Today the Yankees returned Rule 5 pick from the Nationals, Brad Meyers. In order to keep him, he had to be on the 25 man roster all year. Instead he was on the DL all year except for one rehab game in the minors. So the Nats got him back and he was optioned to Syracuse. If you remember, a few people were a little upset that they didn’t protect him by putting him on the 40 man (thus preventing any team from taking him in the Rule 5 draft), especially after the success he saw in 2009 and 2011. Let’s first take a look at what he did there.
In 2009, at age 23, after being in the minors for a year and a half (he pitched late in the summer he signed), he showed some real promise. He started out in High-A Potomac, and he succeeded, as most former college pitchers should. He also spent 1/3 of his season at AA, which is a much bigger challenge, and succeeded there as well. In 48 IP in AA, he struck out 43, only walked 11, and had a 2.25 ERA. His numbers in high-A were better than that, and he was named the Nats Minor League Pitch of the year. But he hurt his foot in the offseason, and didn’t start the season. He only was able to make 6 starts before re-injuring it (or realizing it wasn’t fixed, perhaps), but in those 6 starts he was very good – 35K/7BB in 30 2/3 IP with a 1.47 ERA.
When we discuss the construction of the 2013 Nationals, the linchpin player is Adam LaRoche. It’s hard to figure out what other moves will be made until his situation is finalized. It’s widely assumed that he’ll opt out of his contract. The $10M option was good security for him at the time, but he can certainly command more now, and he can get multiple years with at least that much per year. For the Nats, he was certainly the most consistent offensive player, and possibly the best. He was #2 in PAs and led the team in HRs and OPS. People tend to think this was a “career” year, but that is colored by his hot start. In terms of OPS+, it was his 2nd best, and right around his numbers in 2006, 2008, and 2009.
What this year did show, however, was that he can still hit. After a somewhat disappointing 2010 season in where he did hit 25 HRs and have 100 RBI, but only had a .788 OPS (9th best among NL 1Bs), he sat out the majority of 2011 on the DL. Someone will offer him multiple years, and while he does profess that he wants to stay in DC, at 32 years old he would be wise to go with the best offer. It’s hard to imagine the Nats could low ball him and hold on. I figure most people who want him back would prefer 2 years or less, so anything longer than that would be considered “long term.” I seriously doubt he’d get any more than 4 years from anyone.
In terms of finding a replacement for LaRoche, there are some in house options with Tyler Moore and Michael Morse. There are also a few free agent possibilities, and while there aren’t any 28 year old superstars waiting on a big deal, realistic options for full time players include Mike Napoli, Lance Berkman (who may retire), Carlos Pena (who probably should retire), and Nick Swisher (who could also play OF). One possibility is to go with a Tyler Moore platoon, and sign a lefty who can hit righties like Aubrey Huff or James Loney (who actually has a .792 OPS vs RHP playing in that huge LAD stadium). My thought on that is they wouldn’t sign a guy to make a full time platoon, more as a bailout option in case Moore struggles.
Yesterday, we took at look at some of the things that were the biggest steps forward in 2012 for the pitching staff. I’m trying to concentrate on things that were both new and sustainable. Sustainability is subjective, but we’ll look at the stats enough to make at least me feel comfortable that the stuff highlighted here isn’t temporary. We’re looking at the position players here, so why not start with the most controversial one:
2012 was quite a season for the Washington Nationals, and there are big things that happened this year which should get you fired up for next season. This season was a huge step forward, 18 more wins than 2011, so there are a ton of good things that happened. I’m going to focus on the things that are big steps forward, and very likely to make next year another great season. Since there’s so much, I’ll start with the pitching, and move on to the position players in the next post. I’m not purposely going position by position, I’m really just trying to talk about the big, sustainable improvements from previous seasons. So the first thing we found out this year, that should excite us going in to next season is…
Timing is everything, isn’t it? Think about some of your friends from high school or college, friends of yours for maybe 2 or 10 or 25 or more years. If they were born a few months later or earlier, they might have been in a different class, and you might never have been friends. Maybe it’s the same with your wife or husband. What about your job? If you applied for more than one job, something might have come through before something else, and the next thing you know, you’re doing A at company X instead of B at company Y.
Or, perhaps, you almost blow a huge lead in the NLDS, go into the 9th still winning, and then lose it there… but it’s in game 2 instead of game 5. Suddenly the end isn’t so painful. The last game of this season sucked for the Nationals, there’s no way around that. But for the 10 teams that make the playoffs, it’s likely that for 9 of them the season ends on a bad note, we’re just talking about the level of badness. It is what it is, and while moves can be questioned, the season ended and the Nats didn’t win the series.
