Nationals Arm Race

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

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Nats Blogosphere/Blog-Roll and RSS Feed Review 2015

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So, with the addition of TalkNats.com to the Nats Blogosphere, I decided to re-visit my blogroll and to do some adding/removing as necessary.  I culled through my RSS feed and did some re-arranging.  The last time I really dug into a review of the Nats blogosphere was in March 2013, and lots has changed since then.

Here’s what my collection of Natsmosphere links looks like now.  Let me know if you think i’m missing any.  This is a combination of Nats blogs and “blogs” run by Nats beat reporters.  I don’t count baseball columnists like Tom Boswell or Thom Loverro as “bloggers” here since they’re columnists and don’t entirely focus on the nats.

Note: in some cases i’ve found that blogs that I thought went dark really just changed affiliations, changed their host name, eliminated their RSS feeds (like redporchreport.com), or something else.  And it definitely seems like we’ve lost a “blog” from the Washington Times after Amanda Comak left the Times to go work for the team.  So, please help me correct this list and tell me if I’m missing anyone.

Active blogs (generally have posted something in the last week, though some have been idle for a few months and have been given a pass):

All Nats All The Time (Ladson) therocket.mlblogs.com
Citizens of Natstown (Landwermeyer, Huzzard, Hogan, OHara, Davila) citizensofnatstown.wordpress.com
Clem’s Baseball (Andrew Clem) andrewclem.com/Baseball.php
DC Baseball History (Audley, Hornbaker, et al) dcbaseballhistory.com
Distinguished Senators (Senators Ryan) distinguishedsenators.blogspot.com
District on Deck (Flax, Book, Somers, et al) districtondeck.com
District Sports Page (Nichols, Levitin, et al) districtsportspage.com
Federal Baseball (Reddington & Huzzard) federalbaseball.com
Hagerstown Suns Fan Club (Spedden) sunsfanclub.blogspot.com
IBWAA – DC (Nichols) dc-ibwaa.blogspot.com
Let Teddy Win (Scott) blog.letteddywin.com
MASNsports Byron on the Nats (Kerr) masnsports.com/byron_kerr
Mayflies & Bigflies (Mick Reinhard) mayfliesandbigflies.com
Nationals 101 (Frank and Susan Lattuca) nats101.com
Nationals Baseball (Harper) natsbaseball.blogspot.com
Nationals Buzz (MASN beat rptrs Kerzel, Witherite, etc) masnsports.com/nationals-buzz
NationalsProspects.com (Erickson, Whitzman) nationalsprospects.com
Nats Enquirer (ck) natsenquirer.com
Nats Insider (Zuckerman & Hughes) natsinsider.com
Nats Journal (Wagner, Janes) blog.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal
Nats Noodles (Nat Anacostia) natsnoodles.com
NatsGM (Sullivan) natsgm.com
Natstradamus Blog (Luigi de guzman) natstradamus.wordpress.com
Notes from Natstown (Comak) curlyw.mlblogs.com
Red Porch Report (Eaton & Sullivan; RSS feed broken) redporchreport.com
TalkNats (Ghost of Steve M et al) talknats.com
The Nats Blog (Yoder, Drugan, Flax, et al) thenatsblog.com
The Nationals Review (Fleigel) thenationalsreview.com
Washington Nationals Blog: Nationals Home Plate (Yahoo) nationalshomeplate.com

Recently Inactivated blogs: per my RSS feed, no new posts in months or years.  Could be because of RSS issues; let me know.

z DC is for Baseball (Sean Hogan now at Citizens) dcisforbaseball.blogspot.com
z First Ladies of Baseball (Ashley & Maggie; blog seems dead) firstladiesofbaseball.com
z For Love of the Nationals (Lint; inactive) flotn.blogspot.com
z Lady and the Nats (NatsLady; was blogging in Apr2015 and then stopped) ladyandthenats.blogspot.com
z MASNsports The Goessling Game (went to ESPN) masnsports.com/the_goessling_game
z Nationals Inquisition (Drew Kinback; quit after 2015 season) natsnq.com
z Nationals Watch (was Comak; no WT blog?) www.washingtontimes.com/blog/nationals-watch/
z Nats Exposed (Karl Kolchak: stopped blogging Oct 2014) natsexposed.wordpress.com
z Nats Fan Girl (Jenson; no longer blogging) natsfangirl.com
z Nats Nation (Section 138; stopped writing) gnatsgnation.blogspot.com
z The Zimmerman(n) Telegram (stopped 2014) thezimmermanntelegram.wordpress.com

 


Beat Reporter Review

By the Way, am I missing any beat reporters?  By my count, here’s the outlets covering the Nats and their beat reporter:

  • MLB: Bill Ladson
  • Washington Post: James Wagner, Chelsea Janes (formerly Adam Kilgore, Barry Svrluga)
  • Washington Times: Zac Boyer, Todd Dybas?  (formerly Amanda Comak)
  • Comcast Sports Net: Mark Zuckerman, Chase Hughes
  • MASN: Byron Kerr, Chris Johnson, Pete Kerzel, Olivia Witherite
  • Washington Examiner: Stopped covering sports in 2013.

Does anyone else cover this team regularly in print?

