Nationals Baseball: 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, Aaron Thompson

You were claimed off waivers from the Nationals! You're like a toy plucked from the trash bin heading for a sleigh ride with Santa!

Oh no, why are you being dropped on that island up there? A bird that can swim? Ok, that's pretty cool, but who would you fill a water pistol with jelly? Nobody wants a Charlie (Morton) in the box!

Final Score on the Nick Johnson deal : Double squadoosh.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A clarification and a nightmare

Just to clarify I DO think Rizzo and the Sha Na Nats are trying to get better. I may not agree exactly with what they are doing, but no one can argue that they haven't gone after one player after another that would make the team immediately better. What I was saying though is that a team with the stink of consistent losing can't be picky and choosy about how they get better. They need to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them. They had an All-Star caliber first baseman that was ready to re-sign with the team despite their losing. They needed to make that happen first and build off that.

Here's something to ponder:

Thursday April 7th - Nats vs Marlins (righty pitching)

LFCF - Bernadina
SS - Desmond
3B - Zimmerman
RF - Werth
LF - Ankiel
1B - Kotchman
2B- Espinosa
C- Pudge

and on the mound JD Martin!

Whatcha think? 8K?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This is why it's important not to suck

When you suck people don't want to come to your team.

This is why it's not ok to ignore the major league team for years and years. This is why, if you know you can overpay and get Werth, you do it AND you keep Dunn. You get better, you don't tread water.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Less confused. Not "unconfused" but less confused

Let's start out with something obvious, none of "us" know what the trade market is for Josh Willingham. It could be that this was a very fair deal for the Hammer, based on what Rizzo was seeing on the market. We don't know. I have trouble seeing that, but as I've said we tend to overrate the guys we look at everyday. Ok admitting our lack of knowledge, why do the Nats make this deal?

Well gambling on how Willingham did this year to see if you could increase his value is risky bet. Turning 32 in February, he's not young. He's also coming off surgery. Expectations were that he'd bounce right back into his usual productive self but that's probably a bit optimistic. Of course that risk is fine when you are paying Josh 3-5 million dollars a year, but that would be ending soon. Josh was out of option years, and next year would be a free agent. He was going to get a decent raise if he was any good this year. The Nats weren't likely to dole out a bunch of cash for Josh's 33+ years. Trading him now, when the Nats could be sure he still had value, was an understandable move.

The curious thing about the deal isn't that the Nats traded Josh Willingham, however; it is who the Nats got back. You would hope they Nats would get either (1) a couple of allright starting pitching prospects (quantity, people!), or (2) a decent major league contributing player better than what the Nats have now. Instead the Nats got one pretty good relief prospect and a major league hitter not better than what they have.

Henry Rodriguez is a classic relief prospect. Super fast pitcher. High K's (11.4 K/9 in minor leagues in 2008, 15.2 in 2009, 13.4 2010) High BB's (6.5 BB/9 in 2008, 7.2, 3.8). Most encouraging is that he doesn't give up homers - 0.4 HR/9 in the minors. So far averaging 10.5 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 in the majors. That isn't bad but it is still too many walks to rely on. Since everything else looks ok though, I think if he's able to improve his walk rate, even just a little bit, he could be at least useful with the potential for a lot more. The problem is last year's 20 games in AAA was the only time he ever did that. I'd fell a little better if he was 21 next year not 24 but he's an ok pick-up, controlled through 2016. Of course relievers are a dime a dozen so you don't necessarily need to deal for them.

Corey Brown is an old 25 (turned it in Novemeber). He was kind of shuffled up the A's minor league system for the sake of doing so until AA where he got better as he got older than the surrounding competition. He takes a lot of pitches, which fits in with Rizzo's philosophy and he has moderate power. The question is whether he can maintain a high enough average in the majors to stick. When I see a guy bouncing around .260-.280 over many years and levels my opinion is probably not. Fitting somewhere between Maxwell and Bernadina on the prospect scale I just don't see the point of this guy. Wait, was he drafted by the Diamondbacks? Nope. Ok still don't get it.

It could turn out better, or another deal could be made, but the way I see it Willingham was dealt for basically organizational depth.

Wait what?


Confusion! Perplexity! Bamboozlement! I am completely without bobulates!

The Nats traded Josh Willingham, early, for a decent reliever prospect and an old OF prospect? I need to look at this closer. Update (and a 68 win season) soon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Welcome 4th Lawrence brother

whoa! (at least that's what he looks like to me)

short version of the press conference involves the words "money", "house", and "dump truck".

Monday, December 13, 2010

Nats face sheer wall of rock to climb in the NL East

Just think of it this way: The Phillies youngest star will be 33 in 2013 and that's the guy that is most likely to age badly. That year or maybe in 2014 that could be an old, bad, expensive team. Either that or they'll be the team that let Jimmy Rollins walk and he's got that aura that if the team loses 3 games in a row the media will be all like "Why'd they let Rollins walk! He's a winner!"

Don't think of it this way : That's a lot of intra-divisional losses in 2011 and 2012.

REALLY don't think of it this way : This isn't a heartwarming story of a guy going where his heart is. This is a guy who wanted to pitch in the NL (easier) on a winner for roughly the hideous amounts of money he was going to get elsewhere. The Yankees are in bigger trouble (of maybe not having the best record in the AL East) but at least they can say "Ok this guy wasn't about the money". The Rangers were dumped like a summer camp girlfriend, for last year's summer camp girlfriend.

Wrong Lee? Nah.

He's not THAT old. Sure he's an old 35 (will turn 36 before the end of the season next year) but it's only 35. Trusting a player at 35 & 36 doesn't seem like a terrible idea. Eventually he'll fall off the cliff but if you don't think that was last year (and I don't) than it's fine to gamble on the short term.

He bounced back decently with the Braves. Over the last 39 games his line was .287 / .384 / .465. That seems pretty much in line with what I'd like to see from a 35 year old Lee.

He wasn't that bad with the Cubs
April : .205 / .327 / .352 (.222 BABIP)
Post -April : .267 / .337 / .433 (.311 BABIP)

That line for BABIP (batting average for balls in play) is usually pretty stable. For Lee (for anyone really) .222 is terribly low. It's usually is an indication of unluckiness more than a true slump. .311 is close to what Lee would usually have - so it's not like he bounced back with a run of luckiness at that point. Would the Nats be happy with .267 / .337 / .433? Probably not. Would they be happy with something between that and the Atlanta line? I think so.

I don't see much bad in the fancy stats to indicate trouble to come. His line drive percentage is pretty stable, walks are stable, K's are up but not past some of his past season lines. The FB% and HR/FB dropped a bunch but both were oddly high in 2009. That was the aberration and it makes last year look worse. In truth, 2010 is closer to career averages. He is swinging more at pitches outside the strike zone (18.7% -> 20.8% -> 21.5% -> 23.1%) but as he does that he gets better at making contact at these pitches. (52.5% -> 57.4% -> 60.5% -> 65.6%), so that mitigates the problem a bit. It's not ideal, I admit, but it shows an ability to adapt.

His defense has been consistently decent. He's not the best but it seems like whatever efforts he has made in the latter half of his career to turn his fielding into a plus is continuing to work.

So I like Lee, for a year or two (next year's first baseman market is dry unless you want to give Prince Fielder 150 million). Maybe see if Marrero is ready or if Bryce is moved. Three years? No way.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Winter Meetings over : Nats are losers for now

Yep, you heard me. The Nats are "losers". Of course that's in "Idiotic Mid-Stream Forced Judgement Need-something-to-talk about World" (just around the corner from Melmac) but it's still true. So far the Nats have in a very broad sense traded Adam Dunn, at 4 years and about 14 mill a year, for Jayson Werth at 7 years for 18 million a year. They traded a reasonable contract for an unreasonable one while letting everything else remain the same. They didn't fix the first base situation. They didn't get that front-line pitcher they talk so much about. Mission Not Accomplished.

That's not to say that the Nats won't be better next year for having Jayson rather than Adam. I think they will (but only very slightly because of Werth instead of Dunn). That's not enough though. Right now, like EXACTLY this moment, the hopes for a much better team lie in a lot of things working in the Nats favor. Which is exactly how every season has worked since the Nats arrived in Washington. In 2005 that plan panned out. In 2006 through ever, it hasn't.

Of course like I said, this is a practically worthless analysis. The off-season is far from over. The Nats will do something else. They have to. Then we'll take another look at the Nats. But for those wanting the Nats to walk away from the Winter Meetings big winners so they could get excited about the team... well, "Sorry".

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

This shocks me more than the Werth deal


The overpay for Werth (also a Boras client), the constant praise we heard of Pena from sources on the team, the actual mutual interest, the "Carlos 4 eva" homemade tattoo across Rizzo's chest... How could the Nats not get Pena?

Best guess I have : Boras convinced Pena that a one-year deal would be better for him (next year's FA first base market should be exceedingly slim) and Rizzo did not want a guy on a one-year deal.

