Monday, May 15, 2006

Six Down, Twenty-One To Go

A week of nightmares mercifully ended with a win that'll do little to wipe away the horrors of the two blown games this week. Nats pitchers gave baseball fans the two most exciting moments of the week: Ken Griffey's three-run walkoff and Jeff Francouer's ninth inning grand slam. Both would be painful enough on their own. That they came two games apart just rubs our nose in the pile of poo that Jim Bowden calls a roster.

Looking ahead, the Nats have six, with three in Chicago against the pathetic Chicago Cubs and then they're home for three against Peter Angelos' Baltimore Orioles. Those last three should be exciting, but I'm wary. Seems like 3-3 would be an improvement, right?

Nats Record: 2-4 (but take away two swings and we're 4-2)
Overall: 13-25, fourth place, .5 games out of last
Runs Scored: 170 (T. 12/16)
Runs Allowed: 193 (T. 13/16)
Expected Record: 17-21, Pythagoras is just mocking us now.

What's Good?
1) The offense. They're streaky as hell, but this week was one of their better ones, putting 32 runs on the board. Every regular (even Clayton!) contributed and five of them slugged over .600 for the week.

2) Scrapheap Pitchers. Nobody wanted Zach Day or Tony Armas, but together they pitched 20 innings this week for a combined two runs. It's hard to get better than that.

3) Adam Dunn's bat. While the rest of Cincinatti's lineup was ripping Nats pitchers, they did hold Adam Dunn to an .091 batting average. That counts for something, right?

What's Bad?
1) Bullpen Meltdowns! Joey Eischen learned that you can't lob a crotch-high fastball to Ken Griffey, and Chad Cordero learned that you can't throw a slider over the middle of the plate to Jeff Francouer. Tough lessons, but hopefully valuable ones.

2) Intentional Walks! It's weird figuring out Frank Robinson sometimes. The old man HATES walks, thinking they're moral failings on the part of pitchers who are pansies and who don't know how to sac up and challenge hitters. Yet, he issues intentional walks as if he were Bowden praising a toolsy outfielder. In the six games they just played, Nats pitchers intentionally walked 8 batters, including one to Chris Denorfia, who was so excited he was promptly demoted to the minors the next day. Perhaps the most curious one was an IBB to Chipper Jones so that the Nats could face Andruw Jones!?

Interestingly, they all came on a three-day bender. Wednesday, the Nats IBB'd three Reds. Two were to get to the pitcher, one was to get a platoon matchup with Scott Hatteberg in which the the aforementioned Denorfia eventually would come around to score. Thursday, Frank followed it up with another three IBB day, but only one was to face the pitcher. One brought up Edwin Encarnacion and the other brought up Brandon Phillips. The Nats escaped all three. On Friday, someone must've had an intervention, as Frank limited himself to just two. He walked Brian McCann to get to Jeff Francouer (who thankfully hit into a DP), and then walked Chipper Jones to get to Andruw Jones, which predictably backfired when Chipper came around to score.

Then, Saturday and Sunday? Cold Turkey. Maybe Frank realizes he has a problem? The first step of the 12-step Walkaholics Anonymous program is admitting you have a problem.

3) Old Washed-Up Relievers. Mike Stanton, Joey Eischen and Felix Rodriguez had tough weeks. They combined for 4.2 IP and allowed a ghastly 7 runs, thanks to 2 homers and 7 walks.

Game O' The Week
Sure, it was a loss, but it's going to be hard to forget Thursday's 5-4 loss at Cincinnati. Zach Day pitched out of his mind, and Frank Robinson managed a beautiful game before his medication wore off in extra innings. If you take your Nats cap off, seeing Ken Griffey hit a walkoff like that sure is a thing of beauty.

MVP Award
Ryan Zimmerman had a monster week, batting .360/ .385/ .640 with two homers and four driven in. Even more impressively, he struck out 'just' four times, which represents a pretty big improvement, even as he faced some tough pitchers like Arroyo and Smoltz.

Cy Young Award
Tony Armas was dominant, allowing just one run in his two starts this week. For good measure, he struck out ten and allowed just five hits in those starts. If his arm holds up....

LVP Award
No Nats batter had a truly bad week, but Jose Guillen wins this one for his statistical oddity. Guillen, who did launch two homers, batted .185, but his on-base percentage is only .179 thanks to 0 walks and 1 Sac Fly.

What's up with Guillen? Some of the beat writers have pointed to his contract status, but I suspect he's still injured. He had the same torn labrum which has wrecked our pitching staff, and then had the season-ending wrist problem, which kept him out for two weeks of spring training. Given how poor his throws have been, and how lost he's looked, especially at balls away, it's likely that he's just broken down.

Of course in a clubhouse where batters who don't play every day are chided as pussies, it's unlikely that Guillen would do the right thing and take some time off to help the team -- especially when he's in a contract year.

Joe Horgan Award
Ramon Ortiz is toast. The latest datapoint is his six-run outing against the Braves. Cut the line, Jim. Cut the line.