There's quite a bit to say on what went wrong this year. My top "tags" here at DC Sports Plus tell the story...out of individual players, Matt Chico (11) tied for most entries with Milledge and Dukes, Kearns had 9 tags, Failipe and Lo Duca had 8, and Johnny Waddles had 4. I dedicated a lot of time on my blog to hating on players and the management. While that may not be the most constructive activity, it does tell you a little bit about how the season went.
So, without further ado, what went wrong in 2008:
1) Individual Performances
Austin Kearns was supposed to be a cog in our lineup this year. Turned out he was a clog. A .217/.311/.313 slash line is never good out of a guy you're looking for to knock in runs, but it is especially horrible for a player who spends 259 of their 357 total plate appearances in the cleanup and 5th spots of the batting order. Hopefully we'll look back on it and blame injury, as this was the first season Kearns ever had an OPS+ under 100 (minus a 64 game 2004 season where it was 92).
Aaron Boone appeared to be set for a steady season. Turns out he really only had a good May, hitting .290/.351/.580 in 77 plate appearances. From June through now, he has only hit .221/.264/.313 in 141 plate appearances. Methinks we'll go for a younger, cheaper (and better) option next year, even though Daddy Boone works in the front office.
Kory Casto still has yet to prove he can hit ML pitching. Out of all of his splits, Casto has one consistency: poor performance. Whether it be versus lefties or righties, home or away, first or second half, during any month or as a starter or a sub, Casto simply hasn't been good. Okay, there was ONE split (yes, just ONE) that gives me hope Casto will be a good future 4th OF/good bat off of the bench: a .271/.321/.417 slash line in "high leverage" situations. While I do not know what constitutes a "high leverage" situation, it certainly sounds good.
Pete Orr never should have been on the team, I'm sorry. He had a good rookie year in 2005 (.300/.331/.387) that was all thanks to a .349 BABIP. 3 years of poor performance should be enough to show, despite a good rookie year, he is NOT a ML quality hitter. Luckily, we get to endure the poor hitting and good fielding of Emilio Bonifacio, Anderson Hernandez and Alberto Gonzalez for the next few years, so Orr won't be back.
Roger Bernadina looked good in the minors this year (.323/.398/.474 in 266 AA at bats, .351/.404/.513 in 191 AAA at bats, 31/42 SB) but awful in the majors (.191/.276/.221 in 68 at bats, 4/7 SB). His glove is legit, but just like a ton of Nationals, he has to hit if he wants to stick on this team. They have way too many 4th OF and utility infielders who can't hit. Time to find some that can hit but can't field (Rick Short anyone?).
Wily Mo Pena was terrible. We're talking new Green Day bad. Pena sported a .205/.243/.267 slash line to go with 2 HR and a 10:48 BB:K ratio. 10 RBI in 195 at bats is not good for a slugger, let me tell you. And to top it all off, he looked lost in left field. But, barring a miraculous release, Pena will be on the squad next year.
Emilio Bonifacio was supposed to be our future leadoff guy. He looked awesome at first (.375/.375/.594 in his first 7 games and 32 at bats in a Nats uniform) but has been pretty bad since then (.216/.276/.295 in 31 games and 132 plate appearances). He is sick with the glove, though, and is probably the fastest baseball player I've ever seen, so there is obviously still a ton of upside in the 23-year-old.
Johnny Estrada was an awful, awful, beyond awful FA signing. There is no good in Fatstrada, as he is a horrible player, doesn't hustle and is universally disliked by fans and teammates. Eatstrada 'hit' .170/.200/.200 in 53 at bats for the Nats this year and that was more than enough. And he refused to accept his crappiness and suck it up in AAA. Thank goodness, because Bowden might have given him a September call-up.
Rob Mackowiak was not a bad signing. While Estrada and Lo Duca looked to be on the decline after poor 2007 seasons, Mackowiak had a decent 2007 campaign, with a slash line of .263/.337/.386 (hurt a lot by his poor showing after being dealt from the White Sox to San Diego, where bats go to die). But Mackowiak became Mackowiakkkkkk, striking out 17 times in 53 at bats (against 7 hits). It wasn't heartbreaking for me to see the Nats cut the guy with the .132/.254/.208 line loose.
Paul Lo Duca was probably the worst signing because he cost us the most money. Out of the terrible trio of himself, Mackowiakkkk and Fatstrada, Lo Duca put up the 'best' numbers at .230/.301/.281. He allowed 13 of 15 potential base stealers to convert their thievery and played a great left field and first base! Thanks for the memories, Paulie.
Felipe Lopez hit .234/.305/.314 for us. Now he's hitting .355/.396/.493 for the Cardinals. He's getting their hopes up just like he got our hopes up in 2006. I was not disappointed to see him go, as I thought he would rebound from his awful 2007 campaign.
