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At the root of the W streak

It is patently unfair to credit two people alone for the Nats' seven-game winning streak. As a general rule, a team can win a game or two because of one or two players. But for a winning streak -- especially a revelatory one, like this has been -- an entire team must rise. And that's mostly what we've seen: The offense is batting .321 during this stretch. The pitching staff has a 3.52 ERA (It's 4.69 for the starters, 1.52 for the pen). Cristian Guzman is hitting like a better version of his first-half self. The team has made some incredible defensive plays, too. (And yesterday, that compensated for a pair of errors.)

Still, Washington's winning streak, it must be noted, has coincided with two things that have resurfaced the lineup.

* Elijah Dukes is back.

* And, Ryan Zimmerman's power is back.

First Zimmerman. Perhaps there was never any concern about whether Zimmerman would start hitting doubles and homers again; even when he first came back from that shoulder injury in late July, though his gap power was gone, he compensated with a decent average. But in the last week, Zimmerman said, he feels back to where he was pre-injury. He said that, really, the last four or five weeks felt like spring training redux -- he needed a while to really get the feel back for his swing. Only now does he have it.

Between July 22 and August 24, Zimmerman had the following numbers:

104 AB, 30 H (.288 AVG), 5 2B, 0 HR, 7 RBI, .356 SLG

Since then, in tandem with the winning streak, here's how Zimmerman is swinging:

28 AB, 12 H (.429 AVG), 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .714 SLG

By the way, Zimmerman told me that there's no plan whatsoever for offseason surgery. He thinks his shoulder is just fine; he'll keep strengthening it once the season ends with a program of weight exercises.

Now Dukes. Evidently, some players don't need quite as much time to adjust back to big league pitching. ("He's an unbelievable talent," Zimmerman said.) After missing just less than a month with a calf strain, Dukes returned to the lineup on August 26. Since, in those six games, he's batting .333 (with a .714 SLG), 2 HR, 2 2B, 4 BB and 2 SB. He had a relatively quiet game yesterday, but that is precisely the point. He was hit by two pitches, and never let things escalate -- a reaction which pleased his manager.

Asked about Dukes' composure, Acta said, "He has very good knowledge of the game, of baseball. He's got a lot of savvy, and I think he realized it wasn't on purpose. In the past, there have been occasions when he has flipped, but I think he knew the situation there."

As Acta said, Zimmerman and Dukes form the heart of Washington's power threat. "(Dukes) is our legit threat, along with Zimmerman, of hitting a ball out any time he comes up to the plate," Acta said.

This winning streak has been about far more than that, of course. But I think these two players belong somewhere at the root of it.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 2, 2008; 8:11 AM ET
 
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Next: Notes and lineups

Comments

As good as Dukes has been, he's even more valuable in contrast to the player he's replacing, Austin Kearns, the worst offensive RF in baseball.

Milledge also deserves his share of credit. He's getting on base more than he ever has, ever.

Posted by: Steven on Capitol Hill | September 2, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I've been away from the Journal since Thursday, so I may have missed it. That said, have any of the "Kill Lenny Harris" posters mentioned him positively? Or, are they still down on Lenny, and praising the players only, or Eckstein?

Posted by: Section 138 | September 2, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

SoCH nailed it. Dukes vs Kearns. The years-old question of whether Kearns is a starting right fielder on a good team has an answer based on results. I'm not a Kearns hater, but you gotta go with the wins.

Dukes's average and power are obviously most important, but his willingness to see some pitches and take walks helps change the tenor of the game. Fewer 9-pitch innings for the opposing starters.

And to dilute Chico's point a bit, Guzman is back and hitting and the other slap hitters are getting on base more often.

Posted by: Geezer | September 2, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

I couldn't agree more, Zimm and Dukes both easily could grow into legit long-term solutions in the number 3 and 4 slot in the batting order. Dukes has to be the most talented offensive player on the team, if he can hold it together emotionally he could be huge. Add that to the strides we have seen from Milledge in the 2nd half and they actually could be developing a real lineup for the first time in Nats history. They are all young men, hopefully they can stay healthy in 2009 and continue to grow together.

Posted by: Ghost | September 2, 2008 8:49 AM | Report abuse

That said, have any of the "Kill Lenny Harris" posters mentioned him positively?

Posted by: nope | September 2, 2008 9:11 AM | Report abuse

...they don't erase 5 months of downright horrible baseball and inept offense. This streak is great and it's finally making this team fun to watch. Too bad it's come with 85% of the season in the tank. The worst possible effect this streak could have on this team is for it to mask the holes in the organization that need to be filled from inside out and top to bottom. I'm enjoying it for what it is but I'm making sure to avoid the rose-colored glasses. We're starting to see some pieces of the future identify themselves and that's good. But let's not forget that last season about this time we thought we had even more pieces already in place. Big changes still need to happen for this organization to turn itself not only into a winner, but into a place where players want to play, and into team that we as fans can take pride in; not only in what happens on the field, but what goes on off the field as well.

