Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fun With Projections

I spend a lot of free time at FanGraphs sorting through the absolute preposterous amount of information available. Over the past few weeks we have begun seeing the 2012 Projections System's being released - basically educated guessed based on ridiculously complicated formulas. For a brief introduction to the types of systems out there, check out this primer from FanGraphs.

A few weeks ago I remembered reading a comparison of the different projections from 2011, which retroactively judged the accuracy of each system for both hitters and pitchers based on their pre-season projection and their actual stats - you can find that article here. I decided to take the winning projection systems from 2011 (ZiPS for hitters and Steamer for pitchers) to see what they think about the Nationals starting lineup for 2012. You know, for fun.

Here are the results - based on my projected opening day lineup of course.

Ian Desmond - SS
- 2011 Stats: .253/.298/.358. 8 HR. 49 RBI. 25 SB.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .256/.304/.378. 10 HR. 57 RBI. 19 SB.

Jayson Werth - RF
- 2011 Stats: .232/.330/.389. 20 HR. 58 RBI. 24.7% K%.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .245/.342/.418. 20 HR. 62 RBI. 23.7% K%.

Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
- 2011 Stats: .289/.355/.443. 12 HR. 49 RBI. 101 Games Played.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .283/.354/.476. 22 HR. 78 RBI. 134 Games Played.

Adam LaRoche - 1B
- 2011 Stats: .172/.288/.258. 3 HR. 15 RBI. 43 Games Played.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .236/.313/.415. 14 HR. 58 RBI. 99 Games Played.

Michael Morse - LF
- 2011 Stats: .303/.360/.550. 31 HR. 95 RBI. .344 BABIP.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .273/.331/.475. 22 HR. 80 RBI. .310 BABIP.

Rick Ankiel - CF
- 2011 Stats: .239/.296/.363. 9 HR. 37 RBI.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .231/.293/.386. 11 HR. 36 RBI.

Danny Espinosa - 2B
- 2011 Stats: .236/.323/.414. 21 HR. 66 RBI. 25.2% K%.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .229/.309/.400. 20 HR. 71 RBI. 26.6% K%.

Wilson Ramos - C
- 2011 Stats: .267/.334/.445. 15 HR. 52 RBI.
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .266/.338/.453. 17 HR. 55 RBI.

For Fun - Bryce Harper
- 2012 ZiPS Projection: .238/.317/.405. 17 HR. 60 RBI. 132 Games.

As you can clearly see, several of the players have closely related 2011 stats and projections - whereas the exact players that you would expect to have drastically different numbers (LaRoche, Zimmerman, and Morse) have just that.

Let's check out pitchers now!

Stephen Strasburg
- 2011 Stats: 5 Games Started. 1-1 Record. 1.50 ERA. 1.28 FIP. 0.71 WHIP.
- 2012 Steamer Projections: 27 Games Started. 11-7 Record. 2.79 ERA. 2.51 FIP. 1.13 WHIP.

Gio Gonzalez
- 2011 Stats: 32 Games Started. 16-12 Record. 3.12 ERA. 3.64 FIP. 1.32 WHIP.
- 2012 Steamer Projections: 30 Games Started. 11-10 Record. 3.67 ERA. 3.46 FIP. 1.35 WHIP.

Jordan Zimmermann
- 2011 Stats: 26 Games Started. 8-11 Record. 3.18 ERA. 3.16 FIP. 1.15 WHIP.
- 2012 Steamer Projections: 31 Games Started. 11-11 Record. 3.77 ERA. 3.63 FIP. 1.26 WHIP.

Edwin Jackson
- 2011 Stats: 31 Games Started. 12-9 Record. 3.79 ERA. 3.55 FIP. 1.44 WHIP.
- 2012 Steamer Projections: 31 Games Started. 11-11 Record. 3.83 ER. 3.59 FIP. 1.30 WHIP.

Chien-Ming Wang
- 2011 Stats: 11 Games Started. 4-3 Record. 4.04 ERA. 4.57 FIP. 1.28 WHIP.
- 2012 Steamer Projections: 23 Games Started. 7-9 Record. 4.49 ERA. 3.99 FIP. 1.40 WHIP.


That was a whole lot of numbers. Projections being as they are, I found it most interesting that each of the Nats first 4 pitchers are pegged for 11-win seasons. Some other tidbits that struck my eye...
- Strasburg's projected ERA would place him in the Top 10 of NL Starting Pitchers.
- I'm surprised a bit that Gonzalez's numbers took that big of a hit - I know he is coming over from a pitchers park but he is also switching from the AL to the NL.
- Chien-Ming Wang is a complete wild card.
- 4 out of 5 pitchers projected for a sub-4 ERA? I'll take it.

So there you have it. Fun with Projections.

Which of these projections do you think are the most/least accurate? What are some of your projections? The Comments await!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 9

The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk Washington Nationals baseball.

In this week's episode, we discuss:
  • Ryan Zimmerman's contract extension
  • Is any team better set up for the next 5 years than the Washington Nationals?
  • Under the Radar and Biggest Impact players in 2012
  • Hockey musings
  • ... and more.
Subscribe to and rate our podcast on iTunes or download it if you don't use iTunes.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Anatomy of a Face

Face of the Franchise.

Nats fans have heard this term bandied about when describing Ryan Zimmerman since before his first appearance on the field in 2005. And perhaps his on field play, behavior, and decisions since then have spoiled our judgement when it comes to the what that term actually means. Let's run down what, at least in my mind, makes up a "Face of the Franchise" player.

