Nationals Baseball

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Other races

The Nats race is done. It was done a while ago, whether you were with me, after me, or before me in getting to that point inside of you you must be there now right? You must understand that if the Mets or Marlins play like they have all season the Nats would merely have to go like 7-24 or 8-23 to tie them. You must understand that if the Nats muddle through September going 15-16 from here on out then the Mets or Marlins will have to go 24-7 to catch them. You get this right?

So if the Nats race isn't watchable what is?

Well we'll start with what isn't. The NL Central makes the NL East look like a horse race. The Cubs have a 14 game lead on the Cards and are almost as far ahead of the Nats for home field as the Nats are ahead in the NL East. Neither that division or the race for HFA in the NL is interesting. Also Ian Desmond and his Texas Rangers have a similar lead to what the Nats have in the AL West. Consider that done.

NL West
Probably the most compelling race. Dodgers and Giants, two decades long rivals, fighting for the division. The Giants a biennial favorite to win the World Series, and this is the year. The Dodgers, the team that spent the most to try to get over the hump and get their first championship since 1988. They have 6 games H2H still left - starting on Sept 19th, including a season ending series. The only "shame" is the loser is on pace for the Wild Card rather than a vacation.

NL Wild Card
If everyone is mediocre things can still be exciting as the Cardinals, Pirates (-1.5), Miami (-2.5), and Mets (-2.5) battle it out for maybe 87 wins and the 2nd Wild Card.  Good baseball? Maybe not, but compelling? Sure. Impt series include Mets/Marlins right now and Pirates/ Cards starting on Labor Day.  They both meet near the end of the year so it could be a hot finish as well. (but knowing these teams 3 of them will go like 5-15 over the next few weeks)

AL East
A big ol glorious mess as the Blue Jays currently hold a 2 game lead over the Sox and a 4 game lead over the Orioles. (the 7.5 game lead over the Yankees only scares Nats fans who are still wary of the Mets and Marlins).  The Blue Jays are playing the Orioles right now, and will get Boston in little over a week, before finishing the season vs Bal and Bos back to back. In between all that Boston and Baltimore play eachother 7 times in 11 days from the 12th to the 22nd. There's a lot of potential in this race.

AL Central
Cleveland is up with a solid 4.5 game lead over Detroit and 5.5 over the hard charging (18-4 in last 22) Royals. The Indians meet up with the Tigers and Royals for two series each a starting on the 16th (with a White Sox breather inbetween) so it could be a great finish. It could also be over before it even gets there.

AL Wild Card
A mess but not quite as glorious as the AL East because it's a Wild Card thing. The Orioles, Tigers (-1), Astros (-2), Royals (-2), Mariners (-3), and Yankees (-3.5) all have a shot at that last WC spot. The Royals are trying to end the Yankees hopes right now, then take on the Tigers. The Yankees face Baltimore again after the Royals. The Tigers and Baltimore match up soon after that. If it still matters there are SEAvHOU and more KCvDET and BALvNYY beyond that. It's likely something will end up mattering.

AL HFA
The Rangers have a slight lead for this but have to play SEA and HOU 12 times in the next 15 games. After that it should be smooth sailing.  Toronto is closer than Cleveland but there is no rest for an AL East team. 21 games versus the teams we've talked about. Cleveland on the other hand has a more balanced schedule (even better if you don't like the Marlins - and I don't) so they are probably going to be the challenger, if there is one.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Monday Quickie : chugging along

What happens when you virtually clinch your division by mid August?  When you see that the two teams chasing you could win a week and a half straight weeks of ball games, that you could lose the same and you'd still be right there? That the closer team chasing you lost their star player for the year and the further team can't keep anyone healthy? You ease up. that's what. You lose focus on the race and you start to think about how long the season is and how you just want to get to the post-season already and well you lose games you should win.

