Nationals Baseball: 2022

Friday, August 12, 2022

Needed a title - so here's one

"Never trade a young superstar" 

Yes? no? 

What this doesn't mean is "Even if a guy is not going to sign with you, you should not trade a young superstar".  That doesn't make any sense. Assuming you aren't currently in contention (... checks standings... nope) then you are better off dealing and having something than nothing in the post young superstar time frame. 

What this does mean is "There shouldn't be a functional amount of money that keeps you from re-signing a young superstar".  Money should be no object. You should be the highest bidder. And hell, if you are so sure of re-signing the player that you think you can do it with no advantage in straight up FA, it probably makes sense to deal him a few months before the end of the deal. (Two + Years though - I think you are pushing it in terms of giving the receiving team and advantage and losing whatever connection you may have with him)

For Soto the question is do you believe the Nats would be the highest bidder? Do you believe they would let money be no object? If your answer is no then you are faced with two truths : 

1) The Nats should trade Soto

2) Whoever owns the Nats quite possibly should not

I think this is where a lot of people land.  The Lerners had to trade Soto because the Lerners are who they are. Be both mad at the Lerners and resigned to what the reality of the situation is. 

Some people don't follow though - if you think 1 but not 2... well God help you because the owners got you right where they want you, "money bucket" thinking believing whatever revenue vs spending numbers they throw at you disregarding the appreciation of the team (in monetary terms), the likely indirect benefits received (from say nearby real estate and parking also owned), and the fact these people are rich and bought a sports team for what should be fun. 

if you think 2 but not 1, I get it. Two years of Soto is still two years of Soto and maybe something changes. New ownership may be more inclined to keep him. He might get hurt and make himself more affordable. But I do think you have to assume a 24/25 year old stays healthy and he's still great and that he'd at least have a very good chance of leaving. 

If you think neither - well you loved that World Series didn't you? Sorry that the Lerners are going - they were NOT bad owners. Might not be the best owners, but there are a dozen easily worse out there. And the offer for Soto was ok. It was! It wasn't enough and we know it but it wasn't insulting. It wasn't "come play with us for a deep discount" or anything. But still - I don't get why people own a team and don't want to try to win constantly when they have other money sources.

Anyway I'm babbling a bit. 

What I'm trying to get through in the last post is even if you land where a lot of people do and you know they have to trade him AND you believe this is a pretty good haul* it's still not going to be as certain to be as good as Soto would have been alone beyond 2025 (let alone trying to factor in Bell here)**. Most prospects become nothing special, or worse, become nothing. Baseball is hard.  Here's the 2015 MLB draft - long ago to rule out a late comer. Even in the first round it's more misses than hits and in the Top 10 it's half miss.  The 2014 international signings - going back a year because these guys are young... oh well apparently it's historically bad.  Here's the 2013 international prospect list. Still you see. Among the VERY VERY VERY best, like the top 2,3 maybe 5 you feel ok - but it gets dicey fast

There are 1200 players on 40 man rosters. In the now short draft there were 616 picks. There are hundreds of international signings and non-roster invites.  The game COULD turn over every two years. Every player playing in year 3 or 4 in the majors means a guy that didn't make it. Lets say every season about 250 guys debut.  That means get a random group of five from any incoming set of draftees, signees, and invites and four of them never see the major leagues. That's just seeing the major leagues. That's Austen Williams, and Kyle McGowin, and Jimmy Cordero. 

These guys aren't 20% chancers. Even Wood and Susana aren't that low. Well... maybe Susana I bet it's generally lower for pitchers and higher for batters but I'll give that up. But unless they are in the majors they aren't 100% and from there you take on chances of being ok for a couple years? Being good enough to get to FA? Being great to get paid? Yeah there are 150 or so FA signed each year but the bulk of those are guys getting signed again. How many actually break in? 50? 25?

The Nats had a bird in the hand. They weren't going to expend the effort to keep it so now they look toward a bunch of birds in a bush. But they are still birds in a bush and looking at them as seeing it as a good chance to have multiple birds in hand is setting yourself up for disappointment.

*most experts seem to think so. I mostly agree, but its not what I want to see back. I wanted a surer star bat or two pretty sure rotation guys. This didn't get either of those. But that's me - the potential production here is probably about the same 

** yeah some places will do projected WAR for prospects but the variance on that has to be insane. Like we expect 10 WAR from these guys total in 2026.  My suspicion is it's an average which would be dragged up by rare star turns. So it's like a 30% the combined group gets you 3 WAR and a 1% chance it gets you 25 WAR. Something like that. Your more likely to get a lower WAR but the 'expectation" doesn't tell you that. I'd have to dig into how it's calculated but as I know expectations and statistics it is not a median related value which would make more sense here in the "are we likely to be better off" figuring out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Other Gores, Other Abramseses

While we transition from having one of the greatest young hitters in the long history of the game to NOT having that guy, the organization, and some fans that follow it, will naturally move back toward hope. It does spring eternal. But I want to give you a good idea of what type of players we actually got back. 

Mackenzie Gore was a Top 5 prospect in all of baseball.  That is very high, but pitchers are fragile beings and being highly ranked is very unlikely to actually correspond to having a good career. We can look at the set of similar prospects in recent years to see that. (Please note this is rough and doesn't account for age which it should
Top 7 pitching prospects 2011-2019 
Jeremy Hellickson 
Aroldis Chapman 
Matt Moore 
Julio Teheran 
Shelby Miller 
Dylan Bundy 
Taijuan Walker 
Jose Fernández 
Archie Bradley 
Lucas Giolito 
Julio Urías 
Alex Reyes 
Forrest Whitley
That's not even a mixed bag. That's meh.  Urias is great.  Fernandez was great, RIP. Some guys were good and went down to injury (Miller), others transitioned to other roles. But this should make it clear the chances gore ends up a long term multi-year all-star starting pitcher are pretty slim
Abrams Top 5-10 MI prospects 
Dustin Ackley
Manny Machado
Jurickson Profar
Javy Baez
Carlos Correa
Francisco Lindor
Addison Russell
Corey Seager
JP Crawford
Orlando Arcia
Yoan Moncada
Dansby Swanson
Amed Rosario
Fernando Tatis Jr
Royce Lewis
Brendan Rogers

First of all - prospect lists LOVE their SS types. Stick a guy at short and it's worth it just for the prospect ranking bounce. Second - hey there's a LOT of great players here! But I'll say for the most part those are guys that can play SS well. Abrams... he can't. He can hang maybe, unlike Garcia and probably House, but he's not going to get extra help from his fielding stats.  

But still the chances Abrams is something useful is pretty good. While these can't misses do occasionally miss completely, more often a miss is just a guy that ends up a useful major leaguer

Robert Hassell OF Top 17-23 OF prospects

Bubba Starling
Wil Myers
Byron Buxton
Albert Amora Jr
George Springer
Jorge Soler
Nomar Mazara
Austin Meadows
Lewis Brinson
Mickey Moniak
Bradley Zimmer
Manuel Margot
Kyle Tucker
Austin Hays

A lot of solid OF, a few busts, fewer stars. 

