Tuesday, May 29, 2007

8 Down, 2/3 To Go

Another week, another five wins. Wait! Five wins!? They're now 12-5 since that last homestand began.

What they've done certainly feels inexplicable, but let's try anyway.
1) They played lousy teams. Sure, they took 2/3 from the Braves, but the other teams they beat are a combined 28 games under .500 with a .430 winning percentage. Sure, they're "better" than we were, but it's not like we swept the Brewers and Padres, teams that took 5/6 from us immediately preceding this hot stretch.

2) The offense was under-performing, and what we're seeing is partially rebounding and partially players doing what they should've been doing in the first place.

3) They're hitting with RISP. Just as the .100-something drought wasn't emblematic of their real talent, this stretch of .300-something isn't likely sustainable either.

That being said, here's the team's individual offensive stats since the hot streak began. Other than Dmitri Young, do any of those numbers look that far out of line with what players could do? Guzman, perhaps. So what we've seen over the last few weeks is an offense that's playing about where it should, even if it's maximizing its run-scoring capabilities because of some luck with RISP.

The pitching, on the other hand? Really, who can explain that. We're so far beyond smoke and mirrors, it's crazy. I'm guessing that Ted Lerner sold his soul to the devil.

Still, remember that this is a team that's 9 games below .500. We're better, but they'd have to continue this torrid stretch through mid-June just to get back to .500. Doable, sure. Likely? We'll see.

Nats Record: 5-2
Overall: 21-30, 15th in the NL
Expected Record: 64-98. At one point, they were on "pace" for 20 fewer wins than this. Of course, at one point, Tuffy Rhodes was on pace for 486 homers.
Runs Scored: 43 (6.1/g); 191 (3.7/g). For as good as the offense has been lately, it's still 15/16 in the NL, although factoring park in probably moves them safely to the middle of the pack.
Runs Allowed: 36 (5.1/g); 241 overall (4.7/g), 11/16. Here's a hidden warning sign. The pitching really wasn't that good, but it didn't seem like a problem because of the great hitting this week. If the Nats scored like they did almost any other week, they're 2-5 this week instead of the other way around.

What's Good?
1) Team slugging! Here's the complete list of regular Washington Nationals batters who slugged under .500 this week: Cristian Guzman (.481), Nook Logan (.308). Young, Schneider, Church and Langerhans were all over .600. Think they like hitter's parks and lousy pitching staffs? Team slugging went up 26 points this week.

2) The bullpen! If we ignore Jon Rauch, they were pretty solid this week. Winny Abreu and Chad Cordero combined for an extra-inning CG shutout this week. (in effect!)

3) Dmitri Young! He hit over .500!? this week with four doubles and six RBI. Maybe it was the foot, and maybe someone will be interested in him.

What's Bad?
1) Levale Speigner. 13 runs in 6+ innings? If we wanted that kind of production, we'd have re-signed Ramon Ortiz. (Funny, the idiots clamoring for his re-signing based on three hot starts early this year haven't said anything lately. I wonder why.)

2) Teh Nook. Someone (Federal Baseball?) said it best. He's a one-tool player. We don't like to think of speedsters like that, preferring that pejorative for all-or-nothing sluggers like Russell Branyan, but it fits Teh Nook just as well. A .259 OBP and .308 slugging isn't going to get it done unless he's catching everything, and he certainly hasn't been doing that.

3) Jon Rauch. What I love about Rauch is how fickle fans are and how they're ruled by emotion. (Yes, I fall trap to the same thing; i'm not implying that I'm above that). If you want to know how a fan feels about their team, look at the last-10 column in the standings. Our simple pea brains can't process much more than a week or two's worth of emotion. Anything beyond that is ruled by fact and numbers moreso than emotion. Sure, we remember happy times like Zimmerman's walkoff against the Yankees, but it's almost impossible to put it into context of the roller coaster of emotion that comes with a season.

All this is a way of saying look back two weeks. Everyone was calling for Chad Cordero's head, insisting that Jon Rauch was the better, more reliable, and stronger pitcher. Two weeks later, are you going to stand by that?

Nope. And that's the fun of being a fan. We don't have any accountability! We are free to change our minds and our wishes on a whim like our hero Tom Boswell.

Game O' The Week
I dunno. Pick one. They were all good, right?

Weekly Awards
MVP: For the second straight week, it's Dmitri Young. The old man's had quite a run!

LVP: Teh Nook. See above!

Cy Young: Lots of good choices. The starters were good, not great. Why not Winny Abreu? 6+ innings, 6 K, 0 BB?

Joe Horgan: Levale Speigner. Ugh.

