Sunday, February 28, 2010

Too Much Coverage?

I've had a few thoughts about the coverage of the Nats, but haven't really been able to rattle 'em around in my head long enough to hammer 'em into something coherent. Here's my basic question though: is there too much coverage of the team.

On one level, the answer's obviously not.

But on the other hand... if you're tracking what's going on via twitter and the reporters' blogs, you're seeing that 98% of the time they're saying exactly the same things. And 67.4% of that time, it's pretty uninteresting stuff.

So that leaves the question: Is the preponderance of banality making it too damn hard to find the 2% of stuff that's actually 1) unique 2) valuable?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

StanSpeak: Spring Training Edition

Have no fear, lady and gentlemen: even with this blog's extended hiatus, the StanSpeak Translator was well taken care of. We didn't leave that bad boy out in the yard to rust, have dogs pee on it, or to be buried under 14 feet of snow. Nosiree. It's as good as ever. (Note: that does not mean it's actually good).

As always, when he speaks, we stand ready to translate. So with his latest QNA with the esteemed Bill Ladson, it's time to figure out what the recently quiet Stanley is really thinking.


If you look at how much has changed over the last 12 months and how few track suits and leather pants are floating around, there has been a major revamping -- from the front office to us finally, despite years of assurance, filling the scouting department to the coaching staff, even if we had to tell Steve McCatty that he couldn't have his copies of Penthouse and Hustler sent here.

On the field, we saw real progress over the course of last season, especially with our new groundskeeper -- young players like 28-year old Nyjer Morgan who contributed and showed real promise, and 26-year old Garrett Mock's 5.62 ERA. We had an aggressive offseason of profit-seeking, and all of that leads to the next wave, which so many people are looking forward to, but that may never actually come (see: Willems, Colton). All those elements put together really gives the franchise a different feel than it had a year ago, although when you're already in the Marianas Trench, there's not much further low you can go. There's a lot of optimism for the future because we've managed to kill off all the rational fans, leaving the Kool Aid drinkers and mouthbreathes. And those morons, thanks to a lack of real intense media coverage of our lousy franchise, will suck up whatever we tell 'em. Act now. Tickets are going fast!


It's not one thing, but if I had to pick, it would be getting rid of that leather-panted mope. It's the steady, consistent overall program to change things after our years of malaise -- to upgrade things cumulatively, which has resulted in the positive attitude that you are sensing, and not that dopey positive affirmations crap that the village idiot Manny Acta used to ramble about. Things are on the upswing, but we still have a 34 handicap.

We have always known from Day 1 that everything will hinge on what kind of starting pitching you can get, which is why we ignored it for so long and picked up Danny Cabrera and Pedro Astacio, and how quickly you can get a stable rotation in here. But that would also cost money, or require our moron GM to make shrewd trades that didn't net him some magic beans. Obviously, on that front, our future looks quite a bit brighter than it did a year ago, thanks to our years of incompetence netting us a winning lotto ticket with Strasburg. Hey, it worked for Ted Leonsis. Why not us? That would be reason No. 1 for enhanced optimism. Well, that and our rotation which now features Jason Marquis, Livan Hernandez, Miguel Batista, and some kids who all sorta look the same and pitch similarly terribly. But it wouldn't be that optimistic without all the other things to go along with it.


As soon as they can make it up here reliably at a date behind when they'll be eligible for Super-2 status, that's when we will bring them up. We will not bring them up sooner than they are able, and we will not leave them down there longer than they need to be down there to maximize the length of time we can keep their salaries low.


There is also a window to what we could see as the 3rd-place contending team we could, but might not, be in 2011. If Stephen is what we think he is and what we paid him to be, if Chien-Ming Wang can come back like we think he can (assuming that virgin we sacrificed pays off), if Jordan Zimmermann comes back like we think he can, all of a sudden, you have a real big-time rotation, potentially, perhaps, maybe, no guaranteed need apply. And that's what you need before anything else good can happen, which one could use to infer that I don't think anything good will happen this year. I mean, have you SEEN Jason Marquis when he's having a bad game? Yeesh. And Wang had an ERA of like 34, people!


I think I agree with everyone in baseball who's on his side: He has done a great job cleaning up the little piles of poop Jim left all over the building. He came in here on a real level of expertise and respect with him. I like his aura. We saw that in his dealings with colleagues throughout baseball and how he didn't force other GMs to react uncomfortably to him staring at his F-level "star" wife's saline-filled rack. We saw that in the caliber of professional talent we were able to attract, like his father. Say what you will, but the old man works for Monopoly money. He thinks it's real. Senile bastard. That all speaks of the respect Mike has and his impressive collection of Hawaiian shirts. I thought Mike was aggressive in helping transform the front office, and I think it has paid off in all areas. Apparently he didn't want to be saddled with the same incompetent and understaffed scouting operations we've been running out there for years, even as we told everyone that we were all on the right track. Go figure.

The Dumbest Thing You'll Read All Day

God bless the Nats PR staff, but not only have they polished that turd, they're putting it on a nice roll, served with a delicious side of peppers and onions.

