Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Projected stats for the 2011 Washington Nationals

Bill James has put out his 2011 projections on Fangraphs, and the Nats are generally smiled upon favorably.

Below is the Nationals lineup if the season started today. Of course, with nearly three months left till Spring Training, a lot can happen.

2011 projected lineup

CF - Nyjer Morgan - .285/.347/.352 (389 AB, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 55 R)
(.253/.319/.314 - 2010)

Outlook - Morgan sees a big bounce back from James in 2011, mainly due to a correction in BABIP. In 2010, he hit a career low .304 BABIP. In 2011, James has Morgan bouncing back to a solid .334.

SS - Ian Desmond - .280/.328/.421 (561 AB, 13 HR, 66 RBI, 69 R)

Outlook - Desmond projects to see quite the increase in walk rate, from 4.9 to 6.3%. While walking more, Desmond is also projected to cut his strikeouts to under 20% (19.3).

3B - Ryan Zimmerman - .291/.368/.507 (580 AB, 27 HR, 95 RBI, 94 R)

Outlook - Zimmerman is the first National to see a decrease in his projections. Losing Dunn will hurt, as well as coming off a career year. As is, his 'decrease' is minimal and still puts him in the elite category of 3B.

RF - Jayson Werth - .275/.375/.493 (560 AB, 28 HR, 91 RBI, 98 R)

Outlook - Quite the drop for the newest Nat. Not totally unexpected though as Citizen Bank Park is quite the hitters paradise, while Nationals Park is a slight pitching park. On the positive side, James has Werth improving his BB% and decreasing his K%

LF - Josh Willingham - .259/.369/.465 (475 AB, 22 HR, 72 RBI, 71 R)

Outlook - Hammer sees a drop in all major categories outside of an uptick in power. Heading into free agency at the end of 2011, Josh will be looking to maximize his value for his one shot at a big contract.

1B - Michael Morse - .278/.337/.461 (284 AB, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 36 R)

Outlook - James clearly does not believe that Morse's 2010 season was anything other than a fluke. "Werth Jr." will either need a Willingham trade, or the Nationals not being able to sign a 1B to see significant time in 2011.

2B - Danny Espinosa - .255/.312/.460 (424 AB, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 69 R)

Outlook - Short sample sizes do not make for accurate projections, but Espinosa's line in 2011 looks obtainable if he can up his contact rate slightly.

C - Pudge Rodriguez - .266/.301/.373 (399 AB, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 43 R)

Outlook - Surprisingly, Pudge sees an uptick in his stats from last year. Outside of the first 13 at-bats of the year for Pudge, it speaks to just how awful the backstop played in 2010.

Other notables

1B - Adam Dunn - .247/.373/.511 (567 AB, 39 HR, 102 RBI, 90 R)

Outlook - Oddly enough, Dunn is projected to see a drop in slugging with the move to the AL and a cozy new ballpark. Nothing would make this blog happier than to see Dunn obliterate every HR record next year for the White Sox, the big guy deserves it.

OF - Roger Bernadina - .273/.341/.418 (194 AB, 5 HR, 20 RBI, 27 R)

Outlook - Bernadina looks poised for a breakout year in 2011. Will the at-bats come? Only time will tell.

So that's it; what do you guys think? Will the Nats reach Bill's projections? Exceed them? Drop a line in the comment box and let everyone know.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bargain bin shopping for the 2011 Nationals

Another year, another offseason of broken promises.

Life can be rough as a Nationals fan; the product is often bad, and hopes of an emergence into the national consciousness seems distant and unattainable.

Fear not loyal reader, for we here at FLOTN have scoured the 2010-2011 free agent market and have come up with a pitcher that will not only block the Luis Atilano’s and Garrett Mock’s of the world from ever pitching again as a National, but also drag the Nationals precious steps closer to the ever important appearance of respectability.

Much like a yard sale, free agency is filled with great bargains and lots and lots of junk. Like a skilled shopper, it is the job of the GM (Mike Rizzo) to sift through the clothes racks and record piles (FA list) and figure out what is worth spending money on (Starting Pitching projects), and what is shiny, but ultimately useless (Carlos Pena).

To make matters easier on Mike Rizzo, FLOTN has picked out the one diamond in the rough that could provide an enormous amount of return on the Nationals small investment. Like an old painting that just needs a new frame, this pitcher just need a little TLC, and he’ll be good as new.

For Love of the Nationals presents to you, Aaron Harang.

Harang, the 32 year old former ace of the Cincinnati Reds, had a terrible year in 2010. Harang saw a sharp rise in ERA, WHIP and BB’s and a decline in K’s. Basically, he looked nothing like the pitcher the Reds has seen for years and years. Having said that, Harang is exactly the type of pitcher the Nationals desperately need; a former ace with a chip on his shoulder who is in-line for a serious regression to the statistical norm.

In 2010, Harang saw a huge drop in two categories, Zone % (number of pitches, regardless of it being a strike or ball that were inside the strike zone) and LOB% (number of runners that were left on base, either by his own doing, or with help from the bullpen).

Pitchers lose command of the strike zone all the time, it happens, but in most cases it is correctable. That is what the Nats have to bank on if they take a chance with Harang. In 2010, Harang only managed to find the strike zone a miniscule 43.6% of the time, this, coming off a 2009 season where he found the strike zone 52.1% of the time. Compare the 43.6% with his career rate of 53.8% (including 2010) and you realize that 2010 is more of an aberration that anything. If the Nationals believe that Steve McCatty is worth his salt as a pitching coach, they should have no problem signing Harang on an incentive laden deal. Surely McCatty and Rizzo can see that Harang is throwing as hard as ever (90.5 in 2010 – 90.2 career) and still getting solid swinging strike rates (8.1% in 2010), and realize that the only thing that needs fixing is his once pinpoint control. While control was one problem Harang had in 2010, bad luck with runners on base was another.

