Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For All the Hype...

Tim Hudson was the better pitcher last night. Both teams' defenses were doing the pitcher no favors, and while Strasburg's best produced those dramatic strikeouts, he also let a couple batters off the hook. Hudson's pitch count elevated early, but still cruised through seven and left for a pinch hitter with a comfortable lead.

More miserable decisions likely cost the Nats a run or two in the earlier innings, such as getting Pudge thrown out stealing, or sacrificing Desmond with a runner on second and Nyjer and Strasburg on deck. Heinous decisions, yes. Would they have changed the complexion of the game? Possibly, though I still think Hudson had the gear to get out of those jams regardless.

And Dibble does have the right to go nuclear on the state of the defense. These are more talented players executing at the same level as the fodder taking the field for 100 loss teams. How does Morgan go to third with one out. Jimmy Dugan would have him bawling in the dugout for that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Nationals Baseball

Leadoff double... nothing. At least they weren't stupid enough to yank Strasburg after 70 pitches.

Hasn't been a good 2 hours for the team as a whole.

Nationals Baseball

During Strasburg's last 19 innings, the Nationals have scored 1 run.

That is some opponents' ERA.

Nationals Baseball

Where the opponent can commit three errors in five innings, yet zero runs score.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lannan Has Good AA Start

The open rotation spot is Tuesday, so it is impossible for him to fill it. With the team self-destructing, does it make sense to force him back into the rotation before the All-Star Break. Now that the Nats are well out of anything except the race for #1 again, it is probably time to take stock of who NEEDS to be in the rotation.

John Lannan probably NEEDS to be in the rotation if he is healthy the Nats expect him to be in the rotation next season. He can usually pitch 7 innings on an economy of pitches. The results aren't always pretty, but he can get the job done. There is growing concern that maybe the Nats should get what they can for Lannan before he regresses to the mean. That time would be now or never.

Livan Hernandez SHOULD be in the rotation, when used properly. Right now, he is not being used properly. One night after the starter was yanked after 4 plus innings, Hernandez was pulled after 92 pitches. WHY?? If Edwin Jackson can roll off 150 pitches in a start, Livan's decaying skill set should be used for at least 120, especially when the bullpen needs it. If Riggleman wants to coddle the position, then this is where Detwiler should be once he is healthy.

Stephen Strasburg. NEEDS... once again, pitch counts are bad. They give management an out. If a pitcher gets hurt on strict limits, "Oh, he would have gotten hurt anyway." Ignorance, damnit. Here is an example. Pitch counts are like miles on a car. Some people drive aggressively and erratically, don't get regular tuneups, and wonder why the head gasket and transmission are shot after 80K. Sure, some pitchers get into a jam. But when your pitcher has cruised through 6 innings on 95 pitches, 75 strikes... those are the easy miles. Yeah, Kerry Wood Kerry Wood Kerry Wood. Look at the game logs, watch the film... there was much more stress on Wood's arm.

Scott Olsen, once healthy, probably SHOULD be elsewhere. He must be a better clubhouse guy than his reputation, or Rizzo would have eaten that arbitration money. The guy can pitch, but unlike John Lannan, has never shown he can do it consistently for any period of time. Right now, Luis Atilano is holding down that spot.

The Nationals will have paid Jason Marquis nearly five million dollars to rehab this season... that's a lot of Flippin Pizza. Is Marquis tradebait? He SHOULD be. Unless he will be contributing to the education of these young pitchers... man, if JD Martin were only a little better. But salary aside, is Jason Marquis even better than JD Martin? With this defense, all bets are off.

Craig Stammen NEEDS to be given a shot to prove he isn't a AAAA pitcher. The bad starts are frequent enough to give pause, but whether or not he is taking his old spot back or Miguel Batista's, he needs to be learning a role with the big club or playing his way off the 40-man.

I think we NEED Wang... no questions asked. But since he seems indefinitely broken, let's scrap him.

Matt Chico is a useful minor league relief plan, and Jordan Zimmermann will be sorely needed come 2011. But you get the idea. 2010 is in the past. Figure out who will contribute in 2011 and focus in them. 76 wins is better than 72, but 76 wins again next season is not as good as 84.

