Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sliders Get Us Every Time

Barry Svrluga's game story on yesterday's 72-0 loss to the Reds highlights something I've been meaning to write, namely, this team's inability to hit good breaking stuff. Yesterday, Bronson Arroyo's slider was moving about as well as one possibly can, and the Nats bats were helpless against it.

A great slider moves sharply near the end on a horizontal plane away from the batter. And yesterdays, Arroyo's slider had about as much bite to it as I've seen. He was just on, and would've been unhittable no matter where he pitched. Helpfully, MLB.com has video of the Ks. If you watch it, look for how far the pitch moves away from right-handed batters. But also look at the goofy swings that Nats batters take. When a slider's cutting through the air as sharply as his, it's going to cause batters to lunge at the ball, bending over, and reaching out their arms helplessly. Even if they had been able to make contact with it, they wouldn't have been able to get it out of the infield. Arroyo didn't have the raw power of John Patterson, but his stuff was every bit as nasty.
"We're a great fastball-hitting team," shortstop Royce Clayton said. "We get a guy throwing hard, we're going to put some good lumber on him. But we got to make adjustments against off-speed stuff."

Robinson's assessment of yesterday's effort, when Ryan Zimmerman's fourth-inning single was the only hit: "We don't attack the pitcher's strong suit. We're a fastball-hitting ballclub and we make no adjustments."

Frank, there was no adjusting to that slider.

  • Ramon Ortiz was better, but still not good. Somehow he struck out 6 Reds. At one point, the guys on the radio said he got his fastball up to 96. Was he throwing from the upper deck? If his velocity is up, that's what led to the strikeouts. Just as was the problem with Armas last year, Ortiz' pitches lacked just enough juice/movement to get by bats. Hopefully this wasn't just a one-game rennaisance. Maybe he was going through a dead arm period? We'll know during his next start.

    Ortiz was at the center of the key offensive (in several meanings of the word) play of the game. In the fourth inning, the first two batters reached. Austin Kearns hit a slow grounder back to Ortiz, who promptly airmailed the would-be double play ball into centerfield. His throw wasn't even close, sailing high and far above the bag. Had that play been made, it's likely that no runs would've scored. Instead, three did, and the game was essentially over.

    That same inning, Ryan Church made his first career error when he overran a ball in center, notable only because he had gone so long without making one.

  • It's a game that's hard to pick a Duck for, but in the end, I'll go with Royce Clayton, more as a catcup for past trangressions than anything particular he did in this game, other than his 2 Ks. (If you watch the video, he's the one who completely flails at the pitch as if he were a particularly delicate woman trying to kill a spider, and, yes, I realize that's borderline Keith Hernandez territory!)

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