Another Year, Another CF Question

March 21, 2012

Time for the annual spring “what the heck is going on in CF?” question. As of right now, it appears the starting center fielder for the Nationals is Roger Bernadina. Or Rick Ankiel. Which might be a nice platoon if they weren’t both lefties. With Bryce Harper being sent down (both for learning baseball reasons and for economic reasons) the dream that he would play CF or that Jayson Werth would is gone for the moment. So what should they do?

Maybe you think their current roster is just fine, and those guys will play well. Or you think it’s only a matter of time before Harper and Werth man RF and CF, in some order. Alternatively, there has been talk they’re going to try to trade for underutilized Arizona CF Gerardo Parra. They could also use Corey Brown, who has hit well this spring, but hasn’t seen much time in the middle of the outfield this spring.

Of course, if you, like me, think they might not truly believe they are going to be World Series contenders with 60% of Harper and no Strasburg at the end of the year, maybe it doesn’t matter what they do right now as long as they go after a free agent this offseason. So what’s your opini0n?


Finally, Some Hitters Are Hitting

August 3, 2011

Don’t look now, but some of the guys on this team are actually hitting. Throughout the season, Mike Morse has been a great hitter, but nobody else has done it consistently. Danny Espinosa started out great, but hasn’t really hit since the beginning of July. The same relative time frame can be said about Laynce Nix. But all of sudden, if you are paying attention, you’ll notice that some other guys are actually hitting for this team.

Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond has experienced a resurgance of hitting in the last few weeks. Since July 6, about a week before the All Star break, he is hitting .292/.373/.446. Even if you don’t include last night’s game with the HR, his OPS was .753 over that span. It’s probably nothing more than a hot streak, but it has raised his OPS 48 points in that time. If he can do it for another 20 games, or even more, he’ll finish the season with numbers that aren’t SO bad for a starting SS.

Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth is also in the midst of a hot streak. His dates back to the All Star break on the dot. Since his return from the time off (no, he did not get selected this year) he has hit .288/.400/.475, but he’s looked even better in his last 12 games. From July 19, he’s hit .341/.442/.591. That can defined as a legitimate hot streak, I think, and unlike the numbers Desi has put up, is even hot for a GOOD hitter. Whether this is because of the time off, or just pure luck, we may never know. But we can certainly count this as a good sign that Werth never completely lost his ability to hit. With its return this last 2 weeks, I have some confidence that it won’t disappear permanently.

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A Platoon Possibility

May 13, 2011

Over the winter, when things were rosey and Mike Morse was coming off a great season, there were lots of ideas of how to deal with the outfield. Rick Ankiel, a lefty hitter, could play great CF, but nobody knew if he could hit. Roger Bernadina wasn’t as good of a fielder, and was also a lefty. Mike Morse was a righty but hit everyone in 2010. Nyjer Morgan, another lefty, was still on the team. When Morgan left, alot of people started constructing ideas of the lineup. Perhaps Morse would start against lefties, and either Bernie or Ankiel would play CF. Maybe Hairston and Morse would play those games, while Bernie and Ankiel would start against righties. But Morse has looked so good, starting only against lefties seemed like a waste.

Well the season is moving along, and things have changed. First, Morse hasn’t hit at all. Ankiel is on the DL, and Bernadina just came up from the minors, with still a bit of a reverse platoon split, hitting better against righties. Meanwhile, other than their 23 year old catcher, the best hitter on the Nats has been Laynce Nix, and he is rightfully getting playing time in LF. Just as Morse’s 2010 may not have been a true reflection of how good he can hit, Nix’s April and May probably is a little overstated. The 30 year old hit this well last year, but it was in a very hitter friendly park in Cincinnati, and it was almost exclusively versus righties. Which brings me to the premise of the article.

While we can’t figure out everything at once, and CF remains a mystery, there is hope for LF for this season. You see, even this year, while everyone has lauded was Nix has done, something that has remained somewhat unnoticed is that he hasn’t hit lefties. Literally and figuratively, as he only has 1 hit in 8 PAs against them. His remaining 65 have been against lefties. And his career OPS splits of .743 vs righties and .518 vs lefties suggest this is the way to go with him. Meanwhile, despite Mike Morse’s struggle this particular season, he has always shown an ability to hit lefties, and hit them with power.

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Two Games Does Not an Offense Make

May 12, 2011

The Nats have scored 7 runs per game in the last 2 games. Despite the fact that it took 2 errors in the first game and an 11 inning game, it’s an accomplishment. They actually have done this before, 2 games in a row of 7 runs each almost exactly a month ago against the Mets. And they scored 8, then 5, then 8 against the Brewers then the Cardinals. So as much as we’d like to believe that the last few days are a sign of things to come, there is way to know. And there are doubts that things are going to get better.

