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Desert Dogs win East; see Strasburg and Co. Saturday

As a lot of you noted in the comments, the Devil, er, Desert Dogs have won the East Division and will play the dread Peoria Javelinas on Saturday for the AFL championship. The game is at 2:15 ET on the MLB Network and Stephen Strasburg is lined up to be the starter.

Danny Espinosa was the star of yesterday's clincher with four RBI. Josh Wilkie pitched an inning in relief, giving up no hits, no runs and getting a strikeout.

The one Nat I didn't get to talk to in Arizona, Jeff Mandel, called me last night but I was already in dream land, so I'll talk to him, hopefully today, and get a post up on what he has to say. You will remember that he is the starter being converted to a reliever this season and his numbers are very good.

Editor's note: Chico Harlan is on vacation. He'll be back in December in time for the winter meetings. -- Alexa Steele

By Tracee Hamilton  |  November 17, 2009; 9:52 AM ET
 
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Next: Nats nuggets: bench coach, Guzman, Flores, et al.

Comments

Yay, it's Tracee! I had a feeling you'd be on the D-Dogs story like Espinosa on a misplaced fast ball, or something to that effect. Any chance you can also find out what's ailing Marrero, who has not been in the lineup in some time? Thank you, ma'am.

(and thanks for the Harlan update as well)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 17, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update on Chico, Tracee.

Some people on here assumed he was gone, fired, laid off, whatever.

See what happens when you ASS-U-ME.

Posted by: Section505203 | November 17, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

The front office is taking shape, and the Desert Dogs are in the championship game. Chico's not in exile, and I might actually get to see Strasburg start on Saturday (barring a sleeping incident).

So why do I feel like Sunday's going to feel like the day after Christmas? The lull between the AFL championship game and the winter meetings is going to be brutal.

And it's possible that nothing will happen in the winter meetings!

If it weren't for the Caps, I'd hibernate.

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 17, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Wow, so Chico's been MIA since mid-October, he won't be back until the Winter Meetings in mid-December, and he's on vacation? On top of all the time he took off during the season? And he's only been with the Post less than two years? Where do I get a job that offers that much vacation? If I was Chico I wouldn't be hating on baseball writing so much. You think food people get all that time off?

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Is WAPO planning to play this AFL Championship thing up with the SS, Espinosa, Storen connection? Maybe Boz and Shiner can provide a Sunday Morning expose on how well these future Nats did in the AFL.

damn, forgot Sunday's dead-tree hype and spin will be chocked filled w/B&G playoff expectations, run the table wins, and their back from the dead stuff.

Please prove me wrong Mr. Sports Editor.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | November 17, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Editor's note: Chico Harlan is on vacation. He'll be back in December in time for the winter meetings. -- Alexa Steele

****

Sheesh, was that so hard?

Posted by: NatsNut | November 17, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"err, ummm.... they don't have to non-tender him. They can just sign him to an incentive package. base +innings+performance.... That seems the most likely scenario to me."

You talking about Olsen? Your scenario can't happen. Well, it could, I suppose, but why would Olsen sign a contract that would pay him less than what he'd get in arbitration? He won't. If nothing else, his agent won't let him. And the whole point about non-tendering Olsen is that some cheapos around here don't want to spend $1M or so more than they think he's worth, so they suggest that he'll be non-tendered. Wrong. If they non-tender him, it would be because they think he can't pitch any more, which based on the medical reports doesn't seem to be the case. So they'll go to arbitration with him, and if perchance he really is washed up there's plenty of time to find that out during spring training and Patterson him to save paying 75% of the arbitration money. That's a gamble they'll take, because if they non-tender him some other team will pick him up before you know it. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and right now Olsen is a bird in the hand for the Nats.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Does Marrero have Ebola or something, I hear he's sick, but I had hoped he wansn't done in AFL because of it....

I knew having fall league play so close to the source of Swine Flue was a mistake...

Posted by: estuartj | November 17, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Ouch, where did the people on here that ass-u-me-d that Chico was gone get there intell from?

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | November 17, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

From SportsTalk 980, 106.7 The Fan, MASN, COMCAST SportsNet, The Examiner, WATIMES, DCRTV.

Get it? It came from no one. It was clearly ASS-U-MEd!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | November 17, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"Some people on here assumed he was gone, fired, laid off, whatever."

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

sigh...we could dream, couldn't we?

Posted by: surly_w | November 17, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Without our assumptions, we would still be in the dark about Chico.

