Nationals Baseball: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Question for the Weekend : Could you root for a "bad, bad guy"

Bryce got into a starting staring contest with an opposing pitcher after homering in AB #1 and striking out in AB #2. "Kid" "Spirit" "He can change" yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. It seems to jive with everything people were saying about him. He's basically kind of a jerk. It's easy to see why this is the case - being gifted with major league ability at 16 - but still assuming he stays on target you'll be asked to root for this guy in about 16 months. Will it be a problem for you? Did you turn on Nyjer for being a jerk? Are you RACISTISS?!?! How does this jive with Rizzo's clubhouse philosophy?

For a lot of people it'll depend on talent. If you're good enough for "my" team then I'll root for you (see: Bonds, Barry re: San Francisco). For me, it'll depend on what kind of jerk he is. I couldn't bring myself to root for Roger Clemens when he was on the Yanks. It was always a "Hope they win 11-10 tonight" situation. I can think of other guys I wouldn't root for (LoDuca, Pierzynski... what is it about catchers?), but there are jerks that I will like on my team. I was all about some Shockey when he was a Giant. Can't stand him now. I'm not sure what the distinction is. Maybe I like jerks that are goofs?

Anyway - just to waste away the weekend pondering something. If Bryce Harper doesn't change and is an ass when he gets to the majors, will it effect how you root for him? Just wondering.

Riggs gets something right (or at least says he does)

Riggleman told Ladson that he was still going to split save opportunities bewteen Storen and Burnett. The reasoning being if there are 2 strong lefties coming up in the 9th, it's silly to bring in the righty just because HE'S THE CLOSER. I think this is great. Not only is Riggleman trying to get the best match-up possible in the 9th, but it also frees him up to potentially use Burnett and Storen earlier in the game when the Nats need important outs.

Now his actual use of these two seems a lot more like "Burnett was the closer. Storen is the closer now. Burnett could close again if Storen struggles" but hey, at least the right idea is in his head.

I know there is a lot of disagreement on the topic of whether you need "roles" in the bullpen. The modern bullpen is expanding things out past just the closer set to having 7th and 8th inning "guys". Sure there have always been set-up men but it's getting more and more rigid as time goes on when and in what type of games guys can appear. Managers love this because it frees them from blame. If you bring in your 7th inning guy in the 7th inning and he blows it, it's not his fault. What was he going to do? Not bring the 7th inning guy in the 7th? He's the 7th inning guy! Players love it because, like everyone, we prefer to know when and where we are going to work.

But the truth is it doesn't matter that they love it, it's a silly and non-optimal way of using a bullpen. A pitcher's job is to get outs and he should be able to do it whenever he is brought in. That being the case, you should use your best relievers in the most important spots, not save them for potentially even more important spots that may never come. Riggs' platoon closer situation would still saddle one talented reliever with many potentially less important 9th inning shut downs, but at least that pitcher can change so the other one might be used when he's really needed, not just when convention says he should pitch.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It wasn't asking for much was it?

The team was .500 but maybe slipping a bit They lost 2 out of 3 to the Cardinals. They were still in 3rd place though and the Pirates were coming up, followed by a Mets team that was flounding. At worst they'd come out of those 6 games 3-3, still at .500 and likely a game or two out of last. At best maybe they go like 5-1 and fill Nats' fans heads with dreams of a spring full of games with reasons to watch. Right?

But no, they lost 2 of 3 to the Pirates and have lost 2 so far to the now-streaking Mets. For a different team it would be just disappointing. Maybe they'll bounce back next week. But for your bad teams, the Pirates, the Royals, and yes the Nats, it's more than that. You are used to seeing the season die early. You are used to having no hope of contention. That's the norm. That's the expected. It may just be 4 out of 5 games on the calendar but it's more than that in the mind. It's the continuation of 5 seasons of losing. The team can't just go on a hot streak - even for over a month, and get fans back. It has to prove to you it is a different type of team and do it for a while. You aren't going to get really excited until you have a reason to be.

Last year the fans had a reason. Strasburg. That was different. That was something to take notice of. There is something maybe on the horizon that's the same thing. Bryce. Those two might be able to drive interest by themselves for a while, even if the team doesn't win. But neither are in DC now. Now they need to win and now they are losing, just like always. How can you expect fans to be into the team, even though the season isn't even 15% over yet.

The Nats may bounce back and beat the Mets, and then take 3 out of 4 from the Giants. It's baseball. It's possible. But until the Nats keep doing this over and over again for a good chunk of the year fans are just going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. It always has.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

Jiggity Jig.

and then there's this

On a third note : Roger McDowell went too far I'm sure (though I'm also sure it's nothing new at a ballpark. It's just one of those things that you are taking chances every time you do it. Eventually it'll come back to you), but what kind of massive douchebag gets yelled at by a player for less than a minute and runs out and hires Gloria Allred? And drags his kids into a press conference?

Ramos survived!

Riggleman sometimes just goes insane am I right? Starting Wilson Ramos AGAIN!?!? Against a RIGHThanded pitcher?!?!? He's lucky that worked out for him and Ramos didn't run back into the dugout and start crying!

I'm very interested in seeing what they'll do tonight. RA Dickey is not your typical righthanded starter. He's never been a challenge for righties to hit even before becoming a knuckleballer. It would be a nice start for Ramos and a good time to start stretching him out for longer stints. Problem is Chris Capuano, a lefty, will finish the series for the Mets. If Ramos starts tonight that will probably give him 4 starts in a row before sitting against Lincecum. They should do it, but I don't think they will. I'm thinking Pudge-Ramos-Pudge-Ramos for the next 4 games at least. Then maybe Ramos gets another double start against Cain. Maybe but only because Oswalt is likely to be next.

I would think THIS vs THIS should be self-evident. (all catchers are not created equal) but I'm not a veteran manager running a 10-12 clubhouse. Prove me wrong Riggs. Prove me wrong.

UPDATE : Proven Wrong It's silly to say my blog post on last Thursday was the impetus for this BUT THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED. I AM DRUNK ON POWER.

Anyway I'm going to hold off on the "told ya so"s for another couple starts but this is starting to look like the recovery year I thought it would be for Zimmermann. Which isn't terrible as long as he shows progress and seems healthy at year's end. I've said this before but if the Nats come out of this year with Ramos, Espinosa, and ZNN all showing they can be full-time major leaguers without a doubt, the season is a win regardless of the record. (OK there's a couple other things - Strasburg comes along on sched, Werth has a decent year, Zimm is not seriously hurt - but all in all I'm not asking for much here). Speaking of Ryan, how bad is it offensively for the Nats without Zimm? In the past 14 days Jerry Hairston is 2nd on the team in BA and OBP.

