Results tagged ‘ Silver Slugger ’

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Kicking off the offseason

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Hello everyone. Happy autumn.

November 11 is always a special day on the calendar. Veterans Day provides a solemn opportunity to reflect upon, and honor this nation’s true heroes and their lasting legacy of sacrifice. The Nationals organization is proud of our strong relationship with Veterans, and of our lasting commitment to the military as a whole.

Well, another fantastic World Series ended almost two weeks ago and we are now officially in the midst of the offseason. But the good news is that as the chillier temps roll in, we are also two weeks closer to Spring Training and Opening Day, 2014!

I’d like to congratulate the Red Sox on their remarkable season and third championship in 10 years. To ascend from last place in the AL East to World Champs in 13 short months is no small feat.

Boston’s “worst-to-first” narrative should serve as offseason fuel for every owner, general manager, executive, player and fan. We are reminded that baseball is never stagnant, and anything is possible.

It was an exciting day here in Washington when Matt Williams became the Nationals' fifth field manager since baseball returned to D.C.

It was an exciting day here in Washington when Matt Williams became the Nationals’ fifth field manager since baseball returned to D.C.

Of course, while the game’s collective eyes were on three-plus riveting rounds of October baseball, Mike Rizzo was hard at work putting the finishing touches on our list of managerial candidates.

What was noteworthy, as Mike told us later, was that he had much more trouble whittling the list down to a manageable number than compiling the original list, which contained 50-plus names.

And while I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on any individual candidacies, I do feel comfortable saying that our game is flush with distinctive managerial talent.

I enjoyed meeting, talking with and asking questions of these gentlemen. I learned something from each, and was inspired by their progressive views, enthusiasm for the game and, specifically, this job in the Nation’s Capital.

As you know, we officially named Matt Williams the Nationals’ fifth field manager on October 31. We are ecstatic to have Matt on board. Perhaps it is cliché, but Matt is the right man, at the right time, to lead this team to greater heights.

Matt’s distinguished playing career speaks for itself. A five-time All-Star who claimed four Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. Matt played in three World Series and owns a ring from arguably the best Fall Classic (2001) of the last 20 years.

In talking to Randy Knorr, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tanner Roark at the Williams press conference, all four were excited for both Matt and the organization.

Ian and Tanner knew a lot about his career, but what was interesting was that they gained this knowledge as young baseball fans. All four mentioned Matt’s work as a coach on Kirk Gibson’s dynamic coaching staff in Arizona.

Matt did not wait long to integrate his family locally. In all, he spent more than four days in DC with his wife, Erika, and daughter, Madison. They even joined some friends for Halloween trick-or-treating on Capitol Hill. It was fantastic to see the Williams family so eager to explore everything that DC has to offer.

I think everyone agrees that Matt made a terrific first impression at the press conference. He worked in a few brief meetings with Mike, but Matt and his beautiful family also investigated places to live and schools for his young daughter.

  • Congratulations to Ian, who won his second consecutive Silver Slugger representing NL shortstops on Wednesday evening. I know Ian values this award because it is voted on by National League managers and coaches. As Nationals fans who watch him every day, we are all aware that Ian plays the game “the right way.” So, it nice to see that his leadership and passion for the game are admired throughout our league. Incidentally, Ian was the only infielder in baseball this season to achieve 20-homer, 20-stolen base status. Each of baseball’s other eight 20-20 players were outfielders. Ian should be very proud. Is there any doubt that he has been the best shortstop in baseball the last two seasons?
  • I was, however, disappointed to learn recently that Denard Span was denied what would have been his first Gold Glove. I just don’t see how a center fielder, who played in 153 defensive games and committed exactly ZERO errors does not break through. Denard made all the plays he had to, and more. Anyone else remember our 6-5 home win on August 14 against the Giants? With the potential tying and winning runs on base, Denard made spectacular game-ending, snow-cone catch to deny Hunter Pence of a go-ahead double. Remember, this is a defensive award and offensive production should not have influence. There really is no other way to say it other than … Denard was truly robbed!
  • Mike is currently at the General Manager’s meetings in Orlando. I suppose we can now officially declare that the Hot Stove Season is upon us. What else is remarkable is that the Winter Meetings (also in Orlando, Dec. 9-12) are now less than a month away. Rumors, trades, signings, Rule 5 Draft … let the baseball talk begin!

My optimism remains on ‘high’ for 2014! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Until we blog again from the Winter Meetings next month…

Mark

13 Things We’re Excited About for 2013: #11

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In the lead up to Opening Day at Nationals Park on April 1, we’re counting down 13 things we’re excited about on and off the field heading into the 2013 season. Be sure to check back each day as we add another item to the list and get one day closer to the return of baseball to Washington!

#11: The Return of The Rock

The Nationals made a number of additions this offseason, but arguably their most important transaction was simply making sure that one of their own stayed right where he belonged. Coming off a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger-winning campaign that earned him a sixth-place finish in the National League MVP race, Adam LaRoche’s return to the Nationals ensures one of the team’s best players on the field and best people off of it remains in Washington.