Posted by: sec307 | November 17, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone here work the hot stove circuit at all? Yeesh. This is one of the most fun times of year, as the team talks to free agents and begins to shape next year's roster. The team is active in rumors from other sources -- Billy Wagner, Mark DeRosa, Mike Gonzalez, etc. -- but none of those rumors are ever even acknowledged here.

You are still covering the team, right?

Posted by: raymitten | November 17, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

So I went to the Onion site looking for that bogus pic of Sabathia as a hot dog and Fielder as a hamburger (thinking that maybe somebody with mad skillz could do a mockup featuring Strasburg as a Devil Dog snack cake instead), and I got distracted by this:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/sullen_ryan_zimmerman_draws

How'd we miss that one? teehee...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 17, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's a bit of light reading for all those simpletons out there who ass-u-me that all that's keeping the Nats from success is a lack of payroll. The trenchant quote:

"It's a little surprising, but the statistical relationship between a team's winning percentage and its payroll is not very high. When I plot payroll and win percentage on the same graph, the two variables don't always move together. In other words, knowing a team's payroll does not enable one to know a team's win percentage."

This ain't the Onion I'm quoting here either, folks. It's the Wall Street Journal. Full article here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703683804574534021373434110.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Section309,

Take a look at the payroll standing each year in this decade and who the playoff teams were and you tell me if having a payroll in the upper half of MLB makes a difference.

Posted by: Section505203 | November 17, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

And now for something completely different ...

In about a month they will be selecting Rule-5 players again. I am hopeful that the team can identify a more worthy candidate for selection this year than last. It seems to me that with so many new front office staff members coming into the Nats organization this year that there could be some pretty interesting debates on who to select. For my part, I would prefer they identify a position player rather than a pitcher, but that's just because I think it is harder to keep a pitcher on the roster all year.

I'd also go high risk/high reward. Getting a marginally successful player is not worth the effort. A slick fielding middle infielder would be particularly nice.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 17, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Chico Harlan is on vacation. He'll be back in December in time for the winter meetings. -- Alexa Steele
*************************

Yeah, and then it's two weeks off for the holidays! I work with these types of people, so I know them well :) I wish I could take 2-3 months off a year! Seriously though, I don't know how the Post does things, but Chico puts in many 7-day work weeks and a lot of hours during the regular season (since he is the lone beat writer for the team, while the Snydermen have several, but that's another rant for another day), which probably translates into lots o' comp time to use up. If he earned it, fine with me. Any issues with this are his bosses' problems, not ours.

Posted by: thepostischeap | November 17, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"Section309,

Take a look at the payroll standing each year in this decade and who the playoff teams were and you tell me if having a payroll in the upper half of MLB makes a difference.


Posted by: Section505203"

That's basically what the WSJ author (a professor of econ at Smith college) did. If you don't like his conclusion, maybe you should argue with him.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"...damn, forgot Sunday's dead-tree hype and spin will be chocked filled w/B&G playoff expectations, run the table wins, and their back from the dead stuff.

Please prove me wrong Mr. Sports Editor."

Posted by: TippyCanoe

*********

The Post has a Sports Editor?!?

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | November 17, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

holy crow enough with the Chico harping. You have no idea how much (or little) he gets paid. Or if he's getting paid while on vacation even. And as a baseball beat writer you don't have many weekends either. AND there are three dedicated Nats writers over at The Times who are damn good too. Vote with your clicks and stop cluttering up the comments.

Posted by: softballgirl | November 17, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Rounding up the trade rumors, it seems we're interested in Adam Everett and Alex Gonzalez at short, possibly Dan Uggla and Mark DeRosa at second, and Billy Wagner and Mike Gonzalez in the pen. And we supposedly want a veteran catcher that is capable of starting if our man Flores can't go in April, although I haven't seen any specific names mentioned in this regard. We're also supposed to get two starters, one of whom may be Livan. Lotsa work for all those new folks in the front office.

