Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Spring Training Fan Guide Part 1: The complex

US Presswire file photo
Autographs are easy to obtain before and after workouts near Space Coast Stadium.
That magical date we've been counting down to for months is nearly upon us. Pitchers and catchers report for the start of spring training in a mere 12 days. And that means a lot of people are making their final preparations for the journey down to Viera, from players and support staff to media members to fans who want to see it all up close.

If you've been to Nationals camp before, you know the drill. But if you're a first-time visitor, you want to know what to expect.

With that in mind, it's time for the annual Nats Insider Spring Training Fan Guide. As I've done in previous years, I'll break this down into two parts over two days. Tomorrow, we'll talk about Viera and the surrounding community, where to stay and where to eat.

But first, let's talk some baseball. Here's what you'll find at Space Coast Stadium and the adjacent spring training complex...

Viera remains an enigma of sorts. It's still the most-remote stop in the Grapefruit League, 45 minutes east of Orlando near Melbourne and Cocoa Beach, an hour from the next-closest spring training sites (the Astros in Kissimmee and the Mets in Port St. Lucie). And for that reason, the Nationals continue to look for a new place to call home. (One such possibility is Fort Myers, which is attempting to step up its game and lure the Nats to City of Palms Park, which just lost the Red Sox to a new facility down the road.)

The Nationals desperately want to move to a location closer to other camps, either on the Gulf Coast, in Central Florida or perhaps even in Arizona. That won't happen until at least 2014, though, so you've still got two more springs to see the Nats in Viera.

Which actually is a good thing from the fan's perspective, because there may not be a better complex in all of baseball to watch spring training from up close. Space Coast Stadium is a cozy ballpark with nary a bad seat. And even better, the adjacent practice fields where the Nationals work out each morning offer fans the opportunity to see everyone and everything from point-blank range.

Spring training can really be broken down into two parts: The two-week period before the exhibition games start, and then the Grapefruit League schedule. During those first two weeks, the team holds daily workouts at that facility right down the street from the stadium. Stretching generally begins around 9 a.m., and everything wraps up around lunchtime. The workouts are shorter during the first few days before position players report, though even on days when only pitchers and catchers are formally working out, several early-reporting position players trickle out to take batting practice around noon.

The practice facility features four full-size fields arranged in a cloverleaf pattern, along with a half-field used for baserunning and infield drills and a large bullpen area with 10 mounds and plates aligned side-by-side. Different drills are conducted simultaneously on each field, such as pitchers' fielding practice (better known as PFP), pickoff moves, bunting, baserunning, defensive positioning, etc. Players rotate from field to field over the course of an hour, hitting each station.

Pitchers throw off a mound every other day, for about 7-10 minutes. After a week or so, they move out of the big, "10-pack" bullpen and onto the practice fields to throw "live BP" to hitters, always a highlight of the spring. (We can only hope this year to see Bryce Harper take some hacks against Stephen Strasburg.)

The best part of all of this is that fans can watch for free from right behind the fence. You're allowed to wander between the four cloverleaf fields, wander right up to the bullpen area, interact with players as they walk into the facility in the morning, walk between fields during the workout and walk out of the facility in the afternoon.

And you won't have to fight massive crowds. In the past, a typical weekday workout has drawn maybe 100 fans. Even on a weekend, that number probably doesn't surpass 300. Now, those numbers may go up this spring as the Nationals start to draw more attention. But you still can't beat the access. And you definitely can't beat the price.

(My annual weather warning: Bring layers. It can be surprisingly cold in Viera in late-February, with morning temperatures in the 40s. And it's always windy. Always.)

The spring routine changes once the Grapefruit League schedule begins in early-March. Instead of holding workouts at the practice facility, the Nationals conduct a lengthy pregame workout inside Space Coast Stadium before home games. Those workouts begin at 9 a.m. for a 1 p.m. game, but fans aren't allowed in until noon (season-ticket holders get in at 11 a.m.), at which point batting practice has nearly wrapped up. The team does, however, hold parts of BP or other workouts on a field directly behind the stadium, and fans can walk right up to that field, watch and get autographs.

As for the games themselves, they're very relaxed. You won't see the same kind of intensity as you'll see in the regular season. You also won't see much attention paid to the score. Players are each working on individual things, and the coaching staff is evaluating guys on an individual basis, not on a team basis. A ninth-inning rally may bring fans to their feet, but in the dugout and clubhouse, you'll hear nothing but groans from players who just want to leave for the day.

Another important warning: Space Coast Stadium was inexplicably built with a southern orientation (most ballparks are oriented to the North or Northeast). Which means almost every seat in the place is under direct sunlight during day games. Bring your SPF 45.

