Nationals Baseball: 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

LaRoche revisited

I looked at the potential LaRoche deal from the soulless automaton side and have pretty much endorsed the Nats line of thinking. It's not fiscally prudent to sign LaRoche to that 3rd year if you feel that you can replace his production this year (they feel they can) and he is not need long-term (they feel he isn't). Sure you will lose that fielding but saving that is probably not worth the cost hitching your wagon to Adam given the above.

Are they crazy to think the above?  The production part is fairly straight forward. If Morse is healthy his most likely line is going to be something like .290 / .330 / .500.  For all intents and purposes that is as good as LaRoche did last year, maybe a bit better. Sure Morse could collapse or face injury risk, but as a one-year gamble it's not a bad one.  The long term is a bit hazier.  The Nats don't have anyone who has produced in AA yet and while they like Rendon (and to a lesser extent Skole) this gamble is a bit bigger one to play. Even if one of these guys comes through to be the player LaRoche is, circumstance could force them into another position, or another team, or it could be 3 years until they are really ready.

This is all why the LaRoche signing doesn't seem clear. It isn't.  But overall it makes sense to worry about 2013 and maaaybe 2014, but not much further because too much could change to worry about 2015 and beyond. Losing LaRoche shouldn't hurt 2013 too much. So stick to your guns.

That's the non fan view of things.  When I try to look at it through the glasses of a hard core fan, I get kind of pissed.

Real teams spend money

No, you don't HAVE to spend money to win and if you can get away with not doing it than more power to you, but understand that you'd be getting away with it.  In general when you get to the level of winning 90+ games, there is precious little you can do to secure your team more wins.  Instead what you are doing is signing players that reduce your production variability. Instead of being a 93 win team that could conceivably win 88-96 games, you spend an extra 15-20 million and become a 94 win team that could conceivably win 91-97 games.

Does that matter? Yes, yes it does. First and foremost it shows your #1 concern is winning with no caveats. Not "winning, while spending smartly" or "winning, with an eye toward our future plans". No just "winning". How can get to the point that if something goes wrong we STILL win.
Signing LaRoche is a way to probably reduce that variability.  Morse may have a good shot at hitting as good or a little better than LaRoche, but he's also more of an injury risk, has that questionable approach, and is a defensive liability. There's a lot here that can go wrong.  For Adam it's likely either "he hits well" or "he hits ok". Sure, ride it out and see if you can't get Adam back at the deal that you want, but when push comes to shove, when either another team bites and offers the 3rd year or if the Nats are staring down the start of Spring Training, you make that deal.

This isn't a 6 year deal.  This isn't 20 million per season. It doesn't even cross into the "have to spend $$$ to sign our young guys" time frame (Both Ian and ZNN would hit that point after the 2015 season). This deal, if made, should not effect the team negatively in any appreciable way.

It's one thing for me to dismiss the above for the loving embrace of cold hard facts (the team is good enough that even without signing LaRoche, in this new 2-Wild Card format, they should be a near-lock for the playoffs and even with the Wild Card 1-game showdown that's still enough), but I'm a bit surprised more fans aren't saying the above. Full faith in Rizzo?  Blind optimism in this being a 100+ win team regardless?  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Mailbag Monday Eve

A gift from me to you on Christmas Eve.  Merry Christmas!  (question wording was mine so don't blame the commenters)

What is the future of Tyler Moore? (Watts, Schiff)

I've said before that I don't think much of Tyler Moore's future. You just don't strike out that much and walk that little and find success in the majors very often. You might bring up that Mike Morse is our poster child for this line of thinking and he's had success but here's the thing

Moore: (age 21-25) 3.5 Ks per B
Morse: 2.7 Ks per BB

Morse in the majors - 3.9 Ks per BB

That doesn't bode well for Tyler. (not to mention the .225 / 283 / .494 line in the 2nd half) Now maybe he won't see his strikeout ratio increase, it didn't during his first time out. And maybe even at his normal high level of Ks to walks he can buck history and put up productive seasons, Morse has up until now. But even if you don't believe in history (even though it's proven right more often that not), even if you don't believe in fancy stats (ditto), even if you take the strict view that what you hit in the minors has no bearing on how you do in the majors (even though it's pretty standard thinking by nearly everyone involved in the game that it does). Even if you believe all that just look at how the Nats are treating Moore. He is not part of the first base plans right now. He's not considered the next big thing. If you don't believe everything above AND you don't believe the people that are seeing him and evaluating him everyday... well I don't know what to tell you.

What does that mean for Moore?  Well he'll be exactly what he should be, a decent lefty off the bench that can play corner OF or first base and more importantly can hit a homer in a pinch hit situation. His power is real and because of that he's exactly the type of guy you want on the bench.  And because he's cheap he should be able to fill that role for the next few years so the Nats don't have to go out and get that guy.

Is he tradeable... right now not really. Pretty much all the majors see him as a bench guy so he's not getting much back. Now if he hits .270-.280 next year... that changes things.

What sort of progression do you see for BamBam with the bat and in the field? (watts)
I'm on the conservative side with Bryce.  A slash line like .285 / .370 / .500?  Around 30 homers?  I think I've said it before.  The closer we get to the start of the season the more serious other looks at him will be and the easier it will be to see if I'm way off, but that is my conservative estimate. The guy could hit .300+ and 40 homers, easy.  I think he will... just not next year.  Remember if he only hits like he did last year that's a Top 30 offensive season.

In the field, the question is different now. He won't be playing CF. Personally I didn't see much progression happening, but I'll admit I'm not an expert here.  Now that he's not in center though it won't matter.  Personally I would LOVE to see him in RF.  Werth has a nice arm but can you imagine the effect Bryce's gun would have on those first to third attempts?

Is Gio postseason worrying?  If not for the regular season than the postseason? (watts)

I can understand the concern.  Gio had terrible control last postseason, walking 11 in 10 innings and his control was one of the things people worried about coming into the season.  But personally I wouldn't worry about it for the regular season.  Even if he reverts to full A's mode wjen it comes to control he still would be a very good pitcher. He gave up fewer hits, struck out more, and more importantly gave up A LOT less homers.  A fwe more baserunners won't overcome all that. So if you want to watch something - watch that. Everyone expected that HR/FB% number to go up, instead it went down.  Can he keep THAT up?

Now will it matter next postseason?  Wellllll maybe.  His walks have seemed to go up a bit at the end of the season the last few years.  Is it indicative of a tired arm that'll be even more tired in the majors? Or is it just a fluke of the numbers? Personally I wouldn't worry about until it's time to worry about it. 207 innings as opposed to 200 innings shouldn't make a difference.  Now 220? Ok maybe but ""Will Gio still be effective in the World Series" is a worry I'm willing to have.

Who are the best trade chips for the Nats, you know, if they want to make a major deal.  Desmond and Espinosa seem like good candiates. Is anyone overvalued? Leave Strasburg and ZNN out of it  (wally)

I'd say the Nats best trade chips for a major deal would be as follows Desmond, Rendon, Espinosa, Zimmermann, Storen.
Desmond and Storen are the ones likely to be overrated.  Storen for the whole "closers aren't actually all that important, but people think they are" reason. Desmond because he was a kind of error-prone guy that didn't hit until last year. You'd be selling high if you sell on Desmond. Plus you'd be selling high on a position you think you could fill (with Espy and maybe Rendon at 2nd)  Then again, he's a short stop that hit .290 with 20+ homers last year. You better be pretty sure you are selling high if you are selling that. 

Rendon's AFL showing plus his age and contract situation makes him very desirable.

Despite Espinosa's weak season, the fact he's a position player, who fields a hard position to fill with skill, and he has an extra year of team control put his over Zimm. Given that is was a weak season though it's doubtful he'd be overvalued.  You'd be selling low on Danny.

Zimm being a starter puts him over Storen.

This all being said I don't see any (more?) major deals happening this off-season.  And anything after next year, even a year is too far in advance to guess.

Given his contract and skill level, could they trade ZNN for a #1 type pitcher.  They haven't signed him to an extension yet so he's still super cheap. (wiekcing)

Zimmermann is an interesting case because he'll be a free agent before Stras and Gio and given his skill level he'll be earning a lot more than Detwiler. Assuming Gio and Stras are still moving along, you are looking at putting out a lot of money for a guy that's probably your third best pitcher

Thing is if they don't trade him this offseason I'm not sure when they would.  After this season you'd be trading one season of a great pitcher for two years of ZNN? Even with another prospect that doesn't seem like a great deal. And I'm not sure who would be traded for (David Price is great and potentially on the block. He's also a FA in 2016 so relatively cheap before then... relatively)

Personally, I'd expect an extension to be worked out here and them to let Strasburg walk when push comes to shove (to concentrate on re-signing Bryce)

Line-up order. please (jacquez)
My expectations would be


I think Davey would like to move Werth down but would hesitate to move Desmond out of the 6th hole. That hamstrings Davey a bit  Given that and the fact I think he'd more like to see what Bryce can do in a run-producing slot,Werth is kind of stuck.  Though I won't rule nother possibilty with more left right balance :


But it only works with LaRoche back and really if Bryce breaks out next year that's pretty much the end of this

OK that should be all the questions except for one from Hayes that really is less pertinent right now I think. so hit me up with more

Gmail: Natsoftheroundtable

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Such pretty birds in that bush

Three years for Adam LaRoche is not a lot. It's only a year more than you'd probably want for the guy, but in the past that wouldn't have stopped anyone from signing him. Even in the fancy stat era someone, oh I don't know, let's say Texas, would have said "Every success window is limited and ours may be passing by.  We lost our best hitter and a very good hitting catcher, which is harder to replace. We're going to be in a dogfight with the Angels and A's.  We can't afford to lose out on the playoffs by a game or two again and the blah fielding, mediocre hitting Mitch Moreland is about a game or two worse than Adam LaRoche. Let's bite the bullet and sign him" 

But they aren't saying that and a lot of people are saying it's because of the draft pick lost. The Nats offered Adam arbitration.  Adam is a top notch Type A player. If he signs elsewhere the Nats will get a first (or 2nd depending) round draft pick. And currently teams are terribly terribly overvaluing draft picks.

