Saturday, May 30, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

The title can suggest two things-either we're going to benefit by watching the Nats continue to lose all year (less likely), or we are all going to die by watching them (more likely). 

But jokes aside, what can we learn from this team? Baseball is an unfair game. The illogical tends to happen more often than the logical (or at least it tends to stick out more). We've lost 13 of our last 15 and 16 of 19. That's pretty bad. But only 4 of those 16 losses were by more than 3 runs (I use 3 runs because a save opportunity defines it as a "close" game). So 75% of the current slump have been lost by a "close" score. Compare that with the 68% over the full season (23 of 34 losses) and you'll see that this team isn't nearly as bad as it could be-at least they're playing close games. Close games are interesting to watch, and while they may kill the faint of heart, seeing a lot of those games now will make losing in heartbreaking fashion later on easier to take. Well, at least in theory-I'm not sure that anything makes losing a close game easy. Kinda talking out of my butt now.

Changing gears-thanks to whoever nominated me for MLB Trade Rumors' "Baseball Blogs Weigh In" series. It was my second appearance there. Check out today's post here and my shoutout from November here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Finalized draft reviews will be up soon! But in the meantime YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nats/Expos recent draft history: Minaya and Bowden

Here's part 2 of my draft history research. See part 1 here. I'm going to point out here that "still with the Nationals" for the most part will refer to significant guys-ones who have a chance of being major leaguers still.

GM: Minaya
Total picks: 50
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 3-Darrell Rasner (2), Mike O'Connor* (7) and Jason Bergmann* (11)
Still with Nationals: 3-O'Connor and Bergmann, plus Clint Everts (1)
Total ML games amongst draftees: 168
A not-so-good draft. Even though this is the earliest draft that featured guys still in our organization, the Nats had busts at 5th overall as well as rounds 3-6. Insult to injury: the 6th and 7th overall players taken were Zack Greinke and Prince Fielder. That being said, using hindsight to judge a draft isn't the proper way to look at it: you're drafting 18-year-olds and hoping they develop into solid major leaguers. If Everts didn't blow his elbow out, he could have been as good as Greinke. But since he was a bust, so was the Expos' draft 2002 draft.

GM: Minaya
Total picks: 50
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 3-Chad Cordero (1), Jerry Owens* (2) and Kory Casto* (3)
Still with Nationals: 2-Casto, Luke Montz (17)
Total ML games amongst draftees: 516

This draft doesn't look terrible, but that's because of Cordero on top. Owens was dealt for Alex Escobar and Casto is simply not that good. Hopefully Kory can turn it around and Montz can follow up his successful 2008 season and make it to the majors soon (note-now that Cabrera's gone and Montz is up, I'll amend this to "make it to the majors for good soon").

GM: Minaya
Total picks: 50
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 3-Bill Bray* (1), Collin Balester* (4), Brett Campbell (34)
Still with Nationals: 4-Balester, Ian Desmond (3), Marvin Lowrance (7), Leonard Davis (8)
Total ML games amongst draftees: 149

An unimpressive draft, mainly because it happened 5 years ago and still has only produced three major leaguers, one of which actually stuck. Balester's still a good prospect, Desmond looks more like a AAAA guy (if he can even get there) and Lowrance and Davis have proved that they can destroy AA pitching but not much else. Minaya, you suck.

GM: Bowden
Total picks: 48
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 5-Ryan Zimmerman* (1), Justin Maxwell* (4), Marco Estrada (6), John Lannan* (11) and Craig Stammen* (12)
Still with Nationals: 4-Zimmerman, Maxwell, Estrada, Lannan, Stammen, Mike Daniel (7), Jack Spradlin (8) Marcus Jones (38, re-drafted in 2008)
Total ML games amongst draftees: 573

The best draft I've rated so far. Zimmerman was a no-brainer at 4th overall, but Maxwell, Lannan and Stammen were all good finds considering where they were taken. Knock Bowden all you want, but he was twice the drafter Minaya or Beattie could even dream of being.

GM: Bowden
Total picks: 52
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 0. Yup, 0.
Still with Nationals: 6-Chris Marrero (1), Colten Willems (1), Cory VanAllen (5), Zech Zinicola (6), Sean Rooney (8), Adam Carr (18).
Total ML games amongst draftees: 0

Still a young enough draft that we can't call it a "bust" per se, as Marrero, Zinicola and Rooney are all decent prospects while Gibson turned into Elijah Dukes. Give it an "incomplete" to this point, but it doesn't appear that much other than Marrero will turn out nice for the Nats.

