Saturday, August 29, 2009


Which of these three pitches did Albert Pujols hit halfway to Illinois?

I don't mind that Bergmann went after Pujols... the Dodgers tried to pitch around him last week, and that resulted in a stolen base, advancing to 3rd on an errant throw, and then scoring on a sac fly to end the game. Bergmann tried to beat Pujols with his best pitch, and he knows that ball has to be located a foot in ANY other direction. Good decision, terrible execution.

One could argue that Bergmann, a fly ball pitcher, was a bad decision against Pujols, Holliday, and Ludwick. That is where the discussion of this game should end.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nyjer Down

It is very difficult to quantify how Nyjer Morgan changed the Washington Nationals this season. OBP and UZR only prove that he has been better than the guys butchering those jobs before. His hustle and leadership has helped the younger guys, as well as taking the burden off Zimmerman and Dunn, who are not as vocal. Pitchers slept better each night, as rocket shots to the gap disappeared into his glove. While Albert Pujols may roll to the MVP, Nyjer Morgan is proof that it take 25 players to win.

Let's hope he heals in time for hockey season.

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nationals Baseball

Please stop with the suicide part of the squeeze play and swing away.


Jim Riggleman is not a bad person. Maybe he isn't a bad manager either. He may manage his families finances with the finesse of Ozzie Smith, but when it come to baseball, he has generally been a poor manager.

Then the last month happened. One of my biggest fears was that Acta would be fired and then the team would show enough life to get him strong consideration for the long term position.

On October 1, there will be many strong candidate who will be interested in this position, and Riggleman should not be at the front of the line, based on his previous track record as manager. Given the team recent success working in-house, he may be granted this advantage.

Honestly, he has exceeded the expectations I had for him, but the Nats had set the bar brutally low. Rizzo has made it easy for him, improving the defense and taking may of the tough pitching decisions off the table. The Nationals front office has to look long and hard and determine whether or not Jim Riggleman can really "manage" a contender.

Craig Stammen... Is He Part of the Future

Wow... took a week to get this posted. Work has been getting in the way of all this blogging and crap.

Craig Stammen finally got back on track last week against Atlanta. He only went 6 innings, but didn't get knocked around like he had in his previous starts. Some may think that he has regained the form he showed in his early July hot spell. However, start in Atlanta was marred with inconsistent location, and the Rockies game exhibited a steady decline in velocity from pitch 1 to 81. It should also be noted the consistency of the strike zone last night... in a season of lousy calls, the His last two starts, he has avoided the fly ball. Basically, Stammen doesn't have the velocity to beat anyone above the belt. However, if he continues to throw nothing but fastballs low and away, teams will adjust and hit the ball the other way. At some point, he needs that fourth pitch to keep hitters off balance the third time through the lineup.

In any event, with his innings getting up there and the bullpen relatively fresh, do not expect another performance as to what he showed in July.

His last good start in July shows the ball staying down and away with a consistent release point. In the Atlanta game, he appears to have gotten away with a few pitches up in the zone that had been spanked recently. The thing that bugged me most about Stammen's recent slump though was this:

I'm not exactly sure what shape that is, but clearly the flattening of his release point had a huge negative impact on his ability to keep the ball down in the zone. It continued from the first Milwaukee game into the Pittsburgh game... honestly, the Florida game was too short to get a good feel, but it looked like his release was significantly more erratic.

The conclusion is that Craig Stammen and Coach McCatty need to fine tune his mechanics so that he doesn't have that "inverted T" on his release chart. This reflects the fact that he locates his pitches better with a more "over the top" delivery. In the offseason, he will have a chance to polish his 2-seam fastball to make it more of a weapon driving the ball down in the zone.

Update: The second Milwaukee game yields better results with a tighter release point. Clearly the further he strays side-to-side, the more danger he finds.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another False Lead...

Fortunately, the bullpen was not involved.

As you all have seen, Yahoo Sports ran with inside sources that the Nationals were to name Jerry Dipoto General Manager. I'm not linking the story for obvious reasons. This must be the same source that leaked the Acta story. Maybe Gordon Eads was fed the story had Strasburg not been signed and ran it anyway.

It's like Strasburg walked into the room, Jimmy Chitwood-style, and announced, "It's about time I started to play ball." Then he added, "If I play, GM stays. He goes, I go."

