Friday, December 31, 2010

And Then There Was One...

Friday afternoon the Baltimore Sun reported that Derrek Lee had signed a 1-year contract with the Orioles. That leaves the Nats down to one legitimate option at first base; Adam LaRoche. We posted a generic overview of several 1B options about a month ago, and here is what we wrote about LaRoche.

Choices, Choices, Choices 12.6.10
"LaRoche had probably the 2nd best year at the plate of his 7 year career in 2010. But even still it seems as though he is give you similar numbers each year you put him out there. He is going to hit .260-.280, hit 22-27 bombs, drive in 80-90 runs, while providing quality defense at 1st base. What Nats fans should be most aware of is his UZR/150 score, 4.8 for 2010. What that means is that he saved his team 4.8 more runs, per 150 games, than the average first baseman."

Now, the "choices" has become "choice". LaRoche is easily the best option out there so lets delve a bit more into his statistics.

162-game offensive averages - .271 AVG. .827 OPS. 26 HR. 93 RBI.

Past 3 years of WAR - 1.7 in 2008. 2.6 in 2009. 2.1 in 2010.

Past 3 years of UZR - -4.8 in 2008. 0.2 in 2009. 5.2 in 2010.

Past 3 years of Fielding % - .993 in 2008. .999 in 2009. .991 in 2010.

Owner of a lifetime WAR of 11.6 LaRoche provides steady defense and consistent offense at a position that values moonshots and generates strikeouts. It should be noted that in the top 10 most comparable players is former-MVP Justin Morneau and Adrian Gonzalez, who just went to Boston for 4 prospects (2 top prospects).

LaRoche is a well-above average defender whose only rough years have come in a Pirates uniform, not too surprising. If the Nats were to finally ink LaRoche we would have an athletic infield that consists of Zimmerman at 3B, Desmond at SS, Espinosa at 2B, and LaRoche at 1B. That would make life for our pitchers (especially the sinkerballers) much better. Gone would be the days of infielders too scared to make the throw in case the first baseman couldn't pick it.

Back in the original post we called for LaRoche over all others, that long-shot has now turned into a near sure-thing; its now only a matter of years and dollars. Our guess? The LaRoche camp wants 3 years/$21 million, Rizzo doesn't want to go to 3 years, but wants a 2 year/$15 million deal.

In addition to all the benefits included in signing LaRoche and creating a defense-first approach for our young infield/pitching staff, the Nats would also be getting a smart ballplayer. We wouldn't have to worry about missed signs, bad baserunning, or misplays in the field. Coming from a family of baseball players (Father and Brother both big leaguers), he would bring a veteran presence and high baseball IQ into the clubhouse, something that is desperately needed to lead our newcomers.

The Nats may not have gotten their first choice (Pena), and the fans certainly did not get their first choice (Dunn), but I believe that they still have the chance to make the right choice. It seems to be a matter of time until we see the tweets start pouring in, announcing a deal with LaRoche. But this is baseball, and anything can happen.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Former Nats Greats - #5

As we all try to recover from "No Snowmageddon" and trying to digest massive amounts of holiday food, you get to also try to stomach the (not so) brilliant performance of our 5th installment of Former Nats Greats.

And on this Day, I announce to you that the next winner is...

Zach Day!

Day was a holdover from the Montreal days and he began the 2005 season as the Nats #2 starter. This, however, didn't last too long...

His first start in a Curly W was for the Nationals first win in franchise history. And though he didn't record a decision he pitched a respectable 5.2 innings while only allowing 3 earned runs, with 3 strikeouts and 1 walk. The rest of his time in 2005 had a very roller-coaster-like feel to it, some good starts, some bad; a grand total of 12 appearances. Lets look at a couple of his 2005 greatest/worst hits.

Best:
April 20th vs. Atlanta - 7.0 IP. 3 hits. 0 R. 0 ER. 4 BB. 1 K.
May 23rd vs Cincinnati - 1.0 IP. 0 hits. 0 R. 0 ER. 0 BB. 0 K.

Worst:
April 11th vs Atlanta - 4.1 IP. 9 hits. 7 R. 7 ER. 1 BB. 0 K.
May 7th vs San Fransisco - 1.1 IP. 2 hits. 4 R. 4 ER. 1 BB. 1 K.
May 25th vs Cincinnati - 2.0 IP. 4 hits. 5 R. 5 ER. 3 BB. 2 K.

Ouch. I find it amazing that his 2 best starts and 2 of his worst starts were against the same team... Just fantastic in his ineffectiveness. That May 25th start would be his last appearance in a Curly W in 2005, as he would be sent to the Rockies with JJ Davis for "slugger" Preston Wilson.

Day would stay with the Rockies for the rest of 2005 and would start 2006 as a member of their starting rotation. Things change quickly, however, when a starter allows 16 earned runs in just 3 starts. Day was placed on waivers and the Nationals jumped at the chance for another reclamation project. He made his 2006 Nationals Debut on April 30th. Here is a quick rehash of his 5 appearances.

April 30th vs St. Louis - 5.0 IP. 6 hits. 4 R. 4 ER. 3 BB. 1 K.
May 5th vs Pittsburgh - 7.0 IP. 4 hits. 0 R. 0 ER. 1 BB. 5 K.
May 11th vs Cincinnati - 7.1 IP. 7 hits. 1 R. 1 ER. 1 BB. 3 K.
May 17th vs Chicago (NL) - 4.0 IP. 8 hits. 4 R. 3 ER. 3 BB. 3 K.
May 22nd vs Houston - 3.2 IP. 4 hits. 6 R. 6 ER. 3 BB. 3 K.
May 23rd vs Shoulder Soreness
June 6th vs Rotator Cuff Surgery
October 3rd vs Release

2005 Nationals Stats: 12 Games. 6.75 ERA. 1.83 WHIP. 0.64 BB/K. 61 ERA+.
2006 Nationals Stats: 5 Games. 4.73 ERA. 1.50 WHIP. 1.18 BB/K. 92 ERA+.

Zach Day's career in a Nats uniform seemed to be on the upswing in 2006 until he came down with the dreaded "shoulder tendonitis". His WHIP was down, his walk to strikeout ratio was much improved and he seemed to have turned the corner. But at 27 years old, with a history of ineffectiveness and mediocrity, Day wasn't worth the trouble anymore. He would never again pitch in the big leagues.

I remember at the end of the Nationals' RFK era in 2007, your player shirt was displayed proudly, and at $5, next to another Former Nats Great - Termel Sledge. Congratulations to you, Zach Day, for joining the immortals in becoming a Former Nats Great.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aaron Thompson Gone

Today the Pittsburgh Pirates (Nationals North?) claimed LHP Aaron Thompson on waivers. Clearly the Nationals DFA'ed him several days ago, a la Chico, and it was only found out because the Pirates claimed him. Initially this looks like a great move for the Pirates and a not smart move for the Nats, as the home-team has given up a top 23 year-old lefty whose as recently as last year was listed a #8 in the FanGraphs Nationals Top 10 Prospects.

Thompson had an interesting history with the Nationals organization, having come over here during the 2009 season in the Nick Johnson trade to the Fish. At the time he was a 22 year-old lefty from Florida, making his was through the Marlins Farm System. He came out of High School and was drafted 22nd overall in the 2005 First Year Player Draft.

Over the years his stats have been very back and forth, but one main problem has been evident; he has struggled with the higher levels of the minors. In 2008 Thompson had a 5.62 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP in AA Jacksonville. Held back another year by the Fish, Thompson stayed with the Jacksonville Suns and improved to a 4.11 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in limited action before he was traded at the deadline. For the rest of the year he pitched for the Nationals at AA Harrisburg where he put up a respectable 3.31 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 6 games.

2010, however, turned out to be a different story. He pitched the entire year with the Senators save 1 mid-April start at AAA Syracuse) and his stats took a nose-dive. In 26 starts he had a dreadful 4-13 record with a 5.80 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, while his BB/9 ratio ballooned to a career high 5.40 walks per 9 innings. Some other bad stats are a career high HR allowed (16), career high walks (53), and a career high runs allowed by 34 more runs (88 vs previous high 54).

Last year could prove to be an aberration in the young career of Aaron Thompson, or it could be a sign of things to come. The Nats obviously believe it was the latter. For now, Thompson goes to the Pirates, joining Joel Hanrahan and Scott Olsen, in the city where careers go to die.

Happy Holidays

Capitol Baseball wanted to take this time to wish all of you very Happy Holidays and once again express our thanks. When we started this blog early in the 2010 season, I never thought I'd get more than one or two readers a day. I just wanted to talk about the Nats more than I already did... which is a lot.

Then guys like Dave Nichols and Mark Zuckerman stepped in and everything changed. People started to flow in from their sites, and then more of you just started to come directly here to read what I, and now Mac and I, had to say. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

We've enjoyed this experience a great deal, and we're showing no signs of slowing down. We simply wanted to wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy time with their friends and family during this holiday season. Until next time...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Now that Chico's gone...

.... is he really gone? Mere hours after Mac posted about 40-man roster maintenance yesterday and predicted he would be one of the pitchers to go, the Nationals designated Matt Chico for assignment. It was a good decision for the Nats, given Chico's age and the tough decisions that the front office will have to make in the next few days to free up two more spots.

But because Chico was DFA'd and not outright released, is there a chance he passes through waivers and ends up in Syracuse? It seems incredibly unlikely. Even if he makes it through the 7 days and no MLB team claims him, I don't think he goes back to pitch in AAA without being on the 40-man roster. The only reason Chico was happy to stay there in the first place was the off chance that a bomb goes off in the Nats starting rotation, giving him an opportunity to pitch in DC again.

