Nationals Baseball: September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Final Standings

I'm sick right now so this'll be brief but this is real improvement.  This is something to be excited about. In September you are playing other teams full of youngsters or teams vying for playoff spots.  To come out with a winning record means your young'uns are pretty good.  And the Nats ones are. 

It'll be an interesting offseason.  We've talked about how the Nats need one more arm in the rotation, but do they really?  If they just keep everyone they have now wouldn't that work?  There's nothing wrong with getting another solid arm, but I think it would. 

Then again the offense (12th in runs scored) is an issue.  They have no reliable superstar bats.  Zimm should be good - but he's starting to get injured more than you'd like.  Morse should be good - but it is a season that has "career year" written all over it.  Ramos and Espinosa could be better, could. Werth should be better, should.   There's a lot of question marks here and to bring in one more reliable bat (presumably in center) would help alot.  To do that they may need to deal one of the young arms they have now.  Then the team would have to go out and get another arm.  So it's not needing another arm, because they don't have the arms here now.  It's needing another arm because they won't have the arms there later.

Get excited for next season and in the meantime... Go Yankees

Over / Under challenge Update :

Mike Morse :  .300 average  - OVER (.303)

Danny Espinosa :  20 homers - OVER (21)

Pudge Rodrgiuez : 1 hit. - OVER (2)

Ian Desmond : 4.0 K / BB ratio - UNDER (3.97)

Jayson Werth : 100 OPS+  - UNDER (97)

Nats Offense : .700 OPS.  - UNDER (.691)

Strasburg : 18 innings pitched.  - OVER (24)

John Lannan :  9 wins.  (over or match bet) - OVER(10)

Milone + Peacock + Detwiler : 5 wins - OVER (7)

Tyler Clippard - 2.00 ERA - UNDER (1.83)

Drew Storen - 39 saves.  - OVER (42)

Fancy chart is at work so it'll have to wait till tomorrow to fins out who won. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011



After losing the second game to the Astros on the 10th of September the dream was dead.  The Nats would have to go 15-3 (or better) in their last 18 to hit .500.   Welcome to slumberland, little Nemo.  The Nats are 13-3 in their last 16.  Two wins to go for over .500.

Everyone knows a good thing when they see it, even mediocre veteran outfielders. Rick Ankiel wants to stay.  So does Jonny Gomes.  Better get your act together Laynce!

And now Ozzie is coming to the NL East.   Next year looks like it's gonna be all sorts of fun.

Monday, September 26, 2011

.500 dreams vs the Nats' arch enemy

The Nats took 2 of three from the dying Braves with gems from Wang and Detwiler and a stinker of a game from that bum Strasburg.  Make way for the good pitchers Stephen! Like I said the other day - this is a good problem to have - too much good pitching. But don't get ahead of yourselves just yet.  If the Nats re-sign Wang, that doesn't mean Rizzo's gamble paid off.  It'll pay off if Wang can pitch decently for the majority of next year. Detwiler has had strong finishes before (1.90 ERA in 4 Sept starts in 2009).   The Nats could have one of the best staffs in the NL next year. Could. Be excited but don't just assume it'll be great.

The Nats now stand three games away from a .500+ record (remember it's only above .500 or below, they can't hit it exactly).  You'd think facing the Marlins would be good news since they aren't very good but the Nats have historically had issues with the Marlins. 45-77 all-time v Marlins,  19-49 post 2007. There will be more than one ghost exorcized if they can get a sweep.

Over / Under challenge Update (those in italics are set):

Mike Morse :  .300 average  - OVER (.304)

Danny Espinosa :  20 homers - OVER (21)

Pudge Rodrgiuez : 1 hit. - MATCHED

Ian Desmond : 4.0 K / BB ratio - OVER (4.18)

Jayson Werth : 100 OPS+  - UNDER (99)  pending update but I think this'll hold.