Maybe, just maybe John Lannan is the best pitcher nobody has heard of... just look at the numbers against a pitcher everybody has heard of.
 ALCS MVP CC Sabathia vs. John Lannan
 Number of games started allowing three runs or less:
Sabathia:         23
Lannan:           23
 ERA in those games:
Sabathia:         1.78 ERA (32 ER/ 161.2 IP)
Lannan:           2.24 ERA (39 ER/ 156.2 IP)
 Individual Record in those games:
Sabathia:         18-0
Lannan:           9-5
 Team Record in those games:
Sabathia:         20-3
Lannan:           12-11
Lannan's biggest problem last year was the Nats offense. He was second from the bottom with a 3.71 run support average for pitchers with at least 200 IP. The Rays Matt Garza bested Lannan with a 3.68 RSA. It is the one statistic you never want to lead in.

Why does my sausage taste like crap?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Unlikely Story

EDIT: Huh. For some reason, I read "Brown" as "Bowden." Um .... disregard?

Chico Harlan kicked off Sayonara Week with a splendid piece on John Lannan's rather idiosyncratic path to big league success. And yes, I realize that Harlan's story was published on Friday, which is roughly equivalent to the Precambrian Era in blog terms, seeing as it's now Monday night. However, it still beats the breathless updates about Kris Benson's workouts and Stephen Strasburg's fiber intake, or whatever passes for news these days on Twitter, so check it out.

As is federally mandated of a writer when discussing Lannan's path to success, Harlan includes an anecdote that would sound too incredible to be true if it were not, in fact, true: Jim Bowden's challenge to Lannan, prior to the 2007 season, to make it to the big league roster that very season. Lannan says that Bowden's call "changed the way I looked at everything." I'll bet. While an athlete's success must in large part be grounded in a productive form of narcissism, in more self-aware moments Lannan might have suspected he was a rather nondescript former 11th round pick with a decent chance of being one-third of the way to being a six-year minor league free agent. If so, the thought wouldn't have been without reason. Lannan had advanced so far as Savannanah, straight-up A-ball, and wasn't any great shakes there.

Forget what we know now, and remember how Lannan was considered back then, after his first two seasons in the minors. Scroll through the NFA archives -- outside of the usual organizational updates, there's not much there concerning Lannan until his fine 2007 breakout season was well underway, nor should there have been. By my recollection, Brian had him rated in the upper 20s among the organization's prospects entering 2007. I think Baseball America rated him No. 20. John Sickels didn't rate Lannan among the Nats' top 20; he listed among the also-rans, behind guys with such starry futures as "this is a generous grade but I like his arm," "gets grounders," "number four starter perhaps," "good arm, terrible numbers," another "good arm, terrible numbers," "decent middle relief type," and the always inspring "can't throw strikes." Bonus points if you can rattle off who these other guys were; extra bonus points if you even remember the last couple of these guys.

Given this background, the question occurs to me: What the hell was Bowden thinking? Yes, we often pondered that question in the Days of Bodes, but one really has to ask what he saw here -- and to give him credit for it. I mean, he actually did see something, right?

Probably, but let's allow our minds to run in another direction for a moment. Remember, this was 2007, the year when the Nats invited anyone short of Ethel Merman to try out for a spot in the starting rotation, and the main reason she wasn't invited was because he'd been dead 23 years. No fewer than 14 pitchers had some sort of recognized shot at a job, with somebody named "Other" proudly finishing ninth in the heart of the fan. I recall that spring training fairly well from my blogging basement; things seemed less than tidy at the time. I wasn't alone in thinking that, rather than a rotation, the Nats would find it necessary to implement different waves of starters as the season progressed.

So, the thought occurs to me, what if Bowden's rather unexpected words of encouragement to Lannan in the winter of 2006-07 could be viewed in light of this pitching mess with which the team likely suspected it faced? What if, instead of demonstrating an uncanny grasp of what Lannan was to become, Bowden had instead simply picked Lannan as a good candidate for an inevitable slaughter?

It makes some sense, right? Heading into the 2007 season, the probable starters were . . . whom? Well, there was Patterson -- there was the hope, at least, of Patterson. Shawn Hill was not a bad sleeper pick. And after that? Redding, Simontacchi, and Williams were reclamation projects; Traber, Lewis, and Michalak were hangers-on; Bergmann was just beginning his unsteady starter-reliever two-step; Chico was a rookie. There were others. I'm not even sure if Bacsik was on the radar. It was a mess. Basically, the suspicion here would be that Bowden, anticipating this mess, looked for a college arm (thus, with at least some seasoning), who wasn't a notable prospect (thus, could not be considered "rushed), who could plug a gap on the major league staff as soon as that summer (thus, could serve as a punching bag), and picked Lannan. And, as luck would have it, he made a great pick.

I thought of ways to test this suspicion, and the one I settled on was to look at what the really bad (i.e., 100+ loss) teams of recent years did. This approach seemed to make sense, as most people (perhaps even some within the Nats' front office) believed the 2007 Nats would be pretty lowly, especially given the lousy options presented to them on the pitching side. So I looked at all of these piss-poor teams, from the obvious ones like the 1996 and 2003 Tigers, to the forgetten horridness that was the 2004 Diamondbacks, to the more unassuming incompetence achieved by 100-loss outfits from Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Milwaukee. And guess what? No one on those teams was a good comp for John Lannan in 2007. There were some pretty obscure guys who made horrific debuts for those teams, but no one matched Lannan's pre-2007 combination of youth (22), low draft position (11th round), inexperience (only reached A-ball), and poor minor league results (9-13, 5-ish ERA). (The closest match I found was somebody named Dave Pember, a former 8th round pick who, two years after going 2-10 in the Midwest League, was briefly getting slapped around for a 106-loss Milwauke team. But even Pember was two years older than Lannan and had pitched 120+ innings at the A+ level the year before he debuted.)

