Nationals Review

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Will the Real Livan Hernandez Please Stand Up?

I was at the Bobby tonight to see which Livan Hernandez would show up against the Mets. The first inning was not encouraging: Livan loaded the bases, Cliff Floyd came close to hitting a grand salami, and Victor Diaz hit a deep smash to right field, and it looked like deja Livan all over again.

But then, the old, reliable Livan returned to form and, as the SportsCenter guys like to say, scattered 10 hits in eight innings of work.

Jae Seo, on the other hand, was the Bizarro Livan, pitching like clockwork in the early innings (he retired the first 12 batters) only to give up three gopher balls, including one line shot to -- you guessed it -- Livan!

Nats win, 5-1, and stand alone in third place in the NL East.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Free Brendan Harris!

Carlos Baerga has proved his sucktitude by hitting .133 (2-for-15, all singles).

It's time to see Brendan Harris, who's hitting .286/.342/.357 down in New Orleans take his spot. There's no reason that Baerga should still be having key at-bats for a major league team.

Free Brendan!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Triples Park at RFK

While Phil has declared that RFK is a pitcher's park, one clear pattern has emerged from the first ten home games. RFK is also a triples haven.

Witness last night's tough 5-4 loss to the Phillies, where Jose Vidro, Brian Schneider and the Phillies' Jose Offerman all tripled. The Nationals hold the major-league lead with 11 triples -- 3 ahead of the Houston Astros. Outfielders, like Bobby Abreu last night in the 8th against Vidro, seem to have trouble manning the RFK outfield. The park effects are greatly decreasing the home runs, but increasing some odd extra-base hits.

Some other game notes:

1. I've gotta disagree somewhat with Chris about the potential usefulness of Joe Horgan as a left-handed reliever. Before 2003, his minor league ERAs were mediocre; he has a career 4.77 ERA in the minors. This guy isn't major-league ready, and left-handed setup men define fungibility.

2. Frank Robinson's lineup tonight is one I hope remains for the foreseeable future. With OBP giants Wilkerson, NickJ and Vidro at the top of the lineup, there should be many runners on base for Guillen, Castilla and Sledge. The offense was slumping last week, but I don't see this as a significant long-term problem -- as long as Frank uses an optimal lineup, like the one he's used for the last two games.

3. Pinch-hitting Gary Bennett against Billy Wagner in the 8th was one of Frank's "hunch" moves. Bennett hit the ball hard, but right to the left fielder. It's easy to second-guess, but I would've preferred seeing Schneider up there in the clutch.

4. Jon Rauch has finally been freed from the minors, after throwing three consecutive dominant starts in New Orleans. Aside from the Offerman triple, he pitched very well and should hopefully earn a spot in the rotation alongside Tony Armas when he returns from the DL.

5. After last Sunday's ad in the Washington Post, I've gotta say I'm rooting for Comcast in the television wars. What a smarmy and sloppy piece of PR from Peter Angelos. I don't think a swift resolution was in play even without a lawsuit, and this provides the Nationals an opportunity for a much more equitable resolution -- assuming Comcast wins the lawsuit. There's no way I'm pulling for this sloppily-produced MASN network to air the Nationals ad infinitum.

Meanwhile, I got to hear the dulcet tones of Charlie Slowes and Dave Shea tonight while watching yet another ESPN broadcast of our Nats. If it wasn't for the damn three-second delay, it would've been an ideal viewing experience.

Friday, April 22, 2005

My Experience With ESPN

While I was only featured briefly in the story (I was the tall dude in the blue shirt and blue Nationals hat walking or standing with Josh in 3 or 4 of the shots), I still loved the whole ESPN experience. ESPN's film crew had filmed about 10 hours of footage total, and edited all this tape into a 3 and a half minute piece. Needless to say, many of the shots we thought or hoped would make the cut did not.

Nevertheless, I thought the segment was excellent, and we all took particular pleasure in being told we needed to "get a life" by Jim Palmer. It was definitely one of the funnier moments of recent memory. I'd like to thank the crew guys we met who did an amazing job and who were just fun to hang out with when the cameras weren't rolling. It's more difficult than you'd think to act as if you're not on camera (since it was often right next to our faces), but the crew really helped us make the transition and I think everything went pretty smoothly.

Baseball Roundup: Tough Loss to Take


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While Josh and I, along with some friends, got to see the Nationals game live followed by an ESPN camera crew, the Nationals still blew the lead in the 9th inning with 2 outs on Christian Guzman's throwing error to 1st in the sloppy field conditions.

Beltway Baseball on ESPN

Phew! What a long day.

I'll post more in detail about my long day working on the Beltway baseball segment with ESPN, but it was a terrific experience. The producer Artie Berko and the camera crew were all class acts, and put together an oustanding piece.

I had a wireless mic on me throughout the DC baseball and Baltimore games, baseball fans in DC and Baltimore gawked -- assuming they were watching celebrities -- as the camera crew followed every step we took at both ballpark. We got our message loud and clear out that Angelos is an arrogant jerk, and I said on-air: "Screw Baltimore."

When I have a chance tomorrow, I'll expound on this amazing day. The piece on Sportscenter originally aired at 11:53, but for the West coast and morning editions, they've pushed it up somewhat. Jim Palmer, in a fancy job of editing, even told me in the piece to "get a life" for catching two baseball games in the day. What a dope.

Anyways, more updates to come but it was one hell of a day of baseball -- even though the Nats lost in painstaking fashion. (They didn't show the shot of my head buried in my face after the Guzman error.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Baseball Roundup: Zach Saves the Day


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After dropping their last two games, the Nationals turned to Zach Day, who returned to the starting staff from a recent demotion to the bullpen. Day didn't disappoint, tossing seven shutout innings against the Braves to get the Nats back on track.

FYI

There is a very strong likelihood that Josh and I will be featured in a story on Thursday's late night edition of Sportscenter. From what we understand, the story will involve the new cross town rivalry of the Nats and the Baltimore Orioles. Expect much Peter Angelos bashing.

More details to follow as they come along...and no, this is not a joke.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Josh Byrnes, Next GM of the Nats?

