December 9, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Nationals .
11/14/2013: Let’s discuss the THT Annualby Dave Studeman
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12/09/2013: Three underrated acquisitionsby Pat Andriola
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12/06/2013: Getting to know Ryan Haniganby Chad Dotson
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12/04/2013: Alone on the pedestalby Jason Linden
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12/03/2013: Why is a sinker “heavy?”by David Kagan
12/03/2013: The role of fall leaguesby Jeff Moore
12/02/2013: Nationals make great deal for Fisterby Matt Filippi
12/02/2013: The Twins go holiday shopping, but to what end?by Brad Johnson
12/02/2013: The end of the benchby Chris Jaffe
11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
11/29/2013: The best rookies of the ‘30sby Chad Dotson
11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
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11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
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11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
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11/11/2013: Fastball velocity by game stateby Jon Roegele
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10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
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10/20/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/19/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/19/2013: WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/17/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Bob Baileyby Bruce Markusen
10/18/2013: The 2013 Atlanta Braves and core WARby James Gentile
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January 17, 2013
Too much being made of Rizzo/Boras relationshipThe Washington Nationals took on the role of agent Scott Boras' "mystery team" on Tuesday, signing closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $28 million deal that includes a vesting option for a third year if Soriano finishes 120 games over the next two years.
Immediately, the baseball world exploded into a cacophony of thinly veiled innuendoes suggesting various degrees of coercion between Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and Boras. Most were made in jest, some not so much, but the general gist is suggests that whenever Boras can't find a taker for a free agent, he calls Rizzo, who comes running in with his checkbook.
The jokes are cute, and during this slow time of the year we like to have our fun. But, while there's little denying that Rizzo has among the strongest relationships of any GM with the cantankerous Boras, the degree to which the Rizzo/Boras relationship has developed is vastly overshadowing another shrewd move by Rizzo, who is quickly becoming among the best GMs in the game.
The Nationals just spent a lot of money on a closer when they had at least two capable candidates for the job—Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard —already on the roster. In that light, this sounds like the same criticism I've had of numerous teams this offseason, most recently the Diamondbacks, who spent $26 million for three years of Cody Ross when they already had more outfielders than starting spots.
But relief pitching is not the same as being a starter. There are plenty of innings to go around for relievers, and there's little argument against Soriano being better than whoever the last man in the Nationals projected bullpen would have been before Tuesday. There is no doubt that the addition of Soriano improves the Washington Nationals.
But $14 million for a closer? That's Mariano Rivera-territory, or so the argument goes.
Indeed, this contract makes Soriano the highest-paid relief pitcher in the majors. Is he the best, or most-deserving, reliever in the majors? Probably not. But he's very good and so is his agent.
For the Nationals, this wasn't about some back-channel between Boras clients and the Nationals' roster, an argument that being cited by the existence of a number of Boras' clients on the Nationals roster, and in some cases, specifically the presence of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg (both Boras clients). Of course, no one has an answer to the question of who the Nationals should have drafted with their back-to-back first overall picks instead of two of the best prospects of a generation, simply to avoid this irrelevant dilemma.
No, for the Nationals, this was an opportunity to add additional talent, despite there not being a specific need for it. Should they not have spent the money to get better in a certain area, just because they were good there to begin with?
The price tag for Soriano is high, but the Nationals can afford it. This signing pushes the Nationals payroll into the $120 million range, which is certainly not excessive. They haven't spoken about a budget that they have in mind, but with the money that their owners, the Lerner family, have in the bank, one has to assume that this won't handcuff them too badly. More importantly, however, the Nationals, over the next few seasons, can afford to overpay for things like saves in ways that other teams can't because of the amount of production they are getting from young, inexpensive players.
Harper, for instance, will make $2 million next season, but could easily be a five-to-six win player. Strasburg will make $3.9 million and should be a four-to-five win player. Ian Desmond, in his first year of arbitration, should make a little over $3 million, and even if he takes a step back, should be at least a two-to-three win player. Jordan Zimmermann has back-to-back seasons with 3.4 and 3.5 wins, respectively and is set to make around $5 million in his second year of arbitration. Gio Gonzalez should be a four-to-five win pitcher again, and will be doing so for $6.3 million, or less than Brett Myers signed for. Danny Espinosa will be a three-to-four win player for the third straight year and still hasn't hit arbitration, playing for the league minimum for one more season.
That's a lot of cheap wins.
