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Looking at lineups

Jan 4, 2011, 2:49 PM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Danny Espinosa would benefit from not hitting eighth on a regular basis.

We've got a pretty clear picture now who will comprise the Nationals' 2011 starting lineup. Jayson Werth is in right field, with Nyjer Morgan in center and some combination of Roger Bernadina, Michael Morse and Rick Ankiel in left. Ryan Zimmerman is at third base, with Ian Desmond at shortstop and Danny Espinosa at second. Ivan Rodriguez will share catching duties with either Wilson Ramos or Jesus Flores.

The only position still unfilled, of course, is first base. But I fully expect the Nats and Adam LaRoche to come to terms on a two-year contract in the very near future, perhaps before the end of the day. Simply put, the two sides need each other right now, and there's no sense dragging this out much longer.

So we pretty much know who will be in the Nationals' Opening Day lineup. What we don't know is where they will be in the Nationals' Opening Day lineup.

Who hits leadoff? Who bats cleanup? Does Jim Riggleman try to break up his left-handed and right-handed hitters, or does he just go with the best lineup 1 through 8, regardless of what side of the plate eachRead more »

114 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. N. Cognito - Jan 4, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    I try not to think. It only hurts the ballclub.

  2. NatinBeantown - Jan 4, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Some good food for thought. But first, could I possibly tee up the new posts any better?NatinBeantown said… OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, please announce the LaRoche deal. This is officially the doldrums of the offseason.Announce it, let us play righty-lefty-righty for a few days[...]

  3. Carl in 309 - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    @N. Cognito . . . LOL. That should be the watch words of more than a few managers, owners, players, and especially tv & radio commentators. Hilarious.I can't improve on Mark's suggestions–I think you basically go with your best players rather than fretting the righty-lefty thing with this team.Way curious about reaction to Mark's colleague, Adam, in today's Post who suggested that the Nats are seriously considering a platoon of existing players at first. Not impressed by the option (threw the paper across the living room when I read it–disgusted).Something like 40 days until pitchers & catchers–sounds biblical.

  4. JD - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    I think that this is probably pretty close to what the lineup will look like at the start of the season. Morgan is projected to have an OBP of .347 (Bill James) which is quite a bit higher than last year (.319) but pretty much in line with his career numbers. Ian Desmond is projected at .328 which is .020 higher than last year but still very weak for someone batting 2nd. If the Nats are to score enough runs to compete Morgan will have to be more at least hit his projection and be more responsible on the bases and Desmond will have improve over his projection by about .020. The middle order will be fine and the bottom of the order may be OBP challenged unless Espinosa and/or Ramos have big years.

  5. Sunderland - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Mark:That seems pretty straightforward.The question for me is what you raised earlier, if Nyjer Morgan is not in the lineup.If Corey Brown beats out Nyjer in spring training and wins the CF job, then obviously he hits leadoff. But the odds of this are exceptionally slim.If we put either Ankiel or Bernadina in CF, then who hits leadoff? Espinosa?It's unfortunate. We've developed some small amount of competition for Nyjer is CF, but we have even less competition for Nyjer as the leadoff hitter. Also Carl in 309, Adam in no way suggested, wrote or even hinted that anyone on the Nats was giving any consideration to the Ankiel / Morse platoon. Re-read it. Give me some indication of where Adam suggested the Nats FO is giving this "serious consideration".

  6. Kevin Rusch, Section406 - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    I guess it's ok. the LF situation makes me uncomfortable; it's basically a rotation of three 4th outfielders. If Morse breaks out, great. If Bernadina improves, he's the CF. Fine. Now, what happens if Bernadina improves and Morgan doesn't? I'd suggest:1 – Espinosa2 – Bernadina3 – Zimm4 – LaRoche5 – Werth6 – Morse7 – Desmond8 – PudgeAnother question – do you want Ramos in the #8 spot when he's playing?

  7. Bowdenball - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    I plugged the team in here using Bill James' projections for the 2011 season:http://www.baseballmusings.com/cgi-bin/LineupAnalysis.pyAll the best models had Werth batting first, of course, because models that aren't burdened by conventional wisdom know that putting low-OBP hitters on top of your lineup is about the dumbest thing you can do.I don't expect the Nats to go against the conventional wisdom this shrewdly, of course. But is there any chance they bat Werth second? Sticking him in the five hole- and costing him dozens of ABs- in favor of low-OBP guys is, in a word, stupid. Sorry, but there's no other word for it. It's less stupid if you've got guys like Utley, Howard and Victorino batting ahead of him, but we don't have those guys. We have out-making machines at the top of our projected lineup.

  8. DC Tom - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    I don't think you put two of your worst OBP guys 1-2 in the order, Mark. That sets up a lot of 2-out at bats for Zimm.I do agree that Morgan is only useful at lead-off or as a No. 8 hitter, because he is a stolen base threat and those are the two slots in which that skill can create run-scoring opportunities.So I think a better approach would be to move everyone up a notch:MorganZimmermanLaRocheWerthBernadina/Morse/AnkielEspinosaPudge/Flores/RamosDesmond (who's here for his speed)PitcherI bat Espinosa sixth only if he keeps up his solid slugging percentage. Otherwise, I'd flip him with the catcher.Interestingly, when you put the line-up together, you see one reason why Rizzo was willing to Espinosa or Desmond. From a run-production standpoint, it's very hard to carry both of those guys and Morgan in your line-up, let alone bat them consecutively.Even with LaRoche, this team is still one significant bat away from coming close to scoring 700 runs, which I think is a major component of what we should be calling, "Project .500"

  9. N. Cognito - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    I also like Werth in the #2 hole, assuming Morgan is leadoff. Werth won't be hitting in Bandbox Park, so his homerun totals should go down anyway.

  10. NatinBeantown - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    There is no reason to insert LaRoche between Zimm and Werth. Both of their righty splits are better than Laroche's (.813 and .807 OPS vs .802). I don't think LaRoche batting cleanup motivates opposing manager's matchup thinking.I am intrigued by Bowdenball's suggestion. Would this be crazy?1) Morgan 2) Werth 3) Zimm4) Morse or LaRoche5) Desmond6) Bernie or LaRoche7) Ramos/Pudge8) EspinosaIt would probably do no worse than the conventional lineup Mark predicts, but would draw a lot less scrutiny if we lose 90 games again.

