Nats Get a CF and a Leadoff Hitter

November 29, 2012

Mike Rizzo struck late Thursday afternoon, pulling a big trade for a starting outfielder. No, it wasn’t Marlins-Toronto big, but it was big for this team, as they at the very least have solidified the outfield and their lineup could potentially be set for 2013. They received Twins center fielder Denard Span in exchange for their 22 year old fireballing prospect, Alex Meyer.

What They’re Getting

There is alot to like about Denard Span. He is a 28 year old center fielder, and over his last 3 seasons, he’s hit .271/.334/.376 – while it looks quite a bit lower, it’s actually pretty comparable to Michael Bourn when adjusting for league and park effects. It’s an OPS+ of 95, barely below Bourn’s OPS+ of 98 over the last three years. Of course, he’s only stolen 1/3 of the bases of Bourn, but Span is also a year younger than Bourn, and has shown more patience in the past. Between the switching leagues, moving to a better lineup and the youth, I have a feeling Span will hit better than that with the Nats (this is of course, just a feeling).

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Nationals Arizona Fall League Roundup

November 19, 2012

The first thing you must understand about AFL stats is that they have to be taken with a grain of salt. Teams don’t tend to send their best pitchers out there, because they’ve thrown enough innings during the regular season. You will get some good pitchers who were hurt, or perhaps signed late, but for the most part, pitching isn’t great. So hitting tends to be inflated. The small sample size also means a hot week can make your numbers look really really good. That being said, let’s take a look at what did happen

Anthony Rendon

Rendon was the most important member of the team out there, as he is predicted by many to be on the Major League club at some point in 2013. And he did very well, hitting .338/.436/.494 in 77 PAs. This was good enough for 11th best OPS in the league, and 8th best OBP. A little more troubling was his lack of power, hitting no home runs. Although his strength was never thought to be as a home run hitter, he’s gonna need to hit a few more than zero. More heartening, though is the 6 SBs (to 1 CS) he managed on his seemingly healthy legs/ankles.

Brian Goodwin

Goodwin didn’t start out great, but he did finish the short season hitting .238/.340/.475. Not a good average, a pretty low OBP for the league, but at least a good display of power. He hit 3 HRs and also managed 2 triples, and his .815 OPS put him 24th in the AFL.

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Bryce Harper 2012 Highlights

November 13, 2012

In honor of winning the NL Rookie of the Year award, here are some highlight’s of Bryce Harper‘s first season. Enjoy, and remember, 19 year old baseball players usually have 5-10 years of improvement in front of them.

Debut Game

The Steal of Home vs. Hamels

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There is… Another

November 8, 2012

The Nats are possibly without a first baseman, or, if they shift Mike Morse, are missing an outfielder. We’ve looked at the three biggest names that have been bandied about among free agent outfielders: Hamilton, Bourn and Upton. But there is another high end outfielder that is getting significantly less airtime, and that’s Nick Swisher.

Swisher is the next position player on Keith Law’s free agent list after the three named above, sitting at #10. And there is good reason to think Swisher could really help the Nats. First and foremost is his ability to get on base. Swisher has a career .361 OBP, and over the last 4 years it’s been .367. He also has a good amount of power, averaging just over 26 HRs a season over that time. In other words, in comparison to Upton and Bourn, he’s got a better OBP and more power than both of them. He doesn’t have the bat that Hamilton has, but he also hasn’t shown some of the issues Hamilton did at the end of this season, and isn’t near the injury risk he’s played 150 or more games in each of his last 7 seasons, when he only played… 148. Read the rest of this entry »


Nats May Sign a CF, Even if They Already Have One

November 7, 2012

The Nats probably have a center fielder for next season in Bryce Harper. But there is a decent chance that they will need another outfielder, and they may not go after Josh Hamilton. Where does that leave them? Well, there are certainly some other corner outfield options, but if the CF options are better players, better hitters, should they go that way? It wouldn’t be a terrible thing to move Harper to LF and have an even better fielder out in center, as it would make quite a defensive outfield. (The Yankees did this with Granderson and Gardner the last few years and consensus was their defense was excellent out there).

Well wouldn’t you know it, there are 2 players that fit the bill for this conversation. Of course I’m talking about Michael Bourn and BJ Upton. They both play CF, they both can hit pretty well, although they have two very different strengths with the bat. They are also ranked as the #2 and #4 top free agents in the Keith Law Top 50 free agent list.

Michael Bourn

Bourn is a very talented player, and probably profiles better if you were to talk about the Nats “needs”. First and foremost, he is a speedy left handed hitting leadoff hitter. Ok, the leadoff part isn’t actually one of his talents per se, but you figure that’s where he’d play. His OBP, though, isn’t spectacular for that position, as his career line is only .272/.339/.365, although his last 2 seasons have looked better. He also led the league in steals each season from 2009-2011, and although he also lead in caught stealing from 2011-2012, his success rate is very high. A good part of his value is tied to his defense, which is really great.

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Just Playing Isn’t Enough

November 1, 2012

Recently, when discussing the catching situation, and the eventual return of Wilson Ramos, I keep seeing people ask about Jesus Flores. Reports suggest that they will keep Kurt Suzuki as a backup, and Flores will become expendable. This is a shame for Jesus Flores, but not for the team. And yet, I keep seeing things that suggest the Nats should try to figure out how to use Flores, as if they owe him something for being paid to play baseball for them this year, especially from fans on Twitter.

Well, Nats fans, its time to recognize that this team’s management has to act like adults. They can’t look at Flores and say stuff like “he was a key player when we needed him most” because this is bunk. Flores was a negative WAR player who filled in when their starting catcher got hurt. You know who else would have been “key” or “filled in admirably”? Any catcher on the roster. Does he deserve credit for staying healthy this year? Absolutely. Does he deserve credit for coming back from awful injuries? Absolutely. But that does not mean he was good for this team this year.

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Nats Win Their First Playoff Game Ever

October 7, 2012

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 »


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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Kurt Suzuki Makes This Team Better

August 3, 2012

Today, the Nats made just the kind of trade I was advocating. They needed a catcher, but they couldn’t get a top level guy, at least not without paying a steep price. It’s hard to imagine them wanting to do that, considering they have a young, talented catcher under control for many more years in Wilson Ramos. But they needed somebody, and so instead, they traded away David Freitas, a decent hitter who doesn’t have great defensive skills, a guy that Keith Law doesn’t seem to think will have an impactful Major League career:

In exchange, they got the A’s starting catcher, Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki was having a pretty bad season at the plate, and the A’s want to start rolling out Derek Norris, one of the guys they got from the Nats in the Gio Gonzalez deal, so the Nats were able to get him cheaply. But will he be effective? One of the things I didn’t want the Nats to do is go out and get a backup caliber guy – they have enough of those. Jesus Flores is one of those guys, even though he has made some big contributions to the club. Suzuki hasn’t been great this year, but I believe he’s better than any of their in-house options this year, and can probably help mend what is turning out to be the only hole in their lineup.

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2012 NL East Rankings Part 1: Position Players

March 27, 2012

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)

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