That's one thing that might be going on with the Nats. Or it might not! I don't know.  I can't look into the heart of every player, not since an EMP pulse fried all my nano-camera floating in their bloodstream. It's ok though. Post-season after post-season has shown it's not about how you are doing when you get in. It's about how you do when you get there, how your top 2-3 pitchers do, and your overall talent. I know you want the Nats to go into the post-season winning 2 out of every 3 games but it doesn't matter. Really we'll take the post-season results and backfill the narrative anyway.

Mediocre September - Lose in NLDS : The team has played like crap for months and Dusty couldn't get them ready!
Mediocre September - Win in NLDS : The team was just resting and Dusty was able to get them up for the playoffs!
Good September - Lose in NLDS : This team just can't perform in the playoffs. Maybe they wasted too much energy playing hard till the end for no reason.
Good September - Win in NLDS : It's call 'momentum' people!

At this point what I'm thinking about is Strasburg and Ross and Zimmerman. Who's going to be healthy by the playoffs. I'm thinking the bullpen. How is Dusty going to settle it down? What's it going to look like post roster expansion. Is he even going to try to set up a 7-8-9 type of situation or is he going to keep going heavy match-up? That's what's on my mind. Not the Ws and Ls. Not until the Marlins get within a punchers chance - say 5 games or so, right now.

You worry if you like. We all follow differently.  But it's a lot easier on the spirit this way, I'll tell you that.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Let it Schrock.

The Nats won last night as Scherzer was dominant and the Nats bats... well they did enough! Thus ends all four games of the "tough" part of the schedule from Mid-August to Mid-September. Now it's the Rockies and Phillies and Mets and Braves and Phillies and Mets and Braves and Marlins. This should be where the Nats officially start putting teams away one by one. The Braves should be any day now. Ideally the Mets will be eliminated in that second series and the Marlins in that last one, but we'll see.

Speaking of Maxs the Nats made a trade yesterday sending Max Schrock to the A's for Marc Rzepczynski. Who is "Scrabble" (the only time I'll use that nickname - though it isn't a bad one)?  He's a 30 year old southpaw reliever whose job it is to get lefties out and pretty much nothing else. Now you may say "But Harper - he isn't getting lefites out this year!" and you'd be right. Lefties have a .755 OPS against him (while righties have a .674 one).  But historically he's been death to lefties and a delicious feast for righties.

2015:  RHB OPS : .972  LHB OPS : .661
2014:  RHB OPS : .944  LHB OPS : .441
2013:  RHB OPS : .859  LHB OPS : .480

If you believe this year's just been a fluke so far he's a LOOGY, plain and simple.  And even if you worry about it not being a fluke - understand that the .755 OPS, somewhere between Chris Heisey and Jayson Werth is pretty much completely average and is mainly average driven. In 81 ABs he's given up only 5 XBH to lefties, only 1 home run. Plus he's struck out 23 lefties in 89 PAs. This pick up makes sense.

Now is Max Schrock too much to give up? Depends on who you ask. We went over this for the Melancon trade but if all you care about is potential future value nearly anything is too much to give up for a rental reliever. Relievers pitch such few innings that they are barely going to effect a team's season, especially not a team with as large a lead as the Nats. In the playoffs chance drives their impact and there's always the "couldn't have another pitcher gotten this out" hanging over them. Since outs happen far more often that hits, even in bad matchups, the answer is usually yes to that latter point. The impact a reliever can have over the alternative is just very limited.

But is all you care about potential future value? If you care about winning then it's usually fine to trade prospects for anything, even rental relievers. Most prospects amount to very little. This is especially true when considering the 10th best prospect, not for the sport or a league, but for a team. They don't make the majors or when they do their impact is limited. It may not feel like that's the case but it is. You can just look at the players the Nats have traded and hell, the ones they haven't, to see that. For every Turner there are a dozen Balesters, Coles, Milones, Norrises, Peacocks, Freitases, Meyers, Pineyros, Krols, Lombardozzis, Burnses, and Karnses. A mix of never-made-its, cups of coffee, barely role players, and maybe a good year or two. That's what you usually give up and what you usually get.

