Steven Souza’s first Major League hit leads to lots and lots of Bro Hugs

There was almost nothing good about last night’s shellacking in Miami. Stephen Strasburg couldn’t locate his fastball. His curve didn’t curve. His slider didn’t slide. And the Nats couldn’t put any runs on the board until the 8th inning.

But fans who hung in there were rewarded when newly recalled outfielder Steven Souza Jr. got his first Major League hit, which eventually scored Bryce Harper for the Nats first run of the night.

Souza’s return to the dugout led to a mild celebration and lots and lots of bro hugs. For viewers looking for something positive on the night, this was all we were going to get.

Note: moments later, infielder Zach Walters hit his first Major League home run. While MASN didn’t show it, we can assume this also led to copious bro hugging on the Nationals bench.

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Nats Contract Recoup Tracker

This year, we decided to keep a running total of the value measured in fWAR compared to the players current contracts.   The cost per WAR is 6 million, which is the going rate on the free agent market for this previous off season.

One thing that is obvious, the younger the player, the less they make, the easier it is to recoup the contract cost.  I expect this to be interesting as the season goes on as we argue if a veteran is worth it.  Another thing to consider is that recouping contracts do not guarantee that the Nats will have a successful year, just that they allocated money prudently.  The tracker includes the % of salary recouped and the projected day of the season which the player will recoup.  In case you wonder last year the team had 35.9 WAR for about 206 million in value.  The team is currently on pace for 52 WAR.

Player Salary WAR Value % Recoup Game
Jordan $504,300 0.2 $1,200,000 238% -
Moore $507,900 0.2 $1,200,000 236% -
Espinosa $540,850 0.2 $1,200,000 222% -
Rendon $2,700,000 0.7 $4,200,000 156% -
Barrett $500,000 0.1 $600,000 120% -
Treinen $500,000 0.1 $600,000 120% -
Roark $506,100 0.1 $600,000 119% -
Harper $2,150,000 0.3 $1,800,000 84% 16
Strasburg $3,975,000 0.5 $3,000,000 75% 17
LaRoche $12,000,000 0.4 $2,400,000 20% 65
Storen $3,450,000 0.1 $600,000 17% 75
Zimmerman $14,000,000 0.4 $2,400,000 17% 76
Werth $20,571,429 0.5 $3,000,000 15% 89
Gonzalez $8,600,000 0.2 $1,200,000 14% 93
Span $6,500,000 0.1 $600,000 9% 141
Soriano $14,000,000 0.2 $1,200,000 9% 152
Zimmermann $7,500,000 0.1 $600,000 8% 163
Desmond $6,500,000 0 $0 0% -
Stammen $1,375,000 0 $0 0% -
Davis $501,400 0 $0 0% -
Fister $7,200,000 0 $0 0% -
Frandsen $900,000 0 $0 0% -
McLouth $5,000,000 0 $0 0% -
Purke $1,037,500 0 $0 0% -
Ohlendorf $1,250,000 0 $0 0% -
Hairston $2,500,000 0 $0 0% -
Detwiler $3,000,000 0 $0 0% -
Clippard $5,875,000 0 $0 0% -
Blevins $1,675,000 0 $0 0% -
Leon $501,000 0 $0 0% -
Ramos $2,095,000 -0.1 -$600,000 -29% -
Lobaton $950,000 -0.1 -$600,000 -63% -

According to Baseball Reference advertising rates, the Nationals are the 22nd most popular team in baseball

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How do you measure the popularity of a baseball team? Attendance? TV ratings? While that seems like the most logical way, it also seems unreliable as numbers fluctuate season to season based on the success of the team.

Various people have attempted to measure popularity via Facebook, which is certainly one way to do it. But a study using Facebook seems a little biased towards people who–well, use Facebook. Harris Interactive, an actual polling company, does an annual poll. If you’re looking for something scientific, this is the best way to go.

But that’s no fun. Since I’m a fan of the website Baseball Reference, I looked at the website’s advertising rates.  In case you don’t know, anyone can “sponsor” a Baseball Reference page, and Baseball Reference conveniently lists the cost of doing so right there on their site for everyone to see.

Below are the listed prices to sponsor the 2014 Baseball Reference page for each team in Major League Baseball. The Nationals are ranked 22nd among the 30 teams.

No, this is not scientific, but it’s not arbitrary either. After all, these rates are based on something, presumably page views. According to the list below, the Nationals are the 22nd most popular team in baseball, at least among those fans who use Baseball Reference. And let’s be honest, those are the fans you want anyway.

