Nationals Arm Race

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Ask Boswell 3/24/14 edition

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Should this man be on this team?  Photo Nats official 2014 via rantsports.com

Should this man be on this team? Photo Nats official 2014 via rantsports.com

Despite there being just a scant week until games start … i’m at a loss for content here!  Fear not; Mr. Tom Boswell always chats on mondays.  Here’s the 3/24/14 edition.  This was a monster chat; he took questions for 3.5 hours.

Q: Steven Souza just had a monster spring: Does he need a year at Syracuse or can the Nats use him now?

A: Some guys here love Steven Souza.  But he’s an outfielder in a system that already has 5 multi-million dollar outfielders under contract, so he’s not going to break camp with the team.  He’s  yet to play above AA and could use some seasoning against the near-MLB quality AAA starters.  But the Nats didn’t put him on the 40-man roster for the heck of it; you have to think he’s going to feature this year to cover for injuries.  He needs some positional flexibility.  He’s listed as a third baseman as well; another position we don’t really need any cover for right now.  Souza’s problem is that he’s a corner player (LF/RF/3B/1B) on a team with a bunch of them already.  So he’s going to have to out-hit a starter to get ABs.  Boswell says the same thing I do about not ever playing above AA.  Lets see how he does in upstate NY in April.

Q: Is Moore going to lose out on his spot to Peterson?

A: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if a guy already is on the 40-man (Tyler Moore), then the odds of someone who is NOT currently on our (full) 40-man (aka Brock Peterson) beating out an established 40-man player AND dislodging an existing guy off the 40-man roster seems rather remote.  Besides, are we even sure Moore is making the 25-man roster at this point?  The team already has 5 OFers and needs another guy who can play middle infield, not a guy who can only play a corner.   Peterson is a 1B/OF type, much as Moore is.  Maybe this is all a precursor towards moving Moore to a team that covets him (Houston).  Boswell agrees that Moore is “on the bubble” and then notes that 1B competition after LaRoche is gone will be quite interesting.

[Interlude: someone asked a question about what "Cybermetrics" was.  WAR, OPS and WHIP].  Boswell answered it well, getting in his own dig at WAR while he was at it.

Q: Will Lobaton’s throwing arm add to an already-weak area?

A: Maybe; but I’m not sweating the throwing arm mechancis of our once-a-week catcher.  I’m more worried about whether Doug Fister is going to be ready for 4/1.  Boswell points out that Lobaton’s pitch framing is one of the best … and that if your backup catcher has just one weakness then you’re doing a-ok.  

Q: Who’s the 5th starter going to be?

A: Now I’m flip-flopping again, trying to read the tea-leaves, and I’m guessing Taylor Jordan wins it.  Ironically it will come down to Tanner Roark‘s flexibility; he’ll head to the pen to be the 7th man and he’ll be happy about it.  If Roark were to win the spot, Jordan would be heading to AAA to keep starting and we’d be basically auditioning a kid in the #7 spot (since it seems like Ryan Mattheus is heading to the D/L and Christian Garcia just hasn’t shown he’s got the stuff).  I’m ok with this configuration.   Boswell uses my previous arguments in saying that Roark deserves it and should have it on merit.  We’ll see.  

Q: Are you worried about the back of the Nats bullpen with Storen and Soriano’s shaky spring training stats?

A: Yes.  Short Sample Sizes, Spring Training stats, blah blah.  Soriano has looked awful, Storen not much better.  The Bullpen was the weakest part of this team last year and these guys are making too much coin to be just so-so.  Problem is, if Soriano blows a bunch of saves and loses the closer job, you might as well just release him because his non-closer splits show what a moper he can be.  This is an area to keep an eye on early in the season.  Boswell seems to think Soriano will be fine but worries about Storen.

Q: Are the Nationals vindicated in “Shutdown gate” now that Medlen is going in for a second TJ?

A: Phew,  I tell you this is a topic I’ve avoided because I want to keep my blood pressure down.  But others have certainly chimed in on it (Ted Leavengood at Seamheads.com opined on 3/18/14, as did Thom Loverro in the WashingtonTimes on 3/13/14 and Rantsports.com’s less than cordial website posted its own opinion in the same timeframe).  You’ll notice that nowhere in this list are the blowhards at NBCSports’ HardballTalk, some of the more loud and ardent critics of the Nationals 2012 decisions.  I wonder why; its like it is in the Newspaper business; nobody notices when you print a retraction of a 20-point headline and bury it on page 12 a few days later; all people remember is the headline.

I think honestly my opinion is in line iwth Loverro’s; we won’t really know if the Strasburg plan or the Medlen plan is really “the best” course of action until both guys are retired.  If Strasburg breaks down again, he’ll be in the same place as Medlen.  Yes the Nats plan looks better now that we have Strasburg going on opening day and the Braves will be lucky to have Medlen back and healthy this time next year.  But it still doens’t prove anything about pitcher mechanics and proclivity to injury (another topic that makes my blood boil; people just spouting off internet theories about biomechanics and presenting themselves as experts on the topic … another topic for another day).

An important note from another questioner on the same topic: all four guys going in for their 2nd TJ surgery this spring (Medlen, Brandon BeachyPatrick Corbin and Jarrod Parker had their first TJ surgery AFTER both Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann‘s surgeries.  The Nats approach seems to be more and more vindicated by the year.

Boswell doesn’t really bite at the offer to say “I told you so” but offers a link to a paper at NIH on the topic.

Q: Does Espinosa beat out Rendon?

A: No.  Yes Espinosa is superior defensively; you don’t need the second coming of Mark Belanger at second.  Boswell agrees.

Q: Did Rick Shue really make that big of a difference on this team?

A: Looking at splits both pre- and post- Rick Eckstein/Rick Shue hiring/firing, you would be inclined to say yes.  Was this causation or correlation?  Who knows.  Boswell doesn’t address the second part of a two-part question.

Q: Is the game of baseball headed for disaster thanks to big market dominance, over-emphasis on the teams in the 4 biggest cities and declining popularity?

A: I sense this questioner has a bit of bias.  Yes baseball’s ratings are miniscule when compared to Football’s; ask yourself how Football’s ratings would look if there was a game every night.  Baseball attendance dwarfs any other sport and is rising.  There’s national emphasis on “national” teams sure … but I’ve heard cogent, well put arguments that baseball itself is now basically a regional sport.  A strong sport with strong local ties that don’t translate nation-wide.  As compared to the NFL, where if the superbowl is Green Bay vs New England people tune in because they associate those teams with their star quarterbacks, not with their geography.

