Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Five unsung heroes

USA Today Sports Images
Ryan Mattheus should be a key contributor out of the bullpen again this year.
There will be no shortage of star power inside the clubhouse or on the field at Space Coast Stadium once spring training commences for the Nationals next week. Stephen Strasburg. Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman. Jayson Werth. Gio Gonzalez. Ian Desmond. Adam LaRoche. Dan Haren. This team certainly isn't lacking in notoriety.

Davey Johnson, though, takes every opportunity he gets to point out the importance of all 25 men on his roster contributing to a winning ballclub. And as we saw last season, there were all sorts of key role players without whom the Nats would not have won their first NL East title.

With that in mind, let's focus today on five guys who won't draw nearly as much attention as their big-name teammates this spring yet all could play significant roles on a club with realistic World Series visions...

ROGER BERNADINA
The longest-tenured player in the organization -- he was signed out of Curacao way back in 2001, when the franchise still called Montreal home and was owned by Jeffrey Loria -- got plenty of chances over the years to prove he could be an everyday outfielder, but last season proved his true value is off the bench.

Though he started only 49 games, Bernadina appeared in 129 and established career-highs in batting average (.291), on-base percentage (.372) and slugging percentage (.405). He was a valuable, late-inning replacement in left and center fields and was a real threat on the bases, successful on 15 of 18 steal attempts.

The Shark's playing time once again figures to be limited this season, with none of the three projected starting outfielders (Harper, Werth and Denard Span) in need of a late-inning defensive replacement. But count on Johnson finding ways to use Bernadina in key situations, whether as a pinch-runner, a pinch-hitter or the occasional starter when one of the regulars needs a day off.

ROSS DETWILER
You wouldn't think a former first-round draft pick, a left-hander who throws 95 mph, would get lost among the shuffle. But that easily could be the case for Detwiler, who finds himself at the back end of a rotation that features four real studs in Strasburg, Gonzalez, Haren and Jordan Zimmermann.

That anonymity, however, could play right into Detwiler's hands. He's never been one to seek the spotlight, and he seemed to thrive last season when he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, still needing to prove himself as a big-league starter. His dominant outing in Game 4 of the NLDS, with his team facing elimination, might well have been the day he finally took that major step forward.

At 27, with a full major-league season under his belt at last, and with confidence as sky-high as its ever been, Detwiler should be poised for a big season. How long it takes for the rest of the baseball world to catch on remains to be seen.

RYAN MATTHEUS
Did you know Mattheus already has 101 games of big-league experience, with a 2.84 ERA, only 7.6 hits allowed per nine innings and a 75 percent rate for stranding inherited runners? If ever there was an unsung member of the Nationals' bullpen, this is it.

The right-hander really came into his own last season, earning Johnson's trust more and more to pitch in key situations, most notably in Game 1 of the NLDS (when he stranded the bases loaded and recorded three outs on two pitches).

And he'll be counted on again this season to pitch his way out of big spots. With potentially no situational lefty in the bullpen, Mattheus (who over his career has held left-handed hitters to a .214 batting average) might well be asked to enter to face some of the league's toughest southpaw sluggers. He might not get chances to record official saves, but make no mistake: He'll have plenty of chances to save games.

CRAIG STAMMEN
Like Mattheus, Stammen really came into his own last year. This despite the fact he was asked to hold a role he had never held before in either the big leagues or minor leagues: Long reliever.

Stammen pitched two or more innings on 28 separate occasions, seven more times than any other reliever in baseball. And many of those six-out appearances came in tight ballgames. This wasn't your typical mop-up man.

Johnson will ask the 29-year-old to hold the same role this season, and like Mattheus he'll be asked to face some tough left-handed hitters in big spots. It's kind of a thankless job, but it's crucial to a club's success over a full season.

KURT SUZUKI
At this point, there's no way to know how long Suzuki will serve as the Nationals' No. 1 catcher. That will depend on the timeline for Wilson Ramos' full recovery from a torn ACL. But all indications are that the Nats will take their time with Ramos, easing him back into a regular role, which means Suzuki is going to open the season making four or five starts behind the plate per week.

If he's able to pick up where he left off late last season -- he hit .300 with four homers and 17 RBI over his final 25 games -- Suzuki could provide a potent bat at the bottom of the Nationals' lineup. And if he can continue to work well with this dynamic pitching staff, he'll really prove his worth as an all-around catcher.

To be clear, the Nationals believe Ramos ultimately will recapture his starting job and will be their best catcher. But until he proves he's all the way back, Suzuki will be counted upon to deliver in a crucial role.

