Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nationals Screw Job: Rendon and Taylor miss out on Gold Gloves


If you don't know just how good an OF Taylor is ... check out the stats below. (AP Photo/Nick Wass via

If you don’t know just how good an OF Taylor is … check out the stats below. (AP Photo/Nick Wass via

(Note: this is the 2017 version of the “Gold Glove Awards versus Defensive Metrics Review” recurring post that I do each year, even if I havn’t titled it as such thanks to the tie-in to our players).

In Keith Law‘s chat yesterday, someone asked him about his reaction to Gold Glove awards being announced and he said something along the lines of “I have no more Fs to give.”

(btw: someone named “Wally” asked a Nats question at the very beginning … same as our own Wally?)

Anyway, its not hard to understand Law’s stance on the awards: they’re often given more based on reputation than accomplishment on the field, they’re often tied to a player’s offense (inexplicably, since its a defensive award), and we’ve had more than a few ridiculous awards in years past (see Derek Jeter in his waning SS years, or the year Rafael Palmeiro got one for “playing” 1B when he mostly DH’d).

However; the voting has gotten much better the past few years; last year there wasn’t a single Gold Glove award that I thought was “fishy.”  Every guy who got an award last year was a deserving winner and you could make a compelling argument for them.

Not this year.

Here’s your 2017 Gold Glove award winners:

PosAL GG WinnerNL GG Winner
CMartin MaldonadoTucker Barnhart
1BEric HosmerPaul Goldschmidt
2BBrian DozierD.J. LeMahieu
SSAndrelton SimmonsBrandon Crawford
3BEvan LongoriaNolan Arenado
LFAlex GordonMarcell Ozuna
CFByron BuxtonEnder Inciarte
RFMookie BettsJason Heyward
PMarcus StromanZack Greinke

In my estimation,  more than 50% of these awards went to the wrong player this year.  Here’s the guys who I had a problem with:

  • Hosmer was actively BAD in the field this year, posting negative range factor and negative DRS figures.  Meanwhile Joe Mauer led several defensive metrics for his position.
  • Goldschmidt was a deserving winner, but Votto rated better than him across the board in nearly every defensive metric.
  • Dozier was behind Kinsler in most every defensive metric as well.
  • Longoria was only a slightly bad choice; clearly Todd Frazier was the better AL 3B in totality.  I wonder if his mid-season trade hurt him in this regard.
  • As we have discussed, Rendon rated 2nd in all of baseball in Fangraphs’ total defense figure, but lost out on reputation to the multi-time award winner Arenado (who did lead the league in DRS fwiw)
  • Ozuna also led NL left fielders in DRS … while Adam Duvall led in most every other stat category.
  • Our own Michael Taylor nearly had a clean sweep of NL statistical leads … yet lost out to Inciarte on reputation.
  • Heyward wasn’t a “bad” pick … but Yasiel Puig outshined him in the statistical category over and over.
  • Both Pitchers (not that its that easy to pick them) seemed rather indefensible versus the same two names that kept popping up on leader boards: Dallas Keuchel and R.A. Dickey.

Here’s some quick tables showing all the leading defensive metrics by position for reference:

Fielding Bible 2017:

PosFielding Bible Winner
CMartin Maldonado
1BPaul Goldschmidt
2BD.J. LeMahieu
SSAndrelton Simmons
3BNolan Arenado
LFBrett Gardner
CFByron Buxton
RFMookie Betts
Dallas Keuchel
UtilJavier Baez

7 of the 9  non-utility Fielding Bible winners also got Gold Gloves.  They gave the P to Keuchel as I thought the gold glove should have gone, and they gave LF to Brett Gardner over Alex Gordon in what was probably a toss-up.  But otherwise well done here.

Fangraphs Total Defense 2017:

PosAL Fangraphs Stat Avg (Def)NL Fangraphs Stat Avg (Def)
CMartin MaldonadoTucker Barnhart
1BJoe MauerJoey Votto
2BIan KinslerDee Gordon
SSAndrelton SimmonsBrandon Crawford
3BTodd FrazierAnthony Rendon
LFAlex GordonAdam Duvall
CFByron BuxtonMichael Taylor
RFMookie BettsYasiel Puig

This is the stat that shows that Rendon is the 2nd best defensive player in the game, by the way.   And that Taylor was the best CF in the National League, barely trailing Byron Buxton by a tenth of a point.

Just 7 of the 16 GG winners were leaders by this metric, which is either an indictment of the metric or the gold glove selections this year.  In case you couldn’t tell, you can guess which picks I trust more.

UZR/150 for 2017:

PosAL UZR/150NL UZR/150
1BJoe MauerJoey Votto
2BIan KinslerDee Gordon
SSAndrelton SimmonsBrandon Crawford
3BTodd FrazierAnthony Rendon
LFAlex GordonAdam Duvall
CFByron BuxtonMichael Taylor
RFMookie BettsYasiel Puig

I like UZR/150; it is the defensive stat I most frequently mention because it is mostly about a player’s range.  Generally speaking everyone can hit a ball hit right to them; i want a guy who can make plays out of their “zone.”   UZR/150 this year predicted just 5 of the 14 GG winners … but in my estimation identified fully 13 of the 14 most deserving winners.  So perhaps my bias shows through here.

