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Nats midseason report card

Jul 13, 2011, 4:18 PM EDT

The Nationals entered 2011 seemingly certain of several things. They knew they could count on Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche to produce. They knew their starting rotation would likely be their biggest problem-area. They knew Jim Riggleman could be counted on to manage this club until someone else told him he could no longer do it.

More than three months later, all the Nats know is that they really didn’t know at all what they were getting into this season. The first half produced surprise after surprise, most of them positive, some of them negative. It also produced a stunning managerial change, right in the middle of the club’s best stretch of baseball in six years.

Now, with the first half complete and the second half yet to begin, it seems a good time to run through the roster and evaluate everyone on an individual basis. It’s time to hand out midseason report cards…

WILSON RAMOS — B
The rookie catcher has been phenomenal behind the plate, ranking among the league leaders in gunning down would-be basestealers. Offensively, he’s come through with some clutch hits, though he’s struggled to maintain a level of consistency.

IVAN RODRIGUEZ — C+
Though he’s a shadow of his previous self at the plate, Pudge’s arm and game-calling skills remain as good as they’ve ever been. He’s also
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  1. phil dunn - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    I'd rate Werth an "F".

  2. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    phil dunn said… I'd rate Werth an "F".I'd rank him "F+".

  3. HHover - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Great stuff, Mark – thanks. Your analysis of each player is spot-on. The tough thing about assigning the grades is deciding whether and how much of a curve to grade on. For example, you don't expect the back-up/utility guys to be star players, and so you could argue Cora and esp. Hairston deserve a bit of a break.Similarly, Espinosa might deserve an "A" on the grounds that he's doing all this as a rookie–he has picked up his BA recently and is turning in the 2d highest WAR among NL 2B.And if you're grading Werth by his contract and expectations, I don't see how he doesn't rate an F. The $126M man is on track (adjusting for games played) to his lowest WAR ever–he's barely in positive territory, at 0.3 WAR.

  4. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    He's basically at replacement level (0.03 WAR on fangraphs), but being not just untradeable, but essentially unbenchable, is a killer. D- is generous.

  5. Kevin Rusch, Section406 - Jul 13, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    I'm gonna suggest something a little odd, but stay with me.Keep Storen as the 9th inning guy. He's got the mindset for it.Make Rodriguez the 8th inning guy; just make sure you put him in with the bases empty. Mattheus will slot in as a replacement for either of those guys when they need a day off and/or it's not super close.And Clippard will be the "fireman". He doesn't walk people (walks with men on base are BEGGING for trouble, which is why Rodriguez drives me nuts) and he will get used when you need him to clean up someone else's messes. This approach accomplishes a few things: 1 – it maximizes Clippard's value while minimizing the length of time he's in the game. I know there's a fixed cost to warming him up and bringing him in, but shorter average appearances lower the wear on his arm.2 – it minimizes the risk involved in bringing Rodriguez into the game. A reliever who throws 100+ is great, but those walks are risky. If you make sure he starts with a clean slate, so much the better.3 – Mattheus is also doing quite well. He appears to be an admirable fill-in at setup or closer, and this lets him spell the others.4 – It allows you to pitch Clippard in spots where the game really hinges on his ability to get the defense out of a jam.This is basically the "bullpen ace" theory as I've read it elsewhere. It's ignorant of the Save stat as it's currently kept; that's ok, because the save is a really poor metric. If you track these things by Win Probability charts, getting 2 outs with the bases loaded in the 7th can make an enormous difference in your likelihood to win the game, no matter who pitches the 9th. And that's Clippard's strength.

  6. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    *misplaced the decimal, there. HHover is on it.

  7. LoveDaNats - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Good analysis, Mark and I agree with all of your observations. It has been particularly hard for me to watch Sean Burnett struggle since he's been SO dominant for so long. I'm not sure what needs to happen with him. I know it was a great benefit to Lannan to visit the minors awhile and work out his problems. Is that even an option for Burnett? I can tell he is agonizing over this.Unfortunately, I think we are watching the end of Matt Stairs career. He may want to think about retirement before all anyone remembers is his .143 instead of pinch hit home run leader.As for Werth, I don't know what to say.

  8. JohninMPLS - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    I would remove the minus from Hairston's grade. One could say he's done everything that was expected of him, but I doubt anyone expected him to have this many starts by the All-Star break. I thought he did an admirable job filling in for Zimmerman. Otherwise, I think your grades are spot on.

  9. Steve M. - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Love the honesty Mark on your description of the weak links here in Werth and Stairs.How do you rate Mike Rizzo? He brought in Werth, Stairs and Ankiel.He hasn't signed any of the 1st rounders yet so it may be premature to fully rate his 2011 season. He also lost his manager mid-season and it is really his 2010 roster players that is performing well not the guys he added this year. Poor trades this year in Willingham, Nyjer and AGonzalez.I give Rizzo a C+ so far which is probably nice. I give Riggleman a B+ as it was on his watch that this team started to gel even though he didn't have the guys he wanted. Tough to manage that way.

  10. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:16 PM

    And I guess that means Riggleman is a Drop.LaRoche is obviously INC, but took a D+ into that. How ticked would Rizzo be if it turns out Werth is hiding an injury, and could have been sitting this out? Off the scale?