All that said, the games do offer fans a great chance to watch big-leaguers perform from up close. And, of course, you often get to see some big-name players from the visiting clubs. Though one final warning: Visiting teams don't send the entire roster on the road, only the guys scheduled to play that day. And the biggest names from the teams that have the farthest to travel to reach Viera (like the Yankees and Cardinals) rarely make the trip. If you're going to the March 15 game against the Yankees, prepare to see Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena, not Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

If you happen to be in town when the Nationals are on the road, you may still be able to catch a glimpse of some ballplayers in Viera. Whatever players don't make the trip work out every morning inside the stadium (that's closed to the public, though you may catch a few guys wandering out to the practice field). You can, however, see all of the organization's minor leaguers work out (and eventually play games) over at the adjacent complex. Given how few fans show up to those workouts, you'll really have your run of the place.

Important spring training dates
Pitchers and catchers report: Feb. 19
First pitchers and catchers workout: Feb. 21
Position players report: Feb. 23
First full-squad workout: Feb. 25
First exhibition game: March 2 vs. Georgetown
First Grapefruit League game: March 3 at Astros
First home Grapefruit League game: March 4 vs. Astros
Last home Grapefruit League game: March 31 vs. Cardinals

So there's the lowdown on the baseball side of spring training. If you've ever attended, please feel free to share your experiences and advice to the newbies. Tomorrow, we'll move to Viera and the surrounding Space Coast, with thoughts on hotels, restaurants and other activities.

107 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I so gotta down there one of these days. Thanks Zuck, great stuff.

dfh21

Waddu eye no said...

Sigh......
I wish

Anonymous said...

When you write that season-ticket holders can get into pre-game workout early, are you talking about spring training season-ticket holders or regular season ST-holders? And are tickets to games usually available on a walk-up basis or do you need to buy them ahead of time?

Section 215 Row A said...

My wife and I bought the full spring train plan...a couple of great seats on the first base side. We will only be using them for the last three games and the rest will go up on StubHub. If anyone wants to get them from me directly let me know. I will sell them to my fellow Insiders at face value less the 15% that StubHub takes....or $30.60 for the pair. For more information: pryorcommitments@yahoo.com

whatsanattau said...

Mark, When are you going? How long will you be there? Is Little Zuck going? Does he have a mitt? If they autograph his pampers will you keep them?

N. Cognito said...

Went down last year and had a good time. Watched Harper doing bunting practice from about 5 feet away, just outside the backstop. He couldn't bunt the ball to save his life. About a week or two later, they found out he need glasses/contacts.

Looked for NatJack before a game but couldn't find him - must have known I was coming and hidden in a stall in the bathroom.

Zimmerman captcha: throwhi

N. Cognito said...

Anonymous said...
"When you write that season-ticket holders can get into pre-game workout early, are you talking about spring training season-ticket holders or regular season ST-holders?"

I'm pretty sure it's preseason STH.

"And are tickets to games usually available on a walk-up basis or do you need to buy them ahead of time?"

Yes - except the Yankees game.

Anonymous8 said...

My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. This is the series I plan on attending w/ the drive to the 'Stros game.
First exhibition game: March 2 vs. Georgetown
First Grapefruit League game: March 3 at Astros
First home Grapefruit League game: March 4 vs. Astros

MicheleS said...

Sigh have to stay home and pay the bills.. Wish I was going to be there.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Hey "N".....I don't hide from anybody. I'll be at practice the the 24th and the 25th. Look for me.

And "8".... I'll be at all those games, too.

Big Cat said...

I should of taken that government job way back when......I could of been retired now with a little shanty down there right next to the ballpark. A lunker stick for the off season.... but noooooo, I knew it all back then. Should of listened to dad

natsfan1a said...

I was able to find NatsJack when I attended some games last year (his "NatsJack" t-shirt was quite helpful in that regard), and my husband and I enjoyed meeting him.

I don't think that we'll be making the trip this year (I wish), and I'm envious of those who will be. Will have some food/sightseeing comments in the next thread.

Re. seeing players elsewhere, some of the young kids/ST invitees happened to be staying at our hotel, so we ran into them and their families at the breakfast tables and in the elevators.

I remember being amused by one strapping young man who came downstairs carrying a large takeout container (with dinner leftovers, I guessed); he swooped into the breakfast room and grabbed a handful of hard-boiled eggs from the breakfast buffet on his way out the front door. Lots of protein to fuel his workout.

Another player's young son was sharing a table with his mom and an elderly couple. One of them asked what brought him to Florida (a trip to Disneyland, maybe?) He proudly stated that his dad was there to play baseball. (Can't recall dad's name but it turns out he was destined for the minors and was subsequently released, if memory serves.)

DCDingo said...

I went three years ago. Cut a deal with my daughters. Two days at the parks in Orlando, but one day for dad at Viera.
The players are relaxed but there's a buzz among the fans. The very start of another season when all things are possible and hopes are high. Now, if I could just experience the Nats in the playoffs...

Knoxville Nat said...

