Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eat that Jeffrey Loria

It's fairly common consensus that Jeffrey Loria of the Florida Marlins is among the worst managers in Major League Baseball, along with Peter Angelos of the O's. Yet somehow, the Florida Marlins have won 2 World Series in their brief 18 year history, one of them under Loria's tenure. After both of those wins though, the Marlins front office purged the lineups from those teams as a cost cutting measure. The Marlins still have a winning record under Loria, but he clearly sees the Marlins as dollar signs, not a baseball team.

One of the most surprising releases by the Marlins this year was Cody Ross. Ross is an up and coming outfielder, and while his numbers certainly weren't stellar, but they weren't bad enough that putting him on the waiver wire outright seemed appropriate. (Although the appearance of Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison didn't help Ross.) No, Cody Ross is arbitration eligible next season. Rather than paying for Ross' talent, the Marlins decided to kick him to the curb.

So tonight, it is poetic justice that Cody Ross became the National League Championship Series MVP for the San Fransisco Giants. Congrats to Cody and the Giants. It's going to be a great World Series!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Colby Lewis: Almost a Nationals Pitcher

Colby Lewis was drafted 38th overall in the 1999 amateur draft by the Texas Rangers. He signed with the Rangers the same month. The then-20 year old was excited to get into the majors, and he would have his first opportunity in 2002. But it never quite worked out for Lewis. In his first two years (2002-03), his ERA was 6.29 and 7.30. He started out the 2004 season well, but that season ended in April with rotator cuff surgery. He was just 25.

Most people will tell you, rotator cuff surgery at that age doesn't bode well for a successful career. After his recovery, Lewis threw just 3 innings for the Detroit Tigers in 2006 as a reliever and was released.

Enter: Jim Bowden and the Nationals. The Nats were desperate for pitching, so Lewis, and around 40 other pitchers, were invited to spring training in Viera in 2007. Lewis was unable to stand out to Bowden and others and was released in March, on the day of his son's birth. (I don't usually link to other articles here, but Dave Sheinin wrote an outstanding article on this for the Post. Check it out.)

After his release, the Oakland A's picked him up, but he only pitched in AAA. In 2008 and 2009, Lewis pitched for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan. He pitched so well, it earned him a 2 year, $5 million contract with the Rangers for 2010-11. So he ended up back with the team that drafted him, and boy were they glad to have him.

On Friday, October 22, 2010, Colby Lewis was the winning pitcher in the game that clinched a World Series appearance for the first time in Texas Rangers history. In the irony of ironies, the Texas Rangers exist only because the Washington Senators moved to Arlington, TX in 1971, depriving DC of a baseball team for the next 34 years. Congratulations to the almost-Nat Colby Lewis and the almost-DC baseball team Texas Rangers on their first World Series appearance.

By my calculation then, the Nationals only have 34 more seasons before they make the Series! I can wait for that...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mr. Greinke Comes to Washington?

If some of you were still convinced that Cliff Lee could become a Washington National in the off-season, I sure hope the playoffs this year have caused that idea to flow from your cranium into the garbage can. He's too good and will command an obscene amount of money.

But back in reality, Zack Greinke really wants to get out of Kansas City's organization, and he wants out bad. He complained about playing for the Royals throughout the 2010 campaign and is (rightly) frustrated with a team that has failed to help him much at all. Still, somehow Greinke has been .500 or above 3 of his last 4 years in the bigs.

Greinke will turn 27 on Thursday (Happy birthday, Zack) and will be a guy moving into the prime of his career after he's already won a Cy Young Award in 2009. He posted an astounding 16-8 record with a 2.16 ERA in almost 230 innings. His WAR (wins above replacement) that year was 9.0.

Translation: This guy is going to be really, really expensive.

Unfortunately, with this kind of expense, it'll cost the Nationals prospects, not money. The Nats have spent the last few years rebuilding the franchise from the bottom up, literally. Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond. These are guys that are minors to majors Nationals (and Expos in Desmond's case) products. All of these guys are seemingly long term solutions to the Nationals woes in the win column.

Plain and simple, the Nats will have to give up one of these guys to get Greinke.