Home-Grown: A true face of the franchise is not traded for, at least not the major league level. To really become a unilaterally appreciated and adored player, fans need to see the major league debut and watch how he develops as a player and man. Some Faces are acquired at some lower minor league level, but for the most part, these players are identified as special so early on that a trade is unlikely.

All-Star Caliber: While long-term role-players and over-achievers are often times key to long term success and are sometimes wholly embraced by the fan base, to truly define a franchise you need to reach an elite level of play over many years for the franchise.

Team Player/Community Hero: The reason teams often hold these players up as their face is because they embody the spirit of team work and volunteerism while also being dedicated to the team and the area.

Zimmerman's case: Slam dunk. The first pick in Nationals history. A career that will included a litany of accolades, spent in a city close to his home and family. Surrounded by a team of young players he has helped mentor and talented veterans he helped lure in. Already signed through 2019 to a contract that allows the team flexibility right now, and I'm sure more than a few nights reserved for the ZiMS foundation. Leader and mentor, line-up cornerstone, and defensive rock completely dedicated to the organization and the community, Ryan Zimmerman has an opportunity to define all that is good in sports.

Other true faces of the franchise in today's game? You go straight to Derek Jeter, who, in terms of championships and longevity you hope that Zim mirrors. Newly vindicated Ryan Braun, who was taken in the same draft and has a similar contract history with a mid-market team seems to be another Face. Evan Longoria is another player in similar position to stay with 1 team his whole career and define a previously undefinable franchise. Other players who are, or are on the verge of being, true Faces are Joey Votto, Joe Mauer, Justin Verlander, and Troy Tulowitski.

There are several hybrid faces of the franchise that are interesting cases. Big Papi for one in Boston is their Face, even though he came up with another team, breaking an 84 year-old curse is a great way to leapfrog some of the requirements for a true Face of the Franchise. Another interesting case is Ichiro - a player so transcendent and talented easily became the Mariners Face in his first season. Albert Pujos and Jose Reyes become almost instant Faces, one on talent alone, the other based on the direction of a new organization (Hanley Ramirez is NOT the face of the Marlins and never could be - I believe we will see why during Spring Training). Honorable Mention to Michael Young in Texas who has all the criteria yet none of the respect or accolades.

Did I miss someone? Most probably. Tell me who!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Deadline Passed

The Ryan Zimmerman Contract Extension Self-Imposed Deadline has now passed - and there has been no announcement of a deal. However, since 10:00 there has only been one tweet from any of the Nats beat writers; that simply stated that the meeting was over and that the players were on the field. Read into that what you will...

Even if a deal is not announced, please remember that the last time Zimmerman signed a contract extension it was announced more than three weeks after the fact. What is important is if the Nats were able to open their eyes and see that he would take a hometown discount in return for a no-trade clause, which would only affect the team for the next three seasons, until his 10-and-5 rights kick in.

The moral of the story is, be patient.

As always, stay tuned to Capitol Baseball for all the latest on the Nats 2012 Spring Training!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Poll: Zimmerman Extension

Tomorrow morning is the Ryan Zimmerman Self-Imposed Contract Extension Negotiation drop dead time. Rumors of a pending deal have been swirling around the twitter-verse over the past day or so, saying that there is progress but still a few hang-ups - one of which is a No Trade Clause.

We are going to take a quick poll here.

Does Ryan Zimmerman get extended by the deadline"
- Yes? If so, what's the length/amount of the deal
- No?

My prediction: Zimmerman signs a 7-year/$127 Million extension before the deadline.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

What To Do With Lombo

There is a huge elephant in the Nationals clubhouse centered around one of their prospects and what Spring Training will entail for this young man. That man is Steve Lombardozzi.

Seriously, this is a player that has been mentioned by everyone in NatsTown as a successor for the Nationals middle infield - at 2nd base with Espinosa moving to his natural position, SS. For the record, Mike Rizzo refused to include Lombardozzi in a few trades last year that would've netted the ballclub a center fielder. And barring a trade, are the Nationals really going to make a 23 year-old prospect a utility infielder? Would you?

This offseason saw Lombo crack every major prospect-ranking list, ranking #8 for Baseball Prospectus, #10 for Baseball America, and #13 for Fangraphs. According to Baseball America, he is the Best Defensive Infielder in the entire Nationals System - high praise from one of the top media outlets for prospects.

There is always some wiggle room involved with this kind of thing and according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Davey Johnson plans to use him in a "hybrid" role to get him to 300 Major League ABs in 2012. I have no idea how this is going to effect his development, and if anyone tells you they do know, they are lying.

Let's check out some of his minor league numbers, bullet-point style:
- He has had an average of approx. 606 ABs/year for the past three years.
- In those three years he has hit .296, .294, and .309 in A, A+/AA, and AA/AAA respectively.
- His career MiLB OBP is .369 - this is over 447 games.
- His career MiLB K% is 12.5%.
- Last season he had just 2 errors in 539 chances at 2B.

The truth of the matter is that, according to his MiLB stats, he is ready to make the jump to the Majors.

So once again, would it be wise for the team to bring Lombo up north with the big club come Opening Day for "hybrid" role? Does he play 2nd Base and you bench Espinosa or have Espi play Short? Does he play Short and you bench the more veteran Desmond or have Desi play 2nd?

