Nationals Baseball: April 2023

Thursday, April 27, 2023

They need to hit too

I know everyone is excited by the recent exploits of Gray and Gore. The latter has ace stuff working outside of his control, which is often the last thing star guys get. So let's say everything works out and the Nats have a #1 in Gore and a good 2/3 type in Gray.  Rebuild set for success? Well I have two words for you. 

Miami. Marlins. 

The Marlins have spent much of the past 3-4 years with a true ace pitcher in Sandy Alcantara, and a very good 2 in Pablo Lopez. They've had cheap arms like Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernandez, Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, and Zach Thompson who have been everything from serviceable to maybe also a good 2. They have had a much better rotation than the Nats could probably hope for, and at dirt-cheap cost, and they have nothing to show for it outside a fluke shortened season playoff series. Why? They don't hit. 

The Nats, despite their recent outburst, also don't hit. Maybe Keibert can keep up his recent hot hitting, but few people think he's capable of being a team carrying bat. After that Abrams and Garcia trade off who looks bad and who looks merely below average, and there isn't anyone else under 27 on the team right now. 

The kids? Ok Brady House looks really good today. But everyone was ready to write him off for Wood and Green to start the year, both of who have cooled down a ton. Hassell is still working his way out of injury one step at a time. And can these guys be stars? Maybe, but remember what House is doing for almost a month in A ball as a 20 year old gets you excited but Soto was hitting .282 with 34 homers in the majors when he was 20. THAT'S a star. 

Gore and Gray along with Mason Thompson, if they work out, are Step 1. You need to take Step 1. 

But you also need Step 2 (Develop some hitters) and Step 3 (Develop a little rotation depth, and a couple more pen arms) and definitely you need Step 4 (Spend money to fill in the talent gaps). 

You don't have to have all this in the majors but it does have to be on the cusp and looking very strong before you can say the rebuild looks successful. It can happen in a season, or over a couple of them, but what's clear today is that it hasn't happened yet. What's also clear is that it isn't even the end of APRIL yet. I'll say it again but stats don't really get real until Memorial Day.  

Be pleased, but be realistic. A team has to get to here to get to there but here is still nowhere other than a step on the path.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Josiah Gray - turning a corner?

One home run. 

In his past four starts, Gray has allowed one home run.  While Colorado and the Mets, who are really Alonso and a bunch of low power guys, aren't exactly home run power houses, the Orioles and Angels are decent enough showing this isn't just about match-ups. Gray is pitching better and specifically last night he pitched maybe his best game of his short career.

His lack of homers was great, his general hit and walk rates were fine. But going into last night you wanted to see more Ks.  You got more Ks. 9 in 6 innings. 

Right now you have to feel pretty good about Josiah. 

Of course this comes with caveats. Last year he did have stretches like this. In fact he did start the season with a 3-2 record and a 3.12 ERA and have a 10 K game (though one with 10 baserunners and a homer). He also had a five-game stretch where he threw to a 1.24 ERA. It seems hard to remember now but Gray was 6-4 last year sporting a 3.82 ERA at the end of June for a team that was 26-48. I myself had shifted him from a 3-5 in my head to a 2-4 type

Then the rest of the season happened. Over his last 3 months he had a 6.26 ERA and gave up 23 homers in 14 games, in 73 innings mind you. I did note that he hadn't pitched more than 130 innings and tiring was probably going to happen. That is one thing to chalk up for 2023 - he now has a long season under his belt and the arm strength and knowledge about pacing and recovery that goes with it.

 Is there anything specific in how he's pitching right now that might give us more confidence? Yes!

  1. Far more ground balls. From 33.0% GB  49.2% FB in 2022 to 43.8% and 41.3% so far this year.  HUGE
  2. Big drop in hard hit rate. 29.8% to 21.3% 
  3. Far fewer fastballs (43.0% to 23.9%) and the introduction of a cutter as a fourth pitch. 
  4. Getting more contact on pitches out of the zone 55.9% to 63.4% 

All these are also trending in the right direction from 2021 though that was in 70 IP.  These are the numbers of a pitcher who is in control, who is getting batters to do what he wants them to do, not simply trying to get them to swing and miss. 