The Boston Globe runs a story today about Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes and, in passing, mentions him as a possible successor to Trader Jim once the Nats get real ownership. Byrnes is a local guy and a disciple of the stat-based analysis that we touch upon here, and has become so popular -- and deservedly so -- in baseball. Here's the money bit:

But Byrnes is so self-effacing that there are entire precincts of New England unaware that as assistant general manager of the Red Sox, he is Theo Epstein's most valued aide, and even less aware of the possibility that Byrnes could surface as a leading candidate to become general manager of the Washington Nationals once that team is sold by Major League Baseball, which could happen this summer, by the end of the year at the latest.

"He's a key voice in player personnel," Epstein said this spring of Byrnes, 33, whom Epstein hired away from the Colorado Rockies Dec. 7, 2002. "He's got as much a feel for evaluating and statistical analysis as anyone in baseball. He writes great reports, he has great people skills, and he'd probably be a general manager by now if he were better at self-promotion."

Byrnes, who grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and attended prestigious St. Albans School, is part of that young class of rising baseball executives that includes Epstein, of course, but also Mark Shapiro, Dan O'Dowd, Paul DePodesta, and Dan O'Brien, all of whom are now big-league general managers and all worked under John Hart in Cleveland's golden age of the '90s. Byrnes came to the Indians in 1994 as an intern to Shapiro, after running into Mark's dad, high-powered agent Ron Shapiro, at a Haverford (Pa.) College alumni game, where Byrnes was captain of the team and set school records in home runs and RBIs.

This is the first mention of a Byrnes-Nationals connection that I've seen, and I think it's a great sign. The local ownership group, Washington Baseball Club, have some real savvy and innovative businessmen -- read: Advisory Board CEO Jeff Zients -- and would likely be very open to the kind of effective stat-based analysis that the Red Sox, Dodgers and A's openly embrace.

Add a shrewd GM to the young talent the Nats already have, and it's a potent combination. Keep in mind that Angelos was not interested in hiring shrewd Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta after firing Syd Thrift a couple years back. The Nats could really dominate the Orioles if a new owner recruits Byrnes away from Boston.

UPDATE: The link above was screwy -- it's now been fixed.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Early Season Thoughts

1. The Marlins might have one of the best starting rotations of the past decade. Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, and Dontrelle Willis were all top notch prospects, and all of them are gradually fulfilling their potential. (Burnett was already there, but suffered through the always laborious Tommy John surgery). Then throw in the reliable veteran Al Leiter and a serviceable 5th starter (currently Brian Moehler) and you have the makings of a truly elite staff. One shudders to think how good the team would be if it had retained Carl Pavano.

2. Why didn't anyone predict the White Sox' sucess? I'm a guilty party to this oversight as well, but in hindsight it should not be all that surprising that a team with two aces (Mark Buerhle and Freddy Garcia) and two Cuban legends (Orlando "el Duque" Hernandez and Jose Contreras) would, at the very least, stack up with the underwhelming AL Central. Add in Jon Garland, who epitomizes the very concept of being average (a more than welcome attribute for a 5th starter) and you have the makings of a good if not great team.

3. The Yankees - the only comment I have here is that I'm glad I'm a Nationals fan now.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sweep!

With Sunday's 7-3 victory over Arizona, the Nats now stand at 8-4, on a five-game winning streak, and are in sole possession of first place, with the possibility of a two-game lead if Philadelphia beats Atlanta tonight.

OK, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The division is still strong, and everyone's been beating up on each other, contributing to the fact that the entire division except for the Nats could be .500 after tonight. All four of the other teams in the division have looked impressive at times, including against the Nats. The Marlins have given up...wait for it...25 runs in 12 games. 2 runs per game. That's just nuts. (For those of you scoring at home, that's 4 shutouts, three games giving up 2, one giving up 3, and four giving up 4.)

Looking at the Nats, the first impression is that Vinny Castilla is making all his doubters look silly. He's hitting .429/.487/.857, and didn't make an out in RFK until the second inning today. That said, I feel the need to invoke Voros' Law before anyone gets too crazy: Any major league hitter can hit just about anything in 60 at-bats. The same is true for Cristian Guzman and his .114/.167/.136 line, and although he won't be that bad, he still shouldn't be hitting anywhere but eighth, RBI walk be damned. (And after the swing on 3-1, I was shocked that he took ball four, too.) 2-hitters can't be seeing less than three pitches per plate appearance.

Florida's in town the next two days, with a rematch of the 9-0 loss on April 8 between Tomo Ohka and Dontrelle Willis on Monday. Willis has NOT given up a run this year, but that can't last. Then Tuesday is Livan! versus Brian Moehler, who pitched decently against the Nats last time save for two 5th-inning homers. Probably will see a lot of Florida's bullpen in this game.

Friday, April 15, 2005

That Sheffield Story OR Why Karl Ravech is Probably Satan

Is it just me or is the Gary Sheffield-fan "fighting" incident getting the most press coverage for a complete non-story in say...the past decade?

Ok good, it's not just me. I was watching Baseball Tonight last night too Basil and while Karl Ravech was already one of my least favorite anchors at ESPN, I think we should start a petition to have him fired now. Who's in?

PS I'm only kidding...sort of.

Speaking of Bad Post Writers...

there's the fashion columnist Robin Givhan, who had the audacity to mock Dick Cheney's clothes at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony and now thinks John Bolton's haircut is grounds to disqualify him as U.N. ambassador?

Well, Robin, here's some advice, via Bill Quick: practice what you preach. (Note to Basil: if Holly Morris isn't cute, you'll be scared to look at Ms. Givhan.)

Less Les Carpenter Please

The Post hired an extra reporter from the Seattle Times named Les Carpenter to contribute to an online-only MLB Insider and provide some legwork to Barry during the Nats games. Kind of like a newspaper version of Samantha Ryan, without the eye candy.

Well, this could be one of the Post's more unimpressive hires.

He wrote a rambling, poorly written ode to RFK Stadium in yesterday's Post.com for his debut MLB online column. In today's print Post, he errantly refers to Vinny Castilla's 131 RBIs last season with the Braves. Maybe I'm just being a nit-picky jerk, but if you're going to write a column exclusively focusing on baseball, shouldn't you know/do the research to where Vinny played last season? And shouldn't it be pretty darn obvious that for Castilla to hit 131 RBIs, it would have to be in Coors Field?