Went last year for the first time in late March and got to see the Cards and the Marlins at home. (Met NatsJack at the Marlins game.) Apparently there had been some sort of altercation earlier that week between the Nats and Cards, something involving Nyjer Morgan if I remember corrctly. Anyway LaRussa brought a lot of the front line players up from Jupiter that night and definitely looked and acted as if he was managing to win that night. Gorzelany pitched a heck of a good game and the Nats won. No such luck when we played the Marlins in 95 degree weather on a Sunday afternoon. If looking for a good seafood restaurant I'll definitely recommend Bonefish Willy's near Melbourne but if you go there note that they do not have a liquor license, just beer and wine as I recall.

markfd said...

Unfortunately my work schedule is preventing me from continuing my ST streak (yep it ends at 7 years) so I will be living vicariously through those of you who are down in lovely Viera. good wrap up Mark I do not think you left anything out. The complex offers unprecedented access to the players.

N. Cognito said...

NatsJack in Florida said...
"Hey "N".....I don't hide from anybody. I'll be at practice the the 24th and the 25th. Look for me."

I'd like to go but can't this year. I've got a new work assignment and the learning curve is a vertical wall.

N. Cognito said...

natsfan1a said...
"Can't recall dad's name but it turns out he was destined for the minors and was subsequently released, if memory serves."

I envy the Dad. He got a tste of the dream. My dream was ended by the high school curve ball. It was a short dream.

Eugene in Oregon said...

Sorry for being a bit off-topic, but this is following up on NatinBeanTown's query yesterday about projected 2012 runs scored/runs allowed. Clay Davenport, a legitimate sabrematrician, has his early projections out and, in a new post on the Nats generated by the Edwin Jackson signing concludes that "their projected run totals – 4th best in the majors in the pitching, 6th-worst in batting – point to a seriously unbalanced team." He has the Nats with an 80-82 record based on their low offensive production. If you go to his site -- ClayDavenport.com -- then scroll down to the 'standings' and click on 'WAS' you'll also get his player-by-player projections. I don't know (nor am I defending) his methodology, but I was struck by the low number of ABs he gives some players (e.g., LaRoche, Ramos).

Anonymous said...

stupid cruve ball

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Attention, Uncle Teddy: Please move to St. Petersburg! I've got a girlfriend there.

Anonymous Hero said...

My folks are snowbirds who've nested in Vero for the winters. We plan on visiting them every year, so I am not rooting for a Gulf Coast or Cactus migration. Dad and I will be taking in the first game against the 'Stros and we plan to take my son in the spring of 2013--he's only 2 now, so I don't think he's got the patience, bandwidth, of foul ball reaction time to go!

Drew said...

I've been three times, but not this year.

I've found that the most relaxing trip is to go for a week and attend the home games, but enjoy other amusements when the team is on the road. There's plenty to do -- beach, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, manatees, space center tours.

I've tried it the other way, driving to Tampa (Yanks) Lakeland (Tigers) Jupiter (Cardinals) Vero Beach (when the Dodgers were still there).

It's cool to see the other parks, but some of them are a hike from Melbourne or Cocoa Beach -- where folks stay to see the Nats in Viera.

Also: If you want to see something akin to the real team, go late in spring training.

skidge said...

I'll be there for the games on March 10 and 12. First time! Thanks for all the info.

N. Cognito said...

"I was struck by the low number of ABs he gives some players (e.g., LaRoche, Ramos)."

The predictions are based upon past performances, including number of games played, and trend lines. Players who have had injuries or were part time/just coming, can get "shortchanged" on the expected number of games played.
If he expects LaRoche to play 85 games and hit 10 homeruns, but you expect/think/hope he will play 140 games, based upon Davenports HR rate for LaRoche, you would then expect LaRoche to hit about 16 homeruns.

natsfan1a said...

Like Drew, we mixed sightseeing and home game attendance. We did the space center and Merritt Island refuge thing, but if you're staying in Viera and not inclined to go very far afield, I highly recommend the Viera wetlands, which was conveniently located near our hotel. Will post more in the "part 2" thread.

natscan reduxit said...

... as Nats fans, we have entertained ourselves - and each other - all winter with our views about who should do what, and when. Some of the moves made have supported our opinions, some have not. But one thing we have all agreed on, right from the word 'play ball', is that the 2012 Nats are a better team, a much better team, than the 2011 version. To a fan, we can hardly wait to see our dreams and predictions come true.

... and come true they will, but only when the team actually performs as we now know it can. And in order to do that, they, and we, have to put those valid expectations on hold. The team has yet to step up to the plate and do the job.

... that's where Spring Training comes in. It is a God-given fact that some of our strongly held opinions will be sorely tested in the next two months. Some of our favourites will struggle; some obvious strategies will show glaring weaknesses; some new plans will be tried and tested; some lesser lights will shine through like the Florida sun after a downpour. But that's why we love it. That's why true fans understand the value and the necessity of Spring Training. That's why in February, we won't be caught pining for April - not yet. The game 'marches' on and ST is a fact of life - unavoidable and not to be missed.

Go Nats!

frank said...

