An Interesting Chart

August 23, 2011

The chart below caught my eye, although it’s not THAT powerful. Until you see for how long these guys are signed you really only see a small part of the story. Regardless, Baseball Prospectus has greatly expanded the wonderful Cot’s Contracts information, and the chart below is the Nats payroll according to BP:

What strikes me initially is how much is paid to guys who aren’t playing at all anymore – Pudge, Strasburg, LaRoche and Marquis total over 30%. Although Marquis DID contribute this year, and we’ll definitely see Stephen (and probably Ivan) again in September. Money’s certainly not everything, but that’s close to a waste of 1/3 of the payroll this year (if you believe that Marquis was utterly replaceable, and ignore that paying Strasburg this year is an investment in the future). Imagine what this team can do if the payroll increases, and players who actually contribute make up a higher percentage of it. What strikes you when you see this?


The Defense Really Has Been Great

June 21, 2011

If you notice on the right side of the blog, the Nationals offense and pitching rankings are always  sitting there for you to see. What’s not there is defense, and a quick perusal of the defensive ranking of this team yielded shocking results. The Nats are ranked first or second in the NL in the overall defensive measurements on Baseball Reference. So I decided to investigate further, and here’s what we have:

  • Defensive EfficiencyPercentage of balls in play converted into outs: Nats rank 2nd in the NL with .706. Atlanta’s first at .707, league average is .695.
  • RtotTotal Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average (The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made):  Nats rank 1st in the NL with 27, league total is -56.
  • RdrsBIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average (The number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made):  Nats rank 1st in the NL with 8, next best team is at -1.

What’s the difference between the two last stats above? I believe they measure the same thing, Baseball Reference just gets them from different sources (kind of like how WAR might be different dependent on different sources). They are also normalized differently, the values aren’t the same. But the point isn’t exactly what these stats are, the point is that advanced defensive metric show the Nats have the best or second best defense in the NL. It’s not just the team in general, obviously. You can also look how the individuals rank defensively, and that looks pretty good as well.

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The Team that Couldn’t Hit

May 9, 2011

It’s beyond bad, at this point. After a week in which the Nats broke their team record for striking out the most in one game, they came out Sunday and got no hit for 7 innings. Sanchez pitched a good game, but this team certainly helped. You know the hitting has been bad, but it’s probably worse than you realized. They are last in the league in OBP, and second to last in SLG and OPS. Thanks to the last place team playing in San Diego, a big pitchers park, they are actually ranked last in OPS+ (which factors in park effects). They are just plain bad at hitting.

Looking down the lineup is sickening. Forgive the order, this is just a sample lineup that could go out there:

  1. .221/.321/.389
  2. .217/.250/.383
  3. .227/.324/.387
  4. .196/.300/.313
  5. .319/.377/.493
  6. .241/.275/.325
  7. .220/.297/.317

That’s Espinosa (2B), Desmond (SS), Werth (RF), LaRoche (1B), Ramos (C), Morse (LF) and Hairston (3B). There’s no CF in there, but Ankiel’s .221/.302/.288 ranks 5th in plate appearances on the team, so factor that in the list. Ramos is looking great, even without comparing him to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, his last few weeks haven’t looked great, with a very low OBP, but he’s still slugging, so in comparison, a .250/.275/.500 is still the best hitter on this team. When you put Pudge in the lineup with his .214/.241/.321, he manages to drag down these horrendous averages.

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2011 NL East Rankings: Position Players

March 22, 2011

A tradition that has I’ll rank each position for each team in the NL East, seeing who has the best pieces to their team. There are 5 teams in the division, so if someone 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, and playing time, on top of assessing their abilities. Starting with the position players:

CATCHER

1. Braves – Brian McCann
2. Phillies – Carlos Ruiz
3. Mets – Josh Thole
4. Nationals – Wilson Ramos/Ivan Rodriguez/Jesus Flores
5. Marlins – John Buck/John Baker

McCann is not just the best catcher in the group, he’s one of the best in the game, and is generally highly underrated as an altogether great player. Ruiz, now 31, has developed the patience to make him a good hitter, even though he won’t hit .300 again this year. Thole is a youngster who has proven he can get on base. The trio in DC may have to drop down if Flores doesn’t recover, Pudge gets too many ABs, and Ramos doesn’t mature. But I think enough will happen on the other side to allow them to surpass the Marlins catching tandem, with once decent hitting John Baker struggling to even make the team.

