Monday, May 31, 2010

Capps Gifted and Robbed... a Team With an Identity Crisis

It all balances out.

Friday night, Matt Capps was set a standard "free save" situation, bases empty to start the ninth, three run lead. He then proceeded to let four straight reach, cutting the lead to two with the bases loaded an nobody out. The Nats win probability had dropped from 95% to 50% in a matter of seconds. All seemed lost.

Matt Capps pulled a Maverick and "re-engaged" striking out two straight. A couple of the borderline calls went his way. Then, with the strike out eliminated in the form of David Eckstein, he forced the chop out to end the game. Bases loaded nobody out is almost a certain run, as few pitchers can force the 1-2-3 double play. Mat Capps took advantage of a couple of weaker hitters and a friendly strike zone and saved the day.

Sunday afternoon, he was not as fortunate. A good fastball looked to get the hometown call and extended the at bat one pitch too many. Close games, by design, will break pretty close to 50/50 over an extended sample. The best way to win baseball games is to either score a lot of runs, or give up very few runs. The Nats currently do neither of these things. They tend to play to the style of their opponent. They will chase Philly in bunches, then play small ball against the Padres. It is an interesting dynamic, but not one that will likely produce prolonged success.

So what is the Nats scheme?

Rizzo has built a staff of a bunch contact pitchers, but aside from Zimmerman and Desmond, the defense isn't above average. Riggleman wants to run, but none of his fast guys can seem to get on base. They have the reputation of being a strong offense, but from an advanced standpoint, the team relies on timely hittling from the likes of Roger Bernadina and Wil Nieves to scrap out 4-3 wins. Strasburg shows up next week, but what does he change? Sure, he'll get the strikeouts, but the well hit balls will fall and runs will still score... this isn't AA. In the end, this team really needs to find long term solutions in right field and at catcher. Jesus Flores isn't walking through that door, and Justin Maxwell may be finished as a DFA yo-yo.

In other words, Rizzo needs to stop posturing with this whole "contender" status and find a prospect with what little bait is on the line. I want to keep the Hammer more than any one of the ten readers of this blog, but what choice does the organization have?

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