Tag Archives: Stephen Strasburg

A Bat Flippin’ Good Time Podcast: The Cubs are on their way

KrisBryantCubsSG

Last night, Mike Hllywa (Gammons Daily, Halo Hangout) and M.J. Lloyd (Baseball Prospectus, Off-Base Percentage) and I hung out in our virtual bar and talked some baseball for an hour. We rolled out the new name of the podcast, A Bat Flippin’ Good Time; and that’s what we had damnit!

Topics discussed include:

  • Our usual Mike Trout segment
  • Angels playoff odds
  • The David Price trade.
  • The Cubs’ young nucleus and bright future (and MJ’s bromance for Kris Bryant).
  • Thoughts on Bryce Harper’s present, future, and the Washington Nationals.
  • Mike H’s trip to Anaheim for a perfect day of baseball for his son’s first game.
  • Pop Culture Segment: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie, Breaking Bad, and more.

Washington Nationals 2014 Team Preview

BryceHarper2014
It’s Bryce Harper’s age 21 season. This is his year. He’s the only choice to headline this post.

The 2013 was supposed to be the Washington Nationals year. We had them representing the National League in the World Series. We had Bryce Harper winning the MVP award. We had Davey Johnson – our dearly beloved little R. Lee Ermey-style manager riding off into a sunset cussing, and holding a trophy. We thought they would win 100 games. So what the Hell happened?

Things looked according to plan two weeks in last year. They swept the White Sox to move to 7-2, before getting swept at home by the Braves and eventually ending April with a 13-14 record. Bryce Harper went from tearing the cover off the ball to running into the right field wall in Dodger Stadium. Things continued to unravel all year long with blown leads by a shaky bullpen and questionable decisions by their Skipper that made observers question his sound-mind. By the time they were ready to start putting the toothpaste back in the tube, it was too late.

They would go on to a noble 86-76 finish. It displayed a lot of the fight and character left in the group that will take the field in 2014. A 23-11 run that began on August 20th scared the bejesus out of a couple other teams who were in the driver’s seat for the Wild Card spots. The Nationals were on fire. But it was too late to save themselves from the sins of their short past.

But all is not lost. They’ve got a new weird manager at the helm in Matt Williams. Bryce Harper’s knee is healthy, and as promised; he got as big as a house. The Nationals return an impressive core and GM Mike Rizzo made a few under-appreciated moves that will have this team knocking on the doors of contention again in 2014.

Major Off-season Moves:

  • Traded for LHP Jerry Blevins from the Oakland Athletics.
  • Signed Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75 million dollar contract.
  • Traded for RHP Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers.
  • Signed LHP Mike Gonzalez.
  • Traded for Catcher Jose Lobaton.

Perhaps we should all tamper expectations on everything until the Nationals show us that they’re ready for the big time – but what fun would that be?

The Nationals young star power is what intrigues us. From Harper to Strasburg to Rendon to Ramos to some of the guys in the minors like Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, and Brian Goodwin; Washington has a lot to like in their future if they can show us that we’re in the beginning of the run by making another one.

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The Washington Nationals 2014 ZiPS Notes

Dan Syzmborski over at FanGraphs released the Washington Nationals’ ZiPS projections for 2014 today. Here’s some stuff we found interesting or of note:

  • Bryce Harper: .279/.363/.523, 28 HR, with 15 steals. I’ll take the OVER on the long balls and the UNDER on the steals. He’s bulking up for a reason. Harper comes complete with a 4.9 WAR and his #1 comp is Kal Daniels. Before you snicker or grimace like I first did, remember that Kal Daniels had nice seasons in 1987, 1988, and 1990. Albeit, Bryce Harper’s expectations are just much higher and he’ll need to be better than Daniels ever was.
  • Ian Desmond checks in as the second best hitter: .269/.315/.439, 20 HR, 23 steals, and a 3.5 WAR. Desmond is a nice little player all around.
  • Anthony Rendon got the Jeff Blauser comp. Blauser was a pretty damn good hitter, all things considered.
  • Another comp worth noting is that of Stephen Strasburg. They say he will be Mark Prior, making 26 starts, striking out 164 in 149 innings of work. He is projected for a 2.83 ERA and 3.8 WAR. Also with the same WAR projection is Jordan Zimmerman.
  • A.J. Cole earned a Zach Greinke comp.
  • Switch-hitting 24 year old Zach Walters: 20 HR, .247/.276/.443, we don’t see Walters having that kind of impact in the upcoming year.
  • Ryan Zimmerman is compared to Pinky Higgins (his first season came in 1930). Zimmerman is projected for his steady Eddie 3.4 WAR. Pinky Higgins probably has the biggest boner right now.
  • As pointed out by this comment, the Nationals are projected for a 43 WAR; or 91 overall wins. This is the highest projected amount so far. I’m bullish on the Nats again this year, though I think Matt Williams is a real wildcard as manager.
  • The new addition Doug Fister is projected to lead the team in innings at 192, worth a 4.0 WAR and earns the John Burkett comp. John Burkett was an RBI Baseball legend.

