Capps Comes Through

July 30, 2010

Yesterday Matt Capps, the Nationals closer and one of the biggest sources of stability in the bullpen was traded. In exchange, the Nationals received Wilson Ramos, a stud prospect from the Twins. They also acquired Joe Testa, a left handed pitcher. If you are worried about who might be given the ball in relief now, check out my post from Tuesday. The Nationals did lose their closer, someone they might not have re-signed in the offseason, but in exchange, they got one really impressive prospect.

A Little About Wilson Ramos

Ramos is very well regarded, and it isn’t surprising. He actually came up and played for a few games with the Twins this year, an impressive enough feat for a 22 year old. In only 27 ABs he hit .296/.321/.407, not bad for a guy his age, although way too limited of a time to glean anything real. In the minors last year, he really impressed, hitting .317/.339/.454 in 214 AA plate appearances. This year has been less impressive, in AAA he’s only hit .241/.280/.345, but he’s still young enough that you don’t panic. Unless, I suppose, you’re the Twins. As for what people have said about him, it makes you wonder just what the Twins were thinking.

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Should Capps Be Traded?

July 27, 2010

The latest trade rumor is not the shipping out of Dunn or Willingham. This time, they’re talking about moving the closer, Matt Capps. Capps is having a good season, with a 2.86 ERA and 24 saves, enough to rank him 4th in the NL. He’s been a solid bullpen member, something important considering where this team was a year ago. Some may worry that losing Capps puts the Nats right where they were before, losing close games late in heartbreaking fashion. While that’s possible, there are some important things to remember.

First of all, Capps has pitched well, but he hasn’t been spectacular. His WHIP of 1.364 is a little heart attack inducing. In his 44 IP, he’s struck out 36, which is good (not closer great, but good), and has only walked 9. But he’s given up 51 hits and opponents are hitting him surprisingly well – .283/.317/.428. His WXRL is only 0.171 ranks him only 8th on the team. It is somewhat smoke and mirrors, although the strikeouts are real. Couple a decent number of Ks, let’s say he finishes the season with 65, and a bunch of saves, he’ll get some real money in arbitration. So the Nats would be on the hook for some loot with him. And he may not be that much better than what they’ve got.

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Annual Day Off of Sports

July 14, 2010

Today is the only day of the year, I do believe, where there isn’t an MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL game being played. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a ton of sports coverage going on, but the major sports don’t play tonight.

Last nights All Star game was interesting in that it was low scoring, AL hitting didn’t demolish NL pitching, and the NL finally won. I don’t doubt that losing every game since 1996 was more coincidence than a proof of AL domination. Even the worst teams in baseball win over 35% of the time, so that drought was as much luck and coincidence than anything else, although the NL being worse probably did add something to it. It was fitting to see Matt Capps get the win, after only facing one batter. Not because he’s having a great season, but because a Nationals bullpen guy often gets the W when they’re victorious. It may have only been more fitting if Tyler Clippard was in there. He leads the team in wins, with Capps coming in tied for 4th with Stephen Strasburg.

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Blogger Day June 2010, Tons of Photos

June 7, 2010

Saturday was the first Blogger Day of the year so I get to go once again to the stadium and act like I belonged in the back rooms and media areas. Brian, who has gone in the past, once again went with me and this time he brought a really nice camera. He took a bunch of high quality pics that can be seen here. I also took some lower quality pics, that aren’t as good. I’ll put some of them here. We had great access, as evidence by the group talking with the Director of Baseball Media Relations, Mike Gazda, down on the field behind home plate during Nationals’ batting practice:

But let’s save that part of the story for later. First of all, the new person in the new position, Chad Kurz, Senior Manager of New Media, was either kind enough to or forced into babysitting the blogging crew all day. He was fully accessible to us the entire time, and escorted us all over the park, including the press room, where we started out. We got a chance to talk to Josh Willingham, Jim Riggleman, Director of Community Relations Israel Negrom, and a group known as the People All Stars Among Us. But first, we started off with a press conference with rookie bullpen ace Drew Storen.
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Time to Start Believing What You See

June 1, 2010

It’s June 1, it’s the day after Memorial Day, and it’s 2 months into the season. The Nats have played 26% of their season, over one quarter of their games. It’s time to start believing what you’re seeing. Whatever they’ve done up to this point is probably pretty indicative of the type of team they are. Here are a few observations on what we’ve seen:

Thanks to an offensive outburst yesterday, the team is no longer being outscored by a massive amount. They’ve allowed only 10 more runs than they’ve scored, so with a record of 26-26, they are only considered “lucky” by one game. Their pythagorean W-L record is 25-27, still impressive considering where this team has come from. It’s been my opinion that a team with an effective bullpen is likely to play better than their Runs Scored/Runs Allowed would indicate – and that seems to be what is happening with the Nats. They’ve lost a few blowouts that got out of control, but other than that, their bullpen has kept them in it, and they’ve won (and lost) their share of very close games.

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Why Yesterday’s Win Was Important

May 11, 2010

Every win is important, that’s why. They total them up at the end, and the team with the most wins usually ends up going to the playoffs. Other than that, however, it was important for the bullpen to cobble together 4 2/3 innings of good baseball. As you’ve doubtless heard, they did this without Clippard and Capps.

Those two guys have been their only truly reliable relievers so far this season, and that just isn’t enough. They can’t win with only two relievers, and in a 20 game stretch without a day off, that becomes even more apparent. The bullpen wasn’t great last night, it got very lucky or very good at perfect moments, but it wasn’t without its bad moments. The point is, though, they were able to hold a narrow victory. With only 2 runs to spare for much of the time, 1 run at times, they held.

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A Little Early for a Win, Plus Zim vs Wright

April 9, 2010

Shouldn’t we have to wait a few more weeks? The win last night was a bit of a surprise – especially if you watched the 9th inning. Matt Capps does not appear to be a stabilizing force in the bullpen, at least not at this point. And the bullpen DID blow the lead. In the 6th inning Sean Burnett came in with Stammen in line for the win, but gave up a run. So tied at 5-5, the bullpen had at least 3 innings to go, with no room for error. Tyler Clippard was very good, and though Brian Bruney wasn’t exactly spectacular, he allowed no runs, which is all that matters for this game. Capps came in at the end and barely preserved the lead, although not to disparage him too much, he was going against the heart of the best lineup in the NL.

So what we had, despite the bullpen blowing it in the 6th, was the bullpen holding on to a 1 run lead. Last year it took until game 8 for the Nats to get a win, also against Philly. First time they won a game where they held a 1 run lead last year was game 12 (the win went to Zimmermann). Oh, and the first time they got a lead as late as the 7th inning and held on to win the game in 2009? That wasn’t until May. None of these dates are particularly significant, but they should make you feel at least a little better about the state of the team.

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