Editor’s note: feel free to stop reading now if you don’t want to read 4,400+ words on my fantasy baseball team. I won’t blame you for it. For those of you who do play fantasy, as I made picks I wrote down who I was considering and who was available per each pick to try to give some context for the pick. I’ll insert a “jump” line here so that RSS readers don’t have to see this whole massive post
Archive for the ‘kris medlen’ tag
Word came out over the weekend that suddenly embattled Nats pitcher Gio Gonzalez has accepted an invitation to play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, replacing Kris Medlen (who is anticipating having a child right around the same time).
Why is this bad news for the team?
Simply put: there’s a really bad track record for Pitchers who throw in the WBC the subsequent season, both league-wide and especially with the Nats.
Speaking just about the Nats first: Here’s a quick table showing the before and after ERA and ERA+ figures for the five Nationals pitchers who played in the first two iterations of the WBC (the “before” year is the season leading up to the WBC, while the “after” year shows performance in the season following the WBC):
|WBC Yr||Pitcher Name||ERA before||ERA After||ERA+ before||ERA+ after|
As you can see; every single one of our pitchers was either injured or regressed (mostly significantly) after playing in the WBC. Ayala’s injury cost him the entire 2006 season. I talked about this discovered phenomenon back in November, 2012 when trying to predict who may participate in the WBC (and where I actually predicted that Gonzalez would play, though the rest of my team USA predictions were wrong).
But this is just our team’s experiences. How about Baseball wide? MLB has endeavored itself to argue that participation in the WBC does not lead to an increase in injuries amongst its players and especially pitchers. But we’re not talking about injuries here; we’re talking about performance. Here are two very well done studies that show the negative impact of pitching in the WBC:
The BaseballPress one shows some of the same numbers I’ve shown above, but conducts the analysis across every pitcher who participated in both WBCs. And the results are pretty evident; across the board on average pitchers regressed both in the year of the WBC and in the year after. Plain and simple.
It isn’t hard to figure out why these guys regress; playing in the WBC interupts the decades-old Spring Training plans for getting a starting pitcher ready for a season by slowly bringing him along in terms of innings and pitch counts. And, suddenly exposing both starters and relievers to high-leverage situations in February/March that they aren’t ready for either physically or mentally puts undue stress on these guys that (as we have seen) manifests itself later on down the road.
In the comments section of another post, someone asked what would stop the Nats from steamrolling to the World Series this year. I answered “rotation injuries” and “bad luck in the playoffs.” Well, now thanks to Gonzalez we can add two more items: PED suspensions and WBC regression.
(Editor Note: I’ve had the bulk of this post written for weeks and have been waiting for the last couple of impact FA starters to sign. I’m tired of waiting. If/when guys like Kyle Lohse, Shawn Marcum or Joe Saunders signs, or if there’s another big trade that happens, perhaps I’ll re-post this).
On December 5th, awash in the after-glow of the Dan Haren acquisition, I postulated that the Washington Nationals’ 2013 rotation was the Best in the Majors.
That was before the next shoe dropped in the Los Angeles Dodger’s unbelievable spending spree in 2012: signing Zack Greinke to a 6yr/$147M contract. This is the 2nd largest starting pitcher contract ever signed (just behind CC Sabathia’s 7yr/$161M deal that he opted out of to sign a slightly larger deal in terms of AAV after the 2012 season). These rankings also are updated for the highly-criticized James Shields (and parts) for Wil Myers (and parts) deal, the Ryan Dempster signing.
The larger story behind the Greinke signing remains the unbelievable payroll Los Angeles will be sporting in 2013; they’ll spend roughly $225M in 2013, breaking the Yankees record by a 10% margin, and all boldly in the face of a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax. And they’re likely not done yet on the FA market. But the focus of this article is a revisiting of baseball’s best rotations, now that Greinke is in the Dodger’s fold.
Instead of trying to figure out which handful of teams are the best, why not rank all 30 rotations? With the help of some Depth Chart websites (ESPN, rotoworld, mlbdepthcharts, and some good old-fashioned baseball-reference.com), here’s my rankings of the 30 rotations as they stand for 2013, right now. For the sake of this ranking, I am trying to take a reasonable expectations case for each of the pitchers on each team, as opposed to a “best case” for each team (this is most important when considering San Francisco’s rotation). I’m also not considering “depth,” just the Ace through 5th starter (this is important when judging Washington especially).
Note: a couple of other National writers have done similar analysis, with David Schoenfield’s NL-only rankings on his Sweetspot blog back in November and Buster Olney’s top-10 in the MLB rankings here. By and large the rankings match up, with a couple of different .
Discussion on each rotation is below the rankings.
- Washington: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Haren, Detwiler
- Detroit: Verlander, Fister, Sanchez, Scherzer, Porcello (with rookies Smyly, Crosby, Wilk awaiting)
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Kershaw, Greinke, Beckett, Harang, Capuano (with Ryu, Lilly, Billingsley in the wings)
- Toronto: Dickey, Morrow, Johnson, Buehrle, Romero with Happ/Laffey/Drabeck/Huchinson in the wings.
- San Francisco: Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito.
- Tampa Bay: Price, Hellickson, Moore, Niemann and one from Cobb/Archer. Possibly Odorizzi and Montgomery now in the mix too.
- Philadelphia: Halladay, Hamels, Lee, Kendrick, Lannan (with Cloyd/Pettibone/Hyatt as backups)
- St. Louis: Carpenter, Wainwright, Westbrook, and probably Lynn and Garcia (Kelly/Miller if Garcia is not ready)
- Cincinnati: Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Arroyo, Leake (possibly Chapman?)
- Arizona: Kennedy, McCarthy, Cahill, Miley, and one from Skaggs/Collmenter
- Atlanta: Medlen, Hudson, Minor, Maholm, and one from Beachy/Delgado/Tehran
- Texas: Darvish, Harrison, Holland, Ogando and likely a FA pick up. (Perez for now)
- Los Angeles Angels: Weaver, Wilson, Vargas, Hanson, Blanton (wth Richards/Cassevah for depth).
- Oakland: Anderson, Griffen, Parker, Colon, Milone, with Straily/Blackley/Ross/Godfrey in the wings.
- Chicago White Sox: Sale, Peavy, Danks, Floyd, Quintana
- New York Yankees: Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Nova, Hughes/Phelps. What about Pineda?
- Boston: Lester, Buchholz, Dempster, Lackey, and 1 from Doubront/Morales/ De La Rosa.
- Baltimore: Hammel, Chen, Tillman, Gonzalez, Britton (perhaps Bundy)
- Chicago Cubs: Garza, Samardzija, Jackson, Wood, and one from Baker/Feldman/Villanueva (likely two if Garza is still injured or is traded). They also just signed Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal.
- Kansas City: Shields, Guthrie, Santana, Davis, Chen (Hochevar, Moscoso?)
- Seattle: Hernandez, Iwakuma, Ramirez, Beavan (Hultzen?). Bonderman on a reclamation project.
- Pittsburgh: Burnett, Liriano, Rodriguez, McDonald, Locke, McPherson
- Milwaukee: Gallardo, Estrada, Fiers, Narveson, Rogers (with the likes of Peralta and Thornberg waiting if Narveson cannot go).
- Minnesota: Diamond, Worley, Correia, Pelfrey (if he’s healthy), Hendricks, Duensing, De Vries (maybe Gibson or May? ). Harden on a reclamation project.
- New York Mets: Santana, Niese, Gee, Harvey, and who knows.
- Cleveland: Jimenez, Masterson, McAllister, Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer (Kazmir and Myers on reclamation projects)
- Colorado: De La Rosa, Chacin, Pomeranz, Nicaso, Francis (and newly acquired Rosenbaum perhaps?)
