Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 4

In this week's Nats Talk On The Go podcast, The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk about the Washington Nationals. The podcast is available on iTunes and available for streaming.

Nats Headlines:

Gio Gonzalez

Roy Oswalt

Mike Cameron

Minor Leaguers (Carlos Rivero)

Question of the Week: Would you rather get Gio Gonzalez in a 4-to-1 trade or Roy Oswalt for a 1-year deal?

Contest: Listen for details!

OUTTAKES and BLOOPERS (just a few of many)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Age: Just A Number?

The Nationals are getting older. That is silly to say, in that, time only moves forward and every player on every team is always getting older. But when you look at the Nationals signings, and the players they were "in on" its clear to see that they are getting older, and aren't too worried about it. Mike Cameron, Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, Jason Michaels, Greg Dobbs, Mark DeRosa, Jeff Fulchino...not a spring chicken among them. Should we be worried? Not yet. Centerfield not withstanding, the Nats moves are based on three things, improving the bench by adding power, (because its what Davey Johnson wants), versatility (because its what Davey Johnson needs), and improving the back end of the rotation.

Mike Cameron (38), Rick Ankiel(32) and Mark DeRosa(36) are three signings that are very interesting to me. Mike Cameron adds a ton on the bench, good power, and good defense. 6 of his top 9 years slugging were in the NL, and the other 3 were spent in Seattle, a spacious park, not known to be hitter friendly, so a return to the NL could provide a boost, similar to what he enjoyed in Miami at the end of 2011. He can play all 3 outfield spots and provides a wealth of baseball knowledge for the clubhouse.

Rick Ankiel is his mirror. But only if you don't know anything about baseball. Statistically and in terms of perception, perhaps similar. But Rick is different. While Cameron has been an outfielder and batter for over 20 years, Rick has had only 6 years as a full-time outfielder and batter. So he is still learning the ins and outs of every day baseball. He has been surviving on raw skill since he broke back into baseball as an outfielder and if he were to learn to approach hitting the way a pitcher approaches a start (i.e. a game plan, based on tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, etc.) he could take off. He has all the tools, watch him throw from right-center to third base or watch his swing on a long bomb to right and tell me he doesn't.

Mark DeRosa has played every position but Pitcher, Catcher, and Centerfield in his Major League career. In 3344 career ABs, he has 610 Ks. For reference, Mark Reynolds has 963 Ks in just over 2500 ABs. DeRosa is a super-utility guy who puts the ball in play and will help... well pretty much every position player on the Nats roster develop as a person and ballplayer. Danny Espinosa is still young, as is Ian Desmond, and Ryan Zimmerman has had a few Non-Ripkensian seasons. So a veteran backup would not be a bad idea.

These are all guys Davey Johnson likes because they add offense off the bench. But the best part about each of these players is the versatility they provide. Davey Johnson has not managed in the National League since 1995, is 68 years old and an Earl Weaver disciple. He needs the security blanket these players provide. It turns late inning PH situations into a simple left/right decision while affording Davey the ability to pinch-hit for almost any fielder in the line-up without creating a gaping hole in the field.

These guys are back-ups and "clubhouse guys"; the in-case guys. Given the make up of the Nats roster, getting older in that area is not a bad thing. The Nats are young in all the right areas, Starting Pitching and up the middle. Signing a Roy Oswalt or a Mark Buehrle to anchor a young rotation is not a good idea. Carlos Beltran as opening day CF would not be a good idea (it hasn't even been mentioned, I am just using him as a for instance). Rizzo needs to stick with the plan, young starting pitching, and cornerstone players in the middle of the field, and don't panic, or listen to the Weaverese that Davey Johnson is whispering in his ears.

Now just solve the CF problem and the Nats might go 162-0.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Mike Cameron Means for Bryce Harper

The Nationals winter improvement list is no secret to anyone in the league. Sign or acquire a high OBP centerfielder, and an established, inning eating starting pitcher. So, when the news broke yesterday that the Nats had signed Mike Cameron, my first thought was, please let that not be the centerfielder we are going to count on. He is 38 and on the down slope of his very decent career. What is Rizzo thinking?

