Nationals Baseball: August 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who gets called up?

Marrero is here and it's already down that Tom "MayDay" Milone will get some starts. Who else will get the call?

Peacock is one we all want to see and after a rough patch, he's seemingly earned it. He has a 3.19 ERA in 48 AAA innings and in his last 4 games he's given up 3 runs in 22 2/3 while striking out 25 guys. Walks are still an issue (9 over the same time frame) but given how his stuff has been talked up it would be disappointing to fans if he didn't get a chance at a start or two. Lombardozzi is also a favorite (.320 / .364 / 426 in 64 games at AAA) but he's been slumping a bit and the current MI combo is a bit sensitive about the possibility of giving up time. I would say that actually makes me want to see him up even more. Ian and Danny don't run the team and should be able to take things like this as they come.

Other possibilities? Hitting wise there really isn't much. It be a shame if "good story" Matt Antonelli didn't get a few games in (.299 / .393 / .463 in 84 games) as at the worst he could showcase himself into an interesting trade piece. Other than that you're probably reaching. They'd love to bring up an OF I bet but the best in AAA is Bernadina and in AA it's 28 year old Archie Gilbert. I would like to see Archie get a couple at bats as a reward for not only his nice season, but being a career minor leaguer who stuck it out. Still that's not anything to get excited about. Anyone else? Michael Aubrey? Not firing up the juices.

On the pitching side, any reliever could come depending on what they are looking for. Zech Zinicola (1.88 ERA in 24 innings in AAA) might have the best chance but who knows? It's more likely they'd bring up a guy that has stuff they like than worry about who had the best performance over a 30+ innings. Starters - I just don't see it. No room.

Any ideas who you want to see?

Side Notes

The Nats can't hit well. The Giants are even worse. Jair Jurrjens ERAs against these teams are respectively 9.90 and 7.50. Ok it's only 3 games but his worst ERA against any other team is 3.38.

Thanks to generous draft contracts the Nats have 3 guys on their 40 man (Bryce, Purke, Rendon) who they have no intention of playing until they're ready. I don't think it will matter next year. It's not like 37 guys for a month isn't enough if they happen not to be ready. But I guess a rash of injuries coupled with a playoff push could make things interesting.

By the way Bryce's current AA stats? .256 / .329 / .395. For comparison A-Rod went .288 / .391 / .441 in very limited action before moving to AAA. Griffey went .279 / .353 / .492. Please note that Bryce still is only 18 and I'm comparing him to two Hall of Famers. He'll still be here sooner rather than later and he'll still be good, but hopefully this helps you realize that it may not be next year and he may not be the greatest player ever. Would 2013 and a multi-year All-Star be that bad?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shockingly - I'm not always right.

The Dog Days are almost over and thankfully that'll mean some new topics to talk about. I can rehash stuff about Desmond until the cows come home (where did they go?) but it's getting tiring, right? You know what's better than that? Strasburg.

Strasburg. Strasburg. Strasburg.

Before we get the influx of new Strasburgian topics, let's take a second to look back at a couple of things I had wrong.


Back in Mid May commenter Wally noted that Zimmermann was on his way to a 3.5 WAR season if he pitched 160 innings. I of course, expected less. What did he end up with? 161.33 IP, and a WAR of 3.5. That's very very good as Jamie Mottram notes.

It may look like ZNN never faltered, but he did have an iffy July. A fantastic June and very good August helped balance that out, though. Looking at it - you can really see the impact of luck on a given game/time period. His June featured a mediocre strikeout rate of 5.7. His July had a much better K-rate (8.1) and an incredible 2 walks in 30 innings. Yet his June was epic and his July was below average. Why? HR-rate and BABIP. In June he gave up 1 homer in 42 innings and opponents had a BABIP of .256, in July he gave up 3 in 30 and the BABIP was .356. Part of that was pitching (more LDs in July) but part of that was luck, too.

But I feel like I'm getting away from the point. What you have with Zimmermann is a pitcher who pitched well all-season. He caught some breaks here, he didn't there, but that'll happen over the course of a year. In the end the HR-rate evened out, the BABIP evened out and he was STILL very good. Like Wally said he would be, and better than I thought.

On Clippard

In March I said that there was no way Clippard would be as good this year as last. Short and sweet - he HAS pitched better. It still isn't sub-2.00 ERA better (he has had a lot of things go his way this season) but better is better.

Really the lesson I'm learning here is never to say a reliever is going to do anything. It's like saying a pinch-hitter is going to hit .100 or .300. The sample size is going to be so small that anything is possible. Clippard could have pitched the same way he did this year, had a few GBs go in the wrong spots and ended up with a worse ERA than last year, which would have been totally unrepresentative of how well he's done. Hell, that happens to starters throwing close to 200 innings.

Anyway - there's a sandwich eating to come.

Monday, August 29, 2011

monday quickie

As usual.

I hate to be a Kill(gore)joy but even though Desmond has reacted well to moving the the leadoff spot, it's only been two weeks. I can pull out a 11 game segment from early June where he hit .319. Granted that wasn't as good (he barely walked and had 0 XBH) but still you have to see the point. YOU HAVE TO SEE IT.

More importantly though - it is true that since the All-Star break he's been hitting better. Has he been hitting well? That's debatable. Has he been hitting well enough for a SS? Yes definitely.

Of course here's the thing.

Pre All-Star game : 85 games
Post All-Star game : 40 games

Don't let recency fool you. Those 85 games count.

