Despite the win last night, the Nationals are still in rough shape, with a 34-44 record and 11 games behind the Braves in the NL East. The trade deadline is a month away, give or take a few days, and there will be talk of trading away anyone who’s last name doesn’t start with Z or S. I wouldn’t go that far myself, but an Adam Dunn trade will definitely be a topic of conversation. There are teams that need his bat, and his contract ends in September. So here are the pros and cons of trading him
The Nats aren’t making the playoffs, there is value to be had, perhaps a guy that is ready to contribute next season. One could dream of a young #3 or 4 starter, or a middle infielder
He can be reacquired at the end of the season
The Nats now likely will finish in the bottom 15, so they’d have to give up a 2nd rounder not a 1st rounder to re-sign him
You can pile all the responsibility of last night’s loss on Ian Desmond if you’d like. He made the error that may or may not have given the Braves a man on third with 2 outs and no runs as of yet. But it’s not what started the trouble, and the damage still could have been much more limited. It’s not what prevented the Nats from scoring any runs up to that point, or any after. Alot of people, I’m sure, are down on Desmond thanks to yet another error, not so much by him (he leads the league in it) but by the team (they do too).
I want to preface anything else said by first saying this – there is no reason to excuse the errors that he is making. They are the “easy” plays that seem to indicate a lack of concentration or effort, not ability. He isn’t a limited range fielder who butchers harder plays. He’s a rangey guy who seems to have no problem with the spectacular. Some of this may be the growing pains of a young man playing full time in the majors for the first time, although his outward confidence would make you think otherwise.
However, if errors were the only thing to measure a fielder than we’d pay the stadium scorekeepers alot more money.
I could lament about the horrible weekend for the Nationals. Or pretend that only losing each game by 1 run meant it wasn’t so bad because they contended. But none of those things are cathartic enough to me. Instead I will write about one of those topics that has always made me feel better over these last 4 years or so – where the Nats might trade Cristian Guzman! Here are a few contenders that need middle infield help (and I’ve assessed their need for said position):
Boston – Marco Scutaro might not be much worse of a hitter than Guzman, depending on how you look at it. And he’s a better fielder. But Pedroia’s out for 6 weeks, and to take his place they are planning on throwing in newly acquired Eric Patterson? That guy makes Guzman look like an OBP machine. Need for help: HIGH
Tampa Bay – Quick, name their starting second baseman. Next to SS Jason Bartlett, who isn’t much of a masher himself, youngsters Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac may have a future, but it’s hard to imagine that future involves contributing greatly in 2010. A veteran presence may be something they’d want in there as well. Need for help: MEDIUM
In case you weren’t aware, the Nats are in a bit of a hitting slump. The fact that they’ve won their last two notwithstanding, they still haven’t scored a ton. Maybe last night was an indication of the beginning of an awakening, but when 4 runs seems like a high scoring affair to this team, it is a bad sign. Only a month ago, this team looked like it could hit. But recently the bottom has dropped out, and it isn’t pretty:
Runs scored has continued to drop from middle of the league to solidly near the bottom, now ranked 13th
OBP has dropped from 6th in the NL all the way down to 13th in the matter of a week
SLG has dropped although not quite as badly, from 6th to 10th
OPS down to 12th from just above the middle spot only a few weeks ago
HR is pretty consistent – sitting around the middle all year, they’re in 8th place right now
In fact, the only one that has seen any kind of positive movement in recent weeks in the HRs. That means people aren’t getting on base, when they do they hit singles for the most part, and the bright spot is the occasional homer, which is more likely than not a solo shot. 44 of their 21 home runs were with the bases empty. That’s 67.7%! Until other guys figure out a way to get on base more, and hit something besides singles, they’re gonna have to continue to rely on production from the middle three guys in the lineup.
Last week I went out a limb for a Nats blogger and made the case for Ryan Zimmerman in the All Star game. Sure, it’s tough to be that man on an island, but hey, I’ll say what I think is right. In all seriousness everyone seems to be dumbstruck around here by the fact that Zimmerman is not even in the top 5 in voting, despite his recent slump. I’m the same way. Less vocal, although probably also out there, is the crowd that recognizes the All Star potential and snubbing of Adam Dunn. The difference between Dunn and Zimmerman is that there’s no Pujols in the Zimmerman category, whereas Dunn is never going to have a legit shot as the best first baseman in the NL. Here is list of top 5 1b votegetters as of today:
1. Albert Pujols (2,622,123)
2. Ryan Howard (1,137,058)
3. Prince Fielder (789,526)
4. Troy Glaus (753,249)
5. Joey Votto (691,075)
That being said, he may be deserving of some attention, let’s look at some of his rankings in the NL 1B category:
The Nationals have continued to slide this week and over the weekend. For most of the year, other than the heart of the order, the rest of the team has struggled to hit, and now even Ryan Zimmerman is in a slump. Besides Stephen Strasburg and 3 of 4 very good starts from J.D. Martin, the starting pitching isn’t doing much to help. There is about 5 weeks until the trade deadline, but rumor has it the market is about to pick up really quick.
