The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Washington Nationals!
Welcome to the last installment of The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a series where three of the Dynasty Guru’s nerdier baseball writers – Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus, and Keaton O. DeRocher- brought to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization.
This was quite the exercise for my good, good writer boys. Providing the in-depth analysis of these 90 guys was very a) enlightening and b) grueling. But they did it, and I’m so proud!- Ian, Editor.
Anthony Rendon, Age: 28, 3B
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
We at The Dynasty Guru had many back and forths during our rankings season about players at every position. Some of these conversations have carried over into our Slack channel. Rendon’s name has been mentioned only once, and it was by an unnamed contributor during the rankings debate who thought he should be moved about 5 slots lower. The comment was more about moving Gallo up and less about moving Rendon down, so even in the responses, Rendon’s name wasn’t mentioned. Looking back, I’m now wondering if even at #4 in our consensus third base rankings, did we have Rendon too low?
Third base has been a curious position, but Anthony Rendon has been spectacular and consistent there. Drafted sixth overall in 2011 (out of Rice), Rendon was regarded as a polished bat that was expected to move quickly through the minors. That’s precisely what he did, making it to Double-A in his first pro season (2012) and to the majors by 2013. Rendon was spectacular in his first full season in 2014, slashing .287/.351/.473 and launching 21 homers as a 25-year-old.
Year over year (with the exception of an injury-shortened 2015) Rendon has launched 20+ homers and 80+ RBI while keeping his BB% in the double digits and his K% in the mid-teens. Last season was he was able to piece together a career-best .301 batting average, a step above his usual .270-.290 range. Over the last three seasons, Rendon has stepped up his game by focusing on hitting more fly balls, launching his FB% into the mid-40s and as a result bringing up HR/FB rates to double digits and his ISO to over .200. If that weren’t enough, Statcast loves Rendon too. Rendon’s exit velocity has consistently been above average, and he’s put up a career-best 91.4 MPH this season. His launch angle has been at an elite level of 18 degrees the past two seasons and his barrel % is an elite 12.1 this season as well.
Rendon’s consistency is what I think might lead to him being a little overlooked at third. On episode 43 of Dynasty’s Child, we had Baseball Prospectus’ own (and former TDG writer) Craig Goldstein on, and he talked about an article he wrote in March about the grading system they use. Cited in the article is a discussion about two players who graded out the same, but had different profiles that made up those grades and why one was ranked over the other in their top 10 lists. In this example they sided with the riskier player over the player with the higher floor. This tends to be the case with most fantasy situations and why I think the players ranked ahead of Rendon ended up ahead of him. We know what we’re getting with Rendon’s consistency, and we would rather take a chance on a less of a sure thing but a potentially greater return than the consistently above average results of Rendon.
Top 4 at any position is nothing to sneeze at, but Rendon has gone as under the radar as one can when ranked where he is. There’s a minimal chance the Rendon owner of your league is going to sell Rendon for something less than market value, but as Craig noted we tend to side with risk over consistency. So if consistency is what you’re looking for in your line up, he’s certainly worth parting with some risk to acquire, or at the very least paying the market value for him.
Keaton’s Artist Selection:
Max Scherzer, Age: 34, RHP
Analysis by: Patrick Magnus
I tend to avoid writing about good players. What’s so interesting about a known commodity? He’s thirty-four years old, he strikes out one billion batters a season, he has heterochromia iridium (hence the two different colored eyes), he’s thrown nine hundred million pitches, has nine career complete games, and he’s really, really good.
The good news is that I write for The Dynasty Guru and that means that the current value of “Mr. Good Pitcher” and the inevitable demise of that value are of grave importance.
