Monday, June 25, 2007

12 Down, 14 Or So To Go

I'll just repeat what I said last week: "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."

Somehow, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but our perception of the whole is even greater. They ooze along, making us think they're better than they actually are. Today's Boswell column deals with some of the perception, and is particularly amazed, as we all are, that they're doing it with the JV pitching staff on a team whose varsity were expected to be universally terrible.

When I did my pre-season projections, I took a stab at guessing the numbers of various players. I projected the starting pitching to have a 5.21 ERA. They're actually at 5.18. Don't think I got it right though. My 5.18 projection was compiled on the backs of John Patterson and Shawn Hill, and included a big chunk of 6.00 ERA innings from the faceless hordes that've pitched fairly well recently. It's not the starters who've exceeded expectations, but their scrub fill-ins. That's what's made what's happened over the last 6 weeks all the more amazing. (And let's not talk about the 90 or so runs I'm off of on the offense!)

Nats Record: 2-4. This is what I'm talking about. It certainly sorta feels like they were better than that because of how they played over the weekend. 2-4 is certainly a decent result against those teams.

Overall: 32-43, tied for 13th in the NL. This is a 69-93 pace.
Runs Scored: 23 (3.8/g), 291 overall, still dead last.
Runs Allowed: 38 (6.3/g), 373 overall, tied for 11th.
Expected Record: 63-99, a drop of two wins from last week. Damn you, Detroit!

At one time, the team was in 'first' since May 9, the day they hit rock bottom. They've dropped back to 5th place, and have now been outscored by 8 runs since then.

What's Good?
1) Brandon Watson! I made the mistake when I wrote about him last week and how failure was the best option for the Nats of not considering the alternative. Slap hitters can get really lucky sometimes, and that's basically what he's done. He's found the holes, lofting weak flares over the infield, getting his hits, 5 of 'em in just 14 ABs.

Did you see his swing? He reminds me of -- don't laugh -- Pete Rose. I never saw Rose in his prime, and my only playing memories of him were when he was hanging on at the end of a glorious career as a joke of a singles hitter. Watson has that really low, deep crouch, and he sort of pushes through the ball, playing pepper with the infield, hopefully with just enough lift to get it over their reach. Rose had enough ability to drive the ball a little more, but the dusty corner of my memory remembers him just sorta pushing the ball. That's a comparison that's not really fair to either for various reasons, I s'pose.

Regardless, next time he's up, watch where the LF plays. He could pick the shortstop's pocket. Still, I'll take the hits for now, even if he can't get a farkin' bunt down.

2) Dmitri Young! What slump? .391 Batting Average with four doubles. He's back! (Trade him!!!)

3) Jon Rauch! When your setup guy is third on the team in innings pitched, you know it was a rough week. He made the most of it, with five scoreless innings, re-finding his strikeout pitch: 7 of them, versus zero walks.

What's Bad?
1) Nook!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Didja hear Charlie Slowes' call of the game? It's worth the $10 subscription to the radio service on mlb.com just to listen to it. It's a beautiful combination of disgust, surprise, excitement and stunned disbelief. A helpful commenter transcribed it, but you reallllly need to listen to it. That basso growl Chuck has was perfect, and it wasn't forced like it sometimes seems!

2) Jason Simontacchi. Yeah, I know he pitched well yesterday, but when you allow one run in one of your starts and still finish with an 11 ERA for the week, you've earned your spot here. It's amazing how different one pitcher can look, and it shows you the razor thin margin he has for success. Either he's hitting his spots, keeping hitters off balance, or he's in the showers by the fourth. Good pitchers can muddle through on their bad days. Ergo, well, you can finish it.

3) Ryan Zimmerman. Perhaps he'd be better off if he lost his bat in his shirt too? Just when he took two steps forward, last week's .167/ .167/ .167 line was a giant step back. That's four singles with zero walks. Worse, there were four GIDP in there. He's up amongst the league leaders in my least favorite category.

Game O' The Week
Definitely not this one. Probably not this one either. The wins against Cleveland were nice, but you can't tell me that this isn't the game you're going to remember 2 years from now. It had it all, just not the result we'd have liked.

Weekly Awards

MVP: Cristian Guzman! Scary! He batted .417 with a double, a triple and a homer mixed in. He also led the team in RBI with 4 more than any other batter. We're actually going to miss his bat. And that's something that's practically impossible to believe.

Cy Young: Micah Bowie was the most effective (ERA-wise) of the starting pitchers, but he couldn't get through five innings. Jon Rauch' yeoman's work out of the pen was good enough, and kept the Nats in a position to win three games, of which they pulled out two.

LVP: NOOK!!!!

Joe Horgan Award: Lots of choices this week. The Nats used 14 different pitchers. Only 5 had an ERA under 5 this week.

Weekly Whips:
6/18: Cristian Guzman is a machine: 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI.
6/19: Dmitri Young had two doubles. The rest was forgettable.
6/20: Austin Kearns had two doubles and almost kept the Nats in the game.
6/22: Cristian Guzman hit a homer!?
6/23: Other than the bunt, Brandon Watson had the game of his life.
6/24: 3 for 3 for Ronnie Belliard works for me!

What's Ahead?
The Nats get three in Atlanta with a strong team who's in a nosedive, then meet one of those "lesser" teams in Pittsburgh, on a short 6-game road trip.

The Atlanta series'll be interesting. Jason Bergmann owns the Braves and the Braves have been slumping offensively. Will they wake up? Will the Nats, who didn't have many problems with a strong Cleveland team, continue their run? Who knows! That's why we watch the damn games!