Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Craig Stammen gets called up from Syracuse for the start, supersub Alberto Gonzalez gets a start at short, and Roger Bernadina starts in right. Result: the offense wakes up, the defense doesn't commit any errors, and the Nats post a curly W with a 7-2 win over the Braves. Patrick Reddington brings the happy news.

Definitely related: Mark Zuckerman puts up a couple of good posts about Gonzalez and Nyjer Morgan's struggles.

April Whitzman brings the news & notes from the farm system for Tuesday.

In Lancaster, Dan Reichert pitches eight shutout innings with 11 K's as the Blue Crabs win one from the Barnstormers. Crabs remain one game ahead of the surging Riversharks, who have won their last four games.; there'll be one last game in Lancaster tonight before the team comes home to Regency Furniture Stadium for a four-game showdown with Camden over the Independence Day weekend.

In the Orioles farm system, the Baysox took the second game against Erie last night 6-5, and going for the sweep tonight on Daddy/Daughter Date Night, which is also Wawa Wednesday. In Frederick, the Keys lost a close one to the Blue Rocks 3-2, and head off to Salem for the start of a six-game road trip.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Nightmare Before (During & After) Strasmas?

Another loss last night, this time to the Braves. Cue Patrick Reddington. At least it wasn't the Royals this time.

Screech's Best Friend thinks Riggleman could have done a better job managing last night, focusing specifically on his decision to have Ian Desmond bunt Bernadina over from second with the team down 5-0. Couldn't agree more. Mark Zuckerman notes that the fans are getting irate at the seemingly unending string of losses.

I'm a  little confused by Harper's post at Nationals Baseball. He's trying to get inside the GM's head and figure out how (or if) he's going to react to the current losing streak, and I'm not sure I follow what he's saying. It's still worth reading. There's talk about trading Dunn - sure, the White Sox would love to have him, but what do they have that the Nationals want? Also, the Sports Bog reports that Rob Dibble has had it with the Nationals' defense. (h/t Capitol Punishment)

Brian Oliver brings the (mostly good) news from the farm.

The Blue Crabs' winning streak came to an abrupt end last night as Tommy Herr's Lancaster Barnstormers took both ends of the doubleheader,  11-6 and 2-1. There's two more games left before the Crabs head home for the July 4th weekend.

Over in the O's system, the Baysox take the opener at Erie, 10-9, while in Frederick the Keys lose to the Blue Rocks 4-3.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Stop it. Just stop it right now.

If there's one thing I have grown tired of seeing on my peregrinations through the Natosphere (well, aside from the constant calls from some folks to trade Adam Dunn  for anything, even a bag of magic beans) it's the utterly false and depressing claim that the Nats are the worst defensive team in baseball. I mean, I'd like to think my fellow Nationals fans aren't, on average, as stupid, ill-mannered, and deliberately ignorant as their cousins in Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis (to name but a few) for whom nothing but wins and saves matter for pitchers, nothing but batting average and RBI matter for hitters, and nothing but errors matter when it comes to fielding. Unfortunately, reading the comments at the WaPo's Nationals Journal and Mark Zuckerman's Nationals Insider is shaking my faith. There's way too many people out there that get an idea stuck in their head, and once it's stuck no amount of proof to the contrary is going to change their mind. Certainly not statistics! Perhaps coincidentally, a lot of those people are Anonymous Cowards, as they say at Slashdot, the kind of people who can't be bothered to take a few seconds to log in with their Google ID, their Facebook ID, or some other easily-established ID that would allow us to detect which idiots we could ignore safely. Or maybe that's the point.

Well, enough spleen venting. We're just going to have to ignore the anonymous folk and move along to the main question: Are the Nationals, in fact, the worst defensive team in the major leagues? Or even the National League? Sure, we lead the league in errors, and our team fielding percentage is 16 out of 16...but it's been known for years that neither of those statistics is really any good when it comes to answering the question we're asking. For reasons I've explained in this post, I tend to prefer Range Factor when it comes to evaluating defensive quality in fielders; it doesn't work well for catchers and first basemen, but everywhere else it will serve quite nicely. So let's go look at the Nationals' fielding page on and see what we can see.

Starting with the catching corps, it helps to remember that the two things we evaluate catchers on are handling of pitchers (which nobody has a decent stat for yet) and throwing out would-be base stealers. In the latter category, Pudge is clearly the better of our two receivers, taking out 42% of the would-be thieves (clearly above league average) while Wil Nieves is a little under the league average at 24%. For what it's worth, B-R rates Pudge as being three runs better than an average catcher and Wil one run better using the Fielding Runs statistic. I'm not a big fan of the linear weights stats, since I think they mash up too many disparate stats into one generic rating, but it's another tool we can use to make useful comparisons.

At first base, it's hard to tell much from the stats we have, but one thing is very clear: using the conventional metric of fielding percentage, Adam Dunn isn't the iron-handed menace to the defense some people claim he is. In fact, his fielding percentage is slightly above the league average, and actually better than his occasional defensive replacement Adam Kennedy; dragging the R score into this, we see that Dunn is actually far better than Kennedy over the course of a season (1200 innings/135 games).

