Monday, January 31, 2011

A Monumental Thank You

As you can tell, we have a really, really awesome new banner for our really, really awesome baseball blog.

Kevin, a good friend of Capitol Baseball graciously offered to design something, and as you can see, it's just great.

So big time thanks to Kevin from St. Louis. We owe you a brew and a game when you come to town.

Banner photo credits:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bryce Harper vs. The World

One of the most intriguing Spring Training Battles of 2011 revolves around one of the most-hyped prospects in baseball history, Bryce Harper. The SI Cover Boy will be entering his first camp as a professional at the ripe old age of 18 years. Now, we know that the odds of Harper actually breaking camp with the team are very slim, as the Nats have a large corps of MLB-ready outfielders to fill out the 5 available spots. But, I think its something that should be at least brought to the table. In this post I am going to take a look at Harper's Arizona Fall League (AFL) appearance in a bit of detail, just to make a gauge at his readiness for big-league action.

Selected to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions taxi-squad, Harper was only allowed to play in 2 games a week, while fully participating in every practice. Normally this isn't a big deal, there are always taxi-squad players, but what made this so different is that he was just the second youngest player in AFL history (by a whopping 2 days). So, after his quick jaunt in the Nationals Fall Instructional League, it was time for Harper to step up to the plate against top-of-the-line, one-step-below-the-Major-Leagues talent.

Lets take a look at his game by game, to try and see how he stacked up against top talent.

October 20 vs. Mesa Solar Sox
1 for 4. 2B. 2 RBI.
AB #1 - Pop out to SS against Josh Zeid, a 10th rounder for the Phils in '09.
AB #2 - Line out to CF against Kyle Smid, a 5th rounder for the Dodgers in '06.
AB #3 - Ground out to 3B against Chris Carpenter, a 3rd rounder for the Cubs in '08
AB #4 - Ground Rule Double, 2 RBIs against Brian Leach, a 25th rounder for the Pirates in '08

October 23 vs. Phoenix Desert Dogs
2 for 4. 2 1B. 1 K.
AB #1 - Line out to 3B against Manuel Banuelos, Yankees International Free Agent.
AB #2 - Single against Banuelos
AB #3 - Strikeout against Peter Andrelczyk, a 5th rounder for the Marlins in '08
AB #4 - Single against Javy Guerra, a 4th rounder for the Dodgers in '04

October 27 vs. Mesa Solar Sox
0 for 4. 2 K.
AB #1 - Strikeout against Robert Carson, a 14th rounder for the Mets in '07
AB #2 - Pop out to 2B against David Cales, a 24th rounder for the Cubs in '08
AB #3 - Strikeout against Brian Leach, see above
AB #4 - Ground out to 2B against Chris Kissock, a 9th rounder for the Phils in '07

October 30 vs. Peoria Saguaros
3 for 5. 2B. HR. R. 2 RBI. 2 K.
AB #1 - Home Run against Erik Davis, a 13th rounder for the Padres in '08
AB #2 - Single against James Avery, a 5th rounder for the Reds in '05
AB #3 - Strikeout against James Avery
AB #4 - Strikeout against Brad Brach, a 42nd rounder for the Padres in '08
AB #5 - Double against Anthony Carter, a 26th rounder for the White Sox in '05

November 3 vs. Surprise Rafters
1 for 2. 2 BB. 2 R. 1 K.
AB #1 - Strikeout against Brian Broderick, a 21st rounder for the Cardinals in '07
AB #2 - Bunt single against Brian Broderick
AB #3 - Walk against Adalberto Flores, a 32nd rounder for the Marlins in '05
AB #4 - Walk against Matt Hoffman, a 26th rounder for the Tigers in '07

November 5 vs Phoenix Desert Dogs
1 for 4. 1 BB. 2 K.
AB #1 - Walk against Travis Banwart, a 4th rounder for the A's in '07
AB #2 - Single against Travis Banwart
AB #3 - Strikeout against Benino Pruneda, a 31st rounder for the Braves in '07
AB #4 - Flies out against Lance Sewell, a 7th rounder for the A's in '07
AB #5 - Strikeout against Justin James, a 5th rounder for the Blue Jays in '03, now with the A's

November 10 vs Peoria Saguaros
2 for 5. 2 3B. 2 RBI. 2 R. 2 K.
AB #1 - Flies out against Daryl Thompson, an 8th rounder for the Expos in '03, now with Reds
AB #2 - Triple against Kyle Waldrop, a 12th rounder for the Reds in '10
AB #3 - Strikeout against Tyler Robertson, a 3rd rounder for the Twins in '06
AB #4 - Triple against James Avery, see above
AB #5 - Strikeout against Jeremy Horst, a 21st rounder for the Reds in '07

November 13th vs Surprise Rafters
0 for 3. 1 BB.
AB #1 - Popout against Michael Fiers, a 22nd rounder for the Brewers in '09
AB #2 - Walk against Michael Fiers
AB #3 - Reach on error against Brandon Sisk, minor league FA signed by the Royals in '09
AB #4 - Ground out against Chance Ruffin, a 1st rounder for the Tigers in '10

November 17 vs Mesa Solar Sox
2 for 4. 2B. RBI. K.
AB #1 - GIDP against Tyson Brummett, a 7th rounder for the Phillies in '07
AB #2 - Single against Chris Kissock, see above
AB #3 - Strikeout against Steven Geltz, minor league FA signed by the Angels in '08
AB #4 - Double against Jacob Diekman, a 30th rounder for the Phillies in '07

November 20 vs Peoria Javelinas - AFL Championship Game
1 for 4. RBI. 2 K.
AB #1 - Single against Kyle Greenwalt, a 20th rounder for the Astros in '07
AB #2 - Flies out against Tom Wilhelmsen, a 7th rounder for the Brewers in '02, now w/ Seattle
AB #3 - Strikeout against Alan Farina, a 3rd rounder for the Blue Jays in '07
AB #4 - Strikeout against Josh Lueke, a 16th rounder for the Rangers in '07

For a Grand Total of .343 AVG. 1.039 OPS. 1 HR. 2 3B. 3 2B. 7 RBI. 4 BB. 11 K.

Looking back at each of those AFL games you can see that most of the competition he faced has about 3 years of minor league experience. Sprinkled in, there are a few prospects that were drafted in '09 or '10, but the vast majority* is from '07 and before, meaning they have several full seasons under their belt. To be able to face top quality pitching while putting up those kind of offensive numbers while showing above average defense in the outfield is a testament to his prodigious talent, especially considering he was never a full-time outfielder before September.

*Breakdown of Draft Status*
2010 - 2... 2009 - 3... 2008 - 6... 2007 - 13... 2006 - 2... 2005 - 3... 2004 - 1... 2003 - 2... 2002 - 1

1st Round - 1... 2nd - 0... 3rd - 3... 4th - 1... 5th - 3... 6th - 0... 7th - 2... 8th - 1... 9th - 1... 10th - 1... 11+ - 15

Total of 13 pitchers drafted in the Top 10 rounds. 24 of the picks were drafted in the '07 class or later.

