Nationals Baseball: October 2023

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Off-Season Position Discussion : Catcher

The Nats catching situation is a matter of perspective. On one hand the Nats have a middling hitting catcher, with a unproven back-up, neither of which can field at all according to the limited stats.  On the other hand they have one of the youngest starting catchers in the league, wrapped up for a reasonable value, who is a top half offensive player for the position backed up by a player that mashed lefties in 2023.  

If you think the fielding is really that bad, and I mean you think it is easily worst in the majors bad, then the situation isn't great. The offense being merely ok can't overcome this deficiency and the Nats have a well below average position hurting them. If you think the fielding is not that bad and either this was just a fluke season, random variation, or bad stats, even if it is bottom 5, the offense balances it better and the Nats are left with a spot while not helping the squad doesn't hurt them.  Considering how easy it is for the C position to hurt a team a fair amount that's a win. 

But the Nats didn't want this to be a default win. They wanted catcher to be a plus.  Does the lack of movement here change anything going forward?

Presumed Plan : 

Ruiz with Adams as a back-up.

Reasoning behind Presumed Plan : 

Ruiz has been signed to that long term contract (through 2030 at least) and the Nats appear committed to giving him a good long try at making it.  Figure at the very least through 2025 as first choice starter, with another year of an aborted try even if things look grim. 

Adams platoons well with Ruiz if he can mash lefties because Ruiz has a big power issue from the right side. While he did hit for a much higher average from the right side this year, that wasn't the case last year, unlike the power imbalance. You can count on him NOT hitting homers batting righty. You can't count on him hitting .290.

Since Riley doesn't hit RHP that great and neither fields well there isn't anything more to look at here at the top. 

As for the minors there are some guys to look at, most notably Drew Millas. He hit very well in AA, ok in AAA, and pretty good in a brief stint in the majors.  He's also more well thought of defensively.

My Take :  

There really isn't a very good reason to abort this plan.  Adams hit lefties well but it was just one year, he hit rather poorly this year against righties, and he can't field the position well either. He doesn't look like a replacement. You signed him to have him be a cornerstone of your team. Now you play him.  I'd love it if the Nats showed they were going all out to help him and sign some very specific outside catcher help.  maybe they have? Make a show of it though. You committed millions to the guy, committing a few tens of thousands more for one on one defensive training should be an obvious move.

What about Millas?  Well Millas made himself a decent prospect and if he hits in AAA (where we presume he'll start to play everyday) that will cause a quandry. A good "too many startable young guys at catcher" quandry, but a quandry nonetheless. Since Millas can field (we assume) then if he can hit like Ruiz you'd want to play him.  But Ruiz has the contract so Millas will be far easier to deal and bring more back. Also Ruiz doesn't hit that well to shift him. Niether does Millas really. There's a lot of ways this works out fine. Most likely Ruiz is about average and Millas is about average in AAA and you sort of work Millas up as the back-up, letting Adams either go or work himself into a DH/1B platoon if he's still mashing lefties.  But if Millas hits good, not great but good, and Ruiz hits below average that sets up a "do you try to get better behind the plate with about the same offense you hope while kind of making a mess of that contract" situation.

I'll note here that Millas is 6 months OLDER than Ruiz so this isn't like Ruiz is blocking a phenom if Millas does well.

The Nats aren't in a bad situation here but they were really hoping it was going to be a good one. It still could be but in 2023 it wasn't.  Here's to Ruiz making it work and Millas also hitting ok to become nice trade bait.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

HOF Managers Yes or No

First off - YES!  Let them all in! Who really cares about which managers are in?! Do we even know how to judge these guys?! 

