Nationals Baseball: 2020

Monday, June 15, 2020

Hall of Fame - Part 3




Lots of guys you can't expect Bill James to have bet on getting in from here on out.  More interesting is the guys he bet on that failed. 

2016 - McGriff, Gooden (Piazza, Griffey)

Piazza was really good young catcher but it's hard to bet on a catcher with two years under his belt.  Griffey was pretty much on his way and he played a good long while, so I imagine 2018 was just a hedging of bets.

McGriff was a guy who in 1994 had just put up 7 straight years that set him up for the Hall, but didn't quite make him a lock.  His back half of his career has mostly good with a couple of very good years but nothing like pre-1994. Honestly he was one more great year away from 500 HR and probably getting in but without that he only got to 40%.

Gooden was a long shot by James. It makes more sense if you think he put him on this earlier like some of those guys that didn't stick. At the end of 1993 Gooden was only 28, had been extremely durable and had 154 wins. 12 wins a season for another 10 years isn't crazy and that gets him to 275 wins at age 38 and a decent shot at 300. Bump it to 14 wins a year and he's there. But in 1994 he got suspended cocaine, and then again. Age, injuries and addiction took it from there.

2017 - Thomas, Sierra (Pudge, Raines, Bagwell) 

Pudge was a three year AS and GG and really young but you don't bet on a catcher that had one above average year as a hitter.  He had Raines in earlier (see first post). Raines looked pretty good for 3K hit but spent his last half-decade playing half-time based on injury. That and clearly not being Rickey (who is in a top tier HoF player) slowed his entry. Bagwell is in in 2019.  A good bet based off his great career start.

Frank Thomas I talked about last time. 

Yes, that is Ruben Sierra. Ummm... Yeah. The thing is Ruben started really young - playing 113 games as a 20 year old. Through 1993 he had played at least 151 games each season and at 27 stood at 1300 hits and 170 homers. Doubling that only takes him to age 35 and gives him 2600 hits and 340 homers. In other words he would Biggio his way to 3000.  But basically starting in 1994 he'd never really be healthy again and get no where close - out the first year.

2018 - Griffey Jr, Alomar (Hoffman, Chipper, Vlad, Thome)

By 1994  - Thome had shown he was a great slugger, but hadn't yet put up a full season. Chipper had 8 games under his belt. Hoffman was a 2 year reliever at 26 with 25 saves under his belt. Vlad hadn't played yet. No shame not picking any of these.

Griffey and Alomar I talked about before

2019 - Bagwell, Juan Gonalez (Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Mussina, Halladay).

By 1994 - Rivera and Halladay hadn't played yet.  Edgar Martinez had a great 1992 but was turning 32 with 600 hits and 60 homers to his name and was a poor fielder. He then ran off seven great offensive years but too late for James to see.  Mussina is an interesting case. If you WERE going to pick a young pitcher Moose was as good a choice as anyone. In four seasons he was durable and won 50+ games and looked to be maturing into the type of pitcher that could do that regularly. But James didn't bet on pitcher. The youngest arm he picked to make it, McDowell, started in the majors in 1987. 

Bagwell we've talked about. 

Juan Gone? By 1994 he was a premiere power hitter leading baseball twice in homers and at 140 at age 24 seemed a good bet to easily clear 300 and maybe threaten 500.  It was a gamble but a decent one. By the time he was heading into his age 32 season he was just a couple homer under 400.  500 seemed guaranteed and loftier goals not out of the question for a guy who average 36 homers a year for over a decade. He would hit only 40 more.  Given the suspicion of steroid use that was enough to make him a non-entity on the ballot, peaking at just over 5% before going off.



So how did Bill James do?  As expected he did well with players that he knew the entire or nearly the entire careers of.  But once he got to knowing only about 50% things broke down. Because of that uncertainty he probably leaned too heavy on what he did know putting in guys late like Kaat, Parker, Simmons, and Murphy. As we got even further out - heading past 20 years of voting (or 15 years of playing plus wait time) it was a little pointless as guys fit entire careers into time he didn't see. He also didn't pick much pitching, which is unrelaible, but left gaps that guys other people might have picked would fill.

Best pick - probably Eckersley who was pretty old in 1994 and a good bet but not a sure thing. At that age he could lose it immediately and it would have been a tougher call.

Worst - Al Oliver might be it because he didn't miss anything of his career and had him in in 7 years and he didn't last one round but I think Oliver was just underrated.  I'd go with Butler, a guy who James loved as a player but stats wise is a tough call.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Hall of Fame - Part 2


2011 - Bonds, Joe Carter (Alomar, Blyleven).

What he'd miss on Blyleven? Nothing really A really good pitcher for a long time, he's a close call. He got in here on his last ballot, so keeping him out isn't much of a miss.

What he miss on Alomar? James had him in a few years later. How'd he get in now? Alomar did retire a little early at 36 and in the next 7 years after 1994, Alomar had 4 years better than anything James saw before making this list. The combo pushes him ahead a few years

What he miss on Bonds? Steroids - also I assume James thought was a first ballot type but he'd play longer a couple more years than James probably thought he would.

What he miss on Carter? A bunch. He had been off the ballot for years by 2011. After 94 he'd never have another good year which James probably didn't guess because he was good right up to 1994. Given he was sort of borderline one or two more good years would have made a big difference

2012 - Butler, Cone (Larkin).

What he miss on Larkin? From 95-98 be fantastic including an MVP which set him up for a HoF career, something James couldn't have projected.

What he miss on Brett Butler? A misjudgment of the voting body. Butler was underappreciated but like Carter was bordeline and like Carter would be out on his first ballot in 2003.

What he miss on Cone? Cone was a tough one. He pitched well enough for a few years after 94 to make the case but got unlucky with wins. Then at 36 he'd fall off the cliff. Would 230-240 wins, which is what James probably had him around, have been enough?

2013 - Trammell, Whitaker (noone)

What he miss on these guys? Both these guys were done not long after 1994 and that wouldn't have surprised James given Trammell's decline and Whitaker's health. Just misjudged the voting body again. Whitaker was off the ballot immediately in 2001. Trammell hung around all 15 years but peaked only at 40%. Trammell would get in by the vet committee but Whitaker is still on the outside

2014 - Gossage, Mattingly (Maddux, Glavine, Thomas)

What he miss on Maddux? Nothing really. Knew he'd be in and rather quickly.

What he miss on Thomas? Not much here either.  Thomas would only have 4+ years under his belt by 1994 and they were all great so the call wasn't hard. Consider the later induction a hedging of bets for all that could happen.

What he miss on Glavine? Glavine was 3 time 20 game winner with a Cy Young by 1994 but James probably didn't have him hanging around long enough to get close to 300. Instead he got over and in addition to the great early pitching made him an easy in.

What he miss on Gossage? My guess is that the surprise vote on Sutter pushed Gossage earlier than everyone would have thought in the early 00s (this would have been about the end of his ballot time) Getting him in at all was a good guess in my book

What he miss on Mattingly? He probably thought Mattingly had a few more years left in him after a decent 1994, but injuries never left and he'd throw in the towel in 1995.  2700+ hits 250+ homers with the dominant mid 80s run might have been enough to eventually get him in but 2000/200 wasn't.

2015 - McDowell, Maddux (Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, Biggio).

What he miss on McDowell? Pretty simple McDowell broke at age 30.

What he miss on Randy Johnson? Basically everything. Randy wasn't great before 1995. He was getting better sure and eating a bunch of innings but 1995 was awesome and 1997 was awesome, and oh yeah 1999-2002. There's 5 Cy Youngs in there.

What he miss on Pedro? At this point we're getting close to guys he didn't see enough of. Pedro has three seasons by 1994 and was really good but it's hard to bet on just 3 seasons unless they are transcendent. Pedro's HoF run would be 97-03

What he miss on Smoltz? Smoltz wasn't nearly as accomplished as Maddux or even Glavine by 1994 with only one really good year. He'd find himself in 95 and then pitch forever.

What he miss on Biggio? You knew what Biggio was - a just under .300 hitter with doubles power. In 1994 you'd be hard pressed to put Biggio's career from that at anything HoF worthy. But he'd play to 41 and get a TON of at bats so he'd reach 3000 hits and million doubles I think. 



I've run out of time.  more tomorrow.


2016 - McGriff, Gooden

2017 - Thomas, Sierra

2018 - Griffey Jr, Alomar

2019 - Bagwell, Juan Gonalez

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Hall of Fame

Games are getting close, and I think it's going to happen one way or another (50 game might be it). But in the meantime I got bored and on Twitter ended up putting up a pic of a Bill James Hall of Fame guess list and saw that we had passed the end point.  So why not see how he did?

This was written in 1994 but as you'll see it was clearly it was started before then. So imagine he knows everyone eligible through either the 1999 or 2000. After that he starts guessing not only how increasing careers go, but also when people retire, and how many years it takes for them to get in.


1995 - Schmidt, Rice (Schmidt in).  Schmidt was obvious first ballot. I've said my piece on Rice (what you weren't reading this blog 10 years ago?).  James' idea that he was a first ballot was well off what the writers thought. He'd get 30% this year and would get in way later in 2009 on his last ballot.

