Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gone Fishin'

Tomorrow, I take a journey on three planes, one bus and a ferry to a blissful paradise where I will sun myself on a beach like a washed-up beluga.

And if you think that I'm thinking about this crapbag team for more than thirty seconds, you're dumber than... ummm... I dunno. Make your own insult. I'm tired, and I've got a lot of packing left.

So enjoy the week of baseball. Enjoy watching teams paddle the Nats' backsides. Watch the fireworks for me. And try not to burgle my house.

In the meantime, check out the bazillion links to other high-quality Nats Blogs and/or message boards for all your pointless conjecture needs. Meanwhile, the quality level of the analysis here shall not go down while I'm gone.

Jesus Can't Hit A Curveball

Post columnist Markc Fisher whines about an upcoming "Faith Night" promotion at the ol' ballyard where zealots of all types can come, listen to bible stories, testimonials from mediocre players, and be entertained by giant, fuzzy anthropomorphic vegetables. He dredges up the Ryan Church affair and contrasts that with this to make some point or another, and finds a yahoo or two to howl with outrage -- I didn't read that closely.

Seems to me he's missing the point. Sure, the night's about religion. But it's not about Catholicism, Judaism, Animism or any other ism, other than the one true religion: Capitalism. The Bible Thumping groups gets money from attendees to their show. The Lerners get extra asses in the otherwise empty seats. And everyone goes home happy and richer... except for the devotees -- well, unless they become spiritually richer. (And if seeing a massive green pepper with over sized eyes and white gloves induces spiritual fulfillment, I'm in the wrong business!)

Meanwhile, I think we all need to band together to ensure that there's a different faith night, one promoting Santeria, the religion of Pedro Cerrano from Major League. Jobu wasn't just a punchline, though. There's a number of major league players and managers who practice it, as the LA Times reports in an interesting article. Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox manager, practices it. But don't condemn him. He saves his animal slaughtering for his home country:
People call me a criminal because we do stuff with blood and animals. I don't blame these people. They believe what they believe and I believe what I believe. Have I ever killed an animal in the States to do my religion? No. I did in my country.

When will the Lerners let us slaughter animals at RFK? Perhaps when the price is right.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We Surrender!

Can't we come to some sort of agreement just to end this farkin' game?
Stan Kasten brokers a peace between the two warring parties
Or if it's going to continue, let's at least get the pleasure of watching Bobby Fick pitch!

Fouled-Off Bunts: All Minutia Edition!

Shawn Hill's visit to Dr. Andrews turned out as well as could be possible. Tendinitis, and a shot of cortisone, and all is right with the world -- at least in a week or two.

  • John Patterson is on a mystical magical tour 'round the country to find the secret to his magical trick elbow. He's continuing to have nerve pain in his arm, this time centered on his elbow. Recall that last year, he had surgery to cut away and move some tissue that was pinching a nerve in his forearm. The "bright" side is that it doesn't seem like it's a ligament tear or something of that ilk, but that's about the only positive spin you can put on something like this. Nerve compression ain't a cup of tea.

  • The Nats traded one of the minor league scrubs they picked up in the offseason, Jermaine Van Buren, to the A's for a player to be named. Immediate speculation was that it was going to be for Milton Bradley, whose trade to the Royals fell through after a mysterious KC Rib injury popped up. The Nats say no, and now cite character as one of the reasons for the lack of interest. (This from a team that's employed a string of wife beaters, and was rumored to be interested in Elijah Dukes, a man who threatened to kill his own children, until a string of negative reactions locally and nationally helped to inspire them to deny it.)

  • Jesus Colome had surgery to remove the giant sac of pus hanging off his ass. No joke needed. (I'm trying to think of a Jim Hunter joke, though.)

  • In other strange injury news, Mr. Glass, Justin Maxwell (who's finally having the season he needs to to be a prospect) returned to the DL after straining his abs after -- wait for it! --- sneezing. Yes, sneezing. Some abs, huh? Maybe the Nats need to hire John Basedow? (If only to get that creepy guy and his commercials off my TV)

  • The Nats met with Josh "Not Jeff, no Maybe It Is Jeff" Smoker, the first of their sandwich picks. He's got an option to go to college, so the Nats are going to have to make him an offer he can't refuse.

  • The Nats have signed 31 of their picks, most of those in the middle and later rounds. No word on the other big bats (and arms!) yet.

  • Jordan Zimmermannnnnn, the highest pick to sign, made his debut for Vermont the other night, pitching 2 scoreless innings with 3 strikeouts. Not a bad start!

  • Bill Ladson says that Adam Dunn strikes out too much, and that Alfonso Soriano was not a difference maker.

  • Tim Kurkjian writes an ode to Dmitri Young. Good story, but I found myself agreeing with one of the comments:
    I loved Young when he was with the Reds, and it's great to see a story about someone making a positive change and doing well. But it's a real disservice to tell the story in a way that gives short-shrift to the domestic violence. What if that had been you, or your daughter or sister? Tell it like it is, in all the complexity. Domestic violence should not be reduced to something like "that legal thing."

  • Alex Escobar is still rehabbing, throwing the ball from a distance. He's still a few days away from running. And a few days + 1 from his next injury.

  • The Nats have been outrighting players left and right. Today it was Beltran Perez. He joins Larry Broadway, Mike Hinckley and Frank Diaz as the players taken off the 40-man roster. Brian from NFA pointed out that the Nats have just 6 minor leaguers currently on their 40-man roster, which has to be among the lowest in baseball, and tells you how terrible the player development has been over the last 3-4 years.

    To outright a player, you need to place them on waivers. If they clear, they're off the 40-man, and you can assign them to the minors. Given all the moves they've made, I wonder if the Nats are systematically placing a number of their players on waivers and seeing what shakes out? I think (think!) this is a revocable move, meaning that if the player is claimed, you can pull back the waiver claim. Maybe they tried the same thing with Nook, so their pronouncements about how he'd have been claimed had he been sent down are informed pronouncements? I dunno. And it's entirely likely I'm misunderstanding the rules!

    --OMG thinks that Boz is full of it.
    --JANF has a really unhealthy fascination with Robert #@$#$@ Fick.
    --Nats320 is tired of Manny taking the few good hitters in the lineup out for defense.
    --Distinguished Senators thinks that Boz should lay off Church. (Warning: Link may be stale)
    --Nationals Power has the details on the Ryan Zimmerman pizza. (After your first bite, you think it's going to be the best ever, but after a few more bites, it tastes just like the same cardboard delivery crap)

    --The Ladies at 3 Girls With Heart say that I'm an some bloggers are overly negative, and that we should lay off the greatness of MASN.

  • Quote o' the day!
    "Some of those bloggers are quite devoted and quite astute, but you'd be surprised how often they opine on something and really have no idea what's truly going on inside the clubhouse."

    Feckin' stupid know-it-all bloggers!111!

  • Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Streaking Back To Columbus

    The Nats activated Robert Fick from the bereavement list, optioning Brandon Watson back to Columbus. So much for giving him a chance. Although I guess 18 ABs is about as long as this team can institutionally stand to go with one option in center.

    Fick's return makes him (gulp), the team's primary pinch hitter, and he'll try to improve on his .217 batting average and his .253 slugging average. It shouldn't be hard.

    Dmitri The Butcher

    In the last post on defense, Scott asked about how the team would look if we had better defense at first and short. Obviously, we can't answer with any sort of mathematical precision, but we can estimate.

    First, he wondered about Dmitri Young.

    Young has had 75 balls hit into his zone. He's made plays on 50 of them. If we have a healthy Nick Johnson, we've got a pretty good defensive 1B. Let's put him in the second tier of NL 1B defensively and assume he has a .760 zone rating.

    Assuming those same 75 balls are hit in the zone Nick would be expected to field 57 them of them, 7 more than Dmitri. But what's that worth?

    Let's for the sake of argument assume that we can break those missing hits down into doubles and singles. For the hell of it, let's say it's 5 singles and two doubles. I won't bore you with all the details (check here!), but linear weights can be used as a rough proxy to determine how much certain batting results are, on average.

    Singles typically "create" .47 runs. Doubles "create" 1.09. So 5 * .47 + 2 * 1.09 = ~4.5 runs. So Dmitri's cost the team 4.5 runs, which is probably much less than you'd assume.

    We also noted that the team was pretty high on the total of fielding errors its made, and there's likely a few more plays that would've been saved with a better fielding first baseman. Go ahead and tack on a few runs in your mind then. I ain't figuring it out!

