Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 4

In this week's Nats Talk On The Go podcast, The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk about the Washington Nationals. The podcast is available on iTunes and available for streaming.

Nats Headlines:

Gio Gonzalez

Roy Oswalt

Mike Cameron

Minor Leaguers (Carlos Rivero)

Question of the Week: Would you rather get Gio Gonzalez in a 4-to-1 trade or Roy Oswalt for a 1-year deal?

Contest: Listen for details!

OUTTAKES and BLOOPERS (just a few of many)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Age: Just A Number?

The Nationals are getting older. That is silly to say, in that, time only moves forward and every player on every team is always getting older. But when you look at the Nationals signings, and the players they were "in on" its clear to see that they are getting older, and aren't too worried about it. Mike Cameron, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, Jason Michaels, Greg Dobbs, Mark DeRosa, Jeff Fulchino...not a spring chicken among them. Should we be worried? Not yet. Centerfield not withstanding, the Nats moves are based on three things, improving the bench by adding power, (because its what Davey Johnson wants), versatility (because its what Davey Johnson needs), and improving the back end of the rotation.

Mike Cameron (38), Rick Ankiel(32) and Mark DeRosa(36) are three signings that are very interesting to me. Mike Cameron adds a ton on the bench, good power, and good defense. 6 of his top 9 years slugging were in the NL, and the other 3 were spent in Seattle, a spacious park, not known to be hitter friendly, so a return to the NL could provide a boost, similar to what he enjoyed in Miami at the end of 2011. He can play all 3 outfield spots and provides a wealth of baseball knowledge for the clubhouse.

Rick Ankiel is his mirror. But only if you don't know anything about baseball. Statistically and in terms of perception, perhaps similar. But Rick is different. While Cameron has been an outfielder and batter for over 20 years, Rick has had only 6 years as a full-time outfielder and batter. So he is still learning the ins and outs of every day baseball. He has been surviving on raw skill since he broke back into baseball as an outfielder and if he were to learn to approach hitting the way a pitcher approaches a start (i.e. a game plan, based on tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, etc.) he could take off. He has all the tools, watch him throw from right-center to third base or watch his swing on a long bomb to right and tell me he doesn't.

Mark DeRosa has played every position but Pitcher, Catcher, and Centerfield in his Major League career. In 3344 career ABs, he has 610 Ks. For reference, Mark Reynolds has 963 Ks in just over 2500 ABs. DeRosa is a super-utility guy who puts the ball in play and will help... well pretty much every position player on the Nats roster develop as a person and ballplayer. Danny Espinosa is still young, as is Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman has had a few Non-Ripkensian seasons. So a veteran backup would not be a bad idea.

These are all guys Davey Johnson likes because they add offense off the bench. But the best part about each of these players is the versatility they provide. Davey Johnson has not managed in the National League since 1995, is 68 years old and an Earl Weaver disciple. He needs the security blanket these players provide. It turns late inning PH situations into a simple left/right decision while affording Davey the ability to pinch-hit for almost any fielder in the line-up without creating a gaping hole in the field.

These guys are back-ups and "clubhouse guys"; the in-case guys. Given the make up of the Nats roster, getting older in that area is not a bad thing. The Nats are young in all the right areas, Starting Pitching and up the middle. Signing a Roy Oswalt or a Mark Buehrle to anchor a young rotation is not a good idea. Carlos Beltran as opening day CF would not be a good idea (it hasn't even been mentioned, I am just using him as a for instance). Rizzo needs to stick with the plan, young starting pitching, and cornerstone players in the middle of the field, and don't panic, or listen to the Weaverese that Davey Johnson is whispering in his ears.

Now just solve the CF problem and the Nats might go 162-0.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Mike Cameron Means for Bryce Harper

The Nationals winter improvement list is no secret to anyone in the league. Sign or acquire a high OBP centerfielder, and an established, inning eating starting pitcher. So, when the news broke yesterday that the Nats had signed Mike Cameron, my first thought was, please let that not be the centerfielder we are going to count on. He is 38 and on the down slope of his very decent career. What is Rizzo thinking?

Then I let this news sink in, and I think its pretty safe to say that this is not the player the Nats will be counting on to lead off or play every day in centerfield. In fact I am fairly sure he will not even platoon with Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina. The only thing this move does is add a power bat from the right handed side to the bench. And it's safe to say, if you look at his time with the Marlins in the second half of the 2011 season (slugged .420), he still has some decent power. And, if he shows in spring training that he is done, he is only on a minor-league deal so he can simply be released.

What does all that mean for Bryce Harper? It means that the Nats have committed, at least in some sense, to Jayson Werth as their 2012 centerfielder. Which also means that they are confident Bryce Harper will be ready to go on opening day. Mike Cameron is an insurance policy on that. The Nats tried at the winter meetings to go get that young centerfielder, but the price tag for obtaining such a player was out of the range Rizzo was willing to invest.

If you would have asked me at season's end, I would have said there was no way Bryce Harper would be heading to DC out of spring training. Today, based on Davey Johnson's public statements, Bryce's Arizona Fall League performance, and the signing of Mike Cameron (in what has become an extreme seller's market) that the RF job is Bryce Harper's to lose. Werth will be penciled in to center, Beast-mode in LF, followed by Cameron and Ankiel off the bench as 4th and 5th OF (Ankiel is not a certainty, but with Davey's desire to have a power bat from both sides on the bench, re-signing Ankiel would make sense).

So there it is, CapBallers, write it down. December 19th, 2011, the Bryce Harper-era is given the green light. Thanks to a 38 year-old Outfielder, a one-time all-star, who is playing on the 10th team of his career and was drafted more than a year before Harper was born...

A Few Good Men: 44 - Desmond

44. The Atomic Number of Ruthenium. The jersey number of Hank Aaron. The number of American presidents. And...the number of players to don a jersey for the Washington Nationals in the calendar year 2011. The 44th and final edition of our 44-part series details the year 2011 in the life of...

Ian Desmond - Age 26 - 2 years + 1 September MLB Service Time

How he became a Nat: Drafted by the (ahem) Montreal Expos in the 3rd round of the 2004 first year player draft.

The Raw Numbers:
AVG - .253
OPS - .656
oWAR - 1.6
SB - 25
E - 23

Key Stat: WAR - 1.4. Ian Desmond is 26 and has been playing professional baseball since 2004. He has not shot through any level of play, nor has he particularly shined at any level of play. But he is a major league player. Is he the second coming of Derek Jeter, as a former Nats GM implied? No. His 1.4. WAR tells you exactly what he is, a guy who knows baseball, can play baseball, but will never be an all-star - despite what Bill Ladson says.

Best Game: August 21 against the Phillies. Going into the 9th inning, Ian was 1-4 with a double, a run and 2 strikeouts. But in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs, Desi hit a solo bomb to send the game into extras. The Nats won in the 10th.