Among his more charming leads was this other story about the RFK exhibition:

The walk to the clubhouses at RFK Stadium is fraught with peril to millionaires' ankles. Ooops! That doorway drops three inches to the hallway below. Look out! No one has repaved the pathway between clubhouses in probably four decades and now it's a moonscape of dips, bumps and broken concrete.

That's the first ever spelling of "Oops" with three o's, according to LEXIS-NEXIS and it's one of the few articles with oops! in the lead paragraph.

I'm probably being too rough on the new beat reporter; I once received a nasty note by Post intern (and now KCStar sports reporter) Jeff Passan for criticizing a poorly-written Orioles game story on my old blog. But we've been spoiled with St. Barry Svrluga and Orioles beat reporter Jorge Arangure, Jr. -- another outstanding hire. They both know baseball, and are skiled writers and reporters. Dave Sheinin is pretty solid, as well.

Here's hoping Carpenter's only in a Cristian Guzman-like slump, and can start rapping out copy like the other pros at the Post.

Thoughts from the Opener

One word: wow!

1. The game could hardly have been better. Keep in mind, Livan Hernandez had not allowed a single ball out of the infield through eight innings and Vinny was one single away from the Nats' second cycle in as many weeks.

The pre-game ceremonies were fantastic. I didn't hear a single boo for President Bush, and he threw a nice high-and-tight fastball to Brian Schneider. It was a genuinely moving moment to see the old Senators hand over the gloves to the new Nationals. And you gotta love old PA announcer Charlie Brotman, whose voice (albeit hard to hear with the mediocre acoustics) bubbled with excitement as he introduced the D-Backs and Nats.

2. What I've noticed is a real disconnect between the sports media elite and the new Nationals fans. Even with international media coverage, the only local sports radio station couldn't bother to set up a live remote over at RFK for the pre-game festivities. They devoted more attention on their Thursday morning roundup to the Wizards than this historic return of baseball to RFK. The hosts take pride in their ignorance of who's on the Nats, and unlike their incessant coverage of all things Skins, they didn't provide any additional coverage for the Nationals. To them, it was just another day. It was a disgrace.

None of the local outlets which, to their credit, provided all-day coverage, managed to show all of the pre-game festivities. Jim Vance on Channel 4 can bash baseball all he wants, George Michael can offer his erroneous information, but it was a shame that this wasn't deemed worthy for (at least Channel 4) to go to live.

Clearly, the reaction among the Nats fans and faithful was clearly different. RFK was a-rockin', cheering even equipment manager Mike Wallace when introduced, booing Lance Niekro when he plunked Castilla in his attempt for the cycle, and the place was literally shaking when Ryan Church caught that final out to preserve the win for Livan! I've been to at least 50 Orioles games and, even against the Yankees during the O's heyday, I've never seen such crowd enthusiasm. Perhaps it'll wear off, but I have a gut feeling that we'll be seeing a lot of near-sellouts and boisterous crowds throughout the season.

3. Lots of Blackberrys, I think we should rename the field Blackberry Field at RFK.

4. FOX News correspondent Major Garrett was sitting up in the nosebleeds with me, and was one of the most enthusiastic fans out there. He sported an oversized Nats t-shirt and he was jumping and screaming with the rest of them. I saw Jack Evans with his family on the way out; he got a terrific reception. He's one of the few Council members who really deserves his seat, and deserves a mountain of credit for his efforts to bring baseball in DC.

5. Don't buy Larry Bowa's nonsense on ESPN about how the Nats have a good team but don't have any depth. As mentioned here before, they are one of the deeper teams in the NL East both offensively and pitching-wise. Sledge may be the best pinch-hitter in the division and Jamey Carroll could start for that D-Backs team. Plus, the Nats have eight legitimately serviceable starters -- when Armas went down, it hardly affected us. Day's in the bullpen now, but John Patterson's more than an adequate replacement.

6. The lines at some concession stands were ridiculous, but not that many people seemed to care. Some fans waited almost five innings to get their chicken tenders. It would have been nice to have better audio in the concourse, or at least some TV screens. Hopefully, those kinks will be worked out in time.

Nats are in first place in the National League East, with a 6-4 record. If the Redskins started off 6-4, all you'd be hearing is wall-to-wall boosterism. Now that da Nats are off to a promising start, I hope we'll get better and more informed coverage.

Either way, it's a start of a new era in Washington -- we're a big league city once again!

An Interview With the Prez

The Washington Post had an interesting interview with President Bush on the Nationals and Major League Baseball. Bush said that he played no role in bringing the Nationals to town despite being a huge baseball fan.

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Bush said that despite his influence in both national politics and baseball's power structure, he never got involved in Washington's long-running pursuit of a major league team. He said he believes publicly funded stadiums -- such as the one being built in the District, and the one built for his ownership group in Texas -- can have beneficial effects for cities.

"I viewed [Washington's pursuit] as a local matter that would have to be decided by local opinion makers, local editorialists, and most importantly the local elected officials," Bush said. "In our case [in Texas], we actually had an election to determine whether the local people wanted to spend money to build a stadium -- we had a specific referendum, a vote . . .

"So I'm mindful of the local nature of franchises and stadiums. And I never had any intention whatsoever to butt in, or wade in. I did follow it, because I'm interested in baseball. And I think it is good for baseball to come back to the nation's capital. I believe the demographics have changed enough, and hopefully the [new] stadium will accommodate the increased population in the region .

He also discussed the possibility of expanding baseball's fan base in the inner cities which is certainly something baseball should be aiming to do but has failed at in recent years. The whole interview is worth a read, so take a look.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

So How Will RFK Play?

Will it be a hitter's park? A pitcher's park? Of course, we can only speculate since the first game was just played today. However, we can make some informed deductions. Here's a look at the dimensions for RFK stadium:


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The first thing that comes to mind is that the depths at centerfield and down the lines are pretty standard. However, note that it's 380 to the left field power alley and 390 to the right field power alley. As a basis for comparison, here are the dimensions for the Atlanta Brave's Turner Field.