What do you think, CapBallers?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Anatomy of a Backup

Yesterday as I was laying in bed I was thinking about the Nats - not out of the ordinary, but don't tell my fiancee that... And as I was laying there I was wondering about who exactly Jesus Flores is as a player. Is he going to be the 2009 starter that hit .301 or is he going to be the player that was confounded by injuries?

Jesus Flores fascinates me. The guy just doesn't have the word quit in his vocabulary. In 2007 he was drafted by the Nationals from the Mets in the Rule V (five) Draft and, improbably, stayed with the team the entire season. Even more incredible is the fact that he was able to register a 0.6 WAR in just 79 games despite the fact that the previous year he had only made it to High-A Port St. Lucie. He hit .266 in 2006 at High-A and he hit .244 in 2007 in the Majors. Insanity.

It's around this time that GM Jim Bowden realized that he found something special, a catcher with a serious learning curve. And things would only get better as he successfully split-time with Johnny Estrada and Wil Nieves in 2008.

2009 would end up being the turning point in Jesus Flores career. He started the season on a tear and hit .311 in his first 26 games until a rogue foul ball hit him in the right shoulder.

Flores would make it back to the majors in September for 3 ABs but all told he missed the rest of the 2009 season and the entire 2010 season with a stress fracture in his shoulder (which Rizzo said would be fine in no more than three months).

Despite the fact that he was the starting Catcher when he was injured, Flores found himself has the third wheel in the Nationals organization. Finally healthy, he was in Syracuse trying to scrape the Big Leagues yet again, blocked by Ramos and Pudge. His numbers were less than stellar (.234/.252/.378) but he was brought up to the Majors anyway come July, because really, every team needs three catchers on their 25 man...

His numbers in 2011 were merely a shadow of his former self - .209/.253/.314, yep, that's a slugging of .314. He was out-slugged by two National League pitchers; Daniel Hudson .369 and Yovani Gallardo .324.

I, as a baseball fan, hope that Jesus Flores can reclaim the magic that made him a future star in 2009. This will definitely be one of the stories that we will be following this spring, which Flores is going to show up to camp; a healthy one or a shell of his former self.

The Spring Awaits!!

Change of Heart

Sometimes you get to a point in life where you are just done. It can be from a relationship, a lifestyle, or a job. With Mike Cameron, it was the latter. He reached a point in his life where he just didn't feel it anymore, he didn't have the drive to compete anymore.

Yesterday, Mike Cameron decided to retire after 17 seasons of Major League Baseball, leaving the Nationals an outfielder short for the 2012 season.

The day started with pure, unadulterated joy as today was the day that Pitchers and Catchers were finally reporting to Viera after a not-so snowy winter. Things turned quickly as word broke around lunch that Cameron was not planning on making it down to Space Coast, despite pleading by GM Mike Rizzo.

So, now what is going to happen come April 6th at Wrigley and who will occupy the OF spots on the 25-man. Let's take a look at the options:

The Possible - Bryce Harper makes the club as the starting Right Fielder, Werth in Center

Pros - Bryce Harper is a once in a generation talent who would excite both die-hard and casual Nats fans into filling the park every single day of the season.
Cons - He is just 19 years-old and probably isn't ready for big league action.

The Probable - Rick Ankiel starts in CF vs RHP, Jayson Werth Starts in CF vs LHP while Mark DeRosa plays RF.

Pros - Keeps Harper in the Minors for some more seasoning, while Ankiel and Werth provide average to above-average defense in CF.
Cons - DeRosa will be 37 and hasn't played RF since 2009.

The Weird - Rick Ankiel and Jason Michaels platoon in CF.

Pros - Keeps Harper in the Minors for some more seasoning.
Cons - Really? Jason Michaels hasn't played CF since 2010 and has posted an average or below average UZR at the position every year of his career save for 2005 in Philadelphia.

There are just a couple of the many options that are out there. One thing is for sure, no one is as happy about this as Roger Bernadina.

What are your thoughts? Are you disappointed that Cameron won't be roaming CF on South Capitol Street? Happy?

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Public Service Announcement:

Pitchers and Catchers report to Viera TODAY!

Have a great day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 8

The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk about the Washington Nationals.

In this week's episode, we talk about:

The Nationals leaving Space Coast Stadium in Viera

Players Out of Options

John Lannan's Fate

Bryce Harper's Attitude and Skill

Rick Ankiel's Signing

... and much more.

Subscribe to and rate our podcast on iTunes or download it if you don't use iTunes.

RIP Gary Carter

The title says it all.

Though he never played in the district, Les Expos history is the Nats history and that makes Carter one of the franchises best players. The 1st ever player to wear an Expos hat into the Hall of Fame led the franchise to their one and only playoff birth in 1981.

I am not going to editorialize on this, I will leave that to the Boswell's of the world - suffice to say that the streets of heaven are filling way to quickly with baseball legends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Tale of Two Seasons pt. 2

Yesterday we focused our energies on the drastic 1st/2nd half offensive splits that pretty much each member of the Nats had in 2011. Today we are going to turn our attention to the Pitching staff and how their numbers fluctuated throughout the 2011 campaign.

But first, a disclaimer: The sheer amount of turnover with the Nationals 2011 pitching staff is pretty remarkable. The season's first 5 starters were Hernandez, Lannan, Zimmermann, Marquis, and Gorzelanny. The season's last 6* different starters were Peacock, Strasburg, Wang, Detwiler, Milone, and Lannan. That being said, some of these splits are going to be a little bit lopsided but we are going to work around it.