Worst Game: May 12th against the Braves. 0-5. Golden Sombrero. Nats lose in extra innings. Ouch.

Capball Grade: Probably the hardest grade of the whole series. I like Ian. I saw him play for Potomac way back when. He was drafted by the Expos, what do you do with that? B-. The guy improved on defense, moved all around the line-up, and endured speculation and criticism for, well just being Ian Desmond. The guy had almost 150 hits, 40 XBH, 25 steals and was a good baseball player.

2012 Nats Status: As much as he would benefit from a change of scenery (not that he would admit it) and as much as the Nats want to be free from his issues (not that they would admit it), he will be a Nat in 2012. And that's a good thing. He is a cliche, a team player, has a great baseball IQ, and can lead by example. And he is only 26.

Ian Desmond is a polarizing player. Represent your pole in the comments section!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few Good Men: 43 - Bixler

Almost there...

Brian Bixler - Age 29 - Just over 1 year of MLB Service Time

How he became a Nat: Was "purchased" by the Nats from the Pirates in August of 2010 - essentially a trade for cash.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 79
ABs - 94
AVG - .205
Runs - 9
RBI - 2
OF UZR/150 - 24.0
WAR - -0.2

Key Stat: 6. This is the number of positions that Brian Bixler played in the 2011 season (OF x3, 1B, SS, and 3B). His job was not to light the world on fire at the dish (obviously), but he was meant to be a solid defender that could come in with the game on the line. He did just that, right around replacement level.

Best Game: Without question it would be June 24th in interleague action against the Chicago White Sox. Bixler came in for Jerry Hairston (LF) in the 8th inning during a double switch. The game was solidly in the Nats' hands, leading 3-0 going into the 9th - until Drew Storen blew a save and the game went to extras; Bixler would play a massive role in bonus time. He came up in the 12th with 2 on and 2 outs and hit a double to right that would give the Nats a 5-4 lead; which Clippard would go on to give up in the bottom half of the inning - tie ball game. Bixler next came up in the 14th with 2 outs and no one on. He singled, stole 2nd and scored what would be the game winner on an E6.

Worst Game: July 31st against the Mets. Bixler went 0 for 5 with 2 groundouts, 2 bunt ground-outs, and a strikeout. The Nats would win the game despite his best efforts to the contrary.

CapBall Grade: Solid C. He did exactly what was expected of him; nothing more, nothing less. He had a few good games, a few not-so-good games while playing some solid defense whenever called upon.

2012 Nats Status: Well, the Nats tried to slip Bixler through waivers to clear up some room on the 40-man and paid the price, losing Bixler to the Astros. So I would say that the odds of him making the Nats next year would be slim to none.

Are you going to miss Bixler next year? Are you ready for this fools-errand of a series to be over? Post your thoughts in the comments section!

Friday, December 16, 2011

500 And Counting!

Today is a very special day for this blog, it is the day that we hit 500 blog posts! We would like to take this time to thank everyone who has ever read this blog, commented on this blog, derided this blog on Twitter, liked us on Facebook, listened to our podcast, and just generally supported our efforts. We have been honored to be there for you since our very first post back on April 21st of 2010 when it was just Joe at the controls.

To celebrate today's momentous occasion, I thought we would take a trip down memory lane as best we could as baseball people - by looking at the stats!

First Post - April 21st, 2010
# of Days Since First Post - 604
Posts/Days Ratio - 0.82
Mac's First Post - Nov 21, 2010
Sean's First Post - Sept 13, 2011
Countries That Have Visited - 95
Top 5 Countries - US, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, UK
Most Visited Day - June 6th, 2011 (Draft Day)
Most Popular Post (by visitors) - Bryce Harper to Make The Majors in 2011? - 2,203 Pageviews
My Favorite Ways People Got to the Site - "why did davey johnson bring in doug slaten" "lunch slow motion" "jokes about the name rizzo" "how does rick ankiel have a job" "beauty and the briefcase ryan zimmerman"

Just a brief glimpse into our world here over at Capitol Baseball, hope you have enjoyed reading our musings on baseball here in the district.

Make sure you check us out on Facebook, Twitter (@CapitolBaseball, @CraigMac, and @TheMacHenry), Nats Talk on the Go on iTunes, and, of course, right here at!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Few Good Men: 42 - Maya

Before we get into the post, I want all of NatsTown to congratulate Mac on his engagement. I could not be prouder of my brother and his bride to be!

That being said, there are just a few players left in our march to 44, so lets get into it with...

Yuniesky Maya - Age 30 - MLB Service Time 0.07 years

How He Became A Nat: Signed as an international free agent on July 31, 2010. He is a Cuban defector.

The Raw Numbers:
GS - 5
Quality Starts - 1
IP/GS - 5
BAA - .323
K - 15
GB/FB - .73

The Key Stat: BAbip - .346 Ah. Batting Average on balls in play. Great stat. Usually it is used to determine the luck of a pitcher. But .346 is very high and 15 Ks in over 30 innings is indicative of a pitcher who pitches to contact, and gets hit hard. And when batters made contact, it was usually in the air, as the GB/FB ratio shows. Not ideal.

His Best Game: July 30 against the Mets. Anyone notice many of our best games were against the Mets? He scattered 5 hits over five and a third innings, striking out no one, but walking no one. It was the only game he started in which he had more ground balls than fly balls. He also hit Josh Thole with a pitch, though he was hit by a pitch twice that day, so maybe he was crowding the plate.

His Worst Game: Ironically, the only other game the Nats won in which Maya pitched. June 14 at Nats Park against the World Champion Red Birds. His line is so ugly I hesitate to type it...4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, and 2 each in the BB, K, HR category. Luckily for the Nats, Ms. Iowa himself Miguel Batista was worse that day, and Washington pulled out an 8-6 win.

Capball Grade: A very big F. Maya is 30, and while he is relatively new to MLB, he just doesn't have the repertoire for the bigs, and everyone can see it. You cannot pitch to contact and have the majority of the balls in play be in the air. He is smart and he knows how to pitch, but he needed to be mentored by Livan Hernandez when he was 20, not when he was 30.

2012 Nats Status: He is on a major league contract, so he will be in spring training. But at this point his contract is ephemera. He is of little value to the Nats and will spend the majority of his season at Syracuse, perhaps earning a spot start, if its his turn to pitch. A switch to relieving won't help, as he was ineffective in relief, allowing 12 base runners in just under 8 IP.

Do you have something nice to say about Yuniesky Maya? Please share it, because I'm drawing a blank.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Few Good Men: 41 - Broderick

Brian Broderick - Age 25 - MLB Service Time 0.054 Years

How he became a Nat: Drafted by the Nationals in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft from the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 11
Innings - 12.1
ERA - 6.57
WHIP - 1.541
BAA - .320
Balks - 1
WP - 1
WAR - 0.0

Key Stat: 0-11. This is the Nats record in games that Broderick pitched. Take from that what you will...

