- ESPN has a front page article on the Nats’ going from being an intriguing playoff pick to a “fashionable” one. You may have think you’ve heard much of what’s here already, but the contributions of Jayson Werth may surprise you. He tends to be depicted more as a distant person than a leader, but Drew Storen says Werth “changed the culture” and “made guys accountable.”
- The Astros cut long time National Livan Hernandez, and it looks like the Braves picked him up. So expect to see Livo in Nats Park once again.
- If you didn’t hear, former Nats president Stan Kasten was a big part of the group that purchased the Dodgers.
- The Marlins released Aaron Rowand – not really big news around here, but I decided to see if he was platoon material. Unfortunately, the right handed, over 30 years old centerfielder who is still good with the glove can’t hit LHP well enough to complement Rick Ankiel, the left handed, over 30 years old centerfielder who is still good with the glove and can sorta hit RHP. No dice. By the way, they haven’t yet released Austin Kearns.
- Not Nats related, but today’s the 10th anniversary of the Terps Final Four victory of Kansas. You can watch the whole game here.
Yesterday, we examined the position players for each team in the NL East, giving out 5 points for the best player at each position, 1 point for the worst. Here’s where we stand:
SCORE: PHI (28), DC (26), MIA (25), ATL (23), NYM (18)
The Nats did so well because of strong showings in C, 3B and LF, while ranking middle of the road for the rest, and only taking the dreaded #5 slot for first base. Comparing starting pitchers is even tougher than the position players, not because it’s hard to know who’s best, but because it’s a little subjective to name the #2 or 3 guy for a team. At least the #1s are pretty clear. I’ve tried to use Baseball Prospectus as my guide to order, and I continue pick a great British rock to guide the text.
#1 STARTER (The Stone Roses)
1. Phillies – Roy Halladay
2. Nationals – Stephen Strasburg
3. Marlins – Josh Johnson
4. Mets – Johan Santana
5. Braves – Tim Hudson
Roy Halladay is still an ace of aces, he finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting last year after winning it in 2010, and is still the best here. Strasburg is projected by PECOTA to have the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in the league, and we all know that peace reigns and Love Spreads in Washington whenever Baseball Jesus starts, but he’s not pitching more than 160 or so innings this year. He’s no lower on this list despite the inning cap, because the next two guys have some question marks. Josh Johnson is a true ace, but he was hurt most of last year and has only started one full season so far. Santana is also coming off injury, and probably doesn’t have the fastball he used to have, although he was still incredible without it in 2010. Tim Hudson is a very good pitcher, but he probably isn’t in the league of what the other 4 guys can bring.
SCORE: PHI (33), DC (30), MIA (28), ATL (24), NYM (20)
It’s time for the annual rankings of the NL East, position by position! This is the very same method to determine playoff odds that some analytic website uses in an alternative universe. The rules: If a team has the #1 player at a position, they get 5 points for it. If they have the worst, they get 1 point. At some point I have to make judgments about who is there (for example, with the Nats 1B/OF), so I used the roster I expect to see for at least the early part of the season, on top of assessing their abilities.
Starting with the position players, aided and abetted by Britpop and post-Britpop (in links only slightly hidden in the paragraphs), because nothing says “baseball” like British rock:
CATCHER (The Libertines)
1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Nationals – Wilson Ramos
3. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
4. Mets – Josh Thole
5. Marlins – John Buck
McCann is just a great player and showed it again last year – his second year in a row with a 124 OPS+ makes him one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Ramos surprised many last year not just with his ability to hit, but to take a walk once in a while as well, and displayed serious power potential and strong defense for a 23 year old. Ruiz, now 32, gets his offensive value from a great eye, and despite dwindling power numbers, he could bring more with the bat than Ramos. Thole also gets on base, but has little to no power. John Buck is Miami’s starter and he has some pop, although his AVG is so low that you wouldn’t know just by looking at his SLG. He has had the occasional strong season though, and another one of those could push him Up the Bracket on this list.
SCORE: ATL (5), DC (4), PHI (3), NYM (2), MIA (1)
This week Charlie and Colm talk:
Nationals Review Episode 2 (click to download podcast)
- Baseball Prospectus visit
- Baseball Prospectus topics
- Best rotations in the league
- Strasburg best ERA
- Lannan stinks?
- Goings on in spring training
- Zimmerman on fire
- Gio looked great
- Other players #s
- Andy Pettitte signing
- Should the Nats go after Phil Hughes?
- Upcoming topics
The Nats, with Danny Espinosa at 2B and Ian Desmond at SS, have two young middle infielder in their starting lineup. Espinosa is coming off a very good season, with a low AVG but decent OBP and good SLG, especially for a 24 year out 2B, hitting .232/.323/.414. That OPS put him 7th among qualified NL second basemen, not bad for a rookie. Desmond hit very poorly, although at .253/.298/.358, his .656 OPS was 8th among qualified NL shortstops, making you wonder about the 4 guys below him.
