Nationals Baseball: July 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

But back comes almost super perfect

Guzman is dealt! I have to believe they are eating a bunch of contract which is a good sign. Rather than pay the rest of his salary (like 3 million) for nothing but 60 games or so of below average infield play, they are paying 3million for control of a prospect or two. That's a smart move. Rizzo is equating himself nicely so far. Can he get Kennedy and maybe Livan out the door too? Pudge? Another fungible reliever?

UPDATE: Looks like Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark. Roark is the better prospect, but still not a good one. Maybe an ok one. He might be something but he seems to be in no hurry to develop into it. Which is ok because the Nats have no place to put him for the next year or so anyway. Tatusko looks to be minor league filler as he doesn't miss bats, walks too many, and success this year is solely based on keeping the ball in the park. Plus he's old.

Still anything for Guzman is a good deal

There goes super perfect

Jackson for Hudson deal has gone through - let me check my GM phone wiretap and see if I hear anything.

Kenny Williams: Ok we got Jackson. You want to trade now?

Mike Rizzo: Sure. Toss in Viciedo and we have a deal.

Kenny Williams: What are you talking about? Jackson is a proven major leaguer!

Mike Rizzo: He's older than Hudson and not in control for as long.

Kenny Williams: That's crazy.

Mike Rizzo: Take it or leave it.

Kenny Williams: Leave it.

Mike Rizzo: Fine.

Kenny Williams : Fine.

Epilogue : Jackson turns mediocre NL pitching into awful AL pitching, add that to the lack of power in the lineup the White Sox miss playoffs. Dunn walks after seasons end, no FA wants to sign with the Nats, hello 73 wins in 2011. Classic lose-lose situation.

(My guess is Rizzo does like Jackson more than Hudson. It was people that worked in Arizona with him that helped bring Jackson in. My second guess is that the White Sox are hoping this increase in interest will lead to the Nats going for a deal with a much lesser 2nd prospect included, the deal they probably were trying to foist on the Nats with Hudson. My third guess is that it doesn't happen - the Nats want two good prospects for Dunn and the White Sox can't make that deal or else it will be as if they added one more player to the deal they could have made with Hudson initially.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thank you Minnesota

Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos? Chris captured what's best about this - that the Nats essentially turned 2.5 million (I assume the Twins are paying the rest of this years salary, but who knows) into a legit prospect (and another player to boot!). It's the ideal outcome when you grab a veteran and sign him to a one year deal. All of a sudden the Nats have major league ready catching prospect they didn't have yesterday. Crazy.

Let's get one thing straight though - just because Ramos is here doesn't necessarily mean that he's the catcher from now until forever. It doesn't mean Flores is done, that Norris is trade bait, or that Harper must shift positions. All it means is the Nats have a legit ready for his major-league trial catching prospect who should start for the rest of the year relegating Pudge to a back-up role. That's the only thing that changes. Maybe he doesn't succeed right away, maybe he doesn't succeed at all. Any struggles and Flores will likely get a chance to win back the starting role next Spring, like he would have against Pudge. Norris will be allowed to develop as he should and may challenge whoever the starter is in a couple years. Harper... well Bryce would probably shift positions anyway, but if he didn't he'll get the same chance Norris will have. All Ramos is is another bullet in the gun. A fantastic, made-by-hand silver bullet, but another bullet. And that's what you want - a gun full of bullets so that at least one fired will hit the target, a minor league full of talent so that at least one will develop into a good major leaguer.

Of course this brings up a ton of questions/comments for me, not necessarily Nats related

Of course Ramos would be dealt - he kind of had to be - but was Capps really the best rental the Twins could get? I guess he is a good young cheap bullpen arm, and he's under some level of control for 2011, but still...don't you get the feeling if the Twins offered Ramos for Meek AND Hanrahan (or Dotel and Hanrahan, or Dotel and Meek) the Pirates might have bit? Sure he's "untradeable" but maybe the Royals see the light and make a Ramos for Soria switch? And here's a wild one - but don't you think the Red Sox are smart and deep enough that a Ramos for Papelbon deal is at least seriously considered?

