Nationals Short Stories for a Short Week

December 22, 2010

A few stories have been floating around recently, and I’d thought I’d give them each the once over. I don’t know how much I’ll be posting until New Year’s, but if something big comes up, I’ll try to find my computer.

Nats Gets A Lefty Bat

The Nats signed Rick Ankiel. If you want an in-depth analysis of what I think, check it out here. The basics are this – he’s a lefty who can hit righties pretty well. He can’t hit lefties at all. He might play in a LF platoon with Morse. He might also spend some time in CF. Or be a bench bat. Either way, he has some use and isn’t expensive.

The Results of the Trade

The Nats got two minor leaguers from the A’s last week in exchange for Josh Willingham. Baseball America rates them here, but I’ll give you the quick and dirty. Henry Rodriguez is a 23 year old righty reliever. He has an high-90s fastball but control issues. He was very good in AAA last season and they write “His fastball and slider give him the chance to be a big league closer—if he can refine his control and command.” Corey Brown is a 25 year old lefty CF, who didn’t hit well in AAA last season. But he cleaned up in AA, and is very athletic. He has some power and knows how to get on base. He is a little old to be considered a prospect, but has an opportunity to play this season with the Nats, depending on how he does in AAA.

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Ankiel’s Addition Clears Nothing Up

December 20, 2010

The Nats just signed Rick Ankiel, which adds some depth at the very least to the outfield. It also adds a significant amount of confusion. While he remains a great story of baseball redemption, Ankiel comes to the team with only a season and a half strong hitting under his belt. Since the end of 2008, he hasn’t been that great of a hitter, which is troubling for a starting left fielder.

If you are thinking of Rick Ankiel of a few years ago, remember the power that he possess. But he is probably not the 25 HR/.843 OPS guy he was in 2008. Over 404 PAs in 2009, he only hit .231/.285/.387, completely unplayable, especially in a corner outfield spot. In 2010, he was at least able to take some walks, hitting .232/.321/.389 in 240 PAs. In other words, he hasn’t hit in two years. So to think that the Nats just signed their LFer for next season would certainly be premature.

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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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I Got Your Lefties Right Here

December 15, 2010

The Nats still don’t have a first baseman, and while Derrek Lee is still available, it’s been pointed out that the Nats would be more interested in a lefty. Werth, Zimmerman, Desmond, Willingham, Morse, Ramos, Flores, and Pudge are all righties. Danny Espinosa is a switch hitter. Of the potential starters, Nyjer Morgan and Bernadina are lefties. That’s a serious lack of middle of the order LH hitters.

Here are some guys that might be available on the cheap, either through free agency or via a trade. I’m not including real studs or young guys with years of control. I’m thinking more of guys that could be actually acquired.

Adam LaRocheLet’s mention him first, as he’s the lead dog in the race. He’s a free agent, and he may be the best available. Here’s what I said about him a month and a half ago: “If you believe Pena had a down year, why not LaRoche? He only had a .788 OPS this season, but was just above .840 for the 3 seasons prior.” He can field, and he’s hit most seasons, so as long as last year can be thought of as flukey – his BABIP is no excuse, it was .330 last year, a career HIGH.

James Loney – He’s been linked to a few trade rumors already, and part of that is because he’s a first baseman without much power. He’s had an OPS of .751 in his last 3 seasons, pretty awful for a 1B. Playing in LA may have something to do with that. His numbers at home in his career (all with the Dodgers) are a lousy .268/.334/.377. Away from the cavernous Chavez Ravine, he hit an impressive .307/.361/.493. It makes one think he could be an effective, even good, first basemen if he were to have a home park slightly smaller than Dodgers Stadium. 2400 PAs makes me almost sure of that, as does that fact that he has double the HRs away than at home.

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All About Derrek Lee

December 14, 2010

There is alot of talk around the web that Derrek Lee is the top guy in the sights of Mike Rizzo for first base. Of course, Adam LaRoche is still a strong possibility, but lately I’ve heard alot more about Lee than LaRoche. And no, I’m not talking about the pitcher Lee. So who is Derrek Lee and what would the Nats expect to get out of him?

Lee was one of the better first basemen of the last decade. He managed, from 2000-2009, to have a total OPS of .899, in those 10 seasons he only had three seasons with an OPS below .860, and even those were respectable. He averaged 27 HRs per year in that time, and had one injury plagued season where he only played in 50 games, his next lowest total was 140. Besides hitting well and being durable, he was considered a very good fielder. His career UZR/150 (which isn’t calculated on fangraphs before 2002, so it missed some of his younger seasons) is at 0.9, meaning just above average. And according to baseball reference, his Rtot and Rdrs numbers (both defensive value measurements) were just above average for his career as well.

But now he’s 35

The problem, of course, is that the Nats wouldn’t be signing Derrek Lee from 2000-2009, they’d be signing him for 2011. Obviously, he isn’t the hitter he was 5 years ago, but it isn’t all terrible with him.

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Who’s on First?

December 9, 2010

Nats rumored first base target Carlos Pena signed with the Cubs on Tuesday for $10 M, and since I never thought it was a good idea to sign him, I am obviously ok with this. I’m not going to get into the value of his contract too much – I always make the argument that I don’t care about it, so I’m going to use this one to say that he doesn’t deserve this – I just don’t think he’s that great of a hitter anymore. Keith Law said “Since 2008, however, he’s been baffled by even moderate-quality offspeed stuff” and I don’t think he’s going to be an OBP machine anymore. You may be able to look back at the end of the season, see 25+ homers in hitting-friendly Wrigley and think the Nats missed out, but if he came to DC his hitting numbers would have to be adjusted for the park.

Many had penciled him in as the starting 1B for the Nats, so take out your erasers and start over. What are the choices left for the Nats?

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Everyone’s Got an Opinion

December 8, 2010

On the topic of Jayson Werth, there isn’t a lack of opinion’s out there. Some are pretty negative, a few are positive. Here is a collection from some of the non-DC based writers for you to check out:

Dave Cameron of Fangraphs

How good would he have to be in order to justify that deal from a market rate standpoint? Well, if we estimate his current value as about a +4.5 win player (slight drop-off from his prior three years due to age) and the price for a win at about $5 million this winter, using the same 5% annual inflation assumption/guess that we employed with Adrian Gonzalez yesterday and 0.5 WAR decrease per year for aging, we’d get his value over the next seven years to be $118 million – a little less than what he actually got. In order to get to the $126 million figure, we’d have to bump annual inflation up to almost 8 percent per year.

Keith Law of ESPN

Giving a 32-year-old position player who has qualified for the batting title exactly twice in his major league career a guaranteed seven-year deal for over $100 million isn’t just a bad move. It’s irresponsible… he’s a massive risk for a deal anywhere close to this length, given his age, injury history and the boost he received over the past two years from his home park in Philadelphia — not to mention the combination fluke of a contract year in 2010 and a reverse platoon split he’s not likely to maintain.

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