Espinosa’s Shoulder – Prognosis Negative?

January 30, 2013

On Monday I wrote about Danny Espinosa and his torn rotator cuff, focusing on his numbers before and after the injury. There were a few distractions in the baseball world afterwards, but I mentioned I’d get around to discussing the health implications for the season, so here we go.

Obviously, the most logical thing from the fans point of view would be to get surgery, go through recovery, and be done with the issue forever. It sounds simple enough, and it might only cost 2 months (according to most reports I’ve seen) which means if he got it today, he might be back well before the end of May.

But surgery isn’t so simple, there are always risks of complications, and the possibility of making things worse. For whatever reason, the doctors and the team seem to be confident that rehab is enough for this injury, and he doesn’t have to have surgery at this point. I tried to find examples of position players with similar injuries, and whether they had to have surgery, whether they tried to play, etc, but I came up empty.

So I reached out to Stephania Bell, who is ESPN’s injury expert and a “certified orthopedic clinical specialist and strength and conditioning specialist” which means she knows a heck alot more about this than you or I. She was kind enough to respond, for which I am very thankful. Here is what I asked, and what she said:

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Gio and the PED Link

January 29, 2013

I am certainly not one to bluster about PEDs. I tend to not even write about it, because it rarely touches this team. If you look at my theoretical HoF voting, you’ll see that I included of Bonds, Clemens and even Pud Galvin. But the news about Gio Gonzalez using a Miami clinic linked to steroids and HGH is certainly disheartening. As I’ve stated before, I don’t care that much about the use of PEDs.

I think it is good that the league is getting rid of them (to whatever level you believe they are trying) because I don’t think any young player should feel the need to use in order to compete. But that’s about it. However, with all the rules, with all the publicity, and with all of the modern news outlets and sources of cash for people who want to reveal thing famous people do… to paraphrase the film classic Friday, you’ve got to be one stupid mf to take PEDs these days. You just can’t think you’re not going to get caught.

Getting caught costs your team, and it costs you. Imagine that MLB ends up suspending people on this list. 50 games. The Nats losing their #2 pitcher for 50 suddenly means maybe they’re not in such good shape for making the playoffs. That is my number one concern, by leaps and bounds. I don’t care much about Gio’s legacy, although I may hesitate to buy his jersey if he got suspended. But Gio should certainly be concerned with Gio’s legacy, and if he did indeed do something illegal, again, it has to be chalked up to stupidity.

It is hard to give players the benefit of the doubt, but it is certainly possible that Gio has done absolutely nothing wrong. The article states that he ordered “1.c.1 with Zinc/MIC/… and Aminorip. For Gio and charge $1,000.” What does that first part means, I have no idea. But if 1.c.1 is just a notes heading (like in an outline), he may well have done nothing illegal at all. As pointed out in Mr. Irrelevant, nothing listed there is on the list of banned substances.

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Espinosa’s Shoulder Injury, the Numbers

January 28, 2013

Danny Espinosa revealed that he played the end of last season with a torn rotator cuff, and that if he had known how bad he was hurt, he probably wouldn’t have played. A few questions come to mind, the most important one is probably why he is electing to not have surgery. He could, after all, have surgery today and probably be back by late May.

Espi on 2nd

We’ll tackle that one later. Another question that comes to mind centers around his performance. How much was he affected? Did he hurt the Nats chances, will he be all better this year, etc etc.

He said he was hurt in early September, and got a cortisone shot on Sept 17, but that didn’t really help. The injury seems to have been made public on Sept 17, it had hurt for “the past week” and he only played 3 games in that week, due to leaving for his grandmother’s funeral after Sept 11. So using Sept 11 as a cutoff point, we can see what he did

Pre-injury: .255/.321/.416, K/PA:.276
Post-injury (reg. season): .183/.258/.283, K/PA: .364
Playoffs: .059/.176/.059, K/PA: .368

The playoffs looked even worse, but that’s not surprising as the injury had more time to hurt, the pitching was tougher, and the sample size was small enough that anything can happen. The K/PA didn’t change much, but, again, sample sizes. Now combining the last few PAs of the season, adding the playoffs stats to the post-injury regular season, it looks like this:

Pre-injury: .255/.321/.416, K/PA: .276
Post-injury: .156/.241/.234, K/PA: .365

One more exercise – if you’ve read this blog at all you know I love to get rid of April with Espinosa’s numbers. Not because April doesn’t count, but just because he was so bad in April, that whether he was hurt, mentally lost, heartbroken, or his contacts were in the wrong eyes there was something different about him. Well, let’s not just eliminate it, let’s line it up with the other pieces of his season:

April 5 – May 3: .182/.277/.239, K/PA: .313
May 3 – Sept 11: .269/.330/.451, K/PA: .271
Sept 11 – Oct 12: .156/.241/.234, K/PA: .365

Alright, so I didn’t expect some sort of statistical revelation from this, just interesting to look at that. It’s hard to imagine he had this injury in April, but he looked like a completely different hitter for 490 PAs from early May to mid Sept than he did before or after. And other than a few more singles in April, he was basically an identical hitter in April and September, which is interesting.

As for the injury we KNOW about in September, that one clearly affected him. He hit is OPS high water mark on Sept 5 (.746) and stayed around there all week, including his last day before leaving, Sept 11 when he went 1 for 4 with a double (.737). While I’m not sure when he actually got hurt, it was possible in those last 3 games before the time off, he was, as he did go just 1 for 10 with that double. Of course, that is only 3 games, and while we’re dealing with small sample sizes here, lets not go down to that ridiculous level.

It was pretty much a downhill skid from there, and if he hadn’t gotten hurt, it was likely he’d finish the season on the same path he had been going since May 3. His .781 OPS in that period wouldn’t have been reached, because we can’t take the season out to infinity. But getting above .750 looked like it was in the cards, and if he had an OPS above .753, that would have been good for third best among all NL 2Bs. Remember, that’s including his April skid.

The point of all of this? Well, it shows that the numbers certainly reflect multiple Espinosas, and the one from May 3 – Sept 11 last year is the one we want for 2013. The timing of the shoulder injury certainly lines up perfectly with the injury, and the reports from the time. So maybe we can dismiss the horrible NLDS and late Sept performance to a player who was really too hurt to hit. And for whatever reason, that exact same player showed up in April as well.

It further convinces me that whatever was happening in April was more than just a typical slump, although we may never know what was happening. It also makes me believe that if something was indeed up in April, then a healthy Espinosa is a very good second baseman, perhaps one of the best in the NL, and can be a huge asset to this team.

The question remains though, is he healthy now? And will he be healthy a month or two from now? Or should he be sent to get his surgery right away so he’s healthy for the majority of the season? I’ll get to that next time…


The Nationals Review Podcast Episode 15

January 17, 2013

Colm and Charlie are back to discuss what the Nationals have been up to during the offseason. Check us out here Nationals Review Episode 15

Please follow us on twitter

Here are the topics we discuss.

  • Mike Morse/A.J. Cole trade
  • Rafael Soriano signing
  • Dan Haren signing
  • Denard Span signing
  • How good is this team now?
  • Pitchers and catchers reports!
  • Our HoF thoughts

Mike Morse’s Great Story

January 16, 2013

I don’t blame the Nats for trading somebody, and with the way contracts and defense worked out, Mike Morse made the most sense. I would have done the same thing if I was Rizzo, but he will definitely be missed. He is an exciting player to watch, and he has one of the best stories I can remember from any National.

In a little bit of a cheapy here, I just want to reprint what I wrote last week when LaRoche was signed and it was clear Morse might be on the way out. Here’s his story, from a scouting and performance perspective:

Because of this contract, it seemingly relegates Morse to the bench. It likely means that management will trade him, which makes sense in terms of building the best team. It is unfortunate to feel the need to trade such a good player who is a fan favorite, and count me as one of those fans who enjoys watching his enthusiastic play. His emergence as a true power hitter was more surprising than you may recall.

In one of the more lopsided trades this team has made (in hindsight), they gave up Ryan Langerhans to get Morse. Langerhans looked like the better player at the time – although he hadn’t had much success hitting, he was at least a lefty, had shown some power in the minors, and was a good fielder. Morse, on the other hand, hadn’t yet shown power in the majors, or the minors for that matter. He was also a converted infielder who couldn’t seem to field anywhere that well. Here is what Baseball Prospectus said about him before the 2008 season:

As utilitymen go, Michael Morse is a tweener-he doesn’t have the defensive skill to back up the middle infield positions or the power to hold down even the short-side of a platoon at one of the corners. What that leaves, particularly on a team that already has Willie Bloomquist, is not much

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The Response to the Soriano Response

January 16, 2013

It’s hard not to describe the signing of Rafael Soriano as a response to the last game of the NLDS. But, much like the Adam LaRoche deal, even if you don’t like the specifics and the fallout, it’s also hard to argue that it doesn’t make the team better in 2013. My initial reaction to the deal was that while it was a strong addition to the team, it wasn’t necessarily a move I’d make.

