Nationals Baseball: June 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Shutout #11

Still thinking playoffs?

In "Harper is always right" news:

Ian "Career Average" Desmond is hitting .224 / .265 / .313. That's Classic 2005 Guzmanian. Guzman finished that year with a line of .219 / .260 /.314. Though to be fair to Ian that was a much better offensive year for the league in general and at no point has Ian reached the depths that Guzman plumbed that season (Did you remember that at one point in Late July that his line was .180 / .222 / .265 . That'sa an OPS of .487! Joey Votto has an OBP of .441 right now! God, I miss that year)

Roger "As good as anyone" Bernadina has slumped (or returned might be a better word) to a line of .262 / .315 / .372. To me this is Roger. But if you have one brain cell in that big bald noggin of yours Rizzo you won't bring back Ankiel. Maybe he's a better fielder (maybe) but do you care? Is there any chance an almost 32 year old guy hitting .200 who doesn't walk and who has lost his pop is going to play any appreciable role on this team when they are ready to make a run?

Still as bad and as "holey" as these two may be, you start these guys, you lose those games. You do this for Roger because you have nothing better right now. You do it for Desmond so you feel like you have given him enough time to dismiss him as a starter and give another guy a long shot at making it. You do it for both because they aren't old and maybe you get lucky. This is the non playoff year to do that.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweetspotting the Nats

...and the Marquis trade value slide begins. On the flip side Nix's value is holding quite nicely. Oh well, the Nats were due for a "market correction". Let's hope it's light and brief.

Some fun diversions

Expansion Draft

The guys over at The Platoon Advantage did an fake expansion draft asking us various Sweetspot bloggers to come up with protected lists for our teams. It was an interesting exercise especially because I don't focus too much on minor leaguers, but I gave it my best. Here's who I lost.

1st round - Mike Morse : Whoops. In my defense when I first made the list Morse was just coming out of his funk and Adam LaRoche was still starting at first. Of course that wasn't when I submitted the list (a couple weeks later) so I had time to correct this after Morse heated up and LaRoche went down for the season. It's not a terrible loss, certainly not in the long run. Morse will be 30 next year and has limited major league stats to back up his success. Still if I had to do it again, I wouldn't have left him out there.

What I probably should have done is left Werth hanging out there. While it would have been a psychological blow if he was grabbed, that contract is so bad that I can't imagine either one of these teams would take it - even if they wanted a name player to draw in fans.

2nd round - Ross Detwiler : I'm fine with this. He's been pitching better lately but the Nats have better and younger pitching prospects and with Straburg and ZNN inked in to the rotation for the immediate future, I don't see Ross as anything more than a back of the rotation guy. Older prospects are what you hope to lose in these things.

3rd round - Jesus Flores : Also doesn't bother me. I do think he'll get back to hitting better, but the Nats don't have a need for him. Again on the older side for a "prospect"

Take a look at the draft here:
Round 1
Round 2 & 3
Protected Lists

Trading for CF

I contacted a few Sweetspotters about trade possibilities concerning CFs (since that seemed to be of most interest to the "maybe, possibly we win now" crowd) and hashed things out with a couple.

Nick over at Nick's Twins Blog said that a Span trade is a non-starter. Not because the Twins wouldn't trade Span in theory. It's possible with Ben Revere developing that Span could be considered expendable (though they'd rather deal the bad fielding, sooner to FA Delmon Young) But with the Twins surging and Denard out with a concussion, there are too many unknowns to make a sensible deal. If they collapse and Span can come back then it's worth discussing. There's not a lot of time for that to happen though. One thing he did note is the twins are interested in power when it comes to offensive players and that is something the Nats don't have a lot of themselves.

Logan at Blake Street Bulletin was really open to a Dexter Fowler deal and if you look at his 2011 stats you can see why. Fowler is all promise. He was so impressive in the minors and so fairly blah in two years in the majors before being terrible this year. This season he started bad, got jerked around, and now seems like he might never put it together. It's like he already played CF for the Nats! Given his current state Fowler could be had cheaper than most other options but still not cheap. We agreed on Tom Milone for Fowler, which of course is meaningless nonsense, (unless proposition 304 passes, and we all pray it does) but I wouldn't be surprised if that's about the price. A Top 10ish Nats prospect that projects into the majors sooner rather than later. They like Milone because control matters in Coors. I don't mind giving him up because if you like the way Peacock's progressing, Milone starts to get squeezed out of a future rotation.

No Holes?

In Tommy B's chat yesterday (which was ALL about Riggs and Davey) he started out with one non-managing question. Someone asked if the Nats should be buyers or sellers. He opted for the acceptable "non-sellers" answer but he followed with something I have to disagree with.

"What would you trade for __that's actually available? They have five starters and a couple extra in AAA. They have a deep bullpen. Bernadina is playing/hitting better and takes care of CF as well as anybody you'd get. If Werth, Z'man, Desmond start hitting at their career levels, where's the Big Obvious Hole to fill?"

There's no holes! This team is perfect!

Ignoring the bench for now (a team shooting for maybe a WC doesn't need to trade anything decent to fill a bench spot) let's agree that there are some holes to fill. Where? Not C, 2B, 3B or RF (even though it is a hole right now - it's not gonna be unWerthed anytime soon), but the other positions? Let's take it from biggest hole to smallest.

(and let me note I personally don't think the Nats should bother addressing any of these issues this season. Let these guys play and see what happens. Maybe you get lucky. A couple of these spots have minor leaguers ready now or soon. No reason to go out and get someone. But I think the Nats aren't a playoff team and shouldn't worry about losing a couple more games. Your mileage may vary)

Shortstop - Boswell says if Desmond started hitting at his career level SS wouldn't be a hole. Here is Desmond's career line (from all of <2 years of major league hitting so you really shouldn't expect him to get back to it) : .257 / .296 / .385. This is why Boswell is not a GM. A guy that never gets on base that maybe hits 10 homers in a year? That my friend is a hole. And that's factoring in Desmond's crazy hot 20 game stint from a 2009 that seems so long ago. Ok, ok you say. He's a SS he doesn't have to hit well as long as he's fielding ok. Fine. But it's not that he's hitting below average. He's the worst hitting SS in the MAJORS. By a good amount too. BIG OL' OBVIOUS hole.

