Nationals Baseball: February 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

Twelve-Sided Bryce

Yes the headline makes no sense. I kind of want to exhaust all bad Bryce headlines before he even gets out of Spring Training so prepare for even dumber ones over the next couple weeks.

Today is National(s) Bryce Day - He's going to come off the bench during the Mets game. Other than not getting beaned in the head, I should be ambivalent to his performance. It is meaningless Spring Training. But dammit if the media blitz hasn't sacked my attention. (See what I did there? I'm a terrible writer! It's not even a sentence!) I'll be listening this afternoon. Of course I probably would have anyway, I work better with background noise, but I'll actually pay attention when Bryce is up.

I'm a sucker, at least for one day.

Update - Bryce can't handle the TANK (Dennis Tankersley). 3 pitch K. Right after Morse went deeeep. What did you expect? A home run every time up?

Igarashi got him in the 9th, with another K. GAME OVER FOLKS!!! Trade him for bench help!

Friday, February 25, 2011


I like to think every year there is one guy with some level of major league experience on each team that does a lot better than you'd expect, and one guy that does a lot worse (with no injury explanation). Last year it pretty much worked out this way. While everyone else pretty much matched expectations, Nyjer Morgan crashed and burned and Livan had a out of nowhere successful season.

Looking back over the years it doesn't quite work one and one, someone crashing and someone soaring but it's not too far off.

2009: CRASH: None. SOAR : None, really. Hardly anyone did anything special. Willingham and Dunn had career years but nothing crazy. Morgan was crazy good for the Nats but in a limited time frame.

2008: CRASH : Austin Kearns. Paul LoDuca before he was gone, though the at bats might have been too limited to count. SOAR : Ronnie Belliard. (Maybe Odalis Perez considering he was league average after being terrible the two previous seasons and he was out of baseball after this)

2007: CRASH: Felipe Lopez (even though he wasn't good - it was a surprise he was THAT bad) SOAR : Dmitri Young (looked like he was fading out, came back with his 2nd best season ever)

2006: CRASH : really no one, Jose Guillen was terrible but injuries explain some of that. SOAR: Alfonso Soriano.

2005: CRASH : Cristian Guzman. (it took an awesome September to keep the guy from having a historically bad season. I hate the player but he was never this terrible). SOAR : Brian Schneider (Believe it or not - he never came anywhere close to this merely average year playing full-time) John Patterson, probably. He'd had enough innings in there to make you think he'd never come quite together as he did this year.

Two points become obvious.

It's hard to get players in either of the categories. For SOAR, I just think it's a matter of luck. You can't luck into two guys with sort of well defined expectations dramatically outperforming them. You're better off hoping for one and a bunch of more mild improvements. For CRASH, I think it's luck, too. But also a matter of playing time. If you're that terrible you just don't get up. Like Wil Cordero in 2005. Oh he was bad before but he was crazy wretched in 2005. So the Nats just eventually got rid of him.

If the Nats tended to have higher highs than lower lows why have they been so bad? Simple. They've had a lot of mediocre to bad players meeting expectations. This is especially true for starting pitching. A lot of never-wases and never will bes have pitched for the Nats in the past 6 years.

OK so what this gets down to I guess is if you could pick one player on the Nats to CRASH and one to SOAR, which two would it be?

For CRASH, I desperately DON'T want it to be Jayson Werth. I couldn't take 5 years of "I can't believe he got THAT money" (I expect that talk in the last 2 years of the deal regardless). I'm going to go with... well there aren't many choices, are there? I guess Adam LaRoche, but it's a half-hearted guess.

For SOAR, I really want it to be Zimm because it would be totally awesome to cover a team with the unarguable best player in baseball. Don't think it will be though. I'll go with John Lannan. Something about his performance at the end of last year I really like. Though I could see an argument for him being a CRASH too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anyone hear anything about Bryce Harper?

Just wondering.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that the biggest story for the Nationals is someone who likely won't see the majors until 2012 stopping in during meaningless Spring Training to take even more meaningless batting practice?

