Nationals Baseball

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Update - Manager Stuff

Max threw 112 pitches last night. That was fewer than last time so... what was the point really? I'm happy that Max looks fine and that they didn't go for say 120 pitches but that would have made sense. Now the 116 doesn't look like an intentional stretch out but a mistake by Dusty that Max was willing to cover for. I don't know. Since Max's arm didn't fall off yesterday, let's just forget it and move on.

Speaking of Dusty though - there is that whole "no extension" thing hanging over the team. The question is - why hasn't it been done? The given answer is "that's just the way we do things here" suggesting that they don't look at contracts until they have to. Of course they have extended contracts mid-season several times, including signing Strtasburg's deal and extending Rizzo, so that argument doesn't feel right.

More likely is the Lerners have a certain belief on what a manager should be paid and how he should be paid. They like to offer contracts on the low-end of what managers should be paid and for very minimal time frames, single year if they can get it. They also don't really care what these guys want and are completely willing to show them little to no respect.

This isn't opinion here. Let's look at length first. Frank was on one-year deals in 2005 and 2006. Acta signed a two-year deal with two club options after that. Riggleman had what was essentially a one-year deals in 2010 and 2011*. Davey was on one-year deals. Matt Williams signed the same deal as Manny Acta. After picking up Williams' option for 2016 prior to 2015 and seeing that blow up in their face, Dusty was offered a two-year deal with no options.

As for the money that's harder to wrangle because the Nationals don't make that public**. If it gets public you know that comes from the manager. (Which is why we know what Dusty is making BTW. He wants you to know). Cot's contracts over at B Pro helps us out consolidating what we do know.

Frank - ?
Manny 500K in 2007
Jim - 600K per
Davey - ?
Matt  - 1 million in 2015
Dusty - 2 million per

A good guess puts the median manager salary a little under 1 million in 2005, closer to 1.5 million in 2010 and up over 2 million in 2015. Manny and Jim were certainly making near the bottom of manager pay. Matt Williams was probably about on par for a new hire with no experience. Dusty is close to average, but well underpaid for a manager his his experience and track record.

Respect? Well Frank Robinson is a HoF player and a groundbreaking manager. He was willing to manage the Nats for a few years while they figured out ownership but wanted a front-office or consulting job at the end. The Lerners, named owners mid 2006, didn't give him one. We all know about Riggleman, who basically just wanted to talk to the front office about his extension but got a "shut up and do your job" as a response. Davey Johnson, a legitimate HoF candidate as a manager, was given what seems like a take it or leave it deal for one more year then a force out despite not wanting to be done managing at the time. Dusty is twisting in the win after consecutive 90+ win division titles.  You can say you respect someone, and the Nationals are really good at that, but that's just words.

Managers are simply employees to the Lerners. Employees for a position where supply far outstrips demand. Dusty, who has perhaps mellowed in his old age or maybe has an understanding of his lack of leverage, has toned down the constant media war that you might have seen in San Francisco or Chicago to a mere quiet grumbling. He wants to be here. He'd like more money. He has made it known. The Nats have basically given him a more polite version of the Riggleman response.

What will happen when they year ends? I think it depends on how the Nats do. I think he'll be offered a contract regardless. The team likes him and it's playing well. But I think the contract offered will differ slightly. Another NLDS loss and I think it's a one-year deal at scantly more than he's getting now. A WS win might garner a two-year deal with a club option at a value scraping the bottom of the higher paid managers (3-4 million a year).  Does Dusty take it?  He was making about that much in 2008 when hired by the Reds. When he left the Giants under a contract signed in 2000 he was making 2.5 million*** Again, even at neaer 4 million it is an insulting number for a man with his level of experience and success. But I think he does take it. Dusty isn't going anywhere after this job except his winery. This is his last chance. If he wants to manage, and he likely does because he knows he needs a title to easily make the HoF, he has no choice.


*Technically Jim had signed a 2 year deal at 600K per. However he could be bought out for 100K after the first year, meaning effectively the Nats had him on a one-year deal for 700K if they wanted it. 

