Posts Tagged ‘nick johnson’

Zim Wins Goslin MVP Award

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

The Washington, DC chapter of the Internet Baseball Writers Association has voted Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman its 2009 Goose Goslin MVP Award. The award is voted on by the DC-IBWA — an organization that represents Washington Nationals’ internet writers, on-line media outlets, and bloggers. Goslin was a left fielder for the Washington Senators from 1921-30, 1933 and 1938. He also played for the St. Louis Browns (1930-32) and the Detroit Tigers (1934-37). As Nationals News Network notes in quoting from the Hall of Fame’s description: “Burly and strong-armed, Leon Goose Goslin swung the bat with Ruthian effort and forged a reputation as a powerful clutch-hitter. He spearheaded his teams to five American League pennants — three with the Senators and two with the Tigers. He drove in 100 or more runs on 11 occasions and hit .300 or better 11 times, compiling a .316 lifetime average and 2,735 hits. He led the Senators to a World Series title in 1924 with a .344 average and three home runs.”

Zimmerman played in 157 games for the Nats in 2009, hitting .292 with 33 home runs. 106 RBIs and 110 runs scored. His amazing defensive play at third base puts him in line to receive his first gold glove award. Zimmerman finished seventh in at bats, seventh in plate appearances, fourth in runs scored, eighth in extra base hits and sixth in RBIs in the National League. By any measure his was an extraordinary season.  

Zimmerman took first place honors with 88 points, including 14 first place votes. Nyjer Morgan finished second and Willie Harris a distant third. The Walter Johnson Starting Pitcher of the Year Award was given to John Lannan, with second place going to Jordan Zimmermann and third to Craig Stammen. The Frederick “Firpo” Marberry Relief Pitcher of the Year award was given to a deserving Tyler Clippard. Other awards were given to Adam Dunn (Frank Howard Slugger of the Year), Nick Johnson (Mickey Vernon Comeback Player of the Year), John Lannan (Josh Gibson Humanitarian Player of the Year), and Derek Norris (Minor League Player of the Year). Zimmerman took three awards in all: the MVP award, the Sam Rice Hitter of the Year award and the Joe Judge Defensive Player of the Year award.

Voters for the awards were asked to name first, second and third place for each category. First place votes received five points, second place votes received three points and third place votes received one point. Twenty ballots from association members were submitted from the following online media outlets: Nationals News Network, Nationals Pride, We’ve Got Heart, Centerfield Gate, FJB, Federal Baseball, The Nationals Enquirer, DC Sports Box, Nationals Inquisition, Nats Fanboy Looser, Planetary Nats, Bang! Zoom!, Nats Nation, Let Teddy Win!, Nationals Review, DC Sports Plus, and Passing Time Between Wil Nieves Bombs. Full results can be found at Nationals News Network.

Fish vs. Nats — An Exchange

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Check out CFG’s view of the Marlins — and FishGuts view of the Nats — over at NL East Chatter. It’s a pretty good exchange. Wally at FishGuts was asked which National strikes fear into Marlins’ fans. “Josh Willingham is a man on a mission this season,” he says, “and he’s really making the Marlins regret trading him and not Hermida. He’s been on fire, and you don’t want to see him right now. Jordan Zimmermann is going to be a legitimate front line starter, and he’s got enough stuff right now to cause any lineup fits.”

I think that’s about right; and it’s only justice that a team like the Marlins (who stumble into a world series about every sixth year or so — and for no good reason at all), should be vulnerable to a guy they gave up on. It’s true: if Willingham in Washington is “the hammer,” in Florida he was a screwdriver: so far this year he has 17 home runs this year in 253 ABs, last year with Florida he had 15 in 351. With Emilio Bonafacio (the center of the Willingham- to-D.C. trade), now relegated to a utility role in Florida, Marlins’ fans might be looking for revenge. They should rethink that: if Aaron Thompson doesn’t work out, the Phish will have gotten 1B Nick Johnson, one of the best on-base players in baseball, for nothing.

JW

Fish Rap . . .

