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Spring Training Guide: The complex

Jan 24, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

USA Today Sports Images
Stephen Strasburg signs autographs following a workout last spring.

The countdown to spring training is in full swing, so what better way to note how tantalizingly close we are to baseball season than to start talking about what you can expect to see at Nationals camp in Viera?

Yes, it’s time for the annual Nats Insider Spring Training Fan Guide. Also known as Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Spring Training but Were Afraid to Ask.

Those of you who have been to Viera know there may not be a more fan-friendly experience in either the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues. The up-close access to players is unparalleled, the atmosphere is laid-back and the weather is … well, it’s usually better than what you’d get in Washington that time of year, though be forewarned that it’s often legitimately chilly down there, especially when the wind kicks up.

We’ll spend today talking about the daily drill at Space Coast Stadium and its adjacent practice fields. Tomorrow we’ll turn our attention to the surrounding area, where to stay, where to eat and where to play.

If you haven’t made the trek down to Viera before, you might want to make every possible effort to do it this spring. This could be your last chance to see the Nationals in this location, with the franchise hoping to relocate to Fort Myers (or perhaps Kissimmee) as soon as next spring.

The club has a valid reason for wanting to move: Viera is the most remote location in either Florida or Arizona, a full hour from the next-closest spring training site. But from a fan perspective, a relocation could actually be a negative development, because odds are the Nationals’ next spring home won’t be as welcoming to fans as their current one.

This is especially true when it comes to first week of camp, before the games begin. The Nationals spend those days holding morning workouts at the facility adjacent to Space Coast Stadium, and the access for fans is spectacular.

The first official pitchers and catchers workout is scheduled for Feb. 15. Position players are scheduled to join them on the fields beginning Feb. 18, though you’ll still find plenty of early arrivals prior to that date. Workouts (and parking) are free to the public and generally run from about 9 a.m. through noon.

The practice facility includes four full-size fields arranged in a cloverleaf pattern, plus a half-field used for baserunning and infield drills and a huge bullpen where as many as 10 pitchers can throw off a mound at the same time. Players rotate from field to field during the course of the workout with a specialized drill being taught at each station (pitchers’ fielding practice, pickoff moves, bunts, baserunning, batting practice).

Pitchers typically throw off the mound every other day for about 10 minutes at a time, and you can watch it all right from the bullpen fence, a few feet away from the players. Trust me, if you’ve never seen a big-league pitcher throw from that point-blank range, you’re in for a treat.

You can also watch the other drills from behind the fences that surround each field and co-mingle with players as they jog between stations. (Just don’t be offended if they won’t sign autographs at those moments. Most everyone is happy to do it after the workout ends.)

The daily workouts continue through Feb. 22, after which the Grapefruit League season commences and the center of attention becomes Space Coast Stadium. The team still holds a full morning workout prior to those games (in addition to the regular batting practice they’ll take during the regular season, they also spend extra time in the morning working on defensive and baserunning fundamentals) but unfortunately those aren’t open to the public. Stadium gates open one hour before first pitch, though spring season ticket holders are allowed in two hours before first pitch.

The games themselves are low-key affairs, and you may find yourself surprised just how relaxed they are, especially early in camp when most starting position players are done after four or five innings and most starting pitchers are done after two or three innings. If you’re coming to games in late-February or early-March, be prepared to see a whole lot of backups, minor leaguers and anonymous players called up from minor-league camp for the day.

Also be prepared to see plenty of backups and minor leaguers from the opposing teams. Yes, a team wearing Cardinals jerseys and caps will make two trips to Viera this spring, but don’t count on seeing Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran. Veterans usually don’t make many road trips, especially the longer ones to remote locales like Viera.

The same theory applies when the Nationals go on the road. You’ll get to see a regular member of the starting rotation and a couple of big-name position players, but you certainly won’t see all of them at the same time. Most stay back in Viera for a morning workout inside the stadium (closed to the public, unfortunately).

You can still watch some live baseball in Viera even on days when the Nationals are playing elsewhere. Those workout fields the club used during the first two weeks of camp are used for minor-league camp and games beginning in early-March. Those intrasquad games (often played in front of less than a dozen fans) can be fun to watch themselves, especially when a rehabbing big leaguer is sent over for the day to get some extra work.

There you have it, spring training in Viera in a nutshell. Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of the Fan Guide to Spring Training, focusing on what you can do with your time when there is no baseball to watch. Until then, I’d love to hear from those of you who have attended camp before. Please feel free to share your stories and tips for anyone who is planning to make the trip this spring.

 

127 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    SWEET! It's not official until Mark put's out the guide!Will be going down this year, but commuting from the West Coast of FL.

  2. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Its almost time!

  3. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Nyjer Morgan is headed to Japan!

  4. Positively Half St. - Jan 24, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Nyjer Morgan in Japan, huh? That's probably far away enough for me. I wonder how long it will take him to do something that offends folks over there.+1/2St.

  5. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Positively Half St. said… Nyjer Morgan in Japan, huh? That's probably far away enough for me. I wonder how long it will take him to do something that offends folks over there.+1/2St_____________________________I give it before he ever plays his 1st game. What were the Japanese thinking?The good news is MLB is finally done with him.

