What about these bench players?

February 26, 2013

Tyler Moore is a great player for the Nats to have. He is a bench player who had a .840 OPS with 10 HR in only 171 PAs last season. PECOTA actually predicts him to have 13 HRs next year in 251 PAs, which is a lower rate, but still works out pretty good for the playing time.

His projected numbers for 2013 don’t look bad, unless you compare them to his 2012 numbers. But I don’t think the projections of .248/.298/.477 is that crazy for him, considering what he did in the minors. Even if he’s slightly better than that, he’s not a starting caliber 1B or LF (unless you really believe in the 2012 #s), so he’s essentially a strong bench player.

Having a strong bench is important, especially in the face of injuries, but the question is how important. If the Yankees, after the injury to Granderson, panicked and offered Michael Pineda for Tyler Moore, would you take it? Obviously, the Yankees aren’t going to do that, I’m just using them as an example.

I want to reiterate – I don’t think Pineda for Tyler Moore or Michael Morse would ever happen. But the injury got the wheels turning. At what point does the strong bench give way to something better?

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Is It Time for the Nats to Cash In?

July 17, 2012

It’s that time of year again. The All Star break is behind us, teams are taking stock of where they are this season, where they’re going, and their chances of reaching the playoffs. Normally this time of year, we talk about who the Nats should consider moving in order to acquire more young talent. But in case you haven’t noticed, they’re in first place in the NL East, and have been there for quite some time. The Nats are in a strong position to win the division, but they’re not there yet. Lots of rumors are floating about what moves they should make, but it aint about selling.

The pitching staff has been spectacular, but as soon as we were on the post-game side of the midsummer classic, it seemed like everyone starting talking about Strasburg. Are they really going to stick with his innings limit? Apparently, although we don’t know what that limit is. Are they going to shift starts so that he can play in October without hitting his limit? Apparently not. If he’s gone who’s going to replace their best pitcher? If say their second best pitcher, you might not be right. It seems like rather than sticking with the rotation as is, and calling up John Lannan (which many of us thought was the original plan), they are at least pursuing a trade for another starter.

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Nats Get a Pitcher, Maybe Give Up an Ace

December 22, 2011

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.

The Verdict

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.

Balestar Traded for Perry and Mustache to Be Named Later

December 9, 2011

The Nats made a trade this evening, exchanging fan favorite Collin Balester for RHP Ryan Perry. Balester was an active member of the community, seemingly always involved in some charitable event, and was mostly a favorite due to his very active Twitter account and his mustachioed appearance. Despite being shuttled back and forth from the Major League club to AAA, he managed to compile a 3.81 ERA and 62 K with 25 BB in 56 2/3 IP the last two seasons. He did not do a great job of keeping the ball on the ground, and gave up too many HRs (although not a ridiculous amount by any means). He has potential, but despite the Ks, he doesn’t have great stuff. He’s always relied more on his fastball, and it is good but not great. He was once considered one of the better prospects in the organization, but that was when the organization was barren – Balester was drafted in the 4th round of the Expos final draft in 2004. Turning 26 this coming June, he was no longer considered a potential starter, and was trying to find a spot in the rotation.

In exchange for @ballystar40, the Nats got a year younger with Ryan Perry. Perry was the Tigers first round pick in 2008 (21st overall) and that probably has something to do with his fastball, which reaches the high 90s. In his first year he struck out 60 batters in 61 2/3 IP, but the last two seasons, he’s only struck out 69 while walking 44 in 99 2/3 IP. Obviously control is an issue, and judging by at least one Tigers chat room, fans are sick of seeing him come in and not live up to his potential. That being said, he does reach almost 100 mph, and he also does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground, and doesn’t give up many HRs.

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Is John Fogerty Available?