So what will the rotation look like on August 1st? Your guess is as good as mine, but with a couple of expendable parts, maybe they can improve their holes at right field, second base, and, well, all of AAA. Dunn and Willingham are parts also, but let's face the facts that the offense goes nowhere without them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dibble and Knight Square Off!

That got awkward fast.

"I'm not disagreeing because I'm a pitcher."

"You got your opinion I got mine."

"I don't care. I'm not disagreeing with you. I know I'm right as a hitter."

"I got a base hit in the World Series, jammed me as big as anything..."

"That's all right Ray, I got MVP in the playoffs by throwing strikes. So you got your opinion and I got mine."

Somewhere I heard Dibble say the Royals were the best hitting team in baseball; fortunately, he amended it to "slap hitting", which last I checked was a negative thing.

"You got it totally wrong, I didn't say he didn't do a great job."

Then both Holliday and Carpenter let out sighs of relief during the awkward pause following Ray deferring to Rob's superior arm, and Rob continued his Imperial Death stare. Good times had by all, and you can't find this kind of drama at the World Cup... oh wait, never mind.

I'll wait to look at the pitch f/x data, but Ray is probably right. College, AA, AAA, Strasburg can get away chunking 97-99 belt high with most guys swinging through it. The Pirates goofy bad lineup is more AAA, but most teams the Nats and Strasburg will face will have enough defensive minded hitters to make him work for strikeouts. He still got nine, and got the ones that mattered.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

AA vs. AAA

John Lannan finally received his exile from the Nationals starting rotation. While most deposed pitchers are relegated to AAA, Mike Rizzo chose an alternate path, sending Lannan back to AA Harrisburg.

Usually, when veteran players want to make a rehab assignment, they are sent to the nearest affiliate, often a A or AA club. This seems to be what the Nats are doing with Lannan. A demotion to AAA would have signaled that they didn't think he could get it done. The trip to AA states that they know he can get it done, now go back to the basics and prove it. The lack of premium talent in the Eastern League should help him rebuild his confidence. Right now, he is nibbling too much, falling behind, then chunking an 86 mph 3-1 fastball down the middle. Whether or not there is an underlying injury is aside from the simple fact that John Lannan does not strikeout enough batters to be a great pitcher. He can pitch well, hit spots, and funnel right-handed hitters straight to Zimmerman and Desmond for easy outs. His skill set isn't better than Craig Stammen; in truth, Stammen's ability to not walk batters may provide more upside.

Hopefully this is a short stint in Harrisburg. That would mean the elbow is sound and he has rediscovered the sink to his fastball. In the meantime, he gets to rehab with Ross Detwiler, consult with former coach Randy Tomlin, and work with another soft-tossing lefty trying to find his way back, Chuck James.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Revenge of Austin Kearns

Who would have thought that he would be the best hitter on ANY team, major league or AAA, this season?

May JD Martin exact his own revenge on the Indians organization.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Era

The only appropriate way to describe that is with the famous Onion headline, replacing a couple words.

Prior to the game, almost everybody was making prediction on what Stephen Strasburg's final line would be. I pulled this:

6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 6 K, 92 pitches

Nobody called this:

7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 14 K, 94 pitches

It was a stunning spectacle. High fives were being thrown around, as were comparisons to all time greats. The game itself was like reliving Kerry Wood's 20 K game, right down to the knee-snapping slurve. Hitters looked foolish, and the man on the mound was always in control. Baseball Reference blog throws out the few other dominating debuts. I had totally forgotten about Tim Hudson bursting on the scene like this. Only the lost careers of JR Richard and Karl Spooner yielded more strikeouts. The most impressive part:


Truth be told, the Pirates have a young team. Here are two lists.

652, 86, 1300, 602, 606, 1000, 1431, 250. 5927

0, 148, 0, 2335, 519, 0, 1147, 52. 4201

The first list is the number of career major league at bats for the Pirates lineup last night, and the second is the career major league at bats for the Syracuse Chiefs. Your team is in trouble when Lastings Milledge is the grizzled vet.

Strasburg starts will be near, if not sellout the rest of the season. I'll be torn with him going up against the World Cup this month, but that was a very convincing argument.

Nobody has debuted like that before, and it is very possible that nobody will again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blogger Day Part 1

This should have been up first thing Monday, but blogger was down most of the day. Here is a recap of Blogger Day on the Dawn of Strasburg.