Will Harper's talent be enough to unseat a player such as Michael Morse or Roger Bernadina in 2011? I highly doubt it. Even with a solid Spring Training, the Nats are most likely going to make Harper pay his dues riding the bus in the Minors; much like Strasburg had to do this past year, after dominating big league talent in March. And I'm guessing that the Nats don't want to start his Arbitration clock too soon. I would say that I am about 99.9% sure that Harper will be headed to Hagerstown or Potomac come the end of April, but that still leaves .1%.

If the stars align perfectly (IE Harper hits 1.000 with a 4.000 Slugging % in 30+ ABs), Harper could wind up playing against the Braves on Opening Day. Roaming the grounds of Nationals Park, creating a devastating tag team of Zimmerman, Werth, and Harper. Feasting on fastballs by the Phillies so-called Four Horseman. Winning Rookie of the Year and MVP Honors...

Hey, I'm allowed to dream, right?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Primer: Part 2

For part 2 of this 4 part prep for the 2011 baseball season I want to take the time to focus on baseball's blogging world. All of us bloggers have our kinships and most include a blog roll listing other Nats blogs, because we all share in this love of our hometown team and wish each other success. We know that if you have found our home here at Capitol Baseball, that you most certainly frequent other Nats blogs, therefore this edition will be centered on non-Nats/General MLB blogs. These are some of our favorites, enjoy!

Joe Blog
Joe Posnanski is one of the best writers in baseball today, and the AP Sports Editors have agreed, twice making him the Sports Writer of the Year. Yes, he can be a bit wordy, but more often than not his prose is moving and passionate, something that is in dire need in the sporting world today. His love of the game is both theoretical and filled with childish wonderment. Posnanski's favorite team is the Kansas City Royals, as that is where he is based and where he still writes for the Kansas City Star (in addition to his full-time job with Sports Illustrated), so it is very interesting to hear his musings on the various debacles that Dayton Moore gets the team into. If you want to be inspired you should look up his Sports Illustrated cover story on Zack Greinke's return to baseball despite suffering from chronic depression.

Big League Stew
Yahoo! Sports has really hit the blogging jackpot with their sports coverage. Of the two sports I seriously follow (Baseball and Hockey) each of Yahoo's blogs on the subject is just a gold mine of quirky and must-read material. Continually running through the off-season and regular season, Big League Stew posts both newsworthy materials and Onion-like satirical stories. Besides, what's not to love about a blog who takes its name after a chewing gum stylized like chewing tobacco.

"The Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics" might not be your cup of tea. But to Paul Lukas, Page 2 writer for, its become his life. The site has been around for several years and has turned into an amazing niche on the internet, drawing big name interviews with designers and clubhouse attendants alike. It is amazing what these people can pick up on, such as a slightly different style of lettering, or a drop shadow on one jersey but not on another. All in all, this blog is a lot of fun to read, and they post several reader submissions every day from eagle-eyed readers.

Baseball Nerd
Major League Baseball has really started to improve their online presence in the last few years, and much of their improvement has come in blog form. MLB has asked several random fans and celebrities to write for their website's blogging network, and in this specific one Former-MSNBC Commentator and Pundit Keith Olbermann has taken the reins. Say what you will about his politics, but in this instance baseball has nothing to do with politics. Olbermann is a brilliant writer, and he, more than anyone, has the ability to wax poetic better than anyone short of Ken Burns about the cut of the grass and the dirt flying up from a stirrup-clad base-stealer.

Cot's Baseball Contracts
The single greatest place to go for contract information. Each team has its own section and includes information on the General Manager, Manager, in addition to each player under contract. The information included for each individual includes a detailed breakdown of their entire career, from the draft, to the minors, to the Majors. Cot's also has a complete list of arbitration eligible players, potential free agents, and team-by-team payroll breakdowns.

In addition to their fantastic statistical database of all things baseball, Fangraphs also has a core staff of analysts on board. Focusing mostly on Sabermetric analysis, these writers also have quite a vast knowledge of each team's minor league system. If you are ever in the mood to see how Nyjer Morgan's steal of second increased the Nats winning percentage, head over to see what the Fangraphs' guys have to say about it.

Once you start, you can't stop. This no-nonsense website is dedicated to preserving the best of MLB's history. Included on this bare-bones site is every single box score from every single game since 1919 and play-by-play for every game since 1950. And if that isn't impressive enough, they have a full statistical array of splits, batter-pitcher matchups, career ejection numbers, coaching records, umpire assignments, milestone dates for all players, ballpark directories cemetery locations, as well as noteworthy and quirky event listings (triple play, batting out of turn, passing runners on base, protested games, etc.). Warning: you will lose hours out of your day if you go to this site.

Click HERE to recap Part 1 of the 2011 Primer! And feel free to leave your favorite MLB-Centric sites in the Comments section!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Former Nats Greats #8

This week's edition of Former Nats Greats is going to focus on another outstanding player for our Inaugural campaign of 2005. With a perfect name to pronounce and a penchant for punchouts, this player has earned enshrinement in Capitol Baseball's Hall of Former Nats Greats.

The lucky winner is...

Matt Cepicky!

Welcome aboard and congratulations are most certainly in order.

Cepicky came to the Nats via the Montreal Expos days, as he was drafted by the club in the 4th round of the 1999 Draft. He played sparingly after his major league debut in 2002, making it into just 69 games in 3 years prior to moving to the district. And it took until early July for him to make his first appearance in the Nation's Capital.

Matt Cepicky made his National's debut on, how fitting, the 4th of July against the New York Metropolitans. He came into the game in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch hitter for the ever-so-reliable Luis "Gas Can" Ayala, where he proceeded to ground out to the Jose Reyes. 0-1.

Frank Robinson apparently liked what he saw and gave Cepicky the start in Left Field the next day, replacing the future Cubbie, Marlon Byrd. Hitting in the 6 hole, Cepicky grounded out, grounded out, and popped out. Helping the Nats win a 3-2 decision over those pesky Mets.

Things would get better for our hero, as he got a hit in his next start (July 7) and then followed that with his best performance in a Nationals' uniform; 2 for 4 with a double and 3 RBIs in an 8-7 win over the Phightins. However, the honeymoon was not to last and Matt Cepicky got just 3 more hits in his last 5 games with the team.

His numbers for that 2005 year are as follows:
11 Games. 25 AB. .240 AVG. .629 OPS. 6 H. 3 2B. 1 BB. 8 K. 3 RBI. 1.4 UZR. 0.1 WAR.

What really strikes me about those statistics is that he had 8 strikeouts in 25 at bats. That's a 32% Strikeout Ratio. Really rough (though much better than Justin Maxwell's 41.3% from this past year). One of the most impressive things about these numbers is that he was able to put up a positive WAR despite a severe lack of offensive production, I guess that 1.4 UZR really helped to bump that number up.

So there you have it. Former Nats Great #8. The Great and Timeless Matt Cepicky. Thank you for having a fun-to-pronounce name that we can still talk about 6 years later.

Please post your favorite Matt Cepicky memory in the Comments section!

And Then There Were Two...

