Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for August, 2011

Nats Rotation Cycle #27: good/bad/soso

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We won't see Zimmermann again til spring training 2012. Photo AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Rotation #27 marks the final time we’ll see Jordan Zimmermann starting this year.  He’s scheduled to exceed the 160IP limit set for him by the team this time around.  We’ll see announcements presumably for his replacement later in this cycle.

Good

  • John Lannan didn’t pitch badly on 8/25 (box/gamer), giving up 2 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings, but again his offense failed him and he took a loss.  His bullpen unraveled after he left, highlighted by Henry Rodriguez‘s 5 hit, 3 run debacle.
  • Chein-Ming Wang‘s 6th outing was decent, giving up one earned run in 6 innings in the Cincinnati bandbox on 8/26 (box/gamer).  He was wild (4 walks) and he didn’t work down in the zone as much as he usually does (10 ground ball outs to 6 fly outs) but he put his team in a position to win with the “real” quality start.  Through six starts and 33 innings Wang has a respectable 3.82 era and a slightly mediocre 1.33 whip.   I figure he has about 6 more starts before season’s end to prove to the Nats (and the league) what he’s worth in the free agent market.

Bad

  • Ross Detwiler may have gotten a quality start in his 8/27 loss against Cincinnati (box/gamer), but he still gave up 6 runs in 6 innings.  Rookie Chris Marrero‘s first major league start resulted in his booting two of the first three balls hit to him, and those errors turned into 3 unearned runs.  He was definitely around the plate all night (59 of 88 pitches for strikes through 6 innings) but too many of his pitches caught too much of the plate against a potent Cincy offense.  Still, he’s got a sub 3 ERA through 6 starts and his 5 relief appearances on the season so you can’t really criticize too much.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s last start of 2011 wasn’t the heroic winning sendoff people were hoping for on 8/28 (box/gamer).  He gave up solo shots to each of Cincinnati’s big hitters, then walked in a run in the 5th to force his early exit.  Final line on the day: 4 1/3, 6 hits, a walk and a HBP, and 3 earned runs.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Livan Hernandez gave the team one more excuse to remove him from the rotation when the roster expand, giving up 4 runs in 7 innings and taking the loss against Arizona on 8/24 (box/gamer).  It wasn’t the worst outing he’s had, but it wasn’t a quality start.

Starter Trends (2nd half only)

Hernandez has struggled lately, Lannan follows up a couple of poor outings with a good one, Wang maintains his decent to good trend, Detwiler has a rough outing that I may be judging too harshly, and Zimmermann takes a step back in his last appearance of the year.

  • Lhernandez:     bad,good,bad,good,bad,good,bad,soso
  • Lannan              good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good
  • Wang                  bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good
  • Detwiler             soso,soso,good,good,bad
  • Zimmermann: bad,bad,great,good,soso,good,good,bad->shutdown for season

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Ryan Mattheus‘s shoulder strain probably will cost him the rest of the season.  He’s been our 3rd best reliever the 2nd half of the season and looks like he’s definitely going to be a part of the 2012 bullpen.  He’s being replaced on the roster by 2007 first rounder Chris Marrero, who finally gets a debut after years of toiling and improving in our minor league system.
  • Stephen Strasburg did his 5th rehab start in Syracuse on 8/28 (gamer from Ben Goessling) and he was, well, dominant.  Five perfect innings, 7 ks while seemingly working solely on his 2-seam fastball.  He had 7 ground ball outs to just one flyball out and was “only” hitting 95-96 on the stadium gun.  I’m guessing that he was working on his 2-seamer and his off-speed stuff on the night.  Its hard to really analyze these starts in some respects; he blows through AAA hitters that mostly have MLB experience, yet he gets tagged in the bush leagues.  Its a recurring theme that the guys in the lower minors will “swing at anything” and often times the ball runs into their bats for hits, but this is the second time through the minors for Strasburg where he’s fared *far* better against AAA hitters than AA or A ball guys.  Odd.
  • Get your tickets now: the team announced Strasburg’s return as being 9/6/11 against the Dodgers.
  • Jordan Zimmermann’s  season ending stats: 8-11, 3.18 era, 1.147 whip.  124/31 k/bb in 161 1/3 innings.  Excellent 4.0 k/bb ratios, 0.7 homers/9 and a 120 ERA+.   Looking at more advanced pitching stats: his FIP was right on line with his ERA at 3.15, his xFIP a respectable 3.74 and his SIERA at 3.55.   All in all a great season and a promising one for Zimmermann’s future as Robin to Strasburg’s Batman.
  • Saw a blip in the paper today about how Livan wants to stay a Washington National, and that he’s willing to become a long reliever understanding that he may be forced out of the rotation by the rise of young arms.  That’s good news for the team frankly; if he stays at or near his current salary ($1m base, $2m with incentives) then he’s a very good, very cheap insurance policy in case one of our younger arms has a meltdown.  Livan may be finishing a frustrating on-again/off-again season, but he does put in a number of quality starts when given the chance.
  • The Nats pulled both Tom Milone and Brad Peacock from dominant AAA starts over the weekend, presumably for eventual callup to the majors.  Then on 8/30, Milone was announced as the Zimmermann replacement for the upcoming Saturday 9/3 game.  This will require a 40-man move, with alternatives mentioned in this space last week.

Ladson’s inbox 8/29/11 edition

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Here's a scary nightmare for Nats fans. Photo: Nats official photo day via deadspin.com

Bill Ladson did his seemingly monthly inbox on 8/29/11.  Here’s how i’d have answered the questions he took.

Q: What are your thoughts on Chien-Ming Wang possibly being a part of the rotation next year?

A: I’m not quite ready to say he’s worth considering for one of our 5 rotation spots next year.  We get 6 more starts to decide.  Remember though its not a given that he’ll even be back with us (a topic for an imminent blog post).  Ladson says if he continues to look good there’s a strong possibility he’ll be back.  We’ll see.

Q: Do you think that Prince Fielder is a good fit for the Nationals? I understand that Adam LaRoche has another year guaranteed, but Fielder’s bat is much needed in the middle of the lineup.

A: No, I don’t think Fielder is a good fit.  I think he’s a bad-body, poor defense first baseman who may age badly.  Plus, I don’t think this team is ready or willing to spend that kind of money again, so soon after getting burned on the Werth deal.  Ladson says the last thing they need is another first baseman.  Good point.

Q: Do you think the Nationals should try to re-acquire Alfonso Soriano?

