Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for July, 2011

Wang is back; how’d he look?

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Wang got hit in his first game back. Cause for concern? Photo: The Washington Nationals

Chien-Ming Wang made his triumphant return to the Majors on July 29th, and promptly gave up 4 runs in the first inning back.   He was clearly nervous against the leadoff hitter Reyes, then gave up four consecutive singles (mostly hit well) en route to an ugly first inning.  A couple of loose plays behind him didn’t help (hence why 2 of the four first inning runs were unearned), but for a bit of time I was worried he would be relieved without getting an out.

Through the 2nd and 3rd innings he settled down, getting his sinker to move back across the plate instead of off of it, and looked pretty good.  Manager Davey Johnson more or less agreed, saying he was encouraged by the outing despite the results.

Wang’s fastball was a bit off of his 2007 peak, touching 93.3 and sitting mostly in the 91-92 range.  His breaking balls were mostly atrocious, floating over the plate and contributing to his woes.  He also attempted several split-fingered changeups with very limited success (only 2 of 7 for strikes).  However, his sink and movement seemed fantastic, and with more mound work I feel he can go back to being an effective starter.  If i’m Steve McCatty, I know exactly what i’m working on for his next start.

All told, the game was an 8-5 loss and you never want to give up 6 runs in 4 innings, but this team needs to stick with Wang for the rest of the season to see what they have.  Yes he is likely to get beat up, but if they have a reliable veteran starter who has a history of success in this league on the cheap, they need to find out.  I look forward to his next outing.

Written by Todd Boss

July 30th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Is the Gomes trade solely about a comp pick?

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The Nat acquired Gomes ... why? Photo unknown via redlegsbaseball.blogspot.com

Yesterday, The Nationals acquired Jonny Gomes from the Cincinnati Reds for minor leaguers Bill Rhinehart, Christopher Manno and cash (i.e., the Reds are paying part of Gomes’ salary the rest of this year).

Why?

The teams needs, as far as I can tell:

  • reliable leadoff hitter
  • better centerfielder
  • a more offensively productive shortstop
  • An ace starting pitcher
  • 2-3 better starting pitchers.
  • incrementally better relievers, or relievers who don’t hit the backstop with fastballs.

No where in that list is there a need for “yet another backup outfielder” to go with the slew of them we already have.  Don’t get me wrong’ there is definitely some value in having Gomes on the bench as a right-handed pinch hitting option (since both Ankiel and Stairs are lefties).  And there’s some value in having Gomes platoon with his left-handed hitting doppleganger Laynce Nix.  But last place teams don’t generally spend time on such a small matter.  To make matters worse, quotes from Gomes clearly show he’s disappointed to be traded from the Reds to the Nats, and it may be interesting to see how his attitude plays out the rest of the year.

To me, this trade was solely about getting the supplemental first rounder that Gomes would net if he maintains his type-B FA status.  Rizzo said as much himself when asked about the trade.  And I’m ok with that.  The two prospects we gave up were marginal prospects in this team’s grand scheme; Rhinehart was a good-hitting first baseman, but is a 26yr old in AA and is blocked by the younger, more promising Chris Marrero.  Manno, while certainly a blogosphere favorite, was a 22-yr toiling and putting up dominant numbers in low-A, and his ceiling seemed to be as a matchup-left hander (loogy) at some point in the future.  I guess Rizzo thought a 2012 mid 30-s draft pick was worth those two prospects in the long run.

Last question; who makes way on the 25-man?  You have to think this is the end of the road for one Matt Stairs.

Written by Todd Boss

July 27th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Boswell, er I mean Sheinin’s 7/25/11 chat questions, answered

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Is Davey Johnson up for the task at hand? Photo unknown origin.

I whiffed on the last couple of Boswell’s chats, finding time enough to read them but not to write a 2000 word missive in response.  Boswell’s on vacation this week, so here’s Dave Sheinin covering for him and doing a chat.

As always, I paraphrase the “questions” for levity and clarity, and I answer each question myself before reading Dave’s answer.

Q: Has the game passed by Davey Johnson?

A: Camera shots certainly seem to catch Johnson in an “old man” stupor from time to time.  I don’t think Baseball is like Football in that older generations of coaches can’t compete b/c the game has passed them by.  But I don’t sense that Johnson is really that in tune with the game right now.  The team has swooned since he took over, he has lost more than his share of 1-run games (fairly or unfairly set at the foot of the manager).  In reality this is a longer-term answer, meaning we’ll only be able to tell after he runs the team for a while.  Sheinin says that whoever replaced Riggleman was destined for a fall, and that he’s ok with everything Johnson has done thus far.

Q: Is Strasburg going to hit Potomac during his rehab trip, or are they gonna get screwed over again?

A: Good question; I’d say this time he appears for Potomac at some point, as the Nats had Wang travel up and down the system to get starts on his regular rotation.  There doesn’t seem to be a need to keep Strasburg out of Potomac’s awful outfield.  Sheinin agrees.

Q: How would you handicap the odds of the following trades happening by the deadline: 1. Nats trade Marquis 2. Nats trade Livan 3. Nats trade Clippard 4. Nats trade Desmond 5. Nats trade other(s) 6. Nats acquire Colby Rasmus 7. Nats acquire BJ Upton 8. Nats acquire Michael Bourn 9. Nats acquire other CF.

A: I’d put them in this order of most likely: 1, 5 (Coffey), large gap, 3, 2, 7, 9 (Span), 8, 4, 6.

I think Marquis and Coffey are definitely moving.  I don’t think anyone would want Livan.  I have a hard time thinking that the team is going to move Clippard or Desmond.  Rasmus probably goes elsewhere.  Bourn is a lesser version of Upton, so we’d probably want Upton over anyone else.

Sheinin thinks that the most likely players to get traded is Coffey, and doesn’t think Marquis is going anywhere.

Q: Do you think Riggleman intentionally left the team at its “high-water” mark?

A: Absolutely.  Riggleman was frustrated by the lack of communication from his boss (Rizzo), frustrated by his lame-duck status and probably was reading the tea-leaves that he’d be let to just play out his contract and let someone else enjoy the spoils of his work in 2012.  So he gave the team an ultimatum at the time that best suited his negotiaitons.  Rizzo called his bluff and Riggleman walked.  I know most believe Riggleman acted selfishly, but I put a ton of blame on Rizzo’s poor handling of the situation.  One conversation probably could have avoided all the negative press that followed Riggleman’s departure.  Sheinin thinks Riggleman knew exactly what he was doing.