1. Boston Red Sox $1100

2. New York Yankees $1070

3. St. Louis Cardinals $580

4. Detroit Tigers $570

5. Los Angeles Dodgers $535

6. New York Mets $495

7. Atlanta Braves $495

8. Baltimore Orioles $485

9. Seattle Mariners $460

10. Texas Rangers $445

11. Philadelphia Phillies $420

12. Los Angeles Angels $410

13. Cincinnati Reds $405

14. Chicago Cubs $395

15. Oakland Athletics $385

16. Pittsburgh Pirates $380

17. Toronto Blue Jays $365

18. Cleveland Indians $360

19. Tampa Bay Rays $355

19. Kansas City Royals $355

21. San Francisco Giants $345

22. Washington Nationals $340

23. Arizona Diamondbacks $320

24. Chicago White Sox $310

25. Houston Astros $280

26. Minnesota Twins $275

26. Milwaukee Brewers $275

28. Colorado Rockies $235

28. Miami Marlins $235

30. San Diego Padres $220

Reading about the Marlins in the Miami Herald will make you feel better

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Nothing provides perspective more than the knowledge that there’s someone out there less fortunate. If Nationals fans ever feel stressed or sad about their team this season, they can always look south to Miami. If you thought this weekend in Atlanta was rough, stop for a minute and think about what it’s like to be a Marlins fan right now. The below coverage from the Miami Herald of the Nationals’ four victories against the Marlins so far this season should give you a taste.

Nationals 9, Marlins 2

April 14, 2014

The Washington Nationals stretched Miami’s losing streak to eight Monday night after putting a pounding on Brad Hand early and Kevin Slowey late and cruising to a 9-2 victory in front of a paid crowd of 18,788 at Marlins Park.

The last-place Marlins, who had a 20-minute team meeting before taking the field for batting practice, are now one loss shy of equaling the longest losing streak they had a year ago during a 100-loss season and three defeats shy of tying the franchise mark of 11 consecutive losses (1998, 2011).

Nationals 7, Marlins 1

April 10, 2014

It was a breezy day at Nationals Park on Thursday, especially at home plate. That’s where Marlins hitters whiffed 17 times to match a team record in their 7-1 loss to Washington.

Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg fanned a dozen and Ian Desmond connected on a grand slam — the second bases-loaded blast in as many days for the Nationals — as Washington completed a series sweep.

The 17 strikeouts equaled a Marlins record for a nine-inning game….

If the Nationals series was a litmus test for the Marlins, who arrived in first place with a 5-2 record, it came out tasting like acid.

Nationals 10, Marlins 7

April 9, 2014

The nation’s capital was most inhospitable for the Marlins a season ago. They went 1-9 at Nationals Park, were outscored 44-15, and were shut out on four occasions.

The Marlins are in the Nationals’ division.

But, in reality, they weren’t in their league.

And maybe they’re still not.

After racing out to a 5-0 lead on Wednesday, the Marlins’ bubble burst and the Nationals — behind a three-run home run blast by Bryce Harper and a grand slam by Jayson Werth — came away with a 10-7 victory.

They have now won 11 of their past 12 meetings with Miami in D.C.

Nationals 5, Marlins 0

April 8, 2014

Could the Marlins really maintain their red-hot scoring pace, much less the winning?

On Tuesday, Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals gave the Marlins a reality check with a 5-0 victory in what was the first stern test for Miami.

The Hialeah native held the Marlins to only three hits, all singles, over six scoreless innings, and Washington’s bullpen did the rest as the Nationals showed why many are picking them to win the division.

Their pitching is that good. And their hitting isn’t bad, either.

Nationals WAR: Tracking the Players Week to Week

This is the first tracking of WAR for the Nationals this year that also takes into account defense.  It looks like Fangraphs waited for 2 weeks before first posting defensive numbers as a component of WAR.  Obviously, the defensive numbers utilize a small sample size, but as a component of WAR, they count.  Some players known for their defense (Span, Espi) are calculated at negative right now. This will most likely get sorted out as the season goes on and the sample size gets larger.

The best week goes to the Nats youngest players Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.  Rendon doubles up his first week and Bryce dug out of his 1st week hole.  Desmond, on the other hand, with a team worst defense score and a negative batting rating is only bailed out by his position (SS) adjustment.

