Friday, February 11, 2011

5 sure things at Nats camp

Photo by Bob Youngentob for
Livan Hernandez is the least of the Nationals' worries entering spring training.
There are plenty of uncertainties surrounding the Nationals heading into the start of spring training next week, and plenty of time and ink and pixels will be devoted to them.

There are, however, a handful of certainties surrounding the Nats as the 2011 season approaches, players whose roster spots are secure and who don't face any serious question marks this spring. They won't draw many headlines in Viera; they'll simply show up every morning, work hard and make sure they're ready to be counted on by Opening Day.

Let's take this opportunity to highlight five "sure things" about the Nationals entering spring training...

MLB Network aired a show the other night ranking the top 10 third basemen in the game right now. There was no doubt Zimmerman would appear on the list. The only question was whether he'd rank No. 1 or No. 2. In the end, the MLB folks deemed Evan Longoria slightly better, though I've seen other rankings this winter that put Zim on top.

Whatever the case, it's clear Zimmerman has established himself as an elite major-leaguer and his standing with the Nationals is as secure as it gets. He posted career-highs last season in batting average (.307), on-base percentage (.388) and OPS (.899) and won his second straight NL Silver Slugger award. His power and production numbers dipped slightly, but that was a product both of some games missed due to injury and the lack of runners on base in front of him.

Zimmerman's range at third base remains the best in baseball, and though he occasionally goes through some throwing hiccups, he always seems to nip them in the bud pretty quick. There's nothing special the Nationals need to see out of Zimmerman this spring. They just need him to continue doing what he's been doing for the last five years.

Where would the Nationals have been last year without Livo, who led the pitching staff in starts (33), innings (211 2/3) and strikeouts (114) while leading the rotation in wins (10) and ERA (3.66)? OK, they still would have been in last place. But the big guy's presence every five days on the mound and every other day in the clubhouse was a calming factor this club sorely needed.

Re-signed for $1 million, Hernandez is back for his 15th season in the big leagues. Can the Nats count on him to post a mid-3.00s ERA and 22 quality starts again? Probably not. Common sense suggests Livo regress some in 2011. But don't write this guy off just yet. His struggles in 2008-09 were in large part due to nagging injuries that are no longer an issue. Hernandez rededicated himself last winter to getting in shape, and it showed in his ability to log innings, pitch deep into games and throw with a bit more velocity than he had in previous years.

Would he be starting on Opening Day for a good team? No way. But would any other club in baseball take him for their rotation right now? I think so. The Nationals are fortunate he wants to be a part of this franchise, and his presence in 2011 will once again be soothing.

As a left-handed setup man, Burnett doesn't draw lots of attention. But the guy sure does his job well. He was as reliable as any reliever in the sport last season, posting a 2.14 ERA in 73 appearances, and he was even better when it really mattered. Burnett held opponents to a .167 batting average with runners in scoring position. And with two outs and runners in scoring position, that number was a minuscule .031.

Burnett was rewarded over the winter with a two-year, $3.95 million contract. Some might be worried about the likelihood of a regression because relief pitching is a fickle business from year to year. But Burnett has now put together two consecutive seasons of dominance and has really settled into his role as a guy who can be counted on to get big outs late in games.

If I'm the Nats, I have no worries about this guy.

Let's get this out of the way: No, LaRoche is not as good (or as consistent) as Adam Dunn at the plate. Everyone knows that, and no one expects the new first baseman to fill his predecessor's large shoes. But this guy is no slouch, either.

LaRoche's home run totals the last five years: 32, 21, 25, 25, 25. His RBI totals: 90, 88, 85, 83, 100. His batting average: .285, .272, .270, .277, .261. His OPS: .915, .803, .841, .843, .788.

Is he an All-Star? No. But you certainly have a pretty good idea what you're going to get. And that has to give the Nationals some feeling of comfort.

For $126 million, you'd sure hope this guy would be a sure thing. There are perhaps a couple of question marks with Werth. Will he suffer from not playing in homer-friendly Citizens Bank Park? Will he suffer from not having Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and others hitting in front of him and Raul Ibanez hitting behind him?