Anyway Managers up for the Hall and their stats

Cito Gaston : 894-837 (.516), 5 postseason appearances with 1 team in 12 years, Two World Series appearances with two titles (92/93 Blue Jays), first Black manager to win a World Series

Davey Johnson : 1372-1071 (.562), 6 postseason appearances with 4 different teams in 17 years, One World Series appearance with one title (86 Mets), above .500 record with every team managed

Jim Leyland : 1769-1728 (.506), 8 postseason appearances with 3 different teams in 22 years, Three World Series appearances with one title (97 Marlins), retired after three straight first place finishes

Lou Pinella : 1835-1713 (.517), 7 postseason appearances with 3 different teams in 23 years, One World Series appearance with one title (90 Reds), Managed team with most wins ever (116 win 2001 Mariners)

Pinella has the most wins of any non-active, non Gene Mauch* manager.  Leyland is right behind him. Davey has the highest winning percentage of any non-active standard manager with more than like 6 seasons managed** that's not in the Hall. Cito is one of the few multi title winners not in the Hall. They all

Post season records on another level are worth looking at Pinella won 5 series and lost 6, Leyland won 9 and lost 7, Johnson won 5 and lost 5, Gaston 4 and 4. 

You can make a good argument for any of them, but there are really three different Hall of Fame manager arguments and we're seeing two of them here.  The arguments are (1) how do we judge nulti-title managers, (2) how do we judge one title managers, and (3) how do we judge no title managers. 

Pinella, Leyland, & Johnson are all in the one title group and the decision to be made isn't clear. Davey is probably the best manager, and in my mind most deserving of the three. But he did managed like 1000 fewer games than either of the other two.  Pinella was probably a better regular season manager but ran into more disappointment in the playoffs than Leyland did. If you look outside of managing for some reaons, in terms of baseball feelings, people generally like Leyland the most. Pinella and Johnson both could be ornery. Pinella though was clearly the best player, kind of a Hall of Good type. Davey had a solid career. Leyland was a nothing.

My personal ranking would be Davey, Leyland, Pinella, with the only reason Davey isn't in already is the fact he was his own worst enemy keeping jobs, but I could see it going exactly the opposite way.

Gaston doesn't particularly compare well with these guys, almost 2000 games behind the most seasoned two and with a record overall that isn't special. But he is in the two title manager argument. While one title can be seen as a fluke, being at the right place at the right time, generally two titles are your ticket in. Gaston's problem is that Ralph Houk and Danny Murtaugh exist. Both of these guys are also two-title winners and haven't really come close to getting in the Hall. Houk has about the same winning percentage but a lot more games managed.  Murtaugh has about the same number of games managed but a higher winning percentage. It's hard on a just results to put Gaston in over either of these guys. BUT Gaston is historically important in a way Murtaugh and Houk are not an that should and does matter. When electing anyone, place in the game is important and Gaston inhabits a space Houk and Murtaugh do not. 

Personally I'd go Murtaugh, Gaston, Houk if I was ranking all three but we're only deciding on one and it's Gaston and I guess I'd go with no? But I'm not pitching a fit if he gets in. He's worthy. I will say though if he gets in then Murtaugh will almost be a given the next time he comes around.

There are also umpires (West is a shoo-in) and others (bet on the beloved Bill White) 

*Mauch managed a very long time and was considered someone that did well with lousy teams. But doing well with lousy teams doesn't translate to wins and he only made the playoffs twice, losing both series he managed. He's kind of become the "ok better than this gets in" line.

**there are two Negro League managers with higher percentages, one that managed 7 and one 11 years though the seasons noted are half as long if that. There's also a pre-1900 manager with 9 seasons. But the point stands that no one is really close given Davey managed far more games than all these guys. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Boz must be crazy

Tom Boswell is back, jack! And that's Jack Morris because it's time for takes as bad as Jack Morris being in the Hall of Fame. Boswell pens a piece for the Post that tries to envision a Nats' present that involves keeping Bryce, Trea, and Soto and letting Stras and Rendon go.  In a sense, it's making the best FA deals they could have made avoiding mistakes.

It's an interesting thought experiment that unfortunately Boz doesn't put much thought into.  In his world signing Bryce stops the Nats from winning the 2019 World Series and then the team fails to do any better in 2020-2023 and without the trades of Max & Trea & Soto and the terrible 2022 that gave them the Crews pick in 2023 they have a terrible farm. In his mind they become the Angels of the NL.  But is this really how it would go?  Let's just go with results. 