Second base is full of controversy. At the beginning of the season, the plan was to shift Cristian Guzman from short to second to make room for Ian Desmond while keeping Guzman's bat in the lineup. Adam Kennedy was signed as a defensive replacement in addition to Alberto Gonzalez, one of the team's utility infielders. So far Guzman has actually worked out well at second - better than Kennedy, who has committed the same number of errors while playing only 40% of the time. The smart move would be to dump Kennedy and let Gonzalez, a far better fielder and no worse a hitter, take the innings he would have used up, but this is a team that can't seem to rid itself of Willie Harris, so...

Ryan Zimmerman has played the vast majority of the time at third base, with occasional late-inning appearances by Gonzalez and Kennedy. Zim has committed 8 of the 11 errors at third, and his range has declined to slightly below the league average. Here, too, Kennedy is a defensive liability instead of the late-inning upgrade he was supposed to be, while Gonzalez plays quite well in the hot corner when he gets a chance.

Ian Desmond, despite committing eighteen errors so far this year, is a significant defensive upgrade from Guzman at shortstop. Guzman has done well in short stints there this year, but even in his best years he never had the range that Desmond has now.

In the outfield, Josh Willingham's range factor is a little above league average in left, Morgan ditto in center (despite the five errors) while Maxwell and Morse are both (still) clearly better in right than Bernadina. There really isn't anywhere for Morse to go on this team; they should trade him to a team that can use a good fourth outfielder (Seattle?), release Harris, and make room for Maxwell as the utility outfielder. The kid is 26, the same age as Bernadina, and we're wasting his time and ours letting him pile up numbers in Syracuse.

So...if at most positions our players are better than the league average, and only in one or two are they worse, how can  the Nationals be the worst defensive team in baseball? They can't be, and they aren't. The rest of the season will prove me right, I'm sure.

Fiasco III: With A Vengeance

Well, so much for Adam Kennedy being a defensive improvement over Cristian Guzman at second, an opinion that isn't really supported by the stats. Kennedy threw away the ball trying for a double play in the O's half of the fifth, allowing the tying run to score, and then Tyler Clippard coughs up the winning hit in the eighth. Welp. More details from Patrick Reddington, if you want them. Mark Zuckerman asks if maybe it's time for one of the players to step up and have a little "come to Jesus" talk with the rest of the team. Harper at Nationals Baseball examines the collapse of the team from possible contenders into the drearily familiar cellar of the NLEast.

Brian Oliver brings the weekend roundup for the farm teams; for just the Sunday results, April Whitzman at NatsProspects has the News & Notes.

Left fielder Richard Giannotti singles in the winning run for the Blue Crabs in the bottom of the ninth, giving Southern Maryland a 6-5 victory and a sweep of Sparky Lyle's Somerset Patriots. Camden won yesterday as well, so the Blue Crabs hold their 3-game lead at 37 and 25, while the Patriots fall 3.5 games back in the Freedom Division behind York. The Crabs hit the road for a four-game series against Lancaster, starting with a double-header tonight at 6.

Bowie lost to the Curve 12-3 last night, foiling the Baysox' hopes for a sweep; down in Frederick, the Keys pounded the Wilmington Blue Rocks 10-3. Tonight's Bark in the Park night at Harry Grove Stadium, as well as Kids Eat Free night, so bring the dog and the kids. :)

There's more stuff I want to talk about out there, but I have an accounting final tonight so it'll have to wait.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rule 5 Sunday - The Woman Behind The Man Behind The Plate II

On the one hand, the Nationals and their wives aren't being stalked by hordes of papparazzi and continually pestered by fans for autographs while trying to get a bite at Five Guys, which is a good thing, but on the other hand it sure makes doing this feature of the blog a damn sight harder. Fortunately, the Nats320 blog came to my rescue this Sunday with a heart-warming post about Wil and Yormarie Nieves' support of the Capitol Area Food Bank last June, featuring some great photos of the lovely couple. Go read the whole thing; it features some folks from the Nationals' front office doing some good works as well.

[Note: the original version of this post had copies of the photos posted. I screwed up in not noting that the photos were copyrighted, and have taken them down at the blogger's request. Sorry, guys.]

Somewhat related: a good article by Kate Kirkpatrick in the WaPo about the glamorous, exciting lives of Nationals wives. Or, actually, not so glamorous. RTWT.

Fiasco II (Electric Throwback Boogaloo)

I caught the last three innings of this atrocity while eating dinner at Carpool in Arlington, and honestly wish I hadn't. Well, at least they didn't throw the game away this-oh, wait...they did. DAMN IT! Patrick Reddington has all the horrible details.

On a more positive note, Sue Dinem at Nationals Prospects has the news from the Nationals' farm system.

The Blue Crabs won again last night, posting a 6-1 victory over the Somerset Patriots in support of lefty starter Craig Anderson's eight scoreless innings. This win puts the Blue Crabs three games up on the Camden Riversharks with nine games left to play in the first half, and they'll be going for the sweep tonight at 5:05 on Meet The Team Sunday.

Baysox made it three straight against the Curve in Altoona last night, winning 5-3; they'll be going for the sweep tonight. Meanwhile, the Keys took the rubber game of the match against the Winson-Salem Dash and will be hosting the Wilmington Blue Rocks tonight at 6 PM. They're having a Lil' Kins giveaway, playing catch on the field before the game, and shooting off some fireworks afterward.