The thing that I worry about is the incredible revenue disparities we’re starting to see.  I do believe that the RSN monies that large market teams are pulling in will eventually give way to some sort of small-market owner revolt as the playoffs become the same teams year after year.  Sort of like what we see in European Soccer leagues.  Nobody wants to see that.

Boswell notes some stats about attendance, calls the game booming and also repeats my “regional points.”

Q: How important at the two early-season series versus Atlanta (April 4-6 at home and then April 11-13 away)?

A: I’d like to be a cynic and say something pithy like, “a game on April 5th counts the same in the standings as a game on September 30th.”  But in this case, I think a new manager, a weakened rival and a team that got its *ss handed to them last year by Atlanta will want to make a statement.  It could be damaging if the Braves somehow come in here and take 2 of 3.  Boswell does talk about the opportunity to put pressure on the Braves early.

Q: Is this the year Strasburg puts it all together?

A: It seems like it; he’s in the same place Zimmermann was in 2013 in terms of surgery recovery; I’d love to see him win 20 games.  Boswell drinks the kool-aid and then points out the excellent Adam Kilgore piece in the WP a few days ago on Strasburg; its worth a read.

Q: Who do you think has the most upside between Brian Goodwin, Eury Perez and Michael Taylor? Are the Nats still high on Destin Hood? 

A: A prospect question!  I’d go Goodwin, Taylor then Perez at this point. But if Goodwin plateaus again this summer Taylor will surpass him.  I think Perez has peaked as a late-innings defensive replacement/pinch runner at this point and may be trade-able/DFA able sooner than later.  Hood’s time with the organization is running out; he’s entering his 7th minor league season after hitting just .224 with no power in AA last year.  I’m thinking he’ll repeat and then hit free agency.  Too bad.  Boswell doesn’t sound like he likes any of these guys.

Q: Between the Morse trade (Cole, Krol, Treinen), the Guzman trade (Roark), and the Capps trade (Ramos), plus a few others, it seems like the Nats have made some really good trades. Umm, please tell me that the people who scouted these players before any of us had heard of them are well compensated.

A: Yeah, the Nats pro scouting squad has definitely done some great work as of late.   Boswell notes that scouts are not paid a ton … but that the Nats raided other teams for quality guys by giving them more respect and input in this org.  

Q: Every year the number of pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery seems to be higher than the year before. It has to be clear at this point that the innings limit (alone) is not the answer. When does baseball finally figure this out?

A: Well, what’s the answer then?  You can look at literally every pitcher and find a fault or two with his mechanics; this guy has the “inverted W,” this guy subluxes his shoulder, this guy’s arm isn’t in the right position when he lands, this guy’s arm is too high, this guy’s arm is too low.  Nobody can define what “perfect mechanics” are.  I started pulling up video/images of the career MLB leaders of innings pitched and, guess what, those guys don’t have perfect mechanics either.  Don Sutton?  7th all-time in baseball IP and basically 2nd if you take out knuckleballers and dead-ball guys … and he has a perfect inverted-W in his motion.

What is the answer?  I wish I knew; i’d be the most in-demand pitching consultant on the planet.  When fully 1/3rd of major league pitchers have had Tommy John surgery, and that numbers seems to be rising, maybe the answer is found by looking at the evolving role of pitchers.  Velocity is king now: 30 years ago if someone threw 90 it was special; now its mediocre.  Relievers especially; think about how power arms in the bullpen are coveted now.  Is it possible that the answer to all these arm issues is simply that guys are just trying to throw too hard these days?  That’s not much of an answer though.  We can talk about youth development, over-throwing as kids, AAU/travel leagues and 10year olds going from playing 18-20 little league games to 45 travel-league games a year.  But I’m not sure that’s entirely it; baseball recruits from the Dominican Republic basically did nothing for years except play sand-lot baseball from sun-up to sun-down and that doesn’t seem to affect their longer term injuries….

Or does it?   I wonder if there’s any correlation to the “nature” of a players youth development versus future injury?  American system versus Japanese versus a developing latino country like Venezuela/Puerto Rico or the D.R.?  Excellent post topic.

Boswell totally punts on the question; maybe since there’s no real answer.

Q: Given what Souza has been doing lately, should we focus less on “age appropriateness” in the minors?

A: No.  I think Souza is the exception, not the rule.   If you’re in  your mid 20s and you’ve yet to succeed beyond high A … that’s pretty indicative of what your ceiling may be.  Simple as that.  Boswell points out that Roark is 27 and is a classic “late bloomer.”

Q: Does the news that Scherzer and Desmond declined long-term deals portend eventual trouble for the likes of Strasburg and Harper?

A: No; i think those guys were already going to be trouble.  What’s the common denominator here?  Two words: Scott Boras.  Scherzer == Boras client.  Strasburg?  same.  Harper?  Same.  Desmond isn’t a Boras client but he’s gotta be looking at some of the monster SS deals out there and saying, I’m going to hit the FA market to see what’s out there.  Can’t blame him.  The 2016 off-season is going to be an interesting one for this team.  Boswell mentions the Elvis Andrus contract, as I have many times, as a game-changer for Desmond.

 

 

Detwiler to bullpen… the first shoe to drop this spring

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If he's out, who's in?  Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

If he’s out, who’s in? Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

So, big news out of camp today is Matt Williams announced decision to “start the season” with Ross Detwiler in the bullpen.   Adam Kilgore broke the news earlier today and now it’s been picked up by some of the bigger sites and other Nats beat reporters.

I’m on record with having predicted Detwiler for the 5th starter, dating back to my (too-early) December 2013 post predicting the rotations across the system.  I stand by my arguments made at the time, but cannot argue with decisions made by those who watch these guys day-in and day-out.  Detwiler’s stats this spring leave something to be desired (insert standard anti-Spring training stats/short sample size arguments here), and we all know that a) the team needs another lefty reliever, b) Detwiler’s reliever stats are excellent,  and c) the Bullpen was pretty bad last year and needed improving anyway.

Detwiler in the bullpen definitely improves the group as a whole, and opens up a spot for someone unexpected to start the season in the rotation.

So, now what are we predicting?  Something like this?

