Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Recapping Jordan Zimmermann's Stellar Season

When Jordan Zimmermann this season to pitch for the Washington Nationals, no one quite knew what to expect. He would be held to a 160 inning limit, and he didn't have a lot of success when he finished the end of the 2010 season, though no one should have expected no-hitters from a guy with a completely reconstructed elbow.

The 2011 season was certainly no disappointment from JZimm, who showed why the Nats chose him with their supplemental pick in the 2007 draft. In 20 of his 26 starts, Zimmermann made it through at least 6 innings; he would have certainly thrown 200 innings this season if it weren't for his inning limit. These are the things you're looking for with your #2 pitcher when he returns from major surgery. Overall, ZNN posted a 3.18 ERA this season, with 124 Ks and just 31 walks. He held opponents to a ..251 batting average and gave up less than 1 HR/9.

No month in his short career has been better than this June, though. Over the course of that month, JZimm started 6 games, and all of them to stellar results. Of those 6 starts, he went fewer than 7 innings just once, and his final start of the month was good for an 8 inning complete game, 1-run loss. His offense couldn't even manage to get him 1 run of support to get him a no-decision.

Other incredible stats of his career month include a 0.85 ERA, holding opponents to an astoundingly low .216/.259/.275 slash line, and giving up just just 1 HR. He ended the month with a 3-1 record, marred only by that once complete game with zero run support.

Jordan Zimmermann finished the season with a 2.9 WAR, according to, and one has to imagine it will only go up from there in future seasons when he can throw more innings and gets more run support from a less-lethargic offense. We're excited for the future of JZimm in a Washington Nationals uniform, and you should be, too.

What do you think about Jordan Zimmermann, CapBall readers? Are you as excited about his future as we are?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earth To Davey

The Nats have regressed, as everyone knew they would. When Davey took over for Riggleman (and to some extent McLaren) the team had won 13 of 15 games and was the talk of baseball for everything other than baseball. Surely there was no way for the team to continue their torrid pace, and no one was expecting them to. Enter Davey Johnson - the veteran presence that Mike Rizzo has craved since he took over the GM job and inherited Jim Riggleman as manager. His role was to command respect from the clubhouse and to mentor the younger players, but things haven't worked out as Rizzo or Johnson have planned.

I have been brainstorming this post in my head for quite some time now. Thinking of ways to write what I wanted to say, what tone to take, and what exactly I thought. Eventually I just decided to state my case in the simplest way I could. Bullets - and yes, some are fact based and some are opinion based.

Thesis: In no way should Davey Johnson be the Nationals Manager in 2012.

1 - Brought in to provide leadership for the younger players, he immediately pledged his faith in the veterans (Stairs and Ankiel) and promised them playing time.

2 - A "Players Manger" - like Johnson - is simply a coach that doesn't enforce rules/discipline because he wants to be liked. Not a good idea for a younger team.

3 - Immediately anointed Bernadina as the teams leadoff hitter and CF for the rest of the year - a month later he was back in Syracuse.

4 - One of the most talked about aspects of his coaching style was that he "showed faith in players" - unless it was Ross Detwiler and then its one hit and out.

5 - Doesn't fit the organizational philosophy of protecting pitchers - openly criticizing Strasburg's rehab and Zimmermann's innings limit.

6 - Seems to me that during his MASN post-game interview he takes credit for every win while openly blaming specific players for their struggles during losses. Once again, Davey Johnson is supposedly a players manager.

7 - Doesn't seem like he was familiar with the team when he took over. Not having managed in the big leagues since the Steroid Era, if he had been following the club he would've seen that it was built around pitching and defense, not his usual "offensively minded" ball club.

8 - If you follow me on twitter (@CraigMac) I tweeted this last night. Two nights ago, during the 2-0 loss, Davey said he "zoned" on not pinch hitting for JZimm in the 6th; once again this is a pitcher who is 3 innings away from his innings limit sent out there to throw his 100th+ pitches. Last night Davey said that he "balked" on sending Livan out for the 7th inning. Part of me is happy to finally see him own up to mistakes but I don't think a big league manager should be "zoned" while trying to win a ballgame.

9 - He has no idea how to use the pen. CSN's Mark Zuckerman wrote Saturday, after Tom Gorzelanny's stellar Friday night, that Gorzelanny went to Davey asking to be used. That's great the he is asking to be used, but the truth of the matter is that Gorzelanny asked on Sunday and still didn't get into the game until Friday, despite several games in between. All told it was 13 days between appearances for Gorzelanny. Now, how many times has Davey complained to the media about having an "overworked" bullpen?

10 - I don't want to hear Ray Knight talk about Davey Johnson as The Greatest Manager Ever for another 162 games...

