Thursday, March 26, 2009

Temporary lack of updates

We apologize for the lack of updates, The Nats Blog is currently in the midst of a major upgrade. 

After one year of running the blog and watching it grow, we were approached by several websites about joining various sports blogging networks. After much research we decided to go a different way and inquire with a site that hadn’t contacted us, Bloguin offers the best opportunities in web traffic, revenue, and design, which translates to you as the best The Nats Blog possible. It’s our belief that this transition will not only allow The Nats Blog to provide the best content and interaction possibilities, but it will also broaden our community and readership.

The Forum

One of the benefits to the new blogging platform we are using is it provides us with the ability to have a forum. Hopefully for us it means that readers will get more involved in the blog, and hopefully for you it means that you can have a well read platform to express your own feelings, views, or hopes for the Nationals.  I have always felt that the most useful role of sports blogs is to be a community tool for the fans. Too often mainstream media calls the shots on public policy, fashion, and the popularity of various forms of entertainment. Sports is the one arena we can take control as simple fans however, because through powerful sports blogs the fans voices become powerful.

As used to refer to their readers as, “one million general managers,” I hope that The Nats Blog community can grow to be something similar.

Other Upgrades

The Bloguin platform allows for a lot more flexibility in how The Nats Blog bring information to you, and how you can become a bigger part of The Nats Blog itself. Soon when we get more settled, you will see different modules and other various ways to interact on the blog. I hope you explore all the possibilities.

Soon The Nats Blog will also be adding some other writers to the Staff. If you are interested, or would just like to send in a fan article here and there, shoot us an email at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shawn Hill is back on the market

Less than a week after the Nationals released the oft-injured starting pitcher, Shawn Hill is already in negotiations with at least two teams in an attempt to get back on a 40 man roster. 

According to the New York Daily News, the 27 year old starter is talking with the division rival New York Mets about possibly becoming a depth pitcher for the club. This means our former presumptive ace would start out in their Triple-A system and if healthy, and effective, would work his way up to the big league staff. 

This in effect would be an excellent move for New York who's back end of the rotation is in dire need of help. When The Nats Blog went down to spring training we saw a
 myriad of starting pitchers paraded about by the Mets, all vying for the last few spots. Possible candidates include former all-star Freddy Garcia, American import form Japan-Brandon Knight, and yes 
Livan likes-his-money Hernandez (he makes a lot they say). The signing of Hill would give them a potential above average, young starting pitcher who can help them in the second half of the season. The only catch is Hill needs to be healthy. While this was a risk that was too big for the Nationals to rest their season hopes on, it would really be a no lose, all gain situation for the orange and blue.

Hill is also reportedly talking with the Toronto Blue Jays about a possible spot on the teams starting rotation. This would be a much more attractive position for Hill as he is a native Canadian (Eh!?) and he would get a chance to prove he still can be an effective starter in the majors. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nats sign Joe Beimel

Nats signed Joe Beimel earlier this week to bolster up their bullpen. Manager Manny Acta immediately named him their set-up man in front of Joel Hanrahan, providing the Nationals with a solid one-two punch for late in games.

Last year for the Dodgers Beimel pitched 71 games posting a 2.02 ERA in 49 innings.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shawn Hill released

The Nationals released former ace Shawn Hill today, saying that they wanted to give him an opportunity with other organizations.

Washington Post Nationals Journal:

"Manager Manny Acta called Hill's release "probably the toughest decision I've had to make since I've been here."

Hill, 27, had spent the previous three years in constant comeback mode, trying to recover from, at varying points, a shoulder injury, elbow problems, and forearm tightness. Through all of it, the Nationals stuck with the right-handed sinkerballer, drafted in 2000, back when the organization was in Montreal. Always, the Nationals spoke of Hill's potential, his ability -- if healthy -- to anchor a rotation. Assistant General Manager Mike Rizzo grew tired of waiting, even though Hill, in an exhibition start on Monday, threw one scoreless inning and looked healthy."

It's pretty bad if you are so unhealthy that the Nationals wont even consider you for their rotation anymore. Hill had been constantly hurt and with his injuries, constantly disappointing. Perhaps it is a good thing for the clubs moral to no longer be forever waiting for Hill's health to catch up to his abilities and potential. Look at the effect Ben Sheets injurires has had on the Brewers. Whenever he was healthy they played well all around, whenever he was hurt the team became dejected and fell apart. Even with Sabathia this last year they struggled after Sheets got hurt.

From the Times..

Jay-Z's spring domination

Jordan Zimmermann, or as some are now calling him 'Jay-Z,' has certainly been the toast of the Nationals spring training camp. He was welcomed into Viera with open arms and hearts as he was named by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus as the teams best prospect and ace of the future. Since then he has showed that he may not just be the future, but the present.

Initial projections had Zimmermann pitching the first half of the year in AAA to tune up and make sure he was ready for the jump to Washington. But as he has seemed to do his entire young career, Zimmermann disagreed. The young righty has instead been absolutely dominant, pitching 12 innings without allowing an earned run.

At this point it is hard to imagine Zimmermann not earning the number four or five spot in the Nats rotation to begin 2009. Experts had him as a mid-season call up on March 1st, but less than a month later some are considering him a serious Rookie of the Year candidate. There is always reason to be speculative of spring training performance, but if you can put any stock in them, Zimmermann is arguably the best pitcher in Florida right now.

Where Zimmerman Stands On The Spring League Leaderboard:

-Tied for the lead with Micah Owings with 16 K's, has pitched two less innings and has allowed two less hits than Owings

-Has pitched the most scoreless innings in baseball, 12.1

-Among pitchers with 12 or more innings pitched, he has the second lowest WHIP with 0.65

-Among pitchers with 12 or more innings pitched, he has the lowest opponent OBP with .178

-Among pitchers with 12 or more innings pitched, he has the highest K/9 ratio with 11.68

-Among pitchers with 12 or more innings pitched, he has the lowest H/9 ratio with 4.38

Scouts have never been overwhelmingly high on Zimmermann. In fact my first impression upon seeing our ace of the future was not exactly positive. He looks small on the mound with a supposive 6'1" frame, and his delivery looks more like a middle reliever than a dominant starter. Using the eye test alone, it's no surprise that it is hard for scouts to get high on him. 

Keep in mind, thats the same eye test that has given Daniel Cabrerra a career.

Zimmermann's numbers however can't be disputed by any scout. His entire rise through the minors has been filled by surprise performance after surprise performance. Look for Zimmermann to have his struggles, but expect him to have a solid and full rookie year.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This is our leadoff hitter?

Earlier this spring we looked at who was the best option for the Nationals to bat in the leadoff spot. After much analysis, looking at all possibilities including Lastings Milledge and even Adam Dunn, we reluctantly decided that Cristian Guzman was the guy for the job. 

Guzman historically had been the type of player to swing freely, and while this hack-attack mentality results in a lot of hits and a decent average, it doesn't really translate well to the leadoff role. Leadoff hitters need to be selective in their approach. The more pitches they see in an opening at bat shows the rest of the line up what a pitcher is bringing on a given day. Most importantly, a leadoff hitter must be able to get on base. While one way of doing this is obviously getting hits, even the best hitters in baseball can only get a hit 33% of the time. The most efficient way any ball player can get on base is by using the threat of drawing the walk to his ability. The best players in the league can get on base above 40% of the time, but all of them use the power of the walk.

This is a problem. Because through 10 games and 31 at bats this spring, Guzman has walked a grand total of 0 times. 

I'll repeat that, Cristian Guzman has 0 walks this spring. The player who's job it is to get on base better than just about anyone on the team is doing the worst job thus far. Now some may argue its a small sample size, that it's only spring training and he may just be trying to get his hacks in. But isn't this the time that a traditional hack-attack guy should be working on his new patient approach?

We were sold the idea of a new Cristian Guzman. One that had laser eye surgery, one that would walk at a higher rate, and one that would play the field like he actually looked like he wanted to be there. Let's hope that this poor spring showing is just an apparition and that Guzman will be the Guzman we saw in 2008. least he's honest

A quote sent in from Washington Post writer Matthew Brooks on Julian Taverez's decision to sign with the Nationals:

“Why did I sign with the Nationals?” Tavarez said on Sunday. “When you go to a club at 4 in the morning, and you’re just waiting, waiting, a 600-pounder looks like J. Lo. And to me this is Jennifer Lopez right here. It’s 4 in the morning. Too much to drink. So, Nationals: Jennifer Lopez to me.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pitching roundup

Jordan Zimmermann
 When camp started we said Jordan Zimmermann would have to be just about perfect in order to make the rotation. The young prospect has exceeded expectations and risen up the ranks faster than anyone has expected, unfortunately such a rise usually translates into a rushed result which can take several years to fix. Zimmermann however just keeps getting better and succeeding, no matter where he is. He has been one of the top pitchers in Florida this spring among any team and is being thrown around in the National League Rookie of the Year talks. Right now it seems very hard for the Nats to keep him out of the rotation come April.

Spring Stats: 12 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 16K

Collin Balester

Many expected Balester to take the 4th of 5th starting spot for Washington this season, especially over the younger Jordan Zimmermann. Balester has been a strong prospect in the Nats system for some time now, and after a good introduction to the majors last year many expected him to take the next step. Balester is struggling however, and may not find his way onto the opening day roster the way he is throwing this March.

Spring Stats: 11 IP, 8 ER, 11 H, 6 BB, 6K

Daniel Cabrerra

Cabrerra has been his good old shakey-self. After the talented arm came over from Baltimore, the Nats coaching staff figured they'd turn him into something actually more than just an arm by the end of March. Unfortunately for Cabrerra, and Nats fans, it appears its just the same old song; buckets of talent and not any idea how to turn it into success. So far Cabrerra has been all over in spring training, but the consistent thing has been his lack of control and his high amount of hits given up. He will make the rotation purely due to the amount he's getting paid, but whether he will succeed is up in the air.

Spring Stats: 7.2 IP, 4 ER, 12 H, 3 BB, 4K

Most Hated Players in the NBA

As I have mentiond on here before, The Nats Blog will soon be joining the Bloguin network, a group of great sports and video game blogs coming together to bring the best content available to sports fans. 

Anyways, The Nats Blog helped contribute to this great article for the Blazers Blog, Bust a' Bucket, listing the NBA's top 10 most hated players. The good news is, no Wizards made the list, probably because people forgot Gilbert Arenas was even in the league. The bad news is our number one choice, Lebron, didn't make the list either.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Chief heads to Washington...Seattle, Washington

The former Chief and closer for the Washington Nationals signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners today. Despite having not pitched in 10 months, the Mariners believe that Cordero will be able to build his arm back to what it was several years ago and fill the role as their everyday closer.

The 27 year-old Cordero last pitched for Washington in late April of last year. At the time he was trying to battle back from an arm injury which had bothered him the year before, however the closer had lost significant velocity on his already notoriously slow fastball. After one outing when Cordero struggled to top 82 MPH on the radar-gun, Kasten and Bowden decided it was time to put him on the DL to rehabilitate his arm. He never made it back to the mound for the Nationals.

During his tenure for the Nationals/Expos Cordero saved 128 games in 142 chances from 2003-2007. His weaker fastball was made up for by his outstanding change up and solid curve. In 2005 he electrified D.C during the teams improbable run to first place as he set the pace for the club with his up tempo personality, flat brimmed cap, and led the Major Leagues with 47 saves. 

Reports have Cordero's fastball still down 7-10 mph off of what it once was, but he says that he hopes to bring it back to the 89-90 MPH range. Cordero says he is currently at about 75-80 percent and should be able to assume the role of the Mariners closer by early June.

Nationals sign Julian Tavarez

The Nats signed veteran righty Julian Tavarez today to compete for both a spot in the bullpen and a possible job as a spot starter. The signing fills an important hole on the Nationals roster...pitching...everywhere. Hopefully for the Nats, Tavarez's versatility will help their extremely poor pitching staff by being able to fill in wherever needed. 

While he is no longer the pitcher he once was, Tavarez has been both an effective starter and reliever in his 15 year career.  Many fans will remember him being an important part of the Redsox bullpen in 2006.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Nats Blog-Back from Florida

In our last game of the trip we saw the Nats take on the Mets yet again. There was a special treat in store however, as we were lucky enough to see the Nats number one prospect, Jordan Zimmermann, get the start on the mound. 

