2012 should be a big year for the Nationals. Many believe that it will be their first winning season in Washington. And if it is, that would be quite a coincidence, as it would be exactly 100 years after Washington baseball’s FIRST first winning season. The Senators finished 91-61 that year, for their first winning season ever, in their 12th season of existence. Coming in 2nd in the AL, it was also the first time they finished higher than 6th place out of 8.
It wasn’t just the first winning season in “modern” baseball in Washington, which most people put at the turn of the last century. The Washington Statemen/Senators, who played from 1891-1899, never had a winning season. Neither did the original Washington Nationals, who existed from 1886-1889. (For a little background on those teams, click here). The two Washington teams that played in 1884 were under .500 as well. So 1912 really was the first winning season in Washington major league baseball.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the first winning season, and in hopes of the first one for this franchise in this city, it makes sense for the Nats to honor them the best way a baseball team can – by wearing throwbacks. The first picture, on the right hand side of the screen, are the 1912 uniforms, pretty good, although I’ve never been a fan of the “nothing on the front” jerseys.
The number one rule of the Arizona Fall League: don’t talk about stats in the Arizona Fall League. It’s a super short season, about a month worth of playing time. It’s also at the end of a long season, and some guys respond differently than others. Some are returning from injury, some hitters are just trying to get more work in because they’re lost… all different reasons why it is important to take everything with a grain of salt. That being said, here’s some of the highlights from Nationals, playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions:
Norris is once again having a great AFL season. He’s hitting well, has displayed power and showcased his ability to draw walks. Remember the caveat about stats, his .361/.457/.583 seems great, but that’s only 13 total hits. He certainly doesn’t look lost, and considering he hit .278/.403/.667 last fall, I’m starting to think he just likes Arizona. Because his .210/.367/.446 in a full season of AA this year was certainly disappointing, although the patience and power are clearly ubiquitous.
On the other end of the spectrum, not only were Matt Purke’s stats terrible, so was he. His first pro start was 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR. Not good, not good at all. He was a little better coming out of the pen a week earlier, 2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, but his season ERA in those two appearances is in the low 30s. But, Keith Law assessment should put it some perspective, “velocity still isn’t back, couldn’t locate (obviously), arm action still a negative. All that said, we knew he wasn’t right from the spring, so I’d like to at least see where he is in 2012 after a winter of rehab.”
If you haven’t been watching the World Series, you’ve been missing out on some great baseball. But now is your chance to jump on the bandwagon, and tonight is the perfect night. Why? Well, there’s a myriad of reasons why any baseball fan should be paying attention tonight, but Nats fans in particular have one extra reason – C.J. Wilson. The Nationals have said they are in the market for an ace, and his contract ends after this seasons. It’s hard not to list him as the best starting pitcher available at the moment. After the World Series, CC Sabathia may opt out, and Yu Darvish will likely end up coming over from Japan. So at worst, he’s the third best guy.
Personally, I’m not so sure if Wilson is an ace. He’s very good, and his move from the bullpen last year to full time starter has been a rousing success. In 2011, he had a 2.94 ERA in 223 1/3 IP, striking out 206 and walking a worrisome 74, while going went 16-7. The year before, he actually lead the league in walks, with 90, but still managed a 3.35 ERA to go with his 170 Ks. The walks are very troubling, and yet, he’s managed to strike out 376 hitters in the last 2 seasons, and have a 142 ERA+ in a true hitters park. I’m not sure if that shows how good he’s been, or how lucky he’s been, but it’s certainly intriguing.
The bad thing about making a bet in Vegas is that if you come really really close, but still don’t hit it, you don’t get any money. Nobody at Caesar’s palace is going to send me a check for almost winning this. I was super close…
Yup $20 turns into nothing, instead of $700. At the time I made the bet, I thought 35-1 odds for the Brewers to win the pennant were ridiculous. And they were, I was right. That doesn’t mean I won, though.
Now that the offseason has started, let the speculation begin. This is the 4th annual “Nationals of the future” lineup, and it’s something I really enjoy thinking about. I have decided to go with Nats 4 seasons ahead instead of 5, just because 5 is so far out, 4 seems more reasonable. Of course, I’m judging prospects and predicting that there are no free agent acquisitions, both ridiculous for me to do. Here’s my team based on the current farm system, and alot of guessing:
The Position Players
C – Wilson Ramos – Ramos had a very strong rookie season, both offensively and defensively. His Zone Rating put him 3rd among the 22 NL catchers with at least 200 innings, and his CS% ranked 10th. But his bat was what really impressed – hitting .267/.333/.445 is pretty good for any rookie, and its pretty good for a catcher, but it’s great for a 23 year old rookie catcher.
1B – Anthony Rendon – Unless they sign him to an extension, Michael Morse becomes a free agent before the 2014 season, when he’ll be turning 32. It’s possible he’ll stick around then, but I’d say less than 50%. Chris Marrero doesn’t seem like a full timer to me, but Anthony Rendon has been projected to be a 30 homer type. His injury history, and some doubts that he’d be able to play there anyway, makes me very skeptical about this “Rendon at 2B” idea. But his bat could certainly be good enough to put him at first, and he should move up quickly enough that we’ll know soon enough.
