Re-Scouting Harper

May 26, 2011

Sure, you’ve probably heard a ton about Bryce Harper’s success and abilities, but what’s wrong with hearing more? After all, despite his success, he’s not playing the majors yet, so we can only speculate. Luckily, there are people who get paid for that sort of stuff. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has an article today covering the latest scouting report on the phenom.

The article is only accessable to those who’ve paid, and you can only read through the first section. Here are some highlights from the article. For more details, you’ll have to help pay Mr. Goldstein’s salary:

Hitting – Harper hits well, but he probably isn’t going to be a .330 hitter. The good news is that Goldstein seems to indicate that some of the chatter of his strikeouts being high are overblown. He calls his K rate promising for his age

Power – Top of the charts. He mentions that evaluation is basically universal among scouts, and the last person to have such reviews was Alex Rodriguez. He also mentions that ARod was drafted before Harper turned 1 years old, which makes Harper seem young, ARod seem old, and me FEEL old.

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Mike Morse Comes Around

May 25, 2011

Mike Morse had an excellent spring, and after a great 2010 in part time action, it seemed that the journeyman had finally found a home. Then April happened. Morse finished April hitting .211/.253/.268. All those numbers look bad, and an OPS under .530 is probably grounds for a demotion. But Riggleman and Rizzo didn’t demote him. Instead, they stuck with him, and it had paid off. While he did get some more sporadic playing time in May, he still has played quite a bit. And recently he has been starting at 1B, and he’s been hitting.

Up until this morning, he was hitting .410/.410/.718 in the month of May. Sure it’s unsustainable, and zero walks is not good, but it shows that he has the ability to hit for extended periods of time. It’s even better after today’s game, in which he hit yet another home run. After 2 ABs on Wednesday, his April numbers was even higher, up to 1.195. Overall, sitting in the 6th inning on Wednesday, Morse was hitting .286/.308/.464 for the season. That .772 OPS is a far cry from his April .521. It also sits him squarely as #3 on the team – behind only Werth and Nix.

Friday Morning Links

May 20, 2011

The Nats blog has some great pics from last night’s blown call. It’s time to move on, but first, check out the pics, then move on.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad Rizzo got in those umps faces. They were wrong.

Check out Boswell’s article comparing Killebrew to Bryce Harper, it’s a great story:

Boz also said on the Tony Kornheiser show today that NOBODY put up the kind of numbers in A ball that Harper is doing at his age since Mickey Mantle. That’s nice to hear.

I always like to see stuff like this. The 1977 Indians uni gets my vote as the worst:

Draft Preview: Alex Meyer

May 18, 2011

The draft is only a few weeks away – June 6th be exact. Instead of the #1 pick for the 3rd year in a row, the Nats have the 6th pick. Mock drafts and speculation have put Alex Meyer squarely in the lap of the team, so I’ll start previewing potential draft picks with him.

Meyer is a 6’9″ RHP from the University of Kentucky, that’s right, 6’9″. He’s got a mid-90s fastball that can reach 98 or 99 mph at times. Because he’s so tall, when his fastball is on it becomes even harder to hit that your typical mid-90s fastball that can reach 98 or 99 mph. As a Junior this year, he struck out 101 in 94 IP, which is pretty impressive. He also has a great slider that can fool hitters.

The other thing that everyone likes to point out about the tall fireballer is his lack of consistency. He has a complex delivery that has lead to serious control issues. He has issued plenty of walks, and may never be able to bring down the walk total enough to be a great pitcher. Keith Law mentions, though, that his command and control have improved, and there are positives in his delivery. To me, this means he may be a work in progress, but there is room for the right pitching coach to make him better. Still, many fear that he will be a walk machine.

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The Unnoticed Starter

May 16, 2011

Maybe it’s because we’re too shocked that Jason Marquis is 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA. Or maybe it’s because we’ve been so busy lamenting the disappearance of offense, both from the entire team, and from individuals we were hoping would improve this year like Morse, Desmond and Espinosa. Whatever the reason, one person that hasn’t gotten alot of credit so far this year is Tom Gorzellany.

