October 31, 2011

Meet the New Boss, Etc.

Your clubhouse leader for least surprising press release of the 2012 offseason:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                     
Monday, October 31, 2011


          The Washington Nationals today announced they have exercised Davey Johnson’s managerial option for the 2012 season. Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

          Johnson will continue the on-field efforts he began on June 27, when he assumed the Nationals’ managerial helm. 

          “After a series of discussions, it became obvious that the Nationals would be best served if Davey Johnson would continue as manager,” Rizzo said. “Davey’s remarkable connection to the clubhouse and D.C. community during the season’s final three months was well received. His baseball acumen coupled with a proper off-season of planning, including a full regiment of Spring Training, should put our players in a position to succeed in 2012.”

          Johnson’s 2011 Nationals closed strong, winning 15 of their final 20 contests to register the best winning percentage in the NL from Sept. 9 through season’s end. In more than half a season with Johnson at the helm, the Nationals went 40-43 and a D.C.-based big league club finished as high as third place for the first time since 1945. 


 Apart from being 100% expected, this is fine. Any manager who isn't purely a placeholder deserves at least one full season. In 2012 Davey will have his players executing his strategies. We'll see what happens.

UPDATE: WaPo's Adam Kilgore says that current bench coach Pat Corrales is stepping down, to be replaced "by a younger coach who could potentially replace Davey Johnson as the Nationals' long-term manager after the 2012 or 2013 season."

That too just makes sense, as Davey will be the oldest manager in baseball in 2012, and if the Nats have a successor in mind, it's probably good to lock him in, and get him an apprenticeship of sorts under D.J.. If the Nats are serious about contending in 2012 and beyond, they'll want a manager who is familiar with the players, rather than someone who is coming in cold from outside the organization. 

October 30, 2011

Checking Up on the 40-Man Roster

As you may have noticed, reports of our death, while not wildly exaggerated, were at least slightly premature. C'mon, it's not like anything interesting really happened in the last 3 months anyway. Have you seen the Nats blogosphere lately? It's all Mike Rizzo pledging to go out and fill the same two positions he was pledging to fill last offseason, and the gripping drama of what day Davey Johnson's press conference will be. You're not going to guilt-trip me for skipping that, are you?

In any case, we're back with a quick pre-free agency review of the Nationals' 40-Man Roster, complete with 2011 draft picks. The roster currently stands at 42 and includes two guys who will have to be taken off the 60-day IR in the offseason.

The Lead Pipe Locks (24) - Either by virtue of their contract or their status within the organization these guys will (barring a trade) absolutely be with the Nationals in 2012.

  • Sean Burnett* - re-established himself as the go-to lefty reliever in late 2011. Signed for $2.3M in 2012.
  • Tyler Clippard - shut down set-up man has an argument for staff MVP. Arbitration eligible.
  • Yunesky Maya - he's here because he's signed to a $2M major league deal next season, not because of his 5.23 ERA.
  • Henry Rodriguez - erratic fireballer turned late inning reliever and possible closer-in-training? Pre-arbitration
  • Drew Storen - the Nats young closer is great at what he does, and we have every reason to hope for more of the same in 2012. Pre-arbitration.
Starting Pitchers
  • Ross Detwiler* - is 2012 the year Ross puts it all together? He'll get every chance to show it. Pre-arbitration.
  • John Lannan* - put together his "best" season in 2011. No reason to think that he won't be smack in the middle of the 2012 rotation. Arbitration eligible.
  • Tom Milone* - or, as I like to call him, "John Lannan, Jr.". Will compete for the 5th starter spot and/or ride the shuttle from AAA Syracuse. Pre-arbitration.
  • Brad Peacock - see above, though Peacock is more likely to start the season at AAA. Pre-arbitration.
  • Matt Purke* - 2011 3rd round draft pick, signed a major league deal. Currently pitching in the AFL.
  • Stephen Strasburg - Dominant end-of-season cameo. $4.875M for innings limited 2012.
  • Jordan Zimmermann - aka "Strasburg's Road Map". Arbitration eligible in 2012.
  • Jesus Flores - may not be happy as Ramos' back-up but he's too talented to just let walk away. Arbitration eligible in 2012.
  • Wilson Ramos - solid season for the rookie backstop; may get more days off if partnered with a healthy Flores in 2012. Pre-arbitration.
  • Ian Desmond - which Desmond will show up in 2012: First half (bad) Ian or second half (good) Ian? Pre-arbitration.
  • Danny Espinosa - same question, flip the desired answer. First half Danny was a ROY candidate. Pre-arbitration.
  • Adam LaRoche - again, not so much by (non-existent) performance but by virtue of his $8M contract for 2012.
  • Steve Lombardozzi - got his '11 cup of coffee, but probably better playing every day in Syracuse than coming off the bench in DC. Pre-arbitration.
  • Chris Marrero - "top" 1B prospect figures to be a bench bat in 2012 because the farm is filling up beneath him. Pre-arbitration.
  • Anthony Rendon - the other 2011 draft pick with a major league deal. Won't see DC in 2012.
  • Ryan Zimmerman - because he's the RZA, that's why.
  • Bryce Harper - Washington's uber-prospect still has to make his bones in AA, but could be patrolling the Nationals Park outfield in September. $1.75M contract for 2012.
  • Michael Morse - only question is where he will play. Arbitration eligible.
  • Jayson Werth - an outfield fixture in every sense of the word. $13.57M next year, and it only gets worse after that.

