Nationals Arm Race

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

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Nats Trivia: Home Opener and Record Attendance Figures 2014 Edition

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Here’s some useless trivia related to the Nats home openers, now that we have the Nats 10th home opener in the books.

Nats Trivia: capacity of Nats park? 

  • 41,888 at opening
  • 41,546 in 2010
  • 41,506 in 2011
  • 41,487 in 2012
  • 41,418 in 2013
  • 41,506 for 2014

Interesting how the capacity has slightly decreased each year but jumped for this year.  Do we know where they’re adding/removing seats?   By the way, RFK capacity: 45,596 per wikipedia/ballparks.com.

Nats All-time Record attendance?

  • 45,966 10/12/12 game 5 2012 NLDS

Other/Previous Attendance Records

  • 45,274 Opening Day 2013 (new and current Regular Season record for Nats park)
  • 45,017 10/10/12 first home playoff game
  • 44,685 8/20/11 vs Phillies (longer standing Nats park record)
  • 41,985 6/24/09 vs Boston. (Nats reg-season record standard bearer for a while in the new stadium)
  • 45,157 Fathers day 2006 vs Yankees (long standing Regular season Record)
  • 45,596 RFK franchise opener (long standing franchise attendance record)

Opening Day Attendances and weather through the years

  • 2014: 42,834 (1:05 Friday game, 50s and overcast)
  • 2013: 45,274 (1:05 Monday game, 60 and beautiful)
  • 2012: 40,907 (1:05 Thursday game 56, partly cloudy)
  • 2011: 39,055 (1:05 Thursday game, 41 degrees and overcast)
  • 2010: 41,290 (1pm game Monday, beautiful weather 80s and sunny): this was the “Phillies invasion” game.
  • 2009: 40,386 (3pm game on a Monday, chilly 53degr and overcast).
  • 2008: 39,389 (season and stadium opener), 8pm Sunday night, nat’l tv, clear but very cold.
  • 2007: 40,389 (in rfk, 1pm game vs Florida, 72degrees)
  • 2006: 40,516 (in rfk, Tuesday day game vs Mets, 72degr and sunny)
  • 2005: 45,596 (in rfk, debut of entire franchise, 62degr and clear, evening game)

Opening Day Box Scores and Results

Nats are 4-6 in their home openers now since moving to Washington, and they’re just 2-6 in non-stadium openers.  Just one starter has thrown more than one home opener for the Nats: Livan Hernandez.  When Livan gets elected to Cooperstown, I hope he’s wearing the curly W.  :-)

  • 2014: mlb.com or b-r.com.  Braves d Nats 2-1.  WP: Luis Avilan.  LP: Tyler Clippard.  (Starters: Jordan Zimmermann and David Hale).
  • 2013: mlb.com or b-r.com.  Nats d Marlins 2-0.  WP: Stephen Strasburg.  LP: Ricky Nolasco
  • 2012: mlb.com.  Nats d Reds 3-2.  WP: Craig Stammen. LP: Alfredo Simon (Starters: Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos)
  • 2011: mlb.com.  Braves d Nats 2-0.  WP: Derek Lowe.  LP: Livan Hernandez
  • 2010: mlb.com.  Phillies d Nats 11-1.  WP: Roy Halladay.  LP: John Lannan
  • 2009: mlb.com.  Phillies d Nats 9-8.  WP: Jamie Moyer.  LP: Saul Rivera (Nats Starter: Daniel Cabrera)
  • 2008: mlb.com.  Nats d Braves 3-2.  WP: Jon Rauch.  LP: Peter Moylan (Starters: Tim Hudson and Odalis Perez)
  • 2007: mlb.com.  Marlins d Nats 9-2.  WP: Dontrelle Willis.  LP: John Patterson
  • 2006: mlb.com.  Mets d Nats 7-1.  WP: Brian Bannister.  LP: Ramon Ortiz
  • 2005: mlb.com.  Nats beat Arizona 5-3. WP: Livan Hernandez. LP: Javier Vazquez

Have we seen the last 300-game winner? (updated post 2013 season)

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Sabathia remains the best chance for another 300-game winner .. Photo wiki/flickr chris.ptacek

Sabathia remains the best chance for another 300-game winner .. Photo wiki/flickr chris.ptacek

Welcome to the latest installment of  the “Will we ever see another 300-game winner” post.

(Aside; yes I know the limitations of the “win” statistic.  However, nobody looks at a 20-game winner on the season or a 300-game winner for his career and excuses it as a statistical aberration; the pitcher win will continue to be important to players and in the lexicon of the game for years to come, despite Brian Terry‘s #killthewin campaigns).

Of the 24 pitchers in the game’s history to have reached the 300-game plateau, 4 of them have done it in the last decade (they being Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine).  However, there exists a distinct belief in the game that we may not see another 300-game winner for some time, thanks to pitch count obsessions, innings limits, 5-man rotations, NL small-ball managing, match-up relievers and generally a huge rise in bullpen usage over the last 20 years.

In the past year, I’ve collected some topical reading related to this post:

When we first broached this topic (in April 2009), Sabathia was still the best bet (outside of Randy Johnson, who sat at 296 before the 2009 season began), but it didn’t look that good for anyone else to reach the plateau, and a couple of the names we guessed as having an outside shot (Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir) seem like ridiculous choices now.  When we most recently broached this topic (at the end of the 2012 season), we explained some statistical models we and others were using to try to predict who may have the next best shot at reaching the mark.  We concluded that Sabathia and Hernandez were both pretty good guesses at the time to reach the plateau.

How are things looking now?

