Nationals Baseball: December 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What's the worst that could happen : Gio and HRs

Steven from FJB, noted that while Gio's HR numbers are low they may not be driven by a low GB%, but instead a particularly low (re: lucky) HR/FB percentage, helped in part by his home park.  The early projections expect a increase in rate to say 9.3%. Given roughly the same number of FBs that would lead to about 4 more homers. Is this real?

Well, as far as I think, that's the worst case scenario. Gio's rank in HR/FB does follow pretty closely with his rank in GB%.  (2010 13 out of 43 qualified AL pitchers in HR/FB, 13/43 in GB%; 2011 18/42 and 15/42).  No, that isn't the best way to judge these things, but it shows that he isn't out of whack when it comes to these stats. It even suggests that he may be doing just right.  Of course the home and road splits can't be ignored. In 2010 Gio had a HR/FB rate of 6.4% at home and 8.6% on the road, in 2011 the difference was 8.2% to 9.8%.  Obviously the park was helping him. So what to believe?

Just to get an idea of how bad he could be in Nats park, I went ahead and pulled his worst FB% in the past 2 years (38.2% 2010 home), his worst balls in play (2.83 per inning 2011), and his worst HR/FB ration (the 9.8% noted above).   Put that all together in a 200IP season and you get.... 21 homers. (assuming my back of the envelope calculations are right).  So it seems like the projections are expecting the worst.  (well the worst that could reasonably be expected.) All this is also figuring he won't pitch any different in a different park while his splits suggest he did allow more flyballs at home.

The short of it, for those that don't like fancy numbers, is that while his home park helps him with home runs it's not to a degree that Nats fan should worry about it.  My expectations are that he will give up a couple more homers.  There's just no way to deny that his home park helped him keep the ball in the park.  But just 4 more would be about the limit of what I think could happen.  There's virtually no chance in my mind that he suddenly gives up 25+ bombs and becomes a much worse pitcher because of that.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas

I like the deal.  I don't love it, because the Nats didn't steal Gio, nor does his acquisition guarantee the Nats any sort of playoff spot.  But I do like the deal.

In general I think you can view a trade in 3 ways, how much does the deal help the Nats right now, how much does the deal hurt the Nats later on, and what alternates to the trade could have been made.

On the first point - it helps the Nats, not a great deal, but enough to make a difference.  You've probably read a lot about Gio the past few days but to sum it up, he strikes out a ton (plus), doesn't give up a lot of home runs (plus), but walks a bunch (minus).  If he ever got control he could be special, if he ever loses control he could be terrible, but really he's got enough innings under his belt that he's likely shown everyone who he is, which is a good 2/3 type of arm.  That's a damn good bet to be better than Milone, Peacock, and Cole next year. (And as always I love the AL -> NL move.)

One the second point - that's always conjecture at this point but it's likely not to be a big deal in the immediate future.  Milone is not an impact player and Norris and Cole are still a few years off. Only if Peacock turns into a better pitcher than Gio right now will it matter and I'd bet on Gio everyday.  A few years down the road things might be different.  Norris and Cole could be impact players, Peacock being a few years younger could be bringing a decent level of production while Gio starts to tail off.  But it's foolish to worry too much about seasons 3,4, 5 years down the road.  So much can happen between then and now, so much can change, unless it's a slam dunk star you're losing (re: Bryce) you have to make these type of deals, especially when you can absorb it organizationally.

Now the third point - that's a sticker.   Forget about Edwin Jackson, he might be a better value than Gio but he's NOT a better pitcher and the Nats need wins, not praise for good deals. But Roy Oswalt, he might have had a similar or even stronger impact on the rotation over the course of the next 2 years for only the cost of money, rather than prospects. Also, if the Nats were willing to part with these prospects could one or two more gotten back a real prize?  The latter is hardly worrying over.  You're looking for problems if you are looking there. But the Oswalt thing... that's something to chew over.  Certainly you'd rather have Gio than Roy from 2012-2015, but 2012-2013?   And are we looking much past that? If they do make moves like signing Fielder, extending Zimmerman, getting another player under control until 2015/6 then signing Gio makes more sense.  If this is it, than you could easily argue that getting Oswalt would have been a smarter move.  It would take a whole another offseason of nothing to prove you right but you could argue the point.

