Friday, March 26, 2010

What purpose does it serve?

A stat heavy analysis showing how Willie Harris is just as good if not better than Elijah Dukes got me to thinking about the why's and wherefores of this decision. And as I did, the beginnings of a pattern emerged . . .

It is true to say any angst over the Dukes release is over his potential not his production.

And it's also true that the most likely outcome is no real difference in production between Harris and Dukes in RF for 2010.

But this angst as it were is real. Essentially, the Nats FO decided they would rather have veteran mediocrity rather than gamble on finding a potential All-Star.

I'm not saying Dukes will develop into a feared middle of the order power hitter and model citizen elsewhere. In fact, he likely won't. But a player with his skill set (which included until 2009 plate discipline) has a chance to turn into a far above average player. The Nats NEED above average players. They have 1. One.

This continues the path this new FO has taken since they took over. A preference for veteran stability over gambles on potential. That's fine if you are the Yankees or the Red Sox but when you lose 205 games over two years, what do you have to lose taking big risks?

They didn't take a risk and sign Aroldis Chapman. They could have. Easily. They have plenty of spare payroll not doing anything useful. The Morgan trade was the same thing. Got older and less upside. Sure Morgan was undervalued but if his hammy's are barking, he less than useless.

Pudge, Marquis, Adam Kennedy . . . all the same thing. Old and average at best. What is the point of squandering playing time on them? What purpose does it serve?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nationals Journal - Craig Stammen states his case for Nationals rotation

Nationals Journal
- Craig Stammen states his case for Nationals rotation

I know the "I was hurt last year and now I feel great" is a spring training cliche. Yet, despite the apparent agony in his right arm, Stamman went from A to the bigs and was at least not totally embarrassing. Must be something there, maybe not in pure "stuff" but in having the mentality to pitch in pressure situations. Something to be said for a guy who can repeat his delivery, maintain reasonable control and make pitches in key situations on the major league level. Lots of guys make a lot of money being able to do just that.

I'm still waiting to see what they do with their decision at shortstop. It's doesn't seem to be a difficult choice: one one hand you have a 24 year old who has shown above positional average hitting skills and at least has a ++ arm defensively. On the other hand you have an aging fast, league average at best with the bat and declining range and arm but making $8m vet who will sulk if not playing everyday. Sulk away. The $8m should cushion any hurt feelings.

What purpose does it serve to waste ABs on Guzman at this point? Essentially, the only flaw keeping Desmond from being an above average shortstop is concentration. If he can execute a higher percentage of routine plays in the field and maintain current levels of offense, suddenly the Nats have filled a spot at above league average. Can't say that about most spots. Give Desmond the job and let him sink or swim. He has a chance to be part of a decent Nats team in the future and Guzman doesn't.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Elijah Dukes released (updated)

Nationals Journal
- Elijah Dukes released (updated)

He better have done something really wrong.

JimBo implied on his twitter account there was an "incident" and the Nats showed zero tolerance.

That would be OK. I could live with that.

But if you are telling me Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris and Mike Morse are a better options than Dukes well that's just nuts.

Dukes was 25. It's not like he's a grizzled veteran who has reached the limits of his talents. He has shown everything you would want in a middle of the order outfielder (pre-2009 plate discipline) prodigious power and even defense. Effort has been spotty at times but there were moments of sublime hustle.

Please just tell us the truth. It wasn't a baseball decision so don't insult us by claiming it is. You don't have to go into details. I don't need to know what exactly happened.

Of course, this may be a Cris Carter situation. Let's hope not.

(Carter backstory: played for Buddy Ryan and the Eagles early in his career. Was a drunk, in such bad shape the Eagles just dumped him. Cleaned up his life and had a near Hall of Fame Career in Minnesota. When asked why was carter released, Buddy Ryan famously said "All he does is catch touchdowns." It was used for years to savage Ryan football acumen but now after Carter came forward with the story, Ryan was the hero protecting Carter's reputation and giving him a chance at redemption.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sheets pounded for 10 runs without getting an out -

Sheets pounded for 10 runs without getting an out -

Remember all those electrons I killed going on and on about Sheets (and Rich H. for that matter). Well never mind.

Although, in my defense, they are both more advanced than Wang and there are still a few weeks before any of this really matters.