  6. Positively Half St. - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    So, it seems Morgan will play for the Yokohama DeNa BayStars, the worst team in Japan last year, and a team that has a "star-faced hamster" as its mascot. They used to be known by the much cooler name, the Taiyo Whales.But hey, TPlush will pull in $1.6M. Not bad if you have to fail here.+1/2St.

  7. Tony - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Nyjer Morgan in a land where particles of radiation float freely through the air. What could possibly go wrong?

  8. Positively Half St. - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Tony-That is awesome. Nyjer Morgan as a radiation enhanced comic book hero (villain?). That could be very compelling.+1/2St.

  9. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    Nyjer gets $1.6 million to play in Japan and DeRosa gets $750,000 to play for a team another country and Michael Bourn has no team.

  10. Teddy Rochlis - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    The time is past me caring about Nyjer Morgan, in fact my grandfather commonly reffered to him as the "bus driver" of the team, or wait maybe that was nook logan oh well either way just glad to be rid of the horrible players. "Bus Drivers"

  11. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    My Japanese is a bit rusty.I thought Nyjer was paying the team $1.6 million to take him.

  12. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    has anyone seen danny's beard? thanks mark for the guide. plan to use it some time in future for sure.

  13. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    I hope this is not a doctored picture: https://twitter.com/JackoBeam/status/294031695458484224

  14. natscan reduxit - Jan 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    … here's a question I've never even considered before. Living up here above the snow line, Spring Training has always been a bit of a pipe dream for me. Others of my ken have made the pilgrimage on occasion, but I've never found myself in such a financial state that I could follow them. So as much as I know ST is a time-honoured part of the game, I've always felt baseball doesn't begin until … well, the season begins.… that's why I've never wondered about this: why do pitchers and catchers start their ST earlier than position players? It seems to me that there isn't that much that can be gained by the extra two or three days, or that they need those extra days when other players can get away without them. Does anyone know the rationale behind this anomaly?Go Nats!!

  15. natscan reduxit - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    My Dear Gonat,… don't forget that baseball was played in that 'other country' before it was played in the US of A."Some fans may not know it, but the first recorded game of baseball took place in Canada, a year before Abner Doubleday supposedly "invented" the game in Cooperstown, New York." – http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia/canada/baseball.asp… and don't forget also that the Nats were born in that other country.Allons-y Nats!!

  16. Muddy - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Mark, thanks for the ST info. Very interesting insider stuff. Viera will be Nats-baseball junkies' heaven for a couple of weeks. Watching all the Nats players and prospects at work would be fun.

  17. JamesFan - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I'm sure the Nats will move, but I think there are a lot of reasons to stay in Viera. They have a lot more leverage over the community to improve the facilities there. The town is nice, inexpensive and the access to the players is great. I suspect that Viera is a lot less expensive for the Nats as well.I'm having a little trouble feeling sorry for a player having to ride a bus for an hour. Seems a little petty to me.Maybe a better solution is to build a great facility in Viera and lure another team there.

  18. LoveDaNats - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    I went last year and it was so much fun! There's something about standing in front of the press box at Space Coast stadium and breathing in that spring training air that makes everything right with the world. Now I'm spoiled and have to go again, so making the trek in March. Can't get enough.

  19. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    natscan reduxit said… My Dear Gonat,… don't forget that baseball was played in that 'other country' before it was played in the US of A.____________________________________Thanks for that!

  20. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    Very funny link on the blogroll to the left from NatsEnquirer on Danny Espinosa and his girlfriend. They were featured on MLB Network's Intentional Talk yesterday.

  21. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    natscan reduxit, Canada was not a country back then. so even if the first game of baseball was played in that country, that does not mean much since british ruled that region I think and baseball is always considered to be influenced or originated from other English games such as stoolball, rounders, etc.however, no argument against current Nats origin. Glad to have them here.

  22. 3on2out - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    The highlight of Nyjer's post-Nationals career was the appearance of his spurned girl friend, Jordana Lenz, on "Baseball Wives." http://bleacherreport.com/articles/962955-baseball-wives-anna-benson-and-the-wags-of-vh1s-new-reality-series#/articles/962955-baseball-wives-anna-benson-and-the-wags-of-vh1s-new-reality-series/page/2

  23. Grandstander - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    Mark, do you know yet how much time you'll spending down there?

  24. Theophilus T. S. - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Haven't been there, yet, as my SO teaches and spring vacation doesn't arrive until after the team has headed north. However, retirement and snow-birding loom. I think I would like it to be in Viera when it does. Cost and accessibility are major deciders and Ft. Myers fails on both counts.To my understanding, pitchers — after their ten-minute warmups on the mound — take a lot of fielding and hitting practice. Only last year does it seem to have sunk in (for everybody but Detwiler, anyway, and hopefully this year he begins to catch on). The Nats had the best hitting rotation in baseball last year, even with Gonzalez limited to running into an occasional fastball. (Jackson should have converted to the OF years ago.) And that was a major advantage in several games. Haren is a better hitter (.223 lifetime) so they should be even better in 2013, and if Detwiler just learns how to get down a bunt it would be awesome.

