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.


15 Games Left in the Best Season Yet

September 14, 2011

Tonight, the Nats will get a chance to beat their win total from last season. They are at 69 wins right now, already besting their 2008 and 2009 marks, 70 gets them over their 2010 spot. If they win 4 more after that, and since they have a total of 15 games remaining it certainly is possible, they’ll have more wins than 2007 (73-89) and their best record since that first year of 81-81. So, with 15 games left, go 5-10 or better, and you have your best season since your first year.

And while the record probably won’t be .500 (although it’s still possible!), this season has to be thought of as better than 2005. The pitching staff in 2005 had two young quality players that showed real promise – John Patterson and Chad Cordero. The rest were aging vets that had good years. The lineup was mostly under 30, but there weren’t too many young sensations on the squad, Nick Johnson was probably the closest.

In other words, 2005 didn’t show a ton of promise for the future but this 2011 team, on the other hand, does. They have a young catcher, at least one young middle infielder (maybe as many as 3), a potential MVP third baseman who is only 26, and 3 or 4 young quality starting pitchers including an almost surefire ace. Throw in Mike Morse and Jayson Werth, who aren’t quite as young, and Bryce Harper on the way, that’s a strong future. Savor it and enjoy it, it isn’t anything that you’ll remember years down the road, and it doesn’t compare to making the playoffs or winning a pennant, but regardless of record, this is the best year this team has had. And next year should be even better.


Blogger Day, Awesome Again

September 10, 2011

I’m sitting here in the press box again at Nats Park as the game is about to start. Thanks to Chad Kurz and the Washington Nationals, they once again invited the Nats blogger nation out to the park for a day of activities. It was a great time, and I’ll have lots of pictures to post later. Here’s a run down of what we did and what I learned.

After we arrived we were taking out to the field to meet with a few people. What they do is allow media and others to walk around, basically between 3B and 1B in foul territory, during batting practice. The fair territory is roped off, and the players are taking BP, so you have to be cognizant of that and try not to get in the way of professionals walking back and forth trying to get ready to do their jobs. We watched BP for a while – Wilson Ramos was absolutely crushing pitches. Then the starting pitchers came out en mass – Zimmermann, Wang, Milone, Detwiler, and Strasburg, among others – to take BP. Lots of bunting practice, with some good rips as well. Former high school third baseman turned pitched Brad Peacock hit a bomb.

At the end of BP, we got a chance to talk to Stephen Lombardozzi. Since the blogger night crowd was sparse, we just huddled around him and asked him a few questions. No revelations here, but he did say that he has a great relationship with the two guys he’s competing with for a job – Desmond and Espinosa. He said that even though they aren’t really vets, he looks to them for advice because they just went through things very similar to what he’s going through now, in terms of coming up to the majors and learning to play up here.

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Tom Milone, or, What I’ll Be Missing on Saturday

September 1, 2011

This coming Saturday, the Nationals will replace Jordan Zimmermann in their rotation with Tom Milone. I will be in Chicago during his debut, as I’m going to check out Wrigley Field for the first time. I’m excited about seeing this baseball shrine, but I’m a little disappointed in missing out on his first start. I have been excited about seeing him pitch for over two years, but at least I have DVR. So what’s so impressive about Milone?

Here’s what I wrote a few months ago:

He’s a 24 year old lefty starter who’s been very impressive the last few years. In 2009, he had a 2.91 ERA in high-A ball, at age 22. Last year, in AA at age 23, he had a 2.85 ERA; but in about 7 more IP than 2009, he had 49 more Ks and 13 fewer BBs. So his K/9 jumped from 6.3 to 8.8, and his K/BB went from 2.94 to 6.74.

This year in AAA, he has pitched about the same as least year. His ERA has gone up a bit to 3.22, while his K/9 went up to 9.4. He has walked so few batters that his K/BB sits at an incredible 9.69. All of this indicates an incredible strikeout pitcher with very good control, but it doesn’t hint at one very interesting part of Milone’s repertoire – his fastball doesn’t reach 90 mph.