I maintain a spreadsheet (uploaded to google and/or available via the links to the right of this page) that ranks candidates using a couple of formulas inspired by Jay Jaffe (see 2012’s post for the full thought process behind them).  Basically Jaffe’s prediction models assume that the pitcher can win X games per year after a set age (in Jaffe’s case, his simple formula assumes pitchers win 15 games/year until their age 42 season, a relatively optimistic projection and hence why he self-titles it using the words “blindingly optimistic”).  I’ve used a couple other methods to rank pitchers (calculating average number of wins past the age of 18 or 23, but since some guys get drafted out of HS and debut at 20 or 21 these projections end up looking ridiculous), in order to find candididates to put into the discussion.  I also don’t really even consider a guy until he gets to 50 career wins, so there’s no wild speculation about someone like Shelby Miller (15 wins in his age 22 season) or Jose Fernandez (12 wins in his age 20 season).

So, without further ado, here’s a list of starters right now who are in the conversation of possibly reaching 300 wins in their career and my % chance opinion of getting there.

pitcher age wins % Chance of making 300 wins
CC Sabathia 32 205 75%
Clayton Kershaw 25 77 50%
Felix Hernandez 27 110 10%
Justin Verlander 30 137 10%
Madison Bumgarner 24 49 5%
Trevor Cahill 25 61 5%
Zack Greinke 29 106 5%
Mark Buehrle 34 186 1%
Rick Porcello 24 61 0%
Yovani Gallardo 27 81 0%
Matt Cain 28 93 0%

Thoughts per starter:

  • CC Sabathia remains the pitcher with the best chance of reaching 300 wins, but i’ve downgraded his probability from last year’s 90% to just 75% right now.  Why?  Well read no further than the link about his 2013 decline, where his FB velocity dropped, his ERA rose and he posted a sub 100 ERA+ value for the first time in his career.  He still won 14 games, but his win totals have declined four years in a row.   On the plus side, he’s a workhorse pitching for a team that historically has a great offense, which enables him to get wins despite an inflated ERA (he had 4 or more runs of support in 20 of his 32 starts in 2013 … Stephen Strasburg just started crying).   It still seems entirely plausible he can average at least 10-12 wins for the next 7 seasons and hit the milestone before hanging them up.
  • Clayton Kershaw improves his probability of hitting the plateau from last year to this year based on two factors: First, he has clearly stepped up and is now the pre-eminent starter in the game and seems set to continue to post 16-20 win seasons for the extended future.  Secondly, the Dodgers now spend money like no other, ensuring a winning team that gets Kershaw victories even if he’s not pitching his best.  He was “only” 16-9 in 2013; I would expect him to put up more wins each season in the next few years, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with 160 career wins before he’s 30.
  • Felix Hernandez‘s chances have plummetted; going from 75% last year to just 10%.  Why such a precipitous drop?  Two factors; first he took a noted step back in FB velocity this year, to the point where pundits were questioning his arm strength.  Secondly, he signed a massive deal to stay in Seattle … and Seattle right now is not a winner.  It has a completely dysfunctional ownership and management group and seemingly has no idea how to put together a baseball team.  They’re competing in a division of teams with better management willing to spend more money, and these factors are going to continue to have Hernandez put up the 13-14 win seasons he has been doing for the last four years.  He’s already 27: if he’s doesn’t have back to back 20 win seasons his chances are kaput.
  • Justin Verlander, like Hernandez and Sabathia, also had a curious drop in performance in 2013, leading me to drop his 300-game chances from one in three to one in ten.  At age 30 he has logged just 137 wins and has gone from 24 to 17 to 13 in the last three seasons.  If he can right the ship and get back to the 18-20 game win plateau, he can get his 300-game mojo back, but at age 30 he’s less than halfway there, so chances are looking pretty slim.
  • Madison Bumgarner appears here mostly because of his advanced win totals at such a young age; he already has 49 career wins before his 24th birthday.  He’s averaging 14 wins a season so far, and with a 14 win average in every season between now and his age 40 year he’d hit his mark.  But I have his chances right now at only 5%; its just too early to really tell if Bumgerner will have the endurance and continued success to get there.  Plus, is Bumgarner an elite starter or more in the mold of a Mark Buehrle (i.e., a durable lefty who grinds out 13-14 win seasons for a decade)?
  • Trevor Cahill is in nearly the same boat as Bumgarner, except that I don’t think he’s quite as good.  In fact, Cahill seems like he’s bound for Mark Buehrle territory (see below); an innings eating guy who is always right around the 13-12 mark each season.  If he does this for the next 15 years, he may get close.  I give him a slight chance.
  • Zack Greinke has gone from not even being considered to having a 5% chance.  Why?  Well he’s signed a huge long term deal with a very good team AND he now pitches in both the NL and in a pitcher’s park.   In 2013 he put up a very quiet 15-4 record and I think with his stuff and his health he could put up multiple 16-18 win seasons.  That’d get him to the mid 200s by the time he’s nearing 40 … maybe enough to have him go for it while pitching into his early 40s.  Or maybe not; by the time he’s 40 he’ll likely have nearly $250M in career earnings and may just buy a ranch somewhere.
  • Mark Buehrle‘s career 162 game average W/L record (14-11) is identical to Bumgarner’s.  In his last 5 season’s he’s won 13 games four times and 12 games once.  I have given him a 1% chance of hitting 300 on the off-chance that he pitches well into his mid 40s, continues to put up 4th starter figures and finishes with a career record of something like 302-285.  He doesn’t miss many starts, so perhaps he’s that durable.
  • The last three guys mentioned (Rick PorcelloYovani Gallardo and Matt Cain) are all given 0% chances at this point but are listed thanks to their advanced win totals by their mid 20s.  Cain’s sudden drop off in 2013 (a common theme in this list) has seemingly cost him any shot at reaching 300 wins despite his normal sturdiness.  Gallardo had a 10% chance last year and drops to zero thanks to my having almost no confidence that he is a good enough pitcher to accumulate enough wins going forward.  And Porcello remains essentially a 5th starter who just happened to matriculate to the majors at the tender age of 20.  I can see him having a career similar to Buehrle’s; long tenures of near .500 record. In fact, ironically Porcello’s 162-game average W/L record is identical (14-11) to Buehrle’s … which is also identical to Bumgarner and very close to Cahill’s.  I think there’s something clearly “accumulator” in nature to all these guys.

