Nationals Build Potential Super-Team, Add Max Scherzer

Here’s maybe the simplest way to put this: a season ago, by his peripherals, Tanner Roark was about a three-win pitcher. By his actual runs allowed, he was about a five-win pitcher. He actually finished with a higher RA9-WAR than Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister and a lot of other guys too. At present, the Nationals will have to pitch Roark out of the bullpen, because the rotation doesn’t have space.

We knew the Max Scherzer negotiations were going to go on for a while. We knew that, eventually, Scherzer would sign somewhere, for a whole lot of years and something vaguely in the neighborhood of $200 million. He wasn’t going to wait until after the start of spring training, so it stood to reason Scherzer was nearing a decision even several days ago. The only question, really, was where he’d end up. People talked about the Tigers. People talked about the Cardinals. The actual team is the Nationals. And from the looks of things, that Nationals team might be a super-team.

I say “might”, not only because baseball is hard to predict, but also because the Nationals are hard to predict. It’s difficult to figure out what the Nationals intend to do, and for a signing of this magnitude, it’s unlikely the front office had its usual amount of say. Scott Boras likes to go right to the top, and if Boras was able to convince the top of the Nationals that they needed Max Scherzer, it might be they don’t shed anything. All winter, there’s been chatter the Nationals might move Zimmermann or Ian Desmond. They still might do that, or they might alternatively move Stephen Strasburg, but we can’t assume anything. All we know is what the Nationals have at this moment, and what they have is maybe the strongest roster in baseball.

There’s no doubting what Max Scherzer has been, and even before the move, the Nationals ranked first in the NL in Steamer projected WAR. They ranked first in the NL in position-player WAR, and Scherzer moves them to the top of the pitching list. What the Nationals don’t have a ton of is depth, and they might still be looking for some help in the bullpen, but the top of the roster is so impressively strong that it could take several injuries to knock the Nationals off their perch. Relatively speaking, the Nationals might be a little thin on extended depth, but they have enviable star-player depth, which is just a different sort of depth. A more difficult sort of depth to accumulate.

Scherzer, obviously, isn’t coming for free. He isn’t coming for within a hundred seventy-five million dollars of free. Dave is going to have a companion post on the details of this contract, once we actually know more about the language and the net present value. But, let’s work with an estimate of roughly $180 million. Now, if you blend Steamer and ZiPS, next year Scherzer projects for about 4.5 wins. That also fits in line with his recent track record. Take away half a win each year, for aging. Begin with an estimate of $7.5 million per win on the market, and increase by 5% a year. You end up with a projected 21 WAR, and about $177 million in value. If you start at $7.0 million/win, instead of $7.5 million, you get about $165 million in value. The long and short of it being, the Nationals aren’t getting a bargain with this, but the deal isn’t absurd. For what he is, Scherzer’s about as sure as you get.

Let’s think about comps for a moment. Consider that estimated 21 wins over seven years. Scherzer just wrapped up his age-29 season, and between 27 – 29, he exceeded 600 innings, and he averaged 5.3 WAR per 200 frames. Now, between 1978 – 2007, ten starters exceeded 600 innings from 27 – 29, and averaged at least 4.5 WAR/200. The list:

As a group, they matched Scherzer’s 5.3 WAR/200. So, how did they do between 30 – 36? Obviously, there was much variation, but overall they averaged just over 22 wins. So, that’s right there with our simple Scherzer estimate. Rijo and Higuera struggled with injuries and didn’t do much of anything. Maddux and Clemens, meanwhile, cleared 40 wins. Five of the ten pitchers exceeded 23. You’ll never find a group of pitchers that safely avoids injury and under-performance from top to bottom, but Scherzer is starting from an incredibly high position.

It’s also worth noting, just while I think of it, that while we usually don’t worry about qualifying-offer compensation for deals with players like this, draft picks do have millions of dollars of value. But, the Nationals were slated to pick 27th. So while the 27th pick has its own meaningful value, it’s nothing at all like a pick in the top ten, and that can safely be considered virtually a non-factor.