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

After going 4-4 during their recent road trip, the Washington Nationals return home for a six game set against Florida and Arizona. It’ll be a test: tonight the Nats face fireballer and Marlins’ ace Josh Johnson, the Miami nine’s most impressive starter among an otherwise young set of effective pitchers. You might remember that the Marlins started the season hot: with all the commentators oohing and ahhing about how they were the team to beat in the NL East. But as good as they were in April, south Florida’s best were only so-so in May and June. Ricky Nalasco (5.00 ERA) couldn’t seem to get past the fifth inning, Chris Volstad (6-8, 225) was knocked around, and fill-ins Sean West and Andrew Miller were up and down. Only Johnson seemed to be able to win consistently.

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But in July the Phish kicked it into a higher gear. Nalasco seemed to have solved his command problems, Andrew Miller and Sean West started producing at the back of the rotation, and Chris Volstad wrestled his ERA to under 4.00.  The result is that the Marlins are now sixth in the NL (13th in the majors) in pitching (ranked by ERA), with the inconsistency that marred their performance in May and June a fading memory. Finally — and perhaps most importantly — Josh Johnson has emerged as one of the NL’s premier hurlers, with a 10-2 record to go along with a 2.87 ERA. As importantly, the team is filled with solid relievers, though Marlins’ skipper Fredi Gonzalez has yet to decide between using Matt Lindstrom to be the team closer, or to stick with the more steady Leo Nunez. The question has sparked somewhat of a debate in Florida, though it’s hard to see why. Lindstrom has great stuff, but he’s wild — Nunez is unexciting, but he’s steadier.

Nats fans know all too well that the Phish recently added Nick Johnson to their line-up. With a high on-base percentage and a good glove at first, he might be the guy who provides the necessary spark for the Marlins to overtake the Phillies in the NL East. It’s not out of the question, though the Marlins have to be scratching their head over why a line-up with big bats has been anything but. That might be about the change. While the rest of the league has focused on getting past shortstop Hanley Ramirez (for good reason), the recent Florida heroes have been Dan Uggla and Cody Ross — the two hit back-to-back come-from-behind homers in the 9th inning against the Cubs on Sunday to seal the team’s most dramatic 2009 walk off knuckle-biter (the Marlins won, 3-2). That the Ross-Uggla tandem might finally be hitting again is good news for the Phish, as both have been struggling of late. The team has had to rely on the bat of Jorge Cantu and a suddenly revived Ross Gload. The Nats take on the Marlins tonight at Nationals Park, with J.D. Martin facing off against the ace of the Florida staff. The Marlins have won ten games in a row against the Nationals.

“Rebuilding” vs. “Building”

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

While the Nats were in the midst of getting roughed up in Pittsburgh (5-4 on Friday, 11-6 tonight), interim GM Mike Rizzo was joining the swarm of the none-too-subtle. Though Rizzo’s Friday afternoon disquisition on his reason for trading first baseman Nick Johnson and lefty reliever Joe Beimel was more than defensible (“young, controllable, up-sided starting pitchers are like gold in the game right now,” he once said), his post-deadline statement contained a pointed defense of the Nationals, their front office and their ownership. This was the line: “We are not rebuilding. We are building. We are not far from being a good team.” I’ve been thinking about what Rizzo said for the last twenty-four hours (okay, I’ve done some other things) and it’s actually pretty interesting. I wonder if it’s true?

Rizzo’s intention was to reassure Nats’ fans that the team’s front office knows what it’s doing, while rejecting the notion that the Nats have to get worse before they can get better. The pieces are almost in place, Rizzo says. The team is close. Itchy, itchy close. How close? Rizzo’s statement implied that being a playoff contender (or at least .500 ballclub) is just around the corner. No one expects that to happen this year, of course (the Nats’ plunge in Pittsburgh is just another example of why), but it could easily happen next: particularly with a starting rotation of John Lannen, Jordan Zimmermann and (perhaps) Craig Stammen — with additions (Washington Post columnist Tracee Hamilton listed them for us this morning) of Ross Detwiler, Shairon Martis, Collin Balester, J.D. Martin and Garrett Mock. Just for giggles, let’s throw in the guy with “the best change-up in the Marlins’ system,” Aaron Thompson and wunderkind Stephen Strasburg. So it’s true: the Nats have a puppy brigade of potential pitchers that might someday comprise one of the most formidible starting rotations in baseball. Potentially. Someday.

