Monday, February 23, 2009

Could this be it?

Straight from Chico:
The Nationals...are waiting to find out, and want to learn more about Bowden's possible involvement in a growing baseball-wide scandal before they determine whether he retains his job. But behind the scenes, according to sources, some within the team's ownership group -- which includes Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner, seven principal owners and nine founding partners -- are eager to cut ties with the general manager they inherited almost three years ago, and see the investigation as a way of facilitating Bowden's exit. The Nationals, one source said, are encouraging the investigation to return an answer on Bowden so the parties can "go on their merry way."
Please let this be true!! I was beginning to believe that something terrible was happening-that the ownership actually wanted Bowden to stay so they would have a sca
pegoat for their cheapness. But if they finally can him now, all of those thoughts would be erased. PLEASE, LERNER FAMILY, DO WHAT IS RIGHT!

Do it for the fans!

Do it for the Nation's Capital!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

A 3 post night! Sunday night inbox

Thanks to Ladson, we have even more material today!

Do you think Acta should be the Nationals' manager in 2010?
-- Sanjay H., Alexandria, Va.

To be honest, I don't know. Like Ladson says, Manny has never really had much to work with here. This year is his make or break year to prove whether he is a motivator or a manager.

Who is your starting outfield?
-- Byron G., Upper Marlboro, Md.

With this team, calling something a starting outfield would be pretty inaccurate. There are going to be injuries and platoons. I say on opening day, Johnson starts at 1B and the OF will be Dunn/Milledge/Dukes, but you can count on injuries at some point to Johnson and Dukes, which would leave it with Dunn at 1B with and OF of Willingham/Milledge/Kearns...but then Willingham can get hurt and you're stuck with Pena/Milledge/Kearns. See what I mean?

I am befuddled by your comment that Milledge is too "valuable" to trade. Maybe my memory is escaping me, but I remember the few key hits and numerous defensive/mental errors associated with his play. Why is he too valuable to trade?
-- Bob M., Alexandria, Va.

I've sorta joined the Milledge bandwagon this offseason. While he's not a great centerfielder, he does have immense offensive potential. He's only going to be 24 this year. Judging his trade value on his 2008 performance would be pretty dumb...something that Jim Bowden would do.

I never hear anything about Ronnie Belliard. What's going to happen with him this year? He had a pretty good year last year, but he doesn't seem to get much credit.
-- Bill V., Kill Devil Hills, N.C.

If I were Belliard, I would be pretty pissed off at the management. Last year he hit .287/.372/.473 and he's still the underdog for the starting job to a guy who hit worse in 479 AAA at bats last year (.203/.262/.307) than Cristian Guzman hit for the Nats in 2005 (.219/.260/.314).

If Hernandez makes the opening day starting lineup, I'll scream. If he's the leadoff hitter, forget anything I said about Manny earlier-he doesn't deserve to have a job anymore. The Nats lack any real semblance of a leadoff hitter right now, but Guzman's the best bet they have. I agree with Ladson, though, that Milledge might fit in well at #2, although I would probably prefer seeing Johnson there with a Guzman-Johnson-Zimmerman-Dunn-Dukes-Milledge-Flores-Belliard lineup.

What's Matt Chico's status? He was pretty good two seasons ago and now you never hear about him.
-- Richard G., Syracuse, N.Y.

Actually, he was pretty bad two seasons ago and worse last year (although you can attribute last year's failures to his injury). But I'll let Ladson take it from here: "Chico is slowly recovering from left elbow surgery and is not expected to compete in a Minor League game until mid-summer." Ladson doubts he'll be back in the bigs until 2010. I doubt he'll be back in the bigs at all.

I've been an Expos/Nationals fan since the beginning. I was wondering why Andre Dawson is not in the Hall of Fame. He was one of the best players in the National League during the 1980s.
-- Dennis D., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

He should be, and he eventually will be.

And so they don't get buried, here are my other two posts from the night:
We interrupt the previously scheduled blog...
Why Shawn Hill should be a closer

We interrupt the previously scheduled blog...

because Jim Bowden is being investegated by the Feds!

Per Nats Journal:
Melissa Segura of, who broke the Esmailyn Gonzalez story, reports that Jim Bowden is being investigated by federal investigators for skimming signing bonuses as far back as 1994 when he was with the Cincinnati Reds. Segura's source is "a baseball executive familiar with the investigation."


