Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Game Day: Injured Pitcher Edition

Mike Hampton and John Patterson both come of the DL today to make starts. Hampton had a glorified muscle cramp in his arm. Patterson had a bad back, and later a reaction to the medication he received for it.

Hampton has pitched exceedingly well this year, and it's important to work the count against him. He'll walk batters if they give him the chance. (I'm not holding my breath with this team!)

Wife Beatin' Wil Cordero comes off the DL today too. Brendan Harris and Tyrell Godwin were the roster casualties.

We're back up to 12 pitchers, which is definitely one too many. Expect to see more Carlos Baerga critical at-bats.

If you're watching, Chat along with us at Yuda's. And, as always, ignore the first 400 posts!

More Les

WaPo's Baseball Insider Les Carpenter takes your insults and abuse in question format today at 1. Let's see if he knows anything other than where Seattle is.

Puppy Love

Tom Boswell writes today as if Frank Robinson were a puppy. Frank has spent the last two weeks (or longer) making doo-doo all over our carpet, chewing our shoes to shreds, and peeing on the couch.

Now, the little puppy is behaving, sitting there nicely -- doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing. It's time for his treat.

Boswell writes that the sheer force of his will and the intimate knowledge of the rules are the reason that Brian Jordans homer turned-strike was overturned.

Were I 80 years older, my retort would be, "Hogwash!"

Boswell is giving him credit for something that 90% of managers would do. All managers would go out and argue the close call. But, as Boswell observes, not all would go out calmly.

Boswell says that his calmness stems from him knowing how to deal with the umpires having worked in the league office. I suppose that's possible (although I remember him going all apeshit on an ump at least twice this season resulting in ejections).

But, isn't it more likely that he just didn't see the play, and didn't really have a basis for arguing? He even went out to speak to Marlon Byrd first to get his take on the ball.

All Frank did was ask for a second opinion. He didn't ask the umpires to reveal the secrets of everlasting life.

Asking for a second opinion on those kinds of plays is standard now. I know it's probably been hard for Boz to follow baseball for the last 30 years or so, but it's nothing new, and asking the umpires to conference isn't windmill tilting anymore.

Remember game 6 of the ALCS last year? Mark Bellhorn of the Red Sox hit a long fly ball to left off of Jon Lieber that smacked a fan in the front row in the hands before falling back to the field. Initially it wasn't ruled a home run. Terry Francona calmly asked for second opinions and the call was overturned. In that same game, the umpires conferenced and overturned the ARod/Arroyo ball-slapping play, too.

Yes, Frank deserves credit for standing up for his players and for being active and involved, while not going overboard. But, that's the guy's job. Give him a 'well done', but don't literarily fellate the guy in a 1,000-word column.

At least until he shares the secret of everlasting life.

No Way, Jose

Jose Guillen's unhappy. Jose Guillen's whining. Jose Guillen, if he get his way, is going to screw the team over.
He said he doesn't believe the distances -- 380 feet to the alleys and 410 to center -- are accurate.

"To me, it's farther than that," Guillen said. "I know. I've got power."

Guillen, who is signed for next year, said he will lobby club officials to move the fences in during the offseason.

"Trust me," Guillen said, "we're going to complain."

Yeah, great idea, Jose.

It's far from scientific, but doesn't it seem that our opponents have hit far more shots to the track than we have? Wouldn't it stand to reason that our team, with little power, wouldn't necessarily gain as much as our opponents would from moving the fences in?

The strength of this team has been its pitching, and the occasional liner into the gap. And, in all probability, the small gains this team would make offensively would be more than outweighed by the long fly balls our pitchers give up that would then go for homers.

Yeah, Jose would pad his stats, but at the expense of the team.

And, if I'm not mistaken, Jose just came off a long road trip. I don't seem to recall him hitting a barrage of home runs on the trip, do you? Try choking up and getting a hit with runners in scoring position for once, Jose. Then, we'll talk.

Am I the only one who's getting sick of these semi-daily 'Woe is Jose' stories? His 'I'm killing the team' shtick is grating. It drives me crazy, because superficially it seems like they're the words of a person taking responsibility and stepping up, but I don't read them like that.

To me (Armchair Pyschology Warning), and I'm influenced by his past and the persistency of his statements, they read as the self-centered statements of someone wanting to prove how important he is, and how he's the center of the Nats universe. And, it seems that he's implicitly throwing his other teammates under a bus.

He's definitely the player with the most potential, and his success is essential for the team's success, but he needs to shut the hell up and get a hit with runners on for once.

Step up and be a leader with your actions, Jose. Washington is a city that was full of hot air and rhetoric before you got here. We certainly don't need any more. Shut up and play.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Road Behind Us And Ahead

I had a nice weekend -- much better than that Nats did at least.

St. Louis, as expected, demonstrated what a winning team looks like.

In game 1, which we lost 6-3, Ryan Church gets the Lame Duck for his 0-4 performance. He struck out three times and left three men on base. That's not going to cut it, especially with the struggles this team has been going through.

Tony Armas had another ugly outing, lasting just 5 innings, and giving up 5 runs. Apparently he's taken the Claudio Vargas emeritus Pitching Slot. He's simply going to have to pitch better.

CJ Nitkoswski and Sunny Kim made their season debuts. One was effective. The other not. Kim looked solid, and made a case that he deserves the fifth starter slot. Nitkowski did what CJ has done his entire career -- fall behind batters, then get ripped when he comes in the zone. He didn't pitch well the weekend, and the less we see of him the better.

Game two was a typical Nationals game -- a decent outing by the starter, and completely impotent bats.

The Nats had one decent rally chance. In the 6th inning, the first three batters reached with three singles, which probably went a combined 75 feet. Nick Johnson walked, to draw the team within a run. With only one out, the pitcher on the ropes having walked the previous batter, Vinny Castilla swung at the first pitch into a gut-busting double play -- the definition of a Lame Duck Winner.

Game three had the same script as the second game. Yet, the Nationals hit the magical three-run barrier and eeked one out 3-2.

Livan was excellent, in winning his 8th game of the year, but Brad Wilkerson was the Majority Whip, ripping three doubles, scoring a run, and driving in two. At a time when the Nats offense needs someone to step up, he did. (At least for one game.)

We finished out the roadtrip on an upnote, but still had disappointing results overall (2-6). It should definitely make us appreciate how amazing the West Coast swing was at the beginning of the month.

Now, we're off on a long 13-game homestand. It starts out tough, but ends easier with Oakland and Seattle. 8-5 is ambitious, but achievable, especially because this offense just can't continue to be this putrid.

Today's game was a good first start, but it followed the same script -- just enough offense to win, and a little luck with an umpire's call (for once!).

Tomo Ohka pitched great, for once. He still walked too many people, but when you allow just three hits in seven innings, you can live with it. Ohka gets back into good graces with a Whip-winning performance.

Offensively, it was the Nick Johnson and Marlon Byrd. They each hit two doubles and combined to score and drive in two runs.

Ryan Church, for better or worse, seems to have found a permanent seat on the bench. (Church has had calf problems keeping him out of the game, but Frank didn't mind benching him when he's hitting well, so why put him back in when he had a bad game, right? right? Ugh.)

I'll be there tomorrow night. They owe me a few wins!

Now This Is Bad Offense

Since the final game of the series in San Francisco, we've played 21 games.

Runs Scored Times
0 1
1 3
2 2
3 9
4 2
5 2
9 1

53 runs in 21 games is 2.52/ game.

Amazingly, we went 9-12 in that stretch.

Maybe there is a silver lining to the giant funnel cloud that's swirling around our trailer park.

Taking Stock

I've always believed that you can't really assess your team until Memorial Day, roughly 1/3 of the way into the season. Until then, slumps and streaks, and unbalanced schedules play havoc with your efforts.

Well, we're there. And what do we know?

We're only three games out of first place!

But, we're only at .500, in 4th place, and only 1.5 out of last place.

Does this look like a contending team to you?

I'm not sure it does to me.

The offense has been putrid. We're now down to 14th in the league in runs scored, and we're closer to last, than we are to 13th.

The injury excuse can only take you so far. Yes, Jose Vidro's out (And will be to the All-Star break, at a minimum), but he's just one batter. And his being out for the last few weeks wouldn't make the difference in the 30 runs this team would need to get back to average.

You've seen the games. You know the two major reasons this team can't score runs: Poor clutch hitting, and Cristian Guzman.

With the team's lack of patience, it almost forces the Nats to get three consecutive singles to score a run. Rallies seemingly have to be more a function of luck and timing than anything. If the right batters aren't coming up, or they're not getting on like they should, we have next to zero chance of scoring in any given inning.

Part of that obviously lies on the bat of Cristian Guzman. At which point does a streak transcend flukiness and show an actual level of ability?

He's now 'hitting' .186/ .226/ .234. His .460 OPS would make him the 4th best-hitting pitching staff in the league. (For comparison's sake, Atlanta's pitchers are hitting .221/ .253/ .295)

A Leage Average shorstop is hitting .253/ .305/ .369, which is probably lowered significantly by the amount of consistent playing time he's received.

I always look at OBP as non-out percentage. If you turn it around, it means that Guzman is making an out 77.4% of the times he comes to the plate. Yeesh!

With our chain-style offense, it's simply impossible to mount that many rallies with a nearly automatic out, even at the bottom of the lineup.


Our pitching has been solid, but not quite spectacular. Vargas' and Day's efforts really drag down the overall numbers of the staff, but the starters have put up a 4.19 ERA, good for 10th in the league. Without the Vargas experiment, we'd probably be in the top 5.

Our relievers rank 8th in the league with a 4.22 ERA. They suffer the same problem with a few disasterous outings overshadowing what has been an excellent core: Cordero, Ayala, Majewski.

