Nationals Arm Race

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Ask Boswell 7/22/13

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Denard Span is catching a lot of criticism right now.  Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Denard Span is catching a lot of criticism right now. Photo: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Phil Mickelson came out of nowhere to take the British Open over the weekend, NFL training camps are coming up soon and the Nats just got swept anemically at home.  I wonder how many baseball questions there are in this week’s ask Tom Boswell chat?  Lets find out.

As always, I answer here before reading Boswell’s response, only take his baseball/Nats questions and edit those questions for clarity.

Q: Is one of the reasons for the Nats malaise because they know Johnson is a short timer?

A: The implication of the question is this: if Davey Johnson suggests a change, the player says, “Eh, you’re gone by the end of the season, why should I listen to you?”  I have a hard time believing this for two reasons:

1. I’m not convinced there’s that much “coaching” going on in the majors.  Especially for veterans.  These guys are professionals, they’ve been playing professional baseball for years.  If you don’t know how to bunt, or how to field by the time you’ve made the majors then I don’t think you’re ever going to get it.  Maybe I’m wrong.

2. I’m also not convinced that managers really have that much to do with a game’s being won or lost.  Yes, disastrous bullpen decisions can back fire.  But its still on the hitters to hit, the starters to pitch, the fielders to make plays.

Related to #2; word came out today that the Nats have fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein.  Is this sort of like firing the secretary when the entire office puts out bad work?  Johnson was really upset by it and said so in the media … and I don’t have any doubt that this is a reactionary move to the poor offensive numbers.  But ask yourself; what is a new hitting coach going to do to turn this team of hitters around between now and September 30th?

Boswell gives Johnson lots of credit in 2012 for instilling confidence in the youngsters and garnering more respect out of the veterans (in comparison to Jim Riggleman). 

Q: Suzuki, Soriano, LaRoche. Any reason the Nats shouldn’t be sellers this year?

A: The Nats will not sell.  Because that would be Mike Rizzo admitting that all his moves last off-season were wrong.  And he’s not going to admit that.

Lets play the what-if game though; what if the Nats were to become sellers.  First guys on the block are FAs in their last (or only) year.  We only have a couple of those guys: Kurt SuzukiDan Haren and Chad Tracy.  Look at that list and ask yourself who would want these guys and what they’d be willing to give up?  Even newly acquired Scott Hairston is signed through 2014.  But then again, teams are smarter and generally won’t give up good prospects anymore for rentals.

One last point: the Red Sox blew a 9 game lead in September two years ago.  The Nats are only 7 out of the division lead, even playing as poorly as they have.  It’s still just mid July.

Boswell says wait until July 31st.  And interestingly he criticizes the Denard Span acquisition. 

Q: Can we get rid of Span?

A: Ironic that Boswell took this question right after killing him.  I have always thought that the Span acquisition was Rizzo being too clever, too focused on defense.  And so far it looks like the critics were right.  Span is posting an 86 OPS+ right now.  His OBP is about the same as the guy we had to jettison to make room for him (Michael Morse).   Except Morse at any moment can hit the ball 430 feet; it’d take Span 3 swings to get it that far.  To say nothing of driving out a fan favorite/good clubhouse guy.

Can we get rid of him?  Nope.  Stuck with him and most of this team through next season.  But, at that point he seems tailor made to flip to bring up someone like Brian Goodwin.

Boswell says that Bernadina isn’t the answer.

Q: Isn’t it galling to the team that Rafael Soriano acts differently on the mound — e.g., windup vs. stretch — depending on whether or not it is a save situation?

A: The word on Rafael Soriano wasn’t positive before he got here, and the whole “shirt untuck” seems to smack of showing people up.  And it’s clear to me that he’s a “Save snob;” look no further than his numbers in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  In2010 as a closer in Tampa?  226 ERA+.  The next year as a setup guy in New York?  4.12 era.  Then when Mariano Rivera goes down and he gets the closer job in 2012?  Back to being excellent.  If he purposely pitches differently in save vs non-save situations?  I’d be really, really pissed as a player.  But luckily the stats don’t support it; his ERA in non-save situations is better than in save situations, by a lot.  Boswell says that Soriano’s behavior is being noticed.  great.

Q: Should we start platooning Span with Hairston?

A: Is this what it’s come to with Span?  That we’re talking about platooning him with a guy hitting .170?  Yes Hairston’s lefty splits are good … but come on.  It isn’t like he’s an all-star slugger.  At least span brings plus-plus defense to center.  Bat him 8th, where his damage is limited.  Boswell says Yes its time to platoon.

Q: Everybody says Nats Park can’t get an All-Star Game because the surrounding area isn’t developed enough. But how does that explain sites like Busch Stadium (their development plan is further behind than ours), Angel Stadium (surrounded by parking lots and freeways), or Citi Field (surrounded by parking lots, a subway line, and a junkyard)?

