Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mr. Bremer, How Wild Is Your Imagination?

As the freshly self-appointed ombudsmen of the entire internet, I have one question for Twins' play-by-play voice Dick Bremer: How do you suppose no team from the AL to reach the World Series?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dude, This Is Infuriating

Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire talked to season tickets the other day about the team and the future. Via, I saw this question then answer from Gardy:
-What has been the most frustrating thing about this season?
Ron Gardenhire (RG): Some of the fundamentals haven't been there like getting bunts down and hitting the cutoff man. The Twins take pride in those things and it isn't showing up on the field. Coaches continue to work hard with the players in practice but the results haven't been showing up on the field.
Okay, so getting bunts down and hitting the cutoff man is really the most frustrating part of the season? I've watched probably 75% of Twins games this year and I can say neither has been a legitimate issue. All told, mistakes of this kind have maybe blown one or two games at most.

This is exactly the kind of thoughtless, mind-numbing answers that have been spewing from Gardy's goateed mouth for the las decade. I recognize he can't tear into his starting pitchers or front office, but all I ask is that he at least says something of value. In fact, I really don't remember the last time he said anything even remotely interesting.

Overall, Ron is probably a fine manager and I won't be calling for his head anytime soon. However, it would be really really nice if he didn't treat the fans like imbeciles with every answer he gives. And how about you take pride in winning, not bunting.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Soul Patrol 2.0

Remember the early aughts when the Twins won back-to-back AL Central Division Championships?  I sure do.  It was an exciting time watching the Twins win the ALDS against the Oakland A’s in 2002 (and even more fun watching them win in the movie Moneyball).

In 2003, the Twins sent OF Bobby Kielty to Toronto for Shannon Stewart which gave us an outfield of Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart.  They called themselves the Soul Patrol and had t-shirts made to unite the brotherhood (I have proof after talking with former-Twin Josh Rabe).

Nils brought up the point about how in the future we could have another Soul Patrol and this time without a dome over our heads and grass under out feet.

Here are four guys who could possibly be apart of Soul Patrol 2.0.

-Denard Span: He’s the candidate who most likely won’t be apart of this group.  He has been rumored in trades and to have payroll flexibility and bring in some pitching, Terry Ryan could easily move him this winter.  

-Ben Revere: Ben is still under team control for many seasons and he has done just fine in his first real full season.  He has a 2.7 (according to FanGraphs) WAR with just a few games remaining in 2012 and he can play all three outfield spots.

-Aaron Hicks: After being drafted 14th overall in 2008, Hicks has finally put together a season in which he showed he might be ready for the Show.  In AA New Britain, He played in 129 games and hit .286 with an outstanding .384 OBP.  He can steal some bases (74 percent) and has some gap power (21 doubles, 11 triples and 13 homers).  He could be Span’s replacement in center until...

-Bryon Buxton: ...until Buxton makes his way to Target Field.  This won’t be for another few years (unless the planets align and the the angels sing) but after being drafted just this season, Baseball America has him ranked as the number one prospect in both the Appy League and GCL.  He could be a five-tool guy and bring the excitement back to Minnesota baseball.

Having any mix of these four in the spacious outfield of Target Field would be fun to watch and it would be even better if they had Soul Patrol t-shirts.

(Note: They are called Soul Patrol because all are African-American, if you didn’t know...)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Acronym Battle: What WAR says about the MVP

Now that the 2012 baseball season is in its final stages and only pockets of drama remain in the wild-card races, there's really only one debate that's taking over the national stage. The debate is controversial, as it fuels the fire of a decade long rift between stats and, well, stats. One side has put their eggs in the classical basket consisting of batting average, home runs and runs batted in. The other in a pail of VORP, WARP and DRS. It's a battle of faith versus science, subjectivity versus objectivity, Scooby-Doo versus... nevermind.

