Nationals Baseball: Thursday Ramblings

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Thursday Ramblings

Huh - so still no baseball talk. That's odd. Wonder what's going on. 

Look there isn't going to be anything really here baseball wise for a month. And chances are most of what will come about is - "That's a ridiculous offer by the owners" "The players still need to make a couple concessions" "Ok now the owners are serious" type stuff, but that only makes for three posts as you see. If you make me guess I'll say Feb 21st for an agreement date (with ST starting a few days late) so that's still more than a month away.  You guys don't want three posts do you? You need content to fill your lives! 

So what content shall that be. I can definitely ramble. I have the correct thoughts on pretty much everything. You tell me. 

I'm working my way through Posnanski's Baseball 100 - which is sort of his Top 100 players with a few "article in a newspaper" pages on each as opposed to "this is their career" dryness. It's very good.Some thoughts

The first players that make his list started in 1890 which may seem like a long time ago but cuts out probably 20 years of decently viable baseball. The big loser there is Cap Anson who was kind of baseball's first superstar but also a virulent racist so no tears shed - especially considering this is a personal list not trying to be THE objective 100 best players.  Most of the others come from the fact sometimes you threw 500 innings. That's kind of hard to translate to now terms if it was actually any good. If you want to feel bad for someone maybe Roger Connor is the best choice from this group. The guy was the HR king of baseball from the end of his career in 1895 until Ruth took the crown after like his second big season. He was the first one to really HOLD it and was a great hitter. Maybe Dan Brouthers - baseball's first slugger. But still the game was admittedly a bit wonky until you get to the 1890s and the leagues start to gel so I can see denying those 1880s stats.

The guys after 1900 who were kind of snubbed were

Eddie Plank - a rubber armed dead ball pitcher who was good but primarily got his value from never getting hurt and throwing a ton. 

Tom Glavine - you know Glavine. He's sort of the same as Plank but was very good. Honestly the difference between Glavine and a guy like Blyleven (who does make it at #71) is more era than anything. If you are going to adjust for old timers and for now timers you should adjust for the subtle changes in between as well. 

That's probably it honestly.  Once you try to adjust for adding in Negro Leaguers and historically under appreciated catchers you shift everything like 15 spots and a guy in the 70-80 WAR range (which is where we are now) is in 85-95 and if you like someone better at 105 or 115 should we really call that a snub?

He probably overrates the stars of his youth (21 of this list debuted in the 15 years period between 1959 and 1974). Even limiting baseball to 1900-2000 that would be a bit of a stretch. And then again the stars of his early work (another 16 pop up between the decade of 1986-1995).  Did 37% of baseball's greats appear in like 22% of it's years? Maybe I guess. These things aren't going to be exactly distributed.  Most likely though there are one or two here that wouldn't be on others.

Ok so there you go - some baseball talk.


Matt said...

Nice writeup. Apparently I need to go read the series.

Another suggestion for baseball content: you used to do "out of the box" suggestions at every position. Those were fun, even if none of them ever happened.

Along those lines, I'll throw out the hottest of hot takes. If a team would take Soto, Corbin, and Strasburg and all of their salaries with no return to the Nats, the Nats should say yes. (Ducks).

Anonymous said...


That's an interesting idea, because from a raw surplus value standpoint it's almost certainly correct. Use Zip's 2022 projections to give Soto 8WAR a year, and for Stras and Corbin respectively to deliver 2.3 and 2.5 WAR in 2022 with the standard 0.5 a year aging penalty going forward, and you end up with a combined package that's about $34 million underwater. ($8M/WAR, with no annual increase)

Even Soto averaging 9 WAR a year doesn't get it above zero. You really need Stras or Corbin to surprise. And that outcome is certainly unlikely

But I think that framework elides two important considerations. The more minor of the two is that Strasburg and, to a lesser extent, Corbin are high variance players at this point. Hell, Stras's projections may actually be bimodal. The market seems to value WAR non-linearly, so that an increase from 3.0 to 3.5 is worth more than an increase from 0.5-1. It would then follow that these guys should be more valuable than their straight average projections would suggest. Is that enough to tip the scales on a $30 million deficit if we assume these are true average projections? I doubt it, but I do think the true market value here is closer than it appears. (Soto's 8 WAR may also be worth more on the market than $8 million per, but the market for players of that caliber is so sparse that it's really hard to discern any general trends.)