Pitching certainly has been the least of this team's problems.


Grit and Toughness and all those other positive character attributes we like to attribute to our teams (And believe me, ALL fans do it) can only carry you so far. You still need talent and performance.

And so far, this team's talent looks about where we'd expected it to be at the beginning of the season.

So, why does .500 feel so disappointing then? Especially when we all believed that .500 would be as high as they could achieve?

Baseball is a game of constantly shifting expectations. With a season so long, it's hard to remember the trends from a month or two ago. Instead, you tend to emphasize the recent past -- a past that's been pretty wretched for us.

Instead, it's sometimes important to focus on the larger picture.

Think back to the West Coast trip. We started off red-hot before dropping two close games to San Francisco. Although we had a bitter taste in our mouth, the road trip was an overwhelming success.

We need to look at this season the same way. Yes, it's possible with a better manager that we could have a few more wins than we do now, but does this really like a team that can win 90+ games and get into the playoffs? The pace we were playing earlier probably wasn't the true talent level of the team. It was just a streak.

Remember the old baseball truism, "You're never as good as you look on a winning streak, nor as bad as you look on a losing streak."

That's something to keep in mind -- even now after getting our collective sphincters returned to us in a pretty little box by St. Louis and Cinci.

So, look at the big picture. This is a .500 team.

And that's an 81-game improvement over last year.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Devil Is In The Details

What a busy day that was! But, the more I look at it, the less dramatic it seems.

Let's start with the old faces:

  • Jon Rauch has a torn labrum. That's an injury whose prognosis ranges from 'bad' to 'Oh, Sweet Jesus!'

    Absolute best case scenario, he's back in September. More than likely, we've seen the last of El Gigante for the year. Torn labrums aren't the death sentence they once were, but he'll have to do some adjusting once he gets back next spring.

  • John Patterson has been having back problems for a week or so. To make matters worse, it seems like he had some sort of reaction to the treatment, killing any chance he had of making the start last night. It doesn't seem too serious for the guy who's probably our third-best starter.

  • TJ Tucker is back, after having strained his groin on our mound from hell. He can pick up where he left off: 6th and 7th inning middle relief; and a pace for 110 games pitched. He'll have some catching up to do!

  • Puberty Boy, Zach Day was optioned to New Orleans. With his off-the-field problems, and Frank's less-than complimentary role as mentor, this is probably the best thing for him.

    He'll get to clear his head out without the constant pressure. He'll get steady innings, instead of the infrequent mopup duty. And he'll get to dominate some hitters for once.

    I'm pulling for him. He deserves better.

  • Claudio Vargas was designated for assignment. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Obviously I don't want the guy starting. And I'm not sure I even want the guy relieving.

    Being DFA'd means the team frees up his roster spot while he's in a state of limbo. The team can trade him, or let him go via waivers. If he clears waivers, he can continue to play for the team in the minors.

    In this case, though, they're giving up on him completely. If they had wanted to send him to the minors, he still has option years. They could send him down with zero risk of losing him. Doing it this way means they're either releasing him, or trading him.

    The only other possible reason that they would do it this way is to clear a spot off the 40-man roster. But, why do it in a way to risk losing a player?

    This is a franchise that lacks upper-level talent. There are some fringe prospects in the low minors *coughDESMONDcough*, but there really aren't any players who will have starring roles in the next two to three years (other than Mike Hinckley and possibly Bill Bray or Clint Everts).

    Vargas isn't likely to be a star, but the kid is still just 27 years old. There's still an outside chance he could put it together. Two years ago he gave the team 114 innings of ERA that was 15% better than average.

    Yes, he's stunk this year, but he's also coming back from an injury. Anyone who's watched him has noticed he's thrown mostly fastballs. The few breaking pitches he's lobbed up there had little on them, and they rarely went for strikes.

    The guys' coming off elbow trouble fer crissake! I'm no Will Carroll, but even I know that a healthy elbow is requirement #1 for throwing good breaking stuff. You simply can't get the right torque on the pitch if you're worried about your elbow.

    And, there's no way he would've put up those stats in the majors and minors in past years if his breaking pitches were as piss poor as they were this year.

    It's pretty clear he's not completly healthy.

    So, rather than sending him to the minors to work through his problems, or to rest him, they're just dumping him.

    This is not a franchise that can afford to lose ANY type of 'prospect' no matter how marginal -- especially when that player has already demonstrated an ability to perform in the majors.

    I'll bet dollars to donuts that I, Claudio doesn't make it through waivers.

And now, the new faces.

  • Tyrell Godwin gets the call-up from New Orleans, filling the I.E. Chavez Memorial Roster Slot. He's a speedy outfielder who's only chance at the majors is via his legs.

    His numbers in AAA look decent, but they are very batting average heavy. That doesn't bode well for his chances for success right now. But, he's probably also only up here until Patterson comes back, too.

    Nationals Inquirer has a look at him.

  • Sunny Kim has been up and down the last few years. While he hasn't lived up to his potential he showed early in the minors, he can be a useful 4/5 starter.

    He was New Orleans' best pitcher. He has a 2.76 ERA in a team-leading 49 innings. He's also shown a fairly impressive 38/15 K/BB ratio.

    The question, as always, is what is his role here? I'm assuming he'll get a starting nod, especially with Tucker filling out the pen. He can slide into the spot vacated by Vargas, leaving Ohka to take Patterson's spot.

    He doesn't have the endurance to give us 8 innings, but anything's better than the 1.2 innings of batting practive Vargas was serving.

  • CJ Nitkowski was signed, and makes the team. He's here only because he's left-handed. That he's never been good or effective makes no difference.

    Well, I suppose there's another reason up here. And that's because Jim Bowden doesn't understand the concept of a small sample size.

    Seige was pitching for Pittsburgh's AAA affiliate, and put up some excellent numbers.

    In 21.2 innings, he has a miniscule 0.83 ERA and has allowed just 6 hits.

    (Less promising are the three unearned runs he's allowed and the 9 walks)

    But, they're certainly impressive numbers. That's hard to argue with.

    However, do they represent his true level of ability?

    Under-Siege is now 32 years old. He's pitched in parts of 9 different seasons, accumulating 475 innings. His ERA? 5.35, which is 13% below average.

    In the last two years, it's been 5.73 and 7.45.

    Yeah, I'll admit that ERA is certainly not the most effective way of evaluating relievers.

    So, how about we look at how he does against lefties. As the team's lone lefty pitcher, he'll be the one called upon in clutch situations, needing to get Carlos Delgado out with runners on second and third.

    Over the last three years (That's all I could find), lefties have hit .305/ .380/ .381 off of him. That's certainly not Orroscoesque!

    What worries me about this signing is frankly, Frank.

    Bowden is giving him another toy, which he'll misuse. Nitkowski really should be one of the last options out of the bullpen. But, Frank is going to see the shiny new wrapper, rip it open, and start playing with it. He can't resist. Expect Nitkowski to be pitching some fairly high-leverage innings pretty soon.

    By the time Frank realizes that he's not playing with a toy, but a loaded weapon, it may be too late.

The team did need some sort of shakeup. There were players on the roster who weren't performing, and players Frank wasn't willing to use. With injured players coming, and injured players going, it certainly looks more dramatic than it really was.

We'll see if any of this makes a meaningful impact upon the team. I'm not holding my breath. But, it's important that we don't attribute too much success or too much failure to these moves. If we beat the Cards, it's probably not because of these transactions. Something else will have probably caused that effect.

In the meantime, let's hope Frank forgets the bunt sign.

The Dam Bursts

We're in a tailspin, and all hell breaks loose. Can't you imagine the way Jim Bowden's eyes would light up after making this many transactions in one day?

-- Jon Rauch to the 15-day DL with a torn labrum -- that's not good!
-- John Patterson to the 15-day DL retro to 5/16 with back spasms -- hopefully it's nothing chronic
-- Claudio Vargas designated for assigment -- WTF? Why not just option him?
-- Zach Day optioned to AAA
-- TJ Tucker activated from the DL
-- Tyrell Godwin called up from the minors
-- Sunny Kim called up from the minors
-- CJ Nitkowski signed as FA (after Pitt released him)
-- Terrmel Sledge shifted to the 60-day DL -- just a roster-space formality

I'll have more later, but the Nitkowski signing isn't a good one -- just a panic move. Vargas being DFAd is just crazy. And good for Godwin and Kim -- their solid AAA performances are being rewarded.

Oh, and for all your one-stop CJ news, check out his website. (And for you Godless communist readers, feel free to mock him.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Mild Spanking

In this afternoon's chat, Barry Svrluga indicated he was going to start questioning Frank about his more unusual decisions. While decorum and space considerations don't allow him to rip him for as many column inches as me and my fellow Nats bloggers, it's good to finally see some of these criticisms in print.

Wednesday, though, provided the latest in a string of curious moves from Robinson. Over the past four days, he has pinch hit reliever Gary Majewski in the 10th inning of Tuesday night's loss, even with hitter Tony Blanco on the bench; started left-handed hitting catcher Brian Schneider in the last two games against left-handers and right-handed hitting Gary Bennett in the last two games against right-handers; and given left-handed-hitting Ryan Church his first start against a lefty all year Tuesday, only to pull him after he struck out in his first two at-bats.

Wednesday, Brad Wilkerson led off the game with a double, an opportunity for the slow-starting Nationals to score early runs. With the count 1-1, second baseman Jamey Carroll followed by calmly bunting Wilkerson to third.

"I think we're just trying to get a run there," Carroll said. "Anything to start something."

Even with Vargas on the mound, it sent a clear signal that the Nationals have almost no confidence in their stumbling offense.

"Hell, a single run would look pretty good," Robinson said. "The lack of scoring? The way we've been going? A single run would look pretty good in that inning."

