Saturday, March 31, 2007

Damn You, Nationals!!!!

Nats Triple Play went to the stupidly priced exhibition game today, where the cheap-ass team forced everyone to pay full price to watch minor leaguers. They came back disappointed by the experience, and relay this bit of horrid news:
First, for those who didn't check it out, Hard Times Cafe is gone from the food court, replaced by a lesser hot dog vendor.

I can't think of a response to this which doesn't involve 1) some sort of hex upon the Lerners and every single one of their spawn or 2) various things which would result in the police and/or FBI knocking on my door.

Oh, sure, the overpriced, minuscule, shoeleather brisket's still there, I bet.

But NO CHILI NACHOS???? What price your soul, Messrs Lerner and Kasten? What price your soul?

Friday, March 30, 2007

Attention Stalkers:

Commence stalking.

thanks to the dc sports chick, who hopefully isn't doing too much stalking.

Nationals Love Triangle

The WaPo has a good story on the threeway relationship that really matters most: Jim Bowden, Stan Kasten, and Mark Lerner.

There are some good quotes in there that an armchair psychologist could have a field day with.

The CW is that Jim Bowden, who's a love him or hate him kinda guy, ingratiated himself with Mark Lerner when the tea leaves started blowing the Lerners way, and that Bowden isn't really Stan Kasten's ideal man. It's just that the friendship between Bodes and Lerner prevents Kasten from taking out the trash.

Svrluga doesn't draw any conclusions, but most of the quotes in the piece don't really dispel it either.
Take this graf:
"There's more than one way to skin a cat," said Kasten, pointing out that he is also markedly different than his buttoned-down GM in Atlanta, John Schuerholz. "I believe that. There's no formula, no one solution. Each situation requires an analysis of what's required. I tried to do that here, and it changes on a frequent basis."

That's hardly a ringing endorsement. That could easily be interpreted as "Well, I'm stuck with him, so I might as well take advantage of his limited skill set."

Says Lerner of Jim:
"After about two minutes, we just had a great relationship," Lerner said. "I think he was a little different than what I expected. I just like Jim a lot. I respect his work ethic. He's a good man. He and his fiancée, Joy, are good friends of ours."

Now that's a ringing endorsement.

Bowden certainly knows where his bread is buttered:
"They're great human beings, all of them, the entire family," Bowden said. "The family includes the wives and the children and the cousins and the grandchildren. They're all special people."

Another non-ringing endorsement:
"I felt good enough about what was here to give Jim the first shot."

Translation: "I settled."
Past performance is good for whatever lessons you might learn from it, but every situation requires a person tailored to that situation -- and that's what we try to do here."

Translation: "We're working around his limitations."

Kasten was asked if he thought that Bowden had the right skills to rebuild:
"I do. I have no reason not to think that. You know, you make adjustments always. Always, always, always."

That second sentence is pretty damning. Do you suppose that he intended the third and fourth to apply to himself?

More from Bowden:
"I think that the decision that was made from ownership to Stan all the way down was something that none of us will ever second-guess."

Translation: "We don't agree on a lot of things, but we march ahead for our jobs' sake."

There's a lot more love tossed back and forth in the piece, but there's an awful lot of subtext there, too. It's an interesting relationship, and watching how it develops over the next year or two is going to be fascinating.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Statheads on Kearns

Baseball Prospectus has a profile of Austin Kearns that starts out strong, but quickly descends into statistical mumbo-jumbo. As we've started to collect more and more information about the game, especially in terms of how batted balls are hit, just categorizing and grouping things seems to have turned into analysis. I'm not smart enough to figure out how to do it better, but I'm not completely sure that much of it is helping anything anyway. What does this mean?
He should have been better than he was in 2005, and even though his 2004 was well below expectations as far as BABIP is concerned, his 13.7 percent line drive rate is abnormally low, and clearly the outlier amongst the group, meaning he most likely should have been better. Let's say that Kearns' line drive rate in 2007 should be 20.4, the average of his five years in the majors; given that, his BABIP should be around .324, which isn't unrealistic considering his past.

It's not hard to see why his 2006 was most in line with his eBABIP; his groundball rate was at its lowest, and he did not pop out weakly all that much either. His high rate of grounders and pop-ups is part of the reason he underperformed his 2005 BABIP so much.

This isn't meant to pick on this particular writer, who has done a number of articles I've enjoyed.

I just think that at a certain point, too many stats isn't necessarily a good thing, especially if they're not making things more clear.

Reconsidering The Soriano Non-Trade

In most every season preview I've seen that describes the expected woeful performance of our fair team, there have been more shots lobbed at the Nationals' decision to not trade Alfonso Soriano last July. It's a decision that I defended at the time, but we've got some new information in the last week, buried in an excellent Dave Sheinin article.

At the time, there were lots of rumors, but nobody was every able to pin down who or what was offered. All the while, they mocked PT Bowden (who with his statements to the press was making an ass of himself), for asking for too much and having unreasonable demands.

The only serious offer which passed the smell test was the package that Will Carroll [insert your own joke] reported: Jason Kubel, a slugging outfielder who was coming off a knee injury that has turned him into a young DH, and Scott Baker, a solid starter prospect who could probably be a good 3/4.

It turns out that the team would later deny that that was actually offered. But even if it had, that's a so-so package, and choosing to keep Soriano is certainly a defensible choice, especially with the two draft picks they'd get when he walked at the end of the year.

When Nats 320 interviewed Stan Kasten a few months ago, they asked him about the Soriano trade, and he admitted that he overruled a deal that Bowden wanted to make:
"NOT A THING-- We would take today or YOU WOULD TAKE TODAY!. NOT A THING! That is better, than what we wound up getting. Now, why is that, its going to be a mystery to me. Because the truth is, we got better pitchers in our deals for Hernandez and even Marlon Anderson (Johny Nunez from the Dodgers) than for Soriano. THAT SHOCKS ME!! SHOCKS ME (POUNDING HIS DESK). Nevertheless, it is the truth."

"And, what I saw, coming down to the deadline, the last day, there was a determination to trade him (on the part of Washington's Baseball Think Tank), I was worried. We were about to trade him for NEXT TO NOTHING!! And that’s, when I had to step in, and say--NO!!. We are not going down that road. WE ARE NOT GOING TO DO STUPID THINGS!!."

So what was actually offered? We haven't heard a thing, til' that Sheinin piece. Buried inside it was something interesting:
One of the teams the Nationals spoke with extensively last summer regarding Soriano was the Minnesota Twins, according to industry sources. In return for Soriano, the Nationals asked for a package headed by one of the Twins' top pitching prospects, either left-hander Glen Perkins or right-hander Matt Garza -- rated the Twins' fourth- and seventh-best prospects in 2006 -- but the Twins' best offer was for right-hander Kevin Slowey, a control specialist who was not among the team's top 10 prospects in 2006.

The Nationals passed. Slowey, however, after an impressive 2006 season, has climbed to the Twins' third-best prospect in the 2007 Baseball America rankings and received consideration in the Twins' camp this spring for promotion to the majors.

"All these months later, and knowing everything I know now," Nationals President Stan Kasten said, with regard to the Soriano non-trade, "I'd still do the same thing."

Slowey looks like he's a solid prospect, dominating hitters at the lower levels. But he was a 22-year old A-ball pitcher at the deadline. While he's a solid prospect, many in that same peanut gallery would've slaughtered Bowden for such a paltry return.

It's likely they'd have chipped in another pseudo prospect or two, but Slowey as a centerpice? Meh.

If that was the best offer -- and that's really the only solid reporting we've had -- then I'm even more confident that the Nats made the right decision in holding on to him. The two extra draft picks the team picked up, especially in the draft-mastering hands of Mike Rizzo, give the Nats a pretty good chance of picking up the next Slowey.

Yes, the Nats did get screwed over a bit by the protection of the Cubs first rounder and the changes to the draft compensation system, which created seemingly hundreds of new sandwich picks, devaluing the second-rounder they received from the Cubs instead. But given what they knew at the time, they did right.

Answering Those Burning Questions

Before the fake games began, I asked 10 questions that would be the keys to the spring. Now that they're barnstorming their ways north, let's see how they got answered.

1) So is it really Patterson and someone and someone and pray for a forfeit?
I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel better about the pitching. But I'd also be lying if I said that I felt good about the pitching.

The surprise, if there could be one, of spring was Tim Redding's failure. Given his track record with Manny Acta and his moderate bounce back success in the minors last year, everyone had him penciled in on the rotation. Instead, he'll be cheering on the Buckeyes.

In my answer to the question, I know I had him penciled in (along with Hill and Williams), but I thought for sure that Matt Chico wouldn't make the cut. Shows what I know!

