Nationals Baseball: Unwritten Rule : The Nats pen will be a shambles

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Unwritten Rule : The Nats pen will be a shambles

 In the standings the Nats went from 2 down to 4 down in the blink of eye as Daniel Hudson imploded in the 9th. That's not a terribly big deal but they also went from 2 under .500 to 4 under .500 which matters more if you want to see Washington playing in October. My feeling is you do, but if they don't make it you'll say you don't care. It won't be true but it will be more true than any other year if that makes sense. 

Even with Soto hitting like an MVP immediately the Nats aren't able to generate a ton of offense. The starters are not carrying the team, and as we noted the bullpen is a mess.  Doolittle and Hudson were ridden hard at the end of last year as the only arms to be trusted and they are showing some of that wear now. Will Harris - also ridden hard but for abother team, has the same issue. It leaves the Nats with a real hole at the back end of games which is familiar in a way you don't want it to be.  

The Nats have played about 3 weeks worth of games so you can't definitively say anything, but there's a lot of early indications the battle will be uphill.  Last year the Nats had Rendon and a trade deadline where they were contenders to help them out. No Rendon. Likely no trades (and I think everyone is ok with that). So this season may be a punt sooner than we think. In fact this Braves series could be a huge setback if there's a sweep against the Nats. 

What happens then?  Well maybe as early as after Labor Day the Nats pack it in.  Sit anyone with minor injuries. Give young guys a lot of ABs to see what they got.  It's a different type of season and at the end you could see them saying bye to a ton of older talent Sanchez, Eaton who have options, Doolittle, Kendrick, Suzuki, AsCab who are FAs. That doesn't actually save them a ton of money either given these are all relatively bargain vets. The Nats don't have middle sized contracts. They peak out with Eaton at 9.5 before getting the the 20+ millions for their starters. So this doesn't mean a big signing could be coming (unless you want to contemplate not re-signing Max after 2021) 

Anyway a lot of rambling to say - don't get swept here. Let's keep the season going.


Sammy Kent said...

The whole Nats pitching staff is a shambles. Wanna know how screwed up things are this year? Right now the guys pitching the best are -- ready for this -- the freaking middle relievers. Among the "stars" in our rotation only Corbin is close to meeting expectations...and still has an ERA of almost 4. Max is adequate, but nothing like the dominating flamethrower we've been spoiled by. Stras is hurt and wasn't pitching well anyway; Sanchez has had four bad starts. And look who's stepping up and being counted: Javy Guerra, Tanner Rainey, Sam Freeman. Sam Freeman??????

2020: the most memorable forgettable year EVER.

PotomacFan said...

@Sammy -- mercifully short -- and forgettable.

I don't see these Nats as reaching .500. Right now, they have the 3rd worst record in the NL. And there is nothing to indicate that they will turn it around. Soto is having a monster season, and the other hitters are doing as expected, and the Nats are still losing. You just can't replace Rendon (and Castro) and Zimmerman. The pitching is NOT going to get it done. I do think Max will get better, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Strasburg miss much of the season. In fact, the Nats might just shut him down. Fedde, Voth and Sanchez aren't getting it done -- and aren't going to get it done. Ross opted-out. I'm not counting on Finnegan, Freeman, Bacus (never heard of any of them), Guerra and Wander Suero to continue pitching well. Nice to see Rainey stepping up, but Doolittle might be a lost cause. Daniel Hudson throws strikes, but reversion to the mean says that some of those long fly balls from last years playoffs (in colder weather) are going to go over the fence in warmer August weather.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I'm feeling slightly less pessimistic, if for no other reason than the young guys. Garcia looks like the real deal (aside from some REALLY awkward looking swings when fooled), Soto is looking like he could vie for MVP against Tatis, Robles is turning it around (as is Turner). Only young guy that still looks like they're struggling is Kieboom, and most of that seems to be pitch recognition. He's making really good contact when he actually swings the bat.

Looking at the offense as a whole, the Nats aren't actually doing too poorly. Middle of the pack in runs despite playing fewer games than most, above average wRC+, low K rate.

The big issue, then, is the pitching. And the only glaring issue there is, unsurprisingly, the HR/FB rate. They're giving up too many longballs. BABIP gods also aren't being kind, but I bet a lot of that is tied to the fact that a HR is a ball in play.

The Nats record doesn't reflect their stats. They will turn it around and, if not for a ninth inning implosion two nights ago, we'd all feel a lot better about this team's chances. I think they'll make the expanded playoffs, though I wouldn't consider that a given in a normal year

JE34 said...

Well I guess it's a written rule now, Harper.

Sample sizes are still pretty small, but Hudson has laid 2 eggs in 9 appearances. I'm not panicking about him just yet... WHIP is still <1. Kyle Finnegan and Tanner Rainey have looked dominant, hitting their spots in high leverage situations. Bacus and Guerra have looked good, the former in only 4 games so way too early to tell if he can keep the ball out of the middle of the zone consistently.

Doolittle is clearly not right, Suero is the Suero we know, and Harris is a bit scary right now. In his 5 appearances in a Nats uniform, Harris has put at least two guys on every time. I watched his last two appearances with the sound off... he pitched into and out of trouble, but he really looked like his confidence was badly shaken. He was missing his spots a lot, leaving many pitches middle-up.

It's easy to get myopic about the Nats... but how are other teams' pens looking by comparison?

blovy8 said...

I agree JE34. I think it’s probably going to be the starters rather than the relievers that cost them. Someone like Crowe will need to give them several good starts. But even if they stay a game or two under .500, there’s no reason to panic since it just takes a hot week to get back into it. No one in the East looks all that scary, and even if one team gets hot enough to get separation, the odds are really against two teams doing it. If the Nats just get a little more from Thames and Eaton, they will have a very good offense. Castro going out hurts their depth, but seeing Suzuki DH shows that Davey is willing to leverage all his available guys. Assuming Garcia does not become the next Soto, I’m kind of worried about Howie. They can lose Castro, but it does leave them thin when the double headers crop up.

Anonymous said...

Well Mets now on hold. At this rate, the Nats are only going to play 45 games.

Anonymous said...

CP - a homer is not a ball in play and therefore doesn't count towards BABIP. So "lots of homers" cannot explain a high BABIP.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

@Anon - you are absolutely correct. That gives me even more reason for optimism then. But as other Anon said, the Nats are running out of time especially since there's likely no guarantee the Nats can get close to 60 games played