Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for April, 2011

Bryce Harper and the massive target on his back.

5 comments

Harper, not quite showing the massive target on his back. Photo: Drew Angerer/The Washington Times

With another “incident” involving Bryce Harper hitting the airways, and another round of media members using no originality or doing any analysis and immediately judging Harper based on his “make-up,” I thought i’d comment.  This relates to a benches-clearing incident at West Virginia on 4/26/11.

Here’s two video links of the latest incident.  One from the RF stands, another from behind the plate (thanks to Zuckerman’s natsinsider site and csnwashington.com).  Watch very closely the first video; the strikeout occurs, Harper stands in place dropping his equipment, and while showing no reaction, no emotion and saying nothing the plate umpire advances towards the opposing pitcher, takes off his mask, and starts to tell him (the opposing pitcher) to back off.  Only after all this happens does Harper hear some “magic words” and react. By which time both benches were starting to run towards each other.  There was no brawl, just some general milling around.

Now you tell me: how is that POSSIBLY Harper’s inciting anything?  Yes, perhaps it started with Harper’s solo shot in the first, with him and the catcher clearly trading words.  Again; who is to say who said what to whom first?  For all we know Harper may have been talking trash, and for all we know the catcher may have said something along the lines of, “lucky hit you punk*ss” to Harper as he crossed the plate.

Because of his bonus, his precociousness, his 40-man roster spot, his SI cover and his accomplishments to date, Harper has such a massive target on his back that its almost impossible to judge these incidents unless you’re there, one the field, taking in the whole context of the incident.  It is absolutely unfair to post stories about what happened in Charleston with headlines like, “Harper sparks brawl in minor league game.” Then starts the whole nonsense about his “makeup.”  Each incident gives National pundits more ink to post their “concerns” over his make up, his maturity, blah blah.

People want to talk about the kid’s “makeup.”  Fine; lets talk about it.  Lesse; he graduated high school 2 years early, he’s devoutly Morman and reportedly has never drank, smoked, chewed or otherwise caroused in his life (how many of these stud-athletes-all-their-privileged-lives can say that?).  He’s got an incredible work ethic and has yet to show one iota (as far as I can tell) of behavior that indicates he’s resting on his laurels or that he’s entitled to anything that he has been given.  The Washington Post magazine did a fantastic article on Harper, his family and his upbringing a few months back, and I dare any reader to come away from that article with anything but the utmost respect for this kid and his family.

He had two ejections in his college season; one was clearly, absolutely the result of his jealous opposing team lobbing baseballs at him and doing other bush league BS in the pre-game to try to get his goat.  The second ejection was a ridiculous over-reaction from an umpire who couldn’t wait to show this hot-shot kid who was boss after he made an egregiously bad 3rd strike call (on a ball that may have been in the opposing batters box it was so far outside).  Harper didn’t slam his helmet, he didn’t turn around an scream at the umpire; he showed some displeasure over the call and then drew a line in the dirt.

You watch the videos and make your own conclusions.

Perhaps you can argue something along the lines of, “well he should know better.  He should turn the other cheek and take all this abuse because he should know how the media is going to spin it.”  Really?  At the age of 17, during your senior year of high school, were YOU that world-weary and have that kind of wisdom?  I seriously doubt it.  The problem with the media’s TMZ-esque coverage of our young athletes these days is that we continually forget that, well, they’re KIDS.  If you did something dumb as a 21yr old, well you’re a dumb*ass 21-yr old.  If a 21-yr old 2nd year NBA player does something dumb, its yet another example of a privileged athlete setting a bad example for kids who look up to him.  It is never fair reporting, and never takes into account the realities of any of the situations these kids find themselves in.

As it stands, yeah Harper probably will continue to get into jawing matches with guys who are jealous of where he has gotten himself so early and so well.  Its human nature to covet that which you so desperately want but do not yet have.  And yeah, perhaps Harper needs to turn the other cheek better.  But to blame him for these incidents and lay them at his feet whenever he naturally stands up for himself is just lazy reporting.

I’m a Harper fan.  I’m continually amazed at what he accomplishes at his age.  His college season was amazing.  So far in low-A he’s recovered from a slow-start and is currently hitting .323/.425/.645.  Playing against guys routinely 3-4 years older than him.  If he were any other normal baseball prospect in the country, he’d be finishing up his senior year in high school and getting ready for the draft.  Instead, he’s tearing up low-A ball and may very well end up in Potomac on the fast track to the majors before his 18th birthday.  All that being said, I WANT confidence and swagger out of my future slugger.  The clean-up hitter is never a soft-spoken, lead by example guy.  It is always the ego-driven, confident big-hitter who leads the way offensively for his team.

But lets try to put things in context before we judge him.

Written by Todd Boss

April 29th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Nats in General

Nats Rotation Cycle #5: Good/Bad/Mediocre

leave a comment

Gorzelanny puts in his best outing of the year. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II via sbnation.com

Rotation Cycle #5 notes: The team gets back Todd Coffey from the DL and says good-bye (for now) to Collin Balester.  Because of the rain-outs from last week, Jason Marquis‘s turn got skipped, which is unfortunate since he’s the most effective starter we have right now.  Meanwhile, another rain-out on Friday 4/21 was rescheduled to a previous off day on Monday 4/25, a gift for John Lannan, who got to pitch on normal rest.  Lets see how these guys fared.

Good

  • Depending on how much credence you give to stadium guns, Drew Storen hit 97 during his 4/24 save.  Just to make sure, I looked up the pitch f/x data, and sure enough he maxed out at 97.1 while averaging 96.1 for his 7 four-seamers on the day.  For some reason, I didn’t realize he could bring it that heavy.  If he’s gaining speed, that’s great news for his closing career.  He’s got a fantastic start to the season; an ERA and Whip below 1.00, 3 saves and a slew of dominant performances.  As a side note, boy i’d love to see him in the rotation…
  • Tom Gorzelanny put in his best performance of the year in the opening game of the Mets series (box/gamer) only to watch Sean Burnett melt down in the 9th (well, technically Tyler Clippard blew the “win” for Gorzelanny first) and cost both him and his team the win.  Line: 6 1/3, 5 hits, 1walk 1run and 4Ks.  Amazingly (for Gorzelanny) he was only at 85 pitches when he was pulled.  Normally he’s nearing 100 pitches at the end of the 5th.  He lowered his ERA by a full point and took his ERA+ from 74 to 101 with this one outing.  His fip/xfip are starting to look better as well.  One area of concern is his BABIP; currently at at amazingly low .200.  At some point this will rise and he’ll take some lumps.