62 comments:

MicheleS said...

It takes 25 to win, good to know we have quality all the way down the line.

Positively Half St. said...

Yes, the "best 25 go north" line doesn't hold much intrigue so far this year. It will make it hard to trade people who are out of options before waiving them, because it will be hard for Rizzo to bluff that they have a real chance of making the squad. Here's looking at you, Mr. Rivero.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I'm not convinced Suzuki isn't our No. 1 catcher for now and the foreseeable future. What an absolute steal by Rizzo.

Steady Eddie said...

Good story, Mark, and especially interesting stat re Stammen as the longest long reliever in the game.

By the way, re Mattheus, it was THREE outs on two pitches in Game 1. A memorable moment to be sure.

Steady Eddie said...

Half St. -- yeah, hard to bluff re someone like Rivero. But the other side of that is that teams wanting our AAA depth that's out of options can't be sure another team won't grab them first, so they may be willing to make a deal, maybe even in a package so we can get something of value back.

Also, unexpected injury holes do appear on rosters during ST.

Scooter said...

Terrific post. Thanks, Mr. Z.

DaveB said...

Was definitely wondering why Rivero wasn't traded earlier until I heard about Danny's rotator cuff. (Sometimes unexpected injuries have already occurred before ST and just don't show up until then.) I don't think Carlos will get traded before ST ends unless Danny somehow proves he doesn't need surgery.

Theophilus T. S. said...

The first piece of news I want to hear when pitchers and catchers report is how much El Gordo weighs. That will go a long weigh to determining how long Suzuki will/should remain the starting catcher.

Gonat said...

MicheleS said...
It takes 25 to win, good to know we have quality all the way down the line.
____________________________________

You said it and the 25th player sometimes is that X Factor.

Tyler Moore's 25th man impact in the playoffs was huge in helping to win Game 1. If the Nats went on, who knows.

sm13 said...

Great list, Mark. You could add Chad Tracey to the unsung roster, as well.

It is great to see Craig Stammen get his due. He's worked his tail off and now he's found his niche. He'll be a key and versatile piece of Davey's bullpen puzzle again this year.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I'm hoping Anthony Rendon is added as a September callup and then makes his way on the postseason roster.

I am nervous as to which Kurt Suzuki shows up this year. Let's hope we can call him an unsung hero.

Teddy Rochlis said...

I don't think Kurt Suzuki will be an unsung hero, because everybody knows about him and will begin singing Rizzo's praises again for his trade for Kurt. 7 days then the real countdown begins.

NatsLady said...

Nice article, enjoyed it. Good break from the "other news." Tom Verducci--a respected reporter--has a detailed article on SI.Com. Nothing new on Gio, but plenty on Alex R and Cruz, matching dates in the notebooks to location of teams (i.e., were meetings feasible), and also to variations in their stats.

NatsLady said...

Unless you count this note as possibly linked to Gio...

• A holiday discount with a Dec. 14, 2011 notation of drugs associated with University of Miami trainer Jimmy Goins. "Gift certificate. $75 off X-mas," it notes, as well as a credit of "$100 for referral."

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130204/alex-rodriguez-ped-regiment-anthony-bosch-miami-new-times/#ixzz2K2B4YI7k

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

fifteen jugglers and five unsung heroes
all dressed like men
Tell your mama not to worry
'cause they're just my friends.

natsfan1a said...

Nice break from The Story That Would Not Die. That said, can one be featured on a sharkarine and still be unsung? :-)

3on2out said...

Ross Detwiler and Kurt Suzuki unsung heroes? Hardly. Ross established his major league creds last year. He is a stud among studs on arguably the best starting rotation in MLB. And Kurt is the starting catcher for that fearsome fivesome and played a critical and successful role in that role. AND added some solid offense as well. Ramos may be in Nats plans but a repaired ACL on a catcher whose BMI is not what it should be? I have some major doubts.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

And speaking of unsung heroes, without these guys, there'd still be Roger, but no Sharkadina.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Previously Rodriquez admitted to steroid use in 2001-2003. The most recent episode begs the question how much of his career has been influenced by PED use. Did steroid use begin w/ his 1999 torn meniscus? His apparent liberties with the truth suggest that the whole decade of the aughts (01-10) may have been colored by steroids. Thus, subject to a miraculous cleansing by investigators, he potentially descends with Bonds to a door guarded by the Marshall Petains of baseball, "They shall not pass."

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I got my fingers in my ears and doing the "Lah lah lah lah lah" thing when you mention PEDs.

Lets talk about something else like guessing where Michael Bourn and Lohse ends up.