Non-baseball fans who know of LaRoche only from his television show Buck Commander may not realize the veteran’s significance to this young Nationals squad. Aside from the power bat that carried them when other starters were injured in 2012, LaRoche’s sure and steady hands at first base made the whole infield around him better defensively.

In his spare time, LaRoche works heavily with service members, particularly Wounded Warriors upon their return to civilian life. His influence as an experienced ballplayer and stand-up member of the community is a key component as the Nationals look to defend their National League East crown.

Getting to Know: Micah Owings

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With Spring Training games beginning on Saturday, we’re taking the final few practice days of camp to take a closer look at some of the more interesting stories among this year’s Non-Roster Invitees. We wrap up our series with story of pitcher-turned-position-player Micah Owings.

The story of Rick Ankiel’s conversion from a former top prospect pitcher to a successful Major League outfielder is well known to fans of the Nationals. Ankiel played his past two seasons in a Washington uniform, patrolling center field with his cannon arm and showing flashes of the pop that led him to 25 home runs back in 2008. But the main reason that Ankiel’s transition was so notable was how rarely it has ever been accomplished. In Micah Owings, the Nationals have another player making the leap this season.

Owings enters his first camp as a full-time position player.

Owings enters his first camp as a full-time position player.

Owings showed promise on the mound, though he compiled a fairly average 32-33 record and 4.82 ERA over his six years. But the signs of his potential as a hitter have always been there. He still holds the Georgia state high school record for career home runs as a prepster, and carried that success at the plate with him into the professional ranks. Owings burst onto the Major League scene with a .333/.349/.683 line, blasting four home runs and seven doubles in just 64 plate appearances in his rookie campaign of 2007 to win the Silver Slugger Award.

In fact, despite generally receiving only a couple of plate appearances every five days, he owns a career .283 batting average and .503 slugging percentage, both marks higher than many Major League regulars. Now 30, Owings has decided to try to get the most out of what his body has left and make an honest run at converting to an everyday player.

“It was just to find out what kind of abilities I really have,” he explained of his decision to make the permanent switch. “I don’t want to look back 15-20 years from now and say ‘what if I would have tried it?’”

The idea for the change was in the works for a while before Owings finally pulled the trigger. But with a number of familiar faces from his Arizona days in Nationals camp – both on and off the field – the Nationals seemed like a perfect club to take the leap with.

Owings and the Nationals are staying open-minded about his defensive position.

Owings and the Nationals are staying open-minded about his defensive position.

“There are a lot of great guys, and they’ve been receptive,” said Owings of his new teammates easing his transition. “Even being in a different Spring Training zone. I’m used to being in Arizona for Spring Training. So totally being able to separate, being down here in Florida has been great. I’m really looking forward to it as camp develops.”

As for a position in the field, Owings is content to fit in wherever he can. Manager Davey Johnson has been impressed with what he’s seen so far, and obviously has no concerns about his new project’s arm strength. But at 6’5” and 220 pounds, don’t expect Owings to follow in Ankiel’s footsteps in center field any time soon.

“I don’t want to compare myself to him – he’s a great athlete,” said Owings of Ankiel, though he has tapped the trailblazer for his advice. “I was able to pick his brain last Spring Training, when I was kind of chewing on it. He shed some insight. I didn’t even have to say anything, he just said “Do it,” because he knew what I wanted to talk about.”

That reassurance, plus the confidence he will build with every game, every at-bat, every swing here in Spring Training has Owings optimistic about the process. He also looks forward to bringing a more mature approach to learning the other half of the game at the highest level.

“I’m just focusing in on the things I can control,” he said. “A lot of those things that we can’t control as players – umpires, calls, errors – those ate me up from a pitching standpoint early on. Hopefully I can remember that heading into this path.”

Owings won’t have to wait long for his first opportunity. He’s slated to DH, bat ninth, and play the full nine innings in Washington’s spring opener against the Mets Saturday afternoon.

The Rock Returns

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The Nationals agreed to terms on a two-year contract with a third year mutual option with free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche on Tuesday. The 33-year-old is coming off a stellar 2012 campaign in which he led the club with 100 RBI and a career-high 33 home runs, earning both the National League Silver Slugger Award and his first career Gold Glove.

LaRoche led the Nationals in home runs and RBI in 2012.

LaRoche led the Nationals in home runs and RBI in 2012.

A nine-year Major League veteran, the left-handed slugger has hit 20 or more home runs six times, totaling 197 for his career. LaRoche played a key role in Washington’s 2012 NL East title run, playing in 154 games, second only to Danny Espinosa’s 160 appearances. He finished the regular season particularly strong, swatting 10 home runs with a .324/.390/.667 slash line over 30 games in September/October.

LaRoche’s return solidifies the Nationals for the near future in more ways than one. With LaRoche at first base, Washington infield defense ranks among the strongest in the game, with super defenders up the middle in Espinosa and Ian Desmond and another former Gold Glove winner at third base in Ryan Zimmerman. LaRoche also provides a second left-handed power bat to complement Bryce Harper in the middle of the Washington order, providing tremendous balance for a team that ranked fourth in OPS and second in home runs in the National League last year.