Since this was a super perfect best case start lets continue with the super perfect best case scenario for the Nats for the next couple days:
  • The Nats work out a deal with the White Sox and Diamondbacks where the Nats end up with Edwin Jackson and Daniel Hudson. They likely fill out a super young 1,3-5 in the rotation next year.
  • They then resign Dunn to a 2-yr deal after the season ends. (worth a draft pick as they are in "win sooner" mode).
  • Nats bite bullet on Guzman, eat the majority of his salary and flip him to the Phillies (who'd love a utility man) for Harold Garcia who becomes the Nats 2nd baseman of the future
  • Kennedy gets dealt to the Red Sox for old for his status and recently slumping Daniel Nava who immediately becomes the Nats RF.
  • Nyjer Morgan finally works through his ropes and defeats his evil, awful at baseball clone who has been playing with the Nats since Spring.
Hey, if the Nats can get Ramos for Capps, why not?

So there is no confusion

The Miss Iowa challenging Miguel Batista is the "Miss USA" Miss Iowa not the "Miss America" Miss Iowa. When are these two are going to fight to unite the belts?

(and yes, by "these two" I mean Miss Iowa USA and Miguel Batista)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


From the Washington Post:
He also said the Nationals have received calls from teams about veterans Wille Harris, Adam Kennedy and Cristian Guzman, players who would likely help a contender off the bench. He's also received inquiries about relievers other than Capps.
Say what you want about trading Dunn, Willingham, even Capps to some degree. But if teams have called in and inquired about these players and the Nats end up not dealing them, then we can start making fair comparisons between the incompetence of the last GM group and this one. (unless it's like the Mets saying - "Hey you want Oliver Perez for Jesse English?" - but come on we know it's not that. We know it's young minor leaguers without much of a future. But still - you buy the lottery ticket with the 1 dollar voucher that expires next week)

Thank god the Nats are losing

This seems to happen every year. We assume the Nats have the talent to win X amount of games, then they spend the first month or so going shockingly in one direction, everyone reacts accordingly, but then the team corrects themselves in the second half getting more in line with what they should be. Usually it's starting horribly and bouncing back leading to the oh so annoying thoughts that "next year it'll be different". (Yes, the better finishes didn't matter in 2006, 2007, or 2008, but the better finish in 2009 was different! It had Riggleman and Morgan! 2010 will be a breakout year! My middle-school girlfriend and I, who will be together forever, will be watching them win playoff games soon!) But this year the Nats changed things up by starting hot, a 2+ month flirtation with .500, and then crashing. Maybe next year they'll do us the favor of playing like the low 70 win team they'll probably be all season long.

But the current crash is not necessarily a bad thing for several reasons. It allows the Nats to play Nyjer Morgan, Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond the remainder of the season. The longer you let these guys play, the better feel you'll have on what the Nats need to do for next year and beyond. Desmond (.262 / .303 / .410) and Morgan (.288 BA, although an empty one) who both might have been given up on if the Nats were pushing toward .500, could be able to set themselves into the 2011 roles the Nats wanted for them if they can keep improving in August and September. July though is exposing would be RF starter Roger Bernandina (.224 / .231 /.327) as the back-up player he likely is keeping the Nats focused on improving that OF spot in the off season.

The crash allows them to take a critical look at what's NOT working, like Pudge (.159 / .169 / .206) Guzman (.231 / .290 / .297) and the back of the rotation No-Stars (Stammen, Martin, Atilano). These players are barely stop-gaps at this point and all of this will need to be fixed. For catcher it means a loooong look at Flores to see if he is ready for next year, else moving on. For Guzman it means finally adressing 2nd base. For the pitching staff it means letting all those injured guys come back into the rotation without a second thought and seeing what they got for you. The Nats aren't going to be fooled into ignoring these issues by some lucky bounces, one run wins, and calls of "but the team has so much chemistry - don't change a thing".

The losses also hopefully make it apparent, with all those holes mentioned above, that the Nats are not a team just one player away from competing. You are talking about being two star players from being a good team, more than that from being a playoff team. Maybe this will push them to decide to trade everyone and gamble on 2013. If it doesn't do that, if they are serious about trying to win in the next couple years, then the losing should make it clear they'll need to be VERY serious in the offseason and any deal made now has to be for guys ready to play next year. They cannot just hope everything will work out.

Losing is no fun, but losing when you are a bad team helps clarify the issues facing the team that can be lost in over performance. The Nats now have clarity. Let's see what they think they know.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This is what I come back to?

This is why you can't depend on anything in this world!

