Monday, September 17, 2007

24 Down, 2 To Go

Seven home games left. Seven more chances to not go to a game in the dumpiest park in the majors, the place where so many Nationals fans had their childhood suspended for 30-something years. To say I'll miss it would be a lie. To say I'll miss the season once it's over? Yeah, that's probably the case. I'll be there three times this week, not celebrating the loss of a stadium, but the last chance to catch a terrible team that seems better than terrible because, well, they play hard, even when they're getting their brains beaten in.

The team really seems like it's running on fumes now, going 2-4 against the Marlins and Braves, including a midday thriller on Wednesday that made national news for who didn't show up. In the coverage (or at least the reaction to) of the 300 people or so who did, there was a lot of HAHAing at the lowly Marlins and their stupid fans, blah blah blah. I wonder, though, shouldn't we feel some shame in that? If that had been the Braves or the Padres, the crowd likely would've been better. Having a Nats team with now true MLB stars, and that's by all accounts (and record) a pretty terrible team had to have been a factor. I know I've blown off a Nats/Marlins game when something came up. Fact is, the Nats are the worst road draw in the National League. Combine that with the team with the worst attendance in the NL and what else did you expect?

Nats Record: 2-4
Overall: 66-83, a 72-win pace. They've played .500 ball over their last 114 games. Over their last 60, they're also playing .500 ball, but they've done that with a respectable 4.27 ERA.

Runs Scored: 29 (4.8/g), 596 overall, last in the NL. The Padres pitching staff, which boasts two Cy Young contenders and a dominating bullpen have allowed 593 runs. It's like every game is against Jake Peavy and Trevor Hoffman.

Runs Allowed: 37 (6.2/g), 710 overall, 9th in the NL. I wish it were easier to isolate how much of this is influenced by park. The Nationals have the second best home ERA in the league (Thanks, RFK!). On the road, they've allowed 5.27 runs per game, and only 5 NL teams have done worse. Road ERA, for various reasons, isn't a perfect corollary (see: Soriano, Alfonso), but it's an ok proxy, and the Nats pitching appears to, well, suck.

Expected Record: 68-94. They're four games better than 'expected'.

What's Good?

1) Wily Mo Pena! 11 hits, 3 homers, 2 doubles and a .423/ .464/ .846 line? I'll take it! Since coming to the Nats, he's had 90 ABs and hit .289/ .340/ .589, which is about as well as he can possibly play. He still takes some ugly swings, but if you're focusing on the art, you're missing the point of Wily Mo. I do love the praise he's getting in some circles for "going the other way." The few times I've seen him get hits to the opposite field it wasn't because he was trying to do that, that's just where the ball went thanks to his strength and a mis-timed swing! Still, better to be lucky AND good!

2) D'Angelo Jimenez! He got increased playing time this week, perhaps as an audition for a role on next year's team. You could see why some people preferred his bat to that of Alfonso Soriano's when the two of them were coming up through the Yankees' system: He's patient, typically showing a good eye. The results have never really been there for him, after a car accident that nearly took his life. Is there a role for him next season? Overall he's been terrible (.208 .358 .299), but more than acceptable over his last few months. (.283 .450 .435) Too bad he's a butcher.

3) Ryan Zimmerman! He had his typical Ryan Zimmerman week (.308 .387 .500). He's showed good patience this week, drawing four walks. That's going to have to be the one part of his game he continues to work on. As he becomes more selective, he'll get better pitches to hit (or just plain get on base for whoever's behind him). He has to learn that he doesn't have to do it all himself, despite the perception that's being thrust on him. Since July 1, he's hit .296 .365 .526, which is right where we thought he'd be all along.

What's Bad?

1) Joel Hanrahan and Mike Bacsik. They blow. It's a shame that Brian "Snyder" hasn't developed them more.

2) Teh Nook. Another bad week saw him hit .176. That's the problem with singles hitters who never walk or hit for power. If the hits aren't dropping, they're the equivalent of a 50-pound anchor on a row boat. To Cherrypick his stats, if we go back to the day of his 5-hit game and we include that, he's hit .244 .270 .302 over his last 90 plate appearances. Unacceptable.

