Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Three On Twenty-Five

Brian Schneider: He rarely makes hard contact, as you can see by looking at his line-drive rate and his infield popup numbers. When the batting average comes around a bit, he'll be improved, but his slugging is always going to be suspect because his Isolated Slugging (the part of slugging average that's NOT driven by batting average) has been in the crapper for two seasons. With three catchers, he really should see the bench more often, especially for a PHer.

Dmitri Young: The amazing thing about him hasn't been his defense -- which is much better than expected, even if that's still not really terrific -- but his walk rate, which is more than double his career rate, and another sign that Mitchell Page, despite the struggles this team goes through, really seems to have an impact on its hitters. (Is that only one sentence?) Other than the walk rate, most of the rest of his numbers are in line with his career, so maybe he's not really playing over his head?

Ron Belliard: He doesn't look really pretty out there sometimes, except when he's making the quick transfer from the glove on the double-play pivot. I'm not sure whether I'm impressed with his range because he's genuinely excellent out there, or if it's because I'm used to slow hoppers lazily rolling into the grass for hits. His walk rate is half of his career total, and he really needs to up that if he's going to be useful, especially as a #2 batter, because he won't have a high enough batting average to be league average.

Ryan Zimmerman: He's finally starting to get hot, as over his last seven games, he's hitting .333. His performance this year with RISP shows the stupidity of RBI as an evaluating stat. It's not that RBI aren't important, but when trying to assess an individual player's value, they're one of the last things you look at because they're so dependent on what the other players on the team doing, and it's certainly not his fault that that Nats' #2 batters have a .225 on-base percentage.

Felipe Lopez: He's continuing a trend he started last year, when the Reds asked him to work on his on-base percentage by taking more walks to become a complete lead-off hitter. Unfortunately, it's come at the expense of much of his extra-base hit power. He's still a useful lead-off guy and a pretty good shortstop, but unless he starts hitting for more power or zips his OBP up into the .380 range, he's probably below average at second base, all things considered.

Chris Snelling: Snelling has easily been the Nats biggest surprise. He also shows why batting average alone isn't enough to evaluate a player, because he's been quite useful despite a .238 BA thanks to the walks, the extra-base-hits, and those beanballs. If he can get that batting average up -- and given his .312 career minor league average, there's hope -- he'll be one of the team's best players.

Ryan Church: Church is finally living up to the promise he showed early in 2005. Confidence, for once, seems to be oozing from his body, which is why I worry a bit about how he'll react to being yanked for not hustling in Sunday's game. It's interesting to see how the perception of his defense moves with the perception of his offense, and I wonder whether he's really better out there, or if sources just appreciate the body language he's given off, even though he still will probably butcher the next screaming line drive hit right at him.

Austin Kearns: I really like watching Kearns play defense, especially the way he hustles after balls to get into position to throw. It's something that's hard to see sometimes, but when you see a single to right with a man on first, watch how often the runner holds at second. He's been a terribly unlucky batter as you can see by looking at his line-drive rate, indicating that he'll get "better" once he stops hitting them right at the fielders.

Robert Fick: He's more a character than a ballplayer. He hasn't had a slugging average above .400 since 2003. That's fine from a third catcher -- but not a primary PHer -- and how many games has he caught anyway?

D'Angelo Jimenez: He hasn't had a slugging average above .300 since 2004, and he's left a trail of outs and shoddy defense wherever he's gone since. Manny Acta seems terrified to put him in the field -- likely with good reason. If he's not going to hit, and he's not going to field, why not get a fat slugger like Daryle Ward?

Michael Restovich: When he signed a minor-league contract, I assumed that he was a near-lock to make the roster, because of his right-handed power. A platoon with Ryan Church seemed like the natural option. It didn't happen, but he's basically platooning with Snelling now, putting both batters into positions where they're more likely to succeed.

Jesus Flores: We're rapidly nearing the time when Flores should be getting more PT. The Rule 5 process often harms players development, but with this dog of a team (and the dog of a starting catcher), what's the harm in giving him a chance? I've been impressed with his approach at the plate, where he's patient and doesn't swing wildly at pitches like a normal rookie, like Casto, does.

Josh Wilson: I'm not sure that I've ever seen a perception of a player change as quickly as it has with him. During spring, he was a bright light, a hidden superstar, who Bowden assured us (wink, wink) was being asked about by any number of teams. One terrible, terrible game later, and he's all but stapled to the end of the bench, available only as a last resort when there's a lefty reliever on the mound.

Shawn Hill: While not completely unexpected, his performance this year has been a very pleasant surprise -- and that's not just in comparison to the dregs around him. I worry about his health, especially with the reports that he's experiencing right forearm tenderness. All too often, forearms equal elbows, and he's already had plenty of elbow problems in his career.