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 Off-season News Items Wrap-up 12/9/11 edition

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Probably the biggest Nats news of the week was who we DIDN’T get. Photo Peter Christian via thesportsbank.net

Weekly wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.  With the absolute deluge of baseball news, rumors, and unbelievable FA signings this week I frankly got lost in the shuffle, so most of these items are from the weekend and early this week.  Hopefully you know by now about Reyes, Buehrle, Wilson, Pujols and our Rule5 losses.  If not, you’re just not a true baseball fan now are you?  :-)

Nationals In General

  • An excellent good-bye blog posting from Ben Goessling, leaving the MASN Nats beat for his home-town paper.  No permanent replacement has been hired, but MASN still has Byron Kerr putting out excellent prospect-focused posts, and Pete Kerzel temporarily filling in for Goessling during the Winter meetings (and perhaps beyond).
  • Well, now we know what Stan Kasten plans on doing in his post-Washington career.  Unfortunately for Kasten, Bud Selig can’t just give him the Dodgers as has been his custom in “awarding” teams to new owners.
  • Byron Kerr reports that Hector Nelo, our high-A reliever who is pitching in Venezuela, can now hit 100mph.  He always had a high velocity arm, but being a 25-yr old in high-A isn’t necessarily the most impressive feat.  He was an April minor league free agent pick up, having been released by the Texas organization after putting up pretty mediocre figures.  I’m projecting him in our AA bullpen for 2012.  He may be able to hit those high figures, but its not being reflected in amazing k/9 rates.  I remain skeptical that he can be an impact arm for us in the future.
  • As noted elsewhere, Keith Law‘s posted his “top 50 under 25” list of players under 25 but who have already lost their rookie eligibility.   Its insider-only but Amanda Comak at the Washington Times pretty much cut-n-pasted the entire list late last week.  You can google it or search her archives.  3 Nats made the list: Strasburg, Ramos, and Espinosa.  No real quibbles about those Nats left off; Drew Storen would have qualified, as could have Desmond and some weaker members of the bullpen/bench, but clearly Law doesn’t rate closers (nor do I, really).  He has Craig Kimbrel, 2012’s ROY at #49.  Law’s little dig at Desmond in his Espinosa write-up also indicates his opinion of the hitting capabilities of our current starting SS.  I do question some of his rankings: I’d certainly have ranked Kershaw above one-year wonders such as Mike Stanton, but perhaps Law’s explanation of his ranking (he’s looking at projections for the next 6 years versus what they’ve already accomplished), explains it away.
  • Well, there goes one OF option: Laynce Nix has signed with the rival Phillies.  Most reports seemed to indicate that the 2-year guarantee solidified the deal for Nix, who faces at best a LF platoon in Philadelphia.  Still, he could turn in a 20-homer season rather easily hitting in that bandbox.
  • Jim Riggleman signed on to manage the Cincinnati AA franchise, a bit of a step down from a MLB manager job but at least he has on-field work.
  • In what is sure to inspire a fire-storm of Natmosphere posts, Jim Bowden reports that Ryan Zimmerman‘s agents have been “rebuffed” in opening contract extension talks.  I can’t blame Rizzo here: you’ve got a franchise player who can’t stay healthy; he’s a risk to guarantee a bunch of years and a bunch of money.  Yes, everyone’s a risk to give guaranteed contracts … perhaps why the team needs to think on it a bit more.
  • Uh oh.  Sammy Solis is visiting Dr. Yocum to get his elbow looked at.  This is not a good sign.  Can anyone say Tommy John surgery?

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • A month-old post, but somehow I missed it.  Jeff Passan‘s free agent tracker, with some concise opinion on each of 181 free agents this off-season.  No predictions but on-point analysis.
  • Wow.  Heath Bell gets 3yrs/$27M from the Marlins.  Not that I don’t think he’s a good closer, and not that I really care that the Marlins just acquired a player being paid in AAV the equivalent of 1/8th of their 2011 payroll.  Maybe this whole “Marlins are going to spend money” thing is for real.  I agree with Neyer‘s assessment here: “that’s a lot for a guy who is going to throw 65 innings.”  Predictably, Keith Law hates the deal.
  • Even more Wow: Jose Reyes signs for a reported 6yr/$106M deal with these same Marlins.  One has to wonder if we’re looking at another dynasty build-up/epic team dismantling situation.
  • Jon Heyman‘s list of 10 busiest clubs for the Winter meetings, and somehow the Nats, whose name is associated with practically every FA in some form or another, are not on the list.
  • We could soon find out just how serious the Nats interest is in Yoenis Cespedes, with him possibly being declared a FA within the next week or so.
  • Despite some opinions that the Rule 5 draft is useless, there are active teams every year (The Nats included).  Here’s one blog’s Top 25 available Rule 5 draft potentials.  He does list three Nationals: Brad Meyers, Sandy Leon and Erik Komatsu.  He also lists the top other prospects by system.  That’s a TON of research frankly, digging through rule5 eligibles from all 30 minor league systems.  Of course, John Manuel did the same on Baseball America, posting part 2 of his review, highlighting some favorites for role players (utility infielders, 4th outfielders, loogys and middle relievers).  I’m guessing its from this group that the Nats may tempt fate and look to fill some bench spots.  12/7/11 Update: sure enough we lost both Meyers and Komatsu.  So irritated.
  • Sometimes, star athletes just don’t know how to say good bye.  Manny Ramirez has filed for re-instatement and plans on playing in 2012 after serving his 2nd drug suspension.  He’ll have to improve on his 1-17 outing for Tampa Bay last season.
  • Interesting potential trade tidbit posted by new Masn beat reporter Pete Kerzel: Boston possibly dangling either Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish in trade for starting pitchers (names mentioned include Ross Detwiler and Collin Balester).  I’d like any trade permutation here; both Detwiler and Balester are out of options and increasingly with every Buehrle/Wilson/Oswalt rumor Detwiler’s chances of making our 25-man roster diminish.

