Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Have they improved?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond should be an improved player in his second big-league season.
Yesterday's posting about the remaining market for first basemen and starting pitchers spurred a discussion about the overall improvement (or lack thereof) the Nationals have made so far this winter.

Opinions seemed to be split among those who believe this team will be better in 2011 because of the development of several young players versus those who believe the Nats will be worse because of a lack of impact additions (other than Jayson Werth) and the projected regressions of several players.

It's an interesting debate, and I wanted to continue it today with more of an analytical tone. Have the Nationals improved or gotten worse so far this winter? To me, the best way to determine that is to look at the club position-by-position and compare what it had this year versus what it will have next year.

This exercise, of course, is subjective rather than objective. It also requires some educated projecting of stats and performance. And there are still seven weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Viera, with plenty of opportunity for more roster changes between now and then.

But let's take a quick look, for now, where the Nationals stand in the improvement/non-improvement department...

Ivan Rodriguez and Wil Nieves held the job last year, with Wilson Ramos squeezing his way into the lineup on a semi-regular basis in September. Combined, they hit .255 with nine homers, 71 RBI, a .285 on-base percentage and .352 slugging percentage. Other than the RBI total (which was higher than I would have guessed), these are pretty weak numbers, which should almost certainly improve in 2011 with Ramos getting more playing time, Nieves out of the picture and Jesus Flores perhaps finding his way back into the mix as well. Pudge is by no means going to rediscover his peak form, but he performed much better in September when he was playing every other day than he did during most of the summer when he would start three or four days in a row.
Verdict: Improved

It's impossible to really know how this one will shake out until the Nationals, you know, actually acquire a first baseman. But if we assume it turns out to be either Adam LaRoche or Derrek Lee, we still know the offensive production from this position won't match what Adam Dunn did this year (.264, 38 homers, 102 RBI, .357 OBP, .901 OPS as a first baseman). Defensively, the Nats should be better here. But the defensive improvement isn't going to completely make up for the loss of offense.
Verdict: Worse

Cristian Guzman and Adam Kennedy shared the job for most of the season, with Danny Espinosa taking over in September. Overall, Nationals second basemen hit .252 with eight homers, 47 RBI, a .312 OBP, a .350 slugging percentage and a meager .662 OPS. We don't know for sure how Espinosa will handle the task of regular play in the big leagues, but I've got to believe he can produce more than that over a full season. His batting average may be low, but he hit six homers in 112 plate appearances, so 15 to 20 homers isn't out of the question next year. He'll need to draw some walks and cut down on his strikeouts (as is the case for almost every rookie) but his superior defense should make up for some of his offensive inadequacies. He's certainly going to make more plays than Guzman or Kennedy did.
Verdict: Improved

Ian Desmond got the overwhelming majority of the playing time at shortstop last year, with only occasional help from Guzman, Espinosa and Alberto Gonzalez. He wound up hitting .269 with 10 homers, 65 RBI, a .308 OBP and a .392 slugging percentage. Is that Desmond's limit as an offensive player? I don't think so. I think he'll learn to hit for a bit more power and a higher average, cutting down on his strikeouts while drawing a few more walks. I also think he'll benefit greatly from a spot higher in the batting order. His numbers out of the 2-hole (.326-.359-.489) were significantly better than his numbers as a No. 8 hitter (.254-.304-.388). Defensively, you've got to believe he'll reduce his staggeringly high error total from this year (34) and indeed we saw him cut down on his mistakes in the field over the second half. He may never get that number down below 25, but I doubt it will ever be in the mid-30s again.
Verdict: Slightly improved

If there is a sure thing on this team, this is it. We know what Ryan Zimmerman is, and we know what he will be. He's established himself as a guy who will hit anywhere from .280-.300 with 25-30 homers, 85-105 RBI, an OBP over .350 and an OPS approaching .900. That's not going to change much, even without Adam Dunn hitting behind him. Whoever hits cleanup next year (whether it's Werth or the yet-to-be-named first baseman) Zimmerman will have some semblance of protection behind him. And defensively, he remains the best third baseman in the game.
Verdict: Same

As a whole, Nationals left fielders hit .248 with 24 homers, 80 RBI, a .352 OBP and .436 slugging percentage this year. Josh Willingham accounted for most of that, though Roger Bernadina took over as the everyday starter once Willingham had knee surgery. Bernadina is the favorite to take this job next year following the Hammer's trade, with Michael Morse and perhaps Rick Ankiel also figuring into the mix. Team officials believe that combination of players can equal or surpass what Willingham provided this year. I don't know. I don't know that Bernadina, Morse and Ankiel can display the patience to equal that .352 OBP. I don't know they can produce with men on base enough to account for 80 RBI. The average may come up, and the home run total may look similar, but as a complete package I don't see better offense out of left field next year. I do see better defense, though again, does that make up for the loss of offense? Probably not.
Verdict: Slightly worse

You probably won't be surprised to learn this was the Nationals' weakest offensive position this year, boasting a combined .238 batting average, two homers, 31 RBI, .310 OBP, .303 slugging percentage and anemic .612 OPS. Nyjer Morgan didn't exactly produce at the plate. At this moment, though, the job is still his. Ankiel could push him for playing time, but the organization seems committed to giving Morgan a chance to prove this year was an anomaly. Was it? There's just no way to know until we see Nyjer back out there in 2011. But I'll say this: It's hard to imagine him playing any worse next year than he did this year. That doesn't mean he's suddenly going to blossom into the ideal leadoff man the Nats hoped they had. But it does mean he should show some sign of improvement, both at the plate and in the field.
Verdict: Who knows? But probably some improvement.

Seven different players saw time in right field this year, combining to hit .248 with 26 homers, 86 RBI, a .327 OBP, a .437 slugging percentage and a .767 OPS. Jayson Werth's solo numbers from the past year: a .296 average with 27 homers, 85 RBI, a .388 OBP, a .532 slugging percentage and a .921 OPS. Will those numbers diminish somewhat now that he's not playing at Citizens Bank Park and now that he's not hitting behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard? Probably. But he's still going to produce more than this year's mish-mash of right fielders did, while playing solid defense as well.
Verdict: Improved

Nationals pinch-hitters weren't exactly big producers this year, combining to hit .202 with two homers, 33 RBI, a .280 OBP and a pathetic .289 slugging percentage. The group primarily consisted of Willie Harris, Alberto Gonzalez, Kevin Mench, Michael Morse and Justin Maxwell. Gonzalez and Morse are back, but the others have been replaced by Ankiel and Matt Stairs. And Wilson Ramos and/or Jesus Flores replaces Wil Nieves as the backup catcher.
Verdict: Improved

This obviously remains the Nationals' biggest question mark. The 2010 rotation combined to go 42-64 with a 4.61 ERA and a hefty 1.444 WHIP. If Mike Rizzo isn't able to acquire another starter, next year's rotation looks like Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and either Yunesky Maya, Ross Detwiler or Chien-Ming Wang as the No. 5 starter. Livo is Livo; you know what you're going to get. He probably won't be as good as he was this year, but he probably won't be awful either. Marquis has to be better, if only because he can't be any worse than he was this year. Lannan is a toss-up, though it should be noted that he's been a pretty good pitcher for 2 1/2 of his three big-league seasons. Zimmermann is probably the biggest question of them all. Is he ready to realize his potential, or is he just another guy with a good arm who doesn't pan out? We also don't know what the Nats will get from Maya, Detwiler or Wang, though it's not like there are loads of quality No. 5 starters out there, and those guys are merely trying to outperform this year's revolving door of No. 5 Nats starters that included Luis Atilano, Scott Olsen and J.D. Martin. A sub-5.00 ERA alone might qualify as progress.
Verdict: Uncertain, but more likely to improve than get worse

The Nationals' relief corps was good in 2010 (27-29, 3.35 ERA, 37 saves in 41 opportunities) and it should continue to be a strength in 2011. Drew Storen should become more comfortable pitching in late innings, though he may not be ready for full-time closing duties yet. Sean Burnett is rock-solid. Tyler Clippard probably can't duplicate his 2010, but I'm not sure anyone could. Doug Slaten and Collin Balester were quietly quite good. Chad Gaudin or Craig Stammen takes over for Miguel Batista in the long man role. And flamethrower Henry Rodriguez (acquired in the Willingham trade) could become a mainstay. I'd feel more confident about this group if it featured a veteran late-inning guy who could close if Storen isn't ready (a la Matt Capps from a year ago) and I wouldn't be surprised if Rizzo still acquires a guy like that. Until then, this looks like a strong bullpen again, though probably not as good as the 2010 unit.
Verdict: Slightly worse

So, there you have it. I believe the Nationals will be improved at catcher, second base, shortstop, center field, right field and off the bench. I believe they've gotten worse at first base, left field and in the bullpen while staying the same at third base. The big question remains the rotation, which I believe is more likely to be better than it is to be worse.

What's the net gain or loss of all that? For now, I see a slight net gain. If the rotation really does improve, this team can take a significant step forward. If the rotation holds steady, the rest of the team should be improved enough to account for a few more wins. If the rotation ends up worse somehow ... well, they're in trouble then.

A lot can (and will) change between now and Opening Day. But if I had to make a prediction today, I think the Nats as currently constructed are a 75-win team.


alexva said...

I think there has been improvement, not sure whether it shows up as 2011 wins however. There is a plan in place for the makeup of the team: pitching and defense. Before this year it seemed to be take the best available option regardless of overall team structure.

Mark said...

Mark, nice job, but I do have one issue. I would say that first base is much worse with Morse at 1B then Dunn. And I'd be skeptical about using players that are not on this roster.

Is it likely that the Nats sign LaRoche or Lee? Maybe, at this point, I wouldn't go any better than 50/50 on the Nats signing one of them. If it's such a no-brainer for the Nats, why hasn't it been completed already.

With the improved depth, I could see the rotation being slightly improved and the bullpen about equal, but I sure would like to see another vet out there until Drew proves he's ready for the job.

JD said...


