Monday, December 27, 2010

What's next for Nats?

After a brief holiday respite over the weekend, the Nationals are back to work today, still trying to address two significant roster needs: a first baseman and a starting pitcher.

The market at first base hasn't really changed, aside from the fact the Padres have signed Brad Hawpe to a one-year deal. The Nats may have had some marginal interest in Hawpe, but only as a worst-case scenario if everything else fell through. With San Diego's first base situation now resolved, there really are only two more teams in the market: the Nationals and Orioles. And, as luck would have it, there are only two more significant names still out there: Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee.

Look for this one to be resolved at last in the near future. One guy signs with Baltimore; one guy signs with Washington.

The pitching market, on the other hand, remains less certain. The Nationals lost out yesterday in the Brandon Webb sweepstakes when reports surfaced he had come to terms with the Rangers on a one-year contract. Terms of the deal haven't come out yet, but it includes plenty of incentives, which is understandable since Webb essentially hasn't pitched in two years.

It's no secret that Mike Rizzo had strong interest in Webb, his former draft pick in Arizona who went on to win the Cy Young for the Diamondbacks before a shoulder injury derailed his career. Rizzo was willing to take a shot on two rehabbing starters, pairing Webb with the recently re-signed Chien-Ming Wang and hoping at least one of the two made it back.

Webb's removal from the market leaves Carl Pavano as the lone remaining free agent pitcher of significance, which may or may not be good news depending on your perspective.

If you're of the belief that the Nationals absolutely need to improve their rotation this winter, no matter the cost, then Pavano is your guy. He's seeking a three-year contract for roughly $10 million per year, a steep price for a guy who turns 35 in 12 days and over 12 big-league seasons has posted a sub-4.21 ERA only three times (twice in contract years, it should be noted).

While Pavano probably would offer some help to the Nats in 2011, would he really be worth $10 million in 2012 and 2013?

Let's put this another way: How excited are you right now that Jason Marquis is back next season for another $7.5 million? You might feel the exact same way a year from now about Pavano.

Now, obviously the Nationals need to improve their rotation. Rizzo made it clear at season's end that his "No. 1 priority" was "a guy to head the rotation, a front-of-the-rotation guy to put everybody in what we feel is their proper place in the rotation." So far, he's failed to deliver, and there's plenty of reason to believe he won't.

But is that the worst thing? Maybe not. While an Opening Day rotation of Livan Hernandez, Marquis, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmermann and either Yunesky Maya or Ross Detwiler isn't going to convince many scholars to pick the Nationals as NL East favorites, there's an argument to be made that the Nats would be wise to start the year with that group.

Hernandez and Marquis are signed and thus aren't going anywhere. Lannan, Zimmermann, Maya and Detwiler, meanwhile, all offer some varying degree of potential, and it's about time the Nationals find out once and for all where those guys fit in. Is Lannan a legit, middle-of-the-rotation lefty, or was his sub-par 2010 a harbinger of things to come? Is Zimmermann the Robin to Stephen Strasburg's Batman, or is doomed to be another promising young pitcher who never realizes his potential? Is Maya (who has been dominating in winter ball, by the way) a crafty right-hander who can duplicate Livo's career, or does he not have the stuff to succeed at the big-league level? And is Detwiler going to live up to his lofty draft standing, or was he a waste of the No. 6 pick four years ago?

The Nationals need answers to all of those questions. The upcoming year is going to be a crucial one for each of those pitchers, and it's make-or-break time for every one of them. The only way to find out is to give them a chance.

Now, if Rizzo is able to somehow procure a veteran starter who clearly is better than any of those options and fits into the club's long-term plan, of course he should pull the trigger and bump one of those guys out of the picture.

But I'm not sure how plausible that is at the moment, and I'm not so sure the Nationals' best option now might just be to stick with the status quo.


Doc said...

Given the alternatives, outside of the current staff, the status quo has to be acceptable. Pavano is not worth the money for this year or the succeeding two years.

He has less pitching skills to offer than Livo, and somehow we're talking about paying him $8-9 million more a year! Now that's a definite SNAFU for modern baseball economics!

Wally said...

Mark - good post. The Nats seem unlikely to get a top guy this year. That market exploded and we missed out. In hindsight, maybe we should have went after Oswalt a little harder last summer.

I wouldn't mind another guy in the rotation, though. It is important to continue on an upwards trajectory, I think, and that means that the SPs have to be at least serviceable. A look at the Nats history says that even with another guy in there, all those guys will get chances to pitch a lot, thru injury or underperformance. I am glad that Marquis is back at $7.5m this year. He was hurt last year, and I have more confidence in him pitching competently than most of the others. I would not give Pavano 3 years; I might try to see what they have to give up for Blanton, though. Failing all that, then they go with your plan, but I think Livo is out of magic dust, and I wouldn't be counting on him too heavily.

Finrockets said...

If that's our starting rotation, what should we expect? 75 wins? Or am I being optimistic?

Unknown said...

Better to have no one new than another Marquis-like washout -- which is certainly the role Pavano seems best qualified to fill. We'll just hold our noses for ANOTHER year and wait for 2012 and Strasburg and Harper. And if that doesn't work out, there's always 2013, or 2014, or . . .

Anonymous said...

It's starting to look like the 2011 Nats will be worse than the 2010 Nats.

If you listen closely to the Nats' front office, you'll hear how much they're depending on a huge number of breakout seasons. Desmond will suddenly be a breakout defender after a lousy defensive year--and the reason why is because Jeter did. Hopes for a breakout season by Espinosa are sky-high, but I've heard this hype about 100 second basemen, and 99 of them hit .240 during the projected breakout year. Bernardina is only 26 and has the body of Hercules, so he's the next breakout prediction. God just take his best 10 games and project them over a season and he's our Mr. Breakout cover boy. Ramos? Flores? Zimm the pitcher? Marquis? Detwiler? And of course Nyjer will breakout to the second half of 2009, and suddenly replicate, for an entire year, the hottest half season of his career.

