Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jusssst a bit outside: the Washington Nationals preview

Duty calls to preview the MLB season, 30 things somewhat about each of the 30 teams, even the sucky ones. At bat: the Washington Nationals.
  1. How soon can he get here? Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg is starting the season in Double-A ball, but everyone realizes it's to forestall his arbitration clock. The Nationals fanbase (it exists in theory) is basically ignoring the games to wait for updates on his minor-league starts.

  2. The same goes for ... Perhaps slugging prospect Bryce Harper's draft stock will fall just before the June first-year player draft. Since with Washington is drafting No. 1 overall after posting a 59-103 record, it's already easy enough to picture Harper crushing home runs in the U.S. capital.

  3. Over/under on wins: 70.5.

  4. Gut feeling says? Over.

  5. Zim City: Third baseman extraordinaire Ryan Zimmerman (.292-.364-.525 last season, 110 runs scored, won a Gold Glove) is among the best players most people have never heard of.

  6. Useless prediction: Chien-Ming Wang wins NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2011. He was credited with 19 wins one season with the Yankees, people! Ignore that his mechanics are not what they were and the infield defence behind him is sketchy.

  7. Are they really ever going to be profitable? Starting with its first season after relocation, the franchise has been eighth, 11th, 14th, 13th and 13th in attendance in a 16-team league.

  8. Five years is enough: There should be no more rage over what happened to the Montreal Expos. C'est la vie! Enjoy the Capitals losing in the second round, Washington.

  9. Young arms! More than half the Nats' innings (727 1/3 of 1,424 1/3) last season were hurled by pitchers age 25 or younger, including the de facto No. 1 starter, left-hander John Lannan, righty Jordan Zimmerman (who's returning from Tommy John surgery) and left-hander Ross Detwiler (who is supposed to be good).

    The infamously awful 2003 Detroit Tigers also had young pitchers throw more than half their innings, and made the World Series three years later. It is surely a coincidence.

  10. Movin' up in the world: They jumped two spots to 28th in FanGraphs' organizational rankings. Remember, there are only 30 teams.

  11. They're not completely useless: Major League Soccer bloggers use the Nats as their bad example.

  12. Their park plays neutral, but you would never know: Their 5.00 staff ERA was dead last in the league in 2009.

  13. Having his bat also means having his glove: The Nats were second in the NL in bases on balls, which seems odd for a 103-loss team. Then you recall it's the National League and Adam Dunn has to play a defensive position.

  14. Randomness in relief: After burning through 22 relief pitchers last season and having a 5-plus bullpen ERA, they're bound to be better in that area, almost by accident.

  15. Just dumb: Letting outfielder Elijah Dukes go for nothing was like "firing the dishwasher (before) the end of his shift," according to Capitol Punishment. Perhaps Dukes had to go, but there's no one to play right field, which is kind of a key offensive position.

  16. Only awkward if we let it be awkward: It's kind of fitting Pudge Rodriguez is continuing his career in Washington, since his growing obsolescence rivals the republic itself for which he squats (not stands; he's a catcher).

    Rodriguez, 38, might play long enough to collect the 289 hits he needs to become the first catcher in the 3,000-hit club (it might take him 3-4 teams). When/if it happens, do not dwell on how everyone expected his name to be in the Mitchell Report and then it wasn't, and how he just happened to play for a team run by the then-U.S. President.

  17. Future Hall of Very Gooder: It's way early in the game to predict this, but Zimmerman has comparables such as Ken Keltner, Harlond Clift, Ron Santo and Gary Sheffield, all awesome players who will probably never get in the Hall of Fame. A trade to a big-market team can't come soon enough, Zimm.

  18. Just saying: Nats320 notes 20 years before Strasburg, another D.C.-area team took a can't-miss right-hander No. 1 overall. He would be Ben McDonald, who was out of baseball by age 30, having posted an average 3.91 ERA with just 78 wins.

    Kidding aside, Strasburg will be the real deal.

  19. Cool century-old comparisons! Allen Abel pointed out that when the "great Walter Johnson was 21 years old" (same as Strasburg) "back in 1909, he won 13 games and lost 25 for a Washington team that lost 110."

    Our seamheadedness will not allow us to let Abel get away without pointing out the Big Train, 25 losses and all, actually had an above league-average ERA in aught-nine.

    Also, contrary to Abel's contention Washington "hasn't hosted a World Series -- it hasn't even come close -- since 1933," the 1945 Senators finished 1½ games behind the pennant-winning Tigers, which is pretty close to hosting a World Series.

    Granted, citing such evidence shows Gen Xers and millenials know nothing about history as it's selectively recalled by the entrenched older generation.

  20. Since Willie Harris is on Washington, it's a good time to ask: Is it acceptable to say "super-ute" as a short form of "super utility player?"

  21. Fun bet: Will Dunn outhomer the entire Nationals starting outfield, which might include Nyjer Morgan (.388 slugging last season) and Willie Harris (.393)?

  22. Question: What is the #BidenThroughoutHistory version of "they f---in' suck?" In that case, do you take the F-word out?

  23. Two words why Harper won't catch in the majors (if he signs with Washington): Derek Norris. He's a 21-year-old catching prospect who can hit.

  24. Is not fair: Leftfielder Josh Willingham will potentially reach free agency just when the market really bottoms out in two years -- also right before the players' and owners' collective agreement expires.

  25. Prospect porn: Closer Drew Storen and shortstop Danny Espinosa. Get to know these names.

  26. Hate by association: It's hard to like second baseman Adam Kennedy since he's automatically associated with his former double-play partner, David Eckstein, who was plenty easy to resent even before he cost the Jays' Aaron Hill his 2008 season.

  27. One of those tricks of memory: Right-hander Livan Hernandez, who eats innings and no longer looks like he'll eat about anything else after taking up racquetball, is only 35 years old. It feels like he should be at least 40. He earned a ring with the 1997 Marlins, who had a who's-who of early '90s household names such as Darren Daulton, Devon White, Bobby Bonilla and Jim Eisenreich.

  28. Radio daze: The Nats' top farm club, the Syracuse Chiefs has its games broadcast on SportsRadio 620, the very same station that Bath, Ontario's own Tyler King made his AHL play-by-play debut on two months ago.

    If they're smart down there, Tyler will get to make his professional baseball broadcasting there this summer ... and we'll ignore the irony of a Canadian working for the Chiefs, who used to be affiliated with one Canadian MLB team and are now paired with the Nationals, who used to be a Canadian MLB team.

  29. PECOTA says: 74-88, fifth NL East, 680 runs scored, 752 runs allowed.

  30. In English, please: Not as bad as they used to be.
(All over-unders on wins from 5Dimes.)


Rob Pettapiece said...

1: Mark Prior was probably the last guy with this much hype from all corners, and while his injury saga is well-known, his early results were solid. I don't know if I'd take Strasburg to win the Cy this year (given the innings) but I'd think about it.

4. Definitely. This is the NL; it's hard to lose that many games. Though the Nationals seem uniquely qualified to do so.

8: This is heresy. There is, and should forever be, justifiable rage.

9: At first I thought you meant Brother of Jeff; that would have been a very long Tommy John recovery.

15: Right field isn't actually a key offensive position, since it's not an offensive position at all. (You mentioned Tyler, so I felt I had to fill his role as antagonist.)

27: In a way, Livan is 35. In another more accurate way, he's not.

28: Speaking of Tyler, didn't he broadcast games in Ottawa, or is that a swipe at the zipheads?

sager said...

That's right, Tyler did call games for the Stupidz. I guess if he gets to call Chiefs games it would b his affiliated baseball debut.