2) Is Patterson truly an ace?
I think this one's still an incomplete. There were some warning signs this spring given reports of some lost velocity and his lack of command with his breaking pitches, but yesterday's start (admittedly against a split-squad Orioles team) seemed to be encouraging. I'm still holding my breath, though.

3) Who's on first?
While I'm not thrilled that Dmitri Young is clogging up the slot, given that the team ultimately made it a choice between a wife-beater and an apathetic, they made the right call.

I'd still rather they give Church, Snelling or Casto a first base mitt and teach them to be Brad Wilkerson, but whatever. Young's one of Bodes' boys, dawg.

4) Is Endy Chavez 3.0 worth upgrading to?
Other than his tender groin, Nook Logan had a fine spring. (You never thought I'd type that, did you?) With all my usual caveats about the meaninglessness of spring training stats, he ended up at .255/ .352/ .362, which given his defense, would make him a roughly league average outfielder.

What's impressive about those numbers is the 'isolated' portion of those. If you look at the difference between his batting average and his slugging and on-base, he was doing just enough: walking at a pretty good clip (7 times in ~54 plate appearances) and smacking just enough extra-base hits to keep the defense honest.

He's not going to hit for power, but if the improvement in the walk rate is real and not just a spring training sample size fluke, he can be a useful player. And given how much success that hitting coach Mitchell Page seems to have had with other Nats in improving their batting eye, there's a glimmer of optimism there.

4) Whither Church?
He's nominally the team's starting LFer, but his inability to hit in the spring, combined with Chris Snelling's emergence (especially all the praise of his "dirty uniform" which is as much a shot across the bow of Church as anything), he could be on his last legs. He's going to need a hot start or to manually tweak Logan's groin some more, if he's going to hold on to the job.

Given his performance and that the Nats FINALLY have reasonable alternatives in place for him, there's little point in defending him if he doesn't produce.

5) How much can one shortstop stink?
Not very much at all, thank you!

Guzman was definitely the surprise at camp. I only saw him in that final game, but he looked like a different player with a completely remade swing, staying back on the ball to drive it, instead of flicking his wrist at the ball with the disdain of a Frenchman.

He hit a pretty incredible .425/ .465/ .575, which, of course, is a Bugs Bunny number. But if you knock .150 points of batting average off that, he's at .275/ .315/ .425, which is on the high side of reasonable expectations for him. Could he be primed for a solid Cristian Guzman season?

I didn't see enough of him to assess his defense, but by at least one account, he's holding back on some of his throws.

6) Will Felipe not FLop at second?
The defense has been pretty good, it seems. He made two errors, but it's a small enough sample that it's basically meaningless to use. Bowden praised him a number of times, but then again, he praises most of his own moves.

7) How's the elbow, Luis?
¡No es bueno, señor!

8) Is Jesus really the answer?

As the number of emails I've gotten asking me about how great this guy is attest, yes. Yes, he is. Jesus rules! He wins the Mike DeFelice award for best batting average in camp, hitting a scorching .536 and slugging a Bonds-on-mega-roidsian .926. And everyone RAVES about his defense. Power hitting catcher, rocket arm? What's not to love.

Though it sucks that he's going to lose a year of development time, he's lucky in that because Brian Schneider is a lefty, he'll likely only have to face the division's crap-tossing lefties -- Jamie Moyer just soiled himself.

9) Who has options?
This, to me, was the key question of the spring. So many of the decisions weren't necessarily made on merit, but on roster status and for flexibility purposes. The team was dying to give Kory Casto a chance, but to do so would've meant losing Chris Snelling or Ryan Church. The team likely wanted to reward Saul Rivera for his strong finish last year, but he had options and Jesus Colome didn't. It's not just an on-field competition; it's also an off-field battle.

10) How does the bench look?
Surprisingly non-terrible. The less we talk about 2005's bench, the better we'll be. But with Robert Fick and Chris Snelling coming off the bench as PHers, there's a little bit of pop from the left side. Ronnie Belliard and Josh Wilson likely won't embarrass themselves, and should give Manny Acta plenty of double-switch opportunities to hide 1) the pitcher and 2) Cristian Guzman.

Given all the traps out there at the beginning of the spring (Womack, Macias, Lee), the team did pretty well. (I'm just happy that I nailed the bench in my pre-Spring answer!)

  • Spring does breed optimism. And although I'm not sending in my post-season deposit, I certainly feel a bit better about this team. I think we're in the 95-loss region, but I think that there's also a potential for a much better result. Each year, we've had a list of about 10 "IF"s that needed to go right to be in the playoff hunt. 9 of them went right in '05. Maybe 2 of them went right last year.

    The magic of spring is that we don't know how many of them will go right this year. And that possibility is what makes us tingle in our bellies when we think about sitting in the warm stands with an overpriced beer in our hands come Monday.

  • Wednesday, March 28, 2007

    AL Preview

    A formal apology to the Japanese will come later...

    Eastern Division

    New York Yankees: (94-68)
    Tragedy beckons
    young children go without
    Series rings to count

    Boston Red Sox: (92-70)
    Mystery pitch dives
    now rises high, far and gone
    'twas Beckett's curve ball

    Toronto Blue Jays (82-80)
    Skip off to fight with
    B.J., A.J., Overbay.
    Pray for rain in dome?

    Baltimore Orioles (72-90)
    Vitamin B-12
    Fills their needles, makes them strong
    like Pete's grip on purse

    Tampa Bay (68-94)
    Oh, no! Maddon Curse
    their prospects wig out and now
    Ty Wig bats clean up

    Central Division

    Detroit Tigers (87-75)

    Pitchers' errant throws
    like big thorn in tiger paw
    pulled out with pine tar

    Chicago White Sox (85-77)
    Put it on the board
    another Vazquez homer
    and Ozzie's next slur

    Cleveland Indians (83-79)
    Rock stars to statheads:
    If Hafner avoids scissors,
    look good on paper

    Minnesota Twins (82-80)
    One thing is certain
    Ramon Ortiz: not their ace
    Just play the damn kids

    Kansas City (69-93)
    Rich King Gilgameche
    lords over the pitching mound
    you 'fraid he's just bad

    Western Division
    Los Angeles Angels (90-72)
    Who needs OBP
    when you have a steroid cheat
    patrolling center?

    Texas Rangers (84-78)
    Wilkerson and Byrd
    standing around the outfield
    didn't work for us

    Oakland A's (76-86)
    Without the big three
    Beane must write a new chapter
    or start selling jeans

    Seattle Mariners (75-87)
    Falling from the sky
    like rain comes the tears of kids
    thinking of '01

    Bottom of the ninth
    bases loaded and two outs
    ARod has come through

    Cy Young
    Happy days are here
    for our Canadian friends
    Halladay on top

    AL Champion:
    What will Manny be
    with a second ring on hand
    and grill he can't sell

    Go North, Young, Men

    The Nats pretty much finished the last piece of the puzzle when they purchased reliever Jesus Colome's contract (put him on the 40-man roster). Since they were likely to lose him if they didn't, he's heading north, sending Saul River (who has options left) to Columbus.

    It also means tough luck for Kory "Don't Call Me Bernie" Castro. If Nook Logan's groin isn't tender and meaty, then there's no room for Casto.

    So what're we left with?

    Catchers (2): Brian Schneider, Jesus "No, not that one" Flores
    First base (2): Dmitri "Meathook" Young, Robert "Unprintable Swear" Fick
    Second base (2): Felipe "FLop" Lopez, Ron "Rafael" Belliard
    Shortstop (2): Cristian "Weak Groundout" Guzman, Josh Wilson
    Third base (1): Ryan Zimmerman
    Left field (2): Ryan "Temple of Doomed" Church, Chris "Outback" Snelling
    Center field (1): Nook "Endy 3.0" Logan
    Right Field (1): Austin Kearns
    Total: 13

    Starting pitchers (5): John "Doe Eyes" Patterson, Shawn "Hoser" Hill, Matt "Boy" Chico, Jerome "5-0" Williams, Jason "Ingrid" Bergmann
    Relievers (7): Chad Cordero, Jon "El Gigante" Rauch, Ryan Wagner, Ray "Whopper" King, Micah Bowie, Jesus "No, not that one" Colome, Levale "Nickname me, please" Speigner

    Them's who we're going to war with. As long as Uncle Teddy doesn't yank funding, at least.

    Spinning With Boz

    OMG does the heavy lifting, taking apart Tom Boswell's latest efforts to spin all things Nats in the most positive light.

    The basic crux of Boz' argument is that the Nats are in a good position now because with a low payroll, there's more room to add players -- one a year, he suggests -- to help build to something better. Fair enough I guess.