    One more factor: I also pointed out that Dmitri was way below par on plays made out of the zone, so it's likely that Nick Johnson would 'save' a few more runs there, too. Every double Nick saves over Dmitri, on average, saves a full run. Dmitri made about 7 fewer out-of-zone plays than the average 1B. If NJ was just average here, that's at least another 4 runs saved.

    Add it up, and Dmitri has been probably 10 runs or so worse, if not more, than NJ would've been.

    What do they say about ifs and buts though? (Ask Colome about the buts)

  • He also asked about shortstop, and how the team would do with a better fielder there. Lopez and Guzman have combined to make 134 plays in 171 balls in their zone. A great shortstop makes plays in the .880 range. .880 * the Nats 171 chances gives us 150 total plays. This good shotstop would've made 16 more plays than Flop and Guuuuz.

    We can assume that those are singles, since a double past the shortstop ain't something you see every day! 16 singles * .47 run value = ~7.5 runs. And that doesn't really count double playes turned or not turned.

  • So bad defense at this two positions has cost the Nats something like 15-20 runs. Every 10 runs or so usually yields another win (on average), so those two positions have cost the Nats about 2 games.

    That ain't good. But that ain't much in the scheme of things.

  • Zoning In On The Problem

    Defensive statistics remain the Holy Grail of sabrmetrics. While any schmo can come up with a way of estimating offensive output, finding a single stat that isolates the play of an individual fielder has proven to be elusive. While they're still crunching, we're left to consider the ones they have, and one of the best -- though far from perfect -- is zone rating.

    I won't bore you with all the details. (If you're a sicko who's interested, start here for some background, then follow the links!)

    Essentially, numbers-crunching baseball haters have divided the field into distinct regions (zones, duh!), and they track where balls go, giving credit to fielders who make plays in their specified zones. So, if Dmitri Young has 10 balls hit right at him, and 5 of them skip under his glove, he'd have a zone rating of .500. Pretty simple, right?

    The wrinkle in the stat, and where THT has improved it a bit (using work and numbers from some other smart people), is that fielders only receive credit for certain areas. So let's say that Nook Logan ranges way over to get a ball in the gap, saving a double, there's a chance that it wouldn't be 'in his zone' under the definition of the stat, and he wouldn't get any credit. Sounds pretty silly, huh?

    THT now tells us how many balls players get to that they weren't credited with, so we can see if good ol' Nook is a ball stealin' machine.

    Let's start with the big picture first. If you scroll to the bottom here, you'll see the team's defensive stats.

    There, you can see that the Nats are actually below the league average in unearned runs. You also see that they're near the top in throwing errors -- thanks, Dmitri!

    But it's the set of columns to the right that are interesting. It provides the team's zone rating, and then breaks it further down into infield and outfield.

    Team-wise, they're one of the 5 or 6 least efficient defenses in terms of converting their zoned balls into outs. They're also not especially adept at getting to other balls, as their out-of-zone (OOZ) plays is league average.

    The breakdown of infield/outfield shows that it's basically on the infield's backs. They're way below average on zone, and they've gotten to about 10 fewer OOZ balls than the average infield. The outfield, as you'd probably expect, does much better here.

    So let's break it down a bit further.

    Here's first base. Dmitri Young has turned just 67% of the balls hit to him into outs, which is better than only one other fielder (the usually reliable Derrek Lee). You can see there, too, what makes Albert Pujols so special: the man can field!

    Here's the list of qualified 2B. Because of the time-sharing on the infield, neither Belliard nor Lopez qualify. But Lopez is at .817 with 11 OOZ and Belliard is at a terrific .851 with 10 OOZ plays. Lopez would be among the trailers, Belliard just on the high side of average.

    On its own, Zimmerman's rating isn't special, but then you look at the number of out-of-zone plays he makes, and you see what's terrific about him. He's made 12 errors, but 7 of those have come on throws, some of which a more sure-handed 1B might've been able to save him on. Plus, he's second in the league in double plays, with 19. Despite the errors, he's solid.

    Here's the list of qualified shortstops. Guzman and Lopez are virtually identical. Guzman is at .786 with 11 OOZ and Lopez is .779 with 7. Both of those, unfortunately, are at the very bottom of the league, as anyone who's watched the two of them field can attest. They're not making the plays they should make, and their combined 18 OOZ plays would be at the bottom of the table, too.

    Thanks to Bowden's transaction finger, LF is a mess, too. Here's the league. Ryan Church is at .880 with 13 OOZ. In very limited opportunities, Ryan Langerhans is at a terrific .941 with four extra plays. Despite reputation and appearances, Church has been quite good. He's not elite out there, and he still makes some ghastly plays, but he's in the top tier of LFers defensively. Langerhans is in a different world, and the decision to bring him in late in games hasn't been a bad one based on the stats -- although, just based on the zone ratings, Langerhans has only "caught" one more ball than Church given the same opportunity.

    So what about our friends in center? Here's the league (note the overrated bum at the top). Ryan Church -- would you believe? -- is at .925 with 11 OOZ plays. Nook Logan is right behind with a still terrific .882 and 10 OOZ. Langerhans has a lot less playing time, but he's right there with a .875 and 6. Church's number is terrific, leading the second tier of CFers behind Andruw's results. (The Andruw numbers do seem a bit fishy, but then so do Church's). Logan and Langerhans are still very good, but are kicking around the league average area. By and large, center field defense has been a strength, even if we can all think of 4 or 5 plays that we know should've been made.

    Right field is a cinch, thanks to the stalwart, Austin Kearns. There, too, you see his value. He catches every ball he should, and tons that he shouldn't. If he could learn how to call of a back-charing infielder, he'd be the best in the league.

    There's no real metric for catchers. But it is interesting to note that for all the troubles that Brian Schneider had throwing runners out early this year, there's only one team that has allowed fewer stolen bases. The team's CS% is right around league average, but they don't just run. Whether that's great work by the pitchers in holding runners on, or just the wariness of opposing batters to run on the arms, something's working, cutting off a part of the game that's more important in RFK than almost anywhere else.

  • So looking back, we've got terrible defense at first and short.

    We've got terrific defense in right and perhaps center and left.

    And we've got an average guy at second.

    Zimmerman's a tough call. Some of his numbers are very impressive, and some are scary. I DO know that he's better than he's shown this year.

    That's not a terrible defense, even if it's not an elite one.

    We're better than last year, and that, as much as anything, accounts for the play of this team and some of the surprising performances by the pitchers. If you took these guys and put them with last year's defense? ouch.

  • Monday, June 25, 2007

    MASN Sucks

    WWN has one of the reasons.

    The continued employment of Ray Knight and Bob Carpenter is another.

    Another is their stupid Super Slow Mo Cam, which they trumpeted in the lamest press release man has ever written, and which appears to be from ever viewing I've seen, the same stupid slow mo cam they had before, just with a stupid graphic.

    One more is their stupid score updates, and how they haven't figured out how to flash stale, unimportant scores without distorting the picture. This was particularly annoying during Beverly D'Angelo's AB today, when they decided that Tim Hudson's delivery of a 3-2 pitch would be the perfect time to squash the screen, distorting the perspective.

    And finally, is the fact that they have the stupidest fecking chryon people in the business who repeatedly misspell and screw up player's names, whether opposing (see: Peavey, Jake) or hometown heroes (see: Zimmerman, Brian). Today's offense was their announcement that SS "Christian Guzman" would miss the year.

    It's not like those douchenozzles are paid to watch or pay attention to the team or anything.

    (How come blogger's spell check doesn't recognize that word?)

  • Oh yeah, I forgot about the other one. Those meatsacks also see fit to squeeze our screen and flash the score of the VERY GAME we're watching, the same game that Charlie on the radio refuses to give the score of. Perhaps MASN could loan it to him?

  • Thanks For Playing, Cristian

    Whether it's Cocoon or Awakenings of your favorite other crappy movie, the brief resurgence of Cristian Guzman's career is over. He's out for the year, and is set to have season-ending surgery for a torn thumb ligament.

    Felipe Lopez takes over short and Ron Belliard takes second.

    It'll be interesting to see if this affects what the Nats decide to do with Belliard at the trading deadline. D'Angelo Jimenez and Bernie Castro are the best IF choices -- and I use 'best' in a comparative sense -- down at Columbus.


  • By now, you know that I like to use Runs Created as a quick proxy for offensive value. To put into context how bad he was in '05 and good this year, he created just 6 fewer runs of offense this year in 301 fewer plate appearances.

  • It Wrecked Him!

    So if you, like me, have been trying to come to grips with Jesus Colome's "soft-tissue, lower right extremity issue," you'll be happy to know that it's been narrowed down a bit.

