Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ron Villone, Lefty Specialist?

Nats fans were treated to an extra special bullpen implosion last night, featuring a cameo from Nati-pos legend Livan Hernandez. Personally, I like the move for the remainder of the season. Livan is clearly a hittable, AAAA caliber pitcher at this point of his career, but he has destroyed the Nats this season. He has the unique ability to weather a shelling when his pitches aren't doing what they are supposed to and stay in a game 6+ innings. This move should save the kids' (Lannan, Stammen, Balester, Mock, and Martin) down the stretch. Plus, I have so many good fat jokes that have gone waste without Dmitri Young to kick around... Ronnie Belly-ard should not have to feel the wrath every day.

The bullpen, on the other hand... yikes. OK, they were not spotted a lead. Jay Bergmann came in and did his job, allowing 2 H, 1 R, against the Cubs top of the order. Though had he not put Koyie Hill on base, he may have been able to avoid the 3-4 guys.

To start the the next inning, Riggleman made the classic mistake of "playing to their weakness" instead of "playing to his strength." Fukudome does not hit lefty pitching AT ALL. Villone, however, cannot retire lefty hitting AT ALL. Riggleman chose his weakness and was granted with a rally starting single.

There is no use piling on Jorge Sosa. This is the type of pitcher he is, a tweener who never developed the repertoire to become a starter, but lacks the consistency to be trusted in relief. And honestly, he has been fine when entrusted with a lead, but he has really struggled in non-save/hold situations. It is little early to kick him to the curb; he is 100x better than Logan Kensing. Get him a lead and see if he gets his head in the game.

The most frustrating part of the whole ordeal is Riggleman pulling Bergmann after he had slammed the door on Lee and Ramirez the inning before. The strength in that matchup would have been to challenge Fukudome with the better pitcher, rather than making an unnecessary personnel move to attempt to play to the opponents weakness. Instead, Villone lumbers out of the pen and six runs later the lead is insurmountable.

Villone, with his inability to get lefties out is like a man without a trade. The Nats keep setting him up for failure by sending him into get nickle-and-dimed to death. Bring him into a longer relief role, and he'll eventually get pounded by righties, too. There is no easy solution, and it isn't like he is serving up bombs. Two baserunners per inning is unacceptable at any level, and while it may not be showing up in his own stats, he is putting more pressure on the rest of the bullpen. Much like Livan Hernandez, he is probably best suited to eat low leverage innings and leave the LOOGY work to Sean Burnett.

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