The home stretch and Cordero is now the worst player ever

August 27, 2007

I have read in several places, that this team has a chance to finish .500 this season. 500? Don’t believe the hype. Yes, they are playing better than expected at the beginning of the year. The days when everyone predicted a historically bad season seems like a long time ago. Even predicting the Nationals would lose less than 100 games seemed like a longshot. But here we are, only 31 games to go, and the Nats are sitting on a record of 58-72. Not too shabby, 14 games under .500 projects out to a final record of 72-90. But what would they have to do in order to get to 81-81? Basically, with only 31 games left, they would have to win 23 and lose only 8, which translate to a winning percentage of .742 over the final month and a week of the season. Not impossible, but with this team, yeah it’s pretty much impossible. On the bright side, in order to lose 100 (which would be bad, but not historically bad like sportswriters predicted) they would have to go 4-27 for the remainder, which is not impossible, but it is highly unlikely. And they have moved well beyond any sort of record breaking number of losses this season. So the best money is on somewhere in between. Considering their best pitcher (John Patterson) and their best hitter (Nick Johnson) have combined for a total of 7 games, all of them horrible starts by Patterson, this finish is all the more impressive. But what would be most impressive is if they could rattle off one more win than their current percentage shows, go 15-16 over the next 31 games, and finish 73-89, just where I predicted them at the beginning of the season. Of course, I also predicted that Nick Johnson would be back full time by the beginning of June and that Patterson would lead the team in starts, so what the hell do I know?

Chad Cordero is going to explode! Ruuuuuuuun!

Chad Cordero seems to be the big topic of the week. The Washington Post sportswriters are apparently running around the office headless and aflame because they said that Cordero has been “slipping into a funk that threatens to ruin his season.” The tamer Washington Times said he has had a “recent string of poor outings” which is still a bit of an exagerration. He gave up an earned run, 3 games ago. Then he had two terrible outings. But since 3 games ago, he gave up one run (pretty normal for a closer, even the best ones do it every 9 appearances), they’ll throw it in with the other 2 and say its a string or a funk. Well 2 games is not stringy, and other than those 2 games, there is nothing funky about Cordero (although I’ve never seen him dance). TWO GAMES people, I know we’re looking for stuff to write about, but let it be. I won’t even get into the business of defending him, Capital Punishment did a great job of that this weekend. But “threatens to ruin his season”? COME ON… Ohmygod, Luis Ayala gave up a run last night! It’s his 4th this month! His ERA has ballooned to 2.86! I’m going to make sure I have enough bottled water in my emergency kit…Cordero Riot!


Ok now everyone do that at the same time

August 20, 2007

For one 2 month stretch this season, Matt Chico made 12 starts (7 of them quality), had a 3.52 ERA, and even struck out 34 hitters. Take out one horrendous 8 ER start, and his ERA drops to 2.63 over that stretch. Shawn Hill at one point made 8 straight starts where he went 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA before hitting the DL. Thankfully, in his 2 starts since returning, he has made 2 QS and has given up only 2 ERs. Tim Redding, since coming to the major league squad, has made 9 starts and has a 2.53 ERA. While in his first few starts he may have gotten a bit lucky, he has struck out 7 or more batters in 3 of his last 5 starts. While these guys all have had good runs, they have been doing this almost exclusively of each other. Here are the dates in which these starters went on these great runs

Shawn Hill: April 3 through May 11
Matt Chico: May 7 through July 4
Tim Redding: July 3 through now

Simontacchi and Bascik have both pitched and won, and at times even pitched very well, but neither have done it over any sustained stretch of time. Only Jay Bergmann has approached doing that, and his low strikeout numbers and scary fly ball potential suggested the entire time that he wasn’t built to last. The good news is that Redding and Hill are both pitching well over the last week. Chico was good enough at the beginning of the year that there is still a great deal of hope for him. If those 3 pitchers can be counted on to pitch effectively and concurrently, this team could have the makings of a good pitching staff.

Phillies Fans

I attended the Nats-Phillies game on Wednesday Aug 15. They say that Philadelphia fans, Unhappy fanin general, are the worst in the country. It’s the often heard stories of cheering when Michael Irvin broke his leg, throwing snowballs at Santa, constantly booing Mike Schmidt, selling secrets to the Soviets, etc etc. Well, I had the good fortune of sitting behind this group at Wednesday’s game. I can’t decide whether I admire this sort of ridiculousness or just think it is completely idiotic. But I can say this, despite the fact that the Nationals won the game 4-2 and the Phillies only really threatened once (in the Gladiator7th inning, when Ray King and Luis Ayala came in and shut the door getting 3 outs with the bases loaded never surrendering a run), they were by far the most obnoxious fans I have ever been around. And it’s not because of who they were rooting for, it’s the way they were rooting. Thank god they only had a combined total of 10 minutes where they could actually legitimately cheer. I only hope the Nationals never have so many generations of futility, ineffectiveness and underachievement as the Phillies, because if we cheered for the vaunted Washington Nationals with such bitterness and anger I’d be very disappointed. But seriously, nice cape.

Manny-ger of the Year

August 13, 2007

If you read, after checking out The Nationals Review, of course, or watch Sportscenter after you’re done watching MASN you may have noticed that people are starting to talk about Manny Acta. Not people like me, who have a reason to talk about him every week, even though I rarely do. I mean people who are sports writers, who get paid to talk about baseball, who have national audiences of millions of people. But wait, isn’t this team like, the worst in baseball? No, and that’s why everyone is so impressed Manny. They were supposed to be the worst team of all time, or at least one of the top worstest. Instead, the aren’t even the worst in the league. Right now they have a better record than seven teams in the league!

One thing Acta has done exceptionally well, that nobody can argue with (intelligently), is handle the pitching staff. Whether he is listening to everything Randy St. Claire suggests or he’s doing it all on his own, he is doing a great job with the bullpen and the staff in general, other than the injuries, which likely aren’t his fault. The bullpen success has been so good that even people outside of DC have acknowledged this. Other than talk nice about Zimmerman, I wasn’t sure sportswriters were allowed to talk about anything Nationals-related. But back to the point of what I was saying, which is that Acta has put together a very successful bullpen with only one known solid reliever (Chad Cordero), some guys picked up off the scrap heap (Jon Rauch and Jesus Colome), one guy brought up who basically spent a half a dozen years in AA (Saul Rivera), and one talented pitcher who was coming off a significant stint on the disabled list (Luis Ayala). What’s nice about that group of names, is while none of them may be shut em down closers, is that they are a group of 5 pitchers that you can feel confident putting in to finish up games. Remeber, this is something that very few, if any, other teams can claim.

I’m not saying that Acta deserves the award. I find it tough to give an award like this to someone who manages a team that doesn’t have a winning record. But I think he is deserving of being on the short list, and regardless of whether he wins or not (and my money’s on “not”) he is doing a great job in what is, remember, his rookie season as a manager.

Tim Redding is… awesome?

August 6, 2007

Yeah, that’s right, who would have guessed that Tim Redding would be the one of the best pitchers the Nationals used this year. Of course, when you use 23 pitchers, it isn’t hard for anyone who’s actually pitched in the majors before to be in the top 1/3 of the group. Unless you are a washed-up ex-major leaguer who hasn’t had a winning season since you were a rookie and went 3-1. Ok, well both “washed-up” and “ex” are a bit unnecessary, especially considering how he’s done so far. As far as the age, Redding is actually only 29, something that surprised me a bit and gave me hope that he could actually be decent.