Then I let this news sink in, and I think its pretty safe to say that this is not the player the Nats will be counting on to lead off or play every day in centerfield. In fact I am fairly sure he will not even platoon with Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina. The only thing this move does is add a power bat from the right handed side to the bench. And it's safe to say, if you look at his time with the Marlins in the second half of the 2011 season (slugged .420), he still has some decent power. And, if he shows in spring training that he is done, he is only on a minor-league deal so he can simply be released.

What does all that mean for Bryce Harper? It means that the Nats have committed, at least in some sense, to Jayson Werth as their 2012 centerfielder. Which also means that they are confident Bryce Harper will be ready to go on opening day. Mike Cameron is an insurance policy on that. The Nats tried at the winter meetings to go get that young centerfielder, but the price tag for obtaining such a player was out of the range Rizzo was willing to invest.

If you would have asked me at season's end, I would have said there was no way Bryce Harper would be heading to DC out of spring training. Today, based on Davey Johnson's public statements, Bryce's Arizona Fall League performance, and the signing of Mike Cameron (in what has become an extreme seller's market) that the RF job is Bryce Harper's to lose. Werth will be penciled in to center, Beast-mode in LF, followed by Cameron and Ankiel off the bench as 4th and 5th OF (Ankiel is not a certainty, but with Davey's desire to have a power bat from both sides on the bench, re-signing Ankiel would make sense).

So there it is, CapBallers, write it down. December 19th, 2011, the Bryce Harper-era is given the green light. Thanks to a 38 year-old Outfielder, a one-time all-star, who is playing on the 10th team of his career and was drafted more than a year before Harper was born...

A Few Good Men: 44 - Desmond

44. The Atomic Number of Ruthenium. The jersey number of Hank Aaron. The number of American presidents. And...the number of players to don a jersey for the Washington Nationals in the calendar year 2011. The 44th and final edition of our 44-part series details the year 2011 in the life of...

Ian Desmond - Age 26 - 2 years + 1 September MLB Service Time

How he became a Nat: Drafted by the (ahem) Montreal Expos in the 3rd round of the 2004 first year player draft.

The Raw Numbers:
AVG - .253
OPS - .656
oWAR - 1.6
SB - 25
E - 23

Key Stat: WAR - 1.4. Ian Desmond is 26 and has been playing professional baseball since 2004. He has not shot through any level of play, nor has he particularly shined at any level of play. But he is a major league player. Is he the second coming of Derek Jeter, as a former Nats GM implied? No. His 1.4. WAR tells you exactly what he is, a guy who knows baseball, can play baseball, but will never be an all-star - despite what Bill Ladson says.

Best Game: August 21 against the Phillies. Going into the 9th inning, Ian was 1-4 with a double, a run and 2 strikeouts. But in the bottom of the 9th, with 2 outs, Desi hit a solo bomb to send the game into extras. The Nats won in the 10th.

Worst Game: May 12th against the Braves. 0-5. Golden Sombrero. Nats lose in extra innings. Ouch.

Capball Grade: Probably the hardest grade of the whole series. I like Ian. I saw him play for Potomac way back when. He was drafted by the Expos, what do you do with that? B-. The guy improved on defense, moved all around the line-up, and endured speculation and criticism for, well just being Ian Desmond. The guy had almost 150 hits, 40 XBH, 25 steals and was a good baseball player.

2012 Nats Status: As much as he would benefit from a change of scenery (not that he would admit it) and as much as the Nats want to be free from his issues (not that they would admit it), he will be a Nat in 2012. And that's a good thing. He is a cliche, a team player, has a great baseball IQ, and can lead by example. And he is only 26.

Ian Desmond is a polarizing player. Represent your pole in the comments section!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few Good Men: 43 - Bixler

Almost there...