Posted by: Winning streaks are fun and all but... | September 2, 2008 9:27 AM | Report abuse

What more pieces pseudo-witty name guy? Sketch out the pieces we thought we had last August compared to the pieces this August, as you see it, please.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 2, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree, I see more long term pieces in place in September 2008 then I did in September 2007. The 2007 team was fun to watch because they were a rag-tag bunch playing hard and over achieving. 2008 has some of the same cast of characters, but in addition we actually do see some real progress with personnel:
Milledge and Dukes were not here in 2007.
Flores is proving himself to be a legitimate MLB catcher despite LoDuca and Estrada trying to keep him down.
Hanrahan looks to be a legit power closer in the making (unlike the Chief who always relied on guile and guts more then stuff).
Colin Balester has the best stuff of any young SP I have seen the Nats bring up in recent memory and he should continue to grow.
Bonifacio may not be a star in the making, but I'll take him over Felipe Lopez circa 2007 at this point.
I may indeed be wearing rose-colored glasses, or desperately be looking for something to root for, but I see some of the components in place to build around. There is no doubt they need to make a STRONG effort to attract a major free agent signing (or preferably two or three) this off season, but I gotta see the positive, they are my Nats.

Posted by: Ghost | September 2, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"But in the last week, Zimmerman said, he feels back to where he was pre-injury. He said that, really, the last four or five weeks felt like spring training redux -- he needed a while to really get the feel back for his swing. Only now does he have it."

Spring training redux? Oh no, now it's time for Zimmerman's traditional slow start! He should be up to his normal form by, um let's see. If September is the new April, then the new May for Zimmerman will be...October. D'oh!

Posted by: this pastime of nationals | September 2, 2008 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I wasn't asked but:
Dreaming of pieces:
c - Flores, Nievez plus minor league depth
1b - NJ, Meat, Boone - 1+1+1=place holder, help in minors appears to be more than a year away.
middle infield - 3 divided by 2 = depth
3b - Zim
Utility - superman
lf - wmp (yea, I know, but let's roll the dice and hope that 2007 = injury free WMP)
cf -Blastings
rf - Dukes
sp - Current plus a Lanam-like suprize (my guess Zimm)
6-8 rp - what we have plus call ups plus internal development
9 rp - we've got a closer

Now to quote a previous poster who quoted "Crash", " Cliches are your friends. Learn them. Use them."

You're not as bad as you look during a losing streak nor as good as you look during a winning streak. Yea, I know, but fan = optimist.

So off-season FA not necessary UNLESS you go big for a SP or 1b or lf in that order.
So go BIG or don't go at all.

We can't fumble next year's draft.

Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | September 2, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Chico: great post and analysis. Too bad it couldn't make it into the paper! In particular, the tidbit about Dukes not flipping out after getting plunked twice was interesting. It's not something you think about unless he DOES flip out, but it's very nice to think that maybe he's growing up a little.

Also, thanks for the notebook on Bergmann and Nawlins - someone commented about that on NJ in the past couple days and it was cool you followed up on it.

Posted by: nook logan circle | September 2, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I think this current winning streak is exactly how this team would have played if injuries were at a minimum. Because of injuries to the three "core" young players (Zim, Dukes, Milledge), we have yet to see what having all three in the lineup together could have brought.

I could be wrong (I don't have full access to the data), but off-hand I counted Dukes, Zim and Milledge playing together in only 24 games this season (out of the teams' 138). The Nats record in these 24 games? 15-9! A small sample size I know, but it still makes me wonder: What if?!

Posted by: e | September 2, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Agreed with SlowPitch63... if free agents are pursued, it has to be the big guns with targeting filling needs at 1b and SP especially... not that I think it is likely these guys would consider Washington as anything other then a bargaining chip against the team they really want to sign with, but boy would Mark Teixeira or CC or Ben Sheets make a real splash. No point in signing the 5 million dollar Paul LoDuca clone as a free agent, we are just as good going with what we have or minor league free agents ala Willie Harris and saving those 5 million dollars to sign draft picks and/or international prospects... but, boy, they should at least pursue the big boys and if they could bag just one big name, it would uplift both the organization and the fan base, and could make a real difference on the field.

I am just dreaming, but it would be pretty sick to see Teixeira batting cleanup in between Zimm and Dukes. Teams might actually fear us.

Posted by: Ghost | September 2, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

We were recalled but we are not reporting per a Nationals press release.

Any idea what that means, Chico?

Posted by: Tyler Clippard, Ryan Wagner & Mike O'Connor | September 2, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

i'm not going to get carried away with this streak and ignore the holes (and question marks). but there is something to the whole "what would this team do if healthy" issue.

this team, reasonably healthy, is not the worst team in baseball. but it's still in the bottom third.

thing is, depth is important. and while the bench this year *should* have been a strength (at least compared to the past), too much of that "depth" was starting. the only positive from that is that willie harris found his cape. or lost his kryptonite. or whatever.

the nats need to build more quality depth. part of that is position players not being at that maturity level in the minor leagues, so there's not much to call up. part of that is continuing to improve the bench guys. part of that is figuring out what made so many guys who haven't necessarily been injury prone turn "day-to-day" into "a month on the DL." and part of that is not putting themselves in the position where they have too many fragile players, especially at one position (1B, in particular).

much as i like NJ and dmitri, this team can't have both of them on the roster next opening day. one has to be replaced by a guy they know they can count on for a full season.

Posted by: 231 | September 2, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Boy has it been a while. I've been reading of course.

This post reminds me of something. I would really be interested to see the Nats' winning percentage per each player when they're in the starting lineup. Such as how often the team wins when Dukes starts vs. Kearns.

My guess is that Redding has the best number.

I, for one, have some animosity towards the Phillies. Sweep em!

Posted by: nattaboy | September 2, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I am so impressed with the non-story here. Dukes getting plunked TWICE and not reacting?? Is this the same guy? I mean, I'm really impressed. It's exactly the kind of character-type turnaround we were hoping for.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 2, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"So go BIG or don't go at all."

