August 22, 2019

Washington Nationals Game 128 Review: Nats Blow Past Giants, Win Series

BEHIND A SIX-RUN SIXTH, NATIONALS TAKE 2-OF-3 FROM SAN FRANCISCO

In front of 35,000-plus at Nationals Park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball, the Washington Nationals defeated the San Francisco Giants by a score of 14-6 to end their 10-game homestand. [Read more…]

Statistically Speaking: Batting Expectations

From an offensive standpoint, the first half of the Washington Nationals’ 2014 has been fair to middling. Ranking sixth, seventh, and tenth in weighted on base average, weighted runs created plus, and wins above replacement, respectively, in the National League, the team thus far as produced runs at a slightly disappointing level, given the level and depth of hitting and run producing talent the lineup carries. Despite this mildly disappointing aspect of the Nationals’ 2014 season, the team has remained within shouting distance of first place in the NL East, making the expected unfulfilled, at least, as of yet.

A statistic that can be used to gauge the variation between expected and observed tendencies in hitting and help discern whether a spike or a slump in production is a product of skill or some other variable is batting average on balls in play, otherwise known as BABIP. Simply put, it measures how often a ball put in play by a hitter ends up a hit by taking their batted ball profile into account. As a rule of thumb, BABIP sits around .300, but can vary greatly between players and even between individual player seasons. From BABIP, additional calculations can be performed to derive a hitter’s expected BABIP (xBABIP), which can further refine the ramifications of a batted ball profile. While there are a number a methods to calculate xBABIP, the following is felt to be the most accurate:

xBABIP = 0.392 + (LD% x 0.287709436) + ((GB% – (GB% * IFH%)) x -0.152 ) + ((FB% – (FB% x HR/FB%) – (FB% x IFFB%)) x -0.188) + ((IFFB% * FB%) x -0.835) + ((IFH% * GB%) x 0.500)

…where LD% is line drive rate, GB% is ground ball rate, IFH% is infield hit rate, FB% is fly ball rate, HR/FB% is home runs per fly ball rate, and IFFB% is infield fly ball rate.

With the combination of BABIP and xBABIP, some of the more finicky aspects of a player’s season can be parsed out and determined as something that is indicative of a player’s skill, or something outside of his control and is one way to take stock of player performance at the halfway point and determine whether a streak or a slump will carry on into the summer months. Below, I have provided the career (cBABIP), 2013 (BABIP 2013), and 2014 (2014 BABIP) BABIPs as well as the projected 2014 BABIP based on 2013 numbers and the expected BABIP for the rest of the season (xBABIP 2014) based on this year’s performance thus far for the eleven Nats hitters who have had at last 100 plate appearances this year. With these values, we can identify Nats hitters who might be due for an uptick or drop in production based on their batted ball rates thus far; this can also be compared to last year’s numbers as well as career values to find help determine whether the waxing or waning of their 2014 BABIP is something that could be indicative of skill, or perhaps other variables, such as an injury, a change in hitting approach, a change in pitcher approach, or how a defense plays a hitter in terms of alignment or shifting:

red=decrease greater than 5 points in BABIP; yellow=increase or decrease of 0-5 BABIP points; green= increase in BABIP greater than 5 points.

cBABIP = career BABIP; xBABIP_proj = xBABIP using 2013 end of season stats. Red = decrease greater than 5 points in BABIP; yellow = increase or decrease of 0-5 BABIP points; green = increase in BABIP greater than 5 points. Difference in BABIP points measured based on previous column.

With the help of the color coding, we see that Ryan Zimmerman’s BABIP is pretty resistant to change, with the respective BABIP values over his career, 2013, and throughout this year staying within a couple of points of one another. On the other hand, Jayson Werth’s fantastic start to this year hasn’t fulfilled expectations that were in place using his final 2013 batted ball values, but is still in line with his career BABIP, which is encouraging. However, using up-to-date values and calculating his 2014 xBABIP, it appears he will possibly suffer a light drop in productivity. Adam LaRoche’s season has been a positive across the board in comparison to both last year and his career averages and appears to have the potential to get even better. We can also hope to see a over-correction in Denard Span’s BABIP later this season, eclipsing both his current and career BABIP.

