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A closer look at a closer

Closer Jon Rauch reaffirmed his value to the Nats last night by doing one of the hardest things in sports: Stopping another team's momentum cold.

All game, after the second inning, the Mariners were on a steady, persistent comeback trail. It was 7-1, and then 7-3, and then 7-5, and then 7-6. And that's when Rauch entered for the ninth.

He faced four batters, allowed one hit, and picked up his 14th save. His ERA is 2.67. At this point, Rauch, Cristian Guzman and Dr. Tim Kremchek are this team's only conceivable All-Star representatives. I'm starting to think more and more that it's going to be Rauch, especially because Guzman has a tougher fight at his position.

Among NL closers right now, Philadelphia's Brad Lidge probably has the best shot. He's 18-for-18 in save chances with a 0.93 ERA. Yup, that oughta merit something.

Here are the other NL closers with 14 saves or more.

Brian Wilson (SF) - 19-for-21 in save chances, 3.90 ERA
Kerry Wood (ChC) - 18-for-22, 2.48 ERA
Matt Capps (Pit) - 16-for-17, 2.58 ERA
Jose Valverde (Hou) - 16-for-19, 3.82 ERA
Trevor Hoffman (SD) - 15-for-18, 4.50 ERA
Brandon Lyon (Ari) - 14-for-16, 1.29 ERA
Rauch (Was) - 14-for-17, 2.67 ERA

In that group, Rauch doesn't dazzle. But it should be noted that 1.) nobody in that group has pitched in more games than Rauch, and 2.) he didn't begin the season as a closer, and 3.) almost everybody else on that list pitches for a team with other obvious All-Star candidates.

My question for now, though it's still a few weeks away from coming to the surface:

Is Rauch too valuable to trade at the deadline?

Some time in July, Chad Cordero will rejoin the Nats. He was the old closer, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be the closer of the future. If Cordero spends a few weeks back in the big leagues looking like his former self, should Washington explore a trade that will ship Rauch to a contending team? Mind you, any team that trades for Rauch will probably use him as a set-up man, a position of importance -- but of lesser value than you'd get for a closer. Mind you, too, that Rauch is under contract through at least 2009, with a $2.9 million club option for 2010.

My thoughts: Rauch, right now, is more valuable as a stabilizing force in the Nats bullpen than as trade bait.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 14, 2008; 1:29 PM ET
 
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Comments

You all catch that O's/Pirates game last night? Of course you all did, because deep down you're all closet-O's fans.

Gotta love how the O's came back from being down 6-1 to win the game 9-6. They came back against the Pirates, something the Nats sure couldn't do.

Also, for all you attendance nay-sayers out there anyone of you see the figures for last nights game at The Yard?

47,305

You all come talk to me when the Nats have that many people in the stands for a home game that isn't the grand opening of a new stadium. Also, I thought (according to the attendace nay-sayers) that the O's only got high attendance when either the Sox or Yanks were in town.

Guess that shows them.

O's record: 33-33

Nats record: 27-42

Looks like the O's are 6 better in the win column and 9 better in the loss column. And that's with the O's playing 3 fewer games than the Expos, I mean Nats. Sorry for the slip up, it's just when I see all those empty seats at the new Nats stadium it makes me still think the team is playing in Montreal.

Posted by: O's Exec | June 14, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I really value Rauch's stability on this team, but that is outweighed by my fear that these past couple years of work are going to take their toll. I'd love to see him traded before he burns out.

Fun game last night - good to see the bats come to life. I'm looking forward to more excitement tonight.

Posted by: Capybara | June 14, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Great question, Chico, thanks for posting it.

As great as Rauch has been, I think it would be a mistake NOT to use him as trade bait.

The relevant stat isn't how many saves Rauch has right now. It's how many more leads a healthy Rauch will protect between now and the end of the season, as compared to whoever closes in his place (a healthy Cordero, or someone else). I'd put that at 8-10 games, tops, being pretty generous to Rauch.

So maybe Rauch -- if he stays healthy -- is the difference between a 65- and 75-win season. In the end . . . so what? We're still miles away from contending.

If the team is really committed to the Plan, we need to build talent by getting value for guys when we can. Holding on to guys like Soriano or Cordero or even Dmitri in past years certainly doesn't seem like good non-moves right now.

Meh, I'm bitter. Let Rauch pitch for a contender!

