I don’t like Jonathan Papelbon (and I don’t have to)

Let’s get this straight:

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I don’t like Jonathan Papelbon. I don’t know the man, i don’t pretend to know the man, I wouldn’t presume to know if he is a good or bad person. I do know how I feel about him though, and I don’t like him. I’m not impressed with his crotch grab, I don’t think much of a guy who has two entrance songs for closing, and while I can understand a guy wanting to protect his payday, I’m not a huge fan of a guy who insists on being the star of the bullpen wherever he goes.

I don’t think this is an “out of context” situation. My gut tells me this is who Papelbon is. I don’t think this is a Yunel Escobar situation, where we can all hope (and that hope has been validated so far this year) that his transgressions of youth were just that. I think there is a very good chance that “Pap” (ugh, do I have to get used to writing that?) is a jerk.

At tension with this my dislike is that, well, he’s a good pitcher, and there is a good chance he’s made the bullpen better.

That doesn’t mean you have to like it, or I like it, or I’m going to try and convince you to like it. Baseball, at its core, is there to entertain you. It’s why the guys play, it’s why you watch. We can all be a baseball poet about it, but baseball is here to kill 3 hours of your day and give you something to talk about at the water cooler. You’re supposed to be enjoying yourself, and if you’re not you’re probably doing something wrong.

Adding a guy like this to the team sours it for me because I don’t like jerks. I like to think we can populate a sport with guys who aren’t jerks and we’d still enjoy it. Fantasy, I know. That doesn’t mean the feeling won’t change, or subside, or go away entirely once he starts pitching. I don’t know the answer to how I really feel, or how you should feel. I don’t have to have a hot take on how great/devastating this is for the team. I wouldn’t dare to pretend to know how this would affect the clubhouse (and i think any speculation one way or the other is dangerous, stupid and wrong).

I have some thoughts that I have organized though.

 

We’ve Done This Before….This Spring

There is a certain song and dance we all do when a new player comes to town. It’s a mix of hurt feelings (cuz it means our guys aren’t good enough), not really knowing a lot about the player coming in (Projection! Xenophobia! Tribalism!), and having a fixed idea as to what the team needs and doesn’t need (Cuz even folks who rip armchair managers are armchair managers).

We do these things because we all are pretty stupid, self included, and our caveman brains divide things up into very simple to understand directives that we apply to everything. But that’s another post for another day.

In the Spring, the Nats didn’t need a starting pitcher at all, but adding Max Scherzer happened and its been probably the most enjoyable thing about the Nats this year (this side of Bryce Harper, anyway). You can pretend it didn’t happen, but there was a litany of “Overpaid/We don’t need him/Rizzo is an Idiot/and What an Insult To Jordan or Straburg who deserve to be the ace” comments and thoughts and tweets from many, many people.

That’s all largely gone away. It really helps that Max Scherzer seems to be a billion times cooler and nicer than Papelbon, but I think there is evidence that stacking better players on top rather than looking for players to support the players we have is an approach we’ve seen before, and one that is working right now. (tho I do think its fair to ask if Papelbon is actually that much better of a closer than Storen.)

For a Trade, It was a Good Trade

 

I think its pretty clear that Papelbon wasn’t the Nats first choice.

This is a list of Relief Pitchers, by WAR, since 2011. You can hate WAR all you want, but its the metric I’m using to get a grip on the situation. The top two relievers are Kimbrel (12.1) and Chapman (10). Papelbon is 6th (8.0) Tyler Clippard is 17th (5.0) and Drew Storen is 25th with 4.0. You can argue that if Storen wasn’t hurt in 2013 (commonly thought of as his head-case year) and if the Nats hadn’t given his job to Rafa Soriano, he probably could be up a bit higher-but I don’t think he’d be 6th.

According to Svruluga, to get one of the top two closers you needed to give up more than one player that is likely starting as soon as next year. To get Tyler Clippard you needed to give up a young prospect A ball pitcher. To get Papelbon, a guy who is 3 WAR better than Clippard over the same period you had to give up a slightly more advanced prospect and the Phillies sent some money along to boot.

I may dislike Papelbon. Papelbon may not work out. But as far as trades on paper go, the Nats did really well for themselves.

This Is Nothing To Do With Drew Storen…But it all falls on him.

Read James O’Hara who is a much better and clearer writer than me.

I will add that I think a lot of Drew Storen’s success came from Tyler Clippard setting him up. We don’t have managers that pitch their closers against the hardest parts of the line-ups, we have managers that pitch closers in the 9th. It is incredibly helpful to have a guy who is as good a pitcher in 8th as is in the 9th. That’s two Storen caliber guys covering 6-7 batters, not one crappy guy and one good guy in the 8th and 9th.

