Archive for ‘Stephen Strasburg’

Sunday: 12.5.2010

The Nationals Land Their Whale

In recent winters, the Washington Nationals have thrown their hat into the ring for several big name free agents, most notably Mark Teixeira during the 2008-2009 winter, but in the end, they were left telling their fans, “Hey, at least we tried and that shows our commitment to winning, right? … RIGHT???”  A Nats fan honest with himself probably realized that while the effort was nice, it was probably for the better that they didn’t come away victorious.  After all, how much positive impact would big a signing like Teixeira really have on a team like the Nationals?

If anything, it may have been detrimental to the team as a whole as a few more wins could have cost them the chance to draft then sign two of the most highly touted prospects ever in the past two drafts, first Stephen Strasburg and then Bryce Harper; both #1 overall picks.  The world got a taste of what Strasburg could be this year before he was cut down with an injury that has led to Tommy John Surgery while Harper made the most of his limited time in the Arizona Fall League and continued to draw rave reviews about his potential.

Both of their franchise players are at least a year away (and Harper is probably two or more) so would it behoove the Nationals front office to again put their best forward with some of the winter’s premier free agents?  The answer for them was a resounding yes with the surprise signing of outfielder Jayson Werth to a 7-year, $126 million dollar mega-contract.  A jaw dropper to be sure.  I’ll say out front that I don’t much care for the deal and it is less about the money than the length and player.

As a Detroit Tigers fan, I’m well aware that sometimes teams have to pay a little more because of their situation and/or city (definitely both for the Tigers pre-2006, now just the latter), but I would have liked to see the Nats go for a more calculated risk.  In the winter of 2004, the Tigers signed Ivan Rodriguez to a 4-year, $40 million dollar deal on the heels of a disgustingly bad season during which they nearly set the MLB record for losses (43-119).  Though Rodriguez was 32 years old, he was coming off of a great year for the World Series champion Florida Marlins and had a lengthy track record of excellence behind him.

A year later they took a much bigger chance and signed Magglio Ordonez to a massive 5-year, $75 million dollar deal after a season during which he played just 52 games thanks a severe left knee injury.  They had protection built in just in case Ordonez didn’t heal properly, but it was still a big risk and they were betting that he would return to something close to the .300-30-100 level he’d established from 1999-2003.  I don’t think anyone expected Ordonez to earn 100% of the contract (and he didn’t, even with the MVP-worthy 2007 season), but the Tigers really just needed him to not suck and along with Rodriguez, create a culture that was conducive to acquiring even more of the many missing pieces.  He didn’t suck, hitting .320/.382/.495 with 90 HR and 422 RBI over the life of the 5-year deal.

The Nats need Werth not to suck more than they need to him to earn him 100% of his huge deal, but they made it that much harder by going seven years for a guy whose track record is just two *full* seasons deep (as well as an excellent 134-game campaign on his ledger).  He was riddled by injuries from 2003-2007 (and missed the 2006 season entirely) and though he has shown the talent in the last three seasons that led to four top 100 rankings by Baseball America (’99, ’00, ’02, ’03), he’s far from a sure thing going forward.

He can be a 2.5-3.0 WAR player (think Hunter Pence, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Markakis level from 2010) after the first year or two of the deal as long as he is playing 140+ games a season because at least then he is not dead money on the disabled list.  Sure, the Nats are hoping he can continue to pump out 5.0 WAR seasons as he has over the last three, but you have to be realistic about a 32-year old late bloomer.  The last thing the Nats want to see is Werth out of the lineup with injuries just as their core is coming together.  Given that there is a pretty decent chance that that could happen, I think the deal was altogether ill-advised.

I’d have rather seen the Nationals blow Carl Crawford out of the water with a 7-year deal than take the consolation prize before the grand prize has even been given out.  But if Werth had to be the guy, I’d have much rather seen 5-years, $95 million taking it from $18mil to $19mil per but slicing off two years.  I genuinely hope it works out for the Nationals, but the odds are stacked rather heavily against it.

