Monday, October 4, 2010

Less than the sum of their parts

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Livan Hernandez posted 21 quality starts but won only 10 games.
NEW YORK — Now that the season is complete, scan the Nationals' stat page. You'll notice some impressive individual performances.

Adam Dunn hit 38 homers, drove in 103 runs and posted an .892 OPS. Ryan Zimmerman hit .307 with 25 homers and an .898 OPS. Ian Desmond hit a respectable .269 with 10 homers, 27 doubles, 65 RBI and 17 steals as a rookie. Michael Morse hit .289 with 15 homers in very limited playing time. Josh Willingham had a .389 on-base percentage before succumbing to a knee injury in August.

On the pitching front, Livan Hernandez maintained a 3.66 ERA and had 21 quality starts. John Lannan finished with a .500 record after a wretched first half to the season. Stephen Strasburg struck out 92 batters in 68 innings. Seven relievers finished with ERAs under 4.00, three of them with ERAs under 3.00.

Looking up and down the Nationals' roster, I can objectively count 18 players who either had legitimately good seasons or at least exceeded what was expected of them back on Opening Day: Zimmerman, Dunn, Desmond, Morse, Willingham, Strasburg, Hernandez, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Roger Bernadina, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett, Joel Peralta, Doug Slaten, Collin Balester, Miguel Batista and Matt Capps (before he was traded in late-July).

So how is it that the only stat that really matters at the end of the season reads 69-93?

"If you look at every one of our players individually, it looks like we did OK," Jim Riggleman said earlier today when discussing his team from an offensive standpoint. "Each guy, you can go right down the line, and most of the ballclub had an OK statistical year. You put it all together, and it just didn't work offensively. ... Every individual statistic, every individual situation on paper looked OK. But it just didn't turn into a lot of runs scored, which is the point of the game. You're trying to outscore the opponent."

The fact of the matter is this: Despite whatever positive individual performances they got in 2010, the Nationals as a team weren't all that good. The whole was less than the sum of its parts.

Yes, there were some nice players on the roster. But they didn't make for a nice team.

This left a lot of people in the organization baffled. How can a club with Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham, a dominant ace for 2 1/2 months, a couple other reliable starters and a fantastic bullpen only win 69 games?

"For some reason, it's not coming out on a consistent, day-to-day basis," Adam Dunn said. "I don't know why that is."

Last year's team, as awful as it was, might actually have been greater than the sum of its parts. It finished with 59 wins, but Riggleman felt like it probably deserved to win only 52. This time around, he feels like his club underachieved.

"I think this year we lost more games than we should have," the manager said. "I thought we should have won 75 ballgames. We didn't reach 70."

So, how do you remedy that? Do you stick with what you have, hope younger players get better and bring about the improvement you're looking for in 2011? Or do you make wholesale changes and try to alter the entire culture around the clubhouse?

The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Obviously, the Nats will move forward with their nucleus of young players (Zimmerman, Desmond, Espinosa, Ramos, Jordan Zimmermann, Lannan, Storen, Clippard, Burnett and more) and hope that each guy takes another step forward next year. But they also figure to make some significant changes, riding themselves of the guys who seemed more interested in helping their personal stat line than in helping the team's won-loss record.

Despite what you heard over the last few weeks from the GM and the manager and others, privately those men weren't happy with a lot of aspects of this team. They didn't like how many batters weren't good at working the count and working on improving their on-base percentage instead of swinging from their heels at every opportunity. They didn't like the unwillingness of some players to sacrifice themselves to move runners up or bring them home. They weren't happy with some guys on the bases. They definitely weren't satisfied with several players in the field.

If it isn't obvious by now, Riggleman and Mike Rizzo prefer a pitching-and-defense club to an offensive juggernaut. In today's post-steroids sport, teams win more 2-1 games than 8-7 games, and the Nats' decision-makers want to put themselves in a better position to win more 2-1 games like they did in today's season finale.

Riggleman raved today about the potential of a Zimmerman-Desmond-Espinosa infield for years to come

"I think we've got a chance to put a real solid defensive ballclub out there," he said. "You just look at the way the game's going, so many games are finishing with one run scored, two runs scored. It seems like it's just becoming more and more important to play defense and pitch."

If the Nationals don't re-sign Dunn, look for them to attempt to acquire a better defensive first baseman. Also look for them to make a real attempt to improve defensively in the outfield. And when Rizzo says his No. 1 priority this winter is to acquire a No. 1 starter for the rotation, take him at his word. He may not land Cliff Lee, but he's going to wind up acquiring someone who fits the mold of a staff ace more than anyone in the current group.

In the end, the Nationals did make significant progress in 2010. They improved 10 games, an accomplishment surpassed by only three other major-league teams: the Padres (+15), the Reds (+13) and the Rays (+12). All three of those clubs either made the playoffs or were alive until the season's final day.

But for the Nationals to take the next step, to improve by another 10 or more games in 2011, they're going to have to make some calculated changes. Changes that may not result in better individual stat lines but should result in a better team.


Golfersal said...