Both did had strong defensive seasons. Espinosa demonstrated why many want him to play SS, and Desmond displayed excellent range, cut down his errors by 1/3 from the previous year, and generally looked comfortable out there. But if Desmond never hits, and many people believe he won’t, his time as a starter could be limited. If that’s the case, it makes sense to slide Espinosa over to SS, and bring in yet another slick fielding middle infield prospect, Steve Lombardozzi, to play second base. That’s all well and good, but if Lombardozzi doesn’t hit, what’s the point? Well, here’s what Lombardozzi would bring with the bat.
Time for the annual spring “what the heck is going on in CF?” question. As of right now, it appears the starting center fielder for the Nationals is Roger Bernadina. Or Rick Ankiel. Which might be a nice platoon if they weren’t both lefties. With Bryce Harper being sent down (both for learning baseball reasons and for economic reasons) the dream that he would play CF or that Jayson Werth would is gone for the moment. So what should they do?
Maybe you think their current roster is just fine, and those guys will play well. Or you think it’s only a matter of time before Harper and Werth man RF and CF, in some order. Alternatively, there has been talk they’re going to try to trade for underutilized Arizona CF Gerardo Parra. They could also use Corey Brown, who has hit well this spring, but hasn’t seen much time in the middle of the outfield this spring.
Of course, if you, like me, think they might not truly believe they are going to be World Series contenders with 60% of Harper and no Strasburg at the end of the year, maybe it doesn’t matter what they do right now as long as they go after a free agent this offseason. So what’s your opini0n?
Baseball Prospectus has a handy dandy little statistic called WARP, which behaves like WAR does everywhere else. But it’s their version of the stat, and you know it’s theirs because of the P. Anyway, it is a great tool because, just like WAR, it shows you the overall value of a player over a replacement player. Unless, of course, that player is John Lannan.
Yesterday, Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus tweeted this:
John Lannan has been worth 0.8 WARP combined over last 2 yr (0.5 over last 3). At $5 mil/win, he’s a $2 mil player with $5 mil salary. Ouch
Very ouch, indeed. But that would make it seem that Lannan wasn’t really a valuable player. And I find this hard to believe. Not because I watch him and like what he does, or because he seems nice, or he’s been a long time National, but because other numbers say he is indeed valuable.
According to PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus’ prediction system, Stephen Strasburg will have the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in the league. He isn’t the most valuable starter because they only have him starting 23 games, not the 31-33 that a full season would bring. So because of limited playing time, he ranks behind Verlander, Halladay, Sabathia, Lincecum and Lee with WARP, but with ERA, he’s the leader.
Here are the predictions for starting pitchers in the league
As you can see, Saint Stephen leads the pack of pretty impressive guys. And if you’re wondering how he stacks up against AL pitchers, he’s a half a run ahead of his closest competition. What does this all mean? Is he really the unequivocally best pitcher in baseball right now?
Jay Jaffe over at Baseball Prospectus wrote an article about the top pitching staffs in the NL, but it was focused on the Nats. No, he wasn’t saying Washington had the top staff, although he did say a few very nice things about visiting the city last week and meeting the fans who finally have legitimate hope. Instead, he was noting how the Nats, in the course of a season or two, have moved into the discussion of top rotations.
First he writes that the Nats added more WARP (its just BP’s version of WAR) with starting pitching than any NL team other than the Reds, Pirates, Rockies and Marlins to improve their staff with the addition of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson. But those Pittsburgh additions include Bedard and Burnett – I have a tough time thinking both of those will end up being good signings, although these projections do include time off due to injury. Regardless, the added WARP for the Nats is 2.5, but Jaffe believes you should “take the over” on what Jackson will contribute, basically guessing that PECOTA underestimates him. And since they are almost tied with the Rockies and the Marlins, if you do give Jackson a little more credit, they are either tied for third best or there all by themselves.
The next thing Jaffe talks about is something fans often wonder – who has the best top two, three, four, five and even six starters. I won’t get into the entire set of numbers, you can look here although it is behind a pay wall (sorry, but you should give BP money anyway), but I will tell you where the Nats stack up
The guys from Baseball Prospectus made their annual pilgrimage to Politics and Prose in DC last night, and I went to hear them talk. It is always a fun session because they basically talk about what they do for 10 minutes, then answer questions for an hour. As you can imagine many of the question focused on the Nats, so I’ll go over some takeaways. In the picture on the right, you see Steve Goldman at the podium and Jay Jaffe, his mustache and his beer (a Dale’s Pale Ale – great choice!) off to the right
- What about the abundance of starting pitchers the Nats have? The consensus was that the old adage is true, you really can’t have enough pitching. Jaffe said over a 3 year time frame 50% of pitchers spend at least some time on the DL. They aren’t concerned that this will be an issue for the team, and said getting Edwin Jackson for the year was a “good move.”
- The front office seems so smart, yet they want to put Desmond as a leadoff? While he may not be as bad as people assume, it isn’t great to have a sub-.300 OBP guy in your leadoff spot. There was some speculation that this isn’t being done as a solution, rather as a purposeful move to try to teach Desi to be more selective. Also, don’t be surprised of Espinosa, who may better fit in the role, takes over. Goldman said that batting order in general is overrated, and managers are behind the statistical curve on this – it’s not about what guys fit best, it really is a distribution of ABs. So Desmond not “fitting” that spot may not matter, but giving the most ABs to him over the course of the season does. Read the rest of this entry »