Brian Bixler - Age 29 - Just over 1 year of MLB Service Time

How he became a Nat: Was "purchased" by the Nats from the Pirates in August of 2010 - essentially a trade for cash.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 79
ABs - 94
AVG - .205
Runs - 9
RBI - 2
OF UZR/150 - 24.0
WAR - -0.2

Key Stat: 6. This is the number of positions that Brian Bixler played in the 2011 season (OF x3, 1B, SS, and 3B). His job was not to light the world on fire at the dish (obviously), but he was meant to be a solid defender that could come in with the game on the line. He did just that, right around replacement level.

Best Game: Without question it would be June 24th in interleague action against the Chicago White Sox. Bixler came in for Jerry Hairston (LF) in the 8th inning during a double switch. The game was solidly in the Nats' hands, leading 3-0 going into the 9th - until Drew Storen blew a save and the game went to extras; Bixler would play a massive role in bonus time. He came up in the 12th with 2 on and 2 outs and hit a double to right that would give the Nats a 5-4 lead; which Clippard would go on to give up in the bottom half of the inning - tie ball game. Bixler next came up in the 14th with 2 outs and no one on. He singled, stole 2nd and scored what would be the game winner on an E6.

Worst Game: July 31st against the Mets. Bixler went 0 for 5 with 2 groundouts, 2 bunt ground-outs, and a strikeout. The Nats would win the game despite his best efforts to the contrary.

CapBall Grade: Solid C. He did exactly what was expected of him; nothing more, nothing less. He had a few good games, a few not-so-good games while playing some solid defense whenever called upon.

2012 Nats Status: Well, the Nats tried to slip Bixler through waivers to clear up some room on the 40-man and paid the price, losing Bixler to the Astros. So I would say that the odds of him making the Nats next year would be slim to none.

Are you going to miss Bixler next year? Are you ready for this fools-errand of a series to be over? Post your thoughts in the comments section!

Friday, December 16, 2011

500 And Counting!

Today is a very special day for this blog, it is the day that we hit 500 blog posts! We would like to take this time to thank everyone who has ever read this blog, commented on this blog, derided this blog on Twitter, liked us on Facebook, listened to our podcast, and just generally supported our efforts. We have been honored to be there for you since our very first post back on April 21st of 2010 when it was just Joe at the controls.

To celebrate today's momentous occasion, I thought we would take a trip down memory lane as best we could as baseball people - by looking at the stats!

First Post - April 21st, 2010
# of Days Since First Post - 604
Posts/Days Ratio - 0.82
Mac's First Post - Nov 21, 2010
Sean's First Post - Sept 13, 2011
Countries That Have Visited - 95
Top 5 Countries - US, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, UK
Most Visited Day - June 6th, 2011 (Draft Day)
Most Popular Post (by visitors) - Bryce Harper to Make The Majors in 2011? - 2,203 Pageviews
My Favorite Ways People Got to the Site - "why did davey johnson bring in doug slaten" "lunch slow motion" "jokes about the name rizzo" "how does rick ankiel have a job" "beauty and the briefcase ryan zimmerman"

Just a brief glimpse into our world here over at Capitol Baseball, hope you have enjoyed reading our musings on baseball here in the district.

Make sure you check us out on Facebook, Twitter (@CapitolBaseball, @CraigMac, and @TheMacHenry), Nats Talk on the Go on iTunes, and, of course, right here at!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Few Good Men: 42 - Maya

Before we get into the post, I want all of NatsTown to congratulate Mac on his engagement. I could not be prouder of my brother and his bride to be!

That being said, there are just a few players left in our march to 44, so lets get into it with...

Yuniesky Maya - Age 30 - MLB Service Time 0.07 years

How He Became A Nat: Signed as an international free agent on July 31, 2010. He is a Cuban defector.

The Raw Numbers:
GS - 5
Quality Starts - 1
IP/GS - 5
BAA - .323
K - 15
GB/FB - .73

The Key Stat: BAbip - .346 Ah. Batting Average on balls in play. Great stat. Usually it is used to determine the luck of a pitcher. But .346 is very high and 15 Ks in over 30 innings is indicative of a pitcher who pitches to contact, and gets hit hard. And when batters made contact, it was usually in the air, as the GB/FB ratio shows. Not ideal.

