Monday, April 09, 2007

One Week Down, A Bunch To Go

One week ahead, and like our good friend Stan Kasten urges us to do, we're already looking ahead to 2008 and planning our October vacations.

Nats Record: 1-6, Last in the NL East, in the NL, and in all of MLB.
Expected Record: 1-6 (Thank God they round up)
Runs Scored: 18 (2.6 per game), 13th place
Runs Allowed: 45 (6.4!?!? per game), Last, of course. Philly is next worst, and they've allowed 32 runs.

What's Good?
1) Shawn Hill! He's staked an early claim as the Nats' best pitcher, with a sinker that's getting lots of ground balls. With a better fielding team behind him [looks in Josh Wilson's direction], he'd be even better. His 0-2 record certainly isn't his fault.

2) Dmitri Young! A pleasant surprise at first, he's made all the plays he should've save for one. (Ask Shawn Hill about that) Offensively, he's been solid, even if he swings wildly at most offspeed junk. Still, .292/ .370/ .542 is a pretty good week out of anyone.

3) The bullpen! We knew that it'd be a strength, but the concern was that that was going to be on a relative scale. They've had a few shaky moments, but some great performances. Ryan Wagner and Jesus Colome, who've been forced into mopup/long roles because of the crappiness of the SP, have been pleasant surprises.

What's Bad?
1) RISP. The team was brutal when it mattered this week, and their complete inability to do anything with runners on cost them at least 2 games they could've otherwise won. I'm of the mindset that this is more 'luck' than anything, just one of those fluky things that happens from time to time. When they finally get those big hits, the wins should follow. As a team, they're hitting .140/ .227/ .211 with RISP, which is a far cry from their overall .245/ .317/ .371 line.

2) Starting Pitching. It's amazing that this collection of stiffs isn't meeting our already low expectations. Nats starters pitched 34 IP in 7 games while allowing a 7.15 ERA. The less we say about the .304 Batting Average Allowed or the 4.8 walks per game, the better.

3) Injuries. While the jury is still out on whether Cristian Guzman's injury is a bad thing overall for the team, Nook Logan's has cost the team. It's forced Ryan Church over to center, where he's gacked on a few balls Logan likely would've had, and it's also forced Kory Casto into the lineup, where he's mostly been overmatched to a degree that Logan might not have been. With Logan's injury, we've had worse defense AND worse offense? Weird!

Game O' The Week
Like there's a choice this week! Down two to the not-so-imposing Jorge Julio in the 9th inning of Wednesday's game, the Nats piled on the hits, ending in a three-run rally to win the game. Dmitri Young won it with a high fly ball to left field, which Josh Willingham let drop, hoping it would be foul, knowing he had no chance of throwing out the winning run on a SF. Earlier in the inning, Kory Casto ripped a hard single through Hanley Ramirez for his first career RBI, a game tying run. But all that would've been for nothing had Ryan Church not hit a three-run bomb earlier in the game, getting the Nats back into a game, with an assist to a dominant bullpen.

Weekly Awards
MVP: Ryan Church. Sure, his defense was shaky, but you can't argue with two homers and four RBI, nor a .708 slugging percentage. His four walks leads the team, too.

Cy Young: Shawn Hill. Who else?

LVP: Brian Schneider. It's tough to be crappy when you're leading the team in RBI (4), but when all those come on ground outs or Sac Flies when your team is trailing big, you're really not getting the job done. (.136/ .160/ .182)

Joe Horgan Award: Jason Bergmann. Six walks aint' gonna cut it, kid.

Weekly Whips (wherein we award the Whip to the player of each game)
4/2: Dmitri Young, 2 doubles
4/3: Shawn Hill, 5 IP, 2 ER, crappy defense behind
4/4: Jon Rauch, 2 Ks to keep the team in the game late.
4/5: Micah Bowie: 2.1 scoreless AND an RBI groundout. He can do it all!
4/6: Jerome Williams, ugly line, but 6 IP when the team needed it, and everyone else stunk. Yes, the bar is this low. Did you know there's a new stadium next year? Buy your tickets now!
4/7: Austin Kearns, "homer" wink, wink.
4/8: Shawn Hill, even when he pitches great, we lose. A starter in the 7th inning? Amazing!

Looking Ahead
They head on the road where you think they'd be unable to play worse, but then they're facing the Braves and Mets and their imposing lineups. There's no reason they can't lose all six (Do you think that Chuck Slowes will yell as loudly about "10 in a row!" as he did in June of '05?). But with the way baseball works, we're bound to get a bounce or two in our favor, right? Sigh.


  • Yeah!!! Guzzie made the 2007 All Overpaid team on espn page 2.

    "SS -- Cristian Guzman, Washington Nationals: $4.2 million

    Forty-two cents would be too much to pay for this dreg of a player."


    By Blogger Bill, at 4/09/2007 10:42 AM  

  • Well, at least we got rid of Frank Robinson. That really helped the team play better. The players are so enthusiastic about Manny and all, surely it's showing up in their performance . . . seriously -- ownership has proven incompetent in EVERYTHING for which an outcome can be demonstrated (ticket delivery, concessions, TV, 2007 team, continuing to employ Bowden); why would ANYONE think that the matters over which the jury is still out (talent level in the future, comitment to invetsing in on-field talent, hiring the best available manager) will turn out any better? TG this team has a 30-year lease and CANNOT move, because by 2010, they'll be (a) drawing flies and (b) for sale. And for how long does the team have to underperform last year's team before the bloom is off the rose for Manny?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/09/2007 11:07 AM  

  • I for one, am getting concerned about Zimmerman. Thanks to Mitchell Page, Zim is now obsessed with hitting everything to right field. The power he had to left field last season seems to be history. It is one thing to spray the ball to all fields but when a batter continually hits to the opposite field, eventually the defense positions itself accordingly. Another negative for Zim is that he is not getting the fat pitches he got last year when Nick was batting behind him. With the Nats very weak offense, especially in the lower half of the order, teams can afford to pitch around him.

    By Anonymous phil dunn, at 4/09/2007 11:30 AM  

  • I agree with anon.

    It's a good bet that Kasten's inept managerial skills now on display will bring total disaster for the club across the board. What makes anyone expect that the still unseen results of Kasten"s "The Plan" will be any better than the visibly horrible results produced so far?

    My guess is that it will be, say, at least five years before someone in the Lerner family wakes up. (Maybe the daughter?)

    Silver lining in the dark cloud: Charlies Slowes isn't screaming his bush league badinage nearly as much as he did in prior years' broadcasts. However, the radio intros to the Nats games are an embarrassment: full of Slowes at his worst. It must be that Kasten thinks Nats fans are a bunch of rubes who will respond to the antics of Double A broacasters.

    I caught Ken Harrelson, the White Sox TV broadcaster, the other day on WGN. Now there's a pro (great broacast voice, too). He actually left the booth to go down and talk to Buerhle after Mr. B got hit with a line drive on his left forearm, and came back to report. Don't get no better'n that.

    By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 4/09/2007 12:02 PM  

  • Anonymous -- If Frank Robinson were still napping in the dugout, Ryan Church would've been benched after the 2nd game and never would have had a chance at his 2 HRs.

    Tickets were late? Yes. Stan has acknowledged the screw up, but that's done. I don't know of large numbers of fans that didn't get opening day tickets in time.

    Concessions are bad? Yes, Aramark sucks. The team is moving into a new stadium next year that's essentially a ball field surrounded by an enormous food court. This is the last year you'll have to worry about raw hot dogs.

    TV? I'm not sure I see a problem here. MASN is on every major carrier, and the blackout Friday was a DirecTV issue, not MASN's.

    2007 team? I guess this is an issue that fundamentally splits the fan base. I'm 100% behind the moves the team is making. As a former Pirates fan, I've seen what half-assed free-agent spending, and no real spending on draft picks, scouting or player development can do -- nothing.

    Do you want to build a consistent winner? Then you half to start from scratch. We were spoiled by an 81-win team in 2005 because that team had no future. To build a new team QUICKLY, Kasten and Co. are blowing the franchise up and devoting enormous resources into stocking the farm system and accelerating the development of promising players. Signing Gil Meche and Gary Matthews Jr. (or even Tomo Ohko or Aubrey Huff) as free agents was not going to make this a better team next year.