So that's the Top 3 guys the Nats got. Recent history would suggest they become (1) A SP of limited help probably because of injury (2) A pretty good MI and (3) a solid 2/3 best OF. This is good BUT it's not enough to either make up for the loss or make the Nats a great team. Great teams need great players. The Nats don't have one. Right now there's a chance that Abrams is great, and very slim chances Gore or Hassel are. 

Of course stars have to come from somewhere. Why not these guys? I guess that's where the hope comes from. But this is not a given, or even likely. It barely borders on possible.  You luck into stars and they generally show young. Maybe James Wood is it. He was putting up a .337 / .453 / .601 line before getting dealt and he's only 19.  When Juan Soto was Wood's age he had just finished a .292 / .406 / .517 season. Of course Wood is in A ball and Juan was in a Nationals uniform at the time so I'll give Soto some slack here. 

The best likely scenario is that these guys, with what the Nats have on hand (House, Cavalli, Green, Garcia, Ruiz, Gray, etc. ) have the core of a decent players that they don't have to pay for. But they aren't going to win unless they get a star or two. They can pay for it or they can luck into one. They didn't pay for it in 2022 but maybe in a few years when these guys are giving DC an 80 win year they'll change their tune. Hell, maybe it'll be Soto.  One can hope. He'd fit in pretty well.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Monday Quickie - 2018, the year it all fell apart

A lot of the discussion late last week turned from lamentations about the loss of Soto to angry yells at the Nats management for letting it get to this point. A lot of "Rizzo should be fired" and "Lerners only care about getting ready for the sale" talk which is in part true but also these were the same people who got the Nats to the top. You can by luck and by chance find yourself on top of the mountain for a year or two, but the type of sustained excellence the Nats had, being a legit playoff and usual title contender for 8 straight years from 2012-2019, is something that takes work and commitment. 

But the question still must be asked - what went wrong? How did the plan fall apart such that the Nats ended up with both a bad team and a barren farm putting the rebuild in enough of a question and far enough away to make trading Soto years before they had to make sense? 

The short answer is 2018. 

A quick rehash of stuff we talked about before - to have a bad team you have to draft/sign/develop bad, not trade in good talent, and mess up FA.  We noted how, after doing well on these for years, they did all three. Part of it was by the design of the sport - good teams draft lower and it's hard to draft, good teams trade away young guys - and partly it was them messing up. If you want to pinpoint the turning point though I'd put it on 2018. 

The Nats went through a dry spell from 2017-2019 and that's what we are seeing now. 

Internationally it makes sense. The Nats spent in 2015 and 2016, giving the big money to the can't miss prospect of... Yasel Antuna. But they also gave pretty good sums to Juan Soto and Luis Garcia.  Antuna and Garcia in the same year put the Nats into penalty and basically they couldn't sign anyone worthwhile until 2019. Eddy Yean, who got included in a trade, and Jeremy de la Rosa, a low current prospect, were probably the best. 2019 they began spending again but Andry Lara and Pablo Adonis were too young and raw and haven't made a strong surge.

Draft failings are tougher to accept. The Nats drafts had never been great, but that had been in part lower draft picks. They knew this and usually signed FAs and gave up those picks. But as recently as 2016 the Nats had had decent draft. That year they brought in Kieboom, Dunning, Neuse, Luzardo, Daniel Johnson, and Tres Barrera, along with three other cup of coffee guys who have seen the majors. That's a pretty good return and it was one they used in trades in 2017 and 2019 to help try to win it all. 2017 though was an off year. Seth Romero was the first pick and that gamble busted. Wil Crowe and Jake Cousins* have shown to be at least major league level but no one else so far. 2018 was the nadir Mason Denaburg and Tim Cate as the 1-2. Three low round picks have made the majors but the two to do so for the Nats are hard pressed to say they really deserved it. 2019 is pretty bad but Jackson Rutledge is working back from injury (his last two starts were good) and should make his way to the majors as well as Matt Cronin, but little else.  Three years and likely fewer major leaguers than the 2016 draft alone. Off years are fine but the very weak 2017 and 2019 sandwiching a near complete nothing of a 2018 right when the Nats couldn't bolster the minors by signings made a huge impact. 

But the biggest miss was in trades. Yes the Nats sent out talent, not brought it in, but in 2018 that wasn't the case. An off-year led to a late season sell off of multiple players the Nats didn't expect to keep. The returns could not expect to be very good, but you hope to get a usable player or two  out of it. 

Jacob Condra-Bogan - out of baseball

Jhon Romero - waived after being quickly brought to majors, now hurt with Twins

Andruw Monasterio -traded to Cleveland for nothing

KJ Harrison - awful in AA probably about to be released

Gilbert Lara - awful in AA but younger so maybe not released this year

Andrew Istler - hurt out of baseball

No one helpful. No one good. Given the rare opportunity for a contender to do something to bolster their minor leagues the Nats completely struck out.

Over three seasons the Nats in the international scene (understandably) and through the draft (less so) got nearly no usuable major leaguers. They also squandered an opportunity to use a rare trade off to shore up the minors bringing in guys that couldn't even break deep lists of a weak system.

How bad was it?  By 2021 only Jackson Rutledge remained in the Top 10 from 2017-2019 organization building. It was a complete wash out of talent.

2017 and 2019 were off years. They made a choice to go big internationally before and hurt 2017 signings and they traded off talent. The draft failures hurt in this environment. 2019 when traded away again but they could sign guys might be worse though we still have to hold off on some guys in development.  2018 though was a complete disaster - no signings, terrible draft, and traded in but traded in nothing. This is when it turned and even if since 2020 has been ok (Cavalli, Henry, House, int'l signing Armando Cruz, Christian Vaquero all look like major leaguers of a sort) it was too late. The damage had been done. 

*he was released by the Nats and grabbed by the Brewers for his so far mediocre stint

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Soto deal analyzed - the return

Time is such that we can only go forward. There is no going back*. Soto is a Padre and a bunch of youngsters, yes players younger than Soto - all of them!, are now Nationals. Well, they are in the Nationals system at least. This is done. We now need to ask the question - who are these guys? How good are they? And how does that paint this deal? 

Mackenzie Gore 

This guy has always been thought of highly and that's made him a Top 30 prospect his entire career.  He was drafted third and proceeded to do, well, let's be honest, not all that much if you look at the results. He was great in rookie ball, but it was for all of 21 innings in 2017. In 2019 he had his best showing dominating A+ ball as a 20 year old. But other than those moments? He's been moving up while doing just ok. It's still impressive as he's been young for these levels, but that dominant guy hasn't really shown up for more than brief periods of time.

One of those times was early this year in his major league debut. About a third way into the season he was sporting a 1.50 ERA (2.20 FIP) but he slowly got worse and now he's out with an elbow injury.  I know, that doesn't sound good, but the Nats assure us he's ok and can take it easy with him. That worked wonders for Strasburg I think. Someone find him and ask him because I don't see him on a mound.