Bad

  • Livan Hernandez‘s 450th career start is one he’d like to have back.  He gave up 5 runs in the first, 7 overall (4 earned thanks to several errors by his defense) and he took an ugly loss on 4/23 (box/gamer).  Line: 6ip, 9hits, 7 runs (4 earned), 4bbs and 2ks.  Livan, a creature of habit, had his typical pre-game routine thrown off by an hour-long rain delay and then apparently short notice to get ready to go.  He commented as much to beat reporters and even pseudo-accused the Pirates of playing some gamesmanship with the notification timing (seemingly, his opposite number Jeff Karstens got plenty of notice to begin his warmup).  Either way, it was only the 2nd “meltdown” our starters have thrown all year (I define a “meltdown” as a pitcher who gives up as many or more runs as innings pitched during an outing) as opposed to the FOURTY they managed to throw in 162 games last year.
  • Chad Gaudin managed to get through 2/3 of an inning without giving up a run on monday, but not without some embarrassing moments.  He managed to throw not one but two balls behind the backs of opposing hitters.  He was flat-out aiming several other pitches, including a slider that probably would have been disintegrated by better hitters.  Unfortunately, he just looks like he’s lost confidence in his command, and he must be reading the writing on the wall (i.e., that he’s most likely gone when Henry Rodriguez is done with rehab).  Update: he was placed on the 15-day DL when Rodriguez was re-instated on 4/27, and I commented about the move here.
  • Not a good start from Jordan Zimmerman, who continued the Nats starter streak of pitching into the 5th inning on 4/26 against the Mets (box/gamer), but only barely.  He gives up 5 runs on 9 hits in just 5 1/3 inning.  On the bright side, he was throwing lots of strikes (53 of 73 pitches for strikes) and his pitch count was very low (73 through 5 1/3, putting him on pace to at least finish 7).  Perhaps he was trying to pitch to contact tonight instead of trying to blow guys away.  Zimmermann still has 2nd best FIP and xFIP values of the rotation, so he’s not the real problem right now.
  • Doug Slaten may have a 0.00 era at current, but he’s got a 1.80 whip and allowed both runners he inherited from Zimmermann to score on 4/26, essentially sealing the 6-4 loss for the team.  1.80 whip is just too many baserunners for a matchup-guy and he needs to work on getting clean outings.  In his defense, his BABIP is absurdly high (.438), so he may just be unlucky in the early part of the season.
  • Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard both conspired to waste Gorzelanny’s great start, each getting a blown save on 4/27.  Burnett’s was completely egregious; he blew a 1-run game in the 9th, gave up FOUR runs and forced the team to burn Storen on a night he was scheduled to have off.  If there’s any question who the “closer” is for this team now, I think we have our answer.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Jason Marquis struggled with his control all day on 4/24 (gamer/box), but scattered 10 baserunners over 6 innings and managed to only give up 3 runs.  Meanwhile his hitters backed him up enough to get the win.  He nearly didn’t make it out of the 5th inning; he was probably one more baserunner from getting yanked before qualifying for the win.  But he gutted the inning out and finished the 6th upon throwing his 100th pitch.  His day included a 55-mph floater that he just tossed in to avoid a balk after slipping mid-way through his rotation … the  batter (Neil Walker) just watched it into the mitt for a called strike and then looked as if he’d just passed up on the pitch of a lifetime.
  • John Lannan was victimized by a short rain delay, which seemed to throw him off his game, leading to a 4-run 4th inning and a loss on 4/25 (gamer/box).  He went 5 2/3 all told, and was bailed out of the 6th inning by reliever Todd Coffey.  Not his worst start, but enough to cost his offensively-challenged team a win.  Lannan is putting a lot of guys on base (whip of 1.538 on the season) and is probably our least effective pitcher right now.  He’s only had one really “good” outing out of 5 so far this year.

Trends

As with the minor league rotations, here’s the trends of our starters so far.  Livan is doing what we normally expect; throwing in a really bad outing intermixed with good ones.  Lannan’s trends are troublesome; he’s only really had one dominating outing all year.

MLB Trends:
Lhernandez    good,bad,good,good,bad
Lannan    good,soso,soso,bad,soso
Zimmermann     good,good,good,bad,bad
Marquis    good,good,good,soso
Gorzelanny    soso,good,soso,good

Written by Todd Boss

April 29th, 2011 at 11:34 am

Nats continue to use the DL as “extended spring training”

3 comments

The Nats fans finally get to see what our flamethrowing reliever can do. Photo Ezra Shaw/Getty Images via bleacherreport.com

The Nats re-instated reliever Henry Rodriguez from the 15-day DL today, and as expected removed their least-performing reliever (Chad Gaudin) from the active roster.  In a slightly surprising move, instead of DFA-ing Gaudin (as I suspected they may have done), he himself was put in the 15-day DL with “right shoulder inflammation.”

This move continues a trend we’ve seen out of the Nats organization this season of putting pitchers onto the Disabled List with nebulous “soft tissue” injuries when they under-perform.  Lets be honest; every single major league pitcher probably has “shoulder inflammation” or “tendinitis” at any point in the season.  Pitching is an unnatural act that puts tremendous strain on the shoulder, rotator cuff, elbow and forearm tendons of every hurler.  So perhaps every pitcher could convince a doctor that 2 weeks off could be beneficial.

One can make the argument that, in addition to Gaudin and Rodriguez himself (coming out of spring training, after severely under-performing, showing up late because of visa issues and without any minor league options to use), the Nats have also done this with Garrett Mock and Luis Atilano after they both underperformed in their first few minor league starts.  Additionally, instead of just outright assigning guys to extended spring, the likes of Oliver Perez, Shairon Martis, Atahualapa Severino, Rafael Martin, Zech Zinicola, Patrick Arnold, and Dean Weaver all have been listed on various level’s DLs with “injuries” that could probably better be defined as “didn’t make the team” instead of something legitimate.

I guess I don’t have a problem with the moves, since they enable the team to retain players that may still have value to the franchise, even if they seem slightly disingenuous.  Gaudin, for example, probably earned his way onto the 25-man roster out of spring and still could hold some trade value if he can improve on his early season performances.  I don’t believe he’s part of the long-term plans for the team (not with the host of decent arms we seem to have at the AAA and AA level right now).