Rizzo Stays.

Oklahoma is OK!

You're on a long, cross-country drive with the kids. Boredom and fatigue are setting in, and the Kenny Rogers box set you purchased for the trip has already worn thin. Have no fear:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not Really News, but Stephen Strasburg Has Signed

The staff here at The Bombs will never promise to break news, as bedtime often comes before even Nats Xtra ends, let alone deadlines for signing picks and firing managers.

In any event, Boras got his record-breaking deal, Strasburg gets to play baseball, the Nats front office receives a gold star from their peers for working out a deal, and The Bombs would have won on The Price is Right with their estimation of the final contract value.

I'm not sure this makes the next Blogger Day less or more intriguing.

Now you know the Nats are hoping to climb out of the cellar to avoid the Bryce Harper fiasco next year... who smells 20+?

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Hot and cold.

Those are the words to describe these Nationals. When the team left Atlanta, the eight game winning streak was a distant memory. The offense had hit the wall, the bullpen was showing some flaws... then the rookie starters, Mock and Martin, whose bargain basement expectations leave the fans and the bettors to their own devices, step up with 12 IP, 0 ER, and two big wins. The only blip on the radar has been the profoundly diabolical pitching of Logan Kensing, whose future with the team should be summed up by Jerry Hathaway: "You are no longer of any use to me!" Seriously, that Nats need him right now like a fish needs a bicycle. And they continue to do this with fairly average catching, too much Ronnie Belliard, and no starters with more than 2 years of experience.

With the Strasburg negotiations likely to come up Osaka, the winning baseball is a welcome distraction. I think the Nationals will put forth one last push tomorrow, but if this is the difference between 15 and 30 million, nobody is confident in a deal getting done. If Strasburg were smart, he only needs to look as far as the disaster Aaron Crow has created for himself. Strasburg will be lucky to be offered half of what the Nats are offering him coming of the his college performance and number one pick status. The number five pick coming out of an Indy League cannot command record money.

Hot and cold.

Great story getting Drew Storen all the way to AA before the signing deadline, but not every story can have a happy ending.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Going, Going... GONE!!!

And the citizens rejoiced, alcohol was consumed in vast quantities.

Jest, we know, Garrett Mock pitched OK, but Wil hit a bomb!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nationals Baseball

Where Bronson Arroyo and Jonny Gomes can turn into the Cy Young and Babe Ruth of our generation.

On a side note, I tried to take the metro home from DC tonight, Orange Line: GWU to Dunn Loring. I cught a metro immediately... luck must be on my side, right?

Halfway between East and West Falls Church, the train starts having "technical issues". This sucks, because I really have to pee. Anyways, a Metro buss picks us up on Idylwood and starts to drive us ahead, only, I swear to God, the bus breaks down, too. There are about ten of us, steaming, waiting... only when the bus picks us up, instead of taking us to Dunn Loring, he takes us back to East Falls Church. Then we have to switch busses AGAIN, then get driven the rest of the way home.

I get dropped off at my car after midnight. As I attempt to drive home, I realize that the ramp to my house is blocked and I am diverted onto the beltway south... for another 8 miles to turn around and take back roads home.

I left DC shortly after 10:30 and got home at 12:25, an 8.5 journey taking nearly 2 hours...

One time I had to walk home from Rosslyn to West Springfield and it took just under 3 hours to do the 13 miles... piss drunk. I'd like a refund Metro...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Still Have Yet to Suffer the One-Game Losing Streak

A total anomaly. But at least the bullpen appears to be back in form.

I'll try to break down Craig Stammen later today, but no guarantees.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lannan Struggles

It wasn't just one bad outing, but John Lannan has really struggled in his last three starts. Everyone has to remember that despite being labeled "Ace", Lannan is only 24 and is not immune to slumps, dead arm, and mental fatigue. Last season, he averaged 5.87 innings per start. This season, he is up to 6.48. While his overall pitch count per start is only up 2 from 94.7 to 96.6, that still makes a difference when combining it with being on pace for 34 starts and pitching on four days rest for 55% of his starts, as opposed to just 43% last season. These little things do add up, and having been labeled the "Ace", with the added pressure to go deep into games, John Lannan probably just needs a vacation. Throwing the ball all over the place helps nobody.

