Nationals

McFadden remains part of Raiders future

McFadden remains part of Raiders future

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie remains committed to Darren McFadden despite a disappointing 2012 season and hopes a new offensive system helps the running back get his career back on track.

McKenzie spoke to beat reporters on Thursday for the first time since Nov. 30 and looked back at a disappointing first season in Oakland and ahead to the future. He said McFadden will be part of that future as he enters the final year of his contract.

``I'm confident Darren's going to play his last season,'' McKenzie said. ``Regardless of what's out there, we have no decision to do anything with Darren.''

After struggling early in his career with injuries and a zone blocking scheme used in Oakland, McFadden broke out as a star in two seasons with Hue Jackson running the offense. He averaged more than 5 yards per carry in both those seasons and was one of the league's top big-play backs.

But he reverted to his early career form last season under coordinator Greg Knapp, who ran the same zone blocking system that calls on backs to run laterally before making a cut upfield rather than attack the line of scrimmage from the start.

McFadden averaged just 3.3 yards per carry this season - the lowest ever for a Raiders back with at least 150 carries in a season.

``It's obvious that Darren is much better on certain types of plays,'' McKenzie said. ``That goes without saying. That's how you've got to do it. When you talk about being productive, when you talk about offensively moving the ball, scoring points, getting some plays out of your big-play guys, you've got to find ways to let him do what he does best. We didn't. We didn't do that.''

Knapp was fired by coach Dennis Allen after a 4-12 season, along with special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman, offensive line coach Frank Pollack and linebackers coach Johnny Holland. McKenzie said the Raiders are close to filling those openings and he hopes to have everything finalized within the next few days.

McKenzie said he has talked to Norv Turner and Marc Trestman, who both got other jobs, but would not name other potential candidates. The Contra Costa Times reported that former St. Louis head coach Mike Martz interviewed for the offensive coordinator job and Jacksonville quarterbacks coach Greg Olson is reportedly also a candidate.

After filling out the staff, the biggest task for McKenzie will be upgrading a roster that lacked depth and stars in his first season as the Raiders were hamstrung by having few draft picks and a bloated salary cap.

McKenzie said he has more cap room to use on free agents this offseason but believes the organization is a year away from having the cap back in order.

``I'm looking for the future,'' McKenzie said. ``We're trying to build something here. And with building, you can't mortgage the future. So we're trying to lay down a good foundation, get the core players that we think can build this team the right way and make good, sound decisions, be it financial, the personnel, coaching, whatever it is. You see the mistakes, correct it. That's the only way you're going to get better, and that's kind of our philosophy.''

In other topics, McKenzie said neither he nor Allen has talked to linebacker Rolando McClain since he was arrested in Alabama this month for violating rules on car window tint and trying to lie to police about his identity. McKenzie said he has no plans to talk to McClain about the arrest.

McClain, a first-round pick in 2010, was a disappointment this past season when he lost his starting job for ineffectiveness and was suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team. McKenzie acknowledged it would have been complicated to release him during the season because of salary cap ramifications but would not indicate what McClain's future was with the team.

McKenzie said he was pleased with the little he saw from backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who started the final game of his second season. Pryor threw two TD passes and ran for a third score. McKenzie said he was happy with how Pryor protected the ball and was intrigued by his mobility.

``You can see the plays, and when things break down, where he can kind of create and do some things,'' McKenzie said. ``But he had a chance to make some throws and he did pretty good. I was encouraged. Hopefully, the new offensive coordinator will find a way to see what he can do best during this offseason and see what he looks like in preseason games.''

NOTES: McKenzie said QB Carson Palmer is healing from cracked ribs and a bruised lung that sidelined him for the season finale and should be ready to be on the field for OTAs in May. ... G Mike Brisiel had ``major surgery'' on an ankle injury that hindered him all season. ... RT Khalif Barnes had surgery on a triceps injury and LB Miles Burris had arthroscopic surgery on an injured knee.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

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MacLellan: Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz

Will Todd Reirden replace Barry Trotz as head coach of the Washington Capitals?

Based on what GM Brian MacLellan said Monday, it certainly sounds like it’s Reirden’s job to lose.

“We’re going to start with Todd here,” MacLellan said. “I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach, whether for us or someone else.”

“We’ll see how the talk goes with him and we’ll make a decision based on that,” MacLellan added. “If it goes well, we’ll pursue Todd. And if it doesn’t, we’ll open it up a little bit.”

MacLellan said he isn’t sure exactly when the interview with Reirden will take place. The front office needs a few days to regroup. It’s also a busy stretch in hockey’s offseason. In the coming two weeks, MacLellan will direct the NHL draft in Dallas, monitor development camp in Arlington and then call the shots when free agency begins on July 1.  

“We need to take a breather here but I think Todd is a good candidate for it,” MacLellan said. “I’d like to sit down with Todd and have a normal interview, head coaching interview. I think most of our discussions are just casual. It’s about hockey in general. But I’d like to do a formal interview with him and just see if there’s differences or how we’re seeing things the same and if he’s a possibility for the head coach.”

Reirden, 46, spent the past four seasons on Trotz’s bench. He was elevated to associate coach prior to the 2016-17 season after coming up just short in his pursuit of the head coaching position in Calgary.

Reirden’s primary responsibility on Trotz’s staff was overseeing the defense and Washington’s perennially potent power play.

Prior to joining the Capitals in 2014, he was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Penguins. And before that, he spent a couple of seasons as the head coach of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ top minor league affiliate.

A native of Deerfield, Ill., Reirden also had a lengthy professional career that included 183 NHL games with the Oilers, Blues, Thrashers and Coyotes.

Asked what he’s looking for in the Caps’ next head coach, MacLellan said he’s looking for a forward-thinker, a strong communicator and a players’ coach.

Reirden is all of those things.

“Someone that's up to date on the modern game,” MacLellan said. “Someone that's progressive, looking to try different things. Someone that has a good relationship with players. They communicate, can teach, make players better. It's becoming a developmental league where guys are coming in not fully developed products and we need a guy that can bring young players along because more and more we're going to use young players as the higher end guys make more money.”

One of the side benefits of elevating Reirden is the fact he already has a strong relationship with many of the current players, meaning there won’t be much upheaval as the Caps look to defend their championship.

“It could be a natural transition,” MacLellan said. “But once we sit down and talk face to face about all the little small details in the team, I'll have a better feel for it.”

MacLellan said a decision on the other assistant coaches—Lane Lambert, Blaine Forsythe, Scott Murray, Brett Leonhardt and Tim Ohashi—will be made after the next head coach is named.

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