- San Diego: Volquez, Richard, Marquis, Stults, Ross
- Miami: Nolasco, Alvarez, LeBlanc, Eovaldi, Turner, Maine?
- Houston: Norris, Humber, Ely, White, Harrell, Lyles (who, who and who?)
Free Agents as of 1/2/13 that could impact the above list: Lohse, Marcum, Saunders, Lowe. Also guys like Webb, Vazquez and Pavano could be coming out of retirement but likely won’t make much of an impact.
Rumored trades as of 12/31/12 that could impact this list: Harang, Capuano, Masterson, Smyly/Porcello.
Hmm. I seem to favor NL teams. The majority of my top Ten rotations are in the NL. Is this bias? Discussion, 1-30
- Washington: If Dan Haren returns to 2011 form, which I’m assuming he will, this is the best rotation in the majors. Not the deepest though; if we lose someone to injury we could struggle to repeat 2012’s win total. But this is an exercise to determine the best 1 through 5, not to determine depth (where teams like the Dodgers and Tampa clearly have more depth). I will say, this is a close race at the top; I can see arguments for any of the top 4-5 to be the best rotation. I don’t want to be accused of homerism by ranking the Nats #1, but can make a man-for-man argument that shows we should be #1 above the next several competitors.
- Detroit’s rotation in the post season was fantastic against New York, then god-awful against San Francisco. Why? What can they change in 2013? They better figure it out, because upon re-signing Anibel Sanchez they’re rolling the dice on the same big 4 in 2013. Fister and Scherzer are slightly underrated but showed how dominant they can be in the playoffs. The #5 starter is likely where Detroit falls to Washington; Detwiler’s 12th ranked ERA+ in 2012 will trump nearly every other #5 starter in the league.
- The Los Angeles Dodgers has an Ace in Clayton Kershaw, a near-Ace (in my opinion) in Zack Greinke, a potential near-ace career reclamation project in Josh Beckett, and then a bunch of question marks. Two rotation stalwarts Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley remain injury question marks for 2013, and the rest of their rotation right now are league average hurlers. I believe their pitchers get a bump in adjusted ERA by virtue of their home park, thus I don’t believe their current #4/#5s match up as well with Washington’s or Detroit’s, putting them in 3rd place. Plus Beckett is a question mark; is he throwing like he did at the end of 2012, or is he the Fried-Chicken eating malcontent he has been in Boston the last couple of years?
- Toronto: Its not every day you can trade for 4 starting players, including two rotation members. But thanks to Miami’s salary dump, Toronto finds itself with a significantly improved rotation. If Josh Johnson returns to Ace form, coupled with Brandon Morrow’s fantastic 2012 performance and Mark Buehrle’s solid #3 stuff, they have something to build on. The subsequent acqusition of 2012 Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey changes things though, valulting Toronto into the discussion for best AL rotation.
- San Francisco has won two World Series’ in three years with the same core of hurlers, and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to be amongst the elite in the league. The question remains though; what are they getting from Tim Lincecum in 2013? Is the other shoe going to drop on Ryan Vogelsong’s fairy tale career resurgence? And, can Barry Zito continue his career rebound? If the best-case falls for Lincecum and Zito (Lincecum returns to Cy Young form and Zito pitches even marginally ok) then I think they’re the best rotation in the game. As it stands though, i’m assuming that both guys fall somewhere short of the best case, meaning that they’re “only” the 5th best rotation in the game.
- Tampa Bay has well-known pitching depth, and even with the move/heist of the James Shields trade they have a ton of guys who other teams would love to have. Expect a bounce-back sophomore campaign from Matt Moore and more excellent innings from rising hurlers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer. They may not be the best rotation in the game, but they’re certainly the most value for the dollar.
- Philadelphia’s big 3 are all fantastic, but are showing signs of age. Roy Halladay only had an 89 ERA+ last year; has age caught up to him? The drop-off after the big 3 is significant too. But the potential of the big 3 keeps this rotation among the league’s elite. The acquisition of John Lannan didn’t affect their ranking much; he merely replaces the Phillies heading into 2013 with a rookie in the #5 spot. I had Philadelphia lower in the earlier drafts of these rankings, and have them this high on the assumption that their big three are all entering 2013 healthy.
- St Louis’s 2012 rotation was rich enough this year to drop 18-game winner Lance Lynn to the bullpen. With Chris Carpenter healthy in 2013, with Adam Wainwright recovered from Tommy John, and with the likes of hard-throwing Joe Kelly or Shelby Miller as your #5 starter, this could be a scary rotation. And that’s if Jaime Garcia isn’t ready for the start of the season after injuring his shoulder in the playoffs. Kelly/Rosenthal are serious arms though and give far more depth than what a team like Washington has. Some pundits are not as high on the ability of Carpenter to return to his career form, pushing this ranking slightly lower than I initially had them. It all comes down to the health of their 1-2 punch; if Carpenter and Wainwright pitch like Cy Young candidates, this rotation gets pushed up much higher.
- Cincinnati’s 5 starters took every 2012 start except ONE (the back half of an August double header). In today’s baseball landscape, that’s nothing short of amazing. Mike Leake may not be the strongest #5, but Cincy’s 1-2-3 put up great numbers pitching in a bandbox in Cincinnati. I’m not the biggest Mat Latos fan, but his 2012 performance spoke for itself. Lastly, there’s rumors that Aroldis Chapman may be moving to the rotation, pushing Leake presumably to a swing-man role. If Chapman can repeat his K/9 performance in a starter role, this rotation is even more formidable. Should it be higher? Perhaps; in previous drafts I had them in the top 5, but I just can’t seem to give their top guys the same “Ace” billing as other leading arms above them on this list.
- Arizona’s acquisition of Brandon McCarthy is a great one for me; if the Nats hadn’t bought Haren, I thought this guy would fit in perfectly. Arizona has a solid 1-4 and (like Atlanta) has a slew of options for #5. And, they have help in the immediate future, with Daniel Hudson coming back from July 2012 TJ surgery and a top prospect in AA. I see them as a solid rotation 1 through 5 but without the blow-away ace that other top rotations have.
- Atlanta’s found gold in Kris Medlen gives Atlanta enough depth to trade away starters (the Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden deal). They have 4 good starters and then can pick from 3 top-end prospects for the 5th starter until Brandon Beachy is back from surgery. What pushes this rotation down in the rankings is the unknown; is Tim Hudson getting too old? And what kind of performance can we expect from Medlen realistically? Can he really continue to pitch like Bob Gibson in 1968? Their 3/4/5 guys don’t scare me right now, but the potential of 1 and 2 keep them ranked decently high.
- Texas bought an ace last off-season in Yu Darvish, has a couple of good arms developed in house in Holland and Harrison, but has been depending on one-off FAs to fill the void. They need a full healthy year out of their two upper-end arms Alexi Ogando and/or Neftali Feliz to make the leap. Felix is out for most of 2013 though after getting Tommy John surgery in August. Colby Lewis is in the fold but seems like he’s out most of 2013 after elbow surgery late last season. If they buy another decent FA this off-season (Lohse?), this rotation works its way further up. I have a hard time seeing them at #12, but who above them on this list right now do you push them ahead of?
- The Los Angeles Angels have a great 1-2 punch in Weaver and Wilson, but they’ve spent the off-season watching their former envious rotation erode. Hanson is an arm injury waiting to happen, Blanton has been pitching below replacement level for 3 years, and they don’t have an established #5 right now. Perhaps this rotation should be lower. The shrewd trade for Jason Vargas helps keep them in the upper-half of the league, based on who their planned #4/#5 guys are.
