A Disappointing Day

September 30, 2010

Here’s what I was hoping for yesterday – Ross Detwiler comes out, throws 6 or 7 innings, gives up less than 3 runs, strikes out more than he walks, and rides off into the sunset for the year. Instead, he gave up 7 ER on FOUR home runs, while striking out 2 and walking 2. 7 ER is bad enough, but the four home runs is a pretty good number for a month, not a game. It really couldn’t have been worse, barring injury.

So where does that leave him? Well, it leaves him in bad shape going in to next season. Early this year he was coming off a strong September, had surgery in February, and spent much of the year recovering. But a strong late part of the year, including a few relief appearances and one good start in September all seemed to be a good sign until last night. One horrendous night won’t ruin his hopes, but he looked bad, and they were hoping for him to show something.

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A Little Bit of Pitching Praise

September 29, 2010

Ok, so it’s not the best sign in the world when your bullpen leads the majors in innings pitched. At 527 2/3 IP, the Nats bullpen is even above Pittsburgh’s 524 2/3, with San Diego a surprising but distant third with 496 2/3. What is impressive, though, is how effective the Nats’ bullpen has been.

First is the obvious, the ERA, where the Nats rank 5th in the majors (4th in the NL) with a 3.36 ERA. They also have the 5th lowest OPS against, sitting pretty at .678. They rank 6th in K/BB at 2.33 and 7th in K/9 at 8.51. They are slightly less impressive at the fangraphs stat “Left on Base Percentage”, in which they rank 9th at 75.4% (6th in the NL).

All of these stats show that the bullpen has indeed been very effective for this team this year. And that they’ve needed it. There are blown saves that linger in the memory, and occasionally there are great performances (like last night) that keep the team in a game long enough to win it. Regardless, the good news is they cobbled together something quite nice, and it can be seen as a strength going in to 2011. The bad news is that relievers are often effective year to year, and the performance might not be quite as good next year. We can hope, though, that it does carry over at least a bit.

Lannan’s Late Surge and Seat Counting

September 28, 2010

Last night, John Lannan went 5 2/3 innings and gave up 4 ER. For a Nationals pitcher in 2010, that wasn’t half bad. Of course, we know it’s not a very good start, but are you ready for some good news? That was his second worst start since coming back from the minors. BP gave him a game score of 41, only better than his 8/24 start against the Cubs where he gave up 4 ER in 5 IP. Since he’s returned from exile, he has been quite good. Including last night’s unimpressive outing, he’s gone 68 1/3 IP, with a mind-blowing (for Lannan) 47 Ks to 14 BBs and a 3.42 ERA. And most importantly, the team has gone 7-4 in those starts.

His K/9 of 6.2 is the best 11 game stretch since the last 11 games of 2008. Back when he was the de facto #1. He didn’t do anything like that even in his great 2009, where he finished the year with a career best 3.88 ERA. But more impressive than seeing him strike some guys out, is seeing out few he has walked. Simply put, his K/BB of 3.35 in this span is his best 11 game stretch ever. With someone like Lannan, who induces ground balls and doesn’t strike out as many guys as other pitchers do, he must keep his walks down. When he does, he can be very successful. If he doesn’t, it’s easy for a few grounders to leak through with a couple of walks and suddenly it’s a 2 or 3 run inning. But when that ratio is 3.35, what happens is teams need 3 or 4 hits in an inning, without hitting into a double play, to get more than 1 run on the board, and that is difficult to do.

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Power Peralta

September 23, 2010

Maybe the big story last night was Tyler Clippard’s 11th win. Not because it’s a big deal (and not because it highlights how W’s don’t necessarily show you that much) but because it’s so flukey. Clippard is now tied for 3rd place with most wins in a season on the Nats. While that is certainly interesting, I thought there were a couple of competing stories that deserved notice.

The first is the performance of Joel Peralta. Peralta, picked up off the scrap heap earlier this year, has now pitched for more than half of a season,  45 innings (90 would be considered a heavy workload for most, Clippard’s sitting at 85 2/3), and has done so with real success. The first number that jumps out is the ERA of 2.00. 44 strikeouts in those 45 IP also jumps out, but how about the WHIP of 0.80? That’s right, he’s averaging 4 baserunners every 5 innings. And he’s barely allowed any walks, only 9 total. How good is this WHIP?

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Bryce and Next Year

September 21, 2010

Bryce Harper was on the Sports Fix today and said that he actually has a reason for saying that Mickey Mantle is his favorite player. He grew up a Yankees fan all of his life, and watching film and hearing stories, Mantle was the guy that popped out to him from switch hitting, to hardnosed play, to everything else. It’s not so crazy to me – one of my all time favorite players is Lou Gehrig, who died nearly 40 years before I was born. In my defense though, how can you not love a player nicknamed Biscuit Pants?

Harper also mentioned that he is a Cowboys fan and a Lakers fan, so he likes winners. We call those guys “frontrunners” where I come from. It’ll be interesting to see if he ever likes the Nats.

Every time I hear him speak, I always come away thinking that Harper sounds relatively polished, especially for a guy of his age. He doesn’t sound too cocky, and sounds very respectful of the game. He mentions that the game is humbling – I guess because when you only get on base half the time you’re out the other half. Read the rest of this entry »

The Pitching Staff is Depressing Me

September 20, 2010

This weekend was not very good for the Nats, and not just because they lost. Jordan Zimmermann now has 5 starts in the majors this season, only one can be considered truly good. It was way back on August 31st, when he allowed 1 ER and struck out 9 in 6 IP. Since then, he’s only been past the third inning one out of three times, and has given up a total 10 ER.

It hasn’t been pretty, and there are no excuses to be made for him. The control is usually what takes the longest to return after Tommy John, and he doesn’t look like a strong control pitcher out there. In his last 3, he’s walked 8 and struck out 6. He’s also given up 5 HRs in those 10 innings.

Yunesky Maya has yet to turn in a quality start, but this weekend he looked a bit better. He gave up 2 runs in the 4th, and left in the 5th with a runner on, who ended up scoring. The 2 run 4th inning was tough to call a meltdown, he gave up three straight hits but one was a grounder that found the hole. Of course, giving up a long double to Brian Schneider is not impressive. But he got out of it without spiraling out of control and continues to build. Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Quick Stories

September 17, 2010

Livan Hernandez pitched another great game this week. His WAR of 3.6 still stands at third all time for a Nationals pitcher. As I’ve mentioned before, he’s inching up on Esteban Loiza’s 3.8 in 2005 which would bring him into second place behind only John Patterson’s 4.9, also from 2005. Livan definitely has had more impact and meaning to this franchise, it would be nice to see him get it. It’s not out of the question, but he’d have to pitch really well in his last few starts.

I’ve heard some rumors that the team is contemplating moving Espinosa to SS and Desmond to 2B for next season, and just wanted to weigh in. I don’t really see the point, if you think it is more important to have a SS than a 2B (and I do) you put the better player there. Despite his errors, Desmond is, at this point, the better player. Desmond has hit in the majors, has a year and a half of numbers to show he can handle major league pitching, and has cut his errors in half from the first half of the season to the second. Espinosa hasn’t hit for average and has trouble taking walks – but has shown some power. If I was a betting man and could only pick one to stick, I’d go with Desmond. But as an optimist, I’m thinking both could end up being solid major leaguers. Read the rest of this entry »