2019 : 100% signing Bryce likely means they don't sign Corbin and maybe they don't sign / trade for a couple other guys.  Which ones? Dozier? Ok yeah. Anibal. No, they need a starter. One of Gomes/Suzuki? Probably.  But also they maybe let Adams walk and Bryce plays 1B. And they probably don't give Rosenthal 7 million for the worst pitching you've ever seen. 

Do they make the playoffs? You'd have to think so. They'd have to be 7-8 games worse to miss. And they didn't win the division remember. In fact the most reasonable guess, that they are a couple games worse, which means they likely still host the WC. 

Now do they win the World Series? You'd have to guess not. In part because the special role Corbin and other guys played in that run. In part because winning the World Series takes a huge bit of luck. The Nats were a better use of Hader, a Will Smith fly ball going 5 feet deeper, and multiple shots off Max Scherzer going right at guys from not doing it. Chances of rolling sevens again are slim. So Boz is right about this

2020 : But in 2020 what happens? It's a COVID year so it's weird but the Nats OF and 1B situation was flat out awful. Bryce would have been a couple game improvement by himself even in a shortened season. And the Nats were counting on Stras who gave them nothing. With an average performance by anyone they get a couple games there. Corbin by this time was a tick below average. Easy enough to make up. I'll admit that's only 30-30 as a record maybe. But 29-31 made the playoffs. The Nats are in it and if they are in it, they can win it. 

2021 : The further we go into this the harder it is to gauge. Again Stras is a nothing and Corbin is now terrible so NOT relying on them is actually going to likely help the team by literal multiple wins. The offense wasn't bad but was unlucky and perhaps Bryce in there is what it needs to click into the top level offense it should have been. But we can't expect GOOD pitching and all this still probably only puts them around .500 at the trade deadline. If they don't sell Max and Trea there's a chance they make a run instead of collapse, and maybe they make some moves. The problem is this year it took 88 wins to win the NL East (90 to win the WC) and I'm not quite sure they make it. 

2022 : And now things probably do go off the rails. If Max leaves (which is the assumption if they are paying Trea and about to pay Soto) and Ross gets injured then there is no one left to pitch and even with the three stars and whatever budget pick-ups they make they are still probably slugging their way to about .500. A ton better than 55 wins but likely nowhere near enough to the 87 it would take to get the playoffs.

2023 : It might get interesting here.  It only took 84 wins to make the playoffs this year and if they did anything right with starters since 2021 they might have put together enough to get over this small hump.  But then again, maybe not. Finding pitching is hard. 

For the second part we need to imagine what would their minors look like. I must admit probably not this good. They didn't get much from any tear down trade before 2022 and let's just say Max gets then Ruiz or Grey.  Up until here that's not too different.  But Soto did give them a full handful of decent prospects. None of those guys; Wood, Susana, Gore, Abrams, Hassell, would be here and that's 3 of the Nats Top 12 prospects, including a Top 10ish overall guy gone. That's not even considering the two guys contributing in the majors also not here. 

The draft is big unknown. This is all just spitballing. 2020's middling season got them Brady House in 2021. A better record though could have gotten a comparable well thought of toolsy SS in later rounds. That draft was lousy with them. 2022 got them Elijah Green. A .500 ish record and the same aim of a toolsy OF couldn't help but get someone better than the faltering Green. The guys that fit that description at that point in the draft are actually pretty decent prospect. 2023 got them Crews and I'm not going to even look - around .500 doesn't get them something as good as Crews. But like I said there's a lot more unknowns here. Do they focus more on international signings if they don't have the draft picks? Do they go after more pitchers because of the hitters they signed? 

If I were to guess if they signed all three they definitely make the playoffs in 2020 and in one of the next three years things fall right and they make it again. If they make the playoffs twice more that's two more chances to win a World Series. Of course they probably don't - they did make it in 2012, 14, 16 and 17 and came up empty, but we just don't know. Also the seasons are just a lot more fun to watch. They would have a fairly barren farm system though and would not really have a good plan on how they are going to get that pitching to complement the hitting. Comparing this imaginary 2023 Bryce/Trea/Soto led Nats team to a team like the Angels isn't that far off. Not in 2020 or 2021 but for 2023... I think Boz is actually pretty on the nose. 