*I have included six because that's what the Nats were rolling with the close out the season

We are going to focus on those pitchers who got the most starts in 2011

And... Go:
- John Lannan (33 starts) - 1st half 3.64/1.344/.265 - 2nd half 3.79/1.632/.281

- Livan Hernandez (29 starts) - 1st half 4.01/1.368/.285 - 2nd half 5.50/1.463/.303

- Jordan Zimmermann (26 starts) - 1st half 2.66/1.070/.237 - 2nd half 4.47/1.338/.284

- Jason Marquis (20 starts)- 1st half 4.05/1.453/.291 - 2nd half 6.04/1.658/.306

These numbers (aside from Lannan) are a bit false - Livo got shutdown for the good of the ballclub, Zimmermann got shut down because of his ongoing Tommy John rehab, and Marquis got traded. So, let's take a broader look at the starters as a whole and their splits.

Starters - 1st half - 3.75/1.308/.269 - 2nd half 3.87/1.338/.270

So, all told, the addition of Wang, Peacock, Milone, and Detwiler made up for the 2nd half regression in Zimmermann, Lannan, and Livo to even out the numbers, making the 1st and 2nd half starters more or less identical.

We will get more into splits in the coming few weeks. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Tale of Two Seasons pt. 1

Last year the Nats inexplicably won 80 games, one rainout against the Dodgers from that magically .500 plateau. How they did it is even more of a wonder considering the injuries and lack of production they had from each spot in the lineup at one point or another. One of the most fascinating aspects to the Nats 2011 season is that things were able to fall the way they were while players seemed to play like it was two different seasons - first-half and second-half. While sorting through stats I saw some crazy number splits for certain players that certainly doesn't paint a picture of a team that was one game under .500.

Let's dive into the numbers a little bit, bullet point style:

- Jayson Werth hit .215/.319/.362 in the 1st half and .255/.345/.426 in the 2nd half.

- Ryan Zimmerman hit .254/.342/.408 in the 1st half and .306/.361/.460 in the 2nd half.

- Wilson Ramos hit .251/.328/.425 in the 1st half and .288/.342/.471 in the 2nd half.

- Ian Desmond hit .223/.264/.308 in the 1st half and .289/.338/.417 in the 2nd half.

- Rick Ankiel hit .232/.299/.333 in the 1st half and .246/.294/.389 in the 2nd half.

While in opposite land...

- Danny Espinosa hit .242/.332/.460 in the 1st half and .227/.310/.352 in the 2nd half.

- Laynce Nix hit .274/.315/.502 in the 1st half and .202/.269/.349 in the 2nd half.

Some staggering splits with Werth, Zim, Ramos, Desmond, and Ankiel all killing it in the 2nd half while Espinosa and Nix had hot starts but faded as the season progressed.

If you look closely you will see that these players account for 7 of the Nats 8 2011 starters, the only one absent from this list is Michael Morse who was hot all year (minus April); .306/.351/.535 vs .299/.369/.566 - 1st vs 2nd.

It baffles my mind that the team can have such drastic splits between seemingly all of their starters yet they still managed to win 80 games.

Now, imagine if everyone could put it together at the same time...

Friday, February 10, 2012

US Government Using It's Power for Good

Surely by now you have heard that the Nationals are doing a special pre-sale for the May 4-6 series vs the Phillies. This deal gives consumers with a DC, VA, or MD credit card the opportunity to purchase tickets for the series a month in advance to the general public. The window is part of a wider campaign to "Take Back the Park" from the Phillies fans that routinely travel down from Philly in charter buses to essentially put lots of money into the Nationals coffers.

Now, I have several thoughts on this whole thing:
1. I have met several knowledgeable Phillies fans in my years of Nats baseball (and some not so intelligent ones as well), and I always enjoy having a few of them in the park - just a few.

2. If you check out film of previous Nats' Park Phillies games, you will see drunk Phillies fans in the 100s section - unavoidable. Think about that. Those tickets are not cheap, nor are the $8 Bud Lights they guzzle down. All that money is going to pay the Nats' salaries.

3. I don't think that Nats fans are all of a sudden going to come out of the woodwork and buy tickets for this specific series, if you do think so then you are quite naive, because it takes winning. I thought all along that this would probably just embolden Phillies fans to buy more tickets (which, if you remember bullet 2, is more money for the Nats).

That leads us to today, when one of PA's two US Senator's decided that this would be a good time to use his considerable clout to write a strongly worded letter to Ted Lerner and Bud Selig. The illustrious Bob Casey apparently thinks that pre-sales deny everyone the opportunity to buy tickets. Oh by the way, as of this writing there are over 5,000 tickets available solely on StubHub - which doesn't engage in such "unfair" practices, in Sen. Casey's words.

I'm not going to knock the guy for wasting his time when there are obviously more important issues for a US Senator to deal with, but c'mon man. Really? You, and all of Philadelphia, took the bait? Wow. I expected more from you.

This was obviously an attempt by the Nationals to drum up a little bit more of a rivalry between the two clubs; and a brilliant one at that, because it clearly worked. Those Nats fans that bought tickets to "Take Back the Park" obviously harbor some resentment towards Phillies fans. There will be Phillies fans that feel slighted by the Nats for their ticket practices that will buy tickets in droves (once again, money for the Nats). Should create a fun atmosphere in the park for the three game set.