  • Rotation: Strasburg, Gio, Zimm, Fister and Jordan
  • Bullpen: Soraino, Clippard, Storen, Stammen, Blevins (L), Detwiler (L) and Roark
  • D/L: Ohlendorf (back), Mattheus (chest), Davis (elbow)

Or are we thinking that Roark may pip Jordan for the 5th spot, which would give perhaps a guy like Aaron Barrett (whose Spring stats are stellar) or maybe even fan favorite Christian Garcia the 7th spot in the pen for the time being while Jordan heads to AAA?  Or, is Fister starting the year on the D/L as well, meaning both Jordan and Roark may be pressed into action?  Or, if Fister does hit the D/L is Detwiler getting pulled back into the fray as a starter again?  Or do we throw a NRI a bone and keep someone like Michael Gonzalez and/or Luis Ayala?  (doubtful on these last two guys: Gonzalez has yet to pitch in a game and Ayala’s gotten shelled).

If it were me, I”d go with Roark in the rotation until he falters (if he falters), stick Jordan in AAA to continue getting starts on a regular basis, keep Detwiler as 2nd lefty/long man and give a hard-throwing righty like Garcia a shot to show us what he’s got at the MLB level.

Thoughts?  First controversial move by our manager; I wonder how the players are taking it.

Written by Todd Boss

March 17th, 2014 at 4:21 pm

What part of Detwiler’s career makes him assume he has a rotation spot??

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Detwiler may be in denial about his job.  Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

Detwiler may be in denial about his job. Photo Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

Washington Post beat reporter Adam Kilgore called Ross Detwiler for a reaction to the Doug Fister acquistion and Mike Rizzo‘s follow-up comments on the pending 5th starter competition next spring.  Here’s the story:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2013/12/05/ross-detwiler-wants-to-start-feeling-100-percent-healthy/

I call out one quote from Detwiler in particular:

“I didn’t know there was going to be an open competition for the last spot,” Detwiler said. “Oh, well. I’ve gone into every year since I got here like that.  So why change that now?”

I’m sorry; what part of Detwiler’s career, or his performance last year in particular, is such that he should be surprised that he’s going to be competing for a rotation spot??  I’ll just note a few key points:

  • He’s thrown more than 75 innings ONCE in his MLB career.  In fact in his entire professional career he’s only thrown more than 75 innings twice; 2012′s 164 MLB inning season and 2008′s 124 inning Potomac season.
  • He was 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA (a 94 ERA+) and even worse advanced stats (his 4.44 SIERA ranked him 176th out of 206 MLB pitchers who threw 70+ innings last year).
  • He never goes deep into games; per Kilgore’s article he’s pitched past the 7th inning once, and a look at his game-logs shows that he rarely throws even a 100 pitches in an outing.
  • As others have stated, he basically throws one pitch … and batters begin to tattoo him when they see it enough; again per Kilgore’s article opposing batters are hitting .314/.366/.493 the third time through the order against him.
  • He had two separate D/L stints in 2013, and a season ending stint in 2010.

What part of those statistics inspires confidence that a) Detwiler is actually durable enough to count on for an entire season in the rotation, or b) he’s going to be better than one of our many alternatives at this point?  Or c) is he even good enough to be a starter for this team any more?

To the c) part, I used to be a big proponent of Detwiler’s, especially after his 2011 and 2012 seasons with their stellar looking ERA+ figures and after hearing anonymous scouting reports that gush about Detwiler’s “stuff” being the best on the staff.   But a look deeper (especially at 2012) shows that his ERA+ is a mirage; his advanced metrics put him far back on the leader boards of qualified starters.   His bullpen stats are phenomenal (albeit short-sample-sized); maybe its time to accept that he’s a better bullpen weapon.

Perhaps I’m overreacting to one quote in this article in particular since the rest of the article seemed to have him saying “the right things.”  But this quote shows a rather misguided opinion of his capabilities, given what his performance has been and given how much time he’s missed.  He has to be more aware of the possibility that the team no longer can count on him to be there to answer the bell 32-33 times with better than league average performance.

Written by Todd Boss

December 6th, 2013 at 8:10 am

Nats Rule-5 protection thoughts

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Walters already got added to the 40-man; who else may join him?  Photo unk via wp.com

Walters already got added to the 40-man; who else may join him? Photo unk via wp.com

Who might the team protect ahead of the Rule-5 Draft this year?  The topic came up recently in the comments so I thought i’d publish this post to open up the debate again.  I’ve got a rule-5 history post as well that i’ll post later this week.   And, as it turns out, Nov 20th is the deadline for adding players to the 40-man, so today’s as good a day as any to discuss.  (Kilgore’s analysis here, Baseball’s off-season calendar here).

The Nats off-season rule-5 protection debate really started in late August with an observation made about Zach Walters from Adam Kilgore in his pre-Sept 1 callup piece on 8/27/13.  It was continued by the announced list of Nats AFL participants, which included a couple of significant Rule-5 protection candidates.  Walters was subsequently added to the 40-man and called up, ending any Rule-5 speculation.

As (allegedly) was Steve Souza, who hit the cover off the ball in AA in 2013, with power to go with his CF defensive capabilities.  He followed that up by hitting .357 in the AFL, trailing just mega-prospects Kris Bryant and C.J. Cron for top hitting honors in Arizona.  I say Souza was “allegedly added” to the 40-man because, while news of his 11/1/13 40-man addition was widely published at the time, but his name does not appear on MLB.com’s 40-man roster for the team nor does there exist an 11/1/13 transaction (Editor’s update: it was posted 10/31/13 and the MLB 40-man database was missing him in error; it was eventually fixed).   I don’t know if its just a procedural thing or if all the beat reporters mis-reported the event and it should have been characterized as a “planned future” move.  But I’ll assume for the rest of this article that Souza is going to be put on the 40-man before the rule-5 draft.

Two of the most obvious Rule-5 candidates (even if Souza was technically a minor league free-agent to be) are now protected.  Who else might we see added?

Using the indispensable sites Draft tracker and the Big Board, and then giving some thought to prospect acquisitions made via trade, here’s some thoughts.  The quick rule-5 rules; any college-aged draftee from 2010 or before who isn’t already on the 40-man roster is Rule-5 eligible this coming off season, and any high-school aged draftee from 2009 or before is newly eligible this year.

