Brad Meyers Returns

October 31, 2012

Today the Yankees returned Rule 5 pick from the Nationals, Brad Meyers. In order to keep him, he had to be on the 25 man roster all year. Instead he was on the DL all year except for one rehab game in the minors. So the Nats got him back and he was optioned to Syracuse. If you remember, a few people were a little upset that they didn’t protect him by putting him on the 40 man (thus preventing any team from taking him in the Rule 5 draft), especially after the success he saw in 2009 and 2011. Let’s first take a look at what he did there.

In 2009, at age 23, after being in the minors for a year and a half (he pitched late in the summer he signed), he showed some real promise. He started out in High-A Potomac, and he succeeded, as most former college pitchers should. He also spent 1/3 of his season at AA, which is a much bigger challenge, and succeeded there as well. In 48 IP in AA, he struck out 43, only walked 11, and had a 2.25 ERA. His numbers in high-A were better than that, and he was named the Nats Minor League Pitch of the year. But he hurt his foot in the offseason, and didn’t start the season. He only was able to make 6 starts before re-injuring it (or realizing it wasn’t fixed, perhaps), but in those 6 starts he was very good – 35K/7BB in 30 2/3 IP with a 1.47 ERA.

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Potential September Callups

August 27, 2012

September is approaching fast, and normally with the Nationals, it’s when we can turn our attention back to the downtrodden team and see some young prospects get a shot with the Major League club. Instead, this year the Nats will be entering September as perhaps favorites to win the division, let alone grab one of the two wild card spots.

But that doesn’t stop the roster from expanding, and it doesn’t stop the minor league season from ending around Labor Day, so we’ll still get to see a youngster or two. Remember that in order to be a September callup, a player has to be on the 40 man roster. I will use today’s 40 man and assume it won’t change by the weekend, but of course it probably will. Here’s a few guys to look out for:

Probably

John Lannan – Heard of him? He’s a lock to get called up, especially considering he’s first in line to fill in for Stephen Strasburg once the ace gets shut down.

Corey Brown – He had an incredible season in the minors, he’s a strong defensive CF, and he’s already hit his first Major League homer this year. Hopefully he’ll get to play some more – maybe to rest a seemingly fatigued Bryce Harper once in a while.

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Bringing Back the Pitcher’s Win

July 24, 2012

Most baseball fans know that the pitcher’s W doesn’t mean as much these days (as opposed to the team W, which means everything). At least, logically, we all understand that a pitcher getting a W is dependent on too many things outside of his control to be a good indicator of his ability. But there is something ingrained in our psyche, perhaps, that makes us appreciate the numbers. Yes, most people were ok with Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young in 2010 with a paltry 13-12 record. But the W still holds a special place in our hearts, and Nats fans get to appreciate them, despite their obsolescence, this year more than ever.

Yes the pitcher’s W is a dated measurement, but it’s not completely useless. You can glean some very important information by looking at it. It does give you at least a general idea of the health and productivity of your starting pitching staff. Take a look at the list of Nats pitchers with 10 Ws or more since they’ve been in town:

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The Next Dilemma – #5 Starter

May 16, 2012

When the season started, it seemed like the Nats had 6 or 7 starting pitchers. Thanks to injury Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t quite ready yet, and thanks to Ross Detwiler‘s strong spring training, John Lannan was shipped down to AAA. Lannan’s name hasn’t been mentioned much around these parts, and that’s probably because Detwiler’s been pitching so well. The Nats can leave Lannan down there, and pitch Detwiler until they decide to do otherwise.

But with Wang, things aren’t so simple. Now that he’s healthy, they need to decide what to do with him by the end of May, when his rehab time is up. If they don’t bring him up to the major league squad, he can’t just go down to the minors. And since he doesn’t play 3B, C, 1B, LF or RF (yup, all those places have seen injury), they don’t have a spot to plug him in. Meanwhile, the guy who he’d presumably replace has pitched great. Detwiler’s last start was poor, but even with that he’s got a 2.75 ERA with 28 Ks and 10 BBs in 39 1/3 IP. The team has also said they won’t use Wang out of the bullpen, and they aren’t doing a 6 man rotation. But they have a few options when he comes to the Nats.

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2012 NL East Rankings Part 2: The Pitchers

March 28, 2012

Yesterday, we examined the position players for each team in the NL East, giving out 5 points for the best player at each position, 1 point for the worst. Here’s where we stand:

SCORE: PHI (28), DC (26), MIA (25), ATL (23), NYM (18)

The Nats did so well because of strong showings in C, 3B and LF, while ranking middle of the road for the rest, and only taking the dreaded #5 slot for first base. Comparing starting pitchers is even tougher than the position players, not because it’s hard to know who’s best, but because it’s a little subjective to name the #2 or 3 guy for a team. At least the #1s are pretty clear. I’ve tried to use Baseball Prospectus as my guide to order, and I continue pick a great British rock to guide the text.

#1 STARTER (The Stone Roses)

1. Phillies – Roy Halladay
2. Nationals – Stephen Strasburg
3. Marlins – Josh Johnson
4. Mets – Johan Santana
5. Braves – Tim Hudson

Roy Halladay is still an ace of aces, he finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting last year after winning it in 2010, and is still the best here. Strasburg is projected by PECOTA to have the lowest ERA of any starting pitcher in the league, and we all know that peace reigns and Love Spreads in Washington whenever Baseball Jesus starts, but he’s not pitching more than 160 or so innings this year. He’s no lower on this list despite the inning cap, because the next two guys have some question marks. Josh Johnson is a true ace, but he was hurt most of last year and has only started one full season so far. Santana is also coming off injury, and probably doesn’t have the fastball he used to have, although he was still incredible without it in 2010. Tim Hudson is a very good pitcher, but he probably isn’t in the league of what the other 4 guys can bring.

