Friday, April 29, 2011

Will the Real Gorzelanny Please Stand Up?

Now I know that we are just a few short weeks into the 2011 season, but there have been several patterns emerging - rain, offensive offense, spotty defense, irregular bullpen. But one of the more constant things so far has been the starting rotation. You have heard the stat over and over, that rotation is the only one left in baseball to have each starter go at least 5IP or more in each game; and this is great. But as several of our beatwriters have written, that doesn't necessarily mean that they have been good. None have been more back-and-forth than Tom Gorzelanny. At times this year he has has been brilliant, and at times he has been not-so-brilliant (much like a certain DC ballclub). There is one really big question hanging out there...

Has he really been that bad?

His ERA currently sits at a 3.97, and its always good to have a sub-4 ERA. But that number is very deceptive.

We have talked in the past about FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which essentially tallies up everything that a pitcher can control while removing everything that he can't (just hits, walks, strikeouts). I like using FIP to judge how a pitcher is really performing, and in Gorzelanny's case, it doesn't paint a pretty picture. Right now it is over a point higher than his ERA, sitting uncomfortably at 5.11. Seeing as though we read FIP the same as ERA, 5.11 is not good.

Next, let's talk about his BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play), and as we discussed earlier this week, league average is somewhere around .298. BABIP is useful in determining a pitchers luck, a high BABIP means that the other team are finding gaps and getting lucky hits, low meaning that the pitcher is getting some help from his team via solid defense or lucky outs.

Before I tell you what his 2011 BABIP is, I should tell you that his career average is .296 which is incredibly average. This year, in his 4 starts, his BABIP is .200, good for 4th lowest in MLB. One has to figure that this number doesn't change that drastically in one offseason, and that Gorzelanny will soon regress towards his career average almost .100 points higher - sending his ERA skyrocketing.

We will get into this a bit more in the next section, but he is also suffering from a severe case of Gopher-Ball-Itis. In 2011 his HR/9 rate is 60% higher than his career rate (0.98 career, 1.59 in 2011).

To sum up...
1 - Gorzelanny has not been good when the defense is out of the picture.
2 - Gorzelanny has been getting extremely lucky.
3 - Gorzelanny is giving up significantly more Homers.

Now the bigger question - Why?

Gorzelanny is coming off of a bounce-back year with the Cubs, winning 7 games with a sub-4 FIP, while also earning his 2nd highest WAR total ever with a 2.3. What happened between this year and last year that has this writer so worried?

1 - Over the past 5 years, Gorzelanny has made a living getting hitters to ground out, having never posted a Ground Ball Percentage (GB%) rate below 40%. This year his GB% is at 31.7%. And when you aren't getting the ground balls...

2 - You give up more fly balls, and in turn, more homers. Gorzelanny's highest percentage of fly-balls in a season (FB%) has never been above 43.8%. This year it is at 54.0%.

3 - His career best Pitches per Plate Appearance is 3.87. And in 2011 it is currently at 4.12 - leading to higher pitch counts and fewer innings pitched.

The last point I have is probably the biggest harbinger for future bad performance.

4 - In 2009, just 2 years ago, Gorzelanny's fastball averaged 91 MPH. This year his fastball sits at 87.9 MPH - 60th slowest out of 70 NL starting pitchers (at least 20 IP).


Could this be just a small sample size issue? Yes.

Could this be signs of worse to come? Yes.

Fly Balls + Higher HR Rate + Slower Fastball + Lucky Hitters = Bad Juju.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Former Nats Greats - #20

Well it has been a wonderful journey thus far, one which I hope you have enjoyed just as much as I have. We aren't going anywhere, and neither did today's Former Nats Great. Today we are going to be talking about yet another Nats player that played his last Major League game in a Nats Uniform...

Who is the not-so-lucky inductee??

Jerome Williams!

When looking back on Williams' time with the Nats I was sure that it was in either '05 or '06, but nope. It was not so long ago in 2007. Somehow, someway Jerome was able to finish in the top of the Great 2007 Pitching Rotation Cattle Call - along with some Future Editions of Former Nats Greats. His career in a DC lasted just 6 games...

Let's delve a little bit deeper and list his first few starts -

April 6th vs. Diamondbacks - 6 IP. 6 H. 5 R. 4 ER. 2 BB. 4 K. 7-1 Loss.
April 11th vs. Atlanta - 5 IP. 4 H. 2 R. 2 ER. 4 BB. 4 K. 8-3 Loss.
April 17th vs. Atlanta - 5 IP. 7 H. 4 R. 4 ER. 2 BB. 4 K. 6-4 Loss.
April 22nd vs. Florida - 6 IP. 9 H. 10 R. 9 ER. 4 BB. 2 K. 12-6 Loss.

It was at this point in the season where the Nats must have realized that they had made a mistake. His ERA had ballooned to 7.77, he had 12 walks and 26 hits allowed in just 22 IP and things were bleak. I would hope that the Nationals were going to cut ties with him if he put out another start like before. So, what happened next? Well, a flash of brilliance of course.

April 28th vs. New York (NL) - 6 IP. 1 H. 0 R. 0 ER. 5 BB. 1 K. No Decision.

Things definitely looked great for 6 innings of work, until Williams cranked what he believed to be his first big league homer. Trotting out of the box, admiring his handiwork the ball bounced off the base of the work. Williams had hurt his ankle on the swing, apparently. He ended up coming out for the 7th, but was removed after walking the first batter.

A DL stint followed and he returned for one more game mid-May.

May 15th vs. New York (NL) - 2 IP. 7 H. 5 R. 5 ER. 1 BB. 1 K. 6-2 Loss.

Jerome lasted just 2 innings into the game, as he got pulled for a rotator-cuff injury. He never again pitched in the Majors.

Totals from 6 games:
0-5 Record. 7.20 ERA. 1.733 WHIP. 6.64 FIP. 0.83 SO/BB. -0.4 WAR.

Brutal. Just brutal.

Well, you won't make it to Cooperstown but you did make it into the hallowed halls of the Former Nats Greats.

Please post your favorite memories of Jerome Williams in the Comments! Do you have someone you want to read about in this space, throw that in the Comments or on the Facebook wall!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ross Detwiler's Breakout Season?

Ross Detwiler's breakout 2011 Spring Training couldn't possibly have come sooner. The 25-year old lefty has had a career marred by hip problems and a looming cloud of being a 6th overall draft pick in the 2007 Amateur Draft, just behind the Rays' David Price and the O's Matt Wieters and before the Giants' LHP Madison Bumgarner and the Braves' phenom Jason Heyward. That's a lot of talent to compete with, and until this season, Rossy D has disappointed far too often.

During spring training, however, Detwiler threw 17 innings (3rd most of any Nats pitcher), giving up just 3 walks, striking out 12, and posting a 2.65 ERA (lowest among potential starters). It wasn't the stats that worked against him this spring, though. It was available roster spots. Almost any other season since 2005, Detwiler would have been a lock for the 25-man roster. But with Livo, Lannan, Marquis, and Zimmermann, plus a newly acquired Tom Gorzelanny, Detwiler never stood a chance.

Detwiler was disappointed, but understood why he didn't make the roster after such a great spring. He continued to prove his worth in Syracuse, the Nats Triple-A affiliate, though. After his 4th start of the season on Monday night against Scranton-Wilkes Barre (my hometown), Detwiler is sporting a 2-0 record, a 2.22 ERA, 20 strikeouts, and 6 walks in 24.1 innings. He's made it at least 6 innings in all 4 starts.

We here at Capitol Baseball are huge Detwiler fans, but we were concerned that he was never going to become the prospect that the Nats signed in 2007. While it's too soon to tell if this is the real Ross, I know we speak for many when we say it's better late than never, right?

Above average starting pitching in DC early this season continues to block Detwiler's promotion to the big club, which is exactly the problem you want to have if you're Mike Rizzo. But if Detwiler continues with this sensational start to the 2011 campaign, you have to imagine it won't be long before the hard-throwing lefty makes his way down the east coast to Washington to help the Nats in some capacity.

It could even become a possibility that the Nats would trade a veteran guy, as we analyzed late last week. Jason Marquis is at the end of his contract and would be perfect trade bait to a contender in late-July. Tom Gorzelanny, even though the Nats just picked him up this season, is arbitration-eligible this coming offseason. It will be his 3rd arbitration, and he could be due for another salary increase. He's currently already making $2.1 million. It could be advantageous to trade Gorzelanny for prospects and have Detwiler replace him as the lefty to round out the rotation.

All of this begs the question, could this finally be Ross Detwiler's breakout season? What do you think, CapBallers?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chad Gaudin Has to Gau...

Hooray bad puns. But seriously, let's cut to the chase, Chad Gaudin has been terrible this season. When the Nats acquired Gaudin in the offseason, there was some thought he might even get the 5th starting rotation spot. After an average spring, Gaudin was given the the de facto long reliever role, as he was a starter as recently as 2009 with the Yankees. But his need in that role diminished as all Nationals starters have gone at least 5 innings in every game this season. Instead, he was placed in numerous mop up roles and non-clutch situations.

In those appearances, though, he's given up 10 runs (6 earned) in just 8.1 innings this season. Of all current Nationals relievers, he has the highest BB/9 (walks per 9 innings) at 8.6. No one should be surprised about that, especially if they saw him pitch against the Pirates on Monday night at PNC Park. He threw behind two different right-handed batters in just 2/3 of an inning. The only person on the entire 25-man roster that has a higher ERA than Gaudin (6.48) is the rookie Brian Broderick (7.36).