General News; Baseball and other.

  • “Just in time,” indeed.  Rob Neyer reports that the Feds are investigating the incredibly shady Marlins stadium deal.  Jeff Passan also mentions the SEC subpoenas for financial records, meeting minutes, etc, looking for evidence of bribery of federal officials.  Nothing would make me cackle more than to find out that the Marlin’s owners and management were to expect a federal indictment for corruption.  Everything I’ve ever read about Jeffrey Loria, David Samson, and Larry Benifest and anything related to the Marlins as an organization and this stadium deal in particular has been negative, and this undoubtedly will be no different.  I hope Selig is happy with himself for engineering Loria’s Expos sale and Marlins purchase, as well as watching his new buddy subsequently pocket millions and millions of dollars in revenue sharing whilst occupying the 6th largest market by MSA.
  • Wow.  Jon Heyman is leaving SI for CBS.  This prolific writer is well known for being ahead of the curve on baseball news, and leaves a pretty big hole in the baseball reporting department for cnnsi.com.
  • Interesting precedent setting event: MLB has restored Mike Trout‘s rookie eligibility for 2012.   He’ll certainly be a candidate .. if he can get on the field.  Matt Moore may be a better candidate, based on what we saw in September and October though.
  • I’ll put in just enough opinion to get into trouble on the BCS: LSU-Alabama repeat for the National Championship is an abomination of justice when looking at the Alabama season in basic comparison to Oklahoma State.  The OK State-Stanford game will be 10x as enjoyable.  I only wish the BCS could have had 100% egg on its face with LSU losing the SEC title game but still being pretty much guaranteed a match up in the Championship.  I would have laughed.  Call me when there’s a playoff.
  • I didn’t realize they were nominated: legendary college coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Pat Summitt received 2011’s SI Sportsman of the  Year award.  Clearly these were “career” awards, as opposed to anything specific to 2011.
  • In case you were interested, or wanted to nit-pick every Hall of Fame ballot to death, here’s a blogger who tracks all the BBWAA voters and finds their HoFame votes.
  • Not to get into too much politics here, but Mitt Romney‘s reported dig on Barack Obama‘s planned 17-day vacation smacks of hypocrisy.  All he needs to do is check the record on George W. Bush‘s days spent “on vacation” while office and perhaps he’d wish he wasn’t casting stones.  In fact, depending on how you interpret this research, Bush spent nearly 32 PERCENT of his time in office actually back home at his ranch or at Camp David.



Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 12/2/11 edition

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Tough break this week (well, two weeks ago) for Chris Marrero. Photo unknown via curlyw.mlblogs.com

Weekly wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.

Nationals In General

  • In a minor move, the team re-signed its own AAA minor league free agent Carlos Maldonado, per tweet from Bill Ladson.  This sets up our catcher depth for most of the system (Flores/Ramos, Solano/Maldonado, Norris/Leon, and Nieto/Fritas) and gives the team some flexibility with the inevitable injuries.  Frankly Norris’ poor 2011 season jeopardizes his progression; he’ll obviously be repeating AA in 2012 and needs to show some improvement to keep his oft-repeated “close to the majors” prospect status.
  • Chris Marrero tore his hamstring and had surgery, two weeks ago.  Two weeks ago!?  How did this little nugget stay hidden for so long?  Most of the beat reporters had the story on 11/29 and had the same opinion as I; this probably frees up a bench spot for someone like Tyler Moore or perhaps another veteran 1-year FA.
  • Nats are apparently interested in Mark DeRosa.  No big surprise; we have basically zero competent utility infielders under contract right now.  DeRosa can be 2012’s version of Jerry Hairston.
  • Sorry to hear that Masn beat reporter Ben Goessling is leaving to join the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  No word on his replacement.
  • Per the soon-to-be-departing Goessling as well: Toronto continues to collect ex-Nats players and signs Garrett Mock to a minor league deal.  I’m starting to sense a Jim Bowden-esque obsession on the part of Dana Brown with our farm players.  So be it; if they were that good when he was here, we wouldn’t have been ranked in the bottom 5 farm systems of the league.
  • Espinosa, Ramos and Strasburg on Keith Law‘s best 50 under 25 list.  Harper still too young to consider.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • There remains to be questions whether or not Yu Darvish will actually post this off-season.  Rumors of a divorce complicating his posting persist, and its now been a week since the end of the NPB season with no word of his posting status.  (Jon Paul Morosi reports).
  • Here’s some non-news: Mark Buehrle won’t come “cheap or short.”
  • Here’s David Schoenfield‘s 3-fix suggestion for each team in the NL east.  His suggestions for us?  CJ Wilson, putting Werth in CF and signing a corner outfielder, and decide whether Davey Johnson is the long term answer.  I’m not sure the 3rd issue matters in the least: Johnson is only 69; there’s plenty of recent evidence showing guys who are older and less accomplished can be successful in the majors.  His argument for Wilson makes sense; he’ll cost half of Pujols/Fielder, wouldn’t be stressed as our “Ace” with Strasburg and Zimmermann around, and will only improve as he goes from the AL to the NL.  I like his Werth answer honestly; I think Werth could hold his own in Center for at least one season, perhaps two.
  • Baseball America’s Rule5 Preview, part 1 (may be subscriber only).  I definitely see some players the Nats could experiment with, given that they are looking for a 7th bullpen arm and a utility infielder.  He mentions our own Brad Meyers as a possible draftee, but not one of the marquee names out there.
  • Ken Rosenthal says the team is really on both Prince Fielder and the cuban-FA Yoenis Cespedes.  I’m not “against” the interest but am surprised by it.  Does the team really want to just give up on Adam LaRoche that quickly?  Do they really think Cespedes could play in the majors in 2012?
  • Well, there goes one of my Nats-trade candidates; the Angels acquired catcher Chris Iannetta from the Rockies for prospect Tyler Chatwood.  My working theory was that the Angels, who have too many outfielders and especially two many guys who can play center field, would be open to trading one of them (specifically Peter Bourjos) to the Nats for a catcher prospect.  Maybe it still can happen.  Of course, Rizzo actually has to be in the country in order to make deals (when this trade went down, Rizzo reportedly was in the D.R. scouting Cespedes).
  • Its just a MLBtraderumors chat, but Tim Dierkes is well respected, at least in my opinion.  He has the Nats as potential FA suiters for most every major name.   Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Cespedes, Fielder and Pujols, even Jimmy Rollins.  Geeze.