11 - What is with his man-crush on Henry Rodriguez?? Not only does he have a 4.34 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP, he is 2nd in all of baseball with 12 Wild Pitches; the leader (17) has pitched 108.1 more innings than Rodriguez has... I'm not saying that HRod shouldn't be used, but Davey is throwing him out there in some serious 7th and 8th inning, high-pressure situations. Let's give the guy a chance to succeed.

12 - Collin Balester was recalled from Syracuse on August 2nd. Since then he has only pitched in 4 games. Overworked bullpen?

13 - Rick Ankiel, the lifetime .310 OBP hitter, hitting leadoff.

14 - One of his main talking-points upon his hiring was the need for a consistent lineup. I don't have the time to go through each of Davey's 50 games and figure out just how many lineups he has used, but venturing a guess that its closer to 50 than 1.

15 - Most importantly, he isn't winning. He inherited a team that had a 40-38 record, and now the Nats have a 62-66 record - Davey Johnson is 22-28 as manager.

These are some of the many reasons why I don't think the Nats should pick up Davey Johnson's option. I'm not sure that Rizzo or Johnson knew what they were getting into with this partnership, and I think that both would be happier if Davey returned to his position as special advisor and Rizzo brought in someone who thinks the way he does (pitching and defense).

There you have it, CapBallers. What are your thoughts on Davey Johnson? Do you think his 2012 option should be picked up? Do you trust him with our younger players? You know what to do!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Former Nats Greats #24

This weeks edition of Former Nats Greats will rankle the hearts an minds of all hardcore Nats fans. I would like to take you back to July of 2006. The Nats were struggling, unable to recreate their 2005 magic and it was time to make a change. Jim Bowden decided that he would try to fleece his former club by taking two of their budding stars for bullpen help and not much else. In doing so the Nationals traded away one of their 1st round picks from 2004 - the subject of today's Former Nats Great.

Bill Bray!

The lefty specialist was drafted 13th overall by the 2004 Expos and made the trip down to DC once the franchise moved. It would be until June 3rd of 2006 when Bill Bray made his MLB debut with the Nats against the Milwaukee Beer-Makers.

It is very rare that we find a Nats great that actually was a good ballplayer during his time in Washington, but Bray is that exception.

He appeared in 19 games and registered 23 innings, and his stats don't give him justice to just how good he was in DC. In those 19 games, only 4 times did Bray give up any runs (only 3 of them were ER games). His ERA in DC wasn't that solid for a reliever, a 3.91, but like I said if you take out 3 of those 19 games he would have a 0 ERA.

The 3 games in question were 6/14 against Colorado, 6/20 against Boston, and 6/29 against the Blue Jays - where he gave up 5, 3, an 2 ER respectively.

By no means was Bray the perfect reliever, but he was just 23 with great potential. So, when JimBo decided to make the blockbuster trade on July 13th, not everyone was thrilled.

Bray's career never took off in the end, so it looks like the Nats got the better end of the deal despite the fact that Kearns and FLop both are long gone. But simply for the sake of argument lets take a look at the value the Nats got vs. the value the Reds got - in terms of WAR-post trade.

Reds Received (Total Reds WAR) -
Bill Bray: 2.1
Gary Majewski: -0.1
Daryl Thompson: -0.3
Royce Clayton: -0.3
Brendan Harris: -0.1

Nats Received (Total Nats WAR) -
Ryan Wagner: -0.3
Felipe Lopez: 0.2
Austin Kearns: 6.7

So in the long run the Nats ended up winning in the long run based solely on Austin Kearns. Wow, that's a sentence that I never thought I would type.

Anyway, Bill Bray's career never really took off as it appeared back when he had just 1 month of MLB service time. Sometimes it's nice to write about someone who had a solid career in DC, or at least brought us something positive (a la Albaladejo).

Share your favorite memories of Bill Bray in the comments section!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tyler Clippard Isn't Human

The other day Tyler Clippard came in to the game after Chien Ming Wang began to struggle, there was one out in the 7th and a running on 2nd base. This has become a pretty standard situation for Clippard to come into - runners on base, multiple outs to get. A pop-out against last years MVP and a strikeout of an All-Star later and Clippard was once again out of the inning, without letting the inherited runner score. Again. The crazy thing about this is, this has become common-place and its not appreciated as much as it should be.

Let's put Clippard's 2011 Season into some perspective with his position among all MLB relievers...

3rd in Total IP - 68.1
2nd in K - 80
14th in K/9 - 10.80 K/9
9th in ERA - 1.58
1st in WPA - 4.79
1st in Holds - 32

A few other numbers to make you happy...

.158 Batting Average Against.
Opponents are hitting only 5 for 86 with runners on base - only 3 for 56 with RISP.

