Monday Notes

Nats Fail to Sign Second Rounder

This past Friday was the deadline to sign draft picks and the Washington Nationals failed to sign their second round pick, Andrew Suarez. Suarez will return to The University of Miami for his senior season. His decision to not sign may not be the best for him as he had arm issues coming into the draft and their will be plenty of college juniors and high school seniors in next years draft. College seniors are normally seen as safe picks that aren’t difficult to sign and so go in later rounds. Suarez will need to have a very good season to better his draft position and with the new slotting system that is what he’s going to have to do to get more money than the Nationals offered. As far as the Nationals perspective they lost out on a second round pick this season but get an extra second round pick in next year’s draft and with the state of the Nationals big league team filling the system with talent now as opposed to next season doesn’t make that big of a difference.

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Nats Tickets for Nats vs Brewers Series

Nats Tickets For Series vs Brewers Available For 8.7% Below Season Average

The Washington Nationals will welcome the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park for three games this weekend. The Washington Nationals schedule will have the team play the Brewers this weekend for the second and final time this season. The season average for Nationals tickets on the secondary market is $46 and two of this series’ three games will see an average price below that number. The series as a whole will be 8.7% below the season average.

7/18 – Kyle Lohse vs Stephen Strasburg | Avg. Price: $49 | Get-in Price: $15

Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg gets the nod in the series opener Friday night against Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse. The average secondary price for Friday Nationals vs Brewers tickets is $49, the most expensive game of the series at 2.08% above secondary season average, with a get-in price of $15. Strasburg enters the second half of the season at 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA while Lohse has impressed, going 9-4 with a 3.26 ERA as the Brewers continue to excel in the N.L. Central.

7/19 – Matt Garza vs Gio Gonzalez | Avg. Price: $39 | Get-in Price: $11

The second game of the series will be played Saturday night and will feature Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez against the Brewers’ Matt Garza. The average price for Saturday Nationals vs Brewers tickets on the secondary market is $39, 18.75% below the secondary season average. The southpaw Gonzalez had his ups and downs over the season’s first half, posting a 6-5 record and 3.56 ERA over 14 starts. Garza is 6-6 with a 3.69 ERA. Pop singer Austin Mahone will also play a postgame concert following Saturday’s game at Nationals Park.

7/20 – Yovani Gallardo vs Doug Fister | Avg. Price: $38 | Get-in Price: $13

Doug Fister will take the mound for the Nationals on Sunday against Yovani Gallardo in the rubber game of the series. The average secondary price for Sunday Nationals vs Brewers tickets is $38, the cheapest of the series at 20.8% below season average on the secondary market, with a get-in price of $13. Fister has adjusted nicely to his new team this season, going 8-2 and posting a 2.90 ERA in 12 starts. Gallardo has had his struggles over the first half and enters Sunday’s game at 5-5 with a 3.68 ERA.

The Brewers enter the second half leading the NL Central by just one game following their impressive 20-8 start to the season. While the team remains 10 games over .500 entering their weekend series with the Nationals, a competitive division has kept both the second place Cardinals and third place Reds close while the fourth place Pirates trail by just 3.5 games. As the Milwaukee Brewers schedule has the team traveling to the nation’s capital this weekend, they’ll look to open the second half on the right foot and add some much needed comfort to their divisional lead.

Taking the Temperature of the Nats

At the break the Washington Nationals are 51-42, nine games over .500, and the biggest and most important news is that no one got hurt in their final game of the first half against the Phillies. The Nationals did suffer an injury in the first game of that series but as of right now that looks to be minor as the MRI on Jordan Zimmermann’s bicep didn’t reveal any structural damage. That doesn’t mean that he is 100% healthy or that bigger issues won’t pop-up when he throws or pitches again, but for now the Nationals DL is empty and they have the roster Mike Rizzo assembled in the off-season.