Right now, he should be scheduled to pitch Sunday afternoon in Cincinnati. That probably will not help with any fatigue issues.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tommy John's Legacy

Here are a couple links to familiarize yourself with the road Jordan Zimmermann will now face.


The Good Point

One of my favorite pitchers, Tim Hudson, underwent TJ last August. He began his minor league rehab assignment in July and has been deemed ready to go (though with Tommy Hanson dominating, there isn't an opening in the rotation), so it is not out of the question to see Flash next year. A successful operation will have him at 100% for 2011, though.

Every Player is His Own Entitiy

I hate how people say that Jordan Zimmermann's tragic MRI diagnosis is going to give Scott Boras additional leverage going into the final week of negotiations. Stephen Strasburg's desire to play major league baseball in 2010 has nothing to with the amount of damage to Flash's ulnar collateral ligament. Jordan Zimmermann is not a party to these negotiations, nor is Dr. James Andrews.

The only parties that really have any bearing in these talks are Strasburg, Boras, Kasten, and Lerner, Inc. And you have to give Kasten credit for keeping it that way, leaving the media and the blogosphere in the dark.

What may impact the Strasburg signing is Washington's decision to waive and keep Cristian Guzman's 2010 salary. Cristian Guzman and his limited defense are not impacting these negotiations, just the money committed to him.

Remember, Stephen Strasburg had a year of college eligibility left. He chose to leave to cash in on his maximum value. He does himself no good turning down the Nationals to play Independent ball. I think Scott Boras may be selling his prowess of moving Luke Hochevar up from the #40 pick with the Dodgers to KC taking him #1 the following year (a comically stupid move by KC, but hey, I guess they got their guy). While Hochevar has not been a bust yet, he is still barely league average, and by losing a year of his career to stay out of ML ball, he upped his offer from 3 to 5 million. The only way this amount of money makes any impact to the lifetime earnings of a major league pitcher is if he never makes it to arbitration. A league average pitcher, like Scott Olsen, will make close to 3 million at arbitration. By not holding out, he reaches this threshold sooner, reaches free agency sooner, and extends his career one extra season. If Adam Eaton can cash out a 3 year 24 million dollar contract, any league average free agent can grab 5 million here and there, and last I checked, 5 million is greater than 2 million.

If Strasburg signs, barring injury, he will have his free agent clock ticking on May 1st. The Nats have no reason to keep him off the roster as he will sell tickets. If he lands somewhere else, that remains up in the air. The big bonus is great, but holding out for a bigger one only pays off if the pitcher doesn't make the bigs.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Steady Improvement (Strasburg Impact)

The Nationals are quickly climbing in the win column, and with their run differential already better than Kansas City and San Diego, they are hovering in the same ballpark as Cincinnati and Baltimore. It was impossible for the Nationals to go 2-5 every week, losing games 8-6 and winning 7-2. As expected, they are beginning to regress to the mean. What was not expected was that Rizzo would pull a couple of good moves to make the team more balanced. They have the ability to score in bunches, and unlike in May, this team is confident it can hold a lead.

This improvement likely means that the Nationals will be hard pressed to finish with the league's worst record. That burden will fall to the Royals, who probably couldn't win a series against most AAA teams. The AAA Pirates are also in free-fall and Sean Burnett may get the last laugh on comments he said about the Pirates last week.

The question now is how is this impacting the Strasburg negotiations? My gut feeling three weeks ago, prior to the trade deadline, was that if Washington did not provide them with an offer they could not refuse, they would walk. San Diego was in a position to draft #3 (the Nats would be 1 & 2) and he would likely prefer to play for his home team for a "discount".

Now, with KC, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Baltimore all tanking like this is the NBA lottery, the chances of Strasburg falling to San Diego with any leverage is nil. Prior to the draft, I felt Washington held the better hand in the negotiations, and now with several teams struggling and the Nats winning, they may be deluding themselves that they can compete (let's be honest, Stan Kasten isn't in it to win) without the 50 million dollar man.

I cannot imagine Strasburg risking the same fate as Luke Hochevar, landing in baseball purgatory for five years for a couple extra dollars. The deal probably will wind down until the final hours, but at this point, the Nationals are as appealing as any of the other likely top 5 destinations.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Guzman Claimed Off Waivers!?!

