Preview: Nationals Pastime
Nationals news and statistical analysis
Tonight's the night
I've been traveling, and didn't realize how long it's really been since I've posted. I'm excited about tonight, and will certainly be taking pictures. It's great to have the team coming in over 500 and technically in first place, even though it's a three way tie. It's not going to last, but it's something I expect the news to latch onto, and I expect people will remember. Therefore, it should be good for the team.
Anyway, pictures will probably show up tomorrow.
This spanking didn't hurt...
Patterson looked great today until he tired, and it's clear why they left him in until he'd given up two runs... they didn't want to have to put someone in just to lift him for a pinch hitter right afterward. Eischen didn't look so good, but he at least recorded an out. As I'm watching this, Osuna has faced 6 batters and hasn't retired any of them (one was an intentional walk). He let two of Eischen's runners score and has plated 3 of his own, giving up a grand slam to Encarnacion.
Oh, he just got his first out. About time. I'm glad Robinson is leaving him in to mop up his own mess, instead of taking it out on the rest of the bullpen.
Anyway, Armas is making progress
, and is soon to throw in a minor league game. Let's hope that when he comes back, they send down Osuna and his 42+ ERA. He seems highly likely to clear waivers at this point...
Not so Amazin'...
First, on the Nats' 3-2 win over the Fish yesterday... I was really pleased to see Guzman dropped to the 8th spot, finally. And, I was even happier to see him walk twice, as I hope that this will inspire F-Rob to keep him there. We should definitely expect to see Guzman making the third out a lot less and walking a lot more from the 8th spot, since people are not going to give him much to hit, with the pitcher coming up. With a hit in two official ABs, he also got his average all the way up to .150! Batting title, here Guzman comes! His defense certainly stunk up the joint, and was responsible for Livan's unearned run.
Now what about the Mets... 0 for 5? I never would have thought it. Sure, any team no matter how good can have a 5 game losing streak or two in the course of the year. But if you start off the season with one, it's easy to believe that there's more of the same to come. I hope they don't make history, but I'll be somewhat glad if a team that looked that good on PECOTA-printed paper doesn't live up to the hype, particularly since it will be an interesting platform to go and look and try to figure out what happened.
I think the Mets are going to be 1-5 after today... it shouldn't be too hard for Pedro to outduel Smoltz, because I don't think Smoltz quite has the stamina built up that he's going to need for the starter role. And, for the first time in my life, I'll be pulling for Pedro (anything that puts us in a better position within the division).
Our first spanking...
9-0, FLA. Five hits with 2 errors, with nobody picking up 2 hits.
Osuna gave up 6 earned runs, and now has a 37.80 ERA. NICE!
Nationals who have caused third outs to date, from worst to first:
I'll try to do this periodically... probably on a weekly basis or so. Maybe people would want it broken down per PA, or per opportunity?
Enjoy it while it lasts...
I preserved it, just in case it's a long time before we see it again!
By the way, Wil Cordero injured his knee
during the game, and is now on the 15-day DL. In the interim, Baerga was called up from the minor league camp.
I've gotten to watch parts of today's game. Loaiza looked good early, throwing four perfect innings before giving up a hit to Jim Thome to start the bottom of the 5th. Apparently, Loaiza fell apart in the 6th, giving up 3 runs, tying up the game. I saw the 7th, and he gave up another run before Horgan came in, with two outs and runners on first and second. Horgan gave up a four-pitch walk to load the bases, then induced a pop-up to get out of the inning.
Guillen has looked pretty good today. He hit a line drive to center field that took a sharp bounce past Lofton. Guillen legged out a triple, then scored on a Nick Johnson ground out to tie the game.
Wilkerson is 3-4 so far, and is batting .615 through the first three games. Castilla hasn't looked that good at the plate, but it's just one game. Guzman is hitless so far, and is .154 over the first three games.
