Nationals Arm Race

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

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2014 MLB Awards Predictions vs Results

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Kershaw cleans up the BBWAA awards.  Photo via wiki.

Kershaw cleans up the BBWAA awards. Photo via wiki.

Here’s who I predicted would win.

  •     NL MVP: Kershaw
  •     NL Cy Young: Kershaw
  •     NL Rookie: deGrom
  •     NL Manager: Bochy
  •     AL MVP: Trout
  •     AL Cy Young: Felix
  •     AL Rookie: Abreu
  •     AL Manager: Showalter

Here’s who actually won, along with some links to other awards

End result predicting 2014’s BBWAA awards: 6 for 8.  My worst prediction season on record.  2010: 8 for 8.  2011: 8 for 8.  2012: 7 for 8.  2013: 8 for 8.  I swear I only looked up these links because I was re-categorizing posts and adding in a filter for “awards” related posts :-).  Usually its a bit easier to predict the BBWAA electorate in these awards; I suppose that the general evolution of the writers is slowly bringing more statistical analysis into the mix, meaning that the “dinosaur” method of voting is heading out the window.  Probably for the better.

Links to other awards, some of which I used to try and track/predict but no longer.

NLDS Post Mortem

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Not Aaron Barrett's finest moment. Photo via lockerdome.com

Not Aaron Barrett’s finest moment. Photo via lockerdome.com

So, if you told me that the Nats would lose the deciding NLDS game because Matt Williams chose to work the 7th inning with Matt Thornton, Aaron Barrett and then Rafael Soriano as the savior, I would have asked you, “was everyone else in the bullpen dead?”

Instead of going to war in a tie game with any of his three longest serving and most effective relievers (i.e., Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen) he went with a waiver claim, a rookie, and a deposed starter with an ERA after the all-star break north of 6.00.

I get bringing in Thornton to go against the first two lefties in the 7th; why the hell do you leave him in to face the Giant’s best hitter in Buster Posey?

When Posey inevitably singles to put guys on first and second with one out … clearly the key point in the game and the post-season … why do you bring in a frigging rookie instead of your #1 shut-down, high leverage reliever (Clippard)?

Was anyone really shocked when Barrett walked the next guy to load the bases?  Was anyone then subsequently surprised when he overgripped, overcome by the moment and bounced a mid 90s fastball to the fence?   Wilson Ramos looked like an amateur trying to “block” that pitch, stabbing at it backhanded like someone who’s never caught before, but whatever.  The damage had already been done.  If it wasn’t a wild pitch, it would have been a deep ground out, or a sac fly; the run expectancy of bases loaded with one out is more than 1.5.  I won’t even go into the little league IBB wild pitch; the poor guy was clearly still thinking about the run he just gave up and the weight of the team’s season was on his shoulders.

For the record, you’re not going to win a ton of games where you get just four hits.  Gio Gonzalez once again proved he wasn’t up to the task, and the Nats were lucky to get out of the 5th without giving up a run (also a bases-loaded, one-out jam that Tanner Roark mostly created on his own but also mostly got out of thanks to a ballsy 2-0 changeup to Pablo Sandoval).

No, the story of this game and this series can be summarized with the following list of lines for the 4-game series:

  • Leadoff hitter Denard Span: 2 for 19 with one walk.
  • #3 hitter Jayson Werth: 1 for 17
  • #4 hitter Adam LaRoche: 1 for 18
  • #5 hitter Ian Desmond: 3 for 18.

All of those hits?  Singles.  No power, no driving the ball from the heart of the order.  Basically, the top half of the Nats lineup played four games of automatic outs.  Hard to win like that.  The bottom half of the lineup wasn’t much better: Cabrera was just 3 for 15 though with two clutch hits and Ramos was just 2 for 17 in the series and was a guaranteed weak ground-ball to shortstop every time.

You’re not going to win games when your 3-4-5  hitters get 5 combined hits in four games, none for extra bases and none driving in any runs.  Did you know that Anthony Rendon was 9-17 with a walk and scored ZERO runs in the series?  He was on base TEN times in four games and never scored.  That’s a huge indictment of the middle of the Nats order.

The only hitters who showed up in this series were the two youngest regulars on the field; Rendon and Harper.  With three homers and a double in four games (driving in four of the 9 total runs the team scored), Harper showed once again why it was folly that he was batting 6th.  He drove in exactly four runs; had he been batting with Rendon on all the time, he may have batted in double that and we’re talking about a different series.

Its a bummer; the Nats offense picked a really crummy time to shut down, to make Ryan Vogelsong look like a staff ace.  And they’re out in the divisional round for the 2nd time in three years despite being the #1 seed.  Tim Hudson: you have your answer.

Would you have pulled Fister?

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Fister shows Tim Hudson what *he* has between his legs.  Photo via wp.com

Fister shows Tim Hudson what *he* has between his legs. Photo via wp.com

It’s only fair to discuss, since we just saw Matt Williams pull another starter in the midst of a shutout and sitting right at 100 pitches.  That’s where Doug Fister stood after completing 7 innings last night before giving way to the conventional 1-2 punch of Clippard-Storen to finish off the Giants in Game 3.

With a 3 run lead and the top of the order due up in the 8th inning, the move to Clippard was a bit less arguable.  Fister was on a shutout, but wasn’t half as dominant as Jordan Zimmermann was the previous night.  Fister had given up 7 base runners in 7 innings: Zimmermann only 4 in 8 2/3rds.  It may smell like hindsight-is-20/20, but I thought this was a good managerial move.

Meanwhile, even if the hits off of Storen were mostly weak (going back to last night too; Posey’s single was on a good outside pitch that he nubbed into center and Sandoval sliced a ball the other way, landing it three feet fair, usually a sign of luck and not malice), are you concerned about going back to him with the game on the line?