You don’t get to win games if you don’t get through the 8th inning. Those three outs are just as important as any other three outs in the game. You need them all. Period. End of Story. Keep your “closer mentality” and “tougher cuz of the pressure” crap out of my feed-pitching the 8th is not easier than pitching the 9th, so stop it. You need as many good pitchers in the bullpen as you can find, and you fit them in where you can.

So Storen becomes the new Clipp and there is no disgrace in that. Rather than all of saying how this is a demotion for Storen and it is insulting to him (which I understand), let us simply chose not to insult Storen. Let us recognize he is the same pitcher he was yesterday and nothing has changed. If anything, let us throw recriminations on a system that artificially inflates the value of one pitcher over another based on which inning he pitches in. This is a great opportunity for Nats fans to get behind a set up guy and really appreciate what they do.

Don’t hate the player, hate the Nth Inning Guy mentality.

What are you going to do, not root for the Nats?

At the end of the day, the Nats added a guy who is good at baseball and, at worst, is a total jerk. This isn’t like a guy who was accused of committing a crime or some truly morally reprehensible act. He’s just, probably, a jerk-just like a lot of people. Including baseball players. Including many Nationals, actually. Including many Nationals you probably didn’t even know were jerks. We’ve all almost certainly rooted for a guy who is a jerk and didn’t know it. Which is to say, at some point you can’t let jerks ruin a good thing you enjoy watching. And if it is going to ruin it, better to jump off now than stick with it because this is just going to keep happening for as long as you watch baseball.

Seriously. Not to get all tough guy on you, but are you going to get into the fetal position and cry all day about this? You know who’s not doing that is Drew Storen, and this affects him a thousand times more than you do. Ultimately, there needs to be an aspect of putting ones lower garments on and getting out of bed to face the day. We are here, whether we like it or not-and frankly, it is not even close to the end of the world or all that bad.

It’s just baseball, and there is no crying in baseball. Just pitching, hitting, and (ugh) the occasional crotch grab (and really, to be fair, who hasn’t wanted to make an obscene gesture at a bunch of Phillies fans?)

Love it or leave it, I don’t imagine I’ll be turning off Nationals games anytime soon. So I plan on getting used to it.

 

 

Podcast! 2015 Nats Season Preview with @NoahFrankWTOP

EDIT: I fixed the audio so it is properly mixed.

Noah Frank joins our show to talk about where the Nats are right now and how they look for 2015. On the show: the 25 man roster, the rash of injuries suffered by the team, how good is the Nationals rotation, is this bullpen sustainable, Strasburg, Harper, a little Matt Williams, an NL East preview, a rest of the MLB preview, and plenty more. Enjoy!

Spring Training Question 4: Can Tanner Roark Fit In the Starting Rotation?

@aNatsFan gets Roark on the mound.

@aNatsFan gets Roark on the mound.

So you may have heard in December that the Nationals have the best starting pitching rotation in baseball, or darn close to it. You may have heard more recently that the Nationals made that rotation even better with the addition of free agent Max Scherzer.

The rotation was already stacked. Ranked by fWAR across both leagues, The Nats featured Jordan Zimmermann (#10) and Stephen Strasburg (#13), two top 20 pitchers overall. Gio Gonzalez didn’t pitch enough innings to be a qualified starter (thanks shoulder issues), but still posted a 3.1 fWAR and would have slotted him around 30th overall. Doug Fister was technically the worst of the bunch, at 54th overall and a 1.3 fWAR, but I don’t think you’d find a Nats fan who’d complain about him (or wouldn’t agree that fWAR may be cheating him a bit based on how its calculated).  The rotation, as a whole, finished first overall in fWAR – and then they added the 7th best pitcher by fWAR to that.

A pitching rotation we thought was the the X-men turned out to be the Justice League, and now it is a Justice League with three Supermen (probably from alternate timelines), a Batman and a Wonder Woman (and you’re a damn fool if you’re snickering at Wonder Woman. She’s awesome).

And then there is Green Arrow, personified in this case as Tanner Roark. Resourceful, not super powered, but still one of the better Justice League alum: We all remember the time that the Arrow saved all his super powered bretheren (yeah, yeah, yeah: Batman doesn’t have super powers: But anyone who can go toe to toe with Superman and win counts). But is there room for Arrow on a Justice League of heavy weights like-

Sorry, I totally got side tracked. Point being: One of the questions that will resolve in spring training is whether there is room for 3+ WAR pitcher on a rotation of Ubermenches? The deck is stacked way against him, but let’s go through the possibilities anyway.