Anyway, everyone has an opinion on the matter. From my point of view, the subject nearly reflects political party affiliations in its stubbornness and entrenchment. I talked to my roommate the other day who is a Tigers fan, and he was kind of offended by my assertion that Mike Trout has been more valuable than Miguel Cabrera. How could I say that when Cabrera is a mere home run away from the hallowed Triple Crown! In response, I could ask how he could say that when Trout was blowing everyone away in WAR, for God's sake he's 3.9 WAR above Cabrera! I didn't say that. It would have been counterproductive, instead I tried to appeal to the basic arguments of how he was blatantly ignoring defense and base-running, in addition to pointing out that Trout wasn't that far off with the bat either.

That argument brought me to the conclusion that it's counterproductive to argue either side. I appreciate the zealots of sabermetrics, but my interest in defending advanced stats to an average Joe is about two steps below complete apathy.

All that to say this: I'm not writing this to say anyone is 100% wrong and this is why. No, I'm writing this mostly because I'm intrigued by the topic. "What topic?" you might ask? Well, I wanted to know how many times a player had been this far behind in WAR (Cabrera is currently 3.9 WAR behind Trout) and still won the MVP vote. In history, which players have been the biggest snubs, using WAR as the arbiter?

To answer these questions I broke out an excel spreadsheet and fired up baseball-reference (truly the greatest thing ever) and got to work. I found the WAR leader in each league dating back to 1950 and subtracted the WAR of that league's MVP, to find the difference. (At this point, you're probably tuned out unless you know what WAR actually is. If not, check out this link!)

After some of the most monotonous data entry of my life, I finished the spreadsheet and got some answers. It was too much work not to share, so here I am presenting the data and some observations. In beautiful bullet point fashion! Because I am a lazy and incompetent writer!

  • To answer the big question: 19 out of the 125 MVPs since 1950 (one co-MVP) have been at least 3.9 or more WAR behind the league leader. 
  • Only one case of snubbery worse than the potential Trout-snub this season have taken place in the past 15 seasons. Speaking of that case...
  • The most recent case was in 2000, when Jason Giambi (7.4 WAR) beat out Pedro Martinez (11.4 WAR).
  • Interestingly, 10 of the 19 cases of snubbery have victimized pitchers. This reflects the hesitance of the voters for handing MVP awards to non-hitters.
  • However, this hesitance somehow didn't stop the voters from giving reliever Dennis Eckersley the MVP when he accrued just 2.8 wins.
  • Even still, the worst example is Willie Stargell's co-MVP when he contributed just 2.3 wins. One assumes the award was as much a career achievement as anything. He had a stellar career (see what I did there!)
  • The AL MVP is, on average, 2.108 wins below the WAR league leader.
  • The NL MVP is, on average, 1.905 wins below the WAR league leader.
  • This discrepancy is ok with me, as the error bars on WAR are considerable. To be sure, most estimates would say these numbers are outside the error bars. I just don't personally hold voters of the 50's, 60's and 70's to the same standards.
  • I'd like to point out the voters got the MVP "right" 31 out of 125 chances. Including 11 times in this, the 21st century.
  • Given that last point contrasted against the very first, the smart money has to be on Mike Trout, as it appears the voters are boarding the saber-train.
I still have this sweet spreadsheet, so I'll probably try to stretch another post or two out of it. But in the meantime, I think we found some pretty interesting factoids, eh?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Groundball King

Today Baseball Prospectus announced they added Pitch F/X leaderboards. That's pretty awesome. Anyway, I was fooling around with them and found this:

First of all, this along with his disdain for walks are the major reasons why Diamond has been successful this season. When a pitcher gets a ton of groundballs, double plays are a major factor and damage is generally muted as any hit more than a single is rare. So he's able to put up some decent starts besides not being an incredibly impressive pitcher.

Even further on the extreme lies Samuel Deduno. The man who strikes out as many as he walks and yet post a league average ERA. I can't think of any other outlier this pronounced in baseball right now and am skeptical if this is even remotely sustainable. However, it is something to look out for and be cognizant of as you watch him pitch.

Mauer Goes for a Fourth Title

Tonight Joe Mauer knocked three base hits and collected a couple walks along the way. This marked his 20th game with at least 3 hits on the season. It also brought his batting average up to .325. The American League leader after the days games will be Miguel Cabrera at .333. A strong finish and Mauer could have his fourth batting title.