In looking at the blame for the season that should of been better, you can point the finger straight at Riggelman. It's becoming more obvious that he doesn't know how to win, he can't organize his players to do the right thing at the right time.
They have gotten use to losing and really don't mind it. Until someone comes in there and kicks some butt and get them to think differently, they will never do the right thing.
First order of business is to find a new manager that will make the team think differently, think about winning at all cost.
Second is to be realistic with the fans about Adam Dunn. There is a reason he hasn't been signed yet and that's because he likes losing. Adam Dunn would rather get paid $10 million a year in D.C. and lose, but be the big hero, than get paid $15 million a year for the Yankees who will get on his case for striking out so much and poor defense. There is a reason that he is second in number of games without being in the playoffs, Dunn doesn't know what to do in playoffs and it scares the hell out of him. The fans in D.C. have been way too easy on Adam, we should realize that he can be a lot better. He should be better in clutch situations, strike out less and field a lot better.

Frankly this team excepts losing, just look at one of it's team mascot's, Teddy. He is know for finding a way to lose, not win. Instead of doing this act with Teddy, he should be a big winner that first game on March 30th.

Nats fans should not tolerate losers and to do that we need to get someone in there that knows how to win.

Yes management is right on paper this team is so much better than it's record shows.

Anonymous said...

Who are the players that are more interested in padding their numbers than playing for the team??? Its one of those things you get mixed messages about, who are the culprits?

Sunderland said...

Riggleman is indeed definitely part of the problem.
He made more of a difference in winning and losing than any player who suited up this year.

So if Rizzo is privately unhappy with some players, is he also privately unhappy with Riggleman? I sure hope so.

And I honestly have no idea why I should presume Rizzo will actually land a front line starter this winter. He might. He might not.

It wasn't long ago we heard about how we have all the pitching we need right here.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to have to say it, but a big part of the problem is Nyjer Morgan. He's been a lead-off hitter who hasn't been good at getting on base. His baserunning has been poor, including too many failed steal attempts. His defense too often has been sloppy, even horrific. And his attitude turned from a big positive to a big negative.

Add it all up, and he's a big problem.

I really think the guy suffers from ADD. He needs help. And medicine. If the Nats aren't willing or able to make that happen, they need to find another center fielder. I'm not sure Bernadina would be a huge upgrade, but he'd be better.

JayB said...

Morgan and Kennedy are the two biggest offenders as far as being selfish. Dunn is a huge problem as far as accepting losing and his defense if the worst in baseball at 1B.

Team defense and base running....lack of "fundamentals" and baseball IQ yet again killed this team across the board. Adding up the sum of parts is stupid. It mean nothing. Looking at the team Stats is what matters and you see last or near last in NL is all the key area's of hitting, defense and starting why is anyone surprised they did not even get to 70 wins.

Finally the biggest part of the problem is lack of winning approach and leadership in the clubhouse. That starts with Riggs and the coaching staff and equally on the Vets. Pudge is the only guy in that clubhouse who is NOT fine with losing everyday. Zimm, Dunn, Willingham...they just want to be buds more than win. Morgan, Kennedy, Harris...they just want to be paid. Ian D is the only true leader who is a core player......he lead baseball in errors and hit .269....he will improve but that is not going to work on a team who needs a leader badly.

What would I do today to start a long overdue process?

1. Fire whole coaching staff
2. Cut Kennedy, Harris, Will N.
3. Offer Dunn Arb and tell him that is it and hope for draft picks.
4. Set Spring Training date as far forward as league allows and then set "optional" early fundamentals camp up for a month ahead of that.
5. Hire a winning manager who is not going to take any losing lightly...Buck S type ASAP!

Steve said...

I remain in the Riggleman-is-a-big-part-of-the-problem group. How many times this year did Riggs field the best possible lineup? How many times did he weaken the lineup for dubious double-switches and lefty-righty matchups? And how can a manager/hitting coach spend an entire season saying "how come these guys don't change their approach at the plate?"

From the way the season ended, the extent of coaching/managing seems to be "go get 'em"/"try harder" rather than any specific guidance.

The Nats are gonna need somebody who can do more than look at the handedness of the other team's pitcher, then cross his arms on the top step of the dugout for the game.

Jeeves said...

Can't believe that I agree with practically everything you said, JayB. But I do. And I still so wish Rizzo had traded Dunn for Dan Hudson. I can never figure out how Dunn's stats are so good and yet game after game, for long stretches, he does next to nothing. I must be the only Nat's fan who is not enamored with Dunn's offense, especially as a cleanup hitter.

dale said...

Geeze, I find myself agreeing with JayB on this one, and that is hard for me to say. Wanting to win and managing and playing to win are two different things. Fielding a team of buddies is not the goal unless you are starting a fraternity.

The players themselves wont rip on another player and did they ever have opportunities provided them this year. Yet, it seems that boneheaded play was glossed over every time by the players. Losing Morgan and Kennedy wont upset me at all.