Lannan was neither a young prodigy nor a fellow who had paid his dues in the upper minors. Although I can't say my research here is in any way exhaustive, the attention he received from Bowden doesn't seem to follow any pattern that I can detect. Futhermore, if Bowden was merely looking for a prospective punching bag from the Savannah team, why Lannan and not Craig Stammen? Stammen was drafted only a round later than Lannan in 2005, was a year older than Lannan, also was not considered too much of a prospect, and had pitched better than Lannan to that point. But it took three more seasons for Stammen to reach the majors.

I suppose the simplest answer, unlikely as it may seem at first blush, is the party line: Bowden (or someone in the Nationals' employ) saw something here, and Lannan has delivered.

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Suck It, Canada!

U-S-A!  U-S-A!  U-S-A!

What Can You Do With A Broken Wang?

In case you missed it, check out Fra Paolo's look at Wang and the guys he's trying to replace.  Though he doesn't update too often (more than me, though!), this is probably the best stats-focused Nats blog out there.  He understands the material and figures out questions and the occasional answer.  It's not just a regurgitation of Fangraphs or whatever David Cameron has left under his fingernails.

Short version: The sucky pitcher could replace the other sucky pitcher, especially if the other sucky pitcher sucks out.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mike Rizzo, Impartial Judge

Via Nats Journal:

Rizzo, on the importance of signing Adam Dunn to a long-term deal: "It's important for me because he's one of my favorite players on the team. I love the guy. There aren't many 40-home run, 100-RBI guys running around out there. He fits in with this club. He's a very unique leader, I call him. He leads in kind of a quirky way, but leads nonetheless. He's always open to helping the younger players. And you know, look at it this way: Several years down the road, if he continues at the pace he's at, we're gonna be talking about Hall of Famer Adam Dunn."
 Jesus Christ.

I'm as big an Adam Dunn fanboy as there is.  Check the archives; I think I was calling for the Nats to TRADE FOR DUN!!!1! sometime in October '99.  But the time to extend Dunn was before last season, when they could've locked him up at a discounted rate for a few more years.

I'm not sure it makes much sense to commit to Dunn for too much longer given his age and his defensive ability (where the best-case scenario is that he'll be below average at 1B instead of 'nuclear holocaust').  Finding a decent 1B is not a terribly difficult thing to do.  Dunn, thanks to his defense, ("defense," rather) isn't $10MM more per year better than someone like Russ Branyan, who signed for peanuts with Manny Acta in Cleveland.  That's to say that the team would likely be better off (think in terms of net runs scored/allowed) with a $2MM stopgap 1B and a $10 MM pitcher than the other way around, especially given the team's needs and scarcity of quality pitching.

But I do love the idea of Adam Dunn: Hall of Famer.  Used to be that the traditionalists hated him for the strikeouts and the statheads pointed out his offense.  Lately, the statheads have been ripping his defense, pointing out that it negates most of his offense value.  With no traditional defenders, and no stathead defenders, who's exactly going to be carrying the "Dunn for HOF" banner?  Well, besides the Rizzo parade...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Brian Bruney Sucks

In a blog -- which is a term short for web log --  post entitled "Washington Nationals: Brian Bruney Talks Arbitration On Sirius/XM," on the website entitled "Federal Baseball" which is part of the SB Nation network of team-specific blogs, but the one that focuses on the Washington Nationals baseball club, which is a member of the National League, and is owned by Theodore Lerner, an old man who made a few bucks developing strip malls after World War II, which was a conflict between the Axis and Allies that ended sometime in the 1940s, the author of the post who has a pseudonym  of Chigliak, which should not be confused with Chigur, who was the antagonist of the Academy Award-winning "No Country for Old Men", which might very well be the best movie the Coens made, although "Fargo", which won a Best Actress award for Frances McDormand for her portrayal of Marge Gunderson, the pregnant sherriff of the titular town, could give it a run for its money, as could "A Serious Man," which was genuinely excellent, building on many of the themes of nihilism that pervade much of their broader body of work, where even their lesser movies such as "Hudsucker Proxy" are still genuinely entertaining, so long as one ignores "The Ladykillers," which really should have all copies of it printed destroyed, transcribed, a role usually reserved for Washington Post Sports Bloggers, or as one of them is more popularly known, "Boggers", a name which has a lengthy explanation that we will reserve for a different sentence, an interview conducted between Brian Bruney, who should not be confused with former Olympic champion Brian Boitano, who is probably best known to younger generations of people as the guy from the "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" song, featured in the "Spirit of Christmas" short, which introduced the characters of "South Park" to the world, and the XM radio hosts, and during the interview, which is a type of conversation between multiple people typically used to inform or educate, Mr. Bruney revealed his displeasure with the arbitration process.

Jesus.  Enough of that.

Read what the guy says.  He whines and complains that the big bad team said big bad things about him.  Boo-freakin-hoo.  Get over it, lumpy.  Go read all his comments and laugh at Lumpy's cluelessness.  Awwww.

My favorite part though?

"it's never about money with me. I'm a firm believer in you pay a man an honest paycheck for an honest hard living. That's just the way I was raised, my parents raised me that way, and if I didn't feel like I was worth what I asked for I wouldn't have been there. I don't want any money given to me that's not rightfully mine, and so that's why we were there."