That is the motto of the 2008-09 hot stove league, awesome!

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 2, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Dukes and Zimmerman are both back and healthy, but that was also the case earlier in the season, and the team as a whole STILL had problems hitting.

How much of this has to do with a certain hitting coach NOT coaching hitting anymore...?

Posted by: Juan-John | September 2, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

e - How many games have our "Core" of Zimmerman, Dukes, Milledge & Flores played together this year and what is our record. Take those 4 starting position players plus Bonifacio and Guzman and you have the makings of a solid (though very young) offensive team.

Since we dumped FLop and LoDuca I think this is a whole new team and gives us something to look for next year, regardless of what significant FA or trades (if any) we aquire this off season.

I think '09 will be a very streaky team, with a few stretches like this when they might look like the '07 ROX and other times when they'll look like, well the '08 Nats...

I'm highly doubt we'll see a big move in the FA market, at least for position players since so much salary is tied up with Young, Johnson & Kearns we're unlikely to see any of the three and moved on for better replacements (or healthy replacement in the case of 1B).

If we can make a big splash with a top tier SP (Sabathia or Sheets - doubtful) then I think we can "get by" for one more year with the trio I listed above. I'm no Kearns appologist, but if he can at least get on base at a decent clip I'll accept his lackluster power for his stellar defense.

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

leetee1955, continuing the Belliard and Dukes batting order question, I found this saber site. http://www.fangraphs.com/ , which rates clutchiness (WPA)for lack of a better word. It rates the value of offense in potentially winning a game, as opposed to stat padding.
B and D are by far the most valuable on the team, and still almost interchangeable. The coolest if you sort by position, Mr. Belliard is ranked 4th as a 1B, right ahead of Teixeira, and 2nd under clutch.
I went there from this article about how un-cluth A-Rod is.
http://easyurl.net/326

Posted by: cat daddy | September 2, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"How much of this has to do with a certain hitting coach NOT coaching hitting anymore...?"

Lenny Harris is still the hitting coach. The other guy is basically a September callup coach. (Every team is allowed to call up one minor league coach when the rosters expand, although not all of them do.) I've yet to see a report anywhere of this new guy working with player X on his hitting, so attributing any of the team's recent success to his presence is WAY premature.

Posted by: this pastime of nationals | September 2, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Good or bad, I don't think the Nats will dive too deeply into the FA market, at least not with position players. I'm guessing that they'll stick with most of their current starters, as well as most of those on the DL. They'll probably plan on starting next year with:

SS -- Guzman
CF -- Milledge
3B -- Zimmerman
1B -- Johnson
RF -- Dukes
C -- Flores
LF -- Kearns/Harris
2B -- Bonifacio

For next year, I'd like to see Dukes in RF, Milledge in CF and a platoon of Harris and Kearns in LF (Harris vs. RHP; Kearns vs. LHP). Harris/Kearns could bat 7th in the lineup.

The bench would include:

C -- Wil Nieves
1B -- Dmitri Young
IF -- Ronnie Belliard
IF -- (one of): Anderson Hernandez/Alberto Gonzalez
OF -- (one of): Willie Harris/Austin Kearns

Posted by: e | September 2, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"I went there from this article about how un-cluth A-Rod is."

Is that un-clutch based on his playoff performance, or uncouth based on his Madonna dalliance? Hard to tell given your typo there.

Posted by: this pastime of nationals | September 2, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I think we are likely to see Tim Redding and Ronnie Belliard traded this off season. Redding will be at about the top of his value (being under team control) and Belliard deserves one more shot at a winner. I'd also like to see one of DY and NJ traded (or DY retire?). I'm sure we'll see WMP on the roster (at $2M) and if healthy and productive would make it easier to move Kearns (and probably have to eat a significant postion of his salary).

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Re next year's lineup, what about a platoon of Bonifacio & Belli at 2B? At present, Boni can't hit lefthanders but no problem with Boni available. Platooning doesn't seem to be as fashionable now as it was in the 70s and 80s and it rarely was used at 2B, but if memory serves the Mets won a championship in '86 platooning Tim Teufel and ? at that position. Their manager of course was Davey Johnson, who knew a little bit about playing 2B.

Posted by: CapPeterson | September 2, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Woah there cowboy! Trading Redding (or anyone) at the height of their value is not the way we do it around here. Find some other team to spout your reasonableness...

Posted by: SF Fan | September 2, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

This is from MLBTR.com today;

The free agent market offers fewer than thirty viable starting pitchers. If you're looking for dominance, here's how they rank by strikeouts per nine innings:

Player K/9
John Smoltz 11.57
A.J. Burnett 9.31
C.C. Sabathia 8.90
Randy Johnson 8.74
Ryan Dempster 8.15
Oliver Perez 8.14
Randy Wolf 7.90
Ben Sheets 7.45
Bartolo Colon 7.09
Pedro Martinez 6.93
Andy Pettitte 6.80
Derek Lowe 6.38
Mike Mussina 6.22
Odalis Perez 6.01
Tim Wakefield 5.81
Jamie Moyer 5.75
Josh Fogg 5.26
Tom Glavine 5.26
Kyle Lohse 5.06
Brad Penny 4.90
Greg Maddux 4.60
Braden Looper 4.37
Kenny Rogers 4.31
Jon Garland 3.96
Paul Byrd 3.89
Mike Hampton 3.83
Sidney Ponson 3.79
Livan Hernandez 3.47


A strikeout rate of 6.0 per nine or greater is considered decent. Only 14 free agents managed that so far. John Smoltz, Bartolo Colon, and Pedro Martinez are injury risks. Randy Johnson and Andy Pettitte aren't true free agents in that they're likely to be very selective about their teams (Smoltz and Mussina may also fit in this group). That basically leaves us with fewer than ten healthy pitchers with decent strikeout rates who are expected to hit the open market. These guys should fly off the shelves quickly.

