Nationals Baseball: 2024

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Into the dog days we go...

The Nats needed that break. Now they come back to face a bunch of middling teams in a row. How will it go? Who knows. The only good team they faced in the past 3 weeks was Milwaukee and that was the only team they won a series from. 

The next 10 days will be about trades. Does Finnegan go? What about Derek Law and Dylan Floro?  All are 32+ with good stats. Finnegan and Law have another year of control. What does that bring back? Who replaces them? 

Also on the block would be Jesse Winker a FA to be that proved that he is good if he can stay healthy. Not a bad bet for a team looking for only two-three months of games. Does Lane Thomas also go? On one hand he's younger with a year of control and has proven to be a consistently (slightly) above average bat. On the other he is sneaky bad defensively dampening his overall production. If they both go does that mean we see Dylan Crews? If you wait a month you don't start that clock. 

That's the set-up.  Then August and September becomes only about the kids and how they look. 

Kids that need to look better include Keibert Ruiz and Trey Lipscomb (if he doesn't want to get passed). Notice I DIDN'T say James Wood.  First time up - whatever he does outside of strike out 50% of the time and bat .050 is fine.  Ok ok he's actually almost there in Ks. He's struck out 18 of his last 43 PAs. But he makes enough hard contact to keep the average above the Mendoza line and keep the team from feeling the need to send him back down. 

Kids that need to hold on to around average include Luis Garcia, Jake Irvin, and Mitchell Parker. Guys who have settled into a nice above average usable spot that you want to see stay about there to keep new holes from forming. Garcia entered the ASB hot. Irvin and Parker not so much. And we can't just dismiss August and September if it goes poorly.  It's a third of the season! So if they do crater re-evaluation will be needed about their position. So don't! Just play about average!

Kids that need to keep pushing include Abrams and Gore. Both are playing like they could be stars for years. The Nats need stars. But the season has been up and down a bit for both which introduces some questions about how good they could be. The good news though is it's in both directions. As multi-year veterans now seeing them get a little better is what we want, but keep being this good is probably ok. Just don't have a late season swoon. 

Two weeks from ALL KIDS ALL THE TIME (and grumbling about Corbin every 5th day).

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

All-Star Thoughts

I've probably said this before but the All-Star Game is evergreen so why not say it again

  • I think every team should have a rep. As a kid I was interested in MY guy. Yes I wanted to see stars but I saw plenty of them. They're all over the All-Star Game! Sorry your second, third or fourth best guy didn't make it. As an adult I respect that kid and kid's wishes.
  • I think the All-Star Game shouldn't mean anything more than it does. The "this time it counts" era was stupid. 
  • I think the leagues should go back to not playing each other which would heighten the ASG but that ship has sailed and can no longer be seen from shore (rumor has it it hit an iceberg and sunk) so I accept the ASG isn't going to mean as much.  Chase those regular season dollars though and general loss of media attention! 
  • I think all the starters - even pitchers - should play the first 3 innings. Ok if a pitcher is laboring to get him out sooner - you do have a stacked pen. But none of this 3Ks first inning pull the pitcher nonsense.
  • I think the manager should try to get one guy from every team an appearance. You should try to get every sub an AB and every starter coming in should go 2 IP. That will help with the next thing.
  • I think the HR Derby extra inning thing is stupid and was completely ok ending the game in a tie if needed. Though it should be like a 13 inning limit or something letting you put guys back in after the 9th.  It's an exhibition, let's get a winner but we don't have to be too serious about it. The pitchers?  Look if you can't figure out how to have two starters left after 9 to just throw 2 innings a piece I don't know how you got to be a manager in the first place.
  •  I still think the Future's Game alone on Sunday night makes ALL THE SENSE IN THE WORLD and random Saturday - what are you paying attention to the actual games on? - is the dumbest thing baseball does and it does a lot of dumb things. 
  • I 100% think they should wear their own team uniforms for the game. This was iconic. The amount of money they squeeze from ASG merch has to be tiny, but they'd sell balls and strike calls to a sponsor for a nickel if they could. 
  • I think it has to start at the time it does. Sorry East Coasters that get tired early, but the pitch clock makes it move along much better.  I suppose you could put it on Sunday and start it earlier. But on Tuesday? Nah.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Monday Quickie - State of the Nats

All-Star Break. 

Record 44-53. (73/74 win pace) 

General Feeling : Not great currently, but taking a step back pretty good.  

The Nats currently are on a pretty horrendous stretch. After nearly hitting .500 getting at 35-36 the Nats have gone 9-17. The call-up of James Wood created a hopeful mood that perhaps the Nats were going to make a play for something bigger this year but they have all but slipped from any sort of Wild Card contention and the sell-off has begun. Both Jake Irvin and Mitchell Parker have looked shaky recently as has the overworked bullpen. With Corbin being Corbin and the 5th starter being likely a rotation of AAAA hopefuls at best, it's unlikely the Nats can keep up the pitching that buoyed them for half a season.  Meanwhile the hitting looks no better today than at any other point. Wood did not immediately become a superstar and Abrams and Winker are good but not good enough to carry a lineup (few duos would be) 

Taking a step back though, it would take a continuation of this stretch through the entire remainder of the year to approach a disappointing year (they'd win like 66 games).  One good stretch will given them a solid win total. CJ Abrams and Mackenzie Gore both continued to improve looking like cornerstone players of the next potential Nats contender. James Wood dominated the minor leagues looking more and more like a safe bet to be a good, if not great, major league player and another tentpole. Jake Irvin and Mitchell Parker, while tiring now, were good for long enough to suggest one, if not both, will be rotation pieces going forward if not more. Yes Kiebert Ruiz and Josiah Gray continued to have issues and the minors beyond Wood hasn't produced another player hitting their ceilings but if you are looking for 100% of your things to go right, you are looking for something you will never find. The Nats look like a team that is ready to take another step forward. 

Will they? Well that's likely for the off-season. From here on out the only thing that could derail the general mile-high view good feeling would be injury issues. 

Speaking of good feelings for the future, the Nats traded arguably their most talented reliever, in Hunter Harvey, and got back a decent haul.  No Cayden Wallace isn't special which framing might suggest. My personal opinion is that if you hear someone called "Team's Xth best prospect" instead of "MLB's Xth best prospect" it probably means they aren't actually a real prospect. Cayden is borderline in that respect. Injured 22/23 year old (he'll be 23 in less than a month) who had real issue generating power this year in AA. But being in AA at this age is good and he's worth a look at.  Plus the Nats get a supplemental first round pick (39th). Both the player and pick probably fall into "multi-year bench player" expectations which doesn't sound like much but would be a good return for a reliever like Harvey who is as much talent as production. 

Rizzo has his flaws but he's always been a good trader, deals he makes are rarely flat out bad. So expect at least fair returns for the relievers. But do expect the relievers to go.



Thursday, July 11, 2024

Slide slide slippedy slide

 Well a Wild Card was always a bit of a stretch. Especially when near .500 management was giving out all the "don't be mad when we trade guys" signals. 

Ok 2025.  Wood is here. Who's next up? 

Dylan Crews - Promoted to AAA after handling AA.  He wasn't forcing the issue as much as it was clear he could handle AA. He was consistently a good bat over almost any stretch you looked at. AAA has looked about the same - maybe a touch worse in all aspects which wouldn't be surprising this early. Not necessarily slated to make it up this year based on this. Will have to see.

Brady House - Recently promoted to AAA because... well because I think they want all these guys to come up at the same time or as close as possible. House wasn't doing much in AA and infact it seemed like the league had figured him out to an extent. He could surprise but if AAA follows AA like it did for Crews House is even less likely to need to see the majors this year. 

Cade Cavalli - setback after setback. thrown two games since coming back from his big injury and both of those starts were followed by extended time off. I don't see why you'd press this, but if he is healthy sure you'll see him.  He's been up before. 

Cole Henry - if you have news on him let me know.  Hasn't been seen since a decent rehab start a few days before June ended. I'm guessing that's a no for 2024 in the majors. 

Yohandy Morales - slow start in AA and injury. Hasn't played since May. No.  

Daylen Lile - earned a promotion to AA where he is doing ok, lots of concact but really struggling to generate any power. 

Robert Hassell - hasn't played since mid-June and was having the same power issues as last year before that

Andry Lara - up and down in AA but mostly up and probably the best healthy arm they have right now. The problem is he's young enough he hasn't built up the innings. He's about 3 starts from matching his career highs. I can't see him called up to throw an extra 30+. I wouldn't want that.

This isn't what I expected. Who could we see :

Darren Baker - He puts the ball in play and is fast so can have a decent average. Maybe. I'd feel better if he already wasn't 25.  

Orlando Ribalta - Ok not much of a "prospect" but a live arm reliever. Nats at the major league level seem adept at getting control out of these guys and if he gets it he could be really good. Although yes 26. 

Zach Brzykcy - On 40 man so that's a big help. Looked real good in Wilmington but hasn't pitched in over a week. But if he's ok I'd assume you'll see him. 

Marquis Grissom - in AA now but fits the exact build of the Nats pitching staff. Control, no homers, gets the job done. Would expect a stop in AAA but then the majors this year


What this says is 

1) Expect the relievers to get traded because if the Nats have anyone worth seeing in the majors it's other relief arms. Might as well get them some practice now. 

2) Really watch Crews, House, and the rest of the high minors guys. They need to do better over the next 6 weeks to make a call-up really make sense, although they could get it just for the experience. 

3) in general the "next wave" that will help carry the team to a WC challenge in 2025 isn't forming. That's some injury, some performance, some timing. Right now it's Wood and then... we'll see.  Lots of time left in the year though. Some strong finishes would turn this narrative around.

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

I am a downer

It's true. But the Nats are in a much better place then we thought they might be to start the year so that's good and it's the focus of this year. Irvin looks set. Garcia has reset. Gore is good. Wood is up. Abrams is having a potential star turn. That's a nice core. 