Boz misses one big point. What if the Nats signed Bryce and Trea and traded Soto? The minors are almost entirely the same. Sure they lack Grey or Ruiz and that matters, but one of them is here along with Abrams and Gore. They also don't have Crews but they likely lucked into an actual OF prospect when kept from selecting Green.  And importantly they do have is a lot of money that could go into signing a starter or two. What if that Soto money went into Verlander? Or if they got it exactly right and got Senga and Eflin? Then the 2023 Nats have the young players AND a decent enough 1-2-3 in the rotation have been playing a week ago.  

The Nats present isn't great but it could have been better. With the hindsight information we have now we can piece together a way the Nats are both competitive now AND have some hope for the future as well. This isn't magic! We know exactly how things have gone! One should be able to do this!  What it turns out the Nats needed to do was sign Bryce and Trea and trade Soto in a fleecing deal. Or really you could say they need to sign two of them and get a ton back in a deal for the trade they do make.

To say the Nats did everything exactly right is to excuse the terribleness of the past few years as necessary. It wasn't. With the right moves the Nats could have shifted from window to window with a minor drop to .500 ish for a year or two. Could the Nats have made those exact right moves? It would have been tough. I'm certainly not going to say yes, but I'll acknowledge it's possible. That they didn't "do the right thing" in an absolute sense. 

How about in a relative sense? Not knowing if you can make those right moves, is tearing down to build up the best move? I think an argument can be made that it is. I don't agree but again I have to acknowledge that it's possible. But now the onus is on the Nats to prove that is what they did. We know they tore down. Did they build up? 

If they didn't then the Nats didn't do the right things no matter how you look at it. They didn't make the absolute right moves, and they didn't make the right choices to make the relative right moves, if you believe that's what they were, work.  I'm not giving them credit for knowing the best path to take if they trip and fall down into a ravine while taking it. 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

The starting point for 2024

One thing before we get into off-season position discussions.  I've alluded to this a few times but the Nats weren't as good as their record suggests they were. 

I would think we all know by now about the "Pythagorean" record, but maybe some don't so a quick refresher that your W/L tend to scale along with the number of runs you score and runs you allow. It does so in a fairly regular way and has over the years. Given that when your actual record skews far off from your Pythagorean one, you can fairly safely attribute it to luck.  Attempts to suggest it was something else, don't seem to hold going forward or looking back*, nor do they necessarily match up with the best and worst teams in the league. 

Luck happens. We all know it does. Part of having a good year is actually minimizing that luck, but really you just hope it breaks for you. You don't get the one or two injuries you can't afford. You sneak out a couple more close wins than you probably should. Anyway the Nats won 71 games last year. Their Pythagorean record says they should have won around 67.  That's probably low enough to suggest the Nats were a little lucky. 

But some stats guys have even gone beyond that trying to adjust also for strength of schedule and the actual talent on the teams you faced when you faced them.  These "adjusted standings" try to get a more accurate picture of the team as it stands. The same ones I noted last year had the Nats as more of a 61 win team that had misfortune. This year they were more of a 63 win team. 

Now of course what does this matter? It certainly doesn't matter at all for this year. No one is going to "correct" the win totals of teams. They went out there, won those games and that's done with. What it does though, is give you a reasonable suggestion of where you should start your analysis for next years Nats team.  When it comes down to it they did not have the talent of a "in a vacuum" 71 win team. It was more like 67 or 63.  If you said 65 that would probably be fair. It's from that point the Nats are trying to improve.

That makes the jump to competitive that much harder, but you want to be realistic. The Nats don't need to add ~10 games to get in the conversation, they need to add ~16.  That's another superstar or two more good players. 

