Nationals Baseball: How are they back here again?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How are they back here again?

Honestly.  Just go read the first paragraph from last year.

It's gotten to the point that this is so bad that Nats fans are seemingly happy that Mike Cameron is gone because for some reason that clears things up, I guess?  Try Ian Desmond? Maybe they bring up Bryce early and Werth can play CF? I think the fans have been beaten down so much that they've come to accept this annual failure.  "Thank you sir! Can we have another inning of Roger Bernadina?!"  

(Yes, yes if Bryce Harper can play CF this is a moot point but think about it; as a team they believe in Bryce's ability to play center so much they are probably going to take a 33 year old who last split time at the position in 2005 and use him there instead. That should tell us something.)

It doesn't make sense that it has taken the Nats so long to address this successfully.  It's even more confusing since Rizzo has built this team into a pitching and defense first squad.  If you are trying to perfect your defense after finding the right SS (which they haven't really done either), comes finding the right CF.  Part of me wants to believe it's just really hard to fill that position and in a certain way it is.  Centerfielders are highly valued and young ones especially are being hoarded even if they can't hit (I'm looking at you Dexter Fowler).  But what if they lower their standards just a little bit?  Take a look at last year. Here are guys that manned CF and had more than 400 ABs.  There are two former Nats there (Byrd, Morgan) and they both can field! There are two guys that were traded for (Bourn, Rasmus) years younger than Ankiel. There's a guy that was had for a song last season in FA (Melky).  Hell, Emilio Bonaficio played some games at center (not great) last year. Why didn't the Nats think about that? There have been options that would have made the Nats a better team overall without impacting whatever long range plans they have. It's hard to use that "hard to fill" excuse knowing that. 

If they are so worried about defense, then Ankiel is ok but he can't be the best choice.  I have to believe there is some true no-hit great glove guy somewhere. (Endy was available)  If they are worried about trying to help the team win in combination, well I just noted there were better choices than Ankiel last year, I'm sure there will be this year. Only if they are looking for "Mr. Right CF" does this constant failure make any sense, and if that's the case the Nats are reaching a point where continuing the search rather than settling for "Mr. Good Enough CF" could be the difference between playoffs and not playoffs, between division crowns and wild cards.

Gah - I'm going back to my alternate universe, where the Nats are wondering if a never-traded, never-concussed Ryan Church's defense can hold out just a couple more years.


Nate said...

I actually did a little legwork on this, because I had the same initial reaction. But if you actually go back and look at the offensive and defensive numbers for the guys who have manned CF for the Nats since '05, it's pretty bleak.

I'd actually managed to forget that Brad Wilkerson was the CF for most of 2005, but he was really a LF/1B playing out of position and it showed up in his defense. Ryan Church was stretched in CF too, and as you noted, had a touch of Nick Johnson-itis. Endy Chavez was a legit defensive CF but couldn't hit his way out of a paper bag. The less said about Preston Wilson, the better.

They did miss on Marlon Byrd, but he's been more "league average" than "gold glove" in center, (Church minus the injuries). Nook Logan was all glove, no bat. No base-running either. Lastings Milledge had the bat, but not the glove. Fun fact: He's still just 26!

Willie Harris was an acceptable stop-gap, but never a long-term solution. Nyjer Morgan was a perfect fit except for the fact that he was a total disaster. Roger Bernadina doesn't hit enough to start and is a terrible CF. (Sorry, Shark fans.)

Much of the problem has stemmed from the Nats' need to make their CF the leadoff hitter, either because it was traditional or because no one else could do the job. That's probably what got Endy run out of town and exacerbated Nyjer's problems. And unless Ian Desmond becomes a completely different player, it's a problem that will continue in 2012.

Harper said...

Nate - I didn't think about that but you're right. It does have a lot to do with the leadoff obsession. I don't think it helped that other lead-off positions like SS and 2B were usually manned with guys that couldn't handle the duty either. Hey you even put a related picture up to that comment before you knew I'd write it. Spooky!

Other sad facts:

From 2006 on Nats CFs have a WAR of 14.2 (only the White Sox are worse). Nyjer's quarter-season finish in 2009 accounts for 40% of that.

Endy Chavez in about 50% of the games has a WAR of 8.4 over the same period.

Angels12 said...

At the rate the Nats are going you'll be using last years opening paragraph for next years........

JWLumley said...

