Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tuesday morning tidbits

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Catching up on some things after a couple of days off...

— By almost every measure other than won-loss record, Stephen Strasburg has been better this season than in either of his two previous "full" seasons: 2010 and 2012. (Yes, I know neither of those actually was a full season, but I'm just trying to refer to everything other than his abbreviated 2011, when he made only five starts after returning from Tommy John surgery.)

Strasburg's ERA (2.83), WHIP (1.039) and hits allowed (6.7 per nine innings) all are better this year than in '10 or '12, but perhaps the most significant sign of his progress is this simple one: He's throwing more innings than ever before.

Indeed, Strasburg is average 6.36 innings per start this season. Compare that to his 5.69 mark in 2012 and his 5.67 mark in 2010. And Strasburg's number this year is skewed a bit by a pair of two-inning starts (May 31 when he strained his lat muscle in Atlanta, and July 12 when he was roughed up in Miami).

Here's the best evidence of Strasburg's increased workload: He has made 21 starts in his career of at least seven innings. Fourteen of those have come this season, capped by Sunday's nine-inning shutout win over the Phillies.

Even more impressive: Strasburg gets better the deeper he pitches into games. His ERA from the seventh inning on this season is 0.47. He has 19 strikeouts and one walk in those innings.

Wilson Ramos is catching nearly every single day for the Nationals right, and for good reason. He's crushing the ball, proving to be the Nationals' most consistent offensive threat outside of Jayson Werth.

Ramos has started 12 of the Nationals' last 14 games and 25 of 33 games since returning from the disabled list on July 4. In that time, he's hitting .316 with five homers, 21 RBI and an .853 OPS.

Not bad for a guy who mostly hits seventh or eighth in the lineup.

— At the other end of the spectrum is Bryce Harper, who despite a few notable blasts in big moments has mostly been silenced since returning to the Nationals lineup. In 35 games since his activation from the DL, Harper is hitting .235.

Harper is drawing walks (17) and that gives him a respectable .327 on-base percentage. But overall, the 20-year-old hasn't performed at the plate the way he hoped, especially against left-handers.

Against righties, Harper is putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season: a .303 average, .397 on-base percentage, a 1.008 OPS and 15 homers in only 195 at-bats. But against lefties, he's hitting a paltry .172 with a .270 on-base percentage, .546 OPS and only two homers in 87 at-bats.

— Shifting attention to the minor leagues, Drew Storen has bounced back from a rocky start to his time at Class AAA Syracuse with a pair of dominant relief outings. Storen struggled early on after his demotion, giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits in his first four innings with the Chiefs. But he has tossed two perfect innings of relief since, retiring the last six batters he has faced, including four via strikeout.

Storen's teammate in Syracuse, Danny Espinosa, also is getting himself back on track after a dreadful start to his minor-league tenure. Espinosa was awful in June, hitting .107 with a .333 OPS. But he improved in July (.241 average, .658 OPS) and has been very good so far in August (.310 average, .753 OPS).

— Perhaps the most-glaring stat about the Nationals since the All-Star break has been the disparity in their record against teams with losing records (9-3) vs. teams with winning records (1-11).

This has been going on all season, though. The Nats are now 40-27 against losing clubs this year, 17-33 against winning clubs.

The good news (if you're trying to find a sliver of hope): Thirty of the Nationals' final 45 games come against teams currently sporting sub-.500 records.


Joe Seamhead said...

Welcome back, Mark, and hope that you had a great birthday!

Steve Walker said...

Happy belated birthday, Mark!

Joe Seamhead said...

One other Danny Espinosa oddity is that he's had 10 errors at Syracuse, more than he's had in any entire season since 2010.

JayB said...

Drew, Danny both suffer not from lack of physical talent but poor mental make up. Rizzo missed on both from that aspect but recall both are college draftees. They were tops of their teams and they did not future MLB talent day after day in college. Also recall that Drew was the "signable" cheap pick in the post Crow, Strasburg draft year. He should never have been drafted that high. It went to his head and he has never faced the reality that he may never be a closer and might just well be out of baseball soon with his mental make up.

SCNatsFan said...

JayB he has been a closer so to say he may never be a closer is incorrect. He knows he can get back but the oad won't be as easy this time.

Anonymous said...

Re: Espinosa-

A third round pick who gives you a 3.4 WAR season and a 32 WAR season and is still a trade-able asset at a minimum is NOT a miss. Only 34% of guys picked in rounds 3-5 even make the majors, and only 10% of them play 450 games at that level (Danny is currently at 390). Even if he were a second rounder, less than 50% of them make the big leagues and only 16% play in 450 games. Here's the numbers, which anyone could find if they bothered to take 30 seconds to look:


Danny could retire this afternoon and he would still have given the Nationals an above-average return based on his draft spot. Anyone who says differently has a very limited understanding of how the MLB draft and player development usually work.

Tcostant said...

David Proctor said both of these...
MLB Network earlier was pondering the idea of Mike Scoscia to the Nats, if he were to get fired.
...Google shows that the Nationals were indeed in on Cespedes. It's not clear how far their interest went, but they brought him in for a workout and seemed to be high on him. I don't remember that all.

Me - I've been saying a while that Mike Scoscia is a good fit here. The Angles seem to be sick of him, but not willing to pay all that money to fire him. It might be worth a call by Rizzo at season's end, to see if something can be worked out. Rizzo might have to send only a non-prosect (or even nothing like when the A's let Art Howe go to the Mets), because what the Angles are really getting is getting out of that contract. Do not rule this out.

On Cespedes, I remember the Nationals working him out, but deciding the price was to high, similar to Yu Darvish. Interesting the reason that the A's got him, was they were the only one who allowed him to be a free agent after only four years at the end of his contract.

Anonymous said...

Bringing up Cepedes raises another issue. Where are the international signings? This summer has been an IFA bonanza yet the Nationals, who supposedly have money to spend and whose attendance is way up, have scarcely been mentioned. After giving up their first round pick to sign Soriano, I figured they would be IFA "players" this year. No such luck so far.

But hey, at least 27-year-old "Smiley" hit a home run for the GCL-Nats a couple of weeks ago.

Tcostant said...

Well Cuba's best hitter, Jose Dariel Abreu is in play now. If you think Zimmerman canb stay at 3B, then he might be in play.


TexNat said...

Yeah, as much as I want the Nats to upgrade their offense, I'm not sure that Puig is worth the risk. It's the can-you-really-trust-Zim-at-3rd factor that pushes me over the top towards opposing the signing. Zim and Puig cannot play on the same team if Zim is playing first. So you would have to believe that Zim could play third not only next year, but for the entirety of the Puig contract.

Adding that on top of the risk of splashing that much cash on a guy who has zero MLB at bats is just not worth it to me.

If they are going to make a huge signing, I'd prefer they bite the bullet and sign Cano. Though I recognize than neither are likely.

Muddy said...

Another very good outing last night from Blake Swartz at Potomac. At Hagerstown Blake's ERA and WHIP were 1.26 and 0.91 and now at Potomac they're 2.73 and 1.08, respectively; and he's 10-4. Combine that with Mooneyham and Purke's work at Hagerstown and with Taylor Hill and AJ Cole and Robbie Ray and Karns and Solis, not to mention Taylor Jordan, and the Nats minor league pitching is looking mighty promising. They won't need a $13 million vet of questionable worth in 2014 IMO.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Besides Jordan, i don't think anyone is ready to contribute in 2014. Also Det's health requires us to get a fifth pitcher through FA or trade.

Tcostant said...

Faraz Shaikh said...
Besides Jordan, i don't think anyone is ready to contribute in 2014. Also Det's health requires us to get a fifth pitcher through FA or trade.

Me: I think Karns will be in play for 2014, he has pitched well since his sup of coffee in the bigs. He has major league stuff.

Pilchard said...

Karns seems the most likely candidate for a call-up when Jordan gets shutdown and/or the Nats trade Haren. This will essentially constitute his interview for spots 4 and 5 in the Nats 2014 rotation.

Agree the Nats have some promising arms in the system, but other than Karns none look to be ready in 2014. I don't see the Nats heading into next season with Karns, Jordan and Det as the only candidates for the last two spots in the rotation. So, the Nats will pick up a veteran for at least one spot in the rotation.

Anonymous said...

The thoughts on Karns, Jordan and Ohlendorf are good ones, and a useful reminder that there's no reason to worry about rotation depth. Remember how it was seen as a huge weakness of the Nats if any of the 5 guys who started the season in the rotation went down? So much for that. If you've got good scouts, a good coaching staff and a decent defense, you don't need to worry about your #6 and #7 starters. Someone will emerge.

Faraz Shaikh said...

as much as i have enjoyed jordan's performance, I wouldn't be too comfortable handing over 4th and 5th roles to him and karns (considering det is still struggling with injuries). you need depth and they can be exactly that when Nats go after someone from outside the organization.

Anonymous said...

I agree Faraz, but those guys are decent backup plans, right? That was my point- if your organization top to bottom does its job well there will always be viable backup plans emerging, even if you can't name them in March.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Given Rizzo's record with Cubans, and in some respects the record of Cubans generally, I'm not wildly in favor of spending a lot of money on Abreu, espec. after hearing him compared to Ryan Howard. Just raising the subject, however, moves me closer to the ledge of thinking Z'man is not only a fiscal millstone (and not just an albatross) but a roster millstone in that for the foreseeable future Rizzo has to find a position for a $16-$17MM a year player who may be slouching toward obsolescence.

I'm going to be grousing about this throughout the offseason, until Z'man shows up at ST in physical and mental condition to play baseball.

JD said...


1) Purke and Solis are 23 and 25 years old respectively and are both still struggling with health and with A+ lineups.

2)Shwartz is having a nice year but is almost 24 and still at A+.

3)Hill and Karns are fringy prospects who may or may not ever succeed in the show.

4)Ray is hanging in there at AA and is not quite 22, interesting prospect but he was never considered top of the rotation material.

5) Cole has the best pure stuff of the guys you mentioned and has actually pitched better at AA than he did at A+ and he's only 21. He has however been very lucky at AA with a .188 BABIP, that's not happening in the long term.

6) Jordan could well slot in at the bottom of our rotation next year but it's still 50/50 if he's the real deal. Remember other pitchers like Martis and Atilano looked real good for quite a while. The trick is how well they do after they face lineups a few times.

So I agree with Faraz. We will still need a 1 year rental if we plan to contend next year.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Jordan's last outing further convinces me he is a year if not more away from being a regular rotation member on a contending team. (There is a chicken or egg question about how he is a member of the rotation on this team.) He has a FB and an OK change-up and not much of anything else and runs into not just squalls but severe storms because he can't do it with just those two pitches. His BB record is good but, without swing-and-miss stuff, there is such a thing as throwing too many strikes.

At the same time, the Nats have (including Jordan) maybe six pitchers at AAA or AA who could become starters in the major leagues at some point and there is a reasonable statistical probability that one of them is going to show up in ST ready to make a big leap forward. The years of rent-an-arms are coming to an end.

Anonymous said...

Can't we just figure out a way to get Shairon Martis back?

Section 222 said...

Rent an arm may be coming to an end, but not next year. Jordan has shown promise, so has Karns to a some extent, but if Rizzo is planning to cobble together #4 and #5 from those two plus 'Dorf and the injury prone Det, I don't think he's serious about a playoff contending rotation.

Anonymous said...

JD - good summation, but I would add that as a hard thrower Karns looks like he may well eventually be destined for the bullpen.

The Nats have a lot of nice young arms in their system, but at this point none of those on that list, including Jordan, should be counted on as long term rotation answers. JD is right that with an under the radar guy like Jordan it could be a case of the league just not having caught up with him yet. If just one of those guys ends up as a long term rotation mainstay, that will represent a success.

The ace-apparent in the Nats' system remains Giolito, but he is at least another two years away from coming to DC assuming all continues to go well with his rehab.

Theophilus T. S. said...

If the Nats are really, really lucky, Giolito starts next year @ Hagerstown and works his way to H'burg by the end of the season. Depends on what kind of an innings limit they put on him. More likely he tops out for 2014 at Potomac, then Then a year of H'burg before they can think seriously about bringing him to the ML. In order for it to make sense for the ML club, they need to be confident he can go 150 or so innings in a season. Nobody likes going thru these mid-season shutdowns.

JD said...


Giolito is more than 2 years away; He just turned 19 and just came back from TJ. If he handles A ball (Hagerstown) next year that will be a big success for him and may put him on a 3 year path to the show but 4 is still more likely.

I still think Cole can be good.

Sec 222, I agree with Karns as a potential bullpen guy.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I am hopeful that the Nats have the pieces in place internally for the starting rotation and spend the money on a legit corner outfielder as a 4th outfielder and make sure he is RH.

MLBTR is also picking up off of Ladson talking about a position switch for RZim. That UZR stat of RZim giving up 15 more runs than an average 3rd baseman over his 100 games at 3rd is awful.

Doc said...

Interesting tidbits, Mark.

And happy belated birthday MarkMeister!

Like Jack Benny, I don't celebrate birthdays anymore--kinda stuck on 39! Saving on the candles and cake!

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Ten errors for Danny at SYR? OMG. That was his one saving grace, his fielding. Prediction: never plays another game for the Nats. Throw-in bait for a trade. Houston, hopefully, as compensation for Bringing Back Bo.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Danny will be back in September. Rizzo has to showcase him.

Faraz Shaikh said...

no way rizzo trades him away for a manager.

waddu eye no said...

let's bring soscia AND frank robinson. and watch 'em fight.


JayB said...

Danny for Bo is a great trade even if Nats use Bo as a 3rd base coach.

natsfan1a said...

Pine tar rumble? It's on!

waddu eye no said...

let's bring soscia AND frank robinson. and watch 'em fight.

August 13, 2013 2:10 PM

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