The Nationals, though, didn't get even the single run. With runners on first and third, Guillen, who finished the day with a pair of solo home runs and a double, struck out, and Church bounced to second. No big inning. Not even a small inning.

Interestingly, Frank has decided to deflect some of the blame.
"When we're going good, it's not the manager; it's the players," he said. "And when you're going bad, it's not the manager; it's the players. All I can do is make out a lineup, and hopefully go out and perform. We're not performing, right now, at any level."...

"We've had a great ride for a month and a half," Robinson said. "Everything was great, and everybody was enjoying it. And now, we've got to suck it up and not feel sorry for ourselves and point fingers."

Again, compare this with the succesful managers we've seen. I've followed Joe Torre the closest, and he's certainly more than willing to step forward and accept blame (whether deserved or not) when he thinks he might've done something better.

Does this mean Frank doesn't think he's done anything wrong?

Don't his answers seem a bit defensive to you? Apparently he's realized he can't always just laugh it off as coming from his gut. Can't you picture (armchair psychology warning) him bristling at the thought of a youngin' questioning him? He certainly comes across as surly sometimes.

He's right in that it's not necessarily appropriate to be pointing fingers, just because things stink now.

But, Frank needs to know another cliche might apply in this situation. He simply needs to look in the mirror.

Just Plain Offensive

It's been a while since we've strolled through the stats. The team's in a tailspin, and the stats have taken a hit. It's not quite chicken and egg, because one certainly DID come first in this case.

With 10 games to come against the elite teams of this league, things probably won't be prettier anytime soon. But, always keep in mind... you're never as good as you look when you're winning; and you're never as bad as you look when you're losing. (Except for the Rockies. They really do suck)

As always, places out of 16 teams.

Runs Scored: 190 (13th)
Ave: .263 (6th)
OBP: .328 (12th)
SLG: .405 (12th)

Again, we see how useless batting average alone is in ranking teams. And, again, we see that our team just doesn't get runners on base. Also, with the loss of Vidro and Guillen's and Johnson's injuries, our slugging has regressed.

Whereas the last time we looked, we had an inefficient offense that wasn't producing as many runs as our OBP and SLG would indicate, it appears we're now in line. Our luck has evened out.

Homers: 38 (13th)
Doubles: 89 (5th)
Triples: 11 (4th)
Total Bases: 643 (4th)
Isolated Power: .139 (13th) [That's the portion of Slugging Percentage NOT attributal to singles. Since ours is so low, it indicates most of our 'slugging' is empty -- just a bunch of singles]

We continue to get doubles and triples, but our current rank has more to do with the torrid pace we set early in the season that it does our current production.

We're clearly not a homerun hitting team, although our home park masks some of that.

Further evidence? We're second worst in AB/HR: 41.8

Walks: 131 (11th)
BB/PA: .078 (13th)
Strikeouts: 285 (6th)
BB/K: .46 (11th)
GIDP: 39 (2nd)
P/PA: 3.58 (15th)
We don't walk, but we strikeout, and we don't see many pitches. When we do manage to put the ball in play, they usually turn two.

Even the small ball fetishists should be disappointed.

Stolen Base %: 52 (16th)
Sac Bunts: 25 (2nd)

I'm not sure which of those numbers is most distressing.

Just for mierda and chuckles, our number two batters:
.237/ .320/ .316 on the season. That ranks us 14th in OPS.

And for even more fun, here are two lines. Which one is the collective line of our pitchers, and which one is from our shortstops?

A: .184/ .192/ .235
B: .181/ .221/ .228

No fair peeking!

BA's Draft Update

No, not that BA. THIS BA.

Signs still point to Ryan Zimmerman. But, Bryan makes a convincing argument that our sights should maybe turn elsewhere.
While I certainly understand the logic behind taking Zimmerman, I just disagree with the selection. The club has no intentions to move Ryan to short, where power concerns will be deemed less important. Even with wilkerson and Nick JOhnson, this is not an organization that profiles to slug in the future, and wasting a corner spot on a defensive specialist is not a good idea.

As they say, read the rest.

And It Burns, Burns, Burns...

Gee, that bunt worked out well, didn't it?

Frank managed to wrap his aged and arthritic fingers around the team's throats. Once again, he stifles them, preventing any possibility of the big breakout inning they so desparately need.

Wilkerson leads off the game with a double. Carroll sacrifices him to second. Guillen strikes out. End of threat.

Bunting him from second to third is a senseless play. It only gives you one chance to make the play -- that next batter has to hit the Sac Fly or a grounder. Striking out or popping up means there was no resulting advantage to bunting.

Throw in the fact that this is a team facing what is in essence the Reds' 14th starter. Add in the knowledge that this is a that desparately needs a big inning. And remember that Claudio Vargas (Spanish for torch?) is on the mound, and one run isn't going to cut it. All together, it's ugly strategy.

Vargas stunk. Again. As St. Barry said in his chat, he thinks there was a barge that went by on the River... hopefully connecting to the Mississippi, bringing him right to New Orleans. Claudio, you stink. And, for the third straight start, you're the Lame Duck.

We should be the ones celebrating today--having won a series from the Reds. Instead, our tail is jammed so far between our legs, it's going to be difficult to egest.

We move on to St. Louis, and get to see what the best team in the League looks like. Notice how when their hitters put the ball in play, they're sometimes able to go past first base. Notice how when there are runners on second and third, how they get hits to drive the runners in. And notice how sometimes their batters stand at the plate, waiting for pitches to miss before walking down to first base. Those are all things lacking on this team today.

We're about to get exposed.

One win in St. Louis will be a moral victory. Just one.

But, that's going to require some good pitching. And some timely hitting.

It's been ages since we've seen that.

St. Barry's Sermon

He's preaching from the game during his weekly chat. Expect a short chat, with half-written half-formed answers.

But, please pepper him with questions about Frank's competency and lucidity.

Game Day: Cheese Coney Edition

The Reds go for the sweep.

It's Claudio Vargas (oy) against Matt Belisle (isn't he dead?)

First pitch is imminent.

Come chat away as you struggle to get the reception on your walkman.

Frank Senior Moments: Part XXXVII

Last night was full of the madcap hijinks we've come to expect when Frank Robinson is awake on the bench.

Combine Tony LaRussa's penchant for overmanaging and asserting himself in the game, with a BPGer's knowledge of strategy, and a healthy dose of quaaludes, and you'll get decisions like those in yesterday's game.

Bottom 8 and down 1, Schneider leads off (against a lefty) and singles. Livan Hernandez hits for himself and bunts situation. Frank pinch runs for Schneider with his other catcher, Gary Bennett.

I really don't even know what to make of that. You could quibble with each of those decisions. That they didn't produce a run adds ammo, but, even if they had, do any of those make sense to you?

When was the last time you saw a team pinch run for a catcher with another catcher?

When was the last time you saw a starter hit for himself while trailing in the 8th inning of a game?

Why, when Frank seems so obsessed with strict platooning, did he let Schneider hit for himself?

It all goes back to the consistency of his decisions. Why is he making these calls?

Maybe there's a legitimate reason? But, laughing it off, and attributing it to one's gut isn't acceptable.

Later in extra innings, he let Gary Majewski 'pinch hit' for the pitcher to lead off an inning.

He did this with Tony Blanco sitting on the bench.

I don't know how you could PH a relief pitcher when there's a bat still sitting on the bench, but hey, I didn't play in the majors. What do I know?

Maybe there's a reason for it. I'm sure Frank's got one. What is it though?

Frank needs to start giving us answers. Not lukewarm platitudes.

And our beloved beat writers need to start asking those tough questions, instead of letting these things slide.

I know we don't have the same cannibalistic attitude they do in NY or Boston. But, at a certain point, tough questions have to be asked. And answers need to be given.

Right now, they're not.

Two For Tuesday

Coming into this series, I figured we'd have a legitimate chance of sweeping this series. The Reds were reeling; we had Loaiza and Livan going; The Reds stink. Everything looked favorable.

Instead, the Reds are on the verge of sweeping the Nats, intensifying our imminent tailspin, which will only get worse with nothing but Cards, Braves and Marlins on the schedule for the next two weeks.

The game began with an ex-Yankee prospect on the mound, and it ended with an ex-Yankee prospect knocking the winning run in.

The Nationals left 17 baserunners on, and their slugging average continues to plummet. This team just doesn't have any power right now. Four spots have no power at all: second, short, catcher, pitcher.

That'd be fine if the traditional power spots were slugging, but Nick Johnson's more of a Mark Grace hitter; Jose Guillen is injured; and Vinny Castilla, who has hit well, is not really a middle-of-the-order slugger anymore.

The team just doesn't get that one big hit.

Essentially, this is a singles-hitting offense. When you combine that with a dearth of plate patience (ie walks) and no power, it's going to create those types of maddening innings.

Essentially, the team needs three hits in an inning to score a run -- they're not going to walk to get on base, and they're rarely going to drive someone in with a double or a homer.

And, when you throw in the two nearly automatic outs of Guzman and the pitcher into the equation, the Nationals need the right batters to come up in the right sequence, with luck on their side, to come away with a run.

When the lineup and hits are out of synch, such as they were last night, it's going to get ugly. And stay ugly.

Since we need someone to blame, how about Cristian Guzman? He was 0-4, and left four men on base. I'm sure there won't be too many complaints.

And, since I forgot to award a Lame Duck for Monday's loss, let's make it a twofer. Jose Guillen probably deserved that one, but it's hard to argue with Guzman's 'results.'

