Nationals Baseball: 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's the worst that could happen : Gio and HRs

Steven from FJB, noted that while Gio's HR numbers are low they may not be driven by a low GB%, but instead a particularly low (re: lucky) HR/FB percentage, helped in part by his home park.  The early projections expect a increase in rate to say 9.3%. Given roughly the same number of FBs that would lead to about 4 more homers. Is this real?

Well, as far as I think, that's the worst case scenario. Gio's rank in HR/FB does follow pretty closely with his rank in GB%.  (2010 13 out of 43 qualified AL pitchers in HR/FB, 13/43 in GB%; 2011 18/42 and 15/42).  No, that isn't the best way to judge these things, but it shows that he isn't out of whack when it comes to these stats. It even suggests that he may be doing just right.  Of course the home and road splits can't be ignored. In 2010 Gio had a HR/FB rate of 6.4% at home and 8.6% on the road, in 2011 the difference was 8.2% to 9.8%.  Obviously the park was helping him. So what to believe?

Just to get an idea of how bad he could be in Nats park, I went ahead and pulled his worst FB% in the past 2 years (38.2% 2010 home), his worst balls in play (2.83 per inning 2011), and his worst HR/FB ration (the 9.8% noted above).   Put that all together in a 200IP season and you get.... 21 homers. (assuming my back of the envelope calculations are right).  So it seems like the projections are expecting the worst.  (well the worst that could reasonably be expected.) All this is also figuring he won't pitch any different in a different park while his splits suggest he did allow more flyballs at home.

The short of it, for those that don't like fancy numbers, is that while his home park helps him with home runs it's not to a degree that Nats fan should worry about it.  My expectations are that he will give up a couple more homers.  There's just no way to deny that his home park helped him keep the ball in the park.  But just 4 more would be about the limit of what I think could happen.  There's virtually no chance in my mind that he suddenly gives up 25+ bombs and becomes a much worse pitcher because of that.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

I like the deal.  I don't love it, because the Nats didn't steal Gio, nor does his acquisition guarantee the Nats any sort of playoff spot.  But I do like the deal.

In general I think you can view a trade in 3 ways, how much does the deal help the Nats right now, how much does the deal hurt the Nats later on, and what alternates to the trade could have been made.

On the first point - it helps the Nats, not a great deal, but enough to make a difference.  You've probably read a lot about Gio the past few days but to sum it up, he strikes out a ton (plus), doesn't give up a lot of home runs (plus), but walks a bunch (minus).  If he ever got control he could be special, if he ever loses control he could be terrible, but really he's got enough innings under his belt that he's likely shown everyone who he is, which is a good 2/3 type of arm.  That's a damn good bet to be better than Milone, Peacock, and Cole next year. (And as always I love the AL -> NL move.)

One the second point - that's always conjecture at this point but it's likely not to be a big deal in the immediate future.  Milone is not an impact player and Norris and Cole are still a few years off. Only if Peacock turns into a better pitcher than Gio right now will it matter and I'd bet on Gio everyday.  A few years down the road things might be different.  Norris and Cole could be impact players, Peacock being a few years younger could be bringing a decent level of production while Gio starts to tail off.  But it's foolish to worry too much about seasons 3,4, 5 years down the road.  So much can happen between then and now, so much can change, unless it's a slam dunk star you're losing (re: Bryce) you have to make these type of deals, especially when you can absorb it organizationally.

Now the third point - that's a sticker.   Forget about Edwin Jackson, he might be a better value than Gio but he's NOT a better pitcher and the Nats need wins, not praise for good deals. But Roy Oswalt, he might have had a similar or even stronger impact on the rotation over the course of the next 2 years for only the cost of money, rather than prospects. Also, if the Nats were willing to part with these prospects could one or two more gotten back a real prize?  The latter is hardly worrying over.  You're looking for problems if you are looking there. But the Oswalt thing... that's something to chew over.  Certainly you'd rather have Gio than Roy from 2012-2015, but 2012-2013?   And are we looking much past that? If they do make moves like signing Fielder, extending Zimmerman, getting another player under control until 2015/6 then signing Gio makes more sense.  If this is it, than you could easily argue that getting Oswalt would have been a smarter move.  It would take a whole another offseason of nothing to prove you right but you could argue the point.

In the end - again, I like it.  I am all for trading prospects for quality major leaguers because the prospect success rate is much lower than we like to believe.  You put enough guys in there the more questionable it becomes, but even with these four I still like it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gio to the Nats

so they say

Peacock, Milone, Cole, Norris.

First Thoughts

They don't need any of these (in particular because they got a pitcher back in trade) but it's still a high price. Would have prefered they actually UPPED the package and gone for something better.  But still Meyer, Purke, and Detwiler are still there.  So is Solis and Robbie Ray.

From weakest to strongest

Milone is the weakest of the bunch.  His upside was Lannan, which isn't bad but it meant that he'd spend most of the next few years getting passed by guys the Nats liked better.

The Nats kept thinking that Norris would be special but he hadn't turned that corner yet. He's young and catchers develop slower, but the average could be a killer and he was never going to be the defender Ramos was even if he was improving. With Ramos in place, Norris was going to be traded at some point.

Peacock.  One great year.  Tell yourself that.  One great year.  The command could go at any moment and Peacock isn't THAT good that he can pitch around bad control.

Cole is a NICE prospect, all the tools of Peacock and might be putting it all together now.  TNSSAAPP?  Is that it?  He's the crown jewel here even if Peacock might hurt sooner.

Even Boz is into it

Boz rips the Nats

Tons of great points.
  • Nats have tons of money coming in soon.  Most teams spend when that's the case.  The Nats aren't (Harper Note: for another example see: Nats, New ballpark
  • Nats said what they wanted, seemingly had a bunch of different options to do it, and have done nothing.
  • Nats are probably overvaluing their own youth in regards to refusing to deal them
  • Most likely this is all because you have to do a song and dance to convince Ol Man Ted to give you a nickel for some penny-whistles at the general store.
It's not that doing nothing in the offseason of 2012 is in itself terrible. But in context it feels pretty bad.  For years the Nats did nothing.  Last year's Werth signing was supposed to be a signal that things would be different.  They even went into this offseason being very explicit in what very expensive pieces they wanted.  Then they did nothing, just like every other off-season.

To the average fan psyche the reaction is not:

"It's ok.  I'm sure they'll do a decent job of patching things together this year while we watch the youngsters develop.  Then next year they'll make that big push!  Go Nats!", it's :

"Those cheap bastards are screwing up this team again!"

and you can't blame them. That's what experience has taught them.

Boz is the team's greatest cheerleader.  He wants the team to succeed in DC so bad, I've seen him sacrifice a kitten on an altar of Wade Boggs' discarded chicken bones to the spirit of Walter Johnson*.  When he's telling you this, things have gone too far.  The offseason isn't over.  Oswalt is still out there. A CF trade might still be possible (not likely though - I think here Nats fans are just going to have to suck up the inevitable Greatest Show on Werth situation).  Let's see what they do.

*may not be true.  

(on a side-note - I'm getting a bit tired of this whole minor Edwin Jackson love fest. The guy isn't better than Danks, isn't better than Gonzalez.  He's not significantly worse and he'll come cheaper true, but THIS ISN'T ABOUT VALUE - IT'S ABOUT WINS)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


For a couple years now, we've all assumed that the Nats have been building toward 2013.  Why 2013?  Well for one, it gave them a fair amount of time to internally develop some high quality young players.  The other, bigger reason though, was that Zimmerman is due to be a free agent after the 2013 season.  You have to figure if  the franchise can't come up with a legit playoff team in 9 years, that he'd be ready to walk for greener pastures, despite all the "promise" the Nats can lay at his feet. Lose Zimmerman and you've made competing that much tougher.

But after last year's rise toward .500 and the introduction of the 2nd Wild Card, things have been different.  It now looks like the Nats, with some luck and a couple of key moves, could compete in 2012.  The fanbase sees this, is ready to go after 7 years of terrible baseball, and has to be managed delicately so as not to create outsized expectations.


It's not so much that the Nats tried to get a starter and a centerfielder and failed (so far). It's that they let everyone know they wanted to get a starter and centerfielder, then went out and failed.  Expectations were set and quickly not met.

The Nats could use a starter because here are the number of major league innings pitched by the Nats early rotation not named John Lannan : 192.1, 97, 92, and 62.  Oh, did I mention that this was for 2011 AND 2010 combined?  And that every single one of these guys has had a major injury in the past 2+ years?  So they need that extra Livan-like arm, but it doesn't have to be a Buehrle.  A 1-yr deal for any decent arm would give the Nats security that they won't have to burn through the bullpen and a chance to go through a bunch of their young arms to see who can survive, and maybe thrive, in the majors.

The Nats could use a centerfielder because they don't have one.  But maybe with one more year of Roger Bernadina stop gap, Bryce Harper proves competent enough to man that position while he's in his youth.  Then instead of a CF the Nats could focus on getting a much easier to find corner outfielder or first baseman for their 2013 push.

Don't get me wrong, it doesn't put the Nats in the best shape to do nothing this year.  It's hard to do everything you want in a single off-season and rather than see problems get solved with time, it's more likely that new problems will open up (say Desmond fails again and the Nats bullpen implodes).  They really should do something but they don't have to do something. If the goal is "Playoffs in 2013" then the expectations should remain there. Let Rizzo have the rope to hang himself or swing across the bow of the ship like a swashbuckling hero.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Marlins problem

The Nats have gotten an unexpected nasty surprise this offseason.  They already knew they'd have to contend with the Braves and the Phillies, but now the Marlins are looking like they might be in the thick of things.  Are the Marlins actually a team to be worried about? 