Gorzelanny is a little different than the other starters. He’s not an older vet trade bait like Livo or Marquis. He’s not as young as JZimm or Lannan, who might be considered prospects (ok, that’s probably a stretch for Lannan). He’s somewhere in the middle – a relatively young pitcher at 28, that the Nats are hoping they can use as a starter for the next few years (I believe they can control him through 2013). As an in between guy, most fans aren’t holding their breath for him to be great, but the indifference that some may feel for the vets (other than eyeing some trade potentials) should be there either. Gorzelanny has looked quite good in his first 1/4 of the season, and looks like the kind of pitcher that could be very helpful.

He is currently leading the Nats starting pitchers in ERA, K/9, H/9 and WHIP. Despite giving up some walks, he still has allowed fewer base runners than the other starters while striking out more. He’s always been good at striking hitters out, but he often has control issues that limit his effectiveness. This year, while he’s walked a few, the K/BB of 2.50 is good enough to make him a strong starter. It’s also quite a bit above his career K/BB of 1.65. If he can sustain that, he’ll continue to be strong.

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A Platoon Possibility

May 13, 2011

Over the winter, when things were rosey and Mike Morse was coming off a great season, there were lots of ideas of how to deal with the outfield. Rick Ankiel, a lefty hitter, could play great CF, but nobody knew if he could hit. Roger Bernadina wasn’t as good of a fielder, and was also a lefty. Mike Morse was a righty but hit everyone in 2010. Nyjer Morgan, another lefty, was still on the team. When Morgan left, alot of people started constructing ideas of the lineup. Perhaps Morse would start against lefties, and either Bernie or Ankiel would play CF. Maybe Hairston and Morse would play those games, while Bernie and Ankiel would start against righties. But Morse has looked so good, starting only against lefties seemed like a waste.

Well the season is moving along, and things have changed. First, Morse hasn’t hit at all. Ankiel is on the DL, and Bernadina just came up from the minors, with still a bit of a reverse platoon split, hitting better against righties. Meanwhile, other than their 23 year old catcher, the best hitter on the Nats has been Laynce Nix, and he is rightfully getting playing time in LF. Just as Morse’s 2010 may not have been a true reflection of how good he can hit, Nix’s April and May probably is a little overstated. The 30 year old hit this well last year, but it was in a very hitter friendly park in Cincinnati, and it was almost exclusively versus righties. Which brings me to the premise of the article.

While we can’t figure out everything at once, and CF remains a mystery, there is hope for LF for this season. You see, even this year, while everyone has lauded was Nix has done, something that has remained somewhat unnoticed is that he hasn’t hit lefties. Literally and figuratively, as he only has 1 hit in 8 PAs against them. His remaining 65 have been against lefties. And his career OPS splits of .743 vs righties and .518 vs lefties suggest this is the way to go with him. Meanwhile, despite Mike Morse’s struggle this particular season, he has always shown an ability to hit lefties, and hit them with power.

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Two Games Does Not an Offense Make

May 12, 2011

The Nats have scored 7 runs per game in the last 2 games. Despite the fact that it took 2 errors in the first game and an 11 inning game, it’s an accomplishment. They actually have done this before, 2 games in a row of 7 runs each almost exactly a month ago against the Mets. And they scored 8, then 5, then 8 against the Brewers then the Cardinals. So as much as we’d like to believe that the last few days are a sign of things to come, there is way to know. And there are doubts that things are going to get better.

The team is 12th in the NL in runs per game, dead last in OBP and OPS, and second to last in SLG. Of the guys who might be considered starters, the only with an OPS+ over 100 are Werth (who’s 109 isn’t great, he ranks 17th for RFers in the majors in OPS), Ramos, and Nix. As poor as they are hitting, the two next best in OPS+ are Espinosa and Desmond.

They aren’t hitting with much power, but at least, without getting on base that much, they’re doing well at swiping them. Desmond is 12 for 13 with steals, Werth is 5 for 6, Ankiel is 4 for 5, and Espinosa is 3 for 4. These are all good clips, that could help a low scoring team with decent pitching win a couple games. But really, none of this will matter that much if everyone continues to hit like they have. Without a significant recovery, their run differential will only get worse, their record will slip well below .500, and when they do score 7 runs you will be once again completely shocked.

