Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The New Paradigm

In reading the various round ups of today's trade constipation, Bowden keeps sounding off about how things are different. Nobody's willing to trade their top prospects for rent-a-players.

"One thing we know is that we are getting parity in the game, and when you get down to the trade deadline, small-market clubs do not have to dump payroll anymore. You are not seeing prospects getting traded, except for the Atlanta/Texas trade [Mark Teixeira was traded to the Braves for prospects]. They are not going anywhere. The Yankees and Red Sox are holding onto all of their prospects. That is the theme you are seeing everywhere."

If that's the case, and you're a team that's desperately trying to build up its farm team, you've gotta shift strategy, right?

Isn't the easiest way, then, to acquire extra draft picks? Signing players and letting them walk at the end of the year? Shouldn't smart teams be intentionally doing this?

And if that's the case, how do we rectify that with the team's recent signing decisions?

  • I made a few more points in comments...

  • Bowden On 980

    Just heard Bowden crowing on 980 on my drive home. Two things.

    Mentioned they were close to dealing Cordero for a 19-year old pitcher in the NY Penn League. (Presumably as a piece).

    He also said they were close to dealing Dmitri a week or two ago, to a team that 'fell out of the race'. Buck says, it was the Twins.


    Looks like another trade deadline fizzle.

    At least last year, we knew we could look forward to the draft picks.

    Seems like they were close with deals to the Mets and D-Backs, but couldn't pull the trigger.

    If it was just for Phil Humber, good for Bowden not pulling the trigger. Let the kvetching begin!

  • Svrluga confirms: Nuttin' doin'.

  • I Hate Rumors

    I really do.

    That being said, let's pass two along:

    Svrluga says the D-Backs are in the Reliever Derby. SEND CHRIS YOUNG!!!! (Cordero and Church??)

    MLB Trade Rumors
    cites a Nationals source as saying that nothing's going to get done with Cordero/Rauch with the Mets or Tigers. (I find the facts believable, but the idea that mlb trade rumors has a source when it sometimes seems like neither the post nor times do is... strange)

    I'm not holding my breath on anything happening. If I had to bet that someone would go, it'd be Rauch. But we'll see.

  • Meanwhile, watch me and a Mets fan talk all over each other. Damn filthy animals.

  • Monday, July 30, 2007

    Sketching A Plan

    Just for the hell of it...

    '08 estimates as we think about where we're headed next year:

    Catcher: $5.3 million
    Schneider, $4.9
    Backup, .4

    First: $10.5 million
    Johnson, $5.5
    Dmitr, $5

    Second: $6.6 million
    Lopez, ~$5.0 (arb-eligible, 3.9 this year, could be 1-2 million higher)
    Belliard, $1.6

    Short: $4.6 million
    Guzman, $4.2
    Backup, $.4

    Third: $1 million
    Zimmerman, $1 million (barring an extension)

    Outfield: $8 million
    Kearns, $5
    Church, $1
    Langerhans, $1.5
    Logan/Watson/Whoever, $.5

    TOTAL OFFENSE: $36 million

    Pitching is a bit trickier.
    You could have the 5 minimum guys starting rotation: Hill, Bergmann, Chico, Redding, Hanrahan (or jumble up their names with any of the other sort of low-salary stiffs we've seen far too often this year).

    Let's just call it $3 million.

    Bullpen: $11 million
    Cordero, $6 (arb-eligible, $4.2 this year)
    Rauch, ~1.5 (arb-eligible)
    Rivera, .5
    Wagner?, 1
    Vet Lefty, 1.5
    Scrapheap reliever, .5

    TOTAL PITCHING: $11 million.

    TOTAL PAYROLL: $47 million.

    The Nationals Opening Day payroll this season was roughly $39 million.

    So trotting the same lousy team out there next year will cost $8 million more.

    The good news? Svrluga has tossed out some asides that the team is willing to substantially increase payroll in the coming year. He's thrown out the $70-80 million figure before. Even if you assume it's $70 million, that still would leave the Nats with over $20 million extra to spend in the offseason.

    So, no, the Dmitri Young signing didn't cripple the franchise now and into the future.

    But that doesn't make it any less curious given the pieces that are on the table.

    And if Svrulga's report is wrong, and it's closer to $60 million? Then, maybe, that $5 million would come in handy.

    Of course, if they trade Cordero (which the emergence of Rivera and Jesus Colome could allow them to do), that's an extra $5 million or so in the piggybank...

    17 Down, Two Months Left

    Muddling along, the Nats had another decent week, especially considering the competition they were facing, the double header, and the prospect of having two different pitchers make their major-league debuts. Like most of the year, they surpassed expectations without being really that good. All of us'll take 3-4 though.

    Nats Record: 3-4
    Overall: 45-60, 14/16 in the NL. If the season ended today, the Nats would have the 4th draft pick. They're 5.5 "behind" Tampa Bay for the #1.
    Runs Scored: 28, 4/g. 398 overall, which is still 20 worse than the next-to-last team.
    Runs Allowed: 32, 4.6/g. 506 overall, 10th in the league. They'd need to drop 50 runs to be in the top 5.
    Expected Record: 63-99 -- That's three straight weeks with the same pythag record. By winning percentage, they're on pace for 69-93. Seems like that's a function of a strong front half of a bullpen which keeps us in close games and a week back half which lets 'em rip when we're behind.

    NL East Standings Since May 9 (our rock bottom)
    40-30  -- Philadelphia (best record in the NL)
    38-34 3 NY Mets
    36-35 4.5 Washington
    34-39 7.5 Atlanta
    34-39 7.5 Florida

    What's Good?
    1) Austin Kearns. Rumors of his demise were only partially exaggerated. He had his first solid week in what seems like 13 years, hitting the ball hard, and finally centering when he pulled the ball. Too often this year, it looked like he was working too hard to hit the ball the other way, getting himself tied up as he made a conscious effort. This week, he let 'em rip, scorching hard-hit balls to left and center. Just a short-term run? Or signs that he's getting back on track? We'll find out in the next week or two.

    2) Jesus Flores. He played in just three games, but led the team in RBI. And the team needed EVERY one of his RBI. Over the last two weeks, he's had some huge clutch hits. And every time I see him, I'm impressed with his approach. He doesn't seem overwhelmed, and it certainly feels like he's in control of the AB, even if every one doesn't get results.

    3) The Spring Training Flameouts. Tim Redding and Joel Hanrahan had great weeks, despite showing almost nothing in spring training. Redding's made the most of his chances, and now has a 2.64 ERA despite not striking anyone out (save for his last start). It was just one start for Hanrahan, but you've gotta like the K and BB numbers. The biggest impediment to his success has been his inability to control within the strikezone, and for one start at least, that wasn't a problem. I'll be interested to see how he does for the rest of the season.

    What's Bad?
    1) Brian Schneider. I've whipped this guy enough. His line speaks for itself: .167/ .250/ .278

    2) Dmitri Young. Apparently the old boy strained himself signing that contract. That sound you hear is the sound of regressing. .208/ .208/ .250

    3) Ryan Langerhans. Bad offense, and terrible defense at a critical time. .091/ .167/ .091

    Game O' The Week
    Thursday's capper against the Phillies is one we'll remember a long time. Starting Pitcher John Lannan, making his major league debut, will remember it even longer. And certainly Chase Utley and the Philly Phans, who were hoping for a pennant chase, will have this one in the back of their mind for quite some time.

    Lannan wasn't particularly sharp, but making your major league debut in that park against that lineup isn't an easy call for any pitcher, as the previous two games -- both losses -- demonstrate. He was cruising along, putting up ok numbers when he got tossed after hitting Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on back-to-back pitches. Manager Manny Acta came out, argued a bit, dawdled on the pitching change, and got tosses for HIS first ejection.

    Down 5-2, the Nats rallied hard, thanks to some solid work by Jesus Flores. In the 7th, he singled and scored on Felipe Lopez' two-RBI single. And then did his magic work in the 8th, crushing a 3-run homer to deep left, giving the Nats a 2-run lead. Cordero 'held' on in the 9th and Bang Zoom and all that crap.

    Weekly Awards
    MVP: Praise Jesus! Two clutch hits in two games!
    Cy Young: Tim Redding! (That's the last two those two names will ever be linked)
    LVP: Dmitri. You knew he had to cool down sometime.
    Joe Horgan: Billy Traber demonstrates why the team doesn't think he's a starting pitcher

    Weekly Whips:
    7/24: Brian Schneider's big double kept them close.
    7/25: It wouldn't have lasted as long as it did without Saul Rivera's yeoman's work, but it wouldn't have gotten to him were it not for everyone's favorite Jesus.
    7/26: Even Philly fans were saying "Oh, Jesus."
    7/27: Ryan Church is still alive!?
    7/28: It's not Tim Redding's fault.
    7/28: Hanrahan gets it as much for his triple as for his K total.
    7/29: Who do you give it to in a one-hit, 5-inning shutout loss? Belliard had the hit, so why not?