I think the Nats know this, if not directly in this manner. They know they aren't potentially a competitive team in 2024 without everything going their way. This is why the off-season FA talk is muted. It's not going to take 2 smart signings to make things work, it'll take 4 and they aren't ready to do that. When instead they can maybe wait another year and have developing players cover a couple of those spots.  My response is fine. Think this. But make two signings anyway. Set up needing less to make it work going into 2024. Guarantee a step forward even if the minors don't provide help. Commit to a run at the playoffs, if only a flawed one for a couple years. Prove you aren't going to pack it all back in, slow walk the guys in the minors and move your sights to 2027.

The Nats still need a lot of work, more than last season would have you believe.  But they are losing time to do that work. It's time to start with the understanding it may very well likely take even more next off-season.

*in other words, "espirit d' corps" if it exists for some reason only seems to last season.

Friday, October 06, 2023

Is the Nats 2023 rebuild in a better place than 2010

Zuckerman suggests yes, the Nats are, in a vacuum, in a better spot today than they were in in 2010.  The hitting talent is younger. The pitching talent is no older. The Nats have a set of young potential stars, where in 2010 the number was smaller (for example once past the few couple you were on Michael Burgess and Eury Perez).  So by those numbers it does seem like the future might be brighter now. And, he suggests, if the Nats are willing to make moves like they did back then (sign a Werth, trade for a Gio) than they might develop on the same time frame, giving the Nats a true contender in 2025 and maybe good enough to try for a playoff spot in these expanded times next season.   

One obvious thing that Zuckerman glosses over is that Strasburg was seen not just as a pitcher but as a generational ace. Neither Gore nor Gray nor anyone in the Nats system is assumed to be one. Bryce Harper, one of the few highlights in the minors, was seen as a generational hitter, something that Crews and Wood hold only outside chances of being by most pundits. You could argue that even with their performances Strasburg and Bryce didn't quite live up to the hype and they were still extremely impactful players.  If the Nats current crop slightly underperforms they won't be great.

But really the important thing here is the one number Zuckerman glosses over - the number of things that hit. In 2010 to 11 to 12 it was nearly all across the board, an insane break of timing and luck that any team would be hard pressed to repeat. 

Wilson Ramos graduated to the majors and was an above average hitter immediately. Ian Desmond graduated to the majors and became an above average hitter. Morse was like August Joey but for a full year in 2011 and still good in 2012. Jordan Zimmermann became an ace pitcher. Gio Gonzalez became an ace pitcher. Werth was good in 2011, reasonable, if hurt in 2012. LaRoche sort of the opposite, bad/hurt in 2011 but good in 2012. Stammen, Storen, Clippard became multi-year plus relievers supplemented with randoms guys that would be good for a season. The Nats would draft Rendon. 

None of this was apparent in the post-season after 2010, outside of Morse maybe being good, so yes it looked darker. But in hindsight it got immediately surprisingly much better. It wasn't a natural development forward. It was a unexpected leap. To expect the 2024 Nats to perhaps be better than the 2011 Nats would require both FA input like Werth and an equivalent unexpected leap, maybe more of one since as noted they lack the Strasburg and probably don't have the Bryce. 

It's not too hard to see the offense match what the Nats were in 2011/2012. Beyond the FA acquisitions to make up for Werth & LaRoche yet undefined the pieces are mostly there.  You need a prospect to play like early Bryce but early Bryce wasn't THAT good. Crews or Wood might do it. Someone would have to be good like Morse, but Thomas might be able to do that without Morse's peak, or maybe Garrett or Meneses. You'd need two guys to get good like Desmond and Ramos. Abrams seems to have that potential and there's a handful of guys - Ruiz, Garcia, the other of Crews/Wood, Hassell, Lipscomb, House - to be the other guy.  There's another big piece missing here - Ryan Zimmerman as the young star. I'm not sure what you do about that but maybe two of that handful work out fast? Regardless you can make out something for the 2025 Nats that isn't too far off the 2012 Nats assuming FAs are coming.

The pitching though. Can Gray/Gore/Cavalli/? have a good year where it all comes together like Detwiler? Probably. Can one blossom into an ace like ZNN did?  Maybe. But even so can the Nats trade for a guy who also aces out like Gio? And what about the missing Strasburg ace already in place if he heals (which he did)?  The bullpen might have two of the decent arms noted with Finnegan and Harvey, but both those guys are older than any of the three building blocks were in 2010.  From the looks of how the pen has performed it's hard to see enough of the annual surprise guys coming. You just can't make out the pitching to be like 2012 unless there are huge surprises.

