Friday, June 25, 2010

Zim, Dunn, Pudge, Capps or Clip?

Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on the Stephen Strasburg All-Star debate. Some excellent points made on both sides of the argument, which underscores just how unique this situation is. There is no comparable rookie from past seasons, no precedent that dictates whether Strasburg should go to Anaheim or not. It makes for a fascinating debate.

The Strasburg back-and-forth, though, opened up another debate. Assuming he isn't picked -- or assuming he's not the Nationals' lone All-Star -- who else is most-deserving of the spot on the NL roster?

I think you could probably make a case for any of seven different players: Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Ivan Rodriguez, Matt Capps, Tyler Clippard, Josh Willingham and Livan Hernandez. Obviously, some have better arguments than others, and in all likelihood only one of these guys (maybe two) is going to wind up on the team.

Here, then, are the pros and cons for each candidate...

Pros: He's the best all-around third baseman in the National League. He ranks second at his position in the NL in OPS, second in slugging, third in on-base percentage, third in homers, second in runs. And he's widely considered the best defensive third baseman in the game.
Cons: He's been in a slump the last two weeks, hitting .170 with only three RBI his last 13 games. He hasn't been as good defensively this year as he was last year.

Pros: He's been one of the most productive offensive players in baseball this season. He ranks second in the NL in home runs, fourth in slugging, seventh in OPS and second in total bases.
Cons: Despite his numbers, he's never been thought of around the game as an All-Star (he's appeared in only one midsummer classic, in 2002). He also plays the deepest position in the NL, dominated by the likes of Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez.

Pros: He's already a 14-time All-Star who is putting together his best season in a while, earning praise both for his offensive prowess and for his work with Strasburg. He leads all regular NL catchers in batting average and is second in doubles.
Cons: He hasn't played as much as several other catchers in the league, both because of his back injury and because of his age. He hasn't been an All-Star since 2007 and isn't the player he once was.

Pros: He leads the majors in saves and was successful in his first 16 save opportunities this year.
Cons: His 3.51 ERA is nothing special, and he's probably the Nats' third-best reliever behind Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.

Pros: He ranks sixth in the NL in wins ... and he's a reliever. He's got a 1.58 ERA and a 53-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Cons: He's cooled off some since his ridiculously dominant start to the season. Setup men rarely get selected to the All-Star Game, and there are several other deserving ones this year.

Pros: Ranks fourth in NL in on-base percentage, third in walks. Putting together the best season of his career.
Cons: Like Zimmerman, has cooled off in the last two weeks, batting .205 since June 11. Plays the outfield, which includes such NL stars as Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Andre Ethier, Jayson Werth, Manny Ramirez and Jason Heyward.

Pros: He's ranked among the league-leaders in ERA all season and has posted 11 quality starts in 14 outings.
Cons: His ERA has risen more than a point over the last month. He's earned only two wins in the last six weeks.

I'm curious to know what you think. If you could pick only one of these Nationals to represent the franchise in the All-Star Game, who would it be?


Anonymous said...

Zimmerman. And there is no argument on that one. A brief slump does not diminish his greatness.

Marty said...

I'd love to see Clippard get in but I think you have to go with Zimmerman.

Tank said...

"He ranks second in the NL in OPS"

That should end the debate. I agree we have multiple legitimate candidates, but Zimmerman is clearly the most qualified.

Anonymous said...

I'd vote Willingham for this, Mark. Because as you said -- he's having a career year. And by the way -- your previous article on this topic was again teriffic. Thank you.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Tank: Zim actually ranks second among NL third basemen in OPS. Sorry about that; I clarified it.

natsfan1a said...

mmm-kay, I think I'm gonna have to go ahead and say Zimmerman.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say, but the Nats only deserve the single pity pick. That's life at the bottom of the standings.

It would have to be Zimmerman as he's the only one holding hardware from last season.

Anonymous said...

If only one player goes from the Nats, which is likely, it should be Zimm. The others have players in their positions from other teams which overshadow them.

Bowdenball said...

I vote Zimm with everyone else, as I argued yesterday.

Just want to mention that IMO you really need to look at Capps' WHIP in addition to his ERA to paint the full picture of why he's not really a viable candidate. WHIP is not just a stat for the eggheads these days- it's as good a "basic" stat as we've got for judging pitcher performance. And Capps' number is pretty terrible.

Sam said...

Arguably, Zimmerman has actually been better defensively this year than last year. That is, if you go by UZR (20.8 UZR/150 in 2010 compared to 14.1 in 2009) or DRS (11 in 2010 in 60 games, 22 in 2009). Ryan Zimmerman is 7th in the NL in WAR. I don't see how he can't make the roster if there are only 6 position players having a better season than him. Clippard has produced 1.3 WAR, third among NL relievers. Again, if there are only two relievers better than him, how can he not make it? I think both of those guys deserve to make it, but due to our team's position in the standings, we might only send one representative.

bdrube said...