Harang’s LOB% of 69.4% was the lowest of his career since 2003. In fact, since 2003, Harang never had a season where he didn’t strand at least 73% of the runners he allowed on base. To give some perspective, the average MLB strand rate in 2010 was 72.2%. Some of the runners scoring can be blamed on Harang, but just as much blame goes to the relievers brought in to put out any problems Harang started. In 2010, the Reds were ineffective, coming to the Nats; Harang would be dealing with a stout bullpen full of pitchers experienced in dealing with tight situations on a daily basis.

Now that his flaws are out in the open, let’s take a look at what makes Harang attractive, and clearly the best bargain of 2011.

To put it in simple terms, Harang misses bats; Nationals starting pitching does not. Since 2009, the Nationals have finished dead last in the NL in swinging strike percentage among starting pitchers. Finishing at 6.5% in 2009 and 6.7% in 2010 (Strasburg effect), Harang’s career mark of 9.7% (never lower than 8.1%) is a massive upgrade over the ‘pitch to contact’ pitchers that the Nationals employ 1-5 in their rotation. If the Nationals could snag a pitcher that actually helps the team on his own, and doesn’t rely on his fielders to do all the work, imagine the success he could have.

Aaron Harang, and to a lesser extent, Jordan Zimmermann, could be those guys.

So, there it is; sign Aaron Harang, call up Steve McCatty and get working on finding the strike zone. You get Harang’s accuracy in check; you get a bona fide ace. Simple as that.

If only finding bargains at yard sales were so easy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving thanks to the 2010 Washington Nationals

2010 was not a good year for the Washington Nationals. Then again, neither was 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009.

When things could go wrong, they did go wrong. Strasburg debuted, and then blew out his elbow. The Nats played .500 ball for the first couple months and then looked as if they forgot how to play the game the rest of the year. Progress was slow, and often times unrecognizable to the average fan. With the bad times, though, one learns how to savior the good times.

While 2010 had few moments to reflect on positively, there were some, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving lets take a look back and give thanks to those that gave us a reason to cheer in 2010.

Ryan Zimmerman – So this is what the career of a Hall of Famer looks like. Blessed with amazing talent and an innate ability to produce in the clutch, Zimmerman gives Nationals fans plenty to be thankful for. Whether it is his breathtaking defense or his clutch walk off hits, Zimmerman makes fans proud of the downtrodden franchise.

Livan Hernandez – What really can be said about Livo? Working with a fastball that would have most pitchers collecting unemployment, Hernandez survives on guile, location and a curveball so slow, that major league hitters are reduced to temper tantrums as they continually swing and miss.

Adam Dunn – The ever smiling left handed slugger has been the cog in the Nationals order the past two seasons. Posting 76 HR and 208 RBI in two years, Dunn always gave fans in the bleachers hope that they might walk away with a souvenir.

Michael Morse – Show of hands, how many saw Morse having the year he had in 2010? Bursting onto the scene, first as a pinch hitter and then as an everyday Right Fielder, Morse flashed power and a high average. While Morse does not have a set position going into 2011, Nats fans will hope they’ll be giving thanks for another remarkable season from the former SS.

Tyler Clippard – The goggled one took a big leap forward in 2010. Thanks to a quirky delivery, devastating changeup and a magically ‘rising’ fastball, Clippard put up an outstanding 11.08 K/9 rate all the while lowering his walk rate.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wil Nieves already hurting the 2011 Washington Nationals

We're a good 100+ days away from the start of the 2011 season, and Wil Nieves has already hurt the Washington Nationals.

Currently, the Nationals 40 man roster is full. Since the roster space is finite, including Nieves as one of the 40 is a mistake the Nationals have already come to regret.

Yesterday, all 30 MLB teams had to add eligible minor league players to their 40 man roster or risk them being exposed to the Rule V draft. The Nationals chose to add 1B Chris Marrero, RHP Adam Carr and RHP Cole Kimball. Missing from that list, is 2009 Washington Nationals Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Brad Meyers.

Meyers, who was held to six starts in 2010 due to a foot injury and subsequent allergic reaction to the screws inserted into the foot. What Meyers accomplished in 2010 should not be overlooked. In those six starts in AA, Meyers posted a 1.47 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP, and 35 K's in just 30.2 IP.

Now, on December 5, Meyers will be exposed to 29 other teams in the draft; all the while, Nieves a player who has accrued a -0.8 WAR over his career will comfortably keep a roster space he simply does not deserve.

Quite honestly, there's just not much to like about Nieves. He's at best an average defensive catcher, and to be frank, Nieves cannot hit. As his -0.8 WAR points out, even a replacement player is more deserving of a roster spot than Nieves.

In short, Nieves is a fungible asset. His potential has been reached, and, at best, he grades out as one of the worst players in the major leagues; at worst, he is the worst player in the majors.

When it comes to roster flexibility, Nieves should be the player that gets removed first. Instead, the Nationals decided to remove 23 year old RHP Juan Jaime and put him on waivers.

Immediately, Jaime was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Jaime, who missed all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery is exactly the type of player you stash at the bottom of the 40 man roster. Averaging over 9 K/9 in his career, Jaime is a power arm that the Nationals lack among their pitching prospects.