Most reaction I saw on Phillies blogs and in response to Nats blogs claimed that the Nationals "team sucked so bad" they had to resort to such underhanded tactics. I don't recall anyone bringing up the fact that the Nationals won the season series 10-8 last year, including 5-4 at Citizens Bank Ballpark - or Nats Park North.

There is an unwritten code on blogs; don't feed the trolls. Meaning, when someone comments something so absurd on a post just leave them alone and don't acknowledge their presence. Phillies fans (and a US Senator) just fed the troll and the Nationals got exactly what they wanted.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Baby Nats

There has been quite a bit of talk in the baseball industry about the state of the Nats minor league system. Some people say its a top 10 system, some say its a bottom 10 system. Where is reality? Somewhere in the middle? We won't know for 3 or 4 years how the system was today. So why worry about it? I want to talk about what people can look for this year when they go to see the Syracuse Chiefs or Harrisburg Senators or Potomac Nationals.

There is a town in upstate New York, where people are praying to whatever deity they happen to have faith in, that Mike Rizzo decides Bryce Harper isn't ready for prime time. Even 2 months of Bryce Harper in a Syracuse uniform could make an entire year of profit for the minor league franchise, not the mention the economic boost that the hoards of reporters and scouts would bring to the city.

There will also be a cavalcade of name brand Major Leaguers who have signed minor-league deals, some of whom will land at Syracuse. Chad Tracy, Jason Michaels, Mike Cameron, and Rick Ankiel could all see time at Syracuse when Bryce lands in DC. Prospectish Adam Carr, Zech Zincola, Rafael Martin, Cory VanAllen, Pat Lehman will all make an appearance, giving the residents of Syracuse a chance to watch 2009's version of "the future".

But I believe the biggest treat for the Chief faithful will be watching Tyler Moore tear up International League pitching. Two seasons ago he hit 31 HR for Potomac, he followed that up with 31 bombs with Harrisburg last year. By the way, he slugged .532 along the way to 70 XBH. So get ready for excitement Syracuse! And um...Yunesky Maya taking the ball every 5 days...

Harrisburg will be a special team this year and a large number (50 percent in fact) of the upper level prospects the Nats have compiled will see innings for then Senators. Pitchers Alex Meyer, Matt Purke, Sammy Solis, and Paul Demny have at least a decent chance to pitch in Harrisburg. Meyer and Purke seem to be long shots and their best hope to pitch in Harrisburg would come later this summer after fruitful starts with Hagerstown and Potomac. Sammy Solis is an interesting case, he had a somewhat disappointing Arizona Fall League posting a 4.50 ERA, a WHIP over 1.70 and striking out only 25 in 26 innings. Not the numbers you want to see from a power pitcher. But he was injured and should come to Viera and hopefully impress some of the brass.

Position prospects Eury Perez, Destin Hood, Brian Goodwin, Jeff Kobernus, Zach Walters, and Rick Hague are all likely to be seen in a Senators uniform. Perez, Hood and Goodwin are athletic outfielders, with Goodwin being the new guy to the group. Perez is a rangy centerfielder with good baserunning ability and should be a treat to watch the majority of the summer. Hood and Goodwin are Jim Bowden's dream, 5 tool guys that have the potential to be big time stars. Will that happen? Get some tickets. Make the trip to Metro Bank Park, nestled nicely on City Island in the middle of the scenic Susquehanna River.

Other 2012 minor league treats include Anthony Rendon, most likely to see time at Hagerstown and Potomac. He will need time in A ball to get back into baseball mode and to boost his confidence at third base as a pro. The Nats 5th rated prospect Michael Taylor who spent all of last year at Hagerstown is poised for a big leap at Potomac. He slugged .432 last season but struck out an alarming 120 times. He is an elite athlete and capable of wowing a ballpark in a split second. Lefty Robbie Ray is entering a make or break year in his career as a prospect. He will most likely land at Potomac, at least for the first half of the year. He is a power lefty and should throw some dominant innings at the Pfiz. Joining him from the right side is Taylor Jordan, not as powerful, but his sub 2.50 ERA and 1.20 WHIP so promise.

How do the Nats prospects rank against other MLB teams? The only real evaluations will come from the play on the fields. So if you are in DC, take a night or two and head to Woodbridge or Hagerstown. Maybe pick a weekend in July or August and escape the heat in DC in Harrisburg, see the state capital and experience City Island. Maybe stop at Gettysburg or Valley Forge, call it an educational trip for the kids. And if you reside in upstate New York and Bryce Harper happens to break camp and head for your borough, don't wait long to get your tickets, he will not be staying long.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another CF Option?

With under two weeks til Pitchers and Catchers, let's continue to dive into possible trades that would net the Nats a solid Center Fielder for the first time in club history - think about it, there hasn't been a single one. Last week our founder, Joe, tweeted out a trade proposal that would net the Nats star CF Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates. Here is the deal that Joe proposed:

To Nats:
OF Andrew McCutchen

To Pirates:
P John Lannan
P Ross Detwiler
SS Ian Desmond
2 Prospects

Responses ranged from "Hell yes" and "YES!" to "No way. #crazytalk" - for the record I sit closer to the "yes" range than the "#crazytalk".

I am going to change this around a little bit to what I think the Pirates would accept as a suitable replacement for one of baseball's brightest young stars.