Joe Posnanski's looking to put together a list of the top 100 sports books. Go on over and add your favorites to the list. I'm thinking of doing my own (much shorter) list of favorite baseball books.

Rule 5 Sunday post will be up later.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Game 74: WTF?

Doghouse at Federal Baseball says it most simply and best: Fiasco. Or would you prefer Nats320's In The Most Awful Way Imaginable? They both  work for me. Patrick Reddington with the recap. It pretty much figures, though: the Nats get the bats to wake up, T-Plush starts hitting & playing defense as we all know he could, and then the infield defense kills us. Mark Zuckerman justifiably rails about the errors, but sames some flames for Riggleman's ridiculously dumb managing last night that set up Clip & Save to fail. Nationals Fanboy Looser places the blame squarely on the manager's shoulders. My opinion? Rizzo needs to have some words with his manager and let him know that not only do things need to change, they need to change now if he wants to keep managing.

Looking at the defensive stats, it does look as though Desmond's glove has followed his bat into its slump. His range factor per nine innings has gone below the league average, as has Guzman's at second base, although neither of them are more than a couple well-played games away from getting back over that line. I'm still thinking that Desmond's errors are a result of him getting to balls that other shortstops wouldn't have gotten close to, but he does need to work on his throwing. Problem is, if they've been doing infield drills before every game, and he's just getting worse, what's the answer? More one-on-one work with Listach, who was a decent shortstop in his days with the Brewers? I don't know, but I hope someone on the Nationals staff figures it out soon.

Steven at Fire Jim Bowden turns a critical eye on the Jason Marquis signing. Nationals News Network joins the chorus calling for Willie Harris to be released; so far, we're the only ones suggesting that Maxwell come back up. 

Down on the farm, Rochester and Harrisburg posted wins while the Class A teams suffered the agony of defeat. April Whitzman at NationalsProspects has the rundown; Sue Dinem posts a game report from Woodbridge where the P-Nats fell to the Pelicans.Speaking of the P-Nats, they'll be having their annual silent auction on July 3. Lots of cool stuff available.

The Blue Crabs bounced back from their Thursday loss to the Newark Bears and  gave a 7-2 drubbing to Sparky Lyle's Somerset Patriots last night in St. Charles, pounding out six runs from the fifth inning onward to give reliever Chris Mobley his third win of the season. The Blue Crabs now have a two-game lead atop the Atlantic League's Liberty Division with ten games left in the first half. Tonight's game is NASCAR Night, with fireworks after the game.

Down on the Orioles farm, the Baysox kicked off their three-game series at Altoona with a 5-1 win, breaking a 1-1 tie in the top of the ninth with four runs scored off Curves reliever Mike Dubee and securing win number 7 for Baysox starter Zach Britton. The Keys took the rubber game of their match against Winston-Salem with an 11-2 laugher, lighting up Dash starter Charlie Leesman for six runs and going on to brutalize the bullpen for five more.

Inside blogball: Nationals Fangirls are moving up in the food chain later this summer, joining a blog network being launched by Albritton Communications, parent company of WJLA-TV here in Washington as well as News Channel 8 and those scumsuckers at Good luck to you, ladies!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yesterday was a good day for the Nationals.

No game, therefore no loss. (Too soon?)
Tonight marks the beginning of a three-game series against the hapless Orioles. Here's hoping The Nationals find out which end of the bat does the hitting this weekend; the O's are on track to match the 1962 Mets, and it seems a shame to interrupt their rendezvous with destiny. Yes, I do carry grudges; why do you ask?

Moving right along, Hagerstown and Potomac were back in action last night, both posting wins; Syracuse and Harrisburg didn't. Details from Brian at NFA; also, the Nationals are making good progress signing their draftees.

The Nats blogosphere's been talking a lot about the Nationals' offensive woes. Natsstats over at Federal Baseball goes a little deeper.

The Bears avoided a sweep last night in St. Charles, pummeling Blue Crabs starter (and former Royal) Dan Reichert for six runs in the first inning on their way to an 11-3 win. Tonight's game is the start of a three-game set against the Somerset Patriots (33-26), managed by former Yankees closer Sparky Lyle. The Patriots have a one-game lead in the season series so far. Tonight's game is also Redskins Night, featuring Chief Zee and the Hogettes and Redskins-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off during the game.

Over in the O's farm system, the Baysox avoided a sweep as well, downing the Reading Phillies 6-3; they'll continue their road trip tonight in the first of three games at Altoona. The Keys, on the other hand, fell to Winston-Salem 7-4.

Elsewhere in baseball, there's a good interview with Craig Wright at . (h/t Rob Neyer)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Grinch That Stole Strasmas

Yup, that was Brian Bannister of the Royals doing his Zack Greinke imitation against the Nationals yesterday, blanking them 1-0 with the help of reliever Robinson Tejeda and closer Joakim Soria. Steven Strasburg pitched an okay game himself, going six innings with 9 K's and no walks but giving up nine hits to the light-hitting Royals for a game score of 59-  a quality start, but not much better than Luis Atilano's start yesterday.
Yes, Hunter Wendelstedt clearly blew the call on Roger Bernadina, but it shouldn't have come down to one damn run. Patrick Reddington has all the ugly details at Federal Baseball. Mark Zuckerman says there's plenty of offensive blame to spread around. In any case, who would have thought Strasburg's first defeat would come at the hands of the lowly Royals? Meanwhile, in the Poorly Timed Posts department, Mike Henderson argues that Strasburg ought to go to the All-Star Game.