So who is Gray? We still don't know. But the improvement year to year suggest he is that rotation guy Nats fans were thinking they had 80 games into last year. With Gore looking like one too this year becomes about trying to figure where they settle 1-5 and then what they have to spend accordingly to fill out the rotation. IF the hitting doesn't also need help.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Monday Quickie - Should have played the Triplets

The Nats went to Minnesota and got twin wins, and showed themselves to be like a real baseball team after a tough 1-6 stretch. Not a good baseball team, but a baseball team you can't simply show up and beat. You have to play the games. Not a 40 win team, more like a 60 wins team. 

The nicest thing for the Nats was seeing Meneses hit a homer and a double. Sure Abrams did the same but pretty much everyone was like "a homer by CJ? That's a fluke" One of the things the Nats need to be that not impossible to watch squad is Joey to hit a little bit more like last year.  These were some signs that may happen after his rough start. 

Still all is not good at the plate as guys cool down and heat up we're seeing things even out and the Nats currently have two guys over .700 in OPS. 

Fangraphs had a quick and dirty breakdown* that went : 

  • 1.000+ Excellent
  • 0.900+ Great
  • 0.800+ Above Average
  • 0.710 Average
  • 0.670- Below Average
  • 0.600- Poor
  • 0.570- Awful 

For the Nats (PA 63+) that would mean

  • 1.000+ Excellent : NONE
  • 0.900+ Great : NONE
  • 0.800+ Above Average : NONE
  • 0.710 Average : Robles, Candelario
  • 0.670- Below Average : Ruiz, Abrams
  • 0.600- Poor : Thomas, Meneses, Garcia
  • 0.570- Awful : Call, Smith

 This is what it is.  First to go has to be Call who was a question to start. You are seeing Garrett get the first crack at it. Expect to see Franklin Barreto (top prospect that didn't pan out) next, maybe Trey Harris (solid minor league numbers before COVID). As for the guys you care about Hassell is back working his way through injury, Wood and Green are cooling down after fast starts. Combined I think they are hitting like .150 for the past week. Sorry it's not going to be fast and easy. 

The pitching though did look better.  In G1 Williams was sharp and you saw a good performance from Harvey (3 batters, 3 Ks). In G2 Kuhl was semi-usable, which is all the Nats can hope for Kuhl to be good enough they don't have to look for someone else to go 4+IP and give up 3 runs. Thompson looked great.  Edwards kept keeping on. In G3 Corbin gave them 6 somehow despite 7 hits, two walks and two homers.

Next up the Mets, a patient team that likes to steal bases and has a very good pen. This is covering for their SP issues, Max pushing the boundaries of what he could get away with and Verlander still out.  Can the Nats win another series and play spoiler?


*If you are wondering why it doesn't seem to be even around the average it's because guys who do much better than the average stay in the majors. Guys that do much worse do not. There is a clump around the average but a long tail going up and a short tail going down. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

The pitching so far

 As said in the season preview - the pitching was going to be better because it HAD to be better. the 2022 Nats flirted with being named among the worst staffs of all-time. Even terrible teams don't usually see that.  With some better planning for the rotation and some returning decent arms in the pen we should see some better results. And we have! 

The Positives

Gore (3.43 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 1.381 WHIP) - Gore has looked good. Like many a young arm his stuff is pretty unhittable (H/9 and HR/9 are very good) and control is his biggest issue. Still that LOB rate is likely a little fluky so if he wants to keep having good results as opposed to ok ones, he needs to get the walks in line. Still either way he looks like a 2-3-4 with upside ans if he can stay healthy (HUGE if) a staple of the rotation for the near future. 

Josiah Gray (3.74, 5.76, 1.477 ) - Gray isn't as good as he has seemed recently, or at least he hasn't pitched as well as his results (the talent may be there to be this good) but for Gray for me the whole thing comes down to one thing - homers. He's given up only 1 in his last three starts and that Gray can be a rotation mainstay. Given the lack of Ks it's more likely 3-4-5 ish but that's better than the High K - Lots of Homers Gray that would be AAAA ish. 

