Tuesday, November 30, 2004

First stadium vote passed

The post reports here. There will be another vote in two weeks before it is final. There were some minor ammendments. The window for public financing is still open, the pork barrels are gone and there is a cap on the site that is high enough that the mayor doesn't expect to hit it.

No Wilson for Bowden

MLB is reporting that Wilson has agreed to resign with the Reds, for 2 years and $8.2M, with a club option.

I wasn't optimistic about Bowden going after him under the assumption that if we got him, we'd be overpaying. But, it could potentially be a two-edged sword, in that overpaying Wilson would have been better than overpaying Esteban Loaiza ;-)

And, it seems that Bowden was actually exercising some restraint. Considering the guy made $3.5M last year, I'm sure surprised Bowden didn't win the deal with ~14M, 3 years and an option year.

Bowden busy again

Yesterday Bowden signed Gary Bennett to play backup catcher, for 1 year at $750K. Bennett will be 33 next year, and is a typical backup catcher in that he can't really hit, particularly not for power, hitting .247/.310/.335 lifetime. He's got a great reputation behind the plate, particularly at calling games, the only exception being that he isn't good at stopping the running game. Note that the Brewers weren't willing to guarantee him his backup job next year, and offered him a minor league contract. All in all, at least Bowden is only wasting about $300K for one year.

The Post article on the signing spends time on the pitching situation. Apparently, Bowden doesn't expect to sign anyone until the market is more established, with one or two of the big fish signing. This means that the people he's talking to are asking for even more money than Bowden thinks they're worth, if you can believe that.

Who's on his shopping list? We've already heard about Paul Wilson, who seems like the most likely signing, particularly if something happens quickly, simply because Bowden seems to be a big fan of anyone he ever signed in Cincinati. Other rumors are Jaret Wright (3.28 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.68 K/9 for the Braves last year), Russ Ortiz (4.13 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 6.29 K/9 for the Braves last year) and Odalis Perez (3.25 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 5.87 K/9).

I'll be surprised if we can afford any of these three. And if we do, I just have my fingers crossed that it's not Ortiz. Not only have I never been a big fan of Ortiz (#1 in walks in 2003, #2 in 2004), based on what I've read as to what his likely market value is, paying him at market is probably overpaying based on his performance -- he's expected to get a raise over his current $6.2M salary.

In other on-field insight, the MLB.com Nationals beat writer Bill Ladson answered some questions that are worth a read, giving a bit of insight into who he thinks will or won't make the team out of spring training. I'm happy to hear that he thinks Gary Majewski is unlikely to make it.

Today, the D.C. city council should also take its first of two votes necessary for approving the new stadium. There's still more drama surrounding it due to Linda Cropp, but nothing that's expected to impede something acceptable to MLB getting approved.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Rumor: Paul Wilson, 3 years?

Clearly, the Nats are shopping for pitching. There's an offhand comment in the most recent Peter Gammons column indicating that Bowden is considering going to three years on Paul Wilson. His 2004 salary was $3.5M, and he had a better year in 2004 than he ever has in a full season, so it seems likely that we're going to give him 3 years and $12-15M.

Wilson, a righty, will be 32 next year. His ERA last year was 4.36, with 5.73 K/9, but 1.86 K/BB and a 1.39 WHIP. Last year, opponents hit .271 off of him, with a .330 OBP. His fast ball (sinker) doesn't reach 90, and his other major pitch is an average changeup. He's effective when he can keep his fastball down, and he's not otherwise. Last year, 16 of his 29 games were quality starts. His bad games and good games were grouped together. His biggest stinker came on August 13, against San Diego, where he gave up 7 runs on 8 hits in 1.1+ innings, with 2 HR.

This guy is pretty unimpressive overall. The best teams wouldn't want him as a 5th starter, and he would rank no better than 4th on most teams, which is about where he would be for us, if all our pitching is healthy. He's definitely in the bottom third of the free agent crop. I think more than a one year deal is a bad deal, even if he ends up a reasonable bargain in terms of dollars.

In other news, Montreal sports writers have named Brad Wilkerson the team's player of the year for 2004. The boggling thing is that, of the 10 ballots, 2 listed Tony Batista as the team MVP. I guess the Montreal sports writers didn't go to games either.

Also, if you haven't seen yet, Linda Cropp has made another proposal that nobody likes, that there should be a fixed cap on spending.

Plus, the Nats took in almost 15,000 season ticket deposits in the first week, just for full-season packages. Tavares' projections based on these sales are for an average of 30,000 fans a game, which works out to a whopping 2.43M fans in the seats over the course of the year. This year will certainly be the first one where DC fields a MLB team that puts a million fans in the seats.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Nationals acquire J.J. Davis

Bowden acquired OF J.J. Davis from the Pirates to be a bench player. To get him, Bowden traded away prospect Antonio Sucre.

Our scouting director, Dana Brown, said in the article, "I think J.J. will be in a position to help us next year, where Sucre was a down the line guy. He is a few years away."

Davis, who will be 26 for next season, was a first-round draft pick in 1997. He's only gotten 87 PAs in 3 years in the majors, and has hit .163/.236/.213 over them. And, the Pirates would have given him a bit more of a chance last year, but the mere 25 games he played were interrupted by hand and hip injuries.

The scouting report on Davis is that he can't hit breaking pitches at all, and doesn't deal with change of speeds well. This guy is no better than a prospect himself, and he's been around the block enough that he shouldn't be at this point.