Posted by: BobLHead | November 17, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I like DeRosa and Gonzalez. Maybe we could switch from having Reds rejects (Dunn the exception) to having some pretty good ex-Braves.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | November 17, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Of the catchers that might be available by trade, I would think Kelly Shoppach and Ronnie Paulino would be near the top of the list. There are numerous free agents including Jason Kendall, but age and durabilty are issues with most of them. I still like Schneider, but I'm not sure he fits the bill as a 'potential starter' anymore. Yorvitt Toreabla would be a nice fit too.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 17, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

I could see them picking up a catcher in the offseason via FA, but not by trade. It would not make sense to give away prospects or major league players for a player who's only there to bridge a possible short-term gap before Flores is back from injury. Maybe if it turns out Flores is not going to make it back for some extended period of time, then you think about a trade. But you don't know that until after the season starts.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Players in the mirror may be closer than they look...
********
Coghlan, Bailey honored with rookie awards
...
Just a year ago, [A's closer Andrew] Bailey was a struggling prospect for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League -- the same team that currently boasts Washington Nationals prospect Stephen Strasburg as its ace -- as he underwent a conversion from starter to reliever.

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/16/AR2009111603281.html

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | November 17, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

holy crow enough with the Chico harping. You have no idea how much (or little) he gets paid. Or if he's getting paid while on vacation even. And as a baseball beat writer you don't have many weekends either. AND there are three dedicated Nats writers over at The Times who are damn good too. Vote with your clicks and stop cluttering up the comments.

Posted by: softballgirl
--

Amen.

Posted by: cassander | November 17, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Enough with the complaining about the Chico harping already. There's been more of that than there was Chico harping. And I thought his name was Chico Harlan, not Chico Harping.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Section309,

Take a look at the payroll standing each year in this decade and who the playoff teams were and you tell me if having a payroll in the upper half of MLB makes a difference.


Posted by: Section505203

That's basically what the WSJ author (a professor of econ at Smith college) did. If you don't like his conclusion, maybe you should argue with him.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 12:52 PM

* * * * *

No, that's not what he did. What he did is look at "the statistical relationship between a team's winning percentage and its payroll" and he concluded that it's "not very high." He did not look at whether high payroll teams end up in the playoffs more frequently than do low payroll teams--which they most certainly do.

There is a big difference between the two questions. A very high payroll team could end up in the playoffs and still not have a "very high" correlation between its payroll and its winning percentage--if, for example, it made the playoffs playing .550 ball as opposed to .600 ball. By the same token, a very low payroll team could play .500 ball and not have a "very high" correlation between its payroll and its winning percentage. But 81 wins isn't going to see them playing into October. Similarly, the Mets, as a very high payroll team this season, did not have a very high correlation between payroll and wins. These results are all consistent with Zimbalist's conclusion. But none of this has anything to do with whether high payroll teams are more likely to end up in the playoffs than are low payroll teams. It is a documented fact that they are--not guaranteed (for example, the Mets or Tigers), but more likely.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | November 17, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

CoverageisLacking, in case you haven't noticed eight of the 30 MLB teams end up in the playoffs every year, no matter how many games they win. That's over 25%. So trying to make some correlation between payroll and being in the playoffs (which, as we know, doesn't even mean you're in the top 25% of winning percentage) is like trying to correlate payroll with any semi-random event. Might as well try to correlate payroll with number of rainouts and then argue that payroll makes more difference than playing in a dome does.

On the other hand, correlating payroll with the total number of wins makes perfect sense, because both payroll and wins exist in a series of lower-to-higher values that have no other mitigating factors like how divisions are arranged, whether there's a wild card, etc, etc. And that's exactly what this study did, and the conclusion was that payroll does not correlate with winning. Let's see yours or section505203's argument against that, not against some random strawman of your own choosing.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

And another thing. If your concern is correlation between payroll and playoffs, then you really would need to look at how often the top eight payrolls are *all* in the playoffs, to the exclusion of any other teams - which I would surmise is not all that often. Because the question you're really trying to answer is "if I have a top-eight payroll, what are the odds I make the playoffs?" Isn't that right? Whereas the question this study was trying to answer was "if I spend more money, what are the odds that I will win more games?" Big difference there.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Editor's note: Chico Harlan is on vacation. He'll be back in December in time for the winter meetings. -- Alexa Steele

Next thing you know, the Post will find Hoffa too.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | November 17, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Section309, as far as I'm concerned, making the playoffs is the goal, so that's what concerns me. I'm not certain why you dismiss it so readily. Anyway, I'm not sure why you are trying to overstate what the study says. As I wrote earlier, it simply concludes that the correlation between payroll and winning % is not "very high." No more, no less. It doesn't address playoff teams. But if you look at teams that make the playoffs--which is the goal, after all--on a season-by-season basis, the majority of them are going to come from the high payroll teams, year after year.