Trevor Williams (3.52, 4.62, 1.174) - Can Williams stretch out into a starter. The early indications are yes, though the drop in Ks is concerning.  That's a lot of ball in play and his BABIP suggests that ERA will rise. But even with that he's a usable rotation arm that would keep most teams in most games. Not this one mind you but most. And as trade bait with a hot streak and/or a little luck the Nats might get something decent (in the modern trade sense) back for him. 

Mason Thompson (1.35, 3.39, 0.600) - Yes, he's getting lukcy (BABIP .176 and LOB% 92% are both unsustainable), but his 9 K/BB ratio is fantastic and he's getting good GB numbers. Tick up the Ks a bit more and he might be a legit dominant reliever. 

Carl Edwards Jr (1.08, 2.71, 1.080) - Guys aren't hitting him well. Is it a fluke? Hard to say. He isn't getting lucky per se so it's tough. But given the overperformance last year I'm willing to give him some benefit of the doubt

 The Middle Ground

 Corbin (6.30, 4.88, 1.750)- He's Corbin. Guys hit him and he gives up homers and he doesn't K anyone. But it's been years now. Let's not act surprised anymore

Ward/Harris/Ramirez - generally meh by FIP and WHIP Ward might strike a guy out. Harris will keep it in the park. Ward and Harris are sort of single use cases that you then hope you can get an inning from. Ramirez is more of a general use type, early game, blowouts. There's nthing special here but nothing terrible. It's the back of a pen for a bad team. This is what that looks like if done right.

The Negatives

Hunter Harvey (3.52 / 5.15 / 1.304)  My pick to click has been a minor disappointment and it's a shame because with Thompson and Edwards cruising one more good arm could actually make you feel good about the Nats top pen. He's started chasing Ks  and getting walks but was pretty effective getting neither. It's early and this is only a slight negative. 

Chad Kuhl (8.59 / 7.28 / 1.705)  He's bad and probably needs to go. And for the 5th starter on a bad team that isn't surprisingly. BUT it's a negative because of why he's here in the first place. The Nats have no immediate depth to replace him.  The AAA starters have ERAs of 3.92, 5.02, 7.07, 8.44, 9.82, and 16.88. That 3.92? Joan Adon who completely does not look like a major league pitcher. So this is bad here and worse because it likely can't be fixed quickly or easily. You have to dumpster dive FAs and the Nats probably aren't inclined to do so, especially if 3 of the Top 4 are eating enough innings. One injury though to not Corbin and things can get even bleaker if you can imagine 

Kyle Finnegan (9.95 / 10.11 / 1.895) The Nats closer has been so bad you wonder if he is hurt.  He was good last year and generally ok so this is a surprise and a bad one. I expect Thompson to replace him soon and for him to have a stint on the IL.

Anthony Banda (7.20 / 5.73 / 2.00) The Nats are dumb. Matt Cronin looked good in spring and the Nats didn't have a lefty arm.  With no real reason to pick any one else the Nats should have kept Cronin. But Banda is the vet, even if he's never really been good so they kept him to keep Cronin's clock from starting I guess. You know how important it is to control the time of a 25yo reliever. Anyway Banda stinks. He's the waste of a spot. 

The fringes of the Nats situation - 5th starter, lefty reliever - have been very bad, but outside of that only Finnegan and whatever has gone on with him has been a big negative. Otherwise they are doing ok and it shows with a slightly below average pitching staff as of now.  I expect that won't hold as injuries bite into the staff but really the keys are the guys 25 and younger. Gore, Gray and Thompson all have looked good. As long as that holds where the staff ends up overall doesn't matter as much. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The offense so far

The worse, and younger, of the general two pieces we look at (yes, defense and baserunning still matter, calm down) the Nats offense has been struggling to score runs. As we've noted the reasons are clear. The Nats do not hit for any power ranking dead last in homers and SLG (in the NL) while being 6th in batting average. They "compliment" this by not walking all that much (10th in walks). Basically the only thing they do favorably is put the ball in play (they don't strikeout) but is that really that good if it's just squibbling ground balls. 

