Thursday, December 30, 2004

Winter league update

Rotoworld is reporting that Tony Armas, Jr. pitched 5 scoreless innings in a postseason game yesterday in the Venezuelan Winter League. In 19 innings in that league, he's struck out 18, and given up only two earned runs, giving him an ERA of 0.95. While the competition is far less fierce than in the majors (particularly considering he hasn't gone more than five innings in any of those appearances), that's still a great sign.

Luis Ayala, who may end up closing for the team in 2005, has also performed well too, giving up one earned run in 8.2 innings in the Mexican Pacific League, for a 1.04 ERA.

More season ticket info

According to WTOP, for those of us who have already plunked down our deposits on season tickets, we'll be getting invoices and seat assignments in mid-January (they'll be mailed between Jan. 7 and Jan. 13).

Also, the Nats will start telemarketing to try to sell season tickets, starting the 3rd week of January, with a goal of getting to about 20K seats.

Frank Robinson profile

The Hardball Times has an... interesting look at manager Frank Robinson's impressive life in baseball.

Marlins trying for Perez?

Bowden says that our pursuit of Odalis Perez is on life support. The news here is that his list of suitors grows... the Marlins may quietly have the inside track. Perez improves the Marlings far more than he would improve the Mets, who may still be in the running.

While we probably could have gotten Perez for $6.5M right about the time when Cropp put the team on hold, his price tag has probably gone up due to the competition, closer to the $8M range. Pay it, Jim!

On the plus side, the Post indicates that Bowden isn't likely to go after any of the remaining free agent pitchers out there. Considering they all either had a 5.00 ERA or above last year, or did not play at all, that's a good thing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

How badly do we need Odalis?

I was reading an article yesterday that said the Mets are going to take a run at Odalis Perez (see 2nd blurb), trying to sell him via the "Minaya's also a Dominican" tactic that successfully lured Pedro (though, while I was writing this, articles started appearing claiming the Mets' rotation is set for 2005). Perez basically said he's looking for a contract in the range of $7.25M per year over 3 years, and I was wondering if Bowden should just be throwing the money at him now, because I think that, if he doesn't, Minaya will give him the best deal, and he'll be in New York next year.

If Baseball Prospectus 2005 were out now, this would be reasonably easy for me to answer. I'd look at all of the starting pitchers on the roster, sum up the PECOTA-projected VORPs and then look to see how our sum ranks, and figure out the level of confidence. If it seemed to be a big improvement relative to the rest of the division, I'd be all for it. Unfortunately, BP 2005 hasn't come out yet.

What I decided to do was a back-of-the-napkin analysis, based on performance over the past two years, and a bit of knowledge about the pitchers. To level the playing field, I assumed all rotations would have their starters pitch exactly 30 games over the course of the year. I took my best guess on the number of innings pitched per game started and the VORP rate (i.e., VORP/9) the player would post in 2005. This is pretty similar to my analysis early in the month based just on dERA... the dERA is well-correlated with VORP, but doesn't try to measure overall value, just the expected number of runs per inning. That is, it doesn't take into account how many innings a guy will pitch in an average outing, and there can be tremendous value in that.

I'll share all my data below, but let me start with conclusions. First, here are projected VORPs from the starting rotations w/o Odalis for all 5 teams:

Atlanta207.1
New York167.5
Florida160.5
Washington135.8
Philadelphia135.7

The number I have the least amount of confidence in is our number. While Hernandez and Day have been pretty consistant all things considered, Ohka is a bit of a wild card, Armas is quite a wild card, and our 5th spot is a total crap shoot. I tried to be fair in my estimates (e.g., I recognized Pedro Martinez will probably have a tick up vs. his 2004 numbers if he stays healthy, but still not even approach his 2003 numbers), with a tendency toward optimism when there were widely varying years.

For Armas, I made what I feel is a conservative assumption, but there is still room for him to go down, even if he's healthy. For the fifth spot, I assumed that Patterson would get the nod. I think if Rauch gets the 5th spot, you'll see us move up to about a 155. Remember, Florida might yet slot someone useful from the minors in their 5th spot, so while we'll definitely end up better than Philly, we'll still be some way behind everyone else.

With Patterson, I have to expect that, if he can't match last year's numbers, they'll go with Rauch, who will more than make up for it. With Smoltz, it was impossible to predict how he'd convert from closer back to starter, but even if I underestimated, the Braves are just that much farther in front of everyone else.

Odalis himself is somewhat difficult to project. In 2002, he looked like an ace, even considering that he was lucky that year. In 2003, he looked neither lucky nor unlucky, and pitched well, except that he gave up way too many home runs. In 2004, he was still giving up too many home runs, but seemed more like an ace again, anyway. I more or less assumed that he would maintain his 2004 performance in 2005, instead of projecting him to do as well as he did in 2002 or to be as nondescript as he was in 2003.

Honestly, I think he may take a bit of a slide, but he is much closer to a sure thing than the back end of our current rotation. If we were to get Perez, and between Armas, Rauch and Patterson they could string together a season like the one I've projected being pessimistic for Armas, we'd still be well behind the Braves, but with a 173.7, I'd take our rotation over the Mets in a heartbeat. The overall numbers would be similar enough to make the rotations look about as good as each other, but Pedro Martinez is, by far, the biggest injury risk in that bunch.

If New York gets Perez, Trachsel probably leaves the rotation, moving them closer to Atlanta than they would be to the rest of the NL East.

Anyway, I think I see a story peering out of the numbers, as rough a guide as they are. The story is that, we have a reasonable shot of ending up with the 2nd best rotation in the NL East if we sign Odalis Perez. If we had him, we'd only need to get "very good" seasons out of any two of Perez, Armas and Rauch (I don't believe you'll ever see a good season from Patterson).

If we don't sign Perez, we could still end up in the #2 slot, but it's more of a bit more of a stretch, because it not only requires Armas to have an exceptional year, it also requires Rauch to beat Patterson handily and have a spectacular year, which is hard to project based only on scouting reports.

If Perez had more even numbers, it would be an absolute no-brainer. As is, I think it's clear that our risk level goes down with Perez, and the quality of the rotation will likely go up a reasonable amount, particularly if Patterson was the option.

If it were me, I would absolutely pay the money. If Benson can get $7M+ for 3 years, that should be about the market price for Odalis. In that light, and considering the effect it would have on the quality of the rotation compared to the rest of our division, I think it's worth it, even if we overpay a little. You wouldn't hear me complaining if we gave him 3 years at $25M.