Best Game: April 13th at home against the Phightins. The Nationals were being beaten down by Roy Halladay, but the game was still within reach (3-2) come the top of the 9th. Broderick came in and retired the side in order to give the Nats one last chance to come back against Halladay - they didn't.

Worst Game: Tough one here, cause he was mostly just a terrible pitcher. I am going to go with the Nats first game of the year - April 3rd against the Braves. This might not have been the game that he affected the worst, but it was definitely his worst performance. He pitched just 0.2 innings, gave up only 2 hits but allowed 4 earned runs. How did he manage this feat? Well, here is how the inning went - Single, Fielders Choice (but no out), Walk, Balk, Groundout, Sac Fly, Double. Ouch. Nats would lose the game 11-2.

CapBall Grade: D. Brian Broderick definitely earned his spot on the Nationals in Spring Training, but when the regular season came it was mostly a train wreck. His FIP numbers are pretty solid due to a high BABIP, but he just was unable to get the mental side of the game down - everything affected him. I chose to give him a D instead of the F due to the fact that he had barely scratched AAA before being a Major League reliever.

2012 Nats Status: Well, on May 23rd the Nats returned Broderick to the Cards, so I would say the odds of him playing for the 2012 Nats are pretty slim.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Few Good Men: 40 - Lombardozzi

The Home Stretch!

Steve Lombardozzi - Age 23 - MLB Service Time 0.023 Years

How He Became A Nat: Drafted by the Nationals in the 19th round of the 2008 entry level draft

The Raw Numbers:
PA - 32
AVG - .194
Fielding % (3 Positions) - .960 (1 E at 3B)
PA - 616
AVG - .309
Fielding % - (3 Positions) - .997

Key Stat: 2 - The number of errors he made in over 500 chances in time split between Harrisburg and Syracuse, playing mostly shortstop and second base. That's insane. Pair him with Danny Espinosa and you got one heck of a defense up the middle.

Best Game: September 12th against the Mets. Batting behind stellar leadoff man Brian Bixler, Steve went 1-4, but he made that one count, knocking in the eventually winning run in the 7th against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Worst Game: September 9th versus the last place Astros. Steve went 0-5 with a K while the Nats won in extra innings. He led off, seeing only 16 pitches and didn't even sniff the basepaths.

2011 Capball Grade: B. It's hard to judge the cup-of-coffee players, it's based mostly on flashes and extrapolation. He didn't do much at the plate and wasn't given a whole lot of opportunities, but he showed that he is special in the field. Fielding is half the game, so it feels like he has the potential to be a quality Major Leaguer.

2012 Nats Status: Steve is stuck behind two young, talented guys in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Danny is a long term, core piece. Desi is a polarizing player who could finally reach his potential, be traded, or simply given up on. I am in the camp who thinks he is special and will eventually reach a high level. So, Steve Lombardozzi is in the unenviable position of being the future while the present is still young and talented. I think the odds are good that Espi and Lombardozzi are given the keys to the middle infield and Desi is traded. Or perhaps moved to outfield.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 3

In this week's episode of Nats Talk On The Go, The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk about the Washington Nationals and Winter Meetings. The podcast is available on iTunes and available for streaming above and at the top of the right column on our homepage.


Nats Headlines:

Mark Buehrle

Rule 5 Draft

Outfield (Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper)

Winter Meetings Headlines:

Miami Marlins: Reyes, Buehrle, Bell

Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim: Pujols and Wilson

Albert Pujols' Effect on Ryan Zimmerman

Questions of the Week: Who is MLB's dream team? Who won Winter Meetings?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Few Good Men: 39 - Slaten

We are in the Home Stretch of our massive and ridiculous 44 part series - detailing every single player that suited up for the Nats this past season.

Doug 'The Anti-Clippard" Slaten - Age 31 - Just over 4 years of MLB Service Time

How he became a Nat: Selected off of waivers from the Diamondbacks after the 2009 season.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 31
ERA - 4.41
WHIP - 2.143
FIP - 5.66
OPS/against - 1.036

Key Stat: .333. This was Slaten's BAA (Batting Average Against) vs. Left-Handed Hitters. For a LOOGY (for the uninitiated - Left-handed One Out GuY), this number is incredibly terrible. His job is to do one thing and one thing only, get out left-handers. Instead, he let them get on base 1/3 of the time with a greater than 1.000 OPS... Wow.

[Note - Judging Slaten's best and worst game is pretty difficult to measure due to the fact that he was bailed out several times by other pitchers after failing to do his one job. That said, we are going to do our best]

Best Game: June 1st vs the Phillies. In a tight contest with John Lannan facing off against (Future Nat?) Roy Oswalt, Doug Slaten came in with the bases loaded in the 6th and got Dominic Brown to fly out.

Worst Game: June 3rd vs the Diamondbacks. This was an incredibly tough decision, considering that Doug Slaten was so terrible all year long - but this is a game that defined his year. Yunesky Maya was struggling in the 5th (shocker), and he exited the game in favor of Slaten to face the lefty, Stephen Drew. 5 pitches later (3 of them balls) and the 1-0 D'Backs lead became a 4-0 D'Backs lead thanks to a crushed triple to center that almost left the park. Slaten's line for the day is just 1 hit, but he let all three inherited runners score.

CapBall Grade: F. For a LOOGY, letting in 47% of your inherited runners score is absolutely dreadful. Not only that, Doug Slaten was incredibly lucky as evidenced by his .397 BABIP. Want more? Well you can't have any, cause this is depressing me!

2012 Nats Status: Doug Slaten will not be tendered a contract by the Nats and there is a 0% chance that he will return to the ball-club.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Few Good Men: 38 - Detwiler

Ross Detwiler - age 25 - MLB Service Time - 2 years

How He Became A Nat: Taken by the Nats in the first round of the 2007 draft (6th overall)

The Raw Numbers:
IP- 66
ERA- 3.00
WHIP - 1.258
GS - 10
Tough Losses: 2

The Key Stat: IP/GS - 5.6 While not a bad number, when you draft a power lefty sixth overall you anticipate him getting deeper into games at this point in his development. But as all Nats fans know he has trouble getting through the order a third time. I'm sure the Nats front office is hoping that seasoning is the cure for that issue and that 2012 is his coming out party.

His Best Game: Sept 20 against the Phillies. Rossy D was stellar over seven and a third scoreless, giving up only 3 hits and a walk and striking out three.

His Worst Game: Sept 2 against the dreadful Mets. He lasted just 3 innings allowing 7 hits, two of which left the yard, and 6 runs, striking out just 2. His GB/FB ration was 2/13, clear evidence he did not have his best stuff and was leaving everything up in the zone.