As Mac wrote about yesterday in The Bullpen Issue, the Nats bullpen has struggled mightily this season, largely due to a big changeover in "the other guys." Who are "the other guys?" People not named Storen, Burnett, and Clippard, of course. Gaudin, however, is at the center of the issue. Who reads this blog, despite his early season numbers, and wouldn't rather see Collin Balester on the 25-man roster than Chad Gaudin? I don't think many, but tell me if I'm wrong.

We here at the blog hope that Henry Rodriguez is ready to appear in the bigs soon, because who couldn't use a high-90s throwing reliever? Rizzo might also have to use some of that free agent money early in the season to get another reliever, otherwise the bullpen stars of Clipp, Stor, and Burn are going to get used into oblivion in games where the Nats are competitive. It's unfair to give Riggleman a bullpen of 7 guys when he only truly feels comfortable using 3 of them in close games. And the first one to go has to be Chad Gaudin.

Checking In

Its time to check in with last years Nats and how they are doing in their new homes.

Adam Dunn -
.145 AVG (8 for 55). .579 OPS. 2 HR. 8 RBI. 10 BB. 24 K.

Dunn has not recovered from his appendectomy it seems. 24 K in just 55 ABs is nearly 10% worse than his career K%.

Wil Nieves -
.227 AVG (5 for 22). .638 OPS. 2 2B. 0 HR. 0 RBI. 3 BB. 8 K.

Pretty standard Nieves performance here.

Adam Kennedy -
.300 AVG (15 for 50). .821 OPS. 2 HR. 5 RBI. 2 BB. 8 K.

Kennedy has shaken off his off-season DUI to put up some productive numbers in the 3 and 4 hole for the Mariners. Yes, that's not a typo. Adam Kennedy has been hitting clean-up.

Josh Willingham -
.240 AVG (18 for 75). .733 OPS. 3 HR. 13 RBI. 8 BB. 27 K.

Willingham currently leads the AL in strikeouts. Be honest, if I told you that one of last years Nats lead the league in strikeouts your first choice would be the Hammer, right? No?

Willie Harris -
.245 AVG (13 for 53). .718 OPS. 1 HR. 7 RBI. 6 BB. 16 K.

Had a flash-in-the-pan moment to start the season, has turned into a pumpkin since.

Nyjer Morgan -
.455 AVG (10 for 22). 1.237 OPS. 2 3B. 2 RBI. 1 SB. 2 BB. 6 K. 1 DL stint for running into a catcher.

Wow! He is great!!! He is just doing so well, he looks just like that guy that came to the Nats in 2009... Why did we ever get rid of him??? *sarcasm*

Alberto Gonzalez -
.217 AVG (5 for 23). .644 OPS. 0 HR. 3 RBI. 3 BB. 3 K.

The AG is out-slugging Adam Dunn. Man, I love small sample sizes.

Joel Peralta -
10 Games. 9.1 IP. 2.89 ERA. 1.07 WHIP. 3 BB. 9 K.

Peralta has finished 3 games for the Rays, who have retooled their bullpen.

Miguel Batista -
7 Games. 7.2 IP. 1.17 ERA. 1.57 WHIP. 6 BB. 5 K.

Amazing that his ERA is so low with a WHIP so high...

It's fun to look back and see how crazy the stats are at the beginning of the year - especially while checking back with some of our favorite (and not so favorite) 2010 Nationals.

Do you have fond/sour memories of these guys? Post them in the comments!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Bullpen Issue

Flashback to 2010. The Nationals bullpen corps, lead by Clippard, Storen, and Burnett, was one of the best in baseball. Their peripheral stats placed them well ahead of the starters in terms of overall value. And going into 2011, many expected that the Nationals bullpen would remain in top form, though after 20 games the bullpen hasn't been able to replicate its .235 BABIP, 3.35 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP. What seems to be the problem?

First, let's see how the bullpen stats are faring compared to last year.
ERA - 3.35 in 2010 - 3.45 in 2011
WHIP - 1.28 in 2010 - 1.34 in 2011
BABIP - .235 in 2010 - .298 in 2011
K/9 - 8.5 in 2010 - 7.5 in 2011
Shutdowns - 130 in 2010 - 15 in 2011 (121 pace)
Meltdowns - 74 in 2010 - 9 in 2011 (73 pace)

ERA and WHIP are pretty close to last years numbers and strikeout rates are down, but there are serious issues when you look at the BABIP (Batting Average of Balls in Play). The rate last year was extraordinarily low, and there was little way that they would be able to continue the pace this year - especially with such a huge roster turnover. Which leads me to my next issue. Enormous roster turnover.

Last year the Nats had 16 players suit up in their bullpen (including names like Scott Olsen, Joe Bisenius, and Brian Bruney). This year there has only been 8 (SMALL SAMPLE SIZE). But of those 8 players that have pitched out of the Nats bullpen this year, 5 are returners (including Balester). Yes, Clippard, Storen, and Burnett have been just as good, if not better, than last year - but they are not at all the issue. The issue lies in the quality of the supporting cast.

2010 Mainstays (aside from Clip, Burn, Storen) -
Matt Capps - 2.74 ERA - 1.30 WHIP - .313 BABIP - 20/7 SD/MD
Doug Slaten - 3.10 ERA - 1.30 WHIP - .283 BABIP - 10/2 SD/MD
Collin Balester - 2.57 ERA - 1.24 WHIP - .283 BABIP - 0/1 SD/MD
Joel Peralta - 2.02 ERA - 0.80 WHIP - .200 BABIP - 13/4 SD/MD
Miguel Batista - 3.94 ERA - 1.36 WHIP - .257 BABIP - 7/6 SD/MD

Now, let's fast forward to 2011 and see how the bullpen is doing with a few new parts.

Doug Slaten - 0.00 ERA - 1.71 WHIP - .429 BABIP - 0/3 SD/MD
Collin Balester (3 games) - 8.10 ERA - 1.80 WHIP - .200 BABIP - 0/0 SD/MD
Todd Coffey - 6.23 ERA - 1.38 WHIP - .214 BABIP - 1/0 SD/MD
Chad Gaudin - 7.04 ERA - 2.61 WHIP - .458 BABIP - 1/3 SD/MD
Brian Broderick - 7.36 ERA - 1.23 WHIP - .250 BABIP - 0/0 SD/MD

Once again, for good measure - SMALL SAMPLE SIZE.

That being said Coffey, Gaudin, and Broderick have not even come remotely close to competence. And the only reason that Slaten's ERA is at 0.00 is because of his LOOGY status, any base-runner allowed is left for others to mop up - in 3 of his 11 appearances he has failed to record an out. The Pen - minus the Big 3 - has combined for 2 Shutdowns and 7 Meltdowns. That, frankly, isn't going to cut it at all.

Look for some moves changing the look of the Nats bullpen. Limiting Riggleman to just 3 or 4 legit options out of a 7 man pen is going to have serious repercussions in the long run. Its time for a change.

Desmond's Defense Still A Problem

(Photo Courtesy UPI/Alexis C. Glenn)

Ian Desmond was the butt of many a-joke in 2010 for his almost comically bad defense. The young shortstop committed 34 errors for the Nats last season, by far the worst of any shortstop in baseball. But everyone assured us that he'd just get better over time, that people were simply overreacting about his rookie season. Well that was before Desmond got benched after 2 errors on Saturday.

Now, 3 weeks in to his second season, the only thing that's been consistent about Desmond's play has been how consistently poor it's been. If my math serves me correctly, Desmond's 6 errors this season has him on pace to have... 48 errors this season. I know I'm being facetious with that stat, but the defensive issues the Nats have at shortstop cannot be understated.

Desmond's ice cold bat only compounds and amplifies his defensive struggles. He finished the 2010 season with those 34 errors, but at least he had his bat to prove he was worth the roster spot. But now, he's looked uncomfortable at the plate, hitting just above the Mendoza line, swinging at bad pitches, and had to be removed from the lead off spot. The only positive to glean from his performance in 2011 thus far is he's 8 for 8 on stolen bases.

I know it's too early in the season to force him out of his roster spot. I'm in no way calling for that. Not to mention, he's about to have his first child, and the weight of that might be causing some of these lapses. (No one can blame him, there.) But Desmond has to figure out why he's been struggling and force himself back in the right direction.

The Nats can take an average defender with great bat, or an average bat with a great glove, but they can't afford average defense and offense. And what they're getting from Desmond right now is far below average. It's time for Desi to step up his game, or risk losing his hold on the starting SS job.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let's See Brian Bixler

There wasn't a whole lot to like about the Nats first game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. Livan Hernandez gave up 5 runs in the first inning, and the Nationals never recovered, scoring only 2 runs.

The Nats lethargic bats have been a serious cause for concern early in the season, as the club dropped below .500 following a 3-game losing streak. There's no Ryan Zimmerman, and his replacements, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Alex Cora, have been nothing to write home about. After another 0-for night against the Bucs on Saturday, Hairston is hitting .147. Alex Cora is hitting .130 in limited plate appearances.

But there's hope, Nats fans. The front office has made a roster move that has brought Brian Bixler up to see what he can do to fill-in for the ailing Zimmerman. Bixler, a 3rd baseman by trade, came out of nowhere during Spring Training this season to hit .316 and post a .449 OBP. He continued on his tear to start the season in Syracuse, the Nats Triple-A affiliate. He's hit .326 with a .483 OBP.

The move is clearly a sign that the Nats don't like what they've seen from the veterans Hairston and Cora. Hopefully it's not cause for additional concern over Zimmerman's abdominal injury, since's Will Carroll reports that Zimm hasn't participated in baseball activities since April 12, when he was added to the DL.

