Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for June, 2013

First Look: Taylor Jordan


Taylor Jordan trades in his minor league gear for a Nats kit for the first time.  Photo via on

Taylor Jordan trades in his minor league gear for a Nats kit for the first time. Photo via on

As Luke Erickson noted over on, one of the Nats worst-kept secrets was finally let out of the bag when word broke that Nats 2013 minor-league sensation Taylor Jordan was in New York and was going to make his Major League debut on Saturday June 29th.  Starting in place of “injured” and ineffective starter Dan Haren, Jordan went up against one of the worst offensive teams in Baseball (the Mets are dead last in team batting average, hitting just .229 as a team as of 6/29’s game).  Lets review how Jordan did.

At the end of the day, (a 5-1 Loss for the Nats and a “Loss” for Jordan in his debut), Jordan’s line probably betrays how well he pitched on the day.  Jordan was pulled after 4 1/3 innings and was relatively unlucky to have given up the 3 runs (1 earned) that he did.  After a nervous first inning that included a walk and a HBP, Jordan induced one of many ground ball outs on the night to get out of the jam.  He cruised through the 2nd and 3rd innings relatively unscathed before some bad luck and a couple of bad pitches cost him a run in the third.  He got what looked to be a double-play ball to erase one runner who reached by error but the turn was slow (in fairness, a ball deep to the hole in 2nd and a fast runner conspired against the turn).  He then hung a slider against John Buck who hit it sharply to left to drive in the first of his charged runs in the 4th.

Ryan Zimmerman‘s questionable positioning against the Mets’ cleanup hitter Marlon Byrd led to two fielding errors on sharply hit balls that, despite their pace, should have been outs (why is he playing even with the bag there??  Does he really think Byrd is bunting batting out of the clean-up spot?)   Then a little-league sequence in the 5th led to the 2nd run being scored when Ian Desmond‘s attempt to get Daniel Murphy advancing to third led to a second run.  Jordan’s last charged run was on a sac fly/inherited runner allowed to score by his relief pitcher Craig Stammen.

Jordan featured a fastball that was regularly 91-92 but which peaked at 95.81.  He seemed to tire as the game went on; his peak fastballs were all in the first two innings (perhaps he was “amped up”).  His mechanics reminded you of Jered Weaver, with a sweeping cross-body motion that results in plenty of movement on his pitches.  He featured a very plus change-up, which he commanded well and was able to get key strikes on (he had no issues throwing it to lead-off a hitter, or at 2-0).  His slider didn’t move much, but it also featured as a plus pitch when he kept it down.  He was able to locate his fastball well, as best evidenced in David Wright‘s third at-bat against him, where Jordan fooled him badly with a slider, jammed him inside repeatedly and eventually forced a weak ground-ball to the shortstop to retire him in the 5th.  He gave up some sharply hit balls, but he also was very unlucky as a couple of flairs and bloops fell in just behind the infield.

On the day, he gave up 5 hits, two walks, and a HBP against just one strike-out (against his opposing number Dillon Gee, who he retired with another fantastic change-up).  He wasn’t very efficient on the mound, only throwing 48 of 84 pitches for strikes.  He wasn’t “nibbling” per se, but definitely works the corners and missed his spots.  In the 4th and 5th he was constantly falling behind hitters and (as Masn announcer J.P. Santangelo noted) it eventually caught up with him.  He got 9 ground outs to just 3 fly outs to go along with a handful of bloop singles, and to me its clear what his approach is.  Despite pretty decent K/9 numbers so far in the 2013 minor league season (72 Ks in 90 1/3 innings) he’s definitely a guy who is going to rely on location and a sinking fastball to induce grounders for outs.

All in all, in an oft-repeated mantra for 2013 you can’t win if you don’t score.  He probably was pulled when he should have been and isn’t really at fault for the loss (not when your offense only scores one run against a middling pitcher like Gee).  I think Jordan clearly has earned another start and probably sticks around for a while.

One last note: I can’t help but comment on a cynical but possibly true comment I read in one of the other Nats blogs (my apologies, I cannot remember who said it).  Is Jordan’s call-up a precursor to his being included in a possible trade, much as Mike Rizzo featured both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock at the end of 2011 prior to shipping them off?  I ask this because Jordan doesn’t seem to be the typical Rizzo guy; he’s not going to overpower you, he doesn’t throw mid 90s.  Then again, neither does Haren and that didn’t stop Rizzo from signing him for $13M.

Either way, I look forward to his next outing.  I’m always excited to watch new guys on the mound.

