An Improbable Win

May 27, 2010

It’s not often that Tim Lincecum gets knocked out in the 5th inning, or gives up 6 ER. The last time he gave up 6 ER or more was September 23, 2008, when he went 4 1/3 innings. That game, just like last night, was as much about the walks than the hits. Lincecum didn’t have his stuff, and the Nats deserve credit for taking advantage. They walked 5 times and Willingham got hit by a pitch, to go with the teams 6 hits on the starter. It’s one of those games that when the series start, you count it for the Giants, not the Nats. It’s a good win, and one that puts Washington back above .500.

Interesting thing about those Runs

Both times the Nats scored 3 runs in an inning, they led off with a guy getting to first then a steal of second. Now this is a coincidence for sure, but it does highlight the importance of getting that first guy on. And if you don’t waste an out getting him over, it’s an even better chance to score. Thankfully, once of those times was started by Nyjer Morgan, although he still had a questionable game. He ran through a stop sign and was lucky to score – although I don’t hate aggressive baserunning, I’d just prefer a guy who could see the play making that call (like the third base coach). Later in the inning he caught a fly ball and unnecessarily overthrew the cutoff man. He’s just not looking like himself. If he can right things, the innings like the 3rd and the 5th last night will come more often, and the Nats will score in bunches.

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Thank Goodness for Gazoo Helmets

May 25, 2010

You’ve seen it, if you’ve watched a Yankees game this year. That’s because Francisco Cervelli, the Italiovenezuelan Posada replacement, wears the giant helmet at bat. It looks ridiculous, making Cervelli look like his own bobblehead – if he actually had one. Hey, if he keeps hitting .354/.426/.451 all year, maybe they’ll make a bobblehead of him. And then it could have the giant helmet, and the bobblehead’s head would be the size of a real life normal helmet, and… I think this is when people say “but I digress.”

Why do I bring these helmets up? Because of this little article on a Nats catching prospect. It’s not just any Nats catching prospect, it’s THE Nats catching prospect, Derek Norris. Norris was beaned in the head last Friday night, and was taken to the hospital. This was a scary beaning, not a scary-for-a-second beaning, then the guy runs to first base. From the article, he:

reportedly was motionless on the field for 10 minutes before he was taken away in an ambulance

This is real scary. He ended up with a concussion, and was put on the 15-day DL. Apparently, he was actually unconscious for 45 seconds. Read the rest of this entry »

A Good Weekend After a Bad Week

May 24, 2010

Despite the way things looked for the first 15 or so inning of this series, the Nats end up with another series victory. They’re back above .500, for another day, the Nats are approaching the end of May without looking bad. The last few games, though, have been more painful to watch. The week of frustrating one-run losses was tough, but at least you figure they were playing well enough that it would balance out. Then they put in an almost perfect impression of an early 2009 game yesterday. John Lannan came out an pitched well, something that couldn’t be said for many starts this year, although 2 in a row decent starts gives some encouragement. The team took the lead into the final frame and then, BAM, it’s all gone. The major differences between ’09 and ’10 lie in the final results. Were this last year, that 9th inning would have yielding 3 runs, not 2. And then bottom of the 10th heroics? Wouldn’t have happened last year.

So thanks in large part to Josh Willingham hitting a bottom of the 10th inning home run, they are now sitting above .500 despite having played fully 45 games. And despite Willingham’s hitting slump of late – ok it’s not a real slump, but he’s only hitting .233 in his last 30 games, he’s getting on base, and leads the National League in walks. And give credit to the non-closer parts of the bullpen last night. Doug Slaten got the win, Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett all came in and did everything they needed to do.

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Get Yer Guzman While He’s Hot

May 20, 2010

Over the years here, I’ve had alot to say about Cristian Guzman. Part of that is because he’s been on the team for the all 4 seasons I’ve been writing, and only a handful of guys can say that. But there’s also been quite a bit to say about him. He’s a middle infielder that was at one time the highest paid player on the team. He doesn’t walk ever, which means when he’s not hitting, he stinks, but when he is, he could lead the league in hits. He was asked to move positions. He had laser eye surgery that seemed to revive a completely derailed career. He’s a veteran who has been trade bait for two or three years.

It’s not just that I’ve said alot of things about him, it’s that I’ve said alot of bad things about him, mostly centered around his lack of walks and power. His AVG is usually what stats guys like to refer to as an “empty average”, as in, there’s nothing behind it. Lots of singles, not many extra base hits, no walks. But one thing about Cristian that isn’t acknowledged often enough, certainly not by me, is that when he’s hot, he is super hot. So what follows is something that hasn’t happened a ton here – praise of Guzman. I’ll start by saying that when he is hitting the ball like he is now, he absolutely positively has to be in the lineup, and is perfect hitting in the #2 spot on a team that expect to score runs.

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Hitting Without Scoring

May 18, 2010

Craig Stammen started out very poorly last night, but recovered well enough to keep the Nats in the game. That is, until Matt Capps came in to give up 2 runs. I’m not gonna complain too much about Capps. Often times closers don’t fare as well when they don’t feel the closing pressure. And frankly, if he’s gonna give up runs, I’d rather it not be in a save situation. Still, moving a 2 run deficit to a 4 run deficit effectively took the wind out of the offense’s sails going into the 9th.