So while the counts and the ages suggest a brighter future looking ahead from 2023 than from 2010, the talent in place presents a more mixed view and hindsight tells us the 2010 to 2012 move was as much about what surprised the Nats as it was moving forward with a plan. 

To compete in 2025 the Nats need FAs and the Nats need surprises. At least as many offensively, which might happen, but more pitching wise, which likely won't. To limit the surprises need the Nats need to lean more into FA or have a couple great trades.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Lucky or Unlucky : 2023

As part of my annual series, it's time to review the Nats season to see where they got lucky, where they got unlucky, and where things broke as expected.  This is a player based evaluation, so we aren't diving into adjusted standings and things like schedule strength and hit sequencing. We're going on what we thought players would most likely do going into the year and what they did do?  This team won a few more games than expected but I'm not sure specific player luck played into that. Let's see!


Candelario - The Nats gambling on FAs has been noticeably poor. But Jeimer was a great pick-up who found his bat while fielding 3B at an elite level. In the brief time with the Nats he was the best player, so much so he arguably still had the most value for the 2023 team's season despite being traded at the deadline. He probably isn't as good with the bat as he showed for the Nats (as evident by his modest play over 40 games for the Cubs) so the Nats got maximum value here - getting a guy in DJ Herz who might be something someday. Hey, the bar these days for deadline deals is WAY lower.

Garrett - Bad teams roll the dice on other people's trash. You expect it to be trash, but you hope to find something useful among a half-dozen players.  Garrett was arguably more than that, playing decent OF and hitting pretty well for half a season. Over the course of a season the guy playing like this is more valuable than Lane.

Adams - Attempts to play Adams every day failed and he didn't look like he had particular use at the major league level, but this year he showed a big jump in platoon splits, mashing lefties in a way he hadn't previously. From a nothing to a guy who potentially fits in well as a rest day fill-in for Ruiz (who has NO power batting RH) that's a good break for the Nats


Adams / Garrett injuries - Of course the latter two lucky breaks broke, literally.  Garrett broke his leg in late August and Adams broke his hand in early September. Injuries happen but you want to happen to bad players more than good.

Robles injury - Speaking of injuries Robles, forever in the Nats doghouse for one reason or another, was finally hitting and it wasn't just luck. He was hitting the ball much harder, quite possibly in reaction to the "we were wrong on Robles bc we didn't consider how hard he hit the ball" pieces that came out. Maybe this was the year he put it all together... but no, back issues limited him to 36 games this year.

Williams - Signing a guy for one year limits his value in trade. Signing for two makes more sense and signing a SP is an even better way to get more value. Trevor Williams had failed as a starter in go around one but was good as a spot starter and longer reliever and wanted another try.  How bad could it be? Bad. Worse than Corbin. Possibly the worst full season starter in baseball in 2023. I mean bad is a possibility, but worst? That's bad luck. 


As Expected

Strasburg - it was unlikely Strasburg would ever come back to pitch. He didn't.

Ruiz, Abrams, Garcia - The most likely scenario for any one of the young guys was they remain major league players, of around average value. That is what happened. Abrams shows a bit of spark, Garcia might be faltering but here they are averageish players in 2023.

Smith - Dom isn't good at the plate and he wasn't good this year. He's ok in the field and he was ok this year.

Call - Outside half a year of AAA ball Call looked like "all field no hit". Hey! That's what he is!

Thomas - Lane is fine. A hitter who plays poor OF who is useful because 3 OF can be hard to find and he's still a better bat than like 1/3 of the DH starting. Oh and he's cheap.

Meneses - Joey not being JOEY but being ok had to be the most likely scenario after the end of last year got people excited in him.

Rest of the minors who reached majors outside Adams and Garrett - non prospects doing non prospect things 

Corbin - we know what Corbin is now and it's this. With the bad luck taken away he's not historically bad but he's still Top 10-15-20 worst in the majors.