He sure looks like a major leaguer! Confidence! What's going on with his eye black!? Swagger! Did he just put his hat on backward... like GRIFFEY?! Youth!

Good or bad for the 2011 Nats, Bryce Harper is the story for the team this year, just like Strasburg, whether he was going to make the majors or not, was the story last year. It's not like all those other scintillating stories about who's going to be the back-up infielder and which failed young starter will be the long reliever have gone away. There still here. When Bryce, like Strasburg, is eventually dropped out of major league Spring Training all those boring stories that bubbled up between his interview sessions will flood back and they'll be the only thing to talk about for 3 weeks.

Even if it's a bad sign for the team this year, I guess it's good then, in general, that we have meaningless Bryce stories to pass the time. It's something different for the fans and something different for the guys that have to try to make team stretching exercises interesting for a month and a half. I just wish they'd tone it down just a... Wait, did he say he loved the YANKEES!? Swoon! More Bryce talk!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Math Problem

How does this work?

There are 162 games for 15 set of teams (30 divided by 2 since it takes two to tango) * 170 minutes (in 2009 the average length of a game was 2 hours and 51 minutes)

That is...413,100 minutes.

Ok well the number of minutes in a day is 24 hours * 60 minutes or 1440 minutes. So it would take... 413,100 minutes / 1440 minutes to watch every game or... 287 days. Hmm the average baseball season is no more than 270 days long (no baseball in Dec/Jan/Feb)- really a lot closer to 210 days. Hmm I guess they could watch the games in "Speedo-vision" where they take out the inbetween pitches. That cuts games a lot, so maybe it's possible, but I didn't count in holidays.. or weekends... or sleep.

I assume MLB is putting you in a room with a bunch of TVs so you can "watch" all the games at once, not one at a time. Still it would be at least 8 hours a day (7ET - 11 PT) almost every day from April 1st to Oct 30th. I love baseball but that sounds awful.

Danny Espinosa, I do not know you.

(Sung to the tune of "Gary, Indiana" from The Music Man)

Dan-ny Es-pi-NO-sa,
Dan-ny ES-pi-no-sa,
Dan-ny Es-pi-no-SA!

...what? The kids don't like musicals that cast pool as the great evil anymore? Bah!

As far as the Nats offense goes I feel like I got a pretty good grasp on how almost everyone is going to do. Those with a lot of major league experience (Werth, Zimm, The French Rock) are easy enough to predict. I think Morgan and Desmond will fall nicely into "better than last year, still not as good as fans hope". Pudge will have an empty batting average and stink. Ramos will have an empty batting average and not stink. But Danny Espinosa eludes me.

Honestly he should elude me. He only played 28 games in the majors last year and only 24 in AAA. Those stats are hard to take as meaningful.

AA (99 games) .259 / .332 / .461
AAA (24) .295 /.349 / .463
Maj (28) .214 /.277 /.447

Worse yet they don't seem to be saying the same thing. Up until Danny made the jump to AAA, his minor league stats were pointing in the same direction. He'd be a low average major leaguer with decent pop, and just enough patience to make him worthwhile. His AAA numbers suggest a player that can sacrifice a little patience and power for a much higher batting average. His major league numbers suggest someone who could sacrifice a little batting average for much bigger pop. Is either of these more indicative of what he can do going foward?

It's easy to just ignore these two short stints and go with the AA and below minor league stats, (if you look at his projections - that is basically what we are seeing) but it's not like we're talking about years of numbers here. It's one even shorter stop in low A-ball that doesn't seem relevant at all, followed by 1 1/2 seasons worth of games (232 to be precise) all while moving up to harder competition than faced the year before. We haven't yet seen Danny get to "normalize" in a league playing there for 2+ years, getting used to the talent level in front of him. Contrast that with Ian Desmond who got to play parts of 3 years in each of A+ and AA ball.

All I'm saying is that I don't know.

