Nationals Baseball: CRASH and SOAR

Friday, February 25, 2011


I like to think every year there is one guy with some level of major league experience on each team that does a lot better than you'd expect, and one guy that does a lot worse (with no injury explanation). Last year it pretty much worked out this way. While everyone else pretty much matched expectations, Nyjer Morgan crashed and burned and Livan had a out of nowhere successful season.

Looking back over the years it doesn't quite work one and one, someone crashing and someone soaring but it's not too far off.

2009: CRASH: None. SOAR : None, really. Hardly anyone did anything special. Willingham and Dunn had career years but nothing crazy. Morgan was crazy good for the Nats but in a limited time frame.

2008: CRASH : Austin Kearns. Paul LoDuca before he was gone, though the at bats might have been too limited to count. SOAR : Ronnie Belliard. (Maybe Odalis Perez considering he was league average after being terrible the two previous seasons and he was out of baseball after this)

2007: CRASH: Felipe Lopez (even though he wasn't good - it was a surprise he was THAT bad) SOAR : Dmitri Young (looked like he was fading out, came back with his 2nd best season ever)

2006: CRASH : really no one, Jose Guillen was terrible but injuries explain some of that. SOAR: Alfonso Soriano.

2005: CRASH : Cristian Guzman. (it took an awesome September to keep the guy from having a historically bad season. I hate the player but he was never this terrible). SOAR : Brian Schneider (Believe it or not - he never came anywhere close to this merely average year playing full-time) John Patterson, probably. He'd had enough innings in there to make you think he'd never come quite together as he did this year.

Two points become obvious.

It's hard to get players in either of the categories. For SOAR, I just think it's a matter of luck. You can't luck into two guys with sort of well defined expectations dramatically outperforming them. You're better off hoping for one and a bunch of more mild improvements. For CRASH, I think it's luck, too. But also a matter of playing time. If you're that terrible you just don't get up. Like Wil Cordero in 2005. Oh he was bad before but he was crazy wretched in 2005. So the Nats just eventually got rid of him.

If the Nats tended to have higher highs than lower lows why have they been so bad? Simple. They've had a lot of mediocre to bad players meeting expectations. This is especially true for starting pitching. A lot of never-wases and never will bes have pitched for the Nats in the past 6 years.

OK so what this gets down to I guess is if you could pick one player on the Nats to CRASH and one to SOAR, which two would it be?

For CRASH, I desperately DON'T want it to be Jayson Werth. I couldn't take 5 years of "I can't believe he got THAT money" (I expect that talk in the last 2 years of the deal regardless). I'm going to go with... well there aren't many choices, are there? I guess Adam LaRoche, but it's a half-hearted guess.

For SOAR, I really want it to be Zimm because it would be totally awesome to cover a team with the unarguable best player in baseball. Don't think it will be though. I'll go with John Lannan. Something about his performance at the end of last year I really like. Though I could see an argument for him being a CRASH too.


Kenny said...

I'm putting Yunesky Maya in the SOAR category, personally. I heard his velocity is up from 89 where it was last year, to 93 this winter and spring. That 4 mph will make a huge difference. I'm hoping he makes the ML roster right out of camp but I have a feeling he starts in AAA

Lee said...

I tend to agree with you on the Crash-Soar continuum - and not just for the Nats, but for all teams. In addition to luck, I think some past Soars and Crashes could be attributed to steroid use and the subsequent dis-use (is that a word?) after the league stepped up enforcement.

As far as predictions go, I'm looking at Morgan and Detwiler for Soars. I like what I've heard so far about Morgan's improved work ethic. Too, Matt Stair's tutelage of Morgan against lefty pitching is encouraging.

I agree with the above comment that Maya could be a soar too, but the guy that seems to be floating under all radar is Detwiler. He won't be on the opening day roster, but let's face it. One or more of our starters may go down. My money is on 6+ ERA for Livan by mid-May. Detwiler will get his chance. He was pretty filthy at the close of the 2009 season. I think Bernadina may break out this season too. He's at the magical age of 26 going on 27 where players become stars.

As far as crashes go...I've already revealed my prediction for Livan. I think last year was a fluke and his last hurrah. He may not finish this season on a roster. I don't really want to predict any others, but I wouldn't be surprised if Pudge is flirting with the Mendoza line at midseason. No one is expecting too much from him this year, but what happens if he drags the team down.

Harper said...

Kenny / Lee - guys like Detwiler and Maya could soar but neither has a lot of major league stats to set up expectations. I looked at major leaguers based on the past 3 years or so of performance - maybe I should look at minor leaguers based on projections.

Kenny - I've been one of the few Maya dissenters, but here's to being wrong.

Lee - could be on the roids. Morgan I suppose - but he'd have to hit like .350 to really be that much different than his past performance. Detwiler is totally under the radar. Make or Break year? Unlike Maya, I just don't think I'm wrong on Bernadina - average at best.

Thing about Livan is just two years ago he was awful so really we should be expecting it, right? I didn't think about a Pudge crash possibility, but it is totally possible he puts up an empty .200 BA line and goes from bad to unplayable. Dammit. That's much better than Adam Laroche.

Hoo said...

Can I really hope that Dez is the SOAR? As for Crash...Sean Burnett? He can't keep being that good right? (Battlestar as possible SOAR? if just looking at pen)

Pudge is a good bet. He's also a good case study why Sept stats shouldn't matter for next season in the bigs (contra my hopes for Det, who I really think/desperately hope) can win Most Improved this year.

I'd probably go more with LaRoche though than Pudge. I wonder how much further Pudge has to fall...

Anonymous said...

You don't Lannon was a crash this past year? I'd call going from number 1 starter (albeit without number 1 talent) to the minors a crash.

Wally said...

Kind of hard to predict using your rules, because of so many young guys with limited pro experience to set expectations. But the nice thing about this team this year is that there are a fair amount of guys you can dream on - youngish, with the ceilings of above average players that you can dream take the next step and stay there for years. Zimmnn, Desi, Espy, Dewiler, Maya (I did say youngish), Storen, Morse, even Bernie, although I agree with you that I don't think so for Bernie.

My choices: Desi to soar (#2 is Stammen; that is right, I
said Stammen). Crash: I am in your camp. Laroche, but mostly please, please, please don't be Werth.

Donald said...

My guess for soar is Chien-Ming Wang. If he can actually get healthy he could win 12-15 games.

Harper said...

Hoo - Dez as a soar is all right. Burnett? I just can't count relievers either way since they flitter around so much

Anon - blame last year on injury for Lannan.

Wally - you mean my lack of rules. Need to formalize this.

Donald - let's hope.