    Read Boz' piece then Harper's analysis. Here's one of OMG's key points:
    And do you think the other teams are simply going to stand pat? Are they going to mope like Eeyore, “Oh darn. We spent 90 million this year and didn’t win and now we can’t add anyone else. Guess we’ll just pack it in.” Teams are always adding to payroll, or working around ending existing contracts to figure out ways to get the guys they want. That’s the way it works in every sport. The Nats small payroll is an advantage, but not a large one.

    A poster at Baseball Primer pretty much sums up my reaction:
    Am I missing something here? The Nationals are about to get a new stadium, but within the same division, so are the Mets (and possibly the Marlins). The Nationals are in a sizeable market (which they share with the Orioles), but the Mets are in a bigger market, and the Braves, Phillies and Marlins all play in sizeable markets without any other MLB teams. The Mets, Phillies and Braves all control their own regional sports networks, while the one that carries the Nationals games (MASN) is controlled by Angelos. I fail to see an 800-pound gorilla in the making. If the Nationals becomes competitive, the franchise could transform itself into a force to be reckoned with, but so could every other team in the division (including their fellow have-not the Marlins, who unlike the Nationals, moved into the rebuilding phase with a solid farm system).

    So where's the advantage?

    If Only Pete Rose Had Tried This

    From Todd Jacobson's blog, which still doesn't have permalinks ("One More Down" Post)...
    The reading of Major League Baseball’s Rule 21, which prohibits gambling on baseball, is a staple of spring training, but Nationals officials hammered home the point in a unique way: on a cake. The wording of the rule was plastered on a pair of sheet cakes during the annual meeting. Then, of course, it was eaten.


    How many slices do you think that Dmitri Young had?

    His previous posts notes the "demotion" of Jason Simontacchi, who should be out 2-3 weeks. Since he was a non-roster invitee, they don't have to actually disable him or send him to the minors because he doesn't actually appear on any of the team's rosters. They can just activate him when the time comes. And in a few weeks, one of the relievers will have likely pitched themselves out of a job. (Or Patterson will have broken.)

    Abraham Nunez was also reassigned to minor-league camp. I hope he takes assignement to Columbus. We'll likely need his bat at some point with Snelling's and Church's injury history. Nunez was one of the surprises of camp, coming out of nowhere to surpass Michael Restovich as the RH OFer. (If a 6th or 7th OFer can really be a surprise)

    Todd says the final roster slot (assuming Nook Logan's health) is down to one of Saul Rivera, Kory Casto and Jesus Colome. He points out that Colome's lack of 40-man status could make it harder for him, even if he still has a bit of prospect dust left in that limber right arm.

    At the same time, if they did clear a spot for him, they'd have zero chance of losing him, which would be a possibility if they just let him wander off into the woods at the end of spring.


    In which we point out the errors of others...

    Fresh off MASN's misidentification of Ryan Zimmerman (Who the hell is Brian Zimmerman, and how the hell can you screw him up?), comes word that last night our closer was identified as Chad Codero -- pescetarian, perhaps? I didn't see it. Anyone else catch it?

    In the 'ironic' category, Nationals Journal re-pointed out the Brian Zimmerman mistake yesterday in a post flogging the WaPo's spring training preview in today's paper.

    How's that ironic, you ask? Well, take a look at our starting left fielder.

    Kory / Bernie, Casto/ Castro. It's all the same to me.

    (Thanks to the semi-anonymous tipster)

    Tuesday, March 27, 2007

    Quick Thoughts On A Meaningless Game

    This is the first time that I've really been able to see the team since that initial Patterson game about 13 weeks ago. Just some thoughts...

  • Cristian Guzman is a different player. They've really broken down his swing. In '05, he hit completely with his hands, slapping at the ball with a little hitch as he lunged forward. In his first AB, he stayed back, kept his hands inside and swung with a strong base. That's a really good sign.

  • Zimmerman looks like he's put on about 5-10 pounds (hopefully of muscle!). His AB was encouraging. With a runner on third, he fought off a few tough fastballs before finding one away that he could drive to the wall.

    With the understanding that knocking in a run is ALWAYS a good thing, it worries me a bit that he might press a bit in those situations, feeling that he has to do anything he can to knock that run in given how little offensive talent around him. Productive outs are an important part of winning individual games, but making them in the first place shouldn't be the goal. We're still going to need him to get on base and get hits.

  • Jerome Williams has an excellent changeup. It's got a lot of movement, and the batters seem to be really fooled by it. The fastball seems so-so, but he's able to keep him off balance with the change and a sloppy looking breaking pitch. It's hard to tell what he's throwing, but it looks like he's alternating between a slider that spins up and down more than left to right. His curve follows the same movement, just a bit slower and with a bigger break.

  • Although they didn't show a clear play, Dmitri Young probably should've been able to knock down Williams' pickoff throw. Austin Kearns bailed him out with a strike to third.

  • They sent Young? Wha? I thought we got rid of Tony Beasley! Nobody out, I don't understand it. I bet Manny Acta, who hates to give up outs, gives him a talkin' to.

  • Zimmerman can field, can't he? That swinging bunt was a terrific play. Earlier, he made a great throw when he nabbed a grounder while running into foul territory. When I saw the play live, I assumed he was hugging the line, but on the replay, you could see that he took three or four quick steps, reading the ball perfectly. It wasn't great positioning; it was great reaction.

  • Felipe Lopez is less than worthless against lefties, and now he has a walk and a poke up the middle against a lefty who's having a pretty good spring so far. Much is made of Logan's switch-hitting problems, but we never hear about FLop's.

  • Dmitri Young really has stone hands. Nick Johnson was pretty brutal there last year, but Young is going to be a disaster. At least it's not FLop scatter-shotting them from short!

  • Another hit for FLop. What's impressive about it was the patience. He waited back and just flipped a shot into right-center, the perfect approach with his struggles against lefties. Lopez has talked about how he changed his approach with the Nats last year, realizing that he needed to cut back on his swing because of the size of the park. He didn't hit for power, but he got on base at a great rate. Perhaps he's learning to do the same thing with lefties?

  • Got down this far? Sucker! Go read this now.

  • Too Darn Hot

    It's 87 degrees in my office, thanks to my westward facing windows. Were it not for the mini fan on my desk, I'd be doing my John Patterson impersonation on the floor.

    Two quick links (other than the 1,400 or so you get each day on the side bar)

    First, the Times interviews Mitchell Page. What comes across is the love he has for the game, and coaching batting.

    Second is Svrluga's follow-up to his article this morning about ticket problems. He got a bunch of answers to your questions. Perhaps he could do the Ann Landers thing full time?

    Meanwhile... I'm still waiting for my confirmation email. And no tickets at home as of a few minutes ago. I'm waiting 'til Wednesday like the website says, and then I'm prepared to be on hold for 2 hours.

    Oh, and Ray King and Dmitri Young had their contracts purchased today -- no surprise. They're both on the 40-man roster, and they'll both be heading north come Monday.

    The game's on MASN tonight, and I think it's the debut of their pregame show with Johnny Holliday and former Red Ray Knight. It's a shame it's such a beautiful day. I don't really want to be cooped up inside tonight to watch it.

    Keepin' Score

    Though I'm mocked for it by heartless jerks, I always keep score at games I go to. I like how it forces you to pay attention to the intricacies and how it's a nice little souvenir of what you've seen. I can look back at old scorecards now and remember what happened on specific plays and bring back details that are taking space up of things that are actually useful to remember.

    When the team came, I wanted to order a scorebook, so I could have something more permanent than the crappy card they overcharge for at the game. After looking at a few, I ended up making my own. For a few bucks at Kinkos, you can get it bound (plenty of good cover choices here) and have something that won't fall apart during the mid-August sweats.

    It's got a place to track pitches and enough boxes for plenty of double-switches and extra innings.

    If you're interested and would like a copy of it, just send me an email.

    Monday, March 26, 2007

    Stadium Really Taking Shape

    JDLand toured the ballpark site this morning, and gives us some great pictures of how things are shaping up. Wide concourses. distant upper decks. It's all there. Plus, one beaming Stan Kasten.

    Unobjectively Statistical

    In preparation for the highly anticipated Haiku Season Preview (where last year, you learned that the Tigers would lose 92 games), I've been hard at work at CP labs, crunching numbers for you, our loyal reader.

    Although I don't want to jump to the conclusion, ruining the 14,000 words between now and the end, I was sort of surprised by what the numbers told me. Not only won't this team be historically bad, they might not, well... let's look at the numbers.

    Keep in mind that these are just thumbnail estimates, mostly pulled out of my backside and shaped a bit to make them look normal. If you think I've gone wrong anywhere, just pop in a comment.