In other cases, I question why we’re bothering with the subterfuge.  Certainly Nats fans have exhausted patience with certain players (Mock in particular) and openly question why we don’t move on.  Perhaps the answer is really, “we don’t have to make a move so why bother.”  And that’s certainly fair.  Mock can continue to hold a spot on the 40-man for the time being because there’s nobody coming off of the 60-man DL anytime soon, and there’s no hitters at the AAA or AA level who are hitting their way onto the active roster.

Written by Todd Boss

April 27th, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Minor League Rotations Cycle #4: good/bad/inconclusive

5 comments

Brad Peacock has been getting better and better in Harrisburg. Photo: Jenny Kane, The Harrisburg Patriot-News via pennlive.com

A better week for our minor league starters, several of whom put in fantastic performances during the last rotational-run throughs.  One of the best being put in by Brad Peacock, who was one of the last draft and follows done before the rule was abolished, and is looking like a complete steal for this team as a 40-something round draft pick.  Now he’s looking like a potential dominant starter as a 23-yr old in AA, putting him on the fast track for a potential 2012 rotation spot with the big club.

Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects.com, for reference below:

Good

  • Brad Peacock put in his second good outing in a row, throwing 7⅓ IP of 2 hit ball in his team’s 3-2 win on 4/22.  He had 9 strikeouts and no walks to go with his shutout innings.  A great performance, one of the best we’ve seen in the affiliates so far.  It was good enough to earn him Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Week.
  • Taylor Jordan was the beneficiary of a 17 run explosion by his Hagerstown hitters on 4/22, and he cruised to an easy victory.  Line: 6IP 4H 0R 1BB 3K.  It is difficult to normally give full credit to a pitcher on a night when he had such massive leads early (a 9 run lead after 2 innings is essentially insurmountable, even in minor league ball, to say nothing of a 13 run lead after 3, or a 15-0 lead after 4 innings).   However close examination of the gamelog shows that he retired the first 14 batters he faced.  That’s a pretty good performance.
  • Craig Stammen pitched a nifty 7-inning shutout in the nightcap of 4/23.  7 innings, 7 Ks, only 4 hits and 0 bbs for the victory.   He needed 94 pitches to complete 7 innings, a nice sign considering all the pitches he needed for those 7ks.
  • Brad Meyers put in a dominating performance on 4/23: 6⅔ IP 4H 2R 2ER 0BB 10K.  He’s got a very healthy 27 ks in 21 1/3 innings through his first four starts and may be getting a promotion before he knows it.
  • Yunesky Maya had easily his best outing of the year, going 7 complete innings (retiring the first 11 straight batters), allowing 3 hits, 0 walks (he did hit a batter though) and getting 9ks.  Unfortunately he managed to give up 3 runs on those 3 hits (a 2-run homer and a leadoff HBP scoring on a weak liner), showing why the ERA isn’t always the greatest indicator of a pitcher’s capability.  On a day he was relatively dominant, he takes the loss.
  • Ground-ball machine Paul Demny pitched 7 shutout innings, scattering 5 hits and 3 walks and getting 2/3rds of balls put into play on the ground.  Demny has been up and down so far this year, but is the youngest pitcher in Potomac and seems to be holding his own.
  • Fresh off of being named the South Atlantic Pitcher of the Week for his LAST start, Cameron Selik went one better, pitching 8 shutout innings against West Virginia on 4/26.  He only had 3 Ks on the night, but his go/fo ratio was a ridiculous 15/2.    It might be time to promote him; he’s a tad old for low-A (23 now, turns 24 in August) and we may be seeing him overpowering guys who are just younger than he is.  I’d like to see him in advanced-A.  A 23/3 k/bb ratio is nothing to sneeze at though, at any level.
  • Erik Davis had a nice little outing on 4/26 in Harrisburg, going 6 scoreless to get the victory.  Line: 6IP 5H 0R 2BB 6K.

Bad

  • Trevor Holder continues to struggle for Potomac, getting knocked around for 5 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings of work on 4/22.  Pundits have noted that Holder is only effective when he keeps the ball down, and clearly he wasn’t on Friday night.  His go/fo ratio was 5/5, and he gave up 6 straight fly ball hits (either for outs or for hits) in a 3 run third inning.  For now, I don’t think Holder is in any danger of losing his rotation spot, but he has to start putting in some quality starts soon.
  • Marcos Frias had an ugly outing on 4/23, getting lit up for 7 runs in just 3 innings pitched.
  • Bobby Hanson had an even uglier outing on 4/23, failing to get out of the first inning on the way to giving up 6 runs.
  • Spot Starter Alex Caldera got his 2nd chance to show he belongs in the rotation … and blew that second chance.  Line: 2IP 5H 5R 5ER 1BB 3K 2HR against the very strong hitting Salem AAA affiliate of the Red Sox.
  • One former 40-man roster member Shairon Martis has seemingly replaced another (Luis Atilano, who has gone on the AA DL) in Harrisburg, and the results seem to be the same; bad.  Martis’ 2011 debut on 4/25 was erratic: 4IP 8H 5R 5ER 1BB 6K 1HR. Six K’s is good, but this line from a starter who has 20 major league starts is disappointing.
  • Matt Grace had his third “bad” start in a row, getting clobbered by West Virginia on 4/26 for the loss.  The same team that was completely shut down by Selik the night before got to Grace for 6 runs (only 4 earned) on 8 hits in 4 innings of work.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Tom Milone was hit around pretty consistently by the Yankees AAA affiliate on 4/23, giving up 9 hits (and a walk) in 5 innings.  He did have 6 Ks, but gave up 3 runs in the loss.
  • Ross Detwiler‘s performance probably was better than just mediocre on 4/25: 6⅓ IP 8H 1R 1ER 2BB 5K.  His performance bar is higher, since he should be pitching in the majors.  8 hits to a AAA line up is not the dominating performance he needs to show he deserves to go to the next level.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Shane McCatty pitched 4 1/3 innings of stop-gap relief rather effectively, and could be pegged as a spot starter in Hagerstown.
  • Blogosphere favorite Josh Wilkie had a nice 2ip, 3k outing on 4/25.
  • After Garrett Mock‘s latest meltdown in Syracuse, the club placed him on the 7-day DL.  I have not found a source to state exactly what “injury” he has, but this is not the first time the club has suddenly found a DL-able injury for a pitcher down on his luck.  JD Martin has taken his place for the time being in the AAA rotation.
  • As with Mock, Luis Atilano was placed on the DL in Harrisburg after his latest poor outing.  Atilano is legitimately coming off surgery and could be seeing residual effects.  At least he’s not holding space on the 40-man roster any more.

