Nationals Baseball: 2024

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. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Monday Quickie : Bad Teams Lose Games

A lot of them in a lot of ways.  Even if the Nats are showing some top level competence - Abrams is probably good! Winker could be a steal! - they are still very shallow and if you start to need the 2nd level or god forbid the 3rd level of the team to perform you are asking for trouble.

Still a win in LA will make it a successful road trip and a sweep by the Dodgers is basically expected and doesn't constitute a disappointment. That's not much of a hurdle.  

Gore did look good against the A's, so did Williams, and Jake Irvin.  Of course the key to that is the A's themselves.  They have the 2nd worst offense in baseball. Around the same as the Mariners who are both well behind the 4th worst offense in baseball. What did we learn? These guys can really beat the guys they should. So if the Nats played 150 games against the White Sox, A's and Mariners they'd really clean up. But they don't. We'll check on the pitchers really at the end of the month.

Well I'll make an exception in the meantime for MY BOY Hunter Harvey has a FIP of 0.11.  0.11! 

The NL East is interesting. The Braves got slammed by SP injuries so aren't a powerhouse and I think the Mets and Phillies can both make noise. That's not good for the Nats and I think the Nats remain clearly 4th. But the Marlins are both not good and not trying and I think that combination can really crush a team. The Nats may have a chance to just put them in the rear view soon with a 4 game set.

Early 10% Season League Notes  

AL East - Orioles are probably the class. The Yankees, who are in first, are good, but probably worse than Baltimore so they have to hold out hope they can keep getting lucky and hold them off. (which is what the O's did to the Rays last year). Only 90% of the year to go! Boston might be good but also Toronto and the Rays may not? 

AL Central - Royals are coming together and hopefully will rise about the mediocre slap fight that the Central has been recently. The White Sox are as trash as they seem

AL West - Sorry the Astros probably aren't bad. I mean they do have a 4/5 SP problem but otherwise are fine and should rise back up. Everyone else is who you'd imagine they'd be

NL Central - It's fun the Reds and Pirates are both pretty good now. Brewers are still probably the best. Cubs are close enough to consider as well. Could be a long season for the Cardinals and they aren't even that bad. 

NL West -  Is this the season the Padres actually win the games and not just produce the stats? Maybe. But Dodgers are still the best. Giants have an uphill climb and the Rockies are nothing.

Baseball!

Friday, April 12, 2024

Free James Wood!

James Wood had four hits yesterday including his first homer, and oh yes, his second homer of the season. He's currently hitting .441 / .558 / .794 in AAA and while that would obviously cool down given time, it's also obvious he can handle AAA pitching and is ready for the majors

Exhibit 1 is his stats.  Along with the above, in 2023 after some struggles in July and August, hit .353 / .421 / .569 in September. 

Exhibit 2 is his Ks.  The only real question about Wood is did he strike out too much. Not that it looked like that would keep him from being a good play but it could limit his ceiling in the majors.  While last year he K'd 20 times in 57 PA (like 35%) in that September, right now he's at 7 in 43 PA (like 18%).  The last thing you could use to hold him back has been overcome. 

Exhibit 3 is his Spring Training. If you need to use it in a tie-breaker, not sure which way to go fashion (the only way to use these stats) he literally led all players in OPS in Spring. 

There's nothing more to say. He's ready. 

I've always been highest on Wood. This isn't some crazy prescience. He did crazy good at extremely young ages for his level. I have my doubts on whether he will be so good he can just replace Soto (Soto at 21 1/2 put up a .351 / .490! / .695 line in the pandemic season) but as I've noted before "just regular star" is fine.  Wood doesn't need to be 1st ballot HoF potential. 

There is nothing for Wood to gain being in the minors.  If he's a star this team... well it still can't compete for a playoff spot but it could start to plan around yes this guy is a star. 

Make the move Nats.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A solid start

2-0 and feeling good. It might be that the Giants are bad. We are still feeling these things out. And definitely San Fran going 1-16 with RISP over the first two games is unsustainable, but as we always say here - you don't have to give the wins back.  Take them and run. 

As constituted the Nats still aren't playoff contenders but with the Marlins looking like maybe the worst team in baseball all it would take is the Phillies or Mets to disappoint (and both are so far) for the Nats to get a nice 4+ win boost just for being in the right division at the right time. Have some kids get hot and call them up early and you know, 70+ wins may not be crazy. 

Of course the Nats suffered their first pitching injury - Josiah Gray taking some time off to deal with forearm strain (but likely not extended time out).  Joan Adon comes up in his place and while Joan has never been good (and he wasn't really last night but the Giants as noted couldn't get the big hits) he can't be worse than what Gray was showing in his first two starts. So the injury isn't that significant right now but it leads to the necessity of digging throuugh their shallow starting pool in the minors earlier than they would have liked. A Gore injury or Trevor Williams going back to being NOT the hardest pitcher in the majors to turn balls-in-play into hits against and things could get grim on the mound.

Monday, April 08, 2024

Monday Quickie - 9 games in

9 games is still nothing.  It's not even the "way too early 1/10th of the season" talk I like to do. It's a stretch and we all know teams go 8-2 and 2-8 over these all the time. So there isn't too much to glean about it. It's the second stretch that starts making a team what they could be.The Nats are 3-6. Where will they be after a West Coast swing that takes them to the middling Giants, terrible A's and terrific Dodgers? 6-12 is probably expected for a worse than average team. Lower and you start to worry. Higher and it's a pleasant surprise.  Yes 7-11 is a pleasant surprise.  4-5 on a nine game road swing is pretty good!

I liked Gore's outing but I really want to see him dominate the As next before I think about him taking a step forward. 

Anything so far warrant your first side-eye glances at being "huh, is something going on here?" 

 NO! 

Well not totally "No" but be cautious because it's just 10 games and anyone can get hot for 10 games.  You don't care too much about the stats in the good/bad sense but maybe in the OMG!/OMG! or if they are showing you something unexpected. Anything like that? 

  • Two homers for CJ Abrams is interesting.  If he can be a 25+ homer guy that's a big thing with his other general skills. 
  • Eddie Rosario's 35% K rate and 0 walks is concerning in as much as you care about Eddie Rosario.
  • Generally 2 starts is too soon to worry about pitchers but Gray has been so off and not because of bad luck that I'll definitely be watching his next start closely. 
  • I liked the Floro/Barnes gambits. Barnes hasn't been good so far, but Floro looks like his pre-2023 self. A little wild but rein that in and you probably have a top notch arm to go along with Harvey who had one bad outing but has been near perfect (3.2 IP 7Ks 0BB 1 hit) since. I think Finnegan is fine too but hard to shake his one game-killing showing. 

On to the West Coast and some late night baseball. 

Friday, April 05, 2024

How long before you worry about Gray?

Josiah Gray has another bad outing. It's only two and 8 innings total but everything but the Ks are off.  He's shown bad control, been incredibly hittable and given up homers. This rotation in 2024 can't sustain a pitcher like this, and more importantly their plans for the future cannot either. 

This pitching is reminiscent of his August from last year (8.84 ERA). If his periods of greatness were unhittable then you might accept it but he's merely ok when on and terrible when off. The combination is a 5th starter at best. 

It's pretty fascinating because he was one of the Dodgers top prospects, rising to #2 in a deep organization list. In 2019 he dominated having a very high strikeout rate with control, while being hard to hit and hard to homer off of. Simply put he did everything right. In 2021 he looked in AAA that he hadn't lost anything doing almost the same over 4 appearances, with only the homer issue rearing it's head. It didn't seem like he would be terrible in the majors, but he has been.

The fancy stats say for the most part he pitched the same way in 2021 and 2022  and there was a consitency in his stats over those two years. K-rate was good, hit-rate fine, but control and homers out of whack. He changed up in 2023, swapping in a cutter for his change and mixing up his pitches more. That brought the homers under control but the K-rate dropped and the walk rate went up. Essentially he became a luck pitcher - guys got on base and got hits but if they didn't do it in the right order he could do allright. In the first half they didn't, in the second half they did. He's added back in a change this year to try to improve but results have been poor.

The strikeout rate suggest his stuff is still there so what is going on? Is he simply an AAAA pitcher? Did the Nats, not known for developing pitchers, mess him up? Is he hurt? 

I'm leaning toward something like AAAA. I think that the early walk rates in the majors are the product of trying to avoid home runs. One doesn't usually suddenly lose command of the strike zone, and his early games in 2021 had far fewer walks.  So I think naturally he could probably keep walks and hits down and strike out a bunch... while giving up the most homers in the majors.  I think that's Gray's natural position. Is that usable? I don't know, we've never tried it.  

His fastball is not good. That's a tough truth to swallow but it is the truth. It just isn't, but it was necessary to set up effective sliders and curves.  But adding in a middling cutter at a speed closer to the sliders and curves, he's hurt that balance. 

Trying to make him a new pitcher doesn't seem to be working with only a lucky start to 2023 making people think otherwise. He isn't a better pitcher when avoiding homers with pitch mixing, because he can't control all those pitches well. He puts too many men on and can't finish others off. So let him go back to who he was.  Let him throw and give up 45 homers and see if that puts him at a 4.50 ERA or a 6.00 ERA so you can decide what to do. You have to get him comfortable with that idea though. You are going to give up homers. That's fine as long as you aren't walking guys. It may be hard. But I'm thinking that's the best path forward for him

Monday, April 01, 2024

Monday Quickie - almost better than expected... but not

 The Nats played a competitive series with the Reds over Opening Day weekend and were only denies a series win by an epic bullpen meltdown. Finnegan was hit hard the entire inning but lucked into the first couple hard hit balls being at Nats. The next one, after a fierce battle, was not and the last two were decidedly not. The bullpen was supposed to be... well not a weakness, so this isn't a great showing but remember when we talk all about this stuff that it is ALL small sample size.  Three games. They matter but things can swing from this VERY easily. Many things will. 