To spell it out more bluntly, it hasn't been about results with Gore it's been about promise and the guy has that in spades. He has three plus pitches in a fastball, slider, and curve. It's swing and miss stuff and his stuff is difficult to make good contact with meaning both homers and hits are hard to come by.  He can be a little wild but you take that given everything else. Simply put he's got number one starter talent, it's held up under the rise through the minors, and that's not something you can say about a lot of guys.

CJ Abrams

This guy is fast and can hit. And unlike every other guy here he does have results. He hit in rookie ball. He hit in AA. He hit in AAA.  Sound great, what's the catch? 

Well he doesn't walk and his power is not there... yet.  That's the key. He can be a good player now, slapping and running and providing a spark if not getting on base as much as he should. But if he develops power, even a little, he could elevate to a very good player - every gap hit a double or triple. Maybe a few homers? He is said to hit the ball hard so the thought is it should come. Should. 

How's his fielding? Eh. He's fast! He's another Nat now who they will try to get to play SS who really should not. Cornered the market on those, didn't the Nats. 

Robert Hassell

He's a hitter. Average, patience, power. He's also pretty fast. He has exceeded expectations and might be able to hang in CF. If not he should be a very good corner OF. It's hard to find a flaw in his prodcution so far. 

Why, with all this, isn't he higher up the prospect list then? Well it's all good, very good in fact, but there isn't a blow you away talent here. It's a good average, good patience, good power, good fielding. Nothing individually to get excited about. He's young for his level but not crazy young (21 in a few days). He hasn't done anything in the high minors yet. Everything says - a no-red flag good ballplayer, but when you are looking at prospects for greatness, you don't quite see it here.

James Wood

A beast. 6'7" with tons of power and solid other skills you can squint and see Aaron Judge here. Unlike Hassell that power is a WOW skill, and he's probably faster too, if not as polished in the field and might have a better eye. In other words, he could be a better prospect than Hassell. But similar to Hassell he isn't that young for his league (20 in September) and his league is low.  His patience is interesting but he also has had K numbers that give you greater pause. That's probably the big reason there's still a question mark hanging over him. He did adjust in low A, so he passed that test, but can he keep this up in High A? Double A? Or will the pitchers begin to eat him alive?  He's the type that could make a BIG jump in prospect lists if he can keep up that drop in K-rate. 

Jarlin Susuna 

A true lottery ticket. He was the best international pitcher but in a year light in international pitching. He's looked good but it's rookie ball and under 30 innings. Basically he'll move up to A ball and we'll see if he's something special on the fast track, some one that looks good but on a traditional path, or if he needs work. Rookie ball just weeds out the big problems.

If this sounds good to you it is! You have three guys I feel pretty confident will be contributing major leaguers and two guys who could really blossom into something special.  There's no trash in these prospects, no throw-ins. Any org would want to have each of these guys.

Why the long face then? Well you know my stance. I want a guy with the best chance of being a star or a couple of guys for the rotation. Perhaps I didn't explain why but it's because that's what costs you money. Stars and non-replaceable pitchers. By getting those guys in place and cheap you can use your money to fill around them. This deal doesn't give the Nats the best chance of getting either of those things.

PLUS the Nats aren't just making a trade - they are are trading a 23 year old with Hall of Fame hitting skills with 2+ years left on his contract.

PLUS PLUS - you also traded away a find in your not old slugging first baseman. 

Trading Soto right now, mid-prime for three playoff runs, should get you EXACTLY what you need for the best chance at a rebuild. A good odds bet on a high payout. Adding Bell should just cement that. Instead the Nats got an approximation. Bets with good odds but lower payouts, best with higher payouts but longer odds. It's a good mix, but a mix I'd expect for only Soto and maybe after this year. 

It would be near impossible to get a good trade for Soto on face value, but even adjusting for the circumstances I still can't call it a good trade. It's an acceptable one. Now Nats fans hope the team catches the breaks and ends up with some mix of Kershaw, Altuve, Holliday, Judge, and Sale and not Daniel Norris, Jose Peraza, Austin Hays, and two guys that never make it.

*Well this is a big generalization. If you want a little mind blowing this book really explains "time" is likely how we view a set of characteristics that to our perception only go in one direction, mainly entropy, and doesn't exist like we act like it does. But that's probably a little above Soto trade talk.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

It's done

 Soto Traded. 

Initial thoughts is it's an iffy trade... without Bell.  With Bell it's a joke BUT I try to be fair and the Nats landed two former Top 10 prospects in Gore (2020) and Abrams (2021) and a current Top 20ish guy in Hassell. The other guys are an intriguing Top 100 bat in Wood (huge guy, huge pop - very young), and the top ranked International pitcher of last year's signing class in Susana (though a weak pitching class to be honest).  It's a lot of high upside talent but little high performance in high leagues outside of Abrams. For me it's lacking both the "oooh this guy feels like a lock to be a very good player", which I thought of Walker and the "these two guys will be major league pitchers" which I thought of Miller and Pepiot, that I wanted in a deal.

There may be more but this feels like a trade made because they needed to make a trade. It feels more evident that the Nats wanted to put the team in best position to deal and that meant an undervalued (if however slightly) deal for Soto or to send him away. It did not mean paying him market value. 

I'd expect a sale announcement rather soon. 

It's the end of an era in many ways but try to remember - flags do fly forever.

Who is the best player ever traded? This young?

 A question was raised.  Is this unprecedented?  Has a player this good and/or this young ever been traded? 

Well, no, not THIS young, but yes in a sense. It's not typical but great players do get traded.  Usually it's at an older age - Eddie Murray after his age 32 season, Frank Robinson was after his 29 season. Same with Griffey Jr.  Orlando Cepeda during age 28. 

The ages though make those hardly comparable.  The Nats are giving up 4+ seasons of play compared to these guys. 

There's Babe Ruth - sold at age 24 - but the Red Sox had no limit on how long they could keep him which made things worse.  Also he was a great player but mainly as a pitcher. He wouldn't become BABE RUTH until the year after he was traded. 

But I did find three guys

Honus Wagner - originally a Louisville Colonel (it was different times) he was technically traded at age 25 but only technically.  The Colonels were folded and the trade was part of a deal to move players to other teams, in this case the Pirates.  Doesn't really count but I do love a technically right factoid.