Also - both by the eyeball test and the fancy stat test, Ian's fielding has gone downhill as the season's gone on.

You still bring up Lombardozzi. You still spot start him. You still see if Desmond can keep this up through the last 30 games of the season. If he can... well you've got a debate on your hands on what to do in 2012. If he can't then... well you don't.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Disregarding Livan?

In all our talk about next year's rotation, Nats fans have pretty much dismissed the prospect of bringing back Livan Hernandez. On the surface it makes sense. He's old. He's not a top of the rotation guy. If the Nats are going to go "young" and have two open rotation spots (behind Strasburg, ZNN, and Lannan) there is no need to bring him back. If the Nats are going to go "good" and try to get a top of the rotation starter then there is no need to bring him back (they need at least one rotation spot open for trials). Right?

Well there's two arguments that I think can be made here. (1) What if the Nats simply try to go "stable" and sign a FA innings eater. Would they be any worse with Livan than someone else? (2) Why does Livan automatically fall behind Lannan?

Let's attack #2 first. No one is a bigger supporter of Lannan than I. (Usually I hate when people say that but come on, it's true. The Nats screwed him again last night. Screwed!) But there is a kernel of truth here. Livan's last 4 xFIPs are 4.84, 4.72, 4.57 and 4.17. Lannan's are 4.24, 4.64, 4.36, and 4.25. There really isn't any big difference here. Livan will give more innings (though Lannan is no slouch there). Livan will likely strike out more and walk less. Livan is a much better hitter. Livan is cheaper.

Man, that's a lot in favor of Livan. What does Lannan have? Age and the arm he throws with.

Lannan will be 27 next year. He could still improve and it's doubtful that he will suddenly collapse due to an age-related issue. Livan will be 37 next year which means that he almost certainly won't get better and he could very well collapse. I'm not saying it's a good bet to say that Livan will collapse, but it IS a good bet to say if one of these guys is to collapse it would be Livan. This isn't Livan's fault. It's just the way it is. There's a reason there are only 3 regular starters age 37 or older in the majors this year. (Wakefield, Lowe, Colon) The body just breaks down.

Lannan also pitches left-handed and has in the last 2 years become good at getting lefties out. Strasburg and ZNN are both righties. Teams want changes of pace. Could Detwiler or Milone or Free Agent X be that lefty? Maybe. But when you have one on hand that's relatively cheap why go with something unknown?

Because of the last two points, despite having a lower salary it's Livan that needs to be significantly better than Lannan to grab that 3rd spot. He isn't.

Ok so what about #1? The boring old "FA Innings eater" situation. In that I have a hard time reasoning why it shouldn't be Livan. We're not talking Buerhle or Oswalt here. We're talking Marquis or Harang. Is someone like that going to be that much better than Livan to justify the extra money? What about the likely 2nd year they'd want? Livan could almost certainly be signed for one-year and depending on how all those young guys are doing, could be dismissed after 2012 just as easily as now.

It's not cut-and-dried. The age thing is going to hover over Livan until he IS out of baseball. For a team that wants to be better next year again, the slight increase in security that a Jon Garland type will give you a #4 starter year in 2012 might actually be worth those extra dollars. But I'm not that sure. At the very least it's worth looking at more closely if the Nats go down this path.

Extra - Livanonymous brought up that he thought Livan was mostly doing his job (keeping the team in games) and really his stats were being brought down by a couple lousy games. Is this true?

Well one quick and dirty way to look at it is to look at Game Scores. If this is true than by removing Livan's # worst starts we should see more improvement in his average GS than the average pitcher. I looked at him in comparison to Lannan, ZNN, and Marquis removing their 5 worst starts each and what I found was inconclusive. He did see more improvement than Lannan or ZNN but it was Marquis that seemed to be the one that was really having his stats being negatively effected by a few rotten games.

I also looked at just the middle starts which would try to control for the occasional good start as well and that didn't turn out in Livan's favor either. He was actually more consistent than any of the four.

Still I think more work is needed to say anything definitively.

Just saw "Air Screech" video. New plan. Livan retires. Takes golf club to all various Screeches like they were old men standing outside of a warehouse. Becomes new mascot. Eats Dippin Dots in a barcalounger on top of the dugout.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rick Ankiel stinks

Anyone want to argue that? Anyone?

"Fun" fact : The guy with the second most walks on the Nats is Danny Espinosa. He's tied for 41st in the NL. The guy with the third most walks on the Nats is Wilson Ramos. He's tied for 81st.

I don't mind Rizzo's infatuation with the strikeout. A lot of people will tell you that strikeouts aren't even that bad. It's the same as any other out if there are two outs in an inning, and a good part of the "not moving anyone over, not forcing the other team to make a play" is muted by the fact you rarely get two outs on a strikeout.

Here's the thing though. You find guys that are good at hitting for power and good at getting on base and hope they don't strike out too much. You do NOT get guys that strike out too much and hope they are good at hitting for power and good at getting on base.

Just saying.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Every game is a hard one for Jordan Zimmermann

ZNN doesn't know how to win. That must be it, right? It's not that the team won't score runs for him. No. He just hasn't learned to pitch to the game. He's anti-clutch. Trade him for John Lackey! That guy is 12-9 despite an ERA close to 6! The new Jack Morris!

In all seriousness, part of Jordan must be happy he'll be hanging up the spikes in a start or two given the grief he gets put through every start. He has the 11th worst run support in the majors. Take away SF (3 in the Top 9) and Seattle (3 in the Top 12) and you could call him the 6th most unluckiest pitcher out of the teams you expect to score runs this year. He by far gets the worst support on the Nationals (Livan gets the 2nd least support and he's 41st in the league). But it's a funny type of lack of support.