The team is 12th in the NL in runs per game, dead last in OBP and OPS, and second to last in SLG. Of the guys who might be considered starters, the only with an OPS+ over 100 are Werth (who’s 109 isn’t great, he ranks 17th for RFers in the majors in OPS), Ramos, and Nix. As poor as they are hitting, the two next best in OPS+ are Espinosa and Desmond.

They aren’t hitting with much power, but at least, without getting on base that much, they’re doing well at swiping them. Desmond is 12 for 13 with steals, Werth is 5 for 6, Ankiel is 4 for 5, and Espinosa is 3 for 4. These are all good clips, that could help a low scoring team with decent pitching win a couple games. But really, none of this will matter that much if everyone continues to hit like they have. Without a significant recovery, their run differential will only get worse, their record will slip well below .500, and when they do score 7 runs you will be once again completely shocked.


The Team that Couldn’t Hit

May 9, 2011

It’s beyond bad, at this point. After a week in which the Nats broke their team record for striking out the most in one game, they came out Sunday and got no hit for 7 innings. Sanchez pitched a good game, but this team certainly helped. You know the hitting has been bad, but it’s probably worse than you realized. They are last in the league in OBP, and second to last in SLG and OPS. Thanks to the last place team playing in San Diego, a big pitchers park, they are actually ranked last in OPS+ (which factors in park effects). They are just plain bad at hitting.

Looking down the lineup is sickening. Forgive the order, this is just a sample lineup that could go out there:

  1. .221/.321/.389
  2. .217/.250/.383
  3. .227/.324/.387
  4. .196/.300/.313
  5. .319/.377/.493
  6. .241/.275/.325
  7. .220/.297/.317

That’s Espinosa (2B), Desmond (SS), Werth (RF), LaRoche (1B), Ramos (C), Morse (LF) and Hairston (3B). There’s no CF in there, but Ankiel’s .221/.302/.288 ranks 5th in plate appearances on the team, so factor that in the list. Ramos is looking great, even without comparing him to the rest of the team. Unfortunately, his last few weeks haven’t looked great, with a very low OBP, but he’s still slugging, so in comparison, a .250/.275/.500 is still the best hitter on this team. When you put Pudge in the lineup with his .214/.241/.321, he manages to drag down these horrendous averages.

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The Benefits of Long Toss

May 4, 2011

Tim Kurkjian has an article up today on the rise of left handed power arms… in the outfield. The Nationals’ own Rick Ankiel headlines the group of today’s rocket armed lefty outfielders. A few highlights

But no left-handed or right-handed outfielder throws better than Ankiel, 31. You know his story. He won 11 games and struck out 194 batters in 175 innings with the Cardinals in 2000, but soon after, he lost all ability to throw the ball over the plate. He had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and finally ditched pitching in 2005 because of acute control issues. Now he’s throwing better than he ever has and has no mental block about throwing from the outfield.

“I just let it fly,” Ankiel said. “And I play a lot of long toss to help preserve my arm.”

There you go, kids – long toss will help you have the best outfield arm. Well, that and the ability to strike out more than a batter an inning. Jason Marquis is also quoted gushing over the grand eloquence of long toss. And with his season so far, who’s to argue to Marquis? Kurkjian sums it up with a nice line for Nats fans to hang their hats on:

And I’ve never seen anything like this. The best-throwing outfielder in the game is left-handed.

He’s referring, of course, to Ankiel. It’s a good article of the inside-baseball outside-the-numbers just-telling-stories mode. It doesn’t change Ankiel’s .590 OPS, but it reminds you that he isn’t ALL bad this year.


The Bright Side of a Blowout

April 4, 2011

Some might accuse me as an eternal optimist on the Nats, although I like to think of myself as a realist. Then again, why would I spend my free time writing about the team if I was inherently negative? Anyway, all the local sports news today seems to be in the “time to jump off the bridge” category about the Nats. After, Sunday’s loss was horrific, so its probably an indication of how bad this team is, right? I mean, the Giants didn’t have any stinkers last year, did they? Actually, they lost by 9 runs twice, by 8 once and by 7 once, so I guess it could happen to anyone. Ok, so despite the panicky noises people are making, they probably realize that it’s just one game, and they just have to find something to write about.

This takes us back to me being Mr Positivity. What I took from that game is just how good Jordan Zimmermann looked. He gave up 2 ER and 1 unearned run, but those numbers actually don’t reveal what happened in the game. Two non-errors in the first inning by Espinosa led to the first run. The first base hit might have been an out had he played it better, and a boot on a double play ball both contributed to a 5 out inning. Even if we don’t count the first one, the inning still should have ended before the run scored.

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