Zimmermann has been highly touted by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. The young righty combines a sharp moving fastball with a solid change and curve, all of which he can locate well. We were able to sit right behind home plate, in about the fifth or sixth row to see him pitch for the first time in person. A few things surprised me.

On the mound Zimmermann looked surprisingly short. He is listed at 6 foot 2 but to the naked eye it looked as if that number may have been falsified. His delivery and mechanics looked smooth both from the windup and the stretch. He had little to no wasted movement and while his frame was not intimidating, his confidence on the mound seemed to be.

Zimmermann's fastball showed consistent speed but not overwhelming pop. It sat in the 93-94 range and not a single Mets batter got solid contact on it(although to be fair, the only Major League bats in the line up were Ryan Church and Marlon Anderson who both had hits off Zimmermann). His curveball seemed to fool hitters enough to make them hesitate but not enough to make them miss. Three of his four strikeouts came on freezing fastballs well located on the corners.

In this outing, against what was probably the worst line up he saw all spring, Zimmermann gave up his first base runners, six of them in three and a third innings. While he pitched himself into jams early in innings, the young righty was able to work his way out of all of them to lengthen his scoreless innings streak to 8 1/3rd this spring. The fact that such a young pitcher didn't lose his cool in high pressure situations such as those is impressive. Zimmermann was able to bare down and get the out when he needed. 

Detwiler vs. Zimmermann

After getting a chance to see both of these young prospects pitch, the whole picture is starting to become clearer. When you read in Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America that Detwiler has better stuff than Zimmermann you don't really believe it until you see it. While Detwiler was getting shelled this spring you could see how he has the potential to be an ace pitcher if he ever puts it together. He has the size (6'5")  Zimmermann doesn't, more power to his fastball, and his curve seemed to have better movement.

But then again this is just a microcosm of the great baseball debate, performance based evaluation or physical potential based? If you compare the numbers:

Zimmermann 8.3 IP, 0ER, 4H, 10K, 2 BB
Detwiler: 3 IP, 5 ER, 6H, 0K, 7 BB

It's no contest. The good news for the Nats however is that if they both can make the transition to the majors, they could provide a powerful one-two-three punch atop the rotation with John Lannan by 2011. 

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Nats Blog in Florida, Day 2

The Nats game wasn't until 7 today, so we made the hike down to Port St. Lucie to watch the Mets take on the Orioles at Tradition Field. Tradition field is alive with just that. Draped in orange and blue the Mets fans come out in droves, the stadium comes alive with a charisma that only a historic franchise can infuse. It is a beautiful example of what a baseball community should be and hopefully what young Viera can grow into. 

Our seats were in the last row behind home plate, which in spring training translates to about the 25th row. Behind us was the owners box, and to our surprise there sat not only Mets owner Fred Wilpon and general manager Omar Minaya, but also their guests Dolphins head coach Tony Sporano and  Dophins executive and legendary football head coach Bill Parcells. 
While the celebrities enjoyed one another, we enjoyed what turned 
out to be an excellent game. 

The Orioles jumped out to an early lead as Mets starter Brandon Knight could not get anything but loud outs. Knight is attempting an MLB comeback after a few stints pitching in Japan, but unfortunately for this journeyman it looks like that may be the only place he belongs. An eventual homer by Ty Wiggington put the Orioles up big and it seemed like the game was in hand as the O's turned 
the game over to their reserves. 

Up four in the eighth, the O's gave up a grand slam to a selective Nick Evans to tie the game up. The Mets retired the top of  the 9th in order, and following an incredibly bad at-bat by the aforementioned Wilmer Flores, Rene Rivera surprised the entire stadium by crushing game winning home run to center.

Nationals vs. Astros (written by Papa Yoder and Uncle Kit)
Anderson Hernandez started tonight in the leadoff spot. Are the Nats serious? Hernandez had a .268 on-base percentage in over 500 plate appearences in AAA last year, and the Nats are expecting him to be a leadoff hitter? They are letting his couple of hot weeks at the end of last year cloud their judgement. The real question is, who will they turn to after they give up on Andy?