His Best Game: July 30 against the Mets. Anyone notice many of our best games were against the Mets? He scattered 5 hits over five and a third innings, striking out no one, but walking no one. It was the only game he started in which he had more ground balls than fly balls. He also hit Josh Thole with a pitch, though he was hit by a pitch twice that day, so maybe he was crowding the plate.

His Worst Game: Ironically, the only other game the Nats won in which Maya pitched. June 14 at Nats Park against the World Champion Red Birds. His line is so ugly I hesitate to type it...4.2 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, and 2 each in the BB, K, HR category. Luckily for the Nats, Ms. Iowa himself Miguel Batista was worse that day, and Washington pulled out an 8-6 win.

Capball Grade: A very big F. Maya is 30, and while he is relatively new to MLB, he just doesn't have the repertoire for the bigs, and everyone can see it. You cannot pitch to contact and have the majority of the balls in play be in the air. He is smart and he knows how to pitch, but he needed to be mentored by Livan Hernandez when he was 20, not when he was 30.

2012 Nats Status: He is on a major league contract, so he will be in spring training. But at this point his contract is ephemera. He is of little value to the Nats and will spend the majority of his season at Syracuse, perhaps earning a spot start, if its his turn to pitch. A switch to relieving won't help, as he was ineffective in relief, allowing 12 base runners in just under 8 IP.

Do you have something nice to say about Yuniesky Maya? Please share it, because I'm drawing a blank.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Few Good Men: 41 - Broderick

Brian Broderick - Age 25 - MLB Service Time 0.054 Years

How he became a Nat: Drafted by the Nationals in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft from the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 11
Innings - 12.1
ERA - 6.57
WHIP - 1.541
BAA - .320
Balks - 1
WP - 1
WAR - 0.0

Key Stat: 0-11. This is the Nats record in games that Broderick pitched. Take from that what you will...

Best Game: April 13th at home against the Phightins. The Nationals were being beaten down by Roy Halladay, but the game was still within reach (3-2) come the top of the 9th. Broderick came in and retired the side in order to give the Nats one last chance to come back against Halladay - they didn't.

Worst Game: Tough one here, cause he was mostly just a terrible pitcher. I am going to go with the Nats first game of the year - April 3rd against the Braves. This might not have been the game that he affected the worst, but it was definitely his worst performance. He pitched just 0.2 innings, gave up only 2 hits but allowed 4 earned runs. How did he manage this feat? Well, here is how the inning went - Single, Fielders Choice (but no out), Walk, Balk, Groundout, Sac Fly, Double. Ouch. Nats would lose the game 11-2.

CapBall Grade: D. Brian Broderick definitely earned his spot on the Nationals in Spring Training, but when the regular season came it was mostly a train wreck. His FIP numbers are pretty solid due to a high BABIP, but he just was unable to get the mental side of the game down - everything affected him. I chose to give him a D instead of the F due to the fact that he had barely scratched AAA before being a Major League reliever.

2012 Nats Status: Well, on May 23rd the Nats returned Broderick to the Cards, so I would say the odds of him playing for the 2012 Nats are pretty slim.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Few Good Men: 40 - Lombardozzi

The Home Stretch!

Steve Lombardozzi - Age 23 - MLB Service Time 0.023 Years

How He Became A Nat: Drafted by the Nationals in the 19th round of the 2008 entry level draft

The Raw Numbers:
PA - 32
AVG - .194
Fielding % (3 Positions) - .960 (1 E at 3B)
PA - 616
AVG - .309
Fielding % - (3 Positions) - .997

Key Stat: 2 - The number of errors he made in over 500 chances in time split between Harrisburg and Syracuse, playing mostly shortstop and second base. That's insane. Pair him with Danny Espinosa and you got one heck of a defense up the middle.