The constant mantra of "we played hard the whole game" became hollow after a bit. You could see this team dying in most of the extra inning games or even in the last 4 innings of most games. The bullpen made this team look a lot more competitive than it was. The fire was not coming from the players nor the managers. This team is not a winning combination.

You simply can not pay someone fifteen million dollars a year to be the worst fielder in the infield and to be a strikeout king. Adam Dunn did not lead the team, nor did he want the role. His offense was a one shot trick--hit it or whiff it. How many times did he fail to get a batter in from third with one out or less? True, he is loveable in other ways, much like a big teddy bear, but....

Riggleman was guilty of over thinking, especially his knack for giving too many at bats to the wrong players. He managed like a man whose mission was to promote a friendly clubhouse rather than a winning team. Feelings have to be hurt from time to time, especially if those players just cost the team a game. Stupidity on the field in the form of baserunning and fielding can not go unremarked.

Anonymous said...

Sign Dunn. The team is not going to get better if you take 38 HR and 103 RBI out of the lineup.

I think the problem was that the Nats were somewhat imbalanced -- good players in most positions, but subpar players to fill positions if the front liners got hurt. Maxwell, Harris hit under .200. Kennedy made too many routine mistakes when Riggleman put him in there. Kevin Mench does not belong in the big leagues. Many of the starters used throughout the year -- JD Martin, Atilano, Maya, to name three -- are not big league material. Guzman was a numbers man that never made the big play or got the clutch hit, and he was playing pretty much everyday for over 100 games. The outfield, with the exception of Willingham, was not as horrible as in the Wily Mo/Milledge era, but really was nothing to frighten anyone.

I think if you keep the bullpen intact, re-sign Dunn, get a front line starter, sign a few more depth players and at least one front line outfielder, you'll have a team that improves to at least .500, or more, next year.

Sunderland said...

JayB -

That the Nats offer Dunn arbitration is a given. Dunn is not likely to accept it, as the result of arbitration is a one year contract.
Do you really believe we should not attempt to sign Dunn to a multi-year deal?

I agree that step 1 should be firing Riggleman and staff. This is the most important off season decision / transaction and it should happen soon / now.

This is far more important than whatever ends up happening with Dunn.

Feel Wood said...

When I go to a restaurant, order a meal made with only the finest of ingredients, and the dish that's served me turns out to be less than the sum of its parts, I blame the chef. He's the one that assembled the ingredients into the finished product.

When I go to a ballpark and see a team made up of mostly decent players that performs like less than the sum of its parts, I blame the manager. He's the one that assembled the ingredients into the finished product.

Even Riggleman seems to be indicting himself here. Does it mean anything that no announcement has been made about picking up Riggleman's option for 2010? Could Rizzo be beating the bushes right now to find a better chef?

Sunderland said...


Do you believe there is even a remotely slim possibility that the Lerners:

- Drop $50M on a multi-year deal for Dunn
- Drop $50M+ on a multi-year deal for a front line starter.
- Drop $40M+ on a multi-year deal for a front line outfielder.
- Sign depth guys to replace Kennedy, Maxwell, Morgan, etc to deals that are 2 - 3 times the paltry amounts those guys earned in 2010?

You think there is any chance of that?

Feel Wood said...

"Guzman was a numbers man that never made the big play or got the clutch hit, and he was playing pretty much everyday for over 100 games."

I wish I knew how to do this analysis, because I'd be willing to bet that in his 100 games Guzman had at least as many clutch hits as Adam Dunn did in his full season, if not more.

N. Cognito said...

Riggs ain't the best of managers, but I don't think he's as bad as some here lament. Simply too many crappy ballplayers on the team.
Can't get on base.
Can't run the bases.
Can't field.
Can't pitch beyond the 5th inning.

I think the sum of the players matches the results.

natsfan1a said...

N. Cognito, you forgot "can't do situational hitting." ;-)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting analysis. A central problem is the failure of Morgan at the top of the order. He's dreadful as a leadoff man. If he does manage to get on base, he can disrupt the pitcher but way too often, he is thrown out stealing or picked off--innings killers.

I have mixed feelings about Dunn. My biggest problem with him isn't defense (although that's a problem), but it is his long stretches where he goes passive at the plate. He's our big slugger and yet at times he acts like a Number 8 hitter desperately seeking a walk. When runners are in scoring position, I'd much rather see him swinging than taking one too many close pitches.

CapPeterson said...

Am coming around to the idea that a replacement of the manager and coaching staff is necessary to eradicate the culture of acceptance of defeat (not to say that the other suggestions to upgrade player personnel are not important also).

Nats' record in extra-inning games seems to confirm the problem: with our good bullpen, no obvious reason why this record should be so bad.
In addition to the fielding and baserunning deficiencies mentioned by Dale, let's not forget in this context the club's woeful situational hitting skills. Eckstein has to take some of the blame for this. He seems popular with all the hitters (in this respect like Riggleman), but I have the impression that he is all about mechanics, finding the perfect swing, and never discusses adjustments that can be made in situations with men on base and less than two outs. Or, e.g., the possibility of moving up in the box against a soft tosser like Misch, as Ray suggested the other day.

a 10-game improvement in the standings never felt less satisfying!