Why Shawn Hill should be a closer

I'm tired of seeing Shawn Hill's name penciled into the starting rotation. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of him, but he's had so many arm problems up until this point of his career that it makes no sense to continue throwing him into the fire. For that reason in itself, it's time to turn Shawn Hill into a dominant reliever.

There are other reasons Hill should be a reliever besides his durability issues. He is very effective both in the first time through the opponent's lineup and in high leverage situations. By being a closer (or just a late-inning reliever, for that matter), he would pitch most in those two situations. So, would Hill be more effective as a reliever than as a starter? In a word, yes

In the first inning he pitches, Hill allows his opponents to hit .236/.297/.279 off of him, as opposed to the .296/.350/.466 opponents hit off of him from inning 2 on. The key to his first inning successed is the fact that he gives up almost nothing more than a single. There have been 33 first inning hits off of Shawn Hill in his short career. Only 4 of these (12%) went for extra bases-3 doubles and a home run. Now compare this to the 36% XBH rate from the second inning on. When a batter faces Hill for the first time in a game (not necessarily in the first inning), they hit .258/.316/.352 off of him. When they face him for the second time, that line skyrockets to .313/.369/.469 and further to .291/.354/.505 for the third (and fourth, fifth, etc.) time they face him. Hill obviously has something special that works the first time through the lineup ridiculously well.

The other main factor needed for a reliever is their success in high-leverage situations (read about the definition here). Hill performed best in the highest leverage situations, allowing a .254/.329/.362 line against. In medium leverage situations, he was decent, with a .288/.336/.434 line against. In low leverage situations, Hill got shellacked, with a .299/.366/.470 line against. So if you want a pitcher who thrives in the situations that make you sweat most, Hill's your guy.

All stats used in this post are provided by

Thursday, February 19, 2009

2009 MLB Over/Unders

Not quite sure what route took me over to Vegas Watch, but I figured it would be fun to run a contest of sorts. Below, I'll copy Bodog's over/unders. Post in the comments your choices for every team, but with a twist: in addition to your picks for all 30 teams, select 5 "Locks." These will count twice as much (so, in essence, you can get 35 points if you pick all of them right-check my comment for reference). The winner will recieve praise and other things of no monetary value in October. If you want to make money off of this, go bet or something, but this is a family blog.

Arizona- 86.5
Atlanta- 84.5
Baltimore- 74.5
Boston- 94.5
Chicago Cubs- 94.5
Chicago White Sox- 76.5
Cincinnati- 76.5
Cleveland- 83
Colorado- 76.5
Detroit- 79.5
Florida- 75.5
Houston- 74.5
Kansas City- 75.5
LA Angels- 87.5
LA Dodgers- 84.5
Milwaukee- 85.5
Minnesota- 79.5
NY Mets- 90.5
NY Yankees- 96
Oakland- 81.5
Philadelphia- 87.5
Pittsburgh- 66.5
San Diego- 67.5
San Francisco- 77.5
Seattle- 72.5
St. Louis- 83.5
Tampa Bay- 89.5
Texas- 81.5
Toronto- 81.5
Washington- 68.5

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ladson's Inbox

I guess big Bill has been saving questions up, so here's the second "Inbox" of the week!


With the glut of outfielders on the roster, who do you think has the best chance of getting traded? -- Derek C., Ottawa, Canada

Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns because they're an

yone else's for the taking. If either has a strong ST, I could see them being dealt (as in someone actually wanting them). Willie Harris, Lastings Milledge and Josh Willingham are all possibilities, too.

Was Dunn a Type A free agent, and did the Nationals have to give up a Draft choice for signing him? -- Phil L., Hershey, Pa.

(Ladson's answer): Dunn was not a Type A free agent because the D-backs didn't offer him arbitration. That means the Nationals will not lose a 2009 Draft pick.

(my addition): Imagine if they HAD offered him arbitration. We could have gotten him for like $3 mil a year.

With the addition of Dunn, do you think Ryan Zimmerman will have a breakout year in 2009? -- James C., Washington

(Ladson's answer): Here's what I think Zimmerman will do this season: .290 with 30 home runs and 110 RBIs.

Seriously? I love Zim, but he's not a 30 HR hitter. Put me down for .290, 25 HR, 45 doubles and 100 RBI. And I will not attribute this to Dunn for the most part, but rather to Zim's continued development.

What is the status of Dmitri Young? I can't find any information on him anywhere. -- Steve D., Hayden, Ind.