Q: Would you trade both Clippard and Norris to get Denard Span?

A: No, I would not.  I think the Nats value the combined value of both those players, both under team control for at least 4 years (Clippard) to at least 6 in Norris’ case.  Span is decent, but for that price i’d shoot for Upton (who has more power and steals more bases).  Sheinin dodged the question, stating that Span wasn’t really in play.  Which he wasn’t at 11am monday, but since then rumors have floated about the Twins and Nats talking about him.

Q: What kind of pitch count will Wang be on?  What would be an expected first outing?

Probably nothing too conservative; he’s been rehabbing for literally a year and a half.  But if he reaches 100 pitches in an outing i’d be surprised.  I think a 5ip 2run outing would be a major success.  Sheinin doesn’t expect much.

Q: What will the team do with Gorzelanny, who seemingly is making way for Wang in the rotation?  DL?

A: The team can’t demote him (options), so they probably demote Detwiler and have Gorzelanny be the new long-man out of the pen.  At least until we trade a starter or someone goes down with an injury.  He may have an “invented injury” all of a sudden and go onto the 15-day DL.  Certainly the team has been shady in the past in the way it handles DL trips, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen here.  Sheinin says that teams hide injuries all the time for competitive purposes.

Q: Why is Drew Storen’s name in trade rumors?

A: Good question.  I have a very hard time believing the Nats would consider trading Storen unless it was to obtain someone marquee.  It may be that other teams are asking about him and that news is leaking out. Sheinin does say that relievers are fungible, as I’ve said many times, and you never say never to a trade possibility.

Q: What makes more sense in 2012: Morse in LF or at 1B?

A: Makes more sense: keeping Morse at first and Nix in left and not messing with what has turned into a very healthy middle-of-the-order for this team.  Reality: LaRoche isn’t going to get traded and we don’t want to light $8M on fire, so he’s going back to 1B.  Which means Morse is back in left and Nix is left out.  Sheinin says a lot can happen between now and next spring, like us signing Prince Fielder and making this whole conversation moot.

Q: If you had to bet right now, is Desmond or Lombardozzi starting in the infield next year?

A: I’d bet Desmond starts there and is given one more year to figure it out.  Lombardozzi starts in AAA and if he earns his way up, he earns his way up.  Sheinin agrees, but says that Desmond needs to start producing or risk losing his job.

Q: Why did Riggleman call out Boswell during his departure?

A: Probably because Boswell wrote a ton of not-so-nice pieces essentially proving just how bad a manager Riggleman has been over his career.  You’d probably be pissed as well.  Sheinin thinks that Riggleman’s rant was misguided.

Q: Who starts in CF for this team in 2012?

A: Who knows.  It really seems like this team is in the market for a CF, so right now i’d say its a FA to be named.  I don’t think it will be Ankiel or Bernadina.  Ankiel parts ways with the team and Bernadina battles with Nix to be the 4th outfielder.  Sheinin agrees.

Q: Which team will regret their big contract more?  Werth/Nats, Howard/Phillies, Jeter/Yankees or A-Rod/Yankees?

A: Probably the Nats.  Howard is a big bat in the middle of a talented lineup and it more or less goes unnoticed that he’s not producing at his normal levels in 2011.  The Yankees have so many $40M mistakes that its comical, but the A-Rod contract in particular looks like it will be a massive albatross in a few years (A-Rod is guaranteed $20M in 2017, when he’ll turn 42 mid-season).  Sheinin agrees.

What I’d like to see the Nats do at the trade deadline…

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Will Sunday's start be Jason Marquis' last in a Nats uniform? Photo Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

I’m a realist.

The Nats are not going to catch the Braves for the NL Wild Card.  Given that situation, I believe the team needs to cash in on its expiring veterans and trade them.  Some of our vets should go before the 7/31 non-waiver deadline, others probably would pass through waivers (as Cristian Guzman did in 2010) and could be moved for low-level prospects closer to the end of the season.

That being said, as a follower of the minor league rotations and as a fan looking forward to the future of this team, I’d rather see our prospects and “what-ifs” now instead of following guys as they play out the string in August and September.  Here’s a list of moves I’d like to see and who should replace them.

  1. Jason Marquis.  We trade him for whatever he can get and we shoudn’t get too hung up on his return value.  According to mlbtraderumor’s estimates of the current Elias rankings, Marquis isn’t even close to being a type-B free agent, thus he nets us no comp picks at the end of the season if/when he signs elsewhere.  We should trade Marquis and immediately make room in the rotation for one Chien-Ming Wang, who makes (presumably) his last rehab start today 7/24 and needs to immediately come up and join the 25-man roster.
  2. Livan Hernandez.  Some say we keep the old veteran, and I can certainly see that argument.  However, his up-and-down season has frustrated many, and we’ve got a starter in Ross Detwiler who could/should immediately take his rotation spot.  Hernandez, according to the above Elias rankings, believe it or not is right on the cusp of type-B status, which could net a supplemental first rounder for whoever has him at the end of the season.  But that’s a risky proposition; odds are he’d accept arbitration and the guaranteed payday from the offering team, negating the possible comp pick.
  3. Laynce Nix: the slugging left fielder has been a great find for this team, going from minor league signee to starting left fielder.  But, there isn’t going to be room for him in 2012, with LaRoche coming back and Morse likely moving back to left field.  We could keep the outfielder as a 4th, but a player like Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina makes more sense as a 4th outfielder since they can play all three OF positions and have decent speed on the basepaths.  We should trade him now while his value is high.  This is complicated lately by his achilles tendon injury, so the odds are that he’s staying put.  Another point against; if Nix goes, who replaces him on the roster?  We don’t really have a ready-made, deserving AAA outfielder that we could call up.  We could bring up Chris Marrero, put him at first and put Morse back in left, a move that doesn’t have any 40-man roster impact.
  4. Todd Coffey: the middle relief righty has struggled lately but still has value for teams looking for bullpen support.  Flip him and bring up the deserving, long toiling and local product Josh Wilkie.
  5. Ivan Rodriguez: the Giants continue to need catching depth, they love veterans and Pudge would have a likely playoff run with a trade.  We could continue with Jesus Flores in a backup role, now that it seems that the word has gotten out that his arm is shot and he’s no longer earning trade value playing full time in AAA.  Of course, as we speak Pudge is on the DL so any trade before the deadline is likely off.
  6. Any one of the rest of our one-year FA backups: Cora, Hairston, Stairs, and Ankiel.  All four of these guys likely pass through waivers and would serve as excellent role players for teams on a playoff push.  Cora and Hairston could be replaced by Brian Bixler or Steve Lombardozzi easily enough, while Stairs or Ankiel, if moved along with Nix, would probably necessitate the return of a MLB-ready outfielder.