Sucre is only one year into his career. He's fast, but has some developing to do, for sure, hitting just .240/.307/.413 in A ball. That's no so impressive that I'm going to cry about the raping of our farm system, particularly since many hitters have problems with breaking pitches when they first get to the majors. Leaving Davis on the bench most of the time is no way to fix the problem, though.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Roster changes

I just noticed that, before we traded for Guillen, the Nationals dropped Josh Labandeira (SS) and Shawn Hill (P) from the 40 man roster to make room for their new free agent signings. Labanderia was hitless in 14 at bats over his first 7 games, whereas Hill compiled an ERA of 16.00 over 3 starts last year. I assume these guys were sent back to AAA, which just goes to show that there's plenty of crap on our 40 man roster... we never should have had to put a perfectly good prospect on wavers for the Blue Jays to pick up.

Even the mainstream sports writers are in shock at the Guzman signing. Tom Verducci sees the signing as bad, and thinks it is a sign of a player-friendly market this year.

I saw the comment about the color scheme, and I'll try to address the problem. This new scheme doesn't seem much better, but it'll be late in the weekend before I can play with it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

It's official

Another brief update while I enjoy my vacation, but as I'm sure everyone knows, the Washington team is now officially the Nationals, and the team also unveiled their new logo. MLB has also opened their new web site, nationals.com, which already has tons of mechandise available.

On the field, Bowden has announced that we'll retain pitching coach Randy St. Claire. He'll also keep Tom McCraw (last year's hitting coach), Bob Natal (last year's catching and bullpen coach) and Eddie Rodriguez (last year's bench coach), though Bowden seems likely to shuffle these guys around. It's likely that two of the three will end up as base coaches, as Bowden clearly wants someone better to work with pitchers in the bullpen, and is hoping to find a better hitting instructor.

The team's new home page also has a few new articles:


Sunday, November 21, 2004

Jose Guillen vs. Juan Rivera

The 2004 performances of Jose Guillen and Juan Rivera aren't worlds
apart. Rivera hit .307/.364/.465 with a VORP of 22.3. Guillen hit
.294/.352/.497 with a VORP of 39.9. Rivera's top line looks a bit
better, despite the lack of power, hitting only 37 extra base hits (12
HRs) compared to Guilen's 58 (27 HRs).

But Guillen has a much higher VORP. Part of this is due to extra plate
appearances (640 vs. 426). If you give him the same number of
at-bats, his VORP would still only project out to 33.5.

Why does VORP think Guillen is so much better than Rivera? Because it
takes into account the difficulty of situation, factoring in the
ballpark (i.e., hitter's park vs. pitcher's park) and the quality of
the competition. Normalize out their batting averages (a stat called
EqA: equiv. average), and Guillen hits .282, while Rivera hits .279,
making them quite similar. Rivera has a slight edge in getting on
base, but Jose's power is much greater.

Both of these guys are still in the prime of their career. They both
have a good shot at similar numbers next year, though Guillen is a bit
more proven (though not too much). All other things being equal, I
think Guillen is a clear choice.

The question is whether Guillen is worth about $3M more in salary.
Compared to the market, the $3.5 we'll pay for Guillen is a great
deal. But paying Rivera $400K is a better deal. There's no doubt about
it. Even shedding Izturis, who wasn't going to be worth much,
considering we're overpaying Guzman to do the same job, the salary gap
still favors Rivera.

But don't underestimate the value of fielding a team that will get
people in the seats. Sure, Guillen is no Gary Sheffield, but you can
see people drawing the parallel, as he's a slugger who was a star in
Anaheim and had some personality problems. I think the more people
that can be passed off as stars on the field will put more people in
the seats, meaning more money in the budget for next year.

By the way, MLB will be broadcasting the name announcement at noon on Monday, when we'll officially be the Nationals. Reportedly, our team logo will also be unveiled.

Friday, November 19, 2004

We got Guillen...

Yes, Juan Rivera will be playing right field in RFK this year, when the Angels come to town for interleague play, as we have traded for Jose Guillen, who has one year and $3.5M left on his contract, with a club option for $4M in 2006. We also shipped out shortstop Maicer Izturis. Here is the MLB article on the trade.

I like Rivera, but all in all I think this is a good trade, getting us as close as we're likely to get to a new legitimate all star on the roster.

I'm about to get on yet another plane, but I'll do some analysis tomorrow morning.

Baseball Prospectus on our free agent signings

Stat-heads continue to dump all over Bowden's signings. An article over at Baseball Prospectus (requires paid subscription) is the latest entrant.

They suggest that Brendan Harris, a AAA player we got when we traded Cabrera, would do about as well as Castilla as a third baseman at a small fraction of the cost. They also argue that keeping Izturus would have been just as effective at short, saying "Allowed to play, he'd probably be a good comp for Guzman, with more OBP and defense, but less speed and power." And much, much, much cheaper.

But my favorite quote in the article is this gem:

How damning is it that you can sign Vinny Castilla to a multi-year contract and have that be the 'good' deal you made that day?

I still can't get over that, considering how MLB already depleted our farm system once they took over ownership, Bowden doesn't seem to care about restocking it, as he is spending lots of money and giving up draft picks for sideways moves. Conspiracy theorists wonder if he isn't taking extra money under the table from Peter Angelos.

2 days and 3,000,000 washingtons

The post reports that, as of 6:30pm last night, Ticketmaster has collected 10,030 non-refundable deposits (of $300). Yes, that's well over $3M.

