Nationals Baseball: November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The ChrisMarreroEra Part I comes to a close

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Did you know : Paul Maurice

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Someone help me out

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

as Scott Boras gently weeps

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

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

OK that's clever

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Playoffs Now? ... How about now?

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coley Kimbrall we hardly knew ya

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

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

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

And in case you don't care about defense

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

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

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

(personally I say overpay in trades for Upton.)

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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ramos SAFE!

Thank God. 


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

Ramos Update - Friday Morning

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ramos Update

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

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

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

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

Fine, I'm not here to offend

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

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wilson Ramos kidnapped - seriously

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

Veteran pitcher free agent bonanza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Damn you Jerry Sandusky

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

(yes and damn him for the child abuse too)

Monday, November 07, 2011

If you're thinking about getting Upton cheap

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

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

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

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hot Stove - Outfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Goodness In Baseball Bravery, Yep?

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