Capball Grade: B- The Nats were .500 in his ten starts so we start with a C. He gets a bump from 5 strong relief appearances and for being a 25 year old power lefty. So we arrive at B-. Boom.

2012 Nats Status: He has an outside shot to come north from Viera as the fifth starter but it depends on a whole lot of things. If the Nats go get a starter he needs John Lannan to get traded or have a horrible spring. Baring that, the Nats failing to sign a starter or injury he is Syracuse bound and waiting for a call to come to DC.

Winter Meetings Thus Far

Things have been absolutely insane thus far but, sadly, none of these things has to do with any players that the Nats have signed.

Let's do a quick recaps of all the events with interspersed commentary:

- The Marlins (!) have signed several of the biggest Free Agent targets (Bell and Reyes) and as of this writing are one of four players left in the Albert Pujols Sweepstakes (Cards, Cubs, Angels). If I were a Marlins fan part of me would be thrilled to be in the hunt on all of these players, but the other part would be pissed off that it took so long for Loria to actually spend coin. Seems like extortion to me; publicly funded stadium and all of a sudden he has the coin to spend on players? Really? Seems a bit sketch to me.

- The Nats have, according to different sources, offered CJ Wilson 6-years as well as placed him 3rd on their to-do list - behind Buehrle and Oswalt.

- Mark Buehrle has at least 14 suitors and it seems as though the team that offers him a 4th year will be the victor. If we sign anyone, I want him. Otherwise, I would be thrilled in a rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Wang, Lannan, and Peacock.

- Roy Oswalt seems to be waiting in the weeds for Wilson and Buehrle to sign, in which case he would be the most attractive option. He seeks a 3-year deal. Risky after such an injury plagued season.

- Nats aren't actually targeting Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.

- According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox, the Nats have had more conversations with the Rays about BJ Upton. I would much rather drop $30-40 Million on Yoenis Cespedes than take on Upton's attitude.

- It's been a great few weeks for Former Nats Greats as 11 (count 'em, 11) FNG's have signed contracts (s/t @NationalsPR): Laynce Nix (PHI), Garrett Mock (TOR), Adam Kennedy (LAD), Josh Bard (LAD), Brian Bruney (CWS), Brian Sanches (PHI), Jon Rauch (NYM), Shairon Martis (PIT), Brian Schneider (PHI), Jamey Carroll (MIN), Jerry Hairston (LAD), and Mike O'Connor (NYY). These are both minor league and major league deals - mostly ridiculous.

- According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, Roger Bernadina is available via trade. I would expect the return to be very thin.

- Crack Beat Writer, Bill Ladson, reports that the Nats are considering bringing back Willie Harris to be a left-handed outfield bench bat.

- According to Kilgore, the Nats see re-signing Ankiel as an "outside possibility". I think he would be a much better 4th outfielder than "the Shark".

- With the Marrero injury, the Nationals are also looking for a right-handed platoon partner for Adam LaRoche. Signs point to Mark DeRosa, which I called over a month ago.

- In a not-so-reported piece by Leatherpants Jim Bowden, he reports that Zimmerman's agent has been rebuffed in his attempts to secure an extension from the Nats. In all honesty, I find it surprising that his agency (CAA) is pushing Zim to sign an extension after a season where Zim spent 58 games on the DL with a torn oblique.

Which of these stories do you find most interesting?? I think it's the Marlins and the Zim extension. The comment's section awaits!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Few Good Men: 37 - Clippard

Tyler Clippard - Age 26 - Arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012

How he became a Nat: Acquired via trade in December 2007 from the Yankees for Jonathan Albaladejo.

[Ed. Note - you know you have been blogging too long when you can spell Albaladejo without looking it up]

The Raw Numbers:
ERA - 1.83
WHIP - 0.838
Holds - 48
K/9 - 10.6
BABIP - .197
IR% - 22% (only two players with 60+ IP were better - Daniel McCutchen and Drew Storen)

Key Stat: 5.2. This was Clippard WPA for the 2011 season. What this essentially means is that when it came down to it, Tyler Clippard got the Nats out of more sticky situations than any other pitcher in the NL. We saw it all year long where Clippard came in with runners on base and retired all batters without allowing his inherited runners to score.

Best Game: Without a doubt, May 6th vs the pathetic Houston Astros. Tyler Clippard started the 7th inning and struck out the side... twice. He faced 6 batters and struck all of them out. Oh yea, and all of them were swinging strike-outs. Tyler Clippard is not human.

Worst Game: August 25th against the D'Backs. Nats were down 2-1 when he entered the game in the 8th inning, and it went downhill from there. Clippard only pitched 0.2 innings and gave up a walk, a double and a home run - leaving the Nats in a 5-1 deficit that they wouldn't come back from.

CapBall Grade: B+... just kidding, it's an A+. Clippard was the Nationals Pitching MVP for 2011. He literally could do no wrong. Value of relief pitchers is always difficult to determine, but there is no question that the Nats would have won far fewer games had Clippard not been around.

2012 Nats Status: I think Clippard is going to have a hard time breaking into the crowded Nats bullpen... Once again, if anyone on the pitching staff should have a reserved spot, it should be Clippard. The 8th inning is his for the foreseeable future (barring trade, which is another story for another day).

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Few Good Men: 36 - Pudge

Ivan Rodriguez - Age 40 - MLB Service Time: just over 20 years

How He Became A Nat: Signed a 2 year deal with the Nats in December 2009

The Raw Numbers:
PA - 137
AVG - .218
OPS - .604
oWAR - 0.0

The Key Stat: dWAR 0.4 In just 44 games Pudge continued to be a weapon behind the plate, throwing out over 50 percent of would-be base thieves. He was also a calming presence for many of the young pitchers, who had an ERA of 3.34 with Pudge behind the plate.

His Best Game: April 10 against the Mets. Pudge went 2-4 with 2 RBI, including the eventual game winner in the 11th with a single scoring Wilson Ramos.

His Worst Game: June 6th against the Giants. Maybe one of the worst games of his career, over 13 innings Pudge went 0-6 with 3Ks. In fact he failed the get a ball out of the infield. He recorded just 7 hits over the next month before landing on the DL.

Capball Grade: B- This really has very little to do with actual performance. It has to do with him mentoring a very good young catcher named Wilson Ramos, as well as the young pitchers. He gave a lot to the Nats at a time when he feels he can still be a starter. Any success Ramos or Flores has in the future, we can look to Pudge for at least part of the reason.