Here's a little perspective to give this conversation some weight. At age 23 Mauer became the first American League catcher ever to win a batting title. Over the next three years he won two more, becoming the first catcher in Major League history to win more than two. I cannot overstate how impressive it is for a player to have three (three!!!) batting titles before turning 27. The next season the hometown kid hit .327 - placing third in the American League and adding onto one of the most impressive starts to a career of all time. Unfortunately, last season the run came to an abrupt halt missing much of the season and playing as a shell of his former self in the remainder. 

The mixture of a disappointing 2011 and hangover from the lost promises of his prodigious power from 2009 led many to wonder if he just didn't have it anymore. Even my favorite annual painted a grim picture for his future citing injuries and an inevitable move from behind the plate, with no mention of his demonstrably special hitting ability. I can't blame them, it had been two years since he'd really dominated and everything that could go wrong, did in 2011. Going into 2012, anybody would have been happy if he could simply stick behind the plate and provide just average production.

Half way through May, 40 games into the season, the critics looked to be spot on. Mauer hit only .275 and knocked just one home run. The slow start essentially confirmed the position that Mauer was solidly in the decline phase, supporting the idea that he caught too many games and wore out his long limbs.

However, since May 19th, Mauer has been sneaking his way back into the race for the AL batting title hitting .340 over that span (with a much improved .487 slugging pct.). He's been red hot in September, going 18-38 (.474 avg.) bringing back his average up to .325. Even if Joe falls short of the hardware, he's shown everyone he's not to be forgotten that easily. 

Tonight Mauer is in the top 3 in batting average behind the always solid Miguel Cabrera and the slumping Mike Trout (To say Trout is in a slump is to say he's been hitting in the .280's since the beginning of August, it's all relative.). I think Trout, the inevitable MVP, will fall behind Mauer and then it's up to Joe to pass Cabrera. Interestingly, the Mauer vs. Cabrera race is now in its third incarnation as both have finished top 4 in the same season twice since Miguel came to the AL Central in 2008.

Regardless of the outcome, the next two weeks should be, at the very least, fascinating to follow as Cabrera looks to win his third straight title, Mauer looks to rebound for the fourth of his career and Mike Trout tries to surge to cap an amazing season. We can't discount the dark horse candidates like Derek Jeter, Adrian Beltre, David Murphy or Billy Butler either, as there's still over two weeks remaining. 

And for Twins fans, not only do they have something to actually root for over in September, they'll have a player to celebrate for years to come.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Suggested Reading

I don't usually do this, in fact I've never done this, but there's an article you need to read. Link:

Strasburg/Pitch Counts

The article is a Grantland piece by Rany Jazayerli about Stephen Strasburg's recent shutdown. Now, the internet is over-saturated with Strasburg material and I'm beyond sick of reading about him, to the point where I've been ignoring even my favorite analysts opinion on the matter. However, this is one of the few that I would suggest are really worth reading.

Rany has been one of the most innovative baseball minds around for more than a dozen years, developing forward ideas on pitcher use and the draft. This article is no different as Rany brings new data to the conversation examining how better off pitchers are now than they were just fifteen years ago (or ten years ago in the Cubs case).

The article is about more than just Strasburg, you won't read any cliched quotes from the manager or conspiracy theories about Scott Boras. What you will find is a well thought out and researched piece on the general state of pitcher health today. Rany then applies the discussion to Strasburg's situation masterfully.

Anyway, it's a long article, but well worth the twenty minutes if you have it. I promise it will be the best thing you read all week.

Have a good night.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Adapting Expectations: K/BB

In sabermetric circles, the ratio of strikeouts to walks is the key characteristic of a successful pitcher. The idea is that pitchers can essentially control three things: strikeouts, walks and ground balls. The ability to control batted balls (i.e. HR/FB or BABIP) is a common debate right now and not usually considered with the same reverence as the holy K/BB ratio.

As long I can remember, and I started really getting into baseball about 2005, the bench mark for a league average ratio has been 2.00. Anything below two, and the saber community would be skeptical of a pitchers ability to miss bats and keep runners off base. Anything above two, and that pitcher would have the confidence of the community. Of course, there are caveats and examples of cases where this doesn't hold, but generally it worked quite well as a measuring stick.

