2011 NL East Rankings Part 2: The Pitchers

March 24, 2011

In our last episode, I went over the starting lineups for each team, giving out 5 points for the best player at each position, 1 point for the worst. Here’s where we stand:

SCORE: Phillies (27), Mets (24), Nationals (24), Braves (23), Marlins (21)

Before comparing the pitchers I have to caveat it even more than the position players. Most teams make it evident who their “ace” is early on in the year, and most teams have an obvious one anyway. Most teams make it evident who their #5 starter is early on in the year, by not  playing him until about May. Of course, the number 5 starter is often 3 or 4 guys. And many teams don’t make it all that evident who starters 2-4 are. This normally isn’t important, but since we’re trying to compare guys head to head, it is extremely important. So I’ll do this the best I can, but it should be taken with a handful of salt. I’ve tried to use Baseball Prospectus as my guide to order.

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BP As Your GM

October 26, 2010

Last week, in the midst of the postseason, Baseball Prospectus ran an article on the Nats. It was Christina Kahrl giving her thoughts on what she would do if she were the GM of the Nats. Here is what she said: “They’re not going to win in 2011. Nothing we do here is going to alter that. The question instead is what they might do to help provide a worthwhile product on the field. Consider this a pragmatic sanction of sorts for what Mike Rizzo is already up to, tailored for a goal that’s more attainable, like 80 wins without sacrificing any of the future. Even that’s not so easy, because the Nationals are already staffed in most of the bigger slots and roles.”

She conveniently has it boiled down to 7 points which make the team better. I’ll give you her ideas (in bold), and then my take on them.

  1. Offer Adam Dunn arbitration. If he accepts you have him for another year, if he doesn’t you get picks. Ok, but then who plays first base? I like the start of this, but I also think they need to re-sign Dunn for the next 2 or 3 years. I really think he’s their best option, and nobody’s lining up to fill his spot until at least mid-2012.
  2. Sit back and let Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa become your middle infield combination of the present. For this one, I agree with her 100%. There aren’t any middle infielders worth pursuing in free agency. Desmond looks like he can hit enough for a SS, and his fielding improved in the 2nd half. Espinosa still has alot to prove, but I’d give him a chance. It may not be perfect, but it’s the best option.
  3. Don’t let it ride in the rotation. What Christina means is go out and get someone. And I agree, although I’m more bullish on John Lannan than she is. According to her, he’s “getting tattooed even more frequently” but in reality he got tattooed until he went down to the minors, after his return he was quite good. Anyway, she recommends looking at Harden or Vazquez among others. Those were on my list, but I think they should at least try to get Lee. After that, I’d look towards Duchsherer and Webb as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Nationals Needs in the Offseason

October 12, 2010

If you’re looking for work, the Nationals have some open positions going in to next season. Who are they going to get to fill in the spots? Let’s first go down the list and see who’s going to play where

The Infield

At least part of this infield is complete. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond appear to be locks to start next year, as does some combination of Wilson Ramos and Pudge at catcher. Right now it appears that Danny Espinosa is the starting 2B, but I am not convinced he is enough of a full time hitter to have a strong grip on the job. If there was another second baseman on the market, even for a short term signing, I wouldn’t put it past the team to go after him. As for first base, that is the gaping hole in the infield needs to be addressed.  Nobody is ready to step up from the minors, although Chris Marrero may not be far away, there is little thought that he’d be on the major league squad this summer.

The Outfield

The Nationals have 3 outfielders that will all play next year – Josh Willingham, Roger Bernadina, and Mike Morse. Nyjer Morgan may or may not be on the team next season, and if he’s not, it is assumed Bernadina would be moved to center.

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DC IBWA 2010 Awards

October 1, 2010

What is the DC IBWA, you ask? Why, it’s the DC Internet Baseball Writer’s Association! Anyway, the group has asked for my, as well as everyone else who blogs about the Nats, vote on several topics. They’re due on Saturday, so I figured as I submitted my votes, I’d also let everyone see it. We get three votes for each category, with 5 points for first place, 3 for 2nd place and 1 for 3rd place. Here goes:

Goose Goslin MVP

  1. Ryan Zimmerman
  2. Adam Dunn
  3. Josh Willingham

Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher

  1. Livan Hernandez
  2. Stephen Strasburg
  3. John Lannan

Firpo Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year

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Time to Start Believing What You See

June 1, 2010

It’s June 1, it’s the day after Memorial Day, and it’s 2 months into the season. The Nats have played 26% of their season, over one quarter of their games. It’s time to start believing what you’re seeing. Whatever they’ve done up to this point is probably pretty indicative of the type of team they are. Here are a few observations on what we’ve seen:

Thanks to an offensive outburst yesterday, the team is no longer being outscored by a massive amount. They’ve allowed only 10 more runs than they’ve scored, so with a record of 26-26, they are only considered “lucky” by one game. Their pythagorean W-L record is 25-27, still impressive considering where this team has come from. It’s been my opinion that a team with an effective bullpen is likely to play better than their Runs Scored/Runs Allowed would indicate – and that seems to be what is happening with the Nats. They’ve lost a few blowouts that got out of control, but other than that, their bullpen has kept them in it, and they’ve won (and lost) their share of very close games.