OK the Nats REALLY need to win tonight. A loss puts them right back into last place and well, I just don't want to see that for as long as possible. The Nats have only spent 5 games in last this year and it's been a welcome change even if it is kind of meaningless. For reference sake here is the date the Nats took a stranglehold on last, the game # it was, and how many total times they left the field in last.

2005: Oct 1st - Game 161 - 13 games
2006: Jul 5th - Game 86 - 87 games
2007: N/A* - N/A - 112 games
2008: April 10th - Game 10 - 154 games
2009: April 8th - Game 3 - 160 games
2010: Jun 11th - Game 62 - 109 games

Its been a long time since the Nats could say they spent more games out of the cellar than in it. Let's make 2011 special, huh?

*The Marlins ended up holding onto last from Aug 20th on. However the team does get credit for never being better than 4th in the division, not even for a day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ankiel : Straight to the bench

As others have said before me, "The Rick Ankiel Story" would make a good movie. Rookie pitcher stars early, rides the yips right back out of the majors starting in the playoffs no less, fights to remake himself into a major leaguer again at the plate. That's oscar worthy stuff. (You can nominate 10 movies now. This blog is oscar worthy stuff) Too bad the original story has spurned on some terrible sequels.

"Ankiel II : Ankiel Harder", was bad as pitchers now had a bead on how to pitch Rick. Never a high average type of guy he now struggled keeping up his power. Last year, in "Ankiel III: Ankiel takes Manhattan... Kansas" Rick put on a so-so performance. He got a bit of his power stroke back, but not enough to stick on as an everyday player on one of the worst teams in the league, and then he nearly helped drive a team out of the playoffs. And now in 2011, on the set of "Ankiel IV : Citizen on Outfield Patrol", things are looking sad. The actor is too long in the tooth to be playing these roles anymore.

The positives about Rick Ankiel coming over were simple - he'd be good in the field and he would provide some pop at the plate. The former wasn't very true. He has a good arm, supposedly, but as a fielder he's never been better than average. The latter was only true if you limited looking at his stats only against RH pitching. Now even that isn't true anymore.

Yes it has only been roughly 1/8th of the season, but Ankiel has a paltry 0.065 isoSLG number. To say it in a more standard way, he's got only 3 XBH in a month and is slugging the ball with pop that ranges somewhere between Jamey Carroll and Omar Infante. This is true even though the Nats have limited his bats against lefites. Against righties that number only rises to 0.083. Lyle Overbay is at .101. Michael Bourn at .114. True if you look down there you can cherry pick a good player or two having a bad start, Hanley Ramirez, Brian McCann, but these were guys that were good last year. They earn the benefit of the doubt. Ankiel was not and does not.

The fancy stats seem to suggest that he's doing everything right. He's not swinging at bad pitches. He's making more contact. He has bought into the taking pitches philosophy. And it's not as if he's changed his approach and is trying to hit more ground balls. He's hitting more flyballs than ever. There are just a lot more lazy ones than homers or gappers.

If Ankiel cannot slug the ball against right handed pitching than there is no reason to play him. He does not hit for average. He does not walk. A decent arm shouldn't earn him anything more than a spot on the bench, if that. The Nats will probably give him another month so as not to waste money but I'm hard pressed to say that the Nats wouldn't be better off starting Laynce Nix or Roger Bernadina everyday.

Adam LaRoche: .242 / .346 / .377, 3 homers
Josh Willingham: .234 / .326 / .390, 3 homers
Derek Lee: .211 / .294 / .276, 1 homer
Carlos Pena: .169 / .306 / .189, still no homers

Josh has slumped in his pop at the plate, but got his BB mojo back. Adam LaRoche has been hitting like Adam LaRoche which is good enough to take the lead in this motley crew. Derek Lee looks old. Carlos Pena looks like he'll never hit .200.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The long road in May

The Nats are treading water right now, winning a game here, losing a game there, happily staying at right around .500. Part of the reason why might have been a preponderance of off-days. In the first 23 days of the season, the Nats had 7 off-days (4 scheduled - 3 rain-outs). Nobody likes to have too many days off, but it's more welcome than the alternative. The baseball season is in part about surviving the grind of a long season of playing day in and day out. Going long stretches with only the occasional day off. The Nats haven't had that yet. They are in it now though.

You may have heard this but starting on the Saturday the Nats have only one day off until the 25th of May. That's 32 games in 33 days. You can even take it a bit further as the next off day after that is over two weeks further away on June 13th, ending on a usually tiring West Coast swing. If the Nats don't catch a weather related break during this stretch, they will play 49 games in 51 days.

Good luck with all that.

I've broken it down into 6 distinct and unequal parts, with distinct goals in order to stick around .500 as long as possible.

Pirates away (April 23rd- 25th) Goal : 2-1
  • End of a road trip, as series win would be nice, but 1-2 would be allright.
Mets home (April 26th -28th) Goal : 3-0
  • If the Nats are going to not finish in last, it would be great if they could distance themselves from the Mets right now. A series win is the only acceptable outcome.
Giants home, Phillies/Marlins/Braves away, Marlins home (April 29th - May 15th) Goal : 6-10
  • You may want something more but I see this as a stretch as one to survive. I can't expect them to split the Giants series, take a game in each one away AND win the Marlins series so 6 wins it is. Going 6-10 after the end of the Pirates and Mets series should keep them a hot series from .500.
Pirates home, Mets/Orioles/Brewers away, Padres home (May 16th- May 29th) Goal : 8-5
  • Given that 8 of the games are away you can't hope for a dominating stretch, but a winning one would be nice to keep the hopes of a near .500 finish alive. These are the teams the Nats need to beat if they are going to do this.
Phillies home (May 30th - June 1st) Goal : 2-1
  • A tiny stand the Nats should make if they want to be considered competitive. They've already given up one home series to the Phillies. They shouldn't make it 2.
Dbacks/Giants/Padres away (June 2nd - June 12th) Goal : 5-6
  • At the very end of this stretch you would expect a letdown, but the D-backs and Padres are the dregs of the NL West. Just keep it together through here and the Nats might just have something.
Overall what is that? 26-23? That seems a little ambitious, but we are talking about a goal here. As for the more modest goal of not finishing last, I think honestly (and obviously) the Mets series at home coming up is the key. You win the series, and you put a nice 4 or so games between yourself and the Mets. A stumble here or there would still have you out of last place unless timed to match a Mets surge. Lose the series and the Mets are right on your heels. The Nats would have no room for error and the first 3 game losing streak could easily put themselves back into last.