Yesterday the Nats cut ties with 23 year-old Dutch-Antilles right-hander Shairon Martis, designating the starter for assignment; passing him through waivers to be released, traded or sent to Syracuse. Although I'm not sure what is going to happen to Martis, I believe that he has seen his last days in the Nationals Organization and that some other team will take a chance on the 2009 rotation member. The move was made to clear way for utilityman-extraordinaire, Jerry Hairston, who signed a $2 million dollar Major League contract a few days ago.

With that domino falling, the Nats have just a few more housekeeping moves to be made before Pitchers and Catchers report on February 16th. As of now, before the Gorzelanny and Coffey deals are accepted by MLB, the Nats have 42 men on their 40-man roster. That means 2 men are going to be unceremoniously booted to the curb.

On December 21st I wrote a post called 40-Man Maintenance that, among other things, attempted to weed out the moves that the Front Office needed to make in order to fit all the new players on the roster. In said post I predicted that Matt Chico, Justin Maxwell, and Luis Atilano would be cut; and to my credit, Chico was cut later that day. As of now, I believe that there are now 3 true candidates to be considered for removal from the 40-Man. Here is what I wrote about those 3 candidates in the previously alluded-to post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predictions: 25 year-old Atilano stays. 27 year-old Mock and Maxwell gone.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Spring Training Battles

The past several weeks have been very eventful in NatsTown. So far this Hot Stove season has seen the Nats find a first-baseman (via last man standing WWE-style), add several valuable bullpen arms, and stock our bench with several legitimate veterans. What this means for the 2011 club is simple, the most eventful portion of the season for this team might just be Spring Training. With that in mind, I want to take a quick look at our 40-man roster, and who might be settling in on the 25-man roster once the regular season begins.

Traditionally the 25-man roster is situated as such. 12 Pitchers (5 starters, 7 relievers). 2 Catchers. 1 each for the 7 remaining positions. 4 Bench Players (2 OF and 2 IF/Utility).

Here is a breakdown of what the Nats currently have (including Spring Training Invites), compared to what they will need to cut down come March 31st. And as a special treat, without looking at any statistics I am going to denote my guesses with a *.

Catchers (2 total):
Ivan Rodriguez*
Wilson Ramos*
Jesus Flores

Infielders (6 total):
Adam LaRoche*
Danny Espinosa*
Ian Desmond*
Ryan Zimmerman*
Alex Cora
Jerry Hairston Jr.*
Alberto Gonzalez*
Brian Bixler
Michael Aubrey
Chris Marrero

Outfield (5 total):
Jayson Werth*
Nyjer Morgan*
Roger Bernadina*
Rick Ankiel*
Michael Morse*
Corey Brown
Matt Stairs
Justin Maxwell
Jeff Frazier
Jonathan Van Every
Bryce Harper

One of the great details about our current roster design is that several of these players I have *'ed have the ability to play all around the field (Hairston, Gonzalez, and Morse) thereby increasing their chances of making the 25-man.

And now comes the most difficult of them all. Pitchers. I'm going to break them down between starters and relievers.

Starters (5 total):
John Lannan*
Livan Hernandez*
Yunesky Maya
Jordan Zimmermann*
Jason Marquis*
Tom Gorzelanny
Shairon Martis
Garrett Mock
Luis Atilano
Ross Detwiler
Chien-Ming Wang*
Brian Broderick

Relievers (7 total):
Collin Balester*
Sean Burnett*
Adam Carr
Tyler Clippard*
Cole Kimball
Elvin Ramirez
Henry Rodriguez
Atahualpa Severino
Doug Slaten*
Craig Stammen*
Drew Storen*
Joe Bisenius
Chad Gaudin
Ryan Mattheus
Todd Coffey*

Wow. That is an awful lot of players from which to choose. Now here are some of the battles we should expect to see solved this spring (analysis as we get closer to decision time).

Catchers - Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores vs. Pudge Rodriguez
- Who starts on Opening Day? Will we see both of the young stud's replace the veteran HOFer? Will Flores finally be healthy?

Infield Bench - Alex Cora vs Alberto Gonzalez
- Does Gonzalez have a leg up because of his history on the club, or will it go to the more experienced Alex Cora?

Outfield - Left-Field - Rick Ankiel vs. Roger Bernadina vs. Michael Morse
- Will there be a straight lefty-righty platoon? Who will start Opening Day? Will all 3 make the roster?

Outfield Bench - Losers of Left-Field Starter battle vs. Matt Stairs
- Will the veteran's big left-handed bat and power potential keep him on the roster?

Starting Pitchers - Battle for the 5th Rotation Spot
- Will Gorzelanny win the 5th spot? Will he be handed the job even if he has a bad spring? What happens to those who don't win the 5th spot; minors or release? What will a healthy Chien-Ming Wang look like? Will Detwiler finally reach his potential? What will a dominant Venezuelan Winter Leagues performance mean for Yunesky Maya, has he turned the corner?

Bullpen - Battle for the Bullpen
- Who will be given a spot based on last year's performance? Will Storen be sent to the minors? Will Todd Coffey and Chad Gaudin be given spots regardless of performance? What will Henry Rodriguez do? Will Balester control the ball enough to earn a spot? Will Chad Gaudin earn a spot?

I hope you enjoyed our quick look at all the possible battles that will take place this year down in windy Viera!

Any other battles that you are looking forward to? Sound off in the comments.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 Primer: Part 1

Spring Training starts in just less than a month. I'll pause for the cheering to stop.


Good? Ok.

In honor of that, today we are starting a 4-part series, leading into Pitchers and Catchers reporting, that we are calling our 2011 Primer. Each Wednesday for the next 4 weeks we will be posting a new edition, focused on baseball's web presence and websites/blogs we think you should know.

Today's edition focuses on Baseball Websites (Non-Blog edition) which, in the course of our research/enjoyment we have stumbled upon. We hope that you will find these sites as infinitely valuable as we do; both in resources, hilarity, and enjoyment. As part of our ongoing support of all things baseball, we wanted to share these sites with you. Some of these sites you may know, some of these sites you may love, some of these sites you may hate, but either way, we would love to share these with you.

This is the Baseball Site (Non-Blog) edition.

Baseball Reference
This site is the be-all-end-all of baseball's presence on the web. Everything you could possibly want to find, ever, if it relates to baseball. Stats, box scores, award voting, Hall of Fame voting, standings for every year in the modern era, draft results, saber stats, minor league stats, attendance figures, similar players, streaks, you name it. If you haven't yet, bookmark this site.

Another stat focused website which also includes some original content. In addition to all of the traditional stats and splits, Fangraphs has much more of a focus on more modern stats in the Sabermetric ilk. The Sabermetric focus of this site is broken down further into specifics such as Fielding, Plate Discipline, Win Probability, and Value in addition to Batted Ball Percentages and Pitch Selection. One of the more fun features on this site is the Projections for future production.