Posted by: On the Rauch Q | June 14, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you Chico, Rauch is too valuable to trade. There are too few quality major league players on this team right now, trading one of the few that we have would be very discouraging (particularly with full season tickets @ $50 per seat and parking @ $35 per game.)

I'd keep Rauch as the closer for this year, and for years to come. The most impressive thing about him is that he has gotten better in the role as the year has went along. I love the Chief, but I feel way more comfortable seeing Rauch in the ninth. Maybe Cordero can become the set up guy upon his return (he can't be any worse than Ayala!)

Posted by: Ray | June 14, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

One more thought, somewhat off topic. I really like having Ronnie Bellard back in the lineup. He makes an occasional mistake, sure, but he is a spark, and unlike many of the recent acquisitions (see Dukes, Elijah) Ronnie is a good guy you enjoy rooting for.

Posted by: Ray | June 14, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I like Rauch a lot. Whatever hint of enjoyment that this team has given us over the last 4 years has come mainly on the strength of him, plus Ayala, Cordero, Majewski, and Rivera. The people inclined to give Bowden a total free pass as a result of the state of the team when it arrived from Montreal I think tend to overlook the fact that all these guys were inherited from the Omar regime, and Rauch in particular came in a great deal for us in exchange for a brief rental of Carl Everett. Rauch is clearly our AS.

Guzzy, the only other possibility since Redding has flamed out, is at best the 5th best in the NL (after Hanley, Reyes, JRoll, and Tejada), and that's after Tulowitzki went down. He hasn't really been any better than Escobar either. Can you really be in the AS game when you are arguably the worst starting SS in your division?

That said, if someone wants to make a big offer for Rauch, you do it in a heartbeat.

Other than Mariano Rivera and a handful of others, relievers are the most erratic commodities in baseball. You can turn up effective closers easier than you can any other role on a team. Case in point--this list. Kerry Wood? Brandon Lyon? Brian Wilson? None of these guys have been on this list before, and I wouldn't expect any of them to be there again. Rauch is likely in that category as well. And try to think of the closers who have done the job year in and year at an elite level for out for any extended amount of time. The list is Mo, Wags, Hoffman, K-Rod... any others? Maybe Jenks, Papelbon will join that group. Lidge, Valverde, Isringhausen, Gagne... they've all had their ups and downs. Probably I'm forgetting a couple, but you get the idea.

Rule #1 for any GM should be to not overpay for relievers, either in the form of trades or FA dollars.

Factor in the heightened injury risk associated with the big guy's workload, and you deal him.

Here's the problem. I think every other GM in baseball knows this, and no one will make a big offer.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Man, you didn't really throw out the question whether Jon Rauch is too valuable to trade, did you? You're just joking with us, right? Just trying to start a conversation -- even a silly one -- right?

Posted by: Chris | June 14, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Good point on erratic closers. It ought to be the last piece to the puzzle, not the first.

A contender might give up longer-term value/prospects to fill the closer hole for the stretch drive, which is exactly what the Nats should exploit.

ATTENTION JIM BOWDEN -- We won't get the world's greatest talent for Rauch, so LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. But we might get a player who, over time, can learn how to hit a major league curve ball. And that's good enough for me right now.

Posted by: Agreed | June 14, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

At some point the Nats have to start believing that the pieces are already within the organization, and not in someone elses, and hence become buyers instead of sellers.

Perhaps the Nats don't need a top-shelf closer now, but ideally they will next year. Rauch certainly could be that person, as could Cordero. The nice thing is, if Cordero is they guy, you still have a place for Rauch (and Ayala, and Rivera), and now you have a top-shelf bullpen.

I say, let's not eviscerate it.

Posted by: Wigi | June 14, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

@Ray--Ayala has struggled this year, indeed. But this is just what I'm talking about. Ayala's been an elite set-up man whenever healthy till this year. Relievers are just erratic. Whether it's the small sample size or overwork or just the nature of guys who are mostly not good enough to close or start... middle relievers and set up guys are even more erratic than closers. Think about the league's best--Linebrink, Scot Shields, Heath Bell, etc.--they've all had some pretty erratic ups and downs.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

"Can you really be in the AS game when you are arguably the worst starting SS in your division?"

Your so-called worst starting SS in the division is currently second in hits. Not just among shortstops, and not just in the division. Second among all players in the major leagues. Your rating criteria are screwed up if you think that makes him arguably the worst starting shortstop in the division.

My prediction: Guzman will be the Nationals' all-star. Also, he will not be traded at the deadline, but rather he will be signed to a multi-year deal by the Nationals before the season is over, just as Dmitri and Belliard were last year. It would make no sense to trade Guzman, since you'd have to turn right around and sign or trade for someone to replace him. It's not like there's anyone in the farm system banging on the door to take his job.

Same goes for Rauch. He won't be traded, not specifically because he's "too valuable to trade", but more so because if he was traded someone else would have to be acquired to replace him. A smart team trades from a position of strength, not from a position of adequacy. Strength means there is overload at a position, not that the player at that position happens to be playing well while the rest of the team isn't. For a team to improve, it has to seek to have good players at every position, not just a few of them. Trading your few good players for a few other good players or prospects doesn't improve your team.

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | June 14, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

SoCH, Chris - I'm in your camp on Rauch. Mind you, I think he'll be terrific for a contender down the stretch, especially if he switches leagues. Hitters the first time through will say, "WTF?" But it takes value to get value. There are quality middle infielders in contenders systems that we could possibly pick up. Get one, or a CF prospect, and we are in better shape for next year. Rauch has been abused as much / moreso than any other reliever over the past few years. We've seen Cordero break down on less work, and we've seen Ayala break down 2 years ago and seem to be wearing down this year. Even if you project Rauch as performing at this level for another couple of years, is he really that much better than the internal options (say, Adam Carr or Shairon Martis after a year of Rivera, Hanrahan, or Schroder)? Let's demonstrate some sell discipline before the asset declines (easier said than done as a former Worldcom stock holder).

Posted by: PTBNL | June 14, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I have no problem keeping Rauch. True, there is minimal difference between a 65 win and a 75 win season this year, but as ABM illustrates with Guzzie, some of this year is about plugging holes. Ideally, we will need an effective closer next year becuase there is a substantial difference between a 75 win and an 85 win season. I also like the Big John is an effective set-up man - a role he could revert too given the appropriate circumstances.

That said, I have to think that he must be on the Yankees radar right now and, if you get the right deal, you make it. I don't think you can ever really talk about trading or keeping a player until you see the counter-offer.

BTW, as woeful as we have played, have the Orioles really only won six more games than us?

Posted by: lowcountry | June 14, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Two thoughts for the day:

There's barely any mention in the paper version of Sports of our late-night game, and win!, against the Mariners last night. I usually champion the Post's sports coverage, but this is just ridiculous.

Keep Rauch. This team has too few viable working parts at this level to trade for other potentially viable working parts. He's proven, reliable, and fierce, whether as set-up man or closer on this team.

Posted by: samantha7 | June 14, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

PEC0TA (an acronym for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) says that Obama wins in November! "Obama and McCain splitting the popular vote 50.0 percent to 50.0 percent, with Obama winning the Electoral College 274.4 to 263.6."

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/newsstand/

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

That's good to know flynnie. I guess I don't have to worry about voting now.

Posted by: lowcountry | June 14, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

"The Nats only own 10% of MASN, Peter Angelo$ owns the other 90% -- why do you think the network is so slanted towards Baltimore?

Posted by: WFY | June 13, 2008 9:51 PM "

-- Actually, don't the Nats get an extra 1% per year until they own 33%? So they'd own 13% or 14%, depending whether the formula starts in 2005 or 2006. If MASN ever succeeds, that can be a huge asset. When the Red Sox were sold for $750 million in 2002, I believe the estimated value of NESN was $350 million (they own 80%). MASN has a bigger potential market.

--- Oh, and for Livo lovers like Boz inhis chat, I bring you this review of his recent pitching from CBS sportline:

"The veteran right-hander dropped to 0-3 with a 9.38 ERA in his past six starts since beating Boston on May 12. He has allowed five or more runs and 10 or more hits in four straight outings. His ERA is now at 5.84. Hernandez had some good starts earlier in the season, but is losing it. He needs to clean up his act soon or the Twins could be forced to make a roster move with Hernandez."

Maybe this is tempting fate too much since he starts Wednesday. But if he can't get straightened out v the Nats . . .

Posted by: PTBNL | June 14, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"Holding on to guys like Soriano or Cordero or even Dmitri in past years certainly doesn't seem like good non-moves right now."

Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmerman would beg to disagree with you.