Who do I think we should NOT move, unless we get excellent value coming back?

  1. Ian Desmond: his name keeps appearing in trade rumors, with conflicting reports.  Some say we’re “actively shopping” him, others say that he’s a “core piece” and won’t be moved.  We’d be selling low on Desmond, given his precipitous drop in offensive production this year.  However, if the team long term wants to move Espinosa to short and make room for the likes of Lombardozzi or (eventually perhaps) Anthony Rendon, then striking while the iron is hot and people are asking for Desmond makes sense.
  2. Tyler Clippard: I posted on the topic of Clippard’s name appearing in trade rumors earlier this week.  My arguments are there in greater detail; we should only move him if we’re “wowed” by the return.
  3. Drew Storen: can’t see how we’re even considering moving him; he’s under club control through 2015, is a poster child for excellent drafting and quick rise to the majors, and is quickly becoming an excellent closer.  He’s 25/28 in save opportunities as a 23-yr old this year; you don’t trade these guys, you build around them.

Anyone else not already mentioned is either untradeable (Werth, LaRoche), untouchable (Zimmermann, Zimmerman, Espinosa, Ramos), or somewhere in the realm of club-control guys (Bernadina, Lannan, Gorzelanny as examples) who aren’t worth as much to other teams as they are to us.

Lastly, here’s some player targets we’ve heard that the Nationals are interested in.

  1. BJ Upton: Upton is enigmatic to say the least; his numbers put him at a barely greater than average mlb player, but he gets steals and hits for some power and plays a declining CF (don’t believe me?  Look at his uzr/150 ratings drop for 4 straight seasons here, culminating with a negative score for 2011 so far).  Is he the solution for our leadoff/center field spot?  Perhaps.  But I don’t want to give up the farm for a guy we’ll only control for one more year (he’s entering his 3rd arbitration year in 2012).
  2. Michael Bourn: he’s a far lesser version of Upton; far less power but more speed, and 2011 is the first time he’s been above 100 OPS+ in his career.  We’d be buying high for sure.  Somehow he makes more than Upton in the same 2nd year arbitration situation.
  3. Colby Rasmus: i’d love to get him, he’d be a monster in center field.  He’s young, he produced excellently in 2010, and seems to be perpetually in his manager’s doghouse.  The latest  rumors though have him going elsewhere, not to the Nats.  Plus, I’m not quite sure why the Cards would trade him in the first place; the guy’s making the MLB minimum and batting in the middle of their order.

Nats Rotation Cycle #20: good/bad/soso

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Is Livan Hernandez pitching his way out of the Nats rotation? Photo: AP

The All-star break comes in-between rotation cycles 19 and 20 for the squad.   At this halfway point, only two of our starters have made all 19 starts (Livan and Lannan).  Zimmermann missed a start when the Pittsburgh “rainout” in May and Marquis missed a start to serve out his suspension for the beanball series in Arizona.  Gorzelanny missed the first rotation through, then missed another 4 starts to injury (those being taken by Maya).  Lastly the rescheduling of Zimmermann’s missed start into a 4th of July doubleheader called for a spot start from Detwiler.  That’s 19+19+18+18+13+4+1 = all 92 starts so far this year.  You have to think that the consistency out of the rotation is one of the big reasons this team is doing so well.

The all-star break also gives the squad a chance to slightly re-order its rotation, since most of the guys will be on major rest.  You can’t take your #1 starter and have him become the #5 though b/c of days rest.  But the team does seem to be slightly modifying its order.  We’ll go out in the 2nd half with Livan, then Lannan, then Gorzelanny, then Marquis and with Zimmermann 5th.  The move of Zimmermann to 5th seems like yet another attempt to preserve his arm, despite what Johnson is telling the press.  He seems set to hit his 160 innings limit in mid-August now, by which point we should start seeing alternatives in the rotation.

Good

  • John Lannan evened both his W/L record and the team’s season record to .500 with a 5 2/3 inning, 2 run outing against the Braves on Saturday 7/16.   It wasn’t the cleanest outing for Lannan (5 hits and 4 walks in less than 6 innings) but he worked around the baserunners and kept the potent Atlanta offense off the board for the most part.
  • Jason Marquis gave his team exactly what it needed on 7/18 (box/gamer): lots of quality innings to rest a bullpen that was shredded by Gorzelanny’s injury and (in my opinion) mismanagement by Davey Johnson (see bullet points below).  Marquis went 8 strong innings, giving up only 6 hits and striking out 9.

Bad

  • Livan Hernandez kicked off the 2nd half with an awful performance in Atlanta on 7/15 (box/gamer).  He only lasted 4 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 runs (3 earned).  The Braves hitters were tattooing his pitches, which he regularly was floating over the plate.  As the TV announcers said, Hernandez is a guy who depends on working the corners and keeping his pitches under control.  Friday he was routinely hanging curveballs over the plate and missing his spots and it showed.   I wonder at what point the team gives up on the Hernandez experiment; his inconsistency on the mound has to be baffling and he’s now thrown enough lemons to make him the worst of our starters statistically.  I can see Livan getting moved for a low-end prospect and one of our promising starters from AAA getting plucked to finish out the season.
  • Jordan Zimmermann had an uncharacteristically bad outing on 7/19, getting touched for 6 runs in 5 innings against the lowly Astros to take the loss (box/gamer).  These are not the kind of innings we want out of Zimmermann before he gets shut down in August.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Tom Gorzelanny only lasted 2 innings in his 7/17 start (box/gamer) against the Braves before twisting his ankle on a play at the plate, putting the bullpen into all-hands-on-deck mode.  For the most part, the bullpen was ineffective, with Henry Rodriguez giving up the lead, Sean Burnett looking horrible, and Tyler Clippard striking out 4 in 2 innings but giving up a game-tying homer in the 8th.  It remains to be seen if Gorzelanny is going on the DL, but the injury didn’t seem that bad.