DRS for 2017:

CMartin MaldonadoTucker Barnhart
1BCarlos SantanaJoey Votto
2BIan KinslerD.J. LeMahieu
SSAndrelton SimmonsTrevor Story
3BEvan LongoriaNolan Arenado
LFBrett GardnerMarcell Ozuna
CFByron BuxtonMichael Taylor
RFMookie BettsYasiel Puig
PAlex CobbR.A. Dickey

DRS did the best job of predicting Gold Glove winners, and predicted 15 of the 18 guys who I “thougth” should have won.

FRAA for 2017:

CMartin MaldonadoAustin Hedges
1BMatt OlsenAnthony Rizzo
2BBrian DozierD.J. LeMahieu
SSAndrelton SimmonsOdubel Herrera
3BMatt ChapmanDavid Freese
LFBrett GardnerStarling Marte
CFByron BuxtonMichael Taylor
RFMookie BettsJason Heyward
PDallas KeuchelR.A. Dickey

FRAA is Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average metric and was the worst performing predictor of both actual GG awards and those that I thought should have won.  Furthermore it spit out some truly random names (David Freese as leading NL 3B??).  So i’d probably put it as the least reliable defensive metric right now.

Total Zone for 2017

PosAL Total Zone rTOTNL Total Zone rTOT
CMartin MaldonadoTucker Barnhart
1BCarlos SantanaPaul Goldschmidt
2BJose AltuveD.J. LeMahieu
SSElvis AndrusOrlando Arcia
3BAdrian BeltreAnthony Rendon
LFAlex GordonBrandon Nimmo
CFByron BuxtonManuel Margot
RFMookie BettsJason Heyward

Technically “Total Zone Total Fielding runs above average” or the “rTOT” stat.   It did a decent job predicting the GGs (50%) but also spit out some really random names (Elvis Andrus over Andrelton Simmons??) that make it a bit squirrelly to trust.

So, another year passes of Gold Gloves.  None of these defensive metrics are infallible, which is kind of why the three major flavors of WAR often disagree on positional players (each uses a different one of these defensive stats to measure value).  But looking across the landscape of the measurements it isn’t hard to see trends and patterns for who was the most deserving at each position.



48 Responses to 'Nationals Screw Job: Rendon and Taylor miss out on Gold Gloves'

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  1. What can we say — we’re living in a SportsCenter world. Rendon and Taylor make it look easy; Arenado and Inciarte seem to show up with more diving stops . . . and thus get more churn on the highlights. FWIW, I think Arenado also gets some plus-up since he’s sort of the face of that franchise, while Rendon might not even be in the top five most recognizable Nats to the national audience, and Taylor not in the top ten (except in Chicago now!). Arenado also has gaudier “counting stats” than Rendon does, which shouldn’t matter a wit defensively, but it does come into play in a popular vote.

    Again, as both Todd and I have noted, Rendon was second only to the great Andrelton Simmons in all of baseball in defensive stats this season, per FanGraphs. To quote Murph, “Have you seen FanGraphs?”


    10 Nov 17 at 11:37 am

  2. Following up on Wally’s comments on the coaching staff on the last post: I like it. They’re getting experienced guys, but not older guys; all are in their early 50s. They’re getting guys who have been with a number of organizations, including several with long track records of success, like the Cards. Long, Lilliquist, Martinez, and Bogar all have rings as coaches, so they’ve seen what works with championship teams in the last decade.

    There are a couple of things out there on the web that question whether analytics had passed Lilliquest by. That’s hard to say. What we do know is that the Cards consistently had strong staffs during his tenure. Frankly, the decline in quality there seems to me to be more due to a decline in talent than due to anything a pitching coach would do.

    Also, if you want to get up to speed on how hitters are approaching pitching, who better to talk to than Long, Murphy, and Harper?

    Hale seems to have been extremely well-liked as a coach in OAK. The mess in AZ may have had more to do with injuries and poor personnel decisions by the front office.

    We’ll see. Is “new blood” the answer? I guess we’re about to find out. And I still hope Martinez plugs David Ross for bullpen coach.


    10 Nov 17 at 11:48 am

  3. […] Gold Gloves: Finalists announced 10/26/17.  Gold Glove Awards for 2017 here.  No Nats mentioned; both Anthony Rendon and Michael Taylor‘s strong cases went for naught.  See separate post on the topic in this space. […]

  4. This wasn’t a screw job though. Not like when Jeter or Michael Young won. I understand the case for our guys, but Arenado and Inciarte are excellent defenders too.


    10 Nov 17 at 2:19 pm

  5. Rendon moreso than Taylor … but the stats speak for themselves. Those little tables showed the #1 ranker and our guys were consistently there. If the argument is, “well Arenado was a close 2nd and makes more flashy plays” … then the criteria probably needs to change a bit.

    Obviously the voting mechanism is what leads to these issues (only 25% of the vote is stat-driven, the rest are manager/coach votes).