Let’s get back to Scherzer. He’s a definite ace, and an ace without a worrisome injury history. You already know him for his strikeouts, but he really excels in one area in particular. If you’re chasing against Max Scherzer, you know you’re in trouble, but if you’re not chasing, you might still be in trouble. Over the last three years, here’s the top five in lowest contact rates allowed on pitches in the strike zone:

  1. Max Scherzer, 80.5% Z-contact%
  2. R.A. Dickey, 80.7%
  3. Matt Harvey, 83.0%
  4. Justin Verlander, 83.6%
  5. Matt Moore, 83.9%

It’s Scherzer, then a guy with a trick pitch, then a decent gap until the next regular arm. Scherzer finished second in baseball in 2012, behind Dickey. He finished first in 2013. And he finished second in 2014, behind Dickey. Scherzer doesn’t need for hitters to flail away to succeed — he’s strong enough with strikes, and he throws a lot of strikes.

And for what it’s worth, he’s done all this in the American League, and in the AL Central. In 2013, Scherzer’s average opponent had a 96 wRC+. Last year, his average opponent had a 100 wRC+. Two years ago, Jordan Zimmermann’s average opponent had an 89 wRC+. Last year, 91. Zimmermann works as a stand-in for most Nationals pitchers, here. Scherzer’s put up big numbers against higher-quality competition. Zimmermann’s been real good, and Strasburg has also been real good, but their numbers have largely come against relatively inferior competition, so that could be one more reason why the Nationals were willing to commit to Scherzer long-term. With Washington, he could reach another level. Alternatively, he could just have a more gradual decline.

As far as the immediate is concerned, the Nationals have another No. 1. It’s looked, at times, like they might try to subtract from the present to add to the future. This would be the opposite of that, an example of a team loading up to win right away. And there’s another reason why the Nationals would’ve been willing to do this — the team still has never won a playoff series since moving from Montreal. The Nationals were already in position to win the NL East rather comfortably, but this improves both their division odds and their World Series odds, as Scherzer joins a top-heavy roster one could see steamrolling through a few weeks.

Had Scherzer gone to, say, St. Louis, they would’ve ranked roughly on par with Washington and Los Angeles. The NL would’ve looked like a three-team race, at the very top. Now it more resembles a Nationals/Dodgers arms race, and though, again, the Nationals might now elect to subtract, having added an elite-level talent, they could still subtract and thrive, and little would change if they moved a piece to the other league. Zimmermann might be able to bring back a long-term piece that’s big-league ready. Strasburg would definitely do that, if they were to go that way.

The next domino would be James Shields, but James Shields is no Max Scherzer. He wouldn’t be the same for the Cardinals, and he wouldn’t be the same for the Tigers, who now know for a fact Scherzer won’t be coming back. Perhaps, they’ll try harder to negotiate with David Price. Or perhaps they’ll just try to sign one of the other free agents in a year. Scherzer provides some clarity for every team in baseball. Even the Braves and Phillies, who are now extra glad they’re not trying to do anything at the moment.

We don’t yet know what else the Nationals are going to do, if anything. Over the winter, they’ve been looking to turn some shorter-term assets into longer-term assets. They could still go that route, with Desmond or Zimmermann or Strasburg or Fister. Certainly, the current rotation has got an embarrassment of riches. But the next move isn’t clear, and there might not be a next move, if the Nationals decide to charge ahead with the current super-team they’ve constructed. The Nationals wanted more long-term assets. Max Scherzer is a new long-term asset. Max Scherzer is as good as just about any other starting pitcher in the world.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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screamin_jay
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screamin_jay
1 year 4 months ago

maybe i just need more education on how BAD that 2005-11 stretch was. NATINALS OMG. JIM BOWDEN OMG

yeah that really balances out having more 80 win seasons than the o’s had for FOURTEEN YEARS IN A ROW. but you guys had it SO BAD

Josh
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Josh
1 year 4 months ago

LOUD NOISES

I don't know what we're yelling about!
Guest
I don't know what we're yelling about!
1 year 4 months ago

Little early on Monday to be cracking the bottle, no?

Big Wig
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Big Wig
1 year 4 months ago

Desmond and Stras to the Padres to finish off the most ridiculous offseason I’ve experienced in my young life

jruby
Member
Member
jruby
1 year 4 months ago

And then the Pads flip them to the A’s…

kevin r
Guest
kevin r
1 year 4 months ago

…who then ship one back to the Nats for a low-level prospect that was involved in a previous A’s/Nats trade, and cash.

Funsucker
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Funsucker
1 year 4 months ago

It was already very likely the Nats were making the playoffs this year. How much does an incredibly talented 5-deep rotation really help (at least this year)? If you can’t make a playoff run with Strasburg, Zimmerman, Fister and Gonzalez…

DatdudeJD
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DatdudeJD
1 year 4 months ago

Exactly. You have to bump Fister or Gio from the playoff rotation, and, in a first round series, you might only need three. On a per game basis, how much does Scherzer starting increase the WP over Fister or Gio?