(h/t to Baseball Reference for doing most of the legwork on this post)

Clippard is having one of the best non-Closer relief seasons in baseball history - its simply incredible. Make sure you open your eyes and take it all in the next time Peaches takes the hill.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quick Rain Delay Wrap Up

We're live from Nationals Park and blogging from the iPhone in the midst of a psudo-treacherous rain delay. 

The Nats lineup tonight is fairly standard, though Ian Desmond gets his 2nd straight day in the lead off spot. It hasn't been a successful experiment in the lead off spot for Desmond, who's sported a .167/.196/.278 slash line there this season. 

The player that continues to fly under the radar across baseball, because he plays in our Nation's Capital, is Michael Morse. He's currently hitting .322 and sporting a .934 OPS. If he's still competing for the batting title in a few weeks, the national baseball media will start paying attention. 

We'll sign off for now but will be back with stuff from tonight's game tomorrow. Enjoy the matchup between Bronson Arroyo and Jordan Zimmermann in one of JZimm's last starts of the 2011 season due to his organizationally-imposed pitch limit. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Morse is Going Back to the Outfield. We Don't Like It.

After Mike Morse's 21st ridiculously long home run of the season on Tuesday night, NatsTown was officially informed that Davey Johnson has little intention of playing Morse at 1st base after the September 1st expanded rosters. To make matters more interesting, Adam LaRoche has been all but guaranteed the starting 1B job once he's healthy.

I'm not quire sure how Beast Mode has taken this news, and he may have already known it from the start. But it doesn't sit well with us for a couple reasons.
  1. Morse is hitting .334/.389/.607 in his career as a first baseman. Granted, it's on a fairly small sample size limited mostly to this season, but it's hard to argue with results. If Jose Reyes continues being hurt, there's a real chance that Morse could win the NL Batting Title.
  2. As a left fielder, his numbers aren't so pretty: .248/.292/.339. Again, this is with an even smaller sample size, and lots of those numbers came from the disastrous start to this 2011 season when Adam LaRoche was (relatively) healthy and playing daily.
In all reality, the Nats didn't have a whole lot of options for Morse in yet another non-playoff season for the team. Eventually, the organization has to see what Chris Marrero can do against MLB pitching, so he'll get that chance this September.

The future will be interesting though, because as far as we know, Adam LaRoche will make a full recovery from shoulder surgery and return next season. Morse doesn't look natural in the outfield and has been outstanding at first base, but LaRoche has never played a day in the outfield in his MLB career. You certainly can't force him there now, and you have to play him when he's healthy. He's set to earn $8 million in 2012.

Luckily for the Nats, and all of us, Morse is under team control until the end of the 2013 season. With Bryce Harper set to make the trip to DC before then, another big free agency coming up, and a relatively hot middle of the order (Werth is still going to figure it out, right?), the Nats have certainly seemed to figure out their offensive problems of the 1st half. Now if they can avoid changing too many players' daily routines, it'll make the situation a lot more fluid into next year.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Most Impactful Draft Ever for Nats?: We Think So.

It certainly didn't come easily, but the Nationals have successfully signed their top 4 draft picks from the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. All-in-all, Nats dropped just under $17 million on this year's draft, according to Adam Kilgore on Twitter. Here's the incredibly quick breakdown on the top 4:

Anthony Rendon was one of the top bats in the 2011 draft, and he successfully signed with a $6 million signing bonus, and $7.2 million guaranteed over 4 years. He'll quickly find a spot within the organization, but not at 3rd base. That position is already spoken for.

Alex Meyer, the right handed star pitcher from the University of Kentucky, announced to the world over his Twitter account (@AlexMeyer17) that he was indeed a Nats player. He's set to earn $2 million from the Lerners.

Brian Goodwin is a bit of a different story. He was dismissed from the University of North Carolina because of academic violations and moved to Miami Dade College before being drafted by the Nats as a compensation pick for not re-signing Adam Dunn. He's due $3 million in guaranteed dollars. Considering Adam Dunn's disastrous season in Chicago, we don't think many Nats fans will hate this signing.

The biggest wildcard coming into the deadline was Matt Purke, who the Nats drafted in the 3rd round. Purke was selected 14th overall in the 2009 draft by the Texas Rangers and declined to attend TCU. He thought he was increasing his stock for a later draft, but a little shoulder trouble in his throwing arm plummeted his draft stock. We think his family will get by, though.

According to Baseball America's Jim Callis, Purke will earn around $4.4 million over 4 years, which includes a big league deal. The big league deal is huge, because it immediately puts him on the 40-man roster. If his shoulder issues get resolved quickly, he could be a game changer fairly quickly.