    Todd Boss

    10 Nov 17 at 2:42 pm

  6. OK, admit it. This was one of you guys.
    Natsfan: Michael A Taylor was the best defender in the NL by UZR/150 by a wide margin, and Anthody Rendon was the best infielder in the NL by a wider margin. If I choose to get miffed about Gold Glove awards, is this a reasonable line of argument?
    Jeff Sullivan: Yeah, that would be your starting point
    Jeff Sullivan: Now, Arenado destroyed Rendon by DRS, so there’s that
    Jeff Sullivan: And I’m not sure Taylor was better than Billy Hamilton, who didn’t even win, himself
    Jeff Sullivan: Taylor had a case, although he was presumably hurt by his more limited playing time


    10 Nov 17 at 5:59 pm

  7. Not me. I would have not said “choose to get miffed” i would have said “they got screwed.” 🙂

    Todd Boss

    10 Nov 17 at 6:49 pm

  8. Nope, wasn’t me, either. By the numbers, Taylor really got screwed. Overall FanGraphs defensive numbers for CFs in the NL:

    Taylor 11.6
    Hamilton 9.6
    Herrera 8.8
    Margot 7.0
    Inciarte 4.6

    Umm . . . that’s downright off the charts. Yes, Taylor only played 118 games. So if he loses to Hamilton, that’s defensible. Why the love for Inciarte? He plays for a bad team that no one watches. I guess he only gets seen on the highlights . . .

    Of course Bryant was nominated at 3B, but he was EIGHTH on FanGraphs among 3Bs. But it’s hard to look at Rendon at 15.8 and Arenado and wonder whether voters have WiFi . . .


    10 Nov 17 at 8:08 pm

  9. Arenado at 9.0 vs. 15.8 for Rendon.


    10 Nov 17 at 8:09 pm

  10. Kinsler had a $1M bonus in his contract for a Gold Glove. There’s screwed, and then there’s screwed out of a million!


    10 Nov 17 at 8:51 pm

  11. Good for Max. I wasn’t expecting it to be close either, and it wasn’t. Thought Stras could have snagged a few more 2nd place votes.


    15 Nov 17 at 9:28 pm

  12. I know it is not a popular opinion, but I’m still in the trade Bryce, sign Rendon camp. In the end, they are both superstars, but one ties up payroll and sets a threshhold for payroll that is impossible to achieve.

    The Nats can get a fantastic haul in return for Harper even now (The Yankees did fine with Chapman to the Cubs) that includes a OF prospect if they feel they need one. The team and the system have needs, and we all know what they are.

    I am squarely in the Taylor camp and have always felt he has an even higher ceiling than we are seeing. Robles is a sure thing, and will be ready for a starting lineup spot by June. Signing Harper not only ties up payroll, it forces a trade of Taylor while he has high perceived value or forces a trade of Robles. Eaton cannot be moved right now and if Harper is signed long term, can’t stash Robles forever. Something has to give.

    Also – Daniel Johnson is going to be a starting outfielder somewhere, as early as mid 2019 but perhaps 2020. He has all of the tools to start for a great team. Soto is poised to race through the system on a great bat. So the Nats have OF depth and can replace twelve years of gigantic payroll

    The team has needs and has to get ahead of its curve. As I see it, and maybe we are all waiting for a winter meetings/hot stove thread, one year of Harper can bring a lot more to this team than can Taylor.

    As for the ‘generational value’ of Harper, the generational value can only be measured in championships. The Nationals have not won World Series because of Harper, and they have surrounded him with exceptional talent.

    I’m no fan of the Nationals drafts pre-2016, but I am certainly a fan of Rizzo’s eye for minor league and rising potential. His good deals have far outweighed the bad, and he is a great quality for quantity (Morse, Karns, Souza) dealer.

    The reality is that the Nats cannot field a four man outfield, and they have a gold glove CF with power and clutch bat, and SB speed. The have an elite player coming up. And they have a starting OF, Eaton, who is a proven high quality player but at a lower trade value now.


    16 Nov 17 at 8:48 am

  13. Hard to believe that Bryce is going anywhere, but to each his own. As for re-signing him, I’m conflicted. You just can’t pay such an outsized price that you hamstring the franchise. My tack would be more along the lines of what they did when they signed Max: go on and bring in the replacement a year early, in the form of someone like J. D. Martinez or Stanton. Boras has set the price on Martinez so high that it’s very possible that he’ll come crawling to the Nats in February for a save-face deal.

    If a good deal is there, I’m for trading Taylor. There’s no getting around a 31.7% K rate last year. At the same time, I’m not rushing to get rid of him if there isn’t value in return.

    Max: with the third CYA, we’re now down to the question of which hat he’s going to be wearing on his HOF plaque, aren’t we? He should get to 200+ wins and 3,000+ Ks. I’m interested to see if Dave Martinez tries to make him more of a six-inning starter this year, though.


    16 Nov 17 at 9:43 am

  14. The reason you would get more for one year of Harper than three (or whatever) years of Taylor is that Harper is MUCH MUCH MUCH better at hitting baseballs than Taylor is. In addition to being MUCH MUCH MUCH better at hitting baseballs, Harper is also 18 months younger. I agree that the Nats (potentially) have an outfield logjam coming up. But to expect that Taylor/Robles/Goodwin will somehow replace Bryce’s 2018 production in 2018 is…rather optimistic. There’s a case to be made for trading Bryce now if the return is right, but you’d have to get an OF for 2018 because relying on the rest of the OF in the organization now is how the Nats lose the NL East in 2018.