In 15 of Zimmermann's 25 starts the Nats have scored 3 or fewer runs. That may seem like a lot (and it is) but it actually isn't too out of line with what we'd expect. The Nats have scored 3 or fewer runs 64 times this season in 127 games, or roughly half (side note: ugh). Given an equal distribution of bad luck we'd expect Jordan to have 12-13 games of this type. Fifteen is a tiny bit high but not a crazy number.

Where the problem lies is at the other end. The Nats have scored 7 or more runs 21 times this year. You'd expect that they'd have done it about 4 times for Jordan. How many times have they done it? Once. And it was the infamous 14 inning how-many-saves can we blow White Sox game. A game where they had 0 runs after 7 innings and 3 after 9. The Nats never make it easy on Jordan.

Take a look at the 9 games the Nats scored 4-6 runs when Jordan was pitching. You can argue that 4 runs should be enough to win a well-pitched game. In what inning did they end up scoring that 4th run?

1st: 0
2nd: 0
3rd: 0
4th: 1
5th: 2
6th: 2
7th: 1
8th: 3

Basically the Nats never staked Jordan to an early lead. Even when scoring a decent amount of runs. Every game is tight one for ZNN. I'm kind of glad the Nats are shutting him down. These have been 160 tough innings.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Off handedly heard that the Nationals claimed Wandy Rodriguez. No confirmation, no source. Just rampant speculation. The best kind!

It's the Rockies. Let the rampant non-speculation commence! Finish up those emails. Go get ready for supper. Pick the kids up. (rampant speculation is a lot more fun)

Who do you deal?

The Nats may very well have an abundance of pitchers next season. Shocking but if there are no health scares, that is what we are looking at. Strasburg, Zimmermann and Lannan appear to be locks for the rotation based on past performance. Detwiler is making a case for a spot. Peacock and Milone are both showing strongly enough in AAA that you expect them to be given shots to make the rotation next Spring. Let's not forget about Maya. That's 7. If they re-sign Wang (which really why put all that money into him if you aren't going to?) that's 8. (we'll leave out Livan for now, and consider Cole, Solis, Ray, Purke, Meyer 2013 questions at best).

Eight pitchers is obviously too many for a rotation. Normally I'd say just keep them all. Injuries and developmental issues turning this 8 into a 5 would not be a surprise. However this isn't a normal offseason. The Nats are looking to turn a corner into something resembling a playoff caliber team and it would really help them do that if they could get a dependable CF. Teams just don't deal CFs for nothing though and any deal made in the offseason will almost certainly involve a young starter. The question then becomes who do you deal?

Maya and Wang are off the table. No one would consider 30yr old Maya worth trading for and if they want Wang they can go after him in FA. Strasburg and Zimm are off the table too for obvious reasons. That leaves Peacock, Milone, Lannan, and Detwiler.

Lannan and Detwiler have clocks ticking on them, though the clock for Lannan is a lot louder. Lannan is arbitration eligbile and will be a free agent in for the 2014 season. Detwiler is just about to become arb eligible and will be a FA in 2016.

John's also the oldest, but the gap isn't as big as you might think. He'll be an old 27 next year, Detwiler a young 26, Milone 25, Peacock 24.

And to put John even further ahead - he has arguably the worst peripherals in the group. He walks too many and doesn't strike out enough. Detwiler is going to get you more Ks. Scouts argue on whether Milone's stuff can fool major leaguers, but there is no arguing with his pinpoint control. Peacock has the best "stuff", pure and simple. It's a matter of harnessing it.

So you trade the oldest, arguably least talented guy right? Especially since he's the closest to FA, right? Well, here's the thing. John has something the other 3 don't have. He has three things really. 2008, 2009, and 2011 (and parts of 2007 and 2010 if you like). He has repeated major league success. After a year, or maybe two, you could argue that it wouldn't be repeated. It's much harder to do now since he's repeated it again and again. Trading John is trading a known. It's a known #4 type starter, but it's a known. Peacock, Milone, and Detwiler are all various shades of unknown. Detwiler might break down again. Milone's stuff might not be good enough. The batting eye of the major league hitter might make Peacock throw 90 pitches in 3 innings. They aren't guarantees. Going into a time when you want to make strides, don't you need guarantees? Isn't that why you give a set-up man X million a year? Because you feel slightly better on his chances to provide you with the performance you want?

It's a silly exercise because really who knows if the Nats will trade and with whom? And what do they want? But silly doesn't mean it isn't fun. What do I do? I hope Detwiler kills it from here on out and then I deal him. 8 or so starts would be a nice run but it's not even a third of a season.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Danny isn't Ian. Ian isn't Danny

Danny Espinosa's recent slide (.203 / .264 / .301 post All-Star game) and Ian Desmond's recent return from purgatory (.250 / .315 / .393) has some fans lumping the two guys in the same "young, good field, still need to learn to hit" bucket. Even the team sometimes seems to treat these guys as a team within a team, the MI cornerstones to a playoff run. While I wish that were the case - the reality is still that Danny is likely to be a starter (with some level of success) in this league for years, while Ian is more likely to be a bench player. Let's go over why this year Danny doesn't equate to last year's Ian, despite the similar nice start and late slide.