1996 - Sutton, Rose (No one). Rose was a hope. James at the time thought Rose was railroaded.  Sutton got to 300 and was a definite in. The question was how long it would take. James gave him third ballot. Instead he was stuck in the 60%s at this point with Niekro and Perez. He would get in a couple years later in 1998

1997 - Garvey, Niekro (Niekro) Niekro was same boat as Sutton and James nailed this one. Garvey never got over the hump of being nothing more than a good hitter and not for a particularly long time. He was at 35.3% here and would peak at 42%

1998 - Gary Carter, Oliver (Sutton) Carter would deservedly get in as one of the best catchers but it would take a while (2003). He was at 42% here. Al Oliver was like Garvey - good hitter, longer career but less team success. His inclusion here shows that this list was made sometime in 1990/1991 and then updated poorly when it got closer to print. Oliver was undeservedly knocked out first ballot in 1991.

1999 - Ryan, Brett (Ryan, Brett, Yount) Almost nailed it. Yount also sneaked in with 77%.

2000 - Yount, Fisk (Fisk, Perez).  Tony Perez is a real weak choice and you can understand why James never had him in but last big name from the Big Red Machine got him in with 77%

Some guessing definitely starts here.

2001 - Dawson, Winfield (Puckett, Winfield)  Puckett is probably remembered as a better player than he was but he was clearly on the path to near 3000 hits, was loved, and had big postseason moments, so James had it right. It was only his shocking retirement in 1995 that puts him in at this point and not later. Dawson would ill advisedly try to play another year in 1996 so wasn't on this ballot. He'd have to fight the steroid led HR explosion to get in in 2010.

2002 - Murray, Ozzie Smith (Smith)  He got Smith right.  Murray would be first ballot but would like Dawson push a year longer

2003 - Parker, Kaat (Murray, Gary Carter)  Kaat would peak at a mere 30% and drop off the ballot here with only 26%  Dave Parker peaked in his second year 24% and would not get in and in his last year (2011) he'd be at 15%.  This may be a product of James going with two in a year but clearly his worst guess set.

2004 - Eckersly, Simmons (Eckersley, Molitor) - Eckersley right.  Simmons would actually drop off the ballot way back in 1994. The veterans committee would put him in in 2019. Not sure if he missed when Molitors would retire or how long it'd take for him to get enough votes. My guess is latter. Molitor had a weirdly great age 39 season that made his 3000 hits not feel like the death march some players end up with.

2005 - Boggs, Ripken (Boggs, Sandberg) Nails Boggs. Ripken was an obvious HOF but bouyed by a great hitting half season in 1999 (surrounded by a very mediocre second half of his career - it'd be interesting if he'd have been so guaranteed a HoF if he didn't have the consecutive games played record. He'd have made it sure - but first ballot?  Not sure) he would play a couple more blah years putting off his enshrinement. Sandberg sneaks in here at 76%
2006 - Henderson, Molitor (Sutter) - You can forgive James for not putting in Sutter, an unispired choice, who gets in with 76% on nearly his last ballot in a year filled with no one special.  Rickey, a definite first ballot guy, would play for 3 more years beyond this. (in the majors - more in other places. Rickey is a baseball player)

2007 - Gwynn, Clemens (Gwynn Ripken) - Get Gwynn right. Clemens would go SIX more seasons purely based on fancy training I've heard. People don't like excessive training so they haven't voted him in.  Jealous!

2008 - Puckett, Murphy (Gossage) - James did think Gossage would get in but much later. He was filling a gap  The early retirement of Puckett took him out of here and this was the start of a relatively slow run as a lot of 80s stars had issues having full great careers. This would have been a decade into Murphy's try at enshrinement and James took a gamble that he'd slowly gain support and get in.  Nope. Peaked in year 2 at 23% off the ballot in 2013.

2009 - Morris, Lee Smith (Henderson Rice) Rice at this point was helped by a lack of strong candidates just getting in with 76% in his last year. Morris would have to wait another decade to get in, finally doing it in 2018.  Smith got one more All-Star year after James would have made this list but it didn't really change anything about his career.  He'd peak at 50% but be the last player to go 0-15 in ballots. They now only get 10 years.  But Lee would get in the very next year on the vet committee ballot.

2010 - Raines, Sandberg (Dawson).  What an intersting trio. Dawson pegged in years ago by James, finally got in here finally cracking 75%. Sandberg, in reverse was expected to drag a little but got in several years before this. He had a mid career lull that James probably thought would have more impact given Ryne didn't have a long period of greatness. Raines would actually take until 2017 but he'd get in with a huge 86% when everyone realized not being Rickey didn't mean this guy wasn't great.

I'll break here and do the rest tomorrow. Really some solid guessing even if I think it wasn't that hard in 1994 to get to these names here. After this it gets a bit tougher as these guys on the ballot could have 10 years that James didn't see. You start judging less and less career from here on out.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The ring is the thing

The Nats gave up and gave out revealed rings in a virtual ceremony this weekend.  I can't find a link to it but if you care enough to watch it should be out there (and I say should in the - that's what the Nationals should do - put it out there).  They also played a home-made "season" documentary which you can watch on MLB.com.  

I put "season" in quotes because it's more a post-season documentary that uses the season for a little bit of set-up but hey, it's something.

Anyway here are the rings and they are... modern sports championship rings. That means they are overstuffed and overdesigned and diamonds are put in every empty spot. They are ugly but beautiful to those that matter at the same time. Some thoughts
  • The encircled Curly W was obviously meant to mimic the logo, and I guess using red, instead of silver (or platinum of whatever) for the circle would have looked gaudy* but why no red gemstones on the x-axis to represent the stars in the logo? 
  • The underside it the best part but I always question adding the series records on a ring.  No one cares who you beat or how you did it. IOW - bigger Baby Shark! 
  • "Go 1-0 everyday"? Sure.
  • Individualized DC side with name and number is nice
  • The trophy logo on side with a bit of Nats park is fine, but that makes two trophies on the ring which is one too many. Fight Finished is to me the better slogan and really only one slogan on the top of the ring is enough.  Other one should have been relegated to the underside. 
But again - this is a championship ring.  Complaining about it is like complaining about a Liberace outfit 


What about all the rest? If you are spending more than $50 on something here you are a different person than I am.

I will say a championship ring copy is something I'm not into. You weren't on the team. At the very least wait for the cheap in game promotion. It's why I celebrate the 1942 Cardinals.


Baseball is taking the first baby steps to reopening with a couple of voluntary workouts. The money issues seem to be working out (with a lot of deferred cash being the final answer).  Will we have a season?  I don't know but we might have a start of one?  Honestly we sit here and watch Korea and Germany and Japan - three countries that got the virus under control and we see if they can do it. If they can't there's no way we can.  If they can, well there's a chance. I'm not enthused though. We are acting as if we've got it under control when really we don't.


*yes, as if worrying about being gaudy was part of the thought process here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

DINO POWER

1-0 baby! 

As the season went on more guys signed and some guys moved so I've updated the rosters. The most famous player on here is almost certainly Dan Straily. Still no Nats. There do see to be bunches of players from teams. Mets, Orioles. I imagine one guy goes over and then says "Hey come over it's fine" Anyway here you go.

Doosan Bears - Raul Alcantara, Chris Flexen, Jose Fernandez

Hanwha Eagles Chad Bell, Warwick Saupold, Jared Hoying

Kia Tigers Aaron Brooks, Drew Gagnon, Preston Tucker

Kiwoom Heroes Jake Brigham, Eric Jokisch,Taylor Motter

KT Wiz , William Cuevas, Odrisamer Despaigne, Mel Rojas Jr

Lotte Giants Adrian Sampson, Dan Straily, Dixon Machado

LG Twins Casey Kelly, Roberto Ramos, Tyler Wilson,

NC Dinos Aaron Altherr, Mike Wright, Drew Rucinski,

Samsung Lions David Buchanan, Tyler Saladino, Ben Lively,

SK Wyverns Nick Kingham, Ricardo Pinto, Jamie Romak,

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday Quickie - KBO KO

A number of Asian countries have managed, using lots of testing, tracking, and an obedient citizenship, to control their spread of coronavirus. That means they get to have nice things, including baseball seasons. Japan tried and had a steback, but Taiwan has already started up with their robot and cardboard fans and next up is the Korean league. So let's pick a Korean team!

The teams are named after the companies that own them rather than their locations. You'll recognize some names Kia, LG, Samsung. What do the rest do?  Well everything is a conglomerate really meaning they own a bunch of unrelated stuff but I'll give a general idea

Doosan - Construction & Infrastructure support; they own Bobcat
Hanwha -  Started with explosives, now R&D and Manufacturing
KT - Telecom
Lotte - Started with chewing gum, now food and shopping in general (the Japan version owns a team in Japan)
NC - Maybe you recognize NCSoft. They make videogames, mostly MMORPGs that are big across the ocean.  The one you might have heard of is City of Heroes.
Kiwoom - Finance I think.  It says "securities"
SK - Energy and telecom

They can only have three foreign players per team and obviously the pandemic has cut off supply of people who might have come over this Spring as they failed to get major league jobs. Also Korea isn't the first choice of players going over seas so if you were hoping for some familiar names - well too bad. Roger Bernadina did KILL it over there from 2016-2018 but decided to come back to North America last year. Here are some current players, can't guarantee it's all, in case any of these guys excite you.

Doosan Bears - Jose Fernandez (no, not that one. the KBO isn't where baseball players go when they die to play baseball forever. Though it's a nice thought) 

Hanwha Eagles Chad Bell, Warwick Saupold, Jared Hoying

Kia Tigers Preston Tucker

Kiwoom Heroes Jake Brigham, Eric Jokisch,

KT Wiz Raul Alcantara, William Cuevas, Mel Rojas JR

Lotte Giants NONE

LG Twins Casey Kelly, Tyler Wilson,

NC Dinos Drew Rucinski,

Samsung Lions Ben Lively,

SK Wyverns Jamie Romak,

Doosan is the reigning champs and one of three teams, with Samsung and Lotte, who have been there and owned by the same group since the beginning in 1982. The Kia Tigers were an ownership change but not a name one. The Twins were both and the Heroes were a dissolution and rebirth.

