Nationals Baseball: April 2020

Monday, April 20, 2020

Monday Quickie - KBO KO

A number of Asian countries have managed, using lots of testing, tracking, and an obedient citizenship, to control their spread of coronavirus. That means they get to have nice things, including baseball seasons. Japan tried and had a steback, but Taiwan has already started up with their robot and cardboard fans and next up is the Korean league. So let's pick a Korean team!

The teams are named after the companies that own them rather than their locations. You'll recognize some names Kia, LG, Samsung. What do the rest do?  Well everything is a conglomerate really meaning they own a bunch of unrelated stuff but I'll give a general idea

Doosan - Construction & Infrastructure support; they own Bobcat
Hanwha -  Started with explosives, now R&D and Manufacturing
KT - Telecom
Lotte - Started with chewing gum, now food and shopping in general (the Japan version owns a team in Japan)
NC - Maybe you recognize NCSoft. They make videogames, mostly MMORPGs that are big across the ocean.  The one you might have heard of is City of Heroes.
Kiwoom - Finance I think.  It says "securities"
SK - Energy and telecom

They can only have three foreign players per team and obviously the pandemic has cut off supply of people who might have come over this Spring as they failed to get major league jobs. Also Korea isn't the first choice of players going over seas so if you were hoping for some familiar names - well too bad. Roger Bernadina did KILL it over there from 2016-2018 but decided to come back to North America last year. Here are some current players, can't guarantee it's all, in case any of these guys excite you.

Doosan Bears - Jose Fernandez (no, not that one. the KBO isn't where baseball players go when they die to play baseball forever. Though it's a nice thought) 

Hanwha Eagles Chad Bell, Warwick Saupold, Jared Hoying

Kia Tigers Preston Tucker

Kiwoom Heroes Jake Brigham, Eric Jokisch,

KT Wiz Raul Alcantara, William Cuevas, Mel Rojas JR

Lotte Giants NONE

LG Twins Casey Kelly, Tyler Wilson,

NC Dinos Drew Rucinski,

Samsung Lions Ben Lively,

SK Wyverns Jamie Romak,

Doosan is the reigning champs and one of three teams, with Samsung and Lotte, who have been there and owned by the same group since the beginning in 1982. The Kia Tigers were an ownership change but not a name one. The Twins were both and the Heroes were a dissolution and rebirth.

Of course I've left the biggest news until last.  The Kia Tigers are managed by... Matt Williams!  There's a couple other Americans on the coaching staff. I think one is Anthony Lerew.  Sorry I don't read Korean.

First games tomorrow. I have no idea right now how to watch!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Who does the layoff hurt - player version

This layoff is bad for fans, and it's bad for teams but it's also bad for players too.  I know what you are saying - of course it is. But also it's particularly bad for certain types of players.

The Gamblers

These players took one year deals in the off-season. Some were unable to get the contract they wanted and were betting on themselves. Others were looking for a shot at playoff success. Still others were coming back off a terrible year or injury and needed to show they could still bring it.

These include Marcell Ozuna (Braves), Cole Hamels (Braves), Odorizzi (Twins), Didi (Phillies), Encarnacion (White Sox), Betances (Mets), Porcello (Mets), Treinen (Dodgers), Gausman (Giants), Teheran (Angels)

The Comeback Kids 

These players were going into a FA year on a slide. To get another big deal they needed a strong 2020. 

These include : Yoenis Cespedes (DNP in 2019), Giancarlo Stanton (18G played for the Yankees - he's actually not in a bad spot because it was his opt out choice), Jake Arrieta (24 starts - 4.64 ERA, more back of the rotation vet then the rotation leader he sees himslef), Masahiro Tanaka (4.45 ERA, isn't too bad in the AL but isn't big money pitching), Andrelton Simmons (80 OPS+, still a defensive whiz but needs to hit SOMETHING), Jose Quintana (4.63 ERA, quickly becoming just another arm)

The Old Guys

Past a certain age, employment is simply not guaranteed as GMs would rather pay young guys next to nothing than to burn a few million on someone who may hit the wall. 

Rich Hill (40), Nelson Cruz (40), Darren O'Day (38), Sergio Romo (38), J A Happ (38) Kurt Suzuki (37), Yuri Gurriel (37), Jon Lester (37), Anibal Sanchez (37),

And most importantly Nick "Marchkakis to 3000" (37)

You noticed a few Nats names on there - who else hits the FA market after this year and what do I think about the year off for them?

Doolittle - Had an off year but not far enough off the kill the value of a strong relief piece who still has 2-3 years in him minimum. Lefties age well.

Kendrick - Tougher for him because he had a great year and another one could give him a Nelson Cruz esque late career pay day.  Now not so much.  Will still get a contract though

Suzuki - tough but catchers always get signed if they aren't terrible and Kurt was still good at the plate

As Cab - I could see this being the end of major league deals for Cabrera. He's a decent player but he's in that middle ground that teams are now leaving alone.

Zimm - Up to him. Team would have him back for a cheap farewell year I bet.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Desperate, but not stupid

I want baseball back. Not baseball book recommendations. Not baseball movie arguments. Not old baseball games on the internet or TV.  I want live current baseball back as soon as possible.

But I'm not stupid.