In the end - again, I like it.  I am all for trading prospects for quality major leaguers because the prospect success rate is much lower than we like to believe.  You put enough guys in there the more questionable it becomes, but even with these four I still like it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gio to the Nats

so they say

Peacock, Milone, Cole, Norris.

First Thoughts

They don't need any of these (in particular because they got a pitcher back in trade) but it's still a high price. Would have prefered they actually UPPED the package and gone for something better.  But still Meyer, Purke, and Detwiler are still there.  So is Solis and Robbie Ray.

From weakest to strongest

Milone is the weakest of the bunch.  His upside was Lannan, which isn't bad but it meant that he'd spend most of the next few years getting passed by guys the Nats liked better.

The Nats kept thinking that Norris would be special but he hadn't turned that corner yet. He's young and catchers develop slower, but the average could be a killer and he was never going to be the defender Ramos was even if he was improving. With Ramos in place, Norris was going to be traded at some point.

Peacock.  One great year.  Tell yourself that.  One great year.  The command could go at any moment and Peacock isn't THAT good that he can pitch around bad control.

Cole is a NICE prospect, all the tools of Peacock and might be putting it all together now.  TNSSAAPP?  Is that it?  He's the crown jewel here even if Peacock might hurt sooner.

Even Boz is into it

Boz rips the Nats

Tons of great points.
  • Nats have tons of money coming in soon.  Most teams spend when that's the case.  The Nats aren't (Harper Note: for another example see: Nats, New ballpark
  • Nats said what they wanted, seemingly had a bunch of different options to do it, and have done nothing.
  • Nats are probably overvaluing their own youth in regards to refusing to deal them
  • Most likely this is all because you have to do a song and dance to convince Ol Man Ted to give you a nickel for some penny-whistles at the general store.
It's not that doing nothing in the offseason of 2012 is in itself terrible. But in context it feels pretty bad.  For years the Nats did nothing.  Last year's Werth signing was supposed to be a signal that things would be different.  They even went into this offseason being very explicit in what very expensive pieces they wanted.  Then they did nothing, just like every other off-season.

To the average fan psyche the reaction is not:

"It's ok.  I'm sure they'll do a decent job of patching things together this year while we watch the youngsters develop.  Then next year they'll make that big push!  Go Nats!", it's :

"Those cheap bastards are screwing up this team again!"

and you can't blame them. That's what experience has taught them.

Boz is the team's greatest cheerleader.  He wants the team to succeed in DC so bad, I've seen him sacrifice a kitten on an altar of Wade Boggs' discarded chicken bones to the spirit of Walter Johnson*.  When he's telling you this, things have gone too far.  The offseason isn't over.  Oswalt is still out there. A CF trade might still be possible (not likely though - I think here Nats fans are just going to have to suck up the inevitable Greatest Show on Werth situation).  Let's see what they do.

*may not be true.  

(on a side-note - I'm getting a bit tired of this whole minor Edwin Jackson love fest. The guy isn't better than Danks, isn't better than Gonzalez.  He's not significantly worse and he'll come cheaper true, but THIS ISN'T ABOUT VALUE - IT'S ABOUT WINS)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


For a couple years now, we've all assumed that the Nats have been building toward 2013.  Why 2013?  Well for one, it gave them a fair amount of time to internally develop some high quality young players.  The other, bigger reason though, was that Zimmerman is due to be a free agent after the 2013 season.  You have to figure if  the franchise can't come up with a legit playoff team in 9 years, that he'd be ready to walk for greener pastures, despite all the "promise" the Nats can lay at his feet. Lose Zimmerman and you've made competing that much tougher.

