A Washington Nationals Blog

Monday, February 25, 2008

The sweet smell of baseball in the morning

The first game is Spring is only 2 days away. That means baseball fans can stop hearing about Mike Bacsik's bullpen sessions and whichever Boone is important at the time and start actually hearing about GAMES. And even more importantly than the begin of play, the 2/29 game will be the first carried on 3WT this season. The station will carry 10 games this spring before beginning the usual full season. Our good friends at MASN don't have any information posted, which I assume means no games will be broadcast. I would have confirmed that, but when I get on MASNsports.com and try to get contact information, that particular page is always down. Helpful.

But I think that we will move onto the next spot in the quick trip around the field, which I hope to finish by the first game of the season. So, 3rd base. This is a no-brainer, Zimmerman is the man at the Hot Corner until at least 2012. That is when he gets to try free agency if the Nats haven't come to an agreement with him for a longer deal. And speaking of that deal, much was made of the conversations being had between Zimm's agent and Bowden. Covered by Ladson, and the Post.

For those that don't like to read, the Nats seem to be offering Tulowitski or McCann dollars, which is 6 years, $30 million or so. Ryan (by way of his agent) is looking for 6 years $55 million. So, they are a little ways apart on this deal. Now, I would love to see Zimm sign an Ovechkin-esqe deal for like 15 years and be done with it. But I can see both sides. Zimmerman is not, at least offensively, David Wright, who got more like $55 million. But it is also arguable that his is worth more to the Nats than McCann is as a player. That means that this next season is important for the relationship in a number of ways. If Ryan has a stellar year and heads into arbitration next season, the Nats could stand to get screwed and might sour the relationship with the 'face of the franchise'. Not really what we are looking for. It would result in a huge raise in the price of Zimmerman and could put him out of reach. If he puts up bad numbers, then it means he is more likely to sign a long-term deal rather than risk a smaller raise in arbitration.

But either way, don't expect to see this taken care of in the next couple weeks or months. In fact I doubt there is a contract before 2010, and certainly not before 2009.

From a play perspective, Zimmerman needs to show his talent offensively as a player. There have been a lot of statements made about 100+ RBIs, 30 HRs, and a solid BA. I don't know if he will make these numbers or not, and I'm not a big enough stats geek to crunch the numbers and then lie to you about it. But I do know that if he puts up the same numbers as last season, its not going to result in the payday that he wants or presumably deserves. That shouldn't be a worry though. Zimmerman is likely to put up bigger numbers with the offensive up-tick in the lineup that has been provided by the outfield acquisitions and the upgrades at catcher. That help in the lineup should mean that Zimmerman sees a modest bump in his numbers regardless of personal improvements, so it means that we should, in all likelihood, expect and get big things at the plate from #11.

Tomorrow we'll hear about catchers and why I hate Paul Lo Duca. Then, last but not least, the juvenile penal system that is the Washington Nationals outfield, with officer Kearns excepted.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Opening Day Tickets

I love that new ticket smell. All bright and shiny on my computer screen and asking me if I want to pay extra to get them next week or if I want them delivered to my cell phone, or if I just want Will Call. And all this for the opportunity for me to get my 2 tickets to the first game of the season at the shiny new Nationals Park.

I just can't help but be excited. The team is better, but not tons better, than last year. Plus if they overachive again, we could be looking at a mini-playoff run. I just can't wait to take my new seat for one day only on the first base line to watch the Nats take the field and somebody (please not Patterson, please not Patterson, pleeeeeeeaaaaaaase not Patterson) throw out the first pitch of Major League Baseball in North America for the 2008 season. For those of you that don't have tickets and for some stupid reason don't want them; enjoy John Miller and Joe Morgan. I get to actually watch the game without interuption.

Now that I have paid for those, I just need to wait for them, and more importantly, my actual tickets to arrive or at least get mailed. That might be something to work on Stan.