    What's Ahead?
    A homestand with two teams we're actually capable of beating! The dreaded Cincinnati Reds come to town, whom we polished off earlier this year in Cinci. Adam Dunn could be auditioning for his role in left, although it's possible that by first pitch on Tuesday, he'll be out of town.

    The Cardinals follow, and they remain the season's biggest disappointment, even as they've played better of late.

    Both opponents are beatable. The Nats handled themselves well against better teams. And the deadline doesn't seem like it's going to bring any huge surprises. Think 4-2 is doable?

    Stay The Course, Stan

    "The average weeknight game at the 41,000-seat South Capitol Street stadium, slated to open in April 2008, is projected to draw roughly 27,000 fans."

    Hey, I'm sure lousy attendance is in "The PLAN!"

    The article is about shuffling people in and out of the House that Castilla built, and an idea that they might create a special lower 'ballpark fare' for people riding to the game.

    "Neither side would release details of talks between Metro and the Nationals — including what entity or government would absorb the cost."

    Note to Metro: You might want to grab a stick of butter before you bend over.

    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    Sheehan Sez Bowden Sucks

    Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus' main columnist, sets his sights on the Nats and the decision to re-sign Dmitri Young. He makes some really excellent points, but he also (as he is wont to do), makes some ridiculous assertions (such as how this move dooms the Nats to a decade of Pirates-like futility) that make it easy to dismiss what he says. If he'd just stick to the main points without treading into hyperbole, he'd be taken more seriously. At any rate... here's some of what he said:
    Young has had a career half-season for the Nationals, batting .330 in 330 at-bats, inheriting the first-base job when Nick Johnson’s rehab of a broken leg extended into the season. He was the Nationals’ All-Star, and not an undeserving one given that he made the squad for being the best player on a team with no other candidates. He’s roped 37 extra-base hits and drawn enough walks to give him a .382 OBP. It’s not an empty batting average.

    The problem isn’t Young’s 2007 line. It’s his 2006 line (.250/.293/.407; released), his 2005 line (.271/.325/.471), and his 2004 (.272/.336/.481). The 1000 at-bats prior to this half-season all sent the same message: Dmitri Young peaked at 29, and as a player with absolutely no defensive value who bats at five to ten runs above the league-average line, he’s barely worth a roster spot, much less a starting job.

    Even if you wanted to retain Young’s services, why sign him when his perceived value is at its highest? The difference between Young now and Young 2004-06 is basically 60 points of batting average, points there’s no reason to believe that he’ll keep as the year goes on....

    Jim Bowden has foregone the low-cost prospect he might have been able to get for Young in favor of paying $10 million over two seasons to a below-average first baseman, and all because he can’t tell the difference between a .330 hitter and a .280 hitter on a hot streak....

    This is an awful signing, the kind of move that defines a bad franchise. The Nationals are overrating a player based on short-term performance, overvaluing service time, signing a player at the absolute peak of his value, foregoing the chance of acquiring a low-cost option, blocking a better player, and potentially forcing a ridiculous defensive alignment. This would normally be the worst decision made in any city over the course of a year, but Bowden is fortunate to work in Washington, D.C., where the standards are much, much higher.

    Pro And Con

    The Dmitri Young signing is o-fisshul. Two years, $10 million. No word on the third-year option, which was rumored to be a vesting one.

    I still don't get it. But whatever. It's not like this team needs that $5 million a year. We've signed all our draft picks. We've got a league-leading pitching staff. None of our young building-block players need to be extended long-term. And there's just no possible way to improve this offense.

    Oh, sorry. I thought this was a Red Sox blog for a second...

    PRO: Dmitri Young has turned his life around, has been a model citizen, and is looked up to as a good influence in the clubhouse.
    CON: He fills the team's leadership vacuum in the important wife-beating category.

    PRO: $10 million isn't a lot of money.
    CON: Try telling that to Sean Black, Jack McGeary and Josh Smoker

    PRO: $5 million for a first baseman is a pretty good deal
    CON: Nats now have 2 $5 million first baseman, but only one spot to play them.

    PRO: Anonymous Nats officials say he could be the regular LFer next year when Nick Johnson comes back, "if he loses 20 pounds."
    CON: They left out the "per limb" part of the quote.

    PRO: Watching Dmitri haul his fat ass around the outfield would be a pleasurable experience for the fans in the stands, much as how we all chuckle and applaud when he oozes 10 feet off the line to catch a foul pop.
    CON: Matt Chico's ERA sure to double.

    PRO: Two year deal is not a long-term commitment
    CON: Two year deal for a crappy pitcher better than Simontacchi would have been a disastrous setback for "The PLAN!" last year.

    PRO: His big smile warms the heart of District schoolchildren.
    CON: District schoolchildren don't care about Nats and priced out of new park.

    PRO: He's a league-leading hitter.
    CON: [random.select_from {wifebeater.joke}]

    PRO: Team reliant on his veteran leadership
    CON: Eligible for social security by end of contract

    PRO: Baseball can never have enough lovable fat guys.
    CON: Baseball blogs typically written by unlovable fat guys who rip on lovable fat guys. (who beat their mistresses; yeah, that's all I've got)

  • The deal makes no sense to me unless the team knows more about Nick Johnson than they're letting on. Today's comments with Manny Acta questioning whether NJ will be back this year because of the lack of rehab assignment availability after August, is the first indication (well, the latest, I guess), that NJ's not going to make it back this year.

    We know he's a slow healer, but is there more there?

    A few weeks ago, noted rumormonger Will Carroll threw an aside about NJ's hip condition and how he wondered whether it was similar to the degenerative hip condition that ended Bo Jackson's and Albert Belle's careers.
    Nick Johnson seemed to make some progress with his comeback in the late spring, but since then, there's been no real news. In this case, no news was good news, because what we have now could be really bad. Johnson saw Dr. Brian Kelly, a doctor who's known for his work in football, about his weakened right hip. Since this comes on top of his recovery from the broken femur, the first thought is that Johnson may be dealing with osteonecrosis in that hip. If you remember Bo Jackson, the term might be familiar to you. Johnson's not likely to be at that stage of severit, but the team is going to have a battery of tests run to try to pinpoint the problem. If you're waiting on Johnson's comeback this season, it's looking very unlikely at this stage.

    His piece raised alarm, but a careful parsing of that (like with Kasten, you need to study to figure out what the hell he's actually saying) made it seem like he was just speculating as to the worst case, and that it wasn't something he was hearing through the grapevine.

    Now, I wonder.

    Add that to this quote from a nats.com article: "We are going to do some more studies. We are going to do a nerve study and now we are going to do an MRI and look some more," general manager Jim Bowden said."

    When you're talking nerves, it's a tough subject (ask Patterson about that). Osteonecrosis isn't necessarily connected with that, but it's not completely uncommon with major leg injuries of the sort that NJ had. (Basically, it's when the blood supply is cut off to parts of the bone. The bone starts to weaken and die, typically in the hips.)

    The team has been terrible with their estimation of injuries. They haven't always been up front. And they've been quick with the best-case scenarios. Pitchers who are initially day-to-day have their seasons end three days later.

    So I'm not sure how much I'd trust their public statements.

    But their actions can speak volumes.

    Do they know more about Nick Johnson than they're letting on? If they do, that's about the only solid explanation I can think for Dmitri's signing. 2/$10 is a very fair deal for his ability. It's just not a very fair deal for the team when 1B is already occupied.

    But if NJ's out for parts of next year, something they'd be better informed with than us laymen out here, then it's a deal that makes perfect sense.

    So what do they know? When did they know it? And if they know or suspect somethin', why aren't they sharing?

  • Friday, July 27, 2007

    No False Idols Before Jesus

    Svrluga writes the latest hagiography of this year's sacred cow, Brian Schneider. He's battered, bruised, a force, blah blah blah.

    I'm sick to death of all the fawning coverage of the guy. And it bothers me because I SHOULD like Schneider. Certainly he's a hard worker who's battled like hell. But the tone of coverage of him just pisses me off. It seems like everyone's working overtime to explain why he's a valuable player despite not being able to turn on a pitch from a one-armed little leaguer. As his offense has gone in the tank, legend of his defensive prowess has grown to a point that even the biggest Jeter fanboy (Count DA RingzZZ!1! / Captain Intangible, etc) is starting to wretch.

    (To be fair to Svrulga, his isn't quite a hagiography, but we're at the point in the coverage where I wince anytime I see "Snyder's" name. It's like when you were a freshman and drank screwdrivers til you puked. What was it? Two weeks before you could walk by the OJ dispenser in the cafeteria without having a gag reflex?)

    He's a fine player and deserves credit, but let's not overdo it as we fall all over ourselves to stand in line to give him a good tug or two.

