Nationals Baseball: A new Spring Training Game

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A new Spring Training Game

Yes, I know I should be talking about Strasburg, but I've got 15-20 years to do that, right? Because he's the awesomest? (really I shouldn't joke - he IS the awesomest. He's a phenomenal strikeout pitcher with great control and no tendency to give up the long ball. It's everything any team would want. He's a blond Tom Cruise). Instead I want to focus on a way for me to enjoy Spring Training, following an idea poached from commenter Hoo. I can spend it hoping the bad players fail.

Yeah, I know I've been saying Spring doesn't matter at all, but that's not entirely true. Yes, all the important positions for the Nats are either locked up (Guzman will start, Dukes will start) or battled over by a bunch of players of roughly the same talent level (Chico/Martin/Mock/Stammen etc. in the battle for rotation spots). The only open spots being contested by players of differing talents are the last spots available; fifth OF, last pinch hitter, last man in the pen. I usually say these spots don't matter and that's basically true. They are infrequently used so if the best man for the job wins it or the second best man does the proper response is "Eh, whatever".

However, it is possible that a terrible player wins that job. In the ideal situation even that really wouldn't matter, but the thing is, baseball doesn't always give you ideal situations. A couple players go down with injuries and suddenly your manager is pencilling in a horrid player everyday because he's already up with the team. The guy that was kept on for veteran presence, or as a LOOGY, or to steal a base, who shouldn't be part of the chain of succession, suddenly finds himself in a crucial role by virtue of nothing more than being on the roster at the right time.

Who are these players on the Nats? The players that if they make the squad could be a couple twisted ankles away from filling you with furious anger?

Willy Taveras (28) Yes he has speed, but he is so awful with the bat, like arguably worst hitter in the majors, that he'd have to almost never get up to bat to not hurt the team. His lines from the past two years:
2008: .251 / .308 / .296
2009: .240/ .275 / .285.
The OPS+s were 55 and 48. To give you a reference point, Austin Kearns last year was a 72. Josh Bard a 73. Livan was a 64. If you are going to have this guy on the team, you might as well sign Usain Bolt for the publicity.

Eric Bruntlett (31) Maybe 5 years ago you bring him on for defense, but he's no longer anything special in that department. He hasn't had a good offensive season since 2004. Last year he put up a .171 / .224 / .238 line. He's done. I know backup shortstops are hard to find. Al Gonzalez can't field all that great and Pete Orr is not a SS and can't hit. And most likely if Guzman were to go down we'd see Desmond not Bruntlett. But still, do you want to see the scenario where Guzman is suffering from a day to day injury for 3 weeks while a a .270 Desmond is left in AAA and Bruntlett is weakly smacking balls to the SS like it was fielding practice?

Pudge Rodri.... oh. Moving on.

Ron Villone (40) There are other rather questionable choices out there. Both Miguel Batista and Eddie Guardado are old, walk too many guys, and get hit too much, but at least with those two you can say they were hanging on in the AL. Ron showed he probably doesn't have what it takes anymore last year, in the NL, with the Nationals. What else do you need? The fact righties slugged .511 off him last year? That lefites hit .293 and got on base at a .386 clip? Move on.

Shawn Estes (37) It's sad to say this about a 37 year old IN THE BEST SHAPE OF HIS LIFE! especially because the last time Estes pitched he wasn't terrible. But he's 37. He hasn't been average since 2001, and hasn't been above average since 1997. There are 8th graders walking around today that have not existed in a world where Shawn Estes was a good major league pitcher. More troubling than the performance is the durability question. He made one start in 2006, missed 2007 because of injuries, pitched half a year overall in 2008, and didn't pitch last year. There's nothing to see here.


Bryan said...

Wow. I didn't realize Tavares was that bad.

Let me start the chant now:

Usain Bolt! Usain Bolt! Usain Bolt!

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

Every blog post has said the same thing about Taveres. Kilgore does not expect him to make the squad. Why did the NATS bother?

Harper said...

Bryan - If they believe Wang can tap the huge Taiwanese market in DC, surely there are some Jamaicans that Kasten will want to go after. You could have him race the presidents with a huge disadvantage.

Sec - He's fast and probably a slightly above average fielder. Every team that picks him up probably hopes they can teach him to take a walk so he could be an ideal 5th OF. That's fine once or twice, but this would be "maybe he'll get it" attempt #3.