I agree with you pretty much across the board and especially on the projected win total. In my opinion they should resist the temptation to give an average 1st baseman like Adam LaRoche a long term contract; Derek Lee for 1 year or even 2 is a much better option for the simple reason that he is a much better player than LaRoche (I understand the desire for a left handed bat but if need be this can be addressed elsewhere via trade).

If Lee is not doable I would not object to bringing Nick Johnson back for 1 year on a flier and then address 1st base at the trade deadline or next off season.

Brian R. said...

This just underlines for me the fact that our priorities have to be a decent first baseman (Lee should be enough) and a starting pitcher good enough to make all those "What will we get?" guys fight it out in Syracuse. I expect a bounce-back year from Lannan, similar to his second-half performance in '10, but behind Livo and Marquis, we definitely need another "sure thing." The only way I see that happening is by trade - even though our progress in other areas is so fragile that a trade could really be a problem.

In the meantime, I'll just keep thinking about the day when Werth and Harper share the outfield, Norris is at first, and Strasburg is back. Or maybe the Lerners offer Albert Pujols 8 years and $256 million...

JaneB said...

Thanks for this analysis, Mark. Did the Nats drop Maxwell from the roster? I missed that, I guess. I thought he was still with us. Also, do you think we end up with either LaRoche or Lee, for sure? There's no way we end up with neither...is there? Finally, will it be clear as early as spring training (I'll see you there, natsfan1a) that Nyjer has or hasn't regained his 2009 karma? Or do you think that's too early to know? I know you don't have a crystal ball, but you are my closest thing to a crystal ball, so I figured I'd ask.
And finally finally...when do we learn if WE get YOU back in 2011? Enquiring minds want to know. Because to go through a 75 win season without you and your followers will be just awful. No pressure, though.

Brian R. said...

Another thing: I can't help wondering, who is this year's Matt Capps? There are some good blocked prospects in the MLB at first base (Lars Anderson, Yonder Alonso) and it would be nice if we could swing a Capps-esque guy for one at the trade deadline. I don't think Rick Ankiel gets that kind of deal done. Perhaps a starter like Jeff Francis or Chris Young can fit the bill.

Anonymous said...

"If it's such a no-brainer for the Nats, why hasn't it been completed already."
Because you can't leave horse's heads in guys beds anymore. It's been done.

Souldrummer said...

I think there's another thing that can be factored into this team, which would be tradable assets. Not only do we have to consider what the roster is that will be constructed, we might also want to consider legit tradable pieces below the big club who could be used to improve the club. Norris seems to have upped his value, but do you think we are in a better or worse position to upgrade via trade than we were last year? I consider bullpen guys movable as well.

Anonymous said...

@Brian R. - What do you think about Marrero for Lars Anderson?

Doc said...

I think that Ramirez, Rodriguez, and BallyStar will make the BP better. Every other team component is pretty much as you say, Mark.

Rizzo blew it by not signing Dunn, and because of that the 2011 Nats offense will suffer. Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised by LF and 1B offense/defense but the probabilities are against us.

We go into ST with one of the weakest CFs in the game.

Feel Wood said...

"Is it likely that the Nats sign LaRoche or Lee? Maybe, at this point, I wouldn't go any better than 50/50 on the Nats signing one of them. If it's such a no-brainer for the Nats, why hasn't it been completed already."

There are two teams left looking for first basemen - the Orioles and the Nats. And there are two viable FA first basemen left - LaRoche and Lee. All that needs to be sorted out is which team gets which guy. Neither team has a strong preference, other than they won't overpay, which means there's no urgency for deals to be cut. The players are going to hold out as long as possible to get their highest price, but in the end they will sign. One with one team, one with the other. It could take as long as Dunn's deal in 2009, but it will happen.

DFL said...

At Third Base and Right Field, the Nats have All-Stars.

The Nats are clearly inferior in Center Field, Left Field and at Catcher.

Ian Desmond at Shortstop may be a star on the rise. He has steadily improved for three straight years.

Denny Espinoza is a rookie. He showed a great upside last season yet pitchers seemed to catch up with him the last two weeks of his September call-up. Rememeber, he ended up hitting .214.

There is a gaping hole at First Base, caused by the stupidity of General Manager Rizzo.

The bench is below average. However, Morse showed strides last year and will perhaps be a five-position utilityman and earn 400 at bats.

The relief pitching improved greatly last year and is a team strength. However, Rizzo's foolish trade of Matt Capps weakened the bullpen.

There is a great risk of the starting pitching blowing up. The talent at starting pitching is well below average in the National League.

The manager is average and will likely be fired by August.

The general manager is arrogant, has made several bad decisions, and seems incapable of thinking beyond his own conception(or misconception) of winning baseball.

Although 75 wins is plausible(Lannan and Hernandez pitch to 4.00 ERAs, J. Zimmerman remains healthy and pitches more like the prospect of 2009 than the gopherball pitcher of 2010, the bullpen pitches as well as it did in 2010, adequate production comes from first base, Werth knocks in 90 runs, R. Zimmerman doesn't get discouraged and becomes locker room poison), more likely is a 65 win regression, a fired manager and a discredited general manager, low attendance, and plenty of red ink for the Lerners.

Sec3MySofa said...

I dunno, I guess I'm not so optimistic until I see some contracts, but even assuming they sign Lee, or failing that, LaRoche, and whoever it is performs about as expected, I think 75 is still optimistic without that ace.
I can easily imagine, for instance, Werth not doing significantly better than those 2010 composite RF numbers you quote, considering his Late Bloomer phase coincided more or less with playing on a really, really good team. As has been pointed out already, all those at-bats he got last year against the Nats' pitching will now be against the Phillies, and the rest of his home ABs will be in a "fairer" park.

I don't think Nyjer will do a little better--he'll either do a lot better, or be gone, and anybody's got to be able to do better than those 2010 numbers.

OTOH, the bench should be markedly improved, and that's probably good for several games worth of swing, right there.

CoverageisLacking said...

Mark, I have to say that this is a ridiculously optimistic assessment.

You are forecasting "improvement" by looking at several positions and saying that you expect the same player to improve over last year. There are a lot of "IFS" there; on the other hand, you're not really forecasting anyone to have a down year compared to last year--maybe you suggest that Livo might, but I don't see this actually impacting your overall assessment.

You know what they say about if ifs and buts were candy and nuts???

The Nats will be truly improved when their improvement is contingent on their players simply meeting their established and expected performance level. Not when it is contingent on several players doing better than they ever have before. That's a fantasyland; one where also no one has a down year, and no one gets injured. The Nats have been living in fantasyland for too long, and your post reflects that sad fact.

Sultan of Stat said...

A little tough on ZNN don't you think? The kid hasn't played a year in the bigs cumulatively (Only 23 total starts) and you're saying it's sink or swim time. You know as well as I what we saw in September was rust, he'll be just fine come the start of the season.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I agree with Mark Z. on his evaluation of the Nats and his projected win total. I also agree with the post by Mark (10:57) regarding Morse and 1B. I don't think that is the way to go. To that end, I hope the Nats sign Lee or LaRoche by the end of the week. The news on Maya holds out the possibility of an upgrade in our SP that we hadn't anticipated.

JD said...

Desmond and Norris for Alonso; which teams hangs up?

Bowdenball said...


He predicts improvement from basically five players/positions: the young catchers behind Rodriguez, Espinosa, Desmond, Zimmermann and Morgan.

All but the last is very young. It's not exactly going out on a limb to forecast improvement from these players. Every single prediction- PECOTA, Bill James, fantasy geeks- will anticipate improvement from these players, because that's almost always what happens in a player's early to mid 20s. It's possible they'll regress, but it's equally possible that they'll improve well beyond what Mark thinks. Either way, his analysis captures the most likely result.

As far as Nyjer goes- well, it's hard not to improve from being essentially the worst every day player in major league baseball.

CoverageisLacking said...

Bowdenball, I disagree. Those guys aren't just young, they are--other than Desmond--entirely unproven. As DFL pointed out, for example, Espinosa ended up hitting .214 and showed a very high K propensity. So how can we project that 2B is "improved"?

Your point regarding players improving in their early to mid-20s only applies to guys who establish themselves as big league caliber players. Many kids flame out in their early to mid 20s also. We don't know yet where any of these guys are going to fall on that spectrum, so forecasting "improvement" for them at this early stage is wildly optimistic. Whatever happened to Kory Casto, anyway? Shouldn't he have had several years of "improvement" on the Nats?

Anonymous said...

Nice analysis that I agree with piece by piece, but the missing link here is the overall effect of the team. They got rid of two of the three best players in the lineup and got virtually nothing for them. And signed the best player (IMO) on the free agent market. Does this mean they have improved? Not to me. Werth and Zim are great, but left field and first base are huge holes that there seems no hope of filling except with stop gap measures. The pitching is the exact same. I don't see how you can say the team is better at this point -- but I'm willing to give Rizz the benefit of the doubt because the roster isn't completed yet.

Not signing Dunn and stringing him out all last year was a huge mistake. A fan favorite was lost, and a gaping hole in the lineup created. They also reinforced a perception of cheapness that keep people like Grienke from accepting a trade here -- Werth or no Werth. A lot of 2011 damage for $18 mil in 2014 in my opinion.

Steve M. said...

CIL says "ridiculously optimistic assessment" and I think you are spot on.

The bench was 2nd worst in the MLB last year and that is stocked well. As pointed out yesterday, runs scored was 14th worse in the NL last year and this more athletic team should increase the run count while also providing better defense bringing down ERAs as team defense last year based on errors and zone coverage was in the bottom 2 worst in the MLB.

Rizzo has improved the areas of greatest weakness already with just 1st base to get sorted out.

The other thing is team depth that is much better this year. The team had no depth last year to step into an outfield position, catcher, etc. Pickups like Rick Ankiel, Corey Brown, and Bryce Harper in the Draft (expect him as a September callup) give this team depth in the OF and the pickup of Wilson Ramos at Catcher was huge last year. Lombardozzi could be ready to compete for a spot depending on how he does in the Minors.

