Yesterday, I noted thatMike Morsewas hitting very well. This isn’t news to Nats fans, it’s actually one of the biggest stories of the late summer, non-Strasburg category. But suddenly he is doing it against righties, for the first time in his major league career. Last night, he did it again, going 2-3 with a double and a deep deep fly ball out against another righty.
It’s not in character, what he’s done. As I noted, before Friday his CAREER OPS against RHP was .675. It’s now up to .766. I proposed several reasons for this change, you can go back and read yesterday’s article if you want em in more detail. What do you think is the reason?
You think you had a good weekend? It probably doesn’t compare to what Mike Morse did. Friday through Sunday he started 3 games, had 12 ABs, with 8 hits, including 3 doubles, a triple and a home run. It brought his season numbers up to .294/.335/.535, and as Ben Goessling pointed out, it put him on a projected pace to hit 31 HRs in 550 ABs this year.
What was really interesting about his weekend, though, was how much of it was directed against right handed pitching. On Friday night he faced LHP Jaime Garcia, then LHP Trevor Miller, but then tripled against RHP Ryan Franklin. On Saturday, he faced only RHPs – Kyle Lohse and Mike MacDougal. On Sunday, he went against another RHP, Adam Wainwright, before finishing up the weekend hitting against a final RHP, Blake Hawksworth. He ended up going 7 for 9 against righties, with a triple, two doubles, and a homer.
Why is this really interesting? Because before this Friday, he was hitting .242/.284/.400 against RHP this season. Now he hitting .288/.330/.500 against them. That pre-weekend .684 OPS was pretty comparable to what he’d done in the past. His career splits are pretty telling. He’s got an OPS of .863 against lefties but only .675 against righties before this weekend. Factor these last 3 days in and his career OPS vs righties jumps to .758! It’s pretty simple, really. Before this weekend, he couldn’t hit right handed pitchers.
It was revealed today that Stephen Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery. Disappointing for sure, but it is at least a reliable surgery with a reliable recovery time. If this was shoulder surgery or something else, he might never throw 99 again. Instead, we miss a year of him when we need him least, assuming that 2011 wasn’t going to be a playoff year anyway. And he should come back the same guy, the chances are in the 80-90% range, maybe even higher now. But he does miss a year of development that would help him be a better pitcher in 2012. So it’s time to quit your crying about this. If you’re only into the Nats for Strasburg, see ya in 2012. If you’re not, let’s see what this means for the team. The recovery time likely has him starting the 2012 season. The Nats can really focus their efforts on building for 2012, instead of 2011. What does this mean for next season?
Josh Willingham is trade bait. His injury means he won’t be easy to move in the offseason, but his contract ends in 2011. After that, to extend him would mean a long term deal for a 33 year old outfielder who is good but not spectacular. I doubt they’ll want to keep him.
The Adam Dunn contract situation takes on a new color. No longer will they be getting him for 3 or 4 years of contention. Instead, with 2011 being another “getting ready” year, they may feel he isn’t worth the signing. They could play someone else in the meantime until more 1B options are available.
Chris Marrero may have taken Dunn’s place as the 1B for the “good” team. He’s batting .295/.352/.454 in AA Harrisburg this year, and another solid year in AAA puts him in the majors. Unfortunately, Rizzo will have to make a decision on Dunn before he knows what Marrero will be. Read the rest of this entry »
Jordan Zimmermann. J-Zim. The Double N. Mr Auburndale, WI himself comes back tonight to pitch for the Nats for the first time since his promising rookie year. This is like the Strasburg debut, only, 50% less exciting. But it is a big night for the team, Zimmermann is their future #2, a guy with real potential. Let’s do a quick refresh and look at his background.
The Nationals drafted him in 2007, as the second compensation pick for free agent Alfonso Soriano. That year he started 11 games in low-A, finishing 5-2 with a 2.38 ERA with 71K/18 BB in 53 IP. In 2008 he started 4 games in high-A, compiling a 1.65 ERA before being promoted to AA. There he pitched 106 2/3 innings, all as a starter, with 103 K/39 BB, compiling a 3.21 ERA. In January of 2009, Baseball America noted that in A+ and then AA he took major steps forward and, “emerged as the clear-cut top prospect in the organization.” Baseball Prospectus ranked him the team’s #1 prospect and said “he does nearly everything well, has a strong durable frame, and easy arm action” but didn’t see him as an ace.
He pitched well enough in the spring of 2009 to win the 5th starter spot, but started out in AAA until there was a need for the 5th guy. After one start in Syracuse he was called up, and made his major league debut on April 20th.
It’s how often a player reaches base and how much power he has that’s important, not batting average, not RBIs.
Remember league and position averages: numbers have meaning only in context.
RBIs are opportunistic; RBIs are a team stat and are not indicative of a player’s ability.
Stolen bases just don’t matter. I have a little bit of a tough time with the one, but I’m willing to admit they are extremely overvalued.
The main function of the batting order is to distribute plate appearances.
A strikeout is just another out. In fact, sometimes it’s better. With a runner on third with less than 2 outs, you’d rather have an out be a deep fly ball to CF, for sure. But in that same scenario with a guy on first and less than 2 outs, you’d much rather have a strikeout than a hard hit ball to an infielder. Guess which scenario comes up more often?
Placing good bats on the right side of the defensive spectrum is one of the keys to winning. Yes, hopefully by now we’ve figured out that if Ian Desmond and Roger Bernadina finish the season with a very similar OPS, Desmond was the much more valuable player.
The 27 outs of a ballgame are precious. Managers should not give them away lightly.
A player’s offensive and defensive contributions must be in balance.
The difference between the best and worst defender is not as large as you think. How many games does a bad fielding Dunn lose compared to how many games his bat wins? It’s a question Rizzo needs to figure out.
Lots of talk of Ian Desmond’s hitting recently, and boy, why not. He is quite hot, hitting .324/.361/.490 since July 1st. His OPS is now up to .731 on the season. His hitting has helped rank him 7th among all rookie position players for VORP. But enough about his hitting, I’d rather talk about his improving defense.
His errors have certainly gone down recently. Since a 2 error game on August 1st, he’s only committed 2 errors total. Since July, when his good hitting returned, he has committed 9 errors. 5 in July and 4 in August. Is that great, no, not at all. But it sure beats May and June, when he had 16 errors, 8 in each month. He also had 3 multi error games before July 1, and only 1 since. Maybe it means nothing, but maybe he is starting to mature a little bit. He might always have a high number of errors, but if they’re closer to 15 than 25 or 35, you can live with it for the range of a SS that looks like he’ll be able to hit in the majors.
I was at the Nationals game in Philly yesterday, and had a chance to see their ballpark. I don’t love it, it’s not awful but I am surprised at how cramped the concourses seemed. Parking was great though, $15 and I was like 100 feet from an entrance. There were 6 of us together at the game, and we weren’t harassed or mistreated, so I suggest making the short trip up to Philly next year and bringing a few fans to their park.
Strasburg’s next scheduled start is Thursday, but there is enough to think he may not go, and that may be the time that Jordan Zimmermann makes his first major league start this year. He pitched another great game in AAA on Friday night. He made one bad start in low-A, his first start of the year. Since then he’s pitched 4 games in high-A, 1 in AA, and 4 in AAA. In those 9 games and 34 2/3 innings, he’s given up exactly 1 ER, while striking out 28 and walking 5. Altogether, including the poor start right off the DL, he has a 1.59 ERA. He seems ready, so he may be called up this week, and Thursday seems to make alot of sense.
It’s Friday, and I was basically gone for a week, so I decided to key in on a few things I’ve picked up on but wasn’t able to write about.
Lannan Looks Good Again
In his last 4 starts, since he’s returned to the team, John Lannan has given up exactly 2 ER in each start. He’s pitched at least 5 innings in all of them, and more than 6 in 2 of them. He’s got an ERA of 3.09. He almost looks like the Lannan of old except for one thing: He’s struck out 15 and only walked 5. Of course it’s a small sample, but a 3:1 K:BB ratio is not typical Lannan. Typical Lannan is around 1.4 or 1.5 to 1. His 15 K in 23 1/3 innings (5.8) is actually exactly what he did in 2008, so it’s really about keeping the walks down. If he continues to do that, perhaps he’ll continue to have such good starts.
More Housing Near the Stadium
The Washington Post has a pretty interesting article up today on the housing that was being built near the stadium. The area known as the Yards, which was supposed to make the surrounding neighborhood much nicer, has basically been stalled. Everyone I go to a game with comments that the neighborhood is pretty bad still, I always have to tell them just wait, things will be built. Well this apartment complex is a good start, and hopefully it will make that area a destination for more than just baseball. Unfortunately funding is still tough to get, so we’ll have to wait and see before more development begins. We can all hope that it will some day look like this.
Finally back in town, I was following the team from afar. I noticed that almost all of the attention in the area was focused on the signing of Bryce Harper, which was important. There was focus on what guys in the clubhouse said about him as well, which was probably less important. And yes, the most important thing was getting him signed. But there were some other significant signings, including guys like AJ Cole and Sammy Solis. These were not just late round signings, they are guys that people project to be major league quality starters.
According to ESPN, “Cole is one of the most projectable pitchers of the top high school arms in this year’s draft, flashing 96 or 97 in some outings this spring, but offering the potential of more consistent plus velocity and a better breaking ball down the road.” MLB.com puts his fastball lower, around 92-94, and notes the strength of his power slurve. ESPN also notes that, “If you want a projection arm in the first round, he’s probably the top such arm in this draft, but you’ll have to buy him away from a strong commitment to Miami.” MLB.com projected that he’d be one of the first high school pitchers drafted. So he is basically one of the best high school pitchers (Keith Law ranked him #25 overall) and the Nats paid to get him to stay. Cole was a 4th rounder, available so late because people didn’t think they could sign him. The Nats did end up giving him a record amount for a 4th round pick – $2M.
I’m leaving for a cross (half) country drive tomorrow morning, so I won’t be updating the site until at least next Thursday, if not longer. I might update the Twitter a bit, but no computer means no blogging.
I expect when I get back, Bryce Harper will be signed. I’d be pretty surprised if he wasn’t. There will be alot of flipping out leading up to the Monday night deadline, but I won’t be the one doing it. My advice is to ignore most news on the subject until an official announcement. Anything else is pure speculation.
Marquis goes on Saturday, so I don’t expect to be missing too much by not being able to hear that one. I have no problem skipping down during his start.
Strasburg starts on Sunday, unfortunately I’ll be driving through Alabama at the time, and for some reason I don’t expect to hear that game on the radio. But it will be interesting, even for a Strasburg start, because we get to see how he comes back after his first real tough appearance in the majors. Read the rest of this entry »