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Tom Milone Gets Some Attention

June 20, 2011

By now, you’ve surely heard of Tom Milone, the Nats pitching prospect that is often referred to as “fascinating” or something like that. He’s a 24 year old lefty starter who’s been very impressive the last few years. In 2009, he had a 2.91 ERA in high-A ball, at age 22. Last year, in AA at age 23, he had a 2.85 ERA; but in about 7 more IP than 2009, he had 49 more Ks and 13 fewer BBs. So his K/9 jumped from 6.3 to 8.8, and his K/BB went from 2.94 to 6.74. This year, his ERA has been a little higher, currently sitting at 3.81, and his K/9 has gone up a bit to 9.8. But what’s finally getting people’s attention is his current (and, sure, unsustainable) K/BB rate of 16.40. In 75 2/3 IP, he has issued 5 walks.

That’s where John Sickels comes in. He writes for SBNation (where Rob Neyer now lives) and today put out the first Tom Milone article I’ve ever seen from a nationwide (not a Nationals-focus) source. He goes through some of those stats that I listed above, which I’ve talked about ad nauseum (and will continue to do so), but he does add this little nugget

His ERA is actually misleading; his FIP is much better at 2.25.

So that shows that maybe he’s succeeding even more in AAA than it appears. Of course the reason that people don’t talk more about Milone, as many of you know, is his complete lack of fastball velocity. There isn’t much more than that, nobody would poo poo a guy who strikes out a hitter an inning but doesn’t have a great secondary pitch, it’s all about the fastball. Sickels, though, doesn’t really seem to think that makes him fringy, just a bit risky. Here’s what he says: Read the rest of this entry »


Early Minor League Report

April 29, 2011

Remember Bryce Harper‘s poor start in low-A? Well, his current stat line doesn’t. He’s now up to .323/.425/.645 with 5 HRs in 73 PAs. He’s played mostly RF in his time there, which may indicate that they want to ease him into the CF role, not because of degree of difficulty, but because it is the field general of the outfield. Learning the way the ball moves off the bat in RF will probably help him in CF, where they ball is only really hard to read when it’s hit right at you. But the bat is what’s important anyway, and it looks like it’s not long until he’s moved up to high-A Potomac.

Speaking of remember performances, how about Ross Detwiler and his strong spring? Well, that’s continued into the regular season at AAA. Through 4 starts, he has a 2.22 ERA and he’s pitched 24 1/3 innings with 20 K and 6 BB. He’s letting up a few too many hits (27) but it’s always hard to tell from a distance what kind they are. We know they’re not HRs, though, as he hasn’t given up any of those yet. He has yet to show he can be very good in the majors, but he’s probably dominated AAA enough (2.75 career ERA, 7.3 K/9, 2.37 K/BB) that all he is doing is waiting for a spot to open up in the majors. With the way the starting pitching is going, if it doesn’t happen until this summer after a trade, that’s not the worst thing in the world for the big league club.

Derek Norris, on the other hand, is off to a slow start. After looking great in the Arizona Fall League, he indicated that it was easier for him to hit there because pitchers found the plate more. He’s down in AA now, where apparently they aren’t hitting the plate enough, because he’s hitting .154/.303/.192. It’s real early for him though, he’s only had 33 PAs. His impressive plate discipline hasn’t left him, and I’m willing to bet if we check back in a couple of weeks his numbers will look much better.

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Nationals Surnacronyms

February 9, 2011

Rob Neyer has been all about the surnacronym game this week, but I have noticed a serious lack of Washington players. So, as a response, I tried to go through much of the starting lineup and create one, using last names, and descriptions that are actually fitting of the players. Here goes:

  • Desmond: Dumb Errors, Supposedly Maturity Often Nourishes Defense
  • Zimmerman: Zippers Infield Marvelously, Mashes Everything, Remains Most Awesome National
  • Morgan: Must Overtly Restrict Getting Always Nabbed
  • LaRoche: Late At Reaching Offensive Crest, Hacks Early
  • Strasburg: Some Throwers Regress After Surgery But Usually Return Great Read the rest of this entry »

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