What did we see that we can focus on? 

A team that's going to run more. They stole 7 bases, 3 by Abrams, 2 by Thomas, and 1 by Lipscomb. Youth generally has a speed advantage and while they do have some slow players their prospects that hit and even a guy like Gallo aren't lumbering oafs. This is good and as long as they pick and choose when to run correctly, it'll make the team better and more fun to watch, to boot. 

Joey Gallo still looks lost. It was a terrible Spring and three games in you have to at least start to worry about a guy who is 0-12 with 6 Ks. They don't need Gallo but it'll force some decisions if he struggles like this for a while. The rest of the guys, some hot, some not, let's give it another series before noting.

Senzel hurt makes the Nats move on Lipscomb early so we'll get his evaluation done right now. Good.  You guys know I don't like Senzel and I don't have any idea why he was signed or starting. I think this only makes the Nats better even if Lipscomb is below average.   

The starting pitching is likely the issue we thought it would be.  Gray looked bad. Corbin looked bad.  Irvin was merely below average and that was the best. It's a tough start but unsurprising. They needed another arm and chose not to get one. Here the Nats are. 

We have no idea what to think so far. Who are the Nats? Who are the Reds? How representative were these games? Early indications are they are who we thought they are but maybe a bit more fun getting to their 100 loss season. The Pirates series will tell us a bit more. 

I'm most intrigued by Gallo. If he struggles the move is Joey to first, then... one of the OFs to DH and then... one of the kids up early?  Wood has started in AAA hot  4 for 10 with a double and 5(!) walks.  Just saying. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Opening Day - Season Projection

 LET'S GOOOOOoooooooh oh no. 

Like last year, first we will start with the adjusted standings The Nats here, trying to strip all sorts of luck and randomness out of their record, sat at about a 63 win team when 2023 ended. 

Offensively they've switched on Dom Smith for Joey Gallo, Jeimer Candelario for Nick Senzel, and whoever in LF for Jesse Winker/Eddie Rosario. That's a slight upgrade, say 0.5 WAR, a big downgrade, maybe -3 WAR and a push.  A push? Yeah Stone Garrett was good.  Alex Call's defense was good. But ok, given there's a better chance in my mind for Rosario/Winker to land on something good than flitter around with a bunch of bad... I'll give you another 0.5 WAR.  So that's a -2.0 WAR in changes. 

What about returning players? Looking at them - Joey Meneses at DH, Keibert Ruiz at C, Luis Garcia Jr at 2B, CJ Abrams at SS, Lance Thomas in RF and Victor Robles in CF... well the good news is age wise and performance in 2023 wise there's not much chance for a big decrease. These are guys in there general "baseball prime" doing what they are expect them to. But there is also not much chance for a breakout either. That generally falls to CJ Abrams (young, talented and showed a couple flashes last year) and Victor Robles (injured). I could see something working here so I'll give a 1.0 WAR here as well. 

That's an offense that remains a bad offense, but not an "avert your eyes" one.  A -1.0 WAR overall change

The starting pitching has not changed outside of an extra half-season (maybe) for Jake Irvin. This is hard to call.  Gray and Gore still maintain an age and talent level that improvement could happen but they are slipping out of the age frame that it normally would.  Corbin and Williams should get worse with age but can they? I am going to be conservative and drop the output here by 0.5 WAR, but the variance is high. They could end up by far the worst in baseball or merely bad. 

The relievers we discussed the other day - a bunch of guys who are ok doing what they do - with a decent chance of a good finish. Given that I like the chances on Barnes and Floro and think Harvey could be special... I just think there is more upside than downside here.  Finnegan or Rainey are good and one of those chances hit... I'll give it a 0.5 WAR to balance out the SP. 

So same team? 62ish win?  I'm not so sure. In terms of defense, which was factored in, the Nats should be much worse and they weren't all that good last year. They were carried by Jeimer and their odd commitment to Alex Call and both those guys are effectively gone.  Defense stacks in that if you replace a good SS with a bad SS well maybe 3B and 2B can compensate some, but if you replace a good SS with a bad SS and a good 1B with a bad 1B well now 2B is over covering that guy and 3B can't completely cover for the SS.  You get the point. The sum is greater than it's parts. So I am selling the Nats a bit on the effect of this bad defense and cutting them another 2 WAR/wins. 

Baserunning? Probably same. 

The big question then is what about the kids? And to that I say... we can't do anything here about that.  It's very likely that Wood, Lipscomb, Cavalli, Henry, and Hassel see time this year.  It's probable that Crews, House, Herz,  Rutledge join them.  But it's hard enough to figure if they are going to well or poorly in their first real trial, let alone figure if they are going to get 5 months of play or 5 weeks. Though they could make a big difference, we just can't factor them in just yet. 

The schedule makes a slight difference but while the Phillies and Mets might improve are the Braves going to get to 104 wins again? Are the never try Marlins going to clear .500? I won't adjust for this.

That leaves the Nats at 60-102 for my projection. A fight to avoid the dread 5X win season which just looks and feels worse than 60 wins. I think if they just went with what they have on board they'd likely go under, with injuries and late season trades taking away some talent. But the kids man, the kids!  Such a wild card. And that keeps me from fully going into that. I believe in James Wood. I believe Lipscomb/House can't be worse than Senzel. I believe Cavalli/Henry can't be worse than Williams. The kids cannot make this team a winner, but they can make the season one. Just, can you keep interest until they get here?

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Davey's last year?

 Can we please at least broach the subject? 

Davey Martinez has been the manager for the Nats for 6 years.  In his second year the Nats, who had knocked on the door of playoff success but never entered, won the World Series. In years 1, 3, 4, and 5 they arguably well underperformed. Last year was a mixed bag. The team was thought to be mid 60s ish talent wise and performed as such talent wise, which they hadn't managed to do in those noted off-years.  With some luck they won a few more games than they should*.  I'd call it an even year. 

But with this even year and that World Series year, looking at Davey's work from a mile-high perspective it's simply bad. He's one of the lowest ranked managers by winning percentage, winning seasons, and I'd guess player development, and while that is obviously not all on him, usually managers are the first place people look to make changes. He passed Riggleman for a while to be the 2nd worst manager in Nats history by winning percentage, though the dog days push brought him back up above him.  Still barring an above .500 season he'll again drop below him.  Catching Manny Acta - once considered a crazy impossibility for someone who won 93 games in his second year - is at least now technically possible in the "worst season in baseball history" sort of way.**

In short, I'm not sure why he continues to get a pass outside of "WS winners get to stay forever".  So I really do think - with young players coming up and the team needing to turn a corner - that bringing in a fresh face might make a difference. 

Look - I know the stats say managers don't matter. Or really what they say is "there's too much noise to really understand what managers do so we just won't really consider it" And I agree. But that means going on feelings for a manager is just as viable as any other method of evaluation.  My FEELING is Davey is bad but various circumstances (2020s COVID year, 2022/23 being "we don't care" years from management) allowed for the World Series win to give him a cushion.  I think that cushion is gone. The Nats are going to have to try to win next year and if Davey can't get this team to perform at least at expectations - something he's done for two out of six seasons - it's really time to let him go. 

What are the expectations?  Not good! But we'll talk about that tomorrow in our season preview. 

 

oh yeah - Lipscomb did get sent down like I guessed. Made the most sense based on what they had done up to this point. 

 

*It happens! In 2021 they LOST a few more than they should.  Of course the difference there - is that was a "hope we get into the playoffs" team that ended up playing to a 70+ win level. Big disappointment, compounded by the bad luck.

** whereas previously it would have been like finish 15-147 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Monday Quickie - Opening Day this Thursday!

Baseball is baseball

This is true and while, even if your team isn't trying this year, you can get excited for the first weekend of baseball. Then, if you get lucky, you can keep being excited and interested all year long. 

The Nationals ended Spring Training at a respectable 15-12.   They were actually only one of 5 Grapefruit league teams over .500* which can somehow happen with an unequal number of games and the like. Wood, Alex Call, Trey Lipscomb, Robles, and Jesse Winker all hit pretty well. Gallo, House, Vargas, Senzel and Crews did not. For what this is worth - which is very little. Irvin looked good along with several RP arms. The rest of the starters plus Cole Henry did not.

The Nats ended most of the speculation this past weekend: 

Zach Davies was released, setting up Williams for the 5th spot.  Davies had a chance to win it but didn't and you know what that's fine. Williams will probably stink but as I noted Williams was the plan and Spring shouldn't change that. If you wanted someone new (and they should have) they should have gotten someone clearly better in the offseason (again - should have)

They settled on a pen. My boy Hunter Harvey, Finnegan and  Rainey as the back end. You know I like Harvey.  Finnegan and Rainey have potential and aren't likely to be so awufl they can't be used.  The rest of the pen will be Weems (eh), Dylan Floro (decent gamble), Robert Garcia (have to have one lefty), Derek Law (whatever), and Matt Barnes (another decent gamble).  No real standouts outside of Harvey, but no real issues except maybe Garcia but again - someone had to be the lefty. If it goes as expected it's a pen full of 4.00 ERA types that will usually do the job, with maybe one guy breaking out. If the Nats catch a break a couple guys here could be solid under 3.50ERA types. If they don't... well it's last year. This isn't a strength and back in the day we'd be talking about it more, but given how bad everything else is an average-ish pen is the bright spot. I guess.  Less dim spot? 

Alex Call, Jacob Young, and Drew Millas were all sent down.  No real surprises. With Robles looking healthy and desire to let Rosario and Winker do what they can, there isn't room for Call or Young, but expect one or both up soon enough because likely something will happen or the defense will get too bad.  Millas is the odd man out right now but we'll see if Riley Adams can keep up his bat.