Of course I've left the biggest news until last.  The Kia Tigers are managed by... Matt Williams!  There's a couple other Americans on the coaching staff. I think one is Anthony Lerew.  Sorry I don't read Korean.

First games tomorrow. I have no idea right now how to watch!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Who does the layoff hurt - player version

This layoff is bad for fans, and it's bad for teams but it's also bad for players too.  I know what you are saying - of course it is. But also it's particularly bad for certain types of players.

The Gamblers

These players took one year deals in the off-season. Some were unable to get the contract they wanted and were betting on themselves. Others were looking for a shot at playoff success. Still others were coming back off a terrible year or injury and needed to show they could still bring it.

These include Marcell Ozuna (Braves), Cole Hamels (Braves), Odorizzi (Twins), Didi (Phillies), Encarnacion (White Sox), Betances (Mets), Porcello (Mets), Treinen (Dodgers), Gausman (Giants), Teheran (Angels)

The Comeback Kids 

These players were going into a FA year on a slide. To get another big deal they needed a strong 2020. 

These include : Yoenis Cespedes (DNP in 2019), Giancarlo Stanton (18G played for the Yankees - he's actually not in a bad spot because it was his opt out choice), Jake Arrieta (24 starts - 4.64 ERA, more back of the rotation vet then the rotation leader he sees himslef), Masahiro Tanaka (4.45 ERA, isn't too bad in the AL but isn't big money pitching), Andrelton Simmons (80 OPS+, still a defensive whiz but needs to hit SOMETHING), Jose Quintana (4.63 ERA, quickly becoming just another arm)

The Old Guys

Past a certain age, employment is simply not guaranteed as GMs would rather pay young guys next to nothing than to burn a few million on someone who may hit the wall. 

Rich Hill (40), Nelson Cruz (40), Darren O'Day (38), Sergio Romo (38), J A Happ (38) Kurt Suzuki (37), Yuri Gurriel (37), Jon Lester (37), Anibal Sanchez (37),

And most importantly Nick "Marchkakis to 3000" (37)


You noticed a few Nats names on there - who else hits the FA market after this year and what do I think about the year off for them?

Doolittle - Had an off year but not far enough off the kill the value of a strong relief piece who still has 2-3 years in him minimum. Lefties age well.

Kendrick - Tougher for him because he had a great year and another one could give him a Nelson Cruz esque late career pay day.  Now not so much.  Will still get a contract though

Suzuki - tough but catchers always get signed if they aren't terrible and Kurt was still good at the plate

As Cab - I could see this being the end of major league deals for Cabrera. He's a decent player but he's in that middle ground that teams are now leaving alone.

Zimm - Up to him. Team would have him back for a cheap farewell year I bet.


Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Desperate, but not stupid

I want baseball back. Not baseball book recommendations. Not baseball movie arguments. Not old baseball games on the internet or TV.  I want live current baseball back as soon as possible.

But I'm not stupid.

This is stupid

If you don't feel like reading it the crux is
  • potentially dramatically modified games
  • played to empty stadiums
  • only in Arizona
  • with teams and personnel sequestered for the length of the season 
Could it work? You are talking trusting a minimum of several thousand people to not go out, and a minimum several hundred direct and indirect interactions that likely can't be controlled with sequestration (hotel staff, food deliveries to the hotel, cleaners at the stadiums between the games...) go off without a hitch for months.

So no - it can't work. Not in the sense "no one is going to get the disease over the course of a third of a year".  At least it can't work starting in May.  The possibility grows the further out we get - the more the virus is controlled and the more we know about potential therapies.

But think about this - Japan has around 40% of the US population. It is packed almost 4x as tight. They should be doing worse than the US but they only have about 4000 coronavirus cases about 250 more yesterday. (If the US was doing that successfully - just factoring in population and not density we would have about 10K cases instead of... 368K) But even there they loosened things up just a little bit - started baseball - and 3 players promptly got the disease. They are saying the end of April is not possible and are looking at May.

And MLB is supposed to be looking at the same time frame?

I want baseball back. I've made that clear. But it can't be done until it can be done safely and if we are lucky May isn't when that is going to be, May is going to be when we'll have an idea of when that date may be.

This isn't something that holds for the entire country. The country might be able to get going sometime weeks from now (I've said Memorial Day since it started) relying on lots of testing, limited travel, possible invasive tracking, and rolling quarantines to get us through the remaining months to vaccine. Sports can handle limited travel, but they can't handle rolling quarantines. You can't shut off a team, and everyone they've had contact with, for two weeks and start up again. It won't work.

Some more individualized sports may be able to get through this, with strong restrictions, when it calms down. Golf. Bowling. Possibly tennis. Anything that can be run with limited staff (sorry NASCAR) and next to no contact between distant individual players. But baseball is not that. Baseball can't start up until we get past the limited quarantine stage and right now I can tell you for sure May is not going to be the month we get past that.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Who does the "layoff" help

Baseball won't be around for a while, and for most of us that stinks. However for a couple teams they may be better off having a year with no (or little) baseball. I mean, as much as any team. This is assuming service time is awarded on a full season given no matter the outcome of 2020.


YES
Royals / Pirates / Orioles / Giants / Tigers / Marlins - 2020 was lining up to be lost seasons for these teams and a year off to simply re-stock the farm even more can't hurt. With few great young players on their rosters already a year off should be more boon than bust

NO
Blue Jays / Padres / White Sox - While none of these teams should compete, 2020 was lined up to be an important year in the development of young talent already in the majors.  A loss of a year of guys like Vlad Jr., Tatis Jr, Li'l Biggio, Eloy are big negatives for teams that are looking to be cheap as well as good. They’ll still compete in 2021 but will lose a chance to be the surprise team in2020

NO
Dodgers - They went all out to win this year in trading for Betts, meanwhile they rely on a ton of young talent in the majors right now. Those are lost years and Betts can be a FA. This doesn't end their run of contention but definitely qualifies as a lost year

MAYBE
Rays - Winning 96 games last year and looking healthy as compared to the front-running, seemingly always injured Yankees, it could have been a surprise year for Tampa. There's no good reason the Rays can't continue to be competitive in 2021 but that hasn't stopped this franchise from mini-teardowns to avoid paying larger salaries and build back up. So who knows

YES
Angels -  Their third best player was hurt, as well as a starter, reliever,  and a potential 5th starter. Another year allows them to shed Simmons contract and get some money to convince the needed ace to come to Anaheim and finish a roster that's never more than 80% of the way there, if that.

MAYBE
Phillies - On one hand JT Realmuto needs to be paid after this year, and a guy signed to be a one year boost like Didi Gregorious is now wasted. On the other this was a team whose construction was off and now can shed 70 million in salary to Realmuto and a bunch of OK guys and rebuild properly.

MAYBE
Yankees - Judge, Paxton, Severino Stanton, Hicks were already hurt so while they were set-up for 2020 with the big Cole acquisition it looked like another injury ravaged year. Sure they'll lose people to FA, some of them key, but signing replacements has never been an issue for New York. Still who wants to lose a contending year?

NO
Braves - On the other hand the Braves are a team that should be hit hard by FA Ozuna, Hamels, and especially the pen Melancon, Greene, O'Day - they seemed to balk at paying  Donaldson - there's no reason to be confident they'll go big in the future

NO
Indians - Cleveland seemed almost resigned to make another go at it and in a weak Central might have had a chance.  A year gone and Lindor another year closer to FA means a total tear down is in order

NO
Arizona - the Dbacks quietly put together a rostettjat should have been 2nd best in the West and given them a better WC shot. But no 2020 means a lot of these guys become FA and the plan to sneak in there before the Padres fully commit is likely over

YES
Astros - the further away from cheating the better. They have their title.

And the Nats?  Like most of the teams not named it’s hit or miss. The time off should help the pitching recover from a heavy use 2019. And while they lose some FA I trust their ability to rebuild... mostly. The one issue would be Doolittle who deserves more cash and may not get it here. Bullpen construction is Rizzo’s bane and without a cheap very good anchor? Meanwhile they lose a year of contention and a year of Soto. And an old pitching staff gets older. I like this for the Nats in 2021 but beyond I think they might find themselves worse off for the missing season.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday Quickie - Gaming the System

Whenever baseball is to come back there is a new rule in place. The "three batter minimum" is an attempt to limit the number of pitching changes and take away a bigger source of extra time in the game. A pitching change usually involves a slow trip to the mound, a run in from the bullpen, and a series of warm-up pitches, and then possibly an announced PH change to match it.  All in all it's only a few minutes per game, but without making a huge shift in how the game is played it's going to be tough to make the game immediately much quicker. Instead it's going to be picking at the margins hoping the entirity of what you do ends up hacking off 15 minutes or so.

But like any rule the trick is how to use it in your favor.  Here is the rule. (I can't find an official 2020 rule book). If you are too lazy to click - basically you pitch to three batters or until the inning is over, unless injury or illness (and I imagine extended delay though that is not written). Imagine this re-written for three batters I guess
If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is putout, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
Now... let's try to break it.


Let's get the obvious out of the way - fake injuries and illnesses. It may happen here or there, but it will be very minimal.

