Friday, August 21, 2009

Catching Up

While I was away, there were a few items that I missed. I lightening round format, here are my reactions to some of the events of the last two weeks.
  • Jordan Zimmermann. Damn. A lot of pitchers bounce back well, but a lot never do. Bottom line, he's back to being a 50-50 proposition at best. And with guys like Josh Smoker, Jack McGeary, andRoss Detwiler disappointing to one extent or another, this really sets our young pitching back to about where the franchise was in 2004.
  • Jason Bergmann is being used as a high-leverage set up man.
  • Anderson Hernandez for Greg Veloz seems fine. We basically got a younger version of the same guy. If nothing else it opens a 40-man roster spot, and this guarantees that we won't see Hernia in the lead-off spot anymore.
  • Nick Johnson is hurt. Not badly--just saying.
  • The Chris Marrero call-up to AA is interesting. If he rakes there, he could find himself in DC as early as next season.
  • Ronnie Belliard is the late innings defensive replacement at first. All the time Nick was hurt last season we had nothing close to a compentent defensive first baseman. Really, the team needs to be able to construct a roster better than that.
  • Adam Dunn's cost the team 7.9 runs compared to an average first baseman in his 28 games there. Projected over the course of the season, that would wipe out nearly all the offensive value he provides, making him a very expensive, very flashy replacement-level contributor.
  • Austin Kearns was claimed on waivers? And we pulled him back? I just don't believe it. Remember, Cristian Guzman was supposedly claimed too.
  • Listening to and reading all the Rizzo announcement coverage, I think people are starting to go a little overboard on the Nyjer Morgan deal. I was for it, but it makes no sense to just look at what the 29-year-old Morgan and the 24-year-old Milledge are doing right now and decide we won that deal. We traded future value for current value. A few weeks later, it's looking great. I should hope so.
  • Why did Kasten need to tell that story about Scott Boras cursing on the phone? Boras was all class in this situation. He gave the team access to the player when he didn't need to. And the final deal was a real bargain for the team. It's rare to make Scott Boras seem like the classy one.
  • Let's imagine Jed Hoyer or Jerry Dipoto asked, "would I have complete control over baseball operations?" What would the answer have been? I don't know, but I could guess, and I wonder if Rizzo's willingness to NOT ask that question played a role in his hiring.


John O'Connor said...

I wonder how much of Dunn's bad fielding metrics were before he started playing there full time. My eyes tell me that he has made strides since he started playing first base exclusively. With work, he has a much better chance of reaching the lofty level of "competent" at first base than he does in left field.

JayB said...

Check our Boz on your fielding stats with respect to Dunn at first. Watch the games and you would agree....could be sample size, I guess but that data is wrong.

OMwaC said...

Steve - I think that last comment was a little uncalled for - nothing that Rizzo has said or done, or in fact that the organization has done since hiring Rizzo indicates that his hire is because he wouldn't expect the same control over the team that Dipoto would.

We will see, probably after the season, whether he gets to deconstruct the organization and rebuild it to his liking and then we can judge.

On the Morgan trade, I agree it has been overhyped - EXCEPT - that the value of having better defense in center field WHILE younger pitchers are in their first or second year, is significant. So I think that has to be factored into the total return on the deal as determined in the future. Better defense is worth more to a club with younger pitchers then one with more established pitchers who are not on tight pitch/innings counts, and are less likely to get rattled by an error in the outfield.

Steven said...

John--you could be right. And remember that UZR only updates weekly. And the smaller the sample size the less reliable. All those caveats go in there. But watching Dunn play, he's pretty terrible out there. I've only watched a handful of games from the last 2 weeks, but it's hard to imagine that he's gotten SO much better. We'll see.

Steven said...

@omwac--the team has never had a true GM with true GM authority. I think it's a legit thing to inquire / wonder about. Again, we'll see.

Craig said...

So Boras DOES guest blog for you? or is he just an advisor?

Seattle Steve said...

From my comment on Federal Baseball:

"Over his career Dunn has been -16.9 UZR/150 as a first baseman. This is a reasonable sample size of about one season (154 games). Assuming he will have declined (as this year’s numbers strongly suggest) I wouldn’t expect him to be better than -20 next season.

But his bat’s been phenomenal and he’ll still probably be worth his deal. If he puts butts in seats (or if trading him would hurt ticket sales) it’s probably not stupid to keep him. But if you could get a decent prospect for him from an AL contender it would make sense for the longer term. And for the short term his production would not be that hard to replace and for less money."

