Tag Archives: Wilson Ramos

End of Season Grades: The Position Players

Yesterday, I gave out NE’s End of Season Grades to the pitchers.  Today, it is the position players’ (and manager’s) turn.  Feel free to argue with me, or agree if you will, in the comments:

Starting Lineup

Denard Span – B  As this season progressed, Span finally started to look like the complete centerfield package the Nats were looking for when they traded for him: defense, speed on the basepaths and, most importantly, table setter at the top of the order.  He even set the single season team record for hits (184) along the way.  Too bad only the first one of those elements showed up for the playoffs.

Anthony Rendon – A  Rendon did it all this year: hit for average, hit for power, stole bases, provided spectacular defense at third base–and proved to be about as model a citizen as you could want on your team.  His 111 runs scored led the league and his 6.5 bWAR led the Nats.  Were you paying attention, Bryce Harper?

Jayson Werth – B-  Werth had a solid (and healthy) season but was spectacularly awful in the playoffs.  Based on that alone, his position at third in the lineup should NOT be inviolable next year.

Adam LaRoche – B  Despite being a streaky hitter and missing a couple of weeks due to injury, LaRoche led the team in home runs and RBIs.  His playoff performance, however, was stone cold.

Ian Desmond – C+   Desmond’s third consecutive 20-20 year was an odd one.  Despite setting personal bests for RBIs and stolen bases, his error and strikeout rates increased and his OPS dropped for the second consecutive season, finishing .102 below his career high set two years ago.

Bryce Harper – B-  Harper missed about two months due to injuries and then looked lost at the plate for weeks after coming off the DL.  Even worse, his defensive bWAR was down in negative figures despite him playing in a corner outfield position and he stole only 2 bases all season.  Then came his lonely heroics in the NLDS–sigh.

Wilson Ramos – C+  Ramos also missed a couple of months due to injury, but looked like he was fully back as the Nats began their surge to the division title.  He faded badly down the stretch, however, with only three extra base hits and his OPS falling to .474 after August 29th.  And in the playoffs, he was even worse.

Asdrubal Cabrera – C  Odd that you would say that the acquisition of a rental player who spent only two months with the team and batted only .229 represented a “good” trade.  But Cabrera’s OPS was a solid .700, and unlike most of his offensive teammates he held his own in the playoffs, oh and the alternative at second base was Danny Espinosa.

Ryan Zimmerman – I  When he was able to play, there was nothing wrong with Ryan’s bat, as he put up a solid .790 OPS despite twice battling back from the DL.  Hopefully, the switch across the diamond will keep him in the lineup all season next year as the the team’s horrendous offensive performance in the NLDS showed just how much they miss him being there every day.

The Reserves:

Kevin Frandsen – D  Picked up off the waiver wire at the start of the season, Frandsen actually showed why the talent-strapped Phillies were willing to dump him as he put up a bWAR of -0.5 for the season.

Jose Lobaton – C+  On the other hand, after being acquired from the Rays in an offseason trade Lobaton was a perfectly adequate backup backstop, sporting a positive season bWAR of 0.5.  He was particularly strong defensively, scoring a 0.8 d/bWAR for the year.

Danny Espinosa – D+  As long as we’re talking bWAR, Espinosa was perfectly replaceable at 0.0.

Nate McLouth – F  You hate to see any player get injured, but McLouth being knocked out for the year in early August had the benefit of opening up opportunities for rookies Michael Taylor and Steven Souza.  The Nats paid McLouth $5 million to put up a -0.7 bWAR, and with one year remaining his signing is easily turning out to be GM Mike Rizzo’s worst free agency move to date.

Scott Hairston – F  He can’t hit anymore (1 lousy home run) and he doesn’t play good defense.  Remind me again why Hairston remained on the team for the entire season despite putting up a putrid bWAR of -0.6.  I would really like to know.

Tyler Moore – D+  Ironically, the Nats gave Moore his fewest number of at bats in a season the very year his bWAR turned positive for the first time in his career (0.4).

Sandy Leon – D  Because of Ramos’s injuries, Leon got way too many at bats with his unsightly .156/.229/.219 slash line.  He did put up a defensive bWAR of 0.3, however.

Manager

Matt Williams – B  Many have been excoriating Williams for the Nats’ playoff collapse and some of the shaky moves he made in the series.  My take is that no move he could have made would have made any difference save having a crystal ball tell him before the NLDS that after scuffling at the plate for much of the past two seasons Harper was suddenly going to explode and needed to be moved up to third in the lineup behind Rendon in order to offset the complete collapse by every one of the older veterans in his lineup.  What Williams DID do was take a very talented team that greatly underachieved in 2013 and guide it to the NL’s best record despite another major rash of injuries.

So Which Nats Team is Better Heading Into the Postseason: 2012 or 2014 (Part 2)?

Yesterday, we compared and contrasted the pitching staffs of the 2012 vs the 2014 Nats playoff teams heading INTO the postseason (ignoring actual performance from 2012 as unfair bias).  Today, let’s see how the bats shake out:

Catcher: Kurt Suzuki 2012 vs Wilson Ramos 2014

The early August 2012 trade that brought Kurt Suzuki to the Nats marked the beginning of a career revival for him.  “Zook” hit well those final two months of the 2012 campaign, bashing 5 home runs, driving in 25 and putting up a .725 OPS in 43 games.  Meanwhile, injuries robbed Wilson Ramos of just under half a season this year.  Even so, he still hit 11 home runs and drove in 47, though his OPS was lower that Suzuki’s at .705.  Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue that the Suzuki of 2012 was better than Ramos today either offensively or defensively.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Wilson Ramos 2014

First Base: Adam LaRoche 2012 vs Adam LaRoche 2014

Adam LaRoche had a fine 2014, leading the Nats in both home runs (26) and RBIs (91).  Nevertheless, 2012 was his career year as he hit his career high in home runs (33) tied his career high in RBIs (100), led all Nats in OPS (.853) and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for his position.

Verdict: Slight Advantage Adam LaRoche 2012

Second Base: Danny Espinosa 2012 vs Asdrubal Cabrera 2014

If it were just a matter of season stats, Danny Espinosa wins this contest going away.  Unfortunately, though we fans were kept in the dark about it at the time, Danny hurt his shoulder in September that year.  After the injury, his slash line crashed to .171/.241/.271 with only a single home run and 4 RBIs in 22 games, in other words the kind of putrid offensive statistics he’s been putting up ever since.  Cabrera has hardly been an All Star at the plate since he was acquired from the Indians, but he looks like Frank Howard compared to the hobbled Danny E of two years ago.  Only Espinosa’s great glove keeps this one close.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Asdrubal Cabrera 2014

Shortstop: Ian Desmond 2012 vs Ian Desmond 2014

You would think that with 2014 being his third consecutive 20-20 season that a more experienced Ian Desmond would have the advantage.  But Ian’s 2012 breakthrough season was a much better year for the Nats’ shortstop both offensively (.845 OPS vs .743) and defensively (15 errors vs 24).  Ian is obviously still a vital component for this team in both areas, but 2012 was simply a better year for him.

Verdict: Slight Advantage Ian Desmond 2012

Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman 2012 vs Anthony Rendon 2014

This is actually the strongest position for both teams as Zimmerman’s .824 OPS, 25 HRs and 95 RBIs compare quite favorably to Rendon’s .822 OPS, 21 HRs, 81 RBIs and 111 runs scored.  Rendon, however, gets the nod for his team-leading 6.4 overall bWAR vs only 3.9 for Zim two years ago.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Anthony Rendon 2014

Left Field: Mike Morse 2012 vs Bryce Harper 2014

Both players missed significant time due to injury, each playing around 100 games.  Morse was better offensively (.791 OPS vs .752, 18 HRs vs 13, 62 RBIs vs only 32) while Bryce has a slight advantage defensively (-0.7 d/bWAR vs -1.0).  Bryce also stole only 2 bases all season (the lumbering Morse had zero), which is a real disappointment for a player with his speed.  Surprising as it may seem, Morse was the better player two years ago.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Mike Morse 2012