Hopefully, he won't make it three in three games this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Consistently Inconsistent

Sez Frank:
"Everybody is trying to win today, and this year," Robinson said. "Too much emphasis is put on winning. You have to teach and develop, even at this level. If you have the talent, you're going to win your share of ball games. That's why you have to stick with a guy like Vargas. You can't give him just one or two starts and then pull him out because then the guy is in a bad mental state. The next time he's out there, he gives up one or two quick runs, and he's looking over his shoulder and wondering when he's going to be taken out of the ballgame."

Frank can't do that like he did with Zach Day?

He can't do that like he did with Tomo Ohka?

He can't do that like the way he's buried Jon Rauch after 'losing' a few games?

He can't do that the way he buried Ryan Church to the bench, even after some great games?

He can't do that the way he had benched Terrmel Sledge early in the season?

But, he can stretch a starter who obviously doesn't have it, and who should rightfully be in the bullpen -- if in the majors at all?

That makes perfect sense, right?

Even a gut full of cheap vodka and funky-smelling clams doesn't produce anything as foul as Frank's logic.

UPDATE: MLB.Com Cheap Shot -- from the same article, "Third baseman Vinny Castilla was replaced in the third inning Sunday by Henry Blanco because of soreness in his left knee."

I've probably made the same mistake, but I just find it funny when the pros, especially someone who's working as a de facto PR arm makes that kind of mistake.

Gut Bomb

Were I still a young, idealistic student, instead of a jaded bitter old man, I'd have easy access to Lexis Nexis, so I could see how many times the Washington newspapers have used the insipid phrase "Manages by his gut," to describe Frank Robinson's management style. Instead, I'll make it up and say it was eleventy-billion times.

Regardless, last night's game exposed it for the over-written cliche it is. What exactly does it mean? Until last night's game, I was entertaining the offer that it meant he was using his thousands of games of experience to make informed hunches based on what he's seen with his aging eyes.

When he famously boasted about not using computers, I mounted a casual defense of him, saying that it's possible that the long catalog of game experiences he's had serve as a sort of database in his mind.

Well, I was wrong.

The man's a doddering idiot.

Alright, that's a bit harsh. He hasn't napped in the dugout yet. And as far as I know, he hasn't started drooling.

But, when the best thing you can say about a manager is that he was a hall-of-fame player, then you've got a problem.

To recap, there are two broad categories of things a manager needs to excel at: in-game decisions, and off-the-field issues.

A manager can succeed without mastering both, if he excels in one area or the other.

But, a manager can't be a failure at both.

And, the evidence is pointing that Frank can't handle both aspects of the job.

As OMG! so greatly points out (seriously, read their entire post), Frank doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to the decisions he makes, and the rewards he offers.

Then, there's the matter of him running down players in the papers. Most managers try to play the role of diplomat, preferring to keep their dirty laundry in-house. Instead, Frank's like the senile old grandmother who says whatever is on her mind, implications be damned -- "You've gotten fat!"

We put up with Grandma because she's family. (And we want her money when she kicks the bucket.) But, we don't have to put up with Frank.

Throughout the year, Zach Day, Endy Chavez and Tomo Ohka, to name a few, have felt his wrath, being blasted or insulted in the papers.

I guess that's just his way of doing things. But, think about the successful managers you see. Don't they stick up for their players? Aren't they loyal, often to a fault?

Maybe a successful manager doesn't need to be a friend to everyone, but the players have to know that they won't be thrown under a bus the first time their performance heads south.

And then, there's the in-game stuff.

First, the stuff he does well.

For the most part, he handles the pitching well. The bullpen has pitched amazingly. And the starters have pretty much been solid.

He, with a few notable exceptions, has shown a willingness to give a starter a quick hook, if he thinks the game's on the line.

But, then there's the bad.

We've been through his reluctance to double switch -- even in situations where it's blindingly obvious. As a result, he's sent relievers to hit far too many times -- in situations where a simple DS could have prevented it.

But, the most maddening thing has been his allocation of playing time. There's no rhyme, and little reason to it. It came to a head in last night's game.

At the very end of Spring Training, Ryan Church was named the team's centerfielder. Unfortunately for him, he tweaked his groin, and was held out for the first week or so. And then Frank never gave him a chance, completely forgetting what he had decided the previous week. Frank played Terrmel Sledge and the excruciatingly bad JJ Davis in a pretty strict platoon.

Once Davis was released and Sledge went down with an injury, it was Church's time to shine. He battered pitching on the road trip and won two consecutive games for the Nationals -- and then was strangely benched for an entire marathon extra-innings game.

Two nights ago, Church had another four-hit game. Even though the Nationals are facing a lefty, Church HAS to be in the lineup, especially the way this team has been scuffling. And with the injury to Wilkerson, no one needed to be benched. Eric Milton isn't even a particularly tough lefty. Last year, lefties knocked him around to a line of .252/ .338/ .521.

Instead, we get Tony Blanco hobbling around left field, putting up another 0-fer. I can understand the need to get Blanco some playing time, but with Vidro out, Guillen being injured to the point of uselessness, and Cristian Guzman existing, this team needs every ounce of offense it can get.

Even giving Frank the benefit of the doubt, what happened in the 9th inning was inexcusable. Down by two runs, he sent up backup catcher Gary Bennett to PH for the pitcher, leaving Church on the bench. Against a righty. Unless Church's piles were acting up, there's no reason for that.

On top of being bad strategy, Frank has refused to PH for Brian Schneider against some tough lefties late in games because of the whole 'saving your backup catcher' crap. And earlier in the year, his inability to use Jamie Carroll, the lone backup infielder, was infuriating. No Rhyme. No Reason. No Consistency.

Think about the games you've watched. I'm sure you can come up with two handfulls of situations where Frank didn't use his roster properly, or didn't do things to help the Nats win.

Yes, this team is playing better than we expected, but that isn't necessarily Frank's doing. And, as we're seeing, Frank has actually made a few decisions that have held this team back from having even more wins.

"Managing by his gut" is an empty phrase. It means nothing. It's just a weasley phrase that enables him to deflect criticism in a "Awww, Shucks!" way after the game.

It's time we start holding him accountable. Why does he make the decisions he does? What led him to pinch hit with Bennett? Why did he leave Loaiza in too long? There have to be reasons for these seemingly rational decisions.

These decisions are affecting the bottom line: wins and losses.

And the tired stock phrase won't cut it anymore.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Game Day: Uncle Milty Edition

This Milty won't be donning a dress, we hope, but he still apparantly throws like a girl. It's Esteban Loaiza versus Eric Milton.

As always, Yuda gets the assist.

And, as always, ignore the first 450 comments or so. :)

Crist's Burden

$16.8 million is certainly a lot of money. It's more than I will probably ever see in my lifetime, and it's certainly more than I would probably know what to do with. (I could learn though!)

It's certainly a lot of money from a kid from the Domincan Republic.

And it's most certainly a lot of money for a shortstop who's hitting .197. It's a lot of money for a shortstop who's on-base percentage is .237. And it's a damn lot of money for a shortstop who's 'slugging' .252.

Unfortunately, it's also a lot of money for the Washington Nationals, even in their current incarnation as the love child of Bud Selig and Major League Baseball.

If the Nationals had the bottomless pockets of the Yankees, they'd make the problem go away -- Whether it's paying the player to play for another team (like they did with Kenny Rogers), making him disappear completely (like they did with Andy Morales), or paying him to just go away (like they did with Chuck Knoblauch and his phantom contract extension).

But, the Nationals aren't yet in that position. They can't cut their losses.

For better or worse (Well, actually it's pretty clearly worse), we're stuck with Cristian Guzman.

Well, what can be done to mitigate the damage he's doing going forward?

There ARE options.

D'Angelo Jimenez, for example, was just designated for assignment by the team we're about to visit, the Cincinnati Reds. Jimenez doesn't come with a spotless record -- he's rumored to be a problem in the clubhouse, and he's not cheap, making almost $3MM. But, especially with the injuries we've had, and the length of time it appears Vidro's going to be out, we might have to make that kind of gamble. If he plays second, Carroll could slide over to short.

Rick Short says hello.

The sad thing is, it really doesn't matter who you plug in there. If he can field competently, he's almost certain to be an offensive upgrade.

What would you do with Guzman, though?

You could eat his salary and trade him somewhere. The problem is, even then, the trade market for him will be virtually non-existent. Even us rank amateurs can look at his swing and say that the lurching step, with a strange little slappy hitch is ugly. Imagine what the scouts' reports on it must be. You can probably count the number of hard-hit balls he's had this year without even having to remove your socks.

You could bench him. That would probably be a recipe for disaster. He's never been known as the happiest, friendliest player. You certainly don't want someone sullen on the bench, and I suspect he would start griping -- think about his petty 'no comments' when going through the first batting slump at the beginning of the year.

But, and here's where the largest problem lies, even if you could find a solution to make him someone else's problem, the wacky front-office situation would be a large impediment.

Jim Bowden is angling to get back in the game permanently. Although we can, and have, quibbled with some of his moves, he certainly deserves credit for helping to put a quality team on the field that's greatly surpassing expectations.

But, it is not in his best interest to do anything with Guzman.

To do so would be to admit a $16.8 million mistake -- a bullet that definitely wouldn't go atop his resume.

And therein is the problem. Guzman and Bowden are linked at the hip. If Cristian's contract were for less money or for fewer years, they might be able to disappear him. But, there are 3.5 years still remaining, and $13 million or so. Bowden, for the sake of his future, cannot admit that his largest (in terms of dollars) offseason acquisition is a spectacular failure.

So, for now, we're stuck with Guzman. Bowden has to wear that sub-Medozian batting line like a heavy chain around his neck, linked with a contract the team can't shake.

As much as we want things to change, and as many potential options there might be, we're stuck. It isn't fair. And it doesn't help the team win on the field.

But, sometimes off the field junk trumps all.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Jeff Hammonds' Corpse to the DL
Brendan Harris to the Nats!!!

