Nats Get a Pitcher, Maybe Give Up an Ace

December 22, 2011

Well, the Nats went ahead and pulled the trigger on a big trade today, and it was a doozy. They got their #3 pitcher, and he’s a pretty good one, so let’s start with that. They got Gio Gonzalez from the A’s, a lefty starter that can strike people out. He is also under control for 4 more years, and will be 26 years old next season. That’s a pretty strong add for the rotation – here are some numbers.

What They’re Getting

He’s been a full time starter for two full seasons now with the A’s, and he’s compiled some interesting stats. The first thing that probably stands out are the Ks – he’s compiled 368 in the last two seasons over 402 2/3 IP for a K/9 of 8.2. That is pretty damn good, and it should go up with the move to the NL. His ERA+ has been 129, also very good, and keep in mind that even though its a pitchers park, ERA+ factors that in, so he’s doing very well with respect to the rest of league. His ERA over this period is a 3.17, and he helps out with more than just numbers. He fits the Nats need for a lefty in the rotation, and he also has good stuff, with a very strong breaking ball. This may help him out in the NL, as he gets to face not only a weaker number 9 hitter in the pitcher, but often a weak #8 hitter in the NL as well.

On the negative side is first and foremost the walks. He led the league last year with 91, had 92 the prior year, and has had a BB/9 of 4.1 the last two seasons. That puts his K/BB at a pretty pedestrian 2.01. He also has played in front of very good defense which has probably inflated his numbers somewhat. And he’s a fly ball pitcher that was helped out by his home park, so his home/road splits are pretty pronounced. In 2011 his ERA was 2.70 at home and 3.62 on the road. His Ks were higher at home, his walks were lower. But he wasn’t a BAD pitcher away, just mediocre away and GREAT at home. I’m not saying he’ll be bad, but he’s probably not more than a #3 starter. Still, that gives the Nats a solid rotation top to bottom now, with a solid back end and a strong front end.

What They’re Giving Up

In exchange, they gave a slew of prospects to Oakland – right away, you see they got Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, two guys you probably recognize since they played on the Nats last year. Both started, but I think both aren’t destined to be major league starters. Milone had spectacular numbers in the minors, but major league hitters didn’t seem to have that much trouble with him. Although his ERA wasn’t terrible, he didn’t strike anyone out, and probably won’t last several times through a lineup. Peacock has a good fastball, and had a great season in the minors, but has an issue with his curve – it really curves. After they’ve seen it once or twice, hitters at the major league level seem to be able to lay off it and sit on the fastball. He might have a strong future as a setup man, but I have serious doubts in his ability to start. So I don’t mind losing either one of those guys.

They also gave up Derek Norris who, on the other hand, could be somebody. He’s had his issue with batting average for sure, but he walks a ton and hits for power. At almost any other position you’d worry that he might not hit enough once people come at him more, but for a catcher, the power and the eye are probably enough. If he develops, he could be a very good starting catcher. Still, I expected he’d be the price that the Nats would have to pay to make a move. After all, they have a great young catcher already, so Norris really is a trade chip. And they used him appropriately, so good for them.

But there is one more piece that made my shoulder’s slump a bit when I read it. In addition to those three guys, the gave up A.J. Cole. Cole’s name hasn’t been as prevalent for Nats fans, because he’s young and he’s pitching in the low minors, but he’s a talent. But last year, at age 19, he managed 108 Ks and 24 BBs in 89 IP. Striking out more than a guy per inning at that age and level is real nice. He’s got ace potential, and I think the A’s are probably more excited about him than anyone else. He alone would have been a big price to pay.

The Verdict

Well, the Nats have a rotation now, right? Over the next few seasons, they’ll have a better #1 in Strasburg and a better #2 in Zimmermann than most teams. If Gonzalez can succeed outside of Oakland, without that A’s defense in front of him, than the 200+ Ks means they’ll have a good #3 pitcher. John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and maybe Ross Detwiler round out a rotation that looks pretty damn good. And next year, if they went out and bought a free agent front line pitcher, it’d be downright scary. This is a move for now, not years down the road, but Gonzalez is young enough that its not necessarily for NOW now. It works for 2013 and 2014 as well, which is good, because nobody knows how much Harper we’re getting this year, and we know Strasburg will be limited.