Ayala replaced Horgan for the bottom of the 8th, and retired the side. Wagner is warming up in the pen. We'll see how this ends, but it could be the first game to hit extra innings.Update #1
I forgot to mention that Wilkerson showed how he isn't in his best position as a center fielder, as he made a fielding error in the 6th, basically letting a ball bounce past him. He's now 4-5 though, and stole a base in the 9th. Too bad Guzman struck out pathetically to end the top of the inning.Update #2
Cordero gave up a hit, but managed to get out of the inning without giving up a run. So we're into extra innings...Update #3
Vidro untied it really quick, blasting a middle-in 1-2 pitch into the left field stands, with nobody out and nobody on. NICE. This is our third game in a row with 10 or more hits. A small sample size for sure, but it is still a strong start for a team where I was most worried about offense.Update #4
Castilla is definitely today's goat. Nick Johnson just got on with a walk, and Castilla grounded into a double play on a 2-0 pitch, to end the side. Let's see if we can hold this slim lead.Update #5
Yes. Even though we didn't win our first game, we won our first series, and currently sit on top of the NL East, uncontested, though by the end of the night we'll be tied with either Atlanta or Florida.
Vidro is the popular choice for Team Hero for his homer. I don't have my probability software running yet (need a few days to finish it... maybe in eary May). However, I think that Wilkerson is more deserving. He went 4 for 5 with a run and a RBI. Without a great Wilkerson performance, Vidro might not even have had the chance to tie it up.
By unpopular demand...
While Chris clearly doesn't want to see them, here
are my pictures of season tickets. The lighting sucks today. The only place in the house where I could get away without a flash was the floor of my bathroom.
The ticket booklet is incredibly nice. The tickets are laminated. I'm wondering if I can get away without using the ticket book. If I log into the online account, it seems like it should be possible to email tickets around. I can add addresses, but can't send tickets. Does anybody have any 411 on this?
The other odd thing is that apparently the Diamond Box gets lot 4 and lot 5. My seats are right by the lot 5 entrance, yet I got lot 4 parking Lot 4 is where I parked for the exhibition game. It was amazingly close, very nice. I think I'll probably want to use the metro most of the time. Hmm, maybe I should sell the whole season of passes.
The lanyards are amusing. Apparently, I'm supposed to poke the hole in the ticket and wear it around my neck to keep it from getting ruined. That's a cool idea, really.
What a win!
Sadly, I didn't get to see the game yesterday, but that will be the rule, not the exception, particularly for weekday games.
I'm going to watch this one on MLB.TV, though. It is, after all, the Nationals' first win (7-3). And, what win it apparently was! Wilkerson went 4-4, hitting for the cycle for the second time in his career. Castilla also looked good at the plate for the second game in a row, going 4-5. Guzman was 1-5... does anybody know if he got the ball out of the infield?
Robinson's bullpen usage was much different in this second game. Osuna only pitched the end of the 6th, and then Eischen, Ayala and Cordero all pitched a scoreless inning. Cordero gave up a hit, and didn't earn a save, since we were ahead by 4.
My season tickets have now shown up. I'll try to take pictures today and get them posted.
Out of the 400+ pictures I took on opening day, I present 50 or so, here
. Some of the other pictures were good, I just didn't want to overwhelm people. I could make them all available, chaffe and all, if people are interested. If I did that, they'd go up without comments. Not that my comments are worth much this time around, as I didn't really have time to attempt cleverness.
I also didn't have time to fiddle with formatting. The thumbnails are big, etc.
Opening remarks still pending
I spent the day yesterday on the bus with the Nats Fan Club, going to opening day in Philly. I had a great time, despite the loss. And I took a ton of pictures. I'll try to have another photo essay up in about 24 hours, and make some comments about what I saw.
At a high level, Hernandez' performance was clearly disappointing. Hernandez wrote it off as an aberation. There was also some speculation that it was due to the wind. I just hope that there's no injury, which was the initial speculation by the Phillies' radio announcers when there was a big fuss at the mound. It turned out that Livan had complained about the mound being slippery, and they ended up adding dirt to it.
Other than that, the hitting was good, though Lieber isn't notoriously deceptive... he's the kind of guy who wants you to hit the ball. The exception in my mind was Guzman, who didn't get a ball out of the infield. The only "hit" he got should have been ruled an fielder's choice, and an error. Guzman grounded to the second baseman, who flipped the ball to the shortstop. But the SS ran past the bag, and wasn't there for the flip.
My youngest daughter and I enjoyed about 2/3 of the game, and I took a few pictures, one of which you see above (it's of Ohka about to deliver the first pitch).