The Arizona Diamondbacks realize that potential is more important than protecting a player that over his career, is worse than a replacement player. By not protecting Brad Meyers or Juan Jaime, the Nationals have shown they do not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

FLOTN has made the small time!

Logged in this morning to find that a spam bot left comments on a couple of post.

Is it safe to say that FLOTN has finally reached the small time? Is receiving Spam the first sign that a website is finally getting noticed? Should getting spam comments get me this excited?

Either way, the comments have been removed and everything is back to normal.

Have a great Friday everyone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time for the Nationals to move Willingham

Today, Fangraphs ran an article talking about the desperate need of the Los Angeles Dodgers to secure an LF’er for 2010 and beyond. Josh Willingham needs to be that man.

“Hammer” as he’s known around Nats Town, is a really good guy. He’s also a really good hitter, when healthy. The problem with Josh, though, is his inability to stay healthy for long periods of time.

Willingham has made it known that he would prefer a long term deal with the Nationals; unfortunately, long term deals for guys heading into the wrong side of 30 and who are also injury prone are few and far between. Instead of waiting till the deadline to move Willingham, the Nationals should explore all avenues currently available to them. Of course, I'm not suggesting you trade Hammer for a bucket of baseballs, but, if the right deal comes along, why wait till the July trade deadline to get it done?

When the market is providing inefficiencies, you exploit it. Had the Baltimore Orioles traded Ty Wigginton when he was in the midst of a career year in May, and when the trade market was the shallowest, the Orioles could have made a killing. Instead, they overplayed their hand with Wigginton and ended up having to hold on to the 33 year old journey man when the market for below average hitters dried up.

Josh Willingham is a better player than Ty Wigginton, make no mistake about it, but the Nationals need to use Wigginton as an example of what can go wrong if you wait too long to trade away a moveable asset.

The Dodgers, for their part, are known for trading away great young talent for mediocre returns. Imagine what they might pay the Nationals for Willingham. If Casey Blake brings the Indians catching sensation Carlos Santana, what could Hammer bring back to the Nats?

With the Dodgers owners currently fighting it out in divorce court, one thing the team cannot afford to do is take on a lot of salary; one way of avoiding salary for big name players is by paying in prospects.

History of overpaying for MLB talent + the need to avoid adding large amounts of money to the payroll = a potentially huge haul for Willingham, an OF’er that is currently only under contract for one more year and more than likely will have hit his decline by the time the Nationals are ready to compete for a pennant.

If Mike Rizzo is serious about building an organization that can sustain success for many years, and not just fielding a somewhat competitive MLB club to appease the masses in 2011, Josh Willingham has to be a name that he brings up to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An open letter to Dave Sheinin

Dear Mr. Sheinin,

Today I was reading Nationals Journal in hopes of seeing news that Ryan Zimmerman had been awarded his second straight Gold Glove. To my surprise, it was announced that Scott Rolen won his eighth Gold Glove instead. In your breakdown of Rolen being awarded the Gold Glove, you said that Adam Dunn was partially to blame for Zimmerman not repeating;

"Although Zimmerman's fielding percentage was down 12 points this year (from .963 to .951), that drop is at least partly explained by the presence this season of Adan Dunn, a below-average defender, as the everyday first baseman -- which, presumably, meant fewer of Zimmerman's errant throws were saved."

I question if you took the time to actually look into whether Dunn was 'partially' to blame for Zimmerman's error woes, or, if you saw an easy target such as Adam Dunn and decided it would fit into your article better?

Since I did not want to be accused of not doing my homework, I decided to go back through the game logs of the 2010 season and check out just how many errors by Zimmerman that Adam Dunn was 'partially' responsible for. To aid in my research, I loaded up MLB.tv and re-watched every play that Zimmerman was credited with an error.

Here are my findings...

In 2010, Zimmerman committed 17 errors (six fielding, 11 throwing), of those 11, two were balls thrown away at 2B, immediately removing Dunn from the equation. Of the nine remaining errors, it is by my count that Dunn was 'partially' responsible for three of Zimmerman's throwing errors. So, in total, Adam Dunn was 'partially' responsible for 17.7% of Ryan Zimmerman's error total in 2010.

Below is a list of all 11 of Ryan Zimmerman's throwing errors. If you would like to re-check my work, I have listed the date, inning and batter of each error with a brief description to make your research project easier. The plays I believe Dunn is partially/fully responsible for Zimmerman's error are listed in bold.

1 - May 6 (8th inning - Melky Cabrera batting - Sharp ground ball to third, Zimmerman spins and throws into outfield on force attempt at 2B)

2 - May 6 (9th inning - Troy Glaus batting - Hard ground ball, jump throw to 2B that Alberto Gonzales can't handle.

3 - May 19 (1st inning - Jason Bay batting - Tough hop, solid throw that pulled Dunn off the base even though he was in full stretch)

4 - June 5 (1st inning - Orlando Cabrera batting - Easy chopper. Throw near RF that pulls Dunn well off bag. Nats PBP man Bob Carpenter remarks "Zimmerman's throw is 10 feet off-line"

5 - June 18 (11th inning - Alexi Rios batting - Hard ground ball down line. Throw high... hits Dunn well over his head. Bad throw, and one that shorter 1B can't even reach... but Dunn could have caught it.

6 - July 18 (8th inning - Dan Uggla batting - Thrown far off course near nats bullpen in RF.

7 - July 20 (5th inning - Corky Miller batting - Diving stop by Zimmerman. Skips throw to 1st. Dunn should have caught.

8 - August 11 (3rd inning - Gaby Sanchez batting - Rainbow throw... off top of Dunn's glove. Mostly catchable. Dunn's fault.