Finally, the Nationals will welcome the return of LaRoche’s veteran presence in the clubhouse. A leader on the field and an example off of it for the youngest team in the Major Leagues in 2012, “The Rock” is back, which should be an encouraging sign for Nationals fans everywhere.

Good Things Come In Threes

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Awards season has never meant as much to the Washington Nationals as it does this year. As you may have heard, a trio of Nats were named finalists Wednesday night for several prominent National League awards by the Baseball Writers Association of America: Gio Gonzalez for Cy Young, Bryce Harper for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year, and Davey Johnson for Manager of the Year. Whether or not those three take home their respective awards next week, their nominations as finalists are indicative of the tremendous seasons they all had.

LaRoche, Strasburg and Desmond each took home their first Silver Slugger Award.

There is another set of awards – for a completely separate trio of Nationals –doled out earlier tonight. Washington earned three Silver Slugger nods, the first such awards taken home by any Nationals since Ryan Zimmerman’s second straight honor in 2010. This year, while Zim was denied by a tremendous season from Padres third baseman Chase Headley, Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg each took home the hardware as the best hitter at his respective position in the National League.

LaRoche’s selection was a no-brainer. He led all qualifying NL first basemen in hits (155), home runs (career-high 33), RBI (100), slugging percentage (.510) and OPS (.853). It may surprise some to know that the Silver Slugger is the first of the nine-year veteran’s career, but at a premium offensive position like first base, the competition is always stiff. LaRoche can place it on the mantle next to his Gold Glove, also the first of his career, which he was awarded last week.

Desmond’s win may be even more impressive, given the time he spent both on the Disabled List and playing at less than 100 percent this year. Despite playing as many as 32 games fewer than some of his fellow position-mates, Desmond led NL shortstops in home runs (career-high 25) to go along with a .292 average, .511 slugging percentage and .845 OPS. With his continued development over a full season next year, this could be just the first of many awards for the 27 year-old.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the three, though, is Strasburg, who entered 2012 batting just .038 (1-for-26) with 10 strikeouts in his Major League career. He made significant strides at the plate, compiling a .277/.333/.426 line with a league-high four doubles, one home run and seven RBI. Strasburg even batted .308 with runners in scoring position, as he developed into yet another offensive weapon at the bottom of the lineup.

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: Ryan Zimmerman

Ryan Zimmerman

 


080509-016_ryan_zimmerman.JPGIt is official. Zimmerman can now decorate his mantel with a Rawlings Gold Glove.

 

It was hardly a surprise but it was by no means a guarantee when the official announcement was made that he won the first Gold Glove of his career. It is always tough to speculate how players and managers will vote: reputation, performance, spectacular plays or fewest errors? Traditionally, reputation trumps numbers.

 

Zimmerman ranked among league leaders in total chances (MLB-best 459), total chances per 9.0 innings (second in NL, 3.09), assists (MLB-best 325) and putouts (third in NL, 117). For what it’s worth, he was the leading contributor to ESPN’s nightly Web Gems segment too–typically the top-five best, most acrobatic, spectacular defensive plays of the day. At the same time, he committed 17 errors and posted a .963 fielding percentage. Of the 17 errors, 13 were throwing and four were with the glove.

 

But as we’ve documented before, those superficial defensive stats only tell a fraction of the story. Zimmerman might as well be a black hole at third base, he has unrivaled range and sucks up everything hit in his direction.

 

Just a day after receiving his first Gold Glove award, Zimmerman’s mantel got a little more crowded when he was honored with his first Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger award. He provided it all season long at the plate and was recognized for it.

 

On May 9, the Nationals were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth in Arizona. Zimmerman was 0-for-3 and at the plate with his 26-game hit streak on the line. He didn’t waste any time extending it. He hammered the first pitch from Juan Gutierrez over the center field fence to give the Nats a 2-0 lead and extend the hit streak to 27-games. They won 2-1.

 

Zimmerman put up career numbers in 2009: a .292 average, 33 home runs, 106 RBI and 110 runs but there is one statistic that stands out. He cemented himself into Washington baseball history with a 30-game hit streak during the first month of the season. The streak started the second game of the season on April 8 and ended on May 13, with a 0-for-3, one-run, two-walk performance at San Francisco–not a terrible day at the park either. During the streak, he batted .382 (50-for-131) with 11 doubles, eight home runs, 26 RBI, 11 walks and 26 runs. It is the longest streak in Nationals history, longest streak for a third baseman since Royal’s Hall-of-Famer George Brett posted a 30-game hit streak in 1980 and third longest streak in DC baseball history behind the 33-game streak by Heinie Manush in 1933 and 31-game streak by Sam Rice in 1924. The hit streak propelled Zimmerman into the Mid-Summer Classic for the first time in his career.

 

The Nationals made sure to lock up the face of the franchise in 2009 and they did on April 20. Zimmerman is signed through 2013 but he doesn’t want to wait any longer to produce a winning ballclub. The 2010 Nationals will ride Zim’s glove and bat all season long.

 

Ryan Zimmerman Final Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

157

610

110

178

320

37

3

33

106

72

9

119

2

0

.292

.364

.525

.888

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