Tuesday: 06.29.2010

Baseball by Paul Podcast 6/29/10 Show Notes

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Trolling the Wire Pickup

Jeff Francis, SP, Colorado Rockies –Back in 2007 Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jeff Francis put together his best season yet going 215 innings and striking out 6.9 batters per nine while walking just 2.6 good for a 2.7 K/BB ratio. He compiled a 17-9 record with a 4.22 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. The WHIP as a little high and the ERA was hardly ace-worthy, but in Colorado it was pretty impressive for a starter to put up back-to-back seasons with an ERA below 4.25.

And he was consistent whether home or away so he wasn’t just padding his stats on the road. But then the injuries set in. His 2008 was an injury-marred disaster that resulted in just 144 innings and saw his ERA rocket to 5.01 and the WHIP follow suit at 1.48. Shoulder surgery took him out for the entire 2009 season leaving him off the radar entirely for 2010.

He didn’t get going until May 16th, but he’s been pretty solid this year in eight starts with a 3.53 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 3.0 K/BB ratio in 51 innings. He is today’s Trolling the Wire pickup. His strikeouts are a bit low at 4.8, but I think he will still wind up with about 6 by season’s end. If he can keep his control at 1.6 walks per nine, then 6 strikeouts will be great. His xFIP is 3.91 so his luck pretty much in line with the stats he has been posting. His home run rate is sitting at 0.4 HR/9 so that will likely move up a bit as he has a career mark just over 1, but his LOB% is a little light too so if he gets closer to his 71% career mark there too, it will help balance out the HR correction.

Francis is owned in 40% of CBS leagues, 12% of Y! leagues and 8% of ESPN leagues, so he is available in the majority of leagues. The strikeout rate likely has owners shying away, but I think he’s worth the pickup.

Articles of the Day

I didn’t feature one on the show, but plenty of good stuff here:

Top 10 Week – General Manager Candidates – by Will Carroll

The 2010 Amateur Draft: Bulk Investments – Marc Hulet

Keith Hernandez Wants to Contract Four Teams, But Hates Replay – Michael McCarthy

Stephen Strasburg is NOT an All-Star – by Joe Lemire

Interleague Records Through 2010, Eat it National League! (italicized part mine) – by Beyond the Boxscore

Jered Weaver Revisited Yet Again – by Dave Cameron

The Branyan Deal – by Jack Moore

Tampa Fans Who Voted in this Poll are Stupid Idiots (my headline) – by Joe Henderson

Who Am I? – by Ray Flowers

Can Brennan Boesch Keep Hitting Like Pujols? – by Jon Williams

Bet of the Day

A tough loss as Strasburg looked Strasburgian for the first 6 innings, but the Braves got to him in the 7th handing him his second loss in a row. But like I said, I’m always taking a guy like him as an underdog. There’s just too much talent not to make that value bet.

Today, I’m going to take Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers against the hapless Houston Astros. Brett Myers is a decent pitcher so it’s not a slamdunk, especially since I’m going with the run line to avoid the lofty moneyline, but I’ll take my chances on the Brewers staying hot at home of late.

Brewers RL -110
Record: 4-6, -$224

Spot Starters

Yesterday I picked Brandon Morrow for today against the Indians and then for tomorrow I selected Tom Gorzelanny back in the rotation against his former team.

Tuesday - Brandon Morrow v. Cleveland (Fausto Carmona)
Wednesday - Tom Gorzelanny v. Pittsburgh (Jeff Karstens)

Monday: 06.28.2010

Baseball by Paul 6/28/10 Show Notes

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Trolling the Wire Pickup

Pat Burrell, OF, San Francisco Giants

Four days ago, I recommended Russell Branyan as the Trolling the Wire pickup with the primary reason being that power is often in short supply on the waiver wire. You can never have too much because it home runs contribute to four categories: home runs obviously, RBIs, R and batting average. You should want to hoard power every year, but this year it seems especially true as it looks like the Year of the Pitcher and many teams have turned to the running game, too.

There are currently 11 players on pace to top 45 steals this year; only three players accomplished that feat in 2009. And that is just top end speed, there are tons of steals available in smaller bunches from plenty of unexpected sources, many of who are likely on your league’s waiver wire. So power remains the focus. As such, Monday’s trolling the wire pickup is San Francisco Giants outfielder, Pat Burrell.