I don't know what to expect from Danny Espinosa. He could watch his crazy power drop as teams figure out how to pitch him (see Ian Desmond again ) while he struggles to keep his batting average out of the .220s. He could, for the first time playing in the same league a 2nd year in a row, quickly get it and end up a ROY candidate, batting .270+ with pop. Twisting my arm I see both - I see a struggle of a 2011, with streaks of impressive play, that may even end up sending him back to AAA once or twice. The Ks just indicate a player who can be pitched to. At the same time I see real talent from his consistent ability to adapt to a higher level of talent every year, and I see a player who could very well bust out in 2012 and beyond.

Still like I said, I don't know, and I'm glad I don't know, because that means Danny Espinosa will be interesting to watch all season long.

Friday, February 18, 2011



"@needham_chris: Pudge. We need to find a way to get more Hall of Famers in the lineup and rotation. Experience and professionalism are missing."

Pudge-ing everything up.

Kill-Gore over at Nats Journal is reporting that Riggleman said that Pudge is the starting catcher. This is not a surprise but it doesn't mean it isn't terrible news.

We all should agree that at this point in his career Pudge is a terrible offensive player. There is no arguement to be had. He hasn't cracked a 90 OPS+ since 1996. He doesn't get on base effectively (66 walks in the last 4 years combined - less than Josh Willingham had in 114 games of one injury riddled season). He doesn't hit for power (23 extra base hits last year - less than just the homer totals of 48 players last season). He was 27th out of 29 catchers with 300 or more plate appearances last year in OPS. And that's saying something because catchers aren't usually good hitters. He's a liability at the plate.

The idea that he "just got tired" is also nonsense (sorry Adam). Here's his monthly splits from last year.

April/March .413/.449/.524
May .233/.242/.350
June .250/.284/.297
July .176/.195/.230
August .277/.286/.313
Sept/Oct .259/.317/.407

That's an awful offensive player who had a lucky month, not an ok one that wore down. Past years also show that he's doesn't start fast and wear down. In 2009 his best month was May and August was second best. In 2008 it was June and July. He may get slightly worse in the 2nd half but it's going from terrible to slightly more so.

But the Nats are not playing Pudge because he's good offensively they're playing him because he's a leader that helps his pitchers and plays great D! Right?

Well you know I think the first two points are nonsense spouted out in order to justify playing terrible offensive players. But if you must I'll remind you that the Nats starting pitching was awful last year and they won only 69 games. Unless you want to give Pudge all the credit for winning 10 more games than in 2009 or say he selectively decided to help Livan and the bullpen but let everyone else fend for themselves, these arguments fail.

The catcher defense argument holds a bit of weight, I'll admit. Catcher defensive metrics are even more difficult to gauge than the ones for other fielders but both The Hardball Times and Beyond the Boxscore have Pudge as the 2nd best defensive catcher in the league. Though to be completely fair a lot of his value comes from passed ball and wild pitch numbers* which haven't been controlled for by staff, and the Nats staff doesn't strike me as agressively hard to handle. I'm a little reticent to believe he's really #2, but I'll buy that he's still a good to very good defensive catcher.

*as opposed to caught stealings. He's still ok at that - 7th out of NL catchers with 600+ innings in caught stealing rate - but it isnt' that better than a typical catcher and nothing like Yadier Molina. I do think his presense does depress attempts though, since he's 3rd in NL catcher in attempts per 9 innings and more significantly different from the average. Again he's no Yadier Molina - who is #1 in both. This means he's only getting the fastest guys in the best opportunities running against him and he's still throwing out almost 50% of them. The guy is a MONSTER behind the plate when it comes to caught stealing.

But is that enough? If we look at the same 29 catchers in WAR, which tries to account for both offense and defense, Pudge does move up from 27th but only to 25th. His defense is barely making an effect in how much the Nats win. A good to very good defensive catcher will help but overall he has to be incredibly good like Yadier Molina to make that big a difference.

