Figuring Out the Nats Lineup

December 14, 2011

A Nats discussion was a small part of Dave Schoenfield’s chat on ESPN.com yesterday, in which I tried to quickly lay out what the Nats plans should be for the future, in terms of their position players. When I say future, I am intentionally vague, but I’m thinking beyond just 2012. I tried to write relatively succinctly, given the medium, but I’ll lay out a little more here.

  • Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos are relatively set where they are. During the chat, someone named Adam made the excellent point that without a contract extension for Zim, everything is moot. But let’s go with the assumption that they do want to re-sign him for now.
  • Ian Desmond has yet to put together a starter-level season at SS, and while his defense did improve last year, his bat was terrible. The idea of moving him to the outfield strikes me as almost laughable – right now, he can’t hit for a SS. For now, it is hard to think you can rely on him as a starter
  • Bryce Harper will be up very soon, and he’ll play RF. He hasn’t played much CF, and he’s got a cannon, so let’s slot him into RF.
  • I am ignoring Adam LaRoche, because I can’t see him being with the team beyond the end of 2012

I think most people would agree with the above sentiments. You might argue that Desmond really is going to be great, but you’re just hoping. So let’s get to the more questionable parts. Here are my feelings on what should be done with the rest of the roster, as it stands.

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Ramos Links

November 10, 2011

The news of Wilson Ramos being kidnapped is devastating, and we are all hoping for his safe return. I doubt the kidnapping is news to anyone who stumbled onto this page. I thought I’d post some links to sites and Twitter feeds of people who are clearly following this and updating us regularly with whatever info they have. Check these places for updates, they will have it sooner than I will. And if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still click on these twitter feeds to see what people are posting:

Websites

Amanda Comak, Nationals Watch (Washington Times) may be the one most ahead of the news on this, from what I’ve seen so far. Twitter: @acomak

Federal Baseball is posting regular updates and comments on the main page, including info from tweets they’ve seen. Twitter: @federalbaseball

Adam Kilgore, Nationals Journal (Washington Post) @AdamKilgoreWP

Mark Zuckerman, Nats Insider @MarkZuckerman

Other Twitter Feeds

@JuanchoXIII – Juan Dominguez, baseball writer in VZ, posting in English and in Spanish

@masnBen – Ben Goessling with MASNSports.com

@KatheVilera – Kathe Vilera, Tigres de Aragua’s media manager in VZ, posting in English and Spanish

@RafaelRojasC – Rafael Rojas Cremonesi, Rockies reporter also covering baseball in VZ, posting in English


2011 Ends, So Does Rebuilding

September 29, 2011

Last night, while many baseball fans were watching an incredible end to the regular season with the excitement of the playoffs starting 2 days early, the Nats were finishing up their season. They had a good game, winning 3-1, and a promising one in that Stephen Strasburg pitched very well – 6 IP, 10 K, 1 H, 2 BB and 0 ER. They not only finished the 2011 regular season, but they should have finished their final season of true “rebuild”.

Look who they already have written in the lineup next year, and some of their stats:

C – Wilson Ramos, 23 years old, .779 OPS , rookie
2B – Danny Espinosa, 24 years old, .737 OPS, 21 HR, rookie
3B – Ryan Zimmerman, 26 years old, .798 OPS (.846 after July 2)
SS – Ian Desmond, 25 years old, .294/.342/.422 after July 5
1B/LF – Michael Morse, 29 years old, .910 OPS
RF – Jayson Werth, 32 years old, 20 HR, .264/.349/.445 after July 18
SP – Stephen Strasburg, 22 years old, 24 IP, 4 ER, 24 K, 2 BB, returned from TJ
SP – Jordan Zimmermann, 25 years old, 3.18 ERA, 4.0 K/BB
SP – John Lannan, 26 years old, 3.70 ERA
RP – Tyler Clippard, 26 years old, 1.83 ERA, 88 1/3 IP, 104 K, 26 BB
RP – Drew Storen, 23 years old, 2.75 ERA, 75 1/3 IP, 74 K, 20 BB

Werth’s track record of success, couple with his 2nd half, suggests he’ll be fine next year.The only real question mark in that group is Ian Desmond. Everyone else seems to be ready to produce and win games.  Ross Detwiler, only 25 years old, is a lefty who at times looked unhittable, and finished the year with a 3.00 ERA in 10 starts and 5 relief appearances. Throw in potentially Chien-Ming Wang, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, and the pitching looks very strong. This is no longer a rebuild, this is a young team with strong players at almost every position. They aren’t “potential” guys, they are guys who have produced in the majors.

The biggest hole to fill is in center field. They also might invest in another starting pitcher, but they’d probably have to go after a true front line guy to make it worth shoving one of the younger guys aside. First base is a question, too – Chris Marrero and Adam LaRoche could produce at first base, but neither is one you’d count on. I could see them finishing 2012 with Morse as their first baseman, and leave the other corner outfield spot for Bryce Harper.

Nobody expects them to win 100 games next season. Bryce Harper probably won’t start the year with the team, and may not see action until September, if that. But this team is no longer looking to fill dozens of holes. Next seasons results cannot be written off to another year of rebuilding, they have to win games, and they should start being a serious contender for the playoffs within the next 2 seasons.


That Was Better Than I Thought

September 26, 2011

Think back to June or July. What were you thinking about this team? If you are like most fans, you were relishing the success of the starting pitching while lamenting the complete lack of offense. Well, some of that pitching has disappeared, due to trades, end of season shutdown, regression or whatever. But just as that evened out a bit, the hitting has roared back. Sure, this team isn’t the Bronx Bombers, but I seem to recall in early summer only Laynce Nix had an OPS+ over 100. Now look what we’ve got with only 3 games to go.