Seriously go look at some of the draft classes.  2004. 2005. 2006. 2007. 2008.  Look at the last 10 picks of the first round and the supplementals. What do you see? A hell of a lot more names you never heard of and never-wases than actual quality major leaguers.  Yet teams are now delusional, desperately holding onto long-odd chances of striking it rich instead of signing players that might help them, like a person holding 10 lottery tickets refusing to take $50 for them.

That's not to say this strategy is complete nonsense.  Take a look at the Nats. They among the most degenerate of these gamblers. Last year's draft was basically a high-schooler with a ruined elbow and minor league seat fillers. But the Nats can afford to do this right now. They have a team set up for success for the forseeable future. Like a venture capitalist flush with money, they can throw 10 million at something hoping it becomes the next big thing. If it fails, so what they still have a ton of money. They can't do this forever though, so it'll be interesting to see if in 2015/6, if the Nats haven't won anything yet, if the team is still in this mode. Then there is the flipside, 10 or so teams nowhere near competing that need a huge break to get competitive again. The right draft success can help immensely in that. Would you still be thinking the Nats are prohibitive World Series favorites if instead of Strasburg and Bryce they had Dustin Ackley and Drew Pomeranz? Not bad players but not game changers. So while it's nice to have a guy like LaRoche on the team, he's not going to make a big enough difference to justify taking away that lottery ticket when that's kind of your only chance of success.

But the 10-15 middle ground teams, all fighting for playoff spots in this new 2nd WC major leagues, what's their excuse? There really isn't any. For them it can't be about the prospect of future success lost so it comes down to a far simpler reason, one we all recognize well.  The prospect of future money spent.  Draft picks are cheaper.  Much much cheaper. So you don't sign good players and you hope to draft well. You squander legit chances at playoffs for future dynasties that may never come but dammit will be a lot cheaper if they do!

This is probably just a phase.  Things are cyclic and what's overvalued today might be undervalued tomorrow. But even if it is, it's killing LaRoche's chances of signing that 3 year deal he wants.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dr. Denard at home, Mr. Span away

Browsing through Denard Span's stats I found something that was... well not troubling but certainly of interest.

Home : .273 / .348 / .375
Away : .252 / .309 / .314

Home : .286 / .344 / .384
Away : .250 / .317 / .343

Home : .332 / .404 / .477
Away : .235 / .278 / .315

Last year was pretty crazy. At home he was Tony Gwynn.  Away he was Tony Gwynn Jr. The other years aren't as dramatic, but as you can see he's been consistently much better at home.

Was this something to worry about?  Would moving away from the friendly confines of Target Field (I just made that up!) kill Span's offense?

Or at least, I can't find any good reason to think that. There's nothing about Target Field that would explain that difference. There's no sign that it inflates offense.  It doesn't favor lefty hitters (it actually seems to favor righties but then again Span is kind of a slap-hitting lefty).  It doesn't have crazy dimensions or a strange surface that maybe he's taking advantage of.* I can't find anything about Minnesota that explains this. Sometimes you dig and find nothing and it's kind of important to accept that.

* Though I'll note here the Metrodome DID have that fast artificial turf.  Combine that and young legs and that's really why Span was a .300 hitter early on.  So if you think a return to a .290+ hitter is in the cards...I wouldn't bet on it. 

What's the reasoning? Simple. It happens. In general players hit better at home than on the road. They are comfortable there. They're not living out of a hotel. They both see the backdrop more regularly and have more than a couple games to get used to it since they are in one place during a homestand. For some guys this helps a little, for others it helps a lot and Span is one of those guys it seems to help alot. He hit better at the Metrodome as well.

Like look at a Cody Ross. In 2010 he hit alot better at Marlins Park than away. In 2011 he hit a little bit better overall at AT&T than away (and that's a tough place to hit). In 2012, he hit tons better in Fenway than away (an easy place for a righty to hit).  He's just one of these guys.

So what? So expect this next year.  I wouldn't expect the dramatic shift we saw last year from Span.  For some reason Target Field was great for hitting last year. Nationals Park is routinely very average. But I wouldn't be surprised by a difference in stats (though not same stats) a lot like 2010. Noticeably better across the board at home than away.  It's not going to make him any more or less useful for the season than the Nats expect him to be, it'll just bunch up his usefulness a bit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Things to "worry" about

A couple days ago it was talked about in the comments how the Nats really don't have much to worry about. Even all the fretting about LaRoche vs Morse is worrying about what probably amounts to a single win for a team looking to have about 95 of them (yes they won 98 last year but the pythag had them at 95 and I think they were a little more on the lucky side than unlucky so figure they were more of a 93 win type team, but they have improved with Span and Harden so up the count goes again...ANYWAY)  They'll be fine if LaRoche signs or if he doesn't.

So what do the Nats have to worry about? Every position except catcher is now manned by someone who probably ranks as above average overall at the spot, and even catcher isn't an obvious failure given how dismal catcher stats tend to be. The rotation is stacked. The bullpen has at least 4 dependable arms, including the unecessary but completely expected 8th inning and closer roles. The bench has some youngish guys that can produce at the major league level at least for short periods of time. So what is there? You don't like Zack Duke as the mop-up long-relief guy? Worried Rizzo will bring in another terrible DeRosa-esque veteran for the last spot on the bench?  "Sure I'm rich, healthy, and have everything I need, but my fourth car could really use a tune-up"

There is nothing on the field that is concerning right now. But fans aren't fans unless they can fret over something, so I give you these off the field topics to satisfy your inner worry-wart.  Some are real concerns, others are... let's say a bit more frivolous.  

MASN - Nats Enquirer nicely sums up where we stand currently. MLB made a terrible deal with Angelos to get baseball to DC. Now it doesn't want to deal with the consequences. But even sports backed by millions of dollars can't buy themselves way out of every terrible deal (Hello, St. Louis Spirits!) and Angelos is a good enough lawyer to not have left MLB any loop hole to take advantage of.

What does this mean for the Nats? While I don't think Angelos will get away with completely shortchanging the Nats, I do think it means a revenue stream from TV that isn't what it could be. That's money that can't be spent on draft picks, organizational improvement, players, stadium improvements, etc. etc. In the worst case scenario, the whole "we need money to sign all our young guys" scenario may be based on the idea that the Nats were going to get a bigger windfall from TV than they will. That means this really is the Nats window to win and 2015-2017 will be marked by a great exodus. That's probably overselling the situation but this isn't something that can just be ignored.

Strasburg, media punching bag - It always surprises me but there is a fair amount of Strasburg dislike out there. "He's doesn't seem to enjoy the game!" "He's too fragile!" "He didn't fight enough to pitch!"  Slowly over the course of 2 1/2 years he's gone from the center of Nats world to recalcitrant diva without ever changing who he was. Now, with the media-loving and media-savvy Bryce Harper around, there is a glaring example of the type of presense that the media and fans love right in his own backyard. It hasn't been an issue yet and it won't as long as the Nats are winning and he's doing well.  But if Strasburg has a couple of bad starts, the Braves are in first, and he tosses out some boiler-plate unemotional interviews? It doesn't take much for something like this to spiral into something that takes over Strasburg's season.

Attendance / attendance talk - The Nats did not draw great last year BUT they drew a hell of a lot better and, as everyone should know, these things take time. It's rare that attendance goes from the bottom to the top in one season.  So right now it's a non-issue. However, it should improve again this year and if the Nats are winning big, it really should be among the tops in the National league, if not baseball.  If it's not, the Lerners, investment guys at heart, could start to wonder what they have to do to get DC into baseball.  If people aren't showing up to see a winning team backed by a decent payroll and big minorleague investments, why keep that up? 

Even if you don't worry about that, (it's a pretty speculative worry and frankly I think the Lerners view of this is more than a single year) you do have to worry about guys like me, who are completely fascinated by attendance and what drives it, talking about it occasionally.

The attention over the President's Race - The whole stupid "Teddy doesn't win" thing got so much play that his first win actually overshadowed the Nats team for a day or two. Playoff baseball back for the first time in decades, a team fighting for home field and possibly 100 wins and everyone is talking about a guy in a suit winning a meaningless race. That's pretty terrible. Maybe it settles back into it's nice little pattern with Teddy losing all the time until the playoffs are set. That'd be fine. But something tells me that all that attention made the Nats marketing guys want to kick it up a notch. There's a chance that could work out in a fun and interesting way but I'm not giving them the benefit of the doubt (see: Screech, Clint, etc.)

The next slogan - "Ignite your Natitude" Seriously? I know that it got accepted but let's admit it, that's only because the Nats were winning.  If the Nats went 80-82 whoever came up with that is now making up slogans for the Fargo-Moorehead RedHawks. Are they going to roll it out again? Can they come up with something even sillier sounding?  Will I go crazy seeing it hashtagged over and over again?

SI curse - I hate this thing, but I'm pretty sure the Nats will be on that baseball preview cover and someone will say something about it. This is what I worry about.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I've always thought that the Rangers losing out on Hamilton means they'd give LaRoche his 3 year deal (I've also thought the KS plains boy would prefer to be in Texas).  Let's see if I'm right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dog Days of Winter

Pickings are slim this time of year. Do you really want to read another "Just waiting on LaRoche" article? Here is Boz's Q&A and some points I thought were interesting.
Revere has been a terror in the minors, hitting .326 at all stops, but he has now had MORE than 1,000 plate appearances in the majors. That is a LOT. He's not raw. He has 0 homers (!) and an OPS 100 points lower than Span. No reason, at this point, that at 25, he's suddenly going to hit in MLB the way he did in the minors
Ian Desmond had 1302 PAs before last year. Then last year, at 26, he hit in the MLB the way he did in the minors (some of the time). I'm not saying Boz is completely wrong here. The better bet is on it not happening. But you can't dismiss the possibility that someone gets it at a decently young age, after a couple of poor years in the majors, especially when he's moving to a more hitter friendly ballpark and especially especially WHEN YOU SAW IT HAPPEN IN FRONT OF YOU IN A SEASON THAT ENDED 2 MONTHS AGO.