The first thing to focus on is the end of the inning circumvents the rule. So that puts an impetus on getting relievers in mid inning as opposed to the start of an inning. This could go two ways. You could see more starters (or previous pitchers) stretched to get a batter or two more to start an inning.  You could also see more starters pulled before an inning ends rather than letting them finish the inning to save a reliever.   I'd expect the latter.  Essentially your first reliever being one-out guys who finish the starters last inning.

You will also see more walks. Since it's three batters faced, you can burn one by walking him.  Of course that puts a man on which isn't ideal but after you get to two outs putting a man on first still keeps the expected runs per game low. So if you think you have a clear advantage over the next batter you might as well walk that first guy especially with two outs.  Also we'll see more pitchers brought in to walk the guy ahead of the match-up you want. This is not a huge change but generally managers liked the leaving pitcher to issue that walk.  It would give the reliever more time to warm up and not start him off throwing balls or now - pointing for the IBB - god I hate that. In fact the IBB rule will make this something that definitely happens. You'll never see a guy purposely issue a walk to end his outing.

Will we see fewer pitching changes?  Probably so. Maybe one less. That's my guess.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Monday, March 23, 2020

AMA - Corona

So we don't want to talk about the corona virus a lot here BUT I figure I'd give you a chance to ask any questions you might have. Now you might say "Why would I ask you?" and that's a good question but first, consider it asking the entire group of people who may comment here, someone here may be an expert on what exactly your question is. Certainly a few here are going to be very well read on the subject.  As for specifically me, well my job is as a public health statistician. There are certainly people you bring in before someone like me if you want to interview, epidemiologists (who study how disease spreads), virologists (who study viruses), specific doctors or health professionals who have been through these things before. There are literally thousands of these, maybe tens of thousands, probably a couple in every minor city / major college, so there's no reason to go down to the C-Team if you are a TV or a paper. But I'm way more familiar with the topics at hand than Joe Schmo* out there, or even Dr. Jane Schmo* who has been very online during this. Given that I figured maybe I could help clear up a thing or two and if not - great. We move on to more fun stuff that doesn't involve possibly dying, unless it's Bobby Henley sending you home because then you are dead.


*Mr. Schmo got his degree in Communications with a minor in Portuguese

*Dr. Schmo (unrelated) is a Food Chemist who works in developing proper textures for crackers, chips, and other baked snacks. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Books!

To round out the media triumvirate (sorry Fibber McGee & Molly we aren't doing ol' timey radio shows - but a trial of SiriusXM had me listening to too many of those) let's go with what you are reading. Now currently reading or reading last year will only work for voracious readers. For the rest of us just put out some of your favorite books.

I'll start - I'll note that I pretty much never read fiction. Well that's not true - sometimes I'll quickly read through some of my kids books (ask me about Diary of a Wimpy Kid) but adult fiction eh.  I keep saying I'll pick it up again but there's always a good non-fiction book right there. OK given that caveat and the caveat that I pretty much forget what I don't own. So this is pretty much limited to what I see on my shelves right now. 

Let's start with baseball

Of course there's the Nats Trilogy - Jesse's book, which I'm sure is fine. National Pastime, Barry's book on the honestly pretty crazy 2005 season, and The Grind which is an expanded verison of the collection of articles Barry wrote that year about... well the grind of the baseball season.  I'll recommend all.

The Soul of Baseball - Posnanski goes around with Buck O'Neill in exactly the type of book Joe Posnanski should be writing.

The Arm - now that you all love Daniel Hudson it's worth a read to find out how he got here. 


Not baseball

Battle Cry of Freedom - a big but not dense single volume tome on the Civil War.  I liked it so much it's the only book I've purchased multiple copies of (I have the illustrated hardcover)

Candace Millard's books are usually great - River of Doubt (Teddy Roosevelt stupidly goes dwn the Amazon), Destiny of the Republic (Dumb doctors basically kill a saveable James Garfield). Erik Larson's as well - there like a dozen here.

If you can handle tough subjects Killers of the Flower Moon and Devil in the Grove are great books and Columbine is fantasticly thorough and sensitive take on that incident.

Less harrowing - I enjoyed Rocket Men (about the flight to space before the moon landing), K Blows Top is fun (about Kruschev touring the US), Pictures of a Revolution (about the 5 best pic nods in 1969 and how they showed the end of the old guard and beginning of the 70s golden era)


Ok that's a start. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Movies!

Hey sorry. I spent last night making a lemon blueberry loaf instead of typing a blog post.

BUt today we'll move on to movies, a subject I'm not well experienced in as I'll default to watching TV if given the choice. But occasionally I'm on a plane or want to do something different so i will pick up a movie or two. It would probably take forever to go over everyone's favorites, there's literally over 100 years of movie (for example the masterful Nosferatu is 98 years old this year) so how about we limit it to the past few years.

This way I can literally just list the movies I've seen

I've seen nothing that has come out this year

2019
I saw Harriet and Ready or Not on my last plane ride.  Ready or Not was fun. It could have been great but it was still good and that girl can scream.  Harriet was also good but with any historical story a little hard to get real drama going. I know she isn't dying.

I got kids - however the one that can watch movies isn't into them either so I've seen Frozen II (ok not better than the original) and Aladdin (eh)

ummm...  that is it. Like I said I don't watch movies


2018
Ant Man and the Wasp - It's good. This is the only series I've seen all (technically both) the movies. I pretty much have seen zero sequels. Part of it is bc I like my super hero movies to lean kiddie. They shoot beams out of their hands and fly around. I don't need that to be serious at all.
Crazy Rich Asians - also on a plane. It's really good. Not as funny as I thought it would be but nails what it is.
Halloween - not great. Part of what made the first great is ramping up the horror with a vaguely human antagonist that kills like 4 people. This is more like later horror movies with an unstoppable baddie that mows down a dozen plus.  Story is good but needed someone to tone down the killing and up the horror.
Rampage - plane movie. Honestly the best type of plane movie bc if I never saw the end it'd be ok.  But still I think this is the best Rock hero movie of the bunch.  He's overgrown in size and personality and he needs a backdrop that's similar. This gives it to him. It's not good but it's fun
The Spy who Dumped Me - look I prefer to be on my computer if I'm at home and so I want something on in the background. This was allright. Oddly violent. I mean watch it if you think you want to.
Three Identical Strangers - I also like documentaries.  This one is a trip that starts and ends in totally different places.

Kids - Ralph breaks the internet (see Frozen II)
Nutcracker and the Four Realms - there's a good movie in here somewhere but it didn't make the screen
Teen Titans GO! to the Movies - I really liked this. Sometimes I listen to the song for fun.


OK that's enough - so in the past 2+ years - give me your movies to watch. I probably won't get to them but someone here might.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday Quickie : What are you watching right now (or recently)

If you didn't see Friday's post go back to it and throw in your two cents.  We're all in this together (well unless you are in like rural Nevada - Contact looks nice) and if a little content everyday helps keep every a bit saner, well that's just the type of sacrifice I am willing to make.

First off something real simple for the Monday Quickie - what are you watching right now (or very recently passed) How do you spend the time when looking at your screens? It doesn't have to be good TV or movies, but if for some reason you watch things you hate don't mention those.  If it's something streaming be sure to note the service because oddly enough not everyone pays for every streaming service like some dummies (well I don't have the Apple one). 

So currently I'm watching

Better Call Saul (new episode tonight).  It's on season 5, seasons 1-4 on Netflix. 

Trapped - an Icelandic police show streaming on Amazon Prime. It's mostly in Icelandic (they speak English when talking to people from other places) so you have to read subtitles which is good if you want to put down your screens for an hour.

McMillions - HBO doc about people cheating the McDonald's Millionaire game. Like for every big prize. 

Will finish up Bletchey Circle - British mini-series about crime solving former code cracking WWII woimen - on PBS but I'm not sure it's streaming anywhere.  It wasn't before it came on here. 

Is that it? That might be it. With a baby free time is basically 9 on and it's a lot more vegging out than actively watching. Shows to veg out on

A lot of HGTV - part of the reason is when you have kids, HGTV is one of the few channels you can put the TV on and be sure you aren't going to put on something you don't want them to see or hear. But mostly because it's easy background noise when you aren't really paying attention to something. An hour to update a house? Yeah I don't need to see all that - I'll look at the beginning and then at the end.

Forged in Fire - I don't know why but even though every episode is basically the same there is something magical about turning metal into a blade then testing it against a bunch of object

Reruns of the Office - again easy background noise . And always on. Drunk History, when that is on.

I'm sure there's more.  Since I didn't get to movies, let's stick with series for now.

Friday, March 13, 2020

So now what?

No seriously. Now what?

There's little reason to keep doing what we'd normally be doing at this tim - popping in on the Nats Spring Training stats and stories, checking out the same for other teams, patiently waiting for real baseball to start.  Real baseball won't start (if we are very lucky) for another month.

So again, now what? 

I mean we'll keep our ear to the ground to monitor the baseball news, but I'm sure you'll hear about that elsewhere. And we'll keep a closer eye on the Nats health specifically and how that may effect things - though it's kind of a big mystery right now when you don't know exactly when the season will start and you REALLY don't know how bad the illness is striking people. God let's hope we're not here ever discussing the ripple effect of a death on the NL East race.

Shut it down? Deep dive into minutia for no reason? Ask Me Anythings? What would you like to see?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday - No baseball?

Say it ain't so, Joe!

Well it isn't so... yet.  But with sporting events being cancelled left and right to avoid unnecessary travel, close contact, and gatherings* it is easy to see a near future with no baseball. How long? Let's think about what we could see.