As far as the Nationals record goes this is the second best record the Nationals have had at the break ahead of the 52-46 record of the 2005 Nationals and behind the 49-34 record of the 2012 Nationals. The statistics of the Nationals tell the story of a very balanced team as they have prevented the second most runs in the NL allowing 3.51 runs a game. The offense is better than most people realize but that is only because they are judging them on a universal scale and not against the current run environment. The Nationals offense has scored 4.16 runs a game tying them with the Dodgers for the fourth most productive offense in the NL.

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Citizens of Natstown’s All Star Break Podcast and Livestream!

We’re joined by a few familiar faces from Natstown to discuss injuries, the first “half” of the season, injuries, what the Nats need to do in the second half, injuries, trade scenarios, and of course: injuries. The livestream will begin at 1pm as will the chat below. I’ll be keeping an eye on the chat so if you have any questions or comments drop them in and I’ll be sure we address them.

Update: It’s over! Below is the streaming audio option and further below is the video option. The podcast should be populated to iTunes.

Buying into the Nats

Call it a guilty pleasure or masochism. It doesn’t matter. For some reason I can’t stop listening to DC sports talk radio. I know I should and with hundreds of XM channels that I pay for every month I really should, but I can’t. I want to hear the dozens of minutes they spend talking about the Washington Nationals each day and the callers they have on the airwaves. Don’t ask me why. These aren’t even the Phil Wood callers who have at least spent the last three hours watching baseball. They may see something completely different from me in the game but at least they’ve watched.

The biggest topic of conversation this entire season is how disappointing the Nationals are in one way or another. For a reminder the Washington Nationals have the third best winning percentage in the NL, the best run differential, have scored the fifth most runs per game, have allowed the fewest, and since June 1 have played .611 baseball. And by the way they’ve done this while being completely healthy for nine games and seven innings. The Washington Nationals are a very good baseball team that has overcome a lot to be a very good baseball team. A story that plays well in the traditional media, but for whatever reason isn’t.

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Denard Span and Cherry Picking

Let’s start off with a simple comparison between two unknown hitters, Player A and Player B. Below are a few stats for each player and their respective rankings in Major League Baseball among qualified batters.

Player A

9.8% K% (8th lowest)

28 doubles (4th)

52 runs (t-21st)

 

Player B

6.7% BB% (106th)

.313 wOBA (111th)

19 RBIs (t-156th)

 

It should come as no surprise that Player A is Denard Span and considering the title of this article it also probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Player B is also Denard Span. This is what cherry picking looks like. By one set of stats Denard Span looks like the perfect leadoff hitter, by another he looks like one of the worst hitters in baseball. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle. Continue reading

Nationals Prospect Risers and Fallers

We’ve reached the point in the MLB season where we can start debating about which players’ hot starts are legit or fake. Instead of talking about the likes of Jose Altuve, Charlie Blackmon and Michael Brantley, though, I want to look at which Nats prospects have started hot or cold.

HOT

OF Steven Souza, Jr. (25 years old)
.355/.439/.588, 13 HR and 16 SB in 67 games in AAA Syracuse
.125/.222/.125 in 8 games in ML Washington
Souza isn’t gonna hit .355 all year, but the power and speed are legit, and I love the fact that he’s improved his AAA walk rate a tad (12.7% to 13.1%) while seeing a nosedive in his strikeout rate (23.5% to 17.6%). He’s looking like a pretty valuable trade chip if the Nats want to make a move this month, but could also find his way on the ML roster if injury or poor performance creates a hole in the Nats’ bench. Continue reading

Nats Tickets 33% Below Average For Series Vs O’s

The fate of the two Mid-Atlantic area teams – the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals – seem to be tied. Both teams made playoff runs just two seasons ago that reinvigorated their respective fan bases. Last season the two failed to build on that and make the postseason, but this season the two are back on track. The first half of the Orioles schedule is almost complete and the team sits at first in the AL East with a 48-40 record. Washington has a slightly better record at 48-39, but are not in first. That has little to do with the Nationals schedule recently, and more with the surging Atlanta Braves. The Braves are half a game up in the NL East thanks to a recent 9-1 run. The two teams face each other in a four-game series split between the two parks. The first two games of the series are in Washington, and Nationals tickets are actually down 33 percent from their season average for the two games for a $39 average. Orioles tickets are down 23 percent for a $57.26 average.