Austin Kearns showed that there is still life in a moribund bat that has been left for dead by some fans by blasting a long shot out of the park in left-center. Kearns homer capped what was a great offensive outburst at the start of the game which gave the Nats an early big lead. 

This big lead allowed us to see some young guns that we otherwise might not be able to. The Nats brought in some of their backup infielders such as journeyman Joel Guzman. It appears Guzman may be playing himself out of whatever prospect status he has left. The former shortstop, who now plays a sluggish first base, couldn't handle a one hopper that would have completed a nice play in the hole by Ian Desmond, the Bats current best prospect at shortstop. Guzman also looked overmatched at the plate, despite some questionable Astros pitching.

While the Astros slowly chipped at what was once a big lead, Manny Acta decided to put in the Nats first overall selection in the Rule-5 Draft, reliever Terrell Young. Young, fighting for a position in the bullpen as a possible set up man, came in throwing hard but nowhere near the zone. He finally settled but not before allowing the tying run in the top of the eighth. Two innings later, well into free baseball, the Nats won the game with a walk off homer by Mr. Nobody Brad Eldred.

It was a day for obscure heroes. After watching the Mets come from four runs down in the eighth inning to beat the Orioles in a game apped by the walk off homer hit by Rene Rivera (who has been bouncing between AA and AAA since 2004), we watched our second walk off homer of the day with Eldred.

Brad Eldred? Who is Brad Eldred?

Brad Eldred is a non-roster invitee to Nats camp, who hit 35 homers with 100 RBI in the International League last year. The Nats signed the 6'5" right-handed hitter as a minor league free agent in December. Unfortunately Eldred is 29 years old and has been stuck at AAA since 2004. Twenty-eight year olds like Eldred, who strike out five times as often as they walk in AAA are not prospects. Worst of all, Eldred is primarily a first baseman who occasionally takes his glove to the outfield. Thats right- the Nats have still another power-hitting firstbaseman/outfielder with problems making contact. Eldred's walk off homer will be a moment to remember - even in spring training, but if the Nats end up giving many regular season plate appearances to Eldred, you will know that something has gone terribly wrong with their season. 

On an aside we got to see Northern Virginia native and former high school baseball opponent of mine, Brandon Snyder, take batting practice with the Orioles. Snyder was the Orioles first overall pick in 2005 but has had trouble staying healthy/finding a position. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Nats Blog in Florida, Day 1

Well the video isn't going to work; software problems. My apologies, you'll get to see some good video highlights when we get back.

We left D.C at 9 A.M and walked through the gates of Space Coast Stadium just in time to see the first pitch of the 1 o'clock game. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, with the division rival New York Mets in town, little Viera, Florida was alive with baseball. Cars lined up for up to two miles outside the stadium up until game time and in all of my experience in spring training, I have never seen a game that packed. 

We walked in as John Lannan threw the first pitch. We were lucky, the Nationals had their entire starting line up in the game (sans Adam Dunn and Jesus Flores). Johnson, Belliard, Guzman, Zimmerman, Dukes, Milledge, and Kearns all got the start and all played 4-6 innings. It was ironic to see all the Nats starters in the game, for one because that never happens in spring training, and secondly because almost every single Met that started last year is playing for some nation in the World Baseball Classic. 

What we saw:

Lannan looked like his old sharp self. He allowed no earned runs in two innings, and looked to over power the inexperienced  Mets line up. His fast ball looks like it may have gained a mile or two per hour and his change and curve looked to be locating well.

As Jose Reyes is playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball classic, the Mets have a gigantic whole at shortstop during spring training. For today, at least, they filled that hole with 17 year old super-prospect Wilmer Flores. The young shortstop, who projects to be a corner outfielder when its all said and done looked incredibly overmatched  playing against major league players. At 17, that of course isn't surprising. However it certainly was interesting to see such a raw player exposed like that. It's truly a rare occurrence to see these super-prospects play in person because of how sheltered they are and because they often don't get many at bats against the leaguers (Flores played
 the entire game). 
Baseball Prospectus projects Flores to be a Miguel Cabrera type player when he fills out. However after seeing him today it is easy to say that he is a good 3 or 4 years away from making any impact in a Mets uniform.