Should the Nats get rid of Pudge? I don't necessarily think so at this point. While grossly overpaid it is "only" 3 million, and I do like to think youngsters can learn from veterans. I also don't like putting two young guys competing for the same spot as starter and back-up. I think managers are quicker to pull the trigger on young guys struggling and I think neither would benefit from the few weeks in, few weeks out that may happen because of it. I do think though that Ramos and Flores should be fighting for the starting nod, with Pudge set as back-up ready to play 60-80 games as necessary (preferably closer to 60). The starter should get a good half-season to show his stuff, and if he's struggling come late June and the guy in AAA looks good to go - switch them up and play out the rest of the season with the other guy as the starter. I think moving foward this is the best play for the Nats, not giving Pudge 100+ games while trying to figure out which young catcher is best from the back-up slot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too bullish on 2012?

Commenter DSK said yesterday that he wasn't exactly on the bandwagon when it comes to the idea that the Nats could have one of the better starting staff in the NL in 2012. Fair enough. Perhaps I did go a step too far, but let's see.

Let's set up some guidelines. First off - what makes a staff one of the better ones? For me, I say if you are Top 5 or so that's good enough. Second - for ease of calculation we're going to assume that each starting position throws the same amount of innings. That isn't true (I'm pretty sure it's weighted such that the #1 pitchers throws more than the #2, etc. etc.) but for the sake of a quick analysis I think it's fair enough.

What's been the ERA that could get the Nats a Top 5 rotation in the NL? Over the last 3 years it's been 3.98, 3.71, and 3.80 (before that offense was still killing pitching and the numbers are much different). Looks like the 3.80 that would have done it last year is a fair guess going forward.

What would it take to get a 3.80 starter ERA? An easy way it could happen would be a group of starters with the following ERA set.

3.40, 3.60, 3.80, 4.00, 4.20.

Hmm ok let's tweak that and say...

3.20, ERA2 , 3.90, 4.20, ERA5 (you'll see why I did it this way in a second)

What I said yesterday was that if the Nats staff hit their modest 4.30 starter ERA goal it could bode well for the future. The most likely way the Nats will hit this goal, is for their pitchers to hit their projections. Granted this "most likely" scenario is like <10% given all the moving parts involved but it's more likely than any other combination. In this scenario Jordan Zimmerman is hitting a 4.00 ERA and John Lannan is sitting around 4.30. To me if they pitch this way in 2010. I like them to have a modest improvement in 2011 to 3.90 and 4.20. In other words they fill those #3 and #4 spots above.

The #1 throwing a 3.20 is a returning Stephen Strasburg, of course. Is that too much to expect? I'm not sure. On one hand he will be coming back from injury. On the other hand as a raw rookie he had a 2.91 ERA. I don't think putting up a 3.20 is being overly aggressive.

This leaves two spots (ERA2 and ERA5) for the Nats to fill in a way so the average for all 5 would be 3.80. Simple math tells us any combination that adds up to 7.70, would do it, say... 3.30 and 4.40 pitchers. A 4.40 pitcher is JD Martin terriotry. The Nats haven't been lucky or good in finding this type of mediocre fill-in but they are out there. If you want to give the Nats more leeway at the back of the rotation then a top notch starter with an ERA of 3.00 or lower would give them more flexibility to waste starts on someone with an ERA closer to 5.00.

Having a Top 5 rotation in 2012 breaks down to three steps:
  1. Have Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan pitch to expectations in 2010 (or have any two pitchers that the Nats have under control beyond this year toss out ERAs of about 4.00 and 4.20 - Maya, Detwiler, Gorzelanny, anyone)
  2. Have Strasburg recover from injury enough that he's about at average for him in 2012 and have the pitchers in step one show ever so modest improvement
  3. Get a #1 caliber signing
In steps 1 & 2, I don't think I'm being crazy. I'm not saying it's guaranteed, the Nats have had a knack for finding terrible starting pitching, but these aren't crazy expectations. Some might even think them too modest. It's step 3 that will be the sticking point, and with no sure thing set to hit the free agent market right now you have to do a lot of "what if"ing. Nats fans might be better off hoping for a Maya/Detwiler/Gorz development into a dependable 4.00 ERA pitcher, than thinking they can get a true #1. I may have been being a bit optimistic, a rarity to be sure, but it IS possible, and if steps 1 & 2 happen it would take an effort from the Nats NOT to be average. One step at a time, though.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nats Questions on Crashburn Alley

I answered some Nats related questions at Crashburn Alley. Go check them out and correct the parts where I talk about how Esteban Loaiza looks really good this year.