    Thanks to Bill Ladson, we know it's not an extremity (unless you have a really droopy ass). It's his right buttocks. (Who knew that buttocks was singular and plural like biceps?)

    Ladson adds:
    Colome's problems with his buttocks is nothing new. He had the same problem during Spring Training and had to miss a few exhibition games, but was eventually able to work around the issue. This time, according to a baseball source, there are complications, and Colome needs surgery to fix the problem.
    This brings any number of questions to mind, many of them entailing various forms of social disease. Clap, the syph, crabs -- hey, wait a minute; we just DID visit Baltimore!!! Hmmmm

    How does one get an infection on just one side of one's buttock(s)?
    Does he have to have a donut?
    Will Ray King try to eat the donut?
    Is "work around the issue" a great phrase in this context, or what?
    Will his injury violate MLB's 'Roids policy? [rimshot]

    12 Down, 14 Or So To Go

    I'll just repeat what I said last week: "This team has an amazing ability to time their wins well for maximum effect. Other than that long losing streak which seems like it was ages ago, the team has the ability to win a game, just when you feel like the bottom is about to drop out."

    Somehow, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but our perception of the whole is even greater. They ooze along, making us think they're better than they actually are. Today's Boswell column deals with some of the perception, and is particularly amazed, as we all are, that they're doing it with the JV pitching staff on a team whose varsity were expected to be universally terrible.

    When I did my pre-season projections, I took a stab at guessing the numbers of various players. I projected the starting pitching to have a 5.21 ERA. They're actually at 5.18. Don't think I got it right though. My 5.18 projection was compiled on the backs of John Patterson and Shawn Hill, and included a big chunk of 6.00 ERA innings from the faceless hordes that've pitched fairly well recently. It's not the starters who've exceeded expectations, but their scrub fill-ins. That's what's made what's happened over the last 6 weeks all the more amazing. (And let's not talk about the 90 or so runs I'm off of on the offense!)

    Nats Record: 2-4. This is what I'm talking about. It certainly sorta feels like they were better than that because of how they played over the weekend. 2-4 is certainly a decent result against those teams.

    Overall: 32-43, tied for 13th in the NL. This is a 69-93 pace.
    Runs Scored: 23 (3.8/g), 291 overall, still dead last.
    Runs Allowed: 38 (6.3/g), 373 overall, tied for 11th.
    Expected Record: 63-99, a drop of two wins from last week. Damn you, Detroit!

    At one time, the team was in 'first' since May 9, the day they hit rock bottom. They've dropped back to 5th place, and have now been outscored by 8 runs since then.

    What's Good?
    1) Brandon Watson! I made the mistake when I wrote about him last week and how failure was the best option for the Nats of not considering the alternative. Slap hitters can get really lucky sometimes, and that's basically what he's done. He's found the holes, lofting weak flares over the infield, getting his hits, 5 of 'em in just 14 ABs.

    Did you see his swing? He reminds me of -- don't laugh -- Pete Rose. I never saw Rose in his prime, and my only playing memories of him were when he was hanging on at the end of a glorious career as a joke of a singles hitter. Watson has that really low, deep crouch, and he sort of pushes through the ball, playing pepper with the infield, hopefully with just enough lift to get it over their reach. Rose had enough ability to drive the ball a little more, but the dusty corner of my memory remembers him just sorta pushing the ball. That's a comparison that's not really fair to either for various reasons, I s'pose.

    Regardless, next time he's up, watch where the LF plays. He could pick the shortstop's pocket. Still, I'll take the hits for now, even if he can't get a farkin' bunt down.

    2) Dmitri Young! What slump? .391 Batting Average with four doubles. He's back! (Trade him!!!)

    3) Jon Rauch! When your setup guy is third on the team in innings pitched, you know it was a rough week. He made the most of it, with five scoreless innings, re-finding his strikeout pitch: 7 of them, versus zero walks.

    What's Bad?
    1) Nook!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Didja hear Charlie Slowes' call of the game? It's worth the $10 subscription to the radio service on just to listen to it. It's a beautiful combination of disgust, surprise, excitement and stunned disbelief. A helpful commenter transcribed it, but you reallllly need to listen to it. That basso growl Chuck has was perfect, and it wasn't forced like it sometimes seems!

    2) Jason Simontacchi. Yeah, I know he pitched well yesterday, but when you allow one run in one of your starts and still finish with an 11 ERA for the week, you've earned your spot here. It's amazing how different one pitcher can look, and it shows you the razor thin margin he has for success. Either he's hitting his spots, keeping hitters off balance, or he's in the showers by the fourth. Good pitchers can muddle through on their bad days. Ergo, well, you can finish it.

    3) Ryan Zimmerman. Perhaps he'd be better off if he lost his bat in his shirt too? Just when he took two steps forward, last week's .167/ .167/ .167 line was a giant step back. That's four singles with zero walks. Worse, there were four GIDP in there. He's up amongst the league leaders in my least favorite category.

    Game O' The Week
    Definitely not this one. Probably not this one either. The wins against Cleveland were nice, but you can't tell me that this isn't the game you're going to remember 2 years from now. It had it all, just not the result we'd have liked.

    Weekly Awards

    MVP: Cristian Guzman! Scary! He batted .417 with a double, a triple and a homer mixed in. He also led the team in RBI with 4 more than any other batter. We're actually going to miss his bat. And that's something that's practically impossible to believe.

    Cy Young: Micah Bowie was the most effective (ERA-wise) of the starting pitchers, but he couldn't get through five innings. Jon Rauch' yeoman's work out of the pen was good enough, and kept the Nats in a position to win three games, of which they pulled out two.

    LVP: NOOK!!!!

    Joe Horgan Award: Lots of choices this week. The Nats used 14 different pitchers. Only 5 had an ERA under 5 this week.

    Weekly Whips:
    6/18: Cristian Guzman is a machine: 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI.
    6/19: Dmitri Young had two doubles. The rest was forgettable.
    6/20: Austin Kearns had two doubles and almost kept the Nats in the game.
    6/22: Cristian Guzman hit a homer!?
    6/23: Other than the bunt, Brandon Watson had the game of his life.
    6/24: 3 for 3 for Ronnie Belliard works for me!

    What's Ahead?
    The Nats get three in Atlanta with a strong team who's in a nosedive, then meet one of those "lesser" teams in Pittsburgh, on a short 6-game road trip.

    The Atlanta series'll be interesting. Jason Bergmann owns the Braves and the Braves have been slumping offensively. Will they wake up? Will the Nats, who didn't have many problems with a strong Cleveland team, continue their run? Who knows! That's why we watch the damn games!

    Sunday, June 24, 2007

    Shuffle Up, We'll Deal

    Boy, have we got moves:

    Cristian Guzman to the DL with a strained ligament in his left thumb. He injured it in a tag play. (Did you notice the one throw -- can't remember who it was on -- where he sorta soft tossed the ball to first on a close play?)

    D'Angelo Jimenez gets the callup in his place. Jimenez batted a sterling .071 in 14 ABs earlier this season, as one of the primary PHers. Jiminez went to the minors a few weeks ago, and was a monster for Columbus, batting .368 with 22 extra-base hits. Second time's the charm? Svrluga says that FLop slides to short, and Belliard gets the nod at second.

    Jason Bergmann was activated from the DL. He starts against Atlanta tonight. He's made Atlanta his [offensive word] this year, allowing just 1 run in 14 innings, while striking out 18. Given Atlanta's recent offensive struggles -- including a 31-inning scoreless streak and one run in the last five combined-- and their infighting, it couldn't be a better situation.

    To make room, the Nats sent down Chris Schroder.

    But then Jesus Colome came down with the mysterious "soft tissue infection in a right lower extremity.", and Schroder was recalled.

    Anyone wanna take a guess at what the infection is, and what it's inflicting? Someone spending too much time late night on Mass. Ave? Justin Maxwell just paid a visit to the team, and he's on the DL with a staph infection. Hmmm... Maybe Maxwell was demonstrating the latest poultry insemination techniques?

    And if Jimbo's itchy transactin' finger wasn't twitching enough, he traded Darnell McDonald, a 28-year old outfielder to the Twins for the rights to Levale Speigner. Speigner remains Nats property, free of the Rule 5 restrictions. There's some potential in there, but he really needs more work. None of his pitches were individually impressive. More consistent work, without fear of having his brains beaten in every time, could help him there.

    What Price An Out?

    Unlike all the cool blogs, I haven't done a whole lot with Win Probability Added or Win Expectancy this year, other than get into an extended debate with some of its biggest proponents when I had an aside in an unrelated post...