Nats Offense : .700 OPS.  - UNDER (.693)

Strasburg : 18 innings pitched.  - MATCHED

John Lannan :  9 wins.  (over or match bet) - OVER(10)

Milone + Peacock + Detwiler : 5 wins - OVER (7)

Tyler Clippard - 2.00 ERA - UNDER (1.85)

Drew Storen - 39 saves.  - OVER (42)

Unless I  screwed something up the leader in the clubhouse is calindc with 8 out of 11 correct right now (and two no one could have right currently).  Only Ian Desmond (1 walk, 10Ks in last 10 games) stands in his way of the best possible outcome.  John O'Connor is in the worst shape taking the under on Danny's homers, 9 wins for Lannan, and the Under on the combined young guy win total.  Don't quit your day job to become a professional blog over/under guesser, John.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweeping Disorder

Yay!  More "sweep" jokes. Don't get a chance to do that alot when you blog about this team.  (Maybe next year though).  Was this a Phillies team running on full cylinders? No. Did the Nats miss Halladay and get Blanton? Yep. But a Phillies lineup resting a guy here or there is still pretty decent and those starters they have aren't rolling over because it's year's end.   Still an accomplishment. 

Just in case you were wondering the sweep keeps the dream of .500 alive but just 2 losses ends it.  Can the Nats go 5-1 or 6-0 to end the year?  Sure.  My feeling is that they'll be out of contention by the time we meet again on Monday. (of course I predicted the Braves and not the Cardinals as the WC so I'm biased.)

Other Notes:

Ian Desmond hasn't slowed down a bit in September.  (.284 / .308 / .443).   That OBP is still remarkably terrible but you aren't looking for Desmond to be a stud at this point (at least I hope you aren't).  You are looking for him to hold his own in the lineup.  Since Mid-July he has been, with a decent average and ok pop.

Remember the Type B FA gamble that we all assumed was the reason to A) trade for Jonny Gomes  b) not trade Laynce Nix?  Yeah that's been a terrible move.  Gomes has hit terribly since being regulated to pinch-hitter duties in late August (.154 / .281 / .192) and has played himself down to the border between Type Bs and nothings.  Even if he made Type B, offering him arbitration looks like making a bad move worse. Laynce has hit  poorly since the All-Star break (.204 / .274 / .359) and hasn't had an XBH in three weeks. He's got virtually no chance at ending up as a Type B. THIS IS WHY YOU TRADE A GUY LIKE NIX. (older guy outperforming what their plethora of historical stats would have you believe they should do). They are outperforming so you sell high on whatever you can get.  By keeping him you not only do you not get some random young lottery-ticket of a player that you might get lucky on, but you also hurt your team as the guy plays through his likely decline.  It's lose-lose.  It's looking very much like Rizzo came up empty on pretty much every OF move this year (hell even Morse was only a beast while he was playing first, for whatever reason)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ten Wins!

Yay, Lannan.  Brow's he do it!   

He really should have done it before now, and on a better team he would have.  It's just hard to win 10 games when your team is only winning 60.  I'm not saying Lannan would be a 20 game winner on a different team but when you're making 30+ starts and you got an ERA under 4.00, you expect a win total of at least 10.   Doubt me?  Since 1996 there have been 528 seasons as I've described.  In 493 of them (93%) you get 10 wins.  It not only takes a bad team it takes some bad breaks too.

[Side note : looking this up the worst luck year appears to belong to Clayton Kershaw in 2009.  He had a 2.79 ERA over 30 games and yet won only 8 times.  This is for a team that was 4th in the league in runs scored and won 95 games.  The oddness doesn't end there - the team leader in wins was Billingsly with 12 (32 starts). Wolf was next with 11 (34 starts).  Kuroda won 8 in 20 starts.  For the mish-mash of guys that started the other 42 games they won 22 times.]  

Here's brow he didn't do it the past 3 years. (9,9, and 8 wins respectively)

In 2008 John got to 6 wins in Mid-July (game 98) but wouldn't get another one until the end of August when he won back to back games.  He'd only win one in September (for a team that went 7-17), losing games 4-0 and 4-3 and another one where he only allowed 1 earned run over 7 innings.  (oddly enough in his only badly pitched game in September that year the Nats scored a ton of runs and he got a no-decision).

In 2009 John got his 8th win on August 5th (game 108), leaving him two whole months to get just 2 more wins.  He would proceed to lose games 3-2, 5-3, 3-2, 4-1 and got no decisions in 3-2 and another one where he only allowed 2 earned runs over 7 innings.

In 2010 John started the year terribly and got bumped to the minors (much to the glee of a certain segment of baseball fans.  Let's call them S-rmetricians.  No, that's too obvious. How about SaberMs?) and then the DL. He was sitting at 2-5 going into his August 6th start.  He'd get a decision in his next 8 starts going 6-2, but he ran out of time.