So far there have been no dumpster dives this off-season like a pickup of Adam Kennedy when the clear choice should have been Orlando Hudson.

Alex said...

Great post, Mark. Couple things:

1) Nats stronger up the middle across the board over last year, that's how you build a franchise. I still think people are overlooking that Dunn hit .196 v. lefties last year. That's scary bad for a franchise player.

2) It's worth giving Nyjer a chance next year with Bernadina (when Harper comes up sometime in 2012), Corey Brown in AAA, and Eury Perez in A+ in line if he doesn't work out.

maybe Jackie Bradley (SC OF and CWS MVP last year) as the Nats 1st round pick in 2011? Either him or a starter (Connecticut RHP Matt Barnes?). But it's early for that...

3) The rotation in 2010 was VERY weak (except for Strasburg who only started 12 games for 68 IP). No, Marquis and Z-mann off an injury year don't have to be great.

The 5 with the most GS last year were Livo (no, he won't be as good in 2010), Lannan (when he wasn't in the minors...he should be better), Stammen, Atilano, and Olsen. Only Marquis (injured) and Strasburg also had more than 10 starts. That's an AWFUL rotation of AAAA starters.

Even if we don't get Pavano (and I wouldn't break the bank for him), I'll take my chances next year and see what Maya, Detwiler, and Wang can bring (are they a top 3? 5th starter? Not in the mix?) for the key 2012-16 years when Strasburg, ??, Z-mann, Lannan, and ?? are the rotation, and Harper comes up.

Patience, people, one more year. Shoot for .500 (81 wins) this year and the playoffs in 2012-13.

Anonymous said...

What I'm not overlooking about Dunn is 38 HR and over 100 RBI that we let walk. No one currently available via free agency or trade is gonna match that at first base -- I don't care how slick Adam Laroche or Derrek Lee are around first base.

Willingham was a force when healthy and I kept hearing that they were asking a fortune for him, then trade him for an unproven reliever with control issues. I wonder if Rizz pulls this trade off with the hindsight that Storen's trade to KC was gonna be nixed by Grienke.

Hugh said...

I agree mostly with your assessment for 2011, but I think the real question is how well this ball club is set up for 2012 and beyond. Rizzo seems to have a plan. Werth was a foundation piece. Adding a veteran at 1B like Lee and another outfielder will bridge the gap until Derek Norris and Bryce Harper are ready. The last piece will be a top starter for 2012. I think they'll be much improved in 2012 and make a run in 2013.

phil dunn said...

The Nationals have had a huge hole in CF every since they came here from Montreal in 2005 with Endy Chavez filling the position. Why not try Werth in CF, Morse in RF and Bernadina in LF. That outfield is decent defensively and certainly packs alot more wallop offensively. Morgan will never be a solution in CF.

Sunderland said...

Alex - Nats stronger up the middle?

You've got Desmond and Nyjer up the middle, the two biggest defensive liabilities in MLB!
And Pudge a year older.
And a rookie at 2B who played darn near no 2B his whole college and professional career.

Project defensive improvement from Nyjer and Desmond if you want. Assume our kid at 2B performs with excellence with just about no 2B experience if you want.

No way does anyone looking at this objectively say we are stronger up the middle.

Donald said...

It doesn't seem possible that Nyjer will be given the chance to replicate last year's performance. If he doesn't improve significantly, he needs to be gone. Not sure who the replacement would be, though. Maybe Werth in CF and Morse/Ankiel in RF?

Wally said...

JD - I hang up if I am Rizzo. Alonso is worth getting, but he hasn't shown much power yet, which is important for a 1B. I would package Storen plus something for him (because he is a relief pitcher and we have some depth there), but definitely not Norris. We should also be looking at what the trade cost for Sanchez would be, and even Belt although I think he may be unattainable. I hope that this is why the signing of Lee hasn't happened yet.

I also think that we need a back up plan for Espy. If he has trouble hitting .200, which is possible, we aren't going to want to keep running him out there, for both his sake and the team's sake, and we'll need to let him get his sea legs down in AAA. I am not sure who we turn to if that happens.

JD said...


I agree that Storen would be preferable but I assume that the Reds aren't idiots and they won't trade an everyday player for a reliever. I wouldn't worry too much about Alonso's power because he is only 23. How about Desmond and Detwiler for Alonso?

I completely agree about your Espinosa point; I am a bit surprises we didn't cover ourselves in case of a negative surprise; I would hate to see Gonzo as our everyday 2nd baseman.

Anonymous said...

Lee could project to produce better offensively than Dunn. Especially in the National League. The cons: injuries as is typical of older players and the fact that he is not a left handed hitter. With Morse backing him up that really should be as much of an issue. Both Lee and Morse hit right handed pitchers pretty well. Lee is a one year solution. Morse is still being evaluated.

JD said...


You mean Gabby Sanchez? The Marlins won't trade him; he's young and cheap. I would however inquire about Anibal Sanchez now that they have signed Johnson and Nolasco. BTW Chris Capuano is a FA. I think he is worth a look too.

Sunderland said...

Continuing previous thought.

I am blown away that so many people project this team to be "much better defensively" and contribute substantially to a reduced ERA.

The whole notion is based on the premise that:
1 - Espinosa will be quite a bit better at 2B than Kennedy / Guzman. Maybe. But he's only played 50 games there in MiLB and MLB, and he's being paired with the reigning league leader in errosr. He's shown great range. But then again, the league leader in errors has great range.
2 - Desmond will improve, to a substantial degree. Maybe. But there's no real basis for projecting an improvement aside from experience and he's had 7 years as a professional shortstop.


If these two are excellent, our team defense will be excellent. If these two play like rookies, like the league leader in errors, like a rookie with almost no experience at his position, then as a team, our team defense will stink.

It's hard to accept the notion that we've significantly improved our team defense when these two are holding the keys.

I'm a fan, rooting for them everyday, wanting nothing but the best. But looking at this objectively, how can you come to the conclusion that we'll be much better defensively?

Our biggest offender in the outfield is still projected to be patrolling CF. Sure 1B better, Werth, maybe Nyjer gets competetion, maybe Ankiel, whatever. It all comes down to Desmond and Espinosa, and you can not objectively look at them and say they are a strong defensive middle infield.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Ray Mitten, I hear what you are saying about losing Dunn but I think if you look strictly at runs generated you will like the future of Werth and LaRoche as I projected equations of DUNN + RF PLATOON vs WERTH + LAROCHE.

If we base this on Runs Scored and RBIs only, the Werth and LaRoche combo performs better than the Dunn and RF Platoon.

Dunn and Werth played essentially in about the same amount of games so I only adjusted LaRoche from 151 games to 162 to make this a close comparison since I am using the RF Platoon for 162 games.

LaRoche for 162 games would score 80 runs and knock in 107 vs. Dunn's actual 85 runs and 103 RBIs.

Using Werths's actual numbers of 106 runs scored and 85 RBIs vs. the Nats RF platoon of 71 runs and 86 RBIs you can see the combo of
Werth and LaRoche would score 186 runs and have 192 RBIs vs. Dunn and the RF Platoon at 156 runs and 189 RBIs.

Far from scientific, but interesting to compare that if LaRoche is signed that the LaRoche/Werth combo should generate more runs then the Dunn/RF Platoon did.

JamesFan said...

If I were McCatty and Riggleman I would not sleep at night going into the season with this starting pitching. They have the potential to be a 90 loss team with better starters. I don't agree on the pen. I think there is enough in the Nats system to make it as good as last year, maybe better. They are a much better defensive team; offensively, I think they will be at least as good as 2010 if they get one of the first base options. Pitching is critical to compete and the Nats starting rotation is shakey at best.

Anonymous said...

Pay to Play, but your right field platoon didn't leave. It just shifted to left field.

So it's really Dunn + Willingham vs Werth + LaRoche / Lee.

Nattydread said...

Nice post, Mark.

Nobody mentions that the Nats underperformed in '10 by about 5 games. Even with marginal improvement, getting between 75 and 80 wins does not seem delusional.

I think we will be surprised by the talent at catcher in '11.

Anonymous said...

"It all comes down to Desmond and Espinosa, and you can not objectively look at them and say they are a strong defensive middle infield."

But you can say they are better than Desmond and Kennedy/Guzman. Ergo, improved over last year.

Also, having Dunn, Willingham and the plethora of last year's RF experiments no longer manning their respective positions is addition by subtraction from a defensive standpoint. Ergo, more improvement.

It's not all about Desmond and Morgan. But even if it was, as bad as they were last year there's no way they can be worse this year. Their worst case scenario for 2011 would be last year's status quo. Ergo, either hold your own or improvement this year from those two.

The net result? Defensive improvement. Expect it.

Ballinonabudget said...

Sunderland -

I'm not sure where you got confused, but the point of the post was not to assess how "strong" the team will be (which would be a comparison against the rest of baseball), but rather a whether or not the team will be improved compared to the 2010 squad.

I agree that the up the middle defense of Pudge/Ramos/Flores, Desmond, Espinosa, and Morgan will probably not be "strong" when compared to the rest of baseball. However I do think they will be better than those last year.

Pudge/Ramos/Flores will be better than Pudge/Nieves. Can we agree on that?

I don't think it is unreasonable to assume that Desmond will improve both offensively and defensively from 2010. He showed vast improvement in the second half of last season compared to an underwhelming first half.

As Mark stated in the post, "Nationals second basemen hit .252 with eight homers, 47 RBI, a .312 OBP, a .350 slugging percentage and a meager .662 OPS." Espinosa should be able to at least match these numbers and I think there is a good chance he can surpass them. As for defense, Espinosa made a grand total of zero errors in 131 chances at 2B after being called up to the majors last season. All accounts are that he is a defensive whiz, and should only get better with more reps at a new position.

The real question mark to me is in CF. Morgan was beyond bad last year. Offense, defense, base running, decision-making, professionalism. He even lost the fight that he got into. Maybe I'm just a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I think he will be better than God-awful in all facets of the game in 2011.

