Nationals Baseball: January 2005

Monday, January 31, 2005

This is the story of Dr. Jeckyll Patterson and Mr. Hyde Patterson

MLB recently had an article on "my boy" John Patterson. Seems they believe, as was noted by a big orange fellow previously, that he has two sides. However, they kind of gloss over the real reason, implying that the injury effected his stamina in some way. The pitch counts don't seem to reflect that. He was roughly pulled at the same time frame before or after the injury, maybe even left in longer after.

The real reasons for his dual nature are the simplest of pitching problems. Too many walks, too many HRs. So why do I like Patterson so much, if he keeps giving out free passes and dingers? I has to do with pitching philosophy.

Walks are like dust in the wind, Soh-Crates. If you have good stuff, they kind of blow away at the end of each frustrated at bat. They will limit your effectiveness to go deep into the game for sure, but these grains of sand don't matter if they don't cross the plate. You keep the ball out of play, the chances of them reaching the plate are limited. Many a power pitcher has been high up in the league in walks and continued to be very effective. I don't like walks, but for a strikeout pitcher, I can accept them.

Home runs are much more of a problem. If you are leaving men on base giving up more than the occasional dinger will kill you. For example, if you look at Randy Johnson's worst two years, 1996 and 2003, they correltate more closely with giving up more HRs than giving up more walks. (in fact 2003 set a personal best for control for the Big Unit, only to be bettered in 2004). Looking at the worst 30 HR giver-uppers, Patterson ranks 8th in the NL giving up over 1 and a half HRs a game. But this strikes me as a easier problem to correct than control. Just keep the ball down, forget about the strike zone.

I'm probably being overly optimistic here but I think if Patterson can keep the HRs down to a reasonable level, say a little more than 1 a game, that he will not only be an effective pitcher, he'll border on All-Star level. He's got stuff on par with Beckett, Clement, Wood, a notch below the elite.

If only he gets the chance to pitch...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Yawn of the Dead

Yawn: Not much Nationals news going on. MLB has it's around the horn look at the team (vastly inferior to my own) pointed at outfielders. No real surprises here, which is bad news. We got Wilkerson and Guillen starting, that's fine and dandy. Then we've got Endy in center. They freely admit that Endy needs work (which is a bad sign in itself. MLB team sites are not known to be all that critical), pointing out his .318 OBP for the expected leadoff hitter. .318 which made him 75th in the National League in OBP last year. Sledge should be playing, maybe Church. Not Endy.

Dead: Delgado signed with the Marlins. I know we're supposed to be optimistic, but it's real hard. I can't see a way out of 5th place now. Of course 4th place was always a dream.

I'm out for the weekend. Watch Bowden for me. Maybe I should leave a ticking clock and a hot water bottle for him...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Mexican Jumping (to Conclusions) Beans

Franco signed! Sanchez signed! And not with us! (Not that there was ever any interest - but you never know)

A bunch of Nats players are working out the kinks in Hispanic Winter Leagues. I'd be the first one to take a shot at Guzman for his poor play, but these stats really don't mean anything. He could be trying a new stance, working through an injury, in a slump, or yes, overmatched in the equivalent of Double A ball. I'm just happy to see our players get some more reps at bat or on the mound. I think it helps. I don't look at these stats to give us any info about how these guys will perform this season. So hit .100, hit .500, I don't care.

I will mention how it's kind of weird how the author seemed to need to justify the Guzman signing while quoting Dominican Winter Ball stats. (a little bit too for Guillen).

I also don't like that the Nats are possibly still evaluating Vargas as a possible starter. I didn't see anything last year that made me believe he'd be a competent middle reliever, let alone a starter. His control is questionable, and he gives up too many long balls. Take out his best month and you got a guy who had given up runs in 60% of his appearences as a reliver. (yes, it's not fair to take out his best month BUT I watched the month and I never felt comfortable with him. Turns out the stats bear that out. He had 26 baserunners in 17 innings and only gave up 5 runs. Taking out a disasterous outing - he still had 18 baserunners in 15.1 innings and only gave up a run. He was this close to blowing games open 3 or 4 times here. When you only appear 10 times a month...that is, how you say, not so good.)

