Thursday, May 27, 2010

Capitol Punishment: Getting Creative With Strasburg--A Washington Nationals Blog

Capitol Punishment: Getting Creative With Strasburg--A Washington Nationals Blog

Apparently some are kvetching about the bait and switch the Nats did with the 6/4 date, getting a sellout on a game that otherwise would've seen 18,000 miserable souls. Really... what the hell are these people thinking? They've got no reason to complain. The team (almost to the point of absurdity) didn't say a damn thing about when he'd start, and they went out of their way to say that they WEREN'T going to announce it.

I do blame the team and here's why:

There is NO reason for them to NOT tell paying customers what they will or won't be seeing on any given day.

Hey, U2 is playing Friday night at the Verizon Center . . . or maybe Sunday. Buy a ticket for either or both you never know what you are going to get.

It's an entertainment product. People want to pay to see Strasburg pitch. So why the FUC* is it a national secret when some dude is going to toss a baseball?

The coy jackassery of "well we never said when we're going to bring him up" is the real outrage. They have complete control over that decision, they could do it at any time for any reason. And they chose to make that decision in such as way as to squeeze sales from their fans they wouldn't have otherwise gotten.

Why were the Keyboard Kommandos dabbling in speculation? Because of the complete lack of anything resembling candor from the front office. And why wouldn't they just come out and say here's the plan? Give me one reason why it wasn't possible to say our plan is for him to pitch X innings at AA, Y innings at AAA and then (if he pitches well) to bring him up June X so we can control his arb clock. That's called honesty. Instead we get BS platitudes and outright lies. Oh and if the lies and speculation puts a few extra sheckles in our pockets, it's not our fault.

Does anyone buy the BS about pitching from the stretch and learning to handle being a professional ballplayer. Point #2 seems kind of obviated by Mike Leake, he didn't need a two month primer on being a big league ballplayer.

Would it have been terrible to say: We want him to pitch in Harrisburg and Syracuse X number of times as a measure of good faith in our farm clubs? Who could blame them for that? That's actually smart business and they would be applauded. Hell, you could even call Strasburg's extra AAA start an investment in player development for the long term.

It's not what they are doing but how they are going about doing it. No one believes they had not decided long before now about when he was going to pitch and where. They chose not to disclose that information and as a result of their lack of candor, they made millions. Congrats. You hoodwinked the fans. Aren't you sooooo smart? Like how we surreptitiously sold opening day ticket packages to Philly fans . . .

Yes I am going to go there. This kind of business is Snyderian. And one Snyderian sports team in the area is one too many.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Joe Posnanski � Blog Archive � Diary of a Losing Team, 5/17

Joe Posnanski � Blog Archive � Diary of a Losing Team, 5/17

Please read this and mentally replace the word Royals with the word Nationals.

The Nationals have made fewer developmental mistakes than the Royals I will grant you that. But in terms of leveraging their greatest asset; time, they have been just as bad if not worse.

I would add that the Royals don't have the resources the Nationals command. Even so, the Royals have paid above slot in the draft for multiple players over the past few years AND they have been active internationally. This despite the fact they gave former Nat Jose Guillen $30m+.

2011, 2012, 2013 those are the years to be aiming at.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A bullpen audit reveals some problems for Mets, Nats and others - Buster Olney - MLB blog - ESPN

A bullpen audit reveals some problems for Mets, Nats and others - Buster Olney - MLB blog - ESPN

The feeling among rival executives is that they are apt to be aggressive before the trade deadline, the kind of team willing to take on a contract -- like Oswalt's -- that might appear oversized to other teams. The Nats' window of opportunity is opening, and Storen's promotion so early in the season tells us that they will work like crazy this summer to climb through (in spite of their three-game slide in Colorado)

This is the money quote from Buster's column this morning. One, if these "rival executives" believe the cheap ass owners of the Nats are going to open the vaults for any reason, they are seriously mistaken. (I note but don't link to, the fact that the Cincinnati Reds signed ANOTHER Cuban defector. The Reds. With their puny media market. They could afford to spend money on a lottery ticket for the future and the Nats wouldn't. That tell you all you need to know about the willingness of this team to spend)

Of course, I could be wrong and the Nationals could decide they are "in contention" and would make a play for Oswalt or another big contract. I seriously doubt two things about this scenario: First, the fact they would actually pony up the dough and two the contention that this team is in any way shape or form a contender.

News flash: it is not. It wasn't at 20-15 and its still not at 20-18. You are two games over .500 with otherworldly performances out of Livan!, the ancient Pudge, and Clip and Save. With historically bad RF production. With a bench that is at best atrocious and at worst a joke. This is not a contender. Please don't think a month and a half of .500 baseball makes you into one. Stick with the Plan such as it is. Be sellers. Get more assets, get a RF for the future, get more pitching, get a real 2B (hey how's about Kelly Johnson??? Oh wait, he was freely available for a little bit of the Lerner's cash this offseason and well THAT's a bridge too far, spending cash.)