I would bet not that much.

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
1 year 4 months ago

You then have Fister/Gio available out of the pen in the playoffs, which is not at all a bad thing

Anon
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Anon
1 year 4 months ago

That is assuming health. If it happens, it is a very good problem to have.

JayT
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JayT
1 year 4 months ago

This is a seven year deal, so the Nationals are hoping that Scherzer not only makes them stronger this year, but it also sets them up if they lose Zimmermann and Fister.

John C.
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John C.
1 year 4 months ago

Yeah, this trade is not only a hedge against injury/ineffectiveness in the rotation this year, but it gives them long term assets in a situation where two of their starters may walk after this year and another after next year. And the other two in the rotation that are under team control after 2016 are arguably the shakiest two in the rotation.

If you look at the longer view, this signing makes perfectly good sense.

The Foils
Member
The Foils
1 year 4 months ago

“So while the 27th pick has its own meaningful value, it’s nothing at all like a pick in the top ten, and that can safely be considered virtually a non-factor.”

Not sure what valuations you’re looking at. Every study I’ve seen shows that prospects at that pick # average about a win per season during their years of team control. Using the same figures above, that’s like a $20M value, plus or minus who knows. It ain’t negligible.

Blueyays
Member
Blueyays
1 year 4 months ago

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing as I read it, except I didn’t know the numbers on it, good on you for that. Definitely an impact. And considering the recent realization that prospects and young players have much more value relative to older, expensive stars like Scherzer than we had always thought, it seems especially odd that these draft picks are just brushed aside as, to use Jeff’s words, “virtual non-factors”.

LHPSU
Guest
LHPSU
1 year 4 months ago

Because only so many players can see the field, and of the players that actually play, it’s much easier getting the 1st win than the 4th or 5th win out of these players.

Basically the premise of stars & scrubs.

Blueyays
Member
Blueyays
1 year 4 months ago

But those late picks AVERAGE that many wins. That doesn’t mean it’ll always produce a below-average major leaguer, it means that sometimes it’ll be that, sometimes a failure who doesn’t make it, and sometimes a good player or even a star.

jpg
Guest
jpg
1 year 4 months ago

It is a non-factor because it had no bearing on the decision, which is what I’m guessing he was getting at. I’m pretty sure, of all people, Sullivan is aware of the studies that have been done which project the future value draft picks.

Cool Lester Smooth
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Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

Can you list the studies? Because the 27th overall draft pick is worth a mean of 2 career WAR, and the mode and median are both 0 WAR.

Matthew Murphy
Member
1 year 4 months ago

I looked at draft pick value for THT this past year, and found that a pick at the end of the first round is worth about $6M in terms of present-day-value.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/matthew-murphy-3-post-bringing-it-all-together/

The average late first-round pick produces about 3 WAR in their cost-controlled years.

Randy Bobandy
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Randy Bobandy
1 year 4 months ago

Here’s one article:

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/6/25/4457048/2013-mlb-draft-how-valuable-are-draft-picks

According to it, a player picked in the 16-30 slots in the draft (from 1990-2006) has produced, on average, 2.65 WAR over their first 6 years of service time. Meanwhile, the first overall pick averages 11.83 WAR over that same time, and a pick in the 3-7 slot is worth 5.37 WAR. There was no 1-10 slot considered in this article, allowing for direct comparison between Jeff’s comment and reality, but I think that the reality is that a pick in the top ten can reasonably be called worth half that of somewhere in the top ten (other than the first two picks), on average.

If a top-tier talent is worth $50-60M (or more), as international signings would suggest, (even though it’s not what draft signees get in the skewed market today), then it’s not totally unreasonable to suggest that the 27th pick is worth $20M.

The Foils
Member
The Foils
1 year 4 months ago

Well, later this very same day, the wise and noble Jeff Sullivan would link a study (“This is the last update I’ve seen on estimating prospect value.”) that indicated that the approximate value for a 27th overall draft pick is… wait for it… $20M.

Thank you Mr. Sullivan.

http://www.thepointofpittsburgh.com/how-much-an-mlb-prospect-is-worth-updated-trade-surplus-values/

Vlad
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Vlad
1 year 4 months ago

The Pittsburgh blog one is for rankings based on Baseball America Top 100’s, not draft slots

Blueyays
Member
Blueyays
1 year 4 months ago

“the team still has never won a playoff series since moving from Montreal.” You can remove the “from Montreal” from that sentence – this star-cross’d franchise still hasn’t won a single playoff series, ever.