Tonight, the Giants get our sole lefty Gio Gonzalez, who didn’t face the Giants this year.  In his sole start against SF last year, he gave up 2 in 7 and took the loss.  The Giants as a team possess a .258/.318/.390 slash line good for a wRC+ of 104 against lefties on the year, slightly better than how they fare against righties.  So we may brace ourselves for a bit more offense than we’ve see so far.  Meanwhile, the Nats get Ryan Vogelsong, who had just a 87 ERA+ for the season and who got absolutely blitzed in the two games he faced the Nats this year (2 starts, 11 1/3 innings, 13 hits and 9 runs).

Smells like a high-scoring, get into the bullpen early kind of game.  Do you like the Nats’ chances?

If we make it to game 5, do you dare to skip Strasburg and go with Zimmermann (who, by the way, would have his normal 4 full days of rest by the time the deciding game rolled around on thurs 10/9/14).

 

Written by Todd Boss

October 7th, 2014 at 9:17 am

Would you have pulled Zimmermann?

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This picture is 2 years old; replace it with a red jersey and you would have thought it was last night.  Photo Andrew Harnik/washingtontimes.com

This picture is 2 years old; replace it with a red jersey and you would have thought it was last night. Photo Andrew Harnik/washingtontimes.com

On his 100th pitch of what I certainly thought was going to be a 3-hit shutout masterpiece to resurrect this playoff series for the Nats, Jordan Zimmermann missed on a fastball up to Giants #2 hitter Joe Panik, issuing his first walk and just the fourth base-runner of the night.

I was not entirely shocked to see Matt Williams trot to the mound, but I also wasn’t happy.  As my wife can attest, I uttered the following phrase: “I think he’s going to regret taking him out.”

Sure enough.  Another Drew Storen meltdown, another blown 9th inning lead that led to the team snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

To be fair; this isn’t entirely about second guessing.  You can quite easily make the argument to put in Storen as thus: Storen has been lights out for the entire year.  The Giant’s most dangerous hitter (Buster Posey) was coming to the plate.  You would rather have Posey going at a fresh Storen than getting his 4th look at Zimmermann (most starters’ third time through the lineup averages inflate wildly, to say nothing of their 4th).  It was righty-versus-righty.

Well, sometimes you can over-think things.  Certainly Tom Boswell feels that way, based on his column this morning.

On the other hand, if the following scenarios had played out, I’m not sure anyone would have argued against the strategy.

  1. After giving up the walk, Williams walks out to talk to Zimmermann, he stays in and gives up the Posey single, *then* Storen comes in and gives up the run-scoring double to Pablo Sandoval.  You’ve yanked the starter after putting two guys on, and you’ve gone to your closer in the highest-leverage situation of his career and he got unlucky.  That’s still harsh on Storen, but more understandable.
  2. After giving up the walk, Williams leaves Zimmermann in like a total old-school manager and watches him subsequently give up the single and then the double, all while his closer warms up in the bullpen.  That would have led to the reverse second-guessing; why leave him in when you’ve got your closer ready to go?

Major league manager; sometimes you just can’t win.  Williams had a quick hook last night.  Don Mattingly had an excruciatingly slow hook two nights ago, letting his ace Clayton Kershaw give up *SIX* hits in the 7th inning of the Dodgers-Cardinals series before relieving him, and then watched his reliever give up a 3-run homer to turn a 6-2 lead into a 7-6 deficit.  That’s “lose your job” kind of decision making (if the Dodger’s don’t get out of the NLDS).

You guys know what I follow and am most interested in; starting pitching.  So you probably know what I would have done; stick with my starter.  But sometimes it isn’t that simple.  So I’m not going to kill Williams for last night.  I do think Storen’s future with this team is in serious doubt; would you throw him again this post-season?  Would you trust him going forward?  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice …. and I see Storen in a new uniform next year.

I spent 6+ hours watching that baseball game (practically the first time all summer I have watched a game from start to end).  The longer I watched, that more and more looked like it was going to be the inevitable disappointment, as Yusmiero Petit looked like the second coming of Roger Clemens and the Nats hitters looked like a AAA team at the plate for much of the night.  A deflating end to a long night.  Tanner Roark gave up the game-winning homer on a mistake (he missed over the plate while trying to hit the outside corner and Brandon Belt destroyed it), but the offense had more than their share of walk-off opportunities.

The Nats have a long road ahead; they match up with the Giant’s Ace next, have to win 2 straight on the road just to get it back to a 5th game.  Lets see if they have what Tim Hudson implied they may not have: I can’t say it here in a PG blog but it rhymes with “Walls.”  :-)

Nats playoff rotation: who will be in and who should be in?

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Roark may be odd-man out in the playoffs.  Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

Roark may be odd-man out in the playoffs. Photo Alex Brandon/AP via wp.com

The NL East champion Nationals have a problem that lots of teams would like to have: they have 5 great starter options for 4 post-season rotation spots.  Who should we pick, and in what order should they pitch?

(all stats are as of 9/23/14 courtesy of baseball-reference.com)

Option 1: stick with the season-long rotation.  Strasburg-Gonzalez-Zimmermann-Fister with Roark heading to the bullpen.

Pos Name W L W-L% ERA ERA+ FIP WHIP G GS IP BB SO BB9 SO9 SO/W
SP Stephen Strasburg 13 11 0.542 3.23 116 2.98 1.139 33 33 209 42 235 1.8 10.1 5.6
SP Gio Gonzalez* 9 10 0.474 3.74 100 3.13 1.233 26 26 151.2 54 150 3.2 8.9 2.78
SP Jordan Zimmermann 13 5 0.722 2.78 135 2.75 1.117 31 31 190.2 28 172 1.3 8.1 6.14
SP Doug Fister 15 6 0.714 2.55 147 4.07 1.123 24 24 155 24 89 1.4 5.2 3.71
SP Tanner Roark 14 10 0.583 2.85 131 3.49 1.102 30 30 192.1 39 137 1.8 6.4 3.51

This is likely what happens regardless, since manager Matt Williams is old school and likely sticks with his veterans over the “new guy” in Roark.  Thanks to four off-days between their last regular season game (Sunday 9/28) and the first game of the playoffs (Friday 10/3) it doesn’t even matter what order these guys have been pitching in; even the guy who goes Sunday (scheduled to be Gio) would have four full days of rest prior to the NLDS opener.