Both the Class A farm teams were off last night, but there was action in Syracuse, Harrisburg and Vermont, (not to mention the GCL) last night. Brian Oliver puts us some knowledge.

Down in St. Charles, the Blue Crabs took the second game in the series against Newark 4-0 and go for the sweep tonight at 7:05.

On the other hand, the Baysox got thumped again by the Reading Phillies, 8-3; Frederick is still on the Carolina League All-Star break.

Meanwhile, Rob Dibble deploys his mad analytical skillz:
Almost certainly inspired by this. Kinda makes me glad I was in class last night and not actually watching that, and I like Rob. :facepalm:
(h/t Fire Jim Bowden)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hump Day Dump Day

Luis Atilano pitched...adequately...last night, giving up six hits and one earned run in 5.1 innings for a game score of 57, which is sorta kinda a quality start. With the offense chipping in for four runs (including Josh Willingham's 100th career dinger), and the bullpen holding the lead (pay no attention to the shaky Matt Capps performance in the ninth!) it was good enough for a second Curly W against the Royals, and with Strasburg taking the mound tonight, a lot of folks are no doubt thinking sweep. Mark Zuckerman certainly is. We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, Patrick Reddington does his usual excellent job on the recap over at Federal Baseball. Jorge Castillo at the WaPo also notes that last night was another milestone, this time for Pudge Rodriguez, who marked his 2434th game last night, making him the Puerto Rican with the most games played in the major leagues, ahead of legendary outfielder Roberto Clemente. Pudge already has the record for most games played at catcher, having passed Carlton Fisk last June.

Harper at Nationals Baseball is unhappy with Ian Desmond, whose offense for the season has slipped to .254/.289/.386 for an OPS of .675, worst of the starters except for Nyjer Morgan. On the other hand, he's still fielding better than the league average, so I don't think he needs to worry about being sent down any time soon. Steven at FJB isn't too happy either, but he's annoyed with Riggleman for bringing in Capps when Tyler Walker would have done just as well.

Brian at Nationals Farm Authority has the farm team roundup and a quick summary of the California/Carolina Leagues' All-Star Game.

Meanwhile, over in the O's farm system, the Baysox lost to Reading 7-5; in the Atlantic League, the Blue Crabs held on to beat the Newark Bears 3-2.

Back in the land of the Metrodome, Aaron Gleeman serves up some notes on the Twins.

And that's it for Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our long Nationals nightmare is over

Well, it ended the losing streak, at least. Livan pitched in and out of trouble last night, Clip n' Save performed as advertised...but the offense didn't really do much. If we have to rely on dingers from Guzman and Morse to get those curly W's, we're going to be in a world of hurt. Pat Reddington has the details on last night's game. Ben Goessling provides a clip of Riggleman's post-game interview.

After John Lannan packed his bags for Harrisburg (and, hopefully, a headspace adjustment from Randy Tomlin) the question inevitably arises: who's going to replace him? Mark Zuckerman looks at three possibilities. While we're on the topic of John Lannan, Steven at Fire Jim Bowden doesn't like the way Rizzo handled this one bit, and neither does Chris at Capitol Punishment. One has to wonder - when are the other non-performing assets on the roster going to be sent on their way? Given the way the offense has been sputtering of late, I don't see how we can justify leaving Willie Harris and Taveras continue to leech playing time from Morse and Bernadina, who are clearly better players. It would also clear space to get someone in center field who fields better than Nyjer Morgan.

Brian Oliver brings the word about the farm teams.

Meanwhile in St. Charles, the Blue Crabs (32-24) swept four games at Long Island to take a half-game lead in the Atlantic League's Liberty Division. They'll be hosting the Newark Bears (18-38) in a three game series starting tonight; so far this season the Crabs have a 5-2 lead in the season series, including three wins in the Bears' home turf earlier this season. The Bears are managed by former Expos outfielder Tim Raines, while the Blue Crabs are led by former Red Sox  third sacker Butch Hobson, who has made a second career out of managing in the independent leagues. Tickets for tonight's game available here; note that kids under 5 get in free.

Over in Bowie, the Baysox are doing much better than the parent club, posting a 36-33 record in the Eastern League's Western Division, most recently taking two out of three from the Nats' AA farm team in Harrisburg. They're on the road for three games each against Reading and Altoona, coming home for a double-header against Erie on the 28th which will combine Tailgate Tuesday (featuring live music by Terry Glaze of Pantera) with a Twilight promotion featuring blood chugging, book & ticket giveaways, and trivia contests. Should be an interesting mix.

Meanwhile,  the Baysox' single-A partners in Frederick have nailed down the first-half title in the Northern Division of the Carolina League with a 41-29 record. They're off until Tuesday due to the Carolina League All-Star break.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rule 5 Sunday...