The Nats picked up Bixler from, who else, the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash in 2010. It'd be poetic justice for Bixler to make his 2011 debut against the club that drafted him to help the Nats rebound from such pitiful Saturday evening display at PNC Park. It can't hurt to give him a shot, because it can't possibly be any worse.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Farewell to Jim Larranaga

I don't think I've ever used this space to discuss anything but baseball, but today, I make an exception. George Mason University Head Basketball Coach Jim Larranaga has taken his talents to South Beach, as he'll be the next head coach of the University of Miami.

It would be easy for me to be bitter, as I was a student at George Mason University when the team made its magical run to the Final Four in 2006. I followed the team before and after that time, and the one enduring face was always Jim Larranaga. You'd hear his piercing whistle during a game, and you'd always see his jovial post-game interviews. He always just seemed happy to be there, and I believe he truly was.

I'm not bitter about him leaving, but I can't even begin to describe the loss of an iconic coach like Larranaga to a mid-major program that has been on the national sports radar for the last 5 seasons. I am happy for Jim, though. Best case scenario, Larranaga would have commanded just over half a million dollars next season with Mason, and reports have him making over $1 million at Miami. It's about time this underrated, overachieving coach got his true payday.

From the run to the Final Four, the unofficial re-naming of the Patriot Center to the Larranaga Center in 2006, and the 3 NCAA Tournament appearances in the last 5 years (2 at-large), Mason fans and graduates will always have the unbelievable memories of the GMU Cinderella Story that was their run to the Final Four, and no one can take that away from us. Good luck, Coach.

Statistical Updates

So a few weeks ago we did a brief introduction to some new stats, focusing on Win Probability Added and the new Shutdowns/Meltdowns. Focusing on how individual Nats are faring in those specific categories, we also went over some additional numbers from the still-young 2011 season. Today we've got a new stat for you as well as some updates on some of those key numbers and trends so far this season.

wOBA - Weighted On-Base Average

Thanks to Biff McGregor over at Biffball for the plain-English explanation of how and why we use wOBA. What you need to know is basically that wOBA places a weighted run value on each type of on-base situation (including reach-on-error and hit-by-pitches). The thing that separates wOBA from something like OPS (which we know is On-Base plus Slugging), is that not all hits are equal. With Slugging Percentage, a single is worth 1, a double 2, a triple 3, and a home run 4 - showing exactly the flaws in the system; is a double really worth twice as much as a single? In one of their latest Blog Posts, Fangraphs explains that each of the "run values" (value to the team) are based on historical data.

In a nutshell, "As you can see from the visual [in said article], wOBA puts more stress on walks, hit by pitches, and singles, while OPS attaches a huge value to homeruns and triples."

wOBA is read at essentially the same range as OBP (On-Base Percentage) or as Biffball places it, "average is somewhere in the .320-.330 range, .380-.390 is superstar, and under .300 is replacement level."

With that in mind, how are the Nats faring with wOBA this year?
- As a team they are tied with the Pirates and Orioles for 21st in MLB, with a .301 wOBA.
- Of the team's regulars (not including Zimmerman), Danny Espinosa leads the team with a .379 wOBA (bordering on Superstar level). Following Espi is Ramos with a .368 and Nix with a .351. After that is gets pretty brutal, dropping down to Werth at .318.
- The worst of everyday starter is Michael Morse, coming in at a paltry .226.

Look for additional usage of wOBA here on Capitol Baseball.

Stat Updates -
- Nats are taking the extra base 50% of the time, much higher than they ever have in the past. Thanks Bo Porter.
- The Nats have only GIDP in 12% of potential chances.
- With RISP, the Nats' average has risen from .175, at the last writing, all the way up to .235. Still not great, but to have such a change in just a week, shows that the offense might finally be coming alive.
- The Nats now have stolen 15 bases, 7 by Desmond (who has yet to be caught).
- With 2 outs and RISP, the Nats are only hitting .123. Gross.
- Starters and Relievers ERA's have balanced out to an almost equal 3.56 and 3.46 respectively.
- Ramos is still catching the pitchers at a much higher level than Pudge. The Nats staff has a 3.01 ERA with Ramos, and a 4.07 ERA with Pudge.
- Nats are 27th in OPS with a .658 - bolstered by "scratching out runs" via Sacrifice hits and stolen bases.
- They are tied for 21st in OBP - tied with Seattle who has had Adam Kennedy and Ryan Langerhans hitting 3 and 4 in their lineup. Gross.
- The Nats 3.53 ERA places them 10th in all of baseball.
- WHIP is 14th with a 1.30.
- The Bullpen's K rate is 7.9/9. Very solid.
- The Nats have 12 errors on the year, placing them 13th worst in MLB - Desmond once again leads the way with 4 errors.

Do any of these stats scare/excite you about the Nats season? Share with us in the comments!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nationals Pending Contracts

Today, MLB Trade Rumors posted the contract issues the Nats face in 2012. We're going to go over the issues we think loom largest for the Nats in the next off-season. We know it's a ways off, but it's always fun to get worried really, really early.

1. 11 Pending Free Agents
  • If they don't offer any contract extensions this season, the Nats are slated to have 11 players on the open market this coming off-season. Most are veteran journeymen that will either go by the wayside or sign low cost contract extensions late this season. However, there are some of note: Jason Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, Chien-Ming Wang, and Livan Hernandez.
  • The Nats have to decide if Marquis is worth re-signing. They may do so before the trading deadline, because according to MLBTR, the team would save $2.5 million if they unloaded him before the deadline. The Nats record in July may have a lot to do with that.
  • Pudge is a Hall of Fame catcher that may no longer be extremely valuable to the club with Ramos, Flores, and Norris in the wings. I understand the player/coach mantra, but a spot on the 25-man roster is a valuable commodity.
  • Wang may make the team's decision easy if he doesn't appear this season. He's cheap for his potential, but the Nats can only wait on him so long.
  • Livo will be the truly interesting case. He's slowly become the recurring face of the pitching staff. First ever Nats Opening Day pitcher, back again to do it in 2011, and he's certainly a fan favorite. With the way the Nats pitching staff is evolving, Strasburg's return, Detwiler's improvement, and Maya's progression, the team may just run out of rotation spots for the old, reliable starter.
2. Arbitration Eligible Players
  • Four players stick out on this list, too: Tyler Clippard, Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Morse, and John Lannan.
  • Tyler Clippard is going to command a massive arbitration payday. He's currently only making $443,000 and is arguably the best reliever the Nats have. I'm not an arbitration expert, but I think Clipp will get the biggest pay bump, whether done before or during arbitration.
  • JZimm is marked for $415,000 in 2011, and so he'll see a huge jump, too. Considering he's widely touted as the Nats #2 for the foreseeable future, it's worth the money, but it'll be expensive.
  • Michael Morse is another beast in itself. Morse makes just over $1 million this season, and if you count 2010 and spring 2011, he was due for a big raise. But he's cooled off, almost staggeringly during the regular season. The Nats may find that Morse isn't worth what he may get in arbitration and might jettison that ship before we get there. Stay tuned to Morse's stats for the rest of this season. This will be a huge development.
  • John Lannan, the Nats 2-time Opening Day starter, is another one of those who knows. Lannan's inconsistencies over the last 2 seasons are staggering, but he's a fine left hander to have at the bottom of the rotation. We're big Lannan fans here at Capitol Baseball, but with Lannan currently making $2.75 million, his net worth might exceed his asset to the club. Stay tuned here, too.
What do you think about the pending free agents and arbitration eligible Nats for this coming off-season? We'd love to hear from you. Sound off in the comments.

Former Nats Greats - #19

The journey continues. Today we are visited by yet another member of the 2005-06 Nationals who just happens to be a 2nd generation MLBer. Essentially, I was inspired by the doubleheader on Sunday when I saw some amazing Nationals fan walking around the park sporting the number 36, reserved for today's honoree; Tony Armas.

Welcome to the club, Tony!

You were one of the holdovers from the Montreal days, and despite injury you still managed to pitch 49 games in 2 years back in 2005 and 2006 - racking up a 16-19 record. Let's now take a trip down memory lane to some of your best, and worst performances in a Curly W.

2005 Highlights:
- June 12th vs. Seattle - 5 IP. 5 H. 0 R. 0 ER. 3 BB. 6 K. Win.
- August 13th vs. Colorado - 6 IP. 9 H. 0 R. 0 ER. 2 BB. 4 K. Win.
- July 23rd vs. Houston - 7 IP. 1 H. 2 R. 2 ER. 3 BB. 5 K. Win.

2005 Lowlights:
- May 21st vs. Toronto - 7 IP. 10 H. 7 R. 7 ER. 1 BB. 1 K. Loss.
- September 1st vs. Atlanta - 4 IP. 7 H. 7 R. 7 ER. 2 HR. 3 BB. 3 K. No Decision.
And my personal favorite...
- June 18th vs. Texas - 5 IP. 7 H. 7 R. 7 ER. 4 HR. 4 BB. 3 K. Loss.

Not such a bad year after all, though it did seem like he had a thing with the number 7... Let's move on to 2006, where things spiraled downhill nicely.

2006 Highlights:
- April 23rd vs. Atlanta - 6.1 IP. 3 H. 0 R. 0 ER. 2 BB. 5 K. No Decision.
- May 14th vs. Atlanta - 7 IP. 3 H. 0 R. 0 ER. 2 BB. 6 K. Win.
- August 13th vs. New York (NL) - 7 IP. 2 H. 1 R. 0 ER. 1 BB. 5 K. No Decision.