  11. JD - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Mark, Like most everyone else I would rate Werth an F and I would also rate Desmond a C- at best. SteveM. In my opinion your Rizzo rating is pretty solid too although I would rate the Morgan and Agonzalez trades as irrelevant where the goal of the transaction was to get rid of players without much expectation for a return. I think that the Willingham trade cannot yet be judged; I think HRod has a chance to be a dominant reliever and Willingham is a FA at the end of this year. Let's wait a year to grade this one. Where I have a serious problem with Rizzo is the Werth signing which was irresponsible and unnecessary (If the team absolutely needed to make a splash and prove a point they should have gone hard after Crawford who is 4 years younger than Werth). The willingness to trade JZimm, Espinosa and Store for Greinke is also quite alarming especially with the knowledge that JZimm is quite possibly as good as Greinke.

  12. JD - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    SteveM. Rizzo's track record in drafting and signing is very good. He'l get his players signed this year as well and the draft was very good. It's in FA's and trades (with the exception of the Ramos trade) where Mr. Rizzo has been less than stellar.

  13. FS - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    I don't agree with Zimmerman's grade. I forgot which poster, but someone pointed out his offseason preparation as a problem before he got injured. I would give him a C or C- for not being prepared to play 162 games.Agree with everything else.

  14. Dawn - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Can't really argue with any of your grades, only comment I would make, would take Pudge's shadow over 50% of the starting catchers in this league any old day.

  15. Doc - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Good job Mark!Also, thanks for the sabermets on the pitchers, Kevin Rusch Section 406. The Bosox, led by James, had some intentions of doing that stuff, a few years ago; not sure how successful it was, or whether they carried it forward.Of all the managers in MLB, DJ is the best equipped to put such a relief strategy in play, particularly with Clip's availability. It would be fun to get DJ's input into the 'metrics of this approach–can't believe that he's not aware of it.I also think that DJ was one of the few in the Nats' brain trust to view Detweiler's potential in the BP. Detweiler could be used a lot like Clippard, for the same reasons.Seems like with this BP, DJ and the Nats have a neat opportuity to make this approach work.

  16. P. Cole - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Mark's report card gets an A+. It's perfect.Werth is not an F, just look at all the team's offensive categories where he ranks in the top 3. It's quite surprising.Desmond's defense has been very solid, which is easy to take for granted. His end of year grade could drop if he doesn't start going opposite field and getting some hits.

  17. DFL - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    I agree with P. Cole. Our host's grading was right on and very fair.

  18. JD - Jul 13, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    P.Cole, Werth is an F based on performance vs. salary and expectations. Being a top 3 with Zim and Laroche out so long is no great shakes. Desmond's defense is why he is not an F because an OBP of .264 certainly is.

  19. Sam - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    2011 isn't over yet. So, the skeptics aren't necessarily wrong about Livo regressing. Plus, his ERA is creeping up to where his xFIP was last year and is equal to his xFIP this year (4.01). So, he has regressed a bit.Otherwise, I agree with most of what Mark said.

  20. HHover - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    On RizzoI'm not a huge fan of his, but a GM's job (esp. on a non-contending team) is to take a long-term view, and grading him mid-season doesn't make a lot of sense.Some of his moves have worked: re-signing Livo; Nix; Hairston. Some haven't: Ankiel, Stairs and Werth. The first two are one-year rentals, and every GM picks up a few from the junk pile in the hope they'll find a gem or at least plug a gaping hole. As a multi-year, break-the-bank player, Werth is different. It looked like a WTF contract at the time he was signed–Rizzo essentially acknowledged they were overpaying last fall. Werth was never going to pay out strictly in terms of his performance on the field, but the Nats thought they were getting a star who would win them some attention and goodwill (and jersey sales). So far, they haven't gotten that either, but we've got 6-1/2 years left to see.

  21. 82-80 (formerly still waiting....) - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    I have really been trying hard to remain positive, but i cant let the commenary on Rizzo pass, without my 2 centsThe guys has zero PR and Personnel skills. like it or not both are part of his job.He gets way too much credit for his drafting and signings. The team "earned" the right to those high picks due to the terrible play and allowing Type A FA's to walk. Even the signing of these players is more of an accomplishment of Boras than Rizzo.I will actually give him a pass on trades, he has one good one and several mediocre ones. His FA signings have been abysmal, at least the high profile ones. I would give him an overall C- and if Ankiel and Stairs are on the roster after the break, its a D-

  22. dale - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    Fair grades, Mark.Kevin Rusch,Your comments regarding Clippard's role are well reasoned. However, DJ has stated that he wants his bullpen prepared to expect certain roles, in my mind this means that each pitcher knows ahead of time the likely time he will be in the game and the order that the bullpen will be used. Clippard as "fireman" works against this grain. DJ's explanation for not taking Livo out just prior to the recent 3 run homer to the left handed batter was that he had not warned Burnett the inning before to be ready. As curious as that explanation was, it still illuminates DJ's thinking, which will likely take a season for someone as dense as me to comprehend.

  23. SilverSpring8 - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:29 PM

    Mark:I agree that Stairs, Werth, Ankiel and Burnett get the lowest grades.The question is, what will Rizzo & DJ do about it? They can't move Werth; they're stuck with him until (I hope) he starts to produce at the plate. Maybe he'll improve on defense as well; he's great at the sliding catch coming forward, but he takes wretched paths to balls over his head and if I see him try to barehand a bouncing ball one more time, I'll scream.What's in the cards for Stairs (great clubhouse presence but I can't believe he's still here), Ankiel and Burnett?

  24. Harper_ROY_2012 - Jul 13, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Mark Z-Here is where I differ with you:Morse B (his strikeout total is way to high for an A)Espinosa B (low batting avg cannot get you an A)Desmond D (almost below the Mendoza line, time to bring up Lombo and move Espi to SS and make Desmond a utility player ala Melvin Mora for 2012)

  25. baseballswami - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    My player of the first half is definitely Jordan Zimmermann — his return from tj has been remarkable, nothing rattles him, he is steady as rock – his w/l record would be phenomenal with any run support. He is my bright spot for the future on this team, along with Espi. Zim, Storen, Espi and Morse are the leaders of this team now. Kudos to the Kardiac Kids – don't let anyone tell you that you are too young or inexperienced to be leaders!

  26. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    On Espinosa's Interview: You know that WAS ALL I WANTED to hear that B*stard Riggleman say? As Riggleman himself put it, he's THE LOCAL BOY? If you are the local boy you want to win … a local boy doesn't go to Caddie's and tell all the micro skirt toting college dollies that "the Nats aren't good yet"? And now suddenly he has become reflective … sheesh …This is what made me the angriest at the guy and don't say "you don't know what its like on the inside"? I don't care. Espinosa shouldn't be the one saying it, YOU SHOULD Interim Jim? That you were hungry to get to the playoffs, that you wanted to win one for once in old DC? That its all holds barred to get there? That says a lot about your attitude that you continue to describe and apparently agree with the above … so if you knew it was going to be terrible (because of the contract) you should not have signed on from the get to? Or at the very least not for this season? Instead you let your mouthpiece Heyman spew your venom filled resentment on every 3 or 4 weeks or so? And Heyman is still doing it? And I can't believe all the other people who continue to defend that attitude more than the actions?Jim: Bad form buddy, you betrayed your local "homies". You betrayed your school, your old neighborhood. And that is the thing that hasthe lasting bitter after taste. I was full on board with you managing just because as you putit, YOU WERE the consummate LOCAL baseball fan! I said YEAH verily here we go! $600,000 and achance to keep after it wasn't enough for you totry to bring a championship to DC? Damn you all the way to San Francisco buddy.

  27. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    Morse B (his strikeout total is way to high for an A.Morse's strike out total isn't that bad for a fourth/fifth/sixth RBI guy. And he has a fairly high OBP. Its the dearth of walks that should concern you? Espinosa has more strikeouts than Morse last I looked. As does Werth and Desmond. Its walks versus strikeouts not just strike outs Harper_ROY_2012 and, by the way looking at Espinosa and what he has done do you seriously believe Harper will be able to come close to matching that next year? Sheesh …

  28. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Anon 3:05… Bobby V on ESPN said last night that the biggest suprise of the season where the two managers that quit on there teams! He ripped into "the manager with the team in the middle of a hot streak that is showing promise – and he QUIT!" Loved hearing one that was in the coaching fraternity rip into Riggs

  29. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    Werth, in a way, was a "signability pick" as a free agent. They had good reason to think, and inside intel too for all I know, that they couldn't get Crawford even by overpaying, and likely didn't want another Tex non-win. Werth was a safe bet at that price.

  30. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    "the manager with the team in the middle of a hot streak that is showing promise – and he QUIT!"It was clear to me that Rigg had quit on his hometown, his local team more than a year a go. Mr. "SadSack" hopefully will never manage another professional baseball team, majors, minors, independent. What Rigg really needs are lessons in gratitude and humility.

  31. Unkyd - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    Harper: nope, nope, and nope. An A grade doesn't need to denote a future 1st ballot hall of famer. Morse and Espy have both been ++on defense, and they drive what offense we've seen…. What do you want?!And of course, I'll reiterate that My Boy should have til this time next year, to get his offense going… He's been making good contact, for a couple of weeks, now. With his arm, range, and baserunning, it would be a crime to give up on his bat, now, and see him be an integral part of some other team…Love me some Desi…..! :-)

  32. Tim - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    Nice job, Mark.I assume Detwiler would be an INC… not enough data yet. He will be a key 2nd half player for us.For some of the veterens, even Stairs, I'd raise their grade a half a point. They all have brought some intangibles in the clubhouse and that's one of the reasons we're at .500.Also, let's grade the staff…GM Rizzo… Hmmm… C- … He mishandled the Riggleman deadline. It seems like a little people skills would go a long way. Also, it seems like we have riches in catchers and there are quite a few in need of one. (See SF, HOU, et al)MGR Riggleman …. B … Although word was that he lost the clubhouse because of his tenuous contract status, his management style worked for the type of team he had. He knew from the get-go that he wanted to run and be aggressive. However, quiting is just inexcuseable.MGR Johnson … C- … Although the word was that he was a sharp baseball mind, he has yet to convince. Leaving Livo in too long was case in point. All we needed was one out. He also has talked about he trusts his players and believes in his players, and yet, out of the other side of his mouth, he says that he doesn't like the roster. Which one is it?1B/3B Coach Radison/Jewett/Porter… D+/INC/B… our youngsters need more help in getting a jump and secondary lead. With the speed we have, every time there's a ball in the dirt, we should be advancing and forcing the other team to make a play. Bo Porter is helping us stay aggressive and is the right man for the job.We could do our TV and radio announcers, too, although I'd hate to see the grade for Debbie Taylor [although she stays in good shape ;-) ].