...falls on a Monday this week. To atone for lateness, you get a twofer. Making our way around the infield, we start with the extremely attractive former wife of catcher Ivan Rodriguez, Maribel, shown here at a New York social function a few years back, before the divorce:

 Very nice. Perhaps not as nice, but certainly attractive, is Rachel Dunn, wife of towering first baseman Adam:

Who should not be confused with the other Rachel Dunn:

...who plays something called "netball" in England.
Okay, so that's three pictures. This Rule 5 business can be pretty addictive! :)


The less said about the sweep by the White Sox, the better. I'm going to assume you've already heard the bad news and all the details you want, so let's move on to the big news of the day: John Lannan getting optioned to Harrisburg, his roster spot being filled by Syracuse closer Joel Peralta.  Word is he was sent to Harrisburg instead of Syracuse because of his previous work with Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin; more details from Mark Zuckerman here. Jenn at Nationals Fangirls bids John a fond farewell and hopes to see him again soon. So do we all.

The long losing streak has brought out a number of calls to make with the pink slips, make some trades for younger talent, and rebuild for next year. A good example of this is Steve at Fire Jim Bowden; Harper at Nationals Baseball thinks likewise. David Pinto observes that Strasburg hasn't lived up to his moniker of Baseball Jesus.

On a happier note, Patrick Reddington spends five minutes with closer Matt Capps. Also, five minutes with Tyler Clippard.

Brian Oliver has a weekend roundup posted for the farm teams, and a lot of other interesting stuff. to go with it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day.

Here's hoping the Nats give us dads something else to be happy about today. Yesterday's shutout by Jake Peavy was not that sort of thing. Patrick Reddington, as usual, has the details over at Federal Baseball.

Steven at FJB has a suggestion about the offense.  Mark Zuckerman observes that Pudge will continue to be a part of that offense as he makes a run at 3000 hits. Not that he's going to need that for Cooperstown, but it won't hurt. Nats Triple Play seems to be arguing for some creative roster destruction in order to get the offense going.

Elsewhere, Mike Henderson notes Craig Stammen's shutout at Syracuse and speculates that Craig may be back with us soon.

And that's all your linkagery for June 20. Enjoy your Sunday.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Missed it by THAT much.

Apologies for the lack of linkagery yesterday - I readily admit to being bummed out by Atilano being the third Nats pitcher to be used as a chew toy by the Tigers offense, but I also had a raft of errands to run yesterday that kept me away from the keyboard. So...on the off chance you haven't seen or heard enough about it already, here's the AP recap for the Thursday game.

Moving right along, yesterday the Pale Hose and the First Fan came to Cominskey Nationals Park and presumably went away happy as the Sox beat the Nats in extra innings despite Strasburg turning in another double-digit set of K's before heading to the shower. Patrick Reddington does his usual fine job on the recap, with lots of Strasburg quotes. Also from Reddington at Federal Baseball, a quick snip of Riggleman's comments from the pregame about rehabbing starters Jordan Zimmerman and Jason Marquis.

Ben Goessling thinks the Nats' chances for a playoff berth are fading, and he's not the only one. Me, I never took those chances too seriously - it's a long season, with plenty of time for perennial contenders like the Braves and Mets to retool, reload, and re-establish their dominance. Harper at Nationals Baseball asks the question: deal or no deal, and who gets dealt? Lively discussion in the comments.

Chris Needham is not happy. Clearly, the bloom is off the Strasmas rose for Chris. ;-)
Things were none too good down on the farm either, as Brian Oliver reports. Brian also provides a link to John Sickels' evaluation of the Nationals' 2010 draft.  Not only that, Brian joins forces forces with Steven of Fire Jim Bowden for a draft review podcast of EXTRAORDINARY MAGNITUDE.

On the other hand, Rachel at Nationals Fangirls is unhappy over missing the first Strasmas.  

And we'll see you here again tomorrow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An old tool for a new question

I have a longer post about sabermetrics percolating on my brain's back burner, but for now I'm going to indulge in some brutal oversimplification and talk about three types of baseball statistics. We have the basic stats that everyone is familiar with or can find in the morning box scores, like RBI, hits, steals, and errors. One step up from that are simple stats like batting average, on-base percentage, and range factor, which you can easily calculate with a simple four-function calculator from the basic stats. Finally, you have your complex stats like UZR, linear weights, xFIP, VORP, WARP, and other strange animals that require access to stats not commonly found in the morning paper along with (at the very least) some scratch paper and/or facility with algebra.

Which explains why I'm going back to Range Factor to look at the Nationals defense. I originally started thumbing through the STATS scoreboard and totting up range factors for second basemen, but then reconsidered, since already did that for me and I'm pretty lazy when it comes to most things except writing. ;) Going here and doing some sorting, we quickly see that the Nationals are allowing 4.74 runs per game against the league average of 4.45. They're actually a little above average when it comes to defensive efficiency, turning 69% of balls in play into outs as opposed to the league average 68.6%, but somehow leading the league in errors with 59. This makes for some head-scratching, no? If we lead the league in errors, the defense must suck, right? It's entirely possible, as Bill James observed almost 40 years ago when he invented range factor, for Fielder A to commit few or no errors while not making enough plays to justify buying him a glove (*cough* Larry Bowa *cough*) while Fielder B commits a bunch of errors on balls that A wouldn't have been in the same zip code with.