    Anyway, as always, I wanted to see what the numbers say. I'm not ascribing any sort of value to these. Defense is hard to value. Catcher's defense is practically impossible. I was just interested to see how they looked.
    2007          W   L    %    Ave   OPS
    Schneider 31 49 .388 .271 .780
    Flores 12 9 .571 .243 .704

    2006 W L % Ave OPS
    Schneider 45 66 .405 .280 .816
    Fick 14 8 .636 .263 .761
    Harper 5 8 .385 .271 .830
    Wiki 6 5 .545 .266 .707
    Lecroy 5 6 .455 .239 .671

    2005 W L % Ave OPS
    Schneider 52 53 .495 .264 .734
    PB Bennett 22 21 .512 .259 .714
    Osik 0 0 --- .294 1.062

    Records are from games they started. Average and OPS are what the Nats' pitchers did while they were behind the plate in all games.

    I don't think you can really take anything from them. There's not enough spread between any of them (especially when you factor in the sample size) to point to an AHA!

    I just think it's interesting that Schneider isn't head and shoulders above any of 'em. In fact, he's worse by these stats than most every other catcher. I certainly don't think that that means that he's a worse catcher than Wiki Gonzalez!

    I've written a lot about how the numbers often back up the scouting reports. This is one case where they don't. I just find that interesting. Puzzling, but interesting.

    He's Wasting His Time Making A Logical Argument

    If you missed MASN's broadcast of yesterday's game, here's the good stuff, and it shows Don Sutton at his best.

    I'm amazed that Manny didn't kick Hunter in the nuts. I would've.

    Hunter's probably still hung over. You can practically see his giant greenish-gray liver trying to lurch out of his bulbous stomach like the creature from Alien.

    Thursday, July 26, 2007

    Let's Take You Out To St. Louis

    Wondered what George Michael has been up to since the repo man took the Sports Machine?

    Would you believe he's giving lectures on Baseball picture identification?

    (Really, this is just an excuse to link to one of my favorite SNL skits... probably something I've done 100 times before)

    One Thing To Play For

    Did you notice how much Jason Simontacchi sucks? He has the highest ERA of anyone over 50 IP (6.37)

    Yet he leads the team in wins with 6.

    There's a pretty good chance that he'll get into double digits in wins.

    Wanna guess how many pitchers have won 10+ games with an ERA as high as Simontacchi?

    Since 2000, it's just two: Ryan Drese in 2002 and Colby Lewis in 2003. If those names sound familiar, it's because they are. Drese had 13 starts for the Nats over '05-'06. And Lewis was in spring training with the Nats, before being released and catching on with the A's.

    Worse, Simontacchi would be the first NL pitcher to pull off the feat since Harry Staley won 12 with a 6.81 ERA in EIGHTEEN NINETY FOUR!!!

    Colby Lewis, incidentally, had one of the worst starting pitching outingsin baseball history (By game score, that's the 25th worst since 1957). He gave up 10 earned runs in just 3+ innings against the White Sox in May.

    To bring it full circle, Jason Simontacchi also gave up 10 earned in a game this year (the single worst game I've ever been to). By game score, that game, sadly, is only the 71st worst outing by a starter in baseball history.

    So there's a lot to play for for Jason Simontacchi. Can he be the next Harry Staley?

    We can only hope. We can only hope.

    Kill The Ump! (or PRAISE JESUS!)

    Hunter Wendelstedt is a stupid fat sack of crap.

    My pet theory: He's hungover. He was cranky and irritable from the first pitch. He probably was tired after a long game last night, had too many to drink, then showed up in a hot day game with a throbbing headache and the sweats. We should be happy the fat bastard didn't puke all over the field... yet.

  • Here's video of the ejection (Thanks to the usually slumbering Nasty Nats!)


  • Is this a graph of the Nats chances of winning or the Dow?

  • Huh?

    Tha Hell?

    If it's 2 years, $4 million, it won't be bad. Other than that?

    (They want him to play the outfield!?!? Ladson's been the only one talking about that, mostly based on convos he's had with Young. But this attributes it to the team!?)

    Tha hell?

    For a team that shat itself over outfield defense so much that they ripped Church and settled for Logan!?

    Tha Hell?

    Stan, I want my deposit back!

    Mood: ::agitated::

  • Anonymous from the last post has it right: "And as long as we're talking bringing back fat, aging vets: Livan in '08!"

  • UPDATE: Svrluga says that he hasn't heard anything over 2 years, $4 million (Hey, I pulled that number above out of my ample buttocks!)

    If that's the case, it's not a bad deal, and he'd still be tradeable. We'll have to wait and see.

  • UPDATE: Charlie and Dave supposedly mentioned a 2-year deal with an option for a third. No $$$ mentioned. Anyone hear anything?

  • Svrluga changes his tune... dirty, cheating, thief. He's up to $10-12 million now. ESPN says 2/$10.

    I don't get it.

  • Fact Or Fiction?

    Thanks to a helpful commenter for pointing out this:
    Rather than trade first baseman Dmitri Young, the Nationals are talking to him about a contract extension. One rival executive says the terms could be two years, $12 million.

    The signing of Young would raise questions about the future of Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson, who has been on the disabled list all season due to a right-leg fracture.

    Mood: ::confused::

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007

    I'm Sure Glad

    that the front office did everything they could do to numb us to the losses and assure us that this season doesn't matter and, by extension, that we shouldn't really pay attention to what's going on this year.

    Cause if I were, that one might hurt.

    Yeesh. When did Joey Eischen start throwing with his right hand?

    Customers Come First

    I know of two people who sent their seat location info for the new park via regular ol' mail. I know of two people who received an email giving them a last chance to get their deposits in, and two people who's credit card and check never posted/cleared.

    And now more people at BPG are having problems.

    I know that these sorts of things have to be a logistical nightmare to plan, but these sorts of things keep happening over and over and over again despite much lip service about how important the fans are blah blah blah.

    The Nats sure talk a good customer service game, but time and time again, they strike out in the clutch. (Insert Ryan Church joke)

    Did any of you have problems? I filled mine out online and got an email confirmation, thankfully. Did they just screw up all the regular mail ones?

    One More Quick Thought On Dunn

    A commenter asked something I was noodling through...

    It makes almost no sense for the Nats to trade for Dunn now. But then there's a chance that if they didn't, he wouldn't be a FA. The Reds have an option on him next year at $13 million. There's a chance, since they think he's the root of all evil, that they'd decline that. Who knows. Regardless, it converts into a player option if he's traded. And it'd make almost zero sense for Dunn to not turn the option down so that he could get a big money contract.

    One of the arguments for the trade is that they could then let him walk (ala Soriano) for the two draft picks....

    Understanding that, think about what trading for him now would mean for the Nats.
    1) They'd have to pay his salary, roughly $5 million left this year
    2) They'd have to give up prospects to acquire him.
    3) They'd have to sign the two draft picks at a cost of about, say, $3 million (depending on where the picks were slotted)

    So in that scenario, the Nats would spend $8 million or so and give up two prospects to acquire two draft picks. Does that make any sense at all? Of course not.

    So the Nats options are to trade him and hope that his manlove for Austin Kearns would entice him into the fold (I dunno.... say 5/$80?). Or to hope that the Reds decline his option (so they can pick him up as a FA), or that some other team trades for him, likely making him a FA at the end of the year.

    Those last two definitely seem like the best options right? They're certainly the most cost-effective ones. And if there's one thing that "The PLAN!" is about, it's cost-effectiveness!

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007

    Wallscrapers Need Not Apply

    Just a quick thought on Adam Dunn, and with the caveat that I'm a Dunn fanboy...

    With the news that the Nats are interested in signing the massive slugger, there's been a lot of interesting reactions on various message boards and sites. One of the main criticisms is the "We don't need any more Reds!11!!", which is almost immediately followed up with "Austin Kearns is a bum!1!1!"

    Hey, I've been one to complain about all the feckin' former Reds, and it is a funny not-so coincidence. But what's really funny is that when Bowden seems to be interested in one Red who's clearly an asset, people finally draw the line. Adam Dunn ain't Austin Kearns. He's the really rich man's Brad Wilkerson, a big homer-bashing slugger who gets on base like a mother, while whiffing like it's his after hours job. The three true outcomes approach can be a bear to watch when an entire team is doing it, but when it's just one guy, and that guy can connect with 440-foot homers, I'll deal!

    The main criticism I've read of Dunn with respect to the Nats (besides the K thing -- truthfully, I'd love to see certain anti-K zealots deal with Dunn), is that he's a product of Great American Ballpark, the smallest ballpark this side of Williamsport. Hey, I'm not gonna deny that GABP is a bandbox. We've talked about it before, especially in relation to RFK. But two points: 1) Why are we worrying about RFK's dimensions? and 2) Dunn doesn't hit wallscrapers. He's a lot more like Soriano than he is like Kearns. (Kearns, FYI, if you look at the stats wasn't really helped by GABP that much. He homered about as much on the road as at home. He IS, however, really hampered by RFK, which is true of most batters)

    Dunn has real legitimate power. But, hell, just for the sake of argument, I decided to take a closer look. To do that, I perused the lovely gallery of homers at Hit Tracker Online. I've talked about them before, but it's a website that tracks, analyzes, and measures every homer hit in the league. They've got a record of Dunn's performance both this year and last. Is he just a product of GABP?