Nearing the end of 2012 however, the numbers tell a different story. The league average K/BB ratio has climbed over 22% in just three years - going from 2.02 in 2009 up to 2.47 in the current season. Clearly, something significant has happened. Here's the K/BB data over the past ten seasons (thanks to :

  Year         AL              NL           MLB         
2012 2.46 2.48 2.47
2011 2.25 2.33 2.3
2010 2.11 2.23 2.17
2009 2.03 2.02 2.02
2008 2 2.03 2.01
2007 2 2 2
2006 2.02 1.98 2
2005 2.04 1.99 2.02
2004 1.93 1.99 1.96
2003 1.93 1.94 1.94

I think by now, we all know that baseball's environment is quite different from ten years ago. However, I am suggesting that as a whole, expectations and reactions to results have not been adjusted adequately.

After finding these data, I thought the numbers may have been affected by the increased use by relievers. However, this is not the case, as starting pitchers have posted a superior ratio (2.51 K/BB) to that of relievers (2.41) this season.

In summary, as ERA's have gone down, strikeouts have increased and walks have gone down, we need to adjust not only our concept of the statistics themselves but they're impact on the baselines that are generally accepted.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Raising Aces

I think about baseball a lot, we all do (right?). I especially think about baseball when daydreaming. I daydream a lot when I'm in class. I had a lot of class today. Ergo, I thought about baseball a lot today. Especially pitchers. Pitchers are a funky, curious bunch (just ask Andy) so there's plenty to think about. My train of thought led me to thinking about which teams developed the most ace level starting pitchers. It could be interesting to see which teams are having the most success with high level talent and where it generally comes from. However, there are a few logistical problems.

Logistical problems

First off, I'm guessing something similar to this has already been done and done better than my attempt. But I really don't have the time to look for it and I want to try it myself.

Secondly, 'ace' isn't an easy label to put on a hurler. Some may say all #1's are aces, others would suggest there are only a handful in the league at any given time. For the purpose of this 'study', we'll say there are a dozen 'aces' at any given time. Mostly because I like writing dozen, but also because it presents a manageable but large enough sample to draw from.

Thirdly, I'll only look at the last decade. Much like 'dozen' I like saying decade more than other numbers of years. But it also works well as it will be a more accurate representation of the current regimes in baseball.

Fourthly(?), this is not a scientific study. There will be no method, just madness.

The Madness

Starting off, this is a list of the top dozen pitchers in baseball each year for the last decade by bWAR. I'm not including 2012, as it's in progress, so sorry Nationals. And sorry to you, because this looks ugly.

-2011                        -2010                     -2009                    -2008                      -2007
Roy Halladay           Roy Halladay        Zack Greinke       Tim Lincecum         Roy Oswalt
Cliff Lee                   Ubaldo Jimenez    Tim Lincecum      Johan Santana         Josh Beckett
Justin Verlander       Felix Hernandez    Roy Halladay       Ryan Dempster       Brandon Webb
CC Sabathia             Josh Johnson         Josh Johnson        Cliff Lee                 John Lackey
Jered Weaver           Adam Wainwright  Chris Carpenter   CC Sabathia           CC Sabathia
Clayton Kershaw     Roy Oswalt           Dan Haren            John Danks            Mark Buehrle
Cole Hamels            Tim Hudson          Jair Jurrjens           Roy Halladay    Roberto Hernandez
Ricky Romero          Clay Buchholz       Adam Wainwright    Dan Haren          Jake Peavy
Josh Beckett            Clayton Kershaw  Matt Cain               Jon Lester              Javier Vazquez
Doug Fister              Cole Hamels         Jon Lester              Rich Harden          Aaron Harang
Ian Kennedy            John Danks           CC Sabathia          Brandon Webb       Brad Penny
James Shields          Jon Lester              Javier Vazquez      Daisuke Matsuzaka  Erik Bedard