Put all these names on a piece of paper. In fact put all 25 names on the roster on a piece of paper. 1 will have a breakout year. 5-7 will have new injuries, see old injuries return, or admit that injuries have shown them the door out of baseball (see "Marquis.") 1 major name will have his season ruined by injury. All the rest will revert to their mean, offensively, defensively, pitching, baserunning, everything.

They asked Harold Reynolds how Werth would adjust to playing in Washington. He said Werth has been to the mountaintop, the playoffs and World Series, with packed houses everywhere his team played. Now, Reynolds said, Werth is going to have to get used to losing a lot for a couple of years. A lot.

I'm excited about 2012, but I believe we'll lose more in 2011 than we did in 2010.

Anonymous said...

I think 75 wins is realistic on the basis of the changes that have occurred and are likely to occur (more speed, better defense). I wonder about Blanton. I just wonder if the Phillies will trade within the division. It would be nice if we could pick up somebody like Zito for not much. Of course, his contract may still be huge. I don't know. Just a thought.

Grandstander said...

What's the deal with JD Martin? It's clear his back was bothering him and that may have played a bit into his failures last summer. Will he be ready for ST? Is he being considered for that 5th starter spot?

Nattydread said...

Pitching free agency wasn't very deep. Rizzo put his chips down for a few deals and he couldn't land Greinke or Lee. Still, Nats pitching should trend upward -- Lannon and Marquis both had career bad years. Zimmerman is poised to break out. Livan did about as expected (well first half, poor second half). With some luck, one of the other arms (Wang, Detwiler, etc) step up. Not playoff material but we should move out of the basement and closer to .500. Rizzo is playing his cards close.

Joe Drugan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Drugan said...

Finrockets -
This rotation is no better than last years, and they've lost some guaranteed Strasburg wins. On top of all that, the home run production of Dunn and Willingham are gone. Even if the Nats get Lee or LaRoche, there's no replacing that power. I'm not optimistic, at this point, that the Nats could outperform their 69 wins of 2010 in 2011. Maybe (hopefully) I'm wrong.

Steve M. said...

Mark Z. has hit it perfectly again. Not much to add to this except my feeling that picking up Pavano allows Rizzo to trade Lannan, Detwiler, or Maya for prospects. I'm not a big John Lannan fan because as a lefty starter he just is not effective against lefty batters. Detwiler seems more comfortable in the bullpen and Maya is still an unknown.

Kanasas City has prospects and needs an inexpensive starter so hoping that Rizzo sees some value there.

Other than that, it will be nice to finally pencil in the starting 1st baseman to finish up the 2011 lineup.

Wily Mo Peterson said...

Mark, earlier in the off-season there was talk of the Nats going after a reliever that could pitch in the 9th, so with the Nats missing out on all of the good starting pitching has there been any talk of signing Rafael Soriano to give the Nats an ultra deep bullpen to make up for the suspect rotation?

Also what are your bets on which first baseman signs with which team? Do you have an idea on which one the Nats prefer?

Anonymous said...

Some other predictions:

- Livo will show age, revert to career averages by mid-season, and his performance will decline significantly from 2010

- Zim will not hit .300 in 2011. Without the protection of Dunn and Willingham, his average, RBIs, and HRs will decline.

- Werth's average in DC will be 15 points lower than in Philly. One HUGE reason is, mathematically, 100% of the AB's he got against the pathetic Nationals' 2010 starters will be replaced by ABs against the Phillies' unbelievable 2011 starters!

The problem with off-season predictions, especially front-office ones, is that they're based on the belief that ALL the players will have a better year next year than they did last year. This, of course, is impossible.

Anonymous said...

With improved defense, base running, and starting pitching (it cant be any worse and no Olson or hopefully Mock this year and a healthy Marquis, hopefully), and with the same or potentially improved strong bullpen coming back I think this team wins 78 games but could push for .500 if JZimm is as good as we all hope he is and Maya or Detwiler is a legit big league pitcher after all.

JaneB said...

Selfishly, I'm glad to see this analysis, Mark, because just the other day I said that we should let Pavano go elsewhere so we aren't stuck with a big contract for no results in 2012 and 2013. He doesn't improve us enough to be worth it. On balance, I think we aren't as strong as we were last year, which is too bad. I so so hope I'm wrong. My husband and I gave each other some time at spring training for Christmas, and I'm as excited as if we had a great team. I've never been, and ... In addition to seeing these guys up close(r), I know I will get to meet some of you all, too.

Water23 said...

Hmmm... What's next? Promising players next year (Zimmermann vs Strasburg & Harper), 90 Losses, empty seats except for certain visiting teams, dwindling fan base and a hope of better years ahead.
Rizzo has had some missed opportunities but do not add Pavano as that would be adding a mistake to the trouble coming at the end of the Werth contract.

Weather the storm and realize that the few STH, like myself, are true fanatics and although we are few in number we will always stay loyal.

PS - Blanton might be avialble for little if you are willing to just take all of his salary. But again, I am not sure it does much for you.

PAY TO PLAY said...

Joe Drugan, with the addition of Jayson Werth and one of the 1st baseman you mentioned, this team should score more runs than last year although I could see the team hitting less HRs.

The Nats scored 655 runs in 2010 which ranked as 14th worse in the NL compared to 9th best in HRs.

Rizzo recognized that with a more athletic team and team speed and increasing OBPs that even though the team may not hit as many HRs, this 2011 team will score more runs and win more games on less HRs.

This is all in theory of course and Rizzo seems to be staking his reputation on this more "athletic" team.

I still believe that the Nats biggest problem offensively in 2010 was Nyjer Morgan. He only scored 60 runs compared to Zim and Dunn with 85 a piece and Nyjer's .319 OBP just doesn't cut it. If Nyjer doesn't perform in 2011, then the results will be the same as 2010 (last place). It all starts at the Top (top of the order that is).

