A Few Links for Your Holiday Weekend

August 31, 2012

I’m not sure how much I’ll be posting over the next week or two – I have some non-interesting craziness added to my schedule, plus a trip to Texas that includes a drive (yes, a drive) back here – so why not start my potential absence with some links!

While this article is fantasy focused, it recommends picking up Ross Detwiler for some short term starter help, it gives some interesting insights as to why he’s been doing so well. It suggests his success is based primarily on keeping the ball on the ground and throwing two different types of fastballs.

This is an extremely interesting article by Jay Jaffe on the Juice Era – juiced baseballs, that is. Jaffe is a great writer who usually comes out with very good stuff, and this is no exception. He suggests much of the power surge may have come the baseball rather than the steroids – and he starts it out by talking about how the exact same thing happened in the 70s. This got me hooked early, and the article goes on to talk about the juiced baseballs of the steroid era. Read the rest of this entry »


Feast or Famine? Blame the OBP

August 30, 2012

We have seen this season that the Nats offense has its moments, and then has games where it doesn’t really show up at all. Or in the case of the recent road trip, 5 days in a row where it doesn’t show up at all. This feast or famine aspect of the offense is frustrating, but it doesn’t mean they can’t score. They’re ranked 7th in the league in runs scored, so they aren’t slouches. But their OBP is ranked 10th, and some of that is buoyed by guys who haven’t been starters all year, which may go a long way to explaining why it seems like when they’re not scoring, they’re really not scoring.

There are 222 players in MLB this year with 300 or more plate appearances. Ranking by OBP, the Nats highest ranking player on that list is Ryan Zimmerman, who ranks 63rd with a .349 mark. The next guy is Adam LaRoche, who’s .333 ranks him 109th, just above the halfway mark. It looks worse as you keep going, here are the rest of the guy’s who qualify:

These aren’t horrible numbers, but there’s nobody great at getting on base this year on the list, including the guys mentioned up top. And while nobody’s in that bottom quartile, 5 of the 7 guys with enough PAs are in the bottom half. That goes a long way to explaining why this team is so feast or famine.

And this may be an indicator of what they need to look for in the offseason. The talk that you usually hear about this team is that they’re missing a true CF and a true leadoff man, and they could probably get one guy to fill both roles. If that is the case, they better get a guy with a high OBP, and avoid the talented but OBP-free BJ Upton’s of the world.

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Opinions That Matter

August 29, 2012

As you probably have noticed, I like tables. I know, people love them some infographics, but give me a good table and it gives you all the info you need to know. So here’s a table based on today’s Sports Bog post, where it says Bill James is comfortable with shutting Strasburg down. At the bottom of the post, Dan Steinberg is kind enough to compile links to plenty of other opinions on the situation.

The table below show whether or not all these people agree with shutting down Strasburg, according to the article. If they think his innings should be creatively limited so he can be available in the playoffs, I put them in the “Not OK” with shutting him down camp. Here’s how it shakes out so far, with color coding:

Now, another thing I love to do is take the same table and organize it differently. So here is that same table, with the colors remaining the same (those who agree with the shutdown are in green, those who are disagree are in red).

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Potential September Callups

August 27, 2012

September is approaching fast, and normally with the Nationals, it’s when we can turn our attention back to the downtrodden team and see some young prospects get a shot with the Major League club. Instead, this year the Nats will be entering September as perhaps favorites to win the division, let alone grab one of the two wild card spots.

But that doesn’t stop the roster from expanding, and it doesn’t stop the minor league season from ending around Labor Day, so we’ll still get to see a youngster or two. Remember that in order to be a September callup, a player has to be on the 40 man roster. I will use today’s 40 man and assume it won’t change by the weekend, but of course it probably will. Here’s a few guys to look out for:

Probably

John Lannan – Heard of him? He’s a lock to get called up, especially considering he’s first in line to fill in for Stephen Strasburg once the ace gets shut down.

Corey Brown – He had an incredible season in the minors, he’s a strong defensive CF, and he’s already hit his first Major League homer this year. Hopefully he’ll get to play some more – maybe to rest a seemingly fatigued Bryce Harper once in a while.

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The Nats and Future Power

August 23, 2012

ESPN put out their annual Future Power Rankings today, and it ranks the Nats 11th overall. I normally don’t worry about these things too much, but there is something I find a little curious about how they rank them. Check out what they did:

Majors - I get that their Majors score is only 26/30, despite the whole best-record-in-baseball thing. Frankly, they aren’t the offensive juggernauts as of yet, and the lack of a true CF or leadoff hitter is mentioned in the text. Plus 26 points is actually 4th best, behind only the Yankees, Rangers, and Angels, so I can certainly buy that.

Minors – Frankly, while this looks low, they don’t have a ton of true top level talent. Rendon could still end up being the best hitter in last year’s draft, and he’ll have time to show it this fall, but as for now, he’s barely played. Giolito is about to have TJ surgery before the end of the month. There are some others here and there, but it isn’t exactly deep or full of top level sure thing talent right now.

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Can the Bullpen Success Last?

August 20, 2012

Everyone knows how good the Nationals’ starting pitching has been – they’ve had the best ERA in the league on the backs of those starters for almost the entire season, and it doesn’t look like anyone’s going to change that. But quietly, the bullpen has been very successful, too. They rank 6th in the NL among bullpens, which, considering how good the starters have done, makes for quite an effective pitching staff. Here’s how they stack up:

This is all well and good, and they actually rank 6th in strikeouts as well. As I said, this team has such dominant starting pitching, that a slightly above average bullpen, which is what this indicates, is going to make them pretty impossible to beat. Except for the unfortunate fact that it might be pretty tough to sustain.