A: Hahahah.  That had to be a joke question. Absolutely not; he’s vastly overpaid, is producing at a fraction of his salary, is a mediocre left fielder at best, and wasn’t exactly Mr. Winner in the clubhouse. The Cubs are stuck with him for the next several years unless they decided to just eat millions of dollars of his salary to pay him to go away.  Ladson: Absolutely not.

Q: I have heard there is a chance that Anthony Rendon would play third base once he gets to the big leagues and Ryan Zimmerman would move to first base. Is this true?

A: I have a hard time believing a player routinely mentioned in the discussion of the best defensive third baseman in the league would be moved by an unproven rookie, no matter what his pedigree or reputation may be.  This isn’t like Mike Bordick moving a secretly awful defensive shortstop in Cal Ripken; this is one of the two or three best positional defenders in the game.  Rendon moves, not Zimmerman.  Ladson says that Rendon will play 3B professionally and will move for Zim.  But, Zim’s contract runs out in 2013 and that’s a great point … where will the team be by then?

Q: Do you think Danny Espinosa can beat out Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award?

A: Not anymore; perhaps if he continued his upward average trend starting in July through the end of the year he could have challenged. But Kimbrel’s great ERA and save totals will get him the win. Atlanta may have the top 3 rookie of the year vote getters (including Beachy) and a leader in next year’s race in Tehran. That team is stacked and built for the future.  Ladson says : no, but that Espinosa should be in the hunt for a gold glove award.

Q: What is your take on Roger Bernadina? He has produced with consistency, especially in the leadoff position, but keeps getting sent down.

A: You think he’s “produced?”   Here’s his career stats; he’s got almost identical numbers in 2011 to his 2010 numbers, and with more than 800 career at bats spread across multiple seasons he’s an 82 OPS+ hitter.  Sorry; you need more production out of a leadoff hitter, or any major league hitter, than that.   He used his last option in 2011 and most likely will be DFA’d after spring training 2012.   Ladson says he’s a tease and thinks he’s no more than a 4th outfielder.

Q: Can you explain the Nats’ fascination with shortstop Ian Desmond, given his regression at the plate this year — lower average, no power?

A: Its all about potential with Desmond.  His UZR/150 is still in the negative range but the team thinks he’s a plus-plus defender.  To his credit, he’s vastly cut down on throwing errors this year.  He has absolutely regressed at the plate.  But the team loves his leadership capabilities.  My take; he’ll be given one more year at SS to become a competent hitter and then Espinosa will take over.  Ladson plays the arbitrary endpoints game and says Desmond has improved since the all-star break.  Yeah, when you’re dead last in the league in OPS you have no place to go but up.


My answers to the questions he took on 7/26/11. I forgot to hit “post” on this and the content has been sitting around for weeks.  As you can see it was a lot of trade deadline talk when everyone thought we were getting a CF.

Q: What happens when Jordan Zimmermann reaches his innings limit? Does he go on the disabled list or will he be kept on the roster?

A: Good question. I’d guess he will get an invented injury if he reaches his limit in mid August, so the team isn’t short handed in the bullpen. Ladson notes that if he lasts til 9/1, rosters expand and there won’t be a need to play DL games.

Q: Would you trade Ian Desmond for Michael Bourn?  Would you trade Desmond, Clippard AND a Prospect for him?

A: If the Astros would take Desmond for Bourn, yeah I probably would make that deal.  I know we’d be selling Desmond short, and he has a lot of leadership qualities, but he’s not hitting the ball (he has one of the 2-3 lowest OPS figures in the league for qualifying hitters).  Anything MORE for Bourn and I think the deal doesn’t make sense for the Nats.   Ladson totes the party line on Desmond…and states that we’re not talking to Houston about Bourn.

Q: Who do you think would be a better fit with the Nationals: Bourn or B.J. Upton?

A: I think both would be good “fits.”  I’d rather have Upton. Upton grew up in Virginia Beach and knows Zimmerman from youth baseball, so he’d already have a friend on the team.  Ladson also notes the local connections with Upton.

Q: What are the chances of the Nationals making a run at Prince Fielder in the upcoming offseason?

A: Pretty high.  Of all the major FAs coming up, he’s a decent risk.  He’s still young and you’d be buying his absolute best years (as opposed to most FA targets, who are already into their 30s and on the decline when they get paid). He may not be the best defensive first baseman but he’d be a big help to the offensively-challenged lineup.  Ladson doesn’t seem to think we’re in the market for Fielder.

Q: What is the future of Chris Marrero, seemingly blocked now by both LaRoche and Morse?

A: Great question.  I think he’s trade bait.  He doesn’t hit well enough to push a 25 homer/100-rbi capable guy like LaRoche off the bag, and Morse is suddenly becoming one of the hottest hitters in the league.  Ladson thinks he’s trade bait.

Q: Did the Nats consider whether Werth could handle the pressures of his contract before they gave it to him?

A: No, and show me a team that DOES do that kind of consideration.  Stars are stars because they perform, not because they’re capable of performing.  Ladson says ask him about Werth in 2 more years.  Great answer.

Nats Rotation Cycle #26: good/bad/soso

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(apologies; i’m a week behind on posting this)

Cycle #26 starts with a 3-game set at home to Philadelphia, one that set attendance records for the Nats Stadium.

Good

  • Ross Detwiler put in perhaps his best appearance of the season in the opener against Arizona on 8/22 (box/gamer).  He gave up just one run on 6 hits and 3 walks through 6+ innings and beat Arizona’s nominal “Ace” and northern virginia native Joe Saunders.  My opinion on Detwiler’s future use continues to waver; clearly he’s above Gorzelanny in the pecking order but I continue to doubt his ability to stick in the starting rotation.  A few more quality starts should start to change my opinion.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s 2nd to last start on 8/23 (box/gamer) was a tale of two pitches.  He pitched 6 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and one walk.  Four batters into the 7th; a ground out, a walk, a homer and a double erased his clean outing and tagged him with a loss.  His horrible run support continues; his offense was completely shut down by Arizona’s ace Ian Kennedy.

