Pre-season Nats Poll

February 28, 2011
Dave at the Nationals News Network sent out a poll to the Nationals’ bloggers, or as we are sometimes called, the DC Internet Baseball Writer’s Association. He’s polling the group, and will probably post the results at the end of the week here. I sent him my answer today, and just wanted to publish my answers:
1)  Who will lead the Nats in home runs in 2011?
Ryan Zimmerman

2)  Who will lead the Nats in RBI?
Ryan Zimmerman

3)  Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases?
Nyjer Morgan

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Pennant Payouts and MLB Futures

February 25, 2011

Baseball Prospectus has an interesting offshoot of their projections called the Playoff Odds Report. Unlike much of the really great stuff on their site, this one is free for anyone to see. Starting with the Nats, we see they have the lowest odds of making the playoffs in the majors. Part of that is their division, because they don’t actually have the worst projected record in the league. So let’s move on…

This winter I was in Las Vegas and did what I always like to do there – put some money on baseball futures. My philosophy is simple: I look for longshot payouts that seem to have an actual decent chance of making the playoffs. I don’t bet much money, just $20 or $30, so I usually like a 15-1 payout or more the get really interested. And the philosophy also relies on the belief that any team COULD win it once they make the playoffs. So what it boils down to is this: find a team that has low Vegas odds to win the pennant, but I think has actually a good chance of making the playoffs, and bet a little on them.

This year, I was there in December, so I didn’t have the luxury of using the BP playoff report. I bet on the A’s (at 18-1 odds) and the Brewers (at 35-1 odds). I think I did alright. Below is the list of teams, with their playoff odds and their respective payouts (according to bodog.com on 2/25/11) for winning the pennant Read the rest of this entry »


Lannan’s Improved Mechanics

February 22, 2011

Last night I saw an interview with John Lannan on CSN, and he discussed his trip down to the minors last season. He basically said that his delivery was screwed up thanks to an arm injury that threw his arm slot off, and he needed to be sent down to fix his motion. After returning, he felt that he was back to normal, as his second half proved. But he wasn’t just back to normal, he was better than normal.

After returning to the majors, he had arguably the best stretch of his MLB career. In 11 games, he pitched 68 1/3 innings. His ERA was 3.42, which beats any full season he’s had. But it wasn’t just that, he also struck out 47 and walked 14. That K/9 of 6.2 exceeded his best season, and the BB/9 of 1.8 was also a career low. His K/BB of 3.36 was over double his career high, and is the kind of number that makes sabermetricians salivate.

The only time in his career that he had a K/9 over 6 in any 11 game stretch in his career occurred at the end of the 2008 season. It happened over the course of 13 games, in starts 19-29, 20-30, and 21-31, he pitched 11 straight games with a K/9 well above 6. But in those instances, his BB/9 was 4.4, 4.3 and 4.6, nothing compared to last year’s stretch. Consequently, his K/BB in those stretches were a shade under 1.6, nothing to get people too excited.

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PECOTA Adjusts for Playing Time

February 18, 2011

Last week, Baseball Prospectus came out with their PECOTA predictions for the Nationals, and it wasn’t pretty. This week, they came out with their depth charts. This is basically their predictions, with playing time adjusted for what the lineup situation looks like right now. They also changed some of the underlying numbers to get their totals. I said I’d be shocked if they put the Nats at more than 60 wins, but they are actually predicted to get to 70 (Joy!). So there must be something positive out of this. There is, here’s a rundown of some of their adjustments, and a few other notes.

Let’s begin with the starting pitching

  • Jordan Zimmermann got better. He went from an 86 IP, 4.27 ERA guy to a 172 IP, 4.19 ERA guy. That puts him as the most valuable starter on the team, with 149 Ks and a 1.4 WARP.
  • Tom Gorzelanny joined the group, and got better. He was still listed on the Cubs, and maybe it was the ballpark, but his ERA was predicted to be 4.73. Now, on the Nats, he is predicted to be their 2nd best of the 5 main starters, with a 4.34 ERA, 105 Ks, and a 0.7 WARP, all ranked #2 behind JZimm. Perhaps because of injury history, they have him ranked #5 in IP.
  • Livan, Marquis and Lannan fill out the rotation, each with about a 0.10 ERA drop from last weeks predictions.
  • Lannan’s predictions still seem a little off. His PECOTA suggested 4.76 ERA would be his career low
  • Chien-Ming Wang does come back and pitch, according to them, and his 4.24 ERA is the best in the rotation after JZimm, but they only have him going 65 innings.

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Bernadina’s Power Push

February 17, 2011

If you paid attention to the DC baseball world yesterday, be it on a website or on twitter, the talk of the day seemed to be Roger Bernadina‘s massive muscles. The pictures don’t lie, those are pretty big arms for a baseball player. Is it possible that bulking up will make Bernie better? If you can buy what sportswriters have said about the last decade of baseball, then you can buy that since Bernie got bigger, he will hit with more power. Where will that get him?