(well ok that's a little extreme -but pitchers, they'll kill you)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

We Weren't Wrong: Pudge

Usually deals have upsides and downsides that make you hold off on passing judgment until you see some results. Other times deals are so obviously bad or good that you feel confident enough to declare it so before the ink dries on the contract. Pudge's deal was one of the latter types.

It's not that signing Pudge itself was terrible. The Nats had to hedge their bets with Flores' return in the hands of the Nats crack medical staff, but the deal was too expensive and too long. Remember, Pudge in 2009 signed a one-year deal for 1.5 million with Houston, and then proceeded to bat .251 /. 288 /.382 for them. The Astros, a team that put up with Brad Ausmus "batting" in the lineup for years, had enough and shipped him out to the Rangers, where Pudge hit a nearly identical .245 / . 279 / .388. Pudge's career was headed in one of three directions - (in order of increasing likelihoood), spot starter for a team loaded at every other position and in desperate need of someone to fill the catcher spot, defensive back-up, or retirement.

Yet here came the Nats with not a one-year, million dollar deal but a two year 6 million dollar deal. Getting terribly old and coming off the worst year of his career and the Nats essesntially gave him a raise. That's stupid bad and we all said so. But then came April.

Pudge hit like a madman in April, spraying the ball around and finding all the holes. He was hitting .413 by month's end, arguably his best offensive month since June of 2004. He was still hitting over .400 a week into May and thoughts were split between "maybe the Nats got lucky here" and "his .435 BABIp is just unsustainable". The winner? Well since then, through 3/4 of May, all of June and most of July, Pudge has hit .214 / .236 / .270. In short, since early May Pudge has possibly been the worst regular hitter in all of baseball.

Supporters early in the slump pointed to Pudge's "winning presence" helping the pitching staff and getting the Nats to .500. Now that .500 is in the rearview (I guess Pudge stopped caring?) all they have left to go to is his defense, which by all accounts is still good. But his offense is so bad that even peak Pudge would find it hard to make up for it with defense, let alone this one nearing 40. No the best argument for Pudge is that the current alternative is Wil Nieves, a player with all the hitting prowess of a 38 yr old Pudge and half the defense. Pudge is not the worst option now, so he needs to play, but that doesn't make the contract any more defensible, especially since it only seemed like a million dollars was keeping Orlando Hudson from landing here.

What's next for the Nats and Pudge? Prayers I guess. Prayers that he isn't as completely done as he seems and that he can pull out even a "just bad" .250 / .300 / .350 in his remaining time with the club. Prayers that the Nats don't let another free agent or draft pick walk away for the want of spending while Pudge earns a cool 3 million.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some Rizzo interview thoughts

If you weren't listening to the radio last night, Rizzo basically sat in for an hour of the rain delay and got interviewed, took phone calls, and read emails. It was, of course, a lot of positive spin on the Nats situation but that's to be expected. I'd almost be worried if it wasn't this and frankly I appreciate the yeoman's work he put in to stay in touch with the fans. Some thoughts

The rotation is going to be crowded soon, but not with Wang. Rizzo stated simply that Olsen and Marquis were going to be the first two back. Given his "best case" return of Wang being early August, I'm seeing these two back by month's end. Detwiler also seems to be on his way though after Scott and Jason. For Wang, early August came across as not just a "best case" but an "absolute everything goes perfect" date. Given that the Nats will have 3 pitchers being jammed into the rotation in the next few weeks, I don't see them feeling any need to rush Wang and I wouldn't expect to see him for at least a month.

Don't expect Dunn to be traded. The word on the street, that it's likely Dunn will be here, seems to be correct. It almost feels that Rizzo wants a Dunn caliber player back in response, which is going to be impossible to pull from any team that wants Dunn for the stretch because they need those type of players to compete. Failing that 2 or 3 top notch prospects might do it, but that's not what the market bears anymore. Control and youth are valued very highly. Failing Kenny Williams emptying what's left of his minors, I don't see that happening either. When Dunn, a (just) past-prime slugger with an expiring contract, isn't dealt, well don't expect any surprises on the trade front (though Livan still should go)

Pudge is here next year too. Deal. Rizzo was effusive in his praise, effusive I tells ya, for Pudge. Could be cover for a deal, but really it didn't feel like it. It felt like a "he's here and the fans need to hear all the awesome stuff he does for the team because god knows he can't hit. Except he can hit .290!" Except that's not even true - he's about to break into the .270s and is the 12th worst offensive catcher in the NL. At least he's not Nieves.