Trends

Here’s the trends for our starters in the 4 levels right now, to show whether they’re improving, had blips, or are constantly getting hammered.  Spot starters, guys now on the DL or guys demoted out of the rotation are in parentheses.

AAA trends:
Maya        bad,soso,soso,good
Detwiler    good,good,soso,soso
Martin     bad
Milone    good,soso,soso
Stammen    good,soso,great
(Mock        good,bad,really bad->DL)

AA Trends:
Meyers    good,bad,good,great
Martis     bad
EDavis    good,soso,good
Tatusko    soso,bad,bad
Peacock    soso,good,great
(Barthmaier    bad)
(Atilano    soso,bad->DL)

High-A Trends:
Rosenbaum    soso,good,good
Holder    soso,bad,bad
Frias        good,good,bad
Demny        good,bad,good
Clegg        soso,soso
(Caldera bad,bad)

Low-A Trends:
Selik        good,good,good,great
Grace        good,bad,bad,bad
McKenzie    good,bad,bad
Jordan    good,soso,good
Hansen    soso,good,very bad
(Applebee    bad,soso)

Written by Todd Boss

April 27th, 2011 at 11:20 am

How are GO/FO ratios calculated?

2 comments

In reviewing the Potomac Nationals 4/25 game, I was going to make a comment about how Paul Demny was really keeping the ball down after glancing at his ground ball/fly out ratio (listed in the box score as 12/4).

However, after reading the game recap, I cannot figure out how they arrived at this 12/4 ratio.  Follow along with the recap and see if you agree or disagree with what I see (we’re analyzing the Myrtle Beach innings against our starter Demny):

Inning 1: A line out to center, and two grounders.  1 Flyball outs(FO), 2 groundball outs (GO)

Inning 2: Walk, Grounder, flyball to right, walk, and another grounder.  1 FO, 2 GOs.

Inning 3: ground-out, fly out, single and ground out.  1 FO, 2GOs

Inning 4: Ground out, strikeout, double (in the air) to left field, then fly out to right.  1 FO, 1 GO.

Inning 5: RBE, then ground-out, then a flyball-inducing double play.  1 GO, 1 FO

Inning 6: HBP, then a CS, walk, single, fly out to left then a ground out to short.  1GO, 1FO

Inning 7: Grounder to short, grounder to short, single, single then strike out.  2 GO.

Count them up:  I get 11 ground outs, 6 fly ball outs for 17 of his 21 outs.  The other 4 outs: 2 strike outs, a CS and a double-play.  Of the 5 hits he gave up, at least two of them were “fly ball” hits.   The other three (plus the reached-by-error) were grounders, giving Demny 15 balls on the ground, 8 balls in the air for those “in-play” balls during his tenure.  Still a pretty good ratio, but not 12/4 as reported in the box.

What am I missing?

Written by Todd Boss

April 26th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

If Bixler gets added, who makes way?

4 comments

Is Brian Bixler the savior of the Nats offense? We'll see. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com

Most of the Nats beat reporters are posting that Jesus Flores is getting sent back down to AAA and that infielder Brian Bixler is getting the call-up.  Flores just hasn’t been getting at bats (2 pinch hitting appearances in 10 days) and he needs to get playing time if we’re going to parlay him into anything of value on the trade market.

Meanwhile, we know that Ian Desmond is imminently going on paternity leave and we’ll need a middle infielder to cover for him (since we’re already using one of our backup infielders Jerry Hairston Jr on a full time basis covering for the injured Ryan Zimmerman).

Bixler has merited a look, having played well in Spring Training and having hit pretty well down in Syracuase thus far (.326/.483/.370 in 46 plate appearances).  Maybe he’ll even feature at lead-off for a bit with such a great OBP.

Here’s the problem: Bixler’s not on our 40-man roster.  He’ll need to be added, and someone will need to be dropped off.  We’ve already dumped all three guys that we could onto the 60-day roster (Strasburg, Elvin Ramirez and Wang) and none of the 15-day DL guys would make sense.  So it looks like someone’s getting the axe.  Here’s your top candidates and my guess

  1. Atahualpa Severino: He lost out on the Loogy role in the spring, and then presumably lost out on the loogy role in AAA as well.  He’s currently on the minor league “DL” but nobody heard of any injury to the guy towards the end of spring training.  We brought in Hyde and have converted Chico to situational lefties in Syracuse, making Severino pretty obsolete.  I’m guessing he’s the most expendible.
  2. Lee Hyde: see my commentary in my latest minor league pitching review for why Hyde may be on the chopping block.  He was a late spring waiver acquisition from Atlanta and has been awful in Syracuse thus far.  His saving grace is that he’s a lefty.
  3. Garrett Mock: his latest outing in Syracuse gives him 17 walks in 11 1/3 AAA innings in 2011.  He may get a stay of execution this time around, but I have to think his days are numbered on the 40-man.
  4. Chad Gaudin: so far he’s been the least effective pitcher in our bullpen (further commented upon in my latest good/bad/indifferent post).  He may be safe for now, but may be released when both Coffey and Rodriguez are healthy and need 25-man spots at the same time.

Prediction: Severino makes way, passes through waivers and stays in extended spring training.  Unless there’s some rule about dropping a guy on your DL; if so I’d guess they would re-instate him briefly to AAA then DFA him or outright release him.

4/23/11 Update: The Nationals announced they have designated Lee Hyde for assignment, ending his Nationals tenure after just a few weeks.

Side note on the Paternity policy as it relates to the 40-man machinations: I believe the paternity leave allows a team to place a player on a temporary restricted list, which temporarily removes him from the 40-man roster.  I am having a hard time finding the actual text of the new policy; all I can find is that it is good for 24-72 hours and allows a team to replace the player on the active roster.  I would have to think that the replacement player would already have to be on the 40-man roster, so we’d still need to make a corresponding 40-man move.

Written by Todd Boss

April 22nd, 2011 at 11:24 am

Posted in Nats in General

Nats Rotation Cycle #4: good/bad/mediocre

one comment

Livan continues his mastery of the National League.

The team fights through two doubleheaders in a weeks time with continued great starting pitching.  As of the time of this posting, the Nats rotation is the only rotation in baseball that has yet to see a sub-5 inning outing.  Our team ERA is 5th in the NL and is keeping the team in games (our team batting average has been either last or 2nd to last in the NL most of the season).

