Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - mission accomplished and OH NO

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monday Quickie - mission accomplished and OH NO

First things first - the Nats did what they needed to do AGAIN. Went on the road to a division rival and won the series. Sure they were one run away from a sweep which might have tailspun the Phillies. They also were one out away from a series loss and losing two games in ground toward the Braves.  All the pitching was solid. All the hitting was enough - though again - and I keep saying this. the hitting isn't doing too hot and it could really cost the Nats over the next couple of weeks. 11 runs in three games against a mediocre pitching staff is not heartening.

What's up next? The Orioles and 2 games they should win. Even a split would be disappointing.

But even if the Nats had swept the Phillies that wouldn't have been the big story of the weekend. The BIG STORY is Max is hurt. The timeline isn't worrisome yet but it does start you down that road.

Max pitched great against the Royals then begged out of playing in the All-Star game on Sunday, citing back stiffness. The team said "Great! Perfect Timing! We'll even throw in a couple extra days off and not have you kick-off the 2nd half, but instead catch that third Phillies game. That's a full week off!" But on Friday night things still weren't right and Max said the Phillies series was out, but starting in Baltimore (Tomorrow or Wednesday) would likely happen. Then Saturday he was put on the DL retroactive to Jul 10th, meaning he couldn't pitch in Baltimore and would hopefully catch the third of 4 ATL games.

So again
July 7th - can't pitch the 9th
July 12th - can't pitch the 14th
July 13th - can't pitch until the 20th.

Right now I'll be cautiously optimistic. Pitching the 20th means out two weeks but because of the break it's only really one missed start if you want to see it that way (ATL game will be game 8 of the 2nd half).   Better to be cautious now and maybe lose a start vs PHI, who you are clearly better than, then lose him for at least two games against Atlanta and Los Angeles.

But miss the ATL series entirely and things get dicier. Because now he's missed two starts, two division starts versus rivals, and you know that isn't happening because of being careful. That's happening because somethings wrong.

Baltimore series preview and the start of a 16 game slog tomorrow!


JWLumley said...

Is it just me, or does anyone else really not enjoy watching Adam Eaton? I mean, he's not terrible, but he's not good either. He's the only guy in the Nats lineup--and when Adrian Sanchez isn't there the only guy on the Nats--with zero pop. Maybe I'm just old school, but I expect corner outfielders to hit for some power. Also, the fact that the Nats gave up Giolito to get him still sucks. Yeah, it was a cost control move and Giolito was floundering, maybe never gets there without the White Sox staff, but still Giolito is good and Eaton has mostly been hurt and/or very average.

Also, Matt Grace should not pitch in high leverage situations. Especially with a full bullpen. Just dumb.

PotomacFan said...

@JW Lumley. Actually, I enjoy watching Adam Eaton. Sure, he doesn't hit for power. But he makes contact and gets on base, and he can run the bases. He's not great in right field, but he's not terrible either. And I just don't think it's fair or relevant to say now that "oh no, we gave up Giolito to get Eaton." At the time, Giolito was a bust. And even after getting to the White Sox, Giolito was TERRIBLE (look at his stats for last year), until this year. In the meantime, we got multiple years of an inexpensive and average right fielder. I can't fault Rizzo for that.

ocw5000 said...

I was going to say about Eaton "he sees a lot of pitches" which is somewhat true, he's at 4.02 pitches per PA which is above the league average of 3.9 but wouldn't you know the Nat who sees the most pitches is....Brian Dozier (followed by Soto and Rendon and then Eaton)

Mr. T said...

I was explaining baseball to my 4-year old yesterday. When Grace came in, I said "oh, he sucks, we're probably going to lose." She thinks I'm a genius now.

Anonymous said...

@JW and PotomacFan - I have no qualms with the trade. It hurts when Eaton makes poor plays in the OF (like yesterday) that causes some additional pain (seems to always be rounding the ball near the line where he loses site of the ball I guess?). He needs to get better with contact with RISP, but that's the only other observation.

billyhacker said...

I liked Eaton a lot before he got seriously hurt AND got older. But he's still 25th in all of baseball in walk to strikeout ratio. And he's definitely not fully recovered, or at least in interviews he says he isn't.