Pilchard said...

With the free agent market close to tapped out, does the possibility still exist of a trade for a starting pitcher?

Believe that the Rays are still looking to trade Matt Garza, and he should cost a significantly less than the Nats offer for Greinke.

Also, Wang is not mentioned as a potential starter for the 2011 season. It was my understanding that he was very close to making an MLB start last September, and would think that he will be ready for a spot in the rotation by April. Is that incorrect.

With no move, I would guess that 2011 rotation coming out of Spring will be:

- Livo
- Jordan Z
- Marquis
- Maya
- Wang

Bowdenball said...

Joe Drugan:

The Nats won 8 of Strasburg's starts last year. They scored 8 or more runs in four of those games, and less than 5 in only one of them. In other words, Strasburg got them maybe an extra win or two. Meanwhile, their second-best pitcher got only seven starts- he should get 30+ in 2010.

At worst, the rotation should be a wash, but it's fair to expect a modest improvement considering the youth of most of the relevant guys.

As far as replacing the lost power goes - I'm not sure how you missed this, but they signed Jayson Werth. Werth slugged .532 last year, Dunn slugged .536. So they've already replaced his power. As for Willingham ... he slugged .459 in 114 games. Lee slugged .428 over a full season, LaRoche slugged .468 over a full season. So if they sign LaRoche they'll have increased their power considerably over the 2009 lineup. And obviously it goes without saying that Werth/LaRoche is an enormous defensive upgrade over Dunn/Willingham.

Otherwise they're the same or improved at every position.

So explain to me again why you're not optimistic that the 2010 team will win more games than the 2009 team even if they sign LaRoche or Lee?

Uncle Atom said...

If we don't add a top pitcher, I'm hoping that the defense behind our existing pitchers will at least improve and mean they don't have to get four or five outs in an inning.

Feel Wood said...

"The problem with off-season predictions, especially front-office ones, is that they're based on the belief that ALL the players will have a better year next year than they did last year. This, of course, is impossible."

It's every bit as possible as your prediction that every player will digress from their previous performance. The truth is in between. Some players will improve, others won't. Someone will unexpectedly have a breakout year, while someone else who is being counted on to produce big will turn out to be a total bust. Who will it be? We won't know until they play the games.

DFL said...

Whether Lee or LaRoche is added to the Nats, the Nats seem headed for a 90 loss disaster. The Nats will be ten games below .500 by mid-May and be 20 games behind the Phillies by the All-Star break. I would bet that Ryan Zimmerman already knows it and is discouraged about it. Attendance will reflect the morose team called the Nats.

Lee/LaRoche will be traded at the trade deadline to a team in playoff contention. If he pitches half-way decent, Marquis will go too. So that he can get one more shot at post-season, Rodriguez should be traded to a contender as well.

Rizzo should be fired and his salary eaten. The Lerners can learn from Dan Snyder and the Pollins in how to eat contracts.

Joe Drugan said...

Bowdenball -

I don't think I missed anything (though I believe you meant the 2011 and 2010 teams, respectively, because I'm SURE the 2010 Nats were better than the 2009 Nats). I simply don't think the combination of players out there, with young guys still trying to figure it out and a pitching rotation of guys that haven't proven much of anything, that can be MORE successful than last year.

You're right, a wash for 69-70 wins is certainly possible, and I believe that I said so. I just don't see this team making any huge moves that will put the Nats in significantly better shape in 2011 than in 2010. I truly hope I'm wrong about this. Further, I think the Nats are in fantastic shape to succeed in 2012 and beyond. And I think that's what the team should be striving for: a well-built team over the long-term.

I have no problem with the position the team is in right now. They're building a team the right way. I just don't see significant improvement next year.

Anonymous said...

god they are totally going to suck again next year. Though, the starting pitching is a smidgen better at the outset of this season as opposed to last.....lets face it, everything went to hell for 2011 when strasburg went down.

Im hoping for breakout seasons from Bernadina, Espinosa, Desmond, Flores, Morse, Jordan Z, Maya, Storen, H-Rod, Corey Brown. Am I missing anyone?

Anonymous said...

oh Detwiler too

DCJohn said...

If the Nats play defense,I'll be happy. Some one nailed it, if we improve our defense the team's ERA is going to drop a full point. That's why losing Willingham and Dunn hasn't botered me as much as others. If it came down to signing either Provano or Derrek Lee, I would opt for Lee, just for his glove. I want to see good glove work rather than home runs and strike outs.

Steve M. said...

I think going on the offensive points Pay2Play and Bowdenball made, the biggest pickup in this athletic team will be the added team defense which is enormous when you think of how much that helps in team ERA and pitcher fatigue (pitch counts). It is something the Nats haven't had since they arrived in 2005.

The Nats gave up 742 runs in 2010 which was 12th in the league. The Nats need to get that under 700 and for comparison the Braves gave up 629 runs for 3rd in the league and made the playoffs.

The Nats pitchers can pitch more to contact instead of nibbling on corners with better defense behind them. Again, all good in theory except you can see it is working with other teams.

Anonymous said...

"lets face it, everything went to hell for 2011 when strasburg went down."

Why is that? Their record last year during the period when Strasburg was in the rotation was actually worse than their record when he wasn't. 26-39 (.400) vs 43-54 (.443) There's a lot more at play than just one guy.

Tegwar said...

The starting pitching is very much a gamble. Sure it may work out but there is also the chance that it could be a disaster. I think the Nats should still take a chance on a pitcher who may have an upside as long as there is not a long term contract and the money is not too high. Jeff Francis may fit this bill but there are a few others like Justin Duchscherer. They could also look to maybe adding bullpen help. If these formally injured pitchers do make a comeback the Nats may have some players that they could trade at the deadline. Yes its a gamble but it increases possible options. Most people last year were not happy that the Nats signed Capps and that worked out much better than expected. Maybe they could get lucky again.

Bowdenball said...

Joe Drugan-


You said that the "guaranteed wins of Strasburg" are gone. I pointed out that you're talking about maybe 1 or 2 wins tops, and that having Zimmermann for a full season easily compensates for that and then some. So you're already talking about an improved rotation before you even consider the possibility that Marquis will rebound from his unusually bad year, or that Detwiler or Maya will improve, etc.

You said that "there's no replacing the power" of Dunn and Willingham ...I pointed out that Werth plus Lee or especially LaRoche would replace 100% of that power and then some.

You didn't address the defense ... I assume you agree with the universal conclusion that it will be greatly improved?

You didn't talk about the possibility of replacing 200 of Pudge's mostly punch-less ABs with more ABs for Flores or Ramos. You didn't talk about expected improvement from a young Desmond (Bill James' early projections for 2011 give him a 20 point bump in OBP and a 30 point bump in slugging) and a young Espinosa (40 point bump in OBP and 13 point bump in slugging projected). Those guys should improve significantly on their 2010 performances, and even more significantly on the Kennedy/Gonzalez/Guzman mess.

So how can you say you're "not optimistic" that they'll exceed last year's win total? There's projected improvement at most positions, and I don't see any dropoff at any position. Where do you see the dropoff, other than the handful of Strasburg starts? If you're curious, Fangraphs pegged Strasburg's 2010 season as offering 2.6 Wins Above Replacement level production.

Of course, this assumes they sort this out and sign LaRoche, or at least Lee. If they don't, I'm with you- a win total in the low 70s or even lower is a possibility.

Anonymous said...

Man I'm glad to read that. It is clear that Rizzo and his staff are about value. The deal has to make sense and I'm not sure Pavano does. Ask a Yankee fan how much value there was in Pavano.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned Blanton as an option to Pavano. Blanton was an OK pitcher in Philly, never better. I can't imagine with the price tag he comes with, Philly can be asking for much. They may have to pick up some of his baggage just to move him.

Anonymous said...

Blanton sucks

JaneB said...

Pilchard, I don't think Wang was close to pitching last year, not even in minor leagues.

Section 222 said...

I agree with much of what you say here Mark. It's a realistic outlook, and I appreciate that from you. My question is -- how many more years will the Nats have to find out "once and for all" whether Detwiler will live up to his No. 1 pick status or Lannan will stabilize into a solid No. 3 starter? I thought that's what we said last year, and then Det got hurt and never really came back and Lannan was hurt and inconsistent. Let's face it -- all those promising young starters we had a few years ago -- Stammen, Martin, Mock, Detwiler, Thompson, Atlilano -- am I missing anyone? Oh yeah, Martis, whatever happened to him? Anyway, all those stockpiled young arms have added up to a big nothing for 2011 and beyond. We should have traded at least a few of them for something because now they have basically no value at all. Ok, maybe Detwiler is still a question mark, and Lannan could revert to his 2009 form, but if they don't pan out this year, then we better unload them or they'll be next year's Garret Mock -- a once promising young pitcher who is no longer young and no longer promising.

I'm no fairweather fan. I'll keep going out to the park because I love baseball and there is no better entertainment for the money on a summer evening. But I will not get sucked into the mentality that all of a sudden players who were barely average will become stars. The numbers say it's simply not going to happen. If the Nats are going to improve, they have to get better players. So far, we haven't seen that this winter, so I'm expecting a season similar to last year's, but without the excitement that Strasburg brought our way. And that's a shame.

Anonymous said...

eeeeeeh, I beg to differ.

Stammen, Martin, Mock, Atiliano were never really considered promising young pitchers..they were triple AAA fillers in our starting rotation..I suppose there were hopes at some point that Stammen & Mock would be good.

Thompson they took a flyer on, by trading away perepetualy injured Nick Johnson for the second half of the year to the Marlins...the deal didnt work out for either teams. Thompson was pretty horrific this year in the minors.

Detwiler is the promising pitcher that probably will turn into a bust...he is no good.

Phil dunn said...

Maya gave no indication from his 2010 starts that he is a major league starter. Further, his success in winter ball is meaningless. Just, ask Anderson Hernandez, who always hit like Babe Ruth in winter ball but could't hit squat in MLB.

Joe Drugan said...

Bowdenball -

First, a point of agreement. Yes, the defense will be better. Much, much better.

You made a case for the numbers being the same as last year, citing Werth vs. Dunn vs. Hammer, etc. It's a fine point, which puts the Nats exactly where they were last year. Someone else in this string has already said you can't expect every prospect to pan out exactly as projected and not get hurt. The key phrase you wrote was "projected improvement." At least one player will underperform or be hurt. If the Nats luck continues, it will be many players.

On Strasburg: yes, he got the Nats 1 or 2 more wins. Where is the current rotation going to make that up? Marquis will almost certainly get more than 1 win in 2011, but nothing is for sure. You're assuming JZimm stays healthy, Livan continues this remarkable ability to stay healthy, Marquis 32-yr old body doesn't continue to break down after last year especially considering he'd never been truly hurt in his entire career. Lannan, who I love, hasn't put together a total season yet that shows he can do much. Detwiler can't say healthy and looks to be moving in the direction of bust rather than top prospect. And that Maya will look as good against MLB veterans as he does in Winter League. Even if everyone stays healthy, only Livo and Marquis have proven they could be above .500 pitchers in their entire careers.

These are huge assumptions, and I just don't believe that the team has become so solid that we can expect 10 more wins from them next year.

Phil dunn said...

Pavano is like Adrian Beltre, a big performer in the contract year. In the other years, they go to sleep.

Sunderland said...

Phil dunn, not disagreeing, but Maya's 2010 starts are also not indicitaive of what he could do. He didn't pitch to competition for about 10 months, threw 20-odd innings of MiLB and then hit the big show. That was a mistake.
And pitching success in winter ball projects better than hitting success. DR is a hitters league. Plenty of guys hit there that don't make it.

