Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quick! Trade Willingham or Dunn to San Francisco!

With the trade deadline in the not-so-distant future (even though the last 48 hours seem like an eternity at the end of July each year), now is the time to jump. We've lost a chance to deal Nick Johnson to the one team desparately seeking a good 1B: San Francisco. The Giants, suffering from poor offensive production all season, traded for Ryan Garko and then today dealt for 2B Freddy Sanchez, greatly improving their awful offense.

San Francisco is vulnerable right now. They showed today that they're willing to deal youth to make a run this year-it would be a waste for them to stop now with a team that still isn't a legitimate contender (even though they have awesome pitching). They still have below-average offense at all 3 OF positions and lack any game-changers in the lineup beyond Pablo Sandoval.

Enter Washington. Josh Willingham or Adam Dunn would be killer additions to the Giants offense and the Giants have good enough prospects (and a GM in Brian Sabean who has a track record of being willing to deal them).

So that being said, who should we target?
LHP Madison Bumgarner
The biggest reach I can think of-along with C prospect Buster Posey, Bumgarner appears to be as untouchable as they get. But considering Sabean just dealt a borderline B+/A- SP prospect for half of a year of a great 2B (but one who is not a game-changer), it is worth noting.
LHP Clayton Tanner
I suggested a Tanner-for-Willingham deal back on June 4 when I thought his value was at it's peak, with a .256/.381/.554 slash line. But he's hit .342/.444/.633 in 37 games since then and his value has soared past just Tanner (even though the Aussie is pitching very well in A+ ball this year).
1B Travis Ishikawa
With the trade for Ryan Garko (who is still under team control for multiple seasons), Ishikawa is immediately expendable. His BB rates have tanked and K rates have soared so far this year, but I expect his bat to recover. More importantly, he has a great glove that can benefit the young staff's psyche (and ERA's). He will most likely be an average ML 1B in the longrun, but it's a huge organizational need if Johnson walks. Ishikawa is a good fielder and will come cheap in terms of contract, and should be a secondary target for the Nats (maybe Tanner+Ishikawa?).
RHP Henry Sosa
Could be an intriguing buy-low candidate. Before this year, Sosa held a 9.93 K/9. It has inexplicably plummeted to 5.5 this year. Strangely, his ERA has gone way down as well, from 3.21 up until this year to 2.36 this season. My other concern is that he'll be 24 tomorrow and has just reached AA for the first time this year. Could still be an interesting guy, though.

Anyone else think the Giants would be a good target? I would be more than happy to help push them into the Wild Card spot!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nats near the rear in "Homegrown Talent" list-does it matter?'s Jonathan Mayo came out with an intriguing list last night, noting the percentage of "homegrown" players for all 30 teams in the majors ("homegrown" seems to be defined as either originally drafted or signed by their current team). As expected, the Nats are tied with the Mets and Royals for the second-worst slot, with 20% of the 25-man roster being homegrown (Houston is last with only 16%).

My question is-does it even matter? Conventional thinking says yes-"homegrown" players tend to be those who you know most about, since you've scouted them all the way up since they were drafted or signed. They're basically indentured servants for 6 years (after all of the years spent in the minors), so the money saved there is another benefit. But I wanted to see if statistics supported the assertion that homegrown players are essential to a winner. Keep in mind that the league averages hover at 35-38%.

My method-take the 13 players with the most PA's and 12 pitchers with the most IP's in the regular season from the World Series winners in the 2000's. Yes, it's an incomplete and small sample size, but it's at least a start.