The calculations for BABIP/xBABIP are based on batted ball data and as such, the swings in these values across and within a season can be caused by changed in one or many of these stats. Research has found that while BABIP itself does not correlate strongly year to year, metrics like GB% and HR/FB% can, thus providing additional layers of complexity when looking at the above table. With that in mind, provided below are each player’s change in the batted ball rates inherent to xBABIP, to help identify what is truly at the root of any egregious disparities in BABIP or xBABIP. First, differences between 2014 and 2013 data:

 

Player dLD% dGB% dFB% dIFFB% dHR/FB% dIFH%
Adam LaRoche 3.20% -2.10% -1.10% 1.30% 2.80% -8.10%
Anthony Rendon -5.50% -1.30% 6.80% -2.20% 3.50% -0.70%
Jayson Werth -7.80% 3.80% 3.90% 1.00% -10.60% -11.20%
Ryan Zimmerman -2.30% 0.10% 2.20% -4.10% -10.90% -12.20%
Wilson Ramos 5.70% -5.40% -0.30% 0.80% -19.30% -23.80%
Ian Desmond -6.70% 4.80% 1.90% 4.40% 5.40% -4.70%
Bryce Harper 0.10% -1.00% 0.90% -2.10% -13.80% -11.70%
Denard Span 0.30% -10.80% 10.50% -1.40% -2.40% 2.20%
Danny Espinosa 12.00% -8.80% -3.20% 7.50% 5.40% -1.90%
Kevin Frandsen 2.40% -5.50% 3.00% 10.10% -6.00% -7.40%
Nate McLouth -17.00% 15.80% 1.20% 1.90% -4.50% -3.30%
Jose Lobaton -1.40% 3.30% -1.90% -7.20% -3.20% -5.70%

…and here, differences in 2014 data compared to career averages:

Player dcLD% dcGB% dcFB% dcIFFB% dcHR/FB% dcIFH%
Adam LaRoche 3.90% -3.00% -0.90% -1.50% 0.50% 1.50%
Anthony Rendon -2.80% -0.60% 3.40% -1.00% 1.60% 0.70%
Jayson Werth -2.60% 1.30% 1.30% 2.60% -6.80% -0.30%
Ryan Zimmerman 0.10% 0.60% -0.70% -2.80% -6.70% -2.60%
Wilson Ramos 7.90% -1.50% -6.30% -2.20% -7.40% -0.50%
Ian Desmond -2.20% -0.70% 2.90% 4.20% 5.90% 1.00%
Bryce Harper -1.20% 0.20% 1.00% -2.80% -11.70% 0.60%
Denard Span 2.20% -9.40% 7.30% 2.70% -2.80% -1.80%
Danny Espinosa 5.30% -3.20% -2.10% 1.50% -0.30% 0.10%
Kevin Frandsen 1.70% -2.70% 1.00% 6.40% -2.40% -3.30%
Nate McLouth -11.30% 14.90% -3.60% -0.50% -6.50% -2.50%
Jose Lobaton 0.80% 1.30% -2.10% -5.20% -0.30% -1.60%

 

With both of these tables, positive numbers indicate 2014 data being an improvement over either 2013 or career averages. Overall, we see the volatility in year-to-year BABIP values reflected in the batted ball data, consistent with the effects of injury and game-to-game changes in hitting approach and defensive alignments being played out over a small period of time. Looking at the 2014 compared to career averages, we do see some significant changes in Denard Span’s ground ball rates, as well as with Bryce Harper’s HR/FB%; however, given the comparative lack of games played by Harper due to both MLB service time and injury, these values can be expected to swing a wildly as his year-to-year values for the moment. Other changes of interest include the career decline reflected in Nate McLouth’s numbers and the change in line drive and homer run rates for Wilson Ramos, possibly a reflection of an injury-marred career more so than a change in hitting philosophy.

Converting expectations into actual results is a precarious endeavor and can take unexpected turns during the course of a season; slumps, injuries, even the fashion in which opposing defenses line up for a given hitter can all make the most obvious and conservative of projections worthless, or at the least, frivolous.  However, with xBABIP, we are provided a more refined and data-driven approach to prognosticating what’s in store for Nats hitter come the second half of the season.

***

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs; current as of July 7th.

Washington Nationals Game 73 Review: Fister Pitches Gem in Nats’ 3-0 Win Over Braves

In front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park on Saturday night, Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister tossed his best game of the season to help his team reclaim the NL East lead by beating the Atlanta Braves, 3-0. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 54 Review: Nats Find Their Swing in 10-2 Rout of Texas Rangers

Powered by four homers at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon, the Washington Nationals continued their recent offensive outburst in a 10-2 rout of the visiting Texas Rangers.

On Friday night, the Nationals put up nine runs on 15 hits, including a towering Ian Desmond homer, to defeat the Rangers in the first game of the three-game set. A team that was once searching for offense certainly seems to have found something if Saturday’s slugfest is any indication. [Read more…]

Statistically Speaking: Catcher Effects on Pitching Pace

The job responsibilities of catching position can be very nuanced and many of the things that make a good backstop are attributes that rarely get noticed by fans. As an example, a recent ‘Fancy Stats‘ article by Neil Greenberg discussed the effect that Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton has on getting his pitchers extra strikes due to his pitch framing ability, a very subtle skill that is near intangible in contrast to abilities like hitting prowess or handling an opponent’s running game with your throwing arm.

A similar skill that can also often go unnoticed  from a pitcher’s perspective is pace—how quickly you are able to make a pitch, collect yourself, get the sign, and throw the next pitch. Given the effects of timing on the ultimate success of an at bat for a hitter and the need for a pitcher to disrupt this timing in order to get outs, pace can play an unheralded role in a pitcher’s performance.

Pace goes beyond a pitcher’s internal clock, with many factors based on the rapport a pitcher and catcher have with one another playing a role in the outcome and whether a pitcher’s pace is quick or slow; ultimately, there is a particular level of comfort that a pitcher has with a catcher with respect to pitch calling that can affect pace.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how the Nats starting rotation’s pace stats look, with the trio of catchers used so far in 2014—Sandy Leon, Jose Lobaton, and Wilson Ramos—taken into consideration. First, let me briefly discuss the data. PITCHf/x data from Nats games through May 5th was collected to calculate pace between pitches, with careful curation of the data done in order to remove outliers.

Ultimately, curation involved removing data points that were longer than 60 seconds and less than 10 seconds. This was done to remove first pitches of an inning, pitches after a home run (in order to counter the various lengths of time it took for hitters to jog around the bases), pitches where replay was involved, and other data that was felt to be physically impossible, with the hope that this pruning would give us the best picture possible of the effects of catcher on pitching pace. With these considerations in mind, let’s look at some pace results:

Pitcher Catcher Pace (secs)
Gio Gonzalez Jose Lobaton 25.068
Gio Gonzalez Sandy Leon 24.174
Jordan Zimmermann Jose Lobaton 26.310
Jordan Zimmermann Sandy Leon 25.927
Stephen Strasburg Jose Lobaton 26.349
Stephen Strasburg Sandy Leon 25.975
Stephen Strasburg Wilson Ramos 27.075
Tanner Roark Jose Lobaton 25.621
Tanner Roark Sandy Leon 24.483
Taylor Jordan Jose Lobaton 27.286
Taylor Jordan Sandy Leon 26.603

For reference, here are each player’s average pace—note that these averages were calculated using the aforementioned criteria, for those who use FanGraphs’ pace statistic and find a roughly four second shift in the pitcher’s averages:

Pos Name Pace (secs)
C Jose Lobaton 25.841
C Sandy Leon 25.664
C Wilson Ramos 27.075
P Gio Gonzalez 24.906
P Jordan Zimmermann 26.077
P Stephen Strasburg 26.360
P Tanner Roark 25.259
P Taylor Jordan 26.898

Across the board, pitchers are a little quicker when Sandy Leon is behind the dish. With the pitchers, Taylor Jordan appears to be the slow poke, even slowing down Leon’s typically quicker pace with the staff by roughly a second. Overall, we do see some effects of the catcher on a pitcher’s pace.

Is this a significant effect? Let’s run an analysis of variance (ANOVA) to see if it is—for those numbers averse, feel free to skip to the pretty picture further down the page.

