Monday, June 18, 2007

11 Down, 55.3% To Go

This team has an amazing ability to time their wins well for maximum effect. Other than that long losing streak which seems like it was ages ago, the team has the ability to win a game, just when you feel like the bottom is about to drop out. After getting pasted by the Blue Jays in the first two games, it was easy to get down on the team. Then a win later, and things are back to normal, and you can look at the team's 4-2 record against AL East teams and think that things are all right.

Nats Record: 4-2
Overall: 30-39, tied with three teams for 13th place. That's a 70-92 pace.

Since rock bottom on May 9, the team is 21-14 and tied with the Phillies for the third best record in the league. Since that time, they're also 6th best in runs allowed.

Expected Record: 65-97 They "picked up" two games this week.
Runs Scored: 28 (4.7/g), Overall: 268, last in the NL by 16 runs and almost 100 runs behind Philly.
Runs Allowed: 27 (4.5/g), Overall: 335, 11th in the NL, 110 behind SD.

That May 9 dividing line is a perfect point to look back on. We've played 35 games since then, 34 before then.

Since, we've won 9 more games, lost 11 fewer, scored 70 more (about 2 more a game) and allowed 11 fewer. In other words, despite appearances, the pitching hasn't been appreciably better. Of course when you're running Levale Speigner, Mike Bacsik and Micah Bowie (who has been surprisingly good), that's probably to be expected.

What's Good?
1) Ryan Zimmerman's Power! It's returned! He's like a giant semi with a full load chugging up a hill. It takes him a while to get going, and sometimes it doesn't seem like he's moving, but maybe he just hit the crest of that hill, and it's all downhill (so to speak) from here.

At this point, he's basically the same Ryan Zimmerman as last year, just with a few fewer points of batting average. 100 RBI might be a bit of a stretch, but he looks like he's got a good chance of setting a career high in homers. He's been excellent over his last 20 games, and if he keeps that sort of pace up, he'll be even more valuable this year than last, as his pricetag continues to rise.

2) Micah Bowie! He wasn't the sharpest starter, but what he's done has been incredible. Svrluga has a good entry focusing partly on him, about how he thought his career was over. And with good reason.

Coming into this season, Bowie had 11 career starts, all in 1999. He barely averaged 4 innings pitched, but that's what happens when you have a 9.96 ERA. This year, he's started 6 games, averaging just over 5 IP with a 3.82 ERA. His peripheral numbers (walks, strikeouts, homers) aren't very good, which indicates he's scuffling along, a bit lucky perhaps. For the short term, you can't have any complaints. He's far exceeded meager expectations, and he's kept the team in every single game he's started. With the way Dmitri and Guzman have been hitting, that's all this team really needed: They're 6-0 in his starts.

3) Ryan Langerhans! You wouldn't realize it because he's in and out of the lineup, because he bats so low in the order, because he had such a terrible start with his other teams, and because the team focuses a lot on his platoon partner, but he's been terrific lately. With the Nats, he's up to .236/ .368/ .403, which is good for a 103 OPS+. Sure, that batting average is low, but if you focus on that, you're missing the other things he does offensively, which have value. He has a good eye, drawing 15 walks in limited playing time, and he's smacked 3 homers too. Decent power and a good eye can overcome low batting averages.

Factor in his defense -- he's been terrific -- and he's a center fielder who's well above average. No, he's not ever going to be an elite one, but he's also not holding back a team.

What's Bad?
1) Cristian Guzman. Remember when he was good? He had quite the resurgence for a bit before going back into a cold .105/ .292/ .105 slumber.

2) Levale Speigner. I hope he enjoyed his one dance with the devil. His start against MIN, reminded me of Ryan Drese against the Angels. Even bad pitchers can have good games from time to time. Problems arise when teams continue to search for that ghost, thinking the player is capable of reproducing that performance instead of ascribing it to dumb luck.

3) Jesus Colome. This guy has a workload that would make Luis Ayala tremble in fear: 87 games, 101 IP. I'm not sure if he's tiring a bit, but he's scuffled from time to time, allowing a run in half of his last 12 appearances (cherry-picked stat alert!)