Patterson has better stuff (if you haven't learned already - I'm a big Patterson fan), and Rauch is a better pitcher. I don't see any reason Vargas should be starting.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Off the Right Side of the Plate or Getting the W

The opening day has moved (to the 14th of April) and W will throw out the first pitch. Say what you will about the man's politics, but as a first pitch thrower he gets the ball over the plate. I appreciate that. Still part of me wishes that he wasn't able to so we could go back to the presidential box throw. Looks like Coolidge might have been the real inventor of the splitter. And that's an awful picture of JFK, he's got like 45 chins. Nixon...rearing back for the girly toss.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Es-te-ban, never say that in France

The Nats sign Esteban Loaiza. 1 yr, 2.9 really big ones. What can we glean from this? What can we glean!?

I see two long-term scenarios with this deal.
1) It's straight up how it seems. Loaiza was signed to pitch. Chances are Bowden will look smart if this is the case (yes, that's what I said) because chances are a number of our starters will get hurt. Ohka and Armas are china dolls, Livan has sold his soul to the company store, and Day has a baby's arm. I don't think it's a good idea to bet on an injury to a starter, or to fill your roster with mediocre pitchers, but I'm not Bowden.

2) Bowden signed Loaiza because there is interest in Armas/Ohka and he wants to trade. I favor this one because it fits with Bowden's personality. However, the goals were shore up the left side of the infield, get a starter, and get bullpen help. Bowden has done all that (has he done it well is a question I won't answer here). Would he really trade to fill a need we don't have? Probably.

Taking it at face value. It's rather safe to say that Loaiza starts in the rotation. We're looking at Hernandez (Signed through 2006 : 8 mill in 2005) , Ohka(1yr:2.75mill) / Armas (1yr: 2.26 mill) / Loaiza, probably Zach Day (minor league contract). Patterson, I believe has an outside chance at starting the year in the rotation, given either a total Spring Training breakdown from Day or slow recoveries by Ohka and/or Armas. Rauch is stuck again at long reliever.

The Best Case Scenario (tm) I see is that Loaiza pitches well, and we trade him away for minor league prospects at the deadline. The Worst Case Scenario is Loaiza loses his spot in the rotation without much of a fight. I'm going to hedge my bets and say I favor the former, simply because the move to the National League with new batters and the pitchers slot may help his confidence enough to give him a better year (though not like his career one)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Armas signed, only Ohka to go before...

before what? Well, they don't call him Trader Jim because of his great deals on cameras and video equipment. Well maybe they do, but they also like to call him that because he makes a lot of trades.

Once everyone is signed Bowden will be able to negotiate trades with everyone knowing full well the money he's saving / sending over. Will it be Sosa? I'm not sure, but Bowden knows that the one thing he hasn't addressed, or even attempted to address is star power. The impact of Griffey as an attraction, injury-prone or not, can't be lost on him. (I think it could very well be Griffey, but then again I'm a big fan of the idea of signing Larkin and trading him back to the Reds. I think it'd be funny.)

It always comes down to Tomo Ohka, doesn't it? The player Bart Simpson wishes he was.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Slamming the Stick...does that sound dirty?

Johnson avoids arbitration, becomes trade bait.

As for Sosa, I like signing for superstars, even declining ones. I'd even overpay them for their on the field services based on the interest they'd provide off the field. I was a big Pedro to DC advocate. But trading for a superstar can cost you way too much. As I said earlier, "I even have a nightmare where Bowden trades Johnson, Vidro, Brendan Harris, and Francis Beltran to the Cubs for Sammy Sosa." It would take a lot from the Nats to make up even half Sosa's salary.

Some of Bowden's best & worst moves for the Reds are listed at the bottom of this article. His best moves include acquiring Danny Graves and Dmitri Young? OK I like Dmitri Young personally, but signing one-good year Pete Schourek? Did he bring the monkey and the dartboard to DC with him?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

If not here, where? If not us, who?

Loaiza and Larkin are flirting with the Nats. Could they end up taking someone else to the Sadie Hawkins dance? The Nats sure hope not, though if they do the team might learn a valuable lesson about love, and a little...about life.

Loaiza, has many suitors, though most are teams already looking to 2006. Loaiza lives in TX, so the Rangers are rumored. The only other competitive team supposedly in pursuit is the Padres, which happens to be near Loaiza's home town of Tijuana.

