November 2010

Strasburg named to the Topps MLB Rookie All-Star Team


stras pied by lannan.jpgStephen Strasburg was named to the 52nd Annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team. Strasburg was one of 11 players to earn the citation, which annually recognizes the premier rookies at each position on the field, as well as the top right-handed, left-handed and relief pitchers.

 

Strasburg went 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts and led all Major League starting pitchers with a 33.6 strikeout percentage (92 of 274 batters faced) in 2010. The 22-year-old posted 12.2 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, which would have led all Big League starting pitchers had he accumulated enough innings to qualify (San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum paced qualifying pitchers at 9.8). Strasburg underwent season-ending Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery (right elbow) on September 3.

 

Strasburg is the third Nationals player cited as a Topps Major League Rookie All-Star, joining third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (2006) and left-handed pitcher John Lannan (2008).

30 Players in 30 Days: Ryan Zimmerman


Ryan Zimmerman red.JPGThis is the final 30 in 30 segment and it is only fitting that we conclude with the first player that comes to mind when people think of the Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman. He won’t say it himself but he is the face of the franchise. There is no way around it. He was the Nationals first draft pick in 2005 and made his Major League debut three months later, batting .397 (23-for-58) in 20 games. If there is one player that embodies the Washington Nationals, he is the person. He is also the person that has welcomed the past two No. 1 picks–Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper–to the Nationals ballclub, making him the unofficial jersey presenter at press conferences.

“It’s going in my next contract,” Zimmerman said.

The mild mannered, overly polite Zimmerman is slowly becoming the main voice in the clubhouse, a role he has grown into over the last few seasons. He leads with his actions but he is starting to feel comfortable with voicing his opinion when he feels it is necessary.

The 26-year-old–yes, it is hard to believe he is just 26–set career highs in batting average (.307) and on-base percentage (.388) en route to his second straight Silver Slugger award in 2010. He was beat out by Scott Rolen for his second Gold Glove but Zimmerman is a vacuum at third base, nonetheless. According to fangraphs.com, he has the best range in the Majors and saved 13.9 runs last season, third best among third basemen.

“Part of my goal and part of my progression is to become an average hitter as well as a power hitter,” Zimmerman said. “When you look at guys who hit .300 and have the ability to hit 30 home runs and drive in a 100 runs in a season, there are only a handful that are out there. If you can do that consistently every year, you become one of the elite players in the league. That’s my goal and pretty much everyone’s goal.”

Zimmerman is right. There are only a handful of players that can post a .300 average with 100 RBI and 30 home runs in a season, but Zimmerman is starting to be one of those rare offensive players. There have only been six players each of the past two seasons to post such numbers–Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are the only two players to do it in 2009 and 2010. Zim was five home runs and 15 RBI short this season and eight batting points last season but it is safe to pencil in those type of numbers for Zimmerman next season. You can also count on him to hit a few walk-off home runs in 2011. He has a history of getting it done in big time situations. From the time his Major League career began on September 1, 2005, he has hit seven game-ending home runs–more than anyone else since that date. Andre Ethier and David Ortiz hold second place with six.

 

On September 7, 2005, the Nationals were 3.5 games behind the Astros in the Wild Card race and Zim got the start at shortstop–his only start at short in the Majors. Zimmerman hasn’t been part of a playoff race since 2005 and he is ready to change that.

30 Players in 30 Days: Stephen Strasburg


101902332_10.jpgAnyone who follows baseball–or just turned on their TV this summer–heard the name Stephen Strasburg. He attracted (unwanted) attention with every breath he took and every pitch he threw. People eventually ran out of adjectives when trying to describe him and they were never short on hyperbole. He is a difference maker. He singlehandedly sold-out ballparks and his Major League debut will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

 

It marked the first time any pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball struck out 14 without a single walk in his debut. So what more can be said? You can find out everything you could ever care to know about him with a five second Google search. So instead of recapping his already recapped season or projecting his already projected return from Tommy John surgery, we will just reminded you of how good he is with a few quotes from his debut that you probably haven’t forgotten about.

 

Strasburg debut–Tuesday, June 8, 2010

“I’ve never seen anything like this. Never. Nothing close.”

-Curt Schilling

“That was unbelievable. I can’t imagine a better game that I’ve been to. That was everything they hoped it would be and more.”

-Ken Burns

“The Nationals made their way down from Montreal in 2005, but it was only on Tuesday night, it seems, that they arrived.”

-Joe Sheehan, SI.com

“To overmatch Major League hitters in your Major League debut like that made this historic in so many ways… I’ve never seen anything quite like that. It was more than a baseball game. It was more than about the winning and the losing of the game. It was about this guy and seeing what he could do for the first time. I figured, well, if he pitches six innings and is competitive and strikes out six or seven, that will be a great debut. Instead he doubled it, as far as the strikeouts go. No walks, 14 strikeouts–only guy to ever do that in his Major League debut. You have to say that a few times to really appreciate it, because again, no one’s ever done that before.”

-Tim Kurkjian, on Mike and Mike, June 9

 


101903717_10.jpg“For magic and hope in the Nation’s Capital, we have to turn to baseball, in particular one Stephen Strasburg, a.k.a. Baseball Jesus, a.k.a. Mr. Precedent, a.k.a. Stratosphere, a.k.a. I have never seen anything like this kid in my life! I don’t enjoy having to use an exclamation point there, because I’m generally against them, but he is why they were invented.”

-Steve Tuttle, Newsweek editor and web columnist

“Strasburg put on a 94-pitch clinic, illustrating why the Nationals were willing to invest a record $15.1 million in him after a down-to-the-wire negotiation with agent Scott Boras last summer… Boras’ reputation for hyping his clients is legendary, but Strasburg’s debut made you wonder if he has been undersold.”

-Phil Rogers, LA Times reporter

“When you see somebody with that kind of stuff, with that kind of head on his shoulders, you know he’s going to be successful. You know that. He was a sophomore in college and you just knew — he’s got it. And it is a hard thing to kind of point your finger at. But I think you saw that tonight.”

-Tony Gwynn

“I’ve been catching a lot of guys, but this kid is unbelievable!”

            -Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Washington Nationals catcher

“I’ve been in this game for 32 years. I’ve seen everything. And I get chills when he lets that first pitch go.”

            -Donald “Spin” Williams, Washington Nationals Minor League pitching coordinator

 “Anything he throws, if he throws it the way he can, you can’t hit it.”

            -Steve McCatty, Washington Nationals pitching coach 


60810-010 packed stadium.JPG“Strasburg doesn’t get caught up in it. He doesn’t watch himself on TV, which means he probably doesn’t watch TV at all.”

            – Drew Storen, Washington Nationals reliever

“He’s the only guy in baseball who lives up to all the stories you hear.”

            – Storen

“I’ve had a front-row seat to the whole thing. It’s been an unbelievable experience because I got to experience Minor League baseball and even the Big Leagues with and without Strasburg, so you kind of see the Strasburg effect first hand. It’s nuts. His first game here, obviously, you saw it at full force. But when he pitched in Cleveland too, you could really see that factor when they’re selling his jerseys in their stadium. And you just have people in Strasburg jerseys showing up to the Cleveland Indians game. It was just very weird. And it’s cool because he’s good for baseball and I think that’s the big thing.”

            – Storen

30 Players in 30 Days: Drew Storen


70110-228 drew storen.JPGAs you read this, Drew Storen is probably either in class or studying for one. Such is the life of a young professional baseball player, right? Not exactly. A Wall Street Journal study found that only 26 players and managers on last year’s rosters graduated from a four-year college. That averages to less than one per team. But we’ve known for a while, Storen is not the average Major Leaguer. While others hide from the media, Storen gladly obliges to every interview request. Nor is he the average guy. Storen grew up playing H.O.R.S.E. with then-Pacers star Reggie Miller and is friends with Gordon Hayward and Toby Gerhart. Based on these aberrations from the “norm,” you shouldn’t be surprised that while other Major League stars spend their offseason either back home, catching up with family, or playing in fall and winter leagues, Storen is immersed in student life at Stanford University, living in a dorm and moving closer towards earning a degree in Product Design.

Then again, it wasn’t long ago that Storen was last taking classes at Stanford–a year and a half ago to be exact. At that time, he had no Major League contract, but was pacing the Cardinals in wins, saves, ERA and appearances. Then, on June 9, 2009, the Nationals selected Storen with the 10th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Storen signed less than 24 hours later, breezed through three levels of Minor League ball and played in the Arizona Fall League, where he first befriended Stephen Strasburg. He started off the 2010 season saving Strasburg’s first Minor League game, showing him how to use an inflatable pool raft as a mattress on long bus trips and answering more media questions about Strasburg than about himself. Storen made his Big League debut on May 17, less than a year after signing. Despite how much has changed in so little time, despite how many planes, buses and trains he has been on in the past year, Storen remains focused on his goals, especially when it comes to getting an education. “I think I’d be disappointed in wasting a Stanford education,” Storen says. “I need to utilize it. If baseball doesn’t work out, I can fall back on my education.”