Rickey Henderson -  Rickey was traded after his age 25 season from the A's to the Yankees. We was dealt for Tim Birstas (short career as a middling middle reliever), Jay Howell (pretty good closer), Stan Javier (long 3rd/4th OF career), Eric Plunk (good career as a middle reliever - would be traded back to Yanks for Rickey), and the crown Jose Rijo (A's didn't realize what they had, dealt him to Reds where he'd be one of the best starters in baseball for 7 years). It was a pretty good haul for Rickey and it was the core to a good A's team, but not directly.  Guys would mainly be dealt for other guys and not a single one of these guys would be around for the entire 88-90 run.  But I guess this is the ideal? Every player did become a contributing major leaguer. That's huge actually

Miguel Cabrera, on pace for a huge contract, was traded after his age 24 season to the Tigers for Dallas Trahern (at 21 already in AAA as a starter but that would be as far as he could go), Burke Badenhop (decent AA starter who would stick in the majors for a while as a decent middle reliever), Frankie de la Cruz (meh AAA minor league reliever but with STUFF who did make the majors), Mike Rabelo (27 utility player), and the crowns Cameron Maybin (Top 10 prospect who flopped but hung around as a speedy 4th OF), and Andrew Miller (Top 20 starter prospect who just couldn't get his stuff to play at the major league level until being moved into a reliever role - then a better reliever for half a decade).This was supposed to set the Marlins up for a quick turnaround but it didn't work as Miller and Maybin both were big disappointments. Hard to overcome 0 for 2 in Top 20 prospects working out.

There you go - a couple examples.  If the Nats make out like the As did you may not be happy but you get 4 guys who played over a decade in the majors providing value, mainly though through smart trades that would bring in veterans Dave Parker, Bob Welch, and Rickey Henderson himself. The A's ended up with 4 of the Top 5 Yankee prospects, but they also had Canseco, McGwire, Steinbach and Weiss in system.

 If the Nats make out like the Marlins they get more guys but fewer that last a while in the majors and with nothing to show in the end. They got the Tigers Top 3 prospects and 4 out of their best 10, but their own system was dead. The best player in there was either Chris Volstad (a few years of middling starting pitching) or Chris Coghlan. Matt Lindstrom? Robert Andino?  These aren't those A's guys.

What this says is not that you can get value, or that you get nothing. What this says is it matters a lot what is already in place as a big trade can be Step 2 in setting up your great team. But it's not what's going to turn your team around by itself.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Monday Quickie - Juan gone?

The depressing Nats season continues.  The Nats are on pace for 55 wins, they are tied to a millstone of a manager, and they are maybe going to trade their best player - a likely future Hall of Famer. Ugh

However, they may not because getting what they want for Soto may not happen right now.  What they NEED to get is player who projects to a future major league All-Star type - that's like a Top 10 type - or a coupleo of projected starters (Top 100 types).

With the names currently in the mix the Top 10 type is Jordan Walker from STL. The two pitchers are Bobby Miller and Ryan Pepiot from the Dodgers. Anything else doesn't interest me unless current major leaguers get thrown in the mix (doubtful because you need them to win now too), or you flood the Nats with a dump truck full of prospects. 

Still it's not value, it will never be value and with Soto it's not about being competitive and only about the money. Soto is 23. He will likely be very good for over a decade. Do you think you can be good again in a decade? Then you sign him. The Nats should sign him.


 Sigh. Ok got a lot of emails to catch up on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

On vacation

 I'll jump back in here if like Soto is traded. That seems like something worth noting.

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Return of... no wait FOR Soto

Understand when we start this, you can't get a return for Soto that is equal to Soto.  Soto isn't just a great player, he's a HoF player with a good chance of being an "inner circle" Hall of Fame player, the type that gets in first ballot with no doubts. That means even if you trade for a Hall of Famer you might not get an equal return*

But what would you ask for? Here's a general sense of how I read prospect lists. Top 20 = gonna make majors, likely good, possibly great, unlikely bust. Top 50 gonna make majors, likely decent, possibly good, small chance great, small chance bust. Top 100 probably makes majors, likely usable, possibly decent, small chance good, tiny chance great, possibly bust. Also relievers - they like to put good relievers in 50-100. Often the "small chance great" and "tiny chance great" is an age thing.  A 18 yo surprises, ends up on the bottom of a Top 100 list then repeats performance and boom is a Top 20 guy. Or like Soto big surprise - Top 50 guy, repeat then in majors. So this isn't perfect it's general.

What I would want, looking at this Nats team, is two Top 20 prospect starting pitchers and one Top 50 players, a long with some random other pieces.This would be two pitchers likely to be decent major leaguers to add into a rotation with Gray and maybe one other guy in the minors now (Cavalli? Henry?) and a player likely to play and be something to add to Ruiz, Garcia and probably someone else (House? de La Rosa?).  There's holes to fill sure but a #1 starter and a big time bat, which you should have the money for, and the team is looking pretty competitive. 

See that's the thing. You can't replace Soto BUT if the Nats are garbage in 3+ spots (and they are) you can be better than you are with just Soto, by getting fixes for those spots.  Soto may be like +8 by himself, but going from -1 to 2 in 4 spots is +12.  Of course you gotta get that right AND you gotta assume they can't pay Soto and do that through free agency which obviously they can but fans and media and definitely the owners like to pretend they can't so whatever. Anyway that's a big ask that may end up with zero or one possible partner and they might not even be competitive, so you can scale it down to try to find partners.

Maybe two Top 20 and one Top 50 - no positional terms, or one Top 20 and two Top 50, or one Top 20 and one Top 50 and two Top 100s.

Who has that kind of prospect haul available?  (I'll put what they max out at)

Blue Jays (20, two 50s) - It'd be one pitcher and a catcher - which is oddly what the Nats don't need. SS/3B guy is looking like a high K 3B, but the pitcher is a fast riser and pitcher is what I want most

Cardinals (10, 50, 100) - Put them on here because a 10 is better than a 20 so I could drop from a 50 to a 100 for that. Get a possible star bat in Jordan Walker, but Liberatore the pitcher looks like he needs major league work

Dodgers (10, 20, two 50s, two 100s) - Best guy is a catcher, but can give a Top 20 pitcher and a Top 100 pitcher that looks decent. Or the pick of some other guys. Deep system

Giants (10, 20, 50) - I can't see them doing it.  One looking good pitcher around 20 and a great young bat in the 10s. Third guy might be busting down fast though

Guardians (10, 50, SIX 100s) - that's a lot of low level depth. I won't talk about it though - they aren't dealing

Mets (10, 20, 50, 100) - no pitchers, top guy is a catcher (what's up with these catchers?) The Nats could solidify multiple positions but again - no pitchers. 

Rangers (two 20s, two 50s, two 100s).  Possible but I'll tell you right now - Jack Leiter has to be part of it for me. Their other pitchers aren't good enough. 

Sox (10, 20, 50, 100) - This fits and it makes a nice Soto/Williams connection. And a SS that can play SS! Only one pitcher though and it's the 50. GIVE ME PITCHERS 

Yankees (10, two 50s, two 100s) - again pitcher isn't great, in the 100s. But the Yanks have TWO SSs that can play SS so they won't even feel losing that

Who doesn't?