Then why do people care so much? The same reason they'd scream if you ripped up a lottery ticket. "But what if?" Schrock isn't a nothing prospect. He's 21 (although nearly an "old" 21*) and he's hit really well in advanced A-ball (.341) after hitting in low A and regular A. That's good. He doesn't have any power. He doesn't have any patience. He's not particularly known for his fielding. That's not so good. The minute he stops hitting for .300 or so, his usefulness ends. (For completeness he seems like an ok runner). He probably tops out, if he's lucky, as a useful bench piece for a couple years. A guy who can come up and put the ball in play for you. That's worth more than 40 games of a reliever yes, but it's also something you can get with a couple million dollars at any point.

In other words if Schrock develops into what most people think he will he'd be a good piece to have. But in no way should his presence make the difference between success and failure for a team. You can get what it is Max Schrock is expected to be for next to nothing as far as a baseball payroll goes. That's what the trade is. Something you could get for a couple million today (an effective LOOGY reliever) for something you can get for a couple million later (an ok bench player).  

Does the variability in Schrock, the potential, matter? Yes, but only in bulk. If your team consistently makes these trades, empties out prospects 3-13 for a few years in a row, you'll likely find yourself with a dearth of bench prospects and probably will have "unlucked out" into trading someone who might have a 5-10 year decent career. Instead of a couple million, you may have cost the current team something more like 20 million. That can matter to a team** But the Nats don't do that. A trade or two every year should be fine. 

It's nearly playoff time and the Nats need to optimize for that. They aren't going to spend a ton of money so they will tweak here and there. LOOGY is something that looked like it could be improved. Rizzo did it. What's left? I guess they could find a bench player you like better than Difo. But I'm not sure there is one. He's good enough defensively and a fast enough runner to fill those roles. You'd really have to bring in someone who is a special at either of those to matter. I suppose a truly great contact hitter might be worth grabbing. Really we're at the margins here.


*If you have forgotten or never knew I like to make distinctions between "young" and "old" ages. Since the age for a player in the great baseball-reference website is set of July 1st that year it gives you the impression that someone who turned 25 on June 29th was the same age as someone who turned 26 on July 2nd, when they were more accurately closer to a year apart. That's not a bug. The line has to be set somewhere. But in order to lessen that false impression I call players who have a birthday in the first half of the season (OD-July1st) "young" and those in the second half (July 1st -October whatever) "old"  It's less important as you age, but it matters for minors IMO. 

**Though as always - it shouldn't matter. Rich men's toys whose valuations grow rapidly should not have payroll issues. There is no money bucket. However, I understand it will matter. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Opposite Directions

I tweeted something yesterday that encapsulates exactly why I would call the Nats season with so many games (at the time) left to play. Here is an expanded version.

After the games of August 5th, the Nats had won their 4th game in a row and had opened up a large lead over their closest rivals for the NL East title. They were 7 games ahead of the Marlins and had a 9 game lead on the Mets. In the 17 games since then the Nats have gone a middling 8-9. But they are in no worse position after the games of August 24th then they were then. The Marlins are still 7 games back and the Mets have even lost ground, now down by 10.

You can take negatives from this. This isn't how a winning team plays*  The NL East sucks**  I prefer to take a positive. The Nats will make the playoffs.

Now let's talk about a couple of guys going in opposite directions.  Do you want the bad news or the good news first? How about the Danny Espinosa, I mean "bad news", first. Sorry, slip of the tongue.

Danny is hitting .220 / .318 / .400. As it stands now he is holding on to the "good enough" level that we've talked about with Danny at the beginning of his career. If he can walk ok and hit homers ok then the low average doesn't matter as much. But he's only holding onto it by the skin of his teeth.  .235 is ok. .215 is not.  You could say the trend is not good, that he's flailing recently but that's not really the truth.  Here's the truth.

Danny's first 57 games : .196 / .289 / .348
Danny's next 26 games : .357 / .455 / .762
Danny's last 39 games : .168 / .269 / .248

Danny had one great month and almost 100 games of offense so bad you'd have to sit him. Being streaky is fine, but that word suggests you go on and off streaks all year. You run hot and cold. Danny... he isn't doing this. This is more fluky that streaky. It's more 2014, where he started with a good month and that was it, than 2015, where he played well for most of the first half and had a decent 3 week stretch right around now.