On to the Bad News

Now, we often talk about pitchers or hitters regressing to the mean – being successful (or unsuccessful) in relatively short amount of time despite their career numbers showing them to be a different player. And non-traditional statistics indicate that they will eventually go back to what they were, and they almost always do. Well, that’s not what I’m talking about here at all. I’m talking about something much less complicated than that. Let’s look at this bullpen sorted by a different, very traditional statistic:

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On Strasburg

August 16, 2012

I haven’t said much in this space about Stephen Strasburg‘s innings limit, and that is on purpose. I’m not sure why people would think that Mike Rizzo, after assuring us that Strasburg would be shut down, would change his tack. But here we are with the end of his season staring us in the face (OMG it’s only 20-40 IP away! OHNOZ!) so the discussion begins anew. Or it never ended.

I figured as a responsible blogger it was a requirement for me to give me opinion on this subject. Otherwise they might not invite me back to Blogger Day, and that’s half the reason I still do this thing. So I’ll lay it out in simple terms: I AGREE WITH MIKE RIZZO. I’m not saying that this decision is an easy one, or that it is going to definitely work out, but I truly believe it is the safest opinion. The only time (I think) I addressed this situation in the last few months was around the trade deadline, when I compared the Nationals to Apple Stock

I got mine at $200. It’s worth $600 now. I could have sold it at $300 or $400, and made money. But I believe in the future of the company, so I’ll keep going with it, because I believe there will be a better payoff for me in the end. And that’s how I feel about this Nats team.

If my analogy wasn’t perfect, I apologize, I studied engineering not English in college. My point is that, it’s easy to say “hey, the Nats are in first place, THAT MAY NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN! Pitch Strasburg and win the damn thing!” And maybe they’d win the World Series, and flags fly forever. So you wouldn’t fault them for doing that. And if I traded in my Apple stock for a $200 per share profit, you wouldn’t have faulted me for doing that either.

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What Does One Game Mean?

August 14, 2012

Its amazing what one night can do for a team. The 14-2 win might not end up meaning much in the grand scheme of things, there are, after all, 161 other games to be played. And the games versus Atlanta might be more important just because of what it does to the NL East standings. But still, a drubbing like that… alot of things happened in one night that are simultaneously completely meaningless and totally consequential, depending on how you look at the world. But it certainly showed that the Nats, a team built on pitching and known mostly for it, can score with the best of them.

The Offense 

This team, the Washington Nationals, have scored the most runs since the All Star break. Think about that for a minute. This is a team that was winning thanks almost entirely to their pitching staff early in the season, with late game heroics allowing them to take 2-1 leads in the 8th, and plenty of anectodal stories just like that. But here they are, scoring the most runs in baseball since mid-July. And take a gander on the right side of the screen. That’s right, they’re now 6th in the NL in runs per game. Murderer’s Row it aint, but that’s till a pretty good place to be. And keep in mind that offensive explosion was at one of the best, if not the best, pitcher’s park in baseball.

The Cy Young Race

That they did it against Ryan Vogelsong was also significant. Going in to the game, he might not have been the leading Cy Young candidate, but he was certainly leading the NL in ERA. Now if you look at that list, you see Jordan Zimmermann right at the top. Now Vogelsong has one more win that JZimm, but the same number of Ks and a half a run more on the ERA. Is Jordan the leader for the award? Probably not – voters are still hung up on wins, and he doesn’t strike a ton of guys out. Dickey’s got the Ks, the ERA and the Ws, as does Cueto (who gets bonus points for pitching in a hitter’s park), but that is probably you’re top 3 right now. So Zimmermann certainly has a chance, and the Nats knocking the guy who’s season who most like his down on the ERA list helped his case quite a bit.

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The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 11

August 13, 2012

Join Colm and Charlie as the discuss the NATS. Nationals Review Episode 11

Here is what they talk about:

  • Nats winning streak
  • Return of Werth
  • State of the middle infield
  • Harper’s slump
  • Pitching staff keeps rolling

Nats Get a SS, Bat Not Included

August 6, 2012

The Nats picked up a backup SS today, Cesar Izturis, off of waivers. At least the thought is that he’d be a backup, because he certainly doesn’t hit like a starter. Although he did start for the Orioles in 2010 and for the Brewers this year, he is your traditional, old timey all-glove no-bat shortstop. And when I say no bat, I mean no bat.

His career line of .255/.294/.323 tantalizes you with hints of his lack of power and ability to get on base, but if we dig deeper, we can see it’s even worse than it looks. In his three seasons as Baltimore’s SS, he managed to slug .292, with an OBP of .283, in what is considered one of the best hitter’s parks in the league. And if you go back to 2008, he’s batting a “how-is-he-still-in-the-majors?” .246/.290/.302, with 6 HRs and 77 BBs in 1,581 PAs. But there is a reason he’s still in the majors, and that’s his defense.

Looking at his WARP (Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement) he’s sitting at 0.1 for his career. That is with a career VORP (we’re talking only hitting with this) of -27.0 factored in. I’m actually surprised he’s offense value is considered that high (or that low negative), but it still highlights how much his defense adds to his value. His only years of positive offense where he had more than 207 PAs were in 2008 with St Louis and 2004 with LA. That’s it. So looking at WARP, we can see that this guy’s value is exclusively tied to his glove – it’s just barely positive despite having very bad hitting.

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