The rest are here.
I left with the score 4-3 Mets, and nothing happened after that. Ohka made what looked like a stupid play where he took a ball that was going to roll foul and kept it in play, getting an out at first, and letting a run score. It seemed to me that he could have made the play at the plate with no problem if he was going to keep it in play, but he wasn't aware enough of what was going on.
Apparently, Church pulled a groin muscle (maybe hitting that 3-run dinger ;-), and looks doubtful for the opener, though he's unlikely to end up on the DL. The opening day lineup is expected to have Wilkerson in center and Sledge in left.
Well, the season is upon us, and today is our first chance to check out RFK ourselves. I'll be taking my youngest daughter, who is almost 4.
I'll be bringing my camera, so I will post pictures tonight.Edit (9PM): apparently, Blogger is very broken for me, and this post never published. I'm trying to get any post to publish... I have one with my pictures that appears lost to the ages.
No, I'm not talking about any trade that Bowden may or may not have in the works. I'm talking about the television deal
that gives Angelos a 90% share in the joint network with the Nationals. The Nationals get money, but the market price will be set every 3 years by comparing to other markets. This seriously limits the earning power of the team in the long-term, in all probability. It's difficult to believe that, without controlling their own ship, they're going to maximize what they're going to get out of this, particularly when they have no negotiating leverage. If the amounts handed down from up on high aren't near what they should be, and we're less competitive than we should be as a result, there is likely to be little recourse.
I find this personally disheartening, but I'll spare you a longer rant.
End of Endy
Nice, I haven't been able to log into blogger, so sorry if this commentary is less than timely. I wrote up this post last night, and I'm just now getting to publish it (11 AM-ish).
The Nats sent down three more. Gary Majewski doesn't surprise me. He got off to a slow start this spring, and was a long shot in my book, anyway.
Jon Rauch surprised me a little bit, considering that Armas is spending 15 days on the DL. I'd expected to see Hernandez, Ohka, Loaiza, Day, Patterson, Osuna, Ayala, Cordero, Eischen and Horgan go north. I'm surprised that T.J. Tucker sat over Rauch in the pecking order. Anyway, when Armas is healthy, except Tucker to be the one sent down.
The demotion that surprised me the most was Endy Chavez. I'm pleased as punch, as the indication was that the team was going to look past his history and his awful spring.
This is amazing, because from the traditionalists view (i.e., F-Rob), there is no obvious lead-off hitter, and there is no obvious center fielder. This may very well indicate that a trade for a traditional CF is lined up, or otherwise expected. Nick Johnson's name keeps coming up, even though his value is probably near an all time low. With Armas on the DL, I'm less worried about a guy like Rauch being traded, because there is now a depth issue. I don't see people like Majewski and Vargas as off-limits, though, so one of those guys could be packaged up.
If there's no trade, Robinson suggests Ryan Church will get the day to day nod in CF. That's fine by me. I'd also be fine with Wilkerson in center and Sledge in left, or seeing J.J. Davis out there on a daily basis. In reality, I expect him to give all three a lot of time until there is a clear reason to prefer one of the three on a day-to-day basis. Davis is already set up to be the odd man out, since there's always a strong case for Sledge and his bat.
This means that someone is going to be getting some time in CF that one wouldn't want to see there. That might be Wilkerson, who, earlier in the offseason, was all but begging to be put in a single spot and stay there. That would keep Sledge out of CF, who is definitely a guy you would want to keep in the left corner. But Wilkerson himself is
better suited for left.
They could also switch Wilkerson around, or fix him in left and cross their fingers when Sledge is in center. I can't imagine he'd be much worse than the 2005 Bernie Williams!
Beyond our 5 outfielders, 11 pitchers and 2 catchers, we're expected to carry 7 infielders. Barring injury, we can expect to see Johnson, Vidro, Guzman, Castilla, Cordero and Carroll. The last spot is between Blanco and Baerga. My crystal ball is hazy, but I would keep Baerga, myself.
Armas injuried already
Tony Armas, Jr. pitched only one inning yesterday, after a groin strain. He claims it is minor, and that his leaving the game is precautionary. But it could be a few days until there's a real assessment of how bad it is.
