Off-Season: Washington Nationals.

The Washington Nationals are on the cusp of being really, really good. Their farm system is ridiculous but don’t be surprised if they open up the checkbook this off-season. Last season they finished in third place with an 80-82 record, a huge improvement from past seasons. Going into free agency their biggest needs are a center fielder and pitching. There’s two players you shouldn’t be surprised that aren’t pitchers or outfielders that they may go after. I’ll address that soon.

Pitching:

The Washington Nationals have two really good starting pitchers. Those two starting pitchers are Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Strasburg is now over a year removed from Tommy John surgery. The time that he did pitch this season he was absolutely ridiculous. He had a 1.28 FIP and a 2.43 xFIP. He struck out 9 per 9 innings and only walked .75 per 9. He also already had a 1.1 WAR. All of this was only in 5 starts so it’s a small sample but I believe it’s safe to say that he’s back. Zimmermann also had a nice season, posting a 3.16 FIP and 3.78 xFIP. He doesn’t strike out as much as Strasburg, he only had 6.92 strikeouts per 9 innings but his walk rate was just as impressive. 1.73 per 9 innings.

After those two their starters aren’t the best. I don’t expect them to sign C.J. Wilson but some other players they may look at are Hiroki Kuroda, Roy Oswalt and possibly Paul Maholm. Kuroda would be the one out of this group that wouldn’t surprise me if he signed there. He’s a very solid pitcher, two seasons ago he posted a 3.43 xFIP and 4.1 WAR. This past season he only posted a 2.4 WAR and 3.56 xFIP. He saw a 5% decrease in ground balls and a 3% increase in HR/9. If he can get back to being a ground ball pitcher and cut back on the home runs he could easily be a 3-4 win a season pitcher for a few years.

Outfielders:

I don’t see the Nationals making a run at any of the free agent outfielders this year. After signing Jayson Werth to that contract and only getting 2.5 WAR out of him I’m not sure they want to hand out another deal to Beltran or Cuddyer.

Instead, I see them making a run at B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays. The past five years Upton has posted 20 WAR. In 2009 he posted his worse, only 2.4. Other then that he’s an exceptional player. He has power, speed, and ok outfielder. The Rays have been wanting to move him for a while but they haven’t found the right match yet. The Nationals have also wanted him for a while so it seems like this deal only makes sense. I’m not the best with prospects so I’m not sure what TB would exactly require but they could get themselves a nice little haul.

 

I got a WAR graph from Fangraphs comparing B.J. Upton with some of the young outfielders of day. Out of the three he has the highest WAR, still only 28 he’s only into his second year of his prime and should be productive for years to come.

The rest of their roster is pretty solid. Danny Espinosa had a very good rookie year posting a 3.5 WAR and Michael Morse had a break out season posting a 3.4 WAR. Wilson Ramos looks like he will be a solid catcher,  if Ian Desmond wants to start he’ll have to work on some things but it looks like Danny Espinosa may shift over to shortstop and Stephen Lombardozzi will get a chance at second base. There are two players they probably will have their eyes on though…

…and they are

That’s right. Don’t be surprised if Washington makes a run at one of these two. While I’d be surprised if they got one they have shown that they will spend money in order to improve the team. If they got one of these two and with Bryce Harper on the way the Nationals could be scary. Even if they don’t they will be much better heading into the 2012 season.

With that my off-season outlook on the Washington Nationals comes to end. Keep checking in periodically for more off-season write-ups.

Off-Season: Minnesota Twins

It’s that time of year again. Teams lose guys to free agency, sign guys to fill holes and trade for players. The Minnesota Twins could be doing all of that. The three main players the Twins are losing in free agency are Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan. All together the Twins will have roughly $35 million dollars to spend this off-season. That money needs to be spent on at least one starting pitcher, a catcher, a reliever or two and an outfielder. If there is money left over it could go to a third basemen.

Minnesota’s pitching this past season was abysmal. As a staff they had a 4.30 FIP and a 4.33 xFIP. They only struck out 5.95 K/9 but only walked 3.04, which isn’t awful. Their 1.02 HR/9 was the sixth worst in baseball. Target Field is regarded as a pitcher’s park making 1.02 HR/9 all the more worse. Brian Duensing doesn’t cut it as a starter. He’s much better used when coming out of the bull-pen and when used as a spot starter. After having such a good 2010 season Liriano struggled mightily during the 2011 campaign.

As you can see his BB/9 increased almost three walks which is a big problem. His K/9 went down two which is another problem. In 2010 Liriano was getting a lot of ground balls, this past season that went down 5%. His decrease in ground balls lead to more fly balls, something that contributes to more home runs. Two seasons ago Liriano was doing a terrific job at getting first pitch strikes but really struggled with that this past season. Liriano needs to get back to his ’10 performance if the Twins’ want to have a much better rotation.

