Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Catching up on Inboxes

Does this edition of the Nationals look like Expos teams we saw emerge from 1990-94? I grew up watching the Expos and followed them after they relocated to Washington. So I would like to know if the joy I received in '94 will appear again soon with the Nationals? -- Jean D., Montreal

Unfortunately, no. The '94 Expos had an awesome pitching staff, with 4 of their 5 starters possessing ERA's under 3.42 (2 of whom had ERA's under 2.99). The bullpen was similarly great, anchored by John Wetteland and Mel Rojas. The current Nats could end up with comparable bats, but there is no way their rotation and bullpen could touch the '94 Expos 3.56 team ERA, 2.5 BB/9 rate or 7.0 K/9 rate. I'd be surprised if the Nats came within a run on the ERA, a walk on the BB/9 or a K on the K/9.

First baseman Adam Dunn wants to stay in Washington and is beloved by the fans. How far along are the contract talks between him and the Nationals? When can we expect to see him signed to an extension? -- Kevin H., Upper Marlboro, Md.
FJB had an excellent post on this situation last week, essentially warning the Nats that he could be on the track to aging very quickly. I like Adam Dunn a lot, but the Nats need to avoid signing older players or players with diminishing skill sets to long-term deals, both now and in the future.

With Luis Atilano pitching so well, what will happen to the rotation when Jason Marquis returns from his elbow injury? -- William B., Silver Spring, Md.

Atilano will go back to AAA then. He's been good through 2 games, but we're still talking about a 12 IP sample size. He's only struck out 2 batters while walking 5 in this timeframe; something tells me his current success is unsustainable unless he improves that ratio.

When will we see Jesus Flores behind the plate? -- Marcio D., Washington

Ladson says "Hopefully after the All-Star break." I'm certainly hoping for that.

Matt Capps is off to a great start. However, Storen is the closer of the future. Will the Nats look to trade Capps while his value is high? -- Rich R., Slingerlands, N.Y.

I hope the Nats sell high on him if they find themselves out of contention early next year, but he's under control for another year, so I'll say no for now.

It seems the Nats are currently enjoying an abundance of starting pitching. Is it time to trade for a big bat in right field? -- Brian G., Richmond, Va.

They absolutely need to do something about their right field situation. I like having Maxwell's bat against lefties in a platoon, but I'm afraid that he won't get enough reps in that kind of situation (and if he does, the Nats could suffer). I don't think Roger Bernadina, Willie Harris or Willy Taveras are legitimate options for RF if the Nats consider themselves a team that wants to hang around .500 and think they need to make a minor-to-medium trade (perhaps for a guy like Corey Hart?) to fix things.

What do you think the Nationals should do with their 2010 first-round Draft pick? Should they get Bryce Harper or is there anyone else that you think would benefit the Nationals?
-- Robert B., Eastchester, N.Y.

Unless something drastic happens with Bryce Harper (mainly an injury), he's the only option for the Nats IMO.

Livan Hernandez is pitching great. Why did the Nationals trade him to the D-backs in 2006? They could have had an ace on the staff.
-- Michael W., Silver Spring, Md.

It was obviously a tanking technique used by the Nats to ensure they lost as many games as possible to be able to draft Strasburg and Harper. Livan Hernandez is unquestionably one of the premier aces in the majors, and has been since 1997.

The setup man/closer combo of Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps seems to be the most efficient since Luis Ayala and Chad Cordero. What do you think?
-- Alex C., Montreal

It's been great so far, and the Nats certainly haven't had this kind of late-game stability since the Chief and Ayala (and Majewski for that matter) in 2005. But let's not count our chickens before they hatch. Plus, getting to the 8th and 9th might be an adventure this summer.

How does the 2010 Nationals team compare to '05 off the field, not the stuff that we can see from watching the game?
-- William Y., Washington

I'm certainly not qualified to answer this question because I can only watch the games...but losing Jose Guillen can't be a bad thing for off-the-field matters.

With Justin Maxwell and Roger Bernadina platooning in right field, what does that mean for Willy Taveras?
-- Eric, Washington

Hopefully it means he'll be spending his summer in Syracuse.

Right now, right-hander Brian Bruney is the exact opposite of what the Nats expected of him. How much more patience do you think the organization will have with him before taking some kind of action?
-- Richard H., Toronto

I think the Nats will give Bruney a shot until Storen gets his call to the bigs (late May/early June). They didn't really give anything up for him, so I can see them having a semi-short leash with him.

With Derek Norris waiting in the wings, I don't believe the Nats should draft Bryce Harper. I think signability could become a factor with Scott Boras advising him. What do you think about Harper and the possibility of Washinton taking him?
-- Nic P. , Philadelphia

Glad you're not the GM. Catchers of the future don't always stick behind the plate, you know. And a lot of them flame out, too. Having multiple ones would not be a bad thing.

At what point can we expect to see Chien Ming-Wang in the rotation, and what are your expectations of his potential impact?
-- Michael L., Williamsburg, Va.

Ladson says he'll be back by June. I'm not expecting him to be good in his initial return but I think he'll start to regain some semblance of his old form toward the end of the year once he can gain a rhythm.

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