A: Great question.  Maybe Bud Selig hasn’t seen all the development going on.  Or maybe Ted Lerner just don’t want to get on his knees and beg for it before the omnipowerful commissioner.  I do think its kind of ridiculous that baseball has chosen to return to parks that have previously hosted before giving a game to every new park.    Boswell doesn’t really answer.

Q: How good has Gio been over the past two months?

A: Before his 6 shutout/11k outing last weekend Gio Gonzalez had won 4 straight starts.  The worst of them was a 6 2/3 3 run performance that the team won easily anyway.  Maybe he’s pitching to score (ooh, don’t say that too loudly, the sabre nerds get all pissed).  Yeah he’s pitching great.  Boswell agrees.

Q: Should Krol start working later in games?

A: I’m still not entirely convinced Ian Krol can be more than a loogy.  Every time i’ve seen him, he’s been a one-pitch/one-trick guy.  I’ve literally never seen him throw his off-speed stuff for strikes.  Luckily the deception and velocity on his fastball are good enough to let him ride to a very good season statistically so far.  I’d stick with what we’re doing now; using him and Fernando Abad as situational relievers and leaving the hard work for Clippard and Soriano.  Drew Storen?  Now that’s another story.  Boswell says give him more work.

Q: I’ve seen a recent increase in the criticism of Davey Johnson’s managerial decisions. I can’t believe fans are blaming him for where the Nats currently stand. I put the blame on the players. It’s execution that’s at fault. Right? What else could/should Davey do that he hasn’t already tried?

A: Stop using poor relievers.  Stop pulling effective starters after 90 pitches.  Stop batting Span 1st and drop him to 8th where he belongs.  That’s what I’d do.  Boswell shared some ancedotes.

Q: I was so in favor of the Span acquisition, now it just looks horrible. Do you think he can get back to the .392 On Base Percentage he has in 2009 or is he really a .317 OBP guy? Will this team ever solve CF and lead off?

A: Just had this discussion with someone over email.  He does look horrible at the plate.  But he plays a great center field!  Rizzo just had to have his center fielder; well now you have him, and the guy he displaced (Mores) has about the same OBP this year as Span.  To go along with 200 points of slugging.  So there’s that.  You say “well Morse has been injured?”  I say sure … he got injured in Seattle.  No reason to assume the same thing would have happened here.  We gave up Morse’s power in the middle of the order and moved a perfectly capable defender (Harper) off center to acquire Span and have him drag down the top of the order.  Can’t do anything about it now (or until 2015 frankly): I say bat him 8th until he proves he deserves to return to the top.   Boswell points out that Span’s OBP is only 1% better than league average.

Q: Should we keep Soriano in the closer role?

A: Pretty much; $11M a year and he’ll be a sullen clubhouse cancer if he’s not closing.   He’s being paid way too much money to flip, even to teams that covet closers.  Well, maybe we can talk to Boston; they seem to be idiots when it comes to paying for closers (as noted in this space).   Boswell also mentions Boston but points out how battle-tested Soriano is, implying he has value.  I’m clearly on the record in my opinion about closers and paying big money for them, disagreed with the acquisition and disagree with Boswell here; if we could trade him, you do it.

Q: Is Jayson Werth immature and/or a hypocrite?

A: You’d have to read the whole question (which clearly implies the opinion of the asker), but there’s some vitriol in there.  I can’t think of any incidents that make me ever put Jayson Werth in the same maturity category as Nyjer Morgan.  I think the questioner is off-base here.  Boswell predictably defends Werth.  I will say this: go look at Werth’s hitting stats this year; he’s been very, very good.

 

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.

Ladson’s Inbox 1/14/13

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Free Michael Morse! Photo Jacqueline Martin/AP via federalbaseball.com

Another edition of Bill Ladson‘s Nats inbox, dated 1/14/13.

Q: Who will replace Davey Johnson once he retires after the 2013 season?

A: Who knows and who cares?  Can we wait until the end of the 2013 season to see if Davey Johnson actually retires?  I’m not convinced that he actually will retire if the Nats don’t win the World Series.  Even if he does retire, I think its pointless to speculate who in the baseball universe the team could possibly look to as a successor.  It could be a current TV pundit, a bench coach, someone elses manager, someone who just got fired, a minor league manager in our system, one of our current coaches, Mike Rizzo‘s uncle.  About the only person I think it will NOT be is Jim Riggleman.  Ladson says internal candidates Randy Knorr and Trent Jewett are good candidates, and throws out Joe Girardi‘s name based on his contract status coinciding with the end of next season.

