Friday, May 27, 2011

Former Nats Greats - #21

Every now and then we stumble across a player at the end of his line, ending his career in the former-wasteland that is DC Baseball. And even rarer is when we can find a player that returns to his former stomping ground to finish his career. Today's edition of Former Nats Great started his career way back in 1994 with those crazy Expos in Montreal. You could've fooled me that this player was able to play 10 seasons in MLB, but he did.

Today's Former Nats Great belongs to cult-hero and LOOGY Joey Eischen!

The danger of being a LOOGY is that you usually just get one chance in a ballgame. You are out of the game after your batter regardless of success or failure. Here, in the twilight of his career, Eischen had much more of the failure than anything else - and as usual, the decline was helped along by injury.

In his first month in DC, Eischen was an integral to the overachieving 2005-edition of the Nationals. He had just 15 appearances, though, before things started going downhill. On May 1st, 2005 Eischen went diving for a ball and broke his arm - shelving him on the DL for several months of rehab time. And by the time he came back in July, the Nats luck had started to change and Eischen fit right in. In just his third appearance back from the DL, he went on an epic streak.

July 6 - 0.0 IP. 1 H.
July 8 - 0.0 IP. 2 H.
July 10 - 0.0 IP. 1 BB.
July 14 - 0.0 IP. 1 BB.
July 17 - 0.0 IP. ROE.

Five straight appearances without retiring a single batter. Ouch.

The rest of the season wasn't that bad, but it wasn't great either. He was able to finish the year with some decent stats.
3.22 ERA. 3.79 FIP. 1.46 WHIP. 6 SD. 6 MD. 0.2 WAR.

But, as is the case with many of these players, the worse was still to come.

His first five games of 2006 served as a horrible harbinger of rough seas ahead.

April 3 - 0.1 IP. Nothing.
April 6 - 1.1 IP. 2 H. 3 R. 3 ER. 3 K. 3 BB.
April 9 - 1.0 IP. 2 H. 2 R. 2 ER. 2 K. 2 BB.
April 11 - 1.0 IP. Nothing
April 13 - 1.0 IP. 5 H. 5 R. 5 ER. 2 K. 2 BB.

That's 10 ER in 4.2 IP if you are scoring at home.

His season improved substantially until he experienced shoulder discomfort when pitching on May 29th. He would go on the DL, never to appear in the big leagues again.

His 2006 Numbers - 22 Games. 8.59 ERA. 6.56 FIP. 2.52 WHIP. 0 SD. 5 MD. -0.3 WAR.

When he first came to DC, he became a folk hero for telling O's Owner Peter Angelos to "suck on it and like it". But he left a broken man, only to be rejoiced by Capitol Baseball 5 years later.

Congrats to you, Joey Eischen. Thanks for always making us laugh.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pudge as a San Francisco Giant?

Baseball players get hurt. It's a terrible part of the game, and it seems to resonate with people more when players (especially stars) get hurt by colliding with others. The Nats aren't immune to this as Nick Johnson, the team's star 1B in 2006, was lost for the year because of a broken femur caused by a nasty collision with Austin Kearns. It's an unfortunate part of sports; discuss the merits of blocking the plate as you may.

But now that Buster Posey is likely done for the season with a broken leg, the Giants are going to have to look elsewhere for catchers. Like most teams when they have a superstar in a position, there's not a lot of great contingency plans for that guys replacement. This was evidenced when the Twins parted with their top catching prospect, Wilson Ramos, to the Nats last season. After all, they have Joe Mauer (also on the DL, at the moment).

Posey's backup, Eli Whiteside, can't compare with the individual he's replacing, and no one asks him to. Until the injury, Posey and Whiteside were the only two catchers on the Giants 40-man roster. As a reaction, the Giants called up journeyman (sort of) C Chris Stewart. RotoWorld posts this damning summary of the roster move: "Sadly, this is the best they can do. Stewart, 29, owns an underwhelming .256/.328/.360 batting line over parts of 10 seasons in the minor leagues and has appeared in 26 major league games between the White Sox, Yankees, Rangers and Padres. Hopefully he'll just be a placeholder until the Giants can acquire a catcher." It's hard to even be a journeyman with 29 MLB starts with 4 different teams.

Further, it leaves the defending World Champs with 2 real options:
  1. Stick with Chris Stewart, the 29-year old that had his contract purchased by the bigs out of sheer desperation, as a backup.
  2. Make a move.
Should the organization choose to do the latter, and I imagine they will, one guy would be the perfect for the situation: Pudge Rodriguez. Pudge is certainly not in the prime of his career any longer, but he could provide a lot to the Giants organization as far as catching experience. He proved that he was capable of still getting regular starts last season, and his offensive production is average for a catcher, and pretty stellar for one of his age. He's the type of veteran that does a team well while making a playoff push. It's definitely something that both the Nats and the Giants should consider.

Pudge is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, which would provide the Giants the opportunity to let him reach free agency if Posey is ready to start 2012.

What say you, CapBallers? Would you trade Pudge for some prospects?

Discussion: Position Players Pitching

So, I would gather that there are several readers out there (myself included) that stayed up to the wee hours of the morning to watch the end of the marathon Reds-Phils game at Citizen's Bank Smallpark. Eventually the Phils would win on a bases loaded sac(k)-fly (thanks MASN) by Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the 19th inning. The most interesting stat from the night is that the winning pitcher was none other that second baseman, Wilson Valdez - who had played the whole game to that point at 2nd. He was the first position player in over ten years to win a ball game, the last being Brent Mayne, a Catcher for the Rockies at the time.

When talking with my brother about last night's events, he posed a question that now I forward on to you.

Which Nats position player would you want taking the mound in the 19th inning?

My thoughts on this will be in the comments, lets see some crazy answers (yes, I know Ankiel used to pitch - be a little more creative)

I Said-a Beef Hot Links!

Those Hillshire Farms Go Meat commercials are fantastic. They were all I could think about as I sat down to write up some quick links for you faithful CapBallers to read. So, without further ado, here are some juicy brat-wurst style links to whet your appetite.

Fangraphs -
- In the past 2 days Fangraphs side-site, Rotographs, have written 7 articles, and 4 of them revolve around Nationals players and their fantasy impacts.

NL Starting Pitchers - Zimmermann
Centered about Zimmermann's April/May splits and how the righty has settled down.

Tommy John Surgery Returnees - Zimmermann
Says Zimmermann isn't quite back to pre-Surgery form - K rates and Swinging strike rates are down.

Outfield Waiver Wire Help - Morse
Morse has been tearing the cover off of the ball (.364 in his last 2 weeks) - the added eligibility at 1B makes him even more valuable in the fantasy world.

Wilson Ramos Progressing at the Plate
Middle of the pack slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG), but above average ISO (Isolated Power) and above-average patience has proved to be a pleasant surprise.

Ultimate Base Running - Espinosa
Espinosa is listed as the 8th best Base-Runner in baseball, according to their UBR formula.

Ken Rosenthal - Nationals Not Looking for Scapegoats
Quotes and analysis on what the Nats (many) issues are this year.

Jayson Stark - Landscape Changing Injuries
Ryan Zimmerman cracks the list as the #5 most damaging to the team injury.