MLB Trade Rumors
If you are looking for anything revolving around trades, contract extensions or draft possibilities this is the site for you. MLB Trade Rumors (MLBTR) tracks every beat writer and columnist (and probably every player ex-girlfriend and clubhouse attendant as well) and conglomerates all news into their easy to read blog format. In addition to rumors and trades MLBTR also offers an Arbitration Tracker, Free Agent Tracker, Transaction Tracker, Future Free Agent Tracker, and an updated Draft Order. One of my favorite features is that they have an exclusive agreement with the Elias Sports Bureau to post an up-to-the-minute reverse engineered version of the Free Agent rankings; Type A, Type B, neither. And if you don't want to hear about anyone but our beloved Nats, MLBTR offers team specific Twitter/Facebook/RSS feeds updated only when that team is included in the post.

Chris Creamer's Sports Logos Page
You can, and will, spend hours looking at this page. Chris Creamer's has every single logo you could possibly imagine, for every single major sport. Not every major sports league, every major sport. If you are looking for any current logo of the past or present, from every baseball league from here to Korea; 23 Baseball leagues in all. When you get a couple hours to kill on a Wednesday at work or on a lazy Saturday afternoon, go over to this site and just enjoy yourself.

Batting Stance Guy
Gar Ryness has what he calls the "least marketable skill in America", why is this relevant? Because he can emulate any batting stance from any major leaguer ever, in a very comically accurate way. Starting as a YouTube guy, he has since been written a book, runs his website, and visits ballparks all across MLB. On his website you can see his impressions of several Nats players as well, from when he visited Nats Park and presented the starting lineup ( Be sure to note his Ian Desmond - just fantastic.

Baseball America
The place to go for prospect coverage. Their prospect handbook comes out once a year and immediately becomes a must read for any hardcore fan of High School, Junior College, NCAA, and Minor League baseball. Their website has content available to all users as well as premium content for subscribers, well worth the $66 a year if prospect talk is your thing. Each of their writers are considered industry insiders and are extremely knowlegable and well respected within all of baseball.

Are there any other sites that we should know about? Sound off in the comments!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nats' Crazy Contract Clauses

Today, ESPN's Jayson Stark put together a fantastic list of "small print" catches from this year's contract signings. Here's a summary of the Nats have two players that have made the list. I highly recommend you head over there to read Stark's article, though. It's really fascinating. Especially the part about the SIX Pirates players, including former Nat Scott Olsen, that will get big bonuses if they are named World Series MVP. Yea... on to more realistic possibilities...

Jayson Werth - No surprises here. The hundred million dollar plus man's deal is not related to his beard though, unfortunately. It's written directly into Werth's contract that he will wear #28 in DC. No negotiation between him and Michael Morse about this, it seems. As long as Jayson's getting paid in DC, he'll be wearing #28.

Chien-Ming Wang - As Stark says, Wang's contract is incredibly incentive laden, so it's not surprising he's got a weird one here or there. But if this former AL pitcher out hits all NL pitchers in 2011 (should he even appear in a game), he'll earn an extra $50,000. If that happens though, it's probably the other millions that the Nationals will be more excited about, because it means he'll be winning and pitching a bucket of innings.

Honorable Mention former Nats 1B Adam Dunn - I don't mean to reopen old wounds here folks, but this honorable mention is due here. Dunn's new contract with the White Sox, where he'll be mainly a DH, will pay him $25,000 if he wins a Gold Glove. Not sure it would have made much of a difference if he was still playing in DC, though. (see: Pujols, Albert)

Former Nats Great #7

When I set out to write the most recent addition of Former Nats Greats I wanted to find a player that only the most hardcore Nats fan could even remember, and I think we have succeeded. This week's inductee played just 4 games in a Nats uniform. Who is he?


Brett Campbell!

Welcome aboard to Mr. Campbell who made it to the major leagues just 2 years removed from being drafted in the 34th round of the 2004 draft, very impressive. His career however, far less impressive.

After making his way through the minor league ranks in '06, Campbell earned a September call-up for the less magical 2006 season. His major league debut came on a rainy Thursday in Colorado on September 7th. And boy did he start with a bang. No seriously. He was pretty good.

Coming on in the 4th inning in relief for Jason Bergmann (shocker) Campbell faced 4 batters. He got Todd Helton to fly out to center, ending the 4th inning. Coming back out in the 5th he got Garrett Atkins to pop out to second, then he hit Matt Holliday, and proceeded to get the strike-em-out-throw-em-out against Brad Hawpe. His line for the day was 1.1 IP. 0 H. 1 K. 1 HBP. 18 total pitches.

Having pitched a solid outing, Campbell was brought back into a game just 2 days later, also against the Rockies, this time he didn't do as well. Down 7-5 Frank Robinson called on him to pitch the 8th inning, hoping to keep the game close enough for the Nats to stage a comeback in the 9th, Campbell couldn't deliver. He gave up 2 runs in the inning and the Nats went out like a light in the top of the 9th. His line for this game was 1 IP. 2 H. 2 R. 2 ER. 1 K. 1 BB. 28 total pitches.

Less than a week later the Nats were playing against the Brewers, and once again they were losing. It was 5-2 in the 9th and once again, Campbell's job was to keep the game close so the Nats could come back to win in front of 21,168 fans at RFK. This time he was able to keep the game close, though the Nats would eventually lose. 1 IP. 0 H. 0 R. 2 K. 12 total pitches.

3 games down. 1 to go.

On September 18th, 2006 Brett Campbell made his final appearance in a Major League uniform. At home the Nats were once again on the losing side of the scoreboard, this time against the Braves and Frank Robinson once again called for Campbell; the score is 3-1 in the top of the 8th. Walk. Single. Out. Homer. Line-out. Fly-out. 1 inning. 3 earned. Another curly L in the book.

He stuck around through the end of the year, was sent to AA Harrisburg in 2007 and was lost to the Brewers in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft (AAA Round).

His career spanned a whopping 4.1 innings pitched over 4 games. Campbell ended his career with a 10.38 ERA. 1.38 WHIP. 6.38 FIP. .267 BABIP. 4 K. 2 BB. -0.1 WAR. He threw 84 pitches, 48 of which were strikes. Even more unfortunate, the Nats lost every single game that Campbell pitched.

I love stories like this, where you can go play-by-play with their entire career. Campbell is definitely an interesting case and I am proud to welcome him to the family of Former Nats Greats.

Leave your favorite Campbell memory in the comments section!

And if you are new to the blog or to this series, you can read all editions of Former Nats Greats by clicking on "Former Nats Greats" in the "Labels" section right at the bottom of this post!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tom Gorzelanny: Mike Rizzo's Front-Line Starter [UPDATE]

So in a move that no one expected, the Nationals acquired LHP Tom Gorzelanny from the Chicago Cubs for 3 minor league prospects this afternoon (pending a physical). The details of the move are still a bit hazy, but one thing is for sure: a significant prospect will be sent to the Cubs, OF Michael Burgess. Burgess was a 1st round draft pick in 2007.

Here's a short bit about Gorzelanny: 28 years old, career 4.68 ERA, 1.60 strikeout/walk ratio. Gorzelanny has one outstanding season on his ledger in 2007 with the Pirates. He posted a 14-10 record, a 3.88 ERA, and threw more than 200 innings. Yes, with Pittsburgh. Besides that, he only has one other winning season in his career (2009), where he split time in Pittsburgh and Chicago and posted a 7-3 record and an outrageous 5.55 ERA.