Anyway an offense is the sum of its parts so it's time to look at those and see what we can glean early on. 

The Positives 

Candelario (.284 / .310 / .463) : Jeimer was a guy trying to answer the question of if he was done. After a couple of productive years in Detroit he fell off a cliff a little bit last season. He has bounced back in 2023 though without the aid of his moderately decent eye. In fact he might be the most aggressive hitter on the team right now. If he gets that eye back he could be a very good hitter, if he doesn't and the hits go away he could drift back to below average. Fancy stats have him lifting everything and hitting the ball moderately hard which is a good combination. He's basically THE power threat for the team so far. His BABIP is reasonable so he could hit like this the whole season and maintain this level. Though you'd rather see him round fully into a better hitter that he has shown he can be.

Thomas (.323 / .368 / .387) : Like Jemier, Lance Lane wanted to prove something though for him it was proving last year was real. The results are mixed.  Sure he's hitting well but the power that gave him 17 homers last year is gone. Instead he's surviving on singles. Fancy stats suggest this won't last (BABIP of .426) His line drive percentage is ok, but his hits aren't very hard and he doesn't walk. The average likely won't hold here so Lance Lane needs to start getting more balls up and/or out.

Robles (.306 / .393 / .347) : The last guy with something to prove Victor needs to show the world that he still holds some of the promise of a top prospect. It's a decent start with the most exciting thing being that walk rate. His K-rate is down a lot too. He's a different hitter. If Davey could let him run a little more that would be great given how well he's getting on base. Also because he's not getting to second or third by hitting his way there, also showing next to now power like Thomas. He's not hitting the ball softly like Lance, but he is hitting all the balls on the ground. Given his speed maybe he keeps this up but I'd expect a drop in average. However if he can field and run and hit league average? That's ok. 

The Middle Ground

Ruiz (.245 / .322 / .358) Ruiz flashed a moment of power to start the year but settled down into his usual pattern of middling average with no real patience or power, making him a below average bat but nothing that kills the team. As a catcher you take it. Still it would be nice If he could get better at SOMETHING at the plate just to get to average. This may just be who he is though. 

Garcia (.256 / .286 / .436) A touch younger than Ruiz and the 2nd youngest bat Garcia is showing some very minor growth in power and patience. Very minor. He hits the ball pretty well and is incredibly hard to K, but he hits it mostly on the ground and isn't super fast. Fancy stats suggest he will see his average go up (BABIP  .229) and given he's near average now he'll probably pop over average. Which is good. The Nats would really kill though for him to make a real next step though and be a budding star. He's not there as of now. 

The Problems 

CJ Abrams (.216 / .310 / .333) nothing is terrible, everything is bad. He walks at a middling rate and he strikes out some. He has limited power which is fine, but he's lifting balls in the air. Given he's hitting the ball kind of hard this is even more troubling as it's not like the power is coming once he hits it better. He is hitting it ok, the power just isn't there. Fancy stats don't suggest any big changes so Abrams needs to become a different hitter and use his speed better. He needs to hit more balls on the ground and until then he'll be a liability at the plate. 

Alex Call (.208 / .322 / .292) first things first - great eye.  He's really helping the Nats walk rate. He has 9 in 59 PAs 3 ahead of any other Nat.  As for the rest he's hitting the ball weakly and no line drives. You would expect the BABIP to be low given that and it is but he is getting a little unlucky though  (.225) If he keeps playing the average should bump up a little but it's hard to see him hit like this and even be average at the plate. Corey Dickerson come back? Are we actually asking for that? 

Joey Meneses (.238 / .284 / .302) The good news is Joey is hitting the ball a lot like last year. The problem is this year is probably more in line with what that means than last year. He is hitting the ball a bit softer and a bit more on the ground but just a tiny bit and not enough to explain the drop we've seen.  It's probably due to an increase in junk that he hits hard but can't quite square up enough to turn into homers. For sure 0 homers won't last, but the 25% rate of last year was a fluke as well.  For now maybe we should hope for a split in the difference, a guy who can hit .265-.270 with 20 homers? Last year's Lance Lane Thomas? That'd be a disappointment but still ok for essentially a freebee fill-in. 