Using pace as our dependent variable and pitcher and catcher as our independent variables, the ANOVA results are as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 11.12.04 AM

Cutting to the chase, we find that catcher does not have a significant effect on pace, but (no surprise here) the pitcher toeing the rubber does (p=0.022). Briefly, a Tukey’s test to look at the average differences between catchers:

Difference Lower Upper p adj
Sandy Leon-Jose Lobaton -0.176 -1.262 0.908 0.923
Wilson Ramos-Jose Lobaton 1.234 -1.588 4.056 0.561
Wilson Ramos-Sandy Leon 1.411 -1.457 4.278 0.481

Regarding the statistically significant results between pitchers, this stat was driven by the differences in pace between Gio Gonzlaez and Taylro Jordan, the quickest and slowest members of the rotation, with a difference of roughly two seconds in average notching a p-value of 0.04, which is just satisfies the criteria for significance of a p-value at or below 0.05. Additional ANOVA modeling including pitch type and inning did not show any statistically significant differences in average pace.

For the numbers averse crowd, welcome back! Overall, we did not find any statistically significant effects of catcher on average pace (or inning or pitch type), but did with pitcher. For those who a little more visual, the scatterplots below show show pace across inning, broken down by both pitcher and catcher, confirming the first table of results showing Leon getting pitchers to work quicker than Lobaton or Ramos:

Pace Across Pitcher and Catcher

While we don’t see any statistically significant results, pace is nonetheless an important aspect of the pitcher-catcher battery, and while again not a significant result, the quicker a starter works, the more success he tends to have, using RE24 as our marker of success:

Data courtesy of FanGraphs

Data courtesy of FanGraphs

While statistically these results aren’t terribly robust, the effects of pace (and the catcher) on the game are innately important, not only in its potential to disrupt hitter timing and rhythm, but also on a pitcher’s teammates. The longer a pitcher takes to decide what to throw, the longer his defense sits in their crouches, awaiting the ball to be put in play. The longer they wait, the greater potential to lose focus on the game and become distracted.

Pace also plays a role in length of game. In a recent interview, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell discussed how starting pitcher pace can negatively affect game length. Like many things related to the position, the catcher’s role on pitcher pace will remain a potentially critical piece in a game’s outcome, despite its statistically small effects.

Washington Nationals Game 22 Review: Nats rally from 3 runs down in ninth to top Angels 5-4

The Washington Nationals were staring down their first real slump of the 2014 season, trailing the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth, having dropped the first two games of the series. As Matt Williams said after the game though, “That’s why we play 27 [outs]. That’s why we have to play every out.”

The Nats made a furious comeback, capped by Adam LaRoche’s RBI single, which plated Jayson Werth from second base to deliver the Nats an unexpected 5-4 win, before 22,504 at Nationals Park.

The comeback started with Jose Lobaton homering off Angels closer Ernesto Friere (0-2, 9.35). After pinch-hitter Zach Walters struck out, Denard Span snuck a ground ball up the middle for a  single. Frieri walked Anthony Rendon on two close pitches, then Werth came to the plate.

The veteran, who seems to relish big ninth inning at bats, looked at three offerings — all outside the strike zone — then jumped on a 3-0 fastball, ripping it past the third base bag. The ball caromed off the jut in the left field fence and bounced into short left, where left fielder J.B. Shuck had to track it down. It took long enough for Rendon to scoot all the way home from first base with the tying run.

LaRoche then pounced on Friere’s next pitch, lining it over the shortstop to drive in Werth to start the celebration.

The ninth inning comeback made a winner of Drew Storen (2-0, 1.17), who gave up a run-scoring hit to Mike Trout in the top half of the inning.

The Nats struck first in what seemed like a different game. With one out in the second inning, Danny Espinosa bunted his way on and stole second base. A ground out by Lobabton moved him over to third, and Gio Gonzalez’ soft liner to left brought him home for the first run of the game.

Surprisingly, that single run didn’t stand up. Gonzalez cruised through five innings after a bit of a first inning scare. But he’d retired 11 in a row leading up to the sixth. Mike Trout drew a walk, and after ball one to Albert Pujols, pitching coach Steve McCatty came out to chat and Aaron Barrett started warming up. Pujols then smashed a double down the left field line that bounced off the jutting part of the fence in the same location Werth would later strike. Bryce Harper made a good play on the ball and his throw home was close, but Trout slid under the tag to tie the game.

Then, shockingly, after just 83 pitches, manager Matt Williams came out with the hook. Gonzalez finished with five innings pitch, two earned runs on four hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. After the game, Williams revealed Gonzalez experienced a bit of tightness in his shoulder in the cold weather, and the manager and player agreed that he should come out at that point.

Barrett was called upon, and after a ground out moved Pujols up a base, he scored on a single by Erick Aybar. Just like that, the Nats were trailing.