Well, let's look at the individual players and see what the deal is. We'll skip over Pudge and Adam Dunn for now, since for a number of reasons I'm not going to bother going into right now, range factor is a pretty useless tool for evaluating catchers and first basemen. Let's start with second base, where Adam Kennedy and Cristian Guzman have nine errors between the two of them. But what's this? Guzman is third among all NL second sackers, with 5.23 plays for every nine innings he's playing second? Kennedy isn't too far behind him, at 5.07 plays per nine. Both above the league average of 4.89 at the position, too. Well, okay, second isn't the gaping void of defensive suck.

Ha! Ian Desmond! THERE'S the culprit! A league-leading fifteen errors! Back to Rochester with him! Oh says here he's making five plays a game. That's above the league average (4.39) too, eh? To say nothing of being better than Guzman's 4.59 from last year? Um. Well. Let's move on to third base, shall we?

At the hot corner, we have Ryan Zimmerman, a very important component of the team's sputtering offense and an okay guy with the glove, too. He's among the league leaders in errors with seven, but on the other hand, his range factor is at the league average. We're not leaking any runs here.

Moving into the outfield, we see Josh Willingham patrolling left field. No errors, but on the other hand, his range factor of 1.92 is a touch under the league average of 1.95. There's balls he's not getting to. As a defensive sub, Willie Harris is making 2.28 plays for every nine innings he plays out in left, but unfortunately his bat can't carry his glove.

In center field, the streaky T-Plush, with his 2.70 range factor is also a little below the league average (2.72) which is especially disappointing given that he was picked up last year specifically to address our defensive weakness in center.* Some folks have suggested replacing him with Roger Bernadina (3.28), but that range factor is based on only 35 innings out there, and I don't think any manager should be making decisions based on a small sample size like that...

...especially when Bernadina is doing such a poor job in right. He's logged two errors out there in 263 innings and only has a range factor of 2.08, which doesn't look too good compared to the league average of 2.32. Mike Morse, Justin Maxwell and (of course) Willie Harris all put up better defensive numbers in right, and I thought it was pretty shabby of the Nats to send Maxwell down after a mere 21 games.

So, there it is. The infield has tightened up, but two-thirds of the outfield isn't pulling its weight on defense. Not good, not good at all. Riggleman and Rizzo have to make some decisions soon about center and right field, because without a good outfield defense, our pitchers are going to look a lot worse than they really are, and it would be a shame to have this season collapse back into the same old futility after starting so well.

*For those of you who tuned in late, it was pretty bad. Willie Harris, Elijah Dukes, and Justin Maxwell (!) were all below average. :(

And the ugly just keeps on coming.

Tigers go for the sweep tonight against Luis Atilano after picking the well-done remains of Livan Hernandez out of their teeth. I only saw the last couple of innings thanks to my Wednesday night accounting class, and frankly I was glad to miss the rest after I saw the line score at the bottom of the screen. For those of you that are feeling the need for a little self-flagellation this morning, Patrick Reddington at Federal Baseball has the oogly details. Shorter, less painful version is offered by Dave Nichols at Nationals News Network. Mark Zuckerman points out that last night's loss is unfortunately characteristic of many other Nats' losses this season, and Ben Goessling at MASN agrees. On the other paw, David Pinto thinks it may not be that Livan had an off night, but rather that the Tigers were extremely patient.

Meanwhile, at Nationals Journal, Adam Kilgore brings the word from pitching coach Steve McCatty that what may be ailing John Lannan may not be just mental. McCatty also gives his opinions on Nolan Ryan's pitching reforms in Texas over at Nats320.

Joe Drugan unhappily reviews the voting for the All-Star Game, in which the unworthy are (as usual) rewarded and the good players are (as usual) gettiung the shaft.

Elsewhere in the major leagues, Joe Posnanski wonders if Moneyball is dead, while his commenters rush to remind him that Billy Beane has always hated watching A's games.
Up in Minnesota, Scott Baker almost collects a baker's dozen of Ks against the Rockies, and Aaron Gleeman finds that this puts him in some interesting company.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Well, that was ugly with a capital U.

Watched Game #65 against the Tigers yesterday, hoping for John Lannan and the boys to start things off with a curly W in Motor City, but the Tigers chowed down on what John was serving. Patrick Reddington at Federal Baseball has the ugly details.

Things went a little better down on the farm: two wins, one loss, and a rainout for the P-Nats.

Chris Needham is disgruntled, and understandably so. The Blog Formerly Known As Oleanders & Morning Glories (Nationals Baseball for short) has a good post about John Lannan's problems this season. Nationals Review concurs: it's all about the ground balls.

Via Nats Triple Play, more proof that the brain damage at the Washington Post isn't confined to the editorial page. We know that Thomas Boswell can read and (occasionally) understand baseball statistics. How hard is it for him to understand that the pitchers who last are the power pitchers, not the finesse nibblers and the pitch-to-contact guys? We've known this since the 1980s: the guys who bring the heat like Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Bob Feller last a lot longer than the guys who don't. You can look it up, as the saying goes. Fortunately, I think Stephen Strasburg is a lot smarter than Thomas Boswell, and will be striking people out long after the latter has been packed off to the local Home for the Terminally Confused. Judging from this column, actually, Boswell hasn't got that long to wait.