I'm hearing Lohse to the Nats for a 1 year deal as Boras has to place him in safe keeping. I don't see it unless he became the long man in the 'pen and I don't see Boras agreeing to that. Still hoping that Rizzo can get Javier Vazquez!

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

They may both wind up waiting for somebody to get hurt.

Faraz Shaikh said...

yeah I like Javy also and if Oswalt is fit, him too.

Sharkadina said...

Shark was listed first...as he should be.

This year, the Shark will be sung.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Faraz Shaikh said...
yeah I like Javy also and if Oswalt is fit, him too.

February 05, 2013 10:32 AM


I don't see them doing Oswalt after his disaster in Texas last year. Unless its a noticeable upgrade Rizzo will roll the dice and stick with his AAA depth in Garcia, Ohlendorf, etc.

Javier Vazquez is perfect as he has the velo to be a gun in the bullpen and be the guy if they need a 6th starter.

I just can't see Lohse making sense although I'm sure Boras is doing his best to convince Mr. Lerner.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Reason I listed Oswalt because his advanced stats were pretty good. His HR/FB% was double the career number, better than career K/BB ratio, and an absurd lack of luck for him.

since him being a right-handed and probably seeking a major league deal, we may not see either party interested in a deal.

But yeah Javy makes sense on many levels.

John C. said...

Here's how you can tell that Detwiler is still unsung: there is a persistent, noisy group of fans on various sites that are constantly trying to move Detwiler to the bullpen in favor of a pitcher that didn't pitch last year (Vazquez) or one that turns 33 this year and until very recently was an extremely mediocre pitcher (Lohse) - both options will be expensive in money, and Lohse also costs a high draft choice (second round, since the Nats already forfeited their first round for Soriano).

No thanks to either, I say. There's a substantial chance that Detwiler has a better season than either of the alternatives, at a fraction of the cost. Yeah, Vazquez tore up the winter leagues. So did Yunesky Maya. Paying a lot while making the starting rotation worse makes no sense to me!

Faraz Shaikh said...

Lohse is definitely a no because that means forfeiting another draft pick unless rizzo does not care about drafting due to weak class.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

As we go through the unsung heroes and the great bench Davey has, I think Davey has to do a better job of resting players. While you always have the urge to write in the same 7 guys (everyone but the catcher), Davey needs to strategically rest Werth, LaRoche, and Zim.

I'm concerned about Espi's shoulder and his production this year. Heck, I was concerned about Espi prior to the revelations of the extent of his shoulder injury.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

John C., I don't think it would be fair to move Detwiler to the 'pen. I think any deal for another starter would have to be either a Minor League deal or a MLB deal with the understanding they would go into the 'pen.

SCNatsFan said...

Please say no to Oswalt. A prima donna with little left in the tank. Only way I want to see him is pitching against us so we can light him up.

Section 222 said...

John C., I can't say for sure, but I think the continuing interest in Vasquez, Lohse et al. is because of our suspect starter depth (Maya? Oy.) and the significant chance that Gio won't be available for the whole season. I haven't seen anyone arguing that Det should go to the bullpen. He was on that bubble last year with Wang. I think he's pretty well assured of a pitching every five days this year.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

That's my feeling SCNatsFan. I think he won't be picked up again until mid-season anyway.

3on2out said...

Detwiler to the pen? Really? Who are these people? I would move Haren there before Detwiler.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Sect222, I agree with you on Detwiler. When you listen to his interview with Chase you can tell he gets it.

JD said...


Ghost,

I don't think Vazquez is signing anywhere that doesn't guarantee him a spot in the rotation. He wasn't very good in a bullpen role for the Yankees anyway. I don't think his personality fits a bullpen role and I think his repertoire support a spot in someone's rotation.

If Rizzo knows something about Gio that we don't then that's another story because I don't think you want to go with Maya or Ohlendorf in your rotation for a third of the season.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I'm excited about the addition of DH from the standpoint of what he can teach to a young dominant rotation that are all fastball throwers.

When Chase asked Ross Detwiler if he had been working on a new pitch, Ross was kind of stunned by the question (huh?) and instead talked about how he is a fastball pitcher and can work in the changeup and curveball, but what about throwing that fastball to dance even more like Haren.

Haren can throw a fastball 4 different ways consistently for strikes. I think McCatty needs to use Haren as an example of trying to add to your arsenal. Not so much Strasburg, but the other 3 could use another fastball that can spin in another direction.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD, absolutely on Vazquez. He will take the contender who offers him a rotation spot before he takes a contender with a bullpen spot.