Well, CapBallers, do you have anymore links to share with the rest of the class? Post them in the Comments!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Early All-Star Predictions

It's certainly never too early to start predicting and pontificating on who will be the Nats All-Star representative(s). Last year, we thought there was a real chance that the Nats could have multiple all-stars for the first time since 2005, when Cordero and Livo represented the team. But, after the final-man vote the Nats were left with Matt Capps as their lone (yet very deserving) all-star.

This year, the Nats are playing baseball that goes against Nationals history, with stellar pitching and atrocious hitting. This year, it stands to reason that the Nats will once again have a pitcher repping the club, especially with Zimmerman on the DL.

So, just who are those candidates? In the order from Most to Least likely...

Drew Storen - 1.48 ERA - 0.86 WHIP - 9 for 9 Saves - 11 SD

The former 1st round pick is showing his true colors after a dreadful spring. In our mind there is no other pick for our All-Star Representative. Storen has stepped up and grabbed a stranglehold on the "not-yet-named" closer position.

Jason Marquis - 5-1 Record - 4.08 ERA - 1.38 WHIP - 3.22 FIP - 2.04 BB/9

Marquis has gotten the best of the Nats this year, after giving the Nats his worst last year. Taking advantage of the Nats offense, Marquis has pitched very effectively to a 5-1 record - sparking talk of a possible trade. Though his stats got slightly marred by Friday's slaughter of the O's, Marquis has been one of the big standouts on the team.

Tyler Clippard - 1.69 ERA - 1.05 WHIP - 12 SD - 1.84 WPA - 20 of 26 Stranded Runners

Struggling a bit as of late, Clippard had been a model of consistency for the entire 2011 season. He has spend all year locking down opposition, making save situations happen in the 7th and 8th innings - cleaning up for other pitcher's messes. The likelihood of a non-closer reliever making the All-Star team are slim, but it's always possible.

Jordan Zimmermann - 3.98 ERA - 2.81 FIP - 1.4 WAR - 6.63 K/9

Zimmermann's stats are better than every Nats starter this season, as evidenced by his owning the highest WAR on the team. Though, traditionally sabermetric stats haven't really helped anyone make the all-star team. The only reason Zimmermann stands a lesser chance is because of his 2-5 record.

Danny Espinosa - 27 RBI - 1.4 WAR - 2.7 UZR

Danny has struggled to make the necessary adjustments of late, but his solid play could come back and he could conceivably make the all star team. If the stars align perfectly.

Wilson Ramos - .262 AVG - .336 OBP - 7 for 14 CS

Ramos doesn't stand much chance to make the team with the dearth of quality catching in the National League - Yadi and McCann. But the young standout will make his fair share of All-Star Games in the future.

What say you, CapBallers? What does your list look like??

The State of the Nationals

The general feeling in NatsTown this morning is as low as it's been in while. It's not just one aspect of the game that has brought the team to this point anymore. It used to be solely the offense's fault. The starting pitchers and bullpen remained nearly unhittable. All of that is different now.

The Nats have lost 9 of their last 12 games; they've been shut out 3 times in the last two weeks; they've given up 7 or more runs 3 times in the last 4 games. It seems like nothing can go right at the same time. If the offense is clicking, the pitching is off. If the pitching is clicking, the offense can't seem to muster a single run. These things and more are clearly wearing on the entire ball club.

Tuesday night's 3+ hour slug fest in Milwaukee seemed to be another much needed jolt to the Nats, not unlike the 17-5 shellacking of the Orioles on Friday. 1B Michael Morse broke out and hit a grand slam, ended the night 3 for 5, and brought his batting average above .280. It wasn't meant to be, though, as the Nats bullpen gave up 4 runs in the 7th and 8th inning and walked away with a loss after carrying a 6-3 lead into the 7th inning.

True to form, the Nats were unable to capitalize on other opportunities throughout the game and were shut out after Milwaukee's starter, Chris Narveson, left the game in the 4th inning. Livan Hernandez pitched well, yet again, but ended up with another no decision because the bullpen simply couldn't hold on.

Adding insult to injury, Adam LaRoche was placed on the 15-day DL Tuesday and is likely on the road to season-ending rotator cuff surgery. Ryan Zimmerman is still hurt and likely won't even see a rehab assignment for several more weeks. Ian Desmond is still clearly nursing some sort of lower body injury, as he was seen limping around the bases the last few days. Tom Gorzelanny is plummeting back to earth, as Mac predicted a few weeks back. Jason Marquis lost his mind when he was pulled from Friday's game against the O's after just 4 ineffective innings.

The Nationals still have one of the worst offenses, both by feel and on paper, in all of baseball. The core of the lineup was supposed to be Werth, Zimmerman, LaRoche. Not bad. For the time being, it will be Werth, pick a name from a hat, pick another random hitter. Not good at all. Even the once solid bullpen is anything but solid at this point.

Typically, we here at CapBall try to find the best in almost every situation in NatsTown. In this situation, though, it's hard to find anything really positive to say. The Nats are firmly seated in the cellar of the NL East, with all but one of their big stars (Zimmerman, Strasburg, LaRoche, and Harper) nowhere to be found. The players that are with the organization are visibly frustrated and have been mostly ineffective.

The Nats broadcasts on MASN always talk about Defining Moments of the game. Well, this is a defining moment for the entire organization. The season is likely lost, simply because of the quality teams in the NL East this season. But the attitudes and relationships that the team develops in these circumstances will define the team beyond just this season, because many of the team's players will be back in 2012 and beyond. This team has to dig deep and find something, because right now, this organization is at one of it's lowest moments since 2005. And the fans are reeling.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bad News at 1B

About a half hour ago beat writer Bill Ladson tweeted some rather unfortunate news about injured first-baseman Adam LaRoche. As you know, this spring LaRoche suffered a slight tear in his left labrum (his throwing arm/back hitting shoulder). Recently, he has reportedly thought that the injury is sapping all of his power at the plate; as shown by his dreadful .172/.288/.258 slashline.

The past few days has seen LaRoche seek out 2nd opinions, to figure out whether things have gotten worse. Long story short, they have.

Ladson reports, "According to 1B Adam LaRoche, he has a large tear in the labrum and some tearing in the rotator cuff." Continuing, "I'm not going to lie to you: After talking to 1B Adam LaRoche this evening, I'll be shocked if he came back this year."

According to Ladson, the plan in place has him taking 2 or 3 weeks, sans baseball activities, in an effort to rehab the shoulder. But once again, the Nats medical staff has mis-diagnosed and slow-played an injury to a key piece of the team.

My gut tells me that Morse will be getting the lion's share of playing time, with guest appearances by Stairs, Ankiel, and Pudge depending on Riggleman's mood. This is not the kind of news the scuffling Nats offense needs right now.

Cheering for Manny Acta

(Photo courtesy RedStateBlueState)

Nats fans tend to have conflicting memories of manager Manny Acta's tenure with the organization. It's easy to remember the the 2008 season when Acta's Nationals finished the season with just 59 wins. Or the 2009 season when Acta was fired in favor of Jim Riggleman after having a winning percentage below .300 at the All-Star Break. Ouch.