Right now, PECOTA predicts he’ll hit .260/.321/.382 in 450 PAs. The playing time will be adjusted before the season starts to account for playing time, but it certainly isn’t unreasonable, especially if Morgan or Ankiel struggle. Before we get into adding stats on to Roger, let’s take a look at how often he hits the ball in the air. His career GB/FB ratio is 0.97. It’s not at the high end, where a guy like Morgan (1.16) might want to be, but it isn’t as low as some power hitters like Zimmerman (0.74). Either way, I think it’s reasonable to assume that an addition of power would add some home runs to his arsenal, rather than just some hard hit grounders. But there would be some of those, too.

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Pujols Effect

February 16, 2011

Albert Pujols is probably the best player in baseball right now. He is, probably, 31 years old. His career line is .331/.426/.624, with 408 HRs. He has the minimum 10 years to make the Hall of Fame, and if he were to retire today, he’d be a shoe in. There is talk that he will not re-sign with the Cardinals, and become a free agent. There’s also talk that he is older than 31. There are rumors saying that he wants a 10 year, $300 M deal.

Let’s take it for granted that he’ll entertain all offers, and assume he will only get a few teams really interested, due to money and time of the contract. The Nationals certainly have a chance to sign him if they offered that astronomical sum. But that’s a ton of money in to invest in any player, so would you even want them to?


Hope for a Healthy Wang

February 15, 2011

Everyone out there is trying to name the Nats rotation before the season begins, and while they have a group of guys that could fit the bill, it is tough to say that any one player has a guaranteed spot. It’s not, like in the past, because nobody is any good. But with nobody being GREAT, a collection of pretty good pitchers, while maybe making you feel better, doesn’t spell stability. One player that could wind up in the rotation is last year’s surprise signing – Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang isn’t going to start the season in the rotation, he’s still recovering from injury. But he’s not in no-man’s land right now, he’s projected to start the year actually pitching, in the minors. He was throwing off flat ground this week, and could be ready to go after a few rehab starts in the minors. Perhaps by May, he will be ready to join the rotation. But let’s not get too caught up in projecting when he’ll get up. Rather, let’s imagine what it would be like if he does.

The first thing to recognize about Wang’s pitching is that he is an extreme ground ball pitcher. We always think of John Lannan as a groundball pitcher, and he is. But check out his numbers compared to Wang’s (using the Fangraph’s stat):

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If PECOTA Doesn’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

February 10, 2011

Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA numbers this week, and obviously there is a ton of data. At first I tried to just pick out some interesting bit of information, which I’ll get to later. Keep in mind that playing time adjustments haven’t been made yet. Guys who won’t be playing are in there, but that shouldn’t affect their non-counting stats. Before that, though, I want to share what really jumped out at me. PECOTA is not very sympathetic to Nationals position players. Here’s what I mean:

PECOTA Doubts the Position Players

PECOTA thinks (ok it doesn’t think, it calculates) that almost all Nats who might be considered starters will have a lower OPS in 2011 compared to 2010. That includes those you might expect, such as Ryan Zimmerman (drop of .069), Jayson Werth (drop of .086) and Mike Morse (drop of .097). It includes others that you might not expect such as Adam LaRoche (drop of .007), Danny Espinosa (drop of .028), and Wilson Ramos (drop of .038). The only starter types with increases are Ian Desmond (increase of .003), Roger Bernadina (increase of .012), and Rick Ankiel (increase of .017).

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Nationals Surnacronyms

February 9, 2011

Rob Neyer has been all about the surnacronym game this week, but I have noticed a serious lack of Washington players. So, as a response, I tried to go through much of the starting lineup and create one, using last names, and descriptions that are actually fitting of the players. Here goes:

  • Desmond: Dumb Errors, Supposedly Maturity Often Nourishes Defense
  • Zimmerman: Zippers Infield Marvelously, Mashes Everything, Remains Most Awesome National
  • Morgan: Must Overtly Restrict Getting Always Nabbed
  • LaRoche: Late At Reaching Offensive Crest, Hacks Early
  • Strasburg: Some Throwers Regress After Surgery But Usually Return Great Read the rest of this entry »

Worst Nats Seasons, By Position

February 9, 2011

On Monday, we took a look at the best season by a Nats player at each position. One of the not so surprising results was how many members of the 2005 that went 81-81 made the list. It’s the best team they’ve had over their short history in Washington, after all. The worst players, on the other hand, can come from any of the subsequent years.

For this, I’m looking at players who spent significant time as the starter, and their performance was bad enough to drag a team down. Unfortunately that means Robert Fick’s horrendous 221 PAs in 2007 don’t count, despite having one of the lowest WARs in team history – he was never considered the starter, as Da Meat Hook started 116 games as the 1B. Negative WAR is a good place to start, but it’s not the only factor I used.

C – Paul Lo Duca, 2008 - When the Nats signed him in the offseason, he was coming off a terrible 2007 with the Mets, but had hit an impressive .315/.355/.428 the year before. There was a thought that he might do that again, because the Nats paid him $5M for 1 year. Three days after he signed, he was implicated in the Mitchell Report. Not just as a user, either. Hilariously, a note from him to steroid dealer Kirk Radomski, regarding a bounced check, written and signed by Lo Duca was in the report (hey steroid dealer, “my phone is TOAST!”). He didn’t redeem himself on the field, either, hitting a terrible .230/.301/.281 in 153 PAs and 43 games with the Nats before he was released in July.

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