So certainly the jury's still out on Maya. but he's got a shot...

Faraz Shaikh said...

I agree with Mark. I think we should test these 'young' arms for good. Front office only need to concentrate on getting Lee or Laroche. Either could be a great fit for our lineup and defense. Lee is better defensively and Adam is projected to be better offensively.

How long until Marrero or Moore (or even Norris) are ready to take over 1B job for good?

Also what is usually the breakdown of 25 players? How many bench players and bullpen arms does a team usually have?

Steve M. said...

Phil Dunn, that is true about so many in Winter Ball but I am still encouraged about how well Wilson Ramos and Eury Perez have been performing in their leagues.

Maya is by no means a lock for the 5th spot which is why I still think the Nats should get Pavano if the right deal can be made.

Once 1st base is locked up, at least you know your starting position players going into Spring Training as well as almost every bench player too. Not too much mystery moving forward except 2 spots in the bullpen, backup catcher and 5th starter.

Bowdenball said...

Joe Drugan-

I think our difference of opinion is that you think I'm using optimistic assumptions. I'm not. I'm using median assumptions premised not on the best case scenario, but on the average development of players similar to our players over the course of many years.

For example- is it possible that Desmond underperforms his projected improvement to .280/.321/.421 or gets injured? Of course. But it's equally likely that he overperforms those projections.

It's possible that the whole team falls apart and they win 55 games. It's possible that Zimmermann wins 25, Werth is the best two-way outfielder in the game,Desmond turns into Derek Jeter circa 1998, and they win 95. What I'm saying if, on average, the players perform as would be expected, they're an improved team. More than that- that they projected to either improve (in some cases drastically) or stay the same at every position except possibly 1B. That's why I conclude that projected a similar win total is unreasonable. Certainly it could happen, but it would take quite a lot of bad luck.

Anonymous said...

Ryuga and others:
Regarding testing young arms, Section 222 nailed it at 12:21. We've been doing that, for years, and this is a strategy that may never end.
So, if going with what we got is the best course, then we go with what we got. but quit kidding yourself that it's going to be useful to test kids to know for sure.
We tested Colby Lewis. He failed. Oakland, Kansas City, Texas, Detroit, all tested him and all failed him.
he went to Japan, got himself together, and pitcvhed great last year for Texas.
There's no such thing as testing. There's winning and losing.

Nattydread said...

Totally agree with Bowdenball about next years expected record.

Outfield: Improvement. Werth and maturing younger players (remember, Werth led the league in doubles). Nyjer Morgan's days are numbered.

Infield: Starting with a slick-fielding 3B, 2B, SS. Much better batting than what we had at the start of '11. 1B is a downgrade batting.

Catching. Come on. We have Ramos, Jesus, and Pudge to choose from. What was our starting catcher's name in '10?

Starting Pitching: Marginal improvement. Again, we are starting with most of the same pieces, adding Zimmermann. Expect improved years from Lannan, Marquis.

Bullpen. Solid improvement. Rizzo knows this is a strength.

Bench. Improvement. The new additions cant be as bad as Harris.

At worst, we will have a 5 game improvement --- and Rizzo is still at work...

Anonymous said...

Look at it this way: if they're going to win games, they have to beat *somebody*. They play nearly half the schedule against division opponents, so if they are going to sniff 75 wins, they will have to at least avoid get pounded there.
Did they improve more than the Phillies? No. Maybe nobody did, if that rotation stays healthy.
Braves? First year post-Cox, it's hard to know how they will react, but I can't see a massive dropoff on their part.
Marlins? The Marlins own them until proven otherwise.
Mets? Can't get much worse. Aww, who am I kidding? They can get a LOT worse. So there's that.

The rest of the National League can't all suck at the same time, almost by definition, so unless somebody like Philly really surprises with a horrible year, I don't see that much improvement available in the schedule.

Anonymous said...

@DFL: The Lerners should learn from Snyder and the Pollins on eating contracts? Have you been watching the Redskins and Wizards the last several years? THAT is the management style you want the Lerners to follow? As a Redskins' season ticket holder, I say no thanks!

More generally, the Nats starting pitchers really have no place to go but up. The Strasburg Show hid the fact that the Nats' rotation was a disaster in 2010. They pitched the fewest innings in MLB last year, and other than Livo and Lannan (!) none of their top SIX starters had an ERA under 5.13. They can't expect 33 starts with a 3.67 ERA from Livo again, but on the other hand they should have a full season of Zimmermann, and if both Marquis and Lannan regress to their career averages (4.56 and 4.10 ERA respectively and about 200 IP each) then all Livo and one other guy (Maya, Detwiler, Stammen, whoever) have to do is pitch to a 5.00 ERA or so for a significantly improved rotation. Note I didn't say good; that will have to wait another season.

Frankly, I think that the Nats would be lucky to get the same production out of their bullpen. But with better starters, improved OBP at the top of the order and improved defense I do expect that they will win more than the 68 games they won in 2010 and set the table for the next few years. With modest good fortune they could make a run at .500.

John C.

Feel Wood said...

"Also what is usually the breakdown of 25 players? How many bench players and bullpen arms does a team usually have?"

Typically 12 pitchers (5 starters, 7 relievers) and 13 position players (2 catchers, 4 starting infielders + 2 backups, 3 starting outfielders + 2 backups). If an NL team carries someone purely as a PH (as the Nats appear to be considering with Stairs) then they'll carry one less backup IF or OF, or perhaps have a true utility guy serve as backup for both IF and OF.

Gardner said...

I feel kind of silly asking this but will go ahead anyways - why are folks perpetually focused on the burden of contracts or whether a player is worth an extra year/extra couple of mil? I hit this page 3-4x a day and half of the comments are of this ilk. Did I miss it when the MLB put in a salary cap or the lerner's (richest majority owners in baseball) announced their budget for the next 10 years. I guess I understand the perception that signing one player vs another this or next year matters - but the details - I don't get it. I only look at one dimension - WAOR - wins above our replacement. I look 2-3 years out and take into consideration how signing someone might impinge on the opportunities for someone on the farm. It's not my money - sign Pavano and Soriano - let get better - it's never a bad time to be better

Anonymous said...