** That't not limited to the Nats. A lot of teams don't disclose manager pay. 

*** Again - you always know what Dusty is being paid.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday Quickie - Another look around

The Nats didn't need to win last night. After losing the first two, any thoughts of taking HFA throughout the playoffs, or through the NL side at least were pretty much dashed and the Nats were all but officially set in the #2 spot. However, the Nats still wanted to show they could beat the Dodgers, something they failed to do in the first two games with reasonable line-ups. The difference Sunday was they didn't trot out Edwin Jackson or AJ Cole. They brought Strasburg to the mound. If they failed to beat LA this time, that would resonate.

But they did! AND Bryce took BP before the game!

Now some bad news as Bryce is aiming not toward coming back in the regular season but for the first game of the NLDS. That's an extra 5 days of recovery for him and it seems like he is conceding he will probably need that.  The Nats are still good without Bryce, but it can't be denied that the offense is less potent without a healthy Bryce. Let's hope for nothing but good news and Bryce taking the field for that final regular season series.

Taking a look around the league, what could have been a weekend that set up a furious finish instead solidified what we already knew. Along with LA putting distance between them and the Nats, the Cubs swept the Cardinals effectively closing them out. Milwaukee failed to make up ground on Colorado. The Yankees failed to make-up ground on Boston. Only the Angels made up a game on the Twins while the Royals, Rangers, Orioles, and Rays all spun their wheels and the Mariners lost a game.

Where we stand now in terms of interesting games -

The Brewers still haven't been knocked out of the NL Central though at 4 games out it's close to dire.  The saving grace is a four game set with the Cubs starting Thursday.  If they can do what the Cardinals could not, and not immediately make the series moot, then it could be a fun finish with the Cardinals given chance to spoil the Cubs season at the end (or spoil the Brewers' one) 

The Brewers are also 2.5 out from the Rockies whose difficult schedule has gotten significantly easier with SFG, SD, and MIA lined up before the Dodgers to end the year. While no one was looking at them, they swept the Dodgers and took the first two in Arizona in a four game series to set themselves up nicely for the finish. Milwaukee on the other had has the aforementioned Cubs series and a Cardinals one. You have to like the Rockies chances but it's close enough to warrant a glance.  If the Rockies pull away that isn't all bad because it makes the NL Central "Win or Out".

In the AL the Red Sox still haven't put away the Yankees, despite being crowned at least 3 times in the past month. However, they keep playing good ball and keep the Yankees at bay. With no H2H games left the Yankees chances at a division title are beginning to boil down to needing an epic run or an epic crash. Still despite being closer and featuring better teams, it's a less compelling race than the NL Central one with the lack of H2H games and the fact the loser is almost guaranteed a WC spot.

The 2nd WC spot in the AL is down to two teams as everyone else in the AL that was in contention can barely bring themselves to play .500 ball. Which is fair, because they are a bunch of barely .500 teams. The Angels are 2 games behind the Twins (who are 4 behind NYY, FYI). The Angels have a killer week lined up with Houston and Cleveland. Their saving grace might be that the Twins have a couple tough series left themselves with the Yankees next and Cleveland in a week. Even though we'd all love some important games here, the likely scenario is the Angels lose a game or two of ground this week and are just too far out to make a real play in the final one.

We'll see though. Tonight the "big game" is the WC preview Yankees Twins. Other games of interest - Brewers need a win versus the Pirates and Kershaw is pitching tonight after missing the Nats. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

100 Nats

The Nats have had very good teams, great teams really. The 2016 Nats won 95 games. In 2014 it was 96. And in 2012 the Nats won 98 games. But the Nats have never won 100. The franchise hasn't won 100 (The Expos peaked at 95 in 1979, though they were on a 105 win pace in 1the strike year 1994) . The city hasn't won 100 games (The 1933 Senators won 99 games, granted in a 154 schedule time period)  Can the Nats do it?

They were probably in their best position to do it a week ago after taking the 2nd game from the Phillies. At that point, with 21 games to go then had to merely go 13-8. That's a 100 game pace but hey, you want to get to 100 right? But since then they've gone 2-3 and now they stand at 89 wins with 16 games to go. That means the Nats need to finish 11-5. That's ... tough.

The good news is they will be the favored team in each series. Win each one and you go 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 2-1, 3-1 or 11-5. Just enough to do it. Have the Nats gone 11-5 this year? Yep. Several times. They had a better run than that in April (peaking at 13-3), and continued that play into early May. They again did it May into June, again in July, again in August and August into September. It's completely doable with the talent on this team.