And please let me know who the Nats were offered for either Dmitri or Chad? Have we heard of them?

"I think tend to overlook the fact that all these guys were inherited from the Omar regime, and Rauch in particular came in a great deal for us in exchange for a brief rental of Carl Everett. Rauch is clearly our AS."

This shall not pass . . . Jon Rauch vs. Grady Sizemore+Brandon Phillips+Cliff Lee+Chris Young+Jason Bay=OMAR SUCKS!!!!!

Something the Mets fans should be learning right now as they watch the corpse of Carlos Delgado and his massive contract kill their chances. Oh and BTW, have fun with the next three years of empty "production" from Luis Castillo.

Finally, have to deal Rauch if you can. Unfortunately, it won't be easy since overpaying for set up guys is passe. It only takes one sucker. unfortunately, the Mets are so out of it and have no decent prospects left . . . that would be the place to go to get a steal

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

@ABM--well, based on your flip-flopping on the stadium subsidy, I'm sure you'll soon be disavowing your assertion that Guzzy belongs in the AS game, and you'll probably respond to this post with no facts and plenty of name-calling, but I'll engage anyway.

Let's look at the competition. Here are the quick offensive numbers for Guzzy and the other NL contenders for the All-Star game:
Cristian Guzman: .312/.331/.449
Hanley Ramirez: .298/.388/.531
Jose Reyes: 291/.351/.480
Miguel Tejada: .301/.336/.480
Jimmy Rollins: .278/.340/.444

There will only be 3 max, but more likely just 2, and Hanley looks like a lock to win the voting (which obviously he should). So to get him in, you have to most likely have to leave home Miggy, Rollins and Reyes.

Rollins missed some time, and his numbers don't quite jump out at you as they have in the past, so if you really wanna make a homer argument, or if Rauch cratered and you REALLY had no one else, you could take Guzzy over him I guess. (But there isn't a sane baseball person on earth who would take Guzzy over Rollins for their starting SS.) But Hanley, Reyes and Tejada have both been clearly better by any objective measure. If you're right and he makes it over 2 of these 3 guys, it'll be an absolute travesty.

Now don't get me wrong, he's had a nice little first half, but to just point to his hit total and nothing else is just cherry-picking. Yes, 91 hits is an impressive number, but how about 9 walks or 3 SB? For a lead-off man? There's more to life than slap hits.

As to where he ranks in the division? Honestly I assume we can agree that Hanley, Reyes, and the reigning MVP are all clearly better. If you wouldn't trade Guzzy straight up for any of those guys, you're smoking Josh Hamilton's left over crack. The only real argument is whether Guzman is the 4th or 5th best SS in the division. So it's Guzzy v. Escobar.

I'll give you that he's probably been a bit better than Escobar at the plate this year, but not much:

Guzman: .312/.331/.449
Escobar: .295/.366/.402

Guzman is ahead on these categories: H, R, 2B, while Escobar is ahead in these categories: RBI, HR, BB, OBP, SLG.

Then given that SS is so important defensively we should factor in that Guzzy is a worse defensive player. Defensive stats are hard, but a good measurement is Baseball Prospectus's defense rating, which factors in range, errors, arm strength, etc. I has him at -3, meaning he costs us 3 runs over the course of the year compared with an average defender. This is one of the worst ratings of any starting SS in baseball. Jeter and Renteria are -4s, Miggy's a -5, while Tony Pena's a +8 and Tulo is the best in MLB for SS at +11). Escobar is a 0, meaning basically exactly average.

So give it to Guzzy by a nose in a career year that he has next to no chance of duplicating or maintaining even for the rest of this season. Mazel tov.

I'd still trade Guzzy for Escobar straight up in a heartbeat, and I think about 29 out of 30 MLB GMs would do the same.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

PTBNL- "Since beating Boston" is the operative phrase in your anti-Livan post. Could anyone of our starters beat the Red Sox? If you look at his last 10 starts, he got shelled by the Rangers in that Little League park in Arlington, where every fly ball is a homer, went 6 against the Yankees
(would an of our starters survive for 6 against that lineup) and had two bad starts against the Indians and 1st place ChiSox. Livo wanted to come here, is enormous fun to watch and would have given us something to look forward to at the park.

Since we're trading Rauch, let's trade him for Rick Porcello, a #1 19 year old who's also had three bad outings in A ball:

While we're keeping up with the minors, let's keep up with Rick Porcello, whom the Nats could have signed but did not becasue Detwiler was cheaper. The Tigers made Porcello their first round pick last June, and paid a record $7 million to keep the right-hander away from the University of North Carolina. He plays for Div. A Lakeland.

Rick Porcello 2008 in A ball
He's 19. 13 games 67.1 innings pitched; ERA 2.94; WHIP 1.28.

Ross Dewiler, 2008 in A ball (PoNats)

age 22, 13 games, 55 innings pitched; ERA 5.73, WHIP 1.73

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Ooops Guzman is ahead of Escobar on SLG. My bad. Overall point still stands.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

"While we're keeping up with the minors, let's keep up with Rick Porcello, whom the Nats could have signed but did not becasue Detwiler was cheaper."

Porcello was something like the most expensive draft pick in history, and is represented by Scott Boras, so...

Detwiler was rated among the top three college pitchers in the country. It wasn't a bad selection.

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Ramirez is 100 points ahead of Guzman in slugging percentage, the hitting stat most associated with winning, and 50 ahead of Cabrerra and Reyes. He is awesome. I'd trade Josh Beckett for him.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

res21- Detwiler was a cheaper selection, wasn't he, and, in Boz's words, Stan's and Jimbow's employers, the Lerners, are running this team like a shopping mall.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

"@ABM--well, based on your flip-flopping on the stadium subsidy, I'm sure you'll soon be disavowing your assertion that Guzzy belongs in the AS game, and you'll probably respond to this post with no facts and plenty of name-calling, but I'll engage anyway."

Squire Badbreath: I didn't flip-flop on the stadium subsidy. The words you kept sticking in my mouth were what flip-flopped, because I took no position on the stadium subsidy, here or elsewhere. I don't know why I waste time responding to you anyway, because all you're interested in is spewing your constant stream of negativity. If people don't attack your inane comments directly, then you just stick words in their mouths and pick your fights as if they did. You're not fooling anyone. The bad breath of your comments permeates this blog.

And for someone who complains about being the victim of name-calling, you sure don't have any problem dishing it out yourself, do you? Just ask Mr. Bowden or Mr. LoDuca.

Posted by: An Briosca Mor | June 14, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

sam7-Isn't that the case for all west coast games? The paper gets printed before they're over. But I'm with you that having a 25 year old who's never covered baseball is ridiculous, and has made me a Times subscriber to read Barry's friend Mark Zuckerman, who at least covered the Dukes story.

********************************************
There's barely any mention in the paper version of Sports of our late-night game, and win!, against the Mariners last night. I usually champion the Post's sports coverage, but this is just ridiculous.

Posted by: samantha7 | June 14, 2008 3:31 PM

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

@ABM--since you have nothing to say in defense of your totally misguided position on Guzman going to the AS game over Tejada, Reyes, and Rollins, should we assume you are already backing away from it? I don't blame you.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Detwiler was cheaper. He was also older and more polished. The Nats have a nice recent history with first-round college picks. Cordero, then Zimmerman. Maybe Stan and Jimbow were looking for more of an immediate impact in the big leagues.

It now looks like he'll be set back a bit, but I don't think you can say that he's a flop after just 13 appearances.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh, that was me

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

BTW I find it hilarious that, exactly as I predicted, you responded to my post with no facts whatsoever and by calling me a name.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

from Tyler Kepner, NY Times:

For much of baseball, an important factor in the draft is a player's willingness to sign. Of course, the Yankees do not operate like most of their peers, generally ignoring the bonus recommendations of the commissioner's office.

So when a highly regarded high school right-hander, Gerrit Cole, fell to them with the 28th overall pick Thursday, the Yankees pounced. Their vision of Cole's 98-mile-an-hour fastball outweighed any dread of negotiating with the agent Scott Boras.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Oh, sure, go and use the Yankees as an example.

There were 26 other teams that passed on Porcello, you know.

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

res21- I used the Tigers and the Yankees as an example. There are 26 other teams with better records than the Nats, you know. Boswell says that there is a legitimate concern that the Lerners will run this team like a shopping mall. Other posters here have said that the team was sold to the wrong owners because Ted Lerner went to grammer school with Bowie Kuhn. Ted Lerner called the money being paid for starting pitching "insane" in the 2006 winter meeting. None of this bothers you? Are you their banker or their heir?