Q: Is there any validity to the Nationals having interest in Javier Vazquez? If the Nats were to sign him, would they move Ross Detwiler to the bullpen so he could be their second lefty?

A: This topic as so irked me that I’m penning an entire post dedicated to it.  Check back later.

Q: If Michael Morse is only making $6.7 million, why not keep him around as insurance and a right-handed bat off the bench?

A: An excellent question.  Much like the team paid John Lannan to sit around in Syracuse for a year, they could do the same with Michael Morse.  Except that Morse is FAR more valuable in trade than in sitting around and wondering what he’s done to earn his fate.  He’s by all accounts a great clubhouse guy, but keeping him here would be detrimental to everyone involved.  I think the team needs to move him for lefty bullpen help and some farm system starting pitching depth.  Ladson says the team needs to do Morse a favor and trade him.

Q: Who do you see as the Opening Day closer — Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen?

A: Drew Storen.  Tyler Clippard had his shot at the title and lost it down the 2012 stretch.  I think the team goes back to its winning formula with Clip-Store-and Save in 2013.  Ladson thinks Johnson will go with “the hot hand” and split the role.  I don’t.  I think he’ll go right back to what he was doing before.

Q: With Adam LaRoche now signed, what are the Nats’ long-term plans for Tyler Moore?

A: Once Morse is traded, Moore becomes the big bat off the bench and does some fill-in work at 1st base and (maybe) LF.   I see his opportunities limited though unless we see some injuries.  Longer term, I think he’ll have to hit his way into full time playing time; if he does perhaps he’s the first baseman of the future.  I don’t see it though; I think he’s likely to find his way off the team through trade at some point.  The OF is full and 1B is blocked.  Ladson agrees, mentioning an interesting wrinkle; with Bo Porter now in Houston, perhaps a trade would be in order.

Q: Which Minor League player do you think will have a breakout season this year?

A: A good question.  Borrowing from Luke Erickson‘s NationalsProspects watchlist for 2013 (a very handy one-page summary of all the top/interesting prospects throughout the Nats farm system), I’ll pick three names that could press for quick promotion and big impact in 2013: Rendon, Skole and Goodwin.  Ok that’s a cop out.  I will say this: I *hope* that Rendon breaks out and finally hits like his draft pedigree.  Lets keep an eye this year on Nathan Karns and Erik Davis, two rising arms that could both feature in the bullpen in 2013.  I’d like to see Robbie Ray rebound.  For a deep-cut, i’m really interested to see what Kevin DiCharry does in 2013.   Ladson goes with the two obvious candidates Rendon and Goodwin.  I don’t think he follows the farm system that closely, so we’ll give him a pass.

Q: Is Ryan Zimmerman expected to be healthy for Spring Training?

A: I saw nothing in his surgery detail that indicated that the 2013 season was in jeopardy in any way.  Ladson confirms.

Q: If Jayson Werth bats in the middle of the order, what right-handed hitter is the best choice for No. 2 after Denard Span?

A: I’d probably say Jayson Werth is still the best option at #2.  The lineup that seems to make the most sense goes Span-Werth-Harper-Zimmerman-LaRoche-Desmond-Espinosa-Suzuki.  That allows the team to go L-R-L-R-L-R-S-R, a perfect balance.  Perhaps you switch Desmond and Werth.  Ladson thinks Harper is batting second most of the time.  Can’t see that; can’t see Johnson purposely going lefty with 3 of the first four guys in his rotation.  That seems to scream out easy Loogy matchups every night.

Q: Will Christian Garcia do any starting for the Nats next season? I know Johnson would love to see that.

A: A man can wish; I’d love to see Christian Garcia starting and bringing his stuff for 7 innings a night.  Unfortunately I don’t think he’s got the stamina in that arm (surgically repaired more than once) to start, no matter how much Johnson may want him as starter depth.  I think Garcia starts the year in AAA starting but soon finds himself back in the MLB bullpen.   Ladson says he’s getting stretched out and will provide cover for any injuries.




Ask Boswell 12/19/11 edition

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Would Adam Jones solve our CF issues? Photo unknown via blog.prorumors.com

Here’s Tom Boswell‘ weekly Monday chat on 12/19/11.  Of the baseball questions he took, here’s how I’d have answered them.  With a Redskins unexpected win, I’d think this will be heavy on football, but I thought the same about last week as well.  There were a TON of baseball questions.  Maybe the town is tiring of Redskins coverage, now that they’re eliminated from the playoffs.

As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write my own answer prior to reading his.

Q:  Have you heard anything about the possibility of Da Meathook (Dmitri Young) returning to the Nats to be a role player and mentor?