Anyway, for those of you interested in my guessing, here are all the numbers I ran. I started out by looking at the following data from 2003 and 2004:

Last 2 years for projected 2005 starters
?
20042003
PlayerGSIPIP/GSVORPrGSIPIP/GSVORPr
Odalis Perez31196.36.332.2830186.76.180.93
Washington
20042003
PlayerGSIPIP/GSVORPrGSIPIP/GSVORPr
Livan Hernandez35255.07.292.06 33233.37.072.14
Tomo Ohka1584.75.651.51341995.860.90
Tony Armas, Jr.16724.5.645316.23.08
Zach Day19116.76.141.6723131.35.711.31
John Patterson?1998.35.170.46855.0*-.70
Atlanta
20042003
PlayerGSIPIP/GSVORPrGSIPIP/GSVORPr
Tim Hudson27188.76.992.26342407.062.94
John Smoltz081.7n/a2.94064.3n/a4.35
Mike Hampton29172.35.941.2731155.75.02.77
John Thomson33198.36.011.54352176.21.21
Horacio Ramirez960.36.72.1829182.36.291.19
Florida
20042003
PlayerGSIPIP/GSVORPrGSIPIP/GSVORPr
Al Leiter30173.75.792.39301545.131.83
Josh Beckett26156.76.031.63231426.172.27
A.J. Burnett191206.322.014235.75.59
Dontrelle Willis321976.161.2427160.75.952.27
Ismael Valdes?311705.48.21221155.23-0.40
New York
20042003
PlayerGSIPIP/GSVORPrGSIPIP/GSVORPr
Pedro Martinez332176.332.2829186.76.443.59
Tom Glavine33212.36.431.7832183.35.73.79
Victor Zambrano221285.821.4528188.3*1.05
Kris Benson31200.36.461.0118108.36.020.00
Steve Trachsel33202.76.141.1533204.76.201.47
Philadelphia
20042003
PlayerGSIPIP/GSVORPrGSIPIP/GSVORPr
Jon Lieber27176.76.541.3900n/an/a
Randy Wolf23136.75.940.95322006.061.15
Vicente Padilla20115.35.770.8532208.76.521.64
Brett Myers311765.68-0.02321936.031.08
Cory Lidle1062.36.231.7231192.76.22-0.12
In a couple of cases, people spent a lot of time in the pen, in which case I didn't calculate IP/GS. There were a few cases where a guy came out of the pen once, and I ignored that, instead of figuring out how many innings he pitched in that one relief appearance.

After looking at these numbers and doing some other reading, I made the following guesses for 2005:

2005 guesses for a 30-game season
?
PlayerIP/GSVORPrVORP
Odalis Perez6.332.2547.48
Washington
PlayerIP/GSVORPrVORP
Livan Hernandez7.12.1049.7
Tomo Ohka5.671.2523.5
Tony Armas, Jr.6.31.0021.0
Zach Day6.01.632.0
John Patterson6.3.459.6
Total VORP135.8
Atlanta
PlayerIP/GSVORPrVORP
Tim Hudson7.02.558.3
John Smoltz6.32.348.3
Mike Hampton6.01.2525
John Thomson6.21.531
Horacio Ramirez6.672.044.5
Total VORP207.1
Florida
PlayerIP/GSVORPrVORP
Al Leiter4.752.438.0
Josh Beckett6.12.142.7
A.J. Burnett6.332.042.2
Dontrelle Willis6.11.7535.6
Ismael Valdes?5.50.00.0
Total VORP160.5
New York
PlayerIP/GSVORPrVORP
Pedro Martinez6.332.7558.0
Tom Glavine6.331.531.7
Victor Zambrano5.751.4527.8
Kris Benson6.331.021.1
Steve Trachsel6.21.428.9
Total VORP167.5
Philadelphia
PlayerIP/GSVORPrVORP
Jon Lieber6.671.533.4
Randy Wolf6.01.020.0
Vicente Padilla6.251.2526.0
Brett Myers6.01.020.0
Cory Lidle6.231.7536.3
Total VORP135.7
You can probably question a lot of the guesses. For many of them, I focused on the last two years of numbers, but also looked beyond them. Feel free to change things around and draw your own conclusions as a result.

Monday, December 27, 2004

2004 Recap

The official Nationals site has an interesting month-by-month recap of the organizations 2004, focusing mainly on the field.

It mentions Ohka batting 8th on May 30th, when he went 0-2. Apparently, this was the first time that a pitcher batted somewhere other than 9th since Matt Morris, on September 27, 1998.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Post profiles Bowden

Yes, I'm posting on xmas. I don't want you to miss these great articles when you finally make it back to your computer ;-)
The Post has a bit of background on team GM Jim Bowden. It is interesting to read... he comes across as someone who gets off on the thrill of making deals, and isn't as good at interacting with people. I think he's clearly a smart guy, and, while you won't get it in this article, I hope that we can eventually get more insight into his thinking on some of the moves he has made.

By the way, while not Nationals news, MLB has a good article about some of the best players that won't ever make the hall of fame, because their careers were too short.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Batting Practice jersey

The online store now has the batting practice jersey, along with a drawing of it. Click on the image for a larger version.

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Scrooge has nothing on this guy

In other Christmas-y news, potential owners are jockeying to be the one to get the only 300M+ toy that they have in stock. Local favorite Fred Malek has already plunked down his deposit.

Unfortunately, Ebenezer Angelos is whispering to everyone in sight that he's "prepared to sue" if MLB doesn't give him what he wants... and what he wants is not just some ridiculous value guarantees, but also more than half of the television revenues. This is a huge roadblock for ownership groups, even though Ebenezer has no territorial rights to Washington, and would probably lose any lawsuit.

And, Angelos would like to remind you that there's one more hurdle to keeping the Nationals long term. By March 15, the city CFO has to re-estimate land acquisition and infrastructure costs. If the estimate comes in over $165M, then the legislation demands the city find a new place to put a ballpark, which MLB would reject. Fortunately, the original estimate was $115M, so a nearly 50% increase is pretty unlikely.

But, the feds are in the Christmas spirit... they're going to be kicking in about $6M a year to stadium costs, via a utility tax.

Restocking the minors

The Nationals signed a ton of players to minor league contracts, and invited 10 to spring training. Rickey Henderson didn't get an invite. Read the article for details on the 10 invited, and a list of the rest.

There's a fluff piece at MLB, interviewing backup infielder Jamey Carroll about Christmas. All Jamey should want for Christmas is to make the 25-man roster. Happy holidays, and all that.

Speaking of people hoping to make the roster for Christmas, the Bladen Journal, covering Bladen county, NC, has an article on Rule 5 draftee, Tyrell Godwin, the guy who can run, and that's about it. I have sympathy for the guy, and I hope since he's focused so much on his education, he becomes a better hitter, and displaces Endy Chavez...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Only one arbitration case?

This morning's Post reports that Schneider signed for $2M in 2005, and that the team is close to terms with all other free agents, except Ohka, who is far enough apart to be certain for arbitration.

Ball-wonk and I in the LA Times

The article is here (registration required).

I'm not all that quotable, but the reporter from the LA Times found something to salvage. Often, when the press calls, they'll go ahead and make up stuff they think is in the spirit of my babble to make me sound far more eloquent than I am. I'm amazed that the LA Times reporter didn't need to do that! I think I said that stuff, anyway...

Oh, and here is proof that I am a big dork:

They showed up the day before the meltdown, so they just went on the car yesterday.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Other news...

Brian Schneider has come to terms for 2005, so won't go through arbitration. The press release does not disclose financial details, but I'm sure we'll see them in the Post soon. And, the Expos have divided up their archives and artifacts to a few Canadian organizations.

