Monday, July 24, 2006

Sixteen Down, Eleven To Go

Up, down, up, down it goes. It's been an interesting two weeks as the Nats have struggled to adjust to the newish roster. Kearns and Lopez replaced Guillen and Clayton. Alex Escobar and Ryan Church returned from the dead. Mike O'Connor bounced back from the minors (and stunk), and Tony Armas uninjured himself. Oh, and Luis Matos fell onto the roster. What a weird period of adjustments!

And then there's the pitching staff. If you had Micah Bowie as one of our setup guys at the beginning of the season, well, I'm sure there's a loony bin that has internet access.

There'll be some struggles, but with Johnson, Zimmerman, FLop, Kearns in place for next season, there's a core of a passable offense. Now let's just sort out the pitching, separating the wheat (Rauch) from the chaff (Gryboski).

Nats Record (since the ASB): 5-4. Things started off poorly against the Pirates, but the Cubs are the magical elixir that cures what ails ya.
Overall: 43-56 (26/30) To get back to .500, they'd have to win 38 of their last 63 games a .603 winning %. Over a full season, that's a 97-win pace. Think they can do it? Me neither.
Runs Scored: 48 (5.3/g) The offense certainly enjoyed the Cubs pitching staff. Overall, they've scored 455, which is good for 11th in the league.
Runs Allowed: 39 (4.3/g). The pitching hasn't been great, but, again, they enjoyed the Cubs offense. (Ramirez excepted) Overall, the staff has allowed 509 runs, which is tied with Cinci for fourth worst in the league -- factoring in the parks, we're much worse than them. Ouch.
Expected Record: 44-55

What's Good?
1) Alfonso Soriano's Trade Desire! The storyline over the next week is where he ends up? Detroit? Seattle? Peru? Meanwhile, he's playing like a madman beating the snot out of the ball, upping his value with every extra base hit he crushes, 11 in all! For good measure, he's walked 8 times and stolen 5 bases. I hear that the brisket was his idea.

2) Everybody's Eye! The team loped towards first slowly a lot, led by the Walking Stick's 9 BBs. Austin Kearns, despite some struggles with the back had 8, as did Soriano. This is one area that the Nats have made HUGE strides in compared to last year, and it's part of the reason (not just A-Sor) that the offense has been 'better'. They were 11th in the league last year. This season, they're fourth.

3) The bullpen! Yeah, I know, I know. Take away Kevin Gryboski, and they were actually passably effective, even if not dominant, combingind for a 1.9 ERA. (5 runs in 23+ innings) Chad Cordero led the way with four scorless innings. Saul Rivera wasn't far behind with three scoreless appearances.

What's Bad?
1) Brian Schneider. He continues to struggle with just four singles in 19 ABs. At least he only hit into one double play.

2) Pedro Astacio. Giving up three runs in six innings to the Cubs isn't great. The list of pitchers who've had quality starts against the Cubs recently includes Brian Moehler, Boof Bonser and Geremi (yeah, that's spelled right) Gonzalez. But he was knocked around by the Pirates, which is almost inexcusable!

3) LOB. FLop and Kearns bore the brunt of criticism when they left a combined 1,412 men on base in the Pirates series, but that's been a problem for the Nats over the entire season. They're batting .249 with RISP, which is 11 points lower than their overall average.

Game O' The Week
Down four to the Marlins with Dontrelle Willis on the mound, it seemed hopeless. But not on Tuesday. A pair of runs in the sixth (one thanks to a Nick Johnson double), set up Nick Johnson's AB in the seventh. With the bases loaded (thanks to an IBB of Ryan Zimmerman), Nick faced off against Dontrelle, ripping a 2-2 pitch hard up the middle driving in the tying run.

Kevin Gryboski gave away the tie in the bottom, and all seemed lost. But, again, they'd fight back. Robert Fick tied the game with a clutch homer in the 8th. And Alex Escobar drove home Ryan Zimmerman (who had doubled), giving the Nats a game-winner.

Chad Cordero put the tying and winning runs on base, but, in the end, nailed it down, in one of the more enjoyable games of the year.

MVP Award
Soriano, no doubt. He hit .457/ .568/ 1.057. That's incredible, even for just 9 games.

Cy Young Award
Chad Cordero made that Florida game interesting, but in the end, four scoreless appearances is four scoreless appearances.

LVP Award
Brian Schneider's .211/ .286/ .211 was, by far, the worst of the week -- even when you factor in FLop's errors.

Joe Horgan Award
Thanks for playing Kevin Gryboski. I hope you enjoy New Orleans.


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