It's not about the money, and you didn't take the team's offer to avoid arb?  Screw you, Lumpy.

What did you think the arb process was going to be?  Were Stan's minions going to sit across the table and say "Well, even though Bruney's lumpy, out-of-shape, not all that good, and unable to pitch due to injury far too frequently, we think he's a swell guy, and we're looking forward to paying him a lot of dough!"


Of course, maybe the dude's just been reading the Nats' own press clippings, where everyone associated with the team couldn't want to lump (ahem) Lumpy in with all the other pickups as key acquisitions for the team's season.

Mike Rizzo believes he's a star... except when it comes time to pay the man, apparently.

Questions, Answered.

In order:

minors, duh; who cares cause we've got pudge; nope; nope; who cares?; who cares?; worse; perhaps; as he was last year; boringly.

See.  Spring Training sucks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Preserve This for History

I just gotta link to this.  I assume it's parody.

Yes, Wily Taveras is most certainly a useful player, and is no way the kind of player that that bum Jim Bowden would've signed.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bowden Redux

My friend sent me a link to this Nats Journal post with the comment "it's enough to make you hate baseball."

Now initially, I assumed he meant the idea of another pointless "Guess the 25-man" post.  Man, those things are the low-hanging fruit of the blog world.  They're only a notch or two above cat pictures. (Awwww!  Isn't Mr. Franklin super cute???)  They're especially annoying because they make it seem like spring's actually a competition.  Contract status makes 23/25 of those decisions.  It's only with the Mike Morses of the world (and his lack of options) that force a team to make a decision.  And, really, besides his friends and family, who gives a flying shit about Mike Morse?

But instead of starting down that road... when I asked, my friend said that it wasn't that, but the deadbeats on the roster: Scott Olsen, Eric Bruntlett, Wil Nieves, etc.  This is our roster? The team we're supposed to be jazzed about.  Sweet jesus.

It's been interesting skimming some blogs and message boards and their reaction to the offseason the team's had.  Rizzo can apparently pee a fine vintage merlot, at least I think I read that somewhere.  What's frustrating about that analysis is that the accompanying analysis usually doesn't have Rizzoid's actions stand on their own; they're always in comparison to Cap'n Leatherpants.  He's not being judged on how he's doing, but by who he's not.

That's the same sort of thing that happened with Nyjer Morgan.  While he had a damn good stretch before his injury, he looked all the better compared to the stumbling, unmotivated dufus who wandered around center before him.

The offseason isn't over yet, but the early January claims that Rizzo was having a fabulous offseason were fare too premature.

Here's where we stand: Jason Marquis is our 'ace'.

Read that again.

That's what's been frustrating for me about the offseason.  The Nats haven't taken any risks at all.  Everything they've done has been measured and calm.  Marquis is a medium risk, medium reward pitcher.  In his best seasons, he's going to be a bit better than league average.  There's not much upside there.  And while that's lightyears better than some of the crap we've seen lob balls in the vicinity of Potomac Ave., that doesn't mean that that's a success.

The market had 3 or 4 high risk, high reward options out there: Harden, Bedard, Sheets and Chapman.  The Nats kicked the tires on two, so there's that.  But those are the kinds of players that would really make a difference, and all they'd cost is a little bit of Uncle Teddy's depression-era cash.  

Instead we got Marquis.  Could've done worse, for sure.  Better than Bowden's attempt at Cabrera, yes.  But the Nats in 2010 won't be judged against the record of a hypothetical Leatherpanted team, but by what they do with Ws and Ls.

Same goes for the other signings.  Pudge?  Meh.  Call that Medium Risk, Low Reward?  Dude's been washed up for a few seasons.

Brian Bruney?  Sweet Jesus.  I love that the PR staff always shoehorns his name in the lists of key pickups as if Brian Feckin' Bruney is anything more than a generic middle reliever.

They didn't take any risks anywhere.  Why not?  Is that Rizzo's nature?  (If so, that's a problem going forward).  Financial issues?  (I don't think I've said "CHEAP!!!" since my 'return')

We'll see going forward, perhaps.  But as you look at these moves, and you contemplate a roster with Miguel Batista and Wily Taveras, just think about the reaction that Bowden would get if he brought those guys in.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Or Maybe They’ll Just Cut Him on March 15

The Nationals’ choice to pluck Miguel Batista off the scrap heap on a minor league deal intrigues me far more than perhaps it should. The reason, I suppose, is that Batista makes an interesting story. I’d like to see the story continue.

A baseball player’s career takes on a shape that is necessarily defined by his statistics. Many factors contribute to ballplayer’s reputation – Did he play on championship teams? Was he considered a good teammate? Was he well-liked by the media? Did he have off-field problems – but what remains forever is the statistical record. A player’s statistics, in essence, tell a story.

I am certainly not the first person to make this observation. Years ago, Bill James wrote an essay about how baseball statistics tell stories. His premise was as engrossing as it was childlike: by simply creating a “career” statline for an imaginary baseball player, one could compose a narrative encapsulating this imaginary player’s entire career without even writing one word. You could simply infer things – positions, skills, physical characteristics, even injuries – from these made-up stats.