9 - August 25 (1st inning - Marlon Byrd batting - Rainbow throw. Dunn has to jump to catch, saves ball from going into stands. "Zimmerman launches a throw" according to Bob Carpenter.

10 - September 17 (4th inning - Roy Oswalt batting - Thrown well off the line into right field.

11 - September 19 (1st inning - Chase Utley batting - Weak grounder. throw hits Utley in the back going down the 1st base line.

As you can see, I put a decent amount of time and effort into my research. I believe that Washington Nationals fans deserve as much. I also believe that professional writers such as yourself and William 'Bill' Ladson should put forth as much effort when writing your articles.

Why you chose Adam Dunn as your target for Ryan Zimmerman's gold glove loss, I cannot say. Maybe it is because you, Ladson, and countless others that write about baseball for a living see Adam Dunn for what you want him to be. Bumbling, slow and incompetent. Maybe it had nothing to do with Dunn's reputation; maybe you needed a convenient fall guy for Zimmerman's drop in fielding percentage. Whatever the case, Dunn as the fall man for Zimmerman's award snub was unwarranted and a below the belt parting shot.

It has been my experience as a fan, and as a follower of many great sports journalist of the past, that what is written in newspapers or in online editorials is often taken as gospel by the masses; with that in mind, I simply ask that the next time you look to lay blame on a player for someone elses struggles, you do the proper amount of research ahead of time.

Ryan Zimmerman unfairly lost to Scott Rolen for the 2010 NL Gold Glove at Third Base. I think we can all agree to that. What I cannot agree with, nor will I ever agree with is the bastardization of facts and statistics to fit ones agenda. I'd hate to see Nationals Journal fall into that trap.

By the way, in 2009, Ryan Zimmerman had 13 throwing errors with Dunn playing less than half a year at First Base. As you no doubt have already noticed, that is two more throwing errors than he had in 2010.

Errors didn't keep Zimmerman from winning the 2010 Gold Glove, the reputation of Scott Rolen did. I think it's high time for you, Ladson, and other writers to re-examine the reputation of Adam Dunn as a terrible defender. Reputations are often deserved, but, in the cases of Rolen and Dunn, there's more than meets the eye.


David Lint

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Brothers Eckstein to be reunited in DC?

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)

Yesterday, the Nationals declined the 2011 mutual option on 2B Adam Kennedy.

Kennedy, who was signed to a two year deal before the 2010 season had a rocky relationship with the Nats from the start. Thanks to the emergence of SS Ian Desmond, Kennedy was forced into a platoon role with Desmond and fellow middle infielder Cristian Guzman.

When you have three players for two spots, in the end, someone is going to be on the outside looking in, and for the Nats, that person was Adam Kennedy. Coming off a 2009 where Kennedy saw a career revival, the Nats brought him in to strengthen what was a position of need for the past few seasons. Due to a lack of playing time, Kennedy was never able to get on track in 2010 and had a down year at the plate hitting .249 with only a .327 OBP. By the time Guzman was traded in August, it was too late for Kennedy, as the Nats quickly brought up infield prospect Danny Espinosa.

Now that we know Kennedy will no longer be apart of the roster in 2011, the question now turns to who will take his spot? While there are a couple of options out there that make sense, don’t be surprised if the Nationals target free agent David Eckstein, Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein's younger brother.

Eckstein, noted for his scrappy play and work ethic is just the type of player Mike Rizzo covets. His lack of production on the field be damned, his intangibles are the type that old school baseball men like Rizzo go gaga over.

Is Eckstein the best course of action for a Nationals squad that by all accounts won’t compete in 2011? Probably not. Will he provide Debbi Taylor and the Nats press corps plenty of puff piece brother stories? Absolutely.

Intangibles + middling name value + “Winner” tag = Pay check from the 2011 Washington Nationals.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No Coco for the Nats in 2011

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Coco Crisp will not be a part of the Washington Nationals 2011 OF.

Today, Crisp announced via his Twitter account that the Oakland A’s had picked up his option for the 2011 season.

Coco_Crisp I'm happy, I just found out today that the A's are picking up my option for 2011.

Crisp, a switching hitting CF’er would have been very tempting for the Nationals; he gets on-base at a decent clip (.344 in 2008, .342 in 2010), plays stellar defense (73.7 UZR – Career) and uses his speed (32 SB’s in 2010) appropriately (3 CS in 2010).

Besides losing out on a great nickname, the Nats will also miss out on what would have been one of the top OF’ers available in the 2010-2011 FA class.

Now that the talent pool has been thinned a bit, it will be interesting to see where Mike Rizzo turns for that extra OF bat. Do the Nats pony up the money it will take to sign a Jayson Werth or a Carl Crawford, or will they go dumpster diving and hope they can fix the approach of someone like Rick Ankiel?

Only time will tell. So pull a chair up to the stove and get comfy, things are about to get hot, and in a hurry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jon Garland - The man the Nationals must avoid

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Earlier today, Jon Garland declined his mutual option with the San Diego Padres thus making him one of the top free agents in the 2011 class. Coming off a career year, the 30 year old is looking to cash in on one more long term contract; the Washington Nationals cannot be the team to give it to him.

In 2010, Garland was an impressive 14-12 with a 3.57 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 136 strike outs in 200 IP.

Dig a bit deeper though, and you will see that Garland is not all that he is cracked up to be.

When you think of Jon Garland, try to think of him as two different pitchers; Garland Home that starts his home games at Petco Park, and Garland Away, that starts everywhere else.

