Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does the Santana move force the NATS to adjust their plans?

Thom Loverro, pens a great article that questions the future of the NL East. Will a healthy Santana upset the NL East apple cart and keep the Mets on top for a long time. Can one pitcher change the balance of power? Roger Clemens anyone? David Cone for rent every year? Josh Beckett and Schilling? Well, an ace can make the difference every year. Santana will make the Mets viable, but did anyone watch them collapse last year? I mean free fall!! Santana make the Mets formidable, but the Orioles spent money every year, and that drunken sailor Angelos doesn't have a championship ring to show for it. One guy makes a difference, but a core needs to hold up the entire team.

Looking at the Phillies and the Braves, I agree with Loverro. Both will not make the big free agent move that will make them great. The Phillies had the opportunity to get a guy like Santana and make themselves UNbeatable! But they always, keep themselves held back. The Braves build from the farm, and Stan the Man has done the job and has the Championships to go with it. But Atlanta seems to be bored with winning....they don't even sell out their divisional playoffs and the NLCS is sometimes sparsely attended.

Enter the NATs. Here is a growing team that will make the farm system their viable first choice to build. But with Trader Jim sitting along side Stan the Man, there is no telling what kind of decisions will be made over a few beers. I like the balance! I especially like the deep pockets of the Lerner Family. And let's be honest, who buys a team if they don't want to win a World Series!

In the NL East, all the rules have changed

January 31, 2008 By Thom Loverro

- Johan Santana just changed the future of the National League East for years to come — and perhaps the future of the Washington Nationals. The New York Mets have a deal — the trade still is pending — to acquire Santana, the game's best pitcher. Despite their fold at the end of last season, the Mets remain the most talented club in the National League. Santana automatically makes the Mets significantly better and manager Willie Randolph, who wilted under the pressure of the collapse, that much smarter. And he definitely doesn't make Manny Acta's job with the Nationals any easier. The big concern, though, is the long-term future of the NL East and whether the Nationals' conservative spending plan for player development can compete against the Mets' financial juggernaut — a juggernaut that will grow in strength with the opening of the club's new ballpark, Citi Field, in 2009. The business of putting together baseball teams has changed the past few years, moving from free agency to player development as the primary source of talent.

The trend now is to use free agency to complement the roster, not serve as the foundation for it. The Nationals certainly worship at that altar. Their farm system jumped to No. 9 from No. 30 in Baseball America's 2008 "Prospect Handbook," a clear sign that their prayers thus far are being answered. Still, the question remains: Will that improvement be enough to allow the Nats to compete with the Mets and their deep pockets? A number of organizations have found success by taking the route the Nationals have chosen. The Colorado Rockies, for instance, reached the World Series last season. The Cleveland Indians won the American League Central, defeated the Yankees in the American League Division Series and took the Boston Red Sox to seven games in the ALCS. But those teams play in divisions that don't include heavyweights on par with the Yankees or Red Sox. Even the Dodgers, a large-market team with large revenues, are not in the same league as the Red Sox or the Yankees. A little engine that could like the Indians can defeat the Yankees in a short series, but it would have been much more difficult for the Indians even to reach the playoffs had they shared the same division with the Yankees over the course of a 162-game season. The Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays could have the best farm systems and player development programs in the game and still not win a division in which they must play the Yankees and Red Sox 36 times a year. The rest of the American League doesn't have that burden. You think Moneyball would carry the Oakland A's to four division titles in eight years in the AL East instead of the AL West? The Mets now are poised to become the Yankees or Red Sox of the NL. The Nationals, at least, won't have two such teams to overcome in their division — there are no signs the Phillies or Braves are going to spend and spend and spend to win. But if the Mets are willing to spend what it takes, year after year, to stay on top, the Nationals eventually must act like the big-market team they are supposed to be. They eventually must be players in this high-stakes game — or else find a way to convince baseball they really belong in the NL Central.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THIS BETTER BE A JOKE: Say NO to Kim Jong Il!

April 1st is a long way away. This is a bad trial balloon. I am for peace in our international affairs as much as anyone. I'm a devot CFR reader. I'd even say yes to Fidel to throw out a first pitch if he brought 1,000,000 #2 torpedo with him for all of us to smoke! But this other guy is INSANE and has starved his own people for his own grandeur. I say the NATS in no way succumb to his or Bush's request to have him throw out the first pitch. I'd rather have Malaki of Iraq do it. At least he is TRYING to start a democracy!

The Sportsman's Daily: Dictator to Throw Out First Pitch at New Nationals Ballpark

Jan. 29, 2008By The Sportsman's DailySpecial to CBSSports.com

PYONGYANG, North Korea (Sportsman's Daily Wire Service) -- A recently completed top-secret installation at the presidential palace in Pyongyang, North Korea, is apparently not what U.S. officials feared, but merely a sports training facility. With improving relations between the United States and North Korea, a very interesting development was announced this week as the communist dictator Kim Jong Il, who will visit Washington in April, has agreed to throw out the first pitch at the new Washington Nationals ballpark.

Kim Jong-il (Provided to CBSSports.com)
"Dear Leader's really into it and is working on his heater," said Ho Chow-jun, a pitching coach and official spokesperson for the Korean Worker's Party. "He's got excellent velocity, but I'd like to see him work the plate a little more, and mix up his pitches. I realize of course he's only throwing out the first pitch, and 'excellent stuff' isn't necessarily required, but as you all know Dear Leader is a man great pride and many, many incredible accomplishments. Some would call them fantastic accomplishments. Others would call them slightly exaggerated. Some have called them flat out lies, and we're still looking for those people."

Jong-Il has had a long history of wildly far-fetched abilities in many areas and a world class ego. The son of the founder of North Korea Kim Il-sung, Jong-Il's birth is said to have been foretold by a barn swallow, at the same time a double rainbow and new star in the sky appeared.

