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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LaRoche Brings D, Likely Best Possible Lineup

January 8, 2013

The Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche today, getting him on a two year deal. Comparing LaRoche to the other first base options, Michael Morse and Tyler Moore, I think this is the scenario most likely to be the most successful.

The defense gets a boost with LaRoche over the other guys. On offense, it allows them to have a better lefty-righty mix, and is the most probable candidate for best lineup. Morse has the potential to hit better than either of the other guys, but he also has the potential to turn in a .320 or lower OPS, and even with more power than LaRoche, this is a hindrance to his value. Moore is still unproven as a full timer, and while I’m excited to see what he can do, I doubt its the .840 OPS he showed this year.

I’ve heard that 2012 was a career year for LaRoche, but it really wasn’t. I wrote about it at length here in October, but suffice to say it wasn’t so much better than his 2006, and slightly better than 2008 and 2009. He’ll probably end up with another strong but non-spectacular offensive 1B season. Rizzo went with best probable lineup rather than best potential lineup, and I can’t blame him for that. All that coupled with strong defense made him the best choice for this team.

The Morse Surprise

Because of this contract, it seemingly relegates Morse to the bench. It likely means that management will trade him, which makes sense in terms of building the best team. It is unfortunate to feel the need to trade such a good player who is a fan favorite, and count me as one of those fans who enjoys watching his enthusiastic play. His emergence as a true power hitter was more surprising than you may recall.

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Nats Get a CF and a Leadoff Hitter

November 29, 2012

Mike Rizzo struck late Thursday afternoon, pulling a big trade for a starting outfielder. No, it wasn’t Marlins-Toronto big, but it was big for this team, as they at the very least have solidified the outfield and their lineup could potentially be set for 2013. They received Twins center fielder Denard Span in exchange for their 22 year old fireballing prospect, Alex Meyer.

What They’re Getting

There is alot to like about Denard Span. He is a 28 year old center fielder, and over his last 3 seasons, he’s hit .271/.334/.376 – while it looks quite a bit lower, it’s actually pretty comparable to Michael Bourn when adjusting for league and park effects. It’s an OPS+ of 95, barely below Bourn’s OPS+ of 98 over the last three years. Of course, he’s only stolen 1/3 of the bases of Bourn, but Span is also a year younger than Bourn, and has shown more patience in the past. Between the switching leagues, moving to a better lineup and the youth, I have a feeling Span will hit better than that with the Nats (this is of course, just a feeling).

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It’s All About the Hamilton, Baby

November 5, 2012

If the title of this post doesn’t mean anything to you, stop everything that you are doing and watch one of the first (and for my money, probably the best) of the SNL Digital Shorts music videos right now. I’m serious, I’ll wait. (If you’ve already seen it, then enjoy your journey back to December 2005):

I will take your word that you’ve gone and done that. Hard to believe that’s almost 7 years old. On to the actual subject of the post – the best hitting free agent this offseason, Josh Hamilton. Keith Law called him the #3 available FA, behind a pitcher (Grienke) and B.J. Upton, a younger, faster, better defensive player who can still play a premium defensive position. It can certainly be argued that Hamilton deserves to be #2 or even first, because it’s hard to argue that there is a better offensive player available than Hamilton. So let’s start by taking a look at this offensive force, first the pros and then the cons:

I Told You that I’m Crazy Bout These Cupcakes Cousin

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The LaRoche Saga

October 23, 2012

When we discuss the construction of the 2013 Nationals, the linchpin player is Adam LaRoche. It’s hard to figure out what other moves will be made until his situation is finalized. It’s widely assumed that he’ll opt out of his contract. The $10M option was good security for him at the time, but he can certainly command more now, and he can get multiple years with at least that much per year. For the Nats, he was certainly the most consistent offensive player, and possibly the best. He was #2 in PAs and led the team in HRs and OPS. People tend to think this was a “career” year, but that is colored by his hot start. In terms of OPS+, it was his 2nd best, and right around his numbers in 2006, 2008, and 2009.

What this year did show, however, was that he can still hit. After a somewhat disappointing 2010 season in where he did hit 25 HRs and have 100 RBI, but only had a .788 OPS (9th best among NL 1Bs), he sat out the majority of 2011 on the DL. Someone will offer him multiple years, and while he does profess that he wants to stay in DC, at 32 years old he would be wise to go with the best offer. It’s hard to imagine the Nats could low ball him and hold on. I figure most people who want him back would prefer 2 years or less, so anything longer than that would be considered “long term.” I seriously doubt he’d get any more than 4 years from anyone.

In terms of finding a replacement for LaRoche, there are some in house options with Tyler Moore and Michael Morse. There are also a few free agent possibilities, and while there aren’t any 28 year old superstars waiting on a big deal, realistic options for full time players include Mike Napoli, Lance Berkman (who may retire), Carlos Pena (who probably should retire),  and Nick Swisher (who could also play OF). One possibility is to go with a Tyler Moore platoon, and sign a lefty who can hit righties like Aubrey Huff or James Loney (who actually has a .792 OPS vs RHP playing in that huge LAD stadium). My thought on that is they wouldn’t sign a guy to make a full time platoon, more as a bailout option in case Moore struggles.