It also looks all but certain that the name is the Nationals and that
the team colors are red, white and blue. The name will be announced at
a ceremony in Union Station on Monday, and new hats will be
unveiled. Too bad I'm out of town again. Huge surprise, our home
uniform will say "Nationals", and our road uniform, "Washington".

Thursday, November 18, 2004

More on season tickets

This will probably be a short update today, as I'm staying in a hotel with no net access, and am at a conference with a slow link... about 1Kb/hour.

Season tickets officially went on sale today. The Post reports that single-day prices will be a little higher. Smaller packages won't go on sale until about January and single tickets in February.

They also reported that the Diamond Box seats are $90 a game, and come with "a pre-game buffet, wait service and other ammenities". What other ammenities? Do I get a diamond encrusted seat or a free diamond? I was going to do this, but considering I'll be eating a lot of costs when I have noone to go with or can't go at all (and can't dump the tickets), I guess I'm going for the infield box, now.

Either way, I'll be looking for people to go to games with and to take pairs of tickets when I can't go next year. If you've got interest, feel free to contact me via email... it's viega@securesoftware.com.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Pricing and seating chart

For people who signed up on any of the mailing lists, they sent around email allowing us to plonk down our season ticket deposits a day early (for full-season tickets only). I just signed up for two seats.

The high-end seating price is still TBD. But the rest of the pricing and a seating chart is available here. The "diamond box" seats are actually the seats right behind home plate... the color on the left-hand chart is misleading. The pink seats are the infield upper reserve seats ($13 per seat).

It is unclear if this is the season ticket per seat price or the actual face value for single ticket sales. I suspect the former, based on the whole experience.

Welcome to the NL East cellar?

I think the most depressing news in Washington Post isn't that we signed Guzman ($17M is the number the post cites... I heard $16.8 on ESPN) and Castilla. For those who don't like the Nationals, it isn't that the Post has sources confirming that this will be the name announced next week.

No, to me, it's that those two guys are "the team's most significant on-field moves of the offseason". If our budget were really at $55M, then we should have about $12M to play with, and should be able to pick up a starter that isn't as marginal as these guys, right? I think that Bowden is trying to exact its revenge on the sport for his own failures. I now wholeheartedly expect him to sign Esteban Loiaza, or someone equally crummy, and then pay entirely too much for him.

I feel like Bowden has got to be on Angelos' secret payroll!

Aaron Gleeman has an analysis of these signings over at the Hardball Times. I was able to laugh at my misery.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The infield shores up, kinda.

First, I would like to thank Christian at All Baseball for inviting me to do some writing for them. He asked me to produce a short article discussing how DC views the move.

Second, the team has signed Vinny Castilla to play third and the switch hitting Cristian Guzman to play short. Castilla got 2 years and $6.2M. Guzman got 4 years, with no disclosure on the financials.

Hopefully they didn't make out too badly on Guzman, because the free agent market is so swamped with shortstops. The Twins declined a $5.25M option on him, so I would expect something on the order of $16-$17M for 4 years. If so, I think this is probably overpaying, because while many have expected for him to take off for several years in a row, he's remained pretty marginal (last year he had a .274/.309/.384 with an unspectacular VORP of 14.8). His batting average is not so bad for his position, but he has no power and he doesn't walk. The upside is that he's only 27, and he's above average defensively (last year, he was actually very good). He used to hit a lot of triples, he used to be very fast. After hitting 14 triples in 2003, he settled for 4 this year, and his stolen bases dropped from 18 to 10 (both times he got caught stealing 1/3 of the time).

Aaron Gleeman, who blogs the Twins extensively, has this to say about Guzman:

He has a sub par work ethic, has never been in great shape, is constantly showing signs of losing his speed, and doesn't strike me as a player who is going to play at a high level into his 30s (or in his 20s, but that's another issue).

Ick. I'll cross my fingers.

As for Castilla, I can at least say I'm glad we didn't shell out to get either Tony Batista or Troy Glaus in the hot corner. Still, Castilla is no prize once you take him out of Coors Park, particularly at 28. While he did hit 21 dingers on the road as opposed to only 14 at Coors, at Coors he hit .321/.379/.575, whereas everywhere else he hit a paltry .218/.281/.493. Compare that to Batista who hit .241/.272/.455, and made 1/2 as much as we're paying Castilla.

But, I do like people who know how to walk. So if it was a choice between of signing either one of those guys at 2 years and $6M, then I would have taken Castilla. If we need RFK to be a hitters park for Castilla to pay off, maybe they'll move the fences ;-)

Ick. I'll cross my fingers.

As we projected in the comments a while ago, our probable payroll after arbitration was probably at $34.5M for next year. Now it's probably at $42M. That means we've probably got $13-$15M to go. We know that we're looking for a starter, and there may be some trades to come. Particularly given the track record of our GM, I wouldn't be surprised to see us sign a moderately big name with a back-loaded contract, then trade for junk to fill any other needs (e.g., backup catcher). As we've seen in his interest in Guillen, he will probably get the best name he can strike a deal with, and not worry about who he'd be pushing off the roster... so it would potentially be a power-hitting outfielder.

Or, maybe he'll trade for a big name and sign or trade for the dregs to fill in any gaps. I read somewhere that the Guillen deal is off the table, though. Apparently, Anaheim was asking for something we weren't willing to give.

By the way, we lose three draft picks (Castilla is a Type A free agent, Guzman a type B).

Ick.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Terminology

I got a mail this morning asking what VORP and PECOTA are. That's a fair question. VORP stands for "Value over Replacement Player", which measures as objectively as possible the overall value of a player compared to a joe average bench player. Using a baseline of average bench players gives a good way to compare the overall value of a player across the season.

PECOTA is a projection system from the people at Baseball Prospectus. It's pretty complicated, but so far has done a better job than other projection systems.

A good glossary explaining modern baseball metrics (so called "sabremetrics") is available at Baseball Prospectus.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

RFK a hitter's park?

Baseball Prospectus has some analysis on RFK as a baseball park (check out the bottom question). Basically, the last time the Senators played there, it was a pitchers park, but it will depend on the way it's configured. The original dimensions were more or less neutral. I actually found an article today that thinks the weather will make RFK a hitters park. The author's thesis involves the fact that the Senators sucked, and that part I have a hard time with, since park factor calculations take that into account as best as possible by factoring in both what the team did elsewhere and what other teams did at RFK. The summer heat can help the ball carry, but the humidity has got to have a counteracting effect, at least to some degree. I'll try to keep tabs on this as the season progresses.

The way it sounds by reading ESPN's Jason Stark, the Nationals name is a done deal. There are an awful lot of people listing it as a rumor that's probably true, but Stark represents it as fact, despite significant circumstantial evidence for the Grays, such as the New Era information and the fact that MLB's dcbaseball.com uses the colors of the Homestead Grays as its color scheme (blue and gray).

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Profile: Juan Rivera

First, a quick link. Yesterday, MLB featured Shawn Norris, who plays third base and will start the season either at AA Harrisburg or AAA New Orleans.

Speaking of third basemen, ESPN has Batista as #40 in their list of top 50 free agents, and claim that he "quietly put together a great offensive season". How could someone with a .272 on-base percentage ever be described that way and a VORP right at 0 ever be described that way? The guy was no better than a bench player last season, which was slightly better than his 2003 VORP of -0.6, but much worse than his PECOTA projected 14.1. While he'll only be 31 going into next year, I can't see the value.

Now, on to Juan Rivera, who we acquired from the Yankees last offseason. Juan is a right hander who plays both corners comfortably, though we had him primarily in RF last year. He'll be 27 by the all-star break, and 2004 was his first full year in the major leagues. He doesn't become a free agent until 2008.

Having watched him play a fair bit with New York, I can say that he's got a good arm, good enough to be a legitimate right fielder. But, it's not wildly above average, nor does he have better than average range.

In the batters box, though, Juan had a good year last year, hitting .307/.364/.465 in 425 plate appearances. He was platooned for part of the year, but had a good enough season that he ended up with the bulk of the time in RF.

Park adjusted, his numbers go down, but it was still a solid season, as Juan posted the third highest VORP in the offense-- his 22.3 was behind Wilkerson's 36.1 and Vidro's 28.7. That's not bad, particularly considering his PECOTA projection was .266/.304/.468. Though PECOTA had him doing much better in PA/HR (25.9 vs. 35.4), he more or less met the projected SLG by hitting a lot of doubles. He also walked every 12.5 PAs, quite a bit better than the projected 14, which is okay, but not overly impressive.

The trend on Rivera has been moving in the right direction, and he's at about to reach the age where he's likely to peak. He could easily match or exceed his line from last year. I do think that RFK is going to end up a pitcher's park, but not as bad of one as the Olympic Stadium / Bithorn one was, so I'm hopeful that he'll end up a .300 hitter.

The question is where's he going to play? I've seen one blog express disgust at going after Jose Guillen, who is much more expensive than Rivera, and has a similar (but better) offensive line, as if the two can't coexist because they're both primarily RFs. Sure, Wilkerson is likely to be back in left, but I think Rivera would be fine as a center fielder, and I suspect that's what will end up happening. I expect he'll have below average range, but an above average arm for the position. Overall, he'll be a tremendous value there.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Short update on tickets

According to a team press release, season tickets aren't going on sale until November 18th (full season only, according to the Post). The cheap seats will be $7, and the average ticket price will be about $25, whatever that means (mean, median, mode?)

My next profile is about as delayed as season tickets... I'm still working on it, and I won't have time to finish it until late tonight or tomorrow.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Back to baseball

It looks like there is no serious opposition to the Anacostia site anymore, so I'm happy to get back to baseball. While there still hasn't been an announcement on season tickets, there have been some interesting items that have come up. Bowden has confirmed that he's going after the 41 year-old Barry Larkin for shortstop, who is old enough that he should be available at a pretty low price. Who wants to place a bet on how long he'll spend on the D.L. this year?

Also, the Post reported a few weeks ago that our ending payroll for 2004 was $38M (though, more recently I've seen $41M). They're now reporting that it looks like it will be $50M to $55M, though Tavares and Bowden have received no official word.

That article also points out that Bowden made a whopping 100+ trades in his decade in Cincinnati, which should give me plenty to babble about in the off-season.

I'm back from travel tonight, so I expect to have another profile up by tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Today's news

The Washington Post reports that Bowden released Rocky Biddle, who was the closer in 2003, and started as closer in 2004, before falling apart. Cordero isn't expected to be the full time closer... they don't think he's quite ready to handle the job alone. Bowden is not close on Batista, and expects to start selling season tickets today.

Also, Mayor Williams believes he has the votes to pass his Anacostia proposal. I guess we'll find out later today.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Washington Post chats

There hasn't been any real news today about tickets, the stadium, etc. But, the Post did run a couple of interesting online chats. One was with Mayor Williams, and the other is with stadium opponent David Catania.

I'll be updating the site with interesting news tidbits throughout the week, but probably won't have time to do another profile until Thursday or Friday.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

More on the meltdown

The Mayor gave a speech, attempting to solicit support for Anacostia over the RFK site. I'm amazed that the councilwoman would be willing to risk everything to pander to opponents in order to save money in the short term, giving up all of the long-term economic benefits to the city.

D.C. baseball may be in serious jeapordy

Wow, I turn around after that last whopper of an entry to find out that this morning's Post has 5 articles on the Expos.

Most of it isn't really news. They report on the name, but the Post and ESPN agree that no decision seems to be made. From ESPN:

"However, baseball spokesman Rich Levin said reports that the Expos would be renamed the Nationals were premature. Levin said other names, such as the Senators, remain under consideration and that baseball still was conducting focus groups."


Interestingly enough, the Post mentions a fact I'd never heard, that the Grays were based in Pittsburgh. I just picked up a copy of Beyond the Shadow of the Senators, and it indicates that, indeed, it was a Pittsburgh based team until 1940, but moved most of its home games to DC at that point, and achieved its greatest success here.

There's an opinion piece discussing how Linda Cropp (city council chairwoman) has reneged on her word to MLB by withdrawing her support for the Mayor's plan and introducing her own. It points out that there's a very real risk that we won't keep the team without the Anacostia site. It also expresses bewilderment that she would buckle under minor opposition she had to see coming, particularly since the site is right downtown in an area that needs gentrification badly, and would displace few people. This one is definitely worth reading yourself.

One other thing that article does is point out how ineffectual DC politics have been wrt. sports, mentioning the Redskins' inability to get DC to agree on a stadium, right where Cropp is proposing to build one now. Another article goes into more detail on the plight of that poor plot of land. This one points out that the people around RFK are vehemently opposed to the new construction.

Another opinion piece faults the Mayor for not doing a good enough job lobbying.

Reading between the lines, I'm going to guess that the Mayor needs to fix this quickly to keep MLB from going to NOVA, particularly since NOVA legislation runs out at the end of the year. For me, NOVA is better, but I'll be a fan either way. Let's hope they don't choose some third option.

In a final article, the post repeats that the schedule has been changed a bit, but says that there are only 25 conflicting days now, not 28. Whatever, I'm not going to any O's games anyway, even if just to boycott Angelos.

The first article cites Tavares as saying that ticket ordering information will be available on Monday, and he hopes there will be a number for purchasing season tickets by the middle of the week. I can't wait for that one. I hope that the price range is closer to that of the O's ($953-$1863 per seat last year) than the Braves (up to $3735 per seat). I wonder how easy it will be to offload unused tickets...

Let's hope for a clone of King George

While I've been working on profiles of some of our players, I thought it would be good to look at more of our regular roster on the whole. We've seen so far that we've had some big problems with injuries (and we've got more injuries to go). Maybe there will still be a problem or two, and maybe we'll fill one or two of these positions with a free agent. But here's what we have in the stable today:

1B: Nick Johnson (.251/.359/.398, 7 HR, 5.7 VORP; but with major DL time)
2B: Jose Vidro (.294/.364/.454, 14HR, 28.7 VORP)
SS: TBD (maybe Izturis, though likely to return to minors)
3B: TBD (hopefully not Batista)
C: Brian Schneider (.257/.322/.399, 12 HR, 9.0 VORP)
LF: Brad Wilkerson (.255/.372/.498, 32 HR, 36.1 VORP)
CF: Endy Chavez (.277/.311/.271, 5 HR, 5.4 VORP)
RF: Juan Rivera (.307/.364/.465, 12 HR, 22.3 VORP)

OF: Terrmel Sledge (.269/.336/.462)
OF: Ryan Church (.175/.257/.238)
OF: Val Pascucci (.177/.297/.290)
IF: Maicer Izturis (.206/.286/.318)
IF: Henry Mateo (.273/.289/.318)

SP: Livan Hernandez (1.24 WHIP, 3.60 ERA, .314 OOBP, 58.3 VORP)
SP: Tomo Ohka (1.39 WHIP, 3.40 ERA, .328 OOBP, 14.2 VORP)
SP: Tony Armas, Jr. (1.54 WHIP, 4.88 ERA, .362 OOBP, 5.1 VORP, but see his profile)
SP: Zach Day (1.39 WHIP, 3.93 ERA, .337 OOBP, 21.7 VORP)

Closer: Chad Cordero (1.34 WHIP, 2.94 ERA, .315 OOBP, 24.4 VORP)
P: Luis Ayala (1.18 WHIP, 2.69 ERA, .307 OOBP, 27.2 VORP)
P: T.J. Tucker (1.33 WHIP, 3.72 ERA, .326 OOBP, 14.9 VORP)
P: Jon Rauch (1.28 WHIP, 2.81 ERA, .318 OOBP, 10.9 VORP)
P: Joe Horgan (1.43 WHIP, 3.15 ERA, .339 OOBP, 7.3 VORP)
P: Sun-Woo Kim (1.47 WHIP, 4.58 ERA, .356 OOBP, 6.5 VORP)
P: John Patterson (1.38 WHIP, 5.03 ERA, .349 OOBP, 5.0 VORP)
P: Joey Eischen (1.31 WHIP, 3.93 ERA, .316 OOBP, 1.6 VORP)
P: Claudio Vargas (1.55 WHIP, 5.25 ERA, .363 OOBP, 0.4 VORP)
P: Chad Bentz (1.66 WHIP, 5.53 ERA, .381 OOBP, -.05 VORP)
P: Gary Majewski (1.52 WHIP, 3.86 ERA, .362 OOBP, -1.7 VORP)
P: Scott Downs (1.62 WHIP, 5.14 ERA, .372 OOBP, -6.6 VORP)
P: Rocky Biddle (1.65 WHIP, 6.92 ERA, .380 OOBP, -19.3 VORP)


Okay, so we don't hit for much power, and our bullpen could be a heck of a lot better. But all in all, that's not bad for maybe $35M in committed salary, especially considering our payroll is likely to be bumped up from $41M. Even though I'm not optimistic, in this offseason we could attract a big name free agent who is fond of the market and wants to be the guy in the spotlight.

