Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trade Watch 2011: Livan Hernandez

As we discussed earlier in the Jason Marquis Trade Watch there are three things that playoff contenders look for when trying to get pitching help for the stretch drive...
1 - Veteran? Livo is now in his 16th MLB season.
2 - Contract Year? Livo is perennially working on a 1 year contract it seems - signed last year.
3 - Proven Winner? Has won 10+ games 11 times, and has a World Series MVP under his belt.

All those things aside, Livan is having another solid year where his ERA, WHIP, FIP, and K/9 are all better than his career totals.

Livan Hernandez is one of those sentimental players for the Nats. He was the starter for the Nationals' first ever game. He was there that whole 2005 magical year. He came back in 2009 and has experienced a career resurgence. It would definitely be tough to see him head back out of town.

As much as Livo has been a key part of the Nationals past he is that much not a part of the Nats' future. It's clear that the team is going to be fully reloaded with next year's rotation with Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Lannan having already locked up spots. With Wang, Peacock, Detwiler, and Milone all in the mix as well it is pretty clear that Livo doesn't fit in the long-term plan.

I'm not sure what the trade market is for someone like Livan, but if Rizzo is able to get anything of value in return for the veteran he needs to make that move. There is always a market for veteran starting pitching this time of year, its just a matter of pulling the trigger.

Well, CapBallers, what are your thoughts on trading Livan Hernandez?

The Curious Case of Rossy-D

Fact: Ross Detwiler is a 1st round draft pick.

Fact: Ross Detwiler is a 6' 5" Lefty.

Fact: Ross Detwiler has a 2.57 ERA this year.

Probable: Ross Detwiler will be sent down to Syracuse in the next two days.

Things around NatsTown have gotten really strange. Trade rumors involving another 1st round pick, Drew Storen, are reaching a fever pitch - while the organization is showing little faith in another 1st round pick - Ross Detwiler.

The 2007 pick has done everything the organization has asked and has improved while doing it. Suffering through injuries has definitely hampered the development of the Missouri native, but Detwiler seems to have put all of the hip issues behind him. Which brings me to my point.

It's time for the Nats to finally make a decision.

Ross Detwiler is a starting pitcher, who has either toiled away in the minors or been moved to the bullpen while pitchers like Yunesky Maya, Matt Chico, Garrett Mock, Collin Balester, Marco Estrada, and Daniel Cabrera have all gotten MLB starts for the Nats. In the past I can definitely see that some others might have had better numbers, but how will you know what he can do if you never give him a shot?

This season looked like it was going to be time to finally see Detwiler crack the big league rotation permanently, that is until Mike Rizzo made a trade for the underwhelming Tom Gorzelanny. Let's take a look, bullet point-style:
  • Immediately after that trade, Gorzelanny was handed a spot in the Opening Day rotation, despite putting up a 4.46 ERA in spring training to Detwiler's 2.57.
  • Even still, Detwiler was given no chance to crack the rotation, that was reserved for Chad Gaudin (he of the 6.48 spring training ERA, since DFA'd) who was given every vote of confidence by Riggleman as a potential 5th starter.
  • Once the season started it was straight to Syracuse for the lefty while Yunesky Maya was given the first opportunity at a spot start - and we all know how that worked out... 4 times.
  • When it was eventually time for Detwiler to make his first appearance of the year, he won the game with 5.1 IP of 4 hit, 2 run ball, he was pulled immediately after giving up a homer to Reed Johnson despite holding a 6-2 lead.
  • Next came bullpen.

That brings us to this week.

Tom Gorzelanny has finally pitched himself out of the rotation after giving up 11 ER in his last 11 IP, but Detwiler will once again be victim to the options game when Wang gets activated later this week.

How many more times are the Nats brass going to pass over the former 1st round pick?

Ross Detwiler is 25 years-old and it's time to make a decision on his future. The Nationals need to give him a spot in the rotation and let him sink or swim, or they need to trade him to someone else that will.

Trade Watch 2011: Laynce Nix

Today, we're going to talk about one of the best surprises about the Nats 2011 season, and one that we didn't think had a chance to make the 25-man roster during Spring Training: Laynce "The Daynce" Nix.

Nix has spent time with Texas, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati before showing up in DC for this year's camp. A former defensive guy who bulked up big time, Nix can now not only cover the corner outfield positions well, but he can rake at the plate, too. He is just 1 home run shy of tying a career-high home run total in a single season after hitting two thus far in the Florida series, and it's only July 28th. He does swing at a bad pitch here or there, and he has trouble picking up breaking balls, but when he makes contact, he makes contact.

Because of these factors, he has definite value to a contender. While he's not high on the list of anyone's priority list, Nix's field versatility (LF, RF, CF, 1B) and ability to hit for power could make him a very cheap acquisition for a contending club.

Nix's major drawback is his achilles injury/tightness that isn't quite healed. He gets fairly regular time off with the Nats because of it, and contenders will take notice. The last thing they need is Nix to be killing the ball and miss a few games because of achilles tightness. Teams making a run simply can't afford it.

So, while we don't see Nix getting moved at the deadline, it's possible a team could see some value in him for the right type of deal. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trade Watch 2011: Todd Coffey

With this morning's post, we're going to discuss the man that has the best bullpen-to-mound trip in baseball: Todd Coffey.

Coffey, or Big Pot as FP likes to call him, seems to have fans everywhere he goes. People love to watch him take the 12-13 second run to the mount in non-crucial game situations. To start the season, it looked like Coffey was one of the better bullpen pickups by Mike Rizzo to replace some of the middle relief talent that the Nats lost in the off season. He finished the first half with a 3-0 record, a 3.28 ERA, and hitters had a .239 BAA when facing him.

Since the Break, though, Coffey hasn't looked so awesome in his appearances. He's 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA and a .438 BAA versus the 20 batters he's faced. Now, during that period, he was put in more "critical" game situations than we're used to, but he certainly doesn't look like the same pitcher that he looked like before. His slider is less devastating; his fastball is not located quite as well.

This tells us two things in regards to the trade deadline, and it's something that we talk about regularly offline. Mike Rizzo waits too long to pull the trigger sometimes. If Coffey had been traded earlier, when his value was at it's highest, the Nats would probably have gotten better prospects in return than with the current Coffey that's shown he may not be able to succeed in big game situations.