  33. Unkyd - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    RiggRants….. SO yesterday….Seriously, I am looking forward, BABY!!!!

  34. DFL - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    We have entered a pitching era in baseball. Expect lower batting averages. Look through a baseball reference guide for the 1960s and pour over the statistics. A guy name Ray Oyler was Detroit's starting shortstop with a .135 average in 1968, the year the Tigers won the World Series. The Tiger alternatives weren't much better- Dick Tracewski at .156 and Tommy Matchick at .203. Maybe that's why centerfielder Mickey Stanley was shifted to shortstop for the '68 series. While I wouldn't expect the batting of today to decline to the levels of the 60s, they certainly are closer to that era than they were to the steroid era we just came out of. For instance, today's Padres are hitting a collective .230, only five points better than the terrible 1969 expansion Padres.

  35. Gonat - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:44 PM

    Steve M. said… Love the honesty Mark on your description of the weak links here in Werth and Stairs.How do you rate Mike Rizzo? He brought in Werth, Stairs and Ankiel.He hasn't signed any of the 1st rounders yet so it may be premature to fully rate his 2011 season. He also lost his manager mid-season and it is really his 2010 roster players that is performing well not the guys he added this year. Poor trades this year in Willingham, Nyjer and AGonzalez.I give Rizzo a C+ so far which is probably nice. I give Riggleman a B+ as it was on his watch that this team started to gel even though he didn't have the guys he wanted. Tough to manage that way. July 13, 2011 1:11 PM ___________________________________SteveM & JD – Good points except you failed to mention the LaRoche fail also. How is this team .500 with Zimmerman's injuries, LaRoche's injury, Werth's failure, Stares failure and Ankiel, etc.Rizzo gets a D+. He thought the law of averages would make his spare parts work and Stares never got a HR and no extra base hits. One meaningful hit and several missed opportunities. Hairston and Cora or Alberto and Willie?Laynce Nix and Gorzo are his only success as the rest could have been the spare parts he traded in Alberto Gonzalez and Josh Willingham.All the bright spots of this team are from what was already here. It is the return of an amazing Jordan Zimmermann and Danny Espinosa being clutch and this enigma of Michael "Beast Mode" Morse that have been the difference makers.SteveM is correct, this is the 2010 roster in September getting better. The team had Ramos, Pudge, Morse, Espinosa, Desmond, RZim, Bernadina, JZim, Marquis, Livo, Lannan, Storen, Detwiler, and Clippard already in September 2010 and had the ability to keep Willingham and Alberto Gonzalez.Add back a healthy Josh Willingham and a replacement for Adam Dunn and you have the same team you had in September 2010. All you had to do is replace the bench and get a 5th starter.Rizzo spent a ton of the Lerner's dough on crap. Werth and LaRoche who are negative WAR.Rizzo failed on not having Nyjer's suitable replacement thinking Ankiel was the answer? Are you kidding me? Did you see his stats last year. Have you seen his stats this year?Rizzo didn't even back up his Manager who was begging to get rid of Slaten and wanted Detwiler and was begging to rid himself of Stairs and was told NO every time. Davey is here for a week and gets Detwiler and we will see what happens to Stairs. I would say Davey has a better roster than what Riggleman had. Let's see what he can do with it.

  36. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    Interesting take by Jon Heyman in si.com on Riggs quitting. Not saying I agree or disagree, but not every take out they is "he quit on his team" http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/jon_heyman/07/11/first.half/index.html

  37. FlapJacks in Olney - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    At the risk of re-stating the obvious. If Zim and Werth could come close to their career averages in the 2nd half, could be very interesting.

  38. Anonymous8 - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Rizzo was on the right track put went down the wrong road with the philosphy of improved defense, athleticism and attitude.Those philosphical endeavors usually show up as intangibles and have been a big reason for winning and the defensive stats are evident with fewer errors. Bo Porter was a great hire as he has kept the guys running hard on the bases. So that is all good for Rizzo as he set that forward for the 2011 team but stumbled real bad with the mis-handling of Nyjer in the off-season and a re-injured/never recovered Zim from end of 2010 carried into 2011 and was a serious mistake.Rizzo seems to be respected by other GMs and I can see why since they have all want to take advantage of him in trades. Besides Capps for Ramos, Rizzo trades like he is desperate and the Brewers are still laughing about Nyjer for Cutter Dykstra and the A's for Corey Brown and Henry Rodriguez as that has essentially turned out to be Willingham for Henry Rodriguez.Keep in mind that the Ramos for Capps trade was under Stan Kasten's watch. Now Rizzo is on his own and that is my biggest area of concern. I will never be able to forget the "almost trade" of Greinke for 3 of the teams's stars in Jordan Zimmmermann, Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa. This team would lose 110 games if that trade was made.–What was Rizzo thinking, or maybe he wasn't?Rizzo gets a F- and the real credit goes to Stan Kasten as the architect. If Stan saw this through he would have enjoyed this year and never would have allowed those 2011 trades to happen and double-switch Riggleman would still be the Manager.Besides getting a decent 5th starter in Gorzalanny and a bench player in Nix, big deal. Any one of us with $30 million to spend could have done better than Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ankiel, Hairston, Coffey, Cora, Gaudin, Broderick, Nix and Gorzalanny.Now the LaRoche deal may be salvaged if he is healthy in 2012. Werth may turn out to be a decent player, but Nix is a Free Agent as is Coffey, Hairston, Cora, Pudge, Marquis and Livan. Rizzo will have to reconstruct his bench again and maybe he will learn as he goes forward.

  39. sjm308 - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:18 PM

    Thanks as always Mark!I think you were just a little high overall on your grades. I mean this team has exceeded expectations but the reality is its still only a .500 ball club. Lots of A's & B's for a team in 4th place in its own division. Big keys to me are Werth coming around, Zimm continuing to improve and how Davey manages to utilize JZimmnn in his last 60+ innings, as well as the bullpen keeping up what it has done so far. If Wang can make it back, while he is not Jordan, he could be the answer.I honestly doubt that they will do anything with Desmond even though lots of people here want change. I think we have one of the best double play combos in the game and I also feel he will improve at the plate like Werth. I am not looking for us to win the NL East, I just want us to keep that .500% for the next few months. I had 75-78 wins and would love to be wrong (on the positive side of course).

  40. sjm308 - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:29 PM

    I am not huge on Rizzo one way or the other. I do think his personality comes across a little rough in interviews but that is minor.What I don't understand is how people who do know baseball, and that is our people here on Insider continue to devalue the Willingham trade as a negative for this franchise. Willingham was a great guy but injured every year for the last three. Guess what?? Injured again this year and hitting a robust .238. He is a free agent at the end of this year and we would not have gotten jack for him with the season he is having. He would not have helped us one bit because if he was here, Morse would never have won the starting LF job at the beginning of the season. I also think HRod is exciting and showing much more potential at his position then Willingham is at his.Nyjer – he didn't want to be here, most of us didn't want him here and I don't care if we got a bucket of balls for him, his attitude was killing our club. Should Rizzo of done something in the off-season? Yes but thats hindsight and not really fair to use in evaluating our GM. If Morgan is still here, Bernadina is not starting in CF. Does anyone remember how absolutely horrible Morgan's arm was? This trade is a wash, we got rid of a cancer.AGonzalez – again, he didn't want to be here – he is hitting a robust .226 and does not start. At least Cora and Hairston came in with an understanding of what was wanted and needed. Is AGon a better fielder then both? Of Course but he didn't want that role.That leaves Gorzo who we STOLE from the Cubs. How can anyone not like that deal. I am not impressed with Stairs (who could be) or Ankiel but like a previous poster pointed out, this is done every year. You take gambles on older pros and hope some still have something left like Lance Nix. Rizzo might not be the answer and Kasten probably was a huge help but I think he is getting a raw deal when the above trades are mentioned as a reason for him getting a poor grade.OK Rant over – lets play two

  41. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    OK, we've graded the players, the FO, the managers, and Mark. What's left? Grades for us.

  42. LoveDaNats - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Are you kidding? We rock.

  43. sjm308 - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:41 PM

    I give Nats fanA1A an A+ for always being positive.Same grade for JaneBNats Jack was invaluable in spring training, another ASec 3 gets an A for having the best seat in the houseNot sure who is drinking the bourbon and Malox but he gets a A as wellDave – ASteveM – AGoNat – ASunshine Bobby – A (and not just for a great handle)HHoover – Aand as usual, when you have a huge number of people contributing I have left at least a dozen off but they are all A'sOh there is one final grade Anonymous – incomplete since I have no idea who they are

  44. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    Interesting take by Jon Heyman in si.com on Riggs quitting. Not saying I agree or disagree, but not every take out they is "he quit on his team"From ST on it seemed like every other post was about how the Nats should extend Riggleman. You don't think he and Riggleman weren't in constant communication? That he and Riggleman aren't friends?Ignore Heyman. He's defending a friend and looking like a complete and total jacka?? and idiot doing it. Riggleman was DEAD wrong by his own admission. Having that kind of attitude about a $600,000 contract in today's world where Social Security checks (and he is almost old enough to collect) might not go out? Riggleman: Complete and total nonsensical, blithering numbskull.

  45. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    Not sure who is drinking the bourbon and Malox but he gets a A as wellThat would be sunshine Bobby.I disagree about Rizzo. His trade of Willingham was uncanny and almost clairvoyant. Look at his stats and he has been on the DL twice!!! Now he is trade bait. Its unlikely the former catcher will make another season on those knees unless its as a DH. The Dunn deal? Another clairvoyant move that led to Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin. And its not all Rizzo, his FO is as sharp as any in baseball (a day-and-night difference from Bowden's shoestring FO). His scouts saw that Willingham wasn't going to make it … and yes some still aren't convinced about Morse … As someone mentioned Rizzo isn't through yet. And Johnson will work even more closely with he and the FO on making roster adjustments all the way down through the minors. Let's wait and see what the trade situation looks like by July 31st. Rizzo makes mistakes (Stairs, Mock) but its a whole hell of a lot better than Bowden's reign of error.

  46. Mark'd - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    SJM, come on. Willingham was never going to get Mike Trout but you don't trade him for mid-level prospects.Willinghan had to go but Rizzo needed more than what he got. Nyjer should've been moved in December and Cutter Dykstra is a joke for a platoon outfielder who is deceent against RH pitching as he has shown in Milwaukee.Rizzo is playing poker now at the big boys table and has a lot to learn

  47. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    Rizzo is playing poker now at the big boys table and has a lot to learn He's got Davey Johnson to go with Clark, Kline, etc. in the FO. He'll get better … where Bowden seemed to get decidedly worse.

  48. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    BTW, Rizzo pretty much stole Ryan Mattheus from Colorado for Joe Beimel. H-Rod looks like he could develop into something … hopefully a guy who can help Clippard and Storen and the end of the bullpen.As for Corey Brown he is still young enough to be afforded a chance. No one is rushing him to the majors as they did with JMax. Burnett will come around.

  49. HHover - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:07 PM

    Mark'dCould Rizzo have gotten better in return for Willingham? Maybe. But if he'd held out for more and not gotten it, we'd just have heard another round of moaning about how Rizzo asks too much in return for trades, and W'ham would have been spending his time on the DL in a Nats uniform.Fact is, HRod has already contributed more WAR (0.4) to the Nats than Willingham has to the As (0.3).

  50. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:11 PM

    Joe Kennedy, on how he didn't get wiped out in 1929: "Only a fool holds out for top dollar."

  51. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Off-topic, but since the Tune Inn has been mentioned here before as an Insider's hangout: benefit, Friday night. See you there.

  52. Natslifer - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:28 PM

    Agree with all positive comments about Rizzo:- Remember, we were 30 games below .500 at midpoint just two years ago when he took over.- I'm not sure how much credit Kasten gets with the Nats but I lived in Atlanta when they went worst to first and the GM Scheurholz (sp?) was the brains (and Kasten admits it).- This is a real ball team who's sum is better than the parts. Getting rid of Nyjer and Gonzalez is part of that.- We got rid of Hanrahan and now he's an all-star? Couldn't necessarily see that then and we have Storen.- Werth is a bum? Forgetting about his cost who here could've predicted his current performance? Thinking about his cost, it's completely understood that we overpaid. The big challenge is what comes next with Zimmy and others – but you have to believe the FO knew all this when they signed Werth. I'm willing to bet anyone that Werth breaks out of his slump in the second half.- He's rough around the edges communication-wise? How much does that factor in your grading system – for me, it's a non-factor as long as he's respected in baseball.Bowden was a complete disaster as our GM but a great talker and is now doing what great talkers do.I don't know if Rizzo's the best GM we'll ever have either but I like watching this team and rooting for it and the results speak for themselves: thirty game improvement in just two years with an almost totally made over team plus every smart baseball person out there talking about how much upside we have.

  53. HHover - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    sjm308Missed your comment before. Thanks for the grade, and back at you!

  54. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:54 PM

    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor playerThat struts and frets his hour upon the stageAnd then is heard no more: it is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing.–WS

  55. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    Life's but a walking shadow, a poor playerThat struts and frets his hour upon the stageAnd then is heard no more: it is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing.–WS

  56. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    The Tune Inn post:www.natsinsider.com/2011/06/best-second-baseman-in-baseball.html?showComment=1309283701082#c6766067376982215076

  57. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 10:59 PM

    And it's the day after tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

  58. Mark'd - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    HHover, you saw what I wrote, Willinghan had to go it just wasn't a strong trade. I take Willingham over Werth. And for anyone to compare the joke if JimBo in the same sentence with Rizzo is a disgrace. Still, too early on Rizzo and must agree with Anon8 on that Greinke thing. Sheesh.With SJM308, love the positive ladies here Natsfan1a and Jane and SteveM is a rockstar and agree with your A. He is a true insider and doesn't tattletale. He knows a lot which he said he can't share.I like NatsJack though he has been wrong too often on werth, Wang, and calling JZim a prospect was tough to swallow. I go to Sue Dinem for the best in Nats Prospects.Mark Z is awesome. A+

  59. Gonat - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    sjm308 said… I give Nats fanA1A an A+ for always being positive.Same grade for JaneBNats Jack was invaluable in spring training, another ASec 3 gets an A for having the best seat in the houseNot sure who is drinking the bourbon and Malox but he gets a A as wellDave – ASteveM – AGoNat – ASunshine Bobby – A (and not just for a great handle)HHoover – Aand as usual, when you have a huge number of people contributing I have left at least a dozen off but they are all A'sOh there is one final grade Anonymous – incomplete since I have no idea who they are July 13, 2011 5:41 PM ________________________________sjm308 (the other SteveM), nice grades and thanks for my A although I have said it before that a lot of my info comes from conversations with SteveM and I am now coming out of my shell to make comments and give opinions. I didn't follow this blog in the past and when I came on this year it was great reading SteveM go against the grain time and time again starting with Zim's oblique injury, cutting Stairs and his thoughts on Detwiler to the bullpen. That is all insight he had prior to the start of the season and he was right on in all 3 cases. 1) Zim went on the DL and still recovering2) Slaten and Burnett have been horrible and Detwiler sat in Syracuse while he could have been in DC helping from Day 13) He said take Nix over Stairs and keep Bernadina and Rizzo kept Nix and Stairs and sent Bernadina to AAANow we are in the traditional 2nd half and the Nats could be sellers or hold firm or maybe be buyers. I don't see the Wild Card because of the strength of the Braves so I think the Nats should be trying to extend some of the better players and if they can't, trade them for good prospects. Still, you have to protect the team's record as a strong finish will make the nation and the Free Agents believers so you don't have to beg and overpay to get a Jayson Werth.

  60. MicheleS - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    So MASN is showing the Nats Classic – STRASMAS. Time to rate the broadcasters:Charlie/Dave… A, nothing better than those twoBob B-.. solid performerFP: B+ – as I listen to Dibble, I realize, yet again, how much I like FP. He had a rough start (those country strong comments have at least stopped) but his one liners are great (losing is a disease Teddy). The fact that he doesn't grunt and groan in the booth makes him soo much more enjoyable.Debbie C-.. I am being kind, but lets face it, her reactions to the gatorade baths is priceless.I can't rate Johnny/Ray, don't watch the pregame that much.

  61. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    Can you imagine if Dibble had Debbie's sideline job?

  62. Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Johnny … has nice pipes. I like Ray–he knows what he's talking about, speaks his mind, and is funny every once in awhile.

  63. MicheleS - Jul 13, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    And there is one grade we have all missed…The Doctors and Training staff: F-

  64. Anonymous - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    FP gets an "A" in my book. Knows a lot more about baseball than Knight and Dibble combined. Knight's in to managing came about because Marge Schott had a crush on him. Dibble's a Howard Stern wannabe.FP's knowledge, experience et al all came about because he earned it. I absolutely loved it when he came to Nats' fans defense during the combined MASN broadcasts. His take on the Teddy losing deal. He's priceless. Debbie Taylor seems strained now that she has to ask Ray's questions since Davey doesn't go to the MASN table and don the headphones; makes everyone come to HIS office … hmmmm I wonder if like FP he is sending a message about perceived Bird bias and favoritism on the part of MASN? ~smiles~ Strange that, given he used to be an Oriole yet it wouldn't surprise me. In my mind's eye I remember him after one of the wins against the Cubs grabbing he curly W on his jacket and pointing it proudly at the MASN camera as he lept from the dugout to join the congratulatory gauntlet. Yeah, I betcha as they say in Minnesoda.

  65. LoveDaNats - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:39 AM

    I have learned so much about baseball from FP. Thanks for that.

  66. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    One other thing about our posters grades – what is great is that we don't always agree but it is great discussions on a mature level.Markd – not sure how you can rank Hrod as a midlevel prospect when he is in the MAJOR LEAGUES, throwing heat and doing a better than average job and he has his future ahead of him. Willingham, again a great guy but he is on the decline and has not been healthy for over 4 years. This was almost as big a steal as Mattheus for Joe Biemel.MicheleS – I have a little bias with one aspect of the training staff so I am not going to grade them but I can tell you that the massage therapists are top notch, and John Philban is a true professional.

  67. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    I have put way too many posts up tonight but I can't end without my take on Debbie Taylor. First, I think the "sideline" reporter is a complete waste of time in any sport. Asking questions right after a game is also a waste but the questions Debbie asks are even worse than a complete waste. I honestly don't care how they feel, I honestly don't want to hear the answers to her softball questions. Add to that her facial expressions as she squinches up her mouth and it absolutely drives me nuts. Debbie gets my only F and FP gets an A for being so fresh and completely different then what we had before him.Thats it for tonight – I promiseGo Nats!!

  68. Mark'd - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:05 AM

    SJM, when the Nats got HRod in the trade he was a prospect and it was risky as he had no MLB experience. McCatty has done a good job with him.

  69. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    I don't agree with Zimmerman's grade. I forgot which poster, but someone pointed out his offseason preparation as a problem before he got injured.If I recall, that bit about lack of offseason preparation was a rumor that turned out to be false. Or am I remembering wrong? Anybody?

  70. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    (and I hope someday to have enough spare time to post enough so that I can get a report card grade, too! ;-)

  71. al m - Jul 14, 2011 at 4:32 AM

    Have to disagree about FP. Don't like him for several reasons. He is a cheerleader for the team. No critical analysis. Ribs could be a jerk but he criticized players and the manager and I miss his honesty. Secondly FP has an extreemly annoying habit of grinding a point into the ground saying stuff 3,4 or even 5 times. Drives me nuts. I like ray after the game but not in the booth

  72. Joe Seamhead - Jul 14, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    All of the talk that the Willingham trade was a poor move confuses me. Josh was a great guy, decent hitter, but folks, he is a mediocre outfielder that can't stay healthy.Two years ago the OF of Dukes, Milledge, Willingham and Dunn platooning was the worst outfield in ML baseball.Henry Rodriquez looks to be a pretty good prospect. As for Corey Brown, he may or may not be a bust. He got hurt in spring training and has definitely been slow getting out of the gate. As far as Mark's grading of the players' first half, I pretty much agree with him across the board. I don't however agree with most of the Rizzo criticism. Two years ago this team was almost unwatchable. The pitching was awful, made even worse by the crappy defense. Last year the pitching started getting better, but was still looking worse then it was because of Adam Dunn at first. The best move that Mike Rizzo has made, as far as winning more games, was not re-signing Dunn. Has Rizzo made mistakes, and had some moves not pan out? Of course he has, but he has played a huge part in improving, not just the team that we're watching this year, but every one of our minor-league teams, and thus the team that we'll see make a serious run for the playoffs next year, and for years to come.

  73. N. Cognito - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    al m said… "Secondly FP has an extreemly annoying habit of grinding a point into the ground saying stuff 3,4 or even 5 times. Drives me nuts."If that's the case then listening to Drivel must have put you in the nut house.

