Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Just More Livan to Love

New Blog! Nat Fanatics has a blog, a whole bunch of useful links, and a really nifty scrolling news thingy. Welcome aboard, Fanatics!

I guess now we know where ESPN goes for column ideas. On Monday, I wrote a (very) long bit on how Livan Hernandez is great because, even though his ERA isn't up there with the elites, the sheer volume of innings he gives you makes him all kinds of valuable. Well, go have a look at today's Hot Stove Heater on ESPN.com:
Hernandez has led the National League each of the last two years in innings (255 and 233 1/3) and complete games (nine and eight). Those 17 complete games are more than any other NL team has had during that span. Take that, Prior boy.

Hernandez, soon to be just 30 (according to official records), also was pretty darned good those two years, posting a combined 3.41 ERA, ninth in the league. Given that, the three-year, $21 million contract extension he signed with Montreal (now Washington) last year has become one of baseball's bargains. Some executives surveyed called it one of the most valuable veteran contracts in the game.

It's okay, I'm not mad. Livan, official pitcher of Distinguished Senators, needs all the press he can get. And the ESPN piece added the element of lots of fat jokes, which I failed to include.

MLB.com's Around the Horn series continues today with a breakdown of the Nationals' outfield. These pieces are interesting not for their analysis, but for the look they afford into the inner workings of the team, into what the manager, general manager, and other insiders are thinking. According to assistant GM Tony Siegle:

"Last year, our main offense was [third baseman] Tony Batista, but he had flaws. His on-base percentage wasn't very good," Siegle said. "But with [Brad] Wilkerson, a healthy Nick Johnson, a healthy Jose Vidro, [Vinny] Castilla and [Cristian] Guzman, Guillen will knock in those guys after they get on base. The offense is a lot better than it was a year ago."
Tony Batista's 2004 OBP: .272.
Vinny Castilla's non-Coors Field 2004 OBP: .281.

Guillen isn't replacing Batista, he's replacing Juan Rivera, who got on base just fine for the Expos (.364 in '04). Batista's actual replacement is a fair bet to be worse than T-Bat was last year. As Nationals Inquirer observes, it's good that the guys in charge are talking about OBP, but this sounds like a justification after the fact rather than a philosophy for putting together a team. Siegle again:

"Endy [Chavez] has some abilities that could make him a player on the top of the list," Siegle said. "He's a great defensive player. He has an excellent arm and great range. But when he comes to the plate, he has to stop thinking he's Vladimir Guerrero and stop swinging at everything. ... He's not disciplined at the plate. If he learns to use his speed and make good contact, he will be a complete player."
Very reasonable. I don't know if Chavez' problem is that he's always swinging from his heels, but something's the matter, and I like that they recognize this. I'm still not entirely sold that he's a great defender, but if he is, he could be a very useful player with just an extra 30 points on his OBP.
The feeling in the organization is, if Chavez can't do the job, Wilkerson will be switched to center flied and Sledge will play left.
This is the first time I've heard anything that indicates that the team is thinking about Wilkerson in center. He's only played 60 games there combined over the last two seasons, and I doubt he's all that good at it. I believe in outfield defense, and B-Wilk in center sounds like a recipe for a doubles party. However, this would doubtless be our best defensive alignment, and it means Nick Johnson doesn't get benched so Frank Robinson's li'l buddy Terrmel can play every day.

I find disturbing the lack of any mention of Ryan Church. Church is probably major league-ready, and would almost certainly out-produce Endy with the bat. Can he play center? Maybe, maybe not, but if Wilkerson is being considered, there's no reason not to think about Church as well.

1 comment:

Olivier said...

Wilkerson in CF doesn't equals to doubles-galore. He can cover the gaps fine. The problem is twofold. First, they are taking away his superior handling of the Outfield corners and giving it to a subpar fielder. Second, he's ok, but a little bit stretched-out in CF. That means diving a little more often, and (that was my fear two years ago) more injury risks.

Church, from my limited experience, is at least as adequate in CF as Wilkerson (I'd say better. He is listed as a CF after all). And I think he could make a very nice 280/350/425 hitter. Not a 30HR guy, but certainly 15hr/30-40 2B. Why are they considering Chavez over that guy is beyond me. If Guillen pulls out a Beltre, nobody will care, but still...