Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fouled Off Bunts: Not Guilty Edition

Jim Bowden, as expected, pleaded not guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Bowden, as of yet, has not pleaded to our charge of GMing without a plan -- a capital crime, perhaps?

In case he didn't have any other worries, the Post speculated who the top 5 candidates are to replace him as GM: Dayton Moore, Frank Wren, Mark Newman, Chris Antonetti and Paul DePodesta. Would that it were!

  • Displaying the genius that's led him to over 1,000 wins as a manager, Frank Robinson says that this team could be like the 2005 Houston Astros, who also started out as if half their team had ebola. What's the key? "Robinson said the Nationals are capable of making a similar comeback as long as they get better at hitting, pitching and defense and stop making mental mistakes."

    Oh, is that all?

  • Gary Majewski has figured out why his rotator cuff is acting up: "I came back from the [Classic] and fired it up pretty quick," Majewski said. "The first week of the season, I got into games quite a bit and I tried to go too hard, too quick."

    Oh, is that all?

    I guess it's that damn WBC, and not the huge number of innings he pitched in a short time this year. Nor does it have anything to do with the huge number of innings and appearances he made last year. Wear and tear has nothing to do with a repetitive motion injury, I guess.

  • Order number one from Los Lerners was a prohibition on golf in the clubhouse -- a favorite of Joey Eischen. I'm guessing that it kicked up too much mildew. Frank's taken it a step further, figuring out, once again (like John Ashcroft), that music is the root of the world's problems. The players not get to stew in silence. Frank last imposed this edict in September of last year, and we know how well that worked, right?

  • The former official groundball pitcher of this blog, Ryan Drese (since replaced by Zach Day), had another setback, as the inflamation in his arm, which is very similar to the injury that John Patterson has, has not improved.

  • The Business of Baseball blog (does anyone know who runs this?) has an interview with Stan Kasten conducted soon after his selection as part owner of the Nats. There's nothing too terribly exciting in there, other than his answer to a question on MASN, which is going to make most Angelos haters angry:
    There is no point talking about ancient history. With eyes wide open, we know what we’ve purchased and the deal is in place and we’re going to proceed along those lines. The most important thing now is getting our team to be as good as it can be and getting our games on as many homes as possible.

    A deal's a deal, I guess.

  • Someone kicked the front office in the keister. They're now offering 6-game miniplans, which don't appear to offer you anything (seat location, discounts, etc) over buying tickets at random. But there's six of them. It's a six pack. Isn't that cute?

    Coincidentally, perhaps, there seems to have been a crackdown on scalpers outside the stadium. The timing is certainly....interesting.

    Oh, and if you have AIDS or Diabetes (Wilford Brimley rocks!), the Nats are there for you. It's worth linking to if only to demonstrate that the team's PR office doesn't seem to follow the team too closely: "Outfielder Ryan Zimmerman visited and took photos with the guests from the Society."

    Don't put any ideas into Bowden's head, guys!

  • Barry Svrulga misses the point with a blurb in his latest notebook:
    The Nationals are hitting .267 out of the leadoff spot this year, tied for 16th in the majors, an improvement over last season, when their leadoff hitters hit .249, which ranked 28th.

    Who cares what their batting average is? There was so much focus on how Brandon Watson doesn't walk in the spring -- meaning that they viewed it as integral to the role of leadoff hitter -- so why would you evaluate the team's leadoff hitter without factoring that in?

    The leadoff hitter's job is to get on base. That's it. Whether by single, by walk, by HBP, or drawing an inordinate number of catcher's interferences. He can be judged solely on how many times he reaches base. All other things pale in comparison.

    Nationals leadoff hitters are getting on at a .344 clip, which is pretty good, especially factoring in the park.

    I love stats, but I HATE the misapplication of them, because it makes people think that they're worthless. They're not, if you apply them correctly. And focusing on leadoff batting average is as pointless as wondering how many stolen bases the cleanup hitter has. (Three, if you're wondering)

  • Another swing at Barry... In today's otherwise nice look at Jose Guillen and his recent struggles, he says something that's right, but which is wrong:
    A right-handed hitter with quick hands, Guillen is at his best when he drives the ball up the middle and to right-center, when he is not obsessed with pulling every pitch down the left field line, an approach that leads to weak grounders and strikeouts by the bushel.

    Yes, Guillen's strength is to center and to right. I've said that so many times here, that I'm sure you're sick of reading it. But does that mean that he shouldn't be pull conscious? I'm not so sure.

    Jose Guillen always has hit grounders to left. That's something that's not uncommon for opposite-field hitters, and that's typically (not always, of course) what happens when he gets jammed. It's not because he's trying to pull the ball, but because the pithcer runs the ball in, and he misses it as he's trying to shoot the ball up the middle.

    Take a look at his hitting chart. There's a toggle for grounders, and one for fly balls. EVERY ONE of his grounders has been hit right to the shortstop. And all, save one, of his fly balls have been hit to right or center. This isn't any different than last year, which you can select at the top. Is he any different than last year? It doesn't seem like it from where the ball has gone. And it certainly hasn't seemed like he's changed his approach.

    It'd take an adjustment to his swing. For one, he'd probably have to back off the plate. He stands so close, because he wants maximum plate coverage and to be able to drive the ball away. But at this park, wouldn't an opposite approach be better? Now, I'm not saying that that's something he can actually do. I don't think you can magically turn an opposite field hitter into a pull hitter overnight. The muscle memory is far too ingrained, especially with as many games as he's played in his career. But encouraging him to ram away to right-center isn't going to yield better results.

    It seems that we have a slugger mismatched for the home park, who's slightly injured, and who isn't getting the results he had last year. It's not mental, per se, but probably more physical.


  • Ladson's latest mailbag features more trashing of Church:
    A little over a week ago, Church was on the bench because of flu-like symptoms. By the time, he was ready to play again, Marlon Byrd was swinging a hot bat and started playing most of the games. In fact, according to Church, Robinson had a private meeting with him and told him that Byrd would be the everyday center fielder -- for now.

    I agree with the decision to play Byrd because he has experience in the leadoff spot. He has been getting on base a lot and his on-base percentage is very high. He also plays hard and doesn't come up with excuses when something goes wrong.

    Two points: 1) Frank Robinson was the one who pulled Church from the game with the flu; 2) Byrd's OBP is slightly higher this year (.410 to .386), but Church, despite a low batting average, has been cranking the ball, as evidenced by his .609 slugging average, compared to Byrd's paltry .364, which, among regulars, is higher than only Royce Clayton's and Brian Schneider's. 3) Yeah, I know I said two, but I changed my mind. John Patterson whines a lot too -- about the mound, about his feelings, about everything -- so why does he not get singled out time and time again?

  • The Times notes that Tony Tavares was called about 2 minutes before the public found out about the ownership change, and that because he was on a plane, he was left impotent to tell his staff. Fitting, for sure.

  • If you're bored, the Post ran a lengthy article detailing the process that led to the ownership decision.

  • Marc Fisher observes that the quietest place in DC is the Orioles store downtown.

  • Clark is confident that stadium construction will be done on time.

  • Witness, the most unflattering picture of Ryan Zimmerman ever taken. It looks like he's starring in a community theater production of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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