Up the Middle

Ok, since this topic has been written about extensively by everyone known to the internet and most have more and better to say than I do, this is going to be brief. I don't think that Lopez is going to start. At least not in April. I think that there remains a possibility that we could see 2005 Guzman instead of 2007 Guzie and such an outcome would mean that even .245 out of Felipe is a serious improvement. Belliard is not my favorite person, but he is a more than serviceable second baseman who showed a sold bat and steady fielding last year. None of them, save maybe Lopez have any chance of being a long term solution. And I don't see Lopez as filling that gap without first changing not only his attitude, but the very way he plays the game. To check and see if I am just a ranting moron with internet access, check out these:


Those should at least give someone a pretty basic idea. Belliard is kinda old, kinda pudgy, but signed really cheap and good with a bat. Lopez could be a good baller if he would get over himself and actually meet his potential. We pay him way too much. Guzman can't hit, gets hurt, is awesome, gets hurt, makes $4 million, gets hurt. That pretty much covers it. Expect to see Ronnie and Christian as the double play combo, I don't think Lopez will impress enough at Spring Training to earn a starting spot.

Oh yeah, vote on your choice for the second baseman making the debut on Opening Day on ESPN.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

1st Base

This is one of the main issues for the Nats in Spring Training. Who is going to start at 1st? I know that there are a lot, I mean A LOT, of people in the blogosphere and the chat rooms that wonder why it is even a question and just want to give D-Young the job. Now, Da Meat had a great, no wonderful, no, oh just insert your own superlative for good season last year. But those were career numbers. And need we forget that his defense was a little shaky at times. Plus, Dimitri is old. I mean pretty much on the back side of his career and not going to be getting any better old. The odds are that he won't repeat the numbers and magic of last year, and even if he comes close won't do it in '09. So Da Meat is clearly not the long, or even really mid-term solution at first.

So then why not Nick? Well, Nick Johnson can hit, and hit, and hit. And walk. And hit more. So then why is a guy that is 29 with a .420 OBP who led the Nats in AVG his last semi-full season not starting? The short answer is: Nick is accident prone. I don't think its his fault. I just think that he has some Karmic inbalance that means for every walk he draws he must have a requisite number of days on the DL. '05 and '06 were great seasons for Nick. He sat out all of '07. But even if he is an injury risk, he still probably has 3 or more good seasons in him than Young does. I hate to say it and if people actually read this blog, feel free to argue, but Nick is simply younger. 34 is just a bigger number than 29. I'm sorry, that's how math works.

So fine, one might be around longer, the other is likely not going to fall down the stairs on the way back into the dugout. So lets look at numbers. Nick has a better career OBP. Young has better AVG and SLG, though both have solid numbers in all three. Nick strikes out slightly more often, but walks something like 3 times more often. They are almost even on RBIs and home runs if you adjust for the number of at-bats. So offensively, it is basically a dead heat.

That means, gulp, intangibles. Both are considered leaders and good clubhouse influences from what I have read. But Young is clearly seen as a leader and a mentor for some of the 'project' players like Dukes. That is a role that almost nobody else in baseball and certainly nobody in DC can fill in quite the same fashion. Also, even though Young's age works against him as a longer term solution, it works for him in a strange way that he is a less desirable trade quantity. Nick, as a still semi-young or at least baseball middle-aged player has more trade value.

The Nats have moved Chris Marrero, the former outfield prospect to 1B. This seems to be the organization's attempt to give a kid with limited speed and outfield defense a shot to use his good bat at the Major League level. Chris hit a combined .275 with 23 homers at Hagerstown Low-A and Potomac High-A last season. He is just now trying 1B. He will not be ready this season. He probably won't be ready next season. But if he is going to be the First Baseman of the Future, it will probably happen in 2010. Oh, and Dimitri is signed through the 2009 season with an option for 2010. Funny how that works, isn't it?