    First, about the stats. Runs Created (RC)is a stat created by Bill James. It aims to use basic stats, assembling them in such a way so as to estimate what a player actually contributed to the team's bottom line. No, it's not the best system, but it's a simple system, especially for the purposes of what I'm doing. If you want more info on it, there's a ton here.

    One of the beautiful things about RC is that it can be as complex or as simple as you need. I'm keeping things simple and using the hacksaw version. If you multiply a player's On-base times his Slugging times his ABs, you're pretty close to the more elaborate forms of RC.

    To estimate the player's OBP and SLG, I'm bringing back CRAP (Chris' Random-Ass Projections). Basically, I eyeball the numbers, looking for trends, expectations, etc. My guesses are all in line with some of the other various projection systems out there. (You can check most of them out at

    To estimate ABs, I started out by creating a depth chart at each position. At catcher, for example, I expect Brian Schneider to get 70% of the starts. Jesus Flores gets 25% and Robert Fick plays 5%. You can finagle around with the percentages for the backup, but their limited PT isn't going to affect the bottom line more than a run or two here or there.

    To get the total of ABs for each position, I assigned each roster slot a lineup spot and divvied up the ABs according to how many that lineup slot typically gets in a season. So second base, by virtue of having leadoff hitter Felipe Lopez, gets more ABs than Catcher, which is slotted at the bottom of the lineup.

    The chart should be self-explanatory, even if it's not the most readable. Next to the position total, I've included the '06 position total for rough comparison though the AB totals won't match because the fielding positions don't necessarily have the same batting order position.

    They're due for big downgrades at first, center and left, giving the Nats lineup an RC total of roughly 697 runs. They scored 746 last year, so they're roughly 50 runs worse. With the loss of Soriano, Johnson and the additions of Guzman and Logan to the lineup, that's a number that passes the smell test.

    What about the other side of the ball? This is where I'm having problems. Projecting pitchers is a fool's errand. It's even more difficult to judge playing time because of injury, and ERA is dependent on a lot of factors outside the pitcher's control. So, I'm reallllly pulling numbers out of my butt, and the conclusion I've reached? Scary stuff...

    I played it conservative with Patterson's and Hill's IP because of their injury histories. And I tacked on a bunch of 6.00 (ie: replacement level) innings on the back of the pen and rotation to account for the filler that will inevitably trickle through the roster at one point or another. I'm expecting about 50 more IP out of the starting pitching and the team total IP would've been middle of the pack last year.

    The total earned runs allowed is 790. That's 13 fewer than last year, and that's assuming a so-so injury-filled season from Patterson. Lost in all the noise about this year is the fact that the Nationals had ONE starter with an ERA below 5 last year, Mike O'Connor's 4.80 -- and that was in just 20 starts. The pitching was already on the verge of being historically bad. None of the new guys brought in this year are likely to beat out what Ortiz and Armas did last year, but it's going to be just as hard for them to be worse.

    If they get anything at all from Patterson, the pitching is going to be vastly better. (Plug Patterson in at 180 IP of 3.50, for example, and that's another 17 runs off the board)

    If we want to be even more conservative, let's plug in a 7.00 ERA for those starting pitcher replacements -- the team is only about 10 earned runs worse than last year's version.

    The lesson of the day: When you're at rock bottom, it's hard to go lower. That projected 4.90 ERA is .13 runs better than last year, but it would still be good enough for 16th -- last! -- in the NL.

    You've noticed that to this point that I've only been discussing earned runs. We need to make an adjustment to those totals to figure out the total runs allowed.

    I'm going to fudge it a bit, but the average NL team allowed .27 unearned runs per game last year. The Nationals were quite a bit worse (.35) last year. I think the defense will be less error-prone this year, so we'll split the difference. 162 games times .31 unearned per game gives us an additional 50 unearned runs.

    We'll add that back into the earned total, giving us 840 runs allowed. Last year's team gave up 872. The pitching is thirty runs better?!?

    It's possible to go even lower if you make subjective adjustments to account for what should be a better defensive team. Just to pull more numbers out of my butt...

    Catcher is probably around 5 runs better with more attention to base stealers. Take away 10 runs for Dmitri Young's stone hands and immobility. Add 10 back in for Felipe Lopez' range. Zimmerman's a wash. Shortstop should see a marginal improvement, so we'll plus it up by five. Left is likely a wash. Right should be an improvement because Guillen was mediocre, so let's say another five. Then at center, despite Logan's problems, he's probably worth 15 or more runs over Church and Byrd from last year. Add it up and you're at a +30 runs on defense over last year.

    So what're we left with?
    Runs Scored: 697
    Runs Allowed: 840
    Runs Allowed with Defensive Adjustment: 810

    You can estimate win totals with runs scored and allowed, thanks to our good friend Pythagoras.

    Winning % = (Runs Scored ^2) / ((Runs Scored ^ 2) + (Runs Allowed ^ 2))

    Plug the numbers in, and you get a 66-96 record, 5 wins worse than last year.

    If you prefer the subjective defense method, you get 69-93

    Bad, for sure, but nowhere near historically awful. I'll take it!

  • If you want to do your own tinkering, in general, every 10 runs saved (or scored!) adds another win to the bottom line. So if Patterson does put up that 180 IP of 3.50 ERA, it's another two wins.

    The question many of you'll ask first is what happens if you plug Church into center. The offense projections assume that Logan gets 80% of the PT in center, Church 15%. If those flip, it's a 22-run improvement on offense. When you adjust for defense, most -- if not all -- of that gap closes. That's also assuming that Logan can get his OBP and SLG up to .310 and .345 respectively

  • Sunday, March 25, 2007

    Major League Spleen Venting

    First, more roster crap, thanks in part to our friends at Les Poste.

    Looks like Casto gets the start in left. Church moves to center (with Logan going on the DL) and Snelling rotting on the bench. But given the defense described in the aforlinked post, they should just give Casto a 1B mitt and be done with it.

    If I'm reading the press release right, then it appears that Tim Redding, Billy Traber and the forgotten Jermaine Van Buren have all stepped aboard the Columbus Clipper. (Also, Luzinski Jimenez was sent to the minors, giving Josh Wilson the backup IF job.)

    I probably missed a thing or six in there, but we've got a week. I'll beat it into the ground between now and then.

  • Now for the spleen venting. And for a change, it's not me. The natives are restless and they're taking it out on teh blawgs. Nats 320's post on season tickets indicates that he has a ton of angry readers. And Svrluga's morning post has become a vent-o-thon.

    Meanwhile, we better pray that the sun doesn't start melting away the snow pack near the Nats' ticket printing office in Saskatchewan, otherwise they're not going to be getting these sleds full of tickets to DC in time.

  • Could today have been more beautiful? Plenty of sun. No DC-style humidity. Just warm enough that a light jacket was all you needed. Perfect, perfect weather. I ventured out to Blackwater Refuge near Cambridge, MD (home of the eagle cam!).

    The highlight of the trip was the pair of bald eagles we saw facing off against a pair of osprey over a smaller section of water. The eagles were gliding along, presumably looking for something scaly to munch on, when the osprey would start squawking at them with a call that sounds like a child's chuckle doll. The osprey then made a few dive bombing runs at the much larger birds. When the osprey got near, the eagles would thrust their talons upwards, taking a slash while flying nearly upside down. The osprey backed off -- smart boys! -- flew around a bit, then made another run, until the eagles decided that it'd just be easier to go someplace else.

    On the way back, my girlfriend and I stopped off at a crab house and watched the sun set over the bay while we stuffed ourselves with fresh fish. It doesn't get much better than that.

    I guess there was a game today, but, really, does it matter?

  • Clearing Out The Dead Wood

    Just rehashing what Barry's reporting...

    Travis Lee was released today, giving Dmitri Young the first base job. His release makes it all the more puzzling that they whacked Larry Broadway so early, especially because it was really clear that Lee wasn't going to head north. I'm guessing that they didn't want to have to justify why they were taking Young over Broadway, especially given "The PLAN!" By removing him from the equation early, they avoid some questions, and nobody in their right mind is going to question the decision of Young over Lee; that's clearly the right one.

    -- Tim Redding was outrighted to Columbus (meaning he cleared waivers and is off the 40-man). No word on whether he'd accept the assignment. I'd hope he would because we're likely to need him at some point. Hopefully his relationship with Manny Acta helps there.

    -- Joel Hanrahan was optioned to Columbus. I didn't realize he had options left. He's gone for now, but I'd bet we'll see him at some point.

    -- Joe "Sloppy" Thurston head to minor league camp. I'd hope he'd stick in the minors for depth/injury purposes.