So finally, John has crossed into double-digit territory. Congratulations.  Small victories!

Speaking of which the Nats "Science" Number is down to 2.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pitching Staff 2013

Nats "Magic" Number : 3  (any combo of 3 Nats wins or Marlins losses will ensure a season finish of 4th or better.  Small victories)

Ross Detwiler pitched pretty well last night didn't he?  Brad Peacock has pitched well too.  So has Wang recently.   Milone hasn't been bad either.

It's a problem every team would like to have.  Too much pitching.   Along with Lannan, Strasburg, and ZNN the Nats have 7 viable pitchers for 5 spots. And this offseason could potentially bring in another top-end rotation guy if the Nats feel that is needed. (it kinda is)    Let's assume they don't trade or sign someone for now.  What's the team to do?

1) Keep 'em all, let them pitch in ST, choose the best 5.

Positives: Seven pitchers for 5 spots isn't crazy.  I pretty much expect to lose one starter to injury or performance over the course of the year, and at some point it's very likely two will be down at the same time.  You need extra arms to keep seasons going. Strasburg isn't going to pitch a full year you know.

Negatives: Probably not the best use of resources given that there's a gaping hole in CF and MI might use a talent boost. If there isn't enough turn-around, some guys could get stuck at minor leagues below their level because there isn't a place to put them in the upper one.  Hard to see what anyone but Peacock could learn in AAA (and he could easily show good enough control in just a few games) Tempting for a GM to constantly fiddle around with the back of the rotation rather than give young guys a good long chance to get it together.

2) Trade Lannan, Keep Wang, work with 6

Positives: You are probably working with the most talented bunch (I'd argue Milone isn't noticeably more talented than Lannan but he does have the age edge)

Negatives: Lannan is the only one with a recent history of lasting full major league seasons. He's also probably ready to move into the "absorb innings" role that Livan will abandon if he doesn't come back as a starter (and considering he's ok with coming back as a long reliever I think that writing is on the wall). Rotation likely heavily righty.  

3) Let Wang walk, Keep Lannan, work with 6

Positives : No negotiations to likely overpay someone you already gave millions to for a handful of starts. Wang's age and recent history probably make him the biggest injury risk. Two lefties at least in the rotation.

Negatives : Feels like those millions were just thrown away to help wherever he goes next, doesn't it? Wang has the cache of being on a winner and is a high-profile foreign player - two things that can help sell tickets, even if it's just a few more.  Team defense built for a guy like Wang.

4) Trade a youngster, Keep Wang and Lannan, work with 6

Positives : It's going to be a Peacock or Detwiler package that's gonna bring back something worthwhile. Keeps a couple of guys in the rotation you might feel ok with pulling if any of the young studs burn through the minors.

Negatives : You hate to give up young pitching. No telling which of the 3 will break out, make the deal for the wrong guy and you could have years of looking bad.

5) Trade Lannan, Let Wang walk - go full youth

Positives : Exciting isn't it?   Will show really soon who is good and who is not.   Every young guy gets a good long chance in the majors

Negatives :  Insanity.  Leaves the innings pitched burden all on ZNN, not a full 2 years after undergoing major surgery.  Any injuries or talent shortfalls would leave the Nats in the familiar position of bringing up AAAA talent guys to throw junk innings.

Out of these.. you know, I probably like #1.  Maybe #4, next.  Pitching is so prone to changes that I think keeping everyone around is the best option.  Worry about having too many guys when that issue comes up.  This could all blow up if Meyer, Purke, Cole, and/or Solis have great next seasons, but that's the type of blow-up you want.  There is no song "Mo' pitchers, Mo' problems".  If they have to deal someone - deal a youngster and get someone good back.  No middling deals just to free up a spot.  Damn the chances that the one traded becomes great.  Sure it could happen, more likely though is that he gets injured, or is mediocre, or has a few good years and nothing more.  

If they do get someone in the offseason, then I see no reason to keep Wang around, unless someone else is dealt.  But you know me, I'm a complete Lannan apologist and will always side with keeping him around over talent that's not proven to be better in practice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jayson and the disappearing swing

Losing a ground ball in the lights?  Nice. Maybe it is time to retire. Then the all but crowned ROY "focusing in" and letting a guy who hits about 6 homers a year jack a 380 foot shot.  He wouldn't have hit that off Danny Espinosa (mostly because Danny would pitch too slow or walk him or give up an easy line drive hit - but you can't say I'm wrong!)