2012 Nats Status: Pudge wants to have a chance to play more than a handful of games, and possibly win a World Series. Its doubtful he or the Nats are interested in reuniting as the Nats want to get younger and more athletic, even on the bench, and are committed to Ramos behind the dish full time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Few Good Men: 35 - Espinosa

Danny Espinosa - Age 24 - MLB Service Time 1.033 years

How he became a Nat: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 158
AVG - .236
HR - 21
RBI - 66
K% - 25.2
UZR - 1.0
WAR - 3.5

Key Stat: wOBA .325. Danny had the 4th highest wOBA on the Nats behind power hitters Morse, Zimmerman, and Ramos - and he did it as a 6'0" 190lbs 2nd baseman. A power hitting 2nd baseman is extraordinarily rare, especially when you can combine it with stellar up-the-middle defense. Espi has the potential to be a very special player for many years to come. This is also the 3rd highest wOBA of all NL 2nd Basemen.

Best Game: June 16th vs the Red Birds. Espinosa gave his team the chance to win this game not once, but twice. In the 4th he hit a rockets single to RF to score Michael Morse to give the Nats a lead they wouldn't relinquish until a Drew Storen blown save. Always one to pick up his players, in the 10th he came up with 2 ducks on the pond and crushed one out of the park against Fernando Salas to give the Nats a 7-4 walk-off win. He went 3 for 5 on the day with a homer and 4 RBIs.

Worst Game: September 5th against the Dodgers. This is a game that the Nats were able to win 7-2 despite Espinosa's best efforts to the contrary. In the first inning Desmond, Morse, and Werth all hit home runs - Danny struck out. The day went downhill from there as Danny added 3 more strikeouts to give him a Golden Sombrero for the day - all swinging K's so at least he wasn't just standing there. It was an 0 for 4 performance where he picked up his 13th fielding error - definitely a day to forget.

CapBall Grade: We are choosing to give Danny a B. The Nationals have found a player that will be a key piece for at least the next 5 years - a player that can hit for some power, fire up the team, and play stellar defense. But right now he is simply striking out way too much for a player that is just 24 years old. That, coupled with his 2nd half slump (122 OPS+ in the 1st half, 82 OPS+ in the 2nd half) bumped his grade down to a B.

2012 Nats Status: Danny will be in the starting lineup come Opening Day; barring injury of course. He will be the Nats 2nd baseman for years to come, unless the team is to trade Ian Desmond - in which case he will be the starting SS. If he can reduce his K% to the 20-21% range that he was in the minors then he should have an even better Sophomore campaign.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Few Good Men: 34 - Marrero

Chris Marrero - Age 23 - MLB Service Time 0.033 Years

How He Became A Nat: Drafted 15th overall by the Nats in 2006

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 31
AVG - .248
SLG - .294
oWAR - 0.5

Key Stat: XBH% - 4.6. Not good. The league average was over 7. At a corner infield position, especially First Base, you have to hit more HRs and more 2B. Now, of course this was his introduction to Major League pitching and his 44 XBH at Syracuse show his potential, but his cup of coffee didn't impress many people.

Best Game: Sept 21 against the Phillies. Chris went 2-4 with a double, a walk and 2 runs scored. He helped start an 8th inning 3-run rally that proved to be the difference in the 7-5 win.

Worst Game: Sept 17th vs. the Marlins. A big goose-egg for 5 with 2 Ks in a 13 inning loss. He also left 3 runners on base and his at-bats seemed to get worse as the game wore on. Not a good night in his hometown.

Capball Grade: C- His defense was better than advertised, but that's about all we have good to say about his 31 games. He looked lost at the plate, lacking the ability to really drive the ball to any parts of the park. He doesn't get too much of a markdown because it was his first taste of the majors, but it was still nothing more than average by any standards.

2012 Nats Status: A week ago, this would have been quite different. Heading to spring training to battle Adam LaRoche and hopefully earn the back-up 1B job and a spot off the bench. However with his torn hamstring, it is unlikely he is back before June and it is a real possibility that he never plays again in the Majors. He has a real history with injuries and the nature of hamstring injuries does not bode well for his career. [Ed note. - Does anything good ever happen at winter ball?]

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 2 of Podcast Available Now

A new episode of Nats Talk On The Go, a collaborative Washington Nationals podcast effort between Capitol Baseball and The Nats Blog is now available for live streaming here on this site, or you can subscribe to us via iTunes. Hope you enjoy, and keep the comments coming.


Follow ups with Episode 1 Topics

First Base Changes

Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Draft

Yoennis Cespedes

Mark DeRosa

Adam Kennedy

Question of the Week: What were the best and worst transactions in Washington Nationals history?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Few Good Men: 33 - Werth

Jayson Werth - Age 32 - Due $110 Million through 2017

How he became a Nat: Signed a 7 year - $126 Million deal in December of 2010.

The Raw Numbers:
HR - 20
RBI - 58
SB - 19
K - 160 (Career High)
AVG - .232 (Worst in a full season)
UZR - 1.4
WAR - 2.5

Key Stat: .323. This is Werth's wOBA for the past year. This stat is his Weighted On Base Average, it uses a complicated formula that is a much more accurate tool than a players OPS. It is due in part to the fact that Werth left the comforts of Citizen's Bank Ballpark and partly due to the fact that Zimmerman was gone from the lineup for most of the year. Also noting that this was Werth's worst year in a while.

Best Game: May 20th vs the Orioles. Werth exploded in a 17-5 Nats rout of our neighbors to the north. He went 3 for 5 with 2 home runs and 4 runs batted in. It was this point that most in NatsTown believed that Werth was finally going to break out of his (at that point) season-long slump [Ed. Note - it wasn't].

Worst Game: This is toughie - so I'm going to go with his worst performance at the plate (this was especially tough because he had 3 Golden Sombrero's on the year). I would have to say that the worst was on May 12th vs Atlanta. Werth struck out 4 times in 5 ABs in a 6-5 loss to the Braves in extra innings - three of those strikeouts were looking.

CapBall Grade: C-. Werth had a terrible season - especially when you consider his salary. One thing that Werth did do is provide a hard-nosed attitude and some solid defense (Werth was the 11th best defensive OF in the NL according to UZR). One of the reasons why I didn't give him a lower grade is that his 2nd half (.255/.345/.426) was pretty close to his career averages (.264/.360/.464) - much better than his first half. [Ed. Note - difference in slugging is due to his not being in Citizen's Bank].

2012 Nats Status: With $110+ Million still on the books it's pretty safe to assume that we will be seeing Werth in RF come Opening Day in Chicago. The only thing that could be any different is if the Nats fail to get a Center Fielder and Werth has to man CF or if Bryce Harper kills everyone in Spring Training and comes north with the Big Club to play RF - both scenarios very unlikely.