- Oakland’s slew of young, cost contained and quality starters is the envy of the league. The only thing that keeps this list from greater acclaim is Oakland’s relative lack of recent success (2012 not withstanding). Throw in a couple more playoff appearances and Billy Beane can get a sequel to Moneyball published. Like the LA and SF rotation, they benefit from their home park, but that doesn’t take away the fact that they won the division last year. The off-season isn’t over either; I can still see Beane flipping one or more of his rotation for more depth/more hitting and turning to his stable of youngsters again. I’m not necessarily happy with this ranking spot and feel like it should be higher, but their collection of unknowns doesn’t inspire the confidence of the known Aces above them on this list.
- The Chicago White Sox have a big up and coming potenial Ace in the making in Chris Sale and the engimatic Jake Peavy. After that are some league average options. Jose Quintana had a great 2012; can he repeat his success? I feel like the 3/4/5 guys in this rotation are all quality, innings eater types, but nothing that really knocks your socks off. Middle of the pack feels right.
- The New York Yankees continue to get 95+ win teams with a smoke-and-mirror job in the rotation. Now they set to go into 2013 with one possibly injured Ace and two guys nearly 40 as their 1-2-3. Is 2013 the year the wheels come off the bus for New York? A healthy Michael Pineda contributing as the #2 starter he can be would vastly improve the outlook here.
- Boston’s ranking may be changing significantly, depending on which arms they buy up off the FA market. I think a new manager helps Lester and Buchholz regain their near-Ace form of yesteryear, and Dempster should give them competent innings in the middle of the rotation. But I can’t assume anything when it comes to their 1/2; they’ve both been so good and so bad in the recent past.
- Baltimore amazingly comes in ranked this low despite making the playoffs last year with this collection of no-name starters. Maybe i’m underselling their 1-2-3 capabilities. Maybe i’m just treating them like a team that had a pythagorean record of 82-80.
- The Chicago Cubs still seem set to be in “sell mode,” so listing Garza as their Ace seems fleeting. Behind Garza though are a collection of hard throwing, promising guys. I like Samardzija, the Edwin Jackson acquisition gives them a solid #4. Perhaps this rotation should be slightly higher on potential.
- Kansas City made their big trade to acquire an “Ace” … and only got James Shields. I mean, Shields is good .. but not that good. He’s only got a career 107 ERA+, but he is a healthy workhorse. Behind Sheilds is a collection of guys who mostly are #4 and #5 starters elsewhere, which means this rotation is … below average.
- Seattle should have been higher than the teams directly ahead of them on this list just by virtue of the quality of Felix Hernandez … but then they went and traded away Vargas, and seem to have no good ideas on the back end of their rotation right now. This team could be in trouble.
- Pittsburgh is getting by on veteran starters who have the ability to look good, and may not deserve this high of a ranking. AJ Burnett had a great first half but settled back down to average in 2012. Here’s a great stat: Burnett is getting paid $16.5M a year … and has *never* made an all star team in his career.
- Milwaukee seems like they should be higher with a guy like Gallardo leading the ranks. But their #2 is Marco Estrada, a guy who couldn’t make Washington’s rotation in the years when we didn’t HAVE a rotation. I know Fiers is good; perhaps this rotation should be higher.
- Minnesota’s rotation looks pretty poor right now; their ace is a guy whose a #3 on most teams (Scott Diamond) and they’re hoping for one of their injury reclamation projects to pan out. It could be a long season in Minneapolis.
- The New York Mets rotation could be better than 25th, if Santana isn’t allowed to throw 150 pitches pursuing a no-hitter and if Niese pitches up to his capability. However, Santana hasn’t had an injury-free season since 2008, and I’m not betting on it in 2013. They are planning on giving both the 4/5 slots to rookies, meaning there could be some long series for this team in 2013. Their fate was sealed when they traded away their Cy Young winning Ace, and the statement was made about the direction of the franchise.
From 26-30, I honestly don’t see much of a difference between these rotations. Really the only argument was to figure out which rotation of no-names between Miami and Houston was dead-last. I selected Houston for the time being; if/when Miami trades Ricky Nolasco for 40 cents on the dollar, we’ll feel free to rank them 30th.
At the end of this massive posting, I can honestly say that the difference between the 5th ranked rotation and the 6th is often near nothing. Looking back, I can see anyone from the 5-8 range being listed in any order and I’d agree with it. I ranked and re-ranked these rotations over and over again from the time I started writing this post in early December to the time i’ve posted it. Perhaps it would have been easier to just have groupings of rotations instead of a pure ranking 1-30. But, that would have been a copout.
I look forward to your opinions and arguments for some rotations to be higher/lower than others.
Nats 2013 rotation: Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Haren, Detwiler.
Question: Is this the best rotation in the majors? David Schoenfield already thinks so. If not, which team’s would you put up against it?
Last year, this same rotation (with Haren being replaced by Edwin Jackson) was considered a very good rotation, but not amongst the MLB’s elite. That’s mostly because most baseball people thought Gonzalez would regress leaving the comfy confines of Oakland. Instead, Gonzales put up a 21 win season, finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting and stunned most pundits with his lowered walk rates. Meanwhile Zimmermann was getting some minor Cy Young consideration mid-way through the 2012 season before tiring in September; in any case the league-wide recognition for our quiet #3 hurler has been welcome. Strasburg is who he is; inarguably near the top of anyone’s list of the best pitchers in the league.
Now in 2013, with these established guys continuing to improve, with Strasburg unleashed, and with an established #2 Haren in the fold, is this the best rotation in the majors? Here’s your competition for “Best rotation” teams (I’ve got these ranked in my rough order of strength):
- St. Louis: Carpenter, Wainwright, Westbrook, and two from Garcia/Lynn/Kelly/Rosenthal
- Cincinnati: Cueto, Latos, Bailey, Arroyo and Leake
- Atlanta: Hudson, Medlen, Minor, Maholm, and one from Beachy/Delgado/Tehran
- Tampa Bay: Price, Hellickson, Moore, Niemann and one from Cobb/Archer
- San Francisco: Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Zito
- Philadelphia: Halladay, Hamels, Lee, Kendrick, Worley
- Texas: Darvish, Harrison, Holland, Lewis and probably Ogando barring a FA pickup
- Detroit: Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, Porcello, Smyly
- Oakland: Anderson, Griffen, Parker, Milone and one from Straily/Blackley/Ross/Godfrey
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Kershaw, Beckett, Capuano, Harang and a slew of injuries and question marks.
- Toronto: Johnson, Buehrle, Morrow, Romero and one from Happ/Laffey/Drabeck/Huchinson/someone
Am I missing anyone? Here’s some thoughts on these rotations as they stand right now:
- St Louis’s rotation was rich enough this year to drop 18-game winner Lance Lynn to the bullpen. With Chris Carpenter healthy in 2013, with Adam Wainwright recovered from Tommy John, and with the likes of hard-throwing Joe Kelly or Trevor Rosenthal as your #5 starter, this is a scary rotation.
- Cincinnati’s 5 starters took every 2012 start except ONE (the back half of an August double header). In today’s baseball landscape, that’s nothing short of amazing. Mike Leake may not be the strongest #5, but Cincy’s 1-2-3 put up great numbers pitching in a bandbox in Cincinnati.
- Atlanta’s found gold in Kris Medlen gives Atlanta enough depth to trade away starters (the Tommy Hanson for Jordan Walden deal). They have 4 excellent starters and then can pick from 3 top-end prospects for the 5th starter until Brandon Beachy is back from surgery.
- Tampa Bay has well-known pitching depth, and even with the anticipated move of James Shields they have depth up and down the rotation. Expect a bounce-back sophomore campaign from Matt Moore and more excellent innings from rising hurlers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer. They may not be the best, but they’re certainly the most value for the dollar.