We’ll try to do a few more of these as the weeks go onward. Obviously with the month of February being here we have nothing better to do than tally a few notes on interesting (albeit conservative) projection systems like ZiPS.

Examining MLB Futures Odds

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As much as I like to gamble, and as good as I can be at forecasting the sport of baseball; I’ve never been able to talk myself into laying money on a team to win the World Series or the pennant or anything of the sort. I think the reason for it is I’ve seen too much baseball. Too many things have to truly align. No matter how good a team really is; that team will need a fair degree of luck to simply reach those heights. When I start thinking about that, it scares me away.

Now, one of the MLB futures odds that I do like to look at every year are things like the NL and AL home run champion and the Cy Young in respective leagues. That’s something I feel like a handicapper can have an outside shot at really nailing on a gut feeling.

As for how the futures look right now in baseball, here’s a few highlights:

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers are 7/1 to win the World Series as of today. Throw a $100 on the Dodgers, and if everything goes right in October and Yasiel Puig is spraying Clayton Kershaw with champagne and riding Tommy Lasorda around the clubhouse like a midget, and you’ll walk away with $700. Not a great payoff for a lotto ticket. I feel like you’re better off taking that $100 and parlaying it on three teams to win on one given night. The pain and anguish is much quicker that way instead of a long and agonizing crawl to your loss.
  • The Detroit Tigers are not far behind at 8/1. I feel that the Tigers are loaded enough, sure. But a gut feeling tells me they’re not winning it all in their first year under Brad Ausmus.
  • The best value may very well come from teams like the St. Louis Cardinals or Washington Nationals at 11/1, or the Boston Red Sox at 12/1, though I don’t feel a repeat.
  • The New York Yankees equal their rivals at 12/1.
  • The Cincinnati Reds check in at 20/1 to win their first title since 1990. Vegas sees their chances equal with that of the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants.
  • The longest odds? The Houston Astros are 250/1. Please save your money.

As for the Home Run and Cy Young Odds, those aren’t out yet (boo). I’ll give you my early favorites to take home the crowns though – and this is subject to change obviously between now and April.

NL: Bryce Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, Jay Bruce

AL: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder

NL CY: Stephen Strasburg

AL CY: Justin Verlander

It will be interesting to see where the odds come in on these players as the season draws closer.

Stick a Fork in the Nationals 2013 Season

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My preseason World Series pick from the National League is done. Forget any magic number talk. Forget any ‘buyer’ move they make at the deadline because it won’t be good enough. Forget any hot, magical run they string together because no matter what they do from this night forward it will be too little, too late. This team is dead. For Davey Johnson, there will be no more pretty ladies and he sure as hell won’t be riding out on any white horses.

The Nationals lost 3-1 to the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight in 10 innings to fall a game under .500 on the season.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise. I’ve watched a lot of Washington this season in thinking that I could actually pinpoint a team that was similar to the 1986 Mets. They seemed on paper to have it all. What they have ‘all’ of is a shitload of problems.

You look up and July and over and Bryce Harper has all of 13 home runs and 29 RBI. He’s hitting clean-up for them. He’s hitting in the .260’s. To be honest, I was more impressed with Harper as a rookie than I have been during this 2013 season. He’s been underwhelming. He’s still playing left field like he’s a catcher, and it’s been all season long. He’s not getting behind fly balls and forgetting fundamentals of the game that every big league outfielder should have down by their third season at the position.

Stephen Strasburg isn’t an ace. He’s a soft kid with really good stuff that usually wilts in a tough position. He’s got a LONG ways to go to become a big game number-one type starter that will carry a team and end losing streaks.

The loss of Mike Morse has been very visually obvious. The Nationals could really use a middle of the order bat right now; Adam LaRoche has returned to being the same old shitty Adam LaRoche he’s always been. I guess the guy only hits in contract years.