Both Mac and Dave Nichols at Nats News Network have already pointed out that Gorzelanny is essentially John Lannan. Seems to be pretty accurate, though I think Gorzelanny's ceiling might be a bit higher despite his age. Though Lannan's career WAR is 6.4 while Gorzelanny's is just 4.1 over the course of a longer career. My problem isn't really that the Nats traded for Gorzelanny, it's that they gave up Michael Burgess and 2 other prospects for him. Would you have done that for John Lannan?

We'll have more on this "big" signing day (Gorzelanny and Cora) in the coming days, but I'll leave you with this. Is this the front line starter that Mike Rizzo was looking for? I know that Cliff Lee didn't happen, I know that Zack Grienke fell through, and I know that the Nationals starting rotation looks lackluster going into 2011. But I don't understand what was seemingly a forced move to get a 28 year old pitcher that has had one good season, when there are so many starters in the Nationals organization that need to be evaluated once and for all. Time will tell the results of this move, however.

At least Gorzelanny is a funny name to see on the back of a jersey...

[UPDATE - 4:55PM]
OF Michael Burgess inclusion in this trade has been confirmed, joining him will be RHP and 4th Round Draft Pick in 2009 A.J. Morris. Both of those players are included on Baseball America's Top 30 Nats prospects list, coming in at 19 and 18 respectively. There is reportedly another Nats player included in this deal, and according to Jim Callis at Baseball America this player is not on the Top 30 Nats Prospect list.

[UPDATE - 5:56PM]
The third player that the Nats are shipping off to Chicago has been confirmed by Bill Ladson of; LHP Graham Hicks. This player appears to just be a filler player. A 4th round pick in 2008, Hicks has put up a 5.33 ERA and a 1.628 WHIP in his 3 minor league seasons. This past year he went 2-6 in 16 games between Vermont and Hagerstown (1G and 15G respectively).

UPDATE: Nats Close to Signing Utility Infielder Alex Cora

Several sources are reporting that Former Rangers, Mets, Red Sox, Indians, and Dodgers infielder Alex Cora is close to a deal with the Washington Nationals. No details as of yet, but Peter Gammons is reporting that Cora is excited about coming to the Nats.

Should this deal go through, what's the immediate effect that it will have on the Nats? Well, virtually nothing offensively. Cora's career batting average is .244, and his career OBP is .311. He's never hit over .270 in a season. But Cora does provide experience, and a solid defensive glove that will be nice to have to give SS Ian Desmond and 2B Danny Espinosa some off days without losing much defensively.

The Cora signing is similar to the Adam Kennedy move in 2010. A veteran player with experience on a lot of teams. He has a history of being a great clubhouse presence, and he brings good defense combined with a lethargic bat. Here's hoping this signing, should it go through, is more successful than the Kennedy signing.

We'll update this post with more as it comes out...

UPDATE: According to Adam Kilgore, Cora was signed to a minor league deal worth $900,000, with the possibility of $600,000 in bonus incentives.

Big Week Ahead

We have a lot of exciting plans for this week here at Capitol Baseball!

First, look for the latest edition of the ever-popular series Former Nats Greats.

Next, we will be starting a brand new 4-Part Series that will lead you into straight into Spring Training.

In the meantime, be sure to check us out on Facebook (Link on the right side of this page) and on Twitter (@CapitolBaseball and @CraigMac) for all the latest news and analysis for your Washington Nationals!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Adding Another Project to Our Repertoire

I wanted to let everyone know that I've taken on a new project, which is why you've seen more posts from Mac than me over the last week or so. I promise, I'll be back now as I've gotten the other stuff under control.

I've started writing as the DC Gadget Examiner at My goal in this new writing project is to talk about gadgets a few times a week, while giving real, factual info and advice to add some credibility to the Examiner online.

I hope that those of you that love your smartphones, iPads, laptops, and other gadgets will check in with me over at that project. If you have any ideas, send them in the comments over there. Don't worry, Capitol Baseball will continue to be my #1 priority during both the summer and the off-season, I just needed a few days to get that project up and running.

I hope to see you all over there!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Nats Still Trying

A report came out yesterday on about former Padres pitcher Chris Young and his potential destinations this offseason. In his report, Buster Olney of ESPN states that the right hander is down to two options; the Mets and the Nats. This is the first time this Hot Stove League that the Nats have been connected in any way to Young, though it doesn't come as much of a surprise seeing as though every pitcher the team has targeted has signed elsewhere, sometimes for less money. Lets break this down via old-school pros and cons list.

- Has been a positive WAR player every year of his career minus an injury-plagued 2009.
- Would be a cheap, but incentive-laden, contract (around $2 million guaranteed).
- Spent 3 years in the Expos-system (not really a pro, just a cool thing).
- Bill James projects him as having a winning record with a 3.46 ERA.
- Former All-Star with a chip on his shoulder after being denied a club option for 2011.
- In his four 2011 appearances he went 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP.
- Our rotation is less than set and, if healthy, he can be a top 3 starter for us.
- Baseball Reference comparable players include Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza.
- He is 6' 10".

- Has been on the DL four times in the past four years.
- Two of those injuries have been season ending injuries.
- Both of those season ending injuries have been pitching shoulder related.
- Has only played 18 games in the past two seasons.
- We already have Chien-Ming Wang as a pitching reclamation project.
- Low velocity 85-90.
- Baseball Reference comparable players also include Erik Bedard and Mark Prior.

In case you didn't notice, Chris Young has been injured more than Jesus Flores, and that is the only reason that the Nats should be hesitant in this endeavor. But this is a year that is shaping up to be a repeat of the ill-fated 2007 starting pitcher cattle-call edition of Spring Training. If the Nats sign Young, he would join Lannan, Marquis, Zimmermann, Mock, Martis, Atilano, Maya, Detwiler, Livan, Martin, Stammen, Chico, Wang, Broderick, Tatusko and whoever else the Nats invite to Spring Training (maybe Jason Simontacchi). Many people fighting for one spot will bring the level of competition in Spring Training up a few notches, especially if one (or two) of those pitchers is trying to complete a long and arduous comeback from injury to prove his worth.

If you were crazy enough to ask for my opinion I would tell you that the Nats should go for it. Its a win-win situation. In the grand scheme of things this would be around a $2 million dolllar investment. Downside being wasted money and the upside being a repeat performance of his 2007 season where he posted a 3.12 ERA. And if I'm in charge, I spend $2 million for that proven starter's potential every day of the week.

Thoughts? Let's see them in the comments.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Soriano, Why Not?

The Nationals brass has made quite a splash this offseason over-paying for both Werth and LaRoche, filling the lineup with defense and pop. Defense is great and it will without a doubt make life much easier for our pitchers, but more needs to be done. As many have reported over and over this offseason, we need pitching, both starters and relievers. Which brings me to this question.

Although we have gone for seemingly every single free agent available in the past 3 months we have not talked about Rafael Soriano. Should the Nats be pursuing the former All Star?