But after last year's rise toward .500 and the introduction of the 2nd Wild Card, things have been different.  It now looks like the Nats, with some luck and a couple of key moves, could compete in 2012.  The fanbase sees this, is ready to go after 7 years of terrible baseball, and has to be managed delicately so as not to create outsized expectations.


It's not so much that the Nats tried to get a starter and a centerfielder and failed (so far). It's that they let everyone know they wanted to get a starter and centerfielder, then went out and failed.  Expectations were set and quickly not met.

The Nats could use a starter because here are the number of major league innings pitched by the Nats early rotation not named John Lannan : 192.1, 97, 92, and 62.  Oh, did I mention that this was for 2011 AND 2010 combined?  And that every single one of these guys has had a major injury in the past 2+ years?  So they need that extra Livan-like arm, but it doesn't have to be a Buehrle.  A 1-yr deal for any decent arm would give the Nats security that they won't have to burn through the bullpen and a chance to go through a bunch of their young arms to see who can survive, and maybe thrive, in the majors.

The Nats could use a centerfielder because they don't have one.  But maybe with one more year of Roger Bernadina stop gap, Bryce Harper proves competent enough to man that position while he's in his youth.  Then instead of a CF the Nats could focus on getting a much easier to find corner outfielder or first baseman for their 2013 push.

Don't get me wrong, it doesn't put the Nats in the best shape to do nothing this year.  It's hard to do everything you want in a single off-season and rather than see problems get solved with time, it's more likely that new problems will open up (say Desmond fails again and the Nats bullpen implodes).  They really should do something but they don't have to do something. If the goal is "Playoffs in 2013" then the expectations should remain there. Let Rizzo have the rope to hang himself or swing across the bow of the ship like a swashbuckling hero.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Marlins problem

The Nats have gotten an unexpected nasty surprise this offseason.  They already knew they'd have to contend with the Braves and the Phillies, but now the Marlins are looking like they might be in the thick of things.  Are the Marlins actually a team to be worried about? 

How much better are the Nats than the Marlins really? 
Last year ended with the Nats 8.5 games better than the Marlins, 80 wins to 72.  We all know wins and losses can be a bit skewed so we take a look at Pythag records and...  the Nats are at 78, Marlins right on 72.  Seems ok, but even things like runs scored can be bumped around by things like a off-year by the team with RISP.  What about BP's adjusted win totals?   Here the Marlins leap ahead coming in around 79/80 wins while the Nats are right around 78. Given the likely variance involved you're looking at two teams that are about the same.

This isn't to say I think the Nats and the Marlins were equal teams last year.  I don't.  But if there is a difference in the Nats favor, it's likely to be much closer to a game or two, rather than the 8+ suggested by the standings.

How much better do Reyes and Buehrle make the Marlins?
Worst case scenario (assuming Hanley stops pitching a fit and gets in line) - Reyes replaces Dobbs in the lineup.  If you like WAR... Jose is roughly a 5 WAR type player (6.2 last year but 2.9 the year before, then again around 6 from 2006-08... I like 5 as a rough estimate of the package) , Dobbs maybe is a 1, probably not even that. That would suggest 4 wins or so.   If you don't like WAR, Jose is a much better hitter than Dobbs.  You probably got a sense that Jose doesn't hit for much power or walk alot.  He hits for more power and walks more than Dobbs. (Dobbs is pretty damn mediocre at the plate).   Reyes is a much better baserunner.  Dobbs was not a great fielder and you have to believe Hanley could do better there, and Jose is probably a touch better than Ramirez at short.  All in all that's more than just a win or two difference. 

We can do the same exercize for Mark, but suffice to say Buehrle is probably worth about 3 wins more than whatever dregs the Marlins would have put out in the 5th spot in the rotation.  That doesn't seem like a lot, and it isn't A LOT, but it is still pretty significant.