Charlotte
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Charlotte
1 year 4 months ago

You’re forgetting our wild, roller coaster World Series run in ’94.

(sobs into Youppi jersey)

Charlotte
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Charlotte
1 year 4 months ago

But for real, we won the NLDS in 81

20 WAR Gomes
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20 WAR Gomes
1 year 4 months ago

Nice writeup Jeff-

I do have a few quick questions: First, where/how did you find out the average opponent wRC+ for pitchers? And is this kind of information taken into account in pitcher WAR? I would guess that league factors played a big role in the difference between Zimmermann and Scherzer, but in 2014 the league difference in wRC+ was only 6 points, smaller than the 9 point difference you observed between Scherzer and Zimmermann. Should something like this be accounted for in WAR?

Mark L
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Mark L
1 year 4 months ago

Given this site (and others) are constantly surprised at the contracts handed out, as they don’t seem to bear any relation to your $ / WAR figure that you insist on sticking to, how about abandoning it as part of your analysis?

In other words, how many times does it need to be shown to be meaningless before you consider changing it?

Steven
Guest
Steven
1 year 4 months ago

From the article: “But, let’s work with an estimate of roughly $180 million. Now, if you blend Steamer and ZiPS, next year Scherzer projects for about 4.5 wins. That also fits in line with his recent track record. Take away half a win each year, for aging. Begin with an estimate of $7.5 million per win on the market, and increase by 5% a year. You end up with a projected 21 WAR, and about $177 million in value. If you start at $7.0 million/win, instead of $7.5 million, you get about $165 million in value.”

If the 180ush million is correct, it’s exactly as predicted by the $/WAR model. Did you even read the article, or do you prefer to skip to the comments to post asinine comments that showcase your ignorance?

AMB
Guest
AMB
1 year 4 months ago

Where is the ZiPS projection for Scherzer?

Because Streamer has him at 3.8 WAR which projects out to 16 WAR over 7 years.

And why are we using estimates of $7.0 Million per win or $7.5 million per win in this article but when trying to calculate value on other contracts this site uses $6 million-$7 million per win?

I’m not going to try and calculate inflation (someone else with more time can do that) but at the Streamer projection (3.8 wins; 16 Wins over 7 years) and the more commonly used $6 million per win that calculates out to $96 million. Add in some inflation, take out some of the cost of losing the draft pick and you end up with a number pretty far south of $180+ million.

ThePuck
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ThePuck
1 year 4 months ago

The amount per WAR goes up every year, and I haven’t seen anywhere here lately suggest 1 WAR will equal anything thing south of 7.0 this year. In chats, they’ve said in the mid-7M per.

ThePuck
Guest
ThePuck
1 year 4 months ago

and in the paragraph, he’s estimating baseball inflation, ‘Begin with an estimate of $7.5 million per win on the market, and increase by 5% a year.’ See it’s right there.

CM52
Member
CM52
1 year 4 months ago

Can’t find Zips projections even though there’s multiple links on the front page of this site.

Still thinks wins are valued at 6 million.

Thinks adding 5% is a tedious calculation that would take too long.

Why are you even here?

ThePuck
Guest
ThePuck
1 year 4 months ago

and his ZIPS projection for 2015 is here:

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2015-zips-projections-detroit-tigers/

Because until signed, they just listed him on the Tigers.

Just a little research and reading…

Ben
Guest
Ben
1 year 4 months ago

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2015-zips-projections-detroit-tigers/

5.3 WAR for ZiPS. Which using your $6M figure is $160m over the contract. But you have to account for inflation over those seven years and a win may be worth $6.5M or $7M by the end of it. At $6.5M for the life of the contract it works out to $172M.

AMB
Guest
AMB
1 year 4 months ago

Thanks Ben- I didn’t think to look for his ZiPS projections on a team he wasn’t on anymore and didn’t see his ZiPS projections on his page, or a list of free agents.

And ThePuck- Here is a quote from an article about Cole Hamels trade value (November 19th- http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/lets-design-a-red-sox-cole-hamels-trade/

“I’m also showing numbers starting with $7 million/WAR, and $6 million/WAR. Those would be estimates of current market rates”

So yes, it does use $7 million, but also $6 million. Which is a direct reference to the use of $6 million per WAR. Mid 7M per year as you suggest isn’t mentioned in the article at all.

