Friday, October 22, 2010

Most Random National

On the one hand, this topic is totally stolen from the Royals Review blog. On the other hand, the Nationals have not done a whole lot in the recent past to merit much blogging creativity. So our apparent options here are 1) to do a bunch of graphs and stuff about Wins Above Replacement, 2) to post lots of photos from Nationals Park, 3) to recount a steady stream of Twitter activity, or 4) to steal ideas from good blogs of bad teams. Fine ideas all, but I'm going with door number four.

You might ask what it means, in the context of this discussion, to be "random." Well, we're certainly not going to labor over a rigid definition. In my view, there are multiple factors to consider. For instance, there's the realization of "Huh, I've never heard of this guy before." Call that Type A Randomness. But there's also "What in the world is this guy doing here?" (Type B), as well as the very relevant after-the-fact consideration "Wow, that guy played for them this year?! I hardly even REMEMBER that . . . " (Type C). You kind of have to assess a player's randomness in the totality of those factors. Not all factors will be present for every random player, and then there are other factors that sort of cut against randomness, such as spectacularly bad play. Call that one the Joe Horgan Factor. So there's not necessarily a correct answer. For 2009, the most random National might have been Wil Ledezma; that's my pick anyway. But good arguments could have been made for Corey Patterson, Jamie Burke, Zack Segovia, or Victor Garate.

So let's call the question: Who was the most random member of Our 2010 Washington Nationals?

To ease the analysis, I've grouped the contenders:

The Hey-You, I-Know-You-I-Know-You Group. They're not really contenders; basically, they're all Type C and not much more. We know them because they have a history in the organization, but they made almost no impression in 2010 and, therefore, at least they make the list of candidates.

- Garrett Mock. Almost impossible to claim the title since he was the No. 3 starter when the club broke camp. Or was it No. 4? Who cares -- doesn't make any difference, especially on this team. The point is, he was in the team's plans. That he actually started only one game, never to return to the big leagues for the remainder of the season, is a pretty weak Type C factor.

- Jason Bergmann. A sort of low-level fan favorite and/or whipping boy, depending on your perspective and on the team's relative fortunes, so again, we're not really looking at a Type A or B random guy. But unlike Mock, Bergmann had been with the Nationals for so long (parts of every season since 2005) for so little gain that I could imagine some people just figured he was gone already and his short early-season stint with the Nationals in 2010 (4 appearances, 2.1 IP) left almost no impression. He pitched very badly, but he was used in garbage time, to the extent he was used at all. We're not talking Brian Bruney here.

- Matt Chico. Now we're getting somewhere. Going into the 2010 season, Matty Chico hadn't pitched for the Nats since early 2008 -- and very badly at that -- and had undergone arm surgery. However, while he was a mere memory for all but the really obsessive Nats nuts out there, boy wonder was still plotting his great comeback. And he did come back. And he pitched very wel . . . well, more like functionally. For only one game. And then he was gone -- like a fart in the wind, as the warden from Shawshank would say. Did those five emergency innings on May 8 really happen? Yes, yes they did, or at least Baseball Reference says so . . . So okay, Chico's got some Type B and loads of Type C going for him. But was he the most random Nat in 2010? Wait and see, but I think it's doubtful. He was, we recall with lamentation, the team's most dependable starter in 2007. It's not as if Jason Simontacchi or Mike Bacsik had dropped in for just one start.

The Scombroid Food Poisoning Group. The decayed remains of once-serviceable veterans; do not ingest! Symptoms from rostering these guys usually show up within just minutes and, according to Wikipedia, include "skin flushing, throbbing headache, oral burning, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, palpitations, a sense of unease, and, rarely, collapse or loss of vision. " (Or, perhaps more accurately, not so rarely.) These guys are quintessential Type B -- and, depending on the extent of decay or the length of the stay, might qualify as Type A or C as well. You know something is fishy about them after a couple of bites, so keeping them around for the full meal is not advisable.

- Willy Taveras. Brought on for added depth in the outfield, begging the question whether there is a such a thing as negative depth. His signing paid off for precisely one day, April 10, when Taveras started in right field, had two hits, and somehow drove in all four runs in a 4-3 win. This earned him weeks of effusive praise from Rob Dibble and another two starts in right while Willie Harris subbed for Zimmerman at third base. After those two games, Taveras's batting average stood at .143, and that was all she wrote. A zero move all the way -- on a team with Morgan and Harris, Taveras started all of one game in center -- but he stuck around until May 15, rendering him not much of a Type C.

