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A Few Promising Things

The Nationals today play their 16th game of the year, which means the season has reached (egads) roughly the one-tenth pole. Now I'm not enough of a horse racing junkie to know if the one-tenth pole even exists -- perhaps it's too close to the starting line to have much value -- but hey, I'll take any excuse to make a list. Today's list: the Five Most Promising Developments So Far. The caveats here are almost too obvious to mention, and yes, it's early in the season and we're working off a small sample size. Also, I know this list doesn't jibe much with a 3-12 team; we could draft longer lists about non-promising things. That said, it jibes with the mood. We've got a sunny, 80-degree day at Citi Field. We need time for good cheer.

So, here's my list. (Feel free to add/amend/admonish.)

1.) The impact of the three late-offseason free agent signings. Adam Dunn, Julian Tavarez and Joe Beimel all look like smart additions. Dunn leads the team in homers, Beimel has a 1.23 ERA, and Tavarez is on pace to pitch in more games than Washington actually plays. Or something like that.

2.) Nick Johnson. He's healthy. He's getting on base. He's fifth in the NL with a .370 average. Layoff? What layoff?

3.) The upgrade in center. Lastings Milledge, handed a job at the start of the year, made enough mistakes in the first week that the team finally held him accountable for it. That opened the door for Elijah Dukes; it's funny to think that this guy wasn't an Opening Day starter.

4.) The rotation -- of late. Daniel Cabrera continues to scare me, but the 22-year-olds are promising (even if/when they take their lumps), Lannan's early-season difficulties already look like a mere hiccup, and Scott Olsen has the look of an adequate back-of-the-rotation pitcher. Over the last eight games, Nats starters have a combined 2.36 ERA. Their earned runs during that span: 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0, 2.

5.) Ryan Zimmerman. 13-game hitting streak. $45 million contract.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 25, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
 
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Comments

To bad you couldn't add in Acta gets the axe and Carnival Stan asks the Lerners to buy him out. Then the TriFecta of organizational incompetenance would be complete. Kasten to Bowden to Acta going, going, gone.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 25, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

According to the ESPN team aggregate stats, Nats rank 4th in the NL in OBP (.348) and batting average (.264). Also 7th in hits, FWIW (139).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 25, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"Over the last eight games, Nats starters have a combined 2.36 ERA. Their earned runs during that span: 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0, 2."

And yet, in those eight games they are averaging slightly less than 6 innings per start, and only once has a starter even made it through the seventh. And this is when the starters are going "good?" Talk to me when the starters have a stretch like this and are averaging 7 innings per start--or better yet, when they have a new manager who knows how to manage a pitching staff.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 25, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

6. Achieving financial goals. The Nats finished second in all of MLB (after finishing first in MLB the year before) in net profits. While there were lots of things the Nats' ownership could have done to build the franchise further, they demonstrated the financial discipline to resist those superfluous moves.

http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/33/baseball-values-09_The-Business-Of-Baseball_Income.html

Posted by: EdDC | April 25, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

That opened the door for Elijah Dukes; it's funny to think that this guy wasn't an Opening Day starter.

That tells ya all you need to know about Manny Acta. BTW, the biggest game of the year for the Nats will have been opening day in DC. Not opening day in FLA. I say that because how on earth can you have Daniel Cabrera an Oriole retread throwaway pitching that game in front of the only sold out crowd you'll have all season. Again, good work Nats. Way to plan.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 25, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

>To bad you couldn't add in Acta gets the axe and Carnival Stan asks the Lerners to buy him out. Then the TriFecta of organizational incompetenance would be complete. Kasten to Bowden to Acta going, going, gone

They just painted a seat white in 532 for that one.

Posted by: Brue | April 25, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

could ya'll just shut up for a minute about manny acta. jeeez.

thanks for the positive post, Chico.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 25, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Chico - do you know what the story is from the FO on Lastings? I know they don't anticipate bringing him back up quickly, but I just wonder if they are trying to having him work on his CF defensive skills (even though he hasn't been playing CF) or get a lot of at bats to improve? Or are they just trying to get his attitude in check and/or shop him for a trade?

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | April 25, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I agree with EdDC (financial goals), but would place that as #5, with the signing of RZim at #5a (the first sign that they're willing to spend).

The Lerner's are making money, now they need to keep the faith & spend it in June (draft picks) & in the 2009 off-season (1-2 FA signings & contract extensions).

Posted by: BinM | April 25, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Cartoon (maybe Far Side?): Hell, fire and brimstone all around. The Damned at hard labor, in a burning quarry, devils with pitchforks overseeing them.
One guy is jauntily pushing a wheelbarrow of flaming rocks, whistling a tune as he goes along. Two supervisor devils are looking at him; one comments to the other, "I don't think we're reaching that guy."

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Nervous, you can relax about Milledge as long as he's hitting .120 in the minors. We may never see that guy in a DC hat again.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I think the question is will milledge ever come back up...dudes hitting .100 in aaa

Posted by: theredskin | April 25, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

"The Lerner's are making money, now they need to keep the faith & spend it in June (draft picks) & in the 2009 off-season (1-2 FA signings & contract extensions)."


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Hilarious!

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 25, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

The offense is improved, as expected, with Dunn, and Nick back. (If only Guzman could have stuck around...)

The starters, so far, are not bad, and may be pretty good. Six innings, < 4 runs, is a quality start. (Yes, I miss the Gibsons--Bob, Kirk, Josh, Henry--too, but them days is gone. I'm too lazy to look it up now, but I'd bet the majority of teams aren't averaging 7 innings from their starters.)