Adventures in the Trailer Park

I took a trip to the team store this morning to get myself a fitted road cap and a jersey. I got there at about 10:30, and they had a line well out the door, and around the corner. They were metering people going in, and the line for the register inside the store wrapped around the entire inside. I should have brought a camera, it was quite a sight.

On display were the actual Day and Sledge uniforms that the athletes would have modeled had the ESPNZone thing happened. They looked pretty good. The links I posted last monday work again, and Ball Wonk is showing the same images. They're just drawings, though, and don't show off the gold in the design well. Here's a picture of the lettering (click for bigger picture):

The road uniform looks damn good, and has similar gold trim but I didn't buy one, so no pictures right now.

I found the patch on the home jersey really interesting (again, click for more detail):

Established 1905, eh? I'm surprised those guys in Minnesota didn't object to that.

I also sauntered over to the season ticket trailer, and had a chat with a sales rep. There's still time to change preferences, add seats, etc. before they assign seats and mail out invoices in early January. There will be some program for trading in seats to get other seats... e.g., I will want to bring a group of four people occasionally, even though I'm only buying two tickets. The rep didn't know how many extra tickets season ticket holders would be able to buy for opening day, though (they haven't gotten that far, yet). She also didn't know what was so special about the infield loge box to make it just as expensive as the field box.

This morning's news

Here are tidbits scraped together from various articles in this morning's Post:
  • The Nationals will play the Orioles three times this year... in spring training. The first date will be March 5 at the Orioles' spring home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Then, two home games in Viera, Fla., first a split-squad game on March 13, then a game on March 25th.
  • Seat assignments for season tickets were expected to be out by now, but due to the downtime, it won't be until January.
  • Mini-plans will still go on sale in January, and single-game tickets will go on sale in February.
  • No deal yet with Angelos. It's still a tribute to how Bud takes care of his friends, as the post cites yet another independent legal expert saying that it is "unlikely a court would rule in his favor".
  • Some guy involved in the stadium timeline said finishing by '08 is pretty much out of the question, and even an '09 opening is "50-50" (though the Post believes this is a pessimistic view). The Post notes that the quickest park in recent history took 28 months from breaking ground. '09 seems more likely than anything.
  • I found this quote from the mysterious "highly placed baseball executive" interesting:
    They were happy [with concessions] last night. Then we only get a 7-6 vote? I'm nervous about the future [in Washington]. What's the next Machiavellian twist?


Original articles here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Whew!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Team store reopens

As of right now, the online store is still not up, but the physical store reopens tomorrow. They will have the new uniforms on display (and I assume for sale). I'd have to think that the online store will be open again soon. And, I have official word that, much to my dismay, there aren't even ski caps on order. I bought a bootleg one downtown for $5, and the 'W' isn't even close to right-- it looks horrible. I guess I'll keep on wearing my NY World Series ski cap until there's official merch!

Stadium bill through council

The sunset clause has officially been removed, and the additional amendments are added. The bill passed 7-6, so as soon as MLB acknowledges that the legislation is acceptable, it is official, Washington has a baseball team.

The Washington Post has a story here.

Update: Bud approves, so it's 100% official!

Telepathics at the Post

This Washington Post column has been written by someone with a detailed understanding of what's in my mind with regard to the whole stadium debacle. I've been making some of the same arguments here, but far less clearly. He basically agrees with my assertion that "private financing is a farce, it is actually more expensive to the city", and explains why far more clearly than I did. It also clearly illustrates why I feel that Cropp has largely just been playing a shell game at the expense of the district.

Both sides victors, both sides villians

Here's the first post-accord anti-MLB editorial. I personally think that MLB didn't give up much that it hadn't already given up, but Cropp's supporters will spin it to make her look like the hero. I suppose I don't care much, and will not editorialize more than I already have... I'm just thankful that this appears to be getting resolved.

Update: The Washington Times has a funny piece that is more in line with my perspective on the matter. Here's my favorite part:

D.C. City Council members David Catania and Adrian Fenty should have their feet held to the fire over the District's school system and health care since they have crowned themselves champions of the poor in this debate. If those institutions are not any better the next time council members are up for a vote, District residents know who to hold accountable. If they can't do any more than talk the talk, let them take a walk.

Monday, December 20, 2004

No non-tenders!

AP reports that we've offered arbitration to all our eligible players, not only Wilkerson, Schnieder and Johnson, but also Armas and Ohka. Here's a link.

That, to me, is good news.

Ballpark accord reached

The press conference is apparently over. WTOP's coverage wasn't so good, and they couldn't cover the thing live, due to a last minute change in venue. Cropp and Williams have reached and agreement, and have talked by conference call with MLB, who have apparently signed off on the deal as well.

Here's what WTOP had to say:
  • The ability to cover half the construction costs with private financing.
  • Liability evenly divided between MLB and the city if there are overuns. This will be done through an insurance policy, where MLB and the city will split the payments.
Details are still sketchy. The only additional nugget being reported by the Post is that, in exchange for reduced liability in the case of overruns, the city is foregoing one year of lease payments on the stadium.

Now, as long as this actually passes through city council tonight without any last-minute machinations, we can get back to baseball.

T.J. Tucker avoids arbitration

T.J. Tucker just signed a one-year contract on the cheap ($657K). There's still no word on non-tenders. Stay tuned!

Baseball on the agenda

The Post reports that Cropp has put baseball on tomorrow's council agenda. She could take it back off if she doesn't think that today is productive, but she probably will not. They could reconsider the bill tomorrow, or they could just talk, and issue some new requirement to be met in a bug hurry. She's also talking about scheduling an emergency meeting for discussing baseball the week after Christmas, which would be our last stand.

Odalis update

The Washington Times reports that Bowden made Odalis Perez a 3 year, $18M offer, but that the Mariners have topped it.

But, they say Odalis would take less money to play for the Nats. It looks like he may be waiting out the year to see what happens on the stadium front. It sounds like, considering the market, a good deal if we can get it. I'd even go up a bit if need be.

By the way, if you didn't notice, I changed the name of the Blog. Even if we don't land the team, I'll still continue to blog them.

Winter league update

Armas is looking good in winter league play, holding batters to .207 and 2 earned runs over 8 1/3 innings, spread over three outings. Majewski also seems to be doing well. But, the quality of the competition of obviously worse in the winter leagues, so this isn't anything to jump up and down about. Let's hope it's enough to get Armas a contract tendered to him today.

Actual on-field news

There's a misguided editorial in the Post claiming that parking meters alone can't come up with $100M in revenue. At his numbers, the parking people will make $16.2M a year from games. If the rights extend for 20 or 30 years, the money will absolutely be made back, and the return will look pretty good to the investors. It's no short-term investment, though.

The Post also did a poll that proves, IMHO, that District residents aren't too informed about what's really happening here. People really do believe that, if a stadium doesn't get built, there would be money to go to schools, and such.

Did I say something about on-field news? Yup. Today is the day that Bowden needs to decide whether or not to offer arbitration to those players who are under team control, or non-tender them. According to the Post, Bowden came to terms with one of the arbitration-eligible players, Joey Eischen, a left handed reliever who spent most of the season out with elbow injuries. Eischen agreed to $1.04M for the year, non-guaranteed. I assume that the amount he gets paid is related to the amount of time he spends on the 25-man roster in 2005, but it isn't specific. He's had a lot of problems with injuries over the past few years, but when he's healthy, he's supposedly a great lefty out of the bullpen.

