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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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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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 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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Don’t Bet On These Results, Except…

March 7, 2011

Spring Training is fun, because baseball’s back, and it can be interesting, because there are guys coming back from surgery, or the minors, or just a few months off of real baseball. There are battles for positions, rotation spots and even roster spots. But too often we think a good spring could catapult someone into a place they don’t belong.

For the most part we know better, but I guarantee you if Jerry Hairston were to hit .350/.450/.550 over the next month, people would start talking about him as the starting left fielder or SS or 2B going in to the season. It’s possible that Hairston has 4 weeks that make those numbers happen, but Hairston is a career 257/.325/.370 hitter, in over 4000 PAs. We know exactly what we’ll get from Hairston. This isn’t to pick on him, it’s to remind you that spring training is just a month of the not-yet-season, against sub-standard competition, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

All those caveats aside, there are things that we can learn in spring training, especially from young players who don’t have alot of experience. Sometimes they can surprise in the spring and give us a preview of something new. Here are a few players that are worth watching right now:

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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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