Gotta be Zim. Team leader, face of the franchise and all of that.

greg said...

Zimmerman is the pick. If he's the best all-around 3B in the NL (and I agree that he is), then he should be on the all-star team.

Anonymous said...

Zimmerman. Alone. The "slumped the last two weeks" argument is ridiculous. He's the best 3b in the league, period, and arguably in all of MLB (though Longoria's definitely got a case). Nobody has his combo of offense and defense. I almost fell out of my chair a few games ago when Carpenter and Dibble suggested that he might not deserve it. He's so under-rated it's awful.

Zuck, separately - how are you getting "his defense isn't as good this year?" You know UZR is a counting stat, of course - his UZR/150 (what his UZR projects to over 150 games) was 14.1 last year (and he put up 13.7 over the full year) and this year, his UZR/150 is currently over 20. He's got a 6.3 UZR already, only through June - that's well on track to at least meet, if not exceed last year. His RZR if you like that metric better is higher than last year as well. If anything, he's as good as he was if not better - on both offense and defense, he's taken his game up a bit more from where it was last year.

A few weeks ago I would have said Willingham, too, but the position there is too deep. Dunn could deserve it but is stuck behind Mt. Pujols and company. Clippard definitely deserves it, but won't get there because of the bias against middle relievers. Capps has an inflated save statistic because the Nats are in a lot of close games and that number sort of hides how shaky he's been in a lot of those games. My heart wants Pudge, but my head knows that'd be a legacy pick, not something he deserves because of his current performance.

Ernie said...

Back to that old discussion about what's wrong with this team...perhaps this is a part of it? Other than a slumping Zimmerman we really don't have any superstar-caliber players. We have some pitchers who are starting to prove something (most of the recent criticism of Kasten/Rizzo/Riggleman seems to neglect the fact that our development of pitchers is the one strong suit in the organization). Nobody who hits/fields on a daily basis is really that outstanding right now.

Ask yourself this admittedly ridiculous question - who will be the first player to wear a Washington National uniform in the Hall of Fame? Zimmerman is the only plausible (non-pitching) candidate I can think of and he doesn't seem to have the consistency yet to be a serious candidate.

So I'm not going to claim more wisdom than I have. Is this the kind of thing that is best done through the draft and minor leagues? Through a trade? Where do most teams get their superstars?

Mike said...

The thing about Clippard is his reverse platoon split, which might be seen as making him a more flexible option than a lot of setup guys. I guess it comes down to what Charlie Manuel things about it.

Doc said...

Zim, Zim, and Zim. Great article, and great reporter honesty as usual.

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anon: My reason for suggesting Zimmerman hasn't been as good defensively this year was that he's seemed to have some throwing issues more than in the past. It's a nitpicking point, to be sure, and Zim remains the best defensive third baseman in the game without question. I was trying to come up with a counter-argument against his selection, and to be honest, I was having a hard time coming up with one. I'll be really surprised if he doesn't go to Anaheim.

JayB said...

I really do not care about the All Star game or who goes. I do care about the Nats and who goes.....Harris DFA today? Morgan to the Bench? That is what matters, not some fan based voting system for an exhibition game.

Instead of this dribble I would rather get some off the record indication of what Rizzo and the brain trust are going to do to fix this team.

Cwj said...

Clippard gets my vote. His numbers are ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Like I said in another post, judge SS on statistics just like you are doing to the players listed above. If Rodrigues is elected it is not because of what he has done in the past, but because of his record now (which probably won't get his elected. If SS is elected, it won't be because of his past (he has none), but because of his record Now.

Anonymous said...

It's tough because there are different questions...

Q: If you're Charlie Manuel and your only concern is winning the game, and you're going to pick the player, regardless of any numbers, service time, etc, who will help you do that?

A: Strasburg.

Q: If you're Charlie Manuel and your plan is to just pick the most established/recognizable name from the pitchers?

A: Hernandez, I guess?

Q: If you're Charlie Manuel and your plan is to do what a lot of the guys have done in the past and just grab the closer by default?

A: Self-explanatory; Capps.

Q: If you're Charlie Manuel and you just pick the most established/recognizable name from the position guys?

A: Pudge

Q: If you're Charlie Manuel and your goal is to, god forbid, pick the player with the best numbers/performance so far this year?