Armas' highlights were much better in 2006 than in 2005, but as you will see, his worst was also much worse as well - and more frequent.

2006 Lowlights:
- May 3rd vs. Florida - 2.1 IP. 5 H. 5 R. 5 ER. 2 HR. 0 BB. 2 K. No Decision.
- June 14th vs. Colorado - 3 IP. 6 H. 7 R. 7 ER. 1 HR. 3 BB. 3 K. No Decision.
- July 28th vs. Los Angeles (NL) - 3 IP. 7 H. 6 R. 6 ER. 2 HR. 1 BB. 2 K. Loss.
- August 2nd vs. San Francisco - 3.2 IP. 8 H. 6 R. 6 ER. 1 BB. 1 K. Loss.
- August 23rd vs. Florida - 1.2 IP. 10 H. 8 R. 5 ER. 1 HR. 2 BB. 1 K. Loss.
- August 29th vs. Philadelphia - 3.1 IP. 8 H. 5 R. 5 ER. 1 HR. 1 BB. 1 K. Loss.
- September 13th vs. Arizona - 3.1 IP. 6 H. 4 R. 4 ER. 4 HR. 3 BB. 2 K. Loss.

5 of his worst starts in a Nats uniform came after the 2006 All-Star break, effectively sealing his fate. His most statistically impressive start would be that last start on September 13th, giving up 4 HR's - all solo shots. Also the fact that in his first 2 listed "lowlight" starts in 2006, he gave up 12 ER in 5.1 IP and got No Decisions each time - proving the sheer ridiculousness of Win/Loss records.

Armas Nats Totals are...
16-19 Record. 5.01 ERA. 1.51 WHIP. 9.4 H/9. 1.32 SO/BB. 0.3 WAR (Armas had a 0.8 WAR in 2006!).

Tony, you should consider yourself remembered, as at least one person in NatsTown still owns your #36 jersey. Here, in these hallowed halls, you will have a place forever - welcome.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

UZR Numbers Up

The first back of UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers are up for the 2011 season, and this should give us a very early look at how the new approach to fielding is working for the Nationals.

In the No-Shock-To-Anyone department, Ryan Zimmerman (in just 8 games) leads the team in UZR, racking up a 0.9 on the way. His UZR/150 numbers (basically a 150 game average), would place him 1st in the NL (4th overall). Other members of the Nationals in the Positive are:
- Cora (SS) - 0.5
- Hairston (3B) - 0.4
- Hairston (2B) - 0.1
- Espinosa - 0.1

That's it.

Hairston (LF) and LaRoche come in at 0.0. Rounding out the positivity of the Nationals defensive upgrade to the 2011 season.

The rest of the team currently resides on the negative side of the UZR spectrum.

Ankiel and Cora (3B) are at -0.2
Werth is at -0.4
Stairs is at -0.6
Morse is at -0.7
Hairston (CF) is at -0.8
Nix is at -1.6

Rounding out the worse range of Nationals is one Ian Desmond - coming in at a whopping -2.2 UZR, placing him 2nd to last in MLB; right behind Hanley Ramirez.

Team Totals have the Nats with a -4.8 which is good for 24th overall, 13th in the National League.

Why though are the Nats so low on the list?? Didn't the front office make the extra effort for defense?

That is a very complicated question, but the easiest and most straightforward answer is twofold - Ryan Zimmerman is hurt and these are just the first numbers. In no way is this a trend, yet. Lets stay tuned to all of these numbers as the next month or two progresses, and then we will talk.

But most importantly, don't panic.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nats Scouting BJ Upton [UPDATE]

According to MLB Network Insider Peter Gammons the Nationals have a scout down in Tampa this evening to watch their tilt against the While Sox. His report on MLBN's new Live afternoon program, The Rundown, said that the Nats were looking at former #2 Overall Prospect, Melvin Emmanuel Upton - known to the baseball world as BJ.

[UPDATE - 5:55] Ken Rosenthal's latest blog "Nationals: Seeking help in center" lists the Nationals going after Upton as well as to "Expect the Nats to be linked to any and all available center fielders". He also takes time to note that should a trade not happen, Upton will be a free agent after 2012.

His stats since arriving in the majors in 2004 (as a 19 year-old) have been a mixed bag, prompting questions that he was called up way too early in his development. And it stands to reason that the 26 year-old just needs a change of scenery. Through his now 7 year career Upton has hit .260 with a .759 OPS. He provides speed and range in OF as well as on the basepaths, racking up 167 career SB and a total OF UZR of 18.5.

Upton is somewhat of a local to the area, having grown up in Chesapeake playing Little League with Ryan Zimmerman. This news comes as an interesting development to this new 2011 season for several reasons.

1) What does this mean for Michael Morse?

His slow start to this season has not shined a good light on the front office, after they anointed him the starting Left-Fielder just two weeks into Grapefruit League action. Morse has hit just .205 this year, with a minuscule .513 OPS raising questions as to whether he should be in the position at all. If this trade goes through I believe that we would be seeing Werth in RF, Upton in CF, and Ankiel in LF - until Morse can outplay Ankiel for the LF job.

2) What does this mean for the future of Roger Bernadina?

Bernadina has always been a better LF than a CF, so this move really wouldn't affect his outlook at all - as Upton is a CF.

3) Could we see an Outfield of Werth in LF, Upton in CF, and Harper in RF?

We can only dream, right?

Nats Sweep Brewers; Move Above .500

There are a lot of reasons to be excited in NatsTown today after an exciting series with the Milwaukee Brewers. Great starting pitching is probably the biggest headline, but on Sunday, the Nats offense exploded as the weather warmed up, which is exactly the kind of thing you want to see from a team that hasn't been able to explode at all this season. As an aside, we'd like to add that this is our 300th post here at Capitol Baseball. Thank you sincerely for still reading.

But back to the sweep. Let's go over some headlines by game during this impressive 3-game sweep of Nyjer Morgan's Brewers.

Friday Headlines:
  • Nats Score 4 Runs, None Batted In: This is almost impossible to believe, but of the 4 runs the Nats' offense scored, none of them were actually batted in. Two of them were walks by Chris Narveson, one was a sac fly by Michael Morse, and one was a sacrifice grounder by Adam LaRoche that scored Jayson Werth to win the game. By the way, Werth was only on 3rd because of an error: really bizarre way to end the game.
  • Gorzelanny Goes 6 Innings; Gives Up Two Runs: Gorzelanny, the Nats "big" pitching acquisition in the offseason, got rocked by the Mets for 5 earned runs despite striking out 8 in his season debut, but he got it together to face the potent Brewers lineup.
  • Burnett Blows First Save of 2011: Despite this negative headline, the Nats and Chad Gaudin got it together in the 10th inning for a walk off victory.
Sunday Game 1 Headlines:
  • Nats Offense Breaks Free of Slump: This is clearly the main headline of the first game of the double header. Both Espinosa and Pudge rocked 3-run homers, and Desmond broke free of his 0-for at home by hitting a double and a line drive home run to left. More good news: they stranded just 4 runners.
  • Marquis Wins First Nats Game at Home: It's hard to believe that it's Marquis' second season with the Nats and he just got the first home win, but it's true. He did it in commanding fashion in 7+ innings. The first time that Marquis faced the Brewers as a Nats pitcher... well... it wasn't so pretty. Marquis gave up 7 of 10 earned runs in the 1st inning, and we lost him for most of the season. This is a nice rebound for Jason, as he got his first Curly W at Nats Park against the same team.
Sunday Game 2 Headlines:
  • Livo Dominates in 7 Innings and Gets Win; Nats Above .500: Hernandez threw just 88 pitches in 7 innings, giving up just 1 earned run and walking none. He's now 2-1 on the season. This is what you want to see from the Nats substitute ace; he needs to eat innings and manage runs scored. He succeeded in every way and continues to put the Nats in a position to win every outing. The Nats are now above .500 for the first time since May 2010.
  • Hairston Breaks Free; Triple Short of Cycle: Jerry Hairson, Jr. exploded from his sub-.100 start to the year and went 3 for 3. His first AB of the game resulted in a home run, and it was nothing but offense from there for the 34 year old switch hitter.
  • Nationals Defense Posts Error-Free Weekend: The Nats were able to get through the weekend in flawless fashion defensively, largely due to two major factors: a younger catcher (Ramos) behind the plate in 2 of the 3 games and Adam LaRoche at first base. LaRoche easily saved 2 overthrows from the other side of the field, not to mention 2 incredible picks on line drives to first. It's nice to have a solid defenseman over there.
  • Desmond Completes 4-for-8 Double Header: After Desmond's disappointing start that resulted in his move from the lead off spot, he made a case to move right back up into it. It's incredibly unlike that it'd happen, especially since Riggleman said in his post-game(s) press conference that he likes Espi leading off now, but he made the decision a lot harder. He landed 2 singles in the game and stole his 6th base; he hasn't been caught stealing yet in 2011.
So there's a ton to be thrilled about about this sweep. Now, the Nats hit the road for 6 games to face two very beatable teams: the Wainwright-less St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nats aren't even scheduled to face Chris Carpenter while in Missouri. Then the Nats come back to town for a 3 games series against the NL East cellar-dwelling New York Mets. It'll be exciting to see if this resurgent offense combined with an over-achieving starting rotation can capitalize during the next 9 games and continue the magic of the weekend sweep of the Brew Crew.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Morses

The sample size in the 2011 regular season is still small, but there is cause for concern in NatsTown about Michael Morse's plate appearances. Morse was hoisted into the starting left fielders role to start this season to the sounds of celebratory cheers from nearly everyone, including us. But since the Nats came north from Viera, it hasn't been pretty.