So, with that out of the way, I'd like to take a bow as one of the few to put Garrett Mock in the rotation. You take the good with the bad.

And now for your random pathetic Washington Nationals statistic of the Day courtesy of Joe Posnanski:

Now, by my calculations, Washington lost 24 times in 2009 when the Nationals had more men on base. I cannot tell if this is hopeful sign or a discouraging sign. There are a lot of things I can’t tell about the Nationals. I can also tell you that the Nationals lost a game to Atlanta when they got 23 men on base, a very difficult thing to do. What’s even more amazing … they lost the game 6-5. To score five runs with 23 men on base is a pretty tough trick — teams will, on average, score a run for ever three or four runners they get on.

One note: 23/3=7.6 23/4=5.75 So, if you can expect to score one run for every four runners, the Nats were just a fraction off.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thomas Boswell - Washington Nationals have major personnel decisions to make -

Thomas Boswell - Washington Nationals have major personnel decisions to make -

Maybe I just don't recall, or maybe I haven't seen it but I can't think of any work done on relief pitcher workloads and effectiveness.

What I do know is Boz's scattershot pick examples that support your point is most likely a bunch of horses(*^(

Imagine that: pitchers get hurt. That NEVER happens. Or pitchers who make it to the majors as a reliever have a short shelf life of effectiveness. Hmmmmm. Wonder why that could be?

Maybe it's because they had a flaw that pushed them toward the far less useful relief pitcher role. Like they only had one pitch (Gregg Olsen's curve for example) or they had major control issues (like Wild Thing). Or maybe they didn't have the arm strength to handle any kind of workload in the first place.

They could hide the flaw for a season or two or even five but eventually the league caught up to them (or they got hurt).

Oh and nice cherry picking Boz. Name three long time dominant relievers who didn't save 20 games before they were 25? Let's see . . . Rivera and Hoffman didn't pitch a full season in the bigs until they were . . . 25!!!!!!!! Wow. And Wagner? He was 24. And "established closer" Todd Jones was on the roster. (Strangely so was Gregg Olsen?)

Now it is true that many long term successful relief pitchers start out in a set up role. Which as I currently understand it is exactly what the Nats would ask Storen to do this season. Since we have "established closer" Matt Capps to blow 9th inning leads this year.

There may be an argument to keep Storen in the minors. But the only reasons should be 1) can he get big league hitters out and 2) How much can the team save by delaying his arb clock?
As for Dunn, I don't see the dilemma. Scouts say Dunn is a terrible fielder. Stat guys say he's God awful. It's dogs and cats living together mass hysteria . . . they AGREE just not to the same extent.

If I had any faith in the Front Office, I'd say Dunn's a DH and while his bat is incredibly valuable, we're a National League team and we just don't use the DH enough. We can get about what we can get from Dunn overall for a fraction of the price and use the savings to patch up other areas. (Or maybe spend on draft picks or international free agents . . . . sorry that was my own fevered delusion, what I meant to say was spend on new paneling for the President's club or to ship authentic cheese steaks down from Philly so the Phillie fans will be happy on those dates)

On Guzman. Sunk cost. No one is going to be fooled into thinking Guzzie is an answer no matter how hot he gets this season. You aren't going to get much for him unless you throw in cash and (hahahahah did I say throw in cash I must be losing it again).

If Desmond earns the job and Guzman sulks, deal with it then. If you have to let him go, well the world didn't end when FLop left.

Lastly, Sunday=Step two. Can you feel the buzz? The drumbeat steadily building. Another scoreless outing and it'll be even tough to justify minor league time. They better be careful or this will quickly escalate.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nationals Journal - One man's Nationals roster guess and links

Nationals Journal
- One man's Nationals roster guess and links

Left a recap of my Why Olsen, why not Mock tirade here.

So instead of reprinting that, how about a rebuttal of the Mike Morse=Jayson Werth comment.

Eerily similar major league numbers through the same age. Hmmmm.

Werth was always considered a good athlete even for a catcher. Morse must be and OK athlete since he started as a shortstop and even made the bigs as a shortstop.

Slg percentages pretty equal up and down the dial too.

BIG DIFFERENCE: Morse's career minor league .329 OBP. I'll give him the .353 OBP in parts of 4 AAA seasons. But I will note that this is LOWER than Werth's lowest OBP (.355 in 4 AAA seasons) and well below Werth's .369 career minor league OBP.