  25. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    'Braves nearing deal for Justin Upton' by KenR.

  26. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    I think Braves become a bit better than us by adding JUp. That gives them arguably the best OF in majors.

  27. maurice wilson - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    From me experience remember to always have sn block available – you can burn really easily.

  28. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Jackson was drafted as an outfielder. The Dodgers converted him to a pitcher.

  29. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Faraz, that is an inconsistent Braves outfield. I wouldn't say it is better than what they even had last year in Prado, Bourn and Heyward just more power.

  30. In2Nats - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    This is great information Mark! Even as a ST "veteran" (this year will be our 3rd trip to Viera), I learned something new from your post.I will be very curious to see how the vibe has changed with the team and the fans this year at ST. In 2010, all the players were so open and friendly, and we pretty much had the run of Space Coast Stadium. Last year, my son only got about 1/2 the number of autographs as he did in 2010 because the players were just not as accessible, although he did land Bryce's autograph when we saw them play the Yankees in Tampa, so the trip wasn't a bust! :-) Now that they are the NL East champions and World Series favorites, I suspect that the small team feel will be gone and Space Coast will be overrun with fans. I know it's good for the team and it was bound to happen eventually, but I think I'll be waxing nostalgic about that first trip to Viera as being "the good old days".

  31. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:06 PM

    So – how does this affect the Nats? Because that's all that matters to me of course. The Upton brothers bickering in the clubhouse with Heyward, Bourne gone, Chipper gone. Are they better or worse? And where, o where will Bourne end up? Not the NL East?

  32. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    Come on Gonat. Two uptons and Heyward is a great OF. Heyward is a young OF, still developing. While Uptons should perform better under new management and playing together. While last year's OF was pretty good, this year's OF could be better I think. Also their bullpen and rotation depth is better than ours while our starting five seem a step ahead of them.

  33. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Faraz, I still take Bryce Harper, Span and Werth over 2 Uptons and Heyward.

  34. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    We have two evenly matched teams that will fight it out for the Next Few years. When we win the WS I want it earned over the corpse of the Braves (the phillies are already cooked)

  35. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    And Prado was in the deal to the DBacks

  36. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    @mlbbowman: Source: Braves get Justin Upton and Chris Johnson from D-backs for Prado, Delgado, Ahmed and Spruill.

  37. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM

    Glad to hear Prado is gone. That is huge!

  38. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Chris Johnson is in the trade and will be the Braves new 3rd baseman.

  39. Tony - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Pitchers start earlier than batters because they need time to get warmed up and ready to face live hitters. Catchers start early because someone needs to catch the pitchers' warmup throws.

  40. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I have seen interviews with the Upton brothers. Sure, they love each other and all that, but the sibling rivalry was bubbling up all over. Could you work with your sibling? I love mine but they also drive me nuts. Not much maturity there – no steadying presence like JDub. Chipper out of the clubhouse, too . All three outfielders are talented but can have attitude issues at times. I like our mix of guys in the outfield.

  41. Tony - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    My understanding of the situation is that even after the players have ridden the bus for an hour, they're still not there yet. And then they have to ride back home. And the visiting teams have to do the same thing when they come to Viera. Lots of better things they could be doing during that time.

  42. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Re ATL- the announcers and scorekeepers are going to go nuts keeling things straight. Didn't Adam LaRoche and his brother, Andy play together in Pittsburgh?

  43. JD - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    Swami, It's hard to evaluate intangibles. But from a tangibles point of view this seriously upgrades the Braves lineup. Faraz is right; this is a very deep and dangerous lineup which just got better, younger and more athletic and features tons of power throughout. I don't know what Arizona is doing; I like Prado and Delgado has good potential but still.

  44. Teddy Rochlis - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Losing prado hurts the braves, yes they get a better outfield, but where we are head over heels rotation wise

  45. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    I tried telling you all the day I heard Justin Upton was going to be traded it was for real. It took a long time to dump him and the Braves team chemistry is going to take a hit.

  46. Teddy Rochlis - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    If im a braves fan i like this deal, but if im a nationals fan (which i am) i think we still have the better team overall, alhtough i might take their outfield over ours.

  47. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Suzuki is going on 106.7 at 11 AM

  48. Gonat - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Ghost Of Steve M. said… It took a long time to dump him January 24, 2013 10:36 AM ______________________________Yah, it certainly seemed like he was getting dumped and personalities were clashing. He went from fan favorite in 2011 to the villian in 2012.

  49. Steady Eddie - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    swami @ 10:18 — good points. Assembling sheer talent doesn't guarantee the talent will gel effectively, as the BoSox and Dodgers showed last year.

  50. 3on2out - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Swami:Andy and Adam played together in '08 and '09. I remember keeping a scorecard…"An.LaRoche" and "Am.LaRoche." Looked even lamer on their jerseys…

  51. Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    My son played a showcase tournament about 11 years ago and BJ was there. My son said that though he was a very talented ballplayer he was insufferable to be around. Let's just say that BJ was BJ's biggest fan.