  11. Wally - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    My thoughts on Mark's post:1) Nyjer. yes lead off. It gets lost in his horrible season, but his career OBP is .360ish. Yes it is SSS, but no more so than his nightmare 2010. Plus we have no other viable option.2) yes, but not for your reasoning (extremely small sample size to draw from 2010), but instead because in this lineup, he is one of the better hitters.3) Clean up hitter should be Werth. The decision shouldn't be about which side of the batters box they stand in, but how they hit v righties. 2010 v righties:Laroche – .259/.331/.471 (.802 OPS)Werth – .300/.382/.556 (.937 OPS) 4) 8th spot. I agree that the C hits eighth, only because we are betting way too much on Espy, and should give him whatever lineup advantages we can. But the veteran Pudge showing patience? lol, in what world does that happen? But also, using that logic, what do you do when Ramos plays? I am worried about 2B, specifically what is the back up plan? It is ok to give Espy a shot*, but I think it is poor roster management to bet so exclusively on his success as we appear to be doing. He is a rookie, his minor league record shows hope but flaws (admittedly as for most prospects but the superstars) and he is coming off hand surgery that often takes a year to return power to the player, which is Espy's most promising offensive strength. It seems like we just assume he will hit .250, but what if come June, he is hitting .190 with 1 homer? What do we do? play Alberto? Brian Bixler? Matt Antonelli? We need something better here.* For what it is worth, I wouldn't go with both Desmond and Espy as the MI. They each have value as a cost controlled SS, because hitting expectations for SS are very low, so their bats play fine. Teams expect more offense from their 2Bs, and this lineup probably needs it even more than average. So I would trade one of them for something else we need.

  12. NatinBeantown - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    Wally,Agreed on most points (my OPS numbers were career, but support your #3). You're probably right about getting Espinosa to #6 or #7 to help him out.I agree on the last point. My dream has Desmond headed to Tampa in a package for Garza, and us picking an Orlando Cabrera-type up to fill in for the year at 2B.

  13. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    I vote for NatinBeantown's lineup (and concur with the rest of you who have Werth in the 2 spot). Your statistical/strategic reasoning sounds good. Here is another reason to do that: I don't think Werth is the kind of guy who will hit second and let Morgan repeat his worst baserunning performances of last year. If that kind of craziness started happening again, those two would likely have a heart-to-heart meeting sooner than later. Accountability–I like it.fpcsteve

  14. DFL - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    First, it would seem presumptuous to think that Corey Brown will win the centerfield job when he hit all of .196 in AAA last season. Second, it would seem presumptuous to think that Michael Morse will be a consistent slugger based just on his last half of 2010. He has never shown the ability(until late summer 2010) to be anything other than a utilityman and has hit no more than 17 home runs in any minor league season.As for a line-up, I don't see how you pay Jayson Werth over $ 15 million a season to bat fifth. He and Ryan Zimmerman should bat third and fourth as both are better hitters than Adam LaRoche(presumably if he is indeed signed), who should hit fifth.

  15. joemktg - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Along the same lines as Kevin Rusch, Section406:Espinosa – kid can handle the bat, and with Werth behind him, should see decent pitchesWerth – if he can maintain last year's pace, it's Jeter-like, and I loved Jeter in the 2 spotZimm – he may get pitched around if LaRoche isn't up to parLaRoche – better than the restMorse – nice place to start the season, given his projections for the yearDesmond – show meBernie – show meRamos – show me (and this is a wild card)Yeah: no Nyjer. Love him, and hope he has a killer Spring so that it blows up the aforementioned.

  16. Steve M. - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    Once LaRoche is signed, the big question mark in my mind is Nyjer Morgan. If Bill James is correct and Nyjer has an OBP of .347 then the Nats could have a much improved season. Nyjer also has to make smarter steal attempts as getting caught 17 times last year (ranked 1st) gave him an adjusted OBP of a pathetic .289. That should be embarassing to Nyjer and Rizzo/Riggleman who have to harness this guy into being a productive ballplayer not this Tony Plush "me me me" type of guy. His 67% steal ratio has to improve.When you have RBI guys behind you that see empty bases, it is opportunity lost. The other opportunity is enhancing Jayson Werth's strength of getting on base and scoring runs. Werth who is one of the best at scoring runs (ranked 4th in 2010) as he had 75 extra base hits last year and he also stole 13 bases and has the speed to score on a double from 1st base.

  17. Nats fan in NJ - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    MLBTradeRumors states that Nats are close to a 2 year deal with LaRoche, which is probably the worst kept secret in free agent land these days…

  18. Pilchard - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    I'm OK with Nyjer leading off against RHP, but it would be pointless to put him in the top spot (and even start him) against LHP. He has proven over 334 plate appearances against LHPs that he can't hit them (.200/.292/.269) his OPS against LHP is a dreadful .561 (.748 against RHP).Depending on the makeup of the roster, Riggleman will have to shuffle the lineup against LHP. If non-roster invitee Jeff Frazier makes the team out of spring training, he hits lefties well. The Nats could put Werth in center, Morse in right and Frazier in left. If Frazier does not make the team, although lefthanded, Roger Bernadina does hit lefties better than Morgan. Also, the Nats may still sign another right-handed hitting OF that could make the squad out of spring training. Either way, the Nats have to use different lineups versus LHP as opposed to RHP, and Morgan can not lead-off against lefties.

  19. erocks33 - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    When Desmond batted 2nd almost exclusively the last couple of months of last season, he was a FAR better hitter than when he batted anywhere else. Sure, his OBP wasn't all-star caliber, but he did show more patience and struck out at a lower pace (30 K's in 201 PA as opposed to 109 in 574 PA elsewhere in the batting order).Plus, when he had someone with speed on base in front of him, Desmond actually did a VERY good job of advancing the runner (be it hit-and-run or sacrifice bunt or actually hitting behind the runner to the right side of the field). While I still think the Nats would benefit from trading Desmond for a top SP and moving Espy to SS, as long as Desi is still on this club I think he should bat 2nd and only 2nd.

  20. Theophilus - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    I think the RRL people are missing the point. It isn't a question of who's better at hitting right-handers but baiting the other manager into switching to a left-hander to face a left-handed batter in order to either get a better match-up for the right-handed batter in the five-hole or force another switch. There are a lot of lousy right-handed relief pitchers out there (e,g, the Bergmanns of the world, and the 4th, 5th and 6th guys in most bullpens) who will cause managers to lose sphincter control faced w/ a left-handed hitter and Zimmerman and possibly others on base. Such a pitcher against La Roche followed by Werth is a good recipe for a big inning. At worst, the other manager wastes a pitcher.

  21. N. Cognito - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    In spite of his career OBP, Morgan has NEVER been able to hit lefties.

  22. natsfan1a - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    N. Cognito, Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Think about that for a while.

  23. Carl in 309 - Jan 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    @Sunderland–you are correct; after rereading the article, Adam is NOT claiming this is an option being "seriously" (or otherwise) considered by the Nats front office. In my defense–since I ignored the wisdom that N. Cognito declared by my trying to think–it's a curious piece in any case, and suggests that a daily observer of the Nats believes there's an alternative to signing a LaRoche. The evidence that an alternative is possible includes not signing anyone yet, talk that other candidates are in play (from the rumors section of ESPN among others), and Adam's closing observation that the Nats may prefer NOT to sign a multi-year deal with LaRoche. Perhaps the readers' value of the Post piece is an analysis that on paper a platoon of Morse and Russell Branyan (and is there a position that Rick Ankiel can't play??) looks better than both LaRoche and the league "average". But offering that analysis leaves me with the empty feeling that the Nats could do just that . . .

