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For Matt Capps, being fat works

Capps participated in a great phone interview with Chico Harlan from the Nationals Journal. One of the most interesting parts of the interview was when Chico and Matt discussed Capps playing weight:

“Q: I read that last year you reported to spring training about 15 pounds lighter than in 2008, and you were thinking that would spell good things in terms of velocity and endurance. Numbers aside, how did that work for you?

Well, I felt good throughout the year. I think with me it’s a fine line. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching with my weight and what kind of shape I’m in. I mean, I’m a big guy. I’m never going to be 205 pounds. But I don’t need to be 265 either. If I’m between 245 and 250 I think that’s when I’m at my best, just looking back over the last few years. I’m also the person, I can step on the scale today and be 252 and tomorrow be 243. My weight jumps up and down real quick, and I don’t know what the cause is. But I try not to put too much emphasis on weight. A lot of it goes on how I feel. I’ve had two pretty rough years in my career, one in 2004 and one last year. And the one common denominator in those two years is that I came into camp in unbelievable shape.


Q: So what do you make of that?

Like I said, if I’m moving around well, I don’t get tired covering first base and going through baseball activities — there’s not a magic number for me or a body fat percentage. Look at Babe Ruth, David Wells; some guys perform better when they are heavier.“

Capps also spoke about his confidence in what the Nationals are doing off the field:

“I took them seriously from Day One. From the very first day that we talked to them. I like the moves they’ve made, not just this offseason but during the season. Even competing against them last year, you look at their lineup — they’re one of the toughest lineups in the National League. So the opportunity is there. And now with them getting Pudge to control the pitching staff and a guy like Marquis to lead the pitching staff, and going out to spend the money on Strasburg… and then the opportunity for me to come in and be a part of it, it’s exciting. Look at what they did offensively. If that can be repeated and we do our job, I think we’ll be one of the top clubs.”

Check out the rest of the interview, some really good stuff here.

Riggleman talks with Baseball Prospectus

062409-263_jim_rigglemanBaseball Prospectus sat down with Nationals manager Jim Riggleman as a post holiday treat, and lucky for us (well you, I have a subscription), it’s all free content. Riggleman spoke on a few topics, including his baseball philosophies. It seems like BP cautiously gives him the thumbs up.

Here are a few excerpts:

BP: How similar are you to Manny Acta?

JR: You know, I think that Manny and I have a lot of similar traits, or qualities, about how we manage a ball game. We’re both somewhat old-school guys, but I think we both like to feel that we’re current enough with today’s world, and today’s player, to… again, I’ll use the word “adapt,” to what makes players tick, and so forth. But I think that maybe the thing that we both have in common, more than anything, is respect for the game. Manny has a tremendous respect for the game, as I do, in terms of how you play the game, and how hard you play the game, and your respect for the fans, for the umpires, for ownership. There’s a protocol there that Manny really respects, and I’m very much with him on that.

BP: From what you’ve seen of him, where is Ian Desmond defensively?

JR: I only saw him in September, but he was really good. And Tim Foli managed him, so I talked to Tim, who made it very clear that this is a special player. He’s got some growing to do yet in terms of the routine play, and that idea has been imbedded into his head. But he’s a good player; he can make all the plays.

BP: What did Nyjer Morgan bring to the team last summer?

JR: He added… I don’t even know where to start. He added so much. He added energy, enthusiasm, he added on-base percentage, he created chaos on the bases, and he also played such a great center field that he changed the dynamic of our ballclub.

BP: Stephen Strasburg is the most highly regarded pitcher to come around in some time, and if he were to suffer a career-threatening arm injury under your watch, you would likely go down in history—fairly or not—as “the manager who broke the best young pitcher since sliced bread was invented.” Does that concern you?

JR: I was there with Kerry Wood when he went down, you know. I was talking to some people about this yesterday, and so many pitchers have been hurt. We had a pitcher this past year, Jordan Zimmermann—an outstanding young pitcher with a great arm—and Jordan was monitored as closely as any pitcher could be monitored. His pitch count was limited, his innings were limited, he was not going to be allowed to pitch in September; we weren’t going to let him get that many innings. And that ligament blew out. So, sometimes it’s just unavoidable. Guys are just going to…a shoulder, or an elbow, is just going to blow out. Something is going to happen. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. In the case of Stephen Strasburg, we will do what we did with Jordan Zimmermann. We’ll be extremely careful, and as careful as we can be, there is no guarantee. That’s the thing where the ownership has really shown great courage in making this kind of financial commitment to a pitcher, because he clearly was the best in the nation, but there is nothing saying that he isn’t going to get hurt. We can try to minimize the risk, but we minimized the risk on Jordan Zimmermann, and he got hurt.