#1 Promising Thing, so far: an impatient front office sending relievers up the river (almost literally) for walking people late. If the next move is to acquire somehow some outside bullpen arms, and keep the pressure on, so much the better.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

It's sad that we can be below average in runs per game and crow about the improved offense.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | April 25, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Much improved offense with Nick hitting second,
Home runs from Flores, which nobody reckoned,
Dukes hitting dingers with one-handed swings--
these are a few of the promising things.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Don't mention "crow" in here, please, Uncle T--it just riles the natives up something fierce.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Hernandez getting picked off by Murphy after the catch

Hernandez to Gonzalez to No Chance

Posted by: Brue | April 25, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Gee, thanks, CEvans, Jr., for mentioning Crow.

Crow, as in the college pitcher of the year, the guy who went 13-0 for a major college conference? The guy who wanted more than slot, so had to be told to get lost? The guy who could have been called up to the big club by this September? That Crow?

No, you can't sign Crow and expect to lead the majors, or finish second, in net profit. That saved close to a half-million dollars compared to what the Nats were willing to spend. This is the same amount of money the Nats saved by dumping Shawn Hill. Combined, those two moves alone saved a million dollars!

Don't stir up the natives, please. Better to preach patience instead of franchise-building.

Posted by: EdDC | April 25, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

CiL - Got to take issue with you on this one. For the fun of it, I'm going to say that if you took the top 10 runs allowed teams in baseball, most of them will not have starters averaging 7 innings per start. my guess is that at least 3 will not average 6 innings a start.

I'm posting this before I look up the numbers. I'm going to use last year's numbers, and then I'm going to try to find numbers since 4/13.

Will post again in a few.
--------------------
"Talk to me when the starters have a stretch like this and are averaging 7 innings per start--or better yet, when they have a new manager who knows how to manage a pitching staff."

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 25, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

New GM beating Segways into plowshares, Milledge in Syracuse might buy a house there,
A draft with two top picks but budget to bring,
These are a few of the promising things...


Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

When they walk six, when they keep Clint,
When they can't spell "Nats"
I simply remember some promising things,
And then I go get more Yeungling.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

>A draft with two top picks but budget to bring,

The question is, who do you take with the second choice - it would be nice at this point to merely focus in on one thing or the other, but at this point, an excellent hitter or a pitcher doesn't make much difference, we need both.

Posted by: Brue | April 25, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Brue, doesn't matter, you don't draft for ML need in baseball, as I know you know.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

That said, if they come up with the next Ryne Sandberg I won't mind.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 25, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm not arguing that they should average 7 innings a start over the course of the season, guys. I understand that is unrealistic in this day and age (like it or not). I am just saying that averaging less than 6 innings during a "good stretch" is actually not that great. My point was that averaging 7 innings per start over the course of 8 games or so would be impressive and something to point at; averaging less than 6, not so much.

If you can't extend the starters when they are pitching "well," what happens when they are getting shelled? You end up averaging 5 innings per start over the course of the year. One thing this leads to is over-working the bullpen, something we should be quite familiar with here.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 25, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Since I could not quickly find IP/GS for the top 10 ERA teams, I'm going to take the top 10 starter ERA teams, put down the IP by starters, note whether the number of games, and do the math:

2008 (162 games unless otherwise noted):
(IPs in 3ds of an inning, IP/GS in 10ths)

Toronto - 1021.2 IP - 6.3 IP/GS
Cubs - 955 IP/161GS - 5.9 IP/GS
Milwaukee - 983.1 - 6.1 IP/Gs
LA Dodgers - 927.2 - 5.7 IP/GS
AZ 978.2 - 6.0

I'm bored. A quick eyeball of the rest of the table, finds Boston the low (966/162), rounds to 6.0, and the LAA the high, (1012/162), at 6.2 IP/GS.

I'll skip 2009 or the shorter 9 start stretch because I doubt starters are going too long this early.

The point is it is simply is not a reality - based expectation to expect a rotation to average 7 IP/GS, that none of the best by ERA do so, and that somewhere between 5.2 and 6.1 is what the best do.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 25, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

CiL - I get your point, which was posted when I was number crunching. I'd be curious other than when CC was starting on 3 days rest or when Halladay et al whether any of those top 10 staffs had a stretch that met your standard. But I'm going to enjoy the weather rather than crunch those numbers.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 25, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

>Brue, doesn't matter, you don't draft for ML need in baseball, as I know you know.

Yet that's exactly what Bowden did when he selected all that pitching. Nary a hitter in sight. That's why I think they could focus on some hitting now. Even if you have to make a concession. At least they can't screw themselves like the Redskins by trading their picks. Now that's a positive.

Posted by: Brue | April 25, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Apropos playing the Mets today.
Can't anybody here play this game? - Casey Stengel 1962

Posted by: jimbo1949 | April 25, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Brue,

What's the difference between trading your picks and not signing them? In the Redskins case, there's no difference, since they get nothing for their traded picks (TJ Duckett cost a 3rd and a 4th, while Jason Taylor cost a 2nd.)

If you can get a top pitcher with a proven record of accomplishment at a top college conference level, a 96-98 MPH fastball and all the other tools (like last year's choice), then draft him. Otherwise, take the best player available. And don't worry too much about willingness to sign for slot!

This strategy is advocated by those who think about the post season. During the regular season, the position players are as valuable as pitchers and often much more valuable.

Posted by: EdDC | April 25, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

With whom is Pedro Martinez negotiating?

I don't think he is a long term solution to the Nats' pitching situation, but he surely must be better than Cabrera.

Posted by: jbartelloni | April 25, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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