    -- John Patterson passed out from dehydration, no doubt undone by the strain of 70 whole pitches. An odd duck, he. When your ace is emulating Tony Armas, you know you're in trouble.

    -- Nook Logan strained his groin, and his status is up in the air. If he weren't able to go, Ryan Church would likely get the job, and it could cement Kory Casto's spot on the 25-man roster. Based on some of the bellwether comments/articles over the last two days, I think the team has every intention of heading north with Casto in tow. They even floated the idea of an 11-man pitching staff.

    I like the idea, but I wonder where he'd play. He needs full time ABs, as do Snelling and Church. Three heads might sound like a good idea, but it didn't seem to work out too well for Cerberus.

    Saturday, March 24, 2007

    Casto Coming North?

    From Barry:
    Casto has options remaining, so unlike Church and Snelling, he could be sent to the minors without risk of losing him to another team. But there are indications that the Nationals are at least considering taking an 11-man pitching staff to start the season in order to make room for Casto.

    I'm not holding my breath, but it'd be interesting. Even if they back down from Church, Snelling would deserve the LF job. Then the only position for regular ABs is first, and the thought of Dmitri Young there makes Jim Bowden tingle. So where would he play?

    Old Friends, New Places, Same Attitude

    Our good friend Jose Guillen is salivating. He's looking forward to playing the Angels.
    "Against these guys, I'm gonna tell you straightforward, the anger comes out of me," the Mariners right fielder said Friday. "I want to kill all those guys."

    At this point, the writer explains that he didn't mean "kill" in a literal sense, which indicates to me that the writer hasn't been around Jose too long.
    "I (wish) we could play them 162 times. That's going to be my motivation. And trust me, that's not good when Jose Guillen gets motivated. I really step up to a really different level."

    So far this spring, he's 5-7 with two homers, two doubles and five RBI.

    It's a shame they only play 19 times this year.

    (thanks to the always helpful USS Mariner)

    Friday, March 23, 2007

    Santa Kasten

    It's Christmas in March! The Nats finally got off their lazy non-ticket-printing keisters and released the bare bones promo schedule. (You're probably wondering if I'm ever happy)

    The highlight is the four Presidential Bobbleheads, tho the line of the night on that comes from Ball Wonk: "[H]as anyone really ever said to themselves, "Man, I wish I had some Thomas Jefferson merchandise"? Because if anyone ever has said that to himself, Monticello is right there in Virginia with a gift shop and everything."

    It's interesting that most of the big promos are coming on Saturday games against good teams, because those games should be able to draw a larger crowd without the schwag.

    Of course, given how it looks like there's still room for about 25,000 of your closest friends on opening day (PLENTY of good seats still available!), they might need all the help you can get.

    (Did you notice how the radio has stopped using the line "Come make Opening Day the largest crowd to ever see a baseball game at RFK" or however they phrased it?)

  • UPDATE! This is awesome. This team really makes it hard to not make the THEY'RE CHEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAP jokes sometimes!

    There are 11 promotions on the initial promo schedule. Of those 11, only 3 of them are not on a "premium" (read: more expensive) game. If you want the crap they're offering, you're going to be paying $5-$10 more for it. Lovely. You're buying your own Bobblehead.

    The only dates that don't require you to buy your own junk is 4/4 on Schedule Magnet night. (Buck says they hand out the ones from last year that they never passed out) And 5/11 and 5/13, Cooler and Baseball Card nights respectively.

    (To continue my petulant whining, I'd point out that the promos are unfairly imbalanced amongst the mini ticket plans, but that's really not anything they'd concern themselves with. The $200 bucks I'm giving them really isn't worth the effort)

    Just be happy that your bobblehead money is going to a good cause. The minors really need our money. And we cannot ask our elected leaders to piss in anything but the finest private bathrooms. (Or hosting parties to open buildings not related to the team, but for the owner's exclusive benefit)

  • Patteron Update

    I'm half listening on the radio, but he didn't seem sharp. Dave kept pointing out that he was repeatedly missing his target and Svrluga, in his blog, noted that he wasn't controlling his breaking pitches.

    He only allowed one run, but the rest of his numbers were ugly. 72 pitches (shouldn't he be throwing more at this point?) and only 38 strikes -- meaning 34 balls!?.

    Even when he's going well, he's not really an efficient pitcher, but this isn't encouraging. I'm sure they'll let us know what the radar guns were saying about his velocity later.

    There Are Other Teams?

    Somehow, the good folks at Baseball Analysts confused my email with that of someone who knows what the hell they're talking about and asked me to participate in their two on two divisional preview series.

    So if you've been wondering what I think of Moises Alou, the Phillies bullpen or Wes Helms' slugging percentage, there's your chance.

    Needless to say, the other guys don't like the Nats' chances!
    [T]his pitching staff might be worse than the Tigers in 2003, the Reds in 2004, or the Devil Rays and Royals in 2005 - four of the worst in the post-expansion era on a park-adjusted basis. The Nats are a lock to give up more than 900 runs and could conceivably allow 1,000 or more. Let's not kid ourselves here.

    The Nats gave up 872 runs. Are they a lock for 900? Buck sez they don't come within a sniff of 1,000 allowed. (Of course, if they do, chances are I won't be around for you to collect!)

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Cribbed From Barry Edition

    WaPo beat writer Barry Svrulga said that he's going to keep doing Nationals Journal throughout the year. That's good news for Nats fans, and today's morning entry demonstrates why. It's full of nuggety (nougaty?) goodness that's too trivial for the dumbed-down $.35 paper, but is perfect for mainlining us junkies.

    Quicky notes of things we learn:

    --Jerome Williams is basically a lock
    --Garrett Mock (the non-Chico) is still out with a crappy knee
    --Irish Mike O'Connor'll start the year on the 60-day DL, so he won't be back before the ASB -- and Barry hints that his window might be closing completely.
    --Supposedly former prospect Mike Hinckley is healthy and throwing well (to see the way he fell apart last year, I'd be his shoulder was bugging him).


    --John Patterson's velocity is down. RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

    I wrote a few days ago that I think he's hurt still, just based on the one start I saw and the command problems everyone wrote about last week. Now with the velocity stuff, I'm leaning even more in that direction (Warning: Analysis is from an asshat blogger sitting safely 1,000 miles away at his keyboard).

    Given the velocity problems, it could be one of four things: 1) He's injured. 2) He's not completely healthy from last year. 3) He's just rusty 4) He's doesn't trust his arm.

    We know that 4 is a good possibility. Patterson seems to be the fussiest pitcher I've seen. Remember how often he bitched about the mound in '05? Things seem to get in his head unless he's supremely comfortable. 3 makes sense, but it's the end of spring. That rust should've kicked off the fender when we hit that pothole three miles back. 2 is a strong possibility as well. Although his surgery was relatively minor, anytime they're cutting back muscle to dig out a nerve, it's going to take some time for the body to heal -- and given his Nick-Johnson-like injury history, well...

    But 1? That worries me. A loss of velocity is sometimes (just sometimes) an elbow problem. There was speculation last year that his forearm problem was related to his elbow. (They go hand-in-hand) If a player is having UCL problems (as Patterson did when he had Tommy John surgery a few years back), velocity often drops. (Think of the UCL as the rubber band in a sling shot. When the band loses its stretchiness, it's hard to fire the rock into your hated neighbor's car window)

    With a start today, he's going to need to show command and velocity. I wish it was on TV. That would tell us a lot.

  • Church gets actual praise after his last game and some batting tips from...

  • Mitchell Page, my hero, gets his own profile. In general, I don't think hitting coaches matter a whole lot, but Page really has a track record of improving hitters. Great, great, great hire.

  • Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Historically Bad

    Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports investigates the dubious claims that the sure-to-be woeful Nats are going to be 'historically bad'. It's a fun little article, featuring a defensive Stan Kasten.
    "You can look at our team and our defense and our pitching staff," [Brian] Schneider said, "and you go ahead and ask around the league: Teams hate playing us."

    Such a supposition seemed fishy, so we did ask around the league: Do teams really hate playing the Nationals? Each NL personnel man uttered some derivation of what one scout put best: "Yeah, like we hate eating chocolate cake."

    And yet when pressed further, about whether the Nationals could be 120-loss bad, the scout scoffed.

    "No," he said. "No one's that bad."

    I don't think the team is going to be historically bad either. But sure, we're going to be bad. If I had to give a gut estimate, I'd say about 97 losses. There just aren't any elite teams in the NL that are going to beat the snot out of us over and over and over. Oh, the Phillies, Mets and Braves'll be good, but there's not a 110-win juggernaut among them.