Jerome Williams: I guess it would be a bit surprising to find out that he's second on the team in innings, but that's mostly because he's been left out there to take a thorough beating. For the most part, pitchers only control three parts of their job: walks, strikeouts and homers. Williams is failing at two of the three, and even the strikeout rate isn't that exceptional.

Matt Chico: I sorta feel bad for the kid. He's clearly over-matched in the big leagues. You just can't survive when you walk 15 batters and allow 5 homers in 18 innings of work.

John Patterson: Just shut up and pitch. I'm tired of the excuses, whether it's mechanics or the weather, or a tummy that feels bad. If he's not healthy, shut him down, but if he's just building arm strength, leave him out there for a few beatings until he's ready to let it loose.

Jason Bergmann: I'm not quite ready to hold the parade yet. Sure, he's had two great starts in a row, but the other 8 -- where his ERA is way over 6 -- count, too. I still want to know whether that extra zip on his breaking pitches is for real, or if it's just a hot streak.

Jesus Colome: Would you have guessed that Colome leads the team in relief innings? He's been a pleasant surprise, but he still worries me when he pitches, and those 11 walks in 15 innings mean he's likely a ticking time bomb. He's succeeded because he hasn't allowed a homer, and because he's allowing far fewer hits than the number of balls in plays he's allowing indicates he should -- at least based on his career averages.

Ryan Wagner: He's really a tough one to figure out. One game, he'll look brilliant, commanding his pitches, keeping them low in the zone, and keeping the hitters off balance. The next game, they're up, and wide, and he's getting smacked all over the place.

Jon Rauch: For all the talk about how good he is, and how effective he is at his job, he does have a 5.56 ERA. While he hasn't walked a single batter, he's allowed two huge homers. Despite the occasional struggle, he's still our most consistent reliever.

Levale Speigner: I still haven't figured him out. His control was shaky, especially in those early starts, but he seems to have improved. He's a decent enough 12th pitcher, but I really wish he were able to be a more effective long man because that's something this team could really use.

Chad Cordero: His usage is one of the reasons why so many statheads dislike the notion of a closer. Despite nominally being the team's relief ace, he's fifth on the team in relief innings. Granted, they haven't had many leads to hold on to -- and he's choked away two of those with his ineffective pitching -- but Manny Acta needs to look for more ways to get him in the game. Of course, the one time he did that, it ended with Cordero batting with runners on, and squandering the lead half an inning later.

Micah Bowie: If Jon Rauch' arm doesn't blow out first, then Bowie's the leader in the clubhouse given his 11 appearances already. Although he's supposedly the Nats' primary lefty, he's faced nearly twice as many righties as lefties. Thankfully, for him, righties have batted just .143, and strangely, lefties are ripping him for a .417 average.

Saul Rivera: He's been terrific so far, as he was last year. He keeps his stuff low in the zone, especially his breaking pitches. What really makes him effective, though, is his splitter, which has action down and away from left-handed batters, which basically kills any chance of success they have off of him.


  • interesting post, chris. couple questions/musings:

    1) w/ snelling's obp, should he be hitting 2nd b/c, as you pointed out, the BA will likely increase and he is not overmatched at the plate? or are many of his walks really unintentional intentional walks, the product of hitting in front of the pitcher?

    2) agreed, fick and jimenez are essentially useless, daryle ward would be an improvement over fick but, on the plus side, i am thrilled to not have any more marlons on our roster. plus, when guzzie comes back, belliard becomes the first guy off the bench for 2x switches (if manny ever does one) or PHs and he's worlds better than anybody off last year's bench.

    3) rule 5 guys - i appreciate the
    "plan" so i understand that's why we have yet another 22 yr old backup on our bench (let's hope this works better than year 1's tony blanco disaster), but i can't help wondering where our interest level was w/ "more mature" types like josh hamilton (currently killing the ball with the natti)? is blanco still in A ball?

    4) our next pitchers (after the chico and williams experiments are thankfully over)? here's a vote for mike bacsik and billy traber (remember, he used to start, at least he might be able to absorb some IPs in subsequent 10-2 disasters).

    ps) tony blanco's hitting .235 w/ 2 HRs, 9 RBIs and 3 steals for harrisburg, after posting .260/10/40/3 (mostly at potomac) last year. boy, was he ready for a full season of MLB in 2005, huh? in fairness, his .319 OBP, .454 SLG, and .772 OPS numbers last year more than qualify him for a spot on this year's big league club.

    By Blogger DCPowerGator, at 4/24/2007 11:52 AM  

  • 1) Snelling or Church would be an excellent option at #2. I'd rather have a left-handed hitter there (because of the hole on the right side when there's a runner on first) than a 'bat control' kind of guy. Regardless, Snelling should be hitting higher than 8th. He's shown he's capable.

    2) Fick has his uses (third catcher) but he hasn't been used that way. I can live with him on the bench, but just not as the first option.