What has happened to some of the candidates from last year not mentioned yet?

  • Roy Halladay went from a near Cy Young season in 2011 to retirement in just two short seasons.  Shoulder injuries are a killer.  He retires with 203 wins.
  • Chad Billingsley lost nearly the entire 2013 season to injury, scuttling what dim chances he had.  He’s now not even guaranteed a spot in LA’s high powered rotation.
  • A bunch of veterans who already had little chance (but were mentioned anyways) have now retired: Jamie MoyerLivan HernandezAndy Pettitte, and Kevin Millwood.
  • Tim Hudson is an interesting case; he sits at 205 wins, lost a chunk of last season to injury but signed on in a pitcher’s park in SF.   He’s gotten 17,16 and 16 wins the last three seasons in his mid 30s; can he just continue to get 16-17 win seasons and suddenly be looking at 300 wins by the time he’s 42?  Maybe, but he’s going to have to be good these next two seasons.

Thoughts?  Do you care about 300 winners like I do, or is it just an anachronism of baseball history that will go the way of 300 strikeouts, 30-wins and hitting .400?

 

 

 

 

 

Have we seen the last 300-game winner? (updated post 2012 season)

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San Francisco Giants starter Randy Johnson acknowledges the crowd after the Giants beat the Washington Nationals 5-1 for his 300th win, in the first game of a baseball doubleheader Thursday, June 4, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Despite being much maligned as a method of judging a starting pitcher’s worth, the “Win” is still the essential goal of every starter in the majors and the accumulation of them over a season or career still inspires much thought and discussion.  The magical “300 win” threshold remains one of the more challenging career objectives for any starter, and remains an interesting benchmark to discuss.    Only 23 pitchers in the history of the game have reached 300 wins.

So, after Randy Johnson‘s reaching the benchmark, and after a number of recent start pitchers also hitting the plateau (Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Tom Glavine), are we ever going to see another 300-win pitcher?

Here’s some other reading on this same topic by the likes of John Dewan (referencing Bill James‘ annual predictions on who may reach 300 wins with his percentile chances), David Schoenfield (in a dated piece predicting Roy Halladay‘s chances for getting to 300 wins), and an early 2012 piece from Jon Paul Morosi talking about Clayton Kershaw‘s chances.

Achieving 300 wins in a career is getting more and more difficult.  Here’s some interesting stats  about reaching 300 wins for a starter in the modern baseball age:

  • If a pitcher were to enter the major leagues at age 23, he would need to AVERAGE 20 wins for the next 15 years to reach 300 and pitch until age 38.
  • Put another way, that same pitcher entering at age 23 would have to average 18 wins for 17 seasons to reach 300 by about age 40.
  • The majors have had ONLY Eleven 20-game winners in total over the past 5 seasons.  (Seven of which have come in the last two years, echoing the “rise of the pitcher” and the collapse of the PED slugger era, so perhaps its getting easier to accumulate wins).
  • 5-man rotations mean that starters are averaging 33-34 starts a year, down from the 38-40 starts that Pitchers would get just 20 years ago.
  • Because of mania over inning counts, specialized relievers, and an obsession with using “closers” in save situations, starters now only earn decisions in around 69% of starts, down from 78.5% of starts in 1972 (source Jay Jaffe‘s article, referenced further down).  This means the average pitcher only gets about 24 decisions from their 33-34 starts, making the 20-game winner even that more rare.  One can argue that better pitchers get more decisions because they’re more likely to pitch into the 7th and 8th innings, by which time their team should have scored enough runs to win for them.  But the fact remains that a lot of wins and losses are in the modern bullpen.

In 2009, just as Randy Johnson won his 300th, I had two long winded discussions (one in April 2009, another in June 2009) an older version of this blog that I maintained with friends about the demise of the 300-game winner.  Blog author Jason Amos did a great summary in this posting along with some great links.  Now, with another 3 seasons in the books, I thought it might be interesting to see who we were considering as candidates just a few years ago and who might be the next “best” candidates to get to 300 wins.  I’ll address candidates and their chances as we present pitchers a number of different ways.

(coincidentally, the 300-game winner spreadsheet I’m using for this post can be found at this link, and in the Links section along the right hand side of this page).

Here’s the current list of active wins leaders post 2012.  For brevity’s sake here’s the top 10 (and I’ve included Jamie Moyer as being “active” for the sake of this argument):

Rank pitcher age wins
1 Jamie Moyer 49 269
2 Andy Pettitte 40 245
3 Roy Halladay 35 199
4 CC Sabathia 31 197
5 Tim Hudson 36 197
6 Livan Hernandez 37 178
7 Derek Lowe 39 175
8 Mark Buehrle 33 174
9 Bartolo Colon 39 171
10 Kevin Millwood 37 169

Of this list of top 10 active win leaders, clearly most of them are never going to reach 300 wins.  Jamie Moyer has not yet retired at age 49, but the odds of him even making another MLB roster seem thin. Likewise Livan Hernandez and Derek Lowe may struggle to get guaranteed contracts in 2013.  Andy Pettitte has returned and pitched effectively for the Yankees this year, but he’s 50+ wins away from the plateau and only seems likely to maybe pitch one more year.   Bartolo Colon does have a contract for 2013 but it may be his last season, and Kevin Millwood is just too far away.  Tim Hudson, despite his strong performances the last few years, is just too far away at this point as well.  The chances of any of these guys to reach 300 wins is 0%.

How about the rest of this top 10 list?  Specifically CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle?  There’s some intriguing candidates there. Lets look at their chances a slightly different way.

When Randy Johnson hit 300 wins, two Baseball Prospectus authors posted similar posts to this with some interesting analysis.  First, Jay Jaffe used a fun little stat he called the Jaffe Blind Optimism method (JABO), which takes a pitcher and assumes he will win 15 games a year until age 42.  Well, this incredibly optimistic formula leads us to a new set of more reasonable candidates.  I changed the formula slightly and only ran out the 15 wins/year til age 40 and got this list:

Rank pitcher age wins Jaffe 15wins/yr avg->40
1 CC Sabathia 31 197 332
2 Felix Hernandez 26 98 308
3 Clayton Kershaw 24 61 301
4 Trevor Cahill 24 53 293
5 Justin Verlander 29 124 289
6 Matt Cain 27 85 280
7 Mark Buehrle 33 174 279
8 Yovani Gallardo 26 69 279
9 Chad Billingsley 27 80 275
10 Roy Halladay 35 199 274

By this analysis we see that CC Sabathia looks like a pretty sure bet to hit 300 wins, and for good reason.  He’s been healthy, he plays for a team that is constantly winning, and he doesn’t have to pitch like a Cy Young award winner to get wins in New  York (21, 19 and 15 wins his last three seasons).  He has always been healthy and just needs 5 more solid seasons to be very close to the 300 win plateau.  He’s signed through 2016 (with an option for 2017), and there’s no reason to think he’s not going to see that contract through.  His elbow-injury scare in the post-season turned out to be innocuous, but we’ll keep an eye on his health status in 2013.  If he loses a season or more to injury the chances of his making 300 wins declines precipitously.  Felix Hernandez has nearly a 100 career wins at age 26, and also seems like a decent bet to hit 300 wins at this point.  But, he’ll need to move to a winning team to make this task easier on himself; he’s only won 13,14 and 13 games the last three seasons because of dreadful run support.  He’s signed through 2014 and I’d be surprised if he stays in Seattle (unless they turn that franchise around in the next 3 years).

Clayton Kershaw and (surprisingly) Trevor Cahill appear here by virtue of a lot of early career success (Cahill was an 18 game winner for a bad Oakland team at age 22 in the majors, no small feat).  While both have been injury free thus far, it is really difficult to project 24yr olds as staying healthy deep into their 30s.  So, we’ll say they’re promising for now but need to get to about 150 wins before we can really start projecting their odds.  Yovani Gallardo has quietly been racking up wins as Milwaukee’s “ace,” but is sort of in the same boat as Kershaw and Cahill; he’s only 26, so its hard to see how he’ll sit at age 30.  If he’s got another 60-70 wins in four year’s time, we’ll talk.

Justin Verlander‘s 24-win season in 2011, as well as his established status as the “Best Pitcher in Baseball” right now, has launched him into the discussion.  The problem is that he “only” has 124 wins entering his age-30 year.  He needs to average 18 wins a  year for the next decade to have a shot.  That’s a tall task, especially considering how well he pitched to just get to 17-8 this year.  It isn’t out of the realm of possible, but it is a longshot.

Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay are both aging workhorses whose chances of reaching the plateau are dimming.  Buehrle has just moved to the hyper-competitive AL East and wasn’t exactly dominating to begin with.  Meanwhile Halladay’s injury struggles have limited his wins the last couple seasons, likely knocking any chance he had of hitting the plateau.  I’ll give them each non-zero chances, but barely non-zero.  I’ll give them both the benefit of the doubt because they both seem like the kind of pitchers who could pitch well into their 40s and get the extra wins they’d need to move over the top.

Matt Cain and Chad Billingsley are both mentioned because they had a ton of wins before the age of 25; both in reality are not accumulating wins at the pace they’ll need to stay even close to hitting the 300-win plateau.  Plus Billingsley struggled with an injury this year and may be affected next season.  Chances right now; slim.

Just for the sake of argument, here’s the next 10 players ranked by the modified Jaffe system:

Rank pitcher age wins Jaffe 15wins/yr avg->40
11 Zack Greinke 28 91 271
12 David Price 26 61 271
13 Johnny Cueto 26 60 270
14 Gio Gonzalez 26 59 269
15 Carlos Zambrano 31 132 267
16 Jered Weaver 29 102 267
17 Jon Lester 28 85 265
18 Jair Jurrjens 26 53 263
19 Ervin Santana 29 96 261
20 Tim Lincecum 28 79 259

I posted this list because a number of these players were formerly listed as good candidates to hit 300 wins.  Specifically, Carlos Zambrano, Jered Weaver, and Tim Lincecum.  Zambrano may be out of baseball in 2013, Lincecum may not even be a starter any more, and Weaver, while clearly getting a ton of wins lately needs a slew of 19-20 game winning seasons to catch back up.  The collection of 26-yr olds in David Price, Johnny Cueto, and our own Gio Gonzalez are all well behind the paces being set by fellow-aged pitchers Hernandez, Cain and Gallardo, though it isn’t hard to see any of these three post multiple 18-20 win seasons in the coming years.

So, here’s my predictions of the chances by player discussed above (anyone not listed here specifically also sits at 0% chance of making 300 wins):

Name age wins % Chance
CC Sabathia 31 197 90%
Felix Hernandez 26 98 75%
Justin Verlander 29 124 33%
Clayton Kershaw 24 61 25%
Trevor Cahill 24 53 20%
Roy Halladay 35 199 10%
Yovani Gallardo 26 69 10%
Mark Buehrle 33 174 5%
Matt Cain 27 85 5%
Chad Billingsley 27 80 5%
Jamie Moyer 49 269 0%
Andy Pettitte 40 245 0%
Tim Hudson 36 197 0%
Livan Hernandez 37 178 0%
Derek Lowe 39 175 0%
Bartolo Colon 39 171 0%
Kevin Millwood 37 169 0%

Conclusion: I believe we will see another 300-game winner.  I think Sabathia has a very good chance of making it, as does Felix Hernandez at this point in his career.  But injuries can quickly turn a 300-game career into an “out of baseball by 36″ career, so nothing is set in stone.

Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 1/31/12 edition

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Will the team extend Zimmerman, now that Fielder is off the table? Photo AP via tbd.com

This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.  I try to publish this about weekly or if it gets up to about 1500 words, so that it’s not to voluminous.

Nationals In General

  • Nats continue to talk about a contract extension with Ryan Zimmerman, according to this and other sources.  I’m not arguing against re-signing him; in fact he’ll be at a discount by virtue of missing so much time last season and being relatively injury-ridden as of late.  The question is whether Zimmerman’s camp would accept anything less than what Troy Tulowitzki got (10/$157M) or Ryan Braun (13/$150M between current and extension contracts) signed.  Here’s a case against re-signing him (though to be fair, the same blog posted a “case-for” earlier).  Lastly on the topic; this fangraphs.com article looking for a good comparable for Zimmerman based on his production and value (the answer?  Matt Kemp‘s 8yr/$160M deal).
  • Nats miss out on Prince Fielder, as he signs a 9yr, $214M deal with Detroit.  Quick hit thoughts: Thank god there’s no more rumors about Fielder to the Nats.  I wanted him and his bat, but not at that price and for that length.  The team dodges an albatross of a contract in a few years time.  Lastly; how in the world is Detroit going to manage that payroll?  Its not as if that city is an up-and-coming, wealthy place.  Makes you wonder just how well-off these baseball owners really are.
  • I guess FA rumors are just meant to be with this team; suddenly we’re in the Roy Oswalt mix.  Now, I’ve said in the past that I like this guy and think he’d be a great fit for the team … but that was before we traded the farm for Gio Gonzalez and offered arbitration to John Lannan.  I’ll ask a simple question; if we sign Oswalt, who makes way?  Last time i checked this team has 5 starters, each signed for 2012 and each with a multi-million dollar commitment.  So this rumor doesn’t make any sense any longer.  Oswalt makes a ton more sense for a team like Texas or Boston, as is noted in the many columns on the subject posted recently.
  • LOVE the Brad Lidge acquisition.  The team needed a middle relief replacement for Todd Coffey and just got one, and for almost no money ($1M base with incentives).  He’s struggled with his health, but when he has been healthy he’s been lights out for the last two seasons (not to mention the rest of his career).  He can close in a pinch, he can help offload high-leverage innings off of Tyler Clippard.  And he can mentor the bullpen guys.  Fantastic signing by Mike Rizzo.
  • Nats will play Georgetown U in an exhibition for the 2nd year running.  Knowing how weak Georgetown’s program is, I wonder just how badly the scoreline will look (last year’s score was 15-0).
  • MLB daily dish is attempting to replicate the Big Board and throw in contract details at this site here.  We’ll see how uptodate this site is kept during the turbulent season of player movement in the minors.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • Jamie Moyer signs a minor league deal with Colorado.   He sits at 267 wins for his career, so the chances of him getting to 300 are relatively slim, but his chances of making Colorado’s rotation aren’t too bad.  Roto World lists their depth chart right now at Chacin, Hammel, Pomeranz, White and Moscoso.  Lots of youth there; White and Pomeranz are both 22-23 and were both relatively awful last  year.  De La Rosa is coming off injury but may not be ready for opening day.  He very well could feature for this team in 2012.

 

General Baseball News

  • Yes I know these “top 5 lists” are mostly national columnists fulfilling writing requirements during the slow January baseball news period, but if the Nats are listed, i’ll post it.  David Schoenfield lists his “Top 5 rotations” in the game and he goes Philly, Angels, Texas, New York and Arizona.  I gotta say; i think he’s vastly overrating the Yankees rotation and I think he’s overrating the Arizona crew as well.  Arizona’s pitchers were more or less awful in last year’s NLDS; not sure I’d count on them in a pinch.  I’d easily put Tampa Bay and San Francisco’s rotations above these two teams, not to mention the possibility of Atlanta’s group gelling and helping that team win 95 games.
  • Marlins apparently ready to sign up for Showtime’s the Franchise, which featured San Francisco last year and was Showtime’s answer to HBO’s Hard Knocks football weekly documentary.  The show was great in 2011, showing the human side of many of the Giants players and was a must-watch in my house.  Of course, showing Miami could be an interesting endeavor; most of the baseball industry speaks badly about Miami’s ownership and senior management group and these documentary shows usually go to great lengths to humanize and gain empathy for all the participants.
  • Jose Bautista claims to have been “random drug tested” 16 times in the past two years, despite any single player’s chances of being randomly tested only being about 3 times in two years (according to the number of tests MLB is authorized to run versus the number of pro players).  As is noted in the link, it looks to me like MLB is taking no more chances with its big home-run hitters.

 

Collegiate/Prospect News

  • First College top 25 posted by Baseball America (more discussion on each team here), and there’s no surprise who’s #1: Florida by virtue of its absolutely stacked lineup (two first team and two 2nd team pre-season all americans by this publication).  No surprise Stanford is #2 behind their presumptive 2012 #1 overall pick Mark Appel, but surprised that Texas and Texas A&M are so low.  I think by the time the CWS rolls around we’ll be seeing these teams, plus South Carolina back in the mix behind their returning friday and saturday starters.
  • The great Kevin Goldstein unveils his top 20 Nationals prospects on Baseball Prospectus.  We all know who went the other way in the Gio Gonzalez trade; what’s more interesting is who now resides in places 16-20.  Clearly he has to struggle to find “prospects” worthy of ranking there, based on his inclusion of Jason Martinson, Matt Skole, Sandy Leon, and David Freitas.  Otherwise the top 12 or so reads as expected.
  • MLB’s Jonathan Mayo announces their top 100 for the whole game.  Bryce Harper #2 behind Matt Moore; no argument there.  Surprised Mike Trout didn’t get more credit.  Most scouting pundits consider the big 4 (to include Atlanta’s Julio Teheran) as almost interchangeable.   The rest of the top 10 are well known; I’d never heard of #7 Jurickson Profar, a shortstop in Texas’ organization who is really young but really promising.  Other thoughts: surprised to see Danny Hultzen so high; I know he was dominant in college but is he slated to be that dominant in the pros?  Other Nats/ex-Nats on the list: Anthony Rendon at #27, Brad Peacock at #75, Alex Meyer at #83, Sammy Solis at #86, AJ Cole at #88.  No mention of Matthew Purke, but no surprise; he needs to have a healthy, strong season to regain his former 1-1 status.
  • My alma-mater JMU is #1 pre-season CAA baseball.

