Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Don't screw it up

Monday, June 24, 2019

Monday Quickie - Don't screw it up

27 games later the Nats have made it to the last stretch of their journey back to relevance. They ran through a relatively easy part of their schedule to start, going 14-7 versus the likes of Cincinnati and the White Sox. They overall won enough games at home versus the NL East rivals to keep them alive. Now comes the straight up easiest part of their schedule, 12 games with bad teams with nothing to play for leading right into the All-Star Break.  A good team wins all these series. A good team goes 8-4 or better.  Nats go 8-4 or better and they are over .500, likely no more than 3 games out with 1 team between them and the team in the 2nd WC.  It's not an ideal position but the Nats have been fighting off "SEASON OVER" for over 4 weeks now. This is what they did to themselves.

The series at home suggest the Nats are better than the Phillies, enough so that as of right now you don't see any reason the Nats can't pass them in the standings. You don't want to get complacent though. The Nats have been bitten by the "right now" bug before - watching a Mets team not as good as they were trade for Cespedes, become equals, and then knock the 2015 Nats from the playoff picture. And you don't want to think this is enough. The Phillies are an upper 80s team at best. With some poor luck or managing they are a low-mid 80s team. Beating that doesn't mean the playoffs.

The series at home also suggest the Nats aren't better than the Braves. The difference isn't enough that if you started the season over that you couldn't imagine the Nats winning the East. However, it IS enough to make you believe that overcoming an 8.5 game deficit in half a season is not worth planning for.  No the Nats need to keep an eye on the WC and hope that while they are climbing back into that race, two teams don't separate themselves from the pack. Sometimes teams do go 10-2. If the wrong two do it while the Nats are going 8-4 the season may end despite the Nats doing what they need to.

But you can't worry about that. It's head down, take care of business, see where you are for another two weeks. 8-4.  Do it.

Other Notes

Rosenthal is gone. After two decent outings to coming back from "injury" Rosenthal started to lose it again last week versus the D-backs. He had a 4 pitch one out outing as they eased him back in but Saturday he couldn't find the strike zone again walking the three men he faced on 15 pitches and that was that.  After his first few outings in April it was apparent that Rosenthal was not ready to pitch. He needed more time to clear up, if possible, whatever issues a year long lay-off had created. A long minor league stint, maybe months, was the prescription. But the Nats didn't have the luxury of letting him do that. He held a roster spot and every day he was in the minors was a day that they couldn't fill that with someone.  He could go on the 60 day DL I suppose but then he couldn't rehab in the minors. No the Nats were stuck - they had to release him and now maybe he'll get the minor league deal he honestly needs.

This was a big screw-up by Rizzo. It was supposed to be a low-risk, high-reward deal for both parties. If he was merely ok, he'd get paid like it and fill a bullpen role. No one gets hurt. If he was great, Rosenthal would get paid and the Nats would have a dominant reliever. Both win. But it was assumed when they made it that they must have a pretty good idea he was at least ok.  They did not. Given that it was really a high-risk deal with the chance of Rosenthal busting out being at least a possibility and that meaning the Nats wasted (1) the money for a useful bullpen arm and/or (2) the chance to sign a much better arm going after Rosenthal. This was a move the Nats had to have right. They did not.

Some will point out that free agent relievers have been spotty. They usually are. But you can't choose the worst one. That's not a high bar to set for a GM.

Rainey is pushed. We praised Rainey's performance, rightfully, last week. but Davey started leaning on him perhaps too much Rainey would pitch in 4 of 5 days (19, 20, 22, 23) and get progressively worse while doing it.  There are ebbs and flows to a relievers season. You are rarely dominant all the way through so some forgiveness can be made for trying to get a guy to pitch through it. Give him a day off - see if that rights the ship. But after a day off, pitching on the 22nd Rainey still did not look good. The promise of sitting two days should have won out over the hope to squeeze in a decent inning before the off-day. For Davey it didn't. Now you hope Rainey wasn't pushed too hard and that Davey and circumstance can keep him from pitching tomorrow. 


blovy8 said...

Rosenthal's arm is healthy, I think it a bit of overkill to blame the Nats completely for his total loss of command. He's made a 5BB per game rate work previously. It was a calculated risk that backfired, just as any signing could. It seems mental that he cannot repeat his delivery as he does in side sessions and the bullpen, even to the low command level that could probably make him effective. Putting an ostrich egg in their basket expecting goose eggs with mostly rotten eggs already in there - that you can blame them for.