Bad

  • Its hard to really knock Livan Hernandez for what he did on Friday 8/19 (box/gamer).  After throwing just a handful of pitches before enduring a 2 hour rain delay, he dutifully came back out on the mound instead of burning a spot-starter for his team.  Unfortunately the Phillies were ready for him; 4 runs on 7 hits in 4 ip.  Luckily for all involved, Gorzelanny came out and pitched 3 innings of shutout ball before the team scored SIX runs in the bottom of the 9th to get the unlikely win.  Unfortunately for Hernandez, its just one more piece of evidence that his days with this club are numbered.
  • John Lannan got bounced around by a feisty Phillies team on 8/20 (box/gamer) and took a loss in a game that nobody on the staff could have won.  Counterpart Roy Oswalt pitched 8 shutout innings after getting an extra night’s rest and the team’s offense went to sleep.  He gave up 5 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and four walks in just 5 innings.  The massive influx of Philadelphia fans set a new stadium attendance record, besting the previous record by nearly 3,000 fans.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Chien-Ming Wang drew the Phillies ace Roy Halladay in the 8/21 series finale (box/gamer) and pitched toe to toe with him before a rain delay knocked both starters out.  Wang gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, including two shocking home runs that seemed out of character for his pitching style.  Keeping the Phillies hitters to 3 runs over 5+ innings may seem herioc but I’ll just give him a mediocre outing on the day.

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Stephen Strasburg‘s 4th rehab outing is scheduled for Monday 8/22 in Hagerstown.  Results?  Better than the last time.  3 innings, 2 runs on 2 hits and 6 K’s while working mostly on off-speed pitches.  The opposing team stole four bases, an indication to me that they knew Strasburg wasn’t really holding them on that well.  60 pitches 40 of which were for strikes.  Zuckerman seemed to think it was a successful outing.

Thoughts on the offense

  • Mr Walkoff Homer Ryan Zimmerman got his 8th career walkoff with a memorable grand slam on friday 8/19.  According to rather dubious google research, the career leaders in baseball history are a slew of hall of fame sluggers with 12 each.  Ryan is 26 and in his 7th pro season and is nearly in the conversation of having the most of these for his career.

My Answers to Boswell’s Chat Questions 8/22/11 edition

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Everyone's excited for the return of Strasburg. Photo via centerfieldgate.com

Boswell’s weekly chat had more Redskins questions than normal, but there was a slew of baseball questions in there as well.  As always, questions are edited for levity/clarity and I write my answer before reading his.

Q: When is Strasburg coming back?

A: Per Mark Zuckerman’s csnwashington article, based on his regular 5-day rest and build up of innings, we should expect Stephen Strasburg back in the majors around September 6th or 7th, right in the middle of the mid-week LA Dodgers series.  Wow imagine if he went up against Clayton KershawBoswell guesses 9/6/11 but repeats over and again these are guesses, since rainouts have a funny way of ruining best laid plans for advance ticket buyers.

Q: Will the Nats go after Prince Fielder, as is being mentioned in the national press?

A: I don’t think so; he doesn’t really fit the mold of the track-star/plus-defender mentality that Mike Rizzo wants in his players.  Plus, signing Fielder basically light’s Adam LaRoche‘s $8M 2012 salary on fire.  And I don’t think the owners would take lightly to 1/8th of their payroll being so blatantly wasted.  I don’t think 2012 is the year that this team makes its big FA splash; I still see 2012 as an incremental building year, with 2013 the year to make a run.  Boswell Agrees.

Q: Do you agree with Kasten’s plan to fill the stadium with Phillies fans?

A: Absolutely not.  I don’t care how much money a sold out weekend series full of drunken low-lifes from Philadelphia generates for your team; its not worth the clear damage done to the psyche of the paying Nats fans who DO show up only to be treated like interlopers in their own stadium.  Philly fans show up for one game and spend a few hundred dollars.  Nats season ticket holders spend THOUSANDS of dollars and finance the team’s payroll.  Which customer do you think is more important to keep happy?  Boswell prints a letter describing what most of us went through opening day 2010, the first time the Philadelphia hordes descended en masse on Nats stadium.

Q: Does Jayson Werth check his swing too much?

A: Not that i’ve noticed, but i’m not exactly glued to the television every time he gets to the plate.  I will say that at sunday’s game he was clearly the victim of a horrible 3rd strike call, and then guessed wrong on another versus Halladay.  No shame in that.  He got enough clutch at-bats and hits this weekend to get an awful lot of good grace from fans.  Boswell says its his natural swing.

Q: Who will be here next year of this list?  Desmond. Gomes. Livo. Wang. Gorzelanny. Pudge.

A: Definitely here: Desmond.  Hopefully here: Wang.  Probably here: Gomes.  Likely gone: Gorzelanny.  Most certainly gone: Livo and Pudge.

The team isn’t ready to give up on Desmond; they like him as a leader and he’s turned into a pretty good fielder.  Wang remains to be seen; has he pitched well enough so far to earn a 2012 contract?  Probably not quite yet … but he also isn’t under a club option for 2012 either (a topic for a future post).  Gomes’ acquisition was a mystery; he’s a lower-performing right-handed version of Laynce Nix but without the left handedness.  He’s making $1.75M this year and certainly wouldn’t get that on the open market, so he’d likely accept arbitration from the team if it was offered (which should have been the primary reason we traded for him, to get his compensation pick).  Gorzelanny seems destined for a non-tender; he didn’t get used for 13 straight days and clearly isn’t getting back into the bullpen.  He probably looks for a rotation spot elsewhere in the league.  Livan looks to be closer to retirement than another contract offer, as he’s regressed badly this season.  Finally Pudge; If I were Ivan Rodriguez i’d go looking for one last shot with a winner.  He’s likely to get a 2-year deal as a backup but his days of starting are probably over.  Boswell agrees with me on most of these opinions.

Q: Are any of the prospects they drafted in 2011 considered top 10 in their farm system?

A: Absolutely!  In fact the 2011 draft may go down as the day this franchise turned.  Rendon shoots up to probably be the #2 in our system behind Harper.  Meyer and Goodwin are top 10 right out of the gate.  And Purke, if he turns out to be healthy, is a 1-1 talent (i.e., #1 draft pick in the 1st Round) who may be right up there with Harper and Rendon.  Someone asked what the Nats top 10 looks like in Jim Callis’ latest Baseball America chat and he said, “Off the top of my head, I’d start their Top 10 like this: Harper, Rendon, Peacock, Cole, Meyer, Goodwin, Purke (move him up if he proves to be healthy). Looks like a possible top-five system, definite top-10.”  Boswell says the top 4 guys are all top-12 prospects right now.

Q: Should Clippard replace Storen as the closer?

A: No.  For two reasons: Clippard is a better arm and therefore gets used in more high leverage situations.  The fact that the Nats can do this with their best reliever is fantastic.  Second; the 8-9 guys are used to their roles, are pretty successful in those roles, so why mess with it?  Boswell says they’re both excellent.

Q: Do you see the Nats as NL East contenders in three years?