2B – Danny Espinosa – Maybe he moves to SS, maybe he stays at 2B, but he looks like he can hit enough to be a real middle infield option for years to come. His rookie year line of .232/.323/.414 has room for improvement, but some of that looks worse thanks to a late season slump. That could easily be excused thanks to the fatigue playing 158 games in his first major league season. We’ll know better next season, but for now, he looks like a power hitting plus defender at a middle infield spot, which is certainly good enough.
The other day I asked about who’s contract you’d rather have between two guys with 6 year deals – Jayson Werth and Alex Rodriguez. But after his injury at the NLDS, everyone on twitter has pointed out that Ryan Howard’s extension starts now. He technically only has 5 years left, but the 6th year is a $10M buyout. So we’ll throw him in the mix, who would you like to have starting today, for 2012-2017?
Jayson Werth: $112M left, $18.6M per year – Werth hit an underwhelming .232/.330/.389 this season, although from July 19 on (38% of his PAs) he hit .264/.349/.445. While that still wasn’t great, it suggests he recovered from whatever ailed him, mentally or physically, in the first half. That may be about in tune with what he’ll do in a normal season. He gets on base, has some pop, but isn’t a top tier hitter. He has a general reputation for being a good fielder, has some speed on the bases, and is only 31. When the contract ends, he’ll be 37.
Alex Rodriguez:$143M – $173M left, $23.8M – $28.8M per year (maximum reached upon breaking all time HR record) – ARod was hurt for a good part of this season, but he still managed to hit .276/.362/.461 for the year. That’s slightly better than Werth’s “good” final 1/3 of the season, significantly better than Werth’s full season. However, his range is clearly fading, and he’s 35 years old. If things go well for him, he’ll break Ruth’s, Aaron’s and maybe even Bonds’ HR records. But after his admission of steroid use, it may not get the kind of positive attention he had hoped. When he’s 37 years old, he’ll outperform what Werth will do at 37, but what about when Werth is 37 and ARod’s 41? The Yankees have to worry about where to play him at that point, but let’s not worry about whether or not he’d be blocked by Teixeira or force a trade of Montero. More importantly, will he be able to play 3B at 41? And if not, will he hit like a 1B or DH?
Ryan Howard: $125M – $138M, $20.8M – $23M per year (minimum if they buyout 2017, maximum if they keep him) – Ryan Howard hit .253/.346/.488 this year and managed to hit 33 home runs. In 2010, he hit a little bit better, although he “only” hit 31 homers. The last 6 seasons he’s managed an astounding 262 homers, but the dip in power was noticeable over the last two seasons. It’s now down to one of the best in the league instead of head and shoulders above everyone else. He’s not a great defensive first baseman, and does clog the bases, but shows patience and power in his approach to the plate. He’s 31 right now, so like Werth, he’ll be 37 when this ends. His ruptured achilles may keep him out early next year, and could slow him down more, but it doesn’t seem to be the kind of injury that would have lingering affects on his hitting. Meanwhile, he’s been very healthy, averaging 153 games per year over his last 6. If the power fade is real, he could be useless quickly, but if not, he could still mash 30+ a year for the foreseeable future.
Take your pick (none of the above is not an answer)
Jayson Werth and Alex Rodriguez have something in common – they both have 6 more seasons left on their contracts. Another thing they have in common – there probably isn’t a team out there that would sign them to the 6 year deals with the salary they have remaining. But neither the Nats or the Yankees have a choice, these guys are already signed. Which contract would you rather have right now?
Jayson Werth – $112 M left, $18.6 per year – Werth hit an underwhelming .232/.330/.389 this season, although from July 19 on (38% of his PAs) he hit .264/.349/.445. While that still wasn’t great, it suggests he recovered from whatever ailed him, mentally or physically, in the first half. That may be about in tune with what he’ll do in a normal season. He gets on base, has some pop, but isn’t a top tier hitter. He has a general reputation for being a good fielder, has some speed on the bases, and is only 31. When the contract ends, he’ll be 37.
Alex Rodriguez – $143 M – $173 M left, $23.8 – $28.8 per year (maximum reached upon breaking all time HR record) – ARod was hurt for a good part of this season, but he still managed to hit .276/.362/.461 for the year. That’s slightly better than Werth’s “good” final 1/3 of the season, significantly better than Werth’s full season. However, his range is clearly fading, and he’s 35 years old. If things go well for him, he’ll break Ruth’s, Aaron’s and maybe even Bonds’ HR records. But after his admission of steroid use, it may not get the kind of positive attention he had hoped. When he’s 37 years old, he’ll outperform what Werth will do at 37, but what about when Werth is 37 and ARod’s 41? The Yankees have to worry about where to play him at that point, but let’s not worry about whether or not he’d be blocked by Teixeira or force a trade of Montero. More importantly, will he be able to play 3B at 41? And if not, will he hit like a 1B or DH?