Starter Trends

Lhernandez    great,bad,good,bad,(break),bad
Lannan    good,good,bad,incomplete,(break),good
Gorzelanny    bad->dl,bad,good,good,(break),incomplete
Marquis    bad,great,bad,soso,(break),good
Zimmermann     good,great,good,good,(break),bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • The JC Romero experiment didn’t last very long; he was released on 7/13 after putting up good numbers in AAA.  Goessling guesses that perhaps he had an out clause in his contract calling for his release unless he was promoted.  I’m surprised he wasn’t kept around a bit longer, given Doug Slaten‘s continued DL stint and Sean Burnett‘s troubles.
  • Ben Goessling reports on one of Chien-Ming Wang‘s latest rehab starts on 7/14, 6 shutout innings with zero walks and where he hit 94mph in Harrisburg.  I’m beginning to think that Wang’s actually healthy again and that the team may start looking to move Jason Marquis or Livan Hernandez sooner than later to make room for him.
  • Ross Detwiler looked nearly as bad in relief as Livan did during his start on 7/15, requiring 47 pitches to get through 2 innings.  This was a perfect opportunity to shut down an offense that perhaps wasn’t in need of scoring any more runs on the night (especially behind Tim Hudson) but he continued to allow the game to get out of control.  If Detwiler doesn’t put something together this season, the team is going to have a very difficult decision on its hands.  He’s out of options (Gee, thanks for the 2007 callup Jimmy Bowden!) and clearly would be given a flyer by another team (as a first rounder lefty starter who reaches 94mph).
  • Speaking of Detwiler, why exactly do we have him as the “long man” in the bullpen if he’s not available as that long man because the team wants to keep him on some sort of “every 4 days” starting-esque schedule?  The Long man needs to be available for exactly the kind of situation we faced on 7/17, when Gorzelanny came out after 2 innings.  Instead its all-hands on deck since Detwiler had pitched two days prior.  In this situation i’d far far rather still have Miguel Batista, who ably fit this role in 2010 and wouldn’t have cost a ton of money for 2011.
  • Chien-Ming Wang‘s next start will be in AAA, per Bill Ladson‘s published report on Sunday.  This should be the best test yet for Wang’s recovery.  He’s looking like a good bet to join the rotation when he’s done with rehab.

Bill Ladson’s 7/21/11 inbox; my answers to his questions

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Is this your 2011 NL Rookie of the Year? Photo: AP via silive.com

MLB Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson doesn’t do mailboxes that frequently, but when he does I’m sometimes intrigued by his answers.  Lets see how i’d have answered the questions he took in his latest mailbag.  As always, I read the question and answer it myself prior to reading his answer.

Q: Don’t get me wrong, I love Danny Espinosa. But how can you say he’s the “most complete player I’ve covered since Vladimir Guerrero”
A: I like Danny Espinosa and was a fan of his even before he started his 2011 rookie-of-the-year campaign.  A question though: does Espinosa even feature as a typical 5-tool player? Power (yes), Average? (not yet … despite his BABIP being a bit low he’s only hitting in the .240s), but perhaps in the future.  Speed?  12 Stolen bases on pace for about 20.  Defense?  by all accounts yes.  Arm?  Definitely.  So, he’s pretty durn complete.  But, he’s got exactly 3/4 of one pro season under his belt.  A lot has to happen before we start comparing him to one of the better players in the last 20 years (Vladimir Guerrero).  Ladson says he IS a 5-tool player, and that he’s the best defensive 2nd baseman in baseball right now.  Heady statements.  Here’s a list of Uzr/150 ratings for 2nd basemen right now; Espinosa is 5th behind some pretty good defensive players.  Will he stay at 2nd base long enough to gain consideration or take over at short?  See below.

Q: With Mike Cameron traded to the Marlins, do you see the Nationals making a move to get someone like Cameron before the non-waiver Trade Deadline?
A: Mike Rizzo keeps talking about how he wants a center fielder.  BJ Upton and Michael Bourn are names that keep popping up.  But at what point does the team realize it may have a great future center fielder in Bryce Harper and just wait it out?  I wouldn’t want Cameron, an aging player living on his defensive reputation of yesteryear.   Ladson specifically mentions both Upton and Bourn, stating that the Nats are not interested in aging vets.

Q: What is Ian Desmond’s future with the team? Steve Lombardozzi seems like he could be a fit as a leadoff hitter sooner rather than later. Problem is, he plays second base. Could Desi move to left field, or is it more likely he goes to another ballclub? His numbers offensively have not been good.
A: Great question. Ian Desmond has clearly taken a step backwards offensively just at the same time that he’s finally taken a step forward defensively. What should the team do? Live with a plus defender (Desmond believe it or not has a positive Uzr/150 this year, putting him in the upper half of defensive short stops) and his crummy bat?  Or try to improve?  I think the answer may eventually be to transition Desmond to a different role if he can’t be more consistent at the plate.  I’m not sure Steve Lombardozzi is the answer (he very well may be; i’ve advocated in the past for this exact same move) until he proves he can hit at AAA and proves he can hit in the majors.  But we also have Anthony Rendon in the wings and may have to find a position for him as well.  Its a good problem to have; too many good players and not enough spots.  Ladson thinks Desmond is trade bait and is coveted by several teams; we may get our answer in the off-season.

Q: With Michael Morse doing so well at first base, is there any chance they might try and use LaRoche as trade bait?
A: Another great question.  The Nats do have some interesting story lines facing them as they go into 2011. Morse has been a revelation and will be a key part of the team in 2012. LaRoche is signed and is a 25 homer/100rbi guy with plus defense at first, so its hard to believe we’ll sell low on him and dump him this off season.  What would he bring in trade return?  Almost nothing.  My guess is that Morse moves back to left, we flip Nix into a reliever or something, and re-install LaRoche at first. Ladson Agrees.

Q: I saw recently that Chad Cordero retired. I know he left Washington with some resentment toward the front office, but is there any chance the two sides can bury the hatchet and honor Chad with some sort of ceremony thanking him for his contributions? He was a fan favorite who gave everything he had while wearing the curly W. He certainly deserves it.
A: Any resentment Cordero had towards this franchise should have died the day Bowden was fired. But, who knows, he could have blamed the owners for the actions of its employees. Without dishonoring the guy too much, how much of an impact did he really have here? You can argue that Cordero was a flash in the pan, an over-rated player in a position (closer) that is fungible and more or less replaceable with most any bullpen arm. He had a fantastic season the year the team moved here in 2005, and never came close to replicating it before getting hurt.  We spent most of the 2007 season talking about trading the guy.  It’d be like honoring Vinny Castillo in some ways.  Ladson agrees, and says we should think about honoring Frank Robinson first.  Fair enough, but why exactly does this team “need” to honor anybody from the past few years?  What did Frank Robinson do for this team except guide it to consecutive last place finishes?

Q: Do you see the Nationals moving Jayson Werth to the cleanup spot? We know how good Morse and Laynce Nix are, but chances are opposing teams will walk Ryan Zimmerman if those two are behind him.
A: I’m not sure what games this questioner is watching this year, but perhaps this guy has not seen that a) Werth is struggling mightily, b) Morse is hitting the ball lights out, and c) Nix is hitting a heck of a lot better than the average guy. You set your lineup so that you’re not batting 5 right-handed guys in a row but also with a mind towards the roles and capabilities of the players. Werth, Morse and Zimmerman are all right handed guys and should only be put together if you’re facing a lefty. Nix is a great way to break that up but his lefty-lefty splits aren’t that great.  What would be really great is if LaRoche was healthy and producing and in the mix for 3-4-5-6 as well, or if Espinosa becomes the power hitting force that he could be and continues to be a basher in the 2-hole.  Ladson says Werth may move back to #5 but he’s no cleanup hitter.

Q: When will Bryce Harper get promoted to the big leagues?
A: Target Mid June 2012. I think maybe the team gets a wild hair and calls him up this september for some cheap box office gate days. And you can’t blame them; he’s already on the 40-man roster after all. But any days he plays here in september delay the days he needs to sit in the minors so as to avoid super-2 status. Besides, Rizzo has repeatedly said he’s not coming up in 2011. Btw, I don’t believe Harper’s current struggles once promoted to AA mean much. He should have gone to high-a but understand why he skipped Potomac’s ridiculously bad field. He’ll pick it back up and he’ll hit .300 his final month of AA.  Ladson didn’t really answer, just saying that Harper won’t make it up this year.

Why is Tyler Clippard appearing in Trade Rumors?

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Clippard is inarguably the glue of the Nationals much-improved bullpen. Photo Meaghan Gay/DCist.com

(editor’s note: its been quiet on nationalsarmrace.  Its been a Bad bad week for work, with yours truly finishing up a project and starting a new job next monday.  I’ve got some stuff written but its not complete, I’m hoping to get some time this w/e to post.  Apologies for radio silence).

In the baseball calendar, the all-star break represents the mid-way point of the season (despite it annually occurring a few games AFTER the 81st game for teams).  But for transaction mavens, it also marks the beginning of the pre-waiver wire trade season.  The Nationals have enjoyed unexpected success in 2011, playing far above predictions and its unclear to some whether we’re Buyers, Sellers or somewhere in-between.  Frankly, we should be thinking of selling no matter what our record.  We’re 9 games back of the Wild Card (Atlanta) and they’re a far superior team to us.  We need to acknowledge this fact and start cashing in every veteran free agent on a one-year contract that we can.

That means we move every one of this list of players if we can: Jason Marquis (to the pitching starved Yankees or Red Sox perhaps?), Ivan Rodriguez (to the Giants, who need catching depth and love veterans), Jerry Hairston, Rick Ankiel, Todd Coffey (to Texas maybe, who craves bullpen help and has been scouting him), Alex Cora, Livan Hernandez, Laynce Nix and even Matt Stairs.   Of course, most of these guys are playing at or below replacement level and are not going anywhere.  But some definitely have value.  Marquis and Coffey are the two most obvious trade candidates, followed by Pudge.

(Side note: Do I advocate trading Laynce Nix?  Yes I do.  He’s playing at a high level in-arguably, but there’s no spot for him next year.  LaRoche can only play 1st, which pushes Morse back to Left.  Nix can’t play anywhere else.  He’s too good to be a 4th outfielder and his value is high right now.  We should flip him for a prospect now).

Now, in addition to the typical trade candidates mentioned above, we keep reading rumors that list both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen as being tradeable assets.  And I can’t quite understand why.

On the one hand, relievers are and should be treated as nearly fungible assets to be used and then discarded when they’re done.   I even believe this when it comes to closers, and will cite lots of research done by people like Joe Posnanski about how even with $10M closers MLB teams are winning almost the exact same percentage of games with 3-run leads in the 9th inning now that they did in the 50s before the closer was invented.

However, I completely acknowledge that Clippard is easily our most important reliever, more valuable and better than Storen, and I love the fact that we’re using our best reliever right now in the highest leverage situations instead of letting him sit on his ass waiting for a “save opportunity” while the 5th best guy in your pen tries to get the starter out of bases-loaded, no outs jams in the 6th innings of games (a personal managing pet peeve of mine).  Meanwhile Storen is a poster child for our team’s player development and drafting, having signed quickly and risen through the minors to nearly become the first player of his draft class to debut in the majors.

For me though, both Clippard and Storen have one other overriding factor; their contract status.  They’re both pre-arbitration guys with lots of years of team control still to come.  The absolute best asset in all of baseball is the pre-arbitration pitcher, so i’d have to think this team would need to be completely overblown by a trade offer to consider moving either guy.  We control Tyler Clippard THROUGH 2015, Storen even longer.  Even with four arbitration years coming Clippard is going to be vastly underpaid as compared to what he’s worth on the open market.

We all know there are certain players that are “un-tradeable.”  Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Steven Strasburg are names that come to mind on this team.  So if some offer came in for Clippard and Storen that was just unbelievable we’d have to consider it of course.  But should we be shopping these guys?  Absolutely not.

Minor League Rotations Cycle #18: good/bad/soso

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Is Nathan Karns ready to make his mark on the organization? Photo perfectgame.org

Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects, for reference below:

Good

  • Tough loss for JD Martin on 7/6: He gave up 2 hits over 6 innings but both were solo homers in a 2-0 loss.
  • Shairon Martis again dominated a AA team on 7/6 (on day 2 of Harper-mania); 7IP, 4H, ER, 2B, 6K.  Byron Kerr featured this start on masnsports.com
  • Another excellent start for Robbie Ray on 7/6: 6IP, 4H, 0R, 2BB, 7K.
  • Nathan Karns put in his latest statement game in the GCL on 7/6: 4IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 6K.  Its time to promote him.
  • Fantastic Start for Tommy Milone on 7/7: 7IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 6K
  • Another great re-hab start for Chien Ming Wang on 7/7: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 2K.
  • AJ Cole continues to impress as a youngster in low-A.  7/7 line: 6IP, 3H, 0R, 0BB, 7K.
  • Erik Davis got 10 ks in 5 innings on 7/8 but still managed to lose: 5IP, 6H, 3R, 3ER, 0BB, 10K, HR.
  • Taylor Jordan won the nightcap on 7/9 for Hagerstown with an excellent outing: 7IP, 4H, 0R, 0BB, 2K.
  • Wirkin Estevez put in an excellent outing for Auburn on  7/9: 6IP, 4H, 0R, BB, 7K.
  • Silvio Medina (who I thought had been promoted out of the GCL) was dominant on 7/9: 4IP, 3H, 2R, 0ER, 0BB, 7K.
  • An excellent 2nd Potomac start for Sammy Solis on 7/10: 7IP, 4H, 0ER, 2BB, 5K.  This is the pitcher we’ve been waiting for.