Death, Taxes, and Max Scherzer as a Dominant Pitcher
I’ll admit to loving the sight of a career like this. In dynasty, we are always trying to acquire players who will provide elite stats for five to ten years, and sometimes even longer. I’d encourage you to sort through the table below, because the seasons that Scherzer has posted throughout his career are incredible.
|Year | Team||IP||K/9||BB/9||GB%||HR/FB%||DRA|
|2008 | AZ||56.0||10.61||3.38||41.3%||5.3%||2.95|
|2009 | AZ||170.1||9.19||3.33||41.8%||10.4%||3.90|
|2010 | DET||195.2||8.46||3.22||40.3%||9.6%||3.40|
|2011 | DET||195.0||8.03||2.58||40.3%||12.6%||3.89|
|2012 | DET||187.2||11.08||2.88||36.5%||11.6%||2.70|
|2013 | DET||214.1||10.08||2.35||36.3%||7.6%||2.35|
|2014 | DET||220.1||10.29||2.57||36.7%||7.5%||2.95|
|2015 | WAS||228.2||10.86||1.34||35.8%||10.5%||2.12|
|2016 | WAS||228.1||11.19||2.21||33.0%||11.9%||2.27|
|2017 | WAS||200.2||12.02||2.47||36.5%||10.8%||2.32|
|2018 | WAS||168.2||12.11||2.13||36.3%||9.8%||2.24|
Pitchers are notorious heartbreakers, suffering injuries at a significantly higher frequency than position players. Still, the Mad Max has stayed remarkably healthy.
|Date | Team||Injury||DL Stint|
|2009 | AZ||Sore Right Shoulder||15 Day DL|
|2017 | WAS||Neck Inflamation||10 Day DL|
How often do we see a pitcher that is not only an elite strikeout pitcher but also has the ability to stay on the field? Since making his major league debut in 2008, Scherzer has only been on the DL twice. That is absolutely amazing considering the fact that he has thrown 2,065.2 innings and is on the verge of completing his sixth season in a row with 200+ innings pitched.
Scherzer’s Never Ending Stuff
What may be even more remarkable than Scherzer’s durability is the consistency of his stuff. The approaching sixth consecutive season of 200 innings pitched is accompanied by his sixth season of being among the top five in the league in strikeouts. Just… I mean…How?
Amazingly, or maybe unsurprisingly at this point, Scherzer has actually regained some of his velocity this season at age thirty-four.
While we see that his secondary pitches have declined sharply, the Mad Dog’s fastball hasn’t dipped below 94 MPH since 2012. That just so happens to coincide with his run of complete dominance. Having a stable fastball is important because most pitchers work off their fastball, and as we can see from the following pitch% chart, Scherzer is no exception.
He’s really responded to the effectiveness of his pitches. While none of his pitches this year have produced fewer than 20% whiffs, the majority of swings and misses come off his fastball, slider, and changeup. That just so happens to be what he’s thrown the majority of the time. The cutter seems to be the most bi-polar of his pitches generating nearly 30% whiffs, but owning the highest xSLGing and the second highest launch angle of his pitches.
The Red, White, and Boo-Hoos of Reality
Aging curves exist for a reason. A large amount of data on players has been collected and analyzed, and then a conclusion as to how the vast majority of them aged has been reached. Now, with a new baby girl in my life it would take me much longer than I have to do the proper amount of research on my own. Lucky for me, aging curves are something that have been studied quite a bit and it’s easy to find the hard work already done.
In 2008, Ray C. Fair of Yale University concluded that the peak age was 28 for a batter and 26 for a pitcher. Fangraphs has done some research and concluded that batters may peak at age 24, but we’re not here to talk about batters today. Today we’re talking about pitchers and here’s what Ray C. Fair had to say about their aging:
“The results show that aging effects are larger for pitchers than for batters and larger for baseball than for track and field, running, and swimming events and for chess.”
Certainly, that makes Scherzer’s performance even more impressive considering that it’s lining up to be his best season yet. Yet Ray C. Fair was not the only one to come to this conclusion. Scott Lindholm of Beyond the Boxscore wrote a fantastic piece on pitching aging curves as well. He also comes to the conclusion that a pitcher’s peak is 26. You can see a chart of the results from his article below.
This is the End
So wait, Scherzer is having his best season at age 34? Yet, most pitchers have their peak seasons somewhere in their mid-twenties. In an age when we are equipping players with more information to maximize performance, it’s possible that players may be able to beat their aging curve more often. That, however, is not for me to find out. I’ve got a three-month-old daughter; one of you people figure it out.
