Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Check out the latest Nats Ten Game Sets at FFODC

Here's the link. This edition includes graphs, so go look at how pretty they are!

And by the way, I'm looking for some free tickets to the Nats game on June 4. Think any are available?

May 26 Inbox

Here's tonight's fresh inbox for you.

Pretty soon, the Nationals' injured pitchers are going to return to the mound, with left-hander Ross Detwiler most likely being the first one to come back. Having shown some potential last year, will the Nationals make an effort to bring him back once his rehab assignment is finished?
-- Evan S., Chevy Chase, Md.

Detwiler, along with guys like Stammen and Atilano, should not be assumed members of the starting rotation at any given point in time. What have any of them proved in their short stints in the majors? All three could (and should) get some more seasoning in AAA once Strasburg is up for good and the rest of the rotation gets healthy.

It seems like the Nats' offense has been lackluster lately. Are the Nats looking to upgrade anywhere offensively?
-- Matt W., Bowie, Md.

I certainly hope so. Bernadina, as good as his last week or so has been, is not a starting right fielder on a contender. He needs to start taking walks and cutting down on strikeouts if he wants to stay in the starting lineup. The Nats should go for a RF upgrade, but beyond that, I can't think of a realistic upgrade for their lineup. Pudge, Dunn, Kennedy/Guz/Desmond, Zim, Willingham, Morgan and an upgraded RF is the best case scenario (out of realistic scenarios, at least) for this year.

Do you think the Nats will take a chance on outfielder Pat Burrell so they could get more power in right field? It also gives him a chance to go back to the National League East.

-- Ben P., Alton, IL

I certainly hope not. Burrell is Adam Dunn without the bat. He didn't hit last year, didn't hit this year and couldn't field, throw or run when he could hit back in the day. Unless he's willing to sign a minor league deal, I can't say "no" enough.

I know Willie Harris has been a great role player for the Nationals these past few years but he is just not performing this year. His average is not good. I know it is early, but how many chances are we going to give this guy? I would rather see Kevin Mench or someone like that up here who will at least provide us with a great option off the bench. Thanks

-- Mike N., Buffalo, N.Y.

His average has never been good, even when he's been a productive bench player. And what do you mean by "how many chances are we going to give this guy?" Harris is nowhere near roster bubble material right now. Guys like Bernadina and Maxwell would probably get sent down before Harris because they still have options and guys like Gonzalez and Morse might get sent down before Harris as well even though they are out of options. But right now, the Nats really don't have any batters to call up and there is nobody really out there to sign, so why even have this discussion?

When Stephen Strasburg arrives in the Majors, who is most likely to lose his spot in the starting rotation?
-- Ryan K., Carlisle, Pa.

Ladson has it right: whoever has the best 2 or 3 starts before Strasmas out of Stammen and Atilano will get to stay up. Stammen seems to step it up every time his roster spot is threatened, so I'll put my money on him for now. It won't matter too much, though, because some combination of Wang, Detwiler and Marquis will probably displace both by the all-star break.

Do you think Cristian Guzman could be a full-time right fielder? We could use his bat full time in the lineup.
-- Michael W., Silver Spring, Md.

Right now, we can use Guzman's bat in the lineup. But once he returns to being .290/.320/.400 hitting Cristian Guzman, being a utility player is just fine. I think that he should play a little more right field in the time being, but the Nats need to find a true RF solution, and soon.

If the Nats stay competitive for the next two months, do you think management will be active before the July 31 trade deadline? If so, what does management feel the biggest need is, and who might they possibly go after?
-- Dean O., Winnipeg, Canada

I have a good feeling that the Nats will be buyers rather than sellers at the deadline as long as they're around .500. I don't think they're gonna sell off the whole team and I don't think they'll stand pat. I could see them looking at guys like Corey Hart, Jody Gerut, Conor Jackson, Ty Wigginton, Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones, Carlos Quentin, Mark Teahen and David DeJesus. I'm a big fan of DeJesus. If they chase after some pitchers, your names could be Roy Oswalt, Kevin Millwood, Javier Vazquez, Jake Westbrook or Wandy Rodriguez. This is pretty much just baseless speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Nats run after some of those guys. Not advocating all of those names, of course...just throwing them out.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Nats through 10 games: Part 3 (Pitchers)

As I said in part 3 (Hitters), the Nats went 6-4 in their 3rd stretch of 10 games after going 5-5 in each of their first 2 stretches. In this 10 game span, they scored 39 runs and gave up 40, continuing a trend of outperforming their pythagorean record.

