Get To Know Some Nats: Infielders

Every year, we put together player profiles for the Nationals players likely to make the 25 man roster. This way you’ll have a better idea of just who is taking the field. Except for a few notable exceptions, the Washington Nationals of 2015 will be the same team you’ve been watching for a few years. So we’re going to forego lengthy profiles of stuff you already know, and focus on capsules for a few players at a time. A quicker, more forward focused view for the savvy fan.

You can read our outfielder preview here, and our starting pitcher preview here.

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Ian Desmond, SS

Fangraphs | 2014 Preview

On a team when every infielder has a story going into 2015, Desmond’s demands the most attention. Lo beware the shortstop who can hit, for they shall be in demand and cost lots and lots of money: And Desmond can hit. The list of shortstop with three 20 HR / 20 SB seasons is very short: Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramierez and Ian Desmond. (Seriously, buy Baseball Prospectus).

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Talking Points: Different Weekend, Same Story

Atlanta

Look gang, this week’s talking points…I”m not in a super chipper mood. I know normally I’ve taken on the tone of “hey it’ll all be okay” but I’ve got to admit, this has got me spooked. As such the talking points I’m giving you this week may be a bit more dour than you are used to.

It’s not that they got swept by the Braves, it’s that they got themselves hurt doing it.

  • It’s true. Friday I was engaged in several twitter chains talking about the relative “worth” of a game against the Braves. In my mind, the games are not much more important than against any other NL East team. So with only 6 games done, and 13 to go I wouldn’t say I’m happy about the Nats being 1-5 against the Braves, but I’m not ready to panic yet.
  • Although, I guess while we are on the topic the only reason I have to not panic is the larger, grander scheme of baseball. Things tend to even out, and good teams tend to go in peaks and valleys. So I’m really just sort of betting black here because it keeps coming up red and it just has to come up black sooner or later, right? right? (Translation: The Nats have certainly given me very little reason to believe they can beat Atlanta…but I felt that way about the Nats/Phillies series for years, so it could happen!)
  • No, the real problem is that the Nats added to their walking (or not walking) wounded. Doug Fister has yet to make a start, Scott Hairston pulled a lat and Wilson Ramos is also out a month before the series started.
  • By the start of the game on Sunday Denard Span was put on the 7 day DL as an overly cautious move to protect against concussion, Jayson Werth (who is still playing) pulled his groin, and Ryan Zimmerman broke his thumb getting tagged out on a slide back to second base.
  • The only way I saw the Nats losing was through extensive injury. Go ahead, look through our 2014 player previews. This is how it starts.

There is no good time to miss players, but April is better than September for sure.  Plus, the Nats are in much better shape than last year to deal with injuries.

  • As Citizens of Natstown tweeted above, and most reasonable baseball people agree, the Nats bench this year is much better suited to deal with a month long injuries.
  • The infield depth is much better than the outfield depth, so having to shift guys around there is a little easier. Nate McLouth profiles very well to replace Denard Span in CF (particularly given Denard’s slowish start…again) for the short term.  
  • And yeah, all the games count equally, so missing Zim, Ramos, Span, Fister, etc. is never a good thing. But if you could choose to to get them back in a month and still have most of the season to go, or lose them to injury near the end of the year during a playoff push…well I’ll take this version. The 2012 Nats were successful in large part because they managed to tread water for about 2-3 months while starters recovered from injury. The post-all-star-break Nats were in good shape down the stretch because the team got more talented without having to trade for it.
  • Unfortunately, my mindset is changed. I don’t expect the Nats to go out there and own it for the next month (though I’m happy to be surprised). I’m now in full “tread water” mode. I expect they’ll be keeping pace, rather than setting it, and hopefully pouring it on starting in June or so.
  • Yeah I don’t know what Mike Rizzo is thinking here. I mean you’re the GM, you have to stick up for your guys…but maybe not say it like that.
  • Not that I think the Braves are scouring for bulletin board martial, nor do I believe that is really a “thing,” but I think you can say “we have full confidence in our team” and “We know we can win these games.” Without having to posit you are both “not scared” and are better than the team that has handed your team’s ass to it over the last going on two years.

