Monday, October 11, 2010

Pitching and defense

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
The Nats hope Ryan Zimmerman has more defensive help in 2011.
Saw "The Social Network" over the weekend, and I thought it was very well done. Though I have to say there were several inaccuracies in the story. I didn't go to Harvard. I've never been sued by my best friend. And I certainly didn't invent one of the most popular websites in the world (only one of the most popular websites in NatsTown).

Hopefully "The Nats Insider Story" is more accurate. And hopefully they cast George Clooney as me. Something tells me I'm never going to have to worry about that happening.

I am, however, curious to know who will play the title character in "The Brooks Conrad Story." Hearing the odds-on early favorite is Edward Scissorhands.

Just when you thought the Nationals were the worst defensive team in baseball, the Braves (and the Reds, for that matter) tried to prove otherwise. Atlanta has committed five errors in the first three games of its Division Series against San Francisco, four of them by Conrad. Cincinnati, meanwhile, committed seven errors during a three-game sweep at the hands of the Phillies.

This just in: Pitching and defense wins. Did you know the winning team in the six NLDS games so far are averaging only 3.67 runs and 7.5 hits. That's the WINNING team. You can get by without a ton of offense. You can't get by without good pitching and defense.

It's no secret Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman believe in that mantra. It's why you heard so much from them this season about the importance of improving the Nationals' pitching staff and defense. They look at some other clubs that either made or nearly made the postseason without world-beating lineups -- like the Giants, Padres and Rays -- and they see that as a blueprint for success.

Yes, some teams can slug their way to a championship. But not everyone can be the Yankees, and the Nats clearly aren't anywhere near the Yankee stratosphere at this point.

The Nationals' more likely path to success in the relatively near future is to build a roster that can pitch and catch the ball, then hit enough to provide a margin of victory.

With an infield of Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa, they think they're getting closer in the defense department, though a few holes still remain elsewhere.

With Drew Storen, Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Joel Peralta, Doug Slaten, Collin Balester and others, they think they're very close in the bullpen department.

As for a rotation that currently boasts Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Jordan Zimmermann and Yunesky Maya ... well, that's obviously an area that still needs to be addressed.

You can't build a billion dollar business overnight. Well, unless you're Mark Zuckerberg.


original Nats fan said...

The Braves don't look as good without Chipper. I'm hating the Phillies, but they look hard to beat. They have pitching, hitting, defense and attitude. Thanks for your coverage of baseball since the Nats season ended, Mark. I can't wait for spring training.

JamesFan said...

You don't have to have a ton of hitting, but you do need guys who can deliver in the clutch and you need to execute basics like bunting and baserunning.

JayB said...


I think the most important development so far this off season is the one that many of us suspected and wrote about back in August...that is Rizzo never wanted to resign Dunn because of this defense AND now confirmed by Boz, the trade of Dunn was vetoed by Lerners.

That type of meddling is what put the Plan back 5 years when Lerners prevented Stan from firing Jimbo. That was the story and still is the Story....Lerners as killing this team.

JayB said...

On progress of Defense to date.....Infield,specifically SS, Desmond does not charge the ball and until he does he will make 30 errors a year. He does not make the routine plays with enough consistency for this team to become a pitching/defensive success. I would put him at 2B and get a great defensive SS (not sure if Danny E is it)....sadly this is the same comment we have been making for 6 years about Nationals and SS needs.

Dunn at 1B....has to go if this team is going to win with pitching and D....too bad Lerners don't care to listen to their GM on baseball matters.

CF....MORGAN HAS TO GO...he is the worst ADD/me first player I have seen. Rizzo has to know this is not going to work and he is just typing to get his trade value up above a bad of used balls.

RF....Morse is chance he improves to the level needed for a Defense first team.

Lost of work to do here on the Defense and too bad Lerners are working at cross purposes to the GM.

JD said...


Where was it confirmed by Boz? what are his sources?

If in fact the Lerners are determined to run the Nats day to day baseball operations then we are indeed in serious trouble ALA the Mets.

Michael J. Hayde said...

"Did you know the winning team in the six NLDS games so far are averaging only 3.67 runs and 7.5 hits. That's the WINNING team."

And then you pit that team against the Yanks, or Sawx, or Rays, or pretty much any other AL offensive juggernaut, and watch it get blown out of the water. Pitching and defense wins NL pennants. GREAT pitching can slow - and in a few rare instances - stop an AL offense. So far, only the Phils seem to have that market cornered, but they didn't pull it off last year. You still need three or four silver sluggers if you want to take the title home.

Suicide Squeeze said...

From Boswell's 8 Sept column: "Let him make his decision" about Dunn, said principal owner Mark Lerner on Tuesday night, nodding toward General Manager Mike Rizzo's office. Rizzo, his battalion of scouts, other execs, plus stat nerds, are making the calls these days.