New Labor Deal Items

  • The new CBA seems almost custom-written to drive out the Tampa Bay Rays.  This scout.com article summarizes it nicely.  I wonder what the Tampa ownership group said about these negotiations as they were going on.  Clearly their methods of gaining advantages through player development and stockpiling draft picks are now obsolete.
  • Jim Callis reports via twitter but captured here some more restrictive items about the draft we’re finding out.
  • Teams in the 13 smallest markets now enter a Competitive Lottery for picks.  A quick analysis of the 13 teams selected (from Ben Goessling’s article: the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Athletics, Pirates, Padres, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers) almost identically mirrors the 13 smallest teams by MSA (in smallest to largest order; Milwaukee, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Baltimore, St. Louis, San Diego, Minneapolis, Seattle, Phoenix).  The only deviations are the Athletics and Marlins, who would easily be amongst the smallest markets in baseball once you isolate Oakland from San Francisco’s MSA, and Miami from Ft.Lauderdale.  Tangotiger posted an interesting discussion on the same topic (where in the comments I posted this same analysis) on his blog here.

General News; Baseball and other.

  • It looks like the NBA has finally gotten its act together, announcing a tentative deal to salvage the season on Nov 26th.
  • An interesting take on the Bill James “game score” statistic.  (click here for a list of the 20-best scores in the last 70 years).  Highest ever recorded: an 18-inning shutout pitched by Carl Hubbel scoring a 127 game scoreKerry Wood‘s 20-k 1-hitter is the highest score in the last 25 years, scoring 105.  This was also the highest-scoring 9-inning game in baseball history.  My initial guess on the best ever game pitched would be Harvey Haddix‘s 12-inning perfect game, lost in the 13th inning.  Here’s the box: it scored a 107.   The highest ever recorded Nationals game score?  John Patterson in 2005 pitched a 4-hit shutout with 13 K’s, worth a score of 92Strasburg‘s 14-K debut was worth a 75, though interestingly his final 2011 start (6 innings of 1-hit ball over the Marlins with 10K’s) earned a 78There’s about 10 games out there in the 80s range, including an 88 that I can’t possibly think who could have thrown.  Is anyone a baseball-reference subscriber?  I use the site multiple times per day; I should probably register and pay for my time.
  • From the great blogger TangoTiger, an Expos Tribute video.
  • From another great blogger Rob Neyer, a news item about the future of baseball in the Portland, OR area.  Portland does not have a single pro baseball team in the area, not even a short-season or Indy league team, despite being roughly the same size population wise as the MLB cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati, and being larger than Kansas City and Milwaukee.

Nats Rotation Cycle #24: good/bad/soso

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Wang looked as good in Chicago as he used to look in this uniform. Photo unknown via graphicshunt.com

The team went 3-2 in its last time through the rotation, taking a series from Atlanta at home before scuffling with Colorado in Denver.  This time through they finish off the Colorado series and move on to Chicago.

Good

  • John Lannan deserved more than he got after throwing 6 shutout innings on 8/7 (box/gamer).  He walked the leadoff hitter in the 7th and his bullpen conspired to blow the lead and cost him the Win.  Another clear example of how “wins” as a measuring stat for starters is clearly overrated.  Lannan’s line: 6ip+1 batter, 6 hits, 4 walks, 1 run.  Lannan has clearly turned around his season and is putting himself squarely in the Nat’s future rotational plans.  He’s a perfect #4 pitcher and probably sparkles on a good offensive team.  (See notes below for comments on the managing and bullpen performance in Lannan’s start).
  • Chien-Ming Wang looked about as good as you could ask for his 3rd start back after 2 years out of the game, throwing 6 innings of one-hit ball (no-hitting the Cubs through 5) in Chicago on 8/9 (box/gamer).  His sinker was moving well, he kept his fastballs right at the knees, and he humped it up to 93 on occasion (if you believe the stadium gun).  He had 11 ground ball outs to 4 flyball outs and needed just 81 pitches to complete 6 innings.  Apparently Steve McCatty asked some prior teammates about Wang and discovered that he wasn’t throwing his sinker nearly as much now as he was back in the day, and convinced him to do so going forward (aside: how is it possible that a pitcher “forgets” what made him successful??)   Coincidentally, despite pitching so well I agreed with Wang’s removal; in the 6th inning he was starting to lose control of his fastball and it was rising up, exactly what a sinker-baller doesn’t want.  A great start though, and a great sign for the future.