One “story” James told was of an outfielder, a young star who could have been great, but whose career was interrupted by a devastating injury. You could see from the imaginary player’s made-up statistics exactly when this injury occurred (during the early portion of what should have been the player’s prime) and exactly how it affected him (he lost most of his speed, which affected all related skills). Although he returned to full-time play, the player was never the same; you could see this, too, from his statistics. He became nothing special. “Retiring” a few seasons later, James wrote poignantly, the player would fade from the baseball world’s consciousness – until many years later when people would look again at the player’s early-career statistics and reflect on how great he was, if only for a few seasons.

All of this, James showed, was drawn from some lines of made-up statistics. Well, here’s a real story.

Miguel Batista’s story is of perseverance and adaptability. He made his second major league appearance four years and four months after making his first, then he waited another two years after that to earn his first major league victory. His career imploded at the age of 29 with 18 ridiculously awful appearances – a 1.87 WHIP?! 19 homers in 65.1 IP??!! – only to regroup when he turned 30. He never dominated and never had good control, but he somehow contributed in a variety of roles. He’s been a starter, a swingman, and even a closer. He’s pitched very well on occasion, well enough most of the time, and, when he’s pitched horribly (as in 2000 and 2008), he’s adapted enough to bounce back. He’s not a remarkably different pitcher now than he was a few seasons ago, just older. Batista’s time will be up someday – maybe this season, maybe not – but when it is, the record will show that this guy with thoroughly pedestrian rate stats somehow lasted 15 or so seasons and, on the whole, was pretty successful.

I guess I just appreciate the story of pitchers who, although never great, gave it all they had for as long as they could give it. They're not really all-stars, but they are - I don't know - Tim Belcher All-Stars (or, TBAS).
The problem with a TBAS, I readily acknowledge, is that he will give out one day – and when he does, the results are in the realm of Don Mossi ugly. Take a look at Batista’s 2008 season, if you dare: 4-14, 6.26 ERA, absolutely hammered, more walks than strikeouts. But the story's hook is the revelation that a TBAS is not done. Was Tim Belcher done when he led the league in losses in 1994, walking more than he struck out? Nope, he had another 50+ victories in him, a resurgence where he tossed nearly 700 innings over a three-year stretch. These guys can pull it together; because they’re familiar faces, teams will give them the chance to do so. And, as a fan, I find it pretty fun when a TBAS pans out. It’s a good story.

Recall Hector Carrasco back in 2005. Now there’s a story: Jimbo dug him out of the Korean League. I don’t think anyone had any clue how much Carrasco would end up contributing, but that’s the fun of it.

* * * * * * *

Of course, one man’s story-telling is another man’s dumpster-diving. Haven’t the Nats waded in enough dumpsters the last couple of seasons? Maybe so, but there is a scenario where Miguel Batista could contribute positively to the Nats this season. My reasoning here is even (mostly) in good faith, not a post hoc attempt to concoct a plea to see if Batista’s “story” continues another season.

Batista’s occupied a variety of roles over the course of his career. For several years, he was primarily a starter (although he still appeared in relief a handful of times); another year, he was a closer. Forget those roles. If Batista takes a regular turn in the rotation or serves as the closer, then things have gone horribly wrong and the Nats are seriously screwed. Unless he's completely done, however, Batista can help the Nats.

Let’s review the pitchers the Nats have acquired this offseason, the ones who are likely to see significant action at The House Tony Tavares Kind of Vaguely Helped Build: Marquis, Capps, Bruney, Guardado, Walker. Marquis is a starter; the other guys are relievers. That's four relievers, Burnett would be the fifth, and Clippard would be the sixth. Among those relievers, what stands out?

Aside from Clippard, they pitch no more than an inning at a time.

Last season, Batista appeared in 56 games, all in relief. He pitched more than an inning in 25 of those appearances. He went two innings 15 times, and recorded more than six outs on three more occasions. Granted, a lot of this occurred in garbage time, but the Mariners stretched him out. I don't know if any Mariner fan would go as far as saying Batista was an asset (they're pretty much just relieved that he's gone), and Fangraphs rates him as essentially replacement level last year. But, if you're the Nats, having a guy around in the bullpen who can soak up a couple of innings at a time when needed could be something approaching helpful.

Take a look at what the manager with the nerd glasses has done with the Rays. The past two seasons, Maddon has picked a guy early on to work long relief. He picked a better guy in 2008, J.P. Howell, than he did last year, Lance Cormier, which is kind of fitting given the quality of those two teams. But Cormier did exactly what his manager asked. By the end of May, Cormer had appeared in 18 games; he had four outings of three innings or more, exactly as many times as he pitched an inning or less. Aside from mopping a couple of lopsided wins, Cormier was basically used in the fifth innings or earlier half the time.

As with Howell the year before, Cormier's role became more tightly defined as he earned Maddon's trust. But, while he was in the long relief role, Cormier essentially allowed Maddon to play match-up with his other relievers in the way a modern manager likes to use his bullpen.

Isn't this similar to how Clippard was used during the second half of last season? Sort of. In 23 of his 41 appearances, Clippard pitched more than an inning. But this wasn't long relief by design; it was working a guy like a horse out of sheer necessity. Clippard was pitching multiple innings while entering the game in the seventh or eighth inning, because Riggleman trusted almost no one else. But that's the reason why Rizzo signed relievers like he was hitting the bread aisle at Safeway - he needed to give The Riggler more options. (Whether they can be trusted is another matter.) Clippard's workload will probably reflect these new options. Riggleman might still trust him, but he won't be stretched out quite as much - and his role last season wasn't quite what Batista's could be this year.