    3) The Reds look like they got lucky with Hamilton. I can't remember the exact order, but I think they nabbed him first. Regardless, given the complete dearth of catching prospects in the sytem, and Flores' potential, he was the right choice.

    4) Bacsik certainly excelled in the minors last year. They've given up on Traber as a starter, it seems. Given the way he's pitched, Hanrahan likely gets the next chance, but I bet they'll wait a week or two until Simontacchi's ready. Then they'll whack Williams or Chico

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/24/2007 11:58 AM  

  • Hamilton was the Cubs selection at #3 in the Rule 5 draft after Ryan Goleski [from CLE by TB for OAK] and Joakim Soria [from COL by KC]. The Cubs then traded him to CIN. No way the Nats could have acquired him.

    As for your Blanco question, he's playing LF for Harrisburg.

    -Brian (Blogger isn't cooperating)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/24/2007 12:13 PM  

  • good points, hamilton was part of a more complex deal and, don't get me wrong, i like flores and he looks like he can hold his own at the plate (which blanco never remotely did). probably a more typical rule 5 guy. i like speigner too, sorta.

    i think it was essential to "the PLAN" that we had to get a couple rule 5 guys to stick this year, given the dearth of high minor prospects at any position in this organization.

    By Blogger DCPowerGator, at 4/24/2007 12:28 PM  

  • Exactly. Keep in mind, though, that Speigner isn't really a prospect. He's a cheap stopgap who might be a passable middle reliever for a few years. But beyond that? Eh.

    Now Flores DOES have some upside. If the development time thing doesn't crush him, he's likely Schneider's replacement.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/24/2007 12:30 PM  

  • hey chris, don't forget, on THIS team, a 26 yr old who can throw the occasional strike is a prospect, just not a "capital P" Prospect like Flores! and the twins organization is pretty deep.

    i will readily agree, however, that jerome williams, a 25 year old who cannot throw strikes, is NOT a prospect!

    By Blogger DCPowerGator, at 4/24/2007 12:44 PM  

  • I wonder about the development time issue. I agree that Flores needs to be playing more than he has been, (though he does seem to have assumed the primary backup C role), but is playing 4 out of every 5 days in Harrisburg really that much more important than getting every 5th start, working with Mitchell Page and getting a first hand look at the speed and complexity of the Major League game?

    Whatever Brian Schneider's flaws as a batter, he does call a good game, and Flores is probably getting a better education here than he would be in Double A.

    By Blogger Nate, at 4/24/2007 12:47 PM  

  • Playing time for Flores ...

    It's more than just working with Mitchell Page. Flores really needs to have at a minimum 2-3 games per week of actual playing time for more than just hitting. He needs it to develop as a catcher. There is only so much that can be accomplished catching in the bullpen, side sessions, etc.

    His hitting will likely continue to develop over time (though the infrequent playing time is a concern), but it's almost as important to allow Flores to see if he has the skills to be a starting catcher.

    By Blogger Brian, at 4/24/2007 12:58 PM  

  • Chris,

    I completely agree with you that Flores should be getting MUCH more playing time. I’ve been a Brian Schneider fan since the Nats got here, and I’ve been hoping for a return to his 2005 form, but I’ve come to realize that Brian is just another catcher on a steep decline from his (very brief) prime years.

    However, I wonder if Acta or Bowden will force the issue. More than any other position, catcher seems to evaluated and valued more on a “gut” level than any real objective measure of talent and production. Managers seem to look to veteran catchers for their calming effect on young pitchers. And then there’s the Sherri Nichols Law of Catcher Defense, where: “a catcher`s defensive reputation will be inversely proportional to his offensive contribution.” That seems to be where Schneider’s career has settled – his reputation and experience behind the plate will buy him a few years’ more playing time, but 2005’s bat is gone for good.

    I’ve seen enough of Flores and Schneider to know that a 50/50 platoon at catcher won't hurt the Nats at all this season, and will do much more to determine if and when Flores is the future at catcher.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/24/2007 1:00 PM  

  • Schneider's not as bad as he's shown, but those numbers (take a look at the section on line drives and grounders -- he's not hitting the ball hard at all) are scary. He'll hit better. He has to.

    But he's playing a ton. At a minimum, Flores should be getting 90% of the starts against LHP.

    I like Schneider. He comes across as a likeable guy, and to listen to Bob and Don talk about him, he'd qualify for sainthood.

    Your observations about perception and gut feeling with catcher are dead on. Look at Brad Ausmus and Mike Matheny's stats sometimes. Yet the played year after year after year.

    And their teams won. Was it because of their performance, or in spite of it?

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/24/2007 1:05 PM  

  • This argument for Patterson to "quit complaining and get on on the mound" sounds very familiar. Where have I heard that before?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/24/2007 1:28 PM  

  • Tony Blanco is now on the DL in Harrisburg.

    By Blogger Brian, at 4/24/2007 2:51 PM  

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