Bowdenball said...

Why are we under the impression that this team is less than the sum of its parts? Mark cherry-picked stats,using "traditional" stats like batting average and RBIs when those looked better (even though they hide huge deficiencies, like Desmond's OBP) and then using OPS and OBP when those were more impressive.

The team finished a couple games below their projections based on runs scored and runs allowed. They are who they are. Dunn and Zimmerman have gaudy numbers, but the good teams have more than two good hitters, and are solid up and down the lineup. For most of the year we had guys hitting in the first two spots who just plain didn't get on base. I don't care if we have Babe Ruth batting third and Lou Gehrig batting fourth- if they're batting with two outs and nobody on, and four of the five guys behind them are all well below average offensively, your team isn't gonna score a lot of runs.

SpashCity said...

I agree with ray mitten. The team can't possibly improve by getting rid of Dunn. But, I don't think that makes them any more likely to actually re-sign him. Apparently the Cubs are very interested in Dunn, and I'm sure teams like the Giants, Astros, Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, and Mariners, will be interested in him too. I hope I'm wrong, but I think the Nats are looking at a Paul Konerko or Derrick Lee type at first base next year. Expect Zimmerman and Willingham to take a step back offensively if that happens.

I think Willie Harris is the face of the problem that people are talking about. Everytime he went up to bat, he swung for the fences. Everytime he was in the field, he tried to make some ridiculous diving catch (which he did sometimes) but he also misplayed a lot of balls that really hurt the team because he was trying to make a high-light reel play. Harris, Nieves, Kennedy, and Morgan must go. I would be happy with an outfield of Willingham, Bernadina, and Morse, with Maxwell being a defensive sub.

About Riggleman: I haven't seen an "official" announcement yet, but the crack team at the Post had this back in July.

Tcostant said...

What draft pick do the Nats have now that the season is over? Is this considered a deep draft?

Anonymous said...


No, I don't think there is a possibility that the Lerners actually pay for what is needed on this team. And I don't think I implied they would do it, but what I spelled out is what I believe is necessary to make the team better.

I think its possible, but unlikely, that they pay Dunn. Probably Derrek Lee or Carlos Pena will come here on the cheap under the Kool Aid that they are better defensively (notwithstanding you are losing 20 or more HR and probably 30 RBI a year). I think the front line starter is going to be Brandon Webb (injured and on the cheap) or Yu Darvish (another international who may or may not work out). I think they will "Teixera" Carl Crawford -- make a splash for a guy who isn't going to come here and end up with someone like Rick Ankiel in center. And I think we'll be stuck with Maxwell and Willie Harris until they are too old to pick up baseball bats. I hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

"I'd be willing to bet that in his 100 games Guzman had at least as many clutch hits as Adam Dunn did in his full season, if not more."

Even if this is true (which I would dispute), Dunn's 'non-clutch' hits would be home runs or doubles which often lead to 1 or 2 runs. Guzman's 'non-clutch' hits would be dinky little singles that resulted in nothing but higher personal stats.

Tcostant said...

Raymitten, I'll take Yu Darvish any day of the week. I saw him pitch in March 2009 in San Deigo and was at all six games. He was by far the best pitcher there and that includes Chatman and Dice-K! Get Yu Darvish!!!

Knoxville Nat said...


I would suggest that one of the reasons for the Nats bad record in extra inning ballgames is the lack of quality pinch hitters on our bench. In the NL when you get late into the game and especially extra innings the strength or weakness of your bench comes into play as much as the relative strength or weakness of your bullpen. Whereas the Nats bullpen was strong for the most part the bench was awful. Mensch, Harris, Maxwell, Nieves, Kennedy just doesn't cut it as an adequate major league bench.

Anonymous said...

Ted Lilly

markfd said...


Now that the season is over, who is going to play winter ball, I think Espinosa is headed to the Dominican but is anyone else?

thanks gain for persevering through the season!

Sam said...

Mark, were you really expecting worse than 0.4 WAR from Bernadina this year? If so, and if scouts agree with you, there must really be no hope for him in the future.

Desmond, Ramos, Bernadina, Espinosa, and Batistia did not have "legitimately good seasons." So, I'm guessing they fall under the category of exceeding your expectations. Low expectations, then, huh? Maybe that's our problem...we expect too little of our players.

Section 223 said...