I'm not digging the robe-wearing swingers (no, not Hugh Hefner). GM Kevin Towers says they're pretty much done. Normally I wouldn't believe a GM but they have their bullpen set, so Loaiza would have to break into the rotation. He'd have to surpass Darrell May, usually not a very hard task except May is the only lefty in the rotation. They made a pass at Estes, also lefty, to replace May but unless Loaiza is ambidextrous and we haven't heard about it, he won't be moving to San Diego.

The Rangers seem like more of a threat (or blessing depending on how you see it). Their pitching is much more in flux, Loaiza could easily break into the rotation. But Esteban is old and more expensive than anyone he'd replace. Also, I can't find anything from the Texas side that confirms what the Post says. Maybe they are being played to help in Loaiza's negotiations?

I think where Esteban winds up will be based on the money. So we overpay or he'll say good bye to DC. Let him walk I say.

As for Larkin, his agent gives him 50/50 odds on retiring since there appears to be no teams that want Larkin to start. I found this shocking but after looking team by team - we're in a renaissance at the 6 slot. Teams have a lot of good players or prospects just breaking in. Lookin at the veteran starters I'd rather have Larkin than Counsell, Eckstein, or, let's admit it, Guzman but they are all signed this year. They're going to play. If the Reds don't take him back (which I don't see why they wouldn't - a productive SS for cheap that's your teams current fan fav and icon? What is the problem here? Did he bite the head off a baby marmoset?) I can't see him starting anywhere except the Twins (wouldn't that be a nice fit). I've heard zero buzz on that front. It's a backup role or go home.

I think Larkin will retire first, unless Bowden tells him he can compete for the starters job, which he won't. This is silly. You either want the best player or the prospect (who you expect will one day soon be the best player) playing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A Shot in the Larkin

Bowden still wants to sign Larkin (link here). That's great. Oh wait is it still October? No? Dammit.

That's right, it's January and we already signed a starter (the overpriced Christian Guzman). As I said a while back - I would have signed Larkin and seen if Macier Izturis developed. Would he have? Odds are against him being any better than Guzman, but I'd bet on him being comparable and most importantly millions cheaper. In the meantime Larkin would have provided the Nationals with leadership, a "name player" for fans, and better offense.

Guzman 2004 : .274 8HR 46 RBI or .309OBP .384 SLG (in 576 at bats)
Larking 2004 : .289 8HR 44 RBI or .352OBP .419 SLG (in 346 AB)

But that's water under the bridge. If there is 6 million that Jim feels he has to spend, there'd be far worse things to do that money than sign Larkin to a low-cost short-term contract. He'd probably end up starting by years end anyway.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Bowden's Track Record (think Marion Jones off the sauce)

Just some food for thought, Some of Bowden's rotations during his years with the Reds

2002: Jimmy Haynes, Elmer Dessens, Chris Reitsma, Ryan Dempster, Joey Hamilton
2000: Steve Parris, Rob Bell, Ron Villone, Pete Harnisch, Denny Neagle
1998: Brett Tomko, Pete Harnisch, Mike Remlinger, Steve Parris, Scott Winchester
1996: John Smiley, Dave Burba, Mark Portugal, Kevin Jarvis, Roger Salkeld
1994: Jose Rijo, John Smiley, Erik Hanson, John Roper, Pete Schourek

Maybe I've just chosen the wrong years. Maybe in odd years the Reds resembled the early 70's Orioles. Maybe in 1997 the Reds had a 30 game winner and I just completely screwed my point. I don't think so, but maybe.

What does this lead us to believe? If you wanted to be a pessimist you could say Bowden doesn't spend money (or doesn't spend it wisely) on starting pitching. If you wanted to be an optimist you could say Bowden generally limits contracts on pitchers (such high turnover) or had horrible injury luck.

Optimist: He seems to have no problem tossing away mediocre pitchers because they're so easy to find.
Pessimist: He seems to have no interest or skill in finding/developing good pitchers.
Optimist: He didn't have the best resources.
Pessimist: That's nice. You do realize that right now his resources aren't any better. And a monkey could have managed to develop/sign one pitcher in 10 years.
Optimist: He did. John Smiley wasn't bad.
Pessimist: John Smiley left the team in 1997. And he was average at best.
Optimist: He did trade for Neagle. He was pretty good, if oft-injured
Pessimist: He traded away Bret Boone and Mike Remlinger!
Optimist: Hey limit this to starting pitching please.
Pessimist: Why I oughta...

From his work so far I'd side with the pessimist, but there's still time.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Loaiza Do-Little

Just went you thought it was safe to get back in the free agent waters this news that Bowden is still interested in Estaban Loaiza pops up.

Bowden is targetting Loaiza because he is an "innings eater". This is true, but do we want those kinds of innings? Everybody and his mother baking apple pie know that 2003 was a fluke. Next year we're probably looking at a 4.50 ERA, 30 HRs or so. Fine for a #4 starter...which we have like 92 of.

According to the LA Times and other sources, Loaiza would like to get 3 years, but would probably settle for 2 years between 8-10 mill. Or so I thought, though Bowden's comments make me think Loaiza's asking for closer to 7 mill a year than 4. Maybe Bowden is just "playing the game". I would say if Bowden could get something like a 2 yr / 6 mill contract for him it wouldn't be a waste of money. He would save the bullpen some innings and just feels more dependable than the injury plauged Armas or Ohka. More than that, I'm uncomfortable with.

For all you that doubted my Estes' fears, look at the first paragraph of the MLB article "Early on Monday, the Nationals had set their sights on left-handed starter Shawn Estes" I knew it. I could feel it from day...78 or so. The real scary part - the Nats offered him more years and money than the D-Backs.

Beltran, Pedro, and Hudson? Oh my!

While Washingtonians (Columbians? DCers? Districtions? Criag T Nelson afficianados?) are walking around in post-coital haze, less than a month removed from finally getting it on with local tease Linda Cropp, the NL East is shaping itself up to be the hardest division in baseball. The Beltran to the Mets deal only highlights the discrepency between the haves (Mets, Braves, Phillies, Marlins) and the have-nots (they is us).

Some early analysis:

Atlanta Braves
Lost in FA/Trades : Byrd, Oritz, Wright, Drew, and Thomas
Gained in FA/Trades: Hudson

Normally losing 3 starters will cripple a team but with Hudson joining the rotation and Smoltz reentering it, I'd say it's likely the Braves' rotation is better this year and they gave up the fewest runs in the NL last year. They'll miss the corner outfield production, but I'll assume Schuerholz will find the answer. Austin Kearns, Brian Jordan, and Aubrey Huff are all possibilities.

Better than the Nats: Yes

New York Mets
Lost in FA/Trades : Leiter, Hildalgo
Gained in FA/Trades: Pedro, Galarraga, Beltran?

Adding Beltran is key to this team as offensive production might be a real problem without him. 12th in the leagues last year. They can expect to be healthier and Wright to improve, but they need another bat desperately. The rotation, with Pedro joining newcomers Benson and Zambrano, should challenge for best in the league.

Better than the Nats: Without Beltran, we could hope for a Pedro injury that might even up things. With him, it's a definite yes.

Philadelphia Phillies
Lost in FA/Trades : Millwood, Milton
Gained in FA/Trades: Lieber

Leiber is better than Milton, and probably as good as Millwood is expected to pitch (though I like Millwood's chances of being MUCH better in '05), but the rotation still needs work. I guess the hope is Gavin Floyd and Brett Myers save the day. They did nothing to the offense but it was an underperforming 3rd best in runs in the NL. And we haven't even mentioned the biggest offseason addition by subtraction, the firing of Larry Bowa.

Better than the Nats: Unless the team sits around getting stoned and listening to Jimmy Buffet without Larry's fiery presence, yes. Too much offense to believe otherwise.

Florida Marlins
Lost in FA/Trades : Benitez, Pavano, Cordero
Gained in FA/Trades: Leiter, Alfonseca

Both offense and pitching were middle of the road last year. But Leiter will help (marginally) and they too should be healthier. Their offense needs another bat, though. Rumors are circling Delgado.

Better than the Nats: Without Delgado, we'd have the best shot at catching the Marlins. A Lowell or Cabrera injury away from a wasted season. With him, they are without a doubt better.

It could be a long season folks. In another division (AL Central perhaps), the Nats at least could dream, and you could reason how the team could finish .500. In the NL East next year, especially if Beltran and Delgado both sign in division, we should be cellar-dwellars coast to coast.

(Not that there's anyone to blame. Bowden, while I have little faith in him, is hamstrung without owners and with the team MLB created for the sole purpose of destroying baseball in Montreal.)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A fool and his money...