7/7 BAL Chris Tillman vs. WAS Stephen Strasburg | Avg. Price: $41 | Get-in Price: $14

If you saw Stephen Strasburg had a 7-6 record and a 3.53 ERA you probably wouldn’t be incredibly impressed. But a 5.46 K/BB ratio including 10.50 K/9, and a WAR of 2.5 might change your mind. Simply put, Strasburg has continued to be as good as advertised when he was entering the draft several years ago. The average price of the game is $41 and the get-in price is $14. Continue reading

Why the Nats Can’t Score Runs

The biggest complaint you’ll hear about the Washington Nationals is they don’t score enough runs and this needs to be fixed. Within the commentary you’ll never hear a single fact brought up or exactly how many runs a game would be acceptable, but a common phrase spoken is, “This isn’t a team capable of putting up five or six runs a game.” In the NL only the Colorado Rockies are anywhere near that mark averaging 4.82 runs a game, and they have the benefit of playing their home games on the moon, and in the AL both Oakland and the Angels are right under the 5.00 runs a game mark at 4.99 and 4.97 respectively.

There it is. There are three teams in all of baseball close to the mark I’m assuming the complainer desires for the Nationals and one plays on the moon and the other two have the benefit of the DH and the Angels have the best player in the entire sport. In reality the Nationals offense is just fine for the environment they play in. In fact it is better than just fine as at 4.13 runs a game they rank fifth in the NL. The issue people have isn’t so much with the Nationals offense as it is offense in baseball as a whole.

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Nationals Tickets 20.5% Below Average For Series vs Cubs

The Washington Nationals are getting ready to host the Chicago Cubs for a three game series starting Friday at Nationals Park.  Washington is coming off a three game sweep of the Colorado Rockies and have won five straight.  They trail the Atlanta Braves by just a half game in the NL East, but Atlanta is playing lights out right now winning their past seven games.  While the Nationals will be playing a Cubs team that is currently nine games under .500, they just swept the Boston Red Sox on the road.  Only the Fourth of July game will have an average price above the secondary market season average for home games on the Washington Nationals schedule. The series as a whole will be 20.5% below the season average.

7/4 – Jason Hammel vs Tanner Roark | Avg. Price: $68.72 | Get-in Price: $35

The series opener on Independence Day will feature a pitching matchup between Washington right-hander Tanner Roark (7-5), who lost in his last outing against Chicago and Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel (7-5).  Nationals  vs Cubs tickets will be most expensive of the series for this game with an average price of $68.72, 19.2% over their home average, and  a get in price of $35. Continue reading

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Matt Williams and Winning

With the halfway point reached and the All-Star Break fast approaching you’re suddenly going to see a lot of columns on mid-term grades and with this being Matt Williams first season as a manager let’s asses how he has done so far, or more importantly let’s discuss an issue I never planned on touching. That issue is what Bryce Harper said the other day upon his return. That Zimmerman should stay in left, Rendon should be at third, and Espinosa should remain at second. These comments weren’t too dissimilar from comments Ryan Zimmerman made a couple weeks ago on how he thought it best for the team that he stay in left, and that is what sparked me to write this. That and I read this column by Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth.

It contains an important phrase that sparked my interest and got my mind working and that was that Bryce Harper’s line-up is the best line-up for winning and Matt Williams’ is not. The best offensive line-up for the Nationals does include Span over Espinosa but the best defensive line-up for the Nationals would be much different. It would have Zim in left, Rendon at third, and unlike what Harper and Zimmerman want it would have Werth on the bench with Span in center and Harper in right. Neither the best offensive line-up nor the best defensive line-up is what is best for winning. A balance of the two should be reached in order to put the best team possible on the field and that is the exact line-up and defensive arrangement Bryce Harper purposed, but none of that is what sparked my interest.

