Nationals Baseball: March 2024

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! 


Wednesday, March 06, 2024

Nats sign Eddie Rosario


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.



Oh if you can read this, read this:

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.