The only excuse I can come up with is that the Nats thought they were close on another deal when some of those deals went down. I still don't understand why the Nats didn't put something together for the Giants for Andres Torres. Maybe he hits this year, maybe he doesn't, but either way he's worth at least 2.0 WAR with his glove. Not to mention that he has enough power that even if he throws up a .240 AVG, his OPS won't suffer too much because of the power. Remember he's put those power numbers up playing in Telephone Park.

Still, I can't believe that it will once again be the Ankiel and Bernadina show again. I would have felt better about bringing Laynce Nix back to play CF.

Donald said...

Don't know how much of this is poor planning on Rizzo's part or hind-sight on ours. The CF issues in 2005 - 2008 weren't necessarily Rizzo's fault. Plus, there were such glaring holes all over the line-up that picking on CF doesn't seem fair. Trading for Nyger was actually a really good move that would have looked really smart if Nyger had weren't an idiot. Cutting him without a fall-back seems stupid on Rizzo's part, but I don't know what sort of chemistry issues he would have created had they kept him. It's possible that they didn't pick up a stop-gap last year because they thought they'd be able to get Span at the deadline, or Upton at the end of the year.

Anonymous said...

I think Rizzo honestly believes that Michael Taylor will be the guy in 2 years and isn't interested in anything other than picking up a 1 year guy next year or trading for one later this summer. I've read a couple of Rizzo quotes about the farm system that mentioned Kelso and Taylor as major league quality in "a couple of years".


blovy8 said...

You've got to pay those fielding first center fielders something even if they're really lousy hitters. Seattle's Gutierrez makes a pretty good salary off of one decent season. If Plan A is to go into this season using Werth in center a lot that really depends on the best case scenerio happening, i.e. everyone staying healthy, Harper forcing his way onto the club, LaRoche being a decent power hitter, getting lucky with some guy though of as done like Michaels stepping up or DeRosa playing like he did a few years ago, etc. But there is a disconnect here in strategy as to a Plan B on offense. Depending on health and the young position players progressing, but conversely expecting enough regression in innings pitched that you screw up your depth chart if they're all healthy? Rizzo sees a potential problem with getting enough innings out of his starters so he signs a one-year deal for Jackson after doing a one-year deal with Wang. These are guys who are not part of the long term plan, and in tandem tend to set back the development of Detwiler, but, ok, it was a good value play, and while they almost certainly will waste some depth there, it develops a strong staff. But if you pay that 11 mil. to Jackson to contend this year, why leave the offense to chance? So far, it's been longterm CF or bust. There was no apparent effort in worrying about a prospective dearth of positive at bats from position players overall - they've not spent a dime on the outfield, or a viable onbase guy. DeRosa has barely had any playing time in the last two years, it's crazier to depend on him for 400 decent at bats than worrying about the getting enough innings from seven or eight starters, so much so that you need to go get another. Rizzo just handed out minor league OF deals and at best, can expect to use Bernadina's last option year in an obvious non-starting role. For a million or two, Reed Johnson or Fukodome would have been ideal as averageish outfielders who could fake center as well as Werth and be viable OBP guys at the top of the order. Even if a deal developed for a center fielder, where's the harm in another guy like Fukodome with a good OBP for 1 million on the bench, who is it displacing? We already know that unless they're dumb enough to blow off Harper's extra year of control, with this roster, someone lousy at hitting is getting 300-400 at bats and some decent starting pitcher(s) won't get as many innings as they could handle.

Anonymous said...

Talk about impatience (and incompetence).

Harper in RF, Werth in CF. That will happen by the All-Star Break.

So stop fucking whining. Everybody.

Anonymous said...

blovy8, yeah, what about Reed Johnson- can mash LHP. The Cubs signed but not for much - why didn't we. He might be a bit overmatched for CF defensively but I'm sure he'd be alright. Platoon hi with Endy (who signed for Baltimore for cheap) and you got a CF platoon right there and they can leadoff. Instead now we have no RH CF since Cameron retired. A Johnson/Endy Chavez (or Johnson/Ankiel) platoon would've been sufficient and when Harper comes up they could move to LF if Morse went to 1B or maybe the bench if Morse stays at LF.
What about Craig Gentry- right-handed bat- gun CF as far as I know. Probably won't destroy LHP but Texas might be alright with trading him.

Wally said...

Yes, it is just puzzling how they have ignored the CF position. I think the comment that from 2005-2008, there were so many holes, so why bother is probably correct. I mean, for $3-5m they could have had a decent player there, but ok, I'll take that point.

