Nationals Baseball: Holiday Weekend Question

Friday, July 01, 2011

Holiday Weekend Question

First things first - since there appears to be a bit of confusion.

  • I think Ian Desmond is a terrible hitter that will never adjust to the majors
  • I also think Ian Desmond should start at least until September call-ups.

That may seem contradictory but the key word is "think". I think, I don't know. Because I don't know it makes more sense to me to let him keep playing and see if he can make it work. Three months more isn't going to kill anyone. Lombardozzi is young, Antonelli is a reclaim project, Rendon hasn't even signed. Three more months to see how it all shuffles out in AAA is fine. What I worry about in the long run is letting Desmond start NEXT year as the starter (assuming he doesn't start hitting much better). In my mind the Nats are eyeing 2013 for the serious run at the playoffs and I think it's better if they aren't dealing with a SS issue that season. They still could be even if they decided to roll with Lombardozzi in 2012, true, but I feel better about that than rolling with a Desmond who's failed in 2011.

But that's something to worry about in September.

Ok so here my question:

The Nats have dropped back under .500. It's pretty likely they won't be making a run at the Wild Card. (Sorry but that little slide has dropped them back to 8th in the WC hunt. Can they play better enough that they catch and pass all 8 of those teams in half a season? It's tough to think so.) They'll probably be minor sellers and end up with say... 75+ wins.

That's the most likely scenario. While most fans dream about the improbable 2nd half that pushes the team to the WC, there is another possibility. The team could crash and end up with closer to 70 wins. Again. ZNN will hit his innings limit. Strasburg might not make it back. Espinosa and Ramos could tire out. Morse and Nix could peter out. The pitching staff could fall back to having more average results.

If this happens, if the team doesn't build on the 1st half success, but instead falls slowly away from relevance again, who would you blame? Would you blame Rizzo for not making this team a winner when they looked better and for driving away Riggleman? Would you blame Riggleman for walking away when the team was at its best? Would you blame Davey for steering the ship into an iceberg? Or would you blame no one and just shrug your shoulders and say "That's baseball"?

I know it's more complex than that and could hinge on a lot of 2nd half happenings. Hard to blame anyone if Zimmerman goes down again, or conversely it would be easy to blame Rizzo if in two days he gets rid of Marquis and Nix for table scraps. But I think most of us have leanings one way or another (i'm a "That's baseball" kind of guy, but I'm also a soulless automaton who is just learning how... to... love... baseball. I'm like a D.A.R.Y.L Ward. ) Where do you think your anger will be directed?


Donald said...

It depends on how it plays out, but my expectations were low entering the season so I'm not going to be cross at anyone if they finish with 75 wins, plus or minus a few. If the decline is due to a bunch of green prospects in the September call-up and resting ZNN, I'm fine with that. If they trade away Marquis and Nix for peanuts, I wouldn't blame many loses on that either. I certainly would never act like the lose of Riggleman or hiring of Davey was a bad thing so I wouldn't blame that either. I think I'd only be angry at Rizzo if he trades away someone key but that seems really unlikely.

Maybe if I had to guess where my finger would be pointing, at this point it might be at Werth but I'm with you. Really, it's just baseball.

Anonymous said...

If this team finishes in the 70-75 win range I'm not gonna blame anyone. It is exactly where I thought this team would finish. They are not the team that won 8 straight. They're not. I think this team continues to play slightly below .500 ball the rest of the way. That's exactly what I thought they would be. Suprisingly good performances turned in by Nix, and to an extent Morse and Marquis, that propelled them to a better record at this point then I expected. I only say to an extent because I thought Morse would be good, just not this good. And I expected a bounce back from Marquis, but again, not this good. I can't help but get the feeling like in the off season the team trades Morse. He's not young enough to be considered the future, but playing too well to sit the bench. And what happens with Laroche next year. If you go with Morse you have to cut him, it trade him. Which will fetch nothing. And do you trust the one good season from Morse and not the 8 or 10 good ones from Laroche? What happens at first? This is assuming that they don't move Morse back to left field where he didn't look comfortable. There still seems like a lot of question marks. I can't seem to make sense of it. They have too many guys that are okay at any given spot. What about moving werth to center? Anyone think that is a viable option? Make room for Bryce and Morse maybe?

Deacon Drake said...

Yes!!! I haven't seen D.A.R.Y.L. in years... that kid sure could hit a baseball.

Dave Nichols said...

I'm with anonymous here. I had this team at 68-74 wins at the beginning of the season depending on scenarios. the hot streak was just that. it amazes me how many Nats fans choose to believe THAT was the Nats true talent level and now expect to make the playoffs.

Hoo said...

Rizzo and Werth?