Dom Smith (.232 / .317 / .232)  Where's everyone hating on my choice to not click now? There was always a chance of this as it's not like Smith hasn't had his shots and his positive time was about half the length of his negative time that bookended it. Anyway he's NOT having an issue with Ks. He just doesn't square up the ball well and lacks the power to compensate for that. The 0 homers for him, like for Joey, is a bit of a fluke but given his recent history there's no reason to split the difference and expect a usable player. Instead something like a .245 hitter with under 10 homers. As a lightning fast CF or a D first catcher that might pass, as a mediocre fielding 1B you can find better. 

This might seem like kind of even breaks but the positives aren't very high as the team was expected to hit pretty poorly.  Basically it is a bad offense that is doing a little worse than you expected. That's trouble.  I'd expect a few more homers as guys like Meneses and Smith catch some breaks and Dickerson replaces Call, but Robles will likely drop down and Thomas is on thin ice. On balance the offense isn't getting much better.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Monday Quickie - Two steps backward, one step front

I feel pretty good about saying this three weeks in - the Nats are not the worst team in baseball.  Their offense is bad, but the Marlins, Royals and Tigers all have clearly more problems at the plate. Their pitching is bordering on bad, but a good chunk of teams have more problems on the mound (doctors advise you don't look directly at the Athletics staff). They are clearly better than the Tigers and A's and likely better than the Royals. They might be better than the Rockies (who knows with Mile High always playing a part) and maybe, just maybe better than Miami? I keep telling those guys they need a real bat and they keep saying "Nope we're not going to pay for that"

I think I've said this before but the Nats finally are young (youngest offense in the league at the plate at 26.9) but they are pretty much league average on the mound. That might account for the pitching being blah while the hitting is blecch. Very technical inside baseball talk here.  

Still last in homers, starting to drift back down the walk list as expected, but also as expected dead last in Ks (for hitters)*  Lots of contact. Over 73% of the Nats PAs end up with a ball in play, first in the league just over the scrappy D-backs and well over 3rd place.


This may not last (well I'm pretty sure better than the As will hold) but you should be happy with the small step of not being the worst for now. 

We haven't looked at the schedule much - why would we when there really isn't a goal for any win target - but the messed up, less rival games future is now and the Nats will play one more week before getting back to the NL East in the form of the Mets.  The Nats opened up with two good teams (Braves, Rays) and didn't win a game. They won a series against the Rockies who are bad, but lost series to the middling Angels and underwhelming Guardians. I'm curious what we will see in the next 8 games because Baltimore, Minnesota and the Mets are all good.


 Tomorrow we'll get into individual stats except not Stone Garrett. The guy barely got here.


*Yes almost dead last for pitchers too - 2 ahead of Detroit but also 13 innings more pitched than Detroit so... 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Getting close

We're almost to the one tenth post of the season and will be on Monday. The Nats have generally been what we expected. This is what we have repeated over and over but it's what we can say right now. The league might have moved around them. The NL East is sneaky bad! Should have gotten out of Houston Dusty, you enabler!

Today since I'm still trying to hold off on making statements about players let's look in the minors and at friends around the league. 


Like the majors we don't want to say much so just consider these notes on guys gotten in trade or other hots starts / cold prospects

Hot starts (batting) :  Drew Millas, Trey Harris, Franklin Barreto, Brady House, James Wood, Elijah Green 

This is a pretty good start for the Nats with Wood, Green, and House are along with Hassell (who hasn't played much) the most important minor league bats and they are all starting the season hot - though looking at the stats none of these are flawless starts, so hold off on the "stars are coming!!!" talk. For flawless starts, but not potential stars, we can look to Millas and Harris who were guys gotten in trades. Millas is running out of time as a prospect and Harris isn't one, but they may be able to fill some holes in the intermediate time. Barreto is the type of guy teams like the Nats like to pick up  - a well thought of prospect who is getting too old for his team to keep but not too old to be useful. Might be some power here which the Nats desperately need

Cold starts (batting) : Jeter Downs, Jordy Barley, Yadi Hernandez

Not much going wrong with guys you may care about. Downs got promoted because I don't know. Sad to see Yadi struggle but he's probably at career's end.  I only mention Barley because he's a guy I've been pretty consistent on not belonging in the minors but it's hard to give up on trade guys. 