SCORE: PHI (33), DC (30), MIA (28), ATL (24), NYM (20)

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Lannan and the Trouble with WARP

March 16, 2012

Baseball Prospectus has a handy dandy little statistic called WARP, which behaves like WAR does everywhere else. But it’s their version of the stat, and you know it’s theirs because of the P. Anyway, it is a great tool because, just like WAR, it shows you the overall value of a player over a replacement player. Unless, of course, that player is John Lannan.

Yesterday, Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus tweeted this:

John Lannan has been worth 0.8 WARP combined over last 2 yr (0.5 over last 3). At $5 mil/win, he’s a $2 mil player with $5 mil salary. Ouch

Very ouch, indeed. But that would make it seem that Lannan wasn’t really a valuable player. And I find this hard to believe. Not because I watch him and like what he does, or because he seems nice, or he’s been a long time National, but because other numbers say he is indeed valuable.

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Nats Get a Pitcher, Maybe Give Up an Ace

December 22, 2011

Well, the Nats went ahead and pulled the trigger on a big trade today, and it was a doozy. They got their #3 pitcher, and he’s a pretty good one, so let’s start with that. They got Gio Gonzalez from the A’s, a lefty starter that can strike people out. He is also under control for 4 more years, and will be 26 years old next season. That’s a pretty strong add for the rotation – here are some numbers.

What They’re Getting

He’s been a full time starter for two full seasons now with the A’s, and he’s compiled some interesting stats. The first thing that probably stands out are the Ks – he’s compiled 368 in the last two seasons over 402 2/3 IP for a K/9 of 8.2. That is pretty damn good, and it should go up with the move to the NL. His ERA+ has been 129, also very good, and keep in mind that even though its a pitchers park, ERA+ factors that in, so he’s doing very well with respect to the rest of league. His ERA over this period is a 3.17, and he helps out with more than just numbers. He fits the Nats need for a lefty in the rotation, and he also has good stuff, with a very strong breaking ball. This may help him out in the NL, as he gets to face not only a weaker number 9 hitter in the pitcher, but often a weak #8 hitter in the NL as well.

On the negative side is first and foremost the walks. He led the league last year with 91, had 92 the prior year, and has had a BB/9 of 4.1 the last two seasons. That puts his K/BB at a pretty pedestrian 2.01. He also has played in front of very good defense which has probably inflated his numbers somewhat. And he’s a fly ball pitcher that was helped out by his home park, so his home/road splits are pretty pronounced. In 2011 his ERA was 2.70 at home and 3.62 on the road. His Ks were higher at home, his walks were lower. But he wasn’t a BAD pitcher away, just mediocre away and GREAT at home. I’m not saying he’ll be bad, but he’s probably not more than a #3 starter. Still, that gives the Nats a solid rotation top to bottom now, with a solid back end and a strong front end.

What They’re Giving Up

In exchange, they gave a slew of prospects to Oakland – right away, you see they got Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, two guys you probably recognize since they played on the Nats last year. Both started, but I think both aren’t destined to be major league starters. Milone had spectacular numbers in the minors, but major league hitters didn’t seem to have that much trouble with him. Although his ERA wasn’t terrible, he didn’t strike anyone out, and probably won’t last several times through a lineup. Peacock has a good fastball, and had a great season in the minors, but has an issue with his curve – it really curves. After they’ve seen it once or twice, hitters at the major league level seem to be able to lay off it and sit on the fastball. He might have a strong future as a setup man, but I have serious doubts in his ability to start. So I don’t mind losing either one of those guys.

They also gave up Derek Norris who, on the other hand, could be somebody. He’s had his issue with batting average for sure, but he walks a ton and hits for power. At almost any other position you’d worry that he might not hit enough once people come at him more, but for a catcher, the power and the eye are probably enough. If he develops, he could be a very good starting catcher. Still, I expected he’d be the price that the Nats would have to pay to make a move. After all, they have a great young catcher already, so Norris really is a trade chip. And they used him appropriately, so good for them.

But there is one more piece that made my shoulder’s slump a bit when I read it. In addition to those three guys, the gave up A.J. Cole. Cole’s name hasn’t been as prevalent for Nats fans, because he’s young and he’s pitching in the low minors, but he’s a talent. But last year, at age 19, he managed 108 Ks and 24 BBs in 89 IP. Striking out more than a guy per inning at that age and level is real nice. He’s got ace potential, and I think the A’s are probably more excited about him than anyone else. He alone would have been a big price to pay.

The Verdict

Well, the Nats have a rotation now, right? Over the next few seasons, they’ll have a better #1 in Strasburg and a better #2 in Zimmermann than most teams. If Gonzalez can succeed outside of Oakland, without that A’s defense in front of him, than the 200+ Ks means they’ll have a good #3 pitcher. John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and maybe Ross Detwiler round out a rotation that looks pretty damn good. And next year, if they went out and bought a free agent front line pitcher, it’d be downright scary. This is a move for now, not years down the road, but Gonzalez is young enough that its not necessarily for NOW now. It works for 2013 and 2014 as well, which is good, because nobody knows how much Harper we’re getting this year, and we know Strasburg will be limited.

Still, I can’t help but thinking Cole was alot to give up. In 3 years or so, when he’s pitching effectively in the majors, that’s just when I expect the Nats to be contending for championships, and really needing a guy like him. What kind of pitcher will Gio Gonzalez be then? Hopefully someone that can make us forget AJ Cole was once part of the future here. Meanwhile, forgetting about AJ Cole for a minute – the rest of what they gave up was probably a long shot to add much to this team. And Gonzalez definitely gives them something right now, and for the next 4 years at least. The bottom line is, whatever they gave up isn’t helping now, and the rotation just got alot stronger.


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