Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hocked Up By A LOOGY

Live by the LOOGY. Die by the LOOGY. The Nats have two LOOGYs, short for Lefty One Out Guy. Yesterday, both LOOGYs pitched. And both LOOGYs failed. Unfortunately for the Nats, they failed at the wrong time, and turned a three-run lead into a one-run loss.

Many statheads hate the idea of a LOOGY. Their line of thinking is that why would you put your 5th best relief pitcher in a critical situation? Wouldn't that roster spot be put to better use for another hitter, or a reliever who can go an inning or two?

I don't think I'd take it that far. LOOGYs have their uses. But neither Mike Stanton or Joey Eischen are particularly effective LOOGYs. They're on the roster by virtue of their handedness, not their effectiveness. And after last night's game, it's debatable how long Eischen's going to stick around anyway.

In the 8th inning, the recently ineffective Eischen was surprisingly brought in to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard with the tying run on first. All he needed to do was get an out or two, and all he did was walk them. By the time an angry Frank stormed out of the dugout while raising his hand for Gary Majewski, the game was all but tied. Majewski did his job, getting a slow grounder to an infielder, but that allowed the run to score.

Brief aside: That inning shows the worthlessness of relief pitcher ERAs and blown saves for middle relievers. The third run, which scored only because of Eischen's two walks, is charged to Livan, raising his ERA. None of Eischen's runners scored, so his ERA stayed the same, despite a disastrous outing. Further, he even earned a hold (depending on which company's definition you're using!). And his walks earned Gary Majewski a blown save for having to come into a no-win situation to clean up his mess. A quick scan at the boxscore doesn't tell you how brutal Eischen's performance was!

Stanton was just as bad. In the bottom of the 10th, he started walking batters, too. Stanton faced three lefties in the bottom of the inning. He walked Bobby Abreu, walked Chase Utley, then allowed the game-winning single to Ryan Howard. Oy.

LOOGYs faced five left-handed batters and five left-handed batters reached first base.

  • But the Lame Duck winner was Livan Hernandez, who pitched another stinktacular game. At least he spread out the three homers allowed throughout the game this time, instead of yielding them all in one inning. Yeah, he hit the bejeesus out of the ball (which is better than 6/8 of the lineup!), but so did the opposing batters.

    What's wrong with Livan? One of the Mets announcers threw out the idea that he could be tipping his pitches. Was he on to something? Was it a guess? Was it something he had picked up on, or was it something that the team had whispered into his ear?

    Or is it just his velocity? Livan's lucky if he can break 85 now. That's fine if you're Jamey Moyer, and you have a changeup that makes batters spin in circles. But it seems like Livan's fastball and slider come in at very close speeds. (Not to mention how often he's hanging his slider....) Since there's very little difference in speed, it's not going to fool batters as much. And his slider has never been one of those hard-biting pitches anyway. His only offspeed pitch is his big looping curveball, which, more often than not, drops low out of the strikezone. When he leaves one up, batters can hammer it, and since that's really the only offspeed pitch they have to look for, and because it's so slow, they have time to adjust.

    He didn't really look like he was pushing off the mound. Is his knee still bothering him? He didn't look like he was limping when he was running (although he almost did trip over his manboobs.) Maybe there's some sort of rotational pain he feels when he drives on the mound as opposed to running straight ahead. One of the *CL injuries is like that -- you can run forward, but the second you try to turn, you collapse into a puddle of Livan goo.

    Am I going to just keep asking questions without answering them? Perhaps?

  • Had the Nats held on, there's no doubt that the star of the game was the torrid Jose Vidro. He cranked out three hits, and had three huge RBI. But his glove was what was most impressive.

    In the bottom of the 8th, right after the score was tied and with the bases still loaded, Alex "Thank God For Bartman" Gonzalez hit a high chopper that bounced slowly up and over the pitcher's mound. Vidro was playing at his normal position at second, perhaps a little deeper, since there was a force, and came charging hard in towards the area between second and the mound. As he ran, he started to make a circle to scoop up the ball so that he'd have a better angle to throw. He gloved the ball off a short hop, pivoted, and threw all in one smooth motion as the momentum of his wind sprint carried him away from first. The throw had plenty on it, saving the game for others to blow later.

    Vidro's bat has been tremendous. The guy's hitting almost .400! But it's been his glove that's been the biggest revelation. His range is much improved over last year, and although no one's going to confuse him for Bill Mazeroski, he's comfortably no worse than average -- which is a HUGE step up over last year.

  • Remember yesterday when I glowed about the adjustements that Ryan Zimmerman was finally starting to make? If not, forget I said it. He stunk again, fishing at slop, and striking out three times. How soon until Bill Ladson, protector of the strike zone, starts ripping him?
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