How much better are the Nats than the Marlins really? 
Last year ended with the Nats 8.5 games better than the Marlins, 80 wins to 72.  We all know wins and losses can be a bit skewed so we take a look at Pythag records and...  the Nats are at 78, Marlins right on 72.  Seems ok, but even things like runs scored can be bumped around by things like a off-year by the team with RISP.  What about BP's adjusted win totals?   Here the Marlins leap ahead coming in around 79/80 wins while the Nats are right around 78. Given the likely variance involved you're looking at two teams that are about the same.

This isn't to say I think the Nats and the Marlins were equal teams last year.  I don't.  But if there is a difference in the Nats favor, it's likely to be much closer to a game or two, rather than the 8+ suggested by the standings.

How much better do Reyes and Buehrle make the Marlins?
Worst case scenario (assuming Hanley stops pitching a fit and gets in line) - Reyes replaces Dobbs in the lineup.  If you like WAR... Jose is roughly a 5 WAR type player (6.2 last year but 2.9 the year before, then again around 6 from 2006-08... I like 5 as a rough estimate of the package) , Dobbs maybe is a 1, probably not even that. That would suggest 4 wins or so.   If you don't like WAR, Jose is a much better hitter than Dobbs.  You probably got a sense that Jose doesn't hit for much power or walk alot.  He hits for more power and walks more than Dobbs. (Dobbs is pretty damn mediocre at the plate).   Reyes is a much better baserunner.  Dobbs was not a great fielder and you have to believe Hanley could do better there, and Jose is probably a touch better than Ramirez at short.  All in all that's more than just a win or two difference. 

We can do the same exercize for Mark, but suffice to say Buehrle is probably worth about 3 wins more than whatever dregs the Marlins would have put out in the 5th spot in the rotation.  That doesn't seem like a lot, and it isn't A LOT, but it is still pretty significant.

These two signings along with a change in luck to just average could turn the Marlins from a 72 win team to a 83/84 win team. 

Anything else the Marlins have in their pocket?
Hanley, Hanley, Hanley.  Both Buck and Coghlan played poorly but I don't think there's enough to say they'll definitely bounce back.  Everyone else was right on board* except the mecurial shortstop.   Let's understand this now.  If Hanley Ramirez hits like he can, he is a great hitter at any position.  Let no Boswell type person tell you otherwise. In 2010 he put up a .300 / .378 / .475 line.  That .853 OPS would have been 3rd among NL 3rd basemen last year.  That year was significantly worse than his 2009... or 2008... or 2007.   He can be a .330 30 HR guy.  If he bounces back to 2010 form that's a couple more wins right there.  If he bounces back to his form before that... look out.

*I guess you could say Stanton might be in for a crash but really there isn't enough to go onto be definitive.

On the mound there's Josh Johnson.  He only pitched in 9 games for the Marlins last year but when he's healthy he's one of the best pitchers in the game.  WHIP the last 3 years or 1.158, 1.105, and 0.978.  K/9 over 8, HR/9 well under 1.  The guy is Cy Young candidate, start in the All-Star game good.  If he can come back, then the Marlins have added another bunch of wins.

So you're saying they are going to be pretty good then, huh? 
I think the Marlins are going to be much better than last years record.  No doubt.  Like 10 games better easy.  That's the money bet. That's what adding two All-Stars to positions of weakness can do for you. That in itself is enough to be a thorn in the side of a Nats team that hopes to improve by a few more wins into the fringes of the new wild card race.  If the Nats don't develop like the management is hoping they might be passed by this Miami team.  

Now can they make an even bigger jump?  That depends on the two All-Stars they already have.  If Johnson is healthy and Hanley can put behind him all this and get back to being awesome, it would be like the Marlins added two All-Star position players and a #1 and #2 pitcher in this offseason.  That's crazy.  That's like adding Cliff Lee + Gio Gonzalez + Troy Tulowitski + Starlin Castro. That's gonna get you 10+ more wins, easy. With average luck, that would propel Miami to the upper 80s in wins and right past the Nats. 

The Nats better hope that Johnson is hurt and that Hanley remains a petulant little child.  If not, they could watch themselves "improve" all the way to an 79-83, 4th place finish is an ultra-competitive NL East.

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Aoki.

The Brewers won the Aoki posting at 2.5 mill.  2.5 million! I'd love to hear what Rizzo thought "fair market value" was for Aoki.    300 yen and a Cleveland Indians jersey signed by "Isuro Tanaka"?   A Hello Kitty backpack with a copy of "Mr. Baseball" inside?

If you try to build a team through only fair deals, you end up with only a fair team.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Nats didn't post on Darvish

Good.  To me the only way a bid could have "worked out" for the Nats is if they bid like 45 million and someone bid 50.  They made a serious offer, but didn't have to actually pay for the 100 million dollar shot in the dark. Of course that's predisposing that they now use the money / resources to get a centerfielder, sign a great bench, and get a reliable 2-3 year starter while the 5-7 guys in the minors figure themselves out. Who knows about that. (And yes, they could have done all this, and that's the type of team almost every fan wants their team to be, but I don't actually consider that a possible option in this reality. Prove me wrong, Lerners.  Prove me wrong.)

Also why'd they wait until today to say anything? My best guess is they wanted to get an idea of the posted bid before they'd say anything just in case it ended up being like 20 million and everyone would say they were stupid for not posting on that.  Of course they'd also say they were stupid for posting under that so really... why wait? Some sort of news control thing? Maybe they weren't sure if they did post a bid? To not distract Nats fans from the big news that Jeff Fulchino is now in the organization?

Maybe it's just me but this kind of thing seems typical Rizzo-Nats.  There a way of doing things.  Then there's the way the Nats do things which is just. a. bit. different.  You don't know why.  There doesn't seem to be any effect, positive or negative.  But every once in a while, there it is.  Still better than the Bowden-Nats though where Jimbo would have talked all week about the Nats posting 60 mill for Darvish, who was the next Halladay mixed with Lee but also like Pedro and the Big Unit, we would have watched them do nothing, then he would have explained that they liked Ryan Perry just as much as Darvish. Oh, and he would have thrown a racist Asian joke in there somewhere.

In other Bowden-era news Nats Insider has a "fun" look at the largest contracts in Nats history.  I really wanted to put largest in quotation marks but sadly, I couldn't.  These really are the largest ones.  Remember when I said I didn't consider going after Darvish AND fixing the other issues a realisitc possibility? Yeah.  When your 2nd biggest contract is for your sole marquee homegrown player and it would be considered a bargain, when nearly everything below it is for veteran place holders, when Cristian Guzman appears on the list TWICE, I think you can see what kind of team you are money-wise.  Right now Werth remains an exception

(And what a terrible exception! It's like telling a little kid he needs to stop spitting out his food, only to watch him shove the entire bowl of it in his mouth at once.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Don't post Darvish

He could be great.  He could be good. He could disappoint even if he throws a magic gyro ball.

Whatever becomes of him, it's a gamble in the neighborhood of 5years, 100 million total. That's a gamble a team with a depth of pitching prospects and a lot of positional uncertainty* does not need to make.

*Honestly other than a healthy Zimmerman who do you 100% trust to be productive next year?   Ok, I'll give you Morse, I don't see him suddenly becoming bad. No, I won't give you Ramos. I like him too but 100% is 100%.  The other Nats at or above average at the plate last year?  Espinosa (If I'm not giving you Ramos, I'm certainly not giving you Espinosa), Nix, and Hairston.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What was up with that Werth deal?

I don't mean that in the "it was a terrible deal" sense.  Of course it was, but it's not the terribleness that I'm wondering about.  It's the sheer money and years put in.  It could have been for an actual great player who was young and I'd still be confused.  Why confused?  Because that was a win now move and the Nats don't seem to be that kind of team, even when they could possibly... you know... win now.

Last week we found out that the Nats WAY underbid (or more likely - reasonably bid and the Marlins overbid but that's semantics) for Mark Buehrle.  3 years for 39 mill, vs the 4 years 58 mill he got.  They underbid on years and dollars.  Roy Oswalt is still out there but he wants a 3 years deal.  Since he hasn't signed I'm assuming the Nats didn't offer him that 3rd year (or anything).  BJ Upton is available - though the Rays have to be blown away.  Since he's not a Nat now I'm assuming the Nats didn't blow anyone away.  The Nats are playing it the same way they've always played it, except that one time.  They are looking for fair deals, or maybe something slightly in their favor.  Are they smart?  Cautious? Cheap? Make your own judgement, but the one thing that remains - that Werth deal doesn't make any sense.

If they were playing to win sooner rather than later - then there is no reason not to overpay in a deal or a trade for a guy that'll help you win now.  If they brought in Werth to lure in other free agents, shouldn't they have lured in some other decent free agents by now? Even just to validate the original deal? But no, right now nothing has happened, which makes that Werth deal look like a crazy aberration, only explained by the fact the Nats actually thought he was worth what they paid.

What was that about? A monentary lapse in judgement?  A grasp for relevency in case the young players didn't pan out? Blackmail?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rule V losses

Yankees pick up Brad Meyers, STL picks up Erik Komatsu. 

A fellow blogger (For the Cubs at View from the Bleachers) asked about Meyers earlier, so I got a little thing ready about him,

As crazy as it may sound he doesn't fit well into the Nats plans.  He'd likely be the 4th starter in AAA next year (behind Peacock, Milone, and Detwiler) and does not have an age advantage despite being only 26.  Lannan is only a year older and Zimmermann, Strasburg, and the three guys I mentioned are all the same age or younger.  Plus they have 5 guys (Purke, Meyer, Solis, Cole and Ray) they'd love to be able to move up to AA and AAA if needed.  So as good as he seems, he might not be in their top 10 pitchers projecting a couple years into the future.