2008 Philadelphia Phillies-10/25 players (40%)
2007 Boston Red Sox-8/25 players (32%) (note-a lot lower than you thought, eh?)
2006 St. Louis Cardinals-7/25 players (28%)
2005 Chicago White Sox-5/25 (20%)
2004 Boston Red Sox-3/25 (12%) (really? wow)
2003 Florida Marlins-6/25 (25%) (also shockingly low)
2002 Anaheim Angels-12/25 (48%)
2001 Arizona Diamondbacks-5/25 (20%)
2000 New York Yankees-10/25 (40%)


What does this prove? Nothing really. "Homegrown" is a little too subjective for my tastes-but there has to be a cut-off at some point. But the point is-sometimes your homegrown guys are what makes your entire team (2002 Angels). Sometimes your homegrown guys are your biggest pieces and you fill the rest of the team from outside sources (2000 Yankees-Posada, Jeter, Williams, Rivera, Pettite). Sometimes you use your homegrown guys and trade them for the right pieces (2004 Red Sox aren't a perfect example, but they did move Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz).

I think it is safe to conclude that homegrown talent does matter, just not always in a quantifiable way. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that not everything can be quantified...but baseball simply isn't such a setting where people can accept that!

Pity Brewers Fans

They seem to be collecting hated ex-Nats. Within a week of trading for Fail-ipe Lopez, the Brew Crew signed Jesus Colome today. I'm so sorry, Milwaukee. At least you have beer to drown your sorrows in...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pick up Ryan Speier!

The Rockies have DFA'ed Ryan Speier, a solid submarining RHRP with a 3.99 career ERA (and 3.95 career FIP). Speier would be an excellent acquisition for the Nats in my opinion, as he has put up respectable numbers since 2005 with the Rockies. His K rates suck, but he keeps the ball on the ground and gets guys out that way. But, most importantly, he went to West Springfield HS and Radford University. Throw the local kid a bone, especially since it would be an improvement to the bullpen as is. Now if only the Nats could bring in fellow WSHS grad Joe Saunders as well...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Catching up, Inbox

It's been a busy week since my last post, but I can't resist a chance at poking fun at Bill Ladson! Strangely, I agree with him today....weird.

With Jim Riggleman at the helm, I was wondering if you could familiarize Nats fans with Riggleman's style of managing.
-- Dean C., Washington, D.C.

From Ladson: "Riggleman is the type of guy who will not tolerate lackadaisical effort. When Riggleman was managing the Padres, I saw him take Phil Plantier out of the game at Shea Stadium for not hustling on the bases. When he was with the Cubs, Riggleman was not afraid to get in a player's face for doing something wrong on the field.

I think we'll see Riggleman try to manufacture runs and not wait for the three-run home run. It needs to be more than just Nyjer Morgan stealing bases and bunting for base hits. The way the team is going, I believe he'll need to be innovative if he's to scratch out a few extra victories."

What are your feelings about Manny Acta being relieved of his duties as manager of the Nationals? Do you really think Riggleman can win more than 26 games with this roster during the second half?
-- Gil B., Rochester, N.Y.

The point of the move isn't to win more games this year-that doesn't matter as much. The point is so that players will continue to develop. Like Ladson said, the players weren't responding to Manny anymore. A change was needed to get these guys going towards their peak.

Do you see the Nationals signing first-round Draft pick Stephen Strasburg by the Aug. 17 deadline?
-- Craig D., Delmar, Md.

100% yes.

If the Nats cannot trade Austin Kearns by the July 31 Trade Deadline, do you think he will be released?

-- Rich R., Washington, D.C.

Doubt it. Not enough other options in the system for them to dump him-they'll keep him for his defense and dump him after the year. Makes no sense in my opinion to call up a guy like Maxwell or Bernadina (assuming health for the example) to have them sit on the bench. Don't stunt anyone's growth by stuffing them on the bench and wait to call someone up in September.

What happened to Anderson Hernandez's playing time at second base?
-- Ray U., Shrewsbury, Mass.

Gonzalez was playing well enough to warrant starting time.

Here are some of my other random thoughts:
I've been a huge JD Martin fan from the get-go when I named him #4 on my list of guys the Nats should go after out of the minor league free agent market. The Nats in the last week have done a good job rewarding guys with great recent success in AAA-Martin, Mock and Kensing. Hopefully they can get some quality innings out of them. Kudos to the Nats for finally calling up JD and to JD for sticking around so long in the minors to finally get a shot!!