In the bottom half, Adam LaRoche beat the shift with a seeing-eye single. Harper came up an offered a bunt for strike one, then with two strikes inexplicable tried to bunt again, popping up foul for the out and slamming his bat in the batter box, showing his frustration.

The Angels added a run in the seventh. David Freese led off with a double off Barrett, went to third on a ground out to first, and scored on a wild pitch.

They weren’t done. In the ninth, Raul Ibanez scored from second on a single to left field by Trout. But all that did was set up the fireworks of the bottom half of the inning.

The Nats host the San Diego Padres in a four-game series starting Thursday at 7:05 pm. Jordan Zimmermann (1-1, 3.94) hosts LHP Eric Stultz (1-2, 4.35).

Washington Nationals Spring Training 2014 Preview Part III: The Catchers

Wilson Ramos "zooms" to first base on his walk-off single win over Phillies, May 4 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Wilson Ramos “zooms” to first base on his walk-off single win over Phillies, May 4 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As a whole, the Washington Nationals return mostly intact from the teams that won 98 games in 2012 and 86 games in 2013. This is a veteran team with high aspirations of competing in the World Series. I hardly think rookie manager Matt Williams will boldly proclaim “World Series or Bust” as his predecessor did, but the implications are there.

If the team overachieved in ’12 and underachieved last season, what is the logical progression for 2014? If the ’12 and ‘13 results had been flipped, I think everyone would be riding the Nats as an odd-on favorite this season. They may be anyway.

With a rotation as solid No. 1 through No. 4 as any in baseball, a deep bullpen, an infield full of silver sluggers and a versatile outfield led by a burgeoning superstar, the Washington Nationals seem poised to make noise this season on a national level.

For the next two weeks, District Sports Page will preview the Washington Nationals 2014 season. This week, we’ll do profiles of the players on the 40-man roster and significant non-roster invitees, players that have a chance to make an impact on the Nats roster this season.

Here’s the schedule:

Monday: The Infield
Tuesday: The Outfield
Wednesday: The Catchers
Thursday: The Rotation
Friday: The Bullpen

In week two, we’ll profile the manager and front office, reveal our Top-25 minor leaguers and prospects, examine the “big picture” the Nats this season, and do a little statistical analysis and projecting.

Donning the tools of ignorance…

THE CATCHERS

Wilson Ramos: Ramos enters his age 26 season on an upswing, having mashed 16 homers in 303 PAs last season. The second of those numbers is the troubling one, as Ramos has spent much of the past two seasons recovering from various injuries. When he was healthy in ’11, he amassed 435 PAs and slugged .267/.334/.445. In ’12 he was on pace for that again, but only played 25 games due to knee surgery. Last year, it was a hamstring that limited him to 78 games. You get the point by now. If the Nats can keep Ramos healthy, they have a potential 20+ homer, All-Star behind the plate. If not, they made a move right before spring training to act as insurance.

Jose Lobaton: Meet Wilson Ramos insurance. The Nats acquired Lobaton from the Tampa Bay Rays the day before pitchers and catchers reported, along with two minor league prospects, in exchange for pitcher Nathan Karns. Lobaton is a late bloomer, as the 29-year-old has just 191 games of big league experience. Last year in 311 PAs, the switch-hitter hit .249/.320/.394 with seven homers while taking over when Jose Molina got injured. He’s a good defensive catcher, adept at framing pitches, and is universally praised by pitchers that have worked with him, though he doesn’t have the strongest throwing arm. He is the quintessential backup MLB catcher.

Jhonatan Solano: The man they call “Onion” has a great story – riding in the back of an onion truck across country lines in South America in order to attend a big league tryout camp. But his playing career is a pretty typical story – adequate behind the plate but not exceptional, just “okay” plate discipline for the position (career .302 OBP in almost 2,000 minor league PAs), and no power. Solano, 28, will continue to toil as a minor league catcher, but the Nats trade for Lobaton says all one needs to know about Solano’s chances in the majors. This was his shot, and instead the Nats went outside the organization and gave up a legitimate asset for help.