THis is great! Thank you so much! WE've already got tickets to a few games at the end of March and we're staying in Melbourne. We'll be going to Disney on the Saturday, but other than that it's going to be fun baseball and sun all weekend! WOOHOO!

Steve M. said...

NatsJack in Florida said...
Hey "N".....I don't hide from anybody. I'll be at practice the the 24th and the 25th. Look for me.

And "8".... I'll be at all those games, too.

February 07, 2012 8:30 AM


I am staying with friends in Tampa and will see you March 3 (Saturday) against the Astros. I like going to the 1st game as my opening day fix then I will spend time watching some of the other teams the rest of the week on the West Coast.

Steady Eddie said...

Got tickets for 4 out of 5 Nats games March 8-12, with one other to cheer the Tigers (and hopefully see a little of the Prince we missed out on) against the Phils on the travel day vs. the Marlins.

I've only seen one Nats ST game before, ~5-6 years ago vs. the Bucs in Bradenton, so looking forward to catching a little East Coast ST before they move across the peninsula. Staying out on Cocoa Beach.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Everybody make sure you get your Nats tickets for Saturday May 5th against the Philthies. That is the day all Phillies fans are determined to take over the park. Encourage your friends, relatives, and co-workers also.

The Philthies are already claiming they will buy all tickets off of StubHub. Let's shut them out!

natsfan1a said...

Thanks, got Saturday tix for the hubster and myself the day the offer came out.

ignobel said...

Went last year and, among other things, got to see this young guy named Harper play right field. Provided interesting context for posts that suggest he is ready to step in as a major league center fielder. Also saw and heard him get hold of a fast ball. Should be fun when he is ready.

Steve M. said...

Looks like the Boras clients continue on a lackluster off-season (except Prince Fielder) so what do they do, they sign Bill Gluvna from the Nats front office.

By the way, Alex Cora signed a MiLB contract with the Cardinals. It would be a shame if Pudge can't make a MLB team.

natsfan1a said...

Interesting about Gluvna. The pun potential of Boras' client binders is off the charts now, as Gluvna is a master (imho).

Steve M. said...

natsfan1a, good point the rhyming Gluvna. Funny thing is because all of the East Coast Boras clients, Gluvna is going to keep an office in DC.

The Retired Journalist said...

I used to have regular season season tickets until I retired -- and moved from Arlington to a place both by the beach and 15 minutes from Space Coast Stadium. Now I have spring training season tickets so anybody who comes down for some games in Viera should look for the bearded guy behind home plate and just above the access ramp from the concourse.

NatsJack in Florida said...

SteveM.......I'll be sitting 3 rows behind the Nats dugout on the 3rd. Looking forward to meeting you.

Somebody do something already said...

Gak!!! Deadest weeks of the sports year. All this extra productivity is killing me!

Jim Webster said...

The Retired Journalist said . . .
Could be some mixup here. Another (semi-) retired journalist who still lives in Arlington, a bearded guy too, will be in Sec.109 back row during the last 2 week2 of spring training . . . and commuting from a place on the ocean (Satellite Beach). Maybe we can swap stories.

Steve M. said...

NatsJack in Florida said...
SteveM.......I'll be sitting 3 rows behind the Nats dugout on the 3rd. Looking forward to meeting you.

February 07, 2012 11:58 AM


Perfect! Looking forward to seeing you! It sounds like there will be a lot of NatsInsiders there! I will be wearing a #47 Gio Gonzalez red Nats jersey if it is warm enough!

NatsNut said...

Got my 8 tickets to the Saturday Phrillies game!

Anonymous said...

When do the "intramurals" - the practice games in the stadium - start? I used to hit the O's in spring training in Ft. Lauderdale, and loved going to the practice games that were in the mornings, usually starting about 4-5 days before the first spring training game.

Friend of all the World said...

Is it too early to begin predicting which players will report to camp 'in the best shape of their lives'?

natsfan1a said...

Ex-Nats News Department: just stumbled across a nice story on Jamey Carroll.

natsfan1a said...

Friend of the World, funny you should mention that phrase, as I was recently musing to myself that it could be a good candidate for a drinking game, a pastime in which some denizens of NatsInsider have been known to indulge. :-)

Anonymous said...

who or what is NatsJack?

JaneB said...

Somebody do something, you made me laugh out loud!

Last year, we were lucky to meet NatsJack down there, and SteveM and two brothers, one from Manassas (anon8?) whose names I'm blanking on. No Mark Z then. I thought I was getting to go again this year, but ...I'm not. This is me whining. Next year, I want to go before the games start, and then see a game.

Access to the players was cool. Cooler still was to see them working on stuff. Saw Clip keep throwing the same pitch over and over and getting hit every time, till suddenly they couldn't hit it. It was hard on the part of me that wants every guy OUT. Unless he is wearing a Curlie W. One afternoon, we looked up to see 12 Nats on the field...the nine playing defense and the three doing light sprints in the outfield.

