Citizens of Natstown

Your Independent Source for Nats News and Opinion

Some Thoughts On Papelbon

Washington Nationals pitchers and catchers will report in 16 days and it seems more and more likely that Jonathan Papelbon will be among them. While that isn’t altogether unexpected, it has to be considered a disappointment. Especially for those fans that didn’t care about the baseball or financial aspects and wanted Papelbon dropped like a hot potato.

Most of the offseason I and many others were waiting for the Nationals to trade Papelbon as part of their massive bullpen overhaul. However, with Jake McGee getting traded to the Rockies leaving only Tyler Clippard among available closer quality relievers I now believe such a deal is extremely doubtful. Never say never when it comes to Mike Rizzo making a trade, but all signs point to Papelbon staying. And looking back on this offseason, it doesn’t seem like the Nats were ever putting in a strong effort to deal him. So how did we end up here?

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Some Fresh, Clear, Well-Seasoned Perspective

The Nationals can’t seem to do anything right anymore. This offseason the players they’ve actually acquired (Yusmeiro Petit, Oliver Perez, Shawn Kelley, Stephen Drew, Daniel Murphy, Trevor Gott and Ben Revere) pale in comparison to those they were linked to and didn’t (Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Brandon Phillips, Darren O’Day, Mike Leake, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes). Because of this everyone from the guy at your work who says Roark not Roark to national columnists have dubbed this a disappointing offseason to follow up a disappointing season.

And of course they have a nifty narrative to tie all those disappointments together: the players didn’t simply sign with another team, they actively avoided the Nationals like a barrel of toxic waste. Many blame it on the continued presence of Jonathan Papelbon, already forgetting that the reaction from players around the league ranged from indifference to congratulatory pats on the back for Papelbon. Others have repeated vague claims of “strong personalities” and “clubhouse issues” but offer little in specifics. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because there isn’t some grand conspiracy surrounding why the Nationals only ended up with that first list of players; which if you didn’t notice, is a pretty good list on its own.

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The Offseason Is Far From Over

Pitchers in catchers report for Spring Training in roughly five weeks and that makes it tempting to start analyzing the Washington Nationals offseason. I thought of doing this exact thing the other day. I used to do a fun little exercise before every season where I would look at the Nats record in the previous season and add or subtract wins based upon what I thought were logical changes. As of right now if I tried to do that I'd be at a loss when it comes to catcher, the bullpen, and possibly the outfield. Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon remain on the Nats roster, the Nats are rumored to be looking for a catcher, and have made multiple attempts to sign or trade for outfielders that remain unsigned or untraded. 

To put this in more simple terms if you're ready to look at the Nats offseason and are unsatisfied with the acquisitions up to this point you're forgetting the simple reality that this baseball offseason has moved slower than any others. While the Nats were one of the teams willing to pay close to or over $200 million for Jason Heyward that might be what brought the outfield market to a screeching halt. Jason Heyward is not as good a hitter as Cespedes or Upton and those are the two biggest free agent's yet unsigned. Jason Heyward got paid for his defense and the agents of Cespedes and Upton are right to argue along the lines of Upton and Cespedes' offensive value.

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What I Learned in 2015: Relievers Don't Grow on Trees

I know it’s2016 and this is totally gauche now, but since we didn’t have a proper website the last week of 2015 I’m calling a mulligan to talk about the biggest baseball thing I learned in 2015. That relievers, at least actually good ones, aren’t nearly as fungible and limitless as I and many like me believed.

Before the season I was a strident believer that relief pitchers could be found on trees. All one had to do was sign a bunch of near-MLB quality starting pitchers and let them have a Battle Royale in spring training to find the seven best guys to come north. With failed starters like Wade Davis, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances dominating in the majors as relief pitchers and hometown guys like Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen upholding that tradition, it seemed like a slam dunk. Unlike other positions, relief pitchers did not have to be groomed for years in the minors, they could just be plucked on the cheap from the ever-swelling ranks of not quite good enough starting pitchers.

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We're Back!

After a year in the corporate world we've opted out and are once again an independent outlet. You can expect our usual doses of nonsense and baseball coverage, a site that functions, and a complete lack of ads and suggested content consisting of Hunting, Wildlife, and the NFL Draft.

2016 will bring some exciting things for Citizens, including big changes to our prospect and preseason coverage. Thanks as always for reading, and Go Nats!

P.S.: We're still in the process of bringing over all of our content from Scout. So if you notice content missing, that's probably why. However, should you notice anything janky or not working the way it should, drop a line on the Contact page we'll get it sorted out.

Washington Nationals Building on the Margins

The biggest need for the Washington Nationals in the 2016 offseason is bullpen. The problem is out of a very few select relievers relief pitching is the most volatile commodity in sports. A lot of that has to do with the fact that a relief pitcher's life is a small sample size. Shawn Kelley, who the Nationals have allegedly reached a deal with, pitched to a 4.35 ERA in 2014 and a 2.45 ERA in 2015 with FIPs of 3.02 and 2.57 in those respective seasons. In both seasons his peripherals said he was a productive reliever but in 2014 the results just weren't there. A relief pitcher's job is to maintain the score until the offense has the chance to change it, and a good FIP and bad ERA still means the job isn't getting done.