November 3, 2011

The Nationals are in the market for a centerfielder, and a leadoff hitter, although they aren’t necessarily the same person. This week, both Keith Law at ESPN and Ben Reiter at SI released their top 50 free agents list. How about we take a look through that list to shop for a CF, and see what we come up with? While there are possibilities, like moving Werth to CF and picking up a corner guy, let’s just look for now at those guys who are or having been out there in center.

Carlos Beltran (#9 Law/#7 Reiter) – Beltran can still hit, as he showed at least in the first half last year. He really isn’t a centerfielder anymore, between his injury risk and his age. His range isn’t there anymore, and the Nats probably aren’t in the business of signing a 35 year old at this point anyway.

David DeJesus (#21/—) – Last year was a terrible season at the play for DeJesus, which might be why he didn’t even make Reiter’s list, but some of that might have to do with moving to Oakland. If you believe he can still hit enough, you have to convince yourself he can still play CF. I am not so much a believer of either, considering he hasn’t been a regular there since 2008, and he fell off a cliff against lefties this past season. At this point, he could be a platoon guy who can’t play CF.

Grady Sizemore (#25/#21) – Sizemore still gets some credit for being one of the best players in baseball in 2007-2008, and he deserves it. But for a guy who was never a great CF who is now a huge injury risk, why would you want to play him there? He’s a high risk guy who once was a star, so he might be able to do something special, but even if you get a great contract with him, sticking out in CF seems like folly.

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Getting Something for Nothing

August 1, 2011

The Nats didn’t make any real big moves this weekend, but they did make a couple of moves that are very good ones. They traded two vets with expiring contracts for some minor leaguers. Don’t get me wrong, both Jerry Hairston and Jason Marquis provided some value to this team. Marquis had a WAR of 0.8, putting him just above your average replacement player. But his 3.95 ERA and 8-5 record looked nice, and he did eat up 120.2 innings. Hairston played all over the field, infield and outfield, while posting a 102 OPS+, good for 6th best on the team. But neither guy was going to earn the Nats a draft pick after this season, and there’s no reason to think keeping them would give Washington a better chance to re-sign them, if the team was so inclined.

Hairston Deal

In exchange for the 35 year old utility man, the Nationals picked up Erik Komatsu, a 23 year old outfielder, from the Milwaukee Brewers. While this wasn’t a Wilson Ramos level fleecing, the Nats certainly got a potential major leaguer in exchange for someone who probably wouldn’t have been around in 2012. Komatsu is a lefty who has played a good amount of center field. If he can stick there, and there are some doubts, he has real potential. He is hitting .294/.393/.416 in AA right now, and that OBP has to catch your eye. He’s quick, although his SB percentage of 70% in the minors indicates he’s not a great basestealer, just a somewhat fast guy.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus listed him as the Brewers #14 prospect this year, calling him a potential bench outfielder. But that was before another great season of OBP-ness. After the trade, he said that Komatsu proved himself this year after his 2010 breakout, has shown excellent ability to walk and keep his strikeouts down. Goldstein brings up his lack of CF ability, though, saying he CAN play there but probably not full time. But he asserts “What he can do is hit right-handed pitching, run well, and play all three outfield positions, which should lead to a long career as a second division starter or fourth outfielder in the big leagues.”

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Nationals Get 24 Year Old Pitcher

March 29, 2011

Alberto Gonzalez, defensive whiz middle infield sub, was not going to make the squad out of Spring Training. Gonzalez was out of options, so despite a strong spring, there was enough evidence to know how much offense he can really bring, and they wisely made a swap. In exchange, they got a 24 year old pitcher from the Padres named Erik Davis.

Davis was drafted in 2008 out of Stanford, and has only pitched 2 full seasons in pro ball. Last year he spent the majority of his time in high-A, where amassed a 3.82 ERA with 34 BB and 91 K in 99 IP in the hitter-friendly California league.  He then pitched 39 1/3 innings in AA, with similar peripherals of 12 BB and 35 K and a better looking 2.75 ERA. His final start in AA was a no hitter after 7 innings, he finally gave up a hit in the 8th. To finish the season, he made a single start in AAA where he threw 5 innings, struck out 7 and walked 2, allowing 2 ER. It was a good season, and indicates that he is at least something of a prospect, and will probably start the season in AAA with the Nats. But what do the scouts say about him?