(Note; because of the double-headers, Jason Marquis‘s turn got skipped in the rotation.  Honestly, I would have thought Riggleman would have figured out a way to get him a start and skip Gorzelanny in the rotation instead of the other way around.  He’ll go against Pittsburgh this coming weekend).

Good

  • Livan Hernandez pitched the 2nd game of Sunday’s double header (blog/gamer/box) and seemed to enjoy pitching in and out of the shadows cast from the stadium in the later afternoon.  He continues to put in effective performances despite not having lights-out stuff, going 7pm, 6hits, 1r, 3ks and no walks for his 3rd quality start out of four and his 2nd win on the year.
  • I liked Drew Storen‘s 2 inning save against Milwaukee on 4/17; I like having relievers who are comfortable going more than one inning when called upon.  He earns the save on a day where supposed closer Sean Burnett gets the day off.  On 4/20, he bailed out Burnett’s bad outing and got a 4-out save in St Louis.
  • Third straight scoreless outing for Brian Broderick in St. Louis.  Hmm; perhaps his initial struggles were just nerves.

Bad

  • Chad Gaudin‘s 2BB, 1hit appearance in the first half of Sunday’s twin-bill rightfully has some observers calling for his head.  He’s just putting too many guys on base (his WHIP sits above 2.00 now; in 7 innings pitched he’s given up 10 hits and 7 walks) for a late-inning reliever.  He appeared again on 4/20; 2/3 of an inning, 2 hits and a walk.  He may have pitched great in the spring, but he may be making way once Henry Rodriguez completes his rehab assignments.
  • John Lannan‘s effort in the top half of their St Louis DH (blog/gamer/box) was enough to get the win on a day where he didn’t really pitch that well.  7 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings but he only managed to give up 2 runs (on two solo homers to Pujols and Rasmus).   He threw more pitches than he normally needs (101 pitches for 5 innings and a batter) and struggled to find the plate (59 strikes).  I’m listing this as a “bad” outing because he failed to go deep into a game where the bullpen needed a break.  His offense gave him a SEVEN run lead and his short outing forced the team to burn 5 of their 7 relievers.
  • Jordan Zimmermann struggled in the nightcap on 4/20, giving up 5 runs in 6 innings to take the loss.  He didn’t have much of a safety net from his bullpen and knew he had to go deep.  He struggled with his spots most of the game but couldn’t get Lance Berkman out.  He looked good early, but took his third loss of the season.

Mediocre

  • Tom Gorzelanny demonstrated yet again one of my primary concerns with him as a starter in the St Louis series finale (gamer/box).  He just throws too many pitches.  His final line wasn’t egregious: 5ip, 2runs on 2 hits, 4 walks with 3 ks.  However, it took him 108 pitches to complete the 5th inning.  By way of comparison, the opposing starter Kyle Lohse (who is not exactly a Cy Young candidate), needed just 111 pitches to pitch a complete game.  Gorzelanny walked a batter in each of the first 4 innings.  He only threw 63 of those 108 pitches for strikes.  The 2 run homer that he gave up to Matt Holliday came on an 0-2 mistake, and he only gave up one other hit in 5 innings.  That may sound good, but the ancillary evidence is against him.  This outing lowered his ERA to 4.96, but his FIP is 6.20.  By way of comparison, the HIGH FIP for qualified 2010 starters in either league was Rodrigo Lopez‘s 5.21.  Gorzelanny needs to learn how to pitch more efficiently and not be a complete bullpen killer every time he takes the mound.
  • Collin Balester‘s poor outing in St. Louis did him no favors with the team.  It wasn’t as if the team was threatening to win that game  hitting as badly as they have been, but your job as a reliever is to pitch shutout innings.  Balester needs to show lights-out stuff to prove to management that he’s a better alternative going forward than Chad Gaudin.

Thoughts on the offense

The offense is going through highs and lows.  They pounded Milwaukee’s Ace and hung 7 on St. Louis’ Westbrook.  But then they meekly allowed the very mediocre Kyle Lohse to put a complete game 2-hitter on them.  A quick look at the hitting stats shows some alarming stats; only one regular right now shows an OPS+ above 100 (Espinosa).  We know Werth and LaRoche are slow starters, but enough is enough.  Meanwhile Morse has exactly 1 extra base hit in 46 at bats and may be due for a demotion.  I’d like to see Laynce Nix full time in left field for the time being.  I know the theory is that he can’t hit lefties so you platoon him, but at this point I’d rather see him full time out there.  So far the Ankiel experiment is failing too; good for the Nats to be scouting CFs.  And why are we giving MORE at bats to Pudge?  I realize he’s a hall of famer and all, but the man is clearly a once-a-week starter now.

Overall Summary

Amazingly, the team sits at .500 after the series loss in St. Louis.  I’d like to see at least two wins in Pittsburgh.  That would be a sign of progress.

Written by Todd Boss

April 22nd, 2011 at 10:06 am

Minor League Rotations Cycle #3: good/bad/inconclusive

one comment

Cycle 3 through the Minor league rotations began with a number of double headers on Sunday 4/17.  Which means we’ll get lots of spot-starter opportunities later this week for guys not necessarily in the regular rotations.

Here are the daily links from NationalsProspects, for reference below:

Good

  • Brad Peacock‘s effort in the night cap of the 4/17 doubleheader made fans forget about the debacle in the first game.  Line: 5IP 2H 2R 1ER 1BB 9K.  He held the same lineup that battered Atilano for 7 runs to just 2 hits over 5.  Peacock is the youngest member (by two full years) of any starter in AA yet is pitching the best so far in the young season.
  • Hagerstown’s Bobby Hansen improved on his so-so first outing with a better outing: 6IP 5H 1R 0ER 4BB 4K.  A bit to many walks and baserunners in general, but Hansen got a couple of double plays along the way and worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the 5th.
  • Harrisburg ace Brad Meyers rebounded from his sub-par outing with a clean 5 innings of work for the win.  Line: 5IP 4H 1ER 0BB 3K.  His one earned run was on a solo-homer.  He remains the #1 candidate to be moved up if Syracuse needs a starter.
  • Marcos Frias put in his 2nd excellent start in as many attempts, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless in the Potomac win on 4/18.  Line: 6⅔ IP 4H 0R 2BB 5K.  Its great to see him rebounding from his mediocre season in high-A last year.
  • Cameron Selik is living up to his “ace” status in Hagerstown, putting in his 3rd straight dominating performance on 4/18.  Unfortunately his counterpart from Lakewood (Ervis Manzanillo) did him one better, going 6 scoreless innings and leaving the game to the bullpens to determine.   Final line: 5IP 1H 0R 1BB 11K.  He struck out the side in the 1st (inbetween a single and a walk) and the 5th (in order) before departing.
  • Danny Rosenbaum got the win in Potomac with an outing that just makes its way into the “good” category.  Line: 7⅓ IP 6H 2R 2ER 5BB 2K.  We don’t have pitch counts in the Milb.com box score, but i’m assuming the team wouldn’t have let Rosenbaum go into the 8th if he was pushing 110 pitches.  5 walks implies lots of pitches.  Rosenbaum worked through one difficult inning (the 3rd) and then effectively scattered the rest of the hits and walks until the 8th.  His 2nd earned run was inherited and allowed to score by reliever Olbrychowski.