SCORE: Braves (5), Phillies (4), Mets (3), Nationals (2), Marlins (1)

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Into the Third Week of Spring Training

March 15, 2011

Spring Training is in full swing, and while we must take every performance with a grain of salt and a handfull of small sample size, it’s important not to ignore what’s happened so far. Here are a few highlights after the first few weeks:

The Position Players

The middle infield – Danny Espinosa is batting .324/.378/.559 and Ian Desmond is batting .314/.351/.400 while having the two highest AB totals on the team. They’re not walking much, which is troubling, but at least they are hitting the ball. Without walking, they will have to sit lower in the lineup, they just won’t get on base enough, but hopefully some of that will come.

Left Field – It would be hard to deny Mike Morse the starting job at this point. He’s hitting .469, he’s slugging 1.000, and he’s got 5 HRs in only 32 ABs. This compares with Rick Ankiel‘s .194/.219/.548. Ankiel has shown enough power that you’d think he’d make the team, but he doesn’t look like the starter yet.

Center field – Nyjer Morgan is now batting .212/.242/.261, while Roger Bernadina is hitting .281/.324/.438. Bernadina is putting together a strong case to be the 4th outfielder, since Morse is hitting so well. But if Morgan continues to slump this way, Bernie’s got a chance to be the starting centerfielder.

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PECOTA Adjusts for Playing Time

February 18, 2011

Last week, Baseball Prospectus came out with their PECOTA predictions for the Nationals, and it wasn’t pretty. This week, they came out with their depth charts. This is basically their predictions, with playing time adjusted for what the lineup situation looks like right now. They also changed some of the underlying numbers to get their totals. I said I’d be shocked if they put the Nats at more than 60 wins, but they are actually predicted to get to 70 (Joy!). So there must be something positive out of this. There is, here’s a rundown of some of their adjustments, and a few other notes.

Let’s begin with the starting pitching

  • Jordan Zimmermann got better. He went from an 86 IP, 4.27 ERA guy to a 172 IP, 4.19 ERA guy. That puts him as the most valuable starter on the team, with 149 Ks and a 1.4 WARP.
  • Tom Gorzelanny joined the group, and got better. He was still listed on the Cubs, and maybe it was the ballpark, but his ERA was predicted to be 4.73. Now, on the Nats, he is predicted to be their 2nd best of the 5 main starters, with a 4.34 ERA, 105 Ks, and a 0.7 WARP, all ranked #2 behind JZimm. Perhaps because of injury history, they have him ranked #5 in IP.
  • Livan, Marquis and Lannan fill out the rotation, each with about a 0.10 ERA drop from last weeks predictions.
  • Lannan’s predictions still seem a little off. His PECOTA suggested 4.76 ERA would be his career low
  • Chien-Ming Wang does come back and pitch, according to them, and his 4.24 ERA is the best in the rotation after JZimm, but they only have him going 65 innings.

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LaRoche Signed, Lineup Complete

January 5, 2011

The news of the day is the signing of Adam LaRoche to a 2 year, $15M deal with a seemingly unlikely to be exercised 3rd-year mutual option for $10M. As for right now, it was probably the best move the Nats could make at first base, considering the list of available free agent options.

LaRoche is a good hitter but not great, who had probably his worst season last year since his sophomore effort back in 2005. Prior to last season, his OPS was .849 from 2006-2009, but him in the good not great category. Last year’s .788 is a little troubling, but part of that was driven by a low AVG, he still hit 25 HRs. Somewhat troubling, though, he had a career high BABIP in 2010, and a career high K rate. As for fielding, his career UZR/150 of -2.6 is just around average, and he’s a solid fielder. Average in every sense.

Except… he’s been a different player in the first half of the season compared to the second half. His splits are remarkable, with a .776 OPS in the first part of the season compared to a .889 OPS in the second half. I did a more detailed analysis yesterday, if you’re interested in seeing how he hits over the course of the season.

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The Giants Made Me Hopeful

November 3, 2010

Nationals fans should be pretty excited about the Giants World Series victory. We all know that they had a young pitching staff, but let me remind you. Of the 4 starters that they used in the playoffs, none were older than 27 years old. Sanchez is 27, Lincecum is 26, Cain is 25, and Baumgarner is 20. A young, strong rotation WAS the key to victory, no doubt. And that should be heartening to Nationals fans because they expect to have a young, strong rotation in the next couple of seasons.

Zimmermann and Strasburg are keys to that, but another 1 or 2 guys, whoever they may be (Detwiler? Tom Milone?), must step up in order to get them close. The fact that they have Zimmermann and Strasburg, though, whatever doubts there may be about them, is a big thing, and should not be overlooked.

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DC IBWA 2010 Awards

October 1, 2010

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:

Goose Goslin MVP

  1. Ryan Zimmerman
  2. Adam Dunn
  3. Josh Willingham

Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher

  1. Livan Hernandez
  2. Stephen Strasburg
  3. John Lannan

Firpo Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year

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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 »

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