Nationals Baseball: Angelos had a better offseason, are the Os now better than the Nats?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Angelos had a better offseason, are the Os now better than the Nats?

Now that the Orioles signed the Duke, who the Nats had interest in, after grabbing Derek Lee from the Nats hands, I've heard a tiny bit of rumbling about the Angelos' Orioles having a better offseason than the Nats. (I'm going to assume this rumbling is all about the Angelos/MASN connection and not some crazy city rivalry. I refuse to accept that anyone would care about that.) With the cash from the Nats TV deal going to help support the Baltimore 9, it's at least of mild interest to see if that's true and how the Orioles now stack up in comparison to the Nats.

It is true. The Orioles have so far had a more successful offseason, but it's also true that they needed to. While their records were similar, 66 wins for the Os to 69 for the Nats, most indications were that the Orioles were lucky to win that many and the Nats were a bit unlucky not to win more. The Pythagorean records have them almost 10 games apart, a better indication of the talent difference. And if you doubt that you only have to look at the Orioles infield.

The Orioles infield was horrible last year. Here's how the players they had with 400+ at bats ranked and scored in WAR last year, compared to their AL peers.

1B - Wigginton : 0.3 WAR : 3rd to last
2B - no one (Roberts injured)
SS - Izturis : -0.3 WAR : last
3B - Tejada : -0.1 WAR : last

The Nats infield with Zimmerman (7.2 - like top 3 over all NL position players) and Dunn (7th out of NL firstbasemen) was obviously going to be better, but even Desmond (1.1 WAR) and Espinosa (0.4 WAR in limited play) outperformed these guys. It's not even close. They are Cey-Russell-Lopes-Garvey compared to the Orioles infield. The fact that the Os infield was allowed to be that bad in the first place was a crime. So they needed to get better just so they wouldn't be an embarrassment anymore. Reynolds, Hardy and Lee will definitely help them - but these aren't game changers. Even with LaRoche manning first instead of Dunn, the Zimmerman advantage will give the Nats at least an equally productive infield. And if Espinosa can play a decent full year, or he or Desmond take a step up the Nats will have a definite advantage.

A Nats fans might say now - "but they had Jones and Markakis in the OF, while the Nats had Bernadina and Morgan and etc". That is true. It's also true that Markakis and Jones were actually pretty average last year. Neither one was significantly better than Willingham and neither is the player that Werth is. Of course you'd want either one of them instead of Josh because of their ages but we're not talking about that (or else the Nats would have a bigger IF advantage then they already do). While they had a significant advantage in the OF last year, the Werth bump, much like Zimmerman in the infield, closes a lot of ground. They have potential, due to the age difference to be significantly better, but the safe bet is that the Os will only be a step better.

All in all I like the Nats offense better. They have two stars and a couple potential breakout players. The Orioles have more of a "no weakness" lineup. The pitching difference - well there I like the Os better than the Nats. I think missing out on the Duchscherer actually is worse for the Nats than losing out on Lee. I like Lee better than Laroche for his potential to have one big year left in him. If he doesn't, and that the better bet, they'll be pretty equivalent players over the next couple years. But the Nats need as many arms as they can get in their starter pool. None of the arms the Nats have outside of Zimmermann are impressive on their own. The breakout that they could have would be more of a Livan 2010 "what the hell?!?" variety. Therefore the more in there to choose from, the better chance of finding a guy having that type of year. The Duke was just the type of pitcher that could have a good year in him (and an AL to NL guy. Love those).

So in the end are the Os better than the Nats? The best guess is no, but they've probably closed the gap to the point were the talent levels on the field in 2011 are close to equal. The Nats having a slight offensive advantage and the O's better starting pitching as their young guns mature. (The Nats should be better in the bullpen - but anything can happen there). Given the amount of young players that are key on either side there is a lot of room for variation but I figure both have about 70-75 win talent on the table. A nice step up for an Orioles team that had drifted in the wrong direction the last few years, a disappointing lack of movement for a Nats team looking for a breakout year sooner rather than later.


Wally said...

First off, thanks for posting. With the offseason mostly played out, I was beginning to feel like the Kramer/Newman 'We've really hit rock bottom' exchange from Seinfeld (the one where Kramer found Merv Griffin's old set furniture and started holding shows in his apartment).

It is pretty close, but I think that the O's have a better 25 man roster for 2011. Zim is the best player on the either field, and Werth 2d, but the falloff could be pretty dramatic after that. The O's could put up the next 6-7 guys (Markakis, Roberts, Jones, Weiters, Lee, Reynolds, hardy) before you get to a Nat. I think that you described it well, but I would probably take the deeper overall lineup. And they have probably the best two SPs in Matusz and Guthrie.

So I give them 2011, but I would take the Nats position overall instead of the O's. 1) - not in the AL East; 2) more of the Nats guys have a chance to be keepers than Lee, Reynolds, et al; and 3) two huge bullets coming at some point in Strasburg and Bryce.

hoo said...

I think the O's are better given that their pitching staff is younger and pretty much better. The top 2 Nats prospects are coming off blown elbows and we all take for granted they'll be in the 90%+ who make it back.

And you left out catcher where I think that Wieters guy could be a bit better than Pudge's corpse and Wilson Flores.