Except for the fact that the offense hasn’t had any wind in it’s sails. They’re 12th in the league in runs scored. That’s despite being 7th in OPS. They’re hitting like a middle of the road team, but scoring like a bottom of the barrel team. If you take out their 14 run victory on Saturday, they’re only scoring 4.1 runs per game, putting them at place. This team isn’t hitting, despite getting decent pitching. Yesterday wasn’t great, but up until the 8th inning they could have easily been ahead.

This month, this team has not scored runs particularly well. Perhaps the most emblematic of the team’s struggles is Nyjer Morgan. He’s hitting .266/.344/.385 on the year, which maybe isn’t terrible, at least he’s getting on base, but it’s not great. Since the beginning of the month, he’s only hitting .232/.295/.268, meanwhile this season he’s leading the league in being caught stealing. At least two of those 8 CS are from being picked off, which shouldn’t happen, although once I know is from a botched hit and run. Regardless of the reasons, he’s not himself, and this last month has been worse. Without him setting the table, this team doesn’t seem to score.

Despite that, the #2, 3 and 4 spots are all hitting well, at least when Guzman, Zimmerman, and Dunn are playing. Guzman has been torrid in May. Zimmerman has been his usual good self and Dunn, mired in a slump in April, really picked it up to hit so far in May.

As you look down the lineup, past those 2-4 spots, it hasn’t been terrible. Willingham has had a poor batting average this month, but has gotten on base and hit with power in May. Ian Desmond, playing almost every day, has also hit well in May. Pudge has had a very poor May, and his OBP has actually been blew his AVG, so maybe some of the blame can go there.

So without Morgan hitting, but with everyone else hitting, why can’t this team score? They’re hitting .274/.358/.403 with runners in scoring position, which isn’t terrible. And overall, they’re hitting .261/.334/.422, which means they’re hitting BETTER with runners in scoring position. Not that this is anything but luck, but it is important to see if they’ve had bad luck when men are on base. It is important to note, though, that the team hits with no power with RISP, but it’s not a terribly huge difference.

Meanwhile, they have grounded in to some double plays, they’re ranked 10th in the league at 30, although they aren’t more than 3 double plays from being ranked 15th. Meanwhile, going back to Morgan, they rank 16th in the league in caught stealing. So perhaps, it’s poor baserunning and double plays that is really hurting this team. Hmm.

What’s the point of this exercise? Basically, it’s to show that this team isn’t scoring, but there’s nothing simple to point to. MAYBE it’s the baserunning, maybe it’s just poor luck, like hitting with a little less power when men are on 2nd or 2rd. My conclusion, looking at all of this, is twofold. First, Morgan is an important part of this lineup as a tablesetter. Whether him not being on base means there are less guys that can score, or he’s just using up too many outs, they’re not really scoring as he is hitting poorly. Second, some of this may just be bad luck. The numbers don’t add up to a low scoring team, which makes me think they’ll come around. Give it some time. Hopefully it won’t take too much time.

The Herald Arrives

May 17, 2010

The Nats are desperate for some bullpen help. Tyler Clippard has been much worse over the last 2 weeks (although he’s not disastrous, just bad enough to be a problem in 1-run games) and Riggleman seems to be using Matt Capps for save-only situations. Some combination of English, Walker, Slaten and Burnett might be enough to keep games close. But there seems to be no method to the madness of putting those guys in. Riggleman is probably looking for a pitcher he can use every game in 7th inning, or in the 8th if he needs to rest Clippard. Today, Rizzo seemingly provided him that pitcher, by calling up Drew Storen.

So What’s the New Guy Got?

Ok, Storen isn’t really an unknown. He was the #10 pick in last years draft, a guy that all the draft analysts called a “signability” guy who went way too early. That was until he pitched in the minors. He dominated there, and people realized they got basically a major league ready reliever who could possibly close as soon as 2011. Last year, his first year in pro baseball, he dominated pretty much everywhere. Over three levels, topping out at AA, he pitched in 28 games, racking up 37 IP, with 49 K to only 8 BB and a 1.95 ERA. This year, he’s been even better. In 16 IP, he’s got a 1.12 ERA with 15 K and 3 BB.

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The Two Best Starters in Baseball

May 14, 2010

Tonight, out in Colorado, the two top starting pitchers in the majors, in terms of ERA, will go head to head. Despite the fact that they both have very impressive and almost identical ERAs, Ubaldo Jimenez at 0.93 and Livan Hernandez at 1.04, they’re two very different pitchers.

Ubaldo has gotten here by striking out everyone that comes to the plate. Well, not everyone, but just over every 4th batter. He’s struck out 49 of 185 batters faced in 48 1/3 IP. His K/9 is 9.12, although he is walking guys. His K/BB, though, is decent (2.45) because he strikes out so many. He’s also keeping the ball on the ground, with a GB to FB ratio of 1.26. And he hasn’t given up any homers. He’s basically got every stat you’d want for a pitcher.

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