions.

Side note: When we first met he asked me if I had played baseball, then said that he'd have made me a pitcher. Gawd, I was stoked. (I was in my early 30s so it was just a dream.)

Anonymous said...

One note of potential improvement to your analysis @ole pbn that may eliminate some noise, though this is getting into the weeds and probably not worth the effort unless you're going to publish an article about it or add a new stat to the site which should not be named.

Maybe there's a way to incorporate WAR rate (i.e. WAR per 162 games or whatever) as opposed to total WAR. That would help balance out the teams that had high picks in the early part of the window (i.e. the Nats) with those teams that had high picks later.

Alternatively (or additionally?), maybe include age into the equation. College players tend to make the majors much faster than high schoolers, so adding in a correction for the age of the player drafted could help as well.

ssln said...

The team is at least average right now with some discernible holes. Rizzo didn't panic. He saw the problems and attempted to fix them. In other words he understood that baseball is a marathon and you try and fix problems before you give up on a season. Patience is difficult concept most fans fail to understand.
There were a number of people who wanted to trade everyone in May for prospects and fire Rizzo before the ASB. If you were one of those people then you should remind us that that was you opinion or maybe tell us that you are rethinking you opinion.
As I mentioned at the time, you will get a better return in July rather than in May. That is especially true if players start to perform.
If you want to fire Rizzo, then tell us who you are going to get to replace him or have we failed to think that far ahead?

Anonymous said...

@ssln - we're still 5 games under .500 with a god-awful pen that we knew was awful going into the season. He's nailed pitching signings, but we really haven't done well with BP or position player acquisitions over the last few years - Doolittle, Murphy and Howie are good ones that come to mind, and I don't mind Eaton. But Rosenthal? Dozier? (name a catcher)? Thinking we're fine with Difo and MAT?

You're right, you can't go blow things up and just expect someone better to come along. You can expect a GM to learn from his mistakes though (how many years in a row has it been the bullpen?). If we're getting near the trade deadline and still only in "striking distance" behind the Phillies and Braves, I still lean rebuild as there's no fix for the pen on the team. Frankly, I'm still borderline in the "it's broken" camp and he should move on, and just staying pat again would more than likely cement that view.

BxJaycobb said...

“SSLN. My opinion wasn’t to trade people in May. Nobody wants anybody in May before they know where everything stands. What I believed is it’s incredibly unlikely that the Nats will be in true striking distance of the playoffs at the deadline and have to be ready to deal people and start a quasi-rebuild. We can’t have another delusional “we’re a game under .500 and only 6 games behind both the Phillies and Braves!” outlook and hold onto everybody.” And I don’t think the Nats team is nearly good enough to be a playoff team with the bullpen and depth on rest of team. The Braves are just clearly better (to me). Phillies I’m not sure are much better.

BxJaycobb said...

@Everyone. If you’re going to note that Rizzo and company have not been great at the draft (I think they’ve been average—-Strasburg and Bryce were obvious sure, but Rendon, Giolito, Luzardo (draft not ain’t signing right?), Kieboom have been excellent....seems like about a normal number of misses....they haven’t had disasters like some teams...think astros Appel, Aiken) and haven’t been as good as Dodgers, but not everybody also have to mention that Rizzo etc has done about as well in international signings as anybody, with Soto, Robles, Reynaldo Lopez, (was Luzardo?) and Garcia coming up....that’s a truly great haul in last few years. To me the biggest problem is that in the Nats competing years, they’ve just chosen the wrong prospects to trade—-and some loss of awesome prospects is inevitable. Example: the Eaton trade was a disaster. It would have been bad even if Eaton hadn’t gotten hurt, but the Lopez, Giolito, Dunning haul was criticized as WAY too much at the time, and those people were right. It was. Yeah giolito needed some time, but you still traded away an ace talent (and he’s an ace now, make no mistake) plus two possible mid rotation or better talents/back of rotation likelihoods) for a guy who was a cheap piece but a complimentary one at BEST (and he’s a below average regular now). So out the door goes an ace. Then the Treinen/Luzardo loss is also a gigantic haul of drafted talent. Yeah we got Doolittle, but his value doesn’t even begin to approach the loss of Treinen and Luzardo especially. Pivetta was a lost piece that had value we gave up for trash at the time. Then we also dealt away Vazquez who we all knew was insanely talented at the time. Now it appears Severino was also a failure of either assessment or player development. However you view these, the Nats clearly are not as good as, say, the astros or dodgers or Red Sox, at identifying which attractive prospects are flawed and which can be developed into great weapons. That’s a ton of players not developed/assessed properly.

blovy8 said...