But, more likely, we'll be in the middle of the NL East pack this year, probably fourth, or maybe third if everything clicks. After that, though, we should have owners, and a few years where they're willing to spend on the team in order to make us competitive. I can only hope that the D.C. market is as good as anticipated in terms of bringing in the revenue, and that the new owners spend that revenue in the same spirit as George Steinbrenner.

Did you read that right? Yes, indeed. King George is a man I admire, because he reinvests every red cent the team brings in on the team. He's not interested in making money for his LPs, he's interested in the glory of the franchise. In fact, in the early days, he even made his LPs stroke checks. Well, maybe as a side effect, he's made the Yankees far more valuable than they ever would have been, but nonetheless, it is clearly a labor of love for him that I respect.

Particularly with a spending philosophy that is in line with the size and wealth of our market, it shouldn't be too long before we can double our payroll and become competitive. And with the Mets and Phillies likely to implode under their own mismanagement over the next few years, we might be the first ones to stop Atlanta's ridiculous streak as division champs!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Conflicting reports on the team name

According to All-Baseball.com, New Era, a company making baseball caps, has leaked information that MLB has chosen the Grays. It's clear that the name is already chosen, it seems likely that it won't be the Senators, but I think that's all we can say for sure at this time.

Also, the Post reports that DC City Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp proposed an alternate cheaper stadium plan out next to the current RFK site. I can't imagine that being overly popular with MLB, and Tavares expresses similar concerns.

Batista a free agent

Apparently, there's no agreement on years or dollars yet, so Batista filed yesterday. Last year he signed a 1 year, 1.5 mil contract.

Batista can hit for power... when he hits. He doesn't really walk. He had 32 homers last year, with a .241 average and a measly .272 on base percentage. Though once you get past the people we can't afford, there aren't that many other good options out there, I'd rather lose Batista, anyway. 32 homers a year doesn't make up for never being on base.

In other team news, there are going to be 28 days this year when the O's and our team play on the same day. The schedule was prepared before Washington was selected, so this probably won't be an issue in the future (the Cubs and White Sox, for instance, will play only 2 games at home on the same day). MLB managed to move some things around, getting it all the way down to 28 from 30. Nice work, guys.

The Washington Times is reporting that the team name is likely to be Nationals, citing "industry sources". Mayor Williams fought hard against the Senators, but if this article is correct, not hard enough for the Grays. Apparently, our team colors are going to be red, white and blue. Yuck.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Rumor: Guillen to D.C. team

According to MLB, the Angels are looking to move Jose Guillen, and the implication is that our team is the most likely target. You may remember that the Angels suspended Guillen for the last couple of weeks of the season, and then left him off the postseason roster, all for throwing a hissy fit when he got lifted for a pinch runner.

I thought at the time this was truly bizarre behavior by the Angels, even if Guillen had been an ongoing clubhouse cancer, since he was a significant part of the Angels offense, batting a respectable .294 with a .352 OBP and slugging .497, with 27 home runs.

Guillen has one year and $3.5M on his contract. There's no indication on what we would trade, so this one doesn't feel very real yet. Nonetheless, I think he'd be a good pickup, and offense is clearly a big need. I think there would be a lot of people worried that he might continue to be a cancer, but I'd personally take that chance, particularly since it seems that he has a good relationship with Bowden, from when Bowden picked him up for the Reds. Plus, he's only got one year left on his contract, so if it's not a good fit, we won't be saddled with him long term, unless we give him an extension on acquiring him. Combine the possible personality issues with the fact that we don't have real owners yet, and I would speculate that, even if we get him, an immediate extension is unlikely.

Thanks to Alex at Bronx Banter

Alex Belth, the author of my favorite Yankees blog, Bronx Banter, has sent this way some other transplanted Yankees fans ready to support NL baseball. Thanks, Alex!

Coach Waddles indicated in a comment that he hasn't had much exposure to the NL. I too have always paid far more attention to the AL than the NL, and I suspect most D.C. baseball fans are the same way, particularly since the closest thing to a home team was previously the Orioles. I'm looking forward to it as well, and part of my personal motivation for doing this blog is to get myself up to speed!

I'll definitely keep the blog updated with the latest news and rumors affecting the team, including the naming process. As I mentioned yesterday, it sounds like there's a good chance that we'll have a name by the end of this month. I wonder if they've already decided, particularly since the color scheme for dcbaseball.com includes the color grey. It's definitely the name I'd prefer! Many of the life-long D.C. residents I know would like to keep the Senators, but I never liked the name, and it is a name that is almost synonymous with mediocrity. Plus, I do remember reading a few months ago that the Texas Rangers retain the rights to the name. I wonder if they would require any significant compensation.

Profile: Tony Armas, Jr.

Tony Armas, Jr. is not the hitter his father was. He's actually a horrible hitter (a career .113 OBP), which makes it a good thing he's a pitcher.