GM: Bowden
Total picks: 53
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 2-Ross Detwiler* (1) and Jordan Zimmermann* (2)
Still with Nationals: 6-Detwiler, Josh Smoker (1s), Michael Burgess (1s), Zimmermann, Derek Norris (4), Brad Meyers (5), Jack McGeary (6)
Total ML games amongst draftees: 10

Every time I look at this draft, I'm more impressed. Even if it doesn't turn much up in terms of results, this was the first Expos/Nats draft in recent memory where money wasn't the main factor for who the franchise picked. Detwiler was a great pick I'm convinced, Smoker/Burgess/McGeary were all overslot guys and Zimmermann, Norris and Meyers were good finds. Maybe it's because I've viewed drafts through Minaya-tinted glasses, but Bowden wasn't a terrible drafter. Also note that this was Rizzo's first draft.

2008 is too early to judge to be honest, and there's no real way to look at it when you factor in Crow.

So, at least the Nats' drafts have been on the upturn. Hopefully we can get past last year's speedbump and get another good draft this year!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nats/Expos recent draft history: Intro and the Jim Beattie Era

Since the draft takes place two weeks from tomorrow, I figured I'd run a mini-series evaluating the Nats/Expos drafts since 1995 (a completely arbitrary date to pick, simply because there was a leadership change from Kevin Malone to Jim Beattie as GM). Your 4 GM's being evaluated are Malone (just his last draft), Beattie, Omar Minaya and our favorite, Jim Bowden (note-Larry Beinfest served as the interim GM from 2001-02, but did not draft in his short reign).

So, starting in 1995:
GM: Malone
Total picks: 46
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML in 2009): 6-Michael Barrett* (1), Henry Mateo (2), J.D. Smart (4), Brian Schneider* (5), Jeff Austin (10) and Pete LaForest (16).
Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 2228 (dominated by Barrett and Schneider's combined 1928)

Out of the 6 players they drafted, only 2 are still active and they were really the only two to stick in the majors. Funny that 3 of the 6 drafted were catchers in the majors. While this draft was a major failure talent-wise, it at least produced ML players in 4 of the top 5 picks. Also worth noting: the Expos picked 28th overall, the latest non-supplemental first round status in franchise history, as they were the best team in baseball in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Overall, it was a pretty bad draft.

GM: Beattie
Total picks: 46
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 8-John Patterson (1), Milton Bradley* (2), Christian Parker (4), Jamey Carroll* (14), Andy Tracy* (16), Chris Stowers (17), Tim Young (19) and Carl Sadler (34).
Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 1834

Like many of the drafts I'll be examining, there was an excellent find in the top few rounds: Milton Bradley. Another trend that goes hand-in-hand with that: Bradley barely played 100 games for the Expos. Remember that Patterson didn't sign with the Expos, but instead with the Diamondbacks (according to Wikipedia, "Montreal lost the draft rights to Patterson on a legal technicality: they sent him a contract offer that was not printed on official team letterhead, and he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for $6.075 million."). So even though this draft produced two ML batters with 700+ games played in Bradley and Jamey Carroll, the Nats got pretty much nothing out of this draft.

GM: Beattie
Total picks: 56
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 5-Brian Hebson (1s), TJ Tucker (1s), Talmadge Nunnari (9), Scott Strickland (10), Matt Blank (11)
Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 437

Worst. Draft. Ever. In. The. History. Of. Everything. This is completely unfathomably bad. The Expos had 7 supplemental first round picks and 9 total in the top 100. Out of these, 2 made the majors: Brian Hebson (2 career games) and TJ Tucker (171 career games). This is ineptitude that surpasses even Jim Bowden. Out of the top 15 drafted, 2 made the majors. Of the 13 that didn't, 11 were High Schoool picks and 2 were Junior College selections. Pretty much the textbook year for the "DON'T DRAFT HS PLAYERS" way of thinking.

GM: Beattie
Total picks: 47
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 2-Brad Wilkerson (1s) and Jimmy Serrano (18)
Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 982

Despite the fact that there were only 2 Major Leaguers in the Expos' 1998 draft, at least they didn't blow 7 of 8 supplemental first rounders. Wilkerson was an average-or-better hitter for 5 full seasons and Serrano pitched 32 and 2/3 innings of league-average ball in 2004. But wow, what a killer 2-year stretch for the Expos. I didn't put a * beside Wilkerson because, even though he played a little bit for the Red Sox' AAA affiliate this year, he officially retired.