Even if you are inclined to like Danny and think he's more of the pre-injury guy (hovering in the 90-100 OPS+ range) than the post-injury guy (somewhere from worse than that to "if I played baseball"), there isn't much to hang your hat on. There's no unfortunate BABIP (it's .286)  His K rate, the bane of his offensive existence, which had dropped to a reasonable mid 20s% is back up well over 30%. The crazy HR/FB rate that helped power June went away, as expected. He's hitting a lot of balls softly. He tanked the end of the last two years. While you can excuse that last one (circumstances differed) you can't deny it and hope for a late season explosion.

This is basically Danny. If he hits a little better you can take it. If the team as a whole is pretty good offensively, you can accept his flaws in the 8 hole. But at some point he won't hit enough, or the team will struggle too much, and it just won't be worth it to keep the slick fielding around. This is why Trea Turner was brought here and Daniel Murphy signed. Danny is short term. Let's hope that doesn't mean "last year"


But now good news and one Mr. Anthony Micelli Rendon. Wait. Nope. The "M" stands for Michael. How disappointing. And Boring. But knowing the Nats it's pronounced MY-CHEY-EL

Like Danny is Danny, Rendon is Rendon. He will hit if he's healthy. The problem was it was taking a long time for him to get healthy. It was a very slow April (.242 / .310 / .286). May was ok but June seemed to be a half-step back from that. Given that we were half-way through the year at that point, it was reasonable to ask if he'd ever get it going in 2016, or if fans would have to wait until next year.

But right around that half-way point he began to heat up and he hasn't slowed down since. .312 / .386 / .584 starting with game 82. Rendon does have a little high BABIP recently but for the 2nd half it's a reasonably high .327. His K-rate, up in the 23% range, has dropped like a rock under 12% in the second half.  He's stopped hitting ground balls (down to 28% from over 40% earlier). He's probably a little lucky but the question isn't if he can be hit like he's hit post-break. That'd be great but it would be a Murphy like transition to MVP favorite type. No, the question is can he hit like the .287 / .351 / .473 line from 2014? I think it's safe to say yes. That guy had a .314 BABIP a K rate around 15%, similar hit patterns and fancy stats. I can't promise you Rendon is better than that (though he might be - he's still youngish) but I feel pretty good saying I don't think he'll be worse.

The Nats aren't a perfect offensive team by any means, but there enough good pieces here when everyone's healthy to make a very good offense. While guys like Zimm and Rendon got their feet under them other guys have picked it up. Ramos, Drew, Turner.  For a month Danny put the team on his back, but that's probably all he can do. It is time for the injury guys to step up and they have. Rendon is back to being Rendon.

*Not true.  Did you know the Royals went 8-16 in September last year? In 2014 the Giants finished the year 6-9?  In 2012 the Giants spent the end of July and first half of August going 11-13? The 2011 Cardinals spent most of the month before Labor Day going 12-14? The 2010 Giants went 12-16 for a stretch in August. The 200... I hope you get the point. Middling, even bad stretches, late in the year don't mean you can't win in the playoffs. In fact August and September cover a third of a season. It's more likely that you have a middling stretch in there than you don't.

**Now this has some teeth. The Nats lost only a half-game to the Phillies and gained ground on the Braves which means that since August 5th the NL East as a whole has played like garbage. The Marlins have the worst record of a second place team right now. The Mets are 5 out of 6 for third place teams. The Phillies - hey the Phillies are ok! I mean in terms of rating 4th place teams. And the Braves are the worst team in baseball.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Strasburn

Strasburg is on the DL with elbow soreness. This was after the Nats said repeatedly that everything was fine and he wasn't hurt. It may be true that this isn't a serious injury but given that the Nats haven't been forthcoming at all (nor need they be, mind you) there isn't any good reason to believe them.

