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 ‘yoenis cespedes’ tag
I just finished re-reading The Duke of Havana, a great book about the back story of Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, his rise to the top (and subsequent political fall from grace) in Cuban professional baseball, his escape from his home-land, his rise with the 1998 New York Yankees, and the general politics/life of typical Cubans in the post-USSR era. Despite the crushing effects of the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba over the last 40 years, the island continues to produce MLB-quality baseball players. Of course, thanks to the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries, when it comes time for the World Baseball Classic, we can’t see a unified Cuban team. Cubans who have escaped to play in America can never go back, and (as detailed in the book), often times leave behind wives, children and family who are subsequently pressured politically by Castro’s hacks.
I wondered what could an all-Cuba team really look like, if MLB players and other expatriots were allowed to re-unite with the current set of known Cuban amateur stars? Using some of the same methods as in my “All Virginia” post, by searching for those born in Cuba along with some well-known Cuban Americans (per the politics link above), here’s a possible WBC roster of maximum strength for Team Cuba:
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez of the Atlanta Braves. We’d get Cuban hall-of-famer Tony Perez out of semi-retirement (he was coaching at a small college in Georgia recently).
- C: Yasmani Grandal or J.P. Arencibia
- 1B: Kendrys Morales or Gaby Sanchez
- 2B: Yunel Escobar or Sean Rodriguez
- 3B: Yonder Alonso
- SS: Yuniesky Betancourt or Alexei Ramirez (2006 WBC Team Cuba member)
- LF: Yoenis Cespedes (2009 WBC team member)
- CF: John Jay (parents born in Cuba, emigrated to US before birth)
- RF: Leonys Martin (2009 WBC team member) or Dayan Viciedo
Reserves: Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler, Alberto Castillo, Jose Iglesias, Juan Miranda, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brayan Pena, Eddy Rodriguez
Best Cuban amateurs (aka, the leading defection candidates): Alfredo Despaigne (just named MVP of round 1 of pool play), Alexei Bell, Yulieski Gourriel, Jose Abreu (the consensus #1 Cuban amateur prospect right now).
Thoughts: There’s some talent in this lineup; Cuba has developed some power hitters over the past few years but seems to specialize more in middle infielders (most of these reserves are middle infield prospects). But a potential 3-4-5 of Morales-Cespedes-Alonso is nothing to shake a stick at. I think this team could score some runs and would be excellent defensively.
- Gio Gonzalez
- Jose Contreras
- Livan Hernandez
- Yunesky Maya (2006 and 2009 WBC team member)
- Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez we’ll get him out of retirement; i’m sure he can still throw)
- Aroldis Chapman (2009 WBC team member)
- Francisely Bueno
- Raul Valdez
- Danys Baez (retired in 2011)
Thoughts: So, we’re a little light on pitching, it seems. We make use of Gonzalez’ first generation in USA status to steal him away from Team USA. But after him the starting pitching gets light (even if you push Chapman into a starting role as Cincinnati is looking to do in 2013). Contreras is a career 101 ERA+ guy, Livan may not have a job in 2013 and all nats fans can speak to what Maya brings to the table at this point. I threw in El Duque despite him probably being close to 50 at this point (B-R lists his birthday in 1965); he was always in great shape and probably could throw a few junk balls up there right now.
Here’s a wrap up of the end of season awards. I posted my predictions here in Mid October. The dream of going 8-for-8 is over. Read on for a summary of my predicions versus actual results.
- AL MVP: Prediction: Miguel Cabrera. Winner: Cabrera. Trout 2nd, Beltre a distant 3rd.
- AL Cy Young: Prediction: David Price. Winner: Price.
- AL Rookie of the Year: Prediction: Mike Trout. Winner: Trout, Unanimously.
- AL Manager of the Year: Prediction: Buck Showalter. Winner: Bob Melvin.
- Sporting News AL GM: Prediction: Billy Beane. Winner: Beane.
- Sporting News AL Comeback player of the Year: Prediction: Adam Dunn. Winner: Dunn. Note that there are now also MLB and Players Choice versions of this award, and they do not always agree with Sporting News’ picks. But SN is the oldest version so I’ll continue to guess based on it.
- NL MVP: Prediction: Buster Posey. Winner: Posey. Braun 2nd, McCutchen 3rd.
- NL Cy Young: Prediction: R.A. Dickey. Winner: Dickey.
- NL Rookie of the Year: Prediction: Bryce Harper. Winner: Harper.
- NL Manager of the Year: Prediction: Davey Johnson. Winner: Johnson.
- Sporting News NL GM: Prediction: Mike Rizzo. Winner: Rizzo, who technically came in 2nd to Beane as Sporting News only awarded one Executive of the year award.
- Sporting News NL Comeback player of the year: Prediction: Buster Posey. Winner: Posey.
My Final Prediction results: 7 of 8 of BBWAA awards predicted correctly, 11 of 12 including Sporting News awards.
Discussion (here’s a link to all the 2012 post-season BBWAA voting with totals from Baseball-Reference.com, plus i’ve included links to the voting and ballots where I could below).
- AL MVP: Cabrera wins over Trout; let the internet wars begin! The only thing that surprised me here was the relative landslide victory Cabrera had; he got 22 of the 28 first place votes, far more than I thought he’d get. This result shows what a lot of holier-than-thou bloggers need to wake up and understand; the MVP is NOT the award for the best player. Clearly these people (often rather rudely) do not understand the difference between stats-based analysis and context. Trout played for a 3rd place team; had he never played for the Angels this season … they still would have finished third. Like it or not, voters start their MVP lists by grabbing the best player on the playoff teams, and adjust accordingly. The solution to these arguments may be to create a hitting version of the Cy Young so that Trout can get his deserved due for his fantastic 2012 season.
- AL Cy Young: Price wins in a very close race over Justin Verlander, who had almost identical (and slightly better) sabremetric numbers to his dominant Cy Young last year and was the odds-on favorite of the Sabr-nerd crowd to win. I predicted Dickey not because he was inarguably the better pitcher; I predicted he’d win because voters sometimes like to give these awards to the fresh new candidate, and I saw that happening here. Price and Verlander split the first and second place votes almost down the middle, except for one random first place vote that went to Fernando Rodney. The Rodney vote, combined with both Los Angeles voters giving 2nd place votes to Jered Weaver, is the margin of loss for Verlander. Still, this was the closest Cy Young voting race in the history of the award.
- AL Rookie of the Y ear: No doubt here; Trout becomes just the 8th unanimous RoY pick in baseball’s history, and deservedly so. Yoenis Cespedes second, Yu Darvish third.
- AL Manager: My first miss on BBWAA awards in three years. The criticism of this award is that it is less about who actually manages their team the best; it really is given to the team that “surprised” baseball pundits the most. In retrospect, for all the reasons I predicted Billy Beane would get the executive award I should have given more thought to Melvin winning the Manager award. Showalter’s Orioles certainly surprised, and you can squint and say that their record in one-run games is entirely on the manager. But there’s no mistaking that the Athletics out-played their potential far more distinctly than the Orioles did.
- AL Executive: No surprise that Beane picks up this award, after flipping 3/5s of his rotation, signing the cuban defector Cespedes and getting Josh Reddick in trade, putting together a team that I thought could lose 110 games but instead won the AL West over two of the most bally-hoo’d teams in the majors. For all the people that chastised Beane for Moneyball, he has risen again after his early career success.
- AL Comeback player: I really struggled to pick a winner, thinking that Dunn’s pseudo-rebound from 2011’s disaster was a good enough example, and I got lucky. SN picked Dunn while other AL comeback awards out there went to Fernando Rodney.
- NL MVP: Posey takes this race in a landslide, getting 27 of the 32 first place votes. I’m really glad to see Braun get 2nd place despite the stigma surrounding his negated PED test last off-season; he won my “Modern Triple Crown” and was the best hitter in the league. Chase Headley gets deserved recognition and a 5th place vote. Several Nats got votes as expected, but none were factors in the race itself.
- NL Cy Young: this race wasn’t as close as I thought it may be, but Dickey beats out Clayton Kershaw for many of the same reasons Price beat out Verlander. Our own Gio Gonzalez comes in a close third; as it turns out, one reporter in St Louis completely left him off his ballot, purportedly because Gonzalez didn’t broach 200 innings. Which makes no sense, since this same reporter gave his 5th place vote to a reliever. *sigh* I hate hypocrites
- NL Rookie of the Year: Harper won a very close race over Wade Miley and for good reason; on September 1st you would have said that Miley was the easy RoY candidate. A strong finish combined with Harper’s narrative and probably some east-coast bias gave him the award. One writer completely left Miley off his ballot, but that wouldn’t have made a difference in the voting totals in the end. Another side note: have you ever even heard of the two Washington BBWAA chapter members?
- NL Manager: Johnson picks up the “manager of the most surprising team” award relatively easily; there really weren’t any other contenders once Pittsburgh collapsed mid-season.
- NL Executive: Rizzo’s Gio Gonzalez trade, Jackson signing and Harper call-up all led to a 17-game improvement and the major’s best record, earning him 2nd place in the overall executive award voting (to Beane) and thus the highest ranking NL executive.
- NL Comeback player: Posey was really a no-brainer, and won the award as expected.
I’ll say this in conclusion; the Trout-Cabrera arguments were the most one-sided, rude and biased I’ve seen yet in the whole “new school” trend of baseball writing. Even more ridiculous than the Jack Morris antagonists. And I’m thankful that, after today, I won’t have to read one more “Why Trout is the MVP” article.
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?
I’ll admit it; after watching Billy Beane wheel and deal this past off-season, trading away most of his starting rotation and letting most of his FA hitters walk, I was predicting a 55 win season for this team. They were banking on a proposed move to San Jose and I saw these moves as a purposeful bottoming out while playing out the string in Oakland, ahead of a lucrative move to the South Bay. Well, that move seems interminably stalled, and many pundits predicted a near record loss season for this team, especially considering the massive moves that the Angels had made, coupled with the 2-time defending AL champs Texas being in the same division.
Instead, they sit at 56-48 and if the season ended today, right now on August 2nd, the Oakland A’s and their $55M payroll (2nd lowest in the league by a couple hundred thousand dollars) would be the 2nd wild-card and would play the Los Angeles Angels, they of the $154M payroll (and counting, considering this was their opening day payroll and they’ve taken on with the Zack Greinke deal at the trade deadline).
How did this happen? Lets look at the evolution of the Starting Rotation, because what this group is doing is nothing short of amazing.
In 2011, the Oakland had 10 different guys start games for them. Here’s a quick summary (* indicates a left hander on baseball-reference.com pages):
Here’s what happened to each of these guys (good link for trade details from baseball-reference.com here; this link shows the latest trade between Oakland and all other teams but quickly shows all these 2011 deals listed here):
- Cahill traded to Arizona
- Gonzalez traded to Washington
- Moscoso traded to Colorado
- Harden left via free agency, and as far as I can tell he remains unsigned.
- Outman traded (with Moscoso) to Colorado.
- Anderson had Tommy John surgery in June of 2011 and is in the minors rehabbing now.
- Braden had shoulder surgery in April of 2011 and has not pitched since.
They traded or released the starters who made nearly 80% of their starts in 2011. That leaves 3 guys who had any MLB starts last year: Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey, a total of 35 starts. To add insult to injury, Oakland traded their 2011 closer Andrew Bailey to Boston last December.
So, what does the Oakland rotation look like this year? Here’s the same data through August 1st:
So, where’d all these guys come from?
- Milone: acquired from Washington in the Gonzalez Deal
- Colon: bottom-of-the-barrel FA signing (1yr/$2M).
- Parker: acquired from Arizona in the Cahill deal.
- McCarthy; signed a 1yr/$4.275M FA deal after accepting arbitration from the team after last year
- Blackley: selected OFF WAIVERS from San Francisco earlier this year
- Ross: homegrown: a 2nd round pick in 2008
- Griffen: also homegrown; he was a 13th round draft pick by Oakland in 2010.
- Godfrey: acquired from Toronto in the 2007 Scutaro deal
Ross and Godfrey got demoted after poor performance, and McCarthy currently sits on the DL, giving Oakland this current rotation: Colon, Blackley, Griffen, Milone, Parker. All 5 guys with ERAs under 3.78 and all with ERA+ of at least 104 and mostly greater than that. And, when McCarthy comes back he’s essentially the best pitcher of any of them. AND, this is all being done with out Dalles Braden and Brett Anderson, two guys who were core components of the 2010 rotation and who would clearly be in the 2012 rotation if not for injury. AND, Oakland just announced today they’re promoting one of their best starter prospects in Dan Straily for a spot start this coming friday.