A: Absolutely.  I see it even before then; we’re slightly below a .500 team this year w/o our Ace starter and with huge chunks of the season missed by our supposed #3 and #4 hitters.  A full season with Strasburg at the helm plus replacing Livan’s poor starts and Zimmermann’s continued improvement should see this team easily move above .500.  Then you spend money in the FA-rich 2012 off season and prepare for a playoff run in 2013.  Boswell’s succinct answer: Yes.

Q: What “letter grade” do you give Harper on the year?

A: A+.  He was the 2nd youngest player in low-A and owned it as if he was playing against the JV team.  He then was (easily) the youngest player in AA and held his own.  Its a common mistake to remember that if he was playing by the rules, he’d have been a high school senior in April instead of playing ball in Hagerstown, and that he wouldn’t have even signed til 8/15 instead of having hundreds of at bats.  How can you not say he’s met all expectations and exceeded them?  Boswell takes a rather nit-picky view and says he’s a year further away than what he thought.

Q: Should the Nats management take a page from Leonsis’ playbook and actively discourage Phillies fans from coming to games?

A: Tough call; clearly they enjoy the revenue bump as discussed above, but the Nationals fan experience is beyond awful.  Maybe wait until you’re a good enough team to draw on your own and then start discriminating against the 215 area code.

Q: Is Adam Dunn finished?

A: No, but he really needs to re-think his approach to the game.  Why he has fallen off a cliff is probably a combination of factors; new league and new pitchers, pressure of the contract, pressure of being the “savior” of a big-market team, new ballpark, new city and moving your family, but most of all a new position (DH) that may leave him “bored” and “unfocused” during games.  But he’s always relied on his talent and physical abilities in the off season to bring him around and at his age perhaps its time for him to work harder in the off-season.  Boswell didn’t really answer this question, just noted that Dunn’s plight is unprecedented.

Q: What would you say if you were the Nats owners/management to Bud Selig’s “singling out” the team for going over-slot to sign its draftees?

A: I would have told Bud Selig to f*ck off.  Boswell was more diplomatic.

Q: How hard is Jordan Zimmermann’s innings limit?

A: I’d say its pretty solid.  Why possibly jeopardize him in 2011, even if you don’t believe in innings limits or think that its bunk science.  Besides, we really need to give starts to Strasburg and possibly to one from Meyers, Milone or Peacock.  Shut him down, tell him to take an early vacation and see you in February.  Boswell points out a great point: at 162 innings Zimmermann qualifies for year-end award lists and top 10s, which he’s currently on.  He’ll get it and then be pulled.

Predicting 9/1 callup and 40-man Roster moves

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Will Brad Peacock continue his meteoric rise up the organization with a 9/1 callup? Photo bleacherreport.com

Davey Johnson has already called for them.  Jordan Zimmermann‘s innings limit necessitates one of them.  Livan‘s woes beg for one of them.  Who are they?  Starting Pitching prospects.  And when the calendar hits September 1st, the day MLB rosters can expand, we should be seeing a few of them make their way to the Nats roster.  We’re probably going to see guys already on the 40-man make appearances (Chris MarreroCorey Brown?), but who else?

But, the signings of Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke filled the two empty slots on the 40-man roster created by the trades of Jerry Hairston and Jason Marquis.  So if you believe reports that the Nats are calling up the likes of Steve Lombardozzi, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone (in addition to adding Stephen Strasburg back to the active roster for a September 6th or 7th re-debut), then we’ve got some 40-man moves to make.

Here’s my predictions on how the team will make room for 4 new 40-man players (remember, Strasburg is currently on the 60-day DL and does not count towards the 40 active players on the “40-man” roster).

  • Move Adam LaRoche and Cole Kimball to the 60-day DL.  These are procedural moves that could have been done weeks ago, but the team hasn’t had the need.  Both are clearly done for the season and can easily be moved off.
  • Move Doug Slaten to the 60-day dl.  We’ve heard very little news on Slaten since he was put on the DL, which means he’s probably not featuring in the team’s plans for 2011 and can be moved off the 40-man.  We may end up flat out releasing the guy too; he performed so badly this year in terms of WHIP and allowing inherited runners to score that the team certainly would go looking elsewhere for a loogy.  Update: he’s just starting to do rehab stints now; I’m guessing he’ll just be released upon finishing his rehab, as we did with Chad Gaudin.
  • Re-call Adam Carr to the majors, then 60-day DL him.  He’s been out since June and this procedural move would mean that nobody needs to be released.  We can add all these 60-day DL guys back to the 40-man once all our free agents and non-tenders go through.

If there are other non 40-man guys to consider adding, I don’ t know who they may be at this point.  Brad Meyers may be reaching an innings limit (based on analysis of his usage in AAA).  There don’t seem to be any relievers in AAA (Mandel, Wilkie?) worth calling up.  We have 2 catchers active and a third (Pudge) getting ready presumably to come off the DL, so we’re set there.

Who would get dumped off the 40-man if we needed to make space?  The leading candidate would have to be the enigmatic Garrett Mock, who has put up startling bad numbers at various levels this year.  Atahualpa Severino is another candidate; having spent 2 full years on the 40-man with exactly one day in the majors.

Nats Rotation Cycle #25: good/bad/soso

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Good

  • This time around it was Dr. Jekyll’s turn (aka, the “good” side) for Livan Hernandez, who stifled the best team in baseball for a 4-2 victory in Philadelphia on 8/12 (box/gamer).  Effort on the night: 6 2/3 innings, 4 hits and 1 unearned run allowed.  If you want to see something amazing, go look at Livan’s splits in wins, losses and no-decisions.  In 7 victories: 1.08 era.  In 11 losses: 5.84 era.  In 7 no-decisions: 5.63 era.  Maybe we can just skip every other start for him and just get his good ones.
  • Ross Detwiler gave up one run in 6 innings to take the “unlucky loss” on wednesday 8/17 (box/gamer).  He had a career-high strikeouts of 7 (6 through 3 innings) and worked out of a bases-loaded, one out jam in the 3rd that contributed to his good evening.  I’m still not that impressed with him on the mound though; he gave up 9 baserunners in 6 innings and was over 100 pitches to that point.
  • Jordan Zimmermann‘s presumed 3rd to last start was strong; 5 2/3 shutout innings in the series finale against the Reds on 8/18 (box/gamer).  Only a couple more starts to go before he hits his 160ip limit.  Here’s a couple of interesting stats on Zimmermann: he’s now 10th in the NL in WHIP, 2nd in the league (behind Halladay) in BB/9 and 4th in the league in K/BB ratio (behind the first 3 in the Philly rotation, in case anyone was doubting just how good their staff is).

