Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wrote a column yesterday about how the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo are “not looking for scapegoats” following a 21-27 start.
Much of the article is about how they’ve dealt with lots of injuries to key players and about how Rizzo is “satisfied” with the performance of manager Jim Riggleman and hitting coach Rick Eckstein, but then there’s this piece that caught my eye:
Rizzo says there is only one problem with his club. “We’re playing terrific baseball except for the fact that we’re struggling with runners in scoring position,” Rizzo says. …
“Am I happy with the won-loss record? No. But I think it’s really based on us not hitting with runners in scoring position, getting the big hit. I hope that turns around. We’re played good enough baseball to be way better than our record indicates.”
What an odd thing to focus on.
Washington is hitting .230 with a .663 OPS overall, compared to .228 with a .697 OPS with runners in scoring position. In other words, they’ve actually been slightly better with runners in scoring position. Obviously the Nationals would have more wins if they were hitting, say, .328 with runners in scoring position, but when a team bats .230 overall and .228 with runners in scoring position pointing to that as the problem is silly.
As for the notion that the Nationals should be “way better than our record indicates” … well, that’s off base too. Washington would certainly be better if Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and now Adam LaRoche weren’t injured, but their actual performance has been every bit as bad as their record so far. They’ve been outscored by 18 runs in 48 games, which all things being equal projects to a 22-26 record. And they’re 21-27.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.