Friday, April 22, 2011



If it hasn't come up in anything you've read of mine before, I'm an exclusionary playoff person. I consider the playoffs to be a legitimate attempt to find the best team in the league that given year and it bothers me more that a clearly "not best" team makes it into the playoffs, than it would that a "possibly best" team gets left out. The addition of more teams is terrible for a person like me.

But it'll happen. Forget about them "thinking about it". It WILL happen. It's what the people want. They want a regular season that is just an overly extended method of figuring seeding, followed by the most exciting playoff possible. It's what the league wants. They want as many teams as they can squeeze into the playoffs because it creates more interesting games at the end of the season and simply more games in the post-season (or $$$ for short). That isn't in itself terrible. What makes it terrible is the insistence on treating the winner of said playoff as if they were the best team that year. It's not about that. It's about fun for fans and money for the league. They should get the Fun&Money Trophy.


I'm sure I'm repeating myself, but the real truth is that the perfect playoff system to figure out the best team in the league in a given season will never exist because the perfect playoff system would change from year to year based on the play of teams. This is true for all sports. Some years a 10 team tournament may be reasonable. Other years one team may show itself to be clearly the best during the regular season and there doesn't need to be any playoffs. I could live with a season where there is no playoffs. (Of course as Nats fans, so can you)

10 teams... bah

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Ramos lie?

Two weeks ago, before the Mets series, Jim Riggleman said that Ramos would be moving into the #1 catchers spot. Since then there have been 11 games. Pudge has started 5 of them.

Now it could just be a quirk of the schedule. In the past 5 days the Nats have only played double headers and it's common for catchers not to start back-to-back double header games. But then there is this nugget from Bill Ladson's mailbag:
I thought Ramos would be the everyday guy by now, but manager Jim Riggleman said Ramos will start against left-handers and Rodriguez will face right-handers. (Ed. - bolding ming). We'll see how long it lasts.
If you look at the past two weeks this is exactly what is happening. Ramos has started against every lefty starter, Pudge against every righty, with the exception of one of the Brewer double-header games where Milwuakee started two righties. So assuming Bill didn't make this up or misinterpret Riggleman early in the season (possible but then so did Kill-Gore, and Zuckerman, etc. etc.), in no more than 10 days Riggleman went from transitioning Ramos to a #1 role to stating Pudge will start roughly 70% of games. What spurned the turnaround?

I'm not exactly sure but the easiest answer is performance. In the last week Pudge is hitting .286 and Wilson .182. For a manager that already favors the vets, those numbers might have been too tempting to keep skipping over Pudge. Riggleman may play this off as trying to give Ramos a better chance to grow in the majors (he does hit lefties better), and note the fact that even facing lefty starters he faces a number of righty relievers, but if Wilson is ever going to be a starter he is going to have to face right handed pitching all the time.

Another thing to consider is that Riggleman just played everyone. There is no evidence that he started to play Ramos more two weeks ago when Ramos was still hitting better than Pudge. Perhaps Jim just fed the guys in the media what they wanted to hear. If that's the case well, I'd be pissed. It's one thing to skirt around the issue, but another to lead the guys reporting on the team to a conclusion that just isn't true. I read his comments from the 8th and I hear the same thing everyone else did. Ramos was not going to be #2 catcher. Based on his righty lefty starter split though that is exactly what Ramos is.

Wilson Ramos may very well be the starter for the future. Pudge will not be. The Nats need to know if he can be sooner rather than later. Riggleman appears to be actively working against finding this out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wow, the Mets are bad

Bad pitching, bad offense, bad play. I think the offense could bounce back, but that pitching staff is terrible.

Anyone want to bet the Nats are going to finish in last?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What if they had a game and no one showed

Just wondering because that's what Baseball Reference is showing for the first game of the double header. I see people in the stands in the highlights. Conspiracy! The media is against the Nats!

Of course maybe they did it to highlight the fact that the attendance still stinks. Even with that 23K or so that didn't go down in the books, the Nats would still be last in attendance (overall and by game) ED NOTE - BAH! I meant worst in the NL but even that's not true. Damn my confusion. They would be 14th as usual in the NL ahead of the Marlins and Pirates. Yeah, yeah, early season, bad weather, no good opponents etc. etc. But come on. This team is slightly more interesting this year.

This looks like a bad year for the Nats attendance looking at the schedule. If you are the Nats you look forward to series vs the Mets, O's, Phillies, Dodgers and Cubs (assuming it's not a Yanks or Sox year). These are the draws. Well the Mets and O's are terrible and they play the Dodgers, Cubs, and 2 out of 3 Phillies home series mid-week.

If this team wants to bring in the fans it has to win.

UPDATE : Commenter Bdrube mentions this USA Today piece on falling attendances. Come on Cleveland fans - Manny Acta is coaching his heart out there!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I don't want to sweep alone.

Take that Nyjer Morgan! Who I actually like and I think the Morgan hate is ridiculous. What happened last year was a guy who couldn't handle having the worst year of his career having the worst year of his career. He didn't "not try hard" for the Nats. He didn't always suck. He is a talented player with a 100 MPH personality who just happened to have everything go wrong for him at the same time. It was a shame that things didn't work out here because I truly believe he's got a couple good years left and he could have given the Nats organization a respite in their eternal search for a CF. On the other hand, at least since it didn't work out I don't have to worry about the Nats giving Nyjer a 4 year deal after this season when he's going to age out of that skill set sooner rather than later.

ANYWAY, the Nats are on a roll and it reminds me a lot of the 2005 Nats. No not because this team is super scrappy winners. Get out of here whoever said that! I mean it! And no, not because Ryan Zimmerman is some sort of angel of death who causes the team to lose with anti-clutchness powers. You go watch "The Program" and get some ideas on how to do night reading. It reminds me of that inaugural seaseon because in 2005 a consistently average pitching staff carried a terrible offense to a .500 record.

If you don't remember the offense in 2005 was terrible. Of course there was Cristian "Am I supposed to see out of my eyes?" Guzman, but as a team they had a line of .252 / .322 / .386. That ends up being Worst / 12th / Worst in the National League. And that's with Nick Johnson finishing 6th in the league in OBP. Without him it basically works out to be a lineup of 7 2010 Ian Desmonds. They hit 117 homers as a team.

