Hopes for the Second Half

July 14, 2011

Ok, technically, the Nationals’ season is more like 57% over not 50% over, but let’s skip the games played and just go with the All Star Game as the traditional midway point. There are a few things I’m really hoping to happen this half that would make me more confident going in to next season. While a playoff berth this year is still possible, the team just isn’t THAT good yet. I’m more concerned with them getting ready to make an actual run at a playoff spot in 2012. These aren’t predictions, these are just some things I’d like to see.

Trade

There aren’t too many trade chips for this team, but Jason Marquis is one of them. His ERA+ of 95 is about what you’d expect, and its nothing to get other teams foaming at the mouth. But he’s a free agent at the end of the year who isn’t likely to yield compensation picks. He’s worthless to them come the end of this season, but someone else might be able to use him. Livan Hernandez is in the same boat, and has actually pitched slightly better, but has legal issues which may make him harder to trade. If they can turn either of these guys into anything of value in the trade market, they gotta do it.

Jerry Hairston has performed well enough in fill-in roles, hitting just about what his career numbers would indicate. If there is a team that needs someone to play any of the myriad of positions he can play, why not get some value for him? They won’t get much, but something is better than nothing.

Laynce Nix is interesting because many might not want to trade him, figuring he can start in LF for the rest of the season and next year too. The problem is, he is a free agent after this season, and probably stands to make more than the $700K he’s making right now.

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2011 Roster – Best Nats Players Yet?

July 1, 2011

Yesterday, Thom Loverro wrote an article claiming that Danny Espinosa was the best second baseman in the history of the Nats. And you know what? My first thought was that I agreed with him. But I figured I’d check it out, using very basic statistical analysis. Then I thought, why not do that for the rest of the team as well? Is there anyone else on this current team that we can consider the best Nationals player at his position? I pulled the list for WAR (Wins Above Replacement) from Baseball Reference on all Nats players going back to 2005 when the team came to DC. Remember that WAR is cumulative, and while it can decrease with bad play, the thought is that anyone who has a high WAR now won’t see a massive decrease. Keep in mind also that Loverro was talking a bit more generically, and what I’m looking at is more about any of the current players having the best statistical season at the position.

Second Base

Starting with the premise of Loverro’s article, Danny Espinosa certainly seems like the best 2B in Nats history. And at 24 years old, he’s got a brighter future than anyone in the position before. And with a WAR of 2.0 right now, not only does he lead the 2011 Nats position players, he is the best second baseman at this point in the season already. The next closest WAR is Ronnie Belliard in 2008, and he only had 337 PAs. Vidro’s best season in DC (not counting some strong Montreal seasons) was his first, in 2005, where he had a WAR of 0.7. Espinosa’s doing great, and nothing should diminish that, but his competition was nonexistent.
Conclusion: Best 2B in Nats History

Third Base

Really, Ryan Zimmerman is obviously the best 3B in the team’s history, and so far he’s been the best player period for the franchise.

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Livo, Some Great Offense, Burgers

June 16, 2011

I was lucky enough to go to the Wednesday night game, and I am not sure I’ve ever attended a Nats game quite like that. Not only did the DC offense shine, Livan Hernandez pitched a simply incredible game. Mark Zuckerman has an article on how historically good it was for Livo. Suffice it to say that it was a complete game 3-hit shutout, the rest is just details I suppose.

You might be able to tell, if my cellphone had a telescoping lens, better focus, and a more skilled user, that picture on the left is the big righty still going strong in the 9th. In fact, at only 105 pitches on the night, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to throw long toss after the game. I was thinking of going out to The Bullpen bar after the game and see if he was trying to hit 88 on the radar gun. Livan had a great game, but he wasn’t all there was to last night.

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The Unnoticed Starter

May 16, 2011

Maybe it’s because we’re too shocked that Jason Marquis is 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA. Or maybe it’s because we’ve been so busy lamenting the disappearance of offense, both from the entire team, and from individuals we were hoping would improve this year like Morse, Desmond and Espinosa. Whatever the reason, one person that hasn’t gotten alot of credit so far this year is Tom Gorzellany.

Gorzelanny is a little different than the other starters. He’s not an older vet trade bait like Livo or Marquis. He’s not as young as JZimm or Lannan, who might be considered prospects (ok, that’s probably a stretch for Lannan). He’s somewhere in the middle – a relatively young pitcher at 28, that the Nats are hoping they can use as a starter for the next few years (I believe they can control him through 2013). As an in between guy, most fans aren’t holding their breath for him to be great, but the indifference that some may feel for the vets (other than eyeing some trade potentials) should be there either. Gorzelanny has looked quite good in his first 1/4 of the season, and looks like the kind of pitcher that could be very helpful.