Best Game: September 12th against the Mets. Batting behind stellar leadoff man Brian Bixler, Steve went 1-4, but he made that one count, knocking in the eventually winning run in the 7th against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Worst Game: September 9th versus the last place Astros. Steve went 0-5 with a K while the Nats won in extra innings. He led off, seeing only 16 pitches and didn't even sniff the basepaths.

2011 Capball Grade: B. It's hard to judge the cup-of-coffee players, it's based mostly on flashes and extrapolation. He didn't do much at the plate and wasn't given a whole lot of opportunities, but he showed that he is special in the field. Fielding is half the game, so it feels like he has the potential to be a quality Major Leaguer.

2012 Nats Status: Steve is stuck behind two young, talented guys in Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa. Danny is a long term, core piece. Desi is a polarizing player who could finally reach his potential, be traded, or simply given up on. I am in the camp who thinks he is special and will eventually reach a high level. So, Steve Lombardozzi is in the unenviable position of being the future while the present is still young and talented. I think the odds are good that Espi and Lombardozzi are given the keys to the middle infield and Desi is traded. Or perhaps moved to outfield.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 3

In this week's episode of Nats Talk On The Go, The Nats Blog's Joe Drugan and Capitol Baseball's Craig MacHenry talk about the Washington Nationals and Winter Meetings. The podcast is available on iTunes and available for streaming above and at the top of the right column on our homepage.


Nats Headlines:

Mark Buehrle

Rule 5 Draft

Outfield (Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper)

Winter Meetings Headlines:

Miami Marlins: Reyes, Buehrle, Bell

Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim: Pujols and Wilson

Albert Pujols' Effect on Ryan Zimmerman

Questions of the Week: Who is MLB's dream team? Who won Winter Meetings?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Few Good Men: 39 - Slaten

We are in the Home Stretch of our massive and ridiculous 44 part series - detailing every single player that suited up for the Nats this past season.

Doug 'The Anti-Clippard" Slaten - Age 31 - Just over 4 years of MLB Service Time

How he became a Nat: Selected off of waivers from the Diamondbacks after the 2009 season.

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 31
ERA - 4.41
WHIP - 2.143
FIP - 5.66
OPS/against - 1.036

Key Stat: .333. This was Slaten's BAA (Batting Average Against) vs. Left-Handed Hitters. For a LOOGY (for the uninitiated - Left-handed One Out GuY), this number is incredibly terrible. His job is to do one thing and one thing only, get out left-handers. Instead, he let them get on base 1/3 of the time with a greater than 1.000 OPS... Wow.

[Note - Judging Slaten's best and worst game is pretty difficult to measure due to the fact that he was bailed out several times by other pitchers after failing to do his one job. That said, we are going to do our best]

Best Game: June 1st vs the Phillies. In a tight contest with John Lannan facing off against (Future Nat?) Roy Oswalt, Doug Slaten came in with the bases loaded in the 6th and got Dominic Brown to fly out.

Worst Game: June 3rd vs the Diamondbacks. This was an incredibly tough decision, considering that Doug Slaten was so terrible all year long - but this is a game that defined his year. Yunesky Maya was struggling in the 5th (shocker), and he exited the game in favor of Slaten to face the lefty, Stephen Drew. 5 pitches later (3 of them balls) and the 1-0 D'Backs lead became a 4-0 D'Backs lead thanks to a crushed triple to center that almost left the park. Slaten's line for the day is just 1 hit, but he let all three inherited runners score.

CapBall Grade: F. For a LOOGY, letting in 47% of your inherited runners score is absolutely dreadful. Not only that, Doug Slaten was incredibly lucky as evidenced by his .397 BABIP. Want more? Well you can't have any, cause this is depressing me!

2012 Nats Status: Doug Slaten will not be tendered a contract by the Nats and there is a 0% chance that he will return to the ball-club.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Few Good Men: 38 - Detwiler

Ross Detwiler - age 25 - MLB Service Time - 2 years

How He Became A Nat: Taken by the Nats in the first round of the 2007 draft (6th overall)

The Raw Numbers:
IP- 66
ERA- 3.00
WHIP - 1.258
GS - 10
Tough Losses: 2

The Key Stat: IP/GS - 5.6 While not a bad number, when you draft a power lefty sixth overall you anticipate him getting deeper into games at this point in his development. But as all Nats fans know he has trouble getting through the order a third time. I'm sure the Nats front office is hoping that seasoning is the cure for that issue and that 2012 is his coming out party.