Jason Bergmann was not bad per se, he just wasn't good. I was kinda hoping he would going to improve on his decent 2007 campaign, but he regressed, going from a 4.45 ERA to 5.18 and from a 1.223 WHIP to a 1.449. Bergmann was not good as a starter or a reliever this year. I don't really know what to do with him, because he has the potential to be awesome. But then again, hasn't everyone in the major leagues had the potential to be awesome at some point?
Shawn Hill pitched 12 games through pain (I know, I was surprised he made it to 12 also). We got to experience pain watching these games, as he had a 5.83 ERA and averaged just over 5 IP per start. Make him into a reliever NOW!
Matt Chico may or may not have pitched hurt, but he was awful nonetheless. I don't deny the fact that the man can eat innings, but at a 6.19 ERA he's the best we can do? I doubt it.
Charlie Manning proved why he is a 28-year-old rookie: he's not that good. He has a 5.27 ERA, but also just gives up way too many homers (1.76 HR/9) and walks (6.8 BB/9) to be an effective major league pitcher.
Brian Sanches was an experiment that failed. He was bad for the Phillies last year (and the year before) but was lights out in AAA, so why not give him a shot, right? 7.36 ERA. That's why not. Still, sadly, he'll get an invitation to big-league camp by someone next year.
Marco Estrada furthered an already well-tested theory that Estradas and Nationals don't mix. The young righty threw only 1o and 2/3 innings but gave up 9 runs. Hopefully he'll be able to turn it around in the future.
Michael O'Connor: because if the experiment fails the first time, it's JimBow's perrogative to re-try it! 13 ER, 11 BB, 4 K in 9 IP. Yuck.
Shairon Martis had quite a year in AAA, but the 21-year-old is just not ready for the big leagues (can you believe that? A 21-year old isn't ready for the big leagues?).
Levale Speigner somehow found a way to raise his career ERA from 8.78 to 9.19 in only 8 innings. Can we dump him? Pretty pretty please?
Ray King sucked it up in 6 and 1/3 innings. I barely remembered he was even on the team. Another early roster casualty. Maybe he should have stuck to In-N-Out burgers.
I'm going to be frank here: the Nats were probably the most poorly managed team in recent history when it comes to injuries. We had guys out for more than a week before being put on the DL, only to see them out for an extended period of time (Zimmerman, Gonzalez, Boone, Da Meat Hook, Johnson, Cordero, etc.). I'm not blaming the injuries, but rahter the manner in which the front office handled them.
3) Awful roster management
We lost Josh Whitesell on waivers to the Diamondbacks to make room for a Rule V draftee that didn't even stick with the team. I called it a bad move at the time over at NFA. It's even worse now, as Whitesell had a .993 OPS this year in AAA to go with 110 RBI...and we were stuck with Aaron Boone, Ronnie Belliard and Kory Casto at 1B for way too long. I don't even want to get into most of this, as I've been harping on it all year long in my "If I were GM of the Nationals" posts. A lot of this goes with my previous point of injuries as well.
4) The Chad Cordero situation
This was an absolute embarrassment to the entire franchise. Jim Bowden (once again) proved he was an idiot by publicly saying Cordero would be non-tendered before he told Cordero himself. When Screech's Best Friend shows his talons, you know there's a huge issue.
5) Lack of trust in the coaches/management
Fire Jim Bowden
Plus the latest example: "Team in Crisis"
The only people in the organization trusted by anyone outside of the organization are Manny Acta and Mike Rizzo.
6) Rooting for the team to lose
As you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven't voiced my opinion on the Strasburg deal on the blog. I've mentioned him once, basically saying he's an obvious pick if he's on the board. To be honest, I would love to draft Strasburg. But I will under no circumstance root against my team.Strasburg is NOT going to save the Nationals by himself. He can't pitch all 162 games. Even if he wins 20 games, he is still only one player. At this point, I still won't root against my team. It is a little different to not mind losing, but I will never cheer for my team to lose. When 47% of your fanbase is rooting for your team to lose, it's beyond pathetic.
I think the "to win, you have to lose" mantra is stupid and incorrect. If you have nitwits running the team, that may be the case (like in our case). To win, you have to spend money, period. Not necessarily on big-name free agents, though. You have to spend it on the draft, on international FA's, on scouting, to pay your players and to pay your rent.
But, for those of you who are keeping score...the Nats have a little bit less than a 47% chance of snagging the #1 overall pick next year.
7) Jim Bowden
One word: ugh. I'll just leave it to FJB for all of the reasons to hate on Bowden (Smileygate, Aaron Crow epic fail, awful FA signings, losing Whitesell for nothing, general suckiness, being a jerk, etc.).
My bottom 5 of 2008:
1) No trust in management
2) 'Fans' rooting for the Nats to lose
3) Chad Cordero situation
4) Awful performance on the field in general
5) Johnny "Waddles" Fatstrada/Eatstrada