New Nats, Same as the Old Nats?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, December 29, 2009 | , , , , , , | 3 comments »

Despite my little hiatus, I was paying attention.  The Washington Nationals, over the last few weeks, have made a series of significant moves to try to bolster the 2010 team in advance of some home-grown talent arriving in 2011 or 2012.

Stephen Strasburg.  Drew Storen.  Derek Norris.  Danny Espinosa.  Chris Marrero.  Brad Meyers.  Definitely some upside there.

Maybe by then this organization will actually be in a position to compete within the division, something they haven't been able to accomplish since Frank Robinson's inaugural team of 2005 was in first place in the N.L. East as late as July 24 before succumbing and finishing at an even .500 at the end of the season.

The big question is:  How much will Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Marquis, Matt Capps and Brian Bruney actually help the product on the field?

All of the four players come with a certain amount of bona fides, but all come with caveats as well.

Pudge is a 14-time all-star and 13-time Gold Glove winner, but it's been several years ago that he garnered either accolade.  He's 38, and he hit .249/.280/.384 in 121 games last season.  If you look at his splits, he had a couple of decent months at the plate, but several atrocious ones as well.

If he's coming in as a backup/mentor to Jesus Flores, great.  But this signing will blow up if the Nats have to look at 500 at bats from a 38 year old catcher.

Marquis, 31, is a veteran sinkerballing workhorse.  Again, he'll be counted on as a mentor to a very young starting rotation.  He's coming off an all-star season, one in which he was much better in the first half of the season than the second, though his K/9 actually went up in the second half along with his ERA and WHIP.

It's indicitative of his career numbers though, as he wins at a 60 percent clip before the all-star berak and 43 percent after. 

And of course, in 2006 he had an ERA of 6.02 and led the league in allowing home runs and earned runs--in St. Louis.

Matt Capps is a 26-year old fireballing closer.  The Nats got him for one year.  Bully.  He's a good gamble to take, as he's has some good success in the role in Pittsburgh, and I guess his agent, by insisting on the one-year deal, figures he'll return to form.  Because last season, he stunk, despite the gaudy saves total.

Let me throw some 2009 numbers out and I'll let you decide which player you'd rather have closing games.

Player A:  4-8, 5.80 ERA, 1.656 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 in 54.1 IP
Player B:  1-4, 4.78 ERA, 1.672 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 4.8 BB/9 in 64.0 IP

Player A is Capps.  You've probably guessed by now Player B is former Nats' reliever Joel Hanrahan.

Brian Bruney?  He is most famous for starting a fight with Francisco Rodriguez.  He was left off the Yankees playoff roster in favor for a third catcher.  All he's done since being traded for a Rule 5 pick is talk about how he wants to be the closer.  In his only experience at closing games, he had a 7.43 ERA with Arizona in 2005.

You might think by now that I'm tearing the Nats down for signing these players.  Back at the begining of December I wrote that if I were Mike Rizzo, I wouldn't spend $20 million on free agents just because I had it.  And I'm not implying thats what he's done.  All but the Pudge move were done efficiently and relatively cheaply.

All I'm saying is that when you read the Nats' press releases on these players, and listen to the talking heads about how the Nats are doing things "the right way", just keep in the back of your mind these other things they aren't reminding you of.

I guess we'll find out as the season goes just how much these players help the Nats.  If Marquis can avoid injury after pitching so many innings, if Capps returns to 2007-2008 form, if Flores is healthy and can keep Pudge off the field for four days a week, and if Bruney actually proves an upgrade over Saul Rivera, then the Nats shold be better off in the ledger at the end of the season.

Let's just say I'm skeptical of all those things happening at once.  Hopeful, but skeptical.


  1. Anonymous // January 4, 2010 at 10:45 AM  

    Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  2. Dave Nichols // January 4, 2010 at 11:05 AM  

    thanks anonymous. appreciate the positive feedback.

  3. Maroussia // April 14, 2010 at 3:15 AM  

    It will be great to watch Washington Nationals, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.