Oh well, it's not like I thought Pena was best for the Nats anyway. He may be fine next year, but I wouldn't bet on it. I do like LaRoche, the supposed next target, better. He doesn't have the (super small) chance to be great like Carlos Pena, but he also doesn't have the (not so small) chance to be a complete nothing, either. LaRoche should be average or better for at least a couple more years. Plus, his name is Adam. After LaRoche, the next best available first basemen out there are the old Derrek Lee and the contender seeking Lyle Overbay (good luck with all that Lyle).

In more disappointing but far less shocking news, the Nats are likely a no-go for a Greinke deal. This makes perfect sense. The gap between the Nats best prospects (which they weren't going to give up) and their next best is pretty big. I suppose if the Nats gutted their system and offered up Norris and Espinosa and Solis and Storen the Royals might bite, but that would (1) leave the Nationals with a Bryce Harper and absolutely nothing else minor league system, and (2) give the Royals a couple of projected low average starters, a relief arm, and a guy that just became a modest starter prospect for their best chip. (If that sounds like a lot for Grienke remember that a fan will almost always overrate his team's own prospects. Storen is the only sure thing on that list and you don't make a reliever the key part of a package deal for your Cy Young winning, 2 reasonable years left, 27 year old starter.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Rizzo not stupid, says he's not done.

Signing Werth was a bold move. It was completely necessary in the short run, potentially stupid in the long run, the kind of move Nats fans had never seen. Take a step back from the madness of the deal and all it did was replace Dunn in the lineup. Oh, ok it helped the defense but defense is... well not overrated... how about "more variable than can be planned for in a season". You sign a guy for his offense you can be pretty sure of what he's going to contribute in that first year. You sign a guy for his defense and well it depends on a lot of stuff he can't control so maybe he'll be awesome and maybe he'll just be ok in year one. Over the course of the contract it should even out, and if he's good you should get overall good defense for those multiple years combined but in one single year it's difficult to count on "win-changing" defense.

Werth will help make the Nats better than Dunn would have but not necessarily next year. The most likely scenario for next year is simply breaking even. If you didn't notice the Nats weren't exactly in a position where breaking even in talent gained/lost would put them in the playoffs. Rizzo has figured out how to make sure the Nats don't get worse. Now he's got to figure out how to make the Nats better. It seems like he's working on it, but what exactly can he do?

Assuming the Lee deal plays out like everyone thinks it will, the Nats are left with the likely combination of signing one more bat and trading for a pitcher. It's going to be difficult to do that without treading water offensively. Josh Willingham, an affordable known commodity, is likely gone in any deal. Losing him and signing a Laroche or Pena is probably a wash. The pitcher the Nats would get in return then would have to be awfully good to make a difference in their talent level next year.

I suppose instead of those retreads the Nats could sign a Beltre (like Natsfanboylooser notes in a vague, please don't read anything into it, rumor) or better yet a Crawford but is that even possible? It seems unlikely with the money committed to Werth that the cash will also be there for one of these guys, but hey, we all probably thought the Werth money wasn't there. That kind of signing would allow for the Nats to make a deal and still end up better next year at the plate.

Of course there is just signing a pitcher but you are going to have to overpay for Pavano, who has a long history of injury issues, is hitting 35 and is going to be expensive. Carl is a win in the next two years signing, nothing more. After that there is little left, and certainly no #1s...unless you count Webb, but like Carlos Pena at first, that's a gamble move that could pay off or could crap out. The Nats need a more security than that by itself going into next year.

I suppose Rizzo could wow us with a bunch of smart little trades and signings but it seems more likely that in order to be secure that the Nats will improve severely next year they either need another BIG signing, like a Lee, or Crawford, or they need to make a steal of a deal for a #1 pitcher. That is if being much better next year is the goal. If it's 2012 they are aiming for, with Strasburg returning and Bryce likely appearing, well then they can sit pat - but that seems like a waste of a year now doesn't it?

Update: Would you want the Nats to go 7 for Lee? It's a game changer - but still maybe not enough... probably gets the Nats to around .500, then it would be up to that first base signing and how the young guys develop. 2012, the Strasburg/Bryce year though becomes VERY interesting.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Werth Deal - longer thoughts

The first thing that keeps coming back is that it's too many years. It just is. Whatever you think about Werth, and I think he's very good, and whatever you think of how much he's being paid, this is too much. Seven years will cover Jayson from age 32-38. Last year there were only 38 players ("how about that!" says Mel Allen) age 38 or older in the major league, 22 hitters. Only 8 had more than 300 at bats and only 2 (Jim Thome and the well-rested Jim Edmonds) were good. There is no way the Nats are getting 7 years of good play out of Jayson Werth. It's very likely the Nats won't get 7 years of any kind of play for Werth. The last 2-3 years of this deal, in those years specifically, is money thrown away.

As for the money, it IS too much, but I don't really care about that. You might be able to argue he was worth 18 million last year. That was his best year ever. Will he be worth that much in a single year ever again? I doubt it. Still, as long as you aren't setting strong limits in your spending on a yearly basis I don't think it matters. It's only when teams go "oh we can't pay for that over there, because we're paying for this over here" does it become an issue. The Nats were that kind of team, but maybe this signals they aren't going to be anymore. We'll see, right?

Anyway you look at it, yearly cost or amount of years, it was an overpay, and as Michael Richards would say - that's what's so insane about it. The Phillies were offering a deal of somewhere around 16 million a year for 4 years. With that knowledge I can see the Nats giving Werth 18 mill a year for 4 or maybe 5 years. I can see the Nats signing Werth to a 7 year deal, for maybe 90 million. But to overpay in years AND in dollars. I don't get why it had to be like that.

Draft picks? The most overrated thing in baseball today. I've said it once and I'll say it over and over again until I turn blue. Every team can't possibly succeed through draft pick hoarding, cheap player development, and smart budget-level free agent signing. It just can't be done. And that's a loooong process to go through just to fail and watch yourself have to start all over again. It's asinine to act like every team should follow this singular path to success. So if anyone starts talking in this manner, feel free to ignore them until the subject changes. I'm not saying the Nats move wasn't a mistake - you can make that argument. I'm just saying if they start framing it in the "well the Nats should have used the draft picks from Dunn to slowly develop, blah blah blah" that there is probably little actual thinking behind this.

I say it can be argued the deal was a mistake. Do I think it was a good deal? No. It isn't. I can't look at a deal that overpays in every way it can for a guy who will be 32 next year and say it's a good deal. I have to believe that they could have somehow worked out more favorable terms. Also, we all know they could have kept Dunn for 4 years probably 52 million or so. It isn't just signing Werth, it's signing Werth vs signing Dunn AND having 5 million a year for 4 years AND having 54 million more dollars for three years after that AND having a couple draft picks. That teeter-totter has Werth pretty high up in the air. Down the road, unless the Nats move to truly be big spenders, this could hurt them.

Of course that doesn't mean it's a all-time worst-ever deal. It only can be a debacle if Werth gets injured, which isn't out of the realm of possibility. You'll hear this contract compared to those given Barry Zito and Vernon Wells, both because they were paid 126 million and because they were good players that got paid like great ones. However, both of these guys also showed a tendency to mix pretty average years with good years, and that was in their late 20s. Chances were not only good that their contracts would be bad, but that they could be bad quickly. Which they were. Werth though has been consistently good the past few years... when healthy. That's the key. If he's healthy he will likely give the Nats 2-3 more excellent years and that's the point really. A terribly expensive point to make, but the point nonetheless. This is to give the Nats credibility and a better shot at keeping the young stars they have as much as it's for winning.

It's still not enough though. Unless they fill the first base hole and get that ace pitcher, the Nats are still also-rans, except now they would be also-rans with a unwieldy contract hanging over their heads. In for 1.8 billion pennies a year, are the Nats in for a pound?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Werth Quick thoughts

The good : Werth is consistent. He's patient. He sees a lot of pitches fitting Rizzo's want to find people to grind out at bats. He hits for a decent average. He's a good baserunner. Offensively he's just a smidge below Dunn, and that's only because Dunn's power is the bestest. In other words JaYson's a VERY good offensive player. He's a good defensive outfielder that solves the RF issue for the next X years.

The bad : 7 years! That's a lot of years!

The good : It shows the Nats don't fall into the silly "only spend money when you are about to be good, else wallow in the misery of losing" that a lot of supposedly bright baseball analysts believe every team should do even though if every team did that some teams would find themselves losing year after year after year... stupid supposedly bright baseball analysts.

Friday, December 03, 2010

That was quick wasn't it?

Dunn signs with the White Sox 4 years - 56 million. A few stray Friday thoughts

That is more than I thought he'd get (I figured closer to 4 /50) but it's not a terrible overpay. Dunn was a 15 million dollar player last year, he's remarkably consistent, and extremely healthy. While he should decline during these next years as most players do, I don't see a harsh decline. Factor in the increases in payroll we seem to be shifting back toward, and I think 4/56 is pretty spot on.