As long as they aren't playing to their best, that'll be Rizzo's excuse for the sucking. The Nats aren't a good team. The talent just isn't there. Part of that are the injuries, but a lot is the roster make-up. They are ok at best. However they are underperforming, the past month or so making mistakes they shouldn't and not living up to the modest expectations most people set for them. That gives Rizzo an out for talking about the team's failings and he's going to take it. It's not his fault for putting a 73 win team together that is slumping right now. It's their fault for not even playing like a 73 win team. True? I guess. But a half-truth at best.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Nats awkward situation

Great little piece by Nats Triple Play about the issues with the popular belief that if you aren't contending you should be rebuilding. Go read it!

Ok you back? Rebuilding is often taken to be a far surer thing in theory than it is in practice. You hear all the time : "We're not going to compete right now so let's trade all our good older players and we'll be good in 4 years or so" Except no team can promise they'll be good in 4 years. They can't even say it's a 50/50 wager. If you make the right deals, and draft the right guys, and sign the right international players, and enough of them develop into high level talent, and the guys you already have that you are counting on develop too, and you have some injury luck and you sign the right free agents to supplement the team, if you do all that, all while 31 other teams are trying to do the same thing with the same talent pool, then sure, they'll be good. Any misstep however and things could fall short. Maybe a few games short maybe 20 games short.

If I make rebuilding sound like a bad strategy, I don't mean to. Sometimes, a lot of times, a team is better off doing it than not. And even though it is a hard business the difference between good and bad in baseball is slim enough that you should end up with a decent team every decade or so unless you are Pirates cheap or Royals stupid.

But "a lot of times" is not "always" and the Nationals find themselves in a gray area right now. Ideally a "rebuilding" team will have some young guys a couple years from making an impact mixed with players that obviously should be dealt: old players or players that will be expensive next year. But the Nats' young guys don't need a couple years. Zimmerman and Strasburg are stars right now and in positions (3rd base and #1 starter) hard to fill in other ways. The Nats' slugger to unload isn't old. Adam Dunn is 30 yrs old and has likely at least 2 good years left, possibly a bunch more. The Nats' key cheap pieces aren't about to get expensive. Both Willingham and Capps are still going to be cheap next season. It's not the best situation, no, but how long before the Nats find themselves in a better one?

It's a tough call and one that can go either way. As I've said before - I think it hinges on what Dunn can bring back. If he brings in a real prospect, one a year or two from impact, then maybe it's worth it to scrap this team because you could be looking at building with 3-4 star young guys just a couple years down the road. If it's nothing that seems sure, then maybe it's best to stick with what you got, rather than relying on Strasburg and Zimmerman and nothing else to carry a team through 2013.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Forget about the curveball Steven!

Throw him the heater!

Odds and Ends

The "Strasburg Effect" revisited : I noted after the Royals game that maybe Strasburg wasn't going to be able to sell-out every game by his mere presence. While some balked at the idea, it was proven again last Friday as only ~35,000 showed up to watch the Giants face Strasburg. Trot out any excuse you like, but it seems like there seems to be a casual cap of "only" 10 to 15 thousand. What does it mean? Nothing really. He's awesome and people come to see him. I'll still check to see how/if interest fades, but my guess is with Strasburg facing an early end to his season due to innings limits, that we'll see the interest level reamin steady through the season.

Also of note, If he is really bringing in 10-15K more fans a game that's around let's say 65K people in the seats that wouldn't have been otherwise. At say... $25 a pop that's over 1.5 million dollars for the Lerners. Good players are good investments.

The Nats are better (at least than last year)! : Federal Baseball asked themselves if the Nats were really better this year. The answer, of course, was yes (the Nats are 40-51 this season, 26-65 last year) and the reason was better pitching. Not having one of the worst bullpens of all time and adding a stud pitcher really does help. Of course last year was a train wreck. Are the Nats better than all those other dead years? Let's just see record wise.

Through 91 games
2010: 40-51
2009: 26-65
2008: 34-57
2007: 37-54
2006: 38-53

Obviously better than last year, and not in much danger of being passed by 2008 (they had a crushingly bad July and would lose #70 before winning #40... ouch). 2006 might hold on for a bit but their single digit win August makes it hard for them to keep pace. Nope it's down to 2010 vs 2007. 2007 will make a little run here soon getting to 51-60 before sputtering through the rest of the season to finish with 73 wins. Can 2010 pass that modest goal?