    I think it's interesting, but, for me, it's just not something I want to or need to look at every day. To each their own. But in cases like Saturday night's game, it's kinda fun to look at.

    It's a pretty intuitive measure of what's happening on the field. And, yes, if you're one of those people who hates when baseball is reduced to petty numbers, you're going to loathe this.

    The stat is a way of measuring the probability of the actual events on the field. If a player hits a solo homer in the first inning, it doesn't mean nearly as much as if he hits it in the bottom of the 9th with his team trailing a run. Sure, they both count as a run, but one has a significantly larger impact on the team's fortunes that day. This is just a way of measuring how large that impact is, based on how things have played out in the billions of baseball games played since the beginning of the time.

    For the purposes of this post, I'm using the numbers fount at Walk Off Balk. These differ from the ones found at FanGraphs, which is probably the largest pusher of this stat. The WOB site uses real-life game results from 1977 to 2006.

    The Indians started the 9th inning yesterday down by 2 runs. According to WOB, visiting teams have won the game just 5.5% of the time in that situation. Of course, the typical team doesn't have a flat-fastball-throwing Chad Cordero on the mound. After two singles put runners at the corners, the Indians (as you'd intuitively expect), had greatly improved their chances of winning, but the Nats still had 'em by the balls. With runners on the corners and nobody out, visiting teams trailing by two have won 25% of the games they've played. Those two singles, upped the chances by 20%, a pretty sizable move.

    Of course, Victor Martinez' blast did even more damage. His three-run homer erased the two-run deficit and gave the Indians a lead, dramatically increasing their odds of winning. They went from a likely loss to a likely win, as the Nats' chances of winning dropped all the way to 15%.

    So Martinez single-handedly increased the Indians chance of winning by 60% (25% before, 85% after). It's hard to have more of an impact than that.

    As the Nats entered the bottom of the ninth, it wasn't impossible for them to win.

    Home teams trailing by 1 in the bottom of the 9th start out with about a 19% chance of victory. When the Indians intentionally walked Cristian Guzman to load the bases with one out, the Nats had actually shifted the odds in their favor, and now had a 53% chance of winning. Then came the play.

    Felipe Lopez grounded weakly to the pitcher for the force at home and Nook Logan got caught rounding third too far for the game-ending double play. That 53% chance of winning, of course, dropped all the way to zero.

    Lopez deserves some of the scorn, but how much should we heap on Logan himself?

    Had Logan done the right thing and held at third, the team would've still had the bases loaded, just with two outs. In that exact situation, home teams still win 25% of the time. Remember, too, that that's the average home team, and that Ryan Zimmerman would've been at the plate, who certainly feels like he's better than the 'average' batter in those situations.

    One base-running play killed the team's chances. Oh well. Those losses could come in handy come draft time next year. ;)

  • Here's the FanGraphs play log of the game. Unfortunately, it doesn't break the Logan/Lopez play down into its component parts, instead saddling Lopez with the blame for the wacky GIDP.

    Or if you're a more visual person, here's the actual graph, which looks like the roller coaster from hell.

  • Two Sides To Every Story

    It's not always about us.

    (Of course, had Cordero not thrown a dickhigh fastball, this wouldn't have seen the light of day... but life has a funny way of working)

    Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Memo To Jim:

    CUT NOOK NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Your Incorrect Factoid of the Day

    Did you know: On May 18, the Nationals began a stretch off 34 consecutive games against American League teams. The Nationals were 15-16 against those teams entering Friday's action.

    Other than the games against the Reds, Cardinals, Dodgers, Padres and Pirates, that's deadly accurate.

  • Slightly more accurate from the same notes column, the Nats outrighted Larry Broadway, Mike Hinckley and Frank Diaz, removing them from the 40-man roster.

  • Slightly more important from the same notes column, Shawn Hill is reporting more elbow problems. Not good. Jason Bergmann starts on Monday.

  • The A's traded Milton Bradley to the Royals for a reliever with a career 6.99 ERA. Gee, thanks Jim. Guess he didn't get the memo.

  • Stack 'em Up

    It's been about a month since we last looked at our guys and how they're doing in comparison to the other schlubs from around the league.

    When we last looked at it, the Nats were woefully deficient at four lineup spots: first, short, second and left. Since then, Guzman and Young have gone on a tear, filling some of those holes. But what about the rest of the team? Where are the overall weaknesses, and where do the Nats lose ground?

    Quick note on the numbers. Each player is measure just at their time at that actual position. The team total lists the overall split at that position and includes players not specifically listed; I'm only listing the top 2 or 3 performers at each position, based on ABs. The May Total column refers to the Nats totals from the last update in early May, not their performance during that month.

    CATCHER             AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Brian Schneider .240 .314 .337 .650
    Jesus Flores .239 .314 .326 .640
    Total .240 .314 .335 .649
    May Total .254 .348 .347 .695
    NL AVE .254 .312 .381 .693

    Catching remains a black hole for the Nats, but it's basically a black hole for the entire league. Nats production has dropped off noticeably here because Jesus Flores has come back to earth. Some of that is because of the way Manny Acta has handled him. With a left-handed hitting starting catcher, there's plenty of opportunity to get Schneider his days of rest, yet Flores has more ABs against right-handed pitching than lefties.

    FIRST BASE          AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Dmitri Young .332 .400 .513 .913
    Robert Fick .236 .323 .291 .613
    Total .306 .370 .439 .809
    May Total .222 .327 .373 .700
    NL AVE .277 .358 .457 .814

    Here you see the biggest difference in the Nats results over the last month. First base was a wasteland in the last update, and Robert Fick had actually outhit Dmitri to that point. My how things have changed. Regardless of his defense, that's a star-quality performance, and the roughly 2-run improvement in runs per game is mostly on his broad, broad shoulders.

    SECOND BASE         AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Felipe Lopez .203 .246 .343 .589
    Ron Belliard .271 .307 .346 .653
    Total .235 .276 .345 .621
    May Total .264 .307 .368 .675
    NL AVE .264 .331 .415 .745

    This was a huge weakness in the last update, and Felipe Lopez has done nothing to improve the situation. Instead, continued poor performance has dragged the team down further. Lopez has to get better, doesn't he? What's happened to him? He's walking less and hitting more flyballs. But why? Just screwed up in the head? Is there an injury there? I still say he's the team's most interesting off-season decision.

    THIRD BASE         AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Ryan Zimmerman .254 .309 .447 .756
    Total .260 .314 .449 .763
    May Total .255 .314 .348 .661
    NL AVE .269 .341 .434 .774

    Here's another one of the keys to the team's mini-resurgence. Zimmerman, who has all but 5 of the team's 3B ABs, has really upped his power output. Compare his total in May. The average and OBP are basically the same, but the slugging is up about 100 points. The OBP is a bit low for my tastes, but he's getting the job done with a roughly league-average bat for 3B. Factor in the defense -- errors aside, it's his range that's the gravy on the mashed potatoes -- and he's much better than average, even if he's not Miguel Cabrera or David Wright.

    SHORTSTOP          AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Cristian Guzman .327 .382 .457 .839
    Felipe Lopez .270 .331 .330 .661
    Total .296 .361 .399 .760
    May Total .234 .314 .284 .598
    NL AVE .275 .333 .411 .744

    Wow. Look at that jump from May to today. That's all Guzman, and he probably deserves as much credit as anyone for the hot stretch over the last month. Those numbers he's putting up, especially when you factor in the park, are the best of his career, and it's not even close. He's pulled shortstop up to an asset for the team, and nobody, not even Jim Bowden, thought that that was possible. The downside is that he's a pretty brutal fielder. His range has really taken a step back, and the ball seems to have a handy knack for just passing under his glove. I've noticed lately, too, that he's really been holding back on his throws. Is his shoulder bugging him? Is he just pacing himself? If the shoulder's barking again, you can expect the batting to slide back down -- which is probably reasonable to expect either way.

    LEFT FIELD         AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Ryan Church .262 .347 .431 .778
    Kory Casto .130 .167 .174 .341
    Chris Snelling .200 .368 .333 .702
    Total .216 .312 .348 .661
    May Total .150 .260 .213 .473
    NL AVE .282 .360 .475 .835

    Ouch. Another position that we're losing badly on. It's probably best to compare Ryan Church's line directly to the NL Average, since the team total was really killed by those playing in left early in the year while Church was in center.

    If you do that, it's still not pretty. You can factor in the park, and smush his numbers up to roughly league average, but you'd really have to stretch it. Defensively, he's been a bit of a mess lately, missing some balls that it seems like he should've gotten to and making a few errors on some plays that looked pretty bad. He's an asset that he's giving you near-league-average performance at a tough position for basically the minimum salary. So Boswell is right, in a sense. He IS a fourth outfielder if you consider him as a left fielder only. He'd be a good stopgap in center, but the team has given up on that. So we're left with a so-so bat at a premium position and a player who really doesn't have any long-term value with the way he's being used now.