Raise a glass to Kenny Williams who once again builds a winning team by paying top dollar for B/B+ talent. Most MLB teams are obsessed with a "Pay for the A talent, bargain everything else" line of thinking (some not even "pay for the A talent") leaving an exploitable gap for good to very good players if you are willing to throw away draft picks. Kenny is just the man to exploit that gap. Losing draft picks may seem like a bad idea but if you are going to be able to spend money consistently, draft picks aren't something you need to hoard.

Contracts do seem to be higher this year than in the recent past. Commenter Wally yesterday had Pena at maybe 2 /18. I think that's possible. I also think it won't deter Rizzo. As long as he can get 2 years, I think he'd bite.

You have to think that the White Sox offer was at least floated during the arbitration period, right? I mean there is no reason for it not to be and if you wanted Dunn and were afraid he would go back to the Nationals, you'd want him to know about it. But if that's the case then why did Dunn wait till the last minute to decline arbitration? One thing I can think of is that he was really hoping the Nats would come back with a 4 year offer.

Before you get all worried about the Hot Stove so far remember outside of an interest in De La Rosa (and perhaps a passing one in Vazquez) no one is off the table who the Nats actually wanted back. If you trust Rizzo, nothing's happened yet that should change that opinion.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if ZNN, Norris and Desmond aren't Nationals by the end of the year and they might all be going to the same place. The Nats don't want to (and shouldn't) deal Strasburg or Bryce so they are going to have to dole out multiple next level prospects to get anything of value back.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Done is Dunn with Washington, or something like that.

Dunn turned down the Nats deal of arbitration yesterday. It was no big surprise, but it virtually guarantees that he won't be back for the Nats next season. For one, if he and his agent really surveyed the free agent market and thought there was no chance he could get what he wanted (which is a 4 year deal) they might have accepted arbitration. At worst it would have given Dunn a nice little one-year deal of around 15 million, and at best it would have given him back leverage in dealing with the Nats for the best 3-year deal he could get. By turning the Nats down, we have to assume that Dunn feels he can get that 4 year deal somewhere. (I agree - but not at 15 million a year. I see something closer to 4 years 50 million)

Also now Rizzo is "free". As long as arbitration was hanging over his head, Rizzo couldn't move forward because Dunn could force his way back onto the team. If Rizzo signed a random firstbaseman, all of a sudden you'd need a place to put Adam. We'd have to start talking about OF rotations and other things that make Ozzie Smith wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night clutching onto a stuffed Fredbird. With no contractual obligation to Dunn anymore, Rizzo can finally make that Carlos Pena deal that will make the 2011 Nats fans swoon once every 5 at bats. After he makes that deal there is no reason for the Nats to resign Dunn.

Dunn is gone. No matter how you slice it that's a lot for the Nats to make up.

A .264 / .378 / .533 line, with 76 homers and 208 RBIs, leading the Nats in OBP, SLG, HRs and RBIs over that period. That's also 3rd in the NL in homers, 5th in RBIs, Top 20 in OBP, and Top 10 in SLG.

Trying to encompass that into one adjusted offensive stat he had an adjusted OPS of 141, Top 10 in the league.

That's what you are trying to replace in the lineup. The fielding true, does hurt him. If we use an all encompassing stat that includes fielding, like WAR, Dunn is more of a Top 50 player the past two years... but then again that's against positions where you can really help a team with good fielding. Among first baseman he'd still be around a Top half guy overall, and last year he flashed the potential to be a top 5 guy. In other words - even factoring in the defense he's still helped the Nats a great deal in winning.

Carlos Pena can make up some ground in the field, but unless he experiences a renaissance at the plate, he's not going to match Dunn's total contribution. Anyway you slice it, with the loss of Dunn the Nats now need at least two more bats. They might be hoping that "bat" come from improvement from a young player or a comeback by Morgan. There's a chance, sure. I'd feel alot better for the team if they instead looked at a free agent OF, though.

Goodbye Adam. It's been fun. Hope you get that 4th year you've been looking for.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hey look! I was right about something!

De La Rosa should be signed any minute now. It's down to Webb and Pavano now, and really, it was only ever Webb. The question is whether Rizzo will try to pass Webb off as the front of the rotation guy he brought up or if he'll make a deal for a hurler like Garza or Shields. Any of those three could be that type of pitcher, but they could also be another (un-injured) Marquis-like arm, just eating innings with average pitching.

Also, as commenter Wally noted we'll find out about Dunn's arbitration acceptance or non-acceptance today not next week, so stay tuned for that (if you can't wait to hear the words "Dunn rejects Nats arbitration offer".)

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Vazquez, No surprise

It looks like teams don't want to be left out of pitching if the Lee sweepstakes goes the way everyone thinks it will go. Westbrook, Garland, and now Vazquez have all found homes before executives have even fluffed their first class pillows on the way down to the Winter Meetings. The Nats made a token swipe at Javy, trying to get him on the cheap (when sources won't confirm is was a fair offer, it likely means it wasn't) but surprise, surprise, you don't get a lot of deals when it comes to established starting pitching. Not a big deal in my book, I didn't think they really wanted Javy anyway, but now things are getting serious.

The best starting pitchers left outside of Lee are De La Rosa and Pavano, two guys the Nats have interest in. Webb remains the most intriguing possibility for teams willing to take a risk. All signs point to the Nats going after Webb first, but he seems content to wait until the Winter Meetings (Dec 6th) to get the talks moving. Waiting at this point is a dangerous game. If another pitcher signs, particularly De La Rosa or Pavano, the supply gets that much smaller. Waiting might rob the Nats of any leverage they have with Webb forcing them to sign him to a much more player friendly deal.

That's not the worst thing usually but this is a deal for a guy who basically hasn't pitched in 2 years. You aren't talking worst case he crashes and is a mediocre innings eater for you. The worst case is he doesn't pitch at all. Of course all this is exactly why Webb is content to wait. Everyone knows the caveats that comes with signing Webb but at the same time everyone always needs pitching. Some team is going to come out of the early signings with nothing to show for it and will be desperate to throw money at someone, even someone like Webb, to show that they are doing something. Webb wants to be the guy they throw money at. (who wouldn't - I wouldn't be surprised if the more veteran Pavano does the same thing. I expect De La Rosa to sign though before the meetings)

The Nats are already stuck in a holding pattern when it comes to their offensive moves until Adam Dunn makes a decision on arbitration (has to by Dec 7th Nov 30th). It's still very likely that he doesn't accept, but they can't move forward with their signing of Carlos Pe...I mean "whatever they may do" because they really can't have two starting first basemen on the team. For pitching, however, they shouldn't let any one player drive them right out of the market for everyone else.

Of course this is assuming that they really do have interest in these other guys. It's quite likely that they see Pavano and De La Rosa as "maaaaaybe we'll try to get one of these two if we can't sign Webb" players. If so, more power to Rizzo and everyone, but they better be able to sign Webb, and they better be right about him still being able to pitch effectively.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Would Dunn screw Rizzo? Could Dunn screw Rizzo?

The Nats have offered Dunn arbitration, the assumption being that he will decline arbitration and sign somewhere else and because he is a Type A player the Nats will pick up a couple comp draft slots for their trouble. It's a very safe assumption. Dunn wants a long term deal, and arbitration only promises a one-year contract. It would also be unwise of his to go through arbitration, he's on the wrong side of 30 now and he had a fantastic year last year. Playing another year to see what he can get is more likely to lower the value of his next contract, rather than raise it. He doesn't want arbitration and he doesn't need arbitration.

Still, I can't help wondering what the situation would be if Dunn shocked the Natsmosphere and accepted arbitration. I guess it IS still possible. The Tigers signed V-Mart. The White Sox went ahead and offered arbitration to Paul Konerko, who as a long time White Sock, you have to figure is more likely than Dunn to agree to it at the very least to re-open contract negotiations. Plus it makes it less likely a team will grab Konerko which makes it less likely that a spot will open up for Dunn. Of course I wouldn't put it past the WhiteSox to bring back Konerko AND sign Dunn.* The Cubs are still in the hunt and he would be a pretty nice fit there too. Not to mention outside of Thome and Ortiz, who both could crash at any moment, and the surprising Luke Scott, Dunn would be a big improvement for every other AL team at DH.

*That seems dumb but Kenny Williams is smarter than you think. If 2/3rds the league are quixotically aiming for the same goal - super good, super cheap teams somewhere 3+ years down the road - that means there is going to always be a nice surplus of good but somewhat older talent available. If you have some cash to play around with you can build a perennial winner from these neglected souls. There's a reason he's GM'd the team to only two losing seasons in 10 years.

If Dunn did go for arbitration they might be able to get him back with whatever 3 year deal they offered him before. Kind of doubt it though. If he only accepts the one-year arbitation the Nats would have around $15 mill invested in Dunn for next season, plus that roster spot at first locked up. It shouldn't matter - the Nats could still spend money and get a pitcher, if not a pitcher and a bat. But, there would be no good reason for Rizzo to go after his BFF Carlos Pena, and 15 million is a lot of money. Maybe there is a cap we haven't heard about and that Carlos Pena bargain Rizzo is expecting is what's allowing him to test the free agent pitcher waters. If that's the case then it would at least create assumed friction between the front office and a fairly popular player. In short, it would be great off-season blogger fodder.

