Nationals Baseball: NL East - Where it stands

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. 


Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I appreciate your optimism Harper, but unless the Nats add another bat (or Kieboom miraculously figures it out), I just don't see the Nats offense being significantly better than 2020 (which was basically league average even with Soto's and Turner's performances). That means this team likely won't be better than 85 wins, and I think 2-4 in the division are going to be virtually tied. Braves take the division easily, Marlins lose it easily.

If the Nats want to compete with the Braves, they need to make one more big-ish move. Ozuna would be the move if the DH was here to stay, but that seems to be up in the air still. Turner would make sense if not for the fact that he's obviously going to re-sign with the Dodgers. La Stella was the move I personally wanted, but my wife's team went and signed him instead. I have to think, then, that the big-ish move is a trade, otherwise they're standing pat

Egonadon said...

Yea, I don't share this optimism about the Nats. I think they are about an 85 win team.

Harper said...

I think they have 90-92 win talent, which probably translates to 88-90 wins in this division. It could break into something special if all the SP hit and one of the Top 3 teams falls apart. More likely is THEY are the team to fall apart and they go under 85. Ask me now and I'll stick them at 89

Jon Quimby said...

Unless I'm missing something, 2 of the 3 reasons the Nats are better this year are understandably not listed. Joe Ross is better than Fedde or Voth. Starlin Castro is a lot better than either Kieboom or Garcia.

billyhacker said...

They have a chance at being a 90 win team, but a 90 win team in the NL East this year = 87. 5 wins. I think the Mets will spend more money in-season than other teams in the division, especially to address a problem. Also I think Covid will cause greater than normal variance. You say, yeah, but the vaccine! Could be tough for a whole team to get vaccinated all at once during season. I'm pro vaccine, but the short-term fatigue is real. Hope Nats can get theirs weeks before opening day.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

@billy, if this pandemic has taught us anything, people with money can get the tests and vaccines. I have no doubt that MLB will be able to scoop up enough doses for all players and clubhouse personnel during Spring Training (for better or worse).

On the brightside, all the GME/WSB nonsense has cost LOLMETS owner Steve Cohen billions!

DezoPenguin said...

I think the key issue here that Harper nailed is the extreme variability of the Nats' outcomes. Bullpens are inherently variable due to the nature of pitching mixed with the small sample sizes. And the "big 3" in the rotation all have substantial variability as well--Max slipped a bit, Corbin a lot in 2020, and we don't know how predictive those are, plus the Strasburg Injury Roulette Wheel keeps on spinning. Then there's Lester--if he pitches like '18-'19 that's more than fine for a #4 guy, if he pitches like '20 not so much. And Ross needs to pitch well as well.

Then we have a large lineup of people that need to bounce back from a bad 2020: Bell, Scwarber, Castro (injury), Robles, plus young players that haven't been all that good yet despite their pedigree, and the hope that Soto, Turner, and Gomes keep playing well. (Avila seems like an adequate platoon partner at C, at least.)

I mean, if everybody plays like it's 2019, we're looking at a team that could win 95 games. If they play like it's 2020, then the Marlins are looking down at us, and I could see it easily going either way or having a mix of outcomes that lands us anywhere in the broad area in between.

JW said...

Didn't the Phillies re-sign Didi last week? I actually like both the Phillies and the Mets to be better, although the Phillies only marginally so, which translates to a roughly .500 team with slightly better odds to be just a little bit more than that.

I'm honestly not at all optimistic on this Nats team. Personally didn't like the Lester signing. I like Lester as the #5 but not as a #4, and just am not convinced that Joe Ross is a winning team's #4. But it's the lineup that I am just not convinced by. Castro being back should help, but Bell and particularly Schwarber I don't think are quite as good as folks are hoping (not necessarily folks on here). Schwarber adds power but strikes out too much in a lineup with several other players that strike out too much. And I feel like Bell is more of a flash in the pan. I just don't have faith in that being a significant upgrade at 1B. As Harper said, better but that's not saying much. The best thing you can say about the Bell trade is that the Nats didn't appear to give up much of anything at all. I wasn't at all sold on Crowe. No, to me the key question for 2021 is pretty similar to the key question for 2020 (pre-Covid): can Victor Robles become the third bat? Thus far, I'm not sure. I just feel like the failure to upgrade on Keiboom will come back to haunt us.

One thing I will say though is that despite the less rosy outlook for this year and a weak farm, the Nats do have some financial flexibility coming up and the next several free agent classes look like they might be really pretty good on the offensive side of the ball. If they keep patience with Corbin and Stras stays healthy, there should be some space there to add some better pieces around Turner and Soto (and hopefully to extend those two as well).