As you probably already know, Odalis Perez is signing with the Dodgers. The cost: 8 Mill a year for 3 years. This was a tad more than the $2.99 and 50 Bazooka bubble gum wrappers that Jim Bowden was attempting to get him for.

Not getting Odalis scares me and the reason has nothing to do with pitching. Bowden is now sitting around with dollar bills burning 4 million holes in his pockets. (yes, he has big pockets). The possibilites for him to screw things up become endless. I can see him siging a Shawn Estes type pitcher who will promptly slide right out of the rotation, or trading Nick Johnson to get back a middle reliever. I even have a nightmare where Bowden trades Johnson, Vidro, Brendan Harris, and Francis Beltran to the Cubs for Sammy Sosa. I am seeing this flying high above Wrigley Field but then I begin to fall, I reach for my parachute only to find I have only my underwear on! Scary!

I'm hoping he realizes that if there is nothing good available, then it's best to do nothing. I'm not all that confident.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

First Nat cap in the Hall of Fame? Not from these guys

The Hall of Fame vote (and shafting of the Hawk) got me thinking. Who will be the first player to enter the HOF with a nifty new Nat cap on his noggin? (quick, what's a N-word for cap?). Taking a look at the players we got currently on the roster, I'd say we haven't seen that man just yet.

There are four players with at least one all-star appearences under their belt, Vidro, Hernandez, Castilla, Guzman. I'll toss in Brad Wilkerson too since he is our best player and all. Let's take a look at the players they most resemble at this age (thanks to for the similarity scores) and their accomplishments so far.

Jose Vidro (29) - 3 All-Star games, 0 Top 10 MVP, compares to Bill Madlock
Not bad being compared to the MadDog. Only one HOF on his comparison list and frankly Charlie Gehringer got his stats under slightly different circumstances. Needs a couple of MVP type seasons to even begin to be considered

Livan Hernandez (29) - 1 All-Star game, 0 Top 10 Cy Young, compares to Rich Dotson (or for those younger in the audience Daryl Kile)
A workhorse, he has the requisite post season heroics but not much else. If he had 148 instead of 98 wins right now I'd give him an outside chance. In that situation, theoretically, he could average about 15 wins for another 10 years would put him close to the magical 300 and god knows he's going to start 33 games a year, 8 innings per until he keels over. Of course if he could average 15 wins a year he'd probably have done it more than twice in the past 7 years. Needs to pitch till he's 45.

Vinny Castilla (36) - 2 All-Star games, 0 Top 10 All-Star games, compares to Joe Adcock.
His comparison list reads like a who's who of "Not quite good enough to be consdiered for the HOF". Ron Cey, David Justice, Matt Williams, Andres Galarraga, Fred Lynn... and Vinny doesn't ring your bell any more than these guys. It's Coors Field plain and simple. Someone is going to be the Colorado test case and something tells me it's more likely to be Larry Walker or Todd Helton than a man who was often a near embarrasment on the road. Needs 4-5 good seasons away from Coors.

Christian Guzman (26) - 1 All-Star, 0 Top 10 MVP, compares to Jack Glasscock.
That's a funny name. Glasscock. Oh, Guzman's chances? Hmm. Uhh. That's a real funny name. Glasscock.

Brad Wilkerson (27) - 0 All-Star, 0 Top 10 MVP, compares to Ivan Calderon.
Ooh, Ivan the not so Terrible. Wilkerson is just starting to come into age and I'm afraid it's too late for him. If he can stretch together a decade of seasons just like the last one, he'll start to warrant a glance.

Switch over

Happy new year! I've got to be honest with you, I argued with myself whether I should keep doing this. Sure I'm "Unofficially the second longest running blog solely about this franchise" (TM), but there are now a bunch of Washingtonians, Northern Virginians, and I guess Dixie Marylanders taking up the torch. They seem competent enough. They have coherent thoughts. They can string together sentences. And spell correctly...they love doing that. All things I haven't quite mastered yet.

On the other hand, I like doing this. I have a vested interest in this team and dammit I really want to finish my damn position analysis. So, I'm going to keep doing it, right here at Natsbaseball DOT blogspot DOT com. Besides, it'd be a shame to waste such a pretty website.

Exposbaseball DOT blogspot DOT com won't die however. It'll still be Expos based news. Granted, it won't be updated regularly but it'll be there.

On with the show.