Newly Eligible Players this year worth consideration for protection:

  • Rick Hague: 2B/SS from Harrisburg; .673 OPS in AA, not good enough OBP for a middle infielder and no power.  He’s well down the pecking order of backup middle infielders in this organization right now, and wouldn’t be a great organization loss even if he was selected.  Chances of being drafted or protected: very slim.
  • Jason Martinson: SS from Potomac/Harrisburg: Martinson finally earned a promotion above A-ball, where he promptly hit .185 in AA in 54 games.  He showed a ton of power in 2012 for a SS (22 homers) but it was in Low- and High-A ball.  Maybe he is a late bloomer.  However he’s not in jeopardy of being protected or drafted at this point.

No other 2010 college aged drafted hitter has even made it to Harrisburg; so they’re not going to get drafted or protected.  This includes three draft picks in the first 10 rounds of that draft; understandable in that the team committed millions to 3 top guys in 2010 and skimped elsewhere.

  • Sammy Solis: LHP with Potomac: coming back from injury in 2013 he pitched in Potomac the whole season.  He was a bit “old” for A-ball but its understandible considering where he’s been.  He excelled in the AFL and is being mentioned as a possible Loogy with the big-league team, so I’d have to think he’s a lock to be protected ahead of the draft.
  • Harrisburg middle relievers Matthew GraceAaron Barrett and Neil Holland: all three have good to excellent numbers in relief this year for AA Harrisburg.  Barrett especially as the closer.  Grace is left-handed and could feature as someone’s loogy.   Tough calls here; you can make a case that the team would like to retain all three guys as bullpen reinforcements in the coming years.  You can also make the riskier case that all three guys, while valuable and skilled players, may not stick on a MLB roster the entire year so perhaps they’re good bets to be left unprotected versus someone already on the 40-man roster.

The rest of the remaining 2010 college-age draftees are all either currently on the DL or are in Hagerstown or below, making them very slim candidates to be protected or picked.  Cameron Selik was one guy who could have made some noise, but he got hurt this year and isn’t going to get picked.

  • 2009 High School-age drafted players newly eligible: just Michael Taylor, who has a ton of speed (51sbs) and an improved OBP (.340) while repeating high-A this year.  I know there are readers here who like Taylor a ton, so this isn’t spoken out of disrespect.  I think Taylor has potential.   Maybe he “made the leap” in 2013.  Maybe he’s going to light up AA next season and suddenly we’re talking about him being Denard Span‘s replacement and not Brian Goodwin.  However, I can’t see someone rolling the dice with him in a rule-5 situation.   He’s never played above A-Ball.  In today’s modern game, with 12 man bullpens and thus shortened benches, I just can’t see someone like Tayler getting carried for an entire year.  I think the team may very well roll the dice and leave him exposed in December, and revisit 40-man protection in 2014.

Rule-5 holdovers from before of Note

  • Last year’s selections Erik Komatsu and Danny Rosenbaum: Komatsu has been hurt all year, Rosenbaum was decent but not over-powering in AAA.  Neither guy seems worth protecting since they already were selected and failed to stick.  But, they’re both AAA-level talents who could be someone’s bench player/swing man so they may get plucked again if not protected.
  • Justin Bloxom and Sean Nicol are both college-aged 2009 draftees with run-of-the-mill numbers in AA; they’ll play out the string until they get pushed out at this rate.
  • Patrick Lehman ended the season on the DL, making one think he’s not likely to get drafted.  Well that and his numbers were not good.
  • Matt Swynenberg has looked better in AA than he did in high-A; has he done enough to garner some interest from another team?
  • Destin Hood: our 2nd round pick in 2008 just seems to be spinning his wheels; his batting average has dropped as he’s repeated a level.  He’s officially in bust status.
  • Adrian Nieto has earned a placement in the Arizona Fall League and was Rule-5 Eligible last year, but was not drafted.  He’s yet to rise above high-A and seems a long shot to be taken (though, the Nats did pretty well plucking one Jesus Flores out of the Mets high-A team one year).

 


So, who’s getting protected?   As of the time of this writing, the Nats roster sits at 39 of 40 (again, assuming Souza is really there), so there’s just one empty spot.  But there’s at least a few guys on the fringes of the 40-man who I think could be waived and have a high likelihood of being kept (namely, Tyler Robinson and Corey Brown) if the team thought it needed room for either protectees or free agents.  The back-end of this roster is getting a bit clogged.

Depending on how many spots the team keeps open, in order I’d protect Solis, Barrett, Tayler, Grace, and Holland.   For me, only Solis is a lock.  The rest (for reasons described above) may be calculated omissions.

 

DC-IBWAA Poll results and my vote

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http://dc-ibwaa.blogspot.com/2013/10/dc-internet-baseball-writers.html
David Nichols does a great job getting all the Nats bloggers to participate in pre-season and post-season polls.  He got 18 voters this time around.  The link above is the results of the post-season poll.  Here’s his post-season survey questions, the poll results and how I answered them and why.

2013 DC-Internet Baseball Writers Association

POST-SEASON ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS BALLOT

 AWARD FIRST (5 POINTS) SECOND (3 points) THIRD (1 point)
Goose Goslin Most Valuable PlayerPlayer most valuable to the success of the Washington Nationals Werth Desmond Harper
Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the YearExcellent performance as a starting pitcher Zimmermann Strasburg Gonzalez
Frederick “Firpo” Marberry Relief Pitcher of the YearExcellent performance as a relief pitcher Clippard Stammen Roark
Sam Rice Hitter of the YearExcellence in all-around hitting, situational hitting and baserunning Desmond Span Harper
Frank Howard Slugger of the YearExcellence in power hitting Werth Harper Zimmerman
Joe Judge Defensive Player of the YearExcellence in fielding Span Desmond Espinosa
Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the YearPlayer who overcame biggest obstacle in the preceding season to contribute on the field Jordan Ramos Werth
Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the YearPlayer who meritoriously gave of himself to the community Zimmerman
Minor League Player of the YearMinor league player most destined for big league success

 

