Nationals Baseball: The end of the Long Road

Monday, June 13, 2011

The end of the Long Road

Last Stretch : Goal 5-6 Actual 6-5;
Total : Goal 26-23 Actual 21-27 (and 1 rainout)

Turns out I made a counting error in the very beginning so I've been off by a game the entire time. Would have been more interesting if the Nats were pushing .500 but each win counts right? The long National(s) nightmare is over. The 49 games in 51 days stretch turned out to neither validate nor bury the 2011 Nats. Rather, in typical "new" Nats fashion, it slowly but surely pushed them out of relevance and down to the cellar of the NL East. From .500 (9-9) they find themselves once again not bad enough to force changes and not good enough to play out a dream run to .500.

Actually to be fair, if Zimmerman returns healthy and produces like he can, .500 from then on out isn't totally out of the question. There are guys that should come back to earth (Nix, Lannan), but guys that can probably do better (Werth, Gorzelanny, Werth, WERTH). With a little luck the Nats could press for that mythical 81 win barrier. Unfortunately though the Nats would be foolish not to deal Marquis (who very well might be the best pitcher on the market), Nix, and some relief arms. This should deplete the talent at the major leagues and wake Nats fans up from this dream no later than July 31st.

If you wanted to pinpoint a stretch and series when the season was "lost" it had to be the Pirates, Mets, Os, Brewers, Padres stretch in mid to late May, with the Padres series in particular crushing hopes. Even with a favorably timed "rain out" the Nats would lose each of these winnable series except for the opening 1 game Pirates matchup. (Granted the Brewers had gotten red hot right before they played the Nats but either of the last two games in that series were winnable.) The Nats could take a little solace with the Mets, Os and Brewers series coming on the road but losing 2 out of 3 at home to San Diego? If they couldn't handle a less than mediocre Padres team at home then what hope did they have against everyone else for the rest of the season?

They'll have one more tough run at years end playing 33 games in 34 days in late August and Early September, but it's likely that this teams fate will be sealed by the time that rolls around.

Other Notes

Did I mention Werth has been struggling? I said leave him alone a couple weeks ago but since then he's been terrible. Like .135 and 3 XBH in 2 weeks bad. They are trying him at lead-off to maximize the only thing he's doing well right now, getting on base. So how's he done so far? 1 walk, no singles in 9 at bats.

Yay Lannan! A classic 1K win. Getting ever so close to Top 25 in ERA. It kills you doesn't it? You know if I'm talking to you...

Marquis wants to sign here long term. That's fine with me as long as (1) it's not for any more than the last deal - I'd even go 3 years but at a cheaper per year rate and (2) it's not an extension but a FA deal signed after he's dealt in July. Sorry Jason. It's looking like you'll have a good deal of value on the market. (Still hoping the Cards make a mistake and want to deal Colby Rasmus)

ZNN is coming back a lot faster than I ever thought. Looks like I'll be happily wrong. I'll be even more happilier wronger if Strasburg can do the same.


Wally said...

Nice post. Some random thoughts (sorry for length):
Nix - is he a keeper? The numbers suggest that he is playing over his head a bit on career averages, especially slugging, but not so bad compared to last year. Can he have taken a step forward late in career? Still just 30. I think maybe, since he had sporadic playing time earlier. I can't get a handle on the defense, tho. It doesn't grade out so badly on the stats. Seems like he is athletic enough to catch what he can reach, but isn't reaching all that many. Nevertheless, seems like he could be a good, cost-effective platoon guy in LF for a few years.

Lannan - not a hater, but he really seems like he is getting lucky. I watched the game on Saturday, and he was being hit hard. Now, the ump had a high zone, which really hurts him. I like the added velo, which explains some of his 'luck', but if Johnny can't get the BB/9 down to 2.5, we ought to sell high. I think that he would have value to a contender.

JZimm - possibly on target for the highest pitcher's WAR season in franchise history (DC only). Loiaza's 4.6 mark in 2005 is the highest that I can find. JZ is at 2.3 WAR with 81 innings pitched (roughly halfway to his assumed innings cap).

Trades in general: I am starting to think prospects are overvalued, and that the Nats are reaching a stage in their cycle where wins are taking on added meaning. So I would offer up everyone, but I would not just trade value for youth. If Marquis brought back Gardner (I know that you don't like him) or Heisey or something like that, ok I am onboard. But some middling high A pitcher like Aaron Thompson? probably not.