Liked the Cuban sandwiches there.

Talk to the scouts. You'll know them by their multiple wireless devices. Most will talk back, especially about why they love the game, who they spotted early on in his career, what they know that civilians don't. Check 'em out. Don't ask who they are looking at, if you want to keep your head on your shoulders.

Send reports! Tell what imaginary friends you meet and what the scouts told you and what you noticed. Ask for advice on restaurants and then take it

JaneB said...

NatsJack is one of your imaginary friends. He comments on this site, and is really smart about baseball and these guys, in particular. He is our eyes at spring training, because he sees a lot of the games,

The Retired Journalist said...

Jim Webster said, "Could be some mixup here."
Sounds like we need to trade stories about when we committed journalism as well as watch baseball. Along with the ballpark, there's a brewpub/barbecue place near Space Coast that trades your ticket stub for a free beer after a ballgame. (www.cjbrewery.com)

The Retired Journalist said...

Oh, and at least some of the time I'll be wearing a Dawson Expos jersey that I found on sale in Australia. (Long story that I'll happily tell over that free beer at Charlie and Jake's)

JaneB said...

1a, thanks for the Jamey Carroll story link!

Steve M. said...

Friend of all the World said...
Is it too early to begin predicting which players will report to camp 'in the best shape of their lives'?

February 07, 2012 12:55 PM


I think most of my predictions were once ST started. Since I predicted last year that Zim was going to have an issue with his core and that Bernadina, Lannan, and Corey Brown were going to be in great shape, I will say that Zim will be coming in well-balanced this Spring Training. I understand that his routine at Saddlewood has been as much on speed and agility as it was on core balance.

Corey Brown will be in even better shape than last year, and Roger Bernadina will be in great shape and not quite as muscular as last season where he thought he had to be a HR hitter to play LF. Strasburg will have his 6-pack abs again (I didn't predict that last year). I will say that Wilson Ramos will come in 5 to 10 pounds below his playing weight last year.

If Mike Cameron comes in without a walking cane, that is a good sign for him!

So my 'Best Shape of Their Lives' prediction is Wilson Ramos!

Scooter said...

Yippee! Spring training info post!

My dad and I will be at the practice on Thurs, 3/1, staying through the away game on Tues, 3/6. I hope to see a couple of y'all.

One thing wasn't clear from the post, and I hope someone can help me out: when the Nats have an away game, even at the very beginning of the schedule, the minor-leaguers will be working out in Viera, at this "adjacent complex"? (I had gotten the impression that minor-league camp might not open till later in March.) (I ask because we're actually there for a bunch of away games, so we might stay "home" one day.)

GNYB25GN!

David said...

my baseball dream ended after high school... when i realized i was still 5 feet 10, 125 pounds, and couldn't hit the ball farther than 250 feet. my error-free glove at 3B did not matter. haha. i did slap hit my way to a .350 batting average though, and ended my senior year with a 13 game hit streak. quite proud of that. :-)

Cwj said...

Wont be going down to Viera, but am very excited for those of you who will.
Have fun and let us all know how are Nats are doing! :)

Cwj said...

* "our Nats*

FS said...

I do not like that Clay guy's predictions. I don't get why he has such a huge jump in ERA for SS, Clippard, GioG, etc.

Tcostant said...

Boras never goes away, always has Nats links...

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/02/07/of-course-the-nationals-media-relations-guy-is-going-to-work-for-scott-boras/

Scooter said...

FS, clearly it's because he hates the Nationals and wants to see them fail. It's the only plausible explanation.

natsfan1a said...

NatsLady, just noticed this item re. anthem singer auditions. Posted in case you've not seen it, as I believe you'd expressed interest in attending.

Cwj said...

FS- Yeah that's ridiculous.
FanGraphs has much more realistic "predictions".
For the curious here are mine:

Strasburg- 2.90 ERA, 160 IP, 190 SO, 40 BB
Zimmermann- 2.95 ERA, 200 IP, 160 SO, 45 BB
Gonzalez- 3.10 ERA, 210 IP, 190 SO, 70 BB
Jackson- 3.75 ERA, 210 IP, 175 SO, 65 BB

Like any prediction, I have as good a chance as getting them right as the "experts". :-)

jcj5y said...

If the Nats' top 4 starters have ERAs of 2.90, 2.95 3.10 and 3.75, they are definitely going to contend. I don't care how bad the hitting is.

If anyone's curious, the crowdsourcing at Fangraphs has Strasburg at 2.88 ERA/162 IP; Zimmermann at 3.41/184; Gio at 3.47/207; and Jackson at 3.84/211. I would take all of those numbers.

Mark'd said...

Jcj5y, if Gio is at 3.47 that is a disappointment. John Lannan was sitting at 3.48 the 1st week of September.

SonnyG10 said...

I made my first trip ever to spring training last winter and really enjoyed it. I was there before the games started. It was great to get to see the players up close. Wish I could go again this year. Maybe next year.