Jordan 

Giolito

Burns 

Cole

Souza 

Godwin

  • Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player: Werth, Desmond, Zimmermann.  I went Werth, Desmond and Harper.  I don’t like voting pitchers for MVP; they have their own awards :-)
  • Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year: Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gonzalez: Same way I voted.  I do like the few side-votes for Roark.
  • Frederick “Firpo” Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year : Clippard, Stammen, Soriano: I voted Clippard, Stammen and then Roark.  Honestly I did not think Soriano really did that great a job this year.  He had a 0.9 WAR for his $15M salary (with deferred payments).  That just doesn’t cut it for me for a high-end closer.  I want Craig Kimbrel-esque dominance for that kind of money.  Roark on the other hand had a 2.0 bWAR in his limited time on the team.
  • Sam Rice Hitter of the Year: Werth, Desmond, Zimmerman.  I went Desmond, Span, Harper.  I dunno; I guess I got caught up on the definition, which included “baserunning” and “situational” hitting.  I think I just plain forgot how good a season Werth had here.
  • Frank Howard Slugger of the Year: Werth, Harper, Zimmerman: same way as I voted.  Maybe we should have put more thought into it besides just listing the team leaders in  homers.
  • Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year: Span, Desmond, Ramos.  I went Span, Desmond and Espinosa.  Despite how bad his bat was, Espinosa was still awfully good in the field.  You always forget about the catchers when rating defenders.  I’m guilty here.
  • Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year: Ramos, Werth, Ohlendorf.  I went Jordan, Ramos and Werth.  Remember, Jordan had Tommy John surgery and was buried in high-A to start the season.  That’s a heck of a comeback.  Fair enough on Ramos after his kidnapping ordeal and his injuries.
  • Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year: Zimmerman, Desmond, Gonzalez.  Honestly I only voted for Zimmerman; do the rest of these guys do events?  Maybe i’m just unaware of what the rest of the team is doing in the charity world, but clearly Zimmerman’s MS causes is well known.
  • Minor League Player of the Year : Giolito, Rendon, Cole: I voted Giolito, Cole and Goodwin, thinking that Rendon was “graduated.”  I have two lines of players because I wasn’t sure how to answer the question at first; was it “3 best prospects” or “3 best minor league players THIS season?”  Because the answer to the latter question clearly is not the same as the answer to the former question.

Survey Questions
1. Which players on the 40-man roster at the end of the season are least likely to return in 2010?    

I said Cedeno, Haren, Ohlendorf, Tracy (which were the top four answers among all the responses) but i’d like to change my mind on Ohlendorf.   I think the team is going to tender him and keep him around as a long man, considering that he can’t refuse an option until mid-next year.  I also think a couple of these random guys picked up on waivers late in the season (Tyler Robinson and Mauro Gomez) may not stick around for the long haul.  These two guys in particular never even got numbers assigned to them.

2. Will the Nats sign Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann to long-term contract extensions before they reach free agency? 

I said “Desmond yes, Zimmermann maybe.”  Honestly, I feel the team can replace Zimmermann from within and may be better served to flip him for prospects if his price tag gets too high.  At some point the Nats are going to have to make tough choices like this (they are not going to be able to give 9-figure deals to everyone on this team who deserves them) in order to maintain their core group and contine to compete.  You already have two 9-figure deals, and you have to think that Desmond, Harper and Strasburg are going to merit them.  can you have a team with that much top-heavy payroll?  Now, if you got Zimmerman for Gonzalez prices (5  yrs $50M or so) then you have yourself a deal.

3. What player was the biggest surprise for the Nats this season?

I went with with Jordan, Roark, Werth.   The group went with Roark, Werth, Jordan.

4. Who was the biggest disappointment?

I went with Haren, Span, LaRoche.  The group went with Haren, Espinosa, Span.  Maybe I didn’t include Espinosa because I already had my doubts on him; frankly he didn’t disappoint me, he met my low expectations for him in 2014.

5. Who is your favorite professional Nats writer?

I went with Mark Zuckerman.  The survey results went Kilgore, Comak, Zuckerman and Wagner.  Coincidentally bon voyage to Comak, who is leaving The Washington Times Nats beat.

6. Who is your favorite non-professional Nationals writer?

I went with Luigi de Guzman, writer of the blog Natstradamus.  He doesn’t write that frequently, but when he does they’re usually thoughtful, well researched opinion pieces.  Though that’s no slight to Luke Erickson at Nationalsprospects.com, whose blog I absolutely depend on to write this blog.  I also really like Ryan Sullivan‘s NatsGM blog and its focus on prospects.  Generally speaking my preference in reading baseball writing on the internet leans towards opinion pieces.  I know that lots of blogs out there try to be replacement newspaper writers/beat reporters.  That’s not what excites me.  I want to see opinion pieces, criticism where criticism is due, etc.  Harper Gordek at Nationals Baseball is one that definitely writes opinion pieces and I look forward to his stuff too.  Unfortunately a lot of these guys have retired (Steven Biel, Chris Needham in particular were always good for a scathing piece when the team deserved it).  I know there’s a couple others out there who write good opinion pieces that i’m forgetting.

Yours truly got one vote!  That’s awesome, to whichever fellow blogger voted for me.

 

 

Reaction to John Feinstein’s ridiculous article

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John Feinstein, a guy whose opinions on things I used to read and look forward to, completely lost my respect with his ridiculous Sept 25th column where he argues, somehow, without anything in the way of proof, that the 2012 Stephen Strasburg shutdown affected the 2013 team.  He lost most of my respect last year with a similarly ridiculous article (discussed further on) but this one took the cake.

This column was so bad that the mild-mannered Adam Kilgore felt the need to post a rebuttal, to his own Washington Post colleague, online soon after it was posted.

This column was so bad that noted Nats troller Craig Calcaterra of HardballTalk (who has clearly criticized the team for the 2012 shutdown) lambasted the article in this nbcsports.com blog.  Seamheads.com’s Ted Leavengood posted a similar critique.

This column was so bad that when asked for a response, Davey Johnson called Feinstein “an idiot” during a radio appearance.

Do you know when the last time Feinstein wrote an article about baseball was?  Take a guess.  Yup; October 13th, 2012, the day after the Nats were knocked out of the NLDS, in a clearly canned article the he probably wrote in late August waiting for the Nats to lose in the playoffs.  Go back and read the 2012 article and see how awful it was as well; dripping with lazy sportswriter narrative and with not one mention or occurence of these key words: doctor, injury, medical or rehab.  You know, all the words that were key reasons as to why Strasburg was shutdown in the first place.

My opinion on this is pretty clear (most succinctly stated in this article titled “Innings Limits and Media Hypocrisy” earlier this year); if you want to criticize the Nats decision to shutdown Strasburg, then you HAVE to similarly criticize all the other “shutdowns” of pitchers we see.  If you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite; the placement of the team in the standings should NOT dictate medically-driven decisions for a 24-year old.  What really gets me is writers like Feinstein who don’t even bother to address the medical reasoning for the shutdown and act like its 1950.  Thankfully Feinstein doesn’t have a Hall of Fame vote or else he’d be posting drivel like what we get out of Murray Chass and making inane arguments about why the modern revolution of statistics is “stupid” and “ruining the sport.”

