Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Nats through 10 games: Part 2 (Hitters)

In the last 10 games, the Nats went 5-5, actually outscoring their opponents 42-38. The Nats have now won or split every series on the year minus those against the Phillies. And now that the Phils have signed Ryan Howard to an albatross of a contract...well, that's a different story for a different day (and a different blog). Without further ado, here are your Nats' batters in their last 10 games!


C Pudge Rodriguez-Not too often when in a 10 game span a guy can hit .414/.400/.517 and see his overall numbers go down. Hopefully his back will remain intact and he'll continue to his over .400 for the whole season! LAST WEEK: Good

1B Adam Dunn-He's still a little bit streaky (2+ hits in 4 games this week and 0 hits in 4 games), but his contact improved a lot this week in general. 6 XBH in the last 10 games is also a nice sign that he's warming up. LAST WEEK: Meh

3B Ryan Zimmerman-He was 9 for 22 in the games he played this week with 5 XBH and 6 RBI, but he only started in 5 of the 10 games. If the Nats want to sustain their current .500 mark, they need their franchise player to stay healthy and in the lineup. LAST WEEK: Meh


UTIL Cristian Guzman-Hit .300 over the last 10 games, good for a .310 OBP when you factor in his one walk. That's our Guzzie. LAST WEEK: Meh

SS Ian Desmond-Hit .276 this week with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts in 32 plate appearances. If Desmond wants to be productive, he needs to raise his batting average and/or draw more walks to raise his OBP (which was only .313 over this span of 10 games). LAST WEEK: Meh

LF Josh Willingham-The Hammer gave his bat the week off, walking 9 times in 9 starts. When he did swing, however, he was a little disappointing; .258 isn't a terrible batting average for a week, but only 1 double and 2 RBI is less than desired from a guy who we needed to step out with Zimmerman not playing much. So Josh: the walks and stolen bases (2 on the week) are cool, but your job is to bring other runners in. LAST WEEK: Good

CF Nyjer Morgan-Nyjer did a good job getting on base during this stretch, hitting .368 with a .415 OBP, but it only translated into 4 runs (partially due to being caught stealing in 3 of his 4 attempts). Keep up the good work getting on base, Nyjer, but be smarter while you're there! LAST WEEK: Good

IF Adam Kennedy-a .208 batting average over the week is disappointing, but he did draw 4 walks against 2 strikeouts and stole 2 bases. Not a total catastrophe, but not a great week. LAST WEEK: Meh

IF Alberto Gonzalez-.286/.333/.333 ain't so bad for a guy who mostly pinch hits. Ain't so great, but ain't so bad. Gonzalez is the reason we have the "meh" category. Perhaps we should rename it the Alberto Gonzalez category? LAST WEEK: Good

OF Justin Maxwell-.222/.375/.444 is a pretty decent line. 5 walks in 24 plate appearances is pretty encouraging for Max. 6 strikeouts, however, is not. LAST WEEK: Meh


UTIL Willie Harris-Willie only had 3 hits in 16 chances this week. While all 3 were for extra bases, the Nats need better than a .188 batting average and .250 OBP on the week from Wee Willie if he wants to keep contributing. Props to him for basically winning this game singlehandedly, though! LAST WEEK: Meh

C Wil Nieves-.188/.188/.250 is a pretty rough week. Luckily for Wil, 2 of his 3 hits were pretty clutch, giving the Nats the lead for good in this game against Colorado and tying it late in tonight's game against the Cubs. LAST WEEK: Meh

OF Willy Taveras-.182/.182/.182 in 11 plate appearances. 1 run and 0/1 SB. Even though tonight's OF assist was nice, Taveras does not belong on a ML roster. LAST WEEK: Bad

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Livan La Vida Loca

At his current pace, Livan will go 32-0 with 256 innings of shutout ball. He'll allow 148.5 hits (the .5 will be a hit by David Eckstein), hand out 80 free passes and mercifully end 64 batters' trips to the plate before they can even try hitting a ball past future Gold Glove first baseman Adam Dunn. Pair him up with Stephen Strasburg, who will pitch 4 out of every 5 games when called up in June, and the Nationals are well on their way to their first World Series victory.


The Nats through 10 games

Today I'll look at the individual performances of everyone who has been on the Nats' 25-man roster through 10 games. The Nats are 5-5 despite being outscored 66-45 (good for a 3-7 Pythagorean W-L record) and need to improve a lot to keep their record around the break-even mark.


