Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for September, 2011

My DC-IBWA Ballot…

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Nationals News Network blogger Dave Nichols runs a few polls beginning and end of season, hitting up all the Nats bloggers out there for opinions.  Here’s the 2011 post-season results.

Here’s how I answered his questions, with some thoughts added in.

  • Nats MVP: Morse, Clippard and Zimmerman.  For me clearly Morse was this team’s most valuable player this year, going from 4th outfielder to 30 homer clean up hitter in short order.  Clippard was your all-star but Morse was the more deserving candidate.
  • Starter of the Year: Zimmermann, Lannan, Marquis.  I think Zimmermann’s come-back was fantastic, and he was clearly your best arm in the rotation (at least until September).  Lannan continued his boring-if-effective career, and everyone seems to forget that Marquis was pretty good the first couple of months.
  • Reliever of the Year: Clippard, Storen, Coffey (though it pained me to say it).  Finding the first 2 was easy; finding a third reliever candidate who wasn’t mostly awful this season was really tough.  Burnett struggled mightily but turned it around.  Henry Rodriguez has been lights out in September, but September only.  Slaten was awful all year.  Broderick and Gaudin couldn’t exit quickly enough.  Perhaps Mattheus was more deserving of the year-long award.
  • All around Hitter of the year: Zimmerman, Morse, Hairston.  Probably could have switched the first two here as well, based on Morse’s excellent BA with power.  Hairston’s contributions over the course of the season were pretty understated, but he was a solid member of this team.
  • Slugger of the year: Morse, Espinosa, Nix.  Morse is obvious.  Espinosa showed some pretty rare power for a 2nd baseman.  And Nix’s homer/ab ratio puts him on nearly a 30-homer pace for a full season.  Can’t beat that.
  • Defensive player of the year: Zimmerman, Espinosa, (amazingly) Desmond: pretty obvious candidates.  However UZR/150 was not kind to this team generally this year.   Espinosa is a plus defender at 2nd and Desmond made huge strides.  Probably in retrospect should have included Ankiel, who has the best UZR of any near-regular in the lineup.
  • Comeback player of the year: Zimmermann, Wang, Flores: 3 pretty obvious candidates.  We’ll save Strasburg for the 2012 version.
  • Humanitarian of the year: Zimmerman, Desmond, Storen.  I’m only even aware of Zimmerman as someone who has a charity or a foundation.  Desmond was the team’s Clemente nominee, so he must be doing something right.

Lastly:

  • Minor League player of the year: Peacock, Lombardozzi, Moore.

The phrasing of this question threw me off.  The minor league “player of the year” is DIFFERENT from “player most destined for big league success,” which was the explanatory text Nichols put into the survey.  Clearly Peacock and Lombardozzi were our minor league players of the year and were so awarded by the team, but I’m not sure either is really a top-ceiling MLB prospect.   Our three best prospects most destined for success in the majors (<2011 draft version) are probably Harper, Cole, and either Solis or Ray.  Throw in the 2011 draft and that list probably becomes Rendon, Harper, Purke.

Additional Questions: here’s a few add-on survey questions.

1. Players we’re parting ways with after 2011: Livan, Coffey, Balester, Slaten, Pudge, Cora, Gomes, Elvin Ramirez.  This implies we’re going to keep Gorzelanny, Wang, Bixler, Nix, Ankiel and Bernadina.  I’m guessing Bernadina passes through waivers and stays.  Gorzelanny becomes a long reliever.  Wang resigns, Nix stays on as the 4th outfielder and Ankiel sticks in CF.
2. Does Zimmerman sign an extension this coming off season?  No; he’ll sign it AFTER the 2012 season.
3. Biggest Surprise: Morse clearly.
4. Biggest Disappointment: LaRoche.  Maya 2nd.  Lots of people will say Werth, but in the end we all kinda knew the contract was a mistake and he’s struggle to live up to it.  LaRoche was supposed to at least contribute, and he did nearly none of that.
5. Favorite pro beat writer: Zuckerman
6. Favorite Nats blogger: Love Sue Dinem’s work; my blog would be twice as hard without it.

MLB Divisional Series Predictions

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After a pretty unbelievable 6 minutes last night, where the Red Sox snatched defeat from the hands of victory and then the Rays had a walk-off win to an amazing comeback (not to mention the Braves losing a heart-breaker to finish off their own September collapse earlier in the nigth), we have a completely different playoff picture than most people predicted just last week.  Lets take a look and put up some predictions.

First off, 3/8ths of these teams were in such scramble mode just to make the playoffs, they havn’t really even declared probable pitchers yet.  But i’ll put in some guesses.

GM# Home-Visitor Visiting Starter Home Starter Advantage
1 Det-NYY Verlander Sabathia Det
2 Det-NYY Fister Nova NYY?
3 NYY-Det Garcia Scherzer Det?
4 *NYY-Det Sabathia Porcello NYY
5 *Det-NYY Verlander ? Det
1 TBR-Tex Neimann Wilson Tex
2 TBR-Tex Shields Holland TB?
3 Tex-TBR Lewis? Price? TB
4 *Tex-TBR Harrison Hellickson? TB?
5 *TBR-Tex Neimann? Wilson Tex
1 Ari-Mil Kennedy Gallardo Ari?
2 Ari-Mil Hudson Marcum Mil
3 Mil-Ari Greinke Saunders Mil
4 *Mil-Ari Wolf Collmeter Ari?
5 *Ari-Mil Kennedy Gallardo Mil?
1 Stl-Phi Lohse Halladay Phi
2 Stl-Phi Garcia Lee Phi
3 Phi-Stl Hamels Jackson? Phi
4 *Phi-Stl Oswalt Carpenter Stl
5 *Stl-Phi Lohse Halladay Phi

By Series Thoughts:

  • Detroit-New York: Detroit took the Season series 4-3 and is on a roll.  New York basically has no idea who is going to pitch the 3rd game (Garcia?  Colon?  Burnett?) or the 5th game, and the 4th game would be Sabathia on 3 days rest.  Detroit is essentially a 1 1/2 pitcher rotation right now, with Verlander unbeatable and Fister just as good.  Game 3 is the toss-up; which 4+ ERA starter will cave first?  Prediction: Detroit in 5.  Supplemental prediction: New York over-reacts and gives CJ Wilson $180M in the off season after having zero pitchers left in game 3.
  • Tampa Bay-Texas: Texas took the season series 5-4, but Tampa is obviously hot entering the post-season.  Tampa’s pitching staff was shredded just to get into the playoffs, leaving them at a disadvantage.  They burned their ace Price last night (and he got hammered), meaning they likely can’t use him til game 3.  Meanwhile, arguably their 5th best starter (Neimann) looks likely to get two starts because of the scheduling.   Unless the team puts uber-prospect Matt Moore on the roster and puts him into the rotation.  Despite all that, the Rangers themselves have a conundrum in that the matchups don’t really favor them, at all.   I don’t think the Rangers can beat Shields in game2, and may struggle to beat Price with their #5 starter Colby Lewis going in game 3.  The pivotal game is game 2: can Texas hold serve at home?  Prediction: Tampa in 4.
  • Arizona-Milwaukee: Arizona took the season series 4-3.  This is a strange series; if Arizona’s pitching is for real, this could be a great series.  If not?  It could be a quick sweep for Milwaukee.  Arizona needs to win both of their Ace Ian Kennedy’s starts to have any shot, but both will be on the road.  The pivotal game could be game 4, with the veteran Randy Wolf going against the surprising elder rookie Josh Collmeter.  Prediction: Milwaukee in 5.
  • St. Louis-Philadelphia: the one team Philly didn’t want to see in the post-season; St. Louis took the season series 6-3.  However, Chris Carpenter was burned just to get into the post season, meaning they likely won’t see him until game 4.  By which point Philly may very well have swept this series.  St. Louis’ pitching isn’t that great this year, with all their starters posting good ERAs but not really dominant lines.  Philadelphia really struggled down the stretch; we’ll find out soon enough if its because they were tired or just complacent by having locked up the #1 seed so early.  I’m guessing their 4-game winning streak to end the season (including the dagger-like 3-game set in Atlanta to cost them the WC) means they’re geared up.  Prediction: Philadelphia in 3

If this plays out, we’re looking at Milwaukee-Philadelphia and Tampa-Detroit for ALCS.  Not as compelling as MLB wants, but some good story lines none the less.  Could be a Philly-Tampa 2008 rematch world series.  We’ll revisit predictions after the divisional rounds are complete.

Wild End to the season; WC race predictions…

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Who in the world would have thought the Wild Cards would come down to the final day?  Just a few weeks ago columnists were lamenting the lack of any pennant races when all 8 playoff spots looked locked up.

Now we have FOUR do-or-die baseball games tonight.  All going on at roughly the same time (three 7:10 and one 8:10 start).  Get your MLB network channel listed (its 213 on Directv) because it will probably do drop ins all night ala the Red Zone channel.

Anyone want to offer predictions on these four games?  Here’s your probables tonight per si.com and mlb.com (since si.com doesn’t list all the games).

  • Boston at Baltimore: Lester vs Simon.  Boston gets its ace, and its one remaining halfway decent starter, with the season on the line.  But he’s *really* struggling down the stretch and has gotten more or less hammered in his last three starts.  And will be going on 3 days rest.  Simon is only marginally better in September and had a mediocre season.  Prediction: Boston in another 8-7 drama-filled slugfest.
  • New York Yankees at Tampa Bay: TBA vs Price.  The Yankees are probably starting a Sept 1 call up, prepping their rotation for the playoffs, while Tampa gets its ace.  Prediction: easy win for Tampa.
  • St Louis at Houston: Carpenter vs Myers.  Another “ace versus ace” in name only; Carpenter is clearly the superior pitcher here.  However Myers is finishing very strong.  St Louis unloaded on Houston pitching last night for 13 runs an 17 hits, but tonight’s game will be low-scoring.  Prediction: Cardinals get to the Houston bullpen and win a low-scoring one on Carpenter’s complete game.
  • Philadelphia at Atlanta: Blanton vs Hudson.  Philly starts Blanton, who is not even in the rotation any longer, in what will be a bullpen, get guys some work, setting things up for the playoffs.  Meanwhile Atlanta sends out its Ace.  Advantage Atlanta.  If the Braves get 3 runs early, Hudson gets the win (he’s something like 146-1 in his career with a 3run lead or more).  Prediction: Atlanta in an easy victory.

So, i’m predicting two ties and all four teams in the WC chase to win.  Probably won’t happen this way, but so be it.  If all this happens, here’s what would probably go down for 1-game playoffs:

  • Boston would travel to Tampa Bay: Either Wakefield or Lackey would go on 3 days rest versus (likely) Neimann for Tampa.  I say likely since Neimann only went a couple innings in his last start.  Tampa could also go with Matt Moore, who only had 15 kis in his first 9 1/3 innings pitched in the majors.  Advantage clearly to Tampa Bay here; Boston can barely put together a playoff rotation right now, let alone guarantee a couple more wins this week.
  • Atlanta would travel to St. Louis: It would probably be Brandon Beachy vs Kyle Lohse.  Young strikeout guy versus crafty veteran.  I’d say advantage goes to St. Louis.  If St. Louis makes the playoffs watchout; they beat the Philles 6 out of 9 in the season series, have the pitching and have the managerial advantages to go far.

No matter who takes either wild card, they’re all at major disadvantages heading into the playoffs.  All four have burned their aces this week just to get to the final game and thus are only guaranteed one start in a playoff series from their best guy.  Meanwhile the division winners they’d likely face are all setting up their playoff rotations well.  Something to take into consideration for those that want to predict a wild-card divisional series winner.

I’m pretty excited for tonight actually.  How about you guys?

My Answers to Boswell’s Chat questions 9/26/11 edition

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After a week’s break (vacation?), Tom Boswell was back with his weekly chat on Monday 9/26/11 on all things DC sports related. He went at it for hours, starting around 9:30am and still taking questions well into the 1pm hour.

Here’s how I would have answered his Baseball/Nats related questions, with the “questions” edited for clarity here and with me answering prior to reading down to see his answer.

Q: Did Davey Johnson pull some bush-league moves by replacing his pitcher with 2 outs in the 9th inning of a 6-0 game?

A: Yeah, probably a little.  There had to be some context to the move unknown to the casual viewer.   Boswell didn’t know either, but will follow up.

Q: Is our young pitching going to be another Braves 1989 situation?

A: Man one can only hope so.  They say to “beware of results in September” and I agree, but man it isn’t hard to get excited watching 4 guys who were pitching in the minors in April throwing quality starts night after night.  And not just Quality starts, but 5-6 innings of shutout ball.  2012 looks to be more and more interesting by the day.  Boswell chides not to get tooooo excited, and quotes the FIPs of all these pitchers.  Fair enough.

Q: Just how close is this team, given its recent run over teams like Atlanta and Philadelphia?

A: Closer than we may have thought.  I think most of us were predicting 72-75 wins.  78 Wins with a hot baseball team going down to visit a not-so-hot one to finish out the season could very well end up with an 80-81 season.   Here’s this team’s record since arriving here:

  • 2005: 81-81
  • 2006: 71-91
  • 2007: 73-89
  • 2008: 59-102
  • 2009: 59-103
  • 2010: 69-93
  • 2011: 78-80 (with 3 games left)
The team improved 10 games from 2009 to 2010, and looks set to improve another 10 games or so in 2011.  If you turn in another 10 game improvement in 2012 suddenly you’re a 90 win team and you’re challenging for a wild card spot (The Braves are 89-70 and lead the NL wild card race by 1 game as of 9/25/11).  Now, improving from a .500 team to a .560 team is much tougher than going from a 59 win team to a 69 win team.  So 2012 may be really promising.  Teams can vastly improve; The Brewers may improve 20 games over last year.  But generally its a slow moving process.  Boswell talks about the vast pitching improvement and spends a lot of time talking about average mph of fastballs over the years.

Q: Thoughts on Moneyball?
A: Havn’t seen the movie but read the book.  I concur with a lot of Buzz Bissinger‘s anti-moneyball rant.  The book and its premise fail with two basic facts:
  1. There is scant credit given to the real source of the early 2000 A’s success; Their starting pitchers of Zito, Mulder and Harden Hudson.  All three home grown sure, but all 3 predating Billy Beane.
  2. The 2002 A’s “moneyball draft” was an abject failure, resulting in one decent-to-good player (Nick Swisher), one mediocre starting pitcher (Joe Blanton), one utility player (Mark Teahen) and 4 guys who never even made the majors (I am including Jeremy Brown here, who did make the majors and had a grand total of 10 at-bats).  I’m sorry; 7 first rounders or supp-1sts should have resulted in FAR more than what it did.  If anything the money-ball approach they took in this draft was proven to be absolutely wrong.

Thankfully, Boswell agrees.

Q: Can players like John Lannan be perpetual exceptions to stats guys, not the rule?

A: In certain cases sure.  Nyjer Morgan (a heavy bunter) will always have an artificially high BABIP.  Mariano Rivera (because he’s so frigging good) will always have artifically low BABIPs.  John Lannan?  Its hard to explain.  Year after year we have watched him put together decent-to-sneaky good seasons of > 100 ERA+, sub 4.00 ERAs.  But what about his advanced pitching stats?   Year after year his FIP has been a point or more higher than than his ERA.  This year is lesser so, but still the case where his Fip and xFip trend higher.  His k/9 is up, his bb/9 is up, his BABIP is normalized for the league (if anything slightly high).  I’m agreeing with the questioner; Lannan seems to be an exception outside the normal rules of FIP.  Boswell says that stats don’t get ground-ball pitchers who get a lot of GIDPs.  Hmm good point.

Q: Will the Nats win the World Series in 2013?

A: That’s a bold, bold prediction.  My personal prediction is just playoffs in 2013.  World Series is a tough draw; the first time this team hits the playoffs you’re going to see some starry-eyes, some “just happy to be here” moments.  It usually takes the 2nd time through the post season to give guys some stability.  Boswell agrees, and later on says that the team needs to extend Ryan Zimmerman.

Q: Would the Nats consider trading Clippard and/or Storen?

A: I personally hope not as a fan; these two guys are a huge part of why the bullpen has suddenly become one of the game’s best.  But, the truth is relievers are fungible assets that can be replaced rather easily (especially on the FA market, where there’s a TON of closers available this off season).  Boswell didn’t answer this part of the question.

Q: If Strasburg is going to have an IP limit, why not just wait to start him in June?

A: Because if you’re already 10 games under .500 by June, you’ve wasted your season anyway.  Boswell’s answer made me laugh: “you really need to become a Redskins fan.”

Q: Predict the Nats infield in 2013?

A: Morse at first, Rendon at 2nd, Espinosa at short and Zimmerman at third.  I’m guessing that Espinosa can ably cover shortstop while hitting 20-25 homers consistently, while Desmond will fetch a decent trade return.  Boswell predicts the exact same lineup.

Q: What do you make of David Ross (Braves catcher) quitting against Henry Rodriguez? [facing an 0-2 count, he attempted a bunt, tacitly admitting he had no shot of actually hitting his fastball]?

A: I don’t know what to make of it.  A major league hitter should be able to hit a 100mph fastball, and shouldn’t be playing if they couldn’t.  Maybe not hit it consistently, but at least have a puncher’s chance.  I havn’t seen someone so blatantly give up against a pitcher since high school (when we faced Pete Schourek and our lowly #8 and #9 hitters just flailed at his upper-80s fastball).  Boswell agrees.

Q: Comment further on Harper’s “being slowed” by AA pitching in the latter half of 2010?

A: I’d say that he finally got promoted to a level commensurate with his skills.  It makes you wonder if he started in the wrong level of A-ball.  AA pitchers are generally your team’s rising stars, your best prospects.  They’re the cream of the 4 levels of minor league ball below it.  It isn’t that big a worry that Harper struggled; lets just see how he adjusts next spring.  There could also be some fatigue factor going on; day in and day out baseball grind can be awful tough to adjust to for younger guys who are used to playing (at most) every few days in high school, or weekends only in amateur/traveling leagues.



GCL/Rookie Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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We’d like to get Jack McGeary back on the field, pitching. Photo via capitoldugout.com

The GCL rotation is always one of the most difficult to follow, with pitchers flowing regularly in and out of rehab sessions and starters sometimes throwing fewer innings than their relievers.  Our GCL roster was filled with 20-somethings, a result of a large influx of college pitchers via the draft the past couple of years.  Its also the natural entry point for DSL grads, who graduate from the island to Viera each spring.  And this year, our GCL team was *bad*.  We were just a half-game better than the worst team in the league and didn’t name a single player to Baseball America’s season-end top 20 prospects list.  Picking a name-sake was difficult, to say the least.

Here’s the status of the GCL pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Rotation: Baez 19, King 21, Encarnation 20, McGeary 22, Mieses 21
  • bullpen: Ferrer 21, Heredia 19, Herrera 21, Lucas 24, Simko 22, JSmith 21, CDavis 21, Peters 20, ASantana 20, Williams 21, Harper 21, Lee 21, Monar 20
  • Spot Starts: Medina 21
  • promotions: Cole and Ray (sort of), Meza, Karns, Hanks, McKenzie, Hawkins
  • Up-and-back: Medina
  • dl: Marcelino 18, Anderson 22
  • missing: Brazoban, Paredes

GCL starters.  The “rotation” started the season with Karns, Baez, Mieses, King, and Meza.  Here’s how these guys and the rest of the pitchers fared in 2011.

    • Nathan Karns finally looks healthy and spent most of the season in Auburn.  See the Short-A post for his review.
    • Gregory Baez is a DSL grad who looked pretty good this year; in 13 appearances (11 starts) he posted a 3.72 era.  Outlook for Next Season: rotation in Short-A.
    • Adalberto Mieses is another DSL grad who struggled this year, putting up a 6.75 era in 8 appearances and four starts.  Outlook for Next Season: repeating the GCL, perhaps in the rotation.
    • Brandon King struggled for the third consecutive year in GCL (though I believe he was hurt in 2010) after signing out of high school as a 27th rounder.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the GCL or out of the system.
    • Christian Meza got a “start” (one of the early games where two guys each threw 4 innings), pitched well and was promoted up to Auburn, where he played most of the season.  See the Short-A post for his review.
    • Pedro Encarnation finished his 2nd straight year in the GCL, failing badly in short-A and not posting very impressive stats in the rookie league.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the GCL or out of the system.
    • Silvio Medina appeared in short-A briefly but had 9 appearances (5 starts) for GCL.  He posted a 6.61 era in 32 2/3 innings.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the GCL.
    • Jack McGeary was probably the most important name to pass through the GCL, coming back from Tommy John surgery after a ballyhooed career thus far with the team.  On the bright side he looked sharp in 5 starts (2.81 era in 16 ip), and on the bad side he suffered a small injury that sent him to the DL to end the season.  He’s rule-5 eligible this off season but clearly is a reclamation project.  Lets just hope he can regain some form that earned him the big bonus out of high school.  Outlook for Next Season: Back in the Hagerstown rotation for one more shot at resurrecting his career.
    • Anthony Marcelino had a spot start and 3 appearances before going on the season-ending DL after graduating from the DSL.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, back in GCL.
    • Other starters who appeared: Matt Chico had a couple of starts while the team decided what to do with him.  Chris McKenzie had two ineffective starts before ending up back in Hagerstown to end the season.  Doug Slaten had one rehab start.

 

GCL Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season, and talk about other hurlers on the team.  Most of these sample sizes are so small (most of the relievers in the GCL only threw between 5-10 innings all summer), its hard to really pass judgement.  So we’ll group them by age/experience mostly.

  • SmithLee, Williams, Davis, Monar, Simko, and Harper should all be in the Short-A pen in 2012.
  • Herrera, Santana, Peters, Ferrer, Ramirez, and Schill probably all end back up in the GCL pen in 2012.
  • Bobby Lucas is a 2011 draftee out of GW who came out of college very old (he turned 24 in August).  He was very effective in the GCL but is well behind in his advancement based on his age.  Based on this we may see him pushed to start higher than his other GCL bullpen compatriots (probably low-A).
  • Mark Herrera is an interesting case; he was effective in short-A in 2010 but missed out on the level (perhaps coming off injury?)  He should clearly be in the mix to move higher than his other GCL teammates next year.
  • Patrick Arnold was demoted from Hagerstown out of spring, pitched a few effective innings then was released.  He was in his 4th pro season and just wasn’t advancing like he needed to.
  • Garrett Mock may have really been rehabbing, but his “assignment” to GCL and his extended stay said more about the pitcher’s future in the organization than one might think.  He was eventually DFA’d and accepted an assignment to AAA.
  • Other relievers (non-rehab) who put in GCL innings: Tyler Hanks ended the season in Auburn and should go back to Hagerstown for 2012.   Ben Hawkins did the same.  Christian Meza quickly moved up Auburn, where he ended the season in the short-A rotation mix.
  • Trevor Holder put in a bunch of “rehab” innings and was hit hard, indicative of his relative skill level once he returned to Potomac.

The further away from the majors, the harder it is to project these guys.  But hopefully we’ll see some GCL grads making their way up the system and having an impact.

Auburn/Short-A Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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Nathan Karns looks to resurrect a promising career. Photo via perfectgame.org

Because of life changes and lack of spare time, I stopped doing the daily reviews of the minor league pitching rotations in early august.  This was too bad, because I didn’t adequately track which 2011 draftees were placed with which team.  We’ll do some quick catch-up here.

Here’s the status of the Auburn pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Rotation: Estevez 19, MRodriguez 22, Meza (L) 21, Dupra 22, Karns 23, Hill 22
  • Bullpen: Kreis 22, Henke 22, Mirowski 22, Barrett 23, MRivera 24, Grisz 21, Hawkins (L) 21, Hanks 21, Bates 23
  • spot starts: Jenkins(L) 22, KLopez 21
  • promotions: Holland, Bronson (down and back), Holt, Demmin, CGarcia
  • up-and-back: Hanks, Bates
  • demotions: McKenzie (sort of), Encarnation, Monar

Auburn starters.  The rotation started the season with Demmin, Estevez, Encarnation, KLopez and Bates.

  • Ryan Demmin‘s short-A career was “short,” lasting 5 mostly good starts before being promoted up to high-A.  He eventually settled in Low-A and was reviewed thereOutlook for next season: (from high-A post): Potomac middle reliever.
  • Wirkin Estevez was the workhorse of the short-A squad, making 14 appearances (13 starts) and posting a respectable 4.01 era as one of the younger pitchers in the league as a 19yr old.  He was up and down in his starts; some good to great, some bad to awful.  He’ll need to be more consistent going forward to stay in the rotation.  Outlook for next season: The 2010 Dominican Summer League (DSL) grad should graduate to low-A, though I’m not sure there’s room for him in the rotation.  I’m guessing he’s a bullpen arm there.
  • Pedro Encarnation had three mostly bad starts before getting demoted to GCL.  We’ll review him there.
  • Kelvin Lopez, despite being one of the first starters through the rotation, was really just putting in a spot start and pitched mostly out of the bullpen.  He was relatively effective in the short season, posting a 3.65 era in 10 games and 24 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: Entering his 4th pro season he should feature in the Hagerstown bullpen, but the competition there will be crowded.  He had better numbers than most of his 2011 Hagerstown competition and should stick.
  • Colin Bates started hot in the rotation, got promoted after 7 starts, then floundered in Hagerstown before getting dumped back to Auburn in late august, where he worked out of the bullpen.  His ERA was good in short-A (2.25) and was an improvement over 2010, but he’s already old for the level and needs to improve for next year.  Outlook for next season: Potomac middle relief on a short leash.
  • Manny Rodriguez was one of the first 2011 draftees to appear in our system, signing quickly as a 10th round pick and pitching 50 innings over 14 appearances and 12 starts in Auburn.  Results?  2-3 with a 4.65 era in his first pro season.  Like a lot of guys coming off full college seasons, he seemed to tire in his late August starts.  Outlook for next season: Repeats Short-A as a starter.
  • Christian Meza started the season in the GCL, then was promoted after two appearances to join the Auburn rotation.  He had 10 starts and posted a 5.68 era in them.  Outlook for next season: with all the starter prospects we drafted in 2011, I think Meza drops to the bullpen and repeats Short-A in 2012.
  • Brian Dupra was another 2011 draftee (a Senior out of Notre Dame) who featured as predominantly a starter in Auburn.  He had better results than some of his draft day compatriots, posting a 4-4 record with a 3.46 era in 54 2/3 innings.  Outlook for next season: he starts the season in the Short-A rotation after staying behind in extended spring training.
  • Nathan Karns has been an enigma so far in his Nats career.  A 2009 draftee, he never appeared professionally after signing, then missed all of 2010 with an injury.  The team started him slow in 2011, giving him 5 starts in the GCL (where he didn’t allow a run over 18 innings while giving up just 2 hits), and then giving him another 8 good starts in Auburn, where he was a respectable 3-2 with a 3.44 era.  He was rather wild on the season, with nearly as many walks as strikeouts, but the promising arm drafted 2 years ago seems to be back.  Outlook for next season: He’ll compete for a rotation spot in Potomac but may settle for a bullpen role.
  • Taylor Hill was another 2011 draftee who featured in the Auburn staff, getting five late season starts after pitching out of the bullpen after signing.  His control was impeccable; 27Ks against just 3 walks in 31 innings, and his 5 starts were stellar; a 2.38 ERA in those appearances.  Outlook for next season: He was a college senior draftee and will play next year as a 23 yr old.  I think he’ll win a spot in the Potomac rotation out of spring.

Auburn Relievers:

  • A slew of 2010 and 2011 draftees pitched out of the Auburn bullpen and struggled.  Kreis, Henke, and Barrett each posted eras in the 4-5 range for the 2011 squad.  None of these guys were high round draft picks and were always meant to be primarily organizational guys unless proven otherwise.  Barrett was mostly used as the closer and had 32 ks in 26 innings, but also had a ton of walks and a 4.05 era.  Outlook for next season: All 3 back in Short-A bullpen.
  • Chad Jenkins survived his third pro season and put up good short-A numbers in a combo role of loogy and long relief.   Unfortunately he had more walks than strikeouts, and time may be running out for the 2009 17th rounder.  Outlook for next season: another shot at the Hagerstown bullpen, with the firing line if he can’t cut it in his 4th pro season.
  • Manuel Rivera is a long serving DSL grad finishing his 5th pro season in our system.  He put up good short-A numbers in a relief mode (3-0, 2.81 era in 20 appearances) and may be a Dominican Republic find.  Outlook for next season: he moves up to the Hagerstown bullpen to give full-season baseball a shot.
  • Mirowski, Grisz, Hawkins and Holt all pitched really well in the Auburn bullpen after being 2011 draftees (or in Grisz’ case a non-drafted FA find).   Holt was promoted up to Hagerstown and finished the season there.  Outlook for next season: all four could be in the mix for a full-season bullpen job, or could find themselves back in Short-A if they don’t make the team out of extended spring.
  • Tyler Hanks bounced around the low minors this year, pitching lights out in the GCL before struggling in low-A and ending the season in the short-A bullpen.  Outlook for next season: he should get another shot at the Hagerstown bullpen.
  • Others who appeared briefly: Christian Garcia was a waiver claim mid-season from the Yankees; he threw a bunch of good innings in Auburn before moving back where he belonged; AAA.  Blake Monar threw a few innings then decamped back for the GCL.  Lastly Silvio Medina did the same as Monar, pitching mostly out of the GCL.