Morse had a breakout year as a utility/platooning player in right field in 2010. He posted a .289/.352/.519 line with 15 homers in a respectable 293 plate appearances. Things were looking up for the prospects of a good outfield, and that's before Jayson Werth was (publicly) on the Nats radar. The good news continued through an absolutely absurd spring, where he hit 9 home runs in just 21 games and went .364/.421/.818 in another admittedly small sample size.

Through the first two weeks of the season as a starter, Morse looks like a completely different player. So different, in fact, that Laynce Nix is seeing quite a bit of time against right handed pitching. And that move makes sense. Morse is hitting .174 while Nix is hitting .313. But to make matters worse, Morse is looking slow to the ball against lefties and righties and is struggling to hit for any power at all. He has 6 hits in 33 at bats for a dismal, below-the-Mendoza line .182. He has 7 total bases (meaning only one extra base hit) and hasn't hit a home run yet.

Not only his stats are concerning, but the feel when Morse is in the lineup is different. When Morse comes up to bat, it feels like an out before he takes his bat off the shoulder. When he's in the field, he take unsure paths to the ball. Here at Capitol Baseball, we advocated for Michael Morse as much as anyone when he was going well. And just because he's not, we're not calling for his head, yet. But it's a point of concern in a Nats lineup that has struggled to do anything at all offensively and has stranded runner after runner.

All of this shows just how meaningless Spring Training really is. It's mainly to help guys work on stuff they may not otherwise work on during the season, whether that's a new pitch or a new stance in the batter's box. And Morse seems to have reaped the benefits of "spring stuff." But he's struggling now, and Nats fans watching a Zimmerman-less lineup have to hope that he can come out of his slump soon.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Despite Walk-Off Win, Nats Offense Still Struggling

The Brewers try the 5-man infield on the Nats before the walk of sacrifice by Adam LaRoche.
(Photo - Joe Drugan/Capitol Baseball 2011)

The Nats took down the Brewers in exciting walk-off fashion on Friday evening. The story could be that Sean Burnett blew his first save of the season, but it's not. It could also be that Tom Gorzelanny threw just 85 pitches in 6 innings and looked sharp all night, but that's not it either. The story is that the Nats won a 4-3 game by managing just 5 hits

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a walk-off win and forget how ugly it was that it even happened, though. The 3 Nats runs that scored in the 2nd inning were not generated as much by clutch hits; it was because Chris Narveson walked in 2 of them, and the bases were still loaded when Danny Espinosa sacrificed Michael Morse home with just 1 out. The only reason Morse wasn't gunned out at home was because Braun's throw from left field was up the 1st base line. Then, the game winning run was only scored because of an errant throw on a Jayson Werth grounder in the 10th by SS Yuniesky Betancourt that allowed Werth to get to 2nd on what would have been the 2nd out of the inning.

Sure, there are positives to glean from the Nats offense. There were hitters patient enough to draw walks to get runs. Even more than that, Jayson Werth stealing 3rd after getting to 2nd on Betancourt's error sealed the game for the Nats. It's smart baserunning and smart plate presence. But the Nats still have been incapable of putting together hits with any consistency. This win is an anomaly for the Nats, as they never strung together more than 2 hits in an inning, yet still managed to score 4 runs.

I'm confident that when Zimmerman returns and Werth settles in at the dish, there will be more exciting offensive times ahead, but the Nats must continue to rely on pitching and defense until then.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Backstop Bingo

Remember at the beginning of the season when Riggleman said that Ramos and Pudge were going to play every other day for the first 10 games? Well, it's been 12 games, and there seems to be no end to the platoon in sight; each player has 6 starts. Let's take a look at how this is going.

Pudge - .136 AVG (3 for 22). .356 OPS. 1 2B. 4 RBI. 3 K. 1 BB. -0.2 WAR
Ramos - .455 AVG (10 for 22). 1.083 OPS. 2 2B. 2 RBI. 5 K. 3 BB. 0.4 WAR

They said that Pudge was going to be the guy until Ramos pushed him out of it. Well... Uhm... Need some more info?

How do the pitchers fare when each backstop is behind the dish?

Pudge - 55.2 IP. 50 Hits. 4.20 ERA. 41 K. 24 BB. .654 OPS.
Ramos - 54.0 IP. 49 Hits. 3.11 ERA. 46 K. 13 BB. .677 OPS.

The pitching staff has a significantly lower ERA when Ramos is behind the plate, though they are also prone to more HRs (Ramos 6: Pudge 1). In addition, the walk and strikeout numbers are better as well when Ramos is catching. When looking at WAR numbers for the 2011 season, Ramos is 2nd on the team, right behind Zimmerman (and one of only 6 Nationals position players in the positive).

Listen, I'm not here to hate on Pudge for aging, it happens. But, this season especially, it's time to say goodbye to the veteran and sure-thing-1st-ballet Hall of Famer. Let's trade Pudge to a contender (See: Red Sox) and see what Ramos and Flores can do, once and for all.

The Leadoff Debate

Perhaps the most talked about position in the batting order is who to bat 1st. It's a battle that has raged throughout each manager's office, sports bar, and amongst the magical interwebs. Do you want a "prototypical" leadoff man - fast, steals bases, has some pop, and can get on base? Or do you prefer the Saber approach - seeing a lot of pitches, some speed, and the ability to get on base? Pretty similar theories, with much in common, the only issue that differs is the value of steals (which is for another time).

Within the hallowed grounds of NatsTown, we have our own debate going as to who should be the leadoff hitter; Ian Desmond or other. Many bloggers and twitter-ers have been calling for a shake-up at the top, most likely with Espinosa taking the reigns at the top of the order. Let's examine their credentials for leadoff, whether you prefer prototypical or saber.

First up, Ian Desmond - Career OBP .302 - 2011 OBP .212

We all know that Desmond has struggled to start the season, that's not news for anyone - so let's just write that off as a slump. Let's dig a little bit deeper

Career MiLB OBP .326 - His highest season OBP was in 2007 (His 3rd year at High-A Potomac) when he scored a .401 OBP in 97 games.

His stats for leading off the game are essentially all from this year, so let's take a look at his stats for when he leads off an inning - which isn't necessarily the same, but its something. When leading off an inning, Desmond reaches base at a .307 clip (152 PA) - about average performance.

He definitely has the potential to reach base better than he has in the Curly W, whether he can get there against the higher level pitching has yet to be see. Though he is definitely capable of reaching base more than he has since his call-up late in 2009.

Danny Espinosa - Career OBP .312 - 2011 OBP .405

SMALL SAMPLE SIZE. Ok, now that the disclaimer is out of the way let's take a look at his minor league numbers.

Career MiLB OBP .365 - His highest OBP season came in the short season New York Penn League (.476 in just 19 games SMALL SAMPLE SIZE), and his next best was also High-A Potomac (.375 in 133 games).

Espinosa struggled when leading off the game, but being a rookie call-up I am not going to hold it against him; in the interest of full disclosure he had .235 OBP in 18 games. So to properly compare, let's check out how he has done leading off the inning. In 40 PA leading off an inning, Espinosa has a .346 OBP - much higher than Ian Desmond's .307.

So, what I glean from this is that its time for a change. We aren't going to be a contender this year, we will be a middle-of-the-pack team (barring injury). It's time to tinker with the lineup.

A modest proposal - Try Espi at leadoff, move Desi to the 2-hole (where he has a .354 OBP), follow with Werth-Zim-LaRoche.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jordan Zimmermann Flirts With Perfection

It was like any great baseball night on April 14, 2011. The fans from Citizens Bank Park came to Nats Park to jeer the Nats and be their usual selves. Everyone expected a great pitching matchup, pinning Jordan Zimmermann against the Phillies Cliff Lee.

From the way Jordan Zimmermann was pitching from the first minute of this ball game, you could tell something special was in the air. Through the first 4 innings, JZimm threw just 47 pitches. His fastball was hitting 96 mph, Phillies hitters were believing his slider, and his command was outstanding. The defense made some great plays. After 5 perfect innings, all that came to an end with a Carlos Ruiz home run.

Not since Scott Olsen lost a no-hitter in the 8th inning on May 6, 2010 has Nationals Park been a flutter with the prospect of hitless baseball. Olsen now pitches for the Pirates, except he's on the DL with soreness on his throwing shoulder (shocking), but I digress.

Tonight, Jordan Zimmerman has shown exactly what he's capable of as a top of the rotation pitcher for the Nationals. He's still pitching a gem as we write, but this kind of outing from a healthy JZimm is what the Nats can look forward to in the future.

Former Nats Greats - #18

Today's member of this not-so-elusive club is a LOOGY who took an impressive 8 years to reach the Majors. This pitcher was a transfer from Montreal, while staying only 8 games in Washington before being shipped out of town to the Zephyrs for the remainder of the '05 season. Just who is our mystery man??

Joe Horgan!

We thank you for your contribution to the inaugural Nationals, but we cringe at the very thought of your pitching performance. Lets dig in.

So, 8 games is all it took and it was so bad that you didn't even get a September call-up. Everything started pretty well in terms of numbers, but all the signs and symptoms were there for an absolute meltdown. On April 4th you came into the game for TJ Tucker (that's right), and you proceeded to load the bases with 1 out, only to get out of the inning with a strikeout and a fly out; no harm no foul. Your second appearance also went well, as you only allowed a walk and a foul out. But here is where the wheels began to come off.