Low

Probably first we will see a end to ST crowds. That seems apparent. What this effects is nothing really. Not as far as the season goes

Next we may see a pausing on Spring Training games for two weeks. This wouldn't do too much of anything either. Practices would presumably continue

After that you'd escalate to no Spring Training at all. No practice, training, intrasquad scrimmages.  This might cause a delay as players would only have less than a week to get back into ST shape but they could still push it to get it started on nearly the same day

Mid

A complete cessation of activities for more than two weeks would likely cut into the season. They could do a month now and maybe fit in 154 games (early season schedule is a bit lighter for weather make-up possibilities). I'd say that currently this is the most likely lightest situation we'll end up with as two weeks probably won't clear everything up (we'll need at least a week just to get a sense on where we are disease wise)

As you go more than a month you start to get into needing a good amount of pre-season practice now that they've been sitting a while (I'd imagine 2 weeks or so of pre-season) and more games cut. So a month pause today might lead to 154 game season but a 6 week pause now wouldn't lead to 145 games but something like 120 or lower.

High 

Once you get much more than two months you start to get to the half-season possibilities. You start with the exhibition All-Star Game and then go into the season. Understand they'll try to fit in some sort of season regardless.  Half a season and the all important playoffs is better than none

When do they bother cancelling the season fully?  Hmmm I'd say you'd have to start drifting into August for a start date. There really probably isn't a time when they can't squeeze some blood from this stone but you start to functionally get to a weather issue again. They might even be tempted to do an unofficial / official tournament thing Sept / October just to get something out of the year, but when you start drifting into playing in November you start to limit yourself geography wise and profits can't be that high to say - have a Tuscon tournament in December.


*Sports are basically the worst at this, being a job that requires close contact, asks for gatherings, and depends on travel. All for entertainment purposes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday Quickie : Kieboom

How's Kieboom doing?  It's kind of the only question that matters this Spring and I've said earlier that unless he's complete garbage, I'd bet on him winning the 3B role to start the season.  How has he been? Not complete garbage!  .250 / .419 / .292.

Yes that's a .292 SLG (1 XBH in 30 PAs) but maybe he's working on patience?  I find working on patience in Spring a little bit odd, because the pitchers aren't necessarily concerned with throwing strikes, but hey, when are you going to work on it? To be honest his patience last year wasn't overly concerning. The big deal was the strikeout rate (37.2%!).  How is that going? 6 Ks in 30PAs... that's 20%. That's better!

Kieboom has started 7 games at 3B (Cabrera has started 5) and played twice as many inning there. All indications are as expected - Kieboom is your starter. We'll look back in another two weeks or so but don't expect it to change unless Carter strikes out 20 times in his next 30 PAs.


The other thing you might be interested in is 5th starter and Joe Ross , Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth have all looked ok.  An honest assessment of just the stats would put Voth ahead with his pinpoint control and Ross' lack of Ks, but again it's Spring and an honest assessment of the stats is like 40% of what's going on here. You might be able to pick out someone having issues (oh darn Barrett! oh no Doolittle! oh really no Hudson!) but two weeks in even those are just things to stick a pin in not to worry about. So far nothing about the 5th starter battle seems to be crazy good or crazy bad so you have to say that favors the incumbent, Joe Ross.


What to look for this week :
  • Does Harris pitch a real game?  
  • Let's see Strasburg back on the mound (terrible first outing, then a skipped start - pitching simulation)   
  • Let's see Robles back in CF full-time for several games. 

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Best Nats Pen ever?

The Nats have a history of putting together flawed bullpen. Sometimes they feel like they lack that shutdown arm, other times it's an important piece that's been overlooked, sometimes it's a 4-7 that seems more suited for a non-contender. But this year the Nats appear to have a solid bullpen to start the season. Nationals World Series hero Sean Doolittle in the closer spot has been backed by Nationals World Series hero Will Harris in the set-up role, and Nationals World Series Hero Daniel Hudson will cover other important at bats and innings. These are three relievers who were solid contributors last year and Doolittle and Harris were among the best in the game in recent years.

But is that good enough?  One way to try to figure that out is comparing it with other Nats pens of the past and seeing how those pens were structured and ended up

I took a look at the Opening Day bullpens** for the Nats from 2013 on* and here are the pens in a nutshell

2013 : Strengthening a strength: This is a pen that came about when a tired Storen ran into fate and the Nats faltered in the 2012 NLDS. Boras convinced the Lerners that they needed Soriano. This gave the Nats in theory a fantastic 1-3  and what looked like a solid pen overall with 2012 plus pitchers Stammen, Mattheus and Duke and a live arm in HROD

Result : Middling. The big thing was Storen having a mental breakdown at being replaced effectively screwing with the back-end of the pen. Mattheus had been effective but lucky, and stopped being lucky. Duke had a fluky bad start and was dropped and H-Rod didn't develop.


2014 : SaS Redux: With everyone still under contract the Nats did it again with Detwiler replacing Duke and unknown Barret replacing HROD.  Blevins came in to be a lefty specialist. There was a little more concern this season mainly because trying again with Storen seemed like more of a gamble. But it was again pretty solid top to bottom.

Result : They were great. Storen screwed his head back on and performed. Soriano faded at the end but was good far longer than not. Only Blevins disappointed.


2015 : Experience? We don't need no stinking experience:  Soriano walked, Detwiler was cast away, and the Nats traded Clippard for a needed part and Blevins for spite leaving them way short on innings. They brought in a veteran arm in Matt Thorton to help and hoped a transitioned Roark would shore it up along with newcomers Treinen, Janssen, and Xavier Cedeno.

Results : Bad at first but eventually. Janssen was terrible, Storen wasn't lights-out, Barrett broke, Xavier Cedeno failed, and Roark never gelled. But the Nats found a piece, Felipe Rivero, who did well and eventually added Papelbon who stabilized the bullpen, though not the clubhouse, at years end.


2016 :  We choose you Papelbon : The Nats were stuck with two relievers they didn't want in Papelbon and Storen and got rid of the latter. Only Treinen and Rivero survived as the overhaul included a bunch of solid but unspectacular names Matt Belisle, Yusmiero Petit, Oliver Perez and the best of the lot Shawn Kelley.

Results : Great! Even with Papelbon crapping out, Rivero being off, and Perez and Petit not contributing much Dusty worked the pen like a master, leaning on the guys that did work (Treinen and Kelley) and some young arms like Sammy Solis. Trading Rivero for Melancon in the end worked great honestly. Impressive job without impressive talent.


2017 :  Make chicken salad again Dusty : The Nats did add Joe Blanton late in the spring but otherwise were leaning on Kelley to lead a group with little experience (Treinen, Solis, Glover and Enny Romero, who replacied Belisle and Petit) or who did poorly the year before Ollie Perez. It was a bad set-up

Results : Pretty bad. Basically Rizzo would go 0-fer in the bullpen and they'd have to cobble together something workable from trades (Doolittle/Madson, Kintzler), free agents (Albers), and some young guys (Grace).


2018 : Don't peek behind the curtain : The Nats would keep Doolittle Madson and Kintzler giving them inarguably the best Top 3 going into a season since 2012... and that was it.  Treinen was gone, part of the deal for Doo & Mad. Kelley would still be around but was broken and bad in 2017. The rest repeated the issues of 2017 with Solis, Grace, and Romero leading the no experience brigade with newcomer Gott, as Perez left. It was extremely top heavy

Results : Average. Some thing worked, some didn't with Madson's failure being most important setting off a chain reaction of digging into that soft underbelly. The Nats would find Justin Miller and Wander Suero to eat innings and help not completely waste Doolittle's great year. But eventually would cut bait with effective arms in Kintzler and Kelley in an angry mid-season panic leaving a mess behind.


2019 : One and done : The Nats set up a nearly all new bullpen keeping only Doolittle from the previous Opening Day.  By Gott, Solis, Romero! Grace and Suero would make it, along with Justin Miller to fill out the back end of the pen. Tony Sipp would be thrown in there too and honestly it wasn't a terrible mix. But to make up for the loss of the 7-8 guys the Nats threw their lot in with Kyle Barraclough, who was bad in the previous year, and Trevor Rosenthal who was hurt.

Results : The completely untrustworthy back-end imploded fast repeating the chain reaction from 2018 only worse. The rest of the pen was ok, but not good enough to cover for that, leading to the throw at the wall see what stick plan for the rest of the season. What stuck for a while was Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey but really only Daniel Hudson stood out and when push came to shove the Nats went to a two-man pen to make the magic work.


What did we learn? Well I'd say that depth is probably the most important. You need guys in every position that are passable even if they aren't the best. Injuries and failures happen, but so do found pieces every year so you can cover some spots, you just can't cover a lot of spots and that's what happens if you lack depth. Also you can't effectively cover for back-end issues well so really you have to do your best getting those Top 3 in and set and hope for the best. 

In 2019 I'd say they did an ok job with that Top 3. Remember Doolittle's 2019 wasn't great and Hudsons was a little fluky.  It's strong (assuming Harris is ok) but I'd like 2013s or 2018s group better. The rest of the pen - Rainey, Suero, Elias likely and ?.  That's pretty dicey and looks a lot like the pens they've been having since 2018 where the rest of the pen is just a wing and a prayer. Maybe this is the year it works out but with the Top 3 having now three injury concerns, (Hudson's history, Doolittle's history and 2019, Harris being hurt now) I'm concerned. Not a terrible pen but a couple solid vet pen arms you could probably have cheap would have made it a good one.