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

On another note, can somebody who attended yesterday's game tell me who was the club's Roberto Clemente Award nominee? I missed part of the radio broadcast and couldn't find a related announcement on the team site.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 2, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey, our very own O. Perez is on there. Quick, someone sign him to a 2 year 8 million/yr extension!

Posted by: SF Fan | September 2, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone else notice that Milledge didn't seem to want to run at times yesterday? I'm not criticizing him for lack of hustle, because the times I noted were after plays had concluded. But at least twice I saw him come to an abrupt stop and resort to a slow walk where one would normally expect to see a trot. Maybe it was just hot out there, it sure was hot in the stands. But I was wondering if he had a sore hammy or something.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | September 2, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

this pastime of nationals, good catch on the typo either way...

But, it really was "un-clutch", and for the season.

"In other words, the difference between how well Rodriguez produces in regular situations compared to how poorly in high-leverage ones is staggering. The resulting metric, called “Clutch,” ranks A-Rod last in the major leagues this season, 158th out of 158."

Among all with 80 PAs, Belliard ranks 20th out of 440, but...... it's still a differential from one's base stats, so if you suck normally, but come through occasionally, you can have a higher clutch and a bad WPA..... aw forget it. Saber stuff hurts my brain.

Me just likey Belliard...

Posted by: cat daddy | September 2, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I've said it once and I'll say it till I'm white in the face don't be fooled by this streak!!! changes must be made from top to bottom, yes they are playing well but its like the cheating spouse just because he/she is good now it doesn't erase all the bad from the past.They will be here in the ATL. this weekend i am going on saturday to cheer em on Go NATS!!!

Posted by: dargregmag@aol.com | September 2, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

perhaps you should work on the anger response mechanisms, dargregmag. i'm getting really tired of having to constantly get pumped up over every little thing... :o

Posted by: your blood pressure | September 2, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

We're also tired of being hit on so much...

Posted by: ! key and shift key | September 2, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"
I am so impressed with the non-story here. Dukes getting plunked TWICE and not reacting?? Is this the same guy? I mean, I'm really impressed. It's exactly the kind of character-type turnaround we were hoping for.

Posted by: NatsNut | September 2, 2008 11:25 AM
"

Hi, NatsNut.

The second time, at least, he was just "grazed" per Dave Jageler. I recall the first "plunk" being not a big deal, either.

Good for Elijah presenting himself well, in any case. I, for one, am very proud of him this season. I hope his offseason is uneventful.

Posted by: i hate walks | September 2, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

what, a guy can't beat his chest a little once in a while?

********
i'm getting really tired of having to constantly get pumped up over every little thing... :o
Posted by: your blood pressure | September 2, 2008 1:12 PM

We're also tired of being hit on so much...
Posted by: ! key and shift key | September 2, 2008 1:13 PM

Posted by: NR EDukes | September 2, 2008 1:25 PM | Report abuse

SoCH and Geezer nailed it. With the removal of the final sub .230 hitter from the position player line up, the current Nats have a much better chance of scoring runs than they did before. Add the speed to the lineup that results in the team no longer requiring 3 hits minimum in an inning to score runs, and those 5 run innings and 7 run games come more frequently.

The extremely positive effect of substituting Dukes' production for Kearns' non-production is drammatic. And which player has more potential?

Alas, there are 8 million reasons why Mr. Kearns remains a part of the Nats future.

Posted by: L Street | September 2, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Not as bad as they appeared at 0-10; not as good as they appear at 7-0. But, plenty to be hopeful about going forward:

At the beginning of the year the middle infield depth was Belliard and 2 potential free agents (1 chronically hurt, 1 chronically bad attitude). Now we have Belliard, Guzman, Bonnifacio, Hernandez, and Gonzalez. Down on the farm Smiley looks to be progressing as well. What was once a huge vulnerability and weakness is now more solid than at anytime since the Nats came to DC.

At the beginning of the year we had two place holder catchers and it was assumed we were a year away on Flores. Now we have an arrived Flores and at least one decent backup in Nieves and 1-3 minor league catchers coming up behind them. The backup could still be stronger if you could match Nieves defense with a stronger bat off the bench.

The starters have been better than feared, but not quite as good as hoped. Lannan and Balester look like long term rotation fixtures and Redding and Bergmann have been serviceable. In truth they still need 2-3 more candidates to step up but there are good candidtates in waiting. Progress was made in this area too.

The bullpen is not as good as it had been in 2007 until lately. I'm not sure it is as good as it appears right now. While I would not call it progress, I would call it evolution. Bowden's theory that relievers can be replaced certainly seems to be accurate.

The outfield has been inconsistent. With Dukes and Milledge, I think you have real progress and hope over last year's Logan and Church. Kearns regressed. The minor leaguers coming up through the system seem to be another year or two away. Alot of progress could be made with a free agent signing or trade. They really need totregthen the lineup.

First Base is the major hole right now. Johnson cannot be counted on, Young's reliability may be worse, and Belliard is only filling in. If you have to use LoDucca, Belliard, Boone, and Young at 1B as starters you just are not going to be competitive.