It also doesn't help that Purke, Anthony Rendon, and Bryce Harper are all taking up roster spots even though none are likely to play more than a month and half in the majors next year.  So really the Nats only have 37 spots on the 40 available and they got players to sign.

Obviously the somewhat recent injury and the necessity to keep him in the majors all season weren't deterrents enough.  My guess is the Yanks do go ahead and try him as a starter first then push him into a reliever role if that fails.

Erik Komatsu? At 23 he still might become something as he has a good eye and has hit well for average more often than not, but he doesn't have the fielding ability to play CF and he doesn't have the pop in the bat to play the corners. The most likely scenario that I see is that he has a couple cups of coffee in the majors, maybe ends up as a 4th OF somewhere. I'm really not sure what the Cardinals see that they'd keep a guy like this on the roster all year long.

If you don't like the Nats losing these guys, I'll warn you that it's not going to get any better. I'd keep an eye out each of the next couple years on the Nats minor league FAs and Rule V guys.  With the depth of starters they are bound to have some useful pieces they can't protect.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Miami Mark

More tomorrow but the Marlins just signed Mark Buehrle.  Does it matter for the Nats? Yes.  Should you feel bad?  Not really.  Yes the fans want playoffs but there is still one big step to take to get there (not to mention the avoidance of bad luck).  The Nats seem to have what it takes to make that big step but not for one more year at least. And if you love great pitching, next offseason is the one that could have the big pitching prizes.  Of course you don't know which will test FA but if the Nats improve and play their cards right they could set up the leagues best rotation on paper for 2013-2016.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Nothing would feel worse than it actually is

Jose Reyes signs with the Marlins.  It's not like the Nats were interested (despite what some baseball guys believed) and by itself it doesn't make the Marlins better than the Nats... necessarily*.  But a team in your own division making a big-time signing does promote a level of envy.

Layne Nix signs with the Phillies.  It's not like the Nats needed to bring Nix back.  But he would have been a useful 4th OF, providing lefty pop off the bench, and a team in your own division grabbed him up (let's hope the Phillies have to play him everyday - although it sounds like they'll platoon him which would be perfect for the guy) meaning they are filling up those roster holes while you aren't.

The Nats want Mark Buehrle but so do the Marlins (who obviously will spend), the Rangers (who obviously are in a nice position if you want to make a championship run), and the White Sox (who obviously hold some advantage as the team he has been on for his entire career). 

The Nats' Plan B is Roy Oswalt, whose plans are up in the air.

The Nats Plan C is CJ Wilson, who is the Plan A for at least 2 other teams, and is drawing similar interest from attractive teams like the Red Sox who are perennial contenders, and the Angels, who are much closer to his home in Southern California.

If the chips fall the wrong way the Nats could end up with nothing. It would be disappointing but it would not mean that 2012 is any less exciting.  This is still a team on the rise and barring injury you have to believe that the 2012 Nats will be better than the 2011 version, even without considering the rise of such players like Bryce, Rendon, and the stable of young arms.  I feel like there should be more here to say but there really isn't.  The Nats could end up with nothing.  It could pretty easily happen. And that's ok. 

*The Marlins were bad last year, but had a pretty unlucky year. Outside of rookie sensation Mike Stanton and, I don't know, Greg Dobbs?  Who outperformed their expectations last year? Josh Johsnon - who could be as good as Strasburg - was out most of the year.  Hanley Ramirez - an all-star before last year - didn't just disappoint, he was flat out bad. With one more signing I could see this as a team that wins 15 more games.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The ChrisMarreroEra Part I comes to a close

Marrero, who was likely gonna be the back-up first baseman next year because... well because
  • he is cheap,
  • he has seemingly topped out in the minors, and most importantly
  • he doesn't seem good enough that you care he isn't getting at bats, 

has gone down with a torn left hammy.  The Nats don't really have any in-house options (they actually care about Tyler Moore and want him hitting everyday).  Ladson's article notes Mark DeRosa as a back-up possibly since he can fill in at more than one position. That is true.  He can.  So can I.  Also true.  And while we're going over truths let's remark how DeRosa is too old to field any thing but the "bad fielding" positions (corner OF and 1B) with any sort of skill, yet at the same time is too old to hit well enough to be stuck in those positions.  Just noting.

But the choice of DeRosa wouldn't be in a vacuum.  Are there better choices out there?  Yes, but not many.  If you can convince Derek Lee that it's time to back-up I think he'd make an ideal one but he had a strong finish to 2011. Good enough to make him and some GM believe he can start all year somewhere.  The Nats would be served well with some lefty pop if Nix and Ankiel both don't return.  But Hinske and Giambi both took small contracts to stay with their teams.  Juan Miranda, maybe?  That would be more interesting to me than DeRosa but you can see we're at a point where you wouldn't fault the team for going with DeRosa. (a totally intriguing option would be Jorge Posada - but that would take convincing him he should never bat righty nor play catcher, and he should switch leagues, to a team that might not make the playoffs... so not gonna happen) 

Maybe you can sign a better bat and move them to first, I guess. But at that point you might as well re-sign Nix or Ankiel as a 4th OF and move Morse over to first if something happens

Monday, November 28, 2011

Did you know : Paul Maurice

I know this isn't about baseball or about DC; but living in Durham Paul Maurice's career has always fascinated me as a testament to having the right friends.  How do you get a head coaching job in the NHL at age 28?  How do you keep it for so long being nothing special? How do you get re-hired after another non-special stint elsewhere?  Be buddies with the GM.  Hey Mike Rizzo, want to get a beer somewhere? Did you know:
  • Paul Maurice is the youngest coach to coach in 1000 NHL games. For someone to break his record they would have to start coaching at age 31 and coach over 12 consecutive years. (Chien-Ming Wang was 31 this year) Currently the coach hired at the youngest age in the NHL was 36 when he was hired.
  • Paul Marice is a year younger than the young Kirk Muller hired to replace him
  • Paul Maurice is 14th on the list for games coached, and 21st for games won despite a winning percentage of just over .500 (Boudreau had a .672 regular season winning percentage.  For contrast for those that know nothing of hockey, Earl Weaver, arguably the best modern manager, had a winning percentage of .583)
  • Paul Maurice coached for 9 seasons before coaching a team that was completely made up of players younger than he was
  • Paul Maurice was currently the 8th youngest coach in the NHL

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Someone help me out

It seems like the whole "this collective bargaining agreement hurts the competitive balance" is based on a very tenuous assumption that the spending that the Royal, Nationals, Pirates were doing would continue to only be done by a small number of small-market teams.  It seems to me as this method proved itself to be more and more successful (and fiscally responsible in comparison to FA signings) that more and more teams would do it and thus negate the advantage gained by these teams (as well as the large market teams doing similar things - like the Red Sox and Yankees).  

as Scott Boras gently weeps

The labor deal was signed and there are some changes worth noting.
  • Expanded Playoffs start next year.  Talked about this the other day, I don't like it, because if you played 162 games and won 85 you clearly aren't the best team so what the hell are you doing in the playoffs to determine the champion?  I'm sure it will add excitement and revenue, though.  And for some reason the wishes of the bulk of the fans and the league matter more than my own.  (Side note: I would have loved to see a "winning record" clause added though, where as a division winner who finishes under .500 can't make the playoffs.) 
  • "The agreement eliminates the Type A and Type B rankings for free agents, who will be subject to compensation if their former club offers a guaranteed one-year contract with a salary equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the prior season."  That average is about $12 million for 2012 from what I read. Unless I am understanding something wrong (and feel free to correct me - a quick scan at lunch is all I could afford today), this applies to all free agents. So if you are looking to get compensation for a free agent lost the cost has gone way up for mediocre to good players, but actually drops for great players. It's doubtful it will have much of an effect on the great players leaving (you'd be silly to not give up a draft pick for Pujols or Fielder this year, or Zimm after 2013) but we will probably see a few more Jonny Gomeseses on the market. 
  • "The penalties for exceeding a calculated monetary figure on Draft picks -- who can be signed only to Minor League contracts -- will be between 75 and 100 percent of the overage, as well as the potential loss of first- and second-round selections."  This really forces teams to use MLBs "slot" figures on draft deals, to the point where if you try to buy your way to being good through the draft (like Washington has done recently) you could lose picks. I don't see anyway young players can get around this as there is no age restriction, or restriction on signing with other professional leagues. Also once you enroll in a high school in the USA you are considered a US resident in terms of the draft.  So to circumvent the draft your parents would have to move to a foreign country (not Canada) before you were in high school. Maybe home school?
  • "Teams with the lowest revenues and in the smallest markets will have an opportunity to obtain additional Draft picks through a lottery."  Huh? Need to read more about this but in general I think baseball is agressively trying to even the playing field, for better or worse. 
  • "In addition, the 15 teams in the largest markets will be disqualified from receiving revenue sharing by 2016."  I now what this does in spirit but I'm not sure what this really does in practice, since I can't think of a large market team accused of tanking in order to gain revenue.  Fifteen does seem pretty arbitrary a cut off though.  I don't know how they figure it but this definitely includes DC.  Houston is another one that won't escape.  the Marlins, Mariners, Rays, and Twins all could sneak in depending. 
Just saw over at the post that Shairon Martis got picked up by the Pirates. Good for them. Martis is a talent that is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Forget the 3.05 ERA (well, put it aside at least).  He gave up 2.6 BB/9 and have 9.9 K/9, he didn't give up a bunch of homers and didn't give up a bunch of hits. A 24 year old, who pitched well in AA is worth a signing. Why'd the Nats let him go?  Well FA, Strasburg, ZNN, Lannan, Wang, Detwiler, Peacock, Milone, Purke, Meyer, Solis, Cole... he's getting squeezed out.