The ZNN Rules

Riggleman noted yesterday that Jordan Zimmermann will have an innings limit this year. I don't necessarily have a problem with that, especially for Jordan. He's never thrown a lot of innings. 134 in 2008, 99 in 2009 and 70 last season. To have him throw 230 innings would be silly.

But I hope the Nats aren't strict interpreters of pitch limits. It's Feb 16th. The Nats have a number in their head on how much ZNN should pitch this year. That's fine... for right now. Come April 1st they should have another number. May 15th another, the All-Star break another. ZNN needs to be evaluated on an ongoing basis. With that being said - it's best if the Nats don't actually release their number to the press. Right now all that's been said is "not 200" - which is fine. I don't think the Nats are going to run into a scenario where Jordan NEEDS to pitch that last week. The minute they put a 150 or 175 out there, that will become a focus for the media covering the team and that interest may hurt the Nats making adjustments to it along the way.

The other day I noted the (potential) staffs ERAs for this season. I think they were reasonable numbers. Averaged the Nats would have a starter ERA in the neighborhood of 4.30. Last year it was 4.61. You could look at this in two ways.

The staff won't be good next year, but it will be better.
The staff will be better next year, but it won't be good.

Same notion - two different take-away feelings. I tend to fall into the latter group (big surprise) where the takeaway feeling is one of general disappointment. This is because even with an improvement of 0.30 in ERA the Nats will only move from 14th in the NL all the way to 13th. The median value is right around 4.00, which means the Nats would have to have another significant jump in them, after the expected one, to be even "average". The improvement is not so much about the Nats getting better but about the Nats being very very bad last year. I can't get excited about a mere move to meh.

I will say though that the move IS important for the season after this one. If they can get to the 4.30 range this year and Strasburg comes back to pitch in the neighborhood of how he did in 2010, it bodes well for a staff that's at LEAST average in 2012. Maybe a savvy signing, some unexpected development, or a good trade and the Nats are looking at a one of the better starting staffs in the NL the year after next.

Monday, February 14, 2011

DL Wangly

Yes that's a DL Hughley joke. Yes, it's also possibly funnier than anything that was ever on "The Hughleys".

For those wondering where Wang was in the rotation discussion well here you go. Starting the season on the DL very likely. The guy hasn't pitched in the majors since early July 2009. He's still has yet to throw off a mound. (Ed note - He threw in the instructional league - that had to be off a mound, right?) I'm not going to take Wang in the rotation seriously until he at least has a couple decent minor league starts, contract or no contract.

A number 1 problem

Not all the pitching projections are in yet but a quick flip through them shows us a Nats rotation that is... well... not the best. The rough averaged projected ERAs of "Harper's Official Nats Rotation 2010" (+Gorzelanny -Maya) are as follows : 4.00, 4.25, 4.30, 4.45, and 4.60. OK, fine the Nats don't have a great rotation. (though if they got those numbers it would improve on last year's Starter ERA of 4.61). That's not the discussion here. This post is about how that 4.60, the projected worst starter on the Nationals in 2010, is their #1 guy. Livan Hernandez will start Opening Day for the Nationals and could very well be their worst starter in 2010.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Livan was headed toward the scrap heap when he came to the Nationals last year. Even those who loved Livan and wanted him back (like me) saw him as 200 inning of 5.00 ERA pitching. He was just someone to soak up innings. His previous 4 seasons went like this

2006 : 4.83 ERA (1.500 WHIP, 5.08 xFIP)
2007 : 4.93 (1.595, 5.53)
2008 : 6.05 (1.667, 4.90)
2009 : 5.44 (1.563, 4.78)

The ERAs obviously show a pitcher who is pitching terrible. The last two numbers - Walks+Hits over Innings Pitched, and expected Fielding Independent Pitching - show that he wasn't unlucky. The fancy stats concur. Livan was a bad pitcher.