So let's assume the Nats carry a dozen pitchers, with a seven-man bullpen. (I'm not saying they should, but I'm assuming they will.) There's a closer (Capps), three righty middle-men (Bruney, Clippard, Walker), and two lefty situationalists (Burnett and Guardado). Batista, as the seventh man, could be the long man and fill in gaps wherever he's needed, whether temporarily up a spot in the rightly reliever chain in case of injury to one of the other guys or when a spot starter is needed for some reason.

Give Batista 45-50 appearances covering 65-70 innings - or, you know, cobble together another unholy alliance of Logan Kensing, Kip Wells, and Jorge Sosa to cover these innings, one crappy inning at a time. What's to lose?

* * * * * *

No, none of this stuff applies at all to the Shawn Estes signing. Guys who haven't been league average for almost a decade should probably just give up.

I Will Say...

... that I'll be happy to throw an extra $20 into the pot if Teh Zuck gets stories from spring training like this one.

One More Point

To yesterday's post, the best argument someone made to me about WHY this is important is because of the message it shows. If all 435 of us Nats fans show us that reading about the Nats is important and that we're willing to pay for more coverage, it can only lead to more coverage whether at or or wherever. That's a great point, and one I completely missed. So, umm, go donate so we can read that Elijah Dukes is in the best shape of his life.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pooping in the Punch Bowl

So by now you've read about former Moonie Times writer Mark Zuckerman's vacation plans campaign to get us readers to send him to Florida. Having just come from a Florida vacation, which had me shelling about $1,800 out of my pocket, I'm quite envious of his ingenuity; I knew I should've thrown a donate button up!

At any rate, I dig the idea. I've ranted (me? rant?) about the lousy coverage the team gets, and it's even lousier lately -- as FJB notes with his typically caustic style.

Teh Zuck promises to send donors access to Jim Riggleman's press conference, which will be a perfect substitute for a fancy pair of noise-canceling headphones.

By all means, go donate. As soon as my next paycheck comes in and I get that stupid Disney bill paid off, I'll be happy to chip in the price of a few orders of chili nachos.

But here's the thing: do I really want more Spring Training coverage? Meh. I mean I love the IDEA of Spring Training... hope, spring, change... blah blah blah. It hooks in to people for sentimental and emotional reasons, and there's value to that.

But if you take that away? Yawn. It's the most boring time of the year. Players work out. Yawn. Scrub minor leaguers play games while real major leaguers work on honing a particular skill, instead of playing like it's Game 7.

I s'pose there are story lines, but when we're talking about Garrett Mock or Colon Battlestar, who really cares? As we've seen ever year, decisions about who stays and who goes are just as much made based on options and contract status as merit. It's not like a few hot innings from Shairon Martis are going to make him a great pitcher. (Didn't Jason Simontacchi have a great spring, or something like that?)

Really, coming into this spring, there's not much I really want to know about that's likely to not be covered by whatever pros are actually left. It's not like we're going to have a Soriano situation again. And I doubt (though you never know) that Rizzo's going to have the Bowden itch to make a big trade during ST. (And it's not like any of the pro reporters really ever had much on trade rumors anyway).

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I love the idea of what he's doing, but not the timing. I'd rather have that extra set of eyes during the regular season -- when things matter, and things actually happen.

This isn't meant to discourage anyone from chipping in; I'd really recommend it. I just don't know what we're going to get out of it, and listening to Riggles' presser ain't it. Besides, 98% of everything I need to know about spring training, I can get out of one of SBF's photo essays. ::mugs::

Saturday, February 06, 2010


This job's for you.

Friday, February 05, 2010

How Many Testes Jokes Do You Think He's Heard?

So the AP sez that the Nats have signed Shawn Estes.

It's almost certainly a minor-league contract, and those are rarely worth getting worked up over.

But Jesus Horatio Christ.

The fatal flaw in Mike Rizzo's philosophy is his groundballs uber alles philosophy. All things considered, a groundball is better than a fly. But then all things considered, a strikeout is better than a grounder, too.

Rizzo's philosophy requires the team to have a pitch-to-contact rotation, which requires the Nats to pay more attention to their infield defense. (Not that paying attention to defense on any team is a bad thing).

Where it worries me the most is in the pitching he brings into the system. GBers who strike out batters are usually the best kind of pitcher to have. But a groundballer who strikes out a ton is also among the most rare kind. For every Brandon Webb, there are 176,000 Danny Cabreras.

Is this a case where he's hoping to find the next Webb? Does he recognize what skill set makes Webb special and so unique? Will the profile of pitcher he looks for make it less likely for the team to find that gem in the draft?

We'll certainly find out.

So while worrying about Estes... one second...

... sorry.... had to go puke.

So while worrying about Estes isn't really worth it, the underlaying pattern might be something worth considering.


Related question: After the Pudge/Marquis signings at the half-way point, many were ready to give the Nats huge credit for their off-season. Now that it's closer to the end, and the Nats only have a Kennedy to show for it, is it still as successful an off-season?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

So You May Have Noticed...

... that I started writing again. When last we left, I was burnt out from trying to force something every day. I'm of the mindset that you write what you want to write when you want to write it. If it's good enough, people'll find it. Well, after a while, I was writing what I wanted, but not necessarily when I wanted; it became more of a habit -- something I felt I needed to do, rather than something I've wanted to do.

But lately, the itch has come back a bit. So I've written.

But I also know that I don't have the time or energy to churn out everything I did before, so I've been kicking around some ideas. One of those was to bring some other voices on board.