A: No chance.  Dmitri Young was a Jim Bowden reclamation project and no matter how that story may play in the “feel good” category, Rizzo has gone to great pains to rid most of this roster of Bowden players.  It is good to see Young losing weight and looking better though.  Boswell says little chance, that Young really is a DH/PH now and we’re in the wrong league.

Q: Should the Nats consider Carlos Beltran?

A: Again, hard to see.  Beltran was decent in 2011, his first healthy season since 2008.  Ironic that it happened in his walk year.  But he’s already been moved out of CF, and was not really that good defensively in RF.  He’ll want a longer term deal … but we have a certain upper-end RF prospect named Harper coming up who would be blocked.  Beltran makes no sense for us.  Boswell says no chance, then opines on the lack of movement out of the Nats front office.

Q: What do you make of the Nats (non) moves?  Are the Lerners still “cheap?”

A: It was always going to be a weak FA market, and with the Marlins suddenly throwing ridiculous money around and outbidding the team for its targets, it does look as if the team isn’t doing much.  The price of #1/#2 starters has just gotten out of control this off-season (see the unbelievable haul that a low-end #1 guy in Mat Latos just got), so I sense the team is re-evaluating.   Boswell says you can’t be “cheap” after signing a guy to $126M contract.

Q: Does Rizzo deserve an F for the off-season so far? Missed out on Buerle and no CF either.

A: Man, people are impatient.  Maybe the team underbid on Buehrle, but they were NEVER going to go 4yrs and $56M dollars on the guy.  I’m sorry; he’s a #3 pitcher, a soft-tossing lefty who never gets hurt.  That’s NOT an ace, that’s not worth $13M a year.  As for CF, there’s no good FAs out there, so it was always going to be a trade.  Last time i checked its only December and the off-season is only half-way done.  I’d rather stand pat than make a panic buy.  Boswell says Rizzo needs to be judged 5 years down the road on his 2011 draft signings.

Q: Have we seen the last off-season addition?

A: I don’t think so, but the likelihood of seeing a “major” acquisition now seems thin.  It is what it is; 2012′s FA crop was weak and everyone got bid up.  Notice how the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t get anyone either, and BOTH those teams desperately need starting pitching.  Boswell takes his third question on the same topic and just says that if the team hits better they’ll be better next year.  duh

Q: Do you think Endy Chavez could be a decent short-term filler for the Nats in centerfield, or maybe resigning Rick Ankiel, who played pretty well turing the final two months of last season?

A: Well, its too late for Chavez, who signed a deal over the weekend with Baltimore.  I wouldn’t be opposed to re-signing Ankiel but ONLY as a 4th outfielder.  Boswell agrees.

Q: Who’s going to spend the most time in center for the Nats this year? 1. Werth, 2.Cespedes, 3. Ankiel (if he returns), 4. Bernadina (ugh) or 5. someone else?

A: I’ll go with Werth first, but say “someone else” if Rizzo makes his desired trade.  Holding out hope for Upton or Bourjos or someone like that.  Boswell exactly writes what I wrote.

Q: If the Nats are able to sign or trade for a CFer and they bring up Bryce Harper during the season, does Adam LaRoche become the odd man out this season?

A: If Nats get a CFer, then yes eventually it will come down to either Morse or LaRoche making way.  As of now, its hard to see Morse leaving, but you never know in this game.  Morse could break a leg and LaRoche could come back 110% in his walk year, and in June we’ll be singing a different tune.  Boswell thinks LaRoche is mr. comeback in 2012 and will “make the team glad they have a club option.”  Wow, that’s a statement.

Q: Should the Nats really wait til NEXT off-season to hit the FA market?

A: Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  The 2013 FA pool is so much better than this years, that it almost doesn’t make sense to compete and over-pay.  As a longer term fan of this team, I would support and argue for such a move.  Play the kids in 2012 and figure out what you have, then go on a spending spree to make a pennant-contender in 2013.  Boswell says this is exactly what Davey Johnson is advocating.

Q: What are the odds that the Nats do right by the fans and sign Zimm to a Tulo type deal before Spring Training? After watching the Pujols intro in LA, if we have to endure a similar scene w/ Ryan I plan on marching to Nats Park and burn my jersey at the main gate.

A: Lots of repeat questions today.  This question was the Question #1 from last week’s boswell Chat.   Short answer; Nats don’t pursue long term deal with Zimmerman til after next season.  Boswell changes his stance from last week and says the team MUST get it done before the 2012 all-star break.  Why?  Still disagree here.

Q: Is the reluctance to sign Fielder just about money? He is clearly an upgrade over LaRoche at the plate and would instantly upgrade the offense.

A: I’d be reluctant for several reasons.  Money (its a lot), wasted money (on LaRoche), his conditioning (abhorrent for an athlete) and his defensive inadequacies.    He does mash though.  Boswell likes Laroche, says Morse is a good 1B as well, and doesn’t advocate spending $200M on one position.