On the other hand, Tom Verducci presents some good reasons why this has been very much a pitchers' year. (h/t Baseball Musings) Also via Baseball Musings, Royals thrash the Astros, scoring a season-high 15 runs. Blind pigs, acorns, etc.

Aaron Gleeman thinks Mike Lowell might be the right answer to the Twins' gaping hole at third.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Once around the Beltway...

...or, your daily fix of linkagery for Tuesday.

Patrick Reddington at Federal Baseball leads off with a good post on Nats rookie reliever Drew Storen.

Harrisburg and Potomac were off yesterday, but Brian Oliver has the rundown on what happened to Syracuse and Hagerstown at Nationals Farm Authority.

Chris Needham speculates on Stephen Strasburg being named to the NL All-Star team.

The Nationals Enquirer has a gripe with MASN. There's a fair bit of schadenfreude over the O's woes in the comments.

Harper at Nationals Baseball looks at ways to patch up Nyjer Morgan's lefty problem. Meanwhile, Joe Drugan considers the rest of the offense and its streakiness at Capitol Baseball.

Nats320 starts a series of posts about Nolan Ryan's attempt to change the pitching culture of the Texas Rangers. This promises to be interesting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday morning linkagery

Good morning, and a happy Monday to you! Leading off, we have Patrick Reddington's thoughts on Stephen Strasburg living up to all the hype (and boosting ticket sales besides) over at Federal Baseball; also at FB, a recap of Strasburg's second win yesterday behind a nine-run Nats attack.
If you're into that sort of thing, David Pinto liveblogged Strasburg's start.

Mark Zuckerman has a good essay on the Nationals riding the Strasburg wave.

Speaking of Mr. Strasburg, Steven at FJB turns a skeptical eye on Jim Riggleman's lineup behind the phenom and calls for MOAR DEFENSE. Joe Drugan at Capitol Baseball doesn't like those lineups either, but he wants MOAR OFFENSE.

I like what Chris at Capitol Punishment has to say about Strasburg's stuff.

Jenn at Nationals Fangirls suffers the pain of increased expectations.

Meanwhile, down on the farm...

In my former home of Minneapolis, Aaron Gleeman compares Francisco Liriano 2.0 to the original release and doesn't spare the sabermetric tools. (OMG NUMBERS)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rule 5 Sunday

In accordance with R. Stacy McCain's classic post "How to Get a Million Hits on Your Blog in Less Than A Year", Beltway Baseball is pleased to debut Rule 5 Sunday with (appropriately enough) a tasteful picture of Steven Strasburg's new bride, the former Rachelle Lackey:
From My Pictures

The Big Lead thinks Ms. Strasburg looks kinda like Rachael Leigh Cook.
From My Pictures

We can see it. :)
Pics shamelessly stolen from the Washington Post and, respectively.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Patrick Reddington delivers the recap at Federal Baseball. The Nats are now 30-31, half a game ahead of the Marlins for sole possession of fourth in the NL East. The next two weeks bring a swing through the AL Central, with six games against the woeful Tribe and Royals bracketing six games against the White Sox and Tigers, who...could give us a chance to pass up the Mets and move back into contention.

Steven at Fire Jim Bowden ponders the Nats' decision to make first-round pick Bryce Harper an outfielder instead of keeping him at catcher.

One of the great things about Nationals Farm Authority is their daily "Across the Affiliates" feature. You should be reading it! Also, it looks like Brian from NFA and Steven from FJB will be collaborating on a podcast, which ought to be worth listening to.

Nats320 reminds us that chicks dig the long ball, featuring a guest video appearance by Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Aaron Gleeman has the obligatory post on the Twins' draft, but the real fun is in the weekly Link-O-Rama.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Game 60: Another Curly W!

One of the reasons you should be reading Federal Baseball is that they do excellent game recap posts.

Steven at FJB thinks the worst is over, and I think he's right. It's taken way too long for the Nationals to get back to "competent", but now that they've reached that level, there's no reason they can't move on to the next one: Perennial contender. The NL East isn't the grinding, expensive high-stakes trench warfare scene that the AL East is, thanks to the remarkable ineptitude and bad luck of the Braves and Mets; with the talent coming up from the farm over the next year or two, there's no reason the Nationals can't be a force to be reckoned with. Kudos to Mike Rizzo for righting the S.S. Nationals and getting it steaming forward on a course to success!

I am remiss in not mentioning Nationals Farm Authority's excellent coverage of this year's draft. Start here and keep reading.

Pretty slim pickings today, but the last game of the Pirates series is tonight, with Livan squaring off against Zach Duke. See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Morning After Strasmas

FJB provides a helpful list of all the pitchers who've had 14 K's and no walks in their debut, and a somewhat more expansive list of pitchers who have had that kind of game. Lot of Hall of Fame pitchers on that list.

Nick Steiner at Hardball Times brings the pitch fx.

David Pinto slices FJB's list a little differently to show who pitched the most high-K, no-walk games. Also via Baseball Musings (which you really ought to be reading, it's the freaking Instapundit of baseball), the WaPo's Mike Wise on how the myth became reality.