Gray / Gore - Similar to Ruiz and Abrams. You plot outcomes and this is where these guys end up in projections and then in reality. Gray got a little lucky with ERA but he also seems to always which likely means he has some skill that isn't caught in the FIP stuff but it's not a lot of skill we're talking about and the FIP is bad so the end result isn't amazing. 

Irvin/Adon - 5th starter types pitching like a 5th starters.   Adon got some bad ERA breaks, Irvin good ones. That happens. Neither are anything surprising

Finnegan/Harvey - The good veteran relievers remained good. Neither broke out to be special or collapsed to be bad.

Rest of pen (Sorsa, Ferrer / Abbott Ward) - Thompsons collapse might have been a bit of bad luck but that was more personal to him. His pitching was still useful.  Other than that a mix of AAAA arms who in any year some guys will be ok and some will be bad. Edwards got hurt but he's old. 

The Nats season in a player luck sense played out almost TOO regular. They had some lucky finds but ended up with them for limited times evening that out. Otherwise everything basically went according to plan.  The thing is the plan was never to be good. 

Not much will change on the player level next year either. Ruiz/Gray/Gore/Abrams/Garcia will be expected to be around average. The call-ups will probably be expected late and not necessarily contribute much in 2024. Everything around these guys is mediocre to bad. If the plan happens again the Nats won't be good and it won't be a surprise. 

As we've said for the Nats to be good they need (1) the minors to produce multiple someones who we can expect to be good in 2025 (though as noted not 2024 that would be a surprise)  and (2) they need to get FA they can expect to be good. Because right now the expectations is a lot of average backed up by a lot of bad.  That's the recipe for a ~70 win season going forward and while that was a pleasant surprise in 2023, it won't be if you see it in 2024, 2025, and 2026

Monday, October 02, 2023

Monday - Year in Review - Overview P1 - Nothing fancy

The Nats season is over. Their final record stands at 71-91. They were still last place in the NL East, and were tied for the 5th worst record in baseball. However they were confidently better than the dregs of the game, 10 games clear of the 4th worst record in baseball, which is an improvement over last year. The Nats got some measure of clarity during the season with Davey and Rizzo returning and the team looking like they won't sell in the immediate future. It will be another full go around for the Lerner/Rizzo combo that was so successful the first time through, albeit the first time with some things set up for them coming in. 

The Nats goals for this year were modest and they hit them modestly. Going in this was a franchise looking toward 2025 so you simply wanted the young guys in the majors already to solidify those roles and the minors to look like there could be impact players coming to help by that time. You have to answer positively to both of these goals. The fear of failure, and the rebuild coming undone before it really got started, did not come to pass.  

But the realizations were not revelations. The young guys in the majors solidified useful roles, but not much more. The guys who could be impact players in the next few years looked good, but not penciled in favorites for ROY in the next two seasons. The Nats are probably ready to take the next step but will need external (re: Free Agent) help to get there. 

So we leave 2023 where you would have said you needed to be when the season started, but not likely where you hoped to be. Offensively there are a handful of guys that could be the next Nats star, but as of today there isn't a single spot just yet to hang your hat on and point to saying "That's what's going to carry the Nats forward". In 2024 you need someone to become that guy. On the mound there are a couple guys that will fill out a rotation but there isn't that potential ace that will be in the top of the rotation, eating innings and giving the Nats likely wins every fifth time out there. In 2024 you need to have clarity on where that guy is coming from. 

While 2023 could not serve to give early answers on where the 2025 competitive team was coming from, it should help provide clarity on who is not going to be helping that team. Older guys did get decent trials at the major league level and showed little. These guys need to be cast off in favor of better bets to be helpful down the road. This isn't a team just filling space anymore. Each spot needs a thoughtful choice who is either helping the team now or might do so over the next three years.  No more fill-in lottery tickets. No more other team's trash. 

2023 ends as a success, but a success in that it allows the opportunity for 2024 to set up 2025 and beyond. Let's see the Nats make that happen.