Lets take a quick look at his 2010 numbers with the Rays.

64 Games. 56 Games Finished. 62.1 IP. 1.73 ERA. 45 Saves. 57 K. 0.802 WHIP. .212 BABIP.

Wow, he was the definition of dominant last year while with the Rays, even though he had to play the Red Sox and Yankees 18 times each. And that's not even the scary thing. Those insane WHIP and ERA numbers are not career highs, those came in 2003 where he put up a 0.792 and 1.52 respectively. The potential is there for greatness and he has been a model of consistency over the past 6 years, never posting an ERA above 3.00 or a WHIP above 1.150.

There are many who will say that the Nats will be content to fill the closer role from within; Burnett, Storen, Balester, or even Henry Rodriguez. But each of those players have issues that could seriously hamper their ability to finish games.

- Burnett has, until last year, been used extensively as a LOOGY and doesn't have 9th inning experience.
- Storen will be a 2nd year player who blew 2 of 7 save opportunities last year.
- Although Balester has great stuff and the best mustache in baseball, he has struggled severely with control in the past (See: Weekes and Reynolds).
- Henry Rodriguez can hit 100 on the radar gun, but he suffers from Rick Vaughn syndrome; he has no idea where its going.

Looking at the options out there, no contender has the need or willingness to pay top dollar for a lights-out closer like Soriano. The Red Sox have Papelbon, Yankees have Rivera, Rangers have Feliz, Giants have (Fear the Beard) Wilson, Twins have Nathan and Capps, and the Phillies have Lidge. There has been talk of the Yankees giving him a longer deal and keeping him around for the Post-Rivera-Era but I find that a last-resort. Which leaves the Nationals.

I think that a contract around 3 years/$21-24 million could get a deal done, solidifying the back end of the Bullpen and making our team that much better. In terms of extra cost to the team, Soriano is a Type-A Free Agent, which means he would normally cost a team a 1st round draft pick if they signed him (since he accepted arbitration). The Nats however were in the bottom 18 teams in the league which means that their 1st round pick is protected, and the 2nd round pick went to the Phillies with the Werth signing, so the Nats would only be losing a 3rd round pick for Soriano. Not such a loss at all.

One of the beautiful things about the way Rizzo runs things is that sometimes you never know when something is in the works until it happens (See: Werth). He might have already made an offer to Soriano's agent. Yep, you guessed it. Scott Boras.

I'm not saying that this signing is imminent or even close, all I am saying is that I think this should be something that the front office should seriously consider if they really intend on improving the bullpen.

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Former Nats Great #6

In honor of last week's Hall of Fame announcement, we have a very special edition of Former Nats Greats today. The latest inductee is the first Former Nats Great to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Without further ado, the newest honoree is...

Carlos Baerga!

Congrats to you, Carlos. This year you had your first (and only) shot at the Hall of Fame this year and you received a whopping 0 votes...

Lets take a look at his 16th and final season in professional baseball, the only one played with the Washington Nationals.

The year was 2005, and the Nationals were just moving to the District and Omar Minaya had just finished his firesale of Les Expos. Our system was nearly empty and, though we had no idea who was going to fill out the lineup, Jim Bowden liked Baerga and signed him to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training (See: Reclamation Project).

Not surprisingly he earned a job on the 25-man coming out of Spring Training and became one of the bench players. Baerga rarely played in the field, playing only 38 of his 93 games in that capacity (11 at 1B, 7 at 2B, and 20 at 3B); most of his appearances came in a pinch hitting role. This, I have found, is a very good thing considering his UZR/150 was embarrassingly bad for each position he played in the field. 3B was -3.8. 2B was -26.6. 1B was -28.6. Needless to say I am very thankful that he was a bench player...

Here are his total numbers for that magical 2005 season:
158 AB, .253 AVG, .653 OPS, 40 Hits, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 7 BB, 17 K, 8 HBP, -0.1 WAR

Looking at those numbers, 2 stats jump right out at me. First, that he was hit by a pitch 8 times. Here he was, in the very twilight (Team Carlos) of his career, and he felt that it was most helpful if he keep his bat on his shoulder and just lean in to take one for the team. Besides, you know that your best playing days are behind you when 7 years prior (1999) is labeled "Decline" on your Wikipedia page. Next eye-catching stat, his -0.1 WAR. He was essentially a middle-of-the-road, average player while he was in DC, exactly what you would expect from a spring training invitee.

While looking through the game log for his best/worst games in a Nats uniform, I found a few more interesting tidbits. Such as, although he started the year with the club, he didn't get his first multi-hit game until June 9th in a 4-3 win against Oakland where he went 2 for 3 with a double. And after that game he would only get 5 more multi-hit games all year, only 1 of which was after July 23rd.

Best Game:
July 8th win vs the Phillies - 2 for 4. 3 Runs. 3 RBI. 1 HR.

Worst Game:
Tie - July 7th and July 24th - Each game - 0 for 5. 0 BB. 0 K.

Every now and then when I'm lucky enough to see Nationals Classics pop up on my TiVo channel guide I hold my breath and hope that its a 2005 game featuring Carlos Baerga so I get a chance to see him haul his 37 year-old butt down to first. You gave us endless entertainment while you provided the definition of a Replacement Player.

Although your bust will not ever hang in the Plaque Gallery at the Hall of Fame, I can promise you that your bust will sit in a place of honor in the hall of the Former Nats Greats.

Friday, January 7, 2011

MASN Gets a Face-Lift

As beat-writer Bill Ladson reported on twitter this afternoon (not yet confirmed by the club), F.P. Santangelo will be the new color analyst on MASN for the 2011 season. Credit to Nats Inquirer for his new nickname, Frank the Tank, which I fully expect the entire universe to embrace. Anyway, F.P. joins a long line of Former Nats Great: Announcer's Edition; Paciorek, Darling, Sutton, Dibble, and (for a half-second) Knight. It should be noted that each of these announcers has yet to make it more than 2 years in the booth...

We are a baseball blog so we care about baseball, and only sometimes about how someone speaks and whether they are controversial. So lets take a look at Frank the Tank's playing career. Just for fun.

His career started in 1989 when he was drafted by the Expos as a 21-year old out of the University of Miami (Fla), though it would take him 6 years to crack a big league lineup. He was 27 when he played his first game on August 2, 1995, a 7-6 loss against the Fish; Santangelo went 2 for 3 with a HBP, run, and RBI (thanks!). Santangelo finished 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1996 after posting a .277 AVG, with 7 HR and 56 RBI; a far cry from this years stacked rookie class I'm guessing. F.P. played the next 4 seasons in Montreal where his average went from .296 in 1995 to .214 in 1998, after which he was granted Free Agency and signed with the Giants.

With the Giants - 113 Games, .260 AVG, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 49 Runs

He was released after the season and he signed with the Dodgers 22 days later.

With the Dodgers - 81 Games, .197 AVG, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 19 Runs

He was released after the season and he signed with the Athletics 7 days later.

With the A's - 32 Games, .197 AVG, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 16 Runs

He was released after the season... I'm noticing a trend.