    Robles is a sure thing in that his speed, defense, and success at the plate in the minors mean that he will almost certainly be a starting caliber major league player. Robles probably won’t have long terrible stretches at the plate like MAT did before last year. But it’s not a sure thing that he’ll be All-Star caliber, especially not right away (I would bet on him being All-Star caliber, but it’s nowhere close to a sure thing that he will be). Soto also has tremendous star potential, but he’s 18 in A ball. Many things can happen in the (probably) 1.5-2 seasons before he makes his debut. As for Daniel Johnson, so far so good, but history is littered with college bats who put up good numbers in A ball and never even made it to the major leagues. Let’s see him hit in AA before we say he’s a starting caliber major league player (his poor performance in AZ does not portend well for this, but I don’t put much stock in Fall League results). Right now Harper is PROJECTED to have a 1000 OPS in 2018. The odds are strongly against any of these other players ever having a 1000 OPS in any season of his life at any level, much less the major leagues (MAT did not OPS 1000 during his torrid year in AA when he BABIPd a cool .421). That is Harper’s projected outcome, meaning that he’s just as likely to be over 1000 as he is to be under. It’s hard to overstate how much better a hitter Harper is RIGHT NOW than any of these guys is likely to be. Harper’s big problem is injuries. For position players, I think “injuries” is a better problem to have than “being able to hit major league pitching at an elite level.” Bryce has solved that latter problem; the other guys haven’t. Taylor is never going to hit MLB pitching at an elite level. The best bet for him is league average, and I take the under on that. I’d take the under on Daniel Johnson being a league average bat too. Robles and Soto have much better chances to be better, but again, the odds are against either ever hitting as well as Harper’s median expected outcome.

    Here’s a thought experiment: who will be worth more WAR over the next five seasons, Harper by himself or any two of Robles, Soto, and MAT? I think I’d take Harper.

    The case against signing Harper really boils down to the Lerners’ budget. “You can’t devote X% of your payroll to one guy” only matters when X is large, and X is large only if payroll is fixed and not that high. Major League franchises do a lot of bellyaching about budgets, but I think it’s mostly bullshit. The franchise they bought in 2006 is worth hundreds of millions of dollars more now than they paid for it. If signing Bryce means that revenues won’t cover costs (which I HIGHLY doubt), surely they can borrow off that appreciation in franchise value to make up the difference. I say sign Harper. If he signs elsewhere for $400-500 million, I’ll be pissed. If he signs elsewhere for well above $500 million, I’ll be less pissed.


    16 Nov 17 at 10:31 am

  15. The point I always make about the Lerners and money is that they’ve left more than $100 million on the table by not selling the stadium naming rights. If you can burn that much without worrying about it, then money’s not an obstacle. Never has been. The obstacle is convincing them to spend it.

    I would like to keep Bryce if there’s any way possible to do it. I feel like I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness about it for a couple of years, as the general assumption has been that he’s gone. A Harper deal is going to have multiple opt-outs, so even if it’s backloaded with silly numbers to get it to $400M+ but is only 3/$105M until the opt-out, then it’s an excellent deal. You might even say that 3/$120M for the absolute prime years of Harper is a good deal. He basically pays for that number with 5 WAR per year.

    I remain a Robles skeptic. I think he’s going to be a good players, but he’s not really going to have enough power to help compensate for what the Nats are going to lose if Harper and Murphy walk. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs suggested in a chat a couple of weeks ago that Robles’s stats could look like Lorenzo Cain’s. Robles’s minor-league numbers are better than Cain’s were, but I think it’s a fair comp for MLB expectations purposes. If you’re plugging in a Cain comp for Taylor, I’m good with that. But a Cain comp isn’t going to compensate for Harper in the middle of the lineup, no matter how much value his defense allegedly adds.


    16 Nov 17 at 10:57 am

  16. Derek – I didn’t say Goodwin in ’18. I said Eaton.

    KW – I think that Taylor has proven himself, overall, to be capable of less than 31% K.In the NLCS, for example, when it mattered, he had 4 strikeouts in 18 PA.In June and July, before he went on the DL, he was just over 25%.

    As for “the Lerner’s budget,”I can’t see the Nats locking up Bryce at his cost and Rendon at his. But Rendon will be more affordable and really on the cusp of superstardom.

    As for Bryce, another pivotal consideration is durability. 40 m dollar a year to someone who has missed the amount of time that he has? On any budget? A twelve year contract to someone who has played over 120 games only 3 of 6 years? I see that as bad business sense.

    That noted, I am sure that if anyone researched long, big contracts, one would find sunk cost that was not recouped for most of them. Scherzer is three years in and a sigh of relief. Werth was worth a lot, but really tailed off and missed a lot of time as well. There is no incentive for players on long term contracts to maintain their hunger over the life of the contract, unless they have a makeup like Mike Trout and Ichiro Suzuki, or even Joey Votto.

    Bryce is a fiery, passionate player and a great competitor. But he is not them. I can’t help but think of Ken Griffey. He was otherworldly. But once he hit 30, he still had greatness, but not 40m greatness. I would not gamble 450 million on Bryce’s long term health. That is 145 game money, and 2/3 odds says he can’t deliver that.


    16 Nov 17 at 11:30 am

  17. I have seen enough to know that Victor Robles is not Lorenzo Cain.


    16 Nov 17 at 11:32 am

  18. For those who say the Nats need Harper to win the East, consider that he played 110 games in the outfield this year.

    He is certainly a bat that can get a team over the top, but I think there are more irreplaceable talents on the Nats, especially if a year of Harper can bring back the kind of yield he can, from a GM ready to make a splash.


    16 Nov 17 at 11:38 am

  19. A) Lorenzo Cain is a really good major league baseball player. He has been worth 23.5 WAR in his career. If Victor Robles is worth that much before he hits free agency, we should all be very very happy with that outcome (much of Cain’s value comes from defense in CF; this probably means that Robles needs to play CF to capture his full value).

    B) I agree it’s unrealistic to expect the Nats to sign both Harper and Rendon. I prefer Harper because he’s (1) more than two years younger and (2) a better hitter (before 2017, Harper was a much better hitter; now he’s just a better hitter). Much of Rendon’s value comes from playing excellent defense at 3B, however, which as we’ve seen, can fade very fast. Bryce has “old man skills” – walks and power. I don’t think these will fade like Rendon’s defense will fade. At 25, I think we’ve got several years before his defense in RF starts to decline. In fact, I think he’s still got some potential to improve in RF and on the basepaths. I also don’t see Griffey as a good comp because a lot of Griffey’s value came from defense.

    C) The team is already counting on Eaton, so Eaton can’t “replace” Bryce’s production if you trade Bryce. The current Nats are a lot better than any other team in the East right now, but that may change if the other teams get better. A healthy Bryce is worth about 6 wins. Yes, the team without Bryce is still probably better than the Mets but that’s too close for my comfort. The next two OF on the depth chart are Robles and Goodwin – it’s either them or someone outside the organization (and don’t say Stevenson or Bautista) who have to replace part of Harper’s production.

    D) I agree with you, KW, with one caveat: the Nats don’t need to replace Murphy’s and Bryce’s power, per se, just their value. There are many ways to provide value. If Robles hits only 10 homers, but gets on base at a .400 clip, plays great defense, hits a lot of doubles and triples, and steals a bunch of bases, that will replace a lot of Harper’s value even if it doesn’t take the form of home runs.

    E) Michael A. is a 30% K guy. He just is. In his great AA season, he K’d 29.5% of the time. His MLB K% is 32% in 350 at bats. There’s just no reason other than hope and prayer to think he’s ever going to be much better than that (no, a season where he’s a 28% K guy is not much better than that). He can still be a good player, he just has very little room for error. I think the 105 WRC+ MAT put up in 2017 is likely to be the best of his career. I would be very happy to be wrong.


    16 Nov 17 at 12:14 pm

  20. I was already typing while Derek made some of my arguments. I’ll go on and frame things this way:

    Cain has averaged 4.7 fWAR per 150 games over his career, 5.6 bWAR per 150. If Robles matches those numbers, he’ll be having a fine career.

    For comparison, it has taken Taylor 349 MLB games to amass 4.5 fWAR and only 2.1 bWAR. Those are Taylor’s career totals thus far. Even with elite defense, he still comes out as basically a league-average player. Even in his supposed breakout 2017 season, Taylor posted wRC+ and OPS+ of 105.


    16 Nov 17 at 12:29 pm

  21. Lot’s of good topics. Some comments to random samples:

    Lerner’s budget levels – I think it’s reasonable to expect ownership to spend to their operating income levels, and take any profit from the equity value of the team. Meaning break even each year, don’t pay dividends. At $150mish of actual cash payroll, I think the Nats are largely spending to their current operating income levels until MASN is resolved and provides more income. But I think it’s quite a different (ie unreasonable) view to think the ownership group should borrow beyond operating income levels to fund operations (ie run deficits), and expect to recoup that when selling the team. That is a much bigger and different risk profile, and the US housing market has shown what can happen when you borrow beyond your means to fund a house because you think housing prices will stay the same or go up. You can not only lose that housing value but still be stuck owing the lender more. Its the same exact thing here. So that largely brings us back to the MASN dispute. Basically I think the Lerners have been doing fine here.

    Trade Bryce – its an interesting idea, for sure. In addition to the other ‘pros’ mentioned, I’d add that there probably is enough room to trade Bryce and still win the NL East this year, and presumably add players to improve their chances post 2018.

    The two other downsides, though, are: (1) huge and immediate public media backlash. ‘You just fired/hired a manager to win the WS this year, and you trade your best player. typical nats who don’t get it’. Not really a fair criticism, but in today’s world, you can’t just ignore that kind of overt pressure, including on the players. And (2), I don’t think the Nats get the package for Bryce you might think. It’s one year for a terrific but injury prone player (who’s also coming off an injury) making $20m. The $20m takes small market teams out of the equation, and that salary pays for a 3 WAR season, so to trade a lot of value for him, you have to be assuming virtually no missed time for a 6 WAR season. i don’t know how many teams make that assumption. I don’t think it matches the Chapman trade. I could be wrong certainly.

    So I think its interesting but never gets close to something that Rizzo considers.


    16 Nov 17 at 12:33 pm

  22. Derek, you’ve hit on a question that I’ve had, and it’s basically whether you can build a team around gap power, and can you have “too many” gap-power type players. The Nats have two in Turner and Eaton, although they really haven’t gotten to see them together yet. Robles compiles his numbers in a very similar manner. Rendon has some HR power but is elite in gap power. If Harper and Murphy do leave, that’s the core of the lineup in 2019. The comp that comes to mind is the 2015 Royals, but that club still had four guys with more than 20 HRs, along with four with more than 30 doubles.

    I don’t know. It’s a curious bit of calculus in the age of rising HR totals.


