Nationals Arm Race

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

Ladson’s inbox: 11/29/11 edition

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Lannan gets no respect. Photo via

Another edition of beat reporter Bill Ladson‘s inbox, dated 11/29/11.

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

Q: Do Ross Detwiler or Tommy Milone have a chance to beat out John Lannan for a rotation spot?

A: Doubtful.  Lannan may not throw as hard as Detwiler but he’s a more complete pitcher.  Lannan is underrated; look at his career numbers; never missed a start, no injuries, and sits right at 4.00 for his career.  His K/9 numbers are ticking up, as is his velocity.  Milone needs to show that he has Maddux-level control before really showing that he can stick in a major league rotation.  I know Milone looked pretty good in September, but if you look closer at his game log, he didn’t exactly go against the best competition; the Mets twice (fielding a AAA lineup), Houston (worst team in the league by 10 games), Miami in the last week of the season, and Philly during their September swoon.  I’d give Detwiler more love, but he has yet to show during 3 different MLB stints the ability a) stay healthy and b) stay consistent.  He throws too much across his body, making his delivery difficult to repeat and his breaking stuff too flat.  I think Detwiler makes the rotation as a #5 unless we sign another FA; at which point we DFA Gorzelanny and turn Detwiler into a long man-spot starter.  Milone starts in AAA.  Ladson says Lannan is in the rotation, unless he’s traded for a CFer.

Q: What is your opinion on center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, and do you think Rizzo will go hard after him?

A: He looks promising; comparisons to Sammy Sosa without the steroids.  However, he’s not projecting as a true CFer (more of a corner) and this team doesn’t need a corner outfielder.  Plus, the Cuban league isn’t exactly equivalent to the high minors, so he’s not a 2012 option for teams.  He’s looking at at least 1 full year in the minors, perhaps two.  That’s a lot for a reported $30M price tag (or higher).  I think he goes to a team looking for the longer term.  Ladson agrees with the above, but says the Nats are interested.

Q: Trying to acquire Roy Oswalt is lacking any real logic. Oswalt had a losing record last year. His balky back meant he had the fewest starts in his career. He will be a year older next season. It would be risky at best to acquire Oswalt. Why do it?

A: The questioner really should look at Oswalt’s career stats; yes he had an injury last year but it was the first of his career.  In fact, for an 8-year stretch he was among the most durable (and best) starters in the league.  Who cares about his record; look at his performance.  3.69 era in a hitters park, 1.33 whip not great but not terrible.  K/9 down slightly, but his bb/9 is consistent with his career.  How much of this was due to his pitching with the injury?  I’d much rather have Oswalt on a 3-year deal than Buehrle.  Ladson agrees, noting the same items I did and throwing in some glowing quotes from Jayson Werth.

Q: Do you think Coco Crisp could help the Nats? He is a free agent and I don’t think he would cost a lot of money for even a two-year contract.

A: NO.  Look at my CF-only post, where you find that Crisp had a 91 ops+ and a negative UZR/150.  So, he can’t hit AND he’s a defensive liability.  Why do we want him again?  I’d rather stick with Werth in center and get a one-year alternative for a corner OF.  Ladson says the Nats aren’t interested in any FA not named Cespedes, and will pursue a trade.

Q: Is Michael Cuddyer an option for the Nats? He’s got a good bat and is good defensively. Would the Nats consider starting Werth in center and let Cuddyer take over in right?

A: Presumably this was written before Cuddyer was linked with the Phillies.  I’m not sure i’d entirely say he’s good defensively (he was marginally positive UZR/150 in RF, his primary position, after two years of being awful, and is mostly horrible at 2B, 3B.  Only at 1B is he ok … but we have two guys for 1B already).   But he did pound the ball in 2011.   I’d be up for him in RF and Werth in CF, if for a short time.  He is right-handed though, adding to a very RH heavy lineup (Ramos, Zimmerman, Desmond, Werth and Morse all RH-only).  Ideally we’d find some LH-hitting outfield options to help balance things out.  Ladson though says he’s not a fit, that Harper would be considered before Cuddyer.

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