What's left is who in the IF goes, Luis Garcia JUNIOR, Trey Lipscomb, Nick Senzel, or Nasim Nunez? Garica has basically not progresses since becoming a regular despite the Nats trying different, likely ill-advised ways, to get him going. His Spring was typical not helping the decision. Senzel is complete trash, was still complete trash in Spring, and should be gone but the Nats chose him, making him at least likely to get a few major league at bats.  Lipscomb wass a non-prospect but surprised everyone by raking for 2/3rd of last year to arouse interest. He flopped at the end but after a nice off-season rest is hitting again. Slightly older and less a prospect they might consider starting him out in the majors to see what they got before other players force their way in and don't allow Trey the chance.  Nunez is a Rule V guy that just can't hit. The Nats didn't change that in the Spring. 

If Spring matters (it shouldn't) Nunez probably goes.  If sense matters (it won't) Senzel goes.  If personality matters (it could) Garcia goes. If control matters (most likely) Lipscomb goes. 

So Lipscomb is the likely cut, with the idea they'll run Garcia and Senzel out there and if they don't like what they see they can bring Lipscomb back up. That's my guess.


*Orioles, Tigers, Red Sox and Mets so don't read anything into it.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Who's fifth?

No, I'm not talking in the NL East! We all know the answer to that! I'm talking about 5th starter!

Lest you think we are talking about Jake Irvin here - we are not.  Trevor Williams struggles in 2024 and continued issues in Spring this year have made him the odd man out. But the Nats also brought in Zack Davies to give him a try. The results have been bad all around. Williams has looked terrible. Davies just as bad. 

For me the choice is pretty clear. It's Williams. You brought him in to do it. You don't rely on ST stats. You slot him in and see what happens. As bad as Williams was last year Davies was worse, at least in results. He had a 7.00 ERA over 82 innings in 18 starts (that's under 5 IP a start - which Williams also was but he was closer to 5!). They were both extremely hittable (10.6 H/9 and 11/1 H/9 for Davies and Williams respectively).  Davies struck out more (7.9 to 6.9) but still wasn't good at it.  Williams walked fewer (3.3 to 4.3) but still wasn't good at it. Williams gave up far more homers (2.1 to Davies 1.1... which isn't bad!) Anyway it's two poor choices but if you have to go with one, ride the horse you came in on or something like that. 

But this just underscores how bad it is for the Nats. These are two pitchers who should be no ones #5. Michael Lorenzen, a perfectly reasonable arm likely to give you 4.00-4.50 ERA (though maybe only for half a season) was signed for a song. That's what the Nats should have done for various reasons (no depth a starter, don't tax a average pen, no idea what the rotation with 3 young guys - one prone to injury, and one older one on the way out are going to do innings wise) but they didn't. For a few million they chose to make the team likely much worse. 

We can pick apart the positional decisions (Nick Senzel? Really still? That's not a joke?) but the prospect of prospects lends an air of sense to "wait and see". We can imagine a smart plan taking lumps now to pay off later. But the pitching decisions blow that all up. This isn't a concerted plan to get kids opportunities. There are no kids worth it on the mound, certainly not the multiple ones needed to cover this rotation. It's a plan to be cheap while they aren't winning. Simple as that.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Josiah Gray - Opening Day Starter

He's the best man for the job. 

Gore is probably better... probably.  He was a bigger prospect has both better control and more swings and misses and did in fact pitch better by several metrics last year. BUT

Gray ended up with the better season by results. He pitched more innings. He represents the team in other ways being the Roberto Clemente award nominee and involved with the Youth Baseball Academy.  And Gore didn't pitch THAT much better. 

Let Gray pitch and let's hope Gray figures out how to marry keeping the ball in the park with something else effective so he can really be an under 4.00 ERA pitcher.*

 

 

 

*but if he doesn't perhaps I can bring back "Jo-Jo See Ya" which is a win for me and I mean it affectionately now! 

Friday, March 15, 2024

Spring Breakout!

When I first heard about this I thought it was a great idea.  Spring Training holds little interest after the very first few games when we are all just happy to have baseball back so an event that will grab some interest and some air from Sports Media in a time where it's possible (after the Super Bowl and before the NCAA tournament) makes a ton of sense. But of course it's MLB so they have to do it wrong. 

Instead of a small set of games featuring guys who are either just were brought up, are going to start in the majors, or ones that have a good shot of making it up this year* they just have every team field a team of prospects.  But few teams... check that NO teams go deep enough in meaningful prospects to make a full roster interesting, even before you pull out guys that may be a little banged up or teams otherwise don't want participating. You are literally going into the 30s and 40s in terms of a teams individual prospect list which is way deep into "will never make the majors territory" 

And while it is fun to see guys like Crews and Wood and House for Nats fans, guess what? They've been seeing them all spring if they've been paying attention. So a bit of Jarlin Susana maybe? That's what you are tuning in for? Granted this won't be the same for every team. The Nats have the bulk of their best prospects in the upper minors but still I don't think this is how it should be done. 

How should it be done? My suggestion would be an set of 3 games - AL East vs NL East, etc. with rosters of 25 guys from 5/6 teams who could conceivably win the ROY this year. I don't mean that in the "are on ROY watch lists" I mean that in the "might be up this year and qualify".AL vs NL here would give a better game but would also be limiting. Maybe your guy gets in, maybe he doesn't, and if he does it might be a couple batters or one AB.  But divisional splits could be fun because it's not only your guys you might see this year but the young guys you might see the most of next year too. And because it includes guys who might have debuted late last year that includes some really good players baseball fans might not have seen much of.

Like the Futures Game the seed of the idea is good. And the mistakes of this idea aren't as egregious as the Futures Game being televised while other actual real games are going on. But MLB is still diluting national interest for no good reason as far as I can tell.  If it's a "don't want another team handling my prospect" then things can be set like a 1 inning limit pitching, or you can't put this guy in CF.  It's a true exhibition. The idea is fun. Make it as fun as possible. This is like a 6 out of 10. Slightly fun. Do better


*to differentiate it from the Futures Game which is a mish-mosh of levels and very limited number of guys per team. 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

How's Wood doing now and the No Surprise Spring

 The Nats are going into this season and it's going to be a planned dull one repeating 2023's "wait until next year" with a worse starting cast but likely a more interesting final one.  The only hope for something interesting right now is some sort of young player acting like he'll force his way in (he won't but it would be a story) or some surprise roster move. 

We started the Spring with James Wood looking like he might provide us with that story.  He came out of February hitting .500 with only 2Ks compared to 3 homers in his first 6 games.  Since then? In 10 games he's hitting .182 with 8Ks and 0 homers in 28 PAs.  Honestly that's not a bad K-ratio for him to have in the majors, but savior coming in May is no longer the storyline here.*

Hassell was hitting pretty well... but got hurt again. Trey Lipscomb has come on. Sorry not story. In other news Call was hitting becoming the poster child for "Spring Training stats are meaningless" Luckily so because Gallo is 3-20 with 12 Ks and most importantly no homers. Ignore it! 

 Jake Irvin has looked very good after a terrible start. Gray and Henry terrible.  Ignore it! Well not every part of it.  Irvin was the favorite to hold down the 5th spot and it looks like this will keep him there which means really no drama up until now.  There's always the potential Robles (doing ok) or Garcia (doing meh) replacings.  But right now this is just a boring ship blazing a boring trail straight to a forgettable 4 months.


*Meanwhile everyone's favorite prospect except for a couple holdouts on here Wyatt Langford has passed Wood in all stats in the Spring making him one of the hottest hitters. Yes, Spring means nothing but for Crews #1 fans who are looking for something, anything to hang their hat on... looks like you are going to have to drop that sucker on the floor for now.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Monday Quickie - But I bet the Nats have a Top 200 player, right? Right?

I wonder how far down you go before you hit a Nat.  I also wonder if it's better than the Rockies' or Oakland's best player.

TBF - Top 100 is pretty damn good.  Evenly distributed it would be the best three players from each team.  The lowest starting  pitcher on this list is Walker Buehler at 100.  He had an injury riddled 2023 but still threw to a 4.00 ERA and was coming off a 200IP 3.16 FIP 4th in the Cy Young year. The lowest relief pitcher on the list was Devin Williams at 99. He was a dominant closer in 2023 - 36 saves and a 1.53 ERA. The lowest position player (not a catcher) on the list was Christian Yelich who hit .278 / .370  / .447 with 19 homers. Yes Lane Thomas hit 10 more homers.  He also never walked and doesn't have a history of being anything more than he just was.

I'd imagine though Lane Thomas IS the best player on the Nats.  

Let's think... 

Relief pitching wise Finnegan and Harvey are pretty good but pretty good relievers don't make it very far in Top X player lists. You see Devin Williams was GREAT and he was 99 and on par with Yelich. We can dismiss them. 

Starting pitching wise it's either Gray or Gore depending on what you think but if Buehler and Merril Kelly are at the bottom of this list Gore and Gray would be hard pressed to get into the Top 200.  We'll leave them for a while. 

 Position player Lane is the easy choice  with the question being what do you think of Ruiz and Abrams.  I do think they are probably in that Top 200 group or at least there's an argument but without history to back them up I'm going to have to say Lane is an easy pick for being better. 

Ok Lane isn't that much worse than Yelich. Age is on his side for one, but the fielding woes aren't helping. I figure he gets into the Top 150. I'm not sure if that's 110 side or 140 side though but we can go to the A's and Rockies now to see if that matters. 

 

The Athletics do not have a lights-out reliever. Their best hitter is not clear. It could be Zak Gelof, who is a big power bat who strikes out a bunch. Not a great fielder but at 23 can still do something. It might be Brent Rooker who was a better bat than Thomas last year but a pure DH. Their best pitcher is JP Sears who is basically Gray and Gore. I like Thomas more than Sears or Rooker but T'm not convinced I'd have Thomas above Gelof who could explode this year. Even if he doesn't I'd put him at a wash with Thomas. So not definitely better top player than the A's.

