Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for June, 2012

Nationalsarmrace.com System Maintenance Notice

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We're moving! Clipart via movingvans.blogspot.com

Hello readers!

As an fyi, the site will be taken down over this 6/23-6/24 weekend at some point as we physically re-locate the computer that it runs upon.  Do not be alarmed if you surf to the site over the next few days and get a 404 error.  We’re not going away;we’re just moving.

Technical details for those interested: we host www.nationalsarmrace.com (and a slew of other domain names, including bossconsulting.com, my personal email domain) on a 1-U pizza box running Free BSD out of my home.  I have 13 static IPs flowing into the house, and we NAT them through the fios router to support multiple virtual servers on the box.  We run 2 domain name servers, web, mail, filestore, and a mysql database to go along with at least 6 domain names (and possibly more; the cluster technically belongs to a former colleague of mine who hosts projects for his neesd as I do).  After 10 years, I’m moving and needed a hosting solution.  I just couldn’t run servers out of my home anymore so we’re moving the servers temporarily to a rack-space that my colleague controls and maintains, with the eventual desire to move the services to a managed cloud somewhere.

My big challenge is less with this site (its basic wordpress, seemingly hostable at most any where) as it is with bossconsulting.com, which hosts a large historical searchable database of professional racquetball matches (my other passion).  I need an email solution and a webserver like most people, but I also need a mysql database AND the web CGI ability to run old-school perl code against it.  The site is www.bossconsulting.com/irt for those interested; I havn’t updated the static docs for the end of the 2011-12 season yet.  If anyone has any recommended hosting solutions for this cluster I’d be happy to hear them.

Thanks, see you again soon, Todd

Written by Todd Boss

June 23rd, 2012 at 9:24 am

Posted in Non-Baseball

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Rays not exactly Fundamental

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After watching the Nats take 2 of 3 from the Rays this week, I’m left with one major thought: The Rays are one of the worst fundamental baseball teams I’ve seen play here.  For all the rumors of how Joe Maddon is a genius, his team certainly made mistake after mistake defensively.  Just in the 3rd inning of the game tonight they made three basic defensive mistakes:

- BJ Upton failed to properly prepare himself to throw home after catching a sac fly and was (for some inexplicable reason) surprised to see Danny Espinosa tagging up and scoring easily.

- Carlos Pena took a cut-off throw and failed to pay any attention to Ian Desmond, who alertly scampered to 2nd base without a throw.

- Matt Moore didn’t pay frankly any attention to Espinosa while on second base, allowing a double steal to occur, both runners of which eventually scored and proved to be the lead-changing runs that turned the game.

The Rays are the 2nd worst team in terms of errors in the league.  There’s specific questions about the constant shifts put in play by Maddon against players not necessarily known as pull hitters.   Their current third basemen situation is atrocious; a throwing error in the first game, a simple catch missed in the 2nd game (when Bryce Harper ran from 2nd on a ball to the shortstop) and a fielding error in the 3rd game.  Yes I know they’re missing Evan Longoria … but the Nats are missing their highest paid player right now too in Jayson Werth.  And, they clearly are pushing the limits of the rulebook as evidenced by the Joel Peralta pine-tar incident.

The Rays were probably lucky to avoid the sweep frankly; they got a win with their ace David Price giving up 4 runs in 7 innings while our soon-to-be-demoted #5 starter Chien-Ming Wang conspired to give away a game possibly for the last time for this team as a starter.

Seems to me the Rays need to tighten up their professionalism.

Thoughts about the Peralta Pine Tar incident

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Joel Peralta tips his cap in mock respect after getting tossed for having "an excess of pine tar" in his glove. Photo Patrick McDermott/Getty Images via bleacherreport

While watching the Nats game tonight, the broadcast team of Bob Carpenter and JP Santangelo posted the following quote (as referenced in several of the beat reporters columns earlier today):

“Just looking down the road, if I’m a major league player that may happen to want to come to play for the Nationals in the future, I might think twice about it, under the circumstances,” Maddon said before Wednesday’s game. “Because this is a guy, this is one of their former children here that had really performed well and all of sudden he’s going to come back to this town and they’re going to rat on him based on some insider information.”

The MASN broadcast team also relayed a follow-up to this quote, mentioning that a beat reporter that they had not “seen before” asked Joe Maddon a very probing, intelligent question.  As transcribed from the MASN broadcast:

“Well, your guy was the one who was caught.  A lot of people are talking about the fact that you’re trying to deflect the blame to the to the other team across the diamond.”

Maddon apparently blew off the question, didn’t ask it and challenged the questioner whether or not he covered baseball on a regular basis.  These quotes somewhat disappointed me; I have a lot of respect for Maddon by virtue of stories about him in Jonah Keri‘s excellent book “The Extra 2%,” about the rise of Tampa Bay.  Perhaps he’s indeed trying to deflect blame and control the story.  But I think Maddon does the exact same thing, if he’s in the same situation.

Last night’s gamesmanship was probably unnecessary, but a move that you have to make in the right situation.  Yes the Nats probably were aware of the fact that Peralta had a tendency to overdo the pine tar, by virtue of his playing for our team a couple years ago.  Was last night an odd time to cash in that particular chip?  The team was losing, but the game was close, and Peralta is clearly a great asset out of the Rays bullpen.  In fact, it surprised me to see the team not pursue signing Peralta after his excellent 2010 season for us.

Perhaps the message was meant more for Peralta; who knows what type of departure he had from the team.  But you would have to think that if the team still respected him as a player, instead of trying to get him ejected perhaps Davey Johnson would have taken the same route that Tony LaRussa did in the 2006 world series, when hurler Kenny Rogers clearly had pine tar all over his throwing hand, a fact that became clear when the high definition cameras caught him throwing in the first inning.

The fact is, when its hot out and you’re sweating, getting a grip on the baseball can be very difficult.  I certainly use pine tar heavily when I play to get an extra grip on the bat.  I have certainly played with pitchers who had a secret stash of pine tar “hidden” within their glove in order to get an extra snap on the curve.  Is this a violation of baseball’s rules?  Of course it’s against the stated rules.  The question is whether it is as egregious a transgression as (say) stealing signs or sneaking a peak at the catcher’s signs.

Much like a football player moving teams and taking along insider information on formations and trade secrets, inside information either brought to or left with teams can put managers in a tough situation.  Billy Martin was well aware of George Brett‘s proclivity to over-tar his bat, and he waited until a key game situation (i.e., a go-ahead homer) to cash in that particular chip.  Clearly Johnson made the decision to use the information he had on hand, last night in a key late-inning situation.

What do you guys think?  Bush league move?  Good use of information?

Lidge DFA and a bullpen unravelling

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Lidge just couldn't regain his past glory with the Nats. Photo unknown via baseballasreligion blog

I was mildly surprised to see the news wire report today before the Nats-Yanks series finale; the Nats have designated Brad Lidge for assignment.  Not because Lidge didn’t “earn” this release; his numbers on the season are abysmal for a mid-to-late innings reliever (9 1/3 IP, 12 hits and ELEVEN walks for a ridiculous WHIP of 2.46.  And not because Lidge was singularly involved with both of the Yankess losses this weekend (he allowed Gio Gonzalez‘s inherited runner to score before allowing another three runs in on friday night, then wasting six shutout innings from his fellow bullpen members by giving up 3 hits and a walk in the 14th inning yesterday).

I say I’m mildly surprised because I honestly thought the next guy to get the axe out of our suddenly struggling bullpen would be the curiously called-up Mike Gonzalez, who may have decent ancillary numbers so far (no runs in 4 IP over 6 games) but he’s allowed a Doug Slaten-esque 4 of 9 inherited runners to score, including 2 in friday night’s bullpen implosion as well.  Gonzalez seemed to be a two week solution, signed off waivers only to provide cover until we got a couple of arms back off of the DL.  I certainly didn’t expect him to be seeing as much game action as he has lately.

The Nats are starting to see the real effects of losing two of their three best arms (Storen and Rodriguez); guys who should be the 5th or 6th guys out of the pen are now the 1st and 2nd guys out of the pen.  Clippard, who was doing just fine as the best 8th inning guy in baseball (he did lead the majors in Holds in 2011) now is, well not “wasted” as the closer but certainly not doing what he does best; being the guy who cleans up and fixes the highest leverage situations.

More to the point the team faces now; the loss of Storen and Rodriguez, as well as the trickle-down effects of stashing Ross Detwiler in the bullpen so the (so far) inferior Chien-Ming Wang can continue to put up sub-replacement player numbers out of the #5 starter role, combined with the presence of THREE swing-men/ex-starters (Gorzelanny and Stammen to go along with Detwiler) means that suddenly our bullpen has found itself ill-prepared to face the challenges that it was meant to face.  We really only had four true back-of-the-bullpen relievers who could close out games.

The team needs Ryan Mattheus back, now (Editor’s Note; about 2 minutes after I penned this the team announced that Mattheus was, indeed, back).  I know plantar fasciitis is painful but, hey, this is the majors.  Get a cortisone shot and get back out there.  We also need to think about giving some minor league arms a chance.  Or making a trade for some bullpen help.  Maybe we can flip one of our swing-men for a back of the bullpen arm from a team that needs starter help (Colorado anyone?)

The team’s still in first place, a third of the way through the season.  With no reason to think we can’t maintain the lead now that our big hitters are back and getting healthier.  We need to shore up this problem so it doesn’t derail the progress this team has made.

College World Series Preview/Regionals Recap

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(note: you must visit www.d1baseball.com, your absolute best resource for all things college baseball).

With the completion of the final Super Regional games yesterday, including the exciting last game of Super Regionals where Arkansas scored in the top of the 10th to beat #4 seed Baylor 1-0, the 2012 College World Series (CWS) field is set.  Four of your top eight national seeds made it to Omaha (Florida, UCLA, Florida State and South Carolina).  First, a recap of the Regional action

Regional Recap

Regional winners.

  • #1 Florida
  • #16 NC State (in a slight “upset” over SEC power house Vanderbilt)
  • Unseeded Oklahoma (over #9 seed UVA and ranked team Appalachian State)
  • #8 South Carolina
  • #5 Oregon
  • Kent State (over #12 Purdue and highly regarded Kentucky; see more below)
  • Arkansas (over #13 Rice, probably slightly overrated as they always seem to be)
  • #4 Baylor
  • #2 UCLA
  • TCU over #15 Texas A&M
  • Stony Brook over #10 Miami and 20th ranked UCF
  • #7 LSU
  • St. Johns over #6 seed UNC
  • #13 Arizona
  • #14 Stanford
  • #2 Florida State

10 of the 16 teams went chalk in the regionals.  The 16 Regional tournaments featured only one “major” upset, with #6 national seed Chapel Hill getting upset by the unheralded St. Johns.  Local favorites UVA (the #9 national seed) went up against a tough region and came out short, falling early to Appalachian State before Oklahoma took the regional.  Other “seeds” that lost in the Regional round were #12 Purdue (to Kent State), #13 Rice (to Arkansas), #10 Miami (to Stony Brook) and #15 Texas A&M (to TCU).

Of these lower seeds, clearly Miami was over-rated (BA ranked #23 but getting a 10th seed) and went up against what most people called “the best #4 seed in the history of the tournament” in Stony Brook, a team that boasted the best record in the nation and was at the bottom end of the BA top 25 rankings at season’s end.  Texas A&M was probably well seeded but had a pretty non-descript record against fellow top-25 teams and wasn’t a surprise to get upset.  Lastly the Purdue regional; lots and lots of press about how Kentucky was “screwed” out of a top seed (BA ranked #11, 12-6 against top 25 teams and clearly playing in a tougher conference than Purdue).  However, as with the infamous UVA/San Diego State/UC Irvine regional a couple years ago, all that complaining went for naught as a surprise team (Kent State) ended up winning the regional.  Both Stony Brook and Kent State eventually showed they were no fluke … as we saw in the Super Regionals.

Super Regional Results/Recap

  • #1 Florida d #16 NC State
  • #8 South Carolina d Oklahoma
  • Kent State d #5 Oregon
  • Arkansas d #4 Baylor
  • #2 UCLA d TCU
  • Stony Brook d #7 LSU
  • #13 Arizona d St. Johns
  • #2 Florida State pounded #15 Stanford

Baseball America had great previews of the super regionals in two parts here and here.

The three best teams in the land (Florida, Florida State and UCLA) each advanced with some ease.  Florida State in particular pounded two of the better college pitchers out there in Stanford’s Mark Appel (#8 overall drafted) and National’s 3rd rounder Brett Mooneyham en route to two blow-out wins.  They look tough.

#8 national seed and two-time defending champion South Carolina advanced to the CWS for the 3rd straight year but fall on the side of Florida, who cruised through their regional and played most of their season against ranked opponents (18-10 on the year against BA top 25 teams).  This looks like it will be a dog fight, as South Carolina ace Mike Roth continues to defy the odds and get wins despite not having top-of-the-draft stuff.

The greatest stories out of College Baseball though belong to Stony Brook and Kent State (Stony Brook was featured today in a story by SI’s Joe Lemire).  Both teams not only made their first super regional appearance but also make their first ever College World Series appearance.   To have two such teams in the CWS is great for the sport and is reminiscent of the great Fresno State run to the title a few years back as a similar #4 seed.  By way of comparison; a #4 regional seed winning it all is somewhat akin to a #13 or worse seed winning the entire NCAA basketball tournament.  We all go nuts when a mid-major makes the final four … as GMU did as “only” an #11 seed.  The highest ever seed to WIN the NCAA tournament was #8 Villanova in a cocaine-driven upset of Georgetown.  I think both cinderellas will meet their match in the CWS, but its still a great story.