Here is my proposal, followed by my explanation:

To Nats:
OF Andrew McCutchen
P Rudy Owens

To Pirates:
P John Lannan
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
OF Roger Bernadina
OF Eury Perez

Ok. Now hear me out. Yes, the Nationals would give up 4 MLB-level players for 1 MLB-level player - but it fills gaping voids for each team.

The Nationals would receive one of the best Center Fielders in all of baseball that is under club control for the next 4 seasons. For a quick refresher, McCutchen put up a slash-line of .259/.364/.456, hit 23 HR, 89 RBI while registering a 3.5 UZR. The deal would also send fringy, 25 year-old LHP Rudy Owens to the Nats to fill some organizational depth.

On the other side, here are my reasons for the pieces the Nationals are sending to Pittsburgh:
Lannan - I think that this needs no explanation, he is the odd man out and he would instantly be a top 3 pitcher for the Buccos.
LaRoche - Gives the Pirates a better first-baseman than Garrett Jones who took a developmental step back last year.
Desmond - Gives the Pirates a long-term option at SS, as opposed to Barmes who is a 33 year-old playing one of the most defensively challenging positions on the diamond.
Bernadina - Gives the Pirates an immediate replacement in center field for McCutchen.
Perez - Gives the Pirates a long-term replacement in center field for McCutchen.

In addition to filling out the Pirates roster, the move also gives the Nats some room to play around.

The Nationals would be able to move Morse back to the infield as well as setting up an outfield of Werth, McCutchen, and Harper. Here would be your Opening Day lineup:

8 - McCutchen
6 - Espinosa
5 - Zimmerman
3 - Morse
7 - Werth
9 - Harper
2 - Ramos
4 - Lombardozzi
1 - Strasburg

This trade would drastically change the landscape of both ballclubs. All that's left is your thoughts.

Well, CapBallers? What do you think?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Angels in Our Outfield?

If you were one of the hundreds of people that listened to the latest episode of Nats Talk on the Go - the Capitol Baseball/Nats Blog Podcast - you heard Joe and I discussing various landing spots of John Lannan. In the segment, we focused our attention on teams that had something that the Nats coveted - a young Centerfielder. We talked about the Rays, Angels, Orioles, and Pirates - eventually settling on the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen as the top target.

I don't think the team's thinking has changed on that, but according to a report filed yesterday by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe there is "a lot of speculation that the Nationals will deal him [Lannan] to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos".


Those that listened to the Podcast know that we immediately dismissed the Angels as a target for a number of reasons; their staff is essentially locked down and Bourjos is way too good for the Angels to trade away. But any follower of prospects knows that Mike Trout, one of MLB's Top Prospects is blocked by Peter Bourjos. I think we need to dig a little bit deeper into the Angels' roster to see if this trade would be a good fit for both clubs.

The Angels have a ton of money on the books for 2012, $146.5 Million to be exact - with 5 outfielders responsible for $49 Million of it. Broken down as Vernon Wells making $21 Mil, Torii Hunter making $18 Mil, Bobby Abreu making $9 Mil, with Bourjos and Trout each making MLB Minimum or $450,000. Just absurd amounts of money.

There is no doubt that the Angels have some terrible contracts with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and now Albert Pujols, but things are going to clear up in their outfield after this season with Hunter and Abreu both coming off the books. This year however, the team doesn't want to stunt the develop of Trout, who is clearly ready to play everyday. This leaves the Angels with a few options: 1. Cut Hunter and eat the remaining $18 Mil. 2. Trade away Bourjos, hampering the future to try to win now. 3. Suck it up and keep either Trout or Bourjos in the minors/on the bench.

I would've thought that the Angels would gladly take option 1 and stack the outfield with Wells, Trout and Bourjos but, according to this report, Bourjos may be on the trade block. If this is indeed the case, the Nationals need to try and make a deal for this to happen - though I have no clue what they would be interested in aside from Lannan.

The Angels have young, 4+ WAR players at each both SS (Kendrick) and 2B (Aybar) - eliminating Lombardozzi, Desmond, and Espinosa from the mix. They have first basemen galore in Albert Pujols, almost-ROY Mark Trumbo, and Kendrys Morales - eliminating LaRoche. They have too many outfielders already - eliminating Bernadina, Perez, and Hood. The only area where the Angels have an extra need is at catcher and I'm not sure that Jesus Flores is the piece that would put a Lannan-Bourjos deal over the top.

Ideally for the Angels, they would like to see at least one of the Nationals top prospects included in the trade but, outside of Harper, the rest of the top 5 (Rendon, Purke, Goodwin, and Meyer) is untouchable due to CBA rules requiring the most recent draft class to remain with their club for a year after being drafted.

So, where does this leave a possible trade? Who knows. Bourjos is definitely a piece that the Nats would love to add to their ballclub, cementing a future outfield of Harper, Bourjos, and Werth, but the two clubs don't seem to have enough in common to make a trade work.


Well... That sure was an incredible game last night - I mean, I can't believe that Manchester United was able to come back from a 3 goal deficit to tie the game, simply amazing!

And now, as you wake up from your food and beverage induced coma, call in "sick" to work only to sit down at your computer to read some Nats coverage, it's time to remind you what is really important in the world of sports.

The Nats pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS.

In less than two weeks we will have actual on-the-field news to report instead of just speculation on how the rosters might shake out. It's time to get down to business. To start, let's figure out just what we do know about the 2012 Nats, no guessing.