Rizzo and Kasten

In saying that the Nats are “building,” and “not rebuilding,” Rizzo was subtlely comparing himself to a sheaf of other baseball GMs who spent Friday auctioning off their best players to the highest bidder. Padres’ GM Kevin Towers traded ace Jake Peavy for an entirely new pitching staff, Cleveland dealt their recent Cy Young winner and the face of their franchise for four Phuzzie prospects, the Pirates traded their middle infield (and a lot more) for a potential star first basemen and a bucket of balls and the A’s (after parting with the one off-season acquisition that they hoped would solidify their line-up) shipped their other best hitter off to Minnesota for a Montessory graduate who might not get to the majors until 2014. There could be a mission to Mars before this kid plays. These moves weren’t made because the Padres, Indians, Pirates and A’s think they’re a player-or-two away from a championship — they were made because they’re convinced they’re not.

Friday’s trade deadline was Rizzo’s most important statement as the Nats’ interim GM: not because of who he traded, but because of who he didn’t. Unlike the Friars, Tomahawks, Ahoys and White Elephants the Nats are adding pieces, not giving them away. It’s a hell of a statement if you think about it. The Nats (though more specifically Mike Rizzo) are convinced that with a little more pitching (or, perhaps, a lot more pitching) a team with a foundation of Dunn, Flores, Willingham, Zimmerman, Morgan and maybe even Guzman is good enough to win. Okay, a few more pieces here and there would help (a couple free agents, but probably nothing too daring — and someone to fill the baseball equivalent of the Grand Canyon at second), but any team that boasts three hitters who can stroke at least 25 (or more) homers each year (and that boasts the league’s seventh best OBP) ought to be able to contend. Frankly, I like the gamble because I think that Rizzo’s right: the core is solid and eventually, and inevitably, the pitching should come. But let’s not kid ourselves; this is a gamble — and it’s a pretty big one at that.

Marlins Reel in Johnson

Friday, July 31st, 2009

The Washington Nationals traded first baseman Nick Johnson to the Florida Marlins for Double-A lefty pitcher Aaron Thompson. RotoTimes had this to say about the swap: “The Marlins get the high OBP they were searching for in Johnson and the Nats get a lefty who could fit into their starting rotation in the near future. Next year is probably a safer bet, but he may get an audition when the rosters expand in September. We’re talking about the Nationals here, so you never know.” That sounds about right: the Marlins needed an on-base guy at first, while the Nats felt they needed to continue to develop pitchers. There’s a lot of upside to Thompson: a low walk-to-strikeouts ratio with a low-90s fastball complemented by a deceptive change-up. Marlins’ reporters who have seen Thompson pitch say that he’s a pop-up pitcher, with a fastball that rises in the strike zone. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we don’t know — developing pitchers is an art form, with no guarantees of success. Then too, “can’t miss pitchers” often miss. But then, Thompson is not a can’t miss pitcher. He’s a work in progress.

Marlins Cardinals Spring Baseball

In many respects, Thompson is a typical Nats’ pitching acquisition: he’s a young and unformed hurler (22), but with plus-plus command. Interim-GM Mike Rizzo and pitching coach Steve McCatty like pitchers who “attack the strike zone” as they say, and Thompson does that effectively. He was rated the seventh best prospect in the Marlins’ system by Baseball Prospectus. He was a first round draft choice of the Marlins in 2005. In a perfect world, Baseball Prospectus says, he becomes “a solid but unspectacular left-handed starter.” The Nats reportedly wanted Florida to add pitcher Ryan Tucker to the deal, but the Marlins thought the price was too high. Thompson has been pitching at Double-A Jacksonville. A detailed study of his record shows that he gets hit (114 innings, 120 hits), but that he doesn’t give up the long-ball (seven in twenty games). 