Q: Remember the knock on Mike Rizzo was that he would have trouble with some of the non-baseball aspects of a GM job (i.e. media)? We’re a few years in and while the Nats are greatly improved, I’m skeptical of Rizzo. He seems like he’s playing out of position — strong on scouting, not so much on other stuff. Does it even matter given the ownership?

A: I still think Rizzo was partly responsible for the Riggleman situation, and should have done a better “people management” job than he did.  But otherwise I don’t have an issue with Rizzo’s performance.  The team has completely turned around in just 2 years under his command; what else do you want out of a GM?  3 great drafts, a 20game improvement on the field?  Are we getting spoiled here?   Boswell agrees, and says that the Werth contract still weighs on him.

Q: Thoughts on the Mat Latos trade? Seems the cost of quality SP is especially high this year—whether you’re Roy Oswalt or the ChiSox looking to trade Danks, the Nats are going to have to spend or give up real value to add that piece to their rotation. Any new developments?

A: The Latos deal is shocking; he’s not exactly a Cy Young candidate in my mind; just a very good, young pitcher.  The Reds gave up two developed #1 draft picks (including a very quick to the majors guy in Yonder Alonso), plus an established (albeit injured) Volquez and another guy for Latos.  That’s a really expensive trade.  Latos better work.  How does that affect the Nats?  It probably scares the crap out of them.  Boswell quotes Jim Bowden’s analysis (?!) and says the Padres may have swindled the Reds here.

Q: Would you be interested in Adam Jones if you were the Nats and who would you be willing to give up?

A: Jones is an interesting candidate.  Good bat but not the best in the field.  I didn’t even consider him a trade candidate in my CF analysis piece but maybe he is.  O’s need pitching, so maybe there’s a fit there.  But, the O’s may not have a ready-made replacement for Jones, who is 25 and still under club control for 2 more years.  So he won’t be cheap.  I’d give up a Detwiler or a Milone but not much more.  Boswell agrees with the trade needs, but says Angelos would never trade with Washington on the off-chance that the Nats looked like they “took” him in a deal.

Q: It’s Opening Day 2012 in DC. Sellout crowd, beautiful weather. Perfect day for baseball. Who’s playing CF for the Nats, & who’s hitting leadoff. For that matter, since I’ve asked you to consult your crystal ball, what’s the pitching rotation?

A: Another repeat question.  Your CF is Werth, with a yet-to-be named 1-yr FA playing in RF.  Rotation is Stras-Zimmerman-Lannan-Wang-Detwiler.  Leadoff is (still) Desmond, because the team hasn’t done anything to replace him.   But i’m still holding out hope that the team a) signs Oswalt and b) trades for Upton.  So we’ll see.  Boswell thinks Harper’s making the opening day roster, and Milone is #5 starter.  I wouldn’t be surprised.

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.



Boswell, er I mean Sheinin’s 7/25/11 chat questions, answered

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Is Davey Johnson up for the task at hand? Photo unknown origin.

I whiffed on the last couple of Boswell’s chats, finding time enough to read them but not to write a 2000 word missive in response.  Boswell’s on vacation this week, so here’s Dave Sheinin covering for him and doing a chat.

As always, I paraphrase the “questions” for levity and clarity, and I answer each question myself before reading Dave’s answer.

Q: Has the game passed by Davey Johnson?

A: Camera shots certainly seem to catch Johnson in an “old man” stupor from time to time.  I don’t think Baseball is like Football in that older generations of coaches can’t compete b/c the game has passed them by.  But I don’t sense that Johnson is really that in tune with the game right now.  The team has swooned since he took over, he has lost more than his share of 1-run games (fairly or unfairly set at the foot of the manager).  In reality this is a longer-term answer, meaning we’ll only be able to tell after he runs the team for a while.  Sheinin says that whoever replaced Riggleman was destined for a fall, and that he’s ok with everything Johnson has done thus far.

Q: Is Strasburg going to hit Potomac during his rehab trip, or are they gonna get screwed over again?

A: Good question; I’d say this time he appears for Potomac at some point, as the Nats had Wang travel up and down the system to get starts on his regular rotation.  There doesn’t seem to be a need to keep Strasburg out of Potomac’s awful outfield.  Sheinin agrees.

Q: How would you handicap the odds of the following trades happening by the deadline: 1. Nats trade Marquis 2. Nats trade Livan 3. Nats trade Clippard 4. Nats trade Desmond 5. Nats trade other(s) 6. Nats acquire Colby Rasmus 7. Nats acquire BJ Upton 8. Nats acquire Michael Bourn 9. Nats acquire other CF.

