LaRoche Brings D, Likely Best Possible Lineup

January 8, 2013

The Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche today, getting him on a two year deal. Comparing LaRoche to the other first base options, Michael Morse and Tyler Moore, I think this is the scenario most likely to be the most successful.

The defense gets a boost with LaRoche over the other guys. On offense, it allows them to have a better lefty-righty mix, and is the most probable candidate for best lineup. Morse has the potential to hit better than either of the other guys, but he also has the potential to turn in a .320 or lower OPS, and even with more power than LaRoche, this is a hindrance to his value. Moore is still unproven as a full timer, and while I’m excited to see what he can do, I doubt its the .840 OPS he showed this year.

I’ve heard that 2012 was a career year for LaRoche, but it really wasn’t. I wrote about it at length here in October, but suffice to say it wasn’t so much better than his 2006, and slightly better than 2008 and 2009. He’ll probably end up with another strong but non-spectacular offensive 1B season. Rizzo went with best probable lineup rather than best potential lineup, and I can’t blame him for that. All that coupled with strong defense made him the best choice for this team.

The Morse Surprise

Because of this contract, it seemingly relegates Morse to the bench. It likely means that management will trade him, which makes sense in terms of building the best team. It is unfortunate to feel the need to trade such a good player who is a fan favorite, and count me as one of those fans who enjoys watching his enthusiastic play. His emergence as a true power hitter was more surprising than you may recall.

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The LaRoche Saga

October 23, 2012

When we discuss the construction of the 2013 Nationals, the linchpin player is Adam LaRoche. It’s hard to figure out what other moves will be made until his situation is finalized. It’s widely assumed that he’ll opt out of his contract. The $10M option was good security for him at the time, but he can certainly command more now, and he can get multiple years with at least that much per year. For the Nats, he was certainly the most consistent offensive player, and possibly the best. He was #2 in PAs and led the team in HRs and OPS. People tend to think this was a “career” year, but that is colored by his hot start. In terms of OPS+, it was his 2nd best, and right around his numbers in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

What this year did show, however, was that he can still hit. After a somewhat disappointing 2010 season in where he did hit 25 HRs and have 100 RBI, but only had a .788 OPS (9th best among NL 1Bs), he sat out the majority of 2011 on the DL. Someone will offer him multiple years, and while he does profess that he wants to stay in DC, at 32 years old he would be wise to go with the best offer. It’s hard to imagine the Nats could low ball him and hold on. I figure most people who want him back would prefer 2 years or less, so anything longer than that would be considered “long term.” I seriously doubt he’d get any more than 4 years from anyone.

In terms of finding a replacement for LaRoche, there are some in house options with Tyler Moore and Michael Morse. There are also a few free agent possibilities, and while there aren’t any 28 year old superstars waiting on a big deal, realistic options for full time players include Mike Napoli, Lance Berkman (who may retire), Carlos Pena (who probably should retire),  and Nick Swisher (who could also play OF). One possibility is to go with a Tyler Moore platoon, and sign a lefty who can hit righties like Aubrey Huff or James Loney (who actually has a .792 OPS vs RHP playing in that huge LAD stadium). My thought on that is they wouldn’t sign a guy to make a full time platoon, more as a bailout option in case Moore struggles.


Dr. StrangeUpton

September 20, 2012

…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombs.

As an aside from the playoff race and the fun that the Nationals are having looking forward to October, I’m always speculating about how they’ll structure next year’s lineup (the biggie: will LaRoche still be here?). If they’re happy with Harper in CF they could just keep LaRoche, but that might not be up to them. And if it’s not, they’ll might have to find a free agent. Except that the corner outfield and 1B free agent market is sparse. So maybe get a real CF, move Harper to a corner OF spot and Morse to 1B.

If they do go that way, there are 3 big name center fielders that are available. One is Shane Victorino, but I have my doubts that he’s the right answer. Another is Michael Bourn, and he’s a good player, but he might want a big long term deal, and maybe they don’t want to do that. Another guy who might be had a little cheaper, and maybe they could sign him shorter term is B.J. Upton (maybe they couldn’t, but at least he’s two years younger than Bourn).

And I like the idea of Upton, but is he the answer for this team? He’s a low AVG, relatively low OBP (bad year this year, but .337 career aint awful) and decent power guy. In other words, he reminds me of Ian Desmond. Desi’s had a much better than year than Upton, but the similarities are there in my mind. I just keep thinking they’re OBP low and power high and maybe they need more OBP and they’re great but streaky… well, I went ahead and worked myself into a frenzy, so I submitted this basic premise to Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus during his chat yeseterday:

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2011 Ends, So Does Rebuilding

September 29, 2011

Last night, while many baseball fans were watching an incredible end to the regular season with the excitement of the playoffs starting 2 days early, the Nats were finishing up their season. They had a good game, winning 3-1, and a promising one in that Stephen Strasburg pitched very well – 6 IP, 10 K, 1 H, 2 BB and 0 ER. They not only finished the 2011 regular season, but they should have finished their final season of true “rebuild”.