The bench is light years better than it has been in the past. Boone, Harris, Langerhans, and Belliard have all been strong. Young was supposed to be on the bench too, but went straight to the starting lineup when he came off the DL the first time.

All in all good progress with more needed. They may have a worse record this year, but I think they are a better team.

Posted by: NatBisquit | September 2, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I'm having fun, too, but let's not get crazy. dargregmag is right, this streak only highlights how much is missing. A couple of guys go out for a few weeks each, and it's 12 Ls in a row?
This is a mediocre team (which means almost contending!) WITH Willie Harris and Ronnie Belliard and Ryan Langerhans, among others, on the bench at 7:10 pm. But there's no one behind them. Good teams have productive major leaguers three-deep, because injuries happen to every team.

Can I beg, cajole, wheedle, noodge, and plead for a moratorium on "Trade Nick and/or Dmitri" talk, please? NO ONE will give a bag of balls for either of them--they're always hurt, and they're not good enough when they're healthy to balance that. IF Nick starts the season healthy, he's the presumptive starter, but it's a long spring training, and anything can happen. Some expensive new guy, even, but I'm not figuring on that. Who knows, maybe Broadway will borrow one of Willie Harris's capes--stranger things have happened.
But next year's 25-man had better look substantially different, or they're looking at eating a lot of crow.
So to speak.

Posted by: ce | September 2, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I agree..

The Nationals organization, player-wise, is better off today than it was one year ago. This has not, however, turned into a winning record, ratings, or positive vibe quite yet.

Posted by: GoNats | September 2, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

FA starting pitchers - I don't think they have a shot at Sabathia, but I wonder if Mussina might not be available. He's still good, he's pretty durable, he's got a few good years left, and he's got to know the Yankees are not coming back soon enough for him to be there when it happens.
I would re-sign Odalis in a minute. Shawn Hill, you have to figure, is done--sorry, but anything from him from here on out is gravy. Lannan, Redding, and maybe Balester, with Perez, maybe one young guy ready early, and a genuine frontliner FA, could fill four starter slots, among them.
They still need a LOOGY, and another Rauch.

Posted by: CE, on lunch | September 2, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Jim Bowden had a quote a few weeks ago that basically said they have to upgrade at 1B because the organization can no longer reasonable expect Johnson or Young to be healthy. What you do about it is another question. Do you eat one or both of their salaries? If you go out and try to get a 1B starter will anyone sign with you? If they do what will it cost and what do you do if/when they get hurt too?

I'm long been a proponent of getting someone who can play LF & 1B, preferably a lefty power hitter. I'd say Adam Dunn, but (like most everyone else here) i'm scared to bring in another former Red and even if he performs as well here as he did in Cincy, he still strikes out way too much.

Any other candidates (via FA or trade) anyone can think of? I'd love to see the flexibility of a Dukes/Milledge/Kearns/Dunn/Pena outfield with a Young/Johnson/Dunn first base - using Dunn as stricktly an example based on my argument above...Thoughts?

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

from http://tinyurl.com/3dm9h9

2009 Free Agents
The following players have contracts expiring or should have the six years of service necessary to become free agents after the 2008 season.
* - player whose contract includes 2009 option

Player Club
First Basemen
Rich Aurilia SF
Ben Broussard NYY
Carlos Delgado * NYM
Nomar Garciaparra LAD
Jason Giambi * NYY
Wes Helms PHI
Kevin Millar BAL
Richie Sexson NYY
Mark Teixeira LAA
Frank Thomas OAK
Jim Thome CWS
Daryle Ward CHC

Posted by: CE | September 2, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree Sabathia is probably out of our price range, and much like Torii Hunter not willing to sign on to a rebuilding project, although if you offered Sabathia (or Sheets or Burkett) a 10 year $250 million contract he would pay attention...

Posted by: MO Nats Fan | September 2, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

NatBisquit, I was just working through a similar analysis, and you beat me to the punch. It's been a rough year. If you think back to Spring Training and count the number of guys we were hoping might be part of a 2010 contender, we've lost some ground.

At catcher, the jury was out on Flores, and now it's not, so I'm grading that as +1. At first, we were hoping that Johnson (and in his absence, possibly Meat) could be a bridge to Marrero. All three of those guys took a step back this year. I'm not writing Marrero off at all, just noting that he came into camp a little out of shape, had a mediocre year and then got hurt. Overall I'm grading first base as a minus-one (as in, we still have a hole to fill here). At second, we were hoping Felipe could turn it around and fulfill some of his promise as a leadoff-hitting former all-star. Ummmmm, nope. I love Boni's speed and performance so far but I don't think he's a sure thing just yet. So I'm grading second as minus-1. Shortstop is even for obvious reasons, as is third. In left, minus-one for WMP. Center, even. In right, minus-one for AK, plus-one for Dukes, so even. The total on offense? Minus-2, in a nutshell, first base and left field.

And as well as Guzzie has played this year, he still doesn't belong in a #1-2 slot for a contender. So we're still missing ideal top-of-the order hitters, and at least one power hitter in my mind. MAYBE Bonifacio, Milledge and Dukes bat first, second and fourth on a contender in a few years, but we're not there yet.

On the pitching staff, we lost Patterson, Hill, Chico, Rauch and Cordero. Yikes! That is partially offset by Balester and Hanrahan, and maybe Zimmermann, and maybe some of the young guys in the bullpen. I'm going to take the position that Hanrahan offsets Cordero and that Balester looks like he belongs in the middle of the rotation and call this a minus-2 overall (basically, Patterson and Hill).