His Best Game: Sept 20 against the Phillies. Rossy D was stellar over seven and a third scoreless, giving up only 3 hits and a walk and striking out three.

His Worst Game: Sept 2 against the dreadful Mets. He lasted just 3 innings allowing 7 hits, two of which left the yard, and 6 runs, striking out just 2. His GB/FB ration was 2/13, clear evidence he did not have his best stuff and was leaving everything up in the zone.

Capball Grade: B- The Nats were .500 in his ten starts so we start with a C. He gets a bump from 5 strong relief appearances and for being a 25 year old power lefty. So we arrive at B-. Boom.

2012 Nats Status: He has an outside shot to come north from Viera as the fifth starter but it depends on a whole lot of things. If the Nats go get a starter he needs John Lannan to get traded or have a horrible spring. Baring that, the Nats failing to sign a starter or injury he is Syracuse bound and waiting for a call to come to DC.

Winter Meetings Thus Far

Things have been absolutely insane thus far but, sadly, none of these things has to do with any players that the Nats have signed.

Let's do a quick recaps of all the events with interspersed commentary:

- The Marlins (!) have signed several of the biggest Free Agent targets (Bell and Reyes) and as of this writing are one of four players left in the Albert Pujols Sweepstakes (Cards, Cubs, Angels). If I were a Marlins fan part of me would be thrilled to be in the hunt on all of these players, but the other part would be pissed off that it took so long for Loria to actually spend coin. Seems like extortion to me; publicly funded stadium and all of a sudden he has the coin to spend on players? Really? Seems a bit sketch to me.

- The Nats have, according to different sources, offered CJ Wilson 6-years as well as placed him 3rd on their to-do list - behind Buehrle and Oswalt.

- Mark Buehrle has at least 14 suitors and it seems as though the team that offers him a 4th year will be the victor. If we sign anyone, I want him. Otherwise, I would be thrilled in a rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Wang, Lannan, and Peacock.

- Roy Oswalt seems to be waiting in the weeds for Wilson and Buehrle to sign, in which case he would be the most attractive option. He seeks a 3-year deal. Risky after such an injury plagued season.

- Nats aren't actually targeting Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.

- According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox, the Nats have had more conversations with the Rays about BJ Upton. I would much rather drop $30-40 Million on Yoenis Cespedes than take on Upton's attitude.

- It's been a great few weeks for Former Nats Greats as 11 (count 'em, 11) FNG's have signed contracts (s/t @NationalsPR): Laynce Nix (PHI), Garrett Mock (TOR), Adam Kennedy (LAD), Josh Bard (LAD), Brian Bruney (CWS), Brian Sanches (PHI), Jon Rauch (NYM), Shairon Martis (PIT), Brian Schneider (PHI), Jamey Carroll (MIN), Jerry Hairston (LAD), and Mike O'Connor (NYY). These are both minor league and major league deals - mostly ridiculous.

- According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, Roger Bernadina is available via trade. I would expect the return to be very thin.

- Crack Beat Writer, Bill Ladson, reports that the Nats are considering bringing back Willie Harris to be a left-handed outfield bench bat.

- According to Kilgore, the Nats see re-signing Ankiel as an "outside possibility". I think he would be a much better 4th outfielder than "the Shark".

- With the Marrero injury, the Nationals are also looking for a right-handed platoon partner for Adam LaRoche. Signs point to Mark DeRosa, which I called over a month ago.

- In a not-so-reported piece by Leatherpants Jim Bowden, he reports that Zimmerman's agent has been rebuffed in his attempts to secure an extension from the Nats. In all honesty, I find it surprising that his agency (CAA) is pushing Zim to sign an extension after a season where Zim spent 58 games on the DL with a torn oblique.