Astros (100) - system is tapped out

Braves (-) - same

Brewers (three 50s) - all OFs - which is interesting but Nats need at least one pitcher

Mariners (20, three 100s) - Have the top guy in Marte but he doesn't look as good ditto the barely in 100s pitcher

Padres (20, 50, 100) - not enough unless you add a current major leaguer like Gore

Phillies (two 50s, 100) - two 50s pitchers is... interesting? But not enough especially because the last guys is a C.  the Top 100 is 1/3rd catcher apparently

Rays (two 50s, 100) - Huh, figured a deeper list but they gotta do something off-plan for me to give up Soto.  Maybe they have like a bunch 100-200 where they can throw in like 4-5 of those.

Twins (50) - not enough

White Sox (100) - reallly not enough. see Braves, Astros

Now this assumes no current major leaguers - only prospects. But there aren't a ton of young guys new to the majors good enough to want but not good enough to be helping this good team right now, so no big deal. You'll notice there are no two Top 20 pitchers on the same team. That was a stretch. There are multiple pitchers on the same team other than the Dodgers but they are on non-contending teams (Orioles, Reds, Marlins) so that makes a trade unlikely.

So by default almost - to get the two best pitchers - I lean toward the Dodgers. They also could give you the best set of prospects with the best pitchers. If you want just the best prospects - maybe the Red Sox, if they give you their two best. The best individual players? The Mets, Blue Jays, or Cardinals probably.  The Mets and Jays present a C issue - their best guys are C that can play C. But Ruiz plays a solid C too. Trade Ruiz then?

Anyway - that's the setting we're at in terms of prospects.  Plenty of teams that can give what would be a reasonable, but not even, return. But will they? And will the Nats accept?

*yeah there are things like getting value at a cheap contract

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Soto wins. Nats fans lose?

 Juan Soto won the HR Derby which is usually fun but a pall has been cast over everything with the news that Soto doesn't seem likely to sign with the Nationals. A PALL!

What does Soto want? 

The contract total (440 mill) and years (15) are probably ok on their own but the combination makes his AAV only 29.3. That's 20th most in baseball. That's not good enough. I know you are thinking that "biggest contract ever" is the most important thing but I think really the years and AAV matter. The total contract is a brag at the end. It comes along for the ride based on your other things.

A player most wants a contract that shows the team values them as a long term piece. But players aren't dumb. They don't expect a 10 year deal when they are 36. They know their window - which depends on current age and recent success and health. At 23, health is probably ok and you can buy out anywhere from 12 to 17 years to get to the end of his career depending when you draw the line. While 12 would possibly let another contract happen and 17 would not, there's a clear message with any contract of this length : "We are building around you. You are a franchise cornerstone". I imagine Soto wants something in this 12-17 range. 

The player also wants an AAV that shows where they think they should be valued. Players aren't dumb here either (well most aren't). They know about where they rank. Sure, they'll push it - who wouldn't? - and they know that contracts only get larger and you aren't being compared to contracts from 3 years ago even. It's a simple clear message. We think you are this valuable in the sport today and going forward. The Nats are saying they value Soto at about what the sport says is the 20th best player in the game today. Soto thinks he's about the best. Soto is right here.

What does that mean? Well the highest AAVs are 43.3 Million (Max signed 2022 - 3 yrs), 36 (Cole 2020 - 9), 35.5 (Trout 2019 - 12), 35.1 (Correa 2022 - 3), and 35 Stras/Rendon 2020 - both 7). None of these are great comparisons. Trout was THE BEST and it was four seasons ago. Even the Rendon deal is only 7 years. Probably the best comparisons from the last two years are

Lindor - 34 10 

Seager - 32.5 10

Betts - 30.4 12

Those are the numbers Soto is looking at. And he's better than Lindor and Seager and Betts. Or at least certainly figures to be over the life of the deal.So figure Soto to be looking at no less than 35 mill a year. Probably something over Trout's 35.5 not because he's better than Trout but because that was 4 years ago and Trout's deal is no longer the line in the sand.

There is wiggle room here. At 12 years you better be right on what Soto thinks, at 17 you can be further below. Figure 12/36 maybe (that $432 million)? 17/30 ($510)?  Those would stand a chance at working more than 15/30. If you think that's too much maybe it is. But then again you might have felt Bryce's contract hamstrung a team. Now three years later it's high but workable. Things change fast.

 Tomorrow we'll talk about what's out there in deals. Probably. You know things come up.  

Monday, July 18, 2022

Monday Quickie - the trade guys

Nats are going to be getting some kids soon.  Are they going to be any good? Maybe! A better chance than most if the Nats don't screw it up! But let's remember prospects aren't major leaguers. They often are NEVER major leaguers and the ones that make it are often average or worse. How best to remember this?  Time for a trade return review. 

It's the Trade Return Review. Coming right at you!

Aldo Ramirez (Schwarber) - 21 -  SP - Jesse confirmed that the injury Aldo had was in fact Tommy John.  See you in late 2023!

Riley Adams (Hand) - 26 - C - Got sent down at the end of June to play some 1B (because they are trading Bell) and started to hit and then got hurt and has been sitting until presumably after the ASB.

Richard Guasch (Gomes/Harrison) - 24 - SP - Struggled badly in AA so was recently dropped to High A and has looked much better.  A necessary reset? Is that just his level? We'll find out as if he keeps pitching like this he'll be back up in AA soon.

Drew Millas (Gomes/Harrison) - 24 - C - Back to A+ after not hitting in AA. And he's back to doing what he was doing before which was not all that much

Seth Shuman (Gomes/Harrison) - 24 - SP - Had a rough patch right about when you'd expect him to get moved up but he's been pretty good after that as well.  I'd expect to see him in AA this year. I don't expect him to do well there, but he deserves the shot.

Gerardo Carillo (Scherzer/Turner) - 23 - Came back after the 4th and has had one outing in High A and it went poorly but it was one outing and frankly I'd just be pleased he's back on the mound.

Donovan Casey (Scherzer/Turner) - 26 - OF - K-See.  Like I don't see the point unless he's a great fielder and I don't know about it.  I can't see him not getting steamrolled at the plate in the major leagues.

Josiah Gray / Keibert Ruiz (Scherzer/Turner) - the Gray Ace has slowly rounded into form giving you no reason to think he won't be a rotation mainstay for the next 5 years.  As a good 2? As a bad 4? Still figuring that out but he's on the way up.  Ruiz still can't get power, still doesn't walk, so is still at the BABIP.  He doesn't have to do either a lot but if not he needs to do both at least a little.

Lane Thomas (Lester) - 26 - OF - Goes on runs where he looks good, then longer runs when he does not.  Is he the worst 4th OF out there?  I guess not, but is he an upgrade from Andrew Stevenson? I'm not sure.  Play out the year and see. 

Mason Thompson (Hudson) - 24 - RP - Came back to the majors and has been effective but oddly so. No Ks. No BBs. Just getting outs. But not like a ton of GBs. So probably just lucky.

Jordy Barley (Hudson) - 22 - SS - Not a professional baseball player

Saturday, July 16, 2022


Soto has rejected a eminently fair contract offer from the Nats 15yr / 440 million.  The Nats are now publicly considering a trade.