Bad

  • Unfortuantely Livan Hernandez was scheduled for his “bad” outing in his continuing Jekyll & Hyde season, and his bad was pretty bad.  He gave up 9 runs (7 earned) on 9 hits in 3 and 2/3 innings to take the loss on 8/6 (box/gamer).  The Nats bullpen didn’t help much either with each of the relievers struggling in one way or another (see notes).  Perhaps we can just skip Livan’s “bad” outings?  Or, I’ve got a better idea; we can remove him from the rotation since he’s giving the team less than a 50/50 chance of even being competitive in games right now.  Ben Goessling reported on the same topic, surmising that Livan’s rotation spot is in serious jeopardy with the team wanting to see youth in September.  One of the Nats blogs  highlighted a fantastic stat; look at Livan’s splits in his Wins versus Losses: in 6 wins he has a 1.25 era and a sub 1.00 whip.  In 11 losses? A 5.84 era and a 1.6ish whip.  His performance in 7 No-Decisions looks almost identical to his performance in losses.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Jordan Zimmermann should have done better against the Cubs on 8/11 (box/gamer), giving up 4 runs on 9 hits, 2 walks in 6 2/3 innings.  He looked fantastic through 6, but gave up a single and back to back homers in the 7th to blemish his line and tag him with the loss on the night.
  • Ross Detwiler continues to look like he’s destined for the bullpen, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 2 homers in 5 innings on 8/10 (box/gamer).   The homers were cheap (Wrigley is a major hitter’s park) but 7 hits to go with 2 walks is just too many runners for a medicore-to-bad offense to overcome.

Relievers of Note and other News

  • Here’s your Washington Bullpen in the 8/6 game: Gorzelanny (4 hits in 2+ innings), Coffey (3 runs and 3 hits while retiring just one guy), Burnett (2 inherited runners, both scored), and Rodriguez (2 hits and 2 walks in one IP).  What are the odds that any of these four guys feature in 2012?  All four of them now feature ERA+ in the mid 80s (indicating their pitching about 15% worse than the MLB average) and they seem to be getting worse as the season rolls on.  The question fans have to be thinking about is Mike Rizzo‘s ego in these deals: Coffey was a 1-yr FA and won’t be missed, but the other three guys represent the bounty we have remaining from Rizzo’s 3 major trades since arriving here.  Will Rizzo admit that these moves didn’t work out and not force bad players to continue playing?  We’ll see.
  • Is it just me, or was Davey Johnson‘s pitcher management in the 8/7 game just ridiculous?  Lannan sits on 6 shutout innings and is allowed to bat in the top of the 7th.  He makes a feeble ground-ball out as expected.  Lannan goes back out to the mound for the bottom of the 7th, walks a guy and is yanked.  Why was he allowed to bat then!??  Clearly Johnson already had Lannan’s replacement warming up; why not actually, you know, try to score a run instead of giving a sub .100 hitter another at-bat?  Why do you have power bats on your bench?  Then, in a textbook example of a bullpen actively *trying* to blow a game; Mattheus promptly gives up a hit (yet earn’s a “hold” for his work !?), Clippard comes in and fails to cover 1st base on a grounder to Morse (yet somehow Morse is given the error on the play !?), then gives up another hit to tie the game.  Clippard’s reward for this performance?  The victory in the game.   A frustrating game to watch as a fan, and I can’t imagine what Lannan was thinking after throwing 6 dominant innings.
  • Stephen Strasburg‘s first rehab start review: 31 pitches, 26 for strikes, throwing mostly 4-seam fastballs with the occasional curve but apparently no 2-seamers and few changeups.  The opposing hitters caught on and tagged him for a few hits (including a solo-homer), but the hits aren’t that concerning (once it became clear in the opposing dugout that they could sit fastball, it becomes considerably easier to hit a guy).  He topped out at 98, sat in 96-97 range on the fastball.  He was quoted as saying his fastball “wasn’t there yet” but that he has to “start somewhere.”  Sounds like a good start to me.  His next start has been announced: Friday August 12th in Potomac.  Potomac has to be happy about (finally) getting a major Nats prospect to play there… Here’s the story from his 2nd rehab start: all good.
  • Wang’s no-hitter effort was eventually broken up by pinch hitter Tony Campana‘s sharply hit grounder to Morse.  But before that, he attempted a bunt and missed.  Breaking the unwritten rules of baseball, you say?  Bunting to break up a no-hitter is almost always a no-no … except that Campana is clearly a guy who bunts probably every third at bat.  If its part of your game, then its fair game.
http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2011_08_09_wasmlb_chnmlb_1&mode=recap&c_id=was

Nats Rotation Cycle #20: good/bad/soso

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Is Livan Hernandez pitching his way out of the Nats rotation? Photo: AP

The All-star break comes in-between rotation cycles 19 and 20 for the squad.   At this halfway point, only two of our starters have made all 19 starts (Livan and Lannan).  Zimmermann missed a start when the Pittsburgh “rainout” in May and Marquis missed a start to serve out his suspension for the beanball series in Arizona.  Gorzelanny missed the first rotation through, then missed another 4 starts to injury (those being taken by Maya).  Lastly the rescheduling of Zimmermann’s missed start into a 4th of July doubleheader called for a spot start from Detwiler.  That’s 19+19+18+18+13+4+1 = all 92 starts so far this year.  You have to think that the consistency out of the rotation is one of the big reasons this team is doing so well.