Where is the improved OBP people mention?
John C, is this just hoping Morgan and Desmond improve from last year, or is there something else?

Faraz Shaikh said...

Thanks Feel Wood.

As of now, starters are - Marquis, Hernandez, Lannan, Zimmermann, Maya or Detwiler or Wang.
Relievers - Storen, Burnett, Clippard, Slaten, Balester, Rodriguez, Stammen or Detwiler or someone from the outside.
Catchers - Ramos and Pudge
IF - Ryan, Ian, Danny, and Lee or Laroche. Backed by Alberto Gonzalez and Morse.
OF - Werth, Morgan, Bernie. Backed by Ankiel, Morse.
PH - Matt Stairs

How is AG defensively as a backup for the left side of infield and 2B?

Anyways, this team has holes. I don't like the bench and CF. Rotation can also be improved by signing Pavano but he is asking for too much. Trade is also an option but that might also be too expensive for us.

Bowdenball said...

Anonymous 12:57-

Here are the Nats' 2010 records vs. NL East opponents:

Atlanta: 10-8.
Florida: 5-13.
New York: 9-9.
Philadelphia: 6-12.

Some of these are decent and may experience a game or two dropoff, but there's no way they go 5-13 against the Marlins again. It's reasonable to expect an improvement of a couple games in the NL East, and certainly a couple more games in interleague- the Nats were 5-13 and they draw the very ordinary AL West plus the home and home with the Orioles next year, so I'd pencil in 2-4 more wins there.

The schedule is not a hindrance to 5-7 game improvement.

Anonymous said...

"I feel kind of silly asking this but will go ahead anyways - why are folks perpetually focused on the burden of contracts or whether a player is worth an extra year/extra couple of mil?"

The money doesn't matter. The extra years in a contract do, though - which is why Rizzo didn't want Dunn for four years at any price. Overpaying a player in a one year deal only hamstrings the team for that one year, but overpaying by giving too many players extra years will hamstring the team for those future years as well as the current one if the deal turns out to be a bust. People say all the time "oh, they can just eat the contract" but the fact is that you rarely see any team eat a contract that still has more than one year left on it. This is why Rizzo hasn't signed either Lee or LaRoche for 1B yet. He probably prefers LaRoche, but not for three years. The Orioles are probably in the same position vis a vis these two. So either one of the teams will cave and give LaRoche the three year deal he wants (unlikely) and the other will take Lee for one year, or one of the teams will just decide to sign Lee for one year and LaRoche will lose all leverage and have to sign with the other team for one or two years. Or maybe LaRoche will push the issue and reduce his demands if he really prefers one team over the other.

Pilchard said...

For those that are disappointed at the makeup of the projected 2011 roster (assuming the addition of LaRoche or Lee), what move were you expecting that did not happen?

I understand some were big Adam Dunn fans, but Werth is a better all-around player making the loss of Dunn with the addition of Werth a net+.

Did anyone really expect the Nats to sign Cliff Lee? Other than that (which was never going to happen) hard for me to see what move the Nats failed to make that they should have.

They made a winning bid for Greinke, but he vetoed the deal (and given the package offered, it seemed like the majority of fans were happy with that).

Other the general grousing "Gosh, we are going to suck!", curious to know what move the team failed to make which would have measurably improved this team.

Anonymous said...

"How is AG defensively as a backup for the left side of infield and 2B?"

Alberto Gonzales is generally regarded as the Nationals' best defensive infielder - and that includes Zimmerman. He would have to be considered as the perfect backup at either 2B, SS or 3B if all you're looking at is defense. Which is why he's still on the team even though everyone seems to think his offense sucks.

Bowdenball said...


I can't speak for others and I'm generally pleased, but if they fail to sign LaRoche I'm going to be a little disappointed. I think he's clearly the better alternative for us at 1B, and there really is no reason they shouldn't sign him. There's no prominent 1B prospect he's blocking, so they should have no problem giving him a multiyear deal, and we have plenty of money to spend.

For me, whether this offseason is a success or failure comes down to LaRoche.

I'd also like to see them make a run at Garza if the Rays falter in-season and the price drops on him.

sjm 308 said...

Great Post and comments as well.
I jump on the concept that they will be better than last year just because of improved defense and athleticism. Another key to me, as was stated earlier, is if Nyjer can get on base and then actually runs the bases intelligently.
I would not pick up Pavano but Jeffery makes a good argument for spending the owners money. I am hopeful that Maya will make the adjustment to the United States the second time around (I think that was a huge reason he did not pitch well, its just a totally different culture and I can't imagine working in an environment where the language barrier was so vast. Also think that is why he has thrived this winter).
It would be great if Marquis and Wang come through and if they do we are looking at a team that could play .500 ball or better. Sure it might not all happen and maybe one of our young infielders does not break through but I, like others, will keep my ST's and enjoy a great sport in a nice stadium and hope like crazy my team is competitive or better.

Go Nat's

Golfersal said...

It's amazing how easy the Jason Wyreth deal was, but how Rizzo has been stymied since. I
Have to feel that Pavano isn't worth a three year deal, so Mark your right we have to hope for the best with what we have.
Honestly if Marquis and Wang could regain the magic they had three years ago and if Maya shows the same stuff he has in South America the last month, we could be better than we think.
Plus if Zimmerman starts showing some of his potential and regains his post surgery level, the Nationals could be good and get to that magic 500 plateau

Tegwar said...

You don't have to worry about Pavano playing for the Nationals. If Rizzo could not beat 3 million for Webb there is no way they can make a better offer for Pavano. Pavano does not want to pitch for the Nationals and the Twins know this so they don't have to move their offer. Unless they pick up a player by trade (one that can't be vetoed) their best bet is to pick up a rehab project and hope for the best or stand pat.