3) Teh FLop. He might be talking again, but he ain't hitting. I remember reading something a year ago or so, right around the time of the trade that painted him as a hard worker. In 2005, he cranked 23 homers for the Reds, mostly batting first or second. The Reds didn't think he was a true leadoff hitter, though, because of the power, but also because of his lack of plate patience. He walked just 50 times or so and only stole 15 bases, both numbers he should surpass. The Reds wanted a different player and Lopez worked hard. His homers dropped the next season, but he stole 44 bases and upped his walks by about 30, to the 80 range, a solid season in which he transformed his game. That resulted, of course, in him being traded away.

So up comes 2007 and he's preparing himself to be the every day second baseman. Injuries happen. He moves to short. They unhappen. He moves to second. They happen again. He moves back to short. All the while he hasn't said a word. Meanwhile, the bat drops off, for whatever reason, and it's something he personally can't feel good about. And then he has to deal with people questioning (rightly so, of course) his attitude? After willingly turning himself into a leadoff hitter for the Reds then being dumped? Then turning himself into a roving utlity infielder for the Nats?

Of course he's disappointed. And, yeah, he should pick himself up, and just play better. And, yeah, at times it does appear that he's disinterested and that his head isn't in the game. But he's not really a complainer; he's done what two teams have asked him to do. The results haven't been there, but he's worked hard, and doesn't seem to ever get any credit for it.

I hope he does better next year. The Nats NEED him to do better next year. But we should also appreciate the smaller things he's done well, and without complaint.

Weekly Awards

MVP: Wily Mo! Gotta love that .846 slugging!

Cy Young: Shawn Hill, by default. He wasn't terrific this week, but he kept the Nats in two games.

LVP: Felipe. When you're getting outslugged by 26 points by Nook Logan, you've had a bad week.

Joe Horgan Award: Jesus Colome (19.29 ERA). The boil on his ass is like the hair on Samson's head. (6.75 ERA since his return from ass surgery)

Weekly Whips
9/10: 2 HR for Wily Mo!
9/11: Do you think that Justin Maxwell's going to remember his first hit?
9/12: Another homer for Wily Mo!
9/13: Three more hits for Wily Mo; he did it all! (except win more games)
9/15: Game hero D'Angelo Jimenez just doesn't sound right.
9/16: Jimenez was the only batter with more than one hit.

What's Ahead?

A date with history, and my gut still says, a date with futility. The Mets are the best team in the league, and the Phillies might be the best second place team. They both desperately need to beat up on us and the other Little Sisters of the Poor, so they'll be going for the jugular. The Nats have a chance to play spoiler, but there's a reason we're 18 games behind these guys; they're better than us.

Seven left, and 3-4 would have to be a success, right? But I'm smelling 2-5 and a lot of battered arms.

5 Comments:

  • After watching Friday night's series of misadventures in Left Field, I can't join in with praises for Wily Mo. He cost the team at least one run and along with Fire Marshall Cordero cost the team a win.

    By Anonymous sec 515, at 9/17/2007 11:08 AM  

  • So, for 9/15 does "Game hero Robert Fick" sound any better?

    I didn't think so either. Always a conflicting experience to go to a game and see your team win because one of your least favorite players plays a big part. But it does beat the hell out of going to a game and seeing your team blow it at the end thanks to a truly boneheaded play by your absolutely least favorite player, as happened to me on June 23rd.

    By Blogger An Briosca Mor, at 9/17/2007 11:10 AM  

  • Damn, you almost have me feeling sympathy for Lopez. I was hoping the Nats would dump him in the offseason, but they really don't have a lot of other middle infield options, unless perhaps they want to enter the A-Rod sweepstakes?

    On second thought, even though I can't stomach his A-Rodness, what better way for ownership to show that they are serious about spending money to win?

    By Anonymous bdrube, at 9/17/2007 1:02 PM  

  • Thanks for the fair discussion about Felipe.

    By Blogger kristen23, at 9/17/2007 2:13 PM  

  • Should I feel sorry for the Marlins? Hell no. I'm an Expos/Nats fan and Jeffrey Loria totally screwed us over. I will always harbor an intense dislike for that man. Oh, and he fired the NL Manager of the Year last year. What an idiot. They have two of the top 5 offensive players in the NL (MLB?) and they are in last.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/20/2007 11:53 AM  

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