Nationals Baseball: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Godspeed, old friend

Yankee stadium is nice in Spring. And Summer.  And Fall.  Just saying.

Span-ning the Globe

Why not just keep Bryce in center?

You could say that they thought his body type wasn't made for CF as he filled out, or that they wanted to save his legs but I think it comes down to the fact that it didn't seem like he had the instincts to play CF. He made up for that as best he could through his natural ability, and actually had a decent year in center according to the stats, but the same stats had him below average in RF.

Would he have gotten better over time?  I guess, but this more of a scouting decision and I think they wanted a guy out there in the most important OF positions that they trusted to be a plus fielder.

So Span in center and Bryce over in LF?

Well... given the rocket mounted on Bryce's shoulder, it may make more sense to move him to right in order to cut down on those first to third runners and let Werth play LF.  I'd expect that's the way it'll shake out.

How does Span compare to Bourn?  Upton?

He's not the transcendent fielder that Bourn has been recently, but he's good, better than Upton.

Offensively he's a pretty big question mark. In 2005 and 6 it looked like he might be a star.  His line was .305 / .390 / .422 over that period and at 24 and 25 you thought he still had another step or two to take. But in the past three years he hasn't looked nearly as strong.  2011 can be forgiven as injury riddled, but 2010's .264 / .331 / .348 did happen. Last year he was a bit above average.

Who's the real Denard? If I were to guess I'd say something not quite as good as last year, something very average. In other words, not as good as Upton, who's power makes him special, but about the same as Bourn.

Some more facts

Span can run but outside of an awesome 2010, he steals bases at a low 70s% clip. That's good but not great or anything.

Span hits a TON of grounballs. He was 11th in the league in 2012, 9th in 2010. He also doesn't strike out or walk very often. He is completely a leg it out type of player, but it does mean he'll hit into a few more DPs than you might expect. This is something that might be an issue down the line but not something I'd worry about in the next couple of years.

If you ARE looking to be worried about something, Span's stats away from Minnesota have been dreadful the past few years.

2010 : .228 / .293 / .309
2012 :  .235 / .278 / .315

I can't really explain the drop in average but having even less power is in part because Target Field seems to be pretty good for allowing triples. Nationals Park seems not to be, so don't expect a SLG over .400. 

Injury riddled?

Yeah most of 2011 was lost because of a concussion issue.  Seemed fine in 2012 though.

OK so even though it's not a big difference, a smidge really, he's likely not as good as Bourn or Upton. Why him and not them?

Both Upton and Bourn would have required 5 year commitments at about 15 mill a year.  Span can be let go after 2 years and he's a LOT cheaper (~5Mill next, 6.5 in 2014).  This fits into the Nats plan that (1) Goodwin will be their CF of the future and (2) the Nats will have money free starting in 2015 to start signing the guys they want out of Desmond, ZNN, Stras, Gio etc..
So are the Nats better now?

For old timey baseball guys definitely.  You'll hear a lot about how they have a "true lead-off guy" etc etc.  They'll love it just because it's what they've been told for 100 years a team should look like.  Of course just last year the Nats won 98 games with Werth at leadoff but the crushing force of reality can take time to seep in.

For us soulless automatons... well, it depends on if they sign LaRoche and trade Morse or let Adam walk and move Morse. The OF defense is going to be better. If Morse stays, the first base defense takes a hit though and if you just look at last years stats, losing LaRoche would matter much more than losing Morse.  So I'd say if the Nats end up with Morse at first then they'd be ever so slightly worse, if they end up with LaRoche they'd be ever so slightly better.

Really, though, I don't think it's that big a deal from what it means on the field. Really what it's about is it gives the Nats freedom now and later to make big money deals they may want to make.

What about Meyer?

Oh he's good.  You know when someone is drafted and they say "Best case, he develops in way X"?  That's what Meyer has been doing.  The issues people have had with him are mainly control based and he's looked pretty good with that issue in A-ball.  He also handled the minor promotion from A to A+ easily.  (Minor league stats here) He's a ground ball guy which keeps the home runs down.  He's not the best minor league arm out there but he's sitting around #30 right now, and a good showing in AA would kick him up fast.

Side note the Nats farm is pretty bereft of young healthy arms now.  Everyone else is either not a big time prospect (Rosenbaum) or coming back from injury (Solis, Purke, Giolito). 

If he was that good why did the Nats deal him?

Because the top 4 pitchers are set until 2015 barring injury.  Zimmermann and Detwiler are both here through 2015. Strasburg through 2016.  Gio potentially through 2018 if the Nats want him that long. Gio is the oldest of the group and he won't turn 28 until late next season. You have to figure the injury risk near-term is slight.

That means there is plenty of time to develop, or trade for, or sign another stud pitcher if you think the Nats need one.  Meyer was a damn good prospect, but an A-ball pitcher is expendable when you have this type or rotation in the majors.