But pitching wise they were good - 4th in the league in ERA (7th as starters and 3rd as relievers), and it seemed like everytime Livan, John "My Boy" Patterson, or Loaiza took the mound they gave the team a quality start.

So far this year seems awfully similar to what I just described. The offense currently has a line of .226 / .316 / .351 or 15th / 11th / 15th, but they are 5th in the league in ERA (5th starter, 9th reliever) and they are among the league leaders in quality starts. Only Gorzelanny so far has had a start where he both pitched badly and gave up a bunch of runs. Everyone else either has pitched well, or gotten lucky when pitching poorly.

Of course this doesn't mean the team is going to take first place for the majority of the season. That crazy run had everything to do with a ridiculous, unsustainable record in close games. It was an average team that everything broke right for, for the first 3+ months. In 2011 the Nats have more normal luck so far (2-3 in 1 or 2 run games). If this is a .500 team it'll more likely be a boring .500 team all year long. Anyone want to complain about that?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ramos 2011 v Pudge 2010

I REALLY want to say "Look how well Ramos is doing!" but there is a couple things holding me back. For one, he's only started 6 games so far (note to Riggs : Not seeing that "more playing time for Ramos" thing yet) so all we have is a long week's worth of data. Secondly, I have Pudge 2010 staring me right in the face.

Last year Pudge started out super hot and a bunch of people got all excited while the rest of us said it couldn't last. The last 3 years of stats all said he was a terrible hitter. It didn't last. Hooray for the rest of us. But the same thing has to apply to Ramos. We don't know how fast and how far he has to fall, because he is young and we have limited major league stats for him, but he will fall. Ok saying he's not going to hit .450 isn't exactly going out on a limb. But really what I'm trying to say is because we don't have a strong sense of how well he should be doing, we can't say from this starting hot streak that he is sure to be good. We just don't know yet. Despite the positives in Ramos' corner in comparison to Pudge (Ramos is hitting a bunch of line drives, Ramos started playing after baseball codified 4 balls for a walk) let's wait until month's end to see what we see.

For those that need any further calming down

Pudge 2010 after 8 games : .419 / .471 / .581, with a .433 BABIP
Ramos 2011 after 8 games : .455 /.538 /.545, with a .625 BABIP

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Old John, New John, Red John, Blue John.

At the end of last year John Lannan seemingly made a transformation. As the bane of the sabermetric world for his first 2 1/2 years, Lannan was moderately successful despite walking a fair amount of guys and striking out no one because he was oddly successful at keeping righties from slugging the ball. Post-injury return last year, though, Lannan was a different pitcher. One simple reason was that he was striking out more guys and walking less, but he also was now dominating lefty batters. A quick perusal of the "front page" stats suggest Lannan might be back to his old ways, where everyone hits and no one scores. So let's see which Lannan is here now; old John or new one?

Walk Rate and K Rate:
John's walkrate is back to it's old levels - walking 3.0+ batters for every nine innings. That's not good. His K rate though, while not as high as the end of last year, is still up there (for John) at over 5 batters every 9 innings. These numbers are very reminiscent of 2008 John, probably his most successful year.

With his BB-rate up we'd expect to see the WHIP be high and it is. It's very high at 1.50, or "Matt Chico" on the threat level scale. A WHIP that high means he's giving up a decent amount of hits, too. That's not good. That suggests a guy who should have a much higher ERA than 3.38 (his xFIP is 4.38)

HR Rate and Opponent SLG:
One reason he might be keeping runs down is if all those hits he's giving up are singles. His HR rate is at 0, he hasnt' given one up this year. That's very good and completely in line with John's usual stance of giving up maybe one a game.

What really stands out is the Opponent slugging. Despite hitting .286 against John and getting on base at a .366 clip, the bad guys are slugging only .333 against John. Only 3 XBH - all doubles. This is a recipe for success.

Well that does seem like Old John. Do the splits show that old mojo? No, they don't.

RHB: .372 / .426 /.442
LHB: .100 / .250 / .100

This seems an awful lot like New John but with one difference, the righties aren't slugging nearly as well as they did last year against him. Oh, the SLG% is up there but that's because they are batting .372 against him (something that should fall because it is based on a .380 BABip). Slugging .070 more than your batting average is pretty terrible, falling somewhere inbetween 2010 Nyjer and 2010 Pudge.

It's early but indicators are what we are really seeing is Old John with just the right touch of New John. Like Old John he's walking too many and you'd like him to strike out a couple more guys. But also like Old John he's keeping the righties from killing him. The big difference is that he's carried over whatever tricks he learned last year to keep lefties off-balance against him. If the righties BABIP falls like we'd expect this John 3.0 can not just be successful, but be more successful than ever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I was going to have a post yesterday with a mocking wager on how many hits the Nationals were going to have in the series. Then I saw Blanton was pitching and decided that would be stupid. It's odd to say this, but before last night I thought Blanton might be the most overrated starter in baseball because of all the "and this guy is pretty good too!" mentions he's been getting. He's at best a decent #4 arm, and it's hard to argue that he'd be ahead of Lannan or Marquis in the rotation.

Anyway the point was that the Nats could actually win last night's game depending if Livan was LIVAN! or not. He was and the Nats took it. Now anything else the Nats get in this series is gravy. I know I shouldn't say that but it's the great Halladay and that jerk Cliff Lee*. The Nats shouldn't win either of these games. Play with abandon!

*While you might guess that my hatred of Cliff Lee is Yankee related, it actually started post 2009 as a complete and total reactionary response to the sabermetric love Cliff Lee was getting. At that point the guy had been great for a mere year and a half, but because he was great in the way stats guys want pitchers to be great they were fawning all over him rather than saying what they should be - "Hey! Small sample size!" It only got worse last season as he did put together a great year and a great beginning to the post season, which by the way was even more ridiculous because the post-season performance spawned even more sabermetric love even though that is so squarely in the realm of small sample size it has to travel 8 weeks by magical steed to reach the border. In response to all that love, I root for nothing but failure from Cliff Lee, if only to prove the point that even people that profess a love of objectivity can be subjective fools at heart.