"Yeah, well, that wound up being a parrot who escaped from the Kim Pak Variety Show, some low lying mustard gas, and Flight 432 arriving from Hong Kong," said Chow-jun.
Nationals officials say they're looking forward to seeing what Jong-Il has under the tank.
"I'm sure we're talking about two different kinds of tanks," laughed Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "But I have a good friend in the Nats organization who thinks if Kim can give him 90 on the Jugs Gun he could be a September call-up."

"We're the freekin' Nationals," said pitching coach Randy St. Claire. "You want to tell me when we're 32½ games out of first in late August we're not a perfect candidate to get some pitching help? C'mon! It might be a nice change of pace to have to visit the mound in the seventh inning to pat a vicious dictator hell bent of world domination on the ass and tell him to 'go git 'em.'"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Estrada signed: Great Move

This is how you build a winner. It's a smart and safety move that isn't really going to cost The Nats much money. Trader Jim and Stan the Man know Johnnie Estrada from Stan's days in Hotlanta. He can catch and he can provide a versatile switch hitting bat off the bench all year [better from the left]. He'll provide the leadership in the locker room that will help the young players and will especially rub off on Flores. Don't count Estrada out either as making strong impact with the team this year behind the plate. Perhaps Lo Duca and Estrada will platoon behind the plate with Flores catching his share and emerging down the stretch. For 1.25 million, he is a steal.

Nationals to sign catcher Estrada01/29/2008 5:15 PM ET

By Bill Ladson / MLB.comWASHINGTON -- Looking to bolster their offense even more, the Nationals agreed to terms on a $1.25 million contract with catcher Johnny Estrada on Tuesday, pending a physical.

When reached for comment Tuesday morning, Nationals general manager Jim Bowden would not confirm or deny the report. But Estrada said later in the day that he is looking forward to playing for the Nationals and in their new ballpark.

A baseball source insisted signing Estrada is not a reaction to Paul Lo Duca being slated to miss up to six weeks after left knee surgery.Instead, the source said, the move was made because the Nationals are heavy on right-handed bats.

Estrada, 31, is a switch-hitter and more successful from the left side of the plate. In the last three years, in fact, Estrada hit .282 against right-handed pitching. Lo Duca is a .278 hitter during that same period.

Estrada said he was close to signing with the Pirates, but picked the Nationals instead. It helps that he will be reunited with bench coach Pat Corrales and team president Stan Kasten. The trio worked together when they were members of the Braves, and sources have indicated that Estrada has a great working relationship with Corrales.

"I'm happy, man. Obviously, it has been a trying offseason for me -- not having a job, not knowing where I was going to end up. So I've been kind of down in the dumps about that," Estrada said. "This past week, I had a couple of teams that were bidding against each other and they both wanted me to come. I came close to signing with Pittsburgh, but I really didn't want to sign there. "At the same time, it was getting close. Obviously, the Lo Duca [injury] kind of sparked this a little bit. ... It was a better fit for me personally. I think we are going to have a pretty good team and be competitive." Asked what his role would be with the Nationals, Estrada said, "The best player is going to play. I know they gave Lo Duca a pretty nice contract. I signed kind of a backup deal. From my understanding, who ever plays best is going to get the bulk of the playing time. I know they wanted a left-handed bat in that lineup. That's what I bring to table. Bottom line is, everywhere I go, I try to make the team into a winner."
Estrada had his biggest success in Atlanta. In 2004, Estrada had his best season, hitting .314 with nine home runs and a career-high 76 RBIs. He was an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger Award that same season. Signing Estrada, a lifetime .280 hitter in seven big league seasons, at this late date is similar to when infielders Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young became members of the Nationals last February. The market dropped for Estrada, and Washington was willing to take a chance on him. Estrada made $3.4 million last year.

The Nationals will be Estrada's fourth team in four seasons. Last year, he played for the Brewers and hit .278 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs. After the season, Estrada had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and a bone spur removed from his right elbow. He said Tuesday that the knee is 100 percent and that he is throwing 140 feet in a throwing program.
"I'm getting stronger every day I throw. I feel great. I put something on it," Estrada said. "There's no doubt that I'll be ready for Spring Training."
After Estrada's surgery, Milwaukee traded him to the Mets for reliever Guillermo Mota. But after they acquired catcher Brian Schneider from the Nationals as part of a trade for outfielder Lastings Milledge, the Mets decided to non-tender Estrada.
With Estrada on board, it will most likely mean that backup catcher Jesus Flores will start the season in the Minor Leagues. Both Bowden and manager Manny Acta have said in the past that they do not want Flores to spend another year on the bench.
A Rule 5 Draft pick, Flores impressed the Nationals during his rookie season. He hit .244 with four home runs and 25 RBIs in 2008, and found himself in a platoon with Schneider during the month of September.
"He is going to develop into a No. 1 catcher," Bowden said in December. "In an ideal world, do I think a player that was in Class A ball, in the Rule 5 Draft and went to the big leagues as a backup catcher should be thrown in the No. 1 role? No, I don't think that is the best way to develop a player."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lo Duca's knee will be excellent in 6 weeks: I had the same thing done outpatient procedure.

He'll be squatting in Veira in no time. I had the same thing done, and I was pissing my old high school coach off to get behind the plate in four weeks. I played the entire American Legion schedule without a pain in the knee. Granted my baseball experience in no way compares to Lo Duca's, but then again my care and rehab will be nothing compared to his! He'll get the utmost, and we can rely on him carrying the load with Flores behind the plate this year.

The knee work goes something like this if I recall, and if it is exactly the same (which Barry Sv. described today: see below) With the right out patient procedure, it is a three prong (wrong medical terms) insertion into the knee. I believe one is to view, one to hold meniscus and one to repair. The entire thing takes a short amount of time, and Lo Duca will get a local anesthetic.
Below is Barry Sv's article today in the Post:

Lo Duca Scheduled for Knee Surgery, but Will Meet With Nats' Doctor

By Barry SvrlugaWashington Post Staff WriterMonday, January 28, 2008; E04

Washington Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca is scheduled to have surgery this morning to repair a minor meniscus tear in his left knee, according to his agent, though the club said it wants its doctor to see Lo Duca before making a final decision.

Lo Duca, injured during a workout last week, will meet with Nationals orthopedist Ben Shaffer at 8 a.m. today, according to Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden, who said in an e-mail last night that an MRI exam revealed only an abnormal meniscus -- or possible tear -- and plans for surgery had not been finalized. Should surgery be necessary, Bowden said, it would be arthroscopic and Lo Duca would miss four to six weeks of activity, likely meaning he would be ready for the Nationals' March 30 opener against Atlanta, the first game at the new Nationals Park.

"All we have is an MRI," Bowden wrote. Surgery "is scheduled in case it is needed."
Andrew Mongelluzzi, Lo Duca's agent, said in an e-mail last evening that he understood the MRI exam taken by one of the physicians for the New York Mets, Lo Duca's former team, on Friday revealed a tear and that surgery would be required. Mongelluzzi said he was told the recovery time is expected to be three to six weeks.

Six weeks from today would, in theory, have Lo Duca ready March 3, which is early in the Nationals' Grapefruit League schedule and would leave him nearly four weeks of preparation before the opener. But there is a trickle-down effect to his injury, because the Nationals were counting on Lo Duca -- signed to a one-year, $5 million contract in December -- to offer veteran guidance and replace former starter Brian Schneider, traded to the Mets last month.
Since becoming a full-time starter with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001, Lo Duca has been resilient, playing in at least 119 games every season. Only four players have caught more games than Lo Duca during that time. Lo Duca has been on the disabled list just twice in his career, once last year with a strained hamstring.

Should Lo Duca miss significant time during spring training, more focus will turn to Jesus Flores, who impressed during his rookie year of 2007 after he was taken in the Rule 5 draft from the Mets in December 2006. Flores, 23, hit .244 with four homers and 25 RBI in 79 games backing up Schneider last year, but he performed well in the clutch and was frequently praised for his poise. Bowden and the rest of the Nationals' front office, along with Manager Manny Acta, have been noncommittal on Flores's immediate future, however. They planned to use spring training to evaluate whether it would be best for Flores to spend a year playing every day at Class AA or Class AAA, or if he could withstand serving as a backup at the major league level for the second straight year, a situation in which his at-bats would be less regular.

Lo Duca, 35, hit .272 for the Mets last season and is a .288 career hitter. He is, thus far, the only major free agent signed by the Nationals this offseason, and the expectation is that he would help coddle a young starting rotation, much as Schneider had done last year. The Nationals have two other veteran catchers in camp -- Chad Moeller and Humberto Cota. Moeller, who will turn 33 next month, split time between Class AAA, the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and is a .224 career hitter in parts of eight seasons. Cota, who will turn 29 in February, played in just 43 major league games the past two seasons combined. In parts of seven major league seasons, he is a .233 career hitter.


Friday, January 25, 2008

The Road to the World Series defined: Nats to build young and sign missing free agent parts

Nats Showing A Lot of Growth In Farm System
Friday, January 25, 2008

The Washington Nationals' farm system, the focus of a rebuilding plan that the front office believes will eventually lead to a rejuvenated major league roster, ranked 9th in the latest organizational rankings by the trade magazine Baseball America.

A year ago, the Nationals ranked 30th -- dead last. But the development of some players in the 2006 draft and a 2007 draft that Baseball America ranked as the best in the game helped transform the system. Most of the top prospects -- including first baseman Chris Marrero-- likely will begin the season at or below Class AA, so an immediate impact at the major league level isn't expected. But John Manuel, Baseball America's editor in chief, called the improvement "very impressive" and said it "shows a commitment to building an organization, not just a team."
Sixteen of the Nationals' top 20 prospects, as ranked by the magazine, were acquired since May 2006, when the Lerner family was awarded the franchise. At that point, managing principal owner Theodore N. Lerner said he agreed with new team president Stan Kasten that a building process anchored not in the procurement of free agents but in scouting and player development was the best course.

Even allowing free agents Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen to depart -- moves that brought compensatory draft picks -- yielded prospects in outfielder Michael Burgess, left-hander
Josh Smoker and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, ranked Nos. 4, 6 and 7 on the list. Lefty Ross Detwiler, taken sixth overall last year, ranks second in the organization behind only Marrero, one of two first-round picks in 2006.

The Texas Rangers -- who jumped from 28th to fourth in this year's rankings -- are the only team to move up as much as the Nationals in Baseball America's rankings this decade.
-- Barry Svrluga

** Not to mention that Clippard, Lannan, Milledge and Dukes are in the house as we speak

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ladson writes that new Outfielders joining Kearns? Kearns is fighting for his baseball life!

Ladson is a nice fellow. But let's be frank. And I ain't talk'in Robby.
Kearns could be long gone by June if he doesn't hit better than .280.

I went thru the outfield and / or prospects early in past posts, and Kearns needs to know that if he thinks that .260, 11 HRs and 70 rbis is all he's got then he is on the bench or on the waivers wire. It is much better to try Dukes and Milledge or allow Maxwell to play instead of putting up with Kearns' sick bat this year. Granted he can field. But his fielding cost us Nick Johnson for 16 months!

Wily Mo has a free pass to swing for the fences next year regardless of his average. Milledge gets to become a pro in a new environment. Dukes is a reclamation project. Can someone tell me what the Hell that means for Kearns?!?!?! I think it means a Hot Spring and a good start!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

LoDuca v. Schneider: A Good Move!

Defensively. Schneider is better. But by how much.....
Schneider Games:122, Fielding % .992, E:6, PB:5, SB:53, CS:24
Lo Duca Games:113, Fielding % .989, E:9, PB:2, SB:72, CS:22

They ran a little bit more on my friend Lo Duca, but I want to cite an old coach, "They usually run on the pitchers and not on the catchers." I like the defensive comparisons here. The numbers aren't going to cost us anything in terms of losing a lot of ball games. The place where we are going to make it up is at the bat.....I hope!

Roids be damned! Let's pray that isn't where all those doubles went to die in Shea Stadium. We sure know that our friend Schneider lost his bat last year. A quick start ended with low numbers.

Schneider: G 129, AB 408, H 96, R 33, DB 21, HR 6, RBI 54, BB 56, SO 56, AVG .235
Lo Duca: G 119, AB 445, H 121, R 46, DB 18,HR 9, RBI 54, BB 24, SO 33, AVG .272

I'll take those 121 hits and that .272 average over the 96 hits and .235 average any day.
Schneids walked twice as much, but struck out 23 times more.

Lo Duca is a better catcher in my mind as Flores makes the transition to our everyday man!

GO TO THE BELTWAY BOYS SITE!

Beltway Boys: This site is fantastic for our Nat's minor league talent! Great analysis on Burgess and it's brand new. Stop by and take a check out. Great job. Go Nats.

Plenty of Hot Stove Talk on Federal Baseball, Natosphere, Nats Tripleplay

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Nationals Ball Park: Building a team w/ the dimensions in mind


Let's begin:

332 down the Left field line
364 Left-Center
370 Left-Center (deep)
409 Dead center
377 Right Field Wall extended
335 down the Right field line

I'm hopeful that the 364 Left field wall and 332 line will help Zim tremendously. Our Outfielders are young and righthanded. The gamble on Milledge and Dukes are from the right side. Wily Mo is gonna swing for the fences from the right side....and no big wall to hit over in Anacostia!

Flores and LoDuca are Righty, and our infielders are powerful from the right side. Jim Bowden knew what he was doing when he built our team with this ballpark in mind.

The extended rightfield wall (377 feet) is deeper than most stadiums, and I believe it probably extends much deeper than 377 feet as it extends to 409 to dead center which is slightly deeper than most fields. You pitch away when you have a ballpark like this (to mostly righty batters), and you have pitchers who have control and paint corners. Looking at our pitching staff, Trader Jim isn't getting rid of power pitchers or avoiding them, but he is building a staff with pitchers that have the ability to mix pitches, change speeds and paint corners. They will all use that right field extended wall.

I definitely see an increase in the Nats power output this year, and the pitchers will use the field to their advantage accordingly. I'll try to post a photo of the park. Notice the peculiar left and right field walls that our park will have.



Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jon Rauch: Perfect Big Man

Talk about looking at a guy 6' 11" looking at you from 60' 6". That's the 8th inning and then it's the Chief for the 9th. You aren't going to get a better 1-2 punch in baseball.

Looking at Rauch's numbers...He's the deal. 88 Games, 87.3 Innings pitched. In those games he's given up 75 hits and 37 runs. He's had 21 walks and 71 Ks. Chances are Rauch is going to get us through the 8th inning without any trouble. Without too much trouble, that means only 7 gopherballs last year. He only lost 4 games last year and won 8. Personally, Rauch seems to control the game in my opinion. It's usually one guy gets on when he's in there, but rarely did he ever seem to be in trouble last season. His fastball is tough, and he seems to dominate especially the weak hitters. He got a little worn down last year, but who didn't or doesn't in a long season.

The one - two punch in the 8th & 9th is something the Nats won't have to worry about in '08.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ronnie Belliard: A solid 2nd Baseman

In 2006, Ronnie Belliard was the starting second baseman for the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. He came to Washington with that attitude, and he posted some of the best numbers of his career. Many could not believe his misfortune from 2006 to 2007. Sorta Trent Dilfer like. Some called it going from the penthouse to the outhouse. I'd say Ronnie Belliard went to the White House ;) !!!

Ronnie Belliard started the 2007 season as a reserve, but a thumb injury to shortstop Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez's season-long slump resulted in Belliard joining the starting lineup by June. Belliard enjoyed one of his best seasons, hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 58 RBIs.

During the season, the Nationals rewarded Belliard with a two-year extension.
The Nationals were amazed by Belliard's work ethic, his acceptance to be a reserve and the fact he often had quality at-bats.

"We like the way he approaches the game," general manager Jim Bowden said after giving Belliard the extension. "We think he is a really good player. I was impressed all year. He is always there for optional workouts. He has a great work ethic and he sets a good example for his teammates. This is a great guy. He gives you great at-bats every time. He has a great attitude whether he is an everyday player or an extra player. I want to have more Ronnie Belliards around."

Recently, Bowden announced that Belliard will enter Spring Training as the starting second baseman. I say we have a solid second bagger for a few more years.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tyler Clippard: Sound or Sorry

We can dream can't we. We sure gave up a fireballer for him. Ty Clippard sounds like a ball player. Sounds like a damn good one at that. But is Ty Clippard or is it Tyler Clippard, sound enough to be that pitcher. The Nats are counting on him to join a young staff on the verge of becoming a good and might I say a "great" staff very soon. Clippard is steady. He'll hit his spots and paint his corners. The Nats needed starting pitching, but we gave up one helluva fast ball in Albaladejo's arm for Clippard. Here's what we got in Clippard.

Here's his bag of tricks: Clippard features a 4-seam and a 2-seam fastball around 85-89 MPH although he can throw it as hard as 94 MPH at times, a curveball in the 75-78 MPH range that he uses as his outpitch and a changeup that sits between 78-82 MPH. He pitches with his fastball and uses it to set up his offspeed/breaking pitches.

Clippard was called up from the Yankees minor league team the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on May 20, 2007, and made his debut that day. It was an interleague game against the New York Mets, and he pitched 6 innings, giving up 1 run off the bat of David Wright and 3 hits. He struck out his first major league batter Jose Reyes on three pitches in the first inning. He recorded his first career hit in his second at-bat off of Mets pitcher Scott Schoeneweis, a double to right center in the 6th inning.[3]

Clippard was traded on December 4, 2007 to the Washington Nationals for relief pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo. [4]

Yankee Super Fan: EJ Fagan gives strong pre 2007 analysis of Tyler Clippard:

Fastball: Tyler Clippard does not throw hard. He throws between 88-92. Kennedy has his smarts, Chamberlain has his fastball, but Clippard has his control. He can place the ball within inches of where he wants it - every time. The fastball is certainly an obstacle to success, but Clippard has not faltered. Despite the big frame, he hasn't aided any velocity to the fastball after gaining over 15 pounds of muscle. That is all right, because his other pitches get him by.

Curveball: Clippard dominated the low minor leagues by combining great control with a great changeup against hitters as young as he was. He got strikeouts like crazy by hitting a corner or expertly placing a ball just out of the strike zone. However, this is not an approach which will get whiffs out of more advanced hitters. Clippard started to learn the curveball in the begining of 2005, and Nardi Contreras yet again succeeded in teaching a true plus pitch to his pupil. Clippard quickly adopted his approach with his new out pitch, thrown at about 76-77 mph.

Changeup: Clippard has long thrown the changeup, but over the past two years it has been his trademark. He combined an already deceptive delivery with the ability to throw an 80 mph change without any indication that it is coming. He throws it for strikes and is willing to use it in any count. It isn't as good as Jeff Marquez's, but it isn't far behind.

Command: Clippard can throw all three of his pitches for strikes very consistently. His strike throwing capabilities have allowed him to eat innings throughout his minor league career. He puts the ball exactly where he wants it. His command isn't perfect, but it is very close. His height makes his top-down delivery very deceptive.

Performance: Tyler Clippard has about as good of a minor league pedigree as it gets. He pitched 149 or more innings in each of his full major league seasons, posting a collective ERA of 3.33. In 513.1 total innings, he has struck out 557 and walked just 126. He has steadily advanced from league to league, pitching in all three levels before AAA without fail. He appeared to falter to start off 2006 - posting of 4.07, 4.06, and 5.81 in April, May, and June. The stuff-crazy pundits were saying "See... we were right! He can't be that good with a 90 mph fastball". Of course, stat heads like myself were saying "Hmm... his ERAs don't match his peripherals. Something is up". Clippard had struck out 87 and walked just 30 in 86 innings, allowing 8 home runs. Statistically, he was doing the same thing he had done in the two years previous. He was either getting unlucky or his defense was letting him down. Clippard recovered, playing some of the best baseball in the minor leagues in the remainder of the season, pitching 80 more innings with an ERA of 1.91 and 92 strikeouts to just 25 walks. Clippard was top-5 in the minor leagues in both innings and strikouts.

2007 Outlook: Clippard has a luxery right now. A lot of ballclubs would take Clippard's mind blowing second half and set him up in the major leagues right away. However, Clippard is a finesse pitcher. Finesse pitchers take a little longer than power pitchers to adjust to new leagues. Clippard will benefit from a near-full season at AAA, and I would be very surprised if we see him in the major leagues in 2007 before September. He has the talent to do it, but he is behind Karstens, Rasner, Hughes, Sanchez, and White in the depth charts. That is not a knock on Clippard - as he is only 21 years old. We'll see him starting full time in 2008.

Health: One of the reasons that Clippard is rated so high is his health situation. His effortless delivery, lack of reliance on velocity, and consistent 150 inning performances through his age 21 season are all great signs for a young pitcher. You could not ask for more in a pitcher. A++Ceiling: Clippard has a flaw. Thanks to his average fastball, Clippard is prone to giving up the home run. He's no Eric Milton, but Clippard will probably allow 25-30 home runs every season in the major leagues. His home ballparks have been big and traditionally helped him a lot in this regard, but he is going to have a little trouble remaining elite in the majors. Luckily, his great control has helped to dull the damage from the bombs. It will keep him from winning Cy Young Awards, but Clippard can certainly be a reliable starter. His ability to throw strikes and eat innings will make him a very useful pitcher in the major leagues. His ERA will over between 3.70-4.20 most of the time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jason Bergmann spells out the Nats Rotation

Bergmann's simple comments to Michael Phillips of MLB.com spells out the Nats Rotation for 2008 and probably the unlikely return of my favorite Nat Pitcher Livan Hernandez. Livan's return was questionable due to his desire for big money, a long contract, and might we say diminished capacity as the "horse" to carry the staff all year.

The Nats Staff is mentioned in Bergmann's remarks below:

Including Bergmann, "I (Bergmann) hope to be a part of the rotation," he said at this weekend's Health and Fitness Expo. "There's competition from every angle. They've gone out and acquired guys, they've traded for guys like Tyler Clippard, and John Patterson and Shawn Hill are both expected to be healthy. The young pitchers, like Joel Hanrahan, Matt Chico and John Lannan, are all great. For me to fit in, I've got to come out just as hard as I did last year."

With all arms being healthy, I see a decent to very good staff in DC. My greatest confidence will always be with a staff of Bergmann, Hill, Patterson and Chico carrying the major load. If Clippard is sound??? Hanrahan steady and Lannan coming through from great expectations to becoming phenom, 2008 could be solid with starting pitching. We know the bullpen is there!

The key is always that injury bug. Manny and St. Claire will have to say prayers and light candles that we stay away from it, God willing, Amen!!! I like our chances!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

CHIEF GETS BIG WIN!

Oh I'm sorry, but the Chief deserved this one bad. All he's been is a damn solid closer since we've been watching presidents run down the right field line of RFK like poor excuses for Wisconsin brats!

Trader Jim and Stan offered the ridiculous sum of 3.65 million for 1 yr which would be like offering Marion Barry to become mayor again for three days. I realize they were middling the arbitrator, but the sum was a paltry deal. The flat brimmed muchacho is the toughest hombre with the ball in the ninth. He gets the job done! Period! Albeit, he gives up his share of walks, but if you tune in a little late for the ninth inning and we have the lead, it's better than a good chance that the Chief is ahead in the count or he's got one or two outs and nobody is on base.

Let's hope we have the luxury of keeping the Chief around for much longer than one year, and that he doesn't become trade bait for a young pitcher or God forbid another centerfielder prospect!

Read below for Barry Svrulga's take on the Chief's deal.

By Barry SvrlugaWashington Post Staff Writer Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chad Cordero knows firsthand the angst an arbitration hearing can bring, so the Washington Nationals closer was both relieved and happy yesterday when he agreed to terms on a one-year, $6.2 million contract that means he'll have a peaceful spring training.
"I just went in and told my agent to do what he could to get it done," Cordero said, speaking of his representative, Larry Reynolds. "I didn't want to go through the whole process. . . . To have to go through all that, it really takes a toll on somebody."
And that comes from a player who won his arbitration case last offseason, when he was awarded $4.15 million; the Nationals offered $3.65 million. Cordero will be eligible for arbitration again after this season and -- unless he signs a long-term deal -- could become a free agent following 2009.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

John Patterson: Arm Injuries and Innings pitched

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http://www.thenewcurlyw.blogspot.com/

[[John Patterson Stats]]

This is not an indictment on professional coaching or the development of pitchers. I do think coaching from little league to high school should be monitored with taser guns on site because coaches are diabolical in the methods in which they destroy young arms. Tommy John surgery is now elective surgery for many teenagers to ENHANCE the strength in their arms rather than to repair damage done by over use or normal injury. But enough of my rant.

John Patterson let us say was a normal great pitcher from the beginning of his baseball life. I have no information about this, but he was a stud pitcher drafted out of high school, and I'm guessing he was 18 years old as a Texas youth.

As he pitched in the minors he logged 701 innings pitching for the Diamondbacks and the Expos/Nationals. He then pitched about 450 innings on the major league level where he was about to become lights out good in my opinion when he began 2007 "lame". He never looked good at the start of the year. He was getting rocked as soon as the game began. I would turn on games, and it was notoriously 2-0, 3-0 or whatever before he was shut down for the season.

Pitcher development is an art that takes time especially with a young pitcher drafted out of high school like Patterson was. But with the pitches like the "cutter", slurves, early use of curveballs by very young pitchers and the logging of too many innings and horribly long seasons by teens and pre-teens (50+ seasons), it is a wonder that arms give way. I am in no way suggesting that Patterson is one of these pitchers. I only hope he is sound this year because he was on the cusp of becoming a damn good pitcher for us, and his damn arm gave out on him.

Hang in there John. We are all pulling for you this Spring. JUST DON'T PULL ANYTHING!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Guzman & Belliard: As good as it gets up the middle

Always check the "The New Curly W" for indepth Nats analysis
[[Christian Guzman Notes & Dmitri or Nick at 1st: Ladson Q&A]]
http://www.thenewcurlyw.blogspot.com/

Let's look at the double play combo for the Nats. It's as good as anybody looking to win in the NL. The Phillies have the best combo in my opinion. But the Nats have a good one.

By the numbers, Ronnie Belliard, 147 games, 511 ABS, .290 batting average, 148 hits, 35 doubles, 11 hrs, 58 rbis, and in 1,005 innings at 2nd base he made 6 errors. These were some of his best career numbers. Christian Guzman, before his injury in 2007, was lean and mean and slapping the ball all over the place. In 46 games, Guzie had 174 ABS, .328 batting average, 57 hits, 31 runs, and 8 errors in 376 innings at short.

These guys were destine to have a good year together in combo with Felipe. Felipe had a very off year. He was penciled in at second, and lucky for us, Ronnie was able to pick up the load. Guzie was finally healthy this year past year to start and was a house on fire when he began the year. Then he got hurt again.

I'm looking forward to these guys taking the field and adding needed pop to pace the team all year. They have it in their bats, and their gloves are oiled and fine to go.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dmitri instead of Nick at 1st as per Bowden

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www.thenewcurlyw.blogspot.com
[[Jim Bowden: State of the Nats interview by Bill Ladson]]

Sign me up. Top Ten Hitter in NL v. injury prone player. I love Nick...my daughter loves Nick;), but you can't compare last year.

Dmitri Young, Comeback Player of the Year, put up tremendous numbers last year. There was a stretch of time when he could not be gotten out. Gave a strong locker room presence, and dispelled all rumors from Detriot. Sounds to me like the rumors had a little Motown Racial twinge to them... Nobody comes back that strong, if he's such a head case.

Nick Johnson: On base percentage leader for the team, I believe. He is a fine first baseman. Steady and will cross the plate many, many times for us. Problem is he gets hurt. This last injury was a long one. He's got a long contract, but contracts don't put you on the field. Lacks the power for 1st base.

Personally, Put D. Young in Leftfield as soon as Nick is healthy for first. There's an old baseball axiom that you can't hide a guy, but I believe two bats are better than one: Good pitching beats good hitting...and if we get it this year, then an extra bat compensates in this position. However, we don't want guys starting on second base against us with singles to Dmitri to Left. Lastings or Elijah can cover the gap, but the question is whether the tough singles are in D. Young's range. Just a little hot stove for your coffee.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Aaron Boone: Why the Nats went this way

Always check "The New Curly W" blog for indepth Nat's analysis. www.thenewcurlyw.blogspot.com


AARON BOONE:

Aaron Boone for 1 million and one year. Plays 1st and third. Right handed bat. Good pop from the right side. Bum knee, but he isn't going to play every day. Good glove. Steady off the bench.

Why?

Keep it in the Family. He's Boonie's son, Trader Jim likes him and knows him, and he can provide the ability to fill in for an injured Nick Johnson, Dmitri Young or Ryan Zimmerman - and he ain't Larry Broadway;0 He's a leader in the clubhouse. Perhaps he's going to be the club's eye in the clubhouse. They always have atleast one guy. But his ability to pinch hit and field will be his greatest asset this year. If ever the experiment of putting D. Young in the outfield takes root and Nick Johnson comes up lame, Boonie is the guy for first base. There is little doubt that he likes the fastball. He had trouble with the offspeed stuff in the American League. I say if the knee is healthy let's take the ride.

For 1 million, he could be a pleasant addition. If he is healthy again, he could parlay this into a two year bench deal.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

BACK IN BUSINESS

After a gracious transfer of the dashboard directions, The Curly W is back in business. With a cousin blog, The New Curly W, which will be a filler, background and stat like analysis site to add to the more established "w" site, our hope is to keep the hot stove talk cooking until pitchers and catchers report. Then, it's off to open our new home, and make that playoff run. We here at The Curly W welcome all Nat Fans, opinions, comments and posts. Any suggestions are welcome. The goal is to make this site a hotbed for Nats Talk, and to make it a place to spread the word. Go Nats!!! All the best to Brandon in his future endeavors. Here's hoping Ben stays with us as The Curly R rolls on!

Injuries 2008? Gun Injuries? Where's Cheney?

Always check "The New Curly W" website for more Nats analysis!
[[AYALA & HILL HEALTH UPDATES]]

We need Luis Ayala. Can't these guys do something else like fish!!!!!!!
It's the LEFT Arm and not his RIGHT PITCHING ARM Thank God!

Nats RHP, Luis Ayala hurt while hunting

Daily News Wire Services

Washington Nationals righthander Luis Ayala was hit in the left forearm by a shotgun pellet during a hunting trip but is expected to be able to participate when spring training begins next month.

Ayala has a bruised nerve in his upper forearm and is experiencing a tingling sensation, which the Nationals said yesterday is improving daily. Small fragments of the pellet remain in his arm and won't be removed, as long as Ayala does not get an infection.

The reliever has no artery damage and the nerve is intact, the team said, adding he has full use of his left arm and hand. Ayala went 2-2 with one save and a 3.19 ERA in 44 appearances last season with Washington. He missed 2006 after right elbow surgery.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Nats Outfield 2008 Preview

ALWAYS CHECK "The New Curly W" for additional Nats analysis http://www.thenewcurlyw.blogspot.com/

The 2008 Nats Outfield
The Outfield has a mixed bag with the potential to be awesome in 2008! It is definitely potential though. There are question marks with undeniable top side.

The Players are:Starters only: Wily Mo Pena, Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns Possible Players: Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris, Chris Marrero

Wily Mo: I like him. He showed up, and he unleashed his bat. And it caught up with the ball on ocassion. In fact, statistically, his bat caught up with the ball much better than it did in Boston. Trader Jim loves Wily Mo and I love a free swinger. If he hits infront of Belliard in the 6th hole, see the projected lineup in my last post, Wily Mo sees enough strikes to get into the 30 HR club. If the new stadium is friendly (which it just might be), Wily may be a 40 guy. I like his upside, and I don't think we surrendered much for him. He will strike out. And it will cause a hurricane! And they will look ugly too. But the upside may be some great streaks all summer that may carry us to some long string of victories.

Lastings Milledge: He's a player. New York is a tough place to develop. He has the potential to be a 5 tool guy or atleast a 4. I'd take 3. Speed and average would be enough for me and add in some adequate defense and let's say we've finally got a centerfielder for 5 or more years. I like him much more than the Rocco Baldelli idea. With the sure hand of Manny, Lastings could become a great one. Manny knows him from NY. He's got the inside scouting on him. Let's take the ride here because he's a much better chance than Nook was.

Elijah Dukes: Remember all the trouble Julio Lugo was in two years ago. He was destine to the scrap heep of wife beating and lost opportunity / talent. Well Boston took a flier on him and he turned into the starting shortstop for a World Champion. I say we take the diamond in the rough here and maybe we get the great lead off hitter we need. Certainly, Dukes has the speed. http://www.nationalspride.com/ has a great article today how Barry Larkin and Elijah are joined at the hip right now. I say we put Felipe there too! After Dmitri's revival last year, we can become the refuge of lost souls for all I care...The Oakland Raiders of the National League...The Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your weary, your huddle masses, your wretched refuse from your teeming shores..!" Send me another Ichiro!!!! for now, Let's give Elijah a chance. To quote Barry Larkin, "After watching Dukes, 23, work out and hit, Larkin believes that Dukes could be a 30-30 player one day. " I'm rolling the dice.

Austin Kearns: .266, 16 hrs and 74 rbis just ain't cutting it for me anymore. I want new blood or more numbers like .280, 30 hrs, and 90+ rbis.

Justin Maxwell: The potential is there. I don't know with all the offseason moves if the team is committed to him. Although he is young, so are the players that the Nats have brought in. Then again, production is the name of the game. Ask Ryan Church.

Willie Harris: I'm just not seeing it. Langerhans is atleast a defensive whiz with no bat.

I've copied the article below from Federal Baseball. It is excellent on Chris Marrero and our other prospects. Kudos to E!

By e chigliakPosted on Sun Nov 25, 2007 at 06:07:17 PM EDT

When baseballamerica.com's writer Aaron Fitt published the list of the Washington Nationals Top 10 Prospects last January 12th, right-handed starter Collin Balester was ranked no.1 overall in the Nationals system. When Mr. Fitt again produced the list of the top prospects on November 7th of this year, Balester had fallen slightly in Baseball America's assessment, to no.3 overall, replaced by outfielder Chris Marrero and the Nationals #1 overall pick in the '07 Draft, left-handed starter Ross Detwiler.

Collin Balester, Montreal's 4th Round pick in 2004, was coming off a (5-5) season between Class-A Potomac and Double-AA Harrisburg, where he had thrown 137.1 innings with a 5.20 ERA in 22 starts at Potomac, and put up a 1.83 ERA in 8 starts at Harrisburg, as a twenty-year old, in his second full pro season, when he was ranked the number one prospect in the organization by Baseball America.

In 2007, Balester was (2-7) with a 3.74 ERA over 98.2 IP at Harrisburg, and the right-hander finished the season with Triple-AAA Columbus where he went (2-3) and posted a 4.18 ERA in 10 starts and 51.2 innings, allowing 49 hits and 27 runs and striking out 40 while walking 23 for the Clippers.

Chris Marrero had moved ahead of Balester as a result of the Washington Nationals 1st Round pick in '05 having hit .280 with 23 HR's and 104 RBI's in 147 games over two seasons in the Nationals' system. 34 doubles, 3 triples, 156 hits in 558 at bats, for a 6'3'' 210 lb outfielder who won't turn nineteen until July of '08.Ross Detwiler started the 2007 season as a twenty-one year old, third-year, left-handed starter at Southwest Missouri State University where Detwiler went (4-5) with a 2.22 ERA in 14 starts during which he allowed just 22 runs in 89.0 innings while striking out 110 and walking 38.That was enough to convince the Nationals to select Detwiler with the 6th overall pick in the 1st Round of the '07 Amateur draft and what the lefty did at two stops in the Nationals' Minor League system......(0-0) in 4 starts with a 2.25 ERA for the Gulf Coast Nationals in Rookie ball, and (2-2) with a 4.22 ERA in 4 starts with Class-A Potomac, with 28 K's in 33.1 IP...Convinced the Nationals to give the rookie a crash course in the Majors, where Detwiler pitched one inning of relief and recorded his first Major League K, just three months after the Nationals had taken the 6'5'' 185 lefty with their top pick....and in fact...four of Washington's Draft picks after Detwiler in the '07 Draft, 18-year old pitcher Josh Smoker, 18-year old outfielder Michael Burgess, 21-year old pitcher Jordan Zimmerman, and the Nationals' 6th Round pick, 18-year old Jack McGeary, all find themselves listed in the Nationals' Top Ten already, so at least Baseball America agrees with DC's recent drafting decisions.

The Nationals Hot Stove Talk 2008

LET'S HAVE A LITTLE HOT STOVE TALK! IT'S ABOUT TIME NATS FANS.

We have a team here that is not very far away from making that playoff run of our dreams.

Here's the low down:

THE STATE OF THE NATS: 2008

Let's be honest. The Nats could make it to the Playoffs in 2008. The team is that close.Trade Jim and Stan the Man have pulled a few strings and bolstered the bench to deliver what could be the winning combo in the NL East this year. With the Mets in complete free fall - disarray, mark my words tha Willie Randolph is gone by May and the Phillies standing pat AGAIN with not one playoff win...how their fans put up with their ownership crap is beyond me, The Nats have the inside track to go to the penthouse as we move into the most beautiful confines in SE DC!

A check on the team: Please God, no injuries this year!!!!!

1) I personally love Guzman and Belliard up the middle. The talent, experience and leadership are rock solid. That damn injury bug must get the DDT! Felipe is still one of my hopes, but this year will need to prove something more. I think personal problems (non-drug) set the man back last year, but with a strong presence like Dmitri and Manny around, Felipe will get his shot.

2) Zim....what else can we say. The kid has 15 years at 3rd base as long as he doesn't break anything! ;)

3) I like Dmitri, Willy Mo and a healthy Nick Johnson at 1st. Might just be enough power to do it. Let's see how the walls are in the new digs!? Yes, that means Dmitri in LF, but if Milledge or Duke or Escobar (???) can give chase to anything in the gap, "D" can stop anybody with hustle to a single. Kearns? Who's he?

4) LoDuca (minus the steriods) and Flores will be adequate until Flores emerges. I guess now we know where all those doubles went from LoDuca's bat???;) We still may need a catcher this year, and as long as it isn't Fick and the guy who made Robbie cry, I'm OK. I really wanted SD's Barrett. He was a great Expo, and would fill the back stop for years with or without Flores.

5) Pitching: The starters are emerging. Whether Hill, Patterson or someone else can fulfill remains uncertain. I truly want Livan back to chew up innings because statistically if he can do it this year our bullpen will be the force that will get us to the playoffs. It may be lights out as early as the 5th inning this year if everyone stays healthy. I do think we will miss Albalajedo. His fastball was lights out, but still a project. If the kid we got is not damaged goods (Clippard), we may have another starter. We shall see.

6) Still waiting on the kids, but not for long. I'm not going to venture a guess who the phenom will be this year. But trader Jim and Stan the Man can't figure that it is an outfielder by trading for Milledge (sp.?)Any ideas....I think the rock solid bullpen makes it happen this year as we win a very weak divison as the up and comer.