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What Zimmermann teaches us about Harper

Is that clickbaity enough? Maybe we should have listed a specific number of reasons why. Oh well, we’re locked in now. (Industry secret: You don’t choose the headline, the headline chooses you, you just write to whatever it is.)

Yesterday the Detroit Tigers officially introduced homegrown Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann as their newest free agent acquisition for five years and $110 million. If those contract terms sound vaguely familiar, they should, since last offseason the Nationals final contract extension offer was rumored to be five years and $105 million, just $1 million a year less for the same seasons.

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Build Your Own Nats Bullpen

The Nationals have a lot of different ways they can go this offseason, small additions like a Gerardo Parra, or giant additions like a Chris Davis. Either way, there's one area they have to address, their bullpen, because it was unbelievably awful last season.

Now, with BYONB you get to make the decisions about how the Nats bullpen comes together this offseason! I've calculated that at a minimum expenditures for starting pitchers and position players will be about $110 million, leaving around $35 million on average for the bullpen. It could be less! If you want a real challenge, try to make a good bullpen under $20 million. There are a few assumptions and acknowledgments I need to get out of the way and then it's game time.

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The Industry Standard on Managers Contracts

Just yesterday I sat at this computer and wrote why I was worried about the upcoming offseason. About a rift that might have formed between Mike Rizzo and the Lerners and how the Lerners don't trust Rizzo anymore and publicly humiliated him and Bud Black. Then I started to think about things a little more and read some pieces on the situation. It was actually negative pieces that started to change my mind a bit. How things played out is still embarrassing, but there is a chance the Nationals are right.

My mind first started to change when I read this Bob Nightengale piece, and he compared the handling of Bud Black to the Strasburg shutdown. Managers are simply offered three year deals and that is how things are done in baseball. Using the argument people used against the 2002 Oakland A's and defensive shifts is an argument that is going to cause me to rethink my position if I'm on your side. Then there is the comparison of Bud Black to Don Mattingly. Sure Black has managed for more years but he has an overall losing record and everything good about him can be attributed to Petco Park as much as it can Bud Black while Don Mattingly controlled a clubhouse full of egos and personalities and did nothing but make the playoffs year after year. Based on the resume Don Mattingly should get more.

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A Tale of Foreboding

Ominous. That is how I would describe the events that transpired to allow Dusty Baker to become manager of the Nationals. I have nothing against Dusty Baker and I'm one of the few people that thinks he is a fine manager and ultimately a better hire than Bud Black. Dusty Baker gets a lot of flack for his use of young pitchers based on the injuries to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, but Kerry Wood's innings actually decreased in Baker's first season as Cubs manager and Mark Prior may have just been one of those guys that got hurt. Stephen Strasburg has been on the DL in all but two seasons of his career and if he hits it in 2016 Dusty Baker will get blamed but it won't be his fault. But this has nothing to do with Baker as manager of the Nats. It is about what caused him to become the manager of the Nats.

It's important to remember all information in the media is second hand. A source said or claimed something, but in this case the source is very likely someone in the Bud Black camp. The Nationals and Black agreed to a deal last week with the salary apparently not being part of the agreement and then when the Nationals tried to give Bud Black a one year deal he scoffed at it and then rejected the subsequent two year offer they made. I understand the Lerners thinking in this. Bud Black was said to be the choice of the Nats front office and Mike Rizzo's last choice for manager was Matt Williams. Dusty Baker is the exact type of individual owners may prefer. Dusty Baker has made the playoffs with three different organization and has an overall winning record. Bud Black does not. Bud Black is perceived as possibly being a good manager because San Diego never gave him what it took to win while Dusty Baker has won.

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An Oral History of the 2015 Nationals

The Washington Nationals’ 2015 season began on April 6, 2015 against the New York Mets, little did they know at the time that this would be the team with which their fate would be intertwined. Heavy World Series favorites and with prized free agent acquisition Max Scherzer on the mound, the excitement in DC was palpable.

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The Autopsy of the 2015 Nats

The 2015 Washington Nationals are like the body that washes up on shore that was shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, and set on fire before being thrown into the water and determining the exact cause of death is not going to be easy. Matt Williams will be the first to pay for the results of the 2015 Nationals but no manager has that great an impact. The Nationals expected record is five wins better than their current record and while some of those games can be attributed to Matt Williams' mismanagement a couple can be attributed to luck and at best Matt Williams cost the Nationals three games. Contrast this to the beleaguered and underwhelming bullpen that ranks 21st in the majors in WPA and blew several crucial saves in August and September. An average manager gives the Nats three more wins and an average bullpen five, and even then that isn't enough to be first in the division.

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