And, when Braden, Anderson and McCarthy come back, that gives Oakland a major surplus of pitching that can be flipped in the coming off-season for even more prospects and hitting (much as they did this past off-season).
Combine this pitching revolution with the schrewd Yoenis Cespedes signing (who immediately became the highest paid player on the team), the explosion of Josh Reddick (acquired in the Andrew Bailey deal from Boston), unexpected output from DH/FA signee (and ex-Nat) Jonny Gomes and a solid season from Seth Smith (acquired in the Moscoso deal) and you’ve got a team that is producing enough to win. They’re not an offensive juggernaut (mostly ranked 12th-13th in the 14-team AL in the major offensive categories) but you don’t need to score 8 runs a game when you have a staff ERA of 3.47.
As much as Moneyball critics will hate to hear it, I think Billy Beane is your easy choice for AL Executive of the year right now.
This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye. I try to publish this about weekly or if it gets up to about 1500 words, so that it’s not to voluminous.
Nationals In General
- Mark Zuckerman writes about a favorite topic of mine w/r/t the current Nats 40-man roster and its construction. See here for a similar discussion of the 2011 Nats (along with analysis of the 8 playoff teams) from last October. Clearly the more players you’re using as your “primary 15″ that were developed in house, the better you’re doing as a player development machine. But there’s also the measure of cashing in those prospects in order to acquire resources. (Coincidentally the “primary 15″ of a team means its 8 starters in the field, 5 rotation members, setup man and closer). By last year’s end, the Nats were starting 9 of these 15 as players developed in house and were down to just three acquired via FA/Waivers. That’s a massive step up from just a few years prior, when most of the team was FA/Waiver pickups. We’ll revisit this topic once the 25-man rosters for teams are finalized and play starts in April.
- The Washington Franchise leads the league in employment of Negative WAR players over the past decade. A staggering 31% of our players in this time have shown negative WARs per season. This is not surprising given what we know of the construction of the first few iterations of the Nationals; Zuckerman has done studies in the past related to the staggering number of players the Nats have played at the MLB level who, after leaving us, never appeared in a major league game again. The last time Zuckerman did this study that I could find was Nov 2010, when he identified 59 such players just since 2005. I don’t know what percentage that is of all players who appeared for us in that time-frame, but it seems high. (note: I just did some analysis and will return with a blog posting on this topic soon).
- Back to the negative war topic, here’s a list of such negative WAR seasons for the 2011 iteration of the team: Alex Cora, Jesus Flores, Chris Marrero, Steve Lombardozzi, Matt Stairs, Livan Hernandez, Doug Slaten, Brian Broderick, Yuniesky Maya, Collin Balester and Chad Gaudin. That’s 11 of the 44 players who appeared in the majors for us last year, or exactly 25%. So we’re not exactly out of the woods yes; clearly we continue to employ a ton of players who end up hurting the team. (For the record I used bWAR instead of fWAR for this, since its a bit easier to see that data. But i’d guess the analysis would come out the same for either measurement method).
- Another article on Edwin Jackson and pitch-tipping. Is it possible that a player could play for years and never have a hitter teammate tell him he’s tipping his pitches? I think it depends on what team the pitcher plays for. Mike Mussina infamously was told he tipped his change up once he moved to the Yankees, and he made the adjustment that enabled his stellar 2006 season. Maybe the team should have just kept its mouth shut about their thoughts and not told every reporter in every press conference that they think their new $11M pitcher is flawed.
Free Agents/Player Transaction News
- Interesting thoughts on whether “4-A” players really do exist and how to quantify them from Fangraphs.com. Read through the comments for some better thoughts. For me, this issue touches on two opinions I’ve been growing. 1st; yes there does exist 4-A players; the Nats have shown to have a slew of them recently. Guys whose minor league performance literally disappears upon reaching the majors. I don’t know how to quantify it but there’s clearly guys who bounce freely between the two levels and seem destined to max out as such a 4-A player. 2ndly: Is AAA now a “lesser” league than AA? Perhaps not with all systems (for example, Tampa Bay insists all their prospects play full seasons at each level, as does Atlanta), but for the Nats we’ve seen some interesting promotion behavior lately. Stephen Strasburg got hit harder in AA than in AAA during his brief minor league apprenticeship, but the difference is rather slight. But watching the games you got the distinct feeling that his AA competition was getting decent wood on the bat, while in AAA it was like he was pitching to little leaguers. This goes to my theory that AAA is morphing into a “spare parts” league, where teams stash backup utility players (mostly catchers, middle infielders, relief pitchers) who are on the 40-man and can quickly be recalled to fill a spot, while AA is the place where your rising prospects play full seasons in preparation for promotion to the majors. Jordan Zimmermann never pitched a AAA inning, rising from a full season in Harrisburg straight to our rotaton. Strasburg probably could have done the same. Will we see Bryce Harper jump straight from AA to the Majors or will the strategy of Mike Rizzo going forward be more Tampa-esque, requiring each prospect to “master” each level rising upwards?
- A surprise team lands Yoenis Cespedes, namely the penny-pinching Oakland A’s in a 4yr/$36M deal. 4 years and $36M!? That’s more than they will spend in payroll on their entire TEAM in 2012. Maybe. That’s a lot of cash for a completely unproven, if talented player who I’d say is not entirely MLB ready.
General Baseball News
- Excellent article on the Demise of the Spitball and other Doctoring techniques from Grantland’s Jonah Keri, whose writing I’ve always liked and who is working on a historical retrospective on the Montreal Expos franchise. Keri’s article talks about the Kenny Rogers pine-tar incident in the 2006 World series, but I don’t consider that “doctoring” the baseball. That was simply using pine-tar to get a better grip on a cold, wet night. Not that its legal; just different from the more conventional definition of a “spitball.” Keri’s conclusion as to why the spitball has disappeared is attributed to the invention of the modern split-fingered fastball (attributed to Bruce Sutter) and to the lack of proper teachers (the craft of doctoring the ball has been handed down generation to generation by pitching coaches). But honestly I believe the decline is more attributable to two other factors; the lingering stigma of getting caught being higher now post-PED era than every before, and the fact that the true “spitball” is damn difficult to throw (imagine trying to “throw” a baseball with the same motion you might use to squirt a pumpkin seed from your fingers? That’s what throwing a spitball is like to a certain extent).