Any other Nats minor league FAs worth noting?  I think Matt Antonelli will be a big help to the Orioles next year.  Sorry if that makes you mad for some reason. But again with Espinoa, Zimm and Rendon (and maybe Lombardozzi) a 26 year old is not gonna get his chance. Still, I'll miss checking the blog. Here's him in a tub for the ladies!   Archie Gilbert was a guy who might have finally gotten it on the field last year (or it could have been a fluke). He's speedy too which means some team will be willing to pick him up, even if he might not have gotten it together off the field.

Monday, November 21, 2011

OK that's clever

 You all by now know of my minor obsession with internet "headline" writing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Playoffs Now? ... How about now?

Weekend question for you - would the addition of an extra playoff spot (the one-game WC knockout game) change your view on whether the Nats should make a playoff push in 2012 or not? How about with one less team to deal with?

Here's some facts to chew on.  Since 2001 in the NL:
  • the average WC team won 91 games, the average firstteam out won just under 89 games;
  • Only twice has a team made the playoffs winning less than 90 games, where as the first team out has only won more than 90 games twice.  
  • the most wins for a WC team is 95
  • the fewest wins for a first-team out is 85
>92 wins - virtual lock for playoffs
90-92 wins- better chance than not
88-89 wins - possible with some luck
<88 wins - forget about it

New scenario
>89 wins - virtual lock
88-89 wins- better chance than not
85-87 wins - possible with some luck
<85 wins - forget about it

 (of course I HATE the addition of any more teams to the playoffs.  But I'm a "Playoffs as a reasonable way to find the best team" kind of guy, not a "Playoffs a fun and exciting way to crown a champion" one. You are probably the latter. Most people are.    jerks)

Oh and Cole Kimball is back as Toronto tried to sneak him through waivers and the Nats claimed him.  So he'll sit on the 40 for half a year.  You would think that doesn't make sense, if they needed the space then - they should need it now, too, but maybe the CF trade talks are involving multiple guys that sit on the 40 or multiple guys they would normally protect in Rule V?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coley Kimbrall we hardly knew ya

Cole Kimball was claimed off waivers today by the Blue Jays.   The Nats needed space on the 40-man to prepare for the Rule V draft and Kimball wouldn't pitch until half-way through the season so he (along with the unwanted Corey Brown) were the most sensible men to try to get back to the minors. Unfortuantely for the Nats Kimball was good enough, and his contract situation so favorable, that the Blue Jays were willing to sit him on their 40-man while he recovers.

Is it a loss? Yes, but not a big one. After spending 2009 adjusting to being a reliever, Kimball had been very successful in that role posting ERAs under 2.50 at every stop, including the majors. He's big with the K, doesn't miss in a way that's easy to hit, and doesn't give up the long ball.  That sounds great but he also walks too many guys (7.1 BB/9 in the majors, over 5 in AA and AAA stints the last two years) right now to be the type of crunch-time reliever you rely on every day.  With Clippard and Storen in line right now, at best he's a 7th inning man next year and 8th inning guy if/when Clippard leaves. Could he develop like Hanrahan did? Sure, but you can say that about a lot of minor league relievers with live arms.  Kimball's a guy you can have pitch an inning and feel pretty confident the game isn't going to get away from you, and he's a guy that can come in when you NEED a K but can afford a walk.  Valuable but if your organization is any good, replaceable.

This is also one of the downsides of signing all those high draft picks.  The Nats have three guys on your 40-man who didn't play last year in the majors and could likely not play most of this year, Bryce, Purke and Rendon.  Of course if losing a bullpen arm is part of the cost of signing guys like this, you sign guys like this every time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

And in case you don't care about defense

and thought the Nats might deal for Matt Kemp.  Ain't happenin' (but is misbehavin'... anyone? anyone?)

Matt Kemp was a consistently below average fielding CF, with the possibility of shifting to awful as he ages.  But oh that offense.  A .300+ hitter with very good power will (and should) make you forget about D every time. The Nats were never serious contenders for the guy, but if you are on the World Series in the next two-three years bandwagon, then Kemp in center would have worked. Of course if you can live with him in center because of the offense, you probably can do the same for Bryce.

Really, though I point this out to show you how much he costs. Twenty mill a year for 8 years.  That's almost Werth money!   Coupled with the Melky trade, you can see how (over)valued CFs are right now. Upton will be very expensive.  Fowler would cost more than you think.  We should all be able to understand if the Nats can't make a deal for one and end up with a fill-in, much like Ankiel last year.  (Except on purpose not because Rizzo got mad one day and decided to give up on Nyjer for pennies on the dollar.)  Signing a Corey Patterson or Endy Chavez is not a playoff move, because with one slumping player you'd have that dead end of the lineup 7-9 you don't want to have, but if the Nats are serious about Bryce in center and/or don't want to overpay in trades or contracts, it may just be the best move for 2012.

(personally I say overpay in trades for Upton.)

Oh and speaking about Bryce, he's hitting .263 with 0 HR, 0BBs, and 6 Ks in his last 5 games.  I'm not drawing any conclusions about Bryce and his talent - I'm just noting this because if he went .450 with 5 HRs during that time span I'm sure we'd be hearing all about it.  We need to look at his stats over extended periods for evaluation, not validation of what we think we already know. We'll get back to this when the AFL wraps up in a couple weeks.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ramos SAFE!

Thank God. 


Jesus Christ ESPN - does not even this warrant your front page

Ramos Update - Friday Morning

Still no good news to report. No familial or police contact from the kidnappers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ramos Update

Of course you probably know all this but : 
- No contact with kidnappers
- Local police confirm he is alive
- Nats (nor any other mlb teams) have no official plans to pull players from Venezuela

Sources you should be following
Kilgore at the Post
Zuckerman at his blog
Juan Dominguez's Twitter feed
Rafael Rojas's Twitter feed

Anyone else surprised this isn't "front page" news on ESPN (or SI or Sportsline or Foxsports)?  Yahoo Sports is the only one that makes it even a top story.

Update: For those that don't read Spanish - Google's translate tool works very well. 

Fine, I'm not here to offend

But I'd still like a discussion on this.  This is how I deal with things, with humor.  Even the most terrible things I try to find something amusing, not for a cheap laugh but to keep from being overwhelmed on how horrible the thing actually is.  Is the only proper way to act to pass off a short statement of concern then never say anything again?

For those that are offended by humor, what did you think of the Onion's 9/11 response?  Certainly it was funnier but were you offended by that as well? Is it time? Tone? Or is humor never acceptable when dealing with difficult situations?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wilson Ramos kidnapped - seriously

Let's all hope for a swift and safe return.  

Veteran pitcher free agent bonanza

 Last week Rizzo said he wanted a veteran guy for the staff who could show the youngsters on the team " how to pitch 200 innings in a season many, many times in your career." 

Most people read that as "We want Mark Buehrle", which is fine.  Assuming the deal is fair and not for too long you could easily do worse and you know how I love the AL -> NL ptichers.  But what if he meant someone else and is kind of setting up the fanbase for the switcheroo if he can't get Mark?  Who else is there that fits that bill?

The first question is how many seasons is "many, many".  Certainly more than 5.  I'm thinking that is the threshold for a single "many".   6?  7?   Let's say 7.  And let's not limit it to strictly 200+, because I don't want an errant couple of 196 and 192 seasons to knock someone off this list.   Let's go 190+.   How many pitchers fit that bill - 7 seasons or more of 190+ innings pitched?  Turns out it's 18.*

We can rule out several.  Sabathia, Halladay, and Hudson aren't going anywhere. I can't see the Brewers dealing Wolf, or Angels dealing Haren now.  If he wanted Livan he could have signed him. Even if you liked him, Zito's contract is still too terrible to pick up, same with Arroyo.  The Indians seem to want Lowe's last year.  So that leaves 8 other guys that aren't Mark Buehrle, and all but one are free agents.

I'll go ahead and knock off two more since I doubt Jeff Suppan (8) and Ryan Dempster (7) fit Rizzo's description well.  Suppan isn't a winner or leader but a back of the rotation innings eater. Dempster spent half his career in the pen and doesn't seem to be the type to teach guys about consistently pitching 200 innings. Plus he's the guy with the (expensive) year left.  Who's left?

Mark Buehrle (11 times meeting my criteria) - broken 200IP every season he's started.  Definite "leader" type.  Certainly a strong possibility
Javy Vazquez (11) - after a horrid start pitched very well to end the year in Florida. There's an inconsitency here though that has to be worrying, and has he ever been the leader of his staff? Should get a pretty nice deal too. On the doubtful side.
Jon Garland (8) - again not a leader, injured last year and really a West Coast guy through and through. No chance.
Kevin Millwood (8) - After nobody wanted him finally caught on with the Rockies and did pretty well. Pitched 198 innings in 2009 but really hasn't been consitently reliable since 2003.  Was a staff leader for a while.  Seems doubtful.
Roy Oswalt (7) - great pitcher who fits the leadership criteria.  Injured last year though and Rizzo kind of hinted the guy he's looking for may not have the "best stuff" Oswalt's stuff is great.  A better pitcher than Buehrle but Buehrle sounds more like Rizzo's guy.
Bartolo Colon (7) - A workhorse in his younger days, last broke 200 in 2005.  This year was his first year of close to full season starting since then so it's hard to bet on him helping a rotation for a full year.  Pretty old now (38) and would you call him a leader?
Freddy Garcia  (7) - Similar to Colon, except more of a leader and more dependable right now.  Dark horse emergency candidate.**

Even with more pitchers being FAs than I would have imagined, it's pretty clear he was talking about Buehrle. You have to think he's the target with an outside chance of it being Oswalt.  If they lose out on both those guys, you might see a cheap deal offered to Garcia or maaaaybe Millwood, if Rizzo is committed to get exactly the type of pitcher he said he was looking for.

