Monday, May 21, 2007

I Hate That Ballpark

I've had a pretty comfortable routine the last few weeks. After I make dinner, my girlfriend and I (no, she's not imaginary) sit down and watch another movie from my always-growing netflix queue. After the movie, I'll flip on the game and pick it up, catching what I missed with a quick trip to yahoo sports.

Tonight was the same way. I bought the "Planet Earth" DVD set the other day, and we've been making our way through them. After one episode of about an hour, I checked and saw a 6-0 lead and said 'screw it' to the rest of the game, so we watched another episode.

When I turned the DVD off, it was 7-5, and Winston Abreu was pitching his second inning of relief. The rest, as they say, is hist-o-ree.

A few thoughts from what I did watch, and what I gathered from the play log...

The first inning represented the best and worst of the Nationals. They're a long-chain offense, relying on hits and the occasional walks to get their runs. They're not a power-hitting team, so they need strings of hits to have a chance of scoring. They had four hits and three walks, yet only scored four runs. It's not that four runs is a bad outcome. It's just that a good team would have smashed their boot down on Arroyo's foot. They dribbed and drabbed their way to just (yes, I feel silly typing 'just') four runs and left the bases loaded. What would that inning have looked like with a homer mixed in there somewhere?

The Nats would get their homers later, taking advantage of a park that's pretty easy to homer in, but then so would the Reds. Cincinnati's park is one of the 2 or 3 most extreme homer parks in the league. And compared to RFK, it might as well be a Little League field.

Statdrunk computerees have crunched park factors to better compare parks. RFK has averaged a homer rate of about 80 over the last two years, where 100 is average. In other words, RFK allows about 20% fewer homers than an average park. Over that same period, Great American has had a homer rate of about 120, which, as you can guess, means it allows about 20% more homers than an average park. That's a pretty substantial swing and those extremes shade lots of things about the quality of each team's respective players. Alright... digression over....

I think it's pretty safe to say that Levale Speigner isn't going to be a major-league starter. His numbers (besides his now 6.6something ERA) are scary. He's walked 15 batters in 21 innings, and has just 10 Ks to go with it. He doesn't fool bats, and he's not even giving the team innings. Supposedly Bergmann's raring to go, and hopefully Speigner can go back to the pen where he belongs (if even there).

Abreu was dominant in his relief appearance, pitching three strong innings, while keeping the Nats in a game that felt like it was slipping away. One thing caused me to raise my brow in curiosity though. After cruising through two innings, Manny Acta had another of those tough managerial decisions. With a two-run lead, Abreu was due to lead off the 6th. Do you leave the hot pitcher in, effectively wasting any chance of a scoring opportunity? Or do you pinch hit, try to extend the inning, and see if the other guys -- Colome, Rivera, Rauch, King and Cordero -- can hold the lead?

Manny chose to send Abreu up. He made an out. The Nats did nothing offensively. Then he pitched another strong scoreless inning.

I'm of the mindset that you need to take every opportunity you can to score, especially when you have a scant 2-run lead with 4 more defensive innings to play. Sure, the Nats would have a chance to build on the lead with their future ABs, but, especially with the way this team struggles to score, I think you need to take a crack at another run or two, especially with the top of the order. Another important factor is the context. As we said, this is a pretty strong hitter's park, and the Reds, despite their GM's best efforts to sabotage it, have a pretty ok offense. Two runs wasn't going to be enough. And as it turns out, it wasn't.

That's not to say that that decision lost the game, just that that's a place where things could've turned out differently. We'll never know though.

Besides, the Nats made it to the bottom of the 8th with that same 2-run lead. But here's where Teh Nook taketh away. With a runner on second, Scott Hatterberg hit a high pop to centerfield, an easy can of corn. Logan ranged over. Kearns ranged over. And as has happened a number of times with plays involving our rightfielder, something went to hell in terms of communication. It's the CFer's ball all the way, and Logan, perhaps distracted by the bull charge of Kearns, let it drop for a double.

The increasingly annoying Bob Carpenter tried to make excuses about where the defense was positioned before the play, but that's just BS. I wish he'd turn off homer mode sometimes and tell us what we're actually seeing, not trying to shade things in the most positive light possible. It was the CFers ball all the way and not a tough play, and for whatever reason it dropped in.

I'm not sure if it rattled Rauch or what, but he threw una Albóndiga to Javier Valentin who hit it to Kentucky. Game over.

Here, too, is where the park comes into play. Rauch and Cordero are both extreme flyball pitchers. Think about how many long, warning track flies -- Cordero especially -- they allow at RFK, and think about where those would go in a bandbox like GAB. One of them giving up a homer in that park wasn't a huge surprise. It's just a shame that because of the misplay the homer plated the game-winning run, not the tying one.

The game ended when pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard popped on a neck-high slider from David Weathers. Another decision for Manny Acta: Why Belliard and not Jesus Flores? Belliard is batting .135 on the month, and Flores has impressed almost everyone with his patient approach and surprising power. Again, not a game-losing play, but it's a curious decision.

It's a game that leaves us with a bitter taste in our mouth, but 5 hours ago, with Speigner against Arroyo, you'd have inked this one in as a loss, right? No, that doesn't make me feel any better either. Sorry for bringing it up.


  • I think we need to consider Manny's options as not "he could do this with or that", but "he has to do something".


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/21/2007 11:13 PM  

  • Chris...

    You're obsession with Bob Carpenter is getting a bit icky. ;)

    By Blogger Jim, at 5/21/2007 11:52 PM  

  • I never thought I would say it, but Gary Thorne and Buck Martinez make a much better duo on TV for the Os than the current Nats' TV pairing. I recommend to one and all that you listen to the radio broadcast while viewing MASN, that way sparing yourself the likes of Carpenter and Sutton.

    In so many ways, the Lerner crew has found ways to annoy fans--always, of course, Jim, IMHO :-)

    Many Acta's decision-making has not been bad, but not really stellar, either. Let's hope he's learning. Right now, he's no Joe Girardi.

    By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 5/22/2007 7:45 AM  

  • Don Sutton's

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/22/2007 8:09 AM  

  • I like Don Sutton. He can be dry, but I usually learn something from him.

    The radio isn't much of an alternative. Besides, I can hear Chuck Slowes' screaming he lungs out all the way from RFK anyway.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/22/2007 8:12 AM  

  • I need to spend more time with my Netflix stuff and less time watching this team because it is about to give me The Big One.
    CF has to take control of that play, has to, has to, has to *** OK, I'll stop now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/22/2007 8:13 AM  

  • Planet Earth is better than any Nats game. In 5 years, ill revisit the debate.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/22/2007 8:41 AM  

  • chris - that's exactly how i've defended sutton to others, i am really starting to like him and he has something to say without screaming or yelling. that being said, i still really like chuck slowes!

    By Blogger Bill, at 5/22/2007 8:57 AM  

  • On the radio guys: every time I check in, they are so engrossed in calling balls and strikes, ground balls, etc., that you seldom get the big picture. You should know the score, the context of the game, strategy analyses, an interesting story or two, some player info, just a painting of the whole picture. But it seems too tunnel vision.

    By Anonymous Ed, at 5/22/2007 9:24 AM  

  • That's my biggest problem with the radio guys.

    They NEVER give the score mid-inning.

    Jon Miller uses an egg timer in the booth. Every time it runs down, he resets the inning and score, so people know what's going on.

    Next time you listen to a game, count how long you have to wait between score updates.

    My biggest problem with Charlie -- besides the screaming -- is how he just spews out numbers, reading them off a list without context. I know he needs to fill airtime, but he never explains why the litany of numbers he spews are important, and you can tell he's not thinking about what he's reading; he's just spewing it.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/22/2007 9:27 AM  

  • Every time I get in my car during a game I get so annoyed that I have to wait so long to hear the score. If it is near 15 or 45 past the hour I just switch over to WTOP because I know I hear it sooner there. Very frustrating.

    By Anonymous brent, at 5/22/2007 9:58 AM  

  • The secret to getting the radio guys to give the score more often than just every half-inning break is to find a sponsor for it. They already have the Toyota League Leader Board, the National Air Traffic Controllers Radar Gun, the I-forget-who-it-is First Run of the Game (smart advertising buy there, huh?), etc. How about "It's Nationals 6, Reds 0 on the Capitol Punishment Scoreboard..."? Wonder how much they'd charge for that? But if you want them to mention the inning too, you'd probably need to get a separate sponsor for it. Perhaps some other blogger?

    In fact, the Nats blogosphere has the power to shape the radio broadcast any way it wants, if it would just get its act together and pony up. "And it's Randy St. Claire coming out of the dugout for a Miss Chatter conference on the mound..." The possibilities are endless, wouldn't you say?

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 5/22/2007 10:15 AM  

  • If we're going to rally our powers for that, we're gunning to buy out the PNC Stock Ticker, perhaps the stupidest advertising in the history of radio.

    Nothing like polluting half-an-inning with 4-hour old meaningless stock data. Is ANYONE served by it?

    (Of course that I know that it's PNC indicates its effectiveness... SHIT)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/22/2007 10:19 AM  

  • "And it's time for the SOL call to the bullpen ..." Hmm, has promise.

    By Anonymous Simon Oliver Lockwood, at 5/22/2007 10:22 AM  

  • The SOL Final Score could work too

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 5/22/2007 10:25 AM  

  • And hey, on the off chance that the Nats ever actually turn a triple play...

    By Blogger Nate, at 5/22/2007 11:38 AM  

  • TV replays clearly showed Nook calling for the ball. Or, at the very least, mouthing the words. He could have been whispering for all we know.

    I agree it's Nook's catch to make, but put yourself in his shoes. You have a play on a fly ball, and the image of a Nick Johnson's ruined leg flashes into your mind just as you see Kearns bearing down on you, even though you're clearly calling for the ball. I might have botched it, too.

    By Blogger bryc3, at 5/22/2007 11:44 AM  

  • Here comes Austin Kearns to the plate. [pause]

    Kearns has appearedin45games168at-bats 41hits11doublesonetripleand18RBI with15walks36strikeoutsbatting244 so far this season. [pause]

    As the pitch comes in, here's your PNC Stock Ticker report...

    By Anonymous ntr Charlie Slowes, at 5/22/2007 11:57 AM  

  • Speaking of Nick Johnson's leg...

    I didn't realize MASN's audio was lagging about a second behind the video in the top of the first.

    On the bloop to left, the sound of the bat hitting the ball ocurred at the exact moment the two Reds' outfielders collided while trying to track down the ball. I expected to see them rolling on the ground in agony after what sounded like a horrible collision!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/22/2007 12:14 PM  

  • They both hail from Kentucky, play the outfield, show flashes of spotty power, routinely bat .250 and rarely come through in the clutch.

    Is that really Austin Kearns out there or did Brad Wilkerson sneak back into a Nats uniform while we weren't looking?

    If the Reds want Kearns back (or FLop for that matter) as a remedy for the Majewski deal, they can have him.

    By Anonymous bdrube, at 5/22/2007 2:22 PM  

  • Chris, et al:

    I didn't mean to say that the duo of Slowes and Jaegler (sp?) was a good one, just that it's better than the TV alternative--again, IMHO. I don't care about Sutton's substance (which I find underwhelming) but his voice is soooo painful to hear. Carpenter sounds like he's teaching civics to a junior high school class. Sometimes, in some cities, announcers are chosen for having pleasing voices as well as for their ability to do games. Not here. The Nationals' public persona is not at major league levels in any category. I'm just trying to make the best of a bad situation, is all.

    We've been told, and I'm sure the management is absolutely right, that everything BEHIND THE SCENES is running like clockwork and is right on schedule to deliver a championship team in 20__ (fill in the blank). For that, we can be grateful.

    By Anonymous JohnR (VA), at 5/22/2007 4:01 PM  

  • I would be fine with Sutton, if only he could learn how to pronounce Brian Schneider's last name. Is it really that hard?

    By Anonymous Atlanta, at 5/22/2007 10:40 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/26/2009 8:56 PM  

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