Some notes:
  • Before you get all excited about last nights win, the offense basically came from two guys that were doing well (Espinosa and Ramos) and the one guy who wasn't that you expect to bounce back (Werth). Outside of Nix the rest of the team went 3-19 with all 4 Ks on the night and one measly walk. It is still a terrible offense with Zimm out.
  • The "Leadoff Kid" Ian Desmond has gone 3-20 after those back-to-back games that proved us all so wrong. He's only taken 1 walk during that time and last night he saw only 14 pitches in 5 at bats, including 2 1-pitch affairs.
  • The bullpen is looking set with Burnett as the closer. It seems apparent because after coming in to get Ibanez out in a big spot in the 8th he was allowed to face righty, righty, switch, switch (better right), switch (better right), righty. The splits screamed at Riggleman to let Storen close this one out. He didn't listen. However, if you want to take away something good, it does look like Riggleman won't stick with a one-inning limit for his guys.
  • Morse was out with the flu but how long do you think he'll stay in left while the "average bat you know" Laynce Nix sits? Nix is a much better fielder so the switch will be tempting to Rizzo, too. Of course the "most" correct answer is let Morse stay in left for a while to see if he can turn the corner and put Nix in center for the could be done Ankiel, but we all know that ain't gonna happen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An eeeeeaaaaaarrrly look at Danny Espinosa

Originally I wanted to take a quick look at Wilson Ramos to see if there was any way that his hot start was sustainable. Problem is - he just hasn't played enough games yet. I'm not going to go ahead and try to say anything about someone with 19 PAs even with qualifiers. You are just going to have to wait your turn, Wilson. Instead lets take a look at the only other National hitting well not going on the DL (I imagine all Nats fans look like the dog :37 seconds into this), Danny Espinosa. (yeah - I know he's only got 32 PAs himself - so what would be ludicrous to do for Wilson is simply silly to do for Danny)

The big knock on Danny was that he could not hit for average. For most of 2009 and 2010 he struggled to maintain an average around .260 in the minors. He also struck out a bunch. Having trouble making consistent contact in the minors is usually a recipe for disaster in the major leagues. However Danny is youngish, he flashed a decent average in his short stint in AAA, and he didn't bomb out of the majors in his first go round, so the thought was he could maintain some sort of workable average in the majors that would allow his patience and power to make him a useful offensive player. Something in the neighborhood of .250 would be nice. Danny is now hitting .280.

When someone hits for a higher average than you expect - the knee jerk reaction stats-wise is to look at his Batting Average for Balls in Play. This number is usually pretty stable. If he's much higher than normal, than he might just be getting lucky. That IS what we see. Danny has a BABip of .375 while we'd probably expect something in the low .300's based on his minor league stats.

Before we go and call him lucky though, you can change your BABip by changing your batting approach. Is Danny hitting more LDs (real good for getting hits) and GBs (ok for getting hits) than FBs (bad for getting hits unless they go over the fence)? Yes he is . From last year's brief stint in the majors his line drive rate has impoved from 8.3% to 12.5%, GBs are up from 45.8% to 50%, and FBs are down from 45.8% to 37.5%. For 32 at bats it's not statistically meaningful, but it is what we want to see. That's the good news. The bad new is that 12.5% LD rate, the rate that you can usually look at to get an idea of how well a guy is hitting, is more in line with a .250 average (if that) than a .280 one. Really what this suggests is that he's not going to hit .214 again, but the .280 won't stick either.

What about Stirkeouts? Do they early numbers here tell us anymore about Danny? Again - not on the side of the .280 Espinosa. He's striking out at a 36% rate so far. While that should go down (he was around 30% last year and around 25% if you look at the minors) it suggests that it is because he's not making a lot of solid contact with the ball. That's not right, though. He is not swinging and missing at pitches any more than before - his actual contact stats are slightly up on pitches both in and out of the zone, his swinging strike rate is down. How is he striking out more? He's taking ALOT more pitches so far. He swung at 31% of pitches out of the zone and 70.5% of pitches in the zone last year. Those numbers have plummeted to 19.5% and 58.6% respectively.

Personally I take that as a good thing. Danny is 16th in the league in pitches per plate appearance*. Given that Danny's walk rate is up from last years numbers to where we'd like to see it I think it's fine if he's taking a few more strikes and striking out a bit more in exchange for getting on base at a nice clip. Another good sign is that his power is so far right on line with what we'd like to see.

If you love batting average, this review a bit of bad news for Danny. That .280 average does look to be unsustainable and we should see a drop at some point. But I think there is more good news here for Danny, the offensive player. All the stats suggest that Danny is the hitter the Nats wanted him to be at the plate this year. A low average guy with good patience and power. He might be striking out a bit more, but it looks like it's the unfortunate consequences of successfully getting on base more, as contradictory as that sounds. Early indications are that the Nats will get that .250 15 HR, 65 walks guy they wanted, with the hope of better things in the next few years as he learns to better distinguish what's a strike or not at the major league level. I'm mildly enthused.

*LaRoche is 7th, Werth 10th, Zimmerman 24th, Ankiel is seeing 4 pitches an at bat. Give Rizzo credit here. The Nats are working the opposing pitchers. Overall they are 4th in the majors in seeing pitches, snuggly fitting in between Boston and the Yankees. It is a recipe for success. Make a starter work so you can weaken him and get his not-so-fresh stuff as early as possible, Even if a starter is dominating you might be able get past him more often into a team's soft underbelly of middle relief. Now all the Nats need is to get guys that can hit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's only two weeks but... (first base edition)

If I were the GM heading into the season I would have one overriding hope. Let us make it through the season with no major injuries. That's not to say I'd rather be uninjured than win, but if the team gets a major injury the whole season becomes a big "what if"? I don't know how good this team will be when that person comes back. I'm forced to re-evaluate my whole outlook that I've been thinking about since the end of last season. I'm know I haven't prepared my team for a major injury - that's a questionable use of resources. I'm going to get blamed for the losses anyway so let me at least get blamed for the team I wanted to put out there for the year.

The Nats have had a couple minor bumps and bruises so far, nothing major. But the thought of Ryan Zimmerman being out for any extended period of time is scary. The team started Alex Cora in his place yesterday. Alex Cora. That's a "Saved by the Bell" to "Saved by the Bell The New Class" type drop off (I'll see you in hell Weasel Wyzell! - hmm unfortunate turn of a phrase) The team itself is already in rough shape offensively. The only regulars batting over .240 are Espinosa and Zimmerman (and Ramos but he's not a regular - oh they say he'll get more playing time, then start Pudge immediately after that. It's been a 50/50 split so far, let's see what they do in the next 2 weeks before I believe they are fully behind Ramos and they aren't just saying he's going to play more time to appease us rabble rousers for a couple months). They can't afford to lose anyone and certainly not their best player. Now losing Adam LaRoche...

