Thursday, December 29, 2005

Once, Twice, Three Times A Hurler

Jim Bowden doesn't need no stinkin' holiday. While we were busy gorging ourselves on mashed potatoes and purchasing giant jugs of liquor for the weekend, Bowden was getting things done. The Washington Nationals finally have a pitching staff.

He signed Ramon Ortiz to a one-year $2.5 million deal, re-signed Tony Armas (I refuse to call him Junior) to a 1-year $2.1 million deal, and earlier Mike Stanton balked into a 1-year $1 million contract.

All-in-all, some decent signings by Bowden. Nothing to get tooo excited about, and nothing to get too upset over.

  • Ramon Ortiz earned the nickname Little Pedro while with the Angels. Unfortunately, it was more for his physical resemblence than a monster changeup -- although he had great potential while with the Angels. Unfortunately, after 9/11, the US cracked down on documentation, and Ortiz aged three years one winter. He went from promising youngster to middle-of-the-pack veteran practically overnight.

    Ortiz had a pretty bad year last year. He had an ERA that was 17% worse than league average (when adjusted for park), and he allowed opposing batters to unload. They hit .302/ .353/ .529 with 41 doubles and 34 homers against him. Keep in mind that some of that is a result of the outfield defense behind him. Griffey is all-world bad now; Dunn is below average; and Pena has a really spotty record. (Kearns, on the other hand, is excellent, but he spent a big chunk of the year in the minors or on the bench)

    Last year, Ortiz was neutral, but he's been a pretty extreme flyball pitcher throughout his career. He's always been homer-prone, but last year he suffered greatly, yielding 1.79 HR/9. His career average is right around 1.4, so he gave up an extra home run every other start, or so. As he moves from GABP to RFK, he'll find the spacious power alleys accomodating. (against LHB, RFK literally allows 33% fewer home runs; against righties, it allows around 40% fewer)

    He's not a strikeout artist, but he has K'd a respectable 5.8 batters per nine, and he has had decent control, walking under 3/9 in three of his last four seasons. He's a durable pitcher, having appeared in 30 games in each of the last five seasons, with four of those as a full-time starter. He's not going to give you nine innings, but if those balls aren't flying over the wall, he'll keep you in the game for six. And that's all you really can ask out of your fourth and fifth starters.

    For one year, it's a good gamble. There really isn't any downside. He doesn't cost a lot of money. He's not really taking any development time from anyone. And he could have some upside in this park. If it works out, great! If not, releasing him won't cripple the franchise.

  • Tony Armas is the great (well, not-so-great) known. When I first started seriously looking at the Expos' roster, I was disappointed by Armas' results. I had heard a lot about him, but he's one of those players who has never been able to live up to their potential. In Armas' case, most likely because his arm breaks every other week or so.

    Last year was another disappointment. Too many walks, too many homers, not enough strikeouts. His starts were the toughest to watch (and I swear I saw about 15 of them in person). He pitches very slowly, and would frequently walk off the mound to talk to the infielders, especially Vinny Castilla. Then he'd pitch another ball or a fouled-off-strike.

    But he still has that potential. It seemed like he was just missing a little something on his pitches. Perhaps an off-season with a little bit of rest will help him. (The Ladson article linked above notes that he's pitching a little bit in the Winter Leagues, and that his shoulder surgery went really well, according to his doctor) If it wouldn't present a problem for his arm, I would think that he could make an excellent reliever. If he wasn't worried so much about pacing himself (not that he ever made it more than five innings anyway), he could probably get enough juice behind that fastball to get it past hitters. Still, the batters in spring training will let us know how his arm is doing.

  • Mike Stanton is the signing I'm least comfortable with. It's not that he's a bad pitcher -- or that he's an especially good one. It's that he's going to be fifth on the pitching depth chart. With an inept offense and some starters who don't work deep into games, I suppose having a vet reliever is more important. But I have a hunch that he's closer to Antonio Osuna than he is to Gary Majewski.

    Stanton, despite a reputation as one, is not a lefty specialist. He's always been more in the Mike Remlinger class: a lefty who has good success getting righties out. Frank doesn't mind leaving a lefty out there to face a righty or two, so Stanton will face his share. For the fourth or fifth reliever on the depth chart, you could do worse. But you could also do it for far less than $1 million. Still, we're running out of places to blow cash. Not a great deal. Not a bad deal.


  • Here's St. Barry's Take.