Which of these stories do you find most interesting?? I think it's the Marlins and the Zim extension. The comment's section awaits!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Few Good Men: 37 - Clippard

Tyler Clippard - Age 26 - Arbitration eligible for the first time in 2012

How he became a Nat: Acquired via trade in December 2007 from the Yankees for Jonathan Albaladejo.

[Ed. Note - you know you have been blogging too long when you can spell Albaladejo without looking it up]

The Raw Numbers:
ERA - 1.83
WHIP - 0.838
Holds - 48
K/9 - 10.6
BABIP - .197
IR% - 22% (only two players with 60+ IP were better - Daniel McCutchen and Drew Storen)

Key Stat: 5.2. This was Clippard WPA for the 2011 season. What this essentially means is that when it came down to it, Tyler Clippard got the Nats out of more sticky situations than any other pitcher in the NL. We saw it all year long where Clippard came in with runners on base and retired all batters without allowing his inherited runners to score.

Best Game: Without a doubt, May 6th vs the pathetic Houston Astros. Tyler Clippard started the 7th inning and struck out the side... twice. He faced 6 batters and struck all of them out. Oh yea, and all of them were swinging strike-outs. Tyler Clippard is not human.

Worst Game: August 25th against the D'Backs. Nats were down 2-1 when he entered the game in the 8th inning, and it went downhill from there. Clippard only pitched 0.2 innings and gave up a walk, a double and a home run - leaving the Nats in a 5-1 deficit that they wouldn't come back from.

CapBall Grade: B+... just kidding, it's an A+. Clippard was the Nationals Pitching MVP for 2011. He literally could do no wrong. Value of relief pitchers is always difficult to determine, but there is no question that the Nats would have won far fewer games had Clippard not been around.

2012 Nats Status: I think Clippard is going to have a hard time breaking into the crowded Nats bullpen... Once again, if anyone on the pitching staff should have a reserved spot, it should be Clippard. The 8th inning is his for the foreseeable future (barring trade, which is another story for another day).

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Few Good Men: 36 - Pudge

Ivan Rodriguez - Age 40 - MLB Service Time: just over 20 years

How He Became A Nat: Signed a 2 year deal with the Nats in December 2009

The Raw Numbers:
PA - 137
AVG - .218
OPS - .604
oWAR - 0.0

The Key Stat: dWAR 0.4 In just 44 games Pudge continued to be a weapon behind the plate, throwing out over 50 percent of would-be base thieves. He was also a calming presence for many of the young pitchers, who had an ERA of 3.34 with Pudge behind the plate.

His Best Game: April 10 against the Mets. Pudge went 2-4 with 2 RBI, including the eventual game winner in the 11th with a single scoring Wilson Ramos.

His Worst Game: June 6th against the Giants. Maybe one of the worst games of his career, over 13 innings Pudge went 0-6 with 3Ks. In fact he failed the get a ball out of the infield. He recorded just 7 hits over the next month before landing on the DL.

Capball Grade: B- This really has very little to do with actual performance. It has to do with him mentoring a very good young catcher named Wilson Ramos, as well as the young pitchers. He gave a lot to the Nats at a time when he feels he can still be a starter. Any success Ramos or Flores has in the future, we can look to Pudge for at least part of the reason.

2012 Nats Status: Pudge wants to have a chance to play more than a handful of games, and possibly win a World Series. Its doubtful he or the Nats are interested in reuniting as the Nats want to get younger and more athletic, even on the bench, and are committed to Ramos behind the dish full time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Few Good Men: 35 - Espinosa

Danny Espinosa - Age 24 - MLB Service Time 1.033 years

How he became a Nat: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 First Year Player Draft

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 158
AVG - .236
HR - 21
RBI - 66
K% - 25.2
UZR - 1.0
WAR - 3.5

Key Stat: wOBA .325. Danny had the 4th highest wOBA on the Nats behind power hitters Morse, Zimmerman, and Ramos - and he did it as a 6'0" 190lbs 2nd baseman. A power hitting 2nd baseman is extraordinarily rare, especially when you can combine it with stellar up-the-middle defense. Espi has the potential to be a very special player for many years to come. This is also the 3rd highest wOBA of all NL 2nd Basemen.