The all-star break also gives the squad a chance to slightly re-order its rotation, since most of the guys will be on major rest.  You can’t take your #1 starter and have him become the #5 though b/c of days rest.  But the team does seem to be slightly modifying its order.  We’ll go out in the 2nd half with Livan, then Lannan, then Gorzelanny, then Marquis and with Zimmermann 5th.  The move of Zimmermann to 5th seems like yet another attempt to preserve his arm, despite what Johnson is telling the press.  He seems set to hit his 160 innings limit in mid-August now, by which point we should start seeing alternatives in the rotation.

Good

  • John Lannan evened both his W/L record and the team’s season record to .500 with a 5 2/3 inning, 2 run outing against the Braves on Saturday 7/16.   It wasn’t the cleanest outing for Lannan (5 hits and 4 walks in less than 6 innings) but he worked around the baserunners and kept the potent Atlanta offense off the board for the most part.
  • Jason Marquis gave his team exactly what it needed on 7/18 (box/gamer): lots of quality innings to rest a bullpen that was shredded by Gorzelanny’s injury and (in my opinion) mismanagement by Davey Johnson (see bullet points below).  Marquis went 8 strong innings, giving up only 6 hits and striking out 9.

Bad

  • Livan Hernandez kicked off the 2nd half with an awful performance in Atlanta on 7/15 (box/gamer).  He only lasted 4 innings, giving up 8 hits and 6 runs (3 earned).  The Braves hitters were tattooing his pitches, which he regularly was floating over the plate.  As the TV announcers said, Hernandez is a guy who depends on working the corners and keeping his pitches under control.  Friday he was routinely hanging curveballs over the plate and missing his spots and it showed.   I wonder at what point the team gives up on the Hernandez experiment; his inconsistency on the mound has to be baffling and he’s now thrown enough lemons to make him the worst of our starters statistically.  I can see Livan getting moved for a low-end prospect and one of our promising starters from AAA getting plucked to finish out the season.
  • Jordan Zimmermann had an uncharacteristically bad outing on 7/19, getting touched for 6 runs in 5 innings against the lowly Astros to take the loss (box/gamer).  These are not the kind of innings we want out of Zimmermann before he gets shut down in August.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Tom Gorzelanny only lasted 2 innings in his 7/17 start (box/gamer) against the Braves before twisting his ankle on a play at the plate, putting the bullpen into all-hands-on-deck mode.  For the most part, the bullpen was ineffective, with Henry Rodriguez giving up the lead, Sean Burnett looking horrible, and Tyler Clippard striking out 4 in 2 innings but giving up a game-tying homer in the 8th.  It remains to be seen if Gorzelanny is going on the DL, but the injury didn’t seem that bad.

Starter Trends

Lhernandez    great,bad,good,bad,(break),bad
Lannan    good,good,bad,incomplete,(break),good
Gorzelanny    bad->dl,bad,good,good,(break),incomplete
Marquis    bad,great,bad,soso,(break),good
Zimmermann     good,great,good,good,(break),bad

Relievers of Note and other News

  • The JC Romero experiment didn’t last very long; he was released on 7/13 after putting up good numbers in AAA.  Goessling guesses that perhaps he had an out clause in his contract calling for his release unless he was promoted.  I’m surprised he wasn’t kept around a bit longer, given Doug Slaten‘s continued DL stint and Sean Burnett‘s troubles.
  • Ben Goessling reports on one of Chien-Ming Wang‘s latest rehab starts on 7/14, 6 shutout innings with zero walks and where he hit 94mph in Harrisburg.  I’m beginning to think that Wang’s actually healthy again and that the team may start looking to move Jason Marquis or Livan Hernandez sooner than later to make room for him.
  • Ross Detwiler looked nearly as bad in relief as Livan did during his start on 7/15, requiring 47 pitches to get through 2 innings.  This was a perfect opportunity to shut down an offense that perhaps wasn’t in need of scoring any more runs on the night (especially behind Tim Hudson) but he continued to allow the game to get out of control.  If Detwiler doesn’t put something together this season, the team is going to have a very difficult decision on its hands.  He’s out of options (Gee, thanks for the 2007 callup Jimmy Bowden!) and clearly would be given a flyer by another team (as a first rounder lefty starter who reaches 94mph).
  • Speaking of Detwiler, why exactly do we have him as the “long man” in the bullpen if he’s not available as that long man because the team wants to keep him on some sort of “every 4 days” starting-esque schedule?  The Long man needs to be available for exactly the kind of situation we faced on 7/17, when Gorzelanny came out after 2 innings.  Instead its all-hands on deck since Detwiler had pitched two days prior.  In this situation i’d far far rather still have Miguel Batista, who ably fit this role in 2010 and wouldn’t have cost a ton of money for 2011.
  • Chien-Ming Wang‘s next start will be in AAA, per Bill Ladson‘s published report on Sunday.  This should be the best test yet for Wang’s recovery.  He’s looking like a good bet to join the rotation when he’s done with rehab.