- In typical modern day sabrematrician blogger nerd fashion, someone at a stats-oriented site goes about attacking another writer’s observation column. In this case, it is someone at Baseball Prospectus attacking the Verducci Effect. I can’t argue with his stats (other than to quibble with the lack of publication of his control group for comparison), but I suspect he misses the point. I don’t think Verducci passes this list off as a statistical study; i think its passed off as a subjective list of candidate pitchers who HE THINKS may regress. See, there’s the rub. He’s already done the breakdown from the “control” group of pitchers who may be candidates for his study but whom he thinks may not be in jeopardy. So I’m presuming that, because of this pre-selection and expression of opinion this is no longer a statistical study but an opinion piece. I’d liken it to analyzing statistically the results of an amateur scout’s player recommendations; sure you could run one in order to judge a scout’s prognostication ability, but there’s so much variation in what happens to players once they sign that it wouldn’t be meaning ful. I guess my take away is this: Verducci does a pretty durn good job of predicting red-flags for these pitchers (84% over the past 5 years), that maybe we should just recognize his study for what it is, and not overanalyze it to try to discredit it.
- A nice article about another favorite topic of mine: the relationship between Wins and salary. The familiar narrative is that payroll discrepancies are killing modern baseball, and to a certain extent I do agree; its no coincidence that the high payroll Yankees have only missed one playoff appearance in the nearly-20 years since the wild card era began. But the ratio of wins to salary is dropping. Why? Because several teams have sacrificed several seasons to basically reset and start over. Tampa Bay and Texas are the best recent examples, but we’re also seeing remnants of this theory here in Washington and starting anew in Houston and Chicago.
- Nice little Intro to Sabremetrics from Espn-W. The author doesn’t go into the real in-depth stats that a lot of people are gravitating to but does cover the basics. OPS, Fip, UZr, wOBA, Vorp and WAR. Now if we could only decide on a standard WAR.
- Another classy move from baseball’s classiest organization; the Miami Marlins. Yeah, lets un-retire the number of a former employee who died tragically since, well, he didn’t work for the current ownership group.
General News; other
- Excellent article at Grantland.com on the Effects of CTE and the possible future (end?) of Football as we know it. This is something I have been saying for a while and agree with; the increased awareness of concussions and their relationship to the longer term effects (the affliction known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE) may soon start to really change the way that people think about the sport. More to the point, as a parent does the thought of repeated concussions inflicted on your young football-playing son give you pause? It would for me. Read this article and it makes some very good points. 90,000 recorded pre-collegiate concussions per year?!
This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.
Nationals In General
- Talk about rumors that just won’t go away: Nationals apparently remain the favorites for Prince Fielder. Ken Rosenthal says the same. Buster Olney has a nice overview with pros/cons laid out. For me (as discussed in the comments of the previous posts), I think he’d be a mistake for 8-10 years, but an absolute steal for 3. Here’s some thoughts from Tom Verducci, who thinks the Nats are his destination. And here’s a post that says one of the 3 candidates for Fielder I identified in this space a few days ago (Toronto), is out of the running.
- Imagine a lineup that goes like this: Espinosa-Werth-Zimmerman-Fielder-Morse-Ramos-Desmond-Cameron to open the season, and then potentially inject Bryce Harper hitting behind Morse and replacing Cameron in the outfield. That’d be 5 straight home-run hitting threats in the middle of your order, with good L-R balance. I know he’d be expensive, but that’s a 95 win offense. It’d be even better if we got a one-year stop gap hitter to open the year playing RF and who we could flip in trade if Harper comes up sooner than later.
- From Jdland.com: the concrete factory across the street from Nats park is finally coming down!
- Whoops: Zech Zinicola hit with a 50-game suspension for non-PED drug abuse. Sounds like Marijuana to me. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Nats release him after this, his 2nd transgression.
- John Sickels‘ new rankings of the Oakland A’s top 20 prospects, post trades this off-season. 6 of the 10 top were acquired in the Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez trades, while three more represent Oakland’s #1 draft picks in 2011 (Sonny Grey) and 2010 (Michael Choice) and 2009 (Grant Green). Say what you will about Billy Beane, but he’s clearly building a big-time farm system for the future right now.
- A nice review of the Nationals 2012 outlook from seamheads.com.
- We lost Doug Slaten. Now he can go be horrible for Pittsburgh.
- Good news on both Sammy Solis and Bobby Hanson from Byron Kerr.
- Adam Kilgore says the team is still talking to Rick Ankiel about coming back as a 4th OF… I wouldn’t be totally opposed to that; he’s essentially the same player we got in Mike Cameron, right? Only difference seems to be lefty versus righty.
- Fun little position-by-position exercise: ranking the NL east teams position by position from David Shoenfield. I must admit though I think he was a bit generous with his Nats rankings in some cases.
Free Agents/Player Transaction News
- MLBTraderumors is great; they’ve created arbitration tracking pages that will “keep score” of all the cases coming up in Jan-Feb.
- If you believe Jim Bowden, the Rangers are playing hardball in their Yu Darvish negotiations. If this falls through … look for pandemonium both on the Prince Fielder front and with Darvish next year when he’s an unrestricted FA and could attract interest from pretty much every team in the league.
- Makes sense: Marlins plan to aggressively pursue Yoenis Cespedes. Getting the latest big name Cuban defector can only be a good thing for the franchise as they try to re-build a fan base in a heavily latino/cuban community.
- Well, the Yankees shored up their rotation in one 3 hour period on Friday night; trading for Michael Pineda and then signing Hiroki Kuroda. They went from having three question marks in their rotation to now wondering if AJ Burnett can hold onto the 5th rotation spot. Wow. Here’s Keith Law’s analysis, predictably giving the “edge” to the Mariners in the deal despite the obvious fact that Pineda is MLB proven while the other three guys in the deal, aren’t.