It doesn't mean anything yet, but it shows that maybe there was a trade market for the shortstop all along. The Red Sox are a team who have had SS issues all season, and a three game sweep at the Yankees may have been just what the Nats needed to get a panic move.

I have no problems with Guzman as a baseball player. He is streaky as a pair of drawers after the Chili Cookoff, but as long as he is hitting over .300, he is an effective major league hitter. I just don't think he has the range to his left to play short any more and is more of a 2B-3B guy defensively.

The Nats should get value for Guzman while they can. They waited too long with Nick Johnson and got little. The savings will help going into the off season, and even if the only get a long shot in return, it is one more step to reloading the farm system, which is probably more important than the half win Guzman will provide these last two months. More than likely, he will slump and lower any potential trade value he may have left.

Make the move... unlike the Johnson and Beimel trades, the other party is the desperate one.


I'm sure I will post a picture of the Big Donkey at some point, but here are the highlights of Saturday's American baseball contest at Nationals Park on the Anacostia.

* Nyjer Morgan made several routine outs in center field. These are only routine for Nyjer Morgan, as most other Nats outfielders would need a rocket up their ass just t get to the ball, only to have it glance off the end of their glove for a triple.

* Willie Harris' triple. The triple is almost always the most exciting play in baseball. Even if there is no play at third, there is always the anticipation there could be.

* Alberto Gonzalez making to great defensive plays to keep the Backs off the board in the 5th. Either those get in for would result in a run and up comes Reynolds for a chance to break the game open. Ryan Zimmerman played typically stellar D as well.

* The eighth inning starting at 8:50... wow!

* Each time Chris Young stepped into the batter's box, I called for the strikeout. I was one game ending pitch from being 4 for 4. The Golden Sombrero was lurking for Young, easily the most overmatched hitter getting regular plate appearances now.

* Josh Willingham not being close on any of the first four pitches Haren offered him, prompting me to note that maybe it wouldn't be his night... CRACK!!

* Hit a 380 foot fly ball to center, prompting me to note that it was about as far as he is going to hit the ball. He responded later with a 400 foot home run to right-center. Well played, Mr. Bard. Foiled again.

* Garrett Mock was about 4 feet from six shutout innings of four hit ball. The defense helped, and the Backs, outside of Drew, Reynolds, and Montero, are a AAA lineup, but Mock needed a boost like this. It was like the International League for him!

* It is strange watching them battle back in games and hold on with stellar defense. It is amazing how one or two personnel moves can improve attitude and morale this much. The problem with their spring roster was that there wasn't a "leader" on the team. No vocal presence. If there is nobody to point a finger when something goes wrong, or something has to get accomplished, everybody is going to sit back and watch the ship sink. The team brings in Nyjer Morgan, who never stops talking, things start to get done. The team lets Manny Acta and his stoic in-game expression go, and guys start getting to balls they weren't.

For the record, it is Goddamn near impossible to generate a winning streak of any kind sending out four rookie pitchers. A seven game streak reflects upon 25 guys doing their best to beat the other 25 guys night in and out. That and Josh Willingham is the second best hitter in the NL right now... well, maybe third.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Can the Nats Beat Dan Haren?

While much of the attention this season has been directed at Grienke, Lincecum, and the AL East, Dan Haren has produced insane numbers down in a hitter's paradise in Phoenix. His 0.877 WHIP is lowest in the NL since Greg Maddux ran amok in 1995, and he is also leading the NL in K/BB, astat Curt Schilling proved is absolutely vital in a hitter's ballpark. However, because the D-Backs have regularly run guys like Chris Young, Conor Jackson, Eric Byrnes, and Chad Tracy, it is like they choose to regularly bat Austin Kearns 15 times per game. Hence, instead of 14-3, Haren is a solid, but unspectacular 11-6. He likely will finish runner up in the Cy Young voting to Lincecum or Santana, despite having unheard of numbers this side of the steroid explosion.

So can the Nats beat Dan Haren? Sure, but only if Garrett Mock pretends this is an International League game.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Craig Stammen + August = Trouble

Craig Stammen's two August starts have been awful. No way to sugar coat it, either. As July wore on, the magic faded and the hits started dropping. Any pitcher can have rough patch, but if he continues to leave the ball up in the zone, major league hitter will spray it around. Fatigue would explain his current inability to keep the ball down.