LF Josh Willingham-The Hammer is 12 for 32 so far with 3 doubles and 3 HR. He also has a 9:6 BB:K ratio. I'll take a .375/.512/.750 triple slash over the course of the season!

C Ivan Rodriguez-After seeing his bat steadily decline to below league average since 2005, Pudge has started hot this year, going 11-27 with 4 doubles, a steal and a 3:1 BB:K ratio. The 38 year old backstop has been a pleasant surprise this year with a .407/.467/.556 line.

SP Livan Hernandez-Another member of the oldies-but-goodies club, Livo pitched 7 scoreless in his only start so far, scattering 5 hits, walking 3 and, in true Livo fashion, striking out 1.

OF Nyjer Morgan-His batting average is a little low so far at .243, but his OBP is right where it needs to be at .378. Nyjer has shown a great eye so far, walking 6 times and only striking out once and is 4/5 on his stealing attempts. He's also leading the league with 3 triples.

Closer Matt Capps-He's looked a little bit too Cardiac Cordero for me so far, but he's 5-5 in saves and has thrown only 7 pitches in two of his last three apperances. Might he be turning a corner? The 5:5 BB:K ratio scares me, though.

RP Tyler Clippard-Clip picked up where he left off last year, with 8 and 2/3 strong innings already in 2010. He has 2 of the Nats' 5 wins, has only given up 5 hits and holds a 4:9 BB:K ratio (not great for any other team, but great for the Nats' pitching this year). And he's batting 1.000!

IF Alberto Gonzalez-He hit his way onto the Opening Day roster and is hitting well enough to stay on it. He has appeared in all but one of the Nats' games so far and has made the best of it, going .308/.400/.385 with 3 runs and a 2:1 BB:K ratio. Hopefully he'll keep it up, because you can never have enough utility guys who can hit.

RP Jesse English-Came out of nowhere to make the Opening Day roster and hasn't disappointed. He's given up 2 runs and 7 hits in 5 innings with 3 K's and 1 BB overall, but he's doing his job very well against lefties, holding them to 2 singles and 1 walk in 13 plate appearances. One thing to note-the Nats are 5-0 when English doesn't pitch. Hmmmm...


IF/OF Cristian Guzman-Sure, he still can't take a walk, but he's hitting .273 with 3 extra base hits while playing 3 different positions. I'm proud of Guzman for being a team player and being willing to take the field wherever Riggleman pencils him in.

SS Ian Desmond-I think Katy Perry's song "Hot N Cold" is written about Desmond. In 6 of his games (4 starts), he had 0 hits (and only 1 walk). In the other 4 games he's played, he's gone 6-14 with 3 extra base hits and 3 walks. Desmond's power is still there and his walk rate is at 11.4%, so he get a "meh" for now.

3B Ryan Zimmerman-He's starting today for the first time in a week and wasn't that impressive before he got hurt. His contact and walk rates are looking bad so far and a 1:8 BB:K ratio is bad. But he is still slugging .524 and hit a 2 run HR with a bad leg and has a Kevin Kouzmanoff-esque 1.000 fielding percentage, so I'll give him a break for now.

IF Adam Kennedy-His .214/.281/.286 line to start the year is disappointing, but he's second on the team with 6 RBI. Kennedy's stats will improve as his BABIP does; currently it is sitting .071 below his career average.

1B Adam Dunn-.179 batting average? Awful. Only 1 HR and 2 RBI? Very disappointing. Leading the team with 7 runs and 11 walks? Nice. And his defense doesn't look too bad (yet). Still, we'd like the old Adam back.

OF Willie Harris-With the same power numbers as Adam Dunn accompanying a .346 OBP, I guess Wee Willie gets a pass too despite a .150 batting average. Plus, he made this catch.

C Wil Nieves-.250 batting average? Check. No walks or extra base hits? Check. No glaringly awful plays? Check. Hey, Wil Nieves is playing like he's Wil Nieves or something!

OF Justin Maxwell-At the time I'm writing this (halfway through game 11), Maxwell is 1-4 with a HR, 3 K's and 2 BB's. Three True Outcomes FTW!

OF Roger Bernadina-I had to include him because he appeared in a game. Not getting a hit in your one plate appearance isn't bad enough for "THE BAD" status, so he'll chill here in purgatory.

SP John Lannan-One bad start, one "meh" start and one good start evens out to "meh" status. He has improved every game, which is nice. He has also walked 3 batters in each game, which is not nice.