LaRoche has looked bad so far this year. So what. 10 games. BUT he's also been injured and tweaked himself again yesterday. That is worrisome. LaRoche's stats are pretty decent but that is under the assumption he is healthy. If he's not, it throws the whole poorly contstructed, half-hearted, building year Plan C game plan out the window. The Nats didn't need LaRoche to be great - but they did need him to be ok for an entire season. That is what was going to replace Willingham in the lineup. It was also going to be a defensive thing and if he is slowed by a nagging injury all year long, that kind of negates that too. I guess the Nats hopes would then pin on Chris Marrero but there is a reason the organization isn't that high on him anymore. (He does have age on his side - but still I don't see him as ready for the majors in 2011 and that's what we're talking about here) It wouldn't be Zimmerman bad if LaRoche went down but it would still kill the offense.

Just for giggles some 2011 stats so far
Adam LaRoche: .194 /.306 /.290 (1 HR)
Derek Lee: .219 / .324 / .344 (1 HR)
Carlos Pena: .190 /.333 /. 238 (0 HR)
Josh Willingham: .242 /.297 /.545 (3 HRs)

Josh is last in OBP? And has a league leading 14 Ks? Someone changed his approach.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Thousand Cuts Philosophy and More on Streaks

The Nats are not a poorly built team. At least it feels that way. There are issues here and there but overall there isn't one thing that stands out. There isn't a starter who is so bad they couldn't be someones's fifth, or a regular who couldn't fill in the gaps for another team if they had a hole at that position. Ok, there is Alex Cora on the bench, but the rest of it is constructed adequately enough for a team of this caliber. This is a team that feels like they have no single glaring weakness.

Yesterday in the comments I even said
The Nats have moved from losing lots of games because they were bad, to losing not as many games because they have a bunch of little problems. Death by a thousand cuts (and misses)
Well, I'm an idiot.

That's not to say there aren't a bunch of little things wrong, there are: the bench isn't good, the lineup is kind of wonky, Pudge plays too much, the most likely scenario for the young players this season is mediocrity... But resolve these issues and you would still have a team struggling for .500. It isn't these minor issues that is driving the Nats bus off the cliff into another season of wins in the 70s, the major issues are. Somehow recently I've lost sight of the forest for the trees. (or is it the other way around?)

The Nats have two big problems looming this year - they don't have proven top of the rotation starters and as Chris pointed out they don't get on base.

I responded to the OBP issue by saying basically "well the power will be better", which I still believe, but even then I thought the end result was an offense that can't crack the top half of the league. You just can't have that many guys on the team who don't get on base.

As for the former, what the Nats have historically had starter ERAs 0.60 or so worse than the NL average. That's terrible. This season is no different. We like to casually think (ok I like to casually think) that a rotation full of #3 and #4s would be average but that's not the case. When you think about it some more it would be bad.

The Nats do have minor issues and they are annoying because they would generally be easy to fix, but clean them all up and you still have a team built with two big holes. Until the Nats can fix those two this team isn't going to surprise anyone.

More on streaks -

I know this only interests me, but suck it. My blog. I mentioned the other day that the reason an 0-5 start was more predicitive than an 5-0 is because more teams miss the playoffs then make them. But I realize there is a second question that is raised in that article. Why do we see long losing streaks for playoff teams, but a long losing streak at the beginning of the season means no playoffs? Why is an 0-5 start more predictive than 0-5 runs at other times in the year? Answer : I don't think it is.

People have thought about it and said things like "an 0-5 start gives you the chance of more streaks later" but I don't think that's the right way of looking at it. I think that if you took any single 5 game segment out of the season and looked at all the teams in history that went 0-5 from, say game 61-65 or 127-131, you'd find something similar to what you find looking at the 0-5 start. A lot of bad teams that don't make the playoffs and one or two good ones that do.

It's the chance of a streak for that specific stretch matching up with a playoff appearence, NOT the chance of a streak at all matching up with playoffs. Trying to look at playoff teams that had similar loss streaks is looking at it sideways.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Desmond should always leadoff!

He just went 4 for 5 and showed all of us! Riggleman sure knows how to motivate these guys! All he needed was a little time! We were worried over nothing! OK, it was great to see you! Watch that back button when you leave, it's kind of tricky. See you tomorrow!




He gone? Ok. Look. Desmond was going to get hits. He's shown that he's not a .000 hitter. He's much better than that. If the Nats kept on throwing him out there in ANY slot in the lineup, he was going to eventually get his hits.

It's also true that he's shown he's around a .310 OBP guy. So batting him first is not the most productive use of that spot. But you know what? We've also seen that batting order is really insignificant in comparison to the talent you have in your lineup so if they want to have Desmond as their starting shortstop this year (and personally I don't see any reason why they shouldn't see if last year's hanging on can be this year's competence) then it almost doesn't matter. Go ahead and bat Desmond first, if that makes everyone happy. I don't like it but it's not the worst thing in the world.*

*Just like the bench construction right? A minor quibble. The question then is, when do these all add up to become a major issue? Anyone of these maybe costs you maybe a game or two, but let every little thing slide and suddenly you are 5+ games worse than you need to be.

As for last night - we'll I (and others) warned you (and you seemed to agree) Livan could easily be blecch this year. And the bullpen always has a chance to be pretty shaky early in the year, before you know which guys are really capable and which guys where just fooling you. Bruney last year didn't keep the Nats from having a good pen, and if he keeps it up Gaudin won't do it by himself this year either. You hope to find the right combination as early as possible, but if it takes a month or so that's not bad. Sometimes you may not find it all year.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Just kidding!

Desmond will be leading off!

(Riggleman is doing a great job at making a minor issue into a major one. I assume that is the role of a manager, right?)

A quick note about bad starts

Cliff Corcoran at noted that while roughly the same amount of teams started a season 0-5 (110) as 5-0 (105), starting the season hot seems to have no strong bearing on a team's ability to make the postseason yet starting a season cold does. He theorizes that the timing is the culprit.

It's simpler than that. It's because there are so few postseason spots. Only 25% (8 of 32) of the teams make the playoffs - and that's now. Before the Wild Card kicked in the numbers were lower - in 1968 you had a 10% chance of making the playoffs, in 1994 it was 1 in 7.

If half the teams made the postseason, like in hockey or basketball you'd expect these starts to be roughly as indicative of making the playoffs. But because the majority of baseball teams go home, it's tough to turn a 5-0 start into a playoff run and even harder still to turn an 0-5 beginning into one. This makes a bad start a killer, but a good start not necessarily a... life bringer?

Think of it this way : An 0-5 start means it's slightly more likely you are a bad team. Bad teams don't make the playoffs. A 5-0 start means it's slightly more likely you are a good team. Good teams make the playoffs sometimes. Corcoran says something like this about the bad teams, calling an 0-5 start "revealing", but it's the fact good teams don't make the playoffs at the same rate that bad teams miss 'em that drives the difference in usefulness in predictability.

The good news for the Sox is that it's easier since 1995 than it has been to come back from an 0-5 start.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Does the Nats bench subjectively suck ?

Yesterday, I said that the Nats bench sucked. Looking at it right now I don't think I was objectively wrong. Alex Cora (35) cannot hit. Jerry Hairston (35 in late May) cannot hit. Pudge (39) cannot hit. Stairs is useful only against righties and is 98 years old. Laynce Nix (30) ... well I like Nix.

All of these guys are acceptable fielders which makes them somewhat useful, but in a "last guy on the bench" sort of way. The Nats bench is filled with "last guys".

Thinking about it a bit more though, I wondered if I was looking at this the right way. Really, what I should be asking is if the Nats bench subjectively sucked. In other words - does everyone else's bench suck too? Let's review the NL East to see how they compare

Scott Hairston (31 late May)
Willie Harris (33 late June)
Ching-lung Hu (27)
Daniel Murphy (26)
Mike Nikeas (28)

Slightly younger than the Nats, maaaybe slightly better. Hairston has some pop and if the Mets are lucky Hu might have one decent season in him. Harris is useful but probably aging out. Murphy is filler. Nikeas is not even that.

Matt Young (28)
Eric Hinske (33 till August)
Brooks Conrad (31)
Brandon Hicks (25)
David Ross (34)

I like the mix in this group. David Ross is a very nice backup catcher. Hinske is basically Stairs. The rest are probably AAAA guys but with some nice traits. Young can take a walk. Conrad has nice power (though is a dud in the field). Hicks is probably overmatched but at 25 you might get lucky and he plays the role of MI on the bench that can field. Plus - no former Nats!

Scott Cousins (26)
Emilio Bonaficio (26 in a couple weeks)
Greg Dobbs (33 in July)
Wes Helms (35 in early May)
Brett Hayes (27)

This is a terrible bench. Hayes is there because someone has to back-up at catcher. Dobbs and Helms would fit right in with the Nats bench - old and can't hit. OK to be fair Helms was good vs lefties last year - but given his age and stats over the past 3 years I'm not keen on him repeating that. Bonaficio is young but is terrible, I suppose he could pinch run (12 SB, 0 CS last year) but you don't keep a guy on the bench to pinch run when the rest is this bad. Cousins was a legit prospect but hasn't been able to put it all together. He's ok, a nice 4th OF.

John Mayberry Jr (27)
Ross Gload (35 yesterday - Happy Birthday Ross!)
Michael Martinez (28)
Pete Orr (32 in June)
Brian Schneider (34)

A more typical bench. JMJ is the failing prospect getting one last shot. I don't think he'll make it but I do think he's a very decent righty bat off the bench versus lefties. Ross Gload is the lefty pinch hitter, but this is the rare team that doesn't need that guy. Schneider is the token "old back-up catcher with inflated defensive reputation" but he's still capable behind the plate, unlike a lot of these guys. Martinez is a catch-all that used to be in the Nats system - generally a no-hit decent field type. Pete Orr is scrappy veteran. I don't like it, but it seems standard.

What did we learn other than back-up catchers are terrible? (Pudge would probably be 2nd best in the division if he got the playing time of a back-up) Is the Nats bench THAT bad subjectively?

I'll hold off on any strong decision, since one would have to go through all the teams to be sure, but looking at the rest of the NL East I would say no - the Nats bench is not THAT bad subjectively. Both the Mets and Marlins have benches that are nearly as bad. Make no mistake it's still a terrible bench, probably worst in the NL East but getting good players on your bench is pretty hard. You either have to overpay for vets or have a stacked minor league system that forces up some decent young talent. A lot of teams probably stick one or two decent players there and suck it up with the rest.

I guess what I'm saying is that the make-up of the bench, while horrible, doesn't constitute more than a minor failing by the management in my mind. A good bench is a rarity. Even title contenders role with mediocre ones. It's a shame the Nats didn't go with younger guys, or guys with a single great skill, but for a team like the Nats there are bigger things to worry about.

In other news - Espinosa is leadoff now, Desmond 7th. I think this can work out as long as Ramos stays decently hot. If Desmond is going to be a free swinger regardless of the situation, might as well put him in a spot where (1) he still might see decent pitches & (2) no one will really care if he makes that out.

Hariston, Cora, and pray for rain?

Tonight, in GAME #4, after a day off the young, exciting, fresh, inspiring, hopeful, new-look, Nats are starting Jerry Hairston Jr AND Alex Cora.

Last Year's Stats & Current Age

Hairston (35) : .244 /.299 /. 353
Cora (35) : .210 / .266 / .278

I'm not as defeatist on this year's team as some (which is weird because I'm pretty defeatist in general), but the bench is pretty terrible. You can stack it with veterans if you want, Rizzo, but make sure your manager then knows these are guys you play only when you HAVE to, not guys you work into the rotation like they are viable major league players anymore.

Thank you Butler. (An NCAA tournament aside)

When it comes to championship games, sportswriting is usually more forgiving than at any other time. There is no benefit to a sportswriter to harp on the negatives of a losing team with their dreams so recently crushed at the very last step, while such an slant could alienate coaches and players that they may need to deal with at a future date. It's better to praise the winner, then praise the loser, only less ardently. Failures on one side are easily re-written to be successes by the other. Bad QB play morphs into a story about a great defensive game plan. 0-13 with RISP becomes a footnote in an article about clutch reliefing pitching. Blowout losses change into dominating performances by teams for the ages. This is especially true in college where the big payroll bully doesn't exist to give the writer an easy villian, only "kids" playing "for the love of the game". Most post-championship articles will read like the results of a pre-school foot race: There are no losers, only different degrees of winners.