Bad

  • Cameron Selik just can’t make the adjustment to high-A, taking another loss on 7/7: 5IP, 6H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 2K.
  • Ryan Demmin took another bad loss for Auburn on 7/7: 5⅓ IP, 5H, 4H, 4ER, 0BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Brian Dupra got a spot start (?) for Auburn on 7/8 and got knocked around a bit: 4⅔ IP, 7H, 4R, 3ER, 0BB, 5K.
  • Gregory Baez didn’t finish the third inning for the GCL on 7/8: 2⅔ IP, 4H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 4K, HR.   But it wasn’t his fault the team lost; his bullpen gave up another 13 runs.
  • Yunesky Maya threw another egg on 7/9: 5IP, 9H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 0K.
  • Tanner Roark got battered around on 7/9 after returning from the inactive list: 3⅔ IP, 7H, 4R, 4ER, 3BB, 4K.  Its his third such bad outing in a row but unless someone comes off the DL, it doesn’t seem like there’s a natural replacement for him.
  • Adam Olbrychowski got scorched in Potomac on 7/9: 4⅔ IP, 11H, 7R, 6ER, 2BB, 2K
  • Matt Grace didn’t have the best outing on 7/9 either: 1ip, 5H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 0K, 0HR.  Yanked after the first, Steve McCatty came in and pitched long relief to get the win.
  • Pedro Encarnation, who can’t seem to catch a break, got battered for the GCL Nats on 7/9: 3IP, 6H, 6R, 6ER, BB, 2K, 2HR.
  • Not the best rehab start for Chad Gaudin on 7/10: 4IP, 7H, 4ER, 6K, 0BB.  Seven hits and 6 Ks.  At least he didn’t walk anyone.
  • Christian Meza added more runs to his ERA on 7/10 in Auburn: 4⅓ IP, 8H, 6R, 5ER, 2BB, 3K.
  • Christopher McKenzie seemed to get of the schnide for the GCL on 7/10: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 7K.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • A bit of an unlucky 7/6 start for Paul Demny: 7IP, 6H, 4R, 4ER, BB, 3K, HR.
  • Colin Bates proved to be an escape artist on 7/6: 5IP, 8H, 1R, 0ER, 2BB, K.  That’s 10 baserunners in 5 innings but only gave up one unearned run.
  • Craig Stammen had a soso start on 7/8: 6IP, 5H, 3R, 2ER, 2BB, 4K, HR.   A quality start for sure, but nothing dominant.
  • Danny Rosenbaum didn’t pitch that badly on 7/8, but took the loss nonetheless.  5IP, 6H, 4R, 1ER, 3BB, 4K, HR
  • Erik Arneson was pretty good for Harrisburg on 7/10: 6IP 7H, 3ER, 2BB, 8K.  I’m a tough grader for guys who have pitched above the level they’re currently playing.
  • Paul Applebee pitched a decent start for Hagerstown on 7/10: 5IP, 4H, 2ER, 0BB, 3K.  He seems to have earned his way back into the Hagerstown rotation.  At least until we figure out what happened to Bobby Hansen.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Its really hard to tell who is in the “rotation” in the GCL.  As you’ll see, Baez “started” a game wednesday and then again saturday.  King, Mieses and Karns all were skipped this time around.
  • So far so good with the JC Romero experiment.  He’s had several outings that have all gone pretty well.
  • Tommy Milone got a well-earned International League all-star spot this week.  See you in September!
  • Brad Peacock‘s performance this year has vaulted him into the Baseball America mid-season top 50Bryce Harper, now the youngest player in AA, is the new #1, overtaking Angels OF prospect Mike Trout.   Peacock is still listed as having a #3/#4 starter ceiling; this coincides with concerns i’ve read over his 3rd and (lack of a) 4th pitch.
  • Potomac, after being disappointed by the missing of Harper, may be making alternate plans to build a new facility.  According to this Baseball America link, the owner Art Silber is announcing later this month a new site and new plans.

Trends

Top 3 starters deserving promotion: Karns, Ray, Milone
Top 3 starters whose jobs are in jeopardy: Roark, Selik, Meza

Re-alignment? The easiest solution will be to ADD 2 teams.

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Bud Selig failing to hear calls for him to retire. Photo: ajc.com

(Note: if some of this looks familiar, it is because I started this post in a long-winded answer in a recent “My answers to Boswell’s chat” post).

Ever since Buster Olney posted a June 12th Article raising the topic of “Divisional Realignment,” every baseball columnist and blogger on the internet seemingly has posted their own 2 cents on which team should move leagues and why, opined about how year-long interleague play would be the death of baseball, and other interesting topics (my very fast 2 cents on the pressing questions: move Houston to AL West, who cares about interleague play, and make DH standard in both leagues).  The topic came up again at the all-Star game, with Selig talking about “minor” realignment in the future and other topics.

However, what if re-alignment isn’t the best solution to the problem at hand?  Yes, it is more difficult to make the playoffs from the NL in general (by virtue of having 16 teams to the AL’s 14) and in the NL central specifically (with 6 teams and a lot of money being spent by a couple of them).  Certainly as compared to the AL west with only 4 teams.

Instead of going two leagues of 15 teams each, why don’t we just ADD two more teams to the AL?

If we’re already talking about adding a 5th playoff team to each side via a 2nd wild-card, why not add 2 more teams and have an NFL-style league configuration and playoff structure.  8 divisions of 4 teams each, with 4 division winners and two wildcards in each league.  The two wild cards play the lesser two divisional winners, much like in the NFL, giving the two best divisional winners a weekend bye and some semblance of an advantage.  If the season ended on (say) a Wednesday, the two wild-card series occur Fri-Sat-Sun with the divisional playoffs to run starting the following Tuesday.  It isn’t adding that much time to the playoffs and should be doable.

(Note: other pundits have mentioned this same idea.  Keith Law and a blog run by The Common Man have both made mention of the possibility of expanding.  Baseball America just posted a missive that leads to the same concept (equal teams in both leagues) but suggests contracting two teams (can’t see that happening, sorry.  Too much value in each team to just get rid of them).

