Another Nats blog is up an running, and it’s the kind I like. You know, numbers, smart things… probably going to post stuff the day before I had the idea, all that good stuff. I kid I kid… so far so good, though. Interesting slash kinda depressing stuff about one of my favs, Elijah Dukes, and his ability (lack thereof) to hit a breaking ball. Check it out:
Not sure if you’re like me and think Ian Desmond should be the starting SS going in to 2010. Sure, he’ll make some errors, but if you believe the best coaches are at the major league level, he has the best opportunity to learn up in DC. And his range will beat the other choices anyway, so it may balance out even if he does make errors.
But some discouraging news came on that front yesterday. The Washington Post Sports Bog carried and interview of Mike Rizzo by Jim Bowden. Lots of interesting stuff, you should definitely take a look. When you get back here you can read this Rizzo quote I lifted from it:
We’ve put together kind of a pitch-to-contact rotation here, so we certainly need to get better defensively. And we think we’ve helped ourselves with Pudge behind the plate and Morgan in center. Guzzie at shortstop, he’s got fairly good hands and fairly good feet but his range obviously has backed up on him a little bit, and we do need to get better at second base, so we’ve talked to representatives of both of those two players and several others that we do have interest in. We’ve known going into the winter that that was going to be a point of emphasis, and we’re working on all facets of trying to stabilize the up-the-middle positions
The two players he’s talking about are Orlando Cabrera and Orlando Hudson and possibly Tony Orlando. You see, they have a gap in the middle infield and… wait. What? Guzman is the shortstop?!?!? What happened to this? And this? And this? Read the rest of this entry »
Last year was a big year for the Nats’ third baseman. Ryan Zimmerman had by far his best year at the plate, hitting .292/.364/.525 with 33 home runs. He finished 6th in the majors in OPS for his position, behind Sandoval, Reynolds, ARod, Michael Young and Longoria. Pretty good company there. He also, you may recall, managed a 30 game hit streak.
As for his fielding, if you think he looked good in 2009, well, your eyes do not deceive you. In terms of what Fangraphs lists as qualified players, he finished the season with an UZR/150 of 20.1, ranking him second among all 3B behind Beltre. It also put him 4th among all fielders. On top of all that, he turned 25 at the end of the season. That is an age, in baseball, where players are just starting to come into their own. In other words, he may still be getting better.
Fangraphs lists him 8th on the list for WAR – wins above replacement – in 2009. That basically means he was the 8th best position player, at least according to one hitting and fielding combined measurement, in the entire league. #1 on the list was Zobrist, who had a better hitting season than Zimmerman and started all over the field, including 89 games as a middle infielder. Also on that list are the obvious names – Pujols, Mauer, Utley, Jeter, Hanley and Longoria. That’s it. Those are the guys ahead of him.
MASN announced their TV schedule for this year’s baseball season, and thanks to the addition of MASN2 in HD, every single game will be offered in High Def. Here’s the schedule if you haven’t seen it. If you hadn’t heard about MASN2 HD, here is the press release on that. Basically, it’s going to be turned on in April. I know my service provider, Comcast, is on the list. Here’s the total channel lineup, plus the list of cable companies that have “committed to carrying MASN2 HD in 2010.” Hopefully there aren’t any issues, I have no idea WHERE MASN2 HD is going to be located on my channel lineup. In an stroke of uber-helpfulness, MASN gave us this quote: “The easiest way for fans to locate MASN, MASN2, MASN HD and MASN2 HD will be for viewers to check their on-screen channel guides using their television remote.”
I’ve never found these arbitration-avoiding signings to be too exciting. And if they don’t sign the guy and move to arbitration, again, I am rarely glued to the hearing. But it is still good to see that the Nats were able to come to terms with 4 out of the 6 players with whom they were negotiating. Arbitration hearings can often cause a rift between players and the organization. The team offers $X million, and the player counters with $X million plus $Y million. In order to justify the $Y million, the player talks about how great he is. In order to avoid paying the extra $Y million, the team talks about how much the guy sucks. Sometimes the player walks away thinking, “Boy, this team really doesn’t appreciate me.” In truth, they are just trying to save money and keep the player. But sometimes when players forget its just business, they may cause some bad feelings that don’t go away when it’s time for free agency.
So it is good news that they signed they players that they did. Highest up on the list was Josh Willingham, who got rewarded for his good season with a contract of $4.6 million. It’s up from last year as were his numbers. The only thing he has left to do is keep his high early season numbers going all year. In 2010 he will have the 5th highest salary on the team, behind Dunn, Guzman, Marquis,and Zimmerman, unless they sign another free agent for more. They also came to terms with Jason Bergmann, who had a very good second half of the season. He had a 3.48 ERA from July to the end of the year in 42 appearances and 33 2/3 IP. His salary of $750,000 is more than reasonable for what he was able to do, and if he keeps it up, it will be a bargain.