This draft was huge for Nats GM Mike Rizzo. There's no way to overstate that. It's possible that the Nats had the best draft of any team in baseball. What do you think, CapBallers and NatsTown? How'd the front office do?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dynamic Duo

I had a great vacation this week. There was delicious food, cold beer, and relaxation on the beach. One of the things that I didn't get much of is computer time, more specifically Nats reading time. Now that I have returned back to real life it was time to do some catching up and while doing so I found this article by Joe Lemire of about Dan Haren and Jared Weaver. The basic premise of the article is that the Angel's aces can stand up to just about any duo in baseball, including Halladay and Lee/Hamels.

This got me thinking. Where would a healthy Strasburg/Zimmermann combo place on this list?

It's definitely a tough assignment, especially considering the fact that 1) Zimmermann is under an innings limit and 2) Strasburg is going through his own Tommy John recovery. But we here at Capitol Baseball don't shy away from the messy work. Let's figure this out.

Jordan Zimmermann is healthy and is currently the holder of a 3.6 WAR in 23 starts. That's roughly .156 WAR/Start. Averaged out for a 30 start season? That's a 4.68 WAR spread out over 30 starts.

Stephen Strasburg pre-Tommy John racked up a 2.6 WAR in just 12 starts in his 2010 rookie season. That equates to a .216 WAR/Start. Averaged out for a 30 start season? We have a 6.48 WAR spread out over 30 starts.

Zimmermann's 4.68 + Strasburg's 6.48 = 11.16 WAR

For those scoring at home that is better than the 11.0 registered by both Halladay/Hamels and Halladay/Lee. And that's taking into account a 25 year-old Zimmermann and a 22 year-old Strasburg - both of their primes still ahead of them.

Granted this exercise is purely hypothetical, it is still interesting to ponder the possibilities of a top of the rotation including two of baseball's best pitchers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Former Nats Greats #23

Welcome back after a depressing layoff of everyone's favorite segment, Former Nats Greats! We have big things planned for the last 8 weeks of the season, including the first ever interview with a Former Nats Great - a Capitol Baseball exclusive (make your guesses on who it could be in the comments section). Today's edition however focuses on a power hitter who became known for his prodigious blasts and wicked high strikeout totals - another JimBo "Five-Tool Player".

Today's honoree is none other than the Weapon of Mass Production.

Wily Mo Pena!

Wily Mo Pena made his arrival in DC on August 17th, 2007, coming from the Boston Red Sox, via a three-team trade that focused had Washington send Emiliano Fruto to Arizona, who sent Chris Carter to Boston.

In that last month and a half of the season the Weapon played in 37 games, mostly in Left, and hit 8 home runs in just 137 ABs, with a .293 AVG and a .503 Slug% - racking up a 0.7 WAR in those 37 games. It seemed as though the Nats had found a slugging left-fielder for the future. Though as tends to happen with these featured players, things wouldn't last.

The Nats, lead by Trader Jim, decided to award Pena with a $2 Million 1-year contract for the 2008 season. Wily Mo lasted just 67 games into the season before a shoulder issue *coughNOTcough* sidelined him for the rest of the year. He hit just .203 with 2 Homers in 195 ABs - he had a .243 OBP and a .509 OPS. Wily Mo Pena 2008 = Matt Stairs 2011.

As with a lot of the JimBo "athlete" moves, this one failed miserably - at least this one didn't cost anything but Emilano Fruto who has made 0 big league appearances since the trade.

We thank Wily Mo for becoming the Weapon of Minimal Production. I will never forget your first home run as a National - a 445 foot blast into the 2nd deck at RFK stadium against Orlando Hernandez.

Share your WMP memories in the comments section.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ollie-Watch: The Latest

Since we last left our hero (Oliver Perez) he was struggling to find playing time within the Harrisburg clubhouse, going almost a month in between starts. Now it seems as though Perez has been given a spot in the starting rotation and has been pitching on a regular 5-day's rest. Spawned by his performance last night, which could be considered one of his best starts of the year by far, let's take a look at how he has been pitching lately, via his last 3 starts.

July 27th - 5.2 Innings vs. Bowie

This start was a mixed bag for Perez, though at first glance it looks as though he did really well. He went 5.2 Innings for a no decision (the team scored runs after he left), and only gave up 6 hits and 1 Earned Run. The downside to what was almost a "quality start" was that he walked 5 batters while only striking out 3.

July 2nd - 5.0 Innings vs. Reading

Building off of a strong start on the 27th, Perez put together a gem for the Senators and left after 5 innings with a 3-1 lead (a game the Sens would go on to lose 8-4 thanks to a bullpen meltdown). In this appearance, Ollie was able to flip the walks and strikeouts from his last start (5 k's and 3 bb). He gave up 3 hits, one of which was a solo shot against Tuffy Gosewisch (seriously), a catcher for the Phillies.