  24. erocks33 - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    and if your reasoning to move Werth to 2nd in the order is because of the high OBP, then what happens after Zim bats third? You're left with 4) Morse or LaRoche5) Desmond6) Bernie or LaRoche7) Ramos/Pudge8) EspinosaNone of these guys are on-base machines. I guess the Nats could sell the naming rights of the stadium to Oreck or Dyson because there would be a large amount of sucking going on from spots 4-9.

  25. Dizzy Dean - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Problem is against lefties, you have 3 out of 5 OFs that bat from the left side.Against Lefties last year:Morgan – .200 AVGAnkiel – .163Bernie – .250So, do you sit both Morgan and Ankiel and put Bernie or Werth in CF? And when Morgan is out, who leads off?

  26. Ryuga Hideki - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I don't mind the lineup except Espinosa hitting 7th. Isn't Danny likely to be more of a base stealing threat and high OBP guy than Desmond? Then we all saw Ian hit better at #2 hole than any other position. So yeah, I am not entirely sure if I would switch danny and ian's respective positions.

  27. Bowdenball - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    erocks33-What's wrong with that? If, as you say, none of those guys are on-base machines, isn't it better to have them batting 4-9 than to have them batting 6-9 AND 1-2? Either way, it's six consecutive low OBP hitters. Might as well have the high-OBP guys earlier in the lineup so they get more ABs and have a better chance of getting something started in the first.

  28. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Please sit Morgan and start Bernadina in Center. I like the LaRoche signing. Left Handed and very good fielder.

  29. N. Cognito - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:10 PM

    The real point of Adam's article is that the Nats' long term solution for firstbase isn't available this year, and that includes Dunn.The long term solution is either someone currently in the organization, a free agent signed in the next year or two, or someone acquired via trade.If Gonzalez and/or Pujols test free agency, I think the Nats might make a serious run at them, but I think the Nats' long term firstbase solution will come from within the organization.

  30. N. Cognito - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    natsfan1a, I SHOULD CAPITALIZE ALL MY POSTS. THAT WAY I'LL ANNOUNCE MY PRESENCE WITH AUTHORITY.My favorite baseball movie.

  31. Mac - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    I did the same type post this morning on http://www.capitolbaseball.com, what a small world!I came up with…MorganDesiZimWerthLaRocheBerniePudgeEspiZimmermann

  32. Wally - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    NatinBeantown – that would be my dream too, so long as teh package didn't include JZimm, but I would like to do better than OCab. There has to be some trade candidates out there, like Howie Kendrick or Aaron Hill. Each have their flaws but can hit a bit.For the Bernie in CF crowd, I offer the following career stats, with UZR/150 in parens:LF – +3.6 (11.8)CF – -2.9 (-14)RF – -4.5 (_11.4)

  33. Wally - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    Hey, N. Cognito is actually Owen Meany.

  34. natsfan1a - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    It *is* a great movie, N. Cognito.(I'll leave the lineup writing to you guys, but maybe I could carry the card to the umps?)

  35. NatinBeantown - Jan 4, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    N. Cognito plays this game with fear and arrogance.

  36. PAY TO PLAY - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    For the future outfield, Bryce Harper is Lefty, Werth is Righty, Eury Perez is Righty, Bernadina is Lefty, Corey Brown is Lefty and Michael Morse is Righty.My future outfield doesn't have anyone named Nyjer in it so I am not going to worry about his OBP, CS (caught stealings), AOBP, SB, UZR, and AA (attitude adjustment).Morgan's alter ego Tony Plush's initials of TP should tell you all you need to know of how he will be flushed!

  37. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    I think we're getting kinda all over the place.

  38. JamesFan - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    -With LaRoche, this is a significantly more stable and better team in the field than last year–if no one gets hurt.-Offensively, they appear about the same.-Nyjer will have a better year. Surely, someone has worked with him in the offseason on baserunning and throwing to the cuttoff.-Pitching remains the unknown. Bullpen looks ok, but starting rotation could be ok to terrible.

  39. Baseball Annie (formerly known as Dryw) - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    N. Cognito, that might be because it's THE BEST BASEBALL MOVIE EVER!!

  40. Steve M. - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2011/01/talks-progress-for-nationals-laroche.html#Jim Bowden has the inside scoop on the LaRoche signing. That is laughable that Bowden is breaking any news on the Nats.I also hope Rizzo is smart enough to see the value in a 3 year deal versus spending 18 million on a 2 year deal.

  41. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Let me start off by saying the Opening Day lineup will be drastically different from the roster on the last day of the season. There are a lot of questions to be answered this season.Is Nyjer Morgan the guy who had a ~.360 OBP from 07-09 or is he the complete disaster of last season? If he's the former, he's definitely the lead off guy. If he's the latter, he shouldn't be in the majors by Septembers.Will Desmond continue to improve as he did in the last 2 months, or were those 2-hole numbers just due to small sample size, and he ends up with similar numbers to last season? If it's the former, bat him 2nd. If it's the latter, then there should be questions about his role with the Nats in the future.Who will emerge as our LF? Does Bernadina live up to his potential? (Frankly, I don't see potential at all, but management does.) Can Morse replicate his numbers from last year or were they a fluke? Can Ankiel undergo yet another transformation and turn himself back into a quality major leaguer?How well does Espinosa adapt to the big leagues? He showed flashes last year, but don't forget he finished with a .214 average, and struck out 30% of the time. Also, how well will he play with the hammate bone problems, which notoriously sap one's power, which was the only successful aspect of his game last year?Which catchers finish the season with the team? Will Rizzo let Pudge block Flores if Flores plays well in AAA? or will he bite the bullet and release a future HOF catcher for the Nats future catcher?With that said, I'd start with this lineup to start the season:Morgan CF (L)Werth RF (R)Zimmerman 3B (R)LaRoche 1B (L)Morse LF (R)Desmond SS (R)Espinosa 2B (S)Pudge C (R)When Ramos or Flores play, I'd move them to 5th or 6th. They've both got some power, and could hit for a decent average. If Ankiel or Bernadina start over Morse, I'd move them to 8th.

  42. JayB - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    I think Morgan being on the team let alone hitting first is absurd. If that happens we will know that the team is made no progress. What I think will happen is Morgan is Dukes'ed/Patterson'ed/Hill'ed in early March. Rizzo has to know better than going into the season with Morgan. Rizzo is will face the facts when they are starring him in the face in Spring Training everyday.

  43. JD - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    The Mets Signed Capuano for $1.5 mi; I think that this is a great low risk potential high reward signing which I wished the Nats would make.

  44. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    Mark:Now that you have written the probable lineup for all to visualize my reaction is that we will not have a competitive team this upcomng year. I look at the names on the list and I am not impressed. Similar thoughts about our starting pitching. It sure has taken a long time to build this team. Moved to DC in 2005. Progress is pitiful.

  45. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Just a thought, but I wonder if Nyjer wouldn't be more useful hitting pre-leadoff.If the pitcher hits 8th, then the #7 guy has to clear him, which means the #6 guy (usually a better hitter) should get pitched to a little more with one out, since if they get him, they can walk #7 to get to the pitcher and end the inning.With the middle of the order in front of him, #6 should have people on base a little more often than the #7, and thus get a few more RBI chances, and hopefully, a few more RBI IRL.And if the pitcher makes the last out, then Nyjer does get to lead off.I also think it's time Zimm starting hitting cleanup, where he belongs.Assuming the lineup given, and Morse in left, then:Espinoza 4Desmond 6Werth 9Zimm 5LaRoche 3Morse/Ankiel 7R/F/R 2p 1Morgan 8BUT with Bernadina in left and Ankiel in center:Desmond 6Bernadina 7Werth 9Zimm 5LaRoche 3Ankiel 8R/F/R 2p 1Espinoza 4I'll probably deny I wrote this later.

  46. mjr - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Agreed N. Cognito and Baseball Annie. I often find myself encouraging our pitchers to breathe through their eyelids.

  47. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    I also don't understand the belief that you can't bat your best players 2nd. We wasted so many ABs to Adam Kennedy and Cristian Guzman ascribing to that misconception.Last year, our leadoff batter got 743 plate appearances. 2nd batter got 722. 3rd got 713, 4th 697 and so on.If we batted a 1-2-3 of Zimm, Dunn, Willingham last year, we could have gotten 87 more plate appearances from them. Instead they were wasted on Morgan, Guzman and Kennedy. I only think Morgan should bat leadoff because he has a career .344 OBP, which is one of the best OBPs on a team of players utterly incapable of taking walks. Besides Zimm and Werth, the team is awful in terms of OBP.Last year:Pudge: .294, Ramos: .305LaRoche: .320Espinosa: .277Desmond: .308Zimm: .388Werth: .388Morgan: .319Bernadina: .307, Ankiel: .321, Morse: .352Bolded represents those who had OBPs above NL average (.324).

  48. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    can the Nats still pursue Yu Darvish of Japan via post now that his divorce is finalized? i'd want to stay away from limelight for a few years after a divorce… plus the salary would negate any bad feelings about paying the astronomical alimony…

  49. N. Cognito - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    Centerfield is the other fielding position in which the Nats do not yet have a long term solution. As much as many of us have learned to dread Morgan, his playing center this season is not the end of the world. If he sucks again, he'll be gone. It's in no way a barometer on the progress of the team.

  50. DFL - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    The catching situation depends on whether Ivan Rodriguez was the tired player of late summer or the shot in the arm of spring. It is also dependent on whether Jesus Flores is back to 100 percent health. Wilson Ramos should either be the lead catcher in a platoon in Washington or play everyday in Syracuse if Flores is back. Short term, Rodriguez creates a log jam at catcher, especially if he plays well. The temptation will be to play a productive Rodriguez and short change the playing time of the future catchers. Long term, there is Derek Norris, if he continues on a major league path. In any event, I can see trading Rodriguez at the trade deadline so that he can play for a contender as his career winds down.One major flaw I see from Ramos as a hitter is that he draws too few walks.

  51. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    JD,I agree it would be useful for the Nats to add some SP depth, along the likes of Capuano. However, I fail to see the high reward part of the signing.He's pitched 66 innings in three years, and only once has he been worth more than 1.8 WAR in a season since 2003.

  52. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    "models that aren't burdened by conventional wisdom know that putting low-OBP hitters on top of your lineup is about the dumbest thing you can do."How does that play out in the wild? Do you know of teams that have actually done it this way, i.e., putting the highest OBP hitters first? Obviously, "conventional wisdom" puts the lowest-OBP hitters at the bottom of the order, not the top, and high-RBI-potential guys (i.e., power) next, because leadoff home runs, much as I loved Rickey, are just one run, by definition. At what point, statistically, does sacrificing some OBP at the top of the order to gain some RBIs in the middle, for teams that have enough hitters to do that, pay off?Just wondering.

  53. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    DFL,Pudge proved that you don't have to be able to take a walk to be an excellent catcher. As long as your defense is good and you have some power, they can make up for the lack of a good OBP. Pudge's career walk rate is 5%. Ramos' was around 6% in the minors, so if his reputed defense and bat translate at the major league level, he could be a post-steroid era Ivan Rodriguez.

  54. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    missed a sentence there: leadoff guys are typically contact/speed guys. THEN the power guys.

  55. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    "Pudge's career walk rate is 5%. Ramos' was around 6% in the minors, so if his reputed defense and bat translate at the major league level, he could be a post-steroid era Ivan Rodriguez."Is this a little like playing guitar like Bob Dylan, and writing lyrics like Jimi Hendrix?

  56. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    Sec3,There have been several good articles written about lineup optimization, which was largely based off an article in The Book. It's worth a read, if you can get your hands on it.Here's an article that summarizes the style of player best suited for each spot in the lineup.Here's a post FJB did a couple years ago, optimizing the Nats lineup.Just google lineup optimization if you want to read more about it.

  57. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    Mark: Are the Nats going to sign Pavano? What's your best guess? I think they need a veteran innings-eater, possibly a 15-victory guy, to be competitive this season. If not Pavano, is there (free agent wise) anyone left out there?

  58. DFL - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Should Danny Espinoza be the leadoff hitter rather than Nyger Morgan? Espinosa has had as many as 74 walks in the minors. He has shown 20 home run power in his last two minor league seasons. He gets caught stealing at about the same proportion as Scot Podsednik and the Nyger Morgan of 2010, a little more than desirable. Perhaps if the Nats are stuck with Morgan in center in 2011, he should bat eighth and create chaos and occasionally be on base for the top of the line-up.

  59. SonnyG10 - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    IMO, if you put your power hitters at the top of the lineup, all you're going to do is increase the left-on-base number. If they hit home runs, they are probably solos. If they get on base, there's no one to drive them in. I think overall scoring would go down. I am in favor of Mark Z's lineup.

  60. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    "Is this a little like playing guitar like Bob Dylan, and writing lyrics like Jimi Hendrix?"It's more like, in their time, it was worth debating the weaknesses of such legends. Now, in a world of Justin Biebers and Drakes, you'd be ecstatic to find someone who played guitar half as well as Dylan and wrote lyrics worse than Hendrix.During his time, Pudge was incredibly good, but that was when it wasn't out of the ordinary for a catcher to hit 30+ HR. Pudge, Piazza, Lopez, Posada and even Mike Lieberthal did it frequently.That doesn't happen anymore. The last time a catcher hit 30+ HR was in 2003. 15 HR, .280 avg, .450 SLG and good defense is a great result from a catcher nowadays, and it doesn't look to bee too far fetched to expect something similar from Ramos, which is why I called him a post-steroid era Pudge. He has a similar skill-set to Pudge, but without the same power.

  61. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    1. It's NYJER. With a J.2. Will, thx fot the links, v. interesting, but seems to come to a rather different conclusion than we have here. Too long to post on the phone…

  62. DC Tom - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:41 PM

    Without a doubt, the Opening Day line-up will be different than the August line-up. At a minimum, given the depth that the organization has at catcher, barring injury, Pudge will likely be traded mid-season to a contender.I also think that the line-ups in Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg will be just as interesting to track and monitor this year. Because the development of those guys — Harper, Burgess, Derek Norris, Eury Perez, Tyler Moore, Rick Hague — will directly influence the roster choices Rizzo makes this coming year.