The Nats probably won't be "strong" up the middle in 2011, but I think it is highly likely that they are improved over the 2010 group.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Anon @ 12:34. I already looked at LF and the numbers aren't as great as you think in LF because Willie Harris played so many games there.

Willingham didn't play an entire season so while I agree that you would think that LF is a huge dropoff it only generated in 2010 a total of 88 runs scored and 80 RBIs that were generated in LF which the BAM platoon will exceed (BAM = Bernadina/Ankiel/Morse) if we use their 2010 based on the 580 at-bats that
the 2010 LF actually had with 88 runs scored vs. the BAM platoon of 79 runs scored and 2010 LF had 80 RBIs vs the BAM platoon of 74 RBIs all based on 580 at bats
so while there is a slight drop-off of RBIs, the runs scored are significantly higher.

Also, LF is a 1 year 2 month problem if you believe Bryce Harper can come into the Nats OF June 2012 and have Heyward/Stanton impact as a Rookie.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Excuse me, BAM Platoon + Werth and LaRoche will exceed in runs scored and it is almost a wash on RBIs.

pitching they need, yes said...

"Shoot for .500 (81 wins) this year and the playoffs in 2012-13."

No--not "shoot for"! DO!
Or do not. There is no "shoot for."

PAY TO PLAY said...

morse 36 0.1353 41 0.1541 266
bernadi 52 0.1256 47 0.1138 414
ankiel 31 0.1469 24 0.1137 211
Ave per AB 0.1359 0.1271
2010 LF 88 80 580
BAM PLAT 79 74 580

Ballinonabudget said...

Just for comparisons sake here's a look at the "up the middle" guys for the other NL East teams.

Phillies: Ruiz, Rollins, Utley, Victorino - no contest here, all these guys are all-stars

Braves: McCann, Gonzalez, Uggla, McClouth - I think the Braves win 3 out of 4 here, but McClouth may have had an even worse season than Morgan last year (.190/.298/.322), so I'll give it to Nyjer.

Marlins: Buck, Ramirez, Infante, Coghlin - the Marlins clearly win SS and CF, but I think C and 2B could be a push if Buck comes down off his career year and Ramos or Flores breaks out a little bit.

Mets: - Thole, Reyes, Castillo, Beltran - The Mets had a ton of injuries last year, so assuming their guys can stay healthy, I think they would win SS and CF, but again C and 2B looks like a push.

Anonymous said...

Following up on the Marlins thread ...

The Marlins DO have a first base prospect trying to play left field. He might be available even if Sanchez is not.

Anonymous said...

@DFL: Rizzo has made moves that I didn't agree with, not re-signing Dunn being first and foremost. However, I'm willing to see how the rest of the offseason goes before calling that a disaster. Other than that, I profoundly disagree with your analysis.

You say the Nats are clearly inferior in CF? How could they be worse than last year? Whether Morgan rebounds to his career averages or flames out and Ankiel or Corey Brown play there, it's hard to see how they couldn't get better. They would be inferior to most other MLB teams, yes - but the comparison is with the 2010 Nats of Nyjer Morgan and Justin "Quest for Contact" Maxwell.

Similarly, while the bench may well be "below average" it is almost certain to be better than the black hole of production that was Wil Nieves, Willie Harris, Kevin Mensch and Adam Kennedy last year.

Rizzo's "foolish trade of Capps?" Capps for Ramos was a classic sign-cheap-and-flip-for-improvement deal. Unless you liked the idea of more of the Pudge/Nieves rotation, it's hard to see how you don't pull the trigger there. Maybe Flores comes back - but that's a big maybe, and was even more of a myabe last summer. And it's not like the bullpen fell apart after the deal either.

And the performance of the overextended Pudge and awful Nieves is why your statement that the Nats are "clearly inferior at ... C" is hard to understand.

You didn't mention the Willingham trade by name, but you said the Nats will be clearly inferior in LF as well. I'm not so sure that is true; I wouldn't be surprised to see a Morse/Bernadina rotation approach Hammer's numbers while providing better defense. But even if they don't, the Willingham trade was understandable. I like Willingham and wish him well, but he was a gimpy-kneed corner outfielder with a plus bat who can't stay healthy and even when healthy tops out at passable defensively while being slow on the basepaths. Most importantly, Hammer was only under team control for one more year. If he plays himself into a great free agent deal the Nats weren't going to re-sign him because they already have committed to Harper and Werth on the corners. And even if he qualified for draft choice compensation that player(s) wouldn't arrive until 2015 or 2016. And if Hammer just gets hurt or plays lousy in 2011 the Nats get nothing when he leaves. For him they got a flamethrower for the bullpen and a toolsy fringe prospect at a need position (CF). To dismiss Corey Brown because of 40 bad games his first time in AAA would be a mistake.

"There is a great risk of the starting pitching blowing up." There is that risk - that's why they play the season. But if the standard is "better than 2010," well, the starting pitching was so terrible last season (see Mark's analyis of their top six starters in 2010 - ineffectiveness which was exacerbated by their inability to pile up innings) that if Marquis (mediocre) and Lannan (decent) rebound to their career averages in ERA and IP then they would be hard put NOT to be better than 2010 - the Strasburg Show notwithstanding. Yes, they could implode - and they might be all-stars.

Look, we're all bloviating waiting for pitchers and catchers to report. You might ultimately be right; I just doubt it. Which is fair because you likely doubt me. This is just an interactive way of staring out the window and waiting for spring :)

John C.

Anonymous said...

Also, LF is a 1 year 2 month problem if you believe Bryce Harper can come into the Nats OF June 2012 and have Heyward/Stanton impact as a Rookie.

Eury Perez might arrive at exactly the same time and be only slightly older than Harper. Left handed Corey Brown is still a bonafide outfield prospect that should be in the Nats top 10 prospects list. Burgess, Hood, and Ramirez are still there as well.

The problem is not the outfield. Its starting pitching. The real key date is this coming June as opposed to June 2012 because that is when the major league amateur draft occurs. The TB Rays may have up to 11 picks in the upper 2 rounds. Imagine 11 picks? The Nats have a paltry 3 by comparison but must find a way to get more starting pitching from them.

K.D. said...

Mark, agree with most of your points with a couple of added sidebars. I am most disappointed with the loss of Willingham and I thought not keeping Peralta was a mistake. Other than those two I think the Nats have a promising year ahead. With a healthy Marquis and Lannan, not to mention Maya finding the strike zone and fine-tuning his craft, the rotation with or without any tweaks could surprise. Espy, Ramos/Flores Desmond and Bernadina all will have improved with experience. Bench is definitely improved with Ankiel and Stairs being added. Come on Spring Training!

Sec3MySofa said...

This always reminds me of that scene in The Magnificent 7, when Chris (Yul Brynner) and Finn (Steve McQueen) are surveying their preparations for the expected bandits.

Finn: First of all, they'll see that ditch.
Chris: More water for the corn.
F: Awful lot of new walls.
C: Civic improvements.
F: Hey, Chris... what about that net, eh?
C (sounding considerably less optimistic): Well, if he's not looking for it ... if he rides in unsuspecting...
F: If, brother. If!
C: Yeah.
F: Yeah!

PAY TO PLAY said...

What I find interesting about Michael Morse in looking at his statistics of 2010 is that if he played just 150 games at his 2010 level he is an 81 RBI guy himself with 30 HRs.

He was brought up as an infielder so I am sure he can handle 1st base which he did play a few games in 2010, and he is under team control through 2013.

Why can't the team move Morse to 1st base full time as another option or do most think he can't do it?

Sec3 said...

This is just an interactive way of staring out the window and waiting for spring :)
John C.

Well said, sir.

Anonymous said...

It's true that the Nats have three picks in the upper two rounds. It's also true that the Nats will have three picks in the top 34 (#6, #23 and #34, the latter two for Adam Dunn) while losing their 2nd round pick.

One reason for the Nats to sign Rafael Soriano would be that he would only cost them a 3rd round pick since their first is protected and the second already spoken for :)

John C.

Sec3 said...

"Why can't the team move Morse to 1st base full time as another option or do most think he can't do it?"

More to the point, Rizzo has been clear that *he* won't do that. They want him off the bench, partly because it's tough to find guys who can do that while playing part-time, and partly because they probably don't think he would do that if he played full time (not sure I agree, but he's the GM, not me).

Ballinonabudget said...

P2P -

I would bet that Morse is Rizzo's back up plan if he can't land either LaRoche or Lee. As you said, Morse came up as an infielder and played some 1B last season, mostly as a defensive sub for Dunn at the end of games.

But, I think Rizzo and Riggleman like Morse even more as a pinch hitter/first guy off the bench type of player. His versatility allows him to play when other guys are getting a day off or get injured. If Bernadina/Ankiel aren't cutting it in LF, Morse can step in. If Morgan goes crazy again, Werth, Bernadina or Ankiel could slide over to CF and Morse could get at bats. If who ever the first baseman is needs a day off, Morse can be hit back up too.

But Morse can't be that guy if he is the every day 1B. Earlier in the off season, Rizzo said he wanted to get Morse more at bats, in the 400-450 range if I remember correctly. I just think it will be as a utility type of player, planned to start 3 or 4 games per week at different positions and ready to step in more if somebody slumps or gets injured.

I don't think its that they don't have faith in Morse, I just think they would rather have Lee or LaRoche with Morse on the bench, than Morse at 1B every day and some other scrub taking his place on the bench.

sec3 said...

ummm, what he said.

NatinBeantown said...

These types of analyses are great conversation fodder (obviously), but are pretty suspect in methodology. The post (and most like it) takes actual '10 composite numbers by position--including injury replacements, starts by bench players, and other factors--and compares them with projected stats by anticipated starters. That's not a fair comparison--every team in the league is improved by that analysis.

A more fair comparison (though also flawed) is the anticipated OD 2010 starter (before trade, injury or other) by position vs this year. By that metric, we are:
- better at RF and bench
- nearly the same at C, 2B (Espy vs Guz), SS, and 3B
- worse in LF (Hammer vs Bernie), 1B, and at CF (because '10 Nyjer was anticipated to be a lot better than anticipated '11 Nyjer)

Pitching is still a tough comparison, because we anticipated contributions from Marquis and Wang that never materialized (but got more than we expected from Livo). In 2011, I think we're expecting solid numbers from Marquis, and hoping for something out of Wang/Maya.