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Anthony Rendon: Making a Case for Minneapolis

Anthony Rendon was the 6th overall pick by the Nationals in the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft. Despite being injured and in question through the draft process, that Nationals went with him anyway. He made his way through the system and finally made his major league debut last season in 2013. He came up to fill a spot on the bench, but ultimately found himself in the starting nine due to the struggles of Danny Espinosa. Now in 2014, Rendon has jumped between playing second and third base, and has been a force with the glove and with the bat.

Rendon has surprisingly found a power stroke, clubbing a total of 12 home runs so far this season, which already tops his 2013 total of seven. He has also helped support a lineup that has seen absences of Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper for periods of time by supplying a 27 RAR and a 2.7 WAR, which has steadily climbed as the season has gone along, and continue to do so. What does the typical all star in MLB have for a WAR? On average, that answer is a 5.0. Continue reading

Stephen Strasburg is Better than you Think

Maybe not for you, reader of this blog, but for a large segment of the Nationals fan base, talk radio, and the voices inside Thomas Boswell’s head Stephen Strasburg is overrated, over hyped, and an overall disappointment. When Stephen Strasburg takes the mound this evening he will do so with a 3.70 ERA. The 53rd best ERA in the majors. That isn’t good for a former number one overall pick who was supposed to be the best pitching prospect the world had ever seen. Strasburg had the electric debut followed by a sustained hot streak in 2010 where he had a 2.91 ERA striking out 92 and walking 17 in 68 innings before needing Tommy John’s surgery. Then Strasburg returned towards the end of 2011 and was just as good producing a 1.91 ERA with 24 strikeouts and two walks in 24 innings. It was a fast and promising start to the career of Stephen Strasburg and it spoke of a promising future.

That future is now and for many it hasn’t come to pass. Over the last two seasons Strasburg has a record of 14-15 and for many baseball fans this is all they need to know. The flat 3.00 ERA in 2013 is meaningless as is his 2014 FIP of 2.76. As far as Strasburg’s 2014 ERA being so far off of his FIP the reason is simple. Strasburg has a 2014 BABIP of .356 compared to his career average of .302. More balls in play becoming hits leads to more base runners and more runs allowed. So despite the fact that Strasburg has the best K/9 in the majors he is still allowing runs at an above average rate because more balls in play are becoming hits than is the norm for him.

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Nationals Tickets 55% Below Average For Series vs Rockies

The NL East has quickly turned into a two-team race with the Miami Marlins falling off their early season trajectory. The Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves are just half a game apart, and have been jockeying for first in the division pretty much all season. Washington has a chance to gain some ground this week with the Colorado Rockies the next team on the Nationals schedule. The Rockies have easily been the worst team in baseball in the month of June with an 8-19 record and a run differential of -44. Nationals tickets are averaging $26.33 for the series for a 55 percent drop from the team’s season average. To put that in perspective, the Nationals already had the cheapest average ticket price in the MLB.

6/30 COL Yohan Flande vs. WAS Jordan Zimmerman | Avg. Price: $32 | Get-in Price: $14 (Harper Bobblehead)

Fans attending the first game of the series will get a free Bryce Harper bobblehead, with the young phenom set to return to the lineup after a long stint on the DL. The sluggers return also coincides with the most expensive Nats vs Rockies tickets of the series with a $32 average and a $14 get-in price. The Nationals will also send righty Jordan Zimmerman to the mound, who has arguably been the team’s best pitcher. Zimmerman is just behind the team lead with 2.3 wins above replacement (WAR) and a 2.79 FIP. He leads the team in groundball rate with 48.4 percent of batted balls ending as grounders, and walks less than two batters per nine innings. Continue reading