It's not going to happpen, though. Right? Right.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bryce Update

The Fall League is over and how exactly did Bryce do? Well if you were just following AFL coverage you'd feel like he hit 30 homers in 15 games while batting .800 but here's the back of the envelope final line:

.333 / .395 / .590 1 HR, 8 RBIs, 13 Ks in 39 at bats.

The Arizona Fall League can be a hitters league. Despite the impressive line Bryce would only 14th in average and 10th in slugging if he had enough at bats to qualify. But let's not kid ourselves, that's very good. The only concern at all is that strikeout number. That's real high as well. That's going to be the question for Bryce as he starts his trek toward the major leagues. Will the pitching ever catch up to him so that he doesn't make enough contact?

The fact he did so well in the AFL suggests A ball won't be an issue. The fact that he's 12 and super excited about the third installment of the Transformers franchise means that he's got plenty of time to make adjustments and still be a prospect. Like 5 years or so. Barring some late in life David Robinson esque growth spurt putting him at an awkward 6' 7" or something the odds are in his (and the Nats) favor.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why the Nats won't be signing Javy Vazquez

In recent days we've heard the names Jorge De La Rosa and Carl Pavano floated out as potential rotation fillers if the whole Cliff Lee thing somehow doesn't work out (as if!). This seems kind of strange because the talk has been about getting a "true #1" kind of guy and these two don't seem to be much better than the two rotation fillers the Nats have now, Jason Marquis and John Lannan. Take a look at the average numbers :

Marquis (2007-9) : 4.37 ERA, 1.403 WHIP, 0.8 HR/9, 4.9 K/9
Lannan (2007-9) : 3.91 ERA, 1.359 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 4.6 K/9
De La Rosa (2008-10) : 4.49 ERA, 1.385 WHIP, 1.0 HR/9, 8.9 K/9
Pavano (2009-10) : 4.39 ERA, 1.280 WHIP, 1.1 HR/9, 5.7 K/9

That's pretty similar right? You could be worried about the injuries to Lannan and Marquis but take a look at these post break 2010 numbers:

Marquis : 4.29, 1.510, 1.3, 5.0
Lannan: 3.42, 1.244, 0.9, 6.2

While there are some vagaries in there (Marquis first two hideous starts are counted - he was much better after that, Lannan seems to be over his head in the strikeout dept) it does seem like these two should be able to at least match their 3 years averages noted above.

You can't be betting on youth with De La Rosa and Pavano, they aren't young. You can't be betting on the anti-Coors field effect with De La Rosa, he was roughly the same on the road as at home the past 3 years. I initially thought was they were intrigued by De La Rosa's pure stuff (that 8.9 K/9 is nice), and Pavano's superior 2010. But De La Rosa has always had stuff and it's never come together and he's 30 years old, that doesn't seem like a smart bet. Pavano is 35 and spent the good part of his major league career on what amounted to the best worker's comp deal you'll ever see. Not that either would be a terrible pick-up but it was hard to see exactly what they brought to the table that the Nats were interested enough in to mention them by name. Then I saw the groundball numbers

De La Rosa - 52.3% of the balls put in play off of him were groundballs in 2010
Pavano - 51%

Both these guys were heavy ground ball picthers in 2010. If you were to rank all pitchers with 120 IP or more (120IP to get De La Rosa in there) De La Rosa would be 15th and Pavano would be 19th. That's up there. Rizzo is sticking to his "defense first" guns. (which makes the Uggla flirtation so confusing - maybe he'd put him at first?) Last year he brought in Marquis (55.6% in 2009), and Wang (53.3% 2009), while ignoring Garland and Davis, both flyball pitchers. He's always made known his love of Webb (career 64%). This is the type of team he wants. Pitchers that keep the ball in play so a great infield defense can go after it.

Obviously this is bad news for Dunn lovers. If there were any out there with hope that he will be back, forget it. I think now more than ever, it's very likely that the "deal" offered to Dunn wasn't anywhere near market value. It's also bad news for those that want the team to take a gamble on Javy Vazquez. His GB% was 35.5% last year and career-wise he usually didn't get past 40%. That's not the type of pitcher Rizzo wants.

Now to be sure, Rizzo won't pass up a bargain on anything. He did eventually take that minor-league flier on Livan, a fly ball pitcher, and he did sign him for next year on an incentive-filled 1 million dollar deal. However, I wouldn't hold my breath on Rizzo offering a fair market price to anyone who doesn't force the opposing bats to drive balls into the dirt. Lee, Webb, De La Rosa, and Pavano probably make-up the entire population of potential new Nats starters for 2010.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Don't get comfortable Josh

Kilgore at the Post reports that it's unlikely that Josh Willingham will get the extension he wants. This isn't much of a surprise. An extension makes Willingham less valuable in a trade and an oft-injured 32 year old (in Feb) Josh is not seen as a long term piece of the puzzle. While it may seem cold and callous, it's actually the right move by Rizzo.

The two biggest reasons Rizzo is right I just mentioned. Josh will be 32 next year. Whatever you think about a player's peak years, 32 is not one of them. At best it's in the middle of a gradual decline phase. At worst it's at the start of a steep drop off in production. Josh also seems a tad injury prone. That usually only gets worse as you age. The accumulated injuries over a lifetime of hard playing mean more things that can get tweaked, which means more ways the body will try to adjust, which means new injuries that can occur. The body takes longer to heal from these injuries.

Let's look at similar players - here are the closest players to Josh by Baseball Reference's similarity scores. If you go through player by player you'll see wildly different careers but one thing that is similar. There doesn't seem to be much of a decline phase for these players. One year they are ok, the next they are not, the year after that they are "spending more time with the family". There is a precipitous drop in games played along with production, seemingly showing an injury in their mid 30s that they just couldn't come back from. This makes sense based on what we've seen of Josh in the past two years. Niggling injuries killed his production by the end of 2009. A more major one robbed him of his power in 2010. There isn't much room for error when your batting average is sitting closer to .250 than .285 and your power isn't awesome.

I don't think last year's injury was that career killer for Josh. While it did cost him his pop, his batting average was actually quite stable from June on. He can play through this one, if it's not actively killing him (as it was post All-star break). The Nats are not fools for keeping him around, and teams aren't dumb for wanting him. But it makes no sense to offer Josh a long term deal until you see him put together a completely healthy and productive season. Until that moment, you have to expect the worst and deal with Josh in that manner contract-wise. (And that year better happen this year or next because after that he'll simply be too old to trust.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Memo to anyone drafted by the Diamondbacks from 1998-2006

De La Rosa
He's getting the band back together. Finally the Deep Blue Something reunion America has been waiting for.

(Yes, the pic is terrible. I apologize. I can do better.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

NL ROY question

If you voted for Posey, then I assume it was based on a "he was better when he was out there" line of thinking. But if that's the case, why not vote for Strasburg then? It seems to me if you valued production over the course of the full season Heyward was the pick and if you valued sheer awesomeness when in there Strasburg was the selection.

My guess is that there was a lot of hedging "well one third of a season is too little but two-thirds is good enough" which is fine, but I'd like to hear a Posey supporter say as much instead of saying "he was the best when he could play!" because we all know who would win an argument based on that reasoning alone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Awards Voting

This year I was asked to give my votes for the major awards for the SweetSpot network. Not wanting to keep my loyal reader in the dark (hi, me at work!) I figured I'd give you my votes here as well.

First, though it's probably necessary to understand my philosophy about this. If feelings about the importance of these awards ranged on an axis from "Honor deemed sacred over generations" to "Meaningless hunk of metal given to a millionaire playing a kid's game", you'd find me somewhere around the "l" in "Meaningless". I can't get worked up about who wins. Just like not being named an All-Star didn't mean Ryan Zimmerman wasn't an All-Star caliber player, not getting this award doesn't change the stats of any of the guys up here. If they were awesome, they are still awesome. I don't need that knowledge to be validated in award form to feel good.

There is another axis coming off from "Meaningless hunk of metal given to a millionaire playing a kid's game". This one leads to "If the statistical leader doesn't win this award, ignorance has won". I'm about halfway between these two philosophies. On one hand I don't want someone bad to win the award. It shouldn't be random or anything. On the other hand, simply figuring out who was the best statistically if everyone played in a vacuum and handing that person the award... that doesn't seem like much fun to me. That's as little fun as looking at wins or RBI leaders and giving awards to those people. I welcome conjecture and differing opinions. I want each voter to have their own philosophy and guidelines. I don't care if they contradict themselves every year or even within the same year. I'm glad it's called the most "valuable" player award, so we can argue the definition of "value" in the context of a baseball season. That's fun.

Personally I like to "vote" for the player who had the best year, rather than the best player that year, if this makes sense. I like to factor in who got lucky this year as a positive for that player, not a negative. For God's sake, this is a sport that awards its highest honor (world champions) to one of the top eight or so teams after 162 games that happens to win three short series over 4 weeks. Luck matters.

With all that being said here are my award votes and reasoning

AL ROY: Neftali Feliz
It was tough between him and Austin Jackson, but we all know how teams can get all worked up about the closer role. The fact that Neftali was able to come in immediately and hold that spot down was huge.