What's next for the Nats?

See if they can get LaRoche to take a 2-year deal and if they can then trade Morse + whatever for a decent 5th pitcher. Really we're all still waiting out Josh Hamilton right now as he'll cause a bunch of dominoes to fall.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

BJ Upton deal

The Braves are about to sign BJ Upton.  While some may balk at the expected contract (5/75), it's pretty much as fair as the LaRoche 3/30.  Maybe not the best deal but it's hard to see the Braves not recouping at least 75-80% of that value over the life of the contract. Should the Nats worry about this turn of events?  Not yet.

Upton for Bourn is an interesting swap.  Offensively Upton is the better player.  He hits for so much more power than the punchless Bourn (who's only going to get more punchless) that it overcomes his low average and OBP.  Over the past three years Upton's OBP and SLG of .317 and .436 respectively make him an above average offensive player.  Bourn's .346 and .376 make him maaaaybe average.  On the basepaths they both steal at a success rate around 80%, though Bourn takes off a little more giving him a bit more value.  In the field though Bourn has a huge advantage.  He is one of the best centerfielders in the league.  Upton can merely hold down the position.

On the surface it looks like the Braves are getting worse. Bourn is that much better a fielder, that Upton would have to be an all-star caliber hitter to make up the difference.  Why then do the Braves make this deal?  Two reasons.

Reason #1 : They need offense.

The Braves ranked 11th in BA, 7th in OBP, and 10th in SLG.  They are losing Chipper Jones who hit .287 / .377 / .455 last year.  Some help will come from McCann being healthy. Some more from fielding a shortstop who doesn't use the latin translation of "good field, no hit" on his family crest. But they need more. Upton makes them better offensively.

Reason #2 : Age.

5 years of Bourn : age 30-34
5 years of Upton : age 28-32

The trade off is Upton's age 28 and 29 years now for Bourns 33 and 34 later.  On Upton's side, I think we are done with the "maybe he'll put it all together" segment of his life. It's been 5 years. He is who he is. That being said career years have to happen sometime. Maybe (probably) it was at 22 for him, or maybe he has one left in him. At 28-29 I can see it. Even if not, you don't expect a crash at these ages so Upton should be a reliable source of offense for the next few years, something you can't say about Bourn.

At 30 he's likely on the downside of his career. If he suffers any bit of drop off in his average he's pretty much done as a useful offensive player. That drop off will happen, it's a question of 'when', not 'if'. Will it be at 30? 33? 35? He's still a good enough defensive player that it may only matter significantly for his overall value if that drop off happens very soon, which you'd put at a pretty low risk. But for a team that needs offense, the Braves can't take that risk. (the Nats could)

The Braves didn't as much ensure that that they'd be better next year, as they ensured that overall they wouldn't be worse next year for losing Bourn. At the same time they secured a better 5 year future than if they had re-signed Bourn, who's more likely to drop into "not a good player" by 2017 than Upton is. It was a good deal, a necessary one, and one that keeps the Braves on the Nats heels for the forseeable future.

Now do the Nats try to separate or not? Do the Braves try to catch up? We'll know pretty soon. Hot Stove Action!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The LaRoche question - part one

The Nationals have only one pressing issue this offseason and that's what to do about Adam LaRoche and by extension Mike Morse.

Two years ago the Nats signed Adam LaRoche to a 2 year 15 million dollar deal, with a mutual option on a 3rd year for 10 million. Many fans would like to see the same deal offered to Adam. That makes sense for the Nats. Adam is 2 years older, meaning you are less likely to want to give him more years.  He suffered through a debilitating injury.  The Nats have a good young corner infielder who will hopefully be ready for the majors in 2014 or so. Unfortunately the deal doesn't make sense for Adam.

Let's understand why Adam got the deal he did in the first place. Adam had just come off his worst year since 2005.  It wasn't a terrible year mind you (.261 / .320 / .468) but an off year at age 30 sets off warning signals. Could he be reaching the end? That drives down his price. At the same time there was a glut of first baseman available that at the time you thought were of roughly the same talent level.  Of course there was perennial 40 homer guy Adam Dunn.  There was Paul Konerko, who had just put up a monster year.  Aubrey Huff also off a good year and with a better year at the plate in 2008 than LaRoche had ever had. The remarkable consistency of Derek Lee who just in 2009 produced a great year. The promise of Carlos Pena who had shown so much pop from 2007-2009 people were willing to look past an .196 BA in 2010.  Hell even Lyle Overbay looked similar to what LaRoche put up.  There were a lot of other options if you didn't want to pay someone a big contract.