    16 Nov 17 at 12:37 pm

  23. Wally, you’ve nailed the reasons why a Harper trade wouldn’t fly, beyond just the gaping hole in the middle of the lineup. Yes, I will concede that the Nats could win the NL East without Bryce. But their object is to go a lot farther than winning the NL East.

    You’d actually get more in trade for Robles than you would for one year of Bryce.

    As for spending, the Lerners hit the luxury tax in 2017. There’s little reason to think that they’ll back off in 2018. Ted is 92. Mark just lost a leg to cancer. I think they’ll add at least one significant player for 2018, possibly two.


    16 Nov 17 at 12:43 pm

  24. Wally – the US housing market isn’t a government-sanctioned cartel like MLB. The question isn’t “are MLB franchise values going to increase”; it’s “are they going to increase by 10% each year or by 20%.” A cable television reckoning is surely coming that will affect lots of industries that depend on television in its current form. MLB is very well-positioned to weather this oncoming storm. Its MLB advanced media business is already very successful. The infrastructure is there for teams/MLB to sell live-streaming directly to fans. If I could buy stock in the Nats (or any other MLB franchise, really), I would. But I can’t. Because it’s a cartel.

    The Nats have the money to pay Bryce and don’t believe them if they say they don’t.


    16 Nov 17 at 12:45 pm

  25. KW

    16 Nov 17 at 12:59 pm

  26. KW, it’s an interesting question. I’m pretty comfortable with the methodological approach taken to put together offensive stats like wOBA and WRC+. Both stats use linear weights – a walk is worth .X runs, a 1B .Y runs, a 2B .Z runs, etc. The linear weights are calculated using historical data and adjusted each year with the present year’s data to account for the current run scoring environment. My understanding is that the recent increase in dingers has had very little effect on the underlying linear weights. Anyway, I’m pretty comfortable in concluding that a .400 wOBA with a lot of on-base and doubles is worth just as many runs as a .400 wOBA with less on-base and doubles and more homers. I’ve read some articles where people try to figure out the effect of having too many similar hitters and I think the results are pretty inconclusive. So, in terms of our best offensive stats, I think value is value. If Robles has a good wOBA, he’ll be a good hitter even without homers. The same is true of Eaton and Turner, I think.

    I’ll add three asides: (1) the increase in homers in MLB is probably because of the baseball, which means some hits that would have been doubles in the minors are going to be homers in the majors. Robles may be a 15-20 HR guy instead of a 10-15 HR guy just because of the baseball; (2) it’s really hard (maybe impossible) to be a truly elite 1000 OPS guy without hitting a lot of homers. This puts a lower ceiling on a guy like Robles compared to a guy like Harper. Edgar Martinez is sort of the exception that proves the rule – he was a in-the-20s HR guy during the period when lots of guys were hitting 40+ yet was one of the very best hitters in baseball; (3) re stats, I’m pretty comfortable with the defensive statistics if the sample is large enough (3+ years), e.g., if the stats say Cain is a better CF than Span over a long enough period, I believe it. I have a problem translating those stats into overall value so that they can be compared with offensive value, however. Heyward is great in RF. If you reduced his greatness in RF and increased his offensive production by the same amount in terms of runs, would that player be worth exactly the same amount overall? The stats would say yes, but I’m not so sure.


    16 Nov 17 at 1:47 pm

  27. Derek, I agree with you that the monopoly structure of MLB presents a different picture than the housing industry. But I don’t think you can just dismiss the looming correction coming in cable television rights, especially when the vast bulk of the step up in franchise value over the last 10 years has come from that sector. Sure, I think MLBAM is positioned to deliver games directly to consumers and can offset some or all of this correction ( and probably would also invest in MLB or a franchise if I could, although the vast games have already happened in my opinion), but that’s not certain by any stretch. But to expect ownership to go $30-50m in the red annually to borrow against this embedded future equity without a hedge of some kind? I don’t see it.

    Robles? If I am Rizzo, I’d plan assuming the guy reaches all star level a few times in his control period. I’m sold. I don’t know (or really care) how he gets there, but I think the package is an all star.

    One point no one is mentioning: I feel much better about their lineup beyond 2018 than I do their pitching staff. Stras will likely opt out, Gio is gone. That just leaves a declining Max (has to happen sometime, right?) and Roark. Hopefully Ross returns but he wasn’t a slam dunk before he got hurt,Fedde is far from a rotation certainty, and who else? Romero maybe? That is a fairly weak future staff right now, and I think this is the area that needs help.


    16 Nov 17 at 3:18 pm

  28. Games = gains


    16 Nov 17 at 3:19 pm

  29. Derek, good stuff. In general, HRs seem to give more margin for error for less consistent contact. Using Trea Turner as a convenient but admittedly imperfect example, his OBP dropped from .370 in 2016 to .338 in 2017, and his wRC+ dipped significantly as a result, from 147 to 105. That cherry-picking of stats doesn’t factor in his injury or the resulting diminished power when he returned. A decline in BABIP also reduced the effectiveness of the balls with which he did make contact.

    Plus as you note, it’s difficult to get to an elite level of OPS without big HR totals. Rendon had an outstanding offensive season by nearly every measure, but he ended up with an OPS of “only” .937. Of course that’s an example that gets to the lingering SABR question of whether SLG should be equally weighted with OBP. Most stat folks will tell that OBP is the more important of the two, but no one has figured out the exact weighting. If I’m remembering correctly, from the Moneyball book, DePodesta was arguing that OBP was four times more valuable than SLG. But you sure don’t see any team paying contact hitters four times more than sluggers!


