2007 MLB Team Analysis: Washington Nationals

Pete’s Perspective

     There’s not much here to write home about! This is still the old Montreal Expos, just in new duds & a new city. Albeit, a big time US city that happens to be our nation’s capital. What better place to host a team from our “National Past Time”? They deserve better than this, or do they? That’s a whole other post for another time. 🙂 Now back to the 2007 Washington Nationals.

     Leading the charge offensively is their young third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman who hit 24 HRs while knocking in 91 RBIs with an OBP of .330 in just his second major league season. I have him ranked 9th in my fantasy list for his position, but he’ll get moved up to 8th if the Brewers move ROY Braun to the OF in 2008. No other player on the team even comes close to cracking the top 15 in any other position now that teammate Dmitri Young no longer qualifies at DH. No one on the team, with a minimum of 250 at bats, had a SO rate under 12% and only Austin Kearns (RF) and Brian Schneider (C) has a walk rate above 10%. Maybe they need to rethink how they draft players & start looking for guys who have better plate discipline. However, Schneider (along with LF Ryan Church) was in the trade that landed OF Lastings Milledge from the Mets. 

     Speaking of Dmitri Young (1B), he bounced back nicely after all that he was struggling with personally in 2006. In 2007 he posted a .320 average & an OBP of .378, but saw his run production drop. He hit less than 15 HRs & under 80 RBIs, not what you would expect out of Young. Then again, after overcoming those personal struggles, it isn’t that bad…is it?

     The additions of Milledge, Elijah Dukes, who was recently acquired from the Rays & Wily Mo Pena, who was acquired at the 2007 trading deadline from the Red Sox. It looks like the Nationals are looking to add some more punch to their anemic offense.

     Other notable Nationals to look out for in 2008 could be CF Nook Logan who compiled 23 stolen bases in 111 games with a success rate of 82%. 2B/SS Felipe Lopez was also a stolen base threat, that is, when he got on base, with 24 stolen bases in 153 games with a success rate of 73%. Add to this list, recently acquired catcher Paul Lo Duca, a career .288 hitter to replace the traded Schneider. It seems as if signing the 35 year old Lo Duca translates into the Nationals sticking with the youngsters in their starting rotation.

     Here’s where the Nationals really need some Major League help if they are going to improve in 2008: Pitching! More specifically, starting pitching. The most wins any pitcher had in their rotation was 7 by rookie Matt Chico. In 31 starts, Chico went 7-9 in only 167 innings & like a lot of rookies, had a high WHIP (1.54). As a matter of fact, I can only see two pitchers in their rotation that had a winning percentage above .500; Micah Bowie went 4-3 in 8 starts, but might have gotten win(s) as a reliever. Bowie pitched 19 innings of relief in 2007. The other was rookie Joel Hanrahan who went 5-3 in 11 starts with only 3.1 innings of relief. To highlight the problem they had with their rotation, just look at the drop off in starts. After Chico‘s 31 starts, we see Jason Bergmann (6-6) with 21, Mike “# 756*” Bacsik (5-8) has 20 (to go along with his 12 innings of relief that might have gotten him a win or two). Then another rookie, Shawn Hill (4-5) had 16 starts, Tim Redding (3-6) had 15, Jason Simontacchi (6-7) had 13 & Hanrahan had only 11 as was previously mentioned. Three others had less than 10 starts, including the previously mentioned Micah Bowie. Only Hill & Redding had ERAs under 4.00 & Hanrahan had the best SO/9 out of this batch with a mark of 7.59. What it seems like the Nationals are relying on is improvement out of probable 2008 starters Bowie, Chico, Hill & Simontacchi. I say that because Bacsik recently signed a minor league deal with the club for 2008, so he doesn’t look like an option, but more like a fall back if things don’t work out. They really should pick up another reliable arm to go along with what they currently have or else they will NOT be much better in 2008! I’d at least look into getting a veteran like David Wells who might be able to teach them more than a veteran catcher (Lo Duca ) would. Maybe they can get the Yankees to eat most of Mike Mussina’s contract & get him in a trade. It is my strong opinion that they have to get at least 1 veteran arm in that rotation for 2008, even if that one arm is way past his prime!

     Their bullpen; however, was quite the opposite! They had 6 players with ERAs under 4.00 although they lost one of those arms, Closer Chad Cordero, to free agency this off season to the Reds. Cordero had 37 saves, but also 9 blown saves and 1 Hold in his 75 innings pitched in 2007. Look for fellow blogger Jon Rauch to petition for the closer’s role for the Nats in 2008. He had 4 saves with 6 blown saves in 2007 and a WHIP of 1.10, and also had an impressive 33 Holds which was tied for third in all of Major League Baseball in 2007! His VORP score (19.3) was better than even Cordero’s (17.3), but both were behind teammate Saul Rivera who sported a VORP score of 21. To go along with that stat, Rivera was 3-3 (SV/BS) with 21 Holds. He too, might be a candidate for the closer’s role in 2008.

     Honorable mentions here include rookie Chris Schroder who had an ERA of 3.18 and a WHIP of 1.13 and a team high SO/9 of 8.54. Luis Ayala & Jesus Colome both had ERAs under 4.00; Ayala with a 3.19 & Colome with a 3.82. Both had WHIPs under 1.40 as well.

**Bottom Line: The Nationals need better starting pitching. Either what they have NEEDS to improve or they NEED to go out & get help this off season!**

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