A: I’d put them in this order of most likely: 1, 5 (Coffey), large gap, 3, 2, 7, 9 (Span), 8, 4, 6.

I think Marquis and Coffey are definitely moving.  I don’t think anyone would want Livan.  I have a hard time thinking that the team is going to move Clippard or Desmond.  Rasmus probably goes elsewhere.  Bourn is a lesser version of Upton, so we’d probably want Upton over anyone else.

Sheinin thinks that the most likely players to get traded is Coffey, and doesn’t think Marquis is going anywhere.

Q: Do you think Riggleman intentionally left the team at its “high-water” mark?

A: Absolutely.  Riggleman was frustrated by the lack of communication from his boss (Rizzo), frustrated by his lame-duck status and probably was reading the tea-leaves that he’d be let to just play out his contract and let someone else enjoy the spoils of his work in 2012.  So he gave the team an ultimatum at the time that best suited his negotiaitons.  Rizzo called his bluff and Riggleman walked.  I know most believe Riggleman acted selfishly, but I put a ton of blame on Rizzo’s poor handling of the situation.  One conversation probably could have avoided all the negative press that followed Riggleman’s departure.  Sheinin thinks Riggleman knew exactly what he was doing.

Q: Would you trade both Clippard and Norris to get Denard Span?

A: No, I would not.  I think the Nats value the combined value of both those players, both under team control for at least 4 years (Clippard) to at least 6 in Norris’ case.  Span is decent, but for that price i’d shoot for Upton (who has more power and steals more bases).  Sheinin dodged the question, stating that Span wasn’t really in play.  Which he wasn’t at 11am monday, but since then rumors have floated about the Twins and Nats talking about him.

Q: What kind of pitch count will Wang be on?  What would be an expected first outing?

Probably nothing too conservative; he’s been rehabbing for literally a year and a half.  But if he reaches 100 pitches in an outing i’d be surprised.  I think a 5ip 2run outing would be a major success.  Sheinin doesn’t expect much.

Q: What will the team do with Gorzelanny, who seemingly is making way for Wang in the rotation?  DL?

A: The team can’t demote him (options), so they probably demote Detwiler and have Gorzelanny be the new long-man out of the pen.  At least until we trade a starter or someone goes down with an injury.  He may have an “invented injury” all of a sudden and go onto the 15-day DL.  Certainly the team has been shady in the past in the way it handles DL trips, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen here.  Sheinin says that teams hide injuries all the time for competitive purposes.

Q: Why is Drew Storen’s name in trade rumors?

A: Good question.  I have a very hard time believing the Nats would consider trading Storen unless it was to obtain someone marquee.  It may be that other teams are asking about him and that news is leaking out. Sheinin does say that relievers are fungible, as I’ve said many times, and you never say never to a trade possibility.

Q: What makes more sense in 2012: Morse in LF or at 1B?

A: Makes more sense: keeping Morse at first and Nix in left and not messing with what has turned into a very healthy middle-of-the-order for this team.  Reality: LaRoche isn’t going to get traded and we don’t want to light $8M on fire, so he’s going back to 1B.  Which means Morse is back in left and Nix is left out.  Sheinin says a lot can happen between now and next spring, like us signing Prince Fielder and making this whole conversation moot.

Q: If you had to bet right now, is Desmond or Lombardozzi starting in the infield next year?

A: I’d bet Desmond starts there and is given one more year to figure it out.  Lombardozzi starts in AAA and if he earns his way up, he earns his way up.  Sheinin agrees, but says that Desmond needs to start producing or risk losing his job.

Q: Why did Riggleman call out Boswell during his departure?

A: Probably because Boswell wrote a ton of not-so-nice pieces essentially proving just how bad a manager Riggleman has been over his career.  You’d probably be pissed as well.  Sheinin thinks that Riggleman’s rant was misguided.

Q: Who starts in CF for this team in 2012?

A: Who knows.  It really seems like this team is in the market for a CF, so right now i’d say its a FA to be named.  I don’t think it will be Ankiel or Bernadina.  Ankiel parts ways with the team and Bernadina battles with Nix to be the 4th outfielder.  Sheinin agrees.

Q: Which team will regret their big contract more?  Werth/Nats, Howard/Phillies, Jeter/Yankees or A-Rod/Yankees?

A: Probably the Nats.  Howard is a big bat in the middle of a talented lineup and it more or less goes unnoticed that he’s not producing at his normal levels in 2011.  The Yankees have so many $40M mistakes that its comical, but the A-Rod contract in particular looks like it will be a massive albatross in a few years (A-Rod is guaranteed $20M in 2017, when he’ll turn 42 mid-season).  Sheinin agrees.