Lets talk about the logistics and questions of this:

Which two cities get new teams?

The two current largest metropolitan markets without major league baseball teams right now are Portland and San Antonio, and for a variety of reasons they make the most sense to select.  The San Antonio-Austin corridor is growing rapidly and has a large population base of immigrants that enjoys baseball.  Portland is a large sophisticated area that only has one major sports franchise, and has a natural wealthy owner in Paul Allen to buy and own the franchise.

Honestly, the two largest US or Canadian cities without baseball are Montreal and Vancouver, but after the complete debacle of the Expos leaving Montreal I’m guessing that Canadian baseball will never get an expansion team again.  Vancouver couldn’t keep an NBA team so I’m doubting baseball makes sense up there either.  Mexico has a well attended Mexican League, with attendance in the 350,000 for some teams, but the exchange rate issues and current safety issues in the country make it a no-go.

If we were being completely realistic in terms of  a population per baseball team, then both New York and Los Angeles really would be the two expansion targets.  You could put a team back in Brooklyn (or perhaps Long Island) and then put a team in the Riverside area (which by itself has a larger population than places like Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, and San Diego).  However, none of the teams in either market is likely to give up any of their local revenues or TV networks to allow in a third team.  So we have to move elsewhere.

A slight potential issue: Portland doesn’t currently support even a AAA franchise.  San Antonio/Austin supports several baseball teams and would be a more “sure thing” (The San Antonio Missions is a AA team and the Round Rock Express, north of Austin, is AAA).   I don’t believe Portland has any semblance of any pro baseball team; the closest I could find is a Short-A team in Spokane.  If you’re using AAA attendance as a bench mark (here’s links to the International league attendance figures, and the Pacific Coast League), then your best bets are cities like Louisville, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Albuquerque.  Of these cities, only Indianapolis and Sacramento are really large enough MSAs to make sense.  Moving to any California city is problematic because of the current budget nightmare there.  Indianapolis is interesting but may struggle to find a fan base sitting in-between Cincinnati and Chicago.

Lots of people talk about somewhere in North Carolina as a potential spot.  An area of the country far away from its two closest MLB teams (Washington and Atlanta).  Durham hosts a AAA franchise ably enough.  The problem would be (as pointed out by Baseball America pundits, who are based in the Research Triangle) that the Triangle area supports a large number of minor league teams, a thriving set of collegiate baseball programs, and a big wood bat league, and a MLB team would probably harm attendance at all of these well supported clubs.

So lets assume for the sake of this argument we’re expanding to Portland and San Antonio.

How would we change the divisional structures to move to 8 divisions of 4 teams each?

The American League is much easier to re-configure than the NL.  Here’s how the AL might shake out with two new teams and 4 divisions:

AL East Boston NY Baltimore Toronto
AL South Tampa Bay Texas Kansas City San Antonio
AL Central Cleveland Detroit Chicago Minnesota
AL West Seattle Los Angeles Oakland Portland

This plan would preserve most of the major rivalries in the AL while creating some new ones.  The AL East and its two juggernaut teams continue to do battle 18 times a year, but the addition of two wild cards means that Toronto and Baltimore have no more excuses.  Tampa moves out of the AL east but goes against two like-minded franchises in terms of building on youth in Texas and Kansas City.  The AL South has a bit more travel, but Tampa’s strong TV ratings should be maintained with 8pm start times instead of 7pm during its many central time zone trips.  San Antonio builds an instant in-division rivalry with their Dallas neighbors.  The AL Central keeps its four core teams that have gotten used to competing against each other and are all very geographically close.  Finally, the AL west gets an instant Seattle-Portland rivalry while keeping all its games on Pacific time.

The National League has a couple more re-configuration challenges, as we’ll see.  Here’s one potential configuration:

NL East Philadelphia Atlanta NY Mets Washington
NL “South” Florida Houston St. Louis Colorado
NL Central Milwaukee Cincinnati Pittsburgh Chicago
NL West San Francisco Arizona Los Angeles San Diego

The NL East, Central and West all make plenty of sense.  The only fault of this plan is what to do with the collection of teams that end up in the NL “South.”  Clearly, Colorado is not a “southern” team and is two timezones away from its divisional rivals.  This means a lot of divisional games for Florida end up starting at 9pm.  This plan also moves your marquee NL franchise (St. Louis) away from its longtime rivals in Chicago. It may be better to try to maintain a bit more geographical sense and keep rivals together.

You could do something a bit more radical to NL teams and longer term divisions, like this:

NL East Philadelphia Pittsburgh NY Mets Washington
NL South Florida Houston St. Louis Atlanta
NL Central Milwaukee Cincinnati Colorado Chicago
NL West San Francisco Arizona Los Angeles San Diego

Here, the Pirates join the NL east, which joins the two Pennsylvania teams together for a nice little rivalry, plus keeps the four closest North east teams together.  Atlanta joins the south allow Florida and Atlanta to stay close together.   Houston and St. Louis are relatively close as well.  This plan eliminates Colorado from having the 2-time zone divisional rivals; there’s just no natural spot for Colorado to go unless you completely re-made the league and created a 4-team division with Colorado and the 3 texas teams.  The only downside to this plan is that St. Louis loses its divisional history with long-time NL teams Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Chicago.

Here’s another attempt, trying to keep the four longest running NL central teams together somehow:

NL East Philadelphia Pittsburgh NY Mets Washington
NL Central Colorado Houston Atlanta Florida
NL Midwest Milwaukee Cincinnati St. Louis Chicago
NL West San Francisco Arizona Los Angeles San Diego

This may be your best solution.  Florida and Atlanta stick together but must travel to Colorado.  The NL Midwest now has four of the oldest teams in the league staying together.  Colorado, Houston and Florida stay together, as three of the newest teams in the league.

Would the various rooting interests all approve 2 more teams?

Probably.  Here’s several groups who have input:

  • Players Union: Two more MLB teams means 80 more full time jobs for union members, so the Players Union would approve.  Plus, hundreds more minor league players get jobs and keep their dream alive.
  • 2nd-tier American cities: Two more teams has the cascading effect of adding in somewhere between 10 and 12 minor league teams.  Two AA cities will get promoted to be AAA cities and there will be more cities out there that get teams that they may have always wanted.
  • MLB Owners: would love to pocket expansion fees from two new wealthy owners buying into the league (especially Frank McCourt right about now).  I’d guess expansion fees would be somewhere in the $400M-$600M range, split 30 ways.  Easy money.  The difficult part the Owners would have to accept would be the carving up of TV areas and loss of local revenue for the owners of the Houston and Seattle franchises.
  • MLB Hitters: would probably like expansion, which dilutes the pitching pool and aids hitting.
  • Fans: will get more wild cards, more playoff teams, a structure that makes sense and seems fairer (no more 16/14 team split leagues).