NL ROY: Jason Heyward
Have you seen the guy? He's awesome. (Posey was the only other option and Heyward played a bunch more games)

AL Manager of the Year: Ron Washington
It's the silliest of silly awards but it has to go to someone, so why not Ron? The whole season could have imploded with his cocaine revelations but it didn't. Instead they made it to the World Series. That seems pretty good.

NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox
Cheers to you Mr. Cox. It's hard to tell but it always seemed like you knew what you were doing.

AL Cy Young: CC Sabathia
Felix Hernandez was the best pitcher in the AL, no duh (well you could argue Cliff Lee if you wanted but I'm not listening to all that). Felix Hernandez was also 13-12! I mean like that actually happened. He went out there, pitched really well, and his team lost anyway. It sucks for him. In BPs adjusted standings, if everything had been equal, the Rockies should have made the playoffs. That sucks for them. Sometimes things suck for people. In my mind the community is not here to make up for it by looking past your terrible luck to give you an award. The giant contract you are going to get is what's going to make up for it.

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
In my heart, Roy Halladay is much better than Cliff Lee. No one can convince me otherwise. I want the Yankees to sign Cliff Lee then trade him to the Phillies for Roy Halladay.

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton
He's like a better Jason Heyward!

NL MVP: Joey Votto
Toss up but doesn't Pujols have enough of these already? I have no problem given him another one, but he already has enough that he wraps them up and uses them for those gift exchange games people play at work. "What is it, Rasmus?" "It's... a 2008 MVP award." (everyone looks at Albert) "Why are you looking at me. I swear I brought in the Whitman's sampler". Plus, there's an equally good candidate right over there.

For those interested the raw stat winners (by WAR)
AL ROY : Austin Jackson
NL ROY : Jayson Heyward
AL CY YOUNG : Cliff Lee
NL CY YOUNG : Roy Halladay
AL MVP : Josh Hamilton
NL MVP : Joey Votto

See! Even when trying to be different I pretty much picked 2/3rd the same people. Why is everyone so angry all the time about something that doesn't matter that's mostly right?

(measured by biggest positive difference between BP adjusted standings and actual standings)
AL MOY : Mike Scioscia
NL MOY : Brad Mills (that's the Astros coach)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I went to Nats School to learn, not for a fashion show

The new unis are in and early reviews seem mixed. I think most people will agree that the new ones are better than the old ones, but are they good? The whole new look seems focused on the Curly W of the Nationals, trying to make it a iconic symbol of the team like the interlocking NY of the Yankees, or more specifically the gothic D of Detroit. They've even changed the logo removing the interlocking DC (which I have really liked) in favor of the W. It's an attempt at really creating a brand that the team can sell to the fans as an idea, but more that they can sell for cash money. I hope you love the Curly W because that single letter IS the Washington Nationals now. Personally, I'll miss the interlocking DC, but think the overall look is an improvement. Uniwatch has his opinions and this is what he does so read that here

Some of my thoughts:

  • Glad to see the beveling gone on the numbers and the name. I don't like attempts to add depth on jerseys.
  • Glad to see the Nats pare down their official colors by one. I'm not sure I would have gone with dropping the gold (probably would have dropped red) but red, white, blue and gold was too much.
  • Sad to see double piping on the jerseys. Single piping just looks cleaner.
  • Sad to see a double color hat. Again - single color much cleaner.
  • Not sure how I feel about the front numbers on the jerseys. On one hand it helps to break up the big block of color left by no script name, especially needed on the red alternate. On the other hand the placement seems awkward - a remnant of where it would be if the script name was on the uniform. Directly opposite the Curly W might have worked. Then again it might not have.
  • Not sure how I feel about the numbers in general - really blah.
  • Some alternate ideas to mix-up the jersey keeping the same basic idea - not sure any of these would actually work:
  • Name under symbol / remove piping - ala old expos.
  • Just collar color - ala the 1915 Tigers (scroll down for Cobb)
  • Solid button area color - ala the 1933 Indiana
New alternate #1

I hate the all red look. Bright red doesn't lend itself to large swatches of uniform. I do think that both the double piping and the front number work best here.

New Alternate #2

Obviously hideous. You just can't do that with the W, it's far too busy. I know they want to get stars and stripes on the uniform somehow. (and a strpied or starred uniform is out of the question) How about a striped W on a background of a single star?

New Home

Best of the bunch by far, but the double piping and the number looks the worst here. On the piping, the red and blue don't contrast enough to totally separate out for me. My first choice would have been a flag blue curly W and flag blue piping, but that's a color scheme change they aren't going to make. My second choice would have been the same with the dark blue they use now. However, I can see where dark blue wasn't an iconic option as both the Tigers and Yanks are dark blue. Even as my third choice I would have been fine with just red.

As for the number, part the iconic look that the Yanks and Tigers have worked out is based on the only thing on the front of the jersey being the symbol. It works very well. The number may help the Nats stand out from being a direct Tigers clone but there's nothing wrong with copying something that was done right.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fashion Show Betting Odds

Yes, this has nothing to do with baseball, but anyone that's been reading me for a while knows I can't get past a bad headline when I see one. For example :

This story about Strawberry Shortcake


Also tonight is new uni night!

Some Odds:
2 to 1 : Mock-ups of new uniforms released to the press feature digitally modified shots of Carlos Pena and Brandon Webb.
8 to 1 : Kasten shows up on E!'s "Fashion Police", quoted saying "Somebody call Snooki because this was a total Jersey 'Snore', am I right?"
10 to 1
: One of Clippard, Storen, or Zimmermann tears a shoulder muscle putting on the uniform and is out for 2011.
20 to 1 : All the Nats players come out wearing jerseys with "Lee" on the back
5 to 1 : It's for Derek Lee.
30 to 1 : Both home and away uniforms are vest designs because sleeves aren't free people!
100 to 1 : Pudge puts on uniform backward and buttoned incorrectly, tells media he has at least 4 good years of modeling left in him.
5 to 3 : Giving in to BP shagging Mark Lerner's demands the new uniforms feature slimming pinstripes and the pants are relaxed fit with a hidden tummy tuck panel.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Fire Jim Bowden out!

FJB might be shuffling off this mortal coil, and by "mortal coil" of course I mean "blogging about the Nationals on the internet". While I won't believe it for sure until Spring (stopping blogging about baseball in Novemeber is like quitting cigarettes when your hands are away for cleaning. What? That's a bad simile? Maybe, but it's not about me and my blog people! It's about FJB! Let's focus here.) he seems pretty serious so say toodles over there.

If anything FJB will end with a 100% blog name success rate.

Phrase using the word "done", except in the place of "done" we use "Dunn" signifying that this post has something to do with National Adam Dunn

Do we hate the Nationals or not? I think (though I can't find it right now) that at some point I said that if the Nats offered Dunn a fair 3-year deal then I couldn't really hold it against them if they let Dunn walk. They offered him a 3-year deal. The question is - was it fair?

My guess is the Nats offered Dunn right around 30 million for 3 years. To me anything 30 mill and over is a reasonable offer, though 30 million would be on the low side. The Nats offer him one year less than he's asking for at the lowest price that would be considered fair in the market and they watch him reject the deal. There's nothing unusual about this so far. It's the type of deal that you open negotiations with if you're the team. The difference is that for the Nats, and this is just my guess, this deal is a negotiation ender as well.

They want Carlos Pena. They need Carlos Pena. I don't know why. Nobody really does. But there is a deep psychological yearning in Mike Rizzo that will only be satisfied when Carlos Pena buttons up his Washington jersey and runs out onto the field in Viera. However, they can't just dismiss Dunn because, well because he's really good at hitting and the fans love him. So they offer him this deal. A fair deal but just barely so. Now they can turn around and say to the fans "Hey, we tried" when actually they really didn't, and then move on to their real goal of signing Carlos Pena. (and if Dunn accepts this - well they got him at basically a discount for a year less than he was asking for. Hard to complain about that.) This is just a guess, but it certainly seems like the Nats and Dunn are parting ways and I can't see that happening if they tossed a 3 year deal worth over 40 million at Adam.

I'm not a betting man, but if I were I would put money on Dunn leaving, Pena coming, and Webb being signed by the Nats. That by itself I don't like, but I'm going to give Rizzo the benefit of the doubt until the offseason is over. His love of Pena over Dunn may confuse us, just like it made no sense why Alex P Keaton would let Marty help break up his relationship with Lauren*, but if he makes the necessary moves this offseason to make up for the loss of offense, while improving the team in pitching and defense then it would ultimately be good for the Nationals. Making a better team is what matters in judging a GM, not making a better team the way I would build it.

*seriously - Jane Adams over Courtney Cox? You expect us to buy what you're selling Family Ties writers? I know you had to rush out the end of the last season but please. And then there's that whole last episode...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Side note : Todd Jones

As if this offseason won't be anything other than mostly side notes:

I once bought tickets to a Tiger game online. I've done this for several teams but the Tigers are the only ones that signed me up for some sort of newsletter. Normally I'd get off of it, but it's my junk email address so the effort it would take to get off of it seems more than the effort needed to delete these emails when they come in. I know that's not true, but I don't see myself getting over this imaginary hump anytime soon.

The fact that I receive these occasional updates has actually given me some minor affinity for the Tigers, like they want to be my friend really badly. Poor kids. It also helps that one of the few non-National baseball blogs I check with any regularity is a Tigers Blog, Roar of the Tigers. I'm a sucker for drawings, especially ones with a sense of humor. You had me at Detriot Tigers Passover. Anyway...

I recently got an email and happened to actually read it before deleting it. It was about a Detroit Tigers Fantasy camp. One of the players that would be there would be the Tigers' all-time save leader Todd Jones. That sounded strange. It couldn't be right that their all-time saves leader was Todd Jones, could it? Nope, he totally is and it isn't even close. Over seven (non-consecutive) years of closing for the Tigers. If anyone tells you closers are a special breed point to this guy. He was really only good for one year (and that was with the Marlins) and yet the guy is 14th all-time in saves. 14th all-time! Roberto Hernandez is 12th? Doug Jones is 20th? I don't even remember that guy. I thought he was Todd Jones.

Another odd thing is that in one year, despite never really being that good, he got Cy Young vote(s). Pedro ran away with the Cy Young that year, but Todd Jones, with a WAR* of 1.5 got votes. It was basically the least important season to get a Cy Young vote since the strike. The Tigers didn't win their division. They didn't even finish with a winning record. Yet because he led the league in saves, he got some votes. What I can't figure though, is why then Derek Lowe, who was much better and tied him for the lead in saves, didn't get any votes. I can see why Sasaki (#3) didn't get votes - he was going to be the ROY. I can see why Rivera (#4) didn't get votes - he had much better years. I guess Lowe just didn't have the support of that rogue voter or two like Jones did.

Looking at all this, I still can't decide whether it is bad that I dismissed Todd Jones, top 20 all-time save leader, Cy Young vote getter, All-Star. Eh, whatever. You're still taking Willie Hernandez for your all-time Tigers fantasy team.

*WAR, for those of you unfamiliar is an attempt to get one overall stat to judge a player by, like factoring in everything. Stands for Wins Above Replacement. We could go into it more but it was not important to the point I'm trying to make. Maybe some other day.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Dunn, the only man on the Nats with a glove.

At least that's how it feels sometimes. I was perusing Bill Ladson's Off-Season Blog Saver (aka him answering questions from his inbox) and the first couple pertain to Dunn and his fielding. I agree, it is bad. True, it wasn't terrible last year, but it could easily be terrible in 2011. But why have the Nats singled out replacing Adam Dunn as a cure for all their defensive woes? Well for them it's easy, they don't want to give him as long a deal for as much as he wants, but why does everyone else feel that way? Here's a quick list of the Nationals that were good in the field last year: Ryan Zimmerman. Here's a longer list : RRRyyyyaaannnn Zzzzimmmmeeeerrrmmannnn. (Ok Danny Espinosa looked pretty good but he barely played). If the Nats want to be GOOD in the field just flipping Dunn for a Derrek Lee won't be nearly enough.

Other things from Ladson's column

He equates the Dunn situation to the Soriano situation after 2006, and they do have a lot in common. Both featured a 30yr old low-average, high-power, bad-fielder that K's a lot looking for a long-term deal. However there are important differences. Soriano was coming off his best year ever and a year that was an outlier in comparison to his most recent 2 years. Dunn is coming off a typical Dunn year right in line with 7 of his past 8 years. Soriano was putting his glove in a far more exploitable position than Dunn. Soriano was going to get PAID, where as Dunn is looking for that extra year at a fair salary. In short Dunn is better at the plate, cheaper in the pocket, and willing to be hidden in the field.

A Ladson reader wants to know how "Dunn's errors outweigh his offensive production". The important thing to remember is that they don't. They lessen the overall value of Dunn, but they don't turn the positive asset that Dunn is, into a negative one.

Ladson drops this shocker (stop sipping that drink while your boss is standing right in front of you!)
Rodriguez believes that he has a least four more years as an everyday player
(I warned you! Now look at your boss! He's completely covered in your spit take!). I'd believe this if it was about ALEX Rodriguez. If it weren't for the name, Pudge Rodriguez would actually have NEGATIVE four years left as an everyday player. Next year he should be no better than a 30-40% time back-up to a young catcher a team hopes to develop and it's not going to get better as he gets older. You aren't Benjamin Button, Pudge. (I actually think your life would make an enjoyable movie)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Nats Offseason : Scenarios

One Worst Case : The Nats go hard after Cliff Lee. While consumed with that, Garza is dealt, Grienke is officially pulled off the table and Vazquez is signed. When Lee goes elsewhere, the Nats find their options limited. Rizzo however, can't get past the "true #1" he promised the Nats would go after so he deals Desmond plus some junk to the Braves for Derek Lowe. To cover his bases, Rizzo also tosses a Sheets like deal to Webb. Having just added 20-25 million to the payroll, the Nats can't make any serious moves offensively. They let Dunn walk. Both Pena and Lee price out of what the Nats can offer. The Nats throw up their hands and sign Lyle Overbay to cheaply man first, ostensibly because of his defense. They make no other moves, and start pumping up Roger Bernadina as best they can as a full time right fielder.

Sort-of Expected: The Nats go hard after Cliff Lee, but he goes elsewhere. They try to deal for Garza but get outbid by a more desperate team. They try to deal for Grienke but with no real impetus to get a deal done this year, the Royals asking price is too high for every team. Seeing the pitching options close up, the Nats grab Javy Vazquez on an cheap 1-year deal, and thanks to Rizzo's personal connections are able do the same with Brandon Webb. With money now "free" the Nats push hard after Jayson Werth instead and are able to sign the free agent. Rizzo fritters around the edges but is unable to make any other deals of significance.

One Best Case: The Nats go hard after Cliff Lee. They drastically overpay, and they shock the world by getting him. It's also thought that Lee liked going back to the National League and being able to stick it to the Phillies. With all the money spent, the Nats wait out the free agent market and work the trade market. They are able, surprisingly, to grab Matt Kemp from the Dodgers, giving up not too much, when the "right-place right-time" opportunity presents itself while Rizzo is fishing for James Loney. Carlos Pena watches as his demands and a saturated market full of "ok" FA firstbasemen combine to make him one of the last men standing. The Nats are able to sign him to a cheap incentive laden deal. They end free agency snatching up Brandon Webb, who also didn't find the deal he was looking for, in part thanks to Ben Sheets being unable to justify his big "trust me" contract in 2010.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Final World Series thoughts

Congratulations to Pat Burrell and the rest of the San Francisco Giants on their World Series Championship. (I've always had a soft spot for Pat the Bat, don't know why). Some other thoughts:

I'm very glad Cliff Lee lost again in what was a good but not great game. I understood the awesomeness that Cliff Lee was showing fans, but I couldn't get the near universal "OMG!!! CLIFF IS TEH AWESOMES!!1!!" that I was reading. Oh I expected that from the usual media sources, but even the "enlightened" community was wearing Cliff Lee's letter jacket in school the other day and seriously considering letting him get to third base. It was a handful of games, and usually they'd be screaming "SMALL SAMPLE SIZE" but whatever hypnotic power Mr. Lee had extended over even the most ardent stat guy. Great pitchers often make the playoffs and the best will always pitch the most, it stands to reason then that over the course of 100 years a few will have these streaks of near dominance for several games. Enjoy it, but don't make it out to be something special inside the pitcher.

I watched far more of this series than I thought I would. I think the last time I watched this much of a non-Yankee World Series might have been 2002. Before that... maybe 1993. I have to assume it was the closeness of the games that did it.

I couldn't help but think if the Yankees had suddenly taken the Rangers place in the 9th inning that Girardi would have had Robertson pitching the top of the 9th and Mariano wasting away in the bullpen, just in case the Yankees came back to tie the game.

I know nothing can be done about it, but I much prefer when teams win at home.

I've been surprised by the utter contempt for Vlad that a lot of Rangers fans seem to have. I'm hoping it's all mostly a holdover from hating him as an Angel, because he is actually a really good DH still, free swinging mess or not.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Non-selective Bryce Harper Newsflash

Unlike here at Nationals Baseball you get the good and the bad, or more precisely the bad and the good. After noting Bryce's 0-4 2K outing the other day, I would be remiss if I didn't also note that he went 3-4 Saturday, with a double and a homer. So there you go. It didn't seem to be a particularly well pitched game but then again that could have been because of all the hits Bryce was getting. His .353 average would be up there but they are picking and choosing the spots for Bryce to play so he doesn't have enough at bats. Derek Norris does have enough at bats and is 2nd in the league in slugging. The better he does, the easier it becomes to imagine that trade for a #1 starter.

A few other notes:

I'm glad the "warrior" eye black is gone but it's still pretty thick on there. A fair compromise, I suppose.

The phrase "a triple short of the cycle" should never be used.