Via Facebook: 

Why aren't the Nationals trying to sign a pitcher like Pedro Martinez? He's at the end of his career, yes, but he could help the younger pitchers improve. 

-- David P., Boucherville, Quebec, Canada

I think signing Pedro would be a great addition-theres's no reason to believe he's got nothing left in the tank. More of an issue on injuries.


Everything I have been reading has Mike Hinckley set to be the main left-hander out of the bullpen. What does this mean for Mike O'Connor? 
-- Paul M., Vienna, Va.

O'Connor has been terrible in the majors. Do you really want him back?

You have mentioned that the organization is content with Harris as a reserve. If that's the case, who do you see as the leadoff hitter? 
-- Eddie T., New York

How the lineup should go:


If Harris is starting, put him leadoff and move Guzman down to 8th.

If Johnson starts this season and is healthy and plays at the expectations people thinks he can, will he be back in 2010? 
-- Juan F., Alexandria, Va.

That's a good question. I would tend to doubt it. I expect the Nats to put Dunn at 1B long-term (as in 2010).


Still need 3

For Natmosphere fantasy baseball (Yahoo! league).

Email me at sean dot t dot hogan at gmail dot com if you're interested.

P.S.-Nothing to say on Smiley. What other opinion could I possibly have? Rijo and Bowden should be gone, though-this should be the last straw.

Monday, February 16, 2009

And the winner of my first real scorn of the year goes to

Odalis Perez!

According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (via MLBTR), Odalis regrets giving his verbal approval to the $850k minor league deal the Nats offered him. The kicker: he hasn't signed the deal and doesn't plan on doing so without a raise. 

Here's the key quote: "'I thought it best and I prefer to sit in my house if the Nationals do not show more appreciation for my work,' Perez said from Santo Domingo. 'Appreciate my work means to increase the value of the contract and guarantee it. I will not accept any minor league contracts with no safeguards. I instructed my agent to report my position to the Nationals,' Perez said, who also said that he's not negotiating with other clubs."

This isn't the first time Odalis felt he didn't get enough "respect" before. Per in 2006 (via MLBTR): "(Perez) stopped his O's 45's program, in which he bought 45 tickets for inner-city school children to attend his starts, after losing his starting job. He said he would not reinstate the program now that he is starting again because he felt he never got enough credit from the club or the public for his charitable contributions. 'When you spend your own money you want to be recognized for that,' Perez said. 'I don't want to be a hero, but just pay more attention to what I'm doing. People don't want to give me the recognition for it.'"

Don't bother negotiating with this piece of greedy garbage. Give his spot to one of the kids (better use anyways) and tell him that he got his recognition in 2006 and 2007 when he got paid $16.5 mil for 263 and 2/3 innings of 5.87 ERA ball. 

5 Fearless Predictions for 2009

There's not a whole lot of introduction I'm looking to do for this. Some may be controversial and that's fine. Keep in mind that these are gut-based and not stats-based. Throwing stats at me in rebuttal will prove nothing, as these are PREDICTIONS and not facts.

1) Ryan Zimmerman will be the team MVP.
Dukes and Johnson will get hurt and Dunn and Milledge won't be quite as good.

2) The team's best pitcher will not have thrown a single pitch for the Nats organization in 2008.
It actually hurts me to say that. I am a HUGE John Lannan fan, but for some reason I always feel we're hanging on a thread with him. We can't expect Bally-Star or Zimmermann to have breakout rookie years (as nice as it would be). For some reason, I have high hopes for Daniel Cabrera, Scott Olsen and even J.D. Martin.

3) Joel Hanrahan will not be the closer at the end of the year.
Ok, I may not believe in this one completely. It's done more to provoke thought-what if Hanrahan breaks down or is ineffective? Then we turn to Shawn Hill, the subject of a near-future post that I'm working on.

4) Jesus Flores will not have the breakout year with the bat many of us are expecting.
Flores may very well be my favorite National, but there are just too many holes in his swing that need to be corrected if we want him to go nuts. His BB/K numbers are terrible-29 BB to 126 K in his career-and his contact numbers aren't much better either.

5) Anderson Hernandez will make you yearn for the return of F-Lop.
I touched on this in last night's "Inbox" (I refuse to call it that without quotation's the mailbag!): too many of you are basing your opinions on Hernandez on his 81 AB trial last season (and his 236 at bats of Winter League ball). He has a track record: 87 bad ML at bats and a minor league track record of 3508 bad at bats. He is not a good hitter. Expect the worst and maybe you'll be pleasantly suprised...but that chance is 10% or lower.

I'm going to add to this list as time goes along. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Sunday Inbox

Come on, mailbag has such a better ring to it! But here's your Sunday Inbox...

Who do you see starting at first base for the Nationals this season? 
-- Mark H., Washington, D.C.

Johnson will start at 1B as long as he's healthy, with Dunn in LF, Milledge in CF and Dukes in RF.

You've written that you don't feel that general manager Jim Bowden relies too heavily on former Reds. After the Dunn signing, has it made you rethink that Bowden is still wearing his Cincinnati bowtie? 
-- Matt M., Winooski, Vt.

The Dunn signing is the one former Red that you WANT him to go after. Guys like Damian Jackson, Wily Mo Pena, Chris Michalak are the guys you don't want him to go after. It's a poor time to bring up this point in my opinion. Save it for when he goes after Calvin Pickering.

Why is Milledge penciled in ahead of Elijah Dukes in center field? Dukes has a better arm, glove, on-base and slugging percentage. 
-- Trey O., Washington, D.C.

You're going to start Dukes and Milledge whenever they're both healthy. I, like you, would rather see Dukes in CF, but he does have the better arm (which is better suited for RF). We're not going to the World Series this year...might as well keep Milledge out there and see if a ball will hit him in the head and knock some sense into him.

I get the feeling that Anderson Hernandez is getting lost in the shuffle. I still believe Hernandez is the team's best option economically and on the field. 
-- Dean C., Washington, D.C.

Why does everyone thing Anderson Hernandez is the 2B savior?!?!? Yeah, he hit great in 28 games for us near the end of last year. Did you notice that he hit .203/.262/.307 in AAA in 125 games? Or that his 10 BB to 8 K ratio is completely out of whack with his career numbers anywhere else (12:25 in ML, including the 10 walks from last year and 231:677 in AAA). Don't be disappointed when he puts up 2005 Guzmanic numbers. Expect it and be pleasantly surprised if he hits his career minor league line of .264/.310/.354.

The Nats have done a pretty good job selecting pitchers in the Draft. Will they make a concerted effort to find bats in this year's First-Year Player Draft? 
-- Bern D., Washington, D.C.

I sure hope so. I know a team can't win without pitching, but there are no impact bats in this organization. We're already getting Strasburg at 1...if we have the choice between another Colten Willems and another Justin Smoak at 10, we better pick the Smoak-type.

If Joel Hanrahan can't hold onto the closer role, who is next in line for a chance as Washington's stopper? 
-- Ed, New Jersey

Bill came up with a VERY intelligent answer. I've been pining for Shawn Hill to close since forever. It needs to be him-he's got the stuff and the first-time-through-the-lineup success.

With all of the outfielders in the organization, I have yet to hear the suggestion of having Willie Harris play second base. 
-- Jeff, Washington, D.C.

He's our best option there. Belliard can't field, Hernandez can't hit and Wee Willie sits in the background saying "Put me in, Manny, I can do both!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

State of the Nationals

Now that the Nats have signed Adam Dunn to a 2 year deal, there are a ton of options available. Our pitching is still suspect at best. We can hope for breakout years out of Cabrera, Hill, Zimmermann and Balester and sustained success out of Hanrahan, Lannan, Rivera and Perez, but all (or even most) of that happening is impossible.

If we want to be truly excited about this move, we need to do more. We need to deal some combination of Milledge, Kearns, Pena, Johnson, Young, Willingham to get pitching. We need to draft Stephen Strasburg. We need to draft a college player at 10th overall. We need to sign Orlando Hudson or Ray Durham. We need to sign Will Ohman and maybe Juan Cruz.

This team is starting to look solid. But there's no reason to put together half of a good baseball team. Get some pitching and I'll be excited.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Thoughts

First of all, I'm disappointed we didn't sign Ray Durham. I wouldn't waste a penny on a bet with 1000 to 1 odds saying Anderson Hernandez will be "good" this year. I might consider "league average" but even that would be a push. Belliard is nice, but Durham is better.

It's good to see guys getting to Viera early. Among the list of early arrivals (from Nats Journal): Nick Johnson, Dmitri Young (who apparently is lookin' good), Scott Olsen, Jason Bergmann, Ross Detwiler, Steven Shell, Joel Hanrahan and Garrett Mock. I'd like to see guys like Flores, Kearns and Pena get there early to get some extra work in, but it's extremely early for hitters to show up.