Scooter said...

But, Mark'd, isn't a whole season of 3.47 better than five months of 3.48? I mean, they do keep counting the games, yes?

Mark'd said...

Scooter, of course. Lannan lost .22 over his last 4 starts. It gives you hope that Lannan and JZim will both improve this year.

Gio at 3.47 is just not what the Nats gave up 3 1/2 studs for.

I think this is the weakest National League I have seen in about 5 years so the pitchers can dominate a little more.

Cwj said...

Jcj5y- Yeah I believe they will contend for a wild card spot.
I do worry a bit about their hitting, but a lot of things would have to go wrong for their hitting not to improve this season.

Clearly though, pitching will be the Nats strength this year.
I just wish I could look into the future and see who the 5th starter will be.

jcj5y said...

I'd be a little disappointed if Gonzalez was at 3.47 too. He's been 3.23 and 3.12 his past two seasons pitching in the AL. I'm hopeful that he can keep it close to 3.00 with the switch to the league with no DH.

Scooter said...

Mark'd, you're quicker to dismiss a 3.47 ERA than I am (and apparently more invested in the bushers who got traded), but that's okay. I hope he's better too.

Cwj said...

A 3.47 ERA is still pretty good.
But I would expect Gio Gonzalez to be lower, 3.10 sounds right.

I have a feeling that Zimmermann will be even better than last year. His HR/FB rate was a little lucky last year, but even if he gives up a few more homers there's no doubt in my mind he'll retain a high SO/BB rate.
I think 2.95 ERA is reasonable.

Drew said...

Obscure spring training tip: Scan the light towers for birds' nests. We've seen some pretty cool birds at the Florida ballparks, including swallow-tail kites and ospreys.

FS said...

Cwj, that's another extreme. 190 strikeouts in 160 innings? I don't think so. SS can manage that ERA I think. Not sure about others. forty innings bump for Jordan also sounds unreasonable. I don't think anyone from FO would stretch him that much. I like the numbers jcj5y has posted for everyone, except GioG. I think GioG will have better numbers than everyone expects him to have. All his numbers seem to be trending in the right direction over last 3 seasons.

I hope our offense improves though. Lots of ifs and uncertainty, but I hope everything pans out. I wanna see them contend this season hopefully.

jd said...

mark'd

'Gio at 3.47 is just not what the Nats gave up 3 1/2 studs for.'

Over estimating our prospect a little maybe?

Cwj said...

FS- I'm not so sure. FanGraphs has Strasburg at between 10.1-10.7 SO/9. I think that's comparable to my prediction of 190 K's in 160 IP.

Anonymous said...

Lannan may improve this year, but he's got a good chance of pitching for a different club.

NatsLady said...

Thanks, 1a. Just sent an email to my student. She is interning with the FBI today, so I hope she gets it and I hope she has a headshot to send in...

Gardner said...

On my way down with the boys for a 4 game swing the 15th-18th (with a swing East to Tampa). Games against the Tigers, Marlins and Yankees twice should be spicy. Go Nats!

natsfan1a said...

You're welcome, NatsLady. Let us know what happens.

Good call on the birds (bird call?), Drew. I saw an osprey at Space Coast stadium last year. Had some other bird sightings at the pond just outside the stadium but can't recall what we saw where at the moment. Of course, back in the day the Nats fielded a sandhill crane in one ST game (yeah, we've come a long way with roster building since then ;-)). We didn't see them at the stadium but did see some cranes at the wetland I mentioned, and scads of other birds, and gators, and an armadillo. But I digress. (I know. What else is new?)

Cwj said...

Yeah I would imagine there would be some interesting bird and other animal sightings down there.
The possibility of seeing a gator alone is pretty cool Natsfan! :)

Cwj said...

Anyone else have their own predictions for some Nats players?
It's kinda fun, and who knows, at the end of the season you may get a few right :)

12 more days...ugh I can't wait that long.

N. Cognito said...

FS said...
"I do not like that Clay guy's predictions. I don't get why he has such a huge jump in ERA for SS, Clippard, GioG, etc."
Because the predictions are based upon past track records, not the best season they've ever had or the season we might believe they can have.

HHover said...

Cwj/jcjy5

3.10 might be a best case for Gio, but it's hardly likely--it would have made him the 10th best pitcher or so in the NL last year. He won't have to face DHs, but he's going to be pitching in a tougher home ballpark. His FIP for the past few seasons has been 3.6-3.8, which also doesn't support an expectation of 3.10.

Expecting 3.50-ish and being happy with anything better is probably a safer and saner course.

Cwj said...

HHover- But for all we know Gio may have a career year. He's now just entering his prime after all.
But, of course, no one knows.

I do believe though that the Nats will have 4 starters with ERA's under 4.00. With one or two possibly under 3.00.
Not many past seasons where such a thing was even possible.