Still, I can’t help but thinking Cole was alot to give up. In 3 years or so, when he’s pitching effectively in the majors, that’s just when I expect the Nats to be contending for championships, and really needing a guy like him. What kind of pitcher will Gio Gonzalez be then? Hopefully someone that can make us forget AJ Cole was once part of the future here. Meanwhile, forgetting about AJ Cole for a minute – the rest of what they gave up was probably a long shot to add much to this team. And Gonzalez definitely gives them something right now, and for the next 4 years at least. The bottom line is, whatever they gave up isn’t helping now, and the rotation just got alot stronger.


I Don’t Buy What Boz is Selling

December 22, 2011

Today the Washington Post has an article by Tom Boswell that basically rips the Nats ownership for not spending money this year. It’s a 2 pager on why they are looking like they don’t want to do what it take to win, but the whole article really is summarized by this paragraph

the Nats haven’t signed Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson… they haven’t bid on Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes… they haven’t been within a zillion miles of C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, and especially why they haven’t made a prospects-for-a-star trade such as the Reds for ace Mat Latos, it’s probably because ownership is tensing up, tightening the leash again.

Ok, I get it, everyone wants their team to be active in the offseason. If you’re not moving, you’re getting passed, right? But who are we really talking about out there? Let’s look at all of these players that the Nats “missed out on””

  • Mark Buehrle – He was pursued, and would have been signed but for the fact that he wanted a 4th year, something that is highly risky for a pitcher of his age, even with his durability. He’s also no better than a #3, so it seems like he’s not worth the risk without serious reward
  • Roy Oswalt – Is still out there, and alot of people think the Nats are in the mix. Personally, I’d love to have him if you can promise me he’ll be healthy. If not, I don’t see Washington as the team that should be going injury risk for big reward in their signing. But for one year, it’s probably alright to do, and the Nats may well end up with that.
  • Edwin Jackson – This temptress continues to be on the Nats radar, despite being moderately to terrible most of the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Nats Sign Mike Cameron

December 19, 2011

The Nats acquired Mike Cameron today, because who doesn’t need outfielders that are almost 40? In reality, he’s probably signed to a bench role, and while normally you’d like to give a young guy a shot, there aren’t too many in the farm system that appear to be ready to do that. The guys that are decent need consistent playing time because they aren’t really knocking on the door. So what will Cameron bring?

Last year, Cameron hit an uninspiring .203/.285/.359, which makes you wonder why they’d even go after him. He probably isn’t that bad of a hitter, and unless he’s totally done, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to do something like his .252/.339/.441 from the previous two seasons. And hidden in that 2011 slash line is an ISO of a little over .150, which is pretty good. Of course, Cameron rarely hits over .250, so that’s still not adding up to a great slugging. If you take it for granted that his bat will be a bit better, than his ISO may recover as well. He may be a platoon candidate, as he’s always hit lefties better than righties. And their current CF on the roster, Roger Bernadina, does hit righties better. So it’s possible he starts in CF against lefties.

Read the rest of this entry »


Figuring Out the Nats Lineup

December 14, 2011

A Nats discussion was a small part of Dave Schoenfield’s chat on ESPN.com yesterday, in which I tried to quickly lay out what the Nats plans should be for the future, in terms of their position players. When I say future, I am intentionally vague, but I’m thinking beyond just 2012. I tried to write relatively succinctly, given the medium, but I’ll lay out a little more here.

  • Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos are relatively set where they are. During the chat, someone named Adam made the excellent point that without a contract extension for Zim, everything is moot. But let’s go with the assumption that they do want to re-sign him for now.
  • Ian Desmond has yet to put together a starter-level season at SS, and while his defense did improve last year, his bat was terrible. The idea of moving him to the outfield strikes me as almost laughable – right now, he can’t hit for a SS. For now, it is hard to think you can rely on him as a starter
  • Bryce Harper will be up very soon, and he’ll play RF. He hasn’t played much CF, and he’s got a cannon, so let’s slot him into RF.
  • I am ignoring Adam LaRoche, because I can’t see him being with the team beyond the end of 2012

I think most people would agree with the above sentiments. You might argue that Desmond really is going to be great, but you’re just hoping. So let’s get to the more questionable parts. Here are my feelings on what should be done with the rest of the roster, as it stands.