Perhaps it is that same drive to see goals to completion that will ensure Storen’s success in the Major Leagues. His work ethic is matched with a deeply competitive nature. He lives for the spotlight and enjoys the pressure, at one point admitting he prefers playing in a stadium of booing fans. “That gets you fired up,” Storen said. “Obviously it’s great to have a good crowd and I’ve gotten great ovations every time I’ve thrown [at Nationals Park]. So that’s always cool, but it’s always a lot more fun when people are cheering against you.”

Storen was at season’s best form when the Nationals traded away All-Star Matt Capps to the Twins for catching prospect Wilson Ramos at the end of July. Fans looked to Storen to “seal the deal” as the Nationals closer. He didn’t. At his worst, he gave up four runs in the ninth inning, including a walk-off home run to Jayson Werth, to lose the game at Citzens Bank Park. But manager Jim Riggleman explained that the team has different plans and is, perhaps, a little more patient than the fans. “I don’t think we’ve anointed anybody as the closer,” he said. “We’re hoping someday Drew is that guy that can pitch in the ninth. We’re not saying it’s now. We’re not saying it’s next year.”

Some fans expressed disappointment over his late season performance, expecting Storen to shine when given the opportunity to play a bigger role out of the bullpen. However, despite how fans felt regarding whether or not Storen lived up to the great expectations before him, Storen still ended the season with favorable numbers. He did not allow a run in 38 or 54 appearances while allowing just 14.8 percent of inherited runners to score, best among all Nationals relievers. Storen was only given the opportunity to save the game seven times, all in the last two months of the season, so for all the premature discussion concerning whether or not he is the closer of the future, time will only tell to what capacity Storen best serves the Nats. 

Zimm wins second consecutive Silver Slugger


 
Ryan Zimmerman white jersey.JPGThird baseman Ryan Zimmerman was named the recipient of the 2010 Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger for National League third basemen last night. The Silver Slugger citation is the second of Zimmerman’s career. He earned his initial Silver Slugger last season.

Zimmerman recorded arguably his finest offensive campaign in 2010, hitting a career-best .307 (161-for-525) with 32 doubles, 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 69 walks in 142 games. In addition to hitting .300-plus for the first time, Zimmerman also established career highs in on-base percentage (.388) and OPS (.899).

The first qualified Washington Nationals player to hit .300 or better against both left- (.331) and right-handed (.300) pitching in the same season, Zimmerman is one of five 2009 Silver Slugger recipients to again garner the Silver Slugger citation in 2010. He is joined on this list by Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, Braves catcher Brian McCann and Twins catcher Joe Mauer.

The 26-year-old Zimmerman ranked among NL leaders in batting average against left-handed hitters (seventh, .331), game-winning RBI (tied seventh, 14), OBP (eighth), OPS (eighth, .899), batting average (eighth), runs created/27 (ninth, 6.75), batting average with runners on base (ninth, .335), slugging percentage (10th, .511), batting average at home (10th, .317) and go-ahead RBI (tied 10th, 26).

30 Players in 30 Days: Ivan “Pudge” Rodgriguez


91010-362 ivan rodriguez.JPGEven though the Nationals didn’t make it to the World Series this year, “Pudge” Rodriguez did–sort of–when he returned to his former home in Texas to catch Nolan Ryan’s ceremonial pitch before Game 3 between the Giants and the Rangers. It certainly will not be the last time Pudge is asked to take part in such a ceremonial pitch. The future Hall-of-Famer has amassed 14 All-Star selections, 13 Golden Glove Awards and seven Silver Sluggers in 20 years in the Big Leagues. And he’s not done yet.

He’s 183 hits away from recording his 3,000th hit. He’s smashed over 300 home runs as a catcher alone–that’s good enough for second most among all catchers since 1974. Over his career, he’s thrown out 41.6 percent of baserunners attempting to steal–the third highest percentage of any catcher of all time.

The Nationals knew on December 11, 2009–the day they signed Pudge to a two-year contract–exactly what they were getting. While Pudge’s name will go down among the greats, the team did not expect a season highlighted by career highs or even numbers comparable to his best years. Yet the team got exactly what it wanted from Pudge Rodriguez in 2010.

The Nats leaned on Pudge’s veteran leadership and his proven experience all season. In June, he returned from the 15-day disabled list just in time to catch Stephen Strasburg’s introduction to the Majors–the 14-strikeout, zero-walks-in-seven-complete-innings debut that will go down as one of the greatest debuts of all time. Then in September, he spent the month mentoring Wilson Ramos, the Nationals probable catcher of the future.