The rest of the Twins’ rotation is decent at best. Blackburn is inconsistent, Pavano is a solid number 3 as is Baker.  The Twins won’t be signing C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish but three pitchers that they could possibly take a look at are Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland or Edwin Jackson. None of these are number one guys but all are solid. Edwin Jackson may be inconsistent at times but he started doing much better when he got dealt to St. Louis. He ended the season with a 3.73 xFIP. Buehrle is a guy I’d like to see come to Minnesota but I’m not sure if he’ll leave Chicago. Jon Garland is another solid pitcher but he isn’t a number one or two or three. He had his struggles in the National League but was much better when he was with the Chicago White Sox. Ideally it’d be nice if the Twins made a splash by signing C.J. Wilson or making a trade but that most likely won’t happen. On the bright side they have the number two pick in the draft so maybe they can find a nice pitcher.

The bull-pen was awful. Just awful. Guys were either hurt or underperforming. Some guys they could possibly look at are Joel Zumaya, LaTroy Hawkins, Jon Rauch (if he get’s bought out) and Darren Oliver. All of those guys are solid when healthy and shouldn’t cost too much if Minnesota wanted to take a bargain on one or two.

With Mauer not playing catcher as much Minnesota will need to sign one since Butera is awful. Ramon Hernandez wouldn’t be a bad catcher to look at, he can hit for power (.164 ISO) and had a .339 wOBA. His WAR was right at 2.0 making him a league average catcher. For the right price he could be a nice catcher for a season or so.

The Twins also need at least one outfielder. Ben Revere really isn’t that good, Joe Benson should get playing time and Aaron Hicks is a year or so away. I don’t think Cuddyer or Kubel come back simply because they will cost more than they are worth. Cuddyer in particular. He isn’t worth a 3 year $36 million dollar deal that I’ve been hearing he could get. In the meantime here are a few guys they could look at. Josh Willingham, Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick are all solid outfielders who wouldn’t cost too much. Willingham and Ludwick in particular would give Minnesota some added pop to the line-up. If I was Minnesota I would strongly look at Willingham. This past season he had a .232 ISO and .350 wOBA. He’s someone who could slide in the middle of the lineup and have the potential to do some good things.

Finally, if there was any money left I would take a look at Wilson Betemit or Jose Lopez. Betemit also has some pop in his bat but he can play a variety of positions. Lopez also is a decent player and with what the Twins have he could step it at 2B/SS and get some good playing time and show the Twins what he has. Nishioka is an unknown and Casilla isn’t that good, Lopez could step in and start right away and Betemit could come off the bench or play 3B if Valencia continues his struggles.

Finally, Minnesota could look into some trades. Guys like James Shields and Gio Gonzalez should be on the market but won’t be cheap. The Twins might be able to get Stephen Lombardozzi from the Nationals but he would cost Denard Span and that wouldn’t be worth it.

With that my off-season plans for what the Minnesota Twins should do comes to an end. Stay tuned for other teams as the off-season goes on as well as analysis when free agents sign, players get traded and other baseball news.

The New Blog

Hey guys! This is Alex from The Homerun Porch. Like I said I moved the blog here because I wanted a better url and title for the blog. I’m gonna make this the best baseball blog that I possibly can and I hope you enjoy it. Also, from now on I will have my first name which is Alex as my username. Again, thanks for checking out the blog!

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Last night the St. Louis Cardinals clinched their 11th world series title. The series was nothing short of awesome. Game 6 was perhaps the most exciting baseball game of all time. Hometown kid David Freese had a heck of a game, hitting the game tying triple in the ninth and then the walkoff two innings later. Overall, he had a great world series and playoffs in general. His NLCS and world series MVP are a testament to that.

In game two Derek Holland pitched one of the best games that I’ve ever seen in a playoff game. He went 8.1 innings, walked 2, struck out 7 and had a 2.07 FIP. Keep in mind I’m only 18 but still he pitched a gem.

How can we forget about Pujols? He had one of the best games ever in the world series. He went 5-6 with three home runs. He is only the third player ever to do that in the game. The other two are Babe Ruth (twice) and Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. Not a bad class to be in.

The other four games were really good as well but those two really stuck out to me.

In the end this series came down to both bullpens due to the struggles of both team’s starting pitchers. C.J. Wilson had a really rough series but going in to free agency it shouldn’t affect him to much because of the small sample size. Chris Carpenter really stepped up when he was needed last night. He pitched 6 strong innings with 2 walks, 6 strike outs and only 2 earned runs all on three days rest.

All in all this was a great series. Both teams played very well but in the end only one team can win and last night it was the St. Louis Cardinals.

In the mean time I will try and put some posts up about free agency and as we get closer to the season I will do some team evaluations. In the mean time, The St. Louis Cardinals are the champions of major league baseball.