    Further in the article, our good friend Stan Kasten repeats his mantra of late:
    "What's always a good reminder for me – and I'm not making a prediction – the last time I had a team projected to finish last was my 1991 (Atlanta Braves) team," he said. "That team lost in extra innings in the seventh game of the World Series.

    I'm stealing this from someone (OMG?), but if you look further, the previous five seasons that Stan Kasten's teams were expected to finish in last place, you know what they did? Finished last four teams, next-to-last once.

    I suspect we're closer to that reality than to Kasten's sunny mantra/non-prediction.

    Don't Make CSPAN Angry

    Via dcrtv... A spokesman for C-Span is whining that Comcast is putting MASN2 on CSPAN2's channel when there are Nats and Orioles games on at the same time.

    "At C-SPAN, we are not very happy that in this market -- the home of all of the staffers and senators and everyone who uses C-SPAN's programming for their livelihood and their special interests -- we are not very happy about going off in this market, particularly for baseball games," C-SPAN vice president of affiliate relations Peter Kiley"

    Shouldn't those Senators actually be legislatin' instead of watching others legislatin' on TV? They've got closed-circuit TV in the buildings, so the only way this would effect them is if they were off in their VA homes, desperately waiting for the latest BookTV interview with Joyce Carol Oates. Cry me a river.

    Besides, these are all patriotic Americans, right? And what patriotic American wouldn't prefer Baseball to an endless quorum call (set to the soothing tones of public domain orchestrations). Perhaps that should be a litmus test, to find out which of those Godless Commies we need to root out of our political system. So tell me, Senator: Do you or do you not support baseball? We'll be watching.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2007

    The Most Unkind Cuts Of All

    Welcome to Washington Messrs Fick and Belliard. The Nats purchased their contracts, which is a silly way of saying that they were added to the 40-man roster. And you don't get added to the 40-man at this point in the spring unless you're coming north. No surprises there.

    But to do that, the Nats needed to clear some dead wood off the roster, so they outrighted a few players. Outright is just a fancy way of saying they were removed from the 40-man. The wrinkle is that to do so, the player needs to clear waivers, so every team has a chance to nab them. But in the cases of Michael Restovich and Bernie Castro, they likely cleared easily.

    They reassigned Josh Hall, which might be the first time I've heard of him.

    But the surprising news is that they optioned Billy Traber to the minors. He'll start the year with Columbus.

    It's surprising for a few reasons. 1) When they took him out of the competition for the starting rotation, they said that they liked the middle relief innings he could give them. 2) He's a lefty, and Acta has stressed that he would like two lefties in the pen. 3) He's actually performed in spring training.

    While I don't think much of spring-training stats, he has a 1.80 ERA with a 4/0 K/BB ratio -- can't get much better than that.

    It's interesting to compare the inconsistency of that particular decision with Bowden's tough talk about the outfield positions over the last week. But then again, it's the pitching staff, and he's never really concerned himself with that side of the ball.

    Adding in the sure-to-be DL cases, and the Nats are down to 34 candidates. Traber's demotion likely makes Ray King a lock, and almost ensures that Rule-5er Lavelle Speigner (nickname, please!) starts in DC. It also creates a slot for Matt Chico (See, The PLAN! works!@!!!1!1).

    Twelve (?) days, and we still have a bunch of Qs!

    (Thanks to Federal Baseball for the heads up! -- Now endorsed by Sports Illustrated!)

    Attention Season Ticket Holders...

    We fecked up.

    I get the feeling I'm going to be on the phone Monday, and picking up a plain envelope of ticketmaster tickets on Tuesday.

    But, hey, when Bud Selig finally selects which group will buy the Nats, things will get better.

    Offense or Defense

    Jim Bowden has "written" another column for the Examiner. This one takes a look at the spring training competitions. There's probably some observations I could make about Bowden's love for dick-swinging contests and manly men who have fire in the belly, but that's not really what caught my eye.

    He's finally given an out for the Nook Logan problem, and it's something I've written about a number of times before:
    The other important element will be balancing offense with defense. Do you put your best defensive team on the field? The best offensive team, then sub for them late? Or a combination of both? This team will need a lot of managing and constant adjusting. Fortunately, we have the right manager in Manny Acta to get this done.

    This is encouraging news. Rather than doing a straight lefty/righty platoon (although with Church and Logan's offensive strengths, that could make sense), an offense/defense platoon could work.

    There are a number of ways it could work. If the Nats have a low-K flyball pitcher on the mound, then maybe you start Logan. If Jason Simontacchi (a low-K groundball pitcher) starts, maybe they could "hide" Church's defense in center. If the Cubs are in town and Carlos Zambrano's on the mound, you're going to place a premium on offense, so maybe Church starts the game, with Logan go sub in late when the Nats take the lead (as if!).

    It's encouraging news because it's really the best way to maximize the talent on the roster. These different players have different skill sets -- different strengths and different weaknesses. A truly great manager understands that and puts the players in the right situations, so they have the best chance to succeed. The difference between winning and losing, even for a lousy team like the Nats, is often a play or two, and little changes could make a big difference over the long run.

    Maximizing talent wasn't really a strong point of Frank Robinson. Too often, he put players in a situation where failure was the most likely option -- like letting Joey Eischen or Joe Horgan face mostly right-handed batters.

    Bowden seems to think that Manny Acta has the ability to do it. If so, it's going to be fun to watch.

    Farewell To A Giant?

    Jon Rauch on the block?
    Quietly, too, the Nationals have let teams know that they would listen to offers for Rauch, according to two baseball sources. The 6-foot-11 right-hander is coming off a season in which he appeared in a career-high 85 games and posted a 3.35 ERA.

    Not so quietly anymore!

    Nickel reaction before my mom tucks me in -- If neither her nor the team is inclined to start him, trade him. If he's afraid his arm is going to get hurt starting, it's likely to get hurt pitching in 80+ games as he'll likely do again this year. Rauch is a good pitcher, but he's not a dominant one, and if the Nats can get something shiny to distract Bowden for a day or two for him, they should go for it.

    Rauch'll be arbitration-eligible at the end of the year, and the Nats retain his rights for four more seasons (including this one). I don't want to say that money is/would be a factor, but it wouldn't shock me either.

    Ten Worst Nats

    Over the last two years, Washington fans have been treated to some great performances. Who'll forget Soriano, Zimmerman, Johnson and... ummm... umm... There was that really good game that Ortiz pitched, and ummm... Ryan Church hit a homer once, I think.

    We vividly recall those good times because they're so infrequent. And they've been so infrequent because the Nationals have had so many craptastic players playing for them. As we did last year, it's time to lay back on the couch to uncover those memories you've replaced. These are your Ten Worst Nats.

    I've revised the ranking system this year. I've been hard at work at the CP Labs developing a new statistic, which I'm using for this year's rankings. The Heuristic Omnipotent Repeating Groundout Analytical Number (HORGAN) analyzes a Nats' crappiness on a scale with frequency of suckitude, spitting out a HORGAN. So if your favorite Nat appears on the list (or if you appear on the list), don't blame me. It's just HORGAN.

    10: Pedro Astacio -- 17 GS, 64 Runs, 5.98 ERA
    In those 17 starts, Astacio saw the 7th inning just four times, which is the same number of starts that he kept the opposing team under three runs. Entering his start against the Braves, he had a 5.56 ERA. He then inexplicably threw a CG shutout (the only one a Nat threw last year), and built on that by getting bombed with an 8.00 ERA for the rest of the season. If you missed him pitching, consider yourself lucky. If not, this was a typical result.

    9: Tony Blanco -- 56 G, 62 AB, 2/19 BB/K ratio, .177/ .215/ .274
    I've no doubt that you've blocked all memories of this guy who was, despite the team being in the midst of a pennant race, carried on the team's roster the entire year and getting more PH ABs than any other player. Not so coincidentally, the team went 21-35 in games he appeared in. Here's his first (and last) MLB homer.

    8: Damian Jackson -- 67 G, 116 AB, .198 AVE
    If there was a play that could be screwed up, Jackson did it. Throwing to the wrong base, forgetting to cover the bag, lobbing the ball wildly off his back foot, crapping out on every bunt opportunity, etc, etc. He didn't play for a stretch then blamed his failure on rustiness. So Frank played him and he blamed fatigue. Then he missed a chunk of time with esophageal spasms -- he was choking. Even when he made a good play, he was terrible.

    7: Wil Cordero -- 51 ABs, 2 RBI, 2 SF, .118/ .161/ .157

    Oh, Wil, how we miss you. The patriarch of the Wil Cordero All-Stars (membership requires you to beat your wife, but you don't have to use a telephone like Wil did) was terrible with the Nats, doing nothing but hitting weak popup after weak popup. His 2 RBI both came on weak flyballs to the OF, which was really all he hit. He just had the good fortune in those two cases of having a runner on third.