But the past 3 weeks have been rough. For those looking for some surprise success in 2024 the Nats are on a 7-13 slide (4-10 more recently).  It's their second extended slide of the year- they went 8-17 over almost a month May into June.  The reason they aren't reeling is between these two they had an 8-1 run, their best stretch of baseball this year. They are still technically in the playoff hunt but in a bad spot 5.5 out with one team to beat and 5 others to jump over. The Mets series could really finish that off. 

What happened? The batting has crept a little better. It's still not good but it's better. The starting pitching has been constantly decent. The culprit has been a faltering pen. Some ERAS in the last two weeks

Hunter Harvey - 12.46

Robert Garcia - 7.71

Tanner Rainey - 7.20

Dylan Floro - 6.00

Derek Law - 4.76

The reason is likely overuse. Floro is tied for 3rd in appearances, Law t6th, Harvey t19th, Garcia t33*.  This doesn't sound that bad but understand if you list the Top 30 relief pitchers in appearances you would basically expect each team to have 1. It'll differ based on SP innings but the Nats starters have been fairly strong and they are Top 10 in innings pitched. Yet the Nats have four arms in the Top ~30. This is managing to "win one everyday" with a team that should be "set up for 2025".

This is rough news for someone looking for trades to happen to boost the Nats quantity in the minors hoping to find another Thomas or Herz in the mess brought back. These guys are bringing back less than they would have 3 weeks ago. 

Time to choose for the Nats. Because if you really want to set up 2025 as best as possible with trades, that means resting these guys, taking some Ls, and getting them to look good again before the trade deadline. If you want to set up 2025 best as possible with arms in house, that means resting these guys, taking some Ls and making sure they are healthy at years end. Only if you want to press for 2024 do you keep throwing them out there 2-3-4? times over the next week.

*I used to mention the Nats were also behind in games played but they have caught up and are about average. So these numbers are fair.

Monday, July 08, 2024

Monday Quickie - take the bad with the good

James Wood is up and has been basically what you could expect he'd be right now. He's hitting (.320 average) he's walking (they are throwing him junk out of the zone to see how much he'll chase - not much is the answer) he's striking out more than he did in AAA (but not much more which is very good) and he's not hitting with much power (of course for this punchless team that marks him as like 5th best on the team and also he's hitting it hard... just not up).  It's a near perfect debut that marks him as a good major leaguer already.  We'll have to see how both the league and he handles the second time around games and the crush of a full season but all signs point positively. 

Jake Irvin DIDN'T make the All-Star team and that's probably fair. He's been good but not overwhelmingly so in a morass of about 15 guys that could have made it given different circumstances. But importantly he remains GOOD. A better than mid-rotation starter that reminds long term fans of Tanner Roark coming in and surprisingly becoming a solid pitcher for a few years. This is with the league having a full season of starts now to have a book on him. Exactly the kind of good cheap pitching stock you want to have. 

But along with the good there has been some bad and I haven't seen the balance in thinking about it.  When Nick Senzel was hitting early on (he had 5 homers in his first 10 games) and had a reasonable average through the first week in May, Nats fans talked of him as another secret get. Look at Rizzo go!  But he's been terrible for two months hitting to a .589 OPS* and got DFA'd. Where was the Rizzo made a mistake talk? Lost. Rizzo is doing the same thing he's done the past couple years, dragging in these bodies and hoping for something to happen. Candelario and Winker worked out. Far more didn't.  There isn't skill here. Just quantity. 

When DJ Herz threw a couple high K no walks games articles came out about how the Nats young pitching was amazing and look at all these arms. Not mentioned was how Herz stunk in pretty much every other start. Now he's been sent down. There won't be talk, except here, about how the Nats SP is not robust but still pretty thin going into next year. Parker looks more like a 5 every time he goes out there** able to keep the ball in the zone but unable to make it hard for guys to put it over the fence.

If this is really about 2025 keep your head on straight. I've been seeing people riding the highs and not regarding the lows. That can be dangerous, especially for a team that's 43-47 and only nominally in the playoff hunt. What you want is to ID the issues and pound on the team to address them in the off-season. Don't get lost in the idea that Rizzo can find another Winker (instead of the Senzel, Gallo, Rosario, looking like Ramirez) or that Herz will be another Irvin (instead of Adon or Rutledge or Tetreault)

2025 people! Eyes on the prize!


*means he's not walking, hitting for power or hitting for average. 

**but if he can repeat this as a 5 that's fine. I'll take that. But that does leave two spots empty. A true ace would be nice or else you need a couple of other real solid arms because that's what the Nats have gotten pretty much this year from Williams, Parker's start, some random other games by Herz and Corbin.

Monday, July 01, 2024

Happy James Wood Day

James Wood is finally arriving in a Nats uniform. The wait has not been long but it has been much anticipated.  Unlike when the Nats traded Trea and Max - when the Nats traded Soto they were giving up a super young player, still possibly getting better, with two plus years of control left. The return needed to be team rebuilding good. CJ Abrams (hot again) and Mackenzie Gore (rough outing last time) both seem to be All-Star caliber players with the ability to be true superstars. The issue with them is that the clock had already started ticking on them when they were traded. Gore will start costing a lot next year, Abrams in 2026 and talk of if their future is in DC will start over the same sooner than you think time frame. Younger and with Nats full control Robert Hassell and Jarlin Susana have both seen potential careers stymied by various injuries. That leaves James Wood as the true team carrier. The guy who will be here through the decade whose stardom or non-stardom could determine the decisions of the franchise moving forward. 

Trading him was a gamble for the Padres.  He was a Top 100 prospect who was crushing the ball in A ball at 19.  Granted High A and AA are both big transitions but he had everything you would want in a player. As long as his strikeouts didn't get out of hand he should be at least a solid major leaguer. 2023 was a mixed bag on that he easily progressed past High A but in AA the strikeout totals did get to him going over 33%. That does give one pause as it can't get too much higher and allow you to remain a viable hitter. And it would almost certainly get higher in the majors so an immediate call-up to start 2024 seemed very unlikely despite a super hot finish to his season. 

Indeed he didn't start with the major league team but he did start in major league camp and played most of Spring Training with the big league club. He crushed the ball getting everyone excited and making everyone forget the cardinal rule that Spring Training stats are meaningless. Well, not everyone. The Nats did send him back down to make him prove it in AAA. He quickly did. He looked on course for a major league debut but a mild injury put him on the bench for three weeks. Picking up right where he left off Wood crushed AAA pitching as he did all year. Most importantly his strike outs were way down. With no possible indication Wood wasn't ready for the majors he got the call. 

 At the plate there is a minor concern - if you want him to hit his ceiling which is "Aaron Judge but debuting at 22 not 25" - that his effort to cut down strikeouts has taken some of his power. That's probably true but something I'd expect to come back as he adjusts to the majors. The power talent didn't go anywhere.  He can still hit the ball extremely hard. It just may take a couple of years to adjust to the pitching here and figure out how to balance making contact and hitting for power. 

He's said to be a fast runner and a great fielder, capable of playing CF but destined for a corner OF spot. In part that's because his size suggests growing and slowing into that spot, but really because Dylan Crews, another Nats OF prospect could take that spot. Or Jacob Young, who currently occupies CF is a top of the game fielder. 

Really the concern for Wood would be injury. He's such a big player (6'7") that you put more stress on the body playing this game everyday. The only caveat on Judge's fine career is the fact he's heading for only his 4th full season in 8 years. Is Wood destined for the same sort of injury-riddled career? Being younger helps but the key is more avoiding those leg injuries that simply can't be worked around.*

What can the Nats expect from Wood this year?  Who knows. Guys like Jackson Holliday show moving up to the majors is not simply a step-up. I've said this before but the majors aren't just AAAA, they are a superleague where everyone better than AAA is forced to play together. These are everyone from guys at AAA that are just needed to fill spots to guys that would be in a theoretical AAAAA league if that existed. With all that talent here you'll be facing a bunch of guys a couple steps better than you've seen. It's hard to exactly pin down what will happen.

Regardless of whether he is immediately great, or needs to be sent down for more seasoning, this is a big deal. This is the next chapter for the Nats. It starts here. From here you will see more kids. From here you will discuss the re-signing of the next set of young players the Nats are relying on - Garcia, Abrams, Gore. From here we'll find out if and how competitive the Nats will be for the second half of this decade. Let's go!

*that's mostly why Judge has lasted. A bit of knee strain in the minors but the rest of his injuries are a mix mostly oblique, broken hand, a busted toe but from running into the wall, a calf, but no bad knees or bad feet flashing red light warning signs.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Well I was right

The Padres were a perfect team to beat the Nats.  It was elsewhere but basically the Nats win bc their pitching staff doesn't give free passes or a lot of home runs. The Padres score their runs by stringing together hits.  The Padres lose bc their pitchers, especially a bad pen, give up too many long balls. The Nats don't really hit longballs.The Padres hit 3 homers and took 9 walks over 3 games (both under league average). The Nats managed only 2 long balls.  Sweep. 

Ok not a big thing to be right about and the games were close and it's just one series, not particularly telling. 

The real problem, for those wanting the Nats to try for a playoff spot, is that the Padres were one of the numerous teams in competition for a WC spot. The Nats sweep put them into WC2. 

That will be the talking point for the run to the ASG.  After dealing with the Rays (in spitting distance of the much more competitive AL wild card), they'll play the Mets and Cardinals for 11 games (4NYM, 4STL, 3 NYM). Both these teams are ahead of the Nats in the playoff race and any negative showing, even a 5-6 run, likely sets the Nationals up on the outside looking in. If the Nats are making a serious play to playoff contention it will probably be decided now and then the usual All-Star break trade talk can take whatever form it will. 

In other news - James Wood has played back to back days once since being called up.  You could say it's being cautious, you could say it's being extra cautious, you could say it's slow playing his build up to a point that it makes sense when you don't call him up until he can definitely be in the ROY race next year. I'd agree with all of those. 

This all ties together in how I see the next couple months go. 