Option 2: Go with the four best starters in terms of season-long performance: Zimmermann-Fister-Strasburg-Roark with Gonzalez the odd-man out.

Looking at the above stats, this would be your top four going strictly by a subjective opinion looking at the “old school” stats of W/L record and ERA.  But a closer look at the FIPs show this to be faulty logic; despite his excellent numbers Fister has the highest FIP of the starters despite having the best ERA+ figure.  Plus, you really don’t want to leave out your sole lefty starter in a playoff series.

Option 3: Go with the hottest hands. Strasburg-Zimmermann-Gonzalez-Roark with Fister in the pen.

Here’s the stats for the last 5 starts for each guy:

Pos Name Team W Team L W-L% ERA babip BAA WHIP G GS IP BB SO BB9 SO9 SO/W
SP Stephen Strasburg 3 2 0.6 1.34 0.28 0.21 0.802 5 5 33.66 2 33 0.535 8.82 16.5
SP Gio Gonzalez* 3 2 0.6 3.41 0.25 0.22 0.958 5 5 31.33 4 23 1.149 6.61 5.75
SP Jordan Zimmermann 5 0 1 2.03 0.3 0.23 1.032 5 5 31 4 32 1.161 9.29 8
SP Doug Fister 3 2 0.6 3.26 0.27 0.27 1.352 5 5 30.33 9 12 2.671 3.56 1.333
SP Tanner Roark 2 3 0.4 3.13 0.3 0.28 1.169 5 5 31.66 3 19 0.853 5.4 6.333

Taking a look at each starter’s last 5 starts, a couple things become clear: Strasburg, as we have all seen, is on fire; just two walks in 33+ innings and a 1.34 ERA.  Its ridiculous that the team hasn’t won all five of his games.  Washington has won all five of Zimmermann’s starts.  Meanwhile, Fister looks like the weakest link here, with the highest whip and the fewest Ks in the closing run.  Roark’s finish hasn’t been too bad, but his peripherals put him behind Gio.

Option 4: Look at the home-road splits to pick starters.  Strasburg-Roark-Zimmerman-Fister

Here’s the season long home/away splits for our starters.

Pos Name Split W L W-L% ERA G GS IP BB SO WHIP SO9 SO/W
SP Gio Gonzalez* Home 4 3 0.571 3.88 12 12 65 23 63 1.3 8.7 2.7
SP Gio Gonzalez* Away 5 7 0.417 3.63 14 14 86 31 87 1.2 9 2.8
SP Stephen Strasburg Home 8 3 0.727 2.7 17 17 110 17 133 1.1 10.9 7.8
SP Stephen Strasburg Away 5 8 0.385 3.82 16 16 99 25 102 1.2 9.3 4.1
SP Tanner Roark Home 6 6 0.5 2.5 14 14 90 23 61 1.2 6.1 2.7
SP Tanner Roark Away 8 4 0.667 3.17 16 16 102 16 76 1.1 6.7 4.8
SP Doug Fister Home 7 2 0.778 1.95 10 10 69 10 47 0.9 6.1 4.7
SP Doug Fister Away 8 4 0.667 3.05 14 14 85 14 42 1.3 4.4 3
SP Jordan Zimmermann Home 6 2 0.75 2.81 16 16 96 16 78 1.2 7.3 4.9
SP Jordan Zimmermann Away 7 3 0.7 2.76 15 15 94 12 94 1 8.9 7.8

This isn’t so much about picking who is better at home; its going with those who have the best away records.  Zimmermann and Fister both give a better chance of winning on the road and make sense as game #3 and #4 starters.  Meanwhile both Strasburg is less effective on the road versus at home.   This scenario leaves us without Gio though, our sole lefty, so it probably isn’t viable.

Option #5: play match-ups with the opponent.  Unfortunately, I’m hoping the team clinches the top seed, which means they go against the wild card winner … and while we’re pretty sure we know who the WC teams are (San Francisco and Pittsburgh) at this point … we don’t know who will host the play-in game, nor who they’ll be throwing.   Washington took the season series against both squads (4-3 over Pittsburgh, 5-2 over San Francisco), and the timing of those series are also interesting:

  • Nats dropped 3 out of 4 in Pittsburgh in May when playing poorly.
  • Nats swept Pittsburgh 3 straight in August at home as they began to solidify their lead in the division.
  • Nats won 3 out of 4 in San Francisco in June when they were still a .500 team.
  • Nats won 2 out of 3 at home in August in a slug-fest of a series.

Fister beat Liriano in Pittsburgh in May; Strasburg, Zimmermann and Treinen all lost.   Then, Roark and Fister pitched effectively in August while Gio was run-of-the-mill.

Against San Francisco; Strasburg, Fister and Roark all pitched great in ATT Park (only Treinen got beat).  Then at home, Strasburg was awful, Fister mediocre and Zimmerman effective in the August series.

Does that tell us much?  Not really.


In the end, I think it’s going to be the same rotation that we lined up on opening day, in the same order. Luckily for us, that means our hottest pitcher (Strasburg) getting the ball in game #1 and #5, it means our two starters who are best away from home will get the ball in games #3 and #4 at the opponent’s park, and it gives us a decent balance of lefty/righty in the first two games at home.  No room for Roark though, which is a shame considering his performance on the year.

So much for cutting edge analysis :-)

 

Written by Todd Boss

September 23rd, 2014 at 3:08 pm

No surprises in Sept 1 call-ups, yet

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Treinen returns to the Nats for the September run.  Photo via zimbio.com

Treinen returns to the Nats for the September run. Photo via zimbio.com

[A quick note; a combination of a dead-time for issues that I like to write about and a new consulting engagement has conspired to mean very little activity here.  Now that the minor league seasons are ending though, I look forward to some wrap-up posts looking at the starters.  Apologies for the lack of posts/activity here].