I think that Rizzo is going in the direction of building a team that is more suited towards the way Riggleman manages (Cardinals baseball). I think a stable infield along with good catching is a good way to start and the only tinkering will be at first base. I like Dunn, but I think he is probably gone. I don't think Morse is an outfielder at all. I think he would be an upgrade at first and it would be interesting to see him get 500 at bats.
In the outfield, Willingham has actually become a decent outfielder. He is getting better reads and has made some pretty good throws. Center field is the main problem for finishing "up the middle defense." Nyjer is still learning the game, I guess. But my goodness, you have to know how and when to hit the cutoff man. That is pretty basic. If he was smart, he would play winter ball and concentrate on learning the game. The flashes he showed last July where intriguing, but not sustainable. If he doesn't work out, then I would think Bernadina would be pretty good there. Right field, I'm not sure about. I don't see anyone with defensive or offensive attributes that would lock it down. That might be a trade or free agent possibility.
Starting pitching is the main thing now. We have to have someone besides Livan who can go 7 innings. Period. If you want to go bold, go for Darvish and possibly a number two starting pitcher from another team.
All in all, I trust the baseball guys that the Nats signed earlier this year to evaluate talent. I can only evaluate from observing games. They see things I would never think of, so I say put a crowbar in the wallet and go after two and maybe three good players. Trade or free agent is fine with me.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Out of your 18 players listed above only 5 play everyday for the majority of the season, which means there were 3 underperformers on the field night in and night out and only one of the players was on the bench for the most of the season meaning there were 4 underperformers on the bench! The bottom line is until we replace there 7 underperforming position players (we MAY have found 3 in Espinosa, Bernadina and Ramos) this team will continue to hover around 100 losses no matter who the manager is!!!

Doc said...

For the success of the team, it's not really important what team officials say privately. Its what they communicate to the players that's important.

All season, Riggleman was telling the press how hard his players were working. If he didn't believe that BS, then he should be fingered as a large part of the problem.

Working the count, moving runners along, etc. is something that managers are supposed to manage---not something that becomes an off-the-record complaint to the press.

I'll bet with a guy like Buck Showalter, the players hear it first---with repetition!

Riggleman is an enalbler, more that he's a manager.

SpashCity said...

The problem with Darvish (and all Japanese pitchers) is that they only pitch once a week in Japan. When they come to the MLB, they have to adjust to pitching once every five days instead of once every seven days. That's why you hear about Japanese pitchers throwing 130-150 pitches per game, because they have longer to recover before the next start. The ball they use is also slightly smaller and lighter than an MLB ball, putting less strain on pitchers's arms. I'm not saying the Nats shouldn't pursue Darvish, but I'm not sure we should expect him to come in and be the ace that the team needs.

I like the Ted Lilly idea. Also the Yankees are probably going to ditch Javier Vasquez, who was great for the Braves in 2009. Maybe a move back to the NL would be good for him.

Anonymous said...

Darvish, if he becomes available, will be far too expensive for the Nats.
The money it would cost to win the bidding war for the rights to Darvish, and then the ensuing multi-year contract, can be better used in other ways.

Matsuzaka cost the BoSox a $103M commit over 6 years, about $17M a year.
Darvish, who is younger and has outperformed Matsuzaka in Japan should cost more.

Given the state of our team, a $20M a year commit to a single player, who performs one day out of 5, does not make sense.

Anonymous said...

Bill Simmons suggested in one of his recent podcasts -- admittedly a Red Sox-centric one -- that the Yankees might be amenable to moving Texeira if they come to the conclusion that Jeter can no longer play at SS (and assuming they re-sign him). I think as a matter of Jeter's ego and Yankee PR, they cannot make him a DH, and A-Roid and Cano are blocking his two logical infield destinations. I don't know how much it would take and whether we'd even have the parts to make it work, but I wonder if Rizzo might take a run at such move before settling on Konerko/Pena or some such person if they don't keep Dunn. Presumably, such a maneuver would cost us Jordan Zimmermann and then some, but it might make sense.

Anonymous said...

1) fire Riggleman
2) sign Dunn
3) move Espinosa to SS, Desmond to 2B to improve infield defense
4) find a leadoff hitter, I have no idea who or how, given our current roster
5) Ankiel or other warm body would be an improvement over Morgan in CF

JayB said...

Yes I do mean tender Dunn but do not try to resign him. He is not a winner and he is a big part of the problem with the Defense. They should have traded him...that was a missed opportunity but like Stan trying to get rid of Jimbo....Lerners were the force that keep that trade from being done. Lerners like that Frank Howard angle and just like Senators....are losers...Rizzo is doing whatever he can to not resign Dunn so now all we can do is get draft picks.

On a personal note....I love Dunn the person and would have resigned him back in April....but I am not GM and Rizzo knows he is more harm than help to this organization.

josh f said...

We need 1-2 legit starters (Greinke, Garza, Shields), and a leadoff hitter who can get on base. Do those things, resign Dunn, and we've got a team that can compete. At least the farm system is deep enough now that we can make some trades.

Anonymous said...

I'm not big on any international as a front line, sure fire guy. Dice K was supposed to be the greatest thing since sliced bread and is in reality about a third starter. If they are going to get a front line guy, go for it and trade for Grienke or go after Cliff Lee.

slopitchtom said...

Tcostant said...
What draft pick do the Nats have now that the season is over? Is this considered a deep draft?

Nats get the 6th overall pick. They finished tied with Cleveland but Nats get the 6th pick because they had a worse record than the Indians last year.

CapPeterson said...


