All Stars, Canadialand, and the end of Guzmania

July 2, 2007

Dmitri Young made the All Star team as the Nationals “required” player. Normally, requiring every team to have a player bothers me a bit. If any team, eveDmitrin the vaunted Washington Nationals, doesn’t have someone worthy of being an All Star, then why should someone who is deserving get snubbed? But this year, it worked out well, because Young is having a great season, and as flukey as people say it is, he deserves to go. Without that rule, he probably would not make the team in favor of some other significant snubs like Jimmy Rollins or Ian Snell. But he is really having an All Star-cailber season so far. As bad as he looked only last year, when nobody wanted anything to do with him (how much would a team like the Yankees like to have had him for the first half of the season?), it is nice to see him invited to the mid-summer classic. This may not be the only honor Dmitri receives this season , and I’m not talking about being traded to a World Series champion, which is of course a possibility. It’s time to start thinking of him as the leading contender for comeback player of the year.

Molson can fix anything

John Patterson is going to Canada for a look at his arm. Basically what it comes down to is this: if he needs surgery he’s out for the season, if he doesn’t he will spend this season working through his injury. Neither is particularly appealing, but it is probably more important for him to figure out how to fix his problems than just patch things up a bit. A Patterson with a fastball under 90-mph and no bite on his curve is like having no Patterson at all. The Nationals don’t need warm bodies to throw on the mound, they can find anyone to go up there and have an ERA over 7 (like Patterson). What they should be trying to do is find out who can be a legitimate starter next season. I don’t know what this newest course of action for Patterson is supposed to produce, but let’s hope Patterson’s success in 2008, not 2007, is everyone’s biggest goal.

A final word on Guzman

By now everyone probably knows that Christian Guzman is out for the season, an unfortunate injury for a player who was hitting well for the first time in 6 years and (by all accounts) never stopped playing hard. For the team, the big problem with Guzman being out has nothing to do with this season. If he hit .800 this year, the Nats still aren’t making the playoffs. But it was important to see what he was capable of doing. Well, he’s capable of hitting over .300 with an OPS of .850, at least for 2 months. Whether he can do that for a full season is will not be learned this year. Now, going into 2008, they are apparently planning to start Guzman as their leadoff hitter and SS for the season. The lineup position isn’t important, it can always be juggled, but there is some cause for concern that he will not hit that well again. Unfortunately they have their money invested in someone who has spent the majority of his time with the team on the DL, and most of the remaining time hitting as poor as any starter in the league. They are probably handcuffed to make a move for the future in that position this year, and they probably aren’t too sure of his ability to play 140+ games next season.

The tag that he is a fragile player may not be fair, he actually played in over 140 games for 5 of his first 7 seasons. The problems have come after he moved to DC. Since then he has played one terrible season and followed that with 2 seasons where he played a total of 43 games. Regardless of his abilities or, as some believe, lack thereof, Guzman has been an awful investment. The team signed Guzman to a 4 year deal, worth $4.2 million per year, for a total $16.8 million investment, ending in 2008. He is basically the closest thing to a big name free agent this franchise has signed in forever, and they signed him for more money than they have signed anyone for, as far as my research has shown, EVER. In fact, thanks to salary inflation and a lack of signings, there have only been 5 people who have been paid more annually by this franchise (coming from trades and arbitration, but not by free agent signing) – Vlad Guerrero, Jose Virdo, Livan Hernandez, Fernando Tatis, and Javier Vazquez. So far the investment in the light-hitting speedster has yielded 9 SBs and splits of .250/.294/.356. According to sabermetricians, the Nationals were able to win a whopping 4.2 more games over those 3 year with him than if they had just used a replacement level player (Guzman’s WARP-3). Now, with one more year on a contract that the Nats must honor, they are of course going to allow him to start again, not for his ability to hit or field, but because they are paying him to do so.

A Couple of final notes

It will be interesting to see how Felipe Lopez hits now that he doesn’t have to play 2B, where he had yet to claim that he felt comfortable. Shawn Hill has begun throwing again, and will hopefully be back by the end of the month.


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