Garland Home - 7-5, 3.00 ERA, 0.75 HR/9, 6.25 K/9
Garland Away - 7-7, 4.01 ERA, 1.08 HR/9, 5.97 K/9

As with any hurler that pitches the majority of his games in Petco, Garland benefits from pitching in the ultimate pitching paradise. Thanks to its spacious dimensions Petco turns bad pitchers into average ones, average ones into good ones and good ones into great ones.

This is not to say that Jon Garland is a bad pitcher; he isn't. In-fact, Garland would be an upgrade over nearly all of the current rotation hopefuls the Nationals will bring to Vierra. The concern with Garland is the fact that his flashy numbers may earn him a long term contract at a dollar amount he does not deserve nor will he ever be able to meet in on-field performance.

Mike Rizzo made a mistake in bringing in Jason Marquis in the 2009-2010 offseason. Rizzo, incorrectly, paid Marquis as if he believed he was a top of the rotation starter. He was not, and the Nats paid dearly for that mistake.

Flash forward to the 2010-2011 offseason and Rizzo is back at the drawing board looking for a way to help bolster the rotation. Rizzo has mentioned numerous times that he wants to land a top of the rotation arm, and that he's willing to pay handsomely or trade away prospects to make that happen. To the untrained eye, Jon Garland seems to fit that description. Unless the Nationals also buy Petco Park and ship it to DC, it would be to the Nationals detriment to follow through on granting Garland that last big contract.

Adam LaRoche - Washington Nationals 1B in 2011?

Antonelli/New York Daily News

Rumors out of Arizona are swirling that the Diamondbacks are planning to decline Adam LaRoche’s mutual option for 2011. LaRoche, a 1B, is likely to be one of the options Mike Rizzo and the brain trust look at to replace Adam Dunn next year. While many question Rizzo on letting Dunn walk, this article is written with the premise that Dunn will leave in 2011 and that the Nationals will need a new 1B. While I do not support Rizzo’s decision, life moves on, and so do the options that may 1B, next year.

Adam LaRoche is a 30 year old left handed First Basemen who spent six full years and parts of one more in the majors putting up remarkably consistent numbers. A career .271/.339/.488 hitter, LaRoche is neither a massive power hitter nor a skilled craftsman of strike zone judgment. What LaRoche is, though, is a hitter that will hold his own in the 4-5 spot and provide some defensive stability at a position, as misguided as it may be, that Mike Rizzo seems to think needs upgrading.


- LaRoche is what he is, he’s going to hit around .270, pop about 25 HR’s and give you close to 100 RBI’s.

- LaRoche stays healthy. In the last five years, LaRoche has played 145 games or more four times.

- LaRoche is adequate on the defensive side of things. While his career UZR is -15.9, his UZR/150 (measuring average defensive output over 150 games) is only -2.6. Not great, but passable.

- LaRoche is going to come cheap. By cheap, I mean less than $10 million a year. If there is anything Mike Rizzo values over defense, it’s saving money.


- LaRoche is not an ideal replacement for Dunn. If you add another bat to go with LaRoche, you may come out ahead, but a LaRoche for Dunn swap is a net loss for the Nationals.

- LaRoche does NOT hit in the first half of the year. He’s so bad; he might as well take the first half off. For his career LaRoche is a .252 hitter the first half of the year and a .295 hitter the second half.

- LaRoche is not a massive upgrade with the glove over Dunn. While Dunn carries a reputation as a bad fielder, the numbers do not support this (-3.3 UZR/150 in 2010). LaRoche is mediocre in the field, just like most 1B.


Adam LaRoche is a fine baseball player. He goes about his business without stirring the pot and gives an honest effort every game. He’s not going to be a superstar and most likely he’s not going to fall apart. As the only replacement for Adam Dunn, he does not offer the Nationals value; add in a bat or an extra arm thanks to his lower contract and the Nationals may end up a better team in 2011 by letting Dunn walk. One has to wonder though if General Manager Mike Rizzo is looking to make multiple moves this offseason, or if he’s content to stay the course and let what’s left of the young talent develop at the major league level.

Adam LaRoche is no Adam Dunn. My preference will always be to re-sign Dunn, but, if Rizzo is dead set against making that happen, LaRoche gets my endorsement as the best option available to fill Dunn’s considerable absence.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Live blog - World Series Game 5

I'll be running a live blog for World Series Game 5 commenting as things happen.

Feel free to leave comments below.

8:13 p.m. -- We're through one inning at the Ballpark in Arlington. Goose eggs so far.

8:14 p.m. -- Lee's curveball is much sharper tonight than Game 1. Solid bite.

8:18 p.m. -- After falling behind 3-0, Lee battles back to get Burrell to line out to LF'er David Murphy. Through one and one half innings, the score remains 0-0.

8:27 p.m. -- Apparently both teams think it's best to swing early and often against Lee and Lincecum tonight. Can't say I blame them.

8:38 p.m. -- Lincecum no longer perfect. Walk to Moreland.

8:39 p.m. -- Andrus whiffs to end the third. Through three, still 0-0.

8:50 p.m. -- Lee gets through the fourth inning unscathed after a lengthy battle with Posey. Rangers are still looking for their first hit of the night.

9:04 p.m. -- Huff with a high chopper to Kinsler, perfect throw but Moreland drops it for the error. Could be a huge break for the Giants.

9:09 p.m. -- 6-4-3, Lee gets Renteria to ground softly into the inning ending double play. The error on Moreland ends up not hurting the Rangers.

9:14 p.m. -- For a catcher, you'd expect Molina to have better strike zone judgement than he has. Two terrible at-bats for Bengie. 0-0 through five innings.