In other news, I want to like Jayson Werth.  I really haven't hammered him because he's been mostly hmm...  let's say "productive" at the plate (it was a hideous June that made everything look so bad), he's been decent in the field, and he's been good on the basepaths.  All the while he's mostly held his head up during this whole thing.  No, he hasn't been perfect with the media but he easily could have turned on everyone and been a surly jerk and that doesn't seem to have happened. Plus, everyone is entitled to a bad year right? It's not his fault that the Nationals stupidly offered him all that cash.

But then I read articles like this and I can't.  No he isn't surly but he sure does sound like he's making excuses. He lost his swing and he had no one that could help him because his swing is sooo unique and only a couple of Phillies could possibly understand it. It is the specialist of special flowers. And he didn't have his videos!  I know I can't hit a wiffle ball without my VHS copy of Days of Thunder. What's next, locusts?

This whole "I lost it but now I've found it and am doing good" really doesn't jive with what we saw this year. Well, I'll take that back. It jives with the first two months. April was bad, but only BA wise.  He was seeing and slugging the ball fine.  Fancy stats suggest that he was hitting the ball on the ground WAY too much and not connecting squarely at all.  Perhaps that slow start was an swing issue. Then he fixed it. May was his best month.  Everything was fine. It was classic Werth more or less. It was June where it went to hell. He stopped hitting the ball at all.  It wasn't a huge change in how he was hitting it, he just wasn't hitting it with any authority.  He caught some bad breaks too making the month horrible, but the same issues carried on into July where he didn't catch the same bad breaks but was still a hole at the plate.  He seemed to set things right in August but only at the expense of his patience.  Now in September things have gotten bad again - he's hitting nothing square.   So "I lost it, then I found it, then I lost it again, then I found it again, then I lost it?" Or maybe, just maybe, it's not that simple.

Werth doesn't deserve the grief he's taking for living up to a contract he wasn't worth. But at the same time by taking that contract you have to expect that grief, deserved or not.  You took the money, you didn't deliver, you "did wrong".  When you do wrong the best way to move forward is not to make lame excuses that don't explain everything. Just keep your head down, chin up, and tell everyone what they want to hear, then make what you say a reality.  For Jayson Werth that's saying it's on off-year, you're working on it and expect to be much better in 2012. That's all they want to hear right now.  Then make it a reality.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Somehow the Nats turned a 4 game Mets sweep into a must win game against the Marlins on Sunday but hey, they wouldn't be the Nats if they didn't, right? The Nats offense has been pretty miserable but a combination of good pitching and bad opponents has kept them out of last. Could they still fall past the Marlins?  Sure.  But with a 5 game lead in the loss column it would take something crazy.  For example if the Nats go a mediocre 3-7 in their last 10, the Marlins would have to go 7-2 to pass the Nats.  Seriously, not this year.

Over / Under challenge Update:

Mike Morse :  .300 average  - OVER (.302)

Danny Espinosa :  20 homers - UNDER (19)

Pudge Rodrgiuez : 1 hit. - UNDER (still no at bats)

Ian Desmond : 4.0 K / BB ratio - UNDER (3.94)

Jayson Werth : 100 OPS+  - UNDER (97)

Nats Offense : .700 OPS.  - UNDER (.691)

Strasburg : 18 innings pitched.  - UNDER (14) but set up to pass

John Lannan :  9 wins.  (over or match bet) - MATCH (still at 9)

Milone + Peacock + Detwiler : 5 wins - UNDER (4)

Tyler Clippard - 2.00 ERA - UNDER (1.84)

Drew Storen - 39 saves.  - UNDER (38)

A good half of these are counting stats so don't be discouraged by the domination of the UNDERs.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nats Over / Under Challenge

We're nearing years end so how about an over/under challenge to make the last weeks a little more interesting?

Mike Morse : Over/Under  .300 average 
Morse is struggling down the stretch (.208 ave in Sept) but it would still take a 3-4 game hitless streak for him to fall under .300.