Can’t Blame Him…

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What a deflating end to a great run of wins for the team. Photo credit unknown.

Jim Riggleman shocked the Natmosphere by abruptly resigning after today’s 1-0 win over Seattle (a win that gives the team 11 wins in their last 12 games and pushes them over .500 for the first time this late in the season since 2005).

I can’t blame him.  He’s more than proven his worth managing a team in the lower 1/3 of major league payroll, without its best pitcher all of 2011, missing Ryan Zimmerman for the bulk of the season and having to deal with the loss of his “other” major FA signing Adam LaRoche.  He’s worked a group of players that includes more than a few 2011 minor league free agents into the hottest team in baseball.  Mike Rizzo should have realized that picking up his option was the right thing to do.  The team let him toil as “interim manager” for months, even while vastly outperforming his predecessor (Manny Acta was 26-61 in 2009, then Riggleman went 33-42 with a group of players hampered by injuries late in the season).

Riggleman certainly has his detractors (small ball, quick hooks, sentimental pitching decisions all being mentioned) but I find it hard to believe there’s a manager out there who could have gotten more out of this group.

Flat out, the team should have picked up his 2012 option long before it came to this.

A disappointing piece of news.

Written by Todd Boss

June 23rd, 2011 at 4:36 pm

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).

Not a fan of the bullpen management last night

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Why leave your best reliever in a game you're winning by 5 runs?

I promise this is not “hindsight is 20-20″ analysis; had you been in my basement watching last night’s game with me, you would have heard me yelling all the things I’m about to say.

I have a real problem with Riggleman’s bullpen management last night.  Now, perhaps the off-day on Monday 4/11 enabled all the relievers to get enough rest to enable what we saw last night.

Here’s the sequence of events i’ll be commenting on:

  • Livan Hernandez starts the 7th with a 4 run lead and having only thrown about 75 pitches at the time, but is facing the top of the Phillies order.
  • We see Brian Broderick warming up.  (see comment #1)
  • Suddenly Livan gets into trouble.  We see Tyler Clippard jump up and start throwing.
  • Livan loads the bases, looking as if he had run out of gas.  Clippard comes in and gets out of a bases-loaded jam.
  • We look back and Todd Coffey is warming up.  (see comment #2)
  • To start the 8th (by which point the Nats have scored again, giving the team a FIVE run lead), Clippard comes back out!  (see comment #3)
  • He can’t get out of the inning though, so Riggleman brings in his closer Sean Burnett to get out of an 8th inning jam.  The score is now 6-3 though.
  • The Nats score another run in the bottom of the 8th to make it 7-3.  That’s a 4 run cushion going into the 9th inning.
  • Riggleman leaves Burnett in!  (see comment #4).   Burnett gives up another run but finishes the game, getting a save for his troubles. (see comment #5).

Comments in order:

  1. Ok, I was happy to see Broderick warming up.  This was the perfect game to bring him in; a 4 run lead on a colder night when the Nats seemed frisky.  Unfortunately, Livan got into trouble so quickly that Clippard had to be pushed into service.
  2. Why did Coffey warm up?  He clearly wasn’t going to come into the game, since the dangerous hitter in the Phillies lineup is Ryan Howard, and Slaten is the loogy.
  3. Why did Clippard return for the 8th inning??  Coffey had warmed up, as had Broderick.  You have a 4 run lead.  I suppose the reasoning was because the meat of the Phillies order was coming up.  But its a 4 run lead with 2 innings to play; the odds of a team coming back from that deficit are relatively small (remember, teams score 0 or 1 runs in an inning and no more a very large percentage of the time; 86% per this 2007 study).
  4. See point #3: why bring back your closer, who you’re going to need for the next 6 days, with a 4 run lead in the 9th inning??
  5. General point about the uselessness of the save situation: Burnett came into the game in the bottom of the 8th inning and allowed 2 of the 3 base-runners he inherited to score.  That’s the definition of a failure as a reliever.  Then, given a 4 run lead in the 9th he allows another run but eventually closes out the 9th and gets a save.  Yes, by virtue of the bases being loaded with a 5 run lead, the tying run was on deck therefore it was a save situation by definition.  But how exactly was his performance on the night worthy of any “positive” statistic whatsoever?  I have a post coming up about the use of relievers in general where I touch on the definition of the Save, and this game highlights everything I can’t stand about the stat.

In summary, in a game where the Nats held the lead by 4-5 runs most of the night, we pitched 2 of our 3 best relievers, both throwing more than an inning.  Burnett threw 28 pitches, enough for 2 innings.  We also warmed up Coffey and Broderick (which may not show up in the box score but they certainly were throwing).  We never bothered to use our LOOGY against one of the most susceptable lefty-lefty matchup hitters in the league (Ryan Howard).  We have two more games against the Phillies, games in which we face their two aces and certainly would expect the games to be closer.  Does this mean that Clippard and/or Burnett won’t be available later this week because they pitched on tuesday?  Wouldn’t you want to save these guys for better opportunities?

