Nationals Baseball: September 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What if the Nats do nothing?

Just a few months removed from Strasburg mania and Nats' brief flirtation with trading for Oswalt, it's hard to contemplate the worst-case (for 2011) scenario. But with Kasten out the door at year's end, potentially because the Lerners won't commit to the same future , there has to be a serious questions raised about the new direction the Nats could conceivably take.

What if the Nats don't sign Dunn? It's feeling more and more likely that Adam is out the door, and while that would be a shame it wouldn't necessarily kill the team. The hope is the money not spent on Dunn would go elsewhere, possibly toward a run at Carl Crawford. (Forget for the moment that about a quarter of the league might be gunning for the guy, and the Nats are far from the most appealing candidate). But what if they don't even try to sign Crawford? What if they don't try to sign anyone interesting?

It's not like it couldn't happen. The Nats have a lot of young players ready to be tested and veterans still under contract. Ramos/Pudge/Flores, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman of course, Willingham, Morgan (all indications are that he'll at least go into next year as the favorite to start in center), Livan, Marquis, Lannan, Zimermann, Detwiler, Burnett/Clippard/Storen/Peralta etc. While the overall talent here might be lacking, the end result is that there are not a lot of holes in the Nats lineup. A quick look would tell a fan that First Base, LF or RF, and a trusted starter are needed. They should also get a decent MI backup. Other than that, while there are definitely places that could improve, there are none that NEED a new player.

Can the Nats get away with not filling these holes though? How would they justify it? Well not getting a good back-up infielder is easy enough to justify. It's a back-up infielder. Yes, injuries can happen and relying on a rookie and a 2nd year player who hasn't quite solidified his role is risky, but your average back-up MI is garbage anyway. Who's going to protest if they go with Alberto Gonzalez?

As for starting pitcher, you can see the Nats argument for not spending money there as well. Livan, Marquis, and Lannan should eat innings next year. They want Zimmermann and Detwiler to get shots. Maya needs a longer look. Strasburg needs a place to slip in. You could argue that another FA pitcher would only muddy the situation. Of course a stud pitcher would and should be grabbed, but here really IS no need to put another "ok" pitcher in with this group.

Outfield? I hate to say this, but Nats fans might have caught a break with the collapse of Bernadina over the past month. Before that it was pretty clear they were leaning toward an outfield with Bernadina. That could still be the case but justifying that is much tougher now. This is especially true if they want to go with Morgan again. The OF must generate offense and you can't count on a Nyjer/Roger combination to do that. They could turn to Mike Morse in the third outfield slot, but I don't get the feeling that the Nats management is behind that idea. The Nats could go into 2010 with no new OFs (or with a Mench like signing) but this one would be tough to swallow.

First base is the kicker. The Nats could go with Morse, but if they are questioning him in the outfield its likely they don't see him as an everyday player. They could go internally, but Marrero is far from a lock to hold down the spot. You can hope for it, but there is no way you can responsibly expect it. Given the offensive importance of first base a no-signing here would be an immediate white flag on the 2010 season.

The Nats could do nothing. It's always possible. Doing nothing though, would be a sign of a team giving up on 2011, surrendering already to another 100 loss season. First base has to be filled with something reliable and that outfield spot has the potential of being a huge hole and should be addressed. Other moves would help, but these are the ones that if they don't get done you can seriously question what is going on with the franchise.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's the best day of the week, Nats fans!

Lannan Day!

John is up against maybe, just maybe, a Phillies team coming back to Earth. Since August 26th through Friday Philadelphia had gone a mind-bending 23-4, going from 70-57 to 93-61. That's a month of play for the history books. Almost as impressive is the 45-15 record they put up since being a mere 2 games over .500 at the end of July. Still, the Mets just beat them 2 games in a row over the weekend and they clinched a playoff spot, so maybe, just maybe, they are winding down. Of course this is THE bad matchup for Lannan. He's the rare southpaw who does well against righties, and the Phillies are lefty-loaded. If he can do well against the Phillies that bodes very well... for next year of course.

Other notes :

The fact Livan didn't get the W last night ensures that Tyler Clippard will lead the Nats in wins this year. He also has a shot at being the team leader in strikeouts* Sarcastic congratulations to Tyler! *(Strasburg - who pitched about a third of a season, will finish 3rd for the Nats)

Assuming Adam Dunn gets another homer, he'll be only the 3rd player ever to have 7 consecutive seasons with 38 or more homers. Rafael Palmiero and Babe Ruth are the other two. Of course 38 is a totally arbitrary number, so don't take it to mean that he's one of the best 3 home run hitters of all time or anything. (lower the limit to 35 and Sosa has 10 in a row, 33 and Bonds has like 13) The fact illustrates though, that Adam Dunn might be the best slugger of the post-steroid era not named Pujols; (random testing began in 2004, the first year of Dunn's streak) and Adam has had amazing durability (several streaks of high home-runs were broken by missing games)

Sayonara Scott Olsen. (and I say that because I'm pretty sure he's a Japanese League level talent)

In the same article we read that Riggleman wants a leadoff hitter. That's nice. What does Rizzo want? What about the soon to be all-powerful Lerners?

Friday, September 24, 2010

A weak, non-commital opinion on Stan's leaving

The day has come. Stan "The Plan" Kasten has left the building and the Nats fans are left to wonder why. You'd be a fool to just take Kasten at his word, master of the half-truth that he is. I feel fairly certain it wasn't animosity, or even a clash of personalities. We never got a hint of anger. A clash of philosophies though? That's what Boswell suggests and I don't see any reason to not believe him. He paints it as a fight between CHEEEEEEEEEEP and a fiscally responsible game plan. If this is the case then leaving now makes sense, as the Nats are going to start entering a period where an increased payroll will be necessary to make the next step. Of course if this is the case, how does one reconcile it with the run at Teixeira?

Right now, it doesn't really matter why he left. What matters is what happens next, because that will define Stan's legacy and clear up the picture for Nats fans on why, 4 years after the Lerners and Kasten came on board, the team is has no more combined talent on its major league roster than it did when they came in, and why the minor league system has risen only to middle of the road. How much blame for that can be laid at Kasten's feet?

Is Kasten a failure? I don't know. I want to see the team run by someone else under the Lerners. Maybe he was working with one hand tied behind his back. Does his leaving hurt the team? I don't know. Maybe the next guy in will have better methods of making this team resonate with the local fanbase. For all Stan did in Atlanta - cultivating long-term fan interest was not one of them. I think they are both right and that's scary. The Nats are bad despite Stan being competant at what he does and seemingly putting alot of effort into it. In on the field terms, it's a bad team losing a good player.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

OK I didn't see this coming

Kasten is gone (well, going).

Forced out? Rat escaping the ship? Hmmm. Let me stew on this for a while.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The rebirth of Lannan

Don't you just love that guy? He threw another good game last night, a low K game (3 over 7) but another low BB game (1) and only 2 XBH. Pitching is complex, but understanding it is easy. Strikeouts are very good. Walks and homers are very bad. If you can control 2 of the three you should be successful.

Since he came back on the first of August, John has easily been the Nats best starter. It's not even close. Looking at the stats that's both good to see (for Lannan) and completely disheartening (for everyone else) In August there was at least a resepectable competition. John had a 3.25 ERA, but Zimmermann, Livan, and Marquis all had ERAs of 4.50 or lower. That's not fantastic, but considering it's only a month we're looking at - really it's only the difference between one off start for Lannan and one decent start for one of these other guys. In September though it's much much worse. Lannan leads with a 3.04 ERA. The next best starter this month has been Livan with a 5.70 ERA. That's right. The Nats #2 starter in September is carrying an ERA of almost 6.00. The rest follow, Maya (6.32), Marquis (6.57), Zimmermann (9.00), Olsen (11.74). Granted there are still a couple starts left in here and much like August it would only take one good one to make a big dent in the ERA, but still, this is pathetic right?

If it weren't for Mr. Brow (Call Mr. Brow, cause that's his name. That name again is Mr. Brow) the Nats would be in complete free fall.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

you know...

While the #1 pick is out of reach and #2 is likely the same, the Nats do have a puncher's chance (that puncher being Glass Joe) of getting the #3 pick in next years draft.

Milestones or Millstones

Tonight the Nats could draw under 10K for the game. Before today they had never gone below 11,000 (officially of course). Maybe Stan can call up some Philly fans to see if they want to check out J A Happ?

Tonight the Nats could also fall below the Cleveland Indians in the standings. (Ok it could have happened the last few nights too) Not really indicative of anything but I do remember earlier in the year some taking great glee in the fact that Manny was doing worse in Cleveland than the Nats were doing. I guess they felt it validated their dislike of Acta in some way.