He was substantially better than average offensively in 2014, 2015, and 2016 (WRC+ between 116 and 121). Then has a 100 plate appearances in 2017 where he's even better with 125 WRC+ before he gets hurt for the rest of the year.

Then he had 370 plate appearances in 2018 after coming back, was still recovering from his injury, and still puts up a 123 WRC+. That's 23% better offense than average. Great. Recovered right?

No. In 2019 he's putting up a 99 WRC+. And he's worse on Defense and he actually has negative base running value for the first time in his career. While he's 30 this year, he's not big physically, so he shouldn't really start to fall off a cliff for another couple years. I would take the over on him getting better this year - he's so far off his 5, 3, and 1 year track record. I guess it depends on whether he's still recovering or just busted.

W. Patterson said...

@Mr. T - I thought the same thing when Grace came in so feel free to let your daughter know so she can think I'm a genius, too.

On the subject of Eaton, wasn't it yesterday that he let a ball under his glove allowing a run? I enjoy watching him play, though, with the only drawback his him chomping on his gum during an interview the other day. (Yeah, I've turned into my parents on that subject.)

JWLumley said...

@Mr. T - Your daughter thinks ALL Nats fans are geniuses, well, except DM that is.

On the subject of Eaton. I know he's a serviceable Right Fielder, I just don't like watching him play. Maybe that's because he doesn't do anything well. He's basically a 50 on the 20-80 scale, but he's a 50 across the board (except power that is) and while I don't hate the trade because as others have mentioned Giolito might have never figured it out with the Nats and there's no way Rizzo could've known Eaton would get hurt, it definitely stings that Giolito has gotten so good. Robles does lots of dumb stuff on the bases and maybe doesn't provide as much value at the plate, but he's fun to watch. He does exciting things. Even Eaton's walk up music is lame. Anyway, mostly I was just curious if I was the only one.

Also, Trea seems hurt, or like there's something wrong with his swing. He gave away a few AB's yesterday.

G Cracka X said...

Respectfully (subjectively?) disagree on Eaton's walkup music! I enjoy groovin' in my seat to 'No Diggity' - definitely one of my preferred walkup songs for Nats players. Of course, I also enjoy the humor of 'Baby Shark' for Parra, so take my opinion with a grain or two (or ten) of salt......

Anonymous said...

I'm worried about the Nats pitching depth and what the salary "cap" could mean for that. If the Nats want to make any meaningful moves at the deadline to grab a back of the rotation guy and a couple serviceable relievers, they need to dump salary. Honestly not sure how they'll pull that off.

Anonymous said...

@Anon - I think we're sitting around $12M right now according to Sportrac in cap space. Not sure how reliable that is, but we can easily take on $6-7M in ROS contracts without getting too close to the threshold and tying our hands for next season.

Ole PBN said...

The back to back seasons with serious injuries is what transformed Eaton into the vanilla player you see today. I still think he's perfectly serviceable today, but when he first came here (as billyhacker pointed out), he was a great. Gritty, played hard, hit well, speed on the bases--all while Giolito couldn't keep his ERA under 6 in Chicago. I don't fault Rizzo either, and am not entirely sold on Giolito turning the proverbial corner just yet...

@Anon 9:52am - The pitching is what is eating at the cap. 50 percent (or $100.6M) is committed to the rotation alone this year. Add in another $36.8M between Rendon and Zimm and you have a little over $60M to field an entire bullpen, bench, and 5 starting position players, and two catchers. Pretty hard to field a team with that leftover. It's that Zimmerman contract that hurts so bad (and Max getting $42M, even if he's worth every penny, it hurts elsewhere). For Zimm, consider this: he contributes less than Adams, but is getting paid 6! times more than him. Good lord. He's got a $2M 2020 team option (which they should only exercise for sentimental reasons). I don't know if he's even worth that.

Robot said...

Hmm...Nationals underplaying a player's injury and providing a gradually lengthening timeline of when he'll be back...consider me shocked!

See you in September, Max.

JWLumley said...

