Nationals Baseball: The Marlins

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Marlins

Next up for the Nats is the Marlins. The Marlins actually are a decent pitchng team.  Even with three guys donw for injury they had the minor league depth to bring up some decent arms to replace them.  The Nats will face Trevor Richards - a normal veteran starter who is perfectly ok; Zac Gallen, a rookie who wasn't a major prospect but has done well at every level and looked major league ready in his first ever start; and Sandy Alcantara,who was a propsect and since being beat by the Nats a month ago has gotten great results in 5 starts.  This is not the easiest group to take on. Backing that up is an unimpressive, borderline functional bullpen. The Nats will always have a shot late but if one unimpressive arm isn't on, Mattingly can always try another to find who's good tonight. It's a bunch of C- arms.

The problem for the Marlins is that this decent staff is balanced by a terrible lineup, the lowest scoring line-up in the NL a good third of a run lower than the 2nd worst Giants,who themselves are a good half a run worse than the 3rd worst Reds. In other words - they are garbage. Making things worse is two of their better hitters - Neil Walker and Jorge Alfaro are currently out and may not play this series. This leaves them with distant 4th place ROY vote getter Brian Anderson - who's fine and Garret, almost certainly a fluke, Cooper, who has been great in limited play.  Both these guys are hot which is something I guess. Holaday and Riddle are both hot too but are average bats at best. Granderson is washed up. Castro doesn't want to be here. Brinson looks like a never-was. 3rd to last in average, 2nd to last in OBP, last in SLG (last in homers by 10, 35 fewer than 12th place STL, who themselves are only 40 behind 1st place Milwaukee. They have no patience. They have no power. They put the ball in play but with no power and no one on base to open holes all that means is a lot of outs. There's nothing here other than a real chance at a no-hitter from Max, Corbin, and/or Strasburg.

The Nats really should sweep this, even with it being in Miami*, but we are setting the goal merely at winning each series, so 2-1 is the bar.

As for yesterday - I may have been overestimating the Phillies, but it's been more a horrid stretch now then way overplaying before June. I still think all these bats can't stay below their averages for the whole season - but maybe Kapler's leadership can prove me wrong.

While we talk about the Nats crawling back into it - winning 8 of 12 in this set to get them to the point where we can merely plan out what needs to be done after the All-Star break to get into the playoffs (basically play like this for 8 of the last 10 weeks against a tougher schedule - with perhaps reinforced opponents with the Nats unlikely to be as reinforced) the Nats are still walking that tightrope and at any moment the season could be over.  What would do them in here? Anything 6-6 or lower and I'd put the fork in them, assuming all else equal**

*The Marlins are actually far worse at home FWIW. 

**If the WC teams in the lead go 4-8 and 3-9 and the Braves 1-11 well of course we don't write them off with a 6-6 but we have to assume teams keep on as they have been this season


NavyYardSteve said...

Harper, how many of the Marlins young arms have they acquired in trades from their last firesale? It seems like Lewis Brinson is the poster-boy of a failed rebuild from all of their trades, but maybe some of the arms will come through for them? On the other hand, it seems like it would be a shame if they had drafted and signed these guys and then had not traded Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, and Realmuto (to say nothing of the death of Jose Fernandez).

Of course the "if" in that last sentence is doing the work of an Olympic Weightlifter given the never-ending dysfunction of ownership.

Anonymous said...

"As for yesterday - I may have been overestimating the Phillies, but it's been more a horrid stretch now then way overplaying before June." Sorry, Harper, I don't think this is right. Fangraphs lists only today's BaseRuns record, so I can't prove it, but my recollection is that the Phillies' actual record has been WAY above their BaseRuns for most of the season. I suspect it was +4 or +5 relative to their BaseRuns record on June 1, which is a pretty significant amount of overplaying for two months. The recent horrid stretch has been bad - but not unlucky! Their BaseRuns record is still six games worse than their actual record (now the second highest disparity in baseball rather than the first).

I agree with you that it's reasonable to expect them to hit better, but it's absolutely not reasonable to expect them to pitch better. Their staff - especially the starters - is awful. And luck with sequencing/not giving up big hits with men on base is the main reason their actual record is so much better than their BaseRuns record (their expected runs scored is not very different from their actual runs scored, so most of the luck is occurring on the pitching side). Their actual runs-given-up-per-game is half a run better than their BaseRuns projection (BaseRuns says they've pitched like the third worst staff in the NL, behind only Pittsburgh and Colorado...sounds right to me). This is the largest disparity in baseball (only the Mariners come close and they go the other way: their actual runs-given-up-per-game is .4 runs worse than their BaseRuns). This is not going to continue, and there's no reason to expect any of their pitchers actually to pitch better.