If only we had a healthy lineup… Nationals runs Scored analysis and what-if


Here’s a fun little statistical exercise.  What would the Nats record be right now if it actually had all its guys healthy at the same time?

Lets use a short hand stat (OPS+) to take a quick look, and then make some runs scored analysis adjustments to see some expected W/L records.  Assuming both Bryce Harper and Wilson Ramos were healthy and continued to hit at their current OPS+ rates once they return (which frankly is a rather conservative statement; Harper was hitting far above his seasonal OPS+ rate before he started running into walls at the end of April),  here’s what our lineup could look like:

Lineup # Naem Bats Pos OPS+ as of 6/28/13
1 Denard Span L CF 82
2 Anthony Rendon R 2B 134
3 Bryce Harper L LF 166
4 Ryan Zimmerman R 3B 125
5 Adam LaRoche L 1B 118
6 Ian Desmond R SS 117
7 Jayson Werth R RF 104
8 Wilson Ramos R C 105
9 Pitcher

That’s nearly an entire lineup of guys above 100 OPS+ (which indicates league average production) and from 2-6 are significantly above 100.  I dare say, this lineup of guys, with an average OPS+ of 118, should produce runs at about 18% above the league average.  Now, the pitcher spot and our crummy bench production will drag this team number down; lets say for sake of argument that this lineup will produce at an average of a 110 OPS+ when they’re all present and accounted for.

What does that mean?   Through 6/28/13’s games, the league team average of Runs Scored is 330.    The Nats have scored, to date, 275 runs, which ranks them 29th in the league and only above the AAA team the Miami Marlins are running out every night.  Lets look at two scenarios for our offense from a Pythagorean Record perspective to show where this team could have been with a league average offense and with the above described 10% above league average offense:

First, where are we right now:

6/28/13 actual
Actual Wins 39
Actual Losses 39
Actual W/L Record 39-39
Games played 78
Actual W/L percentage 0.500
Runs Scored 275
Runs Allowed 303
Pythagorean W/L percentage 0.456
Pythagorean wins 36
Pythagorean losses 42
Pythagorean W/L Record 36-42

We’ve scored 275, allowed 303 and are playing 3 games above our Pythagorean record.  Mostly because of a handful of specific blowouts (15-0 loss to Cincy the first week, a 9-0 loss in Atlanta, 10-1 loss in New York, back to back 13-4 and 8-0 beatings in San Diego and San Francisco), this team is playing a few games better than its expected record based purely on RS/RA.  We don’t have enough reverse-blowouts where the Nats have won by a large score to really counter balance it.

(Fun fact: did you know the Nats have only scored 8 or more runs in a game 3 times in their first 78 games?  The Red Sox have scored in double figures 9 times already including one 17 run outburst a few weeks back.  It seemingly takes the Nats a WEEK to score 17 runs.  I digress).

How about if the Nats just had a league average Offense right now, scoring 330 runs instead of 275?

thru 78 games with MLB avg runs scored
Actual Wins 39
Actual Losses 39
Actual W/L Record 39-39
Games played 78
Actual W/L percentage 0.500
Runs Scored 330
Runs Allowed 303
Pythagorean W/L percentage 0.539
Pythagorean wins 42
Pythagorean losses 36
Pythagorean W/L Record 42-36

We’d be at a Pythagorean record of 42-36 but (for reasons listed above) they’d likely have a record of 45-33.   45-33 would have us essentially tied for the divisional lead right now.

Last scenario; what if we were scoring at 10% above the league average, inline with the production of the 2012 offense and in line with the assumptions made on the OPS+ analysis above?

thru 78 games at 10% above league avg runs
Actual Wins 39
Actual Losses 39
Actual W/L Record 39-39
Games played 78
Actual W/L percentage 0.500
Runs Scored 363
Runs Allowed 303
Pythagorean W/L percentage 0.582
Pythagorean wins 45
Pythagorean losses 33
Pythagorean W/L Record 45-33

Pythagorean record of 45-33, likely actual record three games better at 48-30, which would have us tied with St. Louis and Pittsburgh for the best record in the game.  Right back where the team was last year in terms of league-wide record.


Conclusion: its all about the offense.  Maybe my own personal doom and gloom can get turned around if we get our guys back healthy, start hitting, continue pitching as well as we have, and get this turned around.


Written by Todd Boss

June 28th, 2013 at 2:26 pm

How do the Angels Prospect trades look now?


