Nationals Baseball: No homers club

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

No homers club

The Nats aren't hitting.  That's not as terrible as it sounds because as long as you are getting on base and hitting for power you can compensate for a low average.  Now if you aren't hitting for any power...

Let's start with the good news.  The Nats ARE getting on base ok.  Not great, or even good, mind you.  Unsurprisingly if you don't get a lot of hits, you don't end up with a lot of men on base. but they are doing ok because they have learned to take a walk. The Nats are tied for 5th in walks and their isoOBP is tied for 3rd (quick and dirty calc - basically they've had less PAs than other teams so their walks mean a little more.)  Gone are the days of Nick Johnson taking a walk and then watching 8 guys go through 24 pitches before Nick came up again.  Espinosa, Werth, and LaRoche can all work their way on base, and all are currently seeing 4+ pitches per at bat (ok fine, 3.99+).   Zimmerman and Ramos aren't terrible at it either and Lombardozzi has this skill as well.  So even though they aren't hitting at all (2nd lowest average at .225) they have a passable OBP (.301 - tied for 10th)

The problem is driving those guys in.  The Nats are 3rd to last in homers.  Sometimes that can be a product of the parks they've played in early on.  So it's also important to note that they are third to last in doubles (and last in triples).  Tied for dead last in the NL in XBH (50), last in the NL in isoSLG (.098) (fancy way of saying the precious few hits they are getting are mostly singles).  46 players in the NL have 3 or more homers.  The Nats have one of these guys (Adam LaRoche - 4).

The problem is not just injuries, though sure injuries are a part of it. Even though I didn't have a lot of faith in Morse this year, surely he'd be slugging in some fashion and Zimmerman's being out doesn't help either (although he wasn't slugging much early on).  But the whole LF situation has been a terrible drain on power (Bernie + Nady + DeRosa = 6 XBH or one more than Ankiel) and Danny Espinosa is facing a power outage that threatens his time in the majors.  More than either of these though, it's a combination of everything.  Werth and Ankiel (so far) have been ok (.150+ isoSLG). Zimm when healthy and Desmond passable(.115+) . Ramos, you can accept it (.089).  The bench has been god awful - along with the OFs I talked about before,  Lombo (1 XBH), Tracy (1), and Flores (0), are contributing no power.  Sum the whole thing up and you have a team that no one fears is going to go deep on them.

Can things change?  The hope is that Bryce and Moore will cover the pop until Zimmermann heals up and starts hitting and Morse comes back.  That may be asking too much. Bryce hasn't found his power stroke since leaving Single A. Being somewhere on the high end of "passable" in his last 60 minor league games doesn't make me think he'll quickly become ok in the majors.  Moore has a much better minor league power pedigree but also has K numbers that suggest he might get eaten alive up in the majors. Maybe he can hit .230-.240 and bang out some homers, or maybe he just won't hit at all.

The Nats may be fine in the 2nd half of the year.  If Zimmerman is healthy, if Morse is healthy, if Bryce adjusts a little and Espy bounces back then the power can be... average.  (You might balk at that but the Nats power was average last year with an incredible Morse and a very solid slugging Laynce Nix.) Average power with good OBP skills and some more luck getting basehits (they won't hit .225 for the year) and that may in fact be enough. From now until Morse and Zimm show they are healthy it will be rough in the run scoring arena, unless someone, hell someTWO go on a tear.


DCNatty said...

Everyone knew coming into the year offense would be a problem. And take out your 3/4 hitters and it makes it that much worse. I think the good news is it cant get any worse. haha. Better news is that the Nats still sit atop the division. SOmeone has to start clickin soon and help carry them til ZMM and Morse return.

What is wrong with Espi? He looks horrible at the plater. I said last week Id give him a month....but not sure how long i can take it.

blovy8 said...

Maybe they won't hit .225, but I don't see .250 happening either even if they do get healthier. That .225 will get worse with LaRoche's numbers coming down and two rookies in the lineup along with K artists like Desmond, Ankiel, and Espinosa. The idea that Morse will come back the same or as soon as they say, or that Zimmerman won't get hurt again, is also optimistic. His shoulder is not right, he'll make another funny throw or head first slide, and be out, it seems inevitable to me. What had started looking like better patience from this lineup, is reverting back to the 2011 approach lately. I'm willing to admit the other outfielder choices I was advocating aren't hitting either in their limited roles on other clubs so far, but that only plays up the need to put the effort into upgrading that portion of the roster even if it's burning an extra year in a contract (like LaRoche's) to put players in more comfortable roles, and have the depth to go through a normal, injury-ridden season and not expect perfect health and lots of mistakes from pitchers to hit. Not like they're hitting many of those either, at this point. DJ's job is to put a happy spin on things, but the reality is the offensive talent is not there right now, and the best pure hitting prospect already broke his ankle. More is riding on Harper for this year than I could have imagined, where he can hit .250 and HELP the team.

Hoo said...

I think it can get worse since LaRoche/Werth will probably come down a bit. Of the current starters, only Ramos is arguably a proven commodity and hitting a little below his level.

Dez is what you expect. Espi is below what we expect but probably not as far below as we might expect. I think his ceiling may be .250 but with a solid OBP b/c he has a good eye/patience.

Everyone else is about what you expect. So it can worse.

DCNatty said...

scoring one or 0 runs a game is the worst it can get. they are there. so like i cant get worse from a scoring runs standpoint. but i understand what your saying

Kenny B. said...

And of course, any offensive improvement, however small, will only translate to wins if the pitching stays good. It doesn't have to be as historically good as it was in April, but it still needs to be exceptionally good. Thankfully, it looks like the staff is more or less "for real," so it's largely just about the arms staying healthy.

Harper said...