July 7th - 6.2 Innings vs. Erie

This was Ollie's best start since going a 6 inning, 5 hit, 5 k, 0 run outing on May 29th. Sunday afternoon he showed flashes of brilliance, going 6.2 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run, which was a solo homer by the SeaWolves DH Brandon Douglas. Perez picked up his first AA win since that May 29 outing.

This year Oliver Perez has pitched, and started, 11 games for the AA Harrisburg Senators for a total of 53.1 innings. In those appearances he has only given up more than 3 runs once, and that was after a 15 day layoff.

Total Stats: 53.1 IP. 11 Starts. 3-2 Record. 3.04 ERA. 1.294 WHIP. 37 K. 17 BB.

Given these last 3 starts, it appears that Ollie is finally settling in and getting comfortable on the mound again. We will help you stay tuned to his progress, because you just might be seeing him in the majors come September 1.

Do you want to see Ollie Perez suit up in a Curly W this year? Sound off in the comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Can Michael Morse Win a Batting Title This Year?

As the end of the 2011 season creeps up on us far too quickly, it's certainly not too early to think about end-of-season awards and where the Nats might fit into the equation. We've talked extensively about Danny Espinosa's chances at winning Rookie of the Year, though his recent cold spell has significantly damaged his chances.

One thing we haven't talked about yet, though, is the NL Batting Title. Why can we even discuss it? Michael Morse. The only two players in the National League with better averages than Morse's .323 are Jose Reyes (.336; on the DL yet again) and Ryan Braun (.326). Pretty good company for a player who hasn't had a full-time starter's role in the majors until this season.

Let's go into a few reasons why we think there's a real chance that Morse will compete for the title all the way to the end.
  1. Ryan Zimmerman - Not too many players have had the luxury of hitting behind All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glover Ryan Zimmerman, but Morse is one of them. We won't say that Zimm is the entire reason that Morse is here at this point of the season, because the Nats lineup was Zimm-less for the first few months of the season. But we will say that he's the reason that Morse will stay there. In the last 18 games, Zimm has seen his average go from .240 up to .298. An incredible jump indeed, and it will only help Morse get good pitches.
  2. Opportunity - Morse won't be a bench player this season. With LaRoche done for the year, Mike will spend most of the rest of 2011 at 1st base. We're sure he'll get a few off days in September to give prospect Chris Marrero a chance after the roster expands to 40-men, but it won't be when Morse is hot, that's for sure.
  3. History - This may surprise many of you, because it surprised me. Michael Morse's career batting average is .303. I couldn't believe it, but it's true (at least according to the wonderful folks at Most of that may have been in a part-time role, and this year's astronomical numbers certainly haven't hurt, but you can't fake a .303 average over the course of 7 Major League seasons.
When the season ends, Mike Rizzo and Co. will have some really difficult decisions to make about the 1st base position. Do you trade Morse when his value is sky high? Do you make a push for Prince Fielder in free agency? What do you do with the returning (and expensive) Adam LaRoche? Is it time to see Chris Marrero's MLB potential?

But in the mean time, we get to enjoy having one of the best offensive first baseman in the National League this season, and one that can definitely win the batting title. It's one of those great stories in baseball. Enjoy it, NatsTown.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

September to Remember

(Blog post inspired by The Mighty Elements - Earth, Wind, and Fire)

In just a few weeks time we are going to be expanding the big league roster from 25 to 40 - and there are plenty of players who will be looking to make an impact on the brass upstairs. Some of these players will be your typical yo-yo, Justin Maxwell-style players who are victims of the options game, and the rest are going to be prospects trying to make a name for themselves for 2012.

The first thing we need to do is check out those players who are already on the 40-Man Roster - their chances and (minors only) stats from 2011 follow.

Adam Carr - AAA RHP - 17 G. 6.63 ERA. 1.789 WHIP. 13 K. 12 BB. - No
Yunesky Maya - MLB/AAA RHP - 17 G. 5.44 ERA. 1.40 WHIP. 68 K. 24 BB. - No
Garrett Mock - AAA RHP - 16 G. 7.04 ERA. 1.722 WHIP. 39 K. 24 BB. - No
Atahualpa Severino - AAA LHP - 25 G. 2.78 ERA. 1.809 WHIP. 28 K. 17 BB. - Maybe
Craig Stammen - AAA RHP - 20 G. 4.82 ERA. 1.411 WHIP. 105 K. 28 BB. - No
Chris Marrero - AAA 1B - .307 AVG. .836 OPS. 13 HR. 62 RBI. - Yes
Roger Bernadina - AAA OF - .230 AVG. .686 OPS. 2 HR. 5 RBI. - Yes
Corey Brown - AAA OF - .225 AVG. .721 OPS. 13 HR. 32 RBI. - No
Bryce Harper - A/AA OF - .302 AVG. .909 OPS. 16 HR. 54 RBI. - No

After this portion of the list a few things pop out.
- We have some waste on our 40-man.
- I don't think the Nats plan on seeing Maya anymore this year, barring injury.
- Same with Brown.