The 99% (4) - They aren't key pieces, but there's no reason to think that (barring a trade) these guys won't be back next season.
  • SP/RP Tom Gorzelanny - wasn't a terrible starter, but was much better in limited duty as a reliever. Every bullpen needs a second lefty. Arbitration eligible.
  • RP Cole Kimball - hard throwing righty out until at least mid-season 2012 recovering from surgery. Pre-arbitration.
  • RP Ryan Mattheus - bad peripheral stats but good results equal a reliever who will get another chance in 2012. Pre-arbitration.
  • RP Atahualpa Severino - maybe 2012 will be the season he gets to pitch meaningful innings as the bullpen's second lefty. Or maybe not. Either way he'll probably be around. Pre-arbitration.
The Bubble Boys ( 6) - Poor performance, lack of minor league options, or just wearing out their welcome could spell the end for these fellas:
  • RP Collin Balester - never able to establish himself as a long reliever while riding the Syracuse shuttle, spring training 2012 will be make-or-break for the BallyStar. Pre-arbitration.
  • OF Roger Bernadina - Roger has never shown enough to merit a starting job, so he'll likely be competing for the 4th OF job with a number of free agents. Arbitration eligible.
  • UT Brian Bixler - Bixler does a little bit of everything, but not particularly well. Pre-arbitration.
  • OF Corey Brown - a late injury spoiled his 2011 cup of coffee, and he didn't show much at AAA, but he'll still likely get a second shot at Syracuse. Pre-arbitration.
  • RP Doug Slaten - yeah, he's gone.
  • RP Craig Stammen - will likely compete with Balester for the righty long reliever spot in the 'pen. There can be only one. Pre-arbitration.
 The Free Agents (8) - There are no mutual obligations here, and the team's progress means that many of these (popular) veterans may have played their last season in Washington.
  •  OF Rick Ankiel - Doesn't have the bat to hold down a starting gig anymore, but his otherworldly arm, "versatility" and veteran-y goodness mean he's the FA most likely to be re-signed as a 4th OF.
  • INF Alex Cora - when your calling card is "better than Brian Bixler", it's probably time to go.
  • RP Todd Coffey - Everyone loves a jolly fat man, so look for Coffey to re-sign once he's done with his offseason gig at the North Pole.
  • OF Jonny Gomes - could be a bench bat in 2012, but there are better options.
  • SP Livan Hernandez - Sentimental favorite, and willing to go to the bullpen, but probably squeezed out in a numbers game. Farewell, Livo.
  • OF Laynce Nix - could be a bench bat in 2012, but neither he, Ankiel or Bernadina can hit lefties.
  • C Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez - fan favorite still brings great defense, but the Nats just don't have the ABs for him.
  • SP Chien-Ming Wang - Most likely FA to re-sign and try to build on a strong finish to 2011. Contract negotiations are already under way.
Best guess? Wang and Ankiel re-sign, Balester, Bixler and Slaten are cut loose, and the Nats use the 2012 offseason to find a lead-off hitting OF, a left-handed reliever and a infield bench bat to supplement Flores, Marrero, Ankiel and Bernadina.

October 27, 2011

Universal Truths, Observed Realities & Umpiring

I love National Public Radio as much as the next East Coast liberal elitist, but there is such a thing a over-thinking an issue. Today's example: metaphysics and the theory of umpiring.

All pretentiousness aside, it's a good read, and will provide all sorts of philosophical underpinnings for your argument the next time you suggest that the home plate ump consult a seeing eye dog for assistance.

Or you could take my preferred approach, and simply accept that there is no spoon.