A: Zimmerman

That wasn't all that helpful, I guess. My point, though, is that Zimmerman is probably most deserving of the selection. Due to his past performance and All-Star selection, plus this year's performance, plus being the team's (now 2nd) most recognizable name, he should probably be the pick. However, if after all the fan voting is done (remember, there is an additional vote for the final guy), and after any no-brainer picks that Manuel has to make from other teams, he may be set at position players. Then he's gotta pick a pitcher. The default pick is usually the closer. What if he's bitter about not having home-field advantage in the last 2 World Series'? Maybe he just wants the guy who will give him the best chance of winning, period. Strasburg belongs in the U.Jimenez, R.Halladay, A.Wainright, J.Johnson, M.Cain starting pitcher discussion.

alm1000 said...

I was going to be a contrarian and say Pudge. Watching him play for the Nats has been a joy. Thanks Rizzo for this signing. But I looked at his stats and they don't cut it, BA aside. Josh is having a career year, but not an all-star caliber year. Not Zim either.
Therefore I have to go a pitcher either Capps or Clippard. When you look at the stats, Clippard's year is incredible. Capps is leading the league in saves but no other reliever is having the year Tyler is having. Gotta be Clippard. He is the 3rd highest ranked pitcher in my points based fantasy league. Hands down, no doubt when you look at the stats for each of the players as compared to the other players at their position. It Clippard.
Zim ranks 7th or 8th offensively among NL third basemen. No way he deserves to go. Last years hardware or stats don't count. He missed 7 or 8 games and is in a major slump. He doesn't have the 2010 credentails to go.

Anonymous said...

All Star selections are never made solely on merit. The fan balloting is a popularity contest, plain and simple. Once that's done and the starting eight are selected, I guess there's some sort of player ballot for some additional players, and the manager selects some players, and then there's another fan vote for the last guy. And over-riding the whole thing is the requirement that every team get at least one guy. So any potential All Star needs to navigate this process to make the team. Look at your candidates and the process, and the possible outcomes tend to narrow down considerably.

(a) Fan ballot: No Nat makes it.
(b) Player ballot: Zimmerman or Pudge could get voted in here, but not Dunn because as you noted his position is incredibly deep.
(c) Charlie Manuel: He's the guy who enforces the one-per-team minimum, by filling in the gaps that remain after the fan and player balloting. He also chooses most if not all of the pitchers, I think. Here is where a closer or setup guy could get in, but only if he's the best player on a lousy team that has no other worthy representatives. Capps, Clippard and Livo won't make it in here, because if there's still no Nat when Charlie starts picking that means he'll still have Zim, Pudge and Dunn to choose from. He'll take one or maybe two of them for sure, and not a pitcher.
(d) Last guy fan ballot: Theoretically they could put any of the available Nats on this ballot, but it's most likely to be former All Stars Zim or Pudge due to the injustice of them not already being selected. Remember what may have been the first year of this last-guy ballot, and "Vote for Pedro"? Zim or Pudge would be Pedro Martinez in this scenario.

So put it all together, and if there's only one Nat All Star it will be either Zim or Pudge, with Dunn being a very very very long shot. The other guys? No way.

alm1000 said...

Left Livon out of the above post but while his start was unbelievable he has come back down to earh and doesn't get my vote.

Anonymous said...

If we are talking defense, intangibles & offense how can you not vote Pudge. He holds his own against the other NL catchers (because of his age it is more remarkable). It seems unfair to hold his past HOF performances against him. That being said I believe Zimm is best choice all around, he is the face of the franchise. While Dunn has improved dramatically on defense his offense has only recently come around, you can say the same about Willingham except his offense was more consistent earlier.

Anonymous said...

"Q: If you're Charlie Manuel and your only concern is winning the game, and you're going to pick the player, regardless of any numbers, service time, etc, who will help you do that?"

What a dumb question. Everyone knows that All Star managers do not make their roster picks with an eye towatd who will best help them win the game any more than Jim Riggleman fills out his daily lineup card with an eye toward winning the game.

Anonymous said...

Adam Dunn -- but the allstar selection process turn is ugly, for me. Fan voting is fun, I guess, but renders all arguments about fairness pointless. It's marketing or just fun for fans, which for old schoolers like me is too bad. So IMHO, SS can go, too.

Bowdenball said...


You understand that all of baseball, and all of sports, is an exhibition, right? None of it "matters." It's all for the entertainment of the fans. The All-Star game doesn't count in the standings, but frankly it has more impact on the 2010 World Series Champions than the Nats-Os game. And even if it didn't- it's in a couple weeks, and some of us think it's cool. If you don't, that's fine, but your opinion alone doesn't make it "dribble," and doesn't mean Mark shouldn't post about it. The rest of us obviously like talking about it. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a pre-set limit on posts per day. I'm sure there will be at least one post about tonight's game later today.