General News; other

  • Those of you who know me may know that i’m also a pretty passionate Soccer fan.  So here’s a fantastic look at the history of soccer through an “All-time fantasy soccer player draft.”   The first round was rather surprising; I know Lionel Messi is a great player now, but he’s got a bit of work before he supplants Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo or even Zidane in my book.  Of course, he’s already a 3-time world player of the year at the tender age of 24, so by the time he retires he may very well have 3 more awards.  Still, the selections (especially from the non-US based journalists who have a better sense of soccer’s history) are a great read.
  • Speaking of soccer, here’s a Grantland article on the conventional wisdom among most American fans that Soccer is boring.  I’ve tired of trying to argue this point with people who have never actually SEEN a live soccer game.  I have a good friend, born and bred in Pittsburgh and who is a die hard Steeler’s fan (in other words, the complete anti-thesis of a typical soccer fan) who I drug to a US Men’s national team game at RFK about 15 years ago.  He fell in love and now follows the european game with similar gusto as I.  I think American sports fans are too impatient, and have been even before the rise of cell-phones, the red-zone channel and highlight shows, to appreciate the beauty of Soccer.  They devolve the game, without really having any personal experience watching a big match or seeing one in person, into the common phrase, “how exciting can a 1-0 game be?”  I’d say to that; imagine a professional football game where there was no field goals allowed, the end zone was only 24 feet wide and there was a player positioned at that end zone at all times whose sole job it was to stop break away runs and passes.  Its simply that much tougher to score.  So most soccer fans know that the excitement of the game is the tactics, the breakdown of individual skill of the attacker versus the individual skill of the goalkeeper, and the near miss.


Tom Milone’s debut thoughts…

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Milone's debut will be remembered far more for his stunning homer than his pitching. Photo: Luis Alvarez/AP

Masn announcer JP Santangelo called it the “most exciting moment of the year,” speaking of the stunning 3-run homer that starter Tom Milone hit off the first major league pitch he saw (see this AP link for some cool stats about the feat).  And its hard to disagree; I exclaimed loudly when he hit that ball, pounding a first-pitch inside fastball from his opposite number for a no-doubter to the back of the Nats bullpen to give himself a 5 run lead after 2 innings.  It wasn’t going to be nearly enough though…. Here’s some thoughts on Milone’s 9/3/11 debut against the Mets.

Milone’s scouting reports compare him to a young Tom Glavine, and its hard not to disagree.  He has a very easy, smooth motion with minimum effort, bringing a fastball from the left hand side that hits 90mph easily (as opposed to the scouting reports we had heard, which listed his max fastball at 87-88).  In fact, he hit the 90 mph barrier 8-9 times according to his Pitch f/x data.  That’s good news; it would have been hard to imagine a Jamie Moyer-esque young lefty surviving in this modern era of power pitching.

Milone features 4 pitches (a point I’ve talked about a lot w/r/t Ross Dewtiler and his lack of a 4th pitch or a quality 3rd pitch); a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a big looping curve-ball and a change-up.  Pitch f/x had a very difficult time figuring out what he was throwing on the night, listing him as throwing 7 different types of pitches, but odds are they were mistaking a 2-seamer as his change-up and a slider being his cut-fastball.   On the night, he seemed to throw mostly fastballs and changes.  He threw just a few of the big curve-balls (four if you believe the pitch f/x data) and a handful of the cut-fastballs.  He didn’t see to really have control of the cut-fastball, missing inside a number of times.  His change-up (his best pitch) was effective, but his best tool (pinpoint control of his fastball) was on display.

Milone started out the first getting a few low-strike calls that left the Mets players and bench fussing loudly.  I guess that’s what it took to get the umpire to change his ways, because soon after the same knee-high strike call that Milone got in the first inning against Reyes didn’t get called.  In fact, there were a number of borderline missed calls after the first inning that had me (and the broadcast team) head-scratching.  He quickly worked through the order the first time, giving up just one single and retiring the first 7 guys he faced.  He got a number of first-pitch strikes and worked ahead in the count a lot the first time through the lineup.  Santangelo mentioned how quickly MLB hitters adjust, and true to form the second time through the order Milone was more or less pounded.  Wright blasted a ground-rule double, Pagan hit a bullet through the right side to score two, and then a 2-run homer to Evans suddenly gave back most of the 5-run lead his team staked him.  When he couldn’t get Reyes out to start the 3rd time through the order in the 5th inning, he got yanked.  Understandable; if the Mets got four hits out of nine batters the 2nd time through the lineup, they were likely to do at least the same the next time through, if not better.

On the night, 4 1/3 innings, 4 runs on 6 hits.  He got 2 Ks (one on a very odd swing on a high-and-outside 0-2 fastball and one against league-leading Reyes on a beautiful change-up) and gave up one homer.  He threw 74 pitches, 51 for strikes and showed his great control.  I think he started to struggle once he stopped getting the knee-high strike call, he started to get burned by working further up and in.  He doesn’t have nearly enough power to miss inside.  I think he was hurt by the lack of cutter control and could have used that pitch to keep hitters honest.  If he throws a 90mph straight fastball, then an 88 mph cutter with movement should be a great pitch to use, expecially against right-handers.  He tried working it inside (ala Mariano Rivera) but gave up after he kept missing too far inside. Clearly he didn’t adjust to hitters as well as they were adjusting to him the 2nd time through the order; it will be interesting to see if that becomes a trend the next few times he throws.

On the night; a promising beginning and a troublesome finish.  The Mets are a very good hitting team (2nd in the league in average) so it was going to be hard to keep them completely quiet.  Lets see how he does the next time against Houston (a far worse team) before getting a re-match in New York in a couple weeks’ time.