My conclusion is that we should not be counting on this kind of performance from a thirty-four-year-old pitcher. While Scherzer has defied the odds, Vegas doesn’t earn its money by betting against the odds and neither will you. I can’t say that I own Scherzer anywhere so I’m not exactly sure what kind of return you can get for him if you own him, but I’d sell him. While thus far the right-hander has defied biology, he can’t cheat science, and his reign as the most reliable pitcher in baseball will come to an end.
Patrick’s Artist’s Selection
Seth Romero, 22: SP
Analysis by: Adam Lawler
This Triple Play segment has been a test of my abilities and commitment to be a baseball writer. At times a comedy of errors, like when I used the GIF of a left-handed pitcher when speaking about a specific right-handed pitcher. When calling my shot, I’ve had my share of hits and misses. Patience, dedication, and commitment led me to a point where I have arrived at a better place than where I started. The journey ahead seems longer than when I started, but at least I’m more equipped to manage the terrain. In the end, I made some friends along the way. I couldn’t have asked for a better trio of compatriots to get through this battle.
Now, speaking of instituting a tremendous amount of patience, forgiveness, and hope, let’s talk about Seth Romero.
Romero, Oh Romero!
Well, the simple answer is that he’s currently in the Sally league (A-ball). The sturdy southpaw, drafted 25th overall out of the University of Houston, has intrigued me since the Nationals took him in 2017. For all the crap that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo gets, the guy has a remarkable track record of first-round selections.
He’s got the “stuff”… to make it as an SP3 in most leagues. He definitely has the “fire”… to bolster your rotation. A fastball, slider, changeup combo – the latter two of which he needs to click to be considered a legitimate prospect – play up. This is underscored by being in the top 30 of Southern League pitchers, with a minimum of 20 IP, in both K/9 (12.08) and SwStrk% (15.6%). These are likely to hold up as he progresses through the minors. His motion is easy and repeatable. He works both sides of the plate, which is a plus. But the underlying metrics give way to a little more concern: a middling BB/9 (2.84) paired with a ‘meh’ FIP/xFIP (3.73/3.39) call attention to our better angels as they whisper caution into our ear.
Where For Art Thou, Romero?
Or maybe, they’re whispering caution for other reasons? A missed curfew, lack of motivation when you know you’re going to be drafted, and smoking weed are all fine/forgivable in and of themselves. Especially, after a relatively quiet first professional season wherein he got in no trouble at all. Well, then we have some nonsense coming out of spring training this year. Which, again, in and of itself wouldn’t be an issue. However, there’s a pattern. A lack of accountability. He’s a professional at this point and there should – at a minimum – be a moment of self-reflection and pause before anyone else invests in him.
Character flaws are a slippery slope. We’ve all done or said things we regret, especially in your teens and early 20s. We will continue to do and say things we regret well into our old age. Believe me, I’m one of them. At what point, however, does the risk outweigh the benefit? Pedigree and promise over concern and question marks. The Nationals and the MLB have a history of giving a long-to-nearly non-existent leash to player misconduct. My guess is he’ll be given every opportunity to push himself out of the league.
…Change your name. Or else if you won’t change your name, just swear you’ll love me
If we’re seriously considering buying into Romero, there are good reasons to do so. Strong, durable lefty with gas and plus secondary offerings. An organization with a crazy track record of getting the most out of their arms. The ceiling provides plenty of room for multi-season 200 inning, 200 strikeout performances. The type of careers you pray names like Sixto and Puk could provide sans health and durability concerns. But… and this is a big but… if he doesn’t get his act together, it can fall apart in an instant. Sometimes you take a risk and it pays off. Sometimes it’s poison and you die. Pitching prospects are a dangerous potion.
Adam’s Artist’s Selection
If it’s not Duke Ellington, it’s wrong.
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Previously Covered Teams
|NL WEST||NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|
|AL WEST||AL CENTRAL||AL EAST|