Coming In to a Season
Best Top 3 : 2013 probably. Soriano, Storen, Clippard should have been dominant. Then the Doo, Mad, Kintzler group, then this years.

Worst Top 3 : No doubt 2017's  attempt with Treinen, Kelley, and Glover.  Doolittle saves last year's group.

Best Pen : 2013 probably, though I'll listen to arguments for 2016 given Papelbon should have been better, most everyone in it was good in 2015, and the couple that weren't had recent history of being good. I think the better Top 3 gives 2013 the edge though.

Worst Pen : 2017 without a doubt. 2019 was set-up to fail but had a great closer and a reasonable 4-7.  2017 had nothing.  YOU KILLED DUSTY DAMMIT. 



*I don't consider 2012 a planned competitive season

** Big thanks to Federal Baseball for making these things a cinch to find

Friday, February 28, 2020

Will Harris be healthy?

The Nats have put together a pretty impressive pen, or at least on paper. Sean Doolittle has been a very good pitcher out of the pen for years. Same with Will Harris. Sitting in the 7th inning spot Daniel Hudson was a key pitcher for the Nats last year and may have found himself. Roenis Elias seemed to have made the transition to reliever just fine (though with an odd split) and should be a decent middle inning pitcher if healthy. Tanner Rainey showed promise in flashes last year. Wander Suero is a decent innings filler in the last man in the pen role. To me that fills 6 of your 7 bullpen roles just fine. Yeah, ideally you'd like someone more lights out in 8/9 but those aren't easy to come by.

Compare to last year - Doolittle was in the same position, but Rosenthal was an huge question mark at 8th, Miller/Barraclough ok 7th/middle inning impt out guys you'd think. Sipp a pretty solid lefty. Grace and Suero both innings eaters which means one would be asked to do to much. That's not a bad pen on theory but by putting the question mark all the way up at set-up and not having an plus pitcher for the role anywhere else you put all the pressure on Rosenthal. He fails and the system breaks down. He failed. Also there wasn't a young arm with promise here to pin some hopes on. Bullpens have variability (see Barraclough also failing). Which is why you want to lock down as many places as possible and ideally have a bunch of 7th/impt out guys to try out to see if someone ascends or can at least fill a great role if the closer or set-up guy go down.  Someone WILL get hurt. Praying it's not at Top 3/4 bullpen guy isn't a plan.

I'd say the current pen missing that one piece inbetween Hudson and Elias*. Strickland is nominally it but stinks. Ryne Harper could be it, but then again could not be. Finnegan? Someone else? A lefty specialist would be nice but the rules make the usefulness of such a player unclear going forward. It's a hole but a hole that shouldn't be a big deal if everyone is healthy.

Everyone is not healthy. Will Harris is hurt! And if he's out and everything shifts then well... Hudson, even though he managed it last year, is an iffy set-up. Elias/Rainey iffy that both can fit the 7th inning / main middle innings firefighter guys. Suero iffy that he can have a bigger role than innings eater. And then TWO holes at the back end that is much harder to work around than last year. It's a lot like how the Nats pen ended up last year after Rosenthal failed.

Now in theory I like this years pen better. Sure it's missing a 7th/impt out guy in that bunch but Hudson is a pretty solid choice to lead that group. Rainey is probably the best young arm the Nats have had in a pen since Glover and Treinen were there in 2017.** There's more cushion here I think for things to not collapse. But there's also that caveat... if there's another Barraclough type unexpected failure you have chaos. Harris goes out and Hudson underperforms and there's big trouble. Of course saying if your 2nd and 3rd most important relievers go out it's bad isn't news but some teams can handle that better than other. Their pen is deep in solid arms. Their organization has some interesting AAA guys to try out. The Nats aren't that team. They need Harris back. If he doesn't come back then they NEED everything else to work out in the late innings of the pen.





*If I were building a pen I think the reasonable ideal would be - lights out closer, good set-up, 3 other good pitchers to fill 7th/impt out roles, one young arm with promise, one decent long relief arm 

**best doesn't mean it will work out.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monday Quickie - Baseball is back!

And with it the uselessness of Spring Training as anything other than a marker to start the countdown to the regular season.  Oh there are position battles (usually the last few spots and up for constant change during the year), new guys introduced, old guys trying to get back to old form saying they are in the best shape of their lives, and of course Ryan Zimmerman not playing. With Ryan, who spent 2018 hiding from the press with a foot injury to triumphantly appear for Opening Day, only to aggravate said injury and quickly spend 2 1/2 months on the DL, every Spring is an adventure and you shouldn't believe anything you hear about him.  Strasburg and Corbin just resting? Believe it until given reason otherwise. "Noted Spring Training Hater" Zimmerman will play when he feels like it? Doubt it as much as you doubt anything.

For this Spring really you want to see what Kieboom does and really unless he's god awful he's going to start with the team. Otherwise remember Spring Training stats are meaningless. Don't make me drag out the numbers for the last 15 years to prove it. Like Fedde didn't look good.  Doesn't matter we have no idea what his actual goals were for that outing other than it wasn't "get the other team out at all costs we need to win this game" which is what it is come April.

The Nats/Astros affair went off mostly without a hitch, the rivalry that might have been superceded by the Astros being dirty dirty cheaters. Dusty is back and we all somehow wish him well while wishing the Astros nothing but defeat.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Snow Day Friday

Hard to watch kids and work and blog so talk about this Mets thing

It goes along with something I was twittering about yesterday, how 2019 Rendon is a HUGE loss and the idea that the Nats can make that up is close to wishful thinking. He was better than Soto at the plate last year (I was having a discussion on whether it was slightly or significantly better) and of course, if you use the idea of 3 years of data, much better in the field. Even if Soto takes his place with a step forward offensively (not crazy given his age and progression so far which is great because we're talking about MVP levels) he won't replace the fielding and oh yeah - who fills that spot Soto just left?

The general answer is - well Kieboom/Cabrera will be good and the bullpen will be better and the Nats won't be as unlucky as last year, which possibly, probably (it could hardly not be), and actually the Nats had pretty even luck for the season as a whole.

This, of course, doesn't mean the Nats are bad and won't make the playoffs. They are good.  They'll be a game or two worse if all goes as planned. That's good enough to make the playoffs as is and if they get some good luck (or no other NL East team gets good luck) they could take the division. But still the possibility of a stalled offense around a constantly walked Soto isn't out of the question.

But back to the Mets. Why do the Mets rate favorably? Same reason past Nats teams have - projections are conservative when it comes to injuries so if you set up an injury prone but talented team you'll tend to get a pretty nice projection. If the Mets can stay healthy that rotation is a beast - better than the Nats 1-5 (though not as good 1-3) and the offense is fine. Basically healthy they are of similar talent to the Nats. Unfortunately starting pitching health is tough to bet on and the Mets have only made it work one year in this window (where as the Nats with more reliable SP has pretty much only had side issues most years).  So can the Mets win? Yep. Will they? That's up to the injury gods. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

What to do about the Astros?

I haven't really addressed it here but if you only get your news from Natsbaseball (good choice I'll add) then the Astros are cheaters! No need to link anything but the problem isn't going away despite that being the initial goal of major league baseball. Do an investigation, punish a few people that were in management roles at the time, and move on. Fans would be upset, but let's face it they are going to be upset regardless. The end.

But it wasn't because other players were really pissed off at the lack of player punishment and the seeming shrug of shoulders at what the league could do about what already happened.

I think though the problem wasn't the punishment but the messaging. In terms of the punishment - what can major league baseball can do?  Here are some of my thoughts...

Vacate the 2017 World Series title - Man, I hate when the NCAA does this. Even though it makes sense in a way "You wouldn't have won if you didn't do this wrong thing" it still feels like trying to deny what we saw. The Astros won and vacating just changes the story to "that's dumb - we can't pretend it didn't happen". The focus should remain on the cheating. 

Alternative - Note everywhere the Astros cheated.  Any sort of official write-up of the history of baseball will note that the Astros were later punished for cheating during this time frame.

Alternative - Don't let the Astros celebrate the title. Allow no official team sponsored celebratory event. Banners come down. Decorations packed up. No merch related to it. No bobbleheads or anniversary special nights or anything. It's nothing to celebrate. It's something to be ashamed of. 


Ban the Astros from playing in the playoffs for X years - this is tough because it could change the nature of competition. If the Astros can't play in the playoffs all of a sudden they have no impetus to win. Things like "not signing free agents" or "looking for trades" would ultimately be spread among the other 29 teams as they decide to try to benefit, but the end product, a garbage Houston Astros team, would create unequal benefit. The AL West teams would be more likely to get more wins out of it, leading to an imbalance in chance to make the playoffs or get home field.  It could be said this is fine. It makes up for the fact they were hurt by the Astros cheating more than other teams. However, two wrongs don't make a right. MLB can't be in the business of creating winners and losers.

Alternative - Astros get no money from post-season appearances - whatever the TV split is or the revenue from games, the Astros have to give that to some charity somewhere.  Sure it could have the same effect but try selling that to your fanbase. "We aren't winning because we can't make the extra money that comes with it"


Suspend the players involved for X games  - talk about a can of worms. Who gets suspended and for how long? Everyone on the 2017 team, or 2017-2019?  Pitchers as well as hitters? What about guys who got called up and played like a game? What about guys who got traded?  On an extreme end you could have a minor league pitcher traded to the Astros in late 2018, a season they weren't officially pegged as cheaters in, called up for a game, traded away in the off-season suspended for multiple games. That seems completely unfair. Oh - "he knew about it"?  Sure. But apparently probably less than like the majority of other major league players. Why does he get punished when say some Mariner who heard about it from his friend on the Astros in 2017 played against them 57 times noting the cheating to his teammates, but not the league, gets off?