- San Francisco has won two World Series’ in three years with the same core of hurlers, and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue to be amongst the elite in the league. The question remains though; what are thet getting from Tim Lincecum in 2013? And, can Barry Zito continue his career rebound? If the answers are yes and yes, then this rotation is much closer to the top of the list.
- Philadelphia’s big 3 are all fantastic, but are showing signs of age. Roy Halladay only had an 89 ERA+ last year; has age caught up to him? The drop-off after the big 3 is significant too.
- Texas bought an ace last off-season in Yu Darvish, has a couple of good arms developed in house in Holland and Harrison, but has been depending on one-off FAs to fill the void. They need a full healthy year out of their two upper-end arms Alexi Ogando and/or Neftali Feliz to make the leap. Felix is out for most of 2013 though after getting Tommy John surgery in August. If they buy a FA this off-season, this rotation works its way further up. Especially if that FA is Zack Greinke.
- Detroit’s rotation in the post season was fantastic against New York, then god-awful against San Francisco. Why? What can they change in 2013? They lose Anibel Sanchez to free agency, but their top three arms in Verlander, Fister and Scherzer are just as good as anyone elses 1-2-3 in terms of cumulative depth. If they retain Sanchez, this rotation rises in the rankings as well.
- Oakland’s slew of young, cost contained and quality starters is the envy of the league. The only thing that keeps this list from greater acclaim is Oakland’s relative lack of recent success. Throw in a couple more playoff appearances and Billy Beane can get a sequel to Moneyball published.
- Los Angeles has an Ace in Clayton Kershaw, a possible near-ace career reclamation project in Josh Beckett, and then a bunch of question marks. Two rotation stalwarts Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley remain injury question marks for 2013, and the rest of their rotation right now are league average hurlers. If they make a splash in the FA market (Greinke?) this rotation could rise in the ranks as well.
- Toronto: Its not every day you can trade for 4 starting players, including two rotation members. But thanks to Miami’s salary dump, Toronto finds itself with a significantly improved rotation. Is it close to league best? No, probably not. But if Josh Johnson returns to Ace form, coupled with Brandon Morrow’s fantastic 2012 performance and Mark Buehrle’s solid #3 stuff, they have something to build on.
Where would I put Washington’s rotation in this list? At the top, or very close to it. Each of our guys matches up well in a head-to-head competition going down the line, with Haren as a #4 starter that you’d likely take 100% of the time over anyone else’s #4 starter.
I read a quickie piece with some Mike Rizzo quotes from the Washington Time’s beat reporter Amanda Comak on November 11th, 2012 and there was an interesting tidbit at the bottom: per Comak, Rizzo has not been approached yet about any Washington Nationals participation in the WBC, but would approach each request on a “case-by-case basis” to determine what is in the best interests of the team. This got me thinking about possible Nats representatives on 2013 WBC teams.
Lets take a quick look at the Nationals representatives on WBC teams from the past, talk about whether its really in the best interests of the team to even let these guys play, and then talk about who may be candidates for the 2013 WBC regardless.
(Note: I’ve added updates highlighted in red since the original 11/21/12 publication date on players mentioned here).
Washington has sent a decent number of players to play in the WBC over the years, with very mixed results for the team’s interests. In 2006 the team sent seven different players to the inaugural WBC:
- Luis Ayala for Mexico
- Chad Cordero, Gary Majewski and Brian Schneider for team USA
- Ronnie Belliard, Alberto Castillo, and Wily Mo Pena for the Dominican Republic.
The tournament was marred for the team by a blown UCL ligament to Ayala, who had undergone elbow surgery earlier in the off-season but pitched for his home country anyway. The team did not want Ayala to participate in the inaugural event, did not want him used by the Mexican team, and team officials were “livid” by the injury, which cost Ayala the season and cost the team its 8th inning setup guy. Ayala recovered to pitch again in 2008 but was never as effective, and was shipped out in 2009 for a PTBNL. Coincidentally, I suspect the team still harbors some ill-will towards Ayala to this day. Meanwhile the other two relievers who participated both experienced regressions in form; Cordero’s ERA nearly doubled (from 1.82 to 3.19) from his breakout 2005 season while Majewski’s numbers dipped slightly before he was traded in the big Cincinnati deal of 2006.
In 2009, the team had 5 participants:
- Pete Orr playing for Canada
- Joel Hanrahan and Adam Dunn playing for the USA
- Saul Rivera and Ivan Rodriguez playing for Puerto Rico.
The WBC seemed to energize particularly Dunn, who enjoyed playing in a post-season atmosphere for the first (and only) time in his career. Nobody suffered any injuries, but Hanrahan in particular may have been affected by his lack of a proper spring training; he posted a 7.71 ERA for the team while losing the closer spot and was shipped to Pittsburgh. Ironically, Rivera also experienced a huge regression of form, going from a 3.96 ERA in 2008 to a 6.10 ERA in 2009 and was eventually released.
This begs the question; do we even WANT our pitchers playing on this team? The first two WBCs have shown pretty distinctly that our pitchers have regressed greatly after playing. This only makes sense: the spring training routines are greatly impacted to play in this event. We may see a ton of front-office resistance to specific guys (especially those coming off injury) playing in the 2013 event. Which could affect the eligibility of some specific players for 2013.
Now, which Nats may play for the 2013 teams? First off, looking at the Nationals 40-man roster, we have become an amazingly heavy USA-born team (we’ll get to non-40man roster players in a moment). Thanks to the Nats big board resource (originated by Brian Oliver and now maintained by “SpringfieldFan”), which has the country of origin for players, here’s a breakdown of the home-country of our current 36 active (as of November 15th, 2012) roster players:
- USA: 27 (would be 29 if adding in our rule-5 avoidance players)
- Venezuela: 5 (Jesus Flores, Sandy Leon, Wilson Ramos, Henry Rodriguez, and Carlos Rivero)
- Cuba: 1 (Yunesky Maya)
- Columbia: 1 (Jhonatan Solano)
- Dominican Republic: 1 (Eury Perez)
- Netherlands (via Curacao): 1 (Roger Bernadina)
As you can see, the massive bulk of our team is USA born, and essentially our entire post-season starting roster was USA born as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these USA-born players will actually play for team USA (Alex Rodriguez played for Puerto Rico despite being born and raised in Miami, and our own Danny Espinosa is eligible to play for Mexico by virtue of his first-generation born in the US status), but almost all of these guys will be up for consideration for the USA team. And this only accounts for our 40-man players; as we’ll see below there’s plenty of lower-minors players from smaller countries that will participate.
Who from the Nationals franchise may make a 2013 WBC roster? First off, thanks to James Wagner’s 11/15/12 NatsJournal post we already know of three WBC participants; Solano is on the Columbian team, minor leaguer Jimmy Van Ostrand is on the Canadian team, and A-ball catcher Adrian Nieto is on the Spanish team. Curacao qualifies to play with the Netherlands, and I’d guess that Bernadina would make a great choice considering the lack of Dutch players in baseball (Baseball Continuum’s projections agree. And as of 12/4/12 he’s officially been listed as a Netherlands participant).. Venezuela is already qualified for the main draw and has a relatively strong possible team. The Baseball Continuum blog posted an early projection of the Venezuelan team and listed Flores as a likely participant (specifically mentioning that Ramos wasn’t considered due to injury recovery; I’d suspect these two players to switch based on Ramos’ recovery and Flores’ awful 2012). If Henry Rodriguez was healthy i’d guess he would be on that list too, but his season-ending surgery probably precludes his participation. The Dominican Republic has perhaps the strongest depth and has no need for the recently called up Perez among its outfield depth. Maya’s defection eliminates him from discussion for the Cuban team. (12/4/12 update): Chien-Ming Wang has been announced as a member of Chinese Taipei’s team (for the purposes of this article I investigated all 2012 Nats).