Well, perhaps there is - Tommy John injuries are usually preceded by a loss in velocity - or at least that's what we've been told.  You know I hate "just saying things".  Nate Eovaldi just underwent surgery. Let's check out his velocity. Check. Down to 94 in his last game from the 97-98 range.  That's promising I guess. Let's grab some other recent starters that had TJ mideseason.  I see Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, and Homer Bailey. Lynn no. He did have the dreaded "forearm tightness" in early June and missed two starts but continued to pitch the rest of the year with no discernable change in speed - at least not to me. Granted Lynn is not a power guy, averaging around 93 MPH.  Alex Cobb... looks like that injury happened in ST, so no stats.  Bailey?  Yes. Down at 93.5 then 90 for a guy that was more a 95-96 type. Oh Jason Vargas, what about you? Yes. Down to 86 from 88+.

It seems like something is here but that Lynn one bothers me. He did get in in the offseason, but it's not like he was pitching much from the playoffs to Halloween to explain it. Let's look at some more. Jose Fernandez? Maybe. It was down but not as much as some of these others. Ivan Nova? Not particularly, not as convincing as Fernandez. Matt Moore? Again maybe? Let's end with Matt Harvey. If you are going to compare anyone to Strasburg, he seems the most fitting. Looking at the velocity, I would say yes. Like Fernandez it wasn't a sudden large drop but the average velocity was down at the end. If you are looking for the trend you see it.

OK so I guess I'd say yes. I don't think it's impossible that we don't see a drop in velocity but it does seem that you usually do. However the 95 MPH guy suddenly throwing 90 and grabbing his elbow isn't a given. Sometimes it's more subtle. Sometimes it's more of a drop over time as opposed to a singular event. So what about Strasburg? There is a VERY subtle drop from early in the year. Usually guys take a couple starts to warm up. This year Stras would get to 96+ by the end of April and he topped out at 97 on May 19th. Since July 8th though he hasn't topped 96 as an average and he even went under 95 for a game. The latter is not unheard of - he did it once last year, three times in 2014. But the former... a streak like that he's only done once. In 2014 he went a full 12 games without breaking 96 for an average fastball speed. That seems more like a concerted effort than an injury given he was faster before and after.

What about other Nats?  Do I see any gradual season long VERY subtle drops? Max - no. Stable. Gio - no. Actually going up. Tanner - maybe? What about other years? Does Strasburg just slow down typically over the course of a year? 2015 - No. 2014 - No. 2013 - No.

I'm going to have to stop now but what I was trying to do was eliminate the possibility that this is a big bad Tommy John surgery type injury and I'm afraid I cannot. Strasburg has not had a quick noticeable drop in velocity. That is good - it would clearly indicate an issue. But that itself doesn't eliminate the possibility. Clearly noticeable drops in velocity don't happen every time. Sometimes the drop is more gradual and limited. Rarely you don't see it at all. The latter though seems pretty rare, especially for a power pitcher. Therfore, if Strasburg had no drop in velocity I wouldn't be worried at all. But I do see a drop in velocity. Not a big one, I'd even struggle to call it a small one. But there is that very slight trend down. If I were able to dismiss that as a "all pitchers have that happen over course of season" or "Strasburg always slows down" that would help, but neither of those is true.

So do I think this is a major injury? I have no idea. But I can't say with certainty that I believe it's not one. I'm just waiting in the dark like I was as a 12 year old getting info from the nightly news and daily paper. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Quickie - See Last Monday

Are you still worried? Miami has won 3 in a row. The Mets 2 (like for the second time since June or something like that). The Nats have arguably played terribly and their pen was taxed to the max. God - it must be close now!

Nats Monday August 15th - 8.5 game lead over Marlins, 10.5 over Mets
Nats Monday August 22nd - 8.5 game lead over Marlins, 11.5 over Mets

Just saying your energy should probably be directed to making sure the Yankees sweep the Mariners to (1) hold onto their slim Wild Card chances and (2) keep Seattle from making it. Personally I'd rather have Detroit, or Kansas City or Houston before Seattle. Baltimore's kind of a toss-up for me. If it's Boston or Seattle, of course, Seattle. But pretty much everyone else above the Mariners.