Written by Todd Boss

September 5th, 2011 at 11:35 am

2011 Hall of Fame Ballot: No to Bert Blyleven

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Blyleven throws his trademark Curveball. Image courtesy of http://cheapseatchronicles.blogspot.com

Apparently, from the looks of the baseball blogosphere lately, it is part of my duty as a baseball blog writer to put in my 2 cents on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot.

On Jan 5, 2011, Hall of Fame BBWAA voting will be announced and we’ll have an entire week of blog postings doing post-vote analysis.  Its a great little way to fill the time in-between insignificant FA signings but before pitchers and catchers report.  However I have so tired of hearing about Bert Blyleven from every blogger on the planet that I had to write my own post specifically about him.

Bert Blyleven got 74.2% of vote in his 2nd to last year on the ballot in 2010 and the groundswell of stat nerds who think he was one of the best pitchers ever (despite his having a middling career that was more about longevity and accumulation rather than achievement) has officially reached a crescendo.

He pitched 22 seasons but only ever received Cy Young votes in 4 seasons.  That means, on a season to season basis his name came only even came into the conversation of being one of the game’s best 4 times in 22 seasons.  Even more of an indictment, he only made 2 all star teams in his career!   How can someone be considered one of the best who ever played the game if he was rarely even considered one of the best 25-30 players on a year to year basis?  The reason the lack of all star appearances matters is because it is as good of an indicator of his stature within the game as exists.  Jack Morris was the STARTER in several all star games, was a top-5 cy young candidate over and again, and was perceived to be among the best pitchers of his decade.  Blyleven was always just considered to be a decent pitcher with a great curveball.

He never led league in Wins or Era.  Only once he led in ERA+ and one other time Whip.  Lots of Blyleven apologists discount the Wins (obviously) since they’re a team stat, but nobody points that out when looking at Steve Carlton‘s 27-10 record for the god-awful 1972 Phillies.  They talk about how amazing a pitcher Carlton was; a Hall of Famer.  But when Blyleven pitched year after year and only reached 20 wins once; that was all his teams’ fault.

The big stat-nerd argument for Blyleven is his career Strikeouts, yet he only ever led the league in Ks once despite having 3700 for his career.  Blyleven accumulated exactly 3701 Ks in 4970 innings.  That’s a K/9 of only 6.7.  And in the one year he led the league in Ks, he averaged 6.3 K/9.  That’s only slightly better than the Nat’s own Craig Stammen‘s 2010 totals, by way of comparison.  Just because someone pitches a gazillion innings and accumulates a ton of Ks doesn’t mean he’s one of the all time best.  3701 Ks in 4900 innings means a career 6.7 K/9 rate.  That’s mediocre!

Go look up where his K/9 ranks in the all time list on baseball reference.  He’s just ahead of Doug Davis and just behind Barry Zito.  Yeah, that’s hall of fame company.

Blyleven is the epitome of an “accumulator.”  He played long enough to accumulate stats that reached one of the magical baseball marks (500 homers, 3000 hits, 3000 Ks, 300 wins) that some sportswriters seem to think indicate automatic inclusion to the Hall.  However, I offer the comparison of Jamie MoyerMoyer sits at 267 career wins and wants to keep playing.  It is not inconceivable that he returns from injury and gets a few more career wins.  Now ask yourself a hypothetical question; if Moyer had 300 wins, would he be a hall of fame pitcher?  I would hope your answer would be “absolutely not.”  He just pitched long enough to reach the magical threshold number.

All this hype about Blyleven is sabre-matrician stat nerd revisionist history hoopla who pay ZERO attention to what actually happened on the field during his era and just look at stats.  Well, the game isn’t played in the stat books; its played on the field.  And on the field Morris was far superior to Blyleven, and on the field Blyleven belongs in the hall of “good,” not the hall of fame.

I have never understood the fanatical desire of the modern blogger to get Blyleven into the hall of fame.  In my book he’s not a Hall of Famer now, he has never been, and I think he’ll immediately be the most mediocre player in the hall when inevitably he earns his spot this year.

Written by Todd Boss

December 24th, 2010 at 1:09 pm

The Rich get Richer; Lee to Phillies

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Heeeee's back! Photo: AP via lehighvalleylive.com

Talk about a shock.  Everyone in the baseball world had Cliff Lee going to the Yankees (with a small minority believing that the lack of income taxes in Texas would keep him with the Rangers).  Now, news has broken that Lee is returning to the Phillies in a relatively affordable deal (all things considered).  5years, $120 (average annual value of $24M) with a 6th year easily attained.  He turned down longer deals from New York (reportedly 6years $132M with a 7th year player option at $16M) and Texas (a similar 6year deal with player option for 7th) to return to Philly, where he really enjoyed the clubhouse culture and the city.

Immediate thoughts (echoed in texts to Philadelphia friends earlier today):