Centerfield: Bryce Harper 2012 vs Denard Span 2014

These two are such different players that I’m going to have to resort to their Wins Above Replacement figures to come to a conclusion.  Bryce put up an amazing bWAR of 5.1 in 139 games his rookie year (where oh where has THAT guy been lately?), while Span has a very respectable 3.5 bWAR in 144 games this year.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Bryce Harper 2012

Right Field: Jayson Werth 2012 vs Jayson Werth 2014

Werth missed half of the 2012 season with a wrist injury that sapped his power when he did return.  Realizing he could help the team better by batting leadoff, Werth selflessly sacrificed RBI opportunities so that his high OBP could set the table for the lineup.  This is another case in which we’ll have to let the WAR decide.  Doubling Werth’s 2012 bWAR of 0.6 in 81 games still gives him only 1.2, while he managed to put up a 3.6 overall score this year.  Statistical bias against leadoff hitters?  Perhaps, but there you go.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Jayson Werth 2014

Bench Players: Chad Tracy, Tyler Moore, Steve Lombardozzi, Roger Bernadina & Jesus Flores 2012 vs Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen, Nate Schierholtz & Jose Lobaton 2014.

The 2012 “Goon Squad” was the best group of offensive bench players the Nats have ever assembled.  The only reason the 2014 group is in the conversation is because of the presence of Ryan Zimmerman as the top pinch hitter who will also likely get a start here and there, moving one of the other starters to the bench.  Of the rest, the 2014 group has a slight edge defensively, but Tracy, Moore and Bernadina all had outstanding seasons at the plate.  Only Lobaton from the this year’s team is a clear upgrade over his counterpart (Flores).

Verdict Slight Advantage, 2012 Nats

Manager: Davey Johnson 2012 vs Matt Williams 2014

Forgetting for a moment the mistakes in bullpen management Davey Johnson would make in the 2012 NLDS, the Nats went into the playoffs that year with a Hall of Fame manager who just guided a team that had never been over .500 in 7 seasons in DC to MLB’s best record.  Williams, on the other hand, took a very talented squad and, after a few growing pains early on, got it to do exactly what was expected of it after an unexpected down year.

Verdict: Slight Advantage, Davey Johnson 2012

Score for Position Players and Manager:

2012 Nats: 6 Slight Advantage = 6 points

2014 Nats: 4 Slight Advantage = 4 points

Total = +2 points 2012 Nats

Pitching Total (from yesterday’s post) = +5 points 2014 Nats

Overall = +3 points 2014 Nats

So there you have it, the 2014 Nats come in slightly better overall than the 2012 squad going into the playoffs.  Most importantly, thanks in large part to the presence of Doug Fister and the emergence of Tanner Roark, this year’s team is significantly better in the most important area and the one that let them down the last time: pitching.

Let the PLAYOFF games begin.

How the East Was Won: Mike Rizzo’s Top 8 Trades

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Every MLB general manager has their strengths and weaknesses.  While Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo’s track record on free agent signings has been something of a mixed bag, the overall quality of his trades have been outstanding in his five years in the top job, and his ability to “win” at the trading game that has been a big factor in the team’s recent success.

Even before ownership removed the “interim” from his title back in 2009, he had hijacked slugger Mike Morse from Seattle for the piddling price of light hitting 4th outfielder Ryan Langerhans.  That’s not to say every trade he’s made has been completely one-sided–they don’t necessarily have to be in order to be considered a success–but often the results have reflected the efforts of a general manager and his staff who clearly are doing their homework ahead of time.

And so as the Nats prepare for their triumphant return home and their last set of tuneup games before the playoffs, here are NE’s list of the Top 8 Mike Rizzo trades:

8.  Joe Beimel (LHP) traded to Colorado for Ryan Mattheus (RHP), 2009.  

Veteran reliever Beimel was signed to a one-year contract during spring training in 2009 as newly elevated GM Mike Rizzo desperately attempted to head off what was going to be an absolute bullpen trash fire left behind for him by just-fired predecessor Jim “Leatherpants” Bowden.  Beimel pitched decently for the Nats, but he alone wasn’t enough to dampen the relief corps explosion that sunk the Nats’ ship of state all the way to the bottom of the standings by the July trading deadline.