FS said...

off-topic, but have we ever talked about Maybin as an option for CF? maybe we can flip Lannan to Padres for him. :D

Cwj, you are right about strikeout rate. He is capable of that strikeout rate. Not sure he will realize that potential just one season away from TJS.

Another_Sam said...

JaneB - you met me and my brother. NatsJack -- so nice to have met you last year. Great fun seeing you guys last year. Looking forward to seeing you both this year.

I'm still firming up plans but the week of 19th is looking like when I'll be at spring training.

HHover said...

Cwj

Sure he might. But I thought we were talking about what it's realistic to project, not what it's possible to dream.

4 SP with ERAs under 4 is not that far-fetched. The Nats starters last year had a collective ERA of 3.80, and there were 3 SP with 20 or more starts under 4 (Zmann, Lannan, and Jason Marquis).

NatsJack in Florida said...

Hey Another Sam. Looking forward to meeting up again. I'll be in my same seats in Section 111.

greg said...

mark'd, another difference btwn lannan/gio would be that gio would be at that mid-3 ERA with around an extra inning per start than lannan will. he goes deeper into games and puts less guys on base.

i think gio will still be at least 0.5 better ERA than lannan (just like last year).

Cwj said...

HHover- For what it's worth, I do believe a 3.10 ERA (not FIP) for Gio is a realistic prediction. Which is why I'm predicting it :)

It's just my projection. I don't see why it's unreasonable based on everything I've seen, read, heard and studied about Gio Gonzalez.

But that's another great thing about Baseball. Not everyone will see everything the same way.

Cwj said...

Greg- Very good point. Though I'm still not sure why people compare Lannan to Gonzalez and/or Jackson.

Lannan averaged 5.6 innings per start last year (not good).
Gonzalez was 6.31, and Jackson was 6.41. Zimmermann was 6.21.

Another problem with the comparison is that Lannan cannot strikeout of his jams. Gio can, as can Jackson to a lesser extent. Zimmermann doesn't allow many jams :)

Cwj said...

*(just a note to my last post. Jackson pitched 1 game in relief last year (1 IP). So I subtracted that from his IP and divided by starts.)

Just sayin' said...

FS said: "off-topic, but have we ever talked about Maybin as an option for CF? maybe we can flip Lannan to Padres for him. :D"
=========================

I'm not sure whether that little symbol at the end means you're not being serious, but if you are don't hold your breath. The Padres are just like the Nats right now -- at least in one sense -- they need hitting, not pitching. And I believe they see Maybin as a part of their ongoing rebuilding.

FS said...

Just sayin', I was not serious. Why would padres move their CF for two years of average pitching? Like you said, hitting is their main problem. He could actually fit in well with our lineup.

Just sayin' said...

Just looked at the Davenport projections -- not just for the Nats but for other teams about which I know a little something -- and they seem reasonable, but by no means perfect. His Runs Allowed for Boston seems much too optimistic when compared to Tampa Bay, for example. But his fundamental point about the Nats seems about right: the lack balance between offense and pitching. I thus continue to hope and expect that we'll see a trade before Opening Day that will move one of our excess pitchers in exchange for someone that can generate additional runs, one way or the other. Neither the Jackson nor the Lidge signings make sense, otherwise.

Just sayin' said...

FS - Sorry; I'm a dunce on those little sign thingees.

Anonymous said...

A lot of talk about ERA. It's not such a good indicator of a pitcher's effectiveness all things considered. Scoring decisions, quality of defense and relief pitchers being huge factors.

:-) said...

Emoticon list.

Cwj said...

Anon 7:15- That is true. Yet ERA is a basic stat and more predictable than some of the more advanced stats.

I intentionally left off W-L record for pitchers because that is almost completely Team dependent.
ERA at least focus a bit more on the pitcher.

Drew said...

One last Wild Kingdom note. A couple of years ago a friend and I used an off day at spring training to drive through the Merritt Island wildlife refuge. Right away, we came across a wild pig that had been hit by a car. My friend says: "Toto, I don't think we're in Arlington anymore."

Merritt Island is in the flight path of fantastic migratory birds, including a resplendent flamingo-looking thingy called the roseate spoonbill. A few miles into the refuge I was preoccupied with the gator a few feet from my passenger side window. My buddy says, "The gator's cool, but you're not going to see these birds anyplace else."

It's well worth the trip.

Just sayin' said...

Sideways smiley-faced thingee @ 7:32,

Thanks for the list, but if I'm going to study a new language I think it will be Italian.

Anonymous said...

I guess for those who have been to Merritt Island it wouldn't be fair to ask if they went to Playalinda Beach. If any of you have, what sort of wildlife did you see there?

DHamm said...

I'll be there from March 3 to 8, following the Nats around all week. Making all the stops! See you there!

Gonat said...

jcj5y said...
I'd be a little disappointed if Gonzalez was at 3.47 too. He's been 3.23 and 3.12 his past two seasons pitching in the AL. I'm hopeful that he can keep it close to 3.00 with the switch to the league with no DH.

