Monday, April 26, 2010

A Change in Focus

Just a few weeks ago, I started this blog with no idea where I was going to go with it.  After writing a few pieces, I was given an opportunity by Will Yoder over at The Nats Blog to become a guest writer.  Since then, I have found the difficulties of maintaining a blog to be greater than I anticipated.  Coincidently, The Nats Blog is taking a huge step forward and is on its way to becoming one of the better Nats websites on the internet.  So while it is a bit bittersweet for me to say this, I am thrilled to tell you all that I will now become a full-time writer over at Will's site for the foreseeable future.  His site will provide me with the opportunity to write about everything that I would want to here, but with a better design and a better blog network.  It will also allow for me to be a part of something that has the potential to be great.  I will be providing statsitical analysis as well as information on the minor leagues, while occasionally writing on some off the wall topics and pet projects I have been thinking on for some time.

Make sure you check out the blog and while this blog will basically become defunct, I may post a few easter eggs from time to time.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Nationals Latin American Presence

Surprisingly, during the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes the Nationals made a legitimate offer given their absence in the Latin America market since the Smiley Gonzalez scandal.  Besides the player formerly known as Smily (aka Carlos Alvarez), the Nationals have not had a major signing in Latin America.  Out of the few low key signings they have made, the only notable names are Jhonathan Solano, Marcos Frias, and Eury Perez.  More teams, like Houston and Minnesota, are recognizing the importance of the Latin markets and are refocusing their efforts in those areas, specifically the Dominican Republic.  The Nationals, who have placed an importance on developing their farm system, will also need to expand their efforts if they want to be able to eventually compete with the top tier teams.  The first signs are encouraging.

This October the Nationals hired former Red Sox Latin America head Johnny DiPuglia to head their own international scouting efforts.  Last August, before the DiPuglia hire, the Nationals made five low key signings in the Dominican.  These five players were:  IF Jean Valdez (16), OF Jose Noberto (18), RHP Cleto Brazoban (17), RHP Videl Paredes (18), and George Rosa (19).  The five were scouted by both Dana Brown, now with the Blue Jays, and former Royals scouting director Derek Ladnier.  The pick of the litter is Valdez and here is what Baseball America and The Nationals had to say about him:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NCAA Tourney Edition

Sorry folks I have not been able to update lately due to a busy personal schedule and overall lackluster week of spring training for the Nationals.  Once the season gets under way, posts will be coming at you in a greater frequency. In the meantime make sure to check out my weekly posts over at the ever expanding The Nats Blog.  And as I return to my hole, I leave all you March Madness fans with a little NCAA-themed post:

Through all the excitement and pressure that fills spring training, you can expect some friendly ribbing in the Nats clubhouse in the upcoming weeks as the NCAA tournament kicks underway.  Houston takes on Maryland in the first round and I would expect Justin Maxwell to be talking up his team all week to Houston Alum Garret Mock.  Other Nationals players that will have their former alma maters going at it in the big dance include (with college, seed #, bracket):

John Lannan ( Sienna, #13 South)
Tyler Walker (California, #8 South)
Adam Dunn (Texas, #5 South)
Stephen Strasburg (San Diego State, #11 Midwest)
Justin Maxwell (Maryland, #4 Midwest)
Garrett Mock (Houston, #13 Midwest)

Washington Minor League Players that will be rooting on teams this March/April:

Jeff Kobernus (California, #8 South)
AJ Morris/Justin Bloxom (Kansas State, #2 West)
Adrian Alaniz (Texas, #5 South)
Dan Lyons (Minnesota, #11 West)
Jeff Mandel/Cory VanAllen (Baylor, #3 South)
Adam Carr (Oklahoma State, #7 Midwest)
Boomer Whiting (Louisville, #9 South)

And in case you were wondering who I have winning it all this year, look no further than the team with the best player in the country in Kentucky and John Wall.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lannan vs. Utley