The bad news is the talent on this team may not all be playing. Even if you ignore Bryce being out as a difference maker the Nats will be resting guys and letting call-ups get at bats for the next two weeks. An optimal line-up trying hard may be able to do it. A sub-optimal line-up playing to get to the end of the year healthy? Probably not. 

I'd like to see it happen but call me if the Nats go 4-2 over the next two series.

Side Note #2 :
The Nats currently have a 21 game lead in the division. If you think that's special, you're right. Leads this big happen once a decade or so. The last time someone won their division by 20+ games was the 2008 Angels who finished 21 games better than the Rangers. If the Nats get another game in the standings you'll have to go back to the 1998 Yankees who won their division by 22 games (where second place won 92!). The records, which the Nats will be hard pressed to beat are 30 games by the 1995 Indians* (in 144 games!) and the NL Record of 27.5 games by the 1902 Pirates. However I think that's it. I think if the Nats finish more than 22 games ahead of the Marlins (or Braves) they'll have the 3rd greatest division lead of all-time.


*Braves also won their division by 21 in 144 games. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bad Dusty! Bad Max! Bad Nats!

We noted a few weeks ago the Nats should be living by one simple rule "Better to be safe, then sorry" With last off-season diminshed with late-season injuries to Strasburg and Ramos, it should be apparent to everyone that goal #1 is getting to the post-season as healthy as possible. You can't fully avoid injuries of course. Players gotta play. But you rest a little more often, throw out some other arms and bats now open to you with expanded rosters, and you limit the stressful pitches your pitchers throw.

That is unless they ask for stressful pitches apparently.

According to the reports, Max went into last night looking to throw 110-120 pitches. The reasoning was two-fold. (1) Max assumes he will pitch deep into playoff games, pushing his limit. By throwing more times at that limit during the regular season he thinks it will help him be more effective in the playoffs. Kind of like marathon training I guess (2) It is not unusual to find Max going over 110 pitches in a season. However, because of some recent injury issues he's only done it once since the All-Star break. Plus specifically he's only gone 100-74-104 in his last three starts. He is building less stamina, not more.

OK well first - does Max actually have an issue pitching deep in playoff games? Apparently he does. However that doesn't factor in context. Such as how do most starters fare in that situation? Is that a product of one or two bad starts or is it more? Shouldn't it really be pitches?

The first one is hard for me to answer. Splits by inning for starters in the post-season isn't readily available. Instead I took the 8 guys who have gone over 100 pitches the most in the post season since 2010. Then I realized I'd still have to look at like 50+ individual games. So scratch that for now. Needless to say I hope you understand that ALL pitchers get less effective as the game goes on. That's not a Scherzer problem, it's a human body problem.You look at league numbers, the OPS for batters goes up the more times they face you in a game or the more pitches they throw.

But Max's numbers weren't just a little bad after 6 - they were very bad, probably worse than the usual split. Was this one or two bad games? Where these all breakdowns at high pitch counts though? The author mentions the Joc Pederson home run (solo shot - only run given up in game by Max). I looked up all the other 5IP+ outings where he gave up runs to see if one or two starts were skewing things. Looking at these 11 games the answer is not particularly no. He gave up late (6th or later) runs in a bunch of different games and never had like a 5 run 0.2IP inning thing going on.

Of course we have to stop here and understand something about aces in the post-season. They are generally going to go as long as they are effective. That means you pitch them until they start giving up runs. There numbers are going to look worse late in the game unless they can make it the whole way without being touched.

Ok but back to the question at hand. So Max may have worse splits for realsies but we're talking innings here. How many of these games did the issue come around 100 pitches, the hurdle Max is training to clear?  Well Max has only gone over 100p 4 times in his postseason career. In his very first game he did it and gave up no runs. What were the other 3?

2013 ALDS g1: Max goes 7 giving up 2 runs on a homer in the 7th on pitch 105
2013 ALCS g2 : Max goes 7 giving up 1 run on a double in the 6th on pitch 90
2013 ALCS g6 : Max goes 6 1/3 giving up 3 runs, 2 score on a HR given up by Jose Veras after Max goes 2B, K, BB and leaves game after pitch 110.

 But wait - I thought I said there were 11 games where he went into the 6th and in most they scored? What I'm saying here is that on maybe two of them he was stretched out and given up runs at the end of his physical limit. So that means...