This past Saturday, the Nationals hosted “Blogger Day.” This year’s effort was spearheaded by Chad Kurz, Senior Manager of New Media. I’m not really sure what “new media” is, but apparently these ramblings are a part of it. Representatives of The Bombs, as well as about fifteen others, were allowed to take part in pregame interviews with Jim Riggleman, Josh Willingham, Drew Storen, and other members of the Nats organization. Following that, we were given a detailed tour of the stadium facilities and new amenities. Next, we were down on the field for batting practice before heading back up to the press box for dinner. The PNC Diamond Club hosts Inside Pitch Live, featuring a keynote speaker for every Saturday home game, and this week Stan Kasten took the mike. Finally, it was back to the press box to cover the game.

All in all, it was a pretty awesome time. I was running around trying to get pictures, audio, and video cut until nearly 4 am! I would love to cover these in more detail, get some pictures and quotes up, but I am about to run out the door for Strasburg. Here are some of the highlights.

Bill Simmons was correct. Press box food has to be the most fattening out there. Never mind the all-you-can-eat theme. The sandwich of the day was a third-pound bacon cheeseburger. I’m not so sure that’s considered a “sandwich, but I ate the hell out of it anyway. Simmons was quite wrong about his assessment of “Press Box hot.” Sure, our enclave was Miss Chatter and the 14 Dwarves, but the rest of the Nats media coverage was diverse enough to keep the pawing to a minimum. Bob Carpenter is everywhere before a game. You can’t miss the guy. He knows and talks to everybody! Dibble was off at his kid’s graduation, though something tells me the former Nasty Boy isn’t as personable.

Will finish this after Stasburgmania.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Game Diary, 6/5, vs Cincinnati

Blogger Day at the Park. Pictures and analysis to follow tomorrow.

7:05: And the first boo of the game goes to... Joe West! And they haven't played anything off his album yet.

7:08: E-5... let's hope this isn't a pattern.

7:12: Wait, Joey Votto is Canadian? This explains that whole anxiety thing last year. He responds by smacking a double down the line... Cabrera scores the unearned run.

7:17: Wil makes a nifty catch along the dugout rail, minimizing the damage. Atilano could be in for a long night if he can't keep the ball low.

7:21: Guzman hustles down the line, denying Cabrera of a great first out... these are the types of plays he HAS to make to stay in the lineup.

7:22: Plush pops up a bunt, nearly makes it a twin killing, then slams a couple water bottles in the dugout... not sure how to interpret this development.

7:27: Nats strand two as Hammer rips a full count fastball a little too deep to center. Listach held Guzman on Dunn's rip to the corner, despite a poor throw toward second by Jay Bruce. Could have been tied, but the Nats go conservative early.

7:34: Textbook 6T-3 double play turned by Desmond. The guy has range.

7:40: Bernadina wastes a lead off single by trying to steal against Hernandez, on a fastball, no less. Desmond singles on the next pitch.

7:43: Mike Leake went straight to the Reds after being drafted last season... he leads off this inning, batting .381. Now he is batting .409.

7:50: Wait... is Billy Hatcher the Reds' first base coach?

7:55: Flippin Pizza may be the new kid on the concourse, but Nyjer brings back Slice Down the Line for a standing double... he hasn't had many of those this season and seems to feed off his own success, and drown in failures.

7:57: Press box doesn't give the best view for ball/strike judgments.

7:59: Storms looming... stay tuned.

8:18: Back from the production room... Teddy did not win.

8:19: And Mike Leake is now hitting .435... the "hitting pitcher" philosophy is a debate for another time.

8:21: Leake scores on a meatball blistered by Cabrera. Atilano has escaped unscathed up until now, but Votto is likely to come up with a RISP.

8:25: Don't understand the pick off posturing... get the second out at the plate!

8:28: Clutch effort rebounding to retire Phillips weakly and Votto swinging.

8:30: Looks like they filled out to 28K or so. Even the Presidential (the seats, not the vodka) looks populated.

8:31: Ugh... Slappy with another weak infield ground out, followed by some good work by Votto on a foul pop. Very impatient right now, and actually surprised Atilano hit given the quick hook some of the pitchers have been shown

8:32: 5 pitch inning.

8:34: Of course Zim makes that play... of course.

8:36: Even at second base, it appears Guzman just doesn't move as well to his left as he does his right. There must be a stat for this.

8:41: Epic at bat here by Bruce... must be the tenth pitch.

8:42: A beauty to end the inning, strike out-throw out on the five hundredth pitch of the at bat. Great job by Wil sticking with the play despite nearly getting decapitated by the previous foul tip with the runner going.

8:45: And the last four batters have seen six pitches.

8:49: Willingham comes up to "Your Love"... good things can only follow.

8:50: Pat Listach gets an ovation for flashing some of his defensive prowess from days of yore.

8:53: Bernadina takes three straight borderline pitches... the box is in shock Joe West didn't ring him up just for the sake of ringing him up.

8:54: The sixth pitch destroys his bat, but Votto mishandles the ball as ash falls to the earth around him. Zim scores from second. This is Desmond's bread and butter... but he chases to out of the zone and grounds out weakly to third.

8:58: 2-1 in the seventh... in other words, Nationals Baseball!

8:58: Absolutely stunned Atilano is still in the game. 107 pitches and counting... Leake on deck.

9:02: Hernandez down again. 78 strikes on 112 pitches. Huge effort from the rookie. And he retire Leake on a well struck to second. Arguably one of the three best starting performances this year, Livo's shutout and Olsen's near no-no withstanding. (Final count- 114 pitches, 80 strikes)

9:05: One of the dugout dancing girls just bitch-slapped another... highlight of the night.

9:07: Attendance listed at 23K... I was a little off.

9:07: I know Willie was brought in to face the righty, but Morse was crushing the ball in BP. Doesn't that play into the decision making?

9:10: Errant throw between innings clocked a fan in the first row... medical staff on the scene.

9:12: Cabrera absolutely crushes a ball to left-center, second hanger he has seen tonight.

9:14: Long conference to get Burnett warm to face Votto.

9:16: More posturing toward the runner at second. Are the Reds known for stealing third?

9:18: Phillips puts a two-strike pitch up the middle... not Walker's finest hour.

9:20: Burnett comes out of the pen to Whitesnake. Last season, "Here I Go Again" would be taken in completely different context regarding the bullpen.

9:23: Phillips dead to rights at third base trying to take two on the wild pitch, but Desmond called for baseline interference? I didn't see any contact or attempt to impede the runner... Riggleman gets tossed arguing the play. Votto completes the disaster by drawing a full count walk from 0-2.

9:28: Desmond comes home instead of turning two. With Scott Rolen hitting and Phillips on third, the play was to concede the run and turn two. Phillips destroys Nieves at the plate with a forearm shimmy and he loses the ball. Phillips shows everyone up after the play and will likely see a ball in the back tomorrow.

9:31: Single, 5-1. Not a storybook finish right now, as the error count is at three again.

9:41: Old-ass Arthur Rhodes in to work Morgan and Dunn around Zimmerman... 0.39 ERA on the season.

9:44: Predictably, the inning starts K-BB. It's up to Dunn to extend this one.... not even close on the slider, though. 1-2.

9:46: GIDP... no chance to be saved by the Hammer.

9:48: Is there any excuse for this game to be pushing three hours?

9:51: Slick move from Billy Hatcher, dissing the kids fighting over the foul ball and flipping it elsewhere.

9:53: Zim sticks with it and makes a good throw... nice to see his focus late in a mostly over game.

9:54: And there is the plunking!! Apparently Joe West did see Phillips trash talking and knew it was coming, because the ejection was immediate. He has now tossed 4 Nats in two games... what are the chances Wil moves for a pitchout on a fastball down the middle?

9:56: Slaten in to face Votto... I think the Nats are getting ready for tomorrow, as the bullpen is getting thin.

9:57: "And Miguel Batista was ejected from the game... for those who didn't notice." The Nats won't be supporting Joe West's upcoming tour.

10:01: Always a fielding adventure with Adam Dunn.

10:09: Two-out single by Desmond. No pitch hitter for Nieves, which is a little short-sighted. Kennedy should hit for him, then Morse for the pitcher. A rally is unlikely, but much less likely with Nieves taking cuts. I know they don't want Burke to get into the game, but how likely was that scenario?

