Nationals Baseball: Scouts Ahoy

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Scouts Ahoy

Still working but now catching up on the other works so that's better. This should be good news for you guys as I would have been all over that losing streak proving me right that the Nats aren't some sort of special scrappy team. No time to gloat now though. They won and media were right back saying "see this is the specialness that won them those games" Sigh. 

There is big news in Nats town though as a bunch of scouts are getting the heave ho. It started with Johnny DiPuglia, who had been here basically since the start of Rizzo's time as GM, resigning. Maybe it was to avoid being fired, maybe it was because a bunch of scouts were going to be let go, because next a bunch of scouts were let go. 

Has the scouting been good? Well, no. At home, as most fans will tell you, it's been pretty bad with the Nats producing woefully little from the draft for years in comparison to other teams. Now you could argue it's a development issues not a scouting one but I definitely can't speak to that (and you probably can't either).  Internationally it's been ok generally though weaker recently hitting a nadir this year with the Nats Dominican Summer team being very very bad. 

The real question is though - what does this mean for Rizzo.  Are these things he has to do to stay on? Are these things that might cause him to leave? Do you care? 

I'll maintain that Rizzo is ok, a GM with positives that outweigh the negatives, and I'd be fine with him coming back. If he goes you open up the possibility of getting a bad GM and with a bad manager* already in place for another two years you could really set back the franchise even with Crews and Wood looking like true major league talent. But then again maybe not! If you feel like Rizzo is spinning wheels here maybe you need a change. I'll say they've brought in enough young offensive talent that with a little spending they should have a good offense in a couple year. Yeah there's draft luck timing involved there but that's just one guy. I'll also say they haven't brough in enough you pitching talent to expect a top of the rotation starter to appear any time soon so they'll need a lot of spending to fix that. 

*look he is. objectively so as of this point. I just noted a day ago by the end of his contract he'll almost certainly enter an elite club of managers of more than 1200 games with a WP less that .450. As much as you can judge a manager we can judge Davey to not be good. 




Ziggy said...

Gotta argue with your logic. Is Davey a bad manager because his winning record is around .450? Maybe that means he is a good manager!

The Nationals have had some really crappy teams over the past few years--with this year's team no exception. It's easy to blame the manager for bad performance. Firing a manager takes the heat off the GM and owners, at least for a while. Maybe there is a reason Rizzo and the Lerners aren't going for this easy fix. (They've had no problems firing less visible staffers.)

A manager has two jobs. In one job, he decides who plays when on any given day. Most of these decisions are no-brainers. You're gonna have Keibert Ruiz play center field? After the sabermetric input, the hard decisions are all on the borderline, mostly when to pull a pitcher. Borderline decisions lead to borderline results: maybe 3-4 games a year.

The other job is much more important. The life of a ballplayer is very stressful, except maybe for stars. Injuries and demotions are part of the job. Skillful people management makes a big difference in ballplayer's lives, especially in August when everybody is inclined to hate each others' guts. And this may make a performance difference: maybe more than 3-4 games a year. Davey is well-known for skillful people management.

John C. said...

I will simply note the irony of Harper claiming vindication with the Nats having a bad week while tut-tutting anyone who appreciated the good four week run that the Nationals had prior to that.

The resignation/firing of DiPuglia from his position at the head of international scouting seems, if anything, overdue given the lack of production combined with the utterly dreadful season from the Nats' sole DSL team (many organizations have two DSL teams). As for the scouts, at least one possible explanation is that this is the back half of the organization's pivot towards a more modern analytics-based approach. Given the massive criticism (much of it justified) for the Nats' slow adoption of analytics, this should be regarded as a good thing. It won't, of course, but it should be.

ocw5000 said...

Would love to see more analysis about what makes a good GM. Need some GM WAR, or gWAR if you're into gross stuff.

It's very tough to know what GMs actually have influence/control over. In some organizations, they probably hire the scouting department, others probably don't, etc. Then you have to factor in ownership. Count your lucky stars the Nats are not the White Sox (please don't sign Rizzo).

I think Rizzo is a Top 10 GM based solely on his track record of doing trades. Ramos, Fister, Roark, Turner, Doolittle, Hudson, the list goes on. This year has justified the last two selloffs with Abrams and Ruiz and Gray and Gore looking like something. FA signings probably middle of the pack. Development subpar, again not sure if that's on him or others, but it did really hurt to read that Erick Fedde article about how he decided to go to pitching academy on his own after getting released and is now Jacob DeGrom of the KBO.

PotomacFan said...

So, if Davey is a bad manager, who is a good manager? Certainly not Matt Williams. Maybe Dusty Baker -- good people skills, in-game strategy maybe not so much (remember Jayson Werth batting second for all 5 games of the playoffs and producing absolutely nothing).

How about across MLB?