Overall getting Revere is the better play, but for the Nats specifically, a team wanting to win in 2013 and with a potential CF in the minors, Span makes more sense.
Look at LaRoche's 10 "most comparable" players at age 33. Plenty were useful at 33. But, of the 10, only Joe Adcock was good enough at 33-34-35 to be worth the kind of 3-yr deal LaRoche would want in B'more.  
Fed Baseball looked at this a bit and found that Boz wasn't that far off. Most of those guys did peter out quickly.  Here's the thing.  I'd argue that 7 of those 10 guys had one of their least productive (if not flat out worst) seasons at age 32.  Adam had one of his best. You can't look at the totality alone.  Recency counts.  Out of the remaining 3 you have to dismiss Wally Post, who was an injury issue since age 28 and retired with presumably another injury riddled season at age 33.  The other two are Joe Adcock and JT Snow who both had good seasons at least through age 36.  Rather than work against him, I'd say the comparables work for Adam.
(They did the decent thing letting Lannan free.)
I've read this, or stuff like it, in other places and it's complete and utter nonsense.Rizzo isn't Gandhi for not keeping Lannan around, ok?  Lannan had a contract they considered way too expensive and this year, as opposed to last year, they have more confidence in their rotation to give them the innings they need. Last year circumstances and a dull trade market made the decision for them. This isn't about honor. For god's sake you just said they cut Gorzo to save 3 million bucks even though he'd be useful. You think they want to spend 5+ million on Lannan but set him free so he could find success elsewhere? Honestly?
Morse is consistently underrated as a hitter. In 1246 at bats as a Nat his slash line is .294/.343/.514 or an .857 OPS. That can bat cleanup, or certainly fifth, in almost any lineup. The guy is a Beast. No, Nats offense wouldn't suffer much, or at all, with Morse, not LaRoche.
I wouldn't call Morse a "Beast" and I wouldn't personally expect that slash line, but he's completely right that the Nats offense won't suffer much if LaRoche comes back.  Right now, with LaRoche at first I think the Nats have improved a couple games with their moves. If it's Morse at first maybe one game. There's only so much you can do to improve when you've won 98 games. Not signing LaRoche, by sticking to a 2 year deal, will not be a tragedy.
Plus it gives the Nats something interesting in the next offseason.  Imagine, LaRoche resigns and one young pitcher develops enough to look deserving at a shot at the 5th spot in the rotation. A Gorzo type move would be the HIGHLIGHT of next offseason then. That's good for the team, bad for guys like me. Let LaRoche walk - then you have all sorts of interesting possibilities. Resign Morse? Let Rendon play 1st? Moore? FA? Trade Espy for a 1B, let Rendon play 2nd?  That's a lot more fun. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Haren thoughts of the less quick variety

Hey coming through with something I promised, good for me.

One of the things I said in my quick thoughts on Friday was that Haren "earned" his 2012.  He pitched as poorly as he every had, getting worse on a bunch of little things and it was reflected in his ERA. A deeper look confirms this.

BB-rate went way up from 1.25 in 2011 to 1.94 in 2012
HR/9 went way up from 0.76 to 1.43
HR/FB % up from 7.5% to 12.8%
LD% up from 19.5% to 20.7%

Combine that with a little bad luck (BABIP up from .272 to .302) and you get your bad (for-him) season. The fancy way of saying that is with xFIP. Unlike 2010, where some crazy bad luck with the D-backs caused a spike in his ERA even th ugh he pitched well (xFIP 3.49), Haren had an xFIP of 4.00 last year to go along with his 4.33 ERA. 

Optimists will point to 2011 and say that's as good as Haren can be. I would agree. That IS as good as Haren can be.  In fact, that was probably his career year.  Look at his career numbers.  BB-rate: 1.89.   HR/9: 1.05.  HR/FB: 10.5%. LD% : 19.9%  BABIP: .301  While his numbers were a bit up in 2012 here and there, some were pretty much on target.  In 2011, they were ALL down. That's what makes a special year. Congratulations 2011 Angels on your luck. Haren will likely never be that good again.

Am I being too rash?  Alone none of the "bad" numbers I've shown is all that concerning (in fact a 1.94 BB-rate is still good enough for Top 10 in the majors) .  Together though... together you have to start to wonder about the trend.  You start to look for explanations.

Baseball Press had an article that noted that Haren's velocity has been continuously dropping. This is perfectly in line with a guy who is starting to enter the down side of his career.  His fastball is becoming less and less effective as the years go on. In 2011 he was able to compensate for that with a phenomenal cutter and he threw it all the time. But for whatever reason (injury? overuse?) his cutter was far less effective in 2012.  While Haren still had his control, without that cutter he didn't have a single pitch he could use as an "out" pitch.  His fastball is now hittable, his curveball has never been great, and his decent split finger is less effective without the fastball to set it up.

Yes but what about the Nats defense! The Nats defense could possibly make him much better right? Well sure, the Nats had a great BABIP from their defense.  .282 was one of the best in the league. The Angels had a team BABIP of .277.  Meaning their defense was even better at turning hit balls into outs.  Now there are vagaries and all to that - how many fly balls were hit, foul ground, etc. etc. but the point is the Nats defense isn't going to be much better than the Angels.  And even if it were Haren is not a ground ball pitcher. Only 39.6% of his hits were ground balls (that's near the low end for qualifying starters) and his 43.2% lifetime percentage was lower than what every Nats starter did last year.

Also - I never like pitchers that are injury risks.  After maybe missing a start or two over 7 seasons, Haren finally missed some significant time with an injury that's big enough to make some teams turn away, and make the Nats make sure he passed that physical (anyone here trust the Nats staff doing a physical? Me neither)

Hmmm, the above sounds a lot bleaker than it needs to be. Basically if you take everything above and boil it down I'm saying this : Dan Haren is a pitcher on the down side of his career.

But just because I don't think he's going to roll into DC and pitch like a #1 pitcher doesn't mean the outlook on him is bleak. Dan Haren was a pitcher who at his peak was one of the better pitchers in the league.  I'd hesitate to call him elite, but certainly a deserving #1 for some team.  Therefore a Dan Haren early into the down side of his career is still a good pitcher to have in your rotation. Haren still has fantastic control and enough savvy to make it work for him.  I think something like last year's ERA is probably likely and have a hard time seeing a healthy Haren do much worse that that.  There is nothing here saying "collapse".  A 2012 Haren gives the Nats exactly the results EJax did. That was good enough for 95 wins with 80% of Strasburg and Wang pitching a month worth of games. And hell, you never know if there is one more lucky BABIP year out there for the guy.

All in all I still like the deal. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Quick thoughts on the Haren deal

Sorry kids - I was out of town on business like a big person so I didn't have any time to put a longer post together.  I'll try to have something up soon, but as anyone who's ever gone out of town on business knows today will be filled with furiously answering the emails that have piled up. So Monday probably.

Some quick thoughts that I'm sure you've heard by now and maybe even put in the last set of comments.

Outside of dramatic overpays, any 1 yr deal (and really 2 year deals, I think) for a veteran player is good one. It doesn't lock you in to multiple years if things go wrong - injury, decline phase, personality clash. It doesn't hurt your future flexibility, if you're running up against whatever budget you may have set. If things go right, the Nats have other options when Dan likely explores a longer-term deal after the season.

AL->NL is always good.  Dan's pitched in both so it's not like he'll be a surprise to the players in the senior circuit, but for any pitcher going back to a league where you can dial things down every 9th batter is a boon.

Last year wasn't one big thing for Dan, it was a bunch of little things.  Walks picked up. Homers picked up. BABIP was up. Gave up more line drives. He did get a little unlucky but he also pitched as badly as he did in a long time. You can blame the injury if you like, right now. He did pitch to better results after his DL stint

It's a bigger gamble than Edwin, but the reward is potentially higher.  Injuries for pitchers rightfully scare people. A tweak here or there can screw up the delivery honed over years and turn a great pitcher into a bad one pretty quickly.  IF Haren is healthy and IF he's not entering a decline phase of his career, than he should be a better pitcher than Jackson would be, which sets the Nationals up to have a rotation with four pitchers who would be no worse than a #2 on pretty much every other MLB staff.  It's a risk sure, but the Nats can risk those "IF"s this year, when they couldn't last year, when they had ZNN trying to pitch his first full year after TJ, Strasburg on an innings limit and they had no idea how the #5 slot was going to work out.

Is it Greinke? No. And I wonder about the wisdom of not making a long-term pitching deal when the Nats' minor leagues pitching situation can be best described as "pray for health". But Rizzo is not inclined to give long term deals to pitchers (Strasburg will be the best test case because he hits FA after his 27 yr old season), the current rotation is young and under contract long enough to find some other pitcher over the course of 3 seasons, and if not Greinke than something like this is the next best option.(and you could argue the best option period - I'm a Greink-ophile)

Monday, December 03, 2012

Mike Morse ^= big trading chip, Lombardozzi ^= Espinosa

As the Winter Meetings heat up there is talk of trading Mike Morse and Danny Espinosa to TB for James Shields.  While reading through some posts and comments I see two running themes that are just not true.

 #1 - Mike Morse is worth more than...