The last I saw was with bonuses, which count, the Nats have roughly $3M to spend before the cross the luxury tax threshhold.

@G Cracka - I too enjoy the absurdity of Baby Shark. Didn't like No Diggity when it came out, don't like it now.

ssln said...

I hope all of you are watching the Dodgers manhandle the Phantics tonight on ESPN. The score is 12-1 as I write this post.
So let me get this straight, you want to further deplete our prospect pool by trading Garcia and or Kieboom (the good one) to get a couple of relief pitchers. We will face the Dodgers in a five game series where Max can only pitch once and we start with two games on the road.
I'm sure this makes perfect sense to you--and you will all blame Rizzo after the fact if he does or doesn't do the trade. If Max is out for an extended time period then everything is a crap shoot.
For the record I think we should stand pat at the TD. Four good relief pitchers can handle the bullpen given the travel days during the playoffs if your starters can go six or seven. Tanner, Wander, Rodney and Doo. That is sufficient if a BOX shows up in time.

Anonymous said...

@ssln... you mean the same Dodger's squad that was swept by the Angels??? Good heavens. A five game series would give us no chance, we should just play for next year.

You have no idea what September will look like, the above is hyperbole. I took you at your word a few days ago in that you try to deal with fact? Atl could certainly catch LA, or fade and we get in division lead, or lord knows. You play to win now and maximize future value.

No one is ordaining the Dodgers the future champions, stop suggesting we should get out of their way and just play for next year / hope something turns around for us. If we stand pat, so be it, but I'd definitely prefer a move to bolster the pen and it would objectively increase our season long odds and playoff hopes.

ssln said...


Like all people, you make the assumption that the relievers we add will be effectiveor won't be injured. There are no guarantees in baseball. My opinion remains that we should stand pat at the deadline and go with what we have.
Guess what, baseball is strange. We may be able to beat the Dodgers with our current pen plus the BOX.

BxJaycobb said...

To me the problem with the Giolito/Eaton trade isn’t the trade per se, but an indictment of Nats player development. Guys. The Nats haven’t been able to develop a vaguely solid MLB contributing pitcher in like....almost a decade! How is that possible? There’s definitely a reason for that besides “we get late draft picks due to winning.” So do many teams and they still happen upon/develop useful rotation arms. I mean... Giolito obviously had ACE talent and somehow the Nats coaches couldn’t straighten out his mechanics to be even average. That’s absurdly pathetic. Joe Ross (whom we acquired in a trade remember) also was a talent for a half second but never took the next step, then got hurt, and now it seems like he’s bordering on “maybe my career is shot”. Fedde is a first round pick bust. They’ve failed again and again and again and AGAIN to take pitchers with obvious sky high gifts and coach them to get the best out of them. (See also: Blake Treinen, Vazquez, Luzardo, who went from “maybe he’ll be something who knows?” to going to the A’s system and immediately becoming a beast prospect in waiting. I won’t be surprised if Reynaldo Lopez becomes eventually a useful late inning reliever and Dane Dunning (once he’s back from injury) also is a useful MLB pitcher. The big story to me is the answer to the question “What did the White Sox see observing Giolito’s struggles for 2/3 year (he turned it around starting late last year) that the Nats couldn’t over like 2-3 years, and why?” What did the A’s see in Luzardo and Treinen to turn them into (likely) front line starters and actual dominant relievers that the Nats couldn’t? I don’t think it’s a TRADE problem. The problem is why the hell cant the Nats develop ANY pitchers from their internal pipeline? And I do mean ANY. In like 10 years....since Strasburg and JZimm....the Nats have not drafted and developed a solid pitcher in the pen or rotation. Please think about that statement. I don’t think any other franchise can approach that level of incompetence. That’s why we have to keep spending tons of money on relievers and starters. Because the franchise has become literally incapable of drafting and developing pitching into players useful to the major league team.

BxJaycobb said...

(And, to circle back to why that’s relevant....the Giolito rise I think is just the most obvious, emblematic case. With Treinen being the most
Emblematic reliever version. I mean literally these are two people who will, after this season, have both received Cy Young votes within 2 years of leaving the Nats, where they were useless. Questions and self-reflection probably are warranted here.