CM52- Please explain your vitriol. I just quoted an article from November that uses $6 million per win. Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean you have to be mean. It is possible to have constructive dialogue without trying to demean someone who you don’t agree with.

JayT
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JayT
1 year 4 months ago

AMB, a lot has changed since November. At the start of the offseason the general thought has been that wins would cost between $6-$7 million, but now that the offseason is winding down it looks like it ended up more like $7-$8 million per win.

CM52
Member
CM52
1 year 4 months ago

There’s no need to be upset. Oversenstivity is one of the worst traits of this generation. Don’t ask questions that were already explicitly addressed in the article or can easily be found via internet search.

BobbyJohn
Guest
BobbyJohn
1 year 4 months ago

If they are already projected to lead the NL in player WAR, does it make any sense to trade Zimmerman, Strasburg, or Fister at this point?

I’d think they would see where they are in terms of injuries a few months in and possibly cash in one of those chips if positon player help is needed.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 4 months ago

No. Use Roark from the pen until someone gets hurt or needs to rest their arm.

I can recall several teams having 6 legit starters and inevitably all 6 end up getting some use as a starter. You’re totally right.

LHPSU
Guest
LHPSU
1 year 4 months ago

Heck, I can recall several teams having 6 legit starters and inevitably all 6 end up getting hurt at some point.

Still, I expect that the Nationals would be quite open to trading Zimmerman or Fister if the price is right, since that was probably on their minds to begin with anyway.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

Ted Lerner is 89 years old.

They’re not going to sacrifice anything in the last year they control Zimm and Desmond.

snack man
Guest
snack man
1 year 4 months ago

The price has never been right for Fister. There is no reason to trade him.

M W
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M W
1 year 4 months ago

Why are we assuming a 5% increase in WAR? The past 5 plus years it seems far closer to 10%.

M W
Guest
M W
1 year 4 months ago

That should say $ value per win not WAR

DD
Guest
DD
1 year 4 months ago

Good point. Also, why do we immediately decline the WAR by half a win in yr 2 of the deal? Scherzer will only be 31.

Randy Bobandy
Guest
Randy Bobandy
1 year 4 months ago

The half-win-a-year model becomes valid in most players’ late twenties, and holds in the aggregate. Some players hold up better than others, and thus don’t decline much at all.

There was a post that examined this as a general rule some months back, but I can’t seem to find it. So I’m going off of memory. From what I recall, pitcher and position player peak is not at the same age, and it’s not actually a linear decline in either case, but a half-win a year is simple, and not far off, except for at either end of the decline phase (right at the age of 27 or so, and in the late 30’s). Since basically all players become free agents around their peak, a half win per year decline is taken as a rule over a contract that’s more than a year or two, and less than ten or fifteen years.

JayT
Guest
JayT
1 year 4 months ago

I think it’s just an attempt to be conservative. Yes, inflation has been very high recently, but right before this boom salaries were fairly flat for a few years. I think the 5% is an attempt to split the difference between boom and bust cycles.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 4 months ago

The crazy thing about this deal is that it kind of works perfectly for the Nats. With all their potential 2016 free agents, they would have dropped a whole lot of payroll even if they re-signed one or even two of them. Since there’s no way they’d be able to use that extra payroll to lock up Harper, they really were staring at a loss of long-term assets even though they’d have some payroll flexibility to add on. And that was the dilemma that led to the talks of trading Zimmermann, Desmond, etc.

And like you said, Scherzer is that long-term asset. No real reason now for the Nats to deplete the quality of the 2015 team.

dino saines
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

you dont give a 30 year old pitcher 7 years. he has a few good seasons and they wont be as dominate as the cy young one. zimmermann is as good. plus he dont need 250 strikeouts to be good. this was dumb. so was the lester one and the shields one will be also.

CM52
Member
CM52
1 year 4 months ago

dominant*

BanderXogaerts
Member
BanderXogaerts
1 year 4 months ago

*doesn’t

more
Guest
more
1 year 4 months ago

You*
don’t*
He*
seasons,*
won’t
Cy*
Young*
Zimmermann*
Plus*
This*
So*
Lester*
one,*
Shields*

Noah Baron
Member
Noah Baron
1 year 4 months ago

You guys are making fun of his poor grammar but he’s largely right.

Has anyone looked at the pitcher fWAR leaderboard for 2014? Notice how may pitchers in the Top 30 are over 32 years old? 0. ZERO.

Scherzer will be 32 in the second year of his contract.

