Monday, August 21, 2006

Twenty Down, Seven To Go

Take away the last two games, and it wasn't such a bad week, eh? The Nats returned to divisional games, playing the Braves and Phillies. They held their own against the Braves, splitting the four games, the highlight of which was the Nats first complete game shutout of the season -- something Pedro Astacio wouldn't come close to duplicating yesterday. Things looked good for the Philles series after the Nats took the first game, but back-to-back asswhompings killed any forward progress.

The only thing we learned is that this team is woefully inconsistent. But then, what bad team isn't? Some days the bats all synch up, and they mash a billion runs. Other days, they're as flaccid as, well you can make your own joke here. Some days the pitching looks solid. Other days you're trying to figure out who the hell this Chris Schroder? Schroeder? Shrecker? is.

It's getting harder and harder to enjoy the invididual games. There's as much a chance of being down 10-1 as there is of being up 4-0. At least the team's going to let you know what kind of night it is early. When they lose, it's rarely in completely agonizing fashion (when's the last time we had a blown save?). They lose big-time.

Still, we watch. We're suckers.

Nats Record: 3-4
Overall: 54-70. We'd have the 5th pick in next year's draft. To get to .500, they'd have to go 27-11 (a 115-win pace). To get to my pre-season prediction of 75, they'd need to go 21-17 (a 89-win pace). To avoid 90 losses, they'd need to go 19-19. Since the trade with the Reds, they've gone 16-17.
Runs Scored: 33 (4.7/g); overall: 569. They're now 8th in the league, which, barring something dramatic happening, is about as high as they'll climb this year; they're 30 runs behind 7th place, but only 10 runs ahead of 13th.
Runs Allowed: 48(!?!?) (6.9/g); overall 647 runs. That's dead last in the NL, an inexcusable number, especially for a team playing in that park. Worse, only three AL teams have allowed more runs. Imagine if we played with a DH!

What's Good?
1) Brian Schneider!? I'd hate to give credit to Frank Robinson, but something seems to have finally lit a fire under Brian Schneider's keister. His defense still stinks, but his bat came alive, and he hit his first homer since the Ford administration. .333/ .455/ .556

2) Alfonso Soriano. You know about the good stuff. Homers and steals and all that crap. But watch his walk rate. And watch his K rate. One's trending up over the last month. One's trending down over the same. That ain't good. Old habits are hard to break, I guess. (Look at the lower graphs there; they tell the in-season story)

3) Jose Vidro, Ryan Church, Felipe Lopez, Brandon Harper and a cast of thousands. Vidro batted .444; Church slugged .778; Lopez got on at a .419 clip (even if he made a horrible decision to steal in yesterday's game); Harper hit his first 2 MLB homers. Not a bad week for everyone!

What's Bad?
1) Pitching, pitching, pitching! Despite throwing a CG shutout, Astacio allowed 7 runs for the week. Ramon Ortiz allowed 15 runs in 2 games -- That's more than Trevor Hoffman has allowed all year. Bergmann, Traber, Schroder and Rauch all finished with ERAs above 6. When you're allowing nearly 8 runs per game over a week that's going to happen, I guess.

2) Austin Kearns. He's been in a slump for a few weeks now, and it's gotten worse. Unfortunately, Frank and Page have decided that he needs to alter his swing, so they're working on converting him from a flyball hitter to more of a line-drive hitter. I'm not convinced that that's going to work; they should probably he happy with the quality near-All-Star-type player they traded for. I'm not sure if the tinkering is what caused his poor week, but if we wanted someone to hit .167/ .259/ .208, we could've sent Jose Guillen back out there.

3) Ryan Zimmerman. If someone ever tells you how important RBI are when evaluating a player, show them this week by Ryan Zimmerman. He led the team with 8 RBI, but he batted just .172. Productive outs, my butt. The number of RBI he had surely had nothing to do with Lopez and Soriano being on all the time in front of him, did it?

3a) Damian Jackson. Man, he blows. Cut his sorry ass now. Three errors in a game he didn't start? I've never seen a player play as consistently dumb as him. He's not just making simple errors, like when a ball kicks at a bad angle. He's making game-changing, bone-headed, head-up-ass kind of errors. First he was tired from too much playing time. Now the game's moving to fast for him. Shut the hell up. His contract is up at the end of the year. They only owe $150K or so on it. Just cut him. He's a sunk cost.

Game O' The Week
It surely wasn't the most exciting game of the year, but Pedro Astacio's complete game shutout of the Braves was one of the most pleasurable to watch. His breaking stuff was really darting through the zone, and he kept the Braves bats off balance by pounding the corners of the strike zone with alternating hard and soft stuff. They didn't have a chance. Bernie Castro placed a nifty bunt single into the no-man's land between the pitcher and first for an RBI, and Austin Kearns had his one big hit of the week, a two-run double. That was more than enough.

MVP Award
Zimmerman had more RBI, but Brian Schneider's were very well-timed. His bat came back to life, and he earns his first MVP Award of the year.

CY Young
[null]. I guess Saul Rivera wins by default. He's pitched effectively recently, and seems to have earned Frank's trust as one of the primary setup men, sort of in the old Carrasco role. Pencil him in at $350K for next year!

LVP Award
Austin Kearns, c'mon down! Despite his offense, he's played a pretty good defensive RF -- despite some wild-ass throws this past week. Watch his range from side to side. He's as good at getting to balls on the line as he is in the gap, with a quick first step right to the spot. Also, watch for how he cuts balls off, charging them hard. On a hit to right, you rarely see the runner go from first to third because he's right on top of the play.

Joe Horgan Award
Poor Ramon Ortiz. Two starts ago, everyone wanted to know if he was our ace. Now, we want to know when his next start is so we can make late dinner reservations. I haven't seen pitching that bad since Allan Travers retired.