Still, there's little reason to believe Werth is going to be a bust. He has steadily progressed as a hitter the last three seasons and is continuing to progress at the plate. He led the league in doubles last year. He's been successful on 60 of his last 68 stolen base attempts. And he's rock-solid in right field.

He may not prove worthy of the massive contract the Nationals gave him. But he will be one of their two best players this year (along with Zimmerman) and the club isn't going to spend a lot of time worrying about him.


Anonymous said...

Remember, Werth no longer has the Nationals pitching staff to feast off of 18-19 times a year... and now must face the 4 #1's the Phillies have.

That'll probably knock his numbers down quite a bit.

Steve M. said...

Mark, good article.

The MLB Show you refer to on Top 3rd baseman's actually aired for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they seem to show quite a few replays! Certainly a toss up on Zim and Longoria.

On LaRoche, I think you also get better clutch stats then his predecessor which will come in handy in a few key spots.

On Livan, I hope we get the same pitcher as last year with only slight regression. I was disappointed as the season went on that he looked real tired and that seemed to bring down the energy level of the team. It worries me. He missed helping himself in key bunt attempts and some fielding plays. Not sure if I would call him a sure thing for 2011 but certainly he was needed in 2010.

DFL said...

Zimmerman 21 HRS 76 RBIS .268 BA
Werth 18 HRS 68RBIS .257 BA
LaRoche 23 HRS 79 RBIS .258 BA
Hernandez 6-14 4.98 ERA
Burnett 3-5 3.88 ERA
Jim Riggleman fired July 17, 2011

Feel Wood said...

It's time for fans to start wearing their ballcaps cocked to the side in imitation of Burnett. To be a good reliever, a pitcher needs to either have wacky facial hair or a wacky cap thing going on (e.g. the flat-brimmed Chief). It's one of the unwritten rules of baseball.

Steve M. said...

DFL - Great to have your pessimism on record. Can't you find another place to Post like the Orioles blog?

Anon @11:33. That is a true line of thinking and I have said the same thing. Big difference getting someone inside your division.

Speaking of Werth and MLB Networks. Mitch Williams on Wednesday's HOT STOVE shocked the group of analysts when he predicted Dominic Brown who is the heir apparent to Werth will not make the Opening Day roster for the Phillies this year! He said he hasn't adjusted to MLB pitching!

NatsJack in Florida said...

Five sure things this year sure beats the 1 1/2 sure things last year which were Zimmerman and 1/2 for Dunn. Hopefully, next year we can get to 7 or 8 sure things.

Overall, I'd say the roster is at least 30% better than last season which should equate to another 7 to 10 game improvement.

I'll head over to Viera Sunday and do a head count on the number of early arrivals to camp. Tommorrow it's off to St. Lucie were the Mets already have 30 - 35 guys in camp.

SpashCity said...

Zimmerman 32 HRs 107 RBIs .298 BA
Werth 28 HRs 114 RBIs .282 BA
LaRoche 27 HRs 96 RBIs .267 BA
Hernandez 13-11 4.12 ERA
Burnett 5-3 2.75 ERA

Nats record (82-80)
Riggleman in Top 5 for Manager of the Year

Anonymous said...

Any one of DFL's projections could (and perhaps even will) happen, but it's highly unlikely most of them will happen and definitely not all at once. It's more likely that one of these players (and one or two unnamed others) will exceed expectations.

Anonymous said...

What are people's thoughts about Desmond having a break out year and that he will be an additional "sure thing" next year? Obviously he has shown signs of greatness but will he be able to put it together this year and be consistant.

MicheleS said...

Geez, too much pessimism for me. Although, SpashCity has it right. Let's think positively as spring training approaches:
RZim= Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, All Star, and Top 5 in MVP.
JZim = 195 Innings, 3.02 ERA, 18-11
Livo = 215 Innings, 3.85 ERA, 15-15
Werth = .305 avg, 100 RBI's, 125 runs scored
Storen = 50 Saves
Espinosa = Gold Glove, .285 avg, 82 RBI's
Desmond = .275 avg, 10 errors

Record = 85-77

Doc said...

I agree with Feel Wood!

Like all lefties, Burnett cocks his hat on the left. Righties don't seem to cock their hats at all. Even the left-handed Babe cocked his hat most of the time.

Why they do that is subject to the ultimate outcomes of the neurological reasearch into laterality---probably shouldn't hold our breath on that one!!!

In the meantime, lets honor Burnett by cocking our hats. Hope he has a really good year!!!

Goooooooooo Nats!

PAY TO PLAY said...

SPASH CITY, I love the "homers" and MicheleS has some nice stuff too!!!!!!!!!

I think Espinosa will have absolute Gold Glove stuff MicheleS but getting the award will be another issue for another day. Your Desmond 10 errors, if it were to happen over a full season, would give the Nats a 85-77 record!!!!

Anonymous said...

"DFL said...
Zimmerman 21 HRS 76 RBIS .268 BA
Werth 18 HRS 68RBIS .257 BA
LaRoche 23 HRS 79 RBIS .258 BA"

It's not inconceivable that Zim, Werth and/or LaRoche could put up these numbers by the All Star Break.

DFL said...

Bonus Predictions

Orioles 78 wins, Nats 69 wins
Adam Dunn 37 HRS 107 RBIS .266 BA and Chicago makes the playoffs.
Josh Willingham 23 HRS 71 RBIS .258 BA and Oakland just misses the playoffs.
Mike Rizzo is out as GM in 5 years.

Feel Wood said...

"Tommorrow it's off to St. Lucie were the Mets already have 30 - 35 guys in camp."

Yeah, but aren't most all of them Wilpon creditors?

Anonymous said...

Extra Bonus Prediction: DFL makes a great run at unseating JayB from the Village Idiot throne, but comes up just short of the mark.

natscan reduxit said...

"There are plenty of uncertainties surrounding the Nationals heading into the start of spring training ..."

... but the great thing about baseball is that 'uncertainty', at this time of year, is nothing more than another word for hope and promise.

Go Nats!!

SpashCity said...

Extra Super Bonus Prediction:

Mark Reynolds: 230 Ks 22 HRs 77 RBIs .199 BA

Derrick Lee: 18 HRs 80 RBIs traded to SD for prospects that never develop

Buck Showalter: resigns in July with the Orioles 22.5 games out of the wild card, realizing he had a better chance of winning an Emmy for best supporting actress on Baseball Tonight than he did winning the pennant in Baltimore.

Anonymous said...

I'm with MicheleS. It might be a fairy tale, but hey, its spring and we can dream a little....can't we? JTinSC

Doc said...

@ SplashCity: Good if Buck resigns from O's! Still think he should have been signed up for the Nats last time 'round!

HabsProf said...

One thing I am not hearing people mention is the upgrade LaRoche provides in defense. Sure, he is highly unlikely to fill Dunn's offensive shoes - but he is an above-average defensive player. That has to be of benefit when dealing with both a young infield and several young pitchers (Zimm, Storen, Strasburg). If it's reachable, he'll scoop an errant throw out of the dirt or at least keep it from going into the dugout. And you shouldn't see Riggleman switching him out late in a game for a "defensive" replacement.

DFL said...

And another prediction:

Someone will finally like me.

Maybe even my Mom.

JayB said...

I like you.

Not Werth It said...

From now on whenever Sean Burnett heads to the mound I will be cocking my hat to the left, and instructing everybody within earshot to do the same. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner, and I hope one day soon the whole stadium joins in.

Sean Burnett: 2-1, 2.53 ERA
Sean Burnett after the hat cocking thing sweeps Natstown: 5-0, 1.86 ERA, 23 saves.
Jayson Werth: 16 homers, 38 RBI, .278 BA
Jayson Werth after the Nats start losing and he starts dogging it because he is a huge tool: 5 homers, 14 RBI, .218 BA

DFL said...