*interesting to me side note #1 - at 6 seasons you find both Matt Cain (27 next year) and Felix Hernandez (26).  These guys are studs.  Cain will be a FA next year. Just saying.

**interesting to me side note #2 - the 2006 White Sox rotation featured Garcia, Buehrle, Garland AND Vazquez. All broke 200 IP. The 5th pitcher was Jose Contreras who gave them 196 innings. Only one start came from someone outside these 5. Why didn't they win? It was Buerhle and Garcia's worst years up to that point and Vazquez's second worst (and Garland and Contreras weren't that good to begin with)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Damn you Jerry Sandusky

Moralizing sportwriting (quite possibly the worst kind of sportswriting) is up like 1000% in the past few days. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a overwrought, preachy column these days.  Can't we talk about the BCS or something?

(yes and damn him for the child abuse too)

Monday, November 07, 2011

If you're thinking about getting Upton cheap

Melky Cabrera, who is
  1. A worse hitter than BJ Upton,
  2. A worse fielder than BJ Upton,
  3. A worse baserunner than BJ Upton,
  4. on a contract no longer than BJ Upton's (though admittedly will be several million cheaper);

cost the Giants Johnathon Sanchez AND another (older) pitching prospect.  (and some people think the Royals should have gotten more)

Detwiler + Flores != BJ Upton
Desmond + Marrero + Kimball != BJ Upton

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hot Stove - Outfield

This is a tricky offseason for Mike Rizzo.   It seems pretty cut and dried.  He should go out and get a CF, maybe get a pitcher and roll with that until 2013 when the team will likely have full seasons of Bryce, Strasburg and some free agent first baseman (or maybe Rendon).  But what if he needs to trade a MI to get that CF or pitcher?  Then he needs to get a MI too.  What if he decides to bring up Bryce? Then he needs to somehow deal LaRoche (or Morse I guess) to make room.  There's a lot of moving parts to this offseason.  Let's look at each area in question individually and we'll start in the outfield

We all know Werth (6 yrs 112 million left) is set.  They aren't going to give up on their big signing one year in and even if they wanted to, no one is going to take that contract off the Nats hands.  Mike Morse will likely take the 2nd spot in the outfield.  While it's tempting to say the Nats should start Morse at first over LaRoche, it doesn't make much sense, at least to start the year.  Thanks to his injury Adam is non-tradeable, but beyond that there are too many good reasons to play him.  The Nats want to be a pitch to contact good-field team.  All the fancy stats agree, Morse is not a good fielder and LaRoche is. Adam, prior to the injury, was consistently a positive offensive player.  And of course, the Nats are paying him 8 million dollars next year.  What's the converse?  Why do you not start Adam? Because Mike Morse seemed more comfortable at first?  Because you want to bring up Bryce now? To me these are nice back-up plans to have but at season's start, if he's ready, LaRoche should be manning first.

Ok then who gets the third spot?   The popular choice is still Bryce.  He's tearing it up in the AFL right now and could likely at the very least hang in the majors offensively in 2012.  A couple things though. First, Rizzo has stated several times in the past he likes a slow deliberate build to the majors for his stars. Bryce didn't dominate AA last year.  It's completely conceivable Rizzo would want to see that before moving the kid up. Also, the kid is still learning how to play the outfield.  He's more of a corner outfielder, but to put him there would mean moving Werth to center.  Moving a guy at 33 to the most important defensive position in the outfield is risky business.  You could play him in center, which the Nats are trying to teach him, but all word is he's not good enough yet.  Given Rizzo's emphasis on D, I just don't see it to start 2012.  Everything here feels a year away.

Nix, Gomes, Bernadina?  Ha ha ha. (by the way Gomes did hit himself out of Type B FA status so chalk that one up in the loss column for Rizzo)

Free agency isn't really viable. Grady Sizemore is the lottery ticket in CF.  Prior to injuries he was a plus fielder in center and a great hitter.  If he were to get back to that any team that signs him would have a huge steal.  Of course most lottery tickets are losers. The injuries happened and it's been a long slog back just to be a bad major leaguer. He's played 100 games the last 2 years and hit .220 / .280 /.379 while doing it. This isn't a gamble, it's a sucker bet. If you get lucky it's by the grace of whatever deity Rizzo worships. Unless he can get him on a Wang-esque deal this doesn't seem to be Rizzo's type of guy.   The other name bandied about is Coco Crisp.  Here are some numbers

34 years old .301 / .323 / .426
32 years old  .264 /.314 / .376

The latter is Coco Crisp who I figure will get a multi-year deal around 10 million.  The former?   Endy Chavez.  Granted it's just one year (which is why you don't expect those middle stats to be repeated), but he's a plus fielder who you could plug in center for a year and pay very cheaply.  I'm not advocating getting Endy.  I'm saying there's no point in getting Coco.  There just ins't value there. If Rizzo insists on going that route then yes, bring in a Chavez or Corey Patterson, or hell, bring back Ankiel.  But that's not a smart idea.  That's an acceptable non-move.

This leaves trades.  We discussed this plenty back around the deadline, but the general consensus is that Upton will be rather expensive, Span too now that the Twins were able to unload Delmon Young, and Fowler is obtainable but seems unable to progress in any fashion in the majors.  (Michael Bourn was the last name talked about but he got dealt to the Braves and is there in 2012)  Rizzo has pieces to deal, guys like Norris and Detwiler, but ask yourself this; rumors suggested Rizzo balked at dealing Storen and Bernadina for Span.  That's a reliever, a damn good one but still a reliever, and a 4th OF.  Do you think he could he bring himself to deal a position player or starter? Guys with a ton more potential value? I don't see that either.  Rizzo's (very typical by the way, so don't blame him. almost every GM is like this) over-valuation of his own talent / fear of losing a trade makes a deal for Upton or Span a non-starter in my book.

Which leaves the Nats with what in the end?  A potential deal for Fowler. A guy who may very well benefit from a change of pace but at the same time might give the Nats nothing. He might be obtainable for the level of talent Rizzo would be willing to part with. Not exactly the big move Nats fans are looking for, but this is what I see.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Goodness In Baseball Bravery, Yep?

I don't know if I like or don't like the fact this article was written as if I knew what the acronym "GIBBY" stood for.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I would have been rooting for the Cards all along

If I knew this was the end result.

Here's a Monday Philosophical Question for you folks.  What is the obsesssion with "going out on top"?  Like why is that such a good thing? I've thought about it and I can't wrap my head around it.

I can see how some people would want to go out at a time of their choosing.  Me, personally, if I was doing something that I loved and was getting paid exorbitantly for doing it, my "chosen time" would be when they kicked my ass out, but that's me.  I get some people are prideful.  But you don't have to go out "on top" to go out on your own volition.  A couple years later when you are still good but can admit that it's gonna take a miracle for you to go out as a star again would still accomplish that.  Think Derek Jeter, if he left this year.

No, the only reason I can see for wanting to go out on top is if what other people thought of you was so important that you wanted to make sure everyone thought of you as only a winner.  (I can totally see that being true for Tony LaRussa by the way) Don't we teach our kids not to worry about what other people think?  That it only matters if you're happy?  Why the disconnect when it comes to entertainers, in this instance, sports figures?

This is a pet peeve of mine, along with back hair and dates who only talk about themselves. Nothing makes me madder than hearing some talk radio idiot spout off about how player X should retire because they are embarrassing themselves. Tell me how I'm wrong here.  Tell me how Willie Mays should have stopped playing before he wanted to because some schmo 40 years from now will somehow still be focused on a dropped flyball and not 660 home runs over 20+ years of a hall-of-fame career.

Clarification : I guess I went a little off the rails in the middle there - but the question is more about us than them.  I don't see Tony LaRussa's retirement as any better timed than say Whitey Herzog or Frank Robinsons. In fact it may be worse-timed if he still wanted to manage some more.  John Elway's isn't better than Joe Montana's.  Michael Jordan and Brett Favre didn't "ruin anything" by coming back. What's the counter argument?  Win me over.  It seems like a lot of people, I'd dare say the majority, feel the other way. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The Cardinals and Anya win in the same night?  Double ugh.  Am I right?

What a terribly played, terribly managed, terribly exciting game. It's a shame it didn't just end with Nelson Cruz trying really hard to miss that line drive because that really captured what Game 6 was all about.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Roy Oswalt talk

Philly made it official, declining the 16 million dollar option on Roy Oswalt's option.  With arbitration being extremely unlikely to get the Phillies the deal they want, Oswalt is going to be the free-est of the free agents, one that can be signed without losing any draft picks.  That's a big bonus for draft pick loving Mike Rizzo.  But there's more to Oswalt than just a typical free agent.

Oswalt has long made it clear the baseball life isn't really for him.  He said before his last deal that he could very well retire when this contract is up, and every reporter seems to believe he's serious. This talk, and his last contract, make everyone believe that his next deal, if ithere is one, will be of the one or two year variety.  That type of short-term investement and the lack of draft pick compensation would make him very attractive to the Nats... and everyone else. Oswalt will most likely get to pick and choose his next spot from a dozen suitors.  Philadelphia could be it, but why take less money to throw in a hitters park, a long way from home, for a team possibly looking at an off year?  It seems unlikely that he'll be back to me.

But pick and choose doesn't exactly bode well for the Nats.  They should be good next year but can they guarantee a playoff spot? Is DC any practical distance closer to Mississippi than Philly? Texas, Atlanta, and St. Louis all could offer closer locations to home and arguably better shots at the playoffs. If he can't be wowed by the money then I just don't see Washington winning the bidding war for him.

Do the Nats even want Oswalt? Yes they do. The narrative of the season is a little alarming. The drop in K-rate (6.02 K/9 this year - 7.35 career) and the overwhelming reliance on his change (up from 15% of his pitches last year to 19% last year) rather than his breaking stuff (down from 29% to 20%) says "pitcher on the decline".  But this narrative is misleading.  First off everything else remained stable.  He was walking the same, giving up the same type of hits. Sure his HR/FB ratio was a little lucky (0.65 this year, 0.75 career) but the BABIP he had was a little unlucky (.316 , .296).  Nothing else says decline. More importantly, if you look at his splits before and after injury, you can see that the back was bringing him down.  He was at 15% breaking stuff and a 5.3 K/9 when he went out.  He came back and pitched more in line with what you'd expect from Oswalt.

Roy Oswalt going to pitch well.  If healthy, he could be great.  If like this year, he's still good. As a one or two year gamble, any team would do well to pick up Oswalt.  I don't see it being the Nats.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Driving While Disappointing Advertisers

Phew. We were one Napoli swing away from "Cardinals staff is better than you think" articles.

Also, Joe Torre is thinking about banning beer in all clubhouses. This is insane. Oh it's not insane that they are thinking about doing it.  Sure it's an overreaction that infantilizes grown men, but this is sports- they do that all the time. No, it's insane because it's not a DUI or a death that causes this issue to reach a head, it's because THE RED SOX MISSED THE PLAYOFFS.

"Step out of the vehicle, sir."
"What's going on, officer?  What did I blow?"
"A nine-game lead for the Wild Card, sir".

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bryce might not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer


His slow start in the Arizona Fall League (.200 / .282 / .400 over 9 games - though his last games was a 3 hit affair with a double and a homer) shouldn't worry anyone. He just, like Sunday "just", turned 19.  He could spend 2 more whole years figuring out how to hit good pitching, come up in the spring of 2014, and still be a super young rookie. 

But I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to dial the hype machine down just a tad. All the way back in early summer this year the comparisons made were to Griffey and A-Rod and Mantle.  These comparisons didn't just come from slobbering fanboys but from places where you'd expect reason to reign.  And they were fair comparisons.

18 year old A-ball stints
Junior : .338 / .431 /.575
A-Rod : .319 /.379 /.605
Bryce : .318 /.423 / .554

But things get a little less favorable for Bryce during each players brief AA stints the same year.
Junior : .279 /.353 /.492
A-Rod : .288 / .391 / .441
Bryce : .256 /.329 / .395

"But Harper" you say (well actually YOU probably say "But Mr. Blogger Man!" because "Harper" is Bryce to you.  You are wrong.  I'm Harper!) "It's only 37 games for Bryce (and 17 for Griffey and A-Rod) in AA.  That's not enough of a sample size to make a fair comparison!"You're right. But neither is the 72, 65, and 58 games spent in A-ball. We all want Bryce to be the next big thing.  Nats fans obviously , but there also seems to be a push from everyone to anoint Bryce the greatest thing ever.  Why?  Well I think because we're in a little bit of a dry spell for great young players. 

I looked up players who amassed WARs of 25 or more by the age of 25.  You have a lot of guys that have hit speed bumps on their way to dominant offensive careers.  Mauer - injured and not yet recovered, Sizemore - injured and maybe not ever recovering, Wright - just suffered through his worst year (which actually wasn't that bad.  Mets fans don't appreciate this guy like they should), and Hanley Ramirez - just suffered through HIS worst year (which actually was that bad).  Jose Reyes just had a great year but his value is tied up a lot in his defense.  He's more of a good bat with great D than an offensive force.  Almost all these guys are 28 (Hanley is 27) so chances of an explosion into something REALLY special are rapidly dwindling.

There are only two great young bats out there yet to get sidetracked, Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria, and both of them are on the low end of WAR totals in comparison to the guys we are looking at. For Longoria that's is pretty fair.  He's a great fielder and a very good hitter but he's not in the "OMG" highest echelon.  He's still young enough to go on a Frank Thomas like tear through his later 20s, but that's a tall order.  Cabrera on the other hand is hanging in there with the bat. He's just terrible in the field.
There isn't much coming. The "young" guys rounding into form like Ellsbury, Kemp, Tulo, are all 27/28.  Maybe Mike Stanton can turn a corner? Elvis Andrus can start hitting .330? Zimm can be that new Frank Thomas? The best hope is Justin Upton who finally broke through to what people expected from him but he's 3 years behind the Griffeys and the A-Rods of MLB history and has yet to repeat this level of awesomeness.

In terms of an elite, first-ballot, no-doubter, you know when he's 27 enjoy the ride, type guy, baseball hasn't lacked one since the late 70s.  Henderson and Ripken rolled into Bonds, who rolled into Griffey, who rolled into A-Rod, who rolled into Pujols. There isn't one out there right now. Baseball is hungry for Bryce to be that guy. Can he be?  Yes.   Will he be? Maybe, but let's wait until he's in the majors putting up MVP seasons at the age of 21 before we go there, ok?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Offseason for everyone

With only 4 or 5 games left in the season (I'm picking the Rangers in 5 so gotta at least believe in myself) the baseball season is pretty much done. The Nats might be active in trades and free agency, but then again they might not be.  2012 is still not about the playoffs.  They could choose to wait it out another year and see how all those young players progress before making any moves. 2013 also looks to have a deeper free agent class and LaRoche will be done giving the Nats some more flexibility.  While I expect one trade, for either a starter or a CF, don't be disappointed if they do nothing.   Well... I can't tell you how to feel, so scratch that.  Don't be surprised.  Because I told you nothing might happen. I think that's fair

Given nothing is happening, the posts are slowing down. Look for more 3 posts a week than 5 posts a week during the offseason.  I'm also might get on Twitter (mainly because I still get confused at times reading tweets by those symbols and I don't like feeling that out of touch) so if you are dying for Nats baseball information there might be that. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dammit again.

When the playoffs start I generally break teams down into 4 groups.  The team(s) I'm rooting for, the teams I wouldn't mind seeing win, the teams I just don't care about, and the teams I don't want to win.  Because I'm a hooker with a baseball of gold, few teams fall into the last two categories.  I can usually find some reason to be interested in a team and there aren't many dislikable teams in baseball (at least to me).  In this year's playoffs almost any combination would have been an ok world series to me, but one of the few (two?) that wouldn't is the one we got.  Nice.

I don't care about the Rangers.  In theory I should be able to get behind Josh Hamilton, since he appeared in the small Christmas parade that goes right in front of my house before he had his breakout year, but I just can't get up any sort of emotion.  I'm not interested in seeing any of their pitchers. There isn't a batter on the team who's at bats are can't miss. They don't compel. Watching the Rangers for me is watching baseball because I want to watch baseball. That's not a bad thing but you hope for something more out of the World Series than "last chance to watch baseball".

Of course that's better than the Cardinals, who were the only team that made the playoffs that would bother me if they won it all.  Most of that is because of LaRussa.  The guy is an insufferable pain who thinks he's 10 times smarter than everyone.  You can't watch him without wanting to punch him in the face. He's the Bill Maher of major league managers.  Plus I'm not over the 2006 WS winning team.  Those guys represent everything that's wrong with the playoff system.  You want to try to find the best team in the league not a mediocre squad that sneaks into the playoffs, gets hot at the right time, and ends up champion because the team they are facing keeps tripping over its own two feet. They even got David Eckstein an MVP!  David Eckstein!  For being the 4th best hitter on his team during the series and having a misplayed fly ball end up being his "big hit".   Forget Maris and Bonds, this team should have an asterisk. At least let enough time pass so I can forget what an abomination that series was before putting yourself back in line to win another championship.  (on the plus side - I can get behind Berkman winning a ring and Pujols is appt watching)

Any way so there you go. Go Rangers, I guess.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Nonsense hypotheticals blogs are made for

If Rizzo is ready to win, he should go get Josh Beckett.

Not saying he's available, because trading him would be dumb (listen to this guy, not this guy) but the fans are clamoring for one of the drinking, chicken-eating pitchers to go*.  It's not going to be Lester.  He's good young and cheap.  It's not going to be Lackey. He's terrible and is paid like a bazillion dollars for a million years. (Unless the RedSox eat like 80% of the salary and if so.. well go get Lackey  It'd be 3 million a year for 3 years.  I'd take that gamble) So it would have to be Beckett.

Would you deal for Beckett?  What would you give up for him.  He's good and young and durable so you're talking top prospects here.   Rendon.   Cole and Purke.  Something like that. 

*Speaking of which - how dumb is that?  The Red Sox didn't make the plaoyffs because (in no particular order) Crawford has the worst year ever, Youkilis missed 40 games and underperformed when he played, JD Drew finally gave up the ghost, Jed Lowrie regressed, Wakefield finally started failing, Clay Buchholz missed half the year, they could never find a decent 5th starter, and they had issues with bullpen depth. None of that can be blamed on shenanigans (I left out Lackey sucking - because I guess you could link those if you wanted)  All that couldn't be made up for their only positive surprise - Ellsbury's MVP season.  And yet fans want to blame some guys having beer and chicken on their off-days.  Fans are stupid. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Statistical Meandering and Bad Stats

While watching the games last night I was informed of two things.   The first was the advantage the team winning game 3 gets, after splitting the first two games.   I'm not exactly sure, but I believe they said that 78% of such teams went on to win the series.  Ok, fine.  But is that a tangible advantage or a simple mathematical one? And by that I mean - what would the odds be if wins were just randomly assigned?