Best Game: June 16th vs the Red Birds. Espinosa gave his team the chance to win this game not once, but twice. In the 4th he hit a rockets single to RF to score Michael Morse to give the Nats a lead they wouldn't relinquish until a Drew Storen blown save. Always one to pick up his players, in the 10th he came up with 2 ducks on the pond and crushed one out of the park against Fernando Salas to give the Nats a 7-4 walk-off win. He went 3 for 5 on the day with a homer and 4 RBIs.

Worst Game: September 5th against the Dodgers. This is a game that the Nats were able to win 7-2 despite Espinosa's best efforts to the contrary. In the first inning Desmond, Morse, and Werth all hit home runs - Danny struck out. The day went downhill from there as Danny added 3 more strikeouts to give him a Golden Sombrero for the day - all swinging K's so at least he wasn't just standing there. It was an 0 for 4 performance where he picked up his 13th fielding error - definitely a day to forget.

CapBall Grade: We are choosing to give Danny a B. The Nationals have found a player that will be a key piece for at least the next 5 years - a player that can hit for some power, fire up the team, and play stellar defense. But right now he is simply striking out way too much for a player that is just 24 years old. That, coupled with his 2nd half slump (122 OPS+ in the 1st half, 82 OPS+ in the 2nd half) bumped his grade down to a B.

2012 Nats Status: Danny will be in the starting lineup come Opening Day; barring injury of course. He will be the Nats 2nd baseman for years to come, unless the team is to trade Ian Desmond - in which case he will be the starting SS. If he can reduce his K% to the 20-21% range that he was in the minors then he should have an even better Sophomore campaign.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Few Good Men: 34 - Marrero

Chris Marrero - Age 23 - MLB Service Time 0.033 Years

How He Became A Nat: Drafted 15th overall by the Nats in 2006

The Raw Numbers:
Games - 31
AVG - .248
SLG - .294
oWAR - 0.5

Key Stat: XBH% - 4.6. Not good. The league average was over 7. At a corner infield position, especially First Base, you have to hit more HRs and more 2B. Now, of course this was his introduction to Major League pitching and his 44 XBH at Syracuse show his potential, but his cup of coffee didn't impress many people.

Best Game: Sept 21 against the Phillies. Chris went 2-4 with a double, a walk and 2 runs scored. He helped start an 8th inning 3-run rally that proved to be the difference in the 7-5 win.

Worst Game: Sept 17th vs. the Marlins. A big goose-egg for 5 with 2 Ks in a 13 inning loss. He also left 3 runners on base and his at-bats seemed to get worse as the game wore on. Not a good night in his hometown.

Capball Grade: C- His defense was better than advertised, but that's about all we have good to say about his 31 games. He looked lost at the plate, lacking the ability to really drive the ball to any parts of the park. He doesn't get too much of a markdown because it was his first taste of the majors, but it was still nothing more than average by any standards.

2012 Nats Status: A week ago, this would have been quite different. Heading to spring training to battle Adam LaRoche and hopefully earn the back-up 1B job and a spot off the bench. However with his torn hamstring, it is unlikely he is back before June and it is a real possibility that he never plays again in the Majors. He has a real history with injuries and the nature of hamstring injuries does not bode well for his career. [Ed note. - Does anything good ever happen at winter ball?]

Nats Talk On The Go: Episode 2 of Podcast Available Now

A new episode of Nats Talk On The Go, a collaborative Washington Nationals podcast effort between Capitol Baseball and The Nats Blog is now available for live streaming here on this site, or you can subscribe to us via iTunes. Hope you enjoy, and keep the comments coming.


Follow ups with Episode 1 Topics

First Base Changes

Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Draft

Yoennis Cespedes

Mark DeRosa

Adam Kennedy

Question of the Week: What were the best and worst transactions in Washington Nationals history?