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No, these pictures are not the same. Turner Field and RFK have the exact same dimensions. Check it out for yourself.

As this ballpark scoring comparison shows, Atlanta's Turner field tends to be more friendly to pitchers than to hitters. Considering that RFK has the exact same dimensions, it would be fair to conclude that RFK is likely to be somewhat friendlier to pitchers in general. However, winds at RFK do tend to be quity gusty so this has to be considered as well.

Overall, the Nationals may end up giving more runs than the average team, but this will likely be due to inexperienced pitching rather than a hitter friendly ballpark.

As someone who prefers a great pitching duel to a home run derby disguised as a baseball game, I for one am very happy with the dimensions and the new park in general.

Baseball Roundup: Opening Day!


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The Nationals kicked off their much anticipated return to the nation's capital with a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamonds.

It's Finally Here!

Opening Night is in nine hours, and I will be sitting in the upper deck, first-base side, watching our first-place Nationals try to give ex-Expo Javier Vazquez his third consecutive drubbing.

I got up early to watch Fox5's morning news show coverage of the Nats opener live from RFK, and was it godawful but, at the same time, exciting to watch. They have a reporter there, the Murrow-award winning Holly Morris, who either downed a ton of coffee early this morning or was on crack. She interviewed some of the NatPack -- the Nats fan club -- and was so hyperactive, she was incoherent. She reminded me of a cuter version of Molly Shannon's Mary Catherine Gallagher character on SNL.

But still, I enjoyed watching her antics. Baseball's back in Washington and I couldn't be more excited. Despite Toma Ohka's wildness, Jose Guillen ensured the Nats come home with a winning record after playing three tough division rivals.

Play ball!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Uh-oh Ohka

Tomo Ohka's line so far today?

Six walks in less than 5 innings. But he still has a 4-3 lead.

Updates to come..

Website News

As our readers have discovered, our "Daily Roundup" section is not being updated daily. Unfortunately, as we are not a major website, we are unable to gurantee that one or all of us can post something on any particular day. For instance, our router was recently down which prohibited posting recently at our "central location", i.e., our apartment. Thus this feature will continue and will be updated as regularly as possible, but we are unable to update it on a daily basis.

Please give us your feedback so far on this feature in the comments section if you have the time. Do you prefer we focus on game related pictures? Or do you prefer pictures related to behind the scenes stories, such as the recent post on Rick Ankiel?

And as we try to make the site more interactive in general, please leave us any general feedback in the comments section as always. We appreciate our growing readership and are sincerely interested in looking into and posting subjects that might be of interest to you.

The Comeback Nats

Didn't see that one coming, did you?

Down 3-1 in the 9th, the Nats strung out three hits, two walks and three key runs off Braves' closer Danny Kolb and closer Chad Cordero finished off the Nats' 4-3 comeback win. I'm sure Brian Schneider will be Ryan's Nat of the Day, but Nick Johnson continues to impress with good patience -- his OBP is well over .400 early on.

Do you want to know how despicable some of the anti-new ballpark council members are? Some are boycotting the historic Nats opener over those political differences. I'll give Adrian Fenty a pass, since he says he had a scheduling conflict. (Ha!) But David Catania is simply a jerk. He told the Post:

"At this point, it's hard to get enthusiastic about baseball . . . after the way that Major League Baseball shoved that deal down our throats. I find it really hard to cheer for . . . an organization that would take such disadvantage of the District of Columbia."

Grow up, Catania.

Finally, check out the article by Barry Svrluga about the history of Presidents throwing out the first pitch here in Washington. And, while you're at it, check out his online chat over at the Post.com website.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Orioles Schadenfreude

No, I'm not one of those Nats fans who hates everything about the Orioles. At the same time, it's not fair to call me an O's fan. On one hand, I like seeing them knock off the Yankees and they're still my favorite team in the AL East. But I'm also satisfied that their pattern of making awful moves seems to be biting them back.

On Friday, Denny Bautista -- who was traded last season for Jason Grimsley! -- pitched dominantly against the Los Angeles Angels. His line? 8 innings, three hits, no walks, eight strikeouts.

And today, Matt Riley, who was dumped in the last week of spring training, pitched well for the pitching-starved Rangers today, earning the win against the Seattle Mariners.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A Week of Ups and Downs

Two tough losses to the Marlins this week, but the Nats finish a challenging road trip with a .500 record and a chance at first place for our home opener against the D-Backs, with a sweep of los Bravos. The Nats avoid John Smoltz's 15-K ability but will have to face Hudson, Hampton, and Thomson down at Turner Field.

Good things first: John Patterson was outstanding today, despite being tagged with the loss. Patterson's stuff was always deemed top-prospect worthy, but he'd been a consistent underachiever. Until the 7th inning, he was ahead of most hitters, having even the Marlins' best slugger (Cabrera) flailing like Cristian Guzman. Not to sound like a broken record, but -- if all goes well -- our pitching could be ridiculously deep this season. We'll see how Rauch does in New Orleans and how quickly Armas can rebound from his injury, but after the first week we haven't seen any clunker performance from our rotation since Livan! flamed out on Opening Day.

Wilkerson is easily my new fave Nat. He's hitting .440 with what looks to be outstanding defense in centerfield. Jose Guillen is mashing the ball too, but has yet to walk. Vinny Castilla has been impressive early on, too.

On the downside, Guzman has been horrible, hardly getting a single ball out of the infield so far this season. And the bullpen has been less than encouraging, with Antonio Osuna looking more like the Nats' batting practice pitcher, not the vaunted setup man Trader Jim thought he signed. I can't get too excited when Joe Horgan and T.J. Tucker arrive from the 'pen, either. And F-Rob's passivity might hurt the team in the long-run. Guzman's isn't patient at all, swinging at the first pitch in situations demanding the count gets worked. F-Rob's response, in Mike Wise's column Monday?

Some players can hit late in the count. Some players cannot hit late in the count. I'm not going to force a player to work the count and make him take pitches early in the count or take strikes, and try to get a walk or get in a more-desired hitters' count if he's not comfortable. Why try to force that on them?"

