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 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.