That said...I think over the course of the next month Dunn needs to prove he can play 1B up to even the low bar of -20 UZR/150. If not...ship him to the AL for some Cheeze-itz.

Unknown said...

Based off of watching the games since Dunn has started playing first. He has shown noticeably improvement and has said that if the organization wants him to be 1B next he will work on it over the offseason (Of course saying and doing are 2 different things).

I would say he is an average 1B right now. With practice and repetitions there is no reason to believe he won't get better at 1B. I don't think using stats, based on spot starts at 1B, is fair. We have to wait and see till the end of the season to make a better evaluation.

Seattle Steve said...

I would be shocked if Dunn, over the course of a few weeks, has improved to average. I really think the best we can expect is the -17 UZR/150 he's put up over his career at 1B. If he hits like he's hitting this season, that still makes him a +3 win or so player...which makes him worth his deal.

But you can probably find a +3 win 1B for less money by getting an average fielding, decent hitting player. Nick Johnson is pretty much that guy. You probably wouldn't have to pay him $12 million. Or you might dig up the next Russel Branyan for even less than Johnson will make.

Steven said...

I agree. The larger sample size is a better measure, and even that's probably not quite as big as I'd like. But still, it's worth noting that IF he's as bad as UZR says he's been this year, he's less than a 1 win player. More food for thought than a conclusion.

Unknown said...

I can't see him at -17 UZR for the rest of the season. I think it is best to wait and see til the end of the year to make an appropriate evaluation because most of those starts were spot starts and he looked terrible. I would want to see the numbers since he assumed the 1B duties.

Dimitri Young was -14.7 UZR in his All-Star year and he looked terrible at first base. I am just not seeing a comparison. Dunn looks no where near that bad now.

Mike Liszewski said...

Totally agree with John. Hopefully Dunn sees the lay of the land, and that if he doesn't want to end up a DH in the AL, he's got to step up his defensive game. We KNOW he can't play outfield, but the jury is still out at first base. Given his upside at the plate, and the other options available to us right now, I say we give him until mid-July of next season. If he doesn't show strides by then, ship him out, but for now, what other option would you suggest? Mike Morse (the guy you think is inferior to Langerhans) can play some first base, but I'd rather see him replace Belliard, both at second and as a backup/late inning replacement to Dunn.

While I value defense a lot more now than before seeing how Dunn plays in the outfield, I still don't trust defensive stats. I need to get educated more on them.

The hype of the Morgan trade is a bit undeserved as Morgan is clearly having the second half of his career. No way he sustains this for the long haul, but as OMwaC points out, his impeccable defense is particularly valuable with our pitching staff.

Mike Liszewski said...

@Seattle Steve - Dunn is one of the healthiest players out there, Nick Johnson is one of the least. Having him at first provides for little reliability as the team was always having to find a back up. From 2004 to date, Dunn has missed a total of 20 games. Johnson's "healthiest" season had him missing 15 games. Any projections for his impact over 162 games MUST take his lack of durability into account to have any validity. Also, Nick's defense is on a downward trend, so who'd to say how much better he'll be than Dunn henceforth.

Seattle Steve said...

That's a good point, Michael. Johnson is not likely to put up defensive numbers like he has in the past.

I was really hoping the Nats would trade Dunn to an AL contender at the deadline, where they might actually get some talent for him. But even dumping his salary might be the way to go...if the team thinks it fill holes with the FA market that exists this off-season.

One caveat is the image that such a salary dump will have. As people even on this blog are demonstrating...a lot of fans don't "get" advanced defensive metrics and will see dumping Dunn as "same 'ol Nats" rather than a good way to improve the team.

James Bjork said...
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James Bjork said...
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James Bjork said...

Arrgh! Darn typos...

I too think that the Morgan trade is one rare case where trading future value/talent for present value on a rebuilding team actually makes sense.

Not only is there the issue of protecting the arms and psyches of young pitches by putting some serious D out there, but there is also the issue of the urgency of putting a better quality product on the field-- by a franchise that has all but strangled its nascent fan base in the crib.

This issue has been flogged before, and I come down on the side that "Yes, rebuilding and stockpiling young talent is critical in years when the team has no shot at contention, but at the same time, the Nationals must put something resembling a quality MAJOR league team on the field."

Our host and I just have to agree to disagree on this one. His take begs the question of "how bad are you willing to see a team be in the now." Maybe a 110+ loss season that Detroit had some years ago is TRULY necessary in order to make a run three years later, but I kind of doubt it. I'd be willing to follow a 70-win team, but not a 50-win team.