-2006                      -2005                   -2004                  -2003                    -2002
Johan Santana        Roger Clemens    Johan Santana     Pedro Martinez     Randy Johnson
Brandon Webb      Dontrelle Willis    Randy Johnson   Roy Halladay       Curt Schilling
Bronson Arroyo     Johan Santana     Curt Schilling      Mark Prior            Roy Halladay
Chien-Ming Wang  Pedro Martinez   Ben Sheets           Tim Hudson         Derek Lowe
Roy Oswalt            Andy Pettitte        Jason Schmidt     Esteban Loaiza    Barry Zito
John Smoltz            Roy Oswalt        Carlos Zambrano  Jason Schmidt      Bartolo Colon
Curt Schilling         Chris Carpenter   Brad Radke         Mike Mussina       Roy Oswalt
Roy Halladay         Randy Johnson    Oliver Perez        Livan Hernandez  Tim Hudson
Aaron Harang        Roy Halladay       Joe Kennedy       Brandon Webb     Pedro Martinez
Carlos Zambrano   Carlos Zambrano  Pedro Martinez   Kerry Wood         Paul Byrd
Jonathon Papelbon John Smoltz         Roger Clemens    Curt Schilling       Jamie Moyer
Chris Carpenter      John Patterson     Carl Pavano         Javier Vazquez     Mark Buehrle

That takes me back, fun to see the likes of Brandon Webb, Jason Schmidt and Joe Kennedy. Also, the only reliever on any list was Papelbon's 2006, so there's that.

And now, to mess around with the list, I'll try to total up each players top 12 finishes in order to weight the team rankings (developing Roy Halladay should count more than Oliver Perez) and assign a developing team to each player:

Roy Halladay (8) - Toronto
Cliff Lee (2) - Cleveland
Justin Verlander (1) - Old Dominion, jk, Detroit
CC Sabathia (4) - Cleveland
Jered Weaver (1) - LAA
Clayton Kershaw (2) - LAD
Cole Hamels (2) - Philadelphia
Ricky Romero (1) - Toronto
Josh Beckett (2) - Florida
Doug Fister (1) - Seattle
Ian Kennedy (1) - NYY
James Shields (1) - Tampa Bay
Ubaldo Jimenez (1) - Colorado
Felix Hernandez (1) - Seattle
Josh Johnson (2) - Florida
Adam Wainwright (2) - St Louis
Roy Oswalt (5) - Houston Astros
Tim Hudson (3) - Oakland
Clay Buchholz (1) - Boston
John Danks (2) - CWS
Jon Lester (3) - Boston
Zack Greinke (1) - Royals
Tim Lincecum (2) - Giants
Chris Carpenter (2) - St Louis (Sorry Toronto, gotta earn it)
Dan Haren (2) - St Louis
Jair Jurrjens (1) - Detroit
Matt Cain (1) - SFG
Javier Vazquez (3) - Montreal
Johan Santana (4) - Minnesota
Ryan Dempster (1) - Florida
Rich Harden (1) - Oakland
Brandon Webb (4) - Arizona
Dice-K Matsuzaka (1) - Boston
John Lackey (1) - LAA
Mark Buehrle (2) - CWS
Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona) (1) - Cleveland
Jake Peavy (1) - Padres
Aaron Harang (2) - Reds
Brad Penny (1) - Florida
Bronson Arroyo (1)- Pittsburgh
CM Wang (1) - NYY
John Smoltz (2) - Braves
Curt Schilling (4) - Phillies
Carlos Zambrano (3) - Cubs
Jon Papelbon (1) - Red Sox
Roger Clemens (2) - Red Sox
Dontrelle Willis (1) - Florida
Pedro Martinez (4) - LAD
Andy Pettitte (1) - NYY
Randy Johnson (3) - Seattle
John Patterson (1) - Arizona
Ben Sheets (1) - Brewers
Jason Schmidt (2) - Atlanta
Brad Radke (1) - Twins
Oliver Perez (1) - Padres
Joe Kennedy (1) - Tampa Bay
Carl Pavano (1) - Montreal
Mark Prior (1) - Cubs
Esteban Loaiza (1) - Pittsburgh
Mike Mussina (1) - Baltimore
Livan Hernandez (1) - Florida
Kerry Wood (1) - Cubs
Derek Lowe (1) - Boston
Barry Zito (1) - Oakland
Bartolo Colon (1) - Cleveland
Paul Byrd (1) - Mets
Jamie Moyer (1) - Cubs