We know that Werth had a terrible season - the question is if he can rebound next year. Answer in the comments!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Few Good Men: 32 - Henry Rodriguez

Henry Rodriguez - Age 24 - MLB Service Time: 1.1 Years

How He Became a Nat: Acquired from the Oakland A's in a trade for Josh Willingham

The Raw Numbers:
IP- 65.2
ERA - 3.56
K- 70
WP - 14 (league leading)

The Key Stat: SO/BB - 1.56 The Nationals want that number to be closer to the 2.56 he put up in limited time with Oakland in 2010. As the Wild Pitch stat shows, he was at times Wild Thing Rick Vaughan-ian. But as the season wore on, we saw flashes of what he can be when he controls the strike zone.

Best Game: September 3rd against the Mets - H-Rod shows how dominant he can be he struck out the side on 13 pitches in the 8th inning of a one run game. If he can be this H-Rod for the majority of next season, the Nats bullpen will be filthy.

Worst Game: Tough choice...when Rodriguez was bad, he was really bad. We will go with July 23rd against the Dodgers. Over the course of 1 inning he walked three, allowed a hit and threw a Wild Pitch en route to blowing his third save of the season.

CapBall Grade - C+ He has lights out stuff. But without the mindset and consistency, it's hard to count on this young fireballer. He seemed to find his groove down the stretch. We are just hopefully it doesn't take half a season to figure it out in 2012.

2012 Nats Status: He's coming north with the team and should be the go to righty in the 7th inning.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Few Good Men: 31 - Severino

Welcome back to the wonderful world of baseball after another fattening Thanksgiving, we certainly are glad to be back to the routine! That being said, we are now onto the home stretch of our journey.

Atahualpa Severino - Age 27 - Extremely limited service time (0.028 years)

How he became a Nat: Signed by the Expos as an amateur free agent.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 6
Innings Pitched - 4.2
K - 7
BB - 1
WHIP - 1.286
WAR - 0.0

Key Stat: 13.5 K/9. If Severino wants to have any part of a Major League roster he is going to have to keep his K rate in this territory. It should be noted that he had a 10.7 K/9 in AAA this year.

Best Game: September 26 vs the Fishes of Miami. Severino, in his last game of the year, pitched a single inning and utterly dominated. He had 2 strikeouts (Buck and Murphy) and was able to get Peterson to weakly line out to short - to retire the side in order. The Nats were down 4-3, but after this stellar appearance Michael Morse hit a 3 run bomb in the top of the next inning to give the Nats a 6-4 lead they wouldn't relinquish. Severino picked up his first career win.

Worst Game: September 21st vs the Phillies. Severino was pitching on 7 days rest, which is a pain for any reliever. He walked Chase Utley to lead off the inning and then Mayberry followed with a 2 run bomb. Not a great outing.

CapBall Grade: B+. There simply isn't enough evidence to give him a better or worse grade. He was great in limited time.

2012 Nats Status: I think that the bullpen is just too crowded for Severino at this time. I would guess that he starts the season in Syracuse and is called up in case of injury.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Give Thanks

This weekend millions of Americans will be gathered together with family, loved ones, and good friends to give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed upon them. But really, it's about the food. Here at Capitol Baseball we want to continue a tradition we started last year and share with you what we are thankful for. We would love it if you shared your thoughts in the comments!

- Wilson Ramos playing ball down in VZ.

- The hope of another Spring Training.

- MLB Network.

- Former Nats Greats.

- Michael Morse having a breakout season and finishing 19th in the MVP voting.

- Chien-Ming Wang returning to baseball healthy after two years on the DL.

- The Yankees and Phillies both not winning the World Series.

- An ace to our staff.

- That our uniforms don't look like the Miami Marlins unis.

- Twitter changing the way we gather news (Follow us @CraigMac and @TheMacHenry).

- The new tobacco policy for MLB.

- That Bryce Harper is only 19 years-old.

- That we were able to build through spending money in the draft, before these new and draconian restrictions.

- That more people than just Joe and I listened to our new podcast - Now available on iTunes!

- That we have the opportunity to share our thoughts and have people join us in legit baseball dialogue.

What are you thankful for? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Few Good Men: 30 - Stammen

Craig Stammen - Age 27 - MLB Service Time - just over 1 year

How He Became A Nat: Taken by the Nationals in the 12th round of the 2005 Draft

The Raw Numbers:
IP - 10
Batters Faced - 38
Batters Retired - 31
WHIP - 0.68
K- 12
WAR - 0.4

Key Stat: 2016 - The year Craig Stammen will become eligible for Free Agency. That's another 4 seasons of club control for a decent young arm who is still learning how to pitch out of the bullpen. He looked very good in a limited sample size in 2011, but 2012 will be a make or break spring training and he could become a legitimate option for the 2012 Nationals middle relief corps.

Best Game: September 26th against the Marlins. Stammen relieved rookie Tom Milone in the 5th inning with 1 out and the bases loaded. He did allow a runner to score on a wild pitch, but escaped without further damage. He then struck out the side in the 6th.

Worst Game: Easily his first game of the year, June 6th against the Giants. He started the 13th inning of a 4-4 game and proceeded to allow 2 hits, a base on balls en route to giving the Giants a walk-off 5-4 win.

Capball Grade: B+ Such a limited sample size is tough to grade. An incomplete might be more appropriate, but that feels like laziness. His stats were fairly good despite his outings being few and far between. He also had a Win Probability Added above 0.000 for all his appearances, save for one, the June 6th game.

2012 Nats Status: He will be right there in Spring Training as a candidate for the middle innings and a spot starter. I guess it all comes down to the question of "will Davey become enamored with him?" Who really knows at this point?

Do you know? Please share!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Washington Nationals Podcast with The Nats Blog Now on iTunes

We're happy to announce that our new Washington Nationals podcast in collaboration with The Nats Blog is now available on iTunes for subscription.

You can subscribe to it here. That way you can enjoy our newest podcasts every time they come out on your iPhone, iPad, or other internet-enabled devices.

It's also available for streaming in the new widget on the top right of the homepage. It will always play the newest episode when you hit play. We hope you all enjoy this as much as we have. We can't wait for more episodes after Thanksgiving, and we hope you can't either.

A Few Good Men: 29 - Zimmerman

We only will be having two parts of this series this week, due to the Thanksgiving break. Wednesday we will be posing our 2nd annual "Thankful" post - we look forward to hearing your thoughts as well! But for now, we continue with part 29 of 44.

Ryan Zimmerman - Age 27 - Signed through 2013

How he became a Nat: Drafted in the 1st Round (4th overall) of the 2005 First Year Player Draft.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 101
HR - 12
RBI - 49
UZR/150 - 10.6
WAR - 2.5

Key Stat: .798. This is Zimmerman's OPS from the past year and it is over a hundred points lower than his OPS from 2010. I mostly subscribe this to the fact that Zimmerman missed 58 games due to an oblique injury - but it's still a precipitous drop from the past two years. It should be noted that the last time Zimmerman missed significant time due to injury was the last time he had an OPS under .800 - which he followed up with an All-Star campaign the very next year.