Tony is 26, and he's been with the Expos since he entered the Majors at the end of 1999. He's a right handed starting pitcher who showed a lot of promise through 2002, meaning he was not too spectacular, but didn't stink up Olympic Stadium, either. His ERA never got below the 4.00 line and his lowest WHIP in that time frame was 1.31. But, his numbers were never much worse than that.

Tony had a strong start in 2003, with a WHIP just over 1 and a 2.61 ERA in his first 5 games. The 5th game brought these numbers up tremendously due to the 4 home runs he gave up. It turned out that that would be his last game in 2003, as he'd done major damage to his rotator cuff, which required season-ending surgery.

As the 2004 season started, Tony was still recovering. He didn't throw his first game until June 1, and got off to a horrible start, giving up 16 earned runs over his first four games, with only 17.1 innings pitched. He began to adjust well afterward, and his ERA more or less steadily dropped into September, as he only gave up more than one run 3 times in 10 starts. In the worst of those outings, he gave up four runs on four hits in 4.1 innings. He gave up three runs on 5 hits once, and two runs on six hits another time. In two of those three games, he walked 5 batters, which really did the damage.

It was clear that he was coming back from shoulder surgery though, as he was plagued by inflammation, and seemed to have some endurance issues as a result. On September 6th, Frank Robinson started talking about shutting him down due to the ongoing shoulder problem.

His last two starts were abysmal, giving up 11 earned runs on 12 hits with 6 homers and 6 walks in only 6.2 combined innings. In the last of these two games, on September 12, it took him 97 pitches to make it through 3 2/3 innings. Frank Robinson indicated that Tony had probably needed more time to recover in the first place, and thought he might not even be available for the start of the 2005 season. He ended the year with a 2-4 record over 16 starts, a 1.54 WHIP, a 4.88 ERA and 6.75 Ks/9 (lowering his career average to 7.09). Assuming he's healthy, he'll probably do much better than those numbers next year, though, as they were attributable to a few horrendous starts that sandwiched in a fairly decent run, even though he was clearly struggling with his shoulder.

Tony has two good pitches, a cut fastball that reaches about 91, and a big curve ball. He also throws a slider, splitter and change up, giving him quite a big repertoire with which to keep hitters off balance.

One of the things he had problems with in the past that kept his WHIP high was walking batters. Part of the reason I've seen attributed to this is being a bit timid in going inside to hitters to push them off the plate, which he worked on successfully in 2003. I can't determine if he reverted in 2004, or just had control problems due to his shoulder. If that's the case, he could end up being a phenomenal pitcher.

From my research on him, it seems that if he can recover, and really will end up walking fewer batters, he will end up looking even more like Mike Mussina (i.e., he can throw a lot of different kind of pitches, isn't overpowering, yet can still manage to strike out a decent number of betters).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Miscellaneous news

Today I noticed that you can browse job openings within the D.C. Baseball organization online here. I'm sure if my co-workers are reading this, they're officially frightened.

Also, many proposed amendments to the most current stadium legislation were defeated today. The only one that passed would prevent baseball officials from having veto rights over some aspects of stadium design and construction. The new legislation was introduced yesterday, and added a $450M community investment package. It also raises the threshold that makes businesses eligible for the special tax, setting it at $4M annual revenue (up from $3M). The Post reports that this exempts a few hundred companies.

Finally, MLB.com reports a rumor that Bowden has made a multi-year offer to Batista, who apparently enjoyed this area when he played with the Orioles, and would like to relocate here.

Interview with Tony Tavares

MLB.com radio had an interview with the team president Tony Tavares today. Some interesting tidbits were presented in it:

1) He's completed a ticket deal and will announce it tomorrow. He mentioned a backlog of people waiting for tickets that is several thousand long. Unless this is the DC Baseball Club list, I don't know what list he's talking about, and I'm therefore not on it. I hope I can get good seats without being one of the first 100 in line!

2) MLB is not going to wait for owners to decide on a name and team colors. They will make a decision and announce in about three weeks.

3) His gut is that there will be ownership by May, but he certainly doesn't know for sure.

4) Food service and merch deals are done. They're making progress in getting everything lined up to do stadium renovations.

Profile: Livan Hernandez

Since Livan just won a silver slugger award yesterday for being the best hitting pitcher, I thought I would cover him next.

Livan is the little brother of Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. Except that he's not so little, at 6'2" and 245lbs. His weight is definitely a concern, particularly since he's somewhat out of shape, but not quite as bad as a Wells or Ponson. He's actually much younger than El Duque, turning 30 in February.

Hernandez is our ace, but looking at his 15 losses last year (2nd in the NL), one might think he might not be much of an ace, in the same way that Ponson and Colon didn't live up to expectations for good portions of the 2004 season. But, Hernandez actually had a very good season. His 3.60 ERA was 15th in the NL, was #1 in innings pitched (255) and complete games (9).
Two of those 9 games were shutouts. He threw an amazing average of 112.2 pitches per game.

Basically, his 15 losses are attributable primarily to the poor offense behind him. He went deep into games that could have easily been lost in the bullpen. In games he started, the Expos averaged 3.5 runs per game, and that included some blowout victories. It's perhaps more telling to mention that of his 35 starts, he held opponents to 3 or fewer runs in 21 of those games. On the Expos, this was good for an 11-15 record. On a heavy hitting team, he probably would have had right at or under 20 wins, and would have about half as many losses.

Let's look at some of his other numbers. His WHIP was a 1.24, less than the 1.40 league average, but not stellar, either. Hitters batted .248 against him, with left handed hitters batting .258 and right handers .238. There was a bigger difference in on-base percentage-- left handers had a .335, and right handers had a .287 (.311 overall). He gave up the long ball 26 times and struck out 6.57 batters per nine innings (2.24 Ks per walk).