    6: Billy Traber -- 43.1 IP, 6.44 ERA
    Frank Robinson's least favorite non-Asian pitcher saved himself with a strong finish to the year. When Frank mercifully yanked him from the starting rotation after 8 starts, he had a 7.75 ERA and he hadn't gotten through five IP in four of those starts. Here's a typical AB against Traber. I think this one's still rolling.

    5: Joe Horgan -- 6 IP, 15 Runs, 8 2B, 21.00 ERA
    With Horgan, it wasn't quantity, it was quality, and he scorched a lot of earth in his short time with the Nats. He was the second lefty that Frank Robinson wanted in the pen so badly that he left Gary Majewski in the minors for a month. Despite that, Frank Robinson let Horgan pitch against mostly righties to disastrous results: .667/ .667/ .958. He was so bad, that seems to have erased all video evidence of him having pitched. But my girlfriend still won't go back, after witnessing this game.

    4: Felix Rodriguez -- 31 Games, 25 Runs, 16/15 BB/K ratio, 7.67 ERA
    The only thing that saves FRodo from appearing higher on the list was the injury which took him out from May to September (to Randy St. Claire's relief). He pitched often. And he stunk often. He didn't strike anyone out. He walked a bunch. He gave up a bunch of homers. You name it, he couldn't do it. You know it's a monster when the pitcher flinches and turns to see how far it went. (Did you know that he actually received an MVP vote once?)

    3: Gary Bennett -- 68 G, 199 ABs, 7 GIDP, .221/ .298/ .271, 6 errors, 4 passed balls
    Not-so affectionately dubbed PB for his alarming ability to kick around balls, Bennett was thrust into a starting role a few times when Brian Schneider broke something or other. And he was absolutely brutal in September (.183 .286 .200, 60 ABs) with the Nats gasping for air in the pennant race, and the team finished 31-37 with him in the game. As terrible as he was, I'll forgive him for this game.

    2: Cristian Guzman -- 456 ABs, 31 RBI, .219/ .260/ .314
    The less said the better. He'd be higher were it not for his well-timed injury. I don't know where his recently earned reputation as an elite defensive shortstop has come from, but he did make a few pretty plays.

    1: Antonio Osuna -- 2.2 IP, 11 Runs, 2 HR, 7 BB, 0 K, 42.42 ERA

    If the rare few of us hadn't seen it with our own eyes, we'd pass off rumors of his existence as the beer-induced tales of people who think that Eddie Brinkman was good.

    But there he is, standing on the mound as I remember him: right hand on hip. Glove at his side. Gazing, gazing off into the distance, perhaps thinking of his children back home in Sinaloa. If I close my eyes, and inhale lightly I can still smell it, the smell of those little crumbles in the bottom of your toaster charring. No, it wasn't a dream. He does exist. He is the worst Nat.

  • Dishonorable mentions:
    Jason Bergmann, Travis Hughes, Zach Day, Brandon Watson, Deivi Cruz, Bernie Castro

  • Tuesday, March 20, 2007

    The Real Promo Schedule...Sort Of

    OMG, in an attempt to one-up the sweatshop-mined hard work of Ball-Wonk, uncovers the team's draft promo schedule. It's a beauty. My favorites?
    Sunday Apr 29th (Mets): 1 for 1 deal. Free souvenir ticket with your price of admission.

    Friday September 14th (Braves) Lowes “Team that Stan Built” Kids Night. Every fan in attendance under the age of 12 (ID mandatory - birth certificates must be certified) will receive a stapled printout going over how Stan Kasten built the Braves into the 14 time NL East champion using a strict plan of not trying to sign anyone before the team was ready to compete. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” will be replaced by “The Plan is Good. The Plan is Great” chant during the 7th inning “Acceptance of what you are told” Flexibility Minute. Basil is not invited.

    The rest are damn good too!

    How You Know We Suck

    I linked this on the sidebar, but it's too good not to highlight. Ball-Wonk, likely using underage Chinese workers in the Ball-Wonk World HQ sweatshop, compiled the promotional schedule for the Nats games on the road. In other words, this is the list of assorted gimmicks, tchotchkes, and lame promos that opposing teams have to roll out when our crappy team comes to town. They're certainly not going to come out to see Bobby Fick and Joel Hanrahan, but maybe they'll come out for a bobblehead or three.

    48 promotions (so far!) in 81 road games. If this were ye olden days, the other teams just wouldn't schedule us. It wouldn't be worth the expense of opening the park when we were in town.

    Embarrassing fact #2: The cheapest billionaire owner in baseball, Carl Pohlad, is giving away the best swag on the Nationals promotional schedule so far. Yes, Carl Pohlad is treating fans better than the Lerners. In most billionaire families, being outclassed by the Pohlads is grounds for seppuku.

    Where are our bobbleheads, dammit?

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    Three People You're Glad Aren't GM

    After reading Bill Ladson's mailbag, I've gotta wonder who the hell these people are? How terrible are these questions, and how godawfully stupid must the ones he doesn't print be? I can't even imagine -- at least without getting a headache.

    The Bag closes with three comments from Nats fans that... well... umm...

    Comments from Nationals' fans:
    I can't believe the Nats gave up so early on Broadway just because of his lack of power. There are a lot of players in the Majors that don't have any power but can be very helpful with singles and get the job done, like Kenny Lofton or Juan Pierre.
    -- Alex C., Montreal

    Our Frenchy friend starts out strong, but, umm....

    Kenny Lofton, Juan Pierre and Larry Broadway... hmmm... one of those guys doesn't belong... hmmmm. I can't quite place my finger on it.

    I know many Nats fans are already down on Cristian Guzman, but I would like to remind them that this looks like a healthy Guzman for the first time in three years. Although he is not the offensive stud that Miguel Tejada is, Guzman is one of the strongest defensive shortstops in the league. In addition, he has a great make up for an 8-hole hitter who can drive in runs at the bottom of the order. Give him a chance.
    -- Dean C., Charlottesville, Va.

    Seriously... when did Guzman become one of the strongest defensive shortstops in the league? Did Deano sleep through 2005? He's an average defender. Just because he has a crappy bat, it doesn't mean that his glove magically gets better, justifying his existence.

    What kind of makeup (what a BS catch-all word that is!) does a 8-hole hitter need? I'd prefer my 8-hole hitter to, well, hit, and the next time Guzman does that will be the first time since the first year of the Bush administration. (You can look it up!)

    I know you must be getting tired of talking about Church. I feel that he has proved that he does not belong on the Nationals' big-league roster. He is not hitting. I say they should cut him and give a Minor League player a chance in the bigs.
    -- Jason H., Rockwood, Tenn.

    Ummm... sure. We'll just cut him. He can't have any value at all. And the team is bursting with top prospects like Travis Lee and Dmitri Young.

    Dammit, there's that flashing in my eyes again. I need to lay down...

    Stan Speak, A Continuing Series

    He's back! And so is the StanSpeak Translator. Let's plug in his quotes and see what he's really thinking.

    On whether the President will be throwing out the first pitch:
    Not this year. We asked, but the scheduling is thankfully too tough. But that's OK. We have hopes of establishing that in the future with more popular presidents and we do have exciting opening-day festivities. RFK is a historically dumpy place and this will mercifully be the last home opener there.

    On the cherry blossoms in left field:
    Beyond the left-field bleachers, we'll have a grove of cherry blossoms. After the first week they'll be green, like our pitching staff, but even so, it's a grove of green trees in your ballpark. That ain't bad, either, but it ain't that exciting either. Buy tickets! Go to You'll be very impressed by our computerized trees. Seriously.

    On views of the Washington Monument:
    Hopefully, depending where you are in the ballpark, you can see the Capitol on one side (If you're sitting in Section 435, rows 8-10) and the Washington Monument on the other, as long as you're on a ladder on the roof. I just was there last Saturday checking it out. It's going to be as good a photo op as there is in baseball, so get your deposits for tickets in today.

    On whether the stadium has a new name yet:
    Not yet. It'll be someone deserving, who has demonstrated that they are deserving by paying a lot of money!

    [Ed: Amazingly, the translator found him to be telling the complete truth there.]

    On other unique features of the stadium:
    It'll seat 41,000. It'll be built on the Anacostia River, giving it a unique scent that only Pirates fans can understand. It will have a lot of Washington history. We're checking on a partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame, but if that costs money or they want a "donation," no dice.