The Rockies do not have a lights-out reliever. Their best hitter is Ryan McMahon. He's a solid fielder and his hitting stats are ok but that's in Coors. Taking that into account - no Lane is better.  Their best pitcher is Kyle Freeland a home town boy who up until last year always managed to pitch average in that park.  That's pretty impressive. Still that strike out rate has never been good. Not even in minors.  It's kind of like he's an ideal Coors pitcher with control and a lot of sinking pitches that avoid the homers but are hits. Anyway, I think I like Thomas better coming off of last year. Better top player than the Rockies! 

FLAGS FLY FOREVER

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Nats sign Eddie Rosario

 Why? 

Ummm... well he's an average lefty offensive player that fields ok that has mild upside potential.The contract is reasonable so if he has a decent year you can probably flip him for a A-ball lottery ticket. The Nats also are fine with having these 1yr whatever players because they want the kids up later this year, or first thing next. 

This makes the signing ok... if they didn't already make this signing with Joey Gallo.  OK Gallo walks more and hits for lower average and is younger but otherwise pretty similar.

I guess this would solidify the situation to be Gallo or Meneses at 1B, the other at DH, Eddie in the OF? 

These are better signings than say Corey Dickerson, worse than Jeimer Candelario. Make with it as you will.  You don't project that this improves the Nats chances but you do start nudging out guys like Alex Call or Jake Alu who'd probably not be on another team's bench. Pushing out the chaff has value I guess.

 

Added: 

Oh if you can read this, read this: 

https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/88765/2024-season-preview-washington-nationals/

Eddie Rosario could make that 0.4 in LF into a 0.8 and shift some Gallo time to DH making that a 0.4.  Look at that. A 59.1 team win, thank you very much.


Monday, February 26, 2024

Monday Quickie - Wood Swings Wood

James Wood hit two homers this weekend. 

That's it. 

You know how I feel about Spring Training stats by now. But of course we'll go through the annual reminder... 

Who led the Nats in HR last Spring?  Dom Smith! (and Riley Adams)

Who was the best hitter for the Nats last Spring (with a decent number of PAs)? Alex Call! next was Garcia! then Smith! 

Who was the best pitcher for the Nats last Spring? Josiah Gray with a 0.55 ERA!  Then Hobie Harris with 0.90 over 10IP. 

Who was worst? Wily Peralta. (who was also bad in the regular season in AAA)


Spring is basically meaningless. Sometimes things match up with the regular season, sometimes they don't.  There's a bit of "maybe power showings are real" thought but no one has doubted that James Wood has power.  Yes, this showing is real. But we knew that already.  The question with James is what level of contact will he make in the majors and where does that put his floor and ceiling. And we've got years to figure that exactly out. 

So again Spring is here. Just enjoy watching some guys take some swings, but don't you take anything else from it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Worst Off-Season Ever?

There was some hope coming into this off-season that it would be an off-season like the one before 2011. Committing to a future that looked bright, that off-season the Nats signed Jayson Werth. The Nats had a definite hole to fill - a leader and an outfielder - and they filled it.  This season they have a definite hole to fill - starting pitcher - and they didn't fill it. 

It's disappointing and it got me thinking it was likely more like the 2010 off-season. But looking back... well let's compare

2011: Werth, Adam Laroche, Rick Ankiel, Matt Stairs, Lance Nix, Tom Gorzelanny

2010 : Pudge Rodriguez, Jason Maquis, Matt Capps, Miguel Batista 

2009 : Adam Dunn, Joe Beimel, Josh Willingham, Scott Olsen

Not all of these worked out and there are some other names I could throw in, but there's definitive moves to try to make the team better. I'd say all these years are better than this one. No you have to go back to 2008 when the signings were an aged Paul LoDuca, Aaron Boone, Willie Harris, Odalis Perez, to find an offseason clearly as inconsequential to the on field product for the upcoming year. 

Of course we've just had a set of pretty terrible off-seasons as well 

2023 : Candelario, Trevor Williams, Dom Smith 

2022: Cesar Hernandez, Maikel Franco, Carl Edwards Jr, Nelson Cruz

2021 : Brad Hand, Kyle Shwarber, Josh Bell 

I think 2021 is clearly better (not in results but in what it was attempting to do). So one question is whether this is the worst of the last 3 offseasons in terms of talent acquired. 

But we also must consider the circumstances.  2022 was a give up season and we knew it at the time.  2020 might have surprised everyone, but 2021 drove home the fact the team needed at least a couple seasons of re-tooling. In 2022 Strasburg officially broke for good and then Soto became expendable because there wasn't a quick way out of this hole without spending a ton. So into 2023 became another expected rebuild. But into 2024, I think we expected a bit more. Or at least I did. The rest of you at least hoped. 

So in talent this off-season might be the worst in what was brought in at least since the days where the Nats weren't trying. We can quibble over if say 2005 was better (it was) or 2006 (it was) or 2007 (it was) or 2008 (maybe).  In expectations of veteran talent acquired this was definitely the worst. The combination of the two make this the worst off-season the Nats fans have ever had. 

And yet... 

You can still hold out hope because the Nats have the largest group of close to major league ready talent than they ever have. Yes that speaks to a history of extremely shallow top-heavy minor leagues, but it's true. And if they work out this year and if the Nats commit to spend next year well then that's something. 

But if regardless of what happens the Nats don't commit to spend something next year well then into 2024 will have a short reign as worst off-season ever. 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Trying to make sense of this all

I replied to someone earlier that was 2024 is really about is "clarity" 

At the time I meant it to be about how the management felt about the team. They are evaluating the young players that were in hand. If they deem them to be a competitive core they will supplement in the off-season. If they don't, they will either cheap out and plod along or do a minor sell-off of some young talent OR they will commit some resources to buy the Nats into competitiveness, if only the fringes.

But now I'm thinking it's more than that. It's clarity for this organization as a whole. From 2005-2018 Ted Lerner ran the team, and although he had his penny-pinching ways, he was committed to making this team a winner. We saw when the core emerged, the Nats put money forth to maintain a level of realistic contention. The Nats were never all-in but they were willing to put forth reasonable deals in places that they needed and had the fortune of that judicious spending being complemented by a couple of generational draft picks and a lottery ticket of an international signing coming through. 

It's likely that in this juncture Ted would have run the team similar to what we've seen. That's how it was run 2005-2010. Nothing extraneous, just put a team on the field and wait. But the assumption that they'll put in money in a Werth like move - a pre-contention move to signify seriousness - we can't count on that and it didn't in fact happen. 

It could be it not working out with who's available or the money currently on the books or these kids not meriting that type of FA move. Or it could be that this management doesn't think that way anymore. 

It could be that if the players do seem to form a competitive core the Nats won't get those extra players in the off-season.   

We don't know anymore. 

We have a ownership group where at least the bulk of them seem like they want to sell. It could be the goal is keeping this team cheap for that purpose, only waiting until the MASN rights are re-aligned from the Orioles sale. 

Add to this we have a GM who's telling a beloved player who is broken to get down to Florida most likely because that's what the owners want. It was rumored it was about settling that contract. Trying not to pay him all and get it off the books. We've heard words suggesting different, but all the actions seem to say that is what it is.  What does that say about the GM? That he knows this is the last stop so don't anger the bosses? That he simply wants the money free as well? What FA is going to look at this and not at least think about it (even if $$$ win out 9 out of 10 times) 

What we are getting now is clarity. We will continue to get this clarity in all aspects of this team. Is this team a mess? Is it simply spinning wheels until a sale? Or is it all just a matter of a single bad PR move and some bad timing making things internally look worse than they really are?

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The can't pitch (physical) leading the can't pitch (ability)

The Nats are starting to become an embarrassment. 

I'll pass off the cheap motivation signs and the usual "here come the kids!". The latter is par for course for any bad team looking to rebuild, the former par for course for nearly everyone. Spring Training is kind of embarrassing for stories. You just get used to the "best shape" and "new approach" and "learned a lot" and "really like what we got"s. 

But beyond that the Nats said two things yesterday that made me cringe. 

For the on-the-field product Rizzo said he wasn't looking for any major league pitchers. For those that somehow forgot the Nats had a terrible pitching staff last year, not quite the worst (leaving out the Rockies and their home field issues, the A's were clearly worse) but among 3-4 other teams clearly worse than the merely bad teams. 

Gray had a good ERA but bad peripherals. Gore had a mediocre ERA and bad peripherals. Those are your best arms. 

People fell over themselves to praise the work Jake Irvin did... which was have a bad ERA and bad peripherals. Granted I'll agree to the praise, we expected nothing from Jake and he delivered a typical MLB 5th starter performance for 120 innings. Good for you! That's also probably the best the now 27 year old can do. They also gave Corbin some props for his even worse ERA and peripherals simply because it was not OMG TERRIBLE as it had been.  Finally no one could even fake liking what Trevor Williams did, one of the worst starters in the game in 2023. 

But to take a macro look 127 pitchers pitched 100 innings or more. That's about 4 per team.  The Nats had 5.  That's good! But their five rank in xFIP 63, 101, 114, 118, 121.  That's bad! really bad! 

All of this is to say we all knew the Nats needed help in here and if they could bring in an arm that just sat in that middle of everyone range, it would be a BIG help to the team. But they said no to that and now they are saying no to anyone else, including a arms who didn't pitch well in 2023 but have middle of that range potential. They are going with what they got and what they got could easily be worse next year. 

Now, we can say they expect Cavalli to jump in an (1) replace the worst pitcher and (2) be ok. And yes that will help but wouldn't it be more exciting if he were coming in and things were going well and you were thinking "Maybe they Nats have an almost competitive Top 4" rather than if he were coming in and things are going as expected and you were thinking "Ok if he's a solid 3 he's our best pitcher"?