    In fairness, his overall numbers are basically the league average on the dot. And he's far from the team's biggest problem. It just does us no good to pretend that he's the answer, either.

    Ryan Church .282 .388 .485 .874
    Nook Logan .200 .238 .250 .488
    Ryan Langerhans .208 .323 .283 .606
    Total .239 .327 .358 .685
    May Total .288 .387 .475 .861
    NL AVE .263 .324 .406 .730

    This position has fallen off the table. Basically, the Nats switched their problems from April in left with problems in June in center. Center is going to be a problem now and forever for the Nats, and it seems like this is as certain to be the team's downfall as they continue to shuffle non-solutions into and out of the lineup for 2-week auditions. That, as much as anything, is as good an excuse as they need to overpay for one of the FA center fielders this offseason. They'll then be able to turn their attention to shuffling non-answers in and out of the lineup in left or at second. (Yes, Bernie Castro's ears are perking up)

    RIGHT FIELD        AVE   OBP   SLG   OPS
    Austin Kearns .257 .325 .396 .722
    Total .263 .330 .409 .739
    May Total .268 .331 .428 .759
    NL AVE .261 .327 .414 .740

    It seems like Austin Kearns is one giant streak. Sometimes hot. Often cold. And it seems like he should be doing better than he is. But when you look at hi in context of his peers, he's producing what the average NL RFer is. And then you factor in his defense -- even if you're one of those crazies that doesn't think he has much range, you've gotta love his arm -- and he's a net plus. Sure, we'd like all our right fielders to hit 30 homers and drive in 120 runs, but that's not going to happen in this park.

    Just accept him for what he is: a player who in what seems like a down year, is better than the average NL right fielder. Just imagine what'll happen when he stops slumping and hits in the new park?

  • Pinch Hitter Batting Averages:
    Tony Batista: .222
    Ron Belliard: .143
    Robert Fick: .000
    Jesus Flores: .000
    Ryan Langerhans: .500
    Nook Logan: .250
    TEAM: .154
    May Total: .071
    League average: .213

    Better. But then they almost had to be.

  • Overall, you can see what makes this a terrible offense. There's only one position that's a net plus. A few -- catcher, second, left, center -- that are below average. And a whole other bunch at which the Nats just tread water with the rest of the league.

    For the Nats to take the next step, they need to turn some of those water-treaders into assets, and find league-average gravel to fill those potholes.

    Take a look at the Brewers for example. Use the OPS+ total (last column) as a proxy for offensive quality. They're well above average at every position, save for 3B (which Ryan Braun has taken over nicely).

    Compare that starting lineup with the OPS+ totals of the Nats. It's not even close. That's the difference between being third in the league in runs scored and last.

    There's a lot of work to be done, huh?
  • Thursday, June 21, 2007

    Memo To Jim:

    Hey, buddy! It's been a while. I hope the kids are good.

    I saw recently that you've been interested in a troubled outfielder. That guy is bad news. Bad NEWS. I think you've had your eye on the wrong troubled outfielder.

    The A's just designated Milton Bradley for assignment. Sure, he's a pain in the tuchus, but at least he's not beating his wife. I know, he's been a disruptive influence in the clubhouse sometime, but if hating Jeff Kent is a bad thing, we're all terrible people. Besides, isn't Manny Acta's strength the way he works with people? Bradley certainly wasn't a problem in Oakland.

    Sure, he's injured all the time, but that's no problem with our roster -- Ted's keeping up on the HMO payments, right? But when healthy, the dude can hit. He'd easily be our most productive outfielder.

    Yeah, I know his contract is up at the end of the year. That's a plus, in some respects. There's not much of a cash outlay -- I think he's got about $2 million left -- and there's a chance that he'd be a Type B free agent at the end of the year, netting us a pick. It's a smart move! Buy low, sell high! That's what you always tell me (when you're not talking about "pitching, pitching, pitching," that is).

    If he works out, great! Maybe you'd even be able to flip him at the deadline? If not, walk and hope for picks. Or maybe, if he proves himself to be a good citizen, you sign him on the cheap and build with him point forwards. He's only 29 afterall.

    See what the A's would take. Their owners are even more... well, let's just say that they're frugal. Maybe they'd take some stiffs for him, depending on what kind of interest level you're hearing from around the league. If we're lucky, you could snag him for nothing off waivers!

    Send my best to Joy.

    StanSpeak: 23rd In A Continuing Series

    It's been a while since we've had anything extended from our favorite team president. At yesterday's Q&A at ESPNZone (I'm sure he was heartbroken that I didn't make it), he fielded a few, and spits out some of his answers.

    I've took the liberty of inputting them into the StanSpeak Translator last night, and it finally emailed me the results: what Stan is really thinking when he's answering those questions.

    On what the team has done to improve marketing:
    We've had a lot more money this year than we've had in the past because you suckers fell for the stadium pitch. Thanks for making me rich! We had a great caravan of two people that made it all the way to Virginia Beach last year even though gas prices are through the roof, and there will be much more of that this winter if gas prices come down, because we'll be able to invite (Damn, I'm good. Invite sounds so much better than "sell") fans into the new ballpark, and Lord knows if our attendance this year is any indication, we'll need to do lots of "inviting".

    No one is going to come to the new ballpark just because we open our doors, except for the schmucks I conned into buying tickets this year. They're going to come when we have a good product (I hope they don't pick up that "product" doesn't necessarily mean "team"). It involves many, many things, some of which, such as winning, that won't happen for years, and we don't take any of them for granted. It's not the NBA, where you can draft Shaq and make it to the Finals or run a lousy franchise for years, sneak into the 8th seed of the playoffs year after year after year, then cite that as one of your accomplishments when running a franchise in a different sport. It's a building process, and we've made a lot of progress over the past year, and there's a lot more coming, especially into our wallets.

    On whether Dmitri Young could stay with the Nats:
    Sure, there's a chance, just like there was a "chance" that we'd win the pennant this year (HAHA!). We all know his game, and you might describe his game as being more fit for the American League (was that a gentle enough way of saying he fields like an ox?), but he doesn't feel that way, and we love him and his delusions of grandeur. He is a great guy to have in the clubhouse. So we'll see how it all plays out.

    On when the team will be competitive:
    We expect to win some decade, and it starts with winning the division, then going beyond that in a way my Atlanta Braves never were able to. @#$@#$ Division Series. We took over a last-place team last year and kept it in last place, but more cheaply!, and there weren't a lot of Minor Leaguers ready to go, and there still aren't, so we turned our attention to that because watching the major league club makes me cry. Did you see what Detroit did to us!? This year we're going to see progress over the course of the year. I think we will have some players in September of 2010 that are ready to be called up -- fruits of our farm system like D'Angelo Jiminez and Tony Batista --, and that would be real progress in my mind. Your goals are the same as my goals -- to get to the postseason as soon as possible.

    On whether the team itself is a true public service:
    Who let the hippie in? Must be one of those DCist jerks. That's not Needham; he actually likes baseball sometimes. There's an element of that, I think, that is true, because I think having a Major League team helps make the city "major league.", something the presences of the NFL, NBA and NHL is unable to provide. And anything that brings together two or three million of our citizens every year is a benefit, even though it's not really 2 or 3 million, just the same 20,000 every night for 81 nights. And the new stadium will attract business, especially to the buildings and land Mr. Lerner owns and have a multiplier effect on the franchise's value and the money I make.

    So that romantic notion of baseball as a public service is partially true. But the fans are better off and I'm better off if I think of it as a business. If I think of you as a customer instead of a citizen, I'm going to work as hard as I can to reach out and satisfy you, the customer. Comprende, you socialist bastard? We know it's important to be good neighbors and good citizens, but it's also good business. That will make us -- me and Teddy -- more successful. Now get back to work so you can pay more taxes, you dirty bum.

    On his impressions of Manny Acta:
    I can't tell you how impressed I am with what he did, especially at the salary we're paying him.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Two Good Posts

    ...from the under appreciated and typically hidden Todd Jacobson.

    If you like stats, you'll like this one: his look at the Nats' BABIP and who's lucky and unlucky. (You'll see there, why I'm comparatively down on Bergmann)

    The second one's even better (even if a few days old). He gives us the rundown of the team's latest rebellion against the Washington Times. Man, nobody must like that paper.