Which leaves our large contingent of American players. A couple of writers have started postulating on these rosters (David Schoenfield’s very early guess as to a potential USA roster is here, Baseball Continuum’s latest projection is here). So using these two posts as a starting point, lets go position-by-position and give some thoughts as to who may get some consideration. Keep in mind the WBC rosters are generally very reliever heavy, since no starter is going to be “allowed” to pitch a complete game in March.
(Note: I’m still considering our Free Agents as “Nats players” for the purposes of this analysis, since this really goes position by position from our 2012 team to find candidates).
- Catcher: Kurt Suzuki isn’t nearly in the class of the likes of Buster Posey, Brian McCann, Joe Mauer, or Matt Weiters. There are a ton of quality american backstops right now.
- First Base: Free Agent Adam LaRoche probably faces far too much competition from the likes of Prince Fielder, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Allen Craig, Eric Hosmer, and Mark Teixeira to make this team. If it were me, I’d go with Fielder and Teixeira. But, LaRoche’s great 2012 season and his Gold Glove recognition may get him a spot. He is a FA though, so i’d guess he won’t commit until he signs and gets the go-ahead from his new team. Or, perhaps he uses the WBC to showcase himself? Not likely needed; he should sign long before the WBC kicks off in March.
- Second Base: Danny Espinosa is a decent player, but not in the same league as Shoenfield’s projection of Dustin Pedroia and Ben Zobrist. Brandon Phillips is also in the mix for the team.
- Shortstop: Ian Desmond’s breakout 2013 season may get him some consideration. There’s not a lot of American quality short stops out there. Troy Tulowitzki is the obvious leading choice (as was Derek Jeter in the first two WBCs), but is he ready to come back from injury? Looking around the majors there are a couple other possibilities (JJ Hardy, Brendan Ryan, Jimmy Rollins and Brandon Crawford all could be alternatives as well). I think Desmond’s combination of offense and defense, combined with Tulowitzki’s injury recovery could get him on the team.
- Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman cannot break the hegomony of David Wright and Evan Longoria right now, even given Longoria’s injury struggles this season. Chase Headley and David Freese are also in the 3b mix. 12/4/12 update: Apparently Wright is committed, Longoria is out due to injury recovery and Headley “was not asked,” so perhaps Zimmerman is back in the mix.
- Outfielders: I think Bryce Harper is a natural to make this team, not only on talent but also because of the brand-name recognition (and TV ratings and fan interest) it would generate. Same goes for Mike Trout. Otherwise there’s a slew of top-end american players who can man the outfield and they read like the top of the MVP boards: Braun, Kemp, McCutchen, Stanton, Hamilton, and Granderson are all candidates to make this team. 12/6/12 update: Scott Boras has stated that Harper will skip the WBC to focus on his sophomore season.
- Starters: The two logical Nats candidates to be considered would be Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. But lets be honest; there is no way in hell Strasburg would be allowed to play. Could Gonzalez make this team? Given the depth of American starter talent right now (just off the top of my head: Verlander, Lincecum, Cain, Hamels, Halladay, Kershaw, Lee, Weaver, Sabathia, Medlen, and so on) perhaps this will be a selection of attrition moreso than a selection of availability. So if a number of the older guys on this list beg out, perhaps Gio gets his shot. The WBC’s location in San Francisco has already lead to Ryan Vogelsong committing to play in his home town, and could lead to other Bay Area players signing up. I’m not sure any of the rest of our starters are really candidates, given the reputations of the above list plus the reliever-heavy nature of the roster.
- Relievers: our two most well known relievers (Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen) are possibilities; would the Nats block Storen based on his 2012 injury? Craig Stammen’s breakout 2012 season could get him looks, based on the reliever-heavy needs of the team. Normally Sean Burnett may be in the loogy mix, but there’s better lefty relievers out there AND Burnett’s FA status may lead him to bow out to curry favor to his new team (Schoenfeld lists Burnett as a possible member back in July, before knowing he’s declared free agency). The question is, would you take Clippard/Storen against the likes of this list of quality american back-of-the-bullpen arms: Kimbrel, Ventors, Marshall, League, Janssen, Papelbon, Hanrahan, Motte, Boggs, Bailey, Reed, and Nathan? Possibly, considering that a lot of these guys probably bow out. We’ve sent multiple relievers to each of the past two WBCs and its likely going to be the same thing this year.
Summary: here’s my guesses as to which Nats (and recent ex-Nats) will play in the WBC:
- Venezuela: Ramos
- Spain: Nieto
- Canada: Van Ostrand
- Columbia: Solano
- Netherlands: Bernadina
- Chinese Taipei: Wang
- USA: Harper, Desmond, Gonzalez, Clippard. Perhaps Zimmerman and Stammen.
March 2013 update: here’s the post-WBC actual list of participants when all was said and done, helped by the list of rosters via Wikipedia. MLB reports that nine (9) Nationals are participating in the classic, though the below list (excluding Wang) totals more. They’re not counting Solano/Columbia, having lost in the preliminaries.
- Columbia: Jhonatan Solano (AAA/Mlb in 2012)
- Spain: Adrian Nieto (low-A in 2012)
- Canada: Jimmy Van Ostrand (AA in 2012)
- Italy: Matt Torra, Mike Costanzo (both AAA in 2012, Washington MLFA signings for 2013)
- Netherlands: Roger Bernadina, Randolph Oduber (high-A in 2012)
- Chinese Taipei: Chien-Ming Wang (former Nat, non-signed FA for 2013 start of season)
- USA: Gio Gonzalez, Ross Detwiler
- Dominican Republic: Eury Perez (3/4/13 addition to DR team)
I’ve had a good string of predicting MLB’s major Post season awards in this space. In 2010 I went 8 for 8. In 2011 I again went 8-8 in predicting MLB’s awards, though I missed on predicting the unofficial Sporting News Executive and Comeback Player of the year. I don’t have much confidence in going 8-for-8 this year though; the AL MVP seems way too close to predict, and I have no idea how the Cy Young awards will go.
[Editor Note: I write this in phases over the course of the season, and finalized it in early October. After I wrote this piece some of the awards have already been announced; Sporting News announced Comeback Players of the Year last week. I'll put up another post talking about my guesses and which awards I got right and wrong in another article once all awards are announced in November.]
Here’s a sampling of major baseball writers’ and their predictions that I could find ahead of my publishing this article: Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal, Bob Nightengale, Jonah Keri, and Jayson Stark. Here’s the Fangraphs.com staff picks, heavily statistically weighted as you’d expect. As you will see, even the national writers are all over the road with their predictions. Here’s HardballTalk’s Matthew Pouliot’s theoreticall ballot, with some contrarian picks. Seamheads’ Andrew Martin has the typical sabre-slanted ballot.
Before reading on to my predictions on 2012’s winners, a statement to prevent arguments in the comments section. These are my guesses as to who will WIN the awards, not necessarily who DESERVES them. Invariably there’s a player who plays on a non-playoff or losing team but puts up fantastic numbers (Matt Kemp for the 2011 Dodgers, perhaps Mike Trout this year) who a number of loud pundits say “should” win the MVP. Well, the fact of the matter is that the current voter base absolutely takes into account the circumstances behind a player’s production, and places more value on batters who are in a pennant race. As do I. The MVP isn’t the “Best Overall Batter Award,” which would end a lot of these arguments (since, the Cy Young essentially is exactly the “Best Overall Pitcher Award” and thus is easier to predict); its the “Most Valuable Player” award, and I agree with many who believe that a guy hitting .370 for a last place team isn’t nearly as “valuable” as the guy who hits .320 and leads a team deep into a playoff race. It is what it is; if we want to change it perhaps the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA, whose awards these are) needs to add a category or clarify their requirements.