Hot starts (pitching) :   None?

While at the plate the Nats are looking promising, early returns on the mound are less so. There aren't too many people we can even judge - a lot of these guys in relief have thrown under 3 innings so far. But know this in Low A the Nats are bad, in AAA the Nats are not good, and in High A and AA they are at best fair.

Cold starts (pitching) : Joan Adon, Corey Abbott, maybe Jake Irvin  

There's also Tommy Romero. Now you might not care about Tommy Romero (you shouldn't) but along with Adon, Abbott, and Irvin that's pretty much your AAA starters (unless you count Peralta and Espino but I don't).  The Nats rotation has held through almost 3 rounds. But know there isn't help on the way. There isn't even a bland decent arm the Nats might slot in if say Kuhl gets smashed again tonight. 


Max - after a couple middling early starts, put out a more Max like effort more recently to hold off the boo birds. 

Trea - Doing ok. Hasn't homered and with no protection isn't walking as much.

Juan - excitement hid a terrible September but eyes are starting to focus on him and while he is still walking and his power is good, the average isn't there. Some bad luck but he's not hitting the ball all that hard.

Tony Two-Bags - still a lot of nothing. Still has a good eye but hasn't shown any power since getting hurt four different ways (groin, knee, hamstring, hip) in his second year with the Angles 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Singly Joes : The Franchise

We're almost to the "3 starts" time frame where we'll start looking at everyone (probably Monday rather than tomorrow just to throw in a couple extra days) individually but we can start to form team thoughts already and one thing is incredibly clear about this Nats team. 

The Nats don't have power. 

As of last night the Nats have a respectable 110 hits, which ranks 11th in the league.  Batting average shows it's not a fluke of having like 3 games more than everyone as they are 13th in that. But the Nats aren't winning because so many of these hits are singles. 

86 (2nd in the league) of the Nats hits are singles. That's 78.2% of all their hits. That's way too many. 

In thinking about it in a game situation, in a good game your team might get 10 hits.  If the Nats do that, you'd expect maybe 2 of them to be XBH hits. That's not going to score you runs when you throw that out across 9 innings. Especially when you are dead last in the easiest way to score, the home run. The Nats have 5 homers, tied with 5 players and one behind Pete Alonso. Unsurprisingly, the Nats are 27th in runs scored. 

There may not be any way around this specifically. This is not a team made to homer. Arguably it's two greatest reliable HR threats are Candelario and Thomas, two guys aiming to hit 15-20 in a given year. Meneses could be the way out of it, he did hit 13 in 56 games last year, but it's still up in the air what kind of major league hitter he actually is.  The rest are either do not have power or have power but are not clear major league talents (Adams, Garrett).

That doesn't mean the Nats can't be effective. There's no reason those singles can't be a few doubles and with so many there are chances to score runs.  But you have to optimize what you do well.  The Nats put a a decent number on base through hits. What if they 

Also walk a lot - overwhelmed the opposition with baserunners? 

Fine idea, but we talked about how the Nats are also not a walking team. They have been middle of the road so far (literally 15th in walks) and the addition of the actually patient Alex Call into the line-up helps, but it'll be an uphill battle to stay even in the middle based on the team's histories. 

Run a lot - turn those singles into quasi-doubles? 

Again - good thinking but the Nats have become incredibly cautious and fairly unsuccesful on the basepaths as Davey's tenure extends.  They current have 4 SBs and 4 caught stealings. They are among the worst baserunning teams in the league, meaning they are likely not going first to third, second to home succesfully nearly enough. Going for that extra base is hurting the team not helping.  

Well at least stay out of double plays so those guys aren't wiped out.

Nope they are among the league leaders! 

