Oh poor Nats… they are just not as good as we all thought. At least that might be your first reaction if you look at the playoff odds report at Baseball Prospectus. They are projected to finish 87-75 (after rounding) despite winning 98 next year. And while they are projected to win the NL East, they have the lowest playoff percentage chance of any projected division leader at 67.9%, and the lowest chance of winning the World Series of any of them as well, at 7.6%. What gives?
Ok, before you go storm the offices of Baseball Prospectus (for which, I assume, you’d need some help from ENCOM) let’s keep a few things in mind. First of all, the Nats are forecast to win the NL East, not come in second. The Braves are forecast to be the second place team at only 82-80, which would give the Nats a comfortable lead. And all of this is based on PECOTA, which has some quirks that are worth noting. That doesn’t mean PECOTA is worth ignoring, its just important to know what the issues might be.
Baseball Prospectus had a great article yesterday in their series of mock arbitration hearings, focused on the Nats own Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a pay site, so I won’t get into the whole meat of the argument, but I personally think PECOTA and this article alone are worth the subscription to any Nats fan. Heck, I won’t even tell you who they voted to win the arbitration hearing. Partly because it is a pay site, and partly because I don’t care that much about things like that.
What I will share, is some of the great info they had about JZimm. There was some stuff you might already know. His July, where he earned NL pitcher of the month, went 4-0 with a 0.97 ERA. His 6th highest average fastball velocity in the league (among starters). Even his ability to swing the bat. His great season ERA and quality start total. But as I said, there’s a good change you knew all of this data.
What I found most interesting was the comparison to Matt Cain – not so much in that they are the exact same pitcher, just that at similar points in their careers, they were underappreciated, at least by the Cy Young voters. How many votes did Zimmermann get for the 2012 Cy Young award? None. That’s not a single vote, despite double digits Wins, a winning record, a sub-3.00 ERA, and the Nats making the playoffs. According to BP:
The only other pitcher to do the same in the last several seasons is Matt Cain, who’s a lot like Zimmermann in some other respects. Both are right-handers with similar heights and builds. Both throw the same assortment of five pitches at roughly similar rates (Zimmermann uses his changeup more often). Both throw hard with excellent control, but neither gets many strikeouts. Both Cain in 2009 and Zimmermann in 2012 had modest win totals and were overshadowed by other pitchers on their own staffs
70s/80s Early pre-metal – Basically stuff that would be played on Ozzy’s Boneyard, leaving out some of later tunes. Lots of pre-glam metal era. Think everything that led up to, but not including, Metallica. Examples: Led Zeppelin, UFO, Iron Maiden, Nazareth, Motorhead, Diamond Head, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, early Queen
Blues Rock – Not really talking about a time frame, but I mean really bluesy rock here, not just the awesome late 60s classic rock which had the influence. Examples: Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, Rory Gallagher, Govt Mule, Allman Brothers, Blackberry Smoke, Anders Osborne, Robin Trower, Cream… Led Zeppelin again
Fusion-ish Rock – Ok, I was gonna write prog rock, but then all you might think about would be Yes or the Moody Blues, and I’m going for something a little different. Mostly hard rock not just based on standard blues progressions. Examples: Pink Floyd, Tool, Dream Theater, Dixie Dregs, King Crimson, Rush, Queensryche, Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, probably some Queen and Zeppelin here has well
Remember when you make your choice, you’re here to learn something. And don’t quibble about which band goes where. Only AC/DC sounds the same in every song and they could really fit in either of the first two categories.
ESPN’s prospect guru Keith Law listed his Top 100 Minor League prospects today, and 5 Nats made the list. For a shallow farm system (ranked 21st by Law), the fact that there are so many high end guys is good, and a little surprising. So let’s see who he put here, and why:
This one isn’t too surprising, most places list Rendon as the team’s best prospect. The fact that he’s top 20 in the minors is nice, and he would be higher for certain if he wasn’t so damn fragile. But Law like his swing and his ability to hit for doubles, even if he doesn’t see him as a big HR guy. Rendon is 22, and hit .233/.363./.489 throughout the minors last year, finishing up in AA. He dominated the other leagues, but wasn’t great in AA, so he’ll start 2013 in Harrisburg.
Goodwin has been moving up prospect lists over the last few seasons, but to be a top 50 prospect… that’s impressive. Heck, he wasn’t even on Law’s list last year. Goodwin was highly regarded back in college but several factors caused him to slip out of the first round, and out of elite prospect status. Law says he has “plus-plus speed, quick bat, and surprising power” and using the Mike Cameron comparison (speed, defense, power… and strikeouts) that we’ve already seen for Goodwin. Goodwin is 22 and hit .280/.384/.469 in A+ and AA last year. Like Rendon, he wasn’t so spectacular in AA to force the Nats to promote him, so expect him in Harrisburg this spring as well. Road trip, anyone?
On Monday I wrote about Danny Espinosa and his torn rotator cuff, focusing on his numbers before and after the injury. There were a few distractions in the baseball world afterwards, but I mentioned I’d get around to discussing the health implications for the season, so here we go.
Obviously, the most logical thing from the fans point of view would be to get surgery, go through recovery, and be done with the issue forever. It sounds simple enough, and it might only cost 2 months (according to most reports I’ve seen) which means if he got it today, he might be back well before the end of May.
But surgery isn’t so simple, there are always risks of complications, and the possibility of making things worse. For whatever reason, the doctors and the team seem to be confident that rehab is enough for this injury, and he doesn’t have to have surgery at this point. I tried to find examples of position players with similar injuries, and whether they had to have surgery, whether they tried to play, etc, but I came up empty.
So I reached out to Stephania Bell, who is ESPN’s injury expert and a “certified orthopedic clinical specialist and strength and conditioning specialist” which means she knows a heck alot more about this than you or I. She was kind enough to respond, for which I am very thankful. Here is what I asked, and what she said:
I am certainly not one to bluster about PEDs. I tend to not even write about it, because it rarely touches this team. If you look at my theoretical HoF voting, you’ll see that I included of Bonds, Clemens and even Pud Galvin. But the news about Gio Gonzalez using a Miami clinic linked to steroids and HGH is certainly disheartening. As I’ve stated before, I don’t care that much about the use of PEDs.
I think it is good that the league is getting rid of them (to whatever level you believe they are trying) because I don’t think any young player should feel the need to use in order to compete. But that’s about it. However, with all the rules, with all the publicity, and with all of the modern news outlets and sources of cash for people who want to reveal thing famous people do… to paraphrase the film classic Friday, you’ve got to be one stupid mf to take PEDs these days. You just can’t think you’re not going to get caught.
Getting caught costs your team, and it costs you. Imagine that MLB ends up suspending people on this list. 50 games. The Nats losing their #2 pitcher for 50 suddenly means maybe they’re not in such good shape for making the playoffs. That is my number one concern, by leaps and bounds. I don’t care much about Gio’s legacy, although I may hesitate to buy his jersey if he got suspended. But Gio should certainly be concerned with Gio’s legacy, and if he did indeed do something illegal, again, it has to be chalked up to stupidity.
It is hard to give players the benefit of the doubt, but it is certainly possible that Gio has done absolutely nothing wrong. The article states that he ordered “1.c.1 with Zinc/MIC/… and Aminorip. For Gio and charge $1,000.” What does that first part means, I have no idea. But if 1.c.1 is just a notes heading (like in an outline), he may well have done nothing illegal at all. As pointed out in Mr. Irrelevant, nothing listed there is on the list of banned substances.