9/1/14 came and went, and there was little drama in the Nats call-ups.  All six players called up were a) already on the 40-man roster, and b) already had MLB service time this year.

  • Pitchers: Blake Treinen, Aaron Barrett and Xavier Cedeno.
  • Catcher: Sandy Leon
  • 1B/OFs Tyler Moore and Steven Souza

So, nobody shocking thus far.  In fact, its almost easier to talk about the remaining 40-man players they did NOT call up than the ones they did.   In fact, lets do just that.  Here’s the players still on the 40-man but not initially called up:

  • Taylor Hill: hey, somebody’s got to start for Syracuse in the playoffs, right?  He may be approaching an innings limit anyway.
  • Sammy Solis: still rehabbing, no where near ready for prime time.
  • Felipe Rivero: only a handful of AA starts since his long D/L stint.
  • Ryan Mattheus: completely ineffective this season (5.80 ERA), likely on his way to a DFA/outright this off-season.
  • Jhonatan Solano: hey, somebody’s got to catch for Syracuse in the playoffs, right? :-)
  • Michael Taylor: many think he’s ready for prime time; would you start his service time clock so he can ride the pine in September?  I wouldn’t.
  • Jeff Kobernus and Eury Perez: with Moore and Souza call-ups, there’s already 7 outfielders … no need for two more right?

I can still see some value in calling up Perez for his speed, but almost nobody else at this point from this list.

What about those in Syracuse that had great seasons but are not on the 40-man?  Tougher call: You’d have to clear room to add someone right now, and the team seems to have made its moves to that end already in Matt Thornton and Nate Schierholtz.  But, if someone wanted to congratulate minor league vets like Brandon Laird (.300/.350/.490 for Syracuse this year), Rafael Martin (0.80 ERA in 33+ AAA innings) or Matt Grace (a combined 1.17 ERA over 77 innings in AA and AAA this year) with a September call-up and a month’s worth of MLB per diems, I wouldn’t disagree.  I just think it’d be kind of hard to find the space.  I would support a DFA of Mattheus right now to make room; after that is tougher.  You’d have to cut the likes of Kobernus or perhaps a MLB veteran like Jerry Hairston and/or Kevin Frandsen to make room based on performance.  And I don’t think a players’ manager like Matt Williams is cutting any veterans to make room for some 25-yr old he’s never met in AAA.

Nonetheless; there’s some baseball to play and some impact to be had by these 9/1 call-ups.  I think Barrett and Treinen are going to slip right back into the bullpen.  Cedeno could take away lefty-lefty opportunities that Jerry Blevins has been squandering all year (speaking of someone who may be on his way to a DFA this off-season…).  I could see Moore getting some playing time spelling Adam LaRoche at first (he seems like a better offensive option there than Frandsen, who has been the sub of choice lately when LaRoche gets a blow).  I’m excited to see what Souza brings to the table too; he led the Chiefs in steals this year despite missing 40% of the season; he isn’t just some big 6’4″ slugger.

Seven game lead this morning after last night’s win and a guaranteed road-trip split.  That’s fantastic, especially considering who they’ve been playing and beating (ahem, Felix Hernandez having his hat handed to him).

Prep Baseball Update: Virginia Regionals

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Here’s the next big update on the state of High School baseball in the area.  We previously talked about Maryland Regionals and Virginia regular season play wrapping up, then we posted after Maryland states and Virginia conference play had mostly finished up.  In these posts we also covered some private school tournaments and the DC tourneys as much as we could.

Now we’re through the Virginia regional tournaments and its time to check in.  The state semi-finals are set in all six divisions.  Lets recap the regionals.


Virginia

There’s been little national recognition of any of Northern Virginia’s powerhouses (Madison, Stone Bridge, Hylton, Osbourn Park or Battlefield) in any of the national high school rankings this year, but schools in Richmond and Norfolk have taken turns cycling in and out of the various top 25/top 50 lists.

At some point or another, Cosby HS (Midlothian, in the western Richmond suburbs), Woodside (Newport News), Douglas Freeman (Richmond), Western Branch (Chesapeake), Hickory (Chesapeake) and Great Bridge (Chesapeake) have all gotten national attention from the various national ranking lists in 2014.  It will be interesting to see how the Northern Virginia powers match up with these southern schools in the state tournament.  But, thanks to the re-classifications of schools we aren’t going to get the big-time match-ups we wanted to see in states.  Cosby, Western Branch, and Woodside are 6-A schools, while Freeman, Great Bridge, and Hickory are 5-A schools.  Last year’s AAA state champ Hanover is a 4-A school now and will face pretty light competition while returning its ace Derek Casey (UVA commit) from last year’s state champ. All these aformentioned teams have qualified for the regional tournaments, so we may get some juicy match-ups between northern Virginia powerhouses and the nationally-recognized southern Virginia schools in the State playoffs.  Only the regional champ and finalist qualify to the state final four.

With apologies to the smaller schools, we’re going to mostly focus on the 6-A and 5-A playoffs here.  All conference, regional and state brackets here at VHSL’s site.  Records listed for teams are as they were heading INTO the game being described, not afterwards.


6-A North Regionals Playoff Bracket is here.  Here were your qualifiers:

  • Concorde: Oakton (regular season and tourney champ), Chantilly, Westfield, Herndon
  • Liberty: Madison (regular season and tourney champ), Langley, Washington & Lee, McLean
  • Potomac: West Springfield (regular season and tourney champ), West Potomac, South County, Annandale
  • Cedar Run: Osbourn Park (regular season champ), Battlefield (tourney champ), Patriot, Osbourn

Regional schedule is: first round 5/30/14, quarters 6/2/14, semis 6/4/14 and final 6/6/14, each game at the higher seed’s home field.

