Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Biggest Worries...

Global warming, the emerging global water crisis, the cockroaches that won't go away in my kitchen no matter how much boric acid I put out, the $80 peony bush in my garden that is still showing no signs of life...

OK that's not what you were expecting. Barry Svrluga asked on NJ yesterday whether the bullpen is our greatest concern. Not usually one who needs prodding to fret, Barry's post got me going something extra. So here are my greatest Nationals-related worries as opening day approaches:

5. Injuries
A year after the disastrous rash of injuries that beat the dead horse that was the 2008 Washington Nationals, we are once again going into the season with more Will Carroll 'reds' in key spots than most any other team in baseball. Nick Johnson, Josh Willingham, Shawn Hill, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Cristian Guzman, Saul Rivera, Dmitri Young... they all have big red flags blinking "injury risk!!" (Yeah, when the flags are blinking, that's bad.)

4. The absence of any kind of reliable veteran starting pitching
No one really appreciates above-replacement innings-eaters until they're gone. It's not so much what they do on the days they pitch but what they contribute to the days they don't. They keep the bullpen fresh, meaning that when the young, fragile, up-and-coming starter goes the next day, Manny doesn't have to let him twist in the wind. If we're going to successfully transition Flash Jordan, the Wowin' Curocaoan, or BallyStar to the big-league rotation, it would be nice to have some stability on the days they don't pitch.

3. The Bullpen
It's less that I'm worried so much as resigned to the fact that it'll be a bloodbath. There's still a chance that the team will go get a veteran stablizer. Duaner Sanchez got mentioned by Barry today, and as I wrote this weekend there are other decent arms out there. But when your "reliable" guys are Joel Hanrahan (has everyone really forgotten everything he did before 2008?) and Saul Rivera, whose arm will fall off some day--you're in trouble. The Hinckleys and Shells of the world figure to regress to the mean. And Plan C is Gustavo Chacin and Jorge Sosa. Check please!

2. Fielding
If Johnson gets hurt, your most frequent Nationals line-up could easily be left with Ryan Zimmerman as the only fielder who even qualifies as average. Adam Dunn, Willingham, Lastings Milledge, and Ron Belliard are certifiably awful fielders. Cristian Guzman and Jesus Flores aren't anything to write home about. You can give outfield innings to Dukes and Kearns, and maybe Anderson Hernandez will hit enough (no he won't) to hold down the second base job. But this could be one historically terrible defensive squad.

1. The Nagging Feeling that the Front-Office is as Rudderless and Divided as Ever
Jim's gone, and I want to believe that Stan now is the unquestioned leader of the team with the Lerners' support. As I've said, it's not so much that I love Stan so much, but the team needs someone to be in charge, and he's the one. But watching Rizzo operate as the GM who's not a GM, and the seemingly non-existent candidate search... it just feels anything but decisive and focu


estuartj said...

I cannot agree more on #5, in fact I would put that as worry #1 - but it's also the one we can do the least about. The roster is what it is, and blinking red flags or not you have to dance with the date that brought you.

The one thing that does help is that we have enough depth now that if all our red flags don't die on us at once (but who would have tought we'd go 5 deep at 1B in '08) we have options to turn to short of the Castos of the world.

Steven said...

The depth is the reason it's only #5 on my list.

Dave Nichols said...

should one of your worries be: what if the Nats think so little of their on-hand pitching they go out and sign Kip Wells?