Weekly Whips:
5/21: Rauch stunk, but Ryan Zimmerman had 3 hits, 2 RBI and 2 Runs, exactly what you want a 3 hitter to do.
5/22: Felipe Lopez was Grand with 6 RBI!
5/23: Ryan Church had two homers and matched Lopez' 6 RBI -- tying the Nats' single-game record!
5/24: A Cristian Guzman homer is a beautiful thing.
5/25: Might Austin Kearns' catch be the best defensive play we've seen since '05?
5/26: Dmitri Young had two hits and two walks; it's not his fault that Speigner stinks.
5/27: Sure, Langerhans had the slam, but it wouldn't have mattered without Belliard's four hits, homer and RBIs.

What's Ahead?
The Nats start a homestand with two good teams, the Dodgers and Padres. It'll be interesting to see if this hot streak continues, especially with much of the offensive improvement coming as a result of favorable road parks (and their opponents' lousy pitching).

Of the next five starters on the Probable Pitcher listing, the highest ERA is Derek Lowe's at 3.64. It's going to be a tough week as the RISP luck is likely to dial back a bit, the opponents get stronger, and the park takes away some of those cheap homers the team hit in Cincinnati.

10 Comments:

  • Notice how the percentage of affirmative votes believing in "The Plan" per the fan poll on Nationals Pride.com skyrocked these past two weeks?

    Eh, I still say wait and see.

    By Anonymous bdrube, at 5/29/2007 11:10 AM  

  • I've remained quiet about Rauch's recent slide because I am trying maintain perspective and remember I've always felt he's the best pitcher out of the bullpen. But yeah, the pea brain metaphor is true as I did have to forcefully squelch those "ack, he's sucking!" reactions.

    By Blogger MissChatter, at 5/29/2007 11:21 AM  

  • > Everyone was calling for Chad Cordero's head, insisting that Jon Rauch was the better, more reliable, and stronger pitcher.

    If by "everyone" you mean a few cranks on BPG, then OK, but why not say it that way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/29/2007 11:31 AM  

  • Mr. Anonymous would do wonderfully on a close-reading analysis. Unfortunately, he'd fail the reading comperehension test.

    Sure, it's a bit of a strawman, but it's also set up in the previous paragraph about the specific type of people I'm referring to (to which I'd include myself).

    Picking apart the structure of my sentences and paragraphs would be fun! Perhaps someone could devote a blog to that. :)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/29/2007 11:33 AM  

  • Nice to see you still take criticism gracefully.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/29/2007 3:10 PM  

  • Of course. Who doesn't?

    I'll take constructive criticism gracefully, especially if it's correct.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/29/2007 3:13 PM  

  • Not saying that Nook is the long term answer for the Nats in CF, but the assessment as a 1 tool player is too harsh IMO.

    Despite have trouble with Aearns on balls hit to RCF, Logan does cover a lot of ground in the OF, and gets back to the wall as well as almost any CF not named Andruw. Logan is still developing as an offensive player (and may never develop), but isn't that what this year is supposed to be all about? Identifying who is the future and who is not.

    While I am skeptical about Nook, it is way premature to write him off after 5 weeks of action (he missed 3 weeks with an injury).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/29/2007 3:47 PM  

  • Sure, it'd be premature to write him off after five weeks of action. I'm not doing that. I'm writing him off of five years of major and minor league data.

    He's not a useless player. You're right. He plays great defense. He's a good bunter, and probably a decent baserunner.

    But that's a 5th outfielder, not a starting CFer.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/29/2007 3:50 PM  

  • Logan has 598 MLB at-bats (essentially a full season for Juan Pierre). He is a life-time .270 MLB hitter with 36 steals and 78 runs. Again, Logan has flaws, but for someone that is learning to switch hit, I think that those numbers will improve given the chance to play every day.

    Also, not sure what the alternatives to Logan are right now:

    - Langerhans? He has 742 MLB at bats, and a career BA of .243 and 1 (yes, o-n-e career steal).

    - Brandon Watson? He is Nook-lite. Career MLB BA of .176 and OBP of .233 (granted less than 100 ABs).

    - Ryan Church - clearly a better offensive player, but right now that mean playing the less-than-ordinary Robert Fick in left, and Church is clearly not the OFer that Logan is.

    Simply stated, given the players on hand, Logan in CF with Kearns and Church on the corners is the best OF that the Nats can put together. Also, by the end of the year, Logan's numbers may be better than you think.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/29/2007 4:34 PM  

  • I'd recommend reading a bit (That's an example) on why using batting average as a tool for player evaluation doesn't really make sense.

    The short version is that Langerhans walks a lot more and has more extra-base hits, giving him more value than Logan, even without the steals.

    Given the talent on hand, yeah, you're right. They probably should play Logan. Ideally, they'd platoon him and Langerhans in center because Logan does hit lefties better.

    Let's keep in mind, too, that Logan is 27. He's not a kid anymore. Sure, he still could have a few years in front of you, but hoping a 27-year old 'gets it' is a bit different than hoping a 23-year old does.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/29/2007 5:11 PM  

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