Centerfield - "Bernadina is playing/hitting better and takes care of CF as well as anybody you'd get." True if you add in the all-important phrase "right now". On the offensive side Bernadina had a hot couple weeks that's keeping him at average offensively, but I don't see a reason he can keep doing even that well. But he's rather similar to Desmond in that his minor league numbers suggest more a guy that had a fluke year, than a good player waiting to happen. I don't think he's as overmatched as Ian, but I think last year's numbers (.246 / .307 / .384) are more in line with what you should expect. And despite the flashy plays, he's still not playing great, maybe not even good centerfield. He's a 4th OF. A player you can plug in for a week or two and hold the fort with. A pinch runner. He's not a starter.

The Nats may not be able to get a better offensive player than Bernadina, but defensively there are some above average guys out there. It's a hole. Obvious if you take a second to look at it. Big? Maybe not Big. Medium-sized.

Left Field - In the past month Laynce Nix has hit .209 / .250 / .388. His major league production bounces around but I think the "Low-average, decent pop" handle works. Historically (though not this year) a decent fielder, you could win with Laynce as the 3rd of your 3 outfielders. But he's not. Right now he's carrying the offensive load for the OF. It's going to be hard to find a CF that's offensively great, so LF is going to need more production, especially as Werth gets older and ... less productive? Geez. Anyway. It's a hole. A small one. Not very obvious because a hot May makes his stats look very good. But it's a hole.

First Base - For the first 30 games Mike Morse was terrible, low average, no pop (3 XBH), just a waste of a spot in the lineup. For the last 40 games Mike Morse has been one of the best hitters in all of baseball. 14 homers. An average over .340. He's been slipping a little bit in the average dept lately but the power is still there.

Which is the real Mike? Probably neither, but given his performance last year it seems closer to "40-game" Mike than "30-game" Mike. This isn't really a hole, but after less than half a season I'm not ready to consider this resolved just yet. A non-obvious piece of ground that needs a bit more investigation.

The Nats are in much better shape now than a year ago. They have a great pen. They have 5 starters that can hold their own (or better in the case of ZNN). They are much better on D. They have an offensive team that's not an embarrassment. Most of the holes they do have have potential solutions in the minors (Lombardozzi, Bryce) But no holes? Come on.

(also I know it KILLS you out there that Lannan put 14 guys on 5 and 2/3, only struck out 2 guys and only gave up 3 runs. Too bad! It's what he does. Go Lannan, go! Scatter those singles!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The great even-ing out

For the first half of the season there was a bit of an undisclosed issue with the Nats. They were losing a lot of close games that they should be winning. They had a huge gap in one-run games losing far more than they should have. This was helping to keep them a few games under on their pythagorean projection for wins losses. That's an imperfect system to be sure, but it gives you a good idea of about how good your team is.

Well now they've won their last 7 one-run games (and their last 2 2-run games, and their last 2 extra-inning games) Their record stands at about where it should. They are a .500 team with around a .500 record and a .500 record in 1-run games. What now?

You might think that they are actually better than that. Now that Zimm is back they aren't just a .500 team. Kilgore does point out that they've been a much better team in the past month. But it's not the offense that's making them better. They've been pretty average in that department, if that. Desmond still can't hit. Werth is still trying to outdo Vernon Wells for worst contract ever. Everyone not named Danny Espinosa or Jerry Hairston? really? Ok or Jerry Hairston is cooling down fast. How they are winning is by dominating on the pitching end, and there is nothing different about those guys then there was a month ago.

Not to say this can't be a very good staff (I suppose it can, if everything goes perfectly) but what do you think is more representative of their real talent level: an overall ERA of 3.46 or the ERA of 2.59 they put up in June? Do you think Marquis can keep up his 1.82 ERA for the month? Lannan his 1.44? ZNN his 1.05?

The pitching will shift back to a normal level. The hitting will remain about where it is, slightly below average (at least until you prove to me Werth wasn't a mole sent by the Phillies to destroy this team). The team will flirt with .500 all year, but anything beyond that... it's tough for me to see it play out.

But .500. That's good, right? You're not getting greedy for more right now are you? Damn it, you are aren't you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Davey

says the Rocket man.

I love Davey Johnson. I think it's a great choice.

Was that the plan all along ? Hard to see that since Davey's been with the team since Nov '09. I guess they could have had a handshake deal that Johnson would take over the team when they got good, or maybe Rizzo brought him on thinking that he might be able to convince him to take on a team, but only if it's a winner... eh we're getting a bit too much into conspiracy theories for me. Easier to believe they needed a manager and Davey was there.

If you're worried about the length of time off for Davey (He last coached in 2000. That was back when the Yankees were good, if you can believe it!) I did a quick search and found 17 post war managers that had a layoff as long. A couple were big failures but the majority coached 'em up the same as before. Which in Davey's case is very good.

On Rizzo

Before this gets turned into a "Harper hates Rizzo" thing a few notes

  • I think Rizzo has done a good job so far, maybe even very good
  • I don't know the man. He could be a great guy. He just comes off to me in public as an ass. I prefer guys that don't.
  • My complaint is that he wouldn't come out and explicitly tell Riggs that he was a seat-filler. He doesn't have to keep Riggs on. He doesn't have to respond to demands. A conversation would have been nice but from what we hear from Riggs it wouldn't have been much of one on his end, so that whole 3rd point on last night's post becomes moot.
The fact that this is a mess is Riggleman's fault. This is Riggleman's mistake.

More Thoughts

I want the story to be about something else. Really I want it to be about how Rizzo is kind of an ass, just like Kasten was kind of an ass.* People being asses bother me far more than someone being overly proud.

*That Boz story about how Kasten told Rizzo... ‘Forget the [expletive] contract. Own the job. Just be the [expletive] GM. Prove you’re the guy.’ ” What a pompous ass, right? I mean I would have turned around and said "Either you believe I can be the GM or you can't. Don't jerk me around for a year so you have an scapegoat if things don't go well. Make a decision. Own your job."

But that's not the story. Riggleman is the story because he's the one that made the terrible decision. He's the one that screwed up, not Rizzo.

We can all understand why Riggleman wanted to do what he did. We've all been disrespected. We've all worked hard and watched it seemingly go unrewarded. But it's turning that want into action with complete disregard for the consequences that drives this drama. Riggleman wanted to quit feeling he was in an untenable situation. By doing so though he would severely screw up his chances of managing anytime soon and he would disrupt the very team he was looking to continue to support as their manager. To most people, those consequences would outweigh whatever burden they felt they were under and they'd stick it out. They'd probably walk as soon as they reasonably could but, again, they'd stick it out. Riggleman didn't and it doesn't make a lot of sense unless his own pride was more important to him than those consequences.

If it IS that way than good for Riggleman. He walked away from a job he loved and ton of cash (hey $400K is not chump change) because those things weren't as important to him as his self-respect. But I get the feeling from what he's said that those things do matter. He does want to coach again. He does want this Nats team to win. It feels more like he backed himself into a corner and screwed up than he took a principled stand.

I have a hard time working up anything beyond gut-reaction anger at Riggleman because, well, it's baseball right? Every time I try to take the deadly serious "he let his team down" view I can't help but drift into thinking it's kind of like he walked away from being banker at a game of professional Monopoly. This doesn't seem like it will effect anyone's job. He's not ruining a player's dream, unless that player set his standards ridiculously low. He made a stupid decision. He screwed himself more than anyone. Let's move on.

So where does this leave the Nats? One thing we can be sure of is that they are firmly and completely Mike Rizzo's team. He's made it clear. He's in charge. But here's the deal. He lucked into having the #1 picks in back to back years when once in a generation talent was available. He's mostly built up a solid core finally backed by some cash from the Lerners. The expectations are playoffs sooner rather than later, certainly by 2013. Don't screw it up or the fans won't be calling for the next manager's head, they'll be calling for yours.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's always on the busy days isn't it?

It was Needham praising him, right?

Riggleman resigns - unhappy that his contract wasn't being picked up.

Surprising on many levels

1) That we didn't hear about this coming. If he was THIS unhappy you would have think the word would have leaked to the media from somebody. Hell, if I was Riggleman I would have done it. Use the fanbase as leverage. But, outside of a faint rumbling here and there, nothing. This was a genuine shock.

2) That "old school" Riggs would put himself above the team. Did he deserve a new contract? I don't know. The fact is he didn't have one and that's business. You suck it up, serve out your deal and leave in a justified huff at year's end. That's how it works for players. Hard to see you being a success as a manager that asks your players to do something you yourself won't do.

3) That Rizzo wouldn't even talk to Riggleman about the deal. I'm sure they had a conversation at the beginning of the year that went something like :

Riggs : "Can we talk about the contract?"
Rizzo : "We'll evaluate it with you later in the year."

Fine but it seems like he deserved a brief conversation or at least a firm date (during the All-Star break?) where he'd get half an hour to discuss a contract. To not even give him that - I side with Riggs on this - makes it seem like he's definitely not part of the long range plans. It doesn't bother me if this is the case, but damn Rizzo, be a man and tell him that face to face. Don't pussyfoot around it.

This was the conclusion of a couple of bad moves. Rizzo doing his "I"m a big man" jackass act. Riggleman making a decision on emotion for himself.

I don't really think it matters to the team. Talent will take them to .500 and some people will see it as rallying, other will think they could have done more. But it still is "Classic Nats" making sure nothing is ever going completely right. Good to see somethings never change.

OK one more thing

Charlie Slowes says "unbelievable" for a lot of things that are completely believable.


Honestly that's all I got time to say right now.


That and Yay Lannan!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The other side

You can't win a game like yesterday and feel like this season is anything like the Nats have seen before. In part because the Nats have never won a game like yesterday. According to Rocket Bill, they've never done it when they were down by more than two runs in the 9th. But really because the Nats have spent the last few years being a bit unlucky and last night was all about being on the other side.

In the 9th the Nats got
  • the other team's starter replaced even though he was easily handling the Nats, had retired the last 7 men he faced, and was sitting at 99 pitches. Thank the Mariners for not scoring one more run and keeping the "save situation" alive!
  • Got a ball booted by the other teams first baseman
  • Got the call on a close 2-2 pitch to Bernadina
  • Got the liner off the closer to bounce harmlessly away rather than right to a defender
  • Got the liner off the closer to knock out the closer
The Nats had to do some work of their own, too, but you don't often come back from 4 runs down in the ninth without some help. The Nats got plenty.

This matters because the Nats face possibly the hottest pitcher in the AL since May and the possible frontrunner for ROY in the next two games. They could easily lose both. Lose last night and they could be 5 games under and a feeling of "ok back to the usual Nats season" couldn't help but creep back in. Now lose the next two and they are only 3 games back and fans look to get those games back in the next series. It's the difference between a team getting hot and a team getting better.

A couple notes

Mike Morse has obviously been super hot, but so has Danny Espinosa. a .304 / .356 / .598 line in the past 4 weeks. Now can he go to the All-Star game?

Roger Bernadina is hitting over .400 with 3 home runs in the past 2 weeks. Do I think he'll keep it up? Not a chance. Do I thank Rick Ankiel for getting injured. Yes. Yes I do. You were a mistake Rick, but at least you've done the team the courtesy of taking yourself out of the picture so better players can play.

I never mention Clippard in trade talks but he is a viable piece to deal. My issue is that I don't know how much a middle reliever will bring back. I kind of doubt it'll be enough to make a deal worthwhile. He also has a ton of cheaper years coming up and he was a starter for a long time (I like that in a reliever). Young, good, cheap is what you want right?

Quietly Ian Desmond has done the same terrible offensive job as always. Steve Lombardozzi has been promoted. Matt is hitting .314 / .385 / .467 in AAA. You've got this season Ian, but don't expect any more rope than that.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if the Nats comeback in the late innings again soon DO NOT call them the "Cardiac Nats" PLEASE I BEG YOU

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dangerously close to being relevant, and I do mean dangerous

July 31st.

That's the trade deadline. That's the last date where Mike Rizzo, if he truly believed that 2012 was going to be the first real step to the playoffs, could deal some veteran talent for prospects. The last time he could deal a useful player on the wrong side of 30 for organizational depth.

And he would need to do it. If the Nats were to compete in 2012 and beyond, then in the next few years the young talent would have to go out from the Nats organization rather than into it. Except the Nats organization is still not very deep. It has talent but relatively it is still a middle third (10-20) ranked organization. Scratch the surface of the Nats minor leagues and you find something. Dig a little deeper and it's not as impressive. A few deals and suddenly the minors could be barren again.

But in the next few games the Nats could pull over .500, within a few games of the Wild Card lead. If they come out of the next 9 inter-league contests within a game of where they entered (or better) then there is going to be incredible pressure from the fans and the team to skip over this last trade period, to "believe in the guys". Winning suddenly becomes dangerous.

It's not that it's better if the Nats lose. Win or lose Rizzo is in control and can do what he needs to. And it's not that the Nats chances of winning will collapse if they don't deal. But I can't help but feel this is all taking place a year early. Instead of a team coming into its own we have a team riding some unexpectedly good performances (Morse, Nix, Marquis). That to start the push now to the playoffs would be doing it at the earliest possible moment, rather than the one planning and reason would suggest is best.

I may sound repetitive but this is going to be the driving topic for the next month barring a complete Nationals collapse. The Nats are exactly where Rizzo thought they would be. Challenging .500 with a promising 2012. What he might not have expected was that this mild success would be enough to give hope for fans and the team and make them want to push for the playoffs now.

(I'll admit, a tiny part of me wants the Nats to go 0-9 with Marquis getting bombed twice just to see the reaction of everyone when they finally come around to trading Marquis only to see that his value has plummeted. "But I don't want him any more! Why can't we just trade him for Mike Trout?" If they can't make the playoffs (what the larger part wants), I root for what amuses me.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Best team eva (eva = since 2005)

Like Ms. Spano said, "There's never any time" but the Nats have been too good to just be silent so here's their record the past 6 seasons after 72 games

2011: 35-37
2010: 33-39
2009: 22-50 (Jesus Christ! Why are any of you still following this team? Come back when they are officially good. You earned it.)
2008: 29-43
2007: 30-42
2006: 32-40

Pretty pathetic. The 2010 Nats were as close as 2 games under up until game 64. Then they went into a 2-11 tailspin. Basically if the Nats can cross July 1st within 8 games of .500 (which they will unless they go 1-8 or 0-9) they'll be the best July / post 81 game team since 2005. (2010 was still at 9 games under on Jul 7th. the 2007 squad pulled themselves up to the same 9 games under plateau as late as August 5th. Yes these are the goals history has set for the Nats. It's like a 2 foot high jump.)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It may be cliche

but a Father's Day of steak, baseball, and beer is hard to beat.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The future is... almost now?

First Yay Lannan!

The sweep of the Cardinals has only heightened a belief that was being made apparent by the "Don't Trade Marquis" movement. Nats fans want to win sooner rather than later. "Big deal", you say. "Everyone wants that". Well it is a big deal when sooner= 2012 and later = 2014. This isn't about giving up on a future that may never happen. The Nats will be better. This is about how much they'll be better, how soon they'll be better, and how long they'll be better.

Let's all agree that the goal is to be playoff level competitive in 2013. Maybe not high 80s / low 90s in wins, but at worst a bad-luck low 80s team with all signs pointing to a great 2014. What is the best way to get there? Do you start going "all-in" spending money on mid-level signings that are more luxuries than necessities to get that extra 2-3 wins? Or do you keep on building looking for players that can come up fairly quickly but are probably not going to make an impact on next year?

This next month is when that decision has to be made... maybe. Marquis, and on some level Nix - though only because the Nats OF situation is so dicey, is exactly the type of player I described. They don't bring enough extra talent to the table to be necessities, but are more useful than your run of the mill 3/4 starter and 3rd/4th OF. Resigning both of them would more likely than not put the Nats in line for a season with a couple more wins in 2012 than the alternative. (let's ignore the fact for now that they can trade them AND resign them). But does that mean the same for 2013? Maybe 2014?

Trading them sets up the possibility of something really special in 2013 and beyond. The right deals could fill the Nats to busting with young cheap major league talent through 2016. That could afford them more room to make key signings. With luck it could build a nice 4+year run or so. But it could also just end up being a small step back if those players don't pan out (which is always a strong possibility with prospects) When you hope to compete for a Wild Card (or more) every win does matter.

From what I gather Nats fans are tired of looking toward the future. They have their great young players in Strasburg and Bryce. They'd rather take the better bet on the near future, and hope through luck and $$$ that the far end of the run takes care of itself. Is that being short sighted or is it reasonable given that they know even regarded draft (like 2007) can disappoint?
The Nats may be one or two moves away from something really special and this win now attitude could be impatience that leads to a Nats team that always seems one player short of making it. Or it could be knowingly striking while the iron is hot. Fans are pretty sure 2012 can be good, who knows what could happen by 2014?

I stand firmly in the trade side. (and like I said this is ignoring the fact that you can re-sign these guys after a deal and I wouldn't be against that) The market seems to indicate that Marquis will be one of the hottest commodities on the market and his recent pitching is only helping drive up that interest. One right deal, one smart deal even if it's for a great A-ball guy that doesn't see the light of day until late 2013, to me that seems worth losing a player like Marquis. He's not a difference maker. You might be able to get back someone that is. You also insulate yourself against the possibilty of things going poorly in 2012. Another key injury or some steps back by young players and the 2013 dream could die. By not trading you are essentially wasting these years, if this happens.

But I don't live and die with the Nats. If they don't make the playoffs in the next few years I won't be crushed. That factors into my cold heartless robot opinions. If I were a die-hard than keeping Marquis might make more sense. They team has a chance now to win. They are better. They should keep continuing to improve. To not make a run now seems cruel, even if there might be a much better opening coming up, because that "might" also means "might not".

It's a tough decision for Rizzo and company. I hope for their sakes, and everyone elses, whichever way they choose to go works out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pitching Pitching Pitching

Oh I know Zimm is back and the offense has exploded the last two nights. The offense though, isn't the reason the Nats are winners of their last 5 games, 7 of 10, 10 of their last 15 and 11-8 in their last 19. It's the pitching. The Nats have allowed the following run totals in their last 11 wins.


and in their last 8 losses


The short of it is when the Nats pitching is average the Nats tend to lose. That may be different now with the Return of Zimm, but it's not that different. They need great pitching to be a good team. They've been getting it.

In the past two weeks tonight's pitcher, John Lannan, has allowed opponents to hit with an OPS of .625. That's good. It's like the opposing team has been a bunch of 2010 Pudges in his last 2 games. During that same span John Lannan is the 4th WORST pitcher on the Nats by that stat. Only Slaten, Maya, and Burnett have let opponents do better. ZNN and Marquis have been great. The bullpen has been a little wild but unhittable. Clippard has been brilliant (and really should be the Nats All-Star. If you are going to have a league where set-up men and middle relievers are important than guys like Clip have to be acknowledged.)

The pitching staff isn't this good. The average BABIP in the NL is going to be around .300. You got 5 key guys with BABIPs under .220 in the past 2 weeks. Clippard's is .000 (the only hit he's allowed was a HR). The team number is .246, in the .220s in the past 7 days. These numbers will come back to earth. How far back they fall will determine if this team can make a run at .500, or start slowly fading once again.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Best Nats News of the Day....

Lots of good news for the Nats yesterday. So much so that I can't decide what exactly is the best news I've heard. Is it:
  1. Ryan Zimmerman returns!
  2. Gorzelanny makes rehab start, soon to return and replace Yunesky "The Dominican League Roy Halladay" Maya.
  3. LaRoche out for year, spares team months of awkward and poorly planned outfield platooning while still injured Adam weakly hacks his way to off-season surgery.
  4. Ankiel injured. No more Ankiel for a couple days. You know he's been hitting worse since coming back? He left hitting .221 / .302 /.288. He has hit .167 / .200 / .250 since.
(Of course it's #1, but #4... that's pretty close, right?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mar-quis to winning?

Trading Marquis should be a no-brainer. He's a free agent to be. He's performing above what would normally be expected of him. He's only been with the Nats for 2 seasons and most of the first one he was injured, forming minimal connection with the fans. And yet, if the comments here are any indication, the fans don't necessarily want to see him traded.

Everyone would be fine getting back a top tier Grade A prospect for Marquis (preferably in CF). That isn't in question. The question is would you make the deal for a Willingham like return - a sure thing with limited value and a question mark? Do you trade for something better but further down the road? Do you trade Marquis just to trade?

There are a lot of unknowns here, the biggest of which is what Marquis expects to get in a deal. This matters because if the Nats don't trade Marquis they HAVE to sign him. He's going to be a great trading chip for precisely the same reason he stands to make a good amount of money in the off-season. There are very few decent pitchers coming up in free agency. CJ Wilson, Mark Buerhle, and Roy Oswalt (all guys that won't be dealt mid-year) head the FA class with a precipitous drop off beyond these guys. Buerhle is expected to target only a few cities. Oswalt is mulling retirement and is expected to be picky if he does pitch in 2012. Wilson, if he doesn't re-sign, is probably the best target available to everyone but he only will have 2 full seasons of starting under his belt after this one.

What all this means is that if Jason will get his multi-year deal. He will easily be paid well for 2 years, and likely could get 3. More than 3 is iffy, as there have been very few 4+ year contracts for pitchers doled out in the past few years. Looking at the last two years of signings the "going rate" is around 8 million per. Given the market, the trending, etc. ... I'd like Marquis to get something close to 20 mill for 2 years. Something in the 25+ million neighborhood for 3. Are you willing to have the Nats go there, probably paying a little more to keep him from looking at free agency? Because once July 31st comes and goes without a contract extension or deal, Marquis will have all the bargaining power.

The other huge unknown is what the Nats will get back. Chances of a good young prospect just ready to burst out on the scene is more than unlikely. It's impossible. Sure Capps brought back Ramos but Ramos was blocked, and Capps is young with a year of team control left. (and it was a terrible trade made by the Twins) Marquis is at best a rental leading to a market singing of a good mid rotation starter. You don't trade potential star value away for that. More likely will be a struggling 26+ year old current player, or a decent prospect but one in Single A now that's looking at a likely 2014 call up. Even more likely is something not even that good. But we won't know until teams start kicking the tires.

Do the Nats even need Marquis? It's true that the Nats will need a starter to eat up innings next year. You can't rely on ZNN, Lannan, and an injury-returning Strasburg. Another round of Livan is possible but if you are looking to start making a push in 2012 and looking for a #2/#3 to help you do it, Livan is trending the wrong way. If you're going to try to sign a guy in FA anyway, and you aren't going to get that true star, maybe Marquis is a good bet.

But the 2013 pitching class is as deep as the 2012 one is shallow. The Nats could far more likely pick up an impact arm then, rather than overpay for Marquis now. Next year they could gamble on an injury recovery or sign a Jeff Francis type cheap just to kill innings. 2012 isn't the year for the Nats it's 2013. And Marquis, at 33 and a year removed from a serious injury, isn't without his own risk. As good as he's pitching now he's not a lights out starter, and will likely be a #3, sliding back in the rotation over the next 3 years.

It's not as cut and dried as it is for Nix, who because he's almost certainly performing at an unsustainable pace, and plays the position destined for Bryce, is in a gotsta go situation (you do realize he's going to want a multi-year deal to be a starter if he can keep up anything like this right?) You always need pitching. Marquis has a history of being... well ok. Not trading Marquis is defensible.

Still I think you do trade Marquis and it comes down to realizing the the team the Nats are, not the team the Nats want to be. As much as we all think 2012 will be a better year and that having a Marquis around could keep the Nats' heads above .500, that can't be counted on. What if Mike Morse is playing over his head? What if Strasburg takes longer than expected to come back? What if something is wrong with Werth? What if Ramos and Espinosa don't progress much past league average hitters? What if Zimmerman becomes injury prone? These aren't worst case scenario questions. These are legit questions. Things that should give you pause that the Nats are ready to make that next step right away. And if the Nats do have to look past 2013, wouldn't you rather have that decent prospect in Single A rather than a couple more wins today?

I don't mean to bring you down. I do think things are coming together. I do think in the next 2-3 years the Nats will be significantly mid 80s win better. I do think that we'll have to debate this more when we see what the Nats can get for him. But at a base level not trading Marquis to sign him is a win-now move. If he were younger or better it may be different, he might be a key to winning for several years to come. But as the pitcher he is this is a move you make to round out a rotation hoping to make the playoffs next year. The Nats aren't there just yet.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The end of the Long Road

Last Stretch : Goal 5-6 Actual 6-5;
Total : Goal 26-23 Actual 21-27 (and 1 rainout)

Turns out I made a counting error in the very beginning so I've been off by a game the entire time. Would have been more interesting if the Nats were pushing .500 but each win counts right? The long National(s) nightmare is over. The 49 games in 51 days stretch turned out to neither validate nor bury the 2011 Nats. Rather, in typical "new" Nats fashion, it slowly but surely pushed them out of relevance and down to the cellar of the NL East. From .500 (9-9) they find themselves once again not bad enough to force changes and not good enough to play out a dream run to .500.

Actually to be fair, if Zimmerman returns healthy and produces like he can, .500 from then on out isn't totally out of the question. There are guys that should come back to earth (Nix, Lannan), but guys that can probably do better (Werth, Gorzelanny, Werth, WERTH). With a little luck the Nats could press for that mythical 81 win barrier. Unfortunately though the Nats would be foolish not to deal Marquis (who very well might be the best pitcher on the market), Nix, and some relief arms. This should deplete the talent at the major leagues and wake Nats fans up from this dream no later than July 31st.

If you wanted to pinpoint a stretch and series when the season was "lost" it had to be the Pirates, Mets, Os, Brewers, Padres stretch in mid to late May, with the Padres series in particular crushing hopes. Even with a favorably timed "rain out" the Nats would lose each of these winnable series except for the opening 1 game Pirates matchup. (Granted the Brewers had gotten red hot right before they played the Nats but either of the last two games in that series were winnable.) The Nats could take a little solace with the Mets, Os and Brewers series coming on the road but losing 2 out of 3 at home to San Diego? If they couldn't handle a less than mediocre Padres team at home then what hope did they have against everyone else for the rest of the season?