Burrell is back in the National League where he averaged nearly 30 home runs for eight seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies including 33 just 2 years ago. After laboring for a season plus with the Tampa Bay Rays, Burrell has been reborn in 18 games with the Giants posting a .315/.387/.593 line with 4 HR, 10 RBI and 8 R. He matched his hit total of 17 with the Rays in 30 fewer at-bats.

Burrell should hit mid-teens home runs with 50+ RBIs the rest of the way with a legitimate shot at 20 if he stays healthy and manages not to embarrass himself too much out in leftfield. It’s a rare league that has Burrell owned with a 14% ownership rate in CBS leagues, just 3% in Y! leagues and a whopping 1% in ESPN leagues.

If you’re power deficient or even if you’re doing OK, but can gain points in HR, RBI and R, then see if Burrell can be slid into your lineup.

Articles of the Day
Today we have a double-feature centered around the Tampa Bay Rays. Jonah Keri and Jason Collette put together a pair of excellent pieces on the struggling team highlighting what has gone wrong and what can be done to fix the ills. Keri put together the 10 Things the Rays Should Do to Compete for the World Series including ditching Hank Blalock and looking into a trade for David DeJesus. While Collette outlines 30 reasons the Rays have gone 12-19 including Matt Garza’s cold streak, who I discussed last week as well as the toothpick-like bats the team is wielding with a .397 SLG during the slump. A pair of great people writing a pair of great articles that are worth reading whether you’re a Rays fan or not.

Featured Pieces
30 for 30: Why the Rays Have Slumped – by Jason Collette
10 Things the Rays Should do to Compete for the World Series – Jonah Keri

Others:
Backstop Depth: NYY v. TOR – by Marc Hulet
Who You Face Matters – by Pat Andriola
We Shouldn’t Be Surprised to See the ChiSox in the Race – by Tim Marchman
A Quick (and Effective?!) Way to Evaluate a Team – by Faketeams.com
Is Johan Santana Droppable?? – by Ray Guilfoyle
More on the Strasburg as an All-Star Debate – by Howard Bryant & Jerry Crasnick

Bet of the Day

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a bet of the day, so just to bring you back up to speed: I’m 4-5 with a -$119 balance. My Monday pick was kind of an easy one for me. Of course, I’m about to pick a team that was just swept by the Baltimore Orioles, but I’ll take Stephen Strasburg as an underdog without even blinking. Strasburg and his Washington Nationals are +105 in Atlanta against Tim Hudson and the Braves. I respect both Hudson and the Braves, but Strasburg as an underdog is very appealing.

Nationals +105
Record: 4-5, -$119

Spot Starter for Tuesday

Reviewing my weekend spot starters shows some carnage as I doubled up with the Seattle Mariners neither of whom were Cliff Lee or Felix Hernandez. I went with Doug Fister and Jason Vargas and the results were severely underwhelming. The two combined to go nine innings allowing seven runs on 12 hits and two walks, but they only struck out three. Neither squeaked out a win, either.

On Tuesday there are a lot of aces and #2s going so there isn’t much to choose from. I will go with Brandon Morrow at Cleveland. As a Trolling the Wire choice the other day, he is available in a lot of leagues and he has a light hitting opponent to pick on so he’s worth getting in your lineup if you need a start.

TuesdayBrandon Morrow (CBS-76%, Y!-27%, ESPN-18%)

Friday: 06.25.2010

Baseball by Paul 6/25/10 Show Notes

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Trolling the Wire Pickup

Gio Gonzalez, SP, Oakland A’s

*Ownership Rates: CBS – 67%, Y! – 27%, ESPN – 19%
*CB value – 8.8 (3rd-best in baseball behind Wainwright & Carpenter) according to Fangraphs.com
*FB value is solid at 36th in baseball – Similar to Dallas Braden, Colby Lewis and Cole Hamels
*CH value still negative but improved significantly from 2009: -6.2 to -3.3

Brandon Morrow, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

*Ownership Rates: CBS – 64%, Y! – 19%, ESPN – 13%
*92 strikeouts, but 42 walks too
*1.85 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in last 39 IP
*Only 2-1 in that stretch
*K rate down to 7.6 from season 9.9 during stretch
*BB rate down to 3.2 from season 4.9, too

Articles of the Day

How to Catch Up in WHIP
Five Numbers: Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer and more…
Don’t Give Up on James Shields
By the Numbers: Getting Control of the Situation
Matt Wieters’ Disappointing Season
Preventing Runs as Important as Scoring Runs

Spot Starters

Ugh, stupid Scott Feldman sucks. He went six, but gave up 5 runs on 12 hits. He struck out 7 and walked just one, but he was very hittable.

FridayAaron Harang
SaturdayDoug Fister (E-20%, Y-34%, C-47%) first start off of DL v. Milwaukee
Sunday Jason Vargas (E-28%, Y-35%, C-63%)
Monday – Most of the starters haven’t been named for Monday so unfortunately, I can’t go that far.

Wednesday: 06.23.2010

Baseball by Paul 6/23/10 Show Notes

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Trolling the Wire Pickup

Russell Branyan, 1B, Cleveland Indians – With pitching seemingly popping up out of nowhere throughout the year every season and speed such a niche category that can be heavily impacted with one big trade, the one scarcity on the wire usually ends up being power production. That leads me to today’s Trolling the Wire pickup and it’s Russell Branyan. He of the 174 420 career home runs after cranking his 10th of the season on Tuesday night. I incorrectly said 420 on the show, but that is his RBI total. Apologies for that and thanks to commenter Nick for the clarification.

Most impressive about his double-digit home runs is that he missed the first 21 games of the season and it still took him just 48 games to get there. After hitting 24 home runs in 378 at-bats, Branyan went six seasons with 241 or fewer at-bats. Injuries played a role, but it really seemed that teams were hung up on his poor batting average and focused more on that than his incredible 30-home run power.

Last year Seattle was committed to giving him 500 plate appearances come hell or high water. He played just 116 games, but broke the 500-mark by five plate appearances and delivered as expected with 31 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .251 average. Though he proved the Mariners brass right with their investment, he wasn’t brought back and thus he landed in Cleveland.

He is actually 3 at-bats off of last year’s AB/HR rate of 14, but he is still on pace for 29 in 458 at-bats. Like I said, power is usually tough to come by and yet fantasy owners continue to ignore him. He is owned in just 22% of CBS leagues, 6% of Y! leagues and a paltry 3% of ESPN leagues. Of course that is mainly because ESPN’s standard league is a 4-team mixed league.

But seriously, you’re not going to find any guys on the wire with 20 homer capability from here on out. His batting average isn’t going to help you on any level, but any team can take on ONE of these guys. If you’ve got three or four big time batting average slugs, that is when you start to get in big trouble. If you need power, Branyan should be on your radar.

Articles of the Day

Chris Heisey: Sleeper – Jason Grey (sub. req.)
Prospectus Q&A: Dan Haren – David Laurila
How to Catch Up in ERA in Fantasy Baseball – by Eriq Gardner
Bleacher Report Interview w/Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference.com – by Cliff Eastham (yes, something from Bleacher Report that doesn’t suck!)
2010 Futures Game Rosters – MLB.com
By the Numbers: Rangers Making Their Pitch – by Al Melchior
Baseball’s Best GM – Tom Van Riper
Morgan Ensberg’s Blog – Morgan Ensberg
Jay Bruce Showing Improvement Against Lefties – Joe Pawlikowski
More Nonsense on Time of Game – by Dave Cameron

Bet of the Day

Yikes! I think I might have jinxed Justin Verlander. And since he plays for my favorite team, I might have to avoid putting the Tigers in the Bet of the Day for a while. Actually it was rookie Jay Sborz who totally crapped the bed and let that game get out of hand. Either way, it’s a loss for me. At least Tim Lincecum held up his end of the bargain dominating the Astros giving me a 1-1 record for the day, but I still lost $35 pushing me back into the red at -$19.