With all of that inexpensive production, the Nationals can afford to bolster their bullpen with an expensive arm. Those players will all get more expensive over the next few years, but the Nationals have more money to spend and his contract is for only two years (the vesting option would have been reached by only two pitchers in the majors over the past two seasons—H/t to Jonah Keri of Grantland for that stat). By the time the Nationals may have to think twice about paying the game's most expensive closer, they won't be doing it any more. For what the Nationals overpaid in dollars, they underpaid in years (not necessarily for Soriano but in terms of other free agent deals for top-notch closers). There is little risk in this move, other than the money being spent, and plenty of potential reward.
Rizzo and the Nationals have correctly identified their window of opportunity to compete for a World Series title and, despite already having the deepest top-to-bottom roster in the majors, found a way to add additional talent without handcuffing themselves.
Anytime that's the case, it's a good move—regardless of who the player's agent is.
Posted by: Jeff Moore
October 23, 2012
A few playoff nuggets
— How have the Tigers and Giants fared against each other in previous postseason encounters? Actually, they've never faced one another in the playoffs. Heading into the League Championship Series, this was the only one of the four potential World Series match-ups that never had happened before.
The Yankees and (New York and San Francisco) Giants have met seven times (1921, '22, '23, '36, '37, '51, '62), with the Bronx Bombers holding a 5-2 advantage. The Cardinals and Yankees have faced off five times (1926, '28, '42, 43, '64), with St. Louis winning three titles. The Cardinals and Tigers have squared off three times (1934, '68, 2006), with the Cards emerging victorious twice.
— Could we be watching both Most Valuable Players in this year's Fall Classic? Buster Posey seems to be the favorite in the National League, while Miguel Cabrera has a strong shot in the American League if those nerdy stats geeks focus just on the numbers.
You know, the Triple Crown, which contains one category (home runs) of obvious value, another (batting average) that is worthwhile in limited situations, and a third (RBI) that has as much to do with the guys hitting in front of a player as with that player's actually ability.
— The Giants are the second team in history to win three do-or-die games twice is a single postseason, joining the 1985 Royals. Kansas City came back from 3-1 deficits against Toronto in the ALCS and St. Louis in the World Series. As we just witnessed, San Francisco overcame a 2-0 hole in this year's best-of-five NLDS against Cincinnati and rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.
— In its four League Championship Series wins, San Francisco outscored St. Louis, 27-2. The Cardinals and Yankees combined to score eight runs in their eight LCS losses, with New York looking like a relative powerhouse by plating six runners.
— The Redbirds are the first team to lose four playoff series after having a three-games-to-one lead. They also were the first, and still only, team to lose in three such scenarios. In addition to this season and the '85 World Series mentioned above, St. Louis dropped the 1968 championship to Detroit and the '96 NLCS to Atlanta.
— Boston is the only team to overcome a 3-1 series deficit three times, including the remarkable comeback from a 3-0 hole versus New York in the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox also rallied against the Angels in the '86 American League Championship Series and the Indians in the 2007 ALCS.
The Royals the Pirates have achieved this feat twice each. KC's triumphs were mentioned above, while Pittsburgh defeated the Washington Senators in the 1925 World Series and Baltimore in the '79 Fall Classic.
Posted by: Greg Simons
June 04, 2012
Nats picked a great time to stinkThe Washington Nationals are leading the National League East by percentage points going into Monday's games. Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft begins Monday. These two events are not unrelated.
Two reasons the Nats are (finally) finding success are the contributions of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, two of the most hyped draftees in history. And Washington had the distinct pleasure of selecting these players with back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in the 2009 and 2010 drafts.
After dealing with Tommy John surgery that cost him more than a year's worth of starts, Strasburg has returned to the form he displayed when he first burst onto the major league scene. He is punching out 10.9 batters per nine innings with a 4.65:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, leading to a 165 ERA+. Traditionalists eat up his 6-1 record and 2.35 ERA.
Harper is tearing it up right of out gate, posting a .288/.380/.542 triple-slash line, good for a 148 OPS+. He's also walking nearly as often as he strikes out and making highlight-reel defensive plays with regularity.
Basically, these guys are living up to the hype, which is saying quite a bit given the lofty expectations placed upon them. The funny thing is, the Nationals wouldn't have either of these terrific players if they weren't so terrible a few short years ago. By posting awful 59-103 and 69-93 records in 2008 and 2009, Washington "earned" the first pick in both of the following year's drafts.