Danny's a better hitter:

Through 125 games in their rookie season Danny was hitting .231 / .313 / .414. Ian was hitting .279 / .316 / .413. Seems pretty similar right? Except the average offensive player has dropped even further this year. What was a slightly below average year in 2010 is now an average year. To be perfectly clear you'd rather have Ian's 2010 in 2011 than Danny's year. It is more productive but Ian didn't have that line in 2011. He had it in 2010. That matters even though seemingly one year shouldn't make that big a difference.

Danny has the better peripherals with an isoOBP of .082 compared to Ian's .037 (Danny walks, Ian doesn't) and an isoSLG of .183 to Ian's .134 (Danny has more power). A lot of Ian's worth is tied up in singles.

You could argue that Ian was a bit lucky too. His BABIP was .317, which isn't crazy but it was .292 in 2009 and .292 so far this year so it's more likely his "natural" BABIP is going to be just under .300. However, we can't really say if Danny is lucky himself. It doesn't seem that way (BABIP of .274) but that could be exactly where he should be.

All in all Danny has shown himself to be a slightly better hitter so far with a month to pick things up while rookie Ian slides away.

Danny's a better fielder:

This isn't even a question. I can toss out the numbers if you like
2010 Ian : 34 errors, .947 F%, -10 Total Zone rating, -8.8 UZR
2011 Danny : 11, .982, -2, 3.2

but anyone watching this team knows this as fact. This year's Ian has made solid strides, but he's still not the fielder at short that Danny is at second.

Danny had better minor league numbers:

Ian : .259 / .326 / .388 career
Danny : .270 / .365 / .455

I don't expect Danny to be a .270 type hitter in the majors. But with his patience and power, he only needs to hit .250 or so to be a very good offensive 2nd baseman. Ian doesn't have much power and hardly any patience. He NEEDS to hit .280 or so to be that useable at short. .260+ just to be average. Danny doesn't need to be as good as he was in the minors. Ian needs to be better. The latter is a TALL order for someone who should be peaking stat-wise right around now.

Danny is younger.

Half a year younger true but it's half a year.

Where does Ian have Danny beat? He's a better baserunner, though Danny is no slouch there.

The conclusion is obvious. Danny is better. The leash Danny gets needs to be longer because the base skills he has are better. It's fine for the Nats to move on from Ian in about... oh 240 hours or so because his upside isn't that "up" and the data saying he's not going to hit those modest goals is getting to be plentiful. Danny's struggles are his own and the Nats don't need to do anything with these two guys as if they were a pair.

In the Post, Ryan Core-B compares moving Desmond to maaaybe what it would have been like if the Tigers moved Trammel. His case is that the Nats need to give Desmond a whole nother year. He does add a caveat or two (Trammel more highly touted, didn't have as many of atbats if they dealt him after his first year - which is curious why he only goes one year into Trammell's career considering he didn't get good until full year 3, but whatever) but he leaves out two very important things.

(1) Trammell did not regress offensively his second year, like Ian has - he was stable.
(2) Ian Desmond is 25 to be 26 at the end of the season. Alan Trammell was 21. That's a HUGE difference. Trammel had years to get better. Desmond is entering his peak years.

Don't feel bad for Ian, he's had 300+ games in the major leagues as a "tryout". Most guys don't get anything close to that. You have other prospects breathing down your neck, conflicting goals and veteran-loving coaches forcing slightly better 30+ year olds into your position. Ian got a fair chance, which is more than a lot of guys get. It's time to give someone else the same break.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Silver Slugger talk. Why? Because.

Sorry - HVAC issues have kept me out the last few days.

For the past 3 years there really has been only one consistent bright spot for the Nationals, and that's Ryan Zimmerman. They've had a nice performance here and there and a couple guys that hold their own, but there is only one true star on the team and that's Zimm. His awesomeness has been acknowledged league wide by winning the Silver Slugger the last two years. Meaningless award? Perhaps, but when your team (and a shifting definition of "valuable") is keeping you from being a legit MVP candidate*, you take what you can get.

(4th in WAR in 2009 - 25th in MVP voting. 3rd in WAR in 2010 - 16th in MVP voting)

This year is going to be a tough one for Ryan though. A long time-off because of injury and a mini-slump upon return has him behind the 8-ball. It looks like there are only two candidates ahead of Ryan. Here are their slash lines:

Pablo Sandoval : .307 / .347 / .511
Ryan Zimmerman : .300 / .371 / .464
Aramis Ramirez : .297 / .340 / .513

Pretty close right? Looking at that and you probably have Ryan being the sabermetric favorite, with Sandoval edging Ramirez. But all are pretty worthy. Now lets look at HR and RBI.

Pablo Sandoval : 14-46
Ryan Zimmerman : 8-29
Aramis Ramirez : 23-76

Uh oh. Here is where the loss of games really kills it for Ryan (and Sandoval for that matter). Aramis Ramirez has played 116 games this year. Ryan 64. That matters in the voting and it should matter. That's half the season so far Ryan had no impact on. Barring a crazy last 50 games of the year there no way Ryan is going to overcome that. These number also highlight a lack of power for Ryan this season - scaled up he'd have 15 homers or so (scale Sandoval up to 120 games and he has 21 homers) but that issue seems to be behind him now with 3 homers and 7 XBH total in his last 11 games.