By the way, to give you some context on why I chose Verlander at -135 and Lincecum at -140, let’s look at a few games for today. Stephen Strasburg faces the lowly Kansas City Royals and he is at -265. Now, it helps that he is facing Brian Bannister instead of Roy Oswalt like Lincecum did, but Lincecum is better than Strasburg and the Giants are better than the Nationals so I’m jumping on that price every single time.

Furthering the point, Ubaldo Jimenez is at -190 against John Lackey and the Red Sox. That leads me to my pick for today. I’m going to go against Jimenez and take the Red Sox +160. Now I respect how great Jimenez has been this year, but getting one of the top 5 teams in baseball at +160 with a pitcher as accomplished on the mound as Lackey is something you have to do every single day and twice on Sundays.

There are certain teams worth taking any time they are dogs just because they are good enough to beat anyone on any given night and the Boston Red Sox are most certainly one of those clubs. Right now, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are probably the only other two. The Philadelphia Phillies were there early in the year, but their stagnant offense has taken them out of that mix. So there’s my pick, I’m going against the grain taking the Boston Red Sox +160 against Ubaldo Jimenez and the Colorado Rockies.

Red Sox +160
Record: 4-4, -$19

Spot Starters

I have to pick on Pittsburgh again after having success with Tommy Hunter against the Buccos on Tuesday. Scott Feldman closes out the series against Jeff Karstens on Thursday and I think he can stay hot. He is 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA and 16 Ks in 18.2 innings in his last three starts. The Rangers on a big time roll so I might as well stay with the hot hand… or arm as it was.

Today’s pick: Brian Matusz v. Florida Marlins (Ricky Nolasco)
Thursday’s pick: Scott Feldman v. Pittsburgh Pirates (Jeff Karstens)

Friday: 06.18.2010

Baseball by Paul 6/18/10 Show Notes

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Trolling the Wire Pickup

Jason Kubel, OF, Minnesota Twins – With a 1-for-4 effort off of Ubaldo Jimenez on Thursday, Kubel ran his hitting streak to nine games as he continues to dig out of the enormous hole he built for himself in April and deepened in May. Hitting .225 when the streak started, he is now up to .248 while his power production is on very solid 24/101 pace. As he continues to creep closer toward his career .274 average, you could anticipate his counting stat paces to actually improve, too. He is only on pace for 56 runs scored which underscores how bad the 7-8-9 hitters have performed in Minnesota or just how painfully slow Kubel is on the basepath.

I projected him for 35 home runs in the preseason and I still believe he can push for that figure, but even if he falls short, he appears likely to match his 28/103 output from a year ago. Despite that fact, he is owned in 68% of CBS leagues, 57% of ESPN leagues and just 51% of Yahoo! Leagues. If you need some legitimate power production, you need to go out and grab Kubel.

Article of the Day

Featured Piece: A Closer Look at Austin Jackson – by Paul Sporer

Today’s article of the day comes from yours truly. I wrote an extensive piece about Austin Jackson and the excellent start to his major league career. I submitted it to the Fangraphs.com Community Blog and they posted it. I wrote about how he isn’t getting enough credit for excelling as a rookie leadoff hitter playing one of the toughest defensive positions brilliantly. Instead all of the focus goes toward his strikeout total. Though gaudy and in need of some help, there is more to the story with his punchouts.

Others:
The Internet Cried a Little When You Wrote that on it – by Mike Fast
Strasburg Makes Sense for the All-Star Game – by Jon Morosi
Wait, WHO has 18 Home Runs? – by Eric Seidman (sub. req.)
Joe Mauer and His Power Outage – by Bloomberg Sports
The Day that Moneyball Died – by Joe Posnanski
Delmon Young Maturing with Twins – by Tracy Ringolsby

Bet of the day

Jon Lester brought me back to even in record at 2-2 with his win on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks. But from a units standpoint, I’m still in the red. I’m currently at -$34 dollars. By the way, thanks to Jeff from Mason City, IA for pointing out that the win-loss record is fun and all, but keeping track of the hypothetical units won or lost is where it’s at with a segment like this.