If you’re pacing back and forth, worrying about yesterday’s game, take heart, you’re not the only one. In actuality, both teams come into Washington with some reason to be excited. St Louis should be happy to have a win after losing game 1, as game 2 was semi-must win for them. As a corollary they have to be happy they survived the Nats two “best” starters.
The Nationals should be very happy with their situation, as well. They went on the road and won a game, which means they only have to win a home series, 2 out of 3. And unlike a week ago, they now have a bunch of guys who have playoff experience, and hopefully any jitters are out of their systems.
But rather than go into some sort of big analysis of two games of baseball which would no doubt be based on extremely limited sample size and wildly exaggerated observations, I figured I’d just give you some links to help you enjoy the off day. And you should enjoy it, because even though they lost yesterday, the Nats get to play in the postseason again tomorrow.
It seems like every day, history is being made for this team. A win in the postseason was a pretty good way for the franchise to introduce itself, and the game was an exciting one. Here are the biggest plays for the Nats from their first playoff win ever. I’ve included the Fangraphs stat Win Probability Added, WPA, and I’ve made them all in positive numbers, the only plays we’re concerned about here are ones that add to the Nats probability. But as you can see, I didn’t just rank em by WPA, because as you’ll notice, that just won’t work. Starting with the first run in Nats postseason history:
5. Kurt Suzuki knocks 1 in (WPA 10.2%)
It became the story of the night it seemed – men on first and third, one out, and someone strikes out. This time it was Danny Espinosa, who had a rough rough night at the bat (3 Ks and a strange bunt that magically ended up doing something good) who struck out, and it was up to the #8 hitter Kurt Suzuki. With the pitcher up next, he might not have thought he’d get much to hit, but that early in the game, Wainwright probably was hoping to start the 3rd by pitching to Gio. So Suzuki did end up with something to hit, and he ripped a ball through the hole on the left side, getting an RBI and putting the Nats up for the moment.
4. Jayson Werth robs Daniel Descalso (WPA 2.5%)
This is one of those plays that doesn’t really show up in things like changes in win probability. And it seems like the same thing in the box score – just a flyout to the right fielder. But Jayson Werth caught that ball with his glove over the fence – if he doesn’t haul it in, it’s a homer, it’s 3-1 and who knows how things unfold from there. I can promise you if he DOESN’T catch, the WPA is significantly different. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ll get the most contentious one out of the way first. I picked Trout over Miguel Cabrera not because of WAR (which I do like) or anything like that. I think the case can be made that Miggy was the best hitter this year, but Trout was awfully close. Trout, however, was a much better defensive player. Therefore, overall, Trout was better. I won’t even get into the advantages that Miggy had with park effects and opponents’ pitching staffs. Trout was a better player than Cabrera, even if you buy that Miggy was a better hitter. Frankly, because he plays such a more difficult defensive position than either guy, Cano may even be above Cabrera, but I won’t get into that here.
NL MVP – Buster Posey
Posey’s got a better OPS than McCutchen (in SF, a real pitcher’s park) and a higher OBP than Braun (who should get extra points this year after coming back and killing it again) and he plays catcher.
Yesterday at Nats Park, a truly historic event took place. No, I’m not talking about the Teddy victory, which somehow made the cover of the Washington Post. I like the president’s race, it’s a cute idea, but I’m glad this silly Teddy thing is over. It jumped the shark last year or earlier, and I’m just glad we don’t have to hear about it over and over again anymore.
The truly historic event that I was referencing? Best record in baseball! This isn’t some minor thing. A baseball team in Washington has only managed this twice, ever. And one of those times they ended up winning the World Series.
It’s a special moment, because it really does indicate that the Nationals are for real. They didn’t squeak into the playoffs, nor did they back into the NL East title. They had the best record in all of Major League Baseball.This is not a minor thing. It shows just how good they were this season. Hopefully it also indicates how good they are compared to the rest of the league, but also, thanks to the youth, gives a clue as to how good they’ll be the next few years.
Today you can look at your Washington Nationals and call them the NL East Division Champions. Soak that in – it’s a great feeling. It may have happened earlier than most of us (including me) expected, but we all saw this coming. That doesn’t take away any of the joy this moment should give.
Neither should the fact that this is far from over. You should celebrate today, it is an historical event for DC baseball. And if they win it next year, you should celebrate then as well, because winning your division is something to cheer. But there is a long way to go to win a championship.
I am not sure if this team is the one that will do it – but what do I know, I certainly wasn’t predicting them winning their division. I expect if they win the NLDS the celebrations will actually be more muted than last night’s, because at that point they will still see two more series in front of them. But will they win the NLDS?