With Ryan out of the running are there any Nats up for any awards? Hitting wise it looks doubtful. Mike Morse is obviously a beast but Prince Fielder has been a tad better and has been that way all year long. If they don't want to give Fielder the MVP AND Silver Slugger; Votto, Pujols and Ryan "RBI" Howard are all going to muscle Morse out. The Nats young studs have slipped dramatically. Ramos has quietly gone from being one of the better hitting catchers to one of the worst hitting regulars. (take that Doug Glanville!) Danny hasn't seen quite that large a drop but he's now middle of the road. Wouldn't worry about either of them yet. It's the end of a long first full major league season and they have good minor league stats to back them up. But they aren't taking home the silver sluggers (or the ROY for that matter). No one else hits enough to warrant a mention.

Pitching wise - Storen could sneak in and get Rolaids Relief Man of the Year. If it were up to voters I would say no (Kimbrel has a solid save and ERA lead on Storen) but it's not. It's up to some silly statistical formula. Here is the leaderboard. (there's another relief award sponsered by DHL that IS voted on, which means there's no point in going over it.) Outside of that, ZNN has been good but Cy Young is not happening. There are no awards Clippard is going to get.

Fieldling is a moot. It's going to go to the best hitter who is also a decent fielder and at the position the Nats are best at (catcher, 2nd, SS, 3rd) there are clear favorites who fit that criteria (Molina, Phillips, Tulowitski, Sandoval...please not Rolen). Manager of the year is going to Kirk Gibson, even if the Nats squeak over .500 (which would just mean Davey got them back to where they were when he started). Comeback of the year is almost certainly Berkman's.

Hmm this got a lot more depressing than I thought it was going to, but think about it this way. If I wrote this column last year at this time would I even have had to bother with the previous 3 paragraphs? No Espy, Ramos, ZNN, Morse in place, Storen as closer. I can't imagine I would have.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thank You Nationals for disproving the "money bucket" theory

One of my (three? four? ninety million?) biggest gripes with members of the baseball online media (generally these are members of the sabermetric community, but not always) is the idea that teams can either :

(1) spend money to be better now, OR
(2) spend money to be better later.

Those are the choices and bad teams, like the Nationals were, are stupid to do (1) because they are only going to be slightly better and what's the difference between say 66 and 69 wins? They should always do (2) and flood the minors with money because that's where you can get more value and potentially create the base of a contender down the line.

Of course this theory is terribly, utterly, horribly flawed. It supposes that there is a set amount of funds that are to be spent on the baseball organization and every dollar spent on the major leagues is a dollar stolen from the minor leagues. This is what I like to call - the "money bucket" theory. There's only so many dollars that can fit in the bucket! You are paying Jason Marquis money! How dumb! You emptied the bucket! Now there's no money for the minor leagues!

Again - stupid, asinine, maybe irresponsible? It is all those things because baseball teams are expensive toys for rich men and they can spend money on the minor leagues AND the major leagues at the same time. This is in fact what the best teams in the league do and what every fan should be asking of their ownership. If you can't do this, or at least do this in some sort of cyclical fashion, then you shouldn't be owning a major league team. By saying that the Nats and other losing teams shouldn't bother spending money to get marginally better at the major league level, these media are implicitly validating every cheap-ass owner out there. "I'm just going for value!" In the end it's not about value. That's just a means to an end. It's about wins and getting them any way you can.

The Nats are going after those wins and proving these nay-sayers wrong. The Nats spent way too much money on Werth this off-season. They spent a ton on their draft picks this year. It can be done. It should be done. (well not that terrible of a contract to Werth but you get the point).

Monday, August 15, 2011

16 million is what the Nats owe Werth in 2013

Just to put in perspective what the Nats might have paid to sign these draft picks.

If any one of the four make it and is a productive player for the Nationals they at least broke even. If two players make it than they got a bargain.

A little less likely that the Nats will get Span

Negotiations broke down at the trade deadline and I don't see anything changing all that much - Storen and Lombardozzi haven't exploded or crashed in the past couple of weeks - but if you harbored dreams of having Denard Span on the Nats, that just became 15% less likely.

It's not that they can't trade Span too but the first goal was always to trade Delmon Young as he is generally seen as a liability in the field, he makes... well something, and he's closer to being a FA. With that done and one OF gone I can't imagine they will be chomping at the bit to deal Span.

Signing Day!

Or supposedly it is. I'd say "stay tuned" here for updates but let's be honest you're going to get faster updates on twitter.

One thing - if the Nats want to be true top of the league contenders this is the type of draft they need to have. Grab guys that have better talent than their pick might suggest and get them signed. Only one needs to pay off to make a draft full of reaches worth it. The important thing to remember is that you are looking for value in talent not in dollars. You will still pay for these guys. If you aren't ready to do that go with the safe slot picks and leave the over-slot priced reaches for the big boys.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gotta sign 'em all.

The Nats seem to be in a peculiar position with thier top FIVE draft picks remaining unsigned going into the final weekend (deadline is Monday at midnight). It is unusual to see that happen, but scrolling through the other teams I saw several that were one signed pick away from having their Top 4 unsigned right now so I can imagine it has happened before. But still it seems unusual on the surface.

Dig a little deeper though and it starts to make some sense. Most negotiations for picks in the first round and supplemental go down to the wire. Only 24 of 60 have signed as of now. What does that fact have to do with the Nats? Their first 5 picks are loaded. They have two first rounders (Rendon and Meyer), a supplemental(Goodwin), and a 3rd rounder most see as first round talent (Purke). Looking at it that way maybe you'd expect one to be signed by now but really it's no big surprise that they remain unsigned. I'm only wondering what's going on with Kylin Turnbull. Is he waiting to see what Purke gets to use that as a starting point? Forget about it Kylin! You're not these other guys.