Some of it could be fatigue, but some of it is also just lack of command catching up to him. He's been dominant at times, but even when things are going well, you get the feeling that he's not completely in control of things, especially the slider, which sometimes sorta hangs up there. And when it doesn't, Schneider's (or, if you're Don Sutton: Snyder) usually reaching to the opposite side of the plate from where he set up.

He probably hasn't pitched as well as his ERA indicates, walking far too many batters (4.5/g) without being overly dominant with the strikeout pitches. He's succeeded because he's mostly kept the ball in the park (just 3 homers) and because he's stranded a higher number of baserunners than the typical pitcher. Clutch pitching or luck? Somewhere in between, most likely. If either starts to fade, his ERA is going to rise. Might it be time to sell high with him?

Game O' The Week
Pick any of the three against the Orioles. They were all sweet!

Weekly Awards
MVP: Congrats to Ryan Zimmerman who broke Dmitri Young's stranglehold on the award. (Young, for what it's worth, cooled to a (.269 .269 .462) line.

Cy Young: Jon Rauch got his groove back, pitching 4.1 scoreless IP while allowing just one hit. Of course that one hit blew a save, but that's what happens when crappy relievers walk the park in front of him.

LVP: Sorry, Cristian. Ryan Church almost edged him out, but his latest injury prevented him from accumulating the PT necessary to bump Teh Gooz.

Joe Horgan Award: Levale Speigner really wants this to be renamed, huh?

Weekly Whips:
6/12: Ryan Zimmerman had 2 hits, a homer, and 2 RBI. Good 'nuff!
6/13: I know that FLop had the big 3-RBI double in extras, but he was one for six! Austin Kearns was 3 for 4 with 2 RBI and a walk. That works for me.
6/15: 13 baserunners in 7 innings doesn't usually yield 1 run allowed, but then again, Jason Simontacchi doesn't usually pitch against teams as crappy as the O's.
6/15: Ryan Langerhans' homer didn't mean anything to the game, but the reaction he got from Roy Halliday was fun at least.
6/16: Another homer for Zimmerman. I could get used to this!
6/17: Micah Bowie pitched about as well as he's capable of pitching.

What's Ahead?
Uncertain Doom.

This upcoming stretch is why the Nats needed yesterday's win so badly. They're about to run the gauntlet of 2 of the top teams in the AL with Detroit and Cleveland. There's a good chance that the results won't be pretty!

If the Nats are somehow able to split, that would be a big success. I'm not banking on that though. (which means, of course, they'll go 5-1 and shock us all)

5 Comments:

  • Im too lazy to look, but how many of Langerhans' walks are him and how many are people waiting to pitch to pitcher? Are they intentional? Are they pitching around him? I would think a #8 hitter in the NL would get lots of walks. Maybe Langerhans really is earning them, just wondering :)

    By Blogger Stephen, at 6/18/2007 10:51 AM  

  • Only one is intentional. Sure, some of that's him being pitched around, but he took walks in Atlanta, too. It's not really a new skill for him.

    He can put up a good OBP with a low batting average because of that.

    (8 of them came in his last 8 games, where he played in AL parks with no pitcher to worry about)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 6/18/2007 10:54 AM  

  • And as an added bonus to all of the accomplishments of the past week, the Nationals helped to get an Orioles manager fired! That's like the sweet, delicious cherry on top of the pie.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/18/2007 11:03 AM  

  • We also have a better record than the Orioles and we drew more fans for beltway match-up than they did. We had the advantage of having a week-end, but that park should draw more than RFK any night of the week.

    Easy to call Guzman a dud for his BA last week, but he also had an OBP near .300 and drew a bunch of walks. Why does Langerhans get a free pass (pun intended) for being new, while Guzman also gets a good OBP (in a season where he's still hitting .300+) and gets ridiculed?

    By Blogger Natsfan74, at 6/18/2007 12:07 PM  

  • Surely Langerhans just proved the point. A double to lead off the 9th. GET RID OF NOOK!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/18/2007 9:46 PM  

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