Armas sure doesn't need this right now. It's his contract year, and he needs to create some value for himself, overcoming the perception that he's rediculously injury prone.
Patterson and Rauch both got to pitch after Armas, and neither looked too sharp. If Armas isn't able to start the season, this should ensure Rauch a spot on the roster, but probably Armas will be back on the mound before they need to dip into one of these two guys as a 5th starter.
Fleshing out the 'pen
Be prepared for Jon Rauch to get sent down. It looks like he's battling for one to two bullpen slots
, and there is a lot of reason to believe he'll be an odd man out. Even though I think he's merited the 5th spot, Day pitched very well this week, which seems to be enough to cement his place in the rotation.
The Nats are probably coming home with 6 people in the bullpen, though they'll probably end up with 7 in short order. Corderro, Osuna and Ayala are absolute locks. Robinson seems to be obsessed with the need for left-handed relief to offset the lack of left-handed starters. This isn't the best logic I've ever heard, but it's going to guarantee both Horgan and Eischen a spot, despite the fact that plenty of right-handers are having far better springs. T.J. Tucker and Jon Patterson have both been pitching well enough, and these guys are out of options. That's 7, meaning that either the Nats will go north with 12 pitchers, or one of these guys is going to have to get left behind for a short while. I believe Horgan still has options, so count on it being him.
Meanwhile, if you're in the New Orleans area, keep tabs on Giant Jon Rauch for me. In some ways, it will be fine, because I'd rather he continue to be a starter, and at least he'll get the right amount of work in AAA. But, it's too bad that we're probably not really going to see this guy until there's an injury of some sort.
Day for Pena?
Scuttlebutt is that Bowden is seriously considering a trade with the Reds that would involve Zach Day and the struggling Wily Mo Pena. Jim Bowden denies it, saying that Rauch and Patterson aren't sufficient if Day were to go, because he absolutely expects injuries in the rotation. That would require more than one injury at once, and it would mean they're not willing to give Hinkley a try if they had to do so. I think that's just talk to raise the asking price. But, there may be some truth to it, considering how big a problem injuries were in the rotation last year, especially since Patterson missed a start
due to a hip injury. He'll probably be fine for opening day, but it's just another piece of straw on the camel's back.
Will Mo doesn't want to go
, either (free reg required). He wants to play his whole career in Cincinnati.
Let's compare Pena to Chavez. Pena's 2004: .259/.316/.527. Projected 2005: .281/.351/.528. Chavez' 2004: .277/.381/.371. Projected 2005: .272/.321/.382
I don't care if Chavez has a better OBP, he absolutely can't hit for power. Going from an OPS of .752 to an OPS of .843 is a pretty big jump, and so I probably wouldn't hesitate to do the deal. OPS tends to be a highly accurate correlation to performance in subsequent years. Wilkerson had a .872 last year and Guillen had a .849, so Pena compares pretty well.
Defensively, Chavez doesn't look nearly as good as Pena, based on every metric I can find. For example, BP gives Pena a +4 as a CF for 2004, and Chavez a -6. Both are fast, but Pena seems to know how to get a jump and track the ball better.
I think giving up Day for Pena makes sense, considering our relative strengths and weaknesses. I personally wouldn't mind going into battle with Hinkley in a pinch, and I do think that Day should rightfully be 5th in our depth chart, but as long as Loaiza is placed above him, I'd knock him to 6th. And, as far as upside goes, I think Pena's the only one of the three who is a serious breakout candidate.
The BP summary of Day is almost prophetic on the matter:
...the Expos might do well to move Day for full value soon, before their defense starts making him look bad.
I think Bowden is definitely going after Pena. I wouldn't be surprised if he's trying to unload Patterson or Rauch. I think Patterson instead of Day is probably good, but I'd rather give up Day than Rauch. I saw some speculation about Hinkley, but I think that's crazy talk.
By the way, Vidro's MRI came back fine. In similar news, hyper-extended his knee, but his MRI came back fine as well.
MRI for Vidro
Vidro is going in for an MRI today
, on his hyper-extended elbow. It looks like he may not be ready for opening day. Let's hope it's not much worse than that.