Yep, Max's issues aren't with not being able to go 110-120 pitches in the post-season. Max's issues often come well before that - when his pitch count reaches the 80s or so.

Does that mean ptiching through tiredness in pitches 110-120 won't help him in some way? Maybe make the arm stronger in some way so the earlier pitchers are easier? Perhaps. But it seems to me that the focus is off here. Max doesn't need to focus on going deep into post-season games, going over 110 pitches. If anything, he needs to first focus on pitching well through 100 pitches in his post-season game.

And I say "if anything" because really Max did just fine last year. His first outing wasn't ace like but it kept the Nats in the game, and his second outing was ace like. No not as deep as you want but part of that is aggressive pen usage as much as anything.


This is a very long-winded way of saying - I don't think the Nats should have let Max pitch as deep as he did last night.  If he wanted to get back to 110+ pitches, last night was a good night to take him close to 110 then. A handful more than last game, the most he's pitched in a while, but not a ton more.Next outing he can go around 115 and then 120 if you like. Sure, these guys know their bodies better than we do, but they are not as objective. Max has a goal and wants to reach it. Dusty wants to put his faith in his veteran. These aren't terrible things, but there needs to be someone else out there. Someone objective that can say "I know what the plan is, but looking at it in the moment, now's not the time to do that".  If they can't find that person, they are going to keep pushing their luck and risk another post-season where the story is in part about the guys that are not there.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trade Gio?

Last night Gio hit the 180 innings needed to vest for next year, meaning the Nats will have Gio at a nice affordable salary for the 2018 season before FA hits him. I was never really worried about it. If Gio was pitching well enough and was healthy enough for you want it to vest, he would hit 180 innings. If he wasn't, he wouldn't either by chance or by choice.  Only a month long injury in the midst of a fabulous season could spoil things.*

So the Nats have Gio lined up for next year at an affordable price. The question raised now (here's my Twitter inspiration) is whether it is best to trade Gio in the off-season. Yes, it's not a question for today but for November, but it's not a crazy thought. As is raised in the tweet, Gio's probably not going to be this good next year (there's some luck here as we've discussed). He's got a very favorable contract for a short-term deal. He's a LH starter which is always valued. The Nats are unlikely to sign him past next season given his age and other pressing contract concerns. The Nats could get something pretty decent back for him.

But the problems with dealing him are evident. Gio is a healthy guy who has only once in 6 years missed more than a couple of games. While he hasn't always been good, he's really never been bad, and that combination of innings and a floor of decency is very valuable. Yes, it's something you can get back talent for, but it's also something hard to replace.

The Nats will have a bang up 1-2 in Max and Stras but Strasburg's next season of 30+ starts will be his first since 2014. Roark will likely make a decent enough 3-4, if not more, but that still leaves a couple of rotation spots to fill. In house, none of AJ Cole, Jacob Turner, or Erick Fedde should fill you with confidence on being able to pitch a whole decent season in 2018.  Joe Ross, good for a moment when healthy, has had shoulder issues and is coming back from TJ surgery mid next year.

Through FA, assuming the Nats don't want a big contract, they can gamble on the likes of Edwin Jackson, guys who they can pick up for a million or two at the end of the FA cycle, but there's a reason those guys are available. Anything significantly better would likely cost around the same as Gio. They might be able to split the middle and get a Marco Estrada type or a little worse for under 10 million but is it worth saving a few million a year?

Of course the other side of the coin is available to them, going big after a Darvish (who hasn't looked good recently), or Arrieta (who has gotten back on track). But it's hard to see them putting all that money into the rotation when Stras and Max are going to start to count 60+ mill against the cap for a few years. Shohei Otani, a 22 year old from Japan who's a two-way star, is going to be paid this year but the Nats are not in position to be big players in the international signings this year. They spent big last year which limits how much they can spend this year by MLB rules, and knowing that they've already started dealing some of the pool money in trades.

I suppose trades are an option but I'm not seeing anyone in the 2018-19 class that's some combination of young, cheap, and likely to be available. Instead you'd have to go out a year further for a Jake Odorizzi or Gerrit Cole and now you are talking heftier price tags. Not that it can't be done but it'll cost the Nats something.  Honestly if they were to trade Gio I'd think this would be the route they take to fix it.