The souless automaton needs to see the Phillies for what they are.

DezoPenguin said...

I kind of have to differ on the Phillies. McCutchen's injury really hurt them, and while Harper, Hoskins, and Realmuto are likely to bounce back from mini-slumps, there's no way Kingery and Bruce are as good as they've been hitting, and regardless of whether Kingery plays 3B or CF, Franco or whatever outfielder they shove out there in the other spot just aren't good. The major questions for me are Hernandez and Segura, both of whom could be anything from fine to meh. The bullpen injuries and the fact that their starters really aren't all that good to begin with (Nola's due for some positive regression but I figure Eflin should go the other way, balancing it out). As Anonymous points out above, there's a lot of luck in the Phillies' performance; there are good reasons why the projection systems universally give the Nats a better chance to make the playoff than they have.

W. Patterson said...

Seems that every time a team plays the fish, one assumes a blowout by the opposing team - or at least a win.

We then watch the game and try to figure out why the fish are playing so well against the Nats/Phillies/Bad News Bears/whoever.

They seem to play well the spoiler.

Harper said...

NYS - Alcantara & Gallen (Ozuna), Yamamoto (Yelich), Smith (Stanton - on IL now), were all recent trade acquisitions. (Pablo Lopez was but back in mid-2017) Sixto Sanchez (Realmuto) is their #1 pitching prospect but isn't up yet. So it was an either or. If not you are looking at a rotation who #3 is either Elieser Hernandez (a Rule V guy who probably more of a 5) or Chen (who shouldn't be in a rotation) and a very good line-up (probably with some holes at the bottom) done in by a garbage rotation. .500 team maybe.

Anon/ Dezo - let's take a poll. Who has the Phillies finishing better than last year? .500 or better? I'll put them at 85. Anyone have them better than that?

Treaples69 said...

I see them at 83 wins. According to Fangraphs they have hardest remaining schedule of the 4 nl east teams

Anonymous said...

I would confidently take the under if it was set at 85. My best guess for the over-under line is 82. Above that would require a strong belief that they're getting different, better players at the deadline. Maybe you'd think that was likely when they were still several games above .500, but not now.

Nattydread said...

People are watching:

DezoPenguin said...

I'll also take the under on 85, unless of course they do something dramatic like make a major addition or two (like the 2015 Mets adding Cespedes). I see them as more of a .500 team with McCutchen out and the bullpen injuries leaving them really no room for anybody to underperform.

Sammy Kent said...

Anything worse than 9-3 in this stretch before the break is going to be troublesome. If the Nationals really are going to be good enough to earnestly contend for the post-season, and especially the division title, they simply have to actually BE superior in all respects to the teams they are superior to on paper. There's no way to sugar coat it. They have to decisively dominate the bad teams and go better than .500 against the Braves, Phillies, and Mets.

W. Patterson is absolutely right about the Marlins being a thorn in the side. I will never get over the game two seasons ago when Max took a nono into the eighth and we wound up losing 2-1. It's years of that kind of frustration against the blankety blank blank Marlins that makes me hate them worse than any team in baseball except the O's.

blovy8 said...

I'd take the under just on general principle. I have Segura on my roto team, and they continue to make him bat in front of Harper, and rarely let him run. The guy has half the steals he should.

JWLumley said...

So the Nats are calling up Fernando Rodney AND Johnny Venters. I actually have higher hopes for Venters. The stuff is there, he just needs to have some control, which he had last year. Hopefully, a mechanical tweak can get this worked out. Rodney on the other hand is super old. Maybe he can do it with smoke and mirrors, but I'm not holding my breath. I think if DM can stop running Rainey out there everyday, he can return to form. Also, Suero should never pitch two days in a row. Ever. If they do that, he's a very good reliever.

Jay said...

They always play awful in Miami. At one point earlier this season the Nats were the only team to lose a series to the Marlins in April. Remember last year when they had to play well in Miami before the trade deadline so Rizzo would trade for players instead of trading them away? It was their worst 3 game stretch of the year imo. They have to go 8-4 at least. I'm hoping for 10-2. That's two sweeps and two series wins. They can do it. They need to do it. The Phillies and Braves play each other 3 of those games, so they'll make up ground on someone. Also, the Braves are playing the Cubs now. The Nats with their 3 top pitchers have to find a way to sweep.