The more important problem with that plan is that I, as a fan, don't really care at all what the payroll is. I recognize certain boundary conditions, like not being consistently over the salary cap, but if the Nats could win 84 games with a payroll of $50 million or pay $150 million to win 85 games, well, I'd rather them spend the money.

If the team executed a deal like you suggest, then they'd still have a middling farm system and they'd still be a few years away from competing for a playoff spot. And while the team could turn around and spend the ~$80M a year they'd be saving on new FAs -- those are likely to wash out at $0 surplus value themselves, leaving us barely better off. The far more likely scenario would be the Lerners pocketing that money, and that provides literally zero utility to me.

I want to watch Soto play for the Nats. Even if we struggle to win 70 games, that's really fun. Even as they age and diminish, I enjoy watching Stras and Corbin pitch far more than reading about whether the Lerners are worth 4 or 4.3 billion. I literally just don't care.

That said, if you could add to this deal a bunch of money going from the Nats (like $200M to cover most of the contracts being shipped) and a bunch of prospects going to the Nats at their fair surplus value cost, well, then I might change my tune because that might end up with a better and more exciting entertainment product for me to enjoy (though I am still really skeptical anything is going to be more enjoyable than getting to root for Soto -- he's really something).

Anonymous said...


Yeah, watching Soto is/will be one of the main pleasures of this team. Giving that up as a fan would suck. Also as a fan I don't care about salary, etc. So yes this type of cost-cutting move would especially suck.

All that said, the budget isn't limitless and the Nats actually have a real problem: massive surplus value from Soto lines up with major deficit value from Corbin/Stras, which is exactly why the team isn't going for it right now. If those contracts didn't exist I bet the FO would have gone for it this offseason.

What's worse is that the deficit value for Stras in particular probably extends past Soto's definite time in Washington. And Soto is insisting (at least in public statements) that the team contend before he resigns. So there's this risk that the team could get stuck in-between: trying to contend before there's enough surplus value in the system that the rebuild is actually done. Which looks to me like a recipe for getting stuck in the major pain very long term rebuild stuff.

So, from my perspective, if you can get rid of the above problem, extend the rebuild a year or two, and do things "right" that's better. Of course as Harper (correctly) points out, that is no guarantee of success, it just increases the odds.

I am really looking forward to how much Harper is going to haaaaate this hot take. (If automatons can even haaaaate?)

Harper said...

I replied to this idea like 10 times but kept backing away after thinking about it more.

First I think the way it works is the Nats actually come out ahead as long as Soto is here, he gives that much value, and the overall contract loss comes on the back end in that last 70 million of Strasburg's contract. Maybe 2024 is a slight minus. But if I'm right the question is whether losing Soto in the short run is worth keeping that extra cash and setting up the next window (which could be as early as 2024 in theory) with that money.

That supposes a lot though. Soto means a ton. He's a generational talent. Trying to compete with him makes more sense than trying to compete without him and that's probably true not only for the time he is already here but assuming you sign him for "value" for the next window. Can you put together a team for that 2024 year? Can you retain him afterwards? If your answers are clear NOs then I would be kind of forced to say the plan makes sense. But I don't think either are clear NOs.

On retaining him - well who knows but he seems to like it well enough here so it's probably just about money and that's on the Lerners.

On competing in 2024 (or before) that relies a lot on the talent at hand, how they develop. If they don't develop it's a clear NO - even Juan can't do everything - but if they don't develop then the "free up all that money - build a contender" plan also fails. It's also contingent on the young players currently here turning into something. Unless you think you can get every FA move exactly right.

There is a little bit more here true - if you give up these guys you'll be worse and you'll have better draft picks and draft pick return drops pretty precipitously so you want to be as high as possible. But I don't think that is enough to counteract the thesis here. If you think you can rebuild by saving that money then you are thinking the young players are doing well and if you think the young players are doing well you can probably compete before 2025. So do you want to compete for sure with Soto for a year or two, or do you want to compete hypothetically with a handful of FA picks that you got almost all right without him for let's say 4-5 years? I'd take the surer thing which is competing with Soto.

The picture changes if the Nats do more than save money. If they get back a bunch of prospects then they get those better draft picks AND bolster their org more which means you can have more of the current guys fail. You can see a situation there where these guys don't do that well but the Nats are still able to piece a long window together. But that wasn't what you asked and the haul would have to be pretty special to make you feel secure enough in my opinion