Bogus post three above. Remember the Ten Commandments- Shall Shall Not Steal.

Anonymous said...

DFL said...

... Mike Rizzo is out as GM in 5 years.

Fine. Then come back in 5 years and let us know how your predictions turned out.

JayB said...

ABM....your so mature....

King Abdullah said...

The Natty Natties are not good, okay. I pray to Allah they win 50 games.

Mark'd said...

Anon @ 12:28, that is the quote of the day!

N. Cognito said...

You can tell it's Friday.

Anonymous said...

Corey Brown will take over in center.
DFL--Is that you Zimmy?

Sunderland said...

Spash and all you optimists. This is beyond optimism, this is fantasy.
"JZim = 195 Innings, 3.02 ERA, 18-11"

There is zero chance, zero, that the Nats allow JZim to throw 195 innings.
They'll target and limit him to something below 150 innings.

He threw 70 innings combins MiLB and MLB last year. He threw 100 innings combined in 2009.
He ain't going 195.

DFL, our 3, 4 and 5 hitters all being held to under 80 RBI? Are you projecting injury? Cause that's the only way that happens.

Theophilus said...

N-Cog -- You can tell it's Friday because DFL didn't take his Elevil this morning?

I hesitate to get into this food fight over the unknowable but I need to stick up for Livan. Last year he was healthy for the first time in at least five years. He is very much like another soft-bodied Cuban, Luis Tiant, who lasted 18 seasons (until he was 41) and won 229 games. In his last full season (age 39) he was 13-8 over 190+ innings. Hernandez -- assuming no major injuries -- will finish his career with somewhere close to 200 wins. The unfortunate part is that the Nats will probably pack him off to some team that needs another starter to make a pennant run. Maybe they'll be able to sign him after the season for a third time. For right now, Riggleman wonders who his starter in the other 129 games is going to be.

John C. said...

It's a pretty pathetic individual that needs to attack someone else to feel better about himself or herself. That also translates to baseball fandoms - it's just pathetic for O's fans and Nats fans to holler about how crappy the "other" team is.

As a Nats fan I have nothing against the O's particularly, except for Angelos and hollering during the National Anthem. I think the 2011 O's may well be better than the 2011 Nationals (if the Nationals played in the AL they'd have re-signed Dunn), but long term I think the Nationals are better off: better young talent, better minor league system, and aren't permanently blocked from the playoffs. But it would never occur to me to go on an O's blog and trash talk their team.

JD said...

10 things that get the Nats to .500

1)JZim emulates Latos and becomes a legit no. 1
2)Chein regains 80% of his form and slides in at no. 2
3)Marquis regains his 09 1st half form; has a great 1st half and gets traded for prospects at the trading deadline.
4)Lannan maintains reasonable (4.00) era and holds on as a legit no. 4 starter.
5)Gorzo & Livo do enough as an entry to at least be a legit no. 5 starter.
6)Detwiler fills the spot left open by the Marquis trade and is a bona fide no. 3.
7)Stammen successfully steps into the Batista role.
8) Clippard is not worked to death and maintains his effectiveness throughout the year.
9) Storen steps into the closer's role succsesfully.
10) Bernadina takes a leap forward and is a legit major league hitter.

OK a couple more:

11) Morgan regains his form, his composure and his sanity.
12) Espinosa is the real deal.
13) Desmond discovers the benefit of working the count.
14) Riggleman is ordered to avoid working his entire bench and bullpen until at least the 7th inning.

could happen,

Mr. NATural said...


You said: "Let's get this out of the way: No, LaRoche is not as good (or as consistent) as Adam Dunn at the plate. Everyone knows that, and no one expects the new first baseman to fill his predecessor's large shoes."

I disagree. I keep telling friends these two stats on Dunn vs. LaRoche:

Versus lefties: Dunn hit .199, LaRoche hit .264

RISP and 2 outs: Dunn hit .169, Laroche hit .274

I liked Dunn. If you were up 5 runs or down 5 runs he would hit a homer. But he reeked against lefties and consistently watched third strikes with runners on base, or RISP and 2 outs. We are better off with LaRoche.

Nattydread said...

"If you were up 5 runs or down 5 runs he would hit a homer. But he reeked against lefties and consistently watched third strikes with runners on base, or RISP and 2 outs. We are better off with LaRoche."

Phil Wood and Rizzo agree with Mr. NATural.

Theophilus said...

I'm w/ Mr. Nat -- I thought Dunn was better in 2010 than 2009. I thought he started more rallies, was in the middle of more things -- but when it came to finishing things he was awful. The RISP nos. were just horrible. Runs Produced for Dunn and LaRoche were exactly the same -- which means that when runners were on base LaRoche delivered better than Dunn.

Dunn will do well in Chicago. Big HR guys (Luzinski, Kittle, Konerko) have done well in that park (ugly as it is). But their histories don't suggest the Nats are going to suffer any major fall off w/ LaRoche.

Sunderland said...

I completely agree with Mr. NATural. Dunn is of little value in important at bats. The reason his numbers with RISP are so poor is not cause he chokes, it's cause he can't hit lefties, and when there's an important AB with RISP, in comes a LOOGY and down goes Dunn.

JamesFan said...

Dunn had bigh recognizable weaknesses in his swing. It won't take long before the AL discovers that Dunn can't touch a low, inside slider, especially from a lefty, when the pressure is on. He'll get his 40 homers, but not in pressure situations. Rizzo was right to move him.

Another_Sam said...

Theo - I'm with you on Livan. I hope he's got a ton of incentives and that he makes 'em all. By objective (and also by sentimental) measures he's the ace of this staff.

And to all who are counting on Lannan: dream on; after all it's spring.. LOL

Nick said...

DFL: 37 is lowballing Dunn at Comerica. He'll hit 45-50 hitting with Konerko (.312/.394/.583) behind him.

Unknown said...

I see that Francisco Lariano could become available from the Twins. Do you think Rizzo would make that move? What would the Nats have to give up?

WhatsaNattaU said...

I predict Morse and Bernadina both have more plate appearances than Morgan.

I predict Maya makes more MLB starts than Marquis.

And I predict Ramos starts more games than Pudge.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm my take still is: If Milone pitches well they trade Lannan. In
April/May. Hopefully other packaged for another starter or the
missing lead off guy. Buy low, sell high. Livo goes to the bullpen
as long relief (let's face it he's the only guy they've got who
truly has an old school rubber arm not Stammen or Gozelanny
Larson! ) and Pudge to the bench. Corey Brown is even more
ripped than Zim making him jealous. And sending Morgan to
a utility role.

Bottom line: Nats break .500 if Rizzo has to drag them himself.

yankish2 said...

Nick...Dunn plays at US Cellular Park. The Tigers play at Comerica.

JayB said...

Nice work Jimbo....Dukes used pot while playing at Nats Park...what a surprise........wonder how Steven from Capitol Hill would spin this...Steven loved to find blame with fans who worried about these things.....He used to blame everyone but Dukes for Duke's decisions.....So while our team was losing 300 games in 3 years at least someone was cool with it. Yes things are finally getting better.....way way later than it should have.

Theophilus said...

Dukes story gives Mark's recent piece about Rizzo's overhaul of the roster another dimension. Dukes doesn't have much credibility but I looked at the 2008 and 2009 rosters and can imagine some of underachievers passing a joint around. Exaggerated, probably, but not beyond belief. Where it also sheds light is on Acta's control of the clubhouse -- more correctly, the lack thereof. With his inexperience as a manager, there was always the sense that some of the players were taking advantage of him. If I were in the Cleveland front office, they'd be passing out sterilized Mason jars on the first day of Spring Training.

JayB said...

You're right stephen always said we were wrong about Acta too........he was never the
Problem it was always the fans would make up problems with his cubhouse and leadership.....acta was a huge part of the pro lem._

Anonymous said...


You forgot about Screech! He's a sure thing!

JayB said...