DCNatty - simple answer on Espy is that he's getting fed more off-speed stuff and is swinging and missing more at it. Maybe he should have another HR but really his average is what you expect from someone striking out over 30% of the time.

blovy8 - so are you advocating doing something right now?Or just saying the Nats will need to upgrade more than they think (or spend to beef up the bench) next year?

Hoo - in theory I guess it could get worse but that would take the same "everything goes wrong" thinking that is the reverse of those that thought the Nats would have a good offense. They've had more go wrong (injuries to Morse/Zimm & Espy's extreme sturggles) than right (LaRoche's strong start) so on ave you'd expect a better performance moving foward. how much better and is it enough better are the questions.

Kenny B - yeah the starting pitching should get a little worse but we're talking about going from 0-1 runs a game to 2-3. That's what I'm thinking for 1-3. I'm still not sold on Jackson or Detwiler to be that good but they have so far pitched that well. They might need to be real as long as the offense is this bad.

Ben said...

What I don't get is why they aren't running more, what do they have to lose? If there is no power, poor average and yet your team has decent speed, what could be a better situation for running! The 1st and 2nd (desmond/lombo) with 0 outs and ankiel (hitting 3rd!?!) at the plate really made me facepalm. Even with a pudge-like arm behind the plate, what good comes from that situation with ankiel swinging away against a guy throwing a power sinker and tons of junk?

I get that Davey is trying to instill confidence in guys that may be useful later (Gorzo against Kemp in the bot of the 10th! ... double facepalm) but I don't see why being so cautious running needs to be a part of that, any guesses?

Nattydread said...

Things are not much different than expected, except for the fact that we're in first place at the end of April.

People were screaming for offense in the off-season and Rizzo focused on pitching. This was the way to go.

Bryce, Zimmerman, Rendon, Werth, Ramos are the core pieces of an offense that will get better. Morse and ALR will go. Espinosa and Desi are works in progress but if they don't work out, they will be dealt.

The "Prince Fielder + fine pitching" team is a delayed dream now on its way, in less costly fashion.

The Nats storyline is developing. Bryce has to K a few times in crucial situations, pay his dues if you will, before we walk away with it. 2012 will be interesting but painful at times. 2013 will get better.

Anyone who was a fan in the 100+ loss season has reason for hope now.

Froggy said...

Fun game last night. Harper just crushes the baseball and no doubt about the energy he brings to the team. He was running around like a kid out there...oh wait...he is a kid. I think he will continue to hit well at least until the league figures him out, then I imagine the K's will come. Nice to have his bat in the bottom of the lineup.

Jackson is the weakest link on the staff, on the other hand as you pointed out the D-backs have to be the best hitting ballclub the Nats have seen this year.

I agree with blovy8 that something tells me Zim won't remain healthy all season, and there has to be something else going on with Morse's back to keep him out this long. Herniated disk?

I still miss Nix in the lineup...(sigh)

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

It is way too early to make definitive comments about the offense. The rotation will, most of the time, keep games in gut wrenching mode. BH is, unsuprisingly, the real deal.

Donald said...

I know a single game this early in the season isn't that meaningful, but boy did that ending feel good. It was like a bit of the magic came back.

Harper said...

Ben - my first guess would be that Davey isn't much of a runner. Outside of Werth and Bernie (who isn't playing) they don't have guys with great instincts either.
I myself wouldn't be happy trying to steal 3rd after the first two guys got on. so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask.

ND - problem is fans expectations change on a dime. You ask a fan at beginning of '10 if they'll take 14-9 and first place to start '12 they wouldn't hesitate. Ask a far at 12-4 the same question and he'll turn it down. You can play the long game for 2013, but most other fans won't anymore.

Froggy - Bryce at least adds a competent bat thatcan improve. Hemay not even finish the season better than Ankiel/Bernie but he'll finish it as a 19 year old with 6-7 improving years ahead of him.

Sec 204 - no fair saying too early to define the offense and then define the pitching staff. I think we can clearly say the offense without Morse and Zimm is bad (even with Bryce). With them... ok we'll see but we also don't know when both will be back so we have to judge what's in front of us.

Donald - back on top of the world, I see. I think the Braves did the Nats aload of good not taking advantage of the Nats slide (2-3 over the 5 game losing streak) I think theyre would be a little more stress if the Nats were now looking up at somene.

blovy8 said...

Just to answer too late, I was complaining about the roster preparation for this year. Maybe it's not a good time now to get a veteran being paid too much for his current role from some other team. A few more hits could mean staying in first place until they get healthier, and then having depth for the injuries and fatigue yet to happen. A guy like Vernon Wells has too many years left on his deal, for instance. It's hard to make a deal at this point, when so many guys are hurt, and you need the players that would be trade bait. You can't argue with Harper staying up for good just from lack of competition, even if a slump comes at some point. That was doubtless part of the strategy from the beginning; avoid losing that arbitration year, keep a spot ready in the outfield. Naturally, no particular effort seems to have been made on plan B if Morse or Werth went down. My feeling was the fourth OF would get 300-400 at bats this year in a healthy scenario, which were going to be lousy with this roster. Now it could be the third OF's 500 atbats, and fourth outfielder's 300 atbats that will stink, even with Harper seemingly ready for a starting role. I understand the trade options right now are probably other underachievers, which may not be better than Tyler Moore getting 10-15 starts or rolling the dice on Ankiel's revival especially if they have to trade a useful player.

Jabari Gibbons said...

Tweet the tag "microscope". From near as I can figure.......this "healing" method has been around for thousands of years!!!!!!!! maybe millions!!!!!!!! Or at least as long as Man and Woman has walked the earth!!!!!!!!! The miraculous tattoo solves both of these problems. How about "hacking" your iPhone camera so that you can make it function somehow like a microscope, and take macro pictures? That's what Alex Wild did with his water droplet