In the end, I don't see a trade for Gio happening. He is just too hard to replace for that cost, even if you assume regression to a 2015/2016 level. I will give it an off chance however, if only because I think the Nats could weather his loss and still win the NL East, but that's about as real as I think this gets. Now, if they deal for a Gerrit Cole first? Then the situation changes, but it'll have to be a deal first situation, much like it was this season where Gio was going to be gone if Chris Sale was added to the team.  


*Or an injury now! Don't get injured Gio!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Max for Cy? Gio for Cy? Stras for Cy?

The Nats have three of the best pitchers in baseball on their staff. Max spent the early part of the season in an argument with Kershaw for the number one spot. Gio spent a solid portion of early August going through the "Hey, look at this guy!" rounds.  Strasburg is the hottest arm in the game right now. Which one of these guys is the best? Is it even close? Is it still Kershaw first?* Let's look at the numbers and see

By the way I'm a firm believer in giving our awards by the "How did his season go?" criteria not "How did he pitch this season?"  This means I do care about things like wins and ERA, which are admittedly blah indicators of how a pitcher pitched in a season. Why? Because if you are going to just pick the pitcher who pitched best than it's nothing more than figuring out the best equation to use. There is no point in having a vote, which is subjective by nature. I'd rather have a vote, and for that trying to figure out who had the best season fits best.

Record
Gio  14-6
Max 14-5
Stras 13-4
Kersh 16-3

Good numbers all around but the edge goes to Kershaw. Max and Stras slightly better than Gio here.

ERA
Gio  2.50
Max 2.32
Stras 2.64
Kersh 2.15

Again you can't fault anyone's numbers here but Kershaw is a step better. Max is better than Stras and Gio so he takes the Nats lead.

Strikeouts
Gio 163
Max 239
Stras 182
Kersh 182

A win for Max and not a little one. Clearly ahead of this bunch.

Innings Pitched
Gio  179
Max 178
Stras 156
Kersh 151

Well there's your problem Stras and Kershaw. You don't pitch enough. They'd still be behind Max if they did pitch more  - he has the best rate. But the comparison would look better (Stras as 208, Kershaw at 214) but you know what? They didn't do that.

WHIP
Gio   1.141
Max 0.875
Stras 1.028
Kersh 0.901

It's getting pretty clear that Max is the choice for the Nats. He's more dominant and has pitched more innings. His record isn't crazy deflated by luck either. Kershaw is right with him here.

xFIP & SIERA
Gio   4.28  4.45
Max  3.20  2.90
Stras  3.25  3.36
Kersh  2.74  2.93

The fancy stats don't love Gio. It's a lot of things. Unusual BABIP. Very high LOB%. Relative to these guys - high walk rate. And as we talked before - Gio was getting pretty lucky early in the year and in the fancy stats, you can't shake that.  Kershaw is slightly favored over Max, with Stras a step behind.

WAR(s) f then b
Gio  3.0  6.9
Max  5.2  6.9
Stras  4.8  5.6 
Kersh  4.4  4.4


The basic truth coming out of this nonsense here is that the more you pitch the more value you can have. Max has pitched more and thus, gets higher values accros the board.  Gio comes out strong in the bWAR. A quick and dirty difference definition - fWAR starts with FIP which is like your ERA if once the ball is put in play it's just your D and luck that matter. bWAR starts with RA and assumes on some level the pitcher is doing things to help himself out. bWAR is more "what happened", fWAR more "what should have happened"

What is the end result? Kershaw is still the best pitcher in the majors. Sorry Max fans. But he's fragile enough that Max has more value during the season. Gio and Stras have put themselves into the conversation, but both Max and Kershaw would have to crash out their last 3 starts to give them any real shot at the award. My feeling is that it's Max's award to lose. There's a two game gap in wins and that isn't enough in itself, so if he holds that gap he'll bring home the prize. However, if Kershaw can widen that gap, especially without taking any more losses, then he'll have a good shot to win given that his overall superiority will shine through. In other words if the season ends like this

Max 16-5
Kershaw 18-3

I think Max takes it.  If it ends like this 

Max 15-6
Kershaw 19-3

I think Kershaw will win.


