Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Power of Positioning

One of the things that I've complimented Frank Robinson and his coaching staff on is their fairly aggressive defensive positioning. Sometimes it's really subtle, and it's usually hard to see on TV. But, when it goes wrong, its effect isn't subtle at all. As was with the case with last night's 5-1 win over the 'first place' (Yeah, scare quotes) Padres.

In this case, though, the Nationals were the beneficiaries. The Padres were using old scouting reports on the Cristian Guzman who helped to sink our season, instead of the being that's currently inhabiting his body.

Since August 14, he's hitting .277/ .318/ .458

Yeah, amazing, I know. Read those numbers again. Scary! For comparison's sake, Jose Guillen, in that same time period, is hitting .264/ .344/ .436.

Cristian Guzman, cleanup hitter?

At any rate, this Guzman has been driving the ball. And the Padres got burned, as Dave Roberts was shaded around towards left-center, apparently not believing that Guzman could pull and drive Jake Peavy's fastball.

You can clearly see the positioning on his two hits: The go-ahead 2 RBI double, and the back-breaking RBI triple. As you watch the plays, note how far that Roberts runs.

Those 30 extra feet of running led to several extra runs. And at least one Padre-blogger isn't happy.

But last night, didn't create the win; it just made it easier. Majority Whip John Patterson was as dominant as I've seen him all season. Other than a first-inning homer to Ramon Hernandez on a two-seamer that was up, but not in a horrible location, Patterson cruised.

I've said it before, but the bellwether with him is his curveball. If it has that nasty bite to it, the hitters don't have a chance. His curve isn't a big lollypop curve like Barry Zito throws. It has a sharp, downward movement to it, almost like it was a lazily sliding slider. Time and time again, he got called strikes on it, as the hitters aren't quite sure what to do with it.

When Guzman's triple took the save situation away, Frank sent Patterson back out there to go for the CG. Not a bad decision, especially considering it took him just 108 pitches. That's a far cry from the Patterson earlier in the year who would find himself at 100 pitches in the sixth inning. He seems to have matured as a pitcher as the season goes on. The more we've needed him, the better he's done.

It's another night game as Operation: 87! rolls on. Hector Carrasco, and his merry band of bullpen mates gets the start against Pedro Astacio, who has turned his season around with the Padres. We're still looking at 6-2 in our next 8. Daunting, but that's better than the 7-2 it was just yesterday.

Let's Go Nats!


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