Its hard to predict where a lot of these guys will end up; the team drafted SO many arms in 2011, mostly older college guys, that we may very well see a ton of churn in the bullpens of Hagerstown, Potomac and Auburn for next year.  Plus we’ll have a new wave of rizing DSL stars and 2012 signees to consider once these teams are put together.  So predictions are tough.

Nats Rotation Cycle #32: good/bad/soso

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After Wang's latest gem, perhaps he'll be in a Nats uniform a bit longer? Photo via the team.

Good

  • Tommy Milone efficiently worked his way through a Ryan Howard-less Philadelphia lineup in the first half of  9/20′s twin-bill (box/gamer) for the easy victory.  Line: 6 scoreless innings giving up just 4 hits and no walks.  He was matched by Philly’s spot starter Kyle Kendrick so he got a no-decision on the day.
  • Brad Peacock looked pretty durn good on 9/22 (box/gamer) to help the team sweep the Phillies away.  5 2/3 innings, giving up just one hit (on a somewhat questionable scoring call giving Ruiz a hit and an error on a diving stop but errant throw from Ryan Zimmerman).   He absolutely dominated the lineup through 5, finishing those 5 innings on just 50 pitches.  He gave up a ton of fly balls (small quibble: as with last week he had 9 flyball outs versus just 2 grounders), but lots of the fly ball outs were pop-ups on balls where he simply overmatched the hitter.  He struggled in the 6th, seemingly trying to aim the ball versus Oswalt and ending up with a 4-pitch walk.  He couldn’t be tired; he was only on about 55 pitches at that point.  After giving up a second walk (losing the at-bat after having Rollins down 0-2), he got a flyball out before getting yanked on just 69 pitches on the night.  Had he been left in, he could probably have gone 8 complete, but Davey decided on a lefty-lefty matchup and brought in Gorzelanny to finish off the rally.  I’m still taking the “glass is half empty” analysis here, but Peacock looked pretty good.
  • Chien-Ming Wang put an exclamation point on his comeback season, getting the win on 9/24 (box/gamer) and dominating the Atlanta Braves, who (unlike the Phillies) were certainly playing a full-strength roster.  Final line: 6ip, 4 hits 1 run (on a solo shot in the 5th) and 4 strike-outs versus zero walks.  He was only sitting on 85 pitches and could probably have gone at least one more inning easily.  He had a 9/3 go/fo out ratio, showing his sinker working well.  I wonder how negotiations are going to go with Wang in the off season (per this report here … maybe we won’t even get to the off season if the team and Wang are already talking an extension.  Great news if this is true).
  • You can’t ask for much more than Ross Detwiler did on the game’s final home game of the year on 9/25 (box/gamer), just pitch 6 scoreless innings and give a shutout to his bullpen.  Line: 6ip, 4hits, 2 walks and 4ks against a Braves team that is hanging on to the playoffs for dear life.  His day was highlighted not by dominance, but by his getting out of a bases-loaded, 0 out and 3-0 count jam without giving up a run.  He got a bloop, a flyball and a grounder out of Chipper Jones to finish off the threat and preserve the victory.  Another great statement game for Detwiler going into 2012.

Bad

  • Stephen Strasburg really struggled to be comfortable on the mound in the first inning on 9/23 (box/gamer), getting touched up for 3 runs on 4 hits (all singles but a couple hit on the nose) and facing 8 hitters before getting his 3rd out of the game.  He was missing spots, fiddling with the mound, fiddling with his landing spot, shaking his hand and going to the resin bag over and again before getting out of the inning.  He then cruised through the next three innings, facing just one over the minimum before getting yanked.  His rough first inning cost him his 5th inning; he was sitting at 75 pitches through four.  He was somewhat controlling his speed, averaging 95.5 and humping it up to 97.6 on several occasions.  His change-up was fantastic on the night, if his four-seam control was off.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan got the win on 9/21 (box/gamer) on somewhat of an off day for him; 5ip, 8hits, 3runs.  Not a great outing, but enough to get his 10th win of the season.

Starter Trends; Its hard to give some of these starts just a “good” rating, especially when you give the team 6 scoreless innings (as Milone and Detwiler did).

2nd half
Milone    bad,soso,good,good
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad,soso,soso
Strasburg    great,soso,good,bad
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso,great,good
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso,soso,good,good
Peacock    good,good,great

Relievers of Note and other News

  • I love the fact that 9/21′s win over Philadelphia guaranteed at least a season-split with them, and then we went and took the season series the next day.  That’s right; the Nats won the season series against the best team in the majors.
  • Likewise, 9/25′s win over Atlanta split the season series with them 9-9.
  • Is anyone else worried about the Nats losing a protected 1st round pick with this late season surge?   Here’s your reverse standings (normally a point of extreme interest for Nats fans looking to wrap up the first overall pick).  I guess its a good problem to have, but it will give the team some pause if they go after a type-A free agent.
  • I havn’t always been the biggest Henry Rodriguez proponent, but I’ll give credit where credit is due.  His 7th inning appearance on 9/25/11 was perhaps the most dominant 3 outs I’ve seen a reliever throw this season.  He was dialed in on his fastball, in complete control and absolutely overpowering hitters.  He punched out Jason Heyward on a pitch that was in the glove before he swung, then got the opposing catcher to actually attempt a bunt with 2 strikes.  He then put two 101-mph pitches on Jack Wilson before throwing an 88-mph hook to end the inning that had me saying “holy cow” to my TV screen.  JP Santangelo said it best; “that may have been the best inning i’ve seen a reliever throw all year.I concur.