Danny Espinosa :  20 homers
Danny is sitting on 19 so it'll just take one to ruin the under bet, but he has no homers in Sept and only 2 since July 18th (Really? ...   Yep, really)

Pudge Rodrgiuez : 1 hit.
Pudge is in a reserve role now and has only had one at bat this month.  Given he's a bit banged up chances are he won't get more than a handful of at bats, if that.

Ian Desmond : 4.0 K / BB ratio
Ian sits at exactly 4 strikeouts for every walk.  It seems like he should be an easy bet to drop that down given his decent offensive Sept but the truth is he's having his worst month in this respect 1 walk in September to 12 Ks so far.  (for those thinking - "See! This is what Desmond needs to do!" Just swing the bat!" - know that his second highest K/BB ratio went with his worst .217 / .255 / .228 month)

Jayson Werth : 100 OPS+ 
This season is a lost one for Jayson no matter how you cut it.  However, if he can keep his OPS+ over 100 (it's at 101 now) he can at least say he provided more offense than your average National Leaguer.  He's on a roll now. While no one has been watching he's put up a September you probably would have accepted for a yearly total. .277 / .393 / .489

Nats Offense : .700 OPS. 
Even though they have their holes, the Nats aren't the worst hitting team by far.  In most part thanks to their slugging, if you can believe it.  They have an OPS of .695 so far.   All it takes is a couple of big games...

Strasburg : 18 innings pitched. 
The Nats have him scheduled for 2 more games for sure with a maybe 3rd lying out there.  His pitch count limits make it nearly impossible for a long game but 5/6 innings should be the average.  He's at 8 IP now.  This depends a lot on whether you think he gets that 3rd game in.

John Lannan :  9 wins.  (over or match bet)
Did you know John has never won 10 games? Jesus, if he was on a good team he'd probably be approaching 60 wins in total by now. 9 wins now - 2 or 3 shots depending on how the Nats work their rotation.

Milone + Peacock + Detwiler : 5 wins
Sitting at 3 now.  Hard to see them only getting to 4 but hard to see them getting to 6 either.  That's how the gamblers make their money, kids. 

Tyler Clippard - 2.00 ERA
He's got a 1.89 ERA now.  That gives him about a 1 run in 1 inning cushion before hitting that 2.00 ERA threshold.  It's tempting to bet against him but then again he did keep his ERA under 2 for 5 1/2 months.  What's 3 more weeks?

Drew Storen - 39 saves. 
At 37 now.   Can he get to 40?  (in case you are wondering Nats record is 47 by Cordero in 2005)

Make your guesses.  No choosing the middle, except for the Lannan bet.  This is over/under.  Not make your own rules game. Winner gets the pride of knowing he's a winner at something in his or her life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I don't get the Clemente Award

Bored last night I checked out the list of Roberto Clemente Award winners and saw that there were no stiffs among these guys.  This surprised me, because surely the act of being charitable and deeply involved in service does not go hand in hand with talent level.  Then I read the definition of the award.
... recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team.

Oh.  So in essence it's kind of like the MVP award.  That goes to the best player with the qualification that that player is on a team vying for a playoff spot.   The Clemente award goes to the player with the best character, the qualification being that player is also a pretty good major leaguer, too.  (OK maybe not Harold Reynolds - but it did come after a couple of years where he was fantastic in the field)

Not to be a jerk - I'm sure these guys all deserve praise - but should that really be what this award is about?  On the page talking about this year's award they start by listing the important traits of who should be up for this award. Character. Responsibility. Generosity. Dedication. Humanitarian. Hero.  Nowhere do they say "All-Star Caliber Talent". It shouldn't matter.

Trying to wrap my head around why it would matter all I can think of is they don't want to "sully" the award named after a great player like Clemente by giving it to the Jamey Carrolls or Joe Horgans of the world. That the award is trying to find other Clementes, other caring superstars.  That's fine and all I guess, but then the award isn't about service as much as it is about praising which superstar can deign to take the time out of their busy schedules to help others.  It doesn't feel right for this type of award. It's like if they were giving out an award to the most charitable woman in Hollywood and included a provision that read "No oldies or fatties". 

I would like to tell you to then go vote for the worst player available but that misses the point too.  These are the people up for the award so if you are into voting for things like this read through and vote for who you think deserves it the most.  (Ian Desmond is the Nats' nominee this year.  Yes he might also be the worst player up for it but don't let that influence you.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Catch Those Mets

September is time for modified goals.  No longer are you seeing what players can do in the long term.  Now you are just trying out guys to see who you might invite to Spring Training next year. And no longer are you shooting for a playoff spot.  Instead you are aiming lower : .500 record, more wins than last year or in the Nats case - finishing third would be nice.

