Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - A month in of sorts

Monday, August 24, 2020

Monday Quickie - A month in of sorts

The Nats have played 25 games now which is generally about the number they'd be at at the end of April and when we'd first really look into stats with the caveat that Memorial Day is the true time to dig in.  Of course the equivalent to Memorial Day is the last week of the season this year so there's little point in doing that so let's dig in now, unfair in some sense, but completely reasonable in a 60 game season that's now over 40% over. We'll do offense today


Soto is a beast a might win the MVP.  Despite missing a week he leads the team in homers,. He also leads them in BA, OBP, SLG and tied for the lead in walks. He's second in RBI (to Asdrubal), 3rd in doubles, 3rd in hits. 

He's unlikely to win a Triple Crown which is something I wondered about. Part of that is the vagaries of short season batting average - he'd be 2nd now in the NL but Blackmon is hitting .405 and any number of guys having a hot September could end up with a crazy high final average.  The other issue is the gap already between him and some leaders. Tatis has 12 homers and 29 RBI. Betts 11 and 24. Can Soto at 7 and 16 pass them? Given the rest of the team that RBI number might be particularly hard. 

In fact if he doesn't pass Tatis or Betts - that's probably going to be where the MVP ends up. Leader of best team in baseball, or leader of upstart playoff team, sounds better than leader of disappointing defending champion.

Turner has had a nice little bit of hitting the past week and is being a nice compliment to Soto and it seems real enough. It'd be great if he could solidfy that step up.

AsCab is doing as 2nd half of career AsCab does and Yan Gomes has provided a nice pick me up here and there which is nice as someone has to be the catcher in future years. 

That's the good news 

Luis Garcia has had a nice early start but has a unsustainable BABIP, a super low BB-rate, and no pop.  The first one will change meaning one of the latter two will have to as well to keep him looking good. 

 Josh Harrison has pretty much been what the Nats would have expected. One of those reliable, if not exciting, vet bats they seem to pick up every year. 

That's the neutral news.  Hmm a lot of players left to talk about. 

Suzuki - well catchers are hard because they really have more limited time at the plate, but he's looked as bad and Gomes has looked good. He's 36 and put a lot of work on those legs last year. He might be done and that's ok. 36 for a catcher is a good age to reach

Thames - hoped for 2018 Matt Adams, got 2019 Matt Adams

Kieboom - still working out the kinks, one hopes. Walks a bunch which is good, but K's a ton too.and no XBH! He didn't have impressive power in the minors but you wouldn't expect him to be a slap hitter. 

Speaking of striking out of ton - Hey Victor. It's almost to the point where if he didn't hit by pitches we'd have nothing to give.  Oh he's fast but the team is way off on stealing this year. Below 50% 

Eaton is done, I think. He flirted with it last year at time but he's generating no force and he can't leg out grounders any more.  

MAT... oh MAT.  We do love you though. 

Where did Howie's power go? Did AsCab steal it? 


Overall it's a team with more going wrong than right. Who has a very strong MVP candidate but an offense around him that isn't good overall. Early indications are mixed for the future. Robles doesn't look to be improving and Kieboom isn't getting it, but Turner may have another level at the plate and should maintain decent play, and Garcia could be another find.  Still that's a lot of slots to fill with hitters and only so many times you get lucky with your vet pick-ups. 

This year looks rough - a lot going forward will depend on Howie getting good and guys like Eaton and Robles getting not bad.  The other spots - Kieboom/Garcia/Harrison,  Gomes/Suzuki, whatever happens at 1B, you just take what you get.


Cautiously Pessimistic said...

This team has a pitch recognition problem. Always has. The only players in recent memory that have demonstrated really good discipline are the ones that are lights out offensively (Soto, Rendon, Harper, healthy Zimm). Which tells me that these players aren't being effectively coached. Pitch recognition isn't easy by any means, but when a full 2/3 of your lineup is consistently flailing at pitches and making weak contact, that seems like a coaching problem.

Now this may be biased and maybe all teams' fans could look at their teams and feel the same way, but players like Kieboom, Robles, Turner, and Garcia would have SO much more potential if they chose their pitches better and learned to shorten their swings on 2 strikes. But with "launch-angle Long", I don't know if that's in the cards.

