One of the great things about doing a podcast based around off the cuff conversation is I don’t have to prepare. One of the downsides to not preparing is I sound like a bumbling idiot when trying to defend a point against the machine that is David Huzzard. So, here I am putting number to my view of the discussion to hopefully make my argument a little more clear.
On last night’s podcast we got into a discussion that began in regard to Mike Gonzalez and quickly turned into a discussion about Ross Detwiler. The point of it being that Detwiler has much more competition for the 5th spot than Gonzalez for the bullpen spot, and is a longer shot to win that job. Long story short the conversation came to the point that 2012 may have been an aberration for Detwiler on two fronts: performance-wise, and from the health aspect as well.
I disagreed on the show and I disagree now. Continue reading
A pitcher has to be doing very poor to get yanked from a Spring Training game. The point of Spring Training for pitchers is for them to get their work in. The performance is secondary. For someone like Ross Detwiler who just has to stay healthy to earn a roster spot the results matter even less, and that explains why Detwiler ended up pitching so poorly that he was yanked from his Spring Training start yesterday. If you’ve watched Detwiler before or listened to the announcers you’d know he throws an absurd amount of fastballs. Somewhere in the well over 90% range, but Detwiler also has a change-up, curve, and is working on a cutter. So yesterday Detwiler threw curve balls. He isn’t trying to change the type of pitcher that he is but he is trying to address a weakness.
As a sinker ball pitcher Detwiler is fine as a fifth starter with just that one pitch, but as a former first round pick he can be so much more, and in order to reach his ceiling he is going to have to develop his secondary pitches. Due to injuries Detwiler hasn’t been able to develop as expected and with no options left to go back to the minor leagues he needs a place in order to address those weaknesses, and that place is Spring Training. So while the results weren’t what any pitcher would want they don’t matter and they matter even less because Ross Detwiler was working on his curve ball that can best be described as erratic.
WASHINGTON NATIONALS BASEBALL WEEKLY FORECAST OUTLOOK
VALID: Mar 3-9, 2014
GAMES (SPRING TRAINING): @NYY, @ATL, vsNYM (Split Squad), @ATL, vsHOU, vsATL(Split Squad)/@STL(Split Squad), vsSTL
FORECAST: Overall, its hard to find a fault in Florida weather during this season, but this week presents a few things to keep an eye on. The week looks predominantly dry except for Wednesday and Thursday, which could present some rain and storms. Its something I will be keeping an eye on. One thing that will normally be a threat is the winds you most likely saw on the MASN telecast yesterday. That would be the one big drawback, but who is complaining? Temps will be in the 70′s, and just perfect in general.
NOTE: I have been keeping an eye on the long rage outlooks for Opening day, and while I think the snow chances go down, we still have a shot of being below average with the temperatures. Still keeping an eye out for it…I’m incredibly excited for actual baseball in DC this year.
One-Month Temperature Outlook
(Credit: Climate Prediction Center)
Forecast by: Josh Owens, issued 3/3/14 11:00pm
Nationals Weather Service, sports forecasting division of Maryland Weather Center
Let me start by saying that I am excited to join Citizens of Natstown, and not only contribute but help this blog grow.
It is finally baseball season. Well, almost. Washington’s third Grapefruit League game is today, so we certainly can say the offseason is over. What better to do than examine the National’s moves this past offseason, and it is hard to not like them.
Across the National League landscape, it is hard to find teams that got significantly better other than the Nationals. Several teams added new faces, with New York, Colorado, and San Diego all making significant changes, but none of those three made a run at the postseason last year. The 2013 National League East champions Atlanta Braves secured their long-term interests by extending several key members of their young core, but it remains to be seen how they will respond to the loss of veterans Tim Hudson and Brian McCann.
Washington added starting pitcher Doug Fister, bench outfielder Nate McLouth, catcher Jose Lobaton, relief pitcher Jerry Blevins, and most significantly, the hiring of rookie manager Matt Williams. Each move addressed a glaring need exposed over the course of the 2013 season.
Welcome to the day of the first Spring Training game of the season. It will be Matt Williams’ first day managing the Nats, but it will give us absolutely no hints as to his managerial style. This is early Spring Training and it will be fun because we’ll get to see a bunch of minor league players and mass eight man switches, but when it comes to meaning these games have none. There are position battles to be won, but don’t kid yourself into think Spring Training stats will be the deciding factor. How the player has worked in practice and their overall career record will have more to do with who is chosen as well as how they fit in with Mike Rizzo’s and Matt Williams’ plan for the roster. These games are just fun teasers for the meaningful games that are still a month away.
Spring Training games have a flow to them. A rhythm that is out of step with regular season baseball. It isn’t regular season baseball. It is barely the same sport. A pitcher will start the game, get his work in, and make way for another pitcher to get his work it. Performance is meaningless. It is about building arm strength and working on stuff. For this reason how Matt Williams is going to use the bullpen will remain a mystery until the regular season begins and if things go right with Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, and Fister, Matt Williams is going to have a very easy job using the Nats bullpen. The first seven innings of most game for him could be spent in a hammock and the Nats would be just fine if those starting pitchers do what is expected of them.
Think back to 2012. The pitcher that was first sent away to the minors, then was called up and pitched one of the most important games of the season. That pitcher was John Lannan and while the Nationals can’t have him back they can have someone very close to him. John Lannan is a career 4.12 ERA pitcher with a 4.7 K/9 and a 3.4 BB/9. Joe Saunders is a career 4.30 ERA pitcher with a 5.1 K/9 and a 2.8 BB/9. Very close to being the same guy and while John Lannan has already been signed to a minor league deal with the Mets, Joe Saunders remains a free agent. This is a little puzzling as pitchers less talented than him have signed and some have even been signed the major league deals.
