Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for May, 2013

A forkball after my own heart

4 comments

Robert Coello throws a very “old school” pitch. Photo wiki/flickr via james_in_to account.

Thanks to Rob Neyer for this article, posted 5/16/13 (and subsequently Jeff Passan in this 5/28/13 article and this Ted Berg USAToday article on 5/29/13) about Robert Coello, a journeyman hurler currently with the Los Angeles Angels who throws what one executive calls a “Knuckle-Forkball” but what in reality is an “Original Forkball.”  Not a “Split Fingered Fastball” mind you, but a true-on Forkball.  Neyer then goes into some research he did with Bill James on the pitch and has a pretty interesting history on this very rare pitch.

Neyer’s post has video of the pitch as it comes out of his hand (as does the Usatoday article) and indeed the ball knuckles and dives like a knuckler.  He only threw one forkball in his 5/15/13 outing but has thrown more than a few since and is getting some national media notice.

Here’s Pitch F/X data for Coello’s 5/15/13 outing.  They classified this pitch as a “FS,” pitch f/x lingo for “Fastball-Split” or a splitter.  He threw it at 79.5mph.  Since then, he’s thrown (I guess) 11 more Forkballs (now classified in Pitch F/X as a “FO”) at an average of 79.2mph.  By way of comparison, R.A. Dickey‘s average knuckleball velocity in 2013 has been 75.3mph.  And Dickey’s knuckleball is considered so effective because he throws it with such pace (Tim Wakefield only threw his 65-66mph for the last few years of his career).  Imagine if Coello can command this pitch and throw it consistently and frequently; he’d have a chance of combining a Dickey-esque fast knuckleball with his 91mph fastball.  That could be quite a combination.

So, why is this guy so interesting to me?  Because in my own abbreviated amateur baseball pitching career, I threw the same pitch!  Somehow over the years screwing around while warming up as a middle infielder I discovered this pitch; you jam the baseball between your index and middle fingers and then throw the ball such that it “pops” out of your hand (it will even make a popping noise, not unlike a soft snapping fingers noise) and begins knuckling towards its target.  It definitely is not a diving/sinking split fingered fastball motion; it knuckles in.  You can throw it with some pace; you throw it with the same motion and intensity as a fastball, except that it gets hung up in the webbing of your fingers and knuckles out.  It is relatively easy to control, especially if you throw over the top and just “aim” the ball at the middle of the plate.  I used it as a 3rd pitch but one outing in particular it was moving so much that my catcher called nothing but forkballs.

I always called it a forkball, but figured it knuckled instead of diving down like a typical split-fingered fastball because I wasn’t throwing it at the pace of a professional pitcher.  Now as it turns out, it looks like I was just throwing a “throw back” pitch rarely seen in the professional ranks.  Cool.

This world needs more Forkball pitchers!

Post-post update: Fangraphs Eno Sarris had a great article on him 9/23/13, showing multiple gifs of the pitch, as well as noting that Coello now has a top-30 wFB pitch thanks to the uniqueness of the forkball.

Written by Todd Boss

May 31st, 2013 at 7:01 am

Maya DFA and outright; the end of an era

19 comments

Maya's outright likely ends his MLB career. Photo via thenatsblog.com

Yunesky Maya got his final shot at glory, getting a call up last week to provide long-relief cover while Ross Detwiler was on the mend.   He failed, giving up a game-winning  home-run and retiring just one batter in his 5/21/13 appearance in San Francisco, leading to his DFA a few days later.  He cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA on 5/27/13.  The outright likely signals the end of Maya’s major league career and makes for a difficult road back to the majors for him at any point in the future.

Maya will play out the string in Syracuse (unless promotions create for a roster squeeze, then its highly likely he could be flat out released) and will be looking for work elsewhere next year, likely in the Independent or Mexican leagues.  He retires with this career MLB stat line: 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA, 1.576 whip and a career ERA+ of 69.  He had flashes of decency, sometimes even brilliance, in AAA over parts of several years, but even this year seems more indicative of his overall talent (in 8 AAA starts as of the time of this writing he’s just 1-4 with a 5.07 ERA)

Maya signed a 4 year/$8M international free agent contract in 2010 after defecting from Cuba.  The Nats fended off several interested teams (reportedly including the Yankees) to acquire his services and Maya was supposed to be the marquee re-entry for this franchise into the international FA market after the entire Smiley Gonzalez/Dominican Republic debacle.  I’ve already classified Maya’s contract as one of the worst FA deals Mike Rizzo has ever signed, and this DFA is the icing on the cake.  At least it only took Rizzo 3 and a half years to own up this failure and DFA him (sarcasm).

How did the Nats miss on this signing?  Reportedly, Maya was said to be throwing much harder during scouting trips than he ended up being capable of throwing once he reported to Nats camp.   See this post in June 2011, which summarizes all the issues Maya had while getting his longest MLB look and has links to his Pitch F/X data.  Maya never was able to throw with the same velocity that the scouts said, and his control was never good enough to make up for the difference.  He’s not a big guy, so he has zero downward plane on his pitches and they have a tendency to flatten out and become rather hittable.

As I noted in my annual look at Pitcher Wins on the FA market, Maya’s single MLB victory for the Nats $8M investment now represents one of the worst average $/win contracts ever signed.  Luckily for the Nats, it was just an $8M contract, not a $50M contract like other candidates for “Worst FA pitching contract ever signed.”

You hate to pile onto a guy.  I eagerly watched his September 2010 debut and wrote it up in length here.  The guy has 8 pitches.  We were hoping for Yu Darvish and we got .. well we got some guy who couldn’t get MLB hitters out on a regular enough basis to keep his job.

Written by Todd Boss

May 30th, 2013 at 7:28 am

First Look: Nathan Karns

19 comments

Karns looked good enough considering the circumstances in his debut. Photo Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

A surprise callup for Nathan Karns resulted in an up-and-down performance on 5/28/13.  He showed a power fastball that averaged 94.7 and peaked at 97.36.  He struggled with his curve on the night, only throwing 7 of 16 for strikes as the ball seemed to slip out of his hand (he throws a knuckle-curve and the combination of humidity, steady rain and his own perspiration conspired against his grip all night).  He threw a few changeups here and there but mostly worked his 4 seam fastball.

He worked around a very tight strike zone in the first (look at the ball/strike plot for the first inning: the first pitch he threw and a 2-strike call that was within the strike zone by literally 6 inches were missed calls) to get a 1-2-3 inning.   Yes he missed his spot, but the ball was clearly a strike.  Robot Umpires now!  😉  He got touched for a run in the 2nd off of a couple of well-hit balls before reaching back and getting a key strikeout of the Baltimore #8 hitter (and then finishing off the helpless #9 AL pitcher Kevin Gausman for two of his three Ks on the night).  He continued to get weaker ground ball outs in the 3rd before getting touched up for a couple of runs and a couple of bombs in the 4th.

He was running on fumes by the middle of the 5th, having sat out a lengthly weather delay, having thrown 85 pitches and seeing his velocity dipping.  His only two walks on the night were the last two guys he faced, a telling sign.  He was lifted for Zach Duke (the guy whose performance was so bad in his own spot start that he couldn’t keep this role above a AA player), who “stole” the Win from Karns with a clean 5-out performance.  That sucks for Karns frankly; he had a 7-3 lead with the bottom of the order coming up; you couldn’t try to let Karns get that double play to get a victory?

On the night; he induced a number of weaker ground ball outs (especially to 2nd base; Steve Lombardozzi was really busy on the night).  His fastball just seemed “heavy” to the hitters, and despite giving up a few hard hit balls he also got a number of weaker hit balls and wristed floaters into the outfield.  I’d like to see more strikeouts (just 3 on the night).   Pitch F/X says he throws both a 2-seamer and 4-seamer; I didn’t see any difference in any of his fastballs though and the velocity looks too similar to be distinct (I think the horizontal movement delta was why Pitch F/X classified the balls differently; I just think some of his pitches had more horizontal movement than others).  So right now Karns is what we though he is; a good fastball, a plus curve when he can grip it, a relatively unused changeup and no 4th pitch.  After this little stint I think the team sends him back to AAA to learn another pitch.  Why not incorporate a 2 seamer and try to get some sink?  He throws basically overhand (his curve is a 12-to-6 er) and a power 2-seamer could be an effective change of pace to his 4-seamer moving horizontally.  Or try a split-fingered fastball to see if his over-the-top delivery can get some drop?

In the end; He pitched pretty durn well for a guy with just a handful of minor league starts above A-Ball.  He did well enough to earn another start.  And he’ll need all the help he can get; that start is next sunday in Atlanta against the first place and streaking Braves.  He was clearly nervous in his MLB debut and the conditions didn’t help; lets see how he does after a regular turn and in more “calm” conditions.

Written by Todd Boss

May 29th, 2013 at 9:33 am

Ask Boswell 5/28/13 Edition

4 comments

Apparently shelving Danny Espinosa will solve all the Nats problems. Photo AP via mlb.com

Its the end of May, the Nats are still lingering around .500.  Are the natives getting restless in Washington?  Lets check in on Tom Boswell‘s 5/28/13 chat.

Q: Pretend there is some kind of supplemental draft and only 3 players are available – Machado, Harper and Trout. Would you mind channeling your inner Mel Kiper and give us your “big board” and rank these 3 phenoms?

A: I’d likely go Trout, Harper and Machado.   I think Trout slightly beats out Harper right now in terms of overall talent, though its really really close.  I like Trout’s advantage on the basepaths and in the outfield.  Harper’s 80 power is hard to find though.  Meanwhile Machado’s supposed defensive prowness isn’t even being exploited by the O’s, but given that he plays a premium position to either Trout or Harper he may end up being in the mix for #1 overall too.   Boswell puts them in the same order.

Q: Can Ryan Zimmerman play 2B? What about moving him over there and making room for Rendon at third? Ryan played SS in college and in his major league debut, and his quick reflexes seem to give him the range necessary to play the position. And the best part: the throws are a lot shorter from 2B.

A: Michael Morse played shortstop in high school, why wouldn’t we want him to play middle infield now?   (sorry, taking a ridiculous similar stance with a player’s athletic abilities NOW versus when he was 18 or 21).  I perceive Zimmerman to be “quick” but at the same time “slow.”  I don’t think he’s make it as a middle infielder any more.  Boswell says almost the same thing; he’s “quick but not fast.”  Wow, Boswell and I are 2-for-2 like minded so far!

Q: Is Espinosa ever going to find his swing? I know you were tooting his horn a while back, do you still feel the same about him?

A: Danny Espinosa needs to stop hiding significant injuries from his management.  You can’t blame him though; he knows he’s likely out of a job if he sits and someone else succeeds in his place while he heals.  But, this is now two major injures he’s basically hidden and tried to play through.  No judgement can be made about him any more before he gets completely healthy.  I believe the team should D/L him, get both his injuries fixed and re-assess when he’s healthy.  He’s certainly not doing the team any favors by hitting .150 with loose bone fragments in his wrist.  Of course, his current BABIP is .202;  That’s so low as to be amazing, so even with his struggles he should be set to improve.  Wow, Me and Bos are 3-for-3; he talks a bit about Espinosa plus tools, his issues post first 1,000 at-bats, and then mirrors my statement of wanting him shutdown to heal for the rest of 2013.

Q: Shouldn’t Harper just be placed on the DL until he heals up enough that he won’t be missing a few games every week? The way they’re doing it, the team is short a player and a bat for two or three days on a regular basis, or has Harper playing at 70 percent

A: I agree.  Harper‘s splits since running into the wall at the end of April are pretty distinct.  April: 1.150 OPS.  May: .687 OPS.  And that was before Los Angeles.  An now he’s got this knee issue.   I think he needs a D/L trip, rest, sit in the hot tub for two weeks and come back refreshed.  Between him and Espinosa and Detwiler the team has been playing 22 against 25 for days now.  Boswell agrees; he thinks Harper should have been given the 7-day D/L stint when he hit the wall.

Q: Has anyone suggested Espinosa get his vision tested? He has absolutely no pitch recognition, he looks like the world’s [biggest] guess hitter.

A: I don’t think its his vision.  I think he’s just an awful left-handed hitter, and unfortunately he takes most of his switch-hitting swings from the left side.  He’s just lost at the plate.  I went through a game like this once; the umpire’s zone was so unpredictable that I was just up at the plate swinging at whatever came.  It was like BP when you know you’re only getting 10 swings and the pitcher sucks; swing at everything.  Boswell says Espinosa has the worst plate discipline on the team, and talks about how Espinsoa is swinging before the ball even comes to the plate.  Sounds familiar.

Q: With a lack luster offense, poor defense, a bullpen you can’t seem to count on and only two starters pitching well, why do you believe the Nats will turn it around?

A: Because of their upcoming schedule of course!  Here’s my post on the topic on April 24th.  The gist of it is this; by the time May 31st rolls around, the Nats will have played 27 of their 55 games against 2012 playoff contenders.  Look at their season so far; they’ve played the Reds, the Braves, the Cardinals, the Reds again, 4 at Atlanta, the Tigers, at the Giants and now 4 straight against Baltimore.   June and July are significantly easier.  Look at the teams they play for the next 8 weeks; yes Cleveland and Arizona are improved, but a lot of the games on their slate are easy, winnable games.  You can get confident quickly when you have a bunch of winnable games.

To this question specifically, the offense has absolutely been affected by injuries.  People will get healthier.  The Defense was great last year; what changed?  If anything we’ve got a better defensive team now than in 2012 (replaced Morse with Span, replaced Flores with Suzuki).  The bullpen is fixable; Storen has just been unlucky, not bad.  Only 2 starters doing well?  I’d say at least 3 are doing well (Strasburg, Detwiler and of course Zimmermann, one is inconsistent but at the high end when he’s on (Gonzalez) and one has been a pretty severe disappointment in Haren.  My hope is that Haren slowly gets back to a 100 ERA+ level pitcher and then is left off the playoff roster.  Boswell eventually talks about the schedule, but goes off on a huge Pecota Rest-of-Season projection tangent.

Q: Big day (maybe) for the Nationals future if Karns can establish himself as a future 3-4-5 starter. Everything I hear and read about him says he has plus stuff and makeup, and an especially good fastball. What are you looking for tonight vs. the Os and how many starts can we expect Karns to make?

A: I’m looking for Nathan Karns to make it through the lineup tonight against Baltimore giving up just a minimum of damage frankly.  I don’t think Karns has a servicable 3rd pitch, which means he can get by on heat and his great slider for a while … but eventually Baltimore’s hitters are too good to get fooled more than twice.  I’ll be ecstatic with a line like this: 6 ip, 2 runs, 5 hits, 2 walks, 6 k’s.   I think he makes this start and perhaps 1 more before going back down when Detwiler returns.  Boswell didn’t really answer the question.  Editor Update: Karns had flashes of good and bad in last night’s game, going 4 1/3 and giving up 3 runs on 5 hits and two homers.  Didn’t agree with Johnson’s yanking him and taking away his Win though.

Q: Are the Nats and Harper going the way of Shanahan and RGIII with this knee business OR will we see common sense prevail so we can see our best player Harper rest up and make a difference when it really counts? Didn’t Harper come to bat with the score already 5-1 (6-1 ?) , in the bottom 8th when the Nats already had a commanding lead?

A: Hardly the same situation.  A brused knee from a foul ball versus a blown ACL?  Come on.  Must be someone begging the question.  Boswell does have some criticism for the Harper handling considering the kid gloves that Strasburg has been handled with his whole career.

Q: Why are people praising Espinosa for being “tough” and playing through his broken wrist? He was HURTING the team, it’s time to sit down at that point!

A: Because we live in a macho football culture, and playing through pain is a football mentality.  Boswell punts.

Q: The Nationals bats have not lived up to expectations. What move or moves could the Nationals make to get these bats going? Maybe a new hitting coach, an additional hitting coach, minor league players or some through a trade.

A: Why do people think hitting coaches make a difference?  Is Rick Eckstein part of the problem here?

Actually, looking at the Nats starting eight hitters; four of them have OPS+ figures > 100 (meaning they’re better than MLB average).   Suzuki is a bit below but he’s the catcher.  Span has slowly started to be come a liability at the top; he’s only got a .332 OBP with zero power right now.  Espinosa of course is the big black hole.  So while we’re knowingly in a rut offensively … the individual pieces aren’t really that bad.  There’s some bats in the minors but not much.  We really have very little prospect depth that’s tradeable for a bat mid-season.  This is your team ladies and gentlemen; get used to it.  Boswell also says we have to ride it out, but points out that the team hasn’t been healthy and has replaced Morse’s ABs with almost zero production from our bench.

Q: Any early predictions as to who will be managing the Nats next season? Davey’s also dropped a couple of hints that his retirement isn’t entirely his idea. Assuming they don’t win the World Series and he gets to ride off into the sunset, any chance that he comes back next year?

A: I’m continually amazed at the amount of curiosity about the manager.  Maybe Davey Johnson is back, maybe he isn’t.  Maybe the team hires a name guy, maybe they hire from within.  Lets focus on 2013 first.  Boswell mentions Don Mattingly, as we’ve heard in the national media.

2013 CWS Field of 64 announced; analysis

7 comments

Feel free to read on if you’re not a College Baseball guy, since I know some of my readers have questioned why I follow the college game.

The Field of 64 was announced today with all of the conference tournaments ending, and there were a few surprises in the seeds and field.

A quick guide to how the College World Series (CWS) field works: teams play in 16 “Regional tournaments” kicking off this coming weekend.  These are 4-team double elimination tournaments to determine a regional winner.  Then, the winners of each regional square off in a best-of-3 “Super Regional” the weekend of June 7-8-9 to determine the Eight (8) College World Series entrants.  Those 8 teams then are divided into two pots of four, play one additional 4-team double elimination tournament to arrive at a winner-take-all CWS championship.  The regions are hosted by schools; the CWS is hosted in Omaha, Nebraska.  When talking below about the “seeds” of the regional tournaments, the teams are seeded 1 through 4 within the regional tournament.  The regional host is the #1 seed, and the weakest entrant is the #4 seed.  This is not the same thing as talking about the “overall” seed; to make that distinction i’ll always say “tournament seeds” when talking about the overall tournament seeds.

Quick reference to current polls:

Biggest snubs: Probably Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, and perhaps Auburn.  Notre Dame had a beef to, with a decent RPI, but were only the #7 seed in the Big East and lost the title game to the #8 seeded UConn and that was that.  Possibly Stanford, who were 5th in a 4-bid conference.  Campbell has a big beef; they were the #1 seed in the Big South, lose the title game 2-1 and miss out while the #2 seed (Coastal Carolina) in the conference makes it as an at-large.  Gonzaga was the #1 seed in the WCC but lost their last 7 games to take them from 32-14 to 32-21 and a missed tournament.  Nebraska isn’t technically a sub (they finished a game under .500) but had they won one more game they’d be in for sure.  Apparently Mercer was last in and Michigan State was last out, so we’ll say that Michigan State is a snub too.

Conference Distribution: As expected the tournament is dominated by the SEC (9 teams) and ACC (8 teams).  Surprisingly this year the mid-major Sun Belt conference has as many teams (4) as the Pac-10 (also 4).  Traditional Pac-10 powerhouses Cal, Stanford and Arizona all had down years.   The CAA surprisingly got 3 bids when upstart Towson won the tournament; i’m sure there are grumblings from the snubs above over the at-large bids given to William & Mary.

If the top 16 tournament seeds (aka, the regional hosts) hold serve, your super regional field would look like this (note the teams 9-16 are not “officially” seeded but to be honest they basically make sense and are ranked appropriately.  Its not as if the committee just pulls these names out of a hat).

  • #1 UNC v #16 South Carolina
  • #8 Oregon v #9 NC State
  • #5 Cal State Fullerton v #12 UCLA
  • #4 LSU v #13 Virginia Tech
  • #6 UVA v #11 Mississippi State
  • #3 Oregon State v #14 Kansas State
  • #7 Florida State v #10 Indiana
  • #2 Vanderbilt v #15 Louisville

Thoughts on the 1-8 tournament seeding: I would have had both Vanderbilt and LSU above UNC, but not by much and it may not really matter frankly.  I think BA’s rankings are wrong to have Vanderbilt above LSU the day after LSU beats them on a neutral field for the SEC championship.   Oregon State may be seeded slightly high, but as some have pointed out they may have slightly tweaked the seeds so that the two big guns from the ACC and SEC were balanced in the top 8 seeds.  Fair enough for me.  Cal State Fullerton is ALWAYS ranked too highly and always seems to fail to live up to their seeding; they face a tough regional with Arizona and New Mexico.

Biggest over-seed amongst the 16 hosts: none really; they’re by and large the 16 best teams this year.  Perhaps Va Tech or Kansas State.  Indiana is highly ranked but was from a one-bid conference whose #3 seed had a losing record on the season.  Louisville  may struggle to win its own regional with Miami and Oklahoma state to contend with.

Most aggrieved #2 Regional seed: Probably Clemson, who is mostly identically ranked as South Carolina, its arch rival, and now it has to go there to advance.  Also perhaps grumbling about their lot in this tournament are Oklahoma and Arkansas, both of whom are higher ranked in the coaches poll than their regional hosts (Virginia Tech and Kansas State respectively).

Easiest Regions for the Hosts: UNC gets three mid-major teams, none of which seem that challenging.  UVA’s region looks even easier; their hardest test is UNC-Wilmington.  LSU has in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette to contend with but little else.

Toughest #3 Regional Seeds: Probably New Mexico; who blew away their conference and are ranked #17 in the coaches poll.   Oklahoma State is #19 in the coaches poll and is regionally seeded behind Miami.  Mercer (RPI #29), Troy, San Diego and Florida (who barely earned their way in by achieving a .500 record with the Nations 2nd hardest schedule) are also going to be tough #3 seeds to contend with.

Who is the next Fresno State (aka, the next #4 regional seed to come out of nowhere to win): Tough one in this tournament; most of the #4 seeds are automatic bid teams with RPIs in the 180-200 range.  Wichita State has a rich college baseball history and is a #4 regional seed despite winning the WAC.  San Diego State could surprise, as well as St. Louis.  But most of the #4 seeds are early tournament fodder.

Big-time Draft Prospects to keep an eye on, by team: Likely #1 overall pick Mark Appel‘s season is over as Stanford failed to qualify for the tournament (drafting teams can now rest; Stanford has no more chances to abuse Appel on pitch-counts for the rest of his college career).  The rest of the names here are all considered 1st or 2nd round prospects by Keith Law or Baseball America and they’re listed in rough order of where they’re likely to be drafted in the 1st and 2nd rounds.  The Nats don’t pick until the end of the 2nd round, but should have a shot at some of the names at the bottom of this list:

  • Jonathan Grey, Oklahoma’s #1 starter and 1-1 candidate.
  • Kris Bryant, San Diego’s record-breaking slugger and likely top-3 pick.
  • Colin Moran, UNC 3B
  • Ryne Stanek, Arkansas’ #1 starter who’s stock has slightly fallen this year.
  • D.J. Peterson, New Mexico 3B/1B
  • Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State OF
  • Jonathan Crawford, Florida RHP
  • Trey Ball, Indiana LHP
  • Bobby Wahl, Mississippi RHP (and Springfield VA native as discussed in my local draft prospects post last week).
  • Ryan Eades, LSU RHP
  • Trevor Williams, Arizona State RHP
  • Jason Hursch, Oklahoma State RHP
  • Michael Lorenzen, Cal State Fullerton OF/RHP
  • Alex Balog, San Francisco RHP

Let the games begin!

Ladson’s Inbox 5/23/13 Edition

26 comments

Zimmerman's arm issues keep comingup. Photo AP via tbd.com

I like Ladson‘s Inbox.  He takes questions that the “everyman” Nats fan seems to be asking.  They usually hit upon the big issues facing the club.   On the downside, they usually address issues we’ve already covered more than once in posts and comments.   For those repeat questions we’ll try to use links elsewhere and short answers.  Here’s the 5/23/13 edition.   Lets see what we got this week.

Q: Manager Davey Johnson is not worried about Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing errors. Do you think it’s an area of concern?

A: Definitely territory we’ve covered.   Short answer: yes i’m worried, no there’s no place to move him thanks to LaRoche locking up 1B for this year and next, so the Nats are basically stuck.  Ladson says some things that I have a problem with.  He says that he’s not concerned (disagree) and that Zimmerman’s shoulder “isn’t 100% healthy.”  I call utter Bullsh*t on that; the team clearly stated at the time of the surgery that it was just a few weeks of healing (easily google-able). Yet here we are at the end of May, some 8 months onward from this surgery and he’s still not healthy??  No way; that’s an excuse we need to shelve.  Lastly Ladson says that “nobody else can play 3B like Zimmerman.”  Oh, you mean nobody else can throw away simple routine plays over and over like Zimmerman??  Anthony Rendon is a known defensive wizard, every scout knows it, and more than one have said the team should make the switch sooner than later.  You know, “scouts” as in “professionals who watch the guys play baseball” and are paid to know these things.  *sigh*

Q: Danny Espinosa had a lot of strikeouts last year and is below the Mendoza Line so far this year. Do you think Steve Lombardozzi could take over the starting spot?

A: More oft discussed territory.  Short answer: Yes Espinosa needs to be benched.  No Lombardozzi isn’t the greatest replacement; he’s significantly weaker in the field, has far less power and isn’t hitting at all in 2013 either.  I believe the team needs to D/L Espinosa and fix his shoulder and call up Rendon.  Ladson says more things I disagree with, saying that Espinosa defense is so good he should stay in the lineup.  Sorry; he’s a 2nd baseman.  You can sacrifice offense at some positions on the field but not at 2B in the modern game.  He also thinks Espinosa is going to turn it around (I don’t).  He also says he “likes” Lombardozzi in left field.  I don’t; that’s a waste of a position that should be providing 25-30 homer power for this team.  You know, power like what Michael Morse or Josh Willingham provide.  Oh those guys; yeah they were run out of town because they were suspect defensively and Mike Rizzo is hell bent on fielding a team of track stars.  *grrr*

Q: Do you think Tyler Moore could benefit from getting regular playing time with Triple-A Syracuse?

A: A good question.  I am in the “relatively surprised” camp to see how badly Tyler Moore is hitting this year.  How do you go from a 125 OPS+ to a 5 (as in five) OPS+ in a year’s time??  He’s not helping the team, he’s wasting a bench spot at this point, and yes he needs to go to AAA to sort things out.  He’s 8 for 66 with 27 strikeouts; he’s not an option off the bench at this point.  Call up Chris Marrero or Micah Owings if you are looking for some LF pop.  Uber positive Ladson also thinks Moore is going to turn it around.  I guess he thinks that EVERY Nats player who is hitting poorly right now is magically going to turn things around.  We should just continue hitting .220 as a team waiting for everyone to get out of their slumps.  You have AAA teams for exactly this reason; to allow younger players who are struggling to work out issues playing full time, instead of getting 1-2 ABs/week like Moore is getting right now.

Q: Do you think it’s appropriate for the Nationals to play Michael Morse’s walk-up song, “Take On Me,” as a seventh-inning stretch song? Is that a bad omen?

A: I think its a very nice tribute to a player in Morse who was a fan favorite and who a lot of us didn’t want to see go.  Nothing inappropriate there.  In fact, I hope the Mariners come back to Washington to get the fans here a chance to pay him the respect he is owed for his contributions here.  Ladson answers the question without even mentioning Morse??  There’s a reason that song is played right now and it isn’t because its a cool 80s song.

First Look: Kevin Gausman

leave a comment

Kevin Gausman made his MLB debut on 5/23/13 just a year after pitching in the SEC. Photo unk via orioles-nation.com

With no Nats game on Thursday 5/23/13, and with a vested interest in newly promoted Orioles starter Kevin Gausman (my vested interest being that I was considering nabbing him in my fantasy league), I watched his first start against Toronto.

First thoughts; Wow.  I know Gausman’s line wasn’t that great last night, but I just pulled up his  Pitch F/X data on the night and am impressed.  He threw 63 fastballs on the night with an AVERAGE speed of 97.26.  By way of comparison, right now Stephen Strasburg leads the majors in average fastball velocity at 95.4.  This kid was holding that average velocity through 60+ fastballs and 90 pitches on the night.  That’s some serious heat.  His mechanics were clean, the arm action easy, and he easily kept his mechanics while pitching from the stretch.  Gausman has good size (6’3″ 190) and has raced through the minors to make this debut in 2013, only the 3rd guy out of last year’s draft to do so (Mike Roth, Paco Rodriguez).

He has a fantastic change-up with reverse action away from left-handed hitters (this was what his scouting report said too): 84mph average.  That’s a 13mph delta between his 4 seamer and his change up.  That’s just silly.  In a recent post I posted a table of average velocities for the pitches of some of the league’s top pitchers; the best fb-ch delta out of that group of hard-throwers was Samardzija‘s 11.6 mph delta.  Strasburg’s is only 7.4mph difference and he’s considered to have a completely unhittable change up.  Gausman’s change is almost too slow; hitters sitting on 98mph may actually have enough time to re-adjust to his change.  Though that being said, he got a lot of strikes and some silly swings on the change on the night.

He didn’t really use his curve that much; 11 times out of his 89 pitches (pitch f/x gives him both a slider and a curve, but the speeds look the same and the speed delta has to be a curve; his slider would be nearer 91mph).  At one point he threw 4 straight changeups, which directly led to a walk b/c the hitter (Colby Rasumus) knew what was coming and laid off.  I bet this kid has never thrown four straight changeups in his entire life.  Wasn’t a fan of that At-bat nor the pitch calling from Weiters.  He may need to develop a 4th pitch, or at least work on his curve, despite how plus his firs two offerings may be.

The hits he gave up were a combination of legitimate and lucky.  Later on Rasmus laced a 2-0 fastball that he could sit on (he’s a dead-red fastball hitter who got a fastball in a fastball count, another poor job of calling that at-bat again from Weiters).  Lind wristed an 0-2 pitch for a hit on a hanging curve.  He gave up at least two other 2-strike hits when he missed his spot.  Lawrie bunted and Chris Davis misplayed the play, calling off the pitcher only to let the ball try to go foul and it didn’t.  That led to a bases-loaded no outs situation in the 4th and he was lucky to get out of that with only one run.  Even the 5th inning homer he gave up seemed weak; Arencibia didn’t seem like he got it all; it was an inside pitch that he wristed out.  He hit the ball 369 feet as it turns out; Toronto is an easy place to hit down-the-line homers like this.  Hittracker classified the homer as being “plenty long” and it would have been out of 22/30 parks in the league, so maybe it wasn’t as lucky as I’m characterizing it.

I was slightly surprised to see Gausman get yanked after 5innings.  He was through the meat of Toronto’s order and was facing 8-9-1 in the 6th on only 89 pitches. Looking at the score, yes you’d understand him getting pulled.  Looking at his stuff and what had transpired?  I’d have given him another inning with a short leash (one baserunner and you’re out).   Showalter had seen enough though, brought in a couple of relievers who promptly conspired to give up a grand slam to Encarnacion and blow the game.  Loss for Gausman in his MLB debut.

Final line: 5ip, 7hits, 2 walks, 5 Ks and 4 earned runs. 89 pitches 58 strikes for a 65% clip.   He had a 49/5 K/BB ratio in the minors this year, an amazingly good ratio for someone with 99mph heat, so the two walks were uncharacteristic.    Very much looking forward to his next outing.

Local Prep Baseball: Oakton & Madison win District titles; Regional tourney set

leave a comment

Despite going to Madison, I've never seen this seal until googling it.

Vienna High School baseball continues its dominant ways, with the #1 DC-area Ranked Madison Warhawks and their next-door neighbor rival Oakton Cougars both taking home district tournament titles on 5/20/13.

Madison blew through the Liberty District, getting a bye into the semis, winning in the semis against Stone Bridge 11-0 (with their starter taking a perfect game into the 7th) and then beating the #2 seed Langley Saxsons 11-2 in the final.  Oakton beat a couple of Northern Virginia heavyweights in Robinson and Chantilly, the latter in walk-off fashion, for their Concorde District title.

The wins for Madison lately have vaulted them into some national prominence.  They’re #20 in the latest Baseball America top 25 poll (mostly b/c so many upper-ranked teams were dropped after losing in their state playoffs).  Honestly though I have a hard time putting Madison over Great Bridge HS (#22 in Baseball America), knowing what I know about that Chesapeake team (namely, Conner Jones).   USAToday’s latest ranking (dated May 8th so its way out of date) has Great Bridge #17 and Madison as a honorable mention.  I’m hoping for a Madison-Great Bridge state final.  Update: USA Today’s 5/22/13 rankings now have Madison at #22 nationally with Great Bridge dropping out entirely due to their playoff loss to Western Branch.   So much for a Madison-Conner Jones state final I guess.

Both Madison and Oakton advance to the Northern Regional tournament, along with their fellow district quarter and semi-finalists.  No schedule yet but the pool of teams looks like this:

  • District champs: Madison, Oakton, South County, Washington & Lee
  • District finalists: Langley, Chantilly, Lake Braddock, Yorktown
  • District qtr finalists: Stone Bridge, Marshall, TC Williams, West Potomac, Centreville, Robinson, Edison and Stuart

The Regional tourney kicks off tomorrow night with this slate (home teams are the higher seeds, here’s the bracket):

  • T.C. Williams (11-10) @ Oakton (17-4): a tough matchup for Oakton if TC Williams throws their ace Alec Grosser.
  • Stone Bridge (11-11) @ Yorktown (17-5)
  • Stuart (15-6) @ Langley (13-9)
  • Robinson (10-12) @ South County (14-8)
  • Edison (12-10) @ Madison (21-1)
  • Chantilly (11-12) @ Lake Braddock (17-4): Lake Braddock has high-end pitching prospect Thomas  Rogers finally back from TJ surgery, adding a surprise element to this storied franchise and defending State champ.
  • West Potomac (12-8) @ Centreville (15-4)
  • Marshall (8-14) @ W&L (13-10); also a tougher matchup here if Marshall throws its lefty ace Mitch MacKeith

Guessing on the seeds: Madison #1, Oakton #2, South County #3 and Washington & Lee #4.  Centreville #5, Langley #6, Yorktown #7, Lake Braddock #8.  This is slightly different from the district final results (Centreville and Chantilly seem switched if I’m reading the bracket correctly).   Madison gets an advantage by virtue of hosting its entire half of the draw plus the Regional semis and Final next week.  Regional Final set for 5/31 at 6:30pm at Madison.

Predictions for the tournament: all the home teams hold serve in the first round, then Oakton, South County, Madison and Centreville into the regional semis with an all-Vienna regional final next friday.

5/24/13 results: first round done, here’s the Northern Region tourney results:

  • Oakton d T.C. Williams 9-1 (I guess Grosser wasn’t a factor)
  • Stone Bridge d Yorktown 1-0 (an upset per seedings and records)
  • Langley d Stuart 8-2 (Stuart’s great season comes to an end)
  • South County d Robinson 6-1 (a traditional power ends a disappointing season)
  • Madison d Edison 13-1 (a predictable blow-out for the region’s #1 seed)
  • Lake Braddock d Chantilly 8-2 (Chantilly’s cinderella run ends)
  • Centreville d West Potomac 8-2 (no upsets here, setting up an interesting quarter final match)
  • Marshall d Washington & Lee 7-0 (an upset by record but perhaps not by overall capabilities)

2nd round Matchups on Monday 5/27/13

  • Oakton v Stone Bridge: Oakton beat Stone Bridge 6-2 earlier in the season and is favored here.
  • Langley v South County: no prior meetings between the teams, but South County is streaky and has one 5 straight.  Close game.
  • Madison v Lake Braddock: close matchup by record, no prior meeting but Madison has the advantage playing at home.
  • Centreville v Marshall: Centreville beat Marshall away 8-4 to open the season; Centreville favored here.

I’m holding to my predictions made before round 1 for the semis.  Oakton, South County, Madison, Centreville.

5/27/13 Results: Big upsets in the Regional quarters:

  • Lake Braddock takes out #1 Seed Madison 9-6 on home turf behind Dan Rogers, recovering from TJ Surgery.
  • South County edges Langley 4-3 in 13 innings.  Wow.
  • Oakton steamrolls Stone Bridge 13-5, is now the new favorite to win the region with Lake Braddock.
  • Marshall edges out Centreville 5-4, continuing their cinderella run.

Regional Semis on 5/29/13 are set: Its now looking like and Oakton-Lake Braddock regional final.  5/29/13 results: Indeed both Oakton and Lake Braddock won easily and both advance to the State tournament.

  • Oakton d South County 8-1
  • Lake Braddock d Marshall 16-5.

Regional Final: predicting Oakton but wouldn’t be surprised either way.  5/31/13 result: Lake Braddock batters its way to another Regional crown 14-7.

With the Regional losses for both Great Bridge and Madison, both teams have now dropped out of top-25 rankings in BaseballAmerica and USAToday‘s early June rankings.   Great Bridge and now Lake Braddock are Honorable Mentions in USAToday, implying a top 50 national ranking for now.

Virginia AAA State Tournament: with the 5/30/13 results, the 8 participants in the state tournament are now known.  From each of the four State Regions:

  • Northern Region (Fairfax, Arlington counties): Lake Braddock, Oakton
  • Northwest Region (Loudoun, Prince William, Fauquier counties): Hylton, Patriot
  • Central Region (Richmond): Douglas Freeman, Hanover
  • Eastern Region (Norfolk/Va Beach): Kellam,Great Bridge

Weird how Great Bridge loses early in its own district tournament but still advanced to the Regional tournament, which it subsequently looks to win.

State Quarter finals to be held Tuesday 6/4/13: Lake Braddock v Patriot, Oakton v Hylton, Freeman v Great Bridge and Hanover v Kellam.  The semis and final are at Westfields High School friday and saturday Jule 7-8th.

6/4/13 State Quarter final results: local teams and the favorite go through to the semis.  Results:

State Semis are Friday 6/7/13 at 3pm and 7pm.

Semis and Final Results: Both NoVa local teams were beaten in the State Semis, setting up a Great Bridge-Hanover state final.  In the state final, Richmond area Hanover prevailed over a Conner Jones-less Great Bridge 3-1.  Despite a 5-run lead on Friday night against Lake Braddock, Great Bridge left Connor Jones throw 2 2/3 innings in the semi, leaving him ineligible to appear in the championship.   This seemed like rather questionable stragegy, considering the way Hanover used their ace Derek Casey to save the friday night game and to pitch the bulk of the state championship game.  If you’ve never heard of Casey, you probably will next year.  Only a junior, he’s already up to 93 on the gun and has an early UVA commit.  I’m sure about this time next year we’ll be hearing about Casey’s draft value.

Congrats to Hanover and Derek Casey for a 2013 Virginia State Baseball Title.

Written by Todd Boss

May 23rd, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Ask Boswell 5/20/13 Edition

13 comments

The drum is banging for Espinosa's benching. Photo AP Photo/Nick Wass

Another week, another set of disappointing results for our weary Nats (losing two games in San Diego?  come on), coupled with a troubling set of injuries, and Nats fans are a bit nervous.  Lets see what kind of questions Tom Boswell got in his weekly chat, 5/20/13 edition.

As always, I write a response here before reading his, and sometimes edit questions for clarity.

Q: You can have Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann for the next eight years, but only one. Which do you pick?

A: Has it come to this for poor Stephen Strasburg?   As I pointed out in this space last week, Strasburg isn’t any worse or different of a pitcher right now; he’s just been really unlucky this year.  Despite Jordan Zimmermann‘s dominance so far in 2013, I still think Strasburg has better stuff and a  higher ceiling.  I’d still go with Strasburg.  Boswell also goes with Strasburg based on age and the last three years stats.

Q: Nick Markakis has proven to be a solid veteran but, possibly due to injuries, not the star the Orioles envisioned when they gave him the big contract extension. Do you think this may be Ryan Zimmerman’s fate?

A: Great question.  Nick Markakis has been injury plagued … but only the last two years.  Before that he was very solid, rarely missed a game, and had some really good numbers.   Ryan Zimmerman only has managed to play three full seasons and has missed significant time in 5 others.  Zimmerman is being paid a 9 figure salary but may not really be a 9-figure player honestly.  I’ll freely admit; after injuries and now his arm issue, i’ve really fallen off the Zimmerman bandwagon.  So yes, in a way I agree with the questioner.  Boswell sort of agrees too.

Q: Is it time to really worry about the Nats? The most errors in the majors, the hitting remains spotty at best, and they can’t score enough runs to win when their best pitchers give extra-quality starts.

A: I’m definitely worried.  They should have swept the Cubs.  There’s no dishonor in losing to two Aces in Los Angeles (Kershaw and Greinke), but then to come to San Diego and lose to a no-name journeyman in Eric Stults and a rookie in Andrew Cashner (no matter now promising he may be), is troublesome.  They now travel to San Francisco with no pitching advantage in any of the three games and look like they could easily get swept the way they’re hitting.  Of course, that being said, I must also remind myself of my 4/24/13 post that talked about our very tough early schedule … and remind myself that the Nats go 8 weeks in June and July without playing a playoff team.  So we just have to scuffle around .500 until then.   I’ll say this though; if we don’t go somthing like 20-8 in June, we’ll have different issues.  Boswell says its May 20th, relax (paraphrasing :-) )

Q: I’m puzzled by his use of the bullpen. Last year, every guy seemed to get an inning or two of work every few days. (Of course, last year every guy was also reliable.) The postgame analysis yesterday talked about how rusty they were and chalked it up to the starters going long. To me, it seems more about the relievers being brought in (or not) at all the wrong times. Thoughts?

A: Ah, a question after my own heart.  I have complained about Davey Johnson‘s management of the bullpen twice this year already, after both Detwiler and Gonzalez had excellent efforts wasted when they got pulled too early.  I’m just not getting the bullpen usage at all.  In Johnson’s defense, he just hasn’t had enough blowouts (wins or losses) in order to really get his fringe guys work.  Zach Duke has exactly 2/3s of an inning this entire MONTH.   Stammen may be our best reliever and he’s only getting one appearance a week right now.  Henry Rodriguez got only his second appearance in May in yesterday’s blow out.  So yes, that’s nearly half his bullpen that is inarguably rusty.  In some ways its a good problem to have; it means their starters have been going deep and there’s not been a need for 6th and 7th innings of work.   Rodriguez has brought his inactivity upon himself frankly, but I think Stammen needs some of these later inning stints right now.  Boswell agrees that the bullpen management has been poor this year.

Q: Is it acceptable for a manager or GM to tell a player that he is not a switch hitter at the big league level? Espinosa has always looked better from the right side of the plate. Career he is .221 from left side and .264 from right. Considering his struggles, maybe someone should tell him he’s a right handed batter. No shame in that after all.

A: A great question, one that continues to follow Danny Espinosa. He has not “turned the corner” in 2013 as some had hoped; instead he’s bottomed complete out.  A 90-100 OPS+ figure is ok if you’re hitting for power; this year he’s sitting at a 33 OPS+ with an embarassing slash line.  June 1st I think the hammer comes down and Espinosa goes to the bench in favor of Steve Lombardozzi. That being said, Lombardozzi isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire either right now, so maybe both guys sit in favor of Anthony Rendon or maybe even a call-up Jeff Kobernus, who has been hitting well in AAA.  As for the question in hand; can a GM “tell” a player to stop switch hitting?  Probably not; Espinosa has presumably never faced a top-level right hander from the right side; I’d have to think that forcing him to stop switch hitting would make him even worse.  At the very least that change happens in the off-season/spring training, not in the middle of a slump.  Boswell posts a very eloquent answer about what the team may do with Espy/Lombo but doesn’t answer the core question.  Maybe it isn’t answerable.

Q: Nats pitchers giving away Stolen Bases: This is getting ridiculous. It has been a serious problem since last year, known to everyone. Didn’t anyone of the pitching staff work on this in the off-season?

A: The coaching staff said they did.  I havn’t really noticed.  Lets runs some quick numbers out of Baseball-Reference.com:

2012 Starter SBs SBs CSs SB%
Strasburg 14 2 88%
Gonzalez 12 1 92%
Zimmermann 10 2 83%
Jackson 7 5 58%
Detwiler 3 2 60%

Yes, the rotation last year generally speaking was not holding runners on.

2013 Starter SBs to 5/20/13
Strasburg 5 1 83%
Gonzalez 2 2 50%
Zimmermann 5 1 83%
Haren 2 0 100%
Detwiler 1 0 100%
2013 Starter SBs extrapolated full season
Strasburg 18.3 3.7 83%
Gonzalez 7.3 7.3 50%
Zimmermann 18.3 3.7 83%
Haren 7.3 0.0 100%
Detwiler 3.7 0.0 100%

So, Strasburg isn’t appreciably improving in this regard, but Gonzalez has really worked on it.  Zimmermann looks about the same.  Haren is not quite as good historically as Jackson at holding runners, but the variations in the factors may have something to do with that as well.  All in all, I don’t think its as bad as it was last year.  Boswell’s answer verbatim: “They worked on it. They ain’t fixed it.”

Q: Just looking at Strasburg’s pitching in comparison to other elite speedballers in the league and I find one glaring item: the speed of his pitches in relation to the fastball . His off-speed pitches seem to hover too close to his fastball. Verlander, Wainwright, Kershaw, et.al., all throw 90’s fastballs, 70-85 curve and change-ups. Is this something that is missing from his arsenal?

A: Is this true?  Lets do a little Pitch F/X analysis.  All these numbers are average speeds for the pitch type for 2013 only for the pitchers named in the question plus a handful of other hard-throwers:

(Quick glossary lesson for pitch F/X: FA = 4-seam fastball.  FT = 2-seam fastball.  SI = Sinker, usually ends up being the same thing as a FT.  CU=Curve, SL=Slider, CH=Change up and FC = Cut-Fastball).

FA FT/SI CU SL CH FC FA-CU Delta FA-CH Delta
Strasburg 95.5 95.3 79.7 88.1 15.8 7.4
Samardzija 94.9 94.3 82.9 83.3 91.1 12 11.6
Harvey 94.7 94.4 82.3 89.1 86.4 12.4 8.3
Zimmermann 93.7 93.6 77 86 86.6 16.7 7.1
Verlander 93.5 93.3 78.7 85.3 86.7 14.8 6.8
Darvish 93 92.7 66.7 81.8 86.9 89.3 26.3 6.1
Kershaw 92.5 73.6 84.5 85 18.9 7.5
Hernandez 91.1 91.4 80.5 84.2 88.7 91.9 10.6 2.4
Wainwright 90.9 90.6 74.9 83.7 87.3 16 7.2

Strasburg’s delta between his curve and his fastball is 15.8.  That’s an almost identical delta to Wainwright and is better than Verlander.  Kershaw‘s delta is ridiculous, but his curve is also his signature pitch.  Meanwhile Darvish‘s curve is almost comedically slow and he rarely throws it.   Strasburg’s Fastball-Change up delta is also very consistent with the top pitchers in the league, and is “better” than the likes of Verlander and Darvish.

So, I’m calling BS on this question.  I don’t see any problem with Strasburg’s arsenal or the delta between his pitches.  He throws a ridiculous, unhittable 88 mph circle change that breaks a foot; ask yourself whether or not MLB hitters want to see that pitch right after the see him hump it up to 98mph.  Boswell says his stuff is fine and give some similar numbers, including some Vertical and Horizontal pitch F/x discussion that I only alluded to.

Q: What Logic did Davey have leaving both Haren and Mattheus in past their effectiveness. Haren? Well okay, sometimes he shapes up as the game goes on. HOWEVER! Leaving Mattheus in for that long when he kept getting pinged and dinged was ridiculous! Was this essentially a forfeit to save the bullpen for when Duke pitches tonight?

A: The chances of a team overcoming a 6-7 run deficit are astronomically low.  So much so that most teams just go into autopilot once a big enough lead is opened up by either team.  That’s why there’s so many “unwritten rules” regarding doing things with big leads; guys are mentally checked out and just trying to avoid the embarassment.  The same can be said for bullpen use.  Once one guy gets hammered, if the next guy does too you just kind of throw in the hat and just let guys work it out.  What use would it have been to replace Mattheus after the Padres had scored 12 runs?  You let the guy work on his craft, get some innings in, and move on to the next game.   Boswell says, yes this was basically Johnson giving up.

Q: Boz, my 13-year-old is convinced that the Nats are finished (and that he could play second base better than Danny Espinosa, but that is another story). Baseball seasons are long, and Dad is confident but quietly getting concerned with the way the records look in the NL that a second-place finish in the NL East will not result even in a wild card. At this point in the season, what things do we really know with certainty about this team?

A: What do we know?  I think we know the following:

  • We still have 4 very good starters (Gio will get it back and post another 120 ERA+ season).
  • We know Haren is a weakness
  • We know Harper is no one-season wonder and is improved.
  • But we also know that Harper has not been the same since his first injury scare about a month ago.
  • We know we have some issues on defense and in the bullpen, and have all year.
  • We know our schedule gets easier.
  • But we also know that the Braves have cooled off and despite our iffy run we’re just a couple games out of first place in our own division.
  • I don’t trust either Pittsburgh, Arizona or Colorado to continue to play even .500 ball, so I’m not worried about a 2nd wild card coming from a weird place.
  • And lastly, we know there’s a lot of baseball to be played.

Boswell talks about our starters and Harper, and the re-iterates my last point.  There’s 100 games to play!

Q: Did the addition of Soriano contribute to Storen’s struggles?

A: I think it had to; after a demoralizing game 5 loss the team replaces you and demotes you in the off-season.  Wouldn’t you struggle in your job if that happened to you?  I think we’ve talked about this before so I won’t go into great detail.  Boswell’s heart wasn’t in the answer either; he just noted that Storen’s first save since his Game 5 meltdown was this week.

Q: Seems like you left out what may be the sanest idea for the Nats’ offensive woes in your column: move Rendon to second base permanently and call him at the All Star break if he’s still mashing at AA and Espinosa still can’t hit a slow pitch softball.

A: He did, but I didn’t; see above.  Boswell admits this is eventually going to be an option.



Injuries and Idiocy lead to interesting Call-ups

23 comments

Unbelievably, Maya gets another MLB shot. Photo Al Bello/Getty Images

Hey, we’ve all been there Ryan Mattheus.

But clearly Mattheus never watched Bull Durham; Crash Davis‘ last lesson to Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh involved exactly what Mattheus just did to himself.  If you’re going to punch something … NEVER punch with your pitching hand.

And then in an even worse move, Mattheus hid the injury from his manager until it was too late to call up someone, meaning the team was short a reliever for last night’s SF game (a predictable 8-0 loss as Zach Duke even more predictably got hammered for 7 hits and 4 earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings).

We may even have an issue with Henry Rodriguez, who apparently “grimaced” as he was throwing one of his FOURTY SEVEN pitches last night, a ridiculous amount of pitches for a max-effort guy who should normally be throwing half that in an outing.  Don’t be surprised to see news of him hitting the D/L either.

So, with the bullpen shredded and now devoid of basically anyone who can throw significant long innings for the next couple of days, the team called up Yunesky Maya to provide some cover.  Maya has been awful in AAA so far this year (1-4 with a 5.07 era) but he’s the best option on the 40-man roster for what they need right now.   They’re also planning on calling up lefty Fernando Abad, one of their slew of lefty minor league free agents who has been excellent in AAA this year.   Abad will likely be a one-for-one replacement for Mattheus when he hits the D/L and has earned his way back to the majors.  Abad will require a 40-man move; he will be the 40th guy on the roster.  Maya likely switches places again with Eury Perez once the bullpen can catch its breath.

A better more interesting question may involve the fate of Duke.  He’s been awful this year, barely appears because of it, and when he is called upon to provide the one thing the team needs from him (an effective spot start) he fell on his face.  He’s not given this team anything close to what Tom Gorzelanny gave us for the past few years, and I’m beginning to wonder if the team really made the right decision keeping Duke over Gorzelanny.  Duke only makes $700k a year (versus the 2yr/$5.7M deal that Gorzelanny got from Milwaukee) but with the marginal value of a “Win” on the open market being in excess of $5M these days, have the Nats ended up being penny wise but a pound foolish?

Regardless of the “hindsight is 20/20” analysis with Duke versus Gorzelanny, I have a feeling we may be seeing another move in the near future; the DFA of Duke and the call up of either J.C. Romero or newly acquired Xavier Cedeno. Both are lefties, both are veterans, both are pitching really well in Syracuse, and both seemingly can do no worse than Duke has done.  This isn’t as exciting as seeing a prospect get called up (for example; Danny Rosenbaum or Erik Davis), but with any more injuries we may get there.