Nationals Baseball: January 2021

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

NL East - Where it stands

This is going to be a weird year. In part because COVID is going to impact at least the first half BUT also because we don't have a great idea on the quality of the teams, last year was only 60 games AND also because we don't know what the decreased (or completly missed) seasons will do for players.  Will they be rusty? Will they be rested? Will the old guys be too old to get back into the swing? Will the young guys feel the effect of missing necessary playing time? 

But we do what we can and what we can do it step back and look at the teams in the NL East, how they were the last two years and what they've done leading up to this year


2019: 97-65, 2020 : 35-25

Lost : Hamels, Melancon, Markakis, Ozuna, Greene, Flowers, Duvall, O'Day, Foltynewicz

Re-Signed : Tomlin

Signed : Smyly, Morton 

The Braves had a stupid deep pen last year so even though they lost three very good arms they still are probably ok there. The worst you can say is they introduced some chance of failure that wasn't there before. The rotation should be stronger (Hamels was just a one start rental, Folty a hit or miss 3-4-5 guy). Is the offense going to be an issue? Maybe. Ozuna was a beast last year and while Flowers wasn't great, he had a decent 2019 and you didn't feel too bad with him sneaking a game in there in relief for d'Arnaud. These losses could be made up by young guys stepping up : Riley, Albies, Pache but that's no guarantee. 

Better, Worse or Push : I'll say push, and I like worse more than better. 



2019: 93-69, 2020 : 26-34

Lost : MAT, As Cab, Doolittle, Eaton, Kendrick, Suzuki, Sanchez, Thames

Re-Signed :  Zimmerman

Signed/Traded for : Bell, Schwarber, Wellington Castillo, Lester, Hand

The prevailing thought is that Nats rotation gets a little better with Lester eating up innings and their relief group gets a lot better with Hand replacing Doolittle (sorry Doo - you weren't bad but he's very very good). I'm not sure I agree or at least there's still a lot of variability here - Stras' injury being number one, but also Max and Corbin's steps back and relying on Finnegan and Rainey who looked pretty good but also don't have a long record and aren't young guns (29 and 28 next year respectively) so they aren't likely to blossom into something special. That's a long sentence to say the pen has some of it's usual "who knows" and now that's spread to the rotation, which is not good.

The offense however should be better than last year, where 1B and the OF other than Soto were dead zones. Bell and Schwarber are guaranteed to be better, maybe good, maybe not good but definitely better. If Kieboom and Garcia aren't terrible and if Trea is 80% of what he was last year which is a good bet... well that's not a great seven man offense but guess what? Juan Soto is GREAT and can carry that to a Top 5 offense*

Better, Worse or Push : Hmmm ok I think it's better but in part that's because I think last year broke much worse for the Nats than it should have. Can they be a 90+ win team again is what people want to know and the answer is yes BUT I don't think they are better than 2019 because there's just too many question marks in that rotation. Could be? Yes. Should be? Probably one of the Top 3 is going to disappoint a little and stop that from happening


2019: 86-76, 2020 : 26-34

Lost : Strickland, Cespedes, Chrinos, Frazier, Lowrie, Porcello, Ramos, Stroman, Wacha, Justin Wilson, Cano (suspend), Shreve

Re-Signed : Stroman

Signed/Traded :Aroldys Vizcaino, James McCann, Lindor, Carrasco, Trevor May, 

The Mets are better on paper, but they always are. Then something happens. Injuries, crashes, whatever. They are better because Carrasco fills the Porcello hole (crash), Stroman the Wacha role (crash). McCann picks up from Ramos and should be no worse. Lindor immediately makes the infield better and fills a lineup hole. If Guillorme can be just average, and he was surprisingly good last year, it's a lineup with no holes. The pen is a mess but it was a mess last year. May helps but Lugo and Betances need to get their heads on straight like Diaz did for the Mets to be complete

Better, Worse or Push : sigh... better but that's somehow not going to matter. If it does - they still sit at 3rd best in the East a half step behind the Nats.



2019: 81-81, 2020 : 28-32

Lost : Arrieta, Gregorius, Bruce, Tommy Hunter, Adam Morgan, Blake Parker, David Phelps, David Robertson

Re-Signed :  Realmuto

Signed/Traded : Jose Alvarado, Coonrod, Bradley

The Phillies remade their pen which given last year is understandable. Not all the guys they let go were bad but most were and the three arms they brought in and the general back and forthness of pens should help that area improve. But the pitching staff and line-up are both spinning wheels. For the line-up that's not too bad. They'll miss Didi, but Kingery shouldn't be mind-numbingly bad again and JT, Bryce, Rhys, Segura and McCutchen is a core that can put up some runs, especially if Bohm can hit again (or if he can't if Kingery or Haseley hit). But for the rotation.. the Top 3 aren't bad but Howard is a question mark and the 5 spot is a prayer.

Better, Worse or Push : Talent wise it's a push. This is still a .500ish team, more leaning toward 82/83 wins than 79/80. This is a team that needs another big move to compete in a hard division, not some tinkering. Another starter or big bat would be that (preferably the starter). It's kind of like the whole season hinges on Spencer Howard emerging as a ROY candidate in the 4th spot. That's a bit much to say but just a bit.



2019: 57-105, 2020 : 31-29

Lost :Villar, Cervelli, Joyce,  Boxberger, Vincent, Kintzler, Urena


Signed : Detwiler, Sandy Leon

This is pretty easy. The Marlins let a lot of chaff go, veteran guys in there to eat up innings and at bats if necessary but also some useful relief pieces. They didn't do much of anything to replace them.  When your pick-up are guys not good enough for the Nats to keep 8 seasons ago, the talent on the team is not getting better through moves

Better, Worse or Push : They should be worse than last year in my opinion. They got lucky in performances Rojas isn't going to put up that line again. Neither probably is Berti. The offense will be terrible. They got lucky in how the wins broke.  How not bad they may be is up to the young starting pitching. This is a team way closer to 57-105 than 31-29. Don't worry about the Marlins.



*Don't think so? Look at 2015.  Bryce dragged that squad to #3. What an awful lineup. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Yes yes yes

 Lester and now Hand.  Very quickly in lieu of the larger posts

Lester - meh.  1 year, 5 mill basically tells you what it is. He's here to fill in the 4-5 spot with innings and not terrible pitching. The former is very likely. they guy is a horse who hasn't missed time... well ever. You want 170+ innings you'll probably not have a better bet from someone who turned 37 a few weeks ago.the latter is less so. The guys stuff is on an inexorable slide last year striking out the fewest men of his career (6.2 per 9 last year) and by far the fewest since he was a pup of 24 (6.5 per 9).  Granted 2019 was more normal so who's to say? Still if you are worried he's improved his control to counter this decline. His numbers in the past couple years better than the couple before that, BUT he's getting hit like crazy Worst and 4th worst H/9 of his career and giving up homers too (worst and 2nd worst).  

The take away is the guy is getting worse. Far more hittable.  Even if he can K more and keep his walks down it's not like he's elite in either case. When you aren't doing those two great you need to keep the hits and homers in check and he's doing the opposite of that. Best case is he struggles along with a 4.50 ERA and does the job.  Worst case is he flames out and doesn't help the Nats at all. I can't see anything much better, sorry


Hand on the other... hand is great!  He's not old. He's been very good to fantastic for 5 seasons. Healthy too! Last years numbers were probably an aberration BABIP low, BB/9 way low for his career, LOB% low. But even if they all regress to his normal he's still going to be very good. This is a no downside move.  With Harris, who was good last year and historically is very good in recent years. The Nats should have a very good back end of the pen.  After that they only need one of the other guys to hit to have a real formidable back end and if two do - that's a deep pen.  

Hudson probably isn't as bad as last year's gopher ball pitcher but he's probably merely ok. 2019 is a fluke year. Tanner Rainey definitely has swing and miss stuff but a .129 BABIP last year is not going to be repeated. The question is how real the decrease in his walk rate is. If so I'd bet on him.  Finnegan I'm probably rank last just because he's a guy that relies on keeping the ball in the pack and little else. Decent Ks, bad walks, normal hits... yeah if he gives up just a couple more homers he's a guy that could see his ERA jump easy. But again - only one has to hit here. Or someone out of the blue! An Albers like FA signing. Some random rookie. Whatever. 