He is currently leading the Nats starting pitchers in ERA, K/9, H/9 and WHIP. Despite giving up some walks, he still has allowed fewer base runners than the other starters while striking out more. He’s always been good at striking hitters out, but he often has control issues that limit his effectiveness. This year, while he’s walked a few, the K/BB of 2.50 is good enough to make him a strong starter. It’s also quite a bit above his career K/BB of 1.65. If he can sustain that, he’ll continue to be strong.

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Those Starters

May 3, 2011

Last night, the Nats got a great start out of Tom Gorzelanny, 8 innings of shutout ball to go with a complete game shutout pitched by Jason Marquis on Friday night. The starting pitching has probably been the biggest surprise of this early Nationals’ season, and it’s not just good, it’s been great. The Nats starting rotation has a 3.38 ERA, good for 3rd best in the National League, and 5th best in all of baseball. All this while possibly the pitcher with the best stuff, Jordan Zimmermann, has an ERA below league average (ERA+ of 91). Zimmermann hasn’t even been awful, he’s had 1 bad start, 1 hard luck start with bad results, and 4 good games.

Here are the starters, in order of best ERA to worst

  • Jason Marquis – 2.62 ERA, 5 GS, 6.3 K/9, 4.80 K/BB
  • Tom Gorzelanny – 2.93 ERA, 5 GS, 6.8 K/9, 2.56 K/BB
  • Livan Hernandez – 3.23 ERA, 6 GS, 4.6 K/9, 2.00 K/BB
  • John Lannan – 3.78 ERA, 6 GS, 4.9 K/9, 1.29 K/BB
  • Jordan Zimmermann – 4.29 ERA, 6 GS, 4.5 K/9, 2.57 K/BB

Looking at the ERA, you might figure that Marquis is the luckiest, but looking at the ratios, you realize he’s also been the best. Sure, those numbers won’t hold up, but when you strike out close to 5 times as many people than you walk, you’re in great shape. Gorzelanny has looked very good, but didn’t look great – until last night’s game. He’s showing he can strike guys out, and he hasn’t walked too many either.

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The Week I Missed

April 18, 2011

After bring out of the country for a week, I’m back and ready to take a look at what is going on with the Nats.

First of all, Ryan Zimmerman got hurt right after I left, and it appears that his injury isn’t that serious. To call it completely minor would be to ignore the fact that he was put on the DL, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Abdominal strains can be tricky, as they often look to be healed then pop back up. But, if given the time to heal, he should be no worse for the wear.

Meanwhile, the Nats managed to go 5-2 in those games where Zimmerman hasn’t played, not that anyone would say they’re better off without him. The offense has been a big part of this run – they scored 7 runs on Sunday, 7 on Tuesday, 8 on Sunday and 5 on the 2nd Sunday game. You’re gonna win most of your games where you score 5 or more runs.

But Seriously, the Starting Pitching

Let’s not forget about what the pitching has done over this period. It hasn’t been spectacular, but it’s been quite good. Tom Gorzelanny debuted as the fifth starter on Saturday, and didn’t look very good. But he redeemed himself Friday, going 6 IP with 2 ER. At this point we can be hopeful that the first game was from lack of game time pitching this year, and we’ll see more of the second start types than the first. Livan had a very good game against the Phillies on Tuesday, going 6 2/3  IP and giving up only 1 ER. He then went 7 with 1 ER on Sunday to bring his ERA down to 2.88.

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Livo and the Quality Start

April 1, 2011

Yesterday, Livan Hernandez pitched a pretty good game. He started out a little shaky, but settled down, and ended up retiring 16 of the last 17 batters he faced.  He also managed to go 6 innings, while only allowing 2 ER. This falls into the category of a quality start, which, as you know, required 6 IP or more, and 3 ER or less. Normally I don’t pay attention to this number, because it doesn’t always indicate an actual good performance. But with Livo, it’s a little different.

Last year, Livo made quality starts in 67% of his games started. That was his highest percentage since 2003, and his first year of 60% since 2005. The years in between he approached 60% at times – in 2007 and 2009 he was at 58%. But in those years his ERA was not impressive, never having an ERA+ of even 100. In fact, since his rookie season, he’s only had 5 seasons with an ERA+ of 100 or better. In 4 of those 5 seasons, his QS percentage was over 60%. Only in 2004, when he had an ERA+ of 126 did he have a QS percentage as low as 57%. Fittingly, those 4 seasons of great ERA+ were the only time his QS percentage was above 60% in his career.

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