PotomacFan said...

@JWLumley: You wrote: "I actually have higher hopes for Venters. The stuff is there, he just needs to have some control, which he had last year. Hopefully, a mechanical tweak can get this worked out." That sounds eerily similar to one T. Rosenthal, RIP.

JWLumley said...

@PotomacFan Yeah, I know, that's the scary part. However, Venters has a full year under his belt after returning from injury with good results. Rosenthal didn't. The really tough thing here is that just about every contender needs bullpen help this year, so you're going to have to pay to get it and it's going to be a lot tougher to re-stock your bullpen. Personally, if the Nats are going to deal for bullpen help, I'd rather they either continue signing castoffs from other teams or go out and get someone who is a shutdown reliever. I'm not sure if there is, or if there will be any of those available, so unless they can get someone at a reasonable price, I'd say just keep buying those lotto tickets, you literally have nothing to lose.

JWLumley said...

Does anyone else find watching games in Miami depressing? I mean, the announced crowd was like 7k, but it looked more like there was 2k people there. I mean, that's like a minor league crowd in a big league ballpark. I don't blame people for not going, the Marlins are a terrible organization. I just find watching the games kind of surreal and depressing.

PotomacFan said...

@JWLumley: It's unlikely, but you never know when you'll find another Matt Albers. He was a minor league invitee, and ended up being one of the best relievers in years (except that he couldn't handle the 9th).

Point 2: Yes, the games in Miami are depressing. I've been there for several games. It's kind of bizarre. Several opposing pitchers have said that Miami is the hardest place to pitch because you can actually hear individual fans yelling at you, as compared to the din at most major league parks.

Johnny Callison said...

SF would probably trade Will Smith, but he might cost what Melancon did, and be a free agent at year's end, just like Melancon, so I'm not a fan of that move. I think if the Nats get their BP together, a WC is very doable. Just don't want to trade Kieboom for Smith. I would trade MAT and Fedde in a heartbeat, though.

Meanwhile, Max was amazing again last night. I read an interview where he discussed how he tackled the difficulty of pitching in Miami--he was aware of it and psyched himself up for dealing with the lack of energy in the stadium. He really is the full package of talent, focus, and execution. Smart guy. Best FA signing ever.

SuburbanSteve said...

I figure the luxury tax threshold re-set by not going over this year is a real thing, but I was just reading, they seem to have a little wiggle room. What do you all think Rizzo can get with that wiggle room and maybe a Michael A Taylor/Fedde/and not much else?

"...according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, at $197M on Opening Day, as the Nationals try to avoid going over luxury tax threshold for the third straight season. FWIW: Sportrac has the Nationals at $193M, or a little over $12.5M under the $206M luxury tax threshold."

Robot said...

Johnny Callison - I say it again and again here: that is why Max is the best. In addition to the raw talent, he is one of the most observant and hardest working pitchers in the game. He never stops trying to improve his game.

G Cracka X said...

Just noticed on Fangraphs that the Nats have the weakest remaining schedule (.488) in the NL. Certainly an opportunity to make a move down the stretch

Anonymous said...

Harper, can we get a post about the ridiculousness that is Max Scherzer. Just to stroke the ego a bit? This may be Scherzer's best season and the fact that some people still consider Ryu the better bet for the Cy Young is ridiculous. Max is a full 1.3 WAR ahead of the #2 in the MLB (Lance Lynn?!?!) as well as Ryu who's just barely 3rd according to the site which will not be named

JWLumley said...

@Anon Yeah, and Ryu gets to pitch in a pitcher's park. Some of his ERA is just BABIP luck, I fully expect it to come back up, but Max seems like he's been unlucky and still has a mid 2 ERA.

BxJaycobb said...

@Anon, @Lumley. It’s certainly worth noting how Fangraphs calculates WAR....basically unless I’m mistake they take a pitchers FIP into account, not ERA. And I think the FIP of Max and Ryu is probably similar, except Max has pitched more innings. But Ryu has been extraordinary. I fully expect Max to win it though. He’s been amazing.

BxJaycobb said...

So Ryu has gotten more luck on balls in play and he also has an unsustainably high % left on base. I bet the dodgers bullpen has let like zero of his inherited runners score, compared to max. And then there is a 15 inning difference between them over half a season, which is already enormous. It’s possible that by the end of the year Max will have pitched like 40+ IP more.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper. Worth noting he has not been sHERZer this year AT ALL. He’s been harder to hit a homer off this year than almost anybody...I think only Ryu has a lower HR/9 IP this year, in a year when the ball is flying.

