This is your last week without baseball until November. In order to get you ready, let’s take a look back at some of this team’s highs and lows. After 6 years in town, the Nats have started to build the semblances of a team. 2011 will probably give us an indication of where they are going. Will the youngsters start stepping up? If so, then once Strasburg returns and Harper arrives, they might have a real chance to win. And they will have built a team, rather than cobbling together a group of free agents.
In the past, they’ve of course had some good players. They never really looked like they were building a real team, but they’ve managed to have a collection of players that occasionally turned in great performances. So who were the best at each position?
C – Brian Schneider, 2005 – Schneider’s 2005 was his career year offensively, hitting .268/.330/.409. That kind of production from a catcher helped make the team relatively successful, but it also probably helped convince the Nats to keep him as a starter for too long – his OPS in 2006 and 2007 was .655. He played a strong defense in that time though, and in 2005 he lead the majors in throwing out baserunners, with an impressive 38%.
The Washington Nationals, who never had serious interest in bringing Dunn back, get Chicago’s first-round pick and a sandwich pick, both welcome additions for GM Mike Rizzo, who is still gradually restocking that farm system and coming off a very strong 2010 draft. Giving Dunn four years would have made little sense for a club in Washington’s position. By the time the Nationals are competitive, he’ll be approaching the overpaid portion of the contract.
The losers in all of this are the Nationals, who probably could’ve locked up Dunn for something in the range of three years and $30 million at the All-Star break, when Dunn very much wanted to stay in Washington. After deciding to not make that deal, the Nationals’ leadership opted to not trade Dunn when the interest in him was at its hottest, in July; they failed to get any major-league ready young players, which is exactly what they have a desperate need for today.
Last week, in the midst of the postseason, Baseball Prospectus ran an article on the Nats. It was Christina Kahrl giving her thoughts on what she would do if she were the GM of the Nats. Here is what she said: “They’re not going to win in 2011. Nothing we do here is going to alter that. The question instead is what they might do to help provide a worthwhile product on the field. Consider this a pragmatic sanction of sorts for what Mike Rizzo is already up to, tailored for a goal that’s more attainable, like 80 wins without sacrificing any of the future. Even that’s not so easy, because the Nationals are already staffed in most of the bigger slots and roles.”
She conveniently has it boiled down to 7 points which make the team better. I’ll give you her ideas (in bold), and then my take on them.
Offer Adam Dunn arbitration. If he accepts you have him for another year, if he doesn’t you get picks. Ok, but then who plays first base? I like the start of this, but I also think they need to re-sign Dunn for the next 2 or 3 years. I really think he’s their best option, and nobody’s lining up to fill his spot until at least mid-2012.
Sit back and let Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa become your middle infield combination of the present. For this one, I agree with her 100%. There aren’t any middle infielders worth pursuing in free agency. Desmond looks like he can hit enough for a SS, and his fielding improved in the 2nd half. Espinosa still has alot to prove, but I’d give him a chance. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best option.
Don’t let it ride in the rotation. What Christina means is go out and get someone. And I agree, although I’m more bullish on John Lannan than she is. According to her, he’s “getting tattooed even more frequently” but in reality he got tattooed until he went down to the minors, after his return he was quite good. Anyway, she recommends looking at Harden or Vazquez among others. Those were on my list, but I think they should at least try to get Lee. After that, I’d look towards Duchsherer and Webb as well. Read the rest of this entry »
What is the DC IBWA, you ask? Why, it’s the DC Internet Baseball Writer’s Association! Anyway, the group has asked for my, as well as everyone else who blogs about the Nats, vote on several topics. They’re due on Saturday, so I figured as I submitted my votes, I’d also let everyone see it. We get three votes for each category, with 5 points for first place, 3 for 2nd place and 1 for 3rd place. Here goes:
Adam Dunn is done in Washington… The Nats have decided. Not formally. Not finally. But for practical purposes, with 22 games left in the season, time has made the decision for everyone.
That’s not the only place that has mentioned it. Of course, ESPN rumors picked this up. Other blogs have been running with it as well, so it’s become the news of the day.