Here is a trade that I would love to see in the offseason: Desmond for Bourn. Desi needs to rebound in the 2d half and we would have to add a prospect or too, but the contracts/controllability are in the right direction for Houston, and it fills a need. Then add Reyes in Fa and lineup looks pretty good (I'd avoid Fielder and just go Laroche/Morse at 1B).

Hoo said...

Jayson Werth is lucky he plays on a team with no hope and no killer media. B/c if he was on the big stage, he'd being getting crushed daily.

If Werth doesn't start hitting a lot better, he'll be the Nats story of post-all star break. (Quick trademark the "Oh No! He's Bobby Bo" headline).

All in all, this season is going pretty much what an optimist would like to see but for Werth.

John O'Connor said...

I was going to post a comment on trades and Wally beat me to the punch. I would not trade Marquis (in particular) unless I could get a really good prospect for him (i.e., I wouldn't trade him for a shot in the dark prospect or two). The reason is that the Nats are at a point where the number of wins matter.

The Nats are auditioning for prospective free agents to show that they are a credible team that with a few added pieces could be something. It might be window dressing, but that argument's easier to make at 78 wins than it is at 72 wins (yes, I know Marquis himself isn't the difference between 72 and 78 wins, but the general point holds). So unless you're getting something with a real chance of working out, I'm not sure the Nats should be dumping players who can add to this year's win total.

Harper said...

Nix - If he wasn't a FA at year's end I'd feel differently but I think you gotta deal him. (Nichols did heavy lifting on this topic here :

Lannan I can't be objective. He should retire a Nat.

J Zim If he can keep that HR/FB ratio under 3%... wait a sec what? 3%. Given the innings limit I still like him finishing under that but it'll be a lot closer than I ever thought.

So I'd take it you'd extend Marquis then? Right now? I'd do Desmond for Bourn, even though I don't like him either.

Hoo - Bobby Bo gets a bad rap. He wasn't special but he was still good to very good for the Mets and O's. Now "Oh Vey! He's Jason Bay!" has a nice ring to it.

JOC - Ok I'm hearing you guys. I do think they'll dangle Marquis out there for a CF. If they can get a fair one they have to make that deal right? Everyone can agree with that?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trade Marquis. He will take some of the pressure off Strasburg at the top of the rotation next year.

Hoo said...

Marquis should be thrown on the market and let everyone examine his arm, knees, teeth whatever. There's good arguments to make either way and that gives Rizzo leverage. If the team can get back a Ramos equivalent prospect, pat Jason on the back and say we look forward to talking in November. And then activate Wang! (who's really close to making a rehab start! Really)

This is the first summer where there's a good reason NOT to trade everyone. The team does need to learn to win. It's a cheap team with no payroll issues and they could keep the team together if they think playoffs in '12 is realistic.

I'm still in the trade camp but I have a few toes in the stand-pat on Marquis thing. Nix should go.

John O'Connor said...

Yes, we're all in agreement that you'd trade Marquis for a good centerfielder. But not for Corey Brown 2.0 (i.e., not for someobody who has a chance to be decent but also might never make it).

Wally said...

On trades or extensions, the only way that I can fairly answer any of it is, it depends on what you get back and what the extension costs. Philosophically, I would not trade guys just to get younger and hope that I find a middling prospect that suddenly takes an unexpected step forward. That was the right call a few years ago with trading Nick J and all those guys, but if that is all that I can get for Marquis, Nix, etc, I'd keep them. We have plenty o' Aaron Thompsons now.

I would give Marquis another 2/$15m deal right now*. I think that he would not take that and I don't know what he would take. I don't think that he especially likes it here - probably thinks it is fine, but nothing special, is my guess. So even if you thought players give discounts to their current team (I don't), I don't see that here. 3/$30m? No, I wouldn't do that. Might go to 2/$20m, because they have plenty of payroll room next year.

*If we did that, though, I think that we are done adding external SPs. Stras & JZimm are locks, assuming health, Lannan is in there and we have to give some combination of B.Meyer, Milone, Peacock a shot next year, with Solis and A.Meyer the year after. So the question for me would be: is Marquis the guy that you want/feel that you can get given the trade/FA market?

Nix - the problem I have is that I don't see him bringing back much. Like I said, if he only brings back a marginal prospect, I would keep him.