Sure, there is great value in guys like Destin Hood, Michael Burgess, Stephen Lombardozzi (who may have become less relevant and more tradeable with Espinosa on the scene), and Josh Wilkie, but is any combination of those guys going to entice the Royals to get Greinke to Washington? Not a chance.

Then there's the problem of Greinke's no trade clause. He can look at the Nationals and say, "no way," and the deals off. If Greinke has the choice to come to DC or go to... I don't know... almost anywhere else, do you think he's coming here? Not likely. The Nats can renegotiate his contract, try to offer more money, the whole 9 yards, but when you are 27 years old and have already won the highest individual honor a pitcher can get, you want one thing: a World Series ring. You are in the prime of your career, and if you're going to do it, now's the time.

So I guess this is all to say Zack Greinke is an outstanding pitcher. Any of the 30 MLB teams would love to have him. He's going to cost a ton to any team that gets him, and even more for the Nationals, Orioles, and Pirates of the world. While I'd love to see Greinke wearing #23 in red, white, and blue in 2011, I just don't think it's going to happen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Nationals All-Time Disappointments Roster

In contrast with the previous All-Time Bests post, here is the All-Time Disappointments. Again, this is not worst, but simply the players we expected more from that ended up amounting to nothing, or close to it.

Starting Rotation:

John Patterson - Patterson had an above average year in 2005, throwing almost 200 innings with a 9-7 record and 3.13 ERA. After that, He only appeared in 15 more games with the Nats over 2 seasons, and accumulated only 2 wins.

Aaron Crow - The Nats drafted him as the future... and couldn't sign him. Ugly.

Jason Marquis (2010) - We've already been over the Marquis disappointment, but it was worth restating how disappointing he really was in 2010.

Tony Armas, Jr. - Armas had some OK years in Montreal, but mostly never stayed healthy and his ERA hovered solidly above 4.00 his entire career, and had a 5.00 flat ERA with the Nationals. He was supposed to be something special, but it never worked out.

Shawn Hill - We've been over this, too. I hope Shawn has great success in the future, but with the Nats, he was hurt most of the time, and when he wasn't hurt he never looked right. Another "Pitcher of the Future" that didn't pan out.


Jesus Flores - Maybe Flores' health will turn around, but until then, he showed signs of brilliance but hasn't had a fully season with the Nats since 2008. And even that wasn't the entire year


1B Nick Johnson - Johnson was very good when healthy, but he was just never healthy. He missed all of 2007 and most of 2008. He could have had a great career in Washington, but it never panned out.

2B Jose Vidro - Yes, I used Vidro for best, too... because who else? Seriously.

SS Felipe Lopez - His nickname is "FLop" for a reason. He was exactly that. A guy who never played with energy in DC only to start caring once he left for St. Louis, where he had some success. This guy will get booed in Washington forever.

3B Vinny Castilla - Castilla was pretty much washed up when he came to the Nats, but he was just a place holder for Zimmerman anyway. Really, at 3rd base, you don't have many choices in terms of disappointments since Zimm has been so dominant there for 5 years, so Castilla it is.


Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns - I thought it would do a disservice in the outfield category to include anyone but these three. I understand that there are 2 right fielders here, but does anyone seriously disagree with this? These three were "The Nationals Future" at one point. Thanks Jim Bowden.

So there's the list. I hope this list hasn't crushed you too much, but it was fun to remember just how bad this team once was. I could have expanded this, and I might still do a reserves list for disappointments... there were lots of options.

I'd love your thoughts in the comments section, so agree/disagree to your heart's content!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Nationals All-Time Best Roster

I've decided to continue the theme of bests and worsts this week, and this edition will cover the best possible Nationals roster. After compiling this list, I was mostly disappointed, but in the last six years, this is all we've got to work with.

In order to meet the criteria, the player had to play for the Washington Nationals, not the Nats franchise, and have been a big league player; minor leaguers don't count. Here we go:

Starting Rotation:

Livan Hernandez (2005) - Livo went 15-10 for a .500 team, pitched almost 250 innings, and was the Opening Day pitcher for the first ever Washington Nationals game. He's the ace without a doubt.

Esteban Loaiza (2005) - Loaiza had an average career, but did basically what the Nats asked of him. He came in, he pitched well, earned a 3.77 ERA, threw more than 200 innings and kept the Nats alive.

Stephen Strasburg (2010) - The excitement that Strasburg brought to the Nationals organization earns him a spot here. Even if something disastrous happens and he never pitches again, no one will ever forget that game on June 8, 2010. I still get chills thinking about it.

I cannot finish the rotation. Absolutely no one else is worthy of the list. Sad, indeed.


C Brian Schneider (2005) - In 2005, Schneider was the rock of the Nats organization. He caught the first ever pitch for the team (Both from President Bush and Livan); he was a solid bat for a catcher, but mostly he was a clubhouse presence to be reckoned with.


1B Adam Dunn (2009-2010) - In his two years, he crushed 76 home runs and knocked in 208 RBI. That's all you need from your organization's clean up guy.

2B Jose Vidro - Who else? Jamey Carroll? Ronnie Belliard? No. Danny Espinosa does not qualify.

SS Cristian Guzman (2008) - Guzzie had over 600 plate appearances in 2008 and had a .316 batting average. He also struck out a career low 57 times. He was one bright spot in the terrible 2008 lineup.

3B Ryan Zimmerman - 2009 Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner. Likely 2010 Gold Glove winner. This is a no-brainer.


LF Alfonso Soriano (2006) - Soriano won the Silver Slugger in '06, made the All-Star Game, and finished 6th in MVP voting. He's one of only 2 players in NL history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in one year. One unbelievable feat.

CF Nyjer Morgan (2009) - It pains me to do this, but it has to be Nyjer in 2009. He finished the season with a .307 average, and he hit .351 while with the Nationals. His on-base % was an astounding .396 with the Nats that year.

RF Jose Guillen (2005) - Guillen hit .283 with 24 homers in 2005 with the Nats. He was a crucial part of the success that the 2005 team had in the first half, and he stayed healthy. It was one of Guillen's last above average years.

So that's it, the All-Time Bests. Depressing, isn't it? Friday I'll be posting the All-Time Disappointments around lunch time, which makes for a much more entertaining read. Seriously, some of the players the Nats signed... or tried to sign... at one point is simply comical.

Disagree with this list? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Most Disappointing Nats: 2010 Edition

I figured since people always love lists, I'd do some more. The postseason starts today at 1:37 PM EDT on TBS. It's a match up between the Rays and the Rangers, and even more exciting, between David Price and Cliff Lee.

To help address the off-season depression of no baseball in DC, I've already started the pitchers and catchers spring training countdown in the right column. Only 127 days.... Until then, let's keep talking about the 2010 season. Yesterday, we talked about the most improved and impressive players of the year. Today, we'll hit the most disappointing Nats of 2010.

1. Jason Marquis - The Nats aquired Jason Marquis in the off-season from the Colorado Rockies for a $15 million contract over 2 years. He showed up. And that's about the last good thing he did until August. He failed to retire a runner against the Brewers in April, had surgery, and disappeared for 2/3 of the season. When he came back, he showed signs of brilliance, but on September 17th against the Phillies, Marquis didn't make it out of the 1st inning for the 2nd time this season. Not the stuff of a $15 million man. Marquis was a huge bust this year, and hopefully he can hang on to the few brilliant moments in the off-season to prepare for 2011.

2. Nyjer Morgan - Man, I don't even know where to start. Between 2009 and 2010, his average dropped from .307 to .253, his on base % from .369 to .319, his stolen bases plummeted from 42 to 34, and all of this happened with more plate appearances. Then there's the multiple mental breakdowns (see: throwing ball at fan, temper tantrum resulting in inside the park home run vs. Orioles, charging the mound vs. Volstad and taunting Marlins fans) and his inability to get on base as a lead of man. All of these things point to Nyjer playing somewhere else next year... maybe Japan... or nowhere.

3. Scott Olsen - Scott Olsen showed signs of brilliance in 2010, taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning against the Braves May, shutting out the Dodgers through 7 innings in April, and... nope, that's it. Other than that, Olsen had some okay games, but nothing great as his ERA crept towards 6.00 in September, ultimately ending his starting career for the Nationals. He developed Oliver Perez syndrome, spouting anger about being thrown into the bullpen, but then got hurt yet again, effectively ending his tenure as a Washington Nationals pitcher. Scott Olsen was supposed to be a workhorse pitcher for the Nats, and instead he couldn't stay healthy or pitch well for long stretches in either of his 2 years with the organization. Olsen turned out to be a huge disappointment.

(Dis)honorable Mentions: Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris

Note, that these weren't the worst players on the team this year. You'd have to look to Kevin Mench and Justin Maxwell for those honors. But I'm convinced that Marquis, Morgan, and Olsen were absolutely the most disappointing players of 2010. Think I'm wrong? Tell me! Enjoy the first Division Series games today!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Most Improved/Impressive Nats: 2010 Edition

While national and local media will start covering the MLB Postseason and the start of the Caps season (is this finally the year for Lord Stanley's Cup?), we don't have to be done with the Nats 2010 quite yet. I think it's time to give credit where credit is due on the 3 (and a half) most improved and impressive Nationals this season. Disagree? Yell at me in the comments.

1. Sean Burnett - I think that this is hard to argue against. There's a real argument to be made that Burnett was the best pitcher for the Nationals. Period. (Besides SS, of course.) Now look at him in terms of improvement over the course of the season. Compared to the first half, his strikeout to walk ratio shot up, batting average, on base %, and slugging % against all plummeted after the All-Star Break.

2. Michael Morse - After months of coming off of the bench and still managing to hit close to .400, the new Michael Morse proved that he could still hit on a full-time basis. Although he struggled at first with the every day role, he came into it well as the season progressed. He finished the season with 293 plate appearances, a .289 batting average, a .352 OBP, and 15 homers. While his fielding and range are less than stellar, he's certainly not bad. And a lot can be learned in the field in the spring if he has in fact earned the right fielder's, or maybe first baseman's, starting job.

3. Ian Desmond - As much as I destroyed Desi before the All Star Break for his terrible fielding and his low average, I have admitted on a few occasions already that I was wrong. Let me do so again. I was w-r-o-n-g wrong. Let's just go over these stats between first and second half quickly for Ian.
  • Batting average: 1st half - .255; 2nd half - .283
  • On base percentage: 1st half - .297; 2nd half - .320 (although that still needs improvement)
  • Errors: 1st half - 21; 2nd half - 13.
While 13 errors in the 2nd half is still more than the top 6 MLB shortstops committed all season long, he cut the errors after the ASB by over 1/3. And Desmond is still a rookie! Have you seen him throw across the diamond? It's like a bullet.

And finally, I think an Honorable Mention is due: Matt Capps - The Capper is where he belongs now, in the playoffs for the first time in his career with the Minnesota Twins. Capps was the Nats lone All-Star representative (although Zimmerman was screwed, don't even get me started), and he was certainly the Nationals most consistent player, earning 26 saves in 30 opportunities. He's done the same in Minnesota, earning 16 saves in 18 opportunities. I hope Jon Rauch (another former Nat) can get himself healthy to set up Capps in the playoffs. They'll be hard to beat in the playoffs.

So that ends this summary of 2010. Stay tuned for another post featuring the most disappointing players of 2010 in the near future.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nats Limp Into the Offseason With a Win

The Nats 2010 season came to an end on Sunday in bizarre fashion that sort of exemplified the entire 6th season for the Washington, DC franchise.

Livan Hernandez pitched another no-decision gem, while Oliver Perez walked in the go-ahead run after loading the bases. Miguel Batista got the save. The Nats limped into the off-season with a 2-1 win, ending 69-93.

In 5 months, Spring Training 2011 will begin, and who knows what the Nationals franchise will look like then. Will the front office actually re-sign Adam Dunn? Will they be able to land a front line starting pitcher? Will they stay healthy through the spring? Will they still be relevant by the time Strasburg is available? All questions we can't answer right now, but well be covering it all off-season.

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have been so involved in my first season writing Capitol Baseball. I want to thank Dave Nichols and Mark Zuckerman who were the first to add me to their blog rolls. I want to thank my commenters, especially my regulars Mac, Nick, and bdrube. Next season we'll grow, we'll be at spring training, we'll have guest writers, and it'll be awesome. Until then, thank all of you, and be sure to remember us through the off-season for analysis.