But what's easy to forget is the type of talent that Acta had to work with. The starting pitching during Acta's tenure were the likes of Matt Chico, Mike Bacsik, Jason Bergmann, Shawn Hill, Garrett Mock, and Joel Hanrahan. As good as Hanrahan has been as a closer in Pittsburgh (and he's been great), he didn't cut it as a starter. The offensive powerhouses were Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard, FLop, Ryan Church, Nook Logan, Josh Bard, Elijah Dukes, and Austin Kearns. Sure, Ryan Zimmerman was in there, but he was still developing in Acta's early years.

All of that was to set up this point: how could the poor winning percentages possibly be Manny Acta's fault? He had basically nothing to work with.

To compound the issue, to start the 2009 season, the Nats fired then-GM Jim Bowden after he was named in an FBI investigation for skimming money from Latin American players and for the Smiley Gonzelez controversy. The 2009 season started under a cloud of problems, and it showed in the team's performance. None of this should be seen as Manny Acta's fault. He was a young manager, in a questionably managed organization, with endless past-their-prime players. I'm sure Manny wouldn't make any of these excuses, but I'm making them for him.

Finally, the last and most significant reason that you should cheer for Manny Acta and the Cleveland Indians: if the Indians can win, so can the Nats. Coming into this season, most talking baseball heads had the Indians barely above the Royals in the basement of the AL Central. Currently, Cleveland sits at the top of the division by a large margin over the predicted favorites: Chicago and Minnesota.

None of this means the season will end this way, but we should all hope it does. The Indians would be the perfect example of building up talent over time and taking a division by surprise with a random great season. This type of Cinderella story is good for small markets, and it's good for baseball, and it's really good for the Nationals. Good luck, Manny.

Not Yet Marrero's Time

By now you must have seen the news that the Nats injured first baseman, Adam LaRoche, is headed to the disabled list. The plan by the Nats brass is to just have LaRoche rest and rehab his shoulder, wishing to avoid surgery. Whether or not this is advisable is a debate for another day. Anyway, with Morse struggling at the dish, Stairs appearing several years past his best pinch hitting days, many in NatsTown have called for the first MLB appearance for 2006 First-Round Draft pick, Chris Marrero, to tide things over for LaRoche.

By now the 2006 1st round pick for the Nats is in his 5th year of professional baseball, having narrowly avoided bust status despite three consecutive seasons at A+ Potomac. 2011 was the first year that Marrero did not appear on any of the major Top Prospect Listings. That being said, Marrero was drafted out of high school, at the age of 17, making the first baseman just 22 years old now; relatively young for someone with 5 years in MiLB.

There is still hope to make a serviceable Major Leaguer out of Marrero as his numbers have steadily improved, at the plate and in the field, each of the past three years. With the improved defense, Marrero has silenced many critics; count Capitol Baseball among those, after seeing him in big league Spring Training this past year.

There are several things that Marrero needs to do before he can break into the MLB lineup:
- Rediscover his power stroke - on pace to have 25+ fewer RBI this year
- Keep the K-Rate down - get it under 20%
- Increase his OBP - .325 would be a career low
- Continue to improve on defense - currently at .997 Fielding %

If all goes well, we should expect to see Marrero in a Curly W for a September callup - he simply needs a bit more seasoning in the minors.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stairs Expendable Upon Ankiel's Return

Since Roger Bernadina has taken over outfield duties and become the lead off man of our dreams, there is one inevitable question that has to be answered. What happens to Bernie when Rick Ankiel comes off the 15-day disabled list, possibly in the next week or so?

I am a firm proponent that a player shouldn't lose his starting roster spot because of injury. Ankiel wasn't exactly lighting up the competition at the plate (.221/.302/.288), but he's been playing the outfield solidly and has a cannon for an arm in center field. He's certainly not an ideal 2-hole hitter, but it's hard to argue with his defensive credentials.

Unfortunately for someone on the 25-man roster, when Ankiel returns, someone will need to be sent down or released. Jim Riggleman has said, pretty firmly, that Bernadina is basically the only viable lead off man at this point, and he's absolutely right. So what does that do for the rest of the outfield? Most likely, it puts Ankiel back in CF because of his laser arm, and Roger will end up in LF. Werth isn't going anywhere in right.

These moves will leave Michael Morse and Laynce Nix as power hitting bench players most of the time, which makes one guy very, very expendable: Matt Stairs. You could (pretty easily) argue that Stairs is already expendable with his .095 batting average, absolutely zero extra-base hits, and 8 strikeouts. For comparison, Jason Marquis is hitting .333 with just 4 strikeouts and a double. They both have 21 at-bats, and Marquis is a pitcher.

I know that the Marquis comparison may not be the most solid, but it's fun to point out just how bad Matt Stairs has been while eating up a precious 25-man roster spot. That spot is going to become even more precious when Ankiel returns, and Riggleman has to find some way to keep Bernadina in the lineup. With Nix and Morse providing power from both sides of the plate from the bench, and they're both able to play the field, and they can both actually run the bases, it's easy to see Matt Stairs getting his walking papers in the next few weeks.

What say you, CapBallers? Is Stairs on borrowed time, and how overdue is it?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Roger Bernadina: The Lead-Off Man of Our Dreams?

(Screenshot captured from

One of the major issues that has faced the Washington Nationals lineup this season, and there have been seemingly countless issues, is the lack of a lead off hitter. The Ian Desmond Lead Off Experiment failed (hitting just .180/.212/.300 when batting first), and so did the Danny Espinosa (.184/.250/.329 batting first) Experiment. But Roger Bernadina provides reason for hope.

Bernie's career as a nearly full-time player started last season, where he was an extremely streaky hitter, ending the season with 11 HR, but a disappointing .246/.307/.384 slash line. He found his way back to the minors a couple times during the season.

This year, one wonders if Roger will have to make that lonely trip to Syracuse again. This week in DC has been full of successes. Since replacing the injured Rick Ankiel in CF, Bernadina is hitting .306 and is getting on base at a .405 clip. He's successfully stolen 4 bases without being caught. Sure, Bernadina hasn't hit for power yet (he's homerless this season), but who with the great OBP and stolen base successes, who cares?

Now this is the point where we have to say this: all of this is over a very small sample size. And as we said before, Bernie is a streaky hitter. But everyone that's watched the Nats since Bernadina took over the lead off spot is fully aware of the kind of boost he can provide for the offense, and defensively for that matter. (See image above.)

Bernadina has reached base to lead off the game by bunting in 3 games in the past week. That's the perfect sign of Bernadina accepting his new role and sacrificing his power for it. When he's taking swings, he's choked up on his bat, too. He's trying to make contact and use his speed to get on base and make stuff happen.

While in your ideal world, everyone would have Ichiro or Andrew McCutchen leading off for your ball club, it's not realistically attainable. Roger Bernadina seems to be the right fit for the Nationals, and my guess is that Jim Riggleman will be committed to keeping Roger in that spot, even after Ankiel returns from the DL.

What do you think of The Shark as a lead off man, Cap Ballers?

Monday, May 16, 2011

In the Clutch

Starting this season we had two catchers more than capable of managing a big-league pitching staff. One was a stud prospect, solid behind the plate and even better with the bat. The other is a 1st ballot hall of famer at the twilight of his career. It seemed like it wouldn't be too long before Pudge was sent away to a contender, until he turned into a clutch monster.