In the same token, it tells the organization that maybe the Nats actually can't rely on Coffey except for mop up roles or when down by 10 runs. There's value in that position, but those types of relievers are a dime-a-dozen. Why not trade Coffey for whatever prospects they can get, and bring up any other reliever from the minors that can fill the same roll for a lot less money?

Who are the contenders?: Diamondbacks, Reds, Rangers

What's the return?: Unless something crazy happens, low to mid level (AA and below) talent, probably. It may be similar to a Guzman for Tatusko and Roark type deal.

So, CapBallers, would you trade the sprints from the 'pen for some minor league prospects? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Flame Out

So far Davey Johnson has desperately tried to cultivate an air of trust amongst the clubhouse - letting certain pitchers stay in, going to veteran players, etc. - something that many claim that Riggleman never did (but that's all a story for another post). One of the players that has been left in there a little bit too much has been flamethrower-in-residence, Henry Rodriguez.

I began to notice recently that our relief pitchers have been coming back out to pitch after waiting a half inning; for instance, comes in to record 3rd out and comes back out for the start of the next inning. Most of the time however, this hasn't worked out.

Rodriguez has taken the brunt of multiple inning appearances in the pen. So, to research this post, I checked out FanGraphs Play Log to look at what happens when Rodriguez comes back out after sitting.

Let's go in reverse chronological order starting with Saturday night:
(Results will be for coming back out after the break)
7/23 - Flyout, Walk, Groundout, Walk, Wild Pitch
7/20 - Walk, Wild Pitch, Walk
7/17 - Strikeout, Flyout, Groundout
- Came back for a 3rd IP - Double, HBP, Single, Groundout
7/7 - Single, FC, FC, Double, Flyout
7/3 - Groundout, Flyout, Flyout
6/27 - Single, FC, Flyout, FC
- Came back for a 3rd IP - Walk, Double Play, Groundout
6/22 - Single, Flyout, Groundout
6/18 - Flyout, Flyout, Walk, Groundout
6/6 - Walk, SAC, Walk, FC, Groundout
5/20 - Double, Wild Pitch, Strikeout, Strikeout, Groundout
- Came back for a 3rd IP - Single, Flyout, Flyout, Flyout
5/5 - Single, CS, Strikeout, Strikeout

A few snap judgements...
- Aside from the last two games listed (5/20 and 5/5), where are the strikeouts? He has 0 in these situations since May. Not good for someone that has a career 9.89 K/9.
- In very limited duty he has 3 of his 9 Wild Pitches.
- In his last 0.2 IP of duty coming back out of the dugout he has allowed 4 walks and thrown 2 Wild Pitches.
- When logging more than 1.0 IP in an appearance, he has allowed 5 of his 12 Runs Against.
- His last 4 appearances of more than 1.0 IP have been "Meltdowns" - having a -0.060 WPA (Win Probability Added) per game or worse.

So, while I, and the players, appreciate the fact that Davey Johnson is a so-called "Players Manager" - once again, expect a story coming on this. HRod is the type of player that ends emptying his tank at 100 mph throughout his outings. He uses all his adrenaline to do this, and when he comes down during the half inning in between, it gets ugly when he returns. Sometimes sticking with your guns isn't such a good thing in the case of Henry Rodriguez...

Trade Watch 2011: Drew Storen

Now before you have a heart attack from seeing the title of this piece, just hear me out for a second.

*I love Drew Storen and I am not at all advocating trading him*

That being said, let's talk about trading Drew Storen.

It was reported last week that Mike Rizzo was "taking calls" on both Clippard and Storen, and NatsTown freaked. I am glad that he was taking calls on Storen - that's his job. I would be pissed if Rizzo decided to not take a call from another exec because one of his RELIEVERS was untouchable.

Here is a sample conversation of "taking calls":
Other Guy - "Hey Mike, what would it take to get Storen?"
Mike Rizzo - "Troy Tulowitzki/Evan Longoria/etc."
Other Guy - *Hangs Up*

That's taking calls.

Anyway, Storen is one of the best relievers in the National League. His ERA is a miniscule 2.37 and his WHIP is a fantastic 0.93. In Saber-lingo he is tied for 4th in the NL in Shutdowns (+0.060 WPA) with 28 of them - tied with Tyler Clippard.

Drew Storen has a ton of value to both the Nats (and any potential suitors). He is in just his 2nd year and has already ascended to the closer's role (though I don't think Riggleman ever actually announced that...). In a statistical sense, relievers aren't worth near the price as starters (WAR proves it), but in terms of monetary value Storen is one of the cheapest relief options out there because he is under club control for the next 5 years.

Mike Rizzo would charge a ton for his services, so it is highly unlikely that he will be traded - but that won't stop the teams from asking.

Would anyone out there actually trade Storen? If so, what would you want in return?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trade Watch 2011: Ivan Rodriguez

In today's trade conversation, we discuss the possibility that Pudge will get dealt before the July 31st deadline.

Pudge has been in and out of trade talks over the last few months, mostly because of his age, expiring contract, and the fact that Jesus Flores is healthy again. But don't discount the fact that the man can still play one fantastic game of baseball. His defense is as good as ever, and his arm is still capable of throwing out an outstanding number of would-be base stealers. While his offense isn't quite what it was, this future Hall of Famer has adapted his approach to a lot of opposite field hits, and he's been outstanding in the clutch.

Unfortunately, though, over the 2 seasons with the Nats, Pudge has struggled with a few nagging injuries, which never bodes well for a catcher. At 39 years old, it's hard to imagine Pudge ever being a starting catcher again, but he can do what he's done for Wilson Ramos: be a solid backup and superior mentor. Pudge is always in the conversation when analysts discuss which current players will become big-league managers in the future, and we don't disagree at all on that.

The market for catchers doesn't seem to be as large considering the Giants, without Buster Posey, aren't interested, but there has to be a team out there that's willing to trade a prospect or two for a future Hall of Fame catcher and 14-time All Star. Stay tuned. There's only 6 more days left to find out.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Trade Watch 2011: Ian Desmond

Continuing on our series of potential trade candidates that the Nats may have available today we feature our "SS of the future", Ian Desmond.