BP: Injury risk aside, how do Wood and Strasburg compare?

JR: They’re probably very similar. I would say that Kerry, at that point in his career, probably his mechanics were not as solid as Strasburg’s mechanics are, in terms of the stress you put on your arm. But in terms of the ability to throw the ball, the way the ball comes out of their hands, is very similar.

There is a lot more great stuff here, check it out.

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According to Yahoo! Sports, Willie Harris is our starting centerfielder

According to the depth chart on Yahoo! Sports, Willie Harris is supposed to be our starting center fielder where Nyjer Morgan is slated to be the back up left fielder. I think they’re a little confused.

Splitting time between playing centerfield in Washington, and both left and centerfield in Pittsburgh, Morgan was the second most valuable fielder in baseball registering 27.8 runs above average. First was Seattle Mariners outfielder, and former Cleveland Indian prospect Franklin Gutierrez (29.1), and third was Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist. (26.4).  Nationals third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman finished fifth with 18.1 runs above average.

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According to Yahoo! Sports, Willie Harris is our starting centerfielder

According to the depth chart on Yahoo! Sports, Willie Harris is supposed to be our starting center fielder where Nyjer Morgan is slated to be the back up left fielder. I think they’re a little confused.

Splitting time between playing centerfield in Washington, and both left and centerfield in Pittsburgh, Morgan was the second most valuable fielder in baseball registering 27.8 runs above average. First was Seattle Mariners outfielder, and former Cleveland Indian prospect Franklin Gutierrez (29.1), and third was Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist. (26.4).  Nationals third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman finished fifth with 18.1 runs above average.

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Media Legend George Michael Passes at 70

During my first week of college freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan I sat in the common room of my suite with my three roommates. One of my roommates, Mark, from Ohio, was flipping through the channels late one night until Colin, from Massachusetts, stopped him.

“Wait, go back,” Colin said. “There, it’s The Sports Machine.”

I rubbed my eyes and gave it a double-look. But my eyes didn’t deceive me, still in 2005, Michael was being syndicated across the country. I was hundreds of miles away from Washington, and there on my T.V. was a little bit of home, George Michael’s infectious personality and electric broadcast. As we sat and kindly mocked his old school approach, we appreciated the importance of his career, and for the first time we all bonded and grew a little bit closer.

For me, that will always be my memory of George Michael. For countless others it will be something similar, whether it be sitting on their father’s lap watching The Sports Machine when they were a boy, or learning something new when watching his weekly weekend sports panels. Michael’s influence spread far and wide over his illustrious career, and impacted all of us in some sort of way.

One can’t help but notice how that influence spread to the creators of ESPN. The Sports Machine simply showed the highlights, without any overbearing commentary, and brought sports video to the masses across the country. Nearly 30 years after his first broadcast, ESPN makes it’s living off of Sports Center, which revolves around highlights from across the Nation with energetic commentary from its personable hosts. Sound familiar?

In the end, however, Michael’s impact on sports broadcasting fails in comparison to the impact of his character. In 2006 Michael’s contract was up for renewal. Due to station-wide budget cuts Michael was offered a raise, but as a result others in the sports department would be laid off. In the end the legend chose to resign in order to spare the jobs of others. Character over money, integrity over career.

Michael signed off after 27 years in 2007 with these parting words:

“I close every show every Sunday by saying ‘Thank you for letting us be a part of your weekend.’ Well tonight, for the final time, we say, ‘Thank you. Thank you for letting us be a part of your life’. From everyone at the Sports Machine, have a great weekend everybody. We hope to see you somewhere down the road of life. Thank you.”

Thank you, George, for everything you have done for this aspiring sports writer. We’ll see you sometime down the road…

 

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It’s official, Nationals sign Matt Capps to one-year deal

MLB.COM’s Bill Ladson tweeted tonight at 1:16 that the Washington Nationals and former Pittsburgh Pirates closer Matt Capps have agreed to a one-year deal. The deal will put Capps in a position to compete for, and likely claim Washington’s closing role in spring training.