So at some point in the next three or four fortnights, you'll see a familiar name pop up here (at least if you've been reading since the beginning). Basil's a-comin' on board to write intermittently, by which I mean, like once a week or so.

So if you're reading a post and it's full of obscure references to 1) Die Hard 2) Lobot or 3) latin law-talking phrases, it's probably him. If it's full of swears and insults, it's probably mine. Hopefully the name stamp at the bottom'll clue you in.

In the next few weeks, there might be a few other familiar names dropping in too. And maybe we'll get this ol' baby humming along for another season.

This Isn't Hard

You go to Guzman, you say "Hey, you overrated, bunion-infested, lazy piece of crap. We've given you half a bazillion dollars over the last half decade. Yes, I said half a freakin' decade, you no-good waste of a roster space. You're moving to second. You've got a few weeks before spring to get ready. We expect you to show up, motivated to play second, and we'll try you out there. If you can handle the position, you're coming north. If not, we're exposing your overpaid ass to waivers, where nobody will claim you, at which point you're either going to join Colon Battlestar in Syracuse, or you're going to spend the summer getting even farkin fatter on your ass in wherever it is you call your home. Understood?"

In other words, you Soriano the bastard.

Ian Desmond simply has to be the shortstop this season. I don't care who the second baseman. It's apparently not going to be Hudson. If it's Kennedy, so be it. Doesn't much matter. All that matters it that they give Desmond 500 ABs to see whether the kid can play.

This isn't a team that's going to win the Series. But Desmond COULD be a player who'll be here in 4 years when the team can pretend it's good. So play the bastard. Get his ears wet.

He slugged .477 in the minors last year, and he showed solid power potential in his brief time up here last year. Play the damn kid. Let's see what his bat can give us.

You'll hear the lazy, vacuous phrase about how he has "problems with the routine plays." Blah. Give him a full season, with major-league instruction, watching opposing major-league players, and on major-league (read: not clod-filled) fields, and see what happens. If he makes 30 errors, who gives a shit? Give him experience. See if he improves.

If he does, FANTASTIC. If he doesn't, who cares? Better to find out in a season where your best-case scenario is .500 than when you're hoping for high 80s.

And if you get there by dumping Guzman's carcass outside Kenilworth Gardens, so be it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

When Meatheads Blog

If the Nats won as many games as cliches that Rob Dibble managed to cram into one blog entry, I'd be a happy boy.

In another couple of weeks the Nats will start Spring Training for the 2010 season.
What you, as loyal fans, really want to know is how is this team going to play?
Yes! Please enlighten us, Mr. Analyst!
Well, me too!
Nuts. Thanks for nuttin', buddy. You know how you could make it up to us, Rob? Spout some cliches!
What I will tell you first, is that everyone, from the Lerner family to Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa, care very much about what is going on in DC on and off the field.
If there's one person I've been waiting to hear from all winter, it's Danny Espinosa. I guess that Eury Perez was unavailable for comment?

Note: three-tenths of today's readers are impressed at my restraint at the opportunity to make a Lerner joke.

As I and the players - Zimm, Dunn, Willingham, Morgan, Lannan, Stammen, and Clippard, to name a few, as well as manager Jim Riggleman, GM Mike Rizzo and team President Stan Kasten and new arrivals like Jason Marquis, Matt Capps, Brian Bruney, and Ivan Rodriguez - made the rounds from local health care hospitals [ed: as opposed to what other kinds of hospitals?], to The USO at Fort Belvoir, to a local Children's Hospital, one thing was perfectly clear:
That nobody in public knows who the hell most of these people are?

Brian Bruney: "Hi, I'm Brian Bruney!"
Sick Kid: "..."
Bruney: "You know, from the Washington Nationals!"
Sick Kid: "..."
Bruney: "We're a baseball team."
Sick Kid: "Can you dunk?"
This group of men and women mean business!
DING! goes the clicheometer!

It does raise the question: Who's the woman in the group?

They want to WIN baseball games
DING! I'm trying to recall a player (Besides Hal Chase) who didn't want to win.
but more importantly, they want to do it while being present in the community.
That's gonna make road games a bitch.

Really, why does that matter?
Why would that matter, you might ask?
They need to know who they are playing for and what effect winning will have on the local and loyal fans.
So knowing that they're playing for a bunch of dopey looking pasty white guys will affect their performance?

I must've missed Chase Utley's "This one's for you, Vinny!" speech.
The players are hungry
He must've been hanging out with Bruney. Oh, and DING!
even angry
except for Zimmerman. He looks like he's about to doze off.
and most of the new players have World Series rings
Brian Bruney: "Kid, let me tell you a tale about this ring."
Sick Kid: "Do you know Shaq?"
Bruney: "No, but I did hang on Derek Jeter's coattails."
Sick Kid: "..."
The team looks better on paper
As it did each of the last three years.
but to steal Jim Riggleman's line, "We may look good on paper, but we still have to play out every game."
Which beats Manny's strategy of "Boys, PECOTA says we're going to win 75, now let's go out there and rest on our laurels."
Not one player, fan, team rep, owner, or broadcaster [ed: Does not apply to Dave Shea; he's rooting for failure], wants this year's team to fail.

OK, so what? Did they want the team to fail last year? I bet that shady Dave Jageler was rooting to call another 100-loss season.
We are all in it to win it!

Almost broke the bell there.

