Best Nats Seasons, By Position

February 7, 2011

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%.

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Who’s on First?

December 9, 2010

Nats rumored first base target Carlos Pena signed with the Cubs on Tuesday for $10 M, and since I never thought it was a good idea to sign him, I am obviously ok with this. I’m not going to get into the value of his contract too much – I always make the argument that I don’t care about it, so I’m going to use this one to say that he doesn’t deserve this – I just don’t think he’s that great of a hitter anymore. Keith Law said “Since 2008, however, he’s been baffled by even moderate-quality offspeed stuff” and I don’t think he’s going to be an OBP machine anymore. You may be able to look back at the end of the season, see 25+ homers in hitting-friendly Wrigley and think the Nats missed out, but if he came to DC his hitting numbers would have to be adjusted for the park.

Many had penciled him in as the starting 1B for the Nats, so take out your erasers and start over. What are the choices left for the Nats?

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BP As Your GM

October 26, 2010

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 »

Nationals Needs in the Offseason

October 12, 2010

If you’re looking for work, the Nationals have some open positions going in to next season. Who are they going to get to fill in the spots? Let’s first go down the list and see who’s going to play where

The Infield

At least part of this infield is complete. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond appear to be locks to start next year, as does some combination of Wilson Ramos and Pudge at catcher. Right now it appears that Danny Espinosa is the starting 2B, but I am not convinced he is enough of a full time hitter to have a strong grip on the job. If there was another second baseman on the market, even for a short term signing, I wouldn’t put it past the team to go after him. As for first base, that is the gaping hole in the infield needs to be addressed.  Nobody is ready to step up from the minors, although Chris Marrero may not be far away, there is little thought that he’d be on the major league squad this summer.

The Outfield

The Nationals have 3 outfielders that will all play next year – Josh Willingham, Roger Bernadina, and Mike Morse. Nyjer Morgan may or may not be on the team next season, and if he’s not, it is assumed Bernadina would be moved to center.

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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 »

Olney’s Defense of Dunn

July 26, 2010

Buster Olney had this to say about keeping Adam Dunn around, and I can’t say I disagree

The Nationals are on the fence about what to do with Adam Dunn, who has 23 homers, 61 RBIs, and an OPS of .935. Sources say they could offer him a contract before the deadline, and if they can’t reach an agreement, they might trade him.

The view from here: The Nationals should put a competitive three-year offer on the table and be prepared to go to four years in their proposal, because the alternative for them is something they should avoid — a lineup without Dunn or someone like him. Look, Dunn is a subpar defensive player, but the Nationals’ lineup without Dunn is woefully thin, and the Nationals are not even close to the point where free agents want to go.

The Nationals are concerned about whether Dunn’s body would hold up through the duration of a three- or four-year deal. But an astute AL evaluator made this point: What Dunn does well — hit homers — is gaining more value as time goes on, and the two skills that last the longest in aging players like Dunn are the ability to generate on-base percentage and power. In other words, even if Dunn regresses defensively to the point that the Nationals feel compelled to trade him after a couple of years, he’ll probably still be hitting homers and drawing walks in 2013, and will remain attractive to AL teams at age 33 and 34. He’ll maintain some level of value.

The point is that if you trade Dunn, who are you going to get to replace him? Not now, but in the next few years. If you are a believer that the Nats can contend in the next couple of seasons,  then the lineup has to be better than just Zimmerman and a couple of others that hit once in a while. And Dunn is the guy that fits in there well. The power is just not coming from anywhere else. Meanwhile, if you trade him for a prospect pitcher, it may not help the cause that much. And a prospect hitter is a possibility, but he won’t hit like Dunn, so he better play some spectacular middle infield or 1B or CF on top of hitting.

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Some Hot Bats This Hot Month

July 23, 2010

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.

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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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Annual Day Off of Sports

July 14, 2010

Today is the only day of the year, I do believe, where there isn’t an MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL game being played. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of sports coverage going on, but the major sports don’t play tonight.

Last nights All Star game was interesting in that it was low scoring, AL hitting didn’t demolish NL pitching, and the NL finally won. I don’t doubt that losing every game since 1996 was more coincidence than a proof of AL domination. Even the worst teams in baseball win over 35% of the time, so that drought was as much luck and coincidence than anything else, although the NL being worse probably did add something to it. It was fitting to see Matt Capps get the win, after only facing one batter. Not because he’s having a great season, but because a Nationals bullpen guy often gets the W when they’re victorious. It may have only been more fitting if Tyler Clippard was in there. He leads the team in wins, with Capps coming in tied for 4th with Stephen Strasburg.

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