Nationals Baseball: February 2023

Monday, February 27, 2023

It's go time

The fanfare is non-existent. The excitement is limited. But it's baseball dammit and YOUR Washington Nationals are playing Spring Ball.  

First things first - don't pay attention to Spring Training stats. Especially in this new rule era. Just don't.  As usual we'll go over a few numbers like 

  • Dee Strange Gordon Spring 22 : .455 with 4 doubles! 
  • Josh Bell : .147 / .216 / .265 
  • Patrick Corbin : 0.00 ERA  2BB 10 K 
  • ummm well no Nats pitcher was really good last year so showing them bad in ST doesn't do anything but I hope you get the point. AGAIN

Spring Training baseball does little for me.  I like to watch an inning or two because "oh, baseball! Yes come back" but not much more than that. GOING to Spring Training? That's great. Watching ST from afar. Meh. I have said I think baseball could do something with it to make that first ST game something.  A rematch of the WS teams or the teams that lost in the CS. Always Marlins/Rays. You know, something. But the Arizona/Florida split hurts the former plans and the latter plans are... well it would take time to build that up, like seeing the Lions on Thanksgiving. 

The Nats haven't put all their good players on the same team yet, splitting the squads and front loading the line-ups so the starters get more ABs. Ruiz, Smith, Garcia, Adams, Candelario, Thomas, Robles, Dickerson, Meneses.  No surprises. 

What am I looking for this spring? I guess mildly interested in who is pitching where in the pen (won't really figure in until later - now everyone is getting an inning and better guys first because the end of games is for scrubs), if the 5th starter will really be Cavalli (Gore, Corbin, Gray, Williams being set), who makes the bench. 

But it is baseball and it is back and right now there is a reason to follow, so we will.

Friday, February 17, 2023

5, 10, 15 no 20

The Nats are starting Spring Training finally. There isn't much news. Strasburg isn't ready - but no one thought he would be.  Outside of that... no Jackson Tetreault? Is that news?  No that isn't news.  Here's the NRIs

How does this compare to past Spring Trainings?  Well Barry covered that. You should read that! 

For more of a depth I go into the archives and see what I was talking about in Februarys past

5 years ago - 2018 

I said they should trade Soto for Realmuto. Oops! The Nats needed a catcher and it would be in 2018 where Soto went a 100 MPH from "Hmmm this guy might be something" to "Look out! There's a star-a-coming".  It's still the right bet to make in general.  Four out of 5 times it'll be the right move. But you don't care if "over time across all teams" the move makes sense do you?  Sports isn't macro, it's micro. Soto was the 1 in 5.  

The Nats needed a SP and C and it was obvious. But they didn't deal anyone for Realmuto (Marlins wanted Robles) Instead the Nats signed Miguel Montero. Surely Weiters will turn things around! Waa waaa. At SP I said neither Cole nor Fedde would make it but might as well try out Fedde and get that over with. Didn't know they'd "try out Fedde" for a half-decade. Hellickson would do a decent job but when Strasburg got hurt (SHOCKING) that meant more holes and young Ross, Fedde, and Jefry Rodriguez didn't work and it remained a hole. So the problems we all knew would be problems were problems. Really a failure year by Rizzo where if Soto didn't come up and become SOTO the team might have been under .500.

We actually argued about the OF. I worried Eaton/Robles/MAT/maybe Howie wouldn't work. You guys were more confident. It was kind of a push. MAT wasn't good enough but the rest were. However Eaton, Howie, and Robles all got hurt and Eaton and Howie getting hurt was certainly a concern because of history and age respectively. But this whole thing was rendered moot by SOTO. 

I didn't like the signing of Joaquin Benoit. He became a "mystery National" in that he got hurt in Spring Training and never appeared in a game in the majors or minors. Basically never heard from him again. 

And proving everything new is old, we talked about possible rule changes. 

10 years ago - 2013

The talk was about Bryce. I said don't worry, if you were worried, he'd break out by 2015.  He almost did in 2013 but injuries kept hobbling him until his 2015 MVP season.  I also noted don't worry Strasburg is great. You may have forgotten this as well but until the mold game in 2017 there was real split feelings on Strasburg. Don't make me go back into those comments to prove it!  Guys liked ZNN better - mainly bc he was a surprise doing better than expected whereas Stras was a disappointment doing worse than expected. Even though that really mean ZNN was an A- arm and Stras wasn't winning Cy Youngs.

There was some worry about Gio Gonzalez being linked to that PED-pushing trainer. Remember that? Biogenesis. Never could make anything stick for him unlike the 12 other guys so he was probably clear.

I noted the Nats had crazy pitcher health in 2012 and how impt that was and also how I didn't think they'd do it through 2014. The health held over through 2013 though Haren disappointed (for real not like the Strasburg one) and everyone was a little worse and almost 2014. Both Gio and Fister would get to 25 starts but not 30. 

I said don't worry about Espinosa (OOPS! - hey he was hurt) maybe worry about the pen not having depth - which was true but the back end basically stayed healthy making it moot.  The Danny thing came because everyone wanted Rendon up.  I said we should be patient and in 2013 Rendon was... fine.  He hung in there and proved he was ready for 2014.

15 years ago - 2008 

Nothing. Well actually I was over on something called MVN typing up stuff for no money because I didn't really care. Still don't! But that attempt at a conglomerated site went down like so many others. Shockingly despite intrusive and annoying ads. And I stayed here full time ever since. And blogs have taken off and I'm now a millionaire through... I don't know. Views? Just general payment through the air?

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

New Rules

Baseball has been trying to solve a problem over the past decade or so. The game has gotten... well boring. In the polls and focus groups and just general feeling the fandom is getting older because the game isn't appealing to younger fans.  

Now a fair accounting will note things like fandom is basically going down across the board in all sports and the few that are gaining fans aren't gaining at the rates that will make them a "national-level" sport, they are simply new and thus have easy room to get bigger. But when HUGE money is on the line, like the re-sale value of these franchises, "fair accounting" doesn't matter. You gotta force the game to grow and get young or else. 

Fans, who aren't actually really thought of in these rules after "gotta make it more entertaining", like to argue which rules are good and which are bad. They'll do it completely secure in the knowledge that they are arguing from a place of objectivity while those that argue against what they are saying just don't see what they see and are wrong. It's fun! (It sort of is! Bar arguments are fun) 

But if we do try to be objective - not judging if a rule is good or bad - but effective or not, can we come away with some truths, however small?  Let's try 


RULE CHANGE 1 : Shift limitations - Basically IFers have to be in certain spots until pitch is thrown

The micro problem : Shifting has done a number on non-homer hits, especially singles for dead pull hitters

The macro problem : Too many homers, walks and K makes baseball boring

Will it work?

Micro : Yeah at least a little. Even if fielders do the "running start" thing some expect, there will be more space for hitters to hit in the places they like to, creating at least some more singles

Macro : Not really. Very few of these guys were trying for singles, just to hit it hard and they happened to get over the ball.  It will turn a few groundball outs into hits, but won't effectively kill the 3 true outcome issue  

Unintended Consequences :  Baseball Defense becomes like football offense with men "in motion" all the time, timing the crossing of second or the grass dirt line. 

RULE CHANGE 2 : Get those at bats going - pitchers have a enforced clock to throw, hitters have an enforced clock to get in the box.

The micro problem : Pitchers and hitters are taking a lot of time in between pitches and no one likes that

The macro problem : Games are getting longer and coupled with the boredom it's bad news. 

Will it work?

Micro : Yes if you create penalties for guys to be in the box and throw it they won't waste time

Macro : Oh definitely. Look there's going to be a bit of leeway and the league average isn't that far from what forced expectations would be if pitchers take the max time (and expect them to try) but with almost 300 pitches per game a few seconds each rest time will add up.

Unintended Consequences : Some long rest pitchers will be adversely effected (Finnegan is a slow Nat) 

Expect more official requests for time. 

The pace of the game is the key and at times the game slows down for good reason. Late inning tense situations could feel rushed. 

If in the long run faster pitching favors the hitters the effect will be muted by more hits/walks. If it favors the pitching the already troubled offense could nose dive further. Like strike zone changes, you just don't know until you try! 