I think that the Nats will seriously consider removing up to 6 members off of their 40-man roster; Brown, Carr, Maya, Mock, Stammen, and (maybe) Severino. Which opens up several slots for those players that have lit up the minors this year.

Keep in mind that most of those new open spots are pitchers (5 to 1), and that there might be moves that happen before September 1st that see one or more of these guys come to DC.

Brad Peacock - AA/AAA RHP - 2.61 ERA. 0.960 WHIP. 152 K. 38 BB. - Yes
Tom Milone - AAA RHP - 3.62 ERA. 1.026 WHIP. 120 K. 10 BB. - Yes
Zech Zinicola - AA/AAA RHP - 2.25 ERA. 1.125 WHIP. 38 K. 10 BB. - Maybe
Erik Arnesen - AA/AAA RHP - 2.69 ERA. 1.142 WHIP. 98 K. 22 BB. - Maybe
Brad Meyers - AAA RHP - 3.47 ERA. 1.182 WHIP. 99 K. 12 BB. - No
Matt Antonelli - AA/AAA UTIL - .293 AVG. .811 OPS. 5 HR. 22 RBI. - Yes
Steven Lombardozzi - AA/AAA 2B - .313 AVG. .804 OPS. 7 HR. 43 RBI. - Yes
Derek Norris - AA C - .212 AVG. .809 OPS. 14 HR. 37 RBI. - Yes
Tug Hulett - AAA UTIL - .281 AVG. .777 OPS. 5 HR. 39 RBI. - No

That would be 5 "yes" and 2 "maybes" - obviously there are going to be more position players coming up than pitchers, because you have to be able to pitch pitchers often to keep them fresh.

For a team that is, at this point, at this point, 19 games out of 1st place there are few things to look forward to as the end of the year rolls around. To me, this is one of my favorite times of the year - a chance to finally see the young kids make the bigs for the first time.

Who else would you list here as a potential call-up? Who are you looking forward to seeing the most? Sound off in the comments section!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Livan is done, and there are lots of reasons why

When the Nationals acquired Livan Hernandez on a 1-year deal in 2010, everyone in NatsTown was excited for the return of a hometown favorite, and he did not disappoint. In his first full year back with the organization, he put up 211 2/3 innings and a 3.66 ERA, his best since the 2003 season with the Montreal Expos.

This season started out with about the same story: lots of innings eaten and an impressive ERA. But after his June 15 complete game shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals, Livan's efficiency decreased significantly. His ERA since that game is 5.74, opponents are hitting a high .345 against him, and has an astronomical .886 OPS. In the last 9 games, he only pitched 6 or more innings in a start 4 times. Not exactly what you want to see from your "innings eater" on the ball club. He's only thrown 62% strikes as well.

The main reason for Livan's pending doom with the Nats organization has little to do with his steady decline this season, though. It has more to do with the slew of incredible pitching talent that is ready to break though to the majors. Trading Jason Marquis before the deadline was the first step toward a younger Nationals pitching rotation.

With Stephen Strasburg's pending start on Opening Day 2012, plus the emerging dominance of Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannan (I know, I can't believe I just wrote that either), there are just two rotation spots left to fill with emerging talent. Ross Detwiler looks to be out of the contest, as he is unable to get through a lineup more than twice. He'll end up traded or in the bullpen. But Brad Peacock and Tom Milone provide the most hope for the Nationals pitching future.

Peacock was dominant in Double-A Harrisburg to start the season, and since being promoted to Triple-A Syracuse, he's certainly put up pretty good numbers. Milone has been simply dominant in Syracuse all season, putting up an 8-6 record, a 3.62 ERA, and an astounding 12.00 SO/BB ratio. He struck out 120 batters this year and walked only 10. That's incredible.

We're not convinced that both Peacock and Milone will make the rotation to start the 2012 season, but we are sure that they will both be September call ups this season. Mike Rizzo will still set out on his annual goal to sign a "big name" pitcher to help his rotation, but one thing is for sure. Livan Hernandez won't be the guy to make that rotation.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

2nd Half Resurgence

This Nats season has been quite an upside down year as we have covered before. We have seen our star player miss more than two months with an oblique injury, our new 1B play 0 healthy innings this year before shutting it down for surgery, and our $126 million acquisition play like Nook Logan. In addition we have seen a rookie lead all Nats hitters in WAR, our error rate drastically decrease, a sophomore slump out of our 2nd baseman, and a green catcher taking over as the starter instead of a Future Hall of Famer. Throw in a managerial resignation in the midst of an 8 game winning streak and we have insanity.