Stammen's yearly innings indicate that may be hitting the wall a little bit.
2006: 138
2007: 128
2008: 151
2009: 123

If he remains in the rotation and finishes the season at his current pace of 6 IP per start over 12 more starts, it will put him right at 200 IP on the season. This is probably a little steep for a rookie adjusting to superior competition. If he continues to struggle, he may be best off finishing the season as the long reliever. An extra few days rest or a DL stint may also freshen his arm and keep at a slightly more sustainable 170 IP (130 ML) for 2009.

Bryce Harper Sweepstakes

Careful guys. KC is making a serious run.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Knowing Your Role

Winning teams are not necessarily full of superstar free agents and five-tool freaks. In fact, some of the best teams, the ones that stick together for several years, thrive because there are players on their roster, spots number twenty-four and twenty-five, who know that they are not there for the limelight. They are there to do one or two things and to do them well.

Take the Yankees eight year run from 1996 to 2003. They won three World Series and lost two more. They built their dynasty from the inside, hitting on a few potential Hall of Famers in Posada, Jeter, Williams, Pettitte, and Rivera. They acquired through free agency several quality players, but nobody who would be considered a superstar outside of Clemens: Martinez, Brosius, O'Neill, Knoblauch, Wells, Cone. Later, they began to stockpile every top free agent, starting with Mussina, Giambi, Brown, etc. However, that lineup can only get a team to the playoffs. Once there, executing flawlessly and eliminating mistakes for five or seven game series wins the title. Specialized role players, like Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Stanton, Luis Sojo, Shane Spencer, Chad Curtis, Joe Girardi, these are the guys that make a difference winning a championship because they know what role they serve on the team.

The one thing that Riggleman has been able to do is establish his player's roles. Many fans feel bad that Willie Harris' is losing playing time since Morgan's acquisition. Willie has always been a team player and has adjusted well to his new role of defensive stopper. Just as a basketball needs a versatile sixth man to provide a spark off the bench, baseball teams need a versatile glove to one or two extra balls a week to take the pressure off the pitchers. Riggleman has even carved out adequate roles for AAAA guys like Anderson Hernandez, Austin Kearns, and Ronnie Belliard. While Dunn and Zimmerman get most of the headlines, most of them warranted, the difference between these 5-4 wins after the All-Star break and those ugly 8-5 losses back in May are the ability of pitchers out of the bullpen to get outs and players fielding their positions.

Guys like Willie Harris can still contribute greatly to winning baseball, even on a team as lost as the Nats. Truth be told, judging by his career numbers, if Willie Harris is a team's everyday outfielder, that team probably isn't playoff caliber. But if he can come in and run down a ball in foul territory to which Willingham may not have reached, or get from first to third on a little slap single, those little things will make the difference a couple days a week. Some players, Lastings Milledge, for example, either couldn't or wouldn't execute these.

The Nats have found a few good building blocks in Lannan, Z1 and Z2, and while they are still a few years away from contending, can make strides in 2010 if they are not greedy and bring in the right players this offseason. It is difficult to entice players to come to a franchise as maligned as Washington's, so the front office really needs to shore up their loose ends (manager, GM, etc) by October.

What We Have Here is Called a "Winning Streak"

Perfect timing too, as the Strasburg contract drive should be wrapping up soon, yet no word is coming from either side. People would be getting a little anxious if they hadn't been distracted by all that success on the field.

So how have the Nats been able to pull of this run? Their bats have been quite lively, but they were still getting shelled while scoring six runs per game back in May. The key has been timing. The Clippard bases loaded Houdini act is a great example, but check out a couple of examples from last night.

Third inning, bases loaded, two out, and Cody Ross rips a hot shot at 3rd base. Lannan had made great pitch, so Ros hit the ball with some interesting topspin, and the ball comes up on Zimmerman and gets away. Unless the ball is fielded cleanly, this is probably a run against any other corner infielder in the league. Zimmerman recovers, bare hands the ball off the infield grass and flicks it upside down to Dunn to beat Ross by a half step at first. Insane play that saved one run for sure, but the way the Nats have played this year, those always compounded into big innings for the opponent.

Fifth inning, runners on the corners, nobody out, second best hitter in the National League up. This also has the makings of a big inning. Lannan does what he does best, throwing a tempting, well-located first pitch that Ramirez rolls into a 6-4-3, scoring the run, but clearing the bases.