Lannan pitches - you know how I said he needed three shutouts to get his ERA under 4.00? Well, if he's going to get one this Astros team is probably the best bet. Go John, Go!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stop being unlucky!

It's bad enough that the Nats are bad, but do they have to be unlucky, too? They've lost their last 4 one-run games and more "impressively" 10 of their last 11. That kind of luck turns a team looking at getting a few games past 70 wins to a team hoping to break 65.

As for yesterday's game, I wasn't following it and when I first glanced at the last inning I was about to harangue Riggleman for trying to give Storen experience in a game with playoff implications. Then I looked at the entire game and realized there wasn't really any choice in the matter. He'd used his best three relievers and a lefty specialist already. The starting pitching failures by Marquis and Zimmerman wiped out the bullpen depth. Storen had been hit hard, but the hard hit balls were from lefty batters. Really Storen was the only choice. It's a shame for the Braves that the Nats starters sucked so bad in the previous two games that he couldn't quickly yank Storen when it seems like he obviously didn't have it, but them's the breaks when you are relying on the Nats.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ladson and Lannan

Just a few quick bites on a lazy Friday.

Bill Ladson put out a twitter q to his followers on whether Dunn should be re-signed or not. In it we find another reason why Dunn should probably be locked up for a few more years. Out of 29 responses, 26 were positive. Unscientific? Certainly. From what I've heard/felt a good indication of Nats' fans desires? Yes.

If this were a cut and dried situation, if bringing back Adam was a horrible idea, the management should feel free to ignore the fans. Fans are sentimental fools. However, there is no obvious decision here, and in that case you really should weigh in things like "how will the fans feel". The Nats don't have to do whatever it takes to bring back Dunn, but if they don't want to lose even more of their dwindling fanbase they need to make sure they make a fair offer to Adam and that the public knows about it one way or the other. If they throw out 3 years 33 million to Adam and he rejects it because he wants 4 for 60, the fans will (probably) see that the management made an honest effort to keep Adam here and HE chose to leave.

Lannan is a favorite around here because of the fact that his raw stats were never in line with his performance. The sum of his pitching was always much greater than the parts and it drove stats geeks wild. Earlier this year, when Lannan collapsed, there was a bit of glee from their end. However, it was clear to those of us that followed John that he wasn't the same pitcher. He was worse. He had no room for error. He erred (perhaps due to injury). The first few months were the painful result.

Now Lannan is on a roll with a 3.07 ERA since coming back in August. It would be nice to say "See! We told you Lannan could pitch like he does and still be successful!" Except that would be a lie. Just as Lannan pitched much worse than "usual" before going out, he's pitched much better after. See for yourselves.

Career before '10
BB/9 : 3.3
K/9 : 4.6

BB/9 : 4.2
K/9: 2.9

BB/9: 1.9
K/9: 6.6

The K's are WAY up. He's a different, and better, pitcher than the one that managed success his first three years.

Side note: Lannan can't hit the 200 IP mark, but can he get his ERA under 4.00? No. Well yes, but it would be remarkable. It would take 3 shutouts in his 3 last starts to make it happen.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adjusting or not.

As June ended things looked bleak for Ian Desmond. He had been struggling at the plate the first couple of months, posting a .246 / .307 / .406 line in April and a .272 / .296 / .402 line in May. June was a crucial month for him to show that he was adjusting. Instead of taking a step foward, though, Ian took a big one back. .222 / .259 /. 309. Maybe if Desmond was sparkling in the field that would have bought him another month but he had been prone to make the dumb error. Without the strong defense, that's a line that screams "Send me back to AAA coach, I'm not ready!" Some of us said exactly that, others (like me) weren't too different in their thinking. Most fell in line with the thinking that the All-Star break would be a good time to make a change. Ian had one last chance to get it right this time (with the majority of the fanbase. With the team, who knows? But Rizzo was making hints of getting tired of seeing the lousy play and Desmond was playing the lousiest)

Desmond went out and from Jun 26th to the All-Star break he hit .294 / 351 / .529. Certainly good enough to hold off on that bus ride to Syracuse for a little while. And a little while looked to be all it would be as he struggled immediately after the break though (.172 / .194 / .207 in the first 9 games). Then a funny thing happened, Desmond started hitting and never stopped. Since July 27th (45 games ago) Desmond has hit .344 / .374 / .494. He's arguably been the Nats best hitter since the end of July (Zimmerman has probably been better - he's hit .322 / .399 / .500 in the same time frame). Has Desmond adjusted?

On one hand it's hard to argue with 45 games. On the other hand I can pull out 45 games from late May through June that will look terrible. What do the fancy stats say?

K-rate and BB-rate? August did show improvement in both but it's virtually the same over this stretch as over the first 110 games or so. Maybe a tick better. So he's not better at indentifying strikes or not swinging and missing.

BABIP? Uh oh. Even during the "bad stretch" Desmond still had a BABip above .285, probably just under .300 for the season up to late July. With the NL Average around .300, you probably figure the young Desmond to be maybe... .305? .310? So it was low but not terribly low. During the hot stretch? It's been over .380. That's a sign of luck, not skill.

GB/LD/FB % : He's seen his GB rate go way up (over 60% the last two months, was under 50% for the first part of the season). Unsurprisingly his percentage of infield hits has also jumped. Also on a good note - his infield pop up percentages are way down. He's not exactly ripping the ball - his LD% has plummeted along with his FB% - but it appears that he's changed his approach and it has paid divdends.

What's the conclusion? Well that BABIP is unsustainable, which means his batting average is unsustainable. He's not getting any more walks so his value at the top of the lineup will take a hit. However, that bump in BABIP is not all luck. Desmond has taken to hitting the ball on the ground more. Now when he makes a mistake on a swing, it's not a lazy fly ball or a pop-up but a ground ball of some type. Some of these find their way through the infield, others he can beat out. The end result is a better hitter. Not a .344 hitter but probably something better than the lines he was putting up in April and May.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's all in the batting average...

This recent slump could very well be a sign of things to come in 2010. Not that the Nats will be terrible offensively. But when they aren't getting base hits, the Nats won't be scoring runs. Outside of Zimmerman and a healthy Willingham, the Nats won't necessarily have patience or power in this line-up.

Let's ignore Nyjer for a second (as he should be in a discussion of patience and power). Here are the minor league stats for Ramos, Bernadina and Desmond. Note that an isoOBP of .070 and an isoSLG of .155 would be about average in the majors.

Ramos isoOBP: .047 isoSLG: .146
Bernadina isoOBP: .085 isoSLG: .120
Desmond isoOBP: .067 isoSLG: .129

Right away the lack of power should grab you. This is something that can develop as the body fills out, etc. However Bernadina is probably as developed as he can be and neither Ramos or Desmond project to be big sluggers. (For contrast Dunn has a .221 isoSLG in the minors, Zimmerman a .224, Willingham a .234) I do like what I've seen from Desmond this season (a .154 isoSLG) but I don't think he'll ever be a 30 homer guy, maybe not even a 20+ homer guy.

As for patience, Bernadina has some but Desmond does not and Ramos is a hacking machine. I kind of like patience developing for a hitter like Ramos (and Bernadina). When you hit for high average in the minors there's not much need to take pitches. But how much patience? I'm not sure.

In the end you see a little patience here, a little power there, but really it's a bunch of Singley Joes. That's not a terrible thing - Ramos could very well hit over .300. Bernadina in the .280s - but it's a tough way to score a lot of runs.

There is some hope for an all around player to develop though. Here is the numbers for Espinosa

Espinosa isoOBP: .095 isoSLG: .185

These are both good numbers and with a little bump in the power numbers - Danny might become a legitimate power threat.

This highlights what the Nats will lose from the lineup if Dunn is let go. His isoOBP in the majors is a fantastic .130, his isoSLG in majors is an even better .271. Even if Dunn isn't hitting, he still usually is getting on base and when he does connect he'll be hitting homers. He's still producing. A lot of the Nats lineup doesn't have those talents and when they go through batting slumps like they are now, they'll be providing next to nothing in terms of run scoring.

Friday, September 10, 2010

One thing on Dunn's fielding...

I'm reading a lot of "well Dunn's actually fielding ok this year..." type of comments to justify signing him for additional years. While technically correct, these are probably misguided.

Just because Dunn is having an average year in the field does not mean he is an average fielder.

The same UZR that has him as -1.9 this year (just barely below average) had him at -14.3 last year (terrible). This isn't that surprising. Current fielding statistics are notoriously variable from year to year. You are meant to look at them across a couple years or so to get a good idea of how well a player fields. Dunn's been pretty terrible at first, in admittedly limited play, since 2005. This agrees with the general opinion of most scouts.

You can take this in one of two ways. Either you can believe that this year is a fluke, the fielding equivalent of a Pudge's .400 start to 2010. In that case you'd expect next year Adam will once again struggle in the field. On the other hand, you can believe this is the end result of an effort to make himself better at a much easier position to hide his faults.

If you believe the former, then the move to a Derek Lee or Carlos Pena makes a good deal of sense. Even if, like me, you don't think it should happen. (If in the end it gets you about the same amount of "wins" - I'd rather have sucky fielding and 40 bombs for 12 million a year, than good/ok fielding and someone hitting .200 or having only 15 homers for something like 5 million. I consider it a 7 million dollar investment in fun. Smart spending to some is cheapness to others).

If you believe the latter, then it's true that it makes no sense to not resign Dunn. He'd be a top 5 first baseman in the NL. However, you have to understand you are taking the bigger gamble. You are betting on Dunn repeating a passable defensive performance something that he hasn't had previously since his rookie year in the OF.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dunn is done?

So says Tom Boswell, though mainly through conjecture rather than any facts. He feels the Nats are leaning so heavily toward good defense that they'll kick Dunn to the curb next year. In his place would be a short year deal for a good field but aging player, like Derek Lee (could bounce back) or Carlos Pena (power and patience make it worthwhile... if he can hit over .220). If not those guys, then there's always Lyle Overbay right?

Somehow the blame for this goes in part to "stat nerds" and "stat guys", which is funny because these are the same people that have been on Dunn's side for most of his career. They've been the ones telling people that Dunn is one of the best offensive players in the game, that the .250 average doesn't matter when the guy walks 100+ times and hits 40 homers.

It's easy to feel for Adam, because he paints himself very well as someone who only wants to be secure.

Then, he added later: "I'm sick of two-year contracts. It's the same every year [with mid-season trade rumors]. I think I've proved I deserve more than that."
Of course it's not that simple. He doesn't just not want a two year deal. He wants a four year deal on his terms. He wants to play first base and get paid a ton. That's not going to happen. It's not baseball's fault that he signed a 2 year deal (with a club option for a 3rd) so he could stay with the Reds even though he was a premier slugging 25 year old a year from free agency. It's not baseball's fault that right before his next free agent chance he failed to hit over .240 2 out of 3 years and then played terrible defense for a Diamondbacks team that faded from the playoff hunt. (though I think his blame in their fade was exaggerated). It's not baseball's fault that defense is valued to the point now where he's only going to get a 4 year deal if he agrees to be a DH or accepts that his defense knocks down his overall dollar value when compared to other sluggers.

Poor decisions and circumstances led to the last 2 short contracts. He wants to avoid another one, preferably with the Nats. Unlike Boswell, I think he can do it but it will take some compromise from Adam. He can't get everything he wants no matter how many balls he knocks over the fence.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Zimmerman MVP voting thoughts

Zimmerman is arguably the best all-around player in the National League, perhaps in the whole shebang. Now - he won't win the MVP, I think we can all understand that. The MVP is 95% an offensive award for players whose teams are in the pennant race. The Nationals haven't sniffed decency since June and there are stronger purely offensive candidates out there.

(If Joey "not good enough for Charlie Manuel to name to the All-Star team" Votto doesn't run away with the MVP I'd be surprised.)

Ryan will probably take home another Gold Glove, but what I'm really curious about is how will he look in the MVP voting. Will his excellent play two years running garner enough recognition to push him into ... say the Top 10? Will he languish near the bottom like last year (2 votes) behind guys like... Miguel Tejada? Will Adam Dunn, with a slightly more impressive offensive year, actually beat Ryan out?

My guesses are no, kindof, and yes. Top 10 is the realm of HR and RBI leaders, of the best players on the best teams, not for guys like Zimmerman. I see him still near the bottom but higher than last year. He should be bolstered by the increased recognition of another great season and the realization at years end that the Nats have won 5-10 games more than 2009. Voters will look for a reason and some will gravitate to Ryan. Of course some will gravitate toward Dunn and that's the hardest one for me to pick out. If Dunn can pass Pujols in HRs he'll easily outpace Ryan. Dunn will finish somewhere right around 10, Ryan probably near 20.

(Leading the League in home runs is traditionally a rubber stamp to the Top 10 in MVP voting. In fact the home run leader has only finished lower than 6th twice since the strike, both times it was Sammy Sosa finishing 9th. They must have really not liked him. Even fluke year Andres Galarraga for a 3rd place Rockies team finished 6th, which was the next lowest finish.)

If Adam doesn't pass Pujols though I can see Ryan benefitting and both of them finishing around 15th, though I'd still bet on Adam above Ryan.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Coming into Aug 26th (or 127 games into the season), the Nats had 18 games where they scored 8 runs or more. In the past two weeks (or 11 games) the Nats have 7. Where did this offensive juggernaut come from. Danny Espinosa.

Ok it's not just Danny Espinosa - pretty much everyone not named Nyjer or Kennedy is doing at least ok and several guys are smoking hot. Espinosa is leading the pack hitting (.563 / .563 / 1.313), however and looks great. Desmond is also hot (.400 / .408 / .533) and has had a fantastic 2nd half. Makes one want to go back and re-evaluate their "best-case scenarios". Turning two average bats into two above-average ones would make a huge difference to a lineup. I'm getting ahead of myself here. It's only been two weeks. Hot streaks, even extended ones, can happen for rookies. The Baby Bomber taught me that. Still, it's nice to have something to get excited about so soon after the world ended for Nats fans in a hospital room in LA.

Now if the Nats would only free Wilson Ramos... Sweet!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Best Case Scenario

Rather than focus on the negatives, as I usually do, why don't we spend the long weekend looking at the rosiest picture I can paint for the Nats 2011 team? OK, it's not exactly the rosiest picture. That would be "Nats sign Cliff Lee and everyone becomes a superstar!!!!", but it's a scenario that features reasonable goals for every player. Sure they all have to happen all at once, but that's why it's the rosiest picture and not an accurate one.

Rest of 2010:

Yuneski Maya shows he's capable of pitching in the majors, while pretty much everyone coming back from injury looks healed. Jordan Zimmermann is of particular interest as he mows down the competition and inspires one or two "Strasburg Who"? headlines (which get the writers fired). In the field, both Espinosa and Ramos hit well enough to think they can hang right now in the majors.

Nats Offseason :

Adam Dunn finds the 2011 off season as unhospitable as the 2009 offseason. He resigns with the Nats, agreeing on a 2 year deal for only slightly more money than he signed for last time.

The Tampa Bay Rays take the World Series which allows Carl Crawford to focus on the money and not the winning. The Nats drive the biggest dump truck full of money to his house and manage to sign him.

The Nats resign most of their decent relief pitchers here on one-year deals.

Nats 2011 :


Willingham returns, shifts to right field, and gives a full season much like the 2010 he put up prior to injury (which includes the downslide... it's still good with that included). Dunn hits like he can and Zimmerman remains a superstar. Crawford has his typical season and the Big 3 become the Big 4.

As for the rest of the lineup, Desmond takes another step foward and hits for a bit more power. Bernadina, playing in center, gives the Nats another average season. Wilson Ramos, first pegged for a part-time gig, hits close to .300 the entire season long and relegates Pudge to back-up duty in May. Danny Espinosa has a season much like Desmond had this year. However, being in the 8th hole, he's able to utilize his patience and get on base at a nice clip.

The Nats are very suddenly an offense with no holes. It's not a league leading offense, because it's batting-average heavy. Outside the Big 3, it's likely only Espinosa will develop notable patience. Desmond, if he takes the next step, might be the only non Big 3 to hit over 20 homers. Still the team hurdles from the bottom of the pack to just outside the good teams, somewhere 5th-8th in the league in scoring.


The relief pitching remains stable. Four out of Slaten, Burnett, Walker, Peralta and Clippard remain capable, while Storen holds down the closing gig with no big issues.

In the rotation Zimmermann has a breakthrough year, almost All-Star worthy. Marquis bounces back with an above average season. Maya, Lannan, and a returning to earth Hernandez fill out the rotation with some average pitching. Detwiler fills in capably when one of these guys goes down to injury for a few weeks, but it's in its surprisingly health where the staff gets it's worth.

Much like the offense this is not a world-beating staff, but day in and day out they keep the Nationals in the game. Again we see a rise from the bottom of the NL to a spot above average.


With a bit of luck in one-run games, the Nationals shock the league by staying in the Wild Card hunt until early September. They fade but only back down to a respectable 84 wins. Questions remain about 2012. Josh Willingham was not offered a multi-year deal and will almost certainly leave. Marquis (by his choice) and Lannan (by the team's) are both likely to do the same and leave a big innings hole in the rotation. Livan, signed to another one-year deal, could easily revert to his pre-2010 numbers. Other teams are worried about the Nats, though. Strasburg looks good in rehab and he and Zimmermann will make a scary 1-2. If Ross Detwiler is as capable as he seems they may not miss a beat in the rotation. Ramos, Espinosa, and Desmond all could step up in 2012 and turn a good offense into a dangerous one, and that's not even considering Bryce Harper who looks right on track for a fall 2012 debut, after capably handling A-ball and adjusting late in the year to AA. Some have already made the Nats a trendy pick for the playoffs in 2012.

Is this going to happen? Probably not, but is there anything crazy here (outside of maybe the Crawford signing)? I don't think so. The Nats have spent the last 5 years bouncing from bad luck to maybe average luck and back again. It's about time they spend a year getting more than their share of the breaks.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Acts of Desperation

Nyjer Morgan had a choice. He knew, justified or not, that he was building up a reputation as a "dirty" player. He knew that his next actions in a tricky situation could very well seal the deal on how other teams, and his own, viewed him. Was he a high-spirited fellow who made one bad move (the St. Louis collision) but whose other actions were blown out of proportion? Was he a loose cannon?

Nyjer knew that the Marlins were upset with his catcher take-out in the previous game. He knew they would probably throw at him. He had hours to think of what he would do.

This was what he came up with.

I don't know the man, obviously, but Morgan hadn't struck me as a "bad guy" over the course of a year of baseball. I hadn't heard anything like that when he came over from Pittsburgh either. So why would he act like that? All that I can come up with is:

.257 / .317 /.318

After being declared the Nats centerfielder for life (life = 3 years or so), he's having such a terrible year that he's probably lost the job already. Years of toil in the minors to get to this point and he crashed and burned. The frustration boils up, first at being labeled a bad ballplayer, which he hasn't been, then for being labeled a bad guy, which he hasn't been. Sometime recently one straw too many was placed on his back and this is the result. He is out of control.

Or he could just be an ass. I don't know.

Either way, it's gotten to endgame. Tony Plush's career with the Nationals should end. I know it may seem like I don't believe in Roger Bernadina, but given the circumstances (and age and statistics) I don't see how anyone can be in the Morgan camp anymore. He had a chance, failed, and then blew up spectacularly. You don't wait for that to happen again.

As for Dibble's firing - I like Mike's take over at NatsFanboyLooser. Dibble's problem is that he equates experience with understanding. He played the game to level X and anyone that didn't reach the same level doesn't understand the game as well as he does. Because of this belief he didn't respect anyone's opinion on the game; not reporters, not bloggers, not fans, not umpires, or not even less "credentialed" players. I do believe he was honest when he said he didn't care if you listened to his opinion. But I also believe that he was incredibly offended if you dared think your opinion was better than his.

Of course in the end, none of that did him in. Instead it was an quasi-sexist remarked followed quickly by something that could be interpreted as an insult to the most important National player in their brief history. Neither remarks were terrible, and with more explanation they might have even been understandable, but MASN didn't want to wait to see how Dibble would screw up again.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

There's Zimmermann! and Oh no!

"Oh no!" first. Nationals Farm Authority is shutting down. All so he can teach brats that x equals 2! In all seriousness, NFA was a fantastic site and it will be missed. Go say so.

As for ZNN - it looks like I'll probably be wrong about doubting how fast this guy can come back. That's the kind of wrong I can get behind, though. I watched the highlight of the Morgan play and other than the lack of slide, it was less confusing than I thought it would be. Morgan was waved in because the 3rd base coach saw 4-6-3 and figured there was no harm in doing it. Ramirez didn't go to first because of the slowness of the hit and maybe a slight trouble getting the ball out of his glove. Morgan didn't slide because there was noone infront of him telling him to get down (the bench looks suspiciously quiet on the replay) and because he figured the ball would beat him home easily (it did) and only a high but catchable throw would make a slide worthwhile. Of course that's exactly what happened.