Brad Wilkerson and Brian Schneider will definitely be offered arbitration. There was a rumor going around that Nick Johnson would be non-tendered, but that would be so daft that I can't even imagine Bowden doing it. T.J. Tucker might be a candidate. While he was arguably our best person out of the bullpen last year behind Cordero and Ayala, he might get more in arbitration than he's worth.

The other two who I think are at risk are Tomo Ohka and Tony Armas, Jr., both of whom I would be disappointed to lose, particularly since it sounds like both will have no problem being ready for opening day. I think Armas is more likely than Ohka to be non-tendered, and hopefully that will only happen if Bowden has good reason to believe that the guy really won't play much next year.

The good news from the Post article is the implication that Bowden won't non-tender more than one player, if any. If anyone goes, my money is on Armas, but we'll know for sure by the end of the day.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Norfolk

Apparently, MLB has leaked that they plan on spending a couple of years in Norfolk if this deal falls through. I guess that'd give Norfolk a good chance to convince MLB that it is a big enough market to support the game. Ugh... maybe I'll have to move back to central VA.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Pay now, pay more later

I'm going to get into another rant, shortly. Let's try to stick with news for a moment, first. The Post points out that the team could easily spend next year playing in the major league stadiums of other clubs. They propose the best thing to do would be use Camden Yards as a home field, since there are already few conflicting games. Angelos might actually go for that if they compensate him for the fans showing up.

It looks like the mayor's overall plan is to try to convince Cropp that there are enough possibilities for "private financing" that she should kick out her amendment. I get the feeling that Cropp wants a plan certified by the CFO, first, but I would have to believe that's not likely to happen by the end of the year. Cropp will probably drag this out until the very last day by getting rid of the council's recess, and scheduling another session on the 30th or so. I still don't know what's going to happen, but I don't expect MLB to cede to Cropp's demands. Though it seems unlikely, I am hoping that Cropp is just going to say, "we've gotten several viable plans that I believe will be certified, so we'll lift the amendment, even though none has been certified yet", making her look like she's done something good for the city, when the opposite is probably true. Uh-oh, here comes the rant.

"Private financing" is something of a joke, because D.C. will end up paying the money out of its own coffers no matter what. It amounts to the district collecting money from industry now for something it could have gotten more money for later, because the investor ends up taking more risk if he spends the money now, and will therefore need a bigger return, which will come from money that could have been in the D.C. coffers.

It should be obvious that no private investor is going to cover part of stadium and construction for no gain. Whether it be a huge cut of parking revenues, land rights surrounding the stadium or rights to build tall buildings, "private financing" basically means that D.C. is going to sell something to a private investor in order to collect the 1/2 the stadium construction price. But if you look at all of the proposals, you will see that the District is selling assets it could have sold anyway. What it is looking to do is transfer short-term risk to an investor, but by doing so, the district comes out with less money in the long term.

For example, consider a parking deal. Let's say the district sells rights to some percent of parking revenue to a private investor in exchange for a big cash payment and a guarantee of covering all cost overruns up to some amount, which would be the ideal case for the district. When doing the math, the investor is going to assume he has to pony up all the money for the overruns, and still wants to make a profit on top of that. The end result is that the district will end up giving up far more of the parking revenue than they otherwise would have needed to give up.

The same thing can be said of any plan I've seen proposed. The district will be selling something that it could have sold anyway, in all circumstances. Unless they're selling something they wouldn't have otherwise sold (particularly, part of the ballpark itself), "private financing" is a misleading term.

By asking for up-front cash, they're introducing big risks to investors, so they're going to end up getting worse deals than they could have gotten, meaning less cash to the District from the park in the long run. The only risk they take off themselves is the amount of short-term cash they have to pony up. Since they'll end up paying the total cost whatever it ends up being, they'd be better off taking out loans to fund any overruns than going the route Linda Cropp wants to go down, where investors will effectively end up charging the District far, far more for the cash.

This should be obvious to many of the people involved. I think even Cropp understands it, she's just trying to put something together that she can "sell" to her constituency that will make her look good. Someone should be "selling" that she is going to cost the city more money in the long run.

Overall, I'm really disappointed in the Mayor's ability to sell to the people. It's clear to anyone who looks closely at the deal that the average resident of D.C. isn't really being asked to pay anything out of pocket... it's all coming from the pockets of business (including the team, who makes lease payments). The Post has said it, but it hasn't been well communicated to the people.

It's also clear that the District can make a good bit of money as a result from the people in the suburbs. Hasn't the District been looking to tax commuters for years, but been stymied by the federal government? Why can't they sell this as something that will keep D.C. entertainment dollars in D.C., but effectively extract more money from people who live in the suburbs that they couldn't otherwise extract?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My opinion

Around the net, you'll see divisive opinion. Some people are convinced MLB will be forced to deal, some that they will have no problem walking. I have no clue what the reality will be, but if I were them, I would not hesitate to start walking, particularly if contraction really is a more attractive economic option for them in the long-term, due to the additional revenue sharing.

Many people talk about MLB having no other geographical option, but I think that may not be much of a barrier to them. Not only are they bullies that don't want to let someone like LC "win", business people usually don't deal with you once you've demonstrated that you don't work on good faith. You don't agree to a deal in principle, then renege over something you'd previously agreed upon; it is unprofessional, bad business and in some cases unethical. If you do that in business and word gets around, it's hard to find people who would want to risk wasting their time on dealing with you in the future. Businesses in DC that have expressed concern about the district getting a reputation as a city not to do business with are well merited.

I am not saying that MLB isn't a huge, big bully. They are. They clearly are interested in maximizing their profit, and couldn't give a hoot about the city, or whether the franchise does well. They definitely did everything they could to take advantage of the District when going through the relocation process. It's their perogative, but it certainly isn't very nice.

However, the District did agree to the deal, and they should stick to it in order to retain what little shred of integrity they have remaining. You can say, "the mayor agreed, but he didn't have the right to speak for the whole city". Sure. The Mayor looks just as bad as a CEO who negotiates a deal in good faith saying he has support of his board, and then does not. But, the Mayor was able to count to 7 votes. Linda Cropp has been the only reason that the Mayor became a liar. Her waffling, including giving the impression of support and then torpedoing the thing at the 11th hour, may make her look good in the eyes of her constituants, and even people who wrongly think that she's going to end up getting a better deal for the city, but makes the whole city look bad as a community with which to do business.

Yes, Cropp is pandering to her constituency. They care about things like spending money on a stadium when it could be spending it on education. Never mind that the money eventually gets recouperated, and that the money being used will be created just for this project, partially through new taxes that wouldn't otherwise exist, so wouldn't fund education. They as a city will end up better off in the long run by taking additional money from NOVA for their investment. It may not be the best investment they can make, but it does have some intangible value, and she should be seeing it as a bet plus.