Hit and run? Bunt more? 

They have had more sacrifices than any other team (3 - so not a ton). This is an interesting solution. In general bunting is bad because a runner on first with none out usually leads to more runs than a runner on second with one out.* But for a team with absolutely no power and questionable patience? I mean the numbers work out that hoping for one single with two outs is better than hoping for two singles given three outs... 

I mean I don't like it but for this team? Maybe? I'd have to run the numbers to see where the break even point on power is that makes bunting consistently worthwhile. It's gotta be pretty low.


The Nats need to score more runs, but they aren't going to hit more homers, they aren't good at trying to get extra bases during normal baserunning. So maybe they just need to chip away. Single, bunt, get another single. Hit and run. Hit and run. Hit and run. 

This isn't a plan to score a lot of runs, but to maximize what this Nats team can do, which is still probably below average. Now do I trust Davey to pick the right moments to make these calls? Not at all.

*I think the expectation on a single run goes up a little but multiple runs go down a lot which is why it's an acceptable move when you only need one run - say tied going into your last inning at home.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Monday Quickie - a solid weekend

Splitting a series in Colorado means possibly the Nats are better than Colorado. That's not necessarily good but you gotta start somewhere. Gore had another good start and the mountain air didn't lead to Gray giving up 81 homers. The bullpen though, looked suspect and while I like the bullpen the facts are that bullpens because they pitch fewer innings and have more pitchers, tend to be pretty variable. So if you have a slightly below average pen, which I think the Nats might, you can be slighly above average or well below just from good or bad breaks.

The Nats move on to play the Angels and the Angels, while they are fated by the Gods to end up like 73-89, are not a bad team. Win this series and then maybe we can start to think about moving the Nats up on the ol' rankings to the 20-25 range. Fun game is tomorrow as the Nats catch Ohtani. Yeah you want to win and you can watch Ohtani whenever but some guys you just want to see against a lineup you are very familiar with. Just feels different.

We're getting into our third starts so after this set we'll start to poke around and see what se see.   

Around the league notes

Tampa really looks good going 9-0 now. Granted they've opened up again Detroit (maybe the worst team in baseball), the Nats (maybe the worst team in baseball), and the A's (probably the worst team in baseball). Still you figure 7-2 from that, not 9-0 and they've been dominant while doing it. Scoring over 8 runs a game (next is at 6.6) and giving up 2 runs a game (next is 2.6). The Red Sox aren't very good but they aren't the worst team in baseball so we'll see how this holds

No one's been overly lucky or unlucky to start so what you see is about right. It doesn't mean this will hold but it's worth taking a look at some surprises and see what's going on. 

The Astros are 4-6. It's not the loss of Altuve. His replacement has been ok. Bregman is off to a horrendous start and they haven't found a DH to replace, well in practice replace Brantley. Alvarez moving off DH to OF to replace him. 

The Phillies are 3-6. Is this a surprise with Bryce and Hoskins both out? I wouldn't say so. Their replacements have been terrible. Add in a bad streak from streaky Schwarber and the offense can't score. The relief pitching is bad, too. No surprises yet. The surprise is that also the starting pitching has been terrible. 

The NL Central is wacky.  The Brewers are 7-2 (three starters have given up 2 runs combined in 5 starts. Guys you never heard of are hitting like crazy) . Pirates are 6-3 (MVP Bryan Reynolds and some wildly divergent pitching performances) and Cardinals are 3-6 (hitting getting unlucky but SP could be a real problem)

Diamondbacks are ahead of the Dodgers. Dbacks are smacking doubles and stealing bases to score some runs like an 80s turf team and it's working. Dodgers are the closest to an unlucky team but also they've gotten downright hideous performances from 7-8-9 and 5th starter. 

See you tomorrow for Ohtani Day

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Watch Notes

The Nats lost. Hey it's going to happen a lot. They now travel out to Colorado to try to see how bad they really are; worst in the league or merely bad. 