Where does all of that leave us? Well, arguably, a long way short of a contender. I say we still need a first baseman, a left fielder, and two middle infielders, one of whom has to lead off.

On the other hand, there are two free agents out there, both 28, that would fit in quite well. Dreaming a bit, could this team contend for a pennant?

Bonifacio, 2b
Milledge, cf
Zimmerman, 3b
Teixeira, 1b
Dukes, rf
Flores, c
WMP/Harris/somebody else, lf
Guzman/Gonzalez/somebody else, ss

Rotation: Sabathia, Lannan, Balester, Zimmermann, Redding/Bergmann.

Closer: Hanrahan.

I don't know. Even if the Lerners pony up several hundred million dollars, there are still a lot of question marks. Which is probably why they won't do so.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | September 2, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking they can't afford Texiera or Thome, and probably not Delgado or Nomar or Giambi. Dollar for dollar (and pound for pound), I remember Daryle Ward fondly.

Posted by: CE | September 2, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

So, BobL, what about the bench?

Posted by: ce | September 2, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

How fun would it be if Lerner were kidnapped and secretly replaced by Cuban? Here's your 2009 Nats

Guzman
Dukes
Texiera
Dunn
Zimmerman
Milledge
Flores
Bonifacio

Rotation;
Sabathia, Sheets, Balester, Lannan, Zimmermann

Posted by: MO Nats Fan | September 2, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

We may finally be seeing the maturation of E. Dukes. Jimbo and company gambled big time to get this player from the Rays with the hope they could surround and influence him postively. Early returns suggest it has a better than 50/50 chance of paying off. Without all the injuries the Nats suffered this year, perhaps Ladsons pre-season predictions would have been a lot closer to reality. When healthy, this bunch has promise. I think Jimbo is right on to be searching for a left handed slugger this off season, with perhaps at least a #2 type pitcher. Of course, health will be the major issue in 09 should the pieces come together. I can't wait. Nats shine in 09.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | September 2, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

From mlbtr.com;

Many teams will be looking to add OBP-oriented players this winter. The below chart ranks free agents by on-base percentage (.340 and above is considered solid). I also included BB%, the percentage of plate appearances in which the hitter drew a walk. This helps identify those whose OBPs may be deceiving because of reliance on batting average (Hairston's .338/.388/.475 line is an example).

Player OBP BB%
Milton Bradley 0.445 16.6%
Manny Ramirez 0.424 12.7%
Mark Teixeira 0.409 14.3%
Brian Giles 0.393 13.0%
Adam Dunn 0.390 19.0%
Jerry Hairston Jr. 0.388 6.9%
Jason Giambi 0.376 13.9%
Ray Durham 0.375 12.2%
Pat Burrell 0.375 16.1%
Bobby Abreu 0.374 10.2%
Ramon Vazquez 0.372 10.9%
Raul Ibanez 0.370 9.5%
Orlando Hudson 0.367 8.8%
Doug Mientkiewicz 0.367 12.5%
Fernando Tatis 0.363 8.9%
Jamey Carroll 0.356 9.5%
Cliff Floyd 0.356 11.1%
Casey Blake 0.355 8.2%
David Eckstein 0.355 7.8%
Ken Griffey Jr. 0.354 13.9%
Frank Thomas 0.349 13.5%
Mark Grudzielanek 0.345 5.3%
Nick Punto 0.343 7.7%
Mark Kotsay 0.343 7.4%

Giambi and Bradley may hold strong appeal as players who can help a team's OBP but may not require long-term commitments. Vazquez and Tatis are a couple of interesting sleepers. Are they one-year wonders?

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

CE, it's not necessarily "trade NJ or dmitri" as much as it is "we can't go into next season with both on the roster." there's no responsible way to build a roster that includes three 1Bs. and there's no responsible way to have a 2009 roster with NJ/dmitri as your two 1Bs. both have too many health concerns going into 09.

essentially that means trade or release one of them.

Posted by: 231 | September 2, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Bonifacio, long term, *has* to lead off, or he's the wrong guy for us. To do that, he has to learn to take walks, and put the ball in play. I'm not sanguine on the chances of that, but he's here, so they need to find out. IF, big if, he can, this was a great get. If he can't, well, 2nd basemen who can't hit are even more common than middle relievers who can't get Ks.

SO: you want dreamin? I got yer dreamin right here:

Bonifacio 4
Guzman 6
Bonds 7 (yeah yeah, I know: keep dreamin)
Dukes 9
Texiera 3
Zimmerman 5
Milledge 8
Flores 2
p 1

(Hey, we've got a better shot at getting Barry from the feds than getting Texiera from LA or NY.)

Posted by: CE | September 2, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

which means, release one (or both), but if/until he gets hurt, they won't walk away from Nick. I think they might, with Dmitri, but that's just a hunch.

**********
essentially that means trade or release one of them.
Posted by: 231 | September 2, 2008 2:24 PM

Posted by: ce | September 2, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

that should be "unless/until" not "if/until"

Posted by: Anonymous | September 2, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Why isn't anyone talking about trading Guzman in the offseason? I always just assumed that the ultimate goal of stockpiling all the middle infielders was to trade Guzman and Belliard while their value is still fairly high. Now that Guzman is back over .300, I see no reason why the Nats wouldn't get a good return for him. There's no point in signing him after '09 either. So trade him. I'll actually be upset if he's still in the starting lineup next year.