Yes, this is exactly how the draft is supposed to work. The worst teams from the previous season get the first shot at the top talent in the draft with the hopes of developing that talent into a cheap, young nucleus around which pricey free-agent pickups and savvy scrapheap acquisitions can be added. Ideally, these players all gel a few seasons down the road and the former doormat becomes a potential juggernaut. The Tampa Bay Rays are another example of how this is supposed to work.
But Washington had the additional benefit not only of back-to-back top picks, but also of having these two preternatural talents available and ownership's support to pay what it took to sign them, spending roughly $25 million on two kids with no professional experience. And while the Rays can pin some of their success on multiple No. 1 overall picks, only David Price has contributed directly to Tampa Bay's winning ways. The Rays also took Josh Hamilton, Delmon Young and Tim Beckham at the top of the draft, but none of those players did much to push the Rays to the top of the AL East.
Having the first pick is great—it's yielded such talents as Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. over the last couple of decades—but using that pick on the right player is crucial. After all, Matt Bush, Bryan Bullington and Brien Taylor have gone No. 1, and nobody remembers any key on-field contributions they've made.
Draft well, develop your minor league talent, and spend wisely to supplement that talent. It seems so straightforward, but we all know it's not. Just ask the Pirates.
But when it works out—and the baseball gods bless you with two consecutive über-talents—things can come together very quickly. Just ask the Nationals.
Posted by: Greg Simons
April 23, 2012
Ivan Rodriguez career highlightsIt was recently announced that veteran catcher and current unsigned free agent Ivan Rodriguez intends to officially retire in Texas on Monday.
When a great player like Rodriguez retires, it’s nice to look back over his career, what his highs and lows were, his career milestones, and the best (and oddest) games he ever participated in where. That’s what’s listed below, the career highlights of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.
Click for more...
Posted by: Chris Jaffe
February 06, 2012
Would the Nationals consider holding back Strasburg?The signing of Edwin Jackson presents the Nationals with the kind of problem that every club strives for—they have more starting pitchers than rotation slots. They actually have a LOT more starting pitchers than spots. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Jackson are all locks while Chien-Ming Wang, John Lannan, and Ross Detwiler will battle for the last spot. Tom Gorzelanny makes for an above-replacement-level also ran.
The Nationals have another rotation-related problem. They are on the cusp of relevance. Their improvements this offseason should put them within shouting distance of the Wild Card (especially if there are two in 2012). Few will be surprised if the Nationals are playing for a playoff berth when the calendar turns to September.
That's not the problem, though. The problem is, their ace, Strasburg, is expected to be on a fairly strict innings cap in 2012 that will expire right as the team is pushing for the playoffs.
But what if the Nationals solved one problem with another by optioning Strasburg to extended spring training, using two of Lannan, Wang, and Detwiler through April, and then activating Strasburg once his innings cap stretches into October?
There are certain attractive elements to that plan. While a win is a win no matter what month it comes in, knowing Strasburg is available late in the season to stifle the competition could serve as a rallying point for the team. And the team's financial planners probably like the idea of Strasburg pitching in meaningful September games in front of a full house. The Nationals traditionally draw poorly in September.
More importantly, Strasburg would be available to pitch in the postseason. The club would find it hard to resist the urge to use Strasburg—innings cap or no—but a delayed start to 2012 means he could throw deep into games against the Phillies, Diamondbacks, or whatever other team reaches the postseason.
Of course, many of you out in reader land are shaking your head, and you are probably right to do so. Despite certain alluring qualities, this plan has its share of problems.
To the best of my knowledge, no club has tried this before. The Nationals could and should be wary about wading into uncharted waters with their generational talent. It's also unclear if the club could successfully run Strasburg through a delayed spring training. They would have to design a unique, delayed schedule, which could have unexpected consequences.
Holding him back also changes the club's incentives. If Strasburg reaches his innings cap in late August, the club is more likely to stick with the original plan of shutting him down. If he reached his limit in late September, the club would have an awfully difficult time shutting him down right before the playoffs.
The Nationals could always thumb their nose at their innings cap. Research has repeatedly shown that the Verducci Effect is largely hogwash. Clubs probably shouldn't limit their pitchers based purely on innings, but rather on a robust personal evaluation of each player. Warning signs like reduced velocity or movement, physical fatigue, and release point consistency should be monitored closely. By the end of August, the Nationals may be satisfied that Strasburg has the physical durability to continue into October.
The Nationals may consider such an idea when trying to solve their two "problems." Or it may never cross their minds. At the end of the day, it would be a shame for the Nationals to reach the postseason for the first time only to have their best pitcher unavailable because of an innings cap.
Posted by: Brad Johnson
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