Hall of Fame items
- Mike Silva becomes one of the very few BBWAA writers with a HoFame vote to publish support for Jack Morris. I’m sure I’ll be seeing the inevitable Craig Calcarerra blog posting questioning Silva’s IQ for doing so.
- David Shoenfield has a little missive on the HoFame, voting procedures and comments on how few players are getting elected these days.
- Chris Jaffe does an excellent job predicting HoFame votes every year; here’s his guess on 2012’s election. Bad news for Bagwell and Morris, good news for Larkin though.
- Other interesting HoFame notes: one site in particular collects ballots; here’s a summary of the 80-some ballots she has right now. Very good support for Larkin.
- No Bagwell votes here; prepare for the ridiculing. Danny Knobler and Scott Miller.
- I think i’m just about fed up with bloggers who see everything in modern baseball through little spreadsheets of data and who never even saw Jack Morris and Bert Blyleven tell me I’m an idiot because i think the former is a better pitcher than the latter. At some point statistics are just that; numbers that prove or disprove whatever your theories are. You can’t just ignore 20 years of performance and context of playing in the league by boiling down thousands of innings pitched into one number, whether it is ERA+ or WAR or whatever. For me, when you talk about whether a player is a Hall of Famer, you look at individual season accomplishments. Morris basically had 15 seasons of full time pitching. In 5 of those seasons he was a top-5 vote getter in the Cy Young; that means in 5 seasons those people who covered baseball that season considered him among the best 5 pitchers in his league. In another two seasons he didn’t finish top 5 but still received votes. He was god-awful his last two seasons, lowering his career totals. And there’s dozens of examples of him completing games despite having given up 3-4 runs and sitting on 140 pitches. Maybe Morris just needed to pitch in the current era, where he would be taken out in the 7th on a pitch count and then replaced by specialized relievers. Meanwhile Blyleven, in 21 full seasons of starting made exactly TWO all-star games and received comparable Cy Young support 3 times. I’ll ask again; how can you be considered one of the best of all time if nobody who covered you day in and day out during your career thought you were even among the best of your day??
- Jorge Posada announces his retirement; the inevitable “Is he a Hall of Famer” articles start. Immediate gut reaction from me: yes he’s a HoFamer. Unlike some of his Yankees dynasty team members (Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte) Posada seems a bit more transcendent in terms of talent and legacy. A quick glance though at his career stats show some of the problems with his eventual candidacy. He’s a late bloomer; not playing a full-time season til he’s 25. However for the 10 seasons he had from 25 to 35 he was fantastic; 5 all-stars, 5 Silver Sluggers and two top-6 MVP votes. After he turned 35 though he struggled with health and had a relatively poor final season at the plate. He has no gold gloves and had a reputation for having a very weak throwing arm but had a 121 OPS+ for his career (a great offensive player for a catcher). His compareables in b-r are heady company (including Carlton Fisk and Gabby Hartnett). I guess we’ll see in 5 years’ time.
- Jan 9th 2012: the wait is over. Only Larkin elected, Morris and Bagwell vote totals rise but still not close.
- Spreadsheet of all published/known hall of fame votes, with links to explanations. Interesting to say the least; several blank ballots and several very odd ballots to say the least.
General Baseball News
- Buster Olney continues his rankings of the top 10s of baseball; this time with lineups. Predictably its very AL East heavy. Previously he had done rotations, bullpens, infields and outfields. Links to other lists available from this article (ESPN insider only; consider spending $2/month for it; its worth it).
- Buster, after finishing the above rankings, publishes his preliminary 2012 top 10 Power Rankings. Rays #1, Nationals essentially #11/”Best of the Rest.” Boy this team’s reputation has come a long ways in just a few short years.
- Jeff Passan’s A-to-Z discussion on Baseball this off season and in 2012. I link it since I like most everything Passan writes.
- Joe Torre joins an ownership group chasing the LA Dodgers … but not the one that Stan Kasten is heading. Bad move; I think Kasten’s a shoe-in to be Selig’s pick.
- This could have a bigger effect than the loss of Albert Pujols: St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan is taking a leave of absence from the team to care for his ailing wife. Duncan has been such a miracle worker for reclamation project starters over the past few years that its hard to imagine the Cardinals pitching staff not to take a dent.
- The Chicago Cubs franchise potentially takes another hit: Starlin Castro reportedly accused of sexual assault. Castro returned home for the off-season and isn’t in the country; could this incident prevent him from getting a work visa in 2012?
- Jonah Keri takes on one of my favorite topics; calling out Billy Beane and showing how he’s closer to being an incompetent GM than he is to his vaunted reputation as the game’s best GM.
- Great article on Baseball Prospectus about SLAP tears in baseball players (normally pitchers). The article is very heavy on medical jargon but talks about the different types of tears and surgical remedies. This is the injury that Chris Carpenter had and recovered from (though I’m pretty sure he ALSO had Tommy John surgery too).
- Nice book review for “A Unique Look at Big League Baseball.”
- 2012 AL rookie of the year favorite Matt Moore, profiled at seedlingstostars.com. This is part of a series of prospect reviews, counting down to #1 and Moore is ranked #4 … but the author immediately caveats it by saying that any of the top 4 could be #1. I talked about Moore after his playoff start on this site, coming away with a Wow factor that I havn’t had since Strasburg.
- Scout.com’s top 100 Prospect list for 2012. Bryce Harper #3 behind Moore and Mike Trout. Can’t argue there. Other Nats on the list include Anthony Rendon (#56). AJ Cole (#76) and Brad Peacock (#85) would have made us a bit more respectable pre-Gonzalez trade. Here’s hoping that the Nats “other” big prospects (Meyer and Purke in particular) turn in stellar 2012’s and beef up our presence on the national prospect scene again.
General News; other
- Article on 10 “trendy sports medicine” fixes. Including some exotic baseball remedies we’ve heard about recently.
Here’s Tom Boswell’s latest column about the Nats. The more I read it, the more irritated I get with his stance. Maybe it was a column designed to get a reaction of of people. If so maybe I’m just a sucker for reacting (and writing this blog post). So be it; in a town with so little Nats press coverage, those stories that do get printed have that much more import to the general public. And I don’t want the general public feeding off of a crap story like this to get their impression about the team, where it stands, and where its going.
