Nationals Baseball: Appreciation

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Over the past couple of days I've seen shout-outs to both Ian Desmond (from Boz) and Jordan Zimmermann (in my comments) saying "Hey! Look over here! These guys are awesome and you aren't appreciating them!" So how about a happy day for once? Let's look at these two guys

First things, first. While we can appreciate Ian Desmond, we can also be realistic about that appreciation. Ian Desmond is not Cal Ripken. Sorry Boz. It's not crazy to compare players like this, but you have to use the right comparisons, OPS+ not OPS.  Best years vs Best years, not one guys best years vs another's career. And fielding percentage? Are you kidding me?

So what can we say about Ian Desmond then that's fair?

In the last 2 years he has been as effectively offensively as Cal Ripken was in his first 10.

That may not seem impressive but Cal Ripken was a Hall-of-Famer. Ian Desmond is hitting like Cal in his prime. Not hitting like him at his max, mind you, but as he would in any random prime age year. Notice we do leave out defense. That's not really a dig at Ian. He was good last year and he's not hurting anyone this year. It's really that Cal was awesome in his time. There just isn't a comparison to make here.

I feel like I'm making Ian look bad. Stupid Boz, making me compare Ian to Cal Ripken.  Let's look at Ian vs his contemporaries.

Well he's no Troy Tulowitzki. And Jean Segura is having a great year. Jhonny Peralta is doing real well. And how about that Everth Cabrera. But Ian, Ian is definitely the 5th best SS in the majors this year. That's pretty good right? Right? Oh come on that's pretty good.

Ok this didn't go as I thought it would. What we're seeing here is a bit of an illusion. Ian really has been the best non-pitcher on the Nats this year (with Bryce out for as long as he has been) but that doesn't make him special. It's a .500 team with a terrible offense that he's the best of. Ian isn't a complete player. His fielding is at best adequate (when he cuts down on the errors) and he never walks meaning he makes alot of outs. But he can hit for a decent average with good pop and he can play SS, which let's the Nats forget about that potential trouble zone. He's good. He's very good. Be glad the Nats have him. But let's not move into reverence just yet. Let's see if he can compare favorably to Jhonny Peralta before we compare him to Cal Ripken, ok?

What about Zimmermann can we at least be positive about him?

Yes yes we can. I argued about a month ago that letting ZNN go wouldn't be a terrible thing because both Strasburg is better and Gio is at least as good. I still hold that that is the truth, though in all honesty, if contracts weren't an issue I'd choose ZNN over Gio.

Why? Because ZNN is seemingly improving in the areas he can improve. His walk rate (1.25 per 9) is the 3rd lowest in the league. His GB% has gone up significantly every year. 31% -> 43% -> 50%.  This is what you want to see from your pitchers. He could, I guess, strike out a few more guys, but he's getting the results he needs right now. I'll take a low K rate. Put no one on base, get a lot of GBs, let luck sort out if you happen to get dribbled to death by seeing eye hits one day.

Are more of those hits going to get through (.241 BABIP)? Sure. Are more of those FBs going over the fence (8.7% HR/FB rate)? Probably. But we're not talking collapse here.We're talking a 3.00 ERA instead of the low 2.00s. This is a guy good enough to be anyone's #2 and some (most?) teams #1. I would make signing him a priority.

Commentary Corner
I was sick and assume no ones going to check back in yesterday's comments to see if I responded so here it is in blog post form

Sirc - Yes it is strange that Haren's K rate is up with his career average. Part of it is the culture of strikeouts has been growing so more guys are striking out. He is getting worse in comparison. But still it's high. My theory is that guys are going after everything and when he can locate and.or has movement they'll miss. When he doesn't they kill it. Not much inbetweern

Chaz R - Storen trade rumors. I think they would deal him (now that Abad and Krol look good), especially if Mattheus looks good on return but I can't see him being a centerpiece of a deal. That wouldn't fetch much worthwhile.