Danny Espinosa

A late season slump probably preventing him from getting serious rookie of the year consideration, but Danny Espinosa is finishing out the year on a high note. Not only is he hitting .239/.324/.420 right now, giving him an OPS+ of 104, the 24 year old rookie is hitting .298/.384/.471 in his last 140 PAs. His rough stretch in July and the beginning of August brought those total numbers down, but he’s still had a great season for a rookie middle infielder, and those 21 home runs look awfully nice.

Wilson Ramos

A 23 year old catcher hitting .269/.335/.449 should probably be getting a bit more national attention, considering Ramos has the 5th best OPS among NL catchers with 350 or more PAs. Not bad for a rookie at this position, either. One of the reasons people having been talking about him is that before September he was just having a pretty good offensive season. But in his last 102 PAs he’s hit .344/.396/.624, making those totals look quite a bit better. Oh, and those 4 catchers ahead of him on the OPS chart? The youngest is McCann, who’s 4 years older than Ramos.

Ian Desmond

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15 Games Left in the Best Season Yet

September 14, 2011

Tonight, the Nats will get a chance to beat their win total from last season. They are at 69 wins right now, already besting their 2008 and 2009 marks, 70 gets them over their 2010 spot. If they win 4 more after that, and since they have a total of 15 games remaining it certainly is possible, they’ll have more wins than 2007 (73-89) and their best record since that first year of 81-81. So, with 15 games left, go 5-10 or better, and you have your best season since your first year.

And while the record probably won’t be .500 (although it’s still possible!), this season has to be thought of as better than 2005. The pitching staff in 2005 had two young quality players that showed real promise – John Patterson and Chad Cordero. The rest were aging vets that had good years. The lineup was mostly under 30, but there weren’t too many young sensations on the squad, Nick Johnson was probably the closest.

In other words, 2005 didn’t show a ton of promise for the future but this 2011 team, on the other hand, does. They have a young catcher, at least one young middle infielder (maybe as many as 3), a potential MVP third baseman who is only 26, and 3 or 4 young quality starting pitchers including an almost surefire ace. Throw in Mike Morse and Jayson Werth, who aren’t quite as young, and Bryce Harper on the way, that’s a strong future. Savor it and enjoy it, it isn’t anything that you’ll remember years down the road, and it doesn’t compare to making the playoffs or winning a pennant, but regardless of record, this is the best year this team has had. And next year should be even better.


Hopes for the Second Half

July 14, 2011

Ok, technically, the Nationals’ season is more like 57% over not 50% over, but let’s skip the games played and just go with the All Star Game as the traditional midway point. There are a few things I’m really hoping to happen this half that would make me more confident going in to next season. While a playoff berth this year is still possible, the team just isn’t THAT good yet. I’m more concerned with them getting ready to make an actual run at a playoff spot in 2012. These aren’t predictions, these are just some things I’d like to see.

Trade

There aren’t too many trade chips for this team, but Jason Marquis is one of them. His ERA+ of 95 is about what you’d expect, and its nothing to get other teams foaming at the mouth. But he’s a free agent at the end of the year who isn’t likely to yield compensation picks. He’s worthless to them come the end of this season, but someone else might be able to use him. Livan Hernandez is in the same boat, and has actually pitched slightly better, but has legal issues which may make him harder to trade. If they can turn either of these guys into anything of value in the trade market, they gotta do it.

Jerry Hairston has performed well enough in fill-in roles, hitting just about what his career numbers would indicate. If there is a team that needs someone to play any of the myriad of positions he can play, why not get some value for him? They won’t get much, but something is better than nothing.

Laynce Nix is interesting because many might not want to trade him, figuring he can start in LF for the rest of the season and next year too. The problem is, he is a free agent after this season, and probably stands to make more than the $700K he’s making right now.

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2011 Roster – Best Nats Players Yet?

July 1, 2011

Yesterday, Thom Loverro wrote an article claiming that Danny Espinosa was the best second baseman in the history of the Nats. And you know what? My first thought was that I agreed with him. But I figured I’d check it out, using very basic statistical analysis. Then I thought, why not do that for the rest of the team as well? Is there anyone else on this current team that we can consider the best Nationals player at his position? I pulled the list for WAR (Wins Above Replacement) from Baseball Reference on all Nats players going back to 2005 when the team came to DC. Remember that WAR is cumulative, and while it can decrease with bad play, the thought is that anyone who has a high WAR now won’t see a massive decrease. Keep in mind also that Loverro was talking a bit more generically, and what I’m looking at is more about any of the current players having the best statistical season at the position.

Second Base

Starting with the premise of Loverro’s article, Danny Espinosa certainly seems like the best 2B in Nats history. And at 24 years old, he’s got a brighter future than anyone in the position before. And with a WAR of 2.0 right now, not only does he lead the 2011 Nats position players, he is the best second baseman at this point in the season already. The next closest WAR is Ronnie Belliard in 2008, and he only had 337 PAs. Vidro’s best season in DC (not counting some strong Montreal seasons) was his first, in 2005, where he had a WAR of 0.7. Espinosa’s doing great, and nothing should diminish that, but his competition was nonexistent.
Conclusion: Best 2B in Nats History

Third Base

Really, Ryan Zimmerman is obviously the best 3B in the team’s history, and so far he’s been the best player period for the franchise.

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