Monday, May 08, 2006

Five Down, Twenty-Two To Go

When is a 3-4 week a good thing? When it follows a 1-6 week. There were some positive signs, but the results were the same. Losses to the Mets were expected, but being swept by the Triple-A Marlins wasn't. Thank God the Pirates are worse than us.

It's going to be a tough week for the Nats, as they head to Cincinnati for three, then to Atlanta for three. Cinci's one of the best teams in the league, and they've mauled us the last two years. Atlanta's not Atlanta, but they're still better than us. These weeks keep getting longer, huh?

Nats Record: 3-4
Overall: 11-21, fourth place
Runs Scored: 138 (11/16)
Runs Allowed: 163 (14/16)
Expected Record: 13-19, Pythagoras still owes us two!

What's Good?
1: The scrapheap. Pitching, pitching, pitching isn't just a meaningless mantra. Bowden's garage sale pickups are doing better than his WalMart purchases. Mike O'Connor, Zach Day, and Jason Bergmann (none of whom were on the opening day roster) combined for 24.2 innings this week, while allowing just 4 runs.

2: The hit-and-run. Frank's most abused call FINALLY worked the other night, when Jose Vidro drove Marlon Anderson home from first on a HNR double down the left field line. Now that we know it works, can we put it away and stop running into outs and causing weak popups, Frank?

3: Jose Vidro's eye. The former All-Star-turned waste of flesh-turned All-Star had a surprising seven walks this week, to lead the team. I've been really impressed with his approach all season, as he consistently seems to get the bat on the ball if the ball's a strike.

What's Bad?
1: The Fat Tub Of Goo. Livan has a lot in common with Terry Forster, not the least of which is the heavy lumber they carry (Forster batted .397 for his career). But even Forster didn't weigh as much as Livan does. Another bad outing, and another homer allowed. Sigh. He's now on pace to give up 50 -- while playing at RFK!?!?

2: The track star's husband. Royce Clayton spent much of the offseason talking about how training with his track star wife has helped him to keep his legs healthy. He should've spent less time on his legs, and more time on his bat. Royce had just two hits on the week -- and both of those came in the same game. With the news that Guzman's out for the year, this team HAS to do better. I had low expectations for Clayton's performance this year, and he's still a disappointment. That's saying something.

3: A-Sor's plate discipline. He's an exciting player to watch, but man, he's fallen back into his bad habits, swinging at any ol' slider off the plate. He walked just once this week (and that was an intentional one), and struck out 8 times. That's just Soriano being Soriano, but I liked it much better when he was drawing walks and hitting homers! Don't look now, but strikeout machine Brad Wilkerson is up to .270/ .347/ .450.

Game O' The Week
Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Mets certainly wasn't the most exciting win we've had, but it sure felt good to beat those rat bastards! Mike O'Connor fooled the Mets bats, making Carlos Delgado look incredibly silly with his sharp little curve. Meanwhile, a homer by Soriano and a pinch-hit homer by Damian Jackson opened the game up, allowing the Nats to cruise to an easy win.

MVP Award
Brian Schneider is this week's MVP. Quietly, he put together a pretty solid week, including a game-tying homer against the Marlins. For the week, he had 5 RBI, one off the team-leading pace. Runners have been stealing off him quite a bit this year, but that's really a function of the pitchers, more than his arm strength: Patterson, especially, is easy to run on. Offensively, he seems to be following the same pattern as last year. I remember him not having many hits, but that most of hits seemed to be key ones. By the time his stats balanced out, he was one of the team's most valuable performers. You can't go wrong with a league-average offensive catcher who's an elite defender. Let's hope that that Brian returns.

Cy Young
With apologies to Jon Rauch's four scoreless appearances (now there's an unheralded guy!), Zach Day wins for his mastery of the lowly Pirates. They've changed his arm angle a bit to take pressure off his shoulder, and things seemed to click. The best part was you could see him gaining confidence on the mound. For a player who sometimes seems on the verge of self-doubt, that's a big step. He should get a start against his hometown Reds, and I hope that this one goes better than his last, where Frank sent him out to get crushed a day or two after he unknowingly had broken his arm on a liner back to the mound.

LVP Award
Royce Clayton, c'mon down! It's not much of a secret that he's my least favorite Nat. His .100/ .250/ .100 line isn't going to do much to endear him to me either. We really need another shortsop, or failing that, a backup, so that Frank can pinch hit for him, because if I see him in a late-inning situation again....

Joe Horgan Award
What's worse than Livan's 7 runs in 5 innings? How about Tony Armas' 5 runs in 2.1. Armas just didn't have it against the Marlins, in a game the Nats should've won. Luckily for him, the bats showed up just enough to take him off the hook. He didn't strike anyone out, and didn't walk anyone. But he gave up a few big homers, like all Nats pitchers do.

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