Nationals Baseball: What can be fixed and what can't

Friday, June 03, 2011

What can be fixed and what can't

Two days ago I said Espinosa was fine, yesterday Werth. Ramos is good. Nix has been the best hitter on the team. Morse has been the hottest. The starting pitching is decent. The relief pitching better than that. If this is all true than what exactly is wrong with the Nats? (other than the fact this decent lineup has only been together for about 2 weeks) Why can't they go on a nice streak and challenge for .500? And can these things be fixed? And can I blame Rizzo for this? And can I stop asking questions?

The lineup has no "star" - Elite offenses have elite offensive players. The Nats should have two, but right now they have none. Werth has not been hitting as such and Zimmerman is still out. It's nice that Morse is so hot, but his streak should be complementing the two more reliable offensive guys.

Fixable? No. The Nats aren't giving up young players for a good bat. Only time can heal this wound.

Blameable? No on Zimm. No on not bringing in someone else. (what other FA was there that's doing well right now? Berkman and... Xavier Nady?) Maybe on Werth - stats suggest he was a borderline "star" on offense.

Ian Desmond - He's struggling terribly. .223 / .264 /.350. An empty lineup spot right now.

Fixable? Not right now. There isn't a good MI replacement ready so sending down Desmond would be just for his benefit not the team's (and I don't even think it would help him - it looks more and more like he just had a fluke year)

Blameable? No. In fact I think playing him everyday even if he ends up costing the team a game or two is the right move.

Center Field - Ankiel is ready to leave the league. Bernadina doesn't have the talent to stay in it.

Fixable? No. National's organizational depth just isn't there. Anyone worth going out to get would likely cost the Nats something they don't want to give up. Starting Bernadina everyday until the All-Star break is the right move (so you can write him off) The best move for wins might be... I can't believe I'm saying this... starting Hairston everydaYYUK! Bleccch! Ugh! You can imagine how good a "fix" that is.

Blameable? Depends on how you feel about Nyjer Morgan. The Nats had a cheap, good fielding, average hitting option and they threw him away because of an off-year and a bad attitude. I don't mind fiery, even if it borders on jerk. I like decent play. I blame Rizzo.

The bench is awful - JHJ is the best of the bunch and his praise is no more than "hasn't been awful". Cora has gotten some hits but basically all singles. Bixler is bad. Stairs worse. There's no power, no getting on base, no elite speed, no great fielding.

Fixable? - I have to think so. Certainly you can drop Stairs and bring in someone that can hit. There's got to be someone out there right? You can replace Bixler and maybe get lucky with a decent call-up, hard to see it being worse. If Ankiel takes Stairs place on the bench, (giving the Nats a good fielder on the bench and maybe some pop) you can find a speedy good field never let bat OF, right? On second thought don't do that because you'll let him bat. I know you will. Sorry Tony Gwynn Jr.

Blameable? Yes. This isn't where the GM makes the biggest impact but it is where he has the biggest influence. Pudge is a fine back-up catcher though. So kudos on that 2 year, 6million dollar deal for that.

There is no "Star"ting pitcher? - Unlike every other year from 2006 on, this Nats rotation doesn't feature anyone that doesn't belong in the majors. Problem is it's more a group of 4th starters than a true rotation. ZNN is starting to move up but there still isn't anyone here that you can be sure is going to give you a good game and maybe bust a losing streak with a shutout.

Fixable? - I can't see how. Great pitchers don't grow on trees and don't come cheap.

Blameable? - I wouldn't. They made a pass at the best pitcher available. (who is no longer an elite pitcher - there I said it! - Take that Cliff Lee lovers! In all your respective faces. You know Lannan's ERA is only 0.10 worse than Cliff Lee? Does that sting?) Other that that what can you do? It's wait on Strasburg time and see how good the other guys can be in the meantime. Best bet is ZNN proves to be a solid #2, Gorzelanny or Marquis a #3, and Livan and Lannan keep doing their surprise bits, one being brilliant every 3rd game the other managing to keep the opponent from scoring the ton of runs they should by voodoo curses and magic spells.


bdrube said...

Great analysis. Desmond's regression at the plate is particularly regrettable because he seems to have figured things out defensively. Next year we may be looking at Espinosa as our new starting shortstop with Steve Lombardozzi taking over at second.

Hoo said...

Fun piece..and Rizzo takes blame on 50%, which seems right. For the things that are right, he gets credit on Ramos, the pen and Gorzo, Nix. So he's a push.

I still think dumping Morgan was such a stupid move it should count twice against Rizzo (and now it's almost a hideous pattern. Next spring, I expect to see Dez dumped in middle of March for a re-signed Guzman as the only back-up plan). If you think Morgan has such a short leash in the spring, you should make better plans than Ankiel or Bernadina!