BxJaycobb said...

@Ole PBN. Oh he’s definitely turned the proverbial corner. It’s not’s due to a change in delivery—short arming to hide ball better—that for whatever reason no Nats coach could think of. If he doesn’t get injured he will probably finish in the top 5 for AL Cy Young this year. If there was a draft among all franchises for pitching assets....he would be among the top 5 most valuable in baseball, no question. Him, Buehler, Berrios, Paddack, Soroka, among others.

blovy8 said...

Yeah, you can actually blame the Nats for changing Giolito's delivery, but IIRC, he wasn't getting good results with his own at that point, and they were not only "coaching" him, but worried about a future arm problems. But it's always a crapshoot, and their dice suck. It's 95 percent about the individual and not the system. If you take a chance on a jerk like Romero, you can't complain much when he stays a jerk, even though he's talented. It took a club like Cleveland to let Bauer do what he wanted to do, and become an ace - Arizona couldn't handle him. Look at how long that took.

You can blame Rizzo for overpaying in that trade, but I suspect if it wasn't the White Sox, he would have been traded to somebody else to try to improve one of the later contending clubs. Giolito would have still needed enough MLB starts to understand what worked for him. A contending team like the Nats would never be able to let him get his ass kicked for a year to figure out he needed to ditch one of his pitches that wasn't effective, and change his arm angle, etc. It would be LOT slower, or take some lucky breakthrough which are in short supply around here.

Anonymous said...

@ssln... that's gibberish? Of course there are no guarantees in baseball, such as we may never play the Dodgers in the playoffs or get there to have the chance. But health, season results, etc. are priced into any deal. There's no guarantee we'll be competitive next year and beyond - Rendon and Stras could walk, Trea could continue to get be hurt, Max will eventually start to decline.

There's a real shot this year though, and we've clearly demonstrated we strongly need pitching help. And once in the playoffs, I think you should look at this team's playoff history to understand why so many want BP help. take for example, the Dodgers 2016 series if you want to stay obsessed with the chance we play them, but really any one (maybe not 2017) will do.

Staying put is akin to saying - I know the BP has been a dumpster fire all season, and has cost us multiple playoff series, but why learn a lesson?

Anonymous said...

@BxJaycobb You may have a point but you're conflating a bunch of stuff there that doesn't really apply.

Dunning and Luzardo were barely in our system for a year, and they were both crushing the low minors during their brief time. Their successes and failures might reflect on our scouting (favorably for drafting them and unfavorably for trading them) but not on our development and coaching.

As for Giolito, maybe the new him is legit. Peripherals all look good, though we've certainly seen plenty of pitchers string together a good year or two and have them not turn out to be a true ace. (By the way, it did not start last year - his last 5 starts in 2018 were completely awful, 9.28 era, 1.92 whip, 5.7 SO/9, and he didn't have 3 good starts in a row the whole season using the definition of 6+ IP and ERA 3 or less, basically a quality start but without the loophole for consistent mediocrity -- pretty sure you wouldn't have been on here telling us to give him some time because he's about to turn it around).

Still, my disappointment in that trade doesn't have to do with the coin landing on heads and Giolito figuring it out (though I do agree with blovy8 and others that we didn't have the MLB innings to throw away on his long term development. I think we gave him as many chances as we could, given that we were trying to contend) -- my disappointment is in the freak injury that reduced Eaton to a league average player, and I can't really blame Rizzo or anyone for that except possibly whatever ump made them play in the rain.

But those guys aside, maybe we have been bad at developing pitchers. Treinen is a glaring example. If work is slow later, I'll go back through some drafts and see if it's something where everyone is bad at it, or if we're actually worse. I think that a lot of what fans experience is asymmetric and something that happens to every team just feels like it's happening uniquely or especially to us. I wonder is this is one of those things.

DezoPenguin said...

The whole "pitcher development" narrative really isn't all that valid even if you limit it to the examples in question:

Luzardo and Dunning are, ultimately, irrelevant to the question as they were well-regarded prospects with us but nowhere near the majors when traded. Dunning's been derailed by injury.