As far as I can tell, Boswell is taking the tired stance that “The Lerner’s are cheap” since they havn’t accomplished what they’ve laid out to accomplish this off-season (namely, obtain a Center Fielder and a Starting Pitcher).
Here’s the gist of one quote that I can’t get over:
If you want to know why it’s almost Christmas and the Nats haven’t signed Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson, why they haven’t bid on Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes, why they haven’t been within a zillion miles of C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder, and especially why they haven’t made a prospects-for-a-star trade such as the Reds for ace Mat Latos, it’s probably because ownership is tensing up, tightening the leash again.
Wow. Well there’s an awful lot of assumptions in here. Player by player:
- Mark Buehrle: the team DID make an offer to him, and came in 2nd. The Marlins, who suddenly are spending money without abandon, guaranteed a 4th year and a TON of money to sign him. Was Buehrle the answer? Was he worth 4 years at $14.5M in average annual value (AAV) per year? To say nothing of the fact that Miami heavily back loaded the contract so that Buehrle will be getting an asounding $19M in 2016, when he’s scheduled to be a soft-tossing lefty turning 36 years old. I’m sorry; its a bad contract and you cannot fault the Nats for not wanting to extend that much money on a guy who is no better than a #3 starter in this league.
- Roy Oswalt: last time I checked, Oswalt hasn’t signed. You can’t MAKE a player sign a contract! Why is it the Nats fault that Oswalt likely is on vacation with his family and hasn’t signed a 2012 contract yet? In fact he specifically said that he was waiting for the markets for both Wilson and Buehrle to clear before he even considered what he was going to do.
- Edwin Jackson: Boras client. Boras clients wait til the last minute to “create the market.” Nobody’s heard a peep out of Boras’ camp yet. Again, how is it the Nat’s fault that Jackson hasn’t signed yet??
- Yu Darvish: $51M in posting fee and then reportedly wants a $75M contract. Darvish isn’t Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia, and those are the only two pitchers with contracts in the 5yr/$120M range. Is Darvish the same as Lee or Sabathia? Not even close. He’s a good prospect who has yet to throw a MLB pitch and who may or may not ever live up to his billing. No other Japanese pitcher has lived up to his billing, so the track record isn’t rosy. There’s taking risks, and then there’s taking ridiculous, franchise altering risks that set you back for 5 years. I will not fault the team for staying out of the Darvish negotiations.
- Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t even established DR residency, so he’s not even an official free agent yet!! How can you fault the team for not pursuing him if he’s not even eligible to sign?? Not to mention the fact that he’s a complete raw talent that needs probably a year and a half of minor league time and couldn’t help us in 2012?
- CJ Wilson was a #2 pitcher who laid a massive egg in the playoffs and signed a lucrative deal to play for his home town team. What makes you think he was even considering coming to Washington?
- Jose Reyes was another bad signing by Miami, giving a ton of money to a clubhouse malcontent, injury risk short stop who only produced when it was his contract year. Why even mention Reyes if he’s not a pitcher or a center fielder, in the context of this article?
- Prince Fielder; again, hasn’t signed yet. Boras client. Not the Nats fault. Maybe Rizzo has spent hours and hours on the phone with Boras and we don’t know. I don’t have a phone tap into the Nats front office, does Boswell? Lets not criticize moves (or lack of them) until they ACTUALLY OCCUR.
- Mat Latos-like deal: well, i’m kinda glad we havn’t made a Latos deal since I thought that deal was incredibly bad for Cincinnati. They gave up one starter, two close-to-the-majors first rounders AND a 4th decent prospect for a guy who I wouldn’t even say is in the best 50 pitchers in the game. If Rizzo mades this trade and gave away the kind of talent that Cincinnati did, there’d be a massive uproar.
Lets face it. The Nats stated needs were always going to be really difficult to fill. Why? Because:
- there was such a lack of starting pitcher FA depth that those candidates out there were ALWAYS going to get bid up ridiculously. Its simple economics; lack of supply means a lot of demand. And, if you’re building a team FOR THE LONG TERM you don’t hamstring yourself trying to chase in the short term.
- There’s even fewer legitimate CF targets out there, either in trade or in the FA market. There’s perhaps 10-12 legitimate CFs in the league who provide plus offense AND plus defense. You’re not going to just “trade for” one of these guys.
So, any deal to fill either spot isn’t going to happen overnight.
Here’s another quote I take issue with:
When are they going to stop trying to build a suspension bridge with the minimum amount of steel and then, as happened in 2008 and ’09, act shocked if it collapses? After one 80-81 third-place year, have they forgotten the pain?
Who says that they are? Last time I checked this team hired Rizzo in 2009, then formulated a plan, and the team has in the last two years improved 10 games each year in the win column while building a top-10 farm system. How can you accuse the team of going off the rails of its own plan just by virtue of the fact that a couple of potential FA targets signed elsewhere in a seller’s market??
Boswell uses phrases in this article such as “All the signs are there,” and “Its probably because…” and “the Nats could end up” and “Its what I suspect is happening.” EVERY one of those phrases is Boswell conjecture. He has no idea what’s really going to happen.
Instead, they’ve done nothing except sign washed-up center fielder Mike Cameron, 39, to a minor league deal.
Really? They’ve done “nothing” except that signing? So all that work scouting players, negotiating with Buehrle, and talking trades was “nothing.” To say nothing of the fact that Cameron, while a minor deal, was a necessary one. This team has NO backup outfielders right now. Just as they have almost no utility infielders. So while CF and a SP were the #1 and #1a off-season priorities, there are other holes to fill.
One more hypocritical quote:
In baseball, no pitfall is more common than becoming infatuated with your own young, unproven, inexpensive players. For example, you look at Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone and figure one of them most likely will become a 100-game winner. Sorry, tilt! Not how it works. They’re nice prospects. But odds are that none ever has a 15-win season. Buehrle and Oswalt already have won 161 and 159 games, respectively — and each may win 50 more.