As to your point that the study concludes that "payroll does not correlate with winning," again, that's not what Zimbalist says. He does say, though, that "Wealthy teams do have an advantage." Which is the point--it doesn't guarantee anything, but a higher payroll absolutely gives you a leg up.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | November 17, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"Anyway, I'm not sure why you are trying to overstate what the study says."

I'm not overstating what the study says. It says there is no correlation between payroll and winning. That's all I'm saying. You're the one trying to spin it into something it's not, and I'm just telling you why you shouldn't be doing that.

And as far as goals go, I'll take winning as a goal over playoffs. Because I bet there's a high correlation between winning and playoffs.

"As to your point that the study concludes that "payroll does not correlate with winning," again, that's not what Zimbalist says."

Then what's he saying when he wrote this?

"It's a little surprising, but the statistical relationship between a team's winning percentage and its payroll is not very high. When I plot payroll and win percentage on the same graph, the two variables don't always move together. In other words, knowing a team's payroll does not enable one to know a team's win percentage."

I mean, if you say "knowing A does not help you know B" doesn't that basically mean A does not correlate to B?

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I think you're both right. A high payroll doesn't automatically translate into wins (see Mets, New York, 2009). And well-run teams with relatively low payrolls can still be competitive (Minnesota and Florida, for example). However, the luxury of being able to add top-shelf players to an already solid team has to be an advantage. Conversely, the inability to retain (pay) your emerging stars has to be a disadvantage. I think the reason that the correlation between payroll and wins is not stronger is threefold: first, sometimes high payroll teams implode due to injuries, age and/or too many bad contracts; second, some teams with lower payrolls are just better at drafting and scouting than almost everybody else; and third, it's baseball -- almost every year there is a team like Colorado or Arizona that catches lightning in a bottle for awhile, only to fall back to the mean in subsequent seasons. Overall, though, the ability to keep your best players while adding the best players from other teams is going to lead to more invitations to the playoff dance.

Posted by: BobLHead | November 17, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Section309,

It's very simple:

Take the payroll standing each year this decade and on the average 5 of the 8 playoffs teams are in the top 10 in the payroll standings.

And on average at least 6 of the 8 playoff teams are in the upper half of the payroll standings.

2009 for example, 6 of the top 13 made the playoffs.

No one is saying that having a high payroll guarantees you a playoff spot but, it most certainly increases your odds of making it.

Posted by: Section505203 | November 17, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Actually, 309, since ranking on the payroll is a continuous albeit discrete function, it is possible to do things like check the correlation of ranking of payroll vs the chance of entering the playoffs. Of course, it ignores the fact that the Yankees and Red Sox, at 1 and 2, are WAY above everyone else. But I suspect that it is actually a useful exercise. I don't know if it's easy to get the data though.

Posted by: swang30 | November 17, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

And I thought his name was Chico Harlan, not Chico Harping.

Posted by: section309 | November 17, 2009 2:46 PM

------------------------------------------

I thought Chico Harping was Groucho's brother.

No, wait, that's the third one, the one who doesn't believe in sanity clause.

Posted by: greggwiggins | November 17, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

"No one is saying that having a high payroll guarantees you a playoff spot but, it most certainly increases your odds of making it."

I hear a lot of bandying about of anecdotal stuff like this. But how about some hard data sometime? It's really not fair to denigrate what section309 posted, which referred to results of an actual study, by totally shifting the argument and challenging HIM to do all the work if he wants to dispute you, now is it?

You could also say that having better players increases your odds of making the playoffs. But can anyone prove a correlation between a player's salary and how good a player he is? Does a player's experience have anything to do with it, since really high salary pretty much tracks with long service time? When it comes down to it, it's probably not money that's spent that drives winning. You can't just arbitrarily say "I will spend more money and therefore I am guaranteed success." Too many other factors are at play to make payroll even worth considering. It's one of the last things to worry about at best.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | November 17, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

The Chico bashing is indeed old.

Posted by: soundbloke | November 17, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"Take the payroll standing each year this decade and on the average 5 of the 8 playoffs teams are in the top 10 in the payroll standings."

Flip this around and it says that only 5 of the top 10 payroll teams make the playoffs on average. That's only 50%, as random as a coin flip. Sure maybe you could call that a correlation of some sort, but does it really say all that much?

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | November 17, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget that Chico is an excellent writer and faithfully served us throughout the summer.

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 17, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

There's a new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 17, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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