Since Davey Johnson took the reigns of the club he has dreamed of big offense, the "hairy-chested guy" that comes off the bench to swat a homer to win a 10-9 slobberknocker. And since the All-Star break that team has begun to show up more and more. Some players have stayed scorching hot (see: Morse, Michael) and others are starting to join the party.

Which leads me to the point of this - the Nationals recent string of wins with offense have been led by two players who are finally heating up; Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond.

Let's start with Desmond.

His first half was marred by a lack of hitting and spotty defense (pre-fatherhood) - he hit just .223 with 22 RBIs. Since the break he has been slowly but surely heating up, and in the 17 second half games he is hitting a much more manageable .265 with 9 RBIs. A sign of him possibly heating up - in his last 4 games he has 5 RBIs, whereas it took 32 games for his previous 5 RBIs. He also has been showing a ton more pop than before, as evidenced by his Tuesday home run, his first since April 17th.

Next let's get to the $126 Million Dollar Beard - Werth.

The Bad - 1st Half - 88 Games. .215 AVG. .681 OPS. 10 HR. 31 RBI.
The Good - 2nd Half - 17 Games. .285 AVG. .899 OPS. 3 HR. 11 RBI.

So far his 2nd half numbers are all well above his career averages for AVG and OPS, a welcome change from that miserable first half. With Werth finally hitting like the player he was in Philly, the Nationals now have one of the most formidable 3-4-5 hitters in baseball with Zimmerman, Morse, and Werth. Add Desmond, Gomes/Nix, and Espinosa in some combination of 2, 6, and 7 and they now have the potential to put up some (Carpenter-style) crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

The Nationals have found some recent success at the plate thanks to several reasons, but there should be no question that Werth and Desmond are at the top of that list. Hopefully they can keep it up, get some momentum, and help the team win some ballgames.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Preparing for Wang's Second Start: What To Watch For

On Friday night, Chien-Ming Wang had his first start in the majors in more than 2 seasons. Everyone in NatsTown was excited for the day that many (including us) thought may never happen, but then, the letdown happened. Wang gave up 4 earned runs on 8 hits with just 60 pitches. The Nats were never going to force him through too much stress, but let's take a moment and think about what we should watch for today.
  • Pitch count: Wang threw 60 pitches through just 4 innings in his first appearance. That's not really the model of pitch efficiency for a guy coming back from major shoulder surgery. The organization will continue to be cautious here for a bit.
  • Strike/Ball ratio: Of the 60 pitches thrown, only 39 of them were strikes. One thing that's easy to forget: it's really nerve-wracking to pitch in the major leagues. It's more nerve-wracking when you're a hero in your home country (Taiwan) and you know for a fact that every person you've ever known from your homeland is watching your game, plus millions more. Look for this ratio to become a bit more effective today.
  • Velocity and Location: Look for low to mid-90s fastballs and mid-80s change ups from Wang if he's going to have one of his more effective games. He hasn't traditionally been a strikeout pitcher though, so while velocity will be important for his timing, location is key. He has to keep pitches down.
  • Getting through the 1st inning: In his first start, Wang gave up 4 runs in just the 1st inning. It goes without saying that it's imperative that he fix the issue and give his guys a chance to score the first runs. It's always better to pitch with a lead, and it becomes more important with a guy coming off many years of rehab. The less stressful the situation, the better off he'll be.
That's just our quick preview of what you should watch for. What will you be watching for, loyal readers?

Missing The Shark? Rick Ankiel Isn't...

On July 29th, Rick Ankiel took over CF and leadoff responsibilities for the Nationals, and Roger "The Shark" Bernadina was sent down to make room for Chien-Ming Wang's first MLB start in more than 2 years. It was ultimately an extremely bizarre weekend in NatsTown that consisted of weird pitching performances, to veterans traded, and no real roster moves of note before the non-waiver trade deadline.

One person who didn't care much about all the trade hype was Rick Ankiel. With Bernie gone, he's made good work of the opportunities awarded to him. In the 4 games since Roger was sent down to Syracuse, Ankiel has driven in 8 runs and netted 5 hits in 17 at-bats. All of this peaked when Ankiel crushed a grand slam against Derek Lowe and the Braves on Tuesday night to deep, deep center field. The hit total during this stretch aren't stellar, but the RBIs are nice, even from a leadoff man.