  52. Tcostant - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    Upton deal to the Braves is a killer:http://tracking.si.com/2013/01/24/justin-upton-trade-braves-diamondbacks/?sct=hp_t2_a2&eref=sihpBut I'm glad to see Martin Prado go, I thought he was going to have a monster year replacing Chipper.

  53. PDowdy83 - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:56 PM

    This trade isn't a huge upgrade for the Braves. Losing Prado takes away one of their only hitters who doesn't strike out at an alarming rate. It also forces someone like BJ Upton or possibly Andrelton Simmons, who hit well in a small sample size last year but it was still a SSS, into the lead off spot. Swapping Chris Johnson for Prado at 3rd is a downgrade defensively. They also lose the flexibility of moving Prado around the diamond in case of an injury. Justin Upton has HUGE potential but he, like his brother, have always flashed greatness but never been able to sustain it.The Braves will lead the league in strikeouts and have one of the worst infield defenses in the league next year. They are also less prepared for an injury now than they were before the deal. While they could have the best outfield in baseball they could just as easily see 2 down season from the Uptons and an injury filled season from Heyward. I think they would have been better off keeping Prado and signing a Scott Hairston type than unloading Prado for Upton.Like all trades, only time will tell.

  54. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    I feel that those three ATL guys are three of the same thing. Yes the are young, athletic and have some power. They also strike out a lot – a minus when facing the Nats and Phil's pitching, and are somewhat immature. I like our mix with Werth's steadying hand, Span's skills and Harper's energy and raw talent. They are also losing Prado( hooray), Chipper and Bourne. Those are not minor take aways.

  55. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Still haven't gotten used to reading stuff like this.Whether this puts the Braves in a position to truly challenge the Nationals is an open question. But they have improved themselves.–Craig Calcaterra on Hardball Talk

  56. Section 222 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    I guess the jerseys will be B.J.Upton and __.J.Upton. Or will they save money by just doing B.Upton and J.Upton?That's a scary lineup the Braves have. With Heyward, the Uptons, Freeman, Uggla, and McCann, 6 of the 8 position players have serious pop. Our pitchers will face a stiff challenge 18 times this year. As those games go, so goes the NL East. Should be fun to watch.

  57. Theophilus T. S. - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    Johnson will be a big minus at 3B. Double Uptons will just intensify their bad behaviors as they reinforce each other. In a couple of years the Braves will be even more eager to be rid of JUp than the D'backs were. (And don't ask me how I know they behaved badly — the determination of both Tampa and AZ to get rid of both of them speaks loudly. With two of them in ATL it will be harder to keep a lid on the locker room skuttlebutt.)

  58. Theophilus T. S. - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    It's good to know we have the Dodgers to blame for E. Jackson.

  59. Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    NatsLady said… Still haven't gotten used to reading stuff like this. Whether this puts the Braves in a position to truly challenge the Nationals is an open question. But they have improved themselves. –Craig Calcaterra on Hardball Talk January 24, 2013 11:00 AM _____________________________________Ain't that the truth! This will be a dog fight from the get go all the way to the finish line. Invest in Maalox, Nats Fans!GYFNG!!!

  60. PDowdy83 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Faraz, why do you think the Uptons will perform better playing together? Is there any data that backs up brothers playing together making them happier?You also can't overlook the fact that Heyward, while loaded with potential, saw a massive drop in his walk rate and saw his K rate rise last season to go along with a major spike in UZR to fuel his WAR. He is a good player but he could just as easily repeat his 2011 season as he will improve upon his 2012 season. Neither Upton is without major flaws either. The outfield of Prado/Bourn/Heyward last season was more valuable than the combination of Upton/Upton/Heyward last season. The braves outfield last season was worth 18.9 WAR. Upton/Upton/Heyward last season was worth 12.4.You can't project potential very easily and while they could be amazing they are just as likely to tank as they are to all be all stars next year. Even if you regress both Bourn and Prado to their career norms of roughly 3.5 and 4.0 WAR and make a slight adjustment to Heyward due to his crazy high UZR last season down to a 5.5 WAR player that outfield comes in at 13 WAR. If you keep the same regression of Heyward and bump up Upton to his projection of 5.2 and keep BJ around 3.5 they are only slightly more valuable than last season's outfield. After doing that you have to take into consideration the drop off from Chipper's 3 WAR Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco at 3B. Combined they project for around 1.5 – 2 WAR. This drop off cancels out the gain in the outfield if Upton plays better than last season.My point is while the Braves made some big moves and put up some big money into the outfield, they didn't really make the team better in 2013.

  61. PDowdy83 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    My analysis also doesn't even take into consideration that Prado, Bourn and Chipper were all seen as leaders on the Braves and they are being replaced by two guys who do not have the most sterling reputations.Any of us can attest to the team chemistry of the Nats last year going a long way towards turning this franchise around and it appears to me the Braves have made a move in the opposite direction.

  62. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    The Braves lose Prado, Chipper, and Bourn and gain Justin Upton, BJ Upton and Chris Johson.Sorry, I don't see that as an overall gain. Tim Hudson is also a year closer to retirement.Sorry, I just don't so a net gain here.

  63. Tcostant - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    Prado could be back with the Braves in a year, he is a FA after this year.