Is it better that Barraclough is hurt or that he's stunk when he's pitched? Either way, he's not getting paid much and whoever is replacing him seems to be about the same. He's another guy who made high walk rates work, but we can obviously see that he's losing velocity and they're hitting .346 off his slider.

JWLumley said...

The Barves series just shows how poor of a manager Davey is. He doesn't put guys in spots to be successful. Michael A. Taylor is not a bench player. He needs to play everyday just to produce at a 4A or slightly better level. He gets zero AB's for days in a row and then in a huge series, DM's solution to Robles going down is to insert Taylor instead of Parra. Taylor goes on to give away AB's and then let it follow him into the field. I understand there was a lefty pitching, but given the number of AB's he gives him, he has to realize that Taylor is not a big league hitter. I mean, the guy just seems to have a knack for pulling the wrong lever. Even when the Nats win, it's in spite of DM's decisions not because of them.

Saturday, out of all the guys he could have asked to pitch on back to back days, he doesn't go to Sipp, an experienced guys who's used to pitching two days in a row. Doesn't go to Rainey who I presume he was saving for the 8th. Nope he goes to Rosenthal. I mean, even the bunt from Eaton, how do you not anticipate the wheel play? Maybe that's on Eaton, but you get the first two guys on in the 9th and you can't manufacture a run with the top of the lineup?

I know it's not all DM. This bullpen is really bad. They have 7 or 8 pitchers down there at a time, but really they only have a couple they can go to. I wonder if/when we'll start to see some of the guys they signed to minor league deals coming up. I mean, they can't be worse than Joe Ross or Rosenthal.

G Cracka X said...

It seems like we are judging Rizzo for results, and not process. I re-read 'Redux and Rosenthal' and while the post doesn't universally praise the move, it doesn't pan it either. Its more of a 'we'll see'. No one posted an 'Oh no!' comment at the time.

The team evaluated Rosenthal and thought he was healthy again. His fastball sat in the upper 90s and touched 100 in his showcase. Combine DepthCharts, Steamer, and ZiPS, and he projected for .8 WAR. Not great, but that would be just fine for a setup man. Of course, he was higher risk because of TJ. But he was also high reward. From 2013-2017 he only had 1 bad season (.2 WAR) and several very good seasons ('13, '15, and '17).

Is there a single example of a relief pitcher with 7+ MLB Career WAR and >100 saves who underwent TJ surgery, could get his fastball back up to 100 after 18 months to recover, stayed healthy (I'm not counting the 'flu' he got), but then posted an ERA north of 22 after a half a season back? I think the bigger risk for Rosenthal was re-injury.

To me, the bigger issue was not getting a 3rd arm that would be considered to be a reliable back-end arm. They had Doo, who's reliable but injury-prone, Rosenthal, who was high-risk high-reward. They needed one more arm.

JWLumley said...

@G Cracka In a vacuum the Rosenthal signing wasn't terrible. The issue is that they didn't do anything else other than trade for Barraclaugh. They lost a bunch of guys out of their bullpen that already wasn't great and didn't do enough to replace them. The other problem with the process is that Rizzo seems to get into pissing matches with relievers, and I think he just doesn't highly value them. Look at Jerry Blevins. The guy has been a solid reliever for years. Yeah, he's at the tail end of his career now and isn't great, but he'd be the 3rd or 4th best reliever in the Nats pen, except he got traded for a bag of balls because he fought the Nats in Arbitration. Then there's Kensler. Rizzo thinks he's leaking stuff to the press, so instead of sitting him down and discussing it, he trades him for a bag of balls. Shawn Kelley definitely screwed up, but hey, I think it's pretty much common knowledge that DM doesn't handle a bullpen well, so how much can you blame the guy for being upset with his usage? He seems to be pitching well in hitter friendly Texas and once again a decent bullpen arm that Rizzo got mad at and dismissed.

Anonymous said...

"The Phillies are an upper 80s team at best. With some poor luck or managing they are a low-mid 80s team." Sorry, Harper, I just don't think this statement is defensible. The Phillies have a negative run differential and a -50 BaseRuns. If you use those two metrics, they've played at .490 and .435 clips so far this year. With 85 games to go, they'd have to play at .576 to get to 88 wins and .517 to get to 83. They have to IMPROVE to be a low-mid 80s team. With totally ordinary luck and managing - i.e., using their BaseRuns to project - they are a 76-win team. Fangraphs - using player projections rather than team performance to estimate wins - projects them at 81-81. Even if you just use their current win rate - which BaseRuns shows is illusory - they're an 82-win team. It's far easier to see the Phillies winning fewer than 80 games than it is to see them winning above 85.