While I'm not sure if I'll be happier if the Giants, rather than the Rangers, win the World Series, I know I'll be glad I'll never have to utter the phrase "World Series Champion Jeff Francoeur"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bring back the crazy

Hearing about Jose Guillen's linkage to HGH shipments brings back a lot of memories of his time with the Nationals. It also leads me to make an admission. Sometimes, at night, when it's been a long day, and the world is so cold; when I find myself alone staring at a copy of Barry Svrluga's "National Pastime" (still available at new and used booksellers - makes a great Christmas gift!) with a cup of warm Sleepytime in my hands; sometimes, I miss the old Nationals.

I miss watching the smoke pour out of Jose Guillen's ears whenever he saw the uniform of a team that let him go. I miss Frank Robinson shouting out weird tatical decisions while falling asleep on the bench. I miss Livan deciding suddenly he was going to take his knee, made gimpy from an ever expanding gut, and go home. I miss Vidro ranging two steps to his left and then falling down with his glove stretched out toward a ball 12 ft away from him dribbling into the outfield. I miss Wil Cordero talking about his guns while hitting .100. I miss Jamey Carroll being David Eckstein light (which yes, is like a Diet Coke Zero). I miss the Nats deciding in Spring Training that they were going to emphasize getting on base...for their center fielder...when he led-off... and if his name rhymed with "Bendy Guavez." I miss Matt LeCroy making Gary Bennett look like a four-armed Johnny Bench that was granted super speed when he was struck by lightning at his crime lab. I miss the inexplicable 1st place in July team that caused Tom Boswell's head to explode straight through 2007. I miss Boswell claiming that Guzman, in the midst of one of the worst seasons in modern times, was leading the Nats to the playoffs with his mere presence. I miss Chad Cordero's hat...but I don't miss the run of also-rans tossing BP that we had to watch before seeing it...but I do miss Mike Bacsik grooving pitches... to everyone. I miss Soriano using his star power to act like a jerk in Spring Training, and guys like Clayton and Lopez just acting like jerks period. I miss Jim Bowden flailing wildly, using any means necessary to satisfy the greatest need for attention I have ever seen in another human being.

In other words, I miss the Nationals when they were bad. Or really I miss them when they had no idea what they were doing. This mildly competant, moderate spending team DC has now, well, it just doesn't have the flair of the early Nats. They go out, generally play well enough to lose, and go home. Surely covering a good team that wins, which is the goal the team is moving toward, will be nice, but I kinda wish the transition could have been directly from losing spectacularly to playoff contender. This is easy for me to say, because I'm far more a blogger of the team than a fan, but maybe if you look deep down inside of you, there's a small part that misses these things too. It's the same part that is glad Nyjer Morgan is still on this team, tossing out stupid nicknames and starting fights for no reason.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

That's Odd

Where's the Bryce Harper 0-4 with 2Ks lead story?

(just saying - it'll take time - he's like 13 years old)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Uniforms : Greatest Thing Ever or Too Little Too Late?

It's gotta be one or the other, right?

Steinberg over on the Bog, reported that changes are coming on the 10th.

The speculation has been for a while that the home uniforms are making a change from the beveled block to script like the away uniforms did. For reference, courtesy of, the road uniforms went from this to this. Since Day 1 the Nats home uniforms have looked like this. It seems pretty certain that this will be the case so the question becomes what else will change?

The numbers, which if you noticed, remained beveled blocks on the away jersey (somebody got a deal on number appliques, I bet). If there is no more text of that type being used, I'd expect those to change on both jerseys. Probably something simple like the non-beveled block of the old Senators unis. (though if it were up to me I'd go with the number style of the original Expos jerseys) Of course if the are using old Senator uniforms as a guide their are other, more radical options are available. Blue Pinstripes? The nameless fronts with W on their sleeves associated with the only World Series champion DC ever saw? A return to the simple block "W" (which would probably mean a hat change as well)? I think it looks sharp, but doubt they are going for something that dramatic. (especially given the Curly W on the invitation on the Bog)

The main logo will also probably change as that is beveled block as well, and the same goes for the interlocking DC alternate logo. Man they loved that look, didn't they? I see big changes happening people.

Although it was unique, I never really liked the current look, so I'm not sad to see it go. It's not like there are a plethora of good memories associated with it. Can the Nats screw it up? Sure. Remember Screech 2.0? They could build it around the too busy "DC flag" alternate logo. Or it could look like an All-Star Game batting practice jersey. But we're really stretching if we think the Nats are going to do that. Really the only way to screw it up already happened. They should have introduced new unis to go along with the new stadium. But they didn't, so one has to hope they are introducing these to go along with an expected push toward decency. The old uniforms are for "losers"; the new ones are for winners. Of course if that's the case there better be those big free agency moves / trades because they aren't going to be winners without a couple more very good players, new uniforms or not.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Funday!

(59 of 60 - blanked on the 2007 CF. Brain freeze under pressure.)

Beware the insipid

It's World Series lead up time, and worse yet, it's World Series lead up time with two teams pegged as unlikely to make it this far at the start of the playoffs. While sportswriting has incrementally improved in the past 5-10 years, it's still a bastion of nonsense. I'm sure your various sports pages have been littered with stories about the Rangers and Giants "heart" and that they are a bunch of nobodies that will their way to victory. If you would kindly seek out the writers of such articles and punch them in their respective faces that would be much appreciated.

A quick rundown of what is actually important:

The Rangers were 4th in runs scored (with 2 of their best offensive weapons, Cruz and Kinsler, missing signficant time), and were 4th in runs allowed (with Cliff Lee, only on the squad for less than half a season). In other words the Rangers are a very good team that can hit AND pitch. Outside of Colby Lewis, who is having an out of nowhere Livan '10 type season, it's all talent that could be expected to perform this well. The Rangers are a very good team in all aspects of the game.

The Giants were 9th in runs scored and 2nd in runs allowed. (1st in ERA - lowest by a team since 2003). They have 4 starting pitchers age 27 or younger, and the one with the worst season this year was Lincecum. They have 4 relievers that had ERAs under 2.18 for the season. The offense, while lacking in star talent, would only have one true "hole" if everyone plays as expected. They are a dominating pitching force with a serviceable offense.

That's it. Great pitching and good enough hitting, vs very good pitching and very good hitting. Roll the dice with whatever you prefer.

Whoever you are pulling for remember what Ron Washington likes to say
It's not the best team that wins, it's the team that plays the best on that day.
THAT my friends, is the heart of sports and allows for things like Rangers / Giants World Series.

(of course most people immediately forget that and declare the winners the best team in some sort of Calvinist interpretation of athletic endeavor, even Washington said the other day that the "best teams" were playing in the World Series. But hey - whatever. It's just a game right? Let people be stupid, it's nothing important. Right?

Dammit, I'm choking on my bile here.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Post-season thoughts

Some random thoughts on the post-season
  • I'm shocked how quickly baseball fans have gotten obsessed with using replay. Five years ago, hell maybe 3 years ago, I think the prevailing attitude was "We've lived with it for this long and it's fine. Let's not take the human element out of the game and drag these out even longer" Now it's "TBS's BALL TRACK SAID THAT PITCH WAS ONE INCH OFF THE PLATE!!!!1!!1! HOW DARE THE UMP CALL IT A STRIKE!!1!1! REPLAY!!1!!!"

  • This is an odd Championship series for me. Usually I feel bad for the players and fans of the losing team, regardless of who I want to win. Everyone tries hard and cares alot, right? But both the Yankees and Phillies won a World Series real recently so how sad can you feel? I mean it will still suck because the Yankees lost and they should win every game they ever play, but I won't feel sorry for anyone.

    When was the last time you could have two teams desperately hungry for a WS title beat two teams not as hungry? 1998 I think, when the Braves ('96) and Yankees ('95) both were in their respective CS. Of course the Yanks beat the poor desperate Indians that year. Then before that... maybe 1974 and 5? Both times Oakland ('72, '73) and Pittsburgh ('71) made the CS. 1974 though had Oakland making the World Series and besides they beat the not desperate Orioles ('70). 1975 was better when the Reds beat the Pirates and the Red Sox beat the A's. That was the last time fans of everyone getting their chance might have had clear rooting interests and gotten their wish.

  • Shane Victorino is my least favorite player in the playoffs, but Cody Ross is rapidly climbing the list. That shaved head / full beard combo makes me want to punch him in the face.

  • The terrorists won the minute baseball decided to put "God Bless America" into every 7th inning stretch. I love America. I don't want to have to confirm that twice every ball game.

  • I think it stinks that the West Coast teams can't have their own night games. I understand why, but I still don't like it. Personally I think people on the East Coast just need to learn to stay up later. (says the guy who goes to sleep around 1:30)

  • Unless I was wrong with my quick look each team left in the postseason had one ex-Nat on their team at the end of the year. Two of them, Cristian Guzman (Texas) and Jose Guillen (San Francisco) were left off the post-season rosters entirely, while the other two, Brian Schneider (Philadelphia) and Austin Kearns (New York), have yet to have a post season at-bat. I guess the cache of playing in Washington has worn off.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Greinke Options

Recently crowned King of All Nationals, Mike Rizzo has made it clear. He wants a #1 starter. He thinks he can get one in a trade. Whether you think it's possible or not (and me along with other bloggers would lean toward the latter), we have to believe he has the green light to try. Maybe what he thinks the term "#1 starter" means doesn't match up with what we think it means, but for now let's think that he thinks what we think. Zack Greinke is a #1 starter available for trade. How can the Nats get him?