9:18 p.m. -- Rowand has the most uncomfortable batting stance I've ever seen. My knees would be shot if I tried standing like that for any length of time.

9:29 p.m. -- Lincecum isn't "The Freak", he's a machine.

9:36 p.m. -- Lee getting into some trouble with back to back singles from Cody Ross and Juan Uribe. Two men on, no outs.

9:44 p.m. -- I really don't like Edgar Renteria. First the Indians in 1997, now a three run home run off Lee tonight. 3-0 Giants as we go to the Bottom of the 7th.

9:52 p.m. -- Life in Texas, yet? Cruz takes Lincecum deep to make it Giants 3 - Rangers 1. Rally Claw time?

9:55 p.m. -- Lincecum looks a bit rattled after the Cruz home run. Just walked Kinsler. David Murphy is stepping to the plate.

9:57 p.m. -- Murphy K's on a huge pitch from Timmy. This kid can pitch.

10:09 p.m. -- Neftali Feliz is now pitching for the Rangers and works around a two out single to hold the Giants at bay. Heading into the Bottom of the Eighth, Giants 3 - Rangers 1.

10:15 p.m. -- Three outs to go for the Giants to wrap up the World Series. Lee was good, Lincecum has been fantastic.

10:22 p.m. -- Feliz gets Burrell to strike out to end the Top of the Ninth. Three more outs till the Giants with the World Series, or, we head on to Game Six in San Francisco.

10:25 p.m. -- On comes Mr. Fake Beard, Brian Wilson. Fastball/Slider guy. Nasty pitcher, nasty beard.

10:27 p.m. -- Fastball down the middle for strike three on Hamilton. Two outs to go for the Giants to win the World Series.

10:28 p.m. -- Make that one out to go.

10:29 p.m. -- Fastball at 96 MPH. One strike left.

10:30 p.m. -- There it is! On an inside slider on a 3-2 count, Wilson gets Cruz swinging for the Giants first World Series since 1954. Congratulations San Francisco Giants, you've earned it!

Thanks for taking the time to read my live blog.

Madison Bumgarner: What could have been

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Madison Bumgarner just became the fourth youngest pitcher in Major League history to start and win a World Series game. Bumgarner, who went eight shutout innings against one of the best offenses in baseball, was the 10th pick in the 2007 draft, four picks after the Nationals selected Ross Detwiler.

Drafting, as we know, is an inexact science. Some players peak at an early age, some develop late, and some never at all. Bumgarner seems to be just beginning to tap into his potential. Detwiler? Well, he's looking like another bust in a long line of failures from former GM Jim Bowden.

It's not hard to imagine Bumgarner in a Nationals uniform; a young lefty, just beginning to understand his massive potential as he forms a potent 1-2-3 punch at the top of the rotation with the likes of Strasburg and Zimmermann. But alas, that was not meant to be. Detwiler, who I'm sure the Nationals expected to be what Bumgarner has become, has been nothing short of a disappointment. Outside of a few good starts to end 2009, Detwiler has shown nothing to make fans, or the front office, believe he will be anything more than a pitcher that has a hard time sticking on a 25 man roster.

When you compare the two lefties, the numbers are not close.

Bumgarner - 22 G, 19 GS - 7-6, 2.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 3.31 K/BB

Detwiler - 24 G, 19 GS - 2-9, 4.74 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 5.2 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 1.30 K/BB

In short, there is nothing Ross Detwiler does that is better than Madison Bumgarner.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but, in regards to Detwiler v. Bumgarner, the result is clear.

Madison Bumgarner should have been the Washington Nationals first round pick in 2007. You won't find anyone that disagrees.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Espinosa off to slow start in Puerto Rico

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Danny Espinosa is off to a slow start in his stint with Leones de Ponce of the Puerto Rico Baseball League.

Through four games, Espinosa is 4/17 with no extra base hits or walks, giving him a perfect stat line of .235/.235/.235

It was reported by Byron Kerr that Espinosa choose to play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico due to the high doses of breaking balls he'd see from the pitchers; so far, Danny is getting a first hand lesson in how hard breaking balls can be to hit.

Through 17 at bats, Espinosa has already struck out six times, or 35% of his at-bats. Strike outs, of course, are nothing new for the explosive infielder, as Espinosa posted 30 in just 103 major league at-bats in 2010. If an education in breaking balls is what Danny was seeking, he certainly has found it in Puerto Rico.

While struggles through a small number of at-bats is nothing to get too worked up about, something that may pique the interest of Nationals fans is the fact that Espinosa has played exclusively at SS for Ponce, so far.

Is Espinosa playing SS, and not 2B in Winter Ball a sign of things to come for the Washington Nationals, or is it a function of roster size and who's capable of playing what position for Leones?

If Espinosa is playing SS because the Nationals have asked him to, one has to wonder about the future of current SS Ian Desmond. Is a position switch in the works for the two young infielders, or is Mike Rizzo possibly working on a trade that involves Desmond or Espinosa?

Only time will tell, but the situation is definitely worth keeping an eye on moving forward this winter.

- - - -

Danny Espinosa isn't the only National talking part in Winter Ball; Pat Listach, the Nationals Third Base Coach is managing the club while 1B Chris Marrero and pitchers Jeff Mandel, Patrick McCoy, Hassan Pena and Cory VanAllen are also part of the roster.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Here's to you, class of 2006

"Vroom-Vroom... I look so stylish on my tricked out Segway!"

Bustling around to-and-fro today, I started to think about the future plans of Mike Rizzo and what he might have in-store for the Washington Nationals during the 2010-2011 Hot Stove season.