Ballinonabudget said...
P2P -

I would bet that Morse is Rizzo's back up plan if he can't land either LaRoche or Lee. As you said, Morse came up as an infielder and played some 1B last season, mostly as a defensive sub for Dunn at the end of games.

When I see Morse, I see him as a younger Jayson Werth getting better with age while versatile in playing positions.

His numbers when he was HOT last season were incredible. Then Morse hit a slump where he was dropping his back knee and shoulder and our brilliant resident expert Eckstein was paying attention to other stuff then to fix him so Morse lost a lot of potential playing time until he got back on track. When he got back on track, he showed that amazing power and clutch numbers.

The reason to get LaRoche at 1st in my opinion is to make sure you get Morse more at-bats in 2011.

TimDz said...

Bottom line in my opinion is that we get Lee or LaRoche...just a matter of time to sort out who comes here and who goes to Baltimore. As for the Pitching, it is a weakness, but I think it was further hamstrung by being forced to make 4 outs or five outs in an inning (due to the errors). I think an improvement in the defense behind the pitching will ultimately show an improvement of the pitching (if that makes sense, if not, I am not a GM, nor do I attempt to be one on this board).

DFL said...

Anonymous, my points of inferior/superior were made with regards to the other teams in the National League and not with regards to 2011 projections against 2010 performance. When I say that Morgan is inferior, I am saying that he is weaker than most of the starting centerfielders in the National League. Sorry if I was not accurate in language context. Bernandina will be one of the weakest starting leftfielders in the NL and Rodriguez/Ramos will likely be weaker than your average catcher in the NL.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting thing I see in the posts here: it's the contest between possibilities and guarantees. The "possibility" folks see progress occurring and are willing to give Rizzo and the FO the benefit of the doubt as long as they continue to make progress. The "possibility" people can live with hope. The "guarantee" folks believe that the Nats should be competing for a playoff spot this year (i.e., former owners, GM's, and the farm system are irrelevant to the discussion). I guess I'm with the "possibility" people, because I just don't see how the FO can instantly transform this team into a contender. And I do believe the certainty folks do want that--transformation that has the Nats contending for a playoff spot this season. I don't see how that gap can be bridged. We can't make FA's sign with us just because we want them to. And we can't force other teams to trade with us on our terms. Just a big-picture observation...


I like what TimDz said at 1:53. The pitching is what it is but this "new" defense should make it better. I like it in theory.

My "add" to this is the big question mark in Nyjer Morgan. Last year, he sucked so bad in Spring Training that it carried through the season and Rizzo never made the change and it never got better.

I like what Anon @1:21 said about the future outfield and the only Plan B that I can see for Nyjer if he stumbles is Werth to CF and bringing up Corey Brown as a 5th OF and give Nyjer a swift DFA. This team can't afford to let Nyjer be Nyjer circa 2009.

I think Rizzo has made some real good improvements and could surprise us with a few more but Rizzo's biggest stain from 2010 was Nyjer Morgan.

DFL said...

If Morgan is considered a weak link in the lineup and moving Werth to center weakens the gains in right by signing Werth, why not drop Morgan, sign Podsednik for a year for $ 4 million, and wait for Colby Brown or Eury Perez to take over next season?

Anonymous said...

Again, I still don't see the outfield situation as a problem. Barring injury. Werth is far better than what they intended to start with in ST 2010: Elijah Dukes. Morgan will likely be pushed by both Roger Bernadina and Corey Brown in ST. Brown should be in the top 10 prospects list for the Nats. Wondering when or if Sue Dinem, at least, will add him? In left field you have Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina, and I believe Pittsburgh had the right idea playing Morgan in left. He is bereft of a major league arm. Rick Ankiel looks more like a Willy Harris utility outfielder.

Therefore, I disagree with Mark. Morse had 15 homers to Willingham's 16 in far few PA's. I believe by himself he will exceed Willingham's numbers from last year. Fielding wise the outfield situation could dramatically improve. Outfield: improved.

Its still "all about the starting pitching stupid"? That has to improve in order for the Nats to have a shot at .500 in the NL East. The prospects
and "former" top prospects have to get through seven innings consistently. Here is where Maya is key. He could potentially be that work horse #2, #3 starter. His fastball velocity is about what you would see from Cliff Lee. His problem (like many of the "prospects") is that he has never approached 200 innings in single season. I really see Livo in the Miguel Batista role. So, it would be up to Marquis, Maya and Lannan to make reasonable improvement over last year.

That plus the bullpen and improved fielding might just get them to .500 perhaps even beyond. But the competition is so strong in the NL East it seems unlikely ... yet I believe this bullpen could end up vastly improved over last year. Soriano wants a 3 year deal. That's a problem for the Nats who envision younger prospects in that role within a year. The bullpen really lacks a left hander. I should think they would have gone for Jon Rauch who would fit the role they envision perfectly? Doubtless, he would not wish to return to the Nationals.

All of this moaning, gnashing of teeth, woe is me over first base and the departed Adam Dunn. Newsflash he is now an AL DH. Right people? Its going to be a helluva lot easier for Rizzo to trade for a top left handed hitting first base prospect than it would be for that top of the rotation starter like Grienke. But if the sign Lee they can look at Prince Fielder next year after evaluating Lee and Morse. Perhaps they go with Marerro (unlikely). They have a Nick the stick body of glass clone former top prospect Michael Aubrey. According to Ben Goesling Rizzo and FO are considering jumping older prospect Tyler Moore to AAA to compete with Aubrey and Marerro? THREE younger guys with offensive talent competing for the first base position in Syracuse where last year they mostly played rehabbing Chris Duncan there? What's not to like?

Things are starting to come together for the beleaguered and too often pathetic Natinals.

The one big weakness remains: quality starting pitching. With that managed things could turn from night to dawn pretty rapidly.

sec3 said...

Here's a question: Who is the first to get pattersoned in 2011?

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to want to blame Ratso for not getting Dunn done. But from what I've read, it was Kasten that talked the Lerners out of signing Dunn in July.

Doc said...

Michael Morse a regular at 1B would be more valuable than Michael Morse off-the-bench. Still, I hope that they sign Derek Lee. Then maybe Morse can be a regular in LF.

Anonymous8 said...

Some really good reading on this post and I like Mark's analysis and outside of the starting rotation, I think the position players and bench is an upgrade over last year if they sign Lee or LaRoche.

I also wonder what this team will look like with Nyjer and without Nyjer. Nyjer is a huge Wild Card as his weak 2010 was my biggest disappointment for last season also.

I really enjoyed Pay2Play's statistical analysis to show that RBIs are slightly behind 2010 but this more athletic lineup with speed can score more runs based on the athleticism. It still brings Nyjer's 60 runs scored more to a critical point.

The game is all about outscoring your opponents consistently to get WINS. Rizzo's strategy is new for this team and fanbase but he has to practice what he preaches as Nyjer stands out as the weak link in the chain.

Mark said...

According to Boswell: Kasten wanted to give Dunn a 3 year deal and felt $42M would get it done; Rizzo wanted to trade Dunn for Edwin Jackson. They took the options to "the Board" and the Board decided to do neither. Thinking that Dunn's price would drop as the year went on and he would decide that he wanted to stay.

erocks33 said...

in regards to SP, it doesn't matter who the Nats trot out there night in and night out. They still have Jim "Quick Hook" Riggleman as the manager. Jim needs to let his starters go beyond 5 2/3 innings and stop with the double switches in the 5th or 6th inning.

I'm fine with keeping a short leash (6 IP and/or 90 pitches or so) at the start of the season for JZim, Wang and Maya. We need to see if they can build strength and be stretched out as the season progresses.

But Livo, Lannan and Marquis all can and should go beyond 100 pitches per start, if they're pitching well and/or have kept the Nats in the game. Riggs *HAS* to stop pulling these guys in the 6th or 7th inning.

DFL said...

Although Mike Morse surged as a major leaguer last season, let us not forget he's 28 and a relative late bloomer. He's not a later-day Lou Gehrig and may be more of a later-day Tony Solaita. Last year represents 70 % of his major league home runs and 50 % of his RBIs. He had a torrid second half. There's every reason to think Morse is more likely to be a useful utilityman rather than an everyday first-baseman/right-fielder/left-fielder.

erocks33 said...

Also, with regards to CF, I think that even though Rizzo has said publicly that Nyjer is the starter, Rizzo is actually setting the stage to possibly "Patterson" Nyjer if he doesn't race out of the gates in Viera.

Last year at the start of Spring Training, the Nats didn't really have any competition for Nyjer. Sure, they had Elijah and Corey Patterson, but no one in their right mind thought either of them would push Nyjer for the starting CF job.

But this ST, Rizzo not only has Bernadina and Werth that could start in CF, but he's also inked Ankiel (not the best answer but a viable candidate), but most importantly the new guy in Corey Brown. Brown bats left, plays a good defensive CF (and I would bet that he's got a better arm than Nyjer), has decent speed but has a lot more power potential than Nyjer.

I just think the moves Rizzo has made this offseason is giving him some alternatives just in case Nyjer of 2011 is the same player as Nyjer of 2010. If I were Nyjer, I'd make darn sure that my head is 100% into every pitch of every inning of every game, starting with the very first practice this February.

If Nyjer gets the hint, then I think we'll see a Nyjer more like the 2009 Nyjer. If he doesn't, then I think Nyjer is traded or optioned or DFA'd before they break camp.

Anonymous said...

@DFL: I'm just going to have to suck it up and get an account here one of these days, because no one reads my drivel all the way to the signature line!

I figured that there might have been a distinction in criteria between the OP (are the Nats improved?) and your "inferior/superior" analysis. I don't really disagree much with your assessment of the Nats scored against the league, although I think catcher (Pudge/Ramos) has a shot to be a "push" or slightly better (Pudge plays better when he only plays every other game).