Broderick and Rodriguez are officially costing the team Wins

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Why exactly was Slaten left in to pitch 2+ innings last night? Photo Getty Images via zimbio.com

There’s no other way to put it, after watching the unfolding of last night’s bullpen meltdown; carrying Brian Broderick and Henry Rodriguez on this team is having the effect of shortening the bullpen from 7 guys to 5, and is costing this team wins by not allowing Jim Riggleman to put in the right guys at the right time.

WP Beat reporter Adam Kilgore put it more politely, calling the carrying of two essentially worthless pitchers an “unusual roster construction.”  You know what I call it?  A GM who is hand-cuffing his manager.

I have complained in this space several times (mostly summed up here in this March 2011 post) about the implications of the Nats having 3 of their 12 pitchers (Tom Gorzelanny in addition to Broderick and Rodriguez) be essentially “locked” onto the 25-man active roster.  Its one of my main criticisms of the Josh Willingham deal in general; see my post for more opinion but to have only a right handed reliever who your manager cannot use in return for your #5 hitter of the past two years is my definition of a trade failure).  Gorzelanny has pitched much better than anticipated and his roster spot hasn’t been questioned (though for me, that wasn’t always the case either).

To say nothing of this plain fact: If you can’t trust a reliever to come into a close game and get outs, then he should NOT BE ON THE ROSTER.  Its as simple as that.  And clearly neither Broderick or Rodriguez currently falls into that category.

What is the answer?  Mike Rizzo needs to do three things, almost immediately:

  1. Invent another “injury” and put Rodriguez back on the DL.  Send him to extended spring, put him back on rehab assignments and tell him he needs to either throw strikes or take a hike.
  2. Call St. Louis’ GM and work out a PTBNL trade for Broderick.  Enough is enough; he projects as a #5 starter (maybe) on a team that has 4 good starters.  Is he really part of the future for this team?  Is he going to be better than any of Detwiler, Maya, Meyers, Solis, or Peacock in 2012?  Because that’s who he’s competing with for rotation spots in 2012 (figuring that at least 3 are already spoken for in Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gorzelanny).  Trade for him so you can option him to Syracuse.
  3. With these two spots opened up, recall Collin Balester and call up Cole Kimball so you can actually have two useful guys in your pen who you can trust.  If you’re so in love with Rodriguez’s power, Kimball throws nearly as hard and has put up far better bb/9 numbers in AAA.  Balester has been in the majors before, put up great numbers in 2010 out of the pen, and can pitch long relief if needed as a former starter.

Its time for Rizzo to acknowledge his errors in roster construction and fix them.

(As an aside: Jim Riggleman is not totally without fault here: per Ben Goessling‘s report last night, “Todd Coffey and Tyler Clippard [needed] a night off and Drew Storen [was] being saved for a lead.”  Why let Sean Burnett stay in to get out one of Atlanta’s best hitters in Martin Prado?  Why not bring in Storen at this point and use him as the “fireman?”  Is it because he’s the “closer” and you save your closer for save situations?  I certainly hope this wasn’t his thinking.  A managers *should* use his best relievers in the highest leverage situations, and last night Storen should have been used to get out of a bases loaded jam against a tough right-handed hitter, instead of leaving in a lefty who has struggled lately.  But, this post is more about roster construction than reliever use, a topic for another day, and a larger issue in baseball in general).

25-man roster finalization; Don’t like it but understand it.

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Did we really need a .232 pinch hitter who can't play the field? Photo Carlson/AP via nydailynews.com

As the Nats are breaking camp, they’ve announced a flurry of roster moves that are setting up the team for its opening day.  And, in a series of moves reminiscent to 2009’s opening day roster, we’re breaking camp not necessarily with the best guys on our 25-man roster, but with the best team option status (or lack of them) can assemble.

As the title of this post suggests, I understand the logic of these decisions but don’t necessarily like what it means for the team.  I think we’re weaker than we could be, and we’re keeping around veterans with no long term place for this team instead of playing guys who deserve to be on the MLB squad.  I think it sends a bad message to guys who deserve to be playing but who will be heading to Syracuse.

Both Collin Balester and Roger Bernadina seem to have missed out on roster spots so that the team would not lose players who may have trade value in Chad Gaudin and Laynce Nix respectively.

For some reason, we’re keeping Matt Stairs instead of a player who can actually help off the bench.  As pointed out by Ben Goessling, this also means that our bench is incredibly lefty-heavy and we’ll struggle with matchups later in games. Isn’t Rizzo obsessed with defense?  How does Stair’s lack of *any* discernable defensive capability fit in with his overall vision for this team?  Another Natsmosphere twitter-er asked this good question; if Adam LaRoche‘s shoulder puts him on the DL; who exactly is the backup first baseman out of this group of bench players?

So, for our final 25-man roster we’re using 4 non-roster invitees.  Gaudin makes the team and probably deserved it.  Nix makes the team and seems to be trade bait.  Stairs makes the team for some reason or another.  And Alex Cora probably (deservedly) makes the team as Alberto Gonzalez‘s replacement (who we’ve traded to San Diego for a pretty good prospect considering we would have DFA’d him in 3 days…).

I guess if we obtain prospects for Gaudin or Nix in a trade later on this season, then it would be worth the options burn on Balester and Bernadina.  I hope so; along with Detwiler and Mock, 2011 represents their final option year.