These two signings along with a change in luck to just average could turn the Marlins from a 72 win team to a 83/84 win team. 

Anything else the Marlins have in their pocket?
Hanley, Hanley, Hanley.  Both Buck and Coghlan played poorly but I don't think there's enough to say they'll definitely bounce back.  Everyone else was right on board* except the mecurial shortstop.   Let's understand this now.  If Hanley Ramirez hits like he can, he is a great hitter at any position.  Let no Boswell type person tell you otherwise. In 2010 he put up a .300 / .378 / .475 line.  That .853 OPS would have been 3rd among NL 3rd basemen last year.  That year was significantly worse than his 2009... or 2008... or 2007.   He can be a .330 30 HR guy.  If he bounces back to 2010 form that's a couple more wins right there.  If he bounces back to his form before that... look out.

*I guess you could say Stanton might be in for a crash but really there isn't enough to go onto be definitive.

On the mound there's Josh Johnson.  He only pitched in 9 games for the Marlins last year but when he's healthy he's one of the best pitchers in the game.  WHIP the last 3 years or 1.158, 1.105, and 0.978.  K/9 over 8, HR/9 well under 1.  The guy is Cy Young candidate, start in the All-Star game good.  If he can come back, then the Marlins have added another bunch of wins.

So you're saying they are going to be pretty good then, huh? 
I think the Marlins are going to be much better than last years record.  No doubt.  Like 10 games better easy.  That's the money bet. That's what adding two All-Stars to positions of weakness can do for you. That in itself is enough to be a thorn in the side of a Nats team that hopes to improve by a few more wins into the fringes of the new wild card race.  If the Nats don't develop like the management is hoping they might be passed by this Miami team.  

Now can they make an even bigger jump?  That depends on the two All-Stars they already have.  If Johnson is healthy and Hanley can put behind him all this and get back to being awesome, it would be like the Marlins added two All-Star position players and a #1 and #2 pitcher in this offseason.  That's crazy.  That's like adding Cliff Lee + Gio Gonzalez + Troy Tulowitski + Starlin Castro. That's gonna get you 10+ more wins, easy. With average luck, that would propel Miami to the upper 80s in wins and right past the Nats. 

The Nats better hope that Johnson is hurt and that Hanley remains a petulant little child.  If not, they could watch themselves "improve" all the way to an 79-83, 4th place finish is an ultra-competitive NL East.

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Aoki.

The Brewers won the Aoki posting at 2.5 mill.  2.5 million! I'd love to hear what Rizzo thought "fair market value" was for Aoki.    300 yen and a Cleveland Indians jersey signed by "Isuro Tanaka"?   A Hello Kitty backpack with a copy of "Mr. Baseball" inside?

If you try to build a team through only fair deals, you end up with only a fair team.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Nats didn't post on Darvish

Good.  To me the only way a bid could have "worked out" for the Nats is if they bid like 45 million and someone bid 50.  They made a serious offer, but didn't have to actually pay for the 100 million dollar shot in the dark. Of course that's predisposing that they now use the money / resources to get a centerfielder, sign a great bench, and get a reliable 2-3 year starter while the 5-7 guys in the minors figure themselves out. Who knows about that. (And yes, they could have done all this, and that's the type of team almost every fan wants their team to be, but I don't actually consider that a possible option in this reality. Prove me wrong, Lerners.  Prove me wrong.)

Also why'd they wait until today to say anything? My best guess is they wanted to get an idea of the posted bid before they'd say anything just in case it ended up being like 20 million and everyone would say they were stupid for not posting on that.  Of course they'd also say they were stupid for posting under that so really... why wait? Some sort of news control thing? Maybe they weren't sure if they did post a bid? To not distract Nats fans from the big news that Jeff Fulchino is now in the organization?