Bad

  • Luis Atilano did his Nationals career no favors with his 4/17 outing: 1IP 8H 7ER 1BB 1K.  He couldn’t make the AAA rotation out of spring, and he’s put in two mediocre-to-bad outings in AA.  On the bright side, we got to see demoted starter Erik Arneson put in 5 innings of 1-run ball in long relief.  (Note: he has been placed on the minor league DL as of 4/21 per nationalsprospects.com; I wonder if the injury is a “bruised ego.”).
  • Late spring training acquisition Lee Hyde has struggled thus far in AAA, and he added fuel to the Carr fire on 4/17 by giving up 2 hits and 3 walks in just a third of an inning to add a bow-tie on a game already gift wrapped for Lehigh Valley.  He’s yet to have a 1-2-3 outing in 5 appearances.
  • Not the best outing for Trevor Holder on 4/17: 5⅔ IP 8H 6R 6ER 0BB 4K.   He came undone in two innings, giving up 3 hits in each inning for the majority of the runs scored.
  • Alex Caldera could not take advantage of a spot start in the 2nd half of 4/17′s double header, only lasting 3+ innings.  Line: 3IP 5H 4R 4ER 2BB 2K.  Two of the five hits were homers.
  • JD Martin was hit around badly in his spot start on 4/18, going for 3⅓ IP 9H 5ER 2BB 1K 2HR.  He only threw 35 of 68 pitches for strikes.  Some observers thought he’d be the “ace” of the AAA staff, but now its questionable if he’ll even get another shot at spot-start or rotation spot.
  • Paul Demny had an off night in the first game of a 4/20 double-header in Potomac, getting battered around for 7 hits and 3 walks in just 4 innings (plus one batter in the 5th).  He gave up two homers and had a 4-6 go/fo ratio.  Not a good night for Demny.
  • Matt Grace put in his 2nd sub-par outing in a row, getting battered around for 9 hits in 5 innings+, and took the loss.  Final line: 5IP 9H 4R 4ER 1BB 3K.
  • Garrett Mock‘s 4/21 outing for Syracuse was so bad, the Masn Nats beat reporter Matt Goessling felt the need to post about it.  And I agree with Goessling’s sentiments; Mock probably has reached the low point of his professional career with this outing.  2 innings pitched (plus 5 additional batters in the third); 4 hits and SEVEN walks to account for 8 runs.
  • Ryan Tatusko continues to struggle in Harrisburg, putting in his 3rd straight concerning outing.  This time around: 5⅓ IP 7H 3R 3ER 3BB 4K 0HR.   He threw 82 pitches (49 for strikes).  His line could have been worse: he had two hits erased for double plays, got a tag-out at home to eliminate a 4th possible run, and his bullpen eliminated all his leftover baserunners.
  • Chris McKenzie couldn’t improve on his last outing and got hammered for 6 runs in just over 3 innings in the opening game of a day/night DH.  Line: 3⅓ IP 4H 6R 6ER 4BB 3K.  This outing was especially egregious considering that his team had given him a 5-2 lead prior to his calamitous 4th inning.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • Craig Stammen‘s 4/17 start just trailed into the mediocre status for me.  Final line: 6⅔ IP 5H 3R 3ER 2BB 6K but he only threw 62 of 104 pitches for strikes.
  • Taylor Jordan‘s 4/17 start could probably be viewed more positively than I have: he only gave up 6 base-runners in 6 innings for an excellent WHIP, but 3 of those runners scored to give him a pedestrian 4.50 ERA on the day.  Only 1 punchout on the day but he got 12 of his 16 balls in play to be grounders.  It isn’t the worst start we’ve seen this week and isn’t too bad considering Jordan’s youth.
  • Yuniesky Maya‘s third start in AAA was as mediocre as his second, taking the loss in a game where he got little offensive support.  6IP 7H 3R 3ER 3BB 4K.  10 base runners in 6 innings, and he threw 118 pitches to get there.  The game-log is kind of interesting; he gave up all 3 runs in the first two innings, then settled down with a 1-2-3 3rd inning, then scattered 3 doubles in each of the next three innings.  He threw in a balk in the 1st, which more or less cost him one run that likely wouldn’t have scored otherwise (is it just me or does Maya balk nearly every appearance?   In 5 major league games last year he had 3 balks and 2 wps.  Usually a pitcher can go an entire season without a balk).
  • Ross Detwiler‘s mind was probably on a possible spot-start in the majors, but instead went 6 complete on 4/20.  He got the win but didn’t look nearly as dominating as his first 2 starts.  Line: 6IP 9H 3R 3ER 1BB 3K.
  • Erik Davis went 5 1/3 for Harrisburg and got a ND.  He gave up 2 runs, but also had 4 walks to go with 4 hits allowed.  He clearly struggled with control all night; 81 pitches but only 46 for strikes.
  • Mitchell Clegg knew he had to go deep into the 4/20 nightcap, and he did; pitching 6 complete innings and getting the win for his efforts.  His line wasn’t fantastic: 6IP 7H 4R 4ER 2BB 2K, but he kept the ball down (11-4 grounder/flyball out ratio) and kept his team in the game.
  • Paul Applebee got another spot-start in Hagerstown by virtue of all the rainouts, and this time put in a halfway decent line.  He gave up 4 runs (3 earned) on 6 hits through 5, but didn’t walk anyone.  He gave up two leadoff singles in the first, and his defense conspired to allow one of them to score.  He had an awful 2nd inning, giving up 3 runs on a single and 2 doubles, but then calmed down and set down 9 straight before exiting after 5.  The Hickory team was running wild with Applebee on the mound; 4 stolen bases out of 6 baserunners.  He may have a mechanical glitch or be incredibly slow to the plate.  I don’t think Applebee has earned his way back into the rotation yet, but the other starters in Hagerstown are struggling, and he may see more starts.