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Nats Spring Training Question #5: Is the 25 Man Roster Already Set?

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As far as I can figure, the 2015 Nationals will head into Spring Training with at least 23 of their 25 slots filled and ready to go. A luxury to be sure, and not one that will repeat itself anytime soon. Over the next few seasons, at least a handful of free agents will be leaving each year, many from key positions. For example, the 2016 Nationals could be starting the season without Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Denard Span: And that’s just me thinking of starters off the top of my head. Each year after next, similar names may be on the way out the door, each requiring a spring training for new players to become acquainted with the team, young players trying to play their way on, and a parade of healthy competition for starting spots.
But the future is the future, and today is today: And today, the Nats won’t have to think too hard about a lot of the spots on the team. Each MLB club is allotted a 25 man roster to play day-to-day with, and an expanded 40 man roster where the additional 15 players are in the minor leagues, but available for call up at a moment’s notice.
Seriously, I just went through the roster and I’m not sure there is anywhere for anyone to break into the top 25. There, legitimately, may be no camp battles in 2015. So let’s count them up.

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Nats 2014 Mid-Season Review Part I: The Standings and Pitching Are Better Than You Think

The Washington Nationals have played precisely half of the games they are scheduled to play in the 2014 campaign. Since we, as a species, tend to like the easily divisible, I present unto you the longstanding tradition of a “mid season” review of the Washington Nationals – 2014 edition.

Standings: The Washington Nationals (43-38) are currently tied atop the NL East with a half game behind the Atlanta Braves (44-38) 5 games above .500. (They were tied after 81 game each, Atlanta’s just played one more already). This is certainly a step up from last year when Washington (41-40) trailed Atlanta (47-34) by 6 games. It also isn’t nearly as good as Washington (48-33) leading Atlanta (42-39) by 6 games.

Indeed, while both teams are maybe playing not quite as well as they had expected, it might be the first time Nats and Braves fans are seeing the “race” they were supposed to the last few years. There is no doubt that the 2013 Nats stumbled out of the gate and the Braves managed to stay hot (enough) all year, much the way the 2012 Nats blew it out of the box and never looked back. This year, neither team has run away with the division.

Atlanta owns the season series thus far (3-7), which only highlights their struggles against teams in the other 71 games. The problem for the Braves is that the Nationals are getting healthier (about to, finally, field their Opening Day line up since the middle of the game on Opening Day), and the Braves, really, are not.  Nine of those last 80 games for the Braves are against Washington, The other 71 are not.

The Marlins (4.0 GB), Mets (6.0 GB) and Phillies (7.0 GB) don’t appear to be in this race for the long haul.

Starting Pitching: Continue reading

Get to Know a Nat 2014: Drew Storen

-photo credit @AshburnNatsFan

Can Drew Storen bounce back? -photo credit @AshburnNatsFan

Bullpen Week continues with A profile of Drew Storen.

Name: Drew Patrick Storen
Nickname(s): DROOOOOO
DOB: August 11, 1987
Twitter?@DrewStoren (You can also follow his mom, @PamStoren)
From: Brownsburg, Indiana
Position: Relief Pitcher Bullpen Role: Late Inning Reliever
Hand: Throws Righty, Switch Hitter (seriously)
With the Nats Since: Drafted 2009, Debuted 2010.

Who is this Guy?:  Only the most talked about member of the Nationals’ bullpen. See here, here, here and here. And here of course.

What Happened in 2013: Something, something, something, Game 5. A year removed from the meltdown in playoffs and Drew Storen still hasn’t completely erased it’s gravitational pull. His up-and-down season, which saw him land in Triple-A Syracuse for 6-1/3 demoralizing innings, raised more new questions about the young hurler. Storen pitched much better immediately after his demotion by going back to an older leg-kick for his delivery and rediscovering his slider. However, the numbers show he wasn’t able to maintain that success through end of the year. Aside from an awful July – in which his HR/9 nearly tripled and his FIP doubled, resulting in him summering in upstate New York – his year really wasn’t that much different from years past. It was just wildly inconsistent.

 

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New Podcast! S2E8 Andy Feffer is the Dan Haren of the Front Office

Season 2 Episode 8

Frank does an episode with Jared (@SCviaDC) and Stu (@TClippardsSpecs) discussing the Nationals at large in a slightly modified format.  We answer your Twitter questions, talk about what went wrong and right with the Nats so far, Danny Espinosa, whether Andy Feffer was a good thing or bad, as well as a hodge podge of other things.  It’s a near-end of the season primer on what things look like with 6 games left to go, and you’ll want to say you were in on the ground floor!  Give a listen!