But at least this is standard baseball. Teams cheap out all the time. Saying we have crap at home, why spend money on something that also might be crap just because it might also be good? Why not save that money for... the future*? But the Nats also went potentially above and beyond this in saying they want Strasburg to be down at Spring Training. 

On a base level that does make sense. Even if you can't pitch, maybe you can give us some value for that contract. We know it's not the job you signed for but it would be a nice gesture. And I'd be inclined to... well maybe not agree with the Nats, again this isn't the job you were paying Strasburg for, but at least accept their prodding as understandable. But Strasburg isn't just unable to dial up high 90s heater anymore. He can't really use his arm like a normal person. When a person gives up his arm for the team and a championship, personally I think that's enough.  As I responded in a tweet yesterday I think saying "Hey while you are laying down on the ground trying to get feeling back in your hand, can you go over the Phillies line-up" is kind of terrible. But this is they way the Nats seem to be leaning now. Kind of terrible. 

OK, it's easy to be down. They are bad. They are in team sale limbo. They did not try to get better for 2024. The baseball media has kind of picked up on the fact that the team hasn't done a good job developing players and is beginning to note that. There is a bad feeling about the team. But they don't have to help with more bad news!

Bring in puppies or something because this team needs a vibe turnaround if we're going to have any fun before the games start.

*"The Future" being the name of the solid gold jet-ski being purchased for the yacht

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Could a prospect make the Nats Opening Day roster?

No. 

Sorry. Kind of a waste of a blog post.

But in all seriousness there isn't a compelling reason other than "because they are ready" to do this.  In the field all positions are covered either by guys they want there or guys they want to look at. While you and me would rather see Crews or Wood* as soon as they are ready, the team wants to maximize value and that means keeping any stars you create from making as much money as they can.  Potentially saving that 30 million on that last year is worth a bunch of lost production in a wasted year - who cares what exactly the circumstances will be when you get to that point.

But let's guess anyway on the bats at least. The arms... the less said the better.

Dylan Crews - likely not. While he crushed A-ball, AA humbled him a bit. He did get more hits toward the end but with little of his trademark power. I can't see Spring being compelling enough to overcome this. 

James Wood - it's not impossible he'd deserve it and on a contending team he'd get the call. While AA proved to be at least minor turbulence in his rocket to the majors, he also had a good finish including a 9-20 HR 2B last homestand. More importantly he checks off all the needs for the Nats (defense in OF, LH power). If he didn't have all those Ks - a worrying sign for a call up - I'd make him equal chance to the next guy.

Brady House - best chance of the top 10? Brady didn't have an issue with AA outside of a small power dip. 3rd base is pencilled in for Nick Senzel who is probably trash. If the Nats were at all trying he'd likely be up with a solid outing in Spring.

Cade Cavalli - Ok one pitcher. We'll see Cavalli as soon as he's healthy and looks ok but it's doubtful they'll ok an injury return straight to the majors

Elijah Green - No. 

Daylen Lile - Also no. He struggled a bit in High A. Struggling in AA but finishing strong? Maybe. Struggling in High A, shouldn't matter if you tear the cover off the ball in Spring.

Yohandy Morales -Another 3B contender and it would be real intersting but he barely played in the minors last year (42 games) and just a handful in AA.  I can't see him making it and Brady not regardless of the Spring.

Robert Hassell - A nightmare 2023 means no, even if he's healthy and looks good. They'll want to take it slow.

Are there any "non-propsects" that were both young and did well in AA or AAA.They seem to want Darren Baker to get his chance but I'm not even sure he's Jake Alu so how does he beat him out of spot? Can't carry both.  Jordy Barley was thrown to the AAA wolves last year and didn't drown but given how bad his minor league run has been I can't see them putting him in the majors. Jacob Young is already here, the question is if he'll stick (I say sure, why not).  Trey Lipscomb, the hotness for a month or so, cooled down a bit and is now in a waiting line behind House and Morales. He could get an early call just because he won't get a late one but I can't see him starting in the majors.

So I'd say there's a puncher's chance for House to make it and Wood could force the issue. I don't think anyone else has a real shot.  But I'd bet unless there is a OMG WE HAVE TO HAVE THIS GUY HERE NOW situation they put them all in AAA and try to build some excitement there early.

*Some of you are going to say "I'd rather wait" - I understand. I don't respect the opinion or agree, but I understand. It's years of baseball philosophy ground into you.  It's remembering that one time that one prospect was really good AND hit FA a year early AND left AND it mattered and not the tens of times that prospect wasn't any good, or didn't go into FA, or left and it didn't matter.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

A wink and a prayer

The Nats are bringing in Jesse Winkler and... that's fine? On the surface maybe but dig even a little bit and it becomes pretty questionable.

Winkler is a lefty that plays corner OF and has power. In a sense he's trying to fill in the same spot Gallo is trying.  The Nats are really doubling down trying to get a value lefty power bat. (I will presume it's because they plan to spend money on arms after 2024. Let's hope.) This is because most of their kids are RH - Crews, House, Morales. If Wood, the main power lefty, doesn't come in fast than this would be an obvious hole.

Winkler is an above average bat  (.270 / .374 / .463 career line before last year) but unlike the sneaky athletic Gallo, Winkler is a statue struggling on D and hurting you on the basepaths. He's also EXTREMELY prone to injury failing to play a full season... well ever. Topping out at 136 games with Seattle in 2022 he's played 113, 110 , 89, 61, and 54 major league games excluding his rookie season and the COVID year. Injuries include shoulder, neck, leg, and back problems. 

Last year was the 61 game season (though yes he did play 27 minor league games). He showed he was still good in AAA hitting over .300 but in the majors... well let's just go to his wiki page.

In the 2023 regular season, Winker batted .199/.320/.247 in 166 at bats with one home run, 23 RBIs, and 51 strikeouts with the Brewers, with isolated power of .048.[36] He was in the bottom 1% of all major league players in speed, had career lows in his exit velocity (86.8 mph) and hard hit percentage (31.9%), and had a career-high strikeout percentage (25.9%).[41]

Ouch. 

I suppose any minor league contract is whatever but for someone constantly injured to still be injured and to have a terrible season with the bat and to give you nothing else. Well I suppose that's why no one else signed him. It seems like a poor player for the Nats to bet on to be help for the future, if that's indeed what they are doing, simply because the injury history suggests you can't rely on that at all. For a team gambling on 2024 and trying to catch lightning in a bottle Winkler might make sense, but that's far from the Nats. He's best seen then as potential trade bait but again... anyone could have had him for nothing and didn't want him. The return on Winkler will be light. 

It's a minor league move. It can be bad and that is fine because it doesn't matter.  That's kind of where I put this. Betting a penny on the Nats winning the World Series in 2024. You are going to lose that penny but hey, it's a penny.

As long as Winkler doesn't somehow block the path of a kid ready to play in AAA or be moved up to the majors I can't really complain.

Friday, February 09, 2024

Still a chance

We're a mere week away from pitchers and catchers and the Nats need one of those. With Kluber retiring today, the total FA pool looks like this now : 

1B/DH : JD Martinez (Mets?), Brandon Belt (Rangers?), Jorge Soler (Giants/Red Sox?), Donovan Solano, Garrett Cooper (Red Sox?)

Others with DH potential :  Tommy Pham, Adam Duvall,

Starters : Lorenzen, Clevinger, 

So the FA bats will probably end up leaving Solano, Pham, and Duvall on the sidelines at the start of spring with one of them getting a Phillies deal with Marsh injured. These are all better choices than Gallo but not like that much better given the fit we talked about. We'll see if one of them gets picked up by a bad team on a nothing deal. 

I think the pitching FA pool didn't shift and you aren't hearing as much (probably here) talk because the big guys (Snell, Montgomery) are still jockeying for years and dollars and until they get there it makes sense for Lorenzen and Clevinger to wait. They'll have more leverage as the only guys left rather than an early grab cheap guy.  But... could either end up on the Nats? 

It's what they need. It would make sense. Hell even for a year.  Neither is repped by Boras if you are wondering, who the Nats have a history of working these kinds of "makes sense for both groups at the moment" deals (see Gallo, Joey), but that doesn't mean that much. Neither of these guys have won so you'd imagine that might matter. Clevinger has pitched well for competitive teams. Lorenzen really only having one shot, did not. 

Anyway - the door remains open, to a "fine ok you did the minimum" off-season. get that starter for 2024.

 


Wednesday, February 07, 2024

PECOTA hates the Nats, why?

 The PECOTA projections, used by Baseball Prospectus are out and boy do they hate the Nats. So much so they have the Nats as the 2nd worst team in all of baseball. 

Projections are projections and you can buy into any one them if you like. For the most part you should look at a bunch and see if there is a pattern. Like for instance, Fangrpahs projections which... also have the Nats as the 2nd worst team in all of baseball albeit with about 8 more wins.  

For what it's worth fangraphs "smushes" more than PECOTA going for a more "closer to the truth" on any one team, while PECOTA allows for more tail length, going for a more "this is what a regular season would probably look like"

 So the Nats are probably more 66 than 58 but why are they so hated to begin with. What in the numbers says never bet on red? 

It has the Nats regressing both at the plate (40 fewer runs) and on the mound (40 more runs).  Offensively you can see it. The Nats are replacing 125 games of Jeimer Candelario (125 OPS+ with Nats in 2023) with Nick Senzel (85 OPS+ in 2023) that's a huge drop in production and last year was Senzel's best since 2019. You weight that more but also the other years were 55, 67, and 66.  There's no denying a HUGE step back is likely. 

 They also buy into an increase playing time for Carter Kieboom and his history of terribleness. Alex Call still being around for 200+PA) and increases in PA but my guess is understandable decreases in production from Stone Garrett and Victor Robles.  The former I bet washes out - slightly less productive but slightly more PAs. But Robles' history (66, 69 ,69 OPS+ 2020-2022) has to trump his 40 games of good play last year. 