All of a sudden though, Livan starts out 2010 as the best pitcher ever. He carried a 1.04 ERA into mid-May. Was it mostly luck? You're damn right it was. But then a funny thing seemed to happen, Livan didn't crash as one would expect he would. Oh his next 6 starts were "normal", and the 6 after that had 4 bad ones mixed in. That looked more like the Livan we expected. Usually bad, with rare instances of brilliance. But then he followed up with 7 starts probably better than the ones to begin the year. It caused some idiots to gush that Livan had become a markedly better pitcher.

Then he crashed.

Three terrible starts and one not much better mixed in with an 8 inning shutout and last start where he gave up one run. A 5.70+ ERA. In other words, classic Livan Hernandez.

So what does this have to do with 2011? A lot. Livan is the one pitcher the Nats are sending out there that they are relying on. Marquis, Lannan and ZNN are all injury returns. Gorzelanny is an unknown. Maya is untested and rushed. The innings they get from these guys could vary wildly. I guarantee at least one will be pulled from the rotation by June 1st for some reason or another. Livan, though, is going to be trotted out to the mound every 5th day simply because they Nats know they can.

The problem is he's very likely to put the Nats in a losing position more often than not. Outside of that miracle run to open last year he's been a bad pitcher for 4+ years now. He's only a year older. The fancy stats agree with what you can eyeball with a look at his starts last year. He was lucky to open the season. Those starts aren't indicative of the pitcher Livan is. I can easily see a season where Livan starts slow and keeps slow, yet starts every time out ("He is our #1 guy" says by-the-book Riggleman) pulling a 5.50+ ERA into the All-Star break.

There's not much the Nats can do about this. They tried to get a dependable good arm and failed. This is what they are left with. And no one should begrudge Livan his Opening Day start considering what he did last year. But Nats fans should be prepared for a season of frustration as Livan gives up 5 runs in 6 and a third, then 7 runs in 4, then 1 run over 8+, over and over. I hope that I'm wrong like last year, but I think the Livan revival was a one year thing. This year we get the Livan we expected last season, someone to soak up innings with a 5.00 ERA. That's not a bad thing, not for this team, but it is probably less than what a lot of fans are expecting.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Truly the Meat Hook

I never cared for him much as a player and the interview is nothing special, but it is AWESOME that Dmitri Young went to be interviewed in a Rudy's Texas BBQ t-shirt.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Just for the hell of it

Would you trade Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg for Albert Pujols (with guaranteed contract extension)?

Update : Also for the hell of it... let's say the extension is - 7 years at 200 million, taking him to age 38.

Bizzo? Rowden?

It was cute for a while, this Bowden impression, but signing Alex Cintron, that's going too far. That makes me want to send Anthony Hopkins out to Viera to see if Rizzo has been demonically possessed by Bowden's spirit. (And yes I mean really Anthony Hopkins - it's not like Rizzo is actually possessed so what's a priest going to do? Sir Anthony would be fun).

For those that don't know Alex has basically failed out of baseball in the past two years, sucking it up with the Nats in 2009 and in Buffalo in 2010. If you weren't sure Buffalo still does not have a major league franchise. He's 31, toolsy and played for Rizzo's former team. It's Bowden redux.

I can see bringing in Coffey and Meredith - you always need arms. Ankiel and Nix both have something to offer (though it's pretty much the same thing and you got it much cheaper from one than the other). But Hairston and Cora? Does the team have a quota for 35 yr old middle infielders? And now Cintron?

I know it doesn't hurt the team, not really. Minor league deals are a dime a dozen. Still it doesn't mean you should waste that precious playing time on guys who haven't been good since Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still on the air.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Nats on the march

Yesterday the Nats moved stuff to Florida. Hey, if it makes you happy by all means be happy. As long as teams don't charge fans to watch trucks roll out of a stadium I have no complaints.