Pudge is a stable force, a durable presence behind the plate who saw action in 111 of 162 games in 2010. He is the experienced veteran whose reputation precedes him. Nationals coaches know full well the effect Pudge has on other teams, simply by his presence alone.

“We got Pudge [behind the plate], you see opposing players aren’t trying to run on us very much,” First Base Coach Dan Radison explained. “Their steal attempts, I’m sure, are way down against the Nationals because of his abilities and his reputation. A catcher that people know can really throw, basically they don’t run as much. So while he might not be leading the League in throwing guys out, there ain’t nobody going.” (Note: he did, however, lead the League in 2006 by throwing out 45.7% of baserunners attempting to steal).

Young and old alike respect him. Rookie Drew Storen explained the type of eye-opening experience professional players undergo playing alongside him. Storen says the first time he realized he had finally reached his childhood dream occurred one day in Spring Training: “I would say the first time that it kind of hit me, okay this is kind of cool was when I came in to pitch against the Braves and Pudge was catching. He came out to the mound when I came into the game. That was probably the first time that I really thought this is kind of cool.”

Pudge’s value is in his unparalleled experience that allows him to be a contributing factor both in the clubhouse and on the field. One day, Nats fans will look back and be thankful for this opportunity to watch a legend play in a Nationals uniform, although for two way-too-short years.

 

 

Nationals players take the runway

Minutes ago, select Nationals players walked the runway in new uniforms, donning a sharp look for the 2011 season. Scroll down for a behind-the-scenes take on these budding supermodels, as well as photos directly from the invite-only fashion show.Fashion Show 129.jpg


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HammJ_2011JerseyRelease_19.jpgWould you like to be one of the first to own the new designs? The Nationals Park Team Store, located on Half Street at the ballpark, will be the only place in the city to purchase new Nationals jerseys from November 11 (tomorrow) until November 17. Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Drew Storen and Jordan Zimmerman will sign autographs and meet fans tomorrow from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Team Store.

First look at the 2011 uniforms–HERE!

As you may have heard, the Nationals are hosting a fashion show at the Ballpark–set to begin in just a few minutes–to unveil the team’s new uniforms. The latest threads sport a fresh new look, one that continues to incorporate the Curly “W” – the team’s most identifiable mark.

Six players will model the new uniforms on the runway – RHP Tyler Clippard, SS Ian Desmond, LHP John Lannan, RHP Drew Storen, 3B Ryan Zimmerman and RHP Jordan Zimmerman. While we don’t anticipate them going so far as to channel their inner Zoolander, we certainly expect them to look sharp.

The new uniforms represent the team’s youthful energy, which in turn coincides with a roster full of the best young talent, exciting superstars and a highly-touted farm system positioned to deliver success for seasons to come.

Check back later tonight for photos from the fashion show, as well as the players’ reaction to their new game day attire. And if you just can’t wait for the 2011 season to get started, come on down to the Nationals Park Team Store on Thursday morning to purchase your very own hat and jersey. Select players will be on-hand to sign autographs and meet fans from 11:30 a.m.to 2:00 p.m.

Scroll down for your first look at the new uniforms. You will find there is plenty of excitement in store for 2011 as we continue to take our on-field performance to the next level. It starts with our new uniforms and will extend to everything that represents the Nationals brand, on and off the field.

 

Changes to the Logo:

·         The primary mark of the Washington Nationals organization has changed:


NationalsNewPrimary.jpg 

Changes to the Road Uniform: RoadCutoutwith number.jpg

For road games

·         Color: Gray

·         Jersey Sleeve (left):

o   New primary logo was added

o   Piping was moved to the end of the sleeve

·         Jersey Back:

o   Gold trim has been removed from the numbers

o   MLB silhouetted batter colors have changed to red, white and blue

 

Changes to the Patriotic/Blue Alternate Uniforms:

For special occasions, including Memorial Day, Fourth of July and September 11 Blue.jpg

·         Color: Darker blue

·         Jersey Front:

o   Stars and stripes Curly “W” replaced the DC logo on left chest

·         Jersey Sleeve (left):

o   New primary logo was added

o   Piping was moved to the end of the sleeve

·         Jersey Back:

o   Gold trim has been removed from the numbers

o   MLB silhouetted batter colors have changed to red, white and blue

 

Changes to the Red Alternate Uniforms:

For Saturday and Sunday home games as well as occasional road gRed.jpgames

·         Color: Red

·         Jersey Front:

o   Blue piping was added to the white piping

·         Jersey Sleeve (left):

o   New primary logo was added

o   Blue piping was added to the white piping and moved to the end of the sleeve

·         Jersey Back:

o   Gold trim has been removed from the numbers

o    MLB silhouetted batter colors have changed to red, white and blue

 