I looked at next years free agents and the pick'en are kind of slim pitcher wise.

I had a lot of hope for phase 2 of the plan when they signed Werth however most baseball players have spoken and they don't want to come to Washington.

Sorry if this sounds pessimistic, to me its just realistic after the market has spoken. Overall the team probably won't be any worse than last year and may improve by as much as 5 games if everything goes well.

Anonymous said...

"there's no way they go 5-13 against the Marlins again."

OK, they might go 6-12 like the year before last--that is their overall average, more or less. OTOH, they might be 3-14, like 2008.

Anonymous said...

Provided the Nationals sign Derek Lee or Adam LaRoche at first base, I believe the offense will be stronger (factoring in the improvement of some of the young guys) and I think the defense will be much improved.

The pitching staff with or without any additions will be better. Zimmermann, Marquis, Detwiler, Maya & Wang made only 30 combined starts last season. Zimmermann has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher and I haven't given up hope on Detwiler. He was brilliant down the stretch in 2009 and unfortunately got the hip injury that ruined his 2010, but he may still surprise many. As for Marquis, he will be more like his usual self and showed signs of this in his last 8 starts, when he was finally healthy. Wang and Maya are complete wildcards. Maya was rushed to the majors last year and it showed. Wang due to injury never pitched in a game. If one of them comes through for us, we would be dramatically improved. As for Lannan, he was set back by an early injury, but upon his return, he showed he will be more like the pitcher in '08 & '09 vs the first half of 2010. In fact, he looked better than those years, so I'm expecting him to have a strong 2011. As for Hernandez, I think he will have his share of quality starts, but probably not have as good a year as he did last year.

SonnyG10 said...

If they get LaRoche or Lee for 1B I will be satisfied. I think we should pass on Pavano unless he drops his demand for a multi-year contract. I think we can make a modest gain over last year with the pitching we have and an improved defense.

Anonymous said...

The bullpen will again be strong. With that and my above comments (posted at 3:21), I'm definitely expecting an improvement in wins - at least 75, but I could also see the team being around the .500 mark.

Anonymous said...


"For those that are disappointed at the makeup of the projected 2011 roster (assuming the addition of LaRoche or Lee), what move were you expecting that did not happen?"

Adding 1 or 2 SP's.

Rizzo told us that was his #1 goal.
There were free agents. We didn't land any. OK.
There are trades to be had. We haven't executed one so far. OK.

But that's the major disappointment.

I ain't complaining about Rizzo. But how can a fan not be disappointed that the 2011 roster is not better in any significant way than the 2010 roster?

(And let's please not argue about improved defense. Yes, we have some better defenders. But the two who cost us the most last year are still out there at SS and CF.)

Anonymous said...

The A's had the #11 and #7 prospects pre-2009 in Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill [Strasburg (#1) and Zimmermann (#41) anyone?]. Two "older" starters in lefties Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden had break out years JUST in 2010 where they started 30 games. Gonzalez looked pretty horrendous before 2010. And then there's Brandon McCarthy [Mock, Detwiler, and/or Lannan?] Throw in Rich Harden? [Jason Marquis?]

The A's pitching could easily revert back to the horrible of 2008 and 2009? Or they could improve. By the same token some of these prospects, with the competition Rizzo is throwing at them,
must know its make or break time. Especially Detwiler and Mock.

Plus we don't know if Cole Kimball could be ready to start for the Nats soon? There is still the young Martis.

The problem is (just like the A's in 2010) its mostly unknown? Some could succeed in going seven innings, in starting 22-30 games next year? We just don't know and that's the problem.

So, a Pavano probably won't do. A Garza or Shields might. An Edwin Jackson might. Cincinnati might move a Johnny Cueto? There are still lots of trade possibilities.

DFL said...

If defense is where the Nats are placing their emphasis, why not sign Doug Mientkiewicz, the ultimate first base gloveman? He's available. Plus he's a lefthanded stick to place between Ramos and the pitcher.

Anonymous said...

1. Pudge
2. Ramos/ Flores

3. Lee probably, LaRoache maybe
4. Espinosa
5. Desmond
6. Zimmerman
7. Gonzalez

8. Werth
9. Morgan
10. Bernardina
11. Ankiel
12. Morse
13. Stairs

Starting rotation:
14. Zimmermann
15. Lannan
16. Marquis
17. Livo
18. Maya/ Detwiler/ etc.

19. Rafael Soriano/ Kelly Gregg/ Jon Rauch
20. Storen
21. Clippard
22. Burnett
23. Henry Rodriguez
24. Balester
25. Stammen

natsfan1a said...

zzzzz...hoping to see the stove heat back up again this week (at least as far as starters and first basemen go. Please report to the white courtesy phone, gentlemen).

Me, too, re. first-time ST gift this year, JaneB. Will probably be there towards the end of March.

Anonymous said...

One roster note to add to the 6:02pm comment:

I'd put Elvin Ramirez into the mix in the bullpen as well. For that reason I'd be surprised to see them sign Gregg or Rauch, although I think there is a (small) chance that they sign Soriano - that goes up considerably if they include Clippard and/or Storen in a trade package for a 1b, SP or CF.

John C.

BinM said...

Anon @ 3:52: So many hanging questions, even when they aren't needed. C'mon peric, fess up; It's you - Your style gives you away.

Using the 2010 A's rotation as an example of what 'might go right' for the Nationals (I'm guessing that was your initial point) is interesting, but not an equal comparison, imo.