How many roster spots are locked up and who owns them?
By my count the Nationals have 19 players locked in for 2012.
C -Ramos, Flores
INF - LaRoche, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmerman
OF - Werth, Morse
SP - Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gonzalez, Jackson
RP - Storen, Clippard, Rodriguez, Lidge, Burnett
P - Detwiler, Wang

Who is fighting for a spot?
INF - Lombardozzi, DeRosa, Moore
OF - Harper, Bernadina, Cameron, Ankiel
SP - Maya (Ha!), Lannan
RP - Mattheus, Perry, Severino, Gorzelanny, Stammen

My two cents on who is going to actually fill out the last 6 spots -
P - Gorzelanny (Under contract for $3 Mil)
OF - Harper (Davey wants him), Cameron (Veteran bench guy), Ankiel (Proved valuable last year)
INF - Lombardozzi (Will push for playing time), DeRosa (Veteran utility guy)

This is purely on the roster as currently designed - I believe that Lannan will be traded, most likely a center fielder (Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that the Nationals are attempting to get Peter Bourjos from the Angels for John Lannan - which would be a coup). In which instance, we will have to play this little exercise again.

What are your thoughts on the 25-man, as currently constructed?

Friday, February 3, 2012

You Can Never Have Enough Starting Pitching

Leave it to Mike Rizzo to sign a starter the day after we post our 2012 Pitching Predictions...

Check with us next time Mike. Yes. The Nats, already 7 or 8 starters deep, signed Edwin Jackson to a one-year deal yesterday, adding yet another arm to a crowded rotation. Now, 4 out of the 5 spots are basically locked down with Wang, Lannan, and Detwiler squeezed (squoze? squozen?) into the 5 spot, and with the rumors swirling about Lannan, it might come down to just Wang and Detwiler.

This move by Rizzo indicates to me that he wants to launch the Nats not only into relevancy, but into a deep playoff run this season; imagine the Nats new top 4 in a short series or even a 7 game series. That is a scary proposition for a potential playoff opponent. Most-importantly, he has done this without turning 2012 into an all-or-nothing year. Gio, Strasburg, and Zimmermann are all long-term pieces and should Detwiler step up, the Nats would have 4 young core starters. So, by signing EJax to a one year deal the Nats become serious contenders this year, without sacrificing the future.

Mike Rizzo called this signing and the Nats desire to add a centerfielder through the trade market "mutually exclusive". Methinks that a declaration of shenanigans is in order. Of course they are related, Rizzo can now shop Lannan, an eminently serviceable back of the rotation arm. Paired with several other pieces (Desmond, LaRoche, Bernandina, a rehabbing Chris Marerro, et al.), Rizzo may be able to swing a deal.

How likely is that? Lannan doesn't blow anyone's skirt up, but he is still young, he has shown the ability to pitch in the major leagues, and he is under team control for another 2 years. These are all things that have proven to be valued in the current baseball economy.

The saying "you can never have enough starting pitching" is true. Injuries happen and sometimes players just don't perform to the level their are capable, and in those instances, it's nice to have back-up. But the main reason this nugget is true is that a wealth of starting pitching gives you confidence. Today, Mike Rizzo paid $10 million dollars to Edwin Jackson. While it improved the on-field product, it also opened up 100 more options for the Nats in the trade market, bullpen make-up, and player development.

And that's why you can never have enough starting pitching.

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 7

The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk about the Washington Nationals.

In this week's podcast, we don't even mention Prince Fielder. We promise. What we do talk about is:

John Lannan's Trade Rumors

Edwin Jackson's Contract

The Nationals 2012 Schedule

Brad Lidge

... and more

Subscribe to and rate our podcast on iTunes or download it if you don't use iTunes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012 Pitching Predictions

The Nationals pitching staff is young and exciting. 2012 could be a very special year for them, but most importantly, it is not a make-or-break year. The addition of Gio Gonzalez makes the staff formidable and also gives them balance, assuming Lannan is in the 4th or 5th spot. The Addition of Brad Lidge in the pen gives the Nats 3 guys who can dominate batters in the late innings, lefties or righties. Who will stand out statistically? To the predictions!

Sean's Win Leader: Jordan Zimmermann - 16. Gio will stay right with him until the end and Strasburg will win more than 10, but won't see enough starts get close to 20. Jordan keeps an even keel and will be THE stopper and have a Quality Start percentage near the top of the league.

Sean's Strikeout Champion: Gio Gonzalez - 200. Stephen Strasburg and Tyler Clippard will both post K/9 rates above 10.0, but Strasburg is on an innings limit and Clip is pitching out of the pen. Gio will also get a boost moving to the NL and will feast on the likes of Ryan Howard and Jason Heyward.

Sean's ERA Leader: Stephen Strasburg - 2.76. He doesn't walk anyone. He strikes out everyone. and he is still learning how to really pitch. Scary.

Craig's Win Leader: Gio Gonzalez - 16. I was all set to agree with Sean on his Zimmermann pick, and I do agree that this is going to come down to the wire. But, looking at the numbers from the previous season, JZimm received the 10th worst run support in all of Major League Baseball. Whereas, Gio Gonzalez won 16 games with an A's team that had the 3rd worst Run Support in the AL. I think that JZimm will continue to be bitten by the run support bug, while Gio Gonzalez will feast on NL hitters and be given some extra run support.

Craig's Strikeout Champion: Gio Gonzalez - 200. I am going to agree 100% with Sean here. Weird. He has shown that he is around an 8.5 K/9 for his career while pitching right around 200 IP a season. I think with the move to the NL he will be able to hit that 9.0 K/9 mark, which averages right out to 200.