Best Game: There are a few Zimmerman walk-off options here, but I'm going to go with one of the Nats top wins of the year - August 19th against the Phillies. By the time Zimmerman rolled up to the plate the Nats had already tied the game at 4 against lights-out closer, Ryan Madson - so they were at least going to extra innings. However, Zimmerman decided that it was time to go home - he hit a grand slam to end the game and give the Nationals an 8-4 victory.

Worst Game: June 25th against the White Sox in interleague action. Zimmerman was just 10 days returned from his trip to the DL - so he was still trying to get his timing back. In a forgettable day at the dish, Zimmerman went 0-4 at the plate while striking out 3 times. Ouch.

CapBall Grade: B. Zimmerman's 2nd half was far better than his injury-filled 1st half - and although the 2nd half was what we've come to expect from Zimmerman, it still wasn't his best year.

2012 Nats Status: Pencil him in the 3 hole in the lineup and at the hot corner come opening day. End of story. The only thing that could possibly change that is injury - or the craziest trade ever.

Friday, November 18, 2011

New Podcast! We partner with The Nats Blog for a Washington Nationals podcast

Hi there, loyal CapBallers. I've returned to post the brand spanking new Washington Nationals podcast partnership between The Nats Blog and Capitol Baseball. Our goal is to do these with some regularity, and perhaps even weekly once the season starts up again. We'd love to have your comments and thoughts, and we're always opened to ideas for topics.

The topics for today's podcast are:
  1. The New Wild Card Round and the Collective Bargaining Agreement
  2. The Free Agent Pitching Market
  3. The Nationals Pitching Rotation
  4. The Center Field Situation
  5. An Early 2012 Prediction
Thanks as always for reading, and let us know what you think!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Few Good Men: 28 - Coffey

That's right...IT'S COFFEY TIME!

Todd Coffey - Age 31 - 6 Years MLB Service

How He Became A Nat: Signed a 1-year deal January 24th.

The Raw Numbers:
IP - 59.2
ERA - 3.62
WHIP - 1.257
WAR - 0.4

Key Stat: HR/9 - 0.6. This was the key to any effectiveness he had in the middle innings. Do not allow the big blow (that's what she said). When a reliever gives up a HR, it is most likely a huge momentum swing, either narrowing his team's lead, or putting his team in a bigger hole. Todd avoided giving up home runs (only 4 on the season) and helped keep the Nats alive or ahead at a consistent rate. And when he did give up runs, he avoided crooked numbers, allowing more than 1 run in an appearance only 5 times in 69 games.

Best Game: May 13 against the Fish. A heartbreaking extra-innings loss. But Coffey managed to shine, retiring 7 of the 8 batter's he faced, while bridging the gap to the back end of the pen after a less than robust start from Tom Gorzelanny. (Special mention: Every other game he pitched in... the sprint to the mound is awesome!)

Worst Game: July 20th against the Astros, his only Loss of the year. Called on to pitch the 11th inning in a 2-2 game Todd gave up 3 hits over the course of 4 batters, allowing the Astros to walk off with a 3-2 win.

CapBall Grade: B-. It's hard to show real value as a middle reliever who doesn't close and rarely pitches in traditional set-up innings, but Todd Coffey provided a quality arm to bridge the gap to Clippard and Storen. He didn't have lights out stuff, but that's why he wasn't asked to close. He did what he was asked, and did it fairly well.

2012 Nats Status: Up in the air. If he languishes on the Free Agent market, I can see him returning on a team friendly 1-year deal. But all things considered, the Nats want to get younger and if a younger, more controllable option appears via trade or free agency, Coffey won't be back.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Few Good Men: 27 - Storen

Drew Storen - Age 24 - MLB Service 1+ year

How he became a Nat: Drafted in the 1st round of the 2009 Draft (10th Overall) - Compensation for not signing Aaron Crow.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 73
IP - 75.1
ERA - 2.75
WHIP - 1.022
K/9 - 8.84
WAR - 0.9

Key Stat: 43. This is the number of saves that Drew had this past season, 2nd most in Nationals history - behind Chad Cordero's 47 in 2005. What's even more impressive is that at the beginning of the year, Drew Storen wasn't the official closer; Riggs was messing around with Sean Burnett in the 9th. Given each opportunity, we could've seen Drew scratch the 50 save mark.

Best Game: April 7th against Florida. In just the Nats 6th game of the season we saw John Lannan and Josh Johnson battle to a 3-3 tie in the 8th, when Storen entered the game. From there he went two innings of no-hit ball while striking out 3 batters. The team would go on to win the game in the 11th, but it wouldn't have been possible without Storen taking care of business.

Worst Game: September 8th against the Dodgers at Nats Park. It was a tie game in the 9th when Storen entered, things went downhill from there. Drew racked up a hit batsman, two singles, a double, a walk, and 2 steals allowed - giving up 3 runs in the process - only to be taken out in favor of Balester. Drew Storen got the loss, his 3rd of the year.

CapBall Grade: B+. Drew Storen had a terrible Spring Training but he was able to have a lights out regular season. It should be noted that he turned 24 in August, so his skills are only going to be improve. He has the smarts to be in this game for years and years to come - and the only thing holding me back from giving him an A is that his HR/9 ratio went from 0.5 last year to 1.0 this year. Hopefully he can make a slight adjustment to bring that number back down.

2012 Nats Status: Regardless of his Spring Training performance, Drew Storen will enter the year as the Nats closer. Don't buy into the rumors that the Nats are targeting Ryan Madson - it's just not true. It will be HRod, Clip, and Storen next year - bank it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Few Good Men: 26 - Gaudin

Chad Gaudin – Age 28 – Just over 6 Years MLB Service

How He Became a Nat: Signed to a Minor League deal December 17th of last year.

The Raw Numbers:

Games -10

IP – 8.1

ERA – 6.48

WHIP – 2.400

The Key Stat: WAR – (-0.6) It’s kind of crazy to say a player with just 8.1 innings pitched was 60 percent worse than a replacement level player would be. But giving up 10 runs and racking up a 2.400 WHIP will do that to you. Putting nearly two and a half runners on base per inning is a nightmare scenario for a reliever.

Best Game: April 10 against the Mets. One of his only two appearances without allowing a base-runner (the other was his last game as a Nat), he pitched a shut-down 7th, striking out two and keeping the Nats down only 2 in a close game. They battled back and won, thanks in large part to Chad keeping Reyes, Harris and Wright off the base-paths in the 7th.

Worst Game: How about April 3rd against the Braves. His line: 0.1 IP, 4 H, 2R, Inherited Runners 1, Inherited Runners Scored 1. After 6 solid innings from Jordan Zimmermann, the bullpen proceeded to allow 8 runs in 3 innings, with Gaudin and Brian Broderick being the main culprits.