Secondly, when considering the Cy Young, invariably there’s one pitcher who puts up comparable numbers to another, but one plays in a weaker division so the same Sabr-focused pundits make their holier-than-thou proclamations about how the voter base failed in their picks. And their points are valid. But this is a prediction piece, not an opinion piece, and the fact of the matter is that current voters are still mostly old-school and put value on things like “Wins” and “ERA,” stats that most Sabr-nerds think are useless in evaluating a pitcher.
So keeping those two points in mind, Here’s my predictions for 2012:
- AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera. Despite the massive amount of internet baseball material devoted to talking about how great a season Mike Trout has had (mostly looking at his WAR values historically), I still see the voter base placing emphasis on three major points:
- Cabrera plays for a playoff team, Trout does not. The fact that the Angels will finish with a better record than the Tigers, or that the Angels clearly played in a harder division? Immaterial to the old-school voter base.
- Cabrara won the Triple Crown. And most Triple Crown winners throughout history also won the MVP. The fact that the triple crown is based on 3 relatively flawed statistics? Irrelevant to the narrative of the achievement itself. It remains an incredibly difficult achievement to accomplish in modern baseball’s era of specialized hitters (Ichiro for batting, Adam Dunn for homers) to hit for both average and power in the way that Cabrera consistently does. (Rob Neyer posted thoughts about this topic, quoting random people on the internet with various takes).
- Cabrera had a monster finish, Trout did not. Cabrera’s OPS in the run-in months was over 1.000 each of July, August and September. Trout peaked in July but was merely above average in the closing months. Your finish matters (as we’ll see in the NL Rookie of the Year race discussed later on).
Opinions like USA Today’s Bob Nightengale’s exemplify the bulk of the voter base right now. A few years ago the writers were smart enough to award Felix Hernandez a Cy Young with nearly a .500 record by recognizing more of the advanced metrics in play, but the Cy Young’s definition is a lot more specific than that of the MVP.
This is nothing against Trout; the Angels were 6-14 when he got called up and finished 89-73. That’s an 83-59 record with him, a .584 winning percentage that equates to 95 wins, which would have won the AL West. Trout was the undeniable MVP for me nearly all season. You hate to say it, but when the Angels faltered so did Trout’s MVP candidacy.
The rest of the ballot? Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano get some typical “best player on best teams” votes. I’d give Josh Reddick some top-5 votes too.
- AL Cy Young: David Price, by virtue of his 20 wins and league leading ERA, will squeak out the win over last year’s winner Justin Verlander. The statistical crowd will point out that Verlander was just as dominant in 2012 as he was in 2011 (when he unanimously won), and that his significantly higher innings total and lead in Pitcher WAR should get him the award. However, as with the AL MVP you have to take into account the voter base. Price won 20 games, that he pitches in a tougher division, that he beat out Verlander for the ERA title. Plus, and I hate to say it, but Price is the “sexy pick,” the guy who hasn’t won before. Verlander is the known guy and sometimes you see voters being excited to vote for the new guy. Its kind of like the Oscars; sometimes an actor wins for a performance that wasn’t the best as a way to “give it to the new guy.” Certainly this contributed to Clayton Kershaw’s victory in 2011 and we may see similar behaviors again. There might even be an east coast voter bias in play. Jered Weaver, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, and Felix Hernandez all get some top-5 votes, possibly finishing in that order behind Price and Verlander.
- AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout, in what should be an unanimous vote. He could (if the MVP vote goes the way many thinks it should) become only the 3rd player ever to win both the MVP and the RoY in the same year (Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki being the others). In the conversation: Yu Darvish (who certainly did not have a BAD year, but drifted mid-season), Yoenis Cespedes (who would win it in most years), Matt Moore (my preseason guess; I’m still shocked he displayed virtually none of the dominance of the 2011 post-season during his 2012 season), Will Middlebrooks (who made Kevin Youklis expendible within just a couple of months of arrival), and amazingly Tommy Milone (who was nearly unhittable in his home stadium and continued his performance from the Nats in the end of 2011). A couple other names in the conversation: Scott Diamond and Jarrod Parker.
- AL Mgr: Buck Showalter should get this this award for taking a team that should be a .500 ballclub based on pythagorean record and put them in the playoffs for the first time in a decade. I also think he wins because of east coast bias, since certainly what Bob Melvin and the Oakland A’s pulled off is nothing short of fantastic. Robin Ventura may have gotten some votes had the White Sox held on, but may be the 3rd place finisher.
- (Unofficial “award”): AL GM: I almost hate to say it, but Billy Beane. The A’s were supposed to be awful this year, having traded away most of their starting rotation (as explained further in this Aug 2012 post here) and let most of their hitters walk. Instead they acquire a couple of good pieces from Washington, sign the exciting Cespedes to go with a few bottom-barrel FAs, and overcame a 13-game deficit to win the powerhouse AL West. A great story.
- (Unofficial “award”): AL Comeback Player of the Year: It has to be Adam Dunn, right? How do you go from the lowest qualifying average in history to career highs in homers and not get votes. Jake Peavy may get some votes after two injury plagued seasons, but he was pretty decent last year and isn’t exactly coming out of nowhere like Ryan Vogelsong did last year.
Now for the National League:
- NL MVP: Buster Posey’s strong finish, combined with his team’s playoff run and his playing catcher gives him the nod over his competition here. For much of the season I thought this award was Andrew McCutchen’s to lose, but his fade and Pittsburg’s relative collapse from their division-leading mid-season costs him the MVP. The rest of the ballot? Ryan Braun may be putting up MVP-esque numbers but the fall out from his off-season testing snafu will cost him votes (both in this race and for the rest of his career unfortunately). Johnny Molina getting some press too, for many of the same reasons as Posey. Joey Votto probably lost too much time to be really considered, but remains arguably the best hitter in the league.
- NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey was the mid-season choice, was challenged late but his 20th win combined with his fantastic ERA for a knuckleballer makes him the winner. Amazingly, Dickey has pitched most of the season with a torn abdominal muscle, making his season accomplishments even more impressive. Johnny Cueto makes a great case, leading the playoff-contending Reds, but he slightly sputtered down the stretch. Clayton Kershaw quietly had a fantastic year, leading the league in ERA, but as we saw with David Price above, I think the voters like to vote for the new guy. Kershaw got his Cy Young last year; this year is Dickey’s time. Other names in the top-5 mix: Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez and perhaps even Jordan Zimmermann (who got some mid-season attention by virtue of his excellent July). I have a hard time giving the award to a reliever, but the numbers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel are putting in as the closers of Cincinnati and Atlanta respectively may be enough to at least appear in the top-5. Lastly, the odd case of Kris Medlen; his WAR puts him in the top 10 despite only having 12 starts. Is this enough to give him some votes? Maybe some 5th place votes here and there. But look out in 2013.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper, who won his 2nd rookie of the month in September, finished incredibly strong and took advantage of late-season fades from his two biggest competitors to win this award. The National media buzz on Harper/Trout was never greater than during the season’s last month, and while games in April count the same as in September, the lasting impression is made by he who finishes strongest. Wade Miley has a great case but I think falls short. Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier has had a great season and was beating Harper’s numbers across the board, but he sat once Scott Rolen came back and faded down the stretch. Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki has had a nice season at age 30, coming over from Japan. I don’t think guys like this (or Darvish, or Ichiro Suzuki for that matter) should qualify as “rookies” but rules are rules. Anthony Rizzo, Wilin Rosario, Matt Carpenter, and Mike Fiers also put up good rookie numbers and may get some 5th place votes.