Posted by: Peter | September 2, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I don't think Raul is as into baseball as Fidel was, and anyway I think they're rather replace the Secretary of State.

***********
How fun would it be if Lerner were kidnapped and secretly replaced by Cuban? ...
Posted by: MO Nats Fan | September 2, 2008 2:18 PM

Posted by: Emily Litella | September 2, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

"At second, we were hoping Felipe could turn it around and fulfill some of his promise as a leadoff-hitting former all-star. Ummmmm, nope. I love Boni's speed and performance so far but I don't think he's a sure thing just yet. So I'm grading second as minus-1."

Why not make it a 0, since Boni might not be a +1 player, but he at very least brings us up higher than when Lopez played there.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 2, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

they'd

Posted by: EL | September 2, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Again, I will be disappointed if the Nats don't try and make a run at Teixeira. I realize he probably wants to go somewhere he can win and likely wouldn't consider Washington unless he was somewhat (or highly) overpaid, but if you are going to overpay someone, make it a guy who is as much of a lock to go .300-30-100 as you can be, is in the prime of his career, plays above average defense, has never been seriously injured, and is a switch hitter that can immediately hit cleanup in your lineup. Not to mention the fact that he is a relatively local product (Annapolis area). He would instantly change the look of that lineup and would allow everyone to see better pitches at the plate. I would rather overpay him then an SP who could blow out an elbow at the all-star break and have Tommy John surgery, although there are some intertesting names on the SP free agent list beyond Sabathia/Sheets/Burnett stratus... Oliver Perez is still young (25) and seemingly getting better... Derek Lowe is ultra reliable...
As for Nick Johnson at 1st, I am a Nick fan... but if we go into spring training planning on him being our starting 1st baseman and cleanup hitter in 2009, we are getting what we ask for... significant stretches of games where our cleanup hitter isn't available to be in our lineup.

Posted by: Ghost | September 2, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

The answer to the 1B logjam likely won't include releasing eitehr DY or NJ, unless Dmitri retires (he'll gets the money anyway. maybe he and LoDuca can play shuffleboard together for $500k a game...).

The solution is to bring in another player who can play 1B and another position (likely LF) to fill the void...we seem to focus in too much on FA availabilities and not enough on who might be available via trade...I asked this earlier, but can anyone name a left handed power hitter who can play 1B and OF and isn't named Adam "strikeout mean no double play" Dunn?

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

you'll have to get used to being upset, then, peter. guzman signed a two year extension and is very unlikely to be traded in the offseason.

CE, that was always my thought as to what would happen. NJ will stay, dmitri will probably be gone, one way or the other. but who knows what'll happen in the offseason. but staying with both is making the same mistake two seasons in a row.

Posted by: 231 | September 2, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

And speaking, still, of chasing your dreams ...
Anyone know what became of these guys?
http://tinyurl.com/6cosae
Trio of Cubans defect while team plays tournament in Edmonton

Reuters Published: Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Posted by: ce | September 2, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Peter - no way they trade Guz before the season starts, he just inked a 2 year deal and if you immediately traded him no one would ever sign with you again, that is seriously dirty pool...also, the reason we inked him for the next two years is because we have no replacement for him in the minors (and I don't consider A.Gonzalez an everyday starter), Ian Desmond isn't close with the bat and the rest of our stable is at least 2+ years away IF they continue to progress. Smiley Gonzalez is likely Guz's replacement and he'll start '09 in Hagerstown and '10 in Potomac or Harrisburg so even '10 seem ambitious (and he will only be 21 at the start of the '10 season.

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

CE, I like the bench of Belliard, A. Gonzalez, Harris, Casto, Nieves, and Johnson/Meat (if healthy), and it's an improvement over last year. But I think the 2010 bench will be a lot different and it's hard to project. Maybe Casto, Bernadina and Gonzalez are on it; Ian Desmond and Mike Daniel could be there, as could random veteran FAs signed to fill whatever holes we have by then.

In other news, the GCL Nats got swept by the GCL Phillies on Sunday, losing the opener 5-4 (McGeary gave up six hits in a row to start the decisive five-run fourth) and failing to compete in the rubber match (a 9-0 loss in which we managed only three hits and sent guys named Frias, Demny, Gill and Dill to the mound, none of whom were effective). The lone bright spot: Two of the three hits belonged to Smiley Gonzalez, who hit .438 during the GCL playoffs after winning the regular season batting title with a .350 average.

All the more reason to conclude our third sweep in a row against the MLB Phillies tonight and tomorrow!

Posted by: Bob L. Head | September 2, 2008 2:46 PM | Report abuse

See you in the cheap seats, bobl!

Posted by: ce | September 2, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

I was talking about prospective Cubs owner and Billionare (that's a B folks) Mark Cuban.

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

dukes could easily play 1b but we'd lose our best outfielder.

Posted by: longterm | September 2, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"unless Dmitri retires (he'll gets the money anyway."

If Dmitri retires, I don't believe he gets the money, does he? If he sits on the DL the entire year, or if he is "retired" a la LoDuca and FLop, he gets paid. But if he voluntarily retires, I don't believe he would. But I could be wrong there...