Nats don't make an undeniable push toward the playoffs. The front office trades away the bullpen and what they can elsewhere. At that point there isn't much of a reason to call up Wood in early August as opposed to early September so they hold on the move probably citing Crews needing more AAA seasoning and wanting to bring up these guys so they can play everyday together. Called up for Yankees/Cubs series? Maybe depends on the rookie dates and you might not even need the push for that to be well attended though. 

So prepare for a muddle through of the dog days with the highlight being what lottery ticket Dylan Floro can bring back before the sweet sweet relief of Labor Day weekend and actual prospects that matter


Update I know nothing https://x.com/andrewcgolden/status/1806728939240321070

Monday, June 24, 2024

Monday Quickie - 4 games from the halfway point

The Nats are what they are at this point. A just below average team who have been lead by starting pitching and a core relief set. The pitching has not been lucky, but instead has used a Top 10ish walk rate and a Top 5ish HR rate*, to limit run scoring. The K-rate is low. The defense isn't great. But if you don't put those extra guys on base and more importantly if you don't give up those home runs that score everyone, you can win games. This is the end point of a league that has devolved into approaching offense by the three true outcomes only.  It's ok if you K as long as you walk and hit homers too. If everyone is trying to do that instead of get base hits then the Nats approach is ideal.

Their offense is just passable enough to keep them winning about as many games as they lose, as the pitching keeps them in game after game. CJ Abrams remains a top player and Jesse Winker has been healthy and therefore good. The rest you can take or leave ranging from average to terrible. They used stolen bases to help boost scoring in the first two months but have lately relied more on sequencing luck than anything else, getting the right hits at the right time, yesterday being the perfect example. 

In terms of stats this is very much like the 2011 Washington Nationals team who rode a decent set of starters and a below average offense to a .500 record. 

What changed between 2011 and 2012 to start the near decade run of success and can** that happen again? 

  • Introduction of a superstar OF? Check! 
  • Continued success of a young IF? Check! 
  • Successful bench bats? That's variable but no reason why not!
  • Savvy shifting of players to cover weak position? Not exactly sure where that would be coming from. 
  • Bounce back from well respected veteran FA bat? No, that's not here. 
  • Bounce back from OTHER veteran FA bat? See last one. 
  • Unexpected bat surge from an up the middle position?  How much do you believe in Ruiz?

OK well offensively there needs to be some work done

  • Former first round pick rounding into star pitcher? Check! 
  • Continued improvement from young reliable starting arm while a second one gives the Nats an average year? Sounds like a good projection for Irvin and Parker! Check!
  • FA pitcher has Cy Young vote getting year?  Ok well that HAS to come later anyway. 
  • FA pitcher has solid year in 4/5 role? Two FA pitchers? Well I can't rule it out yet can I?
  • Retention of every single good youngish bullpen piece but one (out of like 6) and as a group they all pitched just as well?  Well the bullpen isn't young so that's a wrench, and we have to see what they do at the deadline here, but I'm not hopeful on points 2 or 3.

Yeah pitching too. But that should be expected if you are planning to jump from 81ish wins to 95ish wins. 

There are pieces in place but there are also things missing. There are young bats who can likely fill the important star roles and create a solid bench. There aren't reliable veterans signed for next year that were good and should be better. These can be signed (Winker is an example. Candelario last year) but you can definitely whiff on those (Gallo, Maikel Franco). There are solid arms that should at least get you three deep of NOT back of the rotation pitching. There are a bunch of bullpen arms that are holding down the pen. There aren't a handful of 24-27 aged bullpen arms throwing well and under control for a while.

It would seem for a big jump the Nats need both FA commitment to a couple bats AND a couple arms for next year. I suppose Jesse Winker can be re-signed cheaply but he's not as reliable as Werth or LaRoche would have been. It's a bigger gamble to make him one of the two. You could also try Herz/Cavalli/etc to play the Edwin Jackson role.  It isn't asking for that much but pitching prospects are notoriously fickle. If they do have to spend, that's a fair amount of money

It would also seem - sort of worrying - that the bullpen is set up for now, with no later in the picture. Guys well over 30 under short contracts and running out of team control. Keeping is an option and probably wouldn't be too costly, but the bullpen is aging not peaking. So trading is an option. You can certainly try to rebuild it for next year but we've seen the track record for that is like three bad years for every two good ones. This will be an interesting piece.  Honestly I'd almost like to see Herz moved NOW to fill one of these roles. Literally there is one pen arm under 30. It's Harvey and he's 29 and a half. 

Good season. Fun season. Like 2011. But the Nats had more in place in 2011 and all it took was a couple key moves (and of course some luck - every team needs it) to make the next two steps to constant contender.  To get next year to be a great season is not going to just happen with a couple key moves and luck. There's a bullpen riddle to solve and there's a handful of moves that need to happen.  But it's there for the taking potentially.

(ed note - I think I'm mostly saying - don't expect 2025 to be 2012. Expect it to be an intermediate step if the Nats commit to a couple FA. Something like mid to high 80s in wins and a real good WC chance.)

*Or bottom 5ish - depends on how you are looking at it. They don't give up homers that's what we're saying. 

**Just saying 'can' here. The pieces are in place. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

RIP Willie Mays

Mays has no real Nationals connection but anytime possibly the best player in the history of your sport dies it's worth a moment. 

There are basically three camps you can fall into for "Best Player Ever" : Ruth, Mays, Other.  There is no definitive answer and comparing across time and space is inherently flawed, but these two have the greatest number of backers.

Mays for his time frame - basically post war to expansion* was one of several great outfielders that defined the generation. He outlasted the self-destructive Mantle and out-fielded the underrated but still right fielder Hank Aaron**.  But it's not by any means meant to be read that he just sneaked by these guys because of longevity or fielding. He was as great as they were at the plate. As has been said, he had no flaws. He was the ultimate 5 tool ballplayer.

Three guys, three of the greatest ever, all in the OF at their peak at the same time? Two happened. Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. Ted Williams and Stan Musial. But three was special (not to mention that Frank Robinson would show up a little later and be one of the Top 20 players of all-time and be completely overshadowed because of these guys) and Mays was considered the best. Not much more needs to be said about how he was viewed as a player. 

When I think of Mays in the recent past it's mostly been about how angry I get about the "Willie Mays stumbling in the OF" idea of thinking. That great players should retire early because god forbid you see them play as anything other than great.  It's a fragile person that believes that, who ties their own self identity to how their favorite players present themselves. I will always believe you should play baseball until they tear the game away from you. Because once it's gone - at some point in your late 30s likely - there's no going back. You can't do it again later. This is it.  Squeeze all you can from it. Willie did.  His last year hitting a pale .211 with 6 homers in 66 games. Good for him.


* I like looking at pictures of rookie Mays and veteran Mays to see the change in uniforms from the flowy wool to ease movement to tight synthetic fabrics we're used to today.

**Why is it "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" and not "Willie, Mickey, and the Hammer"? Well more than musical flow - it's a NY thing... sort of. The writer of the song was inspired by these guys (and Joe DiMaggio) showing up together at an Old-Timers Day at Shea in 1977. Obviously no reason to invite the non-NY Hank to that. Funny thing is if the song was written in 1956 or so "Willie, Mickey and the Duke" would have been understandable. At that point they were clearly the best players of the last half-decade. Aaron was a couple years younger and just starting his career at this point.  Snider had the same injury track as Mantle but also didn't burst onto the scene as brightly as Willie or Mickey. Hence why he's merely a Hall of Famer and not a mythical figure.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Monday Quickie - To sell or not to sell

Morosi is saying teams are interested in the Nats pen. 

The Nats are currently in a playoff spot, albeit under .500.  

Sell or no? 

The Nats aren't probably better than San Diego, Arizona, or Cincinnati as it stands now but 

  1. As long as the starting pitching keeps doing this they are barely worse
  2. We might see the end of Corbin and the beginning of kids that can hit* improving the team
  3. There aren't particularly guys in the wings waiting to do what this bullpen has done

I think they deal. Bullpens are generally highly variable and the same set of guys aren't likely to be this good again. They can use the kids and changes to see if they can stay competitive in a weak NL.

Please remember when answering :  

  • if you want that playoff game that's not the best way to get it. 
  • if you want future success trading these guys vs keeping them will likely barely matter. 

*although we're still waiting on Wood to play again and they managed to really hide an injury that has kept him off the field for a month.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Just don't be terrible

I'm not talking about what I want from the Nats. I'm talking about a plan to be ok. A plan the Nats are following.  If you can be mediocre, you can be entertaining. Maybe not directly off a run of great play, but definitely off a run of bad play, which is where the Nats are. 

The Nats last year were 12th in runs scored in the NL and 14th in runs allowed.  This year they are 13th in runs scored (!) and 8th in runs allowed. The difference is noticeble but doesn't seem to explain a rise from a lucky 70 win team to one that is knocking at the door of 80.  Surely average + below average doesn't equal average? 

But it's rank getting confused with actual talent level.  

 Last year the Nats ended the season about a third of a run scored (.36) from average. They were below average but were worst or second worst in a crowded field of  mediocre as close to 8th as to 14th.  That's not actually a huge problem. Pitching though the Nats ended the season over half a run (.56) worse than average, and were further from 10th than 10th was from 3rd. They were significantly worse than everyone. 

This year the batting is only one rank lower but closer to average (.31). Really though they are a little worse off being in a group 11-14 a drop from the more average teams are. In comparison to the teams they play they feel and are a step worse offensively. But pitching wise they are 8th and .10 BETTER than average. They kind of clump in with the Pirates as right around average not quite good enough to be good like the Reds or Padres have been, but not bad enough to be a problem like the Cubs and Cardinals. 

The drop in runs scored does signify a slightly worse situation, a little more likely to have issues outscoring opponents based on this distribution, but just a little. The pitching s a significantly better situation, going from outright losing games because of the pitching to having the pitching consistently keep them in games. 