    16 Nov 17 at 3:25 pm

  30. Wally, you just made the point for looking for a higher-caliber starting pitcher addition than just a #5. I don’t like the selection from Arrieta/Darvish/Lynn/Cobb, though, so I think a trade is more likely.


    16 Nov 17 at 3:27 pm

  31. KW, using linear weights solves the problem of the relative importance of OBP compared to SLG. OPS is a useful stat in that it’s somewhat intuitive and it’s generally correct. But you can’t really use it to compare players that are close together in terms of OPS. A 1000 OPS hitter is better than an 800 OPS hitter, but is the 860 guy better than the 810 guy? Maybe, maybe not.

    By building a metric from linear weights – how much each batting event is worth in terms of expected runs, stripping out context – you don’t run into the problem of how to weight on-base vs. slugging like you do in OPS. Each discrete event is counted and is worth what it’s worth (homers are much better than doubles, to be sure, and more homers means you need to produce less in your other ABs to provide the same value). wOBA and WRC+ are just better, more descriptive stats than OPS.

    For me, the big problem with wOBA is that I don’t have an index. I know a .900 OPS is very good but not MVP level (unless it’s a good defender/fast baserunner). I don’t know what a .360 wOBA is. I like WRC+ the best because you know 100 is league average, but I still don’t have a good feel for what a 135 WRC+ guy “looks like.”


    16 Nov 17 at 4:21 pm

  32. Lots to get through there, of course, but I’ll say this — as someone who has experienced enough closeness to it to have contempt for the political class — one should never be surprised about a Washington Post reporter being led by the nose by a smooth talking insider (like Boras) to advocate limitless spending of other people’s money as “a bargain.”


    16 Nov 17 at 4:24 pm

  33. I’m not diminishing Lorenzo Cain. I am saying I have higher expectations for Victor Robles.


    16 Nov 17 at 4:26 pm

  34. Future SP depth is as important as a high caliber guy, imo. They need 2-3 more quality options by 2019. I think that favors the trade of a current stud more than anything else, if he can bring that back.

    I’m sure Rizzo is thinking of all these things.


    16 Nov 17 at 4:32 pm

  35. Fore, I probably share a lot of your views about how easy it is to advocate spending other people’s money…but the author of that WaPo piece is Neil Greenberg, who is a statistical analysis and not a reporter with “sources.” Greenberg writes for many other publications, including Fangraphs. I’d be very surprised if he talked to Boras or any other “insider” for that piece.


    16 Nov 17 at 4:46 pm

  36. analysis = analyst


    16 Nov 17 at 5:21 pm

  37. Derek, a 135 wRC+ guy looks like Murphy (136) and Zim (138), even though they filled different stat categories. It also looks like Bellinger (138), with 39 HRs but only a .267 average. The only player exactly at 135 for 2017 was Hosmer, and it made him the 25th best hitter in baseball, by that measure. But what that means in the grand scheme of things, I have no idea.

    In looking at this list, I see Cozart at 141, tied with Blackmon. I really feel like Cozart is going to be the most undervalued bat this offseason . . . if what he hit in 2017 was legit, and if he can stay healthy. Would it be worth the Nats trying to sell him on a super-utility role for 2018 with the promise that he’s Murph’s replacement thereafter? Plus he could be Murph’s replacement to start the season. He would probably sign for around what Murph did.


    16 Nov 17 at 9:58 pm

  38. I know i’m coming late to this … but for those who think the Nats should trade Harper consider this:
    – he has one year of control remaining
    – he absolutely is going to FA
    – He’s set to earn north of $21M this season.
    – He’s a huge injury risk, having missed huge chunks of time year after year.

    So all of that greatly factors against the team trading him. Why? Because they’ll get practically nothing in return when compared to the potential 7-win season he can provide instead. If he had more years of control, if his salary wasn’t so high maybe he’d fetch more. But teams aren’t stupid (well, most teams aren’t stupid). Nobody gives up multiple top 100 picks for one year of production anymore.

    And then there’s this: you don’t trade the best players in the game when you’re trying to win. You trade them if you’re not going to make the playoffs. You’d rather go to battle in the playoffs WITH Harper one last time versus trading him away for pennies on the dollar.

    Todd Boss

    17 Nov 17 at 10:04 am

  39. I would submit that

    1) The Chapman trade proves you can get a lot for one year of control, and even less
    2) All it takes is one star-struck GM, especially one who will pay to have Harper put people in the seats
    3) If anyone can get this done, Rizzo can
    4) Potential 7 WAR can come back in a trade
    5) You don’t do what you don’t do, but you don’t fire managers who go to the playoffs two years in a row, either. What do the Nationals need to do to catch the Dodgers, Cubs, and Astros? They need to be bold but smart.

    So if the Nats do nothing, we’ll know why. And if the Nats do something, we’ll know why.


    17 Nov 17 at 10:45 am

  40. I’m with Wally on the two SP idea. But hell, I’d jettison Gonzalez for good longer term value.


    17 Nov 17 at 10:46 am

  41. There’s no way on earth the Nats would get 7 WAR back for Harper, at least not 7 WAR that would manifest itself collectively in 2018.