Noah Baron
Member
Noah Baron
1 year 4 months ago

Actually, that’s not true. When I added an age column it didn’t sort by WAR for some reason.

But there still weren’t any pitchers in the Top 20 over 32 years old, even if Buehrle, Iwakuma, and Kuroda barely cracked the top 30.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 4 months ago

I had to go back exactly one year further (2013) to confirm your nonsense.

Adam Wainright was third in baseball at age 32 with 6+ WAR. Cliff Lee, Iwakuma, A.J. Burnett, Barolo Colon, and Hiroki Kuroda all surpassed 4 WAR.

This is why half-baked impromptu “research” that seeks only to confirm your preconceptions is worthless and not worth posting.

josh
Guest
josh
1 year 4 months ago

What a move! Shocking! Hope the Nats dont trade Stras. Man, when you have so many good players all deserving there own payday…..what do you do? I hope Nats can keep the team together. When Stras or Zim sees this contract, what is Learner going to do? Have a 200 million dollar payroll? Money is no object for these guys!

804NatsFan
Guest
804NatsFan
1 year 4 months ago

Love the move long-term (sign who you can when you can if they are worth it). Not sure if it’s what the Nats really needed for 2015 though.

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 4 months ago

(Looks at new Nationals rotation)

(slowly removes sunglasses)

Mother of God…

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

Of course, as a Phillies fan, you should know that the SuperUltraMegaRotation strategy doesn’t always work.

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 4 months ago

Nope! You gotta have guys who can hit to back up that SuperUltraMegaRotation, which…(checks the Nationals roster)…yup, they have those guys.

This stinks. NOW how are the Phillies supposed to win the division? :)

:(

(sobs openly)

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 4 months ago

Actually, with the Braves re-entering the dark ages, if the Mets and Marlins keep spinning their wheels there’s an actual chance that the NL East could become downright awful, even if the Nats are building a dynasty.

Which means, the division is a lost cause for the Phillies, but if the E coli covering RAJ’s head ever gets exposed to daylight they can rebuild enough to sneak a wild-card or two.

emdash
Guest
emdash
1 year 4 months ago

Well, nothing *always* works in baseball, unless you could Giants even year devil magic.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 4 months ago

I don’t love the idea of using the same -0.5 WAR per year trick for pitchers as you do with hitters. Due to the substantially higher DL risk for pitchers, I think you have to employ a larger decline.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

Eh, I think the assumption is “given they stay healthy.”

If they do stay healthy, it should be less than a hitter’s would be. If they don’t, it’ll be much, much more.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 4 months ago

Assuming health, the decline should be pretty much the same, but pitchers and hitters have a distinct difference in their health projection. Even someone like Scherzer who has thus far escaped serious injury has to be assumed to miss significant time at some point over the next seven years.

Catoblepas
Member
Catoblepas
1 year 4 months ago

For a value estimate, all you care about is the mean, and so while the outcomes might be wider than for hitters, with more pitchers staying dominant and more exploding into a bunch of bone fragments than going through a gentle decline, as long as the mean result is a .5 decline, the estimate is valid. It definitely changes the risk/variance of the projection, but not the expected value.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

Yeah, this.

jdbolick
Member
Member
1 year 4 months ago

I’m honestly not sure what point you think you’re making, Catoblepas. The issue with pitchers isn’t more variance, it’s that in addition to the age-related decline also experienced by hitters, pitchers as a group experience a substantially higher risk of injury than hitters. So the -0.5 estimate used for hitters is clearly not enough for pitchers. They experience age-related decline and have to be assumed to miss significant time over a seven year period. You and Cool Lester appear to be confused into thinking that pitchers have injury risk instead of age-related decline, but that is not the case. They have both.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
1 year 4 months ago

I agree with jdbolick. I don’t think the assumption is “given they stay healthy”, because that’s a horrible assumption to make. If his deal is close to break-even assuming good health, then it’s a terrible deal for Washington. They need to factor in the chance that he might miss at least a year with TJ surgery, or he might have a shoulder injury that diminishes his performance and makes him miss a year.

plasmaj
Guest
plasmaj
1 year 4 months ago

The difference in how you value the Scherzer contract and the Hamels contract is striking. There you say between $6-$7mm per win. Here $7mm is the low end. Which should it be? I would expect more quantitative consistency from FG

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

The $/WAR for an extension from a couples of years ago is different than that of a free agent contract from today?!

INCONSISTENCY! TEH BIASSS!

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
1 year 4 months ago

I assumed he was referring to the value of Hamels’ contract today – the excess value from a trade perspective – and not the value of the contract when it was signed.