SP Scott Olsen and Garrett Mock-Normally guys who don't make it 6 innings with ERA's of 5.40 and above would fall into the "bad" category, but these are the Nationals' pitchers we're talking about. Mock's numbers don't indicate how bad he pitched in his game and Olsen probably out-pitched his 6.35 ERA, but one game isn't enough to judge a pitcher. As you'll see with Stammen and Marquis later, two is plenty!


OF Willy Taveras-.133/.188/.267 is unacceptable for anyone, but especially for a guy who earns his keep on his ability to steal bases and score runs. If you can't get on base, you can't steal bases or score runs.

UTIL Mike Morse-Right now he's hurt, so I'll go easy on him. A 1-6 start with 3 K's is disappointing, but I think Morse will bounce back into a .280/.320/.450 pinch hitter.

SP Jason Marquis and Craig Stammen-somehow 2 batting practice pitchers made it into the rotation. Together, these two have allowed 24 runs in 14 and 2/3 innings, allowing 30 hits, 3 homers and 6 walks with only 4 strikeouts. I'd rather see Garrett Mock in this rotation than Craig Stammen right now.

The rest of the bullpen-Brian Bruney? Awful. Sean Burnett? Terrible. Miguel Batista? Stinks. Tyler Walker? Better than he was in Spring Training and is still bad. Jason Bergmann? The worst of the bunch and got cut.

For the Nats to stay around .500 this year, they need better pitching than a 6.52 ERA, a 52:51 BB:K ratio and 15 homers allowed every 10 games as well as a real RF and more consistency out of the offense. Either that, or they need to keep playing the Mets.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Game to Remember

Three years ago today was the worst day of my life. We lost 32 Hokies, including one of my sister's best friends, Leslie Sherman. Leslie was an extraordinary person and was going to do great things in the world. Her spirit still lives in everyone who knew her.

Three years ago Sunday, the Nationals took the field donning Virginia Tech caps. This was not a planned event. In fact, it came together at the last minute. Marc Carig of the Washington Post had this to say:

With about 90 minutes before first pitch, Harolyn Cardozo, executive assistant to General Manager Jim Bowden, was on the phone calling sporting goods stores. She dialed the number to the Sports Authority's store in Alexandria, and when she heard a voice, she had one simple demand: "Give me the smartest guy in the store who can get something done fast."

Paul Schneider, a department manager, soon was scouring the store for Hokies hats. Cardozo asked for 40 of them and they needed to be at the stadium before the Nats took the field. Schneider found about 20 on the rack and discovered a box full in a storeroom. He talked his managers into donating the 38 hats of various styles, then jumped in his car to cross the Wilson Bridge and weave through rush-hour traffic to get to RFK.

Fifteen minutes before the first pitch, Major League Baseball gave the team approval. Schneider arrived at the stadium during the first inning, and the caps made it to the Nationals' dugout in time for the team to take the field with them for the second inning.

Kasten arrived at the ballpark an hour into the game, surprised the hats had arrived. The gesture was similar to one by the Yankees and Mets when baseball resumed play after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Players from both teams donned hats representing New York's police and fire departments.

While the Nats lost 6-4 to the Braves, this was still by far the best thing they have done since being in DC. Thank you once again, Nationals. We'll never forget this.

Please spend a moment or two today remembering the victims of 4/16.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More Inbox Excitement

Don't ask me about Monday's game. I don't want to talk about it. Here's your inbox:

At some point this season, the Nationals are going to get reinforcements in the names of Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg to bolster their starting pitching. Who are the likely candidates to be moved out of the rotation?
-- Evan S., Chevy Chase, Md.

Ladson notes that Olsen needs to be put into the equation as well, and I agree with that. If his arm regains its strength, he will be hard to keep out of the rotation. I see Mock as the first cut, Stammen as the second and Livo as the third for when (and if) these starters come up. Major League appearances from Wang and Olsen are far from guaranteed and Detwiler has not locked down a rotation spot in my opinion either (even though I am one of his biggest supporters).

Do you love Drew Storen's stuff as much as me? How quickly will the Nationals call him up?
-- Josh M., Indiana

I doubt the Nats will rush Storen to the bigs as fast as Ladson seems to think, but I would be surprised if Strasburg got the call before Storen. He could step in and immediately be one of the most trustworthy members of the Nats bullpen.