Sixth inning, runners on the corners, one out. Emilio Bonafacio is very difficult to double up, and is clearly looking to slap the ball the other way. One run is imminent, except Lannan decides that it is time to roll out two of his six strikeouts to terminate the rally.

This doesn't include the sterling defense turned in night after night by Nyjer Morgan in center, nor does it include MacDougal getting three full count out to collect the save. The have not improved much; they are just doing a better job of playing to their Pythagorean run differential, which is not worst in the league.

The Marlins had owned the Nats for two seasons, right up until the 8th inning Tuesday. I have a hard time believing everything has suddenly changed, but as long as the players do, run with it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Startling Comeback

You just never can tell with these Nationals. Just when they are pegged as being a poor clutch team, especially in the later innings, they explode for a six run comeback against a Cy Young candidate.

Go figure. I have to say, this is the streakiest team I have EVER seen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nationals Baseball

Where .212 career SLG hitters go yard.

Great Relievers

* Converted to reliever

* Deceptive delivery

* Devastating changeup

* Closer mentality

Who am I talking about? Trevor Hoffman or Tyler Clippard? See, you didn't know right away. Clippard was swapped from the Yankees last season, and the organization immediately began transitioning him to a reliever. After dominating AAA competition, he has stepped into broken bullpen and taken the ball in almost every type of situation. The results have been nearly 3 K/BB and a sub 1.00 WHIP. To say he has been the Nats best reliever is like saying Teddy is the worst racing president. A decision going forward will have to be made as to who is going to close games next season. While I would prefer such a valuable commodity not get pigeonholed into a role that may not see many opportunities, away from other high leverage situations, Clippard belongs in the closer's role.

Hell, Hoffman was even drafted as a SS, suffered a couple serious arm injuries, and has continued to own the 9th. MacDougal is a great comeback story, but going forward, Clippard should own the 9th when possible.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Alan Wiggins, who stole 66 bases in 1983, is rolling over in his grave.

Fact: Other than Nyjer Morgan (who was traded to the Nats a month ago), the Washington Nationals have only ONE player with over 5 stolen bases. In fact, there are a handful of individual players who have roughly the same amount of steals as the Nats' entire ballclub (Ellsbury, Crawford, Bourn, Upton, etc.)

Who's basecoaching this timid team, Jay Hilgenberg?! It's not like making the 3rd out while attempting to steal second base is going to result in lost momentum during a crucial point in the wild-card hunt.
Nats, your fans desperately want to see you begin playing like you've got nothing left to lose! don't!!! And if you don't do it for the single-digit thousands that still show up to Granite City along the Anacostia, do it for Alan. C'mon, look at that smile.

"It knew it was going to be bad when I was nominated. I did not know it would be this bad."

That quote from Gutter's Senate hearings in PCU more or less sums up today's findings.

Dave from NNN alerted me to the Nats struggles with runners on last week, but today Chico laid it all out.

The Nats flat out do not hit with runners on. Some of it is bad luck, hitting line drives at people, but every team has a little of that. The Nats struggle the most in the following three areas:

* picked off/caught stealing

* Ground into double plays

* Called third strikes

First, it should be noted that these are execution issues. Nobody needs to have the God given physical tools of... (searching for a player who used his God given tools without chemically enhancing them)... Tony Gwynn to avoid those three bullet points above.

The Nats get picked off way more often than they should, and this is particularly disconcerting considering they just started giving base runners the green light upon the arrival of Nyjer Morgan. Before you say that this doesn't affect their poor hitting in the clutch, getting picked off first does change the dynamics of the at bat if there is less than two outs, and if there is two outs, well, phooey. The Nats have stolen 46 bases and been caught 26 times, a sterling 63.8% success rate. The NL average is 71.4% on 17% more attempt. As you have witnessed, the Nats have been killing many rallies before the hitter has a chance to do anything about it.