This is stupid

If you don't feel like reading it the crux is
  • potentially dramatically modified games
  • played to empty stadiums
  • only in Arizona
  • with teams and personnel sequestered for the length of the season 
Could it work? You are talking trusting a minimum of several thousand people to not go out, and a minimum several hundred direct and indirect interactions that likely can't be controlled with sequestration (hotel staff, food deliveries to the hotel, cleaners at the stadiums between the games...) go off without a hitch for months.

So no - it can't work. Not in the sense "no one is going to get the disease over the course of a third of a year".  At least it can't work starting in May.  The possibility grows the further out we get - the more the virus is controlled and the more we know about potential therapies.

But think about this - Japan has around 40% of the US population. It is packed almost 4x as tight. They should be doing worse than the US but they only have about 4000 coronavirus cases about 250 more yesterday. (If the US was doing that successfully - just factoring in population and not density we would have about 10K cases instead of... 368K) But even there they loosened things up just a little bit - started baseball - and 3 players promptly got the disease. They are saying the end of April is not possible and are looking at May.

And MLB is supposed to be looking at the same time frame?

I want baseball back. I've made that clear. But it can't be done until it can be done safely and if we are lucky May isn't when that is going to be, May is going to be when we'll have an idea of when that date may be.

This isn't something that holds for the entire country. The country might be able to get going sometime weeks from now (I've said Memorial Day since it started) relying on lots of testing, limited travel, possible invasive tracking, and rolling quarantines to get us through the remaining months to vaccine. Sports can handle limited travel, but they can't handle rolling quarantines. You can't shut off a team, and everyone they've had contact with, for two weeks and start up again. It won't work.

Some more individualized sports may be able to get through this, with strong restrictions, when it calms down. Golf. Bowling. Possibly tennis. Anything that can be run with limited staff (sorry NASCAR) and next to no contact between distant individual players. But baseball is not that. Baseball can't start up until we get past the limited quarantine stage and right now I can tell you for sure May is not going to be the month we get past that.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Who does the "layoff" help

Baseball won't be around for a while, and for most of us that stinks. However for a couple teams they may be better off having a year with no (or little) baseball. I mean, as much as any team. This is assuming service time is awarded on a full season given no matter the outcome of 2020.

Royals / Pirates / Orioles / Giants / Tigers / Marlins - 2020 was lining up to be lost seasons for these teams and a year off to simply re-stock the farm even more can't hurt. With few great young players on their rosters already a year off should be more boon than bust

Blue Jays / Padres / White Sox - While none of these teams should compete, 2020 was lined up to be an important year in the development of young talent already in the majors.  A loss of a year of guys like Vlad Jr., Tatis Jr, Li'l Biggio, Eloy are big negatives for teams that are looking to be cheap as well as good. They’ll still compete in 2021 but will lose a chance to be the surprise team in2020

Dodgers - They went all out to win this year in trading for Betts, meanwhile they rely on a ton of young talent in the majors right now. Those are lost years and Betts can be a FA. This doesn't end their run of contention but definitely qualifies as a lost year

Rays - Winning 96 games last year and looking healthy as compared to the front-running, seemingly always injured Yankees, it could have been a surprise year for Tampa. There's no good reason the Rays can't continue to be competitive in 2021 but that hasn't stopped this franchise from mini-teardowns to avoid paying larger salaries and build back up. So who knows

Angels -  Their third best player was hurt, as well as a starter, reliever,  and a potential 5th starter. Another year allows them to shed Simmons contract and get some money to convince the needed ace to come to Anaheim and finish a roster that's never more than 80% of the way there, if that.

Phillies - On one hand JT Realmuto needs to be paid after this year, and a guy signed to be a one year boost like Didi Gregorious is now wasted. On the other this was a team whose construction was off and now can shed 70 million in salary to Realmuto and a bunch of OK guys and rebuild properly.

Yankees - Judge, Paxton, Severino Stanton, Hicks were already hurt so while they were set-up for 2020 with the big Cole acquisition it looked like another injury ravaged year. Sure they'll lose people to FA, some of them key, but signing replacements has never been an issue for New York. Still who wants to lose a contending year?

Braves - On the other hand the Braves are a team that should be hit hard by FA Ozuna, Hamels, and especially the pen Melancon, Greene, O'Day - they seemed to balk at paying  Donaldson - there's no reason to be confident they'll go big in the future

Indians - Cleveland seemed almost resigned to make another go at it and in a weak Central might have had a chance.  A year gone and Lindor another year closer to FA means a total tear down is in order

Arizona - the Dbacks quietly put together a rostettjat should have been 2nd best in the West and given them a better WC shot. But no 2020 means a lot of these guys become FA and the plan to sneak in there before the Padres fully commit is likely over

Astros - the further away from cheating the better. They have their title.

And the Nats?  Like most of the teams not named it’s hit or miss. The time off should help the pitching recover from a heavy use 2019. And while they lose some FA I trust their ability to rebuild... mostly. The one issue would be Doolittle who deserves more cash and may not get it here. Bullpen construction is Rizzo’s bane and without a cheap very good anchor? Meanwhile they lose a year of contention and a year of Soto. And an old pitching staff gets older. I like this for the Nats in 2021 but beyond I think they might find themselves worse off for the missing season.