2010 Stats : .261 / .320 / .468
2010 1B MLB  Ave :  .264 /.350 / .452

Now he's coming off a year that he finished 6th in MVP voting.  He had his best year of his career. .271 / .343 / .510. And while age 32 is getting a bit long in the tooth, most teams don't start getting very wary until 35, especially if they are seeing results currently on the field. After him there is next to nothing available.  In terms of true first basemen you are literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. Older and more useless Lyle Overbay?  You could try to put Mike Napoli there or Nick Swisher but in a league that's increasing concerned with defensive value those are longer stretches than they would have been 5 years ago. There may not be a lot of suitors but LaRoche IS the first base market.

2012 Stats : .271 / .343 / .510
2010 1B MLB  Ave :  .262 /.336 / .442

Overall, first base has taken a step back and LaRoche took a step foward last year.  He went from a tinge below average for first basemen in 2010 to solidly better than average for first baseman in 2012, yet hardly anyone thinks of him differently. It's all about timing.

Adam is worth more now in 2012 than he was worth in 2010, that means he should, and probably will, sign for a better deal.  Most early reports have something in the neighborhood of 3 guaranteed years, 30 million as a starting point.

Is he worth it? Probably not. If Adam LaRoche hits as everyone expects him too (not as good as last year better than 2010, 2011) then 10 million a year is just about right, given his fielding. However, he'd have to do this for 3 more years and at this age you can't take that for a given. Most likely his production will slowly tail off. Do you want to be paying 10 million for a firstbaseman 3 years from now producing like a guy that you can get for 5? Here's the key - yes you do, if you need someone to produce at that level next year and don't really care about what he does 3 years from now.  The Nats aren't exactly that. Now the Rangers...

What I think is that the Nats are hoping the Hamilton deal works out with him going back to the Rangers.  If that's the case Texas is far less likely to offer LaRoche the deal he wants and then his options are pretty limited.  The Red Sox might give him a deal, but might also try to get a lower price for the extra years.
Of course if the Rangers see Hamilton go, then I think they'll pretty quickly give Adam the deal he wants.  He may not be exactly worth it, but it's pretty fair and doesn't kill them for rebuilding when this current run ends. And I think the South Kansas native would take that in a heart beat. He'd be much closer to home and his ranch and killing things and stuff.

Do the Nats blink first offer him that deal now? 3 years 30? I think you can make the case that it's not a bad deal so a lot depends on what they think moving Morse will do, and if they have the OF pieces to survive a failed bid to replace Morse in LF with a FA. If the production can be replaced then there is no need to make a deal that doesn't favor you, even one that's only mildy onerous. Next time!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Quickie

Hey everyone - hope you (and yours, if applicable) had a good holiday break (also if applicable - I assume someone might read this from out of the US)

As a nice post-holiday treat, how about putting some sanity back into Boz's work? Always a palate cleanser.

Boz, this weekend, had a column saying the Nats should stand pat, and basically getting Rizzo to say that was the plan.  All in all that's not a terrible position.  There aren't many impact players available.  The Nats won 98 games last year, with a 4 game cushion on the division, and a 10 game cushion on the Wild Card. Even if they may have gotten a little bit lucky last year, you stand pat and the likely win total is still going to be in the low to mid 90s. That's still "playoffs unless things go wrong" territory.  Just resign LaRoche and let... wait.  He wants to let LaRoche walk? Oh by "standing pat" he literally means standing with their hands in their pocket and whistle a happy tune because everything is going to come up roses all over again. Oh. Hmmm.

Some nitpicks then.

Why would you sign LaRoche, 33, for three or four years or Bourn, about to turn 30, or the erratic Upton for five-plus seasons at astronomical cost when you have multiple players my note - (Tyler Moore, Anthony Rendon, Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin) who may have the same kind of futures? They aren’t all going to fail. 

Ummm, yeah they might. They probably won't but don't act like if they did it would be a shock or anything.  I'd give a let's say 20% chance the combo of those 4 don't have a single mutli-year worthy major league starter among them. That's better odds than a dice roll. Now obviously the 80% is the important part for the Nats but betting on young guys to (1) get to the majors and succeed, and (2) do it on the schedule you need them to; is not a bet championship teams make. It's win now time for the Nats.

(Don't resign LaRoche and) Give Moore the playing time he’s earned in left field.
Tyler Moore had a very fine season for the Nats last year.  He has legit major league power.  He also will turn 26 in January and has a strike out to walk ratio of 3.45 to 1 in the minors (3.2+ in the majors last year) that almost always signifies problems. He certainly hasn't earned anything. Here are his monthly splits from last year

April/May :  .157 / .157 / .157
June :  .421 / .521 / .800
July : .225 / .244 / .425
August : .258 / .343 / .452
Sept : .154 / .214 /. 538

Anyone notice something that stands out? The guy had one hot month and otherwise alternated from an acceptable swing for the fences bench bat and a guy not ready for prime time. Can the Nats win with what ever Moore will be? Unless he totally is a failure, sure. But again - that's not world series contender thinking in my book.