The Nats can get Greinke in three ways. They can: (A) Trade Strasburg; (B) Trade Bryce, or (C) Try to put together an appealing package. This has been talked about before sure, but we've been dismissive in all the options. We can't believe the Nats would do A or B, and we don't think they have enough to do C. Let's have the discussion this time, though, where Greinke sits in for any #1 starter. Let's see if we're being overly dismissive. We'll start with the "Nats would never do this" scenarios.

(A) Trade Strasburg.
Why the Nats would do it: Strasburg, for all the talent he brings, is now damaged goods. It's conceivable he won't even pitch until late 2012, making the next two years wasted time. Greinke would give them numbers that they wanted from Strasburg over that time. I'd say there's a good chance he'd be even better. Even when Strasburg does come back there's not telling how well he'll pitch and if he can stay healthy. Very early indications are that Strasburg is a CA boy and wants to get back there as soon as he's a free agent anyway.
Why the Nats wouldn't do it: It's two years of Greinke and that's probably it. Zack is mecurial enough that I wouldn't expect him to give the team that trades for him the inside track on resigning him. Strasburg has shown that he can be one of the best pitchers in the majors. It seems reasonable to believe that will be the case whenever he's healthy. It also seems reasonable to believe he'll recover from surgery. The prevailing thought process for the Nats so far is you pay for hitting (more reliable) and you develop pitching, having a controlled Strasburg would be key. Strasburg excited this town over baseball more than anything since the initial move. It isn't even close.

(B) Trade Bryce
Why the Nats would do it: Bryce has yet to face anyone out of the instructional league. He's still growing, both physically and mentally. Therefore he's the big unknown. He could be great, but he could be awful too. His attitude might be questionable. He's almost certainly a couple years from even appearing in the majors, let alone making an impact. Hitters, even great ones, can be replaced far easier than great pitchers.
Why the Nats wouldn't do it: The Greinke reasons cited above. Hitters are usually far more projectable than pitchers meaning that everyone is probably right and Bryce will at least have major league power and will play in the majors at some point. The history of #1 hitters selected is very good. Everyday hitters like Bryce make more of an impact to a team than pitchers, even great ones.

I don't think the Nats would never make these deals, but I do think it would take tremendous guts to do so. Strasburg showed signs he was, and is a good bet to be in the future, the most valuable commodity in baseball, the true #1. Bryce, is a good bet to be an impact offensive player. Now, baseball "good bets" are really like "there's a 50% chance of this happening" but still Rizzo would be lamabasted across time and space if he ended up on the short end of these deals. Really, though, what I think makes the difference is the 2 years left on Greinke's deal. That's not enough for a team as far from the playoffs as the Nats are.

(C) The Package
What kind of deal would it take? I think it STARTS with Storen, Desmond (could be Espinosa but let's go with Desmond for now), and Norris. STARTS. Some Nats fans would balk saying "that's a future closer, a starting shortstop, and a great young catcher" but that's your own team bias speaking. People on the outside see a untested relief pitcher, an average old-to-be-a-prospect shortstop and a guy with talent, but who's never gotten an at bat in the majors. So you're adding at least someone else to the deal. Zimmermann? Thompson? Willingham? Then maybe, maybe the conversation starts. Let's go with Zimmermann and see.

On the plus side:
For the Nats it's a big cut into the future but nothing they couldn't get over. Storen is just a reliever, Desmond's spot could be given to Espinosa, the Nats are deep at catcher so Norris' loss wouldn't be devestating. ZNN is coming off of injury and if he doesn't turn that corner to be a #2 type guy or better than he's replaceable. For the Royals, you are getting 3 guys that can be pencilled in to next years team. Storen could help you deal Soria. Desmond with even slight improvement after his rookie year would be a step up from Betancourt and they are thin in MI. They have a young catcher they like but it's always best not to pin your hopes on one guy with one good 1/3rd of a season in AA. Pitching is always nice, so of course you take ZNN.

On the minus side:
For the Nats, again - 2 years! While it doesn't kill the Nats in any specific way it kills what little depth they have. In this scenario you are betting real heavy on Espinosa and Ramos to come through because there is no good plan B if they don't. You just got the relief pitching in order and losing Storen may just help put it back in disarray. For the Royals, where's the star? You are getting depth for sure but the guy who's done the best so far in the group is a reliever who put up a 3.50 ERA in the NL. Huzzah. For Greinke you expect the best in return and this... it ain't the best.

If the Nats are to get a #1 pitcher through trade, I think the Nats are more likely to make one of these deals, flooding the offer with their "best" talent. Storen, a talented pitcher but a reliever nonetheless, and Norris, who in theory would be fighting with Ramos and Flores for the same position, would almost have to be part of any deal. They are both attractive and expendable. It builds from there, though, as that in itself is not enough. It seems reasonable that Desmond/Espinosa would be the next cog. Both appear good enough to play in the majors at positions where talent is usually harder to come by. Now we're getting close and the bartering would start.

At this point the talent level for Nats prospects is not all that great but still I think it's possible for the Nats to reach a deal for a #1, given the right combination of players added to the 3 mentioned. Given the Greinke example you can see it's no slam dunk for either side, but that's what trades are. You have to take a risk and lose something. You can't get something for nothing. The Greinke deal itself, while I would love to see the kid in DC, makes little sense for the Nats. Two guaranteed years just isn't enough. But are you ready to flood Tampa prospects for Garza?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Was it that bad?

It's been over two weeks now since the season mercifully ended for the Washington Nationals. It was an odd ending for the Nationals since usually they finished strongly and left fans with a promise of a better day (even if that better day was only 75 wins)

In 2006 the Nats went 15-13 in September, and featured the "Charge of the White Brigade" as Nick Johnson, Ryan Church, recently acquired Austin Kearns, and Zimm all finished very strongly. This is the core of a very good offense!

In 2007 the Nats went 15-12 in September, played .500 ball after the All-Star break, and finally got the power threat they desperately needed stealing Wily Mo Pena from the Red Sox. This kid is going to mash 40 homers!

In 2008 the Nats went 14-15 in August, and in the final couple months saw Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes finish strong. The future is now! Other teams would kill for the young OF talent we have!

In 2009 the Nats went 14-15 in August and won their final 7 games, thanks in part to the recently acquired spark plug Nyjer Morgan. Finally the CF this team has been dying for! At least that'll be settled for next year!

This year though there was no strong finish. They last were close to .500 in July (12-13) and generally had been playing poorly since mid May. There were no young studs finishing hot. After a nice August, Desmond struggled and Bernadina tanked like a tanker full of Tank McNamara comic strips. After a super hot start Danny Espinosa leveled off at "he's ok". Wilson Ramos picked it up a bit, but then again you know he'll be splitting starts with the Living Dead next season.

Add to that the shadow hanging over the end of the year because of Strasburg's injury... and the growing inevitability of Dunn's departure... and Kasten's abandoning ship, and you get a September that would drive away even the most ardent fan.

In totality though, through the 20/20 ness of hindsight, was the season that bad? The Nats won 69 games, 10 more than each of the past 2 years. They did this despite the injuries to Strasburg, and Marquis, and Lannan, and Detwiler, and Willingham. They did it despite getting almost no production from 2 1/2 spots in the lineup and 3 spots in the rotation at any time. Desmond hung on enough to be encouraging. They introduced some young players in Espinosa and Ramos, who are actual prospects rather than veterans looking for a second chance or fill in guys from AAA that happened to have a strong month. The injured Lannan and Marquis looked healthy at season's end which bodes well for them being ok next year.

I'm not ready to call the season a success by any means, but a few weeks out and I'm ready to look at it with a lot more optimism. It was a tough year - mostly by design (Pudge AND Kennedy/Guzman AND no RF plan, all while starting a rookie at short? Really?! You really want to wait out the time until Strasburg and ZNN with Stammen, Atilano and Olsen? Really?!) Next year looks to be tough too. But in a different, much more appealing way. Start Desmond again, along with Ramos and Espinosa? Fill-in the rotation with 2 of Detwiler, ZNN, and Maya? That's not plugging holes with whatever you can find lying around. That sort of seems like a viable plan to find good young talent.

Of course, with that much variability in potential the Nats do need to make the moves we've all heard they want to. They need an anchor to the staff, and not a 200 IP, 4.00 ERA anchor and actual starter you'd like to call your #1. They need Adam Dunn, or someone with Adam Dunn like influence on the offense, helping to anchor the middle of the lineup. A good RF would help, even if it's only a nice fielder who can hit righties to complement Morse. If they can do all that though, 2011 looks to be a year worth watching. At least for the first few months.