  • Ever since I started abusing google's RSS reader, I've been cut off to anything that doesn't have a feed. I'm skimming a lot more things more frequently than I was before, but I'm also not exploring like I was. Alas.

  • A Pleasant Evening

    Eating grilled chicken and macaroni salad while sitting on my balcony and sipping a gin and tonic.... Watching a few episodes of the Sopranos on DVD (it's some series I just picked up; have you heard of it?)... Walking around a lake near my apartment, watching the animals -- beavers, frogs, raccoons, turtles -- on a perfectly comfortable evening... A big bowl of ice cream when I get back. What could be better?

    Did I miss anything?

    This whole "It's not worth your time to care til we get our new stadium" culture that the front office has perpetuated has been one of the best things ever!

    Moves A Go-Go

    Ah, Bowden got his transaction jones for the day! (Here's an Orioles link with the info, just to piss you off.)

    The Nats activated Luis Ayala, called up Chris Schroder and (officially) Brandon Watson.

    To make room, they designated Winston Abreu and Levale Speigner for Assignment. (Fick's move to the bereavement list creates the third roster spot)

    Abreu has been terrible lately, allowing runs in 7 of his last 8 appearances. As we suspected when he first got the callup, he just didn't have command of his pitches. He was getting by in the minors because his stuff was good enough to fool lesser batters even without the command. That just doesn't work in the majors, usually.

    With Speigner, his Rule 5 status complicates things a bit. The DFA puts him into a transactional limbo. He's on waivers, and any team can claim him. If they do, they retain the Rule 5 active roster requirements. If he clears, the Nats would be able to send him to the minors after offering him back to Minnesota. But MN would have to pay $25K, and is he really worth that?

    We know about Ayala -- if you can remember back that far -- and Watson. Schroder pitched pretty terribly last year with a bizarre statline.

    He's an amazing strikeout pitcher, with 39 K in just 28 IP. But that's half the battle. He walked 4.8 per game and allowed a boatload of homers: 7!? That's about 2.2 per game. Add it up, and he had an ERA over 6.

    Schroder has done much the same in the minors this year, save for the gopher ball. He's striking out a ton of batters, walking too many. But somehow, he hasn't allowed a homer in 33 innings pitched.

    If he can keep that up in the majors, he can succeed, even with the control problems. We'll find out!

    I've Already Used Elementary And Watson In A Post Title

    Brandon Watson's call-up is likely a short-term solution with Robert Fick on the bereavement list, but it's interesting in that with the team souring on Nook Logan and Alex Escobar's most recent injury, he'd likely be the next OFer called up.

    Manny Acta has said that he'll give Watson time in CF while he's here, so they can get an idea of what they've got with him. (That they do that when they've FINALLY made up their minds to go with what they should've been doing all along -- a CF platoon -- is a bit maddening, but, hey, if this team knew what they wanted to do with CF, it just wouldn't be the same).

    I won't rehash the argument against Watson here. I made that last year when the team stupidly made him the CFer out of spring training. Nothing's really changed. Even with his hitting streak, it was 95% singles. That's fine if you're walking occasionally, but he doesn't.

    I could go on a rant about how feckin stupid it is to use one week's worth of playing time to evaluate a player, but that's what these team consistently does. I just gotta toughen up and take it, much like Wil Cordero's wife.

    But this one's a bit different, I think. This isn't meant to see what Watson CAN do, but to show what he can't.

    Jim Bowden was on 980 last night, talking about Brandon Watson, and he ripped him. No, he didn't actually say bad things about him, but when Bowden isn't lavishing overwrought praise on a player, it tells you something. He made the point that Watson's hitting streak has to be discounted because of his performance against Triple-A pitching (something a curiously named likely genius mentioned here). He also said that although he was playing CF in the minors, he wasn't capable of being a CFer in the majors, and that he'd project more to being a LFer. And thirdly, he said that "some in the organization" (read: him) think that he's a fourth or fifth outfielder at best. Which, by the law of baseballmen-ese, means he's a 5th or 6th outfielder.

    I was thinking about that this morning, when I re-read one of my old posts. Even as they were deciding to keep Watson over Church, there were whispers against him.

    In that post, I wondered if the call was Frank's. Was he the one pushing for Watson, while the front office knew that they didn't have much?

    With Watson's recent success, is this the front office's way of killing some of that momentum? If they give Watson 7 games to prove that he can't hack it at the plate or in the field, there won't be yammering down the line to give him a chance. They'll be able to point to his two stints of failure and rule him out. (even as the stints they gave him were too short for any real meaningful evaluation).

    I dunno if this is what the team is really thinking. I don't think they really WANT Watson to fail. I think you want all of them to develop into great hitters. I just don't think they expect him to. And I don't think they'd be disappointed if he didn't.


  • To create room on the 40-man roster for him, the team put Alex Escobar on the 60-day DL. That creates a logjam down the road. When (if?) Escobar is healthy and needs to be activated, they'll have to dump someone. The logical choice would be Logan. But why would they keep Watson around if he's "failed" twice?

  • Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Thar She Blows

    Hey, I'm a terrible fan, but rarely have I left a game early, and then it's only been in the 8th or 9th inning. Tonight, I made an exception. Wow, what a stinker.

    On a hot, miserably humid day, there wasn't anything to cheer, other than the sarcastic ones the fans let out when Simontacchi or Speigner stumbled into an out.

    Face it. RFK is a feckin' dump, and on a night like tonight, it's a terribly unpleasant place to take in a ballgame. The damp, heavy DC air just hangs there in the stadium, trapped in by the enclosed bowl of the stadium. The moisture just lays there, coating the fans, and tonight, you could see the haze in the lights.

    I got there a few minutes before 7, and figured I'd finally break down and buy one of those corned beef sandwiches that Nationals Power Joe always raves about. So when I get there to the stand on the 3rd-base side of the 100 level, they didn't have any. OK, I'll have a pastrami. Nope. Do they have any sandwiches? Nope. It'll be 15 minutes, they say. 15 minutes my ass. I don't want to pay $10 for a pile of loose meat anyway. Be damned if I'm coming back 15 minutes later. So I wander up, get a grilled hotdog -- usually a passable choice -- and proceed to regret that when my tummy starts rumbling 2 innings later.

    Although, it's difficult to figure out whether it was the chopped-up pig anus or Simontacchi's pigshit pitching that caused it.

    The bright side is that I'm finally able to cross "Starting Pitcher with 10 Earned Runs" off the list of accomplishments I've always wanted to see. (That's ranked much lower than the No-hitter I saw)

    We're all going to run into stinkers from time to time. It's just the confluence of weather, bad stadium amenities and Ortiz-like pitching that've created the single worst game I've been to.

    Oh well.... you're not reading this to listen to me whine...

  • Svrluga has the rundown of a flurry of moves:

    1) Robert Fick's mother passed away after her long battle with lung cancer. I can't imagine what that's like, and it certainly has to account for some of his terrible performance this year.

    Brandon Watson gets the callup while he's on the bereavement list, which gives the Nats a monopoly on fleet, slap-hitting centerfielders with little power.

    2) Jason Bergmann will likely be activated and start next Tuesday in Atlanta, the team he's owned this year. (I have faith that Bergmann's a different pitcher than he was last year, but I'm also selling now; I think he's going to come back to earth in the second half -- defining earth as a 4ish ERA)

    3) Luis Ayala is back Friday. Who goes down? Winny Abreu? Ray King? Billy Traber?

    4) Alex Escobar (AKA: Nook Logan's executioner) had another setback, a rolled ankle. ETA is two weeks more, but buck sez that turns into three months!

    5) some minor leaguer did something or is going somewhere. NFA'll be all over that, I bet.

    6) Not from Svrlgblg, but yesterday, Mike O'Connor was 'activated' from the DL, and optioned to AA. His rehab time had run out, but he wasn't quite ready for the majors. Of course you could make that argument about Speigner and Bacsik. Regardless, it'll likely be a while (or a few more injuries) til we see him again.

  • At the game, since I'm a sick, sadistic bastard, I was looking forward to how some of the other blogs (especially those who are much more optimistic than me!) would cover this game.

    Well, there's nobody more optimistic than the DC Optimist, and he doesn't disappoint. He really needs to hook me up with some of that happy gas!

  • The All-Spin Zone

    Tom Boswell has adapted nicely to Teh InterWeb with a new video podcast, "A Few Minutes With Thomas Boswell." This episode features a lengthy -- going against the name of the video --interview with Stan Kasten. (I'll resist making the Sean Hannity interviewing George Bush joke.)