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A Good Weekend After a Bad Week

May 24, 2010

Despite the way things looked for the first 15 or so inning of this series, the Nats end up with another series victory. They’re back above .500, for another day, the Nats are approaching the end of May without looking bad. The last few games, though, have been more painful to watch. The week of frustrating one-run losses was tough, but at least you figure they were playing well enough that it would balance out. Then they put in an almost perfect impression of an early 2009 game yesterday. John Lannan came out an pitched well, something that couldn’t be said for many starts this year, although 2 in a row decent starts gives some encouragement. The team took the lead into the final frame and then, BAM, it’s all gone. The major differences between ’09 and ’10 lie in the final results. Were this last year, that 9th inning would have yielding 3 runs, not 2. And then bottom of the 10th heroics? Wouldn’t have happened last year.

So thanks in large part to Josh Willingham hitting a bottom of the 10th inning home run, they are now sitting above .500 despite having played fully 45 games. And despite Willingham’s hitting slump of late – ok it’s not a real slump, but he’s only hitting .233 in his last 30 games, he’s getting on base, and leads the National League in walks. And give credit to the non-closer parts of the bullpen last night. Doug Slaten got the win, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett all came in and did everything they needed to do.

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A Little Early for a Win, Plus Zim vs Wright

April 9, 2010

Shouldn’t we have to wait a few more weeks? The win last night was a bit of a surprise – especially if you watched the 9th inning. Matt Capps does not appear to be a stabilizing force in the bullpen, at least not at this point. And the bullpen DID blow the lead. In the 6th inning Sean Burnett came in with Stammen in line for the win, but gave up a run. So tied at 5-5, the bullpen had at least 3 innings to go, with no room for error. Tyler Clippard was very good, and though Brian Bruney wasn’t exactly spectacular, he allowed no runs, which is all that matters for this game. Capps came in at the end and barely preserved the lead, although not to disparage him too much, he was going against the heart of the best lineup in the NL.

So what we had, despite the bullpen blowing it in the 6th, was the bullpen holding on to a 1 run lead. Last year it took until game 8 for the Nats to get a win, also against Philly. First time they won a game where they held a 1 run lead last year was game 12 (the win went to Zimmermann). Oh, and the first time they got a lead as late as the 7th inning and held on to win the game in 2009? That wasn’t until May. None of these dates are particularly significant, but they should make you feel at least a little better about the state of the team.

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Opening Daybacle

April 6, 2010

In a day that started off promising, the Nationals ended up losing 11-1, pretty horrendous. They got beat in every facet of the game, and quite a few things happened that we all knew could happen, but hoped would.

  • Lannan looked bad, which is what places like BP tell us we should expect, despite the last 2 years of success
  • The bullpen and Lannan walked 9 total batters
  • Desmond booted a ball
  • Dunn went 0-3, with 2 Ks
  • An opposing player hit a grand slam

But not to worry, Nats Town, not all is lost yet. Despite the massive defeat, there is room for some hope. A few of the things that weren’t as bad

  • Lannan’s day was worsened by bad luck and well placed dribblers
  • Dunn made a positive play at first – heads up and well done
  • Morgan got a single and a SB on Halladay’s first two pitches Read the rest of this entry »

Jumping on the Optimism Bandwagon

February 22, 2010

Pitchers and catchers are in, position players are starting to show up. Meanwhile, some young prospect threw down in Viera this weekend. Teammates were calling him Jesus, people were talking about how he’s the best thing they’ve ever seen, and there was a general feeling of optimism for the future. So let’s get on the train to positivityland and figure out what is the ideal scenario for this team. Not record-wise. If everything goes right they probably won’t be very good. And I’m talking about the big boy team right now, so I’ll avoid talking about development of guys that won’t see the pros this year.  I’m talking about what would help set up a winning season in 2011 – a complete list of things that would be good for this team, but trying to keep them all realistic. So, no, I’m not going to say that it would be awesome of Craig Stammen struck out 250 hitters and won a Cy Young, or if Josh Willingham became a gold glove outfielder.

Instead, here’s a list of the good things I’d hope to see, that actually have a chance to happen

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Nats Sign 4 Guys They Already Have

January 20, 2010

I’ve never found these arbitration-avoiding signings to be too exciting. And if they don’t sign the guy and move to arbitration, again, I am rarely glued to the hearing. But it is still good to see that the Nats were able to come to terms with 4 out of the 6 players with whom they were negotiating. Arbitration hearings can often cause a rift between players and the organization. The team offers $X million, and the player counters with $X million plus $Y million. In order to justify the $Y million, the player talks about how great he is. In order to avoid paying the extra $Y million, the team talks about how much the guy sucks. Sometimes the player walks away thinking, “Boy, this team really doesn’t appreciate me.” In truth, they are just trying to save money and keep the player. But sometimes when players forget its just business, they may cause some bad feelings that don’t go away when it’s time for free agency.

So it is good news that they signed they players that they did. Highest up on the list was Josh Willingham, who got rewarded for his good season with a contract of $4.6 million. It’s up from last year as were his numbers. The only thing he has left to do is keep his high early season numbers going all year. In 2010 he will have the 5th highest salary on the team, behind Dunn, Guzman, Marquis,and Zimmerman, unless they sign another free agent for more. They also came to terms with Jason Bergmann, who had a very good second half of the season. He had a 3.48 ERA from July to the end of the year in 42 appearances and 33 2/3 IP. His salary of $750,000 is more than reasonable for what he was able to do, and if he keeps it up, it will be a bargain.

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