Nationals Baseball: One month in - what should your focus be on?

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

One month in - what should your focus be on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anonymous said...

I see our third order wins has us at 13-16 which feels about right. A better series in Oakland and we should have been over .500 overall and right around .500 in the projections. Liking what I’m seeing from a few of the veteran gambles and the young guys stepping up, especially in the rotation. Between that and the kids coming up looks like a 70+ win team, hopefully pushing closer to the 80 side.

Anonymous said...

Agree that these are the right things to keep an eye on, though I'd add that I'm tracking Jake Irvin and whether he might be becoming a legit SP3/4.

I will say that I'm glad that we are only counting on 2-3 more months of health from Winker and quality from Williams. I'm not a huge long term believer in either. But even if they cool off some from where they are now, I expect they'll combine to a return around what we got for Candy last year. Which wouldn't be bad at all.

Also, Gore has looked even better than his stats in the starts that I've watched. Great stuff, and it's exactly how pitchers look one development step before they become genuine aces. I'm all in on him.

Kevin Rusch said...

If it turns out Parker and Irvin are for real major-league starters, I'm thrilled. Those two surprises mean that the team really is a few bats (and there seem to be plenty of those in the system) away from relevance.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

Agreed KR, though I'd say there's still a need for an ace. Gore is likely a 2, Gray a 3/4, and Parker/Irvin both 4/5 assuming they do pan out. It's a good rotation, but not a playoff one. Even with Rutledge/Cavalli potentially coming in, the Nats don't have a lockdown ace

Anonymous said...

@CP -- I agree that we should sign an FA ace, but I think it's also possible that Gore takes that next step forward.

I'd love next year's opening day rotation to be FA (SP1), Gore (SP1a), and then the best three of Gray, Parker, Irvin and Cavalli. Right now, almost any ordering of those four feels plausible to me, and figuring that out should be a major goal for Rizzo et al this year.

They each have plenty of options, and SP6 gets at least 10 starts anyway. It would be great it we had enough depth to actually cover those innings with competent major league pitching.

Rutledge would be probably be SP7 (assuming he doesn't take a step forward this year, and so far his results would strongly support that assumption) and then Herz, Alvarez, Henry, Susana etc will just have to force their way through, be traded or convert to relief. Once we are contending, we can't be holding rotation spots open to make sure everyone gets extended tryouts.

Kevin Rusch said...

I just don't think a real ace is that necessary. Think about all the crucial games that were dominated by people who weren't their team's aces. Being solid top to bottom is, IMO, much more important -- I'd much rather have the starters in all 5 or 7 playoff games be reliable, strong pitchers than worry about making it through the bad starters and waiting for the ace's start to come around.

The Ghost of Ole Cole Henry (JDBrew) said...

Don’t look now, Cole Henry has an ERA of 2.53 through 4 games. TOS is not a career killer.

G Cracka X said...

Raise your hand if you thought Trevor Williams would start the season 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Me neither

Anonymous said...

Bleier, Rico Garcia both would be better than Rainey and Barnes from AAA. Rico Garcia numbers are actually pretty good

Nattydread said...

Trevor Williams reads Harper? Loading up the bases with zero outs twice doesn't help peripherals -- but results go into the record book. 3-0.

Anonymous said...

Anon@3:49 makes a good point. A strong team needs cromulent starters at ##6-8. People get hurt; people get cold; a "long reliever" is a useful role.

On Kevin Rusch and aces: you might not need aces to get into the playoffs. But you might need at least two of them to survive the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Yeah that’s great news. I think Harper wrote something at the time about how there’s been more recent success for younger guys, but the 30+ pitcher surgeries (like Strasburg) have a terrible outcome rate? Or maybe I saw that somewhere else.