Harris is the 3B of the future. He can play second, but the team doesn't really like him there. Ideally, he'd play there for the time being and Carroll would move to SS. But I don't suspect that'll happen.

Besides, I'll have a post on that tomorrow....

At least I can sleep in peace tonight!

The Lost Weekend

That went swimmingly, didn't it? For the first time since the beginning of April, I didn't catch any baseball -- other than a combined five minutes on the car radio, where I learn that the entertaining Charlie Slowes STILL refuses to give the freakin' score. Charlie, if you're reading this (HA!), it wouldn't hurt to let the people listening know what's actually happening, ya know?

Friday night, I was at dinner with the prospective parents-in-law. I could've stayed home and watched I, Claudio (Thanks, DS) give up a veritable orgy of baserunners. Unlike most Claudian orgies, I don't believe there was any sodomy involved, but, like I said, I didn't really watch the game.

Regardless, I, Claudio, is the Lame Duck.

Saturday afternoon, I went to the movies (Good Stuff!) and tracked a skink (Not at the same location). But, before I left, I had posted a comment at Yuda's to the effect of, "We've made crappy pitchers look like Cy Young winners. What are we going to do when we face a real Cy Young winner?"

Well, Roy Halliday did his best Helen Thomas impersonation, further weakening our already impotent bats.

Hmm... we need a scapegoat for the Lame Duck. Tony Armas helped improve Toronto's batting numbers, but Vinny Castilla took an 0-4, and left four men on, with a GIDP. Works for me.

Sunday afternoon, I spent traipsing through the woods. I didn't pet any skinks, but I did see a few. Apparently the Nats won. Ryan Church , AKA Patches, went 4-5. That's good stuff! And, probably Whip-worthy.

Apparently Brad Wilkerson has a strained forearm, and Vinny Castilla had some sort of knee problem, which required him to be pulled early. Great! This sort of reminds me of the Washington Capitals. They were notorious for leading the league in man-games missed. I'm starting to wonder if it might just be something in the water.

Given DC's spotty history, it certainly could be something in the water.

Road Trip Goal:

Road Trip Record:

It's time to done our finest hosiery and go all J. Edgar over those sorry-ass Reds.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Just Can't Wait To Get On That Road Again

Having met their (well, my actually) homestand goal, our intrepid team flies off for another road trip. Nine games, and three cities. The wins better come early, because we're in St. Louis at the end, where we'll be lucky to take one game.

We start out in Toronto, where the Blue Jays are playing better than most expected. They're not quite world beaters, but they're definitely an average team.

Tonight, it's Claudio Vargas versus Ted Lilly. They're followed by Tony Armas versus Roy Halliday, and John Patterson versus Josh Towers. The only day where we have a clear pitching advantage is Sunday. And even then, Patterson's been reporting a sore back, and has been just ok over his last few starts.

After that series, the Nats ship off to Cincinnati, home of Skyline Chili, the Underground Railroad Museum, and Zach Day (Listed in decreasing order of quality). The Reds are an interesting offensive team, but their pitching would stink underwater. It looks like we'll get the Gopher, Eric Milton, Paul Wilson (The only player in ML history to give up 8 runs in the first inning without getting an out twice in his career) and Aaron Harang, who has actually pitched ok this year. Regardless of who we send up there (presumably Loaiza, Livan, Vargas), I like our chances.

After that, we'll meet them in St. Louis. There, we'll get violated by a smiling red bird. (Armas, Patterson, Loaiza?)

Despite the easy first part, I think we take a step back on this roadtrip. 4-5 sounds about right.

That's probably not enough to come home on Memorial Day still in first place, but we'll be close as we start a home series with them, in the first of a thirteen game (!) homestand.

What about you? Are you more optimistic than me?

Blame Canada!

Today, we renew our naturally rivalry with the dreaded Toronto Blue Jays.

"Natural Rivals" you say? "Yes" says I!

Some would argue that this schedule was made up prior to Les Expos moving. Others might see a Angelosian conspiracy.

But, screw them. I think this is about as natural rivalry as there is. It's good versus evil.

The capital of freedom, democracy, liberty, apple pie versus the capital of a country full of beaver-pelt wearing socialists. Eh, indeed!

Canada's one giant blue state. America's a red-state country, except for those pussified chai-sipping yuppies on the coast. Even worse, they're wannabe Americans! Something like 95% of those hosiers live within 75 yards of the American border. Pat Buchanan may still be railing about a fence on the Mexican border, but I think one on the nothern border is more important!

Some of those weasels even speak French!

They pretend to be enlightened, yet they have strict immigration requirements, instead of letting illegals flow across the border without impunity. (Of course, that's all working under the assumption that anyone would want to go to a country that's primarily permafrost)

Our system of government is vastly superior too. (And to show how wacky they are, they'd spell that 'superiour'!)

We've got three branches, led by a Congress.

They've got a parliament! A freakin' parliament! (Note: I'm not talking about the cheap brand of cigarettes)

Not only that, but they're run by a Prime Minister (Seen here). It sounds like some sort of robotic theocracy they're running there. We better keep our eye on them, lest the continent be turned into a festering pile of grey goo.

Even worse, they're at the center of a number of high-powered international disputes. Sez the CIA factbook:
managed maritime boundary disputes with the US at Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and around the disputed Machias Seal Island and North Rock; working toward greater cooperation with US in monitoring people and commodities crossing the border; uncontested sovereignty dispute with Denmark over Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Ellesmere Island and Greenland

But, it gets worse. They're polluting our children too!
illicit producer of cannabis for the domestic drug market and export to US; use of hydroponics technology permits growers to plant large quantities of high-quality marijuana indoors; transit point for heroin and cocaine entering the US market; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering because of its mature financial services sector

Remember, this country also pollutes our radio waves with crap like Nelly Furtado, Celine Dion, KD Lang, Rush, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Anka!

Add in no-talent assclowns like Raymond Burr, Billy Shatner, Brendan Frasier, Christopher Plummer, Michael J Fox, and it's clear this is a country that must be stopped.

Toronto IS our natural rival, no matter what anyone says. It truly is good versus evil. Democracy versus socialism. Apple pie versus moose sausage. Krispy Kreme versus Tim Hortons. Tim McCarver versus Don Cherry. (Wait, scratch that)

Go forth, young Nationals! Do this country proud.

Boz Speaks!

Tom Boswell's chatting at 11.

His chats are fun, because you don't ever know what version of Boz you're going to get. Cranky Boz? Super-Fan Boz? Nick-Nolte Boz?

You just never know! So, sit down, type out some hackneyed questions, and hope Boz didn't take his medication! A good time will be had by all.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better

With the way the two managers managed, it's a miracle either team won. Small ball. Pointless intentional walks. Stupefyingly dumb intentional walks.

You get the picture.

The WTF Frank Senior Moment is a no-doubter. That's for sure.

Bottom of the fifth, Nats have a 1-run lead. Brian Schneider doubles to centerfield, bringing up Cristian Guzman, followed by Livan. BUNT!?!?!?!?

When Guzman showed bunt and pulled it back for a ball, I just assumed he was bluffing. He wasn't. That wasn't even the stupid call.

Even after he had two strikes on him, he still bunted. This time it went foul, for a strikeout.

You've got a guy who's a groundball machine, hitting left-handed, where he'd presumably hit a ball to the right side, and you're still bunting?!?!

I had my scorebook with me. It reads: "K(6) BUNT?!?!?!"

Even ignoring the stupidity of bunting a runner over for the pitcher (who's a good hitter for a pitcher, but man!), bunting in that situation is dumb. Bunting with two strikes is borderline treasonous. It's been a while since I've taken a poli sci class, but I think all you need is for two witnesses to stand in open court. I'll be one. Will anyone else in attendance stand with me? We'll schedule the beheading for Memorial Day, alright?

I felt bad for poor Jamey Carroll. He didn't get one opportunity to bunt today. In fact, he looked quite stunned in the first when he was up there with no one on. He just watched the first two strikes go by, before realizing he could swing away. Carroll, sans bunt, had one of his best offensive games -- two hits, an RBI, and a run scored. I'm sure Frank won't care about the hits, and will just return him to autobunt mode soon anyway.

I thought about debuting the WTF Ned Yost Brat-With-Kraut Move Of The Game, but decided against it. Regardless, he intentionally walked two batters. The first was reasonably defensible -- pitching around Brad Wilkerson to get to Jamey Carroll. Carroll came through, though.

The second was also borderline treasonous. I'm not sure how the laws work up in Wisconsin (wherever that is) though. He intentionally walked Cristian Guzman to get to the pitcher's spot. Not only that, but it was a situation where the pitcher was obviously going to be hit for. I can't explain it. I don't even want to try to explain it.

Frank brought up Carlos Baerga. Why not Silk Byrd? Because Milwaukee had a righty ready in the bullpen. Had it been Byrd, I can imagine Milwaukee would've definitely brought the fresh arm in.

UPDATE: As is per his wont, Distinguished Senators has a much more entertaining look at the same issue. If you want humor go to him, if you want dry mechanical prose, stick with me!


The Majority Whip was an easy call too. While I'm not a brown-shirt-wearing facist like some other undemocratic websites, Carroll was overshadowed by the Senor Statesman, Vinny Castilla. He did it with the bat: an RBI Double. He did it with the glove: a few nifty plays, including an excellent pick off a tough hop while he was playing in to start the key DP in the 8th inning. He did it with his aged feet: Scoring the eventual winning run from third on a passed ball.


As I was watching Livan, I noticed he wasn't pushing off his back leg at all. Presumably, his knee is still bothering him. He's a pitcher who doesn't rely on power so much as tossing up various types of slap at random angles. If he can get through it, it might not be as bad as it would be for another pitcher who relies more on power.