From this post: "It's no secret Mike Rizzo and Jim Riggleman believe in that mantra. It's why you heard so much from them this season about the importance of improving the Nationals' pitching staff and defense. They look at some other clubs that either made or nearly made the postseason without world-beating lineups -- like the Giants, Padres and Rays -- and they see that as a blueprint for success."

Where did Bos "confirm" that the Lerners are working at cross-purposes with their GM on the Dunn issue?

Michael J. Hayde said...

JayB: Boz said that Stan also killed the Dunn trade, so you can't pin blame solely on the Lerners here.

JD: Boz said this in last Thursday's online chat:

"According to my sources, Rizzo wanted to trade Dunn and had a deal worked out for Edwin Jackson, who ended up with the White Sox. So, yes, the rumors at the time were correct. However, Kasten and the Lerners didn't want to do the deal and killed it. In Kasten's case, he really believed, and still does, that it's crazy not to resign Dunn."

Wally said...

According to FanGraphs UZR calculations, the Nats were the 13th best fielding team. Surprising, isn't it? Ahead of them were every playoff team, except Philly and Atlanta. But also ahead of them were Arizona (#1) and Seattle.

So while i support the increased emphasis on defense, I would be careful not to go so one sided towards it that they deemphasize offense too much. Like most things, it is a balance. And they also need to look at relative bargains, meaning that if the whole league is stressing defense and pitching then the odds are the prices, so to speak, for those skills are going to rise and perhaps make it better to focus elsewhere.

Pitching is always needed, and always in demand, so i think that Rizzo's plan to get a top starter is critical and they need to be prepared to overpay.

JD said...

As far as I'm concerned 'my sources' translates to innuendo; it could be true or it could be false; having said that almost every independent expert was left scratching their heads when July 31st passed and the Nats held on to a player who would be a free agent in 2 months.

If Kasten and/or Lerner blocked a trade then Rizzo will ultimately leave because you can't have more than 1 GM. The Lerners can set a budget for Rizzo but they can't make baseball decisions for him.

JayB said...

Rizzo will leave as soon as he can.....but that will be like Stan's 5 years....first he needs to build what he can and get as much job experience he can but he will go because Lerners do not intend to let him do his job or spend what is needed to win a WS. Profit is their motive not wins.

Anonymous said...

"Dunn at 1B....has to go if this team is going to win with pitching and D....too bad Lerners don't care to listen to their GM on baseball matters."

Stop playing dumb JayB. You can win with a Dunn-Caliber defender at 1B. You know how I know that? It's because the Phillies did it with Ryan Howard who isn't the hitter that Dunn is and is just as bad as Dunn defensively.

TimDz said...

Mark: George Clooney?

I'm thinking Ben Stiller...

Anonymous8 said...

JayB, dunn, da, dunn, dunn. Get off of it. The UZR on Dunn is fine. One year at 1st base and he did well. My biggest problem with Dunn defensively is digging out low throws which he can improve on.

Nyjer Morgan is the biggest problem I see that may be the easiest corrected.

Pitching, pitching and more pitching. Look how the Phillies did it. They trade for Cliff Lee last year and Roy Halladay this year and pulled off the Oswalt trade.

How many really want to trade for a Geinke circa 2010 or think the Nats have a legit chance at signing Cliff Lee?

Anonymous8 said...

NTW, StanK vetoed trading Soriano in 2006 and the Nats got a guy named Jordan Zimmermann from the Type A pick.

JD said...

Anon @ 2:21.

No doubt about it; teams have won with defenders like Dunn at first base many, many times. JayB has a one track train of thought and he adjusts the facts to fit his theory liberally.

This does not change the fact that Dunn should have been traded at the deadline to maximize his value; this is what teams such as the nationals do to get better. I don't understand why it was so important to keep Dunn for 2 months of an obviously lost season instead of getting young, cheap major league ready talent and then redeploying the money in the off season.

JD said...


Going for draft choices is a crap shoot; getting a Daniel Hudson is a sure thing.

The Phills were able to get pitchers such as Lee, Haladay and Oswalt because they had the chips to trade to get them; who exactly is the Kyle Drabek in our system?

It also made sense for the Phills to trade some of their future because they had an opportunity to win championships now; if the Nats trade away any of their future they won't win championships now or in the future.

I would go for Greinke (you will have lots of competition; teams like Texas have a stacked farm system) as long as we don't have to give away Zim, Zimm or SS.

Anonymous said...

JayB doesn't have to play dumb. He is dumb.

BinM said...

The team had multiple opportunities at re-signing Dunn (pre-season, All-Star break, Trade deadline) and tossed them away for what, better overall Defense? I still don't get it, but I'm not the GM either.

OK, so Dunn walks away & let's say Morse moves to 1B. The team possibly gets better defense at the 2nd-least important defensive position (above only Pitchers, whoo-hoo), but surrenders a LH-hitting threat and approximately 40 runs scored per year. Great, you've saved $15M/yr in salary, but now you have a hole in RF, unless you think Bernadina is a full-time solution there (I'm not convinced).