The date was April 11th and the Braves were already well positioned to win the game when you gave up a walk, 4 hits, and 4 runs to make the game an 11-1 slaughter. The up an down nature of your season continued as your next appearance resulted in 0.2 IP appearance with just 2 pitches, as you got Luis Gonzalez to hit into a double play (also out on the play, Royce Clayton).

So far, you have 3 solid outings with 1 bad outing, but the thing about being a LOOGY is that you are never in the game for very long, so when you are and its bad, it becomes really bad. The day after your 2 pitch fantasticness, the Marlins broke out for 6 hits and 5 runs in just one inning. Ouch.

To your credit, you were able to bounce back yet again posting 0 runs and just 1 hit in your next 2 outings (1 IP total). And once again it was time for you to have your swan song.

The date was April 24th, and it will go down in the Horgan household as the last time Joe appeared in a MLB ball game. 6 hits and 6 runs later it was over, but we now need to go over all the gory details. And here they are courtesy of the game log.

C Floyd singled to center.04
C Floyd to second on wild pitch by J Horgan.04
D Mientkiewicz walked.04
D Wright doubled to left, C Floyd scored, D Mientkiewicz to third.05
V Diaz doubled to right, D Mientkiewicz scored, D Wright to third.06
J Seo singled to center, D Wright and V Diaz scored.08
C Woodward singled to center, J Seo to second.08
M Cairo safe at first on error by third baseman C Baerga, J Seo scored, C Woodward to second.09
C Beltran doubled to deep left, C Woodward scored, M Cairo to third.010
M Piazza grounded into fielder's choice to third.010
C Floyd struck out swinging.010
D Mientkiewicz struck out swinging.010
D Wright struck out swinging.

Rocked by Cliff Floyd, Doug Mientkiewicz, Miguel Cairo, Chris Woodward (and Bernstein), Victor Diaz (who?), and the pitcher Jae Seo.

But my favorite note about this whole thing is that the 2nd time through the lineup, Joe Horgan can flat out dominate. After seeing everyone the first time, Horgan struck out the side!

Career over, here are your Nats stats:
8 Games. 6.0 IP. 4 BB. 5 K. 19 H. 14 ER. 21.00 ERA. 3.83 WHIP. 3.85 FIP (!!!). 0.0 WAR

Congrats to you, Joe Horgan, you are the 18th elected member of the Hall of the Former Nats Greats!

Use the comments to talk about your favorite Joe Horgan memories!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nats vs. Roy Halladay

I'll keep this brief. I was curious to see how our makeshift lineup has faired in the past against Phillies' Ace 1a. So I took to Baseball-Reference to see. Here are the deets on tonights starting lineup.

Ian Desmond - 2 for 9 - 1BB 4K
Rick Ankiel - 1 for 2 - 1BB
Jayson Werth - 0 for 1 - 1K
Adam LaRoche - 1 for 7 - 2K
Laynce Nix - 2 for 4 - 2B
Danny Espinosa - 0 for 4 - 2K
Jerry Hairston - 2 for 22 - 2BB 4K
Ivan Rodriguez - 14 for 35 - 3 2B 2 HR 5 RBI 6K
John Lannan - 0 for 2 - 2K

So. The results for tonight look bleak, because there is a reason that he has finished in the top-5 of the last 5 Cy Young Award voting. Maybe tonight can feature another reverse-lock. For those of you not watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, try to enjoy John Lannan vs. Roy Halladay.

Video Lunch Break: Tim Lincecum in Slow Motion

This might be the coolest thing you'll see all day, especially with a John Lannan vs. Roy Halladay match up tonight at Nats Park. We'll get back into Nats posting this evening and tomorrow morning, but in the mean time, do yourself a favor and watch this. It is nothing short of staggeringly incredible.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Flores to Replace Zim on 25-Man

In a surprise, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has announced that Jesus Flores will be called up from AAA Syracuse to replace Ryan Zimmerman, who is sidelined with a "strained abdominal muscle". If anything, this raises more questions than it answers.

1) Is Flores actually healthy?

He has played in 4 of the 5 Syracuse games thus far this season, and though he has struggled to hit the baseball (much like in Spring Training) he has still been in there. Hitting just .125 in Spring Training and now .154 in AAA action, Flores' call-up is a simply a curious move. One of the reasons he was sent to AAA is to confirm his health, by having the 26 year-old play every day, this isn't going to get that done.

2) Is Pudge on his way out?

Though Pudge has made his 3 hits count on the year (racking up 4 RBIs in some clutch situations), he has been struggling since posting a solid .278 average this Spring. If the Nationals are sure of Flores shoulder health, we could be looking at the last few appearances of Pudge in a Nationals uniform because there is no way we keep 3 catchers on the 25-man for very long.

3) Are we really going to rely on Cora and Hairston to fill in for Zim?

It would stand to reason that we would call up an infielder, such as Brian Bixler to fill in an infield hole. Catcher is, for lack of a better phrase, out in left field. Less likely but still making sense would be to bring in an Outfielder to replace Hairston while he covers for Zim at 3B. Bernadina would be a solid fit here, as he actually hits LHP better than RHP.

4) Will the Nats regret trading Alberto Gonzalez or not signing Willie Harris?

The role of utility player is pretty important to an injury prone ballclub, because you never know who is going to be injured, when, or what position they might play. Each of these players have gotten off to solid starts with their new teams (AG hitting .300, Harris hitting .296), while the Nats' bench players are hitting just 6 for 55 on the year...

5) Is this simply having a need for a right handed bench player?

Most likely, considering Nix, Stairs, and Cora are all left-handed hitters. There is a dearth MLB-ready talent in the Nats organization, and this Flores move shows off that emptiness. Even still, its fun to ask the questions.

Edit (addition):
6) Could Pudge earn time as the first baseman?

With Flores coming up from the minors and sharing time with Ramos behind the plate, this might be the time to get Pudge some time at first base. Adam LaRoche's injuries continue to mount (first shoulder, then groin), and we seriously don't like the condition of Adam's throwing shoulder. This could be Pudge's opportunity to extend his career and still mentor the young Nats catchers.

What are your thoughts on Flores' call-up?? The Comment's section awaits.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New and Nats Stats

I love stats. I love the way that you can quantify everything in a baseball game. From the statistical variances between two different ballparks, to the percentage a player increased or decreased your teams chance to win the ball game. And in the past we have discussed several stats that you may or may not be familiar with, but there are a few more than I want to throw your way. While explaining each stat, with a few extra nuggets thrown in, I am going to add some examples about the Nats 2011 season.

WPA - Win Probability Added

This stat is used to judge a particular players impact on a game, and it is scored out of 1.00%. This stat can go both positive and negative, meaning if you are the only person that helps your team win a game you get a 1.00 rating, but if you blow the game and are the only person responsible you get a -1.00. Each play can also change the trajectory of the game, each singular at-bat.

For example, Adam LaRoche's 2-run HR in the 11th inning vs the Mets was worth .418%; meaning that hit added 41.8% chance to win a game that was 50/50, giving the Nats (at that point) a 91.8% chance to win the game.

Your Nats Leaders for WPA are:
Pitchers - Clippard 1.14% - Storen 0.23%
Hitters - LaRoche 0.20% - Zimmerman/Pudge/Desi - 0.17%

You Nats worst for WPA are:
Pitchers - Gorzelanny -0.53% - Gaudin -0.43%
Hitters - Hairston -0.36% - Werth -0.31%


This stat is specifically for relief pitchers and is a corollary to WPA, and actually uses WPA as its main construct. We know now that each player has a WPA for each game; LaRoche's WPA was .241% when he had that extra innings Home Run. How this relates to relievers is that every time a reliever notches a +0.06 WPA he earns a shutdown, and every time they get a -0.06 they earn a meltdown. This stat is great for relievers because it relates so closely to saves, in that those with high save numbers also have accumulated lots of shutdowns. It's beauty lies in the fact that you can use this with all relievers, closers and mop-up men alike.

Shutdown Leaders:
Clippard 5 - Storen 2 - Coffey/Burnett 1

Meltdown Leaders:
Gaudin 3 - Slaten 2

Awesome: Brian Broderick has 0 Meltdowns (my guess is cause the Nats were already so far out of the game when he had his 2 appearances)

Interesting Stats from 2011:
- The team has taken the extra base (1st to 3rd, 2nd to Home), 55% of the time - well above last years total. Wilson Ramos leading the way, doing it 3 times thus far.
- Pudge has grounded into 2 double plays in 7 chances.
- 67 LOB in 9 games = 7.4 runners LOB per game.
- Just 14 for 80 with RISP, coming out to a .175 AVG.
- With 2 outs and RISP, they are hitting just .135.
- Nats have only managed 5 stolen bases this year, 3 by Desmond.
- The Nats are 22nd in MLB in OPS but 16th in OBP.
- The Starters have an ERA of 4.29 and a WHIP of 1.27.
- The Bullpen has as ERA of 3.78 and a WHIP of 1.32.
- Averaging out the pitching staff has an ERA of 4.09 (16th) and a WHIP of 1.29 (13th). Their BAA (Batting Average Against) is 10th in all of baseball.
- The Bullpen's K/9 ratio is a staggering 8.9.
- Nats pitchers are 9th in MLB in strikeouts with 69, 10 behind the leader.
- The 'Pen has inherited 25 runners, and only 9 of them have scored. Tyler Clippard leads the way with only 2 runners scoring out of 9 inherited runners.
- It should be noted that the staff's ERA is more than a run better when Ramos (3.49) is catching, as opposed to Pudge (4.60).
- The pitching staff has only given up 4 Unearned Runs.
- The veteran bench that has been talked up all offseason is 0 for 9 in pinch hitting appearances; though Matt Stairs has 4 walks in 6 PA.
- The Nats have 7 Errors on the year (tied for 9th most in MLB), no one player has more than 1.
- Nats are averaging 4 runs per game.
- The Nats lead MLB in walks with 44, 5 more than the 2nd place team. Zimmerman and Werth leading the way with 7 each.