Name 7-Apr 14-Apr Last Week
Anthony Rendon 0.3 0.6 0.3
Bryce Harper -0.3 0 0.3
Jayson Werth 0.3 0.5 0.2
Ryan Zimmerman 0.2 0.4 0.2
Adam LaRoche 0.3 0.4 0.1
Nate McLouth 0 0 0
Kevin Frandsen 0 0 0
Danny Espinosa 0 0 0
Denard Span 0.2 0.1 -0.1
Ian Desmond 0.1 0 -0.1
Sandy Leon -0.1 -0.2 -0.1
Jose Lobaton 0.1 -0.1 -0.2

 

The impact of age and overwork on Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing shoulder

I’ve always enjoyed running, but when I hit the age of 30 a couple of years ago, I developed a new rule: no running two days in a row. When I was 21, I could drink a gallon of beer, sleep three hours and then run five miles the next morning. And then do it again the next day. When you get older, the rules change. I don’t want to be one of those 55 year-olds limping around the house. I have to preserve whatever I have left.

I don’t relay this story because I think you care about my exercise habits. I bring this up because there’s a lesson there for the 2014 Washington Nationals, specifically Ryan Zimmerman. From Tom Boswell’s column in the Washington Post on Monday:

Manager Matt Williams theorizes that Zimmerman has thrown so much since the start of spring training, trying to strengthen his arm and improve his accuracy, he has simply made everything worse.

As an observer of Zimmerman for almost 10 years, this is easy to believe.  Zimmerman is a worker. That’s how he rose to the top of his profession and hopefully how he’ll stay there. But like a certain baseball fan and occasional blogger who decided to stop running on consecutive days, sometimes rest is the answer.

I attended the first two home games of the season last Friday and Saturday and out of curiosity, I watched Ryan Zimmerman throw between innings. It was obviously painful to watch but it was equally fascinating to see Zimmerman gutting through his awkward overhead throwing motion, as if he was trying to will himself past the pain.

Now, the principle of “rest if you’re hurt” is not a novel concept, and suggesting this approach to Zimmerman at this point in time may sound curiously close to a #HotSportsTake. But we need to remember last season when both Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper (both team leaders, albeit in different ways) “gutted” through injuries only to make them worse, thereby hurting the team. Managing Zimmerman and his throwing shoulder will likely be the first real test of Matt Williams the manager.

Dr. James Andrews, the noted surgeon who’s performed countless Tommy John surgeries dropped an interesting anecdote this week on XM Radio when discussing the alarming rise in UCL injuries among young pitchers. According to the write up on Hardball Talk:

Kids are bigger and stronger these days, and their ability to throw harder is outpacing the development of their ulnar collateral ligaments. But the biggest risk factor he and his researchers are seeing: year-round baseball. The fact that not only do pitchers throw year-round, but that they are pitching in competition year-round, and don’t have time to recover.

In other words, the rise in pitching injuries isn’t due to global warming. It’s overwork. Just like Matt Williams’ theory about the source of the Zimmerman’s current shoulder problems, the rise in Tommy John surgery is likely due to elite athletes not recognizing their physical limitations until it’s too late.

Baseball has changed quite a bit in the past few decades. Advanced stats. Weight training. Analytics. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the human body. This is equally true for my knees as it is for Ryan Zimmerman’s shoulder or a young pitcher’s UCL.*

As Ryan Zimmerman gets closer to 30, let’s hope he realizes that.

 

*This is likely the only time I will ever be compared athletically to Ryan Zimmerman.

Ranking the Nats Hitters So Far This Year

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The best way to evaluate hitters in my book is to use the advanced stat wRC+.  This stat takes sOBA (weighted on base average which quantifies the value of a hitters outcome HBP to HR) and adjusts it for park effects and then puts it on a scale.  A batter who has a wRC+of 100 is MLB average. This years the Nats best hitter is Anthony Rendon followed by ALR and then Jayson Werth.  The interesting thing is Werth is not that far ahead of last years pace, which had him ranked 4th in MLB.  Another interesting take away: based on last years stats, Jose Lobaton is probably a little underrated as a hitter by the Nats fan base.  If this data was pulled yesterday Harper would have been a negative wRC+, that is BJ Upton territory.

# Name wOBA Last Year wRC+
1 Anthony Rendon 0.475 100 204
2 Adam LaRoche 0.449 103 187
3 Jayson Werth 0.432 160 175
4 Ryan Zimmerman 0.412 125 162
5 Denard Span 0.331 97 107
6 Ian Desmond 0.296 116 84
7 Danny Espinosa 0.259 23 59
8 Jose Lobaton 0.245 103 50
9 Bryce Harper 0.242 137 48