A Team that Stays Together

February 28, 2012

This team is going to stay together for a long time now, thanks to that Ryan Zimmerman deal. Because besides locking up a great player long term, this contract did something else for the Nationals. It tipped the balance of position players with long term contracts.

Now, more than half of their starting position players are locked up through 2016 or beyond. Between Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and now Zimmerman, 5 of the 8 starting position players are in place for the next half decade or more. That, of course, counts Harper as a starter, which is an assumption I’ll make even if it doesn’t come true for 3 or 4 months. Additionally, if Ian Desmond ends up working out, he’s locked up through 2015. But that’s not all.

Their top 3 starting pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Gio Gonzalez, and their closer, Drew Storen, are also here long term. Zimmermann is the one who they lose control of the soonest – and that’s not til the end of 2015. The Nationals have control of the other guys for longer term that that.

But if we just look through 2015, in other words the next four seasons, look at their lineup and what they have locked up:

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You Can Go Buy a Ryan Zimmerman Jersey Now

February 27, 2012

The end of February tends to be a slow time in baseball, with teams starting to gather but no actual spring training games. When there are no games, people tend to inflate stories to try to find news. Because all the reporters are down at spring training, they’re desperate for something to write about. This year, though, the Nationals gave us something real, and that is the Ryan Zimmerman extension. It’s a 6 year extension, beyond his current contract that ends after 2013. It also includes a team option for a 7th, meaning they control him through 2019, or 2020 if they choose. 2020 will be his age 35 season, which puts them through the vast majority if not all of his career.

In terms of his ability – he is clearly a top flight 3B. According to Fangraphs, Zimmerman has been the second best over the last three years (17.1 WAR). He’s behind only Longoria (21.3 WAR).

WAR at Fangraphs is calculated slightly differently than the analogous WARP at Baseball Prospectus. But if you think just his fielding is makes him so good, check out this line from RJ Anderson at Baseball Prospectus:

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Why You Shouldn’t Want Harper to Make the Team

February 22, 2012

Spring Training will be when Bryce Harper gets to prove that he belongs with the major league squad, right? And by golly, he’s good enough that he’ll kill it in the spring, and all the CF problems will be solved because he’ll play RF and Werth will move to center. Well, if you believe that the Nationals are legitimate World Series contenders this year, flags fly forever and therefore if Harper is the best option, he should play. But if you doubt they could actually take down the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Diamondbacks or Giants, let alone Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Angels or Rangers in a 7 game series – WITHOUT Stephen Strasburg who will be shut down by then – well, hold on a moment.

The talk about Harper being held back only because management wants to save some money is ridiculous. This is in the best interest of the FANS, not of management. When Harper does become a free agent, the team should already have been good for quite a while by then, and butts will be in the seats at Nats Park. But in the interest of short term finances (rather than a contract negotiation over a half a decade away) and in the interest of keeping their jobs now not down the road, management could really help fill the stadium by calling Harper up right away and having him play. The fans, on the other hand, should want Harper to start off in the minors.

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A Better Nationals Park Experience

February 16, 2012

This past week some good Nats news has been reported. No, Bryce Harper hasn’t become a Redskins fan (for his sake, it might not be something we want), and it wasn’t revealed that Strasburg‘s UCL was actually replaced with enchanted carbon nanotubes. Instead, some plans were revealed to improve the area around Nationals Park.

Currently the area, while not horrible, isn’t a place where people hang out, and that is a shame. Having a good area near the ballpark is important – whether its the family oriented atmosphere around Camden Yards or the great bar/restaurant scene around the Verizon Center, the neighborhood can really improve the experience of going to the game. And it can convince more people to spend the day trekking down to the stadium.

From Bullpen to Fairgrounds

Most fans are familiar with the Bullpen just north of the stadium, that area in between the LF entrance and the metro station. It’s basically an empty parking lot with some taps, and its open for a few hours starting before and ending after games, on game days only. It’s fairly adequate for drinking, but it’s atmosphere isn’t especially inviting. It was called a beer garden, but it was a pretty poor representation of what a good one should be. And the latest post on the website seemed to show an improved Das Bullpen from last year. However, the Bullpen is apparently being replaced with the less-confusing-to-meet-someone-at Fairgrounds.

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Nats Pitchers and PECOTA

February 9, 2012

Yesterday we took a look at how Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA rated the Nats hitters. All in all, it wasn’t too bad, but you’d hope for a bit more from most of the guys. As for the pitchers, well, once again, let’s look at their rates. I’m gonna do ERA, K/9, BB/9, and I threw in (K/BB) which I just calculated.

Stephen Strasburg – 2.53, 9.8, 2.1 (4.6). Wow, those are some impressive numbers. If he can do that, he’s in the Cy Young discussion even though he’s on limited innings. There’s no way he’d win it this year in 160 or so IP, but the point is, PECOTA really likes him. His walk rate was lower last year, but with only a few starts, that may not be realistic. We’ll see, but these numbers look great.

Jordan Zimmermann – 4.04, 7.1, 2.4 (2.9). This looks like a regression in some ways, but his K/9 are actually up, while his BB/9 goes down. I’m surprised at how much higher than ERA is from last year (when he had a 3.18). I know some of that is regression to the mean type adjustments, as his ERA was better than his peripherals would suggest. But I’ll take the under on this prediction, I think his ERA will be below 4.00, and not by just a smidge.

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Nats Hitters and PECOTA

February 8, 2012

The latest PECOTA numbers just came out today from Baseball Prospectus. PECOTA is their predicitive set of numbers for how players will perform this year. The playing time hasn’t been worked out yet, so rather than look at any counting numbers, let’s take a look at their rates. Today we’ll start with the Nationals hitters.

Ok, for hitters I added one counting number. I took their predicted HRs, divided it by number of PAs and then multiplied it by 600. That’s normalizes everyone at about a 150 game season, so it’ll give a perspective on how many HRs PECOTA sees these guys hitting given a more or less full season.

Ryan Zimmerman – .285/.350/.473, 22 HR. This seems a little light on power – it’s very very close to his .288/.355/.479 career splits, but that prediction seems off to me. He had showed improved power and patience in 2009 and 2010 to that career line, and while last year his numbers didn’t indicate that, he was playing with an injury that likely hindered his power. I’ll take the over on this one

Jayson Werth – .261/.354/.449, 23 HR. This is significantly better than his 2011. It’s on line with his career numbers (a little less slugging) and it’s almost identical to the .264/.349/.445 he hit after July 18th last year.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Maybe of Edwin Jackson

February 3, 2012

The Nats signed Edwin Jackson yesterday to a one year deal worth around $10M, give or take (depending on incentives and the like). This of course throws our rotation projections into turmoil. It indicates that while Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez and now Jackson are probably the top 4 of the rotation, Lannan, Wang and Detwiler are all fighting for that final spot. Of course, with an innings limit on Strasburg and the inevitable even minor injuries that show up on pitchers throughout a season, everyone will get a chance to throw. But enough about the rotation, let’s talk about this new pitcher.

Who is This Guy 

Jackson is 28 years old and has been in the majors for parts of 9 seasons. In his last 4 seasons, he’s averaged 202 IP and 32 starts, so he’s been a horse. His ERA+ is a slightly better than average 106, meaning he’s been alright but nothing special in aggregate. He had a horrible start to 2010 with Arizona, got traded to the White Sox and was lights out. A decent start to 2011 in Chicago led to a trade to St Louis, where he was a league average pitcher who was called upon to start 4 games in the postseason. After beating the Phillies in the NLCS, he had a poor remainder of the postseason, but did end up as a World Champion.

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