Look who they already have written in the lineup next year, and some of their stats:

C – Wilson Ramos, 23 years old, .779 OPS , rookie
2B – Danny Espinosa, 24 years old, .737 OPS, 21 HR, rookie
3B – Ryan Zimmerman, 26 years old, .798 OPS (.846 after July 2)
SS – Ian Desmond, 25 years old, .294/.342/.422 after July 5
1B/LF – Michael Morse, 29 years old, .910 OPS
RF – Jayson Werth, 32 years old, 20 HR, .264/.349/.445 after July 18
SP – Stephen Strasburg, 22 years old, 24 IP, 4 ER, 24 K, 2 BB, returned from TJ
SP – Jordan Zimmermann, 25 years old, 3.18 ERA, 4.0 K/BB
SP – John Lannan, 26 years old, 3.70 ERA
RP – Tyler Clippard, 26 years old, 1.83 ERA, 88 1/3 IP, 104 K, 26 BB
RP – Drew Storen, 23 years old, 2.75 ERA, 75 1/3 IP, 74 K, 20 BB

Werth’s track record of success, couple with his 2nd half, suggests he’ll be fine next year.The only real question mark in that group is Ian Desmond. Everyone else seems to be ready to produce and win games.  Ross Detwiler, only 25 years old, is a lefty who at times looked unhittable, and finished the year with a 3.00 ERA in 10 starts and 5 relief appearances. Throw in potentially Chien-Ming Wang, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, and the pitching looks very strong. This is no longer a rebuild, this is a young team with strong players at almost every position. They aren’t “potential” guys, they are guys who have produced in the majors.

The biggest hole to fill is in center field. They also might invest in another starting pitcher, but they’d probably have to go after a true front line guy to make it worth shoving one of the younger guys aside. First base is a question, too – Chris Marrero and Adam LaRoche could produce at first base, but neither is one you’d count on. I could see them finishing 2012 with Morse as their first baseman, and leave the other corner outfield spot for Bryce Harper.

Nobody expects them to win 100 games next season. Bryce Harper probably won’t start the year with the team, and may not see action until September, if that. But this team is no longer looking to fill dozens of holes. Next seasons results cannot be written off to another year of rebuilding, they have to win games, and they should start being a serious contender for the playoffs within the next 2 seasons.


That Was Better Than I Thought

September 26, 2011

Think back to June or July. What were you thinking about this team? If you are like most fans, you were relishing the success of the starting pitching while lamenting the complete lack of offense. Well, some of that pitching has disappeared, due to trades, end of season shutdown, regression or whatever. But just as that evened out a bit, the hitting has roared back. Sure, this team isn’t the Bronx Bombers, but I seem to recall in early summer only Laynce Nix had an OPS+ over 100. Now look what we’ve got with only 3 games to go.

Danny Espinosa

A late season slump probably preventing him from getting serious rookie of the year consideration, but Danny Espinosa is finishing out the year on a high note. Not only is he hitting .239/.324/.420 right now, giving him an OPS+ of 104, the 24 year old rookie is hitting .298/.384/.471 in his last 140 PAs. His rough stretch in July and the beginning of August brought those total numbers down, but he’s still had a great season for a rookie middle infielder, and those 21 home runs look awfully nice.

Wilson Ramos

A 23 year old catcher hitting .269/.335/.449 should probably be getting a bit more national attention, considering Ramos has the 5th best OPS among NL catchers with 350 or more PAs. Not bad for a rookie at this position, either. One of the reasons people having been talking about him is that before September he was just having a pretty good offensive season. But in his last 102 PAs he’s hit .344/.396/.624, making those totals look quite a bit better. Oh, and those 4 catchers ahead of him on the OPS chart? The youngest is McCann, who’s 4 years older than Ramos.

Ian Desmond

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What REALLY Caused the Earthquake

August 23, 2011

A little fun for this Tuesday afternoon, since you’re not working anyway.


Mike Morse – Historically Good National

August 10, 2011

If you haven’t noticed, Michael Morse is having a pretty good season with the bat. But while he continues to rake the ball, what isn’t being talked about is just how good he really is.

He’s currently hitting .323/.371/.562 in his first full year of being a starter. This gives him an OPS+ of 155, good enough for best in the history of the Nationals. He actually has the second best OPS, behind Nick Johnson’s 2006 number of .948, the year he finished with an incredible .428 OBP. But thanks to adjusting for the league now, with hitting down across the board, Morse is actually better compared to the rest of the league than Johnson was.

He’s currently in 2nd place in the batting title race in NL, but winning that may not be doable. Jose Reyes is comfortable ahead, batting .336, and has about 60 more ABs, meaning sitting on the DL for a few weeks won’t drop him out of the competition, and Morse has to catch up rather than hope Jose falters. And his .323 would also be best in the history of the Nationals, for full time players, of course. But he doesn’t just look great among Nats players.

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