There’s an argument to be made that the Nats could have done better – but Johnson’s contract was up at the end of the season. The Nats had the option of re-signing Johnson, but the team front office had to be concerned about his history of injuries. Seeing Johnson go down now, without anything as compensation, would have brought howls of we-told-you-so’s from Nats’ fans. That said, Johnson could be back in the off-season. Johnson likes Washington, was a strong clubhouse presence and had been with the franchise for the last five years — making the move with the team from Montreal to D.C. between the 2004 and 2005 season. Mike Rizzo admitted today that the team and Johnson had had talks about a contract extension, but couldn’t get anything done before the trade deadline.

Where Have You Gone, Joe Beimel? To Colorado actually, for two minor leaguers. The trade of Beimel is not a surprise, that he went to the Purples is. Beimel was rumored to be headed to the Dodgers and then the Cubs, both of whom were looking for left handed relievers. But Colorado was interested too, and the deal was finalized just prior to the 4 p.m. trading deadline. Colorado gave up minor league pitching prospects Ryan Mattheus and Robinson Fabian. Nationals Journal had this to say about the two: “Mattheus, 25, was among Colorado’s top prospects entering the season, but he recently tore ligaments in his elbow, and had reconstructive surgery earlier this month. Fabian, 23, had a 3-6 record and a 6.24 ERA with Class A Asheville at the time of the trade. Both Mattheus and Fabian are relief pitchers.” Mike Rizzo admitted that bringing the two aboard was a “roll of the dice.”

Stammen Stymies Mets

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The Nationals took two of three from the New York Mets, completing the series win with a 3-1 victory at Nationals Park. Stammen pitched a beaut: seven-and-one-third innings with one earned run. The young righthander threw 95 pitches, 62 for strikes. The bullpen backed up Stammen’s start (Bergman, Beimel, MacDougal) by closing out the Mets over one-and-two-thirds innings. Josh Willingham began to hit the ball authority, after going 0-14, raising his average to .297. Willingham is now an institution in the outfield. The former Marlin went 4-4, putting one into the left field stands in the sixth. “I didn’t feel I was in a slump,” Willingham said after the game. But the story of the night was Stammen, who threw an effective sinker before being relieved after walking Angel Pagan. A crowd of 23,583 — about what the Nats’ drew the night before — was at Nationals Park to see the win.

Mets Nationals Baseball

Trade Winds: The Boston Red Sox have gotten the first baseman they long coveted, acquiring the dissatisfied Adam LaRoche from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two minor leaguers. The LaRoche acquisition takes the Sox out of the market for Nats’ first baseman Nick Johnson, who is still apparently being dangled to a number of teams in need of late-season help. In fact, it seems the Nats are on-again off-again about dealing Johnson. The oft-injured first baseman could stay in Washington, holding down first base until Nats’ prospect Chris Marrero is ready. The problem is that Marrero is probably not going to be at Nats Park anytime soon, while Johnson’s contract with the Nats is up after this year (they’re paying him $5 million). Then too, the front office and fans fear that Johnson is one errant throw away from a pulled hamstring. Nats interim GM Mike Rizzo is being cagey about Johnson’s future with the team; at the end of May, Rizzo praised Johnson (“We need him here, we like him here and we want him here,” he said) while, two months later, Bill Ladson reported that interested MLB teams thought Rizzo’s price for Johnson was too high.

So which is it? Are the Nats committed to Johnson staying in Washington or is he on the block? The evidence points to an unlikely answer. The Nats would love to keep Johnson (he’s a steady presence at first base and Adam Dunn is not the solution there), but Rizzo would deal him if he was able to get major league-ready prospects in return. So the price is high. Then too, as Rizzo is undoubtedly calculating, the problem with trading for prospects is that they’re prospects and the Nats need to start winning, which is a lot easier to do with Nick Johnson at first base.

Rizzo is facing the same kind of conundrum when it comes to Josh Willingham. The Phillies are reportedly interested in Willingham, but the steady outfielder is a fan favorite and one of the team’s steadiest hitters. Why trade an everyday player who will only get better (and who’s making just $3 million) for a couple of triple-A outfielders (or even a hardthrowing but unproven pitcher) who might or might not make it with the big club? It’s all well and good to have a highly rated farm system, but what’s the point of having the best farm system in the majors if your team is in last place? The goal of all franchises is to build a major league winner. You can’t do that when you trade away your best players. The Nats should hear offers on Johnson (he’s going away after this year in any event), but they should keep Willingham — who’s a better outfielder than any prospect they could get for him.