Not exactly the stuff you want to hear from a guy paid to coach.

That said, I've been quite impressed with his willingness to tinker with the lineups, and moving Guzman to the 8 hole. In Baltimore, these types of common sense moves took months, if not years, to make in the purgatory of the late-90s. It took just three games for him to move the slow but patient NicktheStick in the two hole -- and it should pay dividends.

Finally, I wanted to add a bit to the Baseball Prospectus rants that have occasionally emanated from Ryan and Basil. The BP folks, once they create a "formula," have a hard time reconciling any contrary evidence that goes against such formula. This is especially true for PECOTA, and it's near-hilarity when they project Magglio Ordonez's performance in 2010, and make some definitive statement about his contract value.

So it's especially hypocritical to see Nate Silver's creation of a formula measuring contract value last week. And guess who came out with the best contract this past offseason? Cristian Guzman. Nope, I'm not shitting you. And it doesn't stop there, apparently the Nats' had the best offseason of any team in all of major league baseball! So what's Nate's response, seeing this goes against BP dogma:

Cristian Guzman is not who I'd have guessed would have topped the "best value" list. However, he does have three big things going for him: he's young for a free agent, he's a shortstop who plays his position very well, and he was signed for a relatively modest amount. This does not mean that Guzman is a good player, or that he has an especially favorable projection; he's been worth about 18 wins over the four previous seasons, and PECOTA expects him to be worth slightly less than 15 wins over the four seasons to come. But it does mean that he's a reasonably good value, especially when compared to someone like Orlando Cabrera. If there's a problem with the signing, it's not that Guzman's was a bad contract on its face, but rather that it's with the wrong team--the Nationals aren't well positioned to take advantage of the three or four extra wins he'll give them.

and..

Which teams had the best and worst winters?
Nationals +$20,557K
Dodgers +$17,261K
Blue Jays +$13,243K

Mariners -$14,468K
Diamondbacks -$16,461K
Tigers -$35,955K

If they treated this flawed statistic with the same amount of adulation they did with the equally-flawed or misused PECOTA, they'd have to retract all their snarky Nats' comments and bow at the feet of Saint Trader Jim. But Silver doesn't even have time to comment on the alleged wisdom of the Nats' offseason moves.

I've been a long-time fan of Prospectus, but it's become increasingly obvious to me that they're blinded by the same type of arrogance and short-sightedness the mainstream sports media was for years. I re-upped for a month with them after not renewing my subscription earlier. It just isn't worth it. Save your money and read the more humorous, more informative and free Nats blogs instead.

The New NatCast

Since last week, I've been browsing the various weather sites looking for weather information for Thursday night's home opener. Now a team of local weather experts at Capitalweather.com are making the task easier for me and other Nats fans by providing exclusive Nats' weather forecasts with their Natcast:

Beginning Thursday, we will provide forecasts for Washington National home games (the day of). As a sneak preview, I would expect cloudy conditions and a chance of a little drizzle, with temperatures holding in the mid 50s during the game.
There's still a bit of uncertainty with respect to this forecast and it will be fine tuned as opening day draws closer...

Not an ideal Opening Night forecast, but it doesn't look like it'll be rained out, either.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Daily Roundup: Willis Baffles the Nats


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Dontrelle Willis was up to his old tricks, shutting out the Nats, as the Marlins won 9-0.

Friday, April 08, 2005

More Nats Coverage

I think the Washington Post is doing a bang-up job with its Nats coverage. This is a great article on VIPs complaining about their seats, including half the panelists on Crossfire, the illustrious Jim Moran, and David Brooks. And as the article notes: If you want to yell at Paul Begala, that's Section 209, Section 2-0-9.

Meanwhile, the Nats TV "deal" got a boost with the next nine games beaing aired on UPN. This isn't a big hit, because, despite the protestations of the UPN affiliate, who watches UPN primetime programming?

Oh, right. Me.

Division game tonight. Tomo Ohka versus Dontrelle Willis. In other division news, 0-3 Mets at 2-1 Braves and Philly is rallying in the top of the 9th down 1 in St. Louis.

UPDATE, 7:34 PM: Charlie Manuel pinch-hits Kenny Lofton for the 3-4 Jason Michaels with 2 outs and the bases loaded. And he strikes out. Phils are now 1-3.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Daily Roundup: When Pitchers Go Bust


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One time uber-prospect Rick Ankiel was placed on unconditional waivers by the Cardinals and not a single major team considered him worthy enough to claim. Ankiel was subsequently signed to a minor league contract by the Cardinals and will be converted to an outfielder. Ankiel's once promising future is looking very bleak.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Wilkerson hits for cycle as Nats win.

Nats win! Nats win!

Brad Wilkerson hit for his second career cycle, the first coming in 2003 at the expense of the Pirates. The last Expo cycle was in August 2003 by Vladimir Guerrero; the last by a "Washington" player was Jim King in May 1964, the club that became the Rangers.

Wilkerson is now one shy of the all-time record for cycles, 3, shared by Babe Herman and Bob Meusel. 18 other players (by my count) have hit for two, including Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, George Brett, and the illustrious Cesar Cedeno. (Let them play! Let them play!)

B-Wilk Hits for Cycle

How 'bout that! "The Wilk," as Charlie Slowes likes to call him, hit for the cycle in the Nats second game.

Feel free to comment below.

NL East Bloggers Roundtable

Nationals Review recently participated in a NL East roundtable at MetsGeek, discussing the Nats with our rival fans to the north.

Check it out.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Daily Roundup: Smoltz the Starter Suffers, Struggles


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John Smoltz's return to the starting rotation ends in failure, as Smoltz gives up 6 earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and the Braves fall 9-0 to the Marlins.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Daily Roundup: Not a Good Day to Be a Mets Fan

In a new daily feature at Nationals Review, we're picking the picture that best illustrates the day in baseball.

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In Cincy, Pedro strikes out 12, Beltran hits a homer, and the Mets still lose, 7-6 -- thanks to Joe Randa's game-winning solo shot.

Phil's Predictions

They're not worth much, but here's my 2 cents:

Before I begin, you'll note that a lot of my picks are kind of forgotten old favorites. A lot of these players seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle for one reason or another.