Until next time,

Mauerfan

Game Three Preview

Tonight in the third game of the World Series Kyle Lohse is set to face off against Matt Harrison. The line-up for the visiting St. Louis Cardinals is:

Furcal Bats Both, as R vs L:

8.5 BB%

 9.6 K%

.115 ISO 

.237 BABIP

84 wRC+

Craig Bats R vs L:

4.3 BB%

17.1 K%

.343 ISO

.320 BABIP

.424 wOBA

175 wRC+ (SSS)

Pujols Bats R vs L:

7.3 BB%

9.7 K%

.313 ISO

 .255 BABIP

 .392 wOBA

153 wRC+

Holliday Bats R vs L:

20 BB%

18.2 K%

 .209 ISO

 .290 BABIP

 .387 wOBA

 149 wRC+

Berkman Bats Both, as L vs R:

 8 BB%

18.8 K%

.178 ISO

 .316 BABIP

 .353 wOBA

 126 wRC+

Freese Bats R vs L:

 7.1 BB%

16.7 K%

 .160 ISO

 .383 BABIP

 .389 wOBA

 150 wRC+

Molina Bats R vs L:

13.4 BB%

10.1 K%

.176 ISO

 .291 BABIP

 .366 wOBA

 135 wRC+

Jay Bats L vs L:

 5.8 BB%

 15.4 K%

.106 ISO

 .333 BABIP

 .320 wOBA

103 wRC+

Theriot Bats R vs L:

5.8 BB%

 5.8 K%

.103 ISO

.331 BABIP

.339 wOBA

116 wRC+

When Harrison is facing lefties he posts much better stats. He has a 3.38 FIP, 19.8 K%, 5.8 BB% but he also gives up more home runs, .84 HR/9. When facing lefties he has a higher GB%, 51.3% and a lower FB%, 26.9%.  Against righties he struggles a little more. His FIP is 3.57 he has a 15 K% and 8 BB%. He does give up less home runs though, .54 HR/9. His 46 GB% is lower then when he faces lefties but his 34.3 FB% is higher.  The Cardinals line-up is stacked with right handed hitters who mash lefties so it wouldn’t be surprising to see if he struggled tonight.

The line-up for the Texas Rangers is:

Kinsler Bats R vs R:

11.6 BB%

9.9 K%

.213 ISO

.245 BABIP

.357 wOBA

 119 wRC+

Andrus Bats R vs R:

8.2 BB%

11.5 K%

.083 ISO

.314 BABIP

 .316 wOBA

 92 wRC+

Hamilton Bats L vs R:

8.6 BB%

15.4 K%

.220 ISO

 .336 BABIP

 .377 wOBA

 133 wRC+ 

Young Bats R vs R:

 6.9 BB%

11.2 K%

.135 ISO

 .354 BABIP

 .362 wOBA

 122 wRC+

Beltre Bats R vs R:

 3.3 BB%

10.8 K%

.234 ISO

 .274 BABIP

 .357 wOBA

119 wRC+

Cruz Bats R vs R:

 5.7 BB%

 24.3 K%

 .216 ISO

 .268 BABIP

 .323 wOBA

 96 wRC+

Napoli Bats R vs R:

 12.1 BB%

18.5 K%

 .316 ISO

 .335 BABIP

.443 wOBA

178 wRC+

Murphy Bats L vs R:

7.5 BB%

13.4 K%

 .165 ISO

 .316 BABIP

 .350 wOBA

115 wRC+

Torrealba Bats R vs R:

 4.4 BB%

 16.7 K%

 .154 ISO

 .317 BABIP

 .324 wOBA

 96 wRC+

Kyle Lohse is a pretty solid pitcher. Against righties and lefties he posts pretty similar stats. Against righties he posts a 3.66 FIP and a 3.68 FIP against lefties. His xFIP against righties is 3.98 and against lefties it’s 4.10. Against righties he has a 13.5 K% and a 5 BB%. He can give up home runs, he had a .78 HR/9 versus righties. Against lefties he has a 15.3 K% and a 5.9 BB%, almost identical when he faces righties. Against lefties he gives up .75 HR/9, again almost identical to righties. Cruz really struggles against righties and Hamilton is hurt so Lohse might have a slight advantage but Young, Cruz, Beltre and Napoli crush righties. Lohse is a solid pitcher but Texas’ line-up doesn’t struggle too bad against right handed pitchers.

I think the low scoring affair ends tonight, the bullpens should have a big factor. I’m not sure if Ogando is available tonight but he may be needed if Harrison blows up. Same goes for Jake Westbrook of the Cardinals.

If you want you can follow a WPA graph that I will try to get up around game time. You can use these to see how certain moments in the game affect the probability of the Rangers or Cardinals winning. It’s pretty cool, if I don’t get it up in time you can see them at Fangraphs under the scoreboard tab.

New Blog Name

Lately I’ve been trying to think of a new name for the blog because I feel like “The Homerun Porch” isn’t the best. If anyone has any ideas feel free to put a comment with your idea.
-Mauerfan

World Series: Final Evaluation

Overall, I think the Rangers will win the World Series. I believe their line-up and bullpen are better then the Cardinals. 1-9 the Rangers are deeper, the last few batters in the Cardinals line-up aren’t that good and can’t be counted on when it matters. Plus the Rangers have the better bench. Ogando and Feliz give the Rangers’ bullpen the edge over St. Louis.

While I do think the Cardinals have the better pitching rotation I’m not sure they can keep the Rangers in check.  Carpenter should do solid against the Rangers but the other three worry me.

As a team the Rangers had a 60.6 WAR, only the second team since the ’98 Yankees to have a team WAR over 60 and make the World Series. When it’s all said and done I think the Rangers win the series 4-1, with the Cardinals winning game one with Carpenter on the hill and then losing the second time he pitches.