Taking his first ever gamble on an injured player, Rizzo flipped Beimel to the Colorado Rockies for a minor league reliever who was just about to undergo Tommy John surgery.  Ryan Mattheus recovered fully and pitched well enough to be recalled to the big club in 2011.  During the 2012 playoff run Mattheus became a bullpen mainstay, putting up 1.3 Wins Above Replacement (bWAR) and elevating his two-year Nats’ bWAR at that time to a total of 1.8.  Beimel, meanwhile put up a bWAR of only 0.2 for Colorado before the remainder of his one year, Nats-originated contract expired at the end of the 2009 season.

7.  Alex Meyer (RHP) traded to Minnesota for Denard Span (CF), 2012.

Prior to this season, the trade that brought Denard Span to Washington looked like it might be a bust (and I will admit that I was a Span hater last year).  Centerfield and leadoff hitter were two areas in which the Nats had been sorely deficient during their first eight seasons in DC.  Rizzo tried to rectify both issues by trading prospect Alex Meyer, part of the huge talent haul the Nats drafted in 2011, for Span, who was then the Twins’ starting centerfielder.

Span looked lost for much of his first season wearing the Curly W.  Despite a late season 29-game hitting streak that greatly elevated his overall season numbers, Span still only managed to slash .279/.320/.380, score only 75 runs and steal just 20 bases–fairly paltry numbers a for a leadoff hitter on a supposed pennant contender.  In 2014, however, Span has blossomed, becoming a key contributor to the offense.  Not only does he currently lead the NL in hits, but his OPS of .765 is nearly 60 points higher than it was last year.  The Nats also hold Span’s relatively inexpensive $9 million option to bring him back next season if they so wish, and based on his recent level of performance and the need to give CF heir apparent Michael Taylor a bit more seasoning as a hitter, they almost certainly will.

Meyer, on the other hand, while he remains a top pitching prospect for the Twins has yet to appear in a major league game.  He may eventually prove to be a top starting pitcher, but a team with its playoff “window” wide open needs to fine tune for the immediate future without worrying so much about three years down the road, and by that measure the Span trade has been a big success.

6.  Ryan Langerhans (OF) traded to Seattle for Mike Morse (OF), 2009.

Though he had spent parts of 2007 & 2008 with the big club, by 2009 Ryan Langerhans had become excess baggage–banished to AAA all season despite the Nats being mired in their second consecutive 100-loss campaign.  On June 28th, Rizzo pulled off a little-noticed trade, sending Langerhans to Seattle for Mike Morse, who was already 27 and similarly languishing in the Mariners’ minor league system.

Given a September call up that year, Morse bashed 3 home runs and hit 3 doubles in just 52 at bats, setting himself up to make the team out of spring training in 2010.  Given a chance as a 4th outfielder, Morse then hit 15 home runs in a half season’s worth of at bats.  When Josh Willingham was then traded that offseason, Morse finally got his chance to be a starter at age 29, and he rewarded the Nats by slugging 31 dingers, driving in 95 runs and putting up a .910 OPS that led the entire team by more than 100 points.  He also became a fan favorite, and his combined bWAR in four seasons as a Nat was 5.8.

Langerhans, on the other hand, was called up immediately by Seattle and had a completely forgettable two and a half seasons with the Mariners.  During that time, he TOTALED a mere 9 home runs and 20 RBIs and had a paltry 0.8 bWAR.  In exchange for a light-hitting defensive fourth outfielder the Nats were not even using at the time, Rizzo obtained a middle of the order slugger who would loom large both literally and figuratively during the team’s first playoff run.  Not to mention that Morse was also a big part of another shrewd Rizzo trade:

5.  Mike Morse (OF) traded to Seattle for Blake Treinen (RHP), Ian Krol (LHP) and A.J. Cole (RHP), 2013.

Perhaps miffed that he’d let Morse get away only to see the slugger blossom in DC, four years later Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik apparently decided he needed to have him back.  Meanwhile, Morse only had a year remaining with the Nats before he became eligible for free agency, and with his terrible defense he had never really been Mike Rizzo’s type of player.  So right after the New Year in 2013, the two executives engineered a three-way deal with the A’s Billy Beane in which the Mariners got Morse for a second go-around while the Nats received a haul of pitching prospects from the A’s in return.