Sandy Leon: Leon, 25, just can’t hit. He’s a quality receiver with a good arm, but his lifetime minor league .237/.325/.325 masks his dreadful ’13, as he hit just .177/.294/.252 in 374 PAs. He was enjoying a good 2012, hitting .322/.396/.460 in just 64 games when Ramos’ knee injury necessitated his emergency call-up to the bigs. Then, in his debut game, he was run over by Chase Headley on a play at the plate, suffering a high ankle sprain that robbed him of much of the rest of his season. Perhaps his 2013 numbers were stifled with regaining strength in the leg. But nothing he had done prior to his outburst in ’12 indicates any real long-term gain.

Chris Snyder: Snyder was signed as a non-roster invitee and will probably be Solano’s caddy in Syracuse, kept around in case of catastrophic injury behind the plate. He was once a very useful catcher with pop, but at 33 he’s just hanging on for now.

Koyie Hill: Hill, 35, was once a highly-regarded catching prospect, but that clearly was last decade. He’s never hit in the Majors (.206/.266/.287) and was signed principally as a spring training bullpen catcher with Major League experience.

Washington Nationals acquire Lobaton and two minor leaguers from Rays for Karns

The Washington Nationals made a move Thursday to shore up their catching — and restock their minor league system a bit in the process as well.

From the press release:

The Washington Nationals today acquired catcher Jose Lobaton, outfielder Drew Vettleson and left-handed pitcher Felipe Rivero from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nathan Karns. The Nationals also placed right-handed pitcher Erik Davis on the 60-Day Disabled List with a right elbow sprain. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

A native of Acarigua, Venezuela, Lobaton played in a career-high 100 games for Tampa Bay last season and hit .249 with 15 doubles, seven home runs and 32 RBI en route to an above-grade .320 on-base percentage and a .394 slugging mark.

Lobaton, a switch-hitter, will back up starter Wilson Ramos and provide Major League insurance against the possibility of Ramos injury, always a concern with the burly catcher. The Nats signed veteran Chris Snyder to go along with holdovers Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon, but it’s been no surprise the Nats have been chasing Lobaton all offseason.

Lobaton is a highly-regarded defensive catcher, adept at framing pitches, something the Tampa organization specializes in. The 29-year-old backstop is a career .228/.311/.343 hitter with nine home runs in 564 plate appearances, with seven of his career homers coming last season when he amassed 311 plate appearances for the Rays.

The two other pieces the Nats receive are intriguing. Vettleson and Rivero were both ranked among the Rays top-10 prospects by different scouting services, though both might have stalled a bit in their development this past season.

Vettleson, 22, was a supplemental first round pick for the Rays in 2010, taken 42nd overall as a high schooler. As a 19-year-old in rookie ball in 2011 he hit .282/.357/.462 with seven homers in 267 PA. In 2012 at Low-A, those number dipped to .275/.340/.432, though his 15 homers and 24 doubles were encouraging. Last season at High-A, however, his numbers fell again (.274/.331/.388) with just four homers. The Nats will probably want to challenge him at Double-A this season, and this appears a make-or-break year for him prospect-wise.

Rivero, 22, is a slight (6’0″, 150) left-handed starting pitching prospect from Venezuela. In parts of five minor league seasons, he’s 29-25 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.298 WHIP, 7.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9; both peripherals went the wrong way in 2013 with a promotion to High-A though, as his walk rate went up by more than one walk per nine and the K rate dropped by 1.2.  Again, there’s talent there but Rivero is going to have to prove himself in Double-A this season or risk a transfer to the pen.

The Nats get this return in exchange for Nathan Karns, a former 12th round pick, who obviously had fallen in the pecking order in the Nats rotation prospects, passed by Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark and possibly even A.J. Cole. Karns was rated the Nats No. 9 prospect by Baseball America this season and has a big fastball and hard slider, but his other offerings are little more than works in progress right now. He’s 26, so he’s old for a prospect and the Rays obviously see him closer to the bigs in their rotation depth than the Nats do at this time.

I see a lot of Craig Stammen in Karns, and have always believed Karns would excel in the role that Stammen does for the Nats. Still, the Rays gave up a lot to acquire him, so I’m sure they’ll give him every opportunity (and then some) to stick in the rotation.

The other news was bad: reliever Erik Davis, expected to compete for a role in the Nats pen this season, was placed on the 60-day DL with an elbow strain. Davis reported some soreness in the elbow during early throwing in January and after a four-week shutdown, the pain continued once he resumed throwing. He’s slated to be shut down for six to eight weeks at this point with the hopes that the strain heals and Davis can avoid surgery, which would cost him the entire season.

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