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez. This guy is simply too good not to win. He is the best overall player in baseball hands down, and I expect a monster year coming from him now that he has had time to adjust being Derek Jeter's sidekick.

AL ROY: Nick Swisher. Moneyball was written in large part about Nick Swisher. 'Nuff said although Dallas McPherson is a strong runner up candidate.

AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay. Remember him? He was injured last year but is far and away the best pitcher in the AL. Now that he's healthy again, there is no reason he shouldn't regain the Cy Young crown.

AL Breakout Star: Rich Harden. This guy throws 100 MPH. And he has great control. Look for Oakland fans to slowly forget about the Big 3 and start thinking about the Big 5 (aka Barry Zito, Harden, Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, Dan Meyer)

NL MVP: J.D. Drew. Normally this would automatically go to Bonds - Barry Bonds. However, with Barry injured for at least a month, look for J.D. Drew to carry the Dodgers offense into the postseason and barely edge Albert Pujols for the MVP crown.

NL ROY: Chris Burke. This is a very weak year for the NL ROY candidates so I'm going with the unspectacular yet steady and consistent Burke.

NL Cy Young: Josh Beckett. Again, anyone remember this guy? The one who shut out the Yankees to end the 2003 World Series? Well it's time. This guy has arguably the best stuff in baseball. He's underperformed every year since he started and only showed glimpses of his potential greatness in the 2003 postseason. Look for the still very young Beckett to grow up and break many bats in the NL this year.

NL Breakout Star: Chin-hui Tsao. If you don't know this guy yet, you should. He'll been tagged as the Rockies closer this year, and while he is playing in the unfriendly confines of Coors field, some scouts say this guy has better stuff than Eric Gagne.

AL Champ: New York Yankees. While my personal affinity for the team has gone down significantly since last year, they are the best team in the AL on paper. And as we'll find out over the course of the season, they are the best team on the field as well.

NL Champ: St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals made it to the World Series last year. Since then, they have added perennial Cy Coung candidate Mark Mulder to anchor the staff. Thus this is an easy pick.

World Series Champ: St. Louis Cardinals. This offense is just too impressive and their pitching is significantly improved with Mulder. 2005 is their year.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Nats Announcing Crew

... will be Mel Proctor and Ron Darling.

Wow, nice picks. It's hard to find a really good TV crew, but Proctor was great as the Orioles lead announcer in the 1990s. I've never heard Darling on the air, but he is a Yale graduate so he should, at the least, make smarter musings than Rob Dibble.

Season Preview, Part I

Here are the ten questions that all Nats and NL East fans need to know for the upcoming season, cross-posted on MetsGeek:

1. Flashback to October. The season has just ended. What should be on the Nationals to do list? (via trades, acquisitions, promotions, non-tenders)?

The Nats' biggest weakness was at third base, where Tony Batista recorded one of the worst full-time on-base percentage for any regular last year. I would have focused on signing a quality third baseman, a la Troy Glaus, and keeping Maicer Itzuris, who was later packaged with Juan Rivera for Jose Guillen. (And I wouldn't have signed Cristian Guzman or Vinny Castilla, whose combined contracts approximate that of Glaus' deal with the D-Backs.)

Offense was clearly the problem for the Nats last year -- and heading into 2005. The team had a really nice core of skilled young hitters: Brad Wilkerson, Nick Johnson, Jose Vidro and Termel Sledge. Getting league-average players at the other positions would have been a priority. Under a Nationals Review regime, Endy Chavez would have been shipped out to a team (perhaps with another SP like John Patterson), to a speed-hungry team like the White Sox. I'd try to swing a Chavez-Paterson for Carlos Lee deal; if not, I would've tried to pry a Damaso Marte and/or Juan Uribe from the South Siders. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, and Endy's trade value has regressed since the start of spring training.

2. What were the best and worst moves of the Nationals offseason?

Best move: Bowden's restraint in not trading Nick Johnson or Termel Sledge this offseason. One of them will have a breakout year in 2005.

Worst move: Signing Vinny Castilla to the two-year deal. It's not disastrous, but Brendan Harris was a ready replacement for Batista and Castilla's primed to flop next season.

3. Evaluate the Nationals lineup, bench, rotation and bullpen:

The biggest potential weakness for the Nats is their lineup. But since demoting "Inning" Endy Chavez to AAA New Orleans, the offensive future looks a bit brighter. Nick Johnson, Brad Wilkerson, Termel Sledge and Jose Vidro are all prototypical players that stat-analysts love, and will likely all be starting for the Nats. They walk a ton, are young enough to improve (with the possible exception of Vidro) and don't receive the same attention as bigger-market players of their caliber. And Jose Guillen, while not a big walker, should produce handsomely out of right field.

Still, some dead weight in Castilla and Guzman could weigh down the lineup. I don't expect much out of Castilla; Guzman, on the other hand, is 27 and has had several productive seasons earlier in his career with the Twinkies. By virtue of not playing Endy, general improvements from the heart of the order, and the automatic upgrade from the 2004 Tony Batista, this team's offense won't be great -- but the Nats' offense won't be the league's bottom-feeder, either.

The rotation is very deep and very underrated. Three guys were once, recently,
among their former team's top prospects: Tony Armas, Jon Rauch and John Patterson. Livan is a legit ace, and Ohka and Day have put up very solid numbers at times over the past few years. Health has been an issue for the pitching staff in the past, but if they stay off the DL, the Nats' rotation could be one of the best in the division. I'll take the Nats' #6 and #7 starters, John Patterson and Jon Rauch, over any of the drek the Mets have been scrambling for in their attempts to replace the injured Steve Trachsel.

The bullpen is headlined by Chad Cordero, the young fireballing reliever who took over the closer's job to replace Rocky Biddle last year. With Antonio Osuna as a setup man, it's a decent 1-2 punch. The rest of the pen is a mixed bag: Joey Eischen, TJ Tucker, Luis Ayala and Joe Horgan are all no better than average. Perhaps one has the potential to surprise.