    Here's a list of all the homers Dunn has hit so far this year (26 of his 27). For the purposes of this little exercise, I limited myself to looking at just his GABP homers. I compared the distance and location of the balls he hit with the site's overlay of RFK to make a judgment about whether the ball would've left the yard in DC. Yes, it's true that atmosphere, temperature, hitting background, etc all can impact the results and wouldn't make a true transfer possible, but we're looking for the big picture!

    Of the 14 homers he's hit at home (versus 12 on the road), how many do you think are 'cheapies'? It's two, maybe three.

    -- This one's near the track.
    -- This is probably an out.
    -- I think this one might be a homer. Hard to tell, but it probably sneaks into the pen like a Schneider Special.

    The other 11 are no-doubters. When he hits 'em, he hits 'em. (Here's video of a 445er that he hit the other day)

    I did the same for his '06 season. Here's all 40 he hit (22 at home).

    Same results. I got two nopes, and one maybe.

    (Just for the hell of it, here's the 470-footer he hit in '06, splitting the smokestacks at GABP!)

    Now there may be reasons to not sign him:
    1) He's a big man, who might not age well
    2) The K!!!1!!!!
    3) The Lerners are CHEEEEP!!1!!!
    4) Trading parts for a player who'd be a FA probably doesn't make much sense

    But the assumption that his power is a function of his home ballpark is NOT a valid reason. He has legit power, whether it's in Cinci or along the Anacostia. I'm not smart enough to figure out whether the 4 HR he'd have lost had he been playing at RFK instead of GABP would be homers in the new place, but even if they are, I'll take the other 32 he'd have hit at RFK. That's 8 more than any other Nat hit coughsorianocough over that stretch, and 14 more than anyone currently on the roster.

    All Look The Same

    Take a look at the caption.

    (Thanks to a sharp-eyed -- well, I guess that doesn't really require very sharp eyes, does it? -- BPGer)

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    Belliard Re-Signs

    Svrluga reports that the Nats have signed Ron Belliard to a two-year contract. No terms yet.

    Interesting... It'll depend on how much the cash outlay is, but this is an interesting move. I like the guy, and he's played well, but 2B never age particularly well, and nobody looks at Belliard and thinks "athlete." (Of course, his larger size might be a reason why he could outlast the typical waif-like second basemen?)

    Still, he's a solid player, and he's proven himself to be valuable, zipping all over the infield.

    I wonder, though, what, if anything, this means about their upcoming decision on Felipe Lopez? The terms of the deal'll let us know.

    I'll have more as we know more!

  • Barry updates and says it's a $3.5 million deal: $1.6 then $1.9.

    Color me meh. It's not that Belliard's a terrible player. I'm just worried about him falling off the cliff. And since it was so 'easy' to find a player like him floating around before spring training -- and it seems like there's always a player like him who's squeezed out by numbers -- might this money have been better spent elsewhere? (Especially since Bowden's strength is supposedly the ability to pick up players like him)

    It's not that it's a bad deal for a player like Belliard. He'll give $3.5 million of production in one year of starting alone. It's just that if he's a backup, and given the Nats needs at other positions, maybe there was a better way than spending it on a utility infielder? SIGN MCGEARY AND SMOKER1!!!!1!!

  • More thoughts as I think 'em and waffle...

    The major-league minimum salary is climbing. I can't remember the rise, but it's going to be about $500K fairly soon. If you factor that in to the Belliard equation, it's not a terrible deal, if you assume he can keep up his production.

  • Reaction from the peanut gallery at Baseball Primer. I don't think that Sparkles likes it!

  • Federal Baseball rises from the dead like a zombie or a deity or something. I like this part:
    I cannot decide whether Belliard's signing says more about the malleability of the organizational plan (hereinafter, of course, "The Plan") or says nothing about The Plan, or whether the two are functionally the same thing when discussing The Plan. Is it overly cynical to postulate that just about every transaction, statement, manuever, or movement will be construed by some as not only in light of The Plan, but also in furtherance thereof? Hell, I swear Stan Kasten could announce tomorrow that he's going out for the role of the King of Siam in a community production held at the local middle school and a sizable contingent would note he's doing so as a calculated measure to gain in-roads in terms of Far East talent accumulation. Does signing Belliard to a two-year contract extension say anything at all about team-building? Must it?

  • Won't someone think of his tongue?

  • Top Ten Plays So Far, Part 2

    When last we left...

  • 5: July 16th against the Houston Astros, 36% increase

    Play: Dmitri Young's three-run homer off Woody Williams

    The Nats entered the bottom of the sixth trailing by a run, 2-1 thanks to the surprising efforts of Mike Bacsik. Belliard reached, and Zimmerman dropped one of those beautiful bunt singles down the line, putting two men on with just one out. Williams threw a sloppy curveball over the heart of the plate, and Young turned on it, ripping it to deep right field. With one swing, a one-run deficit became a two-run lead. With the Astros having just three innings to claw back in. They'd chip away, getting a run with the heart of their order in the 8th, but the bottom of the lineup went down quickly against Chad Cordero.

  • 4: July 22nd against the Colorado Rockies, 33% increase

    Play: Austin Kearns' 3-run homer in the 8th inning off Jorge Julio

    Trading zeros, the Nats and Rockies were tied in the 8th inning, when the Nats got two runners on and two outs. The Nats' favorite foil hung a slider and Kearns turned on it, destroying it into the mezzanine.

    That shot shows how important power is. Had he singled, the one-run lead would've been nice, but the three-run bomb effectively ended the game. The Rockies weren't going to put up a 4-spot.

  • Tie for #2: June 13th against the Baltimore Orioles, 43% increase

    Play: Felipe Lopez' three-RBI triple off Orioles closer Chris Ray in the 11th inning, 43% increase

    The Nats found themselves in another game that wound its way to extra innings thanks to a blown save by Chad Cordero. As the Nats got to the 6th inning, they found themselves short on pitchers thanks to the 6 they had already used and a few nights of short starts.

    Two quick outs, and the Nats looked cooked. Fick singled, then Langerhans and Guzman walked, setting up the struggling Felipe Lopez. With two outs, another one of his outs would've killed the rally. Instead, he ripped one deep to right, plating all three runs, and giving the Nats a near-lock of a lead.

  • Tied for #2, July 19th against the Colorado Rockies off Jeremy Affeldt, 43% increase

    Play: Jesus Flores' single-turned-triple.

    Trailing by two with two outs in the 8th inning, backup catcher Jesus Flores found himself in the middle of a rally. It was the Nats' best chance, but with runners on first and second, it would take an extra-base hit to tie the game.

    Or a single, misplayed into a triple. The Rockies RFer booted the ball, kicking it behind him. Flores chugged to third, and all the runners scored, tying the game in a situation where all looked lost. It doesn't get much better than that.

  • 1: May 20th against the Baltimore Orioles, 49% increase

    Play: Nook Logan's 2-RBI single off Danys Baez

    The Nats entered the 8th inning trailing by 2. A quick run pulled them close before they managed to load the bases off the beleaguered Baltimore pen. With the bases loaded and two outs, Logan turned a near loss into a surprise win, with a 2-RBI single just through the infield.

  • I had completely forgotten about the Logan play!

    It's interesting how many of them are fairly recent, and how many of them are off Jorge Julio (CUE SBF!!!)

    If I had had to guess a play, I'd probably have guessed the Flores "triple" or the Kearns homer. I'd have been close, at least.
  • Top Ten Plays So Far, Part 1

    I saw this post on Mets Geek and liked it enough to steal it...

    The handiest thing about the WPA stat is that it's a good way of identifying clutch situations and clutch plays. Here are the most 'clutch' plays by Nationals players so far this year.

  • 10: June 6th against the Pittsburgh Pirates, 34% increase

    Play: Cristian Guzman scores on a wild pitch in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Video

    The Nats had a 4-run lead until Jon Rauch's ineffectiveness led to Billy Traber giving up a three-run bomb to Adam LaRoche. After Chad Cordero got a 1,2,3 top of the ninth, back-to-back singles by Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman got a rally going. Austin Kearns' walk loaded the bases before the fateful pitch.

  • 9: May 5th against the Florida Marlins, 34% increase

    Play: Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off Grand Slam off Jorge Julio.

    The Nats entered the bottom of the ninth trailing by one, as the Marlins played musical closers. They got a rally going quickly off two walks and a single. With the bases loaded, Manny Acta sent Jason Bergmann out to run for Dmitri Young and Felipe Lopez followed with the game-tying single. Cristian Guzman struck out, setting up the fateful AB. On a 1-0 pitch, Jorge Julio threw a meatball, and Zimmerman pounded it over the wall to win the game.

    That was an odd game. There were two rain delays in the game, including one in the ninth, and it also featured Austin Kearns' inside-the-park homer.