  63. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:43 PM

    Capuano was a pretty respectable pitcher before the two Tommy John surgeries. So it seems like a Wang or Webb-type acquisition – maybe he never returns to form, but if he does, it is a great bargain. Does anyone know if there was any Nats interest in him before he signed with the Mets?

  64. Steve M. - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    DFL, if Espinosa, Bernadina or Desmond showed any ability to get above .340 for an OBP then they would be good candidates for leadoff.I agree with many that the Nats are stuck right now with Nyjer until we see what he can do.

  65. Bowdenball - Jan 4, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    Sec 3:You haven't even gotten to the weirdest part. The craziest thing about lineup optimization is that it almost always recommends batting the pitcher 8th. The reason has something to do with the fact that after you move your best hitters to the top of the lineup to get them the most ABs, you want to make it more likely that their later ABs come with men on base.The traditional baseball decision-makers have embraced sabermetrics in many respects, but lineup optimization is one that they still fight tooth and nail. That's why I didn't even bother suggesting Werth actually bat leadoff in my first post here, I immediately adjusted the optimized lineup and suggested he could possibly bat second.

  66. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    I always fancied the idea of batting Livo 8th. A few years back, his bat was better than what we we've got out of guys like Maxwell, Nieves and Pudge.

  67. Jaxpo Nat - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    Exactly, SonnyG10.No way Werth bats 2nd. He will likely lead the team in HRs and doubles and you want to bat him second behind Espinosa, the pitcher, and Morgan? Yes, that makes sense. Not happening.

  68. Harper_ROY_2012 - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    the linuep Mark has given us is ok if you had an everyday LF (something that will need to be addressed in the 2011-12 off season), but given that LF is up for grabs there should be a variety of lineups as you need to adjust the lineup based on player's abilities (something Riggleman has not been good at nor was Acta)Here is my primary lineup for 2011:1. Espinosa 2B2. Desmond SS3. Bernadina CF4. Zimmerman 3B5. LaRoche 1B6. Werth RF7. Morse LF8. Rodriguez CHere is an alternate lineup:1. Espinosa 2B2. Desmond SS3. Zimmerman 3B4. LaRoche 1B5. Werth RF6. Morse LF7. Ramos/Flores C (I think we carry three catchers and primarly use Ramos as the backup and Flores as a 15-20% catcher, 80-85% pinch hitter)8. Morgan CF

  69. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    Jaxpo Nat,The leadoff batter got 85 more at bats than the 5th hitter last year for the Nats. Why does Espinosa's inferior bat deserve 85 more chances than Werth?Doesn't it make sense to bat your best hitters as frequently as possible?

  70. PAY TO PLAY - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    NEWSFLASH: You can still buy the 3 Game Opening Day package to include Fri, Jun 17 7:05 pm against the Orioles and Mon, Jul 4th against the Cubs.There are some nice Jayson Werth view seats at $25 each in Section 140.http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/ticketing/holiday.jsp?partnerId=ed-4350165-177632856

  71. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    Harper_ROY_2012,You must be a Phillies or Braves fan rooting for the Nats to lose. Otherwise, it's idiotic to bat Werth 6th!

  72. DFL - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    My line-up1. Espinosa @B2. Desmond SS3. Werth RF4. Zimmerman 3B5. LaRoche 1B6. Bernadina RF7. Ramos C8. Morgan, Perez, free agent CF

  73. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    Nice try, Nationals marketing staff!

  74. Theophilus - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    I think Minnie Minoso is still around for CF. Hasn't played yet in this century so should be rested. Always good at getting HBP so may be the answer for leading off.There are some players you look at and say, "Ain't never goin' to the WS w/ him as my [fill in the blank]." Some players are that, and toxic, too. Morgan is 30 years old, spent 6 years in the minors and hasn't yet learned the fundamentals. By the end of last season he needed batting tips from Pete Gray. The Nats have at least four players that can play the position as well, and three, (deducting Maxwell) who can hit as well or better and the substitution of any of them will not cause the Nats to fall into fifth place. Why not try to be watchable, if not better?

  75. Jaxpo Nat - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Will,"Doesn't it make sense to bat your best hitters as frequently as possible?"By that logic, St. Louis would be batting Pujols leadoff. There is a reason the power-hitting run producers have batted 3, 4, or 5 since the dawn of baseball. They drive in more runs that way. The bat-Werth-2nd argument is not logical: you don't want to bat him 4th because that would put the likes of Morgan and Desmond at the top of the lineup, they won't get on base, and Werth will not have anyone to drive in. Yet you then want to move him to #2, where there will be EVEN WORSE hitters in front of him (including the pitcher). No. I think you could make an argument for batting him 3rd, but not 2nd.

  76. JD - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    Will, Capuano may never regain his top form but he had a great year before his 2 surgeries and he is healthy again so for $1.5 mil you may catch lightning in a bottle and if you don't it hasn't cost you much. To me Pavano is the opposite; he wants multi years at $10mil per and he has historically pitched well only in his walk years so you might be flushing $30 mil down the toilet with him (high risk; low reward).

  77. ForDaFanz - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    I'd start with this lineup…MorganDesmondWerthZimmermanLaRocheBernadina/MorseEspinosaRodriguez/Flores/RamosIf Morgan slumps badly to start the year, I'd drop him to 8th and go with Desmond, Espinosa as 1 and 2.My reasoning for the middle order is Werth would have the best chance to steal a base in a two-out situation to set up an RBI opportunity for Zimm – plus, allows for double-steal opps with the top two. Lastly, Zimm is flat-out the best power hitter on the team.The Nats overall lineup appears to be at least average (assuming Morgan, Desmond, Espinosa and Bernadina don't all flop). Key to the season will still be the starting rotation – any news on that front? Still would like to see a low-cost signing of Jeff Francis to compete for a spot.

  78. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:35 PM

    DFL, please, I don't mean to pick on you because I see it all the time, but it's "Espinosa," not "Espinoza," and "Nyjer," not "Nyger."

  79. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Isn't that what they said about the Giants? "Ain't never goin' to the WS with Aubrey Huff at first, Juan Uribe at SS, and an OF of Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz."Morgan is a boneheaded idiot, but he's not as bad as everyone is making him out to be.You say: He can't run the bases; he was 34 for 51 last year.I say: He can run the bases; he was 42 for 59 the year before.You say: He can't hit; he batted .253 last year.I say: He can hit; he batted .303 in his career before that.You say: He doesn't get on base enough to bat leadoff; his OBP was .317 last year!I say: He does get on base enough to bat leadoff; his career OBP before last year was .362!You say: He's not good defensively, and makes stupid mistakes in the field.I say: Despite those mistakes, his defense was still above average last year (4.2 UZR/150), and over his career is an amazing 18 UZR/150.I don't like Morgan anymore than anyone else here, but he's currently the best option we have. If he plays like the Morgan of 2007-2009, he's a very good player. If he comes out like the Morgan of 2010, then we can bench him or DFA him, but until then he should be considered our starting CF.And for god-sake, why are people clamoring for Bernadina to start over Morgan?! If there was one player who was worse than Morgan last year it was Bernadina! He had a worse, AVG, OBP and defense, and he'll be 27! He's not the solution!