Craig's ERA Leader: Drew Storen - 2.20. I think that Storen is going to have an easier go of things this year. If you remember back to last year, Storen started the year as a regular member of the 'pen as Jim Riggleman refused to name a closer (correct me if I am wrong, I don't think he ever actually named Storen the closer...), so he didn't get that adrenaline going til a few weeks into the season*. Even still, he posted a 2.75 ERA and I think that with a year as closer under his belt he will really turn it on. Don't forget, he is just 24 years old.

*Don't forget that Storen had an absolutely dreadful Spring Training*

Those are our picks, CapBallers. What are yours?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dispelling A Myth

Myth: Jayson Werth had a terrible 2011 Season.

Fact: Jayson Werth had a terrible 1st half of the 2011 Season.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen that Jayson Werth had a terrible 2011 season. Was it what fan's expected? No. But does that automatically mean that it was terrible? No. It doesn't. Not at all.

Before we get into me proving myself right, let's look at Werth's history.

From 2002-2009, Werth moved from Toronto to Los Angeles, finally settling in the City of Brotherly Love in 2007. Up until that point he was plagued with injury problems and he was mostly a 4th or 5th outfielder, not able to lock down a starting job. It wasn't until 2008 when he got that spot in the Phillies 2008 juggernaut of a lineup featuring healthier and younger versions of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, as well as perennial MVP candidate, Jimmy Rollins. Once he was able to settle in to that lineup, things went very well for him.

This is his slashline from 2002-2009: .265/.360/.467

Fast forward to 2010. The Phillies won a whopping 97 games and Jayson Werth had a career year (in his contract year, no less - shocking). Werth posted career highs in Runs, Hits, Doubles (almost doubling his previous high), Average, and Slugging - definitely an anomaly year.

So, was it naive for Nats fans to think that this was the Werth that was coming to DC?


I'm guilty of it, just as I'm sure many of you are guilty of it.

But let's get back to this past year. Yes, his first half of the season was pathetic as he posted a .215 Average and a .681 OPS, but a bad first half does not a bad season make.

Post All-Star break, Jayson Werth began to resemble to resemble the player that he was from 2002-2009 with this 2nd half slashline: .255/.345/.426.

Are these numbers lower than his career average? Yes, but not enough to throw a hissy fit over.
- The lower average can be explained by going from feasting on Nationals pitchers to having to face the Phillies Four-Horsemen.
- The lower OBP can be explained by going from hitting behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard to hitting behind Roger Bernadina and Ian Desmond.
- The lower Slugging % can be explained by going from Citizen's Bank Smallpark to more neutral Nationals Park.

This is the new reality for Jayson Werth. In my (expert) opinion, Jayson Werth is going to have a better year than last year, but it won't come close to touching the .296/.388/.532 of 2010.

But for now, can we please resist the urge to label all of Werth's 2011 a disaster? Thanks.

2012 Offensive Predictions

Asian people will eat a lot of rice. Oh wait, not that kind of offensive prediction...

We're talking hitting. The Nats offense was carried by Michael Morse in the wake of injuries to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche and a sub-par season for Jayson Werth. In 2012, Beastmode should be able to share more of the load with a healthy Zimmerman and LaRoche, a hopefully resurgent Werth and at some point, Bryce Harper. So, who will lead the Nats at the plate? Will a surprise player breakout and earn MVP consideration, a la Mike Morse? To the predictions!

Sean's Batting Average Champion: Ryan Zimmerman - .308. With several other offensive weapons on the team, the load on Ryan to produce runs will be lighter, allowing him to go the other way more often and even bunt occasionally (he is a very talent bunter, though it is unlikely Davey Johnson will allow that).

Sean's Home Run Champion: Mike Morse - 40. Beast Mode will pick up right where he left off. Given an entire season of ABs he will not disappoint. Werth, Zimmerman and Harper will all break 20 and make get close to 30.

Sean's RBI Champion: Mike Morse - 102. Hard to guess anyone but Mike. He will be hitting with Zimmerman and hopefully Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa on base quite a bit and will make the most of his opportunities. Zim will get his, but real offensive success will be incumbent upon Werth and LaRoche contributing a serious number of RBIs.

Craig's Batting Average Champion: Ryan Zimmerman - .302. I based this entirely off of 2nd half splits from last year. Once healthy, he became the offensive force that he was back in 2009 and 2010. My hope is that Zim flies high in 2012 after receiving a contract extension during Spring Training that makes him a National for life *Spoiler Alert*.

Craig's HR Champion: Michael Morse - 30. I don't believe that Morse is going to put up 40 home runs next year, I think 30 is a more reasonable goal. You have to figure that he is going to play against the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins' rotations a total of 54 times next year - it's tough to put up that many bombs in this division. I think that 30 is a nice round number that he can achieve.

Craig's RBI Champion: Michael Morse - 88. I think that the team is going to spread the love around a lot more in 2012. The Nationals scored 624 runs in 2011 and 95 of them were knocked in by Morse - a whopping 15.2% of the team's runs. I don't think that the onus will be solely on Morse to knock in runs, and that others will take the opportunity to drive in runs before he gets to the plate. With a healthy LaRoche and Zimmerman, I think that Morse still leads the team but it is going to be close.

Well, CapBallers, we agree on the players but not quite the numbers. What do you think?