Shutouts : Yeah it stinks to get shut out back to back, but let's not forget the cable-era standard for getting shutout - the 2008 Washington Nationals. They got shut out 21 times, the most in 33 years. How bad was it? The team leader in RBI had only 61... and it was Lastings Milledge.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's Exorbitant?

The Nats are asking an exorbitant price for Dunn says Ken Rosenthal. I wonder what that means. I don't think say Dunn straight up for Jesus Montero is "exorbitant". A reach probably but not "exorbitant". But maybe it is to baseball people.

So am I off or are the Nationals looking for say... Phil Hughes back? Or a package like the Yankees offered for Cliff Lee? Either of those would be clearly too much.


Death, Taxes, and trading Livan

We've gone over this several times in several places. The Nats can trade out their good players and try to build for a good young team close to Zimmerman's walk year, or they can patch together a team and try to get the best they can out of the next two years while not disrupting their slow recovery in the minors. Either path has its positives and negatives, but it boils down to the first plan being a bigger gamble for a potential bigger gain.

Either way though there is one constant between the two directions - Livan must go.

Other guys you can argue about. Dunn and Willingham are keys to the second plan, and not easy to replace. Pudge is saddled with a second year and frankly the Nats probably will need him next year - regardless if his bat implodes in the second half. Guzman's contract makes him difficult to trade. Capps is useful and cheap and young.

Livan though - Livan is old and had a unexpectedly good first half. Which means a crash is likely coming. He is also cheap though and dependable enough, which means he still has value. He's got some baggage with attitude issues, but he's got that veteran presence that team's love down the stretch. The Nats have to make room to try out some recovering pitchers in the 2nd half of this "lost" season. Trading Livan would easily open a spot. Would he bring anything more in than last time (Martis Mock and Chico)? Probably not. But were/are Martis Mock and Chico useful organizational pieces? Absolutely.

Why would you keep him? Sure, he could help a team looking to win in 2011 and 2012, but he could help them anyway by being resigned over the offseason. I guess you keep him so you could... I don't know... get him cheaper for next year? Make him feel good about the team so he's more likely to resign? We're not talking about the best pitcher ever here. They can find another bargain basement innings eater if need be.

I love Livan too. I'd be happy to see him back next year, but for the rest of this year he has to go. He's the only guy I'm certain that they should trade that I'm certain that they could trade. (well Capps too - but the argument for keeping him is a lot stronger)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Another Matt Capps victory.

For all our (completely honest) talk about Matt Capps not being the most deserving National, let's not forget he's been good. Not great, and maybe a little lucky, but still good. That's not easy, to be good in the majors.

And he struck out Big Papi which is always great. Suck it Ortiz!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not all bad

My post yesterday had a distinct "Losers Forever" feeling to it and I didn't want you to get the wrong impression. Just because the Nats can't be winners now or in the near future doesn't mean the team is being managed poorly. (It does mean the team WAS managed poorly but that's a different post)

In my mind if the team keeps going the way it is - signing draft picks, stockpiling what minor league talent they have, making smart free agent signings and the occasional smart trade - they can keep moving in the right direction. Talent wise they'll get let's say 5 wins better every 3-4 years, and will top out probably in the 80-85 win range before there has to be some change in strategy.* When talent wise you top out at 85 wins well then in "good years" where everything is clicking you can challenge for Wild Cards or pennants. Of course there will be bad years in this decade long march. It won't be 1-2 wins more every years. More like 2010 : 71 2011 : 76 2012 : 73 2013 : 77 2014: 78 2015 : 82 2016 : 75 2017 : 84.

* At this point I think you either have to start raising payroll to be in the top of the league or you ned to "go for it" during a "good year". That'll give you a couple year run at the pennant if you're lucky but knock you back down a couple ladder rungs later.

Of course real good luck or real bad luck can mess with this plan. If Bryce is the next Pujols that helps speed things along. If Bryce is the next Shawn Abner that slows it down. That's just the way it works. Every team not throwing money around is going to need some breaks along the way.

Trading Dunn, Livan, Guzman, would be part of this strategy, though it would probably mean next year would be a slight step back, say 70 wins instead of 75. Not trading them would delay the progress for the sake a few more wins in the next couple years, but with a little luck and a savvy signing or two that could mean a WC challenging team. The only thing that would be detrimental to this team would be losing what little minor league depth they have. Dealing several guys under 25 in a quixotic run to 88 wins would be a mistake.