Let Christian Garcia get a shot as a starting pitcher in spring training.
IP and surgery notes

2006 : 53 IP
2007 : 0 IP
2008 : 62.1 IP
2009 : 25.1 IP
2010 : 5.2 IP (last start of any kind)
2011 : 20.1 IP
2012 : 65 IP

And you want to be my latex salesman.

Look the guy may be able to pitch as a starter in the majors, and even though I'd rather see the Nats use him hard as a reliever and burn out his arm like I do with weedeater engines, they have the flexibility to try something different.  But to say "Hey why not have him start for the Nats next year" is just all sorts of short-sighted, and contrary to pretty much everything the Nats have done so far in regards to arms.

Allow flexibility for Rendon or Skole, a 230-pound lefty hitter with 119 RBI in ’12, to push their way into the big leagues like Moore did last year.
AA stats last year

Rendon (23 next yr) :  21 games : .162 / .305 / . 362
Goodwin (22) : 22 games : .223 / .306 / .373
Skole (23) : 0 games : n/a

Moore AA stats two years ago
Moore (24) : 137 games : .270 / .314  / .572

Moore's path to the majors was to hit well for an entire season in AA, move to AAA and hit even better there, be kind of at the age where you have to fish or cut bait, watch as injuries decimated the Nats outfield, get called up. Both Rendon and Goodwin are in no rush to be called up and haven't yet proven they'll be ready.  Skole, who as an old 23 (he'll turn 24 a couple weeks past the July 1 deadline we usually use to signify age that year in the majors) will be getting to that "let's see what you can do" point, hasn't even seen AA pitching yet. Hitting A-ball pitching at 22/23 is less about proving you are a major leaguer and more about showing the Nats they don't have to cut you.

 Let's see what these guys can do in AA before we start pencilling them in the lineup ok?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Mailbag

Don't know what I'll put up next week so chew on this for a weekend or two. 

Can Ian Desmond repeat that performance? (Evan Slagle)

Ian Desmond had a great year last year.  His line .292 / .335 / .511 is such a jump over previous years that it does make you wonder if it was a fluke.  Remember his line actually got worse from 2010 to 2011.

What do the fancy stats say?

K-rate : 20.7% (20.3% career includes 2012) No improvement last year, but it's not a number to worry about at this age and given what we've seen.  This will just be what he does.

BB-rate : 5.5% (5.3%) Not good, but again no fluke.  Patience contributed nothing to Ian's year. 

BABIP : .332 (.320)  A little high . Sometimes this is explained by an increase in line drive rate, but we don't see that here. 17.5% last year, 17.9% this year.  So it's not like he's rapping laser beams more often than he did before. It's probably a little bit of luck. But we're not talking a lot here. Instead of .292 he should have hit.. .285? 

HR/FB :  18.2% (11.1%) Now that is a big jump and also helps explain the big jump in average. A lot more of his FB are landing in seats rather than gloves.

This is really the crux of the improved year that Ian had.  In 2010 and 2011 this number was 7.7% and 6.0% respectively.  Let's say Desmond hits that rate in 2012.  Instead of 25 homers he hits 9. That's 16 FBs that don't go out of the park. Let's say 14 of those end up being outs (about 15% of FBs end up being hits on average) Now he's hitting .265 and his line would look a hell of a lot like his line last year.

His whole improvement across the board is based on hitting the ball out of the park and a much higher rate.  Top 30 in the majors.  So the question has to be, is that sustainable? This is a completely player dependent stat, so while you would kind of think at first it would have to go back down, that's not necessarily how it has to be. He showed no particular slow down over the course of the year, which is good. There are explainable reasons for the increase (pop shown in the minors, maturity, batting approach changes) Personally I'd bet on it staying closer to 18% than 7%.

I will say that I don't think 2012 was Ian's stepping stone to super stardom.  I don't see .300 30 in his future. Ask me right now and I think you see some return toward the Ian we didn't like but not a big one. .280 with about 20 homers? I think we'd all be happy with that.

Will we see Anthony Rendon this season? If so, when and where? (Ty Bair, Kevin Harris, Brandon Roche, Robert Schiff)

To answer the first question - who knows?  He's doing well in the AFL but that doesn't mean all that much (Chris Marrero rocked it in 2009, Brendan Harris in 2005). What you can say is all the signs are pointing in the right direction. He's hitting and healthy, so the next step is to see what he does in AA after hitting .162 in limited play last year. I'd be shocked if he was competing for a position in the spring, though I'm sure he'll get an invite to camp.

Remember that everyone thought Bryce could handle it but he only got up to the majors because of injury AND the fact that you could put him somewhere when everyone got healthy. There isn't a similar place for Rendon. More likely the Nats projected best case scenario plays out like this ; play two months in AA, do very well, get 2 more months in AAA, do very well, then up as a bench player. Personally, I think that's optimistic.  He can certainly hit but AA is hard and he's injury prone so I'm going to say we don't see him in 2013.

