The guys from Baseball Prospectus made their annual pilgrimage to Politics and Prose in DC last night, and I went to hear them talk. It is always a fun session because they basically talk about what they do for 10 minutes, then answer questions for an hour. As you can imagine many of the question focused on the Nats, so I’ll go over some takeaways. In the picture on the right, you see Steve Goldman at the podium and Jay Jaffe, his mustache and his beer (a Dale’s Pale Ale – great choice!) off to the right

  • What about the abundance of starting pitchers the Nats have? The consensus was that the old adage is true, you really can’t have enough pitching. Jaffe said over a 3 year time frame 50% of pitchers spend at least some time on the DL. They aren’t concerned that this will be an issue for the team, and said getting Edwin Jackson for the year was a “good move.”
  • The front office seems so smart, yet they want to put Desmond as a leadoff? While he may not be as bad as people assume, it isn’t great to have a sub-.300 OBP guy in your leadoff spot. There was some speculation that this isn’t being done as a solution, rather as a purposeful move to try to teach Desi to be more selective. Also, don’t be surprised of Espinosa, who may better fit in the role, takes over. Goldman said that batting order in general is overrated, and managers are behind the statistical curve on this – it’s not about what guys fit best, it really is a distribution of ABs. So Desmond not “fitting” that spot may not matter, but giving the most ABs to him over the course of the season does.
  • What more do we know about defensive metrics than we did last year? Not much, according to Jaffe. Defensive metrics are closely guarded by teams because they have access to Field F/X and everyone else doesn’t. All of the metrics we do have aren’t great, but looking at them as a group, over a longer period of time than just one season, should give a real good idea of what kind of defender a player is (So when someone, such as myself, says “but he had a 17.1 UZR/150 last year” it must be taken with a shaker full of salt).
  • What about the Gio move, did the Nats give up too much? While BP fantasy guru Derek Carty did say he didn’t think Gio was quite as good as everyone said, he thought the pitcher would benefit from the move. I’m not sure quite how that meshes, since if his numbers improve he’ll be a really great pitcher, but my guess is that while his ERA might not have been sustainable, he’ll do better in DC and the NL than if he’d stayed in Oakland. They all thought the Nats gave up a bit much for the deal, then went on about how Derek Norris seems like he was born to play for Billy Beane
  • Finally, not so much in response to a question (at least not one I remember), they discussed the Nats position in the NL East and their prospects in the future. They said that with the Mets being a financial mess, the Phillies being an aging team, and the Braves not willing to spend all that they could, the Nats and the Marlins stand to benefit. The initial talk was for this season, but the implications were that Washington is in a very good place for the next couple of years, and a big dropoff by the Phillies might not be out of the question, while the Nats could be the ones to move into their spot as yearly contenders.

It was also Steve Goldman’s last act as a BP employee. As one of my absolute favorite baseball writers, I’m sad that he’s leaving that site, which I really like. But he isn’t truly gone, thankfully, since he left to take a position as one of the lead baseball writers at Bleacher Report. So I guess I’ll have to read that now, too.

By Charlie