Feinstein needs to stick to his little niche of College Basketball with occasional complaints about how the PGA tour has screwed him, and keep his nose out of sports that he clearly doesn’t understand.

 

 

Written by Todd Boss

September 25th, 2013 at 9:19 am

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

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

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

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.

Nats Blog & RSS Feed Overview

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I read all my sports news via RSS Feeds, which I’ve read into Google Reader for years.  If you’re like me, you were probably highly irritated when finding out that Google is summarily ending the Reader service.   I’ve done a bit of research on where to transfer my RSS feeds and “Feedly” seems to be the way to go.  (Tangent: if you’re a big RSS reader, where are you moving your RSS feeds to, or what do you use as an alternative to Google Reader?  I’m leading towards Feedly)

Anyway, while thinking about my Google RSS feed future, I happened to take a look at the two categories of Nationals RSS feeds that I have listed and was astonished to see the number of Nationals links I now have.  I count at least Eighty (80) Nationals related blogs and another Thirty (30) Nationals “Official” feed links (official meaning Team sites, beat reporters, or Masn feeds).

Can you believe there are (or were) eighty blogs out there about the Washington Nationals??  And in reality that number may be a bit low, because I’m always finding out about new Nationals blogs that pop up.  A great number of these blogs are now dormant (read onwards), but there’s still quite a few near daily blogs pumping out nearly as much content as the paid Beat Reporters.

Anyway; I thought it would be of great service to list all these various Blog links for the general Nats readership.  And of course if you see a blog out there that I don’t have, I’d love to grab it.  I also took this opportunity to clean up my own links section along the right-hand side to prune away obsoleted blogs and add in the currently active blogs.   Lastly: if your site doesn’t have an Nats-specific RSS feed, then I don’t have it here.

I’ll divide these blogs into various categories.  The links for each Blog are the RSS feeds, not the actual blog site.  But if you want to go to the blog site it is usually straight forward enough to figure out from the URL or from a bit of google work.

Highly Active Nats Blogs (Daily posts or close)

Less Active but not Dormant Nats Blogs (sporadic posts)

  • 2011 Nationals Draft Info: Sean Hogan‘s 2011 Draft blog; listed here since its part of a series (see next).
  • 2012 Nationals Draft Info: Sean Hogan’s 2012 Draft blog
  • Bang! Zoom!: last post 2/11/2013. before that Nov 2012.  Not sure what’s happened to Kirk Raymond but I hope he returns.
  • Center Field Gate: last post 1/20/13: was highly active in-season so we’ll hope for a return.
  • DC is for Baseball: last post 1/31/13: Sean Hogan‘s main site; his interest lays more in prospects and the draft, so he gets busier around the Rule 4 draft and has the per-year detailed Draft blogs (see below).
  • First Ladies of Baseball: last post Oct 11, 2012, may not actually be dormant; we’ll see if the authors Ashley Warlick and Maggie Keller pop back up when the 2013 starts.
  • For Love of the Nationals: Last post Jan 2013: despite posting recently, Dave Lint only has posted a handful of times in the last 3 years, so we’re calling this site dormant for now.
  • Internet Baseball Writers Association: Washington, D.C. Chapter;  home site for Dave Nichols-led DC-IBWA where Nats bloggers emulate the BBWAA and vote on things.  Coincidentally the membership rolls of DC-IBWA mirror this blog posting in terms of listing Nats bloggers.
  • Nats Noodles; last post 1/15/13: author “Nat Anacostia” has been sporadic this off-season.
  • Nats Triple Play: last post 1/29/13: only a handful of posts in the last year; may be dormant.
  • Natsfangirl; last post 10/4/12: author Jenn Jenson posts beautiful photography on this blog, which seems to have taken the off-season off.  I hope she’s back for opening day 2013.
  • Natstradamus last post 3/7/13: periodic intelligent pieces with heavy Sabre-lants from author Luigi De Guzman (aka ”Ouij”).
  • Dick Heller: last post 2/21/13 by namesake author Dick Heller.
  • Win for Teddy: last post Sept 2012: very active last season, hope to see them come back.

Dormant, Obsolete or Abandoned Nats Blogs

  • Ball-Wonk: last post Dec 2010
  • Capitol Baseball: last post July 2012: not sure what happened here; the author was posting nearly daily in-season 2012.
  • Capitol Punishment: Last post Sept 2012.  Chris Needham‘s infamous Nats blog, one of the first and one of the most vociferious about the state of the early Nats, which he “quit” a couple years ago but to which he continues to post sporadically.
  • DC Double Play: last post Jan 2012.
  • DC Sports Plus: last post Nov 2012.  Sean Hogan’s previous blog, essentially ended May 2011.
  • De civitate sabermetricarum: last post 5/29/12: was doing near daily posts and then suddenly stopped.
  • Distinguished Senators: Last post May 2011.
  • FJB: last post Apr 2012: like Needham, Steven Biel sometimes pops back up on this blog and posts about the team, despite the title of the blog (Fire Jim Bowden) long since being obsoleted.
  • F*ck Yeah Stephen Strasburg: last post Jan 2012: yes indeed there’s a site with this title.
  • Half Street Blues; last post May 2010
  • I Miss RFK; last post July 2009.
  • Just A Nats Fan; last post July 2011.
  • Life is Better With Baseball; signed off Aug 2011.
  • National Record; last post Feb 2012.
  • Nationals 360: last real post Jan 2011, now taken over by an Electronic Cigarette company?
  • Nationals Daily News: last post Dec 2011, this was Mark Hornbaker’s former site before starting the DC Baseball History site above.
  • Nationals Fangirls moved to just Nationals FanGirl (singular), but www.nationalsfangirl.com currently says that its “Account is Suspended.”  Oh well.
  • Nationals Farm Authority: Brian Oliver‘s fantastic farm system tracking site, who signed off Sept 1 2010 to start a new career.  NationalsProspects.com has picked up where Oliver left off.
  • NATIONALS NEWS NETWORK: Dave Nichols closed this to join it with the larger District Sports Page, which reports on all Washington Sports in one location.  Unfortunately he has no Nats-specific RSS feed, so I don’t regular read the site (I don’t really care about random Redskins, Wizards or Capitals stories).
  • NATIONALS NEWS NETWORK: Off The Field; last post Sept 2011.  Cheryl Nichols also moved to the District Sports page.
  • Nationals Review; last post May 2012.
  • NationalsDailyNews.com Teamwire: last post July 2010
  • NationalsFanboyLooser: last post June 2011.  Former blog by Mike Harris, who then took over as Sports Editor of The Washington Times after they re-introduced Sports to the paper after a 2 year hiatus.
  • NationalsPride.com: last post: April 2010.  Authors Bergin and Henderson suddenly stopped writing.
  • Nats Doggerel last post Mar 2010: short lived blog that posted quick poems about the Nats.  I’m not kidding.
  • Nats320 — A Washington Nationals Blog: Jeff Saffelle‘s photography-heavy blog which suddenly went off the air in July 2011.  There’s a story there but last time I saw Jeff we didn’t get into it.  I think the loss of this blog, one of the absolute first Nats blogs, is a real shame.  Jeff took a lot of heat on the blogosphere/twitter for being “too friendly” to the Nats cause; to that I say “this is a free country; you’re free not to read what you don’t like.”  Too many haters in this world.
  • NatsStats: last post Aug 2010.
  • Nats of the Round Table: last post Oct 2008, may have morphed into Nationals Baseball above.
  • NBTN: last post July 2009, now the page renders in Japanese.  Weird.
  • Passing Time Between Wil Nieves’ Bombs… last post March 2012.
  • Past a Diving Vidro: last post May 2011.
  • Planetary Nats Blog: last post Dec 2010
  • Pulp Nationals: last post Mar 2010.
  • Senators Fans Unite: Will Bentzel signed off Jan 1 2010.
  • StephenJWalker.com: last post Oct 2011.
  • Swatting Nats; last post Oct 2010.
  • The Half Street Highrise: last post Apr 2010, author Banneker moved to The Nats Blog.
  • The Nats Report: last post Nov 2010.
  • Washington Nationals; last post Nov 2010, domain now gone.
  • We’ve Got Heart; last post Apr 2010.
  • YOU DEAD DAWG: last post Nov 2011.