I do think it's appropriate that they used JKmoving.

It's the start of the 2011 season.... JK! OMG! !11!1!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Who's going to get on base?

Not that this wasn't a problem last year but I was perusing the latest Ladson column at and in it he has his projected lineup (a good bet for Opening Day at least) and their respective stats from last year. Without naming names, here's the OBPs :

.319, .306, .388, .388, .320, .294(Thanks Pudge!), .307, .277

That's a 3/4 of the lineup having a .320 OBP or less. If we look at all players last year that would put the 3rd best guy in the Nats lineup at getting on base... about 110th overall. That's not good and it's worse than last year. Last season the Nats had three guys on their team that could work a walk. They got rid of two, Dunn and Willingham, of them and brought in one, Werth. So right there is a step back.

Of course looking at last season alone isn't exactly fair. Adam Laroche can do a little better. I guess you can also expect (hope?) Morgan and Danny Espinosa can bring up their averages which will pump their numbers up, but I don't see this being a lineup that puts men on. There's not much help coming from the bench either. Mike Morse can take a base on balls, but Wilson Ramos, JHJ, and Rick Ankiel aren't those type of hitters.

Simply put, you score by getting on base and getting big hits. Nats fans better hope that guys like Desmond and Espinosa develop their power and get more big hits, because the team doesn't look to be getting on base any better than last year.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Simple Rule

Any minor league deal for a guy around 30 or younger with some sort of major league talent / success is generally a good deal.

Hence - good for the Nats signing Laynce Nix.

I'm busy today so quickly - he's a good field, can't hit lefties batter. Which spells trouble for Roger Bernadina or would spell trouble if Roger was really a major league starter - which he isn't, so I guess it spells "reality check" or something like that.

Don't be fooled by last years stats, he had some crazy luck with his batting average for balls in play. His career numbers are just under .300, and this usually falls a bit as you age and lose speed. Last year he had like a .360. Not going to happen. 2009 is more of what you can expect, and what that is is a guy with decent pop against righty pitchers. A platoon of him and Morse could be extremely interesting.

As the Nats keep putting together a traditional bench - my view of the Hairston signing becomes dimmer and dimmer. Because he can play infield and outfield well enough, he offers a National league team flexibility to use a bench spot on a pure hitter - let's say a Russell Branyan type. A guy that can't play a position but can slam a homer in a pinch. If you aren't going to use that flexibility to your advantage then Hairston is just a poor, old, kind of expensive MI bench player

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Hey, It's Cla Meredith!

I remember that name! From stories like this!

First thought : Interesting - the Nats might have made another shrewd move catching a good player off of a couple bad years.

Second thought : First thoughts can be wrong.

I didn't realize it had been that long since Meredith had been good. 5 seasons to be exact. That 2006 season was really a fluke. It's hard to decipher much from his minor league numbers since the Red Sox rushed him up so quickly but his longer stays seem to show a pitcher who gives up a lot more hits than he did in that magical year. It's not that he's been bad since then, but high 3.00 ERA bullpen guys are a dime a dozen. Worse yet, in an effort to get that mojo back he's losing control. He's seen his BB/9 jump from 1.1 in the majors in 2006 to 1.9, 3.1, and 3.4 in subsequent seasons. Last year he had a 4.0 in the minors. That's bad. He did manage a 2.4 rate in the majors but probably uncoincidentally he couldn't keep the ball in the park anymore. Fancy stats show this wasn't just a fluke - he was giving up more flyballs then he ever did in his career.

I guess if you are willing to let him walk a guy or give up a hit, right now he can be useful if you absolutely don't want to give up a homer. Since he'll only be 28 next year it doesn't hurt to kick the tires on him, but since he's never had much strike out success in the majors (6.7 K/9 was his best rate - the Nats had 7 of 8 relievers who pitched more than 30 innings best that number just last year) even if you can get his wildness back under control he'll be nothing better than another arm in the pen.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Angelos had a better offseason, are the Os now better than the Nats?