And yes, the "private financing" as Cropp envisions looks like it is merely a shell game. The city ends up paying the money, it's just done in a way that effectively keeps it off the city's books (a complicated structure taking advantage of some loopholes in federal laws). For Baseball Prospectus subscribers, read today's article, which points this out in some detail. This is nothing but a "feel-good"
thing for the district... the whole goal in her mind is to make herself a hero, under the naive theory that baseball has no other options.

All in all, I don't know what MLB will do. If I were a big, rich bully like them, I would take the same deal D.C. is offering, or even a somewhat worse one, from any other area that could put the deal on the table, because the last thing I'd want to do is deal with such an inept management. So I'm not too optimistic, particularly when Mark Warner is unlikely to come to the rescue (though maybe he would, considering season ticket sales have probably suggested economic viability).

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Contraction talk starts again

I think this is a little far-fetched that it would happen, but ESPN has a sports analyst that claims it will be better for MLB financially.

Cropp circles and other conspiracy theories

I'm sure you have all heard that MLB basically said they'll start entertaining offers as soon as Jan 1 comes, if DC doesn't backpedal. Vegas is already expressing their intention. Will Mark Warner be a hero and bring baseball to VA? Probably not.

WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin did a chat this morning for the Post that resonates with me. Basically, Cropp is taking a naive gamble by playing chicken with a bunch of bullies that would rather crash the car than be the one to yield. He's got a very detailed analysis that I encourage people to read, especially if you're still optimistic.

I wonder if Angelos is whispering in Cropp's ear ;-)

The Post is also reporting that the Nats have shut down promotional operations, etc. for the time being.

The new uniforms

Here's the home jersey and the road jersey.

UPDATE: I should have saved the pictures. I suspected this might happen. All merch seems to be removed from the page, and the whole online store seems to be gone. They're definitely giving the impression that they're serious.

Viva Las Vega$?

Welcome from the future (I want this parented under Wednesday).

I'm watching the council meeting as I work, and I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that the stadium proposal will pass (update: did pass, 7-6). The bad news is that it is going to pass with a requirement that 1/2 the stadium financing comes from the private sector. There's a deadline where if the council doesn't approve a package certified by the CFO, the deal is dead (actually, the council may not actually have to approve it, it may only be that it gets to them. I wasn't too clear on that, but I'm sure the news tomorrow will clear it up). This would have to be approved by next year's council, which may not even want to foot 50% of the bill.

I wonder how MLB is going to react to this. NOVA isn't an option any more, as there's no way MLB could move fast enough to take advantage of legislation that expires in about 2 weeks. They might just suck it up. Or, they might say, "we'll play here until Vegas builds us a stadium", which Vegas is quite willing to do.

More likely, MLB will keep the award conditional, until Cropp's deadline passes. The drama continues.

Update: The AP story is here. It claims that the likely result (if the law stands) is that MLB will reopen its search. If they don't wait until they find out whether public financing is secured, then that'll give Vega$ an opportunity to swoop in.

Update #2: An editorial in the Post also agrees with AP that MLB is going to reject the deal and look elsewhere. I probably won't be around for the official response or the uniform unveiling. I'll check back in late tonight.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Lineup speculation

The Washington Times listened to Robinson say he doesn't know what the lineup is going to look like, and claims it is as good as set anyway, assuming no trades.

They basically see the following:

1. Chavez (CF)
2. Vidro (2B)
3. Wilkerson (LF)
4. Guillen (RF)
5. Castilla (3B)
6. Johnson (1B)
7. Schneider (C)
8. Guzman (SS)

Bennett would bat 8th when catching. If Livan is pitching and Schneider isn't catching, then maybe Livan should bat 8th :-) That doesn't happen too often.

Anyway, I've been thinking of registering bench-endy-chavez.com. As much as I would rather not have Wilkerson's power in the leadoff spot or his glove in CF, I would prefer it to playing Chavez. I'd prefer something like this:

1. Wilkerson (CF)
2. Johnson (1B)
3. Vidro (2B)
4. Guillen (RF)
5. Castilla (3B)
6. Schneider (C)
7. Sledge (LF)
8. Guzman (SS)

If Guzman could ever learn to walk, he'd be a good leadoff hitter, but I don't expect that to happen, ever. Johnson's a good OBP guy and doesn't have tons of power, so he'd actually be excellent as a lead off hitter. He'll never get the job, because he doesn't fit the mold, because he's pretty slow. That's too non-traditional to happen, but he should still be batting in the top of the order. Vidro's got more power, and I hope that when healthy, Nick will have a higher OBP, so Vidro seems a better fit for batting 3rd.

Minor transactions

For stadium watchers, MLB has given some concessions, and the deal is expected to pass with flying colors today. Looks like the city will have even more people sitting in front of me, now! The post also has a great editorial on Bowden's bad moves.

I've no time to do real analysis of yesterday's transactions, there was nothing too exciting anyway, just rounding out the bench. We picked up Wil Cordero to play the bench, and be a clubhouse leader, even though he's well known as a particularly bad role model. If we'd gotten Larkin, I would have been lobbying for him as an everyday player. I can't do that with Cordero. Ron Calloway got designated for assignment to make room, no big loss. We also signed Jeffery Hammonds to a AAA deal, whom Baltimore had once selected as a first-round draft pick, who I expect will probably end up on the bench, because he used to be a promising prospect and a good hitter, even though he hasn't looked so hot since about 2000.

We picked up 2 people for the 25-man roster in the Rule 5 draft, outfielder Tyrell Godwin and third baseman Tony Blanco. ESPN has some analysis, and basically says Goodwin is fast but light hitting, with very low batting numbers for AA ball. Tony Blanco has no plate discipline. It seems like Godwin isn't worth more than a pinch runner, and I wouldn't be surprised if we gave him back.

For AAA, we picked up pitcher Victor Prieto, infielder Edgar Gonzalez and outfielder Cedrick Brooks. We then turned around and sold Prieto to the Red Sox. We picked up 4 for the AA roster, and lost 2 pitchers on our AAA roster.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Sosa rumor

I hadn't commented on the Sosa rumor, because I have to imagine the Cubs would want to get at least a little something back, and would shop around, winding up with something more than we'd give them. But Baseball Prospectus gives it a lot of credence, and indicates that we might ship out Brad Wilkerson in return.

From Bowden's perspective, he knows that Sosa is well on the down side of his career, and that Wilkerson is on the verge of stardom. But, Sosa is a star now. Even if he's not got the same pop in his bat (since he doesn't keep it corked anymore), Bowden has to perceive it as a great move from a PR front. It'll make TV deals more lucrative, etc.

He's probably right. Even though Sosa's lost power, he's still perceived to be an offensive talent. But it will make us less competitive. Assume that Sosa declines no further and Wilkerson doesn't improve. That is, give them the same numbers in 2005 as they got in 2004. It would cost us 8 wins (Wilkerson had 22 win shares, Sosa 14) and just over 20 runs (Wilkerson's VORP was 48.2, Sosa's was 27.9). And it isn't just that Sosa only played in 34 fewer games... Wilkerson accumulated both Win Shares and VORP at a faster rate than Sosa did.