On the positive side there is Joey Gallo replacing Dom Smith. Even I, someone that doesn't like Gallo, notes that it wouldn't take much for him to replace Dom's 92 OPS+.  Granted he's been up and down but put him just under 100 OPS+ and it's something. But it's also not enough to make up for the above. 

The hope that they are wrong comes from the youth and some decision making. No one particularly looks to be a break out candidate next year but there are a bunch that it's possible. Ruiz, Garcia, Abrams, all could or Wood or Crews or another minor leaguer could rocket. You can't really project that so none likely do for PECOTA but maybe one will? A more reasonable hope is if Kieboom is playing that much (420PA) he's better than he has been or else the slightly better Vargas would be playing. That would likely create a few more runs. 

Still I think I agree I'd bet on the Nats scoring fewer runs than more. So to keep up a 67 win rate statistically they need to pitch better. But here we have them pitching worse. Relief wise I imagine it is what it is. Finnegan should be worse by stats, Thompson better. They have some decent arms but no depth so I don't imagine much change. The added runs more likely come from the SP slot. You have an older Corbin who had his best season in years in 2023, a Trevor Williams who seemingly has confirmed he's not a starter, a wobbly Josiah Gray and a replacement level Jake Irvin. All outdid their FIP. That's unlikely to happen again. I'd bet on Corbin, Williams, and Irvin all being worse and with no one reliable to replace them with you have to rely on Gray and Gore to get a step better each (or Cavalli to be immediately ok). 

 I'm going to guess that Gray is not projected to get much better (improvement countered by the fact his ERA was beating what it probably should be) so the big thing here is probably Gore's performance. PECOTA looks at the last few years and has him throwing only 115 innings. If he gets better AND pitches more than last year that could be a solid improvement. But like the offense probably not enough to make up for the likely negatives. 

None of this is particularly unexpected but it's stark to see it laid out. The Nats were not good last year. They got rid of more talent then they brought in. No young player ready to start the year on the major league roster has a strong break out potential. The pitching depth at starter is extremely weak and the rotation is already among the worst in the majors. If you project that out as expected you have a team worse than last year. 

But the Nats aren't relying on "as expected" performances from late 20 year old vets. They are relying on highly variable performances from guys 25 and under. This allows for the potential for something much greater. Without any real FA moves it's a lottery season. It's a gamble. The Nats are at the craps table looking to roll 7s and that means it could be real fun but it's more likely to be pretty bad. The house usually wins. Hope that means Brady.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Monday Quickie - ya happy?

Playing the game : 

Carlos Santana signed. 1/5.25. An imperfect Nats fit. A switch hitter but better from the RH side. Can't play anything but 1B now. Nearly 38.

But his OPS would be about the same as Gallo and he's a proven decent 1B even at this age. I would have signed him instead of Gallo. But I can understand the counter argument as well as a gamble on old Nelson Cruz making Rizzo gunshy here. 


Guys, are you happy with the off-season? 

It's February now and things are winding down. The Nats were mildly lucky last year to hit 71 wins and the off-season hasn't seen much work to improve the team. Gallo will probably be better than Dom Smith, and fills a lot of needs if just, but has a higher bust rate than a 30 year old should and money is on marginal improvement. Nick Senzel is a huge question mark seemingly brought in to be a guy to hold a spot for 4 months. They signed Dylan Floro one year removed from being very good in a Jeimer Candelario type move that could work. 

And that's it. 

They made a 71 team maybe a 72 team? Then again Jeimer is gone so maybe a 69 win team. And that's from results. From stats it's looking like 65-68. Everything rests on the kids. If the Nats are going to be anything to watch more kids need to come through that fail. 

Offensively - I can see someone being ok with that. The future is here or in AAA (or in AA with a fast track to AAA likely). You gotta roll with it sometime and doing it now can mean better figuring out where the hole or two that needs a big FA is.  House regresses and Lipscomb is nothing? Nats need a 3B.  Wood OR Crews debuts but the other struggles and Hassell remains hasselled by injuries? Nats need an OF. 

On the mound - To me it's a terrible plan. Corbin barely hung on to be usable. Williams was worse. Gray and Gore showed flashes but not the type that can carry a staff and Irvin was just a guy. The one guy on the horizon is coming back from major injury.  This isn't figuring out what the next move is, it's putting it off. 

So I would not be happy. There's an arm missing from a competitive team from 2025- . I'd want to see it. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Young Prospects Day Camp 2024!

IYKYK

The Nats invited their kids to come to camp. Sure. It really doesn't mean much... in any sense.  They'll be in Florida around that time anyway. This gets them exposure to current major league players. You get to see if maybe they look overwhelmed or not. No real downside unless the guys are slated to be here and you knock them down and none of these guys are in fact slated to be here. So good! Something to talk about. 

There are a couple guys that aren't invited that are all tools and likely would be overwhelmed (Elijah Green for example) and you can't invite everyone. Jeremy De La Rosa got invited last year and did not this year. Did anything really change for him? Not really. They didn't have many people they wanted to see up last year is all. 

And the fact he was up last year gives you an idea of what this invite means. Nothing. It's a ride along not a deputizing. It's something for the team to sell to the public. But ultimately it's not about Feb and March, if you can get the fans back on board, it's about April-September (and also probably next November-February)

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The pre-season game

 The Nats signed Gallo for 1/5.  It's almost certain they won't sign another bat so from now on we can judge the bats that did sign and see if the Nats should have signed someone else given what they eventually got. No, it's not "fair". It's fun. It's a way to waste time between now and Spring Training. 

Some rules 

Gallo fit a lot of holes as I noted. So bonus points to players that (1) hit LH, (2) hit for power (3) can play any position but SS or C.  In theory any other position is open but outside of corner OF and 1B/DH they will have to be judged on the "better than guy there" comparison. Corner OF and 1B/DH will be judged against Gallo. We'll also give the Nats a 20% salary advantage over any team finishing over .500 last year. 

Up today is Justin Turner 1/13 up to 1.5m in bonuses.  The Nats deal would then be like 1/15.5 with 2 mill in bonuses. Turner is mostly a 1B/DH but can play 3B.  He is RH (minus) but does generate power (plus). Last year he hit .276 / .345 / .455. He's 38 but has been relatively healthy in his late 30s.

Is he better than Gallo at the plate? 

-Yes! Gallo is actually more patient and has more power but hitting like 100 points better than Gallo is a clear advantage.

What about in the field? 

-No. Turner is clearly just a 1B now. Gallo might have some OF left in him and general age/skill puts Gallo as likely a better 1B right now. 

So would you sign Turner for the price* to replace Gallo? No, I don't think so. Turner should be better but he's not ideal and the age would scare me.

 

What about at 3B? How does he compare there? Is he better than Senzel at the plate? 

-Oh god yes. Better power, better patience, can actually hit. It's a crushing comparison. You probably don't get how bad Senzel is.

But in the field? 

-Senzel is not good but he was mostly playing OF before last year so he could get better. Turner is too old and he's not getting better. A hands down win for Senzel and again he's not that good. FWIW the contract for Senzel is 1/2m.

So would you sign Turner for the price to replace Senzel? Yes. Senzel is not a functional 3B. He shouldn't have been signed with Vargas already here and Vargas is not good. 

Would you sign Turner for the price over Vargas?  Yeah. The bat difference would make up for the fielding in my book. Vargas is probably going to be overall negative next year. Turner wouldn't be.

This is pretty much saying though any guy that can play 3B would have been a better play.  Turner should be usable next year. I'd rather the team spend 15 mill on a usable player than waste 2 million on a guy who likely isn't.


*Note this is not my ACTUAL take. My actual take is "Is Turner better? Then I don't care. Not my money. Nats should sign him" but I get by now most of you buy into having to accept the money bucket theory of baseball payrolls. Also always answering "Better? Yes! Sign!" is not fun.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

New Unis?

 Well here’s a shocker.  New uniforms for 2024

I think unless the current uniforms are hated (they aren’t) or the changes are very minor (they aren’t) then fans generally dislike changes. I get it. Why fix what’s not broken?  It’s pretty easy to mess up design so be judicious when deciding to do it. So maybe that’s just it  but in general fans aren’t happy

Personally I dislike both   The pullover is kind of in that 70s Braves aesthetic but with only a logo and not a full name across the white space is too much for me.  The Braves themselves addressed this by making it a button down for their City Connect. Also causing waves is the pumped up use of the busy “block W on a silhouette of the Capitol with stars on either side” logo  it’s nothing fans hate from what I can tell but it’s also not loved making it an odd choice  The interlocking DC is generally more favored and is officially back but has been relegated to arm patch duty.  All this being said - it’s an alternate.  I don’t like it but I do think alternates, if they must be done, should do stuff like this and not everyone will like everything about them.  Generally.

I say that because the team did hit a home run with the cherry blossom alternates. Which for purely “make limited” money reasons won’t be worn after this year.  Dumb!

The road changes might be more an issue because you’ll be seeing them all the time.  Road unis tend to be boring but this takes it to a new level replacing the red script “Washington” with a block blue one shrunk a bit to fit straight across rather than at an angle.  It looks generic.  Uninspired.  

But that’s me   Maybe you are one of the randos Tweeting “Nats brought the fire!!!” For some reason  I’m happy for you   It’s not I’d be buying these* so my opinion matters very little.  Your thoughts? 


*I don’t buy jerseys in general  I have 3   A blank Yankees one received as a gift, a cheap Chris Calloway Giants  one purchased bc it was like $5, and a Quebec Nordiques purchased when I made a valiant effort to like hockey more  didn’t work  still just a very casual fan


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Earnest on Gallo

Joey Gallo is going to be a National.  1 year, 5 million.  He'll likely play both 1B and the OF as needed. 