Oh, so we can’t count on Detwiler, Peacock or Milone (total combined 2012 salary: around $1.2M) but WE SHOULD be throwing upwards of $120M on Yu Darvish!? Because he’s so proven at the major league level? Why isn’t Darvish “just another nice prospect” as well? Wouldn’t you rather see if Brad Peacock is just as good a right handed starter as Darvish at 1/100th of the cost? I would. Especially considering that for that money saved you could end up with somone as good as Darvish AND the next big FA slugger. That’s why you develop prospects, and that’s why you let them play. If instead this is an argument about why we should be getting Oswalt, well see above; Oswalt hasn’t signed yet!
Boswell’s over-riding point seems to be that the Nats need to be spending the anticipated $30M revenue bump they anticipate getting from the new MASN TV contract, now. That’s fair, certainly. But lets not print such a wildly accusatory article when its DECEMBER and half our possible targets are actually still out there. The team may actually still be spending that money! Not to mention the dozens of trade possibilities that nobody’s even considering since, you know, we’re not Mike Rizzo and don’t know what he’s actually considering or talking about with other GMs. We have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow this team may sign Fielder, Oswalt AND Cespedes and suddenly Rizzo and Lerner are the heros.
Until tomorrow happens though, printing this kind of reactionary crap is just that. Crap.
Here’s Tom Boswell‘ weekly Monday chat on 12/19/11. Of the baseball questions he took, here’s how I’d have answered them. With a Redskins unexpected win, I’d think this will be heavy on football, but I thought the same about last week as well. There were a TON of baseball questions. Maybe the town is tiring of Redskins coverage, now that they’re eliminated from the playoffs.
As always, questions are edited for clarity and I write my own answer prior to reading his.
Q: Have you heard anything about the possibility of Da Meathook (Dmitri Young) returning to the Nats to be a role player and mentor?
A: No chance. Dmitri Young was a Jim Bowden reclamation project and no matter how that story may play in the “feel good” category, Rizzo has gone to great pains to rid most of this roster of Bowden players. It is good to see Young losing weight and looking better though. Boswell says little chance, that Young really is a DH/PH now and we’re in the wrong league.
Q: Should the Nats consider Carlos Beltran?
A: Again, hard to see. Beltran was decent in 2011, his first healthy season since 2008. Ironic that it happened in his walk year. But he’s already been moved out of CF, and was not really that good defensively in RF. He’ll want a longer term deal … but we have a certain upper-end RF prospect named Harper coming up who would be blocked. Beltran makes no sense for us. Boswell says no chance, then opines on the lack of movement out of the Nats front office.
Q: What do you make of the Nats (non) moves? Are the Lerners still “cheap?”
A: It was always going to be a weak FA market, and with the Marlins suddenly throwing ridiculous money around and outbidding the team for its targets, it does look as if the team isn’t doing much. The price of #1/#2 starters has just gotten out of control this off-season (see the unbelievable haul that a low-end #1 guy in Mat Latos just got), so I sense the team is re-evaluating. Boswell says you can’t be “cheap” after signing a guy to $126M contract.
Q: Does Rizzo deserve an F for the off-season so far? Missed out on Buerle and no CF either.
A: Man, people are impatient. Maybe the team underbid on Buehrle, but they were NEVER going to go 4yrs and $56M dollars on the guy. I’m sorry; he’s a #3 pitcher, a soft-tossing lefty who never gets hurt. That’s NOT an ace, that’s not worth $13M a year. As for CF, there’s no good FAs out there, so it was always going to be a trade. Last time i checked its only December and the off-season is only half-way done. I’d rather stand pat than make a panic buy. Boswell says Rizzo needs to be judged 5 years down the road on his 2011 draft signings.
Q: Have we seen the last off-season addition?
A: I don’t think so, but the likelihood of seeing a “major” acquisition now seems thin. It is what it is; 2012’s FA crop was weak and everyone got bid up. Notice how the Yankees and Red Sox didn’t get anyone either, and BOTH those teams desperately need starting pitching. Boswell takes his third question on the same topic and just says that if the team hits better they’ll be better next year. duh
Q: Do you think Endy Chavez could be a decent short-term filler for the Nats in centerfield, or maybe resigning Rick Ankiel, who played pretty well turing the final two months of last season?
A: Well, its too late for Chavez, who signed a deal over the weekend with Baltimore. I wouldn’t be opposed to re-signing Ankiel but ONLY as a 4th outfielder. Boswell agrees.
Q: Who’s going to spend the most time in center for the Nats this year? 1. Werth, 2.Cespedes, 3. Ankiel (if he returns), 4. Bernadina (ugh) or 5. someone else?
A: I’ll go with Werth first, but say “someone else” if Rizzo makes his desired trade. Holding out hope for Upton or Bourjos or someone like that. Boswell exactly writes what I wrote.
Q: If the Nats are able to sign or trade for a CFer and they bring up Bryce Harper during the season, does Adam LaRoche become the odd man out this season?
A: If Nats get a CFer, then yes eventually it will come down to either Morse or LaRoche making way. As of now, its hard to see Morse leaving, but you never know in this game. Morse could break a leg and LaRoche could come back 110% in his walk year, and in June we’ll be singing a different tune. Boswell thinks LaRoche is mr. comeback in 2012 and will “make the team glad they have a club option.” Wow, that’s a statement.
Q: Should the Nats really wait til NEXT off-season to hit the FA market?
A: Yes. Yes. Yes. The 2013 FA pool is so much better than this years, that it almost doesn’t make sense to compete and over-pay. As a longer term fan of this team, I would support and argue for such a move. Play the kids in 2012 and figure out what you have, then go on a spending spree to make a pennant-contender in 2013. Boswell says this is exactly what Davey Johnson is advocating.
Q: What are the odds that the Nats do right by the fans and sign Zimm to a Tulo type deal before Spring Training? After watching the Pujols intro in LA, if we have to endure a similar scene w/ Ryan I plan on marching to Nats Park and burn my jersey at the main gate.
A: Lots of repeat questions today. This question was the Question #1 from last week’s boswell Chat. Short answer; Nats don’t pursue long term deal with Zimmerman til after next season. Boswell changes his stance from last week and says the team MUST get it done before the 2012 all-star break. Why? Still disagree here.
Q: Is the reluctance to sign Fielder just about money? He is clearly an upgrade over LaRoche at the plate and would instantly upgrade the offense.
A: I’d be reluctant for several reasons. Money (its a lot), wasted money (on LaRoche), his conditioning (abhorrent for an athlete) and his defensive inadequacies. He does mash though. Boswell likes Laroche, says Morse is a good 1B as well, and doesn’t advocate spending $200M on one position.