Davey Johnson if Stairs/Ankeil play key roles in the second half swoon (or play much at all). Rizzo if he doesn't make any trades.

With the exception of Werth, this season feels a lot like playing with house money from here on out. ZNN and Espinosa have crushed expectations. This franchise has taken such a huge leap forward, it's hard to see how they blow it in the latter half without disastrous trades from Rizzo or Werth falling below the Mendoza line.

Mythical Monkey said...

I picked the Nats to win 73 games this year, so I'm pleasantly surprised at this point. The defense overall has been as good as Rizzo hoped, the pitching better, and the offense has produced about what I expected (although not in the way I expected).

I think the Desmond experiment will continue for at least another year. The minimum hurdle the Nats set for him this year was to cut down the errors, which he has done. They were hoping he would hit, of course, but I think they'll give him another year to prove whether he can. Lombardozzi will be a September call-up, get some at bats and start a few games, but I don't think the Nats will start another adventure with a rookie shortstop until they are absolutely convinced Desmond can't cut it. So one more year.

As for making any trades by the deadline, I'm with Boswell -- it's not that the team doesn't have holes, it's just that you're not likely to get anybody worthwhile that would justify the move. I mean, sure, if someone makes a serious offer for Marquis -- a centerfielder the Nats can plug into the lineup immediately -- then take it. But no need to trade him just to be trading him.

But, really, I don't know. I'm just happy that after the past few seasons, the Nats are competitive on a daily basis. They finally look like major leaguers. They've already exceeded my expectations for the year.

Section 139 said...

I'll echo a theme here in the comments. There is zero anger to be directed if we finish with 75+ wins. But if we fall to around 70 it's still not all bad. No one expected a Wild Card run for this team coming into the season, so not making the playoffs whether with 70 wins or say 77 doesn't change things too much.

Details will matter. Rizzo still could make a boneheaded move or manage another Ramos like steal. It's just to early to tell.

Who knows? We may pick up the WC talk again with by the All-Star break. Pittsburgh and Colorado doing about the same as us and the Cubs are bad. 8-3 or 7-4 over the next 11 isn't out of the realm of possibility. 48-44 or 47-45 look pretty damn good to me. Of course if we don't take at least 6 of the 11, let the July swoon and the minor selling begin.

JDBrew said...

A lot of people in these boards seem to get caught up in looking at stats and numbers. Everyone needs to remember that these are people, not machines. Everybody has bad times, and just because someone has looked good doesn't mean he will be good when you need him to. I like desmond. He looks a little lost at the plate, but like werth I doubt if anyone would question how hard they work. Desi's big step this year needed to be in the fielding department. Which he succeeded. Yes, he needs to hit. But give him a chance to. I like his attitude, and hid demeanor. I think he can pull out of this. And if he does, I sure hope that lombardozzi can learn a new position, like left field or something. Or desi can. I really like bernadina too, but his talent level just isn't there. And I disagree with those who say his upside is so much more than Desmond. I think if you can have a defender like Desmond, that can hit SS league average, then you have a pretty special player. I see Bernie as an low to average bat, good corner outfielder. Those come at a dime a dozen. Look at all the Ryan sweeny's and Jeremy hermida's of the world. Personally I was wishing the Nats took a chance on a guy like melky cabrera back when he was available. At least he proved he was average. Maybe slightly better. I feel as if the Nats sometimes give up on young players a little too quickly. Not always, but occasionally I'll see something and it feels like if they can't carry the team offensively they get shipped out or sent down. Somebody is going to hit 7th, or 8th, and they're usually not that good with the bat. You gotta see the other talents they have. Desi had got speed, a cannon arm, a good work ethic, plus defense, and good attitude. Nobody had given up on werth, and he's equally terrible right now. Let 'em play. Maybe not next year, but until a solution presents itself, I see no reason to try and give up much to fix that hole. There's still an two spots in the rotation, a real center fielder, a recovering ace, an iffy situation at first base, a corner outfield spot, and probably a long-term manager to find. Oh, and a medical staff that will stop making tremendous mistakes. Can we please get a good trainer, let's not let a player go for 50 games before HE decides he sucks and can't hit a ball.

Donald said...

The one reason to trade Marquis just to trade him is if we don't plan on resigning him next year. He's going to be over-priced but we won't get any draft picks if someone else signs him, unlike with Dunn. So if we aren't keeping him, then we get nothing if we don't trade him by the deadline. At that point, the trade off is a few more wins in the second half of this year versus whatever we can pick up in a trade.

Wally said...