    I can't say that there's anything terribly new or overly exciting. It's about what you'd expect, and if you've read every other interview Kasten's given, there likely won't be anything new. Still, it's nice to see an extended interview and not just sound bites, even if Kasten is mostly practiced in delivering answers that are sound bites (if a sound bite can be wordy).

    Just a few Cliff's Notes....

  • At around the 11:00 mark, he discusses why Free Agency is a risky venture and the problems it creates, and how it should be one of the last avenues for a team to build around. It's a solid argument and one that anyone rational would have to agree with.

  • STALKER ALERT: He lives near 23rd and L. Why they left that in, I dunno. But if you're wandering in that area, and have some rotting fruit...

  • It's somewhat telling that he has a quote from Sam Walton on his whiteboard. That's the Sam Walton who founded WalMart, perhaps the only company that hates unions more than MLB, and a company that's thrived by cutting costs to the bone and getting people to buy their usually substandard products. /cheapshot

  • He seems to have a shovel in his office. You can see it behind Boswell, next to the bat. I'll resist here, too, and won't make the joke about needing it to shovel all the manure Bowden spews.

  • At around the 27:00 mark, Kasten's eyes light up when he talks about Manny Acta, and his positive nature, as well as how much Acta believes in "The PLAN!"

  • The other thing I noticed is that when he gives a long list of positive benefits of something, the one at the end is likely the one he cares about. There are two places in the interview where he does that. The one at the end lists all the benefits of the plaza area at the new stadium, which will open before the seating bowl. He says something like, "There will be games, you'll get to see batting practice, blah, blah, blah, and plenty of places to buy things."

    The man does like to tell the truth!

  • Monday, June 18, 2007

    No, I Didn't Know That

    From Today's Notes Column:
    Did you know? ... The Nationals have won four consecutive road series, including the three-game series against the Orioles.
    I know Canada's an inferior, moose-sucking country, but the games should still count, eh?

    Your Nook Logan Thread

    After the game, I checked my email, and I had two emails from loyal blog readers kvetching about our good friend Nook Logan, wondering why he continues to sit on the roster, stealing playing time from players who stink, but not as much as he does.

    Damed if I know. Damned if I know.

    Brandon Watson's International League Record 43-game hitting streak ended tonight. Congrats to him. It's really an amazing feet, and he's just the kind of hitter who'd be able to accomplish something like that. (Yes, that's a backhanded compliment!) (Didja notice the 2 scoreless IP by Luis Ayala in there?)

    I've written many, many, many words about our good friend Nook Logan. Here's one fine example (including an appearance by an anonymous commenter whom I apparently made sick by my lusting for steroids or something; I couldn't quite follow). If that's not enough to sate your appetite, here's a boatload more.

    But let's turn this over to you. Judging by my inbox, some of you have some comments on Mr. Logan. What do you think? Send him down (hoping he clears waivers [hahahaha]) and bring up Watson? Take him back behind the barn? What's up with him defensively? How many balls has he screwed up this year? Is he the suckiest suck who ever did suck? Or is it a case of what that anonymous commenter said: "The league needs a lot more players like Nook Logan and the moment baseball get back to the running and gunning of the 80s it will have more fans."

    11 Down, 55.3% To Go

    This team has an amazing ability to time their wins well for maximum effect. Other than that long losing streak which seems like it was ages ago, the team has the ability to win a game, just when you feel like the bottom is about to drop out. After getting pasted by the Blue Jays in the first two games, it was easy to get down on the team. Then a win later, and things are back to normal, and you can look at the team's 4-2 record against AL East teams and think that things are all right.

    Nats Record: 4-2
    Overall: 30-39, tied with three teams for 13th place. That's a 70-92 pace.

    Since rock bottom on May 9, the team is 21-14 and tied with the Phillies for the third best record in the league. Since that time, they're also 6th best in runs allowed.

    Expected Record: 65-97 They "picked up" two games this week.
    Runs Scored: 28 (4.7/g), Overall: 268, last in the NL by 16 runs and almost 100 runs behind Philly.
    Runs Allowed: 27 (4.5/g), Overall: 335, 11th in the NL, 110 behind SD.

    That May 9 dividing line is a perfect point to look back on. We've played 35 games since then, 34 before then.

    Since, we've won 9 more games, lost 11 fewer, scored 70 more (about 2 more a game) and allowed 11 fewer. In other words, despite appearances, the pitching hasn't been appreciably better. Of course when you're running Levale Speigner, Mike Bacsik and Micah Bowie (who has been surprisingly good), that's probably to be expected.

    What's Good?
    1) Ryan Zimmerman's Power! It's returned! He's like a giant semi with a full load chugging up a hill. It takes him a while to get going, and sometimes it doesn't seem like he's moving, but maybe he just hit the crest of that hill, and it's all downhill (so to speak) from here.

    At this point, he's basically the same Ryan Zimmerman as last year, just with a few fewer points of batting average. 100 RBI might be a bit of a stretch, but he looks like he's got a good chance of setting a career high in homers. He's been excellent over his last 20 games, and if he keeps that sort of pace up, he'll be even more valuable this year than last, as his pricetag continues to rise.

    2) Micah Bowie! He wasn't the sharpest starter, but what he's done has been incredible. Svrluga has a good entry focusing partly on him, about how he thought his career was over. And with good reason.

    Coming into this season, Bowie had 11 career starts, all in 1999. He barely averaged 4 innings pitched, but that's what happens when you have a 9.96 ERA. This year, he's started 6 games, averaging just over 5 IP with a 3.82 ERA. His peripheral numbers (walks, strikeouts, homers) aren't very good, which indicates he's scuffling along, a bit lucky perhaps. For the short term, you can't have any complaints. He's far exceeded meager expectations, and he's kept the team in every single game he's started. With the way Dmitri and Guzman have been hitting, that's all this team really needed: They're 6-0 in his starts.

    3) Ryan Langerhans! You wouldn't realize it because he's in and out of the lineup, because he bats so low in the order, because he had such a terrible start with his other teams, and because the team focuses a lot on his platoon partner, but he's been terrific lately. With the Nats, he's up to .236/ .368/ .403, which is good for a 103 OPS+. Sure, that batting average is low, but if you focus on that, you're missing the other things he does offensively, which have value. He has a good eye, drawing 15 walks in limited playing time, and he's smacked 3 homers too. Decent power and a good eye can overcome low batting averages.

    Factor in his defense -- he's been terrific -- and he's a center fielder who's well above average. No, he's not ever going to be an elite one, but he's also not holding back a team.

    What's Bad?
    1) Cristian Guzman. Remember when he was good? He had quite the resurgence for a bit before going back into a cold .105/ .292/ .105 slumber.

    2) Levale Speigner. I hope he enjoyed his one dance with the devil. His start against MIN, reminded me of Ryan Drese against the Angels. Even bad pitchers can have good games from time to time. Problems arise when teams continue to search for that ghost, thinking the player is capable of reproducing that performance instead of ascribing it to dumb luck.

    3) Jesus Colome. This guy has a workload that would make Luis Ayala tremble in fear: 87 games, 101 IP. I'm not sure if he's tiring a bit, but he's scuffled from time to time, allowing a run in half of his last 12 appearances (cherry-picked stat alert!)

    Some of it could be fatigue, but some of it is also just lack of command catching up to him. He's been dominant at times, but even when things are going well, you get the feeling that he's not completely in control of things, especially the slider, which sometimes sorta hangs up there. And when it doesn't, Schneider's (or, if you're Don Sutton: Snyder) usually reaching to the opposite side of the plate from where he set up.

    He probably hasn't pitched as well as his ERA indicates, walking far too many batters (4.5/g) without being overly dominant with the strikeout pitches. He's succeeded because he's mostly kept the ball in the park (just 3 homers) and because he's stranded a higher number of baserunners than the typical pitcher. Clutch pitching or luck? Somewhere in between, most likely. If either starts to fade, his ERA is going to rise. Might it be time to sell high with him?

    Game O' The Week
    Pick any of the three against the Orioles. They were all sweet!

    Weekly Awards
    MVP: Congrats to Ryan Zimmerman who broke Dmitri Young's stranglehold on the award. (Young, for what it's worth, cooled to a (.269 .269 .462) line.

    Cy Young: Jon Rauch got his groove back, pitching 4.1 scoreless IP while allowing just one hit. Of course that one hit blew a save, but that's what happens when crappy relievers walk the park in front of him.

    LVP: Sorry, Cristian. Ryan Church almost edged him out, but his latest injury prevented him from accumulating the PT necessary to bump Teh Gooz.

    Joe Horgan Award: Levale Speigner really wants this to be renamed, huh?