  1. The Phillies are *really* stacked.  A rotation where Roy Oswalt is your 4th starter??  That’s sick.  Though they’ll probably line up the rotation to go R-L (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels).  Their 5th starter is now either Blanton or Kendrick, meaning they have spare parts to trade to teams needing pitching.
  2. Lee joins a team that won 97 games last year and significantly improves the rotation.  Does this mean the Phillies are on their way to 105-106 wins?  Perhaps; Lee is such an upgrade over the starter he’s basically replacing in the rotation (Jamie Moyer), but the Phillies have lost Jayson Werth in the middle of their order.  Ibanez isn’t getting any younger and its no guarantee super-stud prospect Dominic Brown can provide the offensive replacement they need.  But, baseball is becoming a pitcher’s game and the Phillies just bought the biggest arm out there.
  3. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro re-acquires the same guy he mortgaged his upper farm system for two years ago.  Only this time for no prospects lost (just his 1st round draft pick).  I know that nobody will be saying this, but clearly the return of Lee means that the Phillies screwed up royally by letting him go in the first place.  Luckily nobody will care as long as they’re still winning, still making the playoffs and still competing for the world series.  And, in the end it may not matter because reports from scouts say that the Phillies lower farm teams (rookie and low-A) are stacked with talent and the team will naturally replace some of these aging free agents (guys like Polanco, Ibanez, perhaps even Victorino) with cheaper alternatives and keep payroll in check.
  4. The Yankees are in seriously big trouble.  Their entire off-season depended on upgrading a very vulnerable rotation with Lee.  Right now their rotation has one sure thing (Sabathia), one retirement question mark (Pettitte), one promising rookie with little track record (Hughes), one possible massive FA bust (Burnett) and … who knows?  I don’t think a trade for Greinke or Garza is possible for the Yankees; Greinke may not be the best fit in NY and Tampa may not be wise to trade Garza intra-division.  Plus, do the Yankees even have prospects worthy of tempting these two teams?  Joe Lemire posted very similar thoughts to mine vis-a-vis the yankees today as well.
  5. Lee’s contract, tacked onto the massive contracts for Howard and Halladay may very well serve as a boat anchor for this team in a few years.  I’ve posted in the past about free agent pitcher contract values and clearly a $24M/year AAV is going to be incredibly difficult to earn.  Even if Lee wins 20 games in every season of the contract the Philles are still not getting good value on their money.  Cot’s site isn’t fully updated for even Howard’s extension but the Phillies right now have about $80M committed in 2013 to FOUR players (Howard at $20M, Halladay $20M, Lee $24M and Utley $15M).  That’s not exactly a lot of flexibility of one of those guys gets badly injured.

Since this is a Nats blog, how does this affect us?  Besides the obvious (the Phillies clearly will be that much more tough to beat for a divisional title for the next few years), this move means the Nats may have a much tougher time acquiring Greinke or Garza.  Both Texas and New York now will bet the farm on those two starters, and the Nats will not be willing to match the prospect drain that Kansas City and Tampa Bay (respectively) will be demanding in return.

And lastly the really obvious; competing in the NL East just got that much harder for this team.  If the Phillies are going to act like the Yankees in acquiring high-end FA an Payroll … the Lerners better start acting more like Boston and less like Baltimore.  $60M in payroll isn’t going to cut it anymore; try $120M.  The Werth signing in many ways seemed like a desperation signing, a quick attempt to regain some fan interest in this town and offset the loss of Adam Dunn.  But Werth alone isn’t going to help this team.  We need more hitting, better pitching, better players.  Honestly we really just need time to get our high-end prospects though the system … but can we wait until 2013 to compete?

The team is entering its 7th year in Washington, a team notorious for NOT supporting its professional teams unless they’re successful.  Baseball isn’t like football, where national TV contracts and salary caps essentially mean a team can compete equally whether they’re in New York or Kalamazoo.  In baseball you have to generate your own revenue and make your own luck.  You have to spend money or spend time (and risk alienating the entire fan base) while getting better.  For the Nats, who wasted 3 years of good will and a brand new stadium being stingy and thinking that the product on the field didn’t matter … they have no choice.  They need to be successful NOW to stem the flow of season ticket cancellations and attempt to be relevant in this town.

2011 Rotation competition?

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As the team starts to get some clarity in their rotation (guys coming back from injury and replacing AAAA starters), I was thinking about our 2011 rotation.

2011 rotation competition (assuming everyone is healthy).  Listing all 40-man starters.

  • Locks (in order): Strasburg, Zimmermann, Marquis
  • Heavily Considered (in order): Maya, Wang, Detwiler, Lannan, Olsen
  • FAs to be: LHernandez
  • Minors/Left out: Stammen, Atilano, Martin, Chico, Mock, Martis, Thompson

I can’t imagine us actually going with the first 5 names on this list, simply because they’re all righties.  We have several decently accomplished lefties in the mix and you would have to think at least one of them will make the cut in 2011.  The team really likes Detwiler, but Lannan has been our most effective pitcher over the past few seasons.

Some other thoughts on the names on this list.

  • Wang.  If he can ever regain his form when he was winning 19 games for the Yankees, then he absolutely has to be in the conversation.  But, in reality he’s no closer to returning to the majors now in August than he was when we signed him in February.  And that’s ridiculous.
  • Marquis.  What the hell is wrong with this guy?  4 runs before recording an out??  $15M absolutely flushed down the drain so far.  I was certainly a proponent of this signing but you have to wonder at this point if he’s just mentally forgotten how to pitch and compete.  But, he’s signed for next year at a high figure so he has to be part of the conversation.
  • Olsen.  I can see them non-tendering him again and then subsequently seeing him signing elsewhere.  I have a feeling he’s going to get really pissed if the Nats cut his starts to save money.
  • Livan.  I can see him being a post-trade deadline waiver wire trade.  No way anyone is claiming him, even given his numbers.  He’s a tough case; he doesn’t overpower people but he gets results.  He’s like the next version of Jamie Moyer.   He’s absolutely been our Ace this year but will he even get offered a contract for next year?

Phillies teaser; Moyer out, Kendrick demoted… now what?

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So, you’re the defending NL champs but you’re in third place in an increasingly tough-looking division and you’ve only gotten a combined total of about 100 games through the first 60% of the season out of your double play combo.

Plus, ont he same day you demote your #5 starter (kendrick) and you lose your #4 starter (Moyer) possibly for the season with an elbow strain (he’s 47 remember? I don’t think he’s bouncing back soon).

What do you do?  Droopy?
– will the phillies trade for Oswalt or Dan Haren?  Do they have enough in the minors to actaully get those calibre guys?

– Do you just make do with what you have, convert Contreras back to a starter, give Figueroa more starts?  Is Happ back yet?

– What do you guys have in AA/AAA in terms of starting talent?

At least Hamels has come back to reasonable effectiveness this year…

Written by Todd Boss

July 21st, 2010 at 6:06 pm