It does make me wonder how it might affect his arm though. We certainly don't want a situation that's going to put additional strain on his arm.

We hit our homestand goal: 5-2. And we're just .5 game out of first. And the Braves have just lost one of their starters, John Thomson (A Distant Cousin of the Georgetown Coach, I think) for three months. It's not a crippling blow, but it certainly forces them to direct their attention at that problem, instead of tinkering with their decrepit outfield.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


I've written here and elsewhere about my change in thinking when it comes to Livan. I used to look at the pablum Prospectus would spew, particularly with PAP, their somewhat discredited stat, Pitcher's Abuse Points.

Essentially, they look at the number of pitches a pitcher throws, and derive a score of 'abuse'. The more pitches a pitcher throws, the higher the score, and the score rapidly increases once the pitcher passes 100. By their stat, a pitcher who throws 140 is clinically dead. (That might be an exaggeration. I don't know though; I was never very good with numbers.)

Livan has been the poster boy for PAP. Or has he? Despite being a perennial PAP All-Star, Livan's stayed virtually injury-free. Other than his frosting-filled knee, and routine strains and sprains, he's been as healthy as any pitcher could be. All that despite years of 'abuse'.

Here's where I insert the obligatory caveat about how much I love statistics. You've read it before. Just try and remember what I've said in the past.

But, their numbers show the shortcomings of a numbers-only mindset, and demonstrate that there's a need for traditional scouting.

I'm pretty confident in saying Livan succeeds because he half-asses it out there on the mound. He goes reaaaallly Old Skool (Like Christy Matthewson old) and doesn't throw 100% on every pitch. It's simple machismo. He knows that he doesn't need to throw hard to every batter, because he's better than them.

Think about the homerun derby. Hitting the ball isn't easy. And even in a situation like that, where conditions couldn't be more optimal, the top sluggers in the game still hit cans of corn. (Yes, I know it's not a perfect example, but you get the essence of what I'm getting at.)

Livan knows, as Christy Matthewson used to advocate, that some batters will just get themselves out -- whether it's swinging at junk, or even hitting a scorching liner right at someone.

So, when he's facing a weak batter, he'll loosen up, saving the juice in his arm for the big batters, or a crucial situation in the game. And this confidence also means that he's not afraid to pitch around batters. He knows that he can bear down when he needs to and get out of any jams that may arise.

Today's game was a perfect example.

With one out in the fourth, Lyle Overbay walked on five pitches. Jeff Cirillo doubled down the right field line and Overbay went to third.

Bill Hall, the passable middle infielder was up. Chad Moeller, the crappy catcher, and the pitcher were to follow.

Hall's having an acceptable season: .275 .341 .438
Moeller and Santos aren't: .119 .178 .190; and .000 .000 .000 respectively

Livan pitched to Hall as if he wanted nothing to do with him. He knew he could get Moeller and Santos out no problem.

Ball, Ball, Called Strike, Swinging Strike, Ball to Hall. Then, on a 3-2 pitch, he threw him one of his big, sloppy, slow curve balls. This, like most every one he threw today, missed low. He didn't want to give in to Hall with the expected fastball, so he tried to get him to nibble, to see if he'd get himself out. He didn't. But, that was no matter to Livan.

Moeller had one of the worst ABs you'll see a big league hitter have, striking out on four pitches.

He then tried to get Santos to nibble at two high pitches, in hopes of a popup. They went for balls. Then, Livan went in for the kill, getting a slow ball hit right back to him, for the easy out, and the end of the inning.

What looked like a crisis to us was nothing to Livan. He had things completely under control, and knew exactly what he was doing.

A few games ago, he said that he was pitching around the Dodgers' Cesar Izturis to bring up Hee Seop Choi with the bases loaded. I wasn't sure if I believe him then, but after seeing him completely change his style of pitching today to those different batters, I completely believe it.

Livan is now 7-2, and his ERA is just 3.69. He's still on pace for 270 innings. Although he's probably not going to lead the league in ERA, the IP difference is a huge factor in his favor. The massive amoung of innings he sops up for this staff are extremely valuable.

And, as we're seeing, ERA might not necessarily be the best factor for evaluating his success. He truly does appear to be pitching to the situation.

Is there a pitcher more valuable to his team than Livan? Dontrelle might have an argument, but with what I've seen so far, I'm not so certain.

Pinto's Full Of Beans

David Pinto, writing at Baseball Analysts, asks why not RFK? [Could Pinto be a pseudonym for DCist's Martin?]

There are plenty of reasons for why not RFK. You know some. I know some.

Let him know in their comments section. It might get an actual debate going.

-- For one, the renovation costs he proposes probably won't be significantly cheaper than the costs of stadium construction alone.

What's a Two-Time All-Star To Do?

Poor Esteban Loaiza. He pitches another gem, and again doesn't get the win. That's what happens when you have the worst run support in the league, and it also goes to show how useless single-season wins are as a barometer of pitching quality. (I'd argue that career wins is a reasonable stat, but that's a debate for another day.) He may not have won the game, but he's today's Majority Whip. (I wonder what his position on the nuclear option is? No es bueno?)

Poor Esteban Loaiza. He drew the pitching matchup against the perennial Cy Young contender, Chris "Swallows of" Capuano. (Wait, that one sounds too much like a Bermanism. Let me undo my comb-over and come up with something better.) Capuano kept the team off-balance all night, and only made one mistake -- hitting Brad Wilkerson on a two-strike pitch. Assisted by some managerial shenanigans, no Nationals batter made it to third base until the 8th inning.

It was interesting to see Capuano come out for the 9th inning. I can't really recall a manager bringing a starter out for the bottom of the 9th in a tie game like that. That's definitely against conventional wisdom, but it was probably the right move in that case. Sometimes the right move doesn't work out. And sometimes the wrong move does -- just ask Frank.

Frank ham-handedly managed the first inning, running us out of two separate outs. Sometimes managers feel like they need to make things happen. Maybe they feel like they need to earn their pay? Maybe they need to feel smarter or more active, ala LaRussa? Regardless, unless it's done smartly, it's going to cost your team chances to score. Just the way it did last night.

When Cristian Guzman was batting second, one of the reasons we were angry was that he was always in auto-bunt mode. Every time there was a runner on first, Guzman would bunt him over, as if he were a computer program stuck in a terminal loop. The question I asked at the time boiled down to why is your number two hitter bunting? If he's not good enough to get a hit, then he needs to be hitting 8th.

Guzman is down where he belongs, at the bottom of the order. And now, Jamey Carroll is up. Jamey Carroll has been batting over .320 for the last month. He's probably not a .320 hitter, but he's been on a decent hot streak, and he definitely has excellent on-base skills -- he works pitchers effectively, much more in the mold of Nick Johnson than Guzman. Despite this, Frank has him bunt EVERY freakin' time.

Nats Blog, with their wonderful Run Value charts says that bunting a runner over actually costs your team runs. You're gaining one measly base at the cost of an out. It may help you to score one run, but it pretty much effectively kills your chances of scoring more runs.

I'm assuming that Frank's looking at the offensive struggles of this team, and trying to scratch out one run at the time. The frustrating thing is that he's probably doing more to hurt our run-scoring abilities than anything.

Last night's first inning was a particularly egregious example.

Brad Wilkerson led off the bottom of the inning with a double. And Jamey Carroll was up, in auto-bunt mode. It wasn't a good one, and Wilkerson was thrown out sliding into third. On the next batter, Carroll was thrown out on a botched hit and run. In the space of two batters, Frank gave the opposing team two easy outs. Those were two outs that the pitcher didn't have to work for. Frank did the pitcher's job for him.

One of the worst plays in baseball is the bunt with a runner on second. It's horrible strategy, even though there are great benefits to having a runner on third with less than two outs. In yesterday's game, it was especially brutal.

What would the harm have been in letting Jamey hit away? If you didn't think he was capable of getting a hit, depsite having the platoon advantage, then have him go for the all-mighty productive out. Jamey is choked up on the bat he's practically gripping the fat part of the bat. He has great bat control; let him hit it to the right side. Maybe, just maybe, he'll drive one through the infield, scoring the run.

Even if he fails, you still have two chances to drive a run home with runners in scoring position. And that's the key for me. Without the bunt, you've got three batters up, all with a chance to drive that run in. Not only that, but these are the team's best non-injured hitters! It's not like they were sending Guzman, Bennett and the pitcher up there. Let your two-four hitters have a crack. One of them might come through, leading to an even bigger inning.

I typically hate the hit and run too. It has its uses in some cases, but more often than not, it bails the pitcher out. It didn't work last night, and Jamey Carroll was easily thrown out at second. This team has been caugh stealing in 50% of its attempts. That's horrible, and another factor that's cost this team runs. If you're successful less than 70% of your attempts, you're costing teams runs. Just as with the bunt, the marginal improvement of moving one extra base is rarely worth the out.

Small ball has a time and a place. A tie game in the 8th or 9th inning is exactly the right place. A tie game in the first inning, when you have no idea what the final score will isn't.

I've used the analogy before, but bunting, to me, is like a two-point conversion in football. It's a powerful tool, which can help your team, but if you use it too early, it really starts backfiring. Both should be used only in end-of-game situations, where you know that extra run, or that extra extra-point will mean something.

All Frank's early small-ball tactics meant last night, was an easy inning for the starter, and wasted opportunities for the Nats.

The team can't get over it's offensive struggles if the manager's hands are around its neck.

Homestand Goal:
Homestand Record:

One more to go! Livan against Victor Santos (who?). If Livan's knee holds up, we've got a good chance to meet our goal, before running off on another road trip o' death.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Game Day: Frank's Small Ball Edition

He's already managed us out of one inning.