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

@ABM, call him some more names, maybe he'll laugh so hard he'll have to leave for the bathroom. It might work.

***********
BTW I find it hilarious that, exactly as I predicted, you responded to my post with no facts whatsoever and by calling me a name.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 4:32 PM

Posted by: this is why I quit radio | June 14, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Oh, flynnie - I'm just having a bit of fun at the expense of the "We need an innings eater" crowd. nothing against the Livo of 2005, but the "anti-Livo" crowd merely point out that he's been on a 3 year decline. And you missed the 5/22 start - 6 ER in 6 innings on 13 hits vs. KC, an intimidating line up. It's really 5 bad ones in a row, so I guess CBS was wrong. But I'll admit I predicted he'd be DFA'd by the end of the year on 5/1, and he then had 3 quality starts in a row.

My main point is that cheap (< Lo Duca money) FA innings eaters weren't better than what we have, and that the bigger $$ ones were destined to stay (Maddux), go home (Glavine), or stink (Silva). The big exception is Lohse, but recall he turned down 3 years $21 million from Phillies at the start of free agency. A lot of teams miscalculated. I will not call Colon an innings eater given his health over the past two years, but he also would have been a sharp signing.

Also, to be fair, those in the innings eater camp can point out that our starters have been slipping in terms of IP / start vs the rest of the NL. We had been on league average up until the start of the month or so. Now we are about 5.5 innings/ start and the league is 5.7. Coincides with having to go to our 7th (Clippard) and 8th (Mock) starters. That still is about 895 - 900 innings over the season, which is about 40+ more than last year, and what Chris Needham and a few others thought would be a reasonable bench mark for the team when it wanted to see what its AAA/AA guys could do at the majors.

Posted by: PTBNL | June 14, 2008 5:36 PM | Report abuse

"Is Rauch too valuable to trade at the deadline?"

This is a bad team, getting worse. Nobody's indispensable. And only a fool holds out for top dollar.

Except Charlie Slowes. Gotta keep Charlie.

Posted by: cevans | June 14, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Right on, flynnie!

Posted by: Lerners ARE Cheap | June 14, 2008 5:48 PM | Report abuse

I've heard enough of what Boswell said. The Tigers are the laughing stock of the American League and the Yankees are dwindling aroung .500. Granted that's a fantasy for the Nats, but disappointing, nonetheless. I think that it's only been 2 years since these guys came to town, and they have done a decent job of rebuilding the farm system.

This is from Baseball America:

"The Nationals then snapped up the top college righthander in the draft, Missouri's Aaron Crow, with the ninth pick... As the first nine picks showed, the most notable trend at the top of the first round was the willingness of teams to take players according to ability rather than signability...The Giants, Reds and Nationals did the same thing when they took Posey, Alonso and Crow--all players whose representatives have reportedly thrown out signing bonus demands well above the slot recommendations."

It's something.

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 5:49 PM | Report abuse

since we are kicking around the issue of whether the Nats draft cheap, signable guys, I thought Eric Van's quick and dirty calculation of drafted guys who had "signability" issues might be interesting (Van is a stat geek who works for the Red Sox and posts on SoSH):

"A super quick proxy of how many late-round signability guys each team took. Simply, if a guy was drafted ninth round or later and has a prospect writeup by BA, I'm counting him. Highly inexact!

9: Oak
8: Ari, Col
7: Bos, Min, Was
6: LAA, Tex, SF
5: NYA, Tor, Cle, Sea, Atl, Fla, Phi, StL, SD
4: Bal, Cin, Htn, LAN
3: TB, ChA, ChN, Mil, Pit
2: Det, KC
1: NYN"

Take it for what it is worth. Also, don't forget when we say LAC, they spent the 2d most on signings of any team last year.

Posted by: PTBNL | June 14, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, the Lerner's Nats signed their first 20 picks of last year's draft. Maybe not dishing put the big bucks to some high school hot-shot helped them out in the long run.

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

As flynnie notes, the morning print edition doesn't have gamers for West Coast road trips because of the time difference. On the beat writer front, if I recall correctly, Barry did not have experience covering a MLB team before the Nats came to town but that worked out just fine. ;)

Posted by: natsfan1a | June 14, 2008 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Taking high school pitchers in the first round is often a waste. Think Clint Everts and Josh Girdley. With an organization like the Nats, they can't afford to waste their first round pitch on a high school pitcher whose arm implodes or who can't put it all together. Read Moneyball not for the OBP loving, but for the draft knowledge.