Frank the Tank's career plummeted after a solid rookie season, and he never again gained that form even though he was named in the Mitchell Report for using Human Growth Hormone (which he later admitted).

His career totals include a .245 AVG, 21 HR, 162 RBI, and 258 Runs in 665 games. Though my favorite stat is that in only one year did he have a negative WAR (2000 with a -0.3), while his career WAR is 8.6. In his later years he provided a decent glove who was capable of playing 6 of the 9 positions on the diamond (2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF), a Willie Harris type.

I don't know too much about F.P. as an announcer, but I look forward to seeing how he pairs with cookie cutter Bob Carpenter. It will definitely be a far cry from both Rob Nasty-Boy Dibble and Ray Dad-Gum Knight.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thoughts on the Hall of Fame, BBWAA, and Steroid Users

This afternoon, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) released the list of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees to Cooperstown. The list of players was short: Roberto Alomar. Bert Blyleven. End. It's good to see that this list continues to stay short and incredibly exclusive, as it should be. Congrats to both of Alomar and Blyleven on this incredible honor.

It's important to remember a few things about the Hall of Fame before we continue into a brief discussion of steroid users. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is designed to enshrine the best of the best of the best in the history of America's Pastime. This is no small honor, and I don't envy the decision that the BBWAA members have to make year in and year out. Furthermore, I don't think they take the task lightly. You can't make everyone happy after all. Only 109 members in the history of the Hall have been selected by the BBWAA, making it one of the most exclusive honors that American sports have to offer.

But this is the Hall of Fame. Not the Hall of Good. Not the Hall of Very good. Not the Hall of Great. This is the place where the best of all-time go when they're done playing the sport. How you set that criteria is what makes the voting process difficult. For the most part, I think the BBWAA voters do a great job, and I'll never be one to excessively criticize the writers that vote. Though I must admit Roberto Alomar missing out on the first-ballot honors last year was a sin.

All that aside, there seems to be a recurring theme year in and year out as more players who were connected to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) become eligible for the Hall. They're not getting in, at least any time soon. Take the two players that are the most prominently associated with steroid use that were eligible this year.

Mark McGwire: In McGwire's second ballot year, he received an even smaller percentage of the vote than he did in his first. In year one (2010), McGwire received 23.7% of the vote, or 128 votes. In year two (2011), he received 19.8%, or 115 votes. McGwire was a 12 time All-Star who cranked 583 career home runs, had 1,414 RBI, and had a 15 year career. The number of votes received already declined in just one year. It doesn't bode well for his future hopes to reach the Hall.

Rafael Palmeiro: This was Palmeiro's first year on the ballot, and he received 11% of the vote. Whether Palmeiro is a HoF player or not on statistics alone is always up for debate, but his numbers were certainly better than the 11% of the vote that he received. He had 3,020 hits, hit 569 home runs, and knocked in 1,835 runs in a 19 season career. He was clearly hurt, and significantly, by the alleged steroid use.

One thing about these numbers remains unclear to me, though. How is it possible that Mark McGwire received more votes than Palmeiro? I'm not saying that either player deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but look at the numbers. Palmeiro had a better batting average, a longer career, more hits, more RBI, just 14 fewer home runs, and was better defensively than McGwire. How did all of the 115 people who voted for McGwire in 2011 not also see fit to vote for Palmiero, who only received 64 votes? Maybe it's a first ballot punishment. But even in his first year McGwire received a higher percentage than Palmeiro did in his first year.

This is what I'm saying about the process. It's incredibly difficult to make a decision on these things. If you want to catch a real, in depth break down on a BBWAA voter's ballot, check out Mark Zuckerman's if you haven't already done so. It's one heck of a justification, whether you agree with him or not. It's just one snapshot into the difficult decisions that the members have to make every year, and it will remind you how jealous, yet not envious, you should be.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

LaRoche Signs [UPDATE]

Earlier today the Nationals finally were able to ink Adam LaRoche to a 2 year/$15 million deal with a mutual option for a 3rd priced at $10 million ($1 million buyout), thus ending a long offseason of first base movement. (H/T @washingnats)

At the end of the 2010 season the Nationals had their plan and they were sticking to it, they wanted to get better defensively and more athletic. Dunn and Willingham were both sent away, one by free agency and the other by trade, and the emphasis was place on defense. Players were signed (Werth, Ankiel, etc.) that would make an impact in the field, as well as in the clubhouse and at the plate. But throughout the whole process, there was still a massive hole where there used to be a massive Donkey; first base.

We talked with Adam Dunn - he signed with the White Sox
We kicked the tires on Paul Konerko - he re-signed with the White Sox
We looked Carlos Pena - he signed with the Cubs
We inquired about Derrek Lee - he signed with The District's Canada (The Orioles)
We targeted Adam LaRoche - we got him

Starting on March 31st, 2011 we are going to have one of the best starting infield lineup in baseball, at least defensively. Last year LaRoche had a 4.8 UZR/150 (3rd highest among MLB first-basemen), Espinosa's was 13.3, Desmond's was a -9.4 (though his maturity should improve this year), and Zimmerman's was 17.8. I have already predicted in a previous post that Desmond will improve by 15 errors, add that to the rest of the infield and the Nats are going to have a vacuum of an infield; and this is without taking into account Werth, Morgan, and Bernadina in the OF.

The Nats are getting a player who has put up solid and predictable numbers in the past few years. Here are just a few stats to whet your appetite.

162 Game Averages:
.271 Batting Average
.339 On-Base Percentage
.488 Slugging Percentage
.827 OPS
114 OPS+
26 HR
40 2B
153 Hits
141 K
58 BB
93 RBI

Career Totals:
11.6 WAR (Fangraphs)
7.6 WAR (Baseball Reference)
.995% Fielding Percentage

The Nats may not have gotten their first choice, but I believe that they have a great player here. The stats show that he has the potential to be an average to above-average offensive player, while providing quality defense. I like the way the defense and offense is shaping up for 2011, all we have to do now is get some serviceable starting pitching...

Opening Day Predictions

Over the past several days, commentators and bloggers alike have been prognosticating about what they expect to see in 2011. The hot stove season has been very active this year for the hometown team, making big offers to multiple free-agents and offering blockbuster trades. As of now there are still a few holes, but a signing here and a good-old-fashioned-Spring-Training-position-battle there should settle that.

Now its my turn to make some predictions. Today we are going to play the first edition of Predict the Opening Day lineup.

Leading off - Nyjer Morgan - 8

Kid is working on his 5th out of 9 lives. He came over to DC with a bang in 2008 2009 but couldn't live up to the hype in 2009 2010; offensively, defensively, or mentally. Under club control for several more years, it's his job to lose.
Ballsy Prediction: Will lose his job to Ankiel by July.

Batting 2nd - Ian Desmond - 6

This is his spot. Last year he was stuck for a while in the 7 and 8 hole, where he hit .289 and .254 respectively. That all changed on July 31st when 2 hole stalwart Cristian Guzman was traded to the Rangers. After that day the Nats brass decided to try Desi 2nd, he proceeded to hit .326 for the rest of the season.
Ballsy Prediction: His errors will go down by 15.