SP Livan Hernandez-Yet again, Livan outperformed his peripherals, going 2-0 with 3 runs allowed (2 earned) in 12 and 1/3 innings while walking 6 and striking out 2. Moral of the story: don't doubt the Livan. LAST WEEK: Good.

SP Craig Stammen-I considered moving Stammen into the "Meh" section, but his bad game wasn't really THAT bad (4 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs allowed, 2 K : 2 BB) and his good game was really good (6 and 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs allowed, 8 K : 0 BB). LAST WEEK: Good.

SP Scott Olsen-Scotty had an awesome stretch, allowing only 7 hits and 2 runs (1 earned) in 13 and 1/3 innings. Over this stretch, he had 12 K's to 4 BB's, which I'll take any day. LAST WEEK: Meh.

SP Matt Chico-5 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks and 3 strikeouts in his first ML game since 2008. Works for me. LAST WEEK: Did not appear.

CP Matt Capps-4/4 on saves but took a loss on the night of Atilano's flaming bag of poop in his second inning. 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 5 K is cool with me, though. LAST WEEK: Good.

SP Jason Marquis-The fact that he didn't pitch was good. Hopefully his surgery will be a success.


RP Tyler Clippard-8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 9 K doesn't look too bad. 2 blown saves (even though both ended up in wins) and 6 walks do look bad. Tyler falls into the "meh" category for the first time this season. LAST WEEK: Good.

RP Miguel Batista-Nothing quite bad enough for me to throw him under the bus into "bad" territory, but if I see Miguel Batista on the mound we better be up by at least 5 or down by at least 5 (or if we don't have any relievers available besides Bruney). LAST WEEK: Meh.

RP Sean Burnett-Only gave up 1 of his own runs in 3 and 1/3 innings but also allowed 2 inherited runners to score. LAST WEEK: Good.

RP Tyler Walker-Tanked in a game that the Nats were only down by 2 in but recovered with 2 1-inning shutout performances after that. LAST WEEK: Meh.

SP Luis Atilano-Good enough to win in his first game of this stretch vs. the Cubs, but awful in game 2 vs. the Braves. Yucky line for the week seals him into "bad" territory: 11 and 1/3 innings, 13 hits, 8 runs, 8 walks, 5 strikeouts. LAST WEEK: Good.

SP John Lannan-I'm starting to get worried. After 3 straight respectable starts (averaging 6 and 1/3 innings pitched and 3 runs allowed per game), Lannan imploded again on May 2. He's still walking too many opponents and not striking anyone out. Have opponents finally solved John Lannan? Here's to hoping they haven't. LAST WEEK: Bad.

RP Brian Bruney-somehow amassed a 3.00 WHIP over his 5 appearances. Somehow the Nats won 2 of them. In completely unrelated news, I hear Willy Taveras might need a roommate in Syracuse. LAST WEEK: Meh.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Nats through 10 games: Part 3 (Hitters)

The Nats finished their third set of 10 games yesterday, going 6-4 after going 5-5 in each of their first 2 stretches. In this 10 game span, they scored 39 runs and gave up 40, continuing a trend of outperforming their pythagorean record.


C Pudge Rodriguez-declining a little bit (because you can't hit .400 forever), but I'll still take a .320/.357/.480 line out of an aging catcher any time. Last week: GOOD.

1B Adam Dunn-The Donkey hit 3 HR this week and the Nats won all 3 games, 2 by only 1 run. His batting average over the 10 game span scares me, but .212/.366/.576 is quite alright for now. Last week: GOOD.

SS Ian Desmond-His homers in back-to-back games against the Braves were nice. I'm impressed with his 6 runs and 6 RBI in these 10 games as well as his .276/.323/.552 triple slash. Last week: MEH.

3B Ryan Zimmerman-Zim has looked great since returning from injury, hitting .367/.412/.800 in the last 10 games. I think he's trying to show us that he's fine...and I believe him. Last week: GOOD.

OF Willie Harris-.250/.294/.500 over a week is decent, but he didn't earn "good" status this week with his bat. Just check out his highlight page and be thankful one of our athletic outfielders is playing well.

IF Adam Kennedy-Kennedy had been a disappointment over his first 20 games, but a .296/.345/.444 triple slash with 6 runs and 2 extra base hits makes him look a lot better right now. Hopefully he'll keep it up (or at least in some semblance).


SS Cristian Guzman-a .308/.333/.423 week ain't bad, but it's not really going to help him get more playing time. Also, he still only has 2 unintentional walks on the year. Yikes. Last week: MEH.

OF Josh Willingham-his 2 HR in wins saved him from "the bad," but he's going to have to improve on his .156/.206/.406 line and 2:10 BB:K ratio over the last 10 days.

