Monday, August 13, 2007

19 Down, 7 To Go

The resiliency of this team is incredible. Not only do they come back within games (twice yesterday!!!), but they just don't go on long losing streaks. They had that one 8-game stretch in early May, but since then, they've only lost more than two in a row three times. Over that time, they've had five stretches of at least three wins in a row. They're not, as OMG pointed out a week or two ago, streaky, but the WLWLWWWLLW pattern makes it hard to get really down about how they're playing. (Remember April? sigh)

Same thing this week. With Micah Owings shutting them down, it looked like first-place Arizona was going to sweep. Then a bang, a zoom, an Oh crap!, and another bang and a zoom, and the Nats won, and all was right with the world.

Nats Record: 3-4. Considering the competition and the hoopla, that's not a bad result.
Overall: 54-64, a 74-win pace. If the season ended today, the Nats would have the 8th pick.

To get to .500, they'd have to go 27-17, a 99-win pace.
To get to 100 losses they'd have to go 8-36, an 18-win pace, which is worse than they started out.
To get to my projected 68-94 record, they'd have to go 14-30, a 52-win pace. Shows ya what I know, huh?

Since July 4th, they have the third best record in baseball, and have allowed the third fewest runs. They've played at a 95-win pace since then.

Runs Scored: 24 (3.4/g); 463 overall (3.9/g), last by 28 runs.
Runs allowed: 33 (4.7/g); 553 overall (4.7/g), 8/16 in the NL

Expected Record: 68-94; we're to the point where we can safely ignore ol' pythagoras, I think! (Ask the D-Backs about that!)

What's Good?
1) John Lannan's Balls! The guy has to have the biggest set in the clubhouse. Here's a kid who started the year in A-Ball pitching to snot-nosed teenagers. He does well, rises quickly, then finds himself right in the middle of the Barry Bonds soap opera. (Note: the word 'soap' is not an indication of cleanliness) He gets Barry all three times, including a GIDP and a killer K late in the game, blowing his so-so fastball and curve past the aging roid monster. Then, in his next start, he takes on the defending Cy Young winner and matches him pitch for pitch, ball for ball. Two outings, two challenges, and the young man with the so-so slop pitches met them both. Did you see that Young Chico? Let that be a lesson to ya!

2) Teh Nook! The guy has the baseball instincts of a three-toed sloth, but he doesn't run like one. His overall numbers this week (.333/ .357/ .370) are those of a crappy player who's getting lots of hits. But hey, he got those hits. And at least this week, he finally decided to play some defense.

He's been hot lately, but if you take the longer view, this is what he's done versus RHP since he gave up switch-hitting: .257/ .296/ .312. Focus on the difference between his batting average and the other two numbers (obp and slugging). The differences are roughly the same as with his hot week, right? He's not walking any more. He's not hitting for power. It's just that he's suddenly a hot hitter.

If you have faith that last week's hot hitting is a newfound ability, then we've got a player. But if he's more like the 110 or so ABs he's had as a RHB against righties, well, SIGN DUNN!!!!

(Isn't this supposed to be the positive part? Oh yeah... Good job (this week!), Nook!)

3) Felipe Lopez! Did I read something somewhere (or hear?) that he said he had off-field issues earlier this year that were distracting him? Well, whatever it was, it looked like it cleared up this week! .391 with the team lead in homers, rbi and runs. Over the last month, he's hit .278/ .366/ .474, which is on the high side of what we could've expected this year. If he's hitting that, you can live with his "defense."

What's Bad?

1) Mike Bacsik. Two games, 5 runs a piece. One trip to the bullpen. The idea of Bacsik and his line drives o' death in the bullpen scares the bejesus out of me, but if you look closer at the man he's replacing (Billy Traber), you'll realize that he's just there to be a warm body. Thanks to the eagle eye of a loyal reader in Richmond, we can say that Billy Traber is the ultimate garbage time pitcher. He appeared in 12 straight losing games and 13 of his last 14 appearances have been in losses -- mostly in long relief.

The team is 9-19 when he pitches, owing to the fact that he's only appeared in games with a lead six times. Save for a three-inning mopup stint when Bergmann got knocked out early on July 24, Traber had not appeared in a game with a close lead (defined as anything less than 11 runs!?) since mid June.

Bacsik can handle that!

2) Ronnie Belliard. I haven't wanted to rain on the parade all year, at least since his miserable early stretch, but Ronnie Belliard's season has been fluky. He regressed a bit this week. Belliard was succeeding because his singles were finding holes. Not because he was driving the ball particularly hard or well. And not because he was selective at the pitches he hit (hack, hack, hack, especially if it's above the shoulders!) Sure, he had big hits, and he deserves credit for those, but it was a battting-average heavy sustained run of excellence. When the luck turns, sometimes it turns hard.

He's down to .232/ .301/ .343 over his last month.

3) Ryan Zimmerman. Just when it looked like he had turned the corner, he ran into another wall. .143 on the week with three BRUTAL double play balls. He now leads the majors, which is fairly impressive for someone who strikes out as much as he does.

Game O' The Week
Does anyone know who won the game when Hank Aaron hit his record-setting homer? Nope? So why would anyone care whether the lowly Nats beat the lowlier Giants? Yesterday's game was far more important, because of who the Nats were playing and because it meant so much to Arizona. Two late rallies with six runs in the 8th and 9th, and they stole a game. Another heroic big hit by Jesus Flores, who seems to ALWAYS come through in those late-game situations, and a big homer on Sunday by Ryan Church who seems to ALWAYS have big homers on Sundays. I love the WPA graph; it looks like a hell of a ride.

Weekly Awards:
MVP: Felipe Lopez. Keep it up, and maybe we'll tender you a contract!

Cy Young: Young Mr. Lannan. Let's get a win next time though, k?

LVP: I'm tempted to type Brian Schneider here out of habit, but it's gotta be Belliard. At least Schneider homered.

Joe Horgan Award: Ray King appeared in three games without getting an out, giving up five baserunners and earning the dreaded infinite ERA.

Weekly Whips:
8/6: Dmitri Young's 10th-inning homer should've held up.
8/7: Three hits, a homer and a walk for FLop; that's what he should've been doing all along. Oh and Bonds who?
6/8: Felipe had two hits. It's too bad that Redding was tossing BP.
8/9: Hanrahan wasn't pretty, but Lopez bailed him out.
8/10: The bullpen imploded, but Kearns got them to that point.
8/11: John Lannan is a true American hero.
8/12: Jesus Flores is a true Venezuelan hero. (I'm linking his name, cause I'm sick of this popping up as one of the first google hits for his name; hopefully it's no relation!)

What's Ahead?
Home, sweet home!

Oh crap. It's with the Mets and Phillies, actual good teams. And they're bringing their mouth-breathing fans to the park. Hide the women and children!

Both teams have been treading water for the last few weeks, and both teams SHOULD beat the Nats. But this team doesn't roll over for anyone, and with some of the decent pitching performances they've had over the last few weeks, ya never know! Six game homestand... 3-3 sound good?

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