  64. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    PD83–gonna disagree with you on the Upton brothers. (1) Brothers playing together is so rare that you can't provide meaningful "data" one way or the other.(2) For whatever reason, BJ was not as productive in Tampa as he "should have been." Year after year, we read that he was not performing to his "potential." So, if it was mental, then you have to figure he will be "happier" in Atlanta, with his brother and away from that weird wuss. You can criticize Fredi, but his players love him.(3) Sort of the same goes for Justin. It's hard to know what issues caused Towers to de-value him, but to have trade rumors circulating for a year or more can't be helpful to a player's psyche.You are speaking of two young men whose athletic (physical) ability is outstanding. If their problems are "mental," then those problems should be at least alleviated by playing on a team where both are appreciated. I foresee them both doing very well in Atlanta.

  65. PDowdy83 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    Ghost, you said what I said in a much quicker and less wordy way haha. Maybe I should try that some time.

  66. Section 222 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Wishful thinking to say that Jason Heyward could just as easily repeat his 2011 as his 2012. He's a young player who is just going to get better. I suppose the Braves fans are telling each other that Ian Desmond could just as easily repeat his 2011 as his 2012. How many of us think that's the case?

  67. bowdenball - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Ghost of Steve M:It's a gain. There's no two ways about it. Downgrade at 3B- although less than you think with the platoon option- and upgrade everywhere else.Sure, Tim Hudson is a year closer to retirement. But also Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran are a year older. That's a significant net gain for the Braves.There's no reason to fool ourselves with overly sunny analysis of the Braves' losses. On paper the Braves are better than they were last year, easily.

  68. Section 222 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    The loss of Bourn and Chipper was going to be a tough thing for the Braves to absorb. They've done pretty well. Whether they will be as good as last year no one can say for sure, but they've made the moves they needed to make to stay in the hunt. Fortunately, the Nats have done the same.

  69. PDowdy83 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    Natslady, that kind of was my point. There is no data to prove that them playing together will be a positive or a negative. I was calling out Faraz for assuming it is automatically a positive.What if their perceived attitude problems (I say perceived because it is often written but I don't know much about it) magnifies when they are together. Or what if sibling rivalry becomes an issue. I love my sister but I wouldn't want to work with her on a daily basis.At what point do people stop talking about what BJ Upton "could be" and realize what he is. The guy has over 4,000 PAs over his career and only 1 outlier season (2007, 6 years ago!) that screams "I'm a superstar" which was backed by an unsustainable .393 BABIP. With that .393 BABIP regressed to his career average his season drops down to his career norms which is a below average contact hitter who can usually draw a walk, steal some bases, play above average defense and hit with some power. He is an above average player but after this amount of time it should be taken as fact that he is not going to turn into a superstar.

  70. PDowdy83 - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Bowdenball, do you think Medlin will really sustain his rate of last year? Also they will be without Beachy for much of the season. Teheran is a nice prospect but he is coming off a poor season in AAA and he has no major league track record. Simmons is a good looking shortstop but he only has a very small sample size to evaluate him with and while their is upside nobody knows how much.Heyward posted a 6.6 WAR season. That was inflated by a spike in UZR. He still may be able to duplicate it but I do not see him jumping much higher than that. That is a damn good year but I don't see a lot of headroom for improvement.As for overly sunny anaylsis of the Braves losses, I don't think anyone is doing that. Prado is a good player who brings a lot of positional flexibility to the table. Chipper is Chipper and he had a good season last year. Michael Bourn > than BJ Upton.If you honestly believe Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson are going to be a hugely successful 3B platoon I think you need to look up their numbers. Johnson has a reverse platoon split. Neither of them hit lefties well at all.

  71. JamesFan - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    This is an upgrade for the Braves' outfield, but they still have serious weaknesses: The infield is clumsy, strikeouts will be very high and the rotation does not match the Nats. They will be tough, however. A lot depends on injuries over the season and team depth.

  72. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    PDowdy83 said… Ghost, you said what I said in a much quicker and less wordy way haha. Maybe I should try that some time. January 24, 2013 11:30 AM I have thought for a long-time the Nats forced the Braves hand to make a move.If they had added JUpton and retained Prado, I would be more concerned.They were good before and will be good again, I just think the Nats have the XFactor going in their favor.Prado and Chipper were Nats killers by the way, I like the Nats chances against these Braves.Also, Bowdenball, you're entitled to your opinion, I'm okay with that. There were some very valid reasons the DBacks got rid of Upton and the Braves will learn the hard way that what a player makeup is goes beyond a simple stat line.

  73. Joe Seamhead - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    NL, you may be right in that the Uptons may excel in Atlanta, but that team does lose a lot of maturity with the loss of Chipper, Bourne, and Prado. I agree that BJ and Justin have immense physical potential. They are both very good outfielders, and have good baserunning skills. They may hit over 50 homers between them. But between them, Heyward, and Chris Johnson there are a lot of strikeouts, too. We'll see how the change of scenery and sharing billings with each other goes.

  74. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    PDowdy83, as those innings pile up on Medlin's arm he will not be as good. You could see it in the Wild Card game.The Nats rotation is much better, I give the Braves the edge in the bullpen. I think the lineup is very close overall.

