Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another Game, Another Loss

What can you say? Simontacchi was decent, making one mistake. He got ahead of Prince Fielder, then tried wasting a pitch high, but it was lower than he wanted, and Fielder ripped the ball to the seats, basically ending any chance of the team's victory.

A few plays stick out in my mind.

Robert Fick is a terrible, terrible baserunner. I wrote a few games ago about how he botched a tag play when he was on second. Today, he made two more mistakes.

On one, he blooped a hit to right, didn't hustle out of the box, then turned on the 'jets' when he thought he could go to second. No dice. He got throw out trying to take the extra base. In fairness, with two outs, it's not a completely indefensible move, but with as much as this team struggles, wasting any outs on the rare times we have baserunners is pretty close to inexcusable.

The other play he screwed up was early in the game. He was on first when Nook Logan hit a sharp grounder towards the second baseman. Ricky Weeks charged in, and was set to field it about the same time as Fick arrived. Fick tried running around the tag, but Weeks got him, and because the out was recorded so quickly, Weeks could recover and throw the speedy Logan out at first for the easy double play.

Fick could've done one of two things. Given his past cheap-shot history, I'm surprised he didn't elect for the first: cold-cocking the fielder ala Albert Belle. But the smart play would've been to just freeze. Or perhaps back pedal. He needed to do everything in his power to avoid the easy and quick tag.

Had he done that, Weeks would've been forced to either throw quickly to first, or to second for the force -- in which case, Logan would've reached easily on the fielder's choice. In those quick-think scenarios, I've seen fielders completely freeze up and forget what to do, and there was a chance Weeks might not have got any outs.

Instead, because Fick was the one who had the brain cramp, Weeks had a simple play.

  • Ryan Church was a bit of an adventure in left, failing to make one clean catch that he could've, but also failing to cut off a ball that may or may not have allowed a run to score.

  • The galling play of the game was in the 7th inning. Down 4-1, Schneider and Fick reached to lead off the inning, bringing up Nook Logan. With a three-run deficit, Logan bunted the trailing runners over to second and third. The Nats would ultimately score two runs -- one on a sac fly, the other on an error by the right fielder that should've ended the inning, instead of allowing a run to score.

    Just a crazy, crazy play. I understand that Logan is a good bunter, but he only has about a 34% career success rate on his bunt hit attempts (I don't believe this stat counts those times, like tonight's, where he was charitably awarded a sacrifice). And even his meager chance of getting on base -- which would put a speedster on as the tying run! -- is a better percentage play than bunting him.

    Bunting the runners over in that situation yields an average offensive team about 1.5 runs. Even with those two the Nats got, they were still trailing -- and as we saw, being the road team, it makes even less sense, because the offense is always going to have three more outs than you do to push across extra runs.

    The goal of the game isn't to lose by less. It's to score more runs than your opponent. And Manny Acta called for a play that does the former much more than the latter.

    If Nook Logan is such a terrible hitter that you're having him bunt late in a game when he's the tying run, HE DOES NOT BELONG in the lineup.

  • The other play that mystified me was in the 9th inning. Given that we were down 3, and there's a snowball's chance in hell of winning, it really doesn't matter a bit. But after Robert Fick reached base, the Nats needed one more base runner to bring the tying run to the plate. Acta decided to pinch hit for Nook Logan (he may have been injured, which is what the TV people were speculating, but if he wasn't, the previous AB would've been a perfect time to PH for him). The choice wasn't a bad one, but he sent up Tony Batista.

    What a joke. There's one thing that Tony Batista does -- slaps the occasional homer. But he's a notoriously bad on-base percentage player. He hacks at everything, hits for a very mediocre average, and never walks. Accordingly, he has an on-base percentage of .298, which is roughly what Cristian Guzman's is.

    So in a situation where the homer would do pretty much no good, he sent up the basic equivalent of Cristian Guzman to pinch hit. Wha?!?

    He predictably hacked at the first pitch, lofting a can of corn to the outfield, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

    Manny's made a number of strange decisions. I realize that the composition of the bench, and the strains of the mediocre starting pitching have hampered him in a number of games, leading to less-than optimal decisions. But tonight, none of those were really an issue.

    I haven't been this confused since Frank sent up Luis Ayala to pinch hit!


    • Like Josh Wilson...Mr. Fick has got to go. He's added absolutely nothing to this team. What the heck, bring back Larry Broadway as the first baseman until Nick returns. (If he returns.)

      It's a black hole over there at first, and the way Zim is throwing, you need a player that can handle it. Oh, right...Guz is back as well. Even more important to get a capable glove over there. Why not? None of 'em are hitting.

      Screw the emergency catcher thing.

      Fick is of absolutely no use at this point. Can't hit, can't run, makes boneheaded plays. Get a first baseman over there, stat. This team is not going to win. Get Broadway in there to develop or move on.

      But that's just my opinion.

      By Blogger Jim, at 5/08/2007 11:45 PM  

    • Keep him around if you need to, but for the love of feckin' God, play Casto at first. Give him another 200 ABs to see if he sinks of floats.

      If he sinks, then we'll know we can let him go. If he floats, great! The Nats have a regular player.

      This has been one of the most maddening things that Acta's done this year -- shuffling players into and out of the lineup based on how hot they're hitting (or not, as the case usually is) and never giving anyone a consistent chance to prove themselves.

      In fairness, he did stick with Church -- although Church smacked the bejeesus out of the ball those first two or three weeks, basically forcing Manny's hand.

      They ran Snelling out of town because he wasn't hitting well enough in sporadic playing time (didja notice that he's playing CF and hitting for Oakland?). They need to just stick with someone and go.

      I'm rambling...

      (what else is new?)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/08/2007 11:51 PM  

    • Do you think it is time to have Stan or Lerner talk to us about how things are going? I would like to hear from them. I have not seen anything from them on this year yet. I know they do not want to comment but I think it has a pace to lose 118 games and just plan unwatchable fundamentals requires the top of the organization to speak to the season ticket base.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/09/2007 5:51 AM  

    • I know I'd like to see an interview by them that addresses THIS year without ANY references to the new stadium.

      Bad is one thing.

      But we're, for the most part, not competitive, even if the team mostly plays hard.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/09/2007 8:41 AM  

    • Larry Broadway is on the DL in AAA right now. And before he went on, he was hitting only 213/259/488.

      I don't forsee him coming up in the near future.

      By Blogger John, at 5/09/2007 8:46 AM  

    • I had tuned out by the top of the ninth inning . . . who else other than Batista was available?

      Casto had been used, Langerhans was in the game on the double switch, Young isn't going to be used this series (per the TV guys), and Flores is in the "save the backup catcher for an emergency" spot. Had Belliard been used yet? I suppose it doesn't make much difference.

      By Anonymous Basil, at 5/09/2007 9:16 AM  

    • chris - you are right on. DFA fick and try casto sink or swim at first. fick is awful defensively, we don't need a 3rd catcher since we don't use the 2nd one much at all, he can't run the bases, he is a terrible PH.

      if it's down to keeping one of the two (sadly it isn't b/c we have room for both, which is the real problem here), DFA fick and keep young, as occasional power trumps occasional catching. plus, dameathook has been on the right side of mr mendoza all year while fick just nosed over that line with a 3-4 game in which in bungled two of the three appearances on base via his baserunning misadventures.

      By Blogger Bill, at 5/09/2007 9:19 AM  

    • Belliard had been on deck, but Acta pulled him at the last minute for Batista -- the wrong move.

      Here's an idea... why not leave Logan in and have him actually try to get on base? His OBP is higher than Batista's. And pinch-hitting makes all hitters perform worse than their typical numbers.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/09/2007 9:19 AM  

    • basil - you are right, belliard was the only one available at that point. at that point, i think manny simply went with the "this game's over, let's give the new guy a chance" philosophy instead of any real strategizing about who would be "better" in that situation.

      By Blogger Bill, at 5/09/2007 9:21 AM  

    • I don't have a problem with them keeping Fick.

      I have a problem with them giving him so many starts, especially over more viable options like Casto, Snelling and Langerhans.

      He's a passable bat off the bench, and provides positional flexibility, which is pretty valuable in the NL.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/09/2007 9:21 AM  

    • chris - once again you are right. i forgot it was logan that was being PH for. that made no sense at all.

      By Blogger Bill, at 5/09/2007 9:22 AM  

    • By Blogger Sneakers hobbies, at 10/29/2009 9:03 PM  

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