In addition to his catching acumen (throwing out 5 of 12 baserunners), Pudge has turned out to be a pretty solid hitter - in spite of a dreadful slashline of .238/.284/.397. When it counts, is when Pudge decided to hit the ball with some authority.

Join me, Pudge has 15 hits on the year, with 14 RBI. Of those 15 hits, 7 of them have come with runners in scoring position accounting for 13 of his 14 RBI. The lone exception is the solo bomb he hit back against Derek Lowe last weekend.

With runners in scoring position, the Nationals are hitting an absolutely dreadful .233, but our veteran catcher is hitting a whopping .350.

Some Splits:
With runners on 2nd and 3rd, he is hitting 2 for 3 - with a HR and 6 RBI.
With a runner on 3rd and 2 outs, Pudge is a staggering 4 for 7.
With the bases loaded, he is 2 for 2 - 4 RBI.

On a team struggling to score runs in the clutch, there is no one that you would rather see up than Pudge. Maybe, just maybe, our Catching tandem isn't quite finished.

What say you CapBallers? Do you want to see Pudge stick around a little bit longer, or should we trade him while the value is high???

Marquis is on the Trading Block

(Photo Courtesy - Nationals Daily News)

We've explored the Jason Marquis trade thing a couple times this season. Further, some other websites have explored the possibility of Marquis trade, even recently. So that must mean something, right? It seems that when the Nats are in the news it's for one of two reasons: spectacular young prospects (see: Strasburg, Stephen; Harper, Bryce) or because of a talented veteran heading to another team (see: Dunn, Adam; Marquis, Jason). Nats news is certainly not going to be because of their 30th-ranked offense in baseball.

There is no doubt that Marquis is currently in the process of one of the best years of his career. Marquis has started the season 5-1 with an impressive 3.54 ERA. Not to mention (also, not that it matters as far as a trade goes), his bat and base running skills have actually helped the Nats in numerous occasions. His 5-1 record is even more impressive because he was able to get those wins pitching for a Nationals team that seems incapable of scoring any runs except for this past Sunday against the Fish.

His outstanding season so far surely makes him one of the leading candidates for the Nationals to move at the July 31st trade deadline. Marquis' 2 year/$15 million contract expires at the end of the season, and it's hard to see the Nats paying similar money to extend the deal beyond this year. Strasburg should be back to start 2012, and Nats GM Mike Rizzo wants to get out in the free agent market and land a big name young starter to add to his rotation to join Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Lannan. In addition, according to, if the Nats trade Marquis, they'll save $2.5 million this season. That's incentive the Lerners can really understand.

Where does that leave the Nats? The same place they've been every year since 2006: a non-contender by the season's half way mark. There's always a possibility that the Nats can surge before July and put themselves back in the discussion. But realistically, there's essentially no chance that the Nationals can overcome the competition in their own division to even compete for the Wild Card, let alone for the division title. That makes Marquis quickly and easily expendable for just-above-average prospects from a contending team.

This is a continued ritual that has become frustrating for Nats fans, year in and year out. Players that have had break out years are getting moved to other contenders just because it makes no sense to keep them. Last year it was Matt Capps. This year, my money says it's Jason Marquis.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nats Pull Plug on Broderick, Recall Kimball

What started as a fantastic spring training devolved into a miserable regular season for Rule 5 pick, Brian Broderick. Early Saturday morning the Nats decided to finally cut bait with the big right-hander. Being a Rule 5 pick, if Broderick clears waivers the Nats will have to offer Broderick back to his original team, the Cardinals. After that happens the Cards can either take him back or choose to make a trade with the Nats so that Broderick would be assigned to the minors.

Coming up into his place is going to be 6' 3" righty and 2006, 12th round draft pick, Cole Kimball. Who has put up fantastic numbers at AAA Syracuse this year.

Kimball started his professional career as a starter, but after two years of struggles someone decided to make him a reliever. And after getting the kinks out in 2009, Cole really made the leap to excellence in 2010. His ERA dropped from 6.36 to 2.17, WHIP from 1.65 to 1.13, and strikeout totals nearly doubled from 52 to 101. It seemed that Kimball, at age 25, was ready to take the next step into the majors.

So far this season, Kimball has appeared in 12 games, is a perfect 5 for 5 in save opportunities and has yet to allow a run. His 9.2 K/9 ratio and 1.17 WHIP against AAA opposition should fare him well in the Majors.

At the very least, it offers the Nats some confidence in the bullpen that they lacked with Broderick.

Former Nats Greats - #21

Every now and then we stumble across a player at the end of his line, ending his career in the former-wasteland that is DC Baseball. And even rarer is when we can find a player that returns to his former stomping ground to finish his career. Today's edition of Former Nats Great started his career way back in 1994 with those crazy Expos in Montreal. You could've fooled me that this player was able to play 10 seasons in MLB, but he did.

Today's Former Nats Great belongs to cult-hero and LOOGY Joey Eischen!

The danger of being a LOOGY is that you usually just get one chance in a ballgame. You are out of the game after your batter regardless of success or failure. Here, in the twilight of his career, Eischen had much more of the failure than anything else - and as usual, the decline was helped along by injury.

In his first month in DC, Eischen was an integral to the overachieving 2005-edition of the Nationals. He had just 15 appearances, though, before things started going downhill. On May 1st, 2005 Eischen went diving for a ball and broke his arm - shelving him on the DL for several months of rehab time. And by the time he came back in July, the Nats luck had started to change and Eischen fit right in. In just his third appearance back from the DL, he went on an epic streak.

July 6 - 0.0 IP. 1 H.
July 8 - 0.0 IP. 2 H.
July 10 - 0.0 IP. 1 BB.
July 14 - 0.0 IP. 1 BB.
July 17 - 0.0 IP. ROE.

Five straight appearances without retiring a single batter. Ouch.

The rest of the season wasn't that bad, but it wasn't great either. He was able to finish the year with some decent stats.
3.22 ERA. 3.79 FIP. 1.46 WHIP. 6 SD. 6 MD. 0.2 WAR.

But, as is the case with many of these players, the worse was still to come.

His first five games of 2006 served as a horrible harbinger of rough seas ahead.

April 3 - 0.1 IP. Nothing.
April 6 - 1.1 IP. 2 H. 3 R. 3 ER. 3 K. 3 BB.
April 9 - 1.0 IP. 2 H. 2 R. 2 ER. 2 K. 2 BB.
April 11 - 1.0 IP. Nothing
April 13 - 1.0 IP. 5 H. 5 R. 5 ER. 2 K. 2 BB.

That's 10 ER in 4.2 IP if you are scoring at home.

His season improved substantially until he experienced shoulder discomfort when pitching on May 29th. He would go on the DL, never to appear in the big leagues again.

His 2006 Numbers - 22 Games. 8.59 ERA. 6.56 FIP. 2.52 WHIP. 0 SD. 5 MD. -0.3 WAR.

When he first came to DC, he became a folk hero for telling O's Owner Peter Angelos to "suck on it and like it". But he left a broken man, only to be rejoiced by Capitol Baseball 5 years later.