The Nats ground into 16% more double plays than the league average. Right now, that is playing to about one per week. It may not seem like much, but when Zimm and Kearns reach for those fastballs low and away, they kill any chance for a big inning. One more big inning per week probably adds 6-10 wins to the season total. Both Zimm and Kearns started the season driving the ball into the air, but each hit mid-season (or in Kearns case, mid-career) slumps. Zimm has been hitting better of late, but once again has aspirations of leading the league. Simple situational hitting teaches batters how to avoid these by laying off and going the other way. Wil Nieves doesn't hit the ball more than 200 feet, but rarely puts himself into a 6-4-3 because he will hit opposite field on balls pitched to the outer half.

The Nats are fourth in the NL with 795 strikeouts. They parlay this by drawing the second most walks in the NL. They are a patient team, which gets a lot of runners on first base, and is reflected in their team OBP. However, the Nats take take 30% of their overall strikeouts looking, which of course leads the league. Adam Dunn is one of the main culprits, as he lays back and waits for a mistake to crush. But this doesn't excuse the number of other hitters for not playing more aggressively with two strikes. The Nats have worked the pitch count well this season (2nd in pitches per PA in the NL) but this is not helping them with runners in scoring position and the pitcher attacking the zone to prevent walking in the run.

Points two and three may contradict slightly, as being passive may lead to more strikeouts looking, while a more aggressive approach may lead to more double plays. Other successful teams find a balance, or lean to one extreme or the other. The Nats somehow play both extremes, which is a recipe for losing baseball.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bullpen Issues

* How is Jorge Sosa different than anybody DFAed? In fact, I'm pretty sure Jesus Colome just stole a new identity.

* Logan Kensing was awful his first stint, and has been awful this time up.

* Who gets moved to the pen when JZimm comes off the DL? Kensing likely goes to Syracuse, and I'm guessing Stammen will get relegated as his innings get up there.

Nationals Baseball

Please stop trying to steal.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why Rizzo Is Not "Rebuilding"

Mike Rizzo was recently quoted as saying that the Nats were not rebuilding. Now before we get to the punchline that you cannot rebuild what was never there, we have to remind ourselves that Mr. Rizzo is still working under the title "acting GM." As the first half of the season unfolded and Rizzo attempted to untangle the mess of the Jim Bowden era, Rizzo's fingerprint was crystal clear. He removed the dead weight from the forty-man roster, brought in young ground ball pitchers, then began improving the defense. However, none of the marquee players were touched.

Rizzo understands the value of defense and must know that Adam Dunn in left field and Cristian Guzman at short, despite their offensive numbers, will not compensate for their defensive shortcomings. These players would be the best trade bait. Every AL contender could use a bat like Dunn, and Guzman is more appealing than many teams' shortstop options. However, Rizzo isn't GM, and his boss doesn't exactly share his goals.

Stan Kasten isn't responsible for making the Nationals win. He is responsible for making the Nationals profitable. The problem is that winning and making money are not mutually exclusive. Mr. Kasten should care that the Nats have taken just four years to become the league laughingstock, but instead, he is forced to profit on that fact. Hence the fact the Nats have taken out specific ad campaigns catering to fans of opposing teams (Phillies, Red Sox, Orioles), the fact that they are only trading veterans in the final year of their contract, hoarding as many high profile players as possible, and the fact that they cannot be rebuilding.

2009 is a lost year. By admitting that the Nationals are rebuilding, that 2010 may be more of the same, will sacrifice season ticket sales, television ratings, and what little interest the public still has will quickly disappear. Kasten needs marquee players and hope to put people in the seats, not the possible myth of rebuilding. Sadly for the fans, Kasten's method works to meet the bottom line, and he will continue to put forth a team that he can sell as being a "potential winner" until he cannot sell seats and gets himself terminated.

These two differing philosophies are hamstringing the Nats. Rizzo would prefer to play .300 ball this year, .400 ball in 2010, then go for .500 in 2011 and 2012, while Kasten hopes that his current team could play better, consistently play .450 ball and threaten a run at .500 at some point. Rizzo would prefer to invest in in scouting and prospects while Kasten would prefer to go after free agents and Strasburg. Who knows for sure who pulled what string in Acta's dismissal, but more than likely somebody hoped that Riggleman would spark a resurgence.

The tragedy in all this is that by 2009 being a lost year, the Nats killed 2010 by not making a deliberate move either for or against Rizzo's plan. He probably deserves a chance to see his work through, but odds are Kasten is going to hire outside the organization and bring in new blood. The new GM will have to build within the existing framework and 2011 will be a lost year as well.