Lopez was meh when we traded him and meh now. Giolito was meh when we traded him, bad in 2017 (nice ERA but 4.94 FIP) and garbage all of last year. "Two full years after he left the team, he finally got good" is hardly an indictment of Nationals player development.

And Treinen...people forget that he was a perfectly decent reliever for the Nats for three years before his 2017 meltdown. There's a reason he won the closer job out of ST. His "failure" with the Nats was really only a couple of months. Yes, he was exceptional for the A's last year, but he's already having a down year again this year. Relievers are variable. And Vazquez, while we certainly would like to have him now, was never a bad player for us--even in 2016 he had a 3.27 FIP and was worth 0.7 fWAR out of the pen.

Meanwhile, guys like Ross, Fedde, and so on have indeed not pitched all that great in the majors of late, but they haven't gone elsewhere and become studs, so you can't use them as examples of Nats-specific failure. (As counter-examples, consider Tanner Roark and Wander Suero.)

JWLumley said...

@BxJayCobb - Don't misunderstand me, I totally agree. I was just fleshing out why I despise watching Adam Eaton play baseball and checking to see if I was alone.

I said it a few months ago, but I think it's still true. Personally, I would move on from Rizzo or seriously restructure things. That isn't changed by the fact the Nats went on a run. The main reason I'd do so is due to drafting and player development. As you've pointed out, they've drafted some guys who turned out to be good/useful for other teams. I mean Robbie Ray was a meddling prospect with the Nats before he got to Detroit. And a big part of the Nats bullpen issues is that they don't develop ANYONE, like ever, out of their own system. I mean, even Rainey, who's had some success came via trade.

They've done pretty good at signing and developing position players from Latin America, but insofar as the US draft is concerned, it's almost like they shouldn't bother showing up, except to draft guys to trade below future value. I mean, discounting their top 10 picks, who have they picked in the last decade who was a large contributor for their team? Rizzo has been great at making trades, until the last few years and handling the free agent market, but that's only par of the job, but it's a diminishing part of the job. Most winning teams are now built on the draft. Some will say that Nats have put forth consistent winners, but they've also spent the money to do so and were built on three consecutive drafts where they didn't miss (Strasburg, Harper, Rendon).

I'm not saying he's the worst GM, I just don't think Rizzo is the best GM and it's going to get harder when you don't get to draft maybe the two most sure-thing draft picks ever in back to back years.

Anonymous said...

@JW - I'm torn, who would you want to replace Rizzo with? I think he's done a fantastic job on most non-BP signings, international league, and with high value picks (and in season trades). Our 1st round picks have been probably average success rate after the run through Rendon? Meyers and Fedde are probably busts, Goodwin, Giolito and Kieboom I'd all call hits, TBD on Dunning, Romero and Denaburg. We haven't gone through the sell off season to restock, so all and all I'd say we're doing ok.

I hate the BP decisions. I'll admit I wanted him and Davey out (I liked Dusty) and to sell in May to restock. I just am afraid of what we'd replace him with (I'm thinking of every other DC sports team right now and their awful GMs).

Ole PBN said...

JW, to be fair, most winning teams are built by the draft so they can have a few years of excellence, and then become irrelevant in the basement of their division for a few years. Rizzo is trying to do both, which is what I'd want my GM to do. I'd rather watch a winning team that each of the last 8 seasons instead of going back to those RFK laughing-stock years where we thought Elijah Dukes and Nyjer Morgan were promising players and a young Ryan Zimmerman is the only thing we could have any pride in. Where is KC these days? Pittsburgh?

Rizzo is the reason for that and its not just because of Stras and Bryce. I'd argue his trades/FA signings have outweighed the shortcomings in the draft. No one disagrees the draft has been a disappointment, I outlined the numbers in an earlier post and they don't lie: it's been poor. But you have to look at all facets of the job and take into account his overall resume before we call Dan Duquette. Just remember how much worse it can be when you think of all the names out there that would love Rizzo's job. And then come up with one available name who would do better... I can't.