Reading the stories coming out of Wpost and Tampa papers about Dukes, Rijo, Acta's best Friend, Smiley.....Stan and Jimbo's forced union......just the tip of the ice berg I am many of us were spot many in the editors were asleep or putting yet another reporter on the Skins beat.

Those of you who have put up with me for years know I was spot on from 2007 forward on many of these topics.....Not that it was hard to see now or then.....but also know this when you feel like I am too negative on Rizzo and the "new Nats".....well that negativity was earned by Mark Lerner and Ted Lerner.

So many posters were right about Acta, Jimbo, Stan wanting to fire Jimbo from day one, Penny wise spending and dishonest spins of failure to follow through on promises to build the farm and player development system. So many media members took the easy way out and just reported the Spin not the reality. That is why I want to see wins to prove things have changed...Nothing else counts and when they come, I will be the first to say this team has turned the corner....Until then they are still the worst run team in baseball period. They have earned it to date.

Sunderland said...

"Until then they are still the worst run team in baseball period."
There are hordes of people in New York, Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix that would argue that point with you.
And if you look at the four major sports teams in DC, the Nats are probably the 2nd best run team here. It ain't hard to foul up a sports franchise.

JayB said...

I did not say Sports....I said Baseball and they are much worse in my view than the only true contenders on your short PIT and KC list Sunderland.........BALT has been doing what Nats said they pretended they to do....they hired a real GM and a real manager before Nats did and they spent money successfully this off season to put a respectable product on the field until the farm pays off....they just have to toughest DIV in baseball to play in or you would see the record improve even more......NYM, AZ, SEA...they all have won recently and have functioning systems.....Nats still can not do DR or any international FA work correctly...."Major INTL signing:, Martin from Mex....come on....Until they win more than they lose they are who their record says they are. PITT AND KC...they have much better International and US scouting and Player Development systems...if they had some money they would be miles ahead...they are not poorly run they are poorly capitalized by their markets. PIT traded Morgan for Milledge which then cut Milledge saying he was not worth the $400K. It is close though with PIT but we still plan to give Major AB's to none baseball players like Morgan while they are Milledge free........tells you something.

JayB said...

Oh and as noted by someone here recently...exactly one year ago I was the one asking about Dukes's work ethic and failure to to come to camp early after walking away from his Winter Ball all were killing me for pointing out the obvious problem of going into Spring Training with Dukes as the starter......Get ready for more of the same with Morgan....will Rizzo never learn?

Anonymous said...

I love Zim. The only thing that bothers me though is that little underhand flip throw he has. He throws more balls away because of it. Get on top of it Zim!

JayB said...

Strangely enough....and from some personal experience....side arm is a much easier and consistent throw....MLB Network and Zim himself have both talked about this exact throw this past year......trouble for Zim is the distance he needs to get on that throw and the need to get ride of the ball fast....very fast in many cases...SS and 2B can do it all day long on ball they charge...Zimm too but when he is deep and ball is hit so hard he does not charge......that side arm throw causes him problems....but not as much as when he goes up telling where it goes then.

JayB said...

ABM...nice call on trying to compare Dukes and Milledge behaviors and work ethic in Spring Training 2009 that I pointed out to Ken G. always try to make people sound so bad but in the end you are just a wrong as the days you tried to say Stan would not leave, Acta had control of the clubhouse, Lerners were not cheap, Jimbo and Stan had a great working relationship....Milledge was working hard and making progress in CF.....the list of your wrongs is endless....sure I am wrong too but your just say the opposite of what posters say...I think about it, apply what I know and what I have learned in a life time of playing, coaching and learning from like to hate.

Anonymous said...

The only thing about JayB that is spot on is his underpants.

JayB said...

truth hurts ABM...and again so mature

TMI, dude said...

JayB, you really didn't need to tell us what that spot in your pants is. We could have figured it out. Although I'm sure you're quite proud of it.

Dad said...

Hey, you kids! Knock it off.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

The NATS dropped from the Number One Pick (two years in a row) to what Number Five this years. They will drop lower this season and will once again pick behind the Orioles. 79 wins (subject to revision after ST before OD).

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

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