- NL Mgr: Davey Johnson. Nobody had the Nats winning nearly 100 games. Had the Pirates not collapsed perhaps we’d be talking about Clint Hurdle. Don Mattingly had somewhat of a transitionary team playing great early, but the mid-season influx of high-priced talent, and their subsequent collapse costs him any support.
- (unofficial award) NL GM: Mike Rizzo, pulling off the Gio Gonzalez trade, signing Jackson in a deal immediately lauded as a great move and quickly putting together a team that looks to be 15-20 games improved over 2011. We thought they’d be in the mid-80s in wins; who thought they could be pressing for 100??
- (Unofficial “award”): NL Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey. He went from a season-ending injury to an MVP season. In other years Adam LaRoche may get some looks here, but not in the face of what Posey has been doing for San Francisco. Lastly I had Johan Santana on a short list for this award until he was lost for the season in the aftermath of his 134 pitch no-hitter on June 1st. At at point he was 3-2 but with a 2.38 ERA. He finished the season 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and was shut down on August 17th. Are we sure that no-hitter was worth it?
Rant on. I couldn’t help myself today…
It was great to see that they couldn’t even wait until GAME THREE of the divisional series to post the first “Gee wish we had Stephen Strasburg” story. Here’s the link, courtesy of Ken Rosenthal. I’ll bet he had this article in the can weeks ago just waiting for a slow news day to post it.
Rosenthal quotes an anonymous player who doesn’t agree with the shutdown Situation, who said that “the team would be up 2-0″ if they had Strasburg.” Such a gutless reporting technique; notice there was nothing other than a passing mention that there are clubhouse guys who agree with the shutdown. Just cherry-picking opinions (of which there are dozens in a clubhouse) until he found one that enabled him to write the story he wanted to write.
He talks about how the Braves “handled” Kris Medlen so that he was still pitching in the post-season. There’s no way Medlen-to-Strasburg comparisons are correct. Medlen was absolutely not in the starting rotation discussion in Atlanta, and if he was he was 8th or 9th in line. And there’s no way that Medlen was anything other than found gold to the Braves in terms of how good a starter he would turn out to be. And there’s nobody who can tell me any differently. Lastly, do you think perhaps the Braves would rather have used Medlen from the start of the season, had they known how dominant he’d be?? Do you think they would have finished in 2nd place in this division had they had Medlen all season? Because last time I checked, the Braves lost their one-and-done WITH MEDLEN ANYWAY and are playing golf while the Nats are sitting pretty in the divisional series.
Nobody ever mentions this, but Strasburg was mediocre down the stretch. He had a 4.14 ERA in his last 10 starts, a 4.50 ERA in his last handful of games, alternating between excellent and awful. You could argue “arbitrary endpoints” but to me it sounds like a guy running out of gas, no? Who is to say that the team wouldn’t have recognized that he was running on fumes anyway, and shut him down at the time they did regardless of an innings limit? Why does nobody talk about this fact? That’s because the National media narrative w/r/t Strasburg is LAZY. Regurgitate the same stories, talk about the same platitudes of there being “no proof that shutting him down isn’t the best thing to do.”
Here’s my analogy; if you had heart surgery and your cardiologist only told you to pitch 160 innings the next year, you’d do it and not complain about it right? Well Strasburg’s ARM SURGEON advised the team on this limit after having ARM SURGERY, and the team followed it. I don’t think we’d be hearing all these back seat pundits talking about how the Nats are idiots for resting a guy if it was his heart that was cut and not his elbow. To say nothing of the fact that he’s young (24), under team control for at least four more years , and the team isn’t exactly looking like a one-year wonder right now, fielding the 3rd youngest pitching squad and the youngest hitting squad in the major leagues. Every core player and pitcher is locked up or under team control for at least three-four years. There’s NO reason to think that this team won’t be contending for years to come, irrespective of what any other team in the division does.
The Nats got a split in St. Louis. That’s the best they could hope for against a dangerous opponent. Wainwright isn’t going to strike out 2 batters an inning every time he goes out. The Nats BLASTED Lohse this season. Carpenter has what, three starts this year? And the last time Jackson pitched against St. Louis at home, he went 8 shutout innings. There’s more to this series than just Strasburg and St. Louis; the National media should try covering the Nationals for a change.
*sigh*. So sick of hearing about Strasburg. Can’t we talk about the Nats?! They did have the best record in baseball after all.
/Rant off. Stepping down from sandbox.
Ok, I’ll admit to being (as one commenter said recently) the “Eeyore” of Nationals fans. I was scared of Atlanta and thought we would struggle to beat them in a short series starting on their turf. I posted my baseball predictions and the two teams I thought would make the series both lost under sometimes interesting circumstances. The unbeatable ace Kris Medlen got beat, losing a start for the Braves for the first time in 24 times (not that he really pitched badly; I’ll take a 6+ inning, 3 hit, 0 walk performance every day of the week. Think about how difficult it is to give up 5 runs on 3 hits…). So perhaps I’ll understand if you don’t really want to trust my opinion on predicting the divisional series.
Anyway. So the Nats are traveling to St. Louis to start the NLDS. If you’re looking for a guess as to who has the advantage by looking at the two meetings between the teams this year, you may find definitive proof wanting.
- The Nats took 3 of 4 at the end of August from St. Louis, bombing them for 31 runs in four games and really roughing up three of St. Louis’ best starters (in order Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse, tagging each for 5-6 runs). Only Jake Westbrook kept the Nats offense at bay, and as far as I can tell he’s not going to be on the playoff roster. The one loss in this series was in one of the more amazing games the Nats played this year; they blew a 4 run first inning lead, fell behind 8-6 on Jordan Zimmermann’s worst outing of the year, rallied to take the lead only to have the bullpen blow the game.
- The Nats then traveled to St. Louis the last week of the season and were pretty much bombed themselves, with St. Louis scoring 26 runs in three games while taking 2 of 3 with our guys Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler having nights they’d rather forget.
So, which series is more educational to help predict what may happen now? As commenters have pointed out, momentum means nothing and a shutout yesterday indicates nothing for today. Fair enough. We have learned that both offense are capable of really putting runs on the board, fast. But that wasn’t exactly news either; the teams were 2nd (Cardinals) and 5th (Nationals) in runs scored in the NL this year.
What is fair to say is that the Nats probably have a more dangerous opponent in St. Louis; they’re a better offense, though they clearly hit right-handed hitters better than lefties (a 113 wRC+ versus right handed hurlers versus 104 versus lefties). And they’re getting back a grizzled post-season veteran in Chris Carpenter just in time for the playoffs. Carpenter is probably on most people’s short list for “guys i’d trust to start Game 7″ in this league, and now the Nats seem set to face him in Game 3.
Lets look at the pitching matchups (some of this is a guess; official starters havn’t been named all the way through the 5-game series but the below should be what we see);
|Series||GM#||Date/time (EST)||Home-Visitor||Home Starter||Visiting Starter||Advantage|
|NLDS 1-4||1||10/7/12 3pm||Stl-WAS||Wainwright||Gonzalez||Wsh|
|NLDS 1-4||2||10/8/12 4:30pm||Stl-WAS||Garcia||Zimmermann||Wsh|
|NLDS 1-4||3||10/10/12 ?time||WAS-Stl||Jackson||Carpenter||Stl|
|NLDS 1-4||4||10/11/12 ?time||WAS-Stl||Detwiler||Lohse||Tossup|
|NLDS 1-4||5||10/12/12 ?time||WAS-Stl||Gonzalez||Wainwright||Wsh|
The good news: Washington has shown it can blast St. Louis starters. As mentioned above, the team put up very big numbers on 3 of the 4 starters they anticipate seeing in this series. Meanwhile, St. Louis gets to see our Ace Gio Gonzalez twice; the last time they saw him Gio pitched a 5-hit shutout. They also see Detwiler in game 4, meaning three of their five potential series games are against Lefties (whom they are weaker against). Zimmermann’s home-away splits favor him on the road, and I think Jackson will be looking for revenge for his poor outing against them the last time out.
