Nationals Baseball: Look on the bright side

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Look on the bright side

If I told you that the Nats would have the National League's worst BA and OBP (and 14th best slugging) after 47 games... that Ryan Zimmerman would only play for 2 weeks before going down to injury... that Adam LaRoche would be injured and hit worse than Jason Marqius... that instead of carrying the Nats to shore, that Jayson Werth would himself had trouble just treading water... that the Nats would again have no stability in the OF. If I told you all that wouldn't you have taken 21-26?

The team was built around the idea of a big three, much like the last two seasons. The difference this year is that the other 5 spots were 3 prospects and 2 finger-crosses, instead of the usual 1 prospect, 1 finger cross and 3 "we know they are terrible... how about a free Curly W pretzel for your trouble?". Unfortunately the big 3 have combined for 1.5 WAR so far this year, which is to say they've roughly been as important to the team as Danny Espinosa himself.

As for LaRoche's injury
(see you in September!) I think Tom Boswell (yes Boz!) had an astute observation in his chat yesterday. LaRoche is basically this year's Jason Marquis. A completely reasonable, non-reaching 2-year contract for a slightly above average player to give the Nats a slightly above average performance that completely blew up in their faces. These weren't "trade for Vernon Wells"-esque lottery ticket deals. These were "Bet me a dollar I can't flip a coin and get 3 heads in a row" type safe bets. And still the Nats come up on the losing end.

Maybe God is just storing all this karma for 2013. Kind of like he did for the Indians this year. Hey Manny Acta!


Hoo said...

I think the team may be close to imploding and going on a patented Nat 4-15 type stretch. But still this year is progress as Gorzo/Znn look legit, pen is nice and Espi/Ramos are keepers. This year is more pleasant to watch b/c I want to see most ABs this year (Morse, Rodger, Ian, Danny, Wilson).

The three negatives are a) Desmond is looking less like the answer and b) The panic meter on Jayson Werth is starting to heat up. Long way to go on both the panic meter but also the contract. Crazy money paid to a guy that isn't much better than the Hammer at the plate. At least Werth is younger than W'ham (2 months!). 3) We all love to root for Lannan but I'm mentally erasing him as a #5 starter when Nats make the run for .500+ playoff contention. Looking more like 1) SS 2) ? 3)JZ 4) Maya? 5) Gorzo.

Harper said...

If they can keep trotting out young players so they can learn / the management can make decisions on them, it'll be a productive year if not a winning one. First one ever?

I'll agree with a) (shift Danny over deal with 2B is the most likely response) and b) (he's gotta do better right?) I'll disagree with c) only because I don't think Lannan was ever anything more than a #3 (and that was wishful thinking). If a #4 or #5 bomb out - it's not really terrible. Which is why basically the Nats pitching this year is only about J Zimm. If Gorzelanny surprises that's great but again - he shouldn't be pencilled in at anything more than a 4 going foward.

bdrube said...

I disagree that the Nats pitching this year is all about JZimm. It is also important to see if Maya can hack it as a lower rotation innings eater, plus I'd really like to get an extended look at Brad Peacock, who appears to have figured it out and might actually project out to be a high end starter. If Detwiler continues along the road to busthood, we need at least one of our other promising youngsters at AA and AAA to step it up and Peacock seems like the most likely candidate since he throws hard.

Harper said...

ok - I was only talking about the guys up already but you're right. They need to figure out if Maya and Detwiler can hack it too. (Peacock will be interesting if he comes up but he doesn't need to this season). Maya appears to need another shot in the majors this year. I bet Rizzo was hoping to angle Marquis for a deal to open up a spot but that hasn't worked out yet. Detiwler is apparently answering this question in AAA.

Hoo said...

I'm disappointed in Lannan not as much b/c he's a replaceable #5 but b/c I like him. Good story and easy to root for. It would be nice if he could hang on to a #5 with a mid 4.00 ERA but doubt it happens.

I think Gorzo is a high-end #4 given his K ratio. If he can just get his HRs down. For all the grief over the Hammer/Morgan trade, the Gorzo trade was a steal.

Harper: The other great/terrifying pt from Boz's chat was the comparison of W'ham's stats vs. Werth non Philly stats. not sure you can throw out half a player's games but makes me nervous.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I can look at the bright side, I see a team struggling to be the fourth worst team in baseball rather than the hands down worst team in baseball. Pitching rotation is stil full of holes and the bats are the worst in the league. The team is going nowhere and again will be out of contention by late june. It was nice that they could keep around .500 but in baseball if you don't have consistancy you don't have squat. Team is about to have one of there now common place 15 game slides. Just be ready.

a fan of the notatalls

Anonymous said...

Long view: if we slide early into irrelevancy like years past, doesn't it hurt our chances to sign or trade for any notable talent over the winter?

Showing a modicum of improvement was crucial I thought to prove to the league we aren't a joke. Poor productivity is going to hurt morale which is going to hurt recruitment. I mean, the umps are apparently making fun if the Nats. Can't see Pujols jumping at that.

Harper said...

Hoo - its a little bit iffy to just look at road stats because a player will generally hit better at home for a variety of reasons, but it's a good starting point. I've got no problem with the conclusion. If Willingham hit slightly better, wasn't injured all the time, and was a better fielder he would be worth Werth. Those are three big ifs but not 7 seasons $126 million big

Anon #1 - if you were looking for a reason to be excited about this year FOR this year, that went out the door the minute Zimm got injured. This year is about being potentially excited about next year. Sorry that that's the best they can do, but it is better than any past year.

Anon #2 - They can't be terrible and they have to be competitive when Zimm comes back. They can point to this time as "lost" because of that injury. UNless they want to overpay in years and $ again.

Anonymous said...

Harper- my point being is I don't see this teams any further along than it was last year. I'll admit zimmermans injury has a huge impact but the people around him, despite the almost complete overhaul of the line up, is no better off. My expectations for the season wasnt to be a .500 ball club but was certainly not be last in almost every statistical offensive category. You really telling me that this is better than anything we have seen in the past??? Now who is being realistic??? The question facing this ball club is not whether they will be contenders but whether they will simply be watchable. Because if they are not, it will not draw fans to the seats.

Harper said...

It's not the lineup that is clearly better than anything we've seen (clearly), it's the situation. The Nats have managed a terrible double the past 6 years not only usually failing at putting a sold lineup on the field, but also failing at putting one out there with a decent chance of being better 2 or 3 years down the road. There have been attempts but none with the promise of this one with Desmond, Espinosa, and Ramos on the field now and Bryce Harper to join sometime likely next year. With Zimmerman still being only 26, that's a core than can be productive through the next 4-5 years at least. Granted it is unlikely they all will manage to stay healthy and productive over that time frame (right now you have to be most pessimistic about Desmond) but there are also players in the minors (Lombardozzi, Norris) that may be able to fill in those spots.

Given the young talent at hard to fill positions, this is the most promising situation the Nats have found themselves in offensively. It doesn't mean that you should print out WS tickets, simply that it's the best in comparison to several bad situations. If pressed, I'd say it's the first "normal" rebuilding attempt the Nats have made, and that does not include the potential super-star that is Bryce. There is reason to be optimistic. Just not about 2011.

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