GM: Beattie
Total picks: 48
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 5-Brandon Phillips* (2), Matt Cepicky (4), Brandon Watson* (9), Val Pascucci* (15) and Matt Watson (16)
Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 818

Another terribly top-heavy draft that didn't benefit the franchise at all. Phillips turned into a very good 2B, but nobody else stuck in the Majors out of this draft. 4th straight year of little return for the franchise. No wonder the Expos were so bad.

GM: Beattie
Total picks: 49
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 11-Justin Wayne (1), Grady Sizemore* (3), Cliff Lee* (4), Shawn Hill* (6), Wes Littleton* (7), Phil Seibel (8), Fred Lewis* (20), Jason Bay* (22), Russell Martin* (35), Anthony Ferrari (44) and Jeff Karstens* (45) (note-Littleton, Lewis, Martin and Karstens did not sign).

Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 2606

Awesome draft. Too bad only Hill did anything for the Nats. This draft was a victim of Omar Minaya, who dealt Lee, Sizemore and Brandon Phillips (along with Lee Stevens) to Cleveland for Bartolo Colon (and Tim Drew) during the 2002 season. Thank goodness Minaya, one of the most overrated GM's of the current era, is in New York now. At least there he can attempt to cover up his mistakes by spending large sums of money on FA's.

GM: Beattie
Total picks: 50
Major Leaguers (* denotes 1 or more GP in ML or AAA in 2009): 4-Mike Hinckley* (3), Josh Labandeira (6), Chad Bentz (7) and Chris Schroder* (19)

Still with Nationals: 0
Total ML games amongst draftees: 137

Ummmm...when Chris Schroder is the best pick in a draft, it's a pretty bad one. That being said, I really wish we still had Schrodes to anchor or bullpen-Billy Beane, will you give him back? Pretty please?

At this point the Jim Beattie era mercifully ended. His totals: 35 major leaguers in 6 drafts...pretty bad. There were some diamonds in the rough, but none of them stuck around long enough to matter for the Nats. I'll get Minaya and Bowden done sometime tomorrow. Key stat: 0 players in drafts before 2001 are still with the Nats. Look at it this way: at least things can't get worse than this. And at least Jim Beattie isn't running the franchise anymore. You know he went to Dartmouth? For someone so smart, he's pretty stupid.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Down on the farm report

I know I can't do it as well as NFA, but since he's gone for a week, here are a few of my observations this year on Nats minor leaguers.

Our AAA hitting has been awful this year when you look at it on an individual basis. Of our guys with 60+ AB's, 5 have OPS's under .700, with only 3 guys above .800. Kory Casto is hitting .267/.358/.336. Justin Maxwell was hitting .230/.319/.390 before he got called up. Corey Patterson is hitting .217/.280/.283. Milledge was hitting .253/.316/.277. 

Only Ryan Langerhans, Jorge Padilla and Brad Eldred have been doing well. Langerhans, hitting .278/.403/.526, should have been called up rather than Maxwell. He's a plus fielder swinging a hot bat, and deserves another shot in the Majors this year.

Pitching in AAA is another story, with Stammen, Estrada, Clippard, Martin, Larrison, Bergmann, etc. doing well. Like FJB, I'm a big fan of JD Martin and would like to see him get a shot before the end of the year-he's 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA through 7 starts this year. Collin Balester has been a disappointment so far at 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA. His K/9 and BB/9 numbers aren't too far off of his career averages, though, so look for him to rebound soon.

Harrisburg has been average for the most part, with only Marvin Lowrance really exceeding expectations (.278/.341/.565), but nobody on the Nats' radar really doing that terrible minus Bill Rhinehart. Pitching-wise, everyone has run pretty hot or cold in AA. Zech Zinicola has a sub-1.00 ERA (although his K/BB and WHIP numbers aren't consistent with that). Ross Detwiler, Josh Wilkie, Mike O'Connor, Erik Arnesen, Jack Spradlin and Justin Jones have been between decent and awesome while Adrian Alaniz, Adam Carr, Matt Avery, Cory VanAllen and Luis Atilano have been awful.

Potomac's bats are doing alright, with Sean Rooney, Chris Marrero and Danny Espinoza all doing fairly well. Mike Burgess has been a mixed bag, but a .781 OPS is at least decent. Stephen King looks done to me. Bradley Meyers has looked excellent so far for Potomac as well as Arnesen and Jeff Mandel. Colten Willems has been less than spectacular so far.