Anonymous said...

pitch recognition is definitely a problem, and also definitely NOT coachable

JWLumley said...

I actually like the AB's Kieboom is putting together. It's a small sample size, but the Nats have drawn an inordinate number of bad umpire crews to start the season and Kieboom has perhaps been the most victimized by big strike zones. I also like Garcia, yes, he's gotten some BABIP help, but he's also hit the ball very hard at times and just needs to elevate a bit to turn some of those balls into XBH.

I agree on Eaton, he's done, stick a fork in him. The Giolito trade is by far the worst trade Rizzo has made. However, without Stras, this is a fairly mediocre team, if they're going to add, I'd much rather they added another starter and try to win games 2-1 because the offense just has too many holes to fill.

SM said...

I detect the prospect of a good barroom--or Oxford Union--debate on the near horizon:

Can pitch recognition be taught?

elchupinazo said...

The team is built around pitching and they just don't have any. Max's MAX days seem mostly behind him, Stras is out and Corbyn either hasn't gotten stretched out yet or just can't go deep. Voth is trash. Fedde looks ok.

When you're giving up 5-6 runs a game you'd need like a Dodgers type offense to overcome that and they don't have it (almost no team does).

I just need them to luck into the expanded playoffs and see what happens.

Sammy Kent said...

The question to me is not so much can pitch recognition be taught, but can it be LEARNED. I can teach people all day long how to do what I do for a living, but they have to learn it....and that comes only with hands on practical application. Is Launch Angle Long teaching these fellows the basics of pitch recognition? I honestly don't know, but with the exception of Soto the only guys that seem to have the ability to recognize a pitch before it reaches the plate are the savvy vets that learned to hit before they entered his tutelage--Eaton and Kendrick, the opt-outs and IL guys--Zim and Castro, and a few that aren't here any more--Rendon, LaRoche, Werth. The lone exception being, of course, Daniel Murphy, the horse Long has ridden to his esteemed reputation as a genius batting coach.

But until we get the starting pitching fixed, it don't matter anyway.

JE34 said...

Pitch recognition starts with something even more basic: situation recognition. Victor Robles - whom I desperately want to succeed, given all that talent - can be pretty brainless at the plate. Multiple times this year, he's faced a pitcher struggling with control... ducks on the pond, pitcher struggling to locate... and he will first-pitch-hack at a slider down and out of the zone.

I'm not going to hate on Kevin Long though. Howie Kendrick, who should never buy himself another beer in DC for the rest of his life, gives credit to Kevin Long for his success last year, especially after returning from a ruptured achilles. Kevin Long was a hitting coach for 3 world series teams (two wins) in 10 years. I doubt he is encouraging hitters to *not* shorten up with 2 strikes... but I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Agree w JE34. I maintain you can't teach pitch recognition. It happens way too fast, you either have that ability or not (on a sliding scale) but I'm not sure it can be improved beyond your innate ability. However, as JE34 says, situation recognition can certainly be learned. Or put another way, having a good "approach" at the plate, aka professional at bats. A lot of these guys like Robles just look they have no plan when they go up there, they're just flailing.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

Pitch recognition can absolutely be taught, but very few of my coaches ever did drills for it. I would hope at the pro level they do it more, but who knows. It boils down to, in BP, it's not just about mechanics. Hitting is as much about preparation/recognition as it is about execution, and most BP is purely execution. Preparation is what JE34 and Anon talk about with "approach". Recognition is taking that prior (e.g. this is a fastball count) and then updating based on new information (e.g. arm slot tells me this is actually a breaking ball).

One of the drills we constantly did in college during BP was to have 10 pitches thrown and the coach would ask how many were balls/strikes, how many were breaking balls, etc. That forces you to focus on recognizing the pitch as opposed to purely executing the swing.

So you can teach/learn pitch recognition, but from experience it absolutely is one of the hardest parts about the game, and it requires a lot of time/effort in the cage. You don't even need to swing the bat, just watch the pitches. Harper was known for spending hours in the cage doing just that, and he's got a pretty good command of the zone.

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