They'll have one more tough run at years end playing 33 games in 34 days in late August and Early September, but it's likely that this teams fate will be sealed by the time that rolls around.

Other Notes

Did I mention Werth has been struggling? I said leave him alone a couple weeks ago but since then he's been terrible. Like .135 and 3 XBH in 2 weeks bad. They are trying him at lead-off to maximize the only thing he's doing well right now, getting on base. So how's he done so far? 1 walk, no singles in 9 at bats.

Yay Lannan! A classic 1K win. Getting ever so close to Top 25 in ERA. It kills you doesn't it? You know if I'm talking to you...

Marquis wants to sign here long term. That's fine with me as long as (1) it's not for any more than the last deal - I'd even go 3 years but at a cheaper per year rate and (2) it's not an extension but a FA deal signed after he's dealt in July. Sorry Jason. It's looking like you'll have a good deal of value on the market. (Still hoping the Cards make a mistake and want to deal Colby Rasmus)

ZNN is coming back a lot faster than I ever thought. Looks like I'll be happily wrong. I'll be even more happilier wronger if Strasburg can do the same.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ian Desmond is frozen in place

Eh - below is a garbage post thrown out at the end of the day. Like an aspirin in your advent calendar they can't all be winners. Read it if you want but the jist is that the Nats have Matt Antonelli playing some SS in AAA. That's fine if he's going to replace Hairston or Bixler as a bench guy but I don't agree with it if they mean to replace Desmond. I think Desmond should get the whole season to work his issues out and if they do replace him I think it should be done differently (Espinosa to SS, someone else to 2nd).


I brought up Matt Antonelli a couple weeks ago in comments as a potential MI guy to bring up, if the Nats ever decided to get rid of the dead wood on the bench. At the very least a former first round draft pick who is still only 26 years old would be more interesting to watch hit than Alex "In 2012, Alex joined the Dodgers organization as a minor league instructor" Cora. I was reminded of him when FJB posted a link to this article. (Matt also blogs with the same stylistic choices of a young Farid)

Anyway it all got me thinking about how he was doing (damn good : .364 / .425 / .576 in 18 games) and that got me thinking of where they would put him. He's a 3B/2B guy and the guy to replace in the infield is the SS. What to do? What to do?

The smart play, if the Nats want to give up on Desmond (which I wouldn't until the All-Star break at the earliest but that's me), is to move Danny Espinosa to SS and let Matt take 2nd, while Ian takes a breather in AAA. Danny played SS exclusively until AAA and Matt has never played SS in 5 years of minor league ball. Danny IS a SS, better than Ian in the minors. Matt might be able to pass as a 2B. Danny becomes the new major league SS while Ian, who's gotten plenty of chances by now to stick, has to not only hit but learn to play 2nd if he wants to come back. Thems the breaks. Of course the Nats aren't doing that because that's not how things work in baseball. I obviously never played the game.

What the Nats are doing is keeping Danny at 2B. This is because, I assume, it would be terribly disruptive to move him to short in general. It would be even worse, specifically for what could be a short period of time, since they'd only move him back to 2nd if Antonelli failed and Desmond got hot after the switch. Best to leave well enough alone. So instead Matt Antonelli is learning, at 26 to play a position he probably hasn't seen time at since early college. If he can play SS than great, but if he can't then... I guess the Nats are stuck?

What this amounts to is the Nats bending over backward for Ian Desmond, the guy they are eyeing, at least on some level, for sending down to AAA. Rather than force HIM to learn 2nd and maximizing their talent available with Danny at SS and Matt/Ian at 2nd, they are forcing the world to fit Ian. Danny stays at a position when he might be better suited elsewhere. Matt is forced to move to a position where he's probably better suited elsewhere. Ian gets to stay where he is.

It's tempting to say the stability of playing 2nd every day helps Danny adjust to the major league, but why not try first and see if that's actually the case? Why assume this for the sake of helping out a player you are rapidly losing faith in? It makes no sense and to me it's the type of move that a top notch organization doesn't make.

Sorry - I wasn't clear but if given my druthers Ian would basically have the whole year. Maybe around Sept call-ups you shake things up if he doesn't improve enough to keep or trade. And I guess they could be prepping Antonelli to be a super sub, replacing a Hairston or Bixler. That makes more sense actually. Well besides the fact that chances are someone isn't going to play all those positions well and it's better to have guys on the bench that can. Of course I say that because none of the guys the Nats have can hit so defense is a big part of their value then.

Gotta trade 'em all.

Well I'm glad I've been busy because this would have been a depressing few days to cover the Nats am I right?

There isn't all that much to say beyond the Nats can't score runs and hopefully Ryan Zimmerman's return will help. It's an interesting lack of offense at least. Yes the Nats don't get on base enough (15th in OBP in the NL) and they don't SLG enough (13th) but it's not because they lack the secondary skills to get on base and slug. If we remove batting average from the equation their isoOBP and isoSLG numbers are quite average (tied for 8th and 8th). It's the fact they don't get hits that is driving the terrible offense. There are only two players batting over .254 and neither have a ton of at bats (Nix has been up 5 fewer times than Rick ".208 / .278 / .278" Ankiel)

They are a little unlucky with BABIP overall (.277 as a team) but that only suggests a minor correction is coming. The hope for this to get better is (1) the return of Zimm, a lifetime .289 hitter, (2) the correction of Jayson Werth, a lifetime .270 hitter currently hitting .244, (3) the continued success of Morse and Nix, lifetime .294 and .247 hitters currently hitting .308 and .283 respectively, and (4) Wilson Ramos developing into a higher average hitter. That's a lot to ask but then again outside of Nix keeping up his average, it's nothing that one wouldn't expect.

Well, I guess there was a bunch more to talk about.

Anyway the trade deadline is a mere 50 days away so as clear non-contenders the Nats need to look into once again who will be dealt. My opinion follows

Who NEEDS to go
Laynce Nix, Jason Marquis.

Veteran players not signed for next year who have enough value to bring in a decent player (if you're lucky they might get a guy on the outskirts of some team's Top 10) and who don't necessarily have a place with next year's team. These define the ideal trading pieces. The iron's hot with Nix and there's no reason to wait on Marquis. If the Nats really want either guy it's quite possible to grab them again in FA after the seasons over.

Who should go but might not draw interest
Pudge, Hairston, Coffey, Slaten

Pudge (who I've grown to really like this year as he admirably slid into a back-up role - which I'd be perfectly ok with him taking next year too... for a lot cheaper mind you) and Hairston are both on the wrong side of 35 and have minimal offensive value. Hairston though is versatile and hasn't been terrible this year and Pudge makes a nice defensive specialist type back-up catcher. It could be that some teams might have a passing interest and the Nats should jump at it.