- Kevin Mench. A strong contender for most random, and he would have been even more so if we lived in a rational world. Mench is in the Kevin Reimer tradition of Texas Rangers pseudo-sluggers whose fortunes die with a trade to the Milwaukee Brewers. Mench has been at most a blip on the screen since mid-2006, and he could have spent 2009 playing indy league ball in suburban Gwangmyeong for all we know. Mench signed a minor league deal with the Nats and was called up by the Nats on August 7, which happened to coincide perfectly with the beginning of the "Aw hell, why can't this thing end sooner?" phase of the schedule. He was a persistent yet somehow imperceptible presence on the club the rest of the way, going to the plate 29 times (all but 3 PAs as a pinch-hitter), batting .111, and compiling his lone run "batted" in on a bases-loaded walk.

The Fugly Catchers Group. Pudge Rodriguez did all he could to bridge the Jesus Flores Era to the Wilson Ramos Era, but the guy has been a big league starting catcher since that fateful week in June 1991 when EMF's "Unbelievable" ruled the land. (Had he debuted one day later, Pudge would have ushered in Bryan Adams's summer of "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You.") In relief, there was Wil Nieves, who is, by definition, a player of Wil Nieves quality, which is to say very bad. What's another rung down from Wil Nieves? These guys!

- Carlos Maldonado. No relation to Candy, the preeminent Maldonado to make the major leagues, out of a sample size of three Maldonados. (Carlos here, having compiled 0.0 WAR in 25 MLB games, seems comfortably entrenched as number two on the list and the top dog in the more specific competition for greatest Carlos Maldonado of all time.) Big guy, definitely paid his dues, making a brief MLB debut in 2006, a decade after signing his first pro contract and eight years after first reaching Triple-A. Initially reached six-year minor league free agency in 2002, and didn't exactly come into greater demand thereafter; his Baseball Reference page is one massive cut-and-paste of the phrase "Granted Free Agency." So if you knew who this guy was prior to his Nats debut on May 27, you are either omniscient or play in the world's deepest fantasy league. And he was gone within a week. But Maldonado also played a key role in the Nationals' single biggest offensive explosion of 2010, a nine-run seventh inning against the Astros on May 31, when he smacked the second of a pair of three-run shots off Chris Sampson in that inning. So Maldonado's clearly got Type A and B chops, but that one bomb might be memorable enough to cut into Type C randomness, since the Nats were still playing okay ball at the time and within early-season striking distance of the division lead. A conundrum, I suppose.

- Jamie Burke. Journeyman catcher, at this point more of a back-up to the back-up catcher type, got into one game with the Nats in 2010 and didn't even come to bat. If you blinked, you missed him. Type A value is affected by the fact that he also played for the Nats in 2009, but we're only talking six games and 13 PAs there. Although it's close, I think, in a head-to-head comparison, Burke was a bit more of the random Nat than Maldonado.

The Ghost of Steven Shell Group. These are the completely unknown relievers who, if things break right, might actually help the bullpen. They're not prospects in any significant way, but these guys arrive with some low-level form of acclaim from the organization, usually coinciding with whatever one skill the guy possesses that has been used to exploit minor league hitters. Shell worked out, for a fashion. Less successful versions of the type include Santiago Ramirez, Chris Booker, and Winnie Abreu, among others.

- Jesse English. Made only seven appearances and was gone by late April, so there's that. However, he was a spring training darling, he pitched pretty decently in the real games (including a nice showing on Opening Day) and the demotion wasn't really due to his performance. Didn't exactly light it up in Syracuse and was shut down by the end of June, but it's too soon to say he'll be completely forgotten.