Overall, Livan has a similar reputation to his brother. He doesn't have anywhere near the best stuff. His fastball tops out at 92mph. All of his other pitches (curve, slider, change up) are also nothing special. While he doesn't have the range of velocity his brother has, he probably has better location, and is just as smart on the mount and fiercely competitive.

His line in 2003 was pretty similar, if a slight bit better. I should also mention that the two years before that, while he played for SF, he had off years, but I haven't looked deeply enough to determine if there was some problem that's behind him, or if there could be some worry there.

All things considered, he's definitely a reputable front of the rotation, particularly with our meager payroll. We have to hope he remains resilient and gives us a similar season to the past two years, instead of pitching his way into Tommy John surgery, the way his brother did.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Profile: Nick Johnson

The two players on the D.C. team with whom I'm most familiar are Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera, both of whom spent significant time on the Yankees major league roster in 2003 before being traded for Javier Vazquez in the offseason. In this post, I'll profile Nick Johnson, the 26 year old who will probably be the Expos first baseman next year and in 2006, unless he manages to spend even more time on the DL.

Nick was the Yankees' third round draft pick in 1996. He has never been a power hitter, but in the minors showed a lot of promise as an extremely patient hitter, with an ability to get on base, and use all parts of the field. In 2001, his last real year in the minors, he batted .256 for the AAA Columbus Clippers, but had an OBP of .393 in 440 plate appearances.

Despite having a reputation for getting on base a lot (much like Kevin Youklis did coming into the 2004 season), Nick didn't do that well as a september call-up in 2001, hitting .194, with an OBP of .308 and a slugging pct of .313. Yet, he spent much of 2002 and 2003 on the Yankees Roster sharing 1B and DH duties with Jason Giambi.

In those two years, he hit a combined .262 with an OBP of .369, and a slugging % around .435. These numbers didn't really meet expectations. Many people believed he was going to mature quickly into a .300 hitter with a .400+ OBP. But, he didn't quite get there, and got a reputation for having brittle hands, spending about three months combined on the DL in 2002 and 2003.

2004 was worse. Due to hand issues, Nick didn't play a game until May 18th, then went back on the DL on August 21st, and never came back. His final stint on the DL had nothing to do with his hands, though. He got nailed with a hard-hit ball that took a strange hop, and broke his cheekbone. When he was active in 2004, he hit .251/.359/.398.

Nick bats left-handed and throws left handed. He's a big guy at 6'3", and about 225 lbs. Yet, he never seemed as slow on the basepaths as, say, Giambi or Posada. His splits for the past three years show him hitting about the same against lefties and righties, but that's a bit misleading, because he walks more against lefties. Plus, in his 2004 splits, he did much better against left handed pitching (.323/.488 vs. .228/.310-- 62 ABs vs. 189 ABs).

Nick hasn't yet lived up to the promise he showed in the minors, though he has been a reasonably solid player, when not on the DL. For instance, despite missing about half the season, he was only one win share below average, and I suppose he would have been about 6 above average if he'd played the whole year to the same level. While those numbers aren't impressive, they're reasonably solid considering that he's never gotten to play a full season without an extended stint on the DL.

What about 2005? The biggest question is whether he will stay healthy. We can only hope that his hand problems are behind him, and that nothing else breaks down.

If he does stay healthy, what can we expect? I certainly don't think that this is the year he's going to blossom into the .300 hitter people once thought he would become. Maybe if he were still with the Yankees Donnie Baseball could do for him what he apparently did for Miguel Cairo, but I'll be thrilled if Nick plays the whole year and bats anything near .275/.400/.400.

As a postfix, while I was working on this post, there was a press conference officially announcing Bowden as interim GM, who confirmed that Frank Robinson will be our manager in 2005.

About me

Personally, I've been a lifelong Yankees fan. One of my first memories is Bucky Dent lifting one over the green monster. My family moved to the D.C. area when I was 6. My mother wanted to be able to have a real home team, so she began rooting for the Orioles, even though she'd been a life-long Yankees fan, prior to that.

Me, I have never stopped rooting for the Yankees, for better or for worse. In fact, I've taken a lot of flack recently. I sit on the board of directors for my employer, and two of the other board members are from Boston. We had a meeting the day of Game 4 of the World Series, and they had ready for me a hat labeled, "Boston Red Sox, American League Champions". I tried to be a good sport about it, and wore the thing through the whole meeting, and not from fear of losing my job ;-)

Yet, I'll be an enthusiastic supporter of our new team. Since the two teams won't be playing each other in 2005, I'll have a lot of time to decide how to deal with that conflict when it occurs.

Welcome, D.C. baseball fans!

The purpose of this blog is to provide commentary and analysis for fans of the new D.C. Baseball team.

As with many people in D.C., I'm a transplant, and I have other team loyalties. But, I'm a huge baseball fan in general, and have never had a National League team to support. I'm definitely going to try to do my part to support the team, and will definitely be buying a pair of season tickets.

While I had a sense that the D.C. area was going to get the Expos, I actually didn't pay as much attention to the team until the end of this postseason. Sure, I'm pretty familiar with the team we're likely to field next year, and I know a lot about some of the players I most respect, such as Livan Hernandez, Jose Vidro and Brad Wilkerson. But, I have a lot more to learn about our team. My baseball focus for the rest of the offseason will be educating myself and anyone who reads this blog on our 2005 team.