One of Bowden's offseason priorities was to add to the team's offensive depth. He did a surprisingly good job with that. Termel Sledge, who would be starting for most teams, is the team's fourth outfielder and only left-handed hitter on the bench. Jamey Carroll is a jack-of-all-trades utility infielder with an adequate bat. Tony Blanco, a Rule V draftee from the Reds, shined in spring training, but he won't be around too much. Accused wife beater Wil Cordero and Pirates castoff JJ Davis, are the last two guys off the bench, and they're more than adequate as pinch-hitters.

4. Who are the Nationals' top prospects?

Not many. The team's best prospect, Mike Hinckley, is one of baseball's best pitching prospects. He got shelled in spring training, and needs a lot more minor league seasoning. Bill Bray was a top draft pick from William and Mary who shows a lot of promise, but he's at least two years away.

Brendan Harris was acquired in the Nomar-Cabrera deal last year and should've been the team's starting third baseman. He could be a league-average hitting third baseman,but he's already 26 and doesn't have that high of a ceiling.

Ryan Church will likely be the Nats' center fielder, and was named the team's minor league player of the year in 2004. He's a good defender, and can hit a bit. Expect a .340/.440 type season from him, splitting outfield duty with Sledge.

5. What are the Nationals' top goals for 2005?

The biggest goal for the Nats is to secure and grow an already-large fan base, and to contend in the tough NL East. If the Nats sell 3 million tickets and win at least 75 games, the season will have been a huge success. I think the likelihood of both happening is quite good.

NL East:

1. Which team had the best and which had worst offseason?

The Mets improved themselves the most this offseason, adding Beltran and Pedro. The Phillies had a quiet offseason, but made a very significant acquisition in ace Jon Lieber.

No teams in the division had a bad offseason, but I think the Braves hurt themselves by not finding an adequate replacement for J.D. Drew. Getting Tim Hudson was great for them, but I don't think he'll be enough to allow the Braves to maintain their unprecedented run of NL East titles.

2. What was the best move in the division? What was the worst move?

Best move: Mets signing Pedro Martinez. In the NL, he'll rebound to his peak form.

Worst move: Nationals signing Vinny Castilla. Totally unnecessary, and he'll struggle to be above replacement level in 2005.

3. Which team has the best: starting rotation, lineup, bench, bullpen?

Best rotation: Marlins. They've battled injury problems, but is this the year when AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis and Al Leiter terrify NL East bats?

Best bullpen: Phillies. With Billy Wagner back and Ryan Madson primed to be a force in the pen, the Phils outdistance a mediocre bunch of relievers in the NL East.

Best lineup: Phillies. Top to bottom, the Phils can score a bunch of runs. An Abreu-Thome-Burrell-Utley heart of the order is damn good. They also have very few holes: David Bell and Kenny Lofton, the two worst hitters in the lineup, could be league-average at their positions.

Best bench: Nationals. There's no better bench player than Termel Sledge, and JJ Davis could be another solid pinch-hitter. Wil Cordero and Jamey Carroll are both nice utility players to have around the bench. What was a miserable bench in 2004 could now be the division's strongest.

4. Who is the best rookie in the division?

I don't know if he still counts as a prospect, but David Wright is easily the best in the division. Relievers Ryan Madson of the Phils and Chad Cordero of the Nats also fit in that rookie/second-year purgatory, but they should both shine.

Among "true rookies," watch Ryan Langerhans, who may get some playing time in the corner outfield spots for the Braves. He's been a decent minor-league hitter, and may be key to Atlanta's success. Ditto Ryan Church for the Nationals. Heck, I'll go with Church as the division's top rookie.

5. Who will win the NL East this year?

This should be a very competitive race. I like the Phillies, since they have the fewest black holes of any lineup, the best bullpen, and a deep-enough rotation. All five teams -- even the Nats -- have a shot. The Mets will disappoint yet again, with Benson, Zambrano and Ishii all flaming out -- counteracting the positive gains of Pedro. The Braves need to replace the bat of JD Drew and the arm of the 2004 Jaret Wright, andI don't think they did enough by just adding Hudson and Danny Kolb. Florida has great pitching, but has some truly awful guys in the lineup and have precious little depth.

Lieber was exactly what the Phils needed; he'll be the reason why the Phils will edge out Atlanta for the NL Eat title.

2005 Exact Predictions

Last season, I started my own tradition of putting up a set of predictions with exact records. You can see those here and my recap of the predictions here.
This year, I've had another excuse to make these exact types of predictions, with an entry in the Baseball Prospectus Predicatron.

So, here goes, going west to east for a change of pace.

AL West: Oakland 90-72, Los Anaheim 88-74, Texas 87-75, Seattle 78-84

Analysis: Oakland's still got the horses. Harden's going to break out this season, and Blanton, Haren, and Meyer will be good enough to keep the A's in games, which will be enough for the A's offense, bolstered by Kendall, more from Crosby, and continued production from Chavez. The Angels will come up just short; I don't trust their pitching. Texas will prove they're not a fluke. Seattle still isn't that good, even with Beltre and Sexson

AL Central: Minnesota 93-69, Cleveland* 90-72, Detroit 80-82, Chicago WS 72-90, Kansas City 61-101

Analysis: Minnesota knows how to win the division, and they have Johan Santana. Period. Cleveland is ready to break out, and Millwood will have a bounceback season. The Tigers are going to continue to build on last year's momentum and will push at .500. The White Sox are trying to play small ball in a home run park. I also consistently underpredict the White Sox. Kansas City is just awful.

AL East: Boston 94-68, New York Yankees 86-76, Baltimore 77-85, Tampa Bay 77-85, Toronto 76-86.

Analysis: Boston is the class of this division, they're deep in hitting and pitching. The Yankees are going to fall apart, too old, and Wright and Pavano are going to have ERAs in the high 4s. Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Toronto are just fighting for third, but they're all a little better, and will fight for .500.

NL West: Los Angeles 91-71, San Diego* 89-73, San Francisco 80-82, Arizona 74-88, Colorado 58-104.