Coffey and Slaten are both older relievers - they type of guys you do want to deal. Coffey would bring a bit more interest, despite Slaten's being in team control for another two years, because Slaten is sneaky bad and doesn't get out lefties like he should. (in other words if someone drives around Slaten to take a look - toss him in their trunk and run away) Coffey though is still a Plan B type of pick-up for teams, if they can't get a better or younger reliever from the Padres. They'd be looking to get him for a steal.

Who could go but also has enough value to stick around
Livan, Flores, Burnett

You may think that Livan belongs in the last group but if Marquis has to go (and he does) Livan serves a purpose soaking up innings and taking a rotation spot every 5th time out. With Zimmermann on an innings limit, Lannan a year removed from injury and Gorzelanny unproven as a full year starter it would be a mistake just to trade Livan for a bag of balls. You need someone to take the abuse.

Jesus Flores is hardly lighting AAA on fire but he has decent major league stats and catchers are not that easy to find. On the other hand if the Nats believe in Ramos, that could make Derek Norris very tempting trade bait for teams, (or if they decide he shouldn't catch anymore) which would leave the Nats without a good alternative to Ramos if he gets injured. He would make a very competant back-up for a position that demands a lot of rest.

Burnett should draw at least passing interest. He's young enough to have a few more good years for sure. History would suggest this is just an off year. Most importantly, he still gets out lefties. But that ERA is going to drive down his price. While it would be expensive to keep him (at 3.5 mill next year) it may make sense if what you want to do is turn him into something younger. Chances are he'll fetch a better price next year.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The San Francisco Treat

No time today so just a fun fact.

So far in 2011 Nats starters have given up a mere 6 runs in 43 2/3 innings against the Giants. That's a collective ERA of 1.23. I think they're in the wrong division. Can't the Nats be in the West? Doesn't DC belong to the whole country?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sabremetric Moooomm! He's doing it again!

John Lannan once again spits on the faces of sound statistical analysis and tosses a good game. He's put up an 0.45 ERA in his last 3 games, pitching arguably his best three games of the year. Lannan Hatas, who think the guy should have been removed from the Nats organization in 2007 because his xFIP was so bad, are in a tizzy. (Yeah the Nats lost. If I was a bad analyst I would say something like "the Nats just mailed it in when they got the lead" or "they don't have the killer instinct to put teams away" But fortunately for me I didn't suffer a massive brain injury as a child so I don't believe such nonsense. They lost. That'll happen. Back to Lannan)

Well ok I'm exaggerating (slightly) and not being fair to the Lannan-haters. John's actually been pitching quite well. He's striking out more batters (18 Ks in past 4 games, 26 in first 9) and allowing less men on base (WHIP of 0.95 in past 3 games) Of course you could say that he's gotten lucky (.161 BABIP) and he has been, but it's also a product of how he's been pitching. He's giving up few hard hit balls. Batters have put 65 balls in play against Lannan in the last 3 games and 36 of them (55%) have been ground balls. Only 7 (11%) have been line drives. With the Nats defense (good against grounders, bad against fly balls) that translates into a BABIP closer to .260 than the "expected" .300. He still doesn't give up homers. His tendency for GBs leads to more DP chances. These all point to a decent ERA.

It's about the tipping point with John. For the most part he isn't going to give up homers, nor many line drives. The other team's righties just can't slug him very well (and this year he's keeping lefties down too). But guys are going to get hits against him. It just can't be that many that it's mambo line around the basepaths. Recently, that BABIP has helped him keep his WHIP down around 1. His K's during the same time are at about 5.5 per 9 innings. When you aren't prone to homers or any XBH, that's a recipe for dominating pitching, hence the below 1.00 ERA. Lannan can't keep that up but history tells us that a K/9 around 5 and a WHIP around 1.30 would be enough for John to give the Nats another 200 IP or so of 4.00 ERA ball. That's all the Nats need right now.

As for the draft - who knows? Looks good but then again so did the Detwiler, Geary, Smoker draft. Things happen. We'll see in 2 years where everything is. Given this view I don't look at the Rendon pick as anything more than grabbing the best available player. A lot could happen in the 2-3 years it could take the guy to get ready. In baseball it's less about planning than preparation. You're arms are getting older? You don't draft guy X because he specifically is going to make it. You draft a bunch of pitchers in preparation that some leave, some get hurt, some just can't do it anymore. Guy X is just one of those. Rendon is filling the minors with one of the best hitting players available. That's great preparation. Worry about how he fits into the plan when you need to worry about that.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Monday Super Quickie

Long Road Update:

Early Games : Goal 21-17 Actual 14-23
Current Stretch : Goal 5-6 Actual 2-2

Sunrise, sunset. By the time I make my next Monday post it'll all be over. 49 games in 51 days will be complete, with only one well timed "rainout" to give them an extra breather. The Nats can't hit the modest 26-23 goal I had set out, nor can they reach .500 for the time frame. A 7 game sweep of the Giants and Padres would only put them at 23-25. A better goal would be for them to take 4 out of the next 7. Have a winning road trip. Start putting together a couple of these in a row, then fans can start thinking about loftier goals.

Other Notes:

Boz looking smart. Balls are starting to drop in for Danny Espinosa. Almost in the .220s!

Forget the wins, this is easily the best news for Nats fans.

Friday, June 03, 2011

What can be fixed and what can't

Two days ago I said Espinosa was fine, yesterday Werth. Ramos is good. Nix has been the best hitter on the team. Morse has been the hottest. The starting pitching is decent. The relief pitching better than that. If this is all true than what exactly is wrong with the Nats? (other than the fact this decent lineup has only been together for about 2 weeks) Why can't they go on a nice streak and challenge for .500? And can these things be fixed? And can I blame Rizzo for this? And can I stop asking questions?

The lineup has no "star" - Elite offenses have elite offensive players. The Nats should have two, but right now they have none. Werth has not been hitting as such and Zimmerman is still out. It's nice that Morse is so hot, but his streak should be complementing the two more reliable offensive guys.

Fixable? No. The Nats aren't giving up young players for a good bat. Only time can heal this wound.

Blameable? No on Zimm. No on not bringing in someone else. (what other FA was there that's doing well right now? Berkman and... Xavier Nady?) Maybe on Werth - stats suggest he was a borderline "star" on offense.

Ian Desmond - He's struggling terribly. .223 / .264 /.350. An empty lineup spot right now.