The Angels traded the farm to get Dan Haren a few years ago; would they make that same trade again?  Photo unknown via wikipedia

The Angels traded the farm to get Dan Haren a few years ago; would they make that same trade again? Photo unknown via wikipedia

When Jean Segura took off this season (especially well-known to fantasy baseball players, who were able to suddenly get a top-10 guy off the waiver wire), people asked, “Where’d he come from?”  Well, like many other rising stud prospects this season he was once the property of the Los Angeles Angels.  But the Angels have not valued their prospects much lately, and have traded away a slew of talented guys chasing after the playoffs in the last few years.
Here’s a quick look at the Angels’ prospect-involved trades as of late:
  • July 2010: Traded Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders -> Arizona for Dan Haren.
  • Nov 2011: Traded Tyler Chatwood -> Colorado for Chris Ianetta
  • July 2012: Traded Jean Segura and 2 minor leaguers -> Milwaukee for Zack Greinke rental
  • Nov 2012: Traded Jordan Walden -> Atlanta for Tommy Hanson
So, what do they have to show for these prospects-for-veteran trades?  After making the playoffs in 2009 but losing in the ALCS:
  • In 2010 with Haren, they finished in 3rd place, two games under .500 and 10 games back of the divisional winner Texas.
  • in 2011 with Haren in the rotation for a full season, they finished in 2nd place, again 10 games back of Texas.
  • in 2012 with both Haren, Ianetta and the Greinke rental they finished in 3rd again, 4 games out of the wild card.

And now in 2013 they’re scuffling despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the FA market on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The only things they have left to show for all the above trades are Ianetta’s .213 batting average and an injured Hanson.  But now they’re missing three potential front-line starter prospects, a closer-quality reliever and one of the more dynamic young infielders in the game.  Oh, and to fill in for those missing starters they’ve

When the San Francisco giants traded uber starter prospect Zach Wheeler for a 2 month rental of Carlos Beltran in 2011 in a failed attempt to get back to the playoffs, scouting pundits and Giants fans howled in derision.   Its harder to criticize the Giants moves in general (two World Series in the last three years) , but now with Tim Lincecum looking like the highest paid middle reliever in baseball history and with regular AAA pitcher tryouts to fill Ryan Vogelsong‘s 5th starter spot, you can only wonder what that team would look like with the newly promoted Wheeler slotting in behind their big guns Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.

Some GMs over-value prospects and hoard them, while some under-value them and have no problem flipping them for proven major league talent.  What I’m afraid of as a Nats fan, right now, is our GM panicking and trading away (ala the Angels over the past few years) even more of our long-term prospect depth chasing the short-term goal.  Especially if we trade away guys and then still don’t make the post-season.  I realize this is a hedge towards the rumors we’re hearing about how Mike Rizzo is “heavily working the phones,” but I don’t think we should break the bank and trade one of our best prospects for 3 months worth of a guy like Matt Garza.

College World Series Finals: UCLA Wins

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UCLA Wins the 2013 College World Series.

To recap the entire NCAA post-season tournament with links to my previous posts:

CWS Finals:

  • Game 1: UCLA’s #1/Friday starter Adam Plutko pitched 6 innings of solid one-run ball and the Bruins got just enough from the Trevor Fitts/Chad Girodo Mississippi State combo starter offering to take the first game 3-1 (box/gamer).  Plutko, an 11th round pick by Cleveland, wasn’t overly dominant (just 2 strikeouts) but was effective and the UCLA bullpen shut down the Bulldog offense.
  • Game 2: UCLA’s #2/Saturday starter Nick Vander Tuig completed the two-game sweep with 8 shut-out innings while Mississippi State’s rotational depth issues were exposed badly.  UCLA battered the bullpen-by-committee efforts and won the game and championship with ease 8-0.

UCLA just had the better pitching.  Mississippi State’s missing friday starter and then the subsequent burning of their saturday starter (best remaining starter) to get to the final ended up costing them dearly.

Written by Todd Boss

June 27th, 2013 at 11:22 am

Ladson’s Inbox 6/24/13


What a week!  Both Bill Ladson and Tom Boswell doing chats/email inboxes!  As I sit here as my flight has been delayed a second time, I find myself with the time to bang out Ladson’s latest inbox.

As always, I write my response here before reading Ladson’s and edit questions as needed for clarity.

Q: With right-hander Dan Haren going on the disabled list, is it possible the Nationals will try and trade for left-hander Cliff Lee or another top-of-the-rotation pitcher near the Trade Deadline?

A: Rumors on the street are that Mike Rizzo is working the phones, hard.  That sounds to me like he’s looking for serious reinforcements to try to salvage this “go for broke” season.  But somehow I seriously doubt it’ll be Cliff Lee.  Lee is owed too much money, he’s already 34, and the likelihood of Philadelphia dealing intra-division seems remote.  There’s plenty of other pundits out there reviewing the likely pitchers on the Trade market and there’s some intriguing names out there.  But it’ll be a sellers market and the Nats farm system has already been thinned recently.  Will they thin it even more in a desperate attempt to keep the 2013 dream alive?  I hope not; we’re already seeing how poorly thought out trades by other teams in similar positions have backfired and cost their teams significant prospect depth.  As others have noted, Ladson predicts the callup of Taylor Jordan for the time being.  Lets hope he comes out of no where and pitches 6 shutout innings.

Q: Does Wilson Ramos remind you a bit of Jesus Flores — a promising young catcher who can’t seem to stay off the disabled list?

A: Yeah, except that Ramos is twice the size of Flores and still can’t stay healthy.  That Kurt Suzuki move is looking better and better.  Derek Norris has yet to really pan out in the majors for Oakland (hitting below .200 this year and for his career), and Suzuki is holding down the fort for now.  That being said, we need Ramos back to spell Suzuki, who seems to be tiring as he catches the large majority of the innings.  Ladson doesn’t say much … but says the Nats miss Ramos.  Duh.

Q: Is there any chance we might see Ryan Zimmerman at second base?

A: Zero chance.  He’s a big dude; he’s not a 2nd baseman.  Now, Anthony Rendon looks like a 2-bagger to me.  Shorter guy, agile, quick arm, good glove.   Ladson agrees.

Q: What do you think of the Nats’ start this year, compared to last? Are they a stronger team?

A: Lots of injuries, lots of under-performing on the offense, and a couple of depressing pitching issues.  They’re better than a .500 team but they need to have at least a league-average offense (not one of the worst).  Ladson says they need Harper back.  Duh.




Ask Boswell 6/24/13

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Lots of grief for Espinosa and Haren this week.  Photo Nats official.

Lots of grief for Espinosa and Haren this week. Photo Nats official.

We’re now almost 3 months in, the team is still stuck at .500 and the natives are getting restless (see Haren, Dan‘s forced D/L trip as penance for his performance lately and Danny Espinosa‘s forced demotion to work on his batting).  I wonder what the tone of Tom Boswell‘s weekly chat questions on 6/24/13 will be?

As always, I answer here before reading Boswell’s answers and edit questions for clarity.

Q: Should the Nats move Ian Desmond up in the order?

A: Ian Desmond has mostly been batting 5th or 6th (depending on injuries to the 3-4-5 guys).   Frankly there’s no place else to put him.  They bought Denard Span so he could bat lead-off, and now suddenly Anthony Rendon is the prototypical #2 hitter; hits to all fields, good bat control, high average and some pop.  3-4-5 are set in stone when they’re healthy.   The only question is whether Desmond merits batting before or after Jayson Werth.  I’d say he will stay in the #6 hole.  Boswell says #6 is the best spot for him and he’ll stay there until Adam LaRoche‘s contract is up.

Q: Why do fans boo home-town players who are struggling?

A: The genesis of this question is the cascade of Boos rained down on Dan Haren after his latest meltdown.   I think fans are fans: they pay good money and expect this team to be successful.  When a guy lets in 7 runs in 3 and a third innings … well that’s a game spoiled.  Are they booing the player or the team, really?  Should they boo?  Eh; you certainly hear “good baseball town” crowds booing players.  Boswell says he’d have booed Haren too, but also notes what a class act and competitor he is.

Q: Where do we go with Dan Haren now?/Will Ohlendorf get the spot start?/Is Haren getting DFA’d?

A: Just answered a lot of this myself in a post yesterday.  Short answer; spot start from someone, extended rehab assignment for Haren, and probably a long-man role in the bullpen if we find a competent starter replacement.   I don’t think he’s getting DFA’d because any one of a number of pitching poor teams would snap him up in a heartbeat despite his crummy numbers.  Boswell thinks the team is going out on the open market to replace Haren and notes he’s hearing Taylor Jordan is getting a shot this weekend, and thinks that summarily demanding that a struggling player be released is cruel.

Q: Is Ian Desmond a flawed player?