I say "eminently fair" because it's an offer that is a TON of money. In fact it's the most money in total ever offered in a baseball contract. But it's also a contract that weirdly avoids getting to that 30 million dollar a year number, falling just short. Does that matter? Depends on what you think you are worth and what you think you can get. 

Still unlike the Nats first offer - which as insulting as a 350 million could be - this was acceptable and if Soto took it no one would have blinked an eye.  Could he have gotten over 30 million? Yes. Could he pushed closer and maybe even gotten to 500 million? Maybe. But "biggest contract ever" is still, you know, the "biggest contract ever". So Soto isn't here because he doesn't want to be here for anything less than the most money he could ever make. 

What do the Nats do now?  Shop around I guess.  What could Soto be worth? In my mind the "fair" deal would get the Nats back A Top 10 prospect, a top 50, and a top 100 at least.  That's 3 major leaguers of various potential. Maybe two top 20s and a 100 - two guys likely to be pretty good in the majors. What will the Nats get? Something less.

There's also the possibility of putting Corbin or even Strasburg into the deal, lessening the return but cutting ties with some contracts that seem to be albatrosses. 

And how does the Nats sale figure into all this? Did the buyers want Soto but specify limits? Do they have a buyer in place who wants this deal put on the table?  Is this just the Lerners feeling that they can only offer him so much or else clear the entire table?

The next few weeks just got a lot more interesting but let's not assume the Nats are going to deal. The value they'll get over the off-season would probably be very close to the value they can get now. 

Well at least they aren't still boring and bad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

So who haven't we talked about?

Given that the Nats have been very bad all year - and in the years leading up to this year - we haven't had much to talk about in terms of the season as it stands.  Who cares about their wins or their schedule or how other teams are doing? I can bring it up occasionally of course but it's more of interest in a competitive year.  

The Nats don't have many young prospects but we talk about them as much as we can - Ruiz, Gray, Garcia... we go over the minors occasionally and all the young players. I'll do it again at the ASB. 

And of course we talk about Soto. And how bad Corbin is. And Bell being good. 

And then we fill in other stuff - Can Cruz be traded?  Escobar stinks! Lane Thomas isn't good! Fedde isn't good either! What's up with Robles? Sometimes it feels like we've talked about everything but I guess we haven't exactly so today let's talk about some guys we haven't. 

Cesar Hernandez - Cesar is just a guy but from 2016 to 2021 he's been healthy (missed some games in 2017) and decent (OPS+ of 98). The idea was to bring him in, have him crank out another average year, then send him out for some low A 24yo lottery ticket. Maybe even get lucky and have him be hot through the trade deadline - he did have an unusually high 21 homers last year. He hasn't held up his end of the bargain. After a decent April and May, Cesar has been dreadful - hitting .168 / .243 / .219 since the start of June. He also has no homers for the year. Zero. That dramatic loss of power is what's keeping his value down more than anything.  Can he be traded? Maybe. Stats still suggest he's a decent bat from the right side and he can man 2B ok. I can think of worse players to man the last spot on the bench. For anything? No. This isn't lottery ticket territory anymore. It's going through discarded scratch-offs hoping someone missed something. A 24yo in low A? Yep, but this one has never been good. 

Maikel Franco - I have talked about Maikel just a little but he's here for the same reason Cesar is - come in, do well enough to deal, maybe luckily really well, trade. He also hasn't lived up to those very modest expectations. To be fair to Maikel it's not on him. This is totally on the Nats taking a chance on a guy who has been awful every other year starting in 2017. This year is different for Maikel where as before he was what he was, this year he looks bad. K's are up. BBs are down. No power. Swinging at everything. He looks like a guy one short 2023 stint away from forced retirement. I can't think of a reason any team would want him. 

Ehire Adrianza - We haven't talked about a recent addition to the Nats team in Ehire because there isn't much to say. He's a defensively versatile guy but he doesn't hit.  He Ks way too much, he doesn't have power. And since he was starting at "bad" instead of Franco's "maybe sometimes good" this means he has the potential to hit terribly. Which he is now. I don't think he'll be in baseball after he's done with the Nats. 

Erasmo Ramirez - Brought in to be the "longer" reliever* he had some decent seasons, and last year pitched better than his stats suggest. He's older and hasn't pitched well though. He depends on keeping the ball in the park and not walking too many and too many balls have left the park this year. He's not here to be traded which is good because he wouldn't be.  He's a FA but could be back next year because prior to this year he showed some success and the Nats don't have depth. However, he'll have to have a better finish to the year as he's been very bad recently

Andres Machado - He's fine! Machado is a guy! There isn't anything he does particularly well, but not anything he does particularly poorly. The end result is a very average pitcher getting very average results.  I don't think he'd be traded because there isn't anything very enticing about him. He probably makes your pen better by replacing the last or second to last guy, but you can't count on him to hold a close lead late or something like that. And he's not a young fireballer that can strike his way out of trouble if you are lucky. Anyway I see him as a Nat for a while (under control through 2027) and he's fine. Which on this team is good actually. He'd be like 5th in ERA+ with his 99. (and like 6th in FIP - this is who he is. Average!) 

Jordan Weems - Fireballer! In his lifetime he's shown flashes of being unhittable or being hard to homer off of. As he's always walked WAY too many he needs to do both of these to be any good. He hasn't really been able too. You can see why multiple teams took chances on him but at 29 you have to produce.  He's org depth that's up because someone has to be.... well ok ok he was decent in AAA. but a 3.60 ERA in AAA isn't anything to get excited about

Hunter Harvey - Fireballer! Less of everything than Jordan, fewer Ks but fewer walks, and younger. He's a fireballer who's more of a "hard to hit" than "strike them out" guy. Squint and maybe something is there? Maybe the combo works out? Or maybe something starts to stand out? There's just too little major league IP to really say though. the minor league stats are all over the place.  I'd say he's worth a look in the majors - which he's getting. He's probably worth holding for a minor league deal for a year - maybe Baltimore was just bad at developing pitching. Then again - the Nats aren't great here either. Seems like a guy that might hit his stride... for a Dodgers or Yankees or Braves in 2024.

*There is no long relief anymore for some reason. Guys don't come in and go 2-3. They come in and MAYBE go 2 if they are cruising.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Monday Quickie - Oakland, the Nats new mortal enemy


The Nats "last stretch of winnable games" started as we kind of hoped it would, split vs Balt, 2 of 3 from Tex, 2of 3 from Pit.  5-3 run and a pretty decent feel that the Nats, while bad, weren't as terrible as they were showing.  Then the wheels came off the they were swept by Miami. They've won one game since then putting them it the middle of a 1-10 streak. 

Of course as I am always the devil's advocate (he pays well to keep me on retainer) I'll note this stretch includes 4 one-run losses, and 2 two-run losses. They should be more like 3-8 or 4-7. 