- Joe Bisenius. Here we go. This guy pitched two innings for the Phillies way back in 2007, then made a few late-season appearances with the Nats this season. If you tuned out in September, you wouldn't have noticed he was there. Anyone in the baseball world could have thrown those 4.2 innings. Type A, B, and C. There's one catch, though -- his one skill is such a skill that he attracted more than the average share of Ghost of Steven Shell sentiment. So you might have noticed him, after all. Incidentally, Bisenius throws harder than Chris Booker (Bisenius throws harder than almost everybody), but he's pretty much the same story. Booker was a journeyman reliever -- on his fifth organization in two seasons when he came to the Nationals -- but he posted just absolutely silly strikeout rates in the minors, so he attracted some attention when the Nationals picked him up. But nothing really came of it. We'll see what becomes of Bisenius and his 98-mph fastball.

The Verdict. I think it comes down to Burke and Bisenius. Maldonado and Mench are also in the discussion, but probably lose in the semifinals. Flip a coin, and Burke wins. Bisenius attracted some attention, whereas literally no one cared about Burke (no offense to him). Burke was the Moonlight Graham of the 2010 Nationals; hell, Tim Burke could have come out of nearly two decades of retirement to play in one game but not bat.

When it comes to random Nats, Jamie Burke wins.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Name the team

A sample MLB Trade Rumors tidbit:

So-and-So of Some Media Organization "says it makes more sense for the [Whatevers] to trade for . . . an ace starter than seek one in free agency, and asks readers whether or not the [Whatevers] should pursue Zack Greinke.

Is it the Nationals? Sure! Is it some team other than the Nationals? Sure! Is it both the Nationals and some team other than the Nationals? Sure! Is it both the Nationals and a metric buttload of other teams that are not the Nationals? Sure!

Not sure why anyone would get their hopes up about the Nats actually trading for Greinke. But it is the offseason, the time for hope.

For what it's worth, the Nats have "expressed interest" in Greinke before. Too bad they did not "have the young talent to pull off that kind of deal" for Greinke. Or Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, James Loney, and Joey Votto. But at least the Nats "expresed interest" in some guys!

Bottom line, I suppose, is that team-building is hard work and lots of people are trying to do the same thing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Attention: MASN

Hire. This. Guy. (He's from Bawlmer, aint' he?)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Damned If You Do, Farked If You Don't

Boswell's chat yesterday dropped this nugget:

According to my sources, Rizzo wanted to trade Dunn and had a deal worked out for Edwin Jackson, who ended up with the White Sox. So, yes, the runmors at the time were correct. However, Kasten and the Lerners didn't want to do the deal and killed it. Partly bad PR. In Kasten's case, he really believed, and still does, that it's cazy not to resign Dunn.

On one hand...

What the feck does Rizzo see in Edwin Jackson? Dunn doesn't have a ton of trade value, but trading him for Jackson would've been crazy and pointless.


The team's ownership stopped him for PR reasons? Really?


Too bad this isn't like multiplication where two negatives become a positive. This is more like one of those giant mid-ocean superwaves that combine and multiply into something larger and more destructive.

Mike Rizzo's Wet Dream

Your 2011 Washington Nationals:

1) Nyjer Morgan, CF
2) Ian Desmond, SS
3) Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
4) Adam LaRoche, 1B
5) Josh Willingham, LF
6) Mike Morse, RF
7) Pudge Rodiguez
8) Danny Espinosa

Jake Westbrook
Bronson Arroyo
Jordan Zimmermann
Brandon Webb (playing the role of Chien Ming Wang)
Livan Hernandez

I can smell the pennant from here.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Prediction Time!

Let's see...

Rangers over Rays in 4. The Rays feel like the better team, but given how often they're no-hit or shut-out, Don Larsen better be on standby.

Twins over Yankees in 4. If Sabathia loses Game 1, it'll be a short series. (Unless he doesn't, or unless it's not)

Phillies over Reds in 5. If I'm reading Phillies blogs and twits right, the Phillies are already defending the 2010 WS crown. I can't see the Reds rolling over... they don't have the pitching, but if the Cuban Strasburg gets in as often as he should...

Giants over Braves in 4. I'm rooting for the ol' wife beater. But I'm not seeing it this year.


Twins over Rangers in 5 in the All-Senators LCS.

Giants over Phillies in 7. Pat Burrell, LCS MVP.

World Series:

Twins over Giants in 5. Walleye on a stick for everyone.


I had Twins/Dodgers at the beginning of the year. Somehow, I didn't contemplate the Dodgers putting the worst defensive team of all-time out there. Kemp's a butcher. Manny? Ick. Jamie Carroll at short? Really??? Even the Nats figured out that wouldn't work five years ago.