RULE CHANGE 3 : Too many pickoffs - basically you can try two pickoffs

The micro problem : Throwing over too much is dull and hurts baserunning

The macro problem : Baseball boring thing

Will it work? 

Micro : Likely yes, there will be fewer pick-offs with enforced penalties (duh) and runners can be more aggressive knowing that, and more so after two pick-off were made

Macro : Unclear. You are going to get an initial burst of baserunning as teams feel emboldened but the SB drop isn't about pick-offs. It's about the percentage of SB that you need to be successful on to make stealing worthwhile. We have to see where this ends up.

Unintended Consequences : with more limited pickoffs 1B don't have to hold men on, closing the 1B hole with a runner on 1B, hurting LH hitting with men on and indirectly offense in general if SB don't go up enough.

The best pitch to stop a SB is a fastball and we are already seeing a glut of young arms throwing near 100. If SB really peak there'd be even more emphasis on these types. 

RULE CHANGE 4 : Big Base -

The micro problem : Sometimes you step on the base and the other guy's foot is there. OUCH!

The macro problem : Injuries suck

Will it work?

Micro : Can't hurt

Macro : Won't hurt

Unintended Consequences : Technically intended - they hope bigger targets and a few inches reduced distance can help with SB but let's be honest - it's the pickoffs that matter there 

Can't really think of anything else. This is pretty harmless.

RULE CHANGE 5 : Position Players Pitching - maybe you can't use one until you are up by 10 or down by 8 or something.

The micro problem : Teams were declaring more and more games lost causes leading to seeing more and more position players pitching to save arm use, when norms used to only bring them out when ridiculously behind or completely necessary.

The macro problem : Teams are looking hard at optimizing their production and will break norms to do it

Will it work?

Micro : Yes. Rules are rules

Macro : No. This will stop only this. But teams will find something else to squeeze two more wins and a lot more fun out of the game. You really can't stop this line of thinking before hand only react to it.

Unintended Consequences : Teams might start designating a spot for a "garbage pitcher" / "long white flag" who pitches only in games they don't care about to save other arms. A "last arm in the pen" on steroids.

More Ohtani two/ways - offensive guys getting up to 20 IP in relief so they can qualify as a two-way player going forward

Teams down by 6 or 7 might start giving up runs to get to a point where it's ok to use a position player.


RULE CHANGE 6 : Extra Inning Man Here to Stay- man on second to start the 10th

The micro problem : Baseball games don't have a clock and thus can last forever and some people (Players, media, some fans) hate that

The macro problem : Baseball games too long thing

Will it work?

Micro : It does limit the number of extra long games, most game wrapping up by the 12th. Saving abut 70 games going past 11.

Macro : Not really, that's not even 3% of the games and if we talk about innings, which is more pertinent, we're saving like 1.5%. It's a blip. These aren't drivers of anything people are feeling about baseball

Unintended Consequences :

Messes with stats a little. 

Feels kind of bad to win a game under conditions that aren't the way the rest of the game is played. But this is a problem all sports (except for basketball) deal with.  Unless you have a lot of constant scoring just playing longer doesn't guarantee a break in ties and people don't generally like ending in ties.


Monday, February 13, 2023


Ted Lerner has died

I've said it before but I'll say it again. While there are better owners, most of them are usually worse. Ted wanted to win and when the Nats needed to spend money to keep or get the players they needed to make that happen he spent that money.  It's hard to complain about that too much.  

Would it have been nice to spend money also when you were not good to be not terrible? Yes. That's a simple answer.  But that didn't seem to matter to him. He wasn't win at all costs. He was win at a reasonable cost (with a good idea of what that actually meant - not a euphemism for cheap) when there was a reasonable expectation that could happen. 

But most owners are "winning is a nice side benefit" types who are mostly interested in making money from the team. Ted didn't seem to be that - or at least wasn't until the recession hit his real estate.  We don't really know. Strasburg and Corbin ending up being the exact wrong horses to bet on makes just as much sense for the complete tear down.  

Back to the top though - He bought a team at 80 and won a title before he went.  Good for him.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Their trash - our treasure?

A twitter feed did a little two man draft of the remaining FAs putting them into teams and the question was asked - would these scrap heap teams be better than the Nats? 