I mean Davey should be fired.  He won't be for the various reasons we've talked about (WS vibes, who cares who manages when they are bad, selling team means keeping people in place for new people to be fired) but... yeah. If Counsell doesn't think Hader is a two-inning pitcher, if Will Smith's fly ball travels 6 feet further, if the Cardinals...well if the Cardinals were a whole different team, if AJ Hinch and the bots that tell him what to do didn't beep-boop that they should pull Greinke or that they shouldn't use Gerrit Cole in relief, we'd have no Davey. But all those things did happen and Davey kept the spirits up and here the Nats are, a title and three terribly disappointing seasons later. How do you manage to win it all so fans can set the bar to be reasonable then go under the limbo bar like Ant-Man?

2020: Just make the playoffs again. No we'll be below average

2021: Just be watchable. No we'll be bad

2022: Just don't be the worst. No, we're the worst. 

As a team in the last week the Nats have a .209 / .276 / .302 line. This is with Juan Soto hitting .500 with 2 homers. Guys hitting under a .530 OPS include Robles, Garcia, Bell, Thomas, Franco and Hernandez.  That's 2/3rd of the lineup being TERRIBLE. Cruz and Ruiz are simply kind of bad.  That makes the pitching 5.66 ERA in the past week seem almost decent. The main problem is only Gray is giving them good starts. The pen is up and down but when they have to enter games in the 5th already down 3 they need to be perfect. They are not close to that.  

But at this rate they can definitely catch Oakland for the first pick!

In other news - Josh Bell didn't make the All-Star team.  I wouldn't have said it was a longshot but it's always tough to make it not as a favorite or close-runner up. You have to be undeniably good, or very very good and in a position they don't fill with "lone representatives" CJ "Home Cooking" Cron got in from Colorado, so Bell gets pushed out.  We'll see if someone begs out and he gets his deserved spot. But don't call it a snub please.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Josiah Gray - still gaining acceptance

 I generally don't like the "except for" type of analysis because most of the time it's ignoring something important for the sake of making an argument. Like "except for the 9-25 start the 2007 Nats were a .500 team." It DOES matter what they did for 1/5th of the season! 

 But one odd event, ok I can exclude that and if you remove last week's errant game against the Marlins, Gray has been fairly dominant since memorial day 

WITH start : 40.2 IP, 30H, 15BB, 48Ks, 6 homers  2.66 ERA

WITHOUT : 35 IP, 20H, 13BB, 42Ks, 5HR, 1.54 ERA

Now that ERA is a bit lucky - you put on 33 baserunners and give up 5 homers you expect a couple runs a game. but still that's very good. It's #1 like. 

But still I hold off on saying he's an ace in the making for a couple reasons. 

  • It's just a stretch, not a season. Seven games is a good long while but it's also not enough to make any definitive statement, just as his first nine games pitching to a 5.54 ERA wasn't either.   
  • The competition has not been fierce. Colorado on the road (pitiful), Cincinnati (bad), Miami (not good) x2, Bryceless Phillies (maybe average?) x2, and Texas (they are ok).  Not a team I'd call good on offense among them. 
  • We don't know how he'll do in the stretch run.  Gray's most IP ever is 130. That was in 2019 in the minors.  He's about what he threw last year and he didn't throw in 2020. So I'd expect his performance to degrade over the rest of the year.  And that's perfectly fine! 

What all these means isn't that Gray is bad (I've always said he's a rotation worthy guy already), or that he hasn't impressed (I myself have shifted my view of him from a 3-5 to a 2-4). What it means is that a season is long and just as a hot summer doesn't mean Kyle Schwarber is the best home run hitter of all-time, a good June doesn't make Gray and ace.  But it doesn't hurt.  

Take it for the good sign it is and let's let the whole season play out. If he's this good the rest of the year - watch out NL.  If he's a little bit worse - that's fine, still learning, and still where the Nats want him to be. If he crashes - well on to 2023 and see if now stretched out his arm is ready for a full season.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Monday Quickie - Bad Teams Bad Play

We're halfway through the season and the Nats are garbage.  They are 1-12 against the Marlins, which luckily for the NL East doesn't matter because the Marlins are themselves bad (and also a bit unlucky) so they aren't kocking on the door of anything that six more wins against the Nats can get them. The Nats have scored 32 runs in those 13 games or about 2.5 per which is pathetic. 

Ultimately we have to wonder how bad can it get. The Nats are on pace for 58 wins. They have a harder schedule in the second half than the first. They are likely to trade away some good players (Bell, Cruz, a reliever or two if they can) making themselves worse. Soto got hurt and any injury with him is going to be treated very conservatively (as it should be).  How many runs could a lineup like this score? 

  • Thomas RF
  • Ruiz C
  • Garcia SS
  • Hernandez LF
  • Barrera DH
  • Adams 1B
  • Robles CF
  • Adrianza 3B
  • Fox 2B 

Answer? Not Many!  There's a non-zero chance that group would end up with no one with double digit homers.  OK Thomas playing everyday is likely to hit 15 or so but after him the likely end totals are 6, 7, 10, let's say 7, 12, 2, 0, and 0.  Doesn't take much from there to see no one over 10. 

The starters won't change but when you have a league worst 5.56 ERA from them that's to be expected. At least we'll see some Cole Henr... hurt you say?  Huh Tetreault was the next best starter in high majors (seriously - but to be fair to Henry it wasn't close. Henry is good. And to be honest Cavalli is the next after him but isn't doing great so you let his young self figure it out) so I don't know what would be next. The guys that are decent are high A guys.  You can't go from there to the majors. God not Jefry Rodriguez again, please.

Ok NOW I'd forgive Davey for having that above team win 4 out of every 10.  Of course it's Davey so they'd only win 2-3 out of every 10 but hey whatever. You guys like him.

Eh onto the league quick perusing so I don't take up a post about it


Yankees are running away and the Sox/Jays/Rays are all in the playoff hunt and it's going to be at least two of them so that's going to be fun. Astros are safe. Twins will have to hold on.  Other guys are hoping someone gets beat up out of the AL East trio so they can sneak into the playoffs. 


Dodgers are putting some space between them and Padres again and you'd figure they'd keep it. Brewers have a small lead over Cards. Mets holding off a Braves charge. That's probably your playoff teams, though Philly does have a chance. They do keep playing the Nats! Giants aren't out of it either and have two trash teams to play. 

Draft Lottery

There's a solid three maybe four that look to be separated in 2023, but you gotta play the games. There isn't one generational prospect. The Nats are very very bad, but they aren't the worst. Both the Reds and As have worse records. How they will do is up in the air but the Reds probably have a decent chance of passing the Nats even if they don't try. Their division is not strong. The Athletics I'm not sure. Don't count out the Royals though at ending up last. I feel they have a lot of selling to do. Overall I like the Nats chances of staying in that Top 3-4

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Josh Bell - All-Star... starter?

Well no 

That won't happen because starter is based on votes and I don't care how good Josh Bell is hitting he's not going to outvote the more popular players. He's simply not a name, having a mismatch of good and bad years previously for a bunch of teams that haven't registered as important. 

But SHOULD he be?  