Nationals101 has it all wrong. James O’Hara was the only voice of reason all weekend during that series. 

  • James is another wonderful writer over at CitsofNatstown. He wrote this on Saturday and you should read it. here are his tweets from when I was indulging in full on panic mode:

  • All of these things are completely true and ought to give Nats fans smarting from an ass-kicking in Atlanta. Take solace in the young man’s wisdom, and follow him on twitter.

Talking Points #1: How to Fake Nats Talk With Most Anyone

Let’s face it. You don’t really like baseball (yet). Or maybe you do like baseball, but you don’t feel like you know very much about it (yet). The point is you find yourself out of your depth when the conversation turns to the Nats and you wish you could just throw out a few things and sound like you know wassup

Whether you want to fake it til you make it, or just fake it, we got you covered. Nats101 presents Talking Points, a weekly series designed to take advantage of the BSing nature of Washington D.C., and make you sound like a seamhead on your very first try. Whether you’re a casual fan or just having a casual encounter with the sport, give the following sound bites a try. 

“I know its only Spring Training, but I really like what I see out of Danny Espinosa. I don’t know if he’ll start this year, but he’ll make the team for sure.” 

  • This is a great little tid-bit. First of all it makes clear you are aware that Spring Training is going on, and that it has something to do with players earning their spot on the team.
  • Second-it’s a bit of a controversial position, but a realistic one. Espinosa showed promise a few years ago absolutely stunk the joint out last year. He hasn’t got a ton of hits in Espinosa, but his mechanics (how he swings the bat) does look better.
  •  Whoever you say this to will probably go on and on about how terrible he was last year, and all the strikeouts, etc. When they do blow off their points and remind them he was injured (wrist and shoulder), he is an elite defender, and if he can “find his power stroke” again, he’ll be a fine “bat of the bench.”
  • If folks mention Anthony Rendon, the guy who will likely start at second base instead of Danny Espinosa, you’re allowed to like him. He’s a good player and a young kid and probably deserves to start-but that doesn’t devalue what Espinosa might mean for the team over the course of the season.

“You know, I was skeptical of the Matt Williams hire at first, but I really like how aggressively he’s managing the team. This could be just what the guys needed after ‘Club Davey.'” 

  • Ah yes, you clever baseball fan. You’re totally smart enough to know that the Nats needed a little discipline after last year when manager Davey Johnson retired in his mind about 6 weeks before the end of the season. A senior citizen with senior-itis shouldn’t be managing a baseball team.
  • This bald guy, Matt Williams, from Arizona? He’s eager to prove he’s got what it takes in his first year managing the team. Players are stealing bases left and right*, and that’s all part of the new aggressive Nats. (*well actually they only steal bases in one direction, counter-clockwise, but yeah).
  • Most folks will agree with you on this one, so for a little added trivia throw out there that Washington won its only World Series title under another first year manager, Bucky Harris-who was still playing on the field at the time too!

“Man, I’m glad it looks like Doug Fister will be okay. A little inflammation in his elbow should be no big deal. What a great trade for him, right?” 

  • WARNING: This is a bit of a test question for the person you are talking to. You may get a very heated response, so be careful.
  • Folks who like the trade for pitcher Doug Fister are likely to be worried that the inflammation will get worse, or something is wrong. This is because they know the trade to get him was unbelievably one sided (in favor of the Nationals) and assume something must go wrong.
  • The rest of the people believe the Nationals are complete idiots because they gave up Steve Lombardozzi, patron saint of “little engines that could,” for this guy from Detroit they never heard of. To put it nicely, these people…think with their hearts. I’ve written about the psychology of loving Lombo repeatedly, I won’t rehash it now.
  • The truth is Steve Lombardozzi was one of three players sent to Detroit for Fister, and he was kind of the “add on” to the deal.
  • You don’t want to get to argue with these people about the merits of Lombo because they believe he is the second coming of Ty Cobb. Their position is roughly “I really love my 1999 4-door sedan with the oil leak and 200k miles that doesn’t get warm in the winter. I would never sell it for $250k.”
  • While, yes, we all DO love our beat-up little cars, not one of us would pass on a quarter million dollars for it. (Doug Fister is the quarter million dollars in this scenario).
  • Again, don’t engage these people on this topic and say something about how its a shame and move on.