Desmond is one of the most interesting players in the entire Nats organization. Drafted way back in 2004, he has been touted by each General Manager as the "Shortstop of the Future" - hell even Jim Bowden called him the "next Derek Jeter". His path to the majors has been as circuitous as a Nook Logan route to a fly ball - with demotions from AA and extended stays in High-A ball - 6 MiLB years in total.

After all that, Desmond is only 25 years-old and in his second full year in the big leagues, which most people forget. He came on strong with a September call-up back in 2009 and hit a solid .280 with some speed and pop, with some flashy yet error-prone defense. Desmond earned the starting SS spot for the following year although the team already employed veteran SS cog Cristian Guzman. His rookie year was pretty standard, hit with a decent SS average and knocked in 65 runs, while racking up a whopping 34 errors (-8.8 UZR).

Going into this year the Nats brass decided that hey wanted Desmond to focus a bit more on defense and try to reduce the amount of errors. So far, Desmond has fared much better, racking up a 1.9 UZR and committing just 13 errors so far - showing far more maturity than he has in the past.

However, much to the teams chagrin, Desmond's offense has regressed substantially from 2010.
-His batting average is down .043 points.
-His wOBA is down .043 points as well.
-His OPS is down .120 points.
-His K-Rate is up 4%.

By now, Scouts and Brass are secretly saying that Desmond's future lies as that of a Super-Utility player, capable of playing both Infield and Outfield (he did register some time in RF last year). Truth be told, I think Desmond is turning into a solid defensive SS and could be an above average 2B.

All of these things have prompted many in NatsTown to call for a trade of Desmond - to be followed by an Espinosa move to SS and the immediate promotion of 2B prospect Stephen Lombardozzi, who is hitting .376 in split time at AA/AAA.

Contenders: Red Sox, Indians, Brewers, Diamondbacks Giants (despite their trade for Keppinger)

Return: Multiple Prospects - at least one upper level prospect.

Desmond's numbers don't show it but he is an extremely valuable piece for a contender. Not only is his defense improving drastically, but this is only his second full year as a big-leaguer and he is under team control through 2015. A cheap piece that could benefit the club for years to come. So, the question is on your CapBallers. Would you trade away Ian Desmond? What do you want in return?

Why Why Why!

I'm going to take you back really quick to August 7th, 2006. The Nationals are one year out of a miracle .500 record after their return to DC, and they are struggling in the standings. It's time to get rid of your valuable veteran pieces, and the lucky trade candidate is none other than our current "#1" starter, Livan Hernandez. In the waiver-wire trade the Nationals sent away their legit #1 starter for a pair of pieces that Mike Rizzo had drafted, Matt Chico and Garrett Mock.

If you were able to peel yourself off of your leather sofa in the midst of the Sweat Ceiling Heat Wave of 2011 yesterday, you might have seen that the Nationals released Chad Gaudin. Well, that's not all the Nats did yesterday, they also released one of the pair that came over in 2006 - Matt Chico.

Matt Chico has had a tragic career, punctuated by an injury at the worst possible time. He had just ascended to become the Nats #2 starter as of the beginning of 2008 when his UCL tore and he was sidelined for over a year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He would make one more career MLB start, a spot start last year on May 8th vs the Marlins where he went 5 innings and gave up 2 runs - the Nationals won the game 5-4. And oh yeah, he racked up a 0.2 WAR in that one game.

The point of this article isn't to talk about Matt Chico however, this is to discuss the other piece that came over with Chico - Garrett Mock.

If you weren't aware, Garrett Mock is still on the Nationals 40-Man roster.

Let me say that again - GARRETT MOCK IS STILL ON THE 40-MAN!

Over the course of his career he has been known as the "stuff guy", everyone was always saying that he always had the best "stuff" of anyone. There was one problem. He couldn't do anything with it!

Somehow Garrett Mock has been able to rack up 19 starts and 55 appearances in his Major League Career and here are his numbers...
- 4 Wins - 13 Losses
- 5.17 ERA
- 1.673 WHIP
- 4.78 BB/9
- .283 BAA
- 10.3 H/9

So, some not so good numbers there. But lets check out how Mock has done this year in the minors against non-MLB talent.

0 Wins. 4 Losses. 28.2 IP. 8.48 ERA. 1.919 WHIP. 1.09 K/BB. 27 ER.

Wow. That's bad.

Granted, Mock has spent some time on the Disabled List, but he has gone on the DL several times in the past after an extended bout of some mysterious injury that only he can detect.

Now, my point here is not to say that he is faking it; I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV. All I am saying is why is someone like this taking up a spot on the roster that could be used on someone who could actually help out the club.

To me it is pretty clear that Garrett Mock has fallen very far down the Nats Spot-Starter Pecking Order - behind Detwiler, (soon-to-be) Wang, Maya, Stammen, Peacock, Milone, and even JD Martin. I would rather see countless other people in Mock's spot that him. It's time to finally cut the cord.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trade Watch 2011: Jason Marquis

Today we bring to you part 2 of our 11 part series designed to highlight those pieces the Nats could trade away. Featured today is one of our two Long-Islanders on the starting rotation - Jason Marquis.

There are three different criteria that teams in the hunt look for when considering a trade for a starting pitcher.
1 - Veteran? - Check. Marquis debuted in 2000 with perennial playoff contenders, the Braves.
2 - Contract year? - Check. At the end of a 2 year/$15 Million deal
3 - Proven winner? - Check. Won 10 games a year in 6 straight seasons.

Marquis completely fits the bill for a team looking to upgrade their starting rotation. And in addition to all those intangibles - Marquis is in the midst of one of the better statistical seasons he has had in his whole career.
K/9 - 5.42 - his best since 2004.
BB/9 - 2.75 - would be a career best.
ERA - 3.92 - best since 2004.
FIP - 3.68 - would be a career best.

Now, Marquis isn't going to light the world on fire and have a Cliff Lee-circa-2010-like influence on a contender but he will easily slide into the 4 hole in a stacked rotation. He doesn't have a future on this organization past 2011, so its time for Rizzo to pull the trigger and trade away Marquis. Besides, its time to see what we have in Detwiler, Peacock, and Wang.