Criticisms Echoed In Clubhouse

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Complaints about the Nats defense are now not only emanating from the broadcast booth, but are also coming from the clubhouse. After last night’s game reliever Joe Beimel, referring to a miss-played pop up by first baseman Nick Johnson, said “obviously it’s a play that has to be made. . . anybody with a pair of eyes can see that.” This can only spell trouble for the Nats. Once the grumbling starts among teammates, and becomes public, all hell is likely to break loose.  (Witness the Yanks and Red Sox in the ’70s) Maybe the all-star break will be a God-send for the team: it’ll give everyone a few days to cool off.  Dissing your starting first baseman (BA .299) to the Post is not a way to win friends and influence people.

But Mr. Acta may be whistling past the graveyard. After last night’s blown game he put the blame for the loss on the bullpen, saying the “let us down again,” but also noted that “overall I feel good.” Really? He may be the only one who does. Maybe he’s found peace with the fact that most of the time he’d can control the disasters on the field. 

Diamond Nuggets

Six, count ’em, six: as in shutouts last night. I can’t remember the last time I saw that. And of course the gem of the night was the no-hitter by Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez. A lot of fans had never even heard of him and with a 2-8 record going into the game there probably was no reason to. He only got the nod because future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson has a shoulder injury. But he came up big with his dad watching from the stands. A great story. Not far behind Sanchez’s feat was that of Brian Bannister of the Royals who three-hit the Red Sox only to lose 1 – 0. A pitchers duel in the AL?!! I didn’t think that happened any more.

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Read the Stats: The fairly weak-hitting (.261) left fielder for the Red Sox, Jason Bay, leads the AL in RBIs with 72. Not a lot of hits, but he makes them count. He also has 20 dingers and will be in the All-Start game this week. Meanwhile, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who leads the AL in wins with 11, is the oldest first-time All-Star since Satchell Paige earned the nod to the summer classic in 1952 — when he was 46.

Tejada on Fire: Houston SS Miguel Tejada is lighting it up down south this year with a .330 BA, 114 hits (he has the NL lead in that catagory) and 29 doubles (also a league leader). The NL is so flush with good hitting that his .330 mark doesn’t even make the top ten list in the league. He’d be third in that category in the AL. 

No Love: With teammates like the aforementioned Randy Johnson and righty stud Tim Lincecum, Giant’s pitcher Matt Cain rarely gets mentioned in the national media. But he’s no secret in San Francisco. He’s tied for most wins in the NL (10) with Lincecum.

“The Troubles” and “The Grey Eagle”

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The New Rule: Taking advantage of a new Major League rule, the Washington Nationals are considering trading 1st Baseman Nick Johnson for “a player to be named much, much later.” While the Nats front office would not name the player, it is thought to be young Bobby Bailey, a T-baller with the Overland Park, Kansas T-ball league. Bailey is believed to be a prized prospect in the Kansas City Royals scouting system.”He’s an integral part of our decades-long effort to rebuild our team,” a Royals’ scout noted proudly. While only six years old, Bailey is viewed by the Nats as a potential future player whose upside is that “while we don’t know whether he can run, hit or catch, he never gets injured.” As one Nats insider told River-Dogz: “This kid is just a stud, he just rolls with the punches.”

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Okay … well, heartless as this may seem, the truth of the situation is even more heartless. In many ways, Johnson was more valuable to the Nats than Ryan Zimmerman; he was a silent clubhouse presence who led by example. His second deck home run earlier this year was a sign of things to come — a prodigious shot. He’s gone for the remainder, after a wrist failed to heal. While “Meat Tray“ is a very fine . . .  yes, indeed a very fine hitter (and leader too), you can see why other teams pursue Johnson, while passing on his replacement. The front office quietly has it that Nick is snakebit. Maybe. But for pursuing scouts, anxious to land a leader and trade some prospects, Johnson appears fragile. There’s a world of difference.