The team is on a boat to respectability, it's just a slow one.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Only 5th worst?

Come on.

Lucky me I listen on the radio. Got no problems with Slowes and Jageler.

Unlucky me I spend most of my radio time listening to this thing.

Two bad bets

We keep talking about this but it is going to be the biggest topic of the second half of the year. The Nats have a choice to make. Make a play now or make a play later. (OK - let's be 100% truthful - there's always a chance to make a play NOW - but that involves a very large financial commitment and while the Nats have added payroll I don't think they are ready to be Top 5 anytime soon) We can argue either way but the truth of it is both choices are bad bets. The Nats are not likely to be playoff contenders soon nor are they likely to be playoff contenders 4-5 years down the road. (Beyond that - who knows about any team?)

The current roster is fine, roughly the low 70 win team they project out to be. They've gotten some planned production : Zimmerman, Strasburg, Storen. They've gotten some good luck : Dunn, Willingham, having career years, Pudge not collapsing, the early dominance of Clippard and Capps, Livan pitching better than he has in years. They've gotten some bad luck : Marquis injury, Lannan's collapse, Nyjer Morgan becoming a Nats CF in all the wrong ways. They've gotten some planned suckitude : Kennedy and Guzman barely holding up 2nd, Desmond fighting through his first year, RF issues, a back of the rotation built on the "Hope these other guys come back soon!" strategy. In other words, it's a pretty typical season.

In order for the Nats to be playoff contenders soon, without relying on everybody coming back and playing to their highest potential, the Nats need to add at least 15 wins. That's a alot of wins to add. That's like the Nats got A. Pujols to replace Guzman and got Albert P. to replace Roger Bernadina in the lineup. It's replacing Atilano AND Stammen AND Martin with Cliff Lee and his clones Biff Lee and Griff Lee. It's a two to three stud difference (assuming everywhere else stays the same). Of course that's hard to accomplish - it's much easier to make a 6-7 little changes where each one makes the team better. Or one big change and 4-5 smaller ones. Are the Nats able and willing to do that, to pay top dollar for say a RF and starter? Or pay top dollar to get a better 2nd baseman and a better mid-rotation starter and make the bench and bullpen the best in the league? I don't know. But if they don't go all the way out for next year then they start relying on a alot of wishes and dreams, a lot of good luck and no bad luck.

In order for the Nats to be playoff contenders later though, they would also need a lot of good luck. They have two tent poles in Zimmerman and Strasburg to build around. That's not enough. There is potential there for more. Bryce and ZNN both could be very good major leaguers (maybe more in Bryce's case). Desmond is still working it out and should at least be an average hitting SS for a few years, something not to be scoffed at. But there isn't a number of young pitchers or young hitters that are dominating the minors for the Nats. There's a few. They are ok. Of course the idea would be to supplement them with trades, but the days of the big deals are pretty much dead. The Nats can pull in maybe a couple quality players or maybe some quantity of guys for Dunn, Livan, Willingham, but not enough to think "Watch out for the Nats 4-5 years down the road". With good drafting, good trades, and some luck it could be that way, but could is the important word there. It could also not be that way and giving it 50/50 odds is being generous. Of course if it does pay off the reward is likely to be a longer run of more sustainable success.

The Nats can either gamble on a run the next couple years or make a bigger gamble on a run 4-5 years down the road. But because of the relative shambles the minor league system was in when the franchise moved to Washington, the relatively slow return of them to respectability, and the general eschewing of high payroll, neither choice is a good one. Of course they can't just pack it in and say the hell with it. They have to try something. It'll be interesting to see what they go for.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

He did it!

Strasburg takes the lead in K's before the break!

I like being right.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Non-sequiter bad headline writing!

Why is this article title not The summer of "Blah"-ckbusters or The summer of Blahbusters ?

Booo! Booo to you,!

Who do the Nats give up on?

The idea floating around out there, even perpetuated by the front office, is that the Nats will be mild buyers this trade period. This would seem to suggest they understand what a lot of us understand: The Nats have some decent pieces right now. There is no reason yet to think there is a bright future certain for the Nats. Maybe the Nats should go for something right now.

OK fine, let's say the Nats do that. Then how do they get better, because they need to get significantly better on both offense and pitching to make any serious runs at the playoffs. If this is just a - let's keep Dunn and Willingham around and go for .500 -then what's the point? You could trade them - make some savvy signings and be right back around there with a couple more prospects in your pocket. No, this has to be about making a real push at the postseason.