To finish third the Nats need to catch the Mets.  The Mets have a 2 game lead which normally is nothing. But this late in the year that's nothing to scoff at.  The Mets have 15 games left.   If they go a completely reasonable 7-8 to finish up the Nats would have to go 10-6 to finish ahead of them (by percentage points 78-83 to 78-84 - the Nats won't make up that game v the Dodgers)  10-6 is a good finish. The Nats aren't a good team.

The Nats do have two things going for them.  First they have a head to head series with the Mets right now.  Each win = Mets Loss = gained ground.  They won the first game last night.  Take two of the next three and suddenly they are only a game behind.  Of course it works both ways.  Lose two of the next three and it's a 3 game Mets cushion with 12 or so games and the Nats are looking at having to go 10-2 or hope for the annual Mets collapse.

The second thing is schedule.  Both teams take on PHI and ATL one more time.  For the other two series the Nats have the Marlins.  The Mets have the Cardinals and the Reds. The Nats should win more of these games than the Mets (though they never seem to do that do they?)

The Nats had some lofty goals as late as mid August, but those have passed.  Now it's time to go after something more reasonable but symbolically important.  Pass the Mets.  Everyone thinks the Nats are a rising team.  If they pass the Mets and finish 3rd then the talk next year will be about making the next step to take on  the big boys.  That's the talk the Nats want to hear.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Quickie

Like I said on Friday that homestand pretty much ruins any magical run to .500.   Now it would take a 14-4 finish for the Nats to hit .500 and the Nats aren't going 14-4.   They still are going to beat last year's win total (a 3-15 finish will do that).  Most likely... 8-10? 7-11?   So yeah - 75 wins.

Some notes
  • Give Lombardozzi time.  He's a 22 year old in his first week in the majors.  He may end up not being very good but it's been a handful of games.  It's not like he's a 25 year old with 1200 major league plate appearances or something. 
  • Ian Desmond just might be saving his starting role, or at least his "I'm the one to beat" seat with a average August and September. He's been actually decent since hitting leadoff.  The main problem with that is his OBP (.333) is still not what you want from a guy leading off.  This has all the makings of an issue to be in 2012. 
  • It's gonna be hard for Strasburg to get to 70 pitches if you don't let him get to 60.  Ok Davey, listen. The average inning in the NL is 16 pitches or so.  The average Strasburg inning is 14 pitchers or so.  Granted he looked worse against Houston but by pulling him 13 pitches away from his limit you are basically saying you have no faith you can get even a decent inning out of him. (Against the corpse of Carlos Lee, maybe ok Brian Bogusevic and career non-starter Matt Downs, no less)  At this rate Strasburg won't start any inning if he's within 20 pitches of 70. 
  • While everyone is waiting for Danny to break-out of his slump, WIlson Ramos quietly has picked himself back up.  .385 / .500 / .577 in September.  That is very important because Derek Norris really floundered in AA this year.  It's hard to see how he'd be up in the majors soon. 

Friday, September 09, 2011

So ummm...

sweep the 'Stros?

Barring that cirucumstance we can pretty much wrap up the "Nats get to .500 talk"   Yeah, I know that talk mainly went away after that 6 game slide to end August, but when I looked at what it would take to get there a few posts ago it wasn't THAT crazy.  Certainly it was more likely that not beating last year's win total.  But now going 2-4 at home so far, yeah that''s just not going to cut it.  So resign yourself to mid-70s, and watch those kids.

How are the kids? Way too early to tell.  Get back to me at the end of the year.  Only Marrero has really piled up the playing time.  And why is that exactly?  I'm thinking it's as much for Morse as for Chris.  The more time Morse plays in left the better because it's unlikely he'll be at first next year.  Slick-fielding, still under contract LaRoche or a big bat seems more likely.

Lombardozzi got his first start... at 2nd base.  I suppose you could say it's because Danny Espinosa was tired, and Davey cites the 7 Ks in the last two games.  But in the two games before that the kid was 4-5 with 2 walks and a HBP.  Not to mention that Lombardozzi Espinosa was primarily a SS in the minors (I have no idea what I was thinking.  Where's my blog editor?   I don't have one? Well then where is all that money going?) .  No, once again they are bending over backward for Ian Desmond. You better get better Ian, because this team acts like the prospect pecking order is Strasburg/Bryce, then Ian Desmond, then everyone else.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

An embarrassment of $20 bills

Last night Strasburg started. Peacock and Lombardozzi were also called up. Milone has been here for a few days, as has Marrero. Never have the Nationals had so much talent and promise show up at the end of the year. The thing is... it really isn't that much talent and promise.

Ok ok Strasburg is Strasburg, but the other guys are nothing special in terms of "prospecti-ness". Yes, everyone loves Brad Peacock now but Peacock was a fringe Top 10 prospect for the Nationals to start the year, meaning he was on noone's radar. His stock has risen a lot this year but that'll happen with minor leaguers all the time. There isn't much information on them and they switch level of competition constantly. One very good year can turn a team's #10 into a team's #3.

Milone, Lombardozzi, and Marrero were at the same general level of Peacock. The guys that judge talent for a living question Milone's stuff, Lombardozzi's bat, and Marrero pop and glove. None of these guys are slam dunk stars or even slam-dunk starters. Rendon is a better prospect. Purke and Meyer and Cole and Solis are better prospects. And of course there's Bryce.

It's not that Nats fans shouldn't be excited. They should be. Minor league promise can be fool's gold but the team really looks to be on the cusp of being truly competetive, with a wave of decent young guys up now and likely a better wave to follow over the next two years. It's just that... hmm... I don't know how to exactly phrase this. You see, Nats fans are the starving man gushing over the taste of a Wendy's hamburger. You want to say "Slow down there hoss. It's just a fair fast food burger you got there. We're going to hit up that fancy burger truck this weekend." but at the same time the man is starving. Let him enjoy his burger, right?

Hmmm. Ok. Enjoy your burger, Nats fans.

Other Thoughts:

  • Can we all thank the Nats for not pulling Strasburg last night because the mound was wet? That would have been terribly silly. Either he's ready to pitch or he's not, and if he's ready to pitch he should, you know, pitch. You don't want him to get injured in a meaningless game? Are you going to keep pulling him until you're sure the games are meaningful? Will he not pitch in bad conditions until June of 2013?
  • Mock was Dfa'd. I don't see any reason why he won't get back down to the minors untouched. For whatever that's worth.
  • I get why Corey Brown was called up, even though he's not ready. I get why Stammen is here, even though he's no good. But don't expect me to be happy Matt Antonelli didn't get the call too. Surely Alex Cora's feeling aren't that important.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

But not THAT big an "Uh Oh"

First things first : Strasburg!

So over the weekend commenter Tombo wrote in and in short, said the Nats better get good quick or they might not be in Washington for long. Anyone who follows the Nats knows that this is pretty much nonsense, but occasionally it's good to go over why - especially if there are people reading the blog that don't follow the Nats.

To start Tombo's most general point is fair. The 2011 Nats scenario, spend a ton of money on questionable contracts, win nothing, draw nobody - IS unsustainable. However, that doesn't mean relocation is on the horizon. Let's review why.

  • First off losing money isn't a big deal if the owner is ok with losing money. The Lerners are worth billions of dollars. If the Nats were losing 20 million a year (a staggering sum) they'd have to lose it for 50 years in a row for the Lerner's to lose 1/3 of their estimated wealth. Because the Nats ownership main business is not the Nats there isn't the same impetus to sell if things go badly for a while.
  • And things haven't been going badly for a while (not money wise anyway) The 2011 model is just that, the 2011 model. Prior to last August the Nats had really made one big financial move, paying for Strasburg. They signed no big contracts and actually walked away from paying large bonuses to draft picks. From 2007 through 2009, they had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Upping spending a bunch the Nats are still only 22nd in payroll. So even if they are losing a bunch of money now, it's a now thing, not an ongoing thing.
  • And they probably aren't even losing money now. Teams rarely just earn money from tickets sales. The smarter owners get sweetheart stadium deals from the gullible public and rake in the cash through concession deals, parking, local real estate, TV and radio deals, etc. etc. Add to that the fact that the Lerners are infamous for not letting Bob Cracthit put some extra coals on the fire and you end up with a team that is actually likely generating cash, not losing it. Forbes estimates the Nats are 2nd in operating income among all teams. Money is not an issue.
  • And even if it was an issue there are lots of other things to consider for a team to leave. Stadium leases need to be broken. TV deals reworked (the Nats are intertwined with the Orioles on MASN, and no way Angelos is going to give away a cash cow without a protracted legal battle) division alignment maintained, where would the team move (the ownerhsip is locally based). Not to mention that having baseball in the nation's capital was a long term goal of Bud Selig and baseball in general. There is far more impetus for the team to stay and if the owners were losing money and wanted to get out (they're not and they don't), first thing would be a sell off of the team - not a move.
  • Because of the stories of the "Greatest Generation" of baseball, we think relocation is more of a threat than it really is. From 1953 to 1972, a couple decades, 10 teams relocated, but that's the exception. Between 1903 and 1953 - two teams relocated. From 1972 to now - 1 team has, and that took a concerted effort from MLB to destroy baseball in a city (but we won't go into that again).

Relocation is not a threat. It just isn't. Could it ever be? Maybe, but we're a couple decades away from that. Hopefully the Plan expects success in that range of time.

Other Notes:

Say hello to the Chris Marrero you have, not the Chris Marrero you want. Can he hit for average? Maybe. Can he hit for power? Doubtful. Even though he's young the trending in the minors is all in the wrong direction. There are a bunch of great first-baseman out there. The market for the mediocre-fielding singly-joe first baseman died with Frank Chance. (where are the Frank Chance defenders!)


Friday, September 02, 2011

Uh oh

Anyone else out there worried about a total and complete collapse down the stretch? I mean, still go ahead and bring up those youngsters, and give them time (mainly because I don't think they are much worse, if at all, than who they'd be replacing), but doesn't it kind of feel like the Nats are reverting back to the "Nats Classic"?

I didn't have huge goals for the Nats this year. Despite my prediction of 79 wins, the 75 they are on pace for now would be fine. A six game improvement based on no luck? That's good. But a win total in the low 70s would feel kind of bad. Mainly because of the amount of improvement that would be needed to compete for real next year. From 75 wins you still need to get at least 10 wins better. That's a lot of wins. To ask for a 13 or 14 win improvement? Just to be on the outskirts of competition? I don't think anyone wants to wait one MORE year.

The good news it theyy won't be as bad as last year. The numbers just don't add up. A quick review. The Nats sit at 63-72. Last year they won 69 games. To finish 69-93 the Nats would need to go 6-21. It's not impossible, but that's about as bad a month as you can have. Of course the same logic makes having a strong enough finish to turn this into a "good" year hard to believe in as well. To finish 81-81 the Nats would need to go 18-9. Again not impossible, but it would be the best month the Nats have had since their 20-6 June in 2005.

The Nats are pretty much set at finishing with 7x wins, but will it be a disheartening 72 or so? or an affirming 78? A crushingly weak schedule and a lot of home games suggest the latter (a season long problem beating the teams they should beat and a lack of off-days would lean toward the former). Let's start it off right. 10 game homestand against the Mets (66-69), Dodgers(66-70) and Astros (47-90)? Gotta expect to win every series. That's a 7-3 at minimum. Hit that and then maybe we talk about something more.

At least the Marlins are doing their part keeping the Nats out of last.

In other news : Don't expect Archie Gilbert to get that call-up.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fun with arbitrary cut-offs

Since 2008 there are 11 pitchers currently season-age 27 or younger that have pitched at least 690 innings with an ERA <4.00.

They are :
Tim Lincecum
Felix Hernandez
Jon Lester
Matt Cain
Cole Hamels
Zack Greinke
Ubaldo Jimenez
John Danks
Matt Garza
Chad Billingsly


John Lannan.

Yay John!

(I'm not saying John is as good as these guys. All have pitched at least 50 more innings and 8 out of the "other" 10 have significantly better career ERAs. However I do think that John's accomplishment of pitching so many quality innings, even if the fact that those innings ended up as quality is inexplicable to some, at such a young age is kind of big deal. Can it happen with average pitchers? Sure. Going back to 1994 you find Bobby Jones did it. Joey Hamilton. But the vast majority of guys that are able to do this are very good to great pitchers. In other words - it's not easy to do at all.)