  • 8: May 16th against the Atlanta Braves, 35% increase

    Play: Ryan Church's bases-clearing double off Kyle Davies with two outs in the fifth

    The Nats trailed 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth in a game they had already used two pitchers. With a long night ahead of them, Ryan Church ripped a double into the right-center gap, giving the Nats a 2-run lead. They'd hold the lead for the rest of the game, with Rivera, Rauch and Cordero dominating the Braves lineup.

  • 7: April 20th against the Marlins, 35% increase

    Play: Chris Snelling's RBI single in the 14th inning off Lee Gardner

    The Nats entered the 8th inning with a three-run lead, and Jon Rauch didn't have it. He gave up a 2-run homer to Joe Borchard and then back-to-back singles to put the winning run on base. Chad Cordero doused the fire in the 8th, but gave up a lead-off homer in the 9th to Cody Ross. On and on they played. The Nats had a few chances, including the infamous Robert Fick non-run on a bunt play in the 13th. In the 14th, Ryan Church singled and stole second, before coming around on Chris Snelling's shot back through the box. Saul Rivera came in in the bottom of the inning, and earned his first save.

  • 6: April 4th against the Florida Marlins, 35% increase

    Play: Kory Casto's first major-league RBI off Jorge Julio in the 9th.

    The Nats entered the ninth trailing by 2 and faced new Marlins closer Jorge Julio. He ended up giving up three runs while getting just one out, a sacrifice bunt. Trailing by one run, Casto came to the plate with Robert Fick on second, before scorching a ball right up and through the shortstop, the ball bouncing high in the air after it zipped off the fielder. Fick scored to tie the game, and Casto would score later in the inning, after coming around on Young's RBI game winner.

    Young's hit has less WPA than Casto's because the situations are different. Trailing with a runner at second and one out is a situation with a lot more importance than having the bases loaded with one out in a tie game. Even had Young failed, the Nats could've won with the next batter or in extras. In Casto's situation, there'd be no extras when you're trailing!

  • The rest later...
  • 16 Down, Not A Ton Left

    It's been a while. A month! Vacation, malaise and All-Star breaks form a nasty conspiracy.

    Nats Record: 10-13
    Overall: 42-56, tied for 12th in the NL, 1.5 games ahead of last.
    Runs Scored: 79 (3.4/g); 370 overall, which is last, by far.
    Runs Allowed: 101 (4.4/g); 474 overall, 10th in the NL.
    Expected Record: 63-99, which is the same pace as a month ago. If you consistently get outscored by a run a game, apparently you lose a lot? Funny how that works.

    Amazingly, they're still above .500 since rock bottom of May 9 (33-31), although they allowed a lot more runs than they scored, so they're much more lucky than good.

    What's Good?
    1) Ryan Zimmerman. Apparently, the sophomore slump lasts 2 months. Zimmerman is finally hitting like the player we thought we'd have, and not like the huge disappointment he was early in the season. The power's not all the way there -- damn RFK -- but a .303/ .361/ .472 is good enough, especially with some of those highlight plays he's made over the last week or so.

    2) Tim Redding. Entering spring training, everyone had him inked in to the rotation given his past history with Manny Acta. But a tough spring sent him to Columbus where he wasn't particularly effective at the beginning of the year. Desperation earned him the call, and he's pitched great over his last four starts, a 2.92 ERA. He's struck out just 5 batters in 24+ innings, so unless he ups that, he's not going to be able to stick around. There probably hasn't been a pitcher with a sub-3 ERA and a sub-2.00 K rate since before Walter Johnson was a speck in his mother's eye.

    3) The Tradeable Twins. Dmitri Young just continues to do it, never cooling down: .343/ .397/ .543. To B or not to B? Speaking of Bs, Belliard mashed this week, hopefully making himself attractive to the Mets, who just lost Jose Valentin to a broken leg. As we saw, it's easy to pick up a 2B off the scrap heap, which is a reason why keeping him and letting him walk might not work: the Nats wouldn't risk him accepting arbitration.

    What's Bad?
    1) Jason Simontacchi. It might be time to end the experiment! Three games, 13 runs, a near-9 ERA. He's at 6.37 for the year. And THIS is the guy they picked out of spring over Bergmann?

    2) Centerfield. Nook: .222/ .314/ .311; Langerhans: .130/ .200/ .348; Church: .268/ .303/ .366. If you could play Dr. Frankenstein and merge them all would you have a good player?
    Nook's speed and defense with Langerhans' eye with Church's power? Seems like that'd be the really poor man's Mike Cameron.

    3) Brian Schneider. To hear Bob and Don, he's the Nats best player. You'd never realize that he's .189/ .295/ .245 over his last month. You'd also never hear about Simontacchi's ERA or about how poorly the team pitched last year. The man's made of teflon.

    Weekly Monthly Awards

    MVP: Ronnie Belliard was simply brilliant over the last month, stepping up when the team needed it, and auditioning himself to play in the playoffs this year.

    Cy Young: Matt Chico. He still gives up too many taters, but I'll take a 3.24 ERA over 4 starts any day. He's really cut down his walk rate; he BB'd less than 3 per game over this stretch. Honorable Mention: Chad Cordero's 0.82 ERA. Didn't see that one comin', did ya?

    LVP: Austin Kearns. If you've just watched over the last week, you'd wonder what I was drinking. Hopefully he's turning the corner. If he looks back around it, he'll see an ugly mess he left: .216/ .318/ .284.

    Joe Horgan: Jason Bergmann. 21 earned runs!? I figured he'd come back to earth because of his obscene luckiness on batted balls. But there's coming to earth, and then there's exploding over Tuguska. I only saw him on one of these starts, and it looked like he had lost all the crispness on his slider. Remember back to the beginning of the year, that it was his new grip and new slider that really pushed him forward. It's likely that the elbow injury he had is preventing him from getting the same kind of torque and grip he had before. If that's something he can't get back, he's probably closer to the Bergmann we didn't like, than the one we raved about most of the first half. I feel for the kid.

    Weekly Whips... man... why am I doing this?
    Let's let fangraphs and WPA help us out!

    6/25: Brian Schneider had 3 of the team's 9 hits in a loss to the Braves.
    6/26: Brian Schneider had just one hit, but the graph says it was important. Who am I to argue?
    6/27: Two meaningless hits for Ronnie Belliard in a rout of a loss.
    6/29: Six shutout innings by Matt Chico should've been enough.
    6/30: Dmitri Young had the only hit that mattered for the Nats, and it didn't matter much.
    7/1: Jesus Flores' HR helped the Nats win it eventually.
    7/2: The Cubs scored early and often in a rout, despite Nook Logan's hit, walk and run.
    7/3: Saul Rivera kept 'em close. Do they assign holds in a loss?
    7/4: Matt Chico celebrated the fourth by going seven scoreless.
    7/5: Two Words: Dmitri Triple.
    7/6: Belliard went 4 for 5. Too bad it didn't amount to much.
    7.7: Austin Kearn's two-run double gave the Nats the breathing room they needed.
    7.8: Ryan Zimmerman didn't bunt. He homered instead.
    7/13: Three more RBI for Austin Kearns, including a key one in a game that should've been a laugher.
    7/14: Ryan Zimmerman had two hits, but WPA says he failed when it really mattered.
    7/15: Two hits and two walks for Belliard. Too bad Zimmerman couldn't drive him in.
    7/16: It's amazing how much a Dmitri 3-run bomb affects our chances of winning, eh?
    7/17: Belliard had two more hits and a homer. What a month he's had!
    7/18: Jon Rauch closed the door, only to let Cordero swing it back open.
    7/19: Austin Kearns was the man in the middle of the action.
    7/20: If I were still giving Ducks, Zimmerman would win in a landslide, but staying postive, hey, how 'bout that ummm... Lopez?
    6/21: Mike Bacsik!? Mike Bacsik??!? Mike Bacsik!?
    7/22: Bully for Austin!
    7/23: You didn't read all these, did you?

    What's Ahead?
    Three in Philly, Four in NY? This won't end pretty, will it?

    Philly's gasping for air, trying to stay alive in the pennant race. With no usable lefties, I'm interested to see how they handle Utley and Howard. Cordero in CBP is always a fun thought!

    The Mets are finally starting to hit a bit, after treading water for a month. With the double-header, it won't be the best of times for Lannan or Hanrahan to make their MLB debuts.

    Then there's a little something called the trading deadline... TRAYD FOUR DONE1!!!1!

    Saturday, July 21, 2007

    If You Don't Want Them To Think...

    ...that you're a cheap bastard, then stop doing things that make you look like a cheap bastard.

  • On a related note...


  • Friday, July 20, 2007

    Et Tu Sutton?

    Ordinarly, it ticks me off when people defend Barry Bonds by talking about Gaylord Perry, spitballs, and scuffing the ball. It's an apples and oranges comparison that doesn't quite get to the heart of the matter. At its hear, it's a dog bites man story. But as I didn't learn in the journalism classes that I didn't take, it's the man bites dog story that really catches the eye.