Offensively they can improve in 5 slots. Catcher, 2nd, short, center and right. Catcher though will be tough to improve on (there just aren't a lot of good options out there) they already have Pudge signed for next year, they have Jesus coming back and arguably their best position minor leaguers (Norris, Bryce) are catchers. It seems like they are stuck here.

Short is possible, as is center but sigining a player for either position would be giving up on a plan that the Nats were "committed" to just 3 short months ago. Nyjer and Desmond would be cheap players. Nyjer would provide speed and fielding while Desmond would grow into a better hitter and fielder. You could sign someone for right but then you'd be going over Bernadina. It's a little early to claim that he's going to keep hitting well but so far he's been decent.

So if you want to stay committed to the plan and the one pleasant surprise the Nats have gotten this year the only place to improve is 2nd base. Is Chase Utley available? Because honestly that's the type of improvement they'd need at 2nd base to make a serious difference in their offense with just one player.

It has to be at least two positions. Which means giving up on someone, Desmond, Morgan, Bernadina, Flores (if they go after Victor Martinez), they have to write off someone at the end of the year. This makes the 2nd half of this year critical for these players. If the Nats are serious about getting better in 2011 and 2012 they likely have to kick someone to the curb. Right now it would almost certainly be Morgan, who looks completely lost, but it could easily be any of these guys. There's a lot of baseball left to play.

Of course the Nats could stay the course - if Morgan and Desmond look a lot better in the 2nd half and if Bernadina continues to hit well and if Flores comes back this year and looks good. if if if if.

And this is just the offense...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Good news, bad news, Good news

Good news : 4 homers!

Bad news : 7 runs. Although that's pretty standard for the Nats. They've hit 3 or more homers 5 times this year. The run totals in those games? 6, 5, 4, 6, and 7. It's also the first time all season the Nats have had back to back multi-homer games of 3 or more. Of course when they've only had 5, that makes sense.

Good news : Desmond since his short 2 game non-starting stint? .421 / .452 / .852, 2 homers, 2 doubles in 5 games started. Yes it's only one short stretch but I think it shows that a trip to the minors now might be a bit premature. I'm not saying he may not eventually need to go down this year, another 3 weeks of .100 hitting could be coming up, just not right now.

Vote Zim! (Then cheer politely when Votto deservedly wins the spot)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Yes, it's that slow: Mailbag Time?

Answering the questions that nobody asked me (but they did ask Bill Ladson and I consider us blood brothers after what happened in old Ceylon):

Should the Nationals trade Adam Dunn?

Bill's answer is not great here. He says he's not sure because even though Adam Dunn's offense was better than he expected that his defense is still not great and the Nats need better defense. This is all true but what's even MORE true is the example he brings up where the White Sox got rid of 2 outfielders, both of which could hit but neither of which could field well and then they went to the World Series! What's MORE true about that isn't that defense wins championships it's that you can make a pretty big difference in D by replacing outfielders. Adam Dunn isn't an outfielder.

I've made myself pretty clear : A fair deal for 2 years or less sure. Anything 3 years or more better be a real bargain. Anything more than 4 better be a sign and trade.

After leading the league in errors, is Ian Desmond still regarded as the Nationals' shortstop of the future?

Yes, but it's starting to get to be a "by deafault" situation rather than real excitement over a prospect. There's no one in the minors to push him yet and until that happens he's it. He's Future Short.

Do you think the Nationals will sign Ivan Rodriguez for 2012 after his two-year contract expires? Wouldn't it be nice if he's with Washington to collect his 3,000th hit and mentor young pitchers?

Geez, I sure hope the Nats don't sign a 40yr old catcher. I guess the idea is 3000 hits would be nice to see and if he's only a backup... Here's the problem. Pudge stands at 2771 hits right now so he'll need 229 hits. If he somehow manages to keep hitting as he has (over .300) and is about the same level of healthiness - he'll get another 60 or so hits this year, heading into next year he'll need 170 hits. Hello 2004. He's been averaging around 110 the past few years. Basically if everything goes right (no major injuries, still hitting decently) he'll still need about 50 hits in 2012 to get to 3000. That might not seem like a lot but that's a high number for a true backup player to get to. I guess if everything goes right for the next year and a half signing him to be a part-time starter in 2012 could be a possibility though.