Posted by: this pastime of nationals | September 2, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Here is some more from mlbtr.com (as I fight hard to avoid doing any work today);

Eddie Bajek over at Detroit Tigers Thoughts has added Elias rankings for American League starting pitchers. Thoughts:

http://tigers-thoughts.blogspot.com/2008/08/projected-elias-rankings.html

A.J. Burnett is comfortably a Type A, so the Jays should get a couple of nice draft picks if and when he opts out.
Yankees pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina have Type A status (Mussina is on the borderline). It makes sense for the Yankees to offer arbitration to both.
Jon Garland and Paul Byrd are Type Bs. The Angels seem likely to offer Garland arbitration.
Kenny Rogers was not able to earn Type A or B status.

Posted by: estuartj | September 2, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Cristian Guzman was named NL Co-Player of the Week in the last 20 minutes. He shares the award with CIN’s Bronson Arroyo.

Guzman becomes the third Washington National to share the weekly citation, joining 1B Nick Johnson (June 6, 2005, shared with STL’s Albert Pujols) and 3B Ryan Zimmerman (August 5, 2007, shared with ARI’s Brandon Webb). Willie Harris won the NL POTW award outright on July 21, 2008.

On Thu. vs. Los Angeles (NL), Cristian hit for the cycle for the first time in his career. He also became the first DC-based player to hit for the cycle in the Nation’s Capital. Guzman’s cycle was the 2nd in the history of the Washington Nationals (Brad Wilkerson, April 6, 2005 at PHI). He was (at the time) just the 3rd player to hit for the cycle this season (ATL’s Mark Kotsay and MIN’s Carlos Gomez).

Cristian’s efforts on the week helped the Nationals go a perfect 6-0 on the week. Washington swept 3-game series from LAD and ATL.

Guzman notched 6 multi-hit efforts in as many games last week.

For the week, Guzman ranked among NL leaders in hit (MLB-best 16), batting (MLB-best .552), doubles (tied for 7th, 3), RBI (tied for 10th, 6), total bases (3rd, 24) and slugging percentage (4th, .828).

Posted by: Press Release | September 2, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Cristian Guzman was named NL Co-Player of the Week in the last 20 minutes. He shares the award with CIN’s Bronson Arroyo.

Guzman becomes the third Washington National to share the weekly citation, joining 1B Nick Johnson (June 6, 2005, shared with STL’s Albert Pujols) and 3B Ryan Zimmerman (August 5, 2007, shared with ARI’s Brandon Webb). Willie Harris won the NL POTW award outright on July 21, 2008.

On Thu. vs. Los Angeles (NL), Cristian hit for the cycle for the first time in his career. He also became the first DC-based player to hit for the cycle in the Nation’s Capital. Guzman’s cycle was the 2nd in the history of the Washington Nationals (Brad Wilkerson, April 6, 2005 at PHI). He was (at the time) just the 3rd player to hit for the cycle this season (ATL’s Mark Kotsay and MIN’s Carlos Gomez).

Cristian’s efforts on the week helped the Nationals go a perfect 6-0 on the week. Washington swept 3-game series from LAD and ATL.

Guzman notched 6 multi-hit efforts in as many games last week.

For the week, Guzman ranked among NL leaders in hit (MLB-best 16), batting (MLB-best .552), doubles (tied for 7th, 3), RBI (tied for 10th, 6), total bases (3rd, 24) and slugging percentage (4th, .828).

Posted by: Press Release | September 2, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Just talking about the team on the field-As early as next year the Nats could have a better team on the field than Tampa Bay does this year. (Crawford, because of injuries has not produced much and I'm talking about this year, remember) Our shortstop has produced more offensively than TB's. Our outfield has a chance to surpass TB's next year. (check out the stats, if you don't believe me) Zim will do better than Longoria, because the latter has been injured. Flores, despite a major slump and fifty fewer at bats has 15 more RBI's. If Johnson is healthy, he will surpass TB's first baseman in every category other than home runs. And Boni ? certainly could match Iwamura's stats.
The team, until lately could never get on track because of injuries. Even when they returned from the DL, it must have been a bit like spring training all over again, except the opposing pitchers were in mid season form.
I mentioned the other day that something might be worked out with SD for a first baseman. Gonzalez is relatively inexpensive and Kyle Blanks is waiting in the wings.
Our starting pitching can't match TB's but what a difference a year can make. Who would have predicted that into September TB would have the best record in baseball.
I like the Nats and I've said all along they will contend sooner than later-barring injury.

Posted by: Jeeves | September 2, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Methinks that the Castro reference was a joke, estuartj (hence the Litella ID).

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 2, 2008 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Go Tampa Bay (I'd love to see them playing in October and the Yanks/Sox sitting it out)!

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 2, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

But what is there to bar injury?

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | September 2, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Has anybody mentioned that there is a new post up? Lineups and more. Come on over...

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 2, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

fyi on dunn, in case anyone's interested, he's made it clear he wants to play on a winner next contract. something about feeling the complete and total difference of playing on a team in the playoff race in september in arizona instead of making golf plans in cincinnati.

now, how true that really is and how much money will actually sway him, who knows. but it doesn't surprise me that a guy who's never seen a playoff race up close before might be influenced by being in one.

estuartj, the only guy who comes right to mind as a true 1B/OF hybrid is nick swisher, who was just traded from oakland to the chisox.

other thoughts on that hybrid would include casey blake (1B/3B/OF), chris duncan, matt stairs, jeff baker (1B/2B/OF)... maybe of those duncan and baker would be interesting, since they're relatively young.

Posted by: 231 | September 2, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Chico - Thanks for Bergmann's thoughts on Gustav.

Posted by: PTBNL | September 2, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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