“So, do you guys read Nats101.com? It’s such a good blog!

Look, I’ll give you other Twitteratti and great Nats blogs names to throw out there over the coming weeks, but right now I’mma get a bit shameless here. Follow the blog by clicking the follow button or entering your email address at the top right of the page. Follow us also on Twitter (@Nationals101) and Facebook (facebook.com/Nationals101). And then tell everyone that’s what you do and they should do it too cuz the site rocks.

Get To Know a Stat: wOBA and wRC (aka Lombo vs. Danny Part 567)

UPDATE:  This quote:

 

Welcome to Get to Know a Stat!  Once a Week (or so) I intend to take an advanced baseball statistic and present it to you in a way that’s understandable.

This week, I want to look at a stat called Weighted On Base Average, something mentioned by Court a few weeks ago in his Holding Court column.  A lot of folks hold on to batting average as the end all/be all of comparing batters despite the fact that there are many other metrics to look at-often giving a more complete picture of what is going on.

To give you a basis for what I’m talking about, allow me to parrot some of the more insane arguments I’ve heard/read to start Steve Lombardozzi over Danny Espionsa at second base.  Note:  [Insert my usual disclaimer of love for Lombo as a utility player even if I disagree with the position he should be a starter].  The case for Steve Lombardozzi goes something like this:

  • He’s just as good a fielder as Danny Espinosa [Not at all true, but we’ll deal with that another day]
  • Danny Espinosa strikes out too much, and Steve Lombardozzi doesn’t strike out nearly as much
  • About a week ago Danny Espinosa was only batting .155 (currently .185) and Lombardozzi was batting .365 (now .235)
  • Danny Espinosa can’t hit with runners in scoring position, and gets no RBIs.  Lombo is “scrappy” and “clutch.”

Now usually, I can go through the whole litany of reasons that is insane.

  • You can start with the fact that Lombo hasn’t nearly had the plate appearances Espinosa has had (so it’s likely that his average will drop-which it did recently).
  • You can point out that while Lombo doesn’t strikeout as much as Espinosa, he doesn’t draw walks (he has only one) which indicates maybe he doesn’t have a great eye, but just makes contact outside the zone (bad contact that leads to ground outs).
  • You can also take a look at Total bases which is the total number of bases a player gets per hit (a HR is 4, Triple 3, Doubles 2, Singles 1).  Espinosa’s total bases double that of Lombardozzi’s- meaning he’s getting much bigger hits than Lombo, who hits a lot of dribbler singles that squeak through.

You can do all that, and I can do all that, but it might be better to look at something come up with by Tom Tango called Weighted On Base Average (wOBA).

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Review-Preview: Nats Obliterate Marlins, Move on To Cincy to play Reds

Smoooooooth Gio2

This is from @Section138. Please visit Gavin’s blog often and follow him on Twitter. He also has been making cool Nats shirts since before making cool Nats shirts was cool.

 

There are a million places to go get a recap and preview of every game, but here at Nationals 101 we prefer to take a slightly bigger slice of the pie.  The Review-Preview will take place between series and give a quick recap of the previous series (including anything we think you can learn from the series) and what you can look forward to in the next series coming up.

NOTE:  Due to some awful car trouble that ate up all of Friday, I didn’t finish the Preview part.  Given last night’s debacle it’s probably best to skip this editions “preview” section and just do a review.  Next week we will review the Reds series and Preview the White Sox series.  