For Friday, I’m taking the Mets at +170 against Javier Vazquez and the Yankees. I know Vazquez has been rolling lately and the streak got started with a nice outing against the Mets, but the bomb out potential for him remains. Meanwhile Hisanori Takahashi is going for the Mets and he opposed Vazquez that night and matched him tit for tat as both went six shutout innings.

Mets +170
Record: 2-2, -$34

Spot Starters

Thursday Review: R.A. Dickey dominanted Cleveland; Luke Hochevar was scratched and placed on the DL

Weekend Picks: Rick Porcello v. ARI, Jake Arrieta @ SD

***Programming Note*** there will be no podcasts this weekend as I’m going to Houston for the Astros-Rangers game on Saturday and then just taking Sunday off.

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Monday: 06.14.2010

Baseball by Paul 6/14/10 Show Notes

Here are the show notes from the Monday, June 14th episode:

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Trolling the Wire Pickup

Edwin Jackson, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks – Jackson threw eight shutout innings with 12 strikeouts on May 17th which was far and away his best start of the season. His ERA had been 7.43 to that point, but since that start he’s gone 2-1 in five starts with a 2.84 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 44.1 innings. He also has 43 strikeouts in that span. He looked pretty sharp against the Cardinals yesterday going 6.2 innings and allowing just two runs.

Since his season ERA is still a gaudy 5.18, he is likely on plenty of waiver wires, but I think it’s time to grab if you need some strikeouts and some quality innings. Don’t count on many wins with that atrocious bullpen supporting him, but wins are unpredictable anyway so that shouldn’t be your reason for picking someone up.

Article of the Day

What Should the Nationals Do? by R.J. Anderson

Bet of the Day

I’m going back to the well with the Cardinals even though they cost me yesterday. Instead of taking the moneyline, I’ll go with the runline as Adam Wainwright faces Luke French.

Baseball Book of the Week

The Machine by Joe Posnanski

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Tuesday: 06.9.2009

Matchups Set for the 2009 East Coast Extravaganza

Tomorrow I leave for my summer vacation to the East Coast where I will watch five games in five days in four different stadiums. I haven’t been this excited for a trip since my first time to Vegas, and my second time to Vegas… and my third time to Vegas. Anyway, here are the probable starters for the games I’ll be enjoying:

DAY 1
Philadelphia Phillies (Cole Hamels) @ New York Mets (Mike Pelfrey), Citi Field – Originally, we were going to go to Citi Field on Thursday and start off with the Nationals-Reds in D.C. My friend called me and said it’d work better logistically to hit NY on night 1 and then head down the coast and do the D.C.-Baltimore combo on Thursday-Friday staying overnight on Thursday. This logistical change ended up being remarkably beneficial for us in terms of our matchups. Instead of Jamie Moyer/Tim Redding, we one of game’s elite in Hamels and the youngster Pelfrey. Of course that could’ve stayed as Redding and I wouldn’t care as Hamels is obvious treat here. Imagine if Johan Santana hadn’t gone tonight and was scheduled to face Hamels!? Man, that would’ve been something. Ah well, I’ll settle for Hamels vs. the Mets. Of course the downside to our logistical change is that I could’ve worn my Stephen Strasburg Nationals t-shirt jersey the NIGHT AFTER he was drafted to the park! I know I’ve talked about this article of clothing ad nauseum, but I really like it! :)

DAY 2
Cincinnati Reds (Micah Owings) @ Washington Nationals (Shairon Martis), Nationals Park
OK, so I’ll just have to wear it TWO nights after the Nationals drafted Strasburg. Of course, it could be the only time a Strasburg Nationals jersey is seen in Nationals Park if superdouche Scott Boras meddles too much and keeps a deal from being completed. This matchup certainly isn’t turning any heads with Owings toting a 4.90 ERA and Martis up at 5.31. That said, it’ll probably end up as the pitcher’s duel in the quintet. My biggest regret for this game is that I won’t get to see Joey Votto, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the game. I just hope he uses his time off to get his mind right and come back as good as ever. He’s an incredible talent and too often we pretend like these non-physical injuries aren’t important or somehow not serious which couldn’t be further from the truth. When you look how mental blocks impacted the careers of guys like Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Blass, two of the more famous ones, it’s easy to see how impactful these injuries can be to a player’s career. I will still get to see a handful of guys I really enjoy watching play: Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Elijah Dukes, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman. And I’m really excited about going to Nationals Park… that’s not a phrase you see very often.