Picturing Cliff Lee donning the newest Nationals jersey, I dreamed of a future that involved shut out after shut out, clutch hit after clutch hit from Zimmerman and Dunn; I dreamed a winner.

Alas, I was awoken from my peaceful state with the harsh realities of what may lie ahead. The Nationals are heading into the offseason facing the prospects of losing their second best hitter (Dunn), a year without their ace in the making (Strasburg) and a collection of talent that is solid, but aging (Willingham, etc.) or younger guys that may never be more than your everyday AAAA type (Bernadina, et. al).

In a sheer panic, I raced to my favorite destination on the internet, Baseball Reference, and looked to find some answers as to why the Nationals were in the unenviable position they currently reside.

To my surprise, or lack their of, I was able to determine in just a few minutes of research that the Nationals "are who we thought they were" because, until recently, they have failed to produce talent through the annual MLB draft.

No year is more damning evidence of the Nationals failures in the drafting process than to take a look back to the draft class of 2006.

To date, the Nationals are the only team to have not produced a single major leaguer from the 2006 draft class. There is incompetence, and then there is the 2006 Washington Nationals draft class.

The class reads like a who's who of failed former prospects, and high school busts. Taking a look at the first 10 rounds, this is the motley crew that awaits.

1.15 - OF - Chris Marrero
1.22 - RHP - Colton Willems
2.15 - RHP - Sean Black
2.26 - OF/RHP - Stephen Englund
3.15 - SS - Stephen King
4.15 - LHP - Glenn Gibson
5.15 - LHP - Cory VanAllen
6.15 - RHP - Zechry Zinicola
7.15 - RHP - Samuel Brown
8.15 - C - Sean Rooney
9.15 - LHP - Joey Rosas
10.15 - RHP - Marcus Salmon

Beautiful, is it not?

From those first 11 picks,

- Four did not sign (Black, Brown, Rosas, Salmon)
- Three are in AA (Marrero, Zinicola, VanAllen)
- One is in A ball (Rooney)
- One is in low A (King)
- One is in Short Season ball (Gibson)
- One has been released (Englund)

And finally, Colton Willems the 22nd pick in the draft, and he of the $1,450,000 signing bonus, has already retired.

Retired millionaire at the age of 21, must be nice.

And who might be responsible for such a deluge of talent you ask?

Well, it's our good friend Jim Bowden. The less said about Mr. Bowden, the better.

Now that the bad news is out of the way, is there any hope that members of the class of 2006 may eventually find their way to the bright lights of "The Show"?

Why, yes, yes there is.

1st round pick, 1B Chris Marrero - For all his warts, Marrero is looking like a player that may eventually carve out a role on an American League team as part time DH/1B.

12th round pick, RHP Cole Kimball - Kimball, a hard throwing righty, was recently clocked at 97 MPH in an appearance in the Arizona Fall League.

18th round pick, RHP Adam Carr - currently participating in the Arizona Fall League. Average relief prospect that will likely find his way to the back of a major league bullpen in the coming years.

33rd round pick, 1B Tyler Moore* - Put on the map thanks in large part to a Jose Bautista-esque second half to the 2010 season to claim the Carolina League Hitter of the Year award. Moore, already 23, must prove in 2011 that the second half of 2010 was more than just a fluke.
* - Moore did not sign with Nats in 2006, but was drafted again by Nats in 2008 as 16th round pick.

41st round pick, RHP Brad Peacock - Broke onto the scene this year by cruising through A ball and holding his own in AA. Currently, Peacock can be found dominating hitters in the prospect rich Arizona Fall League.

- - -

So, when you start to fret about the latest rumors of Mike Rizzo signing a high priced, past his prime free agent, or his desire to keep the current outfield rotation intact, remember this; no matter how bad things get, nothing will compare to the disaster that was the 2006 Washington Nationals draft class.

Here's to you Class of 2006, your level of futility will never be matched again.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Matt Murton, Where Art thou?

Does anyone have the phone number for Matt Murton? If you do, could you give it to Mike Rizzo?

Murton, a 29 year old, just recently set the single season hit record in Japan by posting
214 hits, the previous record of 210 hits was held by none other than Ichiro.

Matt Murton was once a highly thought of prospects; drafted in the 1st round by the Boston Red Sox in 2003, Murton was then traded along with
Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs on July 31, 2004. Seeking a chance at every day playing time, Murton posted a .296/.365/.455/.820 OPS in 830 at bats from 2005-2007. Those numbers, while perfectly acceptable for a starting OF’er were not enough to keep Murton in the majors, or, in the Cubs organization.

In 2008, Murton was traded to the Oakland A’s as part of a six player deal. Murton’s stay in Oakland was brief as he was traded in the 2008-2009 offseason to the Colorado Rockies. Not content to rest on his above average MLB numbers, Murton proved his worth by hitting .324/.389/.499/.888 in 373 AB’s at Colorado Springs, the Rockies AAA ball club.

How did the Rockies re-pay him? They released him in December of 2009 to let Murton pursue a career overseas as a member of the
Hanshin Tigers of the Nippon Professional Baseball league. As previously mentioned, Murton, just like he has done at every other stop, hit the cover off the ball posting a monster .349 AVG with a .894 OPS.

So, how does a guy like Matt Murton constantly get overlooked by scouts and GM’s alike? The simple answer is, he doesn’t hit for power. In 952 career AB’s, Murton has only posted 29 HR’s, or, a HR every 33 at-bats. If you put Murton’s numbers through a 162 game season, he’s going to hit about 12-15 HR’s. Not ideal for a guy that’s a corner OF’er.