Good point. But this is where Rigs' propensity for double switching and the inability of our starters to go more than five innings hurt us also. Double switching makes sense if you have a deep bench full of players of approximately equal value to the starters. But when, e.g., you bring in Willie H for Morse in the middle innings, as Rigs consistently did, you're weakening yourself offensively in late/extra innings, as well as using up your bench early.

Section 223 said...

Good point on the cost of Darvish. But, and this is the point that has me constantly shaking my head when it comes to compensating elite talent in this sport, the owners are multi-billionaires. That's more than one billion dollars. That should actually be the song during the t-shirt toss. If I had a billion dollars, I would ... and let fans fill in the blank.

JD said...

- You don't have to have a strong lineup up and down to be succsesful; check out the Padres, Giants, Braves, Rays.

- Saying that Bernadina had a great or even a decent year is a stretch.

- Hoping that Espinosa and Desmond have a great year in 11 is OK; counting on it is foolish.

- If you don't sign Dunn you don't necessarily have to replace him with Pena or Lee (bad idea); Morse at first and some better bats in the outfield is another good way to go.

- Investing big money in the starting rotation is exactly the way to go; Brandon Webb is done; think Greinke or someone like that; Ted Lilly is good but not a no. 1.

- Team must focus on OBP; better strike zone discipline; more patience at the plate; better situational hitting.

- I can take Riggleman or leave him; I would get a top of the line pitching coach (Peterson, Mazzone, Kerrigen); with all the young pitchers we have this is a really critical position.

- With all the gloom and doom I still contend that the team performed right around it should have given the talent level and the many pitchers injured or coming off injury and it took a couple of steps forward in player development; I think .500 is attainable next year and could be better if rotation is upgraded even a little bit.

Feel Wood said...

Dunn's problem may not be that he's a loser, but that he just doesn't have the fire in the belly to be a winner - which of course has been the rap on him all along. There are so many things he says he wants. He wants to stay on the Nationals. He wants a four year deal. He wants to keep playing the field and not just be a DH. He wants to make the playoffs. There's no way in the world he could ever get all those things, but Dunn doesn't seem to be making the effort to try to get any of them. Most players in their walk years try to put up a career year in order to enhance their stock on the free agent market and make it more likely that they'll get the things they want. (Soriano in 2006 is a prime example of this.) Dunn in his walk years (2008 in Arizona, 2010 here) has basically treaded water. He's put up good numbers, but nothing exceptional when compared with other years. Aside from his own numbers, he's done nothing to elevate the teams he was playing on. Of course somebody will want to get themselves some of that during the offseason, because he's not a bad baseball player. But if what he really wants is a four year deal to play the field for a playoff team, realistically given his performance why should any team that fits that description want him? Even the team he says he wants to keep playing for - the Nationals - is not going to give him a four year deal. If he'd put up stronger numbers this year, though, they might have been forced to offer him that. But he didn't. So it's highly likely that he'll have the same degree of choice this time that he did the last time around - which is none. He should take the three year deal the Nats have on the table. Where else is he going to get a standing O on a night that he strikes out four times?

JD said...

Feel Wood.

Dunn was a 4.3 WAR; that's really, really good. You can't look at a player through a microscope; overall he does produce. Having said that I would have traded him for Dan Hudson in a heartbeat because this is what teams in the Nats position should be doing; flipping expensive players in their walk years for young, cheap talent.This has nothing to do with 'cheap Lerners'; this is how you build a better team.

As for this off season; I would offer him 2 years @ 30 mil with a team option for a third year and a buyout of 5 mil. Don't be so sure he won't take it.

Posters here feel that he will have many suitors; I don't see it; they could have had him for less 2 years ago when he was 2 years younger.

Feel Wood said...

"Dunn was a 4.3 WAR; that's really, really good. You can't look at a player through a microscope; overall he does produce."

Maybe so. But is that a career year for him? And were the rest of the players on his team impressed enough by his 4.3 WAR that they elevated their own games enough to get more than 69 wins and another last place finish? Apparently not. That's why neither the Nats nor anyone else are going to offer him the four year deal he wants.

JayB said...

WAR stat is flawed in Defensive Matrix....Dunn costs more runs with his Defense than and 15 Mill for 4.3 WAR is not great value....the real WAR should be about 2

Raff said...

I don't understand the don't-resign-Dunn thinking. There's a paucity of good FAs coming on the market this year at 1B and OF. Cot's is the bible -- but the word is not good, to be sure.


I would hate to return to a season like 2008, when the Nats had nobody with 15 HRs or a .480 SLG. Without a potent threat like Dunn, Zimmerman would have a lot more pressure to be the big bopper, which would detract from his natural game.

Also, Dunn IS changing his approach, as evidenced by his increased propensity to swing this year -- trading walks for singles. nicely documents that.

I don't know whether Dunn's a "clubhouse leader," but I'll take someone with 35-40 HRs provided he's not a negative in the clubhouse -- and I've never heard that suggested.

Also, while his defense might be below-average, Wins Above Replacement (as previously mentioned) does factor in his fielding and his position, and he's still a valuable contributor overall.

