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 oneĀ 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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Big Improvements in 2012 – Part 1

October 16, 2012

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…

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That’s A Big Comeback

June 15, 2011

With an offense performing as poorly as it has, you’d think that the Nats hadn’t scored that many runs in a while. But they actually had a few games recently that compare in terms of scoring.

The last time they scored 6 runs in the 7th inning or later was June 5th against the Diamondbacks, when they scored 3 in the 8th, to go up 4-1. The Diamondbacks tied it up in the 9th, but the Nats scored 5 more in the 11th, thanks to a Mike Morse grand slam. The last time they scored 6 or more runs in a single inning was May 20th, against Baltimore. They won that game 17-5.

The comeback, on the other hand, was something for the ages. They were down by 5 runs in the 6th inning, but managed to squeak out a run in the bottom of the 6th. Then, in the 7th, the broke open for 6 runs with the help of 5 hits, 3 walks, a HBP and a wild pitch. They hadn’t had a comeback of that magnitude in almost two years.

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2011 Looks a Little Different Now

August 27, 2010

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 »

Marquis and the Rotation

August 9, 2010

Jason Marquis is back in the rotation pushing Craig Stammen into the bullpen. Stammen, meanwhile, has actually been pretty good the last 2 months. Going back to his June 6th start, he’s started 8, thrown 45 1/3 innings, had an ERA of 3.97 and struck out 30 while walking 16. Of course, he’s only finished the 6th inning 4 of those 8 starts, which shows that even when he’s going well, he can’t get around the lineup that 3rd time effectively. Marquis hasn’t shown he’s gonna do any better. He gave up 2 ER in only 4 IP on Sunday, which would give him an ERA of 4.50. That of course brought his season ERA down from 20.52 to 15.32. If he’s mildly effective it should be in the single digits in a week or so.

This of course leaves the problem of who to remove next from the rotation. Marquis knocked out Stammen, Strasburg is going to knock someone out on Tuesday. Not to mention Yunesky Maya and Jordan Zimmerman perhaps before the end of the month. Marquis would seem to be the logical choice to leave, of course, I’m not sure that’s gonna happen. The good news is someone can take Detwiler’s spot, the bad news is it’s because he’s back on the DL. He’s feeling soreness in his hip, and with the glut of sub-average starting pitchers going, the Nats didn’t need to push him.

Assuming Detwiler takes a few weeks off, the rotation should soon consist of Livan, Strasburg, Zimmerman, Maya, Olsen, Lannan and Marquis. Wait, that’s seven people. That’s not a rotation it’s a quorum. So who does end up leaving? Read the rest of this entry »


Does a Poor Hitting Weekend Equal the End?

July 19, 2010

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.

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It’s Been a Rough Couple of Weeks

June 18, 2010

The Nats are, as Buster Olney said, limping home for a weekend series against the White Sox. The team is now 5 games below .500. Since starting out 20-15, they have gone 11-21, which is just plain bad. Slight good mixed with quite bad means your leaning on the bad side. They have some issues, and while they’re not a bad team overall, one thing has really lead them into a major slump.

The Problem

The biggest problem over this stretch has been the starting pitching. At one point we were talking, and this is totally out of memory so I may be wrong, of something like 10 out of 11 games with a quality start. Or something near that. Now it is just the opposite.

In the month of June, the Nats have played 15 games. Stephen Strasburg has started 2 of them. Out of the remaining 12 games, there have been 4 quality starts – 2 by Livan, 1 by Lannan, and 1 by Stammen. That isn’t a formula for success, when just over half your games aren’t even quality starts. The starting pitching had failed this team, meanwhile the bullpen, despite some hiccups, has been among the best in the league. Without better starting pitching, just like we knew back in March, this team can’t win.

The Cure?

Well, Strasburg is going tonight, and he’s pretty much expected to pitch well. If something happens and he doesn’t, then your gonna see how well Riggleman can keep this team together. But don’t get yourself too far down in the depths of despair. The cavalry, it’s coming, although it’s still some time away. Read the rest of this entry »


Time to Start Believing What You See

June 1, 2010

It’s June 1, it’s the day after Memorial Day, and it’s 2 months into the season. The Nats have played 26% of their season, over one quarter of their games. It’s time to start believing what you’re seeing. Whatever they’ve done up to this point is probably pretty indicative of the type of team they are. Here are a few observations on what we’ve seen:

Thanks to an offensive outburst yesterday, the team is no longer being outscored by a massive amount. They’ve allowed only 10 more runs than they’ve scored, so with a record of 26-26, they are only considered “lucky” by one game. Their pythagorean W-L record is 25-27, still impressive considering where this team has come from. It’s been my opinion that a team with an effective bullpen is likely to play better than their Runs Scored/Runs Allowed would indicate – and that seems to be what is happening with the Nats. They’ve lost a few blowouts that got out of control, but other than that, their bullpen has kept them in it, and they’ve won (and lost) their share of very close games.