Relievers of Note and other Thoughts

  • Adam Carr got absolutely shelled on 4/17; 2/3 of an inning, 5 hits, 5 runs and two homers.  Hopefully it is a one-off as his first three appearances were relatively clean.
  • Erik Arneson (as noted above) pitched 5 relatively clean innings in a long-relief situation.  It is always tough to figure out if teams let up when they’re up by 7-8 runs, so it is with a slight grain of salt that we give full credit to the pitcher in a situation like this.
  • Chris Manno continues his hot streak in Hagerstown, getting the win 4/18 with a 2k scoreless inning.  He was the unlucky loser on 4/21, getting a blown save and a loss despite not giving up an earned run.  The recap reads like a comedy of errors; a leadoff single turns into a run on a 3-base throwing error by the 3rd baseman Nichols, who then counfounds his error by somehow allowing a runner on third score on another grounder he fielded (were they not playing infield in?).  Then he throws the NEXT ball away as well for his 2nd error (but 3rd miscue) of the inning.  Ahh, low-A baseball.
  • Henry Rodriguez‘s rehabilitation appearances are looking better and better.  He went 2 complete innings on 4/20, throwing 37 pitches in all.  This is good news for the big club.  His walk rate is still a bit high, but his K rate balances it out.
  • Chad Jenkins had an ugly outing on 4/20, giving up 3 hits, a walk, a stolen base and 2 wild pitches en route to a 3 run inning.  Lets hope this isn’t the norm for Jenkins, who seems to be moving further and further down the depth chart in Hagerstown.
  • I’m beginning to question whether or not Lee Hyde will continue to be employed by the Nats by the end of April.  He allowed all three of Mock’s inherited runs to score on 4/21, then proceeded to give up another four runs of his own over the next two innings.  He’s yet to have any semblance of a clean outing (his best outing was a 2/3 of an inning appearance where he still managed to walk one guy).  Through 7 1/3 innings pitched he’s given up 14 hits, 9 walks and 9 earned runs.

Summary

Not a lot to be happy about in the system this time around.  It shows in the sub-.500 records of our affiliates.

6IP 7H 3R 3ER 3BB

Written by Todd Boss

April 20th, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Ladson’s Inbox 4/18/11 Edition

3 comments

Espinosa is carrying the team right now.

If I had a steady stream of questions coming in, I’d have my own mailbox edition.  As it stands though, I’ll just provide my own answers to the questions that MLB.com’s Nationals beat writer Bill Ladson selects for his semi-weekly mailbag.

Q: What’s the long-term plan for the leadoff spot? Danny Espinosa has a lot of power and deserves to be in the middle of the lineup.

A: I guess that depends on what the definition of “long term” is.  If long-term means the rest of the season, then I agree with Ladson’s assertion that Danny Espinosa is the best player we have for the lead-off spot.  He’s a switch hitter, is making good contact and can get on base better than any of the other candidates (.364 for the season thus far).  In a limited sample size last year he didn’t show this kind of patience; how quickly he’s made the adjustment to major league pitching. Theoretically we do have a prospect in Corey Brown in AAA acquired just for this purpose, and in prior AA seasons he’s shown 20-20 capabilities and good defense in center.  However he’s struggling in AAA this year (as he did last year) and he may not be an option this season.

I advocated the replacement of Nyjer Morgan in the off season, but quality leadoff-center field candidates don’t grow on trees in the Majors.  I did a quick review of all the starting CFs in the league for analysis purposes in this post about Harper and came up wanting.  I was hoping that Roger Bernadina would blossom into the role but he faltered at every step this spring training.

In the real “long-term” (i.e. 3-4 years from now) we seem to be grooming Bryce Harper to play center, so we don’t necessarily have to worry about finding a prototypical fast, defense-first, high OBP center fielder to fit into the lead off spot.  Not all lead-off hitters have to be no-power, run-first guys; Richie Weeks is doing just fine leading off for Milwaukee right now.

Personally, I agree that Espinosa could fit into this team better as a middle of the order guy, but our 3-4-5 long term is mostly set (Zimmerman-Harper-Werth).  Espinosa makes a ton of sense as a table setter, as does Desmond, so putting those guys 1-2 makes the most sense.

Q: Given his persistent shoulder problems so far this year, if Adam LaRoche has to spend time on the disabled list this season, what do you think the corresponding move by the Nats will be? Will we see Michael Morse at first base, with Roger Bernadina being called up?

A:  Ladson’s answer was to bring Bernadina up and put Morse at first.  I doubt that would happen; more likely we’d see Laynce Nix getting starts in LF with Morse at first.  Unless of course Morse continues to forget how to hit, at which point we may have to get creative.  We only have FOUR non-pitchers on the 40-man roster right now who aren’t either on the DL or in the majors; Chris Marrero, Bernadina, Harper, and Chris Brown.  Thats it; we have so little non-pitcher flexibility that continued injuries may really kill us this year.

That being said, I’ve personally played with a fully blown SLAP lesion and, while it is incredibly painful to throw, LaRoche is a first baseman who has to make a high-leverage throw perhaps once or twice a week.  Unless he manages to fully blow his rotator cuff, he should be able to gut out the season and have surgery in October.

Q: I asked Rizzo at the NatsFest why Bernadina and Matt Chico weren’t on the Major League roster and he didn’t give a solid answer. I can’t see any reason why these guys aren’t here. Do you agree?

A: The Nats were lucky (in my opinion) to retain Matt Chico after he was DFA’d in December 2010.  I was surprised by the move honestly; usually mid-20s lefties with any track record in the majors are coveted.  He now seems to be remaking himself as a lefty specialist and should compete or replace Doug Slaten in case of injury or poor performance.

Bernadina (as has been said elsewhere) lost out on the LF job, then CF job, then 4th outfielder job in spring training.  One may argue that the Nats chose to keep Nix over Bernadina more for options purposes and perhaps to leverage Nix into trade bait (since he fared so well in the Spring), but perhaps Nix just flat out impresses Riggleman more.  They’re both lefties, both play left field, but Nix is a bopper and can get the big hit. Bernadina had 460 at bats in 2010 to state his case and he didn’t.

Q: Any news on left-hander Oliver Perez?

A: Baseball America reported that Perez was placed on the minor league DL, but I (as does Sue Dinem over at www.nationalsprospects.com I suspect) think this is one of those “soft tissue” injuries that is meant to stash a player in Viera.  that being said, I’d agree with Ladson’s answer that he’s probably working with our pitching staff and trying to get back the form that earned him his big contract in the first place.  This is a complete low-risk signing for the Nats; its found money if they ever get anything from him.