We're not looking at depth here (we're only going one SP and RP deep) and the question is NOT which team would you rather have. For all the Nats' faults if these teams are relatively close in talent you'd rather have the Nats given the ages of the players. But would these teams be better? 


Corbin / Bundy / Wacha - Corbin is the most durable, but you'd rather have Wacha. Bundy is bad enough and hurt and slipping that you can't obviously choose him over Corbin, as surprising as that is.

Finnegan / Britton/ Moore - Matt Moore, who converted last year and really took to it, would be the choice here.  Finnegan is perfectly fine.  Britton hasn't been healthy since pre-pandemic.

Ruiz / Sanchez / Chirinos - I'd take Ruiz.  He's the best fielder (though Gary might surprise you in that he's not terrible), and he hit the best last year.  Sanchez is not that far behind but there's a difference between saying that for someone on the way up and someone on the way down. You only pick him over Ruiz if you desperately want homers. Chirinos had a good 2021 sandwiched around horrendous 2020 and 2022's.

Smith / Gurriel / Voit - I'd take... Voit?  Smith is the worst bat over the past couple seasons, but Gurriel was terrible in two of the last 3 and can't field. Does Dom's mediocre glove outshine Voit's average O?  That's up to you. I say no at 1B.

Garcai / Odor / Villar  All three weren't impressive last year.  Odor can sort of field, which Villar can't anymore and Garcia never could. But Odor has been bad with the bat for years. Basically you can argue Garcia might have the best year without improving at all, so you take him

Abrams / Iglesias / Andrus - Clear win for Andrus who hit ok last year (unusual for him) and can field.  Iglesias has been glove only forever.  Abrams is a big ?  For being better in 2023 only it's an easy choice.

Candelario / Culberson / Solano - Solano and Culberson are square pegs here as neither are really 3B. Culberson is like a bad Solano so he's out. Solano vs Candelario would normally come down to do you want a chance at good after a bad year or a chance at meh after a less than meh year? For being better in 2023 might say the latter but again, square pegs, Solano is a 2B mostly.  I'd take Candelario

Dickerson / Peralta / Profar -  It comes down to Peralta who might field ok, vs Profar who might hit and given Profar's wild swings from usable to not I'd go with Peralta.  Dickerson, a balloon slowly leaking major league skill, is third. A close third, but third.

Robles / Naquin / JBJ - Amazing Robles wins.  Naquin is just a guy you can stick in CF but he wouldn't be good. Unlike Victor or JBJ he might hit, but he also might not.  JBJ has been worse with the bat than Victor over the past 2 years and hasn't played as much CF. 

Thomas / Gamel / Grossman - Grossman is all about the weird surprise good year. That doesn't fit for my plan here.  Gamel is a butcher in the field and he doesn't hit that much better than Lane. Thomas wins out.

Meneses / Rios / Franmil - Franmil is intriguing. Rios should be a positive. But Meneses hit great last year. Yes, you don't have history of being able to do it, but you don't have history telling you what to expect either. 

I think the takeaway is no, you can't build a better team than the Nats from the scraps of FA. You can improve on Corbin, but we all know he's here at this point because the contract dictates it, not because the Nats want him.  There are better options that Smith and Abrams, but those aren't choices the Nats are making to be the best they can be in 2023. Matt Moore would be a boon to any pen and likely immediately the best arm in this one, but the fact he's still out there means he's probably asking for something teams won't give. If NO team in the MLB is willing to meet whatever bar he set, it's hard to blame the Nats for not doing so. 

The only question that arises from all this is "why Dickerson" as if you poked around the OF you could probably find a half-dozen guys you like better.  Not much better but better. Maybe he was the one that wanted to come here after they kicked some tires? The things we aren't privy to might shed some light, otherwise it's a small miss from the Nats. 

But who cares about small misses for this team?  108 losses instead of 107?  I think the fans will manage that disappointment. 

Friday, February 03, 2023

Today's Depth Chart and Questions

Boring boring boring. Man, being bad is boring. 

SP - (Strasburg?), Corbin, Williams, Gray, Gore, Cavalli. 