Chris Needham of Capital Punishment brings the snark with a reminder of who needs to be thanked for our Strasmas present.

Jen from Nationals Fangirls welcomes young Mr. Strasburg to Washington. Lots of nice pix.

I have to revise my remarks on our new starter. At first I thought he had a strong resemblance to Nolan Ryan, who also brought the heat and didn't yield the strike zone to anyone, but after looking at the lists from FJB and Baseball Musings, I realize he's a lot more like Roger Clemens, who always had the control along with the fastball. Nolan Ryan was pretty wild in his early days with the Mets, and we forget that in addition to being the career strikeout leader, he's also the career leader in walks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In and Out of Love With Baseball

It all starts when you're a kid. With me, it started with the Washington Senators in 1969. For three seasons, I listened to them on the radio and thrilled to Shelby Whitfield's cry of "Kiss it goodbye!" when Frank Howard bashed one into the seats at RFK. Unfortunately, after the 1971 season the Senators decamped to Texas and became the Rangers*. This killed my interest in baseball for the next two decades; the only time I looked at the standings was to assure myself that the Rangers were still in the second division where they belonged. I didn't even pay attention to the 1987 World Series and the Twins' surprising win over the Cardinals.

In place of baseball, I became fascinated with military history, historical wargaming, and eventually the statistical models underlying those games. So I suppose it was inevitable that eventually my interest in baseball would be restored by an article in Smithsonian about Rotisserie baseball. (It didn't hurt that my wife at the time was a Twins fan.) I started reading more about Rotisserie and other forms of fantasy baseball, started reading everything I could get my hands on about baseball and this strange new science of sabermetrics, and in the fullness of time came across Bill James. After that, there was no turning back. I got involved in a Pursue the Pennant league that went on for some years, began scoring Twins games for STATS in the horrible 1990 season, picked up DirecTV so I could score more games, and in 1994 started publishing the Rebel Baseball Review, a newsletter about the independent minor leagues.

As I mentioned in the last post, life got in the way of the RBR, and from 2002 to 2009 I drifted away from baseball, eventually not even bothering to take part in online fantasy leagues. When I did start following the Nationals actively last year after a couple of years of sloth & indolence, I was shocked at the large number of strange names and unfamiliar players. It's taken a little while to get up to speed again (to say nothing of a lot of time spent curled up with Baseball Prospectus ) but at least I can tell the players without a program again.

Along the way, I've acquired some biases you probably ought to be aware of. For historical reasons, I generally regard the Cardinals, Dodgers and Yankees as inherently evil. Family and personal grudges are responsible for my dislike of the Braves, Orioles and Rangers, while I consider myself a fan of the Twins, Phillies and (now) the Nationals. Special mention goes to the St. Paul Saints, who were very supportive of my efforts for the Rebel Baseball Review and USA TODAY's Baseball Weekly. I've already mentioned my distaste for the farm teams as an institution.

I'm also of two minds about the state of sabermetrics these days, but that deserves its own post. For now, let's just say the exploding wavefront of numbers Bill James complained about back in 1988 still seems to be racing along, leaving a fair amount of confusion and anger in its wake behind the trailing edge of smug. There's numbers I find useful and others that I don't; more about that later.

*Much as the Braves had left Boston for Milwaukee in 1952, an event that terminated my father's interest in baseball in the same way.

Welcome to Beltway Baseball

Many years ago in a faraway place called Minnesota, I published an e-mail newsletter dedicated to the baseball's independent minor leagues, which at the time were exploding all over the landscape. The Rebel Baseball Review lasted about five years before divorce forced me to became a single parent; at that point I couldn't spare the time to work on it any more. Since then, the kids have grown up, I've moved to the Washington area, and I think it's time for me to start writing about baseball again.This might seem more than a little quixotic - after all, there are already hundreds, possibly thousands of blogs written by professional baseball writers and fans all across the fruited plains, many of which already have sizable audiences, decent cash flow, and established reputations. Still, the Rebel Baseball Review had all of these things, and brought me some opportunities to write for other websites and publications, and I'm pretty sure my writing chops are every bit as good as they used to be. We'll find out.

Most of the Washington-area baseball blogs focus on the Nationals, for obvious reasons: they're the big news in town, as major league teams usually are, and spend a fair amount of time and money to remain that way. I'll also comment on the Nats from time to time, but for the most part I'll content myself with posting links to other blogs who specialize in Nationals news so you can drop by here in the morning, take a look at what's up, and get your morning fix of quality Nationals blogging. I expect to devote more time to the local minor league clubs, especially the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League, but also the farm teams in Bowie, Frederick, Hagerstown and Woodbridge. Those teams are going to be looked at more in terms of the game-day experience than anything else - I'm not going to repeat Bill James' classic rant on the shortcomings of the organization now (pretentiously) named Minor League Baseball here, but I can't get too excited about the roster moves and day-by-day play of an organization that is 99% player development and 1% honest competition. Also, two of the four local farm teams belong to the Orioles, and due to my old (and bitter) opinion of the Birds dating back to the days when Ted Williams managed the Senators, I have less than no interest in those kids.

There are going to be a lot of words, not so many numbers, and even fewer pictures. You'll thank me later. ;)
Thanks for stopping by.