The Nats should come to an agreement with all these guys. Jim Bowden in long gone. I'm sure that the first 3 are just haggling out what size is the dump truck the Nats will drive to their house. Purke is the question mark. He wants first round money. If the Nats drafted him in the 3rd round to get a bargain, well that's not going to fly and they should have known that going in. They will have wasted a draft pick. Not the worst thing in the world, but never a good idea. If the Nats drafted him to get another 1st round talent, well then they should suck it up and pay him like everyone else.

It'll be a long weekend for the Nats front office trying to hammer out 5 deals. Someone send out for takeout.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

T-minus 4 (3?) and couting

Jordan Zimmermann starts tonight in what is not more than his 4th to last start of the year. We've heard that he is going to be capped in his innings somewhere in the 150 to 160 range and right now he sits at 138.33 (can I take a moment here to tell you how much I hate the shorthand 138.1 and 138.2 type of numbers for pitchers? I hope so, because I just did) If he starts 4 more times and averages 6 innings a start (a bit low for Jordan but I imagine they'll be looking for quicker hooks) that'll put him at ~162 innings. It'll also take him right up into September call-up time, which is a convenient time to replace him in the rotation with someone brought up in the expanded roster.

(For the sake of info - the 17th vs Reds, 22nd vs D-backs, 27th @ Reds)

The end could come a start earlier though. Jordan had two of his worst starts of the season in the past month, and while he's bounced back from those another one might signal to the team that his arm is getting a bit tired. The last 3 starts are during one long stretch of games, meaning no chance to give Jordan an extra day of rest. Plus that last game is on the road, if they shut down Jordan early then he doesn't necessarily have to come along with the team, maybe stay behind and work on his season cool-down, I guess. I don't know.

How as Jordan been? Fantastic.

He's 16th in the majors in pitcher WAR. 6th in the league in K/BB ratio. 4th in walks given up. While some things have gone his way a little bit, other things haven't and the fancy stats like FIP, XFIP, tERA all agree that his ERA (23rd in the majors) is no fluke. He's legitimitely been a solid #2 guy this season at 25. He's got time to get better and while he could be injured again it's likely not to happen in the next couple of critical seasons.

Zimmermann has come back from injury and basically given the Nats the type of season they hoped for from him when healthy. If Strasburg can duplicate ZNN's return - that means the Nats will have a 1-2 that can rival nearly any teams next year (at least starting in mid to late May. Why starting in mid to late May? Because if they think they have a shot at the playoffs they are going to make sure that Strasburg's innings count doesn't force him to be pulled from the rotation during the stretch run. Of course a win in April is the same as a win in September, but try telling that to a fan who's watching Maya give up 6 runs in Strasburgs spot the last week of the season with the Nats 2 games out of the Wild Card.)

Taking another look at my 2012 rotation post - you could even say Lannan is covering that 3rd spot in the rotation. Believe in him or not - he's gone under 3.90 in 3 out of 4 seasons and the 4th one he was injured. I will note that the ERA for a Top 5 NL rotation has dropped a bit to 3.70 but given the little bit better ZNN will likely be than the 3.30 I wanted from the #2, it's quite feasible the Nats could get this Top 5 rotation with a couple of mediocre performances from the #4 and #5 guys. Maybe you can get that from what they have right now or a low-priced FA signing. Which is good because the 2012 class is weak in pitching. The 2013 looks to be stronger and it's a big signing then, with full season Strasburg and maybe another pitcher developed, that could push the Nats to legit NL East contenders.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wang is totally in my face

You know what they say - when you're right 52% of the time, you're wrong 48%. Groundballs are good. No strikeouts are bad. No line drives and no homeruns are good. More good than bad. Next up are the Phillies so I'll hold off backtracking until then.

Quietly the Nats have crawled back into 4th place in the NL East (or more accurately the Nats have stood still while the Marlins fell right past them). If you are looking for something to care about, here it is. Mock if you'd like but this team has only been "not-last" once since coming here and it wasn't even in 2005 (2007 - 73 wins, Marlins has 71) For the Nats to finish out of the basement and show serious improvement in the wins column (on a 78-79 win pace currently) is meaningful. That would be their second highest win total as well. It may not drive fans to the park, but it's something.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

"Wither" Laynce Nix

I appears that Mike Rizzo is running a gambit on Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix hoping that one (or both) might be able to bring him back some draft picks at the end of the year. While I don't love the plan, you can see some logic in it. Gomes is pretty much a shoe-in to be a Type B free agent. Nix is close, and with Gomes eating up at bats vs lefties, perhaps Laynce can sneak his way in as well. Unfortunately Nix is crashing as the year ends. Here are his splits :

APR: .314 / .333 /.600
MAY: .301 / .333 / .566
JUN: .254 /.289 /.465
JUL: .207 /.281 / .362
AUG: .125 / .176 /.125

That's a precipitous fall and as worrisome as the average is the power drop is even more concerning. IsoSLG goes from .286 -> .265 -> .211 -> .155 -> .000. The zero, of course, is a fluke of limited at bats but the drop isn't. He's really hitting the ball worse and worse as the year goes on. I'm not sure he's going to make it to B status. If that's the case then the Nats may have very well given up two fair minor leaguers for nothing.

Of course Nix isn't a key to next year and beyond, and neither were the two guys given up, so it's not like this is the worst thing in the world. Zimmerman is a key (.429 / .500 / .607 in August). They'd like Morse (.452 / .469 / .677) to be. That's better good news than this whole Type B thing is bad news.