OK, so what does the broadcaster contribute to winning?
Winning a Championship will not come easy

Especially for these guys.
and the other 29 teams are not just going to hand over the trophy.
When did the other 28 get it from the Yankees?
But with total commitment all the way from ownership to the last fan, we can prevail - I've seen it happen before!
So is he sorta saying we didn't have a total commitment from ownership? Or is he blaming the fans?

Is it my fault? It's my fault isn't it. Goddammit. I'm so sorry, guys. :-( How can I make it up to you?

There's another DING or two in there, right? I lost count.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Appeals to Authority

In a blog entry entitled "Washington Nationals: Skipper Jim Riggleman On XM With Rob Dibble" on the web site "Federal Baseball", which is part of the SB Nation network of sports-related websites, the author, Mr. Ed Chigliak, a pseudonym, unless the author really is the character from the former hit television series "Northern Exposure", which aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System, transcribes an interview conducted on XM, a satellite radio service, by host and Nats/MASN color commentator Mr. Rob Dibble and his "Baseball This Morning" cohost Mr. Steve Davis and the manager of the Washington Nationals, which is the franchise that plays professional baseball within the National League in the District of Columbia, which is not one of the 50 states that comprise the nation which is known as the "United States of America," Mr. Jim Riggleman.

Where was I?

Umm.... well, they asked Riggles about Pudge and whether his role is going to be as a mentor for the catchers or pitchers. His answer:

Well, he'll do both. I think he's taken on that a little bit in the last couple years on clubs that he's been on, whereas in the past that wasn't part of his game, but I think he will mentor some other players. I think he'll give us an air of confidence with our pitchers when they look in and see who's back there, but, you know, he's still a good player, he's not just a senior citizen on the club. This guy can block balls, throws the ball very well, he's an athlete back there and he kind of puts in the mind to the other ballclub that you just can't get on and go. We've got a chance to stop your running game. If our pitcher gives him any chance at all, he can throw people out and he's a good hitter. I only saw Pudge in games that we played against him, but the last couple years that I saw him, I actually commented to him a couple times through the last couple years that he really was swinging into some bad luck? He was hitting a lot of balls right on the barrel, right at people, and that's just the way it goes sometimes. All you can do is try to hit the ball hard in our game and his numbers are not bad, offensively he's still a productive hitter, but he can't continue to hit into that kind of bad luck, cause this guy hit a lot of "at'em" balls..."

Let's parse that a bit.

"I think he's taken on that a little bit in the last couple years on clubs that he's been on, whereas in the past that wasn't part of his game." This finally acknowledges what everyone who's followed Pudge's career has said: he's a self-involved Ahole. Dude has a life-size statue of himself in his yard. Dude has yards of empty books in his library.

So maybe he's now a mentor, but he certainly doesn't have a track record; the only people who praise his mentorship are the ones who haven't yet played with him. I don't really recall too many statements from other teammates.

Then there's the offense. Riggles blames Pudge's decline not on the heavy workload he's had through his career, his age, or any other of about 100 plausible excuses. It's his luck. It's all those at 'em balls. Sure.

An at 'em ball is pretty much, by definition, a line drive. Scroll down for his line-drive rate. Not seein' it, Riggles.

This is just a manager spinning for a player; it's nothing to get worked up over. But it's also something the Nats seem to be doing a lot over these last few years. Whether it's Pudge's mentorship, Nyjer's hockey mentality, Hudson's Gold Gloves, etc, the Nats spin a narrative about a player and hammer it in all the various media. They reduce their players to one-note caricatures that frequently tout their 'intangibles'. Yawn.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Tony Orlando

Now that the Reds have saved Rizzo from himself by signing Orlando Cabrera, hearts are all a-flutter about the O-Dawg, everyone's favorite pimp-caller-outer. If you can't have one Orlando, why not have another.

There's only one thing I wonder about... why? He's really not that good anymore.

Here's what you get with Orlando: Good, not great on-base skills, and a decent batting average.

Here's what you don't get: power, speed, a player who's able to stay healthy.

I mean, he's not a terrible player. He's certainly better than O-Cab would've been, but to read/listen/hear, it's as if many have talked themselves into believing that Hudson's the difference between being .500 or not.

Here's what he's done in the last three years: .286/ .342/ .445

Oh, wait. I'm sorry. That's what Ronnie Belliard did the last three years. Here's what Hudson did: .293/ .366/ .435

So a little more on-base, a little less power. They're the same damn player with the bat.

But the bat isn't the reason they're talking about signing him; they want his glove. It's golden, I hear. But for all the talk about the awards Hudson's won, is he actually a good defender? Not according to most of the stats.

But before we get to that, think about this. Is having won a Gold Glove evidence that a player is a good fielder? We know first-hand that the best player doesn't always win the award. And if you've ever read anything on it, you know the voting process is all sorts of screwed up. So that he has a Gold Glove shouldn't tell you much.

Your fancy-schmancy UZR stats say he's basically average, maybe a tick below.

So you think the stats are screwy. Think of it logically. How many second basemen can you think of that were still elite defenders into their 30s? They all lose a step eventually. To assume that he's still one of the best defensive 2B in the game at this point requires a bit of a logical leap.

All-in-all, he's a perfectly average acceptable player, but not a panacea.

If he signs, great. If not, eh.

It's not like Rizzo's going to trap Guzman in a burlap sack and sink him in the Anacostia; that's the real problem.