  80. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    We really don't know what spring training will bring? For all we know it could end up as:BrownDesmondWerthZimmermanLaRoche/MorseBernadina/MorseRamosEspinosa

  81. Jaxpo Nat - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    "Lastly, Zimm is flat-out the best power hitter on the team."Disagree with this. I've watched a lot of Werth the last 3 years and feel he has a better power stroke than Zim. More no-doubters for sure. My guess is Zim will have a higher average though. I feel better with Zim 3, Werth 4.

  82. Jimmy - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:43 PM

    I would sure like to have the opportunity to coach against double-switch. I know I could beat his lineup with the following:1-David Eckstein 2B (Sign Him)2-Danny Espinosa SS 3-Ryan Zimmerman 3B4-Jason Werth RF5-Michael Morse LF6-Ian Desmond 1B7-Jesus Flores or C Wil Ramos (Sorry folks, I would trade Pudge or make him a player coach!) 8-Roger Bernadina CF9-Pitcher

  83. DFL - Jan 4, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    Why Werth at 3 and Zimmerman at 4? Werth scores from first on 90 % of Zimmerman's doubles and virtually all with two outs. Zimmerman scores from first on about two-thirds of Werth's doubles and maybe 90 % of Werth's two-out doubles.

  84. JayB - Jan 4, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    Mark,What do I think?I think that is a very weak line up….combined with regression in the starting pitching staff….Mats are looking at a 100 loses again. I said back in November that they Nats were not going to improve because they were being too reactive to the market and not being aggressive in the early market and they did not over pay enough to overcome years of poor ownership decisions that caused Nats to become LOSER TOWN!All this was avoidable if they had just spent money in 2006 – 2009 and fired Jimbo in 2006!

  85. PAY TO PLAY - Jan 4, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    Will – Your "he/she said, you said" on Nyjer is laughable. 17 Caught Stealings led the Major Leagues and is a costly OUT for a low OBP guy. Many of his steals were due to poor jumps and poor decisions. A 67% steal ratio is not great. Also, I wouldnt be surprised if Nyjer was getting slower.I saw Marquis Grissom play and he had 17 caught stealings in 1991 as an Expo but he stole 76 bases for a 82% success rate. When Grissom got to 30 years old his speed just wasn't as swift as it was so he cut back on his attempts and honestly he was almost as bad as Nyjer but played better defense then Nyjer. Teams kept picking him up but his career was bad at 30 years old. When you rely on speed for your game, it goes quicker then with strength and bat speed.Nyjer has a horrible arm, a brain he doesn't use, and can't hit lefties. I see him as a bench player at best.

  86. court, rfk428 - Jan 4, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Ok, here's my rosterbation:Perez CFDesi SSZim 3BHarper RFWerth LFNorris CMarrero 1BEspinosa 2BStrasburg POh wait… you meant 2011 lineup. Well poop.

  87. Bowdenball - Jan 4, 2011 at 9:35 PM

    JayB-What "regression" in the pitching staff leading to 100 losses do you refer to? The only Nats starter whose 2009 performance outstripped his peripherals was Livan. If Zimmermann, Lannan, Marquis and Maya approach the levels predicted by performance models, they'll all improve, in some cases significantly.You had me at the Nyjer hate and the weak lineup, but you've totally lost me with this "pitching regression" prediction. Regression to the mean for the Nats starters would mean significant improvement.

  88. Anonymous8 - Jan 4, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    CourtRFK428 – Love the rosterbation which is what it is but still fun. I like your June 2012 lineup though!!!!Mark's lineup is the safe bet although I don't think Nyjer makes it through the season but I have been wrong before.

  89. DFL - Jan 4, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    People aren't performance models or robots. For instance, Steve Blass was at the height of his career after five fine seasons going into 1973. He had won two games in the 1972 World Series. His "performance model" was high. But he lost command of the strike zone in 1973 and his "performance model" went to hell. Blass was out of baseball by 1974.What of the current Nats starters? The aged Hernandez could collapse or pitch like the tired arm of the last half of 2010. Lannan could revert back to how he pitched in the spring of 2010. Perhaps Zimmerman isn't all the way back from Tommy John- he let up 8 home runs in 31 innings last season. Maybe Marquis is done. Maya pitched well in the Dominican Winter League,a pretty far cry from the Major Leagues in which he was hit hard in 2010. "Performance model" can change very quickly.

  90. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:08 PM

    I've watched a lot of Werth the last 3 years and feel he has a better power stroke than Zim. More no-doubters for sure. My guess is Zim will have a higher average though. I feel better with Zim 3, Werth 4.Werth: fast guy, high OBP. Gets on base for the slower Zimmerman followed by the even slower still LaRoche (if that actually happens).

  91. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:10 PM

    Perez CFDesi SSZim 3BHarper RFWerth LFNorris CFielder/Moore/Bloxom/? 1BEspinosa 2BStrasburg/Zimmermann/Solis/Cole/Ray.Slight corrections.

  92. phil dunn - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    Under this proposed lineup, I really don't see Morse even getting 200 at bats. Either forget Laroche and give Morse the first base job or dump Nyjer, move Werth to CF and put Morse in RF. Morse is a hitting machine with power and there is no reason he can't play first base. He has played SS in the minors. I'll bet Morse, playing full time, would put up better numbers than Laroche over the whole season.

  93. Bowdenball - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:13 PM

    DFL-That's an excellent job of offering the worst case scenario for the Nats rotation.What's your point? That if everything goes wrong, the rotation would be terrible? I don't think you'd get much argument from anyone on that. Of course, the same could be said for every rotation in the history of baseball. Personally I prefer to look at average or expected performance when I evaluate a team, but I guess if you want to answer every possible question about a team in the negative, that's your prerogative.

  94. Will - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    Pay to play,Morgan is getting slower? That argument doesn't quite hold up.From May 16th onward, Morgan was 34 for 43 in SB attempts (nearly 80% success rate). Did he suddenly become faster, or use his brain a little more, and possibly listen to the third base coach more often?If he can cut out the mental mistakes, as he seemed to avoid in 2009, then he wouldn't be such a frustrating player. I'm willing to give him a chance until he proves otherwise, or until another player comes around who is better than Morgan.As I said before, we don't have an alternative to Morgan. Bernadina is a worse batter than Morgan and by all accounts plays awful CF defense (-14 UZR/150).Corey Brown is substantially worse than Morgan offensively, and that's in AAA!You don't like Morgan's offense? Have fun with Rick Ankiel's .232 batting average and 175 strikeouts. On top of that, he walks at the same rate as Morgan (Ankiel:8% walk rate, Morgan:7%) and cannot play CF (-8.7 UZR/150 there).So who's left, Justin Maxwell?