Sosa doesn't even pass the Money Ball test (on-base plus slugging), his .849 not quite reaching Wilkerson's .872, mainly because Wilkerson is even better at walking than Sammy is. Their batting averages are within a couple of points of each other (both fairly low), but Sosa has a  .332 OBP, whereas Wilkerson has a whopping .374. Sammy does have a slight edge in SLG (.517 to .498).

At the end of the day, Wilkerson is highly likely to improve. Sammy might have been having a worse year than he should have, and could easily have an uptick next year, making him a bit more valuable than Wilkerson, particularly if Wilkerson doesn't improve much.

Still, even though I understand the sentiment, I would be pretty disappointed with this move, personally. I think Wilkerson has the potential to be a franchise player, even though his agent is Scott Boras. He's a much better long-term investment for the club. Of course, if I were Bowden, Sammy's a better short-term investment, even if he doesn't put up the same numbers. It's too bad the Cubs already have Derrek Lee at first, or that Nick Johnson wouldn't make for a good outfielder, because that would make a bit more sense (as much as I like Johnson, and think he actually will realize more of his potential). Maybe one of us could spin out Johnson for an outfielder (with a bit more meat on the bone, like Sledge). And I'd be willing to throw in Endy Chavez as a kicker. Heck, I'm willing to release the guy outright.

Anyway, I think we're likely to be more competitive next year if we have Wilkerson. And I think the novelty of the club is going to make it a big money maker next year. For 2006, the new owners should be rolling in revenue, and they can make a big splash then by overpaying for a couple of the biggest names in that year's free agent class.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Good news on the DL front

You can find interesting Nats news in the strangest places. I'd put off reading the MLB article, Nationals to unveil jerseys until this morning, and was surprised to find that the bulk of the article was news I haven't seen elsewhere:
  • The Devil Rays, not known for their pitching, are looking to trade a reliever for Nick Johnson.
  • Jose Vidro's knee is in good shape. He's running on it, and is set to resume baseball activity.
  • Zach Day's broken finger is completely healed.
  • Tony Armas Jr. is pitching in winter ball, and just threw 5 1/3 innings of shut-out ball.
Looking at the Devil Rays rumor, they are basically offering to give us a closer in place of Nick Johnson. They have three right handers we might be interested in:
  • Jorge Sosa (1.55 WHIP, 5.53 ERA, 5.03 dERA, 2.1 VORP)
  • Danys Baez (1.31 WHIP, 3.57 ERA, 3.71 dERA, 16.5 VORP)
  • Jesus Colome (1.11 WHIP, 3.27 ERA, 3.18 dERA, 12.8 VORP)

Sosa's numbers look horrible, yet Bowden might be interested. The guy has gotten a good bit of time as starter so far. Interestingly enough, he was an outfielder until he reached the bigs, at which point Tampa Bay converted him to a pitcher.

Why we would want him is why he was converted to a pitcher... a 98mph fastball that is effective. He also has an okay change-up and slider. The major problems with him have been two-fold. First, he has control problems that are particularly bad when throwing his fastball in late innings. Second, he takes time to build up steam on his fastball. It's unclear that he would convert to the guy we're looking to have in the bullpen. It doesn't seem worth the risk to give up a good chip like Johnson, since Sosa wouldn't clearly be an upgrade.

I'm pretty lukewarm on Baez. He's posted similar numbers for a few years, but those numbers aren't overwhelming for a reliever, and he's been reasonably erratic over the course of the year... he had and lost the closer job in Cleveland, blowing 10 saves, but did a bit better there in TB last year, with only 3 blown saves.

Colome, though... I wonder if the Rays would let him go. Last year opponents hit only .193 against him, and he struck out almost 1 per inning. He didn't look quite as good in the two years prior, but seems to be steadily improving as his slider and change-up continue to improve (previously, he got by on his 98mph fastball alone).

Colome for Johnson I'd consider. By the way, the difference in VORP between him and Baez is strictly due to innings pitched. With the same number of innings pitched, Colome's VORP projected to be 4.5 runs higher.

Oh, and for those interested, the uniforms will be unveiled by Zach Day and Terrmel Sledge on Wednesday at 2pm at the ESPNZone in the city. If I can go, which seems dubious but might be possible, I'll take pictures.

Bowden making the least of the winter meetings

This article at MLB indicates that Bowden is unlikely to pull off any deals that don't suck this weekend. We knew that he's not finding a match with Perez, though apparently he should be able to get there if he non-tenders Armas (and maybe Ohkha? That would make for a poor move, but releasing Armas wouldn't be so bad if it definitely landed Perez). In other bad news, since Larkin seems to be out of the picture, we're competing (with the Mets) for Wil Cordero. And we're taking a run at Derek Lowe, who we're thankfully unlikely to sign.

He's looking into trades for Joe Kennedy, Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Ortiz, all of whom are valuable enough that I'm wondering who he's dangling out as bait (something more than Nick Johnson, whom we know has already been mentioned in trade discussions?). But, at least Bowden has supposedly cooled on Loaiza.

In other news, the Nats released Chad Bentz. I'd never heard of him, and assumed this was a move to make room for someone in the rule 5 draft, but didn't see Bentz on the 40-man roster.

Update: The post reports that Bentz was on the 40-man roster. When did he sneak on there? The MLB.com Nats roster is recent enough to have all of our off-season acquisitions on it...

Saturday, December 11, 2004

How much is Perez worth?

First off, the Hardball Times has a brief history of the franchise that I enjoyed.

MLB is reporting that Bowden made a final pitch for Perez this morning, and doesn't expect to get him, because of a gap in salary.

Here's a simplistic analysis based on the notion of net win shares value. Win Shares attempt to measure the overall value of a player based on how many "wins" he contributes to his team, looking at all the factors in his play in combination. This can be measured against average (win shares above average, WSAA), or against replacement level (win-shares above replacement, or WSAR). THT calculated, and in 2004, the average salary per WSAR was $843,725. This says, on average, for each win over what the team would get if they had a team full of bench players, they paid $843.7K in salary.

Perez posted 10 WSAR in 2004. If we were to assume that he is expected to do similar things in 2005 (and beyond), giving him $8.5M would be reasonable. If we expect that he'll likely lose 25% of his value due to injuries or whatever, then he'd be worth about $6.1M per year, which is what I expect we're offering him.

This doesn't take into account many things, such as what we expect to be the cost per win share above replacement in 2005 for current free agents. And, more importantly, last year's win shares probably aren't the best predictor of next year's win shares we can find. We'd have to look at a few years of data.

Still, since many GMs are going to take the "what have you done lately?" approach, this simple analysis is valuable and easy to calculate.

What this indicates to me is that, with the pitching market high this year, and since we're currently in a position where we have to overpay to attract real talent, it should be reasonable to give Perez $8.5M a year. While it's not in our budget, the Nats should be going back to MLB based on our season ticket deposits and get enough to hit that level if we need to do so.

I was interested to look at Bowden's three major moves in the same light. Castilla was good for 3 WSAR, so $3.1M per year is more than the $2.5M a year that would have been an average value. So we're not getting robbed based on the money we're paying him if he can perform to the same level (a good question, since he's not getting any younger).

