Join Colm and Charlie as the discuss the NATS. Nationals Review Episode 11
Here is what they talk about:
- Nats winning streak
- Return of Werth
- State of the middle infield
- Harper’s slump
- Pitching staff keeps rolling
Join Colm and Charlie as the discuss the NATS. Nationals Review Episode 11
Here is what they talk about:
On the Nationals Review Episode 4 (click to download or get it on iTunes), this week Charlie and Colm talk :
Charlie and Josh get on the mic to talk all things Nationals for the first ever Nats Review podcast. Download the podcast by clicking the link above – and it will soon be in the iTunes store. Here is what they talked about:
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.
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.
Jordan Zimmermann is having, by most measures a very good season. He leads the Nats starters in Ks (51) and ERA (3.39) while giving up the fewest BBs (15) and HRs (3). And over the last 7 starts he’s been spectacular – a 2.62 ERA, with 37 K and 10 BB in 44 2/3 IP. He is the best pitcher on the staff right now, and at only 25, show promise to be great for years to come.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Jordan ranks 10th in the majors in VORP among pitchers, 7th in the NL. Fangraphs puts him 9th in WAR for pitchers. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) ranks 9th as well, although his xFIP, which is normalized, is much higher. This maybe due to his relatively low K/9.
But one reason why he’s doing so good without a ton of strikeouts (of the 16 starters with lower ERAs than him, only 3 have fewer Ks) is how few guys he’s walked. He has been so economical with the strike zone, that he ranks 5th in the NL in BB/9. This isn’t to suggest he doesn’t strike anyone out. He ranks 41st in the NL in Ks, but that puts squarely in first place on the Nationals. (We’re not counting hitters, right? Because Desmond and Espinosa have… oh, never mind)
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:
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)
Baseball Prospectus authors Steven Goldman, Kevin Goldstein, Jay Jaffe, and Ben Lindbergh showed up in DC to host an event at Politics and Prose last night. Also appearing unbilled was Clay Davenport, who jumped into the group and helped field questions.
If you love online baseball chats (I do) and you aren’t afraid to leave the house (I’m not) than this is the kind of event for you. It was a little cramped in the room, thanks to a ton of people showing up, but it didn’t detract from the great atmosphere. After introductions, and an entertaining dinosaur story by Goldman, they got right into answering questions. People lined up at microphones, asked away, and they answered away as a group. I thoroughly enjoyed it, here are some highlights that I remember:
After I wrote an article discussing who should be moved and who should be demoted with the impending promotion of Scott Olsen, I was pretty proud of myself. After all, I found out that the Nats had indeed moved Stammen to the bullpen. This was my idea exactly, I was just waiting for them to decide whether to move down Hanrahan (my idea) or Colome. Then the job offer from the front office, I assumed, would arrive in my e-mail inbox.
So much for that, they instead decided to take Stammen back out of the bullpen, and he gets to stay as a starter. And as if to rub salt in the wound, they suggested to move Martis down to the minors. I was kind of surprised, considering I assumed he was the #2 of the 4 rookies in terms of performance. Yes, as the Nationals Journal points out “…since his May 13 victory against San Francisco, Martis is 0-3 with a 6.34 ERA. In those eight starts, he’s walked 22 and struck out just 13,” but that’s not the whole story. He has a better ERA than the other guys and started out so strong.
Scott Olsen is allegedly healthy and doing rehab starts in AAA. The success of these rehab can be debated – his last one wasn’t too bad but he has looked spectacular. In his latest, and really only good start of the 3 so far, he went 6 IP, give up 2 ER with 5 K and only 1 BB. But he did give up 8 H. Anyway, Manny was miked up earlier this week and said that when Olsen came back, one of the youngsters would have to either move to the bullpen or go down to the minors. I guess they feel that Olsen has the most experience of the group, might as well start him.
Who Should Be Moved?
I’m taking Lannan out of this discussion. Besides being the only non-rookie, he’s been the most successful starter. He’s the Ace of the staff, even if he’s not a #1 pitcher. As for the others, well let’s look at what they’ve done over their last 5 games. I’ve listed the stats for each one of them, including the average over these games their totals.
I don’t usually need a reason to watch the Nationals, or baseball in general. It’s baseball, why wouldn’t I watch? But not everyone is like me, and if you’re a more casual Nats fan who is disappointed in the last few games, or last few seasons, well, there’s still a reason to watch today. That reason is John Smoltz.
He’s the Smoltziest
Smoltz will be a member of the Hall of Fame, that is not in doubt. He is one of the best pitchers of his time, and any time you have a chance to see that, I think you should be watching. It’s easier to recognize these things when players are at the end of their careers, but baseball is an individual sport in many ways, and seeing the best individuals is a great way to see the game. And Smoltz, for the last 2 decades, has been one of the best.