Nationals Baseball: The deal and the deals

Thursday, August 01, 2019

The deal and the deals

"The deal" is that the Nats plugged along perfectly for their WC aspirations. They played their (likely) toughest stretch of the second half and ended up moving from 2 games up in the WC to 0.5 game out of WC1 and a 0.5 game ahead of WC 2. This was always a possibility in a run that would likely skirt .500.  Now they play easier games and should pick that ground back up* For division fans though, the Nats went 3-4 versus ATL, they went 4-6 over against the division leaders. They did make up a game (the Braves had a little slip-up during this time) but not enough to inspire confidence that the division really is in play. They beat up on Colorado, but the Rockies are in free fall - not having won a series since the first one out of the break. The Nats are what they are. They are better than the bad, but not as good as the great.

And so they will stay because "the deals" made yesterday were pretty insignificant.  Let's start with the fact the Nats bullpen is bad, but it isn't really historically so - or at least that historic number is because they were TERRIBLE for one month and bad the rest. It's a pen that's pitched to a high 4.00s in ERA in June and July which is about average. Given this fact adding more average arms won't do much of anything.

Daniel Hudson** is the best piece sporting an even 3.00 ERA and a reasonable 1.271 WHIP.  But it's likely a mirage caused by a mix of a low HR/FB rate and a high LOB rate. Crank those up to normal numbers and he's around 4.00.  If you want to get dark, his BABIP is low - now it was low last year too but this year his swinging strike rate is down significantly and his hard hit rate is way up. So either he is secretly found a way to avoid line drives or he had the potential for an even harder fall. It's not impossible he has - he's introduced a sinker which hasn't really induced more GBs but it could explain the LD loss.
Best case*** is he's the guy the Nats wanted Barraclough to be. Go out there, face not the best part of the line-up and get 3 outs before you give up a run 4 times out of 5.
Worst case is that all the above comes back to bite him and he's no better than Kyle

You might have seen that Roenis Elias has a weird reverse split this year, doing much better against righties than lefties. The thing is, Elias failure to do better against LHB extends well past this year. It's kind of a characteristic of him now. Another characteristic is that he gives up homers. In fact last year he was really good because he only allowed 1 HR in 50+ IP of pitching. But this year he's back up.This has been something about Elias as long as he's been pitching. If you can get past these things. He's not particularly bad. He's hittable but not that hittable. He's wild but has upped his K-game to match. Is he better than what the Nats have? Probably? You can at least try to believe in that .182 average .238 OBP line against righties. But I kind of think probably not..
Best case he keeps on getting out RHB and is a functional, maybe even good, reliever to put in a game when used judiciously
Worst case is that he doesn't and he isn't. Grace with a new face.

Hunter Strickland is the last guy brought in and he's the perfect modern reliever. And by that I mean he wings a flat fastball as fast as he can toward the plate until his arm falls off. You may recall that in his early years that didn't work against Bryce and he was a big baby about it. Over the years, his fastball speed has waned, as one would expect, batters got around on it more and everyone, not just the good hitters, began hitting him. Not to the point of knocking him out of baseball, but to the point he was just another filler arm waiting for the day when his fastball loses enough speed to put him out to pasture permanently. This year he was hurt - but it was a strained lat, not his arm. He's only pitched 6 innings total this year at any level so it's hard to read anything into what we've seen. 
Best case with extra time off he can dial up the FB and be a big spot K guy for the Nats
Worst case is that his body isn't right and he's a batting practice pitching machine 

What about the guys traded away? They are the 15, 21, and 27th best prospects in the Nats system (or there abouts).  Occasionally a guy that far down will end up being good, but they tend to be really young guys you don't have a handle on yet (Luis Garcia was down there his first year).  For the most part guys down this far are names you'd eventually hear as guys who might be brought up but aren't really any good. Chances are one of these guys works themselves into a decent reliever for a couple years at some point down the line, but that's likely it.

What the Nats did isn't necessarily get better but add hope. We're kind of done thinking Barraclough will be what the Nats want. But Hudson could be.  We're done thinking Grace is anything but bullpen filler. But Elias might be better than that.  A guy like Blazek is there because someone has to be. Strickland you can imagine a world where he is productive. Chances are none of that comes true. I'd bet Hudson ends up a little better than Barraclough, Elias no better than Grace, and Strickland not good at all. But a lottery ticket you haven't scratched is better than a losing ticket in hand, even for low payout games. 

*Max health dependent

**If the name sounds familiar to long-time Nats fans Hudson was the piece Rizzo wanted for Dunn. It fell apart though because the Dbacks would only do it straight up and Rizzo wanted more. In the end Hudson would pitch great in 2011 but his arm would break twice and he'd move to a relief role. FWIW - Dunn rejected the qual, Nats got a pick, was Alex Meyer, who became Span who gave the Nats a couple good years.  All in all a wash probably. 

*** as usual this is best/worst REASONABLE case. Obviously best /worst case would be awesome and unusable.


BxJaycobb said...

Honestly, this feels a little bit like the kind of moves you make because (1) you can’t make ZERO moves given fanbase and contention, but (2) you know Max is toast and the Nats aren’t legit contenders this year, so you don’t want to give anything whatsoever away. So you just kind of tread water for appearances sake.

DezoPenguin said...

It seems like a perfectly decent bunch of relievers to me. The bullpen may not have been hellish in the aggregate since April, but simply upgrading from "ugh" to "meh" and from "meh" to "competent" keeps us out of the situation where we have to pitch exhausted Fernando Rodney in a save situation or run Suero out there three days in a row or use guys like Barraclough at all ever. The plain truth is that, while the guys the Braves got were better than any of our new three, all three of Hudson, Elias, and Strickland are likely to be better than any non-Doolittle member of the Nats' current pen with the *possible* exception of Suero. The team is better today than it was yesterday, and more importantly the Cardinals, Brewers, and Diamondbacks are not. (The Phillies are, but the Nationals started out a lot better than the Phillies, so I don't see them closing the gap.) We're lined up well for a push to the WC, something nobody around here was saying at the end of May, and we did it without giving up significant prospects.

...Now if Rizzo can just get that !^$@%&*!**(@% Rendon extension done, I'll be happy.

KMT said...

Agree completely with the above. The bullpen was never going to allow them to have sustained success. That said, with the Dodgers, Braves, Astros, Twins, Indians, Yankees (Rays, Red Sox) out there, it made no sense to me for the organization to bet the farm. Combine Hudson, Elias, and Strickland with Doolittle, Rodney, Suero and at least I see a (hazy) path to the NL pennant. This team has heart; a sense of togetherness that you don't always get in sports. If Max is healthy, I think the Nationals will be a tough out; and that is not something historically said about the Nationals.

Nobody in the NL ran away yesterday. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers are 87 win teams. The more I see the Braves, the less I think of them THIS YEAR. They may go further than the Nationals, but if so, it may be simply due to seeding. The Dodgers are the real deal, but they did not get that much better yesterday and would it be fun to put some pressure on them in a 5-game series.

PotomacFan said...

A small improvement, but better than nothing, and Nats didn't give up anything. It really all hinges on whether and when Max can come back. Without Max, the Nats have 3 starters and 2 huge holes.

I suppose it will be fun to see Hunter Strickland pitch against Bryce Harper.

ocw5000 said...

This bullpen is like when you do your fantasy football draft and forget to draft any RB and then spend the rest of the season picking up names you've heard from the waiver wire and hope the new guy gets you 3.6 points instead of 2.2. I BANISH THEE, THEO RIDDICK, LET'S GO JACQUIZZ RODGERS!

The only difference yesterday was we had to give up something nominal to get another Guerra/Rodney/Venters/Blazek/Dan Jennings/Justin Miller

Harper said...