What that means is that while the offense struggles in a general sense there are a lot of teams that they have a chance against. Only teams with good pitching and not bad hitting would have a clear advantage. Phillies and Dodgers of course, the Brewers.  The Reds and the Padres.  And that's it.  The Nats won't finish 6th best in the National League but if the pitching holds there is no reason they couldn't expect to win a series against a team that good. And yes, it is in part because the NL is crap this year with only 5 teams like this but the AL is only going to have like 7-8 teams that fit this bill. That's your average total in a year. 

That's really all it takes to be competitive. Don't be terrible. Don't have a gaping problem with your team that puts you in a hole game in and game out. The Nats haven't been able to do that having terrible pitching compared to the league average since the pandemic year. Now they have it.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Monday Quickie - turnaround

The Nats were sliding but then came the Braves and that righted the ship. There's an Elephant in the room Nats related people are avoiding talking about but we'll get to that in a minute. 

The Nats hold on to respectability and the outside chance of a playoff shot in the weeeeaaak NL where currently one game UNDER .500 San Diego holds the 2nd Wild Card all to themselves. Parker, Irvin, and Gore all looked good, which is what you want.  Herz did not but he was going up a first time starter who looked worse. 

In the meantime the Nats offense is being carried by Jesse Winker who has 11 hits and 5 walks in his last 27 PAs (ok all singles but still that's a .550 average!). You could say the team is getting timely hitting but really it's getting the runs it deserves. If you get a bunch of singles all the time someone is going to come home other times you'll get enough XBH at the right time and the pitching is good enough to win games this way.  Not enough mind you - they are still 30-35 - but more than a lot of teams!

Now it's Detroit and kind of an NL/AL test. These are similar-ish teams in league in my mind, not in terms of build but just base talent to the rest of their league. Interested to see it play out. 

Ok so the elephant.  There's a lot of people celebrating these Atlanta wins as some sort of triumph but guys... the Braves are bad. Maybe not Opening Day Atlanta, but since late April the Braves are not good 16-21 (a 70 win pace).  They were 14th out of 15 NL teams in runs scored in May, 11th so far in June. The only reason they haven't cratered out of the playoffs is what we noted above. The rest of the NL stinks too.  Beating this Braves team is good but not because it shows the Braves beating a good team, or as I laughably saw this weekend talk about holding down a "strong lineup". It's good because the Braves are a mediocre team and if you want to be king of the mediocre teams (which possibly might sneak you in to the playoffs) you gotta beat the other mediocre teams.

Friday, June 07, 2024

If not Corbin then who?

 Ok yes "ANYONE" is a fair answer but let's see what the Nats actually got. As I said yesterday Corbin isn't doing anything for the team.  You know he's pitching poorly but he's also not soaking up innings.  He's averaging just under 5.5 innings per start. That's about an out better than Williams and Parker, but an out worse than Gore and Irvin. That might be understandable. "He's pitching bad so he's going over 100 and needs to be pulled" but that's not the case. He's only thrown more than 93 pitches 2 times in 13 starts.  If you aren't using Corbin to soak up innings then and instead are treating him like any other pitcher on the staff - what the hell are we doing here? 

CUT HIM. 

So what's the entire AAA staff?

Joan Adon - traditionally the first man up the last couple of years it's mostly been because they don't want to start someone else's clock.  He's not been good in the minors since 2019, with ERAs in AAA of 4.68 in 2022, 4.62 in 2023, and 5.64 this year.  He's not an option so much as a defensible organization strategy. He's both very wild and hittable without a lot of swing and miss stuff. It's not the WORST combination - homers are the biggest issue for a pitcher and he's ok there - but it's close.  He should not replace Corbin in the rotation. 

DJ Herz - the Candelario return doesn't seem to have major league starting stuff. He's exceedingly wild  (had a 7.3 BB/9 in AAA before call up) so that means his stuff has to play as unhittable. It sort of does in the minors but first crack in the majors with a couple step up in bats didn't go well. Most everyone thinks reliever. A good one but reliever. Maybe worth trying out but if you sort of want a guy to go longer, he's exactly wrong for that. 

Jackson Rutledge - the lastest "maybe this guy" nothing about his performance in AAA (over two seasons 5.36 ERA, 9H/9 1.1 HR/9, 5.2 BB/9, 8.7 K/9) says he's anything. And plus he's 25.  This guy is an org guy through and through. 

Spencer Watkins - 31 year old Jackson Rutledge. Paid his dues and hung around in the minors moving up because someone had to until eventually he got a decent couple months in the minors and a few cups of coffee in the majors. First one was bad. Last one was bad. Middle one was 5th starter type. Hittable guy with mediocre control. There's nothing here. 

Thaddeus Ward - a fringy prospect a half-decade ago who never got back on track after the pandemic and Tommy John.  Not everyone does! Thoroughly mediocre in AAA with a K/BB ratio approaching 1. (that's not good. that's actually very bad) 

What about the guys I might have heard of? 

Cole Henry is hurt again hasn't pitched for a month.  Cade Cavalli is "taking a rest" from rehabbing and hasn't pitched for a week. Check in on that again soon.  Jarlin Susana JUST had his first really good start in A-ball after a mostly bad start to the year. Travis Sykora has only been pitching for a month to middling results. So we are left with

Andry Lara - I feel like he keeps bouncing up and down but he did well enough in High A to get promoted and is holding his own in AA. He does seems hard to hit but he doesn't have the complete package going that would suggest you could jump him from AA straight to the majors. He's had wildness issues and is fighting through that in AA. 

Ok well is anyone in AA making that case?

Maybe? 

Brad Lord - Lord is pitching to a 0.64 ERA over his last 7 AA starts, with 41 Ks, 15BBs and 2 HRs in 42 innings. His big thing is he keeps the ball down (his GB rate in 2023 was over 60%) and is terribly hard to homer off of. Upping the Ks a bit is good. How far can that skill set take him?

Andrew Alvarez was guile-ing his way through AA pretty successfully, got the call to AAA and got CRUSHED in his first start there. 


So the short of it is there are no great Corbin replacements. Herz is getting first dibs both because he's likely the best option and before you convert a guy to a reliever you want to exhaust looking at him as a starter. But after him I think there's a hope Cavalli will be ready. I suppose if Williams is ok. Josiah Gray just slots in. But as you see pitching injuries happen. It's sort of likely someone will be out or needing a rest. There's a lot of moving pieces here.

If it were me I guess I stick with Herz and probably try out the out of nowhere Lord. Remember the goal here is NO CORBIN. Let these guys throw until Gray or Williams come back and force one of them out. They might both be terrible if so there isn't a great option unless Lara has come together but by then we're heading into the ASB and maybe things have changed. Also maybe BOTH Gray and Williams are back so that doesn't matter. 

Anyway pick who you like as long as it's not Corbin. 


Thursday, June 06, 2024

That was bad

We have an opposite of the Godfather 3 situation.  Just when you think you are into the Nats they push you back out. This sweep sort of gives you the picture of what we thought the Nats would be.  Gore, filling the role of "bad outing by a young starter" had a rare off-night forcing the Nats to play catch-up.  Herz, "replacement starter", gave just enough to be acceptable in that role, which still means being down early. And Corbin was Corbin.  Get that guy out of here. 

The Nats offense is kind of what we thought it would be like, if some of the whos are mixed up. A pretty bad offense plus pretty bad pitching and there you go. A team that can get swept by a woeful Mets team that  were in a 12-27 stretch where only 1 of the 12 wins was by more than 2 runs. 

The sweep means the Nats lost a leg up from the two earned by beating Seattle and Atlanta. They don't have to get it back to have a good stretch, just hold court. 3-4 over the last 7 would do it. Of course saying "Oh good Irvin and Parker are next up" sounds really weird but that's what the Nats season has been about. Weirdly good starting performances. The Braves offense is fairly average without Acuna, hell maybe with it, so there's no real challenge here. Just do what you've been doing.

At this point though the Nats need to decide on what they are doing the rest of the year. I'm not saying "GO ALL-IN" or anything but how much do they care? DFAing Robles show they can move on. But keep it going. 

  • Corbin is terrible and not doing anything for anyone here. You managed to squeak out a barely acceptable 2nd to last year of the contract after hanging on to him for too long. Congrats. But you can't keep him going any longer. There's no point. Yes the Williams injury means you need a pitcher. Bring up anyone else. If you aren't going to mark each of his starts a lost cause to save bullpen arms and have him throw to 110-120 pitches per then I don't know why he isn't on the street. 
  • Cut ties with Joey.  Try some new bats at DH/1B while you have a chance.  Presumably in August we'll see the guys we want to see and space will be tight. Give them some hacks now rather than waste them on Meneses who presumably will be gone for 2025. 
  • Ruiz needs a reset. Either give him a couple weeks as back-up here or send him down to AAA to try to get his head on straight. Playing through it as the starter hasn't worked. 
  • Decide (and we don't have to know about it) whethere Harvey/Floro/Law are staying or going. If going - they can keep pitching as is. If staying you have to be a lot more judicious on their innings. The Nats don't have to have 3 guys in the Top 30 of appearances, especially when they've played 1-2 games fewer than everyone else. (and if they are going - who's filling their roles next year or are you gambling on FA relievers again) 

 If this year is about 2025, which it appears to be, let's see it. 

Monday, June 03, 2024

Monday Quickie - a good week and a sweep diverted

The Nats took a couple games from the Mariners - the class of the AL West.  Of course that's looking like not saying much. More importantly they also won the series against Atlanta, taking 3 of 4. The Braves are reeling - losing Acuna they followed the Nats series loss with a squeaking by of Oakland at home - and the Nats took advantage of it. These are things we want the Nats to do and the things that separate the Nats from the bottom of the pack where they've been mired the past few years. This week is the Mets and Atlanta in DC.  If they can go 5-2 then you have to start thinking about .500 for this year because they'll be right there with a pretty mixed bag of opponents the rest of the year. 