Jerry
Guest
Jerry
1 year 4 months ago

You don’t understand, here on FanGraphs, everything the Phillies do is wrong no matter what.

frodd tazier
Guest
frodd tazier
1 year 4 months ago

i’d be damn surprised if their 2015 strategy really was ‘six legitimate starters and a handful of expiring contracts and no positional depth is better than five starters and some prospects and less expiring contracts and maybe some positional depth.’ can’t wait to see what the nats do next, mostly because i don’t see how they could be done already…

fjtorres
Guest
fjtorres
1 year 4 months ago

I hear ya.
My first thought was “how solid is the Gallardo to Texas deal?”

Cause I’m fairly sure the Nats could get a long-term middle infielder from Texas from whichever of their pitchers they move, if they move any.

Blueyays
Member
Blueyays
1 year 4 months ago

Liked for the username.

Benjo
Guest
Benjo
1 year 4 months ago

Before we get to the actual details of the contract, if it seems like a loony coo-coo amount of money, it’s worth keeping in mind that Max Scherzer is a Boras client. Other Boras clients that seem kind of relevant to the Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, all of whom I’m sure the Nats would love to lock up without letting them test the open market.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 4 months ago

And the Nats probably realize that those three guys are basically as good as gone once they’re eligible for free agency. The only big-name Boras client that I can think of signing a long-term deal before free agency is Elvis Andrus, and I’m sure Boras felt better about selling Andrus’s value to an analytically minded team than to have him take a chance on arbitration or the FA market with a low power/defense+speed guy.

And I don’t think Boras considers any “group discounts” for his clients with favored teams. When ARod signed his huge deal with Texas, he actually produced pretty close to the contract’s value. What killed the Rangers were the contracts they gave to other Boras clients like Chan-Ho Park and Todd Van Poppel.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 4 months ago

Jered Weaver did too (and it’s a good thing he did). Boras will sign extensions if his clients direct him to.

Cookierojas16
Member
Cookierojas16
1 year 4 months ago

On the other hand, They’re Boras clients, and Boras doesn’t typically allow his clients to lock themselves up before free agency. Less money for him, you see.

Benjo
Guest
Benjo
1 year 4 months ago

I agree it’s unlikely, since they’re Boras clients, that the Nats will be able to lock up Stras, Harper, or Rendon before they hit free agency. But I also think their relationship with Boras (hey Scott, remember the Werth and Scherzer contracts?) is going to help them in those negotiations. The money will obviously be the most important thing, but a good working relationship with the agent can help keep negotiations from getting to the point of public acrimony. You know the press is going to be hanging from trees outside the window when it comes time to talk about Strasburg and Harper deals.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Isn’t it pretty much a fool’s errand to try to build a super team given the expansion of teams that make the postseason?

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
1 year 4 months ago

Eh, the second WC has made winning the Division that much more important. Just look at the A’s.

DrBGiantsfan
Guest
1 year 4 months ago

Giants? Royals?

RSF
Guest
RSF
1 year 4 months ago

Anecdotal evidence?

CM52
Member
CM52
1 year 4 months ago

It hasn’t changed the probability of a wild card team making the world series. But it has made the probability of each individual wild card team significantly lower.

Meat Flute
Guest
Meat Flute
1 year 4 months ago

I’ll play too :
Mets?
Tigers?
Royals?
Astros?
Rockies?
Angels?
Marlins, twice?
Red Sox?
Cardinals?
Giants, twice?

That’s quit a few WC teams to be in the WS for anecdotal evidence?

RSF
Guest
RSF
1 year 4 months ago

We have had the wild card for 21 years. So there were 42 opportunities for a wild card team to make the World Series (noting that the last couple years the WC teams had to play each other, so one was guaranteed to get eliminated).

We have had 12 WC teams make the WS. 12/42 = 28.6%.

If each team int he playoffs had an equal chance to make the playoffs, then we should expect a WC team to make the WS 25% of the time. In other words, we should have expected to see 10.5 WC teams make the WS.

Instead we have seen 12. That is completely within the realm of statistical randomness.

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
1 year 4 months ago

Wouldn’t that ignore that we’d also expect that the wild card team is below average among the post-season teams? They often aren’t the worst team there, but they are even less likely to be the best team in the mix.

Noah Baron
Member
Noah Baron
1 year 4 months ago

The smart thing to do is build a really good team for as long as possible, rather than building an elite team for a short period of time.