Sec$39.99 said...

OK, so fans vote like, well, fans, and not objective arbiters of fact. They're going to want to see Strasburg, I imagine. I don't send him. He's too new, hasn't done enough, and if he does go, he'll not only bump some pitcher who deserves to go, he'll probably bump a teammate, because I don't think they'll take many players from a chronically last place team.

Zimm and Pudge and Clippard all go.

Zimmerman, because he's the best 3rd baseman in the NL, but also because he's the kind of player you pay to see. I don't go to see someone not make errors, I want a chance to see the best baseball players in the world do something I can't see anywhere else.

Pudge, just because he's Ivan f'ing Rodriguez, reanimated or not, whatEVER. He's pushing 40, and having one of the best years of his HOF career. The man is just stunning to watch.

Clippard is tougher, because setup guys don't get picked often. If Clippard goes and Capps doesn't, it seems reasonable to wonder why Clippard isn't closing, no? If they still had the smaller rosters, I don't think he makes it, but they really need lots of pitchers for these things, and close and late, he's about as good as anybody this year.

Section 222 said...

Well, I'm going to be a contrarian here. Zim is a great player, but he really hasn't been burning up the league this year, either offensively (especially recently) or defensively. (I agree with Mark about his throwing issues.) Whoever the pick is is going to be a late inning pinch hitter or defensive replacement at best. So I think if I'm Charlie Manuel I would pick Dunn for the possible heroic pinch hit bomb (no need to put him in the field). I hope Zim will pick up his game even farther and get voted in by the fans in years future.

Anonymous said...

Zuck - fair enough. I agree - it IS a nitpicking point. ;) His throwing is just one of those things - it's a nice flaw to get everybody excited. He's got the sixth-highest UZR in the league, and the 2nd highest 3b OPS - he's sort of the obvious pick. Maybe the question is - if the Nats get a 2nd person in addition to Zimm, who should it be?

Here's the funny thing - if they do get a 2nd person, you could make almost as strong a case for Strasburg as you could for Clippard, Dunn, Willingham, etc.

K.D. said...

Zimm, Dunn, Willingham, Capps, Clippard, Pudge all are worthy. I wish Livan could have picked up a couple of more wins then I would add him. Love Pudge only if another Nat is selected also. Would be great to see Clippard enjoy the festivities with Pudge there to catch him. Get voting online people!

A DC Wonk said...

Re: WHIP -- Capps' number is pretty terrible..

Indeed it is. On the other hand, Clippard's are eye-popping (along with Strasburg's)

Kamir Aminute said...

OK, you've convinced me; the Nationals do not deserve representation at this year's All-Star game.

Anonymous said...

I love it when unintelligent people try to sound smart but let just a word or two reveal the truth.

"Instead of this dribble I would rather get some off the record indication of what Rizzo and the brain trust are going to do to fix this team."

I believe the word you're looking for is "drivel." It means to talk stupidly and carelessly. Hmmm... is that ironic?

Anonymous said...

Dribble. That's the stuff that comes out of moron JayB's mouth, right?

Cwj said...

Back to the All Star thingy, are middle relievers ever selected?? I truly believe Clippard belongs there.

A DC Wonk said...

Instead of this dribble...

While I disagreed with the message, I thought that part of the message was a clever pun -- a combination of "Dibble" (who says stupid things), and "drivel" (stupid things said). Put them together, and you have words that are as useful as "dribble".

Nicely done. (if it was intentional ;-) )

(But I disagree about the main point that this thread is a waste of time.)

Cwj said...

@DC Wonk - Speaking of Dibble, did you see how he and Ray Knight kinda got into it a bit after Strasburg's last start? I actually agreed with Dibble. The Royals did exactly as he said which was to throw the bat out and hope for a single.
However he will often contradict himself.

Cwj said...

If not Clippard, I would say Dunn. He is one HR from the league lead, 4th in slugging pct, 7th in OPS. Mainly, I just want Dunn to get a shot at the Homer derby :)

Anonymous said...

Zimmerman. No on else is even close. When you think about it, maybe "The Plan" is not as far along as we die hard Nats fans think.

johninmpls said...

The game's in Anaheim, right? AL park, AL rules? Seems like that might make a little more room for Dunn. Given Zimmerman's slump, wouldn't you feel Dunn would give you the better chance to win?

Anonymous said...

Follow up from Anonymous 4:12..... Another much as I appreciate IRod's ability and Hall of Fame presence, he doesn't bleed Nat's red yet. Too new to the team. Zimmerman was born a Nat. He best represents us.

Anonymous said...

I would go with Zimmerman but would also hope Clippard gets selected.

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