Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Short-changed


As we all know, Jose Vidro's injury has exposed a lack of infield depth for the Washington Nationals. Utility man Jamey Carroll was pressed into service as the regular second baseman, and Carlos Baerga---who lacks the mobility of a nose tackle---has also seen limited time at second.

All the bloggers have touched upon potential options to alleviate the strain. For instance, as we all know now to the point of exhaustion, I recommended we acquire Ryan Freel, or at least someone like him. Other players from inside the organization have also been championed, including middle infielder Rick Short, a favorite of Harper's.

Recently, Rocket Bill Ladson fielded yet more dynamic mailbag questions, and Short's name came up:


Q: Infielder Rick Short has very good offensive numbers in the Minor Leagues and can play about anywhere on the field. Why has this man never been called up? It looks like he would be a great utility player who's going to get hits. -- Tom S., Clarksville, Tenn.
A: Short is a good hitter. He has .311 career batting average during his 11-year career. But according to a source, he is not a good defensive player and really doesn't have a position to call his own. Right now, the Nationals rely heavily on pitching and defense.

Well, there you go. Assuming Ladson's evaluation reflects that of the organization (and maybe I shouldn't), Short isn't anywhere near the team's radar. I would like to know, though, how a team that relies so heavily on good defense could not only position Baerga at the keystone for more than a nanosecond, but actually start him there.

Moreover, you might think that a guy like Short, who "can play about anywhere on the field" (the flipside of Ladson's "really doesn't have a position to call his own") would be of value to the Nats---who need, you know, a utility guy. Oh well.

__________________

In a separate piece, Rocket Bill played the role of activist journalist and strongly advocated that a particular Nat make the National League's all-star team.

Well, Nick Johnson has really been . . .

Okay, I mean, ¡LIVAN! is definitely a . . .

No? Alright, Chad Cordero just seems to . . .

Yeah, Jose Guillen really pops out those . . .

Really? Who, then?

Vinny Castilla? Really?

Really, says Rocket Bill:


One doesn't have to look very far to see why the Nationals are contending in the National League East this season. Third baseman Vinny Castilla has provided offense, defense and leadership.
All the more reason Castilla should be considered for the NL All-Star team this summer. The All-Star Game will be played on July 12 at Comerica Park in Detroit, and there is still time to send Castilla to the Midsummer Classic.
Fans can cast votes for Castilla by going to MLB.com or by attending a game at any Major League park. In the second round of balloting, Castilla was not listed among the top five vote-getters for NL third basemen.

Okay, I get it: Ladson needed to write a "get-out-the-vote" piece, explaining the ins and outs of all-star voting, for his readers. But Castilla: an all-star? Castilla: the reason (implied) the Nats are contenders?

That's overreaching a touch, right?

Maybe Rocket Bill had an ulterior motive---to jab at the naysayers:


After Castilla signed a free agent contract with the Nationals in November, there were some baseball observers who questioned whether or not he could be productive outside of Coors Field, where
offensive numbers are known to be inflated because of the thin air.

I'll grant, of course, that on balance Castilla has performed well offensively. Nevertheless, Ladson frames the Coors Field discussion rather oddly:


However, Castilla has proven that theory wrong. Entering Monday's action, Castilla was hitting .281 with four home runs and 30 RBIs, which rank second on the team. Castilla said that people forget that he hit 21 home runs and drove in 51 on the road last year for the Rockies.

No one forgot that, of course, and Castilla's not replicating the performance, at any rate. He's doing something different. He's not an impatient, low average slugger on the road this year. Instead, he's on pace for career highs in doubles and walks.

Castilla deserves substanial credit for intelligently (or subconsciously) grooming his game to his new surroundings so far. But this season is definitely not vindication of last year's (out of character, by the way) enhanced road power numbers.

________________

In other news:

---> The Nats won again last night, 2-1 over the A's, thanks to our should-be all-star's two-run homer. We shouldn't have won but did anyway, according to Harper; I can't say I disagree. This is fun, isn't it? Bang-zoom!

---> Check out Rich Tandler's Scout.com look at Ryan Zimmerman, yesterday's top Nats' draftee (fourth overall). And, by all means, call the boy "Dutch".

Comments:
All-Star Vinny? Vinny is lucky his decline has been hid behind the Nats crazy ride.

April Vinny: .347 .395/.613 3HR 16RBI
May Vinny: .245 .339/.327 1HR 9RBI
June Vinny: .217 .280/.304 0HR 5RBI

That's why I'm not high on the offense getting immediately better when Vidro comes back. Castilla still has great potential to be another anchor for this team.
 
The three things that have saved Vinny's season:

1) The hot RFK start;

2) Maintaining a decent (though of course decending) batting average.

3) An uncharacteristically good May walk rate.

The first two are in large part PR (though the first one's pretty important, in the sense it created immediate excitement), but the third one's the one that has kept his performance from being truly craptacular.

If his season's OBP is 20 or 30 points lower, I'm not even conceding that he's been okay so far.
 
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