Key to the deal on the Nats’ end was prospect A.J. Cole, who Rizzo had sent to the A’s the year before as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade.  Cole disappointed during his one season in the Oakland farm system, but righted the ship upon returning and is now listed by MLB.com as the Nats’ overall Number 2 prospect.  Ian Krol was promoted to the Nats in 2013 as a lefty reliever, and acquitted himself well as a rookie before being sent to the Tigers as part of the Doug Fister trade.  And lastly, Blake Treinen made his MLB debut in 2014 and has looked good as both a reliever and a starter, posting a sub-2.00 ERA in his first 46 MLB innings.

Meanwhile, Morse started off hot his first month in Seattle before tailing off and then getting hurt (again).  He ended the season with only 13 home runs and 27 RBIs while posting a career low OPS of just .651.  Particularly ghastly was his performance after a late August trade to Baltimore.  Morse put up a stretch run slash line of .103/.133/.103 with just 3 hits (none for extra bases) and no RBIs in 29 ABs.  And though he has rebounded a bit with the Giants this season, it comes after he would likely been allowed to leave the Nats via free agency anyway.

4.  Derek Norris (C), A.J. Cole (RHP), Tommy Milone (LHP) and Brad Peacock (RHP) traded to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez (LHP), 2011.

Now here is a trade that worked out great for both teams.  After a long process of rebuilding the worst farm system in baseball that was the legacy of when MLB own the franchise, GM Mike Rizzo traded a large part of his first bounty of MLB-ready prospects to Oakland for young All Star pitcher Gio Gonzalez.  In the process, he convinced Gonzalez to sign a very team friendly contract extension that will keep him wearing the Curly W through 2018 if the Nats elect to pick up the last two option years.  Gio has been excellent for the Nats from the start, in 2012 becoming the first-ever Nats’ pitcher to win 20 games and strike out over 200 batters while finishing second in the NL Cy Young award balloting.  His second and third seasons with the club haven’t been as strong, but he remains a rotation mainstay at a relatively cheap cost and was a big factor in the Nats’ surprising playoff run of two years ago.

Meanwhile the biggest benefit the A’s received was catcher Derek Norris, a former Nationals’ minor league player of the year who has blossomed into an All Star himself.  Tommy Milone gave the A’s a couple of solid years in their rotation before being traded to Minnesota this summer.  Brad Peacock was dumped off on Houston, where he is still trying to put things together, and youngster A.J. Cole, as I’ve already written above, was traded back to the Nats in the second Mike Morse deal.

3.  Robby Ray (RHP), Ian Krol (LHP) and Steve Lombardozzi (UT) traded to Detroit for Doug Fister (RHP), 2013.

So what exactly was Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski thinking when he shipped pitcher Doug Fister to the Nats for Mike Rizzo’s pocket change?  We may never know, but there is no doubt that this was the trade that made the Nats’ 2014 season.  Despite missing the first month, Fister has already matched his career high in bWAR (4.1) while leading an outstanding Nats’ rotation in wins (15, a career high) and ERA (2.55, a career low).

Meanwhile Robbie Ray, who was never listed as being higher than the Nats’ 3rd or 4th best pitching prospect, failed in his first call up to the Tigers, sporting a ghastly 7.16 ERA in only 26 innings over 8 appearances (6 starts).  Even at AAA this year, Ray’s ERA was a pedestrian 4.22 in 100.1 innings.  Ian Krol regressed in the Tigers’ bullpen, as his ERA ballooned to 4.96 in 45 appearances, and they thought so little of Steve Lombardozzi that they flipped him over to the Orioles, where he spent much of the season in the minors.

What made this trade even worse for the Tigers is that losing Fister ultimately necessitated their costly midseason trade with Tampa Bay for David Price.  And even if Ray, the centerpiece of the deal for the Tigers, rebounds and eventually becomes a decent starter this trade will still be a huge win for how much it has helped the Nats in this pivotal second playoff season.