    Weekly Whips:
    6/12: Ryan Zimmerman had 2 hits, a homer, and 2 RBI. Good 'nuff!
    6/13: I know that FLop had the big 3-RBI double in extras, but he was one for six! Austin Kearns was 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and a walk. That works for me.
    6/15: 13 baserunners in 7 innings doesn't usually yield 1 run allowed, but then again, Jason Simontacchi doesn't usually pitch against teams as crappy as the O's.
    6/15: Ryan Langerhans' homer didn't mean anything to the game, but the reaction he got from Roy Halliday was fun at least.
    6/16: Another homer for Zimmerman. I could get used to this!
    6/17: Micah Bowie pitched about as well as he's capable of pitching.

    What's Ahead?
    Uncertain Doom.

    This upcoming stretch is why the Nats needed yesterday's win so badly. They're about to run the gauntlet of 2 of the top teams in the AL with Detroit and Cleveland. There's a good chance that the results won't be pretty!

    If the Nats are somehow able to split, that would be a big success. I'm not banking on that though. (which means, of course, they'll go 5-1 and shock us all)

    Everybody Hates RFK, 'Cept The Pitchers

    With the offensive orgy the team went on in the first part of this week's road trip (at least 'til they faced actual major-league pitching), there were a few more quotes from players talking about the distances of the walls at RFK. Reading them, it didn't seem like the whining of the past, just matter-of-fact assertions that the deep walls at RFK prevent the team from hitting as many homers as they would at another park. Simple enough.

    I've talked before ad nauseum about park factors and how RFK really does hinder batters in comparison to other parks. When I've mentioned park factors, it's always been in the context of a single number. In RFK's case, I've used 80 as its park factor, meaning it yields about 20% fewer homers than an average park.

    Hit Tracker via the Hardball Times
    has taken it a step further giving us numbers for something we've all had a pretty good sense of. They've broken down each of the MLB parks into sections, giving us a park factor for each part of the park.

    Needless to say, you won't be surprised to see that the easiest place to hit homers at RFK is down the line, where the factor is about 102. A dead pull hitter, as Soriano demonstrated, is not harmed by RFK. It's -- as Guillen and Vidro and many other showed us -- when you move to the gaps and center where it's a problem. The gaps have a factor of about 79 and dead center is at 51. 20% fewer balls are go out to the gaps, and nearly half as many leave to center field.

    The link has the full breakdown of every park, and it's interesting to note the difference between some of the more extreme parks and RFK. Coors, for example, gives up twice as many homers to right-center than RFK. Can you imagine Cordero trying to pitch there!

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Blame The Skittles

    The Good Ladies at We've Got Heart note that the team is 20-12 since the team banned alcohol from the clubhouse. Huzzah for the teetotalers!

    But far more importantly to me, since those filthy do-good food nazis banned skittles from the clubhouse, replacing them with lettuce, barley and smoothies, the team is just 8-7.

    How can those jerks expect these professional athletes to survive without sugar and beer?

    No booze and no skittles make Ray King GO CRAZY!!!! Since the puritans took over, they've destroyed this fine athlete:
    6 games, just 2.1 IP and a 15.43 ERA.

    Worse, the tyrannical brownshirts who pushed for this pathetic soul-killing policy have stunk just as much:

    Brian Schneider our girly-hitting, veggie-loving pus of a catcher has 'slugged' just .298 since foisting his faux diet on the clubhouse. Perhaps if this jerk weren't sticking his nose in Dmitri Young's gut, he could have more time to actually do something with the bat. Much like Aerosmith, I liked Brian Schneider better when he was drunk and coked up.

    And the other Pol Pot despotic wannabe, John Patterson? What's he done since then? That's right! NOTHING, other than drain Mr. Lerner's hard-earned money while sitting his scrawny 110-pound ass on the bench when he's not receiving therapeutic "massages" (with or without the happy ending?), knocking up his Beauty Pageant woman or tending to his flowing mane of hair. Bupkus.

    We need strong leadership from this team to end the tyranny of the minority. Who will stand up for freedom and all that is right with America, the land of brave and the home of the free?


    [Ray: The check cleared. Thanks!]

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Page Is Back... Sort Of

    Mitchell Page returns to the team as its roving minor league hitting instructor. Good for him, and I hope he's healthy and if the rumors are true, has gotten his life back in order again.

    I still think that Page is a very good hitting coach, even as the team has vastly improved offensively since he took his leave.

    Through May 11, when he took leave, the team was hitting .233/ .309/ .333 and scored exactly three runs per game. Since then, they're at .264/ .325/ .403 with a smidge over five runs per game. It's a completely different team. Of course, Page was working with an over-matched Casto, a broken-footed Young and a few other hitters who were slumping, so it's not fair to pin all of that difference on him.

    Regardless, Lenny Harris has to feel like the smartest man in the room.

  • So they won again, a sweep of the dreaded Blowrioles. We now have the same record as that foul (fowl?) team, and are four games up on the last-place Cincinnati Reds. We're 'just' 8 back of the Mets, although we're 10 back of the Dodgers for the Wild Card. So don't print the playoff tickets just yet.

    Despite all this winning, the team is still 8 under .500, which gives you an idea of how large a hole they've dug. But, they WERE 16 under on May 9. They've halved that in just over a month.

    There are 96 games left.

    To get to .500, they'd have to go 52-44, an 88-win pace.
    To get to 85 wins, the margins of WC contention, they'd have to go 56-40, a 95-77 pace.
    To get to 89 wins, the amount needed for the WC the last two years, they'd have to go 60-36, a 101-61 pace.

    Over their last 30 games, they're 18-12, which is about as well as this team can possibly play. That's a 97-win pace.

    If they continue to play as well as they have for the last 30 games for the NEXT 100 GAMES, they'll be on the cusp of the Wild Card in September.

    I've got a lot more faith than I had in March, but I ain't drinkin' that much Kool-Aid.

    Just getting back to .500 would be remarkable enough for me. I still don't really think that that's possible, but with what we've seen lately, not too much would surprise me.

  • Hindsight GMing

    Just for mierda and giggles... Let's say that the Lerners decided to open up their wallets, deciding that a payroll similar to last year's level would be appropriate. Further, they've dusted off the H.G. Wells-era time machine they've kept in the basement of Wheaton Plaza, and are allowing you to travel back to December with all the info you know now. Further suppose that you have absolute power of persuasion and that any player you select (not named Bonds!) would come play for you for the same salary they eventually accepted. (Lots of suppositions, huh?)

    Here's the list of Free Agents signed over the offseason. You've got $30 million to spend or not spend. Who, if anyone, would you have signed? And who would you have left off the Nats roster?

    I'll be working on my answers...

  • Alright, here's what I'd do...

    $1.75 for Ryan Klesko to replace Robert Fick

    $.85 for Damien Easley (or Aaron Boone) to replace Tony Batista

    $6 for Kenny Lofton to replace Ryan Langerhans and to platoon with Logan in CF

    $1 for Jorge Sosa to replace Jerome Williams
    $10 for Greg Maddux (or Tom Glavine) to replace Jason Simontacchi

    All of those guys, save for Easley, have played for Stan Kasten before.

    That's a total of about $20 million, and none of those are long-term contracts. (The players we're giving up are about $2 million).

    Would this team win more?

    I'm using Runs Created as a proxy for offense and prorating it to give them an approximate % of Nats playing time.

    Klesko to this point has been worth 10 more runs than Fick, given Fick's playing time.

    For Easley, I summed up Josh Wilson's and Tony Batista's playing time and prorated Easley's performance. So far, he's been worth 6 runs (about half a win) more than they were.

    For Lofton in Center, I had to tweak it a bit. I took Logan's, Casto's and Langerhan's stats and assigned Lofton 2/3 of the playing time to account for the platoon. (Church would've started the season in LF, negating Casto had Lofton been signed)

    With Lofton, that position would have produced about 21 runs. Without him, just 15, so Lofton has added another 6 runs, or half a win.

    It's harder to do a direct pitcher comparison, but if you sum up the starting performances of our backups: Bowie, Williams, Simontacchi and Bacsik, they gave up about 90 runs in 140 innings.

    Sosa and Maddux have combined for about 56 runs in 130 innings.

    So there's about a 30-35-run difference in performance, which is about three total wins. (of course, there's some added bonus to the relievers not having to strain so much, but i ain't calculatin' that!)

    So for a net of about $18 million, we could have about 5 more wins and be 33-32.

    Of course that's all hindsight. Nobody was calling on the team to sign Jorge Sosa, and we all mostly thought that Fick was a good idea.

    It's not a perfect science. And this doesn't prove anything. But it's fun to think about.