Here's a list of the longest tenured managers:

Terry Francona, Cleveland Guardians: Oct. 6, 2012
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays: Dec. 3, 2014
Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers: May 4, 2015
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners: Oct. 23, 2015
Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers: Nov. 23, 2015
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves: May 18, 2016
Torey Luvello, Arizona Diamondbacks: Nov. 7, 2016
Bud Black, Colorado Rockies: Nov. 7, 2016
Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals: Oct. 30, 2017
Aaron Boone, New York Yankees: Dec. 1, 2017
David Bell, Cincinnati Reds: Oct. 21, 2018
Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins: Oct. 25, 2018
Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles: Dec. 15, 2018
David Ross, Chicago Cubs: Oct. 23, 2019
Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants: Nov. 12, 2019
Derek Shelton, Pittsburgh Pirates: Nov. 27, 2019
Dusty Baker, Houston Astros: Jan. 30, 2020
AJ Hinch, Detroit Tigers: Oct. 31, 2020
Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox: Nov. 6, 2020
Oliver Marmol, St. Louis Cardinals: Oct. 25, 2021
Bob Melvin, San Diego Padres: Nov. 1, 2021
Buck Showalter, New York Mets: Dec. 19, 2021
Mark Kotsay, Oakland Athletics: Dec. 21, 2021
Rob Thomson, Philadelphia Phillies: June 3, 2022
Phil Nevin, Los Angeles Angels: June 8, 2022
John Schneider, Toronto Blue Jays: July 14, 2022
Bruce Bochy, Texas Rangers: Oct. 21, 2022
Skip Schumaker, Miami Marlins: Oct. 25, 2022
Matt Quatraro, Kansas City Royals: Oct. 30, 2022
Pedro Grifol, Chicago White Sox: Nov. 3, 2022

Who would you want? I'll take Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy. Bob Melvin was always a favorite, but he hasn't exactly made the Padres into a playoff team. @Harper: I'm guessing you are not a big fan of Aaron Boone.

Hopeful Fan said...

I'm in the camp that feels you can't look at the raw W/L and evaluate a manager. It's a little like pitcher wins. Too many influences outside of the manager's control, starting with and most significantly the talent level.

To me, the fairest way to evaluate is to look at the expected W/L based on talent level (you can choose which of the many good ways there are to do this) and then see how actual performance differs. That normalizes things nicely, like ballpark independent hitting and pitching.

I haven't looked to see if Davey is the worst by this measure, or just really bad. But I don't recall any period of time where the team has overperformed its talent level in a meaningful way, especially when the stakes actually matter. Maybe it will end up happening this year when they don't.

It does seem like Davey's relentless optimism works well with some groups of players, especially younger unproven ones who lack confidence. But as anyone who has run a people business will tell you, you can't have a one-size-fits-all approach or it will fail. To my mind, he has totally failed and is not worthy of the extension, and is definitely not worthy of the job when we are good and ready to compete.

Anonymous said...

Does it--should it--matter that Rizzo is both GM and President of Baseball Operations?
Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers, Rays and Blue Jays (to pick 5 at random) separate the functions. The Astros
have a GM but no President.

Like the Nats, the Braves have placed the roles of GM and President of Baseball Operations in the hands of one person, Alex Anthopoulos, one of the most aggressive, energetic, savvy, and successful executives in baseball.

Exceptionalism aside, is it possible Rizzo's age militates against effectively shouldering the responsibility of both functions? (Anthopoulos is a younger man.) Even then, is it reasonable to expect anyone, at any age, to bear the burden of both positions simultaneously, and successfully, in today's baseball landscape?

(Asking for a friend.)

G Cracka X said...

I agree with Hopeful Fan insofar as judging a manager by W-L feels like judging a pitcher by W-L. You can do it, but it’s not the best method.

Now, I’m not really sure what the best approach is. Until there is mWAR, I think a lot of it is just idle speculation.

Remember when the Nats used to lose a bunch a 1-run games, and that was supposedly Davey’s fault? Well, I don’t hear anyone saying, “Look, now they are winning 1-run games. Davey is a good manager!” Or even “Davey has improved his managing!” It probably wasn’t (mainly) on him either way

Ole PBN said...

Is Alex Anthopoulos getting bored in Atlanta? Does he want to replace Rizzo in DC? If not, then why are we talking about getting rid of our good GM?

Anonymous said...

More typos than usual. Are you tiring of us too Harper?

Harper said...

Anon - this is what a first pass looks like

Mike Condray said...

I don’t object to keeping Davey on board that much, but I do think Rizzo should be a higher priority keep.

Tom Boswell once speculated that a *POSSIBLE* metric for evaluating baseball managers is whether *OVER TIME* they show a pattern of over/under performing their team “expected record” (sometimes “Pythagorean record”): predicted W-L record based purely on runs scored vs runs given up. There is considerable random variation from year to year in a team’s over/under performing their expected record. But if a pattern recurs over several seasons that may be a (good or bad) flag.

By this metric Davey is doing well THIS YEAR. The #ScrappyNats (TM) are ahead of their expected record. That’s encouraging!

BUT—this is the first Davey-led team to do that. From 2018-2022 the Nats underperformed their “expected record”—sometimes by a LOT.

So if one buys into this metric Davey has a long way to go to get back even vs the team’s “expected record.”

Steven Grossman said...

Back to the question mark about the dismissals of long-time scouts. My first thought was: a lot easier for Rizzo to hire these guys back if he goes to Chicago because they would be unemployed and it wouldn't be poaching.

Now I think some turnover was necessary--and that DiPugli resigned either in protest of the planned non-renewals or because he wasn't willing to fire them himself. In which case, its neutral as whether Rizzo is going elsewhere.

I am convinced that most GM's are bad. Being merely okay, probably puts you about 10th to 12th out of 30 GM's. There is a better case that Rizzo is top 5 to 8 than bottom 15. So, rooting for him to stay.

John C. said...

"... most GM's are bad. Being merely okay, probably puts you about 10th to 12th out of 30 GM's."

To paraphrase former Washington Senators pitcher Rocky Bridges, one of the things that the average man thinks he can do better than everyone else is to run a baseball team.

I often say that, at any particular time, the 30 dumbest people in the world are the 30 managers of MLB teams. Because apparently any of us could do the job better! The 30 MLB GMs are merely the 31st-60th dumbest people in the world.