Here are my predictions from earlier the year. Like everyone, I whiffed on SD and TOR. I figured BOS would sneak in ahead of TB, otherwise I did ok with playoff teams. And once again I overestimated a Manny Acta team. When will I learn?

Side note: When did the Astros get good? Not that they were good, but weren't they like at a .230 winning percentage through like August?

I didn't do haikus earlier this year, so here goes:

Walleye on a stick
turns into a Popsicle
during Fall Classic

Sunday, October 03, 2010

And Now, The End Is Near

One more game. One more game separating us from six months of nothingness before the Nats embark on another losing championship season. Will you watch? Do you care?

I'm a bit like Charlie Brown with this team. Stan/Mike/Riggles tee the football up for me every spring. Every April, I come running. In May, I start my kick. In June I'm on my ass. In July, I'm off doing other things.

I can't really remember the last time I watched a game obsessively from start to finish. Oh, the game's usually on -- ask my grumbling wife about that! But I'm half paying attention. I hear the announcers in the background, but I'm not listening. (Usually... except when Ray Knight insists that a 4th starter is someone who gives you 175 innings of 3.75 ball, even though there are only 27 such pitchers TOTAL in the NL.)

I love the game. I (guess I) love the team. But just like how you love your Uncle or your Aunt... it's not like I need to spend every waking moment with them. I know I love 'em, but I don't have to keep telling myself I do every waking moment. I can just sorta ignore 'em a bit, casually follow along with what's going on, and then ramp up my caring when there's a reason to -- be it a family reunion or a Yu Darvish signing.

Before I was a Nats fan, I was a Yankees fan. I don't really feel much for them either. If anything, even more than before, I'm a fan of the sport at large. So while I'll probably watch a bit of the Nats today, saying goodbye to Aunt Trudy before she heads to Florida for the winter, I'll be obsessively watching the Padres. And hopefully watching playoff games Monday and Tuesday before the postseason begins.

Will I miss the Nats? I suppose. I just probably won't for this next month... and maybe not til the birds and the bees start flittin' and flyin' next year.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A 'That Guy' Jumble

Kevin Mench, who had last played in the major leagues in 2008, made it all the way back this season. The Nationals called him up in early August for reasons known only to themselves. Serving as an "extra bat off the bench," Mench has appeared in 23 games, exactly one of those as a starter, and posted a .125/.192/.125 batting line in 26 plate appearances. Despite his miserable hitting (-12 OPS+), or perhaps because of it, Mench's return to MLB has probably been quite inconspicuous to those who aren't (fairly obsessive) Nationals fans or who weren't specifically following Mench's career path, for whatever reason that may be.

Mench's largely silent return got me thinking -- how many similar stories are there around the big leagues? How many players formerly of at least some note are plying their trades in relative obscurity around the league?

So I did a little research (i.e., 10 minutes on Baseball Reference), and came up with a list. Try to match up the player with the 2010 team. First to do so correctly gets a free Capitol Punishment post from none other than Chris Needham!

Rich Hill (couple good years for Cubs)Arizona
Scott Strickland (former Bodes workhorse)Oakland
Russ Springer (long-time middle guy)Kansas City
Mike Hampton (yes, he's back -- again!)Detroit
Gary Majewski (ah, the Magic Man ...)Philadelphia
John Parrish (former O's prospect)Boston
Mike Hessman (brings the AAA power)Cincinnati
Will Ledezma ($.10-head type briefly w/ Nats)Milwaukee
Adam Stern (star of Canada's '06 WBC team)L.A. Angels
Brad Eldred (huge power, played '09 in Syracuse)Florida
Brian Bocock (S.F.'s '08 Opening Day SS)(N.Y. Mets
Thomas Diamond (former Texas hot prospect)Houston
Enrique Gonzalez (pitcher, briefly Nats property)Seattle
Mike Ryan (had 1.195 OPS for Twins in late '03)Colorado
Guillermo Quiroz (former O's backup catcher)Chicago Cubs
Matt Watson (had cups of coffee in '03 and '05)Pittsburgh

I thought of including Gustavo Chacin, if only for his awesome glasses, but he's made 44 appearances for the Astros and that's a bit much.