Contenders - Red Sox, Yankees, Diamondbacks, Indians, Tigers, Rangers, Pirates, Cardinals, Reds

Return - Two mid/upper-mid level prospects - One AA/AAA, one High or Low-A.

All this plus the fact that his stock has never been higher after his outstanding 8 inning performance on Friday night.

I appreciate that Marquis was able to put together a solid year after such a disastrous 2010 - now he needs to do his part and get traded to a contender for some prospects.

What say you, CapBallers? Do you even want to see Marquis traded? Who do you think he could be traded to and what for?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time Machine Time

Earlier this morning Joe posted the first in a series of posts about Chien-Ming Wang's (presumed) return to the majors, expected in the next 10 days or so. His writing inspired me to do some research and investigating on what the Nats were doing that day, when Wang had his final big league start before injury. It was July 4th. 2009 and the Nationals were playing the Atlanta Braves here at home in Nationals Park...

8 - Morgan
3 - Johnson
5 - Zimmerman
7 - Dunn
9 - Willingham
6 - Guzman
4 - Hernandez
2 - Nieves
1 - Lannan

It's always a spectacle when the Home Town team is playing in DC on the 4th - and they sure put on a show for the 23,708 in attendance. The Nationals won the game 5-3 on some heroics by the superstars of the team; Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Josh Willingham. Though it would be some of the other characters that struck my eye.

John Lannan had one of his best starts of the year, giving up just 3 runs in 8 innings to shut down the Braves bats. Mike MacDougal came in for the ninth to lock it down - despite walking two.

Yes it was the big stars that got the job done. Adam Dunn launched his 300th career home run to lead off the 7th. The next inning, proceeded by a Ronnie Belliard single and a Josh Bard walk, Zimmerman knocked home both with a single of his own after a Morgan SAC and a Nick Johnson walk. And in true station-to-station fashion Dunn singled home Nick Johnson, and Willingham singled home Zimmerman.

The Nats certainly had a different lineup than just 2 years ago, with only Lannan and Zimmerman still remaining.

It's amazing how things can change in such a short amount of time!

Feel free to use the Comments section to lament the loss of the not-so-power-hitting-anymore Adam Dunn, the oft-injured Willingham, or the pure speed of Bard and Belliard. Enjoy the afternoon Rubber Match against the MLB-worst Astros!

Trade Watch 2011: Tyler Clippard

Here at Capitol Baseball, we're fond of series. That way, we can provide you as much information as we possibly can without writing Joe Posnanski length posts. With this next series, over the next 11 days, we'll be discussing 11 Nats that could end up in other uniforms before the July 31st trade deadline. Today's trade topic: Tyler Clippard.

It makes sense that, just like last season with Matt Capps, the Nats lone All-Star representative (and All-Star Game winner) ends up at the top of our list. We don't want to draw a lot of comparisons between Clippard and Capps, because we think that Clippard has a lot better "stuff" than Capps ever did. But we will use some comparisons to help explain our reasoning to why Clippard could be traded for the right pieces.

Now, this isn't easily put, but relievers are a dime a dozen. Bullpen guys are a crucial aspect of the baseball game, and teams without a bullpen simply can't compete, but that said, besides Mariano Rivera, I can't think of a single "untouchable" reliever in baseball. A GM would be crazy not to take a phone call on Clippard if it would get a valuable piece for the organization. (See: Ramos, Wilson)

It's also proven to be extremely hard for a reliever to remain consistent over multiple years, especially with the number of innings that Clippard has pitched in the 'pen over the last couple seasons. At some point, some guys need to be sold high that have a high probability of breaking down, and sadly, Clipp is on that list.

On the flip side, though, Clippard is under team control until 2015 and could prove to be a valuable piece in the future-Nats successes. We're not saying the Nats should take Clippard and unload him for anyone. He's a valuable piece and if the right trade didn't come along, the Nats would be crazy to let him go.

Clippard is arbitration eligible in 2012 and will command a big raise over his sub-million dollar salary, which is just a bit of extra info to help you make your decision.

So what do you think, CapBallers? Would you trade Clippard for the right pieces? If so, who? Remember to think with your baseball head, and not with your love of "The Goggles."

When Wang Last Saw the Majors...

On July 4, 2009, many celebrated America's 233rd birthday by going to ballparks around the country. If you happened to be at Yankee Stadium that afternoon more than two years ago, you saw Chien-Ming Wang's last start to-date. Let's start talking about this multi-part series of what brought Wang to the Nats.

After finishing 2nd in the AL Cy Young race in 2006 and having another stellar 19 win season in 2007, Wang continued with a great 2008 season. He ended up leaving hurt and missing most of that season, which brings us to 2009.

To start the year, Wang was never quite able to figure it all out. He went 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA through April 18th, which caused him to eventually be sent down to some extended spring training in Florida and get a couple of relief appearances before his July 4th start.

Ultimately, Wang saw just 5.1 innings of work in his final start to-date, giving up 4 runs on 6 hits after throwing just 65 pitches. He only caused the Blue Jays to swing and miss twice all game. Little did the fans know that Wang's shoulder was falling apart and would require what could have been career ending surgery.

While the most recent MLB memories of CMW aren't the best, his story could end up being one of the feel good stories of 2011 when he makes his first appearance with the Nats later this month, despite being part of the organization for more than a year and a half. If Wang can return even remotely to 2006-2007 form, the Nationals will have more aces than they know what to do with in 2012, and that's a hell of a problem to have.

We'll continue this series soon with Wang's comeback story inside the Nats organization.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Where's the swagger gone?

And we're back.

After an extremely disappointing weekend where the Nats got destroyed post-All-Star Break and lost a heartbreaker on Sunday, it's time to evaluate where the excitement and winning ways have gone.

It's just a few weeks ago that we were praising the JuggerNats, the team that continued to find a way to win against all odds and in 1-run games. Now, the Nats are quickly 1-2 after the All-Star Break. Let's manage expectations here, first. No one here legitimately thought the Nats would flirt with .500 in late-July, especially after a bad start.