And finally, we're breaking it down by team-

9 - Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox
8 - Cleveland Indians, Florida Marlins,
7 - Nobody!
6 - LA Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies
5 - Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros
4 - Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos
3 - New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants
2 - Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, LA Angels, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates
1 - Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets
0 - Texas Rangers


-Toronto hasn't actually been that good at developing pitchers: eight of their nine "points" come from Doc Halladay. Boston on the other hand, has developed six unique pitchers making up their "points". The other team that has developed six unique "aces" is Florida. Interesting to note that each team has won a world series in this time frame. Cleveland and the Cubs have also produced four unique "aces".

-The Mets are lucky not to be shut out on the list, their only product so far is Paul Byrd. The same goes for the Orioles, who sneaked on by developing Mike Mussina in the very early nineties. In the same vein, the Nationals are reaping the rewards of the Expos developing Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez early on.

-Texas has not yet developed an ace. This brings up a few points. Obviously they've done well recently, producing CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and others, however, this points to a long dry spell that lasted most of the 2000's in which their rotation was a vacuum of talent. This list isn't a reflection on the current state, but more a reflection of late 90's - mid 00's development. As a result, it helps explain the cellar-dweller-ness of the Orioles, Royals, Rockies, Brewers and friends. On the flipside, the consistent success of the Red Sox, Cardinals, Twins and A's is also evident in the findings.

In my next post, I'll look deeper into how these pitchers were acquired and what that tells us about raising top-shelf pitching.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'm In Picture Mode

So last night after posting the picture of Michael Taylor, my boss from this summer, Nathan Baliva, tweeted to me some funny picture of former Peoria Chiefs who have played Major League Baseball.

Here is a picture of Tyler Johnson who was with the Chiefs in 2002.  Another case in which the cameraman simply had to ask, "Sir, will you please remove those for the picture?"

Now we all have come to know Rick Ankiel as a hitter rather than a pitcher, but, in 2002 was he trying to tell us something?

And just for fun, here is a picture of Angels RHP Dan Haren.

A special thanks to Nathan Baliva for providing the photos!  These pictures are courtesy of the Peoria Chiefs Baseball Club

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Come on camera guy

A professional baseball player is expected to do their job to perfection day in and day out. I think that goes for all professions, including photography.  Here is a picture of Michael Taylor. He is an outfielder in AAA for the A's and this photographer failed to say something like, "Can you take your sunglasses off for the picture, please?"

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Look at the Nationals Starting Pitchers

Never such a thing as too much pitching...

As I write this, the Washington Nationals lead the National League East which is something people couldn’t have imagined just a few short years ago.  

Through the draft, trades, and free agent signings, the Nats have built a rotation with the ability to win now and in the future.  We’ll start with their current rotation.

Stephen Strasburg-In 2009, there was little doubt he was going to go first overall in the draft and that he was going to have success.  Not only has he pitched well, he’s dominated.  So far this season he has a K/BB ratio of 4.33 and a FIP of 2.63.  For those of you who think wins are an individual statistic, he has seven on the season.  

After having Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2010, he proved he was back when he came back to the bigs 12 months and three days later and pitched to a 1.50 ERA in five starts.  He’s under team control for years to come and he’s the type of guy Washington can’t let walk away.

Jordan Zimmermann-For a guy who never pitched at the division one level in college, he sure has shown there are hidden gems all around the nation.  Another Tommy John survivor, he has pitched to a career 3.53 ERA and this season he has a 3.01.  

Though he isn’t the strikeout machine as Strasburg, he sports a 3.70 K/BB ratio in 164.2 innings pitched.  He’s under team control until the 2016 season when he certainly will command top dollar with good health.

Gio Gonzalez-Another pitching sale by A’s GM Billy Beane brought this hard-throwing lefty to Washington in a blockbuster trade which involved a lot of Washington’s top prospects.  He was certainly worth it.  

So far through 27 starts he’s averaged over seven innings per start and strikes out more than one per inning pitched.  He keeps the ball on the ground and out of the park.  In 2012 he’s only given up eight long balls and has a ground ball percentage of 47.2 percent, which is close to his career mark of 47.5 percent.