In the 6-A North Regional first round on 5/30/14, two Conference champions were upset and the power of the Cedar Run teams was put into question.  Annandale upset Osbourn Park and McLean upset Oakton behind a 1-hitter from Va Tech commit Joey Sullivan.  Meanwhile Patriot was blasted by West Potomac 8-2.  Cedar Run’s lone winner was Battlefield, where 3rd round pick Nick Wells (College of Charleston commit, featured here in Allmetsports as a potential 3rd-4th rounder) threw a 4-hit shutout to beat South County.  The other two #1 seeds survived (Madison getting by Herndon 6-3 and West Springfield pounding Osbourn 15-3).   The rest of the regional quarter finalists slate was filled by Langley and Chantilly (a 10-0 winner over hapless Washington & Lee).

In the 6-A North Regional Quarter finals on 6/2/14, Chantilly blanked Annandale 4-0, West Springfield handled Langley 5-2 and Madison squeaked by West Potomac 7-6 in a 12-inning thriller.  However it was the last quarterfinal that gave the biggest surprise: little known McLean and its .500 record got into the regional tournament by virtue of a big upset in the conference tournament, and continued its upsetting ways, beating a well-regarded Battlefield team 7-5.

In the 6-A north regional semis, Chantilly (15-7) upset West Springfield (15-5) 4-1 behind a big night from their ace Easton Recto.  Meanwhile, conference foes McLean (14-10) and Madison (21-2) squared off for the 3rd time this season, and McLean scored the unlikely upset 5-1 behind senior Ace and Va Tech bound Joey Sullivan‘s masterful pitching.  Madison had swept the season series against McLean by a combined score of 19-4, but McLean came up big once again.  I guess it is safe to say that Madison’s record was overstating its quality.

6-A North regional final: Chantilly (16-7) destroyed McLean (15-10) by the score of 12-0 in a pretty unlikely final.   Chantilly batted around in the first inning and never looked back.  Neither team had *ever* won a regional baseball crown, and McLean has *never* made a state baseball tournament prior to this year. Quite a turnaround from a team that (by conference seed) shouldn’t have even been in the regionals.


6-A South Regional Playoff Bracket is here.  Unlike the 6-A north, just the conference finalists qualified.  Here were your qualifiers:

  • Conference 1/Coastal: Grandby (regular season champ), First Colonial (tourney champ)
  • Conference 2/Monitor-Merrimac: Western Branch (regular season and tourney champs), Woodside
  • Conference 3: Cosby (regular season champ), James River
  • Conference 4: Hylton (regular season and tourney champ), Riverbend

Regional schedule is: Western Branch vs First Colonial, Grandby-Woodside, Cosby-Riverbend and Hylton-James River.  In the 6/2/14 quarter finals, all four conference champions advanced (a slight surprise to this witness, who thought that Woodside was a bit better, and who thought that Hylton may have had a hard time with their southern virginia opponents.  Western Branch beat First Colonial 6-1, Grandby beat Woodside 2-1, Hylton beat James River 9-0 behind a shutout from Sewanee-bound Austin Magestro, and Cosby beat Riverbend 7-2).

In the 6-A south regional semis, Western Branch (22-2) blanked Grandby (18-4 record) by the score of 6-0, while the undefeated Cosby (22-0) blitzed Woodbridge powerhouse Hylton (19-2) by the score of 11-6.  We expected a Cosby-Western Branch matchup and we got it.

6-A South regional final: Western Branch (23-2) blitzed Cosby (23-0) by the score of 8-1 in a matchup of nationally recognized power houses.  I fully expect to see this rematch in the state final in a week’s time, given the weakness of the 6-A North teams.


5-A North Regional: Regional playoff bracket is here.   Here were your qualifiers (not all conference contributed equal numbers of teams)

  • Conference 13/Capitol: Marshall (regular season and tourney champ), Edison, Stuart , Lee
  • Conference 14: Stone Bridge (regular season and tourney champ), Freedom – South Riding, Tuscarora
  • Conference 15: Potomac (regular season and tourney champ), North Stafford, Brooke Point
  • Conference 16: Halifax (regular season champ), Patrick Henry – Ashland (tournament champ)

Regional schedule is: first round/play-in 5/30/14, quarters 6/2/14, semis 6/4/14 and final 6/6/14, each game at the higher seed’s home field.

In the 5-A North Regional first/play-in round on 5/30/14, Patrick Henry – Ashland, North Stafford, Freedom-South Riding and Edison all earned the right to play conference champions in the regional quarter finals.  North Stafford destroyed Stuart 10-0 and faces regional favorite Stone Bridge in what could be an interesting quarter final.  Marshall faces the unknown Patrick Henry, while Potomac likely will not be challenged by Freedom.

In the 5-A North Regional Quarter finals on 6/2/14, more surprising results.  Conference chaps Marshall, Stone Bridge and Halifax each advanced to the regional semis, but little known Freedom-South Riding pulled a monumental upset over a Potomac team that I thought could challenge for the regional title.

Just after the quarters, Stone Bridge got a huge piece of bad news when ace Jacob Bukauskas was shutdown due to elbow tendinitis.  Too bad for people who were hoping for one more shot to see him throw live.

In the 5-A North Semis, Stone Bridge (21-1) outslugged Marshall (14-6) by the score of 12-5, while Freedom-South Riding (12-12) upset conference 16 champion Halifax County (Unk record) by the score of 7-2.

5-A North regional final: Stone Bridge (22-1) eased by conference foe Freedom-South Riding (13-12) by the score of 2-1  in a Conference 14 rematch.  Stone Bridge had already beaten Freedom three times this season, each time the score got closer, so a 2-1 nail-biter wasn’t unexpected.  Stone Bridge showed how quality they are even without their Ace.