Joe Saunders would be a good place holder for a bad team waiting for prospects to develop much like Livan Hernandez was in 2010 and 2011. Luckily for the Nationals teams like the Astros, Cubs, Marlins, or Twins have realized this. Saunders is good enough to deserve a major league deal worth around $1 or $2 million, but a team like the Nationals can’t offer him that while the lesser teams in the league have been unwilling. It is an interesting position Saunders finds himself in. He and his agent have a right to ask for a major league deal, but if one doesn’t exist as of February 27th then they are going to have to settle for a minor league deal, and that is where he makes sense for the Nationals.
In 2005 the Atlanta Braves won their 14th straight division title as the newly minted Washington Nationals stumbled down the stretch to finish 81-81 and in last place in the division. The following season the Atlanta Braves finished third in the division with a record of 79-83 while the Washington Nationals once again finished in last at 71-91. Both the Braves and Nationals were 70 win teams in 2006 and eight seasons later heading into 2014 they are expected to contend for the division title. How the Nationals got to this point is a common story. They stripped themselves of all assets, refused to dole out money to free agency, and hit it big on a couple first round picks. The Braves took a very different path, but ended up in virtually the same place.
The Braves’ path back to contending for a division title had Atlanta fans dealing with a lot of mediocrity, but in the end it worked. The 2006 Braves were a team of veterans led by John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Marcus Giles. There were young players like Jeff Francoeur, Adam LaRoche, and Ryan Langerhans and while 2006 was a decent year for Langerhans and a career year for LaRoche the Braves pitching just wasn’t enough. Tim Hudson struggled in his second season in Atlanta while Chuck James, John Thomson, and Horacio Ramirez simply weren’t able to give the Braves the production or innings a winning team needs out of its middle to back of the rotation. 2006 ended as a lost year for the Atlanta Braves, but remember the Braves were starting from a different place than the Nationals. While the Nationals were a team devoid of talent the Braves were an aging team coming off one of the most impressive runs in baseball history. They couldn’t shed all assets and go for a full rebuild. They had to rebuild on the fly.
Happy Monday Nats fans! Fantastic day outside here in the DMV, and equally as nice if not better in Viera as the Nats are well underway with spring training. As is customary for Florida in the spring, some isolated showers and storms have hit the area prompting a rain delay for the Nats at least once during their time down near Melbourne. The rest of this week looks great as well, but as is normal and noted, showers could plague some of the practices and games slated for the end of the week. Highs will stick in the 80s for the week. Thankfully it’s really not a hugely complicated forecast. However, as the first game comes up on the 28th at the Mets ST home in Port St. Lucie FL, I’ll be posting updates for how the skies look. Nats open the ST home games vs the Braves in Viera on March 1st.
As for here at home, the ridiculous cold makes a comeback this week with maybe some minor snow chances. Updates on that and more on Maryland Weather Center. Follow me on Twitter for Nats Weather updates, @NatsWx, and for local DMV area forecasts, @mymdwx. Have a great day, NatsTown!
There used to be a time where you had to wait for stories out of Spring Training, and when they arrived who’s to say they’d be about the player(s) you’re interested in? Now you can create your very own! I present to you The Citizens of Natstown Spring Training Story Creator!
Nats Fans! Spring has arrived and with it the second volume of the Citizens of Natstown Washington Baseball Annual! This year’s edition is roughly twice as long as the Inaugural Edition and includes contributions from The Huzz, O’Hara, Matt, Sean, NatsGM.com’s Ryan Sullivan, Allen Kha, and Konnor Fulk! Everything you need to recap 2013 and get ready for 2014 for $2.99!
The Washington Baseball Annual is available on Kindle and Nook with an iBooks version coming soon (Apple approvals take a few days).
Pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training last week, with position players joining today. Teams are making last minute additions, looking for bench and bullpen help as of now. The Baltimore Orioles made a splash the other day, signing Ubaldo Jimenez to a 4-year, $48 million dollar deal. The signing will solidify their rotation with another middle-of-the-rotation type of guy.
For the Nationals, they answered one of their remaining questions at backup catcher with the acquisition of Jose Lobaton for Nate Karns. Even though he was a long shot, with Karns out of the mix now for possible fifth starter, who is left? Let’s take a look, both in house and on the free-agent market. With Mike Rizzo, you never know: Continue reading
Last week I wrote about the dangers of the WARpire (VORPire) and why it is important to have a bottom of the roster that won’t cost a team any games, or to word it a different way won’t cancel out the contributions of the top of the roster. Having a 5.0 fWAR player means nothing if there are enough negative players to cancel that out. The middle and bottom of the roster are the foundation upon which the stars stand. A team needs that bottom of the roster in order to win because without them the stars cannot flourish. Think about the Red Sox and the changes they made going into 2013. Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, and Jonny Gomes aren’t stars, but they aren’t negative assets either and their presence on the roster allows David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia contributions to matter.
Think about a roster this way. An entire team of average major league players would win 81 games. They would be a .500 team composed of mostly 2-3 fWAR players. Now think of a star player as a 5.0 fWAR player. They can be more and an MVP or Cy Young candidate will be closer to 7.0 fWAR but for this thought experiment let’s keep it at 5.0 fWAR. If 81-81 is achieved with a roster of all average players then a 90 win or playoff caliber team needs three 5.0 fWAR players to go along with those average MLB players. That is it. A playoff team needs to have three stars, but here is the catch. Every player able to achieve a 5.0 fWAR season isn’t going to do it. Winning teams are built by having multiple players capable of having a 5.0 fWAR season because the more that can do it the higher the chance that the requisite three will.