There are 10 possible combinations remaining for the games involved.  Making two big assumptions, equal probability of winning and no home field advantage, the odds work out that the Cardinals would win this sereis 68.75% of the time if each of the future games was decided by a coin flip. (25% chance they win in 5, 25% chance they win in 6, 18.75% chance they win in 7).  That is noticeably smaller than 78% so that would suggest there would be a psychological advantage in winning game 3.

Of course that's way too simple. Home field advantage should be factored in.  Unfortunately, that involves going back and looking at each of these series individually.  In the interest of time, I'm not going to do that.  That other assumption though, I can make a run at that. If a team has won 2 of 3 games, it makes more sense to believe that they are the better team.  If that's the case, they would win more than 50% of the games against their opponent.  (Note I'm not saying the Cardinals are better than the Brewers.  I'm saying if we looked at all these series that the winner of game 3 would be objectively better than the loser more often than not).  What does that mean for the chance of winning?

If we simply bump up the percentage chance of winning an individual game to 52%, the odds of winning the series gets bumped up to 71.7%.  Is 52% high?  I don't think so.  That's like saying if these two teams played a 162 game season solely against each other, the better team would win 84 games. To get to a 78% advantage, though, you are looking at a 57% win chance. That's in the better team winning 92 games area.  That does seem high.  These teams don't win much more than that against a mix of all sorts of teams. To win that many solely playing against a good squad seems unlikely. 

There are other things to be considered, too, notably how many such series they are actually looking at and the strength of the starters due to pitch. This isn't anything more than playing with numbers, though.  We're sitting at a chance of winning the series in the low 70s right now.  Off the top of my head, I'd say I'm still not convinced that that 78% is anything more than a blip of a few percentage points caused by small sample size.


The bad stat that I was informed of was made in an attempt to say how unlikely it was that the Cardinal bullpen would hold the lead.  They noted that only YOUR Washington Nationals had more blown saves.   That didn't seem right to me so I looked it up.  It's true.  But you'll also see on that link why that's a bad stat.  The Nats had more save opportunities than all but one other team.  Their save percentage wasn't great but it wasn't near the worst in the league.  Same for the Cardinals.

If you want to evaluate the relief core fairly, well there's a lot of directions you can go. ERA (Cardinals 11th, Nats 4th),  xFIP (7th and 8th),  looking individually at the players involved and their applicable situational stats :
Salas: 2.28 ERA, 3.62 xFIP 
Lynn : 2.22 ERA, 2.21 xFIP
Rzepczynski : held lefties to a .163 / .256 /.221 line with 37 Ks in 118 at bats
Motte : 2.25 ERA, 3.39 xFIP.

Looking at this it's not that suprising the Brewers didn't score again.  You would have expected baserunners, and maybe 1 run was more likely than zero, but the story here isn't "How is this flawed bullpen doing this?",  it's "smart managing of an average bullpen".   But never let facts get in the way of a good narrative.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Please lose St. Louis


(Sorry Lance Berkman)

No Gomeses and Dykstras in 2012, please.

Yesterday I off-handedly mentioned Jonny Gomes might have lost his Free Agent B status.  I checked it out, and the reverse engineerer at MLB trade rumors seems to think so, too.   These aren't official by any means but he's shown a good track record of getting it right. 

What does this mean?  Rizzo traded away something of value on a good bet that he'd make his team worse. Gomes was hitting .211 / .336 / .399 when he was dealt.  It couldn't have shocked the team when he followed up with 2 months of .204 / .299 / .366 baseball.  Oh he did ok starting against lefties, but that wasn't the point of bringing in Gomes. It was to provide righty pop off the bench and hopefully get the Nats a draft pick.  Gomes got all of 0 hits in 18 PH at bats (presumably mostly against lefties).  He likely won't bring back any compensation if the Nats were to offer him arbitration.  Manno and Rhinehart are not huge losses but when your buddy hands over $3 for a bag of magic beans, you still gotta call him out on being stupid.

This isn't the first time Rizzo has given up something for nothing. Whatever you think about dealing Nyjer Morgan, and the fanbase truly is split, it was a bad trade.  Morgan had value.  Cutter Dykstra was a waste of a minor league space in 2011. 

These deals fly in 2011 if only because each individual win wasn't important. So what if he made smarter deals and got the Nats a win or 2 more?  It doesn't change the fortunes of the squad. I've liked the job Rizzo has done so far.  I don't see how anyone could argue otherwise. But it's time for Rizzo to reign in his less successful qualities.  Don't obssess over getting one more draft pick.  Don't throw guys away for nothing just because you don't like them.  In 2012 each individual win may very well matter.

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 Review - Trades

It's the off-season and with deals likely to be bandied about over the next few months, now's a good time to go back and look at the trades made this season and what the early indications are based on post-trade performance.  This is not to settle "winners and losers", given it's only been 3 months since the latest of these deals took place, it's just to give of a feeling of how these may end up when we look back at them years from now.

Traded Josh Willingham (.246 / .332 / .477, 29 homers) to the Oakland Athletics. Received Corey Brown (AAA .235 / .326 / .402, 134Ks in 124 games) and Henry Rodriguez. (3.56 ERA 45BB 70 K 14 WP)

It would have been nice to have Willingham's pop but it probably would have been at the expense of Mike Morse playing.  Right there this looks like a good deal for the Nats.  Corey Brown's nice AA stint looks like a fluke and feelings are trending toward the idea he'll never make enough contact to hang in the majors. Henry Rodriguez remains a mystery.  Is he Brian Bruney or Joel Hanrahan?   Still no answer and until we figure that out this trade is more of a nothing for nothing deal.

Traded A.J. Morris (didn't pitch in 2011), Graham Hicks (3.98 ERA in A-ball ) and Michael Burgess (.225 20HR in A+ ball) to the Chicago Cubs. Received Tom Gorzelanny.(4.46 ERA as a starter, 2.42 as a reliever)

Gorzelanny might have flopped out of the 5th starter role, but he'll be an inexpensive and effective long reliever / spot starter in 2012. AJ Morris was the big get for the Cubs but his injury recovery from shoulder surgery was slow.  Graham Hicks and Burgess are both 21 meaning they will both be old next year for the league they were in, especially for high school guys.  Nothing about Hicks line makes you think he'll make the majors.  Burgess still has a ton of power but until he can get that average up he's not going anywhere. Right now it's looking good for Rizzo.

Traded Justin Maxwell (.260 16 homers in 48 games) to the New York Yankees. Received Adam Olbrychowski (4.16 ERA in A+).

Olbie is a failed starter that's looking very much to be a failed reliever.  If 22 is on the old side for non-college A-ball guys what is 24?  Maxwell showed crazy power (a homer every 3rd game) in AAA  before injuring his shoulder.  If Maxwell can come back from injury the Yankees should get some value from him where I doubt the Nats are going to get anything from Adam, but still that's an "if".  Pretty nothing deal right now.

Traded Nyjer Morgan (.304 , plus defense in CF) to the Milwaukee Brewers. Received Cutter Dykstra (.212 / .265 / .265 line in A+ ball) and cash.

Terrible trade. You can argue whether or not the Nats should have dealt Morgan, but you can't argue that the Nats got nothing of value back for him. Nyjer was a major league CF with at least a few good years left and a decent track record of success at the plate and in the field. You have to get something more back for him than a kid who's still in the minors because of one good year and a famous last name.

Traded Alberto Gonzalez (.215 / .256 / 283) to the San Diego Padres. Received Erik Davis (5.30 ERA in A and AA) and cash. 

Erik Davis is another 24 year arm that didn't produce in A and AA, but it was very much a surprise that he performed that badly. Alberto is nothing but a defensive replacement. Nats might have thought they were getting a steal here, but again nothing for nothing right now.

Traded Bill Rhinehart (.287 / .380 / .513 in AA) and Christopher Manno (0.53 ERA, 31 K , 6 BB in 13 games in A+ ball, ) to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Jonny Gomes (.204 / .229 / .306 3 homers in 43 games)  and cash.

Jonny Gomes did nothing good for the Nats.  He didn't play well enough to hope he'd decline arbitration.  (He might have even played himself out of Type B status at that) He didn' help Nix by putting him in a platoon situation. He didn't hit well enough to give the Nats a win or two.  Rhinehart kept doing what he's doing - heading toward a few years on the bench in the majors.  Manno though, Manno looks like he's only getting better.  It was only 17 innings with the Reds, but he was that good with the Nats before hand.  It's a long way from A+ to the majors but this could be a stinker of a deal for the Nats in a few years. A good lefty is a good lefty.

Traded Jerry Hairston (.274 / .348 / .379)  to the Milwaukee Brewers. Received Erik Komatsu (.234 / .298 / .297 in AA).

Komatsu took a step back after coming over.  It doesn't look good but like Davis he had a decent track record. Unlike Davis he's 23 and ended the year in AA, not 24 in A+. He gets more leeway. We'll see how he does next season.  Hairston helped the Brewers with his continued decent play, but the Nats didn't need him and the trade was pretty fair.  I can't fault Rizzo here.

Traded Jason Marquis (9.53 ERA) to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Received Zachary Walters (.293 / .336 / .371 in A+). 

Walters lost a little pop as the Nats moved him up from A-ball to A+ball, but he played decent enough to maybe move up to AA next year.  That's good enough to lay off him for the time being. The real shame here is the Nats sitting on Marquis rather than dealing him while he was (relatively) hot.  Walters is a fair return for the Marquis they dealt, but the Marquis sitting at 3.50 at the end of June with 7 runs given up in his last 5 games could have brought more. The trade itself isn't a loser, but it isn't what it could have been for the cost of maybe a win or two.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Part of me wants to root for the Tigers the rest of the way.  The other part of me cannot stand another round of "POOR DETROIT NEEDS THIS!!!!" talk.  Right now the first part is stronger.  Make your move, media. 