In the minors - Wood is hurt and taking a rest but Dylan Crews, Daylen Lile, and Jeremy de La Rosa have all had good showings recently. One thing that no one can deny about the Nats is that their minors is lousy with outfielders.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Pitching : The Good and the Bad

If the offense didn't seem to match the brightness of the season that's because the offense isn't all that bright. It's managed to hang on because of some fast starts and timely hits but it's still 13th in the league in runs.  It's the starting pitching that's carrying this team. 


Jake Irvin 

The Good 

His walk rate has dropped precipitously from over 4 per 9 IP to almost 1.5. That's better than he ever did in the minors.  He's also seen his HR rate drop to a little under 1, more in line with his minor league stats than the 1.5 he put up last season. 

The Bad

He still doesn't strike out many (this will be a re-occurring theme) and guys are basically hitting the ball in the same manner as last year - just slightly less hard and slightly more on the ground. That puts him at the mercy of where the ball goes. IOW - luck. 

Overall 

Don't put guys on base. Don't give up homers. Strike guys out.  Give me 2 of 3 and you will be successful unless you are REALLY bad at the other. Irvin is getting lucky but only a little bit and has deserved this good start. You have to wonder if he can keep up the super low walk rate but until he doesn't why not? You don't know if he has focused on it before

 

Mitchell Parker

The Good 

See Jake Irvin. You have a super low walk rate and a decent HR rate. The HR rate is especially nice because that is what he excelled at in the minors and it's something you could think he could keep up. He's inducing far more GBs 

The Bad

He is not striking guys out and he's not inducing a lot of soft contact. 

Overall

If you want to be wary about one of the starters Mitchell would be it. He's not just improving at one specific aspect like Irvin. He's never pitched like this before in the minors. Now, it's not like he's doing anything that screams it can't keep it up but he has the least amount of history suggesting he can and if pitching was a simple as "throw it in the zone and keep them from homering" we'd have a lot more great pitchers.


MacKenzie Gore

The Good

Completely coming into his own. The K-rate is ace level as is the HR rate. The walk rate is completely acceptable. The hard hit rate has dropped. Velocity is up. Swinging strikes is up. Outside the zone swing rate keeping going up while the contact keeps going down. Just a grab bag of goodies here.  There seems to be actually BAD luck for him a BABIP going which suggests possibly more improvement although oddly he does seem to be a guy that when guys can put in the ball in play they do it pretty well.

The Bad

He doesn't start off with strikes as often as he should and given the mere acceptable walk-rate and high K-rate he tends to throw a lot of pitches quickly. Even with 0 walks last game he was getting to 100 pitches before getting out of the 6th. For someone with a history of injury this can be a precarious thing to deal with.

Overall 

I'm not sure what more can you want.  He's one step away - either efficiency or durability - from being an true ace if he keeps pitching like this.


Trevor Williams

The Good

2023 was a "bottom out" year for Williams featuring an unusually low K rate and high BB rate. Those have both shifted more back to historical norms for him. Also similarly he's inducing GBs at a rate more in line with what you'd expect from him. He's very much keeping the ball in the park and keeping the ball from being hit well. 

The Bad

He's still getting hit hard.  Nothing about his strike or chase numbers suggest massive improvement fooling hitters.

Overall 

If you want my take Williams is having the make-up year from last season. He pitched poorly and everything broke as bad as it could while doing so.  Now he's pitching better and everything is breaking as good as it can.  The stats all scream he can't keep this up. That HR/FB rate (3.3%)  which is about 1/3 of what the best pitchers normally get for a year is just a flashing red light. Some regression is coming here. The question is if that puts him as still very good or just ok.  Again he's pitching well so there isn't a comeuppance to bad coming here unless something changes - which it might - his historic HR/FB rate can get kind of high. 


General Memorial Day sense 

The Nats are getting nearly everything they could be getting from these 4.  There are some things to keep watching and some things not to expect to keep up.  I'd be pretty surprised if Parker and Williams are holding the same stats come the All-Star break. But unless they completely collapse, an unlikely scenario, the Nats can still rely on them for decent innings if not great ones.  In the meantime Jake Irvin is starting to solidify himself as a mid-rotation starter and Gore is setting himself up for ace status.  This is pretty much the best case scenario for the Nats going into the season in a general sense. (I'd say pretty much bc best would include Gray rounding into a #2 type as well). There's likely some comeuppance coming and since the offense doesn't hold the same "likely to get better" status a slight dip in performance but if you are looking toward the future a drop off in 2024 win rate shouldn't bother you more than these performances on the mound by Gore, Irvin, and maybe Parker excite you

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Offense : The Good and the Bad

CJ Abrams

The Good

Abrams has matured into a more powerful hitter, without increasing his swinging strike percentage. He's still an aggressive hitter, but he's hitting the ball hard more and pulling it more and that's allowing for more home runs. He has no homers to the opposite field or and only 3 on the border of "straight away" 

The Bad

Abrams season has been the tale of two months. April being a near MVP level situation and May being near send him back to AAA. Most concerning in May would be the drop in walks from 11 to 1. Abrams doesn't have to be super patient but to maximize his base-running you need him on base. His SB have also decreased accordingly 7 for 9 vs 1 for 3. 

Overall

We take the months together and the general sense is Abrams is the same-ish hitter as before but with more power. The season will show the level of that (and of his base) and if that puts him above average or near All-Star. Note his defense is shaky so hope for a better bat.

Jesse Winker

The Good

Healthy, Jesse is putting up power numbers that make him worth playing. Not quite his best Reds days but far removed from the past couple of years that almost put him out of baseball. He is revving up his power while not sacrificing his eye. His walk rate remains high. He's really doing damage to RHP, OPSing a very solid .839 for the year so far

The Bad

While other things shift back to "stats when healthy" his K-rate also remains high. This suggests the power is coming from trying more as opposed to a reversion to his peak. He really can't hit lefties OPSing a dismal .570 so far. 

Overall

His May has also been much worse than a solid April but the combination of the two months feels right. A healthy Winker has proven to be a good offensive player which is ok if he can DH. He doesn't bring anything else to the table. While ok everyday, to optimize the guy though he should be only facing righties in a platoon. Nearly every team would take that guy.

Joey Meneses

The Good

 Joey's walk rate and Krate have been very stable. He's not having new issues with plate discipline.

The Bad

 Joey doesn't do anything particularly good though so stability in stats isn't necessarily a good thing.

Overall

We all understand that first season was a fluke but  what's the difference between last year and this one? The answer is really not much, which suggests last year was a bit of a lucky year and this year so far a bit unlucky. The underlying conclusion though is Joey is a below average bat with little power.

Luis Garcia Jr

The Good

The third guy we mention hitting for more power, albeit only slightly. Better to say instead of generally hitting the ball harder, he's gotten better at getting that one good swing in an AB. He's cut down on his GBs (every year since he came into the league in fact) and he's hitting to all fields.

The Bad

His K-Rate is back up accordingly.  He also has major troubles with LHP this year. It doesn't track as much as with Winker but it's something to note.

Overall

This feels like the evolution of the 2022 Garcia more than the weird stats that showed up last year. He's an ok average, no patience, hitter with some pop.  The batting profile I like a lot more becoming more a LD to all fields guy and it's a turn that has slowly happened all career. Last year is looking like a hiccup. He's looking like a player who could start for the rest of his time here.

Eddie Rosario 

The Good

He's walking a bit more than you'd expect and his power is still there.  Honestly he's getting some terrible luck with batted balls. He's not simply pulling the ball.

The Bad

He's swinging harder and hitting harder but in a general swing for the fences set. He's not squaring up the ball as much getting more topped grounders and lazy flies.  The swings are harder but not necessarily faster that's what accounts for the opposite field hitting more than an approach change.

Overall

His overall average should improve but he is a hitter on his last go around in the majors. He might be able to make it work the rest of the year with some luck


General Memorial Day sense for these Nats

Abrams could still be a star and Garcia could be a solid every day player. But those are probably top end results for this season. Abrams is likely to be the solid (but fun!) every day player with Garcia being the guy you are fine putting in there who's just better than average. Winker should be platooning but the question is what is best for trade value? Probably getting him a chance to show he can hit lefties, even a little. So don't expect a true platoon.  Rosario and Meneses are both likely within a couple years of being out of the league. If you forced me to choose I'd keep Rosario despite the bad results. He offers more overall and probably matches up Joey at the plate once luck is factored in.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

tuesday quickie - got that steal, getting another?

The Mariners are a team that rely on good pitching. When they don't get it (see Kirby on Friday), they lose. That's the break the Nats got. Then they won a close game and won the series.Solid work.  Now they are facing a Braves team that might be on a psychological break, having lost their best player Ronald Acuna for the year. The funny thing is they'd been doing just fine with Acuna underperforming - the line-up is deep. But losing a guy like him when you have championship hopes and you are looking up at the biggest divisional gap in baseball can rattle you. Take advantage. 

The big other news was the Robles DFA.  The team and him have never quite seen eye to eye for some reason. He had four years as basically as starter and provided great defense early on but couldn't keep up the hitting enough.  Eventually the glove work slowed down but miraculously he started extremely hot last year before getting hurt. Is this a problem of motivation or talent? If another team picks up Robles, and they should because that questions is out there, then we'll find out. He's still only JUST 27 (birthday was last week) so there's no reason he should be much worse as a fielder. Fix that and a team has maybe at least got a late D replacement. 

Probably the biggest negative of Robles' time with the Nats was the fact that his promise pushed them to move on from MAT. A top fielding that no one really thought would hit enough to become a star despite A++ CF defense.  Turns out the Nats were mostly right but he did hit enough to make him a positive player and have his overall value lap Robles' since Robles' rookie year.

In other news we hit Memorial Day weekend so it's time to take what we see seriously for everyone who's been up since the beginning of the year. The good :  Winker, Williams, Gore, Jake Irvin, and the top 4 bullpen guys.  The bad : Meneses, Corbin.  There are a few more baddies at the plate likely to come but they haven't played enough yet. That's why this lop-sided result hasn't shown in the record. BUT if those aren't real...