Written by Todd Boss

March 29th, 2011 at 9:28 am

Why is Bernadina the presumed LF Starter over Morse?

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Morse did nothing but mash in 2010. Why are the Nats trying so hard to NOT use him in 2011? Photo hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

(Ironically, as I was penning/researching this posting all three leading Nats beat writers wrote similar articles.  Hmm.  Perhaps we’re all onto something.  Here’s links to Zuckerman, Goessling and Kilgore‘s similar articles.  Something must have happened in camp today…)

(Coincidentally, i’m also assuming that Rick Ankiel is a backup/fall back plan and nothing more.  He’s had exactly ONE impressive hitting season and was worse than Nyjer Morgan last year splitting time between the Royals, the Braves and the DL.  But it is concievable that Ankiel is “competing” for the LF job as well).

Mike Morse turned out to be one of the bright storylines for the team at the plate last year, posting a very respectable 2010 slash line of .289/.352/.519 and hitting 15 homers in just 293 at bats for a season OPS+ of 133 (3rd on the team behind Dunn and Zimmerman, just ahead of Willingham).   He’s a former infielder who moves around well despite being a big guy and can play four positions relatively easily (both corner infield and both corner outfield positions).

Roger Bernadina meanwhile posted this 2010 slash line: .246/.307/.384 in 461 plate appearances.  He had 11 homers and provided very good outfield defense with capabilities at all three positions.

So, given that the Nats traded away two of their best four hitters last year and clearly seem set to take a small step backwards in offensive production, why exactly is the presumed starter in left field not automatically going to be Morse?

The arguments i’ve heard are variations of three themes: lefty-righty splits at the plate, defense and balance of our lefty-righty hitters on the bench.  Lets discuss each item.

1. Lefty-Righty Splits: the knock on Morse is that he cannot hit right handed pitchers.  He mashes lefties but struggles against righties.  Is this true?  According to his 2010 splits, he clearly hits lefties better (he hit .295 versus .287 against right handers) but more significantly his slugging percentage split is significantly different (.466 versus .625 against lefties).  So clearly he doesn’t hit for as much power against right handers.

The thing is, his performance as a righty versus other righties is still pretty good as compared to the league.  His “sOPS+” values (sOPS+ being his Split league adjusted OPS value) was 126, meaning that he’s about 26% better than the league average for righty-righty matchups.

So, lets quickly look at Bernadina’s splits.  Turns out, Bernadina actually hits lefties BETTER than righties, but his best slugging figure (.429 against lefties) is worse than Morse’s weakest slugging figure.

Conclusion: Morse may be slightly weaker against righties, but he’s better against either arm than Bernadina.  He is closer to a #5 hitter in terms of power while Bernadina is a #2/#7 hitter.

2. Defense: Bernadina is clearly a better outfielder, and has a fantastic career UZR/150 rating in left.  He posted a 13.3 for 2010 and has a career 11.8.  Meanwhile Morse isn’t exactly Reggie Jackson patrolling left field but he’s not bad either.  In very limited LF career stats he has a 15.2 uzr/150 rating in left.  He’s significantly worse in Right … but then again that’s why we bought 7 years of Jayson Werth.

Meanwhile, Morse is also a very good first baseman and has logged time at SS and 3B.  Bernadina is purely an outfielder but can play center in a pinch.

But here’s the thing; you don’t NEED a star quality defender in left field!  Not at the expense of greatly needed offense anyway.  That’s why Josh Willingham still has a job and that’s why Manny Ramirez was able to play in Boston (and in the NL) for so long.

Conclusion: Bernadina’s better in left, but both bring defensive flexibilty to the table.

3. Lefty-Right balance in the lineup.  Morse is a righty, Bernadina a lefty.  Lets look at the probable 25-man roster out-field players.

  • Lefty only: Morgan, Bernadina, LaRoche, Ankiel
  • Righty only: Pudge, Ramos/Flores, Desmond, Zimmerman, Werth, Hairston, Gonzalez
  • Switch Hitters: Espinosa

But, of the presumed starters only Morgan and LaRoche are lefties.  Espinosa switch-hits but he’s probably stuck in the 8-hole until he improves on last year’s tailoff at the plate.  So, if we start Morse we’re looking at a lineup that probably goes L-R-R-L-R-R-R-S-Pitcher.  Three straight right-handed hitters after LaRoche.  If we replace Morse with Bernadina the lineup probably goes L-R-R-L-R-L-R-S-Pitcher, a much better balance.

Of course, we also have one Matt Stairs in camp and people are talking about him making the team as a designated pinch hitter.  I have an awful hard time believing this, but if it happens (at the probable expense of Albert Gonzalez), then having Morse on the bench as a right-handed hitting counterpart to Stairs makes a bit of sense.  Certainly having Bernadina, Ankiel AND Stairs on the bench makes no sense.  But, since Stairs brings no defensive value to the team we’d be incredibly thin at infield backup positions without Morse in the fold.

Conclusion: unclear until we see how Stairs looks in spring training.


In conclusion, there are arguments on both sides for/against either Morse or Bernadina in left.  Perhaps we’ll be surprised by Morse in left and Bernadina in center with Ankiel an able backup (certainly a possibility if Morgan does not improve on last year’s performance).  But I find it hard to believe we’re going to sit Morse over Bernadina or Ankiel at the beginning of the season.