Q: Remember the knock on Mike Rizzo was that he would have trouble with some of the non-baseball aspects of a GM job (i.e. media)? We’re a few years in and while the Nats are greatly improved, I’m skeptical of Rizzo. He seems like he’s playing out of position — strong on scouting, not so much on other stuff. Does it even matter given the ownership?
A: I still think Rizzo was partly responsible for the Riggleman situation, and should have done a better “people management” job than he did. But otherwise I don’t have an issue with Rizzo’s performance. The team has completely turned around in just 2 years under his command; what else do you want out of a GM? 3 great drafts, a 20game improvement on the field? Are we getting spoiled here? Boswell agrees, and says that the Werth contract still weighs on him.
Q: Thoughts on the Mat Latos trade? Seems the cost of quality SP is especially high this year—whether you’re Roy Oswalt or the ChiSox looking to trade Danks, the Nats are going to have to spend or give up real value to add that piece to their rotation. Any new developments?
A: The Latos deal is shocking; he’s not exactly a Cy Young candidate in my mind; just a very good, young pitcher. The Reds gave up two developed #1 draft picks (including a very quick to the majors guy in Yonder Alonso), plus an established (albeit injured) Volquez and another guy for Latos. That’s a really expensive trade. Latos better work. How does that affect the Nats? It probably scares the crap out of them. Boswell quotes Jim Bowden’s analysis (?!) and says the Padres may have swindled the Reds here.
Q: Would you be interested in Adam Jones if you were the Nats and who would you be willing to give up?
A: Jones is an interesting candidate. Good bat but not the best in the field. I didn’t even consider him a trade candidate in my CF analysis piece but maybe he is. O’s need pitching, so maybe there’s a fit there. But, the O’s may not have a ready-made replacement for Jones, who is 25 and still under club control for 2 more years. So he won’t be cheap. I’d give up a Detwiler or a Milone but not much more. Boswell agrees with the trade needs, but says Angelos would never trade with Washington on the off-chance that the Nats looked like they “took” him in a deal.
Q: It’s Opening Day 2012 in DC. Sellout crowd, beautiful weather. Perfect day for baseball. Who’s playing CF for the Nats, & who’s hitting leadoff. For that matter, since I’ve asked you to consult your crystal ball, what’s the pitching rotation?
A: Another repeat question. Your CF is Werth, with a yet-to-be named 1-yr FA playing in RF. Rotation is Stras-Zimmerman-Lannan-Wang-Detwiler. Leadoff is (still) Desmond, because the team hasn’t done anything to replace him. But i’m still holding out hope that the team a) signs Oswalt and b) trades for Upton. So we’ll see. Boswell thinks Harper’s making the opening day roster, and Milone is #5 starter. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Another edition of mlb.com beat reporter Bill Ladson’s inbox, dated 12/12/11. I’m a bit behind this week but the questions are still current.
As always, I write my response before reading his, and sometimes edit questions for clarity.
Q: Would Prince Fielder pick the Nats over other suitors because we’re closer to the playoffs?
A: He could … if the Nats were really interested. Its hard to tell right now if the team is really interested in Fielder. He doesn’t really fit Mike Rizzo’s vision of a team of track stars. He’d block the natural eventual position of Michael Morse, who right now is blocking one or more high-end prospect we have coming up. We have a first baseman in Adam LaRoche already under contract for 2012. The move, while certainly a massive upgrade at 1st over what we got out of LaRoche last year, would also waste a significant portion of their 2012 payroll. We’ll see what happens; if this team is really serious about winning, then getting more offense is paramount. Ladson says the team is not pursuing him.
Q: What was the point of the Ryan Perry-Collin Balester trade?
A: For the Nats, its a great move. We take a guy who probably wasn’t in our 2012 plans and who was out of options and turn him into exactly what we do need; a hard-throwing right handed bullpen option. I can’t speak for the Tigers, who probably have soured on Perry after his poor 2011 numbers, and who may have wanted/needed a longer-man out of the pen. Ladson says both guys needed a change of scenery.
Q: Would Casey Blake be a good addition to the Nats’ bench? He has better overall numbers than Mark DeRosa.
A: Sure, except that he’s probably still thinking he’s a starter. He was serviceable in 2009 and 2010 and got hurt in 2011. If he took a backup position, absolutely. Ladson agrees.
Q: Why have the Nationals been so quiet this offseason? I thought that they were looking to add the final pieces. If they don’t act, the Nationals may miss their window.
A: I’m guessing the team wasn’t really in on any of the names that have dropped thus far. They got flat-outbid for Buehrle, wasn’t that into Wilson, and we havn’t heard a peep out of Oswalt’s camp. There’s no major CF on the market, and trades are gonna be tough to make happen. Ladson agrees, and says perhaps the team will be on Cespedes.
Q: I’ve heard the Nationals are interested in Cespedes. Can he make an immediate impact at the Major League level?
A: Speak of the devil. The team is interested, and there’s almost no chance he makes an immediate impact frankly. Cuba is considered a high-A level of talent, so he’d clearly be looking at some minor league time. This team needs a CF for opening day. Cespedes makes more sense for a team with a good pipeline of talent not afraid to take an expensive long term risk. I’m not sure he makes sense for us. Ladson gives a non-answer.
Q: A while ago, there was talk about Hanley Ramirez requesting a trade due to his unwillingness to move to third base. What are the chances that the Nats move shortstop Ian Desmond to the Rays for B.J. Upton and then send Stephen Lombardozzi and LaRoche to the Marlins for Ramirez? This would give the Nationals an All-Star shortstop and center fielder. This would also allow for Morse to move back to first base and Bryce Harper to play left field.
A: (I had to cut-n-paste this whole question so I could properly mock it). Desmond is turning into a complete good-field no-hit player, while BJ Upton is nearly a 5-tool player. How is that possibly an even trade? Then, an even more ridiculous trade proposal; a 3rd tier first baseman and a slap hitting middle infielder prospect for one of the best players in the game. Why, why would either of the Florida teams do these trades??
Ladson actually says he’d rather have Desmond instead of Upton!? And then gives credence to the Ramirez trade. *Sigh*.