In fact, the only groups that i’d guess would NOT be in favor of expansion would be Baseball Purists, who gripe at every change in the game and probably still want to live in the 60s-era, no playoffs pennant winners go to the world series.  To them I say this: Baseball used to be the National Pastime, but it has been passed by clearly by Pro Football, College Football, and arguably both professional and collegiate basketball in terms of casual interest.  You cannot sit by in situations like this; you must be proactive.  Casual fans love playoffs, love the drama, and by keeping more teams involved in pennant races you keep fans coming to the ballparks for more teams, later into the season.

So, why would expansion NOT work?

I can think of a couple major reasons.

1. Splitting up of existing TV markets.  We saw what happened when Washington moved into a city that Baltimore “owned” already: Angelos gets handed a regional network and a majority ownership stake.  This could give Angelos a massive future revenue stream while permanently hampering the Nationals franchise.  This point can’t be emphasized enough; the primary reason the Yankees and Red Sox can spend what they spend is exactly their ownership stakes in the YES Network and NESN respectively.

We’re subsequently seeing a battle now between the league, the owner of San Francisco and the Oakland franchise as the Athletics attempt to move.  The Giants “claim” the San Jose market (despite it being a comparable distance away from San Francisco in terms of geography and driving time in the busy Bay Area Peninsula region as Washington is from Baltimore), and do not want to give it up.  The Athletics could move further south down the Bay to a city like Fremont (a northern suburb of San Jose), but this would put the majority of the San Jose metropolitan area 20-30 miles from a stadium.  The A’s might as well move to Sacramento.

Any existing major city that could be considered for expansion is already “owned” by one of the existing MLB franchises.  See this Map of the US by regional network ownership as a reference point: Seattle has already “claimed” Portland and most of northern Oregon as its own, and San Antonio is claimed by BOTH Texas and Houston (who also claim the entirety of Louisiana).

I think asking existing owners to give up territory in their Regional Network map could be a complete roadblock for expansion into any area.

2. Viability of new Markets.  Continuing to use Portland and San Antonio as expansion markets would immediately make those two cities among the smallest MSAs in baseball.  They would both be larger than Milwaukee, but would be smaller than other notoriously struggling franchises (in terms of revenue) such as Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay.

However, market size and revenues are not on a linear relationship.  A lot has to do with the quality of the stadium, the stadium location and the performance of the team.   The Florida Marlins had the lowest 2009 revenue (according to Forbes) yet play in Miami, the 6th largest metropolitan area.  Clearly the poor stadium is a major factor to their lack of attendance, but the fans also seem to be turned off by the perpetually shady owner Jeffrey Loria.  It will be a very interesting case study to see how the Marlins do once they move into their new stadium, which should give the fans a better experience and give the Marlins a better revenue stream from luxury boxes, concessions, parking and naming rights.

There is continual complaints from fans and players in Tampa Bay (here’s a recent article that summarizes the issues they face, but the same issues are repeated over and again in the two local papers down there) over the sorry state of attendance at their games.  Despite being a newer stadium, the constructors of the St. Petersburg stadium made several errors in terms of luxury box flexibility and stadium accessibility.  Fans down there attest to this fact; the stadium is impossible to get to, so they stay at home generally and watch.  Tampa has historically had great TV ratings but awful in-person attendance. This year (per the above article) despite still being competitive the Rays are drastically down in attendance and TV ratings, possibly a reaction to a perceived white-flag season after dumping so many free agents last year.  Florida’s economy is in the tank, and there will be no new stadium financing (especially after Loria’s fleecing of Miami).  So Tampa is facing the very real possibility of moving themselves.  They’ve even recently had talk of declaring bankruptcy in order to force a new stadium discussion.

If there are existing markets that clearly cannot support baseball, then how can we add two more teams?

In the end, Would I like to see expansion? I think expansion makes more sense than splitting up the leagues and doing interleague every day.  If the TV revenue issues can be resolved and somehow these smaller market new additions find stadium deals that make them financially acceptable, then expansion makes the most sense.

Written by Todd Boss

July 13th, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Nats Rotation Cycle #19: good/bad/soso

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Lannan, pre-nose shattering liner. Photo Luis Alvarez/AP

The 19th cycle was shortened by one start (Gorzelanny misses a turn in the rotation) as the league hits the all-star break.  We’ll pick up with the 20th cycle on Friday July 15th at the Braves, and will shuffle the order of the starters slightly.

Good

  • Jordan Zimmermann took the team into the All Star break with a dominant 7 inning, 4hit, 6k outing against the Rockies on 7/10 (box/gamer).  It was a slightly questionable hook by Davey Johnson; Zimmermann was only on 88 pitches, but perhaps they’re thinking about squeezing innings out of him after we reach September.

Bad

  • Livan Hernandez couldn’t protect the EIGHT run lead his offense gave him in the Cubs finale on 7/7 (box/gamer), but it was the bullpen that eventually took the ugly 10-9 loss.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan took a liner off the nose, breaking it, in his 7/8 start (box/gamer).  Unfortunately despite 5ks in 3 innings he also took the loss.
  • Jason Marquis was a bit wild in his 7/9 start (box/gamer) against the Rockies, taking the loss despite a 6inning, 2run outing.  Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez was too good, taking a no-hitter into the 5th.

Starter Trends: More up-and-down performances out of Livan make you wonder if his rotation spot is really that secure.  Marquis has tailed off at just the wrong time, while Lannan may visit the DL.

MLB Trends (through Zimmermann 7/10)
Lhernandez         bad,great,bad,good,bad
Marquis                good,bad,great,bad,soso
Lannan                 good,good,good,bad,incomplete
Zimmermann     great,good,great,good,good
Gorzelanny          soso,bad->dl,bad,good,good

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Further notes about the Yankees interest in Sean Burnett, as reported by Bill Ladson.  Problem is, the Nats would be selling at an absolute low point on Burnett, with little in the way of left-handed relief coming up.
  • The news, as suspected, is not good on Cole KimballTorn rotator cuff, surgery required.  Lets hope that he recovers well.