Guzman was good for 3 WSAR as well. He was a bad value last year for the Twins, and unless he can massively step up his performance, we're paying the guy twice what he's worth. That 4 year contract looks horrible.

Guillen has $3.5M left on his contract. He was worth 9 WSAR last year, making him a steal by this metric, which would give him $7.6M, saving us $4M. But then again, so was Rivera, who, based solely on last season's performance was worth about $4.5M, saving us just about the same amount.

The really worrisome thing here is not that Bowden is overpaying for Castilla and Guzman, it is that he probably could have gotten more for the money.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

More bad moves on the horizon?

MLB has an article describing some of the specific moves Bowden is looking to make. Most of it we've heard before, such as him still wanting to sign Larkin, which I support, particularly if it takes playing time away from Guzman.

In other news, we opened a spot on the 40 man roster by selling prospect Valentino Pascucci to a team in the Japanese Pacific League. This is certainly to make room on the roster for picking someone up in the Rule 5 draft. Pascucci hadn't shown he can hit big league pitching, so this isn't much of a surprise.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Arbitration, trade rumor, etc.

Go figure, MLB reports that we did not offer arbitration to two people whom we have already replaced.

I was working on an analysis of the proposed Alexis Rios / Nick Johnson swap that Gammons reported on, but I hit the wrong key and I'll be damned if my browser reloaded the page and ate my post. I'll just summarize my argument. Chris at Capitol Punishment has a good perspective on it, but I don't necessarily agree with the logic, because he thinks that Rios would send Chavez to the bench. I think Chavez will be battling Sledge for playing time, and unless Angelos really is playing puppeteer, Chavez will end up on the bench. Wilkerson just moves from the OF to 1B... your lineup only changes based on the swap, and Johnson has a better OBP and SLG.

Johnson does walk a lot, but overall he has underperformed offensively. There's a good chance that this was due to injury, and he'll break out. But there's just as good a chance he'll not live up to his potential again. Meanwhile, Rios is less likely to break out next year, but is probably more likely to improve on his 2004, and beyond. But, Rios doesn't know how to walk (he did it only once every 15 PAs or so in 2004), and that bugs me. The scouting report on Rios does say he is a plus glove in CF, meaning the defense will get a bit better.

All in all, I agree at the end of the day that it'd be a good swap. Johnson's odds of breaking out are a bit higher, but Rios seems like less of a risk, since Johnson has been so hampered by injuries. Plus, Rios is two years younger, and has more of a long-term upside from the power perspective. Realistically, if Johnson has a breakout year, that's great, but I'd rather mitigate the risk of embarrassing ourselves next year and put pieces in place in an attempt to be competitive a few years out. They've both got a decent chance of being key contributors in that time frame, but I see Rios as less risky. Maybe when PECOTA projections come out, statistics will prove me wrong, though.

I wonder if the Jays are looking for something other than an even swap. I would be if I were them, considering the risk involved with Johnson. Yet, as the Nats, we need to keep any other scraps of talent we have, and we've got a tight budget for 2005... I would only really be interested in an even swap.

In other on-the-field news, we still may sign Larkin, and if we do, he may actually end up a coach instead of an occasional shortstop and "team leader". I'd far rather have Guzman be the most expensive backup shortstop in the majors... even though he's ancient by baseball standards, Larkin's .289/.352/.419 in 2004 put Guzman's .274/.309/.384 to shame.

I'll skip the off-field news. I'm not too interested in weighing in on Steroids, Angelos, Cropp, etc. etc. etc.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Roster review on All-Baseball

All-Baseball was nice enough to invite me back to review who would probably be selected for the 25 man roster if it needed to be done today.

Why we don't need starting pitching

Over the weekend, the Nats Blog tried to compare free agent pitchers on an even keel by looking at how "lucky" they were. The basic idea is a good one, but their methodology isn't nearly as good as it could be, and they end up drawing some bad conclusions as a result.

Baseball Prospectus does measure defense-adjusted ERA (dERA), which calculates an ERA after totally leveling the playing field, particularly from a defense perspective. An absolutely average pitcher would have a 4.50 dERA.

One of the key observations between both approaches is that, for balls put in play, the pitcher had little to no control as to what happens, unless the ball was a home run.

I thought it would be good to evaluate our current rotation and the current pool of free agents using dERA over the last two years. First, let's take a look at four starters from last year that I believe would be in the rotation were the season to start today:
Player2004 dERA2003 dERA
Livan Hernandez3.443.31
Tomo Ohka3.954.47
Zach Day3.804.10
Tony Armas, Jr.4.742.36 (31 IP)
Our fifth starter would be Jon Rauch, a tremendous power pitcher we got in the Carl Everett trade. The scouting report on him is that he has a good chance of being the staff ace next year. In the 23 1/3 innings he did pitch for Montreal, he had a WHIP under 1, a 1.54 ERA and a 1.38 dERA.

Now that we've seen our staff, let's look at the remaining free agent starters who have logged at least 70 innings in one of the past two years (a star indicates that the 70 inning mark wasn't reached):
Player2004 dERA2003 dERA
Kevin Appier*5.09
Andy Ashby*5.18
Paul Byrd4.51*
Roger Clemens2.923.79
Matt Clement3.734.24
Omar Daal*5.83
Shawn Estes4.966.11
Jeff Fassero5.944.96
John Halama4.625.26
Orlando Hernandez2.90*
Al Leiter3.224.00
Jon Lieber4.30*
Jose Lima4.484.14
Esteban Loaiza5.222.68
Derek Lowe5.744.28
Pedro Martinez3.522.01
Kevin Millwood5.004.34
Eric Milton4.78*
Matt Morris5.354.11
Terry Mulholland4.835.00
Hideo Nomo7.603.46
Darren Oliver5.984.50
Russ Ortiz4.334.29
Carl Pavano3.264.43
Odalis Perez3.704.80
Brad Radke3.274.30
Aaron Sele5.225.61
Steve Sparks5.475.05
Todd Van Poppel5.87*
David Wells4.023.79
Woody Williams4.674.26
Jamey Wright3.74*
Jaret Wright3.86*

If we're going to get someone from that list, I think it should be a substantial improvement. Our worst pitcher on that list is probably Armas, and he'll probably have an average year. If not, we have a few other people sitting around who would do about as well. So if we're going to shop around, let's say we want someone who has gotten below a 4.25 in one of the two years, and, if they pitched, didn't stink the other year (5 or above, ruling out, among others, Hideo Nomo, Derek Lowe and Esteban Loaiza, thankfully). This leaves us with the following:
  • Roger Clemens
  • Matt Clement
  • Orlando Hernandez
  • Al Leiter
  • Jose Lima
  • Pedro Martinez
  • Carl Pavano
  • Odalis Perez
  • Brad Radke
  • David Wells
  • Woody Williams
  • Jamey Wright
  • Jaret Wright
Assuming we couldn't spent more than $6M per year, we're not going to get Clemens, Clement, Martinez, Pavano or Radke. Nor are we likely to get Leiter.

Williams would be looking for the entire $6M, and his numbers don't merit it.

We've got lots of competition for several of the remaining people on the list. Jaret Wright and Odalis Perez are both in enough demand that we might not attract them within our budget (even if someone else might).