    The suite levels will be named after Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, and we hope that will convince some patriotic saps to pay an extra $25K for them. The presidential club (legal disclaimer: Does not guarantee presence of President nor your electoral right to office) right behind home plate will have the Oval Office Bar, featuring Washington DC's first $40 martini. We were looking for a way to get D.C. in the park, especially all those potential ticket-buying citizens. We consider making the foul poles Washington Monuments, but we didn't want to be cheesy. Jim does that well enough on his own. But what says D.C. more than cherry blossoms? Pandas, I suppose. And status-seeking former class presidents. And traffic. Hmmm. Alright. Note to self: Work on that last line some more.

    On his favorite ballparks:
    I love Pittsburgh's and San Francisco's but my favorite for the fans' ability to spend gobs of cash is Atlanta's. I built that!111!!!1!

    The Washington park will be something special. You just have to take my word for it, and I have no vested interest in overselling it. And hopefully the Marlins will get their ballpark soon, but not until we've won a bunch of World Series.

    Fouled-Off Bunts: 7, 8, 3? Who Really Knows? Edition

    The Broadway/Young/Lee kurfuffle wasn't the only lineup news yesterday. As he always does, Jim Bowden opened up his big, red-cheeked maw and yapped away at how wonderfully Chris Snelling is doing (legit compliments). But when the GM starts yammering, it makes news, especially when the player likely to be hurt by any increase in Snelling's playing is Ryan Church.

    That all sorta came as news to Manny Acta, who continues to say that Church is his guy in left. But then Acta also said that he's not sure that Snelling is going to make the team, which is a statement that is so technically correct while leaving an impression opposite of the likely truth, it it'd make Stan Kasten envious.

    The question then changed to, if Snelling beats out Church, could Church beat out Nook Logan, and Acta reaffirmed that Nook is his guy. Alrighty.

    It's something to watch over the final two weeks. Not so much for the lineup decisions, but to see the battle of wills between a headstrong GM who his own lackeys have compared to Mozart and a neophyte GM who has some pretty strong ideas of his own. T(h)om Loverro helpfully synopsizes with an analogy to NASCAR.

  • Matt Chico appears to have locked down the fourth starter job, at least according to Acta. Interesting development considering how well Jerome Williams pitched. I guess the Nats feel they can risk losing Redding or some of the other stiffs to waivers when they get sent down to the minors. Of course, if they're not making the Nats' rotation, what other team is going to claim them? Paging Mr. Moore...

  • Alex Escobar is likely to start the season in his accustomed spot: The DL. What a waste. I still want to know why we're not hearing anonymous carping from sources about what a pussy the guy is like we have about certain other Nats over the years...

  • John Patterson struggled through three innings yesterday, in only his second start against an opposing team of the spring. He's pitched a bunch against the Nats minor leaguers in some intrasquad games.

    With the caveat that I didn't see him pitch, I'm worried about him. He muddled through, and by his pitch count, it seems like his control really isn't there. He got some Ks, which is nice, but when I saw him at the beginning of the spring, he had no command of his breaking pitches. I wonder if he's completely healthy? Does he just not trust his arm?

  • Hey, look! It's a nifty chart of all the failed prospects on the Nats.

  • Peter Angelos is still ranting about the Nats.

  • The latest non-rumors about Cordero.

  • Here's a house built by blogging.

  • And finally...

    Let's make a good showing on TangoTiger's community projection ballot. All you need to do is click here and make some estimates on your favorite Nats' OPS results for the season. Answer as many or as few players as you'd like. The Nats are typcially way under-represented, so you can make the damn team look good... for once!

  • Sunday, March 18, 2007

    I Thought That "I Don't Know" Played Third Base?

    The Nats sent Larry Broadway down to minor-league camp today, promoting the fat, drug-abusing, alcoholic, girlfriend-choking, skipping-out-on-court-date, teammate-loathed, defensively challenged, non-HR slugging Dmitri Young.

    (You see references in most articles about him to his 'no contest' plea to the spousal abuse charge. What you don't see is that when it came time for sentencing, he changed his plea to guilty to obtain a lighter sentence.)

    I know that Broadway's not really any good, but he at least should be given a chance, especially on a team that's on a rocket ride to last place.

    Federal Baseball points out that the angst shouldn't be about Broadway's demotion for Young, but that the fact that the worthless Travis Lee wasn't cut. At least I think that's his point -- or one of them. He wrote a lot of words, and my attention span has gone to hell lately.

    With the news that Kory Casto is picking up a 1B mitt, that really might be the best option. He, unlike Broadway, has a bit of an upside, and might actually have a 4-5 year career in the league.

    I know that Bowden, partially for personal reasons, wants to give Young another shot. And despite my personal dislike for some of his actions, he does deserve a second chance. I just wish it wasn't with us. And I wish it wasn't at the cost of a roster slot or developmental time for someone like Casto or Broadway.

    I'm sure they'll trot out the "we can trade him for prospects" card. But that assumes that he's hitting well -- and the kind of prospect you're likely to get back for him is... well... if we couldn't get anyone great for Soriano, what do you think we'll get for him?

    And if he's not hitting well? Sure, you can cut him. But then you've just screwed Broadway or Casto out of 125 ABs they should've had.

    Oh well. Like all things with this season, does it really matter anyway?

    Anyone need some tickets?

    Friday, March 16, 2007

    And Then There Were 42

    The Nats made a few more cuts today, optioning Emiliano Fruto, Beltran Perez, and Chris Schroeder to the minors. They also reassigned Winston Abreau, Danny Ardoin, Brandon Harper, Arnie Munoz and most interestingly: Colby Lewis and Praise the Lord, Jose Macias!

    Macias, an old favorite of Manny Acta seemed like he had as good a chance as any of making the team. But with Ronnie Belliard's signing and the emergence of Josh Wilson, that window was thankfully shut.

    Lewis hopefully will still kick around the organization in the minors. He's far from a great pitcher, but we're likely to need a warm body or three between now and October. If you missed it, here's everything you ever didn't want to know about Mr. Lewis.

    Spring Renewal

    Tom Verducci has an interesting look at all the renewed contracts (ala Zimmerman) there were this year, and some of the reasons why.
    [Padres GM Kevin] Towers agreed that the renewal of contracts was an especially popular business tactic this spring, largely because of a split in philosophy with agents about how to value a 16.2 percent increase in the minimum salary, which jumped from $327,000 to $380,000....

    "Agents want to negotiate off the minimum," Towers said. "But that $53,000 [increase] is real money going to the player."

    This might explain part of the reason why nothing got done with Zimmerman, as agents and owners are tapdancing around these issues, trying to resolve them.

    The bright side?
    ndeed, the days when players grew angry over renewals seem over, perhaps because of the generous minimum salary or the windfall that awaits players when they get arbitration rights. Renewals even can be the unlikely precursor to a long-term relationship. Jason Bay of Pittsburgh and David Wright and Jose Reyes of the Mets are examples of players who signed long-term deals after being renewed

    Vote For Zech!

    It's time to pretend we're in Chicago. Every man, woman and child dead or alive has a civic responsibility to vote for Zech Zincola in Minor League Baseball's Moniker Madness -- the tourney to see who has the best name in baseball. Zech's up against some tough competition, and he's down 74 votes. It's time to show your Nationalsism and vote for our guy!

    Another Nat, Stephen King, has a healthy lead, but vote for him anyway. We can stuff the box! He's going to have a tough Elite Eight matchup with Jorge Poo Tang.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    Probably Not The Last Time, Either

    Sez Jim Bowden:
    The first time I had to cut a player, it went ... poorly. It was 1986 and I was an assistant director of player development and scouting for Pittsburgh. I told the player in question he was going to be unconditionally released.

    The player looked at me kind of funny, jumped over the desk and punched me.

    Wednesday, March 14, 2007

    Back To Twelve

    The team has all but confirmed that Luis Ayala will start the season on the DL. And contrary to what reported a day or two ago, the Nationals are still going to carry 12 pitchers when they come north. That means one fewer bench spot.

    Who loses out?

    Cristian Guzman played the field today, and reported no problems, so there's less of a chance (for now) of him starting the season on the DL. Alex Escobar is set to DH over the next day or two, and he could be ready to start the year.

    I suspect that that final roster spot is going to come down to a healthy Alex Escobar versus the loser of the Larry Broadway/Travis Lee derby. If Escobar isn't ready to go, then the problem solves itself.

  • Jason Simontacchi, with an effective five innings, basically clinched one spots up for grabs in the rotation, joining John Patterson and Shawn Hill. Two weeks left, and nobody has a clue who the other two will go to, although Jason Bergmann, who pitches tomorrow, can make himself the front runner with another strong outing.

  • Nats 320 rightly thinks that Levale Speigner (I need to come up with a cutesy nickname for him quick so I don't have to keep typing that name) is the winner of the Luis Ayala sore-arm roster derby.