Oh wait - Nats blog, right.

That was some pretty terrible baseball. Especially last night - five errors! But there were also four in the three games before and that led to a lot of runs being scored that shouldn't have. The Braves are not a sneaky good offensive team. They are a bad one. In the 8 games before the Nats series the Braves scored 3 or fewer runs 6 times. So the Nats should have won these handily, especially given the starters performances. Lopez did exactly what they all should have.* Roark was ok. Max and Gio were passable. But errors and some poorly timed failures to get outs forced the pen into progressively more work. 2 IP to 2 2/3 to 2 2/3 to 4. That's a lot of innings for a pen in four days. Worse, outside of Treinen, pretty much everyone got hit. Again, Braves have a bad offense, so it's a bit more concerning, right now just as something to note.

Now it's up to Strasburg to go deep into the game, 7+ one hopes, and give the pen some rest. But it's not just the pen that makes this a big start for Stras. He's been progressively worse the past three outings. He was SHELLED the last time. He needs a good outing. The incidentals all line up for him. The weather should be fine (sorry "sweat excusers"). He only threw 71 pitches last time, and has only gone over 100 once in his past 4 starts, so he shouldn't be gassed. If not at home, he's close enough that I assume he stayed in his own place last night. The game itself will be hard though because the Orioles have a good offense with the only real hole in the line-up being Weiters, who hasn't gotten himself going all year. Is that an excuse? The other team is good? Sorry, not for me. I think Stras has to be good tonight. If he's mediocre, oh well, I'll take it in the sense it won't make me worry more and that's something. If he's bad though - don't come here with that "don't worry" stuff.

Ok let's get this going. The 40 game race to get the Wild Card winner starts now and the Cubs have a 5 games lead. The Nats can't afford a slip up.

*Please remember this. We seem to treat all good major league performances the same. They are not. Lopez faced the Dodgers - an average offensive team - and got shelled.  He faced the Giants - with a below average post-break offense - and got hit a bit. It's only when he faced the Braves - worst offense in the NL, still below average post-break - when he had good performances. Show me something against Baltimore, Colorado, and a healthy Mets team and I'll buy into it. 

It's funny how optimistic fans can be some times. Strasburg has three bad outings against mediocre offenses. "It's not enough to judge him. Give him a couple more starts" Lopez has two good outings against mediocre offenses. "He's a stud! Keep him in the rotation! Trade Gio when Ross is back!"

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Amazing Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth's time with the Nats is amazing. It's not about this on-base streak thing. That's slightly interesting but far secondary to the fact that he's been good during that time. Maybe very good (.264 / .382 / .460 - borderline. I'd go "good") certainly not great, but good is great when you were expecting bad.

Is that right?

Yeah, I think that makes sense.

And it's not about the fuzzy leadership you get from a guy described anywhere from the ultimate gamer to a huge egotist who cares not for your laws.

No Jayson Werth's time is amazing because he's twice now brought his contract back from the brink to acceptable levels.

Understand a couple points. First, the Nats overbid themselves for Werth, and paid him way more than necessary. You may want to argue this. Don't. No one has looked into this more than me. That's usually hyperbole, but I honestly believe this. I can have long discussions about the market at the time, the public expectations from people in the know, the idea of bad teams having to pay more to get players, the level of contracts similar players got during the time period, etc. etc. Just trust me on this point and keep reading because it's becomes sort of a side note anyway.

Second, contracts for guys in their 30s are always some level of overpay. That's the way the system works. You get underpaid when you are young, partially because your performance is more variable, mostly because they can underpay you. You get overpaid when you are old, partially because your performance is less variable, mostly because you can work the scarcity angle to force them to overpay you.

In general then, a player will never be worth what he is going to be paid for a long contract that ends in his latter 30s. That's what you accept when you make a deal. Because the Nats overpaid, that near certainty stood out even more*. But it doesn't mean necessarily these are bad deals on the field. The goal of these deals is different. It is not to get value over the course of the contract (sorry fangraphs!) but to get value immediately and to turn that into wins. On a 7 year deal you probably expect something like this:

Current level, current level, lower, lower, lower, lower, whatever.