DAY 3
Atlanta Braves (Tommy Hanson) @ Baltimore Orioles (Jason Berken), Camden Yards
This is great. With the new schedule, it ends up that I will get to see arguably the top two prospects in all of baseball, but certainly two of the top five. Hanson will have his work cut out for him against that Oriole lineup. I don’t think many realize how stacked that lineup is throughout and that’s without the Chosen One, Matt Wieters, hitting much yet. The Braves have a pretty awful lineup, but hopefully Chipper Jones is in the lineup along with Brian McCann and Nate McLouth. If I see Jeff Francoeur signing autographs for the fans, I don’t know whether I’ll punch him in the neck or have him sign my chest. He continues to burn me in the fantasy baseball realm, but I keep coming back for me so I’ll probably have a Sharpie’d chest if I come in contact with him.

DAY 4
Boston Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Antonio Bastardo), Citizen’s Bank Park
This is the only one of the four parks that I have already been to and it’s also the only one we’ll be hitting twice. My best friend lives in Philly so it only makes sense. Neither of us are Philly fans yet we’ll see them in three of the five games. If I see Matsuzaka, I’m likely to have the Francoeur reaction. I picked Dice-BB as the AL Cy Young and he’s been a total flameout. The silver lining is that I was SO HIGH on him that all of my leaguemates tried to get him before I could so his poor performance hasn’t impacted me in the fantasy realm. Citizen’s Bank is beautiful and I’m excited to head back there. Since I’m wearing something for every home team, I’ll bust out my Hamels t-shirt jersey here instead of during his start. I don’t want New York fans shivving me in the neck for wearing away team garb, especially if it’s not for my actual favorite team. At least if I got shanked in the temple for wearing a Curtis Granderson jersey during interleague or in a World Series, I’d bleed to death much happier than if my blood just seeped into my Hamels shirt changing it from their current bright reds to the maroon tint of yesteryear.

DAY 5
Boston Red Sox (Josh Beckett) @ Philadelphia Phillies (J.A. Happ), Citizen’s Bank Park
Woohoo, another ace! Sure, Beckett is giant bag of douche with the personality of a table, but I’m not hanging out with him, I’m watching him pitch. Happ lacks any legitimate track record, but he’s been brilliant so far this season so this could be a real pitcher’s duel. I really hope I don’t dropkick one of the thousands of worthless “Sawx” fans during the first game on Saturday so that I’m actually around to see this one instead of in jail. Once the Red Sox won the World Series, they acquired 4.7 million vomit-inducing douchebag fans that took them from lovable losers to just as hate-able as the Yankees. There are still some tolerable Sox fans, in fact I know a few, but they are diamonds in the rough these days. Meanwhile, I hope I get to throw out the honorary First Battery at J.D. Drew when he comes out to right field. I really don’t have anything against Drew, I just want to fit in with the Philly fans so after I plant a AA into the side of Drew’s neck, I’m going to shove an old lady down the stairs and steal something from a kid.

I’ll have plenty of pictures and updates from the trip, so stay tuned!!

Friday: 05.8.2009

A National Power?

In my 2009 predictions, I slotted the Washington Nationals last in their division, but I suggested that they would have some legit offense thanks to offseason additions and growth from pieces they already had, “Washington finally doesn’t have an offense hinged on whether or not Nick Johnson stays healthy. They are pretty strong 1-8 as well as deep on the bench with Elijah Dukes, Josh Willingham and Willie Harris.”

Though it is still only May, it looks as though the Nationals won’t be dead last in the NL in OPS. Last year, they posted an embarrassing sub-.700 (.696) that was “topped” by only the Oakland Athletics (.686) in all of baseball. This year has been markedly different with the Nationals improving nearly 100 points in OPS to .794 that is good for 4th in the NL and 8th overall. Adam Dunn has been a huge addition with nine home runs already, but also an impressive .297 average. He has never hit anywhere near that level so it is safe to bet that the average will come down at least a bit. He has seasons of .264 (2007) and .266 (2004) that stand as his two highest. With one of the game’s best batting eyes and a commitment to not being a batting average anchor, Dunn is capable of .275-.280, but even if he only manages to match his career high of .266, he will still post a .400+ OBP with 40+ home runs.

