I’m SOOOO ready for baseball season!

Hello from the snow-covered DC suburbs! I’ve been digging my way out from under the approximately 34 inches of snow that fell in my area in less than a week. That, of course, is in addition to the 31 or so inches of snow that has fallen here since the weekend before Christmas.The “official” total amount of snow for DC so far this winter season is about 55 inches, which, according to a local TV station’s web site, is more snow than has fallen in Chicago (45.1″), Detroit (27.5″), Minneapolis (38.1″), Boston (30.1″), and Fargo (46.0″). Hell, yes, I’m ready for the start of baseball season!

FYI, I will now be focusing primarily on the Nationals in this blog,
rather than splitting my attention between the Nats and the Yankees.
Let’s face it, there are plenty of Yankees blogs — probably even more
now than there were when the 2009 season ended, thanks to the Yankees’
latest World Series triumph — so the disappearance of the Yankees
portion of this blog won’t exactly be a major loss to the Yankees
blogosphere. I do, however, reserve the right to throw in an occasional
comment (or rant) about the Yankees from time to time, since they
remain my second favorite team.

With that said…Nationals pitchers and catchers report to Viera, FL next Friday, the 19th. Nationals position players report on the 24th, and the first full-squad workout is on the 26th. Split-squad games will take place on March 4th, and the Nationals’ home opener at Space Coast Stadium will be March 6th against the Mets.

There have been quite a few changes for the Nationals since the 2009 season ended…some goodbyes and hellos for 2010. Goodbye to Austin Kearns, Saul Rivera, Ron Villone, and Dmitri Young, among others. Hello to Brian Bruney, Matt Capps, Adam Kennedy, Jason Marquis, and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, among others. Yes, the Nats were in the running for Orlando Hudson, and apparently are very much in the running for Chen Ming Wang. We’ll see how the negotiations for CMW go. In addition to personnel changes, the front office has undergone quite a few changes as well, all designed to change the Washington Nationals from the laughingstock of MLB to actual winners. Time will tell if the changes are successful.

For now…the start of spring training is just a week away…opening day for the Nats is in 53 days…and hope springs eternal!

Super Stras!

Per nationals.com — in five AFL regular-season starts, Stephen Strasburg allowed 15 hits and nine earned runs in 19 innings — for an ERA of 4.26 — with seven walks and 23 strikeouts. Aside from one bad start — giving up seven earned runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings to the Peoria Javelinas on Oct. 22 — he went 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA.

Another Superman for the Nationals!

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By the way, I thought this excerpt from the above linked article was interesting:

Strasburg had just completed essentially his first month as a professional pitcher, and was caught off guard by one question:

How has pitching with a hefty bank account been different?

The tall right-hander gathered himself for an answer.

“That never enters my mind,” said Strasburg, the recipient of a $17 million five-year package from the Nationals. “At San Diego State, I was only concerned with trying to put the team on the map.

“Now, I’m just trying to work as hard as I can to prepare to pitch in as high a level as the Nationals will want me. There will always be pressure no matter where you pitch. You always have to prove yourself and answer expectations.

Good answer, kid! I’m not sure if I believe you…$17 million is a lot of money to ignore…but it was still a good answer!

It’s the Yankees’ fault

On November 6th, an article by Jeff Passan was posted at Yahoo Sports, claiming that the Yankees had bought their World Series title, and that baseball fans should just get used to it. I’ve already discussed that claim here in this blog, so there’s no need to go over it again.

On Wednesday, Passan posted and responded to some of the letters he received in response to that article. One of those letters stated, “The Yankees play within the same rules as everyone else, so blame the system and not the Yankees.” Passan’s reply to this statement was both interesting and confusing:

Never mind the salience of the points – that money does matter, and that the Yankees are in a great position because of theirs, and that the fact they do spend it makes them better than, say, the Marlins, who trim payroll and pocket revenue-sharing money.

He’s right about the fact that the Yankees’ money gives them a huge advantage over low revenue teams. But it’s the last part of his response that has me scratching my head in bewilderment. Let me get this straight…is Passan claiming that the Yankees are to blame because the owner of the Marlins (or the Pirates, Royals, etc.) may just be too cheap to put the revenue-sharing money they receive back into their teams? The fact that some owners of the lowest payroll teams “trim payroll and pocket revenue-sharing money” is the Yankees’ fault? Really? It’s the Yankees’ fault that baseball’s system of revenue sharing does not require revenue sharing recipients to put the money back into their teams??

Wow…who knew that the Yankees are to blame for all the cheapskate owners in Major League Baseball! I wonder if Passan also blames the Yankees for the poor economy, the health care crisis, and global warming.

Stop crying, Mr. Passan.

cryinggirl.jpgThe problem is THE REVENUE SHARING SYSTEM itself, not the Yankees. The problem is that the owners of teams receiving revenue sharing moneys are, in fact, able to pocket that money and are not required to put it back into their teams to improve them.

Diamonds, Gold, and Silver

It’s been quite a month for Derek Jeter and Mark Teixiera. First, they and the rest of their Yankees teammates won the World Series…they’ll be getting some sparkly rings covered with lots of diamonds.

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And then Derek and Mark both won Gold Glove awards — Derek’s 4th Gold Glove and Mark’s 3rd Gold Glove.

GGA.jpgAnd then Derek and Mark both won Silver Slugger awards — Derek’s 4th Silver Slugger and Mark’s 3rd Silver Slugger.

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So much shiny stuff…they’ll probably have to wear sunglasses just to look at all of it!

shades.jpgCongrats to Derek and Mark, for winning those shiny awards!

The Golden Boy is Silver too

The Silver Slugger award winners were announced on Thursday, and Ryan Zimmerman has another shiny trophy, winning the award for third basemen. CONGRATULATIONS, RYAN!

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The top two contenders for this award among third basemen were Zimmerman and the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval. Here’s a look at their offensive stats:

Player     AB   R   H   2B  3B HR RBI  TB   BB  SO   OBP  SLG  AVG
Zimmerman  610 110 178  37  3  33 106  320  72  119 .364 .525 .292
Sandoval   572 79  189  44  5  25  90  318  52  83  .387 .556 .330

Per slugger.com:

the
Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Awards are the top offensive honor in
Major League Baseball. Coaches and managers of Major League teams vote
for the players they feel are the best offensive producers at each
position in the field in both the American and National Leagues. They
base their selections on a combination of offensive statistics
including batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage,
as well as the coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s
overall offensive value.

I love Zimm…he and John Lannan are my favorite Nats players. I’m very happy for Ryan and think it’s great that he won this award, along with his Gold Glove award. But unlike the Gold Glove, this award was not exactly a slam dunk for him. Both Zimm and Sandoval had great offensive seasons, but if you look at the stats above, one could make just as strong a case for Sandoval. Zimm scored more runs, and had more home runs, RBI, and total bases, but Sandoval’s on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and batting average were better. In particular, Sandoval’s batting average was 38 points higher than Zimmerman’s. I’m guessing that what tipped the scale in Ryan’s favor was his 30-game hit streak, which I believe was the longest in the majors this season.

Anyway…once again, CONGRATULATIONS TO RYAN ZIMMERMAN, the 2009 Silver Slugger Award winner for third base!

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Photo by me

(more…)

It’s Riggleman

To the surprise of almost no one, the Nationals have selected Jim Riggleman over Bobby Valentine as their manager. I really had no preference for either one, so the choice doesn’t disappoint me. Valentine certainly would have been interesting and entertaining…but I can’t help wondering why other teams didn’t seem to show much interest in him. Ultimately, I think the Nationals made the right choice.

Now it’s time to get to work on filling the many holes in this team. The manager will be irrelevant if the Nats don’t bring in some good starting pitching, a reliable and competent second baseman, and a decent catcher.

More thoughts about Ryan Zimmerman winning the Gold Glove over Kevin Kouzmanoff

I know that Ryan Zimmerman had 17 errors, while Kevin Kouzmanoff had just 3. Yes, 14 errors is a big difference. But there’s more to defensive excellence than just errors and fielding percentage. Basing a fielder’s overall performance on only those two measures is like judging a starting pitcher’s performance on just his W/L record, without looking at his ERA, WHIP, run support, etc.

Below are the basic statistics that are used to compare defensive performance of players — Zimmerman’s and Kouzmanoff’s stats are shown.

Player      TEAM POS  G  GS  INN    TC  PO   A  E  DP   RF   FPCT
Zimmerman   WSH  3B  154 153 1337.2 459 117 325 17 28  2.97 .963
Kouzmanoff  SD   3B  139 134 1186.2 311 94  214  3 24  2.34 .990

As you can clearly see, Zimmerman had more total chances, more put-outs, more assists, more double plays, and a better range factor. Kozmanoff has the edge in errors and fielding percentage. Note: Zimmerman lead the majors with his 459 total chances and 325 assists.

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Photo by me

Another stat that has been mentioned when comparing Zimmerman and Kouzmanoff is UZR — Ultimate Zone Rating. Zimmerman lead NL third baseman with his 18.1 UZR. According to THIS ARTICLE, Zimmerman also lead NL third baseman in range factor and range factor per game.

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Photo by me

I am not a stats geek, in any way, shape or form. I attempted to learn more about UZR by going to FanGraphs.com and reading their UZR Primer (parts 1 and 2), and I came away from it all with a headache. You know how cartoon characters have stars and birds circling their heads when they get hurt? That’s exactly how I felt after trying to figure out UZR.

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Some fans really get into analyzing stats like that, while others just focus on the basics. Managers and coaches, however, should be looking at all defensive statistics for players when deciding for whom they should cast their Gold Glove votes. RawlingsGoldGlove.com states that the award is supposed to be “the benchmark by which all defense is measured” in Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. However, in the case of this year’s Gold Glove award for NL third basemen, the correct and only logical choice was made. Ryan Zimmerman was, without question, the best third baseman in the National League in 2009. Period.

2009 NL Gold Glove Award winners

DCfireworks.jpgCONGRATULATIONS TO RYAN ZIMMERMAN, who has won what will surely be just the first of many Gold Glove awards in his career!

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Photo by me

Way to go, Ryan…you totally deserve this award. Congratulations!

The 2009 NL Gold Glove Award winners are:

C – Yadier Molina, Cardinals
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
2B – Orlando Hudson, Dodgers
3B – Ryan Zimmerman, Nats
SS – Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
OF – Michael Bourn, Astros
OF – Matt Kemp, Dodgers
OF – Shane Victorino, Phillies
P – Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Congratulations to all of the winners!

goldglove.jpgIt’s great to see Zimmerman get the recognition that he deserves, considering the fact that he plays for a team that has lost more that 100 games two years in a row. Zimm did have 17 errors, which was the NL’s third highest total. But many of those errors came early in the season…he worked out his case of the yips, and although he didn’t eliminate all throwing errors, he greatly reduced them for the rest of the season. He made plays that other third basemen couldn’t because they weren’t able to get to as many balls hit in their direction.

Sometimes, the Gold Glove award winners leave me scratching my head, wondering “What the %?$# were the voters thinking?!”. Zimm’s award, however, was very well deserved.

2009 AL Gold Glove Award winners

The 2009 AL Gold Glove Award winners are:

C – Joe Mauer, Twins
1B – Mark Teixeira, Yankees
2B – Placido Polanco, Tigers
3B – Evan Longoria, Rays
SS – Derek Jeter, Yankees
OF – Torii Hunter, Angels
OF – Adam Jones, Orioles
OF – Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
P – Mark Buehrle, White Sox

Congratulations to all of the winners…especially Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira!

goldglove.jpgThe NL winners will be announced tomorrow later today. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

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Photo by me

He certainly had a Gold Glove-worthy season season, leading all NL third basemen in assists, total chances, total outs recorded and games started. He won the 2009 Fielding Bible Award for third baseman:

Ryan Zimmerman has broken out of the pack in my estimation, however, by becoming the Defensive Runs Saved leader at third base over the last three years. His first Fielding Bible Award is well deserved.

Zimm was also named the first ever ESPN Web Gem Champion, after collecting the most web gems (19) and web gem points (61) from ESPN this season.

Ryan’s biggest competition for the Gold Glove seems to be Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres, who set a single-season record for NL third basemen with a .990 fielding percentage and made only three errors. The Padres apparently have campaigned pretty hard for him to win; I’m not sure if the Nationals have done the same for Zimm. Overall stats seem to favor Zimm, though, so I’m hopeful that the NL managers and coaches have gotten it right and have voted for Ryan Zimmerman for NL 3B Gold Glove Award!

Good luck, SuperZimm!

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And the new manager for the Washington Nationals is…

…not going to be Don Mattingly, who declined to interview with the Nationals, according to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti last week. I can’t really say that I blame him…but I’m also not particularly disappointed that he won’t be managing the Nationals. As I mentioned before, he’d be a first time MLB manager — our previous manager was also a first-timer, and he didn’t work out so well.

There have been a number of changes in the Nationals’ front office since the season ended, and it finally looks like a decision is about to be made regarding the Nationals manager. Per Nationals.com, Interim manager Jim Riggleman and Bobby Valentine are the top candidates to be named as the manager of the Nationals. An announcement from the Nats is expected on Friday (11/13).

Not that I’m superstitious or anything, but considering the team’s fortunes over the last two seasons, would it really be a good idea to make the announcement about the new manager on Friday the 13th?!

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