But without that opportunity, I have to imagine he'll take his chances with a Spring Training invite from another team. He's bound to get a little bit of interest there. Though that raises another issue. If you can't make the Washington Nationals starting rotation, what rotation can you make? It really puts Chico in a tough spot. Chico's injury history also doesn't help with his advancing age.

Whatever happens, good luck to Matt. With the Nationals in a true rebuilding stage with very young arms and very experienced veterans, he never really stood a chance.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

40-Man Maintenance

The Nationals have made many moves over the past few days that may or may not have a drastic impact on the big-league club in 2011. First, they re-signed Chien-Ming Wang to a 1 year major-league deal. Second, they signed former pitching hot shot-turned OF wonder Rick Ankiel to a 1 year major-league deal. And in a slew of Monday moves the Nationals signed several minor league players (some free agents from within the organization, some from without) to different types of deals; minor league, minor league/spring training invite, major league). Only one of those players is reserved a spot on the 40-Man roster, right-handed sinkerballer Ryan Mattheus.

You know the stories of Wang and Ankiel, but you may not know anything about Mattheus, a 19th round pick for Colorado in the 2003 First Year Player Draft. He first came to the Nationals farm system in the trade that sent Joe Beimel to the Rockies. Just 3 weeks prior to the trade, Mattheus went under the knife for the all-too-familiar Tommy John Surgery. Fast-forward to this year, he was healthy enough to get in 10 games in, spread across the GCL Nationals and Vermont Lake Monsters. His stats: 10 games, 11.1 IP, 0.79 ERA, 3 R, 1ER, 11K, 3BB, .971 WHIP.
Mattheus will most likely start the season in the Nationals Bullpen.

These moves lead us to several decisions. We have 43 people for the 40-Man Roster. Who stays? Who goes?

Pitchers:
Atilano, Balester, Broderick, Burnett, Carr, Chico, Clippard, Detwiler, Hernandez, Kimball, Lannan, Marquis, Martin, Martis, Maya, Mock, (Edwin) Ramirez, (Henry) Rodriguez, Severino, Slaten, Stammen, Storen, Strasburg, Thompson, Zimmermann

Catchers:
Flores, Ramos, Rodriguez

Infielders:
Desmond, Espinosa, Gonzalez, Marrero, Zimmerman

Outfielders:
Bernadina, Brown, Harper, Maxwell, Morgan, Morse, Werth

We need space for Ankiel, Mattheus, and Wang. Lets look at the candidates.

Matt Chico: Career Totals: 7-15 Record. 4.95 ERA. 5.15 FIP. 1.56 WHIP. -0.3 WAR

Matt Chico was one of the stars of the 2007 Rotation Cattle Call, ending up as our #2 starter in 2008 before his career was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery. Never more than a placeholder, Chico holds value in that he throws a baseball with his left hand. At 27, he is running out of chances.

Luis Atilano: Career Totals: 6-7 Record. 5.15 ERA. 5.00 FIP. 1.49 WHIP. 0.2 WAR

Luis Atilano's only career experience came this past year when he had an outstanding Spring Training and became first in line to fill in for the 1st injured/mental-breakdown Nats Starter. When Marquis was embarrassingly bad to start the season Atilano came in and was highly effective for month, winning 3 of his first 4 starts. Then he looked down, saw the ground was far, far away, and fell apart. Atilano pitched in the rotation until July, and then was put out of his misery and sent back down to AAA Syracuse.

Shairon Martis: Career Totals: 6-6 Record. 5.33 ERA. 5.54 FIP. 1.43 WHIP. -0.2 WAR

The career of Shairon Martis was the precursor to Atilano's. Earned a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training in '09, won 5 of his first 7 starts (including an amazing complete game victory over St. Louis), and then never won another start. This was over a year ago. Martis didn't even scratch the Majors last year as he put up pedestrian numbers in AAA; 4.09 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. The plus side is that Martis is just 23 years old, so he still has some time to develop.

Garrett Mock: Career Totals: 4-13 Record. 5.17 ERA. 4.38 FIP. 1.67 WHIP. 1.1 WAR.

Mock has always been touted by Nats brass as one of the best "stuff" guys in the organization. What that really means is that he has all the talent in the world but he hasn't been able to harness it (Daniel Cabrera Syndrome). His ERA is dreadful, his WHIP is worse and he just hasn't been able to stay healthy. At 27 years old the only thing Garrett has going for him right now is his 8.03 K/9.

Atahualpa Severino: Career Totals (Minors): 26-9 Record. 2.77 ERA. 1.155 WHIP.

Severino is a 26 year old left-handed reliever, meaning he has yet to really find his niche as a pitcher. He has dabbled a bit with closing while in Potomac in 2009, but has been relegated to regular bullpen duty otherwise. His minor league numbers are pretty solid, but he is 26 years old and has yet to make the majors. Will the Nationals have a need for another lefty arm out of the pen?

Craig Stammen: Career Totals: 8-11 Record. 5.12 ERA. 4.34 FIP. 1.40 WHIP. 2.1 WAR.

Stammen seemed to reinvent himself over the 2nd half of last season; around August when he was demoted to the bullpen. In 16 appearances out of the 'pen, Stammen had 2 appearances where he gave up 1ER, 3 where he gave up 2ER, and 1 when he gave up more than 2ER. All of the rest of his appearances were of the 0 ER variety. The Nats are going to have a need for a solid long-reliever, and sinkerballer Craig Stammen has proven that he at least deserves a shot.

Justin Maxwell: Career Totals: .201 AVG. .698 OPS. 7.8 UZR. 1.5 WAR.

The Jim Bowden Special. Maxwell was once touted as a prototypical 5-tool player, but it has become evident over the past 4 years that he is simply a 3-tool player; speed, fielding, throwing. It's really nice to have a defensive specialist when you have a stacked line-up and little defense. Since the Nats are already planning on going into 2011 with 4 above-average defenders in the outfield who can also hit higher than .201, there is no need for a 27 year-old Maxwell to remain on the 40-Man.

Prediction:
Martis, Mock, Severino, Stammen stay. Maxwell, Chico, and Atilano go.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Former Nats Greats - #4

What if I told you that we once had a player that hit .400 and had an OPS of 1.404? Would that be something you would be interested in?

Granted this player only had 15 at bats...

But anyway, the owner of these stats is the latest member of the Former Nats Greats.

Drumroll please...

Crash Davis! err.... Rick Short!

I kid, I kid. But seriously, this guy spent 11 years toiling away in the minors playing for the Bluefield Orioles, the High Desert Mavericks, the Frederick Keys, the Bowie Baysox, the Rochester Red Wings, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, the Iowa Cubs, the Salt Lake Stingers, the Omaha Royals, the Edmonton Trappers, and the New Orleans Zephyrs. 11 years. 11 whole years without a single call up to the major leagues. All this despite putting up fantastic career numbers; .319 AVG, 109 HR, 760 RBI, .339 OBP, in 1,473 games.

That is until the Nationals came calling.

I was at the game. I was sitting in the stands at RFK on June 10, 2005. And from my seat in Section 471, Row 5, and Seat 9, I saw a man who waited 11 long, painful, bus-filled years achieve his dream. It was the bottom of the 5th and Short came up to bat for Sun-Woo Kim and proceeded to hit an RBI single to left, scoring Brian Schneider. His first Big-League at-bat resulted in not only his 1st hit, but his 1st RBI as well. Just a great story.

The moment was short-lived, as he was sent back to the Zephyrs the next day. He came back up for a few days in July and then permanently in September.

His game log is to follow.
June 10 - 1-1, 1B, 1 RBI
July 2 - 0-1
July 3 - 0-0, BB
September 2 - 0-1
September 3 - 0-1
September 7 - 1-2, 1 HR, 1 RBI (the Nats lone run in a 12-1 shellacking by the Fish)
September 11 - 1-3, 2 BB, 1 HR, 1 RBI
September 13 - 1-1, 1B
September 21 - 0-0
September 22 - 2-3, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 R
September 23 - 0-2
September 24 - Career Over.

Career Line is as follows. .400 AVG, .933 Slug, 1.404 OPS, 4 Runs, 4 RBI, 2 HR. But what I love is that his WAR is a 0.2, in just 17 plate appearances! His value was rated by Fangraphs as $800,000; in just 11 games!!!

Rick Short went 6-15 in a Nationals Uniform and garnered national attention from the media for his amazing journey. And all told, he only got to play in 11 Games. He only played in 34.2 Innings. He only saw a grand total of 54 pitches (21 Balls, 33 Strikes if you are curious).

It is my privilege and honor to welcome Rick Short to the ever-growing list of Former Nats Greats. You are still vastly superior to Bob Short...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Give Wang a Chance

With the Nationals recently parting ways with Josh Willingham, not resigning Adam Dunn, and spending a spectacular amount of money on Jayson Werth, there seems to be an increasing amount of frustration in NatsTown... and NatsTown is no stranger to frustration.

So when the Nationals signed Chien-Ming Wang to another 1 year deal worth $1 million, there are some that were baffled by the contract. After all, Wang can earn up to $5 million in incentives. But cool your jets, folks. This is not a bad deal, even if Wang never shows up to Nationals Park. Here's why...
  • He's a proven 19 game winner who is capable of pitching with a sub-4.00 ERA.
  • He showed significant progress at the end of last season, and even pitched to live hitters.
  • If he pans out, Rizzo and the front office will look brilliant, signing the 2006 AL Cy Young runner-up for a measly $1 million.
  • Even if he meets all of his contractual incentives, and the club has to pay him $5 million, it's still a steal.
  • The amount of media attention and merchandising the Nats will get from the Far East should Wang become a regular starter will make the Lerners even richer, which means even more big free agents to DC.
So, while I am truly concerned about many things that have (and haven't) happened in the off-season this year, the $1 million contract to Chien-Ming Wang doesn't register anywhere on that list. What say you, loyal readers?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hammer Dealt [Updated]

Most of you have seen the news that the Nationals have traded Josh Willingham to the Oakland A's. I am going to reserve judgment on this trade until I see all the pieces in place. That being said though, I think this will end up being a good trade for the Nationals in the long run.

Willingham, though still under team control through this coming season, is 31 years old and his body is breaking down like a 38 year old. He has had numerous stints on the DL for a variety of maladies. And, while it hurts to see the Hammer go, sometimes you have to do whats best for the long-term good of the team. For a team that needs to get faster, more athletic, and better defensively, Hammer (and Dunn) don't fit that mold.

[Update - 3:27]

In return for Willingham, the Nats are receiving RHP Henry Rodriguez and OF Corey Brown.

23 year old right-handed power pitcher. Pitched 27.2 innings with the A's last year and put up a 4.55 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and an absolutely filthy 10.73 K/9. In AAA Sacramento in 21.1 IP he had a 1.69 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and a more filthy 13.08 K/9.

Rodriguez has the potential to be a solid bullpen arm, who may even join the battle-royal for the #5 spot in the rotation.

Corey Brown is a 25 year old left-handed outfielder who has 30HR potential but has been sidelined in the past 24 months with a knee injury. A quick look at his stats show domination at the AA level (at age 24) but struggles at AAA. Last year in 90 games at AA Midland he hit .320, drove in 49, with an OPS of .916. But at 41 games at AAA Sacramento he hit just .196, with 20 RBIs, and a meager .631 OPS.

Brown is at the point in his career where its time to move on or be left behind (See: Justin Maxwell). At 25 he is reaching the point where he is too old to be a prospect and runs the risk of becoming the dreaded AAAA player (See: Justin Maxwell). In my opinion he doesn't project higher than a .260 hitter with mediocre power (See: Justin Maxwell).

The Nats were able to get 2 of the A's top 15 prospects for an arbitration eligible player that is coming off of knee surgery and who everyone knew wasn't going to be in DC for 2011 due to the Werth signing.

Trade Grade: B+

Stay tuned for more awesome coverage from your friends here at Capitol Baseball.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Psuedo-Live Blog of Werth Presser

I am going to be posting a stream-of-consciousness series of thoughts about today's Jayson Werth "Introduction to Phase Two" press conference.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the MASN production of the Scott Boras and Jayson Werth Show.

And go.

12:57 - I now know more about the ECU Men's Basketball team than I ever knew before; in that, they have a Men's Basketball team.

12:59 - MASN Special Report!!

1:00 - John De(n)ver, does not sing Rocky Mountain High, but does introduce the team players. Riggleman, Rizzo, Werth, and Boras. In other news the "Phase Two" tally is now at 1.

1:02 - Jayson Werth is clean-shaven. Sad day for all bearded men. But he is rocking a nice Soul Patch.

1:03 - Photo-op of Werth in the new Nats Curly W-filled jersey. Takes him about an hour and a half to button it up. John Dever asks him to spin for the camera, working the catwalk.

1:06 - "Grittyness" "Will-to-win" "Unpolished" "Underdog" all out of Werth's mouth in a 10 second span.

1:07 - Big smiles from Werth about Matt Stairs.

1:08 - Wants to play "into his 40s"

1:08 - Dave Nichols asks about living up to the contract. "wants to be involved with something greater than we have seen before" "no undo pressure" "cliched answer" "going to war"

1:08 - Craig Heist says something, probably about how much he hates Ian Desmond.

1:09 - Zuck asks about having the weight of being the star "looking forward to it".

1:10 - Werth investing in lots of polish. As he says that word 3 more times.

1:11 - Feels strongly about the talent in DC.

1:11 - We Love DC says "Coors" in a very funny way. Almost like "Cooers". In a related note, Werth is excited about staying in the NL East.

1:12 - Man that profile view of the soul patch is something else...

1:13 - More cliched answers about preparation. He has been prepared by Boras pretty well.

1:14 - In my favorite moment, Werth says that he missed what happened in Philly with Cliff Lee. Fantastic.

1:15 - Werth has a no-trade clause?? News to me.

1:16 - I am curious what "Advanced training methods" Werth is referring to.

1:18 - Werth refers to his past relationship with Riggleman in 2004 with the Dodgers.

1:20 - Magic words "I hate to lose". Much better to have an athlete that hates to lose, rather than loves to win.

1:21 - "Scrappy"

1:22 - Tom Boswell!!! Awesome cable-knit sweater. "The more I play, the better I am going to get. That's pretty evident" Cocky. Love it.

1:24 - Last call!

1:26 - On Nats vs. Phillies, "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best." "Over time, people will see that the Nationals are for real."

1:27 - John De(n)ver leaves us with "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

Initial Thoughts:
- Werth can be a pretty funny guy, but is a walking cliche-machine.
- Glad Boras didn't say a word.
- Glad there was no Debbie Taylor or Ray Knight.
- Only a few MASN-style audio glitches.
- Good for the Nationals for giving credentials to bloggers.
- Should be a fun year.
- Is it Spring Training yet???

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BREAKING NEWS: Nats Sign Power LH Bat

No, Adam Dunn is gone. Carlos Pena is already enjoying another losing season on the South Side. It's not Adam LaRoche (yet).

We got Matt Stairs!

Who? Yea the pinch-hit machine that routinely kills fastballs for a living.

You may not know it, but Matt Stairs has 265 career Home Runs. That's incredible. Has anyone in their career hit 250 dingers more quietly than Stairs? His career Slugging percentage is a solid .481. Stairs has posted a positive WAR in 3 of the past 4 seasons, and he has a 16.2 WAR over his career. Over that 19 year career, he has put up very solid numbers per 162 games; 23 HR, 79 RBI, .264 AVG.

But most importantly, he can come in in a key situation and crush a pitch into the Nats bullpen.

Born in Canada, Stairs has said that the only reason he played professional baseball was because he wasn't a good enough hockey player. He will provide veteran leadership and a grinder-type attitude to a young and inexperienced clubhouse.

Stairs was signed in 1989 as a pitcher/shortstop (!!!) by the Montreal Expos, he made his major league debut with the team in May of 1992. By the time Spring Training rolls around, Stairs will be 43 years hold, having made his Major League debut 5 months before Bryce Harper was born. He will take his minor league deal, with an invite to Spring Training, and break camp with the club once the regular season begins. The consummate professional, he knows by now that he won't get too much action in the field and that his true value comes with his power bat off the bench.

Giving us something off the bench that the Nats have not seen since the early days of Wily Mo Pena and Alex Escobar (Former Nats Greats?). Using his patented "Swing-Hard-In-Case-You-Hit-It" approach, I look forward to his exploits in a Curly W.

In case of emergency, use Stairs.

Do the Phillies Have the Best Rotation in Baseball?

Since Cliff Lee is coming to the NL East to play for the Philadelphia Phillies... again..., I thought it might be a good time to address what everyone's talking about. Do the Phillies now have the best rotation in baseball?

It's easy to get caught up in the hype of Cliffmas (h/t Cheryl Nichols) and with good reason. In 2010, the Phillies had Roy Halladay, who won the NL Cy Young and pitched a perfect game during the regular season and a no hitter in the post-season. They also had Cole Hamels, who had a much improved year over 2009, and they picked up Roy Oswalt, making them among the strongest rotations in baseball. So what did they do in the offseason? Somehow made it better by signing Cliff Lee to a deal that was shorter than what any other team was offering and gave him less money. Yea, so that's clearly the best rotation in baseball, right?

Wrong. Absolutely wrong. Among the best? Absolutely. Top 3? Without a doubt. But not the best.

There is this team out west (see: bias, east coast). They go by the Giants; they're from this city called San Francisco. They won the World Series in commanding fashion in 2010, largely because of their stellar pitching. A World Series in which they beat Cliff Lee twice. Let's look at these names.
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Matt Cain
  • Jonathan Sanchez
  • Madison Bumgarner
A pretty impressive list, for several reasons. Not the least of which is 2-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, but the Phillies have Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. So what are the others?

The first is age. The oldest of the 4 for the Giants is Jonathan Sanchez at 28. The youngest in the Phillies' rotation is Cole Hamels, who will be 27 on Opening Day. That's right, the youngest pitcher in Philly's rotation is only one year younger than San Fran's oldest.

To add to it, all 4 of these Giants pitchers now have World Series rings. The confidence of a team with rings really can't be stressed enough, and now this entire rotation as earned them. By contrast in the Phillies rotation, only Cole Hamels has won a World Series in his career.

For all of these reasons, the Giants have the best rotation in the National League, and in baseball, as of this writing. Things can always change, and the past doesn't necessarily dictate the future, but I thought it was a prudent time to address this topic. Talking heads across the country seem to think that the Phillies new rotation is the best ever, and it was simply time to put it in perspective.

That doesn't eliminate the fact that he Phillies rotation is really, really good. So it begs the question: how do the Nats compete with one of the best pitching rotations in the league? Win against all the other NL East opponents, because not a whole lot of victories are going to come from Philly.

The State of the Nats: The Week After Winter Meetings (Cliff Lee Included)

After a week of playing "who will they get besides Jayson Werth" and ending up with no one, the Nationals have only about 9 weeks to solidify some sort of roster before pitchers and catchers report to Viera, Florida to begin Spring Training 2011. But where do the Nats stand at this moment? Let's dig into it, bullet point style.

Starting Pitchers:

There are a host of options here, but here are the six most likely to compete for the job in order of likelihood that they'll be in the rotation. This all can change, for sure.
  • Jordan Zimmermann - Brought in to be the 2nd starter behind Strasburg, he will have to take on a larger role this year than the team wants him to. This embodies the problem that this rotation has had for several years: forcing guys into more prominent roles than they may be ready for.
  • Jason Marquis - Money. The reason Marquis is this high on the list has nothing to do with his performance last year, whether his relative success late in the year or his abhorrent beginning. It's all about the money, and with $7.5 million guaranteed to Marquis in 2011, there's no way he doesn't make the rotation barring an injury.
  • John Lannan - Lannan showed signs of resurgence, and for the first time in a while, Lannan won't be the Opening Day starter. This is huge, as Lannan is probably a #3 starter at best. This might turn into more success for John as the years progress.
  • Livan Hernandez - The Nats brought him back for a reason. That reason is probably more a mentor's role than anything, but it's hard to imagine either Maya or Detwiler making the rotation over a proven .500 starter. Livo is a good bet to make the rotation to start the year.
  • Yunesky Maya - Maya will be an interesting decision. The Nats may go with a 4-man rotation to start the year, as they've done in recent seasons. However, with the bullpen a little more set than last year, they may decide to go with a 5-man rotation. If they do, and no other players are signed before Opening Day, Maya will probably be the guy.
  • Ross Detwiler - Oh Rossy D, what has happened to you? He's been hurt, and when he wasn't hurt, he hasn't looked good. To make things worse, World Series Champ Madison Bumgarner and NL Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Jason Heyward were selected after Detwiler in that draft. But hindsight is 20/20 folks, and we're stuck with Ross for now. We'll see how much patience the front office has left as they set a rotation and bullpen for 2011.
The one thing that this category lacks is once clear, front-line starter. Stephen Strasburg was supposed to be that guy, but in the mean time, GM Mike Rizzo isn't wrong in actively pursuing a true Opening Day starter. There's some definite work to be done here.

Bullpen:

These guys are are a lock to make the 'pen this year. I hope that Bally can have some influence on the others to get an awesome mustache growing contest going out there. More than anything, I want them to have the kind of success that they had last year.
  • Collin Balester - The man, the 'stache, the legend. Balester really figured out his command in 2010, and I look forward to another strong season from the power reliever.
  • Sean Burnett - The lefty specialist. Burnett came into his own in 2010, and eventually became Manager Jim Riggleman's go-to guy from the 'pen.
  • Tyler Clippard - The flailing approach and devastating change up. Clippard started out 2010 with a bang, but struggled a little in the stretch.
  • Doug Slaten - The other lefty. Slaten is the true lefty specialist here, not Burnett. He plays an important role in the bullpen.
  • Craig Stammen - Starter turned long reliever. It still remains to be seen if Stammen can remain a part of the big league club in the bullpen after his not-so stellar attempt to be a starter. I'm hoping for the best, but it probably wouldn't hurt to go grab another Miguel Batista-like reliever.
  • Drew Storen - The closer. Storen also made an appearance on the red carpet Monday night for the premiere of Owen Wilson's new flick where he's a Nationals reliever. I'm not ashamed to admit I'll see that movie just because of Nationals reference.
Infield:
  • C: Wilson Ramos/Ivan Rodriguez/Jesus Flores - The first two will be a strong until Flores is ready to give it a shot, and who knows when that will be. For his sake, I hope it's before 2011 comes to a close.
  • 1B: Vacant - This is the question. A huge offensive hole has been torn in the Nationals lineup with the loss of Adam Dunn. How they fill it here could dictate a lot about the future.
  • 2B: Danny Espinosa - Espinosa started out with a bang in 2010, only to flounder as the season came to a close. Hopefully he can adjust to opposing pitchers figuring him out, and the NL East's pitching didn't get any easier this morning (see: Lee, Cliff)
  • SS: Ian Desmond - Desmond had the opposite experience from his middle infielding partner. He got hot at the end of the year, and looked like he could be a real rock in the lineup in the future. His defense still seriously needs help, though that improved as well as the season progressed.
  • 3B: Ryan Zimmerman - Top 3 3rd basemen in all of baseball right now. Wanna argue with me? I dare you. Zimmerman may be the most underrated infielder in baseball though, and the Nationals better get on signing him to a contract extension quickly, I'm thinking 20 years.
Outfield:
  • LF: Josh Willingham - This may change in the coming weeks. With a guy like Jayson Werth coming into the picture for the next 7 years, Willingham's worth (no pun intended) may have just plummeted to the front office.
  • CF: Nyjer Morgan - Seems that Manager Jim Riggleman and Rizzo are pretty committed to give T. Plush another shot as the starter in center. If Morgan can produce like he did in 2009 and the second half of 2010, he'll probably earn that role for the season.
  • RF: Jayson "The Beard" Werth - We won't go into this much, because there's somewhere around 3 million posts across the internet about Werth's arrival in DC. We will say that he has the potential to unseat Morgan should he falter, giving other guys the chance to succeed as starters at this position.
So this is our summary of what would happen if the Nats season started today. They could do worse, but they could also do a lot better. How Mike Rizzo and Co. finish up the offseason will dictate what kind of year this team has. If they can pick up a respectable starter and a good bat at 1st base, the team has a chance to best their 69 wins in 2010. Though the addition of Cliff Lee to the NL East again makes that even more difficult. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt... Can you imagine facing that rotation 18 times in 2011? Well, you're going to have to.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Former Nats Greats - #3

We are headed to the Mediterranean for part 3 of our many, many part series on Nationals who made some sort of impact on the ballclub in the past 6 years.

The winner is....

Jason Simontacchi!

You may remember him from his fantastic, Italian name. Or you may remember him for being a mediocre pitcher. You may remember that he was the pitcher the Nats invited to Spring Training in '07 after not pitching in the big leagues since '04...

Simontacchi pitched 13 games for the 73-89 Washington Nationals. Brought to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, he was projected to make the rotation out of camp but was sidelined for several weeks due to a groin injury. Though when Jerome Williams and John Patterson went on the DL, Simontacchi was ready to step right in.

His first start was May 8th vs the Brew-Crew, and he picked up the loss. 6 IP, 4R, 4ER, 1BB, 2K. Not too bad.

Lets take a quick look at his best and worst starts in a Curly W.

Best:
June 24th vs the Cleveland Indians. Simontacchi, facing an AL team in an NL ballpark, went up against an Indians team that was 12 games above .500. He went 6.0 innings, giving up only 4 hits, surrendering only 1 R (an ER). Somehow, he struck out 6 batters while walking just 1. He ended up picking up the win, as the Nationals won the game 3-1 on the bats of Flores and Langerhans.

Worst:
Without question it was the start right before his best, June 19th vs the Tigers of Detroit. Simontacchi lasted a grand total of 3.0 innings, while giving up 10 earned runs on 10 hits; raising his ERA from 4.84 to 6.31. The Nats went on to lose the game 15-1 in front of 22,227 strong at RFK.

His last start in a Major League uniform was on July 15 where he came down with elbow soreness and was done after 5 ER in 4.1 innings.

Released at the end of the season, Simontacchi racked up a 6-7 record (earning a decision in each start). Some of his more memorable stats include his 6.34 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and a .343 BABIP. What most impresses me is that his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was only a -0.1, making him pretty much the exact definition of a replacement player.

For 13 glorious games in 2007 the Nationals were graced with Jason Simontacchi's presence. And if he never pitches in another Major League game (Odds: HIGH), he will still be the owner of a having a winning record over his 4 year career (26-17).

Congrats on joining Termel Sledge and Antonio Osuna as Former Nats Greats. I will enjoy a bottle of cheap Italian wine in your honor!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Farewell Wil Nieves

In one of the most underwhelming moves of the MLB Winter Meetings, former Nationals C Wil Nieves signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. After being non-tendered along with Chien-Ming Wang and Joel Peralta (still don't get that one) just before the meetings began, Wil gets an opportunity to be a back up in another struggling baseball city. But I'm going to be honest with you folks, I'm really going to miss Wil Nieves.

The thing that I'll miss about Wil Nieves certainly isn't his .227 batting average, or his 5 career home runs in more than 700 career at-bats. Actually, it's not even his above average defensive ability behind the plate or the way he called games. It's his personality and his genuine ability to light up a room and give a great interview.

Nieves was one of the rare cases where everyone knew his baseball ability wasn't quite up to par for a team that desperately needed a great catcher to help a young rotation, but the players, and many fans, just loved him anyway. Sure, his at-bats would be frustrating when you have runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs, and he'd inevitably strike out. Or when there was a runner on 1st with 1 out and he'd ground into that double play. But again, this isn't why the Nationals kept him around.

It was for the times when he hit the towering home run at Sun Life Stadium in 2010 that would have gone for miles if the upper-deck seats didn't get in the way. It was about the joy on Wil's face; it was about the dugout jabs for still being able to count an entire career worth of home runs on one hand; it was about his enthusiasm for the game he loves so much.

At this point, I know some of you are probabably thinking, "wow, Capitol Baseball has really gone overboard with their praise for Wil Nieves here." But I assure you, we haven't. When you're listening to Charlie and Dave this season and you don't get to hear Wil's walkup song once or twice a week, you'll notice it missing. When you're hanging out at Nationals Park, you won't be able to look up into the press box and see Charlie and Dave dancing. And most importantly, you won't get the joy of leaping up when he gets that 6th career home run so he can stop counting them on just one hand.

So good luck Wil. I wish you nothing but the best in Milwaukee. Hopefully you can get Bob Uecker to give you an honorary dance. We'll see you in DC in April. I leave you with this, our farewell moment of zen:

Winter Meetings Scrap Heap

Jim Bowden's favorite words, other than "five-tool player", are "reclamation project". Players released or injured that are low-risk, high-reward type people. He had a knack for taking players who were past their prime to try and find lightning in the bottle. To my calculations this worked a grand total of once (See: Dimitri Young). You saw arguably the first of these in yesterday's edition of Former Nats Greats, and you will most certainly see more as that particular series rolls onward. Why do I bring up old wounds? Because, as of right now, we are still taking chances on these projects; First, Chien-Ming Wang and now, Brandon Webb.

Lets review the facts and figures on both of these former Cy Young contenders.

First, Chien-Ming Wang.

Wang debuted for the Yankees in 2005 and did an admirable job jumping into the rotation. In 18 games he put up 8 wins with a 4.02 ERA, to go with many other average statistics. This debut was only a start to a stellar 2 years stretch in his career.

In 2006 he won 19 games with an ERA of 3.63 and a WHIP of 1.31. Relying heavily on his commanding sinker-ball, he was able to get a GB% (Ground Ball Percentage) of 62.8%, an absolutely outstanding number. The other number from '06 that stuck out to me is an equally amazing 0.5 HR/9; that's half a HR per 9 innings. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 4.7. All that domination lead to him finishing 2nd in the Cy Young voting to then-Twinkie Johan Santana.

His stellar numbers continued through 2007, though the Cy Young voters didn't take near as much notice despite similar statistics. He had an ERA of 3.70, a WHIP of 1.29, a higher K/9 ratio than 2006, and a 58.4% GB%; all while winning 19 games for the 2nd straight year. His amazing 0.5 HR/9 from 2006 went down to .41 HR/9 in 2007.

2008 started with a bang. Wang was the first pitcher to win 6 games in the AL, getting to that marker by May 2nd. That was the beginning of the end for him, he was never the same for the rest of the year. Only going on to win 2 more games the rest of the year; a year that saw him play his last game of the year on June 15th.

2009 was much more of the same. 9 starts and a 1-6 record with a Marquis-like 9.64 ERA. What's worse is that, a year after winning his 6th game on May 2nd, he didn't win his first game of the '09 until June 28th. Soon it was shoulder ligament surgery and the rest is history.

Wang, when healthy, is a top of the rotation starter. Last year we took a $2 million dollar gamble that did not pay off, and last week we cut our losses when we non-tendered the veteran RHP. Do we take the chance again?

Brandon Webb
Another sinker-baller, the former Diamondbacks ace has a much more storied history, despite the fact that he has been stuck in the desert for the past 8 years.

Over a three year span from 2006-08 Webb pitched well over 225 innings each year, while putting up, in order, 16, 18, and 22 wins (which we now know is Rizzo's favorite stat...). Hard as it is to believe, his peripheral numbers are even better than this.

ERA - 3.10, 3.01, and 3.30.
WHIP - 1.13, 1.19, and 1.20.
GB% - 66.3, 61.8, and 64.2.
And my favorite WAR - 7.0, 6.9, and 6.0.

In a three-year span Brandon Webb was worth a total of almost 20 wins above an average NL starting pitcher! That stat is absurd! The Baseball Writers Association of America agreed with the numbers when they voted Webb the Cy Young Award winner in 2006. In '07 and '08 he was voted 2nd place for the same award, behind Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum respectively.

Sadly, on Opening Day of 2009, Webb managed to only get through 4 innings vs the Rockies before his season ended with a bad bout of Shoulder Bursitis. He hasn't seen the major leagues since.

His path back has been equally as rocky, and according to some reports his fastball hasn't gotten above the mid-80s. As of right now there seem to be at least 3, and as many as 6 teams interested in the former Cy Young Award winner; per mlbtraderumors.com.

Final Thoughts

It has been said that the Nats are trying to re-sign Wang after his non-tender, and I think it would be a good idea for the club to do that. I think the best possible scenario would be a base salary of about $1 million with incentives that can increase the total to around $4 million; peanuts. We could cash in with a resurgent pitcher with an enormous Taiwanese following (both in terms of fans and in media) that could expand the Nats' brand to the Far East. Well worth the bargain basement price.

Webb is a far different story. Baseball sources, as reported by mlbtraderumors.com, has said that Webb is going to be seeking a deal similar to the one signed by Ben Sheets last year where the oft-injured pitcher received $10 million after missing the entire 2009 season. The Nats would have to take a large payroll gamble just for the chance to catch lightning in a bottle.

Every now and then there will be a player who, despite extraordinary odds, is able to make a legitimate comeback (See: Rick Ankiel). But for every Meat Hook, there are 10 Ben Sheets; who went 4-9 before missing the last 2 months of the season with a torn flexor muscle in his pitching elbow.

Is it worth it?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Huge Capitol Baseball news!

It feels like the good news just keeps on coming here at Capitol Baseball. In the last two weeks, we've signed Staff Writer Extraordinaire Mac and had a record-setting day in views from the Jayson Werth story and Mac's analysis of the Nats choices at 1st base. Plus, it's Winter Meeting time people! How can that be bad?

But today, we'd like to announce that you can now get to our blog simply by pointing your web browser to www.capitolbaseball.com. Over the next few months and years, we're going to continue to evolve the site to add great features, making your browsing experience better and making it easier for you to find us.

For now, going to http://www.capitolbaseball.com/ will simply route you to the blog at section409.blogspot.com, but in the near future we hope to host the site somewhere independently. Until then, thanks for your continued support and readership. Keep those comments coming!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Too Much Rizzo Criticism

As I watch and listen to the national baseball people out there, there seems to be a common theme about Jayson Werth's long term signing. "Where was he going?! What was he thinking?!" Except this time, it's toward Nats GM Mike Rizzo, not worst-juicer-ever Nook Logan.

Most national baseball writers and reporters out there forgot the Washington Nationals were an actual baseball team, save Opening Day 2005 and June 8, 2010, so I find it particularly comical that most are getting so upset about the Jayson Werth signing.

The Nationals are in a situation similar to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Kansas City Royals, and the Baltimore Orioles. They've become a joke, and jokes don't sign big name guys. At least that's what the trend has been, especially in the Pirates case. You have teams that don't contend year after year because they deal away their best talent.

Mike Rizzo, though, is trying to buck the trend, and the Lerners look like they're at least going to let him try. Spending $126 million over 7 years for a guy that is 32 years old is a monumental chunk of change. There's no doubt. But I firmly believe it was the right chunk of change to spend.

Rizzo even admitted that if the Nationals were better, they wouldn't have had to offer Jayson Werth the kind of money they did. But they aren't good, and so they have to overpay to get the talent. There are an unbelievable number of people out there who simply don't seem to get that.

People can argue all they want about which guy would have been right for the Nats, and why they didn't go after Carl Crawford instead, or why not Cliff Lee (although it may be Cliff Lee... apparently)? But Mike Rizzo is being honest with himself, honest with his ownership, and honest with the fans, when he says the Nats aren't any good, and he's trying to do something about it by digging into the Lerner's very deep pockets.

Several people at the meetings are reporting that the Nats truly aren't done yet, so let's see what they do over the rest of the week before calling this the craziest move of all time.

Former Nats Greats #2

And now for a break from the Winter Meetings whispers...

For our 2nd installment of Former Nats Greats, we head back to the very first week of 2005. Our piece for today focuses on a pitcher that threw just 2.1 innings for the ball club. And as you see, those 2.1 innings did not go very well at all. That being said, our mystery pitcher and winner of Former Nats Great #2 is...

Antonio Osuna!

Lets start with the raw stats.

2.1 IP. 9H. 11ER. 11R. 7BB. 0K. 42.43 ERA.

Wow. Where to begin? Lets start with that amazing 27.00 BB/9 (walks per 9 innings) ratio. Or maybe the fact that he gave up 11ER while only getting 7 outs. Does this paint the picture well enough? Yes, but lets keep going anyway...

Sabermetric Stats.
WHIP ([Walks+Hits]/IP) - 6.86
HR/9 - 7.71
BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play) - .515
WAR (Wins Above Replacement) - -.3
WAR Value - $-1.1 Million Dollars (that's, once again, NEGATIVE $1.1 Million Dollars)

Had enough? Nope? You want to see all of his 4 appearances? Ok, you asked for it...

April 4th (Opening Day) - Pitched the 6th inning.
1IP. 2H. 0HR. 1R. 1ER. 0K. 2BB.

April 6th - Pitched the last out in the 6th.
.1IP. 0H. 0HR. 0R. 0ER. 0K. 0BB. (Things are looking up!)

April 8th - Got 1 out in the 8th.
.1IP. 3H. 1HR. 6R. 6ER. 0K. 3BB.

April 10th - Got 2 outs in the 8th.
.2IP. 4H. 1HR. 4R. 4ER. 0K. 2BB.

April 11th - DL.

May 12th - Surgery.

Oct 3rd - Released.

Sometimes you take a chance. You try to find that one key player; out there to score one final big league contract. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. I would definitely classify this as a rain situation. Antonio Osuna went from a top 15 Baseball America prospect at age 22 to being listed as a Former Nats Great at age 32 for his final season.

Congratulations to you, Antonio Osuna. We hardly knew ye.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jayson Werth over Adam Dunn: An Analysis

Major League Baseball's winter meetings hadn't even officially begun when the Nats started the meetings off with a huge bang by signing Jayson Werth to a 7-year, $126 million contract. This blockbuster deal will keep Jayson in a Nationals uniform until he turns 39. That's a long, long time. Especially when the Nats would have had to offer Adam Dunn fewer years and less money per year. So, was it the right call?

Initially, if you look at some generic stats, you could very easily lose it if you're a die hard Nats fan. Adam Dunn basically guarantees you at least 38 home runs every year, while Jayson Werth has never hit more than 36, and even that was probably an anomaly. Remember, Werth was hitting in Citizens Bank Park in half of his games played in the last 4 years. Furthermore, Dunn knocked in more than 100 runs in each of the last 3 years, while Werth has gotten 67, 99, and 85 in the last three seasons, respectively.

But we have to look beyond those numbers and dig into some other stats to find some of Werth's true value. Let's look at them in bullet-form. (If you're looking for a Sabermetric analysis, you're not gonna get it here. We're looking at straight up production.):
  • Werth is capable of hitting near .300 (see partial season 2007 and 2010) while Adam Dunn hasn't hit above .270 in his entire career.
  • Werth has stolen 20 bases in 2 of the last 3 years while Dunn hasn't stolen a single base since 2008.
  • Jayson Werth hit 26 doubles in 2009 and 46 in 2010, while Dunn hit 29 in 2009, and 36 in 2010.
  • While Dunn hits a lot of home runs, Werth's OPS in 2010 was .921 vs. Dunn's .892. Very comparable numbers.
  • Werth has scored 73, 98, and 106 runs in the last 3 years, while Dunn has scored 79, 81, and 85 in those same seasons.

Sure, Werth's higher runs scored numbers are partially (mostly?) due to the fact that he played for the Phillies, while Dunn played for the Nationals, Diamondbacks, and Reds during the same time. But you certainly can't argue with the stolen bases that will put Werth in scoring position more often, or with his ability to make extra base hits with his speed, or with the higher OPS last year.

Other factors besides offensive prowess certainly played into the decision, although the people over at FanGraphs believe that Werth and Dunn are far more equal offensively than people believe. Jayson Werth is clearly a better defensive player than Dunn. Though I am one of those that believe that Dunn was a significantly improved defensive player in 2010, you can't rule out the fact that Werth is a Gold Glove caliber outfielder. In 2009, Werth had the highest range factor per 9 innings and range factor per game of any right fielder in the National League. He has the kind of range to be a center fielder when a certain #1 overall draft pick is ready to come to the majors (spoiler: it's Bryce Harper).

Werth and Dunn are essentially the same age (Dunn is 6 months younger), so why offer him the long term deal and not Dunn? Size certainly played a factor. Adam Dunn is football player sized. He weighs nearly 300 lbs., which has a negative affect on a players physical ability over time. Werth, at 6'5" and only 220 lbs., is at a weight that will give his body more longevity in the game than the Big Donkey. He is more nimble, which gives the team a significant offensive and defensive advantage. Despite their similar ages, Werth is simply a younger player.

Do these thing justify 3 more years than Dunn was asking for? Does it justify the average of $18 million/year that Werth will be earning? It's truly impossible to know until he hits year 4 of this deal. But one thing is for sure, for the next 4 years while Jayson Werth plays in DC and Adam Dunn hits in Chi-Town, there will be endless comparisons in their stats. I'm thrilled with the sign, all things considered, and I think that a Zimmerman, Werth, Willingham 3-4-5 provides a different kind of punch, that's not necessarily bad. Now if the Nats now take this opportunity to unload the Hammer, we'll be having a different conversation right here on Capitol Baseball.

The great part about all this for Nats fans is that Mike Rizzo said "We're not finished," and he may have meant it according to Mark Zuckerman in his post this morning. The Nationals will be covered in the national sports media for the next few days, which is almost never bad. Keep checking in with Nats Insider for the breaking news and here at Capitol Baseball for analysis of any future moves.

Choices, Choices, Choices.

So. Adam Dunn is gone. We know this, even if some of us haven't accepted it yet. And as much as we don't want to look forward to who our next dance partner is, it's time. So lets take a second to look at some of the options going forward. I know the names, you know the names, but do you know the stats (2009 in Red - 2010 in Blue).

Carlos Pena - The Frontrunner
AVG ------- .227 ---------- .196
OBP ------- .356 ---------- .325
OPS ------- .893 ---------- .732
HR -------- 39 ------------ 28
RBI ------- 100 ----------- 84
Runs ------ 91 ------------ 64
WAR ------ 2.8 ----------- 1.0
*UZR/150 - -6.1 -------- -3.7

For being touted as a superior defender, his UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating spread out over 150 games) this past season was WORSE than Adam Dunn's -3.3. Obviously he had a down year offensively in 2010, even though he did rack up 84 RBIs and 64 runs scored. What Pena brings to the table is his (supposed) glove and a high OBP (On-Base Percentage) and OPS (On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage).

Adam LaRoche - The Other Guy

AVG ------- .277 ---------- .261
OBP ------- .355 ---------- .320
OPS ------- .843 ---------- .788
HR -------- 25 ------------ 25
RBI ------- 83 ------------ 100
Runs ------ 78 ------------ 75
WAR ------ 2.6 ----------- 2.1
UZR/150 - 0.2 ----------- 4.8

LaRoche had probably the 2nd best year at the plate of his 7 year career in 2010. But even still it seems as though he is give you similar numbers each year you put him out there. He is going to hit .260-.280, hit 22-27 bombs, drive in 80-90 runs, while providing quality defense at 1st base. What Nats fans should be most aware of is his UZR/150 score, 4.8 for 2010. What that means is that he saved his team 4.8 more runs, per 150 games, than the average first baseman.

Paul Konerko - The Southsider

AVG ------ .277 ---------- .312
OBP ------ .353 ---------- .393
OPS ------ .842 ---------- .977
HR ------- 28 ------------ 39
RBI ------- 88 ----------- 111
Runs ------ 75 ----------- 89
WAR ------ 2.5 ---------- 4.2
UZR/150 - 2.1 ---------- -14.7

Konerko had a strong offensive year after suffering through 3 mediocre years in a row. Though while he as putting up Silver Slugger type numbers his defensive numbers went drastically down to well below average. It is widely assumed throughout baseball that Konerko will be joining the newly-signed Adam Dunn back in Chicago, to form a 1B/DH platoon that will cause a ruckus in the AL Central next year. Though if he were to go elsewhere, his new team could expect solid offensive numbers with lousy defense; therefore not necessarily an upgrade.


Michael (Don't call me Mike) Morse - The Insider

AVG ------- .250 ---------- .289
OBP ------- .291 ----------- .352
OPS ------- .772 ---------- .870
HR --------- 3 ------------- 15
RBI ------- 10 ------------- 41
Runs ------ 4 -------------- 36
WAR ------ .4 ------------- 1.4
UZR/150 - *17.3 --------- *13.4

Morse has some decent looking stats but what you need to be careful of is sample size. He played only 32 games in '09 (11 of them at 1B), and 98 games in '10 (19 of them at 1B). I believe that, in response to the Werth signing, Morse will be the new 1B. That being said, I would also not be at all surprised if Hammer now gets traded for some pitching, opening up LF for Morse. Rizzo said that "we're not done", this is all purely speculation at this point, but as of now I predict Morse will be at 1B.

In response to the Werth news, the Nats have some decisions to make. As of now we have a very Right-hand heavy lineup. If I were in charge I would trade Hammer away for pitching/prospects, sign Adam LaRoche for 1B, and run out an OF with Bernie in LF, Werth in CF, and Morse in RF. Or maybe this means that we are going to sign Pena so we can get a left-handed bat in there. So many choices! Hey, I heard that Nick Johnson was also available at 1B...

Thoughts? Leave them in the Comments or tweet me @CraigMac.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nationals Sign Jayson Werth [update]

Ken Rosenthal and Bill Ladson are reporting that the Washington Nationals have signed former Philadelphia Phillies RF Jayson Werth. The contract appears to be a 7 year deal at $126 million for the 31 year old.

I'm not going to say I told you so, but I TOLD YOU SO! I've been telling people for months that if the Nationals failed to sign Adam Dunn, they would go for Jayson Werth. Nats GM Mike Rizzo has been looking for a viable option in right field for more than a year now, and with Dunn gone, it opens a significant amount of money to sign an excellent offensive and defensive right fielder to a long term deal. The platoon in right field in 2010 of Michael Morse and Roger Bernadina will be no more in 2011 after this signing.

While Werth doesn't put up the power numbers that Dunn is capable of, it still provides significant cushion behind Ryan Zimmerman after losing the protection of Dunn in the batting order. And he is a significant defensive upgrade on the field, as Werth has a great arm and outstanding range.

This long-term signing raises some of the same issues that a long-term Adam Dunn contract would have had, since they're both in their 30s. But Werth's contract is 3 years longer than Dunn was looking for. I'm sure many people will be questioning that move in the weeks to come.

We'll dig into the numbers and whether this is a good signing throughout the week (spoiler: I think it is), because this is simply going to be a huge story in the coming days. It's about time folks, the Nationals have made national baseball news this off-season. Stick with Capitol Baseball throughout the week for more.

[Update - 5:17PM]
Nats will lose their 2nd round pick, as Jayson Werth is a Type-A Free Agent. The Nats 1st round pick was protected due to their record being in the bottom 60% of the league. Though with Dunn signing a contract with the White Sox the Nationals will still have 3 picks in the top 35-40.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dunn Gone

Around 5pm the White Sox closed on a deal with Adam Dunn that will pay the slugger $56 million dollars over 4 years. Cue the violins and paper bags in NatsTown.

Done yet?

K. Good. Now lets look at what exactly this means for the Nats; good and bad.

Bad:
- The Nats lose a huge left-handed bat, a bat that hit 76 home runs in 2 years as a Nats; which places him 2nd overall in Nationals team history... in 2 years...
- Lose an on-base-machine. (.398 and .356 OBP in the past 2 years)
- Lose a clubhouse leader.
- Lose one of the best 3-4-5 lineups in baseball.
- Makes Zim sad.

Good
- 2 compensation draft picks; the 23rd overall, and then one in the compensation round right after the first round.
- Regardless of who is picked, a better defender. They will make Desi, Zim, and Espinosa better.
- Don't have to pay, or play, a 36 year-old 1B in a 40 year-old's body.

I think everyone in NatsTown knows by now that the home team won't be contending this year, and, most likely, not next year. The 2011 MLB Draft is a lot deeper than the 2010 Draft was and, with Rizzo's penchant for scouting, having 3 top 40 draft picks can pay quick dividends.

A big bat is not something that a last place team needs, its a luxury. Dunn was brought in because we lost out on Teixeira and we needed to find someone healthy to replace Nick Johnson. It was a need based situation. Once again, losing teams do not need sluggers; those that think otherwise need to simply look at our projected rotation for next year, where our need truly lies.

Adam Dunn was a fantastic National. I loved watching hit shots over the bullpen into the 2nd and 3rd deck. I will most certainly miss his goofy attitude and the pink gum hanging out of his mouth after every hit. It sucks that he is gone.

Defense and pitching build contenders and Dunn just doesn't fit into that mold; at least not in the National League.

Cliff Lee: Who Cares?

Since the minute the Giants won the World Series, and now approaching winter meetings next Monday, all that anyone is talking about is Cliff Lee and the Yankees. Well... also Derek Jeter and the Yankees, but I'm way too tired of that story already. Everyone wants Cliff Lee, and who wouldn't?

Lee is, without a doubt, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball today. He's in the class with Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, David Price, and Adam Wainwright. After Lee won is Cy Young in 2008 with the Cleveland Indians, people started to notice. I'm not saying people didn't know who Cliff Lee was in the first 5 years of his career, but it's hard to get noticed in Cleveland. Pitchers, like Lee and Sabathia who came from Cleveland, get noticed in big markets (see: Philadelphia and New York, respectively)


But in the last 2 seasons, Lee has played for 4 major league teams. When you really think about that, it's absolutely staggering. After 7 and a half years in Cleveland, Cliff Lee has become a "hired gun."

After winning a Cy Young in Cleveland, Lee decided to cash out a few times on big time contending teams. First in Philadelphia, then Seattle (yes... at one point people thought they could contend in the AL West), and then in Texas. But after making it to the World Series in 2010, Cliff Lee has a decision to make. Does he continue this jumping around?

Clearly he won't. He's the only pitcher of true value on the market this year, which makes him even more valuable. Wherever Lee signs, it's going to be for an insane amount of money and a preposterous length of time. The kind of money and time that a 32 year old starting pitcher should never get. Sure, Cliff Lee is in the prime of his career today, but a 6 year deal means he ends up playing for that team way, way past his prime. We've seen it in almost every truly great pitcher in recent years, Maddux and Smoltz, Moyer and Wakefield, and countless other great pitchers.

So the question of how much is too much is just irrelevant here. Whatever Cliff wants, he'll get. And whatever that is, it'll almost certainly be too much.

But what about the Washington Nationals? How much will be too much if they were to try and sign Lee? Again, almost any amount of money. The Nationals don't need a Cliff Lee in 2011. I know that's a crazy thing to say, but his addition to the rotation gives the Nats a few extra wins and still a negligible chance at making the playoffs in the NL East. It also ties up more than $100 MILLION over the next few years that could be spent to sign young, talented pitchers like Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg for future years of success. And in the end, you almost certainly end up overpaying a fledgling former star.

I know these statements are controversial, and probably won't sit well with many in NatsTown, but I don't want Cliff Lee to be a National in 2011. Or in any future year. At some point, it will be the right time to sign a big name starting pitcher in his prime for a few years to really set the Nationals first true playoff push. But it's not now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thoughts on Free Agency

In the past week, two of the Nats "target" free agent pitchers have signed contracts. Javier Vazquez signed a 1 year/$7mil deal with the Fish and, late on Monday, Jorge De La Rosa signed a 3 year/$32-33mil deal with the Rockies. Naturally the Natosphere has gotten a little crazy over these two developments. The usual refrains of "Lerner's are Cheap", "We can't evaluate talent", blah, blah, and blah.

I agree that it would be really nice to have picked up one of these guys to bolster our young rotation, but I'm certainly not crying that we didn't. Lets start with Jorge de la Rosa...

In the past 2 years his WAR (wins above replacement - from Fangraphs) went from 3.7 in '09 to 1.7 in '10. Before that makes sense to you, you should know that WAR is a complicated sabermatric statistic which uses all sorts of stats to calculate how many more wins per year a player is worth. So what this means is that in one year de la Rosa was worth 2 less wins than before. Which, calculated into dollars, is $13.6mil in '09 down to $7mil in '10.

His K/9 (Strikeouts per 9 innings) was down an entire strikeout, from 9.39 to 8.36. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching - reads like ERA, essentially only things pitchers control; HR, BB, K) went from 3.91 up to 4.30. And his BABIP (Batting Average of Balls In Play - basically how lucky a pitcher is) went down from .316 to .281 - which is pretty lucky.

On to Vazquez...

ALARM BELLS!!! This is a pitcher who is 34 years old, whose fastball went from an average of 91.1mph in '08 to a Livan-esque 88.7mph in '09. Ouch. To me this screams Scott Olsen as loud as possible. Based on zero stats, I am not taking this guy at a ridiculous $7mil/year, BTW Fangraphs had his value last year at NEGATIVE $800k.

Let's look at Vazquez bullet point style:

  • '08 WAR - 6.5 -- '09 WAR - -0.2 (Yes, that means he was .2 BELOW a replacement player)
  • '08 HR/9 - 0.83 -- '09 HR/9 - 1.83 (1 more HR every 9 innings...)
  • '08 BABIP - .297 -- '09 BABIP - .276 (He was luckier last year than in '08!)
  • '08 WHIP - 1.03 -- '09 WHIP - 1.40 (That's (BB+H)/IP )
  • '08 FIP - 2.77 -- '09 FIP - 5.56 (WOW!)
  • '08 K/9 - 9.77 -- '09 K/9 - 6.92 (I don't have words for this...)

So, what are we to glean from all this information? Sure, the Rockies and Fish could find lightning in a bottle, but they could also continue their obvious downward trends into Daniel Cabrera-ness. I am definitely not losing any sleep over going into next year with Zimmermann, Detwiler, Livan, a resurgant Marquis, and (hot spring training kid) as our rotation. I think I'll take my chances with the young guns.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Former Nats Greats: #1

I am fascinated by former Nationals players. It might be the fact that we have so many players who have ended their not-so-illustrious careers with our humble ballclub (http://natsinsider.blogspot.com/2010/11/from-natstown-to-oblivion-revisited.html). It might also be that we have so many "cup-of-coffee" players who have gotten 10 ABs or less. I love bringing up obscure names in conversation with other residents of NatsTown. Maybe it's my subtle way to gauge other people's degrees of Nats Fandom. In any case, when Joe asked me to write for this blog, I wanted to focus on some of the more quirky aspects of baseball, and for me this is it.

This is going to be a once-a-week recurring series where I focus on former Nats greats. This will be different from the "Where are they now?" feature because I will solely focus on their time spent wearing the Nats uniform (READ: not Expos). Be prepared to re-live some (not so) amazing memories.

To kick off this new series, who better than the player who has so many firsts for the fledgling Nats. Drumroll please......

Termel Sledge.

Lets start with the raw stats.

Sledge played a whopping 20 games in 2005 with a grand total of 37 AB , while garnering only 8 RBI. He had 9 hits, 0 doubles, 1 triple, and a very magical home run. For those who don't remember, Sledge hit the first home run in Nationals history. It was in the 6th inning on Opening Day (April 4, 2005) against Phillies Opening Day starter Jon Lieber (!?!?!?!). Termel also has the 1st RBI in Nationals history, an RBI ground-out in the 2nd inning of the same game, knocking in Nick Johnson to give the visiting team a 1-0 lead.

That was the beginning of his short-lived Nationals tenure. He would only have one other game where he had more than 1 RBI, that game was April 13th during an 11-4 victory over the Braves. Sledge, who came in as a pinch hitter for Luis Ayala in the 9th, hit a 3 RBI bases-clearing triple to put the game out of reach.

Sledge's career as a Nat ended on May 2nd with a 1 for 2 performance that had him taken out early in the 6th inning with a right hamstring "pull". I say pull only because he didn't again suit up for the home team.

As you may remember, he was traded to the Rangers (along with Brad Wilkerson and Jim-Joyce's-Best-Friend Armando Galarraga) for Alfonso Soriano.

Happy trails to you, Termel Sledge. I will continue to proudly wear your Sledge #18 Nats Shirt for eternity!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Missing Dibble

During the baseball season, there is one place to catch a Nats game if you're not at the Park, and that's on MASN, or its affiliate network MASN2. (According to Mac, this is one of the things he is thankful for, but I digress.) If you're committed to watching it on TV, you're stuck with MASN.

Starting in 2009, MASN signed an interesting guy to be Bob Carpenter's partner on the Nationals TV broadcasts: Rob Dibble. I have to admit, I loved it from the beginning. To me, the two were a great duo. Carpenter was the soft-spoken voice of logic and reason; Dibble was the loud-mouth, cocky former player. They're both clearly homers. As offensive and in-your-face as Dibble can be, he truly cared about the success of the Nationals and its players. What's more, I think the few weeks where fans had to listen to Ray Knight toward the end of the 2010 season showed just what the viewers lost when Dibble was fired from MASN.

You have to admit, there were some interesting events toward the end of the year, namely the Nyjer Morgan vs. Chris Volstad fight, where many people were left saying, "Man, I wonder what Dibble would be saying right now?" I was one of them. That's what made him great. People tuned in just because of the hype: "What will Dibble say next?"