REVIEW Miami Marlins Series

Quick Take:  The Nationals came into Opening Day with the reputation as one of the best teams in the league, and the Marlins came into the series as possibly a AAA team playing in the big leagues.  Nothing either team did changed anyone’s mind as to either of those mindsets.

The Nationals swept the Marlins and remain the only unbeaten team in baseball (a dubious distinction, but a distinction none the less) by beating the Marlins 2-0, 3-0, and 6-1.

So What Happened?  Simply put, the Nationals pitching over powered the Marlins in every contest, holding the lowly Fish to just one run over three games.  That’s the first time that’s happened since the late 70’s over an opening series by the way.  How good was the Nationals pitching?  Let’s look at the starters combined and bullpen combined stat lines:

Starters:  3-0, .47 ERA 19IP, 13H, 1R, 1ER, 4BB, 9K

Bullpen: 0.00 ERA, 8IP, 0R, 0ER, 2BB, 9K, 2 Saves

The numbers are slightly more impressive for the Gio and Strasburg given that Jordan Zimmermann gave up the sole run and 8 hits.  Only 3 of the hits went for extra bases (2 doubles and a Home Run) and the defense was stellar (committing just one error)  in keeping these guys out of the run column.

The bats started a little quiet over all, but got louder as the series went on.  Scoring the first two games was more about timely hitting-Bryce Harper stole the show in game one with two Home Runs in his first two at bats.  Gio hit a solo homer, followed by two more insurance runs later in the game.  The Nats finally took the top off in game three, gettings 6 runs-scoring two in the first and adding four more between a Werthquake and Harper’s third bomb in three games.

Lost In the Shuffle:

Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa are struggling at the plate right now, but it’s only three games in (and Danny isn’t striking out as much).

The only really feared player for the Marlins, Giancarlo Stanton, was held to 1 for 9 with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.  He also did not put in a very good effort into getting to first base on a play, and just turned around and stomped off to the dugout after his strikeouts.  He’s the lone star on an awful team and rumor is that he’s not happy about the fire sale the Marlins put on this year.  He could be quitting on this team as early as game 3 of the season, which bodes even better for the Nationals

Rafael Soriano is very impressive in person.  His delivery is insanely smooth, he never looked troubled on the mound, and he just threw strike after strike.  Also, for the #haters, Henry Rodriguez found the strike zone no problem in his one outting, and Drew Storen also looked just fine in his first appearance this year.  Indeed, the bullpen could be lights out this year-as predicted by many.

Conclusion:  Exactly what was supposed to happen between these two teams happened. You don’t want to overrate beating up the Marlins, but the point is they did beat up the Marlins.  Houston won this weekend against a much better team, so don’t downplay getting the job done.  Often the Marlins have been awful and played the Nationals tough. This time, the Nats put the foot to the pedal and really didn’t let up.

Get To Know A Nat: Danny Espinosa

Danny Edit

Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them!  Not sure where to start with player and season previews?  Not ready to jump into heavy metrics?  Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013?  Then you’ve come to the right place!

Name: Daniel Richard Espinosa
Nickname(s): Espi
DOB: April 25, 1987 (Age 25)
Twitter?: Not currently
From: Santa Ana, California
Position: Second Base Batting Order: Likely 7th
Hand: Switch Hitter, but he throws Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted by the team in 2008, Debuted in 2010.

If anyone needs a good Spring Training on this team, it’s Danny Espinosa.  On a team full of breakout stars and great performances, Espi’s “down” year has made him a bit of an easy target for fans looking to upgrade somewhere, anywhere, on a very good team.

Espinosa spent the off-season getting shoulder surgery to repair strengthening the muscles around a torn-rotator cuff, one he played through for a while by the way, and also growing a beard of epic proportions (see above).  Not that I put much into Spring Numbers, but Danny has been playing well so far in Viera.  After bowing out of playing for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, to make sure he wasn’t over-taxing his newly repaired shoulder, Espinosa has seemed to be on a mission to set the tone for his 2013 campaign.

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