It’s alot of money for a reliever (money that the Nats have to burn, so who cares) and it costs their first round pick. But just because I wouldn’t have necessarily made the move doesn’t mean I dislike it, and I don’t dislike it. Soriano is a big name, and so it was the biggest baseball news of the day, but we’ll get into that later.

First, My Take

With Soriano, they get a dominant reliever for 2 years. I say two years because his option kicks in only if he finished 120 games. Doing some advanced mathematical calculations, I discovered that he would have to average 60 games finished per season to do that. If there is any sharing of the closing duties with Drew Storen at all, that aint gonna happen. Since 2006, MLB has averaged 4.57 players per year that hit the 60 GF mark, and Davey has shown that he likes multiple closers. So you’re really looking at a two year deal. And what you’re getting is one of the best relievers in baseball.

In his last 7 years, he has thrown 391 IP, with 415 K to only 128 BB and a 1.031 WHIP. His ERA is 2.65, which is a 160 ERA+, and while he’s done this in some pitcher’s parks, he was also dominant last year with the Yankees in New York. New York is probably considered the ultimate test thanks to the new ballpark – it was already considered a pressure/media meat grinder, and now it’s got RF stands that snack on popups. He’s been great (that WHIP, probably more important for relievers than ERA, is historically impressive, as you’ll see later), and I am excited for what he does to this bullpen.

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Nats Needs in 2013 – Starting Pitching Depth

January 15, 2013

The Nats currently have what may well be the best rotation in the entire Major Leagues. Nobody is going to rank them any worst than 3rd or 4th in MLB, and even that might be considered low by everyone. However, if there is one knock on the group, it’s the lack of depth. They have 3 studs in Strasburg, Gio and JZimm, but there are questions after that.

It would be great if Detwiler is as good in 2013 as he was in 2012, but in reality all he has to do is be good enough to be a #4 or #5 guy and start most of the year. We don’t really know if he can do that, although I suspect he will be that and more. As for Haren, that move is exciting for the potential to have a top flight guy at the bottom of the rotation. But it is also a little scary due to injury history and a poor 2012.

Regardless of the health of the rotation in general, and even if Haren starts 30 games, it is highly unlikely that they will only use 5 starters the whole year. John Lannan was their first backup plan, but now that he’s gone, who do they have?

The first choice might be Zack Duke, who started 26 games in AAA last year and has been a starter all of his career. Unless he ends up being their only reliable lefty relief man, in which case he’s going to be needed elsewhere. Christian Garcia is another option – a converted reliever who was successful in a limited 2012, but hasn’t recorded a start in 2 seasons. Of course, there’s Yunkesy Maya, who had a decent 2012 in AAA, but was nothing special there. Almost all of his MLB appearances have been pretty rough. Jeff Mandel started some games and did well in AAA, so could get a shot as well. That’s about all I see from the obvious choices. Another route would be to go after a free agent.

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LaRoche Brings D, Likely Best Possible Lineup

January 8, 2013

The Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche today, getting him on a two year deal. Comparing LaRoche to the other first base options, Michael Morse and Tyler Moore, I think this is the scenario most likely to be the most successful.

The defense gets a boost with LaRoche over the other guys. On offense, it allows them to have a better lefty-righty mix, and is the most probable candidate for best lineup. Morse has the potential to hit better than either of the other guys, but he also has the potential to turn in a .320 or lower OPS, and even with more power than LaRoche, this is a hindrance to his value. Moore is still unproven as a full timer, and while I’m excited to see what he can do, I doubt its the .840 OPS he showed this year.

I’ve heard that 2012 was a career year for LaRoche, but it really wasn’t. I wrote about it at length here in October, but suffice to say it wasn’t so much better than his 2006, and slightly better than 2008 and 2009. He’ll probably end up with another strong but non-spectacular offensive 1B season. Rizzo went with best probable lineup rather than best potential lineup, and I can’t blame him for that. All that coupled with strong defense made him the best choice for this team.