What Murton lacks in power, he makes up for in an otherwise solid skill set. Murton can hit for AVG (career - .289), has a solid eye (career - 8.8 BB%) and he plays a very good defensive OF as seen by his
career 25.8 UZR and 16.7 UZR/150.

Murton is the perfect fit for what Mike Rizzo looks for in a player. He’s a solid hitter, he plays above average defense, and, he shouldn’t cost a ton to lure back stateside with a promise of a job in RF heading into 2011. Most certainly Murton would not cost as much to bring back to the majors than someone like
Yunesky Maya who signed a 4 year, 8 million dollar deal with the Nationals this past July.

Matt Murton never got a fair shot at everyday playing time in America; it’s time Mike Rizzo gave him one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The beginning of the end of Mike Rizzo?

News continues to swirl out of the nation’s capitol that the Nationals are just smitten with Tampa Bay Rays 1B Carlos Pena. With the impending free agency of current 1B Adam Dunn, the Nationals are apparently looking to upgrade their defense at the least defensive intensive position on the field. (yeah, I don’t get it either).

Over the past three seasons, Dunn has performed as a slugger should, he mashes the ball, gets on base and drives in runs. Since 2008, Dunn is third in baseball in HR’s (116), second in walks (315) and ninth in RBI’s (308).

The problem Rizzo has with Dunn, according to those in the know, is his belief (incorrect as it may be) that Dunn is nothing but a statue at 1B who somehow, through magical powers cost the Nationals more runs a game with his defense than the runs he produces with his bat. Clearly, this is a silly notion, but it’s one that is held by Rizzo. While the Nationals won’t change GM’s (yet) they are apparently interested at the idea in bringing in Carlos Pena, a guy that is two years older than Dunn, already on the decline physically, can’t hit, and is of questionable repute in the field… basically, the perfect Mike Rizzo player; cheap and trending downward. (See Kennedy, Adam and Rodriguez, Ivan)

Since Pena’s career year in 2007 when he hit .282 with 46 HR’s and 121 RBI’s, Pena has been on a sharp decline. In 2008, Pena hit .247 while Slugging .133 points lower than he did in 2007. In 2009, Pena’s average slipped to .227, a full .055 points lower than his career high in 2007. In 2010, the wheels fell off for the 32 year old. For the year, Pena hit a whopping .196 with 28 HR’s and a SLG% of .407. To put in perspective how massive the drop has been for Pena, his 2007 OPS, which was 1.037 was .305 points higher than his 2010 OPS of .732, the difference in OPS nearly equals his OBP for 2010 of .323.

Dunn, on the other hand, continues to trudge along putting up season after season of stats that most hitters can only dream of. Since 2007, Dunn has hit .257/.382/.533/.915, with 156 HR’s and 414 RBI’s. Pena? .238/.368/.516/.884. The disparity between the two only grows the further you get away from 2007.

Dunn - .236/.386/.513/.898
Pena - .247/.377/.494/.871
Advantage – Dunn

Dunn - .267/.398/.529/.928
Pena - .227/.356/.537/.893
Advantage - Dunn

Dunn - .260/.356/.536/.892
Pena - .196/.325/.407/.732
Advantage – Dunn

Clearly, it is impossible not to understand the massive difference in offensive skill sets the two possess.

The question is not whether Carlos Pena is a better hitter than Dunn, because he is not. Nor is the question whether Adam Dunn is a better fielder than Pena, because he is not. No, the multi million dollar question is this; does the upgrade Carlos Pena brings in the field over Adam Dunn make up for Dunn’s advantage at the plate?

Quite obviously the answer is a resounding NO.

For all the talk of Pena being this great fielder, where’s the proof? In his eight years at 1B, Pena rates out as a below average 1B, just like Dunn. There is not one defensive metric that you can find that says Carlos Pena is above average. Pena sports a negative DRS (-3), UZR (-16.2) and TZ (-45) score. If you break his numbers down into what is an average year for Pena in the field, you come up with following results:

Pena -.375 DRS/Year
Pena -2.7 UZR/150
Pena -5 TZ/Year

As you can see, while none of the systems totally agree with the value of Pena in the field, they all cast him as a negative net fielder in the range of -1 to -5 runs a year. Eight years of data cannot be explained away as statistical flukes. The fact of the matter is, for all the talk of wanting to bring Pena in to shore up the defense, he’s still a below average 1B just like Dunn. Factor in the massive difference in their offensive capabilities and it’s enough to cause one fits of intense anger.

For comparisons sake, Dunn’s stats after one and a half years at 1B are as follows;

Dunn -13 DRS/Year
Dunn -8.7 UZR/150
Dunn -7 TZ/Year

Those numbers drastically change if you only factor in 2010, where Dunn played 1B full time, for the first time in his career and had an offseason to practice;

Dunn -8 DRS (2010)
Dunn -3.1UZR (2010)
Dunn N/A TZ (2010 – Numbers haven’t been released yet, but judging on the drop of 5 runs for both DRS and UZR, we can guess that Dunn’s TZ would be -2 for 2010)

As you can see, at most the difference between Dunn and Pena is less than anyone with an agenda a mile long would have you believe.

Adam Dunn is vastly superior to Carlos Pena at the plate. Carlos Pena is a slight upgrade to Adam Dunn in the field. Overall, Adam Dunn is the better player.

If there’s one thing I could ever ask my reader(s) to take away from my blog, it is this simple truth;

Carlos Pena isn’t just a downgrade from Adam Dunn, it’s career suicide for Mike Rizzo.