So, it looks like Nick, if healthy, will be traded in favor of Dimitri assuming he is healthy and last year wasn't a total fluke. But in either case, don't get too attached, both of them are really not more than a 1 or 2 season holder until we can find a younger, maybe more powerful, first baseman. But for now, its going to be Da Meat bobble night, and praying that he can hide Dukes' cell phone all season long.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's almost time!

It's that time of year again, when the bright, shiny new Spring Training begins. Catchers and pitchers report, the countdown to the first preseason game shows up on mlb.com, John Patterson tells everyone that will listen (or feign interest) that he is 110% and this year is the year. Ahh, the sweet comfort of familiarity.

But with everyone starting to trickle into Viera, and myself back from finishing the final semester of my Master's program, it is probably long past time to do a Spring Training intro. We'll start with the pitching.

The Starting 5, at least according to Bill Ladson, will be Patterson, Hill, Bergmann, Lannan, and Chico, presumably in that order. I think Ladson, as he is prone to do, is either misstating or overstating the case for starting pitching. So, as with all things Bill Ladson, lets take this with a grain of salt and review the pitching rotation as I see it on March 30. I think that Hill and Bergmann are virtual locks, assuming that they show up and look at least average. Add to that Chico, who is owed and I seriously mean OWED a spot after being the only reliable arm that could get trotted out every five days for the entire season.

Lannan could be a member of the 5, but we only saw a little of him and he may not be ready, or someone else could be more ready to take what I consider to be the #5 spot in the order. Lets remember that at this time last year he was an A ball pitcher that wasn't on anybody's radar. I think he could be solid, but don't know if he is yet.

That leaves Patterson. Anyone who was a Nats fan in 2005 knows that John Patterson has the ability and the drive to be a top of the rotation pitcher on this team, or most any team in the NL. But that was 2005. We drafted Zimmerman in 2005. Chico, Lannan, Mock, Clippard, Detweiler, and a whole list of other pitchers were a mere gleam in the eye of some scout somewhere. This is 2008. I don't want to ask what you have done for me lately, but where the hell have you been for the last 2 seasons John?

Oh, yeah, Patterson was doing a coast to coast tour of doctors, healers, homeopathic treaters, witch doctors, and everyone in between that would have made a Super Tuesday campaign envious. And after John have nerve treatment and learned to breath through his eyelids, he ended up just getting more surgery and not pitching for a really long time.

So as far as Patterson in the rotation is concerned, I think that if he shows up and pitches, fine, give him the second game of the season, never ever ever let him pitch the home opener, and be happy about it. But if he sucks, which is a likely possibility if history is our guide, then we have other arms to look to.

Redding: Tim Redding was my second favorite surprise last season (after Dimitri). He showed some poise and confidence that was missing from the rest of the arms that started games and he also showed a fastball and level of control that made Don Sutton giddy as a school girl. I think he shouldn't be counted out before anyone has even thrown a side session in front of the coaches.

Detweiler: Last year's big draft success means that Ross is definately in consideration. But I think that he has to start the season at AA Harrisburg, if not in Potomac. You might see him later, but I think that this is more an end of the year or everyone else in broken sort of solution.

Clippard: Former Yanks property, I don't really know too much about him. I would assume that unless he shows an absolutely stunning arm that you will either see him in the high Minors or the bullpen to start the season.

Mock and the entire team from New Hampshire: Now, Mock didn't play in New Hampshire at the Low A Lake Monsters, but in truth he didn't play much at all last year. The supposed better half of the Livo trade still has to prove to be healthy, and likely needs another season in the Minors to help with his development. I haven't seen him pitch though, every time I went to Potomac he was still on the DL. I don't expect to see him. The Lake Monsters pitching last year was, in a word, filthy. I mean, like 5 guys with ERA under 2, and all sorts of dominant performances. None of these guys are going to make it up, but you might see some of them make a fast move through the program and get a call-up in September. But that is a loooooong way off, for now, don't worry about them unless you really are bored at work.

So what does that mean?

I see the order as: