Nationals Baseball: Doing it Right

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doing it Right

The Nats may have managed to turn the OF situation into a mess yet again, but that doesn't hold true with the rest of the team. For once, the Nats are seemingly doing talent evaluation the right way and are letting Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, and Wilson Ramos have multiple months, not weeks, to find their footing in the majors.

Desmond has started 35 of 41 games this year, Espinosa 39. Ramos has only started 24 but has started 14 of 21 games since April 25th, clearly being treated as the #1 catcher. It must be tempting to replace all of these guys. None of these guys are hitting well.

Desmond : .217 /.255 /.362
Espinosa : .196 / .296 / .377
Ramos : .270 /.340 /.416

Despite those numbers I have a hard time finding a compelling reason to send these guys back down to AAA. Desmond has over 800 major league plate appearances. It's hard to believe that a short stint in Syracuse would enable to fix his issues hitting major league pitching. Espinosa is showing good power and patience, his problem is getting the ball in play which is what everyone knew his problem would be. Going down to AAA would change nothing. Ramos' is young for a starting catcher, but his minor league progression indicates someone with very little left to learn in the minors about hitting.

Of course it helps that the MI situation is terrible in the minors. The only player worth talking about in AA or AAA is Steve Lombardozzi and he's really just doing OK, not pressing for a promotion to the bigs. The catcher situation is a little tougher, but we all know Pudge is not going to be a starter for the mythical playoff challenging 2013 Nats, and Derek Norris is only just starting to get hot again in the minors (.405 / .556 / .960 in his last 10 games). He can simmer a little bit more (and maybe play some first base?)

It takes time for players to develop. We all know about Jayson Werth's slow rise to fame. Pudge didn't establish himself as an above average hitter until he had 2500 PAs (that's right 2500 - it helps when you start as a 19 year old). Adam LaRoche, a consistently decent hitter even as a rookie, was putting up a .250 / .292 / .388 line at the All-Star break his first year. With no good argument on starting someone else then it only makes sense to keep playing these guys like the Nats have, do it for the whole year, and let them either sink or swim.


Eman said...

Steve Lombardozzi. Wasn't he the Brooklyn Brawler?

Harper said...

Yes. This is all part of the process of how he becomes that character. Anyday now he'll step into a time machine and get sent back to the early 80s.

test said...

Thanks for that link to Baseball Reference, I've been dying for something like this for a couple of years. Should have known where to look!

I find it hilarious that Michael Aubrey leads the entire organization of 1B/DH with a .266 average.

The ENTIRE OF stats are pathetic

Hoo said...

The paucity of MI in the minors isn't anything new. The Nats also have a paucity of corner IFs and CFs. Flush at catcher but there's not a lot of hitters advancing quite as fast as hoped. Kobernus is struggling at high A which is a bit disappointing. Destin Hood and Eury Perez ok (Cutter Dysktra is um, not ok).

But kudos to the Nats and Pudge for stickign with the kids and being graceful about it. I do think Bixler could fill in but he's filler so better to stick with Dez/Espi.

Marsden said...

I agree that sending any of these guys down to the minors at this point would be pointless. About the only exception I might make is if Desmond or Espinosa drops below .150. Espinosa's defense alone justifies keeping him around even batting around .200. As for Ramos I think he is holding his own. In the NL of catchers with at least 100 at bats Molina has the best SLG with a .310/.350/.457 line so its not like Ramos is doing that poorly in comparison. Sure it includes a nice streak at the start of the season, but in general, as you point out, he should improve with time.

Harper said...

ck - wandering around the internet is what I do. After the 2007 draft the Nats basically have ignored CI players (and haven't been all that high on IF either). They go heavy MI, C, and pitching. Which is why two of those three are relative strenghts.

Hoo - based on how many MI they've drafted in the past couple years it's a shame there isn't more success lower down

Tre - Stats are down across the board. Comparatively Espinosa and Ramos are average right now and Desmond isn't the worst. The problem isn't these guys as much as it is there isn't a great CI or COF to balance out their play.

Wally said...

I think that they haven't done the same thing with the OF because they don't view any of those guys (namely Morse or Bernadina) as having a chance to be a long term player. So they go with the best short term option (in their opinion). I have a hard time disagreeing with their conclusion on Morse and Bernie. Good role/bench players, not starters.

I think that they feel good about 3B, RF, C and 2B. Maybe SS, but I bet the jury is out, mostly on the theory of a playoff team can carry one below average hitter there, but not two. So if that is right, it means that they are searching for the answers to LF, CF, 1B and maybe SS for their mythical 2013 team. Plus at least two kick ass SPs.

Pretty big task, but not as big as it was two years ago. You guys have correctly said that the position players need to come from the outside. Assume Bryce takes LF. I think that CF is the position that they are really struggling with. No obvious internal answers, and not sure what is out there externally. BJ Upton gets mentioned frequently, but he is available for more than just $$ reasons. Bourn would be ok, too, but can't see how they get him. Maybe a Meyers/Eury Perez package? More likely they try flyers on guys like Reddick or Joe Benson. Could also see them go hard for Prince and Reyes this offseason, and look to 2012 for the big pitching deal.

That would make the 2013 rotation a rehabbed Stras, FA (call it Greinke, to put a face on it), JZimm and two of Solis/ Peacock/Meyers/2011 draftee/Ray/Cole. Probably too young to win anything, but should be pretty good.

Wally said...

Hey, by the by, since this is about pieces for the future mythical playoff team, I was thinking about the JZimm discussion from a few posts ago. I had the impression that you think he is struggling a bit. I think the numbers suggest the opposite, that he is pitching in line with a 2/3 slot. As a good, anonymous blogger, I will selectively use them below to demonstrate my conclusions.

2011 JZimm:
*15th best WAR amongst SPs (1.3)
*9th best FIP
*career worst K/9, but career best BB/9 and K/BB ratio

Looking at some of the other underlying stats, his HR rate is almost an order of magnitude better than career stats, and clearly not sustainable. So I see negative regression there. But his LOB% and GB% are also down, and there should be positive regression there to offset the HR% increase, to some degree.

If he can keep the BB/9 improvement, he is on his way to a 3.5ish WAR season over 160 innings, which is a solid #3. If he gets his Ks back to career averages, he'll be even better. If he repeats that next year over 200 innings, that is a #2.


Harper said...

Maybe - I will say that I like what I see in terms of his recovery. I thought it would be slower but he seems to be about back to where he should be. I'm hesitant to predict anything better coming up though. I think the Ks and BBs are intertwined so it's going to be hard for him to raise the former and not the latter. And he still seems to have an issue with pitching with MOB, which is why he always seems to be putting up #4 results with #2 stuff. He hasn't gotten bit by the homer bug either.

I guess I see him as ending up a solid #3 next year, so drifting closer to a 3.0 WAR this year and a 3.5-4.0 next

Anonymous said...

I thought the Mets pitching staff was atrocious? What does it say about us that we got swept with two shutouts?