A quick primer on Joey Gallo. A decade or so ago Gallo was a top prospect, A top 10 guy who hit 42 homers and walked almost 90 times across 126 games of A+ and AA ball as a 20 year old. That's prodigious power for a prospect and great patience. He'd put up a .300/.400/.600 line in AA the following year and looked to be a superstar despite a .193 batting average in AAA and a very high K/9 rate at every level.  He adapted to every other jump quickly, surely he would again. But he did not and he has spent his major league career balancing out that power and those Ks and lack of contact in general into something decidedly average production wise at the plate. But you could pair that oddly average bat with a pretty good glove. Guys with his hitting profile are usually oafs. Think Adam Dunn or Kyle Schwarber. But Gallo was a decent OF with a great arm. Great instincts for the game, decent speed (though not a base stealer by any means)

But that was then.  What about now? What about 2024? 

Everything is a bit worse. He's been hurt more and more often playing 120 and 110 games the past two years. His average, acceptable in the .205-.210 range has now settled into the below .180. His fielding instincts can no longer compensate for a aging and hurt body and he's better off staying at 1B.  He is still producing enough power to make his bat worthwhile but in a way that you find guys 6-8 years older doing it; find a mistake and try to get around fast and crush it over the fence. His homer profile reads like that of Evan Longoria and Matt Carpenter. In 2022 his power dipped a little and he was flat bad. Last year it perked back up and he was back around average. Overall it reads both as "ok right now" and flashing red danger lights. 

But you can see how this move makes sense for the Nats in a number of ways, or at least you could this afternoon... we'll get to that. 

Gallo is a lefty bat. The Nats need a lefty bat.  Gallo has power. The Nats need power. Gallo can play 1B or DH or corner OF.  The Nats could use a guy at any and all of those positions to start the year. He's a player that fits. There's also value in the idea of mixing up the lineup for a pitcher. The Nats are full of high contact low power hitters. Gallo is something different to face and that change can matter in a line-up. He also represents no long term outlay of money. If the Nats want to move on from him this year it will be easy to do. 

Ok but then... Rhys Hoskins is all this too except, you know, good. No he isn't 5 million for 1, he's 34 million for 2. But everything here he does better. No he doesn't have the same power but he'll hit for more contact and will put more balls over the fence through that. He fields 1B well. And the contract he is looking to sign means the Nats can move on from him fairly easily and with contracts coming off after 2024 they'd still be able to sign guys going into 2025. The difference between the two is simply money. 

But that's back to another argument about what an increasing number of fans want them to do. It's still not what they HAVE to do. Not yet. That's not what 2024 is about really. Frustration may grow but remind yourself it's about 2025. Feel free to scream then but try to hold for one more year.

As a 2024 signing itself though I still don't like the Gallo signing. The chances of getting nothing are simply too high for me and the team can't afford to get nothing from their FA signings if they want to not be terrible.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Monday Quickie - still nothing

I guess old Nats friend Hader signed. But going to the AL really doesn't mean much for the Nats. 

Otherwise it remains quiet. For a team trying to wait things out both very quick, which can create a feeling like the last players remaining have to be snapped up NOW, and very slow, which can make your strategy interfere with preparation time by the player, are not good.  I'd say we're approaching very slow, but I'd also say that's probably better than very fast. The Nats might have to bite earlier before the best deals are uncovered but they should still be able to use a slow market to keep costs down in general. 

If they are going to sign someone. 

Last week on Twitter I got into a little back and forth with someone who felt we were being too down on the 2024 Nats. So what if they don't do anything? The game plan was never for 2024 it was for 2025. It was for the young guys up now; Ruiz, Garcia, Abrams, Gray, Gore PLUS the young guys to come who aren't here yet;  Wood, Crews, House, Cavalli. We might see them this year but they won't likely be impacting any races.

That's mostly correct and I do, in my cold steel heart, agree. Whatever happens this year we have to wait until we see what the team looks like on Opening Day 2025 before we make any judgments. It doesn't matter how or how fast they get to legitimate Wild Card contention, just that they do. And there was never a case for that in 2024 unless you were really optimistic. 

BUT 

But there is a case for wanting to see the team show they are going to move when the time is right. That is part of what the Werth signing was. We plan to compete. Without that you can envision a scenario where the kids don't progress as hoped and they scrap 2025 and maybe more. They aren't planning to compete right now so maybe, unlike last time, they are fine not doing that for a while. 

And there is also a case for not wanting to watch a miserable team again. The Nats won 71 games last year and were lucky to win that. They are probably a little worse than last year right now.  Does anyone want to watch a 65-70 win team again? Does the idea "well there's a good chance they should be better in 2025" make it more palatable? Nats fans have now suffered through 4 lousy years of baseball. One more would match what went on when they got the team, but without the shine of a new team and then a new park. The World Series helps keep it from a riot situation but patience, from what I can tell is wearing thin. 

This remains conjecture and speculation until we get to 2025 but I think we'd all rather feel like they are going to try than wonder if they are going to try. Right now Nats fans are in the latter group.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

What about Wood, House, and Cavalli?

Yesterday we talked about Crews (well not really - more honestly we talked very briefly about rankings and psychology) and you can go back and read that. But the Nats did have four other guys on these Top 100 lists. Let's talk about them

James Wood : I guessed he'd fall out of the Top 10 and he did in one place not the other. It will be close in MLB's list and likely not close (easily IN the Top 10) in Fangraphs, but we'll see. Still the takeaway is He's a Top 15+ ish player. Why in general is everyone still so high on James? 

Take a look at this

For those too lazy to click it's the Eastern League leaders in HRs.  James is not 1, he's tied for 6th but that's not the only number to look at.  What's also interesting is the PA and Age.  Out of the Top 29 (those with 13 or more homers). James is only 21st in PA and he's the 2nd youngest player here. So no, he's not generating the power of say Tyler Hardman or Luke Ritter or Ben Rice (hey two Yankees!) but those guys are 24, 26, and 24 respectively (awwww, well at least the Yankees are the 24yos). Wood has far more promise to improve. Guys slightly older like Colt Keith and Coby Mayo also generate more power but here's where things not in these numbers kick in. Those are both oafish types that the teams are hoping can stick at 3rd instead of being forced into a 1B/DH role*. Wood is an overall talent with the potential to stick in centerfield.  To bring it back to the Yankees, think Aaron Judge. If you ever watch him play OF he's so much better than you'd think given his size. Wood is like that. Wood is also, if not a better fielder, just faster giving him a weapon on the basepaths if teams choose to use it. 

That's a TON of good. What's the catch that keeps him from being a Top 5 guy? It's the 39 walks and 124 Ks. That's not the worst walk rate, but it's not a plus and that K rate is pretty bad. So that hangs over him in the "is he going to be a useful all-over Dave Kingman, which would still be very good, or something really special" way. We probably won't know though until he gets to the majors because nothing but the Ks are holding him back and they aren't holding him back that much. You want to see what this kid can do right now.

Brady House : I thought he'd move up a bunch and he barely budged.  Well I was wrong here because he was barely budging from MID-SEASON 2023 lists. He had fallen off 2023 lists entirely at the start because of his mostly injury related issues in 2022 and jumped back on based on what he had done starting 2023. It's easy to forget because he's been around longer but he's even younger than Wood, who turned 21 at the tail end of last season, and will play nearly half of this year as a 20 year old. He hit at every level he played in last year (A, A+, AA) showing himself to have .300+ potential.

But his K-rate and BB-rate in AA resembled Woods. And unlike Wood he's not the greatest talent. The raw power is not there. He was a usable at SS but everything (size, speed) was saying move him to 3B to take advantage of his plus plus arm**.  This knocks him down a couple pegs. The ceiling for House would still be "All-Star" but the ceiling on Wood is "all-timer". Note please I'm saying "ceiling" here. Don't get ahead of yourselves.

Cade Cavalli : basically he's here because he was here last year and got hurt? I have to think MLB will drop him out. I get why they all liked him going into last year. Very solid AAA numbers. Really keeps the ball in the park. A bit wild with not as much Ks as you'd like to see but history shows potential for that to improve. A guy with a great chance to find a spot for a few years in a major league rotation. But getting hurt throws that all into question. Let's hope he bounces right back.

 

So while we curiously argue about Crews (and Skenes) currently not looking like the best-est in the draft class, don't get caught up with it too much. Crews should be good. Wood still looks like he should be good. House has potential to be good and should be usable. The offensive pieces are mostly there.  They have usable in Garcia and usable with potential in Abrams and usable with potential at the plate let's hope he's not a bust with the glove in Ruiz. This gives them a very solid core. Even if none hit high you can buy a couple of very productive bats*** and this is a very good offense, or you can probably just play it out with what you'll have in a couple years and be close to average.  That's not a guarantee - you can look at the 2023 Tigers to see a "made reasonable choices, developed ok, but didn't work out enough" scenario on offense - but I can't make a complaint of how the Nats set themselves up at the plate here. 

 

*Mayo especially because his arm is a rocket.   

**To re-emphasize Mayo's arm here, everyone loves House's arm. Mayo's is seen as better. Like literally maybe the best arm in the minors. But House fields better and it don't matter how good that arm is if you aren't getting to enough balls. 

*** Now can you do that AND buy arms? Because they'll NEED to buy arms. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Am I tired of being right? No.

Baseball America released it's Top 100 AND....

Wyatt Langford #4

Dylan Crews #6

Paul Skenes #9 

So yes, as I said Langford DID leap over Crews and Skenes (but they all remain great prospects and everything could change again by Memorial Day). Skenes dropped a bit more than I thought but just a bit (I wouldn't have guessed under #7) 

Also Wood did drop out of the Top 10, as I also said, but only to #11 not 15-20 like I guessed. So only a minor win there. 

House... stayed stable in the 50s?  I find that very odd for a 20 year old that hit well in AA but there's probably a bit of "burned me once" mixed in here from people that got real high on him after 2019. 