Big Improvements in 2012 – Part 2

October 17, 2012

Yesterday, we took at look at some of the things that were the biggest steps forward in 2012 for the pitching staff. I’m trying to concentrate on things that were both new and sustainable. Sustainability is subjective, but we’ll look at the stats enough to make at least me feel comfortable that the stuff highlighted here isn’t temporary. We’re looking at the position players here, so why not start with the most controversial one:

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Nats Win Their First Playoff Game Ever

October 7, 2012

It seems like every day, history is being made for this team. A win in the postseason was a pretty good way for the franchise to introduce itself, and the game was an exciting one. Here are the biggest plays for the Nats from their first playoff win ever. I’ve included the Fangraphs stat Win Probability Added, WPA, and I’ve made them all in positive numbers, the only plays we’re concerned about here are ones that add to the Nats probability. But as you can see, I didn’t just rank em by WPA, because as you’ll notice, that just won’t work. Starting with the first run in Nats postseason history:

5. Kurt Suzuki knocks 1 in (WPA 10.2%)

It became the story of the night it seemed – men on first and third, one out, and someone strikes out. This time it was Danny Espinosa, who had a rough rough night at the bat (3 Ks and a strange bunt that magically ended up doing something good) who struck out, and it was up to the #8 hitter Kurt Suzuki. With the pitcher up next, he might not have thought he’d get much to hit, but that early in the game, Wainwright probably was hoping to start the 3rd by pitching to Gio. So Suzuki did end up with something to hit, and he ripped a ball through the hole on the left side, getting an RBI and putting the Nats up for the moment.

4. Jayson Werth robs Daniel Descalso (WPA 2.5%)

This is one of those plays that doesn’t really show up in things like changes in win probability. And it seems like the same thing in the box score – just a flyout to the right fielder. But Jayson Werth caught that ball with his glove over the fence – if he doesn’t haul it in, it’s a homer, it’s 3-1 and who knows how things unfold from there. I can promise you if he DOESN’T catch, the WPA is significantly different. Read the rest of this entry »


Feast or Famine? Blame the OBP

August 30, 2012

We have seen this season that the Nats offense has its moments, and then has games where it doesn’t really show up at all. Or in the case of the recent road trip, 5 days in a row where it doesn’t show up at all. This feast or famine aspect of the offense is frustrating, but it doesn’t mean they can’t score. They’re ranked 7th in the league in runs scored, so they aren’t slouches. But their OBP is ranked 10th, and some of that is buoyed by guys who haven’t been starters all year, which may go a long way to explaining why it seems like when they’re not scoring, they’re really not scoring.

There are 222 players in MLB this year with 300 or more plate appearances. Ranking by OBP, the Nats highest ranking player on that list is Ryan Zimmerman, who ranks 63rd with a .349 mark. The next guy is Adam LaRoche, who’s .333 ranks him 109th, just above the halfway mark. It looks worse as you keep going, here are the rest of the guy’s who qualify:

These aren’t horrible numbers, but there’s nobody great at getting on base this year on the list, including the guys mentioned up top. And while nobody’s in that bottom quartile, 5 of the 7 guys with enough PAs are in the bottom half. That goes a long way to explaining why this team is so feast or famine.

And this may be an indicator of what they need to look for in the offseason. The talk that you usually hear about this team is that they’re missing a true CF and a true leadoff man, and they could probably get one guy to fill both roles. If that is the case, they better get a guy with a high OBP, and avoid the talented but OBP-free BJ Upton’s of the world.

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Nationals Have alot of Options at the Deadline

July 18, 2012

Yesterday, I made the case for the Nats holding on to their stock of players, rather than trying to cash in this season. No major trade for another top line starter (if they even have the prospects to do that) and keep with Strasburg‘s innings limit. So that’s that, right? Well, not really, there are other options that people might be interested in going after.

What about other positions the team may need help with? Maybe you don’t like the idea of Danny Espinosa as a starter on a championship caliber team. Myself, I think his .262/.324/.442 since May 4 (when he hit his low water OPS mark), or 72% of his PAs this year, is plenty from him.

What about CF? Do you like Bryce Harper there? Because Jayson Werth is supposedly coming back in less than a month, and whether you like Werth or not, he’s probably going to RF. So CF is where Bryce would presumably go. Maybe you’d like to trade Adam LaRoche, move Mike Morse (or Werth) over to first, or play Tyler Moore full time, and not have Harper in a corner spot.

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Tweak the Offense

May 10, 2012

The Nationals’ offense is horrible, we all know that. But is the lineup? We all think we know what needs to be done to fix everything. But is there much that can or should actually be changed? Let’s take a look at the lineup, starting with the guys who are either hitting just fine already, or are set to improve

Ryan Zimmerman – Zim has hit only .224/.312/.343, truly appalling numbers. But he is streaky and was hurt, so basically they missed his offense when he went on the DL, and they missed it before. There is little doubt this will improve.

Adam LaRoche – He’s hitting .316/.406/.537, and he’ll likely regress. But there isn’t any reason to suspect even with a regression he’s better than any alternatives.

Bryce Harper – Another case for regression, if Harper kept up his .265/.381/.441 line all year, it would be incredible. But the OBP will probably slide, although he has a few homers in him, too. Either way, they’re fine with this, wherever he plays in the outfield.

Wilson Ramos – Hitting .260/.348/.364 so far, he’s basically been Wilson Ramos from last year without the power. This should appear at some point, as he’s shown decent power throughout his pro career, although the OBP may be a little high. Still, at only 24 he’s already a pretty good hitter for a catcher.

Alright so we’ve already gone through half the lineup, and are relatively satisified. This is good, this list includes 3 middle of the lineup types who are supposed to provide power. So if we just had some table setters, this team would be projected to score some runs. Speaking of table setters…

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