C&S, sec 22, Froggy - My guess is this : They'll 15 day DL then bring him back for a few starts. I'm not sure what exactly the "fix" will be. I think they are hoping just some time off will help clear his head. If that fails they will probably 60 day DL him. I don't think DFA is an option, because no one is going to deal for him with that contract. You'd basically be DFAing him to get rid of him. 60 day DL pretty much does something similar (opens up his spot) without throwing him off the team. Double face save.

Dezo - I wouldn't say Span is the definitely the better choice, especially on offense. Upton still walks and hit for power so if you want to bet on his low average being a fluke, I can see that argument. Now as a complete player though - Span's D still puts him as the choice... for now. (BJ Upton in June .246 / .366 / .478   Denard Span in June .208 / .260 / .278)

Donald - it's more the Braves are unbeatable at home (Mets series excluded) and bleh on the road.


Froggy said..., I mean Harper, I totally agree that it is a bit early to compare Ian to Cal Ripkin. But it is a deserved compliment to be mentioned in the same breath as Cal. I also agree that Ian isn't a complete player...yet, but his improvement has been exponential in hitting and fielding (ok, so maybe he could be more consistent). I am most impressed with how he is maturing as a leader though.

As to Jordan Zimmermann, glad your finally on board the train! I've been saying for three years he is the best pitcher on the staff and will even go out on a limb and say he has potential to be better than Stras in the long run. If ZNN had had some run support last year he easily would have won 3-4 more games.

Hope you're feeling better,
Thurman Munson

Chaz R said...

I think we can very satisfied with Desi as our SS. The problem with SS is the backup... just who is our backup? -Lombo...Kobernus??? They may not be able to use Danny as trade bait just because he is the only legit backup for Desi.

No doubt, ZNN just gets better and better. He seems to be very mentally disciplined.

cass said...

The biggest news, of course, is that, if all goes well, we're less than a week away from Bryce Harper tagging in. He should be back in DC to wreak some havoc on the Brewers next week.

The Nats looked like they were going to get up and hold their own late last week. Thanks to Ian Desmond, they slipped out of the chokehold the Phillies had put on them and then managed to bounce off the ropes and do a clothesline against the Rox. Feeling confident, they then took their time climbing up the turnbuckles while the Rox were down. But as they tried to put the Rockies away with a Frog Splash, the Rox rolled out of the way at the last second and the Nats crashed onto the mat, losing their momentum. "Nobody home" as the announcers would say.

Kinda been like this all season. They really need to make the tag.

Strasburger said...

The braves forum should be blowing up more than ours, because they are really blowing the opportunity to step on our throats and have been for the past month. It's sad that we are stil so close in our division with the type of play we've been producing.

I barely dissagree with you ever Harp, but ZNN is a better pitcher than Gio. That's a non-starter in my mind. ZNN as you've noted is improving every year. His numbers this year are very, very impressive. I really think he'll finish under 2.5

That being said, Stras is obviously the best arm we have, despite his injury trouble this year, he is quietly approaching the 2 ERA mark, but his K rate is a little troubling, at least compared to last year. Gio seems to have turned the corner too, our 1-3 is FINALLY shaping into what we all hoped it would be.

Hopefully Bryce will account for that extra run a game you think he will. At the least I think he will fire up the other guys in the offense.

I miss Ramos. He's undervalued.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I think we Braves fans are just fine with a 6-game lead near the halfway mark. Actually, I look at it the exact opposite way: this week was a prime opportunity for the Nationals to make a move, and they failed to do so.

I know you all expect Bryce to come back and be Babe Ruth and save your season, but he won't. Your team will miss the playoffs, and I will laugh.

Harper said...

Froggy - yeah Desmond is at a point where you can finagle a comparison to Cal Ripken if you try real hard. Any you know what? That's pretty damn good. You just gotta finagle it - not try to blatantly sell it

As for ZNN great, but no Strasburg.