2011 Review - My Predictions

I feel like if you are going to make predictions you need to go back and look at them otherwise they are pretty pointless.  So today I'm going to go over what I said on Opening Day and how they turned out.  I'm pretty terrible at these things and admit as much so be kind. I'm not picking on any of the crazy statements made by you commenters.

"79 wins"
 Hey not bad at all!  One of the key points to picking this many wins was knowing that 2010's team was a bit unlucky and should have won a few more games. I wasn't really thinking 10 game improvement as much as 7 game.   I was betting on improvement from the offense and the starting pitching, but I'm sure I was thinking Werth and LaRoche would help and we'd get average starts from #2-#5 (unlike 2010s terrible back-end) not that Morse and ZNN would be borderline All-Stars. 

"I'll go with Lannan being the best pitcher in the rotation. Livan worst"
Lannan was good but ZNN was clearly the best.  You could argue Livan was the worst (4.47 ERA), but really Gorzelanny couldn't even hold his spot.  That's gotta be worserer. And I'm sure I was thinking something far worse than a 4.50 ERA for Livan.

"I think I've convinced myself that Desmond won't be starting at short all year long."
Real close for a while (at least in the Should World), but a August/September pick-up and the fact that Lombardozzi was a complete dud in his first major league try meant that Ian never lost his spot.

"Ankiel will have most starts in center, but he won't get to 81 games there."

Yes and No.  Ankiel would start 84 games in center (and play in 105 games there).  Jesus, that's a lot of Ankiel.

"Storen will stick as closer. H-Rod won't pitch in the majors until September call-ups."

Yes and No.  (I got to stop bundling these).  Nailed the Storen bet. You could argue H-Rod still needed to work on his control in the minors but that's not the bet. He came up at the end of April 30th and hung around the whole year pitching in 59 games.

"Over/Under on Wang + Maya starts for the Nationals at 4. Who wants the over?"

Not even close.  Maya himself started 5 games (3 too many) and I feel I was right in spirit on him. But Wang finally got over his injury and started 11. Way off.

"Team Leader" Pudge, the super veteran / professional becomes an unhappy distraction as he loses playing time to Ramos."

I was even more wrong here.  Pudge showed nothing but class about being regulated to back-up duty.  I have to say that I feel I haven't appreciated Pudge enough.  Oh he shouldn't be playing regularly on a major league team, but his defense is still good enough to be a back-up at a position where back-ups regularly can't hit OR field. And it's not his fault the Nats gave him that silly contract and played him everyday. He loves the game so he should go out and play it.  It's the Nats that made him hateable.

"I'll go with the Marlins crashing below the Nationals and the Braves to take the division as the Phillies offense implodes with the combination of Utely's injury, Howard's aging, and Rollins being only sometimes good anyway. Take that Cliff Lee - you big jerk"
Another Yes and no.  The Marlins did crash below the Nats.  Well crash is probably too strong a word but they did go from 80 wins last year to 72 this year, good for tied for 12th in a fairly competitive NL.  The Braves though didn't pass the Phillies.  Utley was limited, but Howard didn't take another step back like he did in 2010, Rollins had a bounce back year, and somehow Shane Victorino had the year of his life. Cliff Lee is still a jerk though.


Am I supposed to console myself with 5 World Series titles, the last of which was only 2 seasons ago?  I am?

Oh well, yeah that works ok, but no promises for next year.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Lazy Sportswrting 201 - Losing in the Playoffs

This is not just a blog about the Nationals. Oh no. It's is also a service blog for young journalists aspiring to be lazy sportswriters. With the next two days filled to the brim with elim... ination games (see how lazy that was?  Take notes!) I figured I would help out those plucky kids with a guide to what type of column they should write if their team loses. All they have to do is answer two simple questions and find the corresponding column below.
  1. Is your team young, in its prime, or aging?
  2. In the last 3 years or so have they not made the playoffs, made the playoffs and lost, or made the playoffs and won it all? 
That's all it takes. With those questions answered and the knowledge of whether the team won or lost, you can fill in the names like Mad Libs. While this doesn't hold true 100% of the time (losing all the time like the Cubs, or winning all the time like the Yankees creates a different scenarios) it works amazingly well.  Ask all those Red Sox writers typing madly about team unity. For those wondering if these columns will be creative enough, you have the word of someone who named his blog "Nationals Baseball", what more do you need?

Young - No Playoffs
  "Can't handle the pressure yet"  Everyone knows that young players can't handle the pressure cooker that is the playoffs! Pressure cookers are hot! Stay out of this hot kitchen, rookie!  Bring up a few clutch moments where they failed, talk about how they probably shouldn't have even been here, (because they are so young!) and finish with how they'll probably be here again.  Make sure to note how the team loved their taste of the playoffs and the fans should be excited about the team's hungriness to get back. So hungry!  Also remember that since they are young they are probably a bunch of fun guys.  I bet they did the shaving cream pie thing or had some fun symbol they did after every big play. Talk about that, too. Everybody likes fun guys.
Young - Playoff Losers
  "Missing Piece" Similar to the "Can't handle the pressure yet" column (they are still young and learning, aren't they) but with more focus on the places they need to improve. And let's be honest - unless there is an obvious hole - what they need is some veteran presence!  The vigorousnessness of youth is actually hindering the team in some unknown way.  Remember how last year they were fun?  Maybe they are too fun this year.  They need some focus. Veterans have laser focus. Examine the team that beat them and point out a veteran guy on that squad. That guy was so veteran! Note that they would stand a better chance with someone who's been there before who can lead the team to success just by merely standing next to players much more talented than he is currently.  (If there is an obvious hole, then they need that... and some veteran presence)
Prime - No Playoffs
  "Chokers, Blame Someone"  Teams don't lose in the playoffs because it's a tiny number of games dominated by which pitchers happen to be hot right now.  That's crazy talk!  What are you?  Living in your mother's basement?  Nerd Alert!  Am I right?  Teams lose because someone messed up.  Hopefully that person made it easy for you and went 0-13 or something but sometimes you have to dig deeper.  Here's some help.  It was probably the manager.  If not him, than anyone in particular that is unpopular that underperformed will do, but also maybe the manager. Kind of hint that if they changed this one thing that they might win next time, but don't go too hard in this direction though because they probably won't change that one thing and they could very well win next year.*
Prime -Playoff Losers
   "Chokers, Blame Everyone!"  What a bunch of arrogant jerks, am I right? They believe their own press.  They felt entitled!  Entitled!  25 players - 26 cabs! (one guy paid for a empty cab to follow him just to put more space between him and his teammates)  They thought they could just cruise to a title without even trying!  The manager has lost the clubhouse!  The GM doesn't know what he's doing!  This team has no heart! Look at the team that beat them!  That's a TEAM! Chemsitreamwork! ARRGELGLEGLE! (Congratulations! You hit the lazy sportswriter lottery.  Take every little thing and blow it out of proportion. If they won like 5-8 years ago be sure to write about how things were better when they had guys like Scrappy Joe around. Fans eat that up.)
Old - No Playoffs
   "Happy to be there"  These guys just didn't give up.  Despite having some failing that kept them out of the playoffs or World Series in most of the recent years (which you can bring up offhandedly) they kept plugging at it until they finally made it. Fighters. Battlers. Warriors. Really just making it was a success, so focus on that.  Talk about all they've done individually over the years like All-Star appearances.  Mention aches and pains as battle scars, close call seasons as heartbreaks, and just how old they are.  Old old old. Also good here are "what if" columns.  If they traded away or let a guy go in free agency that became real good you can get something from that.
Old - Playoff Losers
   "Didn't have what it takes"  Losers. Chokers.That's what these guys are.  They made the playoffs over and over and just couldn't get over the hump.  They didn't have what it takes, pure and simple.  Point out some scrappy player on the other team and compare him to a well paid player that didn't do well in his playoff at bats.  Say the team needed more of those guys. Talk about how you could see the pressure get to them.  They tried too hard. They needed guys that were more relaxed like that team that beat them. Maybe go ahead and throw some valid reasons in there if you feel like it, but it's not vital. (oh and don't think too hard about why these guys are choking losers and the guys that didn't even make the playoffs all those years are fighters to be praised.  THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS)
Young/Prime - Winners
  "Normal Column" - Fans are still happy that the team won in the past couple of years so there is no real reason to make anyone angry. If you're lucky maybe there is a free agent to be or a player retiring that you can focus your column, or maybe a big injury.  If not write the same boring end of the year column you'd write for a not good team that missed the playoffs.  Good here, bad there, blah blah blah, next year.   This ain't rocket science.
Old - Winners
  "End of an Era?" Old winning teams will eventually not win and for the lazy sportswriter you have to always be half-heartedly looking for that time.  Maybe it can be a "lost their hunger" column but you're probably better just talking about how they were too old to get it done.  Definitely bring up an old guy that didn't do well this time.  Maybe someone stumbled in the field so you can bring up Willie Mays.  Old teams always have nagging injuries, don't forget those. I'm sure someone is slow or struck out too much.  Assume it was because of old age. My recommendation on an overall column theme? Focus on one of the older vets cleaning out his locker.  It's pretty symbolic. Powerful stuff.

*Actually don't go hard unless you are ready to be THAT columnist who just says things with the hopes he can eventually get on TV.  If you are, then go right ahead and write... nay DEMAND they make that change.  Don't worry about making sense.  Worry about being loud.  The louder you are, the better.  When they don't make that change and lose again next year (because 31 teams do lose, the chances are pretty damn good) you can ride this train all the way to a half-hour on a local network and a 2 hour radio show. You're on your way to moderate local celebrity.  Comped at Applebees, baby!