Derek Norris is ripping Hagerstown apart with the bat, but he's just about the only one. DCSP favorite Chris Curran has slumped so far, as well as 2006-08 high-ish draft picks Marcus Jones (2008 11th rounder), Stephen Englund (2006 2nd rounder) and Steve Souza (2007 3rd rounder). Jack McGeary and Paul Demny have been hit hard so far while Brad Peacock has been decent so far.

Top 20 watch (order taken from

1) Jordan Zimmerman, RHP-decent, but not great in ML so far this year.  Rate stats are better than expected, but his BABIP is very high so far. Look for his numbers to improve as the year goes along. I'll give him a C+ so far.

2) Michael Burgess, OF-K's have come down a little bit (from 34-37% of PA's last year to 30% so far this year), but are still way too high. Counting stats haven't shown up so far in 2009, but ISO power and OBP are looking decent. Another C+.

3) Chris Marrero, 1B-BABIP much higher than the last 2 seasons, but more in line as to what it should be, so that's positive. Walks are way down so far this year, but his batting average is way up. It will be interesting to watch him as the year goes along. He gets a B for bouncing back from his injury fairly well.

4) Ross Detwiler, LHP-K's are up, BB's are down and he wasn't getting incredibly lucky in AA at the beginning of the year, so that's encouraging. Nothing negative to say so far this year, get an A because he's exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds already and it's just May!

5) Garrett Mock, RHP-Huge disappointment so far in both AAA and the majors, but who out of the bullpen hasn't been? Hopefully moving him back to the rotation will help him get his control back. He gets an F.

6) Jack McGeary, LHP-Also disappointing so far, with a lot of walks. His H/9 is encouraging, but walking almost 7 guys per 9 innings is unacceptable. McGeary gets something he'd never get at Stanford: a D.

7) Justin Maxwell, OF-Love the glove, but he's struck out in 44% of his AB's in AAA so far this year. 44%-that's crazy! Weird to see a guy with a .230 batting average and a .365 BABIP, but thats what happens when you strike out 44 times out of 100. D+ for Max.

8) Esmailyn Gonzalez, SS-No comment.

9) Destin Hood, OF-No 2009 stats so far, I'm assuming he's still at extended Spring Training.

10) Shairon Martis, RHP-He's held his own in the majors this year, although he hasn't been all that special. With almost as many BB's as K's, he won't have success for too long, but he should improve both throughout the year. One encouraging stat is that he's allowing less than 1 hit per IP. C+ for Shairon so far.

11) Rogerarvin Bernadina, OF-Broke his ankle, will be out for a long time.

12) Adrian Nieto, C-Like Hood, no 2009 stats so far.

13) Derek Norris, C-Has already matched his 2008 HR total through just 38 games. BB numbers are down and K numbers are up though, so be cautiously optimistic. Still, a .323/.415/.624 start out of a catcher is awesome. A- so far for Derek.

14) Colton Willems, RHP-ERA is up, but so are K's, while BB's are down. What we need to see is a continued improvement in K's-going from 5 K/9 to 6 is an improvement, but still not nearly what you'd like to see out of a 2006 1st rounder. C+ for a little improvement, but not enough for me.

15) Josh Smoker, LHP-Hasn't pitched in 2009 so far.

16) Marvin Lowrance, OF-BB's are down and K's are up, but he's mashing in AA. Look for him to have a year like Leonard Davis did last year...and get that joker Corey Patterson out of the AAA lineup so Lowrance can move up some more. Sleeper to join the Nats sometime this year (if the OF glut ever gets solved), A- so far this year.

17) Paul Demny, RHP-Rate stats make his 5.29 ERA through 4 starts look better. Still striking out 1 guy per inning, but has been unlucky with his BABIP and LOB%. C+.

18) J.P. Ramirez, OF-Nothing yet in 2009.

19) Tyler Clippard, RHP-Conversion to the bullpen has been a success so far, but it does look at tad lucky to this point. With K's way up and BB's around his career averages though, it is feasible that he continues to pitch well all year. An A for Tyler, please bring him to DC soon!

20) Ian Desmond, SS-On the DL right now with a broken hamate bone. Looked pretty decent through 7 games, but that's just 7 games. Grade: Incomplete.

My guesses at guys who could shoot up to the Majors this year: Langerhans, Clippard, Martin, Zinicola, Wilkie, Meyers, Arnesen, Mandel.
My guesses at guys who can come off of the 40-man this year: Atilano, Chico, pretty much anyone in the ML bullpen (specifically Tavarez/Wells), Montz, Desmond.

Draft note-USC SS Grant Green has been slipping on mock drafts and could be available for the Nats at #10. That would be awesome. Even though he had a down year this season, he's still a great all-around player who would be an excellent addition to the organization. He's worth reading about here (the context is the MVN mock draft).

Some things to think about

First of all, I don't think the combination of Elijah Dukes/Jesus Flores hitting the DL is the reason for Dunn's sudden sputtering. It's not like he could keep up his 1.100 OPS pace all year. This is baseball, and you can't blame every slump on something. Even the best of the best fail between 6 and 7 times out of 10.

Concerning Nick Johnson-I agree with FJB wholeheartedly. Don't. Overpay. For. Relief. Pitching. Yeah, our bullpen sucks. But in both our 2009 plan (the plan in which our infield doesn't get 4000 throwing errors due to Dunn at 1B) and our long-term plan (Delcarmen is arbitration-eligible after this season and will hit FA after 2012), the deal wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. Trading him for a reliever is the last thing we should do-get some high risk, potentially high reward prospects for him (or fleece somebody out of some low risk, high reward prospects) and do with that. It's really not worth it for us to try and make a "patch" when there is no feasible way for us to compete in 2009.

And nobody wants Danny Almonte, just like in 2006 when nobody wanted Jeffrey Maier. I'd tend to think it would be worth the publicity stunt come the 40th round or so, but I could be wrong.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Another one bites the dust

Cintron's out. Thank goodness!

In other transactional news, Dukes to the DL while Bergmann and Maxwell are up from AAA. All I'm waiting for now is a Cabrera DFA and a Stammen callup and we're all set!

I'm in Bloomington, MN for the night (right by the Mall of America) before heading out to Chicago tomorrow. Please check out my Twitter page for more frequent updates!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 13-a night of endings rather than beginnings

I'm a little upset about the Caps' loss (even though I didn't see any of the game). I'm not mad at the Penguins or the referees, but instead the Caps. They simply relied on Simeon Varlamov too much-without him, there would have been no game 7, 6 or 5. The Caps (and Bruce Boudreau) have a lot of adjustments to make next year. But, as my Facebook says, the Caps have a bright future ahead and nothing to be ashamed of. The sky is the limit, and in 2010, look for them to once again compete in the playoffs.

Zimmerman's streak ended at 30 as well. Not that much of a surprise-luck and skill don't always coincide.  FJB has a ridiculously awesome, in-depth discussion of Zim being intentionally walked in the 7th inning.

And I took my last final exam of the semester, finishing my second year at Tech. We'll skip further discussion here...

I will be road-tripping from Las Vegas back to the DC area starting Saturday. Feel free to follow my new Twitter to see where I am (assuming I can figure it out):

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nats, Future Nats, ex-Nats, etc.

First off, congrats to Stephen Strasburg on an incredible ending to an amazing career at San Diego State. Although he's not done for the season, it was his final home game, and boy did he go out in style, with his first collegiate no-hitter.

As many of you have seen, the Diamondbacks had 3 former Nats in their starting infield tonight: Josh Wilson, Felipe Lopez and Josh Whitesell. The Nats had 1 former Diamondback in their starting lineup: Adam Dunn. Advantage, Nationals.

Caps couldn't pull it out tonight unfortunately. They need to come out hard against the Penguins tomorrow if they want a chance of winning the series. Disappointing effort all-around, and you can't ask the 21-year-old goalie to carry you every single game.

Monday, May 4, 2009

2 Nice Wins

The Caps beat the Pens tonight. Nothing here you can't get elsewhere, but it was a pretty fun/difficult game to watch. Ovie and Cindy Crysby both had hat tricks, but Ovie's domination of most of the last 10 minutes was the real story. David Steckel wins the Lunch Pail for mucking up his second playoff goal. I vow to root for Ohio State one time for every goal he scores. So far, I'm pulling for the Buckeyes over Navy and Toledo (I would have cheered for them over USC anyways).

Now on to my niche, the Nats. They had a nice 9-4 win tonight over Houston. Lannan wasn't particularly sharp it looks like, but the Nats got 15 hits and drew 8 walks (and 1 HBP) while Hanrahan and Mock closed the door. Would have liked more than 2 runs off of Brian Moehler, but you take what you can get I guess.

Good day to be a DC sports fan, and we are!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Big post coming today. Lots of links and then the inbox!

First off, the Nats are apparently scouting Aaron Crow again this year. He would have to give the Nats his permission to be drafted again by them this year. I think the scouting is procedural-you have to scout the top 100 or 500 or 1000 players no matter what, even if you're probably not going to pick him. But I doubt he would give the Nats his permission to be re-drafted and even if he did, I doubt the Nats would re-draft him.

The Nats traded for Logan Kensing and signed Mike Macdougal recently, both of which are good moves in my opinion. You can never have enough pitching (as we've learned so far) and we gave up basically nothing for either of them. Chances are, they will probably suck (or continue to pitch the way the Nats have this year-tons of BB's), but it's always worth a shot. The only cost is money, and since it's not my money I like it!

I also like the Martis complete game. 6 K's and 0 BB's and only 110 pitches in 9 innings works for me. I think Manny's babying of our pitchers is ridiculous at times, especially considering the state of our bullpen. A step in the right direction, I guess.

Tony Gwynn says Strasburg could start in the Majors and be the Nats' #1 starter right away. I agree. Talent-wise, nobody is even comparable in the system, and he's best off hanging around our best pitching mind in Randy St. Claire anyways. At this point, I don't see how the Nats can not start him in the Majors.

Continue to keep an eye on DC Pro Sports Report's mock draft databases. Through 12 mocks of the 2009 MLB draft, there is really a mixed bag amongst candidates for the Nats' second pick. The only repeated player is University of Georgia 1B Rich Poythress. I would be stoked if he fell to the Nats at 10-he has 20 HR and more BB than K so far this year.

Dunn's "Natinals" jersey commanded $8000 at the Dream Gala. If I had that kind of money to throw around, I would probably buy it as well.

Hanrahan wants the closer job back. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that by the All Star Break, he'll have it back. Once he strings together 5 or so good appearances in a row, he'll be ready to get it back.

Even though it was previously unimaginable, the Caps' future is even brighter with Simeon Varlamov shutting the door in the playoffs. I only got to see the 3rd period of Saturday's 3-2 win over the Penguins, but saw the replay of his sprawling save on Crosby about 4000 times. Nice job, Varly!

Here's your inbox:

Do you believe Dukes is the Nationals' best player?
-- John J., Washington

Talent-wise, yes. Production-wise, it's Zimmerman. Dukes has been disappointing in the field so far, while Zimmerman is good across the board.

Do you think Milledge will ever play for the Nats again, or will he be traded. I would think Dukes is entrenched as the center fielder.
-- Dennis Walsh, Silver Spring, Md.

Forecast for Milledge's future: Partly cloudy with 100% chance of playing for the Nats. How Rizzo handles this situation might dictate getting the "acting" dropped from his title. Trading Milledge now would be a horrible mistake-his value is clearly at his lowest. There's no reason to trade away a 24 year old with a ton of talent when he's at a valley in terms of value.

If Daniel Cabrera continues to be shaky, do you think the front office would be willing to see if Collin Balester could do a better job?
-- Bryan A., Fairfield, Conn.

Another big question for Rizzo's future is how he handles this. I know the Lerners would hate to eat his $2.6 mil contract, but he's clearly never going to live up to his potential. Rizzo could try to hide him in the bullpen or send him to AAA to learn how to pitch correctly, but I think an outright release (or a trade, if somebody's dumb enough) are the most likely. I'm going to guess that we ride out Cabrera's inefficiency until Strasburg signs and takes his spot...just a gut guess.

In the wake of recent closer woes, can you shed some light on why the Nationals got rid of Steven Shell?
-- Cordell F., Washington

Shell was redonkulously lucky last year. He's a decent pitcher who I'm sure they would have loved to keep in AAA for depth, but he's not a vital member of our bullpen. He's simply just not that good.

It was reported the Nats have interest in Pedro Martinez. If so, they should go after him.
-- Dennis W. Silver Spring, Md.

You're preaching to the choir, dude. $5 mil is a little too much to pay for Pedro though, so when the price comes down they should make it happen.

I have been following the Nationals/Expos from the very beginning, and I like the young pitchers. I'm also confident that the Nationals will have 20-22 more wins this year than last. I know that sounds over the top, but I sincerely believe it.
-- Dan R., San Luis Obispo, Calif.

At the beginning of the year, I would say "hey, it can happen." 20-22 more wins would still only be 79-81 total, which would put us around/at .500. Possible, but after this atrocious start, I can confidently say 70 wins will be a success.

That's all I've got for the time being. Now I'm off to catch up on my 1000+ items on my Google Reader.