Chaz R - Well, to be fair I'm not sure who would have a good back-up SS. That's a luxury item. I think most teams shoot for passable. I though Lombo might be that but now, not so much.

cass - Except the Rockies have tagged in the D-backs. DDT time? Didi T?

Strasburger - oh I do think that ZNN is better than Gio now. (or at least would bet on ZNN going foward) Still I'll hold to the fact that losing ZNN wouldn't be the end of the world. (same with losing Gio)

Of course I beleive that's the case for a team dedicated to having an average offense. With the 2013 Nats they needs all the arms they can get.

DezoPenguin said...

And hey, unlike Tulo, Desmond doesn't spend half his life on the DL, so when you compare him you're really comparing him to 50% of Tulo + 50% of Tulo's backup. So he looks even better, there. I have to admit, after 2011 I was one of those who was ready to kick Ian to the curb and I'm very glad to have been proven wrong.

...Since when are people not appreciating ZNN? Keeping him locked up for the next four years or so would help make sure that .500-ish is the low end for Nats expectations (barring major injury to himself, Gio, and/or Stras) during that time.

Harper said...

Anon - If you've popped in here at all you know I'm only 1-2 weeks from calling this division for the Braves. As for the Nats playoffs chances, it certainly doesn't look good, Bryce or not. We'll def know by the All-Star break.

Have your laugh if you must, but I'd save any energy toward trying to win a playoff series.

Dezo - OK on Troy but then can I point out he has 1 less hit, 4 more homers, 7 more walks in 50 fewer plate appearances? He looks better but I'm not sure even 50% tulo & 50% backup doesn't beat Ian. Healthy Tulo is that good.

It isn't people underappreciating ZNN it's just me apparently.

Cole B said...

To compare Desmond to "The Iron Man" is a stretch. I can see where the comparisons are drawn from but we're looking at a 3 year career compared to a 20 year career. But I do think that the Nats need to covet him for the future of the club, given the scarcity of the SS position.

ZNN is solid. His numbers are getting better, he is maturing and Given that everything can get put together at the same time, the Nats can have a dangerous 3-headed monster in their rotation. I agree with Froggy, too, in that ZNN could be a more solid rotation piece than Strasburg.

Froggy said...

Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical - Berra

I think ZNN pitching for the not so good Nats of 2011 and not getting run support in a lot of his games in 2012 made him a mentally tougher pitcher than Strasburg is right now. But then again, I'm probably being too hard on Stras as he is only 24. I can't even remember what I was doing at 24, but I know I wasn't doing it very well.

Anonymous said...

It's because I so sincerely doubt the Braves' ability to win a playoff series that I have to take my pleasures where I can find them. But I do know that you've been coldbloodedly realistic about the Nationals' chances all along; I was only responding to the one commenter. And I also know that's in poor taste, as every fanbase needs places it can retreat to and spin optimistic tales in comment sections. Bowing out now!

blovy8 said...

Desmond doesn't have to be as good as Cal, I would settle for vintage Tejada. Of course, that might take some B-12.

Zimmermann can be Mussina. He struck out a few more though.

BenDen said...

Not sure if a new post is coming today so I'll post here.

Was at the game last night and loved it obviously. Great to see us put upa big number early in the game.

I will NOT call this the start of "our run" since that's been predicted 8 million times over the last month. I will however remain cautiously optimistic for this reason:

At one point last night they pinch hit Zim for Tracy and I looked at the scoreboard to see the following lineup


Change out Bernie for Harper and that lineup finally looks formidable. you can put those 7 guys in any order and it'd be a tough lineup for any pitcher to get through. And its light years away from this


Sirc said...

Yes BenDen. That actually was a big deal. We saw that group for what, 7 games? Minus Ramos, we fans have been waiting and hoping to see it again before denouncing our right to hope.

Despite Harper's prediction to predict the Nats demise, I think that fans and the club can remain hopeful with sincerity until that lineup plays together for an extended period, or can't play together due to a continuation of injuries, or plays together and still wins only half of their games for an extended period.

Whichever of those comes first.