There are a few things to like about this team – Jordan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond are stud players who could lead a championship caliber team – but there are just too many things working against the Nationals.

The Nationals are the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this season. It’s time to start thinking about RG3 and the Redskins in the Nations’ Capital.

Stephen Strasburg vs. Johnny Cueto on a Sunday

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[Box Score]

So I went back to the ballpark today and it was a hot one. I came home with a sunburn and a feeling of satisfaction after the Reds worked over one of the finest talents in the game of baseball today.

It was the second time I have seen Strasburg throw live.

Click through the jump to see Strasburg’s bullpen session as well as other photos and commentary.

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Opening Day Watch Report: Marlins at Nationals

HarperOpeningDay2013

[Nationals 2, Marlins 0]

Started the day off by watching the Nationals take on the Marlins with the Pirates game on the radio. Should have been on my way to Cincinnati for the game but some things fell through. Not a bad way to take in the day with some MLB.tv, though. Here’s some bullet points from this one:

  • Bryce Harper, need I say more? Guy is absolutely unbelievable with two swings to start the season, two tape-measure type blasts off Ricky Nolasco.
  • Ryan Zimmerman made a run-saving diving stop in the top of the first inning.
  • Stephen Strasburg cruised through 7-innings, never really got into any trouble. His command was on point. He had a relaxing, quick afternoon that made the game fly by. Only three strikeouts, but no walks.
  • Everyone will talk about Bryce Harper’s bat in this one, but he also made a throw to home plate that was a piss rope holding up Giancarlo Stanton (who doubled) at third base and allowing the Nationals to preserve the shutout.
  • Light rain throughout the game.
  • The Marlins lineup is pretty barren.
  • The Nationals played Take on Me after the seventh-inning stretch. Pretty awesome, wasn’t sure what they would do with this since it was Mike Morse’s song and he was traded to Seattle. In the back of my mind I had a feeling they would keep it since it’s one of baseball’s best (new) traditions. I could faintly hear it before the bottom of the 7th inning was played and it sounded like the Nationals were into it.
  • Rafael Soriano locked it down with his first career Nationals save in his first career Nationals appearance. Two strikeouts including a freeze of Stanton to end it.

Here’s some running total stats from today’s game, and from my couch:

Home Runs: 2 (Bryce Harper 1, 2)
Strikeouts: 9
Runs: 2
Hits: 7
Errors: zero
Stolen bases: zero
Official time watching baseball: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Times taking the dog out to pee: 2
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): Zero

STATS during the 2000-Inning Quest:

Home Runs: 3
Bryce Harper home runs: 2
Strikeouts: 29
Runs: 12
Hits: 22
Errors: 1
Stolen bases: zero
Official time watching baseball: Five hours, ten minutes
Times taking the dog out to pee: 4
Chores my wife asked me to do during (unofficial): Zero
Innings left to go: 1,982

Washington Nationals 2013 Season Preview

Davey+Johnson
Sergeant Gunnery Hartman/Davey Johnson is baseball’s best manager. We only get one more season of him.

Any conversation about baseball’s most-loaded team must begin with their R. Lee Ermey style manager, Davey Johnson. Johnson is baseball’s finest manager, having been perched on dugout top steps since Small Pox was a problem; he’s seen more baseball than any living man has forgotten.

Johnson is a no-nonsense, tough loving, thick skinned son of a gun. He’ll probably live to be 120 years old before crawling off into the woods somewhere and dying alone with his dignity like only the toughest old hombres would do. We actually were lucky enough to obtain footage from the Nationals Spring Training barracks just a few days ago. Let’s take a good look at Johnson addressing his troops during a routine, middle of the night bed check:

If there’s one thing Sergeant Davey hates to find, it’s an unlocked foot locker. How did you like when he went off at Dan Haren there in the video for having a jelly doughnut in his foot locker? In all fairness to the Gunnery Sergeant Davey and Haren; this came after Haren’s most recent troubling spring start.

Biggest Off-Season Moves:

  • Signed Rafael Soriano
  • Signed Denard Span
  • Signed Dan Haren
  • Traded away Mike Morse

The Nationals had an already absolutely loaded roster, even down into their minor leagues before any of these moves were made. Things seemed to line up perfectly for them to add three key veterans in spots that could afford some touching up with the perfect addition.

I have loved everything that this team has done in building it’s organization since General Manager Mike Rizzo took over. Now they’re in a position to really reap the benefits over the next five to seven years. They’ll have a chance to win a World Series every year in that window unless something goes wildly wrong. They’re also in position to trade a highly valued prospect in the farm system; of which there are many, should they need to acquire another Major League ready player to help them in their current run. Times are good right now for the Washington Nationals, and that is putting it lightly.