Written by Todd Boss

April 13th, 2011 at 10:43 am

Ladson’s Inbox 4/1/11 edition

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Is Ankiel the solution for the Nats in center field? Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images via federalbaseball.com

Editors note: I was out of town last weekend and had this queued up but never hit publish :-) .

MLB’s Nationals beat writer Bill Ladson hasn’t done an inbox for a few weeks, probably because he’s been busy at spring training.  Now that the regular season has started and we’ve had some debatable 25-man roster decisions made, he has published another edition of his Inbox column.  Here’s how i’d answer the questions he selects…

Q: What are you most worried about with the Nationals in 2011?

A: I’d say, in order, offense, the starting rotation, center field, and the back end of the bullpen.  I feel like we took a step backwards in terms of offense, we have improved the rotation over last year but still would probably rank this rotation 28th or 29th in the league, that Rick Ankiel in center field doesn’t really help us a ton, and that Drew Storen had such a rough spring that our end-of-game scenarios may be challenging.

Q: How do you think the Nationals will fare this season in the National League East with their off-season signings?

A: Probably the same as last year; last place.  Philadelphia and Atlanta are probably playoff bound no matter how many injuries the Phillies sustain.  Florida is probably taking a step side ways, having lost Uggla but picked up Vazquez (honestly, I don’t see how their fans don’t revolt at their perennial 87 win team doesn’t spend the $10 needed to improve themselves to be a 92 win team and challenge for the wild card).  The Nats may finish above the Mets, if only because that franchise is in such disarray right now.  They’re eating more than $20M in salary for players they’ve already released, they made no significant off-season moves and there’s serious injury question marks around 4 of their 5 best paid players (Santana, Beltran, Bay and Francisco Rodriguz).  I can see that time imploding badly and the Nats sneaking ahead of them for 4th place, maybe.

Q: If Bryce Harper has an amazing year in the Minors, is there a chance he will get a Major League callup?

A: They shouldn’t … but they may.  I would not be surprised to see the kid rocket through low-A and high-A ball.  It would be purely a late-season revenue grab to call him up, but they need to be careful on his service time accrual.  If he plays 30 days in September we’d have to keep him down an extra 30 days in 2012 to ensure he doesn’t become a super-2.  For those not clear on the implications of super-2 screwup, read this bit about the mistake the Giants made with Tim Lincecum.

That being said, i’d love to see him playing in the bigs before his 19th birthday.  That’d be fantastic.  And he may very well earn it.  His weakness in the AFL and in spring training was offspeed pitches, but its hard to fault the kid for wanting to swing and make something happen in the limited time he’s seen.  Once a full season gets going and he’s getting 4 ABs every night, he will learn patience, he will earn walks as pitchers work around him, and he’ll pick his spots.  This, more than anything else, is the lesson he needs to learn to advance in the minors.

Q: Do we see a parallel developing between Roger Bernadina and Justin Maxwell? How long do we have to wait?

A: It isn’t a bad parallel to note.  Bernadina lost the LF job, then the CF job, then the 4th outfielder job to a non-roster invitee.  He’s burning his last option as we speak.  He has a career 80 OPS+.  I openly questioned in this space why he was the presumed starter in LF all off-season, and as it turned out I was right about Morse being the better player.  I think he’ll play out the string in AAA this year and get traded for a low-level minor leaguer at the end of spring training 2012, just as we did with Morgan and Gonzalez this week.

Q: What do you think of the job general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Jim Riggleman have done since they took over in 2009?

A: I think Rizzo has done a decent job with the major league team and a pretty good job with the farm system.  I feel like he’s tried a little TOO hard to rid the team of the non-defensive hitters Willingham and Dunn, and could have gotten more for them.  I understand the Werth signing but think (like the rest of baseball) that he overpaid and strangely backloaded the contract (why back load instead of front load?  We’re actually at LESS payroll this year than last, so we could be paying him $20M this year instead of $10M and still look like we’re treading water).  He’s definitely assembled a team in his vision; defensively gifted, a bullpen full of power arms.  Next step; power rotation.

Riggleman is doing the best with what he has; I don’t believe other managers could do much better.  Most people believe we have probably the 28th or 29th best collection of talent in the majors, but we’re achieving better than 29th place.

Q: Besides Harper, which rookie impressed you during Spring Training?

A: I cannot disagree with Ladson’s selection of Cole Kimball as “most impressive rookie.”  I would not be surprised to see him called up in 2011 and to start getting high-leverage appearances.