David Wells is also a hot item, and I imagine we're not even bothering, which is too bad, because he'll probably be a good deal for whoever does land him.

That leaves El Duque, Lima and Jamey Wright. El Duque isn't the innings eater that Bowden wants (dERA clearly isn't measuring durability), but I suspect he's the best value of the bunch. Wrightmight be worth taking a chance on... he had a huge WHIP last year (1.61), but much of that is probably the Coors effect. I'm sure he'll be largely overlooked for that reason, which means he might end up a good deal. And while Lima's numbers don't bowl me over compared to anyone we already have, there's no denying that he's an entertainer that will draw fans. Though we'll probably end up overpaying anyone we sign, these three guys look like our best fits, considering the constraints. I think El Duque clearly has the biggest upside here, but probably also the most risk.

I think looking at pitchers independent of defense demonstrates that we don't really have a huge need for starting pitching. All of our starters are better than average, except maybe Armas, who will still be about average at worst, I suspect. And we actually have one or two people in reserve that will hold their own if need be.

If we stand pat here, I won't complain at all. Basically, as far as a free agent signing goes, I think we only really can feel that we made a move that is likely to improve the team if we grab one of the guys on that short list. It's a really short list, and it'd be amazing if we could afford someone who is going to make a substantial improvement over what we've already got.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Winter league players

If you missed it in the excitement of owners approving the team's move to D.C., MLB posted a scouting report of some of our prospects playing winter ball. Oh, and Endy Chavez, but he's no better than a prospect anyway. Well, in the Venezuelan league, Chavez is batting .333/.414 over 17 games, but who knows how well that translates. Maybe he's playing in a t-ball league against 6 year olds.

Friday, December 03, 2004

A look at the payroll

The Washington Times looks at our payroll committments. As they point out, our payroll is $44M, and it looks like Bowden is looking to spend up to and perhaps over $50M just on a starting pitcher.

I wonder if Bowden is going to try to "improve" the bullpen this year. I'd like some real improvement there, but it seems that he'll likely do it via trade or the waiver wire if he does so at all.

Owners vote today

The MLB owners are expected to vote on moving the Nationals to D.C. today. This is obviously just a formality, even with Angelos not on board. At worst, Seattle, San Fransisco and one or both of the New York franchises might vote no or abstain, because they have all had nearby cities looking to relocate teams that would potentially impede their market.

Selig also said the deal D.C. made is not open to renegotiation. No surprise there. Selig did, on behalf of baseball, give a $100,000 grant to refurbish D.C.'s Fort Greble Rec Center.

Another ESPN sports writer, Jim Caple, rightfully disses Bowden and MLB over the Nationals.

Also, ESPN has a funny follow-up on their fan uniform design contest for the Nats at the bottom of this article. The topic is Ball Wonk's design, which looks particularly phalic.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

New Nats mechandise store

Something sketchy is afoot in the parking lot of RFK stadium. It looks like they're selling merchandise out of a trailer, which is doubling as the team's first team store.

It opens tomorrow at 10AM. If they have ski caps, maybe I'll make a special trip out there this weekend.

The Chipotle experience

Yesterday I appeared in public for the first time in a Nats cap (I would kill for a ski hat) and sweatshirt, stopping by the Manassas Chipotle on my way to the airport. Even though I was all the way out in the boonies, I could hear three conversations start about the gear I was wearing. Plus, one guy who was eating alone came up to me to ask where I got the gear (answer: any sporting goods store in the area is already stocking gear).

It seems that even people in the outer edge of the burbs (and beyond, like me) are really excited about having a team; I hope that bodes well for the franchise.

Off-field news

Peter Angelos and MLB have not struck a deal yet, but the owners have to approve the deal in short order. As a result, he and the state of MD may sue to block the move, though it is unclear on what grounds.

The Post also reports that, while big buisinesses supported the special tax, small businesses still don't like it, and so far the council is only giving them lip service. And, they discuss the ramifications of the current council vote, particularly that Mayor Williams will try to get some movement from MLB.

The official Nats web site has an article on Wilkerson, particularly about how he's thrilled about the move to Washington and the effort Bowden's made so far. Oh well, he's a ball player, not a statistician, I guess.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Post on Ortiz and Loaiza

Today's Post discusses Russ Ortiz, pointing out that we're probably not going to be able to afford him. Not being an Ortiz fan at all, that makes me happy. What scares me is this:

[Ortiz' agent, John Boggs] has also talked to Bowden about another of his clients, righty Esteban Loaiza.


Nooooooooooo!


Despite his horrible performance last year (5.70 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 5.75 K/9), I would expect Bowden to be willing to give him a shot by giving too much credit to his fluke 2003 performance (2.9 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 8.23 K/9). Note that his 5.70 ERA is not inconsistent with past performances. Even with his one good season over a 10 year career in the majors, lifetime he's got a 4.70 ERA with a 1.42 WHIP and 5.86 K/9. Lifetime, batters have hit .287 off him, with a .338 OBP.

"Organizational Recap" on mlb.com

Yesterday MLB posted an article reviewing the 2004 performance of the Nationals' farm teams. None of the teams last year had a winning season:


League (Level) Team W L PCT
Pacific Coast (AAA) Edmonton 69 74 .483
Eastern (AA) Harrisburg 52 90 .366
Florida State (A) Brevard County 53 72 .424
S. Atlantic (A) Savannah 58 80 .420
NY-Penn (SS) Vermont 34 38 .472
Gulf Coast (R) GCL Expos 22 38 .367


Two of the teams here aren't our affiliates next year, AAA Edmonton and A Brevard County. Instead, we have AAA New Orleans Zephyers (66-79, .455 PCT) and the Potomac Cannons (20-40, .429 PCT).


They also recapped the year of five people they had previously identified as prospects to watch. Two were on the major league roster, so let's look briefly at those guys:


  • Chad Cordero, who did well on our major league roster as a setup man and occasional closer. He was the #7 rookie pitcher by VORP, with a 24.4. His 2.94 ERA, 1.34 WHIP are not as impressive as his stretch at the end of the year, where from the end of August through the end of the year, he threw 16.2 innings and gave up 1 earned run, with a 1.02 WHIP and 10.26 K/9.

  • Terrmel Sledge, .269/.336/.462 18.1 VORP over 133 games, which is not bad at all for a rookie outfielder. In fact, he ranked 11 by VORP for major league rookie position players. Adjusting for pitching, park factors, etc., his EqA for the year was .265, which is still better than the MLB average of .260. Realistically, Sledge is going to be competing for playing time next year with Endy Chavez, who hit .277/.318/.371 with a 14.5 VORP over 132 games. Chavez is much better at making contact, striking out every 13.3 PAs as opposed to every 6.6 for Sledge. But he has a miserable walk rate (once every 17.7 PAs compared to Sledge's still unimpressive 1/10.95 PAs). Overall, while Chavez is likely to get the bulk of the playing time initially, I would much rather see Sledge out there. Sledge is better at getting on base, and actually has some power, explaining the higher VORP over the same number of games (and, 94 fewer PAs). The difference shows up quite well when looking at EqA, where Chavez hits well under the league average with a .244.