Friday, May 24, 2024

Standing now

Part way through the stretch of death and they are playing as I expected. 4-10 through it so far (yes, 2-9 recently but you can't parse out the bad anymore than you can the good. We want to look at the entire stretch here) Take that rate amongst the rest of the stretch and you have them ending at 27-41 one game off my guess of exiting the stretch 28-40. 

In the specific death march Phillies through Guardians, we were hoping for no sweeps and maybe a series steal. They did get swept by the Phillies and didn't manage to steal a winnable series at home against a currently scuffling Minnesota. So not a good start. But three more series with the same goals (1) Don't get swept (2) steal a series if you get a chance. 

The good news for the stretch is the Mets and the Tigers, who were noted as being on the back end have really looked bad recently. The Mets matched the Nats 2-8 run in the last 10 and the Tigers have lost their last 5 getting outscored 41 to 14 in the process. So maybe the stretch of death ends with the second Atlanta series with a Mets breather before it. If that's the case there's more of a chance of a little pre-ASB burst to get back to spitting distance of .500. 

The Mets games loom huge here. They have fewer than 40 games between now and the ASB and 10 of them are against the Mets. The Mets are a team that doesn't do anything good, but doesn't do anything bad.  In baseball though that doesn't add up to average. You need to do something good to win games. They stay in games, but lose. The Nats HAD been a good pitching team that didn't score. You saw that kept them close to .500.  That pitching has been missing for a while. 

Anyway give me James Wood. I'm guessing Jun 14th. That actually coincides with the end of my original stretch here right after the away series with Detroit so that's good. It all lines up.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Where's James Wood?

I'm not going to put up James Wood's numbers here because you have probably already seen them and honestly the actual numbers don't matter. After a brief cold spell Wood got hot again and he's basically doing everything at the highest possible level in AAA right now. There is no good production-related reason to keep him in the minors. 

So why is he in the minors? 

Is it service time manipulation? Not directly.  That usually ends in April when you've kept a player from getting his full year of service time, getting the team another. 

It's possible they are trying to avoid Super 2 status, which team control doesn't change but you get into arbitration quicker. The number - which used to be closer to the service time manipulation date, has been drifting lower as teams try all they can to be cheap (sorry, sorry ownership fans GET VALUE) and would likely sit somewhere between 110 and 120 for guys brought up this year. So if you want to be safe you are aiming for under 110 days.  That would be around June 12th if I'm counting right. However I'm not entirely sure that this is the reason. 

I think this is the reason, well at least the first part

"The top two finishers in Rookie of the Year voting in each league are automatically awarded a full year of service, regardless of how much they actually accrued that year. Teams will receive extra draft picks as compensation for promoting young players to their Opening Day roster who later finish in the top 3 in the Rookie of the Year voting"

Can James Wood finish in the Top 2 in ROY voting right now?  Probably not but it's not quite impossible yet.  The best bets are all pitchers Imanaga, Yamamoto, and Skenes. And Imanaga and Yamamoto are well ahead in value BUT pitchers are pitchers and injuries and load management will come into play. On the offensive side there's only one bat that Wood couldn't pass with a furious start and that's the previously unheralded Joey Ortiz.  Give this all a few more weeks (hey maybe mid June!) and Wood'll be too far behind to possibly catch up.

Now they know he's good enough to win ROY and would like that compensation but would they hold him long enough to make that happen? I can't see how. These are the "September call-ups" because you only need 45 days of active time to lose the rookie designation. Can they keep Wood down until late August?  God, I hope not.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Quick Guessing Game

Tell me what right now you think the Nats record will be at the end of this year and at the end of next year. 

Me 

2024 : 72-90

2025 : 75-87

Monday, May 20, 2024

Monday quickie - Trash weekend

The Nats got swept by the Phillies and the team slipped 5 games under .500 and 2.5 games out of the last place playoff spot.  One of the good things about the NL being a 4ish team league is that the Nats can challenge for that last spot, or at least pretend to, for a while. The bad news means when the Nats do slip they find themselves where they are now. Only 2.5 games out but with 5 teams between them and the current playoff holder Padres.  If the stretch of death continues like we thought it might they'll be too far back to even pretend come July and we'll be back to watching the kids only.   

Speaking of kids James Wood is indeed back hitting and looks ready (.353 / .457 / .564). We're all waiting on that.  Anything else of note?

From guys we've talked about : 

  • Drew Millas is hitting ok and with Ruiz struggling mightily I suppose we could see him.
  • Nothing to write home about yet but Dylan Crews steadily looks better. 
  • Jeremy De La Rosa had a good start to his A-ball season (he's only played a couple weeks). Christian Vaquero has not (but he's still 19 so whatever)
  • Andry Lara pitched well enough to get promoted to AA (1 start there so far) 

From guys we haven't : 

  • Old college draft bat Gavin Dugas (LSU IF) is showing he at least needs to be in A-ball. 
  • Bubba Hall, an older righty reliever is being dominant in A-ball and should move up to High A. Same notes for Jack Sinclair but insert AA and AAA. 
  • Marquis Grissom Jr, an immediate converted starter into righty reliever in High A, remains interesting if wild
  • Uhhhh that's it.

If this doesn't seem like much to you... you aren't wrong. James Wood is an unqualified success. Crews is coming along, maybe a bit slower than his offensive draft mates but really only a bit. Langford did make the majors but didn't set the world on fire and got hurt. Of the other 9 drafted in the Top 15 only Jacob Wilson (A's SS) is having a season so far that gets you excited. So don't be down on Crews. He's doing what he needs to in the broad "don't make me have to be a superstar" sense. But the arms (Cavalli and Henry) remain hurt and the bats like House, Morales, Green, Lile, and Hassell are either just being in the minors or disappointing. 

The Nats have done this before though. They've proved that getting one superstar ever couple years can sustain an organization. Wood looks like the first one. But unlike Strasburg into Bryce, into Rendon, into Turner, into Soto you do find yourself asking where's #2, #3, #4 and #5? Things change but right now the next set doesn't look like they are here.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

First real disappointment of the season?

Probably not. Starting 2-6 and having Gray go down to injury was a low point.  But since then, 40 days ago, the Nats have been playing good ball against bad teams. They did lose a series to Oakland, but beat the Giants, Houston, swept Miami, and beat Toronto. All this setting up the Nats as firmly a middle of the pack team. 

But now they lose a series to the White Sox, scoring 0 runs in their last 19 innings of baseball (and 10 in their last 5 games). Philly, Minnesota, Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland.  There are no breaks here. These are all teams better than the Nats. 5-10 is the simple goal. Lose ground, watch .500 drift away, but don't spiral out of control. 

Why is the offense so bad recently? It actually hasn't been good all season and had been getting runs above expectation. Now it's scoring to it's level.

 After his fast start Jesse Winker has put up a .136 / .245 / .235 line in the past month. Keibert Ruiz has regressed to the point where you wonder if another team would have better luck. CJ Abrams has cooled down alot .208 /.235 / .250 in the past 2 weeks. As has YOUR boy (because he's not mine) Nick Senzel .156 / .325 / .188.  Jacob Young and Alex Call (fools!) started to look like decent replacements in hand for the hurt (and bad this year) Lane Thomas and Joey Gallo. Both are now OPSing around .500  (that's very bad). Only the maligned Eddie Rosario is hitting right now though Luis Garcia is doing ok and if the next week holds like the last few will be the best regular offensive player on the team. 

Without Abrams looking like a star and the weirdly great offense of Winker and Senzel the team just doesn't have the bats to score runs. The pitching will have to carry the team. They have looked like they might be able to but only the Mariners lack a potent line-up. The Phillies (2nd), Twins (10th), Braves (6th) and Guardians (8th) all are well above average. If the pitching staff gets through this still looking good, that's really something. They did hold back the Orioles (though they have had a much quieter May).

 Ok let's go! Don't get swept. Maybe steal a series and go 6-9

Monday, May 13, 2024

Monday quickie - A break in the action

The stretch from Hell started about as it should have.  2-3 was the most likely record but they had real shots at making in 3-2 which would have been impressive. Of course it's baseball and we don't count the "could haves". Every game is it's own little thing and it's only in the aggregate of what has happened in total that we get a true picture.

Now comes the only "should win" series between now and June. The Nats travel to Chicago to play the woeful White Sox. But hold on! The White Sox had recently won 4 in a row before losing yesterday. You can't take anything for granted in baseball. Tonight we get Trevor Williams, fresh off easily his best game of the year. Why couldn't he had done this last year when the Nats could have dealt him and his extra year of control for something good? Oh well.  Tomorrow we get the Erick Fedde match up vs Mitchell Parker who was perfectly fine against the Orioles. Then Patrick Corbin off a solid performance. 

None of these guys is throwing deep into games. The Nats only have two starts of 7 innings, and only 12 of at least 6 innings. That's only 30% of their games and ranks tied for 25th in baseball. Normally that would be a big flashing red warning sign of things to come BUT the Nats have had only one start of 3 innings or less (tied with 4 other teams for the best).  The combination means the Nats bullpen has pitched a reasonable amount of innings so far. 

Of course that's overall. Specific to the Nats individual relivers it does get a little dicey.  30 pitchers have been in at least 19 games, should be about 1 a team. The Nats have 3 (Law, Floro, and Harvey) and they among the teams who have played the fewest games this year. So that might be something to keep an eye on.

Thursday, May 09, 2024

Things you can do. Things you can't do.

Things you can do :

Say Nick Senzel is a player with some pedigree and talent so perhaps he can be a useful major leaguer. Let's see how his current limited run holds up for another month and look at it closely then. 

Things you can't do : 

SEE!  THESE GAMES PROVE NICK SENZEL IS A STAR!!!! 