But this offseason especially, why go with sub replacement players there, especially when your lineup isn't exactly the '27 Yanks?

Because this comment - There have been options that would have made the Nats a better team overall without impacting whatever long range plans they have. - is so obviously true. In addition to those mentioned, Cody Reed was out there for a long time. At this point, Byrd looks like the most easily attainable stopgap, but I also think Will Venable could be available and not that costly to get. The problem with him is that he really is just the LH part of a platoon, too.

Steven said...

Cameron Maybin! Don't forget Cameron Maybin for 2 MRPs!

whoa_now said...

one word: AOKI-dude would have been perfect.

Harper said...

Angels12 - If Taylor doesn't pan out that could certainly be the case

PigPen - That's an issue with complaining. They might have been close to several deals over the last 7 years that we don't know about. Of course if your job is to do X, it doesn't really matter if you were close to doing X but it didn't happen.

I don't think SF would have traded Torres without getting a CF back.

Donald - The Nyjer drop was a mistake basically negating the good move to bring him in. As for no moves last year - maybe they did think they could deal but then you have to make it happen. Trades aren't horseshoes or handgrenades. The Nats won;t get extra wins because they might have had a Span or Upton on the team

Anon #1 - I suppose that is possible, but it still seems there are better one-year guys that could be had.

blovy8 - Rizzo is a bit of a mystery. He seems to clearly understand that pitching health is not to be counted on and stocks his teams accordingly. But conversely he overly trusts position health, putting together some bad benches and offering no good plan Bs to some questionable starting areas. Could it be money? He only has so much to spend and he puts it to the staff? I guess.

Anon #2 - Impatience? They haven't had a good CF since the beginning and even if we just look under Rizzo's helm it's been 3 years.

Perhaps it will be as you say, but that'll last all of 3 months. Next year they'll be right back where they started (Morse shifts to 1st, Werth and Bryce to the corners).

Rizzo has done a good job. This team will contend. But the CF problems stick out like a sore thumb you can't ignore.

Anon #3 - Gentry is the current favorite to start in CF for the Rangers. They've soured on Borbon a little bit with his injury issues and no ability to get on base.Maybe if their young stud Martin wins the job in ST you'll be able to pry Gentry away.

Wally - It's frustrating to see them casually say "We'll sign player A instead of player B and save a million. one game won't matter" in a year when it actually might. Davey ran with a CF platoon before, not sure if Venable is any better than what the Nats have now.

Steven - NEVER FORGET! Maybin was a gamble but the type of gamble the Nats can/should make. Maybe if Dexter Fowler regresses? If the Nats want to take a flier on a guy who can field like a mofo, has no place on the major league team why not Gorkys Hernandez?

whoa_now - well since Aoki went for so cheap you have to think that a lot of teams felt the way the Nats did - but still it'll sting if he's any good at all.

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy, but isn't Rick "No Stick" Ankiel worth 1-2 WAR of defense alone? I am fine with him patrolling center for a majority of the games unless a value pick up comes our way through a mid season trade or offseason acquisition. Ankiel showed last year a pretty excellent glove (and little else), but that should still count for something.

Nattydread said...

Rizzo seems to have a few blind spots. CF is one. Inability to diagnose serious player injuries is another.

Its off-topic, yes. But how do you go into ST with a 1B-man who doctors aren't allowing to throw more than 90 feet?

Rizzo's strategy seems to be go all out to get a killer rotation & bullpen, then address offensive issues on an ad-hoc basis and with farm system incremental improvement.

Go figure.

Nattydread said...

Rizzo seems to have a few blind spots. CF is one. Inability to diagnose serious player injuries is another.

Its off-topic, yes. But how do you go into ST with a 1B-man who doctors aren't allowing to throw more than 90 feet?

Rizzo's strategy seems to be go all out to get a killer rotation & bullpen, then address offensive issues on an ad-hoc basis and with farm system incremental improvement.

Go figure.

Harper said...

Nick - In a good year he'd be around that yes, but with no bat he still ends up on the bottom third of CFs (and in an off year he'd likely be the worst) He's not a TERRIBLE option, there are just better solutions out there (or were)

Nattydread - Well that's more training staff, but that just makes Rizzo's blind spot trainer hiring.

I think part of Rizzo's strategy was paying $$$ for the last few offensive pieces, but Werth didn't turn out like he thought (after 1 year at least) and he's been outbid for others. I'm not sure if he has to come up with more $$$ or a new strategy (like getting the BEST rotation possible hope offense holds up - SF East)