Signing any free agent pitcher to a monster contract (especially one who’s not really elite and is already 31) usually means selling out the future for the present. So expect the Nationals to be really good in 2015-2016 and perhaps not as good afterwards.

If they don’t win a WS in the next two years expect fan outrage.

Leo Walter
Guest
Leo Walter
1 year 4 months ago

I am starting to wonder if Rizzo and Boras aren’t co- GMs of this organization.

redsoxu571
Guest
redsoxu571
1 year 4 months ago

Can we get the average production for that list of SPs minus Clemens? He skews the numbers and his performance can’t be used to project what to expect from Scherzer going forward, for obvious reasons.

Keeper
Guest
Keeper
1 year 4 months ago

Obviously $170,000,000 is a lot of money.

Do you think we could spend maybe $170,000 on a sports psychologist to keep the entire team from collectively locking up at the very end of elimination games? I feel like that would be money well spent.

Noah Baron
Member
Noah Baron
1 year 4 months ago

We have to stop with “Pitcher A had an average opponent of x wRC+”. WAR already reflects the fact that the AL has a DH and the NL does not, which is all that you’re doing by stating that. If you give Scherzer credit for facing tougher competition you can’t use that IN CONJUNCTION with his WAR; if you do you’re double counting the affect of the DH.

While I think Scherzer will be really good for the next three years or so, long contracts for pitchers don’t have a good history. All you have to do is look at the 2014 Pitching fWAR leaderboard; if you add in “Age” as a column, you’ll quickly notice that there are only two pitchers among the top 30 pitchers who are over 30 years old. There are zero (!) pitchers in the top 30 over 32 years old.

Did I mention that Scherzer will be 33 years old in the third year of his seven year contract?

Another thing that people sometimes forget about Scherzer is that he is a really poor fielding pitcher. While some guys are able to benefit from the “Cueto effect” (ie beat their peripherals by being above average fielders and steal-preventors), Scherzer experiences the opposite effect.

Last year he was worth -4 Defensive Runs Saved, which is the same as an ERA 20 points (.2 runs) higher per 180 innings pitched.

Scherzer will be very good for a couple years, but like most large free agent pitcher contracts, it will be an albatross very soon.

SABRphreak
Guest
SABRphreak
1 year 4 months ago

In 2014, Max Scherzer was worth about one more win over Tanner Roark. Granted the signing provides depth for 2015 and hedges against losing Zimmerman/Fister, but with lots of pitching on the market next year and only needing 4 starting pitchers in the post season, it would seem this was not the most beneficial way for the Nationals to spend. The marginal benefit is just not there for the dollars expended unless you assume major regression from Roark. I think an Ian Desmond extension (even at a FA rate) would have been a better for the club’s future (along with adding to the bullpen). I presume this limits their flexibility for next off-season.

emdash
Guest
emdash
1 year 4 months ago

Is it the most efficient way to spend? Perhaps not. But the baseball market doesn’t allow for perfect efficiency, given the low number of high-quality players available on the market. The Nats aren’t trying to maximize their marginal benefit – they’re trying to get good players, and have cover for the departure of two very good pitchers after 2015.

Desmond’s a very good player now, but seems pretty likely to have a sharp decline given his increasing struggles to make contact. He’s at least as likely to get a bad contract as Scherzer is, I’d think.

Hank
Guest
Hank
1 year 4 months ago

I think an analysis like this needs to be banded. Not just a one sided greater than 4.5WAR/200 filter

If one is filtering out pitchers more than 0.8WAR below Scherzer’s level, than the ones that are 0.8WAR above Scherzer’s level should also be filtered out. I realize this limits the sample further but if you think a pitcher averaging say 4.3 WAR/200 is not a good comp, then why would a pitcher at 6.3WAR/200 be a good comp?

youareatrex
Guest
youareatrex
1 year 4 months ago

Trick pitch? Come on… give Dickey some credit. All good pitchers try to trick the batter with speed, location, and movement. R.A. is no different. And the Nats better invest in that bullpen because they just gave up Clippard and you know Scherzer doesn’t go deep.

Plucky
Guest
Plucky
1 year 4 months ago

R.A. is different in that the location and movement are exactly what he doesn’t control with the trick pitch in question

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 4 months ago

Obviously “trick pitch” wasn’t meant as a slight to Dickey. It’s just saying that comparing Z-strike% to a knuckler isn’t a real apt comparison, so there’s a pretty wide gap between Max and the next “normal” (i.e., non-knuckler) pitcher.

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