Nationals Arm Race

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

Archive for the ‘jack swift’ tag

Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 10/28/11 edition


Here’s some of the more recent Nats-themed news items I’ve read this past few days, with some thoughts sprinkled in.

  • The team spent some time adjusting the delivery of 2011 draftee Alex Meyers in the instructional league.  I like seeing this; the scouting report on Meyers basically says a) he as a great arm, and b) he’s going to struggle to contain it.  If the team sees some adjustments that make his delivery more repeatable, perhaps Meyers goes from a reliever projection to a starter projection.
  • Been reading rumors and posts about how the Nats are going to go after Jose Reyes in the off-season.  Here’s the problems I see with going after someone like Reyes.  The team likes Ian Desmond and he has been improving … and he’s cost contained.  Reyes is going to cost, what, $15-18m/year?  Is it worth signing a big contract for someone when you’ve got a serviceable and improving prospect in place?  Here’s the other thing that really worries me about Reyes; his clear “contract year” production.  Check out his 2011 slash line versus his career: .337/.384/.493 versus career of .292/.341/.441.  That’s a clear jump of at least 40 points in each category.  He’s injury prone (missing at least a month’s worth of games in each of the past two years and most of the 2009 season) and his speed is declining (going from .4875 SB/game at his peak to just .30 sb/game this past season).  I know there’s no statistical “proof” of contract year production going across ALL contract year players … but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.  When a guy playing for his one big FA contract suddenly improves across the board, and, oh he happens to be playing for a franchise that is going nowhere but down … you can see how the incentives are to play well and get out.
  • Matt Purke‘s first AFL start?  Not good.  22 pitches, just 10 for strikes, sitting 89-91 on his fastball and getting hit hard (line: 1/3 IP, 7 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR).  Keith Law’s tweet said “Washington LHP Matt Purke 87-91 in first, nothing sharp, has given up five runs so far after seven batters.”  Now, its clear he’s got quite a bit of “rust” from not facing live pitching since May, so we won’t over-react TOO much.  But 87-91?  That’s not good.  His subsequent appearances have been rough as well.
  • My alma-mater James Madison University gets to host the CAA baseball championships for the first time in 25 years in 2012.  JMU baseball has always been solid and has made the 64-team field several times over the past two years (though almost always being stuck in a regional hosted by someone like UNC or UVA).  Their claim to fame is one CWS appearance in 1983 (though this article is clearly dated … it talks about how JMU is the only Virginia school ever to make the CWS).  They have a beautiful new baseball complex in Harrisonburg and my dad and I may just go see this tourney.
  • This isn’t Nats related, but this is an absolutely fantastic Sports Illustrated story about 50’s minor leaguer Jack Swift, the last minor leaguer to win 30 games in a season.  9-parts, great read, a reminder of what baseball used to mean in this country.
  • The Phillies (not surprisingly, in this opinion) declined their option on starter Roy Oswalt on 10/25.  On the same day they declined their option on deposed closer Brad Lidge as well.  Lidge’s option rejection was always going to occur; nobody wants to pay $12.5M for an unreliable closer when history shows that you can mostly throw just about anyone into that role and be successful.  Meanwhile team also has a closer-quality FA in Ryan Madson who they could re-sign at 1/3rd the price of Lidge.  Now, do I think the Nats should go after any of these guys?  Oswalt should be incentivised to return to the Phillies on a more reasonable 2 or 3 year deal commensurate with his advancing age and declining performance.  If things don’t work out?  I’d certainly be willing to give him a Jason Marquis type deal (albeit with more money…) and bring him on board as the Nats #3 starter.
  • Yu Darvish‘s name keeps coming up and the Nats continue to be associated with him.  Latest rumors come via Rizzo’s press conference this week, where he admitted that the Nats had some scouts in Japan watching Darvish this season.  So what?  Half the teams in the majors have scouts in asia now.  Mark Zuckerman‘s thursday post lends some sanity to the discussion.  I continue to agree with Zuckerman; for the amount of money and the amount of risk that comes with Darvish, the Nats should look elsewhere to spend dollars.  Perhaps not this off-season (where the starting pitching FA crop is relatively weak) but NEXT year when its pretty strong.
  • Talks continue with Chien-Ming Wang, but nothing is close, per Amanda Comak on thursday.  This is probably nothing new and just a one-off story from Rizzo’s press conference.  I’m glad the team is already talking to Wang though and hope they work it out.
  • From the department of the obvious: Davey Johnson will be retained as the manager for 2012.  As if there was ever any question.
  • Under considerably less fan-fare than the ongoing NBA talks, MLB and its players union are working on an extension to the existing labor agreement, which expires in December.  The main issue according to this scribe will be negotiating signing bonuses for its draftees.  I’m of the belief that the commissioner wants a slotting system simply because he’s a shill for the owners, and the owners know that a slotted system basically eliminates the ability of agents for amateurs to negotiate and gain leverage over their teams.  Its a restriction of free trade for these amateurs, most of whom will never make the majors and most of whom need the signing bonuses to live on while they earn pennies for their hours ($800 a month for lower level minor leaguers??) for the next few years as they rise in the systems.  One thing that I (the fan) do want to see is a far earlier signing deadline.  Enough of this BS where 1st rounders get drafted in June then don’t bother trying to negotiate until the 2nd week of August.  My solution?  Push the deadline up for anyone signed in the first 10 rounds to something almost immediately after the draft dates.  Keep the existing deadline for anyone signed AFTER the 10th round.  Why?  Because most of the people signed after the 10th round are either college seniors who have no leverage and will get miniscule signing bonuses anyway, college juniors who are ready to start playing pro ball and who want to sign quickly anyways and won’t be holding out forever, and fliers on HSers who may or may not want to go to college, but the extra time gives teams a chance to watch them play in the summer and negotiate.
  •’s Jon Heyman tweets that the Nats plan on going after CJ Wilson.  *sigh*.  Why do I think that’s going to be a mistake?  My feeling is that he’s a #3 (perhaps barely a #2) guy who’s going to get #1 money and will severely disappoint his new team.  Of course, there’s going to be so much demand for Wilson this off-season, the Nats may get scared off by high bids from big-money teams who are desperate for pitching.
  • Game 6 of the World Series may have been the best game i’ve ever witnessed.  Not “best played” necessarily (because of all the errors, and the mental errors by players on both sides), or even “best managed” (you can fault both managers for their bullpen and bench management during the game).  But in terms of pure excitement and suspense, it is hard to beat.