This is a disaster. 

On another note: We mourn the passing of Ryan Langerhans to Triple A Columbus, where he will attempt to break out of his career-long slump. We have heard from sportswriters of the BBWA that the motion to change the phrase “Mendoza Line” to Langerhans Line has been tabled, pending the outcome of Pete Orr’s tenure as Langerhans’ replacement in the Nats’ lineup. We wish Ryan well. Everyone struggles in baseball, but he has struggled more than most.

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The Grey Eagle: You can make the argument (you can make it, but you would lose) that Tris Speaker was the greatest center fielder of all time. That would place him ahead of Babe Ruth and Willie Mays, of course, and that’s not possible. But he’s certainly in the top five and perhaps in the top three. There’s a reason for that — and it had nothing to do with his deep friendship with that world-class chump, Ty Cobb. Speaker was the first in a long-line of unappreciated Red Sox: brilliant players who were eventually cast away for money or bums because the owner thought they were too expensive, washed up …  or just because.

The list includes Ruth, Fisk and Clemens. But Speaker was the first to go — and the worst decision in Red Sox history (yes, worse than Ruth because in Speaker at least they knew, yes the keepers of the asylum just knew), and Boston fans talked about it for years afterwards. Speaker went to Cleveland, of all places (in 1916), and for a few bucks and some prospects. That’ll show him!

So if Cincinnati is a place where pitchers go to die, then Boston is a place where great players go to get traded. Still.

Anyway. I was reading about Speaker the other day (there’s this) and I was just stunned by his statistics. Two in particular. The retro-sheets show that Speaker played so shallow in center field that he sometimes covered second during double plays: 6-8-3! He holds the record for double plays by an outfielder (139). Of course this was the dead ball era, but still. Then there’s this: in over 10,000 at bats he struck out 220 times. 

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Why is Dmitri Smiling?

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Dmitri Young, the 34 year-old erstwhile first baseman for the Nats, seems to be enjoying his spring. And with good reason: he’ll likely be starting at the bag on Opening Night, March 30. Yes, I’m sticking my neck out. But that’s what spring training is for, no?

Over the winter the hot-stove league chatter concerned what the Nats were going to do with two first basemen. Neither Dmitri nor Nick Johnson can play another defensive position so one of them, if no trade were made, would have to sit on the bench while earning his $5 million. Given the Learner’s frugality that isn’t likely to happen. One of them has to go.

That assumed, of course, that Johnson had completely recovered from the broken leg he suffered at the end of the 2006 season. Well, early indications are that he has indeed recovered although he isn’t up to his pre-injury skills. In an interview with the Post on Feb. 26, Ryan Zimmerman noted that Johnson “looks better now than he did his breakout year” in 2006.”

High praise after just one outing but its probably just what GM Jim Bowden wanted to hear. If true, that will make it all the easier to deal him. After all, it was Bowden who said “I’m not sure you can actually field this team without making a trade.” (Cue foreboding music).

There are numbers reasons for keeping Young. First, his lifetime batting average is 20 points higher than Johnson’s (.292 vs. .272) and his on-base percentage is 82 points higher (.477 vs. .395). Second, there is that $5 million price tag for someone (Johnson) who gets hurt – a lot. A wrist problem in 2002, a broken cheekbone in 2004, a bruised heel in 2005 and the broken leg in ’06. At this point he could play an extra on Grey’s Anatomy (this guy for instance). Third, is Johnson’s age. At five years younger than Dmitri he’ll be more attractive to prospective buyers.

Then there are the intangible reasons for keeping Young. First, he’s a fan favorite here given his .320 batting average and comeback player of the year award in 2007. Second, can you say Elijah Dukes? The troubled 23-year old who hit 10 homers in 52 games last year with the Marlins could be the future face of the Nats if he doesn’t repeat his run-ins with the law. Luckily for him the Nats were willing to give him a look and Young has been tasked with keeping him on the straight and narrow.

By trading Young the Nats would in no small way be pulling the rug out from under Dukes and, by connection, their rebuilding plans. Something that I think is unlikely to happen.

So long, Nick. And good luck.