Not alot of Nats news these days, so I wanted to show you something that caught my eye this weekend. Collin Balester’s got a brand new website, and it’s pretty impressive. The Nats starting pitching prospect has quite a bit going on here, including a blog that I’m hoping he maintains a bit more than his last one. Plus, his obsession with his own mustache comes front and center as he has a “mustache watch” section. I guess that’s where we get to see him look more and more mustachioed.
This week on his blog, he is counting down his top 5 hobbies, and number 5 was mustache growing. This could be very entertaining. He’s also got a section for videos, and an area with a game you can play – but you’re a hitter in the game. Shouldn’t you get a chance to pitch on Bally’s site? Regardless, it’s fun and a great way for a young player to try to interact more with the fans. And it shows that this is a guy who’s having fun with what he’s doing.
By the way, when I say the site “caught my eye” this weekend I meant I spent over an hour on Sunday night playing the freakin’ baseball game.
The Nationals continue to make no moves while the baseball world writhes around them. The biggest news recently, at least Nats-related, was the signing of Aroldis Chapman to a deal with the Reds. Apparently the Nats were big time in the negotiations, but couldn’t bring themselves to add another year and another $5 M. He’s a 22 year old lefty that the scouts love, but it is unclear just how he’ll do in the majors, it’s pretty well agreed-upon that he needs some work still, and since he’s a Cuban defector, nobody can be positive that he’s actually 22. All that being said, the Nats can be patient with him, it would seem to make sense to bring him in. If he ends up being as good as people think he might be, this will be a big miss for a relatively small commitment.
If the Nats still want a free agent pitcher, there are a few guys available, here’s a quick run down of the ones I can remember today:
Chien-Ming Wang – Still my first choice, of the remainder. He’s only 29 right now, he was great until hurt. Assuming they can confirm he is totally healthy, and with a sinkerballer this may be more than a workout, it may include watching him pitch to actual batters and see what they can do with his pitches, he could still be very very good.
Recently I was contacted by Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times with an interesting request. He wanted me to review pieces of a book he had just finished on baseball. The only condition was to not really quote the book, as it isn’t being released until April. I jumped at the chance, although when he told me it was about managers, I wasn’t sure if I would like it. I am a skeptic about managers effectiveness, usefulness, etc. I don’t think they’re irrelevant, but I’m just not sure how important they really are, as long as they don’t break anything. However, I read the description of the book, and it piqued my interest:
This ambitious study of major league managers since the formation of the National League applies a sabermetric approach to gauging their performance and tendencies. Rather than focusing solely on in-game tactical decisions, it also analyzes broader, off-the-field management issues such as handling players, fans, and media, enforcing team rules, working with the front office, and balancing pressure versus performance.
So wait, he’s gonna actually try to gauge their effectiveness? Using things like logic and numbers? Ok, I’m in.
After what seemed like weeks since we knew he was coming, the big signing in DC today finally happened. Matt Capps, a closer, is now officially part of the team. What, you thought I was referring to someone else?
The Nats were nice enough to extend an invitation to all bloggers to participate in a conference call with the new addition this morning. I’m not positive who else was there, but I definitely heard Federal Baseball and Nationals Inquisition on the line. I’m not going to go over all of the specific questions, I think the above sites may end up putting up transcripts. But I am going to give you an overview of what he said.
Capps was excited at the opportunity to be a closer, part of the reason he chose the Nationals over other teams. I’ve seen reports that he had offers from 16 teams, including a 2 year deal with the Cubs, but he chose Washington. He also said he’d play anywhere and in any capacity that Riggleman wants.
Mostly because you get great headlines like “Riggleman Pulls Wang in the 6th”… But seriously, folks! Alright I got it out of my system. Chien-Ming Wang is reportedly going to throw off of a mound in 6-8 weeks, and that to me means he probably thinks he’ll be able to go in April. I may be wrong on that, but let’s go under that assumption. He was absolutely terrible in 2009, posting a 9.64 ERA in 42.0 IP, so the Yankees cut him lose.
Despite all of this, there is interest in him, and deservedly so, he has had a very good career so far and is only 29. Take out that 2009, where he was hurt the whole time and according to all reports throwing with a messed up motion, his numbers are impressive. From 2005-2008 he started 95 games, with a 3.79 ERA, 117 ERA+, and went 52-20 (albeit for a very good team). In 628 2/3 IP he only struck out 281, but since he only walked 178, he did well. He kept the ball on the ground as well as any pitcher in the league. So well, in fact, he gave up only 34 HRs in those 95 games! His ability to induce grounders made him the Yankees de facto Ace for a few seasons – he was 1st in Wins and 2nd in ERA among their starters in 2006, 1st in both categories in 2007.