Ankiel's range in CF continues to be above average, and his arm is well... that of a former star pitcher. Meanwhile, in Triple-A Syracuse, Bernie is doing just fine. He's only played in 2 games since being sent down, but he's already 4 for 8 with a home run, 3 walks, and 2 stolen bases.

Now, by no means is Ankiel a long-term solution in CF, or in the leadoff spot, but for now, he can fill the role while the Nats figure out what they're going to do. Bernie will probably come back up before the season is out, and Ankiel is probably not a member of this team's 25-man roster in April 2012. But I'll be damned if he hasn't been fun to watch over the last 4 days.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Assorted Trade Deadline Thoughts

Yesterday's 4PM trade deadline came and went without much fanfare as the Nationals were able to scratch out a victory (in game and series) vs the hated New York Mets. Most of the action came in the days prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, as the Nationals were one of the most active participants this year - making three trades in total. Let's take a bit of a look into those three trades as well as throwing down some opinions about the moves NOT made by Mike Rizzo.

July 26 - Jonny Gomes for Bill Rhinehart and Chris Manno
- Got the Nats a platoon partner for Laynce Nix - yippee. It seems that Rizzo is trying to recreate the exact same platoon that the 2010 Reds used to win the NL Central.
- Its a right-handed "power" bat - who conveniently is slugging over 60 points lower than his career average. No wonder the Reds were ready to cut the cord.
- The prospects given up were nothing special. Rhinehart is a DH-in-waiting. Chris Manno is a shut-down closer - but he is 22 and playing in High-A against far younger competition. Not a loss of prospects by any stretch of the imagination.

July 30 - Jerry Hairston for Erik Komatsu
- This is exactly what the Nationals should have been doing this trade season - trading veteran pieces for prospects.
- Komatsu is a 22 year-old outfielder who is going to be assigned to AA Harrisburg. He has an insanely high OBP (.398 in 4 MiLB seasons), but he doesn't have the range to play center or the power to play a corner OF position - he projects as a 4th outfielder at best IMO.

July 30 - Jason Marquis for Zach Walters
- Zach Walters is a SS by trade but many scouts believe that he doesn't have the range for it. I see him as more of an organizational piece, a super-utility player who can do anything.
- It seems like some of the Nats brass are delusional in thinking that he could play CF, as some unnamed Nats official was quoted saying just that. Here's a hint, if he doesn't have the range for SS, he probably doesn't have the range for CF.
- I like this trade, Walters has a solid average with no real penchant for power, but he has been able to improve his doubles numbers in the past year - much like Ryan Zimmerman, who was never projected to display much power coming out of UVA.
- The Nats saved $2.5 million on this deal - hopefully this can go to signing of 3rd Round Draft Pick Matt Purke.

The Moves That Didn't Happen
- I have to say that I am a bit disappointed by the lack of Sunday moves for Mike Rizzo's Nationals. As of today the team employs several veteran pieces that have little to no future in the organization. I would expect at least one waiver-wire move in the next month to make up for today's silence.
- RE: Storen-Span. I love Drew Storen and I am glad that I woke up today and he was still a National. But... I would not have been heartbroken had he been traded to the Twins for Denard Span. Relievers have a finite value in the sport, and its not near as valuable as any member of the starting nine. Sentimentiality aside, if we could've traded a reliever for an everyday CF/Lead-off Hitter then I would've been absolutely OK with the move, eventually.
- I think that Rizzo had a giant misstep in not dealing Sean Burnett when he had the chance. Lately it seems as if all Burnett has done is let inherited runners score, give up hits, and struggle to retire lefties. When the Yankees expressed interest in Burnett in early July Rizzo should've jumped at the opportunity. Buy low, Sell High - this is the code.
- Same thing with Todd Coffey and the Rangers.
- Sort of trade related - I am ecstatic that Ross Detwiler is going to be Thursday's starter - its time to see if he is part of the future.
- Sort of trade related - Congrats to Maya on his 1st career MLB win. I hope he can use his new-found quickness-to-the-plate and accuracy to develop into a quality piece.

Things I Would Like to See for the Remainder of 2011
- Livan Hernandez, Todd Coffey, Tom Gorzelanny, and Rick Ankiel being traded via waivers.
- Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Ross Detwiler (as a starter), Stephen Lombardozzi, Corey Brown, Collin Balester (with a real shot at the 'pen), Matt Antonelli, and wait for it.... Chris Marrero.

The Nats are not going to challenge for the Wild Card, there is just not enough offense for it. And I don't know about you, but I would rather see the young guns play just to see what they have, instead of suffering through veterans trying for one last hurrah/paycheck.

Well, CapBallers, what are your thoughts on the trades of the past week? What would you like to see in the final two months of the season? Sound off in the Comments!