Congrats to you, Joey Eischen. Thanks for always making us laugh.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Coffey Time

Todd Coffey started the year in a bit of a rough patch, allowing 3 ER in his first 2.1 IP of the year - in addition to 3 walks. Things weren't looking good for the Nats bullpen - Gaudin was struggling, Coffey was struggling, and only Clip/Storen/Burnett were able to get consistent outs. Eventually both pitchers went on the disabled list; with Coffey returning on the 25th. Since then, the big man has been absolutely lights out. Let's take a look at how he has done since his return.

Since May 25th, Coffey has pitched 8.0 innings and allowed just 1 earned run, on a solo home run. He has only allowed 3 walks compared to 13 strikeouts, raising his K/9 ratio to a career best 10.95. Even more impressive is that he has just seemed to get stronger in the past few appearances.

For example:
May 5 - The Great Bloody Nose Incident
2.0 IP. 1 R. 1 ER. 1 HR. 1 H. 5 K. Coffey racked up 5 strikeouts in 7 batters.

May 8 - Filleting Fish
1.0 IP. 0 R. 0 ER. 2 H. 1 K.

May 11 - Last Night
1.2 IP. 0 R. 0 ER. 1 H. 4 K. 4 Strikeouts in 5 batters.

So if you are keeping track at home, in his last 3 outings. Todd Coffey has struck out 10 batters in 4.2 IP - averaging out to about 19 strikeouts in 9 innings.

If Coffey is able to keep these numbers up he should register Career High numbers in several pitching categories - ERA, K/9, FIP, and WHIP.

It's definitely an encouraging sign that the Nats bullpen has another guy to rely on for consistency, especially with Slaten and Rodriguez's struggles. The more we can see the (generously listed at...) 240lb Coffey sprint in from the RF bullpen, the better.

It's Coffey Time indeed.

Desmond's Been Clutch Since Becoming a Papa

Ian Desmond's stats this season are really nothing to write home about. His slash line is a meager .224/.254/.384. That's right, Desi's slugging .384. That's, well, not very good. But the story that hasn't yet been told is what's happened since he's become a dad. And it goes beyond the stats.

Desmond returned to the Nats on April 28th, and his numbers since then haven't been much better. He brought up his batting average to .255 and his OBP stayed the same at .254. But since his return, Desmond's obviously just playing better baseball with a clearer head. And who can blame him? A 25-year-old becoming a father for the first time is certainly a nerve-wracking experience.

Desmond's managed to get clutch hits, most notably his 2-run RBI in the 11th inning on Wednesday in Atlanta, which gave the Nats a 5-3 lead. He finished that game 2 for 6 and made some solid defensive plays. In his first game back from paternity leave, on April 28th, he went 2 for 4 with 2 runs and an RBI in another winning effort for the Nats. On the season, Desmond is hitting .273 in tie games and .350 in late and close games according to Baseball-Reference.

Perhaps the most staggering statistic since Desmond's return, though, is his incredible drop in fielding errors. This season, he has 8 errors; 7 of those 8 errors happened in the first 4 weeks of the season. Since returning 2 weeks ago, Desmond has committed just 1 fielding error. He's gone from committing almost 2 errors a week to 1 error every 2 weeks. Considering he is still on pace for 36 errors this season, the improved defense since his return is sorely needed to get him down to a much more reasonable level.

Despite his explosion in the 11th last night in the #2 spot in the order, Ian Desmond looks to be slated best for the 6 or 7 hole in the lineup based on his production so far this year. He's gotten less opportunities, so it's a bit smaller sample size, but in the 6 hole, Desmond is hitting .417, and in the 7 hole, he's hitting .316 with a .435 OBP. While his speed suggests he could be at the top of the lineup, his 33 strikeouts and just 5 walks lend him well to the lower-middle end of the lineup.

So we know people are hot and cold on Desi, but we say let's give him another shot now that he's been playing more confident baseball. What do you say?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Education Day with Bryce Harper

(All images courtesy of Craig MacHenry/Capitol Baseball 2011)

Yesterday afternoon, I ventured into small, and somewhat backwards, town of Hagerstown to watch a 10:35am ballgame. The day's promotion, Education Day, brought in about a thousand elementary/middle school aged students, to cheer on their beloved Suns; but more importantly, to eat gallons of Dippin' Dots Ice Cream of the Future. It was the earliest game I have seen since little league. And though some of the on-field play was little league-esque, the Suns were able to take advantage of the miscues to pick up a 7-3 win.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights from the day.

- Most importantly - Bryce Harper was able to come back from 2 early strikeouts to finish the day 2 for 5 with an RBI. Here is his At-Bat rundown:
1 - Fly out to CF on the first pitch of the AB.
2 - Strikeout swinging against Luis "Father Christmas" Noel.
3 - Strikeout on a check swing and rung up by the Home Plate ump.
4 - 2-out, RBI single but thrown out going to 2nd base (was sent by his coach).
5 - Single to RF.

- In addition to his day at the plate, Harper had an eventful day in the field. Recording 3 outs - 1) A brilliant catch at the wall for the first out of the game 2) A foul out in the 6th and 3) A great catch in the gap in the 9th.

- The most interesting Harper play of the day was in the 2nd when he tried to throw a runner out at the plate - the throw, from deep right, went well over the catchers head and into the netting. If on target, it would've been a photo finish.

- 2008 18th Round pick LHP Bobby Hansen picked up his 4th win of the season with a quality start, though he seemed to struggle early in his outing. 6 IP. 7 H. 3 R. 2 ER. 3 BB. 3 K.

- The Delmarva Shorebirds (seriously, that's their name) starter, Luis "Father Christmas" Noel, had a very rough outing, lasting just 3 innings. In those three innings he managed to allow 4 runs on just 3 hits, due to the fact that he walked a whopping 7 batters.

- Shane McCatty, son of Nats pitching coach Steve McCatty, threw 2 innings of 1 hit ball in the 7th and 8th.

- Chris Manno, 26th round pick from this past year, closed out the game with his herky-jerky mechanics. It was a 1-2-3 inning with 2 strikeouts.

- Other standouts for the Suns were...
Blake Kelso (10th rounder from 2010) - 2 for 4 with a double and 2 RBI.
Adrian Sanchez (International FA in 2007) - 2 for 5 with a double and 2 runs.
Michael Taylor (6th rounder from 2009) - 1 for 3 with a double, walk, 2 RBI, and a run.

So, if you ever find yourself at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown, MD be sure to pack the sun screen and the ear plugs (the announcer yells everything!). And make sure you don't go on Education Day - cause that was loud.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Standouts - Pitcher-Edition

The season is still young, and the Nats are not in last place (thanks Mets!). Events on the field have been the complete opposite of all pre-season prognostications; starters have been the stars of the team, everyone else taking a back seat. Knowing what we do a month into the season, lets take a look at some of those players that are playing above/below expectation. Make sure you check out the Non-Pitcher Edition that ran this morning!

Jason Marquis - Career Year

12 Months ago who would have thought that Jason Marquis would be right there with Jordan Zimmermann as the Nats' best pitcher - most, if not all, votes for best pitcher would've gone to Strasburg. Marquis has gotten the sink back on his sinkerball, registering a career low GB% so far at 56.3%. Also way down is his BB/9 ratio, which Dave Nichols noted is more than 50% better than his career rate (1.60 BB/9 in 2011, 3.46 career). It should be mentioned that his HR/FB rate is also at a career low, 5.9%.