After 2013 where does he play? If I were to guess - I think Rendon plays where there's a hole. If that's the OF then that's the OF, if it's first than it's first. If Zimm's injuries or Espy's play create a hole at their positions then he'd play there. Remember, Rendon's ankle could use a less demanding position as well. This is today though and today I don't think moving Zimm to first for Rendon is a goal.  Another injury filled mediocre fielding year at third though and maybe minds are changed.

Of course the wild card in this is if they would trade Rendon. I think they would. They've shown they could trade a major leauge catcher and two major league pitchers if they felt they had the pieces in place above them. But I will say the deal would have to be right, and given the way Rendon is hitting now, the price is only going up for him.

What are the Nats doing at Catcher? (David Leyva, Renard Sexton)

Ramos is will be 25 next year and is wrapped up until 2017.  Suzuki will be 29 next year and will be a free agent (unless the Nats pick up an option for 8.5 million that I can't imagine will happen).  Ramos has not had any years as bad as Suzuki's 2010 or 2011 or overall 2012.  Even Suzuki's time with the Nats wasn't all that great and was kind of a make up for the surprisingly bad year he was having with the A's.  So all signs point to Ramos being the starter and Suzuki being the necessary expensive back-up.

My guess is that unless Ramos is healthy and does great in Spring, they'll let Suzuki start the season while Ramos slowly works his way into more playing time. If Suzuki is good then maybe Ramos lasts the whole season as back-up.  More likely though is Suzuki will be kinda bad and whenever Ramos is healthy the roles will flip. But they have to be careful here. There is not necessarily a big gap between these two and fans love calling for a back-up when they perceive that a starter is struggling. (see: Lombardozzi, Steve)

What about the pen? Trade Clippard? Sign someone? Are they really going to make Garcia a starter? (Kevin Costello, John Doerr, Wally, Kevin Roberts, Alan Wiecking)

Normally I'd be all for trading Clippard for a blah hitting prospect and a bag of magic Big League Chew.  That's how flippable I think relievers are, especially those that have been worked hard. The Nats, however, find themselves in a bit of a quandry.  With Burnett likely leaving and Garcia* almost certain to be made into a starter, the Nats have something like 70 of their important relief innings to fill. Lose Clippard and that number jumps to 140. Some of that will go to a healthy Storen, but only 30-40 or so, and you can't stretch out Stammen and Mattheus much more.  Where does the other 100 come from? Zech Zinicola?  I guess you could hope for the best. Mike Gonzalez? No thank you. Cross your fingers and hope for an H-Rod comeback? What did you say about Gonzo, again?

So it's tougher for the Nats to lose Clippard, than you might have thought given the bullpen depth of last season. You'd almost have to go out and replace him with a dependable arm and that costs money you'd rather spend elsewhere, money you wouldn't have to spend on Clip (under team control until 2017).  If a good deal is there you make it but you don't trade him just because you are afraid of dealing him a year late. Even if it feels like the right time, playoff teams need good pens and Clippard, despite late season issues, is part of a good pen.

As for the rest of the pen, I think the Nats like it a lot the way it is.  Storen, Clippard, Mattheus, Stammen, presumably Gonzo, and rehabilitating H-Rod.  So I'd be shocked by any major signings in the pen. But the Nats do need another lefty (their best lefty in the minors close to coming up had a WHIP of 1.423 in AA.  That doesn't project well) but I would guess RIzzo goes the route of signing a guy who had an off year last year that might still have some arm left (Randy Choate?)

* I believe the Garcia rotation move is going to happen and is a rare misstep for the Nats organization. You'll have to spend at least all next year stretching him out and the guy has already had 3 elbow surgeries, including two Tommy Johns. If all this works out you'll end up with an "old" 28-yr old trying for the first time to start in the majors sometime in 2014, if you're lucky.  Given the ticking time bomb that is his arm, I think you'd be best served riding it completely into the ground in a best guy out of the pen situation.

Should the Nats go after Bourn?  Wouldn't he leadoff better than Werth?  What about Hamilton? (David Goodman, Robert Schiff, Keith Watts)

The Nats should only worry about leadoff if they think Werth will make a stink about it. Leaving behind the whole "It doesn't really matter" argument, he's the most patient batter on the team, he sees the most pitches, he gets on base the most BY FAR. Other than his ability to drive in runners being wasted by batting after the pitcher, there is no argument. And what kind of argument is that right now? If you didn't notice he slugged .440 last year.  Pull out the singles and that was roughly what Kurt Suzuki slugged for the Nats (Werth isoSLG .140, Suzuki .137)  Yes, yes injury, but even before that he wasn't exactly distracting us from the terrible truths of MLB's satellite program.  At 34, things start to go.

