Results tagged ‘ Albert Pujols ’

So This Is The New Year

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There is something refreshingly cathartic about the cycle of years and seasons. The end of the old always brings with it the beginning of a new era, another chance to be better than before. While this is true of every baseball season, it is no stretch to say that the buzz — the excitement, the energy, the hope — that is floating around the 2012 Nationals is unlike anything that Washington has seen since the team moved to The District in 2005.

This hope does not come without good reason. There is the prospect of a healthy Stephen Strasburg electrifying the top of the rotation every five days. He will be followed by two more dynamic, budding stars in Jordan Zimmermann and the recently acquired Gio Gonzalez, all three 26 years-old or younger. Solid, sturdy veterans Chien-Ming Wang and John Lannan will be in the mix with the promising Ross Detwiler, bringing stability to the back end of the starting staff.

Drew Storen will look to follow up on a rookie season in which he saved 43 games.

From there, another set of power arms takes over in the bullpen, led by 2011 All-Star Tyler Clippard and anchored by closer Drew Storen, who in his rookie campaign became just the second National ever to notch 40 saves in a season. Add in flamethrower Henry Rodriguez, who regularly touches triple digits on the radar gun, and you’ve got three more exciting arms, again all under the age of 27.

In the lineup, the Nationals will look for a healthy year from Ryan Zimmerman. DC’s under-the-radar superstar began last season hot before suffering an abdominal strain that hampered his production throughout the year. Still just 27 years of age, the third baseman will look to return to his form of the previous five seasons, during which he averaged 37 doubles, 23 home runs and 89 RBI while playing in an average of 145 games.

Jayson Werth, meanwhile, will look to reestablish himself as the player who received MVP votes in each of his two seasons prior to joining the Nationals. While he reached the 20-home run plateau for the fourth consecutive season in 2011, a return to form across the board in his numbers would make the middle of the Nationals lineup that much more formidable to opposing pitching staffs.

Mike Morse was one of the National League's best hitters in 2011.

Joining that pair will be 2011’s breakout star, Michael Morse. The numbers don’t lie — Morse hit .303 with 36 doubles, 31 home runs, 95 RBI and a .550 slugging percentage. But to understand just how good Morse’s season was, consider the following: he had more doubles and home runs than Troy Tulowitzki, and a higher slugging percentage than Albert Pujols (see for yourself). In fact, besides the NL MVP, Morse was the only player in the National League to bat over .300 with 35 or more doubles, 30 or more home runs and a slugging percentage of .550 or better. The return of “The Beast” to the middle of the lineup should be a welcome sight for Nats fans everywhere.

Another returnee for 2012 who impressed last year was rookie infielder Danny Espinosa, who will look to build on the power potential he flashed during his 21-home run performance last season. Coupled with the slick glove work he often showed at second base, the former Long Beach State shortstop may just prove he owns that rare combination of being a versatile middle infielder with pop from both sides of the plate. Oh, and he won’t turn 25 until after Opening Day.

Even after trading four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in the Gonzalez deal, there is still plenty of talent waiting in the wings, ready to contribute in the future. Top prospects like lefthander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon are poised to join Bryce Harper in the years to come, but that discussion is for another time.

Bryce Harper headlines the next wave of Nationals prospects.

While the future remains very bright for this team, make no mistake, the window has officially opened. With the Gonzalez trade, EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo not only added one of the premiere left-handed power arms in the game, he announced that he is not waiting for some distant tomorrow to contend.

“Gio’s ample talents are well known and chronicled,” said Rizzo after inking the lefty to a five-year extension on Sunday. “Now both Gio and our fans can shift their focus and excitement to his debut in DC knowing that their relationship won’t be ending in the short term.”

Of course, the road will not be easy. With the flurry of acquisitions made by the new Miami Marlins, the NL East has improved to the point of challenging its American League counterpart as the toughest division in baseball. And speaking of that AL East, the Nats will draw the perennial powerhouse in Interleague Play this year, making the schedule that much tougher. The good news is, should Washington survive this gauntlet and (gasp!) force its way into the picture for the potentially expanding postseason field, this young Nationals squad will have already faced the toughest teams in the league.

If you’ve been following the Nats from the beginning, your best days certainly appear to be ahead of you. If 2012 marks the beginning of your fandom, then welcome. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.

Game 1 of 162 and some early season projections


Nationals Park Opening Day 2010.jpgThere are 2,430 scheduled baseball games for the 2010 season and only 13 of them were played yesterday, just one half of 1 percent of all the games. There was one game on Sunday and the Rays and O’s start their seasons tonight.

“There are 161 more to go,” Ian Desmond said. “Just because we lost one game 11-1, it’s just like losing 2-1. It doesn’t really matter.”

At the end of the day, Opening Day is just another day. It is just one of the 162 games, but the Opener is always magnified: the pomp and circumstance before the start, the President throwing out the first pitch, the sold-out park, the beautiful weather and knowing that driving in two runs leaves you on pace to have 324 RBI when the season is done. It just has a different feel to it.

It is tradition following Opening Day–like eating pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day–to see the regular season projections for a few players that preformed well for one game and see what they are on-pace to do during the 162-game marathon. We will forget for a few seconds that the sample size is only one game and the odds of the projections actually happening are zero. So don’t bet the farm on these projections–sample sizes of one game have the tortoise losing to the hare every time–and don’t bet your friend that Placido Polanco is going to drive in 972 runs. He is projected to do that though… and just maybe he will. It is mathematically possible. Here are five things that could happen but won’t happen because being mathematically possible isn’t the same as being mathematically practical. 

·         The Blue Jays’ Adam Lind is batting 1.000 (3-for-3) with one home run, two runs and an RBI. He is projected to bat 1.000 (486-for-486)–move aside Ted Williams–with 162 home runs, 162 RBI and 234 runs.

·         The Phillies’ Placido Polanco didn’t waste any time making his presence known in the power, home run hitting Philadelphia lineup. He went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBI. He is projected to have 486 hits, 162 home runs and a measly 972 RBI, not a bad season.

·         If Albert Pujols wasn’t the front runner for his third straight NL MVP award, he is now. He went 4-for-5 with four runs, two home runs and three RBI to lead the Cardinals to an 11-6 win over the Reds. That is just an average day at the park for Pujols. He is project to have 648 hits and runs, 324 home runs, 486 RBI and one MVP award.

·         Jason Heyward is going to be a star, that isn’t a projection, just a fact. The 20-year-old blasted a 433-foot, three-run home run to right in his first Major League at-bat to turn Turner Field into a tizzy. The 6-foot-4, 220-lb right fielder finished 2-for-5 with four RBI, a home run and two runs. He is projected to have 324 hits, 162 home runs, 648 RBI and one memorable career.

·         Pudge Rodriguez is 38 years young but it is tough to guess that. He made his Nationals debut yesterday with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate including two doubles. Pudge inched closer to being the next member of the illustrious 3,000 hit club and only needs 286 hits. At this pace, he is projected to join the club on July 23, 2010 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. All he needs to do is get three hits every game and not miss a start… as a catcher.

And let’s not forget that 14 teams right now are projected to go 162-0… so much for these projections.

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