For Werth at the plate that would be an OPS+ of something like 140 140 125 115 105 95... I don't know 70. Consider those contract years 1 through 7 for continuing discussion.

When Werth started he immediately came in and at the plate gave Nats "contract year" number... six. That is a disastrous result.  Now of course he wasn't well but that doesn't make it better. He's 32, injured, and just put up a mediocre year. This could have easily lead to the Nats getting absolutely nothing out of their highest paid player for 6 years. You can hardly have a worse outcome from signing a player long term, especially one that had just put up 3+ years of high level performance.

He would come back the next year and give something akin to year 4 or 5. He hit better than that yes, but only played half a season. It was better but the prospects for ever coming close to either getting back what you paid for, or getting what you expected seemed grim. What was he going to do? Have an OPS+ around 140 at 34 and 35? Ha!

Ha?

Amazingly the answer was yes. In 2013 he hit even better than that, with only missed time costing him the chance at exceeding "contract year 1" expectations. In 2014 he more or less hit them. So the Nats got "contract year 1" and "contract year 2" only instead of in actual year 1 and 2 they came in year 3 and 4. Now things looked pretty good. If he regressed slightly each year, not a terrible assumption at least for the next couple years, he would provide them with that year 3 and a year 4 and they'd be on target for expectations. Maybe, just maybe, if he pulled out one more great year, they could have gotten more. I blogged about this at the time, but coming from where things stood the middle of 2012, that was a goddamn miracle.

But Werth didn't slightly regress. He got hurt and crashed again, basically giving the Nats "contract year 7" in year 5. At 36 it was quite possible he would be done and that would be that. The Nats managed to squeak out enough value that the contract wasn't a disaster but it would still end up a loss with three albatross years at the end dragging it down.

But again, like a beardy phoenix rising from the ashes of a flaming high-speed car wreck, Werth has come back. He's far more limited today than he was a couple years ago but he's giving the Nats a year that again will hit that 4/5 year level. That will pretty much mean that Werth will hit his expectations for the 7 years when the Nats signed him. 

This is all very broad and macro-level but at the end of the day twice in the span of Werth's contract it looked like things were going to turn out badly. First it looked as if it would be a possible "worst contract ever" contestant, later, it looked to be more a typical bad contract where the player's viability went away too quickly. In both instances he performed above expectations to make sure things turned out ok. First performing at an All-Star level at age 34 and 35, later, giving the Nats above average play at the plate at age 37.  That's not nothing. How many 34/35s or older are giving their teams All-Star play at the plate this year? Just three. Ortiz, Cruz, and Beltran. How many 37s or older and giving above average OPSs? Just a handful more with Ortiz and Beltran - Victor Martinez, Suzuki, Beltre.

You probably noticed I haven't mentioned defense and yes, Werth quickly became a bad defender which does go into this. But defensive stats are still being worked out, so I prefer to talk about them only in the broadest multi-year sense. In general you would have hoped Werth 2010 was a fluke. He had been a good fielder early in his career, bordering on very good. At the same time you probably would have expected him to age out at some point. Year 2 was probably quicker than you hoped but it was always going to happen. Only elite defenders can keep their worth that long. Also not in here is baserunning. Werth is a savvy baserunner and that has helped. He basically kept up his Phillies levels through 2014 before age caught up to him. This all matters but because hitting has the most reliable numbers I'm focusing on that.

Barring getting a complete zero from him next year, something worse than last year, Jayson Werth the player has been a good signing for the Nats. Not a good contract, but a good signing. He has nearly met expectations. Not in the typical way at all, but he's done it. That's all you can ask. And while it's doubtful he'll unleash a 125ish OPS+ year next season, I'm not going to doubt it at this point. He's twice defied being kicked into the abyss. What's one more miracle year? 

*and it's the main reason I'll always say it was a bad deal off the field. If you can get something for $100 and you pay $120, even if you get $120 worth of value for it - you made a bad deal.