I know the marketing psychology: hey we need to show the Washington baseball consumer we will do everything we can to win. We'll build some momentum with SS and Storen in town. Add a high profile trade and we can market a lot more sizzle this summer.

I don't even necessarily OPPOSE a trade for a overpriced veteran. I've lobbied for such things in the past. My only reservation is: overpaying. If the Nats want to take bad contracts off the hands of other teams, I am in favor of that. I am not in favor of actually paying any price in future baseball talent for the privilege of paying overpriced veterans. Leveraging the asset of massive payroll room would be a good thing, make a trade to add a high priced veteran at the expense of future assets with the thought of actual post season contention is a delusion and a terrible mistake.

Not that we will ever know, but if the theory the Storen call up is a reward for an easy signing then I have to question the wisdom of such a deal. Calling him up now means a shot at Super 2 status and essentially getting Storen to arbitration a year early. That's potentially a $3-5m swing. Is it worth the risk for these few weeks? I don't see why. BUt I am glad he's here now.

The sweetest words I've seen all season: Willy Tavares DFA'ed. Should I feel bad the guy lost his job with a kid on the way? No. Not when you've pocketed millions over the past two years. Willy: enjoy your kid and take what's left of Cincinnati and Oakland's money and buy gold.

So long Brian Bruney. It was a decent risk and it just didn't pan out. Call us when you can find home plate.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

cybercritics -

Please make a note of this Phil Wood column. I want to pull it out later this year when the "grittiness" and "knows how to win ness" isn't there anymore.

The Nationals are 19-15. That is a fact. It is also a fact that they have been outscored on the year 160-144. Over the long history of baseball, teams that are outscored by their opponents tend to lose. At least they lose more often than they win. Now for short stretches teams that are outscored win more than they lose. How do they do this? Normally, they win a lot of close games (check).

For a baseball historian like Wood, it shouldn't too difficult to remember a similar situation involving the Nationals. 2005 -- the first year. 50-31 in the thick of the postseason race. Remember that Phil? What was that record in the second half? 31-50? Yep. It was. What powered that amazing first half? Yep, a lot of close wins.

I am one of those cybercritics he talks about. And I have no problem staying with my analysis. Last year, when Wood and other were calling the Nats the worst team of all time, I was forever pointing out they were not as bad as their record indicated and things would improve if only by dint of regression to the mean in terms of luck.

I was right then and I say now they will regress to the mean again. They weren't as bad as they appeared last year and they aren't as good as they appear right now. I'll take any odds you want on Pudge winning the NL batting title (I get the field) and Livan! winning the CY. They will regress, Clip and Save will regress they will find their level. I'll enjoy the ride as long as it lasts -- the only thing that worries me is: a Preston Wilson moment. Fans can buy into the grittyness causes winning all they want, just make sure the FO doesn't. Remember where you are on the success cycle, you are still at the bottom fellows and you need to act that way.

Now, I reserve the right to change this analysis in early June.

Because I watched the first five innings of last nights Norfolk/Syracuse game. I'm no scout so I'll just repeat what I heard Curt Schilling (a guy with some creditability on the subject of pitching) say: "I've never seen anything like this."

I'll bet the FO is not too happy MASN showed that game. Because if anyone watched it, they would realize this stint in the minors is all about arbitration. This is the correct decision for the long term prospects for the franchise. So, please stop insulting the intelligence of any half sentient baseball fan by saying anything other than that.

Right now, today the bottom third of most National League lineups would stand virtually no chance against SS. And the top half's might turn around a couple of those 96 MPH fastballs, they might punish the one or two hanging curves he threw but for the most part they would look exactly like the majority of Norfolk hitters did last night: totally helpless. Scott Moore couldn't have put a tennis racket on the ball.

I think my favorite moment came when Steve Grilli, the color guy, said on a 3-2 pitch after a nasty FB on the black, he just needs to throw a get it over curve and he'll have a strikeout. Then SS threw a 12-6 bender that bisected the strike zone. I wish I had a freeze frame of the hitters face -- eyes rolled up in utter disbelief.

I say I reserve the right to change my opinion after SS joins the rotation because one time in every five for the rest of the season, the Nats will go into a game as the favorite. Maybe Timmy L, Halladay or Wainwright might make it a toss up but that's it. If nothing else, 1 in 5 games will be worth watching.

(I didn't think about Zach Grienke before I typed this section. One ace starter does not a decent team make. However, I will grant you the Nats supporting cast is better than the Royals and that will make a huge difference.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Who do YOU trust?

A baseball resolution:

Rob Dibble: "Is it frustrating sometimes to watch Adam Dunn be so patient? Because he had three walks early in the game and then he took some pitches in the extra innings that, if he was a DH in the American League, you'd want him to hack at those, but sometimes Adam's looking walk and he's got a certain thought process, have you discussed maybe him expanding his zone from time to time?"