There will be some regression as the year continues as his BABIP is a bit above his career average, but he is on his way to a career year. Look for Mike Rizzo to flip Marquis for prospects come the July trade deadline.

Drew Storen - Storen Saves
Storen has shown veteran poise in placing his horrendous Spring Training in the distant past. As a quick refresher, here are his numbers from March 2011...

11 Games. 11.1 IP. 24 H. 16 R. 14 ER. 2 BB. 11 K. 2 Saves. 11.12 ERA.

Flash forward to the regular season, and the difference has been night and day.

17 Games. 18.2 IP. 11 H. 2 R. 1 ER. 5 BB. 14 K. 7 Saves. 0.48 ERA.

Wow, what a difference real games make.

Armed with ice-water running through his veins, combined with a new beard, Storen has been dominating all challengers. Announcement or not, Storen is the Nats closer until further notice.

Tyler Clippard - Clippard with a K
There hasn't been a better reliever in baseball than Tyler Clippard - that's not opinion, it's fact. Clippard leads all relievers with a 0.8 WAR, 11 Shutdowns (0 Meltdowns), 1.99 WPA, 17.7% Swinging Strike %, and 27 Strikeouts.

Oh, and who could forget his most recent appearance. 6 batters faced. 22 pitches. 19 strikes. 6 strikeouts. Dominance.

His numbers more than speak for themselves. Tyler Clippard is one of the Nats most valuable assets.

Well, CapBallers, what are your thoughts on the pitching standouts of 2011 thus far? Tell us in the comments.

Standouts - Non-Pitcher Edition

The season is still young, and the Nats are not in last place (thanks Mets!). Events on the field have been the complete opposite of all pre-season prognostications; starters have been the stars of the team, everyone else taking a back seat. Knowing what we do a month into the season, lets take a look at some of those players that are playing above/below expectation.

Rick Ankiel - Mystery Man
Several things have been evident through his career - 1) Guy can seriously throw the ball and 2) He doesn't get on base much, but can hit for some power and 3) Aside from his arm, his defense is mediocre. So how is he doing so far in those departments.

Fielding - 2 assists thus far and a 1.6 UZR (7.6 UZR/150) placing him 7th in the NL.
Power - Way down, his wOBA is nearly .050 points lower than his career average.
OBP - At .302, .012 below his career average.

Wilson Ramos - Pudge 2
We knew that the kid was going to be good, being listed in the top 5 of several Nats Prospects lists. I don't think anyone really expected him to be this good. Right now he leads the Nats in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, and WAR. His rookie ranks are just as good, 1st in MLB in Batting Average, 1st in MLB in WAR, 3rd in MLB in OBP, 4th in MLB in Slugging. Expect to see Ramos as the #1 contender for NL Rookie of the Year.

Oh yea, and he has thrown out 4 of 11 would-be base-runners. And the pitchers have a better ERA than when Pudge is behind the dish.

Kid could be Pudge 2.

Danny Espinosa - Slick Danny
Lately he has struggled at the plate, then again so has everyone on the Nationals. But the front office brass isn't at all worried. Second base offense is a luxury, and most teams choose to focus on top notch defense at the position rather than power or batting average. IE his bat will come around, but his defense is already top notch.

Given the job in spring training it was all but assured that Espinosa would have some struggles in his first full season in the big-leauges. But so far his defense has proven to be extremely high-value to the team - racking up a 0.7 UZR thus far and a 0.7 WAR (3rd on the Nats behind Ramos and Zim).

Consider that just 3 weeks ago when the first UZR ratings came out when Espinosa was just at 0.1 he has added 0.6 to that since. Espinosa has really adapted to the Majors really quickly.

Adam LaRoche - Anti-Dunn
So far, once again, his offense hasn't been what we expect but a quick look at the numbers shows that he isn't far off his career numbers. LaRoche is a notoriously slow starter, having a .254 AVG before the ASG and a .296 AVG afterwards. Now, his numbers are even close to .254 right now but he has plenty of time to raise that numbers. For the record, here are his averages by month; April .208, May .255, June .263, July .289, August .314, September .287. Things will get better in time.

His offense, however, isn't what makes him Anti-Dunn - that would be his defense. LaRoche's calm demeanor on the field transfers good vibes to our young and replacement infield. It seems like every game LaRoche digs a ball out of the dirt, or scoops up a short hop saving the team precious runs. It should be noted that LaRoche is one of 4 MLB First-Basemen that still has a 1.000 Fielding Percentage.

Stay tuned for the Pitcher edition coming up around lunch time. But for now, share your thoughts on these Standouts in the comments section!

Monday, May 9, 2011


One of my favorite movies of all time stars a fictional 70s newscaster in a certain southern California city. In the movie, all of the action focuses around the birth of a brand new, baby Panda at the city zoo. Worlds crash down, careers are challenged, and epic collapses take place. And in the end, Lin-Wong finally has its baby panda, the world turns back right-side-up and all becomes well.

While pondering this, I realized that this is exactly where the Nationals stand in their history. The fans are waiting, very patiently mind you, for the birth of a legitimate franchise after getting a delicious taste of it last year for 12 glorious starts. Right now hi-jinx are ensuing everyday, with nosebleeds and torn muscles and goofy giant presidents, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel; our very own panda watch.

That's right. Bryce Harper is a San Diego-on Panda.

You saw the stories around three weeks ago. The future right-fielder was over-matched by the older pitchers, struggling to hit the breaking balls, and seeming to be lost at Low-A Hagerstown. Then he went to the eye doctor, got some contacts, and started a tear. On April 18th, Harper was hitting just .231. Now, just 3 weeks and 19 games later, Harper is hitting .371. Not bad for 3 weeks work.

His best game so far of his streak was without a doubt April 22nd, where the Phenom went 3 for 3 with a single, double, homer, and 2 walks - knocking in 6 runs in the process.

During said streak Harper has only gone one game without a hit, and even in that game (back on the 25th) he still walked.

2011 Stats thus far:
28 Games. .371 AVG. 11 2B. 7 HR. 24 RBI. 16 BB. 22 K. 5 SB. 2 CS. 1.161 OPS (!).

With Harper tearing up the South Atlantic League look for him to get a promotion to High-A Potomac around June 1st, maybe just 1 year before we see him in a curly W. But not before Capitol Baseball gets an up-close look at him...

That's right, folks. I'll be in attendance Tuesday morning to see the Panda... err, Phenom in action; where 60% of the time, he works every time.

You stay classy, CapBallers.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can Riggs Take Nats to Next Level?

When Jim Riggleman took over managerial duties for the Nats in 2009 after now-Indians Manager Manny Acta was fired, there wasn't a whole lot to be hopeful about, besides Ryan Zimmerman's Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards at 3rd base. Only 3 of the 10 listed infielders from 2009 remain on the 2011 roster (Zimmerman, Desmond, Morse); only 6 of the 30 pitchers that appeared on the Nats roster that year have appeared on the 25-man roster this season. Most have long been dismissed from the organization entirely.