Not entirely about the Nats but of Interest to Nats Fans

Nats Beat Reporters

  • All Nats All the Time: official blog feed of MLB.com Nats beat reporter Bill Ladson.
  • Byron Kerr: MASN Nats beat reporter Byron Kerr‘s official blog feed.
  • Latest entries for Nationals Watch: from Washington Times beat reporter Amanda Comak.
  • MASNsports.com‘s Nats Beat Reporter Pete Kerzel‘s blog feed.
  • Nationals Journal; Washington Post Nats Beat reporters Adam Kilgore and James Wagner‘s official blog.  The NatsJournal is one of the longest running blogs out there and is very widely read.
  • NATS INSIDER; Comcast Sports Net’s Mark Zuckerman‘s blog, probably which has the widest readership of any link on this page.

Other links for Members of the Press

  • Bob Carpenter: MASN TV broadcaster Bob Carpenter‘s official blog feed.
  • Examiner Beanballs RSS: Washington Examiner Beanballs feed, Nats specific but very sporadic.
  • Examiner MLB RSSWashington Examiner MLB feed, but seems Nats specific.  Sometimes picks up Tom Loverro‘s stuff.
  • Washington Nationals News: official MLB feed for the team, mostly written by Ladson as well.
  • Thomas Boswell (washingtonpost.com): Washington Post National writer Tom Boswell‘s rss feed.  He doesn’t write exclusively on the Nats, but there’s plenty of baseball content.

Nats “Official” Blogs; these are from the team, from players, etc.

Obsolete “Official” Nats blogs and links

Known Nats News items on the Net not listed above

  • Mr Irrelevant: Jamie & Chris Mottram has a DC-sports heavy blog, but not Nats specific.
  • I’m not entirely sure i’m getting all the content The Washington Examiner offers via the above links (which is a shame if true, because I like the writing of Thom Loverro)
  • District Sports Page, what grew out of Nationals News Network and Dave Nichols, doesn’t have a Nats-specific feed, just an all-Washington sports feed, and (frankly) I can’t stand the overexposure the Washington Redskins get in this town.
  • DC Sports Bog features the always-entertaining writing of Dan Steinberg but isn’t entirely Nats focused.
  • William World News from William Yurasko is in the same boat; some Nats posts, not entirely Nats related.  Lots of DC-area items of interest though.
  • We Love DC; as with others in this section, lots about DC, some about the Nats.  Editor: Tom Bridge with Nats specialist Rachel Levitin.
  • DC Pro Sports Report: like with District Sports Page; all DC sports, no Nats-specific feed that I can find.  Update: Nichols provided this link: districtsportspage.com/category/nationalsmlb
  • Baseball News Hound: authored by Ryan Kelley, who also contributes to Bleacher Report.  Lots of Nats stuff but not exclusively so.
  • Seamheads.com: more of a generic baseball blog but does have some DC-centric guys like Ted Leavengood who guest-blogs for MASN.

If you have updates, corrections or additions to anything above, please comment and let me know.  I know I may have some of the names for these blogs wrong, or am missing major contributors to sites whose author rolls change quickly.  I apologize in advance for any errors or mistakes.

Nats & Vazquez; Do people really think Detwiler is going to the bullpen?

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Do people really think Detwiler is heading to the bullpen? Photo: Haraz Ghanbari/AP via federalbaseball.com

By now we’ve all seen the reports; the Nats have been to Puerto Rico to scout Javier Vazquez, the veteran starter who inexplicably “retired” after an effective 2011 at the age of 34.  According to Adam Kilgore‘s initial reports and as stated in other places on line Vazquez is apparently hitting the mid 90s in winter ball and is looking to possibly re-start his pro career.  Kilgore reports that the Nats are looking to offer Vazquez a minor league contract with an “out clause” if he’s not assigned to the Majors by a certain date.

This out clause arrangement seems to make perfect sense for the Nats.  We have a full rotation, we need starter depth in AAA, and Vazquez is a risk having been out of the league for a year, despite how good he looks in a winter ball league that rates at best at being a “weak AAA” level of talent.

What I don’t understand in some of these reports is the claim that the team would love to sign Vazquez and then drop Ross Detwiler to the bullpen.  Mike Axisa from MLBtraderumors stated as much in his report and I got into it with a NY-based blogger who keeps stating that Detwiler “belongs” in the bullpen without really giving much in the way of proof.