My recommendation: try to sign Dunn to a deal whose last year (3rd? 4th?) is lower-salary but loaded with incentives. If he can put up 35 HRs with an 850 OPS at age 35, wouldn't we be thrilled?

JD said...

So I just double checked; Dunn finished the year with a 3.9 WAR; yes it's flawed but it's still the best way to measure overall value.

3.9 WAR is worth 15. mil.

Between JayB and Feel Wood the later makes the better point; 2010 was Dunn's best overall WAR since 2004; odds are 2011 won't be as good. I still contend that 2 years @ 30 is a good signing all around.

I don't buy the argument that not signing Dunn will upset Zim and/or Willingham. Not relevant.

A DC Wonk said...

Dunn vs Guzman in Situational Hitting . . .

Pretty interesting. I couldn't find batting average for RISP, or 2out-RISP. But I did find the following at Baseball-Reference (and I added in Ryan Zimmerman since everybody loves him):

(Guzzy's stats are for Nats AB's only)

Productive Outs (advanced the runner)
Dunn - 16/57 28%
Guzzy - 11/31 35%
Zimm - 17/53 32%

Batters on Base, scored because of at bat
Dunn - 67/440 15%
Guzzy - 23/171 13%
Zimm - 62/376 16%

Scoring a runner on third, Less than 2 out
Dunn - 21/42 50%
Guzzy - 9/14 64%
Zimm - 14/32 44%

Advancing a runner, zero out, man on 2d
Dunn - 11/30 37%
Guzzy - 8/18 33%
Zimm - 19/40 48%

I don't think Guzzy fares that bad here. Yeah -- he's got a problem in that he never walks, and so his OBP is too low -- but that doesn't make him a selfish player who cares only about his stats. It makes him a swinger. That's just who he is.

Sec3MySofa said...

Anonymous: Presumably, [trading for Teixeira] would cost us Jordan Zimmermann and then some, but it might make sense.
October 4, 2010 10:22 AM
If, by "and then some" you mean Strasburg, yes, it would, and no, it doesn't.

Section 23 said...

When it comes to WAR, I agree with Edwin Starr.

Sec3MySofa said...

"slopitchtom said...
Nats get the 6th overall pick. They finished tied with Cleveland but Nats get the 6th pick because they had a worse record than the Indians last year."
Isn't there a compensation pick from 2010 ahead of them?

Anonymous said...

It's 1:50 pm. Brewers, Pirates and Mets have all fired their managers. Here's hoping Rizzo announces a press conference.

Sunderland said...

Nat's get 6th pick.
D-Backs get 7th pick, compensatory.
Indians get 8th pick

Simon Oliver Lockwood said...

"How many times did [Dunn] fail to get a batter in from third with one out or less?"

According to, Dunn went .323/.405/.548 with a runner on third with less than two out. So he failed 20 times out of 42 plate appearances. Interestingly, he was terrible when first base was open in those man-on-third situations.

Anonymous said...

The defensive WAR stats per Baseball Reference for ypur Washington Nationals are surprising to say the least. Dunn's defense is deficient however the following players are as bad or worse defensively: Morse, Bernadina, Morgan, Willingham, Harris and Desmond. That's your entire outfield except Maxwell and your starting shortstop. Worse than Dunn.

Someone please explain how Dunn's defense is perceived as a stumbling block to re-signing him for this particular Nats team at this point in time.

Steve M. said...

Ray Mitten said...Many of the starters used throughout the year -- JD Martin, Atilano, Maya, to name three -- are not big league material.
Ray, I like most of what you said but disagree on these guys. They are not top line starters although time will tell if they can contribute as a #4 or #5 starter here.

Steve M. said...

JD said...
So I just double checked; Dunn finished the year with a 3.9 WAR; yes it's flawed but it's still the best way to measure overall value.
Wow, 2 weeks ago Dunn was a 4.2 Amazing how his numbers changed so quickly with Zimmerman not in the lineup.

Rizzo better get a gut check on how Zim was on games without Dunn and vice versa because I remember one game without Dunn that Zim went 0-4 and looked horrible. These guys really feed off of each other.

swang said...

I don't get all the Morgan hate. The difference isn't between Morgan and Morse or Morgan and Bernadina, it's between Morgan and Maxwell.

Really? You think that Maxwell is better than Morgan?

Steve M. said...

RayMitten is correct on Dice K. He is a super expensive #3 and his best days are behind him. The Red Sox went after him to beat the Yankees to it and the Sox got hit with not only Dice K's salary but also the purchasing rights to his Japanese team!

By the way, the Boston Red Sox were #2 in salary and didn't make the playoffs with a team salary of $160,913,333.

Steve M. said...

Here is some of my 2010 observations.