Mike Morse has been hot. Why don't the Nationals play him every day? Roger Bernadina has been hot, too, but play one at center and the other in right -- it's not a bad problem for the Nats to have.

Because they want a great fielding CF and neither of these guys would be that. Morgan was supposed to be the answer, and is surprising with his poor play. In baseball if something surprises you it's likely to stop being surprising later on. The season is just that long and the numbers just work that way. So they're still hoping Nyjer turns it around in the 2nd half, and probably won't make any changes until the offseason. At least that's how I see it. Anyone they could deal for would likely be of Morgan's talent level or worse. Morse and Bernandina are ok but not anything you to make you give up on what was a solid plan only halfway into a season.

But what does your gut say: Will the Nats be buyers, sellers or stand pat in the weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline?

Bill says minor buyers and I agree. Now should they be? I think Chris probably has it right. The pitching maybe pretty good in a couple years but there isn't anything outside of Zimmerman right now that you look at and go "Oh he's going to rock in 2013" (not yet for Bryce) and who knows if he'll stay. He probably will but who knows? So dealing for that future date in mind might be a mistake. Now not dealing for that future date will leave the minors just as weak as it is now, when smart dealing could boost it up so that in 2013, you might be able to see 3-4 guys that could help in 2015/2016, just when Strasburg should be peaking and getting maybe ready to leave. It might be a more enticing situation for him than if they have a good couple years in 2011 and 2012 almost making the playoffs and then start to decline with no help in sight. Of course that's major speculation.

Do you see John Lannan back in the Major League rotation with the Nationals this year?

Bill says he's not sure - the Nats have plenty of pitchers and Lannan isn't right yet. He wonders if he's injured, but says Lannan and the Nats medical staff say no. The Nats Medical Staff says no? Who's with me betting the house on YES?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Matt Capps? That's a joke.

I think Strasburg, Livan and Clippard are more deserving and that's just the pitchers!

Seriously - go vote Zimmerman and if you don't vote Zimmerman vote Votto who also got screwed. (as much as you can get screwed by not getting put into an exhibition game).

It's hard to screw up naming an All-Star team because usually you are picking from a pool of deserving players so Deserving Guy A or Deserving Guy B... what's it matter? But somehow Charlie Manuel managed to screw it up. Congrats. That takes skill.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Hey hey! Go to a game!

It's a nice weekend. Or at least a nice Friday night and Saturday before somehow DC becomes the center of the sun. Go to a game. Enjoy your Independence weekend. Independence from the idea that attitude matters more than talent. Independence from the idea that it's just a matter of effort.

Go out and watch a 70-75 win team try to win a game. Watch a young superstar, one of the best sluggers of this era, and a guy having a career year smack the ball around. Watch the most exciting pitcher in the game take the mound. Watch a soon to be hall of famer behind the plate take a few last cuts. Watch a young player at short try to raise his game. Watch a guy in right field quietly make himself into an everyday player. Watch and admire some competant relief pitching.

It's baseball. It's still fun even if this isn't a playoff team, or a .500 team.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Pudge you signed up for

From Opening Day until May 10th, Pudge might have been the hottest hitter in baesball. He hit .393 / .417 / .528. This was unexpected considering Pudge hadn't cracked .300 since 2006, he had seen his batting average decline from .300 to .281 to .276 to .249 the past 4 years, he had gotten older turning 38 in November of last year, and he was still playing the most physically demanding position on the field. All signs pointed to maybe one last year of low .200s batting and a nice little retirement package that he could look over for 5 years until he went to Cooperstown. Instead here he was slapping singles like nobody's business all over the National League. Could this be a Pudge resurgence? One last season of great play made possible by extra conditioning, or a new attitude, or providence?


Since May 10th Pudge has hit .214 /.245 /.265. Prior to that Pudge's balls were finding everyhole (BABIP in the high .300s), but as the season has worn on that has evened out a bit and there is still some ways to go.

Of course Rodriguez's worth is not simply tied into his batting. He's still good behind the plate and the Nats still have nothing healthy in the wings to even come close to threatening taking his spot. They needed someone who could catch and be better than Wil Nieves, and they got it. But this is the Pudge the Nats signed to a 2 year deal for eleventy million dollars. A guy that can fill the position on the field, but at the plate is far past his prime and as an everyday player only offers another hole in a Nats lineup that has too many already.