Porcello and Detwiler are both going to be good pitchers, but you can't judge a pitcher by their first two months of full-season ball. Hell, you can't judge a pitcher by their first two months of ball at any level.

Posted by: hoagie | June 14, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

I think we should keep our fingers crossed that Chief can come back strong, in turn making himself valuable trade fodder.

Except this year we know that Jon Rauch can competently fill in as closer.

Posted by: natsinthevalley | June 14, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

1A - I honestly love the Washington Post. Because of it, I read this human behavior article by Shankar Vedantam that one negative experience obliterates five positive ones, and that our sunny, optimistic ancestors died when the saber-tooth tigers ate them while they were smelling the flowers. I got flamed by Coverage is Lacking, among others, but him I respect, telling me that I was posting too much and the pollyanna act was getting old, so I stopped posting, and then decided that I would just post like the other Eeyore assh#les,(not LernersAREcheap-missed you, buddy! Where you been?) but it's not me. "The words burn within my bones-I cannot hold them in." Jeremiah The Globe's great baseball writer, Gordon Edes, is going to Yahoo Sports rather than be laid off. The New York Times Company will probably fire Tyler Kepner next. It's ironic that the Post worries that the Lerners are Cheap and then hires a 25 year old who's never covered baseball. The Post is cheap. But Chico is here, and though he's already screwed up once, so did an entire network(MASN) on the Dukes story, and Chico's posts and gamers are dense with sabermetric goodness. He works hard, has never responded meanly to personal attacks about him going to a friend's wedding or visiting his family, and is doing a great job. If I want to keep reading the Post, I have to accept that it needs to hire newbies or go bankrupt.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 6:53 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe not dishing out the big bucks to some high school hot-shot helped them out in the long run.

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 5:57 PM

*******************************************
I'm with Lerners ARE cheap on this one. We know what not dishing out the big bucks does-we're going to watch Team Thrift play the Mariners tonight. When Boswell says it's time to spend, all should take heed.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Flynnie-- who would you have gone after in the offseason?

Posted by: res21 | June 14, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Of course, the Marlins are fielding a contending team for 22M

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 7:20 PM | Report abuse

res21

Fair enough. D.C. has just built me a $630M stadium. D.C. - where much of the impoverished population has sub-standard everything. I pay MLB $440M, and they have left nothing in the minors to trade, right?

And I'm a multi-billionaire, right?

What do I give back to the city, the poor, and the fans? What return can I make?

Johann Santana, for a start. Then no one's b*tchin' that I'm cheap.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

And, speaking of the Globe's great writer, Barry Svrluga's favorite, Gordon Edes:

Edes is famous in Boston for his club house confrontation with former Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett. Everett, who had been the subject of several critical columns by Globe sportswriters, told Edes to get away from him and take his "curly-haired boyfriend with him". He was referring to Dan Shaughnessy, another sportswriter with the Globe. The nickname, shortened to CHB, has stuck with Shaughnessy ever since.

Posted by: flynnie | June 14, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Rauch: do NOT deal him, he's got a great contract, is difficult to hit per scouting reports of opposing teams, is satisfied either being setup or closer (and thus can fit in with whatever short-innings bullpen guy we promote next, ala Zinacola) and is locked up to us through 2009.

All Star: could have been Redding until his collapse over the past few weeks. It probably has to be Rauch despite his comparisons to other NL closers. What's more ridiculous is the rule that says every team has to be represented. Too many cheap all stars. NBA has no such rule, and thus the all star game is truly filled with the elite players of the game.

Drafts: whoever said the Nats draft cheap is a moron. Look at the "slot busting" money we gave to the likes of Smoker and McGeary last year. Those two deals alone should convince you you're wrong. Plus we were rated to have one of the best (if not THE best) draft of 2007.

Posted by: Sec131 | June 14, 2008 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Santana wasn't available as an FA, but ARod was! Now THERE'S a guy who would have made us better immediately, would have put butts in the seats, and is worth every dollar in terms of wins.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | June 14, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

New post, same old crap.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2008 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for your post, flynnie. I have really appreciated your optimism and enthusiasm and hope to continue reading flynnie posts in the future.

Posted by: natsfan1a | June 15, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

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