While it wouldn't break my heart to drop Morgan and sign Posednik, I don't really have a problem with their keeping Morgan in a probationary status. Let him open ST as the starter in pencil and let the strongest players play. My concern with Posednik is that he'll be 35 in March, and has been mediocre as a LF (much less a CF) for the past few years.

John C.

natsfan1a said...

John C., you don't need to get an account. You can select comment as: Name/URL. Type your name in the "name" box and leave the "URL" box blank.

As for the post's subject, I'm going to just wait and see because, you know, that's why they play the games and all. That said, I do appreciate that Mark is coming up with post ideas in the dark days of winter (I believe in the Ken Burns series the offseason was referred to as the days of bitter recriminations or some such).

Oh, and as a card-carrying optimist, no post is too ridiculously optimistic for me. ;-)

Back to staring out the window now...

timjoebob said...

Mark, it's always great to read your posts and you're making this offseason fun.

Here's my take:

c - bout the same production, but Ramos' learning curve will prepare him for the future. Pudge will be the mentor this year. Flores? Hmmm... who knows.

1b - If LaRoche or Lee are there, it's an improvement. Lee will get his share of RBI's. LaRoche is probably a 30-hr guy. All that, plus VERY improved defense. Therefore, I say, bottom line, improved.

2b - I think Espinosa is ROY material. He is the real deal, Verdict: Vastly improved.

ss - Desi will commit less than 25 errors this year and will be an outspoken leader. He hates to lose and ya gotta love that!

3b - Zim is great, but what if he gets hurt? Perish the thought! I say his numbers will improve because he'll have more opportunities this year for RBI's.

lf - big question mark. I hated to see the Hammer go; he was Werth's protection. Oh well, we only need a band-aid for this year, for Bryce will be here in September. Yep, you heard it here first. (yeah, right!)

cf - another question mark. I see Nyger as VERY immature, especially in his unwillingness to play winter ball and iron out his problems. He will be on a short leash with Bernie as our fall-back option.

rf - Jayson will not improve on his numbers for he doesn't have the supporting cast. I think he'll press to be Superman, and that won't work. Will it be an improvement over last year's rf? Without a doubt, YES!

sp - I think we have kids that may blossom before our eyes. Is McCatty the right coach? That's the real question.

bullpen - I think with the addition of HR, it will be the same. He'll be our closer, with Storen as a great set-up man, along with Clip. It'll be Store-n-Clip-n-Save!

bench - If Alberto can hang in there and be content with his role and not stir things up, he can be a real asset, all over the infield. Morse is versatile, but may be grumbling if his playing time doesn't improve. I'm surprised he hasn't been coveted by another team in a trade. His numbers project to star-potential.

75 wins? Maybe a couple more. 77-85 in 2011. Boy, does that feel optimistic! But, hey... hope springs eternal.

sjm 308 said...

Great reading today gang and thanks to Mark for getting us involved.

Interesting that erocks comments about Riggs came so late in the process. If he continues his double switches and quick hooks I don't see us improving either. I do think we can win 75+ games with the staff we have and Livo, Lannan and Marquis are all capable of 7+ innings each time they pitch which should make the bullpen even stronger.

I wonder how long they give Nyjer to show that he is "improved" from last year. I would love to see them dfa him the first time he is picked off but that is wishful thinking. It was mentioned in an earlier comment but I wonder if he really was the worst full-time player in the majors last year? No arm, poor routes to routine balls hit to center, horrible on base %, he had to lead the league in pickoffs, poor attitude and he lost the only fight he got into. Hard to believe we won 68 games when your leadoff man scores 60 runs. That being said, if he could just do a decent job as a leadoff hitter we will be a better team.

Go Nat's

Wally said...


I would probably do Desi/Detwiler (definitely would do Espy/Detwiler); not sure if Cincy does either. I am a Desi fan, tho, and one of those that see upside from his 2010 level (which by itself was good value from a guy making $400k) and think the errors are overstated until someone properly adds back the extra balls he gets to due to above average range.

Yes, I meant Gabby. It seemed like Fla had 1B planned for Morrison, and was surprised by his 2010 production. So I think he might be expendable. As it is, an OF of Stanton, Coghlin (sp?) and Morrison is pretty weak defensively. Once upon a time I thought that NoMO would be of interest to them as part of a package, but probably not.

Anibal - just ok, imo. Better than most of what we currently have, but I wouldn't break the bank for him.

Will said...

My biggest concern, and obviously Rizzo's concern too, is starting pitching. It is what has continually plagued the Nationals. We've never had good SPs. We've never even had one good starting pitcher. I just looked it up, and I was even surprised by how awful our starters have been.

In 6 years, we've had 3 pitchers with a WAR over 2.6, they were Livan last year (3.0 WAR), and Esteban Loaiza (remember him?!) with 4.6 WAR and John Patterson with 3.9 WAR in 2005. That's disgusting.

In 2010 alone, the Angels, Astros, A's, Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies and White Sox had at least three pitchers with WAR above 2.6. That's 17 teams that had, in one year, as many pitchers with a WAR over 2.6 as the Nationals had in six seasons (and two of them were in 2005). We've had one pitcher be worth more than 2.6 wins above replacement in 5 years. 17 teams had 3 players do that in one season!

With that in mind, our starting pitching is arguably worse this year. How can people expect Livan to have an ERA below 4.00 again? Yes, he was good last year, but the last time his ERA was below 4 was 2005! Since then, his era is has been 4.94 (that is including this past season). It's logical to assume his ERA will be about 5.00 next year, or worse (his ERA was 6.05 in 08 and 5.44 in 09).

The rest are much harder to predict; however, past history does not look kindly upon them. It can also be expected that at least two of Livan, Lannan, Marquis, Zimmermann, Maya, Detwiler and Wang will go down with a serious injury, meaning we'll have to revert to using garbage AAAA pitchers.

So yes, Zimmermann may break out, but you also have to consider Livan will regress. Detwiler may continue to unimpress, and Marquis will prove, as he has throughout his career, that he's a below average starter. This is not a rotation that can win 81 games, and it will be the sole reason this club loses 90+ games again next season.

sec3ms said...

It's a sad truism here, but it's Mgt 201: You don't get better because the players you have improve; you get better by getting better players.

JD said...


I really disagree with you about Anibal; he had a couple of injury years but looked solid last year (3.55 ERA, 0.46 HR per 9 innings). He will only be 27 at the start of next year and would IMO be our top pitcher.

For the most part I agree with you about Desi's defense although I think Espinosa has equal range and plays the position a bit cleaner. I am more concerned about Desi's lack of patience and strike zone knowledge; he really needs to have a higher OBP to be valuable; I don't care about his power its pretty incidental but he needs to see more pitches and take more walks.

Anonymous said...


One of Desmond or Norris > Alonso

Rizzo hangs up immediately.

Anonymous said...

This is not a rotation that can win 81 games, and it will be the sole reason this club loses 90+ games again next season.

That's the crux of it. First base, left field, center are not the real issue. Not even all that consequential if the starting pitching isn't there.

They would need Maya and Zimmermann to have break out years. And Marquis and Lannan to manage to pitch around 200 innings of around 1.25 to 1.30 WHIP. If you consider it carefully this has a greater possibility of occurring this year if the fielding is truly revamped and does improve dramatically.

Then, there's Mock and Detilwer who both should be a lot better than they are. Both are underachieving in a big way. How can that be ameliorated?

Rizzo apparently believes through competition. So far there's the somewhat remote 2011 possibilities associated Kimball, Wang, Solis, and Martis. Then there's Stammen, Broderick, Atilano, Livo and perhaps Chico more as veteran AAA backup to Marquis and Maya.

Its why this year's amateur draft probably is deemed critical. I can't see them NOT selecting 3 starting pitchers with those upper 3 round picks.

Will said...

Oh, I forgot to mention that the bullpen should be a HUGE concern too. Everyone is so confident they will be as good as they were last year, but nearly every player had a career-best year. That's simply unsustainable.

Sean Burnett is "rock-sold"? Hardly. He's had 1.5 good seasons. Before that- not so solid. You can't be sure that you'll get the same from him. Especially when you look a little deeper. His numbers against righties were fantastic last year. RHBs had a .487 OPS (!) against him in 2010. But over his career, their OPS is .732. He was basically a completely different pitcher last year than in previous seasons. I'm not confident he can repeat his success.

Furthermore, we got career-years out of Peralta (now departed), Clippard and Slaten. Between the four of them, you got the vast majority of the Nats bullpen innings; 244 IP, to be exact. To expect similar success is overly optimistic. Their ERA together was 2.62. That's absurdly low, and it's amazing that they were as good as they were. Peralta and Slaten both had 6+ ERAs the year before, and Clippard came out of nowhere to throw 100 innings in relief. Burnett was a lefty specialist who suddenly, against the odds, became a dominant righty-killer.

Unless uproven guys like HRod, Carr and Kimball can step up like our entire bullpen did last year, we could be in for a rough year. Or the bullpen could sustain their improbable success....

Will said...

Anon 5:25, Rizzo has been talking about competition since he arrived, and Bowden talked about it every year before him. But the fact is not one pitcher has stepped up in 5 years. Zimmermann showed glimpses of it in 2009, but had a rough return in '10. Strasburg showed glimpses too, but he's not in the competition in 2011.

Every other pitcher has been an abject failure. Not one pitcher has been negligibly above average in 5 years.

Competition doesn't work when there's no talent to compete with. It's the same again this year. Zimmermann will get a chance, but the rest of the "youth" are AAAA fodder.

John C. said...


It's true that the Nats starting pitching has been THE #1 problem from Day 1. I think it's not unreasonable to think that the SP will be better in 2011 than 2010, if only because it was so putrid in 2010. Yes, Marquis has been a journeyman back of the rotation starter his whole career (career ERA+: 97). From 2004-2009 he only had one season (2008 with 167) of fewer than 191.2 IP. But as blah as that is, just under 200 innings of ERA+ of 97 would be a substantial upgrade for the Nats! Of the top six starters, Livo was the only pitcher who had an ERA+ above 87, and Lannan and Livo were the only ones above 79. Blech.