This post illustrates the nice things the nats are hopefully doing: Letting Dez and Rog get their chance, Ramos the bulk of the starts, bringing up the ready MLB talent. This season is the biggest step forward since the team arrived.

ckstevenson said...

The overall "character" and "vets first" philosophy to me has had a huuuuuge (or "uge" if you are Lavar Arrington) impact on the team. Ankiel is old and overmatched, at least Desmond and Bernadina are young and young'ish and we can find out what we've got with them.

Hopefully they stick to things and let these guys play out the year, so we can as you wrote, find out what we've got. Which is what most sane fans have been begging for them to do for 3+ years.

But don't look for Rizzo to burn any borderline prospects' options by getting called up to replace Bixler or Cora or Stairs. Rizzo values the options too much.

Stairs, while Boswell was right (that sucks to write) that he's not the main reason we suck, is a waste of the 25 man roster spot. And I agree violently that Ankiel as the pinch hitter who can play defense too is a much better path forward. We literally lose nothing by dropping Stairs. Riggleman/Rizzo could bring up another relief pitcher if they wanted, and there'd be no harm to the offense/defense.

Lee said...

You know...if Nix keeps hitting like he has all season we may have a *star* there. What if he was the starter at the beginning of the season and played then as he has all season? Assume maybe 200 at bats. He'd be sitting on approx. 14 HRs, 37 RBIs, and 31 runs scored. That's top 10 in HRs and RBIs in the NL and top 20 in runs.

I think back to your bust and boom blog. Right now it appears that Nix is easily the boom and Dez is the bust. I wonder if the trends will hold.

Lee said...

What are the chances we keep Nix and Morse in the everyday lineup after LaRoche returns? With
Werth in CF? I can't imagine pulling one of those bats out of the lineup right now.

Harper said...

bdrube - completely possible. I actually think they are playing Desmond so much not because they think like some of us - that the minors won't help - but because they need him to improve so they can use him in a deal

Hoo - I'd be more kind to Rizzo regarding CF if he didn't see what losing a projected OF starter with no good backup plan would do JUST LAST YEAR.

ck - gah - borderline prospects shouldn't have their options respected. But you're probably right.

Lee - I think they'll worry about that in 2 weeks. Maybe one of these two will get cold.

As for Nix... Dave Nichols has some insight into that. Short of it is that the stats say no.

Wally said...

Nothing much to add other than to say good post.

I guess one thing. Desi came on in the second half last year, and could do it again. Not a guarantee, but it wouldn't be shocking either. I could see last year being repeatable for a few years, not the outlier. It wasn't an amazing year, after all.

Trescml said...

Isn't this the last year on Marquis' contract? If so, he is unlikely to be here past the trading deadline. In theory he could sign here again, but it will cost more than last time. Gorzelanny being on the DL will likely keep him around for the rest of the year and could be a good 4-5 starter for a couple of years.

Nattydread said...

I like the post. But let's start with your premise.

Give us .015 for having the toughest first third schedule in MLB and another .015 for the loss of Zimm and LaRoche. There! We're sitting at .480 in spitting distance of .500.

Small wonders -- but if you look at the last 4 April/Mays (exclude May 2007), this is the ONLY year where we've had a 4 game winning streak in the first 2 months.

Although things have sometimes SEEMED bad this year, I'd contend that things aren't sooo horrible, and Zimm's return could fire things up.

Agree on Stairs and the CF situation, though. Rizzo blew those calls.

kick me in the GO NATS said...

Problem with NIx is the newer defensive metrics hate the guys defense. Plus, he can't hit lefthanders much at all, so he is a very effective platoon guy. Shamefully with Morse playing first we do not have the other side of that platoon anywhere on the team.

On the other hand, I agree with most of what you said except CF might be fixable through a trade for Michael Borne of HOU. He is bascially a better version of Morgan. The best defensive CF in the game with elite speed and little power. But, he walks a little bit and hits .280 so he is not useless with the bat. He is definitely available if we can find a way to make a deal.

I understand teams like ours rarely buy, but CF is a major problem not easily fixed. We are dead last in CF production in the majors this season, and no-one in the minors looks anywhere near capable at any level.

Desmonds biggest issue is the complete lack of walks combined with all the Ks. How anyone can K that much and almost never walk is surprising. I do believe if he was our regular 8th batter we would survive though. He speed is near elite and getting better.

Basil said...

The CF situation makes you pine for the heady days of 2006 when Marlon Byrd and Damian Jackson duked it out for supremacy.