  95. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Buster Olney sez: 4. Heard this: Carl Pavano's decision on where to sign could come any day now.Guess that could come before the first base deal. IMHO starting pitching and perhaps picking up a veteran part-time closer like Jon Rauch is far more important. There are lots of ways to fill the first base position and I still favor giving a young blocked lefty prospect a chance if its not going to be Morse.

  96. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Morgan is getting slower? That argument doesn't quite hold up.The Nats have 3 really fast guys already in their system in Boomer Whiting who probably did better than Maxwell (in AAA Syracuse last year), Eury Perez (Hagerstown), and Chris Curran (Potomac). Whiting and Perez did better with the bat and steals. Curran may be the better fielder. Throw in perennial just shy of underachieving top prospect Corey Brown. I think they may have it covered?

  97. Anonymous8 - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    Will, you need to look at Corey Brown's full picture which Rizzo talked about. He had 2 stints in AAA in 2010 and he started the year in AAA and failed the first time and when he went down to AA and came back to AAA he excelled.So I think if you throw out that 1st stint in AAA and look at his 2009 AFL and 3/4 of his 2010 season the kid has potential.We have seen the best and worst of Nyjer Morgan and we have loved him and felt sorry for him and eventually fell out of love with him as it is the person inside that was the real Nyjer Morgan that we saw.And Justin Maxwell, JUST SAY NO!

  98. JayB - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:39 PM

    Regression in Starting pitching was mostly about NO STEVEN S……Maya…nothing there at all….Lannan…if he goes back to his pre August stats again…that is regression and Livo….way way over achieved last year….Lots of room for backward movement in the Pen too….Yup 100 loses is very possible because Rizzo failed to produce in this off season. Yes it may not be all his fault but he still did not produce any starting pitching.

  99. Theophilus - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:44 PM

    Must speak in defense of L. Hernandez. His "tired out" old arm gave up 3 ER on 9/8 to the Mets, in 6.1 innings; 0 ER in 8 innings to the Braves on 9/14; 2 ER to the Braves in 6.1 on 9/26, and 1 ER to the Mets on 10/3 in 6.2. His ERA in July and August was better than it was in June. He was in better shape/more injury free than any time since 2005. With his uniquely effortless motion he could easily be somebody's 4th or 5th starter for four more years, or longer. When he's getting hammered it's not pretty but sometime in 2012 he's going to match up against Jamie Moyer.

  100. Theophilus - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    Further re Hernandez. His junque could be even more devastating following Strasburg and Zimmerman in the rotation.

  101. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jan 4, 2011 at 10:47 PM

    OK, suppose they *had* signed Lee, just arguendo. Would you still say 100 losses? Because that would be the pitching ace, no doubt about that.Sure, if all their pitchers suck, they will lose. As Bowdenball pointed out, well, sure. So will the Giants, if Lincecum gets stoned and steps in front of a bus, and Cain blows his elbow, and Wilson runs off to join the circus or something.

  102. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 11:07 PM

    Yes it may not be all his fault but he still did not produce any starting pitching.Not a top ranked top of the rotation starter … no.However, looking at AA/AAA this year:Jimmy Barthmaier (starting power pitcher that was once at the top of Houston's and Pirate's systems. TJ surgery).Ryan Tatusko. (lefty with an up to 93/94 fast ball).Bradley Peacock (high nineties power pitcher but may end up in pen?)Adrian Alaniz (tops out at 92)Tanner Roark (may end up in pen as well?)Chien-Ming Wang (may not make it back from injury)Yunieksy Maya (this time starting in winter ball and all of ST2011)Erik ArnesonJeff MandelBrian Broderick (looks like another soft tosser)Tom Milone (left soft tosser like Lannan)to compete with:Jordan Zimmermann ( their top potential power pitching starter).Ross Detwiler (left lands second in potential to Zimmermann).Garrett Mock (power pitcher post back surgery back for another shot)Shairon Martis (he is still pretty young will is he ready?)Luis AtilanoMatt Chico.Jason Marquis.JD Martin.John Lannan.Livan Hernandez.Dark Horse: lefty Sammy Solis.And JayB don't call this a "cattle call" most all of the "new" guys were drafted within the last 3 years by either the Nats or other teams. This is probably the most real competition at starting pitcher seen in any ST since 2000. Yeah, Rizzo wants/likes the proven quantity. But they might just be able to put together a decent starting rotation the way teams like the A's, the DevilRays, the Marlins have. Here is an example of Rizzo and brain trust scouting acumen at work:Now 26 years old, Barthmaier was near the top of Houston’s farm system rankings for several years until 2007, when he struggled in his first attempt at AA. Coming in to the 2009 season, Barthmaier was rated the number 12 prospect in the Pirates’ farm system by Baseball America. He was considered one of the best starting pitching prospects in the Pirates’ farm system, thanks to his 2008 AAA success, and his pitch selection. He threw a 91-93 MPH fastball, which touches 96, and an 85 MPH hard breaking ball that rated as one of the best breaking pitches in the International League in 2008.Ya just never know JayB. Rizzo doesn't strike me as the type to wring his hands because he didn't get some top pick in the lottery as the Wizards seem to have done for decades. He manages and creates his own destiny and that of his franchise. We'll just have to hope that Rizzo's belief in competition for almost every job, every position pans out this year.

  103. JD - Jan 4, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    To JayB et al. News flash for you: the Nats won't become a contender or even respectable through free agents for the following reason. A team build of replacement players only is calculated to win 48 games app. A win on the open FA market costs roughly $4mil, to get to 90 wins you need to spend $168 mil. The only way to reconcile this situation is to have a steady stream of home grown players which cost significantly less per win than the FA's. JayB you are absolutely correct in your assertion that the team was ran poorly in the Bowden years but the failures were in drafting Smoker, Willems, McGeary etc not in the failure to sign expensive FA's. The Jury on Rizzo is still out and signings like Werth do nothing to instill confidence in the future; if it was done to appease the angry masses and to attempt to make us relevant then it is semi understandable but when he is earning $18 mil a year and is producing 1.5 WAR and is keeping you from sugning a more useful player this won't be remembered as such a great move.

  104. Baseball Dryw - Jan 4, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    mjr, I will PERSONALLY buy garters for our boys if you think it will help!!

  105. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 11:20 PM

    if it was done to appease the angry masses and to attempt to make us relevant then it is semi understandable but when he is earning $18 mil a year and is producing 1.5 WAR and is keeping you from sugning a more useful player this won't be remembered as such a great move.There is no logic in the first part. None. If he wanted to appease the angry masses as you say he would have signed Dunn. From his perspective as a sage scout with a couple of decades experience signing Werth was the right move as one building block toward his goal. So, what would you be saying, right now, if he had successfully cajoled Cliff Lee into signing? And followed that with a trade for an extension of Zack Grienke because I believe he was attempting to do both not just one or the other? Now you have Lee, Greinke, Zimmermann, Detwiler/Lannan, Marquis? And then when Stras comes back? You have Lee, Grienke, Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Lannan? Wasn't that Rizzo's stated goal? To put the starting pitchers into the slots they belong in the rotation? So, ask yourself why didn't Cliff Lee come to Washington? Grienke? The answer is simple: consistent progress in the right direction. Which Rizzo is attempting to instill. Current history still reflects the Bowden circus years.