Even if you don't believe in Lannan's second half surge, if he returns to the 182-206 IP with an ERA+ of just over 100 pitcher that he was the previous two seasons (btw, Baseball-Reference.com cites Lannan as a 3.0 WAR in 2008, 2.8 WAR in 2009), then that regression to the mean would be another substantial upgrade.

Even assuming that Livo regresses to his mean (Averages 89 ERA+ over the past five years), more mediocre 89-100 ERA+ innings means fewer starts from pitchers with an ERA+ of 61-79. In very limited action Z(nn) had an ERA+ of 83 and Detwiler an ERA+ of 96. While there are assumptions in plotting out a better 2011 rotation, they aren't ridiculous or unlikely assumptions.

Sunderland said...

Will, nice posts on the pitching.

Competition doesn't seem to work much on pitchers. Hopefully it works with centerfield this year and either Nyjer picks up his game or watches someone else play.

Wally said...


Good points about Anibal. I hadn't followed him too closely, and while the HR/9 doesn't seem sustainable, those are still some good peripherals. Maybe if he is getting expensive, there is a deal to be had. He is a Super 2, right? Still don't know what we have that Fla needs (true for the other Sanchez, too). Cf is a weak spot for them, which is why I thought of NoMo. As bad as he was last year, he is still a guy that people can dream on. .360ish career OBP, and historically good fielding numbers.

Agree with your comments on Desi, especially OBP, but I wouldn't discount the power potential. Definitely a plus out of SS position. Espy's hitting is what worries me.

Wally said...

Will/John C

Using the advanced pitching metrics, Stammen has pitched better than the rest of the 'dog pack' of AAAA guys. I didn't check his ERA+, but his FIP and xFIP were pretty good last year, IIRC. I have always liked him better than the Nats brass seems to, but he seems to be completely out of the rotation equation. He strikes me as a guy on the cusp of learning how to pitch - that one inning always seem to bite him on the butt (especially early on). A decent amount of those kind of guys do get it, after a while (usually for another organization). He looks to have better stuff than the Atilanos/Martins/Martis. I recognize that I am in the minority on him, tho.

John C. said...

I do agree with Will that the bullpen will need watching. Clippard is the only member who had a truly solid track record before last year. I believe that Rizzo has concerns there also, which is why he picked up Elvin Ramirez and Henry Rodriguez. Personally I'd be more comfortable with Rafael Soriano at the back of the bunch to let everyone else settle into smaller roles - but we'll see. I do think that assuming Storen will step up a la Mariano Rivera stepping out of Wetteland's shadow for the Yankees ignores that Storen's 2010, while pretty good, wasn't nearly as good as Rivera's 1996.

BinM said...

Looking ahead to 2011, there is one thing that stands out (to me at least); The Nationals have young, skilled players at most of the field positions, with some supporting depth behind them for probably the 1st time since arriving in DC.

CA- Pudge/Ramos/Flores; The best since Schneider/Flores in 2007.
1B - Marrero/Morse; Here's the current weak spot, as Dunn was 'the man' in 2010.
2B - Espinosa/AGonz; Better defensively, but might fall behind Belliard/FLop in 2008 offensively.
3B - FotF; Castilla/Baerga in 2005 = no contest.
SS- Desmond/AGonz; Better defensive range than Guzman in his All-Star year, & more power as well.
LF - Bernadina/Morse; Hopefully the equal to Willingham/Harris 2009-10, between offense (slightly behind) & defense (slightly better).
CF - Morgan/Ankiel; Maybe slightly below Wilkinson/Church in 2005, and equal to Milledge/Morgan/Harris in 2009.
RF - Werth; Way better than Guillen (2005-06).
SP - Livo/JZimm/Lannan/Marquis/Maya; Hopefully the equal of the 2005 squad, also headed by Livo.
LR-MR - Stammen/Balester/Carr(?)/Clippard; Might be hard-pressed to equal the 2010 squad of Batista/Stammen/Peralta/Clippard.
LS-SU-CL - Slaten/Rodriguez(?)/Burnett/Storen; Again, hard-pressed to equal Slaten/Burnett/Storen/Capps for 2010.

As fractured pieces, the team looks improved. The test will be how they mesh & play together in 2011, especially against the NL East, where both PHI(12-6) and FLA(13-5) have owned the Nats of late.

Will said...

John. C, I forgot to mention I was using FanGraphs' WAR stat not BR's.

You can look at Lannan and much of the other potential SPs similarly. They have potential to be at best good. But, personally, I don't think they will. One might step up like Livan, but you're just as likely to have one self-destruct like Marquis. Couple that with the fact that you won't have 70 IP from Strasburg, and we're looking at a bleak season.

Regarding, the bullpen. I think Soriano would be a good addition, but he's a Type A FA. Would we give up our 3rd round pick for him (Round 1 is protected and Rd. 2 went to the Phillies for Werth)?
Brian Fuentes and Chad Qualls are also available. They're both less of a sure thing than Soriano, but both have experience closing, and could be had for fewer years and dollars than Soriano.

Wally, I agree. Stammen has been one of the more impressive of the pitchers (relatively speaking). And yes, his numbers (ERA, Wins, Ks) for one reason or another don't seem to reflect how well he's pitched. Maybe he's the anti-Lannan? But this will be his defining year. He'll be 27, so it's his opportunity to prove himself or see his way out.

Will said...

BinM, interesting historical comparison, but you forgot the most important!

Soriano's 2006 in LF was arguably the best single season in Nats history.

Also, I'm not saying that Guillen and Werth are comparable players; Werth is substantially better. But for single-season comparisons sake, Guillen's 2005 season was pretty great. Playing in the cavernous RFK was no easy task, and his defense that season was excellent, amounting to a 4 WAR season, which is probably slightly worse than what you'll get from Werth next year.

Also, the 2005 rotation was the best we've had by far. Loaiza and Patterson were fantastic. Livan was very good (comparable numbers to 2010). Armas was decent (barely sub-5.00 ERA), and the mix of Ohka, Drese and others was decent. I'd be ecstatic if 2011's rotation could make a case for being out best rotation yet. It's the single reason the 2005 Nats were half-decent, because the '05 bats surely weren't carrying the team.

Otherwise, I can't argue with much!

Anonymous said...

I agree Mark, but with this free agent market, there wasnt much we could have improved with the teams biggest needs, I felt like we needed a quality outfielder (Werth was perfect), first baseman (Laroche would be a perfect fit), starting pitcher (Wang and Webb would have fit because we all know 2012 is our time to compete), lets see what we can get and see who figures into our long term plans. I give Mike Rizzo alot of credit with his efforts this offseason.

sec3 said...

One by-product of being (talent-) poor for so long is, you start to lose perspective.
LaRoche isn't a perfect fit, Pujols is. LaRoche may be the best available, but good teams have better guys.

BinM said...

Will: You're absolutely right, I completely forgot about Soriano in 2006. He's clearly the standard for LF with the Nationals, and the Bernadina/Morse combo falls well short of that (a 40HR/40SB season). Thanks for the pickup.

Feel Wood said...

"Soriano's 2006 in LF was arguably the best single season in Nats history."

Don't know about that, but it was surely the most self-indulgent. It was all about him. He did absolutely nothing to make the team better or help it to win. Indeed the Soriano season was the worst of the three seasons they played in RFK.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:12
"Wang and Webb would have fit because we all know 2012 is our time to compete"
"I give Mike Rizzo alot of credit with his efforts this offseason"
Seriously? What in the world would give you confidence that Wang and Webb would be ready for 2012?
And Rizzo gets credit for trying? For making effort?
Don't you recall in 2007 our time to compete was 2009?
And in 2008 our time to compete was 2010?
So now you say "we all know" our time to compete is 2012?


Anonymous said...

Anon 5:25, Rizzo has been talking about competition since he arrived, and Bowden talked about it every year before him. But the fact is not one pitcher has stepped up in 5 years.

For the very first time: three possible young (under 30) players competing for first base in Syracuse in Marerro, Aubrey, and Tyler Moore. Aubrey and Marerro have been ranked as top prospects. Moore may get his chance to reach that plateau.

Erik Arneson had a decent winter of baseball. Not even close to Yunesky Maya. There are two prospects competing for starting pitcher. Mandel, Milone and Tatusko (after a banner year in AA) and perhaps Alaniz could join the mix in ST 2011. Martis, Mock, Detwiler, Atilano, Barthmeier, Broderick ... It does seem like there is more competition percolating up from the upper minors.

After Harper the next best outfield prospect almost has to be left handed #1 pick Corey Brown. He has to considered competition for Morgan in center and can play left. Bernadina, Morse competing for time in left. Ankiel on the bench backing them up.

Just comparing what has been stockpiled in the minors versus what was there 2 years ago it is like night and day. When Rizzo says he wants competition he and his staff go out and try to find it. Bowden was more of a carnival barker.

Anonymous said...

Our team will get better because how could our rotation be worse? Marquis if he is fully healthy can't help but be better, Lannan was great after coming back up from AA, Livo will pitch the same until he is 60, I will take Zimmermann over Olsen any day of the week, and our 5th starter is still a pick of our best AAA starter so that's a push. Therefore this rotation has to be better this year.

Desmond has to be better defensively because how could he get worse? Morgan will be better this year because how can he be worse? Team defense will be better because how could it be worse?

Donald said...

For anyone who's questioning if Espinosa is an upgrade at 2B, I defy you to watch this video and not get on his bandwagon. He might be green, but the kid can flat out play.


sec 3 my sofa said...

Currently-Strawberry-Blonde-Cubs-Fan-Wife's Rule #1: It can ALWAYS get worse.

Anonymous said...

"How could it be worse?"

Famous last words before... it got worse.

It can always get worse. Marquis could pitch 6 months healthy, but pitch like he did in April over the course of the season. Lannan could revert to pre-demotion form of last year. Livo could pitch like he did in 2008 (6.04 ERA). Zimmermann could pitch like Olsen, then get injured like Olsen.