Read the rest of this entry »


A LHP Who Didn’t Get Lefties Out

December 13, 2011

The Nationals only non-tender last night was Doug Slaten, and it was probably well deserved. Last year, lefties hit an astounding .333/.368/.639 against him. Righties hit .378/.489/.568, which is also pretty bad. But it would be alright if he had gotten lefties out, that’s why there are guys who get paid to come in for one LH batter.

In 2010, he faced 81 LH batters, and they couldn’t touch him. They hit .151/.235/.151 – that’s right, no extra base hits, and throw in 24 Ks. 2009 only had him face 18 lefties, but they hit him well, to the tune of .389/.389/.667 – that’s a tiny sample size, although not a good result. 2008 was another good season. While he wasn’t 2010 great against LH hitters, he faced 63 and they only hit .232/.317/.375.

Meanwhile, righties hit him the whole time. In 2010, their OPS was .844 against him. It 2009, it was .897 and in 2008, it was .866. He’s a lefty specialist, and yet over the years he has been very streaky at getting LH hitters out. The Nationals may yet re-sign him at a discount, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they just let him go, and Adam Kilgore writes that he’ll be looking elsewhere for a team that will give him a “better shot at making the team.”


Balestar Traded for Perry and Mustache to Be Named Later

December 9, 2011

The Nats made a trade this evening, exchanging fan favorite Collin Balester for RHP Ryan Perry. Balester was an active member of the community, seemingly always involved in some charitable event, and was mostly a favorite due to his very active Twitter account and his mustachioed appearance. Despite being shuttled back and forth from the Major League club to AAA, he managed to compile a 3.81 ERA and 62 K with 25 BB in 56 2/3 IP the last two seasons. He did not do a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, and gave up too many HRs (although not a ridiculous amount by any means). He has potential, but despite the Ks, he doesn’t have great stuff. He’s always relied more on his fastball, and it is good but not great. He was once considered one of the better prospects in the organization, but that was when the organization was barren – Balester was drafted in the 4th round of the Expos final draft in 2004. Turning 26 this coming June, he was no longer considered a potential starter, and was trying to find a spot in the rotation.

In exchange for @ballystar40, the Nats got a year younger with Ryan Perry. Perry was the Tigers first round pick in 2008 (21st overall) and that probably has something to do with his fastball, which reaches the high 90s. In his first year he struck out 60 batters in 61 2/3 IP, but the last two seasons, he’s only struck out 69 while walking 44 in 99 2/3 IP. Obviously control is an issue, and judging by at least one Tigers chat room, fans are sick of seeing him come in and not live up to his potential. That being said, he does reach almost 100 mph, and he also does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, and doesn’t give up many HRs.

Read the rest of this entry »


Werth in CF – Should They? Will They?

December 6, 2011

There has been quite a bit of talk in the last day or so about Jayson Werth moving to center field, with Bryce Harper filling his right field spot. This isn’t the first time we’ve contemplated this – when Werth was first signed a year ago, many people brought up the very same scenario. So why the buzz again? Well there are really two reasons. The first is that Rizzo has said Werth could play there if they don’t find someone. The second is that Davey Johnson has hinted that Harper may play well enough in the spring to convince management not to send him to the minors. So let’s take this in two parts – should it happen and will it happen.

Should It Happen?

The possibility of Werth in CF isn’t that far fetched. He’s done it before, and he has pretty good range. According to statistics like UZR, RF and Rtot, he’s been a great RF for most of his career. His time at CF has also been very good. The last few years, though, haven’t been as impressive. Although still pretty good in RF, his CF numbers are mixed at best with range, but point to poor overall value. To me, the sample size is so small, it’s hard to really get a handle on how he’d play out there full time. I don’t think he’d be the worst guy in the league out there, but he isn’t a gold glover either.

Read the rest of this entry »


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