Not to mention we're punishing other teams who may have picked up Astros. You want Will Harris suspended for 30 games? What happens to their contract money? They still get paid for not playing as they normally would? So now teams are paying twice for the Astros cheating?

Alternative - all Astros in 2017 play for the minimum in 2020, difference in salary goes to same place fines go - Take the money. Almost all you can do is take the money. That's what it comes down to. This way teams that signed guys don't get punished (unless these guys are real jerks and stop trying because they aren't getting paid millions) but they also don't get some sort of competitive balance advantage. I'm sure you'd agree the Yankees don't need an extra few tens of millions of found money to spend.


To get back to the messaging, all this could have been conveyed originally. "We want to punish the team and the players with suspensions but we see no way of doing that without disturbing the competitive balance in the league and hurting other, uninvolved teams, in the process." Make everyone understand this was a goal but an unobtainable one.

Of course they didn't do this in part because that never was a goal and it's clear. The goal was to make it go away as quickly as possible. People are going hard after Manfred but Manfred is little more than the mouthpiece of owners. The question is why do the owners want it to go away as soon as possible. The answer, like always, is probably money. Make it a big deal and maybe people turn away from the game. Have it go away quickly and the money train keeps rolling. At least that's my guess.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday Quickie - Other Kiebooms

The Nats Carter Kieboom is going to be an important piece in the Nats plans and a good year by him would go quite a ways to covering for the loss of Rendon. You can imagine in your head a break out year by Carter leading to an easy Nats division title. But every team has their Kiebooms and how they do could also throw the balance of the NL East.


Braves

The Braves are in "this is when the plan comes together" time. Last year it took them to a division title (and another early round exit). This year it could take them even further as the minor league cupboard is far from bare. Specifically the Braves have two guys, Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson, looking to make the OD rotation, and one other, Ian Anderson who is looking to come up later in the year that's arguably better than both of them.  A breakout starter is worth his weight in gold and because a rotation is five deep there isn't much standing in the way of these guys sticking if they deserve it.

(They also have two top OF propects that could play in 2020 but with Ozuna, Acuna, and Inciarte backed up by Markakis and Duvall they don't feel the need to rush them and their impact this year should be muted call-up impact. Keep the name Cristian Pache in the back of your head if there are some OF injuries. Think Robles - a little less speed a little more power. Now imagine Robles actually clicked right away like you hoped he would. It could happen!)


Mets

Andres Gimenez is the player that could fit the bill of a Kieboom but that's a stretch. He doesn't have a place right now given there's a perfectly competent young SS in Amed Rosario in front of him, the bat of Jeff McNeil at 3b, and the contract of Robinson Cano at 2b. Gimenez also had a pretty poor 2019 lacking the doubles power he showed in 2018. Normally this type of player wouldn't even register here. However he may be pushed because the Mets have a new SS they like better in Ronny Mauricio coming up behind him. They might as well see what they have in Gimenez to evaluate him for trade purposes. Also Cano was bad and he's old so maybe he'll crash out.  The combination of those two forces could mean a fair amount of Gimenez playing time. The chances are slim but but if a couple disparate things comes together this fringy 100 prospect might make a differece.


Phillies 

Bryce mentioned not wanting to give up Alec Bohm for Kris Bryant and if you look at this guys rise you can see wise. He's not as good as say a Rendon or a Zimm - certainly not in the field where he could be moved - but you could argue he's better at the plate than Kieboom. He's a beast who doesn't miss the ball (very low K rate) and has real power when he hits it. If they can find a place for him there's real breakout potential here. The same can be said for SP prospect Spencer Howard who looked just as good in AA as rookie ball coming back from injury.  He's projected to have top of the rotation stuff... if he can stay healthy.  He's a little less likely to impact 2020 because he'll probably be on an innings limit, but I can see the Phillies pulling something like a very slow start to the year - maybe starting once a week, then coming in for May on to try to maximize his impact on this season for a rotation that sorely needs an impact arm.



Kieboom is probably the most likely player to have an impact. He's the consistently highest ranked and he has the spot laid out for him. After that I'd say a Brave pitcher, though it's hard to bet on a single choice. Bohm should come in third here, above the chance of a 2nd Braves pitcher.  It's that depth of the Braves minors that makes them scary and while they project a little low in their win totals, they should be able to counter the inevitable injuries better than any other NL East team. That's why they remain the Nats main threat - best other team in NL East with the most security.  The Phillies probably aren't even as good as the Mets but there are several players on the team that could have big jumps in 2020 and then these two who could have impact.  The Mets might be the 3rd best team in the East but they are a what you see is what you get squad. Pitching injuries would decimate them but line-up injuries too would be hard to overcome. It's a team with a razor thin margin for error and if you bet on chaos you could do worse than bet on the Mets doing terribly 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Friday Quickie?

It's been a while and I don't even have a good excuse like vacation or something. I mean I do have a baby but it's not like a NEW baby and I powered through that in the playoffs. And yes I'm away for work which is actually surprisingly harder to find free time but still I'm just getting to old for this blogging world, time to shuffle off to Facebook or something...

Eh ok I'll give it another year. 

We're at pitchers and catchers now which is great but when you win a Championship... I don't want to say you don't want the next season to start but the next season means you have to defend the championship and you realize you likely won't and can't we just give out rings (4/4) and raise a banner (4/2) then have another parade and a month of realizing we are champions?

The Nats come into Spring with one real question - will Carter Kieboom start at 3rd or not? If not, it will presumably be Asdrubal Cabrera but really if not, what does that mean for Kieboom long term? Are there bullpen battles? 5th starter battles? Last man on bench battles? Yep yep yep. But these are things every team faces every year. It's this question - what is Carter Kieboom for 2020 and beyond - that is THE question of spring.

Why should the Nats start Cabrera? He's been an above average hitter every year since 2015... ok every year but  last year but last year he was great for the Nats. His fielding has dropped off but as that has happened he's shifted around the diamond and 3B seems like a decent fit for the 34 year old Asdrubal. In short, he's likely to be a good major league player. That can't be said of Carter Kieboom, who's trial in 2019 was terrible - hitting under .200 while striking out 40% of the time and having only 2 XBH.

Why should the Nats start Kieboom? There's little for him to get out of AAA. He played 109 games there last year and hit .303 / .409 / .493.  That's good enough to warrant a full trial. For all that Cabrera brings, he doesn't bring it beyond 2020. He's only signed through this season and Kieboom is set up to be the future at some point.  Why not give him this year, a post championship "Who really cares if we win*" year, to figure things out?

We have too little about Kieboom to speculate as outsiders. We have to watch him in Spring, like the Nats will, and see what he does. Twist my arm and I'll say he starts in AAA because he can.

Back to MWF next week until the daily work of the regular season because that's what we do here.

*You'll be surprised how much you do care come October.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Quick NL East feelings

The off-season is now pretty much over. There are potential trades left. Mookie Betts is a forgone conclusion at this point, but isn't going to anywhere in the NL East.  Kris Bryant is less likely, and given he's not a FA after this season after losing his grievance case, most people think the Cubs will sit on a high price no one will meet this off-season, compete this year, and trade him next possibly as part of a mini-tear down.

That leaves the NL East pretty much set now and I have opinions on the teams going into next season

Quick takes :

Braves - Should have went for it, but instead testing out SP. I get it but still, when the doors open to take the division, take it

Nationals - Ditto, but instead of testing out SP, being the Nats with smart moves to build a playoff competitor. Could have passed Braves, chose not to. But hey - Champs!

Mets - Continue to frustrate fans by trying to do a Nationals without the Nationals talent or health history. It can work (see 2015) but it's an uphill battle for them in this divison

Phillies - I don't get it. Clearly looking for a bounce back seasons. From the offense that's understandable. From the pitching that's confusing and should fail.

Marlins - Get too much flack probably but sorry Jeter. Team hasn't had a history of ownership doing what they should so despite things coming along you'll have to lump it (then prove you will do what you should when it's tim)


Atlanta Braves - Gambling on Youth.

Josh Donaldson is a Twin. Julio Teheran is an Angel. Dallas Keuchel is a White Sock. Brian McCann is retired. Jerry Blevins is a Giant. Josh Tomlin, Anthony Swarzak are still looking. Most of these guys weren't particularly good, but none were bad and they ate up a lot of innings and at bats for the Braves.  They were replaced with a different set of veterans, Cole Hamels, Will Smith, Marcell Ozuna, but really what the Braves are doing is gambling that youth will step up.

Primarily how the youth does will matter in the rotation where nearly 300 IP of 120+ ERA are gone. They have a half-dozen legit prospects or guys with good AAA stats to throw out there but the last jump can be the hardest and they have to contend with possible dropping off of other starters (look at Folty 2018 to 2019).  But it's also true that they are looking for someone to join Freeman as a star bat.  Acuna was just off that last year, a little too impatient, a little too much all or nothing. Will it be him? Albies? Riley? Dansby or Carmago pulling a Ian Desmond? The Braves should be good next year and their off-season plan understood they could probably give all these guys chances and still stay in the division hunt. But rather than go big and run and hide from the NL East they let themselves likely slip back into the pack.