I think Nats were on the right path but got bumped the last few years with the elbow injuries and little progress from Dett or other minor league starters.

But it's also galling that the O's bit the nats straight up for a few FAs this year. Of course, the Nats have a trump card in that no one of our pitchers in the pen are literally pitchers in the pen and will be for quite sometime.

Harper said...

Wally / hoo - I know Weiters was a stud prospect but what about the last two years gives you this confidence that he'll get it. He may very well do just that but I don't feel any guarantee that it'll be next year.

Wally - it's true after Zimm/Werth it's 6 guys on the Os vs one (LaRoche) for the Nats in the middle area. But it's not just having two guys slightly better than the rest. Werth is much better than those guys, and Zimm is much better than Werth. These are two guys that can contribute even when they are off their game. Because of that I still like the Nats offense just slightly better.

Beyond 2011... I guess I like the Nats better but almost exclusively because of point #1.

hoo - I am probably bumping up the Nats pitching a bit in the comparison. I think though looking at strictly the most likely scenario - it's close. When you start thinking about potential - the Orioles have a rotation full of guys that may surprise. It's most likely that they'll only be slightly better, but the chances they'll be much better than the Nats are much higher than the chances that the Nats will be better. If that makes any sense.

Hoo said...

re: Wieters. I'd say he's better than Pudge now (although Flores has been better hitter in limited time). It's more likely that Wieters continues to improve than Pudge improves from last year's numbers. Maybe if Ramos/Flores get substantial ABs...

Understand your pt on the rotation. But using the "from many" comes one good arm theory, I'd feel good that one of the O's young guns makes a jump next year. Get much better now that they have big leagues exp. Nats can't expect much improvement except from Marquis and it seems as likely that Livo will be a lot worse than Marquis tons better.

But I understand your note on upside. I'd rather have the O's younger staff with a ton of potential rather than the Nats staff of meh, we know what they can do and it's not great but let's cross our fingers on Znn/Maya.

Nats do get a huge edge in the pen and I think our future is still brighter b/c we were the worst in baseball at the right time.

Harper said...

I guess I don't buy that Pudge will get 50% of the catcher at bats again. I mean they really can't do that can they? Not with 2 and potentially 3 catchers needing major league playing time...

But if Pudge plays the same amount that he did last year then yes, I'd edge the Os back over the Nats.

Wally said...

Zim/Werth - totally agree that they are much better, and that should hold up throughout the year. But, when you are counting on just a few, you are really susceptible to injuries. Plus, the other guys except Laroche - they could all suck really bad. I am not predicting that, I like Desi, kinda feeling the love for Morse, and even modestly hopeful on NoMo, but not one of them has demonstrated MLB consistency that you can reduce your worries to just injuries.

I dunno, Weiters went .249/.319/.377 (not sure why the slugging was so awful) last year, and although I haven't checked the fielding stats, I think that he generally gets good reviews. That is not bad for a C as is, and Bill James projects .288/.361/.448 for 2011, which would vault him to top 10 probably. He may still be trading off the former prospect luster, tho, so your point about 'why believe' is valid.

I am a big Matusz fan though; he was dynamite in the 2d half last year, and looked like he really figured it out. I think the guy is going to take a big step forward this year. I like him better than JZimm for sure (and I like JZimm). Guthrie is solid; Tillman seems lost tho.

If you are the O's, would you trade Matusz for Stras? I am not sure they do (and before anyone bans me from the blog, I am obviously talking about an injured Stras with whatever uncertainty you apply to his comeback).

Hoo said...

BTW, I forgot to mention that the Nats got another Yankees pitcher today! Following in the illustrious footsteps of Brian Bruney, the Yankee-National relationship strengthens. Obviously, Rizzo is throwing some love to Harper with this Yankee fascination.

Harper said...

Wally - Nothing to disagree about really. Offensively the Nats don't have the stability of the Os. They could just as easily be much worse as much better. The Desmond/Ramos/Espinosa/Morgan part is just so up int he air. But like I said to hoo about the pitching - I'm just thinking most likely scenario here.

As for Weiters He got super lucky with BABIp to get that high average in 2009. Last year was more "right". he's shown no power and if he shows no power and can't hit for average who's going to walk him? I know his minor league numbers all say strongly one thing, but just give me a good half year first.

If I were the Os GM I would make that deal, Matusz is very good, Strasburg could be all-time. However, I completely understand why they can't make that deal for an injured Strasburg.

hoo - Bruney belongs to the world.

John C. said...

@Hoo: If you're going to downgrade acquisition of pitchers from the Yankee organization because of Bruney, you have to bump them back up because of Tyler Clippard. The Nats got Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo - who was released by the Yankees last year. I'd say that worked out pretty well for the Nats!

If I were the Nats I wouldn't concede the catcher position to the Orioles; Wieters has been so blah the last couple of years that there is rumbling that he may be a fizzle.

Harper said...

JohnC - I still like Weiters in the long run but I don't see any reason to say he's going to be better than what the Nats put out there in 2011. He's moved into the "prove it" phase of his career.

Donald said...

One more important factor in the O's favor is at the manager position. It's probably why you note that the Nats did slightly worse than expected and the O's slightly better last year. I don't think that was just luck.