Capps was courted by as many as 10 teams after being non-tendered by Pittsburgh this winter, but narrowed the field down to the Cubs and the Nationals on Dec. 17. From there the righty had to decide whether he wanted to be a closer for Washington, or a set-up man in Chicago. In the end, Capps wanted to be a closer.

“[I liked the Nationals because of] the way Mr. Rizzo has treated me throughout this whole process,” Capps told Bill Ladson. “The Nationals organization has been first class. They expressed their interest from Day One — the moment I was non-tendered. They wanted me to become a Washington National. That means a lot.”

A one-year deal represents a perfect opportunity for the Nationals as it gives Capps a chance to re-prove himself as a closer, and the Nationals the opportunity to ‘rent-a-closer’ until last years first round draft pick, Drew Storen, is ready to take over the role. Capps will be able to rebuild value for 2011 free-agency, when he will be only 27, and the Nationals can exploit that value to their benefit. A true win-win.

Capps, 26, is coming off the worst year of his career after posting a 5.80 ERA, 4.90 FIP, and a 2.71 K/BB on the way to saving 27 games. While Capps performed poorly in 2009, his 2006-08 was stellar. Capps posted ERA’s of 3.79, 2.28,  and 3.02 while saving 18, 21, and 27 games for the lowly Pirates. While Capps 2009 performance was a concern for many teams, his .340 BABIP and his steady velocity have led many to think that maybe he just got unlucky, and just needs to get his accuracy under control.

Buster Olney Report: Nats closing in on a one year deal with Capps

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ESPN’S Buster Olney reported tonight that the Nationals are closing in on a one year deal with closer Matt Capps.

However, Capps’ agent denied that an agreement has been reached. “We’re still going over the offers and talking. It won’t be until later tonight. We have not made a decision.”

Capps, 26, is coming off the worst year of his career after posting a 5.80 ERA, 4.90 FIP, and a 2.71 K/BB on the way to saving 27 games. While Capps performed poorly in 2009, his 2006-08 was stellar. Capps posted ERA’s of 3.79, 2.28,  and 3.02 while saving 18, 21, and 27 games for the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.

While Capps 2009 performance was a concern for many teams, his .340 BABIP and his steady velocity have led many to think that maybe he just got unlucky, and just needs to get his accuracy under control. A one year deal gives Capps a chance to prove himself as a closer, and the Nationals the opportunity to rent-a-closer until Storen is ready for next year.

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News from Nats Town: Everyday Eddie is in, Hudson and Smoltz coming?

Today was a busy day for Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, as well as Nationals MLB.com beat writer Bill Ladson’s twitter account. Only several hours after introducing starting pitcher Jason Marquis as a new member of our rotation, Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Nationals were close to a one-year deal with long time bullpen hand Eddie Guardado:

“The Nationals are nearing a one-year deal with left-handed reliever Eddie Guardado, multiple major league sources told FOXSports.com.

Guardado went 1-2 with a 4.46 ERA in 48 relief outings for the Rangers this year. His role in the Washington bullpen isn’t yet clear, but he is expected to pitch in the seventh inning or later.

His signing won’t preclude the Nationals for signing closer Matt Capps, one source said. The Nationals are among the finalists to sign Capps after he was non-tendered by Pittsburgh earlier this month.”

Analysis: Let’s make one thing clear, at the age of 39, Guardado’s arm is just about useless. His 4.46 ERA last year is deceiving when you look at his overwhelming 6.10 FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching), and his rather low .260 BABIP. So really his 4.46 ERA was a product of luck, and good defense behind him. However, this likely isn’t why the Nationals signed Eddie. As Morosi points out in his report, Guardado has long been considered one of the better bullpen mentors in baseball. He’s been around, and he knows a lot about being a professional, and apparently about teaching pitchers how to

become a closer. This will come in handy once Drew Storen reaches the big leagues. Also, the Nationals young pitchers can surely learn from him in their off days in the pen.

Bill Ladson tweeted today that the Nationals are interested in both former All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson, as well as former Cy-Young winner John Smoltz:

“The Nationals still have interest in 2B Orlando Hudson. If they sign Hudson, Cristian Guzman most likely will go back to shortstop.”

“The Nationals continue to have interest in right-hander John Smoltz, but they are not willing to break the bank to get him.”