  74. Gonat - Jul 14, 2011 at 10:54 AM

    A DC Wonk said… I don't agree with Zimmerman's grade. I forgot which poster, but someone pointed out his offseason preparation as a problem before he got injured.If I recall, that bit about lack of offseason preparation was a rumor that turned out to be false. Or am I remembering wrong? Anybody? July 14, 2011 12:31 AM _______________________________I read through old posts that Zim does the Saddlebrook pre-season workout the entire month of January.Ryan knows his own truth of whether the Sept 2010 injury healed and he got a new injury in early Spring Training 2011 or it was the same injury.The confusing part was during Spring Training was that he got the groin pull and then Riggleman kind of slipped up and it seemed that maybe their never was a groin pull injury that it was the same abdominal injury and the team put that out there to give Ryan more time to heal. We all know the end result and just hope Ryan can avoid these muscle injuries in the future.

  75. sjm308 - Jul 14, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    DC Wonk – your grade has been posted at the registrars officeI can state that Zimms injury was NOT because of lack of training in the off-season. He was in this area for part and during that time was almost religious about hitting Philban's gym and keeping in shape. JoeSeamhead – you said it better than I could and Markd – that is what makes the trade so good is that we got two PROSPECTS for a veteran who was constantly injured and one of them panned out. That is when a trade works. Its easy to trade Pujols for Fielder but its the risks a GM takes that separate them. Again, I am not totally in the Rizzo camp but look at his record. Guzman for PROSPECTS, Morgan for a PROSPECT (not a very good one I might add), Biemel for an injured PROSPECT. What did we get for Dunn? Draft Picks. He is constantly getting us younger. Now his free agent signings have not been as successful but its all a big gamble isn't it.

  76. Joe Seamhead - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM

    sjm308 said…Now his free agent signings have not been as successful but its all a big gamble isn't it.OK, Werth has so far been a bust, and I don't get the whole Stairs thing, but Hairston, Cora, Marquis[this year], Pudge, have all been pretty key FA role players.Speaking of big gambles, Wang may yet pan out.As for Morgan, he had to go, for his good, and ours. Likewise Gonzales. I'm on the Rizzo Kool-Ade big time. I don't think of him as being a "nice guy" professionally, but that's not his job. Dunn is the epitome of the point that I try to make regarding Rizzo. Adam was a fan, and clubhouse, favorite, and when the Nats didn't re-sign him,most everybody went nuts, and accused the Lerners of being cheap.I never thought money was the issue. i thought that Rizzo saw the biggest hole on our team and wanted it filled by a better fielder. I honestly think that Rizzo is building a winning organization, and I will personally renew my 21 game partial plan next year!

  77. A DC Wonk - Jul 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM

    sjm — thanks for telling me where the grade was posted!Also, you did a nice job explaining Rizzo's trades — I agree. But I want to up the ante. You noted: Now his free agent signings have not been as successful but its all a big gamble isn't it.That's true. But let's also throw in: he signed almost every player (or every player) they drafted in the last two years — including players that dropped down because everybody thought they wouldn't sign (and they got signed because the Nats payed way over slot money).He also got Boras to blink at the last minute and got Strassy signed (and Harper).He also single-handedly cleaned up the Dominican Republic mess.Bottom line for me — as others have said above: two years ago the team s*cked so badly they were unwatchable. Bad fielding. Bad pitching. Bad baserunning. No fundamentals. Nobody on the team could even bunt (except for Ryan Zim). Last year the team was unwatchable *some* of the time. This year we have a competitive team that is in almost every game — good fielding, solid relief, decent starting pitching, knows how to bunt, etc.And all that is a result of a conscious effort by Rizzo, and the front office, to build exactly that kind of team. The non-signing of Dunn is a perfect example of this vision — letting go a HR hitter who was deficient in every other area of the game, and therefore didn't fit into that vision.

  78. natsfan1a - Jul 14, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    I'm not big on singling out individuals for grades, either partway through the season or at the end. That said, I also realize that it's pretty much a beat writer "must do," as with preseason predictions. I will say that I think this team plays hard and doesn't give up until the last out, so I'd be inclined to give them all an "A" for effort and take them for ice cream. As for commenters, thanks for the shout-outs, sjm and Mark'd. I just try take it one day at a time, keep grinding out the comments, and, the good Lord willing, maybe I'll be able to help out the blog. Not being much for grading individuals here, either, I'll just say that I think the Insider community as a whole contributes plus plus skills on a number of fronts. You have your pithy, humorous commenters; you have your optimistic, even keel commenters; you have your passionate, outspoken commenters; you have your stat-loving, debate-loving commenters; you have your expert Expos background commenters; and more. All provide unique contributions that combine to make this the special community that it is. Heck, I'd take y'all out for ice cream, too!Thanks to the Z-man for starting it all and thanks to both him and CSN for keeping it going. (Can I get an "A"-men for that? :-))

  79. Dave - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    A+ to the Nats Insider community. I've lurked around several online Nats-related sites since 2005, and this one stays consistently respectful and thoughtful. Thanks to Mark Z. and to all my brother and sister Insiders.To anyone with whom I've disagreed, I appreciate your/our keeping it on-topic and about baseball. To anyone who thinks like me–great minds think alike, eh?I look forward to the Nats getting off to a great start tomorrow night after some needed rest.

  80. Dave - Jul 14, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    Oh, and I realize that I am really, REALLY late on this thread, but a belated specific thanks to sjm308 for the shout-out up the thread. What you said at 8:45 PM last night is my feeling about this blog, too: mature adults talking about our favorite team.

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