Also no

Honestly I probably shouldn't have opened with that. 

Paul Goldschmidt should be (and will be) the starter. He leads NL first basemen* in average, OBP, and slugging.  His fielding... well that leaves a lot to be desired. He was never good, but could sometimes be ok, but is aging into old now. But no one votes an ASG starters by fielding. 

Even if they did, the second choice in the voting Pete Alonso, who leads NL first basemen** in RBI and homers wouldn't get that vote because he stinks at fielding and always has even as a relatively young guy.

(Who is good fielding - Christian Walker a .200 hitting slugger, and Matt Olson who leads the NL first basemen in doubles***  Freeman is generally the best combo)

Josh Bell though does deserve a spot. 3rd in average for NL first basemen, 2nd in OBP, 4th in SLG and he's been a perfectly decent first baseman with the glove since coming to the Nats. 

But right now Bell is getting outvoted by pretty much everyone. We're not just talking Goldschmidt and Alonso and of course perennial deserving guy Freddie Freeman, who's having another good year just isn't putting balls over the fence in LA. But Matt Olson - who's good but not having a better year than Bell. And Eric Hosmer who is fine. and Rowdy Tellez who is trash with the glove and only hits homers yet hasn't hit that many homers. And the ghost of Joey Votto. And CJ Cron who is hitting .226 / .287 / .380 away from Coors. And Jesus Aguilar, who is a bad game tonight from going under .300 in OBP and the Marlins are platooning. And Brandon Belt who has played half a season of bad baseball. 

Come on Nats voters! Show some heart and vote in the one guy on the team that's trying this year. I hear praise out there for the likes of Maikel Franco for not being complete garbage, for Lane Thomas for having a hot week, for Dee Strange-Gordon for being likable, for Kyle Finnegan for striking out some guys while being completely average. How about some love for Josh Bell? Because if you don't care, why should NL team pickers?

*Note - he leads NL firstbasemen in these stats because he leads the MAJORS in batting average and OBP (and is third in SLG) 

**Note - yes yes Alonso also leads the MAJORS in RBI and is tied for 3rd in HRs. 

*** Note - YES YES YES.  Sorry Josh Bell. A lot of good hitters here. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Monday Quickie - Bad teams Good Play

I noted somewhere that this stretch - BAL, TEX, PIT, MIA - was probably the last best chance for the Nats to give their fans a long stretch of winning baseball*.  So far so good.  Starting with a win in the last game of the Phillies series they Nats are 4-2 and could have easily been 5-1**

The Nats pitching has looked good - Fedde, Espino, Gray and Terteault each not giving up more than 2 ER and going at least 5 1/3. But try not to make too much of it for they guys you know. Fedde and Espino didn't overpower their opponents, just had some luck on good days.  For the guys you don't know you can read in things and Gray's 1 walk, 9 K, 1 homer performance is the most exciting. This Texas team isn't good but they can hit the longball and play in a hot dry area... that should translate to HRs (the park is too new to say anything).  A prime chance for a bad Gray day and it didn't happen. 

Tetrault's start was more like Fedde and Espino but we have to figure out if he's a master at doing this or if he's just getting lucky against bad teams. Minor league results suggest the latter but the Nats have to get lucky developing a pitcher at some point

The offensive performances have been underwhelming but that's this team.  Bell is hitting, Cruz isn't doing too bad (but still not homering). Thomas is the hot one - someone has to be. If Soto was hitting it might be enough but Soto isn't hitting at least not like Soto so someone else has to step up.  No one is.  Ruiz is singling. everyone else is in a slump. 

This is Nats baseball 2022. Not very good but if one group is performing then able to beat bad teams. 


*There's a late August stretch of SEA, CIN, OAK coming off a couple Cubs series which might work, but there are Padres series sandwiched in.

** ok yes, they could have also been easily 3-3. But that's still .500

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Patrick Hasbeen, Patrick Corpse-bin, Patrick NoMore-bin, Patrick TheyScore-bin

Splatrick Corbin, Doormatrick Corbin, Fall Flattrick Corbin, BadQuick Corbin, PatSick Corbin, Matchstick Corbin. 

Come up with your own! 

We've definitely talked about the fact that Corbin has been bad.  We've speculated on the ideas why - in fact I harped on one (pun INtended) for a good part of the 2019 post-season - the starters arms were worked very hard.

Highest IP total going into 2019 : IP in 2019

Strasburg  220 in 2014 : 245.1

Corbin  208 in 2013 :  225.1

Max missed games mid season with injury AND is a hoss who threw seasons of 220, 228, 228, 220 four of the five seasons before 2019 so it doesn't count as much for him but it did seem to break Strasburg and Corbin. It is probably this simple. 

However, we haven't talked much about the nuts and bolts of why, like what's different in his pitching. 

Now part of it is his 2018 and 2019 might have been flukes. the numbers he put up there for K-rate were well higher than it was before and after. Was it better movement? Location? Sequence? Don't know, not going to bother going into it.  I think that Corbin was peak Corbin and would have been gone by now anyway.  What I'm interested in is why Corbin isn't pre-2018 Corbin.  Why isn't he putting up a 4.00 ERA and filling a role as decent veteran innings eater that a team like this dearly needs. What is different from "pre-peak" Corbin?

We can nitpick apart some things. His pitches might be a bit slower, he might be a bit wilder, and he might be prone to more flyballs. The first two mean more hard hit balls, the latter mean more of those hard hit balls are homers. But these are very minor changes from pre-peak Corbin. 

No, instead it comes down to a single pitch. His slider. None of his pitches were very effective before his peak except his slider. That's what made him good. His slider is no longer effective. 

Pre-peak he threw a slider for a ball 35% of the time, now it's 38%.  He'd get swings and misses 26% of the time, now it's 20%.

You can see from the awesome Brooks Baseball that his slider has almost no drop to it anymore. It's dead flat. There's also less horizontal movement but only in general. (This IS hard to read sorry - the middle of that Y-AXIS is 0 movement with above being movement up and below movement down.  The dots are grouped by year. It was dropping about 2 inches up through 2019 then has flattened out to about 1 inch the past couple of years and almost none this year)

Without that movement guys aren't swinging and missing at the slider nearly as much as they need to for Corbin to be any good. For him to miss the zone and not be hittable it has to start out of the zone. Guys see it's a ball right away. The ones in the zone aren't moving out, and guys are making contact with them. 

As Corbin has no other plus pitch, in fact you could argue that every other pitch is a minus, he now needs to PITCH his way through games to be effective. He needs to mix location and speeds and types of pitches to keep guys off balance. That's never been his game though. He's been a guy that threw some fastballs to keep hitters honest and set up that slider.  He's been a guy who if things got rough he could lean on that slider to get him out of the jam.  That's just not the case anymore. 

Part of it I'm sure is the failure of the fastball. It's floating up and in the zone making it a worse pitch and causing less confusion with the slider, but the differences there don't seem as stark. The plus slider has left Corbin and without it he's hardly a major league pitcher.