Overall Summary

Here’s an “arbitrary endpoint” statistic; since Livan Hernandez‘s last start on Sept 4th, the team is 14-6.  Livan and Jason Marquis‘ starts have been replaced by guys who are making pretty good statements for 2012′s rotation, and the team is doing this without Jordan Zimmermann‘s stellar #2 starter capabilities.  Maybe 2012 is going to be more than the last transition year for this team.  I’m starting to believe in these up and coming starters.  Masn put up a graphic that showed our starters having the #1 ERA in the majors for the past few weeks and it has shown.

New Theme!

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So, after leaving this blog with the default WordPress theme for the past 18 months, I finally got around to figuring out why I couldn’t install themes automatically from the admin dashboard and put in a new one.

I like the fonts and the way pictures are presented here, and there’s more stuff in the side bar.  I still don’t have a twitter plugin (which i’d like but isn’t really that necessary frankly … the only time i tweet is to put in links back to this site), and I don’t use tags in the articles, so a tag cloud won’t work (a future todo item), but the theme looks good.

The one quibble I have, and I may need to keep looking for new themes, is that sometimes I cut and paste xls data into the blog and it looks bad in the thin column formats.  I may look for a wider blog format.  Look at all the wasted space to the left here; I could use that for content and the blog postings would probably be an easier read….

Written by Todd Boss

September 25th, 2011 at 12:59 am

Posted in Non-Baseball

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Hagerstown/Low-A Pitching Staff year in Review; 2011

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Despite injury issues, Taylor Jordan was your best low-A starter this year. Photo via wffn.net/hueytaxi on flikr.com

(4th in a series looking at all the minor league levels of pitching.  AAA, AA and High-A links).

The Hagerstown rotation was one of real interest all season, with teenage prospects AJ Cole and Robbie Ray both holding down spots, with 2010 2nd rounder Sammy Solis putting in his Nats debut, and with unexpected performances from unexpected players.

Here’s the status of the Hagerstown pitching staff at the end of the season (ages are as of 9/30/11)

  • Starters:  Cole 19, Ray (L) 19, Grace (L) 22, Demmin (L) 23, Swynenberg 22
  • Bullpen: SBrown 24, Eusebio 23, McCatty 24, Holt, Graham 23, Weaver 23, McKenzie 22
  • spot starts:  Applebee(L) 23
  • promotions: Bronson (sort of), Selik, Solis, Holland
  • up-and-back: Weaver
  • demotions:  Jenkins(L) 23, Bates 21
  • dl: McGeary 22, Jordan 22, Hansen (L) 21
  • cut/released/traded: Hicks (traded), Ott, Vasquez, Erb, Garcia, Gibson, Manno (traded), Arnold

Hagerstown starters.  The rotation started the season with Selik, Grace, McKenzie, Hansen and Jordan.  Here’s how these guys and the rest of the pitchers fared in 2011.

  • Cameron Selik was a revelation, giving up just one run in his first 29 innings pitched before earning his promotion to high-A.  This after not even being on the radar after his quiet debut in short-A in 2010.  Outlook for next season (from high-A post): starting in the High-A rotation with an eye towards moving upwards.
  • Matt Grace was the sole starter in the Hagerstown corps who lasted the entire year in the rotation.  Unfortunately, he was merely average most of the year before tailing off badly with some really bad starts in August which really spoiled his lines. Final season stats: 12-7, 5.17 era.  He gave up a LOT of hits (169 in 132 innings).   Outlook for next season: I’d guess he competes for the high-A rotation, but may be converted to a bullpen arm.
  • Christopher McKenzie had a very rough 2011, posting nearly a 7.00 ERA in 13 appearances (10 starts).  He struggled early, lost his rotation spot when the teenage duo of Ray/Cole were placed on the squad, had a couple of DL trips and ended the season by putting in a couple of starts in late August.  This is the 2nd year in a row that McKenzie had a very ugly ERA number; somehow I doubt there will be a 3rd year lasting through the season with numbers that high.   He does have youth on his side though; he doesn’t turn 22 until December.  Outlook for next season: his age and experience put him in the high-A bullpen, but if he can’t get his ERA into respectable figures he will be released.
  • Bobby Hansen was an enigma this year; he went 5-1 in 10 early season starts with a 4.10 era (most of that sullied by a 6 run first inning in a one-off mid-April start), then suddenly he was pulled from the rotation.  After a number of weeks he was placed on the DL and resided there the rest of the season.  Commenters here pointed out that he was “hurt” and was going to be “out for a while” but I’m not sure official word ever came down.  Outlook for next season: get healthy, then get back into the low-A rotation.  He’s young and he has time to move up with good performance.
  • Taylor Jordan put together the start of a great season in the Hagerstown rotation, going 9-4 with a 2.48 era in 18 appearances (17 starts).  However, he went on the DL in early July and never made it off.  Like Hansen, we struggled with information on the injury.   Outlook for next season: same as Hansen: get healthy and get back into the Low-A rotation.
  • AJ Cole surprisingly joined up the full season low-A team (as opposed to my guess of pitching in the GCL as a 19-yr old) in May and at times showed the upper-end ceiling he has, and the reason he earned such over-slot money as a 4th rounder in 2010.   He exceeded expectations through May and June, then fatigued in July and August, dragging down his season stats.  On the year: 4-7, 4.04 era but most importantly a 108/24 k/bb ratio in just 89 innings as one of the youngest arms in low-A.   Not a bad first pro season.  Outlook for next season: I’d guess he starts again in Low-A, looking for more consistency before moving up.
  • Robbie Ray joined the team the same time as Cole, but frankly out-impressed his more heralded 2010 draftee.  For weeks Ray was pitching as if he were wise beyond his years, and though he also tired in August (especially in his last two starts, which raised his season era from 2.31 to 3.13) his season can only be considered a great success.  Final numbers: 2-3, 3.13 era and 95/38 k/bb in 89 IP.  Outlook for next season: Same as Cole; I think he starts in low-A again with an eye towards a quick move upwards.
  • Ryan Demmin was an undrafted 2010 FA who pitched lights out in short-A but who couldn’t handle the jump to High-A.  Upon his eventual arrival in Hagerstown he entered the rotation and pitched pretty effectively; 3-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 5 starts.   For some reason he was dumped back out of the rotation in late August and ended the year with a few relief appearances.  Across 3 levels he was 8-2 with a 4.25 era with pretty good k/9 numbers.  Outlook for next season: I’m guessing he’s destined for the bullpen; his k/9 as a lefty bodes well for his future.  Potomac middle reliever.
  • Matt Swyndenberg improved in his 3rd pro season, still relatively young for the level but putting up good numbers.  He toiled out of the bullpen in long relief for most of the summer, posting a 2.66 ERA in 50 innings across 20 appearances.  When he got a chance to start, he was up and down, with some good and some bad starts and a 4.67 ERA split.  He’s not a big time K/9 guy and seems destined to try to make it as a reliever moving forward.  Outlook for next season: Potomac middle-relief.
  • Paul Applebee served as the long-man/spot starter all season, picking up 72 relief innings and another 24 2/3 in 5 spot starts.   He repeated low-A in 2011 and improved marginally.  He was a 10th rounder out of college in 2009 and needs to move up.   Outlook for next season: Potomac middle-relief, perhaps a similar long-man/spot starter role.
  • Shane McCatty got one spot start in the middle of the season, a high point for his otherwise unimpressive year.   A 6.63 era in 57 (mostly) relief innings is a distinct decline from his numbers at the same level last year.   Unfortunately Nepotism is at play here; if it weren’t for his last name, he may have already been released.  Outlook for next season: As with McKenzie, the low-A bullpen looks to filled with rising arms from Auburn and the GCL. I’m guessing he moves to the Potomac bullpen with a short leash.