    Plus to make a trade, you have to have a team willing to trade with you. Harper would only make sense for a win-now team, and the Nats would want win-now pieces in return, with which a win-now team likely would be unwilling to part.

    Gio is sort of in the same boat, controlled for just one more season so not worth a lot in return. Plus he was one of the top 10 or so pitchers in baseball in 2017 . . . in the regular season. Yes, I hope the Nats pony up to get a more reliable #3 for the playoffs. On that we can agree. I don’t know who that is, though. It sure ain’t Darvish!


    17 Nov 17 at 11:42 am

  42. The Braves made a couple of trades for a couple of expiring contracts of stars during their long run, both of which turned out terribly for them. They sent Justice and Grissom to the Indians for one year of Lofton (plus a reliever). Lofton played one year in ATL, during which he got hurt, then he went back to Cleveland, while Justice had a career year in the Jake. Later, the Braves traded for J. D. Drew, betting that they could sign him before Boras took him to free agency. (Oops.) The Braves included a young Adam Wainwright in that deal. (Double oops.)

    Anyway, the Justice/Grissom package is the only one that comes to mind as an immediate return of star quality in return for one year of a player. There are probably others, but not too many. They’re sucker bets.


    17 Nov 17 at 11:57 am

  43. KW – I am not talking about getting 7 war back in the same year, any more than I am talking about harper being such a sure thing for 7 WAR when he can’t even stay in the lineup for 140 games.

    Besides – the Nats don’t have enough needs to plug in 7 WAR. I would submit that if Robles replaces Harper, they’ll get some of that WAR back from him. The rest will spread out from whomever contributes this year to down the line, when Harper’s contribution is done here.

    What a win now piece is for the Nats is forseeable from a team that has surplus of what the Nats need. But the Nats make out great with a trade that gives them a helpful piece now (SP,starting C) and minor league pieces that ripen well (see Ross and Turner).


    17 Nov 17 at 12:14 pm

  44. Next season is the biggest win-now year for the Nats in their history. That doesn’t mean that they won’t still be good during 2019 and beyond, but they’re definitely going all-in for 2018. They can’t afford to sacrifice a little WAR now for some return in their future. The NL has two stocked teams in the Cubs and Dodgers, and the Nats aren’t going to catch up with them by trading their superstar and plugging in a rookie.

    If the Nats were a middle-of-the-pack team, trying not to delude themselves about contending, then heck yeah, trade Harper and get some value for him. That’s what the Yankees did with Chapman. They weren’t in the same title-contending position then that the Nats are now.

    There are teams out there now that seem to be deluding themselves, like the Cards and particularly the Giants. Both have large fan bases that would have no stomach for a rebuild, though. The idea of the Giants trading for Stanton is just insane. With him, they go from 64 wins to what, 70? In the same division with the Dodgers, D-Backs, and Rockies?


    17 Nov 17 at 1:46 pm

  45. This stat obsession is off the reservation, as is the panic of now/or never, as if Bryce Harper is far and away the Nats best bat. OK, I’ll play.

    Harper, who played only 110 games in 2017, was 42nd in WAR. Yes, Anthony Rendon was ahead of him.

    So, by the way and by far, was Adam Eaton from 2016.yes , the same Adam Eaton who did not play when the Nats made it to the playoffs with both Eaton and Harper out of the lineup.

    Harper’s 2016 WaR (less than 4) was ranked 79th in the league, well behind Daniel Murphy.


    17 Nov 17 at 2:49 pm

  46. Bryce Harper is far and away the Nats best hitter. It’s not even close.

    If we’re going to talk about hitting, we can’t use WAR, which measures defense (WAR helps Eaton/Rendon, hurts Murphy, and doesn’t affect Harper all that much). Over the last three years, Harper has been worth 123 runs above average (6th in baseball). Murphy is 74(18th), Rendon is 41 (46th), Eaton is 46 (43). Harper has been worth 3x as many runs over that period as Rendon and Eaton (all three have been hurt – Eaton has 1500 PA, Rendon 1600, Harper 1775). Using rate stats, Harper looks even better. His WRC+ is 156, which is 3rd. Murphy is 134 (19th), Rendon 120 (42nd), Eaton 119 (45th). The gap between Harper and Murphy is larger than the gap between Murphy and Eaton/Rendon. The gap between Harper and Eaton/Rendon is roughly the same as the gap between Eaton/Rendon and Michael A. Taylor, whose WRC+ is 83. Harper is a MUCH MUCH better hitter than anyone else on the team.

    Murphy is a very good hitter. Eaton and Rendon are good hitters that play excellent defense, making them excellent players overall (and Rendon may have taken a step forward as a hitter this year). None of them is anywhere close to as good a hitter as Bryce Harper. And even if the Nats did win last year without Eaton, they didn’t win without Harper! I think his excellent play last year had something to do with the Nats building their insurmountable division lead before he got injured.

    I agree that the now or never stuff is probably overstated. The Nats could still be a contender without Harper post-2018 if they thread a few needles and the prospects turn out to be as good or better than advertised. But let’s not allow that to obscure how good a hitter Harper has been.


    17 Nov 17 at 4:36 pm

  47. But Derek, according to Tom Boswell Harper is almost at the same level as Adam Lind because they had similar runs scored and RBIs….


    Todd Boss

    19 Nov 17 at 7:16 pm

  48. […] the same post for past years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, […]

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