So, the swagger seems to be fleeting. Let's list who's killing the swagger.
  • Jayson Werth - We don't mean to keep ripping on him (except we totally do), but he just continues to be absolutely awful. Hitting just .213, he's on pace for 4 year lows in average, on-base percentage, home runs, runs, and RBI. And because of that, he always seems to be at the plate in big spots with runners on base. (Bonus points for anyone who would let us know how many runners Jayson's stranded this season.)
  • The bullpen - And it's not entirely their fault. Their workload has been absolutely unsustainable except for when JZimm is pitching, and he's on an inning limit this season. The worst offender thus far is Sean Burnett, but really no one has been innocent of a few meltdowns.
  • Changes - In the last month, the Nats have had 3 managers, 3 bench coaches, 2 1st base coaches, and countless different lineups. It's hard to maintain any sort of stability during that. Jim Riggleman's departure may be coincidental, but it seems like it may have had some sort of affect on the club. Maybe not because he's gone, but because of all the changes that have happened since.
Where do you think the swagger's gone, CapBallers?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And now, our All-Star Break

Capitol Baseball will be taking a few days off to clear our minds and do things not related to baseball. [Collective gasp!]

Don't worry, we'll return on Monday to recap the first weekend back from the break and any other cool things we've come up with during our [relative] down time. Until then, feel free to email us at or post in the comments if you have any thoughts of what we can do to keep you all interested in the 2nd half.

As always, we're eternally grateful that you all continue to return here to read our ramblings. See you Monday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nats at the Break: First-Half Surprises

Not many expected the Nats to be at .500 (46-46) at the All-Star Break this year, especially after how the season started. But a few winning streaks here and there, and some fundamentally sound baseball to boot, has the Nats flirting with .500 this late in the year for the first time in 6 years. So what were the surprises that helped (and hindered) the Nats progress to this point? Let's go over our top 5.

Jordan Zimmermann - Most everyone expected JZimm to be a great pitcher, but we're not sure anyone expected him to be this good, this quickly. He's already thrown more than 115 innings and posted a 2.66 ERA so far. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he's earned a 3.3 WAR and is striking out 6.42 batters per 9 innings. JZimm is back and ready to dominate as a #2 starter in the Nats rotation. Maybe one day, he'll actually get some run support. Too bad he's got an innings limit to deal with this year, unless Davey Johnson has any say in the matter.

Jayson Werth - Werth has to be high on this list and not for fun reasons. He's been so bad, it's actually scary. The $18 million man is hitting just .215 with 10 homers and 31 RBI. He looks lost at the plate, and no moment was worse than when he grounded into a double play with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out in the 9th inning on Saturday night against the Rockies. The boo's were never louder; that was Werth's low point. Let's just hope he figures out over the 3-day break, because NatsTown patience is running very thin.

Michael Morse - Coming out of spring training, everyone expected big things from Morse, and at first, he disappointed. But after a rough April, he broke out in a huge way in May, June, and July. Now, he's hitting .306 with 15 jacks and has turned into a well-above average 1st baseman in Adam LaRoche's absence. Here's hope he can continue after the break.

Roger Bernadina - The Shark has developed a cult following like none other in the Nats organization. He's solidifying himself as an extremely solid lead off hitter by having an extremely high BABIP (.315) due to his extreme speed and numerous infield hits. Bernie is coming into his own before our very eyes, and it's a lot of fun to watch.

Danny Espinosa - It might seem crazy that the NL's #1 Rookie of the Year candidate would be #5 on our list here, but that's because we're talking about surprises here. Those of us that got to watch Espi at the end of 2010 aren't surprised to see him competing for the RoY honors. That said, Espinosa has been a team leader both offensively and defensively, and is going to make a significant push toward 2nd base Gold Glove honors as well. He and Morse have, without a doubt, been the strongest all-around players on the Nats roster this season, and we hope that's just the beginning.

Those are our top 5 first-half surprises. What are yours, CapBallers?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wang Watch: Episode III

Well now, things are sure getting interesting down there in the minor leagues...

Last night Chien-Ming Wang pitched in AA Harrisburg against the Erie SeaWolves and he was utterly dominant. Facing his best competition yet, Wang threw 5 innings of 2 hit ball, striking out 2 while walking none. And to make matters more interesting, he did it all in just 43 pitches. Wow.

His fastball reportedly touched 92 MPH, right around his career average of 92.5 MPH.

His sinker was dropping like an anchor - 9 groundball outs to 3 flyball outs.

He looks like vintage Chien-Ming Wang. Lets check out his total numbers from his 3 stops in Low-A, High-A, and AA.

3 Games. 12 IP. 1.50 ERA. 0.75 WHIP. .171 BAA. 7 K. 2 BB.

Wang will be in the Majors in the next two weeks with all indications showing that he is ready to contribute and earn his paycheck. I couldn't be more excited - now to figure out who gets dropped from the rotation...

Worst Game Ever?

I've been fortunate to make it to a bunch of Nats games over the past 6.5 seasons. I've seen my fair share of walk-offs and wild wins and I've seen my fair share of horrible and embarrassing losses.

Last night I had the mis-fortune of being at Nats Park for the stunning and record-breaking loss. You see, I had family in town from Philly (yea, Phillies phans), and they wanted to see Nats Park and experience the atmosphere. And it should be noted that they were more than impressed with the park. Anyway, moving on...

I'm a stats guy. I need to quantify everything I'm seeing in baseball - I'm not sure if it's cause I'm curious or if I just need to know why. I could sit here and tell you that the Nats had a 99.6% chance to win the game as of the 6th inning. I could tell you again how much I hate sacrifice bunts at any point in the ball game, let alone the 9th inning with a good hitter. And I could question why we would pinch hit a 79.6% Contact hitter (Desmond) with a 76.3% Contact hitter (Stairs) with a runner on 3rd - speed not withstanding. Or maybe some numbers about Sean Burnett's struggles against lefties and, well, everyone else. I could question hitting Stairs before Nix (or just using Stairs at all).

But I'm not going to do that.

While I was driving home in stunned silence, not listening to postgame like I normally do, I was thinking about whether this was the worst game I have ever seen in person; and man do I have some doozies on my record.

The Contenders:
Last Night - Up 8 runs in the 6th inning, losing in regulation to a team that was 18 games under .500.

