Filtering by Tag: Nats

The Washington Nationals and the Balance of Power

It goes without saying that part of the game of baseball is to score runs, and in 2012 the Nationals were good at that finishing in the top five in runs scored in the NL. It also should be a plain fact that a homerun is a great way to score runs. Once that ball leaves the yard runs are on the board. There is no waiting on base with the hope a teammate drives you in or trying to dance off third and scamper down the line as soon as a fly ball nestles in an outfielders glove. Scoring runs via a homerun is simple.

In 2012 the Washington Nationals hit the second most homeruns in the NL with 194. The big deal about this is that the Nationals didn't have a big power bat in the middle of their line-up. The club leader was Adam LaRoche with 33. Second to him were Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman with 25 a piece. The reason the Nationals were able to hit so many homeruns was that they had a balanced line-up. They finished the season with six players over or close to 20 homeruns. 

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Michael Morse: This is Your Nationals Life

It began with a trade. A trade that looked like nothing but one under-performing player for another. The Nationals wanted more infield depth and the Mariners needed more outfield depth and so the Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans trade happened. No one knew what would happen next. 

Morse spent much of his time in Seattle on the DL, and that didn't change when he got to Washington, but what did change was he got a chance to play when healthy. In 2009 Michael Morse debuted as a National towards the end of the season and showed some power but not much plate discipline or contact skills with a .250/.291/.481 batting line in 55 plate appearances. It was a small sampling, but the Nationals at that time were so bereft of talent it was enough to earn Morse an invite to Spring Training in 2010 where he won a job platooning with Willie Harris in the Nats outfield.

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The Nats Final Off-Season Issue

This is the time of the off-season where teams sign players and make moves few hear about, and if they do they aren't expected to have much of an impact. Now is the time of the January free agent. Sure, there are guys like LaRoche, Lohse, Soriano, and Bourn still on the market, but they are not the typical January free agent. The January free agent is that guy looking for a minor league deal and invite to Spring Training. He is the guy hoping to get one more shot to wear the uniform and play in the big leagues. 

The Nats don't need a lot of these types of players, but they may benefit from a couple. As it stand right now there are two spots up for grabs on the Nats 25 man roster. The rotation, line-up, and bench are set. The only real question is if it will be LaRoche or Morse manning first in 2013, but that has no impact on the two spots the Nats have open. The Nats need a sixth and seventh man in the bullpen. They have a number of internal options and if they decide to forgo the Christian Garcia as a starter experiment then suddenly there is one less spot in the bullpen.

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Javier Vazquez and the Nats Peculiar Problem

There was a time, not that long ago, when the Nats starting staff contained pitchers like Odalis Perez, Tim Redding, Pedro Astacio, Mike Bacsik, Micah Bowie, Jason Simontacchi and many other pitchers looking for that one last shot at major league glory. Thankfully those days are beyond the Nats, but there is one downside to no longer being the last stop on the train to obscurity. The Nationals still have a need for those types of pitchers, but now have trouble attracting them.    

In the bygone days when those washed up pitchers played for the Nationals they had trouble attracting free agents. The Nationals had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in order to even field a 25 man roster and five man rotation. Being that they had no prospects waiting in the wings, and no good major league talent standing in the way pitchers looking for that one last shot were willing to give the Nationals a try.

 

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The Nats and Left Handed Power

A common refrain this off-season, as the LaRoche drama has dragged on is that the Nats need more left-handed power. Last season the Nats two main left-handed batters where Harper and LaRoche. With Harper moving from second to fourth in the line-up as expected, and Span at the top of the line-up the Nats will have the same number of left-handed batters, but they will lack the power that LaRoche brought. As has been pointed out before, Morse is just as effective vs. right handers hitting .292/.343/.487 for his career compared to .274/.348/.495 for LaRoche. With that little of a difference between the two the Nats don't have much need for more left handed power.

A league average left-handed batter hit .260/.332/.416 against right-handed pitching in 2012. Several of the Nats middle of the order bats are better than this. Ryan Zimmerman for his career is hitting .273/.333/.478 against right handers, Jayson Werth .260/.352/.436, and in his breakout season of 2012 Ian Desmond hit .289/.336/.492. All of them hit left handers better, but that isn't the point. The Nats have right-handed batters that can approximate the production of a league average left-hander. 

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The Washington Nationals and the Land of Expectations

It still feels weird. The Nationals were the best team in the majors lastseason winning 98 games, the NL East, and leading baseball with a +137 run differential. Now as we enter 2013 the Nats are expected to be good again. ESPN's Buster Olney ranks them as the second best team with the second best rotation, the fifth best line-up, the eighth best infield, and the second best outfield. For long time Nats fans this is a disorienting feeling. It wasn't that long ago that Buster Olney mocked the Nats and predicted they would struggle to win 20 games. 

The Nats have come a long way since then, and most view 2012 as only the beginning. The Nats are a young team with a great rotation, and enough top talent in the minors to contend for a long time. Think about how the Nats have gone about this off-season. Instead of signing Michael Bourn to a long term deal they traded for Denard Span because he is only under contract for two more seasons with an option for a third. The Nats are expecting Brian Goodwin to be ready to take that spot when Span is ready to become a free agent. 

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