February 07, 2012 4:20 PM
________________________________

Good convo on this. Not sure how FanGraphs came up with all of their calculations. I'm hoping Gio is much closer to 3.00 than 3.50

I guess we will see!

Scooter said...

Gonat (and plenty of other folks), you might enjoy this. Fangraphs has a pretty great glossary section, and it includes this nugget on the projection systems they include on their player pages. If you scroll down far enough, there's even a brief description of where each individual system comes from.

Finally, I'll quote a couple of sentences that speak nicely to many people's problems with projections; namely, that they are never, ever right: Since projections cannot account for luck and random variation, though, the projections are never 100% accurate in their predictions. Instead, one should view these systems as ways of measuring a player’s current underlying talent level. I don’t know if David Wright is going to hit for a .360 wOBA or not, but CHONE suggests that his talent level is such of a .360 wOBA hitter.

So, there's the basics. Thanks for asking!

Gonat said...

Scoot, while I agree Gio will have some +'s and -'s based on factors such as maturation, age, stadium conditions, no DL in the NL, strength of schedule, comparative strength of defense, pitching coach, compatibility with catcher, etc.

A lot of people bring up Zito changing teams and leagues but on the other side you have Tim Hudson.

Eugene in Oregon said...

Scooter,

Thanks for that link. What's left unsaid is that if CHONE concludes that David Wright has a 'talent level' of .360 wOBA, then his 2012 projection really shouldn't be in the form of a single number but rather in the form of a range of probable outcomes. Most likely -- without seeing the data I going to take a wild, but somewhat educated, guess here -- there would be something like a 75 percent chance that Mr. Wright produces somewhere between wOBA .335 and wOBA .395 (those could be higher or lower depending on the what the actual standard deviation is). And there's just as much likelihood that he will produce the lower number as there is that he will be produce the higher one. But people don't want to bother with interpreting a range, they want a single number they can fix on; doesn't matter whether they're talking baseball stats, political polling, or financial projections.

natsfan1a said...

In case anybody is still reading here, I thought I'd post a re-purposed baseball-specific trip report, seeing as how I'd done so for the subsequent sightseeing/food thread. The game in question was vs. STL.

As we were walking into the park, we saw John Lannan working with Trent Jewett and an anonymous batter (at least, I didn't recognize the guy and he didn't have a name on his jersey). They were working in a fenced area next to the sidewalk. I think they were doing pitcher's fielding practice. A bit beyond that area was a walkway leading to the home locker room. Lots of kids were standing next to the fence waiting for players to go by, in hopes of getting autographs. We saw a few players
signing there during our visits, although I didn't recognize any of them.

The stadium itself looked pretty spiffy, and I liked the space program aspect (the tribute foul poles, the shuttle mockup outside). Most of the employees were seniors, and everyone was very friendly. There was a cancer prevention promotion, and the team gave away a bag that contained a large bottle of sunscreen, a bottle/can sleeve, and some educational
literature. Oh, and I got to see the famously loud beer vendor, who can be heard on every broadcast. I thought about asking for his autograph, but I didn't.

That night, our web-purchased tickets had us up by the press box (I was glad we'd gotten them ahead of time, as evidently the game was a
sellout). When we got to our seats, we saw Mark Zuckerman leaning out the window talking to a fan. I stopped by to say "hi," and he asked me
if I'd met NatsJack. I hadn't done so yet, so Mark told me what to look for (NatsJack makes it easy on you by wearing an eponymous t-shirt). We did end up meeting NatsJack after the game, and I thanked him for all the ST tips he's posted to the blog.

As you may recall, that game was started by Gorzelanny and we ended up with a curly W. You may also recall the spiffy sliding catch by Roger Bernadina. During that inning, Werth and Zimmerman were doing sprints on the warning track, having come out of the game earlier. After the catch, Werth turned toward the field and doffed his cap, I assume in recognition of Rahjah's feat.

Our next game was the Sunday day game, vs. the Marlins (who evidently still own us). Before the game, we sat next to a retired couple who were also dining on concession food. They attend every home ST game and were very knowledgeable about the team. It was a hot day and the wife was trying to avoid sitting in the sun before game time. A light bulb went
off over my head, and I asked her if she would like a bottle of sunscreen. She said yes, so I gave her my giveaway bottle from the Friday game. I'd brought it along in hopes of finding someone who could use it, as it was too big to take through airline security on the way home.

Speaking of the food, my hubby had a very good grilled mahi mahi sandwich and some very tasty hush puppies. I had a grilled hot dog (also tasty). At the previous game, we'd shared a cheeseburger basket. It was decent and the fries were quite good.

Then we headed off to our seats. As it turned out, the couple was a few rows below us in the same section. Detwiler, who started, looked good, and so did Broderick in his first inning. In his second, things got a little dicey, in part due to a Zimmerman error, and the Marlins took the lead, which they held onto for the win (oh, and in between there was a dinger by Michael Morse).

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