  75. bowdenball - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    PDowdy83-I don't expect Medlen to equal his 2012. And sure, they'll be without Beachy for a while. And it would be impossible for Kimbrel to match his 2012. But I'd also expect some bounceback from Uggla, who is past his prime but for whom 2012 was his worst season easily. Same goes for McCann except even more so.I didn't do a player by player analysis because that stuff tends to even out- some guys improve on the previous season, others regress. I only talked about additions and subtractions, and on the whole I think they added a little more than they lost. I can't say what it all will add up to. And I think that head to head the Nats match up just as well if not better than this version of the Braves because they have so many strikeout guys in the lineup now and we have so many strikeout pitchers. But I do know for sure that they're much much better than they were on November 1, and that they're better than they were yesterday. Hard to argue with that.

  76. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    If Atlanta had been able to keep Prado and get Justin they would have had to incarcerate Wren for robbing Towers.If they still have money, they should give serious consideration to signing Lohse, especially if they can get him on a 2-year (or less) deal. Using scouts' rating. 1. Medlen – 70+2. Hudson – 60+ with age and injury questions3. Beachy – 60+ but with injury questions4. Malhom – under 50 (50 is average)5. Mike Minor – 50-60 for a No. 5. Is he better than Detwiler?

  77. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    GIO on ESPN980 at 1:40

  78. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    Prado isn't going to be a FAJack Magruder‏@JackMagruder#Dbacks expect to sign new 3B Prado, a free agent after 2013, to long-term extension in the near future, source said. Only way deal was made

  79. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:32 PM

    First of all, I made my point for a Atlanta team with Justin Upton and Prado. While exchanging Prado with Chris Johnson, downgrades Braves a bit. I think as they see more mature players like freeman, heyward, etc, they will improve. I am not ready to hand nationals division crown yet.

  80. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    I know a lot of you Grrrr whenever the Cards are mentioned, but the burr in my saddle is definitely the Braves. I see them as our biggest rival and grudge match. That Friday night implosion scarred me for a long time. And my biggest thorn is Medlin- totally cocky and obnoxious and with the sports media fawning all over how the Braves handled him better than Stras. Really? Who went farther into the post season? I have a bitter fan flame burning against them. Bring it on.

  81. Water23 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    Span on 106.7 this afternoon. TBA

  82. NatsJack in Florida - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    Anybody want to venture an over/under on the number of K's Stras and Gio can wrangle out of that Braves lineup in 5 starts each?

  83. sjm308 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Swami – I also worry more about the Braves than any other team and I have enjoyed the analysis here. I am impressed with how young the braves are and the Upton brothers are always being touted for their "potential". If they both break through, its going to be a very very good team. I think BJ with his high strikeouts and low obp has the most to gain but if he continues to do what he has done for the past few years then he is really not a plus. It is not our concern but Justin was being shopped from day one of the off season so that has to say something about his value to the D'Backs. If they sign Prado to a multi-year deal, I think they did well for themselves. No matter what, the Braves are going to be there for years to come with their youth.Go Nats!! World Series or Bust!!

  84. Section 3, my sofa - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    Jack, you mean consecutively?

  85. Water23 - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Span at 3:30 on 106.7

  86. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    Wow, if true. This USA Today article describes the bad blood between AZ and Justin Upton.Uptonhttp://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2013/01/23/justin-upton-trade-diamondbacks-braves-brother-prospects/1860397/

  87. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    John Heyman just tweeted that he thinks the Nats and Braves may be the 2 best teams in baseball. It's going to be a battle again. Seriously, I strongly dislike them more and more.

  88. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    swami, you can dislike them, and I can too–for their team name and "chop." But, now that Chipper is gone–I REALLY REALLY disliked him–they have a young, exciting team with no obvious jerks, and that is what makes competition FUN. Nats are need to be tough and disciplined to beat them–which is exactly what they will need to beat the Reds in the playoffs and the Tigers(?) in the WS.

  89. Theophilus T. S. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    I'll go for 36 each. I started higher but decided neither is likely to pitch more than six innings and — I hope — Strasburg is going to be less focused on Ks this year.

  90. Section 3, my sofa - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    Have I ever mentioned how I hate the Braves? Srsly, it's a lot less fun without Bobby and Chipper.

  91. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    NL – lots of people think the brothers are jerks. Ever hear Medlin talk? Total jerk.

  92. Tcostant - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I hate the Phils, I respect the Braves.

  93. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    swami, LOL. No, I never heard Medlen talk, I have enough trouble remembering to tune in when OUR guys are on the radio.

  94. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Theo, I hope so too, but unfortunately, people who vote on Cy Young look at strikeouts….

  95. SCNatsFan - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    Love the coverage Espinosa, his beard and his date are getting today

  96. sjm308 - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    NatsLady – don't you remember Longoria getting all over BJ in the dugout for not hustling (or something similar)? I have not heard a lot of warm fuzzies for either brother. They are young and talented but without Chipper in the dugout, they might not have a rudder. Waiting for the implosion.

  97. JD - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    Ghost and NL, I can't really get into people's personalities because I don't know any of the players involved. RZimm has vouched for the Uptons in the past and he knows them. What I do know is that they replaced a couple of 30 something players with a couple of younger more athletic players; they have become more L/R balanced than they were and have certainly added some pop. I still feel that we have a big advantage on the Braves starting pitching wise but the overall margin has certainly decreased.

  98. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    JD, all I can say is you don't see either of the Upton's in Washington and Rizzo knows them well.

  99. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM

    sjm308 said… NatsLady – don't you remember Longoria getting all over BJ in the dugout for not hustling (or something similar)? I have not heard a lot of warm fuzzies for either brother. They are young and talented but without Chipper in the dugout, they might not have a rudder. Waiting for the implosion. January 24, 2013 1:25 PM I am thinking the 2012 version of the Florida Marlins.

  100. NatsLady - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    JD, I am with you on this, and had not forgotten RZ vouching for BJ Upton. I think that Arizona is a screwed up organization (on the field and off) but am really glad we got RIzzo.

  101. The Fox - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Of the 3 players the Braves picked up Justin Upton, BJ Upton and Chris Johson I fear Justin the most.Players that had the year he had when he was 21 have the real potential of being super stars. While he hasn't improved from that MVP year he didn't fall of the table either. There was talk that he was banged up last year too. Justin is a true MVP caliber player and the D-backs were foolish to trade him the way they did. Good pick up for the Braves overall. This pick up might force the Phillie's to do something too.

  102. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Medlin's jersey should read. " I need to be taken down a peg". Uptons for years have been unfulfilled potential and occasional Hanley Rzmirez- ness.

  103. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  104. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:36 PM

    If someone asked me about one of my boyhood teammates in a public forum I would say nice things too but the words used to describe that person is far different than how Ryan has described his affinity for Adam Dunn or Adam LaRoche.I put very little weight in what Zim may have said about BJ Upton. Again, BJ Upton is NOT here and there's a reason for that.

  105. Tony - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    So if MLB rules in favor of the Mets on this, does LaRoche get a do-over?

  106. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    The Ankiel meltdown as a pitcher for the Cardinals is on MLB Network.

  107. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    Tony, do-over for what?

  108. Section 222 - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Question for the masses: I was looking at Pythagorean W-L records for 2012 today. Nats and Braves both had two more wins than expected (+2). The Reds were +6, the Giants +6, Cardinals -5, and the Orioles +11 Is there a generally accepted explanation for playing well above or below your Pythagorean expectation? Just luck (good or bad) in close games, how good your relief pitching is, late inning clutch hitting? Or does it vary team by team?

  109. Ghost Of Steve M. - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Section222, I think the Pythagorean is a combination of luck and coaching. The Nats for years had a negative pythagorean and it was good to turn that around.

  110. blovy8 - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Record in one run games messes with the equation too, many times good bullpens help a team overperform it.

  111. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  112. Eugene in Oregon - Jan 24, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Sec222 @ 1:45 p.m.,I agree with Ghost that it's some combination of luck (randomness) and probably managerial decision-making. I also think (if I understand the math) that winning/losing a disproportionate share of your one-run games can really throw the numbers off. If I recall correctly, the O's did very well in one-run games last season (which, going full circle, brings us back to luck/randomness).

  113. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Ghost.. you said it, Rizzo knows the Uptons and neither one of them are here. He could have brought BJ in and not given up Meyer.If Longoria goes after you, then there is an issue. My feeling on Dbacks, probably not that well run, but IF Kirk Gibson wants a culture change and gets Justin shipped out, then you know there is an issue.One thing you all have forgotten to mention with the Braves: WHO is their manager and WHO is OUR manager? Will this be a tough division? Yes, but I like our chances.

  114. The Fox - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:01 PM

    Section 222,a few games either way I credit or blame to the manager and coaching. As for luck check this out.Baltimore improved to 29-9 in one-run games. That .763 win percentage is the third best in MLB history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only the 1883 Cleveland Blues (16-3) and 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms (14-4) have posted higher winning percentages in one-run games. The O's were lucky that is the only way to explain a +11. I don't think we will see that again in our lifetime.

  115. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    The Fox, I think Orioles bullpen had a lot to do with those wins in one run games. Their bullpen as a unit excelled in close, late inning games. I think at certain point last season, they did not lose any extra-inning games. Whether their relievers will repeat that performance is debatable.

  116. baseballswami - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    Lots of sports types commenting on the Nats / Braves matchup this season. Yikes. Lots of bubble wrap for the guys and cookies for Det. Must stay healthy!

  117. The Fox - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Faraz,Yes the bullpen had a lot to do with it but when you have to go back 122 years to find another team with that winning percentage like that in one run games then it is either luck or the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.I think I got that right ;-).