So far in June, the Nats bullpen has the best ERA in baseball. How's that for your small sample size stat of the day?

W. Patterson said...

@blovy8 - How many innings have the bullpen pitched? Or batters faced?

IIRC, the goal of the Nats' starters is to go as deep as possible so the bullpen can't come in and give up a boatload of runs. So if they don't pitch, they have a low ERA.

(Yeah, I'm just to lazy to do any research. I still turn the tube off when the bullpen comes in.)

blovy8 said...

16 2/3 innings, middle of the pack, 64 batters faced, fairly low.

Ole PBN said...

@Bx, throwing out individual names like Aiken and Appel only isolate the data. We're talking about a guy's 9 year tenure as GM and how it holds up. I didn't use Rendon alone to pat Rizzo on the back, same as I didn't knock HOU for missing on Appel (or Aiken). Luzardo has played in 20 games above A ball, so I would hold off on that when we're mentioning names like Rendon, Stras, Bryce, Giolito in th same breath... guys who have had success at the MLB level. Luzardo is irrelevant right now. And Kieboom has been a negative so far in terms of WAR (not my favorite stat, but -0.9 WAR in 11 games? Dude...)

Fun to put my soulless automaton hat on for a bit and geek out at the numbers. I was disappointed by what I saw as an admitted Rizzo supporter. The numbers don't lie though, he has not done well in the draft (post-Rendon) and that matters. And in a world of "what have you done for me lately?" he's only been worse, with respect to the draft. A couple pros and cons from what I can see on Rizzo's time here in DC:

Pros: Done well in the international pool; done very well with trades on the active roster; done well with high-priced FA; hit on a lot of the low-risk/high-reward guys (you know who there are... Reynolds, Lind, Parra, Kendrick, etc.)

Cons: Hasn't had a good draft since 2011; any draft that he did okay in - he traded those prospects away for help on the active roster; bullpen construction/prioritization when its been a clear weaknesss

Here is my theory on this (robot hat off): For any Caps fans out there, think of Todd Reirden. A defensive-minded coach who had success on a micro-level (working in isolated roles and with players individually). As soon as he became head coach, his attention to detail shifted in a macro point of view; running both the offense/defense and everything else that a head coach must do. He might not be the best person to pass on his defensive wisdom to his newly-appointed assistants, and it showed. Belichick seems to be the opposite; a great defensive mind and detail-oriented, but most importantly, does a superb job at passing on his wisdom and grooming his staff to be a reflection of his values/expertise.

I hate throwing out other sports analogies but this had me thinking; is Rizzo like Reirden or Belichick? Or somewhere in between? If root issue with the Nats after all these years is scouting/drafting/player development, then why hasn't Rizzo (a former scout) been a wiz at this? Perhaps he might be more like Reirden, in that his scouts haven't done as good a job as "he would have done if he were out on the road." Sometimes the best "players" aren't the best "teachers." Who knows, but interesting to think about.

Bottom line, a GM's resume is not just the draft. I think for whatever failings in the draft, Rizzo has made up for it in FA and via trades at the MLB level, as JDBrew said. Important to look at the entire picture if we're calling for someone's head. Not just "bad draft!" or "Rosenthal!"

Ole PBN said...

Also @Bx "they haven’t had disasters like some teams...think astros Appel, Aiken) and haven’t been as good as Dodgers, but not everybody is"

The data suggests that the Nats performed WORSE in the draft than the Astros, and actually BETTER than the Dodgers, so I'm not sure what you're talking about? If there's another metric you're using, let me know, it would be cool to look at.

Total WAR: HOU- 131.2 (2nd); Nats- 106.6 (6th); ...LAD- 51.0 (22nd)

Anonymous said...

BxJaycobb - Bro, I gotta disagree about a lot your points. Treinen was run outta town in DC. It sucks that he blossomed with the A's, but come on. You telling me you though he was solid? Plus we didn't give up Pivetta for trash. Pivetta WAS trash (and still is). Papelbon was a trash personality but his numbers in DC were not that terrible. Anything about Storen is peripheral. We have up Vazquez for an elite closer in a playoff push - and he performed exactly as advertised. That's the price for a closer, I'm sorry. And Severino? What about him? Had to laugh at that one.

Guys like Treinen and Severino sucked here. I never heard you say they just needed more time. You, and I, and everyone on here wanted them gone. Just because they're doing well now doesn't mean you get to go back and say "see? We shouldn't have traded them away!"

DK said...

@Anonymous 8:10

Exactly on point.

By the way, revisit some of the comments on this site on current White Sox ace Giolito during his Washington tenure. Battery-acid grade corrosive commentary.