Analysis: With the signing of Jason Marquis, a groundball pitcher, it would be wise for the Nationals to make some moves to sure up their league worst defense, as noted in his wikipedia entry:

“Hudson is renowned for his fielding prowess, known for making spectacular lunging catches and diving stabs at grounders. His defensive talents were recognized in 2005, when he won his first American League Gold Glove Award while with the Toronto Blue Jays.”

Spectacular lunging catches aside, Orlando Hudson isn’t nearly the same defender he oncewas. At the age of 32, his numbers are showing that he’s beginning to lose his range, despite his continuing web gems. In 2009 Hudson posted a Range Rating of -3.4 runs below average, and a UZR/150 of -3.7, a far cry from his career high UZR/150 of 16.1 in 2004. But while Hudson isn’t the second baseman he once was, he is the best option available defensively up the middle.

Smoltz on the other hand is an odd choice for the Nationals to go after, and Washington is an odd destination for the 42-year-old. One would think Smoltz want’s to go somewhere where he can win, and that the Nationals would want a starter with more durability and reliability. Smoltz had a rough season in 2009, splitting between Boston and St. Louis he posted a 3-8 record with a career high 6.35 ERA. Smoltz likely has more in the tank however, as his high ERA seems to be a result of some bad luck. His BABIP was an unrealistic .364 and his FIP was 3.87.

Still…I just don’t see the point in bringing an older starter in, especially one like Smoltz who has never been known to be any sort of mentor.

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Nationals to sign Guardado?

John Paul Morosi reported tonight that according to league sources, the Nationals are very close to signing a one-year deal with the former close. Guardado made 48 appearances with the Rangers last year, posting a 4.46 ERA. Guardado is 39 years old.

News from Nats Town: Thoughts on Marquis Signing

Washington Nationals Headed to Playoffs in 2010, The Hardball Times

“Having a mentor to work with the young pitchers can be valuable, and Marquis is young enough himself to do just that while furthering his career. This signing brings to note a common refrain repeated yearly: why spend the money on Marquis if they’re going nowhere? If the Nationals are a 77-loss team, why spend the money to bring them to a 75-loss team? Answer: It’s not that simple. You still need bodies out there to compete. What if their internal options were lousy? How about signing cheaper alternatives — they’re cheaper because they’re riskier. Maybe they’re not projected to be a good mentor (Erik Bedard would scare me in that role) or just not good, period.”-Evan Brunell

Nationals Sign Jason Marquis, Fangraphs

“But here’s the rub. What exactly is the point of spending $4 million for a win when you’re the Nationals? The team currently has maybe seventy-something win talent and they’re well on their way to becoming basement dwellers in the NL East yet again. Signing an innings-eater such as Marquis to a contract like this makes zero sense; all he does is makes the Nationals slightly less bad than they were a year ago.”-Erik Manning

Thoughts on Marquis Signing, Nats Journal

The deal for Marquis – two years, $15 million – fits quite squarely under the category already established this offseason for respectable (but occasionally perplexing) veteran starters. Brad Penny received a one-year, $7.5 million contract from St. Louis. Rich Harden received a one-year, $7.5 million contract from Texas. Marquis gives you more consistency and less upside than either, but for a team in need of innings/reliability, that’s probably a worthy trade-off.- Chico Harlan

Nationals sign Jason Marquis…Matt Capps Next?, Federal Baseball

“The second big signing of the winter for Washington, following close on the heels of the much-maligned two-year deal extended to future Hall of Fame catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, the Nationals’ deal with Marquis has already drawn similar scorn, with most of it the “why sign players when you won’t compete this season” variety, which is usually in reality the bitter rant of a fan who thinks (most often incorrectly) that his or her own team is just one pitcher away from competing with the game’s elite, and thus doesn’t want to see any player “wasted” on a perennial doormat like the Washington franchise. This makes Nationals fans happy! (ed. note – “Some who don’t like the deal think Marquis walks too many…His 3.3 BB/9 ranked as the 10th highest amongst starters in the NL last season, these folks might have an argument.”)”- Ed Chigliak

Jason Marquis to the Washington Post

“Just coming to an organization that started making moves to brighten their future, I feel like being part of that could be something special,” Marquis said. Stephen “Strasburg could be something special. [John] Lannan has been great the last two years. Pudge [Rodríguez] to mentor. I just wanted to be a part of something where they were showing they were going in the right direction, and also something where they wanted you to be a part of it.”