Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Best of the Worst

After yesterday's incredibly negative rant about the Nationals we despise most, I'm taking up commenter Will's challenge to rank the top 5 Nationals I'm enjoying most despite this lost season. And since I'm such a positive spirit, I'll give you six. (Sadly, Jason Bergmann didn't quite make the cut.)
6. Jesus Flores
The sample size is still a bit small, but with 103 plate appearances in the book, Flores has dramatically improved his approach at the plate. And boy did he need it. After a solid start to the season last year, he went into a prolonged skid, hitting .232 / .262 / .354 after June 1. It seemed that perhaps his development might never recover from the full year he spent in the majors in 2006 after he was taken by the Nationals in the rule 5 draft and then being pressed into service again in 2007 when Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada both failed.

This year, his walk rate has more than doubled from 4.7% to 10.9%. His BABIP is an unsustainable .400, but with a .311 / .382 / .522 line, he can have a lot of regression and still be a solid offensive catcher. For a guy who looked totally overmatched a year ago, that's great news for Nationals fans.
5. Adam Dunn
I'm sure Big Donkey would rate higher on many people's list, but I just personally care too much about fielding to feel all that much love for the big galoot. Still, he's got himself 16 dingers, 39 walks, and an OBP just below .400. Beats the heck out of Wily Mo Painful.
4. Jordan Zimmermann
Forget the ERA over 6. He's got the league's worst defense behind him, leading to a very high .362 BABIP and low 65.4% strand rate. He's whiffing 9.20 per 9 and walking just 2.74. He's still getting too much of the plate with has fastball and curve, and he probably could stand to occasionally throw a fewer strikes and make guys chase a little. Regardless, his fielding independent ERA of 4.21 tells the real story. Flash Jordan is doing just fine in his first tour through the bigs.
3. Ross Detwiler
Detwiler ranks above Zimmermann only because he's been a bigger surprise. A year ago at this time, he was walking over 5 batters per 9 in A ball. Now, he's got 15 innings under his belt with a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.40 and a fielding independent ERA of 3.63. With his big, mid-90s fastball and slow bender, the lefty is showing why he was such a high pick in the first place. He's got plenty to work on at AAA, but given where we were with this guy just a couple months ago who could complain? The only problem I've had is that I can't decide whether we call him Rottwiler, or Rosswiler or Ross Rottweiler or what.
2. Nick Johnson
Nothing is more frustrating to me as a Nationals fan than listening to the legions of fans dumping on our best player because of his bad luck with injuries, as if it's somehow his fault. His power still hasn't quite fully shown up yet and his defense hasn't been what we've come to expect, but he's fifth in MLB with a .436 OBP. We're so much better with him in the line-up. It's too bad the team seems to have decided that he has no future here. Till we trade him for some fungible middle reliever, I'm going to cherish every last take.
1. Ryan Zimmerman
Who'd you expect, Wil Nieves? Zimmerman's officially taken the leap, and what a leap it is. He's raking to the tune of .319 / .386 / .546, and he turns in a fielding gem almost every game. And, miracle of miracles, we resigned him long term. (I didn't dream that, did I?)


Deacon Drake said...

I'm leaving Adam Dunn off any list because he is doing exactly what he has always Dunn: hit home runs, draw walks, strike out, stink in the field, and play awesome music during at bats.

I think the honorable mention here goes to Dukes, whose missing presence his fallen right into place with the recent offensive slump.

Pitchers don't fear Johnson or Guzman, despite their numbers, and having Dukes holding down the 5 spot really forces the other team to pitch to Zimm or Dunn.

Nice to see Willingham start to produce, too. Another guy meeting expectations.

flippin said...

I use the "would I buy the jersey for my kid?" filter for my "best." Irrational as that may be, it leaves guys like Dukes and young pitchers off my list. Zimm, Nick, and Dunn are the only three I would consider. The jury is still out on Zimnn and Detweiler.

Sasskuash said...

I would put Dukes on the list. Since he's been in a Nats uniform, he has yet to screw up off the field. He's made news because he fell behind on child support, but there are no new incidents on or off the field from Dukes. Maybe the wife-beating issues would keep me from buying his jersey for my hypothetical child, but as a fan of the team I love Dukes and cannot wait to get him back.

Detwiler is not on my list yet. I haven't seen enough to trust him to be a long term solution. I hope he keeps up the good work, but I'm hesitant on him. His slow progress in the minors followed by a successful jump to the majors from AA ball just seems suspicious. Ask me about Detwiler at the end of the year.

Can Strasberg go on the list? Are you allowed to put somebody on these lists based on hype even though they aren't signed (PLEASE sign him) and haven't pitched in MLB yet?

Flippin- would you really consider buying a Dunn or Johnson jersey for your kid? They both are hitting great, and Johnson is playing good defense as well, but Johnson probably won't be in a Nats uniform at the end of the year, and I don't think Dunn will be here through the end of next season. When I buy a jersey, I look for staying power so I can wear the jersey for a few years. That puts Zimmerman, Zimmermann, Dukes (maybe not if your worried about his violent past) and Flores on my list. And Strasberg, just wait until he's signed.

jg3 said...

It is going to be a sad day when Slick Nick is no longer a National.

I don't get why so many fans want to see him go. He has been one of my favorite Nats since day one.

phil dunn said...

There are two commments I would like to make. The Big Donkey is the worst outfielder I have ever witnessed since I coached Little League. He belongs in the AL as a DH. Secondly, I can't believe you left Austin Kearns off yesterdays "rant list". He is so deserving of that honor.

flippin said...

Sasskuash-Well, he would out grow the thing in two years anyway, so Dunn is OK. As for Johnson, good point. I am hoping against hope that he sticks around. My thing about young pitchers is all about the probability they will get hurt or lose it ala Ankiel (that has sort of turned out OK, however). Flashback to 2005, Patterson was, best I recall, a sure thing as was Cordero. Both will be selling cars in TX and CA soon enough. Playing every fifth day is a negative for me as well.

Don't get me wrong, Dukes and Zimm are clearly THE talent on the Nats. But explaining why Elijah isn't in the lineup tonight (daddy, what's child support?) is not something I would look forward to...

Sasskuash said...

Dukes paid that child support...eventually...

phil dunn said...

I think Dukes has a lot of potential and he certainly has talent. That is his upside. However, his shady past, erratic behavior and his bad legs certainly dilute his upside. He has bad knees and also appears to have a chronic hamstring problem. He is 25 years old but his legs are 35.

jg3 said...

a careful reading of the recent news indicates that:

a) the recent hubbub is over the legal fees that ED incurred, not the child support payments themselves

b) the legal fees seem to have been incurred because the child support payments were not properly set up. He was paying them (they were being automatically taken out of his checks) while he was getting paychecks, during the season, but not during the off season when MLB players do not receive checks.

c) all this is my interpretation based on reporting that I've followed loosely in the Washington Post (take that for what it is worth)

d) dukes is a good ballplayer who would probably be helped by discovering Yoga, but he isn't the awesome ballplayer Jim Bowden would have had us believe that he is. Or, at least, it doesn't look that way now.

flippin said...

Yes, I realize that ED did eventually pay his child support and that his recent trouble was for not paying legal fees. True, he seems to have grown up a bunch since signing with the Nats. Nevertheless, his uni will never be a big seller because of his past mistakes. Still not on my irrational list.

John O'Connor said...

Randy St. Claire fired. Steve McCatty gets the call from Syracuse.

Wil Nieves said...