Of all the things that a team would want in a deal, Mike Morse is mainly one thing. Cheap. At 5 million dollars a year he's worth taking a flier one because if he's healthy the numbers he can put up at the plate will make him worth more than that. But here's the things you don't get :
  • Health - Mike Morse has missed 60 games twice in the past 3 years. 
  • Value away from the plate - Morse was terrible in the outfield, and not good at first. He is also is not a good baserunner. 
  • Youth - Mike turns 31 before next season starts
  • A long deal that's cheap - Mike will be a Free Agent after next season. 
You know all that.  You are thinking a team would deal for Morse for pretty much one reason. He hits ball good. A team dealing for Morse gets a big bat for the middle of their line-up that they don't have to commit a long-term deal to.  But can you even count on that? 

In 2011 Mike Morse was a BEAST. He hit .300 with 36 doubles and 31 home runs, but his walk number (36) kept him from being an elite offensive player.  In 2010 - if you expand it to 575 at bats he had in 2011 - he would have hit .291 with 29 homers but only 24 doubles (hence the large drop in SLG), with around 43 walks. Not quite as good as 2011 but pretty decent.  Last year, though, expand it out and he hits .289 with 23 doubles and 24 homers, and a miserable 21 walks. That may not seem like a big deal but the drop in average and the lack of walks means Mike is making like 20 more outs. That matters a good deal. It turns him from an guy knocking on the door of the house with the elite offensive players in the majors, to a guy sitting down the road in the condo with the bats that are just ok.

With 2011 Morse you can swallow the fact he gives you nothing else but a line of T-shirts.  With 2012 Morse you can't.  Oh he still has value. It is .290 with 24 homers. But overall he's maybe just barely worth 5 million to your team. Now if you can stick him at DH everyday that helps a good deal, but that still limits his worth because it limits your flexibility.

In the end Morse is an ok trading chip, but he's the type that might get you a good bullpen arm not the type that is the anchor player in a deal for a good starter.

#2 - It's ok to trade Espinosa because Lombardozzi is ready to step in.

For reasons you can obviously figure out people see this    
Danny : .247  189 Ks
Steve :  .273  73 Ks (stats expanded based on equal at bats)

But they ignore this
Danny : .155 isoSLG (37 2B, 17 HR), 20 SB, 4.1 range, 7.1 UZR
Steve :  .081 isoSLG (24 2B, 5 HR),  7 SB, 1.1 range, 1.6 UZR

What does this all mean?   Well let's look at one number first

Danny : .315 OBP
Steve : .317 OBP

What this means is that Danny and Steve make about the same number of outs (assuming you like them to repeat last year's performances). So what do they do when they aren't making outs? Danny hits for power.  Steve hits singles.  Danny is a good baserunner.  Steve is ok.  Danny is a great fielder.  Steve is ok.

A baseball player's job is not just to put bat on ball. It's to get XBH and drive in runs. It's to run the bases well and score runs. It's to field well. In every other aspect of baseball outside of simply making contact, Danny Espinosa is a superior player to Steve Lombardozzi. In overall value, Danny Espinosa is a much better player than Steve Lombardozzi.  You will make your team noticeably worse by playing Steve Lombardozzi instead of Danny Espinosa.

You CAN trade Danny and rely on Steve, if you want. You have to look at all deals in the sense of what you are giving up and what you are getting back, and maybe you can get back something that makes up for losing Danny.  But you WILL be losing something going from Espinosa to Lombardozzi.  Lombo can hold 2nd down well enough that he won't hurt the team like just starting any old schlub at 2nd might, but that's about it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Godspeed, old friend

Yankee stadium is nice in Spring. And Summer.  And Fall.  Just saying.

Span-ning the Globe

Why not just keep Bryce in center?

You could say that they thought his body type wasn't made for CF as he filled out, or that they wanted to save his legs but I think it comes down to the fact that it didn't seem like he had the instincts to play CF. He made up for that as best he could through his natural ability, and actually had a decent year in center according to the stats, but the same stats had him below average in RF.

Would he have gotten better over time?  I guess, but this more of a scouting decision and I think they wanted a guy out there in the most important OF positions that they trusted to be a plus fielder.

So Span in center and Bryce over in LF?

Well... given the rocket mounted on Bryce's shoulder, it may make more sense to move him to right in order to cut down on those first to third runners and let Werth play LF.  I'd expect that's the way it'll shake out.

How does Span compare to Bourn?  Upton?

He's not the transcendent fielder that Bourn has been recently, but he's good, better than Upton.

Offensively he's a pretty big question mark. In 2005 and 6 it looked like he might be a star.  His line was .305 / .390 / .422 over that period and at 24 and 25 you thought he still had another step or two to take. But in the past three years he hasn't looked nearly as strong.  2011 can be forgiven as injury riddled, but 2010's .264 / .331 / .348 did happen. Last year he was a bit above average.

Who's the real Denard? If I were to guess I'd say something not quite as good as last year, something very average. In other words, not as good as Upton, who's power makes him special, but about the same as Bourn.

Some more facts

Span can run but outside of an awesome 2010, he steals bases at a low 70s% clip. That's good but not great or anything.

Span hits a TON of grounballs. He was 11th in the league in 2012, 9th in 2010. He also doesn't strike out or walk very often. He is completely a leg it out type of player, but it does mean he'll hit into a few more DPs than you might expect. This is something that might be an issue down the line but not something I'd worry about in the next couple of years.

If you ARE looking to be worried about something, Span's stats away from Minnesota have been dreadful the past few years.

2010 : .228 / .293 / .309
2012 :  .235 / .278 / .315

I can't really explain the drop in average but having even less power is in part because Target Field seems to be pretty good for allowing triples. Nationals Park seems not to be, so don't expect a SLG over .400. 

Injury riddled?

Yeah most of 2011 was lost because of a concussion issue.  Seemed fine in 2012 though.

OK so even though it's not a big difference, a smidge really, he's likely not as good as Bourn or Upton. Why him and not them?

Both Upton and Bourn would have required 5 year commitments at about 15 mill a year.  Span can be let go after 2 years and he's a LOT cheaper (~5Mill next, 6.5 in 2014).  This fits into the Nats plan that (1) Goodwin will be their CF of the future and (2) the Nats will have money free starting in 2015 to start signing the guys they want out of Desmond, ZNN, Stras, Gio etc..
So are the Nats better now?

For old timey baseball guys definitely.  You'll hear a lot about how they have a "true lead-off guy" etc etc.  They'll love it just because it's what they've been told for 100 years a team should look like.  Of course just last year the Nats won 98 games with Werth at leadoff but the crushing force of reality can take time to seep in.

For us soulless automatons... well, it depends on if they sign LaRoche and trade Morse or let Adam walk and move Morse. The OF defense is going to be better. If Morse stays, the first base defense takes a hit though and if you just look at last years stats, losing LaRoche would matter much more than losing Morse.  So I'd say if the Nats end up with Morse at first then they'd be ever so slightly worse, if they end up with LaRoche they'd be ever so slightly better.

Really, though, I don't think it's that big a deal from what it means on the field. Really what it's about is it gives the Nats freedom now and later to make big money deals they may want to make.

What about Meyer?

Oh he's good.  You know when someone is drafted and they say "Best case, he develops in way X"?  That's what Meyer has been doing.  The issues people have had with him are mainly control based and he's looked pretty good with that issue in A-ball.  He also handled the minor promotion from A to A+ easily.  (Minor league stats here) He's a ground ball guy which keeps the home runs down.  He's not the best minor league arm out there but he's sitting around #30 right now, and a good showing in AA would kick him up fast.

Side note the Nats farm is pretty bereft of young healthy arms now.  Everyone else is either not a big time prospect (Rosenbaum) or coming back from injury (Solis, Purke, Giolito). 

If he was that good why did the Nats deal him?

Because the top 4 pitchers are set until 2015 barring injury.  Zimmermann and Detwiler are both here through 2015. Strasburg through 2016.  Gio potentially through 2018 if the Nats want him that long. Gio is the oldest of the group and he won't turn 28 until late next season. You have to figure the injury risk near-term is slight.

That means there is plenty of time to develop, or trade for, or sign another stud pitcher if you think the Nats need one.  Meyer was a damn good prospect, but an A-ball pitcher is expendable when you have this type or rotation in the majors.

What's next for the Nats?

See if they can get LaRoche to take a 2-year deal and if they can then trade Morse + whatever for a decent 5th pitcher. Really we're all still waiting out Josh Hamilton right now as he'll cause a bunch of dominoes to fall.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

BJ Upton deal

The Braves are about to sign BJ Upton.  While some may balk at the expected contract (5/75), it's pretty much as fair as the LaRoche 3/30.  Maybe not the best deal but it's hard to see the Braves not recouping at least 75-80% of that value over the life of the contract. Should the Nats worry about this turn of events?  Not yet.

Upton for Bourn is an interesting swap.  Offensively Upton is the better player.  He hits for so much more power than the punchless Bourn (who's only going to get more punchless) that it overcomes his low average and OBP.  Over the past three years Upton's OBP and SLG of .317 and .436 respectively make him an above average offensive player.  Bourn's .346 and .376 make him maaaaybe average.  On the basepaths they both steal at a success rate around 80%, though Bourn takes off a little more giving him a bit more value.  In the field though Bourn has a huge advantage.  He is one of the best centerfielders in the league.  Upton can merely hold down the position.

On the surface it looks like the Braves are getting worse. Bourn is that much better a fielder, that Upton would have to be an all-star caliber hitter to make up the difference.  Why then do the Braves make this deal?  Two reasons.

Reason #1 : They need offense.

The Braves ranked 11th in BA, 7th in OBP, and 10th in SLG.  They are losing Chipper Jones who hit .287 / .377 / .455 last year.  Some help will come from McCann being healthy. Some more from fielding a shortstop who doesn't use the latin translation of "good field, no hit" on his family crest. But they need more. Upton makes them better offensively.

Reason #2 : Age.