A: The question arises because of Desmond’s small delta between his BA and his OBP (.280 and .318) and his approach in clutch situations.  I think Desmond has taken a small step back from last year’s break out season but otherwise all three of his slash line numbers are right where they were last year and in the same relative ratio as last year. His 2012 OBP was about 40 points higher than his average (same as this year), and his slugging is about at the same slightly lower figure.  He’s on pace to hit the same number of homers and actually increase his total extra base hits.  I see no issues here.  I’ll take a 120 OPS+ shortstop who plays plus defense anyday.  Boswell agrees, saying Desmond is a complete player and an all-star.  Nuff said.

Q: Is Werth’s groin strain another example of a Nats player coming back too soon?

A: It doesn’t seem so.  Different injury, and one that does tend to bedevil older players like Werth.  Lets just hope it isn’t too long.  Boswell does kind of scoff at Werth’s excuse of “playing dehydrated.”  As if there wasn’t enough ways for a professional athlete to hydrate themselves during the day.

Q: Will either Haren or Espinosa get another start in 2013?

A: I think the answer is likely yes.  This team has shown itself to be incredibly brittle so far (Saw a stat that the opening day lineup hasn’t played together since the 2nd week of April).  The odds of another guy going down with injury and requiring the return of either guy seems high.  The better question is likely what happens after 2013.  Haren’s one year deal is clearly over, and the Nats can’t possibly offer him a Qualifying Offer.  Danny Espinosa will be sans position and will be traded (even more proof of this?  The fact that Espinosa is playing SS in Syracuse).  Boswell interpreted the question more of a “rest of their career question” and said that Espinosa clearly has more career but Haren, maybe not unless he adjusts his approach.

Q: Why is there a disagreement between Harper and Johnson on his rehab?

A: Much to-do about nothing?  Either way, it doesn’t sound good when you have media members scurrying from one guy to another to play “he said, she said” in the papers.  Those two need to get on the same page, whether Bryce Harper is going on a rehab assignment Tuesday, Wednesday or three Fridays from now.  turns out: he’s going out on rehab tonight.  Boswell thinks its just Davey Johnson being too positive on how long it takes guys to come back.

Q: Why hasn’t Espinosa gotten surgery, if it has so clearly impacted his performance?

A: Probably two words: “Anthony” and “Rendon.”  I think Espinosa’s been reading the tea leaves and knew that his spot was the most likely destination for Rendon, and that Rendon (once arriving) likely wouldn’t give it up.  So far, that scenario is playing pretty much exactly as in Espinosa’s worst fears.  Boswell talks about how the Nats evaluated Espinosa’s injuries now and at the time.

Q: If the Nats were to pursue someone like Lee or Gallardo in the trade market, what would it cost them?  And who is untouchable?

A: Cliff Lee is owed so much money that it may not take as much in prospects as one would think.  But, the Philles have to declare that they’re out of it first … and they’ve got basically the same record as the Nats right now.  Gallardo is signed through 2014 with a 2015 option for about the same money we’re paying Haren right now .. and he has limited no-trade.  The thing is; is he worth trading for?  He’s only so-so this year, better the last two years.  I think Yovani Gallardo probably rates a bit below Gio Gonzalez on the trade market b/c of his salary  and being slightly less on the field, so perhaps two good prospects plus a young guy.

Who is untouchable at this point?  Rendon, Karns (they like him too much), Jordan (gotta see what they have now).  Brian Goodwin (he’s Span’s replacement in two years).  A.J. Cole (they worked pretty hard to get him back).  I don’t think they want to part with Matt Skole either.  But that’s not leaving a lot to work with in terms of prospects.

Boswell doesn’t really talk much about these guys or who the Nats are keeping … but fantasizes about getting David Price.  Dream on; the Tampa Bay Rays don’t trade unless they know they’re winning the deal.


Haren’s 6 week Demotion, er I mean D/L Trip


Haren's struggles earn a well-deserved D/L trip.  Photo via

Haren’s struggles earn a well-deserved D/L trip. Photo via

Little surprise that the Major’s worst starting pitcher Dan Haren was sent to the D/L.  As of 6/24/13, out of 99 qualified Starting Pitchers he currently ranks 99th in ERA, 95th in FIP, 72nd in xFIP (so there’s that) and (interestingly, since it purportedly is the best of the analytical evaluator advanced pitching stats) 48th in SIERA.  As has been noted elsewhere, he’s tied for the league lead in HRs conceded.  The team has lost his last nine starts, and his latest meltdown clearly has forced the team’s hand.  Haren may not be the reason this team is mired at .500 (offense, offense, offense), but he’s clearly not helping either.

So the Nats have found a “soft tissue” issue with Haren (this time?  a “Shoulder Strain”) and have sent him to the D/L.  This isn’t the first time the Nats have used a dubious soft-tissue injury to “stash” an inflexible contract (see Rodriguez, Henry and Wang, Chien-Ming repeated D/L trips over the past two years), and while I kind of laugh at the blatant manipulation of the rules, it benefits the team to be able to remove him from the active roster but not lose him to the open market, so we’ll let it slide.  (btw, how do I know that the team is playing shenanigans with the D/L trip?  Read CSN Chase Hughes‘ tweet about what Haren said when informed he was going on the D/L.   Haren didn’t even know what injury he was supposed to have!).

So what happens next?  Adam Kilgore‘s WP article on the topic seemed to indicate that the Nats and Davey Johnson are not considering either Ross Ohlendorf or Craig Stammen for spot starts.  Which I have a hard time believing frankly; both guys demonstrated their ability to pitch longer outings in the last two days in relief of failed starters.  Ohlendorf has been starting all year and is exactly the kind of 4-A/6th starter that the Nats envisioned him to be when they signed him in the off-season.  Why would the team do something rash like call up Taylor Jordan (as Kilgore suggested and as others are reporting) when we’ve already seen what a more polished and experienced AA-pitcher (Nathan Karns) can do when jumped far above his head too soon?  Yeah, I’m excited about Jordan and what he’s done this year; but I think Ohlendorf or Stammen are better options.  I’d start Ohlendorf on Saturday and see what happens.

Of course, perhaps the Nats talent evaluators are convinced that a guy (Jordan) with exactly 49 innings above A-ball is ready to replace a $13M veteran.   If so, I can’t wait to see him pitch live.  Even if it starts his service time clock too soon, he was a guaranteed 40-man addition ahead of the coming Rule-5 draft anyway based on his domination so far in 2013.  What’s a few extra months at this point?  He’s already past Super-2 status so the team has guaranteed all the control they could get over him.

As for Haren, here’s what we’re likely going to see:  he’ll pay lip service to his “injury,” get an MRI, see a couple of specialists, get a shot.  That’ll take a week or so.  By that time we’ll know whether or not whoever gets his Saturday 6/29/13 start is worth giving another start to.  If Ohlendorf or somebody pitches 6 shutout innings in Haren’s place … then Haren’s going on a long “rehab” assignment in Syracuse.  And frankly, even though he’s making $13M and was supposed to be our former ace acting as a 4th starter FA acquisition, he may struggle to get his starting gig back.

Is it time to pull the plug?  Well, baseball is a performance-based industry.  Haren has just not performed.  Is it truly because he’s pitching through injuries?  Somehow I don’t think so; he was ineffective last year, he’s yet to really have a truly dominant outing this year, and the question is out there as to whether Haren is officially washed up.  For as much as I looked forward to Haren’s time here when we signed him, I now feel like we can’t give him more starts unless he starts throwing shut-down outings in AAA.

PS: read this interesting nugget tooDanny Espinosa is playing short-stop in Syracuse.  You know what this tells me?  The same thing that Kilgore concludes: Espinosa is being showcased so that he can be shopped as a Shortstop on the trade market.  Read the link; I can’t disagree with any of his analysis.  Well, either that or the team is looking to move Ian Desmond and replace him w/ Espinosa.  Ha.

PPS: Also reading reports on NBCSports that Mike Rizzo is burning up the pre-trade market phone lines.  That’s a clear indication that this team is not ready to wave the middling .500 team flag.

College World Series Update; The final is set

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Here’s an update of where we are in the 2013 College World Series (CWS).  We’re to the CWS final, having had the 8 competitors whittled to just two.

To recap the entire NCAA post-season tournament with links to previous posts:

A couple helpful resources for those who want to follow the College game: here’s a link to the CWS schedule page at, which I use as the best way to quickly find all the core college site data.  And here’s the best (only?) College Baseball blog out there:

CWS Field: here’s the two Original Brackets.

  • Bracket 1: UNC, NC State, UCLA, LSU
  • Bracket 2: Mississippi State, Oregon State, Indiana, Louisville

Days 5-6:

  • Results: Two elimination Games.  Oregon State v Indiana, and UNC v NC State.
  • Oregon State shut down Indiana in one loser’s bracket elimination game 1-0 behind a complete game 4-hitter from senior lefty Ace/Friday starter Matt Boyd.   Boyd improved to 13-4 on the season in what may have been his last collegiate start; he was a 6th round pick by Toronto.   Boyd out-dueled fellow Ace/Friday starter Aaron Sledgers, himself a 5th round pick by Minnesota, who finishes his 2013 season 9-2 after giving up just one run on 7 hits for his complete game loss.
  • UNC got a couple of runs on NC State’s ace starter Carlos Rodon (pitching on 3-days rest and on a pitch count limit) and #3/Sunday starter Hobbs Johnson made it stand up, throwing 8 1/3 shutout innings in the start of his career as UNC took the loser-bracket final 7-0 (box/gamer).  Johnson is an undersized lefty with decent velocity picked in the 14th round by Milwaukee.   By throwing their #3 starter, UNC can come back with their #1 Kent Emanuel and #2 Trent Thornton ready to go to try to beat UCLA twice to make the final.

Days 7-8:

  • Results: Bracket Finals: Mississippi State over Oregon State 4-1, and UCLA over UNC by the same score.
  • Mississippi State got to Oregon State starter Andrew Moore, hanging him with just his second loss of the season and their big-time hitter Hunter Renfroe hit a 3-run homer to win the game for the SEC team (box).
  • UNC’s Emanuel didn’t pitch badly (6ip, 1 earned run) but threw far too many pitches (112 pitches through six innings) while the Tar Heel’s offense couldn’t touch UCLA’s #3/Sunday starter Grant Watson, and UCLA cruised into the CWS final (box).

CWS Bracket Results: here’s the final standings of each of the two CWS Brackets:

Bracket 1:

  • 1st place: #12 UCLA
  • 2nd Place: #1 UNC
  • 3rd Place: #9 NC State
  • 4th Place: #4 LSU

Bracket 2:

  • 1st place: #11 Mississippi State
  • 2nd Place: #3 Oregon State
  • 3rd Place: #10 Indiana
  • 4th Place: #15 Louisville

Where do we stand in the tournament now/What’s next?

  • The final is set: Mississippi State and UCLA will play a 3-game set starting tonight 6/24, 6/25 and (if necessary) 6/26.
  • UCLA’s pitching staff is set up perfectly for the 3-game set, with Ace Adam Plutko set to go on 6/24 with more than a week’s rest since his 6/16 victory.  If the series goes all three games, none of UCLA’s starters will be on anything other than regular rest.  Meanwhile Mississippi State’s “rotation” has been a patchwork the entire post-season; their #1/friday starter Luis Pollorena hurt himself in the regionals and has only thrown a handful of innings in the CWS.  We havn’t seen their #3/sunday starter Jacob Lindgren the entire post-season.  The team has leaned heavily on #2/Saturday starter Kendal Graveman, who has now started four of their post season games (including two games in the Bracket) and on a couple of bullpen guys in Trevor Fitts and Chad Girodo to make up the innings (the Fitts/Girodo combo likely starts tonight).  Graveman would be on 4-days rest for the 2nd game, 5 days rest for a 3rd game in the CWS final but likely will not pitch the opener.
  • Is this a compelling CWS final?  The 3rd place PAC-12 team and a team that finished a distant 3rd in its division (and was barely over .500 in conference play) in the SEC?   I would have loved to see a Vanderbilt-UNC or a Vanderbilt-LSU SEC grudge match in the final.  I would have liked to see an ACC team at least challenge for the title to try to break their big winless streak.  That being said, both teams were very good; Mississippi State was a 50 win team, UCLA a 47-win team.

Prediction: I think UCLA’s pitching staff is setup and rested while Mississippi State’s staff is in disarray and will be tired.  I think this will make the difference as UCLA takes it in 3.

More R.A. Dickey Animated Gifs

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R.A. Dickey throwing another knockler. Photo via wiki/flickr user dbking

R.A. Dickey throwing another knockler. Photo via wiki/flickr user dbking

A few months ago I posted a Youtube video showing a Catcher’s point-of-view look at R.A. Dickey‘s knuckle ball coming in.

Here’s a couple more cool graphics that have popped up on various blogs that I read.

  •  From imgur/r/baseball, an animated Gif of Dickey’s knuckler as it travels to the plate.  Done by the same fellow @DShep25 who did similar Gifs of Yu Darvish‘s repertoire and of Miguel Cabrera‘s ability to hit homers from any point in terms of plate coverage.  (h/t to BusinessInsider blog).
  • And here’s a story to go with the above images from the author himself, Drew Shephard on

Still amazing that his 2013 numbers are so bad right now (6-8, 4.90 ERA, 1.388 whip, all significantly worse than his Cy Young numbers from last year).  The Blue Jays are only 6-9 in his starts, a big reason why they’re in last place in the AL East right now.

And then, since its related to these cool graphics, here’s a study (again from BusinessInsider’s Sports blog) about the Physics of a Curve Ball.  Its no wonder Dickey reportedly didn’t even travel with the team when they went to Colorado; he knew his pitches wouldn’t have any movement.

Written by Todd Boss

June 20th, 2013 at 12:26 pm

College World Series Update; The tourney is taking shape

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Not a good sign when you can't spell the name of your marquee event correctly.

Not a good sign when you can’t spell the name of your marquee event correctly.

Here’s a recap of the 2013 College World Series (CWS) so far.  We’re through the first four days of competition and we’re getting closer to a CWS final.

To recap the entire NCAA post-season tournament so far

A couple helpful resources for those who want to follow the College game: here’s a link to the CWS schedule page at, which I use as the best way to quickly find all the core college site data.  And here’s the best (only?) College Baseball blog out there:

CWS Field: here’s the two Pots that will each determine a finalist:

  • Pot 1: UNC, NC State, UCLA, LSU
  • Pot 2: Mississippi State, Oregon State, Indiana, Louisville

Days 1-2:

  • Results: NC State beats UNC, UCLA beats LSU, Mississippi State beats Oregon State and Indiana beats Louisville.  My predictions were pretty bad; all four teams that I thought would win the openers lost; only Indiana-Louisville would not have been considered an “upset” by seeds.
  • Carlos Rodon for NC State pitched a complete game victory, giving up just one run on 5 hits against the #1 overall seed UNC.  Rodon’s post-season stats now stand as follows: 26 1/3 innings, 18 hits, 4 runs, 27Ks, 4 walks.  Hie continues building his draft pedigree for 2014 (he’s already considered one of the best, if not the best 2014 draft prospects).  If NC State can beat UCLA, they’ll get Rodon in the pot final on 4 days rest and could use him in game 3 of the finals on 4 days rest as well, an intruiging scenario for NC State’s chances at winning this tournament.  So instead of seeing marquee matchups in the winners brackets of both pots, we saw them in win-or-go-home games in the Losers bracket.
  • Aaron Nola for LSU took his first loss of the season, giving up 2 unearned runs in 8 innings to lose to UCLA.  Another upper-end sophomore pitching prospect, Nola has yet to give up an earned run in the post season and previously out-dueled 3rd overall pick Jonathan Grey in the super Regional by pitching a 2-hit shutout against Oklahoma.  But UCLA ground out an important victory.
  • Mississippi State scored twice in the 8th to take the 5-4 lead and held on against #3 overall Seed Oregon State.
  • Joey DeNato pitched a 4-hit shutout for Indiana and shut down Louisville.  DeNato is a college junior who (amazingly?) went undrafted in June (likely because of his size; he’s listed as 5’10” 180 and probably is smaller).   He’s 24-8 for his college career and is only improving.  He could be a draft day find for someone in 2014.

Days 3-4:

  • Results: Oregon State eliminates Louisville, Mississippi State beats Indiana, UNC eliminates LSU, and UCLA beats NC State.
  • Louisville is the first team eliminated as their ace Jeff Thompson (a third round 2013 pick for Detroit) gets pounded for 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings.  Not a great way to end your college career.
  • Mississippi State puts itself in the driver’s seat to advance from Pot 2 with another 8th inning come-back to beat Indiana and now only needs one more win to get to the CWS final.
  • LSU, the team that I thought would win the CWS a few days ago, became the 2nd team to be eliminated by falling to #1 overall seed UNC.  Tar Heels freshman “Closer” Trent Thornton got the start and threw 7 decent innings to improve to 12-1 on the season.  The Tarheel’s offense got to LSU’s starter early to send my (and Baseball America pundits’) favorite home early.
  • UCLA put itself in the drivers seat of Pot 1 by beating NC State 2-1.  UCLA’s saturday starter Nick Vander Tuig (and San Francisco’s 6th round pick this year) junk-balled his way through 7 innings of 4-hit ball for the victory.

Where do we stand in the tournament now/What’s next?

  • The next two days feature Elimination games.
  • Oregon State-Indiana is tonight 6/19/13.  Loser goes home.  The winner has to beat Mississippi State twice to get to the CWS Final.
  • UNC faces NC State for the 5th time this season tomorrow night 6/20/13.  Loser goes home.  The winner has to then beat UCLA twice to get to the CWS final.
  • UCLA and Mississippi State are both heavily favored at this point to advance; they get to rest their bullpens and they can throw their #1 starters on full rest.



Written by Todd Boss

June 19th, 2013 at 9:13 am