Maybe it's just me but this kind of thing seems typical Rizzo-Nats.  There a way of doing things.  Then there's the way the Nats do things which is just. a. bit. different.  You don't know why.  There doesn't seem to be any effect, positive or negative.  But every once in a while, there it is.  Still better than the Bowden-Nats though where Jimbo would have talked all week about the Nats posting 60 mill for Darvish, who was the next Halladay mixed with Lee but also like Pedro and the Big Unit, we would have watched them do nothing, then he would have explained that they liked Ryan Perry just as much as Darvish. Oh, and he would have thrown a racist Asian joke in there somewhere.

In other Bowden-era news Nats Insider has a "fun" look at the largest contracts in Nats history.  I really wanted to put largest in quotation marks but sadly, I couldn't.  These really are the largest ones.  Remember when I said I didn't consider going after Darvish AND fixing the other issues a realisitc possibility? Yeah.  When your 2nd biggest contract is for your sole marquee homegrown player and it would be considered a bargain, when nearly everything below it is for veteran place holders, when Cristian Guzman appears on the list TWICE, I think you can see what kind of team you are money-wise.  Right now Werth remains an exception

(And what a terrible exception! It's like telling a little kid he needs to stop spitting out his food, only to watch him shove the entire bowl of it in his mouth at once.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Don't post Darvish

He could be great.  He could be good. He could disappoint even if he throws a magic gyro ball.

Whatever becomes of him, it's a gamble in the neighborhood of 5years, 100 million total. That's a gamble a team with a depth of pitching prospects and a lot of positional uncertainty* does not need to make.

*Honestly other than a healthy Zimmerman who do you 100% trust to be productive next year?   Ok, I'll give you Morse, I don't see him suddenly becoming bad. No, I won't give you Ramos. I like him too but 100% is 100%.  The other Nats at or above average at the plate last year?  Espinosa (If I'm not giving you Ramos, I'm certainly not giving you Espinosa), Nix, and Hairston.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What was up with that Werth deal?

I don't mean that in the "it was a terrible deal" sense.  Of course it was, but it's not the terribleness that I'm wondering about.  It's the sheer money and years put in.  It could have been for an actual great player who was young and I'd still be confused.  Why confused?  Because that was a win now move and the Nats don't seem to be that kind of team, even when they could possibly... you know... win now.

Last week we found out that the Nats WAY underbid (or more likely - reasonably bid and the Marlins overbid but that's semantics) for Mark Buehrle.  3 years for 39 mill, vs the 4 years 58 mill he got.  They underbid on years and dollars.  Roy Oswalt is still out there but he wants a 3 years deal.  Since he hasn't signed I'm assuming the Nats didn't offer him that 3rd year (or anything).  BJ Upton is available - though the Rays have to be blown away.  Since he's not a Nat now I'm assuming the Nats didn't blow anyone away.  The Nats are playing it the same way they've always played it, except that one time.  They are looking for fair deals, or maybe something slightly in their favor.  Are they smart?  Cautious? Cheap? Make your own judgement, but the one thing that remains - that Werth deal doesn't make any sense.

If they were playing to win sooner rather than later - then there is no reason not to overpay in a deal or a trade for a guy that'll help you win now.  If they brought in Werth to lure in other free agents, shouldn't they have lured in some other decent free agents by now? Even just to validate the original deal? But no, right now nothing has happened, which makes that Werth deal look like a crazy aberration, only explained by the fact the Nats actually thought he was worth what they paid.

What was that about? A monentary lapse in judgement?  A grasp for relevency in case the young players didn't pan out? Blackmail?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Rule V losses

Yankees pick up Brad Meyers, STL picks up Erik Komatsu. 

