Monday, August 11, 2008

Scouting Report: Mets at Nationals (8/12)

Mets at Nationals: Tuesday, August 12 at 7:10 ET
Wow those Brewers are pretty good, eh? They have an Assistant GM and Scouting Director named Jack Zduriencik who drafted Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Manny Parra, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, and Matt La Porta, who was traded for C.C. Sabathia. And we didn't even see Gallardo. I know we're all rooting for Rizzo, but let's be clear, there are lots of execs in baseball who would be better than Bowden. Maybe if the cheapskate Lerners would let JimBo pay over slot he could afford that kind of production...

OK so drafting is an inexact science. I'm being hard on ol JimBo. Here's something that's not complicated: counting to 25. The Nationals are now up to 68 short-handed games out of 118.

We limp home to face the one and only team in MLB over which we have some bragging rights. Sweeping them in August (again) won't make everything ok, but it'd make my $5 ticket worth it. Cynical, embittered intro out of the way, here's my take on game 1.

Pitching match-up
Johan Santana: No complicated statistical analysis necessary here. Santana is brilliant. The change-up is deadly, coming in 11 mph slower than the fastball, and he pair it with an excellent fastball and slider.

Actually, some of his numbers are a bit down this year. His K/9 is down from 9.66 last year to 7.55, and his walks are up from 1.75 in 2005 to 2.46. On the other hand, a lot was made of his HR total last year, and he seems to have responded by working more groundballs and fewer flyballs. Previously, he was a slight flyball pitcher.

Of course I'm quibbling--the bottom line is a 2.86 ERA and still one of the top pitchers in baseball. Facing a team that has scored 5 runs in their last 40 innings, it could be a quickie.

Odalis Perez
: Odalis has two nice starts in a row, and no matter what happens from here on out, he was a very good signing for the Nationals. My favorite part? Bowden hasn't resigned him for 2 years and $10+ million (yet).

What To Look For

--The Mets are 2 games back in the division, and with the Wild Card looking likely to come from the Central, the pressure is on them.

--Much like last year at this time, their bullpen is faltering.
Aaron Heilman is closing while Billy Wagner is out with a forearm strain. Heilman is 2 for 4 in save opportunities and has been hit hard. Yesterday an excellent Pedro start was wasted when Smith, Feliciano, and Heilman were all bombed by the Bay-less and Nady-less Bucs.

--Their line-up is like the opposite of the Nationals--they have the superstars (Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado) but no decent complimentary players, while we're full of complimentary guys with no stars.

--You'll remember the "reverse lock" game when Levale Speigner beat Santana, but in fact a number of Nationals held their own against Santana. Zimmerman has a homer off of him in six ABS and Cristian Guzman is 5 for 6 against him.

--Perez has gotten knocked around pretty good by the Mets, especially Reyes, Tatis, Easley, and Wright.

--Carlos Delgado was looking like the epitome of the fading once-blockbuster free agent, but the first-baseman/human rights activist has bounced back big time, posting a .324 BA / .416 OBP / .682 SLG line since June 27.

--Ryan Church appears to be done for the year, suffering ongoing concussion symptoms. This season has provided enough fodder for both the Church-defenders who thought he would perform with the regular playing time he never got in Washington as well as the Church-detractors who felt he would never stay healthy. A kid named Daniel Murphy is getting his playing time lately and is knocking the ball around pretty good.

--Brian Schneider had been benched for Ramon Castro, a superior hitter who a lot of Mets fans wanted to start ahead of Lo Duca too, but Castro has a sprained ankle, and Schneider is back getting most of the playing time. Castro could be back anytime, however. Schneider is hitting .263 but has just 8 extra-base hits all season, a good illustration of why batting average isn't a very good way to evaluate a hitter.

--Luis Castillo, who at 4 years and $25m was one of the worse free agent re-signings in recent memory, has been out with a hip injury and may be back for the series, but Jerry Manuel says he may split time with Damion Easley (who is not making $6.25m a year).

What to Root For
Milledge hasn't had much success against his old team yet, to the tune of a .083 / .267 / .167 line. But he's coming into this series hot. Lastings--if you hit a homer, I'll give you a high five for sure. I'll be the guy in the "Fire Jim Bowden" t-shirt.

Fearless Prediction
(Season record: 10-10)

Santana dominates. Mets win 6-0.


Steve Shoup said...