The Revolution will be Televised
Apparently, MLB President Bob DuPoy has insisted that the Nats will be on TV by opening day
, by hook or by crook. This indicates that they've reached an acceptable place with Angelos and are just trying to improve it, or (more likely), that they are prepared with contingency plans for the case where they cannot settle.
I have a feeling that the potential ownership groups, Marion Barry and so on have made themselves heard that they don't want Angelos getting a sweetheart deal at the expense of the Nationals. I think they're still willing to give him at least half of a regional network, but I don't think they're willing to budge any more than that. If so, this could end up being a fun year, as we may be following both a new team and a new lawsuit.
Reason taking over
Apparently, members of the DC council have realized that the proposed private financing plans
are all pretty much illusion:
"It's always cheaper for the city to borrow money on its own," said council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6).
When did the world start to make sense again? If the District really wants to spend money to reduce their financial risk here, then fine. I think it's silly, but at least they should call a spade a spade, and it looks like that might finally happen. Oh, I also like this one:
"The question is, what is the best deal?" said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who voted against the stadium package in December. "What we want from the CFO is, what is the most economical thing to do? This ought not be a shell game."
I think Graham must read this blog...
As for the on-field world, it was good to see Zach Day have a good night
. It wasn't so good to see Patterson give up five runs in three plus innings the day before (Rauch gave up one run in two innings). In my mind, Patterson is destined for the bullpen. I think that Rauch has an outside shot if he doesn't have a stinker and Day has another one.
In other sanity, Castilla has only gotten two hits this spring, and the Nats are fiddling with Nick Johnson
, trying to solve whatever issue has kept him from realizing his on-field potential, even when he's not injured. And, I keep getting more worried about Vidro...
But not all is right with the cosmos, as Guzman is batting .500 so far. Let's hope he keeps that average up, because it's the most likely way for him to keep that OBP up, too!
As for the Most Valuable Network, I decided I'm not going that route. They were looking to merge me into the current blog, which already has a good, highly prolific writer, and then a guy from Montreal who has pissed me off tremendously with his blind hate for D.C. I think there's a reason that I'm pretty much the only other Nats blog linking to them. It's either that, or the silly name.
Hinkley sent down
Wow, it seems really early for Mike Hinkley to get sent down
, but that's exactly what happened. I guess his rough start left him no flexibility to make the team out of spring training, particularly considering how well Rauch and Patterson have been doing.
I'm sure he'll get it together in AA, and then we'll see him as an end-of-year call-up.
Weekend in brief
It's going to be a very busy week for me, so pardon the brevity.
It was an interesting weekend for the Nats. Leaving all game results aside:
- Armas and Loaiza seem to be progressing as well as can be expected. I'm starting to build up some hope that Loaiza will be average to very good, at least for a little while, before his arm falls off.
- Osuna threw in his first game yesterday. It required 11 pitches for him to strike out the side.
- In a vacuum, I wouldn't be worried that Vidro has a hyper-extended elbow. But, with his injury history and the fact that he's only played in three games so far. Is he so fragile that they really have to take it that slow?
- Feel badly for Zach Day, who has a lot of scrutiny on him now, since his last two outings were "bad" and "utterly horrible". On the other hand, this gives the very deserving Jon Rauch a better shot of breaking into the rotation. Supposedly, Patterson is also pitching very well, and is getting a serious look. I'm sure Day will make the 25-man roster, even if he continues to be putrid. They'll just stick him in the bullpen until he works out of it, and then he'll make his way back into the rotation when we have a starter break down.
- If you didn't see Angelos' ad in the Post this weekend, it was funny. He basically said, "don't blame me for no TV deal", tried to state as fact that his exclusive territorial rights go all the way into North Carolina or so (as opposed to the DC Border) and then said he was being magnanimous in offering to put the Nationals on the O's network. My hero!
It looks like MLB's agreement with Bowden ends in April. But, to the inevitable disappointment to many other Nats bloggers, Tavares is working hard to get MLB's permission to sign Bowden through the end of the season
. It's likely he will keep the job for at least that long, anyway, even without a contract.
In meta-news, All-Baseball is going to merge into Most Valuable Network
. The courtship was, apparently, incredibly brief. It does have an impact on me... I've got a choice to make as to what I want to do, and I haven't made it yet. I'll give more insight *after* I figure out what I want to do!