5 years of Bourn : age 30-34
5 years of Upton : age 28-32

The trade off is Upton's age 28 and 29 years now for Bourns 33 and 34 later.  On Upton's side, I think we are done with the "maybe he'll put it all together" segment of his life. It's been 5 years. He is who he is. That being said career years have to happen sometime. Maybe (probably) it was at 22 for him, or maybe he has one left in him. At 28-29 I can see it. Even if not, you don't expect a crash at these ages so Upton should be a reliable source of offense for the next few years, something you can't say about Bourn.

At 30 he's likely on the downside of his career. If he suffers any bit of drop off in his average he's pretty much done as a useful offensive player. That drop off will happen, it's a question of 'when', not 'if'. Will it be at 30? 33? 35? He's still a good enough defensive player that it may only matter significantly for his overall value if that drop off happens very soon, which you'd put at a pretty low risk. But for a team that needs offense, the Braves can't take that risk. (the Nats could)

The Braves didn't as much ensure that that they'd be better next year, as they ensured that overall they wouldn't be worse next year for losing Bourn. At the same time they secured a better 5 year future than if they had re-signed Bourn, who's more likely to drop into "not a good player" by 2017 than Upton is. It was a good deal, a necessary one, and one that keeps the Braves on the Nats heels for the forseeable future.

Now do the Nats try to separate or not? Do the Braves try to catch up? We'll know pretty soon. Hot Stove Action!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The LaRoche question - part one

The Nationals have only one pressing issue this offseason and that's what to do about Adam LaRoche and by extension Mike Morse.

Two years ago the Nats signed Adam LaRoche to a 2 year 15 million dollar deal, with a mutual option on a 3rd year for 10 million. Many fans would like to see the same deal offered to Adam. That makes sense for the Nats. Adam is 2 years older, meaning you are less likely to want to give him more years.  He suffered through a debilitating injury.  The Nats have a good young corner infielder who will hopefully be ready for the majors in 2014 or so. Unfortunately the deal doesn't make sense for Adam.

Let's understand why Adam got the deal he did in the first place. Adam had just come off his worst year since 2005.  It wasn't a terrible year mind you (.261 / .320 / .468) but an off year at age 30 sets off warning signals. Could he be reaching the end? That drives down his price. At the same time there was a glut of first baseman available that at the time you thought were of roughly the same talent level.  Of course there was perennial 40 homer guy Adam Dunn.  There was Paul Konerko, who had just put up a monster year.  Aubrey Huff also off a good year and with a better year at the plate in 2008 than LaRoche had ever had. The remarkable consistency of Derek Lee who just in 2009 produced a great year. The promise of Carlos Pena who had shown so much pop from 2007-2009 people were willing to look past an .196 BA in 2010.  Hell even Lyle Overbay looked similar to what LaRoche put up.  There were a lot of other options if you didn't want to pay someone a big contract.

2010 Stats : .261 / .320 / .468
2010 1B MLB  Ave :  .264 /.350 / .452

Now he's coming off a year that he finished 6th in MVP voting.  He had his best year of his career. .271 / .343 / .510. And while age 32 is getting a bit long in the tooth, most teams don't start getting very wary until 35, especially if they are seeing results currently on the field. After him there is next to nothing available.  In terms of true first basemen you are literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. Older and more useless Lyle Overbay?  You could try to put Mike Napoli there or Nick Swisher but in a league that's increasing concerned with defensive value those are longer stretches than they would have been 5 years ago. There may not be a lot of suitors but LaRoche IS the first base market.

2012 Stats : .271 / .343 / .510
2010 1B MLB  Ave :  .262 /.336 / .442

Overall, first base has taken a step back and LaRoche took a step foward last year.  He went from a tinge below average for first basemen in 2010 to solidly better than average for first baseman in 2012, yet hardly anyone thinks of him differently. It's all about timing.

Adam is worth more now in 2012 than he was worth in 2010, that means he should, and probably will, sign for a better deal.  Most early reports have something in the neighborhood of 3 guaranteed years, 30 million as a starting point.

Is he worth it? Probably not. If Adam LaRoche hits as everyone expects him too (not as good as last year better than 2010, 2011) then 10 million a year is just about right, given his fielding. However, he'd have to do this for 3 more years and at this age you can't take that for a given. Most likely his production will slowly tail off. Do you want to be paying 10 million for a firstbaseman 3 years from now producing like a guy that you can get for 5? Here's the key - yes you do, if you need someone to produce at that level next year and don't really care about what he does 3 years from now.  The Nats aren't exactly that. Now the Rangers...

What I think is that the Nats are hoping the Hamilton deal works out with him going back to the Rangers.  If that's the case Texas is far less likely to offer LaRoche the deal he wants and then his options are pretty limited.  The Red Sox might give him a deal, but might also try to get a lower price for the extra years.
Of course if the Rangers see Hamilton go, then I think they'll pretty quickly give Adam the deal he wants.  He may not be exactly worth it, but it's pretty fair and doesn't kill them for rebuilding when this current run ends. And I think the South Kansas native would take that in a heart beat. He'd be much closer to home and his ranch and killing things and stuff.

Do the Nats blink first offer him that deal now? 3 years 30? I think you can make the case that it's not a bad deal so a lot depends on what they think moving Morse will do, and if they have the OF pieces to survive a failed bid to replace Morse in LF with a FA. If the production can be replaced then there is no need to make a deal that doesn't favor you, even one that's only mildy onerous. Next time!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Quickie

Hey everyone - hope you (and yours, if applicable) had a good holiday break (also if applicable - I assume someone might read this from out of the US)

As a nice post-holiday treat, how about putting some sanity back into Boz's work? Always a palate cleanser.

Boz, this weekend, had a column saying the Nats should stand pat, and basically getting Rizzo to say that was the plan.  All in all that's not a terrible position.  There aren't many impact players available.  The Nats won 98 games last year, with a 4 game cushion on the division, and a 10 game cushion on the Wild Card. Even if they may have gotten a little bit lucky last year, you stand pat and the likely win total is still going to be in the low to mid 90s. That's still "playoffs unless things go wrong" territory.  Just resign LaRoche and let... wait.  He wants to let LaRoche walk? Oh by "standing pat" he literally means standing with their hands in their pocket and whistle a happy tune because everything is going to come up roses all over again. Oh. Hmmm.

Some nitpicks then.

Why would you sign LaRoche, 33, for three or four years or Bourn, about to turn 30, or the erratic Upton for five-plus seasons at astronomical cost when you have multiple players my note - (Tyler Moore, Anthony Rendon, Matt Skole and Brian Goodwin) who may have the same kind of futures? They aren’t all going to fail. 

Ummm, yeah they might. They probably won't but don't act like if they did it would be a shock or anything.  I'd give a let's say 20% chance the combo of those 4 don't have a single mutli-year worthy major league starter among them. That's better odds than a dice roll. Now obviously the 80% is the important part for the Nats but betting on young guys to (1) get to the majors and succeed, and (2) do it on the schedule you need them to; is not a bet championship teams make. It's win now time for the Nats.

(Don't resign LaRoche and) Give Moore the playing time he’s earned in left field.
Tyler Moore had a very fine season for the Nats last year.  He has legit major league power.  He also will turn 26 in January and has a strike out to walk ratio of 3.45 to 1 in the minors (3.2+ in the majors last year) that almost always signifies problems. He certainly hasn't earned anything. Here are his monthly splits from last year

April/May :  .157 / .157 / .157
June :  .421 / .521 / .800
July : .225 / .244 / .425
August : .258 / .343 / .452
Sept : .154 / .214 /. 538

Anyone notice something that stands out? The guy had one hot month and otherwise alternated from an acceptable swing for the fences bench bat and a guy not ready for prime time. Can the Nats win with what ever Moore will be? Unless he totally is a failure, sure. But again - that's not world series contender thinking in my book.

Let Christian Garcia get a shot as a starting pitcher in spring training.
IP and surgery notes

2006 : 53 IP
2007 : 0 IP
2008 : 62.1 IP
2009 : 25.1 IP
2010 : 5.2 IP (last start of any kind)
2011 : 20.1 IP
2012 : 65 IP

And you want to be my latex salesman.

Look the guy may be able to pitch as a starter in the majors, and even though I'd rather see the Nats use him hard as a reliever and burn out his arm like I do with weedeater engines, they have the flexibility to try something different.  But to say "Hey why not have him start for the Nats next year" is just all sorts of short-sighted, and contrary to pretty much everything the Nats have done so far in regards to arms.

Allow flexibility for Rendon or Skole, a 230-pound lefty hitter with 119 RBI in ’12, to push their way into the big leagues like Moore did last year.
AA stats last year

Rendon (23 next yr) :  21 games : .162 / .305 / . 362
Goodwin (22) : 22 games : .223 / .306 / .373
Skole (23) : 0 games : n/a

Moore AA stats two years ago
Moore (24) : 137 games : .270 / .314  / .572

Moore's path to the majors was to hit well for an entire season in AA, move to AAA and hit even better there, be kind of at the age where you have to fish or cut bait, watch as injuries decimated the Nats outfield, get called up. Both Rendon and Goodwin are in no rush to be called up and haven't yet proven they'll be ready.  Skole, who as an old 23 (he'll turn 24 a couple weeks past the July 1 deadline we usually use to signify age that year in the majors) will be getting to that "let's see what you can do" point, hasn't even seen AA pitching yet. Hitting A-ball pitching at 22/23 is less about proving you are a major leaguer and more about showing the Nats they don't have to cut you.

 Let's see what these guys can do in AA before we start pencilling them in the lineup ok?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Mailbag

Don't know what I'll put up next week so chew on this for a weekend or two. 

Can Ian Desmond repeat that performance? (Evan Slagle)

Ian Desmond had a great year last year.  His line .292 / .335 / .511 is such a jump over previous years that it does make you wonder if it was a fluke.  Remember his line actually got worse from 2010 to 2011.

What do the fancy stats say?

K-rate : 20.7% (20.3% career includes 2012) No improvement last year, but it's not a number to worry about at this age and given what we've seen.  This will just be what he does.