Watching? Listening? Come blather with us. Just ignore the first 500 comments or so.

A Beat Writer's Least Favorite Time Of The Week

Barry Svrulga chats today at 2, no doubt fielding off a stream of obnoxious questions submitted by random people from various locales both real and fictional.

Got a question about the team? Need a sandwich recommendation? He's your guy.

USD-AA Aproved

Traditionally, AA is where your prospects ripen. It's where breakout stars form.

It's also where this franchise's lack of depth, and poor drafting really are evident.

Harrisburg Senators

Melvin Dorta, IF: He's just 23, and was acquired from the Red Sox earlier this winter.
.286/ .350/ .438 11 BB/ 16 K

Edgar Gonzalez, IF: He's a 27-year old non-prospect, but he's hitting well for an infielder.
.279/ .366/ .451 17 BB/ 24 K

Ramon Castro, C: Yep, it's that Ramon Castro -- the one arrested for rape. He eventually pleaded no contest to an indecent assault charge. I wouldn't cry if someone sodomized him with a bat.
.316/ .350/ .526 1 BB/ 3 K (19 ABs)

Jason Labandeira, IF: He's coming off shoulder problems, which delayed his start and limit his throwing. And, based on the results, it's hurting his bat too. He's probably the closest thing to a prospect at that level.
.211/ .348/ .263 8 BB/ 6 K

Rich Rundles, P: He throws left-handed, which is a plus, but he's going to need to step up soon if he's ever going to get a chance, as he's already 24.
43.2 IP, 3.92 ERA, 25 K, 14 BB

Darrell Rasner, P: He's also just 24, but he throws righty. This is just his first full season at AA. He's another player that needs to take a big step forward.
42.2 IP, 4.85 ERA, 27K, 8 BB

Danny Reuckel, P: You know where to go for obsessive-level coverage of him!

Saul Rivera, P: He's older than me, but he's also more effective. The old man of the staff is pitching well -- he's the Mariano of Harrisburg.
25.1 IP, 1.78 ERA, 19 K, 13 BB

Kip Bouknight, P: He's almost as old as me, and he is also more effective. Useless Kip Bouknight trivia to impress your friends with: He combined with Pat Lynch to throw the first perfect game in Northwest League history.
40 IP, 2.25 ERA, 24 K, 11 BB

USD-AAA Approved

It’s been a while. Time for another stroll through the minors, this time starting with Triple-A.

New Orleans Zephyrs

Tyrell Godwin, OF: He’s an Endy Chavez clone who’s not hitting as hot as he was initially. Most of his value is in his batting average -- never a good sign for a prospect.
.308/ .368/ .378 13 BB/ 25 K

Brendan Harris, 3B: The heir apparent to Vinny Castilla and a graduate of a high school in the next town over from where I grew up has been hitting much better than his Dante-like 4th-level-of-hell-frigid pace earlier this season. He still isn't showing a ton of patience, but he is slugging the ball well.
.291/ .337/ .470 11 BB/ 29 K

Matt Cepicky, OF: The left-handed corner outfielder has to be wondering what he needs to do to get another crack at the majors. He's the poor man's Matt Stairs.
.257/ .325/ .463 14 BB/ 36 K

Rick Short, IF: Another player who has to wonder what the hell he has to do to get a chance. He's not young, and certainly won't be a star. But he's probably a better player than the now-injured Henry Mateo. That he's smacking the hell out of the ball in the minors can only help.
.328/ .410/ .534 13 BB/ 8 K

Melvin Nieves, OF: Yeah, it's that Mel Nieves. He started off in AA, but got a sudden promotion when half of NO's outfield ended up in DC. I'd assume he's got no shot at coming back up, but with Bowden, you can't assume anything.
.275/ .464/ .625 13 BB/ 16 K (Only 40 ABs)

Larry Broadway hit ineffectively in 18 games, but is still having knee problems from when he collided with the tarp a few weeks ago. He'll be out 4-6 weeks.

Sunny Kim has been New Orleans' best starter. Unfortunately he's in a franchise loaded with starters. He's going to have to hope for injury or trade, I imagine.
42 IP, 2.79 ERA, 34 K, 14 BB

Joe Horgan appears to be pitching better than he initially was, but he still has a long way to go before getting out of Frank's doghouse.
9 IP, 4.00 ERA, 9 K, 8! BB

Ed Yarnall gets a mention, because he's left-handed. While known as a finesse pitcher, he has decent strikeout numbers, but he doesn't seem to be on the team's radar.
29.2 IP, 4.25 ERA, 38 K, 10 BB

Josh Karp is probably the best 'prospect' at AAA. Just 25, he's trying to reacquire that sheen he had when taken in the first round.
14 IP, 3.86 ERA, 12 K, 4 BB

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Skunky Brew

Well, that stunk.

I'm glad the fans gave Over-Miller a standing ovation after Jamey Carroll lined a pitch into right. He deserved it -- even if the Nats' hacktastic ways barely forced the guy to break a sweat.

Claudio Vargas 'started' the game. He wouldn't see the end of the second. He served up a nice frosty six pack of runs to Milwaukee's beasts. In the process, his ERA got drunk, rising from a sterling 0.00 to a blood alcohol level that would make Rafael Furcal blush: 7.36.

If there ever was a Lame Duck performance, that was it.

Hopefully, that'll be the end of the Vargas as starter experiment. They've been hesitant to use him out of the pen, because of his arm problems. They didn't like the idea of using him back-to-back game, or having to warm up frequently. Oh well. That's what he's getting paid for. And, if his health isn't up to it, I'm sure New Orleans would appreciate some more pitching support.

Tomo Ohka relieved. For once, he was a relief. He mopped up 5.2 innings while allowing just two hits. Most amazingly, he walked just one batter. (Strangely, he also set his season high in Ks, with 4)

The key to Tomo is to apparently not let him know he's coming in til either right before the game or until after it's started. Maybe we should bring up a lefty starter (ala Mike Hinckley) and let the opposing team load up with Righty batters. Let Hinckley bean the first batter, and bring in Ohka. Yeah, that'd work.

Zach Day came in in the 8th. He went two innings, giving up two runs. He, as usual, walked two batters. But, in fairness, the second run shouldn't have happened. Guzman didn't get a clean play on a double-play grounder hit by the glacial Damian Miller.

I fear Puberty Boy's days are soon numbered. He seems nice enough, but he better start trying to figure out what tricks he'd perform for some Mardi Gras beads.

Home Stand Goal:

Home Stand Record:

Even though they're improved, splitting the series with the Brewers would be a defeat, right?

They've Fallen And Can't Get Up

As I was busy attending four games in four days, there were some transactions and injuries that flew under the radar.

First, the big ones.

-- El Caballo, Livan Hernandez left Saturday night's game mid-batter with a strained knee. [Insert fat joke]

Where an ordinary man, such as you or I would wither under such extraordinary stress and strain, ¡Livan! has stood tall, even serving as his own doctor (he can do it all!). Just like he looks over his ample right shoulder and waves off the warming relievers, ¡Livan! initially waved off an MRI. Because, lord knows, why would we want a doctor looking at this when we have a Cuban-educated professional athlete making his own informed medical decisions? (Besides, everyone raves about how wonderful Cuba's universal health care coverage is; I'm sure he picked up a pointer or two during his years there)

Despite his protestations, he gave in and had an MRI. And then they drained his knee yesterday. There was no word on what came out, but I'm guessing frosting.

He's expected to start Thursday, still on pace for 280 or so innings.

-- Jose Vidro remains out with a torn tendon in his ankle. It’s only a partial tear, but it’s serious that he’s going to be out for at least the rest of the month. Given the location, higher up on the ankle, and the seriousness they’re showing, multiple MRIs and a stiff boot on his ankle, June sounds optimistic.

Thankfully, Jamey Carroll has proved more-than capable of backing him up. He doesn’t have the offense of Vidro, but he’s no slouch. And he’s a vastly superior fielder, having made at least four plays I’m confident Vidro wouldn’t have been near.

-- The other big blow is in right field, where Jose Guillen, who seems to have finally found the right medication levels, will be sitting the next few games out with a strained ribcage -- a strain that certainly wasn’t helped by him getting beaned yesterday. Again.

Sometimes when reading sports stories you have to read between the lines. St. Barry’s report on Guillen seems to be an example of this.
[Robinson] pulled aside his slugging right fielder, knowing he has a badly strained muscle in his right rib cage, and asked him to take a few days off.

Guillen, reluctantly, agreed...

Guillen, noted for wanting to play every day and temperamental when he's not in the lineup, smiled about the decision after the game. After managing a weak grounder and two lazy popups, resting seemed best.

I guess they had to up his dosage.

-- Henry Mateo, the seemingly pointless infield call-up, was sent back to the DL with the same sore arm he was put on the DL for in the first place. And proving the complete pointlessness of that transaction, he didn't reinjure or aggravate it; it just never healed in the first place. Why would you unDL an unhealthy player, rush him to the majors, be afraid to use him, then when you finally start him, do it against a lefty when he says it hurts to swing righty? That's just another day in the Three-ring circus that is Trader Jim and the Senile Ol' Man.

-- Wife Beating Wil Cordero begins a rehab assignment in the next week or so, as he attempts to come back from a torn knee. I never thought I'd say this, but hurry up, Wil! The sooner he gets here, the sooner that Jeffrey Hammonds' career comes to an end. Hammonds has looked brutal out there. The only thing I worry about Cordero coming back is Frank doing something wacky like platooning him with Nick Johnson. You KNOW that's coming, right? Prepare yourself now.

Wil wants to rehab in Harrisburg, because his wife is expecting their third child. There's no word on whether he plans to induce labor with a phone.