Calling up Kensing is the right decision. He has never translated his minor league success to the majors to this point, but his K/BB ratio in AAA is excellent (24:5 in 25 and 1/3 innings). Considering that was a big problem in his ML stint, he's worth giving another chance to.

Felipe Lopez has been traded to the Brewers. He looks like he's been trying this year, so maybe it will work out for them.

And last but not least, a nice point by FJB on Olsen-don't mess with lats.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Inbox, because watching this game makes me want to kill myself

One quick thought: Brian Moehler??? REALLY???

Here's your inbox:

Besides John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and Ryan Zimmerman, who fits in the Nationals' long-term plans?
-- Alex C., Montreal

Flores, Detwiler and Morgan jump out at me. I'm still not 100% sold on Stammen or Gonzalez, but they could easily be added to that list.

Do you think that there would be any benefit to the Nats making an offer to B.J. Ryan? He's certainly struggled this year, but he can't be any worse than what they already have?
-- Richard H., Toronto

Why not? Could he be worse than Julian Tavarez?

J.D. Martin has a pretty good record with Triple-A Syracuse. Why not bring him up to work out of the bullpen.
-- Jeff. H, Washington, D.C.

You're preaching to the choir. He'll start some games in September I bet.

Do you see the Nationals calling up Kory Casto this year? If so, at what position? I remember him playing left field, third base and some first base last year.
-- Patrick S., Fairfax, Va.

I doubt they would, and if they did it would probably be as a super-utility guy. It would be nice to have a legitimate 3B to backup Zimmerman, but I don't think Casto is that player.

I completely agree with sending outfielder Elijah Dukes down to Syracuse to work on his swing. At the same time, Dukes has 10 outfield assists, which leads all Nationals outfielders. So, on that note, do you believe that he's the long-term solution at right field, assuming he gets his swing going again?
-- Harris F., Silver Spring, Md.

I think he's in the team's long-term plans until they trade him. Up to that point, they'll play him once he heats back up.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The difference between '04, '08 and '09

Two fairly big trades were made in the majors today. The Mets sent former National OF Ryan Church to Atlanta for OF Jeff Francoeur and the Royals sent two prospects to Seattle for IF Yuniesky Betancourt. What does this have to do with the Nats, you may ask? Surprisingly, a lot.

The two trades each have clear winners: Atlanta and Seattle, which means they have two clear losers: Kansas City and the Mets. This is far from the first bad move former Expos GM Omar Minaya has made as the head of the Mets franchise, and I will not hesistate to say that he is one of the worst 5 GM's in the league. It's a vague connection, but I'd like to point out that if Minaya hadn't left the franchise for the Mets, we probably wouldn't be in much different shape than now, so there's your 2004 connection.

As for the connection to last year-both deals reek "Jim Bowden," collecting low-OBP, toolsy players. Again, a loose connection, but doesn't overpaying for guys who are allergic to getting on base sound like him? Makes me think somewhere, sometime there might be another job for him. Thank goodness, it won't be with us.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Marching Link Parade

First of all, I would like to congratulate myself for being undefeated at Nats Park this year, with the Nats beating the Braves 5-3. I'm not sure of my all-time record at home Nats games, but I am positive it is above .500 (thanks to going to about 20 first-half games in 2005).