So if you want to bring in Bourn just to leadoff, I think that's silly. If you want Bourn it's because you want his awesome defense in a hard position and an offense that's acceptable. It's all going to depend on the market for him. I might even be able to get behind a deal that skirts the 5 year 90 million that Torii Hunter got back in the day.  That's how good Bourn's D and baserunning are and a Nats OF of Bryce, Bourn, and Werth would look to be outstanding. I think Bryce has acquitted himself well but I'm still not sure I buy that he'll mature into the role.  I'd rather see him moved to another spot before we get into a "that's the only place Bryce will play" situation.  Plus, add a super-plus CF, and the Nats would have potentially an IF/OF as good as any we've seen. But if Boras (yes his agent is Scott Boras) pushes it to the 100 million range.  I just don't know. It's one thing to overpay. It's another to so grossly do it.

Hamilton? Love the guy but there is too much not to like to sign him for what he'd likely get.  Those strikeouts being way up?  The fielding being pretty bad this year? A HR number that will possibly end up being a career high?  A history of injury and external issues?  The Nats, being a team that is looking to win in the next couple of years, are one of the few teams that could justify making that kind of signing but I couldn't get behind it, not with the guy looking for 7 years (and likely to find someone willing to give him 6, I bet)

I'll finish up the remaining Qs, next time,  then put the email address back out there for another round.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How the Marlins trade effects the '13 Nats

Jeffrey Loria, whom you might know as Azazel, Beelzebub, Ol' Scratch, or by his given name "The Great Satan, Dark Lord of the Underworld" has commenced gutting a Marlins team he put together roughly 12 months ago in order to justify fleecing the city of Miami into building him a new stadium. ("But it'll help revitalize the neighborhood!" says stupid people who don't understand that that happens when the city puts money behind a well thought out neighborhood plan with or without the existence of a local sports teams home field).  Outside of a few moronic sabermetricians ("Their marginal win per dollar spent will go through the roof!") everyone thinks this is terrible. Unless of course you are a fan of the Nats, Phillies, Braves or Mets. The Marlins weren't good last year and they'll be worse than they needed to be for the next couple of years. That means more wins for these teams.

For the Nats especially this will help, because this down time for the Marlins coincides directly when the Nats will be fighting it out for everything from Wild Cards (hey, the Braves could have a good year) to home field advantage. But how much will it help them?

In 2012 here were the NL East teams records vs the Marlins

WSN : 9-9
ATL : 14-4
PHI : 10-8
NYM : 12-6

Both the Mets and Braves aren't going to necessarily gain much from the Marlins destruction in comparison to this past year. It will help them in that they won't lose more games, but if the Braves and Mets want to get more than 94 and 74 wins respectively, it's not going to come just from Miami becoming a doormat in front of them.

The Nats and the Phillies though, I think both these teams can probably expect 2-4 more wins just because of this. That doesn't mean the Nats are definitely looking at a 100 win season.  There is WAY too much going on to say that. But they should definitely bounce back against this team over the next couple of years giving them a nice theoretical cushion to start the year (While other teams may have had some bad luck vs the Marlins this year, Pittsburgh going 1-4 for example, anything can happen in 6 games. Even the worst team has a winning record vs somebody and even good teams have bad stretches vs also-rans. So you can't say Marlins are worse, Pittsburgh will win a couple more games. Play a team 3 times that many times though and you start to get a proper comparison)

Is this automatic? Of course not. The Nats could go 9-9 again next year.  Hell, they could go 8-10 or 7-11.  It's not impossible.  But trades like this make those results far less likely.  The needle has moved for the Nats, from an expected record against Miami of something like 11-7 to something like 13-5. That may not seem like much but remember the Nats won HFA by two games, the Cardinals won the 2nd WC by two games. Every little bit helps. This helps. So thank Loria right after you splash him with holy water and watch him burn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One down

I was right!  Though you must know that much like the presidential election percentage of votes does not equal the electoral college difference. 

If you are wondering the votes for Jordan Pacheco (empty high average in Coors field and a terrible fielder) and Yonder Alonso (only decent considering the home park and had ~70 games over the past 2 years in the major leagues) were the worst votes. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Lucky or Unlucky : 2012

As I talked about last year in talking about seasons before that, seasons are usually made or broken by things you didn't plan for.  Injuries of course, but also performances that skew a large distance from expectations. It works in both directions, both surprisingly good performances and sudden collapses. If your team manages to get more of the former than the latter you should have a better than expected year, and vice versa.

ZNN and Zimmerman pretty much played to expectations after starting fast and slow respectively.  Also pretty much doing as he does after a slow start was Espinosa. Lombardozzi gave you the empty average you would have projected.  Bryce gave you the everything, but just not quite at star level yet, you would have projected.

The bullpen, which began filling up with good arms in 2010, put together another very good year as a whole with some surprises (Stammen, Garcia) matched with some failures (Lidge, H-Rod). Lannan was Lannan when given the chance. Strasburg was STRASBURG when, you know, still in the rotation. Injury hampered Wang was terrible.