Here’s what Detwiler did in 2012: 10-8, 3.40 ERA and a 1.22 whip in 164 1/3 innings and 27 starts.  He posted a 117 ERA+, good for 12th in the league among qualified starters.  He’s a lefty who averages 92-93 and can reach 96 in a division with a number of teams with lefty power (especially Philadelphia).  And he saved the Nats bacon by giving the team its best post-season start in the NLCS.  He is still cheap (he’s first year arbitration eligible this year), meaning he provides great value for the dollar as a starter.

Why exactly would the Nats be looking to replace Detwiler in the rotation??  And why would the team be looking at a reclamation project like Vazquez to be his replacement?  Vazquez’s 2011 numbers were good (13-11, 3.69 era, 1.183 whip) but not earth shattering (106 ERA+ in 2011 after getting hammered in New York the year prior).   Detwiler was a significantly better pitcher by this measure in 2012 than Vazquez was in 2011.   If you had the 12th best pitcher (by ERA+) in the league installed as your 5th starter, why exactly would you be looking to replace him?

Then there’s the “personnel issues” involved with Vazquez at this point.  Why did he walk away from the game?  Wouldn’t you be concerned about his committment levels and his drive at this point?  Why would a team want to give him anything other than a non-guaranteed deal?

Yes, I realize the team’s bullpen, as it is currently constructed, is light on left-handed relievers.  We’ll ignore for the time being the fact that our existing RHPs out there mostly have good lefty splits.  If you go on the assumption that the team “needs” another left handed reliever, there are certainly better ways to fill that spot than by wasting an excellent starter by putting him in the pen.  Any statistical measure of player value will show you that even a medicore starter is usually “worth” more than even an excellent closer; sometimes FAR more.  A quick proof: Craig Kimbrel‘s 2012 season as the Braves closer was epic and historical, and was worth a 3.6 fWAR.  That would only have qualified him for 25th in the league, tied with Kyle Lohse and just ahead of our own Jordan Zimmermann.   And that was for one of the best reliever seasons ever seen.  Rafael Soriano was an excellent closer last  year and only had an fWar of 1.2, a more typical closer number, which would have been about 77th in the league in fWAR, around what Bruce Chen and Edinson Volquez provided in 2012.

In the end, it may not matter; if Vazquez is coming back there’s plenty of teams that make much more sense for him to join that would give him a guaranteed MLB deal and a guaranteed rotation spot.  Any of the bottom 4-5 teams in my Rotation Rankings would make sense.  Returning to Miami would make too much sense, based on where he pitched last and proximity to his home in Puerto Rico.  But it bugs me just the same that people don’t use some common sense when looking at what Detwiler gave the team last year and assuming that he is better served in the bullpen to make way for a lesser pitcher.  I’ll fully admit; I have not always been a Detwiler fan.  But after what he showed the team in 2012, I think you stick with him in 2013 no matter what.

Duke, Bray signings: excellent, under the radar moves for Rizzo

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Zach Duke seems an easy one-for-one replacement for Tom Gorzelanny. Photo AP Photo/Jeff Roberson via rr.com

It was clear that the Nats stood to lose all three of their left-handed relievers this off-season, either by free agency (Sean Burnett, Michael Gonzalez) or by salary-driven non-tenders (Tom Gorzelanny).  And it also became pretty clear that the price for quality left-handed relief is on the rise, on the backs of Jeremy Affeldt‘s 3yr/$18M deal to remain with San Francisco.  The Nats have all-but-announced that Burnett is going to be too expensive for them as a result.  Furthermore, the Nats farm system faces a specific lack of quality left-handed reliever options in the upper minors (2012 Nats farmhands Atahualpa Severino having been DFA’d off the 40-man roster in 2012, Corey VanAllen posting a 6+ ERA in 2012, and Patrick McCoy only having reached AA.  Plus both Severino and VanAllen are minor league free agents to boot), so the team clearly was on the market for FA lefty relief.

Mike Rizzo took two nice steps towards rebuilding this lefty reliever depth with the 12/3/12 signings of Zach Duke and Bill Bray to one year deals.  Duke salvaged his career in 2012 by putting in a 15-5 season in AAA starting, then providing decent (albeit generally low-leverage) relief for the big club in September.  He signs a major league deal, significant because he has 6+ years of service time and thus cannot be sent back to AAA without consent; clearly Duke is meant to be in the bullpen in 2013.  He seems to be a perfect like-for-like replacement for Gorzelanny, a lefty ex-starter who has the flexibility to pitch anywhere from one-batter to 5 innings as needed.  Its tough to draw a ton of conclusions from Duke’s 13 2/3 September innings (short sample sizes), but his numbers were great (1.32 ERA, 1.098 whip and 10/4 k/bb in those innings).  I don’t think I like Duke as much as Gorzelanny, but at the likely price (terms were not announced but I’d be shocked if this was for much more than a $1.5M deal) compared to what Gorzelanny likely makes in arbitration ($3M or more) this represents a good bit of business.

Meanwhile, re-obtaining Bill Bray returns a special player to the fold; Bray was the franchise’ #1 draft pick in 2004.  He’s a local kid (grew up in Virginia Beach, went to William and Mary, and he’s the cousin of a buddy of mine.  Apologies for the name dropping :-) ), and he represents a pretty good gamble by the team.  His numbers with Cincinnati are very up-and-down, but when he’s on, he’s good.  Signing Bray on a minor league deal allows him to compete for the 2nd lefty spot in the bullpen, but also gives the team 40-man roster flexibility to stash him in AAA to start the year if he’s still not recovered from his 2012 injuries (he missed most of 2012 after two separate muscle strain issues).  Or, if he’s looking like he’s in a 5.00 ERA form versus a 2.90 ERA form, there’s no damage in letting him work out kinks in Syracuse.  I like this move a lot.

Two good pieces of business to start the Winter Meetings for Rizzo.

As a side note, the Adam Kilgore article in the Post this morning reports a couple of interesting points:

  • The Nats plan on working Duke out as a starter this coming spring.  Now, as mentioned above Duke cannot be optioned to the minors by virtue of his service time, so I’m hoping that this move is merely as insurance against a spring training injury to one of the rotation members.  I’m not worried about Duke’s ability to adapt to a drop to the bullpen though; he did so admirably enough in September of last  year after starting in Syracuse the whole summer.
  • Christian Garcia is once again reported as “taking on a starter’s workload” in 2013 Spring Training.  I had an email chat with Luke Erickson about this topic and may turn it into an opinion piece.  What do we make of Garcia’s constantly reported conversion to being a starter?