A fellow blogger (For the Cubs at View from the Bleachers) asked about Meyers earlier, so I got a little thing ready about him,

As crazy as it may sound he doesn't fit well into the Nats plans.  He'd likely be the 4th starter in AAA next year (behind Peacock, Milone, and Detwiler) and does not have an age advantage despite being only 26.  Lannan is only a year older and Zimmermann, Strasburg, and the three guys I mentioned are all the same age or younger.  Plus they have 5 guys (Purke, Meyer, Solis, Cole and Ray) they'd love to be able to move up to AA and AAA if needed.  So as good as he seems, he might not be in their top 10 pitchers projecting a couple years into the future.

It also doesn't help that Purke, Anthony Rendon, and Bryce Harper are all taking up roster spots even though none are likely to play more than a month and half in the majors next year.  So really the Nats only have 37 spots on the 40 available and they got players to sign.

Obviously the somewhat recent injury and the necessity to keep him in the majors all season weren't deterrents enough.  My guess is the Yanks do go ahead and try him as a starter first then push him into a reliever role if that fails.

Erik Komatsu? At 23 he still might become something as he has a good eye and has hit well for average more often than not, but he doesn't have the fielding ability to play CF and he doesn't have the pop in the bat to play the corners. The most likely scenario that I see is that he has a couple cups of coffee in the majors, maybe ends up as a 4th OF somewhere. I'm really not sure what the Cardinals see that they'd keep a guy like this on the roster all year long.

If you don't like the Nats losing these guys, I'll warn you that it's not going to get any better. I'd keep an eye out each of the next couple years on the Nats minor league FAs and Rule V guys.  With the depth of starters they are bound to have some useful pieces they can't protect.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Miami Mark

More tomorrow but the Marlins just signed Mark Buehrle.  Does it matter for the Nats? Yes.  Should you feel bad?  Not really.  Yes the fans want playoffs but there is still one big step to take to get there (not to mention the avoidance of bad luck).  The Nats seem to have what it takes to make that big step but not for one more year at least. And if you love great pitching, next offseason is the one that could have the big pitching prizes.  Of course you don't know which will test FA but if the Nats improve and play their cards right they could set up the leagues best rotation on paper for 2013-2016.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Nothing would feel worse than it actually is

Jose Reyes signs with the Marlins.  It's not like the Nats were interested (despite what some baseball guys believed) and by itself it doesn't make the Marlins better than the Nats... necessarily*.  But a team in your own division making a big-time signing does promote a level of envy.

Layne Nix signs with the Phillies.  It's not like the Nats needed to bring Nix back.  But he would have been a useful 4th OF, providing lefty pop off the bench, and a team in your own division grabbed him up (let's hope the Phillies have to play him everyday - although it sounds like they'll platoon him which would be perfect for the guy) meaning they are filling up those roster holes while you aren't.

The Nats want Mark Buehrle but so do the Marlins (who obviously will spend), the Rangers (who obviously are in a nice position if you want to make a championship run), and the White Sox (who obviously hold some advantage as the team he has been on for his entire career). 

The Nats' Plan B is Roy Oswalt, whose plans are up in the air.

The Nats Plan C is CJ Wilson, who is the Plan A for at least 2 other teams, and is drawing similar interest from attractive teams like the Red Sox who are perennial contenders, and the Angels, who are much closer to his home in Southern California.

If the chips fall the wrong way the Nats could end up with nothing. It would be disappointing but it would not mean that 2012 is any less exciting.  This is still a team on the rise and barring injury you have to believe that the 2012 Nats will be better than the 2011 version, even without considering the rise of such players like Bryce, Rendon, and the stable of young arms.  I feel like there should be more here to say but there really isn't.  The Nats could end up with nothing.  It could pretty easily happen. And that's ok. 

*The Marlins were bad last year, but had a pretty unlucky year. Outside of rookie sensation Mike Stanton and, I don't know, Greg Dobbs?  Who outperformed their expectations last year? Josh Johsnon - who could be as good as Strasburg - was out most of the year.  Hanley Ramirez - an all-star before last year - didn't just disappoint, he was flat out bad. With one more signing I could see this as a team that wins 15 more games.