5-A South Regional: Playoff Bracket is here.  Here were your qualifiers:

  • Conference 9/Atlantic: Maury (regular season champ), Kellam (tourney champ) (Norfold/Va Beach)
  • Conference 10:  Great Bridge (regular season and tourney champ), Hickory (both teams from Chesapeake)
  • Conference 11: Douglas Freeman (regular season champ and tourney champ), Mills Goodwin (both teams in Richmond)
  • Conference 12: Matoaca (regular season champ and tourney champ, Prince George (Teams from Chesterfield and Petersburg, both in South Richmond)

The 5-A south regional faces a tough schedule; 3 games in 4 days starting on 6/3/14.  In the quarters, both Richmond teams advanced, with Freeman pounding Prince George 12-4 and Goodwin giving Matoaca just their second loss on the year in a 4-1 win.   Meanwhile the Tidewater quarters featured some interesting results, with Hickory blasting Maury 16-1 and Kellam upsetting Great Bridge 4-2.  Both Hickory and Kellam were the 2nd seeds out of their conference, and just one conference champion advanced out of the 5-A south quarters.

In the 5-A South Semis, Mills Godwin (18-5)  got another crack at Douglas Freeman (23-1) in a rematch of the Conference 11 final, but was crushed 9-1.  In the other regional semi, Hickory (16-6) outlasted Kellam (18-5) in a wild 11-10 game.

5-A South regional final: Douglas Freeman (24-1) beat Hickory (17-6) by the score of 6-4 with a 6-run sixth inning comeback.


Virginia Smaller Classifications:  Conference and Regional brackets available from VHSL’s site.

  • 4-A: One interesting note about the 4-A tournament is the fact that 2013 AAA state champion Hanover (Mechanicsville/Richmond) is now a 4-A school and is a clear 4-A state favorite right now.  They enter regionals with a 17-2 record.  Most of the 4-A regional-qualified schools closer to DC are based out of Winchester (Sherando, Millbrook) or Culpeper/Fredericksburg (Eastern View, Chancellor).  In the 4-A North semis, Conference 21 foes Sherando and Millbrook both advanced to force a 5th rematch on the year (Millbrook has won all four meetings).  In the 4-A South semis, Hanover and Grafton advanced.  In the 4-A North Regional finals, Milbrook beat Sherando for the fifth time this season 6-5, while in the 4-A south regional finals defending state champ Hanover handled Grafton 2-0.
  • 3-A: As with ther 4-A schools, the 3-A regional qualifiers close to DC area generally from the Culpeper area (Kettle Run, Culpeper, William Monroe) or points further remote, but Loudoun Valley HS (in Purceville) won the 3-A east and looks to be a state favorite.
  • 2-A: No DC-local schools (George Mason the only one) qualified for regionals.  Strasburg won the 2-A east regional and enters the state tournament with a 23-1 record.
  • 1-A: No DC-local schools are in the smallest 1-A classification.

Recent Virginia AAA HS champs:

2013: Hanover d Great Bridge. Hanover’s super-junior Derek Casey (committed to UVA) outlasts Great Bridge and their 1st round talent Connor Jones (now attending UVA after spurning a likely late 1st round draft position).  Lake Braddock and Oakton beaten in the semis.

2012: Lake Braddock d Kellam 4-0. Lake Braddock lost to West Springfield in the regional title game but then blitzed to a state championship.

2011: Great Bridge d South County in the state final, giving the powerful South County its first and only loss on the season after starting the season 28-0.  Lake Braddock was the regional finalist and lost to Great Bridge in the state quarters.

2010: West Springfield d Woodbridge in the final, giving Woodbridge its only loss on the year. WT Woodson regional finalist.

Complete history of Virginia HS Champions: from VHSL’s website.  Covers all sports.

 


Maryland

See the previous post for a full run-down on the Maryland regional and state tournaments, which ended 5/24/14.

  • 4-A Champion: Chesapeake beat Sherwood 2-0.
  • 3-A Champion: Reservoir beat North Harford 2-0.  State final winning pitcher Cody Morris named Maryland Gatorade player of the year.
  • 2-A Champion: Southern beat Parkside 3-2.
  • 1-A Champion: Smithsburg blanked Sparrows Point 9-0

 


DC

See the previous post for a more complete run-down on the DCSAA tournament.  One last game remained for the DC public schools:


Private

Most all private leagues in the DC, VA and MD areas are complete at this point.  See previous posts in this series for more detail.

  • WCAC:  St. Johns over O’Connell.  St. Johns junior P/SS Nick Lee named DC Gatorade player of the year.
  • IAC: St. Albans over Georgetown Prep
  • MAC: Flint Hill regular season champ.
  • VISAA: Division I:  Liberty Christian (Lynchburg) over Charlottesville’s St. Anne’s-Belfield.
  • MIAA: A-classification: Spalding  d Calvert Hall.  B-Classification: St. Mary’s d Annapolis Area Christian.  C-Classification: St. Johns d Chapelgate Christian

National High School Baseball Ranking Lists:

  • Baseball America’s High School top 25 (5/20/14 ranking and final HS top 50 ranking 6/3/14).  Cosby finishes at #12, Western Branch #28, Madison #40.
  • USA Today High School top 25 (6/5/14 rankings).  Freeman #21, but no mention of Cosby
  • USA Today’s Virginia-only rankings (5/25/14); these are very old and only have about 2/3s of the regular season listed.
  • MaxPreps top 25/top 50 lists (5/22/14), which has a hand-picked and a computer/power ranking list.  Cosby, Stone Bridge and Freeman mentioned.

Resources:

  • Washington Post’s AllMetSports section with standings and schedule results.
  • InsideNova.com‘s coverage of high school sports.
  • The Connection family of newspapers has a sports section that is rarely updated, but it does do some coverage.
  • MaxPreps.com also has some non-paywall HS information that comes in handy too.
  • Nvdaily.com (Strasburg/Winchester) has some results for some of the teams in the smaller conferences/outskirts of DC.
  • The Daily Progress (Culpeper local paper) also has some scores for schools in its areas.
  • Fredericksburg.com has some local coverage of Fredericksburg and Woodbridge teams.
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch has a HS scoreboard.
  • Hampton Roads Pilot (Hampton Roads) has scores for teams in the Chesapeake/Norfolk/Va Beach area.  They also have their own top-10 rankings for area teams.
  • The Baltimore Sun’s high school page has information on some of the programs outside the DC area mentioned in the Maryland section (and here’s the updated Baltimore top-20, akin to the AllMetSports top-10 list).
  • I use perfectgame.org to look up high-end HS prospects.
  • VHSL’s and MPSSAA home pages for playoff brackets and updates for VA and MD respectively.