    And that's the case with the latest nats.com notebook. Don Sutton discusses (sort of) his views of Barry Bonds and the home run chase.
    "Being a traditionalist, I guess there is a part of me that does not want it to happen because of all of the questions surrounding Barry," Sutton said not too long ago. ...

    "The traditionalist in me likes to see records like that stay put and continue to belong to the man who earns them."

    A reasonable position. You may or many not agree with it, but it's not crazy talk.

    I just love it though because Don Sutton was wildly believed to be, especially towards the end of his loooong career, one of the great scuffing artists of all time. (Plenty of links, if you're interested.)

    There's a particularly brilliant anecdote about Sutton here, which shows off one of the qualities that make him such a terrific announcer: his ability to adapt and think quickly.

    I just think that there's a certain irony in someone who defaced baseballs to get an edge talking about the purity of the game and all its traditions!

    Friday Night Trivia

    Take a crack at 'em. I'll have the answers for ya in comments sometime.

    All questions are since the team moved...

    1) 8 Nationals have played in all three seasons. Name them.

    2) Who has the most career homers?

    3) Who are the top 3 hitters for average with a minimum of 100 PA?

    4) Who has the most career games played?

    5) Who has struck out the most?

    6) Who has the longest hitting streak? (Would you believe that Cristian Guzman had the third longest in April of '05?!?)

    7) Who has the most consecutive games without a homer?

    8) Which pitcher has the most career Ks?

    9) Which pitcher has the most career wins?

    10) Which pitcher has the most career losses?


    There are always a few things I find odd about baseball, and the way it's covered. Last night was the perfect example. Everyone is lauding D'Angelo Jiminez for his game-winning single, but what strikes me funny about that is that his hit was the result of a series of strange circumstances. If any of those change, he's not the hero; he's the same old goat we've seen for a few months.

    Watch the video. Jimenez did what Jimenez always does. It's a routine ground ball to short. Sure, he hit it solidly, but the only reason it was a hit was because the runner was on third.

    Why was the runner on third? Because Yorvit Torrealba had about as much interest in catching or blocking a pitch in the dirt earlier that inning as I had in fighting traffic to go to a Rockies/Nationals game.

    If the runner's not on third, the infield's not in, and Jimenez makes an out. And he doesn't get headline after headline.

    It's a funny game.

  • I also find it odd how players never get credit for scoring the run, just driving them in. Jimenez gets all the glory, but Kearns deserves a big part of it. Without his single, Jimenez doesn't get a sniff.

    I've talked about win probability a few times before. It's a way of divvying up credit for games based on how the change in the game's state (what runners are on what bases with what outs) affect a team's winning percentage based on what all other teams in baseball history (at least a subset over the last 20 years or so) demonstrate. It's a way of assessing the 'clutchness' of particular events. An RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to win the game means a lot more than an RBI single in the 7th when your team is down by 9.

    What do you think the biggest play for the Nats was?

    Obviously, the most valuable play was Jesus Flores triple-turned-single. But the second was Jimenez' RBI single. When he came to the plate, teams with 1 out and a runner on third win 83% of the time. So he gets credit for upping the Nats odds by 17% (100%-83%).

    But if you look at the game as a whole, Austin Kearns was the hero. He was involved in a number of key plays, and he upped the team's chances by 25% on his own. Not only did he have the hit in the 10th, but he was key to the 8th-inning rally, as he scored the tie-making run after being hit by a pitch.

    Like Jimenez, he was in the right place at the right time.

  • It's that right place, right time thing that makes one-run games so much fun to watch. One little bounce here or there, like on the wild pitch, and things can turn out differently. If their RFer keeps the ball in front of him, the Nats likely lose.

    We saw in 2005 that one-run games are a strange animal. Because they're predicated more on luck than a typical game, even lousy teams have a chance to do well. Yesterday's win gives the Nats a 17-12 record in one-run games this year. Since '05, they're 70-63.

    If we look at games decided by 5 or more runs, it tells a different story. 6-17 this year, 35-64 since '05.

    Bad teams can win the close ones, thanks to lucky bounces, but it takes more than a few lucky bounces to blow another team out. It takes quality. Boston, for example, has won 61% of its blowouts this year.

    Someday we'll be there. But we're not there yet.

    For now, we'll have to enjoy those odd circumstances, coincidental events, that sometimes all line up in a row and give us something strange like D'Angelo Jimenez, Game Hero.

  • Thursday, July 19, 2007

    Thank The Angels

    NFA digs up the scoop: The Nats have brought former RP-turned-starter Hector Carrasco back in the fold, picking him up from the Angels, who had DFA'd him a bit ago. As Brian points out, it's especially delicious, because the Angels gave us a first-round draft pick for ol' Hector. And that first-rounder (err... second-rounder) was...? (click here!)

  • Meanwhile, Nationals Journal reignites the Dmitri/NJ debate. I love the guy's writing, but... ummmm.... there's so much more to consider about the decision than what he presents in the post. Of course that's what comments are for.... and that's what drive eyeballs to the site and... PROFIT!!! (I need a gig like that!)

  • Wednesday, July 18, 2007

    Even Tony Batista Deserves A Lawyer

    In a post earlier today, I mocked a profile of D'Angelo Jimenez by wondering when we were going to get one on Tony Batista.

    It came quicker than I thought.

    Federal Baseball lays out a convincing case that Tony Batista is one of history's most under-appreciated players. It's hard to argue with that!

    Fouled-Off Bunts: Dmitri Young, Vegetarian Edition

    The Nats' Clubhouse culture of healthy foods and grains is catching on, even with Dmitri Young. Somehow, he's become a symbol for vegetarianism (I know I'm opening myself up to 10 anonymous comments referencing veggie dogs).

    Meanwhile, the team is now 17-25 since the Food Nazis, Brian "Jack LaLame" Schneider and John "Anemia and Thrombophilia" Patterson, took away the Skittles. Way to go, jerks.

    Schneider got drilled in the arm yesterday, and had to leave the game. Ordinarily, a player would console himself with a beer or some junk food, so HA! I hope he enjoyed his wheat germ. It doesn't seem like it's anything serious, which is not good news for the Nats' offense.

    Just thinking out loud... MASN seems to come up with a stat o' the day to laud Schneider. He certainly deserves a lot of credit for the pitching improvements this year, but what I wonder, is if he deserves credit this year, doesn't he deserve some of the blame for what happened last year? Or is that all Frank's fault?

  • Manny Acta has decided to screw the CF platoon, giving Logan a few starts based off a laughably small sample of 11 or 12 ABs. He responded last night by going 0-28 -- at least it seemed that way from the stands.

    Here's what I'm thinking... they're giving Logan one last chance to show what he can do. With Alex Escobar on the horizon -- and Manny's repeated insistence that Kearns, Church, Escobar will be his outfield -- Logan is likely the odd man out. The Nats, unless they dumped Batista (which might not be a terrible idea), would need to clear some room. If Logan starts doing what they want, Batista goes. If he continues to flounder, maybe it's his keister that's on the line?

  • Shawn Hill had a bullpen session with little pain, but he didn't throw any breaking pitches. Nick Johnson had a cortisone injection in his hip. It doesn't appear to be anything tooo worrisome, likely just a balance issue related to his gait.

  • NFA has some updates on the Smoker and McGeary signings. There's good news on the Smoker front, but a setback (of sorts) on the McGreary angle.

  • Here's 20 paragraphs on how much D'Angelo Jiminez sucks. Tomorrow, expect a story on Tony Batista.

  • The papers went gaga over Barry Larkin's visit to the Nats, to work with the hitters. (Hey, why're you looking over your shoulder, Lenny?) I enjoyed this quote: "Let's be real, I wasn't a guy that tore it up offensively. I was good. I got the runner over because I had confidence that the guy behind me could knock him in."

    That's some mighty good revisionist history! Barry Larkin is a HOF SS, who had a number of terrific offensive seasons. He didn't hit homers, but he cranked extra-base hits, stole a bunch of bases, and hit for a good average. By OPS+, he had 8 seasons that would qualify him as the Nats best non-Dmitri hitter. While that could be damning with faint praise, it's not. His 1996 season is probably one of the greatest seasons any SS has ever had. And it wasn't because he moved the runner over.

  • There was one distressing note. He complained about the lack of a consistent hitting philosophy, and that each level has its own method: "There needs to be one clear direction on how these guys are supposed to approach hitting," Larkin said. "I think we have some good knowledgeable baseball people here. There are some inconsistencies from what people are teaching from one level to the other. I think that kind of frustrates players."

    Shouldn't this have been done by now? Isn't this one of the first things that a regime should put into place, especially one that's as committed to the minors as this one claims they are? I thought the strength of the Braves system was that there was uniformity and consistency? Why hasn't this been implemented here? Is this a function of the musical chairs they've played with farm directors?