The Nats were in bad shape and had posted the 2nd-worst winning percentage in the franchise's history: the 1969 Montreal Expos were worse. Last season, the Nats and Riggleman were able to right the ship a bit more. They flirted with .500 through most of May, and finished the season 10-wins better than the disastrous 2009 season; the team still failed to break even 70 wins for the 3rd consecutive season.

There seems to be a reverberating frustration across NatsTown, even earlier than in past years. The biggest question mark for the Nats coming in to 2011 was it's starting pitching, which has been good enough to get them the 11th best ERA in baseball. Everything else, though, has been fairly disappointing. The bulllpen has been good, but not great, and nothing compared with last season. The offense has essentially not existed. The entire team is hitting for a .226 batting average, good for 29th in baseball.

So all this being said, can Jim Riggleman take the Nats to the next phase: winning?

Unfortunately, history says no. Managers across baseball, including Manager of the defending World Champion Giants Bruce Bochy, consider Jim Riggleman to be a brilliant managerial mind, and he shows signs of that from time to time. But records don't lie, and Riggleman's record as a major league manager is a dismal 638-803. In his 11 years of managing (not including this season), he's finished above .500 just twice, and one was in 1995 with a shortened season due to the 1994 labor strike. He did take the Cubs to the playoffs in 1998, but got swept in the NLDS.

He'll still be the manager that makes infuriating double switches in weird situations and leaves starting pitchers in for too long at times. He still, as the MASN commercials say, believes in the players and not the numbers.

However, Riggleman is a player's coach and is probably the right guy to help pull a team out of the gutter. He seems to have unwaivering support of his players in a good clubhouse. While I can't imagine that Riggleman will be the Nats' manager when the team finally reaches the playoffs for the first time, he will be seen as an important figure in the building of young talent in the organization.

According to his contract, Riggleman has a contract-option for 2012. Do you see him filling the managerial role next season? If so, do you think it's a good idea? Sound off in the comments.

Today in Nats History

Today is May 5th, 2009 and two years ago the Nats won one of the most interesting games in their history... technically...

Nats fans remember this game for many reasons, not the least of which being the Nats won a high scoring, extra inning home game against the Houston Astros. What most people remember is how the game went down. Let's go to the videotape!

The Nationals, backed by a crowd at Nationals Park, took a 10-9 lead into the 9th inning and Garrett Mock came in for the save(!). Mock did his best Garrett Mock impression and blew the save, sending the game to extra innings with the score tied at 10.

The 10th inning went by without a hitch, and Joel Hanrahan threw a typical Hanrahan top of the 11th (3 hits, walk, no runs). It was time for the Nats to win an extra innings ballgame in front of the 19,000+ fans at Nationals park. They were well on their way to the win when Elijah Dukes walked after an Austin Kearns strikeout (some things never change).

Then the rains came...

The Umpires made the decision to postpone the game - but since the Astros weren't coming back to Nats Park that season, the game would have to be finished at Enron Field.. Uhh, Minute Maid Park.

Flash Forward to July 9th in Houston. The game was to be resumed before their next series began, with the Nationals finishing a home game while wearing their Road unis...

7 minutes later the Nats had an 11-10 extra inning home victory... in Houston - the run scored by a player that had a hit for the Pirates the same day (May 5th). Time to bullet point some of the more fun stats from that day.

- Elijah Dukes walked on May 5th in the 11th, but when the game resumed on July 9th he was in the minor leagues.

- Nyjer Morgan, acquired by the Nats just a week earlier, scored the winning run for the Nats on May 5th when he was playing for the Pirates.

- The winning pitcher for the Nats was Joel Hanrahan, who won the game despite playing for a different team (Pirates) when the game was finally won. He was taking a nap when he won the game.

- If I recall correctly, between the rain suspension and the resumption the Nats celebrated their 100th Home Game at Nats Park. At the time they didn't know what the highest scoring game in park history was, because it wasn't yet finished.

- Ryan Zimmerman was in the middle of his 30-game hit streak and, after having gotten a hit earlier in the game, the game didn't "officially" count until it was completed in July.

- The Nats used 8 players on May 5th that weren't with the team on July 9th - and no, I'm not going to figure out which ones.

- The Astros became the first team in over 30 years to lose a walk-off in their home ball-park.

- Hanrahan was discussing how he was going to win the Nats game with current-National, then-Pirate Adam LaRoche in July.

Here is what a few writers had to say about it:
- Bill Ladson
- Chico Harlan (Remember him?)
- Jayson Stark
- AP

So, when watching the Nats take on Roy Halladay tonight, take a drink to celebrate all of baseball's little quirks.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Time for Eckstein to Go?

Back in 2007, the Nats decided to part ways with hitting coach Lenny Harris. In their search for a replacement, they looked for a "baseball guy", someone who would do more than just play cards with the players. At the top of their list was Rick Eckstein, brother of "gritty" journeyman David Eckstein. A sophisticated baseball mind that had a very analytical approach to hitting, based on extensive use of video and cage work. Four years after his initial hire, how has he done so far?

In 2011, the Nats have somehow scraped their way to an 14-14 record so far on this season despite being near the bottom of baseball in most offensive categories. Watching this year's club, I became curious as to how the Nats have performed since Eckstein's arrival in DC. Join me in the time machine...

2008 - Record 59-102
MLB Averages - .264 AVG - .333 OBP - .749 OPS - 163 HR - 718 RBI
Nats Averages and MLB Ranks:
AVG - .251 (27th)
OBP - .323 (23rd)
OPS - .696 (29th)
HR - 117 (28th)
RBI - 608 (29th)

2009 - Record 59-103
MLB Averages - .262 AVG - .333 OBP - .751 OPS - 168 HR - 712 RBI
Nats Averages and MLB Ranks:
AVG - .258 (24th)
OBP - .337 (12th)
OPS - .743 (18th)
HR - 156 (21st)
RBI - 685 (21st)

2010 - Record 69-93
MLB Averages - .257 AVG - .325 OBP - .728 OPS - 154 HR - 676 RBI
Nats Averages and MLB Ranks:
AVG - .250 (21st)
OBP - .318 (22nd)
OPS - .708 (20th)
HR - 149 (17th)
RBI - 634 (21st)

2011 - Record 14-14
MLB Averages - .250 AVG - .320 OBP - .711 OPS - 25 HR - 112 RBI
Nats Averages and MLB Ranks:
AVG - .227 (29th)
OBP - .304 (24th)
OPS - .653 (27th)
HR - 22 (T-22nd)
RBI - 102 (25th)

So far there are 20 categories total (5 each for 4 years), using the MLB Averages listed, the Nats are below the MLB Average in 19 of the 20 categories. The lone exception is OBP in 2009 (Adam Dunn's first year in DC), where the Nats were only .004 higher than average.

Also, the Nats have placed in the bottom third in 17 of the 20 categories; only exceptions are 2009 OBP, 2009 OPS, and 2010 HR. Both years where Zimmerman had top quality years, and Adam Dunn was doing his walk/HR thing.

I'll be the first to admit that this year has been a bit different so far; Zimmerman's injury, LaRoche's injury, Front Office/Roster Decisions. But this is what Eckstein is paid for, to help people hit the ball; and right now, they aren't.

I'm not saying that Eckstein is on his way out anytime soon, but based on these numbers it might not be the worst decision that Mike Rizzo ever made.