I'd revise your statement as follows: "The Phillies cannot win 87 or more games unless they either acquire new players or start playing dramatically better, which they have given no reason to think they will be able to do. Ordinary performance gets them barely to .500. There is real crash and burn potential here."

But you're absolutely right that being better than the Phillies is not the same as making the playoffs. There are going to be a lot of teams that end the year better than the Phillies that do not make the playoffs.

coolsny said...

don't think nats should make any major moves to address bullpen this season and lose more prospects. stick with what we've got and aim for 2nd WC. maybe if we swept the braves and phils i'd feel different...but this team has too many issues.

think we can get that 2nd WC and maybe catch lightning in a bottle in the playoffs and the bullpen shapes up and can hold on for a run...but not worth depleting the farm further.

more worried about the Dbacks than the rockies or cards. hopefully their hitting falls off in the second half.

blovy8 said...

I'm still sicket with the .500 by the end of the month deadline. At least that would mean they are beating the bad teams - that's the real disater. The Braves are better right now, but that could change.

Not that he has much value, but the Nats could possibly trade Taylor and a non-prospect to the Orioles and get Givens. Get him out of that bandbox and tough division, and you've got a shot at a good setup man. The Orioles like Taylor for some reason, the rumor was they asked about him during the offseason.

blovy8 said...

sticking, but I'm sort of sick of the team too.

JWLumley said...

@blovy8 If the Nats could get a bag of balls for Taylor they should take it, let alone for a reliever with an ERA under 5. When Zim gets back, I wonder if they'll DFA Taylor or Para? It should be Taylor, but the Nats love him for some unknown reason.

Treaples69 said...

micheael a has an option remaining, dont have to DFA

ssln said...

Folks, you are starting to sound like ssin, and that is never good. I will note that one day you are fired up to add players at the deadline when they sweep a bad Phils team and the next day, you are giving up on the team when they lose two out of three to the braves who are flat out a better team with a better manager. SSIn would never think like that. The Nats are an average team who will keep it close but break your heart in the end.
Reality is tough to swallow but holes in the bullpen and at manager are tough to overcome. SSIN doesn't mind being proven wrong but the team needs to show him something before he changes his mind. So far the Nats haven't shown him anything.
As for Harper, you need to understand he likes to be read so he is trying to keep up morale. It is an ego thing.
Hey Harper, you were a big Bryce fan. The Phils signed him to a 13 year contract and now you tell us they won't be better than last year. Remember, you got it right and SSIN got it wrong when he accepted only 23% less than you predicted. SSIN keeps waiting for that article proving he was worth what the Phantics paid him.
Personally, I expect that any minute Bryce will put the Phils on his back and carry them to perennial WS contender. SSIN doesn't agree but what does he know?
As I told you SSIN is on vacation, so I'm writing his comments for him.

G Cracka X said...

I will defend Harper. Bryce signed for about $25.4 million per year. Right now, he has 1.8 fWAR, and ZiPS, Steamer, and DepthCharts all predict another 2.2 fWAR this season. So that would put him at 4 WAR for the season.

Per this Max Scherzer article (, the free agent value of a win is $9 million. So Harper projects to provide $36 million in value this year.

How about in 2020 and 2021? The ZiPS three-year projection has him at 4.9 WAR in '20, and then 4.5 WAR in '21. So he'd be worth even more in those seasons.

Of course, in the outgoing years, we expect his value to drop off considerably, so he needs to rack up lots of value now to make the overall contract worth it. From that perspective, he seems a little behind, but not dramatically so. Still time for Harper to surge in the 2nd half (like he did last season) and boost his value. Time will tell.

If you want a 'Mea Culpa' article from Harper, ask him to re-visit Zimmermann vs. Scherzer. They should be lined up to face each other on Sunday.

Harper said...

GCX - I was WAY wrong on Max / ZNN. Most people were wrong, no one predicted Max becoming a Hall of Famer before our eyes. And I was done in by neck and leg injuries to ZNN which could not be predicted (unlike an arm one). but still WAY wrong.