The Nats should just move Detwiler

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Detwiler's being wasted right now.  Photo: Cathy T via nationalsdailynews.com

Detwiler’s being wasted right now. Photo: Cathy T via nationalsdailynews.com

How do you go from being the 5th most important pitcher on a MLB staff (yes, I believe the 5th starter is more important than the closer or any other bullpen guy, a statsitical fact that can be easily seen by WAR contributions by even the best closers), to being the least important, aka the last guy out of the pen, the swingman or long man, the mop-up guy?

Well, that’s what’s happening to Ross Detwiler so far this year.

Now, its sort of hard to feel a ton of compassion for a guy who is making $3M this year guaranteed, whether he pitches 50 times or five.   So this article isn’t so much about Detwiler or his salary, but about things like “opportunity costs” and the relative value of players in particular roles, and how teams can turn replaceable assets into needed depth.

Coming into this season, I figured (along with many) that Detwiler’s pre-injury 2013 performance, coupled with his break-out 2012 season would earn him the 5th rotation spot.  As it turned out, not only did the team not want to give him that spot … but they have repeatedly passed over Detwiler to make starts when the opportunity has arisen.  When Doug Fister went down with injury, Detwiler wasn’t pulled back into the rotation; the starts were given to Taylor Jordan.  When Jordan proved unreliable and was sent down, the team called up Blake Treinen and gave him a spot start on 5/6/14 instead of throwing Detwiler.

Which makes you wonder; what’s the point of keeping a high-priced/high-talent “swing man” if you never let him do his role??  Detwiler’s usage so far in 2014 has been more like a middle reliever than a long-man; in 9 appearances (before last night) he’s logged 14 2/3 innings.  Now, on the one hand this is a relatively good sign; if you’re never using your swing-man for 4 inning stints it means your starters are pitching well.  But on the other hand … the team is clearly wasting Detwiler’s talents.  Of the 66 batters he had faced prior to 5/6/14’s debacle, only SIX of them were classified as “high leverage” situations by baseball-reference.com.  He’s being used as a mop-up guy.

You don’t use power lefty capable starters as mop-up guys.  Its a waste of their skills and talent, and ends up leading to human-nature meltdowns like we saw out of Detwiler on 5/6/14.

Here’s a quick history of the Nats longmen in recent years: Ross OhlendorfZach DukeTanner Roark (to some extent in late 2013), Tom GorzelannyMiguel BatistaSaul Rivera (to some extent), Stephen Shell, Micah Bowie and Levale Speigner (though honestly, dipping back into the 2007-2008 timeframe is tough because our starters were so bad, it was difficult to find who the designated “long-man” really was because eventually they were starting too).  There’s common features to most all of these guys: they’re generally either veterans signed to MLFA deals or on one year deals for limited money, or they’re rookies who earned their way up and provided some value.  The point is this;  you don’t pay your long-man good money, and you certainly don’t waste a good former starter in the long-man position.

The missed opportunity cost for the Nats is this: they can turn Detwiler into something of value in trade for some other team out there, right now.  Go look at our favorite trade partner Oakland’s #4 and #5 starters stats (Straily and Milone); we could move Detwiler to Oakland and get something of use back in a heartbeat and it’d make both teams better.   The Yankees would kill for a reliable 5th starter right now, with Pineda hurt or suspended, Nova lost to Tommy John and Nuno ineffective.   The Mariners are now 9-deep into their starter depth chart and are treading water.   I’ll bet you couldn’t even name Pittsburgh’s 5th starter right now.   Cincinnati’s two starters down right now and that’s before Johnny Cueto gets his inevitable D/L trip (he made 3 such trips last year).  So there’s definitely teams out there who expect to contend with starter depth issues.

Meanwhile, the Nats have 4 or 5 guys in AAA right now who could fill the role that Detwiler is playing right now, for less money and just as well, and we’d be a better team with Detwiler’s return in trade for it.   Every additional injury further thins this team and highlights more need for backup hitters (right now as we speak, we don’t have a SINGLE middle infielder on the 40-man who could get called-up to cover … and our only two out-field 40-man options Eury Perez and Michael Taylor are basically a pinch runner and a guy who’se got a month above A-ball.   (Admittedly, this situation has somewhat cleared up recently with Hairston‘s return and considering that we also have Souza and Moore back in the minors … but we still need some depth).

Move Detwiler, get some closer-to-the-majors bats, and install Treinen as that last-guy in the bullpen.  Or call back Aaron Barrett or Ryan Mattheus and just leave t hem in the bullpen instead of making them rack up frequent flier miles.  If you want another lefty, re-call Aaron Laffey and/or Xavier Cedeno and leave them on the club for a while.  You don’t need your best prospect pitching mop-up/low-leverage innings in 8-0 games.

(I’m not the only one talking about this right now: WP’s James Wagner has peppered Matt Williams about it and MLBTradeRumors Jeff Todd mentioned it prominently this week as well).

Law trashes Williams and their handling of Harper

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Harper Harper Harper.  Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Harper Harper Harper. Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/keith-law/post/_/id/2286/the-mishandling-of-bryce-harper

(Yes the post is ESPN Insider only; if you don’t get ESPN insider then ask yourself why you’re not willing to spend $3 a month for access to quality baseball writers like Dave Symborski, Keith Law, or Buster Olney, as well as access to the whole slew of scouting content from Law’s staff… and that’s just their baseball stuff.  $3/month; I spent more than that on my bagel this morning.   And if you’re in that whole “anti paywall camp” and believe that God intended that everything on the internet be for free … well I guess I’d just say sometimes you get what you pay for.   And to me, ESPN’s insider content is worth the 10 or 11 cents a day that I pay for it.  Rant off).