Washington Nationals - Keeping on keeping on

The Nats spent the past 8 seasons putting together good teams, 90 type win teams, and seeing the season play out figuring getting to the playoffs is all that can be promised. For 7 seasons that led to heartbreak but in the 8th quantity finally paid off.  How did they respond to finally getting a run of luck? By doing nothing different. They made the sensible decision to keep Strasburg while letting Rendon go. They picked up a fair number of decent RP to cover the terribleness of last year, and a fair number of decent vet MIs to try to luck into someone having a career year while maintaining a good shot of nothing terrible happening.

The Nats have always been a team lead by their starting pitching and keeping Strasburg allows the Nats to once again have perhaps the best 1-2-3 in baseball. As long as they stay healthy that's enough to be in the playoff mix.  There's a sense that the offense has to take a step back but it's hard to see a massive drop off from the team. The biggest question may be health. There are some age questions here - Suzuki, Kendrick, Sanchez 36, Max, Zimm, acquired Will Harris 35 and the starters and key relievers got pushed extra hard last year. But the Nats are not in the same position as other years. If things fall apart this year and they have to rebuild it's ok. They won. Much like the Braves they could have went big and go for a second title, but instead they are content to be in it and see what happens and this plan let's them reasonably do that.


New York Mets -  In for a penny

The Mets can't ever really commit. Every off-season they seem to make one or two moves that portend a larger one but the larger one never comes. This off-season was no different. They loaded up on SP options, bringing in Porcello, Wacha to go along with the guys they have (DeGrom, Thor, Matz) and the late season acquired Stroman.  They tried again to fix the pen bringing in Betances. But there wasn't the corresponding offensive move. There's a chance that the Braves and Nats both take half-steps back to meet the Mets half-step forward but you have to wonder why they didn't take a full-step forward and really make themselves a contender.

Perhaps it's because ultimately the Mets season depends on starting pitching health which is a hard thing to depend on especially when your track record isn't great. So now the Mets hopes depend on two gambles. The first being the SP is healthy, which they tried to cover for a little with depth. The second is that something clicks in an offense that is just a little lacking and is just a likely to take a step back after some career seasons than another step forward.


Philadelphia Phillies - It's gotta be the manager

I don't know what the Phillies are doing. Offensively you can squint and see what they see. It was an offense built for 2019 that had the wheels come off for reasons we don't really understand. Across the board hitters like Realmuto, Hoskins, Bryce, Segura, Bruce were at least a half-step worse than they should have been for no explainable reason. So add another good bat in Gregorious change the manager and coaching staff and try again. This shouldn't be a middling offense and we should see improvement just by change in 2020 and there could be a big jump.

But the pitching, last year you could look at the rotation and based on the line-up justify it by saying you were trying to see what you had in mid20s+ guys like Eflin, Velasquez, Pivetta, Eickhoff, and you'd make adjustments in the off-season if necessary. Well the season showed that they didn't have much with these guys. It's likely one or maybe two would be back of the rotation filler (likely Eflin) but the rest were replaceable.  You also saw an Arrieta aging before your eyes.  The Phillies really needed a second ace or two reliable 2-3 starters to go along with Nola who they hoped to rebound. They got Wheeler the off-seasons cheap "maybe he'll be an ace" option and nothing else. So now the Phillies have to have everything go right starting pitching wise. Nola or Wheeler have to be an ace and the other one a worthy companion. Arrieta or Eflin has to be a good #3. Two of the others have to be decent filler. It's a stretch and it's more likely that even if the offense improves as is likely they'll be a big bat no pitch team trying to bash their way into the playoffs. That may work in other divisions but the NL East has three teams with better plans.


Miami Marlins - Quietly amassing pitching and guys to trade for pitching

The Marlins aren't winning in 2020, or 2021 for that matter. So the middling signings they made make sense. If a Dickerson or Cervelli or Joyce or Kintzler break out they deal them and get something back to add to the system.  Meanwhile Sandy Alcantara is joined by three other pitchers 24 or younger to see if they can uncover a gem, while better shots like Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera start to appear. Depending on the Nats health and the Braves development they could have a top rotation in the NL East come 2022/2023.

Of course that's only half the game and while they have a lot of guys in the pipeline the current offensive prospects haven't quite worked out. They hope Alfaro develops beyond a usable catcher, which is something but not a cornerstone. Brinson is a washout. Isan Diaz's tryout went poorly. Someone will develop out of the guys they have but they are only adding to the likes of Alfaro and Brian Anderson which leaves a lot of holes and no stars. Come 2022/2023 the question will be if the Marlins pay out for the bats they need to take the next step. Just two years ago they had the offense set with Stanton, Realmuto, Yelich, Ozuna, but realized they had no pitching and bailed on the team rather than pay out. To prove anything is different they'll have to buy in when it's time. But that's for a later.  2020 will just to be seeing if they can finish 4th over whichever NL East team has the worst luck. 

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Harper on the Nats!

Roll call news

The Nats brought back Emilio Bonifacio.  No shame if you don't remember his first time in DC. It was over a decade ago, short (41 games) and unremarkable. Bonifacio is organizational depth only.  He was last a usable major league player WAY back in 2014. Since then he's dropped out of the major and filled only AAA roles. Chances of him getting a million dollar salary to play in the majors are exceedingly slim. Nothing to see here.


The Nats trade for Ryne Harper. Ryne Harper... is not bad. He worked his way up through the ATL minors as a "this guys seems pretty good - oh he's how old? Not interested" guy.  He eventually got pushed to Seattle who dumped him after a mediocre trial in AAA for them.  Minnesota picked him up and he kept on being pretty good, got into the majors and was still pretty good.  Thing is - teams like their upside in the bullpen. They'd rather have 4 arms where 3 could be terrible, if one could turn into a stud, than one meh arm.  Ryne is a meh arm. He gives up too many hits, too many homers, and doesn't strike out enough to be an impact arm. He's also getting up in age meaning you can't really rely on that meh (see: Barraclough, Kyle). But he showed decent control and he doesn't give up too many hits, homers, or strike out too few to be usable and if you are to try to guess a decent 50 IP is probable and there isn't anything wrong with that. 

Who'd they give up? Hunter McMahon, who if you look at the stats might worry you. A 0.71 ERA, 1.4 BB/9, 12.8 K/9?!?  But Hunter was an older rookie league and low A player and pitched all of 12 innings last year (he was drafted last year too) meaning one bad outing and he's a 3.00 ERA guy with more reasonable numbers.  He's the type that came in with no hype so isn't on even the Nats internal top prospects lists, not even as a guy to keep an eye on. But he is a guy that probably would be on there somewhere with a good 2020 in A and A+ ball. But still that's a NATS top prospect list not an overall one. He's not passing Cronin and a number of failed starters with just a good 2020.*

 For people excited about the Ryne pick-up or thinking Bonifacio will make a great AAA vet to have around, the Mets signed Eduardo Nunez, Rene Rivera, and Erasmo Ramirez.  So what? Exactly.  Now you know how other teams fans view these Nats moves. 


The Astros sign Dusty to manage.  Good for him.  I hope he doesn't get his ring because that would mean the Yankees didn't make the series but I hope that he does well and if he does well isn't immediately replaced. He's proven himself more than a capable manager leaving the questions about starter usage back over 15 years ago and several managerial stops. Any team looking to make the playoffs should be fighting over this guy and it's a shame that untested nothings get first crack nowadays. Go get them, Dusty.


 *Of course given the Nats luck with RP say hello to the 2021 AL ROY.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monday Quickie : Ozuna talk

Ozuna was signed by the Braves last week. Nats fans remember Ozuna from the NLCS, where like every Cardinal, he was embarrassingly bad at the plate*, and like some Cardinals, embarrassingly bad in the field. But that's not Ozuna. The question is who IS Ozuna.

For most the question is settled. He's an above average bat and a decent fielder. Solid power, little patience, enough skill to be a decent baserunner when he puts his mind to it. This has been a fair genearal description of Ozuna over the past few years. But what to make of 2017? Ozuna hit .312 that year and got some MVP votes. Was that just a fluke?

I think it kind of was but he might be able to repeat it.  If you look at Ozuna's fancy stats he was remarkably consistent as a Marlin in the type of hits he got (LD/FB/GB), where he hit them (PULL/CF/OPPO) and how hard he hit them. What changed in 2017 was some BABIP luck and a bunch of homers going over the fence. The former took a dip in St. Louis, first back to normal and then what appears to be oddly low. But Ozuna became a straight pull hitter in St. Louis, so even though he was hitting the ball a lot harder, he could have been shifted out of several hits. There is thought that this change was because of his shoulder injury though, and a rehabbed and healthy Ozuna could go back to his old ways.

This sets up a scenario where Ozuna goes back to his all fields hitting and the ball remains juiced and the Braves have indeed found a fringy MVP candidate. I suppose it's possible. But it's going to take both some work and some luck for this to happen.

What's more likely is a little less pulling and little better BABIP luck and an average closer to the .270 range.  If the ball remains juiced he's still the type of player that can take advantage of that and 30+ homers remains a possibility for a full season. If not, 20+.  Not a bad player, but only a touch better than Markakis, who'd you'd expect to hit in the .280s but with less power, who'd he'd be replacing.

There's talent there for it to all come together and him to actually replace Donaldson in a meaningful way. There's history there to suggest it can happen too. That would be bad as the Braves have an edge on the Nats and a surprise MVP would likely seal the division for them. But there is more history and a more recent look at performance that both suggest that's a reach. Ozuna should help the Braves but it shouldn't be enough to put them out of reach.



Zimm is back! Healthy Zimm should hit. Is he healthy? Probably not! But it's good to have him back for a curtain call season.

*Except for you Jose Martinez!