CapBall Grade: F – Gaudin was signed to be a veteran presence in a young bullpen and help stabilize the back end of the bullpen as a long man and effective right-hander, maybe even spot start. Mission failed in every way. He was the wrong kind of anchor for the Nats, and after 10 mostly awful appearances and a nagging injury, the Nats cut ties with him in July. When you look up “place-holder” in the dictionary, Chad Gaudin’s face appears.

His 2012 Nats Status: He doesn’t have one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Aftermath

Wilson Ramos is safe. If you asked me last week, these are words that I never thought I would get the chance to write - and am thrilled to do so. After a 51 hour ordeal, Ramos was returned, physically unharmed, to his family in Venezuela. In a scene out of a movie, police and military special ops engaged the professional kidnappers in a firefight at a small hideaway in the mountains of VZ.

For Wilson Ramos and the Nationals, life is ready to move on. But just how will the two move on from such a tragedy? Well, in my mind, there are just two ways this could go for the parties involved.

1. The Nationals, still early in the offseason, could go out and get an insurance plan for 2012. Go find a player like Pudge Rodriguez and bring him back on a 1-year deal purely to have a dependable backup in the event that Wilson Ramos is too emotionally scarred to handle the pressures of playing 6 out of every 7 games in the Big Leagues.

2. The kidnapping puts Ramos' life into perspective - things like family and religion take on a whole new meaning as he "lives life to the fullest". In this instance, Ramos would most likely play a looser game and be more comfortable on the field knowing that, in reality, it is just a game - not life or death. We would see a joy on Ramos' face as he soaked in every second of his dream.

(I'm not saying that both couldn't happen to some extent, either.)

It's hard to imagine that Ramos will be playing in the VZ Winter League just 5 days after being held hostage - but he is. Which makes me hopeful that we will see Ramos #2 - a kid playing a game that he loves.

Do you think the Nats should sign a veteran back-up for next year? Or do you think that Ramos will show little to no ill effects on the field?

A Few Good Men: 25 - Ankiel

Rick Ankiel - Age 32 - 8+ Years of MLB Service

How he became a Nat: Signed a 1-year, $1.5 Million contract in December.

The Raw Numbers:
AVG - .239
OPS - .659
HR - 9
RBI - 37
WAR - 1.4

Key Stat: 17 Total Zone Runs. What this stat essentially breaks down is exactly how many runs above an average OF that Rick Ankiel was worth, based on the number of plays made. 17 is a fantastic number and it placed Ank as the 4th best of all NL Outfielders.

Best Game: Going out on a limb here and saying August 28th vs the Reds. Against type, we picked a game that the Nationals lost - but it would've happened much earlier had Rick Ankiel not done this. You may remember seeing this throw, but here is a little background. Tie game in the bottom of the 9th with 1 out, Dave Sappelt hits a rocket off the wall but gets gunned out a third from the track on a 1-hopper at 3rd by Ankiel. One of the most amazing throws I have ever seen. The Nats ended up losing on a 14th inning walk-off by Joey Votto, but Ankiel did his part with 3 hits and this amazing outfield assist.

Worst Game: August 19th against Philly. Once again going against type, the Nationals ended up winning this game 8-4 - despite Rick Ankiel's performance. You may remember this game as the Zimmerman walk-off against Madson, but you might have forgotten that Ankiel was up right before Zimmerman in the 9th - only to strike out. That strikeout was his 4th strikeout of the day. Ouch.

CapBall Grade: C. Ankiel was signed to be a power hitting outfielder - making up for his deficiencies in the field with his power at the plate. What happened was exactly the opposite. 37 RBIs for a full-time "power bat" is not great by any stretch of the imagination. However, Rick Ankiel's defense was nothing short of stellar - providing some consistency in center, which is something the Nats (still) aren't very accustomed to.

2012 Nats Status: I would say that the only chance that Rick Ankiel returns to the Nationals is if he signs a similar contract (around $1-1.5 million) to return to the club as a 4th outfielder/defensive replacement. He simply can't hit well enough to have a starting job in DC. If he wants to start, he will most likely sign with a non-contending team. With Boras as his agent, one would think that he will take the money and run.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wilson Ramos: Home

Wilson Ramos is rounding third and headed for home. The 50+ hour nightmare is over. Here at CapBall, the sense of relief is not calculable. Just a few observations and thoughts about this ordeal:

-Whatever anyone says about Nats fans, the ones that exist are amazing. I don’t know any Nationals fan that didn’t fall asleep or wake up thinking about Wilson Ramos. The candlelight vigil was touching and the fact that beverages were conveniently left outside the centerfield gate is a heart-warming gesture that shows the Nats’ brass was right there with us the past 51 hours.

-Twitter is a phenomenal tool for news. Rafael Rojas Cremonesi from vivacolorado, the Denver Post’s Spanish language news organization, deserves every single journalism award that exists. Basically every piece of information on this story came from him. He relentlessly reported this story, most likely sleeping just a few hours since Wednesday, and, if his twitter feed is any judge, racking up a gigantic cellphone bill.

-I would be perfectly fine if the Nationals banned their players from going to Venezuela, for winter league, to go home, to visit family, whatever. Innings-limits, pitch-counts, these are all things organizations do to protect players. Yet they are allowed to go to a country where kidnapping is an industry and they, and their families, are in danger. So let’s stop with the Venezuelan Winter League and the trips back home. If Venezuela really loves baseball that much, reform.

-Jesus Flores is a good dude. Ramos has taken his role over. But all he can do is give thanks over the safe rescue of Ramos. There is a similar theme throughout baseball, it’s a family, and while it’s no-holds-barred on the field, off the field they are all brothers. To see the tweets, statements and interviews was inspirational. I have close friends who are fans of the Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Rays and Royals, and their singular concern has been the well-being of Wilson Ramos. Not the Hot Stove League. And not anything going on at Happy Valley, which while sad and an outrage, has been settled for almost the entire time Wilson was in the hands of feckless thugs.

-ESPN is no longer a reliable source of baseball related information. Out of 50+ hours, “the family of networks” probably devoted an hour or two to a violent crime perpetrated on a 24 year old professional baseball player. Of course, news was slow in coming…but a network with an expert for everything and something like 8 networks (The Ocho) dedicated to sports, not nearly enough was done to highlight this story.

-Lastly…how do you come back from a kidnapping? Reading the accounts of his taking, what is going through Wilson’s head? This is a life-altering event. Will he ever be the same? Will he move his family to the US? Dual-citizenship? I’d lock myself in a room for a couple months if this happened to me…but I have no doubt Wilson will be in Viera in early February and on the field April 5th, 2012 at Wriggly Field. Wow.

More thoughts? Thanks? Praises? Comment!