OAK top-6 SP, 2010 (based on GS): Gonzalez, Braden, Cahill, Sheets, Anderson, Mazzaro = 150GS, 944IP; Average age = 25.
WSH top-6 SP, 2010 (based on GS): Livo, Lannan, Stammen, Atilano, Olsen, Marquis = 121GP, 708.3IP (total with 18 in relief); Average age = 28.
The OAK staff was younger, stayed healthy, & was mostly developed in-house (Sheets was the FA acquisition). The Nationals staff held ONE draft pick (Lannan); The rest were trades (Olsen, Stammen, Atilano), or FA's (Livo & Marquis).

Now, if you are wondering whether the Nationals' 2011 staff can replicate Oakland's 2010 81-81 record, that remains to be seen. A current top-6 of L.Hernandez, J.Zimm, Lannan, Marquis, and two of the 'multitude' below them could possibly do that, but the odds are probably against it happening.

A strong defense & bullpen could give the team a "fighting chance" at a .500 record in 2011; Without those two, adding another SP is just wasted money. Get a real 1B, and another MI for the bench - That's money better spent, imo.

BinM said...

Anon @ 6:02: Your 'roster' has a bit of speculation to it, but I'll give you a response, as best I can...

#1-2: No guesses there - the loser of the #2 battle goes to SYR.
#3: The current roster says Marrero - The team needs one of your speculative two to improve.
#4-7: Good, but the team probably needs another MI to support AGonz on the bench for #8.
#9-13: Werth, Morgan, Bernadina, Morse & Ankiel; Stairs begins the year at SYR, barring trades.
#14-18 (SP): Barring trades, no argument.
#19-25 (RP): Stammen [LR-SpS], Balester, Clippard [MR], Slaten [LS/MR], Rodriguez/Ramirez [SU], Burnett & Storen [SU/CL].
I just don't see your #19 happening, but I've been wrong before.

NatBiscuit said...

Changing the topic a little bit here, but I was pondering Nyjer Morgan's potential in 2011. Morgan certainly lost a lot of fans last year with bad base-running, fielding, and behavior problems, but statistics suggest he should bounce back a little bit offensively this year. And if they sit him more against lefties, he could be a solid contributor again.

Even in a bad year he hit .273/.333/.337 against right handers last year. His range as a fielder is actually better than average (judgement not so much).

But who bats leadoff when Morgan does not start? And where in the lineup does he enter the lineup if he comes off the bench? If one of the middle infielders leads off, you won't want to pull them to get Morgan in. Bernadina and Ankiel are probably both better off the bench than Morgan. Maybe he pinch runs/hits and does not stay in the game.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts on Morgan. I also think Morgan will have a better year than 2010. I do agree he should be seated against left handers; however, with only 2 right-handed outfielders (Werth & Morse), I wonder who the third outfielder will be against a lefty pitcher. Since Morgan & Ankiel are terrible against lefties, I would assume Bernadina would get the nod as of now & in that case would also likely lead off in Morgan's absence or they could go with either Desmond or Espinosa.

Anonymous said...

@BinM, Ladson's crew lists Michael Morse at first base without a backup.Have to assume that's the closest to an official depth chart?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the starting rotation. Yunesky Maya just won pitcher of the year honors in the Dominican Winter League. He might just be that "X factor" the Nats rotation needs to fall into place to make it viable. If Maya, Lannan, and Marquis with JZimm at the top can get into the seventh inning consistently where the nasty boys in the bullpen can take over ...

JZimm could still theoretically start 20-22 games max and have a number of innings restriction on him under those conditions.

Perhaps one, two or more of the others will step up next year?

@BinM, Gio Gonzalez feature a 5.57 ERA and 1.7 WHIP in 2009 as a starter. IN 2008 it was a 7 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. He and "ace" Dallas Braden had fairly high ERA and WHIP making it to his high of 136 innings in 2009 as well. The break out for both occurred in 2010.

Yes, there are many points of comparison for the current "crop" of Nats pitching 'prospects' older and younger and the A's stockpile of arms.

AndrewLin0409 said...

I'm hoping Wang can come out with a healthy arm this year. This guy was absolutely when his sinker was on with the yankees. The thing is, Wang will only be as good as the guys behind him. As a sinker-baller,he relies heavily on contact to get outs. He won't be a big strikeout pitcher, which unfortunately is why he did not win the Cy Young. He could be the ace as a experience battle tested veteran who proved himself able to handle the load in a big market like New York.

Eugene in Oregon said...

I spent 1982-84 in Santo Domingo and had season tickets for Licey. The Dominican winter league's Pitcher (or maybe Player) of the Year for the winter of 1983-84 was a young Dodger named Orel Hersheiser (have I spelled that right?). He went on to have a pretty good career. Let's hope Maya proves half as productive.

24LHP said...

The Vancouver Province says that the Nationals have kicked the tires on Jeff Francis. If the money was right, I'd pull the trigger on that for sure. Left handed, 29 years old, claims he's recovered from Labrum surgury which greatly affected his 2008-2010. The guy won 17 games when he was last healthy, and started game one of the world series. Cant be worse than Marquis.

Anonymous said...

Yep, 68 wins this year. More wins than fans,

Anonymous said...

I had a lot of hope for phase 2 of the plan when they signed Werth however most baseball players have spoken and they don't want to come to Washington.

Sorry if this sounds pessimistic, to me it's just realistic after the market has spoken. Overall the team probably won't be any worse than last year and may improve by as much as 5 games if everything goes well.

I concur with your thoughts in the first paragraph. Few quality free agents are going to sign with the Nationals because "winning baseball" and "Washington" haven't been synonymous since 1945 (and the city's only sustained period of MLB success came from 1924 to 1933). Therefore, D.C. as a destination simply does not compute.

I like the roster's long-term potential, but in the short term (2011) there may be a bit of a regression (though it could be lessened if Lee or LaRoche are signed for first base). Still, things are a quantum leap forward from the hopelessness of the Bowden years.

Depot Master said...

Mark - something is lost on me in all this discussion of Lee and LaRoche...

If we're not happy with the other options, why not pick up Jim Thome? He's still out there, and is still a solid hitter. Might be a one year solution but sure beats anyone else we have...

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