Werth has the additional skill of getting on base, that's what will separate him from Morse.

On a positive note, let's hope the traditional opening week losing streak is being taken care of already. Get the massive losing streak out of the way now so it doesn't happen in early Arpil like usual.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Miggy Said

Jayson Stark: Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg makes quite a first impression - ESPN

So we know exactly what Miggy Cabrera thought:

"When he throws the ball," Cabrera said, "it's like an explosion."

Jim Leyland says:

I was more impressed with the breaking ball," Leyland said. "A lot of guys now are throwing 96-97. Not many have the breaking ball to go with it. That's a very gifted young man. I was very impressed with him."

And then Stark writes the scenario I thought somewhat likely before ST began:

But suppose what they get the rest of this spring is more of what they saw Tuesday? Suppose the zeros on the scoreboard just keep mounting when he pitches while all the pitchers around Strasburg keep posting these same crooked numbers? Then what?

Then what indeed.

Now, please someone ask Riggs about why the hell Desmond was playing right field!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I have seen the light!

Ok. So two hits. And he couldn't throw a first pitch strike. I got it.

But, as soon as they pry the Jack Daniels bottle away from Miguel Cabrera, let's ask him about that hammer SS dropped on him. Ridiculous.

And the bender that left random Motown scrub shaking his head? Filthy. 3-2 count 2 outs two on and he unleashes THAT!

I didn't see one ball hit on the screws either. Every ball that was hit wasn't hit well. Not many guys going to make a living hitting weak grounders to 3rd against the Nats.

So, point one accomplished. A successful first outing against real live big leaguers. And just for fun, the rest of the staff is stinking up the joint. It's going to be a lot harder to keep our biy down on the farm if things keep heading in this direction.

I am not going to make it to Opening Day

Aroldis Chapman hits 100 mph, strikes out three in Reds debut - Big League Stew - MLB Blog - Yahoo! Sports

How much?

How much would it have taken?

Another $5m? another $7m? It would not have taken much in the grand scheme of things. Less than 10% of what you get from MLB for revenue sharing.

How many $10 briskets or $200 club seats? How many more TV viewers?

Last time. Not going to go on about it anymore. But G D it, this owuld have made this spring so much better.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Guzman Conundrum

Nationals Journal
- Cristian Guzman, the Nationals' No. 2 hitter

Why worry about the abysmal pitching so far this spring? Hopefully it's just the chaff getting separated early (although it doesn't explains Marquis' 2nd Inning)

What's more interesting at least right now is what to do about Guzman. His contract and his veteraness means he's probably destined to start but everyone with eyes and a calculator (not necessarily in that order) can see Ian Desmond is a much better choice.

Now that's not to say Desmond is destined to carry his Sept '09 and early ST '10 success forward for an entire season. But we do know this: it's an almost mortal lock that the best possible season from Guzman will be barely replacement level (taking sub mediocre hitting and defense into account.)

That would be fine for a team needing to not have a sucking chest wound in the middle of its infield. One that may contend for example. But that's not the Nats. The Nats need to use the precious PA's they have to gamble on a younger talent, to see if he's the answer or just a future Willie Harris.

We in the internet ether can only speculate on why such an obvious choice is ignored. After all, we don't sign Guzman's paycheck. It's not our $8m down the drain if he doesn't play, if his lack of playing time causes clubhouse dissent. It is worth wondering exactly why the organization would choose to make that decision.

Figuring out why they make the wrong choice would go a long way toward understanding if they will ever be able to make the smart choices (and hard choices by definition) necessary to build a consistent winner. If they are cheap ass bastards, we can expect a Oakland-like trajectory as the high point (might be contenders for year or two before starting over) or Pittsburgh/Kansas City on the down side.

Nothing I've seen from the Lerner's gives me any encouragement that we're looking at an Arte Moreno/John Henry/Stenibrenner big market dominant type franchise. Exhibit A: Henry was willing to eat Mike Lowell's crap sandwich of a contract to make his '10 team better. He is going to eat it in a slightly different way now but we know what Henry will do to win. Guzman's status will tell us one piece of what we need to know about the Lerner's and I'm afraid I won't like the answer.