Last in the order of business-anyone want to start a Natmosphere fantasy baseball league? I'm in, and FJB and I better not be the only excited ones!

Sunday, February 8, 2009


The Nats signed Scott Olsen today, avoiding arbitration. They did a lot better than just meeting half-way at $2.8 mil (with $2.5 mil being the Nats' offer and a $3.5 mil counter from Olsen). Nice job by the front office getting him to agree to a deal below the midway point.

On the other hand, bad job by the front office not settling with Shawn Hill. It was a mixed bag, though, because Hill didn't seem to be distraught by the arbitration process, saying, "they stayed clean with everything, didn't attack my character or anything. It was a pretty easygoing trial." One of the first examples I've seen where players didn't mind the arbitration meeting.

Everything I read about Steven Strasburg makes me want him even more. If they screw this up...

One collectively great move the Nats made was dumping Tim Redding and resigning Odalis Perez to a minor league deal. Glad they didn't do it the other way around, they saved a lot of money (and while I think they need to spend more money, this is one example in which being thrifty is much much much better than being fiscally irresponsible).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chris Kay on 2008 #1 pick Tim Beckham

Here's the second guest post from Chris Kay. Be sure to check out his blog, We Talkin Bout Practice? and the archive of his posts here.

Tim Beckham was the first pick in the 2008 MLB Draft by the Rays. The shortstop out of Griffin, GA is an absolute stud. At 6’1 and 180, the kid has the skills to be a five tool player. Some of the words that I would use to describe the way he plays are “smooth”, “flashy”, and “amazing”. It’s just fun to watch him to play offense and defense. I definitely expect him to play SS in the majors and be like a BJ Upton-like player except I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to use the leather in the infield. 

I played with Tim for a short period of time when I was playing with the Atlanta Blue Jays. He was on the 15 year old team while I was on the 16. We played a brutal schedule composed of almost all 18 year old teams and whenever we played in big tournaments Tim would play with us. The kid was just phenomenal even against guys 3 years older than him. He was not intimidated by them at all. He knew he could play, but he was never too cocky about it which I was happy to see. As crazy as it seems, he came to the Blue Jays as a pretty good player with some skills, but he had to put in countless hours of work to get where he is at now. It’s players like Tim Beckham that you really root for.

Monday, February 2, 2009

More Minor League signings

Baseball America's Prospects blog reports that the Nats have inked infielder Alex Cintron and righthanded pitcher Ben Grezlovski to minor league contracts.

Cintron is probably as familiar as a name to most of you as pretty much any Nats minor league signing will ever be. He was really good in 2004, hitting .317/.359/.489. Too bad his career numbers and his numbers since 2004 both stink. He's kinda like Cristian Guzman except without the multiple good seasons.

Grezlovski is about as random as a signing as you'll see. He has spent the entire Nationals existance in the independent Atlantic League (see, isn't that a nicer way to say "he spent 2005-08 in the Atlantic League?") and the six prior seasons in a mix of independent leagues and low-level minor leagues with the The Angels Angels of Anaheim. He's got decent overall numbers, but he is also 32 years old without any experience above AA. So we're talking organizational depth.

A side note-before it gets buried, check out Chris Kay's guest post from Saturday. Should be a fun feature from here on out.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Out of Options posted a short list of guys who are out of options and therefore might become trade fodder this spring:

Also, some guys discussed in the comments section...not confirmed:
Mariners: David Aardsma

Some others via MLBTR: Josh Anderson, Blaine Boyer, Mike Gonzalez, Anthony Lerew, Derek Lowe, Greg Norton, David Ross, Rafael Soriano, Phil Stockman, Ronny Cedeno, Phil Dumatrait, Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen, Tyler Yates and Wes Littleton.

Of all of those listed, I would specifically like Rich Hill, Reyes, Humber and Niemann. I wouldn't be opposed to adding any of these guys, but Pauley and Kottaras are both iffy IMO. I'd also like to mention that Pie was recently traded to the O's, so he will probably make the team, and Rich Hill is likely going to be an Oriole as well, so cross those two off of your lists. The chances that Michael Wuertz doesn't stick with the Cubs are very low as well.

Side note-does anyone want to compile a list like this one for the Nats?