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Hitting Without Scoring

May 18, 2010

Craig Stammen started out very poorly last night, but recovered well enough to keep the Nats in the game. That is, until Matt Capps came in to give up 2 runs. I’m not gonna complain too much about Capps. Often times closers don’t fare as well when they don’t feel the closing pressure. And frankly, if he’s gonna give up runs, I’d rather it not be in a save situation. Still, moving a 2 run deficit to a 4 run deficit effectively took the wind out of the offense’s sails going into the 9th.

Except for the fact that the offense hasn’t had any wind in it’s sails. They’re 12th in the league in runs scored. That’s despite being 7th in OPS. They’re hitting like a middle of the road team, but scoring like a bottom of the barrel team. If you take out their 14 run victory on Saturday, they’re only scoring 4.1 runs per game, putting them at place. This team isn’t hitting, despite getting decent pitching. Yesterday wasn’t great, but up until the 8th inning they could have easily been ahead.

This month, this team has not scored runs particularly well. Perhaps the most emblematic of the team’s struggles is Nyjer Morgan. He’s hitting .266/.344/.385 on the year, which maybe isn’t terrible, at least he’s getting on base, but it’s not great. Since the beginning of the month, he’s only hitting .232/.295/.268, meanwhile this season he’s leading the league in being caught stealing. At least two of those 8 CS are from being picked off, which shouldn’t happen, although once I know is from a botched hit and run. Regardless of the reasons, he’s not himself, and this last month has been worse. Without him setting the table, this team doesn’t seem to score.

Despite that, the #2, 3 and 4 spots are all hitting well, at least when Guzman, Zimmerman, and Dunn are playing. Guzman has been torrid in May. Zimmerman has been his usual good self and Dunn, mired in a slump in April, really picked it up to hit so far in May.

As you look down the lineup, past those 2-4 spots, it hasn’t been terrible. Willingham has had a poor batting average this month, but has gotten on base and hit with power in May. Ian Desmond, playing almost every day, has also hit well in May. Pudge has had a very poor May, and his OBP has actually been blew his AVG, so maybe some of the blame can go there.

So without Morgan hitting, but with everyone else hitting, why can’t this team score? They’re hitting .274/.358/.403 with runners in scoring position, which isn’t terrible. And overall, they’re hitting .261/.334/.422, which means they’re hitting BETTER with runners in scoring position. Not that this is anything but luck, but it is important to see if they’ve had bad luck when men are on base. It is important to note, though, that the team hits with no power with RISP, but it’s not a terribly huge difference.

Meanwhile, they have grounded in to some double plays, they’re ranked 10th in the league at 30, although they aren’t more than 3 double plays from being ranked 15th. Meanwhile, going back to Morgan, they rank 16th in the league in caught stealing. So perhaps, it’s poor baserunning and double plays that is really hurting this team. Hmm.

What’s the point of this exercise? Basically, it’s to show that this team isn’t scoring, but there’s nothing simple to point to. MAYBE it’s the baserunning, maybe it’s just poor luck, like hitting with a little less power when men are on 2nd or 2rd. My conclusion, looking at all of this, is twofold. First, Morgan is an important part of this lineup as a tablesetter. Whether him not being on base means there are less guys that can score, or he’s just using up too many outs, they’re not really scoring as he is hitting poorly. Second, some of this may just be bad luck. The numbers don’t add up to a low scoring team, which makes me think they’ll come around. Give it some time. Hopefully it won’t take too much time.


Another Day at .500

April 21, 2010

The Nats once again spotted a team 10 runs, but this time they weren’t even close to coming back. The performance of Olsen in his first game, against the Phillies, may have made you think he was ready to be a back of the rotation guy. But we still have no idea, as he got demolished by the Rockies yesterday. He wasn’t fooling anyone in the 2nd inning, and was picked apart in the 3rd. And so, despite having the 4th worst run differential in all of major league baseball, the team is sitting at .500.

The offense was fine, not enough to stay competitive in a game where the opponent scored 10 runs, but still, the position players didn’t lie down, and their fought their way to a respectable offensive score. Every starter has a pretty good set of numbers. Desmond is at .256/.356/.436 which you’d take for the year from a rookie SS. Guzman’s hitting, Morgan has an OBP of .368 which is all that should matter. Everyone else looks good, too, except for Dunn. And you tend not to worry about him. It seems that the offense has been very good so far this year, and that’s part of what’s kept them around the .500 mark for the first 2 1/2 weeks.

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