Jim Riggleman: "I tell you what, Dib. You hit it right on the head. You know, that's been discussed many times, people in the organization have had a lot of history with him, like Tim Foli from the Cincinnati days and so forth, and [Hitting Coach Rick] Eckstein and myself and others have mentioned to him how much damage he could do by not taking as much, and you know, I can't explain it, but there's just something about these guys, I mean you can go back to the history of Ted Williams in the game who they say they used to try to get him to go out of the zone a little more and swing at some pitches, and he just either couldn't do it, wouldn't do it, wasn't comfortable with it, it messed up his game or whatever, but, I know what you're alluding to, you know, I felt the same way in the last inning, if he airs one out there, who knows what happens. But, he's selective up there, his OBP is usually up around .400, it's been a successful style of play for him, but I hear what you're saying, every now and then you'd like to see him go out of the zone and hit one even if it's the other way." 

Hmmmm. So do I side with a big mouth relief pitcher and a manager who is a baseball lifer but hasn't won anything of note or do I side with THE GREATEST HITTER OF ALL TIME!!!!!!!

Ted Williams didn't swing at pitches out of the strike zone and he should have.  Ole Teddy Ballgame, Hub Bids Kid Adieu subject was just dead wrong in his approach to hitting. 

First, avoid outs.  News flash: out are bad ummkay.  Second, if he starts swinging at pitches that aren't strikes he will make MORE outs. Now once in a while he'll get a hit on one of those pitches but the pitches out of the strike zone are KIND OF HARD TO HIT ANYWAY!  Swinging at pitches off the plate means YOU GET LESS STRIKES THROWN OR LESS PITCHES IN AREAS WHERE YOU CAN HIT THEM HARD.  IOW, you trade a couple of extra hits for a whole bushel basket full of outs.  Not a good trade.

Noodle this through: if a pitcher could get a batter out without throwing him a strike, would he do so?  OF COURSE HE WOULD.  So expanding the zone is an open invitation to get fewer pitches to hit in an at bat. 

Now the argument would be: Well not in ALL circumstance should Dunn expand his strike zone.  Just key ones.  Hmmm.  So I have to throw Dunn a strike with 2 outs no one on in the 1st but two on two outs in the 9th and I can toss any old slop up there and he'll be hacking away?  It's MORE important to be selective in key situations  . . . . put the pressure on the pitcher to throw strikes. Sometimes the pitcher wins. It happens.   Turning Dunn into a Christian Guzman clone is a bad idea from start to finish.

Nationals Journal - Scott Olsen has been a keeper

Nationals Journal
- Scott Olsen has been a keeper

He certainly has been. Whatever he and Livan! Clip & Save are doing, make every other pitcher in the organization do it too.

Whatever it is, it makes guys pitch way over their heads, at least for now. I goes to show, you take a guy who had been mediocre at best over four major league seasons, throw in shoulder surgery and poof, you have an ace! I know Olsen can't keep this pace up but I also knew he wouldn't be an asset to the Nats this season just a few weeks ago. So what do I know?

I don't know about anyone else, but this first 28 games have been odd. I keep expecting a losing streak, a week full of losses one after the other and it hasn't come yet. I'm still surprised if I turn on the game halfway through and the Nats are leading. I simply don't expect it yet. Perhaps a few more weeks of this win as many as you lose and that will change. And maybe that makes the add old guys to help win a little now strategy valid.

On another note, Colten Willems retirement puts a cap on what looks to be a disastrous 2006 draft. Running down the draft order and seeing emerging players like #28 Daniel Bard 6 slots after Willems . NL ROY Chris Coghlan at #36 Colby Rasmus at 38 Joba Chamberlain at 41 Wade LeBlanc at 61 (2 slots after unsigned Sean Black) how about another young Red Sox Justin Masterson one spot after bust Stephen Englund.

Aside from Chris Marrero (who isn't exactly blowing the doors off in AA so far) you have to go all the way down to 151 to find someone still in the organization who may advance Cory Van Allen.

Two guys have come and gone and come back (and likely won't amount to much in Glenn Gibson and Zech Zinicola.

Doug Fister and Davis Freese were plucked by other teams in Rds. 7 & 9 respectively. Nats 9th rounder Sean Rooney still around but I've no idea about the Nats 7th or 8th rounders.

#289 Round 10 Tampa Bay takes Desmond Jennings a JC OF. Like to have him right about now.

Here's a good one: Round 11 #331 Nats take Desmond Jones? RHP. Pads take at #333 Mat Latos. Ouch

Erik Arnesen, Adam Carr and Tyler Moore are the only other draft picks I recognize. That's a pretty weak draft by any standard.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Nationals Journal - John Lannan to miss next start

Nationals Journal
- John Lannan to miss next start

Another Nats pitcher covers up arm soreness, pitches terribly, then gets an MRI. Stamman & Zimmermann last year and Lannan, Marquis and Mock this year. How many more arms is this team going to sacrifice?

Don't the coaches notice when one of their guys is off? Can't they tell a guy is not throwing with ease? They never hear the guy complain or hear him say OWWWWW after snapping off a curve?

Riz, you have a problem with baseball operations. I know pitchers get hurt but c'mon. These are your prize assets. It does no one any good to have them out there throwing BP and getting hammered. Do something to sniff out these problems BEFORE they take to the hill and either A) stink B) get further injured or C) BOTH!!!!