Batting 3rd - Ryan Zimmerman - 5

I got nothing.
Ballsy Prediction: Participates in the all-star game home run derby, and wins.

Batting 4th - Jayson Werth - 9

The big ticket free agent has a lot of weight on his shoulders, about $126 million dollar bills worth. He has extremely limited experience in the 4 hole, but that shouldn't bother him based on the way he has it at Nats Park in the past. He will settle in nicely to that role and will give Zimmerman some delicious protection in the lineup.
Ballsy Prediction: Werth will regret his signing in DC, at least for a year or 2.

Batting 5th - Adam LaRoche - 3

He hasn't signed with the Nats, yet. I believe that it is only a matter of time. No other team has the need for and can afford LaRoche. Ladson has been reporting that a 2 year deal has been progressing nicely. LaRoche provides a very important left handed power bat into the lineup, one that can provide protection for Werth as well. His defense will make our infield exponentially better all the way across the board.
Ballsy Prediction: LaRoche succeeds so well, Nats trade away former prized prospect Chris Marrero.

Batting 6th - Roger Bernadina - 7

The Nats are going to start the year with a platoon in LF between Bernie and Morse. I believe this. The Nats are starting the year against the Braves, whose 3 best pitchers are all right-handed. Bernadina has been in the Nats system for years and he finally has the backing of the General Manager, especially in this defense-first system. His 3.1 UZR from 2010 will be great for the team, and his bat should take a leap this year.
Ballsy Prediction: Bernadina will steal 30+ bases next year.

Batting 7th - Ivan Rodriguez - 2

Barring injury, Pudge is going to be the Opening Day starter for the Nats; the future Hall of Famer has earned it. Most of his 2010 season will be spent mentoring both Ramos and Flores, in different capacities.
Ballsy Prediction: Will have both hips replaced, and not miss a game.

Batting 8th - Danny Espinosa - 4

A September call-up, the Nats representative for the 2010 Futures Game came into the league with a bang, hitting .300 with 3 HR and 10 RBI in his first 10 games. After teams started getting tape on him however, things changed. But one of the things that never changed was his attitude, his defense, and his speed. His defense will help make the Nationals one of the best fielding teams in baseball. Espinosa's UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating averaged over 150 games) is 13.3 which places 3rd in all of Major League Baseball; behind Adam Rosales and Jerry Hairston.
Ballsy Prediction: He won't be hitting 8th for long.

Batting 9th - Jordan Zimmermann - 1

This is easily the toughest of all the predictions thus far, should I have gone with history and tenure (Livan), recent history and dues paid (Lannan), or the guy with the best stuff (Zimmermann). I can't imagine how hard it must be to have to recover from major surgery, wondering if you ever can get to the precipice again. It is a long and arduous journey, and it makes you stronger in the end. They say that it takes over two years to fully recover from Tommy John, but Zimmermann has been ahead of the curve all the way through this process; he will continue to do so and will take the bump on March 31st, 2011.
Ballsy Prediction: Zimmermann no-hits the Mets.

Oh, by the way. Only 39 days til Pitchers & Catchers.

Thoughts? Arguments? Disagreements? Compliments?

Sound off in the comments!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Bryce Harper to Make the Majors in 2011?

This morning, Network Site posted a story hinting that Bryce Harper has the potential to make the Nats roster out of Spring Training in 2011. (Pitchers and catchers report in only 41 days!)

Let me start by staying, I don't think it's absolutely out of the question that this could happen. It would be hard to argue with placing Harper on the Opening Day roster if he hits .300 and 10-15 homers in Spring Training against real Major League pitching.

There have been a few players in the modern era to make the majors before his 20th birthday with success, so it wouldn't be unprecedented. Although, I'm not sure Harper wants to model himself after Alex Rodriguez (see: steroids). But regardless of what Harper is able to do with the bat, there is a significant amount of development left for the immensely talented 18 year old.

Despite Harper's proficiency with the bat in front of the junior college circuit and a short stint of major league pitching, it will take months to determine how he will adjust to Major League pitching and continue to evolve at the plate. It's an easier road to climb to try to do that while working up through the minors, rather than being thrown into the majors immediately.

As a fielder, Harper has played several positions throughout his young career. During his short time with the College of Southern Nevada though, he was predominantly a catcher. The Nationals drafted him as an outfielder, and he will need time to develop those skills as well.

Bryce Harper is an unbelievably talented, young baseball player, and the organization is rightly excited about his arrival in DC. But there's no reason to rush Harper's development when he could take his time and truly become the player everyone expects him to be come, and do it the right way. I think Mike Rizzo and Co. recognize that. It seems unlikely that Harper will break camp with the Big Nats, though it will sure be fun to watch him crank home runs over the space shuttles in Viera.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions: Nationals 2011 Edition

As we enter the new year, Nats fans all over are trying to put 2010 in the past in favor of a happier 2011, complete with far more Curly Ws. While we can't really resolve things on behalf of the Nats, we're going to run down a list of things we'd really like to see the team commit to in 2011.
  • Infield: Defense, defense, defense. And there's no way that this desire shouldn't come true. The Nats look to be on the verge of signing Adam LaRoche, which would be a marked improvement over Adam Dunn defensively. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa should provide well above average defense in the middle. Desmond's errors should be cut significantly from 2010, and Espinosa's services, even in his first full season, will be much better than the Guzman/Kennedy platoon. The Nats infield is rounded out with one of the best defensive infielders in the sport: Ryan Zimmerman. There's not much to resolve here, except to meet expectations.
  • Outfield: The addition of Jayson Werth's range, arm, and offensive pop is an obviously positive addition. We'd like to see a continuously improving Roger Bernadina take better at-bats and continue to play well defensively. The lack of range of Michael Morse and the inconsistency of Nyjer Morgan remains an issue, and we'd like to see these two commit to improving in these aspects of the game in the off-season. Edit: How did we forget? Rick Ankiel! That's something. We're not sure if it's something to commit to be happy about in 2011, though. Time will tell.
  • Starting Pitchers: With the Nationals starting rotation as it looks today, there's a lot left to be desired. But to keep a long, disappointing story short, we'd like this rotation to make every effort to make it through 6 innings more often than in 2010, which was not often. The Nationals starters averaged only 5.5 innings pitched per start. It can't hurt to get some 7 inning performances from guys not named Livan Hernandez either.
  • Bullpen: After a great 2010, it's about continuing where they left off for this group. We'd like to see Drew Storen to improve and solidify himself into the closer's role. It'd also be nice to see Sean Burnett be a little bit better against lefties than on 2010.
  • Catchers: It's extremely likely that the Nationals will go into the first week of the season with 3 catchers: Ivan Rodriguez, Wilson Ramos, and Jesus Flores. With 2 of these 3, the main concern his health. This trio needs to be comfortable enough to share a lot of time to ensure that they all stay healthy enough to meet expectations.
So these are just some of the things we hope the current version of the 2011 Nationals have resolved to improve upon this season.

Are there things you hope the Nats resolve to do in 2011? Post them in the comments.