April 18, 2010 - The Marquis Game. Jason Marquis fails to record an out while giving up 7 runs - raising his ERA at the time to 20.52.

April 5, 2010 - Opening Day vs. the Phillies. Not only does Obama shun the home team by rocking a White Sox hat, the Phillies, led by Halladay, destroy John Lannan and the Nationals 11-1 in front of 20,000 Phillies fans.

My tendency is to think that last night's game was the worst game I have ever seen. The Marquis game was over before the first out was recorded. The Opening Day game was Lannan against Halladay - and the game was pretty much over before the first pitch. But last night... We were up 8-0... Sigh.

Well, CapBallers, which do you think is the worst game I have ever seen?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Winning Against Odds

If you look at the box score from Wednesday night's game, it looked like just another Nats-like win. A one-run game without a ton of runs and a solid pitching performance from the starter and the pen. Everyone starter besides Jayson Werth got a hit, but that's for another post. If you saw the game, though, frustration probably outweighed excitement until Morse scored on Ramos'

Gorzelanny got through 6 innings of work and was surprisingly pitch efficient (82 pitches) after throwing more than 50 pitches through just 3 innings of work, but it didn't come pretty. There were 3 very, very loud outs to deep centerfield, that would have been home runs in almost any other ballpark in the country. Not to mention the home run that Aramis Ramirez hit in the 6th to center field went as high up the batters eye as Zimm's walk off blast on Opening Day 2008. He just crushed it. Gorzelanny's developed a propensity for giving up home runs and lots of them, and not solo ones.

The real problem wasn't Tom Gorzelanny's home runs, though. It was the Nats ineptitude with runners on base. The offense put 16 runners on base (13 hits, 3 walks) and stranded 11 of them. That's right, they left 11 runners on base, with many of them in scoring position with 1 out or less. When Davey Johnson talked about a laugher the other day, this game would have been a prime candidate. It just didn't happen.

Perhaps the best thing to take from the win was Ryan Zimmerman's breakthrough night. Zimm went 3 for 4 with a towering 2-run home run to left field and a walk. Let's all just hope that Zimm is able to keep doing that, because if his offense takes off, there is absolutely no telling where this team can go from here. They can even win games like that, where they had no business even being in it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Handicapping Detwiler's Start

Tuesday night, Ross Detwiler went 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits. On paper, that makes a pretty average start. He got the Curly W, and the Nats moved back above the .500 mark. Simple enough, right? Let's look at our concerns from yesterday's post and how our predictions matched up to what really happened: bullet-point style.
  • Velocity - We said our main concern for Detwiler was his velocity. Well, it looked like Nats Park had him jacked up. His fastball got all the way up to 95 twice in the first inning and stayed pretty stable in the 92-93 mph range throughout the start. That's the exact velocity you want Rossy D at with his 84 mph change up. We liked what we saw, including that his velocity stayed up to the end. It's hard to know how quickly it'd disappear though, since he was done after just 78 pitches.
  • Walks - Detwiler's BB/9 was 3.30 in Syracuse this season, which is a bit higher than an ideal level. Tuesday, he walked no one; 49 of his 78 pitches were strikes. You'd like to see a better ball-strike ratio, but the no walks against major league hitting was a great start.
  • Hit hard - We said that Detwiler would get lit up. We were wrong about the hits, but we weren't wrong about getting hit hard. There was a whole lot of contact, especially in the first few innings, where Cubs hitters were making exceptional contact; it just happened to be at Nats fielders. Ross caught some real breaks there.
Overall, we were impressed with Detwiler's start, as it wasn't as bad as we thought it could be. We still have serious concerns, though. Detwiler faced just 21 batters. Once he got through the lineup twice, it turned not so great. Of the only 3 batters that saw him a 3rd time (Johnson, DeWitt, A. Ramirez), one doubled, one flied out, and one hit a 2-run homer. It's a small sample size, but it doesn't bode well to getting through the lineup 3 times as a starter. Just another reason why we think Detwiler could be a great lefty reliever and spot starter long term. Only time will tell what happens with him as far as that goes.

What do you think will happen with Rossy D long term? Despite his slow starting career, we like him, do you?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Predicting Detwiler's Start

Ross Detwiler returns to the Nationals starting rotation tonight, though probably not for long. As a result, Collin Balester got screwed once again and got sent back down to Syracuse to make roster space for Rossy D. Don't expect Bally to stay down long though. Davey Johnson sounded quite impressed with his 7 inning relief appearance after Marquis had his most recent implosion.

Last season, Detwiler started 5 games to fairly disappointing results. In 3 of those 5 starts, he didn't make it through 5 innings. He gave up 22 runs (14 earned) in 23.2 innings for an inflated 5.32 ERA. He stranded just under 60% of runners, and hitters had a .307 average against. He fared much better in 3 relief appearances, though, giving up no earned runs in 6 innings (2 innings/appearance). He stranded all runners and opposing hitters threw up just a .158 average.

Tonight, we expect to see the starting pitcher of 2010, not the reliever. Why, besides the obvious "because he's starting" thing? Because Detwiler hasn't even come close to dominating the competition in AAA Syracuse. He's put up a mediocre 4.32 ERA in 87.1 innings. He's struck out a decent number of batters (6.49 K/9), but he's also walked far too many (3.30 BB/9). Opponents BABIP is an inflated .336; luckily, the Nats will put a pretty great defense behind him this evening.

Our main concern is what we wrote about last month: velocity. Detwiler has struggled to break 90 mph with his fastball and has a change up that hovers around 85 mph. That kind of difference may fool AA and even some AAA talent, but it certainly isn't going to fool anyone (besides Ian Desmond) in the major leagues. We think that there's a good shot that Detwiler will get lit up early and often by the Cubs aging, but still fairly talented, lineup. We hope we're wrong, because deep down, we're still big Rossy D guys and want him to succeed. We're more than a little concerned about the results of tonight's start, though, especially without a true long-reliever available in the 'pen.

What do you think, CapBallers? Is Ross in line for more pain as a starter? Does he have a future as a reliever? Should they unload him before his body completely breaks down? Sound off in the comments!

PM Discussion Post: Trading Block

It's now July 5th and you are sitting in your office this afternoon wishing you were at another barbeque, probably surfing the internet for something to occupy your time before its quitting time. We are glad to provide you with something to keep you busy. Let's talk.