All those offensive injuries - Nicks and bumps happen so even something like Desmond's 30 missed games you can write off as kind of typical.  But Morse missed 60 games, Werth half the season, Ramos pretty much the whole thing. That's a lot for an offense to overcome.

Morse's injury saps his power a bit - Mike is supposed to be an imposing presense in the middle of the lineup.  He still had a good year but post-injury he didn't quite have the pop fans were hoping for.

Storen's injury - One single notable bullpen injury isn't a big deal*, even if it's the closer, but it's kind of unlucky it happened anyway.

*well it shouldn't be a big deal because you should just plug in your 8th inning guy, who's likely your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd best reliever. The Nats didn't do that at first, instead putting in the unreliable because of age Brad Lidge and unreliable because of talent H-Rod. That worked as well as you might expect. But that's not bad luck, that's bad roster management.

Ummmm...  Xavier Nady should have really been not so terrible for the Nats.  I guess you didn't expect Flores to be that bad.

Desmond broke out - Ian Desmond went from a liability at the plate to a huge plus in a single year.

A lot of bit players overperformed - Bernadina had the best year of his career.  Tyler Moore hit for a higher average than anyone could have hoped.  Suzuki and Tracy both performed better than they had in years. While the injuries hurt, these performances helped to ease that pain a good deal.

Gio, Detwiler and Jackson all pitched really well - You probably would have expected Gio to do better in the NL then the AL but almost no one predicted him to be Cy Young worthy (almost noone).  You probably would have expected Detwiler to hold his own but he pitched like a #3 or better. You possibly would have expected that Jackson would be a nice pickup but he put together arguably the 2nd best season of his career.  Any one of these things would have been nice to have.

Complete injury bounce backs from LaRoche and Werth - We were pretty sure neither could hit as badly as they did the year before but given injury returns are never sure things, were hoping for a nice medium between the terrible and what we had expected going into 2011. Instead they got all the way back

The starter health - The Nats basically had 5 good and healthy starters all year long.  Only two other teams managed that, the Reds and the Giants. Sound familiar? What about teams with 4 healthy guys you want to throw out there? Angels, Tigers, Cardinals, Yankees, Rays.  See the pattern? This is HUGE.

What's the final verdict?  Well it's hard to say the Nats weren't lucky this year.  They had a big negative with all those injuries but that was the only big negative.  On the positive side the Werth/LaRoche bounceback and the bench player's performances really helped directly overcome that big negative and they also had big positives including a break-out season, nearly complete pitching health, and having no starter underperform.

Does this mean that the Nats are doomed to fall back next year? Not at all, mainly because the Nats are a young team. Overperformance by older players is generally a fluke, just a guy having a year where everything seems to go right. The next year though, you expect a return to normal production.  For example Chad Tracy isn't going to hit that well again next year.  For young players, though it shifts expectations. Maybe they are this good.  You don't necessarily go and predict something as good, but you believe a bit more in what you saw recently than what you had previously expected. Ian may not be able to carry an offense again, but he should be in the All-Star discussion. Gio might not be a Cy Young candidate in 2013, but he's probably still a top 15 type pitcher. The Nats weren't an old team catching lightning in a bottle. They were a young team that combined took a big step foward last year. Maybe that means a settling of feet a game or two back, but a full return is not in the cards.

No, the only thing derailing the Nats next season would be injury or an awful case of bad luck.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Slightly More than 581

While watching the election unfold exactly how survey data said it would was fun (I work with surveys all the time. There's a reason people do them. They are usually right.), I'm taking this voting back for the windbags.  I've gathered no data, polling exactly 0 voters for the BBWAA   I've unskewed it by using a complex method mixing cast chicken bones (wings only), the pattern of the Jager at the bottom of my shot glass, and "what I feel like at the time". Here are my forecasted results for the NL voting.

NL Rookie of the Year 

Miley takes the solid NL West vote, his home state of Louisiana, and surprisingly Utah, where the Mormon fanbase has been turned off by Bryce since he wore the "Suns Out, Guns Out" tank top instead of their special underwear. Frazier takes NJ, as a member of the Toms River LLWS Champs. He also gets the Reds block, plains states that don't like Bryce's in-your-face attitude, and Georgia, where Braves fans still think he's overrated and Heyward and Freeman are just as good.  Bryce though is super cool and everyone else realizes it. He easily wins his home state and his rugged individualism plays particularly well in the mountain west. He sweeps the rest and takes the easy victory.