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You Just Knew Bryce Harper’s 1st Trip to Fenway Would Yield Something Like This

The last three 19-year-old visitors to homer at Fenway Park: Robin Yount, Al Kaline and Mickey Mantle. The fourth was Bryce Harper.

Strasburg and Harper were on display in Boston yesterday, helping the Nationals lock down a 7-4 victory.

WaPo’s Adam Kilgore summed it up well:

BOSTON — A century’s worth of players have passed through Fenway Park, where history seeps through the emerald walls. Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper graced the cathedral for the first time on Friday night, and they did not dissolve into its annals. They made them richer, more complete: The old yard can say it bore witness to Strasburg and Harper at their unbridled beginning, the moment in time when the Washington Nationals became something fresh and different.

Two of the most arresting players in baseball spearheaded the Nationals’ assault on the Boston Red Sox in a 7-4 victory. Harper, the 19-year-old without an off switch, went 3 for 5 with a double, three RBI and a 420-foot, two-run home run. Strasburg, pitching on the two-year anniversary of his masterful debut, threw his first 100-mph fastball of the season, struck out 13 over six innings of four-hit ball and escaped a bases-loaded jam by throwing a 3-2 fastball with his 119th and final pitch.

And now for the footage of this majestic blast:

Weekend Recap

I didn’t spend a ton of time this weekend watching baseball. I played 36 holes of golf. I watched several ESPN 30 for 30’s–since my wife was nice enough to let me spend our Best Buy gift card on a set of them. Here’s some stuff I took from the weekend before Memorial Day, when the cement is officially declared ‘hardened’ and we know what we have seen in the instances of teams, players, and organizations is for the most part; what is for the given current season.

  • Pretty good weekend for Bryce Harper. Harper had a huge triple yesterday that opened up scoring and got the Nats going in route to their 9-3 win over the Orioles. He added two hits on Friday evening with an 0 for 5 sandwiched in there. I’m going to head to Washington to visit my old frat brother/roomate on August 18th to see them play the Mets. I just hope Harper is still up with the big club at that time. And I hope Strasburg is pitching that weekend.
  • Aroldis Chapman headlines as the Reds new closer. He closed out the ballgame in dramatic fashion (does it get any more pressure-packed that the concrete jungle that is Yankee Stadium?) yesterday to give the Reds the series win in the Bronx. It wasn’t a good weekend for Jay Bruce or the rest of the offense. A big three-run home run on Saturday afternoon by Joey Votto allowed Homer Bailey to pick up the victory while we were busy grilling out. All of this came on the heels of a disappointing Friday night shutout by Andy Pettite that sent the Reds back to .500 at 19-19.
  • Lance Berkman might have a torn ACL. With the Reds a half-game back in the NL Central, the Cardinals are reeling after being swept in L.A.
  • Baseball Show Podcast coming this week. The guest of the show will be Hardball Talk Editor Craig Calcaterra. Big thrill for me, I’ve been a fan of his posts since the Shysterball days.
  • Phillies/Nats series tonight, part Philly. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Alright, everybody have a good Monday. There’s a few more hours and then this day is behind us with a great night of baseball on tap.

It’s Hard Not to Love Red-Assed Davey Johnson and the Nationals

Last night was another one of those nights. Another Bryce Harper rope off the wall. Another Nationals home victory.

Right now the Washington Nationals represent everything that is energy-infusing and exciting in the game of baseball. Everyone is quick to talk about Harper or Stephen Strasburg, myself included. But I think one of the coolest aspects of this roster is who it’s being led by; their R. Lee Ermey style manager Davey Johnson (tell me he doesn’t look like Gunnery Sergeant Hartman down in the dugout some nights).

This is the tough son of a bitch who won 108 games and a ring with those 1986 Mets. Spry enough to fight (and drink with) a few of those hazy-eyed Metropolitans back then, he’s back from the dead for one more run at the Holy Grail. And therein lies one aspect that I love so much about baseball–Johnson managed Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden–and now he’s overseeing the precious roost of prospects that the Nationals have compiled. Two completely different eras with eras in between, and Davey Johnson probably still has the same wad of Beech-nut tobacco in his cheek from that summer in ’86.