He signed an extension after the trade for five years worth $42 million.  He’ll be in Washington at least through 2016.

Edwin Jackson-For a journeyman starter, he has done quite well.  This season he’s pitched 158 innings and has 15 quality starts in 25 starts.  

His agent, Scott Boras, had an interesting idea by advising Jackson to take a one year, $11 million deal.  Not only has this set him up for a chance at a lucrative contract for 2013, but it benefits the Nations by giving their top pitching prospects a chance to develop.

In the minors:

The Nats have a ton of talent in the minors.  I’ll touch on three prospects I find intriguing.

Alex Meyer- Baseball America ranks Meyer as the sixth best prospect (going into 2012) in their system and the top pitcher still in their organization.  Out of high school, he was drafted by the Red Sox in the 20th round and turned down a bonus in the neighborhood of $2 million.  After his first two seasons at the University of Kentucky, that looked like a mistake because he posted an ERA of 5.73 in 2009 and 7.06 in 2010.  

He put it together for the Wild Cats in 2011 though and had a 2.94 ERA in 101 innings.  Meyer wound up getting drafted 23rd overall and a $2 million bonus.  Striking batters out has never been his problem and now in pro ball, he has started to limit his walks compared to his amateur days.  In the minors thus far, he has posted above-average ground ball numbers which is promising.  I got to see part of his appearance in the futures game and he was bringing cheddar.  He was on top of the ball (I mean he is 6’ 7”) and showed a good slider and left me thinking he could be a potential number two guy.  

Matt Purke- Oh, where do I start?  Out of high school Purke was a hot commodity.  Left handed and an arm slot that is difficult to pick up plus a fastball in the 90s and a slider that was wicked made him a first rounder in 2009.  After the Rangers couldn’t match his bonus demands, he went to TCU and put up one of the best freshman seasons, ever.  16-0 with a 3.02 ERA in 116.1 innings with 142 punch outs made me believe he was going to be selected in the top three picks of 2011 as a draft-eligible sophomore.  

When 2011 came around and I saw a few of his starts, I thought my eyes were broken.  Though he posted a 1.71 ERA and struck out 61 batters in 52.2 innings, he wasn’t the same guy.  He missed half the season with shoulder woes and the velo was down in the mid-to-upper 80s and the slider lost its snappiness.  

The Nationals took Purke in the third round of the 2011 draft anyway and dished out $2.75 million to lure him away from TCU.  To date, it doesn’t look like he is going to be the pitcher he used to be.  Because of signing late, he did not appear in a pro game until the Arizona Fall League and in limited action (SSS) he put up a 13.50 ERA.  2012 has not been much kinder to him as he has only made three starts (more shoulder woes) and in those starts he walked nearly as many as he K’d (12 BB to 14 K) in just 15.1 innings.  

Washington may have to eat this investment and try to do anything possible to get some kind of return.  Maybe that means a move to the pen or maybe it means giving him as much time as he needs.  Personally, I don’t see a future big leaguer anymore. 

Lucas Giolito- 2012 could have been the year.  The year a right-handed high school pitcher became the first overall selection in the draft.  After a promising summer following his junior year in high school, it appeared the top few selections would be Mark Appell (we’ll save that for another blog), Byron Buxton and Giolito.  

His senior year did not go quite as planned.  Reportedly, scouts saw Gio up to 100 MPH and throwing above-average offspeed offerings.  Then the news no pitcher wants to hear pops up.  Sprained UCL.  

Giolito was able to rehab his elbow back to throwing and the Nats took a gamble and paid him $2.925 million to pass up a chance to pitch at UCLA.  He was only able to throw two professional innings before his elbow acted up again, this time resulting in Tommy John Surgery.  

It’ll be about a year until we see Giolito suit up in a game again but what’s the worry?  TJS has a 93 percent success rate and the Nationals must do an alright job rehabbing pitchers because both Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman had the surgery and were back to normal in a year.  Giolito is going to be a top of the rotation guy.  Maybe not quite Strasburg, but I believe he’ll be an All-Star caliber player for years to come.