Miley (purple) : 89
Frazier (red) : 109
Bryce (eye black) : 340

NL Manager of the Year

Baker gets most of the Reds block, along with Florida, where seniors sympathize with his health issues, and Missouri who have lingering Davey issues from the '80s and also have such ego with the Cardinals that they assume any coach that can win the Central over their team must be some sort of a genius. Bochy and the Giants still play big in the Western states, who frankly are happy when anyone keeps the Dodgers out of the playoffs. He also surprisingly pulls in Pennsylvania, where the western part of the state is still in shock Clint Hurdle wasn't nominated and the eastern part is full of bitter Phillies fans who refuse to vote for a former Mets coach that now coaches the Nats. It's not enough. Davey's curmudgeonly ways are exactly what most of the country want in a manager. It's an easy win.

Baker (red) : 76
Bochy (orange) : 137
Johnson (yellow) : 325

NL Cy Young

You can't see it, but Gio does take DC.  Kershaw doesn't even get the usual NL West vote, instead he pulls in only the strict "East Coast Bias!!11!1!s" trio of CA, OR, and WA.  The rest of the country understands that a fast throwing knuckleballer is totally cool and should totally win. Totally. It's a Reagan-esque domination.

Gio (red?) : 3
Kershaw (blue) : 74
Dickey (orange) : 461


Braun only takes Wisconsin because everyone else thinks he's a big dumb cheater. Molina gets Missouri and Texas who refuses to vote for anyone from the liberal bastion of San Francisco. McCutheon wins the college educated areas of the country who understand his low fielding stats are obviously an issue of annual variability and really question any use of fielding skills when evaluating catchers versus other players. Also they think Braun is a big dumb cheater. Still Posey's boyish charm is too strong to overcome.  Oh wait, Chase Headley! Uhhhh... yeah.

Headley (a scarlet so deep and red it would make you cry if you saw it. God's color, really) : 0
Braun (blue) : 10
Molina (red) : 48
McCutheon  (yellow) : 180
Posey (orange) : 300

Monday, November 05, 2012

Monday Quickie

So my computer is broken, when it comes back I expect to get on a more regular schedule in the offseason.  Probably Tuesday - Wednesday - Friday but nothing set in stone yet.

The only real big news has been the lack of a qualifying offer to Edwin Jackson.  You only don't make a qualifying offer to Jackson if you are afraid he will agree to it.  You are only afraid he'll agree to it if you have what you believe to be better plans for his position. What could those plans be? Here are my guesses from most to least likely :

The Nats are looking to deal for a young pitcher. Rizzo likes his pitchers like he likes his coffee; cheap, young and in team control for several years (that analogy makes sense, right?). The Jackson signing last year made sense with Strasburg's situation as it was. They needed to be sure of getting the innings. This year that isn't the case. The Nats have some chips to deal. If they want to get better on D, Morse is an obvious one.  Espinosa could be one depending on how much they love Rendon. Or else their somewhat decently showcased "other" young guys like Moore and Lombo could be part of a package.

The Nats have a killer 1-3 and a 4 in Detwiler who might be very good as well. Taking a risk on a young arm is something this team can afford and is in line with their philosophy.

The Nats are looking to showcase Lannan and/or Maya.  This wouldn't be popular with the Nats fans, but it makes sense to me. Lannan has been nothing but decent pitching for years now.  The guy would be more than fine as this team's 5th starter and would be ready to be dealt early to another squad.  If you don't let him pitch for a deal, it would be a waste as he'll just walk as a FA next year.

As for Maya, his age doesn't necessarily lend himself to be part of the Nats future but he did pitch better than Lannan did in AAA. Plus he's a complete Rizzo guy and I bet it gnaws at Mike constantly that this didn't work out.  Throw him out there hope that he's great like you thought.  If he's merely good that's still fine, you can deal him for something.

This move would allow the Nats all the monetary flexibility they need to really step up and make a big $ FA signing for the offense, where they seem more agreeable to such things. 

The Nats are looking to sign a long-term pitcher.  I don't see the Nats as being the types to sign long-term pitching but there is one guy (Greinke) who is good enough and young enough that you might try it.  They did go after him before.  My issue with this move is that for anyone other than Zack this hardly makes sense and what if you don't get him? You let a very good pitcher walk for no compensation for nothing? This is a big gamble that I don't really think the Nats are making being pennant contenders now and Rizzo being the draft pick hoarder he is. 

The Nats are looking to sign another temporary pitcher. If this was the case I don't see why they wouldn't just offer the spot up to Edwin.  I don't see anyone out there THAT much better, but they know more than I do about Jackson, obviously, so I suppose this is possible. They liked this set-up they just didn't like Edwin for some reason.

The Nats want to keep the 5th spot free to showcase their young pitching just like Detwiler last year.  That would be nice but who would these young studs be?  Meyer is the best bet, but he'll open the season in AA. I can't see him up early enough to be the driver of a 2013 plan. Neither Meyer or Rosenbaum didn't end the season well. The rest of the guys in line are just filler or injured and in the low minors. There may be a nice young pitcher in the Nats rotation but I'd be shocked if it happened before September, and I'd be surprised if the September above wasn't September of 2014.