    You seem convinced that the Nats’ ownership is running this franchise into the ground, where I see the exact opposite. I guess will have to talk in 2 years to see how it's going.

    By Anonymous Natty Fan, at 4/09/2007 12:09 PM  

  • Nice to see Hill off to a good start - he's been a favorite of mine since the days before he blew out his arm. Hopefully he'll keep it up for the rest of the season.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/09/2007 12:27 PM  

  • Natty Fan,

    Problem with your logic is your contention of "devoting enormous resources into stocking the farm system".

    How much have they spent? They have saved over $30 Million by cutting talent at the major league level. I would bet they have spent less that $3 million on Farm why not spend some on $27 Million on 2007 so we do not have to watch at best a AA team. BECAUSE THEY ARE CHEAP and think the FAN will always be there for them....they are wrong, very wrong.

    By Blogger JayB, at 4/09/2007 12:48 PM  

  • Jay B:

    I agree that the Nats farm system hasn’t immediately benefited from the Lerner’s frugal Major League payroll, but that’s not how these things work. They are spending a lot of money on the infrastructure that will support the development of future players. Some examples of this “invisible” spending:

    1. Mike Rizzo, who created what many consider the best farm system in MLB for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was hired away by the Nats to become their Assistant GM and VP of baseball operations.

    2. The scouting department was greatly augmented by the addition of Chuck LaMar (bad GM for the Devil Rays, but held in very high regard in scouting circles), and other top scouts. As one source was quoted in the Washington Post in March, “They just flat-out bought a lot of these people.”

    3. The Nats have made a significant financial commitment to scouting in the Dominican Republic. The $1.4 million bonus given to Esmailyn Gonzalez, and the baseball academy that they maintain shows this franchise is a player in market dominated by big-market teams.

    That Nats are hyping up this year’s draft as the most significant step in rebuilding the team. With the money they have available, they can be aggressive and draft players that other teams (small-market or otherwise cheap teams) avoid because of “signability issues. Again, as a Pirate fan, I watched the Bucs pass up on the top players to sign middling prospects with their high draft picks. Of course, they haven’t drafted and developed a star player since Barry Bonds. I have no such fears with the Nats.

    By Anonymous Natty Fan, at 4/09/2007 1:24 PM  

  • Natty Fan,

    I agree these are good moves at the farm level....but my point is NONE of this could cost more than a few Million dollars....Even signing draft picks is going to cost only a few Million Dollars....This leaves lots of money not being spent on 2007. Enough to sign some pitching, a centerfielder and a shortstop that would help now......Losing like this is hurting young players develpment and fan loyalty...all to money back into the Learners Pockets. Win as much as you can as often as you can and cash to the owners will take care of itself down the road.

    By Blogger JayB, at 4/09/2007 2:25 PM  

  • I think the Nationals hot start in 2005 ruined the DC fan base. When we knew for sure they were coming, the mindset was "well, they'll suck - but at least it will be baseball." When the team started off so well, expectations grew from "just baseball" to "winning baseball". The team struggled down the stretch in '05 and never really got going in '06. And the fan base dwindled as well (2.7M fans in '05, 2.2M in '06).

    So, the ownership group committed to building a long-term successful franchise by starting at the lowest level. If the 2007 team was the team that moved here in 2005, no one would even complain about that. But winning first set the bar unrealistically high.

    I, for one, would much rather see us build a franchise from the ground up and be able to promote players from our minors to the big league team (like the Braves) instead of flashing deep pockets to buy a good team for just one year (like the '97 Marlins). I want consistent quality teams, not 1 good team every 10 years.

    So I will give this team a few years to develop into a winner. Because when we start winning, I don't want to stop. I want a Braves or mid-90s Indians type run -- build from within for long-term success!

    By Blogger Natsfan74, at 4/09/2007 2:33 PM  

  • One difference though... the Braves and Indians, despite their success, combined for one ring -- that coming when they faced each other. ;)

    I demand more!!!