The Morse Surprise

Because of this contract, it seemingly relegates Morse to the bench. It likely means that management will trade him, which makes sense in terms of building the best team. It is unfortunate to feel the need to trade such a good player who is a fan favorite, and count me as one of those fans who enjoys watching his enthusiastic play. His emergence as a true power hitter was more surprising than you may recall.

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Nats 2013 Needs – Lefty Relief

January 3, 2013

The Nats are pretty close to a complete team already – it’s still a bit odd to be able to name almost the whole starting lineup and rotation of this franchise in early January. But there are still a few pieces missing, including and sort of left handed relief pitching. Part of me thinks this isn’t such a big deal. The better relievers on the Nationals should be able to handle good hitters from either side of the plate in close games. But if they continue to not really have any lefty specialist (or, preferably like Sean Burnett, a good reliever who is just better against lefties), there will definitely be situations in 2013 where we will all wish they did. The pickins are slim these days, almost all of the free agents have been snatched up.

J.P. Howell is probably the best that’s left out there. He’s going to be 30, and has always been more effective vs. lefties, although he’s not bad against righties. He had shoulder problems that kept him out in 2010 and hopefully was the reason he was so bad in 2011. But in 2012, he was very good, especially against lefties. He was also great in 2008 and 2009. A decent $$$ short term deal is probably all it would take to get him, if they want him. There are some other guys out there who have had mixed results in their careers, like Rich Hill, Will Ohman, Manny Parra and J.C. Romero. While none of them are particularly exciting options, they could be effective is used solely as a LOOGY.

Internal choices

Of course, there are possibilities internally, like them or not. The first one that jumps out is Zack Duke, a lefty starter who they retained after the year. He may be set up to be a long reliever/swing man, but he has been more effective against lefties in his career, so it’s possible. They signed Bill Bray, who has been very effective against lefties in his career, to a minor league deal in December. But he has to prove he’s healthy after missing most of 2012, and that’ss no guarantee. Patrick McCoy is a 23 year old lefty reliever who pitched ok in AA Harrisburg last season, with a 3.70 ERA but 60 Ks in only 50 IP. There aren’t too many other options, at least not in the high minors.

A Surprise Option

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My 2013 HoF Ballot

January 2, 2013

I don’t, nor do I suspect I will ever, have a Hall of Fame vote. But I do have a blog, so I can certainly pretend! I won’t go into too much pre-discussion, other than to say I believe that peak value is more important than overall career value, but you gotta have both. The other thing I’ll say is that if you get in the Hall you are forever a Hall of Famer. So whether someone gets in on their first ballot or their 15th is completely irrelevant to me. I didn’t go through all of the 37 players on the ballot this year, but I tried to look at the ones that are getting real consideration. Without further ado…

Barry Bonds – YES

I’ve shown my hand immediately, as I’m voting for a known steroid user. BBWith Bonds, let’s get this part out of the way – saying he is one of the best players in the history of baseball might be an understatement. He’s one of the 5 best hitters ever. For 8 seasons he hit .305/.438/.600 with 327 HRs and 328 SBs. And that was from 1990-1998. Then for four seasons,  after starting to use steroids, he hit .349/.559/.809. Yeah, we know there are asterisks next to those numbers but… his OBP was 559! Of course, what comes with this is that he’s a big fat cheater, and he was obnoxious. I am of the school of thought that he should be allowed to join the other obnoxious cheaters in the HoF. If he’s not in, the Hall is incomplete.

Roger Clemens – YES

Similar to Bonds. I think he’s probably the second best right handed pitcher in the history of baseball. He allegedly started using in ’97, after an already HoF-worthy career, so can you separate that out? From 1986-1992, he had a 2.66 ERA, and struck out 1673 while only walking 486 in 1799 1/3 IP – his ERA+ was 160! Then, after he supposedly started on the roids, he went 149-61 with a 140 ERA+ from 1997-2005. Unlike Bonds, no matter what I may believe (and I believe he used steroids) the only evidence against him is the word of one man who doesn’t really strike me as incredibly honest. I don’t think you can exclude the best starting pitcher since World War II.

With both Bonds and Clemens, I understand the heartburn that people experience over putting them in the Hall. I get the issue (although with Clemens you still don’t have proof, you are just sure he did it), but I think a Hall of Fame without those two doesn’t tell the story of baseball. They are two of the best players ever, and were so even before the transgressions. I won’t get into the other cheaters throughout the history of the game, I’ll just say that I don’t think they should be thrown out of the HoF, either. I think the Hall is incomplete without them, despite the negatives.

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