I am a 'That's baseball' guy. I have no particular feeling on win totals this year. I care less about the final win number, and more about HOW they get there. Here is what I mean:
(A) 80 wins. Here's how: They pick up Cameron and he hits 15 HRs after the break; Marquis stays and wins 8 games in the 2d half; Espy slides to .210/.300/.400, Ramos regresses too, Morse gets hurt at end of July and misses the rest of the season. Desi continues current path. Or
(B) 70 wins. Morse finishes with 550 ABs projected from current levels; Ramos rebounds to .260/.325/.425 with 500 ABs; Espy hits 25 HRs and .325 OBP/.450 SLG. JZimm completes innings cap along current path, and 1 young guy like Meyer, Milone, Detwiler, Peacock throws up 6-8 quality starts/

Much happier with B.

Ollie said...

I'm aware of the argument against managers/lineups influencing a team's win-loss record, but Johnson's lineups have been godawful. Stairs 4th in the lineup? Are they trying to play him to turn him into laughably poor trade bait? At least Riggleman seemed to know this time well and batted his good hitters towards the top where they could get more at bats. Maybe he's a fluke, but batting Morse fifth after a sub-Mendoza line hitter is not taking advantage of hot hitting.

Still, I don't think it's panic/throw someone overboard time if they fade in the second half, but I won't be happy either. At least it might get them to be minor sellers, as you say, and fill out the farm system a little more for the long haul.

Trade Marquis, Nix, and maybe a reliever not named Clippard or Storen for some B-level prospects. That at least gives us more trade ammunition to make a run in a year or two, plus maybe one or two of them pan out. Focus should be on the big picture before this year (though finishing with a winning record would be nice).

Ollie said...

Also, unless he puts it together in the second half, I kind of like the idea of turning Desmond into a super-utility guy who can fill in at different positions for 75-80 games a year to keep other guys fresh and play decent defense/pinch run. Getting something out of him, even if only as a bench role player, would be nice.

DezoPenguin said...

Generally speaking, I'd say "That's baseball." I don't see how we can credit the success so far to any particular Rigglemanian genius; we saw far too much of Ankiel, Hairston, and Cora in the lineup to credit him for that. There's still time for Rizzo or Johnson to make catastrophically stupid moves (trading good players for zero return, getting enamored with people who really, really don't need playing time, mishandling the pitching staff) or positive ones (have to give Rizzo his props for the Capps-for-Ramos deal, after all), but ultimately I doubt either GM or manager will have significant enough effect to cheer for or whine about.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

Offensive Comparison of Desmond with Ozzie Smith

I used weighted runs created from fangraphs and compared Ozzie Smith and Ian Desmond. I see them as similar players. wRC shows how good a player was offensively compared to the average for that season. The Average player = 100, so in 2009 Desmond was 27% better than average with a 127 wRC. I like wRC because it compares easily between players and seasons historically.

I went through and calculated the career wRC for Ozzie through the number of plate appearances it took before Ozzie was as good as Desmond has been so far in his career. Desmond's numbers are just given, but I did add the plate appearances.

Seasonal Career
Year PA wRC+ PA wRC+
2009 89 127 89 127
2010 574 88 663 93
2011 320 61 983 83

After 983 PA Desmond has an 83% wRC for his career.

Ozzie Smith
Seasonal Career
Year PA wRC+ PA wRC+
1978 668 89 668 89
1979 649 51 1317 70
1980 712 84 2029 75
1981 507 65 2536 73
1982 567 88 3103 76
1983 626 89 3729 78
1984 484 104 4213 81
1985 615 108 4828 84
Note: It took Ozzie more than 4500 PAs to have a career average wRC as good as Desmond's is right now.

Look at the first few years of Ozzie's career. In his second full season he was only a wRC51, Desmond is a wRC61 in roughly the same point in his respective career.

You may argue Ozzie Smith's candidacy in the hall of fame, but he was a very good player. Desmond is a somewhat similar player at this point in his career. Slightly better bat for Desmond actually, Ozzie was off the charts defensively, but Desmond is above average defensively and getting noticeably better. I am not saying Desmond = Ozzie, but the comparison at this point seems fair. They are similar players. Weak bat, great glove, tons of speed describes both well.

I do not get the down on Desmond attitude! Some of the greatest SStops of all time have been worse hitters than Desmond at this point in their careers. Why give up on him now! He is only 25 nearly 26 years old. He wont peak offensively until he is 28 or 29. Ozzie at that age was an above average hitter for the league. Desmond could be as well quite easily. S Stop is one of the two hardest positions to fill on the diamond. You do not cast aside good ones halfway through their second full season.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Since I picked the NATS to win 79, I am definitely a "that's baseball" guy. Trade Marquis (after Sunday's return to yesteryear his value has temporiarlly dropped) if the offer is super good, otherwise ride out the season with him. Desmond should get better and Werth should return to his carrer averages. He can still win games as yesterday showed. Life is good and as I do not see this team turning into last year's or the year before team, it should continue to be good.