What happened to Kevin Mench?
-- Andrew C., Ottawa, Ontario

Good question. I had false hope that Mench was going to get a true shot at making the team when he stuck around until the end. I guess he'll have to hope that Maxwell stays cold and Taveras continues to be a terrible overall player. Then he might get a shot. I'm pulling for you, Shrek!

How worried should we be about outfielder Justin Maxwell? What does it say about the Nationals' commitment to him?
-- Scott K., Rockville, Md.

I don't think Maxwell's demotion says much about the Nats' commitment to him. Generally speaking, if you have a job pretty much locked down going in to Spring Training, it will be yours on Opening Day as long as you don't completely and utterly suck. Unfortunately for everybody involved but Willy Taveras, Maxwell struggled immensely in Viera. I still think he'll be up with the big club by the end of the month once he figures his swing out. Hopefully he can turn out to be a Mike Cameron-esque player, although that may be setting the bar too high.

For five years, I've heard about how good Jason Bergmann is supposed be, but all I see is disappointment. What gives?
-- Jordan A., Washington, D.C.

I've never seen anyone refer to Bergmann as a rising star or a bullpen ace, so I'm not sure where your argument is coming from. He's a below average middle/long reliever with a controllable contract on a team with clear bullpen issues. Until minor leaguers start to step it up, guys like Bergmann will continue to get work for the Nats despite poor track records. The pipeline may be running better than when the team arrived in DC, but it's still far from producing great relief pitchers.

Did you agree with general manager Mike Rizzo for keeping Mock on the 25-man roster and sending Olsen to Syracuse?
-- Kirk K., Syracuse, N.Y.


Monday, April 5, 2010

My Nats Predictions for 2010

1. Pleasant surprises will include Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Garrett Mock, Ivan Rodriguez, Alberto Gonzalez and Adam Dunn. I blindly believe in Mock and Gonzalez to rebound from their poor 2009 seasons (and poor overall numbers in general), but just have a feeling there. I think that Bruney, Capps and Rodriguez were all criticized for their weaknesses to the point where we don't expect rebounds or improvement. And call me crazy but I think that Adam Dunn might actually be okay at 1B (not great, maybe not average, but at least tolerable).

2. Minor disappointments will include Tyler Clippard, Jason Marquis, Ian Desmond, Adam Kennedy and Nyjer Morgan. None of these guys are going to fall off the face of the earth, but Clippard, Desmond and Morgan all played a little over their heads last year while Marquis and Kennedy are really just average players at best who are being counted on to produce at an above-average rate.

3. Major disappointments will include Sean Burnett, Craig Stammen and Mike Morse. It's not that these guys are bad players, but rather that the expectations are set so much higher they should be. Burnett was very lucky last year, Stammen had a Matt Chico-esque 2009 and Morse is being played out to be a potential starting utility guy rather than a pretty good bench bat with OBP issues. Be realistic in your expectations and you won't be disappointed in these guys. Be unrealistic and your soul will be crushed.

4. The following players will be Nationals in 2011 (semi-surprisingly): Jason Bergmann, Matt Capps, Wil Nieves, Alberto Gonzalez and Adam Dunn. I think Capps and Bergmann will be good enough to stick around. The best way for me to describe it for me is that they'll be more valuable to the Nats than to anyone else, and for that reason they'll stick around. Bergmann always seems to be on the roster borderline, but I think he'll finally stabilize his K rate above 7 with his BB rate around 3 and put up a career year (which for him would be about a 4.00 ERA). I think Nieves will stick around with the Nats for quite a while, just because he's in with the management and respected in the organization and fanbase. Gonzalez will be good enough to stick around as a utility man for another few years. I think that the Nats will choose between signing Dunn and Willingham to an extension and will choose Dunn. While I think they should trade both and get as many young players as possible, I think that Dunn will be a better option in the years to come.

5. The following players will NOT be Nationals in 2011 (semi-surprisingly): Sean Burnett, Cristian Guzman, Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris and Josh Willingham. I think the Nats will move Kennedy, Harris and Willingham at the trade deadline. Burnett and Guzman are a little trickier because I think the Nats will want to outright release either at some point this year but might not actually do it. Unless Burnett makes strides this year, I think he'll implode and end up being a pretty early cut (like Steven Shell was last year). Guzman makes enough money that the Nats will keep him around and try to move him for an equally
ugly contract.