IF Alberto Gonzalez-1/3 in his only start this week, 0-2 with a sacrifice off the bench. Closer to bad than good, but firmly a "meh" for me.


OF Nyjer Morgan-.237/.256/.368 is no line for a leadoff man, and 1/3 SB on the weak is unacceptable. If Tony Plush wants to be the Silver Fox anytime soon, he needs to step it up.

C Wil Nieves-2 for 11 with no walks or extra base hits isn't a good week for anyone, including Wil Nieves. To his credit, he did get an RBI in the 3-2 win over the Cubs on 4/28.

OF Justin Maxwell-0 for 6 with 4 walks. I have trouble blaming Max here, though; the Nats didn't give him a start after April 27 and still kept him up for another week. Even with all of his ups and downs, he's still our best long-term RF option at the moment. Play him somewhere.

OF Willy Taveras-0 for 3 with 1 run and 1 CS. Why is he still here?

OF Roger Bernadina-Isn't getting on base nearly enough to justify giving him 26 plate appearances over the last 10 days when guys like Maxwell can only come up with 10. .208/.269/.250 isn't good enough, Roger.

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.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Nats through 10 games: Part 2 (Pitchers)

Note-this is a few days late. This 10 game stretch runs from April 17 to April 26, where the Nats went 5-5. Part 1 is here in its entirety and Part 2 (Hitters) is here.

SP Livan Hernandez-Livo went 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA and a .169/.216/.265 triple slash against him in this 10 game stretch. His only loss was in a game where he pitched 8 innings of 2 run ball and the Nats lost 2-0. LAST WEEK: Good.

SP Craig Stammen-It would have been hard for Stammen to get any worse than his first 2 starts (15.63 ERA), but Stammen was great in his second 2 starts, going 1-0 with 5 runs allowed in 15 innings (a 3.00 ERA). Although 8 K in 15 IP isn't impressive by itself, I was very impressed with his 8:1 K:BB ratio. LAST WEEK: Bad.

SP Luis Atilano-Had an awesome ML debut on April 23, giving up 1 run in 6 innings against the Dodgers. He needs to start striking guys out to continue his early success, but you have to give him props for a good start. LAST WEEK: Did not appear.

CP Matt Capps-Can't argue with 0 runs allowed in 5 innings and a 7:1 K:BB ratio. LAST WEEK: Good.

RP Tyler Clippard-Or 0 runs allowed in 6 innings and a 10:1 K:BB ratio (plus only 1 hit allowed in that stretch!!). LAST WEEK: Good.

RP Sean Burnett-Only pitched 1 and 2/3 innings in 2 games, allowing 1 hit and 1 walk but no runs. The IP total is interesting to me; does Riggleman not trust Burnett? LAST WEEK: Bad.

SP Scott Olsen-One awful start (2 innings, 6 runs) and one awesome start (7 innings, 0 runs). I don't want to jump out and say Olsen is back due to his two straight good starts (the latter will be discussed in Part 3, as it occurred after this span of 10 games), but his K and BB rates are looking nice and his average fastball velocity has improved to 89 MPH, his best since averaging 90.1 MPH in 2007. It's only 4 starts, so take this info with a grain of salt, but he has improved. LAST WEEK: Meh.

RP Miguel Batista-4 runs over 9 innings isn't bad, but it's not good either. A 5:5 K:BB ratio is not terribly impressive, either. Watching Batista pitch right now is kinda like being in purgatory but knowing you're going to end up in hell. LAST WEEK: Bad.

RP Brian Bruney-Only gave up 1 run in 5 and 1/3 innings, but it was a bases-loaded walk. Speaking of free passes, Bruney handed out 5 in this span while striking out 6. Bruney pitched in all 5 losses over this 10 game span. LAST WEEK: Bad.

RP Tyler Walker-4 runs allowed in 6 and 1/3 innings is bad. A 9:1 K:BB ratio is encouraging, though. LAST WEEK: Bad.

RP Jesse English-Got sent down after throwing 2 innings where he allowed 1 run. The Nats are 0-7 in games that English pitched in, allowing 7 or more in each game, with April 12's 7-4 loss to Philly being the closest game. Looks like Riggleman never really had faith in him. LAST WEEK: Good.

SP John Lannan-I thought about putting Lannan in the "MEH" column, but 12 innings and 7 runs allowed is simply bad. In his 2 starts in games 11-20, Lannan walked 6 and only struck out 3. I'm starting to get a little worried about John. LAST WEEK: Meh.

SP Jason Marquis-Well, he doesn't have an ERA over this stretch because you can't divide by 0 innings pitched. But 7 earned runs without getting an out puts him in his own category of bad. LAST WEEK: Bad.