Sometimes though, the storyline written by reality demands some unflattering attention paid to the loser. Usually this is a single play or player that gets the scorn, that way it can be played off as "I wasn't talking about you guys" or "if not for this play, you guys were worthy of the championship". But rarely, once in a blue moon, a team plays so utterly horrible that you can't write an article about the championship and skirt around this fact. Last night was such an occurance.

Butler shot horribly, at one point missing 21 of 22 shots. Only the most asinine of sportswriting can make that mostly about Connecticut's defense, or write an article about their season and not mention this as an absolutely horrible ending. (though the "most asinine" subgroup probably accounts for 25% of the sportswriting at any time - so don't expect to see none of these articles out there) The reality is that Butler was terrible. They lost the game. It was "one of those nights" for a team that isn't a great scoring team anyway. "One of those nights" that just happens occasionally to all but the very best teams. But it did happen, and it can't be ignored.

So thank you Butler, for giving us something so very rare. Post-championship articles where the losers lost because they played poorly.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Perhaps the world will change for Ian

It's been 3 games and what have we learned?


No really - three games tells us nothing. Three games gives us hints, glances, ideas, but nothing firm. I know, I know. We say this every year, but it needs to be repeated because it's sooo damn tempting to read something into games that, you know, actually matter. Games played by guys actually trying to get people out and get on base and not working on stuff.

Anyway - to the column title - if you haven't noticed Desmond struggled terribly in the opening series. He's 0 for 2011 and he's made an out every time he's been up. Getting a lot of outs is kind of a strange quality to look for in the guy you are giving the most at bats to.

So what do you do for this guy? Do you tell him - "Hey you! Don't make so many outs!"? Not if you're the Nats.
The Nationals don't want Desmond to change his approach at the plate.... The team wants him to be the player who hit .326 while batting in the second spot in the order last year.
I want him to be the guy that hit that home run that one time, doesn't mean it will happen. Look Ian did great hitting 2nd, and most of us think it had something to do with being protected by Ryan and seeing a lot of fastballs. But it also had something to do with it being only 46 games and having an abnormally high .371 BABip. It isn't a surprise Ian makes outs. His OBP was .308 last year. .318 two years ago. .326 in the minors. You don't play him because he gets on base, you play him (in theory) because of his defense and moderate power.

What should the Nats do with Ian? Well, if they don't want to mess with his approach they should drop him down in the order. Not to 8th - but down there somewhere. If they want him to bat leadoff, they should work with him to be more patient. What they shouldn't do is keep trying to fit the round peg into the square hole.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tiny Little Hurdles

Good Ol' Needham notes that "Hey, the offense will probably suck this year because nobody gets on base". He's right but that doesn't mean the offense can't be better. Last year the Nats offense scored 655 runs, good for 14th in the NL. However, it really wasn't significantly worse that the 11th place team (Dodgers - 667) and it was significantly better than the 15th place team (Houston - 611). Meaning what? Let's not make it out to be more than it is. The Nats weren't the worstesest but they were stuck in a glob of teams with well below average offenses.

How can the Nats get unstuck from this morass of mediocre mashers? Let's look at the OBP and SLG lines for each position from last year and think if the Nats can beat that line this year. (Yes, I should be looking at isoOBP and isoSLG but that's a lot more work for not much gain)

C: .285 / .352 - Depends on how much Ramos plays. Pudge is no better than this, probably worse. Ramos will beat that slugging given enough opportunity. The OBP maybe, but probably not by much. He was the kind of guy that would bat .310 and have an OBP of .340 in the minors. He's not batting .310 this year.

1B: .358 / .533 - I'm going to compare Dunn to Werth rather than LaRoche, because that's how I see it. Werth=Dunn, LaRoche=Willingham. Werth will have a hard time matching the slugging of Dunn, even with generally a higher average year in and year out, Jayson only hit Dunnian levels of slugging last season. He should get on base more than Dunn though, thanks to Dunn's low batting average.

2B: .312 / .350 - Espinosa is most likely a minor popper with patience who can't hit for average. He should best the SLG, but the OBP is roughly where he'll fall. It'll be with a decent amount of walks though since he'll hit like .240.

SS: .317 / . 394 - Can Desmond beat Desmond? I don't know. Everyone else who played SS last year actually raised the OBP and SLG of the position, so I'll bet on "No", but it'll be basically the same.

3B: .370 / .473 - Can Ryan beat Ryan? Last year was his best average and OBP year so far, but he's slugged better. I think he can beat that SLG number and raise the position with him. (the non-Ryans must have been terrible to bring down the numbers this far in like 15% of the at bats)

RF: .327 / .439 - I'll put Morse in here, since LaRoche is going to go up against LF. The odds are yes, he can beat both these numbers, though it probably won't be by as much as people were hoping.

CF: .310 / .303 - Ankiel and Hairston are so terrible at getting on base that they should actually get on base less than the Nyjer Morgan led CFers did last year and at times it seemed like those guys were trying NOT to get on base. Ankiel's bat should easily best the SLG, though Hairston's bat won't help much with that either.*

LF: .352 / .436 - The OBP is a little high for Adam, the slugging is a little low. He's not necessarily better than Willingham. In fact I'll just come out and say it - he's not better than Willingham, BUT he is better than 110 games of Willingham and 50 games of filler. That's the risk you take with Josh.

The end result? Just as Chris said - nobody is getting on base for the Nationals this year. They'll probably see minor gains at catcher, WerthvDunn, and "Morse-field" but that'll be offset by minor losses in the LaRoche v Willingham, et. al. battle and in center. The rest will float around the same numbers. They will see improvement though and it will be in slugging. They should see gains at catcher, second, Laroche over Willingham+, and a big gain in center. I also wouldn't be surprised if Ryan upped his slugging a bit this year. This will more than offset the loss in slugging the Nats will see moving from Dunn to Werth.

It's a better offense this year. Not much better (OBP is more impt than SLG) but maybe enough to move them to the top of the morass of mediocre mashing. That's a start, I guess.

*Can I rant again how ridiculous it is that Hairston is platooning for a major league team in center field in the year 2011? This is a guy who hasn't been a starter since 2005. Who's been good one year since 2006. Who's only played more than 22 games in center ONE SEASON in his career. And yet here he is for the 2011 Nats, primed to play about a quarter of the games in most important outfiled position. I thought the Nats topped themselves last year when they brought in Willy Taveras and didn't cut him immediately, but a platoon with Hairston? How do they beat this next year?