6. The player most likely to bounce back well from his injury is Chien-Ming Wang because he relied on technique in the first place rather than power. He doesn't necessarily have to come back at 100% because throwing the ball hard wasn't his calling card in the first place.

7. The player least likely to bounce back well from his injury is Jesus Flores. I love Flores, but like the saying goes, when it rains it pours. Our young backstop can't seem to catch a break, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that continue if he rushes back.

8. 2010 will be a depressing year for us because we have false optimism. There is no viable major league RF option in the organization right now, the bullpen is better but still bad and the rotation is no guarantee to be that great. If guys like Willingham, Dunn, Kennedy and Guzman are traded and guys like Maxwell, Desmond, Whitesell and the gang can't step into their roles, the Nats could implode seriously.

9. 2011 will be an exciting year for us because things will finally start to fall in place. Theoretically, our rotation will be Strasburg-Zimmermann-Lannan-Marquis-Wang/Detwiler/Stammen/Mock/Martin/Olsen/Balester/Martis. We'll have guys like Storen and Rafael Martin coming up to help out the pen. Maybe Flores will be healthy or maybe Norris will be ready to contribute. Guys like Chris Marrero and Denny Espinosa could make the jump to the majors. Who knows what exactly will happen, but that's the year where we can really start to get excited about our young guys.
Be sure to check out other predictions from FJB, Ben Goessling, Mark Zuckerman, Jeff Bergin of Nationals Daily Newsand Nats News Network!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Inbox Spectacular

In what looks to be the last inbox before Opening Day, Bill Ladson discussed the team's speed, Jermaine Dye and the #5 starter situation. Here's what I have to say:

Do you like the speed the Nats are displaying on the bases this spring? I really hope to see a lot of it during the regular season.
-- Garin S., Austin, Texas

The speed isn't what is exciting for me. What I like the most is that the Nats have a bunch of guys that know how to use it. Generally speaking, you need to have a 75% rate or better for it to be worth stealing bases. Willie Harris has a 77% SB success rate with the Nats. Ian Desmond was 22/27 across all levels last year (81%). Nyjer Morgan was 24/31 with the Nats last year (77%). Willy Taveras is 194/236 (82%) over his career. Roger Bernadina has a 78% rate in his minor league career.

While guys like Taveras, Harris and Bernadina may be better off as bench/utility players, I have to give them credit; they ARE good base-stealers.

(EDIT-the Nats have stolen bases at a 79% rate in Spring Training. Nice.)

With the 25-man roster almost set, will the Nationals have a winning record this year?
--Billy P., Washington D.C.

Don't bet on it. If the Nats want a legitimate shot at a winning record, they would need to start the year with Storen and Strasburg on the big league squad in addition to signing/trading for a legitimate RF. Even if that were the case, their chances would still be slim-this team isn't quite ready to make that jump yet in my opinion. I expect them to win 72-78 wins with what they have in the system now.

After watching Matt Capps' below-average performance this spring, do you think he's the best choice for the closer role?
-- Daniel O, Centreville, Va.

Capps wasn't great, but neither were Bruney or Clippard. All three had disappointingly high walk rates and for anyone to surpass Capps on the depth chart in Spring Training, they would have needed to be lights-out. Since Bruney and Clippard couldn't do that, Capps wins by default. I won't be worried about Capps until the second or third week of April if his stats are still lackluster.

In your opinion, who should be the fifth starter and why?

-- Alex C., Montreal

I'm glad the Nats didn't go with Olsen. Spending time in Syracuse will allow him to work on his arm strength in a lower pressure environment where he (hopefully) won't rush his progress. I agree with Farid Rushdi, however, that J.D. Martin would have been a better option than Mock. I've always had a soft spot for Mock, but from a statistical standpoint I can't see why he is a better option at this point, especially since both have options left. My only guess is that the Nats see their rotation as a bunch of pitch to contact types in Lannan, Marquis, Hernandez and Stammen and they would rather have one guy who can rack up some K's than another guy who relies on his defense for outs.

When are the Nationals going to sign Jermaine Dye?
-- Jerry J., Atlanta

Not soon enough. Even though Dye is an awful defensive outfielder, he's at the very least a better platoon candidate than Willy Taveras. And I'm sure that even if he hits at an average rate (say, .250/.340/.453 like he hit in 2009), the Nats will be able to find a taker for him at the Trade Dealine.

. What do you make of Jason Marquis' struggles this spring? How worried are you?
-- Austin D., West Hartford, Conn.

I'm not worried. It's just Spring Training.