Which of these stats is the most interesting to you? Sound off in the Comments!

Clipp and Burn Remain the Story in 2011

In 2010, the Nationals bullpen was the diamond in the rough during another sub-par season, but the stars of the 7 men in the 'pen were Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett. Sure, Drew Storen had a strong season and looks to be figuring out his issues from the spring this year, but he hasn't set himself apart from the crowd yet. Clipp and Burn have.

Tyler Clippard led the Nats in wins in 2010, though that's not something that's always good for a bullpen guy. In a few of those wins, Clippard was bailed out by his offense. But he's started out this season better than anyone could have possibly imagined. In 6 games, Clippard has thrown 8.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 10. His ERA is 0.00.

Sean Burnett had a staggeringly impressive 2nd half of 2010. After the All-Star break, batters hit just .196 off of him and he posted an incredible 1.67 ERA in 32.1 innings. This year he's continued right where he left off, leading us to believe he will, in fact, lead the Nats in saves this year. In 4 games in 2011, Burnett has 2 saves, none blown. He's given up 3 hits and 0 runs.

There's a lot of talk of building the Nats bullpen around Drew Storen, and for good reason. Storen is consistently hitting 96 on the gun now, and his command is just getting better. He's getting more comfortable with his fastball and with himself. But let's not forget about the two guys that continue to be among the best under-the-radar relievers in all of baseball: Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett.

Without Clipp and Burn, the Nats easily lose another 5 games last year, and who knows how it changes their win total this season. But one thing's for sure, if they both continue on this pace, we might actually be talking about some more Nats relievers making the All-Star Game in 2011.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Nats Embarrass Mets in Extras

(Photo - Joe Drugan/Capitol Baseball 2011)

It was one of those ugly starts for Jason Marquis that Nats fans have come accustomed to seeing. Give up a couple runs to start the game, put your Ryan Zimmerman-less offense in a rut to start the game. But then Marquis settled down and put together a pretty spectacular start, ultimately giving up just 3 earned runs and striking out 9.

The 9 K's counted for Marquis best performance since September 4, 2004 (h/t Adam Kilgore). Marquis ERA on the season is now 3.65, proving his worth in earning $7.5 million.

The Nats offense tied the game in the 8th inning when Pudge got the first of his two clutch hits in this game. The Nats ultimately tied the game in the 8th but still the Nats left the bases loaded.

Adam LaRoche led off the 11th inning with a single and got scarified to 2nd by PH Jordan Zimmermann, but more bad news for the middle of the Nats lineup came when LaRoche was pulled from the game. No news on what the injury is yet, but with his partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, the bad news keeps coming for Adam.

Factor in Ryan Zimmerman's lingering abdominal issues and Jayson Werth's continued struggles at the plate, the middle of the lineup might be in for some serious struggles over the next 7-10 days.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Former Nats Greats - #17

Today's edition of Former Nats Greats focuses around a 1-time all-star, who was out of the game just 4 years after the fact. Quite a precipitous fall from being 18th in MVP voting in 2004, to finishing his career with the Nats in 2008.

The winner of this magnanimous award today, is none other than Johnny Estrada. Congratulations!

Estrada is a very peculiar case, having played just 23 games in a Nats uniform way back in 2008, when Jim Bowden was struggling to maintain control of a flailing franchise. Trying to build on a positive 2007 season, Jimbo decided to take a chance that Estrada could rediscover his stroke, offering the catcher a $1.25 million dollar contract to assist Paul Lo Duca behind the plate... Wow... That just sounds awful in every way imaginable.

Moving on... There really is no way I can highlight anything good that he did while in Washington, as he managed just 9 hits (all singles) in the curly W. I'm still gonna take a shot at finding his best/worst game in DC.

Best - April 21st vs Braves - 2 for 4 with 2 singles.
Worst - April 16th, April 29th, July 18th - 0 for 4.

All told, that year is when Jim Bowden lost his job, not helped at all by the extension for Dimitri Young, or the signings of Estrada or PLoD.

2008 Stats in Washington: 55 Games. 9 Hits (all singles). 4 RBI. 1 BB. 4K. .170 AVG. .200 OBP. .370 OPS. -0.4 WAR.

In the 16 previous incarnations of Former Nats Greats there was at least something interesting to find from each player, Johnny Estrada is probably the most boring player so far... I guess he is the perfect definition of the 102-loss 2008 season.

Anyway, congrats to you Estrada - I hope the readers don't fall asleep when they read your induction article!!!

Pitching Struggles Replace Lethargic Offense

The Nats started the season doing the opposite of what most expected from the 2011 team. Their pitching yielded just 2 runs on Opening Day and 3 in the following game. Meanwhile, the team was shut out offensively on Opening Day, and scored just 2 runs in 3 of the first 5 games this season.

Besides the bullpen implosion on April 3 against the Braves, the Nationals pitching staff had looked solid before yesterday's game, and even yesterday it was not entirely the pitching staff's fault. Home plate umpire Tim Tschida was squeezing the zone to, as FP and Bob said, "the size of a tuna can." But Tschida was calling a small zone on both sides, so you can't truly blame him for the loss.

The fact is, the Nats were able to start strong and put up 4 runs early in the game. Besides an ugly baserunning error by Ian Desmond in the 1st, the team was playing smart small ball. They were hitting and running with success and being patient at the plate.

Livan Hernandez had a good outing to start his 2nd appearance this season, but that unraveled in the 5th inning, when Livo gave up 4 runs and allowed the Marlins to tie the game. Chad Gaudin allowed 2 more runs to score in the 6th, and Todd Coffey allowed one in the 8th. The Nats offense then did what it's done in most games this year; it disappeared.

The 9th inning showed some promise with Desmond and Werth getting on base in front of Zimmerman with 2 outs, but Zimm struck out swinging and that was that. The Nats did generate 4 runs, which is considered an onslaught considering the Nats offensive production this season, but the Nats real issue is runners left on base. So far this series (just 2 games) the Nats have left 20 on-base. TWENTY. And they've scored only 6 runs. So it's not that the offense isn't hitting, it's just not producing in the clutch.

There is one positive to glean from Wednesday though. The Ian Desmond that started the season 0-for-14 went 4-for-5 against Chris Volstad, bring his average and OBP up from... well... .000. We'll take it, and now we know why Riggleman decided last minute to allow Desi to lead off. Whatever Riggs was thinking, he was certainly correct.

Hopefully Ian can stay hot now and become a lead off guy that will work for this team. The Nats haven't had a real lead off guy yet in 6 seasons of baseball, so hopefully that's just one piece of getting the offense on track this season.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The lead off spot is up for grabs, and we hate it

It only took 6 days of the regular season for Nats Manager Jim Riggleman to decide he'd seen enough of Ian Desmond in the top spot in the batting order. Desmond was 0-for-13 in his first 3 games this season, and the fact that there's another young speedster in Espinosa that started the season 4-for-9 at the time of Riggs' decision didn't help Desi's cause.

But was it the right one? Sure, Ian Desmond's bat couldn't have started the season off any colder. He struck out a bunch on Opening Day and looked terrible doing it. But what about Desmond's success during the 2010 campaign?

Ian Desmond flourished at the top of the batting order in 2010 once he was given the opportunity to do so. Just 13 at-bats in one season hardly seems like enough of a sample size to make such a decision that will undoubtedly affect the mental stability of the young shortstop. Hopefully this doesn't affect his defensive improvements.

All that said, we are generally impartial to whichever young middle infielder leads off. Espinosa seems to be a more natural lead off type. He has some pop in his bat, but he also has an above-average ability for speed, and speed is something that the Nats lack a lot of in their current lineup without Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina.

Meanwhile, Desmond has a more proven track record in his ability to hit for average and get on base (though a .308 OBP in 2010 is nothing to write home about for a lead off man). He hits for less home run power than Espinosa, which means it may serve the Nats better to have Espinosa down a bit in the lineup with guys hitting in front of him since he certainly is unable to compete with Werth, Zimmerman, and LaRoche for the middle spots.

So regardless of who is up there, it seems it may be a push, and it will be impossible to know if the Riggleman does as he promises and continues to swap the two between the lead off spot from game to game. Baseball players work best based on patterns and comfort, and that's not something that Riggs is providing with the early-season switch and a lack of firm roles for young players.

While we don't care much about which guy bats first, we hate the idea of no continuity in the lineup from game to game. What say you, readers? Like the move or dislike it? Let us hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Nats Drop Opening Series to Braves

So, in a span of 3 games we have seen exactly what the Nationals plan to offer this year; good and bad. Starting the season last Thursday, the Home team put forth an anemic effort against Derek Lowe, scoring 0 runs and managing just 5 hits. Saturday we saw glimpses of what this team is capable of, winning a 6-3 decision that saw the Nats lead almost the whole game. And on Sunday, we saw a last years Nats (errors, bullpen implosions, random balks, etc.) en route to an 11-2 thrashing despite a solid outing by Jordan Zimmermann. To recap such a weekend's events, we have the Zuckablog taking on the Starting Pitchers role, while Kilgore takes on the progress of last years Nats that have moved on. Time to pick up the pieces.