I know many of you that read this blog, and many other Nats bloggers, take a very different tone than I do on Dibs. I was one who found Dibble charming in his lack of tact and blatant cheering for the Nats. Maybe that's because I'm the same way, a no-tact Nats fan. Let's be honest, when it's as quiet as it was on a weekday at the Park, someone had to get excited.

Rob Dibble undoubtedly said things that were offensive during his tenure, and dramatic steps needed to be taken to rectify them. A suspension was not out of line for his comments about the women behind home plate. An on-air apology to Stephen Strasburg after telling him to "suck it up" would have been warranted. But to be canned for that? I understand that it was a snowballing situation that finally reached its limits with the Strasburg comments, but it seems like there were many just looking for an excuse to can Dibs at that point.

We don't yet know who Bob Carpenter's partner will be to start the 2011 season on MASN. One thing I do know: They'll have one heck of a time getting a guy that was as passionate about the success of the Nationals and that knows as much about pitching as Rob Dibble. I'm going to keep listening to MLB Network Radio every morning on the way to work to get my Dibble fix.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Time to Give Thanks

Hello NatsTown!

I am privileged and honored to be joining the crack writing staff here at Capitol Baseball! I've really enjoyed watching this Blog grow from an idea into reality and I couldn't be more excited to join the discussion!

That being said, I have spent the past week trying to think of the perfect blog entry to introduce myself (tone included) while continuing to focus on the Nats. What better way than me sharing what, in NatsTown and beyond, I am thankful for.

Without further ado - I am thankful for the following...

- That Ryan Zimmerman will be a Nat through at least 2013. Stephen Strasburg a Nat through 2016.

- That five Nats' prospects lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to the AFL Championship yesterday. (Lombardozzi and Harper RBIs, Norris run, Solis win, Kimball save) The future looks bright indeed.

- The 1-2-3 Double Play.

- Charlie and Dave. Bang Zooms, Curly W's, and Wil Nieves' batting music.

- That we have a new Third Base Coach, Bo Porter, whose main focus will be helping with baserunning. (See: Where was he going??? What was he thinking???)

- That baseball writers aren't afraid of Sabermetrics anymore. (See: Hernandez, Felix) Get ready to read more about FIP, WAR/VORP, UZR/150, among others. It's coming. Be ready.

- That the Redskins are so bad that people have no choice but to root for the Nats.

- Pitcher fielding practice.

- Pudge tagging out a runner trying to steal 2B.

- Barry Svrluga and the Viera Panera.

- That, as of yesterday, five major league teams are interested in the Weapon of Minimal Production.

- That the middle-infield is solid for the next 5 years. Though I would rather see Espinosa at SS and Desi at 2B...

- Uniting with NatsTown in hatred for Clint.

- Bringing a scorebook to the park.

- The hope of Spring Training.

- That we don't have Peter Angelos for an owner.

- That there is labor peace in MLB. (See: NBA, NFL, NHL)

- For former Nats Greats: Micah Bowie, Gary Bennett, Alex Cintron, Ryan Drese, etc.

- That even if we only add 1 free agent pitcher, we will be much more solid than this past year. (Mock, 1st Half Marquis, Atilano, Walker, English, Bruney, 1st Half Lannan)

- Playing Guess-What-Channel-The-Nats-Are-On-Tonight?

- New uniforms - While not as good as they could've been they are still better than where we came from.

- That the Lerner's aren't afraid to spend money for free agents.

- The difference between "playing catch" and "having a catch"

- And last, but most important, family. I am thankful that I have a supportive and caring family. A father who coached my teams. Who was always willing to go out and have a catch, whether it be 8 in the morning or 9 at night. Who took us to Mariners games, even if we did have to leave the extra innings game so we could catch the last Ferry Boat home. Who taught me and my brother how to score games.

My dad never got to see the Nats play, he passed away less than two months before the National's first spring training in Marlin's-Teal-clad Viera. And although he never got to see a Curly W put into the books, I am thankful that because of his (and my mothers) teachings, I can appreciate every nuance in the game. From the freshly mown grass, the perfectly dragged infield, the chalk lines, or the beauty of a traditional double-header.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon said, "baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up." This week, and into next season, take what you're thankful for in terms of Nationals Baseball and keep that youthful enthusiasm with you.

Post what you are thankful for in the Comments section!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We're Expanding!

Good day Capitol Baseball faithful. We have a major announcement to make today, and I'm extremely excited to do so.

Today, I am adding great friend, and now colleague, Craig MacHenry as your Capitol Baseball Staff Writer Extraordinaire. Craig will be posting at a good clip in the coming months and into the 2011 baseball season. This will provide everyone with more opinions, more posts, and more news on a more regular basis as I transition into a new real-world job over the coming weeks and months.

This expansion wouldn't have worked if it wasn't for all of you regularly reading this blog day in and day out throughout the season and the offseason. So I hope you all continue to read us with even more fervor as we give you even more to read.

THE FUTURE:

As the season approaches, we plan on starting a regular, short podcast for free on the blog as well as the possible addition of future writers. We look forward to sharing all of these experiences with you. Thanks again for being a loyal reader.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Re-Signing Adam Dunn and a Special Thanks

First and foremost, on this Veterans Day 2010, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank all of those who have served and sacrificed for our country over the years to make this country what it is today. My ability to pontificate about baseball on a daily basis is because people have sacrificed for my right to do so over the last 234 years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now on to Adam Dunn. Ever since... well... all season, Ryan Zimmerman has been Adam Dunn's biggest advocate. There's a lot to explain for Zimmerman's love for Adam. First, almost every player on the Nationals in 2010 has said that Dunn is a crucial element of the chemistry created in the clubhouse. He truly cares about all the guys on that team.

But just think about the kind of season that Zimmerman just had. He finished the season hitting .307, the best of his career by 15 points. His second best? The year before in 2009, where he hit .292. Sure, those numbers are partially due to the fact that Zimmerman is entering the prime of his career and should only be getting better over the next few years. But what else was different compared to previous seasons? The guy hitting behind him.

For most of Adam Dunn's tenure with the Nationals, Zimmerman hit 3rd, Dunn hit 4th. So when a pitcher is looking at that lineup card, there are some real decisions to make. Do they pitch to Zimmerman to try to avoid the slugging Dunn? Do they pitch around Zimmerman and get to Dunn with Zimmerman on base? That 3-4 didn't make it easy on anyone, and was one of the most potent 3-4 spots in the National League, except for Braun-Fielder in Milwaukee and Utley-Howard in Philadelphia.

So with the thought of Adam Dunn not hitting behind him for the first time in 2 years, Zimmerman is justifiably concerned. Who is his protection? Let's explore those options:
  • Josh Willingham: Willingham is a perfect 5 spot guy. He has a high OBP, but he doesn't typically hit for tremendous power.
  • Michael Morse: Morse hits lots of line drives and hit for good average this year, but he's not a home run hitter.
  • Free Agents: Whether you look at Huff, PeƱa, or really any other viable options at 1st base to replace done, none of them will replace a 40 HR/100 RBI hitter in Dunn, no mater how many strike outs he had (more than 200).
So it's truly no wonder that Zimm has been so high on Dunn. I'm sure the two have developed a great friendship as Zimmerman has said, but Zimmerman's numbers certainly play some part in the equation.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zimmerman Gets Screwed Again

Wednesday afternoon, Scott Rolen of the Cincinnati Reds was named the Rawlings National League Gold Glove Award Winning Third Baseman. I am incensed.

Scott Rolen entered the league in 1996, won Rookie of the Year in 1997, and had an all around outstanding career. A career that should be recognized as being one of the best among defensive third basemen in recent memory. But that run ended in 2006.

Sure, Rolen had just 8 errors this year. And some people (yes, including Jim Bowden) say that errors are all that matters. But what about when Rolen's 35 year old legs didn't get him to nearly as many balls as Ryan Zimmerman did. Or Padres 3B Chase Headley for that matter.

Nevertheless, the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards continue to nothing but a popularity contest as Jim Memolo and yes... Rob Dibble both put so eloquently this morning. As long as Ryan Zimmerman plays for the Nationals, he will continue to be screwed with his pants on for the recognition he deserves and has earned. When the Washington Nationals start winning, maybe Zimmerman will start winning, too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where Are They Now?: Elijah Dukes

Photo Courtesy NBCSports.com

We're back here at Capitol Baseball for our first post since the Giants won the World Series. Congrats to them and the City of San Francisco. I promise, it won't be 2 weeks before my next post.

Most of you know the Elijah Dukes story. In 2008, he was the latest kid that then-Nats GM Jim Bowden thought was part of the team's future. He had talent, and a laundry list of personal issues to match. But nevertheless, he was given the opportunity to succeed. He was unable to do so.

He failed in both Tampa Bay and in Washington, but most were shocked at his sudden release by the Nationals in Spring Training 2010. The story doesn't get any prettier from here.

After his release in March, not one of the 29 other teams wanted to pick him up. So he fluttered around for a while before being picked up by the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League on July 1, 2010. Dukes' stint with the team lasted a mere 51 days when he was placed on the Suspended List in August.

On November 2, AOL Fanhouse reported that Dukes was put in jail for not paying child support. It turns out that he owed back payments to the tune of $140,000. To put the icing on this extremely sad cake, it turns out (according to Yardbarker.com) that Elijah doesn't own a home and when the judge asked he said "I live where I lay my head." This former MLB player, as recently as last season, is on the verge of homelessness.

Over the course of his 3 year MLB career, Elijah Dukes made about $1.2 million. That money is all gone, obviously. In the mean time, he hasn't been owning up to his financial responsibilities for his children. So where has the money gone? I imagine we'll never know.

This is just another sad example of a professional athlete being destroyed by the combination of fame, fortune, and pre-existing personal issues. I think I speak for all of Nats Town when I wish Elijah good luck and hope that he can get is young life back on track.