Fixable? Not right now. There isn't a good MI replacement ready so sending down Desmond would be just for his benefit not the team's (and I don't even think it would help him - it looks more and more like he just had a fluke year)

Blameable? No. In fact I think playing him everyday even if he ends up costing the team a game or two is the right move.

Center Field - Ankiel is ready to leave the league. Bernadina doesn't have the talent to stay in it.

Fixable? No. National's organizational depth just isn't there. Anyone worth going out to get would likely cost the Nats something they don't want to give up. Starting Bernadina everyday until the All-Star break is the right move (so you can write him off) The best move for wins might be... I can't believe I'm saying this... starting Hairston everydaYYUK! Bleccch! Ugh! You can imagine how good a "fix" that is.

Blameable? Depends on how you feel about Nyjer Morgan. The Nats had a cheap, good fielding, average hitting option and they threw him away because of an off-year and a bad attitude. I don't mind fiery, even if it borders on jerk. I like decent play. I blame Rizzo.

The bench is awful - JHJ is the best of the bunch and his praise is no more than "hasn't been awful". Cora has gotten some hits but basically all singles. Bixler is bad. Stairs worse. There's no power, no getting on base, no elite speed, no great fielding.

Fixable? - I have to think so. Certainly you can drop Stairs and bring in someone that can hit. There's got to be someone out there right? You can replace Bixler and maybe get lucky with a decent call-up, hard to see it being worse. If Ankiel takes Stairs place on the bench, (giving the Nats a good fielder on the bench and maybe some pop) you can find a speedy good field never let bat OF, right? On second thought don't do that because you'll let him bat. I know you will. Sorry Tony Gwynn Jr.

Blameable? Yes. This isn't where the GM makes the biggest impact but it is where he has the biggest influence. Pudge is a fine back-up catcher though. So kudos on that 2 year, 6million dollar deal for that.

There is no "Star"ting pitcher? - Unlike every other year from 2006 on, this Nats rotation doesn't feature anyone that doesn't belong in the majors. Problem is it's more a group of 4th starters than a true rotation. ZNN is starting to move up but there still isn't anyone here that you can be sure is going to give you a good game and maybe bust a losing streak with a shutout.

Fixable? - I can't see how. Great pitchers don't grow on trees and don't come cheap.

Blameable? - I wouldn't. They made a pass at the best pitcher available. (who is no longer an elite pitcher - there I said it! - Take that Cliff Lee lovers! In all your respective faces. You know Lannan's ERA is only 0.10 worse than Cliff Lee? Does that sting?) Other that that what can you do? It's wait on Strasburg time and see how good the other guys can be in the meantime. Best bet is ZNN proves to be a solid #2, Gorzelanny or Marquis a #3, and Livan and Lannan keep doing their surprise bits, one being brilliant every 3rd game the other managing to keep the opponent from scoring the ton of runs they should by voodoo curses and magic spells.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Here's something I don't know what to make of

Commenter "Anonymous" noted that it wasn't fair to simply say Werth was better than average in the NL. That includes a lot of less offensive minded positions. I thought his comment made sense and took a look at him in comparison to other NL RFs this year (with a number of ABs to get roughly one RF per team)

It's not good. He's 11th. Kind of fitting a space between the good players and the bad ones.

This didn't make sense to me considering he's not doing that much worse than his 2007-2009 years where he was 4th-6th in LF. If the bats are slumping why aren't the NL RF bats slumping? If we look at the MLB RFs we see Werth right in the middle, which is about what I'd expect. A drop of a couple spots from his better days. Like I said, a hot week from being back to where he should be. Are we seeing a RF renaissance in the NL? Maybe. Stanton and Bruce are two impressive bats. Seth Smith and John Jay are finally getting some time to hit. But there's something else that's pretty crazy going on.

Out of the 10 NL RFs ahead of Werth in OPS as of today, 8 are posting career best years in that stat. The other two Justin Upton and Carlos Beltran, are having their second best years so far.

That's pretty crazy right?

(I'm not saying Nats fans can't complain about Werth mouthing off. He shouldn't have. Not saying you can't say you expect more from him. You should. But all in all he is not terribly failing the team and him being slightly disappointing so far should be like 6th or 7th on Nats fans lists of things to complain about)

Leave Jayson Werth Alone!

First off Yay Lannan! I've got to get some sort of pro-Lannan graphic going here.

Jayson Werth is an easy target right now. This past off-season he got paid a lot more than he was worth, for a lot longer than he should have been. He had a hideous first month of baseball. A week or so ago he mouthed off in frustration at the team. That's a lot for a guy that's only played 50 games as a Nat.

Because of that, people are taking potshots at Jayson. I can buy saying he should keep his mouth shut about things until he's proven himself here. If you're going to say stuff you either do it right away (and hope you start hot) or after you've shown that you can carry the team, not after a few hot weeks. But other people have gone further. He's not a leader. He doesn't talk to the media like he should. He's overrated. Stop. Shut up about Jayson's "intangibles". And frankly it's time to take another look at his numbers.

First off, anyone who thought Jayson Werth would play to his contract, which would make him overrated, is an idiot. That was a career year, at the age of 31. Chances are... let me see... carry the one... a million-billionty to one that we see that Jayson for the length of the contract. In fact, I'd say the odds are better than not that we never see that Jayson again. The contract (for some reason) wasn't about duplicating that performance.

Secondly, Jayson's numbers right now, .255 / .342 / .435 seem bad in two contexts. In light of the awesome line he put up last year (which again - will never happen again) and in light of the numbers we've come to expect in baseball the past two years. Those too, are gone. The bats have been on a steady decline since 2006 and a rapid one since 2009. In 2009 the average line in the NL was .259 / .331 / .409. So far in 2011 it stands at .251 / .319 /.386. Debate the reasons all you want, the point is that Jayson might be hitting worse, but so is the whole league. His OPS+ when factoring in league numbers and park effects is 115. In 2007 and 2008 it was 120 and 121. In 2009 it was 129. He's basically a hot week from being as useful offensively to the Nats so far in 2011 as he was to the Phillies from '07-'09.

Thirdly, that is of course taking into account that terrible start. Jayson's May numbers were .287 /.364 /.455 for an adjusted OPS of 130. Unless you were an pie-in-the-sky optimist, Jayson in May provided exactly as much offense as you hoped for.

Jayson Werth has not been a hero for this team, but he's been nearly as good as any reasonable person could have expected. There are reasons this team is losing, but this guy performing better than average is not one of them. What he is though is a bigger and better target in comparison to Ian Desmond, Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, and whichever jabroni is playing 3rd while Zimmerman sits.