Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Devil Is In The Details

What a busy day that was! But, the more I look at it, the less dramatic it seems.

Let's start with the old faces:

  • Jon Rauch has a torn labrum. That's an injury whose prognosis ranges from 'bad' to 'Oh, Sweet Jesus!'

    Absolute best case scenario, he's back in September. More than likely, we've seen the last of El Gigante for the year. Torn labrums aren't the death sentence they once were, but he'll have to do some adjusting once he gets back next spring.

  • John Patterson has been having back problems for a week or so. To make matters worse, it seems like he had some sort of reaction to the treatment, killing any chance he had of making the start last night. It doesn't seem too serious for the guy who's probably our third-best starter.

  • TJ Tucker is back, after having strained his groin on our mound from hell. He can pick up where he left off: 6th and 7th inning middle relief; and a pace for 110 games pitched. He'll have some catching up to do!

  • Puberty Boy, Zach Day was optioned to New Orleans. With his off-the-field problems, and Frank's less-than complimentary role as mentor, this is probably the best thing for him.

    He'll get to clear his head out without the constant pressure. He'll get steady innings, instead of the infrequent mopup duty. And he'll get to dominate some hitters for once.

    I'm pulling for him. He deserves better.

  • Claudio Vargas was designated for assignment. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Obviously I don't want the guy starting. And I'm not sure I even want the guy relieving.

    Being DFA'd means the team frees up his roster spot while he's in a state of limbo. The team can trade him, or let him go via waivers. If he clears waivers, he can continue to play for the team in the minors.

    In this case, though, they're giving up on him completely. If they had wanted to send him to the minors, he still has option years. They could send him down with zero risk of losing him. Doing it this way means they're either releasing him, or trading him.

    The only other possible reason that they would do it this way is to clear a spot off the 40-man roster. But, why do it in a way to risk losing a player?

    This is a franchise that lacks upper-level talent. There are some fringe prospects in the low minors *coughDESMONDcough*, but there really aren't any players who will have starring roles in the next two to three years (other than Mike Hinckley and possibly Bill Bray or Clint Everts).

    Vargas isn't likely to be a star, but the kid is still just 27 years old. There's still an outside chance he could put it together. Two years ago he gave the team 114 innings of ERA that was 15% better than average.

    Yes, he's stunk this year, but he's also coming back from an injury. Anyone who's watched him has noticed he's thrown mostly fastballs. The few breaking pitches he's lobbed up there had little on them, and they rarely went for strikes.

    The guys' coming off elbow trouble fer crissake! I'm no Will Carroll, but even I know that a healthy elbow is requirement #1 for throwing good breaking stuff. You simply can't get the right torque on the pitch if you're worried about your elbow.

    And, there's no way he would've put up those stats in the majors and minors in past years if his breaking pitches were as piss poor as they were this year.

    It's pretty clear he's not completly healthy.

    So, rather than sending him to the minors to work through his problems, or to rest him, they're just dumping him.

    This is not a franchise that can afford to lose ANY type of 'prospect' no matter how marginal -- especially when that player has already demonstrated an ability to perform in the majors.

    I'll bet dollars to donuts that I, Claudio doesn't make it through waivers.

And now, the new faces.

  • Tyrell Godwin gets the call-up from New Orleans, filling the I.E. Chavez Memorial Roster Slot. He's a speedy outfielder who's only chance at the majors is via his legs.

    His numbers in AAA look decent, but they are very batting average heavy. That doesn't bode well for his chances for success right now. But, he's probably also only up here until Patterson comes back, too.

    Nationals Inquirer has a look at him.

  • Sunny Kim has been up and down the last few years. While he hasn't lived up to his potential he showed early in the minors, he can be a useful 4/5 starter.

    He was New Orleans' best pitcher. He has a 2.76 ERA in a team-leading 49 innings. He's also shown a fairly impressive 38/15 K/BB ratio.

    The question, as always, is what is his role here? I'm assuming he'll get a starting nod, especially with Tucker filling out the pen. He can slide into the spot vacated by Vargas, leaving Ohka to take Patterson's spot.

    He doesn't have the endurance to give us 8 innings, but anything's better than the 1.2 innings of batting practive Vargas was serving.

  • CJ Nitkowski was signed, and makes the team. He's here only because he's left-handed. That he's never been good or effective makes no difference.

    Well, I suppose there's another reason up here. And that's because Jim Bowden doesn't understand the concept of a small sample size.

    Seige was pitching for Pittsburgh's AAA affiliate, and put up some excellent numbers.

    In 21.2 innings, he has a miniscule 0.83 ERA and has allowed just 6 hits.

    (Less promising are the three unearned runs he's allowed and the 9 walks)

    But, they're certainly impressive numbers. That's hard to argue with.

    However, do they represent his true level of ability?

    Under-Siege is now 32 years old. He's pitched in parts of 9 different seasons, accumulating 475 innings. His ERA? 5.35, which is 13% below average.

    In the last two years, it's been 5.73 and 7.45.

    Yeah, I'll admit that ERA is certainly not the most effective way of evaluating relievers.

    So, how about we look at how he does against lefties. As the team's lone lefty pitcher, he'll be the one called upon in clutch situations, needing to get Carlos Delgado out with runners on second and third.

    Over the last three years (That's all I could find), lefties have hit .305/ .380/ .381 off of him. That's certainly not Orroscoesque!

    What worries me about this signing is frankly, Frank.

    Bowden is giving him another toy, which he'll misuse. Nitkowski really should be one of the last options out of the bullpen. But, Frank is going to see the shiny new wrapper, rip it open, and start playing with it. He can't resist. Expect Nitkowski to be pitching some fairly high-leverage innings pretty soon.

    By the time Frank realizes that he's not playing with a toy, but a loaded weapon, it may be too late.

The team did need some sort of shakeup. There were players on the roster who weren't performing, and players Frank wasn't willing to use. With injured players coming, and injured players going, it certainly looks more dramatic than it really was.

We'll see if any of this makes a meaningful impact upon the team. I'm not holding my breath. But, it's important that we don't attribute too much success or too much failure to these moves. If we beat the Cards, it's probably not because of these transactions. Something else will have probably caused that effect.

In the meantime, let's hope Frank forgets the bunt sign.


  • The only hope we have is that Nitkowski only keeps that bullpen spot warm until "Suck it and like it" returns

    By Blogger Brian, at 5/27/2005 7:08 AM  

  • I have this odd notion that DFAing a player not only makes it easier but makes it POSSIBLE to trade him.

    Maybe I'll expand on it over lunch, but the gist is that Team X out there wouldn't even look at a guy like Vargas under "normal circumstances." But, by DFAing him, the Nats signal to Team X (and Y and Z) that "hey, he's available"---thus giving a team reason to look at him. We consequently flip him for SOMETHING (though maybe not much) as opposed to essentially having no use for him previously.

    I know; it doesn't quite make sense. And it sure didn't hold up with Jack Cust last year.

    By Blogger Basil, at 5/27/2005 8:53 AM  

  • Or, more recently, D'Angelo Jimenez, who cleared waivers and is now playing for Chatanooga!?

    I know what you mean though -- it generally sparks interest in the player from the outside -- media and fans -- because it's one of the rare instances where we know a player is actually available.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/27/2005 8:55 AM  

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