If someone would've told you that the Nats would be at .500 on July 4th despite injuries to Zimmerman and LaRoche and with an ineffective Werth, would you believe them? I know that I wouldn't, as my prediction was for 75 wins, I believe. We have gotten to this point with timely hitting, solid defense, and outstanding starting pitching. Which leads me to this question...

With all the quality AA/AAA pitching depth the Nats have (Detwiler, Maya, Millone, Meyers, Peacock), and with the Nats flirting with a Wild Card Birth (7 games out) ...

1) Would you trade Marquis, Livo, and/or Gorzelanny now?
2) Who would you bring up to replace them?

We would love to hear your ideas in the Comments!

Minor League Roundup

By now you will have heard about a certain top prospect that moved up from Hagerstown to Harrisburg, so I'm going to ignore that one for now (if you want to read more about Bryce Harper's debut check Nats News Network). Today's focus is going to be on those other performances of the year that might have been overshadowed by a certain phenom - both on the pitching side and the hitting side. Here are the top performers of this year's Nationals Minor Leaguers through the first half.

Hitting Prospects (min 100 ABs)
Bryce Harper - OF - Low-A/AA - 18 Years-old
84 Hits in 261 ABs. .321 AVG. .977 OPS. 14 HR. 46 RBI. 19 SB.

Stephen Lombardozzi - 2B - AA/AAA - 22 Years-old
102 Hits in 324 ABs. .327 AVG. .837 OPS. 18 2B. 27 RBI. 18 SB.

Matt Antonelli - UTIL - AA/AAA - 26 Years-old
52 Hits in 163 ABs. .319 AVG. .839 OPS. 2 HR. 11 RBI.

David Freitas - 1B - Low-A - 22 Years-old
81 Hits in 261 ABs. .310 AVG. .914 OPS. 21 2B. 9 HR. 53 RBI.

Blake Kelso - UTIL - Low-A - 22 Years-old
94 Hits in 307 ABs. .306 AVG. 12 2B. 47 Runs.

Chris Marrero - 1B - AAA - 22 Years-old
93 Hits in 310 ABs. .300 AVG. .796 OPS. 8 HR. 42 RBI. 15 2B.

Pitching Prospects
Tom Milone - LHP - AAA - 24 Years-old
96 IP. 3.38 ERA. 0.99 WHIP. 101 K. 5 BB (!).

Brad Meyers - RHP - AA/AAA - 25 Years-old
95.1 IP. 3.68 ERA. 1.20 WHIP. 83 K. 6 BB.

Brad Peacock - RHP - AA - 23 Years-old
92.2 IP. 2.14 ERA. 0.84 WHIP. 120 K. 21 BB.

Daniel Rosenbaum - LHP - High-A - 23 Years-old
91 IP. 2.57 ERA. 1.31 WHIP. 63 K. 1 CG Shutout.

Robbie Ray - LHP - Low-A - 19 Years-old
50.2 IP. 1.95 ERA. 0.987 WHIP. 49 K. 16 BB.

AJ Cole - RHP - Low-A - 19 Years-old
41 IP. 3.29 ERA. 1.17 WHIP. 50 K. 10 BB.

Christopher Manno - LHP - Low-A - 22 Years-old
28 Games. 36 IP. 1.00 ERA. 0.861 WHIP. 56 K. 13 BB. 10 Saves.

Patrick Lehman - RHP - High-A/AA - 24 Years-old
21 Games. 24.2 IP. 1.46 ERA. 0.527 WHIP (!). 18 K. 1 BB. 9 Saves.

One of the things to make sure you are aware of is the players ages as compared to their level. If they are, say 24 years-old they probably shouldn't be playing in A ball anymore. A few other notes...

- Freitas is quietly having a fantastic year in Hagerstown.
- Lombardozzi is showing some pop at the 2B position.
- Marrero needs to hit with more power.
- Antonelli was a good depth pickup.
- Milone's 101K/5BB ratio is absolutely nasty.
- Peacock has a chance at cracking the rotation if some trades happen.
- Robbie Ray is a future star.
- Lehman's WHIP is out of this world.
- There are some Auburn players not listed that bear watching - Jimenez, Ortega, Nieto, Bates, and Grisz.

What other observations do you have, CapBallers? Any other Minor Leaguers stick out to you?

Monday, July 4, 2011


We here at Capitol Baseball like to follow the redemption stories. Not sure whether or not these former stars are going to be able to make it back to the majors is just thrilling for us to watch. We have been bringing Wang-Watch, but the first edition was our Ollie-Watch - which ended up jinxing Perez to the Disabled List. Well, Ollie has returned to action after his several week-long stint on the DL. Here's how he fared.

July 2nd vs. the New Britian Rock Cats

4.2 IP. 7 H. 3 R. 2 ER. 2 BB. 4 K. Pretty solid outing for right off of the DL.

His stats for the year thus far are...

2.48 ERA. 2-1 W-L. 1.17 WHIP. 25 K. 5 BB. .261 BAA (Batting Average Against).

The only concern I have thus far is that I'm not sure what his velocity has been - though he seems to be getting solid results. Being a LHP, I wouldn't be surprised to see him called up at some point this year to help our bullpen (especially with Burnett and Slaten's struggles). It sure would be great to see Perez beating the Mets, who are paying him $12 Million this year.

What say you, CapBallers?

First-Half Surprises

We are now in the downswing of the bell curve that is the baseball season and more games have now passed than are to come. It is time for us to make absolute fools of ourselves by posting this again, that would be our bold predictions to start the season. Joe nailed some (LaRoche injury), I nailed some (Morse's HR total projection). Joe blew some (Zim's batting average), I blew a lot of them (Werth with 50 doubles). Enjoy laughing at us in the comments section below.

But today being a day of celebration, let's check out some of the biggest first-half surprises for the Nationals - good and bad.

The Good

The Unsurprising Duo- Danny Espinosa and Jordan Zimmermann

Everyone knew that these two were going to be outstanding this year. But I don't think anyone expected Espinosa to be the team's leader in WAR with a 3.1. He has definitely earned his way to the top of the Rookie of the Year leaderboards with his bat and stellar second base glove. Jordan Zimmermann has thrown 102 innings of stellar pitching, with a 2.71 FIP and a 2.63 ERA. His WHIP places him 7th in the NL among qualified starters.