On a side note - I strolled over to Adam Dunn's page and looked at his splits.

APR: .160 / .300 / .267
MAY: .204 / .356 / .387
JUN: .136 / .240 /.258
JUL: .145 / .270 /.276
AUG: .167 / .259 / .292

Outside of May, where he both walked a bunch and hit for respectable (but not Dunn-ian) pop he's been remarkably consistent in his suck. That's weird, right? Guys fluctuate all the time. You have good months and bad months, months you hit a bunch of homers and month you walk a ton. Dunn has had very little variation. Super low average, some walks, not enough power. Every month.

Monday, August 08, 2011

I paid 3 million dollars for this?

Yay Lann... dammit Clippard. Oh well. He did drop his career ERA under 4.00. ERA is stupid? You're stupid!

Incidentally I was looking up the pitchers of about Lannan's age that had as many innings pitched as he does (not many) and noticed Scott Kasmir's name on that list. Doesn't it feel like he has had the career of a 35 year old already?

Tonight Chien Ming Wang goes for his third (and last?) start. He's hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been good either. Really, he's let innings get out of hand but that shouldn't be surprising when he's making John Lannan look like Randy Johnson (2 Ks so far - one a pitcher). It's a disturbing number. When you let guys hit the ball against you, eventually they will string together enough hits to score runs. Do your best to limit walks, line drives, and home runs and you can survive (see John Lannan again). Wang has limited walks, but he's getting hit harder than you'd like (increased LD%) and he gave up that huge Uggla homer at exactly the wrong time.

Can Wang succeed? Depends what your definition of succeed is. If you are asking if he can pitch the rest of the year and maybe keep the Nats in some games, then sure. The line drives still aren't "doubles in the gap" versions of line drives yet and 1 homer in two games is more than reasonable. I think he can luck into a couple good games where all the ground balls are hit at people. That could mean a 1 run game or a 4 run game but a few decent games nonetheless.

If you are looking for a 35 games a year rotation filler guy then I don't see it. He's not making anyone miss. Only 2.7% of his pitches so far have been swinging strikes. I know that's his game but when he was successful he was doing it at a 6-7% range. For those unfamiliar with the swinging strike stat, the best guys in the league do it over 10% of the time, the worst between 4-5%. 6-7% is low, but workable. It doesn't necessarily track exactly with success but it's obvious that no one is being fooled by Wang. If they aren't being fooled then that means those ground balls are more likely to be hard ones. Hard ground balls are more likely to be hits. This idea would also gel with the increased LD% we are seeting. He should give up a ton of hits. Mostly singles but a ton of them.

We'll see - maybe Wang just needed time to get back in the groove. Maybe tonight he'll K 4 guys and keep the Cubs to 2 runs in 6+ innings. Maybe that sinker will still be effective enough to make those ground balls weak instead of strong. His slider has been terrible and his "fastball" (which includes sinker) has been his most effective pitch so any plan that replaces the former with more of the latter is a good one. Or maybe the sinker is just another mediocre hittable pitch that batters will be able to key in on to smash worm-burners through the infield and the effectiveness we see is only because he's mixing it in a lot less so batters aren't comfortable swinging against it yet. It's still been only 2 games so anything is possible.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Yards to glory most recent

At the end of 3rd grade my teacher polled us on what our favorite book that year was. When the results came back overwhelmingly in favor of one ("The Indian in the Cupboard" I believe) she said she was not surprised. She said that over the years it was invariably the last book of the year that won these polls. (well... maybe she didn't use "invariably" with 8 year olds) We are inclined to pick not what was actually objectively the best (though that was a pretty good book) but just what was freshest in our memories.

With that in mind I pulled the years from ESPN's "Yards to Glory" feature about the "immortal" touchdowns in college football from every distance. College football has been around for a very long time. If this were truly fair than the distribution would be equal across the decades. It's not.

pre1920 1
20s 5
30s 4
40s 0
50s 8
60s 7
70s 8
80s 22
90s 19
00s 25
10+ 2


How lucky we are that we just experienced arguably the most memorable decade of college football ever! the 2010s are going to find it hard to live up to that.

You can forgive a bit the pre-TV years, I imagine, but come on - there must have been some great football going on before 1980? The fact that there were fewer immortal touchdowns from 1950-1979 than there were from 2000-2009 is ridiculous. This is why I don't begrudge ESPN for doing alot of their stuff in the "ESPN era". It's the time frame from which the people making these picks are going to inherently favor.

In conclusion: My third grade teacher was right.

What's a Nats fan to do in August?

The hunt for a playoff spot is long dead. The hunt for .500 is getting sicker by the day (and really only holds interest if you are right around .500, at 4 games under it's more of a "call me when we're closer" situation). The trade deadline came and went and all the Nats have to show for it on their major league squad is a guy Nats management desperately wants to leave voluntarily in the offseason so they can get something like the 60th draft pick. Hard to get excited about cheering him on. September call ups are a month away.

So what's a Nats fan to do for the next 30 days (well 26 or so)?

You can pay close attention to the "other guys" in the rotation. Wang, Maya, Detwiler are three guys no one is really excited about but anyone of them could be in the rotation next year. At the very least paying attention to them can warm you up for September when hopefully you have Strasburg to watch. (Peacock is still getting adjusted to AAA, Milone has had a couple of dreadful starts recently - so maybe we see them, maybe we don't).