Basically, Law questions whether Matt Williams is in over his head as a major league manager right now.  Law questions his  lineup choices (as others have repeatedly, especially when the team’s best power hitter his batting 7th.  Which to be fair he only did once, but Harper’s been batting 6th for a good portion of the season too, only really moving up when Ryan Zimmerman went out with injury).   I too question his lineup choices; why the h*ll is Denard Span still batting leadoff?  If Williams felt the need to move Harper to 7th because he was struggling, why hasn’t Span been dropped either?  Isn’t Span “struggling” too?  Yeah; he’s got a .282 OBP right now and has fewer stolen bases than the 35-year old Jayson Werth; why exactly is he still batting leadoff??

Law also questions Williams’ public bashing of Harper’s hustle.  Which led, among other things, to Tom Boswell‘s outlandish claims in a chat two weeks ago that Harper was purposely asking out against tough hitters to maintain a meaningless 9-game hitting streak.  Did anyone actually watch the games surrounding the hustle incident?   To me Harper was clearly favoring his leg, and he had been frustrated at the plate, and by multiple reports was also struggling with the flu.  Maybe everyone would have been happier if Harper had just frigging sat out a couple of games instead?   So he didn’t run out a come-backer; that’s human nature.  Law correctly points out that only Harper has been bashed openly in the press by Williams; other team issues were handled internally.

Why is that?  Is Williams “old school” mentality coming through here?  Is he singling out the young Harper in a “youngster hazing” way?  Remember where Williams came from; the “grit is the way to win” Arizona Diamondbacks, who now have the worst record in the majors after a slew of trades and moves that were designed essentially to rid the team of players who couldn’t or didn’t get along with either the manager or the staff for some reason or another.  I’ve touched on the topic of the Arizona methodology before; you just don’t trade away top 3 draft picks for 50 cents on the dollar because of a personality conflict and expect there to be no consequences.  I believe the consequences are going to be a new manager and a new GM this coming off-season after Arizona loses 90+ games.

Law correctly points out that you can’t have the “hustle” narrative both ways either: Harper cannot be simaultaneously a “lazy” player (as Williams went out of his way to state to the media) but then also be the same player who people thought needed to “slow down” and “play within himself” (as was oft-repeated all last year after he bashed his head in running into outfield walls).   For me; I tend to believe that Harper is human; he was frustrated after an o-fer day, and didn’t run out a come-backer in a meaningless situation late in a game (like a thousand other major leaguers before him).

I’m not sure if I’d lay the play that ended up with Harper’s injury on the manager (Law seems to intimate that Harper’s “over hustle” on that play was in reaction to his press bashing over the lack of hustle the week before), but many, many other players in this game would have just slowed up at 2nd, knowing they had cleared the bases, and not gone for the triple.  Which player would you rather have?   For better or worse, the team will now have plenty of time to think about it; Harper’s out for 2 frigging months.  For those keeping score at home, we’re not even to May yet and we’ve seen the guys hitting 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th from our opening day lineup now hit the D/L for various lengths.

It bears repeating: Harper, despite being in his 3rd pro season, was STILL the youngest player in the majors on opening day.   If he was sitting on Potomac’s roster right now, he’d be one of the youngest players in the league.  I guess we all need to take a deep breath sometimes and be thankful for what Bryce Harper is, not what he isn’t.  And get well soon…. this team’s offense is going to miss him badly.

Written by Todd Boss

April 29th, 2014 at 10:31 am

Pujols 500th home-run ball haul: enough?

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Too bad he probably goes into the HoF in an Angels uniform.  Photo: unknown via fantasyknuckleheads.com

Too bad he probably goes into the HoF in an Angels uniform. Photo: unknown via fantasyknuckleheads.com

As I watched soon-to-be-demoted-as-soon-as-Doug-Fister-can-return-please-hurry-back Taylor Jordan give up the second moon-ball home run to Albert Pujols on the night, I thought to myself, “wow, I wonder what i’d hold out for if I caught his 500th home run?”

Here’s the answer, thanks to Scott Allen and the DC Sports Bog on WP.  The guy who caught the ball is giving it back to Pujols for … nothing.

Now that I have a kid, I’m sure i’d want some cool stuff for his memory books.  I’d at least want a custom-message signed ball (that’s my goal one-day, to head up to cooperstown with a bunch of 50s and 100s in my pocket and hit the circuit of Hall-of-Famers on the signature series for custom-signed baseballs).   In total, I’d probably settle for some signed jerseys and baseballs and what not.  I mean, hey, that ball may have been worth thousands on the auction market, but its better karma to just return it to the hitter, right?

Oh, and since this is a Nationals blog, supposedly focused on pitching, all I have to say about this team can be summed up in some bullet-points for now:

  • 6.23: that’s Jordan’s current ERA.  And unlike Strasburg‘s “unlucky” high ERA (Stras’ FIP is a miniscule 2.58, the best on the team, proof of why you should probably ignore both ERA and ERA+), Jordan’s clearly not an effective starter right now.  I think the 5th starter competition is over, especially after Tanner Roark‘s excellent outing the night before … which was completely wasted by…
  • Tyler Clippard, who may not have bad numbers so far but boy he has struggled.  You just can’t have a 1.5 whip as an 8th inning/high leverage guy.  Maybe its time to switch him and Drew Storen in the bullpen pecking order (you know, since so far he looks basically unhittable, giving up just 2 baserunners in 7 1/3 innings).
  • 8-1: that’s the Nats record against crummy teams.
  • 3-9; that’s the Nats record against “good” teams so far.  I sense a pattern.

I’m kind of concerned right now.  It doesn’t really help that the teams’ #2 and #4 hitters from opening-day are on the D/L.  But it also doesn’t help that, once again, Mike Rizzo‘s vaunted “lead-off” hitter Denard Span is barely batting above the frigging mendoza line yet continues to be plugged in at lead-off, where he can maximize the damage he does to run expectancy as he scuffles along with his sub .300 OBP.  How long before Matt Williams just sticks him at the #8 spot where he should have been most of last year and starts using hitters at lead-off who can, you know, hit?