Bad

  • John Lannan completely forgot how to find the plate on 8/13 (box/gamer). leading to a complete stomping from Philadelphia and an ugly 11-3 score line.  Luckily for Lannan, only one of the 7 runs he allowed was earned (a homer to Ryan Howard).

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Chien Ming Wang‘s fourth start wasn’t nearly as exciting as his no-hitter bid last week; he gave up 4 runs on 7 hits in a bit over 6 innings on 8/16 but cruised to the victory while the offense pounded opposing starter Mike Leake.  I was at this game and the ump seemed to be squeezing Wang on the low strike, which meant he had to work up in the zone a bit more.  Add to that a comment that the pitching coach made in post-game interviews; by virtue of the skipped game on sunday Wang got an extra days rest and was “too strong.”  He gave up more than a few hard-hit balls last night that were liners right at outfielders. He’s not getting any strikeouts either; he was never a big K/9 guy (4.1/9 on his career), but he’s had THREE strikeouts in 21 innings back. This the NL; you usually get 3 strikeouts by falling out of bed by virtue of the opposing pitcher and generally weaker lineups.  On the bright side, he was only at 78 pitches when getting yanked and probably could have finished 8 innings in 100 pitches.

Relievers of Note and other News

  • If you havn’t seen Bryce Harper‘s walk off homer from friday 8/12′s game … its worth a watch.  Estimated at 480feet to dead center, it was absolutely crushed.  Thankfully this bit of Harper news was a significant step up from earlier in the week, when he made all sorts of headlines for his ejection.  Keith Law, in a rare moment of levity among the typical over-reacting baseball pundit reporting w/r/t Harper, noted in his chat on thursday 8/11, put it best while responding to multiple baited questions about Harper’s makeup and his “issues” as follows: “Any other minor league player reacts badly to a called third strike, we hear nothing about it.I couldn’t agree more; I’m really tired of hearing about how Harper is immature and this and that, while every single emotion and action he has on the field is youtube’d for the world to see and overanalyze.  I’ve said this in this past; he’s not a robot, and he wouldn’t be as good as he is if he were emotionless on the field.
  • Stephen Strasburg’s 2nd rehab start went pretty durn well: 3 scoreless innings.  He threw 33 pitches (26 for strikes), was steady at 98, touched 99 and worked at least 3 of his 4 pitches (there was no mention of his 2-seamer, but its great to see him throwing his 90-mph changeup, the pitch that blew out his elbow in the first place).  Its also very interesting to see him talk about pitch counts and getting batters out with fewer pitches; he consciously wants to go deeper into games, knowing he’s on a 100-pitch limit.  He seems to be reading the party line, as Zimmermann has clearly adopted this approach so as to last longer.
  • Unfortunately, Strasburg’s 3rd start was not as promising: he gave up 5 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks in just an inning and a third in Hagerstown on 8/17.   He was clearly wild on the night; he threw 49 pitches but just 29 for strikes.  Mark Zuckerman tries to figure out when he’ll debut in the majors here, guessing its either tuesday or wednesday in the first week of September.  Next rehab start: Monday 8/22/11 back in Hagerstown.
  • Wow; talk about timing (good or bad, depending on your viewpoint).  Jason Marquis, lost for the season after breaking his fibula on a come-backer.

My answers to Boswell’s chat questions 8/15/11 edition

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Tom Boswell must have been on vacation; he hasn’t done a chat in weeks.  Well, he caught up and more on August 15th’s version.  Here’s how i’d have answered the questions he took.  As always, the “questions” posed are edited here for levity and clarity, and I write my “answer” before reading his.

Q: Why is Espinosa struggling at the plate?

A: Probably because the league’s pitchers are adjusting to him the 2nd time around.  Plus, there’s a lot of at-bats for advance scouts to learn from and formulate plans of attack.  This is a constant adjustment cycle that hitters and pitchers do throughout the year and throughout their careers.  There could also be a normal rookie fatigue factor; you play 30 games in a HS season, 60-or so games in a college season, around 70 games in a short-season minor league, and around 140 games in a full-season minor league.  To say nothing of the incredible jump in talent from even AAA to the majors.  So, some regression is to be expected as the season winds down.  Boswell agrees with the adjustments angle and gives some tips for Espinosa to follow.  I hope he was reading the chat :-)

Q: Will the Nats get to 77 victories?

A: With a .479 winning percentage as of 8/15/11, that puts them on a pace for 77 wins (rounding down since they’re one game ahead of their pythagorean won-loss record).  I would say that the team will likely fail to reach that threshold though; September is going to see debut starts given to guys who have never seen the majors, and the transition is usually pretty tough.  I see a few extra losses thrown in there to bring down our win totals to the 73-74 range.   Boswell sticks by his pre-season prediction of 75.  Its looking like a good prediction.

Q: How has Davey Johnson performed so far?

A: I’d say he’s been awful.  Even given that Riggleman’s record was improved by a winning streak, the numbers are clear.  Riggleman was .500 with this team, Johnson is 17-24 (as of 8/15/11).  I think he’s poorly managed the bullpen and is poorly handling his starters.  On more than one occasion he’s let a starting pitcher make the 3rd out in the 6th, only to yank him one walk or one hit into the 7th.  This makes no sense to me!  Why give away that at-bat and that out (remember; you only get 27 outs in a game) especially if there’s runners on base and you still have hitters off the bench.  What was the point of “strengthening the bench” if you never use those hitters?  Grr.   Boswell agrees with me somewhat, and notes that Johnson quickly ended the lineup manipulations under Riggleman.  I’m not going to kill Riggleman for trying those lineup mods; they did lead to a very hot streak for this team.  Another interesting fact; the team has given up 10+ runs 6 times so far under Johnson but only twice before that under Riggleman; why is that?  The implication seemed to be that Riggleman was over-using Storen and Clippard.

Q: Will Purke sign by the deadline?

A: I didn’t think so: I was wrongBoswell had no answer, just said he’d be watching at midnight on 8/15/11.

Q: Should MLB allow close/controversial plays to be replayed on the scoreboard?

A: Good question: right now presumably these plays are NOT shown on scoreboards to prevent further fan-distress and histronics from the argumentative players and managers.  So, clearly when a play is not shown on the board the tacit message sent to all who are watching is, “oh they’re not showing the play so the umps must have blown it.”  It doesn’t seem to really cause that much grief in the NFL, which plays replays instantly (since they have 35 seconds to kill after every play).  So I think MLB should just show replays of all plays and not editorialize.  Boswell seems to agree.

Q: In 2013, what are the chances that this is the lineup we see every day: Ramos, Morse, Rendon, Espinosa, Zimmerman, Harper, CF, Werth?

A: Pretty close in my estimation.  We don’t have positions listed but the implication is that Harper is playing LF, Morse 1B and Rendon 2nd.  2013 may be a tad too early for Rendon; it may be a safer bet to put Lombardozzi at leadoff/2nd.  I think Harper should be trained as a center fielder.  Rendon should be able to transition to LF if need be, but it may be a waste of his abilities.  Otherwise this looks pretty close.  Boswell says there’s a pretty good chance, talks about Rendon a bit then gets more digs into Desmond despite his not being named here.

Q: Is there any significant relationship between payroll outlay (Nats 9th from bottom) and w/l record (14th from bottom)?

A: (links to use here: list of payroll by team, and the current MLB standings 1-30.   Nats are, as of 8/16/11 18th in W/L and22nd in total payroll.

There is definitely a relationship in general between payroll and won/loss records; I don’t think its a coincidence that the 3 highest payrolls (NYY, Boston, Philadelphia) are also the 3 best teams.  However that middle ground is where the direct correlation breaks down.  The Chicago Cubs have the 6th highest payroll and are 27th in won/losses.  Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Rays are 29th in payroll but have the 9th best record playing in the AL East.  This middle ground is where teams can use superior General Managers, superior scouting and overall organizational improvements to be better than they appear.  With respect to the Nationals current positions, I’ll say two things.

  1. Yes we’re clearly doing “better” than our payroll would indicate, a sign that Rizzo is getting good value for his contract dollars.
  2. Its despicable that a team with owners as wealthy as the Lerners, playing in a $600M stadium that was given to the team, and playing in the wealthiest per-capita area with a top 8 population center in the country isn’t spending more on this team.

Q: Is Batting Average not that good of a stat to use to judge hitters?  (in the context of Jayson Werth’s .226 value)

A: Batting Average needs context, yes.  A well-hit line drive directly at a 3rd baseman is really a better hit ball than a weak tweener ground ball that gets through for a hit.   If looking at the BA, you really should look at the BABIP (which for Werth is now .281 on the season, decent and closer to league norms than earlier, but still below his career .314) and his breakdowns of line drives, grounders and flyballs.  Here we see that Werth’s LD% is about on a par with his season last year, but his fly balls are way down.  Makes sense; more of his flyballs were turning into homers at the cozy Philadelphia park.  The stat I really use the most is OPS+, which normalizes the OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) to the league averages and is read more or less as a percentage value as compared to MLB average.  Werth’s number there is currently 98, meaning his OPS is about 2% worse than the league norm.  Now, this isn’t great (he’s being paid like on of the top 10 players in the league and was 5th in the NL in OPS+ last year), but it isn’t Adam Dunn.  Boswell points out that Werth’s slugging % is down and that he’ll be here til the next president is in office.

Q: Was Strasburg an injury waiting to happen?

A: Unknown; the injury he suffered (to his elbow) was NOT the injury that all these inverted-W and/or shoulder loading freaks drone on and on about.  So, until Strasburg’s shoulder blows out (as Prior’s did), we won’t know.   Boswell agrees

Q: What is going on with Zimmerman’s throwing motion?

A: Looks to me like the team has tried to address his biggest problem; making the un-pressured throw accurately.  It happens; you get a ball, have all the time in the world, and fire a ball over your first baseman’s head.  Then it gets into your head and you’re in trouble.  If this weird motion works (and it certainly seems to) then more power to him.  You’ll notice, by the way, that he never makes a throwing error when pressured or on the run.  At least not that I can remember.  Boswell Agrees.

Q: Should/Will the Nats go after Jose Reyes this off season?

A: Should they?  I don’t think so; depends on if they think Desmond has any future or if they can move over Espinosa and call up Lombardozzi.  It’d be foolish to spend $12M/year on a leadoff hitter who is only slightly better than your $440k/year in-house options.  Will they?  We’ll see.   Boswell thinks they shouldn’t and lists a few more good reasons.

Q: Would you trade all the National’s young pitchers for the Orioles’?

A: No.  Way.  Baltimore has a habit of destroying young arms lately.  And I like the upside of our slew of prospects versus theirs.  Boswell says no way.

Q: Zimm/Morse/Werth in 2012 vs Zimm/Dunn/Willingham in 2010?

A: Offense only?  You take the latter.  That was three guys with OPS’s in the 140s back to back to back.  Werth did it in his contract year but not before or since really.  Morse is a breakout guy this year; can he continue?  Can Zimmerman stay healthy?

Nationals future considerably brighter w/ 2011 draft signing successes.

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Frankly, I did not think we could get Purke signed. Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Upon starting to read Nationals press releases post 8/15/11 signing deadline, I was ecstatic and surprised by what transpired last night.  We got the first five draft picks signed for a total of about $16.5M spent.

Anthony Rendon and Alex Meyer were never in doubt in my opinion; neither was going back to school to try to marginally improve on their draft standing.  (Nor was Kylin Turnbull, our 4th rounder, who got a $325k deal out of Juco).  Rendon got a major league deal (i.e., an immediate spot on the 40-man roster), which probably was to be expected given his stature and his agent Scott Boras.  My guess is that Boras is starting to press for 40-man spots for his marquee players more and more and fighting less and less for these massive bonuses knowing that the 40-man spot accelerates the time it takes for these prospects to reach free agency by 2-3 years or more.

Brian Godwin got a $3M deal, or $1M more than it took for Meyer to sign.  Clearly the Nats had to buy him out of another year in college, where he and his counsel thought he could become a top-10 talent.

Most surprising: the signing of Matt Purke.  When Purke announced he wasn’t going to pitch in the Cape Cod league, I figured right then he wasn’t going to sign.  Why would he take a 3rd round money or slightly higher (somewhere between $425k and $800k) as a bonus when he got offered $6M out of high school and knows that a dominant junior season would put him in the discussion for #1 overall in 2012′s draft (and the probable $7-8M deal it would guarantee, as Gerrit Cole just got from Pittsburgh).  What the public didn’t know came out in the press releases: Purke let the Nats do not only an in-depth physical but an MRI with the injected dye to highlight injuries within his shoulder.  Purke also did private throwing sessions for the team.   They guaranteed him a 40-man roster spot as well (also incredibly surprising), but as mentioned above probably traded bonus money for that spot.

The usage of 40-man spots as a negotiating tool leaves the Nats slightly roster hampered; we now have 7 spots (and one rule5 draftee) on the roster who have never appeared in a major league game and seem set to start 2012 in the minors (Purke, Severino, Carr, Marrero, Rendon, Harper and Corey Brown).

However, Nats fans can now salivate at the selection of upper-ceiling arms that the team will be able to select from in a few years.  We can add Purke and Meyer immediately to this list: Strasburg and Zimmermann (1st and 2nd rounders) seem set to be the 1-2 for this rotation for the next several years.  Sammy Solis (2nd rounder) has looked ok in Potomac in his first year.  Youngsters AJ Cole (4th) and Robbie Ray (12th) have both looked fantastic in low-A.   “Found money” starters Brad Meyers (5th), Tom Milone (10th) and Brad Peacock (a draft-and-follow 41st rounder) are all pitching at AAA with varying degrees of success but all well younger than their AAA counterparts.   Even 2007′s high-end arms not already mentioned (Ross Detwiler 1st, Josh Smoker 2nd and Jack McGeary in the 6th) are not out of the running and all may feature at least as bullpen arms in the future.

How about a 2014 rotation of Strasburg, Zimmermann, Purke, Peacock and some high-priced ace FA?  That sounds pretty good.

Nats Rotation Cycle #24: good/bad/soso

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Wang looked as good in Chicago as he used to look in this uniform. Photo unknown via graphicshunt.com

The team went 3-2 in its last time through the rotation, taking a series from Atlanta at home before scuffling with Colorado in Denver.  This time through they finish off the Colorado series and move on to Chicago.

Good

  • John Lannan deserved more than he got after throwing 6 shutout innings on 8/7 (box/gamer).  He walked the leadoff hitter in the 7th and his bullpen conspired to blow the lead and cost him the Win.  Another clear example of how “wins” as a measuring stat for starters is clearly overrated.  Lannan’s line: 6ip+1 batter, 6 hits, 4 walks, 1 run.  Lannan has clearly turned around his season and is putting himself squarely in the Nat’s future rotational plans.  He’s a perfect #4 pitcher and probably sparkles on a good offensive team.  (See notes below for comments on the managing and bullpen performance in Lannan’s start).
  • Chien-Ming Wang looked about as good as you could ask for his 3rd start back after 2 years out of the game, throwing 6 innings of one-hit ball (no-hitting the Cubs through 5) in Chicago on 8/9 (box/gamer).  His sinker was moving well, he kept his fastballs right at the knees, and he humped it up to 93 on occasion (if you believe the stadium gun).  He had 11 ground ball outs to 4 flyball outs and needed just 81 pitches to complete 6 innings.  Apparently Steve McCatty asked some prior teammates about Wang and discovered that he wasn’t throwing his sinker nearly as much now as he was back in the day, and convinced him to do so going forward (aside: how is it possible that a pitcher “forgets” what made him successful??)   Coincidentally, despite pitching so well I agreed with Wang’s removal; in the 6th inning he was starting to lose control of his fastball and it was rising up, exactly what a sinker-baller doesn’t want.  A great start though, and a great sign for the future.

Bad

  • Unfortuantely Livan Hernandez was scheduled for his “bad” outing in his continuing Jekyll & Hyde season, and his bad was pretty bad.  He gave up 9 runs (7 earned) on 9 hits in 3 and 2/3 innings to take the loss on 8/6 (box/gamer).  The Nats bullpen didn’t help much either with each of the relievers struggling in one way or another (see notes).  Perhaps we can just skip Livan’s “bad” outings?  Or, I’ve got a better idea; we can remove him from the rotation since he’s giving the team less than a 50/50 chance of even being competitive in games right now.  Ben Goessling reported on the same topic, surmising that Livan’s rotation spot is in serious jeopardy with the team wanting to see youth in September.  One of the Nats blogs  highlighted a fantastic stat; look at Livan’s splits in his Wins versus Losses: in 6 wins he has a 1.25 era and a sub 1.00 whip.  In 11 losses? A 5.84 era and a 1.6ish whip.  His performance in 7 No-Decisions looks almost identical to his performance in losses.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Jordan Zimmermann should have done better against the Cubs on 8/11 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs on 9 hits, 2 walks in 6 2/3 innings.  He looked fantastic through 6, but gave up a single and back to back homers in the 7th to blemish his line and tag him with the loss on the night.
  • Ross Detwiler continues to look like he’s destined for the bullpen, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 homers in 5 innings on 8/10 (box/gamer).   The homers were cheap (Wrigley is a major hitter’s park) but 7 hits to go with 2 walks is just too many runners for a medicore-to-bad offense to overcome.

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Here’s your Washington Bullpen in the 8/6 game: Gorzelanny (4 hits in 2+ innings), Coffey (3 runs and 3 hits while retiring just one guy), Burnett (2 inherited runners, both scored), and Rodriguez (2 hits and 2 walks in one IP).  What are the odds that any of these four guys feature in 2012?  All four of them now feature ERA+ in the mid 80s (indicating their pitching about 15% worse than the MLB average) and they seem to be getting worse as the season rolls on.  The question fans have to be thinking about is Mike Rizzo‘s ego in these deals: Coffey was a 1-yr FA and won’t be missed, but the other three guys represent the bounty we have remaining from Rizzo’s 3 major trades since arriving here.  Will Rizzo admit that these moves didn’t work out and not force bad players to continue playing?  We’ll see.
  • Is it just me, or was Davey Johnson‘s pitcher management in the 8/7 game just ridiculous?  Lannan sits on 6 shutout innings and is allowed to bat in the top of the 7th.  He makes a feeble ground-ball out as expected.  Lannan goes back out to the mound for the bottom of the 7th, walks a guy and is yanked.  Why was he allowed to bat then!??  Clearly Johnson already had Lannan’s replacement warming up; why not actually, you know, try to score a run instead of giving a sub .100 hitter another at-bat?  Why do you have power bats on your bench?  Then, in a textbook example of a bullpen actively *trying* to blow a game; Mattheus promptly gives up a hit (yet earn’s a “hold” for his work !?), Clippard comes in and fails to cover 1st base on a grounder to Morse (yet somehow Morse is given the error on the play !?), then gives up another hit to tie the game.  Clippard’s reward for this performance?  The victory in the game.   A frustrating game to watch as a fan, and I can’t imagine what Lannan was thinking after throwing 6 dominant innings.
  • Stephen Strasburg‘s first rehab start review: 31 pitches, 26 for strikes, throwing mostly 4-seam fastballs with the occasional curve but apparently no 2-seamers and few changeups.  The opposing hitters caught on and tagged him for a few hits (including a solo-homer), but the hits aren’t that concerning (once it became clear in the opposing dugout that they could sit fastball, it becomes considerably easier to hit a guy).  He topped out at 98, sat in 96-97 range on the fastball.  He was quoted as saying his fastball “wasn’t there yet” but that he has to “start somewhere.”  Sounds like a good start to me.  His next start has been announced: Friday August 12th in Potomac.  Potomac has to be happy about (finally) getting a major Nats prospect to play there… Here’s the story from his 2nd rehab start: all good.
  • Wang’s no-hitter effort was eventually broken up by pinch hitter Tony Campana‘s sharply hit grounder to Morse.  But before that, he attempted a bunt and missed.  Breaking the unwritten rules of baseball, you say?  Bunting to break up a no-hitter is almost always a no-no … except that Campana is clearly a guy who bunts probably every third at bat.  If its part of your game, then its fair game.
http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_08_09_wasmlb_chnmlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=was

Nats Rotation Cycle #23: good/bad/soso

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Is Wang's comeback going to have a happy ending? Photo: Nats320 blog/Jeff Saffelle

I’m back, at least with Nats Rotation Cycles, after missing #21 and #22.  Basically, while we were gone:

  • Livan Hernandez continued his up and down ways, but managed to avoid getting traded.  Meanwhile…
  • John Lannan had a hiccup in his great run of form lately.
  • Jordan Zimmermann had one bad outing and one great one.
  • Tom Gorzelanny got demoted to the bullpen, paving the way for…
  • Chien-Ming Wang came of the DL after 2+ years and joined the rotation.
  • Jason Marquis got traded to Arizona the day he was set to pitch, meaning…
  • Yunesky Maya was recalled for one spot start, in which he did fantastically but strained an oblique, meaning that..
  • Ross Detwiler gets another shot at the rotation in Marquis’ spot.

Lets get back into the swing of things, starting with Rotation cycle #23.  After all these moves, we’re now set on this rotational order: Hernandez, Lannan, Wang, Detwiler and Zimmermann.

Good

  • Livan Hernandez put a “good” after a bad outing for about the 10th time in a row this season, a maddeningly frustrating run of form that has this pundit calling for his rotation spot.  He went for 1run over 6 innings against the Braves on 8/1 (box/gamer) for the victory.
  • Jordan Zimmermann pitched effectively enough in Colorado on 8/5 to get the victory (box/gamer).  He went 5 2/3 innings, giving up 4 hits, 2 runs and 2 walks while striking out 8.  Both those runs were inherited and allowed to score by the cardiac-kid Henry Rodriguez, who nearly blew the 4 run lead that the offense staked its pitching staff to before getting bailed out by Tyler Clippard. See Notes section for more thoughts on Rodriguez.

Bad

  • Chien-Ming Wang: two starts, two blowouts.  He turned 3 singles and a walk into two runs in the first, then seemed to settle down, getting lots of ground-outs (as expected).  In the 5th he leaked in a run by virtue of his own throwing error before giving up an absolute bomb of a 3-run homer to Dan Uggla.  The runs in the 5th may not have been earned in the scorebook, but they were Wang’s fault in my book.  Final line: 5ip, 7hits, 6 runs (2 earned) and a 6-4 loss on 8/3 (box/gamer).  As Ben Goessling reported, Wang went longer threw more pitches, but we’re essentially seeing spring training outings in August.  The team really has no choice but to keep throwing him out there, having already invested $3M in the guy.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan got bailed out of his up-and-down start on 8/2 (box/gamer) by virtue of a power-show by his batters.  Ankiel’s grand slam and Morse’s towering upper-deck opposite field number contributed to an easy win.  Lannan ended up with 8ks over 6 1/3, giving up 3 runs early and then cruising along to the win.
  • Ross Detwiler got the loss on 8/4 in Colorado, giving up 2 runs in 5 innings.  I discussed this start at length here, including links to the gamer/box, pitch f/x and analysis.

Starter Trends (2nd half only): Livan is Dr. Jekyll this week, while Wang’s struggles are somewhat expected.  Zimmermann has turned it around after a couple of sub-par outings.

  • Lhernandez    bad,good,bad,good
  • Lannan    good,good,bad,soso
  • Wang        bad,bad
  • Detwiler    soso
  • Zimmermann     bad,bad,great,good
  • (Gorzelanny    incomplete,bad->demoted to bullpen)
  • (Maya        good->demoted)
  • (Marquis    good,soso->traded)

Relievers of Note and other News

  • After many rumors towards the end of the Trade Deadline cycle, both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen are still safely in the Nationals bullpen.  And honestly, I hope they stay there.  Yes I know that relievers are over-rated but these two guys are integral parts to the vast improvement of our pitching staff’s performance over the past few years.  Here’s the number of runs allowed over the past few seasons: 2007: 783,  2008: 825 , 2009: 874, 2010: 742, 2011 on pace for 652.  That’s almost 100 runs better than last season, and a whopping 220 runs better than just two years ago.
  • The savior, Stephen Strasburg, is scheduled to make his first rehab start in Hagerstown on Sunday August 7th.  I wonder if his rehab starts will get National media exposure and live coverage like his minor league starts did.  Either way, it will be interesting to see how many mph he’s hitting his first time back.
  • After Yunesky Maya‘s excellent 7/31 start (in place of the traded Jason Marquis), we thought perhaps he’d stick in that role.  But the slight injury he suffered on the basepaths not only removed him from that game, but got him sent back to AAA where he subsequently got rocked.  It would have been nice to see him try to build on that start.
  • Davey Johnson has said he wants to see some of AAA’s stellar pitching feature in the majors, alluding to the performances of both Tommy Milone and perhaps Brad Peacock.  Milone has been solid all year in AAA, and Peacock’s first four AAA starts have been up and down, with his amazing k/bb rates skyrocketing to the bad.  It may be premature to consider Peacock, but Milone seems to be option #1-A to replace Zimmermann when he runs out of innings in a few weeks.
  • Henry Rodriguez‘s 8/5 line: 3 hits, 1 walk, two inherited runners allowed to score and zero outs recorded.  Hey, at least he didn’t throw a ball to the backstop with the bases juiced.  He’s now sporting a 1.61 whip on the season and his Jekyll and Hyde appearances have to be wearing out the patience of his manager.   He’s blown all three save opportunities he’s had and has let 33% of his inherited runners score.  That’s not as bad as Slaten’s 50% IR-IS rate but its not a good rate for a reliever that needs to pitch in high leverage situations.