You can pay close attention to how Laynce Nix is doing. Every one talked about Jonny Gomes getting the Nats a draft pick when he signs with another team but he's a struggling bat that can only hit lefties and can't field. I really think the Nats could get screwed betting on that one. Laynce Nix on the other hand is right on the cusp of Type B status. A strong final couple months would probably ensure it. If he does make it than does the Gomes trade make sense? It would have let the team more easily sit Nix against lefties and keep his stats up... That Rizzo. Always thinking.

You can marvel at Zimmerman. What can I say? I'm dumb. After a two game slip-up against Houston I thought that maybe we should keep an eye on Zimm just to be sure that we could still set him and forget him in 2012. Well since then he's hit in 13 straight games. Hitting .450 during that time. Maybe you could have asked "where's the power" but last night he belted a couple doubles. So, yeah. Forget what I said. The Nats can count on Zimm.

You can keep on rooting for John Lannan to do well because John Lannan is awesome and you'll miss him when the Nats let him walk after 2013.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Morse: Great or Merely Very Good?

One of the big surprises of this year has been the sustained success of Mike Morse. Not that it was impossible that he could be useful, even good. But with a couple of uninspiring recent years out there and a terrible start, no one could have predicted that Morse would be doing this well right now. That's great for 2011 but we care about how's he going to be in 2012 and beyond. Can he keep up this years numbers, or will he give us something more like last year? Did the Nats luck into a perennial All-Star, or merely a very useful player.

I, being the major downer that I am, of course think the latter. Why?

Well, there is that BABIP. It stands at .372 right now. This isn't a crazy number to have for a season. That happens. But it is exceedingly rare that someone repeats a number this high. The only one to do it in recent memory is Joey Votto (.372 in 2009, .361 in 2010, .369 this year so far). Morse is good but he's no Votto. Votto crushes line drives and never hits pop-ups. Morse hits a decent amount of line drives and rarely hits pop-ups. He's a clear step down. Historically guys that hit like Morse don't maintain BABIPs at this level.

So if that's the case, if he is to decline, the question is what would he decline to. For those that are worried .350s are commonplace. Michael's numbers in the last couple years suggest .300-.330 is a fine range to guess as well. At this point it becomes less about statistics and more about your gut.

If you think Mike Morse has made a step up from the hitter he was last year and has made a repeatable adjustment you are probably looking at a BABIP close to .350. That would cost Mike 5 hits. Since about every 1 in 5 hits is a double, we'd be looking at some lost slugging as well so his line would read more like : .300 / .349 / .528

If you think Mike Morse is basically the same hitter he was last year and is just catching a lot more breaks or a lot more pitchers unaware, then lets go with a BABIP of around .330. That would give a line like : .286 / .335 / .508

As you can see both lines are pretty good. Given the number of at bats he's put in the last two years, you can't predict a fall. While I personally think the latter line is closer to what he'll produce next year, I do think that the former is actually more defensible. He has made a distinct improvement in hitting line drives and it hasn't been bouyed by a single month of craziness or anything like that. It's only been one year though, which is why I still say it goes on gut to some degree.

This is a very simple look at the guy, only focusing on one little (but important) stat. History tells us the Nats haven't found a Pujols in disguise, but the stats also tell us it's unlikely he's a fluke and next year will be struggling to be productive. Morse will be an important part of next year's team. The question is will he be a leader or a "mere" solid piece. Post-season I'll look into it more, for now feel free to dream of the former. There's no good reason why you shouldn't.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Sorry for the delay but... Lannan!

(but not "classic" Lannan - 8K and 1 walk? Who do you think you are, ZNN? At least he gave up 9 hits to get some baserunners on there...)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Mixed Notes

Nats beat the Braves. Take that Michael Bourn! Rick Ankiel 4-eva!

After bottoming out in the Astros series Jayson Werth has hit .333 / .447 / .615. Keep it up Jayson (for 6 more years if possible). In roughly the same time frame Zimm has hit .419 / .432 / .488 so my worrying about maybe needing to worry later? Yeah, NAILED IT!

It seems to me, and this is just a "seems" situation, that we've heard less about Bryce since he's struggling in AA (picking it up recently but still a little underwhelming for the next Barry Ruth). I guess that does make sense though. Bryce is 18. If he's hitting awesome in the minors, that's news. If he's scuffling a bit, well, he's 18. Call me when he's a scuffling 21 year old in AA.

Despite the better play and more interesting players, Nats attendance is down over the same time last year. (not by as much as they say - they have two 0 attendance games factored in there - take it out and the numbers go up but still not as high as last year) That's not much of a surprise because at this point last year fans were still screaming at the airport everytime Strasburg and his mop-top do rolled into town. I kind of expect to get closer to equal as the year goes on and Past Strasburg gets injured. Still attendance is mediocre with what I'd say is a substantially improved product on the field. Say what you will (and you will) but given the newness of the park, the newness of the team, and the market - the Nats have been woefully under-perfoming when it comes to bringing in fans for their entire existence. I will continue to be fascinated by why this is.

This is a question for DC residents for curious me. How is the area around the park developing? This whole Islanders thing got me re-thinking about it because I heard the same bad arguments about bringing work and jobs and development that have been summarily dismissed by most economists being tossed around like I remember back in 2005 or so. (It's not the support that I mind. It's the fake concern about economic improvement. Why these people can't simply say "I want hockey here. If the public is getting fleeced so a rich guy can get a break, I don't care. I want hockey.")

I know "the economy" makes a convenient (and reasonable) out, but taking that into account would you say that the progress in that area has been underwhelming, as could be expected, or better than you would think?