Another way to look at it - is only the Phillies (and Mets if you like) did anything to capture the WC. If the Nats can hold them off (I think the Nats are still better - with Max definitely - and they can beat them H2H to do this) then they should slide into the WC just fine. The trade deadline was really only a bad one for those hoping the Nats were going to chase down Atlanta or try to gear up for a WS run.

Anonymous said...

Nats should sign Arquimedes Camineiro from the mexcian league. The man has had decent success at the MLB level and has had solid results in minors over the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Plus he has my favorite name in baseball

Anonymous said...


I'm not looking forward to that matchup at all. We shouldn't forget that incident involved Bryce being 100% right and Hunter Strickland being a jerk and a great big baby. It's not a sin that's going to keep me from rooting for him when he pitches for us -- it's not like he's on the record supporting white supremacy or has a history of domestic violence -- but we shouldn't recast the story to make him the hero.

Anonymous said...

I'm the anon at 9:30. I was misremembering the fight with Strickland.

Bryce wasn't 100% right that time. He charged the mound and did that awkward helmet thing.

Strickland was being a jerk though, and I'm not going to revel in his jerkiness, but I was thinking of a different pitcher getting revenge on Bryce for no reason.

Josh said...

The thing I remember from that fight is how Buster Posey just stood there as Bryce started charging. He wanted nothing to do with backing up Strickland.

JWLumley said...

Meh, I think the Nats best hope now is that Hudson is good and Venters gets better and comes back like he was throwing when he got hurt. The thing is, Doolittle isn't really that great either. This team is going to need some luck to get through the postseason. Which can happen with anyone pitching. Still think they should've traded Kieboom for Vasquez because this team likely isn't going anywhere for a while, but what do I know

coolsny said...


I was thinking this yesterday about Doolittle as well. I think it's been awhile since I've truly thought of Doolittle as an elite closer. This season I haven't really had that feeling of "game's over" when he comes in the game. He seems to get hit a lot this season - maybe it's from over use but maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I think the league has just figured Doo out. He throws a fastball up on 130% of his pitches (give or take). If you anticipate up, you get what Donaldson did. If you don't, then you get a pop up or a miss. He needs to mix up the repertoire a bit so that he's not so predictable. Doesn't mean you have to throw off speed a bunch, but you do need to vary location a bit more and heck mix up the velo a bit if you want to be super fancy

Sammy Kent said...

This season has been one huge opportunity squandered, with high hopes dashed, resurrected, and then squashed again........and yesterday's game was a prefect microcosm. Down early, rally late, bases loaded, nobody out, winning run on second base......and we can't get him home. Even Doolittle ain't Doolittle any more. All I can figure is the Curse of Goggles will never end, and someone has to be the late game dinger-giver-upper. Since Barraclaugh is now gone, rather than hand the mantle back to Matt Grace the baseball gods have given it to Doo.

blovy8 said...

I'm kind of surprised Rizzo gave up a lefty AA reliever who can throw 96 for strikes with a reasonable slider. Wouldn't that guy deserve a 40-man spot before Strickland or Elias? Fresno is screwing up their evaluations of these guys.

Anonymous said...

This town is absolutely bizarre. This team has gone 38-20 since a bad start exacerbated by injuries to Turner, Rendon, Zimmerman, etc. With a decent bullpen you could add at least six victories during this stretch. But do we celebrate the turnaround? Nooooo! They're a bunch of underachieving bums. What record over that stretch would satisfy? 48 - 10, 53 - 5? They have been fun (and nerve-racking) to watch and isn't that the whole point of the exercise. And they are in the hunt.

ssln said...

Rizzo was doing some late night shopping for lottery tickets. Apparently, he found two twenty four hour 7/11s open for business. Our lottery tickets were already losers so why not buy some new ones? We know if he hit a winner in two months or less.
No one ever heard of the guys we gave up. But some talent evaluator in Seattle and Toronto thought he saw something in what we gave up. It will be three or four years before we can really evaluate the trade in its entirety.
Let's hope the baseball gods were smiling on Rizzo yesterday. Still believe the Box will be seen in DC before the end of the year.