BB-rate : 5.5% (5.3%) Not good, but again no fluke.  Patience contributed nothing to Ian's year. 

BABIP : .332 (.320)  A little high . Sometimes this is explained by an increase in line drive rate, but we don't see that here. 17.5% last year, 17.9% this year.  So it's not like he's rapping laser beams more often than he did before. It's probably a little bit of luck. But we're not talking a lot here. Instead of .292 he should have hit.. .285? 

HR/FB :  18.2% (11.1%) Now that is a big jump and also helps explain the big jump in average. A lot more of his FB are landing in seats rather than gloves.

This is really the crux of the improved year that Ian had.  In 2010 and 2011 this number was 7.7% and 6.0% respectively.  Let's say Desmond hits that rate in 2012.  Instead of 25 homers he hits 9. That's 16 FBs that don't go out of the park. Let's say 14 of those end up being outs (about 15% of FBs end up being hits on average) Now he's hitting .265 and his line would look a hell of a lot like his line last year.

His whole improvement across the board is based on hitting the ball out of the park and a much higher rate.  Top 30 in the majors.  So the question has to be, is that sustainable? This is a completely player dependent stat, so while you would kind of think at first it would have to go back down, that's not necessarily how it has to be. He showed no particular slow down over the course of the year, which is good. There are explainable reasons for the increase (pop shown in the minors, maturity, batting approach changes) Personally I'd bet on it staying closer to 18% than 7%.

I will say that I don't think 2012 was Ian's stepping stone to super stardom.  I don't see .300 30 in his future. Ask me right now and I think you see some return toward the Ian we didn't like but not a big one. .280 with about 20 homers? I think we'd all be happy with that.

Will we see Anthony Rendon this season? If so, when and where? (Ty Bair, Kevin Harris, Brandon Roche, Robert Schiff)

To answer the first question - who knows?  He's doing well in the AFL but that doesn't mean all that much (Chris Marrero rocked it in 2009, Brendan Harris in 2005). What you can say is all the signs are pointing in the right direction. He's hitting and healthy, so the next step is to see what he does in AA after hitting .162 in limited play last year. I'd be shocked if he was competing for a position in the spring, though I'm sure he'll get an invite to camp.

Remember that everyone thought Bryce could handle it but he only got up to the majors because of injury AND the fact that you could put him somewhere when everyone got healthy. There isn't a similar place for Rendon. More likely the Nats projected best case scenario plays out like this ; play two months in AA, do very well, get 2 more months in AAA, do very well, then up as a bench player. Personally, I think that's optimistic.  He can certainly hit but AA is hard and he's injury prone so I'm going to say we don't see him in 2013.

After 2013 where does he play? If I were to guess - I think Rendon plays where there's a hole. If that's the OF then that's the OF, if it's first than it's first. If Zimm's injuries or Espy's play create a hole at their positions then he'd play there. Remember, Rendon's ankle could use a less demanding position as well. This is today though and today I don't think moving Zimm to first for Rendon is a goal.  Another injury filled mediocre fielding year at third though and maybe minds are changed.

Of course the wild card in this is if they would trade Rendon. I think they would. They've shown they could trade a major leauge catcher and two major league pitchers if they felt they had the pieces in place above them. But I will say the deal would have to be right, and given the way Rendon is hitting now, the price is only going up for him.

What are the Nats doing at Catcher? (David Leyva, Renard Sexton)

Ramos is will be 25 next year and is wrapped up until 2017.  Suzuki will be 29 next year and will be a free agent (unless the Nats pick up an option for 8.5 million that I can't imagine will happen).  Ramos has not had any years as bad as Suzuki's 2010 or 2011 or overall 2012.  Even Suzuki's time with the Nats wasn't all that great and was kind of a make up for the surprisingly bad year he was having with the A's.  So all signs point to Ramos being the starter and Suzuki being the necessary expensive back-up.

My guess is that unless Ramos is healthy and does great in Spring, they'll let Suzuki start the season while Ramos slowly works his way into more playing time. If Suzuki is good then maybe Ramos lasts the whole season as back-up.  More likely though is Suzuki will be kinda bad and whenever Ramos is healthy the roles will flip. But they have to be careful here. There is not necessarily a big gap between these two and fans love calling for a back-up when they perceive that a starter is struggling. (see: Lombardozzi, Steve)

What about the pen? Trade Clippard? Sign someone? Are they really going to make Garcia a starter? (Kevin Costello, John Doerr, Wally, Kevin Roberts, Alan Wiecking)

Normally I'd be all for trading Clippard for a blah hitting prospect and a bag of magic Big League Chew.  That's how flippable I think relievers are, especially those that have been worked hard. The Nats, however, find themselves in a bit of a quandry.  With Burnett likely leaving and Garcia* almost certain to be made into a starter, the Nats have something like 70 of their important relief innings to fill. Lose Clippard and that number jumps to 140. Some of that will go to a healthy Storen, but only 30-40 or so, and you can't stretch out Stammen and Mattheus much more.  Where does the other 100 come from? Zech Zinicola?  I guess you could hope for the best. Mike Gonzalez? No thank you. Cross your fingers and hope for an H-Rod comeback? What did you say about Gonzo, again?

So it's tougher for the Nats to lose Clippard, than you might have thought given the bullpen depth of last season. You'd almost have to go out and replace him with a dependable arm and that costs money you'd rather spend elsewhere, money you wouldn't have to spend on Clip (under team control until 2017).  If a good deal is there you make it but you don't trade him just because you are afraid of dealing him a year late. Even if it feels like the right time, playoff teams need good pens and Clippard, despite late season issues, is part of a good pen.

As for the rest of the pen, I think the Nats like it a lot the way it is.  Storen, Clippard, Mattheus, Stammen, presumably Gonzo, and rehabilitating H-Rod.  So I'd be shocked by any major signings in the pen. But the Nats do need another lefty (their best lefty in the minors close to coming up had a WHIP of 1.423 in AA.  That doesn't project well) but I would guess RIzzo goes the route of signing a guy who had an off year last year that might still have some arm left (Randy Choate?)

* I believe the Garcia rotation move is going to happen and is a rare misstep for the Nats organization. You'll have to spend at least all next year stretching him out and the guy has already had 3 elbow surgeries, including two Tommy Johns. If all this works out you'll end up with an "old" 28-yr old trying for the first time to start in the majors sometime in 2014, if you're lucky.  Given the ticking time bomb that is his arm, I think you'd be best served riding it completely into the ground in a best guy out of the pen situation.

Should the Nats go after Bourn?  Wouldn't he leadoff better than Werth?  What about Hamilton? (David Goodman, Robert Schiff, Keith Watts)

The Nats should only worry about leadoff if they think Werth will make a stink about it. Leaving behind the whole "It doesn't really matter" argument, he's the most patient batter on the team, he sees the most pitches, he gets on base the most BY FAR. Other than his ability to drive in runners being wasted by batting after the pitcher, there is no argument. And what kind of argument is that right now? If you didn't notice he slugged .440 last year.  Pull out the singles and that was roughly what Kurt Suzuki slugged for the Nats (Werth isoSLG .140, Suzuki .137)  Yes, yes injury, but even before that he wasn't exactly distracting us from the terrible truths of MLB's satellite program.  At 34, things start to go.

So if you want to bring in Bourn just to leadoff, I think that's silly. If you want Bourn it's because you want his awesome defense in a hard position and an offense that's acceptable. It's all going to depend on the market for him. I might even be able to get behind a deal that skirts the 5 year 90 million that Torii Hunter got back in the day.  That's how good Bourn's D and baserunning are and a Nats OF of Bryce, Bourn, and Werth would look to be outstanding. I think Bryce has acquitted himself well but I'm still not sure I buy that he'll mature into the role.  I'd rather see him moved to another spot before we get into a "that's the only place Bryce will play" situation.  Plus, add a super-plus CF, and the Nats would have potentially an IF/OF as good as any we've seen. But if Boras (yes his agent is Scott Boras) pushes it to the 100 million range.  I just don't know. It's one thing to overpay. It's another to so grossly do it.

Hamilton? Love the guy but there is too much not to like to sign him for what he'd likely get.  Those strikeouts being way up?  The fielding being pretty bad this year? A HR number that will possibly end up being a career high?  A history of injury and external issues?  The Nats, being a team that is looking to win in the next couple of years, are one of the few teams that could justify making that kind of signing but I couldn't get behind it, not with the guy looking for 7 years (and likely to find someone willing to give him 6, I bet)

I'll finish up the remaining Qs, next time,  then put the email address back out there for another round.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How the Marlins trade effects the '13 Nats

Jeffrey Loria, whom you might know as Azazel, Beelzebub, Ol' Scratch, or by his given name "The Great Satan, Dark Lord of the Underworld" has commenced gutting a Marlins team he put together roughly 12 months ago in order to justify fleecing the city of Miami into building him a new stadium. ("But it'll help revitalize the neighborhood!" says stupid people who don't understand that that happens when the city puts money behind a well thought out neighborhood plan with or without the existence of a local sports teams home field).  Outside of a few moronic sabermetricians ("Their marginal win per dollar spent will go through the roof!") everyone thinks this is terrible. Unless of course you are a fan of the Nats, Phillies, Braves or Mets. The Marlins weren't good last year and they'll be worse than they needed to be for the next couple of years. That means more wins for these teams.

For the Nats especially this will help, because this down time for the Marlins coincides directly when the Nats will be fighting it out for everything from Wild Cards (hey, the Braves could have a good year) to home field advantage. But how much will it help them?

In 2012 here were the NL East teams records vs the Marlins

WSN : 9-9
ATL : 14-4
PHI : 10-8
NYM : 12-6

Both the Mets and Braves aren't going to necessarily gain much from the Marlins destruction in comparison to this past year. It will help them in that they won't lose more games, but if the Braves and Mets want to get more than 94 and 74 wins respectively, it's not going to come just from Miami becoming a doormat in front of them.

The Nats and the Phillies though, I think both these teams can probably expect 2-4 more wins just because of this. That doesn't mean the Nats are definitely looking at a 100 win season.  There is WAY too much going on to say that. But they should definitely bounce back against this team over the next couple of years giving them a nice theoretical cushion to start the year (While other teams may have had some bad luck vs the Marlins this year, Pittsburgh going 1-4 for example, anything can happen in 6 games. Even the worst team has a winning record vs somebody and even good teams have bad stretches vs also-rans. So you can't say Marlins are worse, Pittsburgh will win a couple more games. Play a team 3 times that many times though and you start to get a proper comparison)

Is this automatic? Of course not. The Nats could go 9-9 again next year.  Hell, they could go 8-10 or 7-11.  It's not impossible.  But trades like this make those results far less likely.  The needle has moved for the Nats, from an expected record against Miami of something like 11-7 to something like 13-5. That may not seem like much but remember the Nats won HFA by two games, the Cardinals won the 2nd WC by two games. Every little bit helps. This helps. So thank Loria right after you splash him with holy water and watch him burn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

One down

I was right!  Though you must know that much like the presidential election percentage of votes does not equal the electoral college difference. 

If you are wondering the votes for Jordan Pacheco (empty high average in Coors field and a terrible fielder) and Yonder Alonso (only decent considering the home park and had ~70 games over the past 2 years in the major leagues) were the worst votes. 

Friday, November 09, 2012

Lucky or Unlucky : 2012

As I talked about last year in talking about seasons before that, seasons are usually made or broken by things you didn't plan for.  Injuries of course, but also performances that skew a large distance from expectations. It works in both directions, both surprisingly good performances and sudden collapses. If your team manages to get more of the former than the latter you should have a better than expected year, and vice versa.

ZNN and Zimmerman pretty much played to expectations after starting fast and slow respectively.  Also pretty much doing as he does after a slow start was Espinosa. Lombardozzi gave you the empty average you would have projected.  Bryce gave you the everything, but just not quite at star level yet, you would have projected.

The bullpen, which began filling up with good arms in 2010, put together another very good year as a whole with some surprises (Stammen, Garcia) matched with some failures (Lidge, H-Rod). Lannan was Lannan when given the chance. Strasburg was STRASBURG when, you know, still in the rotation. Injury hampered Wang was terrible.

All those offensive injuries - Nicks and bumps happen so even something like Desmond's 30 missed games you can write off as kind of typical.  But Morse missed 60 games, Werth half the season, Ramos pretty much the whole thing. That's a lot for an offense to overcome.

Morse's injury saps his power a bit - Mike is supposed to be an imposing presense in the middle of the lineup.  He still had a good year but post-injury he didn't quite have the pop fans were hoping for.

Storen's injury - One single notable bullpen injury isn't a big deal*, even if it's the closer, but it's kind of unlucky it happened anyway.

*well it shouldn't be a big deal because you should just plug in your 8th inning guy, who's likely your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd best reliever. The Nats didn't do that at first, instead putting in the unreliable because of age Brad Lidge and unreliable because of talent H-Rod. That worked as well as you might expect. But that's not bad luck, that's bad roster management.

Ummmm...  Xavier Nady should have really been not so terrible for the Nats.  I guess you didn't expect Flores to be that bad.

Desmond broke out - Ian Desmond went from a liability at the plate to a huge plus in a single year.

A lot of bit players overperformed - Bernadina had the best year of his career.  Tyler Moore hit for a higher average than anyone could have hoped.  Suzuki and Tracy both performed better than they had in years. While the injuries hurt, these performances helped to ease that pain a good deal.

Gio, Detwiler and Jackson all pitched really well - You probably would have expected Gio to do better in the NL then the AL but almost no one predicted him to be Cy Young worthy (almost noone).  You probably would have expected Detwiler to hold his own but he pitched like a #3 or better. You possibly would have expected that Jackson would be a nice pickup but he put together arguably the 2nd best season of his career.  Any one of these things would have been nice to have.

Complete injury bounce backs from LaRoche and Werth - We were pretty sure neither could hit as badly as they did the year before but given injury returns are never sure things, were hoping for a nice medium between the terrible and what we had expected going into 2011. Instead they got all the way back

The starter health - The Nats basically had 5 good and healthy starters all year long.  Only two other teams managed that, the Reds and the Giants. Sound familiar? What about teams with 4 healthy guys you want to throw out there? Angels, Tigers, Cardinals, Yankees, Rays.  See the pattern? This is HUGE.

What's the final verdict?  Well it's hard to say the Nats weren't lucky this year.  They had a big negative with all those injuries but that was the only big negative.  On the positive side the Werth/LaRoche bounceback and the bench player's performances really helped directly overcome that big negative and they also had big positives including a break-out season, nearly complete pitching health, and having no starter underperform.

Does this mean that the Nats are doomed to fall back next year? Not at all, mainly because the Nats are a young team. Overperformance by older players is generally a fluke, just a guy having a year where everything seems to go right. The next year though, you expect a return to normal production.  For example Chad Tracy isn't going to hit that well again next year.  For young players, though it shifts expectations. Maybe they are this good.  You don't necessarily go and predict something as good, but you believe a bit more in what you saw recently than what you had previously expected. Ian may not be able to carry an offense again, but he should be in the All-Star discussion. Gio might not be a Cy Young candidate in 2013, but he's probably still a top 15 type pitcher. The Nats weren't an old team catching lightning in a bottle. They were a young team that combined took a big step foward last year. Maybe that means a settling of feet a game or two back, but a full return is not in the cards.

No, the only thing derailing the Nats next season would be injury or an awful case of bad luck.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Slightly More than 581

While watching the election unfold exactly how survey data said it would was fun (I work with surveys all the time. There's a reason people do them. They are usually right.), I'm taking this voting back for the windbags.  I've gathered no data, polling exactly 0 voters for the BBWAA   I've unskewed it by using a complex method mixing cast chicken bones (wings only), the pattern of the Jager at the bottom of my shot glass, and "what I feel like at the time". Here are my forecasted results for the NL voting.

NL Rookie of the Year 

Miley takes the solid NL West vote, his home state of Louisiana, and surprisingly Utah, where the Mormon fanbase has been turned off by Bryce since he wore the "Suns Out, Guns Out" tank top instead of their special underwear. Frazier takes NJ, as a member of the Toms River LLWS Champs. He also gets the Reds block, plains states that don't like Bryce's in-your-face attitude, and Georgia, where Braves fans still think he's overrated and Heyward and Freeman are just as good.  Bryce though is super cool and everyone else realizes it. He easily wins his home state and his rugged individualism plays particularly well in the mountain west. He sweeps the rest and takes the easy victory.

Miley (purple) : 89
Frazier (red) : 109
Bryce (eye black) : 340

NL Manager of the Year

Baker gets most of the Reds block, along with Florida, where seniors sympathize with his health issues, and Missouri who have lingering Davey issues from the '80s and also have such ego with the Cardinals that they assume any coach that can win the Central over their team must be some sort of a genius. Bochy and the Giants still play big in the Western states, who frankly are happy when anyone keeps the Dodgers out of the playoffs. He also surprisingly pulls in Pennsylvania, where the western part of the state is still in shock Clint Hurdle wasn't nominated and the eastern part is full of bitter Phillies fans who refuse to vote for a former Mets coach that now coaches the Nats. It's not enough. Davey's curmudgeonly ways are exactly what most of the country want in a manager. It's an easy win.

Baker (red) : 76
Bochy (orange) : 137
Johnson (yellow) : 325

NL Cy Young

You can't see it, but Gio does take DC.  Kershaw doesn't even get the usual NL West vote, instead he pulls in only the strict "East Coast Bias!!11!1!s" trio of CA, OR, and WA.  The rest of the country understands that a fast throwing knuckleballer is totally cool and should totally win. Totally. It's a Reagan-esque domination.

Gio (red?) : 3
Kershaw (blue) : 74
Dickey (orange) : 461


Braun only takes Wisconsin because everyone else thinks he's a big dumb cheater. Molina gets Missouri and Texas who refuses to vote for anyone from the liberal bastion of San Francisco. McCutheon wins the college educated areas of the country who understand his low fielding stats are obviously an issue of annual variability and really question any use of fielding skills when evaluating catchers versus other players. Also they think Braun is a big dumb cheater. Still Posey's boyish charm is too strong to overcome.  Oh wait, Chase Headley! Uhhhh... yeah.

Headley (a scarlet so deep and red it would make you cry if you saw it. God's color, really) : 0
Braun (blue) : 10
Molina (red) : 48
McCutheon  (yellow) : 180
Posey (orange) : 300

Monday, November 05, 2012

Monday Quickie

So my computer is broken, when it comes back I expect to get on a more regular schedule in the offseason.  Probably Tuesday - Wednesday - Friday but nothing set in stone yet.

The only real big news has been the lack of a qualifying offer to Edwin Jackson.  You only don't make a qualifying offer to Jackson if you are afraid he will agree to it.  You are only afraid he'll agree to it if you have what you believe to be better plans for his position. What could those plans be? Here are my guesses from most to least likely :

The Nats are looking to deal for a young pitcher. Rizzo likes his pitchers like he likes his coffee; cheap, young and in team control for several years (that analogy makes sense, right?). The Jackson signing last year made sense with Strasburg's situation as it was. They needed to be sure of getting the innings. This year that isn't the case. The Nats have some chips to deal. If they want to get better on D, Morse is an obvious one.  Espinosa could be one depending on how much they love Rendon. Or else their somewhat decently showcased "other" young guys like Moore and Lombo could be part of a package.

The Nats have a killer 1-3 and a 4 in Detwiler who might be very good as well. Taking a risk on a young arm is something this team can afford and is in line with their philosophy.

The Nats are looking to showcase Lannan and/or Maya.  This wouldn't be popular with the Nats fans, but it makes sense to me. Lannan has been nothing but decent pitching for years now.  The guy would be more than fine as this team's 5th starter and would be ready to be dealt early to another squad.  If you don't let him pitch for a deal, it would be a waste as he'll just walk as a FA next year.

As for Maya, his age doesn't necessarily lend himself to be part of the Nats future but he did pitch better than Lannan did in AAA. Plus he's a complete Rizzo guy and I bet it gnaws at Mike constantly that this didn't work out.  Throw him out there hope that he's great like you thought.  If he's merely good that's still fine, you can deal him for something.

This move would allow the Nats all the monetary flexibility they need to really step up and make a big $ FA signing for the offense, where they seem more agreeable to such things. 

The Nats are looking to sign a long-term pitcher.  I don't see the Nats as being the types to sign long-term pitching but there is one guy (Greinke) who is good enough and young enough that you might try it.  They did go after him before.  My issue with this move is that for anyone other than Zack this hardly makes sense and what if you don't get him? You let a very good pitcher walk for no compensation for nothing? This is a big gamble that I don't really think the Nats are making being pennant contenders now and Rizzo being the draft pick hoarder he is. 

The Nats are looking to sign another temporary pitcher. If this was the case I don't see why they wouldn't just offer the spot up to Edwin.  I don't see anyone out there THAT much better, but they know more than I do about Jackson, obviously, so I suppose this is possible. They liked this set-up they just didn't like Edwin for some reason.

The Nats want to keep the 5th spot free to showcase their young pitching just like Detwiler last year.  That would be nice but who would these young studs be?  Meyer is the best bet, but he'll open the season in AA. I can't see him up early enough to be the driver of a 2013 plan. Neither Meyer or Rosenbaum didn't end the season well. The rest of the guys in line are just filler or injured and in the low minors. There may be a nice young pitcher in the Nats rotation but I'd be shocked if it happened before September, and I'd be surprised if the September above wasn't September of 2014. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gold Glove Throughts

Adam won it.  Ian didn't. Danny really should have been a finalist... Anyone care about these things? For years the awards were our way of looking at disparate stats (for example on offense : average, RBI, HR, etc.) and deciding which player had the best combination that year given his various circumstances. It was a stamp that signified "Yes you were the best at X this year" because we knew no better way of doing it.

Now of course we do know a better way.  Not a perfect way of course, just a better one, relying on statistical analysis to at least narrow the award fields to a couple of legitimate choices from which whatever personal bias you prefer to throw in there can make the final decision. It's the way things are slowly moving and frankly it's a pretty boring end point. At some point the analysis will be good enough to make all the choices a 1 in 3, 1 in 4 affair at best and more often than we'd like, a obvious no-brainer. Yawn.

What advanced statistical analysis should let us do now is liberate the awards from any sort of statistical backing. Not just Adjusted OPS, (fWAR+bWAR)/2, and UZR but also RBI, AVG, and W.  We know who is the best X this year. That's settled. Why argue about it? What's the point in having an award that says "Yes, 2+2 does equal 4."?

Future votes shouldn't be framed like that.  It should just be "who do you think is the best".  Have fun with it.  Stress that "valuable" in MVP like some people do and explicitly say that means what ever you want it to mean. Best player down the stretch? Sure. Inspirational story? Sure. Most fun player to watch? Sure. Let it be everything. Awards are silly emotional things so just run with that and encourage people to vote anyway they want.

Except Adam LaRoche for MVP.  That's just stupid.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wrapping up EJax

On a bit of a vacation so this will be brief.  I'm going to leave out any sort of deal talk involving some of the other pitchers because I didn't get a chance to grab all of them.  Thanks to Alan Fawcett, Alex Howard, Robert Schiff, Wally, Chaos, Chaz R, and John Doerr for the E Jax questions, which I've combined a bit here.

Outside of a FA acquisition or trade, who would fill the void? Lannan? Garcia? Duke? Who's in the minors?

Lannan is the obvious candidate.  He's a pitcher the Nats (or at least Rizzo) don't particularly like, who makes a lot of money (relatively), who will be a free agent after next year, but who is young enough that his value as a back of the rotation guy should be stable enough to attract attention. Therefore you pitch him, don't really hurt yourself (because he is a decent #5) and you try to deal him.

Outside of Lannan pickings get slim fast. Everyone likes what they saw of Garcia but the 64 innings he pitched this year were his most since 2005.  He needs to be stretched out and it'll take a year at least. On the older side the Nats had Zack Duke look ok in AAA this year.  Once a Pirate staple, now a baseball vagabond, he's likely to take a job that gives him a better shot at a major league rotation.  I'd expect to see Yunesky Maya, if only because Rizzo hates to admit a mistake, although he did have a decent AAA season.  As for younger pitchers, you might see a Jeff Mandel or a Trevor Holder depending on how their 2013s go, but neither are considered good prospects.

What is then promising for the future that we might see next year? Two names, Daniel Rosenbaum and Alex Meyer.  Rosenbaum is more likely to be seen first, having already pitched well in AA.  He's improved consistently in the minors, has excellent command, and is a ground ball type of guy.  He's not young per se but just young enough. Meyer is the true prospect, live arm type of guy who has been progressing ok for a year now, but he's only hit high-A so far so I really doubt you'd see him before September.

Should they give him a qualifying offer?

Yes.  Edwin is good enough that you wouldn't mind having him back next year at fair market value and you don't want to lose a potential draft pick you would get by making the offer.  There isn't a terrible downside here unless you think the Nats REALLY want to jettison EJax.

Without Edwin Jackson would the rotation worse than what he started last year with?

Well maybe technically, but it wouldn't be worse than what Rizzo thought he had when he opened 2012.  Strasburg is guaranteed the whole year. ZNN was great.  Gio blossomed into a Cy Young contender.  Detwiler looks better than Edwin.  In hindsight yes, losing Jackson will potentially make it worse, but the Nats will be opening with much higher expectations from the rotation with or without him

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What to do about : Edwin Jackson

The Adam LaRoche / Mike Morse situation is the most pressing thing facing the Nats this offseason. The second most pressing? Edwin Jackson's future. That's a good thing, when your second most pressing issue is clearing up your 4th/5th place starter position. The Nats are a pretty settled ball-club that just won 98 games. But you only get to 98 if you have that rotation settled on so let's get to it.

First let's traipse through E Jax's  fancy stats and compare them to the rough 2-year average I calculated earlier in the year. First the "lucky" ones

BABIP :  .278 (.320) 
HR/FB :  11.7% (9.4%)
LOB% :  71.2% (72%) 

It really does look like Edwin had things more go for him than against him that year.  That is a big drop in BABIP from his previous two years.  Given that everything else here and below are pretty stable, it's probably not because he suddenly became a better pitcher.  Now it could have something to do with the Nats team. The BABIP for the team was at .282. There may be a little luck there but it's mostly great defense.  That doesn't mean that the .320 he had in the past was just a team issue and he'd put up another .278 if he came back with the Nats. Edwin averaged around .025 pts higher than the team BABIP over 2010-2011. More than likely he'd be looking at a .305 or so, maybe a little less given you have to take into account how he did this year.  Let's say about 12 or so more non HR hits in the year.  That's more baserunners, more runs given up, etc. etc.   The other numbers are stable. You might expect a couple fewer homers or so. Overall I'd expect next year to feature very slightly worse pitching from Edwin* given all else being equal.

*I'd expect a very slight increase in xFIP which would mean an ERA expectation of about 3.80 / 3.85 or so, but that would be a better ERA.  That's the way it breaks sometimes. 

GB :  47.3% (46%)
K/9 :  7.97 (7.4)
BB/9 :  2.75 (3)

Everything here trended right.  He gave up more GBs, struck out more guys, and walked fewer. At the same time nothing was that different than it was before.  A little bit of growth maybe but given his age and the small changes I doubt we're going to see continued improvement in these, at best you can hope for is stability.

So what does that all mean. Pretty much Edwin Jackson IS the pitcher he was in 2010 and 2011 which is a guy with an ERA likely to be just under 4.00.  There really isn't anything down deep in here, unless you want to bite on the idea that the end of the season and his playoff performance were indicative of something (I don't other than Nats fans would not like to see him out there next year).  Now, having a guy like that as your 4th or 5th starters... that's pretty good.  Looking at his ERA and his xFIP and the above... I'd put him in the 30-40 range of NL starters. On a bad team he'd be your #2, on your average team, he'd be a 3rd starter, on a good team he's 4th. For the Nats he could be 5th.

Is that worth 11 million a year? Yeah it roughly is given the innings Edwin throws out there. That's what the market says. (The Nats are getting HUGE bargains on Strasburg, Gio and ZNN in case you don't know) Is it worth 11 million to the Nats in 2013?  Probably so.  Is it worth it to the Nats as part of a multi-year deal though, that's the real question.  For one more year I could see it but as I've said before I don't think Rizzo's MO includes signing older pitchers to long term deals. I think on the open market Edwin will be offered a deal in the 4 years 50 million range? If he can't get that 4th year it'll still be close to 3 years 40 mill. I don't see the Nats offering that and I wouldn't either. Expect a 1yr 13 mill, or 2 year 20 mill deal floated out there for Edwin to reject.

The Nats like Detwiler meaning that unlike last year when they had only 3 spots sewn up before signing EJax, this year they believe they have 4 AND they don't need the innings as much with Strasburg out of his shutdown year.  I think they'll try to trade for a decent 5th starter type young arm but I could also see them doing something similar to last year, wait and see what value lies at the end of the FA year for a short-term deal, or possibly sign a older guy they like right away to a one year deal. Worst case is that fails and you roll with Lannan and use that spot to test out some young arms you like later in the year.

(I'll check the EJax Q's from last week tonight and make sure I addressed all the points - you'll see anything missed tomorrow)