Desmond could break his error record, Morgan could be a bigger idiot, and Werth could break his leg sliding into Ryan Zimmerman, tearing Zim's ACL. Strasburg's rehab goes terribly wrong, and he never returns from TJ, and Harper bats .169 over the course of the season in Hagerstown.

It could get worse. Much worse.

Wily Mo Petersen said...

Kids got glove, great video Donald. I am excited about the Espinosa/ Desmond years. Throw in Norris at 1st sometime in 2012 and our infield could be set for at least 7 or 8 years.

When thinking about the direction this franchise is heading remember Levale Speigner once started for this team.

My guess Nats finish exactly .500 this year by ending the season on a 4 or 5 game win streak.

Anonymous said...

Great diving stop by Espinoza. Even Blue was impressed; he got so excited he just had to call somebody out.

Anonymous said...

Ben Goessling's tid bit indicating management may move Tyler Moore to first in Syracuse raises some interesting questions:

Who will play first in Harrisburg? Will Norris alternate between first base and catcher? With Rhinehart filling in at first when Norris was catching and Sean Rooney or Brian Peacock catching when Norris plays first?

Anonymous said...

I tend to believe that Rizzo and the FO aren't done. There are still many possible trades and even a few FA signings that aren't emblazoned across the MLB rumors sites.

Therefore, I cautiously foresee a .500 season as long as injuries aren't a huge factor.

Anonymous said...

Two things....I feel certain that the Nats sign either LaRoche or Lee. If so, I don't think that the 1B position is worse. Sure, less Home Runs, but a much more athletic player, better base runner, better clutch hitter, better batting average, with much better defense....and it is not guaranteed that Dunn would continue to hit 38HRs. Like many, I grew weary of watching Dunn strike out when batting with runners in scoring position and two outs.

BTW...would we be excited about a 1B who would hit .280 or better, 25HRs, 80-90RBI, with good defense? If so, why are our fans so anti-Morse? If Lee/LaRoche is not signed, I would rather see Morse at 1B than ANY of the other alternatives that have been discussed (Kotchman, Loney, Branyan, etc). I'd love to see Morse be given at least a half season of playing as a full time starter to see what he can contribute....and the OF is not the place for him.

Anonymous said...

Henry Rodriguez, Elvin Ramirez, Adam Carr, Cole Kimball, Colin Balester, Drew Storen, and Tyler Clippard seem like plenty power pitching relievers to make the bullpen better?

The bullpen is weak on the left side where they have Burnett and Slaten, possibly Atahualpa Severino. Its why I would look for Rizzo and the FO to identify and bring in a lefty closer/set up ... a Jon Rauch type?

Anonymous said...

peric, you think Tyler Moore's going anywhere other than Harrisburg? I see there being some sort of competition, but at the end of the day, Moore's going to H'burg and Marrero's going to Syracuse unless he's traded.

erocks33 said...

I just don't get why most people are dumping on Lannan. Take away his horrible first couple of months last season, and what you're left with is a pretty darn good starting pitcher. Is he an ace? Heavens no, but he is a viable starter and his return from AA in August last season proved to me that the first half of the season was a fluke.

Here were his numbers from last season:

8-8; 4.65 ERA; 143.1 IP; 1.56 WHiP; 4.5 K/9; 3.1 BB/9

Here were his numbers post-AA:

6-3; 3.42 ERA; 68.1 IP; 1.24 WHiP; 6.2 K/9; 1.8 BB/9

Dramatic improvement. Look at his career numbers (minus the first half of last season) and I see a pitcher that would help any ballclub:

26-33; 3.85 ERA; 491.1 IP; 1.34 WHiP; 4.8 K/9; 3.1 BB/9

The problem with Lannan is that the Nats have never had any true #1-2 pitchers so that he can rightfully take his place as a teams' #4-5 pitcher.

Big Cat said...

Rhinehart!? He'll be lucky if he gets out of spring training.

Anonymous8 said...

erocks33 - Lannan? To lefties last year they batted .287 against him. That isn't going to cut it.

Also, he is poor in the reverse clutch where batters hit him .288 with 2 outs and RISP.

Worst of all is the 3rd time in the game where he faces the same batter in the game he is getting hit at a .351 clip and this is the NL where he is facing opposing pitchers and in comparison Livan Hernandez was .291 in 2010.

He loses focus. I have felt if you can trade him for value Rizzo should do that.

Sunderland said...

"Will Norris alternate between first base and catcher?"

No. He'll stay at catcher. It's pretty simple. No matter what he hits, he's more valuable as a catcher. The best problem Rizzo could have is Flores healthy, Ramos productive, and Norris showing he is an MLB ready catcher.

Norris moves to first only if he has more injury problems or shows after another full season that he's not going to suffice defensively as a catcher.

Tegwar said...

Have they improved? As an organization yes.

Mark's assessment seems as good as any but may be a little rosy given injuries and potential development.

By position

Rf - Defiantly

Catcher - Most likely just by adding depth and chance of catastrophic injury reduced.

SS - Probably, weak back up in case of injury.

3B - Maybe, these are now the prime years for Zim.

CF - Maybe, with more options, can't be worse?

LF - Most likely not, defense improves, more of an unknown what will Bernie do?

1B - Scary, especially if they don't sign Lee or LaRoche, If they do definite drop in offense.

2B - Unknown, Yes Espinosa looks good defensively but he may need more seasoning.

Starters - Unknown, too many questions to be able to tell, probably the same baring injuries.

Bullpen - Unknown, yes there is good depth but no true closer. Capps exceeded expectations last year. Not sure who will put up the same save numbers. If Burnett is used they need another Lefty.

Bench - Can't be worse can it?

The organization has more depth in the minors so some help may be coming late in the year although if Marquis pitches well he most likely will be traded at the deadline.

I think Rizzo will address the problem at 1B and most likely add a pitcher either starter or bullpen. I don't know if he thinks giving Espinosa 2B is risky or not, I see a risk without a better backup.

Overall too many unknowns to give an accurate assessment but 70 wins seems as good a guess as any. Team chemistry is important I have seen teams exceed expectations although it is rare in a 162 game season.

Anonymous said...

Just think if we would have just resigned DUNN....

DFL said...

A line-up of

Desmond SS
Zimmerman 3B
Dunn 1B
Werth RF
Willingham LF
Espinoza 2B
Rodriguez/Ramos/Flores C

would have been very strong. Thanks for blowing it, Rizzo!

Anonymous said...

A line up of

CF Morgan/Brown/Werth
SS Desmond
3B Zimmerman
1B Lee/Morse
LF Morse/Bernadina
RF Werth/Brown
2B Espinosa
C Ramos/Rodriguez/Flores

Is stronger offensively, fielding far and away superior,
all-in-all better than starting Willie Harris or JMax
in right, Morgan in center and no defense at first
in Dunn coming out of ST 2010?

DUNN IS NOW AN AL DH. That is his position now.
That should give any intelligent person a clue.

John C. said...

@3:36pm: You're batting Werth 7th? Really?

Anonymous said...

Derrick Lee 2009 - 2010 numbers: (injured in 2010).

2009 : .306/.393/.579 OPS .972 35 home runs 36 doubles 2 3B 76 walks
2010: .260/.347/.429 OPS .774 19 home runs 35 doubles 73 walks

Lee is a consumate defender at first base.

Adam Dunn 2009-2010 numbers: (not injured)

2009: .267/.398/.529 OPS .928 38 home runs 29 doubles 116 walks
2010: .260/.356/.536 OPS .892 38 home runs 36 doubles 77 walks

Dunn is a poor defender at first base.

Losing Dunn and gaining Lee might be a vast improvement. Sorry Dunn fans.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I wrote our time to compete in 2012 is due to Strasburgs injury and Harper not being ready yet. Strasburg was as important to our staff as Ubaldo Jimenez is for Colorado. And I like Laroche alot more than Carlos Pena. Amd Im not saying Webb and Wang would be ready for 2012, but 2011 would tell us alot about where they stand. And our name was linked to all the big free agents this year even after the Werth signing, so thats why I give Rizzo credit.

Anonymous said...

Interesting tid bits from Tim Dierkes last chat for this decade; apropos to the topic at hand:

Chien-Ming Wang was fantastic for the Yankees a few years ago. Do you see him returning to his former glory for the nats?

The reports were pretty good. I have a gut feeling he does give them an above average year and over 100 innings.

Would a Kevin Slowey package be enough to get Danny Espinosa out of Washington?

I think the Nats would pull the trigger on that.

What are your thoughts on the Nationals? Is it just a poorly run franchise or do they really have a "plan"? how could they let Dunn walk and piss off the fan base?

Letting Dunn walk doesn't bother me too much. I haven't loved some of their FA expenditures, but investing big on Harper and Stras fits into a plan. And they haven't traded away Zimmermann or Storen, that's a plus. You have to admit their approach is more exciting than the Pirates', even if they don't really need Jayson Werth right now.

Who's closer to the World Series? Orioles or Nationals?

I'd lean toward the Nats partially because they are not in the AL East. They seem willing to spend, so imagine the 2012 Nats with Stras, Zimmermann, maybe someone like EJax, plus another bat...that team could contend.

know Albert Pujols is a big St. Louis fan, and he has reiterated over and over that he wants to stay there, but say the two sides can't work out a deal, where does he go, and what does he get for a contract.

Nice round number would be $300 million over ten years. Cubs, Orioles could try, and Red Sox if somehow Adrian does not sign. Dodgers, Mariners, or Nationals could get crazy and make a play. Even at his insane price, if he has a typical Pujols season and truly hits the open market there will be plenty of teams bidding $250 mil and up in my opinion.

Am I killing what little fan base I have left by not signing anyone this offseason? Should I go out and sign someone just for appeasement purposes?

Oh no...appeasement signings suck. They essentially please some people here and there and don't affect attendance. That was the Nats signing Marquis last year. Cheap is boring, but I feel you should either go in aggressively or just rebuild/wait out bad contracts.

Note: replace Marquis with Pavano. end note.

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