Hagerstown Relievers: taking a look at the relief corps at the end of the season, and talk about other hurlers on the team.

  • Most of Hagerstown’s relievers were, well, bad.  Eusubio, Brown, Weaver, and Holt all sported ERAs at the 5.00 level or above in various amounts of innings.   Bates, Jenkins and Hanks were each demoted mid-season (though Bates made it back to low-A at the end of the season).  Outlook for next season: all of them need to show they can product in low-A before moving on.
  • Neil Holland earned a promotion to Potomac where he was even better than in low-A.  Outlook for next season: (from high-A post): moving on up again, starting in the AA bullpen.
  • Fan Favorite Christopher Manno put up consistently ridiculously good numbers in a late-innings/closer role for Hagerstown before being packaged in the Jonny Gomes deal.  We wish him well.
  • After Manno was traded, Ben Graham took over in the shared-closer role and pitched well enough.  He was 4-4 with a 3.30 era in 46 relief innings.  He’s another non-drafted FA after the 2010 draft that may add value to the organization.   Outlook for next season: middle-relief in Potomac.


Nats Rotation Cycle #31: good/bad/soso

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Detwiler is really making a statement for his inclusion in the 2012 rotation. Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

We’re getting down to the wire; There’s only three more of these posts coming, because the rotation only makes 3 more passes before the season is over.  Because of the off-day on 9/19 and the double-header 9/20, Milone pitched BEFORE Detwiler’s start in this “cycle” so the end of cycle #31 bleeds over into the beginning of cycle #32.

Good

  • Tommy Milone looked great on 9/15 (box/gamer), shutting down a weak NY Mets offense and getting his first MLB victory.  The Mets started 5 guys who were on their AAA roster a month ago, so its somewhat difficult to get a read on Milone’s capabilities on the day.  But he did go 5 2/3, gave up 1 run on 3 hits with 3 walks (one intentional).  The walks are surprising; Milone’s calling card and the way he’ll survive is by NOT allowing walks.
  • Day 3 of the return of Stephen Strasburg on 9/17 (box/gamer) went much better for the kid; his velocity was back, he was efficient (6ip on 61 pitches), he was accurate (0 walks and 45 of 61 pitches for strikes) and he was dominant (1 run on 4 hits and 3 Ks).  Can’t ask for much more than that.  Too bad he got a no-decision as his offense couldn’t get him more than one run against the Marlin’s #5 starter Volstad.
  • Ross Detwiler put in perhaps his best start in a Nats uniform in the back side of 9/20′s double header (box/gamer), holding an (admittedly weaker) Phillies lineup to just 3 hits over 7 1/3.  Ross was sitting on just 81 pitches when departing in the 8th, efficiently working through the lineup.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan bounced back from a poor start last week with an improved on on 9/16 (box/gamer).  6ip, 3runs on 8 hits and a walk.  I think we know what we have in Lannan by now, and I’m sure he feels lonely as the sole remaining rotation guy from opening day.
  • A 7th inning homer turned Chien-Ming Wang‘s 9/18 start (box/gamer) from a good one to just merely a run of the mill quality start, but there’s definite promise in Wang’s performances as of late.  He went 6 2/3, gave up 3 runs on 6 hits with zero walks and 5 Ks.  Two homers hurt the sinkerballer.

Starter Trends

Milone    bad,soso,good
Lannan    good,good,bad,soso,good,bad,bad,good,soso,good,bad,soso
Strasburg    great,soso,good
Detwiler    soso,soso,good,good,bad,bad,soso,great
Wang        bad,bad,great,soso,soso,good,bad,soso,soso,soso
Peacock    good

Relievers of Note and other News

  • (not much in the way of links and notes here; I was gone all weekend and just did very rudimentary reviews.  A future post is in the works for my weekend trip, which will be of significant interest to baseball fans).
  • Drew Storen gets two saves in one day on 9/20: that’s pretty rare in this modern age of innings limits and coddling relievers.
  • Quick report that the team is scouting FA-to-be CJ Wilson.   The 2011 off season FA market is so thin on quality starting pitching that Wilson, who has had two pretty good seasons after pitching in relief the early part of his career, may be the leading starter out there on the market (i’m not counting CC Sabathia, who almost certainly opts out and re-signs for more money).  One complication: Wilson will be a Type-A free agent, costing the Nats a pick.  And guess what?  This little end-of-the-season run now has the team perilously close to having a non-protected first round draft pick.  Is CJ Wilson worth giving up the 16th overall pick in the draft?