  118. Natman - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:15 PM

    I certainly like our chances against Atlanta next year.On the pitching side of the equation, 7 of their 8 starters struck out at a rate of over 100 times last year. Th lone exception is Simmons who, if you extrapolate the date, would K at a rate of 80 times this year. Looking at last year's numbers, you have McCann (76 K/121 games), Freeman (120 Ks), Uggla (168 Ks), the duo of C Johnston/B Fransisco (152 Ks / 70 Ks in 50 games), BJ (169 Ks), J Upton (121 Ks), Heyward (152 Ks).To give Atlanta its due for 2013, you aren't running much on balls hit to the outfield: assists from left to right (assuming Justin plays left) are 5 / 10 / 11. But never fear – hit the ball up the third base line and you're laughing; Johnston has made 19, 15 and 18 errors in the last three years as a platoon. Fransisco is equally efficient with an average of 24 errors over a 162 game schedule.Go Nats

  119. Section 222 - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Thanks for the feedback. The Nats were +1 in 2006, +3 in 2007, -3 in 2008, -7 in 2009, -3 in 2010, +2 in 2011, and +2 in 2012. So I guess we have lousy luck/managing/relief pitching to thank for Stras and Harper!

  120. JSLSais - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    Spring Training is always fun. I have been going down to Viera for about 6 yrs now.I have stayed in nice accommodations, your run-of-the-mill hotel, small motels on the beach and I can't ever say I had a bad experience. This year a couple of us are going dow (March) and have rented a house on the beach in Sebastian. A bit of a trek to the ball park but you can't beat the view and spacious accommodations.Places to Stay: 1. Rent a house if there are more than two or three in your party; it is worth it. But you got to make reservations early cuz it is high season in Feb and definitely March.2. Port D' Hiver – Very mice albeit expensive accommodation @ B&B in Melbourne. Delicious breakfast. http://www.portdhiver.com/3. Ocean Front Paradise Resort, Indialantic. Full kitchen, BR, LR, BA. No frills but the view and access to beach is steps away. Very clean and cheap. Go for your morning jog w/o the crowds.4. If you are headed out to Port St. Lucie, stay on Hutchinson Island, less crowds and good seafood. Last yr got to see the Supermoon (only appears every 18 yrs) on the ocean horizon; it was awesome.Things to Do:1. Of course the Nationals.2. Manatee Cove in Merritt Island: up close and personal with the gentle giants and dolphins. Rent kayaks or book a tour. Or do a two'fer and bring fishing gear, that is, if you like fishing. 3. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge but go early as in the early AM. Best time is Feb or early March. Later in March birds start migrating back north. Bald eagles, Herons, egrets, spoonbills, gators, etc.4. If you don't want to walk but still want to see nature try out the Black Point Wildlife Drive in MI. I did it once and saw quite a bit.5. Just driving down the coast and exploring is a bundle of fun. I have found lots of places that I otherwise would never have found or gone to just by driving around.Food:This has always been a challenge for me. I find that the Space Coast area is not known for its fine cuisine but downtown Melbourne offers variety. There is a place in Melbourne, bit more upscale or at least the menu is, Djon's. Food is OK and service and ambience is better.

  121. MicheleS - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    new post

  122. JSLSais - Jan 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

    Oh, forgot to share my spring training baseball stories. In the past 2 yrs I have sat on the visitors side. The Marlins and Mets crowd is a lively bunch and the Cards' fans are really nice. One year–moons ago–I stood in line to get Manny Acta's autograph. Manny decided that it was much easier just to keep using my sharpie, so I went back to my seat (behind Nats dugout). After he was done, he actually waived me down and gave it back. I was impressed that he remembered he had someone's sharpie let alone return it to its owner. One year I forgot to use sunblock and was miserable the next day but that did not stop me from going to Port St. Lucie to catch the Nats/Mets. I was peeling for weeks thereafter. Now, I never go w/o pouring on the sunblock.

  123. Scooter - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:15 PM

    Thanks for the comments, JSLSais. Too bad the discussion here got kind of derailed.I'll mention one thing: I've been one time, last year. We went just before the Grapefruit League games started, so the big-leaguers were done practicing. But some minor-leaguers were already there, working out at the practice facility, as part of the Nats' "accelerated training." I think they do this every year.So we got the best of both worlds: in the morning, we would watch the bushers work out; then we'd leave in time to watch the big team play, whether at home or on the road.For my money, that's the real treat: as I told my friends, you can watch a ball game any time. But to watch professionals working out, and the drills they go through, that's something you don't get much chance to see.

  124. Theophilus T. S. - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    I am amazed how the howls to trade half our infield and a third of the OF for BJ Upton have morphed into sighs of contentment that he is not the Nats' problem.

  125. Theophilus T. S. - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    Somewhere I have Harry Chiti and Tom Gorman's autographs from West Palm Beach in 1957. As I recall there was a third autograph on that program but I can't remember who it was — someone even less marketable. There may also be a baseball from another occasion with Steve Gromek. Bet nobody can top that.

  126. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Jan 24, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    On the Uptons: I'm glad they're both in ATL. I think both are tremendously overrated. One is barely a major leaguer and a headcase. The other is meh.And Prado is out West. Good. That guy used to murder us.

  127. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Jan 24, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    I'm a little late to the party today, but my candidate for post of the day is:Tony said… Nyjer Morgan in a land where particles of radiation float freely through the air. What could possibly go wrong?

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 79 15.0
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 87 69 4.5
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 7.0 --
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 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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