Spring Training is in full swing, and while we must take every performance with a grain of salt and a handfull of small sample size, it’s important not to ignore what’s happened so far. Here are a few highlights after the first few weeks:
The Position Players
The middle infield – Danny Espinosa is batting .324/.378/.559 and Ian Desmond is batting .314/.351/.400 while having the two highest AB totals on the team. They’re not walking much, which is troubling, but at least they are hitting the ball. Without walking, they will have to sit lower in the lineup, they just won’t get on base enough, but hopefully some of that will come.
Left Field – It would be hard to deny Mike Morse the starting job at this point. He’s hitting .469, he’s slugging 1.000, and he’s got 5 HRs in only 32 ABs. This compares with Rick Ankiel‘s .194/.219/.548. Ankiel has shown enough power that you’d think he’d make the team, but he doesn’t look like the starter yet.
Center field – Nyjer Morgan is now batting .212/.242/.261, while Roger Bernadina is hitting .281/.324/.438. Bernadina is putting together a strong case to be the 4th outfielder, since Morse is hitting so well. But if Morgan continues to slump this way, Bernie’s got a chance to be the starting centerfielder.
Intrepid correspondent and part-time contributor to the blog Brian is fortunate enough to be down in Florida visiting family. Non-coincidentally, it’s the start of spring training, so he went out to check out the Mets-Nats game. He caught warmups, the debut of Bryce Harper, and the mashings of Mike Morse. He took some completely excellent pictures, as well. Here’s what he had to say:
Today’s game in Port St. Lucie between the Nationals and the Mets was interesting on so many levels. Since I was lucky enough to be there in person, I wanted to share some of my notes from the game; outside the boxscore type stuff that you could only know by being there. For those of you in the DC area that want to set the right mood for reading this post, crank the heat in your dwelling to 83 degrees and maybe have someone fan you to simulate the slight breeze towards left field. You could not have asked for better weather.
- I arrived at Digital Domain field at around 11AM to catch batting practice. I got to see the Nats lineup take BP and watched all of the accompanying drills. It was obvious from watching all the activity that Riggleman is running a pretty tight ship. Every minute before game time was perfectly orchestrated to prepare the team for the game and of course, the season. The Mets on the other hand didn’t take any BP or fielding practice. The end result was the Nats were ready to play at game time where as the Mets were not. This is encouraging to see especially with a young team who is going to have to play stingy defense to make improvements over last year.
Since I’ve been somewhat cynical mentioning the meaninglessness of individual games in spring training, and the overall deceptiveness that stats can give you from this month, I wanted to show that I do think a few things can be learned from the month. It’s more than just a tuneup, it can give managers a very good idea of what to expect. I just believe that a month of games when people don’t care shouldn’t override several years of evidence. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve noticed in the first half of the spring:
Strasburg has looked very good – his second start wasn’t as well-covered or noticed, but it was just as good as the first. He’s pretty impressive so far
Elijah Dukes hasn’t looked very good – hitting .174/.263/.294 so far probably won’t make him lose his job, but it will significantly shorten his leash in April. He’s gotta start hitting, although at least he still can walk
Ian Desmond has alot of good news surrounding him – he’s hitting the hell out of the ball (.455/.580/.815, if you must know – whatever I’m sure that’s real sustainable) but Rizzo has also said he’s definitely NOT coming on the club as a utility man. This was assumed, but there were rumors to the contrary – like when Riggleman went on XM-Sirius last week and said he might be a utility man. He’s gonna start in Washington or Syracuse at SS – my guess is in Syracuse until they figure out whether they could get anything for Guzman Read the rest of this entry »
It’s over, Strasburg has made his debut, and he’ll never do that again. Except possibly in 2 or 3 stops in the minors as well as in the majors at some point this year. At each stop the debut will may not get bigger, but certainly if he goes to the minors, his first start will be bigger than this one, and whenever he gets to the majors that will be quite the show as well. I’m sure you’ve seen all of the numbers. What impressed me the most was that the velocity does seem to be there already, which I wasn’t expecting. Also, the 3-0 count where he worked it to 3-2 and then laid in a curveball for strike 3. That takes talent, but it also takes confidence. His control wasn’t that good, although he said he’s always more nervous for his first appearance every year, all the way through high school, so he wasn’t worried.
Alright, first one’s in the books, what do you think?
Remember, spring training is not regular season baseball. If Ryan Zimmerman has a bad month, it doesn’t mean he can’t hit anymore. It may indicate a slow start, but he didn’t forget how to do it. If Jason Marquis dominates, mowing down starting cleanup hitters and lifelong quadruple-A players alike, it doesn’t trump what he’s done in almost 1500 regular season major league innings pitched. His career ERA+ is 99, and he only had one year under 4.00. Not saying he’s terrible, but a perfect spring probably doesn’t indicate an upcoming Cy Young season.
That being said, younger players do have a chance to show they can succeed at yet another level. A perfect 3 innings by Shairon Martis is much more exciting than the same performance by John Lannan in the spring. So, here’s a few things I’ll be paying attention to today and in the upcoming games, and I few things I won’t:
As I have mentioned here, the loss of the baseball coverage in the Washington Times is something of a sports tragedy. Sure, it’s not real-life tragedy, but it still sucks. And it doesn’t just hurt our ability to have better Nats coverage, it also has put a few people out of work. One such peoples was Mark Zuckerman, who covered the Nats for the Times for almost a decade. He’s got his own website now, Nats Insider, and he has joined the world of bloggers. Only, unlike me, that’s his real job. He is an actual journalist who doesn’t do this thing in his spare time and expects to make enough money off of this to feed himself and possible others. You know, the opposite of me.
With all that as background, it comes as no surprise that a real journalist covering the Nats is going to try to go to Spring Training. Only since the Times fired him and the rest of the sports staff, nobody is going to pay for him to go. That where you and I come in. He still wants to go to spring training to cover the Nats, and you should want him to go, too. Assuming he gets there, he’ll ensure more Nats coverage, more Nats news, and more Nats insight. He is trying to raise the money on his own to cover it, so if you want more complete coverage, go donate.
We’ve talked about this before, but with the greatness of Jordan Zimmermann this spring, and without any information being released from the Nats themselves, I’m assuming that Shairon Martis and Collin Balester are still auditioning for a starter role. Zimmermann has a job, the only question is whether the Nats want to send him to the minors to keep the arbitration clock from ticking on him. Balester’s spring has been as bad as Martis’ has been good. Both are young, and it wouldn’t be a disaster if either needed more time in the minors. But the way Martis has been throwing, he may be in.