He's not going to take a MiLB deal.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

JD, Vazquez was certainly a mixed bag out of the bullpen for the Yankees but that was out of a demotion.

I have to think if he accepts a bullpen role and can get in that frame of mind that he can do well in that role.

Owalt did really bad out of the bullpen also after his demotion.

Section 222 said...

From the very first time Vazquez's name came up I've been with JD: We're not signing him unless we have a need for another starter (like if Gio is likely to be out of action for awhile, or someone gets hurt in ST), And Vazquez isn't going to sign anywhere on a MiLB deal or to get stashed in the bullpen.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Sect222, Rizzo wanted Vazquez before the name Anthony Bosch became a dirty word in NatsTown.

I'm ok with spending Uncle Ted's money. I'm not ok moving anyone from the rotation to the bullpen.

bowdenball said...

Craig Stammen was a starter until late in 2011, and a decent one at that. He can make spot starts and Christian Garcia can replace him in the bullpen. Same goes for Zach Duke, although then you lose your lefty in the pen. Or maybe Garcia will work out as a starter. Those aren't ideal options for #6 starter, but they're a lot better than most teams have, in fact better than some people have at the 4 or 5 spot. There's no reason to worry about the depth at SP, or assume that Maya would be the first option. I seriously doubt he would be.

Ron In Reston said...

Bowden-

He was a starter in 2011 only at AAA. His stints as a starter at the major league lever were far from "decent". In 2009, he started 19 games and went 4-7 with an ERA north of 5.00. In 2010, he also started 19 games before being moved to the bullpen, going 4-4 again with an ERA over 5.00. His return from AAA in 2011 he appeared in 7 games, going 1-1 with an ERA under 1.00. And last year he went 6-1 with an ERA under 3.00. I think he has clearly shown he is NOT a starter and has settled in nicely to his role in the pen. Does that mean he couldn't start in a pinch? No, of course not, but I don't think he would be at the top of the list, either.

On another note, I'm pretty sure Rizzo is going to hold off on anything with regards to Vazquez until he sees how he recover from the knee surgery he had two weeks ago. If he returns to what seemd to be excellent form quickly, then I would love to have him as an insurance policy. But as others have mentioned, he is most likely going to only go where he can be a part of the rotation, and that won't happen here, barring any injury to our staff (knock on wood, cross fingers, sacrifice chickens, etc.)

sm13 said...

I hope Maya is not our first, second, third, etc option. He is not a major league pitcher.

Tcostant said...

I'll take Dice-K on a minor league deal. Send him to AAA and coach him up and you might have something in a league with no DH. If not, you move on.

I like Vazquez too, but I think he will have options with a better chance at the bigs and more money; so I don't really see that happening...

Tcostant said...

Did anyone notice that Brad Peacock got trade to Astros?

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/astros-pull-off-intradivision-trade-swap-including-jed-235309712--mlb.html

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/brad-peacock-cross-country-drive-spring-training-detoured-055954155--mlb.html;_ylt=AiedDgY.XHzQaB0W643m7XmFCLcF

NatsLady said...

Jerry Crasnick ‏@jcrasnick
Catcher Chris Snyder has agreed to a minor league deal with #nationals.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Tcostant said...
Did anyone notice that Brad Peacock got trade to Astros?


Yes, I posted on it yesterday. Bo knows! Good luck to Peacock!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsLady said...
Jerry Crasnick ‏@jcrasnick
Catcher Chris Snyder has agreed to a minor league deal with #nationals.

February 05, 2013 1:30 PM


Anyone with any intel on why they would get another catcher with Leon and Solano as the #3 and #4 with Maldanado as the #5.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Ron in Reston, I agree on Stammen. I was very happy that the bullpen gave him a place in the MLB. Craig is genuinely a very good person so glad he found his spot.

IKN8wxU2 said...

I'm not convinced Vasquez will only go to a contender with an open spot in the rotation. Here's my reasoning.

1. He apparently wants a team located in a spot where he can go to Puerto Rico easily. That would seem to rule out teams on the West Coast and maybe others.

2. How many contenders have open spots in the rotation? Not Atlanta, Cinncinati or St. Louis. The Phillies have one or two spots, but they aren't contenders. There may be a AL contender, especially the Rangers, I guess. You could say the Yankees, but I'm willing to bet that he doesn't want to go back there.

3. He's not young. This could be his last chance at a ring. The Nats fit that perfectly. Think Grant Hill on the Clippers this year, or Battier on the Heat last year.

4. Yes, the Nats have 5 starters, but it's extremely unlikely that none will miss some time. (Last year, we used 6 starters until the Strasburg shutdown.)