The Good:
- Danny Espinosa is 4 for 9 with 2 doubles.
- Jayson Werth has shown why we are paying him the big bucks, going 4 for 10 with 2 doubles and 3 walks. Though he has had a few misplays in the outfield.
- Nats have just 1 error in their first 3 games (and its not Ian Desmond!). There have been several displays of improved defense by our infielders/new arrivals (Zim, Espi, LaRoche, and Werth), which have saved extra bases countless times.
- Wilson Ramos is 3 for 5.
- Starting pitching has been spectacular, just a 2.60 ERA (5 ER in 17.1 IP) with a 0.981 WHIP (13 H + 4 BB in 17.1 IP).
- Nats have been very aggressive on the basepaths, often going from 1st to 3rd on singles = The Bo Porter Effect.
- Sean Burnett is has still yet to allow a run in 2011.
- Tyler Clippard has stranded all 4 inherited runners.
- Riggleman managed his butt off on Saturday, putting on a suicide squeeze in the perfect situation (which Ankiel and Zimmerman pulled off to a T). His "smart ball" system is "working" for him, as the Nats have 4 sacrifice hits/flys in 3 games.

The Bad:
- Ian Desmond is 0 for 13 on the season, with 3 strikeouts. 8 of those 13 have come leading off an inning, all of his strikeouts are in those situations.
- The Nats, as a team, are just 3 for 26 with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP), knocking in just 6.
- Adam LaRoche is 1 for 7 with RISP.
- Pitchers throwing first pitch strikes is nice, but twice so far they have been tattooed into the stands.
- Pudge is now 0 for 6 with a GIDP.
- Brian Broderick with his memorable first career MLB appearance...
- Chad Gaudin with 3 ER in just 0.2 IP.
- Doug Slaten = highly ineffective. 3 appearances, just 0.1 IP - 2 BB, 2 H. Thursday - walked only batter faced. Saturday - gave up a double to only batter faced. Sunday - faced 3 batters; BB, RBI single, groundout.

What's Next:
Tuesday - Marquis vs. Sanchez
Wednesday - Hernandez vs. Volstad
Thursday - Lannan vs. Johnson

What, if anything, did you take from our first 3 games of the season? Tell us in the comments.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nats Closer: Sean Burnett

When we covered our 25 in 25 about Drew Storen, we guessed that it'd be extremely unlikely that Storen would be the Nats closer to start the season. Coming into this past off-season, we figured that Burnett was ripe for another great season. He hasn't disappointed in his appearances so far, but we expected that. That's why we predicted that Burnett would lead the Nats in saves in 2011 way back on March 7th.

There are a whole lot of factors that contribute to Sean Burnett's success, so let's take a minute to look into the main 3:
  1. Intimidation: No matter who you are and what side of the plate you hit from, Sean Burnett is an intimidating character. You never see him smirk on the baseball field; he has the right, hard nosed attitude; his off-to-the-side hat look just puts the persona together.
  2. Left-handed: Burnett is a lefty that can get his fastball into the mid-90s. He throws from the left side of the rubber this season, making the ball all but disappear to left-handed batters that he's faced. On top of all that, he continues to succeed against righties.
  3. Stuff: When he's pitching in short bursts, Sean Burnett's stuff is just nasty. It dances all over the place, and he has a power fastball to boot. He's a nightmare to face when you enter the late innings because of that.
We fully acknowledge that Drew Storen is slated to be "the guy" to close games as the Nats make their first playoff run sometime in the future. But for now, Sean Burnett is the one getting the job done. I strongly believe in building young talent, but let's not forget that Burnett is just 28 years old and is proving to the a major success story of the Nats bullpen.

Vamos Ramos

You probably have seen by now that over the first 2 weeks of the season that our catchers will be splitting time 50/50. I have to say that this is a fantastic decision for the beginning of the season as it gives some love to the Future Hall of Famer while letting the young stud get some quality time behind the dish. Lets take a look at some of the projections for each player for the 2011 Season.

For this I am going to use the 2011 Marcel forecaster. On how this is calculated check out this snippet from their website, "It uses 3 years of MLB data, with the most recent data weighted heavier. It regresses towards the mean. And it has an age factor."

The age factor being the most crucial in this situation, especially considering the damaging nature of catching. So, with all that in mind, remember that these are just projections and they should be taken with a grain of salt.

Pudge 2011 Projection - .251 AVG. 426 AB. 20 2B. 7 HR. 45 RBI. .646 OPS. 19.7% K%.

Ramos 2011 Projection - .274 AVG. 241 AB. 14 2B. 6 HR. 24 RBI. .763 OPS. 18.3% K%.

One of the more interesting things with these individual projections is that this sees about a 2/3 + 1/3 split in playing time with Pudge taking the bulk of the catching duties. If anything, I see Ramos getting the lions share of play this year, especially because Flores in AAA appears to be healthy for the first time in years. I've said before that Pudge won't last but a few months in DC this year, as I expect him to be traded to a contender by June.

I would say that Ramos' projection would be pretty accurate in terms of AVG and OPS, spread his numbers out over 450 ABs and that puts him at about 25 Doubles, 11 HR, and about 45 RBI (though I think he goes over 50 RBI). Pudge won't see these many ABs and I don't believe that his average will break .250. Defensively? Pudge still has a cannon, but Ramos has all the raw tools needed to become an outstanding play-caller and field captain.

I am glad to see the Nats looking towards the future, at least in terms of one position. Next up? Bring Bernadina up.

(h/t to Dave Nichols for the Vamos Ramos hashtag)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Former Nats Greats - #16

Today's installment of Former Nats Greats focuses on a speedster who came to the Nationals, wowing everyone immediately with his talents, only to be shipped out of town. Sound like a familiar story? Well, its not who you think...

Our special inductee is none other than Emilio Bonifacio!

Bonifacio came to the Nationals via trade in July 2008, the trade that sent the Wookie (Jon Rauch) to the Diamondbacks. His first appearance came on August 1st of that same year, and his first week became a part of Nats lore. Lets check out his first week in the Curly W.

August 1: 1 for 4 - SB and RBI
August 2: 2 for 5 - 2B and 3B
August 3: 2 for 4 - 2 1B
August 4: 3 for 5 - 3B and RBI
August 5: 0 for 4
August 7: 2 for 5 - 3B and RBI
August 7: 2 for 5 - SB and RBI

For those of you scoring at home, that rounds out to be 12 for 32 (.375 AVG) with 3 triples, 2 stolen bases, and 4 RBIs. As it was, the Nats won 6 of those 7 games, the only loss? You got it, August 5th, when EBone went 0 for 4.

At this moment, fantasy baseball players rushed to pick up Bonifacio for his speed and high average. Boy, would they be disappointed...

The next 5 games, Bonifacio went 0 for 20 with 7 K, with the Nats losing all 5. So goes, Emilio, so goes the team.

He would pull out of it, but wouldn't again have as much gusto as before. His only other high point was that he got hits in 14 of his next 16 games after the 0for streak.

Lets check out his Nats Stats - 41 Games - .248 AVG - 26 Runs - 6 SB - 26.1% K% - -0.3 WAR - -2.5 UZR

The team was able to trade Emilio that offseason in a coup that brought both Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to the Nats - which we in turn received Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez via the A's. Hammer was a success with the Nats, so we should thank Emilio for his contribution to the ballclub!

Congrats Emilio for your enshrinement in the Former Nats Great Hall of Fame, you are now suffering in the blistering summer heat of south Florida as a jack of all trades with the Fish. You should be truly honored!

Recapping 1 of 162: Opening Day

(Photo credit Joe Drugan/Capitol Baseball 2011)

After a cold, rainy Opening Day in Southeast DC, let's do the first evaluation of 2011's talent.

Livan Hernandez looked good. There are a surprising number of people in the blog world that have been critical of Livo's Opening Day appearance. In 6 2/3 innings, he threw 77 pitches and gave up just 2 runs on 5 hits. It's hard to ask for a whole lot more than that. His first two innings could have been better, but he was on fire for the rest of the game. Seriously folks, as a starting pitcher, you have to hope that your team can muster two measly runs to help you out. But the Nats didn't and Livan got the loss + quality start combo.

Sean Burnett made the Braves batters he faced in the 9th, lefties and righties alike, look silly. He continues to make a case for himself to be the Nats closer. One can't look into the fact that he pitched in the 9th inning today because it wasn't a save situation, but it'll be interesting to see how it rolls out over the next two weeks.

Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche did exactly what they should be as the 2-4 hitters. They hit and created nearly all of the Nats offense. The rest of the team will have to help out if they're going to have any sort of offense this season. LaRoche also had a sick diving defensive play at 1st base that I guarantee Adam Dunn not only wouldn't have made, he wouldn't have even tried.

Danny Espinosa started the season out with a bang, too. He went 2 for 3, and one of those hits was a frozen rope to the left center field gap. He also made a running stop and put out at 2nd that had Nats fans (and Bill Ladson) extremely excited.

Ian Desmond looked downright uncomfortable at the plate. He'll certainly get his chance at the top of the order, but if Espinosa's first outing was any sign, he might end up in the top spot after all. On a happy note, Ian committed no errors today!

Finally, Tyler Clippard looked good, getting out of a jam with 2 inherited runners. But we're protesting saying much more than that because he no longer enters the game to Peaches. Not cool, Tyler...

What did you think about the Nats first game of 2011?