July 26, 2007.  After a sudden rise to the major leagues, John Lannan was making his big league debut at Philadelphia's Citizen Bank Park.  The young Lannan pitched as well as one could expect in a debut, letting up three runs in 4 innings.  In the bottom of the fifth, the nerves kicked in for Lannan.  With a perfect 2 for 2 Utley at bat, Lannan lost control of his pitch and hit Utley.  Utley strolled to first base and Ryan Howard stepped up.  Maybe it was a case of the jitters for Lannan, maybe it was the fact that he had let up a home run to Howard in his previous at-bat, or maybe it was fate, but Lannan plunked Howard too. Hunter Wendelstedt had seen enough and preceded to eject Lannan and then Manny Acta, who for one of the few times in his Washington career showed some fire at a bad call.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Two Hole

Discussion about potential batting orders are a natural occurrence during the spring training period.  There are always new guys on the team, others are playing above or below their actual talent levels, and the manager will use a various combination of orders throughout the Grapefruit League competition.  For the Nats, the #1, 3, 4, and 5 slots are locked down by Morgan, Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham.  Who bats second will be the most important spot still open in spring training, with Guzman having the early head start.  Using splits and other considerations, let us take a look at the Nationals likely options for the two hole on opening day:

Cristian Guzman:
When batting #2 in 2009:  266 PA, 8 BB, 36 SO, 5 GDP, .286/.310/.393
When batting #2 career:  2819 PA, 114 BB, 372 SO, 36 GDP, .271/.303/.388

He does not have a great on base percentage (.307 career), he no longer has enough speed to steal bases (12 total in the last three seasons), and he does not see many pitches (3.26 Pitches/PA).  The one possible reason you would consider Guzman batting second is his contact percentage (and possibly because he can bat from both sides).  Among the candidates on this list, Guzman had the highest contact percentage last year:

Monday, March 1, 2010

On Dunn and Dingers

Last off-season, Stan Kasten remarked on how the team was going to have to open up RF for batting practice at Nats Park because of all the balls that would be hit there by recently (at the time) acquired slugger Adam Dunn.  These were gladly welcome words to Nationals fans.  In the opening year of their new park, and with a team full of hitters that were touted by the Washington front office because of the supposed power that lurked in their bats, the Nationals did not go yard very often.  In fact, only the Giants and Twins finished with less homers than the Nationals (117) that season.  In the dinger department the team was led by Ryan Zimmerman (14) and Lastings Milledge (14).  No one finished with more than 15 HRs.  The signing of Adam Dunn brought a guy that had hit 40 home runs per a season for the last five years.  And in 2009, right field got a lot more crowded.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rotation Preview

Pitchers and catchers have reported and spring training is officially underway.  The big story so far has been Steven Strasburg's presence in camp, with the ESPN RV stopping through Viera for a story on Sunday.  Everybody has been blown away by this kid, but let us not forget he is not the only one competing for a spot on this team.  In that spirit I present to you a preview of all the guys that are in contention for the rotation this spring training (Strasburg included):

Jason Marquis
2009 Stats:  216 IP, 4.04 ERA/4.10 FIP, 9.1 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 4.8 K/9, 0.63 HR/9, .291 BABIP
Money Pitch:  Slider
Total MLB Service Time:  9.01 years
2010 Rotation Chances:  Barring injury, Marquis is guaranteed to be in the rotation and will be in contention with Lannan for the opening day gig.  He has four major league pitches, including a plus slider.  Much of his success this season will be tied to the Nationals' defense as he is a guy that keeps the ball on the ground (2.03 GB/FB).  He is also a very similar pitcher to John Lannan and Craig Stammen, so it is not unreasonable to expect Marquis to be a positive influence on both Lannan and Stammen this season.

John Lannan
2009 Stats:  206.1 IP, 3.88 ERA/4.70 FIP, 9.2 H/9, 3.0 BB/9, 3.9 K/9, 1.0 HR/9, .276 BABIP
Money Pitch:  Slider/Curve
Total MLB Service Time: 2.04 years
2010 Rotation Chances:  He is a lock.  He was drafted by the team in 2006 and made his debut in 2007. Ever since he has been the most reliable pitcher Washington has had to offer.  He has good command of the strike zone and can work out of jams.  He has a good selection of pitches (sinker, curve, slider, change) and does a great job of locating them all.  Now this season he and Marquis have the opportunity to form a formidable 1-2 punch at the front of the Nationals' rotation.  Lannan recently switched his agent to Brodie Van Wagenen, the same agent as Ryan Zimmerman, so it will be interesting to see if the Nats can come to an extension agreement this season in order to avoid arbitration with Lannan next year.