Opposing Starters This Week

May 10, 2011

The Nats spend the next week playing division foes, which is often not a good thing for this team. They haven’t been hitting, and they will of course be facing strong pitching, as everyone in the NL East does. Here is how the probable starting opponents for the next 6 games have performed against Washington:

Tim Hudson: 1.88 ERA, 134 1/3 IP, 93 K, 29 BB, 11-2 (19 GS)

Tommy Hanson: 3.12 ERA, 43 1/3 IP, 44 K, 8 BB, 2-2 (7 GS)

Brandon Beachy: 3.60 ERA, 5 IP, 9 K, 3 BB, 0-0 (1 GS)

Chris Volstad: 5.25 ERA, 58 1/3 IP, 42 K, 29 BB, 5-2 (11 GS)

Anibel Sanchez: 2.16 ERA, 91 2/3 IP, 73 K, 39 BB, 6-0 (15 GS)

Javier Vazquez: 3.27 ERA, 22 IP, 22 K, 2 BB, 1-1 (3 GS)

So what does all this mean? Well in the case of Beachy and Vazquez, probably not much at all. Javy pitched well, struck out a bunch of guys, but wasn’t unhittable. Beachy struck out a WHOLE lot of guys but was still scored on. So they are hittable. But it’s not over a significant amount of time. As for the other guys, well, let’s assume these stats matter.

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The Team that Couldn’t Hit

May 9, 2011

It’s beyond bad, at this point. After a week in which the Nats broke their team record for striking out the most in one game, they came out Sunday and got no hit for 7 innings. Sanchez pitched a good game, but this team certainly helped. You know the hitting has been bad, but it’s probably worse than you realized. They are last in the league in OBP, and second to last in SLG and OPS. Thanks to the last place team playing in San Diego, a big pitchers park, they are actually ranked last in OPS+ (which factors in park effects). They are just plain bad at hitting.

Looking down the lineup is sickening. Forgive the order, this is just a sample lineup that could go out there:

  1. .221/.321/.389
  2. .217/.250/.383
  3. .227/.324/.387
  4. .196/.300/.313
  5. .319/.377/.493
  6. .241/.275/.325
  7. .220/.297/.317

That’s Espinosa (2B), Desmond (SS), Werth (RF), LaRoche (1B), Ramos (C), Morse (LF) and Hairston (3B). There’s no CF in there, but Ankiel’s .221/.302/.288 ranks 5th in plate appearances on the team, so factor that in the list. Ramos is looking great, even without comparing him to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, his last few weeks haven’t looked great, with a very low OBP, but he’s still slugging, so in comparison, a .250/.275/.500 is still the best hitter on this team. When you put Pudge in the lineup with his .214/.241/.321, he manages to drag down these horrendous averages.

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An Unimportant Milestone

May 6, 2011

Until last night, all but one of the Nats starters had an ERA under 4.00. This was pretty impressive after a month of play, and the last 6+ years of play. Unfortunately, John Lannan faced his nemesis last night, the Philadelphia Phillies. His ERA jumped from 3.78 to 5.09 in the span of two innings, and he’ll be fighting for a while to bring it back down.

But the Nats have a chance to once again have 4 starters under 4.00, with Jordan Zimmermann going tonight. It won’t be easy, heck a bare minimum quality start puts you at a 4.50 ERA. But chances are better tonight that he’ll perform well because A)he’s pitching tonight and B)they’re playing the Marlins not the Phillies. In order to get his ERA under 4.00, he’d have to pitch very well against a strong club, but it’s certainly not impossible.

If he gives up 2 ER, he’ll have to go at least 7 2/3 IP. If he gives up 1 ER he’ll have to go at least 5 IP, and if he doesn’t give up any ER, he’ll have to only pitch 2 2/3 innings. He can’t do it in a regular length game if he gives up 3 or more ER, but he could do it if he went 9 2/3 IP.

It’s not likely that he’d do it, but it’s certainly possible that the team would only have 24 hours without 4 starters under a 4.00 ERA. Not that it matters at all. Is there any way Zimmermann could face that Nats lineup? That might help.

More Important Than That

I just wanted to publish a word of thanks to Gary Williams. He is basically all I know as the coach at Maryland, and before I went to that school I never paid any attention to college basketball. His teams are what made me a Terp zealot, and his contribution to the team cannot be understated. If not for him, I think they would have been an irrelevant basketball school throughout the 90s and early 2000s, and might only be getting their footing now. The fact that he is being praised for running a clean program is a poor reflection on the state of college sports today, but I am proud of how he ran that program. I was able to witness over a dozen NCAA tournament appearance, and I was able to watch my alma mater win the National Championship. I wish him the best, and Maryland is better off for having him coach.


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