CWS Predictions

Group 1: Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kent State

Group 2: UCLA, Stony Brook, Arizona, Florida State

Top Half: I think Florida will outlast South Carolina in the upper half.   Arkansas isn’t to be counted out though; they beat Florida 2/3 AT Florida this season, but lost two of three against South Carolina.  I’m guessing South Carolina handles Arkansas before showing up depleted and getting run over by the #1 team in the country.  Kent State continues to just be happy to be there.

Lower Half:  Florida State has already shown it can bombard a Pac-10 team (UCLA lost 2 of 3 at home to Stanford in the regular season), whil Arizona and Stony Brook seem like also-rans.

Final: All things considered, an all-Florida, ACC/SEC challenge for the title is fitting, since those are easily the two best conferences.  Florida rides its extensive experience against top teams and wins the title.

Written by Todd Boss

June 13th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Too many injury concerns in Nats recent drafts?

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As most Nats fans know by now, the team took a big risk and drafted prep RHP Lucas Giolito in the first round despite his having suffered a sprained Ulnar Collateral Ligament (that of Tommy John surgery fame) this spring.   Most pundits have stated the obvious; this is a high risk, high reward pick for sure.  Baseball America loves the pick, as did the notoriously prickly Keith Law.

The team left two rather big names on the board by making this pick, namely Chris Stratton and Devin Marrero.  Marrero’s stock has dropped considerably this season after mashing his first two years in college, while Stratton’s stock has risen mightily and seemed to fit Mike Rizzo‘s typical MO for drafting; big powerful college arms that are close to the majors.

Here’s the question; was this TOO much of a risk?  Anthony Rendon fell to us in 2011 after being the consensus 1-1 pick in his draft class for nearly two years after suffering multiple injuries in college.  And it didn’t take him but about a week of professional games before suffering yet another leg injury, one that (depending on who you ask) seems set to sideline him for the entirety of the 2012 pro season (with the off-chance of returning for the Arizona Fall League).  Meanwhile the team took an even bigger gamble on Matthew Purke, a lefty starter with shoulder concerns in college that have continued into the pros (he was kept in extended spring training for nearly 2 months, having only recently made his pro debut in low-A, where he promptly got hammered).  Small sample sizes, I know.  But stats are stats.

Giolito, if healthy, was in the mix for 1-1.  As was Purke.  As was Rendon.  All three fell because of injury concerns.  So clearly these are top-end talents, each individually worth the risk.  But all three within two draft classes?

There seem to be two common mantras in baseball drafting; You don’t draft for need, and Get the Best Player Available.  Right now the Nats need hitting, both at the MLB level and throughout its farm system.  Maybe the team didn’t like what it saw out of Marrero, or maybe the team is convinced that Giolito’s injury was nothing major and feels like they got a massive steal as the best player on the board at #16 overall.  Fair enough; i’m certainly not privy to Rizzo’s interviews or Giolito’s medical records.  But if none of these three guys pan out, the Nats are looking at a pretty gaping draft hole rising through its system within a few years.

Agree?  Disagree?

Written by Todd Boss

June 5th, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Injuries lead to call-ups lead to Difficult Roster Decisions.

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Got word this morning that the team is optioning the ineffective Ryan Perry back to AAA and bringing up veteran minor league FA signing Mike Gonzalez to take his place.  Luke Erickson notes the fact that 40-man member Atahualpa Severino was bypassed for this move, despite not requiring a subsequent 40-man roster move (the team transfered Drew Storen to the 60-day DL to make room).

This is the latest in a flurry of additions to the 40-man roster necessitated by a freak rash of injuries, and eventually will make for some rather difficult roster moves after the season is over.  As it stands right now, the team is now technically sitting at 45 guys on the 40-man roster (40 active or 15-day DL, 5 on the 60-day DL), meaning that at a minimum after the season 5 guys are going to have to make way.  Yes we have some free agents that will come off the books, but you generally need to operate your 40-man roster with some room to maneuver, especially considering some of the big prospect names that are going to be Rule-5 eligible this coming off-season (just to name a few; Danny Rosenbaum, Jeff Kobernus and Destin Hood).

Makes you wonder how the team feels about the two Major League contracts they handed out last draft?  Anthony Rendon is injured and likeout out for the season (again)  Matthew Purke only just got out of extended spring training to record his first start in Low-A.

Anyway; the real problem is the carnage that is likely to occur when the team has to designate a number of these mid-season additions.  Because as we designate them we run the risk of losing them to waiver claims.  I don’t think Carlos Maldonado is necessarily at risk, but certainly we didn’t need to expose someone like Sandy Leon or Corey Brown until absolutely necessary.

It makes you wonder if prior additions who are continually getting passed over for non 40-man candidates are either targets to get cut or were mistakes to begin with.  Why no Severino?  How about Carlos Rivera?  How long before the team summarily cuts Xavier Nady and his .500 OPS?