  • Two weeks 'til the trade deadline, and Jim Bowden's iPhone probably needs to be hosed off. (I'll let you supply the reason why) Cordero, Rauch, Young, Belliard are the likely targets, but you knew that. I'll be interested to see what will happen.

    Lame prognostication: Ruach goes. Cordero and Young stay. Belliard gets traded in August.

  • I'm Famis!1!!

    I was busy this morning, updating my resume with a "contributer to washingtonpost.com" line. (To go alongside the bullet point for "frequent letter writer to Jugs")

    DC Sports Bogger, Dan Steinberg is off on vacation, presumably somewhere full of cheese and not too many tropical diseases. Being the shameless publicity hound that I am, I submitted a guest post so his corporate masters won't fire him when the hits stop coming in. Consider it my work of charity for the week -- Can I write it off on my tax return?

    Anyway, if you're interested in what the Harris Interactive poll that shows that the Nats have no fans has to do with Livan Hernandez, you'll have to check it out. Be sure to comment many times under different pseudonyms (like I do here), to stroke my ego.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2007

    Dear Manny,

    That is why Zimmerman should bunt from time to time.

    Your pal,


    PS -- Nook again? What the hell?

    Manny's Secret

    The DC Optimist has uncovered the secret to Manny Acta's positivity: Bad Sitcoms.

  • Didja hear Manny Acta bitching about Ryan Zimmerman's bunt?

    I love ya, Manny, but the heat's clearly gotten to you. Sure, sacrificing constantly is a poor strategy, and teams (see: Nationals, 2005) that can't score try to 'make things happen' that end up hurting their offense even more, but Zimmerman is a great bunter, and that's something that's been missing from his game this year. It certainly helps to keep the defense honest, giving him a little more room. He has to pick his spots, which he did last night.

    The bright side is that I'm pleased that a manager is making judgments on the decision, not the outcome. Too often in baseball, second guessers make their criticisms based on the results, and not on whether the strategy was wise in the first place. Sometimes a successful stolen base is a bad percentage play. And sometimes a smart pitching change that gives up runs was the right move. Manny understands that. Yay for Manny!

  • Monday, July 16, 2007

    Will Young Be A B?

    People who use the decision to hold on to Alfonso Soriano last year, with the decision to hold on to Dmitri Young this season are missing the key factor. By not trading Soriano, the Nats walked into two extra draftpicks. Ideally, it'd have been a first rounder and a sandwich pick, but they netted Jeff Smoker, a first-round talent, -- SIGN HIM CHEAPOS!1!!!! -- and Jordan Zimmermannnnn, who's eating batters alive in Burlington, VT.

    With Dmitri Young, there's likely no safety net. They either trade him for the crap other teams are offering, or they let him waddle around the clubhouse for the rest of the season, either to re-sign him (which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world) or to let him waddle elsewhere, receiving nothing in return.

    So they should trade him now, taking whatever crap other teams offer, since it's a use-it-or-lose-it kinda proposition with Dmitri. The catch is that there are lots of other DH/1B types out there, and the supply likely exceeds the demand, further lowering his value to other teams. So it's not going to be easy, and it's likely that if a move is made, it's going to be more of a Daryle Ward-type deal than a Livan Hernandez-sized one. (No, those weren't fat jokes)

    There is a little wrinkle though. There's an outside chance that Dmitri could net some compensation. Let's take a look at that.

    Free agent compensation is determined by the dreaded Elias Sports Bureau. The formula they use have never (as far as I know) been released publicly, but the general concepts are known. Players are grouped by similar position -- in Dmitri's case, he's with other 1B, DH's and OFers -- then ranked in a series of stats. For that group of players, they consider Plate Appearances, Batting Average, On-Base %, HR and RBI. They weigh each of those factors for what the player has done over the previous two seasons. I've heard that they pro-rate some of those stats for time missed on the DL, but I can't find any actual confirmation of that.

    Once the players are ranked and given a score, the top 20% of the players are assigned as Type-A free agents. The next 20% are Type Bs.

    (The formulas are a complete joke, and they usually bear little resemblance to how players actually perform, but that's a debate for another time)

    Last year, Dmitri Young was a ... nothing
    . He ranked 75th out of the 113 AL 1B/DH/OFers. His 'score' of 40 would've placed him 74th in the NL, just ahead of Endy Chavez. (Is that ironic or not?)

    To gain compensation this year, he'd have to move up 30 places or so in the standings. To get a feel for what he'd need to do, I decided to look at what those players did right around the Type-B cutoff.

    Assuming things are relatively constant from year-to-year -- which I don't know if you can do, but if you're looking for precision, you ain't payin' me enough -- he'd need to finish 46th. I spit out the stats for players 10 places above and 10 places below. Then I summed up their stats and figured out what the 'average' player in that area did. If you want the full spreadsheet, it's here.

    If we compare that to what Young has done since 2006, we can get a rough idea of the chances of him netting a pick.
         Average    Dmitri
    PA 830 503
    AVE .281 .304
    OBP .345 .352
    HR 23 15
    RBI 90 72

    Dmitri is ahead in 2 of the categories, and has a good chance of finishing ahead in the RBI total. He likely won't reach the PA mark, but another 250 or so would put him just short of the total. He'll be short on homers, but not terribly so.

    Among his 'cohort's, Young would have the second highest average, and is middle of the pack on OBP. If he gets up to about 750 total PA, that's a total that would've placed him 12th -- middle of the pack -- in the group. He'll easily be top-10 in RBI in that group.

    Add it up, and he's likely in the upper half of that group. He's likely going to be a Type B Free Agent.

    If that's the case, the Nats' decision could change. The offers they get would likely not be any better than the supplemental draft pick they'd get for letting him walk at the end of the year.

    Of course, letting him walk at the end of the year isn't quite that easy either. First, the Nats would have to be willing to offer him salary arbitration -- tho many teams have a wink-wink agreement for their players to decline, if offered. And there'd also likely be a lot of pressure for the Nats to re-sign him anyway, which would mean no pick anyway.

    The Nats know the formula and what goes into it. And they have access to better stat databases than I do. I'm sure they've got some lowly intern (or $20K schlub!) working on this very question, using up-to-date stats.

    But the TRADE DMITRI!1!!! answer isn't nearly as clear cut as I thought it was a few hours ago.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    Fearless/Gutless Predictions For The Second Half

    1. Jason Bergmann will have an ERA over 4 in the second half. Sore elbows and regression from his league-leading BABIP will bring him back to normal. But he'll win more than 1 game!

    2. Dmitri Young will not be traded by July 31, but not for lack of effort by the Nats.

    3. Ryan Zimmerman will get his 100 RBI. The guys ahead of him will finally get on base.

    4. Ryan Church will not be a regular OFer with the Nats by the end of the season.

    5. Felipe Lopez will have a .340 on-base percentage in the second half.

    6. Chad Cordero will not get traded, but Jon Rauch will.

    7. Matt Chico will finish 6th in ROY voting.

    8. Austin Kearns will lead the team in second-half homers.

    9. The team, which scored 326 in the first half, will score around 350 in the second half in fewer games.

    10. The Devil Rays will edge the Nats by 3 games for the #1 draft pick.

    11. Dmitri Young will finish with a batting average closer to .320 than .340.

    12. Alex Escobar, once activated, will finally stay healthy. But he won't hit or field well.

    13. Ryan Zimmerman will be close to .280 by the end of the year.

    14. Jim Bowden will say something that will make you cringe.

    15. Stan Kasten will say something convoluted that doesn't actually mean what you think it does once he says it.

    16. Uncle Teddy will dive into his money vault with his three nephews.

    17. The Nats will go 35-39 in the second half.

    18. I will look like a fool by the end of the year.

    19. I already look like a fool.

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    What'll It Take

    One of the arguments some have made for keeping Dmitri Young is that he could be an important part of "The PLAN!" in that he'd push the team closer to competition in the short term. And since Kasten has repeatedly talked about how much closer he thinks this team is, that could be important.

    Fine, I guess. But how close IS this team? Let's good off with numbers. (I can hear you sighing... more numbers. Sorry)

    I've used the Pythagorean Theorem a number of times before. Basically, it's a formula that fairly accurately projects team records based on runs scored and allowed. The vast majority of teams are within a few games of the expected record the formula spits out.

    So if we make some assumptions about the quality of the team, could we figure out how much they'll have to improve?

    Specifically, I'm more interested in how much the offense would need to improve. It's clearly the weakness of the team, and it's the area with the most potential.

    So let's start with runs allowed. The Nats have given up 434 runs in 88 games played; they're on pace for 799 this year. For the hell of it, let's lop 50 runs off that total to account for a healthier front half of the rotation and the banishment of messers Williams and Patterson. If you don't think that's a lot, lopping off a prorated amount of runs for their performance so far this year would take .3 runs off their ERA and put them in the top 5 in the league. It's a substantial total.