10:11: Strikeout, game over. Three games this week of three errors. Apparently they do come in threes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nationals Baseball

Where errors, much like celebrity deaths, come in threes.

(cue eerie music)

Quick Thoughts on Replay and "The Imperfect"

I say quick thoughts because this is far from polished...

Instant replay is not good for sports. While it is great for correcting mistakes made and errors in human judgment, it takes away from the essence of the game. Most sports are played solely for the players involved; sure, winning feels better than losing, but at the end of the day most people aren't worried about the standings in their beer league. Professional sports are played for two entities: the players and the fans. Winning is certainly more important, but in the end, it is not the most important for those two parties. Players get paid, fans usually get to see an enjoyable game.* Players who win less may get paid less, but major league players are not starving. Fans prefer rooting for a team that is competitive, but Nats Park was not empty last year. Winning is much more important to managers and owners, who are evaluated on those criteria. A winning team is more profitable than a losing team. Blown calls happen all game long, and players shake them off. It is up to us to shake them off as fans and media as well. Would your kids' Little League game be more enjoyable if it were umpired by a machine? Of course not!

The only reason we want Instant Replay is because we have it. Every play is dissected on the Jumbotron and in the booth prior to the next one. Fans of Walter Johnson's Senators weren't sitting in their seats wondering, "I wish there were seven cameras following every play so we could prove the first base umpire blew that call." They just hoped that the next one would go in their favor, because, well, shit happens.

So even if there were infallible machines umpiring the Galarraga game, would he have grabbed a piece of history? Probably not, though the home plate umpire was pretty consistent, Galarraga got a couple gifts to work ahead in the count. Had the play happened in the third inning, is this even a story? Probably not. The irony of this story is that the blown call didn't even cost the Tigers the game. Correctly determining the winner has driven the demand for replay up until now. Bud Selig, in his attempt to diffuse the situation, probably should not have concluded that the game would have ended differently with replay, and should not have initially left the door open that the call could be overturned after the fact. That could totally turn the state of Missouri upside-down. Even in his carefully crafted statement, Selig mentions all the sources with which he plans to consult regarding Instant Replay, but the two he ignores: the players and the fans.

* Does not apply to Jim Bowden products

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This is What You Signed on for...

So the 14 errors are 5 more than any one else in baseball. This was a given going into spring training: Ian Desmond was going to make A LOT of errors, and both the coaches and most of the media agreed that it was worth overlooking for the long-term benefits of the team. That was March 2nd.

Roll around to June 2nd, and the Nats clinging to respectability. Ian Desmond MIGHT have contributed to the team losing with a hat trick of misfortune in the field, though scoring all of one run may have played an equally important role. Desmond himself had the only extra base hit after the first inning. Before continuing the E-6 jokes, here are couple of things to put into perspective. Thus far this season, Desmond has been worth about 1 win above replacement (0.9), while the man he replaced, Cristian Guzman, has put up 0.6 with a similar number of plate appearances. Based on the UZR, Desmond has made a play on over 84% of the the balls hit into his zone in 2010, as opposed to 78.5% for Guzman in 2009 (or 77% this season). Finally, remember Ryan Zimmerman was among the league leaders in errors at third base last season, but because he gets to so many more balls than other players, it is written off as an acceptable work hazard.

As rookie, Ian Desmond's production puts him in the middle of the pack amongst major league shortstops. He will improve on a daily basis and the errors should be ignored; this team wasn't expected to be in a wild card race and shouldn't start changing plans because they are flirting with .500 in June. Keep Desmond on the diamond, and Casey at the Bat.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Pardon Me, While I Waste Your Time

Former Ohio State standout Johnny Utah commutes between surf vacations.

This man knows what he is talking about.

Capps Cracks Again

It wasn't a rally squandered, but more of a quick reality check; the best way to help a closer out is to give him more than one run to protect. Every closer looks like Mo Rivera with a three run lead. Trust me, Mark Davis is not walking through the door. And most non-Hall-of-Fame closers will drop five or so games a year, and most of the time it is a one run lead and one of two pitches get away. The only alarming stat is that he hadn't cracked before despite a WHIP around 1.50. The regression is strong with this one, methinks.