What to watch tonight - lots of games with impact but few ones where both teams are in it. NYY vs TB is interesting as the Yankees can pretty much eliminate the Rays from contention with a win or two more while the Rays can keep the Yankees from making the AL East interesting in the last two weeks. Probably the best single game though is the Rangers / Mariners as both are fighting for their WC lives. It's all dependent on how the leaders do (MIN in the 2nd spot and LAA a game behind) but this is a potential back breaker series for Seattle if they get swept and they already lost G1. A sweep would put them 3.5 behind the Rangers and likely 4.5 out or more from the 2nd WC with a mere 16 games to go.


*Are there other pitchers in the mix? I don't know. Frankly, I don't want to know.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Monday Quickie - Champs

You'll hear a ton of talk today celebrating the Nats NL East Championship and their run of 4 division titles in 6 years. You'll hear a lot of talk of the rise of the Nats from one of the worst teams in baseball to one of the best. If you enjoy these things then by all means be ecstatic. It is very impressive. It's almost getting to the point where it's hard to remember the Nats playing bad baseball. Almost. 2008-2009 were "special bad" and hard to forget. Maybe in another 5 years.

These are the first back to back division titles, not only for the Nationals, but for the franchise. In fact they are the first back to back division titles (and therefore playoffs) for a DC baseball team since the Senators won back to back titles in 1924 and 1925*. The Nats managed the end of the the "window" (see how that came together here, here, and here) well and came out the other side still in contention, at least for a couple more seasons, with a decent chance for relevancy beyond that. In part, that had to do with the cards they were dealt (NL East, Murphy becoming MURPHY at the plate), but they still had to play those cards properly.

There's no finer example of playing those cards properly than what they did for this season. 
  • Re-signing Strasburg. 
  • Trading for Adam Eaton. 
  • Bringing back quality veteran Stephen Drew. 
  • Bringing in righty-killer Adam Lind.
  • Signing Joe Blanton to round out the pen
  • Signing the best available catcher in Matt Weiters.
  • Trading for quality veteran Howie "Not Scott Hairston" Kendrick. 
  • Trading for Doolittle, Madson, and Kintzler when it was needed. 
Not all of these moves panned out, but that is going to happen with any set of moves. The trick is to make enough of them that when the ones that don't pan out, don't pan out, you are still ok.  It's a lesson they had to learn the hard way with the pen, but it was learned as the Nats didn't just bring in one arm, or even two arms, but three, building in the cushion needed if/when something would happen.**

This is all great. Send up the balloon. Bang Zoom go the fireworks as they say. 

But I'm sorry, that's not where my line is drawn anymore. The Nats have to win something in the playoffs. A World Series would be optimal of course. A League Championship would be nice. But even a division series I'd take.

If you want to say winning in the playoffs is an unfair bar to ask the team to jump over that's fine. It sort of is in any singular year. You are playing another very good team in a short number of games. If we just take your regular season winning percentage as a guide and assume no advantages the chance the better team wins would be like 52%. It'd be a coin flip. A crapshoot. Even going into it deeper and somehow coming out with a huge advantage wouldn't amount to much more than a 60% chance of winning a series.

But following professional sports isn't about being fair. It's not about trying hard, having fun, and being proud of your work. That's for amateurs. No professional sports, when it comes down to it, is about winning when it counts. While you can't expect it to be done every time, you can expect it should be done some time. The Nats have failed to do that again and again.

If it were up to me it wouldn't necessarily be this way. We'd give a lot of credence to the regular season - sometimes just stopping after that if there's a clear best team. (this year doing a Cle-Hou winner vs LA-Wsn winner would make the most sense in finding the actual best team) but that's not how the rules are set. You guys set them. I'm living by them.

So celebrate another job well done, but for me it's just Part 1. It's time for Part 2, winning in the post-season, to finally get done. This team specifically, the 2017 Nationals, won't be failures if they don't, but this franchise in general, the Washington Nationals from 2012-2017, will be.


*If you are into comparisons - the 16 Nats broke that by losing in the playoffs. The 1924 Senators won their only playoff series - the 1924 World Series. The 1925 team would lose to the Pirates. 

**Now please don't let them get bit by their inability to trade for a better back-up catcher which is basically the one flaw currently. You can claim "No real closer" but I don't buy into that - also Kintzler, Doolittle and Madson all have closing experience. You can claim "Could have gotten a better 5th starter" but they got a bit lucky or understood their players and Roark is making that a moot point. There's still a chance that bites you but getting a good starter is expensive and it's a hard sell when you have a 1-2-3 all in the Cy Young conversation and he may not really see post-season work.