Friday, April 27, 2012

Not that anyone cares but I approve this message

Nationals minor leagues: How Hagerstown scored 24 runs and the rise of Danny Rosenbaum - Nationals Journal - The Washington Post:

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Harris said Skole’s patience signified why Hagerstown has “started to heat up. They’re doing a very good job of controlling the strike zone.”

I heartily approve this organizational message.  Although as a complete nerd I did ask the Fangraphs prospect maven about Skole yesterday and he said he didn't like Skole coming out of college but that he had dropped 20-30 lbs and looked much better at the plate. The field well that was a different story.  I remain hopeful since I sat at the Pfitz a while back and saw Mike Moustakous lose a game when a three hopper went right between the wickets. I would have sworn to you he couldn't handle the hot corner in a slo pitch softball league after that but now I can't turn on webgems without seeing him making a play.   So let hope spring eternal.

I know the bullpen depth is an issue without Storen but to my eye Tyler Clippard needs to take a break.  The last two years of massive use have finally caught up to him.  He's not built like a horse and I think its starting to show.  It happens with relief pitchers, they lose effectiveness after heavy use.  And no one's been leaned on more than Tyler.  And that's not just a comment on last night. It seems even when he's gotten out of jams (like the 7th last night for example) he's really struggling with command.  And it seems they have a scouting report -- lay off the change.  

Hitting is down all over MLB so far this season.  That's good in the sense that the anemic offense isn't that out of the ordinary. But its clear its going to be a problem. Not a killer problem since I am sure the pitching is as good as advertised.  So we're in for a season of 3-2, 2-1 games with a lot of drama at the ends.  In fact, if Storen doesn't return at all, I'd put Henry Rodriguez in line for 40+ saves assuming he maintains his current grip on the strike zone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Someone more technologically adept than me needs to make that video

Baseball Video Highlights & Clips | Multimedia:

Please someone make a Rick Ankiel throws from the OF highlight reel.  You could even include the throw he made after his 3 base error when he hit Zim on one hop from the base of the wall and made that play closer than it had any right to be.

Lay everything else off to the side and just witness such a display of athletic achievement.  How many humans could do what he just did?  If there were a lot, we'd see them patrolling OFs all over the majors.

I may have been wrong when I wrote that this is a .500 team.  The offense is a problem but it's not an insurmountable one.  There is NO question that this team has pitching and defense.  You can go a long way with those two.  Its clear that this team is going to play a LOT of close games meaning that luck and the odd outstanding play will determine wins and losses. Luck evens out but defense is a controllable constant.  Right now the weakest link defensively is the left fielder.  And if that's your weakest link you are in pretty good shape.

I even think they'll be fine offensively if Desmond and Espinosa can keep getting on base with such regularity.  Desmond's been the real revelation so far, what can you say about a guy whose been your best player from an 8-3 streak?  Its an absurdly small sample size yes but being the best player for an 8-3 stretch has some meaning. I know Desi won't keep it up but he really doesn't have to.  Just play solid defense and get on base.  Zimmerman will come around and maybe by that time Morse will be back.

At the very least, there sin't a game the Nats can go into right now where I think yeah they've got a huge edge in the starting pitcher department.  That's a major turnaround.  I've got to think seeing the Nats on the schedule looks great to opposing fans but the advance scouts are telling the players hey no free lunches this series boys.  You are gonna have to get after it or we'll be shut down.

I guess there is a reason Davey Johnson's teams always end up better than anyone believes at the start of a season.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Following the script

You could do a search and replace on National's pitchers and their "sore" elbows.

This time cut and paste Drew Storen's name.

How many time does this have to happen?  First it's no big deal then its rest and rehab then its a flight to Birmingham and see you next year.

Although the way H Rod and the rest of the pen pitched in Chicago, maybe we won't miss Storen all that much.

That will be key however. This looks like a team that will play a lot of close games. They can't score and their pitching will keep them in it.

However, should Morse return soon at nearly the same level of production as last year and if Desi and Espi keep getting on base I wouldn't be surprised to see a pretty decent offense.  La Roche finding his stroke is the best possible news. Let's see it happen for a month though -- of course given La Roche's history we'll have to see it for an entire season before its real.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lannan and other Opening Day thoughts

John Lannan Wants To Work For Food | Nationals Inquisition:

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In a way, you can't blame John Lannan for asking for a trade.  Especially if the narrative, which we have to construct, is that Davey told him he's the #5 starter and then (after some stage whispers from above) he suddenly was on a bus to Syracuse.  It would be difficult to perform for an organization that basically lied to your face.

Even given the worst case scenario, it is not in the Nats interest to move Lannas just to move him.  I hear all this oh his $5m salary is going to be a sticking point.  Really.  I dare you to name the #4 and #5 starters for the AL East powerhouse Boston Red Sox?

I know Lannan defies all the statistical profiles, he really shouldn't be a league average hurler.  I know the K rates stink but the fact is over the past three seasons he's been every bit the league average as you could be.  And for many teams, that would be a huge upgrade.  Without a lot of injury risk either.

Hold out for something of value. Preferably a prospect even one a long way away.

It's kind of a strange feeling Opening Day 2012.  There are actual expectations now.  As pessimistic as I want to be I really can't.  There is no reason this team shouldn't be at least .500 barring massive injuries.  And if you can be .500, you have a shot at getting a little lucky and being in the thick of a wild card race.  Losses will hurt now rather than just be part of the rebuilding process.  Wins are now expected or at least taken somewhat for granted, they should win half the time now.  It's like the transition from the Wizards to the Capitals.  For the Wiz, any hopeful sign is welcome while the Caps failure is harshly judged.  This team is moving from the one to the other and it will be interesting to see how these expectations are managed early on.

One more thing. To all you bemoaning the lack of a true Centerfielder on the Opening Day roster . . . pray tell where would you have found one this off season?  In case you didn't know, it is one of the most difficult positions to fill.  Plus defenders with at least on base skills are hard to come by and not easily given up.  Leaving the position essentially open means a possible Harper transition is easier (although I am increasingly becoming of a mind that we won't see Bryce till September. Just a hunch perhaps my natural pessimism rearing its ugly head.)

If nothing else, it will be satisfying to look at the daily pitching matchups on any given day and think We've got a damn good shot today!  That's something I never said in the Martin/Simontachi/Martis years.

As for a prediction, I'll say 82-80.  And that's because I think they are much better than last year but last year's 80 wins was slightly above what they really were.  So 82 wins is really a nice leap.  And it would set the stage for a no doubt about it run in 2013.