Questions - (1) Is Strasburg able to pitch or not? If he is, and he's close to normal, the rotation would take a more natural state with an ace on top, a couple of innings eaters / ok pitchers (Corbin - one hopes -  and Williams respectively), and young guys battling it out for the last spots.  Without him you force the ok guys to be the aces and all the young guys are slotted in to start.  The general sense is that no Strasburg is not ok, so whether this year is passable or not will come down to question 2.  (2) Will the young guys be any good?  Gray has flashed potential but has flashed more problems. Cavalli is a guy people are starting to not feel good about. Gore was a can't miss guy until he got hurt and began missing. The chances all three hit are next to none. But two would still go a long way to providing stability they'll need with the 5th spot undefined and Corbin a huge question mark on whether he can even remain in the rotation. 

Pen - Rainey (closer), Finnegan (setup), Harvey, Espino, Edwards Jr, Ramirez, Thompson, probably Francisco Perez because everyone I named so far is RH. 

(1) Who ends up closer for most of the year? The Nats like Rainey. And him as the closer makes Rizzo's trade for him more of a win than if he's the 7th inning guy. But he'll be out most of the year recovering from surgery. Finnegan was better last year and is projected to close. You know I like Harvey the best.

1B / DH - Dom Smith / Joey Meneses

(1) Who's playing what? Neither is great at first but Dom is signed to the contract and says he's more comfortable at first base. So he'll likely start there. But if he struggles and Joey doesn't and Joey wants to play there they could flip flop eventually. Or if Dom is a butcher in the field. (2) How real is Joey's 2022?  Meneses hit like a superstar for two months. Flash in the plan is likely but that doesn't mean he's going to be bad. It just means he settles somewhere below superstar. Of course bad is possible. It's a huge question mark from a guy that hasn't shown consistency in the minors to have you believe anything

2B - Luis Garcia

(1)  Can Garcia make a step up at the plate? He's going to put the bat on the ball. Can he walk a little more, or hit for a little more power and take himself from useful starter to good player? (Along with the pen and Ruiz, Garcia is the least questionable question for 2023)

SS - CJ Abrams

(1) Who is CJ Abrams really?  Is he the top prospect with a solid bat, good eye, with the ability to hold down SS who if he developed a little power and is allowed to use his speed could be a star?  Or is he a slap hitting major leaguer who the Nats will keep on a leash on the basepaths and lacks the fundamentals to not be a negative at the demanding shortstop position? It's anyone's guess

3B - Jeimer Candelario

(1) Was last year a fluke?  For his career no one was really excited about Candelario but looked like he could be a decent major leaguer and for a couple seasons in Detroit he was. But last year was a mess. He was hurt a bit, he seemed to change his approach at the plate. He's at the age guys decline and he still looked bad in the Domician Winter League, even taking into account no one hits there. Another flier that could swing wildly, but failure here wouldn't matter as much as with Gore or Abrams.

OF Thomas / Robles / Dickerson

(1) How long do Dickerson and Robles hold on to their jobs? Face it Robles career is on life support and the only reason he's still starting for the Nats is the team's great fear that another team will fix him and make him useful. But the tension is real and it's not helping a guy who was probably set with outsized expectations to start. The bar is pretty low for him- field well and don't hit too bad - but he hasn't reached it for a few years.  Dickerson has basically been an average bat for three years now and given he's pretty trash in the field he needs to keep that up to make playing him worthwhile. It's another "not a big ask" and it's asking for just repeating what has been done instead of returning but Dickerson is 34 now. (2) Will anyone push them?  They love to tell you about Alex Call who if nothing else, and that may be true, has a great eye. Vargas is just a guy but that may be better than what they put out there. Hassell could have a hot start and if so, why hold him back with guys like Garcia, Gore and Abrams already in the lineup?  There's no commitment to these guys as prospects or long term pieces so any hot AAA start would be cause for "why not try it"

C Ruiz

(1) Can Ruiz hit better? Similar to Garcia Ruiz is set at his position now and has been worth starting thanks to some decent hitting for average. Also similar he could use some patience or pop improvement. Unsimilar to Garcia, Ruiz is actually a good catcher. Which means a slight improvement with the bat could make him an All-Star type player for the tough position.