Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fouled-Off Bunts: Descent Into Madness Edition

Apparently there was some sort of game last night. Looking at the boxscores, it seems like it was an ugly one. Instead of subjecting myself to poorly played, slow baseball, I went and saw a movie. And it looks like I missed an ugly win. Still, a win's a win, and I'll be paying my penance tonight -- assuming the rain holds out.

Is Ortiz our ace? Well, I guess in one sense, but that's taking relativism to an absurd degree. Ramon Ortiz would be a good 4th starter on a playoff team. That he's our best pitcher is a sign of how crappy things have been for the Nats this year. That Times article notes that no Nat has thrown a complete game, something that's never happened before in ML history. Do you think that anyone has a chance? If I had to wager, I'd go with Astacio. Maybe he'll get lucky and face one of those all-kids September lineups.

But back to Ortiz... It's interesting that he's even in the discussion for 'ace' considering how truly horrible he was for the first part of the season. I was calling for his head after every start, and he was supposedly one of the names that Jim Bowden was going to whack, until Tony Tavares, for budgetary reasons, stepped in and stopped him.

On May 18, Ortiz gave up 3 runs in just 5 innings to the woeful Chicago Cubs -- the worst offensive team in the majors. At that point, his ERA stood at 6.15. I ripped Ortiz because he wasn't striking anyone out, pointing out that you just cannot succeed in the majors if you're not missing the occasional bat. If you're not fooling anyone, then you're giving up lots of line drives. If you're lucky, they get caught. If you're unlucky, you're hitting the shower in the third inning. Luck simply isn't enough to win.

But something changed. I think that this was about the time that Ortiz stopped trying to overpower batters. I don't remember reading about any decisions that he or St. Claire made, but he dialed back the velocity a bit. There were a few starts early where he was throwing straight-as-a-string fastballs in the mid-90s. As he eased up on his delivery, his fastball took on some more movement, which, in combo with the new slider grip that St. Claire taught him, gave him some success. He struck out five or more batters in his next six starts -- a huge improvement over what he had done.

And since that date, he's been respectable, compiling a pretty good 3.86 ERA while averaging 6.4 innings per start. He's struck out nearly 6 batters per game (good, not great) and has walked just 2.5. He's still giving up the gopher ball (1.6 per 9), but all in all, he's a good #3. And after his first few starts, who would've imagined that? Is he worth signing next year? At the right price, I suppose. But, with his success over the last 3 months, there might be more demand for him than there was last year, when he was coming of a terrible season.

  • Brandon Harper made his major league debut last night, and singled in his first chance. Good for him. It'd be nice if he made a really strong showing this season. He was scorching the ball for New Orleans in July, and if he shows that he's competent behind the plate, and can crank out the occasional hit, he might be perfect for next year's backup role. Every penny saved is a penny that can go into the rotation. Todd Jasobson interviews him here.

  • Jose Guillen proves again that he's a manly man. He visited the clubhouse and made sure the beat writers knew how severe his injury was. It wasn't just a UCL tear. Sez Jose: It wasn't just the tear; it was the muscles [around the ligament that were bad also]. Everything was broken in half. I don't even know how I was playing like this.

    Well, you shouldn't have been playing like this. At least he's learned his lesson and is going to take it easy, letting his body heal properly before he rushes back on to the field, only to suffer another injury, right? Jose? Guillen said, because of his work ethic, he will be swinging the bat in three months and be ready for Spring Training.

    "I'll be 100 percent, no doubt in my mind. I'll be ready by Spring Training. I'm not going to rush anything. I know how fast I heal. The doctors are surprised that I have my arm fully extended


    Uhoh. Well, at least our manager, if it's Frank (something that Jose is already whining for) will understand that he has to protect his players, right? Frank?

    "It was tough to see him struggle, period," Robinson said. "But knowing him, you know he was going to go out there. He was going to go out there if he had to kick the ball into the infield. You admire him for that. He's what you call a gamer -- he wants to play and he wants to win. There's nothing wrong with that."


    Oh, hell. It's a good thing that Frank wasn't in a position of authority and able to do what's right, right? Crap.

  • Friend of Capitol Punishment, Bill Ladson notes that Jose Vidro believes that he's going to be traded when he's activated, and that he's prepared that the other team will ask him to make a position switch, probably to first. (I wonder how he'd be at third, a position he's played before, even if he did so quite terribly?) Trading Vidro would be great, but that'd require the Nats to eat a huge chunk of his contract.... which still might be worthwhile. I'd be content with Marlon Anderson manning second next year. But that's something that's likely going to have to happen in the offseason. None of the major contenders really seem like they need a 1B.

    Vidro starts a one- or two-game rehab assignment with Potomac tomorrow.

  • Micah Bowie, one of the three actual relievers in the pen, strained his back and is day-to-day. He'll probably sit out til the weekend.

  • Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow with Brian Schneider's swing? Frank says that the flaw in his swing is relatively easy to fix, but that it's best left for the offseason, because, you know, he's busy golfing, and Brian Schneider's complacent. I'm sure glad Frank is motivated to bust his ass for this job.

    From the same, Lenny Harris, a former Red, has caught on as a minor league hitting instructor. Yawn. I'm still waiting for Chris Sabo.

  • TendIn-gate slumps on. Krivsky says he finally talked to Bowden. I like the words that Krivsky uses; he sounds like a 1950s sitcom dad. He's definitely treading on eggshells, and it's probably save to say that the Bowden ban is back in effect! Key to that story is that MLB says that it's unlikely that they'd take action, citing the ol' 'buyer beware.' Still, if Bowden did mislead them about the cortisone shot (and I wish they could pin down exactly when it was given), he's in the wrong. But at the same time, Krivsky's staff deserve a beat down for not knowing that 1) he was injured previously or 2) he was overworked. Enough of that, though. I'm sick of it.

  • Today's must-read, and perhaps the single most important piece of journalism the Washington Post has ever produced is a Guide To RFK Beer. Yummy!

  • Hot Blogger Action!!
    --The not-quite late, but lamented Distinguished Senators takes one more whack at a bloated self-important pinata.

    --The Farm Authority gives us the Nationals Minor-League players of the month.

    --NFA also notes the rapid rise of Zach Zincola. Drafted this year, he just got the callup to double-A, and has a chance of making the team as early as next year.

    --Few other notes on the minors...
    Chris Marrero, one of our first-rounders, has meningitis, but the 'good' kind. He'll be on his feet soon enough. Stephen Englund is struggling, hitting just .175/.280/ .225 with 29 Ks in just 80 ABs. Newly acquired Matt Chico pitched yesterday. Meh. No Ks. Too many hits. We'll see.

    --Just A Nats Fan is happy to see Brandon Harper.

  • Oh, the movie I saw, The Descent, was pretty good. I'm not a big fan of most recent horror movies, which are more about torture porn than anything. This one, while it had its share of gory scenes, was scary for the atmosphere and the overall feeling of dread and claustrophobia it created. I don't usually react physically to a movie -- other than the occasional jump -- but this one literally had my palms sweating and my body contorting as the characters slid and crawled and scraped their way through the cave. The scenes prior to the monsters revealing themselves were probably even more effective than the ones at the end, although the 'twist' ending (and the alternate British ending) definitely elevate this to something beyond just a typical shock and awe horror movie. If you can tolerate some spattering blood and enjoy when a movie surrounds you in atmosphere, especially through its use of a mostly dark screen and your vivid imagination, it's worth the $9 -- especially because the sound really adds to the experience.
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