Analysis: J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe will live up to expectations, in a tight race with San Diego and your 2005 NL Cy winner, Jake Peavy. I really like both of these teams. San Francisco is going to struggle without Bonds; this prediction could probably go 15 games in either direction depending on his return. Arizona's transactions won't do much, but they'll improve because they can't get any worse. Colorado is playing for 2006.

NL Central: St. Louis 96-66, Milwaukee 83-79, Chicago Cubs 81-81, Houston 75-87, Pittsburgh 72-90, Cincinnati 66-96.

Analysis: St. Louis is going to run away with this division. I really like Milwaukee's young pitching in Sheets and Santos, plus Doug Davis, and Carlos Lee is going to have a monster year. The Cubs simply aren't that good, especially since Wood or Prior will go down with an injury. Houston, despite Josh's protestations, are much much worse than last year, and I like Chris Burke. But the pitching behind Oswalt isn't going to hold up. Pittsburgh should be better, with Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, and Craig Wilson, but then they do stupid things like batting Tike Redman third (career OPS: .713). Cincinnati has no pitching, and that includes Eric Milton, who will have his ERA balloon in the Great American Ballpark.

NL East: Atlanta 88-74, Florida 86-76, New York Mets 82-80, Philadelphia 81-81, Nationals 79-83.

Analysis: The Braves should win this division. Again. It'll be even though, and I'm not as confident of that pick as I usually am, when I'm going against conventional wisdom by making it. Florida should be in the mix with their young pitching, as will the Mets with Beltran and Pedro, as well as a full season of David Wright. Philly should underachieve again, despite another big season from Jim Thome. The Nats will be better than people think, and will look towards .500 for most of the season, but the flaws of being the ex-Expos will doom them in the end to the basement.

Division Series:
Boston over Cleveland in 5, Oakland over Minnesota in 4.
St. Louis over San Diego in 3, Los Angeles over Atlanta in 4.

Championship Series:
Oakland over Boston in 6, Los Angeles over St. Louis in 7.

World Series: Los Angeles over Oakland in 7.

Analysis: The DePodesta vs. Beane World Series wasn't planned, but doing it series by series, that's just how it worked out.

Better With Age?

Jack Curry wonders if a growing crop of future Hall of Fame pitchers are getting better with age. It is quite remarkable that a pitcher like Roger Clemens, a man who nearly retired last year to be with his family, went on to sign with the Houston Astros and go 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 218 Ks in 214.1 innings. These numbers would be remarkable for a man in his prime, but are unheard of in previous generations for a man at Clemens' age.

It should also be noted that these Herculean feats are not limited to the pitching side. After all, 46(!) year old 1st baseman Julio Franco is still going strong for the Atlanta Braves.

More Season Previews

This one is from Baseball Think Factory (nee Baseball Primer).

I'll have my predictions up tomorrow.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Preview of Season Preview

Ryan and Chris have already begun their season previews and predictions. We will be posting our predictions this weekend.

However, I'll start a bit early by picking my four most underrated teams in baseball. Since I've read a whole bunch of season previews now, I feel that several teams are really getting the shaft.

1. Houston Astros

I don't understand why the commentariat thinks the Astros are doomed. This team is likely headed for second place in the NL Central and still have the key components that have made them successful over the years -- with some nice younger complements. Outfielder Jason Lane and 2B Chris Burke are among the top ML-ready first-year regulars in the game. Lance Berkman's one of the best hitters in the league, and outside of Brad Ausmus, they don't really have many weak spots. Their new GM, Tim Purpura, is a great front-office talent to ride the ship.

And I'll take a rotation of Clemens-Oswalt-Pettite with Brad Lidge closing over the Cubs' oft-injured duo of Prior and Wood for 2005. They have two of the best pitchers in the National League, the best closer, and one of the best hitters. The idea that the Milwaukee Brewers -- much improved, I admit -- will have a shot at knocking off the Astros is a pipe dream. I think the 'Stros will easily outdistance the Cubs for second and make a strong wild card run.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Yes, I'll admit that some of their offseason moves (or attempted moves), were a bit strange. But this is a team that won 93 games last year, and doesn't seem to be in worse shape. Their rotation, if healthy, is very deep: Penny, Weaver, Lowe, Odalis Perez with Edwin Jackson and Wilson Alvarez waiting in the wings. They've got a top-notch closer in Eric Gagne and a likely first-tier 8th-inning man in Yhency Brazoban.

J.D. Drew is a legitimate star who should easily replace Adrian Beltre's production in the lineup. Jeff Kent is a solid improvement over the handy Alex Cora. Jose Hernandez is more than adequate at the hot corner. And I think we'll see much improved production out of Hee-Sop Choi in 2005. (Unless he suffers from the same underachieving malady as recently traded closer Byung-Hyun Kim.)

This is about a 90-win team, and I think that's good enough to win the NL West. They'll easily pass the geriatric Giants and should inch out the underachieving Pads.

3. Washington Nationals

No, this isn't a playoff team. But the Nats have a decent heart of the order from NickJ-Guillen-Vidro-Wilkerson. If the some of the Nats' young pitchers live up to their original expectations and/or stay healthy (Armas, Rauch, Day, Ohka, I'm talking to you), I wouldn't be shocked to see the Nats even hit above .500.

If not, I still think this team easily wins 75. Now if only we have a full TV contract.

4. Oakland Athletics

There's been some split conventional wisdom on the state of the 2005 A's. The statheads like 'em, the rest of the media think they're in for a downfall. I'm always skeptical of a team depending on promising rookies to step up. And the A's really are counting on guys like Haren, Meyer and Blanton to fill out their rotation. Odds are they'll be a bit disappointed, especially given that the spring training performances of the latter two have been poor, to put it mildly.

Still, the team's bullpen is very deep -- with Kiko Calero, Octavio Dotel, Huston Street, and Juan Cruz among others. And their offense should see a decent spike for 2005: Kendall, Ellis/Ginter and even possibly rookie Nick Swisher should represent big improvements over their 2004 predecessors. Also keep in mind the A's rotation wasn't all that great in 2004 and they still won over 90 games.

In my mind, the A's are still miles ahead of the revamped Mariners and pitching-desperate Rangers. The Angels will provide tough competition, but I think the A's could win the division by a larger margin than the Angels squeaked by last year.