Redding is an intersting case. His K/BB ratio, which is really a key indicator to a pitcher’s FUTURE performance (remember ERA is great to tell you how good he has been, but there’s enough noise in that stat that it isn’t very predictive), had been scary. He had 8 walks and 5 strikeouts in his first four starts. Well, he must have realized this, so he decided that he would up his percentages, and he struck out 8 batters in each of his last 2 starts, and now his K/BB is up to 21/14, which isn’t spectacular, but it’s much better. Another set of numbers that aren’t predictive of effectiveness (and any Nationals fan whose watch the team this year should have figured this out by now) are wins and losses. Redding is a ho-hum 1-2 at the moment, except his last 3 games have been no decisions, and he’s given up a total of 2 runs in those games, pitching 19 innings. He got a loss in a 3-ER, 7 inning outing, which was a decent enough job, but you’re gonna lose some of those. His only really poor performance wasn’t even terrible, it just wasn’t good. His first start this season in the majors he went only 5 innings and gave up 3 ER. By the way, that non-predictive ERA is down to 2.43, and he’s really pitched well enough to be 4-2. Actually probably 5-0. But if the Nationals are averse to scoring runs, they’re religiously against it when Redding pitches. In those last 3 starts, you know, the ones where he didn’t get a decision, the team has scored a total of 7 runs, only 2 of them before the 7th inning.

What’s most surprising about his success is how poorly he pitched in AAA before being called up. He did have a good K/BB ratio, the kind that could make you Redding Grays Uniformsucceed in the majors, but his ERA was 5.32 and he gave up 110 hits in 89 2/3 innings. A few weeks ago I would have said look for his major league performance to regress to the mean as he got shelled. Now I say, with his increased ability to strike people out without walking too many, watch for a correction, but it might not be as severe as I originally thought. I also think its great that the picture I found of Redding was him wearing a throwback Homestead Grays uniform. Even looking way back to teams from the 1800s, it’s obvious that the Grays were the best baseball franchise to play in DC, even if they weren’t there full time (so far, eh Nats?), and they definitely should be honored.

Nats win streak goes to 6

The nice thing about this win streak is the way they are winning. Good pitching and timely hitting have combined to allow this team to win 6 in a row. Ryan Zimmerman has been leading the charge. He is batting .300/.343/.498 in his last 50 games, with 9 HRs. This last week he’s really turned it on, which is just plain fun to watch. Ryan has also managed to bring his numbers up to .274/.324/.455, which is still slightly off last year’s totals, but not but a huge amount. Also, his HRs are up to 17, 3 off last year’s total for the season. I have a feeling the consensus (non-Washington) sportswriter’s opinions that he is a 25-HR at best guy may be blown out of the water next season when they leave RFK for good. Felipe Lopez is starting to hit as well, he’s not on a tear, but in his last 100 PAs, he has an OBP of .360, which leadoff-hitter quality. His 4 SBs in that time is under what you’d expect, that kind of pace would put him at around 20 a year, but it is better than what he had been doing. Nook Logan is hitting surprisingly well, actually walking a bit, and of course without power, he needs to walk, bat above .300 and steal bases to be valuable. This month he has done just that. Dmitri Young continues to hit incredibly well, despite a poor week after he singed the extension, and Belliard is doing the same he’s been doing. Church has hit well over the last week or two, .282/.349/.487 in the last 11 games, but let’s see if that is just a short term thing. Kearns continues to disappoint, what the heck is happening with him is hard to know. He is actually not far below his normal numbers in batting average and OBP, it’s his slugging that has been pitiful this season. An ISO of .123 is not gonna cut it for a starting RF, even for the Nats.

Enough about the hitters, the pitching has been great. Not more than 3 runs allowed during this win streak, and with that kind of pitching, you win alot of games. Hopefully they can keep it up. Good luck to the rookie Lannan and the other guys facing Barry in SF… at least you’ll be remembered forever. And finally, speaking of Bonds, Dmitri Young was quoted in the Washington Post as saying “He’s chasing history. Whoop-dee-doo.” He was also quoted by the very same periodical as saying that if he somehow got his hands on the Bonds 756 ball, he’d keep it and he’d “double-dog dare a fan to come get it from me.” This all makes me think, if we get more quotes like that, he’s definitely worth $5 m a year.