Here are your links:
-Strasburg named pitcher, player of the year (MLB)
-Brad Meyers promoted to Harrisburg (one of my favorite Nats prospects because one of my best friends goes to LMU-LA, where Meyers went-NFA)
-Keane (the band) likes the Nats (The Bog)
-Despite avoiding a fireworks fail (well, they didn't really avoid it), the Nats committed a spelling fail on Sunday (The Bog)
-All Nyjer, all the time (The Bog)
-Rizzo deserves full-time GM status (MASN)
-Zimmerman, Morgan make FanGraphs' defensive all-star team (FanGraphs)
-Kip Wells is gone for good!!! (MLBTR)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Thursday Inbox

Who do you think should represent the Nationals at the All-Star Game this month?
-- Joan J., Washington

As great as Lannan has looked lately, it's still gotta be Zimmerman. He's still head and shoulders above the rest of the team in value. I do agree with this Ladson quote: "I want to see the old Zimmerman, who was a complete player in 2006. I want to see him steal bases and bunt for base hits." I'm not usually on Ladson's team, but he hit the nail on the head here.

How do you think Mike Rizzo is doing as an acting general manager?
-- Curtis K., Washington

He's doing well but not perfect. The draft looked nice for a low-budget one, but without much of the upside I had hoped. The trades have been iffy and at times it has looked like he has been a little too honest with the media with snipey remarks on Shell and Cabrera. Still, he's been decent at worst and will be a good GM when they're ready to pull the interim tag off of him. Despite taking small shots at some players, he has calmed many's fears that he would melt in front of the media.

What exactly is "the plan" now for the Nationals?
-- Trey O., Washington

We're halfway there. The pitching is ready once Strasburg gets signed (Strasburg-Zimmermann-Lannan-Detwiler-Martis/Stammen is looking like a good rotation), but we have very little hitting-wise in the minors. Bryce Harper will help, but I think the Nats might need to have a real hitter-heavy draft next year.

Since the Nationals are reportedly talking about limiting the innings of their young starting pitchers, is it possible to go to a six-man rotation instead of shutting them down later in the year? I really liked John Smoltz's remarks about not limiting them at all.
-- Conrad S., Accokeek, Md.

I would like the idea of a 6-man rotation more if our bullpen was better, but it's still intriguing. The team plans on calling up the likes of Mock, Balester and Estrada to fill in holes come September when ZNN and Detwiler are shut down, but won't those guys be near their inning limits as well?

Why isn't Willie Harris playing every day? He has the speed and plays good defense. What do you think?

-- Ron P., Lock Haven Pa.

He should play 3 of every 4 games in my opinion. He's a guy you want off the bench too, don't forget that-on a good team, he's a bench player.

You mentioned that the front office has concluded that both Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn are best suited for the American League as designated hitters. Do you think that the team will be trying to trade both of them?

-- Greg, Washington

If they haven't dealt Willingham yet, I am not convinced they will. That being said, I only expect them to deal one of them. They can handle one poor defensive outfielder, just not 2.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Trade, Dukes, Tickets

First impression of the trade from yesterday: Ugh. After sleeping on it, it's not SO bad anymore, but the kicker for me really was the inclusion of Joel Hanrahan. Morgan for Milledge is whatever...I have given up on Millz myself, so that's fine. But why we threw in Hanrahan for Burnett I have no idea. Burnett is nothing special (as you saw today), whereas Hanrahan, despite his flashes of "WTF," has good stuff. While it is only 1 team, apparently Colorado was interested in him, and I'm sure many others were as well. Selling low on Milledge is fine by me, but Hanrahan not so much.

Overall, I'm trying to align my feelings with Dave Cameron's analysis of the deal, but feel myself closer to that of most others.

In other news, the Nats sent Dukes to AAA today. Smart move...while Dukes is at worst the 3rd best OF we've got, he's the only one with options, and you simply can't bench Dunn/Willingham. Get Dukes the AB's he needs and call him back up when one of Dunn/Willingham/Johnson is dealt.

Some links:
Morgan = Dunn (Fangraphs)
Elijah Dukes Next? (FakeTeams)
Zimmermann: Best Rookie Pitcher? (Fangraphs)
Lastings' impression not positive (Post-Gazette)

In the meantime, does anyone have any tickets for this Sunday's game against Atlanta that they're not planning on using? I'll buy them off of you if the price is right, just email me at I'm ideally looking for 4-6, but we can talk.