Time to get out the push pins though and mark some points on the Nats for interest


Robles illusion or real? He's hitting. He's walking! Robles was a highly ranked prospect for a reason despite what the exit velocity guys tell you. Maybe he's not a star but Robles shouldn't be as terrible as he has been. Can he keep up being above average?

What's up with Finnegan? He's had a couple of very bad outings now. You can't have that as a late inning guy trying to hold leads. How long do they stick with him as closer and if he has another bad outing who replaces him? Harvey? Thompson? No one has seen dominant yet.

Can the Nats hit some homers? They go to Coors. The Rockies aren't that good. Homers should follow. But they only have 2 so far.  

Ruiz opening up? Ruiz has been a very strong contact hitter his entire career. He's lacked power. Those things might be related and we've seen a couple of XBHs so far and several strikeouts. This would be both a bump in power and a bump in Ks. At this pace the trade-off would be worth it. 

Alex Call getting time?  With Dickerson hurt Call is getting time and if he's ok the Nats can work with that. 

There are other things like Meneses and the MI guys struggling and watching everyone's second starts, that hold as well, but I'll hold off on making these something to note until next week.  What we have above are a couple unusual hitting circumstances in Ruiz and Robles that suggest maybe a change in approach, an opportunity presented for Call, a problem that may call for a quick solution in Finnegan, and a team level issue. Again it's early but these are things I'm ok starting to look at.  Other things are just too easily a normal week of baseball that just happened to happen first.

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Of course then they hit.

16 hits!

They had 23 in their other 4 games

Still lost but in a world where Nats fans are searching for reasons this team can be watchable this year, this is a positive turn. 

Kuhl was Kuhl which honestly met his goal. Which is "don't be so bad we have to replace you with someone after like three games" and now we're back to Corbin and we can see some second starts and see what might be patterns developing. That's really what early to mid April is about. Not identifying problems and successes but identifying where you might be noting problems and success come mid May.  April is all about where to put the eyeballs and pay attention. 

Today ends the Rays series then it's off to play Colorado. That'll be interesting as the Braves and Rays are likely good teams and the Rockies likely not.  The Nats were always going to be expected to come out losers in the first two series but they could win the next one.

Some other notes 

If you love balls in play the Nats are great at that. They have the 5th highest % of PAs that don't end in Ks or BBs.  3rd highest if you throw in HRs!  They are also decent at this from a pitching standpoint but that isn't as fun.

The Nats are officially young at the plate. They are the 4th youngest team in terms of age of players batting. However they aren't all that young on the mound, still above average in age there. They only really have 4 young pitchers going now - Gore and Gray along with Mason Thompson and Thaddeus Ward

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

No stats yet

Another hallmark of spring* is me telling you guys that we have to ignore the early numbers put up by players. Unlike Spring Training these ARE meaningful but they are also small sample size issues and everyone has runs where they go like 1-12 or give up 7 runs in 3 innings. Happens to Mike Trout, happens to Jacob deGrom, the difference is it happens to guys like that a lot less. So what you really are shows across the whole season. 

I'm not going to bother to even look individual Nats stats up yet. Give it a few more days. I will say I did like what I saw of Gore and I hope that isn't just a random good start because well let's get to the team stats.

Even team stats are iffy for a longer than the 4 games we've been at it but the Nats aren't showing us anything we didn't know. As feared, they might be the worst hitting team in baseball. They are currently 29th ahead of the Tigers in OPS. We didn't know where power would come from. They only have 2 homers (two teams have 1). On the plus side we knew they wouldn't walk but it hasn't been OMG SO BAD so far. (The Dbacks have walked twice! As a team!). They won't run though (0SBs so far - not the only team)

The SP questions remain. Gore did look good, but Gray looked real bad, Corbin looked like Corbin, and Williams didn't look much better. The RP did seem ok. Finnegan had a rough go, but the guys that weren't the last names in the pen look fine. 

Defense does look better even counting Abrams error filled Opening Day.  

The Nats are 4 games into a season where they are expected to be non-contenders trying to avoid being the worst team in baseball. So far we're on that track.

*Not to be confused with Hallmark of Spring - their set of romance movies set during Spring time like "Blooms of Love" and "Easter Dreams"