Not that anyone was doing that BUT there was some "SEE! DAVEY IS A GOOD MANAGER!" which... I mean do we have to go over 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022 again? It's possible he's a good playoff manager. Even if I think the 2019 was far more luck (Counsel making a bad choice with Hader, coming about 3 feet from losing to the Dodgers or the Astros) I'll concdede that it's possible. Now, IT WOULD BE HARD TO KNOW BECAUSE HE NEVER LED A STAR LADEN TEAM TO THE PLAYOFFS AGAIN, but again possible he has that knack. But he's been secretly good and I don't know, sandbagging nearly every other season in his career so the Nats would lose more for fun and profit, I guess. No. That's being oblivious

You can say managers don't matter. You can say Davey might be learning and maybe is improving from terrible. But you can't look at .500 ball in less than 40 games in a down NL season and say he's good. I'm drawing lines here.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Look i don't know

The Nats probably aren't a playoff team but it seems clear that they are better than we thought (for currently some clearly insane reasons - we'll come back to that) and the NL is 5 teams deep but take 6 into the playoffs. So go ahead and dream for now, especially after beating the Orioles. Thanks for that by the way.  Keep doing that. Some how beat them after this series too. 

CJ Abrams being a star is surprising but an optimist might have believed in it.  He is young, looked good to end last year, and was a top prospect. 

Luis Garcia Jr being a star is surprising and no one would have believed in it. He IS young, but spent last year getting dragged to the minors, and was never that highly thought of. Is it real? I don't know.  His BABIP of .390 is unsustainable and he isn't hitting the ball any better but he IS hitting the ball harder than ever. So some of this is real and the highest HR rate of his career is probably real too.

Jesse Winker having a great bounce back is surprising but that optimist from before could have convinced himself of it. Winker had good years in Cincy and in 2021 put up a .305 / .394 / .555 line with 24 homers in only 110 games. If it was about injury and not age or skill then maybe he could do something like that again. 

Nick Senzel having a great bounce back is surprising and again no one would have responsibly thought it possible. Is it real? I don't know. In 5 years at Cincy he never put up a year close to having positive results at the plate. Yes, it's probably small sample size and the real Nick is probably more the guy that has struck out 10 times in his last 23 ABs because he's just swinging for the fences now. But he is accomplishing his goal of pulling the ball harder and in the air so maybe he can be the Gallo that Gallo isn't? 

MacKenzie Gore rounding into a #2 type is not really surprising, but a nice development. He's keeping the ball down avoiding hard hit balls in the air, that's fewer homers. But he's also making sure it's in the strike zone keeping his K-rate up and BB-rate down. Hits are coming but let them. Teams can only single and double their way to so many runs in a game where you get out 70% of the time. 

Trevor Williams becoming an ace is shocking.  Is it real? I want to say I don't know but everything is screaming NO. Ok he is getting a bunch more ground balls, but he did that in the past and the results weren't like this. Batters aren't hitting him softer, in fact the opposite compared to last year. This is all predicated on a weirdly low BABIP and an insane no homer rate for someone letting guys hit pretty normally in terms of flyballs and how hard they hit it.  But baseball is weird sometimes I guess.

I don't know

Friday, May 03, 2024

Last weekend before THE TEST

The Nats are a .500-ish team but as I've noted they've managed that in part by luck and part by schedule. The former is up to the baseball gods but the latter shifts like sand and there is a sandstorm coming. After facing the sort of in trouble Blue Jays the Nats have the following schedule 

  • Orioles - Great!
  • Red Sox - Surprisingly good!
  • White Sox - probably the worst team in baseball, them or the Rockies
  • Phillies - good
  • Twins - good
  • Mariners - good
  • Braves - great
  • Guardians - great
  • Mets - good
  • Braves - great
  • Tigers - maybe good, we'll see when the Nats get there

YIKES! 

That's a LOOOONG stretch of playing teams that are good. 34 games to be precise.  If how they have played holds they'll enter that stretch maybe at 17-17 and exit like 28-40. 

The rest of the season sets up as mildly favorable but only very mildly so. Part of that is because the NL East is pretty good and they've only played two series against teams, one being a Marlins series. Part of that is because in this stretch the two bad teams they do face are AL teams they only play once, leaving only two more for the last ~100 games. And part of it is it being mildly favorable assumes the D-backs don't get out of their funk being probably the unluckiest team by record this year. So it's not like if they stumble here they are likely to rocket back out.

We've determined the Nats are better than the Marlins. That was good. Now we dig in and determine if the Nats really are better than last year. A good start would be beating up on the Blue Jays while they can

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

One month in - what should your focus be on?

The Nats did not get out of the month with Davey's first winning April. But 14-15 is a pleasant surprise. Of course it is early and a mere 13-16 probably fits with most projections, if not that 12-17 certainly does so small sample size caveats hold. 

We (we being me and most people) often say Memorial Day weekend is the time when you look at things and can think "oh this might be real". It's a full third of the season in and gives plenty of time for the hot or cold week-10days-two weeks to balance out. That being said this first month is the information we have and sets us up for what to try to follow in the next 30 days to see if it is real or not. 

Note guys like Ruiz, Senzel, Ildemaro Vargas, Mitchell Parker, Jacob Barnes have the equivalent of 2+ weeks of play and so even by Memorial Day it'd be fair to still have lingering questions. We'll leave them off this list.  


1) CJ Abrams superstar?  The guy is on pace for a season hitting .295 approaching 40/40. If that's not a fluke the Nats have gotten a huge lift into being contenders again. His average is consistent and the speed is undeniable so what we're really watching is the homers (only 1 in past 9 games) is he THAT guy or is he a 20-25 homer type that had his best month? Either way he's still great*

2) Can Jesse Winker stay healthy? Winker has been good in the past but has been unable to ever stay healthy, which can account for various terrible outcomes all over the place. It's clear the guy has talent but also clear the first injury might derail his whole season. I guess staying healthy until May doesn't guarantee anything but it'd be nice to get as much "good Winker" as the Nats can. Especially since Gallo looks like a huge swing and miss. Joke Intended. 47.3% K-rate!

3) Is the Joey Meneses Era over? Joey burst onto the scene two years ago, but given a full-time position last year basically broke even, which wouldn't normally be enough given he brings nothing else to a team but his bat but the Nats were very bad. His BABIP doesn't suggest bad luck and while he should have A homer or two, if he's hitting mostly not hard balls on the ground, which he is, well this is the end of Meneses the major leaguer.

4) MacKenzie Gore #1 Starter? K-rate is up, BB-rate is down, HR-rate is down. It seems like the sacrifice to that is a few more hits but guess what? That's the least important thing unless you are giving up 15 line drive singles a game. He's getting a bit lucky with those homers but otherwise pitched to this stat line. It's bordering on a #1. Much like Abrams if he hits on this the Nats have a huge lift in their plan giving them an arm to build around. 

5) How good (or not good) is Trevor Williams? I mean he wasn't terrible during his career, he just couldn't make it work as a starter before this month. The stats say he can't keep this up. He is inducing more ground balls and walking fewer (good!), but his homer rate and BABIP rate all are saying he's getting lucky. Assuming they all swing back well it could leave him as average with moderate swings or terrible with strong ones. Williams has provided a nice steady presence in the rotation around which you can evaluate guys like Irvin and Parker. If he can at least stay average that can continue but if he busts that's more strain on the pen. 

6) Is the pen really good? Harvey continues to show the makings of a star reliever, even if he has yet to get the results, but guys like Law and Floro, have done well focusing mostly on keeping the ball in the park. With Finnegan, probably the 4th or 5th best pitcher, in the save spot like a modern-day Todd Jones that leaves the better pitchers available to face the best hitters in the toughest situations. If one more guy can come around the pen could really be something special I think.  Rainey unfortunately looks broken but I liked the bet on Matt Barnes. I'd say go the the minors but Rochester's pen is complete trash. Go to AA? A lot of guys there look interesting.  They need to start pushing them into AAA. But that's off-topic.  For May I guess it's watching Law and Floro to see if they hold and Matt Barnes to see if he can step up

*at the plate - he's secretly a really bad SS! But shhhh.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Monday Quickie - Better than the Marlins

So that answers that. At least as far as I think.  Yes, the Nats have played a relatively easy schedule and yes, they've gotten a bit lucky by the metrics, but I think checking out the first three games of this series, there's no doubt they are the better team. They have what looks like a complete offensive player in Abrams, a young pitcher rounding into form in Gore and a bullpen full of fairly good bets that turned into a solid pen. Add in a few FA and returning surprises and it's a competitive team. Are they really .500 ish? Nah. but let's see how long they can pretend to be because if it gets into June some kids might come up and then they may not need to pretend.  Fake it till you make it. 

Let's take a look around the league! 

NL East

The Braves are good. The Phillies are good. The Mets are ok.

To get into it more - the Braves' offense is deep mixing guys likely to cool down (D'Arnaud) and guys likely to heat up (Acuna) They had SP injury worry but the minor league depth of a few years ago finally is paying off as Bryce Elder has stepped in nicely. In the meantime Reynaldo Lopez has looked very good? 

The Phillies are more a hot and cold offense (Castellanos is currently dead) but their pitching as been great. Ranger Suarez got his control under control and the gamble on the injured Spencer Turnball paid off. Caleb Cotham, who came in when Zach Wheeler did seems like an excellent pitching coach.

The Mets pitching, especially the pen has been a strong suit but their hitting is a bunch of below average bats. Neither Alvarez or Baty have become anything yet. Feels like they could get better but they are the Mets so...

NL Central

There isn't a really good team here. The Brewers can hit. The only guys not are their prospects Frelick and Chourio. But their SP and RP are both super shallow. The Cubs basically the same on the mound, but aren't hitting as well. The Reds are more consistent throwers but good or bad at the plate. De La Cruz though is a stud. The Pirates can pitch and might be interesting next year with Skenes if they add some bats. The Cardinals can't hit. Turns out they bet wrong and sent the better OFs (Thomas, O'Neill) away

NL West

The Dodgers finally turned on the jets and have begun separation. They are great they just have to figure out what pieces aren't working anymore (Chris Taylor) and replace those parts with what they have in house which will work. The D-backs should climb out of their hole. They can hit and the pitching is ok. The Padres don't have enough arms. The Giants don't have enough relief pitching. The Rockies don't have enough anything.

AL East

Yankees are holding off the Orioles. Soto is the engine that lineup needed but the young guys are coming through and the pitching all turned around from last years "everyone's worst year" issue. But the Orioles, once they get the pitching in order (it's ok) will be hard to hold off. Have you seen that lineup? 8 players deep with one guy at 30 and everyone younger. Scary. Red Sox are surprising thanks to several "Why is that guy playing like THAT" performances. The Blue Jays are depressing because they aren't old but the young guys at the plate all seem to have regressed already and they were supposed to carry an averageish staff. The Rays are lost at the plate without their rapist of the future, and the pen feels like it's finally run out of young arms to break.

AL Central 

The best division or the division that gets to play the White Sox? Hard to tell. Indians line-up is solid and bullpen is great, which cover their minor rotation woes. I have no idea how the Royals are scoring runs but the pitching is mostly good. The Tigers are basically the Royals without the runs scoring luck. If their kids ever hit they could turn a corner. The Twins are America's average team who could use another starter or two (like your average team!). The White Sox are trash but Erick Fedde is good?

AL West

Like the NL Central if it has two Cardinals teams and the White Sox. The Mariners have a fantastic pen and don't really have a rotation hole, but are a bat off. The Rangers are fine at the plate, but need one more reliable starter, or more likely for some sleeping bats like Seager to wake up. The A's stink but have cobbled together a workable staff and the pen is actually good. For the 99th year in a row the Angels have no pitching.* The Astros have caught some bad luck scoring runs but their pitching has absolutely imploded.

 

 

*For former Nats prospect Alex Meyer to go from the Nats, who looking back didn't show much skill at developing pitchers, to the Twins, possibly the worst SP developers of the 00s and 10s, to the Angels, who have turned out very few pitchers despite overloading on them, was a pretty cruel turn of fate. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

2024 : Battle to gain respect or to avoid embarrasment?

After that disappointing finish to the home stand, the Nats head to Miami for a four game set. I see this as a season-setting series. The Marlins are very bad, but after a 0-9 start they are 6-11. That's like "usual worst team in the majors this year" as opposed to the "is this a historically bad team?" their record might suggest.

The Marlins' starting pitching is fine and back of the pen is fairly reliable and they might be coming around depth-wise on both of these to form a more average ish squad, maybe even good. This is in line with the last couple of years. But their offense remains terrible after they decided to not put money into the what was the obvious problem the past couple seasons. Presumably this cheapness is what ran off people like Jeter and Ng who thought they might be committed to something other than "trying to be the next Rays or A's" There isn't anything about the offense really under-performing.  Old friend Josh Bell should be better, and Arraez could hit a bit more, but this is who they are. They are a team that can't score. The minors aren't sending help. The Nats pitching should keep them in check.

I call this a season-setting series because how the Nats do here could define what this season is about. A 3-1 series win will put the Nats at 13-15 and the Marlins at 7-23.  That's would give the Nats quite a lead over their challengers for the bottom of the NL East. It would set the Nats up for a "ok are they a 70, 75, or even 80 win team" type of season. A 1-3 series loss would put the teams at 11-17 and 9-21 respectively and set the season up for a basement battle. 


In other news. Gore looks really good, huh? Fancy stats aren't telling us much different. His BABIP is actually HIGH which would suggest fewer hits in the future but the HR/FB rate is low and he's giving up a fair number of FB/LDs so that should swing the other way.  Whichever you think is more important would lead you to believe how close he stays to what he has been. 

It's been noted that if the Nats can come out of 2024 with a 1/2 Gore and a star Abrams confirmed, that's a good outcome.  Early returns are promising, but let's see Gore do something he's never done - throw over 150 innings - because the Nats of the future need a 1 or 2 Gore who is actually on the mound in practice, not in theory.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Lane Thomas hurt - Lipscomb not wood gets the call

 Lane Thomas went to the IL and there was some hope James Wood would get the call. Sorry. Trey Lipscomb is back! 

Why? Why replace an OF with an IF? Well from biggest reason to smallest... 

1) Trey is already on the 40-man. So to bring him up you don't have to make room.  You would if bringing up nearly anyone else as the rest of the 40-man is basically injured guys and pitchers. Except... 

2) The OF on the 40-man is Alex Call. They gave Alex a good long trial last year. He can sure field, but he can't hit.  He's currently hitting .212 / .312 in AAA (though with 6 homers?!?!) We don't need to see him again

3) James Wood slowed down a bunch after his start. In his first 10 games James Wood was a house on fire :  .432 / .563 / .757 with just as importantly 8 Ks in 48 PAs. In his last 9 games James Wood is the ashes : .180 / .256 / .205 with just as importantly 14 Ks in 43 PAs almost double the rate. If you wanted an excuse to keep him down he's given you a good one. 

4) As we discussed before, if Wood stays down long enough, he can qualify as a Top 100 prospect the Nats can bring up to start NEXT season and get various rewards if he does well. 


So really I think it's just a roster thing. Rizzo has historically been a guy who will lean toward not forcing roster changes even if the talent being used is sub-optimal. He's not bringing up Wood until he keeps him up forever and he's not doing that now, while Wood is in a slump. 

Oh well.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Monday Quickie - When can we say the Nats are good?

The Nats have had a good start. They continue to be fed by close wins (yesterday was only the second time they've won a game by more than 2 runs) and a relatively weak schedule* but if they are beating the worst that likely means they aren't the worst themselves, which was an honest question to start the year. But of course we only have the start of the year to go on and that's not much.  If you look at all the worst teams last year they all had longer stretches of better baseball at various points. The A's went 13-12 at one point. The Royals finished they year 15-12. The White Sox pulled off a 22-15 stretch, which is actually really good. And the Rockies went 13-8. 

So bad teams do have good stretches. But all of these teams started badly. Some had good Mays, other good Augusts, but no good Aprils. But you don't have to go back too far to find a 100 loss team that started 10-11. The 2022 A's did. The short of it is you don't really know until you get well into a season, like Memorial Day if they Nats are around .500 you can feel pretty good they aren't going end the year with triple digit losses. 

That's a long way away! Well it's a long season. But let's work in reverse.  Let's say the Nats finish April one game around .500. In the past 2 seasons what teams have done that.

In 2023 no one finished the month .500 or one game under. A bunch of teams were one over.

  • NYY - finished 82-80
  • LAA - 73-89
  • PHI - 90-72
  • SDP - 82-80
  • BOS - 78-84
  • CHC - 83-79

In 2022 four teams were around .500

  • SEA (+) 90-72
  • HOU (+) 106-56
  • PHI (E) 87-75
  • OAK (-) 60-102

 

Huh. Well that didn't help. In 2023 we saw kind of what we'd expect. If your April was around .500 you are probably a .500ish team. You might push a bit higher like the Phillies getting 9 over or fall a little lower like the Angels falling 9 under but the window was there.  In 2022 we saw one team play amazing the rest of the way*** and another team play terribly****. So I guess anything CAN happen.

Ok well we don't know much, other than this is a nice surprise that they team is not starting slow. Whether it is really real and they might be .500, sort of real and they are going to be not good but competitive, or not real at all, well I guess that doesn't matter right now.  But the longer they keep it up the more likely it is this is who they are. That is a fact.

 

*You wouldn't have thought it to be going into the year but that is what it looks like now. The Astros are among the worst teams in baseball. The Dodgers are barely over .500. There is a big mish mosh in the middle of baseball right now with a handful of actually good teams** and the Nats haven't played any of them, except maybe the Philles or Reds (but not both).  Meanwhile they've played the A's, Astros, Rockies, and Giants, half of the worst 8ish teams in the league.

** By record - Yankees, Orioles, Cleveland, Atlanta, Philly, Milwaukee, Cubs.  By stats - Orioles, Red Sox, Guardians, Royals, Atlanta, Mets, Milwaukee, Reds. 

*** The Astros after starting 7-9 would have runs of 15-2, 20-5, and 22-6 during the year. They'd only lose back to back games 8 times the rest of the year and three in a row once.

**** The A's after starting 10-9 would have runs of 7-25, 3-12, and 7-21 during the year.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Average teams win games half the time

There's no doubt about it, the Nats had a good road trip. 5-4 away puts the Nats at 8-10 and not in any contention (the Mets and Phillies have picked up their respective games as expected) but into "decent season" territory which is what they needed to make 2025 one that fans could pins hope to. Of course it's only 18 games but better this than the alternative (see; Marlins, Florida) 

So how did this happen? 

Well somethings are going WAY right.  CJ Abrams, who should have been signed long-term last year, is looking like a star with that power surge noted before continuing. Jesse Winker is hitting like an MVP candidate. Luis Garcia Jr is hitting like we would hope he would. Vargas, taking over 3B now, is very good. Gore is looking very good, and so is Trevor Williams? And Jake Irvin? The bullpen - that looked like a possible strength before is forming into that

But there are things going wrong. Gray's performance and injury. Kiebert's injury. Thomas and Meneses are both terrible. Corbin is Corbin. Rainey hasn't been good ... I guess. The bullpen has been good. 

It seems like these things should even out somewhat, right? 

Here's the thing... they should and it is? 

The Nats are 8-10.  8-10 is a 72 win season.  Better than expected but last year they won 71 games. While people like me will be excited by 72 because we know last season was a bit of a fluke, regular fans will probably get less excited if this is where the Nats are headed come August. It won't feel like that step forward. 

Also luck has been on their side.  Pythag has them as more a 7 win team. Adjusted standings right at 8.  Or for those that don't like fancy stats : They are 5-0 in games decided by 2 runs. Things like that generally don't hold.

Are the Nats better than they should be? Probably a little. Are they also better than expected? Probably a little. There will be reckonings (Winker, Williams, Irvin, Finnegan) and comebacks (Rosario, Ruiz, Thomas, Rainey) and the Nats might have a couple actual stars (Abrams, Harvey). It's not a season that is shaping up to have a floor that isn't 50+ wins and that's great.