5. He's not young. I said that before, as to a ring, but it also applies to whether he could make it through 162 games as a starter. Maybe he likes the idea of being a reliever to start the season?

baseballswami said...

I am super concerned about Espi, especially with him playing in the WBC. He needs to get it fixed or deal with the axe hanging over his head ( and the whole teams'). I foresee Lombo playing second -- and what about Theriot on the bench? The man is a walking, talking World Series good luck charm. Middle infield depth, veteran presence, good clubhouse guy, contact hitter off the bench. I just don't see that he is done. The last two years - two rings.

bowdenball said...

Ron in Reston-

Of course you and I and all Nats fans would be much, much happier with Stammen in the pen. But we're talking about a #6 starter here- exactly the sort of "in a pinch" situation you refer to. Stammen's K and BB rates for his career are decent, and you have to remember he put up those weak ERA numbers with a pretty bad defense behind him, instead of the great one that would back him this year. I think if someone goes to the DL, he can make 2 or 3 spot starts without costing us too much. And more to the point, I'm not sure there's that a better option out there that remains unsigned and would take a one year deal. And of course, he'd go right back to excelling in the pen as soon as the starter returned to health.

NatsLady said...

No insight in particular, but I would say Snyder replaces Flores in the depth chart, and Rizzo is really hedging his bets on when Ramos will be back. Must feel that neither Solano or Leon is ready yet.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

baseballswami, I brought up the Espi cloud earlier. I somehow see Rendon on the fast track if Danny needs 2 months off.

I also think its a bad decision to let him play in the WBC.

SCNatsFan said...

RE : Peacock to the Astros... their highest paid player now makes $3M... Bo shouldn't even bother to unpack

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

By the way, a week from today Pitchers and Catchers report.

John C. said...

One argument that I've seen to send Detwiler back to the bullpen is that you open up a rotation spot to award to Vazquez/Lohse/etc. Then you have five starters, a LHRP, and Gio insurance, see? What's not to like?

Well, for my part, there's a lot not to like, starting with spending a lot (money and potentially a draft pick) to likely make your rotation worse. Also there is Detwiler's career development. The Yankees ruined Joba Chamberlain by jerking him back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen; I'd rather not see the Nationals do that with Det.

As for Gio insurance, I admit that I think it is very unlikely that any suspension comes from this unless a lot more stuff surfaces. Even in the unlikely event that there is a 50 game suspension, the Nats only require a #5 starter six times in the first 50 games. That can easily be covered by some combination of Duke, Garcia, Stammen, Maya or Ohlendorf.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

SCNatsFan said...
RE : Peacock to the Astros... their highest paid player now makes $3M... Bo shouldn't even bother to unpack

February 05, 2013 2:06 PM


If he doesn't lose 100 games they should give him Manager of the Year.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NEW POST

John C. said...

IKN8wxU2 said ...

2. How many contenders have open spots in the rotation? Not Atlanta, Cinncinati or St. Louis. The Phillies have one or two spots, but they aren't contenders. There may be a AL contender, especially the Rangers, I guess. You could say the Yankees, but I'm willing to bet that he doesn't want to go back there.

...

4. Yes, the Nats have 5 starters, but it's extremely unlikely that none will miss some time. (Last year, we used 6 starters until the Strasburg shutdown).


These two points are somewhat at odds; each of the other contending teams with a full rotation is also at the mercy of injuries. Given the overall youth of the Nats' rotation, probably other teams are more likely to have injury opportunities than the Nationals.

The Phillies are flawed, but still dangerous. It's too early to count them out of playoff contender status, especially with two wild card teams. They also think they have five starters (Hamels/Halladay/Lee/Kendrick/Lannan).

Vazquez has been to NY twice, and been bad to terrible both times. I don't think either party wants any more of that.

djinFl. said...

The more I read about the info handed to the Miami New Times the more I am thinking of a Clifford Irving situation. Some of the "facts" do not make sense. If you weave it just right, old facts rewritten with a new history, you have a blockbuster.

peric said...

because it will be hard for Rizzo to bluff that they have a real chance of making the squad. Here's looking at you, Mr. Rivero.

Well 1/2 Street you have been paying attention now have you? Because Mr. Espinosa has a rotator cuff injury perhaps worse than that which Adam LaRoche suffered in 2011? Uhmmm and who do you think would make a decent UTL infielder able to play those three positions if Lombo starts? Keeping in mind that Lombo does not do well at short and third?

Yep, that's right Mr. Carlos Rivero. He has as good a chance to make the roster just for that reason as any of those backup outfielders including Bernadina.

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