1. Rizzo did a great job on the biggest 2009 weakness which was the bullpen.
2. Rizzo forgot about building a bench
3. Rizzo did great getting all the key Draft Picks signed
4. Rizzo didn't have a plan B on Opening Day for a rightfielder
5. Rizzo made a good trade to get Ramos and solve a building block problem for the future

6. Nyjer Morgan underperformed and was a team distraction
7. Injuries to starting pitchers made it tough considering all the DL time
8. Jordan Zimmermann came back strong!
9. Ryan Zimmerman had a great year
10. Adam Dunn did better than expected as a 1st baseman and hit his 1st Nats WalkOff HR

11. Eckstein's hitters were mostly inconsistent and unfortunately the Nats scored ZERO runs 14 times in 2010
12. The Nats lost 28 of 48 games in 1 run games
13. Craig Stammen's .237 batting average was higher than any bench player except Alberto Gonazalez (Nieves, Maxwell, WHarris, Justin Maxwell). Embarassing
14. Stat of the day: Nyjer Morgan had a .319 OBP so if you subtract 17 "caught stealings" his adjusted OBP drops to .289 so anyone that defends having this guy on the team, think twice.
15. Greatest need on this team is a high OBP Centerfielder who can play defense

16. Riggleman needs to stop with the old school double switches all the time
17. Riggleman's use of playing favorites made it seem like High School most of the season

18. Ownership should have had Dunn locked up shortly after the trade deadline

Anyone who believes it is all about salary, here are reasons 19 to 30 that it isn't what you spend but how you spend it!

*19 Tampa Bay Rays 72,323,471
20 Kansas City Royals 71,405,210
*21 Cincinnati Reds 68,200,542
22 Washington Nationals 62,349,000
23 Toronto Blue Jays 61,484,400
24 Cleveland Indians 60,778,966
25 Florida Marlins 55,239,500
*26 Texas Rangers 55,168,114
27 Oakland Athletics 50,839,900
28 Arizona Diamondbacks 48,452,166
**29 San Diego Padres 38,199,300
30 Pittsburgh Pirates 34,933,000

wick said...

Those 5 or 6 losses can easily be found in Morgan's pathetic first half; in Marquis' equally awful first half; and in the loss and emotional aftermath of that check swing in Houston.

Anonymous said...

We need a manager, plain and simple! Riggleman is a nice guy, but as Leo the Lip said, "nice guys finish last."

Anonymous said...

No, I haven't figured out how to sign in without creating my own blog. Came someone help me out?

Raff said...

Here are where the Nats' regulars rank in OPS+ among MLB regulars (I defined regulars as 100 games with 90% of their games at a given position):

C 12 of 14 (Rodriguez)
1B 6 of 20 (Dunn)
2B 18 of 20* (Kennedy)
3B #1 (Zimmerman)
SS 10 of 22** (Desmond)
LF Top 5 (Willingham)
CF 19 of 20 (Morgan)
RF 3 of 14* (Morse)

* Spent too much time at 1B to qualify under my criteria, but that was the best fit for a Nationals' "regular".

** 1 point of OPS+ behind Jeter, and for $22.2 million less: he's a bargain!

That suggests our holes are at C, 2B, and CF. With Ramos and Espinosa, we have our C and 2B set for next year (I realize they might not be offensive stars, but they show promise as all-around players).

So Mr. Morgan is -- our certainly OUGHT TO BE -- on the hot seat during hot stove season.

(Note: I used's awesome Play Index to rank by position. That's an invaluable tool for baseball fans -- and bloody addictive, too!)

Raff said...

Nuts. I meant to write:

"Mr. Morgan is -- OR certainly ought to be -- on the hot seat".

Anonymous said...

The Nats regressed this year from the standpoint of runs / game compared with the rest of the NL.

Given this weakness (near the bottom of the league in terms or RPG) doesn't a team that (a) won more games than last year, (b) focused on D and pitching (c) while letting their biggest slugger walk, sound a lot like the 2009-10 Mariners off season?

Just asking.

Anonymous said...

Yah, run support and all the shutouts and 1 run losses really hit the mark when you look at the team run production which is a reflection on the GM, Manager, and hitting Coach.

Who thinks the hitting Coach (Eckstein) is on the Hot Seat?

JayB said...

I think the whole coaching staff has failed and needs to be upgraded and that mean Foli as well. He had little or no impact on the fundamentals of this team and organization. Time for some pros who have won to come in and take a shot at this bunch.

natsfan1a said...

In the "Comment as" box, select "Name/URL" rather than "Anonymous." When the "Edit profile" box pops up, type a name/moniker and leave the URL field blank. Hit the "Continue" button. Repeat as needed. :-)


Anonymous said...

No, I haven't figured out how to sign in without creating my own blog. Came someone help me out?
October 4, 2010 3:54 PM

natsfan1a said...

If that doesn't work, you could always type a name/moniker following your comments in the "Post a Comment" box.

Anonymous8 said...

The fundamentals got worse as the year progressed at the plate. Bunting, bunting and more bunting, swinging at 1st pitches, swinging at balls above your shoulders, and have batters that aren't ready for the starting pitchers.

Pudge was a double play machine. Yes, even veterans need a batting coach.

Sorry, Eckstein has to go. 1st guy to arrive at the stadium and the last to leave. Espinosa went from on fire to cold as ice.

Tough at times to watch our batters.

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