Ric said...

Rizzo is a top-5 GM. Period.

He was wrong with Papelbon. He was wrong to let Kelley and Kintzler go "to send a message." Heck, he has been wrong a couple times a season, every season, since 2009.

Yet for every wrong move he's made in the last ten seasons, he's made many, many good ones. But because of human psychology, we more easily recall the bad moves. It's like how you remember the bad beat of having your pair of Aces busted more than the 20 hands you won with AA.

Even his inaction is usually on the money. Not resigning Murphy, or Melancon, or Jordan Zimmerman all worked out great. There are over one hundred of these moves, that he doesn't get credit for.

The GM's main job is to piece together the best team you can on paper. That's done before Opening Day. And the consensus has been that Rizzo's teams have been top five favorites entering the last eight seasons.

Does anyone realize how spoiled DC fans have it now? We've been in a position to compete for the last eight seasons. We've had, what, the second-most wins in the last eight years, two or so games behind the Dodgers. That's an incredible run of relevance.

Rizzo is a top-5 GM. Anyone, just anyone, name a viable replacement.

This is a baseless point to bring up in this blog anyway. The Lerners will never let go of Rizzo. And if they did (which they won't), he would INSTANTLY be hired by another owner. Every person in the industry recognizes his worth, even if a few armchair pundits don't.

SM said...


We're ALL armchair pundits and bar stool GMs. That's precisely the charm of Harper's blog

Sammy Kent said...

'Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear.

I have been SOOOO ready for Matt Grace to be gone. I've been saying since last year that the only, and I mean ONLY time he should see the mound is in a mop up situation where we are way behind and don't have a lead of any size to blow. And who made this stupid rule of thumb that a reliever can pitch only one inning? What horsehockey. Suero threw only eight gotdang pitches getting three outs in the eighth inning. My gosh, if he's pitching that good, put him back out there....ESPECIALLY IF THE OTHER CHOICE IS MATT GRACE!!! OTOH, if Adam Eaton just hits a long fly or if Anthony Rendon just gets a hit in the top of the seventh on Sunday, we're looking at a bottom of the ninth with either Doolittle or Rodney pitching for a save and a sweep.

If that series is anything close to a harbinger of things to come, it's going to be dicey until the end. One out away from losing the series, one fly ball away from a sweep. No room for error.

For Pete's sake -- and mine -- let's win tonight. DO NOT LOSE TO THE BLANKETY BLANK BLANK BLANKING ORIOLES.

DezoPenguin said...


Yeah, Max's injury leaves me feeling nervous about the Orioles. Plan A was to have him go against the Phillies, which gets us Sanchez and Voth against the O's. Plan B was to save him, and then it's Voth and Scherzer, still okay.

Now our starting pitchers for the two games we need to be sure to take, the only soft spot (except for the might-actually-be-bad Phillies) are going to be Voth and TBD.

The obvious choice is of course to bring up Fedde. The less obvious choice is to go with McGowin, since he's here now. (Of course, my desperate hope is that the reason why it's still undecided is that Rizzo is busy working the phones to bring in a fifth starter. Robbie Ray is lined up to start for Arizona on Wednesday, just saying... ;) )

JWLumley said...

@OPBN Yeah, like I said, he's not terrible and it's a tough task. But the Yankees don't reload, neither do the Dodgers and the Nats have a payroll like the Yankees and Dodgers so comparing them to the Astros or other teams is a false equivalency. Look at what the Dodgers have added through the draft. But you make some good points, maybe the thing to do is to bring someone else in to help with scouting and player development. I know that this is supposed to be Rizzo's forté, but look at Belicheck, he's a defensive coach who's mainly won with offense. It happens, sometimes as an executive you're not as good as the things you were very good hands on with.

blovy8 said...

I think Rizzo is a good GM, but the counter-argument to all that is he has owners currently willing to spend 200 million a year on the team. Half the clubs would never come close to doing that.

But even low-budget teams get a lot of players from trades and free agency. For instance, Tampa drafted Snell, Stanek and Wood on their staff - the rest are trades or free agents. Players move around a lot even before they're in the majors.