Q: When is Wilson Ramos going to be the everyday catcher? Ivan Rodriguez’s offensive numbers are not good.

A: Boy, its going to be awful tough for Riggleman to bench a future Hall of Famer.  But Ramos seems like he’s stating his case with the bat every time he plays.  It is nice to have suddenly found a power hitter in a spot (catcher) that we’ve been batting 8th for years.  I’m guessing that Pudge the pro will recognize that he’s hurting the team and bite his tongue.

Q: I don’t want to get rid of Ian Desmond, but it’s clear to me and most people watching feel that he is not the answer at shortstop. When will management move him to second or Triple-A Syracuse and put Espinosa in the place he was supposed to be all along — shortstop?

A: Hear, hear!  I completely agree.  Desmond may in fact have a better arm but he is making mistakes left and right, and not just errors.  I would guess that another 35 error season will see these two switch places in spring training 2012.

Q: I am so incredibly confused why Riggleman falls in love with veterans that quite frankly look like they are past their prime.

A: If this questioner thinks Riggleman falls in love with veterans, then he must have been going psychotic watching Frank Robinson play Cristian Guzman every day for 5 months with a sub .200 batting average in 2006.  I agree with Ladson; having vets on the bench who understand their roles and serve as assistant coaches is far better than having Alberto Gonzalez whining about his playing time when clearly he wasn’t better than our options on the field.

Written by Todd Boss

April 18th, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Nats Rotation Cycle #3: good/bad/mediocre

5 comments

Jordan Zimmermann is starting to look like a very valuable starter.

Good

  • Livan Hernandez kicks off the 3rd turn through the rotation with a great start against the NL favorite Phillies (running blog/gamer/box).  Final line was 6 2/3, 7h, 1er, 6Ks and 0 BBs.  His one run was on an opposite field smash by Ryan Howard on a pitch that wasn’t that bad (remember; Howard is a dead pull hitter so for him to put a ball out to left is an aberration, not a sign).  Livan’s line would have looked even better had he not given up 3 straight singles in the 7th inning, leaving a bases loaded jam for Tyler Clippard to get out of.  Livan was in control all night, following his typical pattern of hitting the corners and frustrating hitters with ridiculously slow curve balls.  (Side note on this start; I had a real problem with the way Riggleman handled the bullpen this night; see this post for my thoughts).
  • Jordan Zimmerman was perfect through 5 innings on 4/14 (blog/gamer/box) before hanging a curveball for a homer in the 6th and loading the bases in the 8th.  It wouldn’t matter; his counterpart Cliff Lee threw a 3-hit shutout.  Final line: 7ip, 5hits, 0bbs, 4rs (only 1 earned) with 4ks.  When he was removed in the 8th he had only thrown 85 pitches, showing the best efficiency of any starter yet this season.  His one earned run line slightly flatters what happened to him in the 8th; the two guys who scored both got on base via hits.  Either way, the most dominating pitching performance of 2010 from our starters.
  • Doug Slaten pitched very effectively in his lefty-lefty matchups against Philadelphia, getting Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez very effectively when presented with opportunities.
  • Tom Gorzelanny‘s 4/15 start (blog/gamer/box) indicated to me that he’s still not quite in his mid-season groove.  He cruised through 4 innings with just two weak hits (an infield bouncer and a liner to left that Michael Morse really should have caught).  Then in the 5th he gave up a hard-hit double to weak hitting former Nat Wil Nieves and then Richie Weeks just pulverized a ball that Gorzelanny left over the plate for a 2-run double.  Gorzelanny seems to really lose his typical rhythm when runners get on base; he slows down his normally fast tempo, pays too much attention to the runners, and suddenly loses his ability to command his pitches.  Final line: 6ip, 5h, 2runs, 2bbs and 4ks.  A quality start for sure, but I’d still put it as a slightly inconsistent outing.
  • Jason Marquis went against Milwaukee’s ace Yovanni Gallardo on Sunday 4/17 (blog/gamer/box) and came away an 8-4 winner.  Marquis pitched like a veteran for his team, knowing that they needed a long outing so as to save the bullpen for the 2nd game and the rest of the week.  He scattered 9 hits and a walk through 7ip plus, got a couple of double plays from his defense and watched the offense get to one of the better pitchers in the league for a win.  Final line: 7ip, 9hits, 2runs, 1bb and 4ks.

Bad

There really wasn’t anything “bad” to report out of any of our relievers on the week.  Todd Coffey was placed on the DL with a calf strain, clearing the way for Collin Balester to join the team for 10 days or so.

Mediocre/Inconclusive

  • John Lannan‘s 4/13 (blog/gamer/box) outing versus Philly ace Roy Halladay was always going to be a tough game to win.  His line ended up looking better than his performance (6ip, 3r, 2er, 6hits and 3bbs).  He struggled with his control all night, throwing 100 pitches but only 55 for strikes.  He gave up a lead-off double but scattered 5 other singles throughout the evening.  He worked around multiple mental mistakes and errors from shortstop Ian Desmond (including; an obstruction call, hesitation on a grounder in the first that turned a routine ground ball into a hit, dropping an easy grounder, and then failing to throw home on an infield-in situation, allowing one of the runs to score).  Some would look at the end result and claim this is Lannan effectively working through a very strong lineup and working around defensive mistakes to keep his team in the game.  And I wouldn’t be able to argue against it.

Thoughts on the offense

The Nats are being carried right now by the two rookies Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos.  With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL we’re now missing our 3-4-5 hitters from last season, and it is showing.   Zimmerman’s replacement Hairston is (as of 4/15) 1-22 at the plate.  The Nats really pulverized a #5 pitcher (Joe Blanton0 but were completely shut down by better pitching.  We seem to have no answer to replace struggling hitters like Morse, Desmond, and Ankiel.  Ankiel in particular seems completely overmatched against lefties right now.   5 of our 9 starters are at or near the mendoza line.

Overall Summary

Well, Its a miracle we’re even near .500 as a team.  Our starters have really been stepping up.  MASN had a pretty startling stat comparing the team ERA of our staff through the first 13 games of this year (3.55 versus something north of 6.5).  Unfortunately, we just have to wait for the lineup to come around, since we don’t have much of anything in the minors to help out.

Written by Todd Boss

April 17th, 2011 at 5:41 pm