The Bright Side of .500

The Nats just completed a series win against the defending World Champions. Now 28 games in, the Nats' record is sitting solidly at 14-14, despite some serious hitting issues (which we will touch on in just a few hours). And so far, our roster has been in flux - seeing 30 different players suit up for game action. Now, we are going to look at each player on the Active Roster - and say something nice about each player. Seriously.

Alphabetical Order via Position! And GO.

1. Brian Broderick - Since giving up 6 ER in his first 2 appearances, he has only given up 1 ER in his next 5 appearances.

2. Sean Burnett - Despite his struggles of late, he has a career low BB/9 ratio, 0.79; which is more than 2 BB better than his previous career low.

3. Tyler Clippard - Has an absolutely insane 19% IRS% (inherited runner scoring percentage), allowing only 4 of 21 inherited runners to score. Clippard also leads all MLB Relievers in WPA with a 1.79.

4. Todd Coffey - Hasn't given up a run in his last 4 appearances, striking out 3 in that time frame.

5. Tom Gorzelanny - See last nights start.

6. Livan Hernandez - Continuing to confusing sabermatricians everywhere, Livo has his lowest ERA since 2003 with a 3.23. As well has his lowest HR/Fly-Ball Ratio Percentage ever with a 3.4.%

7. John Lannan - Sinkerballers thrive on getting ground-balls, Lannan is getting them more than ever with a 55% GB%, helping him to a sub-4 ERA.

8. Jason Marquis - Finally showing why the Nats signed him last year, Marquis has been the Nats best starter. His 1.1 WAR proves that, as it's the highest on the team.

9. Henry Rodriguez - After his DL-stint to start the season, Rodriguez showed that he actually can throw strikes, striking out 18 while walking only 6 in 2011 (minors and majors).

10. Doug Slaten - Though he has struggled with inherited runners, Slaten hasn't given up an earned run this year.

11. Drew Storen - Drew Storen is a beast, leading the Nats with 5 saves. He hasn't given up an ER since his first appearance of the season, 13 appearances ago.

12. Jordan Zimmermann - Zimmermann's new approach to contact-pitching has lowered his K/9 but has also insanely decreased his HR/9 - all the way to 0.25 HR/9.

13. Wilson Ramos - Ramos leads all Nats hitters in AVG, wOBA, and WAR, in addition to handling a starting rotation with better stats than anyone predicted. Future/current star.

14. Pudge Rodriguez - After starting the season in a 3 for 22 slump, Pudge now sits 2nd on the team with 10 RBI while showing a penchant for hitting his grounders between the 1st and 2nd basemen.

15. Brian Bixler - Scores 100% of the time he gets on base; (0 H, 1 BB, 1 R).

16. Alex Cora - Surprisingly, Cora has really positive UZR at both SS (0.9) and 3B (0.4).

17. Ian Desmond - Since becoming a father, Desmond is 6 for 11 with 2 2B, a 3B, and a HR. He is also 10 for 11 on stolen bases.

18. Danny Espinosa - Espinosa has hit with pop from both sides of the plate (homering from each side), while providing well above-average 2B defense.

19. Jerry Hairston - Hairston leads the team with 4 positions played. (What, you expected them all to be good stats?)

20. Adam LaRoche - Though he hasn't started hitting, his 1.4 UZR is far and away the highest on the team. LaRoche has saved many an errant throw.

21. Rick Ankiel - Over his hitting career, Ankiel struck out and hit the ball far, thats it. So far this season, Ankiel is showing more versatility and his K% is at a career best (17.0%).

22. Michael Morse - Morse is struggling, this is not news. On the bright side, his BABIP is at a career low, meaning that it should progress towards his career average as the season continues.

23. Laynce Nix - Nix's power has been impressive, in addition to his 3 HR, he hit one of the hardest balls ever at Nats Park (foul off of the 3rd deck facing). Nix leads the team in ISO (Isolated Power - we will get there).

24. Matt Stairs - The veteran has 5 walks in 18 PA.

25. Jayson Werth - Perhaps Werth is weighed down by the $126 Million Dollar contract, his season hasn't gone as planned thus far. Despite all of that, his BABIP is at a career low (bound to go up), he leads the team with 4 HR, and his K% is a career low as well. Werth is primed for a huge May. Get ready, CapBallers.

What do you think? Find some more positives out there to share in the comments!

Monday, May 2, 2011

For the Love of Pinch Hitting

Something short to lead into tonight's wrap-around finale.

Nats Pitchers at the dish this year have 7 hits in 63 ABs, good for a .111 Batting Average. And in addition to those 7 hits, our pitchers have racked up 2 Runs, 6 RBI, and 3 BB.

Those players that Jim Riggleman choose to hit for said pitchers have 1 hit in 27 ABs, good for a .037 Batting Average. With that 1 hit, they have 2 Runs, 0 RBIs, and 10 BB.

A modest proposal - take the bat off of your shoulder or let the pitchers hit.

Keys to a Nats Series Win Against Giants

After an emotional Sunday night in the Nation's Capital, where President Obama announced that United States' forces had killed Osama bin Laden, it will be back to baseball tonight for the Nats and the Giants to finish up the wrap around, 4-game series in DC.

After issuing two star Giants' pitchers losses this weekend (Lincecum and Cain), Tom Gorzelanny looks to get a win over Madison Bumgarner. Here are a few keys for the Nationals to get a series win:
  • Offense, offense, offense: Without Ryan Zimmerman until at least mid-June, the Nats offense will continue to be lethargic. In the last 2 weeks, the Nats have scored more than 4-runs just twice. Jayson Werth looks to be breaking free, though, going 3-for-4 on Sunday, and raising his average slowly, but surely. Shockingly, Laynce Nix has been an offensive staple for the Nats offense as well, and he'll need to continue to be so in Zimmerman's absence.
  • Veterans: The keys to the Nats success are almost entirely dependent on veterans for the time being, including Monday's contest against the Giants. Hairston, Cora, Werth, Nix, LaRoche, Rodriguez, and Ankiel are all going to be key players. Their average age? 33. That will make or break the team in the games to come.
  • Starting Pitching: The Nats starting pitching has been nothing short of stellar this season, especially considering what most expected of them. They're the only rotation left in baseball to have all starters go at least 5 innings (27 games and counting), and they'll need to continue on that roll. Tom Gorzelanny has had a back and forth start to the season, but he'll need to be outstanding against the young Madison Bumgarner. Despite Bumgarner's struggles to start the year (0-4; 6.17 ERA), he's got great stuff that could really shut down the Nats' struggling bats. Besides Clippard and Storen, the bullpen has been been shaky all season, and Gorzelanny will need to go as far as he can.
  • A Stable Closer: Drew Storen sure looks to be establishing himself as the closer, and he'll need to stay strong in the wake of Sean Burnett's struggles. It was good to see Burnett come in and get a quick out on Sunday's contest, but the out was a well hit ball up the middle. They got the out on good defense more than good pitching. Burnett has to stop getting lucky and start throwing better pitches to help out his fellow relievers. There aren't too many quality colleagues to rely on. Until there are, here's hoping we can give Storen the ball in the 9th with a lead a bit more often.
What say you, CapBallers? What are some other keys to a Nats series win.