Just above the Parris Island drill instructor who moonlights as the club’s manager is general manager Mike Rizzo. He’s part rich uncle, part wise guy. He’s just the kind of Italian your mother always warned you about. He’s also the architect of the roster that has collected the best young kitty of talent in the big leagues. He has the players’ backs. And he’ll forever be a hero because he is the guy who brought Strasburg and Harper to the nation’s capital.

The Roster doesn’t end with the big two. How did we all miss this much young forged talent before the season started? No one should be surprised at the club’s 23-14 record (best in the NL East) when you look at the wonderful mix of veteran and young-stud that litters the roster up and down the organization.

I know Wilson Ramos got hurt this past week and will miss the entire season. But even after Ramos, Harper, and Strasburg, the cabinet features a collection nice young names like Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, Henry Rodriguez, Ian Desmond, and soon to be ‘next one’ Anthony Rendon. I even still think there’s hope for Danny Espinosa. The Nationals are primed to make this their league over the next few seasons. Rostering veterans like Ryan Zimmerman, Rick Ankiel, Mike Morse, Tyler Clippard, Brad Lidge and Adam LaRoche adds a really nice mix as well.

They play the game the way it should be played. Reflective of their manager’s temperament, they grind out ugly win after ugly win with pitching, defense, and timely big hits in crucial spots. Dominant at home while taking every other game on the road. That’s how a winner is built.

There’s a lot of directions we could go from here. President’s races at the park. The best two young players in the game today. Based in a great city. The Nationals are young. They’re exciting. Finally a fresh face in the National League East. They’re about to begin a decade of dominance a few years before anyone ever predicted–which is how every true great run starts to begin with.

But we digress by going back to the girl who brought us to the dance.

Their manager is a hardened old baseball man who would win any era and these guys are simply playing their ass off for him. In sports nowadays, you just don’t see ballplayers motivated in such a way anymore. This is like Jack McKeon’s last run; if you packed McKeon’s cigars full of cow chips. Davey Johnson is coming downstairs, and he’s pissed off folks. He might be 85, but he’s still here to kick your ass and drink your Johnny Walker.

And back to Harper: isn’t he the type of kid you could see taking a curtain call after every home run? I hope he decides to do it. In fact, I hope the Nationals never lose again.

Bryce Harper’s Major League Debut was Memorable

[Box Score]

[WaPo] [Big League Stew] [DC Sports Blog] [Dodgers Now]

I’m happy with what I saw of Bryce Harper’s big league debut. The only at-bat I missed last night was his first MLB hit, a rocket double off the base of the wall that would have been out of most parks. But I saw all I needed to see.

The hustle, the look, the grey bat. The incredible bat speed. The rifleman throw from left field that had a runner nailed at home plate if Wilson Ramos would have just hung onto the ball.

I hope this is the first of many memorable games from Harper and I hope he’s up for good. Last night was a memorable atmosphere as a baseball fan with Strasburg on the bump, Matt Kemp slugging one deep into the night, Vin Scully calling the game on my television. It will always serve as the perfect memory for the youngster’s debut.

Did anyone else miss Jerry Hairston comparing Bryce Harper to Larry Walker/Jay Bruce? Hairston was on the field the night that Bruce made his MLB debut. Pretty neat to read that coming from a player’s perspective.

Stephen Strasburg’s crusade to quit dipping tobacco

Now time for a post about a ballplayer that isn’t hideous. But the act of what he’s trying to accomplish; at least in our experience, is very hideous.

Stephen Strasburg is attempting to kick his smokeless tobacco habit. This comes after hearing about the bout of gland cancer that Tony Gwynn is going through (with chewing tobacco being tabbed as the unofficial cause).

“I’m still in the process of quitting,” Strasburg, 22, said. “I’ve made a lot of strides, stopped being so compulsive with it. I’m hoping I’m going to be clean for spring training. It’s going to be hard, because it’s something that’s embedded in the game.”

If by ‘compulsive with it’–he means after a meal, while driving anywhere over 15 minutes, while on a baseball field, while playing video games, while watching sporting events, while on a golf course, at his desk at work, while in a movie theater, after drinking caffeine or coffee, first thing in the morning, before he brushes his teeth at night–then we know what he means.

Hey, we applaud Stras in his efforts here. As someone who has tried to quit several times–we know what a bear this can be. But is a year on the sidelines without even playing really the time to try and quit? You know, with all that extra free time on your hands and all? Okay, now we sound like addicts don’t we?

Good luck in your efforts in trying to leave Dipville forever Stras. You’ll probably be successful, so long as you aren’t hanging around Dunner too much.