Without Dunn, the day-to-day lineup is, shall we say, less than threatening? Will any of the available top-flight Free Agents (Crawford, Werth, Lee, etc.) be willing to come to WSH unless the Lerner's go completely out of character & offer a 'last-bid, plus' contract ($15-20M/year minimum, for 4-or-more years)?

Is that going to happen? Don't think so; They've still yet to spend more than $10M/year (avg) on any contract, even though they have reportedly offered more. Let them put ink to paper just once & I'll change my tune.

BinM said...

JayBeee isn't dumb, he just suffers from a narrow focus, with percieved failings being his speciality. He barks about everything & just about everyone associated with the team, always pointing to the negative aspects.

Think of him as the 'grain of salt' (albeit in volume at times), and you'll find he's a lot easier to handle.

JayB said...

BinM or you could read Boz from a week ago and my post on Rizzo not wanting to keep Dunn from a month ago and admit I was right.....or you can keep your head in the sand and think all is fine with Lerner ownership.

JayB said...

When things are go I say it...SS game 1 was the best baseball game I ever attended and he is the real deal. Danny E. is fun to watch and reminds me of Pete Rose running out pop ups in the infield. All these and many more I have said when they happened.....Just much more negative stuff to comment on with 298 loses over the past 3 years. When the Nats play smart baseball and make good trades I will let you know.

JD said...


Signing players for huge contracts is not necessarily a sign of good baseball management; frankly it's the lazy way to get from point A to B and it is often a precursor to failure.

Graduating 3 solid; above average everyday players such as Gabby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, and Mike Stanton to go with stud pitchers like Johnson, Nolasco and Volstadt; now that's proof of a well functioning organization (who happens to have a super cheap owner who won't make the necessary upgrades to push them over the top).

When we start filling our roster with home grown talent of that quality we can discuss signing players for 10 - 15 mil to push us over the top in the meantime the money is better spent on development.

That one guy said...

Honestly, I think Edward Scissorhands would have made fewer errors than Brooks Conrad. With those knifey fingers, he could at least stab the ball and hold on to it. That's more than you could say for Conrad.

JD: couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm not sure Edwin Jackson is worth a Dunn? Hudson perhaps but in either case there would have to be more than one player involved and perhaps that's on both sides.

Before I can judge I would have to know all the particulars not the half-baked rumors StanK likes to feed Boz to make he and his columns look good? ALL DATA MUST BE AVAILABLE before anyone can make any kind of
judgement as to what happened with Dunn before the trade deadline.

Andrew said...

JD - I like your points. The Rays, Marlins and even the Phillies about 12 years ago were stocking Draft Picks and if you look at the key components of how they built their teams, you can see most of the building blocks were home grown or trades were made with home grown talent like using JA Happ and Kyle Drabek, etc.

Anonymous said...

Seattle went big for pitching and defense this year. They spent over $90 million and lost almost 100 games. Yeah, let's try that ...

John C.

Anonymous said...

Upon further reflection, Seattle spent $98 million and lost 101 games. YEAH, PITCHING AND DEFENSE!!!

John C.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

I'm kind of leaning with John C. on this one, with one additional reason. With full-time season ticket holders dwindling to around half of the original 22,000 back in the day at RFK, the Nats need a draw. Dunn is an intereesting enough character to put fannies in the seats to watch his occasional prodigious blasts. Adam LaRoche? I'd rather watch Lyndon LaRouche.

Re-sign. Dunn. Now.

Feel Wood said...

Strasburg put fannies in the seats. Dunn, not so much. Attendance has been lower with him on the team than it was without him. Winning games is the only thing that will increase attendance, plain and simple. And games can be won without Adam Dunn.

JD said...

Feel Wood,

Exactly right; focus on winning and the fans will come; don't try to be 'entertaining' try to to be good.

I've said this a dozen times; if you don't sign Dunn you don't have to sign Pena, Laroche etc. Morse at 1st would be perfectly acceptable if you upgrade the outfield accordingly and you don't need to sign Crawford for a zillion dollars either; upgrading our outfield can be achieved by good targeted trades as well as mid level FA's.

Anonymous said...

On my way out of the last game, a team employee said "come back next year." I told her that I would, but I'd come back a lot more often if Dunn were on the roster. The difference would be about 5 games w/o Dunn to about 15 w/Dunn.

Upon further reflection, what I'd really like to see is a team that is really trying to build. Some modest steps were put into place this year. Letting Dunn go, signing Pena or even Berkman and trying to pass him off as an equivalent player while going into the season with the current starting rotation and essentially the same outfield tells me that they are skipping 2010 - in which case I largely will, too.

But upon further reflection it doesn't have to be Dunn. Put some large blocks in place to go with the modest foundation already laid and I'll be back regularly. Address the 1b, OF and get one quality starter (not another Marquis) and I'll be back even if Dunn goes elsewhere.

But the team would be making a huge mistake to think that the fans will automatically be back no matter what they do; this is a very, VERY important offseason for the Nationals.


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