Resurgant Morse-

I know that we were pumping Morse as the 2nd coming of Jayson Werth at the beginning of the year, so this could fall into that Unsurprising category. But what makes him stand out even more is that he started the year so terribly that his run in the past 2.5 months has been staggering. Through the first month of the season Michael Morse hit .211 with a whopping .521 OPS. The next month he started his tear hitting over .400 with a 1.196 OPS - and he really hasn't looked back since. His resurgence has placed him 5th in the NL in Slugging Percentage, 9th in OPS+, and 6th in HR/AB. Not to be overlooked, his defense has been outstanding - 3rd best Fielding Percentage of all NL 1B.

Lannan's Cannon-

Make no bones about it, John Lannan is having himself a career year (just as Joe predicted in the previously alluded-to post). If Lannan is able to continue this pace he will finish the season with career highs in ERA, Wins, WAR, WPA, and FIP - and with a slight improvement he can have a career high in WHIP as well. Armed with a faster-than-ever fastball (89.3 or 1.5 MPH faster than his career average) Lannan has been the model of consistency - giving up more than 3 ER only 3 times in his 18 starts. Half of his starts have been quality starts (6+IP with 3ER or less).

Ramos' Defense-

We knew that Ramos would eventually take over the starter's role. We knew that the kid could hit. But no one expected him to develop into such a solid defender - throwing out 39% of would-be baserunners which is 2nd only to his teammate, Catching specialist, Pudge Rodriguez. I would be more than ok with having Pudge stay on for the rest of the year.

Laynce the Daynce-

I'll be honest, I didn't want him on the team to start the year (though it was less about him and more about Ankiel). Man has he proved me wrong though. Laynce Nix has the 2nd most Home-runs on the team in mostly part-time action - and man can he hit the ball a long way.


The team started the year with terrible defense, that much is true. Much of the issues were coming from pre-fatherhood Desmond, which definitely settled down after he had his first child. Since he came back the Nationals have rocketed to the top half of MLB in errors while setting their Franchise record error-less streak. Their 47 errors are the fewest they have had in the 1st half in the previous 5 years.

Lack of Stras and Zim-

Did anyone thing that they Nats could be at .500 through July without Strasburg, Zimmerman, or a competant Werth? I didn't. Kudos.

The Bad


On pace for his worst year since '03, Werth has folded under the weight of a $126 million dollar contract. His fielding has suffered and his power has disappeared along with his confidence. What's even more stunning is that his 0.9 WAR ranks 5th best on the team.


What a strange day that was. Riggleman resigns from the team after winning 11 of 12. As Joe Posnanski wrote, the only thing missing from his career suicide was a note.

Training Staff-

Lee Kuntz and his staff have had a rough year so far. LaRoche was supposedly alright enough to play through the shoulder injury, he wasn't. Zim was supposed to be just fine with his oblique strain, he wasn't. Ankiel was day-to-day, until he went on the DL for 3 weeks. Hopefully they can get a win in the form of Chien-Ming Wang - cause they sure need it.

Enjoy your 4th of July baseball, CapBallers! Share your surprises in the comments section between cold ones! But most importantly, be safe!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Clippard Makes ASG Plus Snubs

Congrats to Peaches for making his first All-Star game!

Once again the workhorse of the Nationals staff, Clippard is 2nd in WPA of all baseball relievers with a 3.14 Win Probability Added. He has a sub-2 ERA (1.96) and a sub-1 WHIP (0.87). His 11.15 K/9 ranks him in the top 10 of all NL relievers.

Once again the Nationals have just one all-star representative, despite being .500 and in sole possession of 3rd place in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Clippard was definitely deserving of the nod, but so were Storen, Zimmermann, Espinosa and Morse.

Danny Espinosa

Leads all MLB rookies in WAR, HR, Runs, and RBIs. He leads all NL 2B in Homers and is 2nd in WAR, UZR, and RBIs. Case closed.

Jordan Zimmermann

Though his win-loss record is a paltry 5-7, Jordan Zimmermann has far and away been the Nats best pitcher this year. His ERA (2.63) is 5th best in the NL, WHIP (1.07) is 6th best, BB/9 is 5th best, K/BB is 6th best, and his HR/9 is 2nd best. Wins and losses are what gets a starter to the ASG, but if you look past that to some actual numbers, there's no question that Zimmermann has been one of the National Leagues best pitchers.

Drew Storen

He has the 4th most saves in all of the NL, and is 20 for 23. He is one of the best personalities on this club and would've represented the team very well.

Michael Morse

Hampered by the dearth of quality first-basemen in the National League, Morse is still up for the MLB Final Vote. His Slugging Percentage is 5th in the NL, OPS is 10th, OPS+ is 9th, and his AB/HR ratio is 6th. In addition to the silly offensive numbers he has put him in the past 2.5 months, he has filled in admirably at 1B for the injured LaRoche - picking up a .997 Fielding Percentage at first, good for 3rd in the NL.


Wang-Watch: Episode II

Chien-Ming Wang has no appeared in two Minor League games and has had some solid results thus far. His latest outing came last night in Potomac vs. the juggernaut lineup of the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks. Competition as it may be, the results really speak for themselves - Wang is on his way to the Majors.

His line for the evening is as follows - 4 IP. 1 H. 0 ER. 0 R. 2 BB. 2 K. Pretty outstanding. One hit over four innings is a great sign for someone in their 2nd start after extreme shoulder surgery. What's even better is that his GB/FB ratio was 5:1; and oh by the way, the fly ball came on the first batter of the game. With sinkerballers getting more sink on their ball as they get tired, it should be noted that his last two outs came on ground balls.

With the rules of "rehab appearances", my understanding is that Wang has just 30 days in the Minors before he must report to the big league roster (thanks to Rizzo signing him to a Major League deal) . My guess is that we will be seeing a trade (Marquis, Gorze, or Livo) in the next 20some days so that Wang can step right into the Major League rotation.

What say you, CapBallers? Will Wang be starting at the Major League level or will Riz trade him for spare parts?