-- There haven't been any recent updates on Terrmel Sledge, but it's pretty safe to say he's done for the year. I'll even go as far to say that any chances he had to be a regular outfielder are done too. He was a good hitter, but not spectacular, especially given his age. But, he was an excellent outfielder. That will probably change, and his window is nearly closed, being blocked out by lots of rehab.

-- Antonio Osuna and his virtually infinite ERA recently had arm surgery (probably the 14th in his career). He won't even begin throwing for another 6-8 weeks. If he's going to come back at all, which isn't even definite, it's not going to be til August at the earliest. But, with the way our pen is throwing, he isn't really missed.

-- The Nationals' equivalent to Billy Bass, Joey Eischen, remains out with a broken arm. He just had the hard cast removed on Monday. Eischen, who's chief contribution to the team is being loud and keeping the sportwriters distracted and unable to pester Guillen or Guzman, can't come off the DL til June 28. He'll be ready to go then, no doubt.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Byrd In Our Hand Is Worth Two That Are Bush

After watching Marlon Byrd rip another line drive, this one off the base of the wall in deep left center, I realized we never gave Jim Bowden his credit. Despite everyone in the organization from GM to NatPack running Inning-Endy down, he somehow found a sucker willing to not only take Endy, but to give us something that might actually be useful (Here's the Inquirers exhaustive look at Marlon).

Perhaps Bodes dangled a shiny new middle reliever in front of Ed Wade's sparkling eyes, or perhaps Dallas Green, Philly's resident assclown, convinced the organization that Byrd was a failure and that I.E. Chavez was the next Curt Flood. Either way, Jim Bowden deserves credit for turning the crappy ground-ball-spanking sow's ear, into a beautiful shiny, line-drive hitting silk purse.

Our Silk Byrd made a wonderful entrance too. Three hits. Three runs driven in. And most important to him, I'm sure, a Majority Whip.

He got some solid competition from the Senor Statesman, Vinny Castilla, who had his first home run since 1988, and chipped in two other hits. His constant on-base presence allowed Byrd to drive in all those runs. On an ordinary night, Vinny would've walked away with his team-leading fifth award, but it's not every day that Silk Byrd is spraying line drives either.

Tony Armas, TA2, pitched very well. He had one rough inning, but handled Milwaukee's bats pretty easily. And, most importanly, Frank didn't leave him in one too many batters this time. He started to lose command, just a little bit, during the last inning. But, he escaped.

Gary Majewski relieved, loaded the bases with the assist of a Jose Guillen error, and promptly got out of the jam.

Did anyone else think that Jose Guillen shouldn't have have been charged with an error? It was a catchable ball, but he ranged far to his right, reached out and had to make a leaning backhanded catch at full stride. Yeah, he had the ball in his glove for a second, but it was far from a can of corn. Compare that to the Jamey Carroll 'double' during the previous inning, when Russell Branyan ole'd a hard-hit groundball into foul territory. I could see a single and an error, but not a straight double. Tough call. A hometown call, no doubt.

WTF Frank Senior Moment
A Day after Nats Blog looked at Frank's Sac fetish (read it, it's good!), Frank had Jamey Carroll bunt Brad Wilkerson to second. Despite having a platoon advantage. Despite Jamey batting .340 or so. Despite Jamey having saved himself for his marriage. What kind of message is that to the kids, Frank? Who's going to want to wait out their natural hormonal urges if all that's going to get them is a bunch of SACs? I know I definitely don't want to be bunting on my wedding night, Frank! I'm gonna swing for the fences with all my might! Let Jamey swing away. He waited. He's a big boy now.

Homestand Goal:
Homestand Record:

We're getting there!

Tomorrow, it's Wes Obermueller (who?) versus Claudio Vargas (who?) Ask around your office. I bet 95% of them couldn't identify which pitcher with which team. (And that's not necessarily a bad thing!)

If things hold up, John Hirschbeck (famous spittee and lawyer threatener) will be behind the plate. Despite his infamy, Hirschbeck has the widest strike zone this side of Eric Gregg's fat ass.

The over/under on Wilkerson Ks starts at 3.5. Gentlemen, place your bets.

IE Update

In his first game as a Phillie, Inning-Endy went 1-5. And to give the hometown team a taste of what to expect, he ended the 8th inning with a groundout.

Enjoy him, Phillies Phans!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

It’s The Next Best Thing To Be Free As A Bird

The big news over the weekend was the trade of Endy Chavez to Philadelphia (SUCKERS!) for Marlon Byrd. I wouldn't care if they got Bobby Byrd, the exhumed corpse of Richard Byrd, or even this guy, whoever the hell he is. It's a good trade. (Is it just me or does the last name Byrd look weird if you stare at it?)

Good ol' Inning Endy was the whipping boy for this blog pretty close to its infancy:
When the Royals, Tigers and Mets all give up on you, you probably shouldn’t be playing center field. But, in the case of the Nationals, you give Endy Chavez two full seasons of proving you can’t hit or field.

We've been over his weaknesses. They're obvious. I won't rehash them here.

It's just been pretty apparent that he couldn't really save himself. He's had nearly 3,000 professional at bats. We know what his skills are, and no matter how hard he would've worked on them, he just wouldn't be able to change. Combine that with his apparent bad attitude upon his demotion to New Orleans, and it's a relationship that just had to end.

Coming over is Marlon Byrd, the Phillies former centerfielder of the future. Still just 27, he's coming off a disappointing year, which, in part, caused the Phillies to acquire the much-traveled Kenny Lofton.

Marlon isn't quite the 40-home run bat that Bowden keeps clamoring for, but he's still useful.

Ideally, he'd form a platoon with Ryan Church. Because he's a capable centerfielder, this would enable Church to take over center, where he's shown much more range than Brad Wilkerson, who would slide to left field. The defense would be much improved, especially because it would revert Jeff Hammonds to a pinch-hitting only role -- sorry pinch 'hitting'. (The usual Frank wacky-ass senior moment caveats apply!)

Because we're all economically illiterate bitches, we need to focus on one other positive aspect of this trade, the trade-off. Because of this move, Preston Wilson is presumably off the table, Hallelujia! Even if Byrd never gets a hit, that's certainly worth something.

Byrd has had decent minor league numbers, but that hasn't yet translated into major league success.

MLB .271/ .332/ .377 889
AAA .293/ .355/ .460 694
AA .316/ .384/ .553 526
A .305/ .378/ .521 758

Average patience, slightly above average line-drive power, average foot speed.

His major league numbers are weighed down by his disappointing 2004: .228/ .287/ .321. The interesting thing though, is that if you add fifty points of batting average (the amount he was below his career averages) back in, all his numbers would be in line with his career totals -- the same level of power and patience were there, he just didn't get as many hits. Maybe it was bad luck? Maybe he had a goiter? Maybe he's a Quad-A hitter? We'll find out.

Just for comparison's sake, here are Endy Chavez' numbers.

MLB .263/ .304/ .365 1196
AAA .342/ .383/ .453 570
AA .298/ .353/ .363 168
A .288/ .361/ .353 869

Other than at AAA, he gets on base less than Byrd. And, look at his OBP, it's pretty close to his average -- that's where his lack of plate patience comes in. And he cleary isn't in the same class as a 'slugger.'

Other than speed, Byrd comes out ahead.

So, welcome to DC, Marlon Byrd. We don't expect a whole helluva lot out of you, but we love you anyway, just because of who you're not. But, please give us a few timely hits against some of those tough side-arming lefties who've been eating our lineup alive recently.

With that, I can safely pack away the Inding-Endy-O-Meter. It will remain forever locked at four. We miss you already, I.E. Chavez. At least we still have your brother to kick around.

Sweepin' The Clouds Away

Other than half-an-inning of sprinkles, it was a beautiful day for a ballgame.

Greg Maddux was on the mound and pitched decently, if not briefly.

John Patterson opposed him and pitched decently, if not briefly.

Each team had a few rallies, and Chad Cordero's arm stayed attached for just one more inning, as our beloved Nationals won 5-4.

There were two key plays in the game.

With the recently struggling Luis Ayala on the mound, the hot-hitting (at least until this series) Derek Lee came up, as the tying run. He ripped one of those line drives to deep right that is accompanied by a murmur in the crowd, and Jose Guillen made a wonderful running catch, leaping slightly up against the wall. 'Twas A great play that would've been at least a double, if not a triple.

But, the key play was Nick Johnson's at-bat. Following a Jose Guillen walk on four pitches, Maddux was clearly agitated on the mound. He was unhappy with his landing foot, and in fairness, it was a legitimate criticism. From my distant perch, I could see that his front foot was sliding as he planted. Regardless, much of his trouble was in his head and he soon fell behind 3-0 to Johnson.

You know. I know. Greg Maddux knows that there's no way in hell that the Walking Stick is swinging there. Called strike, 3-1.

I turned to my friend in my lame non-denominational version of Nats Blog's 'Buck Sez' bets. There's no way he's swinging here either, I said.

I knew that. Greg Maddux knew that.

Nick Johnson didn't though.

Nick Johnson got a grooved fastball, which he turned on and absolutely crushed. It went high, just to the right of the power alley, hitting the mezanine level. Another 10 feet or so and it would've been an upper deck shot. I've seen a bunch of towering fly balls hit in that park, and they usually get knocked down as they reach the wall. This one kept carrying. And carrying. And carrying some more. Good for Nick. And it was good enough to be the Majority Whip.

Jamey Carroll gets bonus credits for making a few great plays at second, which I'm pretty confident in saying that Jose Vidro would not have come near. Jose Vidro's batting advantage outweighs the glove difference, but Carroll has certainly proven to be a valuable backup.

Homestand Goal: 5-2

Current Record: 2-1

Roll Out The Barrels, the Brewers are coming. And sans Sheets, they're going down!