Marquis for CF? Count me in (assuming he is a good CF, not Corey Brown). Other than Gardner, I don't see a team that fits, though. TB would not want him as part of a deal for Upton. Ditto for Houston. Maybe Cincy? Can Heisey play CF? I thought LF/RF only. Is Fowler worth a shot? Bourjos? Maybe, if they are ready to bring up Trout. Would Marquis bring back Alonzo? Maybe. I would do that.

Wally said...

JOC - turnabout is fair play. Well played!

Donald said...

Looking ahead a year or two with a goal to have the best rotation in baseball, Strasburg could be one of the best if he comes back healthy. JZimm could be a very good #2 and maybe one of the best #3's. You gotta figure between Gorzelanny, Lannan and the prospects (Milone, Peacock, Meyer, etc.) we could put together a great #4 and #5. So what we really need is either a top of rotation guy for #2, like the Phillies have, or someone pretty close for the #3 slot. If you think Marquis could fit that mold, then sign him. Otherwise, I'd trade him now while his market value is so high.

What I don't want is to spend a ton of money on a 3 year contract that makes them feel obligated to play him even if he falls off or someone better pans out.

Anonymous said...

Lannan is a #5 starter, and for a #5 starter he does a pretty decent job. The problem it isn't hard to find #5 starters (the last couple of years withstanding) so I can't see anyone would trade much for him, but I think he fills a hole if he stays.

Marquis should be traded for the max we can get. Although he is doing well, his run support has been above average (and WAY above average for the Nats). I agree that I wouldn't pay him much more that he is getting now.

Anonymous said...

I think keeping Marquis as a #2/#3 for next year is the right non-move but, is it odd that if we were to trade Marquis for a CF i would want Podsednik (moved back from LF) and a prospect(s)?

For some reason I like his game, think he could make a positive impact right away, and has to be itching to get the F-outta LA before everything collapses around him.

For the Nationals, the problem with trading for prospects is that we are so young/have so many anyway (Livo notwithstanding) that it becomes at what point do you stop the "building for the future" merry-go-round we are all used to while still accepting mediocre (at best) records right now?

Personally, I think they have already reached that point and need to start focusing on winning now, especially since the division seems abnormally weak this year.

Just tired of waiting for Godot I guess...

Nattydread said...

I trust Rizzo on the Marquis decision. Depends entirely on what we get. The 4-6 wins Marquis could bring in Aug/Sep would be nice window dressing for 2012.

Marquis could be the number 3 or 4 pitcher in a decent group of starters next year.

Strasberg (though we are all counting our chickens here!), [insert top free agent], Zimmermann, Marquis, Lannan...

He OWES US BIG for the bust year of his contract, but when does karma come into negotiating extensions?

Are any of the prospects major league-ready? If so too much pitching is a good problem to have.

Harper said...

Everyone - Looks like the dealing of Marquis is not a sure thing with the fans. Topic!

Wally - 2 /20 for Marquis? When 2 /15 was barely justified 2 years ago? I can't get behind that. Though I do feel vindicated a bit against the world that Maya wasn't in your hypothetical 2012 rotation.
Rasmus. Rasmus. Rasmus. If I keep saying it it will happen.

Donald - let's just say a passable 4/5 for now and be pleasantly surprised later. Is Marquis a good 2/3? I think so. Is he going to be paid like one? Not sure.

Anon #1 - Yeah in the new world where stats matter Lannan isn't bringing back much.

Anon #2 - You could have had Pods right now! He's flunked out of Blue Jays AAA and is now with Phillies AAA. Forget about Marquis. You could trade Slaten for him.

Nattydread - Peacock should be ready, will probably get a stint in AAA soon and should be in the majors this year or beginning of next. Tom Milone is the other guy you'll be seeing for sure this year. Peacock has potential. Milone is a question mark.

Wally said...

Harper - I only said 2/$20m because that is what I think it takes to get him to pass on FA (maybe). Not loving it either, although with a Win priced at $5m, I bet he earns it if healthy. My guess is that he earns his current contract when all is said and done, even with a lost year (3.5 WAR probably gets there).

I join your Rasmus man-love, but we'll be unsatisfied, I think. No way it is Rasmus for Marquis, right? Maybe Desmond + Marquis, or something with Clippard?

Harper said...

I'd do Desmond + Marquis in a heartbeat (and the Cards could use a SS) but I don't see that happening. I could see the Cards considering a Marquis and Espinosa or Marquis and Lombardozzi but I don't see the Nats going for that.