Thursday, November 12, 2009

Washington Nationals - 2009 Debrief

Our nation's capital hasn't seen a good team in a good long while. Going back and including the Washington Senators who left for Minnesota in 1961, Washington baseball teams have come in last place seven out of nine seasons and one of those seasons was a next-to-last-place team. Not only were the 2009 Nationals a bad team, but they were very efficient at being inefficient. Maybe it's the curse of Congress being so close. But the Nationals shouldn't use our senators and congresspersons as their role models. Perhaps they should try the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (There! The name is correctly typed).

What is meant by the last two statements in the previous paragraph is that according to the Pythagorean Over/Under, the Nationals should have won 70 games but only won 59. The semi-good news there is that most of those were in the first half under Manny Acta. The team responded much better to Jim Riggleman after Acta was fired (good luck Cleveland).

The further good news is that five of the eight regulars in the lineup are pretty darn good thumpers. They get nothing at the plate from their middle infielders and their catchers however. And they have a bonafide star in Ryan Zimmerman, who not only had a great year at the plate and should continue to get better there, but was also recently rated as the best fielding third baseman in the National League, if not in all of baseball.

Adam Dunn is who he is. He'll walk a hundred times, strike out 170 times, clunk out nearly 40 homers and rumble around the field like some kind of tank. He's not a good fielder at any position and really should be a DH, but the NL doesn't have the DH, so he has to play somewhere. After trading Nick Johnson, the Nationals have decided that Dunn can do the least amount of harm at first.

Josh Willingham had a good season with a 127 OPS+ and Nyjer Morgan was great until he got hurt. But the Nationals seem to have a knack for being the collecting zone for once promising prospects that washed up in the majors. There was Lastings Milledge, Alex Cintron, Corey Patterson, Austin Kearns and Elijah Dukes. The Nationals need to get off that particular train. Those guys just didn't have what it takes to be effective major leaguers. Stop it already.

But what really is troubling for this team is the pitching and the defense. They were dead last in the majors for pitching VORP and 22nd out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency AND fielding percentage. Their regular catchers couldn't throw anybody out. Defense you can fix somewhat. It helps to get Dunn out of left field. Make Jesus Flores your starting catcher and you've already got some improvement. Get a shortstop that can either hit or field instead of one that can do neither.

But how to fix the pitching is the tough one. Apart from Jordan Zimmermann and Joel Hanrahan (in a few disastrous starts), none of their starting pitchers struck out more than six batters per nine innings. And this Fan is definitely off the Lannan bandwagon. Yeah, his ERA was good. But his 3.91 strikeouts per nine innings just isn't going to cut it long term in the majors. Add that to the fact that the five guys who got the most innings in the bullpen averaged five walks per nine innings. Ugh!

The Nationals should sign every decent arm on the market. That's their only hope, really. They can hope that Detwiler is as good as projected and that their uber-prospect, Stephen Strosburg is the real deal and comes along quickly.

There is no real easy fix for this team. Constant mismanagement has forced them into a period of futility that will take time to crawl out of. Heck, the D.C. fans haven't seen a World Series team since 1932 and it will take a while to have any hope of getting there any time soon.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

I still like Lannan. He'll never dominate, and he's not ace material, but he's a solid pitcher with bad defense behind him.

Obviously, Ryan Zimmerman is the face of that franchise, but I think Jordan Zimmerman will emerge as their Number 2 starter after Strasburg gets called up.

I love The Big Donkey. Cubs dropped the ball on that one. I can live with his bad defense.