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/09/2007 2:36 PM  

  • I agree with anon that it isn't a zero sum proposition - that there aren't a few bucks left over from building the farm system to patchwork some major league talent to make us less bad, and that it isn't really honest of the Lernstens to say it is. BUT it's no accident - they want to be sure to be the worst team in bball this year to have the first pick in the draft, which should net a long term star - A Morneau or Zimmerman - and winning 70 games isn't worth losing out on a future building block. But they can't say this in public - "We stink on purpose."
    Cynical fan

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/09/2007 3:49 PM  

  • If the Nats had started 4-3, or even 3-4, we wouldn't even be having this debate on here. I think we have some great pieces already at the major league level for a lot less than Tomo Ohka is making this year. Zimmerman, Kearns, and Lopez are solid players who could start on a lot of teams. Schneider is solid, and when we get Johnson back we'll even be better. Add to that, we picked up Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young (both hitting over .300) for non-guaranteed minor league contracts, and I think we built the team smartly. So, add 3 hits this week-end, make us 3-4, and see that we are spending the money where we need to spend it, finding, acquiring, and developing young talent. I would rather have Belliard and Young and the flexibility to do something later.

    Now fast forward to July, and if Young (who doesn't have a position when Nick comes back) and Belliard have a good 1st half we will get good prospects in return for them from someone who needs bench help for a pennant drive. Seems like a perfect fit to me -- give up nothing to acquire cheap players who could net a good trade value later? Why spend an extra $20M for an extra 10 wins? Did Soriano make us that much better next year, that spending $18M/ year to keep him would make it worth it? How about Vinny Castilla and Preston Wilson 2 years ago?

    By Blogger Natsfan74, at 4/09/2007 4:58 PM  

  • I'll just point out that Ron Belliard was traded last year... for Hector Luna. so don't expect anything other than an old, injured A-ball pitcher for him. And we've got whole teams of those.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/09/2007 5:01 PM  

  • I, too, was glad that Hill was able to build of off his productive spring training. I think he's going to be the Nat's best most reliable pitcher this year (barring injury). Implicit in that statement is the fact the Patterson will not be the Nat's go to guy this year. I think we probably need to start getting used to the fact that Patterson is not going to be the long term "ace" of this staff. I realize that it's early in the year, but I don't like what I see and I'm very concerned about the lack of velocity. I like Patterson a lot, but he is not an effective pitcher at 88 mph. On opening day I can only remember one, maybe two balls that were hit on the infield while Patterson was in. Everything else was smoked like it was batting practice. The coaching staff seems to think that it's just a strength and conditioning issue and it may well be. Perhaps he'll have a lights out season from May 1 on. I'm not banking on that though, and I don't think we'll see a return to '05 form ... ever.

    By Blogger M, at 4/09/2007 9:09 PM  

  • At least the Phillies are 1-6.

    By Anonymous Brian, at 4/09/2007 9:47 PM  

  • IMHO what Natsfan and others of his ilk are missing is the critical importance of first impressions. Lots of studies indicate people form their bedrock opinion upon meeting someone in the first seconds of the meeting.

    Ditto management and baseball. It's all well and good to focus on the future (with, to say the least, a questionable dependence on unproven management at all levels to deliver the goods in 2012) but the performance of the team on the field in 2007, the first under the new management, will provide an indelible imprint for D.C. fans.

    By fielding the worst team in the major leagues in 2007, Lerner, Kasten, and Co., will have affected fans' impressions for years--i.e., it will turn them off. It's not as though there are no alternatives for recreation nowadays. The new management seems to think it's the 1950s all over again, that going to watch a baseball game is all that folks have available to them while spending their summer evenings in Washington. Not so.

    It's a huge mistake to have this pathetic team, denuded of quality major leaguers, make the first impression on Washingtonians. At the end of the day, what they'll have left is hard-core baseball buffs.

    By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 4/10/2007 9:30 AM  

  • First impressions? I'm sorry, did I dream the 2005 and 2006 seasons?

    By Anonymous NattyFan, at 4/10/2007 11:04 AM  

  • By Blogger Sneakers hobbies, at 10/29/2009 9:05 PM  

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