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Getting James Loney, In ScatterPlot

December 16, 2010

Yesterday I went over a cast of LH first basemen, in order to discover and report who might be available through free agency or trade. One of the things that surprised me while doing this was that James Loney, the 24 year old lefty manning first base for the Dodgers, hit so well outside of his home park.

Over his career, he’s only hit .268/.334/.377 at home, while he’s hit .307/.361/.493 away. That’s not just a little difference, it’s a 143-point OPS difference. I wondered, was this all about the home park? LA is known as a pitchers park, perhaps that’s what taking him down. So I decided to do a simple analysis. I’d take Baseball Reference’s Multi-Year Park Factor and plot it against OPS. Let’s not worry too much about the sausage inside of Park Factor. Instead, just keep in mind that 100 is in the middle, anything below 100 is considered better for pitchers, anything above 100 is better for hitters.

The chart below is Loney’s OPS plotted on the y-axis against the park factor at every park he’s played at and had at least 50 PAs. I figured anywhere lower than that is just too small. Sure, it’s a bit of an arbitrary point, but I don’t have a better way to do it, and anything below 50 seemed EXTREMELY low to me. So that is where I started:

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Nats Trade Targets

November 16, 2010

The GM meeting just started, and winter meetings are coming up, and with it, one of the most exciting parts of the offseason. There are usually quite a few trades between now and the middle of December. The Nats have needs at starting pitching, regardless of whether or not they sign a free agent. They currently don’t know who’s starting at first.  And if they have thoughts of moving guys from OF to first, they might want someone out there, not to mention the fact that they still haven’t figured out who is their full time starter at CF.

Of course, the Nats aren’t one player away from winning a pennant, so they aren’t going to trade away all of their blue chip prospects. Not that they have a ton. Here are a few guys that might be considered “buy low” candidates. Some of them are lower buys than others, but none would require trading Stephen Strasburg.

Dan Uggla – He’s the source of quite a few rumors these days, but the Nats have a second baseman, assuming Espinosa is their answer there. And Uggla is only under control for one more season. Well, there are plenty of reasons why they’d still want him. Uggla recently denied an extension attempt from Florida, and may be had cheaply. Also, the Nats may not be convinced that Espinosa is ready. Uggla is a below average defender at second base, but that would probably end up translating him quite a good defense first baseman. Meanwhile, Uggla is a lock to have an OPS over .800, and 2 out of the last three years it’s been around .875. He can hit like a first baseman (not the best of them, but better than the worst) and probably field better than most.

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Joba and the Nats

October 29, 2010

There has been no young pitcher in the last few years that has had a higher “attention paid to on field success ratio” than Joba Chamberlain. There is some good reason for this – he has some very good stuff and pitched, over a stretch of time, lights out. In limited time in 2007 and 2008, he amassed 152 Ks and only 45 BBs in only 124 1/3 IP, with a 2.17 ERA. Most of this was in relief, only 12 starts, but you still can’t deny the 11.0 K/9 to go along with the 3.38 K/BB.

Since then he hasn’t been great. He was a slightly worse than league average starter in 2009 (97 ERA+), starting 31 games, and this past season he spent the entire year in the bullpen, finishing with an unimpressive 4.40 ERA. But the 77 K to only 22 BB in 71 2/3 IP still look pretty good, so many it was just a stretch of bad luck. In fact, that is exactly what Jay Jaffe wrote in the Pinstriped Bible:

Even the most cursory look at his peripherals will tell you it’s not a true indication that he pitched poorly. He struck out well over a batter per inning (9.7 per nine), walked less than three batters per nine (2.8) and yielded less than one homer per nine (0.8). Read the rest of this entry »


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