  106. Anonymous - Jan 4, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    5-Michael Morse LF6-Ian Desmond 1BUh Jimmy?Such a fantasy line up is well just that? You waste Desmond's athleticism and range at first base. A better call wold be to swap positions between Morse and Desmond. Still wasting Desmond's athleticism. But this I can see given how Pete Rose, the great young athlete, was used in his early years by the Reds. He also played the outfield.

  107. Will - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Anonymous8,Have you yourself looked at Corey Brown's stats? Mike Rizzo can spin the move however he wants, but the fact is Brown's second stint in AAA was 7 games, yes, seven games. If you can draw any conclusions from the 26 at bats he received, be my guest. But while your at it, you should begin anointing Justin Maxwell as the solution to our problems, because he similarly impressed in 2007 with 27 ABs and a .900 OPS in the majors.Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for the guy to succeed, but I think it's a little premature to pencil him in as our Opening Day CF, when he hasn't proven he's capable of hitting AAA pitching for more than a week.

  108. JD - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    Anon @ 6:20 , I am not saying that this was Rizzo's intention, I,m saying that this is the only thing that makes any sense. Werth will not 'earn' his $18 mil a year when he is 36,37,38 and 39 years old; I,m not hoping for this I,m a Nats fan but unfortunately none of us have discovered a way to beat aging. Lee, Greinke and Werth together add 15 wins which brings us to about .500 and brings the payroll up to about $100 mil but it also gives back some of our future both in prospects, lost draft choices and lost spending potential going forward. What's wrong with building around Strasburg, Zim,Zimm, Harper, Cole etc + the guys we draft this year and then augment with free agents when it can make a difference?

  109. BinM - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    The starting lineup is slightly less than 1/3 of the overall team make-up. The 2011 O.D. lineup will likely contain Pudge-CA, (LaRoche-1B), Espinosa-2B, Desmond-SS, RZim-3B, Bernadina/Morse-LF, Morgan-CF, & Werth-RF, barring further moves. That's fewer 'guessing games' then who the Nationals opened 2010 with – Pudge-CA, Dunn-1B, Guzman/Kennedy-2B, Desmond/Guzman-SS, RZimm-3B, Willingham-LF, Morgan/Bernadina-CF, Bernadina/Harris/Willingham-RF. The actual 1-8 lineup for O.D. should be determined in Viera, but to speculate as of now, I'd go with… CF-MorganSS-Desmond 3B-RZimm 1B-(LaRoche) RF-Werth LF-Bernadina/Morse CA-I.Rodriguez [Pudge] 2B-Espinosa SP-Bench= One of Flores/Ramos(CA), one of Bernadina/Morse(OF), Ankiel(OF), AGonz(IF), and one of Stairs(PH-OF) or another IF. That trumps the 2010 O.D. bench of Nieves(CA), Harris(UT), Kennedy(IF), AGonz(IF), and Taveras(OF) by a long shot.

  110. Anonymous - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    What's wrong with building around Strasburg, Zim,Zimm, Harper, Cole etc + the guys we draft this year and then augment with free agents when it can make a difference?Nothing at all. The problem is your #2 in your list does not feel he is a "building block" for the future. He, like Lee and Grienke, wants to win now. He too has been waiting since 2005. Rizzo would have lost a third rounder signing Lee. He still would have 3 picks in the 1st and sandwich rounds. Its the maturing prospects he would have lost in the Grienke trade that would have hurt the most. But by his calculations probably worth it. He has Kobernus and Hague probably headed for Potomac in 2011. There's a middle infield of the future. Next year they will be better. By the middle of next year the Nats could have 3 prime top catching prospects in Ramos, Flores and Norris. Something makes me think they will pick Norris and trade the other two while drafting more catchers in June. Harper might be ready toward the end of the 2012 season. Strasburg back in form by then. Solis probably in the rotation. Decisions will be made about Brown, Marerro, Burgess, Perez, Ramirez, Hood, and Bloxom. Cole and Ray might be ready.But the fans (and Rizzo himself I suspect) are restless and tired of losing. Remember, this is the man who said he was tired of watching Daniel Cabrera pitch.

  111. Anonymous - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for the guy to succeed, but I think it's a little premature to pencil him in as our Opening Day CF, when he hasn't proven he's capable of hitting AAA pitching for more than a week.LIke Tyler Moore Brown hit 30 homers in A ball. The difference is Brown has speed and can steal, is a better than average outfielder with a plus arm at all three outfield positions and unlike Maxwell is aleft handed. Another difference? They didn't play Bowden ball with him, anoint him a budding superstar and allow him to mostly skip A and AA ball as they did with Maxwell. Its probably why he has been terrible and underachieved at this point. Brown has been allowed to master and dominate each level he has reached. If he does the same in Syracuse and does well enough on a major league call up? Morgan's days in center and the beginning of a career as a utility outfielder may have begun. A good and appropriate lesson for ROY_HARPER_12 camp. Even the great Al Kaline needed 2 full years to fully acclimate to the majors. Have to assume about the same for Harper.

  112. Anonymous - Jan 5, 2011 at 12:57 AM

    MLB Traderumors is reporting LaRoche has signed.

  113. BinM - Jan 5, 2011 at 1:07 AM

    @JD: There's nothing wrong with building from (or around) youth. Players like RZim, Werth, Espinosa, Desmond, SS, JZimm, Storen, Harper & a few others will become the franchise 'core' for the next few years. Should the team actually land LaRoche for 2-3 years, and with an improved bench over prior years, they could take the next step toward respectability and a .500 record in 2011; Maybe that's enough to get RZim to sign an extension, maybe not. It took Tampa Bay nearly ten years to build a contender from scratch; The Nationals were in roughly the same situation in 2005, if you think about it.

  114. Anonymous - Jan 5, 2011 at 1:37 AM

    Ladson confirms the LaRoche assuming for 2 years probably with some sort of option for a third. As Capitol baseball points out this completes a significant upgrade defensively for the Nats. It should improve the infield (fewer throwing errors) and the pitch-to-contact pitching they currently feature. Offensively, if Morse manages to get enough at bats, they may actually do better in home run production than with the Hammer and Dunn while featuring a vastly improved infield and outfield defensively. Starting pitching still needs improvement. That may have to wait for the recently drafted young pitchers and the newly drafted ones from this June to progress into the majors given what happened this offseason when attempts were made to sign top FA pitchers and trade for them. Trades are still possible and we'll have to wait and see what Rizzo can achieve between now and ST.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB MN
WASHINGTON 78 59 -- 18
ATLANTA 72 67 7.0
MIAMI 67 70 11.0
NEW YORK 65 74 14.0
PHILADELPHIA 64 74 14.5
Through Tuesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
WED: Nats at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m.
THU: OFF
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Braves at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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