One thing to note here - even though these guys are new to the Nats they aren't young. Rainey is 28, Finnegan 29, Suero around that. So they've got a couple years left but not like a half-decade plus

Sunday, January 10, 2021


Just 4+ years after he was one of the hottest commodities in baseball, the Nats land Kyle Schwarber.  The contract itself isn't too important (7 million in 2021, 3 million in 2022 + a mutual option in 2022 for 11 million) as what it means. This is it. This is the decision for the OF next year.  No Springer. No Brantley. No Ozuna.  It's Schwarber. 

So what is Schwarber? He's a "three true outcome"ish player, who homers, strikes out and walks. His HR/FB is insanely consistent, not quite elite but close. His walk rate is a bit better but still not tops. What is? Well, his strikeout rate can get to "worst" levels. But still as a combo you'll take it if he's knocking enough balls over the fence and having enough other hits here and there.

That was the case in 2018 and 2019 but not the case in 2020.  What happened? Well as always with the "COVID year" caveat, he hit a bunch of balls into the ground and pulled them. There was also a little more chasing.  All these could be connected in either direction. He's not getting the hits he wants, gets frustrated and starts swinging at more pitches or he starts swinging at more pitches and his bad contact leads to bad hits.  Either way - that's what's needs to be fixed because a repeat of 2020, where he hit .188, would be disastrous, regardless of how many of those are going over the fence and how many walks he's taking. 

I kind of downplay 2020 in a way that I wouldn't normally do with recent years - especially if there are no trends leading into it (which there are none that I see here), so I'm fairly confident that he can get back to 2019 levels, at least for a year. 

Of course there's the other thing baseball players do - field, and Kyle is... ok look, he's not good. You can squint and cut his fielding data and manage to make him seem ok, but size, age, total history, recent history, eyeball test; he fails all those. He came in and was god awful, he tried really hard and got to average but time catches up to everyone and when you are roly poly it catches up with you a little earlier a lot of the time. I am very pessimistic he'll be any good in the field, playing in his first new stadium, with a CF that has to also help out on the other side*

What do I see in 2021? I see a bad fielder that's going to drive us, and especially Victor LF2/CF/RF2 Robles, crazy. This makes making sure he corrects his batting this year incredibly crucial. 

Anything else?

  • Is he a righty crusher?  Ehhhh, nah. He hits them better but he also sees them more. It's probably more honest to say he shouldn't see lefties. But it's probably MOST honest to say - look he's going to hit lefties worse but he'll still walk and hit homers so just keep sending him out because that's why you have him in the line-up. 
  • Last year he didn't hit FBs as well and he always could hit FBs so that's not a great sign.
  • He generally hits better in Wrigley but last year that didn't hold, so that's a good sign. Though H/A splits usually aren't super indicative unless the home park is wacky like Coors
  • For whatever reason Schwarber has had the fewest ABs in Nats Park than any other NL park that's been still open. Just 20. Hell he's had more PAs in Cleveland than Washington (he's been fine in DC but with 20 PAs- who knows)

I think the Nats got a bad fielder that will give the team fits. However, I think there's still a decent hitter in there. I think it will come out next year.  If he's GOOD at the plate - for one season it'll be fine and it'll be fun to watch him launch some bombs. If he's not good - even if he's ok - it probably won't be enough. He probably won't be as good as Ozuna, or Springer, or Brantley so if you are the type to dwell over that stuff (even though all of them will get multi year more expensive deals)...prepare now. 

Oh - another thing though is what is Kyle replacing? The Nats were terrible in the 3rd OF position last year. I have to believe unless it blows up Schwarber will make it better. Probably not good, but maybe average (which it was in 2019). 

The bar is kind of low for "better"  Schwarber makes the Nats better. He doesn't make them good (and neither does Bell) but they set up a situation where they could be... if the aces comes through.

*remember Juan Soto is not a good fielder. Despite how badly you want to believe it. He is good enough now to stick out there, but not good. Moving from LF to RF will be another issue