Cristian Guzman has spent some time on the DL already this season, but he has remained the hitting force he was last year carrying a .386 average with 12 multi-hit games and just two 0-fers in his 17 games played. Nick Johnson‘s ability has never been in question, but his inability to stay healthy has stunted his career. He’s healthy right now and back to being the high average-high on base perfect #2 hitter for this lineup. Typically you want big time power from your first baseman, but Dunn fills that role and takes the heat off of Johnson when it comes to home run hitting.

The most impressive thing about the Nationals’ hot hitting thus far is the fact that it has come with NOTHING from Lastings Milledge (.397 OPS-now in AAA) and Josh Willingham (.693 OPS propped up by 10 walks; hitting just .174). Their worthlessness has been erased by the guys already mentioned as well as one of my favorites to rebound in 2009: Ryan Zimmerman. His only 0-fer of the season was in the 2nd game of the year which has resulted in an on-going 27-game hitting streak. He is hitting a robust .336 with six home runs and 21 RBIs. His 71 total bases are 2nd-best in the National League.

The downside to Washington’s offensive uproar? It hasn’t translated to much in the win column as they are dead last in not only the NL East, but the entire National League with a 10-18 record. That futility rests on the shoulders of the pitching, or severe lack thereof. Only Joe Beimel (1.74 ERA in 10 IP) has an ERA below 3.60 on the entire staff. Only three others are below 4.66. After two strong starts in late April, ace-of-the-future Jordan Zimmerman has been rocked for 11 runs in 11 and 2/3rds innings over his two latest starts. Allowing him to learn on the job and take his inevitable lumps wouldn’t be a problem on team that had two or three other starters capable of stopping a losing streak, but on a team like this it just adds to the mess. It’s reminiscent of Jeremy Bonderman‘s 2003 rookie campaign on that God-awful 43-119 team that saw Mike Maroth lose 21 and would’ve featured two 20-game losers had the Tigers not purposely moved Bonderman to the bullpen to save him that hit on his psyche.

If Zimmerman (20 years old) and their other youngster that surprisingly broke camp with the team, Shairon Martis (22) can develop into reliable rotation pieces through their experiences this year, they will go with ace John Lannan (24) to give the Nats a fair 1-3. Then there is the X-factor… or should I say the S-factor as in Stephen Strasburg. There hasn’t been a pitching prospect with this much promise in quite some time and recent reports suggest that the Nats will wisely take the San Diego State righty with the #1 overall pick in this June’s amateur draft despite the potentially absurd $50 million dollar asking price from idiot loser Scott Boras. Unfortunately for the Nats, you simply can’t pass on a talent like this:

2007 – 37 IP, 2.43 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 11.4 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9
2008 – 97 IP, 1.57 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 12.3 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9
2009 – 87 IP, 1.24 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 17.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9

So confident was I that the Nationals just COULDN’T pass on the youngster that I had this made:

Stephen Strasburg Custom Nationals t-shirt

Stephen Strasburg Custom Nationals t-shirt

I will be in D.C. for a game later this year and I’m hoping I’m the only one with that shirt, but since it’ll be a week after the draft, I’m sure there will be a few others floating around. And that’s also assuming that locals haven’t gotten the same exact idea I had and already own one.

With the offense they have displayed in the early going and the potential rotation they’re developing, the Nationals may be making noise much sooner than most would have expected. I haven’t even covered some of their up and coming minor league arms like Ross Detwiler, Tyler Clippard and J.D. Martin, all of whom are off to good starts as well as Colin Balester, whom the organization likes a lot. The biggest hurdle for the Nationals is their four opponents in the NL East. It will be interesting to see what Strasburg does for the team and how they choose to play the free agent and trade markets in an effort to thwart their worthy competition within the division.

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