They could, start trading away just about anyone that’s not gonna be here in a few years. This could include Willingham, possibly Dunn as well, although let’s not get too much into specifics. Another option is to try to trade those guys that definitely won’t be here in the longrun – Guzman, Kennedy, maybe even Livo. Or, maybe the real problem is not enough of something – they could use another starter, imagine throwing Oswalt or Lee back to back with Strasburg. Or maybe some bats to fill out second base or right field. Alternatively, they could give it another two weeks and see where they stand before making any moves. What should their priority be right now?
The Nats are, as Buster Olney said, limping home for a weekend series against the White Sox. The team is now 5 games below .500. Since starting out 20-15, they have gone 11-21, which is just plain bad. Slight good mixed with quite bad means your leaning on the bad side. They have some issues, and while they’re not a bad team overall, one thing has really lead them into a major slump.
The biggest problem over this stretch has been the starting pitching. At one point we were talking, and this is totally out of memory so I may be wrong, of something like 10 out of 11 games with a quality start. Or something near that. Now it is just the opposite.
In the month of June, the Nats have played 15 games. Stephen Strasburg has started 2 of them. Out of the remaining 12 games, there have been 4 quality starts – 2 by Livan, 1 by Lannan, and 1 by Stammen. That isn’t a formula for success, when just over half your games aren’t even quality starts. The starting pitching had failed this team, meanwhile the bullpen, despite some hiccups, has been among the best in the league. Without better starting pitching, just like we knew back in March, this team can’t win.
Well, Strasburg is going tonight, and he’s pretty much expected to pitch well. If something happens and he doesn’t, then your gonna see how well Riggleman can keep this team together. But don’t get yourself too far down in the depths of despair. The cavalry, it’s coming, although it’s still some time away. Read the rest of this entry »
John Lannan isn’t having a great season, and most of that can be specifically pointed to how many ground balls he induces in each game. Before we get into those numbers, let’s get into the history of the young pitcher.
When he was a rookie, he came up and surprised the fans by actually looking good, even though most people hadn’t heard of him. His first two years in the minors were unimpressive, but in 2002, he amassed a 2.31 ERA in high-A, AA and AAA, earning 6 starts in the majors by the end of the season. He had a 4.15 ERA, went 2-2, but only struck out 10 in 34 2/3 innings. Most assumed that luck was on his side, and things would even out in the end.
Instead, he pitched another 2 seasons as a better than league average pitcher. A 3.91 ERA in 2008, at the age of 23, and a 3.88 ERA in 2009 gave hope that he was a little different. His sinker allowed him to pitch effectively without striking people out. Over those two seasons, he had and ERA+ of 109, pitched 388 1/3 innings and walked 140 while only striking out 206. That ERA came from his ability to induce ground balls, and allowed him to let guys on without turning the innings into messes. He induced 47 double plays, ranking 9th in all the majors, tied for 4th in the NL. His GB/FB ratio was 1.17 over that time, and his Ground Out/Air Out ratio was 1.73, better in 2008 and 2009.
I’m going to warn you, this is probably the first of many posts discussing the merits and abilities of Ryan Zimmerman compared to his National League third base colleagues. Needless to say, I am mostly preaching to the choir. But in this case, the choir can go vote 25 times for the All Star game, so, why not? As you may know, Zimmerman is the bestest third baseman in the NL, yet is eleventy hundreth in voting. Enough with the technical stuff, let’s talk about the voting. Here are the vote totals from today:
1. Placido Polanco 933,229
2. David Wright 754,455
3. Chipper Jones 702,702
4. Casey McGehee 657,982
5. Scott Rolen 572,829
Ok, so Zimmerman’s not even on there. Fine, maybe it’s justified. I’d just like to run down a list of rankings, where he sits, and the guys around him, as well as others on the list: