Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington and Doghouse from Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals acquisition of Doug Fister and GM Mike Rizzo’s plans for the upcoming Winter Meetings.
Less than 24 hours after he was acquired by the Washington Nationals, starting pitcher Doug Fister spoke with the Washington media and expressed his eagerness to join the Nats and the rotation already in place.
“Coming from Detroit, obviously we had a great staff,” Fister started. “It was such an honor to be a part of the staff that we had there with Scherzer and Verlander and everybody else, but coming in to D.C. now, it’s going to be the same thing with [Stephen] Strasburg and [Jordan] Zimmermann and [Gio] Gonzalez and [Ross] Detwiler. All those guys, I’m looking forward to being in there. They’ve all got quite a bit of experience, they’ve all got great stuff and I’ve heard that they’re great teammates. It’s one of those things that I’m definitely looking forward to being a part of and being able to be surrounded by such terrific pitchers.” [Read more...]
You don’t need me to tell you that the Washington Nationals flat-out stole Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers on Cyber Monday.
But I’m going to anyway.
If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve no doubt by now read dozens of opinions that Mike Rizzo absolutely robbed his counterpart, Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski. Actually, most of the professional comments have been more of the bewildered sort than any other trade in recent memory.
Let’s not mince words here: The Nats acquired one of the top 25 pitchers in all of baseball, under contract for two more years at a reasonable rate, for a Quad-A middle infielder, a LOOGY with maturity issues, and a mid-level left-handed pitching prospect.
This gives the Nationals a starting rotation with four of the top 25 starters in the game.
Fister is one of the more underrated players in the game today. By all metrics, he ranks among the most durable, consistently excellent starters in the bigs. He’s a ground ball machine, and going to be playing the next several seasons with the best defense he’s had behind him. He doesn’t walk batters, and he very rarely gives up home runs.
There are two reasons he’s largely been ignored when the discussion of the best starters in the league comes up: his fastball sits around 89 MPH and he doesn’t put up gaudy strikeout totals. His career average of 6.3 per nine is rather pedestrian, but coupled with a career walk rate of 1.8, his K/BB rate of 3.46 is awesome.
Number one on Baseball-Reference’s “Similarity Score” for Fister, which compares players based on statistics accumulated and projected, is Jordan Zimmermann. Enough said.
But to get, you have to give. What did the Nats really give up?
Let’s discuss Robbie Ray, the only player the Nats gave up that might have a ceiling, first. The 6’2″, 170 22-year old just completed his 4th minor league season, split between A+ and AA. He posted a combined 11-5 with 3.36 ERA, 1.254 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. He pitches in the low 90s and can hit mid-90s when he dials it up. His command though is still a work in progress, as his BB/9 was 3.9.
He was ranked as the Nats’ third or fourth highest pitching prospect depending on who you like to listen to, but if he can’t develop his changeup in the next year or two he’s going to end up in the pen.
We had Ray as the Nats’ 12th overall prospect and the sixth pitcher behind Cole, Giolito, Karns, Solis and Purke.
Ray could develop into a quality MLB starting pitcher, a lefty to boot. He could end up a quality arm in a big league bullpen. He could be a LOOGY. He could get exposed at Triple-A, where he has yet to throw a pitch.
But we know that Doug Fister is a quality Major League starter.
What about the two roster players the Nats gave up?
I want to be kind here, as I know that Steve Lombardozzi has more than his share of fans in the D.C. area. But he’s exactly like his father with regards to his potential as a big leaguer: he’s already reached it. He is — at best — a utility middle infielder, and really nothing more than a backup second baseman. He barely has the arm strength to cover second at the big league level, let alone trying to make the long throw at short. It’s just not there, not to mention his lack of range.
At the plate, Lombo is a “Punch-and-Judy” slap hitter, devoid of any power whatsoever. He has no plate discipline, and can’t run. What gets him by is his unwavering work ethic and willingness to play anywhere the manager puts him, however out of position that might be. Shoot, he was the emergency catcher last season.
Ian Krol, the “player to be named later” in the Michael Morse trade last season from Oakland, has a decent power lefty arm, but should never be allowed to face a right-handed batter. He is the very definition of “replacement player”.
Lesser starting pitchers than Fister have been acquired via trade the past two seasons for far more quality than the Nats gave up in this deal. The Royals gave the Rays Wil Myers for James Shields, and Fister is every bit Shields’ equal, if not better.
Perhaps Dombrowski knows something about Fister health-wise we don’t. Maybe Fister spent his off-season kicking babies and throwing rocks at people at charity events. Who knows? But what we do know is that Fister is one of the top two dozen or so MLB starting pitchers, and he’ll be wearing a Curly W next season, making the Nats rotation one of the top-three in the league.
And all they gave up to get him was a backup middle infielder, a LOOGY and a marginal lefty starter prospect.
The Washington Nationals have acquired right-handed pitcher Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol and left-handed prospect Robbie Ray.
Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 2013 for the defending AL Central Champions. He allowed just 0.6 home runs per nine innings pitched, which ranked second-best in the AL. The 29 year-old, 6-foot-8 Merced, Calif. native holds a five-year career 3.53 ERA and 44-50 win-loss record.
In eight career postseason appearances, including one World Series start, Fister has earned a 3-2 record with a 2.98 ERA.
The acquisition is – no doubt – a win for General Manager Mike Rizzo. Lombardozzi recorded a less-than-stellar slash line of .259/.278/.338, although his 13 pinch hits ranked second-most in baseball.
“This is an exciting day for the Washington Nationals,” Rizzo said in a press release. “We feel we’ve added a talented, young veteran to our starting pitching corps. Doug is battle-tested through playoff experiences, and the depth he brings to our staff is exceptional. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard.”
At 22 years-old, Krol showed some promise for the Nationals, who acquired him in a three-way deal that brought A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen into the Nationals’ organization and sent Michael Morse to Seattle. Krol’s record sells short the fact he did not allow a run in his first nine appearances in the Big Leagues. He earned a 2-1 record and a 3.95 ERA in a season which few would have predicted to see him take the mound.
Ray, also 22, was rated the fifth-best prospect in the Nats’ system by Baseball America. He earned a combined 3.36 ERA with Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.
Fister was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2006. He was acquired, along with David Pauley, by the Tigers on July 30, 2011, in exchange for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Chance Ruffin and Casper Wells.
By trading Fister, the Tigers will reportedly save about $6 million. Fister was arbitration-eligible and projected to earn about $7 million.
Rumors had circulated in recent weeks that the Tigers were looking to free up room in their rotation to allow left-hander Drew Smyly to return to a starter role.
The Washington Nationals formally announced the hiring of Matt Williams as the team’s new manager via press release Thursday morning.
Williams, 47, becomes the fifth manager of the team since relocating to the District in 2005.
“I could not be more pleased to welcome Matt Williams and his family to the Nationals and the Nation’s Capital,” Rizzo said in the press release. “In some ways, my interview with Matt began during our days together in Arizona, where his undeniable toughness, attention to detail and intensity established a foundation for a Diamondbacks expansion franchise that reached the postseason in its second season and won a World Series two years later.”
Via conference call with media, Rizzo added, “It was a very difficult decision. But Matt, we felt, possessed all the characteristics of a successful manager and a guy we think can take us to the next level.”
Williams was known as an intense player, nicknamed “The Big Marine”, but he’s earned a reputation as a coach that’s tough but fair and is well respected among his former teammates and players on teams that he’s coached. Williams brings no full-time managerial experience to the job, but had a short stint managing Arizona’s Double-A team after former teammate Brett Butler suffered a stroke. He also skippered an Arizona Fall League team in 2012.
“I feel privileged and honored to be a part of this team,” Williams said in the press release. “It’s a wonderful group of guys and a great organization. I’m simply here to help take us to the next level.”
Williams is to be introduced in a press conference Friday at 2:00 pm ET at Nationals Park.
According to multiple reports surfacing Friday, the Washington Nationals are set to announce the hiring of Matt Williams, former MLB All-Star and Gold Glover, and current bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as their next manager. MLB discourages teams from making major announcements during the World Series, so a formal announcement and press conference won’t come until its conclusion at the earliest.
Williams, 47, was a third baseman for 17 major league seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians and Arizona. He’s been with the D-backs as a coach for the past four seasons and was a broadcaster before then following his playing career. He managed in the Arizona Fall League last season, but beside that, he has no further managerial experience.
According to reports, the Nats also interviewed bench coach Randy Knorr, first base coach Trent Jewett, former big league catcher and Padres front office official Brad Ausmus and Blue Jays bench coach and long-time MLB coach DeMarlo Hale.
It’s mildly surprising, with the Nationals considered a contending club, that GM Mike Rizzo didn’t even interview an experienced manager.
According to The Washington Post, the team would like to keep Knorr with the club in some capacity.
Williams is widely respected by former teammates and D-backs players. He’s known for his intensity, but current players have praised him as being accessible.
It’s debatable how much influence managers have on today’s game. With so much emphasis on on-base skills and reluctance to give away outs, managers are required to do much less “button pushing” and are more motivators and gurus than tacticians in the modern game. Essentially, the modern manager is asked to be a facilitator, charged not with not getting in the way of the assembled talent. An ideal candidate is one with a strong knowledge of the game, but also a good rapport and motivational style with the modern athlete.
Obviously, Williams’ style is yet to be seen. If he manages like he played, he’ll bring a fiery, no-nonsense approach to the dugout. He was a slugger with good — but not great — on base skills and a terrific fielder, having won the Gold Glove four times and was a five-time All-Star.
Internet Baseball Writers Association of DC announces Washington Nationals 2013 Player Achievement Awards
The Washington, DC chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association is an organization composed of Internet writers, on-line media outlets, and bloggers.
In accordance with its stated goal of promoting the members of the association and increasing awareness and respect as active members of the media that cover the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball club, the DC-IBWA is pleased to announce its member-voted winners of the 2013 Player Achievement Awards.
Since District Sports Page is one of the four credentialed independent sites that cover the team, we’re allowed up to three votes. This year Dave Nichols, Editor-in-Chief and Alyssa Wolice, Staff Writer, submitted votes.
Please feel free to leave your opinion on the votes in our comments section!
2013 WASHINGTON NATIONALS PLAYER ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS
Goose Goslin Most Valuable Player (Player most valuable to the success of the Washington Nationals):
1st: Jayson Werth (61 points, 7 first place votes)
2nd: Ian Desmond (39 points, 3 first place votes)
3rd: Jordan Zimmermann (23 points, 3 first place votes)
Others receiving votes: Ryan Zimmerman (8), Bryce Harper (4), Denard Span (3), Tyler Clippard (2).
Dave’s Vote: Werth-Zimmerman-Desmond. What Jayson Werth did this year was nothing short of phenominal.
Alyssa’s vote: Zimmermann-Werth-Clippard.
Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year (Excellent performance as a starting pitcher):
1st: Jordan Zimmermann (76 points, 12 first place votes)
2nd: Stephen Strasburg (42 points, 2 first place votes)
3rd: Gio Gonzalez (18 points)
Others receiving votes: Tanner Roark (8).
Dave’s Vote: Zimmermann-Strasburg-Gonzalez. The stoic righty from Wisconsin opened some people’s eyes this season, both in-market and nationally. He’s every bit as accomplished a pitcher as the other two and does nothing but pound the strike zone. something the other two could pick up on.
Alyssa’s vote: Zimmermann-Strasburg-Roark.
Frederick “Firpo” Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year (Excellent performance as a relief pitcher):
1st: Tyler Clippard (78 points, 13 first place votes)
2nd: Craig Stammen (30 points, 1 first place votes)
3rd: Rafael Soriano (28 points)
Others receiving votes: Tanner Roark (3), Drew Storen (2), Fernando Abad (1).
Dave’s Vote: Clippard-Soriano-Stammen. Clippard was unhittable almost all year. Unless, of course, when facing the Braves. Will have to get over that mental hurdle.
Alyssa’s vote: Clippard-Soriano-Stammen.
Sam Rice Hitter of the Year (Excellence in all-around hitting, situational hitting and baserunning):
1st: Jayson Werth (68 points, 12 first place votes)
2nd: Ian Desmond (37 points, 3 first place votes)
3rd: Ryan Zimmerman (17 points)
Others receiving votes: Bryce Harper (14), Denard Span (8).
Dave’s Vote: Desmond-Werth-Harper. Would you like to see Desmond work a few more walks? Sure. Would you like to see him not force the running game in certain situations? Yes. But his transformation from free-swinging hacker to party guy at the plate has been remarkable. If nothing else, this team can thank Davey Johnson for turning Desmond into the hitter everyone in the organization thought he was going to be. This, after Jim Riggleman almost ruined him.
Alyssa’s vote: Werth-Desmond-Zimmerman.
Frank Howard Slugger of the Year (Excellence in power hitting):
1st: Jayson Werth (76 points, 13 first place votes)
2nd: Bryce Harper (32 points, 1 first place vote)
3rd: Ryan Zimmerman (23 points, 1 first place vote)
Others receiving votes: Wilson Ramos (6), Ian Desmond (2), Adam LaRoche (1).
Dave’s Vote: Zimmerman-Werth-Ramos. The last two months of the season makes you wish Zimmerman had been at full strength from the get-go. He’s a complete power hitter in the prime of his career and hopefully an off-season of rest and normal strength training will have him primed again next season.
Alyssa’s vote: Werth-Zimmerman-Harper.
Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year (Excellence in fielding):
1st: Denard Span (61 points, 12 first place votes)
2nd: Ian Desmond (34 points, 1 first place votes)
3rd: Wilson Ramos (18 points, 1 first place vote)
Others receiving votes: Bryce Harper (7), Adam LaRoche (4), Ryan Zimmerman (3), Danny Espinosa (2), Jayson Werth (1), Kurt Suzuki (1).
Dave’s Vote: Span-Desmond-Ramos. Denard Span is a musician in center field. He never looks like he’s giving full effort because he knows how to play out there and make it look easy. But when he does makes a difficult catch, it’s that much more spectacular knowing how easy he makes the tough look routine.
Alyssa’s vote: Desmond-Span-Ramos.
Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year (Player who overcame biggest obstacle in the preceding season to contribute on the field):
1st: Wilson Ramos (52 points, 8 first place votes)
2nd: Jayson Werth (12 points, 2 first place votes)
3rd: Ross Ohlendorf (11 points)
Others receiving votes: Stephen Strasburg (9, 1 first place vote), Drew Storen (6), Ryan Zimmerman (5, 1 first place vote), Taylor Jordan (5, 1 first place vote), Fernando Abad (1).
Dave’s Vote: Ram0s-Ohlendorf-Werth. Can we get a full healthy season from Wilson Ramos next season? Pretty please?
Alyssa’s vote: Werth-Ramos-Ohlendorf.
Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year (Player who meritoriously gave of himself to the community):
1st: Ryan Zimmerman (55 points, 10 first place votes)
2nd: Ian Desmond (28 points, 31 first place vote)
3rd: Gio Gonzalez (16 points, 1 first place vote)
Others receiving votes: Bryce Harper (9), Adam LaRoche (3), Denard Span (2).
DSP Vote: Zimmerman-Harper-Desmond. Zimmerman quietly goes about his philanthropic business just like he does on the field and the clubhouse.
Alyssa’s vote: Zimmerman-Span-Harper.
Minor League Player of the Year (Minor league player most destined for big league success):
1st: Lucas Giolito (20 points, 4 first place votes)
2nd: Anthony Rendon (15 points, 3 first place vote)
3rd: A.J. Cole (19 points, 1 first place vote); Brian Goodwin (19, 1 first place vote)
Others receiving votes: Taylor Jordan (17), Zach Walters (16, 3 first place votes), Billy Burns (13, 2 first place votes), Tanner Roark (6), Robby Ray (2), Nathan Karns (2), Danny Espinosa (1).
Dave’s Vote: Giolito-Cole-Goodwin. Giolito didn’t disappoint this season in his 11 starts between the Gulf League and Auburn. The 19-year old has a big fastball and two other pitches projected to be plus in the bigs.
Alyssa’s vote: Goodwin-Giolito-Cole.
SURVEY QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. Which players on the 40-man roster at the end of the season are least likely to return in 2010? Dan Haren (12), Chad Tracy (9), Xavier Cedeno (4), Ross Ohlendorf (4), Danny Espinosa (4), Ryan Mattheus (4), Scott Hairston (3), Fernando Abad (3), Tyler Robertson (3), Chris Marrero (2), Mauro Gomez (2), Drew Storen (2), Steve Lombardozzi (2), Rafael Soriano (2), Jeff Kobernus (1), Tyler Moore (1), Corey Brown (1), Adam LaRoche (1).
Dave’s Vote: Abad, Cedeno, Haren, Mattheus, Ohlendorf, Robertson, Marrero, Tracy, Hairston, Brown. Obviously, some of these are veterans whose time have run out. Some are failed prospects. Some are journeymen. None will be particularly missed.
Alyssa’s vote: I realize that many in Nats country will disagree with me, but I would still argue that if the Washington Nationals can move his contract elsewhere, Adam LaRoche’s days in the District may be over. Bear in mind, however, that could be quite the “if.” After all, LaRoche signed a two-year deal last winter for a guaranteed $12 million in 2014 and, at the very least, a $2 million buyout in 2015. LaRoche has contributed very little to the batting order – in fact, his peak batting average all season fell shy of .270. While everyone and their mother seemed to shake off LaRoche’s sluggish start to the season with an excuse along the lines of “That’s LaRoche being LaRoche,” his numbers never rebounded – he finished the season with a slash line of .237/.332/.403.
2. Will the Nats sign Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann to a long-term contracts extension before they reach free agency? Yes-both (9), No-both (0), Desmond only (3), Zimmermann only (2).
Dave’s Vote: Going out on a limb here, but I say they re-sign Zimmermann before he hits free agency, but Desmond waits and gets offers. If he has another big year in 2014, he’ll be poised to be one of the biggest free agents available at a very high-demand position.
Alyssa’s vote: Considering that Ian Desmond has two years left of arbitration, the Nationals are likely to do what it takes to come to terms on a contract extension before their shortstop hits free agency. Mike Rizzo has described Desmond as one of the team’s leaders and he has emphasized the importance of keeping home-grown talent in D.C. Desmond just missed the All-Star roster and finished up the season with 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .280/.331/.453 slash line. Keep in mind, there are few solid shortstops available on the market today and Desmond’s two 20-20 season seasons put him in elite company in the MLB history books.
Jordan Zimmermann could be a different story. While it is in the Nats’ best interest to secure a deal with this year’s 19-game-winner, Zimmermann’s strategy to hold off on a long-term deal last year could likely work again if he can boast similar numbers in 2014. With that said, the Nats can’t afford to let this year’s ace slip out of their grasp. Zimmermann finished off the season with a 3.25 ERA – a number that could have been significantly lower had it not been for a sloppy July. And, in many ways, he is getting better with time – he tossed the first two complete-game shutouts of his career – a one-hitter and a two-hitter – and his fastball consistently topped 95 in late September, while his slider reached 90.
3. What player was the biggest surprise for the Nats this season? Tanner Roark (7), Jayson Werth (6), Taylor Jordan (3), Ian Krol (1).
Dave’s Vote: Jayson Werth. I mean, seriously, who saw that coming. He put up the best season of his career and missed a month to boot. I had serious doubts the power would come back after yet another wrist injury last season. If he’s 80 percent of this next year the Nats will be in good shape.
Alyssa’s vote: This one is a bit of a no-brainer – the Nats’ biggest surprise this year has been 26-year-old right-hander, Tanner Roark. Roark finished the season with a 7-1 record and a 1.51 ERA over 53 ⅔ innings. In his short stint, he struck out 40 batters and kept the Nats close enough in the wild card hunt to keep things interesting through the late summer. Roark is certainly a candidate for a starter role next season, but it will be interesting to see if he can enjoy such success after facing opponents for a second and third time. After all, something doesn’t quite add up – this year, he recorded a 9-3 record with a 3.15 ERA at Triple A before his Aug. 9 promotion; however, in 2012, he was 6-17 with a 4.39 ERA. While that, of course, offers signs of development and improvement, it will be interesting to see whether his mid-80s slider continues to dazzle or players will figure out his pitching arsenal.
4. What player was the biggest disappointment for the Nats this season? Dan Haren (9), Danny Espinosa (6), Denard Span (2), Adam LaRoche (1).
Dave’s Vote: Espinosa. This is the second year in a row I’ve voted for Espinosa. It’s a damn shame he’s going to let pride ruin his baseball career. If he’d had the shoulder surgery last August the Nats would have gotten him back healthy at the All-Star break and he wouldn’t have broken his wrist. Now, he’s going to lose three seasons to what should have been a very fixable injury.
Alyssa’s vote: I think Denard Span takes home the title this year. Yes, his 29-game hitting streak brought fans back into the game at a time when the Nats weren’t playing meaningful baseball. And, yes, he had that fantastic catch against the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 14. But, those are essentially the only noteworthy contributions Span made this year – a year in which he was expected to be an explosive add for the Nats’ batting order. It’s true, players often struggle when adjusting to a new league, but Span’s hitting woes – particularly against left-handers – has been a bit mind-boggling. That’s not to say his dismal season is enough to warrant a trade – after all, his fielding has helped make up for what his bat has been lacking – but his .327 OBP is hardly what the Nats expected when they slated Span to be their leadoff hitter. Span’s speed on the base paths saved him a bit – he recorded 11 triples and stole 20 bags. But now, it’s up to Span to prove 2013 an outlier as he enters his second full season in the National League next year.
5. Who is your favorite professional Nationals writer? Adam Kilgore (7), Amanda Comak (4), Mark Zuckerman (3), James Wagner (1).
Dave’s Vote: Zuckerman. I’ll just re-post what I said last year — Mark’s perspective having been with the team since Day One is invaluable. It’s obvious from the community he’s built at Nats Insider that D.C. baseball fans appreciate his style and openness in covering the team. Because of his unique situation, he can blend analysis, commentary and opinion in his game stories much easier than the other beat writers, and his work is better for it — and better for the fans.
Alyssa’s vote: Adam Kilgore, for sure. That’s not to say there aren’t other quality writers on the Nats beat – there certainly are – but no other writer brings out the Nats’ personalities quite like Kilgore.
6. Who is your favorite non-professional Nationals writer? Harper Gordek-Nationals Baseball (2), Patrick Reddington-Federal Baseball (2), Citizens of NatsTown (2), Dave Nichols-District Sports Page (1), Luke Erickson-Nationals Prospects (1), Joe Drugan-The Nats Blog (1), Luigi deGuzman-Natstradamus (1), Nationals Archive (1), Nationals 101 (1), Sharkadina (1), Nationals Arm Race (1).
Dave’s Vote: Patrick Reddington-Federal Baseball. Patrick chronicles the daily, hourly and really, up-to-the-minute dealings of the Nats in such excruciating detail that it’s hard to fathom how he does it. His daily links post alone must take two hours to produce, let alone transcribing EVERY SINGLE radio, tv or podcast spot that has anything to do with the Nats. Then he conducts a live Game Thread and still manages to get a recap out minutes after the game ends. He’s a true workhorse for the advancement of dialog about the Nationals.
Alyssa’s vote: It’s honestly terribly difficult to pick a favorite Nats blogger, but I’d have to say I really admire the work that everyone at The Nats Blog has done this season. Both Joe Drugan and Erin Flynn provide very well-crafted game recaps that do more than simply rehash big plays – their writing styles make it clear that they still have fun reporting on this team, even when the Nationals offered plenty of reasons to be frustrated beyond recovery.
I’ve also burnt many an hour on the Nationals Archive website – and all of their Twitter feeds – so they certainly deserve a mention.
Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats, Caps, and Wizards and covers college football and basketball for the Associated Press. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Nationals coverage on Twitter @NationalsDSP or @DaveNicholsDSP.
Alyssa Wolice is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page, covering the Nationals and Wizards. As a former production assistant, she covered the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, D.C. United and local collegiate teams. You can follow her on Twitter @awolice.
For the last several seasons, the members of the D.C. Chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association have conducted a pre-season survey and post-season awards based on the current Washington Nationals season. This year’s post-season awards will be announced Friday. But I thought it would be fun to look back at our pre-season predictions group-think to see what we got right about 2013, and where we went horribly wrong.
1) Who will lead the Nats in home runs? Answer: Ryan Zimmerman–26
Bryce Harper — 15
Ryan Zimmerman — 8
Adam LaRoche — 5
Ian Desmond — 1
Danny Espinosa — 1
Most folks picked Harper, expecting him to explode in his second year. We shouldn’t feel too bad, most of the pros had Harper winning the MVP. Two months of injury after colliding with the Dodger Stadium wall put a dent in Harper’s counting stats, but the quality stats were right where we’d want them to be.
My pick was Ryan Zimmerman.
2) Who will lead the Nats in RBIs? Answer: Ian Desmond–80
Ryan Zimmerman — 19
Adam LaRoche — 6
Bryce Harper — 3
Ian Desmond — 1
Denard Span — 1
Matt from Matt’s Bats was the only person to pick Desmond. Nice call Matt. Desmond followed up his breakthrough season with another terrific year, cementing his position as one of the top three shortstops in the N.L. Has he priced himself out of a long-term deal in D.C., or will the Nats find a way to sign him to an extension before he becomes a free agent?
My pick was Zimmerman.
3) Who will lead the Nats in Stolen Bases? Ian Desmond–21
Denard Span — 22
Ian Desmond — 6
Bryce Harper — 3
Desmond beat out Span by one stolen base, though if Span hadn’t taken so long to get adjusted to the N.L., he probably would have topped this list.
My pick was Span.
4) Who will lead the Nats in wins? Jordan Zimmermann–19
Stephen Strasburg — 15
Gio Gonzalez — 8
Jordan Zimmermann — 6
Dan Haren — 1
A handful of folks had the stoic righty from Wisconsin as the surprise leader of the staff this season. Except for a few starts after the All-Star break, Zimmermann was consistently excellent. As with Desmond, he’s quickly earning a big payday himself.
My pick was Zimmermann.
5) Who will lead the Nats in bullpen appearances? Tyler Clippard–72
Tyler Clippard — 20
Craig Stammen — 8
Drew Storen — 1
Rafael Soriano — 1
Tyler Clippard has been the workhorse of the Nats bullpen for three years now. He just finds a way to continue to pump high fastballs and wicked changeups past everyone, lefty or righty. I’ve stopped worrying about overuse, so next year is when he finally gets hurt, right?
My pick was Craig Stammen.
6) Who will lead the Nats in catching at bats? Wilson Ramos–303
Wilson Ramos — 18
Kurt Suzuki — 13
Ramos narrowly beat out Suzuki due to his hamstring injuries robbing him of two months. His return, coupled with Werth’s, were the catalysts to the Nats second half offensive surge.
My pick was Ramos.
7) Which minor leaguer are you most interested in watching this season?
Anthony Rendon — 13
Matt Purke — 6
Nathan Karns — 3
Lucas Giolito — 3
Matt Skole — 1
A.J. Cole — 1
Eury Perez — 1
Rendon debuted in the bigs much earlier than anyone expected. Nate Karns got a brief tryout. Giolito was terrific in Rookie and Low-A. Purke continues to come back from shoulder problems. Skole missed the entire season after requiring Tommy John for his catching arm. Cole will be on everyone’s top prospect lists next year. Perez had a decent year in AAA but is losing the luster off his prospect shine.
My pick was Purke.
8) What will be the date of Anthony Rendon’s MLB debut? April 21
Sept. 1 — 9
July 19 — 2
June 1, June 14, June 24, July 1, July 8, July 27, Aug. 1, Aug. 15, Sept. 2, Sept. 3, Sept. 5, Sept. 9, Sept. 13, Apr. 1, 2014 — 1
No one came close. Rendon made his debut in April and was back for good in early June when the Nats finally gave up on Danny Espinosa. Rendon finished his rookie year .265/.329/.396 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 394 plate appearances.
My guess was June 1. But I did state the reason would be Danny Espinosa’s inability due to injury.
9) How many All-Stars will the Nats have? Who? 2—Jordan Zimmermann & Bryce Harper
4 — 13
5 — 6
3 — 8
6 — 2
Stephen Strasburg — 27
Bryce Harper — 24
Ryan Zimmerman — 20
Ian Desmond — 18
Rafael Soriano — 8
Gio Gonzalez — 7
Jordan Zimmermann — 7
Tyler Clippard — 3
Adam LaRoche — 3
Danny Espinosa — 1
Denard Span — 1
Everyone thought Strasburg was going to dominate, but he struggled some in the first half. He didn’t look dominant, had trouble with unearned runs and visibly showed frustration with things out of his control. Something triggered as some point and he was a much tougher pitcher down the stretch.
My picks were Jordan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. Like Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.
10) Number of wins and finish in the division? 86, second
98 — 6
94 — 4
99 — 4
101 — 3
100 — 2
95 — 2
92 — 2
97 — 2
96 — 1
93 — 1
90 — 1
89 — 1
86 — 1
First — 26
Second — 4
Congratulation to Steven Biel, the artist formerly known as FJB. He correctly predicted 86 wins and second place in the division. He had the lowest prediction of any Nats blogger, or pro for that matter. Remind me to consult FJB when picking lottery tickets next time.
My guess was 98 wins and first place.
Essay: What is the most important development for the Nationals this season?
Health for starting pitchers — 5
Managing high expectations — 3
Forgetting how last season ended — 2
Bullpen health — 2
Starters pitching more innings/deeper in games — 2
Getting younger in the minors
Draft without a first round pick
200 innings pitched for Strasburg
Managing the running game/pitchers holding runners
Overall defensive improvement
Continuing the development from 2012
Addition of Rafael Soriano to end of bullpen
Addition of center fielder/ lead-off hitter
Now that we can look back, the most important development for the Nats this season was health from their everyday players. Of the opening day lineup, Werth, Harper, Ramos, Espinosa and Zimmerman all suffered from injury or adjustments following surgery.
My answer was health in the starting rotation. The “Big Three” were all solid, but Detwiler missed four months and Haren spent two weeks on the D.L. as a rescue from being released.
DAVEY JOHNSON ENTERS RETIREMENT WITH A 1,372-1,071 MANAGERIAL RECORD
By many stretches, 162 games equates to a lot of baseball. To those who have never categorized months by spring training, regular season and playoffs, baseball appears to cover an overwhelming portion of the calendar year – too much, even. Throw into the mix, for the sake of humor, the fact Davey Johnson is now retired with an astounding 1,372-1,071 managerial record. Yes, on the surface, it all adds up to an exhaustive amount of baseball.
And yet, with Corey Brown’s grounder to Arizona first baseman Eric Chavez, the Washington Nationals officially closed out the 2013 season all too soon with a record of 86-76.
The Nats’ skipper had predicted earlier in the season that it would take a ball club a minimum of 90 wins to make it to the playoffs. While the Nats’ hopes seemed dashed long before 90 wins became impossible, Game 162 marks an abrupt end to a long season for any team omitted from October baseball – not the least, a team that many projected to win it all this year.
Nevertheless, the Nats left the field for the final time in 2013 after falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2.
But, the Nats’ last game had some noteworthy moments. Prior to first pitch, the D-backs honored Johnson, who closed the book on an honorable 17-year managerial career with the Nats’ loss.
Tanner Roark provided Washington with yet another solid outing, allowing just one run on three hits and a walk through seven innings pitched. Roark’s dominance allowed the Nats – staffed primarily with reserves – the opportunity to hand Johnson one more win.
Roark’s only trouble spot came in the first after Willie Bloomquist singled and Adam Eaton hit a sacrifice bunt, which Roark bobbled allowing the Diamondbacks to hold runners at first and second. Bloomquist came home on a sacrifice fly by Paul Goldschmidt to give Arizona a 1-0 lead they held onto until the sixth.
In the meantime, Arizona’s Wade Miley was sharp, shutting down the Nats until that point.
Tyler Moore began the sixth by reaching first on a throwing error. Zach Walters then tripled him home to tie the game before he came home himself on a single by Steve Lombardozzi.
That was enough for Roark, who achieved a final line of 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K with 70 of 95 pitches thrown for strikes.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Ryan Mattheus.
After Bloomquist struck out swinging, Eaton and Goldschmidt hit back-to-back singles. Martin Prado’s single made three – and marked the game-tying run. Mattheus forced Aaron Hill to hit a fly ball for out number two, but A.J. Pollock’s RBI single put Arizona on top once and for all, 3-2.
It is often said that anything short of a World Series ring represents a disappointment to any and all ball clubs. While a manager to be named will take the reigns on Washington’s “World Series or Bust” mantra next season, seven months stand between the Nats and their next shot at a Curly W.
Dan Haren’s performance was one of the biggest disappointments of the first half of the season for the Washington Nationals. Since returning from the disabled list mid-season, he’s been more of the pitcher they thought he would be. The Nats dug themselves too deep a hole to climb out of, and Haren’s second half performance ended up too little, too late.
Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Haren had another terrific performance, holding the D-Back to four hits over seven innings, leading the Nats to a 2-0 win, ensuring that manager Davey Johnson finishes his Major League managing career at least 300 games over .500.
Haren walked one and struck out five, using the same formula that has led him to post a 3.28 ERA since July 8, the day he was activated from the D.L.
The Nats couldn’t do much off Arizona starter Brandon McCarthy, but it was just enough, scoring single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Denard Span tripled to lead off the sixth and came in on Ryan Zimmerman’s ground out to short. The next inning, Chad Tracy launched his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot, to cap the scoring.
Drew Storen pitched a perfect eighth inning with a strikeout, and though Rafael Soriano made things interesting in the ninth, allowing a walk and a hit, he got the job done, earning his 43rd save of the season.
THE GOOD: Tracy went 2-for-3 with the homer, raising his season batting average to .202.
THE BAD: Ian Desmond went 0-for-4.
THE UGLY: We’ll refrain.
THE STATS: 6 hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks. 0-for-4 with RISP, 7 LOB. No errors or DPs.
NEXT GAME: Sunday at 4:10 pm ET against the Diamondbacks. Tanner Roark (7-1, 1.74) faces LHP Wade Miley (10-10, 3.63).