Changes to the Home Uniforms:

For home weekday gamesWhite.jpg

·         Color: Brighter white

·         Jersey Front:

o   Red Curly “W” with blue outline was added to the left chest

o   Red numbers with blue outline were added to the right chest

o   Blue and red piping was added to the placket and collar

·         Jersey Sleeve (left):

o   New primary logo was added

o   Piping was moved to the end of the sleeve (2 stripes instead of 3)

·         Jersey Back:

o   Name and numbers are red with blue outline

o   Gold trim has been removed from the numbers

o   MLB silhouetted batter colors have changed to red, white and blue

·         Pants: Red and blue piping was added (2 stripes instead of 3)

 

Hat Changes:

·         Road and Patriotic/Blue Alternate Uniforms:

o   Changed to darker blue with a red bill for the road


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Red Alternate and Home Uniforms:

o   MLB silhouetted batter colors have changed to red, white and blue

 

30 Players in 30 Days: Craig Stammen


60610-193 craig stammen.JPGCraig Stammen’s season was the definition of erratic–he moved from the Nationals’ starting rotation to the Minors then back to the Majors and finally to the bullpen. His games were nearly as unstable as his place on the pitching staff. At times, he looked commanding, while other times, he lost control. He did throw the ball harder this season, but a mildly faster fastball that averages around 90 mph and a tighter curveball, don’t always translate to immediate success.

 

Stammen started the season in rocky fashion, managing just 6.1 innings combined in his first two starts while giving up 11 runs and striking out just one. He immediately improved in his next two starts, this time going a combined 15.0 innings while giving up just five total runs and striking out eight.

 

Stammen was optioned to Triple-A ball to make room on the active roster for Stephen Strasburg on June 7. He went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three solid starts for the Syracuse Chiefs and returned to the Nationals starting rotation later that month. The move would last a little over a month, during which time Stammen went 3-2 in seven inconsistent games–the type that have defined his short career as a starting pitcher. In Stammen’s return on June 29 against the Braves, he pitched 7.1 innings of two-run ball, holding opposing batters to a .192 average to earn the win. But in his very next start on July 4, Stammen lasted only 3.1 innings before giving up seven earned runs, walking three and walking away with the loss.

 

Stammen was again taken out of the starting rotation on August 8, but this time he was moved to the bullpen, where he would remain, with moderate success, for the rest of the season. Unlike most starting pitchers, Stammen did not publically grumble about the move, saying, “I’m just Craig, a little old 12th rounder. It’ll be alright. Whatever they want me to do is what I’ll do. Start, come out of the bullpen, clean the balls off.” He previously worked as a reliever in the Minors and left the University of Dayton as the all-time saves leader. “It doesn’t really bother me. It’s not like it’s a demotion,” Stammen said of the move.

 

This is only Stammen’s second season as a Major League pitcher, so it is way too early to give up on him due to his lack of consistency. The Nationals do have use for him, but the question is, where? Will he pan out as a starter next year? Most likely, he will prove more valuable as a long reliever who may get called on to start from time to time if a vacancy in the rotation arises. 

 

 

30 Players in 30 Days: Alberto Gonzalez


Alberto Gonzalez in the Stands.jpgIt took Alberto Gonzalez a while to get to the States in 2003, not because he was searching for a team to sign him, but rather because he was searching for a visa and proper paperwork. “It was hard,” he said. “The Venezuelan government doesn’t want to give them to you because they think you are going to stay in the U.S. to live after you are done playing.”

 

It didn’t get any easier when he finally got to America.

 

“It was just me and my wife,” Gonzalez said. “My family is still in Venezuela. It was hard being here alone at first.”

 

It hasn’t been any easier cracking the starting the lineup on a consistent basis either. At the same time, Gonzalez hasn’t had a problem becoming the Nats super utility man. He can field all four infield positions with Gold Glove-like skills too. He played in 105 games (71 starts) and had 291 at-bats last season. And with the log jam at second base this season, he saw his at-bats drop drastically. He was used primarily as a defensive replacement and appeared in 114 games–but started just 37 of them. He registered only 186 at-bats and never got in a groove offensively. The most consistent playing time he received all year was at the end of the season when he filled in for an injured Ryan Zimmerman at third base for ten games.

 

It appears Gonzalez will be used in the same role next season but with the departure of Adam Kennedy, his playing time could increase. He has expressed interest in playing more but with Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa entrenched as infield starters, it seems inevitable that Gonzalez will once again be a spot starter and defensive replacement for the Nats.

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