2.  Matt Capps (RHP) traded to Minnesota for Wilson Ramos (C) and Joe Testa (LHP), 2010.

Closer Matt Capps was one of several low cost free agents brought in by Mike Rizzo before the 2010 season in an effort to end the team’s string of two consecutive 100 loss campaigns.  Capps helped the Nats that year by solidifying their wretched bullpen and saving 26 games, which got him his first (and only) All Star nod.  He then helped the Nats even more in future seasons by being the commodity Rizzo was able to flip over to the Twins at the trading deadline for rookie catcher Wilson Ramos (and Joe Testa, who pitched only 5 games above A ball before being released in 2012).

Though he’s had his injury issues, when healthy Ramos has been a top notch catcher both defensively and offensively and his presence on the roster gave Rizzo the flexibility to use top catching prospect Derek Norris to help land Gio Gonzalez.  Ramos has banged out 46 home runs and driven in 171 runs in 314 games played for the Nats.  Best of all, Ramos is still only 26 and health permitting could remain the Nats’ starting backstop for many years to come.

Capps meanwhile, finished the 2010 campaign well and then stuck around Minnesota for two more seasons, pitching progressively worse until injuries derailed his career in 2012.  Getting an above average starting catcher (even if he was blocked from starting in Minnesota by the presence of All Star Joe Mauer) for a middling relief pitcher was a true Rizzo heist.  But it was not even his best one.  For that, I humbly present:

1.  Cristian Guzman (IF) traded to Texas for Tanner Roark (RHP) and Ryan Tatusko (RHP), 2010.

When not injured, Cristian Guzman was for better or worse the Nats’ starting shortstop for their first five seasons in DC (not counting his lost 2006 season).  By year six, however, he was clearly on the decline and had been bumped over to second base in favor of rookie Ian Desmond.  By the time the 2010 trading deadline was rolling around, Mike Rizzo was likely hoping he could just get a little more than the proverbial “bag of baseballs” for Guzman.  He found a taker in the Rangers, who agreed to accept the quickly aging Guzman in exchange for two unheralded righty minor league starting pitchers who had originally been drafted in the 18th and 25th rounds respectively.

For Texas, Guzman did literally nothing, collecting only 7 hits (1 double) and 1 measly RBI in 15 games before disappearing from the majors for good.  No doubt Texas chalked the whole trade up to “very little ventured, very little gained,” but little did they know that Rizzo had actually gotten a least a little bit of revenge for former Rangers owner Bob Short’s decision to steal away the old Washington Senators in 1971.

For a couple of seasons after the move, Nats fans might be forgiven for having forgotten all about it.  Roark and Tatusko bounced around the higher levels of the Nats’ farm system while putting up the kind of numbers that tagged them as “organizational guys”–in other words roster filler never destined to make it to the majors.  Roark was particularly bad in 2012, going 6-17 for AAA Syracuse while sporting a 4.39 ERA.  Tatusko was released this season so he could go pitch in Japan, and Roark might have suffered a similar fate had the “light” not suddenly gone on for him.

In 2013, Roark lowered his Syracuse ERA to 3.13 while upping his record to 9-3.  He also became a “swingman,” pitching as both a starter and a reliever, which had the effect of maximizing his chances of getting a big league call up.  As it turned out, the call for a bullpen arm finally came on August 7, 2013, and Roark has never looked back.  As a reliever, Roark made 9 appearances with a nifty 1.19 ERA before being asked to step into the rotation as an injury replacement.  There he had nearly equal success, finishing up 2013 by pitching 31 innings in 5 starts and an ERA of 1.74.

Still, fans and even Nats management had a hard time believing that a former 25th round draft pick who had never been anything special in the minors could suddenly be so good.  Roark entered spring training this year behind fellow 2013 rookie but actual prospect Taylor Jordan on the rotation depth chart.  Only an early injury to Doug Fister allowed both to make the Opening Day rotation, and when one of the two flamed out, to nearly everyone’s surprise it wasn’t Roark, who fired a complete game 3-hit shutout at the Padres in late April just as Fister was getting ready to return to the rotation and Jordan was about to be shipped back to AAA.

As the season draws to a close, Roark has been nothing short of amazing, making every start while putting up a 14-10 record and sporting a nifty 2.85 ERA.  Meanwhile, the last place Rangers, who lost nearly every starting pitcher save Yu Darvish to injury this year, can only shake their heads and wonder how they could have let such a valuable commodity get away for practically nothing.