    For the sake of argument, let's say that we're trying to win 90 games next year. That's a .555 winning percentage. If we plug that and our 750 runs allowed total into the pythag forum, we can figure out how many runs the team would need to score.

    [crunches numbers]

    The Nats would have to score 840 runs to be on a 90-win pace.

    So how are they doing? Carry the one, take the remainder, uncover the third-order derivative, and... 326 runs in 88 games yields [gasp] 600 runs.

    Yes, this team, even assuming a 50-run improvement in pitching would roughly need to score TWO HUNDRED AND FORTY MORE RUNS.

    Sounds imposing, huh?

    Let's chip away...

    If Zimmerman just does what he does in '06 (101 runs created), there's 15 runs there (on pace for 86).

    If Kearns does what he did for the Nats in '06, that's about 20 runs. If Lopez does the same, it's another 20 or so. '05 Schneider would be another 10 or so.

    Hmmm... what's that make? 15, 20, 20, 10... we're at 65, only another 180 more runs or so to go!

    Getting the feeling that it's not going to be easy? Even if they add one of the big Free Agent sluggers, it's going to just caulk up the hole, not patch it. Andruw Jones, in his average year, creates around 100 runs. Torii Hunter gives about 90.

    Even Albert Pujols, probably the consensus best hitter in baseball, 'only' creates about 150-160 runs.

    If the team's going to plug that gap, it's going to take breakout performances from a few of their hitters, some smart trades to address some of those weaknesses, and likely, more improvement from the pitching staff.

    We're supposed to believe that re-signing Dmitri Young is going to make a difference on the team's chances of competitiveness over the next few years?

    I know numbers can be hocus pocus, and that pythag isn't a perfect measure of a team's record, but whether it's 240 runs or 200, the key is the magnitude. The Nats have a HUGE hill to climb up to get to the cusp of playoff contention either way. Keeping Dmitri Young around, when he could net a prospect or two, under the guise of short-term competition just doesn't make sense. Especially when there's a 'healthy' Nick Johnson back next year, and there are hundreds of other rocks that Jim Bowden can turn over to find his next Dmitri or Carrasco or Colome or Baerga or...

    All Hail "The PLAN!"

    NFA shares the poop on some great news:

    The Nationals are making progress on signing 6th-round pick Jack McGreary, who fell because of signability concerns. McGreary has first-round talent, and is rumored to want big money to sign, otherwise he would attend Stanford.

    The article that Brian linked, says that they're relatively close on money, and that the Nats are willing to let him (and likely help him) attend classes. The latter is specific enough to lead credence to the whole report, and an indication that things might be close.

    If they get McGreary (and Smoker), the draft will have gone better than Jim Bowden's wildest dreams could've imagined. And it's a great leap forward for "The PLAN!"

    Hide The Women And Children

    It's a shirtless Dmitri Young.

    Proof positive that Zuckerman, Svrluga and Ladson deserve Hazardous Duty Pay.

    Wednesday, July 11, 2007

    How To Give Kasten Heartburn

    You simply show him that giving a player $20 million per year sometimes makes sense.

    This is the kind of number-crunching roster analysis that I wish I could do. Just great stuff, walking you through the process and explaining it in simple language without burying everything in numbers. And in the end, it's a convincing case.

    Even if it makes Uncle Teddy's eye spasm as he reads it.

    Patently Offensive

    When pinch-hit king Lenny Harris took over as Nationals hitting coach for the ailing Mitchell Page on May 11th, he inherited a terrible hitting team. The Nats were averaging fewer than 3 runs per game, and they were in a stretch of 15 straight games without scoring more than 4 runs.

    The next three nights, the Nats offense would "erupt" scoring 6, 7 and 6 runs against the shaky part of the Marlins' pitching staff, causing play-by-player Bob Carpenter to nearly soil himself and strain a muscle patting Harris on the back.

    50 or so games later, Harris had had plenty of time to work, and the team he inherited has had time to digest his philosophies. He inherited a team that was tied for last in the league in run scoring and molded them into... a team that's clearly last in the league in run scoring.

    Certainly the offense has improved -- they're scoring 4.2 per game since he took over -- but so has every other team, thanks, in part, to the warm weather and pitching attrition. Despite the relative success of the team's offensive output -- which is really mostly thanks to the amazing contributions of Dmitri Young and Cristian Guzman -- there are some warning signs.

    If the team has looked overly aggressive to you, you're right. If they seem like they hack at lots of pitches, even ones that are quality strikes, you're likely right. Lenny Harris has helped to mold the team into an impatient, hack first group of sluggers, negating one of the strengths the team had under Mitchell Page. Now, to be fair, it's not necessarily entirely his doing, and it's likely random fluctuation in player's performances -- the ebb and flow of the season -- are playing a factor. But the numbers show that this is a different team:
                       Plate Appearances   Walks  Walk%
    2006 with Page 6283 594 9.5
    2007 with Page 1321 120 9.1
    2007 with Harris 2016 142 7.0

    That's a pretty sizable drop. To put that in perspective, if the Nats had walked 7% of the time in 2006's playing time, they'd have walked 154 fewer times, basically one per game.

    Now the walk certainly isn't the be-all-end-all, but it's important for the process. The more patience a player has, the more likely it is that he won't swing at a pitcher's pitch. Not all strikes are equal, and unless they've got Vlad Guerrero's wrists, there are some pitches that players can't drive. Walks are indicative of a certain level of patience, and ability to identify and differentiate between good and bad strikes.

    Under Harris, they're walking less, and it certainly seems to the untrained eye, that they're hitting more pitcher's pitches, and not maximizing their run-scoring potential, even as the productivity has gone up.

    Let's take a look at how that breaks down, with players who played this year and last. Here are the players' walk rates:
                  2006    07 w Page   07 with Harris
    Schneider 8.3 14.9 9.3
    Zimmerman 8.9 7.2 5.6
    Church 11.3 16.1 6.5
    Logan 6.1 -- 6.3
    Kearns* 15.7 7.6 9.3
    Lopez* 10.6 6.4 6.9
    Fick 7.1 14.6 2.7

    * 2006 stats just with Nats

    This is less an indictment of Harris than it is an example of a correlation of the importance of BB rate. The players struggling the most -- Zimmerman, Church (recently), Kearns and Lopez are the ones with the largest drops in their walk rates. The nosedive in Church's walk rate since Harris' hiring corresponds with his steep drop in production. (correlation != causation)

    Under Page this year, the team showed good patience; they just weren't getting hits as evidenced by their .227 batting average. Some of that was just sucky performance -- Casto, Wilson, Belliard and Young were all poor early in the year -- but a portion of that was also dumb luck. I remember Austin Kearns spraying the ball all over the yard, hitting liner after liner into the gloves of waiting outfielders. Some of that luck was due to even out, and Harris was a lucky beneficiary of that, especially Dmitri's eruption.

    Because batting averages can fluctuate wildly with hot and cold streaks, I sometimes like to look at two different measures of offense: isolated patience and power. It's simply OBP and SLG subtracting out batting average. It measures those parts that aren't attributable to those pesky little slap hits that may or may not fall in.

                   2006   2007MP   2007LH
    Iso Power .156 .100 .129
    Iso Patience .076 .079 .056

    Much of the Power drop-off from '06 to this year is because of you-know-who. The drop off in Patience is pretty noticeable too. But, as you can see, the drop off in patience has also corresponded with an increase in power. The Isolated OPS (if you will) is basically the same under MP and LH this year.

    I won't bore you with all the numbers ("too late," sez you!), but that increase in power this year under LH is basically Ryan Zimmerman's doing. He was at half his '06 rate under MP in the first half before taking off on an absolute monster of a tear, and he's up to .239 -- a .239 IsoPower would be among the best in the league.

    Most other players have shown slight improvement of a few points here and there, though Austin Kearns, Ryan Church and Robert Fick have dropped off dramatically.

    So although the team seems to have offset the lack of patience, a closer look shows that the power gains are isolated to a few players who are carrying the team, while some of the others are doing about what they did under Page, and some others are scuffling.

    Even when they're going well, this is an offensively challenged team. Think about where each of our players would be hitting on a good team. Even Ryan Zimmerman would be no better than a 6th-place hitter on a decent team like the Mets.

    As the pinch-hit leader, Lenny Harris had to love the ol' fastball. For his career, he swung at 34% of the first pitches he saw, rarely walking, and rarely waiting for that one good pitch. It worked for him in that role. But as we've seen with Brandon Watson and Nook Logan, there's more to the game than the ability to slap out the occasional single.

    Is that the approach that Harris is preaching? Get that first strike you see and rip it? We haven't heard much about his approach since the first few days, and the words he uttered were all about aggressiveness. The numbers show that the Nats may have taken that to heart.

    There's a fine line between passiveness and aggressiveness, which is why I liked Mitchell Page's philosophy so much. Unfortunately, it seems that the Nats have treaded towards one extreme.

    And when Dmitri Young finally stops hitting .400, where is that going to leave the Nats' offense?