Now that the Orioles signed the Duke, who the Nats had interest in, after grabbing Derek Lee from the Nats hands, I've heard a tiny bit of rumbling about the Angelos' Orioles having a better offseason than the Nats. (I'm going to assume this rumbling is all about the Angelos/MASN connection and not some crazy city rivalry. I refuse to accept that anyone would care about that.) With the cash from the Nats TV deal going to help support the Baltimore 9, it's at least of mild interest to see if that's true and how the Orioles now stack up in comparison to the Nats.

It is true. The Orioles have so far had a more successful offseason, but it's also true that they needed to. While their records were similar, 66 wins for the Os to 69 for the Nats, most indications were that the Orioles were lucky to win that many and the Nats were a bit unlucky not to win more. The Pythagorean records have them almost 10 games apart, a better indication of the talent difference. And if you doubt that you only have to look at the Orioles infield.

The Orioles infield was horrible last year. Here's how the players they had with 400+ at bats ranked and scored in WAR last year, compared to their AL peers.

1B - Wigginton : 0.3 WAR : 3rd to last
2B - no one (Roberts injured)
SS - Izturis : -0.3 WAR : last
3B - Tejada : -0.1 WAR : last

The Nats infield with Zimmerman (7.2 - like top 3 over all NL position players) and Dunn (7th out of NL firstbasemen) was obviously going to be better, but even Desmond (1.1 WAR) and Espinosa (0.4 WAR in limited play) outperformed these guys. It's not even close. They are Cey-Russell-Lopes-Garvey compared to the Orioles infield. The fact that the Os infield was allowed to be that bad in the first place was a crime. So they needed to get better just so they wouldn't be an embarrassment anymore. Reynolds, Hardy and Lee will definitely help them - but these aren't game changers. Even with LaRoche manning first instead of Dunn, the Zimmerman advantage will give the Nats at least an equally productive infield. And if Espinosa can play a decent full year, or he or Desmond take a step up the Nats will have a definite advantage.

A Nats fans might say now - "but they had Jones and Markakis in the OF, while the Nats had Bernadina and Morgan and etc". That is true. It's also true that Markakis and Jones were actually pretty average last year. Neither one was significantly better than Willingham and neither is the player that Werth is. Of course you'd want either one of them instead of Josh because of their ages but we're not talking about that (or else the Nats would have a bigger IF advantage then they already do). While they had a significant advantage in the OF last year, the Werth bump, much like Zimmerman in the infield, closes a lot of ground. They have potential, due to the age difference to be significantly better, but the safe bet is that the Os will only be a step better.

All in all I like the Nats offense better. They have two stars and a couple potential breakout players. The Orioles have more of a "no weakness" lineup. The pitching difference - well there I like the Os better than the Nats. I think missing out on the Duchscherer actually is worse for the Nats than losing out on Lee. I like Lee better than Laroche for his potential to have one big year left in him. If he doesn't, and that the better bet, they'll be pretty equivalent players over the next couple years. But the Nats need as many arms as they can get in their starter pool. None of the arms the Nats have outside of Zimmermann are impressive on their own. The breakout that they could have would be more of a Livan 2010 "what the hell?!?" variety. Therefore the more in there to choose from, the better chance of finding a guy having that type of year. The Duke was just the type of pitcher that could have a good year in him (and an AL to NL guy. Love those).

So in the end are the Os better than the Nats? The best guess is no, but they've probably closed the gap to the point were the talent levels on the field in 2011 are close to equal. The Nats having a slight offensive advantage and the O's better starting pitching as their young guns mature. (The Nats should be better in the bullpen - but anything can happen there). Given the amount of young players that are key on either side there is a lot of room for variation but I figure both have about 70-75 win talent on the table. A nice step up for an Orioles team that had drifted in the wrong direction the last few years, a disappointing lack of movement for a Nats team looking for a breakout year sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Too easy.

This headline at the Potomac Nationals site is a few days old but still...