BxJaycobb said...

I think the Phillies will be better in second half than first half. Look at their roster. You could argue that they should expect EVERY starter on the team, including pitchers and hitters, to be better, except* Eflin (and Kingery in short play). I would seriously expect every other person to be better. Harper should be better. Nola should be better. Segura should be better. Hernandez should be better. Realmuto should be better. I just think they are not this mediocre.

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Anonymous said...

BXJ re Phillies: I think you can make a decent/strong argument that we should expect the Phillies' bullpen to perform better as injured players return. And I'll concede that certain hitters (e.g., Bryce) ought to be expected to perform better, though I am not going to take the time to figure out whether the number of players you'd expect to perform better is larger than the number of players you wouldn't so expect, or to think about magnitudes.

But you're just wrong about the Phillies' starting pitchers. They stink, and they're not going to get better unless they replace the guys they have with new guys who might pitch better. As a first cut, every single starter on the team who has made 10+ starts has an ERA better than his FIP, with one exception: Nola, whose FIP is a tiny .15 better than his ERA. This suggests the starters are going to get WORSE, not better. As a second cut, xFIP tells a slightly less bad story. Nola's ERA is worse than his xFIP (by a fair amount). Pivetta and Eickhoff too, but their xFIP's are 4.5 2 and 5.23 respectively. If they "improve" their ERAs to be more like their xFIPs, they're still going to be shitty pitchers.

What about the ERA projections (ZIPS)?

Eflin 4.55 projected (3.26 actual)
Nola 3.54 (4.55)
Arrieta 4.59 (4.33)
Velasquez 4.74 (4.42)
Pivetta 4.93 (5.63)
Eickhoff 5.31 (5.71)

The improvement you might reasonably expect from Nola is entirely canceled out by the worse performance you might reasonably expect from Eflin. Arrieta and Velasquez are projected to be worse, not better. Pivetta and Eickhoff are projected to be better, but still projected to be bad at pitching baseballs.

Indeed, thinking about whether they're going to be better or worse than they have been obscures how terrible these guys are. THERE IS ONLY ONE GUY IN THE ROTATION PROJECTED TO HAVE AN ERA UNDER 4.5! This is a bad rotation. It's so bad it cannot be overcome unless the offense destroys.

DezoPenguin said...

@Bx and Anon:

And really, I don't think that the lineup is all that, either. Compare current wRC+ to projected ROS per The Site Which Shall Not Be Named (going by Depth Charts since that incorporates multiple systems):

LF (Bruce): 146 / 103
CF (Quinn): 3 / 70
RF (Harper): 114 / 134
3B (Franco): 63 /95
SS (Segura): 102 /98
2B (Hernandez): 102 / 97
1B (Hoskins): 141 / 127
C (Realmuto): 96 /107
3B/CF (Kingery): 151 /84

Yeah, some improvement from players like Harper and Realmuto are expected, but negative regression from Hoskins, Bruce and Kingery would offset that, whichever slot between 3B and CF isn't played by Kingery is going to be manned by a bad player (even if you believe Kingery's a better hitter than his projections), and Hernandez and Segura are basically doing what they're supposed to do, maybe even a little better.

Combine that with the rotation problems in which, as Anonymous has pointed out, is basically pitching to its bad expectations except that Nola is stinking it up and Eflin is over his head, basically cancelling each other out, and then add in the bullpen injuries (the Phillies' pen is actually--believe it or not--WORSE than the Nats' in WAR and FIP, basically because they don't have a Doolittle, and 20th in MLB by ERA). The Phillies are not a powerhouse waiting to explode, they're a potential WC team who got derailed by injuries. They could certainly improve through trades or blind luck, but they're a team that unless the Nats run into lousy injury luck themselves they ought to be able to catch.

Really, the major problem the Nationals face in making a WC run (in addition to possible bad luck hitting again or continual bad bullpen play costing wins) is that there are so many other teams they need to catch. They need to run down and pass at least five out of six of the Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Padres. I'd take their chances as at least even money if not better than them being better down the stretch against any one of those teams, but having to hit the over on 5/6 of them makes it tough, particularly when at least some of those teams are also going to try to improve their weak points (again, a la the 2015 Mets). The margin for error is gone, and that's the real problem.

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