First off I wanted to say how much I love these Scouting Reports, you do a great job of covering all areas. One area I wanted to highlight more was Jack Z.

I think he is by far the best young exec out there that isn't a GM. His drafting ability has been highly impressive, esp. when you consider that the Brewers don't really go over slot. Maybe they'll pay an extra $50K or $100K to a couple of players and sign one guy late for above slot but they don't give ML deals or $1-2 million extra bonuses to their top picks or sign mid-round guys for first round money. I'm not saying this is a bad thing I would always give the deal to McGeary and sign other guys of that ilk, but I just wanted to point out what Jack-Z does with limited resources. Imagine what he'd do with the Yankees or Red Sox draft budget or if we had any sense our own draft budget. The last two years the Brewers have signed their players through the first 20 rounds and the year before that the first 16, that is absolutly the way you build a minor league system. A system that allowed them to trade for CC and Durham but still keep their young stars and most of the best prospects.

This is an area (shocking I know) I think you let Bowden off the hook. While the draft is an inexact science, there are those teams that completely beat the odds and draft well. And while the primary architects behind the draft are Brown and Rizzo, Bowden does have some say, and does have say in overall direction of the draft. While I understand some of the reasons for signing Guz and Castilla back in 05, Bowden made the decision to forfeit draft picks. In 06 my guess is he greenlit the move to High school prospects, which is not the right move for a team that didn't have ANY advanced prospects in their system. Marrero was prob the right move but having your first 6 picks come from the High school ranks is just setting yourself up for disaster. On top of that not signing Sean Black (ok maybe he is not a good prospect as he is struggling mightly in college, yet another issue with scouting) is unacceptable....esp for a rebuilding team. The Nats got a compensation pick and did NOTHING with it. In that senario you have to draft someone you know you can sign. On top of not signing Black they didn't sign 3 other players in the Top 10 rounds, which is where most of the Major league talent comes from. Maybe Bowden doesn't pick every player but he does help authorize the budget and the direction of the draft and In that case I think there has been problems. This past year I thought things were on the right track that the Nats made a committment to being aggressive in the draft but so far we haven't seen that. Even if they sign Crow, it was a pretty ordinary draft, with no major mid-late round bonus guys that could have really helped the Nats system.

My question for you Steven is this, What will you call your blog when Bowden gets the axe in the offseason??

Steven said...

Thanks for the compliment. It makes my own viewing a lot more enjoyable to go through the process.

On the future of the blog, I don't know. We'll see when/if it happens. As you know I don't write that much about Bowden.

As for the draft, it's nice to have a flank out there saying I'm too easy on him. I totally agree though that Bowden's a terrible drafter. That's less based on what he's done here--I'm a believer that you can't judge a draft till 3-4 years out at least. But his track record in Cincy really was awful. Especially when it came to drafting pitchers.

Mike said...

I'm not really sold entirely on the drafting that the Nats have done either, and the amount of high school guys they've taken is a part of the reason. The Red Sox have done well in recent years at taking guys at the back end of the first round and in the sandwich rounds that they are getting use out of in two years time.

In the 'O6 draft, the Red Sox took Masterson in the second round, and he's already paying dividends. Meanwhile the Nats took two high school kids, one of which has put up a .191/.319/.261 career line.

I recognize that this is cherry-picking a bit, but it's more the philosophy of taking primarily high school kids when the system is so devoid of upper level talent. I'm also not saying to never take high school kids, but that a mix seem like it would be more appropriate.

The Sox have done really well with this approach, getting guys like Ellsbury, Lowrie, Masterson, Pedroia to the majors within two years.

It also seems like they don't value plate discipline as an overall organizational approach. This seems to show up in the players they draft, the players they trade for(Bonafacio), and letting Harris go on so long.

Steve Shoup said...

No you don't write alot about Bowden but the blog would become mean spirted if you kept the name after he was gone in the unemployment line or in a new org. By the way I do think bowden will be gone after the season, if they were sold on Rizzo they'd prob do it now and give the job to him but he'll prob be in the running with other canidates (please be Jack Z).

Steven said...

Well, practically, I'd have to change the URL, which means starting over from scratch on the audience.

What if I called it "Fire Jim Bowden" with a tagline: "dedicated to advancing the cause of excellent baseball in the nation's capitol" or something.

JimBo just becomes a symbol, a reminder of what NOT to do, like the Vietnam Wall or something.

Is that too mean-spirited? :)