I’ll admit; I was scared of Atlanta. And I’m wary of St. Louis, especially after the late season spanking. But, they didn’t see Gonzalez in that series and now are set to see him twice. The Nats offense isn’t going to be afraid of any St. Louis starter (perhaps outside of Carpenter, who a lot of them havn’t seen in a while), and should put runs on the board.
Prediction? I think the Nats have the pitching matchup advantage in 3 of the 5 games and may only be a pitching “underdog” in the Jackson-Carpenter start. The goal is to get a split in St Louis and Gonzalez-Zimmermann gives them a great shot in both games. I like our chances.
Here we go. Baseball’s first wild card play-in games are set for tonight (at 5pm and 8:30pm eastern time), and its safe to say there was a surprise or two with the announced pitching matchups. Lets look at the guys getting the starts and make some predictions on which team has the better chance based on the starter going. I tried to do similar posts for the 2011 post season and, while they’re not always accurate, they’re fun to do and to read.
MLB Probable Pitchers are here, for tonight and the first few games of the playoffs.
What more can we say about Medlen that we havn’t already said? 9 earned runs allowed in his 12 starts on the season, a 10-1 record with a 1.57 ERA. He’s the modern day equivalent of Greg Maddux, a slight framed guy with beyond pinpoint control. He achieved a bWAR of 4.4 despite getting just 12 starts on the year and pitching in middle relief until August.
Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse quietly had a great year. Nobody’s mentioning his name in consideration of Cy Young despite a sterling record and great ancillary numbers (a 134 ERA+ is pretty good). I think his selection is slightly surprising to go in this game; he’s probably the #3 starter on the team (behind Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright) but he’s clearly the best performer on the year. As with Atlanta choosing Medlen over Tim Hudson, Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny is going with his hottest hand.
However, while Medlen is likely to pitch 6-7 innings of one-run ball, I think the Braves get to Lohse. They’ve faced him once already this year and put 9 hits and 5 runs on him in May. The Braves hit right-handers far better than lefties, but St. Louis really doesn’t have a great lefty starter choice. Jaime Garcia may not even make the post-season roster (would you take Garcia ahead of Lance Lynn?).
The Pick: Atlanta in what could be a romp.
1. Baltimore at Texas. Match up: Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63 ERA after his trade to Baltimore) versus Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90 ERA)
Saunders is another surprising pick for Baltimore, who has gotten by on smoke & mirrors all season when it comes to starting pitching. The Northern Virginia Native Saunders (West Springfield HS and then Virginia Tech) is essentially a MLB-average starter for his career (a 103 ERA+) but pitched above his career stats in Baltimore.
Not to denigrate Saunders, but he’s essentially a less stable version of John Lannan. He’s a softer tossing lefty who is about MLB average over his career, but with higher and lower extremes from season to season. Would you trust a do-or-die situation in the hands of Lannan? Problem is, who else would you go with if you were the Orioles? I thought they’d go with the hot-hand Steve Johnson or their ace Wei-Yin Chen. We’ll see if this gamble pays off; the Rangers hit left-handed pitching pretty well (108 wRC+, .285 BA).
Meanwhile, this is a national stage for high priced Japanese import Darvish. He had a relatively effective season (16-9, a 116 ERA+) and got a ton of strike outs (221 in just 191 1/3 innings pitched). The Orioles definitely have some higher-strike out guys in the middle of their order (Chris Davis, Mary Reynolds). Darvish never faced Baltimore this season, but had a strong September and seems hitting his stride entering the playoffs.
The Pick: Texas in a struggle.
Everyone has to do a prediction piece, right?
First, a re-cap. Here’s my predictions at the beginning of the season for how the divisions would shape up;
- AL East: New York Yankees
- AL Central: Detroit
- AL West: Los Angeles Angels
- AL Wild Cards: Tampa, Texas
AL Narrative: 2/3 for divisional winners and 3/5 for playoff teams. Not bad. Oakland and Baltimore shocked everyone, as did the Angels’ failure to really play to their talent/salary.
- NL East: Philadelphia
- NL Central: Milwaukee
- NL West: San Francisco
- NL Wild Cards: Atlanta, Cincinnati
NL Narrative: 1/3 on divisional winners, 3/5 on playoff winners. It was hard to see Philadelphia falling to third place, just as it was hard to see Washington improve 17 games from 2011.
Now for the playoffs:
- AL Wildcard: Texas over Baltimore
- ALDS: Texas over New York Yankees
- ALDS: Detroit over Oakland
- ALCS: Texas over Detroit
AL Narrative: Texas loses the AL title on the last day of the season, but I still think they’re the best AL team. This is the wake-up call they need to power through the playoffs. The Yankees are given a huge disservice to have to face Texas on the road right out of the gate; a matchup I don’t think they can win. Detroit could get the ALCS win but I don’t doubt it; Texas owned them this season (winning 3 of 4 in Detroit and 7 of 10 overall). Oakland are red-hot but can’t match up with Detroit’s pitching.
- NL Wildcard: Atlanta over St. Louis
- NLDS: Atlanta over Washington
- NLDS: Cincinnati over San Francisco
- NLCS: Atlanta over Cincinnati
NL Narrative: Atlanta throws unbeatable ace Kris Medlen to win the play-in game, then promptly takes the first two games of the NLDS on the heels of their sweep of the Nats in mid September. The Nats can’t overcome Medlen’s only NLDS start and lose the series when they can’t sweep a 3-game set here in Washington next week. Meanwhile San Francisco’s bats go quiet against Cincinnati and the Reds club their way into the NLCS. Medlen gets two starts in the NLCS, shortening the series to the point where Atlanta cannot be beaten.
World Series: Atlanta beats Texas. Story book ending for Chipper Jones, and another heartbreak for Texas as they lose their third consecutive World Series. Texas just isn’t as strong pitching-wise as they were last year, don’t have enough lefties to shut Atlanta down, and I don’t think Yu Darvish will be up to the challenge. Meanwhile Medlen continues his other-worldly streak of starts; Atlanta has now won 23 consecutive games which Medlen has started (12 this year and another 11 to close out 2010). There’s no reason not to think that streak won’t continue into the post season; he’s given up a grand total of NINE earned run in his 12 starts this season.
This isn’t the most positive prediction for the post-season for the home team, but the Nats sputtering end to the season does not inspire confidence. Swept in Atlanta, splits with Milwaukee and then pounded in St. Louis means they’re walking a tightrope in the post-season. If they get a win in Atlanta, they may win the NLDS. But the 2-away/3-home structure really works to the detriment of the higher seed; its relatively easy for a team to win 2 straight at home … while its relatively difficult to win 3 straight at home. But that’s the predicament the Nats may face when they return to Washington. And get ready for the inevitable “You shouldn’t have shut down Strasburg” pieces, because they’re a-coming unless Washington wins the World Series. In fact I’ll bet writers already have them penned and in the can, ready to publish (kind of like obituaries for old movie stars that are in hospice).
However, if somehow Atlanta blows the wild-card game I reserve the right to completely re-do these predictions