The theory is that basically the Nats are moving to a defense-first type situation. Regardless of what you think the middle infield will do, both Desmond and Espinosa have great range, arms and athleticism. The Nats believe they will be good infielders. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how good Zimmerman is with the glove. Boswell writes:
I wanted to post this yesterday, but the office network was going crazy. Anyway, ground ball double play to Espinosa, relayed to Desmond, sent over to Dunn at first. For some reason, I’m excited about it. Hopefully that combo, at least the 2nd base and SS component, will be commonplace over the next half of a decade…
It was revealed today that Stephen Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery. Disappointing for sure, but it is at least a reliable surgery with a reliable recovery time. If this was shoulder surgery or something else, he might never throw 99 again. Instead, we miss a year of him when we need him least, assuming that 2011 wasn’t going to be a playoff year anyway. And he should come back the same guy, the chances are in the 80-90% range, maybe even higher now. But he does miss a year of development that would help him be a better pitcher in 2012. So it’s time to quit your crying about this. If you’re only into the Nats for Strasburg, see ya in 2012. If you’re not, let’s see what this means for the team. The recovery time likely has him starting the 2012 season. The Nats can really focus their efforts on building for 2012, instead of 2011. What does this mean for next season?
Josh Willingham is trade bait. His injury means he won’t be easy to move in the offseason, but his contract ends in 2011. After that, to extend him would mean a long term deal for a 33 year old outfielder who is good but not spectacular. I doubt they’ll want to keep him.
The Adam Dunn contract situation takes on a new color. No longer will they be getting him for 3 or 4 years of contention. Instead, with 2011 being another “getting ready” year, they may feel he isn’t worth the signing. They could play someone else in the meantime until more 1B options are available.
Chris Marrero may have taken Dunn’s place as the 1B for the “good” team. He’s batting .295/.352/.454 in AA Harrisburg this year, and another solid year in AAA puts him in the majors. Unfortunately, Rizzo will have to make a decision on Dunn before he knows what Marrero will be. Read the rest of this entry »
Since July 1st, a few bats have started to heat up in the lineup. Maybe it’s part of the reason they’ve gone 8-9 this month, as opposed to the 8-19 they put in for June. Not everything is spectacular by the guys outside of the middle 3, but much of it has been serviceable, something the last 2 months or so was missing.
Nyjer Morgan has finally started getting on base a bit. It’s not enough for a leadoff guy, but it’s better. Since July 1 he’s managed to hit .288/.342/.303. This may not seem like much, a but considering his OBP is .320 for the season, it’s a step in the right direction. He’s also managed to steal 7 bases and only get caught twice, a number that is much more palatable.
Ian Desmond has also started to hit, perhaps recovering from his late spring/early summer swoon. Since July 1 he’s hitting .286/.340/.469. These numbers aren’t enough to bring his overall stats up from the depths of where they fell, but they are about where you think he might be able to hit over a full season if he became more consistent. Maybe he’ll even do this for more than a few weeks.
Assuming the Nats have a chance to trade Adam Dunn, there are several paths they can take. They can try to trade him, they can sign him to an extension, or they can try to do both. Let’s assume if they DO trade him, he won’t give them a discount, and they’ll be stuck giving him 4 years/$60M like he’s asking, but he’ll choose here because he likes the players and understand the purpose of the trade. Finally, they could just let him walk and take a couple of draft picks for him Which would you rather see them do?
On Saturday and Sunday, the Nats put together an impressive bad offensive display, scoring exactly zero runs in 18 innings. They were blanked two days in a row, and wasted two very good outings by starting pitchers – Livan went 6.0 IP and gave up 2 ER, Stammen also went 6.0 and only gave up 1 ER. After losing 2-0 and 1-0, the Twitterers were out, commenting on everything from how this weekend was a waste to a confirmation that the guys in the middle of the lineup should be traded since they’re not scoring anyway.
These tweets, by the way, aren’t just coming from crazy fans that pretend to be journalists like me. Comments are coming in from people who get paid by networks, newspapers and MLB to cover the Nats. But breaking up the band based on this putrid weekend seems a bit rash. My problem with this is the idea that two bad offensive performances do not make a season. If you take a gander over to the right, you’ll see the Nats offensive rankings in the NL. It remains about where it’s been all year. They get on base, don’t lack completely in power, but don’t score. My feeling is that its because the middle 3 are the only ones doing anything. They can’t knock anyone in, because they’re the only ones really contributing to the OBP.
They need a few other hitters before they can score, and eliminating the heart of the lineup will make scoring that much more difficult. Adam Dunn is still hitting – his OPS this month is 1.234. Josh Willingham is hitting .300/.400/.450 this month. In that same timeframe, Ryan Zimmerman is at .340/.396/.596.