Hassell's injuries cost him his spot in the Top 100. Certainly reasonable until he shows he's back to what he was.  Green also dropped out but I told you last year that was a "don't want to miss out on the 5 tool guy everyone is taking a flier on" rating, not actual "potential baseball player" rating. 

Look I'm not saying I'm a good talent evaluator. I have no idea. But I do like to think I'm a good evaluator of the evaluators - how they think, what factors OTHER than actual skill and potential causes them to ranks guys like they do. I think this shows I'm not crazy there. 


FWIW - Wood didn't drop out of BPs top 10. They've always been much higher on Wood (had him at #15 going into last year to BAs 39, had him at #3 post draft last year) so that's not surprising. MLB, the third of the ones I look at is in between so we'll see. Based on this he might still be in there. Fangraphs too LOVES Wood (he was still their 2 at the end of the year) so I'm guessing he does stay in their top 10.

BA - Langford 4 Crews 6 Skenes 9 Wood 11 House 55

BP - Langford 2 Crews 5 Skenes 9 Wood 7 House 69 Cavalli 85

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Monday Quickie - Int'l Signing Day

Here's a quick primer on International Signing Day, or at least my take on it. It boils down to are you signing one of the top 5ish prospects? Good! Might not work out but you are trying. Are you not? Bad! But maybe you'll be the one of two/three teams that gets lucky this year and finds a diamond in the rough. 

Did the Nats sing a top name? Nope. Not particularly close either. Top 25 sounds good but feel free to peruse old Top international lists. It really isn't. FWIW people do like Victor Hurtado in the "really young but really could be something" way so I'm not saying the Nats did the absolute minimum. But much like one would think looking at the major league team, there could be more done here.

So the Nats are one of 27 or so teams hoping to get lucky. I wish them well. 

What else is there to talk about?  NOTHING.  The FA list has shifted a little in two weeks

1B/DH : Carlos Santana, JD Martinez, Brandon Belt, Jorge Soler, Donovan Solano, Garrett Cooper

Others with DH potential :  Justin Turner, Tommy Pham, Adam Duvall, Aaron Hicks

Starters : Lorenzen, Clevinger, Kluber, Carrasco,Wood

The starters have been cut in half but the bats are close to the same. If you are worried about the Nats missing out on the chance for a bat that can help, that's probably only going to happen if they don't want to sign something like that. Martinez has interest and likely won't be a Nat but it's pretty quiet on the others. 

Of course most would argue they need a dependable starter more, especially to bridge into 2025 when no-good innings eaters Corbin and Williams will go. So focus on those names I guess. This market might remain set until Montgomery and Snell go and trigger teams moving to back-up plans. But guys seem pretty eager at this point considering they keep signing. These types aren't waiting around to be the guy without a chair. The Nats could get them if they wanted to, but it doesn't appear to be a priority. 

Of course, of course, I'm still just speculating and I'd tell you if you said the above to wait until mid Feburary or so. It FEELS like the Nats are just floating along and not trying, but we don't know and we won't know for sure until guys start heading to Florida. It's boring right now, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It's just boring and we make it out to be bad.

Still , if more doesn't happen soon I'll have to write about something else here.  The weather? It's cold and rainy here. I hear DC is getting snow. I like snow.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Keibert Ruiz - The only National

That might be saying a bit much but I'm going to list the Nationals under contract for 2025. 

  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Keibert Ruiz

That's it. The Nats have plenty of guys under control but exactly zero of them have the Nats made a longer term commitment to.  Not saying they should have just noting what is going on. 

Keibert had an down and up year last year at the plate. The guy we saw in the first half, particularly from May on simply should not be a starter in the major leagues.  The guy we saw in the second half might be the best hitting catcher in baseball. Yes, it's not a great list but still he had the same OPS in the 2nd half as Rutschman had for the year.  

For a young player, and Keibert is still young, this matters. It might mean he's learning something. Ruiz is always swinging and always making contact so the type of contact he makes matters and he's the best it seems when he's leaning into his strengths. From the right side that means keeping the ball down and getting hits. From the left that means getting the ball up. From both sides it seems like he did his best when he was a little more selective but really getting ahead of the pitches and pulling them. Not hitting them any harder mind you.  So what is going on?  Just a guess but by pulling it I imagine there is a split second less time for infielders to react on the right side, a few feet closer to the fence from the left side. Normally that might not make a big difference but when you are constantly putting the ball in play like Keibert, that adds up more.

That is it with Ruiz. He's not going to strike out so he just needs to get as many solid bats on balls as possible. Very few hit the ball as correctly as Ruiz but also nearly all the league hits it harder.  It's a weird combo being able to square the ball up really well but with nothing behind it. 

I'm rambling.  The point is 2nd half Ruiz did hit the ball differently so there's a possibility that 2nd half offensive Ruiz could continue.  And that's important as he's not a great fielder (might be terrible) and he's the only guy the Nats are counting on right now. When you make only one move that move better be a good one.

Friday, January 05, 2024

So who do you NOT want?

I thought about doing a post about who the Nats should get but the honest truth is that would breakdown pretty easily into "best available player" arguments. While that's fun and all there's only so many ways to say Rhys Hoskins and Blake Snell. And what is the point arguing about guys there is close to 0% chance the Nats will get? 

Instead we'll play another game - who do you NOT want. From the players listed below still in play, who would you LEAST like to see on the Nats next year.  It can be for any reason, talent, personality, fit, injury history, personal grudge, what have you.  I've added in ages and last years stats for quick reference. I'll note that for a few it might be worth it to look at 2022 too. Like Kluber and Carrasco, obviously bad standouts last year, had healthy and good 2022s. You can still not want them because of the age, but there is a reason they are on this list to start.

1B/DH 

Carlos Santana (38) 146G .240 / .318 / .429  23 HR

JD Martinez (36) 113G  .271 / .321 / .572  33HR

Brandon Belt (35) 103G  .254 / .369 / .490  19HR

Jorge Soler (32) 137G  .250 / .341 / .512  36 HR

Donovan Solano (36) 134G  .282 / .369 / .391  5HR

Garrett Cooper (33) 123G  .251 / .304 / .419  17HR

Others with DH potential

Justin Turner (39) 146G  .276 / .345 / .455  23HR

Tommy Pham (36) 129G  .256 / .328 / .446  16HR

Adam Duvall (35) 92G  .247 / .303 / .531  21HR

Aaron Hicks (34) 93G .253 / .353 / .383  8HR

Starters

Marcus Stroman (33) 27G 3.95 ERA  3.58 FIP  7.8 K/9  3.4 BB/9

Michael Lorenzen (32) 29G 4.18 ERA,  4.46 FIP,  6.5 K/9,  2.8 BB/9

Mike Clevinger (33) 24G 3.77 ERA, 4.28 FIP,  7.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

Corey Kluber (38) 15G (9 starts) 7.04 ERA, 7.11 FIP, 6.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Carlos Carrasco (37) 20G 6.80 ERA, 5.86 FIP, 6.6 K/9, 3.8 BB/9

Sean Manaea (32)  37G (10 starts) 4.44 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 9.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9

Alex Wood (33) 29G (12 starts) 4.33 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.9 BB/9


I'll start.  My heart doesn't want Hicks. This is because what appeared to happen with the Yankees when he didn't handle not performing well.  He got hurt, he got booed, and either he pressed or got depressed or something and he never got on track again despite being talented (as seen in his brief Baltimore stint).  For a team that needs senior leadership, it's not quite what I'm looking for, though by all accounts he is a great guy and teammate. It's just the on field example that's troublesome. Not a bad attitude but something doesn't work here in adverse situations.  Add to that the fact the Nats need power and he's one of the few options without it, it's a pass for me. 

I also don't like dumb long hair. Long hair is ok.  Manaea's got locks.  Lorenzen (who did cut it) had a passable length of wavy hair but Clevinger? Not working for me.  Don't want to see that every 5th day unless you are an ace and you can get away with whatever you want.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Tuesday Quickie - 2024 Year of the Nationals!

Taking an extended holiday break is nice. I did it and so, in fact, did the Washington Nationals. After signing first round flop Nick Senzel and buy low comeback potential reliever Dylan Floro, Mike Rizzo put on his Tommy Bahama flew down ironically to Bermuda and sipped on a Mai Tai for three weeks. They've singed only minor league depth since then and only a few of those. 

But again that's the plan as we understand now. It is not a "strategic signing to set up the team for 2025" off-season.  It is a "wait and see what bargains we can get because we don't know when we'll be good" off-season. Much like it was going into last year. Signings will come, they almost have to unless they are resigning themselves to a worse finish, but they will come later when the pool becomes shallower but the demand for water has also diminished.  Talent should still be there but at better prices. 

For reference here's the list of ok FAs that might end up on the Nats, updated for signings.

1B/DH : Carlos Santana, JD Martinez, Brandon Belt, Jorge Soler, Donovan Solano, Garrett Cooper, Cutch

Others with DH potential :  Mitch Garver, Justin Turner, Tommy Pham, Adam Duvall, Aaron Hicks

Starters : Stroman, Martin Perez, Giolito, Lorenzen, Clevinger, Kluber, Carrasco, Manaea, Montas, Wood

Still plenty of help available. So do something! (I'm talking to the other teams here because they have to make their run before the Nats swoop in).

2023 was a mild downer. The team stunk, though not as badly as it could have. The prospects in house didn't explode, though enough made progress to keep the plan on track. On quick analysis, the draft didn't get the best guy*, though there's nothing at all wrong with Crews as a 2. 

2024 though? Year of the Nationals! Until it isn't but that isn't today.

*Basically all post-draft work says Wyatt Langford, picked #4 by the Rangers, clearly looks to be the best and I'd be shocked if he doesn't leapfrog Skenes and Crews in prospect lists this Spring. Yes, it's early but you'd rather be the best early too!